The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective


Archive for September, 2015

Interrupted Attention…

That term was used during a recent webinar.  They were explaining the modern phenomena of people being fixated to their electronic devices.  And in the office – people operating 2-3-4 computer monitors at a time; multitasking throughout meetings.  The presenter presented presentation techniques to address this phenomenon.  I don’t think the audience was paying attention.

Yes, yes, I know – in 2015 multitasking is not just an accepted practice; it has become an expected practice.  I sometimes worry when a client finds me giving them my complete and undivided attention, they are thinking I’m some kind of whacko!

Masquerading as a better way to put everyone in touch, e-mail (and voice-mail) have become incessant distractions, a nonstop obligation and a sure source of stress and anxiety.  

I expect that a public statement by the Surgeon General is in the offering. 

 Seth Shostak

I’ve written often on the impact technology is having on our ability to be smart; to think; to be prompt; to be polite.  We all can relate to those occasions when we’re “caught”, can’t we?  Sorry – I wasn’t listening.  But does it persist?

I only have to be told twice; once. 

Adam Katzenmeyer

I can remember a time when it was more difficult to work with children because of their low attention span.  It used to be that we would complain that our kids are hopped-up on sugar; wound-up with adrenaline; hard to catch their attention; hard to get them to focus.  Maybe this is the source of stress and anxiety Seth Shostak was referring to:

Two children were playing in the back yard when their father came to the porch and yelled at them for the third time to come in for dinner.  The one child turned to the other and asked, “I can’t remember; which one am I?  Jesus Christ or God Dammit?”  

Unknown Sage

In today’s world it seems to me that the levels of interrupted attention among children and adults are reversed.  But when the stress and anxiety of continuously multi-tasking wears us down, our favorite, Unknown Sage offers us this assistance:

Thing to say when you get caught sleeping at your computer:

“Did you ever notice the sound that comes out of the keyboard when you put your ear real close?”

Raise your head slowly and say, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Comparatively, children seem to be a little more attentive today, a little more focused on accomplishing tasks at hand; a little easier to work with. Today, it’s the adults that have “become their TV”; “become their in-box”, “become their phone”.  And we’re not particularly concerned about being rude with our multi-tasking either.

Well, if both adults and children have interrupted attention spans these days, at least I can rely on my horse.  He offers me his best in memory-retention.  Yes, horses are definitely the best – as suggested by Elmer Wieland, founder of America’s finest precision mounted, youth drill teams (see ):

The more I know adults, the better I like children.  The more I know children, the better I like horses.

It’s true – Even if I haven’t ridden my horse for a while; even if we haven’t worked in the round pen.  When I put a saddle on his back he doesn’t freak out; he doesn’t spit the bit out of his mouth.  And when I climb on his back, thankfully, he remembers me; remembers it’s OK; and he doesn’t buck me off.

If only our children; our colleagues, and our clients were so attentive.


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Giving our best…

Football is my favorite sport.  A bit ironic I suppose, because football is the epitome of a time in my life that I did not give my best.  Actually, it was worse than that.  It was the one time in my competitive pursuits (in athletics or in business) that I quit.  I’ve lost many times; won my share too; quit once.

I quit my high school football team two weeks into the start of my junior year season.  It was the only time in my life that my Mom told me I disappointed her.  I can remember going into the head coach’s office to quit as if it was yesterday.  A bit ironic I suppose, because after being a starter and co-captain my freshman and sophomore years, I was not even planning to play my junior year.  I planned to focus on basketball.

The coach called and asked me to reconsider.  I agreed, but when I showed up I wasn’t prepared to give my best.  He and his coaches weren’t prepared to coach me up either.  At the age of sixteen, I decided that quitting was the only escape.  I’ve regretted it to this day.  A bit ironic I suppose – it’s not the not-playing that I regret; it’s the not giving my best.

I bet there have been special coaches and mentors who have had a positive impact on your life.  Coaches come in all shapes and sizes and use a wide variety of styles and techniques.  I bit ironic I suppose – some coaches resonate with us; some don’t.

Here’s a 6 minute movie clip about a high school, an underdog team, and their coach’s expectation about giving our best:

Probably not a technique that transfers into the business world today – but his message does, true?  Yes, the sporting world is different than the business world.  Nonetheless, we don’t have to go it alone.  Even the best-of-the-best have coaches.

In business, our favorite, Unknown Sage offers this:

Common misconceptions about coaching in the marketplace: 

“Coaching is primarily for correcting behavior” – If we only coach people when they do something wrong, we have missed the point. It’s about building not fixing.

“Coaching requires giving up power and control” – The manager relies more on influence. The person is still accountable.

“Coaching takes too much time” – Coaching takes too much time if you don’t do enough of it and you don’t do it correctly.

“Coaching is soft stuff” – The manager who avoids soft stuff usually does so because it is so hard. The work is easy; people are difficult.

