The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective


Archive for May, 2015

Giving Advice…

Giving advice, now there’s a lightning rod topic.  It is a terrific compliment when someone solicits us for advice, yes?  However, when we give unasked for advice it can be received very differently.

It seems to me that advice-oriented conversations either progress (or digress) based on a variety of variables.  When should we speak?  When should we listen?  Whose advice should we follow?  How do we avoid that lightning rod?  Reminds me of a party:

Nothing makes me more tolerant of a neighbor’s noisy party than being there. 

Franklin P. Adams

But I digress.  I was approached by a young colleague seeking career advice last year.  He had two, internal opportunities; wanted my opinion on which one might be better.

His request was a compliment and a surprise.  I barely knew him; our jobs are unrelated; we didn’t even work on the same floor.  Nonetheless, he had been told I was some sort of seer or soothsayer or something so he sought me out for advice.  Of course, you already know how I feel about seers and soothsayers:

It seems to me that no soothsayer should be able to look at another soothsayer without laughing.


I agreed to meet; discussed his career options; answered his questions the best I could; offered him a little seeing and soothsaying.  With a “let me know how things turn out”, I wished him well.

That was last year.  I see him in the office from time to time; say “hello” at the coffee machine.  I’m thinking the fact that he’s still with the company is a positive indication.  If I were clairvoyant, I would know for sure if my advice benefited him.  Of course, you already know how I feel about clairvoyants:

At a recent annual meeting of the International Association of Clairvoyants, the meeting began by reading the minutes of next year’s meeting. 

Unknown Sage

I was reminded of this collegial career advice encounter recently as I was finishing up a weekly, 1-to-1 conference call with one of my clients.  These 1-to-1 meetings have been both a compliment and a surprise.  I do my best to encourage my client to set the agenda; drive the conversation; focus his priorities.  And he does get each meeting started down a certain path.

But then, after asking for my advice he sits back… and … proceeds to multitask.   I can literally hear him keyboarding in the background and I notice as he occasionally puts me on mute for a moment or two.  Upon my inquiry, he apologizes offering that a “client issue” just hit his in box and he’ll “only need a second to respond”.  This of course, makes me wonder what kind of client issue only needs a second to respond?  But I digress.

In reality he is my client and I strive to comply with my clients’ requests – even for 1-to-1 meetings listening to their multi-tasking.  This particular client is very tenured and very experienced so when he sends me Meeting Requests I take them as both a compliment and a surprise.  Perhaps I’m simply confirming what he already knows: 

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t. 

Emily Jong

Sometimes we just need someone to help us sound out what’s on our mind, true? Sometimes it’s the listening not the advising that matters.  If I were a better soothsayer or clairvoyant, I’d know when to speak and when to listen.  I’d be better at avoiding that lightning rod!


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Comfort zone…

One of my colleagues recently left our company to take a role with a start-up.  “Boots”, I said, “you’ll do great – go get ‘em!”  And with that she left the “comfort zone” of her current position for a “new world”, a new role, with a new company, in a new city.

If you try too carefully to plan your life, the danger is that you will succeed – succeed in narrowing your options, closing off avenues of adventure that cannot now be imagined.

Harlan Cleveland

Encouraging my now former colleague made me think, “When was the last time I was in my comfort zone”?  I have been operating outside of my comfort zone for so long I’m trying to remember what is was like.

1975 – 1975 was the last time I can remember being in my comfort zone.  I was graduating from college during a tough job market.  My inclination was to stay at my alma matre Knox College, in Galesburg Illinois, and work in the admissions office.

My wife didn’t want to stay in a small town; my basketball coach and mentor, Harley Knosher, knew taking an admissions job was simply a path of least resistance.  So the two of them teamed up; prodded me out of my comfort zone; “You’ll do great – go get ‘em!” they said.

So I sent out over 200 letters of employment inquiry; was invited for 2 interviews; and received one, count ‘em, one job offer.  “Honey” I said, “We’re headed to Merrillville, Indiana for a career in retail”.   And with a $9,600 annual salary offer in hand, we headed towards a “new world”, a new role, with a new company, in a new city.   And that’s when I left my comfort zone.

How about you?  Are you in your comfort zone?  How adventurous are you?  Does life have you in a position where you must operate outside of your “comfort zone”?  Well, maybe that makes us better?

There can be constructive worry if it is directed towards positive goals. 

Joe Newton

The topic represents quite the contrast for me.  You see, I am a planner by nature; risk adverse; fearful; often shy.  Those who “know” me might be surprised by such a description.  Yet it’s true.  All things considered, I’d just as soon take in an afternoon movie vs. explore the new world.

Oh I’m skilled in my trade; experienced; successful in my field.  Over the years I’ve had to condition myself to operate outside of my comfort zone; take risks; do new things.

I don’t know – maybe life is meant to be lived uncomfortably.  Maybe we’re meant to be constantly striving; constantly seeking; constantly worrying.  Take today’s business models.  The only constant we seem to be dealing with is change!  And how do we face the “new world” of this change?  Who likes facing the new world of new business models; new companies; new markets?

What’s my return on investment in e-commerce?  Are you crazy? This is Columbus in the New World.  What was his ROI?

Andrew Grove

OK – by comparison, we might not be quite as bold as Christopher Columbus.  He faced more than the unknown.  The “experts” of his time were convinced about the world:

People told Columbus the world was flat.  He didn’t insist it was round.  He got in a boat. 

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So come on everyone; you’ll do great – go get ‘em!  There’s a “new world” out there waiting for your discovery.  Besides, comfort zones and afternoon movies are over rated.


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Differentiate or die…

Read it?  It’s the title of a business book that’s been on my “To Read” list since July of 2007.  Maybe I should get around to reading it!

