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Ladders or Jungle Gyms?

I was chatting with a colleague of mine recently.  He was thinking of putting his “hat in the ring” for a management role.  He asked for my opinion.  I’m always up for sharing opinions, although I know that my opinions are not always welcomed:

“What’s your opinion of my idea?” the brash young man asked his boss.  “It isn’t worth anything”, said the boss.  “I know”, conceded the young egotist, “but give it to me anyway.”

Unknown Sage

Nonetheless, we had a nice conversation about the position he was interested in.  We discussed the pros and cons of managing people.  We also discussed the potential “downside” if he didn’t pursue the position; or worse, pursued it at less than an “all in” manner.  Would there be another opportunity in the future?

I believe the way you go after a job is as important as the credentials you have (or don’t have).  He expressed concern over whether this was the right “Career Ladder” move, and if so was it the “right time”.  I don’t know much about “right timing”.  I have never been skilled at figuring out what the “right time” is when it comes to career moves.  But I know timing is important:

Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance. 

Texas Bix Bender

In absence of a conclusion, we circled back to his career ladder question.  Which in turn stimulated this question:  Is the concept of a career ladder relevant in the 21st century?  I know people move up in organizations; I see people moving up in my organization frequently.  I also see people leave my organization equally if not even more frequently.  Maybe they believe that to move up they have to move on.

When you look at an org chart, the higher up you look the fewer spots there are, true?  Sometimes it appears the only way people from lower levels can move up is if the higher-ups move on.  And when openings appear, does it have to be some sequential progression up a ladder?

If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat.

Eric Schmidt

Do you recognize the name Eric Schmidt?  He was the CEO at Google from 2001-2015.  Talk about a rocket ship!  Prior to joining Google, he led the now defunct Novell Corporation.  I wonder: Did riding one company to oblivion lead to the next rung up on the career ladder at another?

Exactly how does career progression work these days?

The most common metaphor for careers is a ladder, but this concept no longer applies to most workers… the average American has eleven jobs from the ages of eighteen to forty-six… (Bureau of Labor Statistics) …  Pattie Sellers conceived a better metaphor:  Careers are a jungle gym. 

Sheryl Sandberg

Do you recognize the name Sheryl Sandberg?  She is the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook.  Prior to her technology career, she was Chief of Staff to the United States Secretary of the Treasury.  Pattie Sellers is the former Assistant managing Editor of Fortune.

I’m thinking this jungle gym metaphor might have some merit.  According to Wikipedia:

Ninety-one percent of Millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years, according to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations @ Work” survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers. That means they would have 15 – 20 jobs over the course of their working lives!

Maybe it’s time to throw out those ladders.

GAP

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Relevant experience…

Are you an expert at what you do?  Do you have extensive knowledge and experience?  Are you your company’s “Go To” resource?  Or, are you the “Up and Comer” with aspirations to “Take over the world”?  The smartest subject matter expert I know at my company left my company.  It seems he felt his knowledge and experience were no longer relevant to my company’s needs.

Knowledge and experience are tricky things these days.  With answers to just about any question at our fingertips thanks to the World-Wide-Interweb, how much value do companies place in individual expertise?  Add in Artificial Intelligence and the Internet-of-Things; now machines might be those “Up and Comers” with aspirations to “Take over the world”.

At the current stage of my career I’m past “Up and Comer” and “Take over the world”.  What’s fulfilling for me is coaching and enabling those less knowledgeable and experienced with how to execute in today’s business-to-business selling environment.

I get a kick out of the people I work with, young and old, and their level of self-confidence.  Many of the young believe they “already know”; many of the old believe they’ve “already done”.  Neither looks at Learning & Development as relevant.

Well, what do I know?  Maybe they’re right.  Maybe my knowledge and experience are no longer relevant in the 21st century.  That’s why I continuously seek modern tools, tactics and techniques relevant for the sales profession.  Google Alerts; webinars; research papers; business books; MeetUps; every week I seek current thought leadership.  There is tons of thought leadership readily available. It’s the “current” and “relevant” parts that are tricky:

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. 

