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Effort…

I attended a webinar recently sponsored by The CFO Alliance ®: The CFO’s Talent Mandate – Linking Talent to Value in 2019.  According to the speakers, CFO’s need to take a more active role in what has traditionally been the Human Resource Department’s space.  I’m not sure why the focus from Finance, but competing for your employees’ hearts and minds takes a village.

One with passion is better than forty who are merely interested. 

Tom Connellan

The research cited was sobering…  “Employers expect 45% of their newly hired college grads to remain under two years”; “CPA firms regularly see 3 and out”; many companies have a “Culture of Leaving”; “Less than a third of U.S. workers are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their current work and workplace.”

They discussed the concept of “effort”.  When I Google “effort” (which was effortless), the machines say this:

a vigorous or determined attempt

Not very personalized, true?  The CFO’s suggested we think about our employees’ effort in a much more personalized way if we expect to compete for the level of engagement needed to succeed in today’s global economy.  They started with these two dimensions of “effort”:

Required effort

Such as operating a device or using technology; the most basic requirement of doing one’s job.

vs.

Discretionary effort

The effort over and above “required effort”; motivationally and emotionally driven.

Ok then, if more than two thirds of today’s employees are not enthusiastic; not committed to their work; nor their company (with many expecting to leave soon anyway), what do we do about it?

Well, I felt The CFO Alliance ® fell short with their recommendations… “66% will bring better dashboards to HR to support KPIs enterprise wide”; “43% indicated that their involvement to develop, manage and differentiate their customer relationships will continue to increase”; “33% will allocate more of their time, energy and effort to meeting and understanding the ever-changing customer needs…”

Two out of three say dashboards are the answer?  Less than half are committed to making a customer-focused effort?  That sounds like “required effort” to me; you?

Could it be that employees will respond if we offer those little, human, personalized mementos of appreciation?  Could it be that machine-generated, KPIs aren’t the answer?

Forty years ago I was a junior sales rep at ADP in a draw vs. commission-only job.  No base salary – if I sold, we made the mortgage.  Talk about discretionary effort!

Every month, Ray Marlinga the VP and General Manager of the Chicago Region personally signed my commission statement; adding a note (“sugar” when I succeeded; “the spur” when I didn’t).  I can’t tell you how much money I made each month in commissions – but I will never forget Ray’s effort to compete for my heart and mind!

Today, I enjoy a cocktail after work that I sip from a Waterford ® Crystal rocks glass I received from Bryan Colteaux when I was the Major Accounts Sales Manager of the Year.  I can’t tell you which Presidents Club I attended that year for my team’s success – but to this day I remember the personalized recognition from those rocks glasses several times each week.

I know how we all show up on dashboards with KPIs today.  But tell me, when was the last time the head of your organization wrote you a personalized note?    Too much effort some say?  Well, at least their employees’ resignation process and related paperwork is automated.  That covers the minimal, required effort – CFO’s and HR – make.

GAP

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Pretending…

Before we get started permit me to say for the record, I don’t know.  I hope you find such an admission does not make me a pretender:

To know that you do not know is the best. 

Lao-Tsu

I met Bob Perkins earlier this month.  He is the Founder & CEO of the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (www.aa-isp.org ).  Sales and the month of March remind me basketball (which I wrote about recently “Coaching” ).

Basketball is very popular in Denver this year. Fans are hopeful the Denver Nuggets are contenders; not pretenders.  I don’t know if they are, but the debate reminds me of my hometown team – the Chicago Bulls.  Perhaps not the Bulls you might be thinking of:

Former NBA center and coach Johnny Kerr said his biggest test as a coach came when he coached the then-expansion team the Chicago Bulls and his biggest player was 6’8″ Erwin Mueller.

We had lost seven in a row and I decided to give a psychological pep talk before a game with the Celtics, Kerr said.  I told Bob Boozer to go out and pretend he was the best scorer in basketball.  I told Jerry Sloan to pretend he was the best defensive guard.  I told Guy Rodgers to pretend he could run an offense better than any other guard, and I told Erwin Mueller to pretend he was the best rebounding, shot-blocking, scoring center in the game.  We lost the game by 17.

