There’s a story about the actions of a Korean Airlines executive making the news:
Excerpted from Bloomberg:
"The daughter of Korean Air Lines Co. Chairman Cho Yang Ho ordered a plane back to the gate so she could remove a crew member who gave an incorrect answer to a question on how to serve macadamia nuts, the airline said.
Heather Cho, 40, a vice president of the airline, ordered the head of the service crew on Flight 86 from New York to Seoul to deplane after an attendant earlier had served Cho macadamia nuts without asking, the carrier said. Cho then summoned the purser to ask a question about the airline’s policy on serving nuts. Cho ordered the man to leave the plane when he couldn’t answer. Under the carrier’s rules, passengers must be asked first before serving."
Sadly, this violates one of the tenets of leadership and management. As Vince Lombardi said: “Praise in public. Correct in private.” The purser may have been negligent in not knowing policy and the executive may have had the company’s best interests in mind, but this was not the way to correct the problem.
1. "Focus on the problem, not the people or person". The actions did nothing to correct the problem. The root problems were that nuts were given without asking and also served in a bag instead of a bowl. Yes, we all tend to get frustrated with people when they do not come through and meet our expectations. Yet, how did literally throwing an employee off the “bus” ("Airbus" in this case) solve the problem? Did the VP know whether there is a generic training issue that needs to be addressed? Is the solution to toss people off a plane,train, or building whenever there is a transgression?
2. "Beatings will continue until morale improves" does not work. The actions instead humiliated the purser and drove fear into the rest of the crew. You want your people to go the extra mile, to be motivated, not demotivated.
3. "Face" is a real concern for many Asians. The purser lost "face". Some people jump off buildings because of "face". Many Asian organizations have a hierarchy that do not treat employees as equals. That doesn't mean that it's right. People all have the same feelings.
4. The executive's actions led to unintended negative repercussions, e.g. the plane was delayed and the news accounts were entirely negative. The paying passengers who witnessed the event probably had their flight experience ruined.
5. It reflects poorly on the executive and the organization. I remember an innkeeper in the UK dressing down a young employee for forgetting to arrange a taxi for a guest. The boss angrily chastised him, repeatedly asking him if he was a twit, while the poor lad could only stand there and takes the abuse. A few of us watched in absolute horror and pitied the employee. I will never forget that. While I understood the predicament for the inn keeper, I never regarded his friendliness and hospitality as genuine since that incident (he was a two-faced bully).
6. “If you’re not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.” A simple conversation with the offending crew member and purser and words such as: “You do know that nuts should be served in a bowl?” would have been a step toward resolving the problem, with a guarantee that it would never occur again for this particular flight crew.
7. It violates “Practice What You Preach”. You can’t expect your employees to have a smile on their face and be courteous to guests if you are discourteous and intimidating to them. Be an example, not “Do as I say, not as I do”.
Nothing good really came out of this event except perhaps another teachable moment. The executive publicly apologized and resigned her post. Korean Airlines got quite a bit of PR but probably not in the form that they wanted. Employees were humiliated and who knows what will happen to them.
So always gather your emotions, your facts, focus on the solution and future performance, and have your conversation in private. If the problem serious, e.g. starting a fire, then you put it out immediately. It’s okay to mention that an action is incorrect but it is not good to criticize anyone in public. (I always ask my wife to do this…it works better on me.) Otherwise, you undermine your relationship with the employee, the team, and lose the respect of others.
Note: There is an opposing view of this published in HBR.
I was far away from home, training a customer in Kaiping, China into the late hours on a Friday night. It was at the new Chinese operation of an American company. I was giving the lab manager, Mr. Li, extra training on our installed system. Although I spoke Chinese during much of the week’s training, Mr. Li asked that we only converse in English so that he could practice and improve his language skills.
“How are you Mr. Li?”
“I am fine, Mr. Lio.”
“That’s good. How many children do you have?
“I have one daughter.”
We continued this banter back and forth for a few minutes until…
“Yes?” I replied.
“Mr. Lio…What does ‘F--- You!‘ mean?”
I froze for a few seconds. I was very tired after training two shifts for a week coupled with the time zone change. Did I hear correctly?
“Um…Mr. Li, can you repeat your question?”
“Mr. Lio…What does ‘F--- You!’ mean?”
“Mr. Li, those are very bad words! Can you tell me where you heard that?”