Alvin Toffler

What is today’s speed of change?  I mean, if you’ve been doing what you do for more than 36 months (maybe even 24 months), is your experience still relevant?  Experience and knowledge may no longer matter.  It may just boil down to whoever can learn, unlearn and relearn the fastest.  Is “Machine Learning” becoming our companies’ “Go To” resource?

With today’s rapid change do we even have a choice but to commit to continuous learning in our business pursuits?  As company leaders and aspiring leaders (the human kind, not the machines) update their strategic plans for competing on a worldwide basis, winning or losing may now boil down to the continuous learning environment they nurture and invest in.

It’s the “invest in” part that’s tricky.  There are lots of reasons leaders get spooked about investing in employees.  After all, study after study suggests that modern employees change jobs at an alarmingly rapid pace.  A leader may feel, “There goes that investment.”  Maybe… maybe not:

…what one CEO said about the risk of investing in a focused training initiative for his company.  Someone asked him, ‘What if you train everyone and they all leave?’   He responded, ‘What if we don’t train them and they all stay? 

Stephen M.R. Covey

Is this CEO’s thought leadership still relevant?  What is the shelf life of thought leadership in the 21st Century anyway?  I believe it’s that relevance part that’s the tricky part.  But how is relevance achieved?  How is it measured?  I mean, Learning & Development is delivered; results are measured; how do these connect?

I wonder if relevance and experience are related and complimentary to one another; or if they have become mutually exclusive?  Oh well, maybe the machines will figure it out.

GAP

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Guessing…

One of my strengths according to Strength Finders 2.0 © is “Context”:

You look back.  You look back because that is where the answers lie.  You look back to understand the present. 

Tom Rath

Unfortunately, I try to apply this strength in my business world but not so much on the personal side.  The business world seems objective whereas the personal side is… well… personal.

Nonetheless, I enjoy looking back and studying the tools, tactics and techniques that have proven successful for business leaders and companies alike.  I study past failures, too.  It’s interesting to me to find that the difference between winning and losing in the business world is often not based on what we guess it should be based on:

Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake. 

Savielly Grigonevitch Tartakower

And over the years, I have noticed much of the success in business has come about as much by accident as by any other means.  More times than not, leaders witnessed outcomes at their companies that were the direct opposite of their best laid plans:

There were times when we lost money on every PC we sold, and so we were conflicted – if sales were down, was that bad news or good news? 

Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.

I remember reading The Google Story © and learning how one of the most powerful technology companies on the planet was formed – with great reluctance – seemingly guess work, by Sergey Brin and Larry Page.  To monetize their intellectual property, the last thing on their mind was to start a company.  So, when they launched a company and eventually went public, they did their best to guess what a company was, and was not, about:

Google is not a conventional company.  We do not intend to become one. 

Sergey Brin and Larry Page

At the other end of the spectrum… We all know of times where things are not working well at our companies, yet leaders were clueless on what to do about it.  Seems like guessing is still a core attribute among leadership:

An old adage was that companies typically spent twice as much as necessary of advertising but had no way to figure out which half to cut. 

Unknown Sage

We all might agree that leaders do the best they can to make educated guesses while leading our companies, but no one really knows for sure how things will turn out.  There’s an example offered by our Unknown Sage about the auto dealer who fired all his sales reps and sales went up!  That story reminds me of the current Wells Fargo situation – at least the firing part; not sure yet if their sales will go back up.

One of the primary lessons I have learned in any and all roles I have held in the business world is not to take myself too seriously.  Truth be told, that is sometimes easier to blog about than to operate by.  (There’s that darn personal side again.)  I have had, and continue to have, my share of diva meltdowns when things don’t go my way.  However, I am eventually able to get a grip – eventually – and return to normal.  I mean; I’m just guessing too.