I was pacing around the locker room afterward trying to figure out what to say when Mueller walked up, put his arm around me, and said, “Don’t worry about it Coach.  Just pretend we won.” 

James S. Hewett

It took a while, but my Chicago Bulls ultimately morphed from pretenders to contenders and then champions, true?  The key to their success?  I don’t know.  Many simplify the answer to “Michael Jordan”.  In reality however, the Detroit Pistons pounded Jordan into submission before Phil Jackson was hired as the Bulls’ head coach.  Was the “Zen Master” the difference?  I don’t know.

There are pretenders in my profession.  Bob Perkins is not one of them – he and his organization are authentic.  Inside sales; aka telephone sales; lead-generation; cold-calling; smiling and dialing… it is one tough job.  Pounding the phones day-in and day-out?  It pounds the pretenders into submission and out of the profession quickly.

Bob Perkins and his organization (started 20 years ago) have stepped in to help.  I don’t know, but I believe pretenders can become contenders and ultimately champions if they have the essential elements and get a little help.  What are the essential elements?  I don’t know – maybe it’s selling to the right audience:

The best audience is intelligent, well-educated and a little drunk. 

Alben W. Barkley

What’s “a little help”?  I don’t know.

Bob shared his opinions.  He has certainly been front and center witnessing all of the technology “advances” over the past 20 years; salesforce automation systems; CRM; integrated dialers; predictive analytics.  There has been an endless stream of technology product peddlers peddling technology as “the answer” to effective cold-calling.  Will technology help pretenders become contenders?

Bob’s response was, “I don’t think so”.  After being immersed with inside sales; automation; and technology trends for 20 years; Bob suggested the future will actually be “humanization”… putting sales professionals – real people – properly trained and continuously coached – back into the profession.

Is that the path from pretenders to contenders?  I don’t know… but I certainly hope so.

GAP

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Smells like money…

Denver’s National Western Stock Show & Rodeo closed out its 113th consecutive year last weekend.  If you’ve never been, it’s definitely a must see.  I love being around western folk; American pride; tradition; and the values derived from hard work.  I love the smell of the barn.  For me, it’s motivational when dealing with the stress of today’s “modern” society.

I have written before about my favorite ritual when immersed in the tensions of life’s highs and lows; successes and failures – shoveling horse manure.  Yep, shoveling horse manure (in the pasture, not at the office) really has a calming effect on me.  I know most folks have a different ritual or approach when dealing with their ups and downs.

Nonetheless, business professionals can gain great benefit from ranchers, farmers, cowboys, English riders, and livestock.  For instance, if you own or even lease a horse, you know how motivational it can be.  Thinking about the price of hay alone gets me up and at ‘em in the morning!  Serves me right, I suppose, for ignoring the advice of our favorite, Unknown Sage who tells us:

Seymore’s Investment Principle:

Never invest in anything that eats.

And my corollary:

GAP‘s Reaction to Seymore’s Investment Principle:

Never buy anything that eats while you sleep.

Horses – smells like money alright.  Better get up and go sell somebody something today!

Speaking of sales, understanding a horse’s behavior is also beneficial to our profession because our prospects act a lot like horses.  For instance, if we’re not careful, we can spook our prospects.  And when we do, they cut and run and we never seem to catch them again, do we.  Spooking, aka “No decision”, is our biggest competitor.

I believe prospects act a lot like herd animals.  They shy from sales people and fear being “cut-out from the herd”, yes?  You probably have faced every excuse in the book when a prospect does not want to meet with you 1-on-1, even for a straight-forward; 30-minute; business conversation.

I was working with a team of sales professionals recently and suggested that even a prospect’s objections can have herd characteristics.  First, the prospect objects to our proposed price; then they don’t like our contract language; then it’s our payment terms; and then they want to delay order placement.  Before you know it we get stampeded by a whole herd of objections!

We can learn a lot from English style, hunter-jumper riders, too.  If you’ve ever watched those riders you know that as they approach each jump, they reach a critical, “Go” or “No Go” point, before the horse must leap.