“Coaching is laissez-faire management” – Freedom in the workplace, actually just about anywhere, is rooted in strict discipline.

“Coaching is simply being a good cheerleader” – A good manager has the courage and inner strength when needed to tell people the truth.

“Coaching is like therapy” – To be a good manager and coach one does need a basic understanding of human behavior and motivation, but therapy has no place in your relationship with the people you are leading.

Coaches enjoy occasional accolades, too.  The best I ever heard was a tribute to Bum Phillips, head coach of the then, Houston Oilers.  It was once said of Bum:

He could take his and beat yours – and then he could take yours and beat his. 

A bit ironic I suppose, but his players had no quit.  They gave him their best.  Imagine – what could we accomplish today if we just committed to giving our best?


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Workforce generations…

So I was walking through the office before sunrise the other day.  Heading to the coffee machine – you know – the usual ritual.  My colleague Craig was already strapped in and online in a meeting at his cubical.  His phone was set to mute (demo account set to stun!).

Now I don’t know exactly how old Craig is, but his LinkedIn profile shows he graduated from Michigan State with his under graduate degree the same year I did.  Close enough (LoL!)  As I strolled by heading towards the coffee machine and commented about Craig being the “early bird”, his response was classic:  “Came in early – wanted to get a good seat.”

That’s right – two Old Guys starting their day early.

Much is being said and even more is being written about the generational make-up of our workforce these days.  With so much chatter going on – I can’t help myself – I’m weighing in.

How about you?  Which generation are you part of?  And which generation of employees do you think is the most productive; the most valuable; the most important generation for today’s business setting; and into the future?

In offering full disclosure – I’m a proud member of the Baby Boomer generation.  And I’m biased.  In fact, a former colleague of mine who I worked side-by-side with for a few years (and a member of the Generation X generation), once commented (in a very complimentary way I might add) “The old guy can still hunt!”

My online research suggests that as of 1/1/2015, there are 4 generations in the workplace:

  • Traditionalists aged 65-88
  • Baby Boomers aged 46-64
  • Generation X aged 30-45
  • And Generation Y (aka Millennials) aged 16-29

So, with this mixture of old and young; experienced and naïve – my bad – I meant inexperienced; hard workers and smart workers; I ask again, which generation provides the most business value contribution?

BTW – as a side note; where do you fall on the work hard – work smart continuum?  Here’s what my Traditionalist friend has to say:

Work smarter, and as hard as you can. 

Tom Hopkins

Well, my colleague Craig and I can certainly vouch for the “work hard” side.  That early morning?  Not a single Millennial in sight.  They started rolling in at about 8:30.  What was the John Wayne line in the movie Cowboys?  “Burning daylight”, (when it was still dark!)

OK, maybe the Millennials at our company prefer a flexible schedule.  Much has been said and much has been written about our Millennials.  Here is one of the recommendations on how to motivate Millennials by Lauren Sveen in her Denver Post article: 

Studies of millennials by the Intelligence Group, a youth-focused research company, have revealed that 74 percent of them want flexible work schedules.

Really, Captain Obvious?  In fact, when you read her full article (see Welcoming Millennials to the Workforce ) is there anything she suggests for Millennials that Baby Boomers would not appreciate too?

Look at Frederick Herzberg’s summary published in the Harvard Business Review.  And his research was from the 1950’s and 1960’s – aka “Traditionalists”.  The more things change, the more they stay the same I guess.

Marty Birk, a Division Vice President of Sales I worked under “back in the day”, used to ask, “Gary, if you were going into a selling war would you take So-and-So with you?”  Well, in 2015 I don’t care what generation my colleagues are from.  If they can get the job done – harder or smarter – that’s good ‘nuff for me.  How about you?


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The answer…

Have you noticed how frequently we are occupied today in seeking (or providing) “the answer”?

If you’re like me, many times “the answer” to a stated question or posed problem isn’t quite that simple.  My Father-in-Law, who was a carpenter, would respond to our home improvement feasibility questions with, “It all depends”.  How’s that for a non-answer, answer!

Take the mathematical problem; How much is 1+1?   In the precise, mathematical sense the answer is simple:  2.  In the real world of our business endeavors however, “precise” and “simple” are typically fantasies, true?  Our real world problems can be summarized:

Addendum to Murphy’s Law: 

In precise mathematical terms, 1+1 = 2, where “=” is a symbol meaning seldom if ever. 

Unknown Sage

And Murphy was an optimist.

So if our clients and colleagues today just want “the answer” to thus and so, what are we to do?  If their paradigm is – No discussion; No clarification; No interaction; No time – just give me the answer.  Oh, and by the way – it needs to be the “right answer”.  Oh, and I almost forgot – the faster the better.  What are we to do?  What is the (right) answer to such a problem?  Go ahead –please email it to me.  No, don’t call – I’m too busy to chat – in a hurry – you know.