You see, I’m finding myself discussing pricing and discounting tactics with my clients a lot lately.  Are you finding yourself in frequent pricing; discounting; deal-approval activities too?  No?  Well then please teach us how you are differentiating.

OK, while waiting for our Teacher to arrive, permit me to offer further opinion on our dilemma when differentiation is absent.  Preface:  I admit I am the owner of the statements, “Never lose a deal over just money”; and “I’m not too proud to discount”.

However, I try to balance this thinking with the off-setting viewpoint:

In absence of differentiation, the only thing the client has to talk about is price.

If this reflects today’s reality, than pricing (and discounting) actions should be our tactic of last resort and employed only after we have executed everything in our power to differentiate, yes?

But exactly how do we differentiate?  Exactly?  Oh Teacher – chime in whenever you want.

Well, while we’re waiting for our Teacher, permit me to offer additional opinions about what is, and what is not, differentiation.  Let’s start with the old, “walking the walk; talking the talk” wisdom:

Men are all alike in their promises.  It is only in their deeds that they differ. 

John Baptiste Moliere

In the movie Batman Begins, the lead actor echoed this when revealing his identity to his heroine – remember?

It’s not who you are inside but what you do that counts.

So, how are we at the “doing”?  It could be the key differentiator our prospect is looking for.  But “doing” what?  What’s the key?  What’s the secret?  Where’s our Teacher?  Is it in one of the many business books I haven’t read yet?  Perhaps not.

When I’m on the buy-side working with a sales-person, the difference maker to me is all of the little things vs. one big secret.  Are they prompt; courteous; articulate; helpful?  Do they follow-up before I buy; after I buy; when I’m having an issue? Proactively?  All the little things:

If we oversold or under delivered, then it wasn’t a sale; it was a lie.  Lying is easy; selling is hard. 

Rick Page

Look I get it – if I’m buying something that requires me to interface with a sales representative vs. just transacting online, then what I’m buying probably has a degree of complexity (and corresponding risk) associated with it.  I’m seeking the sales professional’s clarification skills; her problem-solving skills.  It’s how she helps me think; helps me make an informed decision – not “closing me”.

I’ve noticed my clients are so busy they only want to interact with me when they believe I can add value.  In my world, absence of value = “gone dark”.  So every time I’m interacting with my clients I’m seeking their value – and sometimes it’s simply the little things within our interactions:

That Mary is the Under-Vice President of Expectation Deflations for the western semi-region tells you nothing.  That Mary is wicked smart, totally frank, and a trip to work with tells you everything. 

Rick Levine

You know – their job is tough enough; when my clients call me I try to lighten their load not add to it.  I may not be the smartest; most technical; most skilled resource at my company.  But I do try to be a trip to work with.  And sometimes that’s differentiation.

How about you?


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Hyped Performance…

I recently wrote a little ditty about high performance, see  Excellence in performance is a wonderful thing to behold in the workplace; in the classroom; on the field of competition, isn’t it?  And when we get to see the best of the best during our lifetime, it’s awesome!

However… in these modern times sometimes performance gets a bit hyped.  “Best in our lifetime” is different than “Greatest of all time”, true?  I’m OK with such a designation as long as there is evidence.  But what “evidence”?

In business, we often work for companies that claim being “the biggest”; “the best”; “the first”; “the leader”.  But based on what evidence?

How about the sales profession?  I have a personal list of my sales “Hall of Famers”, but I must admit my evidence is subjective.  Plus, I’m only familiar with a sliver of successful sales professionals.  Again, what is the evidence used for comparison?

Of course, the sporting world is renowned for hyperbole around the “Greatest of all time”.  Take the NBA; is LeBron James the greatest player of all time?  Michael Jordan?  Well, let’s look at the evidence.  If we use NBA Championships, LeBron’s next ring will give him a total of 3; not even making the list of the Top 27.  Michael Jordan’s 6 rings are 2 behind Tom Heinsohn and 5 behind Bill Russell, see

Well, maybe individual scoring should be the evidence.  Sorry LeBron fans; he doesn’t crack the Top 25.  And Michael Jordan?  He has 2 seasons in the Top 10 of all time.  But Wilt Chamberlin has 5 seasons in the Top 10, including 1 – 3, and in Wilt’s 1961-1962, all-time scoring season he averaged 50 points per game – averaged!

Triple-doubles is better evidence you say?  OK, LeBron has passed Michael in that category, with 36 games vs. 28 games of triple-double performance.  And we can pretend that makes LeBron the “Greatest of all time”.  Except for Oscar Robertson’s 181 games with a triple-double performance.  In fact, according to Sports City:

1961-62, Oscar Robertson, while playing for the Cincinnati Royals averaged a triple-double over the entire season. He averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists. Robertson is the only player to ever accomplish this.

No worries – when there is an absence of evidence, we can still be entertained by simply pretending hyped performance is synonymous with greatness:

Former NBA center and coach Johnny Kerr said his biggest test as a coach came when he coached the then-expansion team the Chicago Bulls and his biggest player was 6’8″ Erwin Mueller.

We had lost seven in a row and I decided to give a psychological pep talk before a game with the Celtics, Kerr said.  I told Bob Boozer to go out and pretend he was the best scorer in basketball.  I told Jerry Sloan to pretend he was the best defensive guard.  I told Guy Rodgers to pretend he could run an offense better than any other guard, and I told Erwin Mueller to pretend he was the best rebounding, shot-blocking, scoring center in the game.  We lost the game by 17. 

I was pacing around the locker room afterward trying to figure out what to say when Mueller walked up, put his arm around me, and said, “Don’t worry about it Coach.  Just pretend we won.” 

James S. Hewett

I don’t know who the “Greatest of all time” is in any field.  But I do enjoy the entertainment associated with hyped-performance arguments, LOL!


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