Indecision on the part of the rider or the horse (or a prospect) can lead to a “train wreck”.  It’s another cross-over example of the great benefit sales professionals and business leaders can gain from horses:

Half the failures of this world in life arise from pulling in one’s horse as he is leaping.

Julius and Augustus Hare

Of course, western pleasure style riders don’t usually mix well with English style riders.  Come from different herds I suppose.  But whether western or English, it’s the horses, not the riding style; we learn important business lessons from.  If you are a sales leader and hear one of your sales reps complain about the difficulties of making his/her quota; their problems with a prospect; or pain they feel from losing a deal; you might offer this equestrian-oriented advice:

Cowboy-Up!

Or if you prefer:

English-Up!

Perseverance – like manure – smells like money.

GAP

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Bulldozers…

I was speaking with a manager recently; small talk mostly; family; friends; current events.  With the age of his children, he is more tuned into today’s primary and secondary education systems than I am.  (My wife and I have to rely on the Google Machine whenever we help our second grade grandson with his math homework.  How did we ever make it to this century!!!?)

Anyway, the manager was describing today’s trend of parental “participation” in their children’s schools.  It used to be referred to as “helicopter moms” or “helicopter dads”.  You know, hovering over their children and their children’s teachers and their children’s coaches; “helping” their sons and daughters succeed; risk of failure was not an option.

And just when we thought things could not get worse… he tells me today’s trend is “bulldozing parents”; not simply hovering, guiding, influencing.  No – today, many parents actually do the school work for their sons and daughters.  Today, they’re trying to bulldoze the risk of failure out of the equation altogether.

But will it work?  Will today’s grade schoolers and high schoolers become successful adults if their parents are “bulldozers”?  I guess we will find out in the future when they encounter their first hardship solo.  In the 21st century, do you think we can still learn from Attila the Hun?

Huns learn much faster when faced with adversity.

Wess Roberts

In the meantime, when these young ones enter today’s workforce, what will happen to them sans bulldozer parents?  As sales managers, what lessons cross over into the business world from our modern education (and parental) systems?

I was speaking with a sales director friend of mine recently – he likes to check in from time to time; he thinks “the old guy can still hunt”.  We were discussing front line sales management and the “principles of gravitational pull.”

He said he sees many sales managers working extra hard trying to help their under-performing sales reps.  A common phenomenon, true?  When I asked what extra hard work he sees sales managers performing with (or for) their under-performers… his testimony was predictable; “Well, they help their under-performers on sales calls…”  And there it stands – hidden in plain view – the gravitational pull of sales managers “jumping in” to rescue a deal they fear their under-performers would otherwise lose – “Bulldozing”.

The stark reality about under-performers – which research after research continues to confirm is – they aren’t going to make it.  The sales manager’s time is best invested with their top performers.  When the under-performers don’t make it, the sales managers’ “bulldozing” yields a handful of deals and lots of open positions (temporarily occupied or not):

Among the chief worries of today’s business executives is the large number of unemployed still on the payrolls. 

Unknown Sage

Easy for me to blog about – extremely hard to do in the “real world”… but IMHO rather than “bulldozing”, when a sales manager is in the field with an under-performing sales rep, the manager has to allow the rep to fail; even if it means losing the deal.  It’s what happens after the sales rep fails that counts:

It seems to me that the largest impediment to a healthy attitude toward failure is our inability to distinguish between just plain being stupid and failing on the way to great success. 

Unknown Sage

Bulldozers are commonly used to start construction projects.  But they are long gone before that project is successfully completed.  Failing to move the bulldozers out of the way would be plain stupid.

GAP

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Motivation 1, 2, 3 …

I was cataloging quotes recently when I came across notes I made after reading Daniel H. Pink’s book Drive ©.  It has been almost 4 years since I read his book – I guess the reading is the easy part; cataloging quotes for the writing part takes a bit more motivation!

The timing of this activity could not have been better.  Almost 4 years ago, I was in the best frame of mind in memory from a career standpoint.  Energetic, enthusiastic, dare I say “motivated”?  I used to say it took me over 30 years to find the perfect job.

