Transcript of The Benefits of Giving Intentional Attention
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John Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo’s a platform the helps growth focused eCommerce brands drive more sales with super targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook, and Instagram marketing.
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, my guest today is Neen James. She is a leadership expert and author about a book we’re going to talk about today, Attention Pays: How to Drive Profitability, Productivity, and Accountability. So, Neen, welcome to the show!
Neen James: G’Day. What a treat it is to get to serve you and your listeners today.
John Jantsch: So, attention is hard. I’m really tired of paying attention, and all I really want to pay attention to is my mobile phone.
Neen James: Well, you’re not on your own there. The trend has been escalating. Think about it. Like no one really wants to pay attention. I mean, we get told from kids, John. Our parents say, pay attention. Our teachers tell us to pay attention. We’re so tired of people telling us to pay attention. And in our very destructive world right now, there are so many things the want our attention. And I think attention is a choice, and it’s a hard one.
John Jantsch: Well, let’s flip this around. Because you say attention pays. If we’re not paying attention, what is the cost?
Neen James: Think about … Let’s talk about your cell phone for a second. I don’t known if you know this, but nine people die every day because of distracted driving. Like people would rather update their Facebook status than they would pay attention to the road. I mean, you’ve seen it. People in car parks trying to park their car and still be on their phone with it like in the crook of their neck, which is crazy town. So the cost-
John Jantsch: Well, I ride my bike to work most days, and so I’m really watching out for those folks.
Neen James: Yeah, and have you noticed, like the people who don’t see you are often trying to send the message or look down at their phone. I’m astounded at just that. So from a cost of like, let’s get super serious, like human lives, basically. That’s one cost of it. But I think as marketers, we have to think about the fact, you know, you said in one of your great episodes, about one of the trends being for 2019 that really attention is an important thing, right? We’ve been very focused on the attraction strategy, but retention strategies. What it costs us as marketers, as business owners, as, you know, people in the organization is it costs us clients. They may not tell us that we’re not seeing them, that we’re not hearing them. They might just decide to leave us and not tell us why. And so they think there’s real business costs when we don’t pay attention to the customers that we serve.
It costs us from an employee turnover point of view, if you have team members who don’t feel like you see them, if you don’t hear them. That you don’t value them. Those employees go somewhere else, and so I think there’s so many costs in business that it’s kind of astounding when you start to get into the numbers. Not to mention just lost productivity, ’cause we’re all over the place, and not focusing on anything.
John Jantsch: Well I guess maybe I should back up a minute. Maybe to help define what you mean by attention.
Neen James: Mmm. Good question. My belief is that we want to pay intentional attention. That’s making a conscious choice of where our attention goes instead of an unconscious choice. It’s about being very deliberate in the way that we’re paying attention, instead of being distracted. And it’s also about making sure that we’re looking for opportunities for our attention to be, let’s say, more transformational instead of transactional. I think we often pay attention unconsciously, John. You know, we think we’re paying attention, but we’re not. We think if we sort of look at someone, and maybe be on our cell phone on the same time that they think we’re paying attention to them, but we’re not. So for me, attention kind of shows up in three ways. What I found when I was researching my book, that I really group it into three areas. We pay attention three ways. One is personally. And this is kind of, when you think about who deserves your attention. This is about being thoughtful with your attention.
The second way we pay attention is professionally, which is really about what deserves your attention, and that’s about being productive. And then the third way we pay attention is globally. This is really how we pay attention in the world. And it’s about being responsible. So if you think about attention in these three ways: personally, professionally, and globally, it’s about who deserves your attention, what deserves your attention, and how you’re paying attention in the world. I really think attention is a deliberate, conscious choice. Not just a transaction.
John Jantsch: So one of the things that I’ve struggled with, and I know a lot of people have, is we now have the ability to connect with so many more people, even on a surface level, then we ever did before. And you and I are in a group, a Facebook group, and there’s a whole bunch of great, really smart people in that group that I’d like to pay more attention to, but how do you kind of reconcile that we probably only pay attention to about 100 people?
