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Breaking the rules…

This little ditty breaks several of my rules.  First, it contains some profanity – please stop if that will offend you.  Second, it continues beyond my “standard 600 words”.  For those of you who are new – welcome to my world LoL!  (see http://thequoteguys.com/2015/07/a-peek-inside/)

Staying with me?  Thank you!

I attended my company’s women in business lunch ‘n learn recently.  The topic was, “Gender equality in the workplace is good for everyone – including men.”  The presenter was a male millennial from our sales department.  He assigned us to small groups and facilitated an excellent and provocative discussion on our respective career views from our gender perspectives.

There are lots of “rules” in the workplace these days about roles men and women play.  Lots of terms like “glass ceiling”; “gender equality”; “women in the workplace”.  A general theme is today’s rules seem to have been written by men for the advantage of men and the disadvantage of women.

When our meeting facilitator played a TED Talk video clip featuring a prominent professor of social studies from an east coast institution (I apologize, I don’t remember his name), the professor offered this position for us to contemplate:

Privilege is invisible to those who possess it.

That caused me pause; I’m privileged.  Perhaps not always and in everything.  Like so many others, I’ve experienced my share of failure and even tragedy.  But perhaps because I’m a man; with a college degree; and a successful sales career; I would now be considered by others as “privileged”.  And if that is their view, I could not argue.

I never thought comparatively about my privilege from the perspective of women who do not feel they share equally.  This was the topic of our small group discussion.  The women in my group each said they do not feel they carry the same amount of respect as their male counterparts in the eyes of their managers or their clients – just because they are women.

Truth be told, I don’t give gender privilege in the workplace much thought.  Maybe because privilege is invisible to me.  Maybe, because my life has been largely influenced by women.  My wife and my mother are the two most prominent people who have helped make me the man I am.

In my first role as a technology sales “hunter”, my (pre-sales) Systems Consultant, Donna Provost, was my guide.  When I worked at Integral Systems and hit my first “Million Dollar Seller” recognition, Barb Sadtler was the sales rep in my office I looked up to.  Debbie Fritchman and Kathy Garvin were my pre-sales teammates every step of the way.

In my first sales manager role, Sheila McDonald, Lisa Kwicien, and Joy Cox were my top reps.  In my first divisional role, Patty Manvelichvili was the first person I recruited for my team of subject matter experts.  When I started my own company Teah Bennett was my mentor.  Today, an experienced, successful, and female executive leads my department.

I don’t believe my criteria for success in the workplace is gender-based.  I respect excellence; performance; results; and anyone that helps me win – male or female.

Success is a lousy teacher.  It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.

Bill Gates

I hope the women in my life know how much I appreciate their help in not losing.

We are approaching my 600-word rule.  But today, I thought I’d continue with the wisdom from one of my favorite comedians (or is it comedienne?) – profane; provocative; professionally successful…

Feel free to stop here if you’re not a fan of Joan Rivers.  OK, that’s my 600.

Here’s what Joan Rivers told Penn’s graduating seniors in 1989

When they asked me to speak at graduation, I thought they meant GRADUATION. I’d been looking forward to quaffing champagne and wearing a black cap and gown – to match my roots. And I thought I’d be receiving a degree! They said I wasn’t going to get the degree, then they said I was going to get the degree, then they said I wasn’t going to get the degree. It became a situation I’m sure some of these seniors can easily relate to!

It seems like yesterday my late husband and I were talking to our daughter Melissa about choosing a college. The choice was made more difficult by our California standards. There, higher education is anything above crayons; the only culture you find out there is in yogurt. The idea of a really deep, philosophical, existentialist question is, “How tan am I?” We went to Bennington, where I was shocked at tuition – you could support South Korea for one year on it. And we went to Williams, where the most popular course was “How To Speak To Your Servants Without Using Your Facial Muscles.” We went to Brown and we sat in on a philosophy class where they discussed, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, who gives a shit?”

[At the first Penn football game I went to], Melissa had bet on Penn, and I bet on the number of cheerleaders who didn’t have nose jobs.

