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Archive for November, 2017

Exceptions…

I have been leading in a major training initiative for my company’s re-sellers this year.  We are making significant changes and we’d like our partners to adopt these changes in their approach, too.  That way the customer has a consistent experience across all of our channels.

Seems logical, doesn’t it?  Yet, with but a few exceptions the majority of our partners offer resistance during the training sessions.  They cite all sorts of exceptions (real and imagined) that suggest our new methods aren’t as good as their existing methods.  Sometimes they even suggest that our new methods flat-out, won’t work.

It reminds me of my Father-In-Law.  He was a carpenter and a true “master mechanic with the tools” (as they say in the trades).  In the 1960s and 1970s he trimmed million dollar mansions in suburban Chicago when million dollar mansions were rare.

When my wife and I bought our starter house in 1978, we had a whole list of home improvement and remodeling ideas.  Champagne taste; beer money (as they also say in the trades).  It was natural to turn to Dad for a little help.

My wife would show him what she was thinking for remodeling the kitchen; building a deck with a clubhouse for the kids; changes to the living room; bathrooms, too; the list went on.  And his initial response invariably was, “That won’t work”.  We heard the phrase “that won’t work” so frequently that we carry his legacy in our life to this day.

You see, when he said, “That won’t work” he didn’t mean it couldn’t be done.  What he meant was it actually could be done, but he would have to do it differently than the way the idea was initially laid out.  He did remodel our kitchen, living room and bathrooms.  We did have a deck and a clubhouse.  The clubhouse was built so well that we relocated it to our next backyard when we moved up from our starter house.

Fast forward to my training classes this year.  Every time a partner says “That won’t work” and cites an exception that doesn’t fit with our new and improved engagement model, it triggers old behaviors.  My knee-jerk reaction is to engage; to argue; to discredit the cited exception as some fantasy.  Then, after I regain my composure I remember my Father-In-Law.  I smile and think that’s what they said but that’s not what they meant.  At least I hope so.

I understand exceptions, I think.  I agree with Malcolm Forbes:

There are no exceptions to the rule that everybody likes to be the exception to the rule. 

And I’m no exception – just ask my wife when she says we need to remodel thus and so.  I give it the old, “That won’t work” try.  Then we smile and realize my will power will wilt in the face of her vision.

The opinions expressed by the husband do not reflect the views of the management of this household. 

Unknown Sage 

We all deal with exceptions throughout our day; at work; at home; in the community.  I believe our views about exceptions are grounded on our individual perspectives:

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

Franklin P. Adams

So this year I’ve been trying.  I’ve been learning how to address exceptions.  I’d prefer such cited exceptions to fade in the face of our training, but I understand Malcolm Forbes is probably right.  Then I remember my Father-in-Law.  And then I’ve learned to smile.

GAP

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Thank you again and always…

‘Tis the season of thankfulness.  Not that we should wait during the rest of the year to say, “Thank you”, but certainly November and December remind us of our blessings, don’t you agree?  So before going any further – permit me to say, “Thank you”!

Thankfully, I am blessed with family, friends, clients and colleagues who enrich my life beyond count.  Thankfully, smart people have put counting in the proper perspective:

Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted. 

Albert Einstein

Thankfully, I have readers who accept my periodic posts and reciprocate with responses of appreciation towards my little ditties.

I can’t count all that I am thankful for; nor all of the times I have wanted to thank someone for their kindness.  But I am thankful for sure.  I’m thankful for living in Denver – most of the time anyway:

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 we will spend time with family, friends, food, and fun with a little football during the Thanksgiving holiday.  We will take a few quiet moments to reflect on all we have to be thankful for, too:

Thank you Lord.  I may never have a lot; but I have always had enough. 

Gary A. Pokorn

Thankfully we have the opportunity to experience the peace and power of a positive perspective this Thanksgiving.

GAP

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What’s the answer…

I have a training class next month.  Classes afford me the enjoyment of a little intellectual sport.

When conducting class for our resellers I insert a variety of exercises designed to strengthen our problem-solving “muscles”.  A lot is being studied and a lot is being published about how technology is actually reducing our ability to think.  I mean, is artificial intelligence making mankind’s intelligence artificial?

