The Number One Skill Needed According to the US Dept. of Labor



Hi! Welcome to this week’s training. I’m Sherri Wilson, an educator, strategist, and introverted entrepreneur that empowers other introverted entrepreneurs the art of persuasion and influence so you can communicate your message clearly and confidently.

Today I want to discuss the NUMBER ONE SKILL NEEDED IN THE NEXT DECADE ACCORDING TO THE US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR. It’s called sense-making and has been around since the 70’s. 

Sense-making is basically the process by which people give meaning and make sense of their experiences. In business, it’s the ability to make sense of the unknown by communicating in such a way that you begin to “sense” or piece together what your client needs from HER PERSPECTIVE not your own. 

I think the secret is really observation. Well, if you observe what’s going on and try to figure out how people are thinking, I think you can always write something that people will understand.
— Sam Cooke

Think about it this way. Your client has a problem. You have a solution. But between you and her is a gap, which is often a lack of knowledge of how your product/service will solve her problem. Your job is to build a bridge by providing her the knowledge needed.

The problem comes in HOW we build that bridge. Many business owners use their experience and expertise to build the bridge thinking that’s what the client needs to hear to make an informed decision. But if that knowledge doesn’t tap into your client’s perspective, you’ll lose that client and rob them of your valuable product/service. 

Let me give you an example. I was chatting with a woman at a business event about the importance of sales people to actually listen to what people are saying. Not listening is one of the FASTEST ways to make your client feel insignificant and frustrated. 

She told me about one of her sales associates who did that very thing. A lady had come in to buy a gun. She was telling him she didn’t feel safe and needed a gun. He proceeded to go through the entire script about the BEST gun for women and all the technical details. Instead of helping, it overwhelmed her.  

The lady again tried to communicate that she needed protection because she didn’t feel safe. The guy continued on his sales pitch. Finally, she intervened and visited with the woman about what was going on. She was able to point her to some legal help, signed her up to learn how to use a gun, and sold her the appropriate gun for her physical protection to use AFTER proper training. The woman needed knowledge, confidence, and security. A gun, alone, wouldn’t have done that.

Sometimes we communicate with others based on culture and thinking we know that culture. But no one is a ONE SIZE FITS ALL. No business, no individual, no family is the same. WE ARE ALL UNIQUE. 

In my business, I refuse to offer my clients solutions without first sitting down with them and learning their unique needs and desired outcomes because no business is average. No woman or man is average. No black person is average. No Hispanic is average. No one is average. And wisdom is to look for your client’s uniqueness AND ASK QUESTIONS BASED ON HER WORLD NOT YOURS. 

Now this can be tough because our brain is designed to find safety in thinking people are just like us. So you’ll always need to fight that tendency of ASSUMING people are just like you while at the same time taking advantage of common ground as you discover it. But learn to shift from you to your client and try to get inside her head. 

Before we go into the 7 aspects of sensemaking, I want to share another very important perspective you need when communicating with your clients. In my course, I teach my clients that you’re not just interacting with the person you see in front of you. You’re dealing with your client’s past experiences—good or bad, current situation, and future hopes. If you train yourself to hear for any past that can create an obstacle, any current that can alert you to her situation, and any future hope so you can craft a unique strategy for her, you’ll create such an experience for your client that she’ll become a repeat client, you’ll build a quality relationship, and she’ll become a referral engine for you.


The 7 properties of sense-making:

1.   Identity and identification—who people THINK they are shapes what they do and how they interpret events. If you client is self-assured and confident, a positive experience will be easier to create. But people that are unsure and not comfortable trusting you yet will take more finesse. The same is true if YOU’RE self-assured and confident. Who you think you are shapes what you do and how you interpret events.

2.    Retrospection—looking back and reviewing past events in life affects what people notice. If events were positive, your client’s perspective will be positive, more flexible, and more prone to give you grace. If events were negative, again, you’re dealing with how those past events affected your clients. BUT retrospection is needed by you, too. Your past can affect your business today without you even realizing it!