Nobody is in a rush for the wrong answer. 

Robert D. Cohen

Well OK, Mr. Cohen.  But it seems like everyone is in a hurry.  So I ask again, what are we to do when we’re asked for “the answer” knowing that it “all depends”?

In business today there is in many cases an absence of “right answers” vs. “wrong answers”.  There are actually lots of right ways to do things (and lots of wrong ways too).  Answering business questions today is a thinking game.  If no thinking is required – then that is called a “transaction”.

If a question (aka transaction) does not require our interaction; if it can be self-serviced; that’s what’s known as an App on our Smart Phones; or a url on the Internet.  Anything left over probably requires thought – and thinking probably requires interaction – and interaction definitely requires time.

Whatever the business problem posed today is – there is likely not a singular answer – there are simply advantages and disadvantages to each of several “solutions” to be considered.  And how many of us state that we are in the “solution business”?  (At our company we even have people with Solution Consultant as their business card title.)

But if “solution” is mistaken for a “right answer”; and if a “right answer” is mistaken singularly as “the answer”; then don’t we run the risk of winding up back where we started?  Unknown Sage, help us:

Winfield’s Dictum of Direction-Giving: 

The possibility of getting lost is directly proportional to the number of times the direction-giver says, “You can’t miss it.”

Maybe answers can be automated.  Is that why we have so many automated call directories when we phonesomeone with a question?  Is technology “the answer”?

Gattuso’s Extension of Murphy’s Law: 

Nothing is ever so bad that it can’t get worse. 

Unknown Sage

OK, automation is probably not the answer.  Maybe, just maybe the solution is not “the answer” at all.  Maybe the answer is actually taking the time and completing the interactions in order to properly understand “the problem” in the first place.  Maybe the answer is the collaboration around the pros and cons of multiple, applicable answers.

Who da thought?


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Selling in reverse…

Have you ever thought about structuring your sales presentation backwards?  I mean literally taking the topics we do at the end and putting them at the beginning?

What about our sales cycles?  In reverse?  What if we offered pricing early?  Very first meeting early?  Or a “demo”?   Or references?  How do you suppose our prospects would respond?

If you think about it our sales process is like a novel.  A novel was defined to me once as a written piece that has a beginning; a middle; and an end.  Are our sales cycles (and presentations)?  Or not?

Novels are also defined by their length.  I’m told a novel has 50,000 words or more.  Writing coaches suggest that the writer must “capture” their reader’s interest early – very early – first few pages – or better – first few paragraphs early.  And if the writer doesn’t, it’s likely the reader will put the book down, never to return.  It is critical to start entertaining the reader early knowing they have to wait until the end where the “essence” is typically revealed by the author.

Think what it would mean to writers if their readers could read the end of their novel first; get to the “essence” up front.  Would writers continue to write 50,000 words or more?  Would their readers read them?

Thankfully for writers, readers today are entertained by a good story.  It’s OK if the book is long when the “middle” is entertaining.  Sometimes people read a novel to escape from reality; sooth a headache.  Are our sales presentations and sales cycles soothing?

For your consideration… in 2015 prospects expect our end at the beginning; they cover the beginning before we arrive; and prefer to minimize or totally skip our usual “middle” all together.  To them, our middles are neither entertaining; nor soothing.

Many of us still include a company image pitch in our presentations.  In 2015, how entertaining is that?  If our prospect is interested in the idea of doing business with us, won’t they do what we do – check us out online first?

In 2015, the “beginning” is no longer our first meeting with a prospect – it’s the preparation for that first meeting.  They’ve prepared to meet with us with their online research.  We should prepare too, true?  If they could simply buy online and by-pass us altogether, wouldn’t they?  Wouldn’t we if we were them?

In 2015, when we find ourselves in a sales meeting with a prospect shouldn’t we ask – why on earth are we there?

In 2015, the “end” of our sales cycle isn’t the transaction (aka the opportunity; the deal) we “close”.  It’s what we do after the deal is done that counts.  Add-on’s; Phase 2; referrals from our clients to their clients.  Yes, we have many, many more opportunities to maximize “lifetime client value” than merely the dollars from that first transaction.

OK, we’ve covered the “beginning” of our selling activities which I’ve suggested actually takes place before we arrive.  And we’ve addressed the “end” of our selling activities and I’ve suggested there is no “end” – just follow on transactions from satisfied clients (and their clients).  So what about the “middle”?

Well, maybe there is no “middle” anymore.  Maybe our prospects don’t enjoy the “entertainment” of our “middles” anymore.  What if we realized the “end” comes at the “beginning”; and we eliminated the “middle” all together?  What if we sold in reverse?

Now I’m getting a headache; need some soothing.  Anyone have a good novel you’d recommend?


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