I have contributed to the conversation myself (see http://thequoteguys.com/2015/02/self-obliteration/).  Instant messaging; email; social sites; et al, are contributing to the weakening of our intellectual capabilities; dulling our minds; making us stupid!

Sorry, I inserted that last phrase of hyperbole to catch your attention – odds are you’re reading my little ditty from a cell phone or a tablet while having additional devices and screens open; multi-tasking.  If you are driving – please close my post and keep your eyes on the road!  Please drive defensively against those around you – who are ignoring my plea and reading my post!

But I digress…

As I work with my partners on problem-solving exercises; constantly competing for their intellectual attention in the face of continuous multi-tasking; I get their frustration and their preference – “Gary, just give us the answer!”  In my last class, one participant Googled for the answer to the opening exercise (which was a 3rd grade math problem from the year 2000).  He didn’t even try to think.

I understand.  We’re all busy; we’re all stressed; we’re all distracted; we’re all connected every waking minute of every waking hour.  If you believe that such behavior has very negative impact on our intellect, it begs the question, “So what?”

To me, our value in the workplace of today and that of the future is based on our thinking abilities.  Simple jobs are being automated; employers are hiring robots; employees who can’t think will be left with the leftovers of the jobs machines won’t do, true?

So how do we gain or maintain our intellectual strength while avoiding Donsen?

Donsen’s Law

The specialist learns more and more about less and less until, finally, he knows everything about nothing; whereas the generalist learns less and less about more and more until, finally, he knows nothing about everything.

We are on top of the animal kingdom because of our minds aren’t we?  We can trace this fact all the way back to the invention of the wheel.  But what if they we’re distracted back then?  What if the invention of the wheel was overlooked due to the dulling that comes with technology?                           What are we not inventing today because we’re overly dependent on machines that may decide to overlook solutions to problems that impact mankind, but not machines?

I remain hopeful that we can snap out of our social media induced; cellular technology driven; Siri mind numbing; drone sleep-walking environment.  I believe we can reverse the trend and regain our intellectual strength:

Imagination is stronger than knowledge.

Dreams are more powerful than facts.

Hope always triumphs over experience.

Robert Fulghum

I enjoy Robert’s expressions of hope.  Here are a few more; https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/robert_fulghum

I understand.  Problems are hard; answers are easy; can’t we just get to the easy without going through the hard?  I don’t think so.

In class I try to offer a little fun in the pursuit of the “answers” because getting to the “answer” is grounded on the strength of our “thinking”.  The mathematical solution comes from the accuracy of the formula.  From the caveman days forward, it always has – don’t you think?

GAP

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Traveling, revisited…

To support a corporate initiative, I have been traveling a lot in 2017.  The phrase, “traveling a lot” is relative.  I’m traveling a lot more than I have in recent years; but I’m not traveling nearly as much as my boss or the other true Road Warriors.

Of course, none of us business types travel nearly as much as my friend Monica who is a flight attendant for United Airlines.  With her seniority, Monica has a degree of control over her travel schedule.  As such, she occasionally encounters a passenger that takes the same flights for business purposes.  One such passenger gave Monica a compilation of travel humor that she in turn shared with me.

In 2017 we know that the skies may not always be “friendly”, but we can fly with a smile on our face nonetheless.  I mean, a plane flying in the air is by itself an amazing feat:

So when you’re on your next late; cramped; bumpy flight, here are a few tales to help your disposition, all courtesy of Monica and our favorite Unknown Sage:

Tower: “Delta 351, you have traffic at 10 o’clock, 6 miles.”  Delta 351: “Tower, give us another hint.  We have digital watches.”

A student became lost during a solo cross-country flight.  While attempting to locate the aircraft on radar, ATC ask, “What was your last know position?”  The student replied, “When I was Number 1 for takeoff.”

Taxiing down the tarmac, the DC10 abruptly stopped, turned around and returned to the gate.  After an hour-long wait, it finally took off.  A concerned passenger asked the flight attendant, “What was the problem?”  “The pilot was bothered by a noise he heard in the engine”, explained the flight attendant.  “It took us a while to find a new pilot.”

