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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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It’s a duck…

Managing people can be a challenging; rewarding; and sometimes messy business, true?  For all the talk about employee engagement, front line “supervision” seems to remain a consistent phenomenon in our business world.  Are employees just incorrigible?

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

What happens to us when we get promoted to a manager?

Man-a-ger (man-i-gir) n 1. Coach, Teacher, instructor, Leader 2. Mr. Know-It-All, Ego with Legs 3. One who has or will have an ulcer 4. One who apologizes to subordinates for the stupid actions of superiors 5. One who apologizes to superiors for the actions of subordinates.

What’s the key to being a successful manager?  Hall of Fame baseball manager Casey Stengel had this philosophy:

The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided.

With all the animosity and bad jokes about management, many of us still seek that big promotion, don’t we?  In some companies (mine included) a sort of artificial environment is created where employees adopt the feeling:

If I’m not moving up; I must be moving down.

My friend and former colleague, Adam, had this affliction.  Truth be told, I’ve suffered from it myself.

Experienced; skilled; articulate; professional; I can’t say enough about Adam’s talents.  And I think I know the cause of his “moving down” affliction.  We were observing other, less talented colleagues at our company get promoted into front line sales manager roles.

We see it all the time, don’t we?  Those that can do; while those that can’t perfect the internal politic of wooing their boss to promote them.  I was so afflicted early in my career that when two of my best friends were promoted, I could not share the joy of their success.  Nope, in my mind I was “moving down”.  I needlessly quit a great job because of it.

So when Adam caught that bug, I knew the early warning signs.  I tried to offer a little “elderly wisdom” to no avail.  He was going to take a promotion into a bad job come hell or high water.  Which would it be you ask?  Hell or high water?  Well, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

Sure enough, within 10 months of total emersion into his managerial assignment; facing  innumerable obstacles; receiving little support from his superiors; the man who promoted him to begin with called one day.  When needing to deliver bad news, managers often “tip their hand”, hoping to soften the blow I suspect.

Ten months into his role, the discussion was about returning to a front line sales rep role (aka a demotion).  That’s not exactly how his superior said it.  The conversation was less direct; more vague.  Adam called me to relate the exchange and ask for a little “elderly wisdom”.  “Were they really demoting me?”  he asked.  I suggested it might be a good move; a better fit for him.

A new area manager was flying in to meet with him the following week.  To me, all of the signs indicated he was being demoted.  I said to Adam, “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…”  I asked him to let me know how the meeting went.

Adam called me that following week – he left a voice mail, “It’s a duck”.

GAP

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Recharged?

By the middle of December each year, we can get pretty run down, yes?  Business stress often peaks at the December 31st year end; holiday stress – shopping; traffic; multiple gatherings with friends, family, and colleagues; winter weather; the Denver Broncos!  Yep, we can get pretty run down by mid-December.

How about you?  Did you extend your business hours and increase your stress levels?  If you felt this intensity, what did you do to recharge?

One of the “decompression”, holiday traditions my wife and I enjoy every year is going to the movies.  Our very first date was a movie.  “Catch 21” which we saw at Chicago’s Oriental Theater in 1970.  This past December, my wife and I continued our tradition.   Because 2015 was particularly hectic, we “decompressed” six times!  (You’re welcome Hollywood.)

To me, there’s no better form of entertainment (and recharging one’s “batteries”) than going to the show.  I can unplug from the Internet; turn off my cell phone; relax in a darkened theater; and escape from the realities of our daily grind into the surreal world of cinema for a couple of hours.  Invigorating!

This year however, I noticed a pattern of movie themes that reflected more closely to our real world than the usual fantasies we find during our holiday tradition.  Coincidence?  I’m not sure.

We saw “The Big Short”, which is a theatrical interpretation of the real-world disintegration of our financial markets in 2008.  We saw “Spotlight”, based on the real-world disintegration of the Catholic priesthood.  Of course, “Concussion”, is a creative piece based on the presumed deception (and predicted disintegration) prevalent in our American sports institution known as the National Football League.

In the movie “The Martian” we saw the fictional contentions of leadership at our NASA of the future struggling with the choice between public admission of mission mistakes and acceptance of personal/professional responsibility; vs. placing trust in the team and relying on the power of problem-solving skills to overcome adversity.

“The Heart of the Sea” is based on recorded events that reportedly preceded Herman Melville’s writing of the great novel Moby Dick.  To me, this movie highlighted man’s struggle between the ego-driven forces of pride and greed; vs. the kinder forces of leadership, responsibility and personal humility.

Speaking of forces, the fictional movie, “Star Wars, The Force Awakened” continues the saga of good vs. evil; “the Force” vs. the “Dark Side”.

Although our December tradition was physically enjoyable; on the psychological side I left the theaters wondering how our society came to the point of finding the real-world disintegration of leadership-morality into greedy, conscious-less, irresponsible culprits preying on the innocent; the unknowing; and the powerless, “entertainment”?  Not exactly the recharging, year-end experience I was looking for.

So I say all of that to get to this – what will each of us do in 2016 to restore one’s faith in the morality and underlying good in modern mankind?  What leaders will arise that stand-up for the common man?  How can each of us, individually, make a positive difference at work; at home; and in our communities?

The job of leadership today is not just to make money.   It is to make meaning. 

John Seely Brown

Looks like we will all need a bit more energy than usual to make 2016 a year we can all be proud of twelve months from now, true?

We might just have to start the traditional December, recharging, movie rituals in July to make it all the way to year-end.  Pass the popcorn please.

GAP

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