I’d like to tell you one thing, which is the truth as I see it. Please, everyone, look to your right, and look to your left, and look all around you – because right now, this is as good as it’s gonna get for a long, long time.

I hope all of you learn to fail, and plan to fail, and fail early on. Failure is the best thing that can ever happen to anybody. Not only did each failure in my life teach me something, it made me stronger. And moved me one step closer to success.

Don’t be proud. If you think the world is waiting for you now that you’ve graduated, you’re wrong. You think you’re hot. You think you graduated from Penn and Wharton: big deal. Nobody’s waiting for you. Try any path you can, go through any door that opens. Don’t wait for the right moment, because right moments come out of wrong moments.

Barbra Streisand is probably one of the biggest stars in the world, right? But if you think of her as unknown – she was no beauty: ug-o nose, stupid-looking crossed eyes, great voice, but nobody cared. She would go from audition to audition to audition. Nobody wanted her. Finally, in desperation, she sneaked into [an] audition for The Sound of Music. The call was for a 16-year-old, blonde, blue-eyed, young, very pretty Aryan. They’re looking for a Nazi. Perfect for Barbra! And she has the nerve to sing for them. [Someone told her], try nightclubs, which she did, and [eventually], she was discovered. She became a major, major star. And from that day on, I haven’t heard from the bitch.

If you don’t think [love and money] are related, spend a week in Hollywood. John Paul Getty once said – and I agree – “If you know how much money you have, you haven’t got enough.” Get out there, work hard, and thank God we’re living in a country where the sky is still the limit. And the stores are open late. And you can even shop from your bed, thanks to television!

I was one who, for about a minute and a half, went around saying, “Money doesn’t make you happy.” Yes, you can be happy without it. But it opens a lot of doors…From money, I turned to love, which is money’s first cousin. Look for love, and when you find it, grab it with both hands. And if it isn’t there at the moment, don’t be discouraged, because believe it or not, love comes to everybody. Even ug-os.

When love arrives, you have to make a choice: should I buy a real sofa or a sectional? A sectional is good because then you can split it up if it doesn’t work out, but I’m saying to you all, please get the sofa. Go for the gold. Don’t live together. Get married. It sounds dull, but marriage is just like living together – except you get presents.

Success doesn’t mean everyone’s gonna love you. Forget that. Success is short-lived, and you never want to trust success. Enjoy it for the moment, then, for God’s sake, go back to work. Never forget that work is the reason you became successful.

You think your childhood is over, but as long as you’ve a parent left, all you graduates will always be a child to somebody. Always remember, no matter how old you are, a light will always be in the window at your parents’ home for you. You can always come home. You can come for two days, for two weeks, for two years – even though that’s kind of pushing it a little bit.

I was asked to speak her today because I’m funny and I’m caustic and I’m cheap. That’s not the reason I accepted. I came because I wanted to pay tribute publicly to my daughter and to her friends and to the institution which has supported them and nurtured them and, please God, educated them. And what I mean by “educated”: I think that means that Penn has taught all of you to see, to hear, to smell, taste and touch.

You’re college graduates now. Use your education. Remember, it’s not who you know…It’s WHOM.

From Under The Button ©

GAP

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The boss…

I have written about bosses and their/our quirks periodically.  Today, I often run into people who say their career aspiration is to, “move into management.”  My response?   “Be careful what you ask for!”

Recently I listened to radio commercials sponsored by the Denver Women’s Chamber of Commerce celebrating the “25 Most Powerful Women in Denver” (see http://www.cwcc.org/media-release/colorado-womens-chamber-commerce-announces-colorados-2018-top-25-powerful-women/ ).  Is that what being the boss is all about; power?

When I perused their list I saw big companies, big titles, and statements about overcoming big, bad, male-dominance.  Is that what being the boss is all about?

When I interact with “the boss”, that’s not what I’m usually thinking about.  However, truth be told I may have had those traits back in the day when I was the boss.  Only my direct reports would know.  (Maybe they’ll share their opinion?)

Permit me to share a few excerpts from my list on the topic of “being the boss”.

