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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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