It turned out that an Italian company sent an engineer to install some equipment. One of the local employees picked up one of the engineer's tools and dropped it. The engineer must have been in a bad mood since he proceeded to say “F--- You!” to everyone he came across there. (In hindsight, I could have had fun by telling Mr. Li that those were nice words which he should immediately use to greet his American managers the next morning.)
This brings up the question of profanity, particularly in business. Is it ever proper? Over the years, I have often wondered about the use of profanity and four letter words in business.
My first job was working in a company where the founders were still actively managing the business. It was a quintessential family run business where everyone was collegial. As times changed, as the owners got older, the board hired an external candidate as the new CEO. Was everyone in for a surprise when the new guy showed up! A man raised in Texas and a former CEO in New Jersey (perhaps a bad combination). He cussed up a storm. The “F---” and “S---” words flew out of almost every sentence uttered. Meetings with him were like Eddie Murphy concerts. He seemed to get a rise out of people’s reactions. I don’t think that it made employees work any harder than they did or lead to better results. In fact, it made me think less of him as a person and leader.
Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is known for his propensity for “salty language”. During a disagreement over lengthening the school day, Emanuel reportedly said, “F--- you, Lewis.” to Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union. I don’t think that Dale Carnegie taught that in “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. (Does he kiss his mother with that mouth?)
As a native New Yorker, I know my fair share of swear words - in four different languages. I do hear some profanity from some colleagues, very rarely, as some of the “cussing” has become colloquial. I would make the case that purposeful directing of profanity at others and using crude language has no place in business. For me, quite simply, I said the “F” word once in front of my father and never again. He slapped me. That was the only time when my father ever slapped me. His look of disappointment was far worse than the actual slap itself. I don’t say those words in front of my family and I don’t want my children to use such terms (although they probably learned them after finishing first grade). Since I don’t really know how another person feels about such language, it is best to be respectful and find an alternate way to phrase things. If it has no place in my home, it has no place in my business dealings.
Note – when certain words do fit the situation:
There was one memorable Saturday morning at 1:30 AM in Japan. I was setting up a high speed impact test instrument for a very important customer demonstration happening in a few hours - I had flown to Japan specifically to meet the prospect in our Tokyo demonstration center. I did one last check before my local colleagues and I could leave for a few hours of precious sleep. Everyone gathered around as I pressed the “Start” button to run a high speed 22 meters per second impact simulation. The machine fired and broke the test specimen…and tore through the test fixture. I remember a moment of complete silence and then a collective “Oh s---". (I didn’t even know that they could all say that in English). Perhaps there was no better phrase to describe that moment but this was an exception to the rule.
I’m asking all parents to stop telling the story about Jack and the Beanstalk.
I told the story at bedtime to my boys last night and was struck by what a terrible lesson it teaches.
Jack sold his family’s only cow for a bag of magic beans. His mother got angry and threw them out the window. The beans grew into a tall beanstalk that reached the sky. Jack climbed up the beanstalk, went to a Giant’s house, and stole a magic singing harp and goose that laid golden eggs. The Giant chased Jack down the beanstalk. Jack’s mother chopped the beanstalk down and the Giant died. Jack and mother lived happily ever after.
Now let’s really think about the facts:
Jack does not obey his mother and gets beans for the family cow (pun intended). Jack trespassed by entering the Giant’s home without permission and then committed burglary/larceny. The Giant was the owner of the harp and goose. Jack’s mother is a murderer, guilty of at least manslaughter by chopping down the beanstalk while the Giant was climbing down. (Did the Giant have a family and dependents? Who knows?) The goose and harp weren’t any better off with Jack (throw in a interstate kidnapping charges!). You can bet that Jack was still making that goose lay a golden egg each day. Otherwise, why take the goose in the first place? As for the harp, Jack either made it play every day or pawned it on eBay. Jack and his mom are felons, crooks, and murderers.
Think about it. Don't get me started about that girl living with seven guys.
This was recently posted on LinkedIn and people were "liking" it and making supportive comments. I suppose that the moral is that tenaciousness and continual follow-up are keys to winning the sale. No doubt, many sales managers and executives are citing this to beat up their staff.
My Spiderman senses start tingling whenever I see such statistics. For one, the attributed source, "National Sales Executive Association" does not seem to exist. Interestingly, a number of blogs have been posted in the past citing this list of statistics with only one person questioning the source. There are no dates indicating when these statistics were compiled. No doubt some sharing this list today are treating this list as the latest news. On top of all this, there are no definitions of what a "Prospect" or "Contact" means or the context (is this B2B, the type of sale, etc.).