First, am I grounded?  Do I emulate Gandhi; or Attila the Hun?  I mean, if the boss is a whacko, how effective can he or she be managing/leading people?

There is both peace and power in knowing and understanding who you are, where you’re from and where you’re going. 

Doug Burgum

Second on my list:  How fun as the boss am I to work for?  Many people have jobs today with a degree of tedium.  Many people struggle getting everything done that every day demands both personally and professionally.  If we cringe when caller ID shows it’s the boss, how likely are we truly doing our best and contributing at our highest level?

Hey boss, how about this one:  Describe how you empower your people…  Do you readily and continuously share information with your team?  Or do you believe information is power, and withhold all/many/some of the key details?  Getting the job done through your people is your responsibility, isn’t it?  Here’s what Peter F. Drucker said:

Finally – and perhaps the most important lesson – the professional manager is a servant.  Rank does not confer privilege.  It does not give power.  It imposes responsibility.

Next up – as the boss, how well do you adapt to your people?  Or, are you of the mindset that your people must adapt to you?  Which approach do your people think works the best?  I learned this management principle the hard way.

The first day of my first time being “the boss”, was the beginning of our fiscal year.  Our annual ritual was to inform each sales rep of their new quota (which was higher); their new territory (which was smaller); and their new compensation plan (take a guess).

My team was comprised of three women; and one man.  The man complained; the women cried!  I wasn’t prepared for the latter – I hadn’t yet learned that as the boss.  My people helped me adapt – if I was going to be their boss, I better have a box of tissue in my office LoL!  And believe me, this event wasn’t about male-dominance; it was about behavior.  My job was to adapt my behavior to that of my people if I expected them to excel vs. exit.

So I repeat; if you’re committed to becoming “the boss”, beware!

Listening is the most potent talent of a leader, especially to what may be unsaid. 

Cal Turner, Jr.

Did I already list listening as a key attribute on my list?  Go ahead; double check; you probably weren’t listening.  No worries – I’m not the boss.

GAP

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I’m Gonna…

Annual planning; boat-floating; achievement drive; creating memories; we’re one month into 2018… now what?

If we don’t intervene, the start of each New Year can look a lot like the end of the previous calendar year, don’t you agree?  Many of us have great intentions each New Year; some of us even make New Year resolutions.  That’s a boon for health clubs.  Weight loss goals, along with many other popular resolutions, recycle this time of year for many of us.

Resolutions recycle because of the high failure rate.  Here’s what the Google Machine says:

Only 8 percent of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions, according to one commonly cited statistic. There are many reasons people can’t stick to their resolutions, from setting too many of them to getting derailed by small failures.

Count me in on the list of those with great intentions.  The problem is intentions don’t count:

You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do. 

Henry Ford

Nonetheless, I will try and re-try and re-re-try in 2018.  I bet you will too.  We vow not to get derailed by small failures; nor will we postpone our effort:

Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.

Donald Robert

This year – we’re gonna!  This year, we will join those 8 percenters.  Of course, the odds are not on our side.

It’s curious why there are so many of us that share this dilemma.  I mean, we are capable; intelligent; even successful in our fields of endeavor.  But when it comes to self-improvement or self-discipline, we often perform worse for ourselves than we do for our companies, our clients, and our careers.  Disappointing.

I have spoken about the “Principle of Disappointment” before, meaning: Every day I know I’m going to disappoint someone.  Every day I know I won’t be able to complete every task on my task list.  Every day I start the day with determination to do it all, get everything done, disappoint no one.  And at the end of every day I fail – someone was disappointed today.  Every day.

It’s inevitable for me and I believe it’s inevitable for us all.  The better and more capable we are, the more we pile on to our daily To Do List; inevitably setting ourselves up for small failures.

If you believe (as I do) that we cannot avoid disappointing someone today, then the only question remaining is, “Who will we not disappoint today?”  Ironically, we rarely put ourselves at the top of that list.  (Google suggests 92 out of 100 of us don’t.)  And inevitably, we become the very ones we disappoint… especially as it relates to our self-improvement and personal development goals.  It’s a common trap

Life is what happens when we’ve made other plans. 