As you know, every company with employees in jobs – directed by managers – defined by leaders – makes changes.  I have written about change-making many times, including this from Ellen Glasgow:

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

Now, my company is making changes.  I’m keeping an open mind.  Change can be challenging for leaders; for followers, too.  We have all faced change in our careers, true?  If you’re like me, you know that it’s really not the change that’s the challenge.  It’s envisioning ourselves succeeding in our new role that can test our level of drive.

As I was going through my notebook to update my catalog of quotes I came across Daniel H. Pink’s thoughts about “drive” (ergo the book title).  A few years ago, I would have simply typed my updates and moved on.  Today, I stopped cataloging to reflect; to write.

I particularly enjoyed his breakdown of “motivation” in the business world, which I would paraphrase this way:

Motivation 1.0 was simple – it was based on survival from our primitive ancestors.  No motivation?  No survival.  Simple.

Motivation 2.0 evolved past simple as managers seek to control workers – it was and still is – based on a carrot and stick reward system with carrots or sticks being controlled by the managers to control the workers.

Motivation 3.0 – Solving today’s complex problems requires workers with an inquiring mind and the willingness to experiment one’s way to a fresh solution.

Motivation 1.0 sought survival.  Motivation 2.0 sought compliance.  Motivation 3.0 seeks engagement.

Daniel H. Pink

Maybe Motivation 3.0 is on the horizon; maybe it is being adopted in today’s workplace – Lord knows the term “employee engagement” gets lots of play.  But is it truly replacing the carrot and stick system that ultimately maintains compliance?  I’m not sure.

Daniel H. Pink illustrates Motivation 3.0 this way:

 

Imagine a manager or a leader managing or leading workers who seek “Autonomy”.  Imagine workers pursuing “Mastery” autonomously.  Imagine leaders, managers and workers collectively aligned with a common “Purpose”.  That would make one powerful company!

Yet companies are not static entities.  Times change and during periods of change I believe Motivation 3.0 intentions can be weakened from the gravitational pull towards enforcing compliance.  Control over workers using those darn carrots and sticks keeps reappearing.  And when control becomes the preferred management method, Motivation 1.0 rears its head, too.  That’s when employees say “yes” not because they are motivated in a positive sense.  Those “yeses” are pure survival oriented.

Motivation 3.0 is hard to attain and maintain.  But the combination of Autonomy + Mastery + Purpose is powerful.

During times of change we can sometimes lose our focus; lose our drive.  However, Motivation 3.0 is the place to be for the modern workforce.  And I believe we can all get there despite the occasional sighting of those old carrots and sticks.

GAP

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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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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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Self-Centered?

Well… I am definitely self-focused.  And I confess self-promotion is a close cousin that also contributes to my make-up.  However, I hope others don’t consider me self-centered.  I believe self-focus, self-awareness, and even a little self-promotion can actually be a good thing.

Ever since I can remember it has been important for me to do things well.  I’ve wanted to be an accomplished athlete; a successful salesman; a caring husband; a loving father; an excellent driver.

More than just striving to do well; I live in almost constant fear of failure.  I am not alone:

Only the Paranoid Survive ©

Andy Grove

I remember my first sales job in the technology industry.  They didn’t want to hire me.  I kept calling; kept interviewing; kept saying I could get the job done.  When they ultimately did hire me I remember thinking, “How the h@&! am I’m going to get this job done?”  I didn’t know anything about B2B selling.

Back in the day, I didn’t wear the right clothes; drive the right car; I wasn’t witty.  Everything about my sales role would have to be learned; scripted; rehearsed.  Trial and error was my constant companion.   I was in a perfect setting to fail.  Fear of failure was on my mind every single day back then.  Still is.

What made things worse – I was socially awkward.  One of my clients (Chip) told me a while back that he can relate.  Don’t ask me how we got on the subject; adult beverages were probably involved – liquid courage.  He described it as being a “Situational Extrovert”.

I remember the day my wife and I brought our first son Eric home from the hospital after he was born.  I looked at her and said, “Now what?”

Fear is not always good; it’s not always a driving force behind success:

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is. 

German Proverb

But for me; I’m afraid I won’t be good enough today; I’ll fail; I’ll let others down; I’ll drive poorly.  And that’s driven me to become self-focused; to pay attention; to realize how hard it is to succeed.  I’m still trying.

