My family just returned from a trekking adventure in Peru. The scenery was great, and the time together was amazing. One of the more memorable moments was our time with a lady named Santusa. She created a remarkable experience for all of us.
Our group was invited to visit Santusa’s home to learn more about her coffee business. When we arrived, we entered a small structure to find a wood-burning stove, a workbench and about a dozen guiena pigs scampering around the floor. If you didn’t know, these household pets in the US are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world.
What happened next was surprising and delightful. Our interpreter began to talk about the coffee beans Santusa and her family grew on their small plot of ground. He passed around a container containing about a pound of pale, white coffee beans the family had sun-dried before our arrival. Then, our host poured the beans in a pot over the fire and she began to stir… she was roasting these beans for us!
After about five minutes of constant stirring, she took the beans off the stove and passed them around so we could smell the fresh roasted aroma. She then put the beans in a grinder – turning by hand, she ground the beans and passed the grounds around to give us another chance to see and smell the freshness.
Next, she took the grounds and brewed us FRESH coffee! She prepared a cup for each of us. We were then given the opportunity to buy the product. Guess what happened - our group bought a lot of coffee!
What’s the leadership lesson here? I believe there are several. I’ll highlight only two today.
The first big take-away for me is the power of experiences.
Most people love experiences. It’s the reason DVDs and Netflix haven’t put movie theatres out of business. It’s why you and I will still buy a ticket to a concert vs. just buying a song on iTunes. It’s the reason Chick-fil-A sells more lemonade when you watch people squeeze the lemons. It’s the reason we bought a lot of coffee in Peru!
The other idea that surfaces immediately for me is the allure of the authentic, genuine and the real. When we can help people see the process, or even take part in it, we're telling them we have nothing to hide. Transparency is quickly becoming a new cultural norm. Santusa understood this intuitively.
I’m still processing the implications of this experience. For now, I’m committed to look for opportunities to involve people more in whatever I’m doing – creating, teaching, selling, demonstrating or even listening. I have no doubt, when we allow people to see behind the curtain and involve them in the experience, the outcome can be remarkable![GLS_Shield]