Susan Jeffers

No, we can’t “plan” our way around it.  And, we can’t avoid the Principle of Disappointment.  If we will achieve our self-improvement goals it will take focus; it will take a new way of prioritizing; it will take acceptance that we will inevitably disappoint some one today; and every day; but today, it will not be us!

This year I will try and re-try to put myself on the list of those who succeed with their resolutions.  This year, if I accomplish my self-improvement goals then I will become an even better resource for my company, my clients and my career.  A healthier, better balanced “me” is good for all those I care about.  You too?

This year – I’m gonna!

GAP

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Gray area? – Probably not…

Occasionally, I come across a written piece that really impacts me – think sledge hammer impact.  I’ve referenced such a piece I read recently in its entirety; hoping it impacts you, too.

Mark’s piece speaks directly to the point:  Do you and I have integrity?  Yes or no?

We will forget and forgive any judgment error that you make, but integrity mistakes are forever. 

David Cottrell

Regardless of our professions (but absolutely in the sales profession) skilled, intelligent, ambitious people have great power.  The question becomes how does one use one’s power?  IMHO, the most evil weapons turned inwardly upon the American people of our generation has been a PC and a spreadsheet operated by an ambitious, Wall Street, MBA.  Even Warren Buffett chimes in (followed by the sledge hammer):

In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.  

Warren Buffett

The phrase “Eight is Great” was a mantra for Wells Fargo from the CEO on down.  The targets were daunting. Every customer was to have 8 bank products.  Wall Street and shareholders were transfixed and came to expect even more impossible results quarter after quarter.

The controversy upended lives, shook the bank, and destroyed trust.  Leadership looked the other way, management pushed too hard, and reps took short cuts.  Short cuts led to deceit.  Deceit led to fraud.

Sales is as exciting as it is dangerous.  You negotiate the deals, bring in the revenue, and own the relationship.  Sales is also the most high risk and high stress of professions because it boils down to the number.  The expectation for earnings drives the revenue number which sets the quota at every tier of the sales organization.

Incentives drive behavior.  It starts with revenue goals and quotas.  That can lead to activities that live in the ethical gray area.  When you mix intelligence and ambition in an environment with no boundaries, the gray area takes over the culture.  Think Enron, the subprime mortgage crisis, and the litany of past corporate scandals.

Integrity is the cornerstone and foundation of professionalism. That is especially true in sales where trust is our currency and credibility can be fleeting.  Even small lies or misstatements can create huge rifts.

Integrity begins with you and your actions.  We all have that voice inside our head that causes us to pause when we come to an ethical dilemma.  Listen to it, pause, and think about the consequences.  If you are still unsure, talk it out with someone.  But in my experience, when the question pops up in your mind, it is a clear sign.

Even if you do right, what about the company you are employed?  The environment matters.  If your company signs deals at the “35th of the month”, if harassment goes unchecked, if “customer first” is more a punchline than practice, you do not want to be guilty by association.  You are better off working somewhere that respects ethics.

Live a life of integrity, all good things in life & sales starts with that one principle.

Mark Birch

Our favorite, Unknown Sage offers reinforcement:

Conscious – is when you are aware of something.

Conscience – is when you wish you weren’t.

And Emily Jong brings us home with this advice:

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

When it comes to integrity – there really aren’t gray areas, are there?

GAP

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Force multipliers…

I enjoy coaching sales managers.  IMHO, it’s the toughest role in the business; part super-sales-rep; part leader; part administrator; part trainer.  Lots of parts to being a front-line manager (sales or otherwise), true?

In the sales department, companies like to promote top sales reps.  Despite all the research stating almost universally those top sales reps don’t have the requisite skill set to be effective sales managers; companies promote them anyway, yes?

In, “Critical Ways Managers Motivate and Demotivate Employees”, Dr. Bradberry offers:

Organizations know how important it is to have motivated, engaged employees, but most fail to hold managers accountable for making it happen… When they don’t, the bottom line suffers… Gallop research shows that a mind-boggling 70% of an employee’s motivation is influenced by his or her managers.  It’s no wonder employees don’t leave jobs; the leave managers.