And I would guess that since I (along with everyone else) don’t know it all; I (and everyone else) can relax at work and do the best I can at what I would guess to be the best.  Is that what you would guess?

GAP

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Rules and traditions…

Did you watch the U.S. Open golf tournament recently?  It was on Father’s Day and on Father’s Day I enjoy watching golf.  Years ago, I used to play instead of watching.  It’s a tradition my father taught his sons.  I passed that tradition down to my older son and he is continuing it with my grandson.  Golf can sometimes be painful even though traditional:

A golfer, searching for a ball lost deep in the rough, asked the caddie, “Why do you keep looking at that pocket watch?  It isn’t a watch”, the caddie said.  “It’s a compass.”

Unknown Sage

Like most major golf tournaments, the U.S. Open had its share of post-tournament commentary and debate.  Do you remember the hype?  What was the loudest; that the course was set up unfairly; that 28-year-old Brooks Koepka won for the second year in a row (a feat last accomplished 29 years ago); that Phil Mickelson broke USGA Rule 14-5?

Oh, you’re not familiar with USGA Rule 14-5?  You know – it’s that hitting-a-moving-ball rule golfers must abide by.  Golf has plenty of rules and traditions whether there is a title on the line or not.  Many of these traditions are passed down from generation to generation:

Golfer Tommy Bolt is known for his sweet swing and foul temper.  While giving a clinic to a group of amateurs, Bolt tried to show his softer side by involving his 14-year old son in the lesson.  “Show the nice folks what I taught you”, said Bolt.  His son obediently took a 9-iron, cursed, and hurled it into the sky. 

Thomas Roswell

Yes, losing one’s cool is considered a golfing tradition.  Even Phil Mickelson can succumb.  And when a golf celebrity, or any celebrity for that matter, loses their cool in public, the media must highlight it; debate it; and rerun it over and over again.  It’s a rule.

When it comes to golf; rules and traditions take on an even more powerful role – they almost become laws:

Keiko’s Law of Golf

The only way to avoid hitting a tree is to aim at it. 

Unknown Sage

When I used to play, I remember hitting more than my share of trees.  I guess Keiko’s Law was among all of the other rules I traditionally ignored.

Of course, sitting down for four hours to watch golf on TV can ruffle a few feathers on the home front.  Fortunately, I’m a modern man; I DVD’ed that tournament.  We had the kids and grandkids over for a BBQ – a Father’s Day celebration.  There’s a rule in our household that weekends, and celebrations start with work.  My sons and granddaughter helped install new handles on our kitchen cabinets.  Afterwards we ate, drank, and celebrated.

When you own an old ranch house with horses in the back yard, there is always work to be done.  No matter what weekend, whether a birthday party or a holiday celebration, we invite the family over and … get to work.  It’s our tradition more so than golf.

I believe in hard work.  It keeps the wrinkles out of the mind and spirit. 

Helena Rubinstein

I enjoyed the chance to follow the Father’s Day tradition of golf that my father taught me.  It was also a day of celebration – and work – a tradition I have taught my children and grandchildren.  Next year I’ll vote for the golf part again; but everyone knows we will wind up working too.  I’m not sure if that’s a tradition or a rule.

GAP

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Independence…

Posted Jul 4 2018 by in True North with 0 Comments

Happy Independence Day Americans!  Here’s to a fun (and safe) July 4th holiday.  Here’s to our country – “Land of the free and home of the brave”.

Our Founding Fathers had certain ideals in mind when they fought for our country’s independence.  They had a vision for the common man; free from oppression; living in harmony; pursuing happiness.  Question: Has that vision remained intact in recent times?  I hope so.

Today, the term “it’s a free country” too often takes on overly individualized interpretations.  Being free doesn’t mean we can do whatever-the-duck we feel like:

Freedom means choosing your burden. 