Neen James: And I love that number. I feel like these days there are so many different ways that we’re asked to pay attention. Not just in the lives that we live, with the people that … The teams we serve, the people we share our homes with, the communities, the churches, temples, wherever you spend your time. But there’s the whole commitment to social media and digital communications. And emails that are coming in, and meetings we’re asked to be a part of. And so when you think about social media and groups for example, one of the most powerful things about these groups is that they create this sense of community for people that in our case, John, you and I spend our lives on planes. That’s what we do. We’re in planes, airports, convention centers, hotels. And there’s something lovely about the opportunity that in this group that you’re a part of, we can say, “Hey, I’m going to be in Orlando this week, is there anyone around?” And you get the opportunity to connect with people.
So I think it does give a tool to connect. And I think that that is an initial touchpoint for connection and attention. But the real attention is often paid when you get the opportunity to share a meal with someone. Or have a coffee or have a phone call. And I think we have to take some of those digital forms of attention and go back to some analog forms. You know, these days a phone call is considered a personal touch. That’s amazing to me. I mean, we use our phone for everything but making calls, right? And so I think what we have to do is think about … That goes back to that personal attention, John. Get really clear on who deserves your attention. You know, I work with a lot of corporate clients, and one thing I hear many of them say is, Neen, there’s never enough hours in the day. Or they say, there’s so much to do, I don’t know where to focus first. And they work so hard to create this lifestyle for people they love.
And yet, they’re not giving the people that really adore them their undivided attention when they get home. And they’re often exhausted and distracted and checking their email, and overwhelmed. And yet, if I ask so many of the people that are my clients, they’d say that the reason they work is to support the people they love. So I think we really have to get back to what’s super important to us, and who’s super important to us. If you can manage 100 relationships, that’s amazing. I think we can only have a handful of really quality relationships, and then we just have all of these other people that are kind of on the perimeters.
John Jantsch: Yeah, I’m actually kind of an introvert. I’m fine with two or three people. But I had to come up with a number, so.
Neen James: My honey is also an introvert. And you know, he … Think about networking, John. You go into these events. People like me, I’m an extreme extrovert. And I go in and go, Oh my God! There’s people to play with. Yay! And my husband would rather have a root canal. Like that is just not his idea of fun. But one’s not better than the other; they’re just different. What I notice is he has really quality conversations, and he’s great at spending his attention on just a few people, as opposed to some of us, like me, where we can go to all of these different conversations. But I have to really learn from him in focus even harder on how can I have more quality conversations, as opposed to quantity of conversations.
John Jantsch: So this is a good segue to something I’ve heard you talk about, but also is in the book. And this idea of, and I’m gonna just let you explain it. Listen with your eyes.
Neen James: Oh, the wisdom of my friend. So, you know, I was sitting in the kitchen of my next door neighbor’s house. Her name’s Eileen. She has a five year old called Donovan. And he and I were in this heated debate about who was cooler, you know, was it Superman or was it Batman. So clearly with a five year old, this is an important world conversation. And Eileen and I were just trying to have a cup of coffee. And he kept inserting himself into our conversation, John. Asking me all these questions. And I thought I was answering him, but he got so frustrated with me, he jumped into my lap, he grabbed my face, in his tiny little hands, he turned it towards him, and he said, “Neen. Listen with your eyes.” John, he was five. I mean, I was schooled by a child. And yet, that wisdom of that child has been a constant reminder to me that we don’t just listen with our ears, we listen with our eyes. We listen with our heart. We listen with our soul.
And you know, I believe the reason I do so much of this work, and I think it’s true for many people, whether they are a CMO in an organization or a marketer in a nonprofit, or you know, whether you’re running your own company, everyone wants to be seen and heard, and that’s the basis of so much of my work, is I just want more people to feel seen and heard. And if we can constantly remember to listen with our eyes, I think we increase our attention exponentially.
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Yeah, I know in my own experience, particularly … And I think it’s particularly true of the people you’re the closest with. I mean, if I really want to engage my wife, I do that. I not only listen to her, but I’m very intently drawn in, and lean in, and listen with almost your whole body.