When in doubt – blame it on the manager – but that might actually be accurate.

I get it; I’ve been one.  And like all managers, I enjoyed some success; endured some failure.  Some of my direct reports thrived under my management; some hated me; a few I had to fire.

I too wanted to learn the answer to the question I was recently asked by an Oracle Sales Manager, “Gary, what is my job?”  He continued, “Should it be the super-sales-closer”?

Coming in at the end of a sales process; offering your pen to sign the order; leading the close, the win, the “kill of the hunt”… that’s the glory part of selling.  Do sales managers think their people like them stealing the lime light?  Does the manager understand the damage she is doing to her own credibility?

Damage you say?  How does closing deals damage manager credibility?  After all, the sales rep still gets the commission.  Going back to the question at hand, deal-closing is not the sales manager’s job.

Each time the sales manager steps in and “takes control” she delivers the message to the sales rep, “You’re not capable.”  Oh yes, I’ve heard the justifications…  “Gary, I’m just helping my reps until they become self-sufficient.”   Really?  IMHO – it doesn’t work that way:

Call it a universal law… You are exactly as credible (as a sales manager) as (your sales rep) is with you… Recognize him for what he is – a mirror of you. 

Barry Trailer

No, I don’t believe the front-line sales manager should be the “super-sales-closer” and in so doing damage their own credibility.  Jump in on one deal, and managers tend to jump in on all deals.  The lime light is addicting.  The sales manager role must scale to much greater heights above just deals.

Managers must focus on getting the job done through their team; they must build-up their team’s credibility.  And that takes great skill when dealing with rep diversity.  For example:

Treating everyone equally shows your top performers that no matter how high they perform… they will be treated the same as the bozo who does nothing more than punch the clock.

Dr. Bradberry

OK, OK, let’s lighten up on Bozo – it’s not easy being a clown.

But managers must encourage each person to believe he is the super-sales-closer.  Managers must get the most from each person on their team – regardless of diverse experience and skills.  Each sales rep must believe she will kill her quota; is unstoppable; is totally credible:

Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. 

Colin Powell

Yep – the sales manager has so much more to accomplish than merely closing deals.  Don’t you think?

GAP

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Leadership (again)…

Let’s go again…  Whether at work; within our family; on a sports team; in the classroom; by our government; in every relationship; can you think of any area of our lives that is not impacted (positively or negatively) by leadership?

We’ve all worked for “that” boss, true?  You know, the good one; or the bad one; the one that inspired us; the terror; the young one, the old one…  I bet you can remember that boss that impacted your life, yes?

What makes a good boss tick?  John Maxwell offers:

A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.

His viewpoint was included in a post by one of my favorite thought leaders, Dr. Travis Bradberry in “Why Nice Bosses Finish First”. (see https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-nice-bosses-finish-first-dr-travis-bradberry )

Is that the key?  To be effective as a boss do we have to be nice?  When we work for a nice boss, does she command our respect; inspire us to perform; prevent us from quitting?  Dr. Brad summarized a survey from Randstad Consulting that found,

… most employees would trade in their bosses for better ones rather than receive a $5,000 pay raise.

Hmmm… assigning a trade value for a good boss; $5,000 per year.  I think one challenge in comparing the trade to a raise is what our Unknown Sage taught us:

The Salary Axiom:

The pay raise is just large enough to increase your taxes and just small enough to have no effect on your take-home pay.

Makes me think that being the boss; especially an effective boss; is situational.

I was the nice boss once – my people trampled on me!  I had no credibility, they gave me no respect, my department was a mess, but everyone would say, “That Gary, what a nice guy.”

I started thinking about turning to the dark side.  We’ve all read about those tyrannical leaders.  Steve Jobs was legendary in his manner of berating employees.  Is your boss a screamer?    We never know for sure if they’re truly a horse’s ass, or if this is their way of motivating employees.