There are so many things in life outside of my control; the best thing I can do is to stay focused on me; on my performance; on doing my best.  I try to let the rest of the world take care of itself.  I mean, life is challenging enough for us all, yes?

Law of Life’s Highway:  If everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane. 

Unknown Sage

Truth be told, I think our world could use more self-focus even if it is at the expense of getting more of its cousin; self-promotion.  If people worried more about our individual effort and contributions; then things at our job level; our relationship level; our friends and family level might just improve.

Self-focus can be a good thing when applied appropriately:

Marcus Aurelius had a servant follow him around and every time Aurelius received a compliment the servant had to whisper in his ear, “You’re just a man… just a man,” to keep him humble.

Unknown Sage

Agreed – we must beware of those other “self’s”; self-absorbed; self-centered; selfishness.  Those aren’t beneficial; just the opposite.  And we all know more than a few people with those characteristics.

So, even though I’m an excellent driver, when self-driving cars finally arrive on seen I won’t resist.  I will finally be able to stop fearing my driving skills aren’t good enough.

GAP

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Wrong – again!

Hapless?  Helpless?  Hopeless?

It happened at the office (again).  I saw it coming (again).  And I responded wrongly – again!  It was my old brain reaction – that fight or flight stimulus thing – and flight is not my way.

It started out innocently enough.  He was in my office for meetings; took the time to see if I was at my desk; wanted to discuss something with me.  Our social pleasantries started out fine; but I saw it coming (again!).  Ever have to work with someone that you just don’t get along with?  Me too.

I know he wasn’t trying to spoil my day.  And when I say I don’t get along with him, it’s not that I don’t like him.  But his business acumen?  Triggers my old brain.  Do you have one of those at work?  Thank God we’re perfect right?   LoL!

First Law of Debate

Never argue with a fool.   People might not know the difference.

Unknown Sage

When we met, it was not my intent to argue.  I complimented him on a recent email he sent clarifying an important question we had been struggling with.  I thanked him for his clarification – should have left it at that.  But I didn’t (again).  I guess leaving well enough alone is not one of my “features”.

Instead, I elaborated; thought he might want to understand; thought offering additional background was a good thing.  It wasn’t.  Let the debate; aka argument begin!

It is important to realize what the purpose of these debates is and what it isn’t.  Don’t think for a moment that at the end of such debates all participants will arrive at a unanimous point of view.  That’s naïve.  However, through the process of presenting their own opinions, the participants will define their own arguments and facts so that they are in much clearer focus.  Gradually, all parties can cut through the murkiness that surrounds their arguments, clearly understand the issues and each other’s point of view.  The clearer images that result permit management to make a more informed – and more likely correct – call. 

Andy Grove

“Clearly understand the issues and each other’s point of view”, isn’t one of his “features”.  He remained focused on his point of view.  I felt I understood his point of view; didn’t agree with it; didn’t really respect it.  “Clearly…”, the feeling was mutual.

So he argued; I elaborated.  He was presumptuous; I was impatient.  He became arrogant; I became an asshole – again!  What started out as a conversation between two associates interacting on a cross-functional, initiative ended as a confrontation.

Happens every day in the business world you say?  True enough.  My disappointment is I could have (and should have) avoided it altogether.  You see, he’s been in our industry 4 years – me, 4 decades.  I know better.

The most difficult thing in the world is to know how to do a thing and to watch someone else doing it wrong, without commentary. 

T.H. White

It’s that “without commentary” that trips me up every time.  I simply can’t seem to avoid that old brain, “fight” trigger when in an argument with a fool.  I’d like to manage these encounters better – guess I’m still a little hapless, but hopefully not hopeless:

Fall down seven times.  Stand up eight. 

Japanese Proverb

I have enough experience to dial down the fervor and better manage my response in the face of ineptitude.  So I’m certainly not helpless.

Confrontation; not my proudest “feature” – and I was wrong.  Again!

GAP

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Big hats…

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

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

Ellen Glasgow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geoffrey James

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

Big hat; no cattle.

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

GAP

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