Neen James: Yeah.
John Jantsch: And I think the person receiving that can really feel it too, can’t they?
Neen James: Oh my goodness. And I think that also requires, John. It’s that deliberate choice you’ve made, right? You’ve made it a conscious choice. And I also think sometimes in order for us to pay attention, we have to eliminate the distractions. And for some people, that’s our cell phones. So let’s put it away and just have a conversation. One of my dearest friends in the whole world, she and I joke, we have no photos together. Because often we catch up, our phones are in our bag. We don’t even think to grab our cell phones. We’re having such a great time just catching up. We don’t take the selfie. We don’t always capture the moment. But we have this database of memories together, and I find that really fascinating. You know, nowadays people say, “Well, if they didn’t take a photo, it’s not on social media. It didn’t happen.” And yet, think about some of these crazy, wonderful conversations you and your wife have. Chances are they’re not on social media.
John Jantsch: Yep. Oh, I guarantee. So, you mentioned already, intentional attention. And you actually map out an entire model for that. So what does that look like?
Neen James: Yeah, intentional attention, if you think about it. It’s not just trying to be a kind of clever play on words. Although, you know, I do like that it kind of ended up that way. This is going back to what we were talking about with really thinking about those deliberate choices that we make. And being very much … Instead of being distracted, we’re being very deliberate. Instead of it just being a transaction, it’s about being really transformational. But I think we need … It starts with the choices we make, right? So the model is very much about choose consciously. Invest transformationally. And act deliberately. That’s what I think intentional attention’s about. So it’s really the choices we make, the actions we take. And you know, where are you investing your time, your attention, and your energy?
If I look at someone’s calendar, John, it gives me a really great snapshot into what they think is important in their life. Because we’re going to invest the time in the things we think are important. The people we think are important. If I look at someone’s home screen on their phone, it gives me an indication of what sort of apps do they like spending all their time on? And so I think when it comes to being intentional with our attention, it all starts with the choices that we make, and the actions that we take in order to truly to make a greater impact on the world.
John Jantsch: Yeah, and I guess I would say it’s really easy to get sucked away from the stuff that is meaningful to you. So you know, you talk about the calendar, you know, sometimes what happens is it just gets filled up with, I don’t know, I’ll call it crap.
Neen James: Yeah.
John Jantsch: So part of this intentional idea to me is that you have to look at that, go, oh, wait, wait. You know? How have I gone wrong here.
Neen James: And honey, I think it’s something we have to do all the time. It’s not like we can wake up in the morning, go today, I’m gonna be intentional. And then, you know, I’d love it if it were that simple. But I think what’s happening is, there are so many things that are vying for our attention. And when you think about the profession of marketing, we want people’s attention. We have to be able to not only grab it, but we have to be able to keep it. And so I think this choice that we need to make is a regular choice throughout the day. Yesterday there was a conversation on social media where someone was trying to engage me with a conversation that was not going to necessarily help advance my goals for the year.
And it would have been very easy to go down the rabbit hole of the conversations. It ended up a post that was across multiple groups, involved my industry. And at one point I stopped myself and thought, why on Earth would I engage in this conversation? It doesn’t help me advance my goals for this year. It’s not going to support the community. It’s certainly not going to advance my message. So I had to just make the choice to not get involved in the conversation. And I think it comes down to the simplicity of saying no, but finding ways to say no nicely. I had to say no to myself. Like that’s just not an area you need to play in. And there’s some ways you can do that. Like, technology’s not the enemy of our attention. I think we are. We’re the ones who choose to be on our phones. We’re the ones who choose to go to those websites. We’re the ones who choose to go to all the meetings.
We have to say, you know, this is not gonna help advance my goals. So that might mean turn your phone off, or put it away. It might mean declining a meeting that is just a regular meeting that you’re not adding value to. It might mean saying no to some social obligations that really don’t advance where you want to be and the relationships that you have. And so I think we need to say no to more things, John. So we can really say yes to what deserves our attention.
