The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective


Archive for November, 2011

Giving Thanks…

Thankfully, early reports indicate we had a successful “Black Friday” and “Small Business Saturday” of retail sales.  Thankfully, we have “Cyber Monday” to contribute to our economic recovery. Thankfully, we have retailers who are able to brave the “Advertise & Hope” approach to sales.  Thankfully, I chose a Business-2-Business sales profession where we can go out and “sell somebody something” vs. waiting and hoping shoppers visit our establishment.  

Thankfully, we spent time with family, friends, food and fun with a little football and even a movie thrown in during the Thanksgiving holiday.  Thankfully, there were a few quiet moments to reflect on all we have to be thankful for. 

Thankfully, our holiday provided a break from the traffic congestion and daily stressful routine we call “going to work”.  Thankfully, I live in Denver where it actually was 70 degrees on Thanksgiving.  And thankfully, we have those Unknown Sages who help us re-kindle the peace and the power of maintaining a positive perspective: 

            Welcome to Denver:  

The morning rush hour is from 5:00 to 10:00 AM. The evening rush hour is from 3:00 to 7:00 PM.  Friday’s rush hour starts on Thursday.

Forget the traffic rules you learned elsewhere.  Denver has its own version.  The car or truck with the loudest muffler goes next at a 4-way stop.  The truck with the biggest tires goes after that.  Blue-haired, green-haired, or cranberry-haired ladies driving anything have the right of way all of the time.

North and South only vaguely resemble the real direction of certain streets.  University and Colorado are two boulevards that run parallel.  Geometry evidently not working at altitude, these streets intersect south of C470.

Highway 285 runs North, South, East and West and every direction in between; it can be found in every section of the Denver area making navigation very interesting.  You can turn west onto southbound 285; you can turn north onto westbound C470; and you can drive southeast on the Northwest Parkway.  This is why Denver uses the additional driving directions of “out”, “up”, “in”, “down”, and sometimes “over”.

Construction barrels are permanent, and are simply moved around in the middle of the night to make the next day’s drive more challenging.  When you see an orange cone, you must stop and then move ahead slowly until there are no more cones.  There need not be construction, just cones.

If someone has their turn signal on, wave them to the shoulder immediately to let them know it has been accidentally activated.

If it’s 70 degrees, Thanksgiving is probably next week; if it’s snowing, it’s probably the weekend after Memorial Day.

If you stop at a yellow light, you will be rear-ended or cussed-out.  A red light means four more cars can go through.  Not three; not five.  Four.  Never honk at anyone.  Ever.  Seriously.  Never yield at a “Yield” sign.  The yield sign is like an appendix; it once had a purpose but nobody can remember what it was.

Just because a street on the east side of town has the same name as a street on the west side of town doesn’t mean they’re connected.    

                                  Unknown Sage 

Thankfully, I’m back out on those Denver streets heading to work.  Thankfully, we are expecting snow later this week – we need the moisture.  And yes, we really did have snow last June; about a week after Memorial Day. 

And thankfully, I have readers who enjoy reading my occasional pieces of peace. 


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Impossible? What’s next?

Everyone who works here is expected to work toward being the best he can possibly be at the tasks he’s accountable for.  When he can’t do that, he should act like he is until he gets around to it.  And if he’s unwilling to act like it, he should leave.

                                  Michael E. Gerber 

In over three decades of observing successful sales organizations, I believe the process of hiring, on-boarding, and leading a team of sales professionals can be boiled down into four critical elements of success: 

  1. Approach – Successful sales professionals have a plan.
  2. Activity – Successful sales people find their next sale.  Waiting for the phone to ring only works in certain, illicit industries.
  3. Ability – Clients pay us for our knowledge, skills and experience.  And if we don’t possess these, they can buy over the Internet without us.
  4. Attitude – Maybe #4 on my list, but far and away the most important factor to a successful sales career. 

So what do these four, critical elements have to do with the fact that I am a die-hard football fanatic?  Well, here are two words that are stimulating fanatical perspectives in that profession that we can learn a lot from for our professions – both positive and negative:  Tim Tebow. 

Under the unrelenting, media scrutiny of NFL analysts, former players, coaches, and a sundry of other pundits, the discussion is quite polarized.  On one side are those who focus on his positive image: Christian values; ability to inspire his teammates; and, of late, ability to lead the Denver Broncos to win football games in a quite unorthodox way. 

On the other side are the hordes of critics who claim that what he’s trying to do: “is impossible”; “can’t be done”; “won’t work against good teams”; “won’t work over the long haul”; and on and on and on. 