Hephzibah Menuhin

One of the burdens we Americans carry is the concern for and the caring for others.  The Statue of Liberty; symbol of our country’s liberty is inscribed:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

I don’t think “breathe free” means becoming overly individualized or undisciplined, do you?  Freedom requires continuous concentration and adhering to the rules:

Piloting your own plane may suggest a desire for freedom.  It usually takes a lot of self-control, however, to earn the money necessary to buy your own plane.  And once you are at the controls, concentration and rules are vital.  Undisciplined pilots do not live long.  

Alfred P. Sloan, Jr.

Pick any popular pet peeve; texting while they drive; parking in handicapped spaces when they’re not actually handicapped; bringing their pet on a plane declaring it is an “emotional support animal” (which trivializes heroic service dogs performing invaluable service to those truly in need).  Does it seem like today’s list of “I’m special; the rules don’t apply to me” is getting longer?

I believe our country’s center of power lies not with the individual, but rather with each individual finding common ground for the pursuit of the collective good for all individuals.  John Wesley believes it’s not about “me”; it’s about how “we” share our fortune with those less fortunate:

Do all the good you can.

By all the means you can.

In all the ways you can.

In all the places you can.

At all the times you can.

To all the people you can.

As long as you can.

Yes, America is independent and the land of the free; but as it has been said many times, freedom is not free:

Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it.  It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it. 

Unknown Sage

America is the land of the free because of the brave.  And bravery is found in many more places than on the battle field.  We witness bravery every day in every way by average people who are proud to be an American!  We inherited that from our Founding Fathers:

John Hancock, whose name has become synonymous with the word signature, has the largest signature on the Declaration of Independence.  It is said that after he signed it, he turned to his comrades and said, ‘I don’t want the King to have any problem finding my name’. 

Laurie Beth Jones

So, let us all enjoy America’s independence today.  And then tomorrow, let’s go back to work – working to insure this country remains what our Founding Fathers envisioned.  Let us honor those with bravery – past and present – those who gave their lives for our freedom; our independence; our fortunes.  Let us continue to make this a country all of us – in common – are proud of.

GAP

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Experiences and expectations…

Those darn clients and their expectations…  I’m over four decades into the sales profession and I still don’t get how the client ticks.  Does client loyalty still exist?  Or have buying patterns become solely based on quickest; cheapest; and most convenient?  Maybe it’s me – I’m a client, too.

Maybe it’s the way other vendors confuse them (and us).  I mean, we have all experienced those quirky processes and procedures other vendors have set up:

Why is it that it takes only a few minutes and no paperwork to pick up or drop off a rental car at Hertz’s #1 Club Gold, but twice that time and an annoying name/address form to check into a Hilton hotel?  Are they afraid you’ll steal the room? 

Michael Tracy

Who do you think has set the bar for delighting clients and exceeding expectations today?  Is it Amazon that has captured our loyalty?  Is it all those craft brewers that are everywhere?  How about Google?  Google responds to any and every type of inquiry we make no matter what.  Has Google become so ubiquitous that we don’t even think about them as exceeding client expectations?

As coffee shops and destinations go Starbucks seems to be continuing their dominance.  Although just this morning I had what I would describe as my first disappointing experience at a Starbucks from a client expectation standpoint.  The barista took my order and simply forgot to fill it.

Yes, she was busy; the store was understaffed; the 4 employees had to cover both the counter and the drive-thru.  OK – it’s just coffee, so I was patient and pleasant while standing there.  Since I wasn’t in a hurry, it became almost amusing.  Almost.  In their haste to keep up, they all four saw me standing there; they all four assumed their colleague was filling my order.  One of them finally noticed that she was filling orders from other clients that came in after I was standing there.  That’s when it was finally my turn – “Tall Blonde roast; no room”.

I can’t say this simple experience won’t impact my future preference.  In the 21st century, any and every simple experience can impact clients’ future buying preferences, don’t you think?  David Siegel does:

Do 80 percent of what you need to do, and 100 percent of your customers will go someplace else.