I find it very common for people to jump to conclusions, perpetuate urban legends, or cite statistics blindly. No doubt, we come across Sales people who claim that we can get a huge amount of incremental business if we just had a particular feature, etc. For years, I had a senior sales manager tout that a missing certification was killing his sales and that it was soon to be a standard requirement across the industry. Part of the problem was that no one really understood the requirements. So I took on the task of polling every sales engineer, researching the number of past sales requests, interviewing internal "experts" and engineers who dealt with the standards...and lo and behold...there were less than 10 requests in 12 years and we found a process to deal with new requests in a less costly manner. Summary report and white paper written. End of issue.
A former CEO once berated a sales manager after visiting another company. The prospect there told the CEO that we turned down a Purchase Order for over $100,000. Our CEO was very angry at the sales manager and made the comment to the effect of "We'll find someone else if you have a problem taking a $100,000 order." What the prospect neglected to tell the CEO was that he wanted multiple systems for that amount of money and it would not be a profitable order.
Remember the quote: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics". Sales people are a key resource but many re-live their most recent or lost accounts when you look for data. So always question your sources and information, and dig deeper to get the details instead of blindly accepting everything as facts.
Question everything. Assume nothing.
I'm back! Apologies for lack of recent posts due to work and travel (thank you for your emails and concern).
I am back from a long but very successful trip to Asia, working with our local staff, meeting customers, and presenting at two seminars in Guangzhou and Ningbo. It's good to be home with family but I do miss the daily breakfast buffet at the hotels (my wife said that I can make my own if I wanted it).
One of the nice things about travel is really getting to know your colleagues on a personal level. You build up camaraderie as you all travel by planes, trains, public transport, walking/running, skipping lunch, and working into the night. However, you need to be careful about getting too personal and inquisitive, e.g. a Western colleague asked a Japanese colleague about the value of his home and got an evasive reply.
Here are a few tips when working with colleagues and customers in Asia (especially China):
1. “When in Rome or China, do what the Romans or Chinese do.” Don’t try to stick out like a sore thumb. One of my colleagues was upset about his hotel, found the food to be inedible, was indignant about having to take public transport versus having taxi service when visiting customers, and took his complaint to the country manager. This did not leave a good impression with the country staff since they stayed in the same hotel, ate the same food and also had to take the same public transport since it is faster and easier. Use this as an opportunity to soak in the local culture if you are in such a situation. Generally, you’ll find something edible. There are plenty of McDonald’s and KFCs in Asia so you can usually run out from your hotel on your own. Oh, and stop making faces and screaming when you see a cooked chicken or duck with the head intact or chicken feet as a dish. Just suck it up.
2. Don’t try to be or act special. I get rather uncomfortable when a colleague tries to carry my bags. This is the Asian way of being gracious and hospitable to guests, especially those they consider to be senior. I just don’t like to insinuate that I am any different than they are and insist on carrying my own bags. Your hosts will also try to take care of your evenings and weekends. I again respectfully decline since they all have families and work to attend to. (The only caveat is that dinners can be a good way to bond and know each other personally.)
3. Avoid political discussion with both colleagues and customers. This can be a rather touchy area especially with current events. Remember the quote: “My country…right or wrong, but MY country.” So I generally side-step politics.
4. Business Cards. Use both hands to accept and pass out business cards. Take a brief moment to look at the business card as a sign of courtesy. Applies in many Asian countries.
5. Speak slo-oo-wly and with less jargon. We are already imposing on the local staff and customers to interpret our English (unless you can speak the local language) so help them by slowing down your speech.
6. Carry a bottle of water (especially in China). Customers usually give you a bottle as a courtesy but you can gulp it down quickly when you travel, especially in the hotter regions. You can skip lunch but you can’t skip water. While you are at, don't forget to bring antidiarrheal, antacids, and other preventive medicines etc.
7. “_ _it” Happens (just like travel anywhere else). My flight in Guangzhou to Shanghai was delayed for over four hours due to weather. (it was amazing watching a number of fights break out at the Guangzhou airport). Customer service is still lacking for many Chinese domestic airlines. The airport hotel was overbooked on the night before my flight home. You grin, smile, and work through it.
8. Skype, FaceTime, Tango are amazing, economical ways to call home. Hotel and mobile calls are expensive and phone cards don’t always work (some hotels make it difficult to reach the local access number). I found Skype PC calls to phones to be a very inexpensive and convenient option with very good audio quality.