Now, if I’m developing a football team or a sales team, I prefer to endorse Elizabeth Arden’s perspective: 

            I only want people around me who can do the impossible.   

Yes, Approach, Activity, and Ability are all critical success factors in our professions; Attitude alone is not enough.  At best, having a great Attitude buys us enough time to develop the Ability, to sustain the proper Activity, to enable us to implement a successful Approach

But without the right Attitude, the other three elements, “won’t work in the long run; can’t be done; is impossible”; and all the other polar-negative perspectives we have all heard in the course of our own careers, true?   

It brings to mind a final interview I had once – I was seeking a promotion to the National Account Sales Rep role for ADP when that business growth Approach was first launched in the early 1980s.  The Division President, Greg Pedersen, said (and I can still quote him today as if it were yesterday),

“Pokorn, you’re the best of the worst.  Get a hair cut and buy a couple of new suits; you’ve got the job.”  After I left his office he probably added, “It’s impossible for you to succeed in this job.” 

Well, I’m no Tim Tebow mind you, but things turned out pretty well for me – both in that position and in my career.  And they seem to be turning out pretty good for Tim Tebow at the moment, too.  Impossible? 

            Everything is always impossible before it works.

                                  Hunt Greene 

What are “They” saying that is “impossible” for you to accomplish?  Don’t believe them! 


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No, the other kind…

The word “winning” received a great deal of media attention a while back thanks to the infamous tirades of Charlie Sheen.  And November often brings a similar, negative connotation from the traditional American competition we have all come to know and love called elections.  But today, I’d like to chat about winning in terms of the other kind of connotation. 

To competitors, winning is both important and fun – at least it should be.  Take the story about these competitors: 

Let your imagination put you in a grandstand at the Seattle version of the Special Olympics.  There are nine contestants, all physically or mentally disabled, assembled at the starting line for the 100-yard dash.  At the gun, they all start out, not exactly in a dash, but with relish to run the race to the finish and win.  All, that is, except one boy who stumbles on the asphalt, tumbles over a couple of times, and begins to cry.  The other eight hear the boy cry.  They slow down and look back.  They all turn around and go back… every one of them.  As you watch, one girl with Down’s Syndrome bends down and kisses him.  You hear her say, “This will make it better.”  All nine link arms and walk across the finish line together.  Everyone in the stadium, including you, stands up, and the cheering goes on for several minutes.  People who were actually there are still telling the story, fours years later.  Why?  Because deep down we know this one thing:  What matters in this life is helping others win, even if it means changing our own course.

                                  David S. Pottruck 

When most of us compete in our endeavors today, we are playing to win because it’s fun.  It’s not win at any cost; cheat to win; win or die; or any of the other negative connotations of winning that tend to receive a disproportionate amount of attention through our over-hyped media, don’t you think? 

For instance, this time of year always reminds me of high school cross country state meets.  I have written often about Joe Newton, the boys’ high school cross country coach at York High School in Elmhurst, Illinois.  His winning record over the forty year period from 1960 – 2000 is unprecedented and unparalleled.  If you are interested in knowing more just let me know and I’ll send you the preface to Chapter IX of my book The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective© which details the amazing accomplishments of Joe’ high school kids in,“Playing to Win”. 

Competitors – you; me; Joe Newton; we like to win – but we hate to lose.  Take the movie, “Money Ball” starring Brad Pitt, based on the true story of Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team.  One of my favorite scenes in that movie included the statement, “I hate losing more than I like winning; there’s a difference…”.  Tony Larussa echoed the same sentiment in his retirement press conference after the St Louis Cardinals won the World Series this year. 

Losing is not failure, however.  Competitors always get back up and try again, don’t we.  On those occasions when we lose, before we go over the emotional, “deep end”, we can benefit from the words of a master motivator and sales professional, Tom Hopkins: 

I never see a failure as failure, but only as the opportunity to develop my sense of humor. 

So smile – and get back in the game!


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I hate that word!

“Assume”.  How many times do we hear that word in our business world?  And in the sales profession (many others, too I suppose), we all know what they say about that word and what it makes out of the parties “u” and “me”.    But when we hear that word from a brand, new client, it is particularly disappointing, true?  

I was on the phone with a new client of ours recently.  Although I wasn’t the lead sales person on the account, I had met them during their evaluation process.  My job over the next few months is to help enable them to be a reseller for my company.  During this recent phone conversation, I must have heard the phrase, “we had assumed” containing that word at least ten times.  And they expressed it within a connotation of disappointment.  I hate that word

Oh, we had tried during their evaluation process to set proper expectations. My sales team thought we were pretty good at expectation-setting, too.  Until Murphy and his network of unknown sages, seers and soothsayers reminded us of: 

Naeser’s Law: 

You can make it foolproof, but you can’t make it damn-fool-proof. 