You see, mornings are my time for writing.  And not every morning because like you I have this prior commitment I must tend to from time to time called my full-time job.  So, when I have the opportunity to spend an hour or so reflecting and writing about things that occur in my world, a bad customer service experience can get in the way.

Yes, I will return to Starbucks in the future; but maybe not this location.  Every time I drive by I will remember that “last time…”  There’s always another coffee shop up ahead.

Such neglectful inconveniences happen almost daily:

Why is it that Land’s End remembers your last order and your family members’ sizes, but after 10 years of membership, you are still being solicited by American Express to join?

Michael Tracy

I’m an ex-AMEX client.  They “disappointed and inconvenienced” me once in a memorable way for all the wrong reasons.  And there’s always another credit card company up ahead.

So, I ask – how loyal are you to your providers when they misunderstand your expectations and provide you with a disappointing experience?  Is there always another provider up ahead for you?

GAP

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Revolutions…

I enjoy a good debate about the 21st century workforce.  Companies like mine invest great time and money trying to create an environment that “motivates” employees.  Stand-up desks; pool tables; cafes on every floor; you name it.  I know other companies that are even more flamboyant with office accoutrements.

Young workers want to “revolutionize” work processes.  New leaders “revolutionize” what old leaders had in place.  After all, it’s the Information Revolution now.  “Knowledge workers” are keen on changing things:

A knowledge worker is someone whose job entails having really interesting conversations at work. 

Rick Levine

Exactly what is the Information Revolution about?  “Information”; “Revolution”; change for the sake of change; being “interesting”; keeping employees “engaged” (aka “entertained”)?

My sources may be unreliable, but their information is fascinating. 

Unknown Sage

I’d like to believe there is more to our companies and our leaders than that.  I mean, we proclaim America is the “greatest industrialized country in the world”, true?  Of course, our trade imbalance with China and our massive budget deficits might just indicate we are better at proclamations than production.  But I digress.

I know we are long past the era of our Industrial Revolution.  The thing is I like to study history; learn from what went well (and what didn’t); apply such lessons learned to get better today at what I already do best.

During our Industrial Revolution we endeavored to perfect the technique of studying what went well (and what didn’t) in order to perfect our ingenuity and productivity.  One example of such was time-motion studies.  According to Wikipedia:

A time and motion study (or time-motion study) is a business efficiency technique combining the Time Study work of Frederick Winslow Taylor with the Motion Study work of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth… It is a major part of scientific management (Taylorism). After its first introduction, time study developed in the direction of establishing standard times, while motion study evolved into a technique for improving work methods. The two techniques became integrated and refined into a widely accepted method applicable to the improvement and upgrading of work systems. This integrated approach to work system improvement is known as methods engineering…

Way back then, we even learned about how over-study unleashed the “Department of Unintended Consequences”.  Returning to Wikipedia:

The Hawthorne effect… is a type of reactivity in which individuals modify an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed.  The original research at the Hawthorne Works in Cicero, Illinois, on lighting changes and work structure changes such as working hours and break times was originally interpreted by Elton Mayo and others to mean that paying attention to overall worker needs would improve productivity. Later interpretations such as that done by Landsberger suggested that the novelty of being research subjects and the increased attention from such could lead to temporary increases in workers’ productivity.

I worry about today’s Information Revolution.  Is the increased attention leading to temporary productivity increases?  I know today’s workforce loves “flexibility”; “interesting work”; “variety”; etc.  But will we remain “productive”?

Two hundred years ago, the Industrial Revolution centralized the workforce.  The Information Revolution will reverse the process eventually sending half or more of us back home, either to work or to draw unemployment. 

Don Peppers

In the sales profession we often refer to that fictitious company making those fictitious products known as widgets.  But if we had to build a factory and hire employees to produce that widget, would the knowledge workers be able to from home?

GAP

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To Dad…

Happy Father’s Day coming this Sunday!  Aren’t fathers and grandfathers great?  The memory of my father brings a proud smile to my face (and my heart!).  If you’re lucky enough to have living fathers and grandfathers, give them more than a handshake on Sunday.  Hugs are the tradition.