John Jantsch: So I think everyone have a personal brand. Some people are more aware of it than others. And you write it about it in the book. Is attention, or your ability to give attention, an attribute of a personal brand?
Neen James: Oh, you better believe it. You know, think about it. When you think about the people you work with. You know some people who are kind of famous. We know them amongst our circles, where they have this wonderful ability to really focus in on what you’re doing and who you are and to be able to have a great conversation with you. People like Michael Barber is brilliant at this. Michael Porter’s fantastic at this. There are people in our lives where when they’re with you, you are their focus. And that is part of the brand. But we also know people who are notorious for running late, for always being on their phone. For not replying to emails. You know, those type of things in our personal brand is something that’s always on show.
And our personal brand is something that people talk about, whether we’re in the room or not. And so the way you pay attention in conversations, online, to your physical presence. The way you walk into a room, the way you hold yourself. The way you hold a conversation. These are all things that people are paying attention to as well. And so if you want to enhance your personal brand, become someone who is known to listen with your eyes, to respond, and to give undivided attention to people. Because I promise it will increase your communication skills. But it will also increase the impact of your personal brand. When you walk into a room, walk into a room like you look like you want to be there, and you want to see those people. Instead of having your beautiful face down in your phone, and people can’t see who you are and what you want to do in the world.
John Jantsch: Yeah, I mean what’s interesting is as I hear you describe that, you’re mostly talking about giving attention, but in a way that actually ultimately gets you attention, doesn’t it?
Neen James: Yes, and I think you have to give attention to get attention. But not in a manipulative way. Here’s what I mean by that. Say for example, you and your wife are sitting there having a conversation. And you’re giving her your undivided attention, she’s going to want to reciprocate that and have that great conversation and continue that with you. I’m hoping. And so you know, you’re giving that attention because you also want to be able to be in conversation with her and get her attention as well. As marketers, I think we have to think about this as well. In order for us to give the attention that our existing clients want, we need to make sure they realize that they’re important to us. That they’re special, instead of always just chasing after the new client.
You talked about this in one of your episodes on retention. You know, Seth Golden talked the you on one of the episodes you did about the way that we’re going to be judged by the way that we treat people’s attention. And I think we have to give attention to people in order for us to also deserve the attention. And so as marketers we have to think about well, who are the people that we want to just say thank you for your business? Who are the people who we want to stay connected with? And then who are the people we believe would benefit from what we do? And start to follow what they need, instead of selling at them, and marketing at them, have more of a listen and a conversation that is curious and find out more about them, so that you can then apply your messaging in a very targeted way, very custom, so they feel like you see them and you hear them. I believe we do need to give attention. But that we get great attention in return when we give first.
John Jantsch: You have a fun little tool on your website, the resources for the book, called a distraction questionnaire. And I think everybody should get it, and it’s three pages. And you just look at the categories of sort of distraction, and ask people about do you expect immediate response to your emails? I think it’s really good sort of evaluation to go through.
Neen James: Thank you. If people go to neenjames, backslash, forward slash, which slash is it John? I think it’s forward slash, right? Neenjames/extras. And I can give you the details, obviously, for the show notes. So people can download some of those resources.
John Jantsch: That’s one of my favorites. So where can people find out more about your work and acquire a copy of Attention Pays?
Neen James: Well, the great thing for me is there’s only one Neen James online, so I’m very spoiled in that regard. So it’s kind of a marketer’s dream. So if you just go to neenjames, N-E-E-N-J-A-M-E-S.com, you will find I’m the only one. So you can follow my adventures on Instagram, you can have a look on my website, and Attention Pays will be sold wherever your favorite books are sold. So I would love people to help me out. I’d love to start an attention revolution, John. I’d love to start this moment where this year people chose very deliberately to be intentional with their attention. And to truly listen with their eyes.
John Jantsch: Awesome, well I’m on board. So …
Neen James: Yay, thank you!
John Jantsch: So Neen, thanks for joining us today. And hopefully we’ll bump into you soon enough out there on the road.
Neen James: It was a privilege. Thank you for all you do in the world. I love what you’re doing.