Feast or Famine – The Cure

By Cheryl Leone, Law Firm Coach

Someone ask you, is that a want or a need. Good question, but the answer may not be that simple. A need is something that is necessary, let’s say to live a healthy life. Needs are different from wants because without a need there would be a clear negative result. Needs can be objective and physical, such as food and water, or they can be subjective and emotional, such as the need for respect. A want is something that is desired. Your needs will create wants and your wants will create more needs. This can become one big circle. In order to identify true needs, you have to go back to your purpose or vision. Your purpose, vision or mission will define your needs. Another way to look at this is that a need is nothing more than a high priority want.

It does not make any difference if you are looking at your life or your business; you have to have a purpose that is known to understand your needs. We (Cheryl and I) were doing a seminar one time when she said that my desire for a motor home was clearly a want and not a need. The only way she can make a statement like that is if she knew what my purpose was that was related to that need or want. That is the problem with making judgments about the needs of others. If you do not have a clearly defined purpose, then you also have that problem.

As long as you have a strategic plan for your business that defines your vision (or purpose), you can define your needs. The most common way to do this in a business is to do a gap analysis. In business, gap analysis is an assessment enabling a company to compare its actual performance with its potential performance. The analysis will answer two questions: “Where are we?” and “Where do we want to be?”

Here is an example, you define the vision for your law firm to be, “We provide legal services to those that need it with compassion and pride”. Now you decide you need a new fancy building to impress your clients. Is this a want or a need? Well, based on your purpose this would seem to be a want and not a need.

This brings up an interesting thought – The more vague your purpose is the more difficult it is to identify if you have a want or a need. The first step in this quest to identify needs is to make your purpose (and vision) as detailed as possible. You, your clients, and your staff all need to clearly see your vision and understand your purpose if you want a good understanding of needs. Without a clear definition of your purpose people tend to evaluate if you have a need or a want based on their own perceptions. Going back to my first example, they may decide that my desire for a motor home can not possibly be a need. The problem here is that as a leader you must interpret the vision for your staff. Your staff should buy into your vision. Only after this happens will your staff understand your wants and needs as you do. If they do not have that understanding they will very likely not buy into any project or process designed to meet the need you have defined.

You can see how this may happen in a business. Look at your relationships and you will see that the same thing can happen. If you do not agree on your purpose or vision your partner or family will not but into your stated needs. Now turn that analysis around and look at it. Let’s say that your partner is always bringing up something that you are convinced is a want and even perhaps a low priority want. Why is your partner doing this? Well it is likely that this is a true need for your partner. The discrepancy is that you do not understand or believe in the vision that is driving this need. This is a common cause for partnerships falling apart and businesses failing.

About the Authors

Principals Dave Favor and Cheryl Leone are the founders of Catalyst Group, Inc. with its corporate offices in Raleigh, North Carolina. Rounding out the Coaches is Attorney Carl Solomon of Columbia, South Carolina. They share a common value and belief system that everyone deserves a chance to work for themselves and do it in such a way that it is profitable, enjoyable and respected by others. For more information email our Head Coach.

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