Traditionally, men are not renown for showing our emotions, true?  “Be a man”; “cowboy up”; and the like continuously profess our masculinity.  They say a father can only be as happy as his most unhappy child.  My Dad had his periods of unhappiness during his lifetime from the trials and tribulations his sons faced, among others.

I too, have witnessed first-hand the ups and downs of my children and grandchildren.  Their downs are my downs.  Thankfully, I know God only burdens us with the amount of heartbreak we each can handle.  But my children’s ups; their accomplishments; their happiness?  Thankfully, those blessings are boundless.  When my children are happy it brings a smile to my face (and my heart)!

My sons have children in their lives so I get to be the grandfather too!  Grandfathers have responsibilities:

Sometimes the only difference we can make is passing our wisdom on to someone else who will make the bigger difference. 

Linda B. Gray

The older I get the more appreciative I am of the love and devotion I received from my father.   He wanted his sons to make a difference.

He wanted us to be patient with some of his quirkiness, also.  I remember after my Mom died, my Dad ate his dinners at the hospital cafeteria two blocks from his house.  It might have been for the convenience; maybe for the memory of the last place he saw his wife alive.

This lasted every evening for over twenty years.  The employees thought Al Pokorn actually worked there.  One summer, he was even invited to their company picnic!  I didn’t mind this quirky tradition.  But when he won a TV in the employee raffle, I told him he had to give it back.

We Dads are all a little quirky I suppose:

Tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe and he’ll believe you.  Tell him the plate you’re handing him is very hot and he’ll have to touch it to believe it. 

Mike Jaeger

Today when my children use one of my little sayings, or demonstrate a family value or tradition that has been passed down from father to son, it brings a proud smile to my face (and my heart)!

Hopefully, our children and their children will carry on the values and traditions we learned from our fathers and our fathers’ fathers.    For Dads, this is one of fatherhood’s most satisfying accomplishments we can witness while we’re here.

Was it Mickey Mantle who said?

If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself.

Of course, someday our little angels may turn on us; they’ll want to take away our car keys before sending “Gramps” to a home.  And when that day comes we will think of our forefathers again:

When I die, I want to die like my Grandfather who died peacefully in his sleep.  Not screaming like all the passengers in his car.

Unknown Sage

Brings a smile to my face (and my heart!).

So, here’s to my Dad; and your Dad; and Dads across the world.  They have helped us all make a difference – a tradition to be passed down.

GAP

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Documentation…

I write a lot in my professional life (in my personal life too – Thank you in advance for reading today’s little ditty!).  I wonder how long “writing” will continue in our society what with voice recognition technology advancing the way it is.

They say to be effective at writing; you have to “grab” your reader quickly.  Otherwise, short attention spans take over.  I even attended a Training and Development seminar recently where the focus was on “micro-training”; 180 to 300 second training pieces to match the short attention spans that dominate – maybe even “control” – people today.  I guess writers of User Manuals didn’t get the memo about this “grab them quickly” concept.

But being “trained” 3 to 5 minutes at a time, WOW! Add in “machine learning” and it makes me wonder who’s doing the learning; us or the machines?

Documentation goes well beyond the Training and Development field.  Just about everything in our world can be improved when it’s properly documented.  However, there is “meaningful” documentation and then there’s “fluff”:

The bad news about formal proposals is that most are poorly composed, poorly written, include a lot of unnecessary information, are hard to comprehend, and are usually much too long.  The good news?  Nobody reads them anyway. 

Mahan Khalsa

I believe documenting what you do makes you better at doing it.  Remember the almost fanatical commitment to documenting step-by-step procedures in the movie Apollo 13?  No place for “fluff” on the way to the moon and back.