Stanley Gault CEO of Rubbermaid:

He responds to the accusation of being a tyrant with the statement, “Yes, but I’m a sincere tyrant.”

I wonder who Stanley followed to develop his leadership style.  What do I know?  Back in the day when I took my second go-round as the boss, I was cautious.  Thankfully, my sales people were patient.  They helped me trip across a foundational leadership principle I believe in to this day.

Back then when our new fiscal year rolled around I was tasked with raising quotas; shrinking territories; and tweaking comp plans; 3 things that anger sales reps almost universally.  In my case, each of my reps came into my office individually and complained about how unfair the changes were.

Walking that fine line between being too nice of a boss (aka pushover) vs. a tyrant; I patiently listened to each person’s complaints but held firm on the changes.  And that’s when it dawned on me!

The Principle of Equal Unfairness

When everyone on my team believes I am being unfair, then that means I am being equally unfair; and being equally unfair is fair.

I’m not sure that made me the “nice boss”, but I can tell you my sales teams always got over the annual ritual and excelled.  Hmmm… equal unfairness… maybe I’m on to something?

GAP

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Losing you…

I’ve been working with a friend of mine over the past year or so – mentoring him as best I can.  When he was promoted from an individual contributor to a front line, sales manager he felt he could use a little help.  We connected through the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (see https://aa-isp.org/ ) where I’m a volunteer mentor.

Over his past two fiscal years we have convened regularly to chat about the challenges of being a front line, sales manager – IMHO – one of the toughest jobs in the profession.  I remember back to my very first days in that role.  I was assigned to lead a team of 4 of our company’s highest and most successful quota achievers; 3 women and 1 man.  Arriving home one evening my wife inquired about my day, “What did you learn today?”

What I learned, I had never given much previous thought to – women, even top selling women – cry.  There I was in my new sales manager role; coming to it after being the top sales rep in the office; thinking I already knew everything; and BOOM!  Tears.  Worse, I didn’t have a box of tissue in my office.  No one gave me a heads up on that necessity.

So when I started mentoring my friend as he settled in to his new sales management role, he permitted me to offer guidance on many of those little things, easily overlooked, that make a big difference in the eye of our followers.

Throughout our conversations I have tried to shed light on the underlying principles successful sales management is grounded on.  I’m a big believer in principles.  One of my mentors authored Principled Based Leadership © which I refer to managers and leaders at any level in their organization.

Principles plus the little things plus a box of tissue make a big difference for front line sales managers.  The most important little thing?  We’re being watched:

One more word about your time:  If you’re in a leadership position, how you spend your time has enormous symbolic value.  It will communicate what’s important or what isn’t far more powerfully than all the speeches you can give.  Strategic change doesn’t just start at the top.  It starts with your calendar. 

Andy Grove

The mentoring meetings with my young protégé have been a tremendously fulfilling experience for me.  Just recently, we came upon one of my favorite leadership principles he is now personally being impacted by.  It sounds like this from his up-line, “Matt, we hate to lose you.”

No, he’s not leaving the company; just the opposite.  He’s seeking (aka competing for) his next promotion.  His main competitor?  His boss doesn’t want to “lose him.”

It’s easy for leaders to proclaim the importance of career development and advancement at their company, true?  But when it comes time to move one of your key people off your team and advance them to next assignment – well – we don’t want to “lose them”.

Actually, when you have earned a promotion your manager is not “losing you”.  And everyone in the organization is watching:

Gary, your people are not permanent.  Enjoy them while they are on your team; develop them; promote them; then bring in the next ones.

Tom McSweeney

Does your company operate on the principle of, “enjoy them; develop them; and promote them”?  Or do your top people have to literally quit and take a job with another company in order to get the role and/or promotion they’ve earned?

GAP

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Problem statements…

I’ve written recently about the large amount of change we are going through at my company.  And even though sales professionals are in the business of selling change, we tend to be quite change adverse ourselves.