3.    Enact—people enact in the situations they face in DIALOGUES and NARRATIVES meaning as you both dialogue, you are building a narrative that helps your client to understand what she thinks so she can organize her experience and predict change. EVERYONE WANTS TO BE UNDERSTOOD. If you can tap into that, it’s golden! In fact, when a person feels really understood, the brain is literally rewired for good and can reframe negative memories into less negative or even positive memories. Memories are fluid meaning they are always changing. If your client has had a negative experience with someone in the same industry as you, but you reframe her story, you’ve not only provided a valuable product or service. You’ve lessened the negative memory considerable. 

4.    Social activity—the experience and narrative created are preserved, retained, and shared, which is WHY IT’S SO CRUCIAL TO MOVE FROM JUST SELLING YOUR PRODUCT AND SERVICE TO CREATING AN EXPERIENCE THAT IS THE CONTEXT OF YOUR PRODUCT/SERVICE. What’s interesting is that the narratives you create with your client are both shared and individual meaning you have shared an experience together, hopefully positive but you as individuals have different perspectives based on your uniqueness. That’s why two people in the exact same meeting can have two totally different perspectives. 

5.    Ongoing—people are “simultaneously shaping and reacting to the environments they face. As they project themselves onto this environment and observe the consequences they learn about their identities and the accuracy of their accounts of the world. This is a feedback process so even as individuals deduce their identity from the behaviour of others towards them, they also try to influence this behaviour. 

6.    Extract cues—from the context to help your client, decide what information is relevant and what explanations are acceptable. GIVING INFORMATION OR KNOWLEDGE FOR YOUR CLIENT TO MAKE A DECISION DOES NOT MEAN GIVING THEM ALL OF IT. Tailor the knowledge you share by what you sense your client is needing and wanting, again, from HER PERSPECTIVE not yours. Cues are “simple, familiar structures that are seeds from which people develop a larger sense of what may be occurring.” You’re looking for those cues. But know that your client is also extracting cues from you.

7.    Plausibility over accuracy—in accounts of events and contexts, your client will prefer to believe what she thinks is plausible over what is actually accurate. Plausible means “having an APPEARANCE of truth” and what’s believable. If you think about it, this can be scary. This is WHY IT’S SO IMPORTANT TO UNDER PROMISE AND OVER DELIVER. 

I hope you see that INTROVERTS can be really, really good at sensemaking. Research shows that we tend to be more sensitive to our environments and those in them. We are good listeners. And we don’t like to exaggerate, seem salesy, or over promise. We tend to be pragmatic and practical. 

Wisdom and understanding can only become the possession of individual men by travelling the old road of observation, attention, perseverance, and industry.
— Samuel Smiles

Now before we end this training, I want you to look at each aspect of sensemaking and how you do those things in your own life and recognize that you might believe plausible or accuracy. You might be interpreting your client’s words and actions from the sense you’ve tried to make of your past experiences. Are they accurate? I’ll give you a clue: IF YOU REACT TO SOMETHING STRONGER THAN THE “OFFENSE” COMMITTED, THAT’S A HUGE SIGN YOU’RE DEALING WITH A PAST ISSUE NOT A PRESENT ISSUE. 

When this happens to me, I always PAUSE on the inside and begin looking at the situation objectively to see what exactly I’m reacting to. Sometimes I see it right off the bat. Others times I have to sit down and really think about it and journal. I love the 5 WHY EXERCISE too. 

Sense-making is not only a crucial communication tool but it is also fun to look for those comments, facial expressions, etc. to discern exactly what you’re client is looking for and then deliver! 

There’s a lot of other ways in business to use sense-making, but this will give you a start in helping your clients. 

This sums up our training. I know it’s been a while, but I have been way too busy that I just couldn’t seem to get back to this. But I have a plan and I know as I implement it, I can bring you regular quality training! Until next week, be who you authentically are!

Sherri Wilson