The pilot was sitting in his seat and pulled out a .38 revolver.  He placed it on top of the instrument panel, then asked the navigator, “Do you know what I use this for?”  The navigator replied timidly, “No, what’s it for?”   The pilot responded, “I use this on navigators who get me lost!”  The navigator proceeded to pull out a .45 and place it on his chart table.  The pilot asked, “What’s that for?”  “To be honest, sir,” the navigator replied, “I’ll know we’re lost before you will.”

A DC-10 had an exceedingly long rollout after landing with his approach speed a little high.  San Jose Tower, “American 71 heavy, turn right at the end of the runway, if able.  If not able, take the Guadalupe exit off Highway 101 and make at right at the light to return to the airport.”

After waiting what seemed to be an interminable amount of time taxiing, an unknown aircraft complained, “I’m f***ing bored!”  ATC responded immediately, “Last aircraft transmitting, identify yourself!”  Unknown aircraft replied, “I said I’m f***ing bored, not f***ing stupid.”

The controller working a busy pattern told the 727 downwind to make a three-sixty, a move normally used to provide spacing between aircraft.  The pilot of the 727 complained, “Don’t you know it costs us two thousand dollars to make even a one-eighty in this airplane?”  Without missing a beat the controller replied, “Roger, give me four thousand dollars’ worth.

O’Hare Airport Control, “United 329 heavy, your traffic is a Fokker, one-o’clock, three miles, eastbound.”  United 329, “Approach, I’ve always wanted to say this – I’ve got that Fokker in sight.”

Here’s to getting home safe, Road Warriors – not everyone can do this for a living.

GAP

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Big hats…

2017 has been an “interesting” year – to say the least! It might be more accurate to say it has been an “extreme” year. Lots of alterations occurring all around us, true? Sometimes transformation is a good thing; sometimes seemingly not.

All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.

Ellen Glasgow

When displacement occurs in the corporate world, employees spook easily. We want to know what this switch means to us; our role; our department; even the company itself. Leaders prefer we not spook so easy; leaders prefer we accept, rally around the differences. They’d like us to follow John A. Shedd and his big hat:

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.

I believe we’re willing – but need a little help – a little, well… leadership.

There has been such significant conversion occurring at my company in 2017 that I was recently invited to participate in a feedback session to help my company’s leaders ascertain what impact all of these modifications are having on employee engagement.

It was fascinating to hear the responses from my fellow employees of their opinions and reactions to the “adjustments” we have gone through (with the promise of yet more “improvements” to come). There were a wide range of views (some positive, some negative) on how assimilation has influenced our jobs; our daily routines; our future; our engagement.

For my part, I’ve been focused on our leadership’s approach to communicating shifts to the rank and file throughout 2017. This year has afforded me a bird’s eye view of who is stepping forward; who is wearing a big hat as all of us go through a time of revolution. Big hats are always in the spotlight during such times.

I pontificate about leadership often. I sometimes put on a big hat, myself. In his book Tribes©, Seth Godin offers these thoughts about leaders and leadership:

My thesaurus says the best synonym for leadership is management. Maybe that word used to fit, but no more…

Leaders have followers. Managers have employees. Managers make widgets. Leaders make change.

Change is frightening, and to many people who would be leaders, it seems more of a threat than a promise. That’s too bad, because the future belongs to our leaders…

And leaders must put on their big hat to lead change.

I believe we all experience significant change throughout our life. Maybe not each and every day; but certainly throughout each year. When we are the ones to stimulate the change, we feel good about what’s now new. We wear our own big hat and lead those around us that this change will be good.

On the other hand, when we are the recipient of unrequested change our reaction to the event can be quite different. In the corporate setting such change albeit inevitable, is still challenging:

As one IT Professional put it; “We’ve been reorganized, restructured, re-engineered, right-sized, down-sized, up-sized, TQM’ed, and MBO’ed, and if I hear the word empowered once more, I swear I’m gonna scream!”

Geoffrey James

During times of change followers look to leaders for continuous clarification. Leadership communication separates the true leaders from the imposters, or as it is said in the south;

Big hat; no cattle.

When our companies are going through cycles of uncertainty, I believe employee engagement is tied directly to the frequency, clarity and effectiveness of leadership communications. In absence of continuous word from the top, we look for our own big hats, yes?

GAP

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