During times of change, followers often make “problem statements” (aka protests, complaints, bitches) to our leaders, yes?  And during our period of change I’ve observed one of my colleagues consistently making such problem statements to the boss.  In turn, the boss has been quite consistent – he puts the problem back in my colleague’s court and asks him to come up with a solution.

It’s not that the boss is above input (or criticism) on his game plan for the team; just the opposite in my opinion.  You see, my boss is stellar at setting our strategic course based on the company’s priorities; hiring skilled, experienced people for his team; and empowering us to get the job done.  We are nicely compensated for our contributions, too – just like those that implemented dramatic changes in the United States steel industry:

“We have the hardest working steel workers in the world”, said one Nucor executive.  “We hire five, work them like ten, and pay them like eight.” 

Jim Collins

However, “getting the job done” at our company isn’t easy – I bet that holds true at your company too.  And on more than a few occasions, my colleague will make a “problem statement” seeking to throw the issue over the fence into my boss’ yard.  He doesn’t like the boomeranged result.

The reality is solving these problems (aka issues, concerns, difficulties) is the reason he hired us to begin with.  He’s very skilled at anticipating our problem statements:

The boss always scheduled the weekly staff meeting for 4:30 on Fridays.  When one of the employees finally got up the nerve to ask why, she explained; “I’ll tell you why – I’ve learned that’s the only time when none of you seem to want to argue with me.” 

Unknown Sage

So I get it – don’t expect to throw the problems of getting my job done over the fence and expect my boss to handle them.  Those problems (aka challenges, complexities, trials and tribulations) are the reason why he hired me in the first place.

And I’ve been around the block enough to understand the realities of team member complaints (aka grievances, grumbles, moans):

Zimmerman’s Law of Complaints

Nobody notices when things go right.

I may have an advantage as compared to my colleague (to be fair though, I’m not totally knowledgeable about his background before joining our team).  But I’ve been the boss before. During that time, I attempted to follow the teachings of great business leaders such as Alfred P. Sloan who led General Motors to the powerhouse of his industry during his time:

The job of a professional manager is not to like people.  And whether one approves of people or of the way they do their work, their performance is the only thing that counts and indeed the only thing that the professional manager is permitted to pay attention to.

I know my colleague doesn’t like it when he hits the boss with problem statements and doesn’t get whatever burden lifted off of his shoulders.  It’s not a “like” thing to begin with.  The boss is simply demonstrating faith in my colleague’s ability to perform.

The good news (aka happiness, silver lining, positive side)?  Like Nucor, we are all quite capable of the meeting the high performance he expects.

GAP

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Assessed to the max…

I know there is one, popular narrative in the workforce today, “My manager/company doesn’t care about me.”  It’s one of those mind sets that typically feeds bad attitudes, bad performances, and ultimately employee turnover.

In my case… under the banner, “careful what you ask for”… I have recently experienced the opposite end of the spectrum.  Before going into the details, permit me to say it has been a very positive experience (I think?).

Starting with our Human Resources Department, my Manager completed my quarterly performance review.  It was a mix of “Exceeds Expectations” coupled with “Outstandingly Awesome” ratings.  Nice start!

Next, the leader of our functional area is making a big commitment to the professional development her staff.  And she is an active participant:

If you’re in a leadership position, how you spend your time has enormous symbolic value.  It will communicate what’s important or what isn’t far more powerfully than all the speeches you can give.  Strategic change doesn’t just start at the top.  It starts with your calendar.

Andy Grove

Her calendar started with launching an internal book club, and the first book we read was The Challenger Sale ©.  On a team call, each person was asked what profile detailed in the book we aligned with.  I stated I aligned with the “Lone Wolf” – and noticed no one on my team disagreed.  I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad.

We moved on to reading and discussing The Challenger Customer ©.  Again, there was an opportunity to align with the buyer personas described in the book; I aligned with the Skeptic.  Hmmm, is there a pattern developing here?

She then scheduled each of us to complete a DISC© assessment (which I’m sure we will discuss in an upcoming team gathering).  And wouldn’t you know that the Lone Wolf, Skeptic performing at an Exceeding Expectations/Outstandingly Awesome level profiled out as a “C” – Conscientious?