I recognize not every task we do at work carries equal importance.  In fact, according to our favorite Unknown Sage:

Cohn’s Law

The more time you spend in reporting on what you are doing, the less time you have to do anything. Stability is achieved when you spend all your time doing nothing but reporting on the nothing you are doing.

That’s one way to reach stability I suppose.

Nonetheless, the VPs at my company are committed to meaningful documentation.  My program (and my colleagues’) must be properly documented whether we believe anyone actually reads it or not. That’s OK by me; I don’t mind doing the work.  But I confess that sometimes I wonder:

Written reports have purpose only if read by the King. 

Wess Roberts

How hard would you work at documenting your job if you thought the King wasn’t reading your reports?  Assuming you don’t work for NASA, of course.  Said differently by Charles Kingsley:

The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.

I know I should do the best job I’m capable of doing regardless of inspection by others.  And as I stated above, documenting what I do makes me better at doing it.  I will know, as will my clients, whether I deliver quality work or not.  Pride in that quality should be motivation enough.

Yet I confess when it comes to documentation that Unknown Sage has me worried:

Arnold’s First Law of Documentation

If it should exist, it doesn’t.

Arnold’s Second Law of Documentation

If it does exist, it’s out of date.

Arnold’s Third Law of Documentation

Only useless documentation transcends the first two laws.

Especially, that Third Law!

So, I’m documenting for you today the details behind my personal and professional documentation activities.  In so doing, I hope it improves the quality of my work.  And thankfully, someone took the time to document all those laws for us kings to read and contemplate today.

GAP

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What makes you tick?

OK everyone; I’m swimming in the deep end of the pool with this one.

My Mom said she learned how to swim when someone took her out in the lake and threw her off the boat. I said, “Mom, they weren’t trying to teach you how to swim.”

Paula Poundstone

I was thinking about my career the other day in anticipation of attending a Learning & Development seminar (e.g. a seminar on training trainers how to train). I knew at this seminar I would be asked to introduce myself and give a short “elevator pitch” on my background and what brought me to the event.

I have written about my shyness many times before. Mingling in public with strangers in professional or even social settings is painful. I’ve had to learn how to overcome my awkwardness.

How about you? What makes you tick? Are you extroverted; introverted; it all depends; all of the above? Do you subscribe to the quote that according to the Quote Investigator is attributed to Mark Twain as well as many other sources?

Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt. And live like it’s heaven on earth.

That definitely doesn’t describe me. In order to disguise a delicate level of self-confidence I have become a “situational extrovert”. Maintaining this appearance takes practice. I practice via frequent, social interactions. I do so for two reasons; the first is because I am a life-long-learner. The second is because I’m following the advice of William James:

Everyone should do two things each day that they hate to do, just for practice.

What makes me tick is the realization that choosing to be a sales professional requires continuous interactions with others; mostly strangers. To succeed requires practice. So I practice that which I hate, often.

I have trained myself to face these confidence-shaking situations by preparing; in advance; in detail; rehearsals included. And at first when I did not succeed; I tried, tried, again. I’m still trying.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Alvin Toffler

Ignorance in the 20th century led to my fragile self-confidence. I wasn’t illiterate as I built my career; just the opposite, I think. I didn’t know anything about anything so to make a living I had no choice but to learn; quickly; on-the-job.

I was reminded of this once when I was interviewing a sales rep who wanted to join my Major Accounts team. His resume looked good, but don’t they all? It was during his interview that I sensed he did not truly have the experience he claimed. He picked up on my concern and said:

Gary, just tell me what to do and I’ll do it. I’m all balls and no brains, but I will learn quickly.

I hired him. He did learn quickly and ascended to a President’s Club level of sales performance.

I’ve come to realize that what makes me tick is this career connection to learning. My first 10 years in the sales profession I was learning while doing. During my second 10 years, I was learning to manage while still doing. In my third 10 years, I was leading while learning to teach. And the past 10 years I have been teaching while re-learning.

I get great fulfillment from life-long learning. The social interactions part? Not so much. What makes you tick?

GAP

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