So, here we are playing the unpopular game of sales-catch-up, called, “resetting the customer’s expectations”.  Ever play that game?  Not fun.  No matter how hard we try, our new customer will still have a feeling of disappointment instead of delight, yes? 

Of course, there is the “u” in that word, not just “me”.  When we hear our customer say, “We had assumed”, we sometimes would like to say, “Hold on a minute…”  For the first miss-set expectation; and the second; sometimes even the third; I’m willing to accept responsibility.  As a sales professional, I do this for a living.  So I take responsibility for addressing things the customer doesn’t even know should be addressed.  After all: 

Answering the unasked question, what someone really wants to know – that’s a really special skill. 

                             Unknown Sage 

However, when our customer persists in being a bit “clueless” about reality; when our customer continues to state disappointment based on that word; we would like to reach the point of calling out the “u” in that word; but we don’t, do we.  No; funny thing about having that “really special skill”; if we claim to have it – then we have to stand by it; even when we start to wonder if our client has moved beyond a few miss-set expectations and is now actually re-negotiating. 

Yes, in the business world leveraging advantages in negotiations can appear even after the deal is done, don’t you think? Obtaining additional vendor-concessions can appear when a new client expresses disappointment about their assumptions and the sales rep tries to make up for their disappointment.  When we do that, the feeling of this concession moves back to the “me” in that word, and we start to hear the Aretha Franklin song, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” 

Yet in our profession, managing our customers’ expectations (and assumptions) comes with the territory.  As has been said many times by our unknown sages, seers and soothsayers: 

The customer may not always be right; but the customer is always the customer. 

And, I would add the words of a former colleague of mine, Gary Givan: 

There is no profit in putting a customer in their place. 

So I guess that means to us sales professions that the “me” takes precedence over the “u” in that word; that dreaded word! 


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Teamwork, or (virtual) manure?

Do you work on a team at your company?  And is this simply an organizational assignment of convenience, or do you actually feel like you’re part of a team? 

According to the Society for Organizational Learning (SOL), the word “team” can be traced back to the Indo-European word deuk (to pull); it has always included a meaning of “pulling together”, SOL goes on to state.  I suppose this origination was directed towards beasts of burden that were doing the pulling back then; not quite the same reference as the people in my office. 

I’d like to be a teamster.  Not the union truck driving kind; I want to learn how to drive my horses to pull a family carriage or a holiday sleigh.  Yes it’s true; I love the smell of manure when I’m working around the corral.  However, when that same smell is detected in the office?  Well, we all know when that occurs either we’re about to be shafted (by our boss or sometimes even one of our teammates); or, our company executives are about to take the company rig on a quick, Gee, while we’re thinking Haw, yes?  But I digress. 

Do you think teamwork in business today is getting stronger or weaker?  Just curious: Are your teammates co-located with you in the same facility, or do they work virtually?  And if you’re part of a virtual team, can the team be effective without team-building activities?  

If we are organized by the org-chart-general-vicinity method, does this make us more of a loosely affiliated group of individuals vs. an actual team?  I think if we were pulling my holiday sleigh under this general-vicinity-method we had better take along provisions.  It will likely take us a long, long time to reach our destination.   

Two of the colleagues I work with are local (one is very local – he is my cubemate); one of my colleagues is located in Singapore; and we report to a Vice President who works virtually from his home in Minnesota.  We are all part of a larger, corporate team; but we rarely have corporate team meetings and we never have any team building activities.  Team building – there’s a concept.  How would you do that virtually, anyway?  

Recently I watched a report on how IBM experimented with virtual team building for team members that were spread out across the globe.  This IBM team set themselves up as avatars in Second Life in an attempt to increase the effectiveness of their working relationship (see ).  The founder of Second Life, Philip Rosedale, stated that one of his goals was to improve inter-personal relationships and even teamwork through his virtual world.  Really? With avatars?  Do you smell something, too? 

And how can we tell if our virtual teams are working effectively together?  Are our team-leaders really that smart and that capable to “see” our work even though they rarely “see” their workers?  I mean, are intangibles such as enthusiasm, patience, creativity, and supporting the team easily observed virtually?  Are these traits even of value to our modern, virtual teams anymore? 

Finally, how are virtual team identities established (for those of us not in Second Life that is)?  Here’s how one successful leader viewed it back in the non-virtual, day: 

Al McGuire, former head basketball coach of Marquette University, once said, “A team should be an extension of the coach’s personality.  My teams were arrogant and obnoxious.”

And that’s no horse manure. 


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