Our next assignment was reading Networking on UBER Steroids: How to master a more powerful way to network © with an emphasis on how we can better leverage our personal brand.  Ahh – the personal brand thing.  How others perceive us and all that.  Quite a challenging “ask” for this Lone Wolf, Skeptic, Conscientious, socially shy type.  Like others, I don’t always “play nice” in my company’s sand box:

Stanley Gault CEO of Rubbermaid:

He responds to the accusation of being a tyrant with the statement, “Yes, but I’m a sincere tyrant.”

However, my Conscientious profile pressed me to improve my “Elevator Pitch” for better networking.

We were then assigned the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0® which begins by having the reader take an emotional IQ assessment – what a surprise!  My score of 74 meant… well, I could use a little work.  Actually, I was strong in the Self-Awareness and Self-Management quadrants.  Hooray for the Conscientious, Skeptic!  But in the Social Awareness and Relationship Management quadrants?  Do those apply to Lone Wolves?

Then I read the detailed report.  It occurred to me that since I took this assessment so close to the DISC© assessment, I may have been overly conscientious in answering some of the questions resulting in a weaker score than I probably deserve.  Skeptically speaking that is.  Leading me to ponder whether I should even care – Lone Wolves rock!

Well, I certainly can’t say my Manager/Company has been ignoring me.  With the book club combined with a battery of assessments, and social/team interactions, I think I’m going to schedule a colonoscopy and finish the job.

GAP

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Historical leadership…

One of my favorite hobbies is reading about the leadership displayed by historical leaders during times of crisis as documented in the writings of American history.  It is amazing to learn about the stress that those events, coupled with the expectations followers, had on leaders.

How did those leaders do it?  Could you (or me) rise to the occasion the way they did?  What does one do, when there is no “opt out” option?  What does it take to be that type of leader?  Is it some sort of innate ability; learned; trained for?

Of course, there are many examples where leadership has been summarized in a simple synopsis.  Take the Civil War – a heightened time of crisis in American history.  On the bloodiest of battlefields in American history, great generals rose to the occasion and in so doing are remembered, albeit for what in retrospect seems to have just been good judgment:

Grant knew from Sherman’s telegram that a crucial lesson had been learned at Collierville, that an army commander should know just where he was going, long before he actually arrived there. 

Jeff Shaara

Know where you are going – seems so simple today.  But during times of crisis leadership can become anything but simple.  In Civil War times, navigating terrain was a huge obstacle.  No GPS; a few crude, hand-drawn maps; directions only available from local civilians – and we all know what hazards that can bring:

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.”  

Unknown Sage

In today’s world, Google Earth enables anyone with an Internet connection to view the landscape with ultimate clarity.  Navigating business circumstances?  There’s no Google app for that.

Take my company.  We’re in the process of being acquired – maybe.  I say maybe, because surprisingly our leaders have vanished.  When the initial announcement was made public, there was a company-wide web meeting and the leaders informed the followers it was merely business as usual.  That was it then; and that has been it ever since.  No updates; no further employee communications; no status; nothing.  Not very comforting.

It could be that they really don’t have any updated information that can be disclosed yet.  As a publicly traded company, there are SEC rules and regulations that apply when a company is “in play”.  However, in absence of leadership communications followers will dream up their own narratives.  And in a vacuum, such narratives tend to drift towards worst case scenarios, true?

Speaking for myself only (as if there was another option), this event could be good news or it could be bad news for my continued employment at my (new) company.  But if my leaders asked, I would tell them I can handle it (as if there was a choice):

One can either face reality at the outset or one can disseminate the bad news on the installment plan. 

Norman Augustine

So when I read and reflect on historical leaders and how they led their followers, one common theme emerges – they kept their people informed:

The key to being a successful skipper is to see the ship through the eyes of the crew. 

D. Michael Abrashoff

I wonder if our leaders today invest any time learning from historical leadership.  Perhaps they believe their view of the ship is the only view of the ship and the right view of the ship and their followers on the ship should just get over it.

GAP

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