9. Many internet sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs, are blocked in China so you should figure out how to bypass that before you go on a trip there. However, you may find it actually refreshing not having to read about what a Facebook or Twitter friend just had for breakfast or felt that morning.
10. Make a promise, keep a promise. Remember that you are representing the “home office” which at times makes you the expert and sounding board. I always make sure that I follow up on everything that I promised when I meet local staff and customers. Otherwise, you will be one of the countless people who visit, pretend to listen, and never hear back from. Do not be one of them.
Sales and product people try to be affirmative with every question that a customer asks. They sometimes get nervous if they don’t know the answer or have to say “no”. Sometimes, it is actually good to say “no” or “we do not have that “, some customers get very suspicious if you just answer “yes” to every question.
In some cases, a better approach would be to start answering the question with a question: “Why do you ask?” or "Why are you asking that question?" (This may be a bit too blunt or direct and make the customer defensive, so a better statement may be along the lines of “Hmm….that’s an interesting question. Why are you asking that?”. Understanding the reasons that the customer is asking their question helps you formulate a more appropriate reply.
For example, customers often ask whether a product has a particular capability or feature. By asking why they were asking, they might reply that they were just curious or that a competitor did or did not have that capability. Often, the customer will provide you background information on their problem(s) that this perceived capability may solve. In this case, you may not have the particular feature that they were inquiring about but, by understanding the problem, you can offer a better or alternate solution.
Let’s use a non-business (and extreme) scenario. Suppose that a married man had a girlfriend on the side and his wife suddenly asked him the question, “Who is Angela?” By first asking “Hmm. Why are you asking that question?”, the man can better assess the situation and formulate his response based on the reply.
If his wife said:
1) “Some lady named “Angela” called and asked to speak with you. She hung up when I said that you were not home.”
His reply may then be “I don’t know anyone named Angela. It must be a telemarketing call with my name on the list.”
However, if his wife said:
2) “You were asleep kissing your pillow and mumbling the name “Angela” last night.”
His reply might change to “Oh! Angela was the name of my pet turtle when I was a kid.”…or he may realize the gig is up and start packing!
Hopefully, one will always be faithful and truthful in life. It was just a good example showing the power of “Why are you asking that?”
(I haven't thought out what would happen if someone replied "Why are YOU asking ME why I am asking that?")
We seem to be inundated with leadership and management books and articles with attention grabbing headlines such as “Management Tips from Genghis Khan” or “The Five Things Leaders Do Every Morning” (oddly, the list does not include oral hygiene or taking a “constitutional”). Most have some worthwhile tidbits but some are downright Machiavellian with focus on persuasion and influencing others to the point of playing psychological mind games.
Without over-analyzing or engaging in the latest psycho-babble, management and leadership in work and life comes down to a few simple questions:
1. How would I want to be treated in this situation? (Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.)
2. Is this in line with my values, principles (e.g. what my parents taught me), or mission statement in life?
3. What if this (act, decision, etc.) was printed on the front page of the New York Times?
The old golden rule applies: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” The Mosaic law contains a parallel commandment: “Whatever is hurtful to you, do not do to any other person.” Treat others as you want to be treated (unless you are into S&M). Lead others as you want to be led. Manage others as you would want to be managed.
If something does not pass your “sniff test” and you wouldn’t be proud to see it plastered on the front page of the New York Times, then don’t do it. Deep down, you always know what is right or wrong.
Pinocchio has his pal, "Jiminy Cricket", acting as his conscience and guide. These three simple questions constantly act as my "Jiminy Cricket".
What questions provides the answers in your life?
Blackberry recently placed a paid post on LinkedIn with the comment that “We’re not the only ones questioning Knox’s security” and a link to a research article criticizing Samsung’s Knox security platform for Android.
The reader reaction was decidedly mixed and swift. Almost half the comments were negative:
Notice that the readers weren't even questioning the validity of the post or linked article (Blackberry could have been 100% correct) - they strongly objected to the delivery. Although Blackberry's target, Samsung, is not a little underdog, the audience sensed a lack of fair play.
The lesson is that outright negative selling and trash talk leads to a double edge sword. People generally don’t like it and are put off. It makes the seller look petty and small. Always strive to highlight and discuss what makes your value proposition better and present your differentiation in a positive manner without disparaging the competition.
The same applies to your personal life. Don't talk negatively or take cheap shots about others behind their backs. Stephen Covey advised that you always speak about others as if they were present. Otherwise, your listener(s) will think that you will do the same to them when they are not around and view you as one not to be trusted.
So I also left my humble comment with Blackberry:
I had the honor to present at the 2013 SASE (Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers) Conference in Philadelphia. During my workshop talks about GTD (Getting Things Done), I told the story about the big and small rocks in your life (video below should you not know the story) and discussed the importance of having a mission statement in life. The audience was quite attentive and there were many questions about how to go about creating a mission statement. I had to pause since many in the audience were college undergraduates who haven’t had much life experience. My advice was to start with your key values.
Discovering your key values requires reflection. Some values are found in others whom you respect. Others values are what you hope other people will see in you.
My five key values would be: integrity, compassion, loyalty, commitment, and self-care. “Self-Care” is a new key value for me as a result of recent experience. I always respected my dad for his long hours of work and sacrifice without complaint. As a result, I tend to be a workaholic, skip lunch (or eat poorly), sleep little, and have no personal time. The end result was spending my year end vacation with serous pneumonia (the result of not taking care of myself). I realized how much I had neglected my health (and self for that matter) and that I did not want to leave my kids and wife early in life (to quote Curly of the Three Stooges: "I don't wanna be dead! There's no future in it!"
During my bedridden time last year, I saw “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”, a fascinating documentary following Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a Michelin three-star restaurant in Tokyo. Jiro had one quote: “In order to make delicious food, you must eat delicious food. The quality of ingredients is important, but one must develop a palate capable of discerning good and bad. Without good taste, you can’t make good food. If your sense of taste is lower than that of the customers how will you impress them?” I realized how profound that statement was – and that is how “Self-Care” became a key value.
An organization should also have key values. My company, Instron ITW, has five key values and behaviors which we act accordingly to. Zappos, widely recognized for their customer service and workplace, calls them “core values”.
Zappos Family Core Values are:
1. Deliver WOW Through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do More With Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble
So discover your values. They will provide you with the purpose and motivation to change and grow, as well as provide guidance on how to behave and lead. Define what most matters in your life and what matters most will define you.
"Accept me or kill me MacKayla. But choose. F--k--g Choose.”
― Karen Marie Moning, Shadowfever
One of the worst attributes of many managers is their inability or reluctance to make a decision. In other words: they “sit on it”. The person’s belief is that by not making a decision, he or she cannot make the wrong decision and, hopefully, the problem will go away. Perhaps, he is waiting for more data, a sign from heaven, a higher level manager to make the decision for him, or for the tea leaves to become more readable, etc. In many instances, the manager is afraid to say “no” or turn down a request.
Working for such a manager is extremely frustrating and demoralizing. It conveys indecisiveness, lack of ownership, no confidence, inability to lead, and dishonesty. Most people would rather have a leader give them an answer that they may not want rather than wait and never get an answer. It allows them to move on. Things don’t tend to get better by dragging it out. We all know of the girl who leads the boyfriend on, only to dump him in the end. Short term pain is better than long term pain and time wasted.
"Indecision and delays are the parents of failure"
-- George Canning
If you are such a manager, then make up your mind. You have a 50% chance of making a correct decision and sometimes, there are no 100% correct decisions. If you are a product manager, after getting all the data and necessary polling, you must clearly and definitively set your priorities and feature set. If you work for such a person, give them a date and spell out the consequences after that date, e.g. increased costs, missed deadlines, etc.
Being indecisive means not creating waves and things cannot survive in stagnant water.
Be bold or step out of the way.
In Star Trek, the Kobayashi Maru is a Starfleet Academy training exercise designed as a no-win scenario. The cadet crew receives a distress call from the civilian freighter, Kobayashu Maru, disabled in the Klingon Neutral Zone, and any Starfleet ship entering the zone would be in violation of the Organian Peace Treaty. The approaching crew must decide whether to attempt rescue of the Kobayashi Maru – violating the treaty and endangering their own ship and lives – or leave the Kobayashi Maru to certain destruction by the Klingtons.
Students inevitably try to save the freighter and end up not only failing to save the doomed ship, but also sacrificing themselves to no avail. In the Start Trek series, Captain T. Kirk was the first cadet to win (on his 3rd try) – by reprogramming the computer so that it was possible to rescue the ship. In effect, he changed the conditions of the test and rules of the game. (This is very much in line with Stephen Covey's first rule in the "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People": Recognize that you are the Programmer in life.)
So how many “Kobayashi Maru”s are you presented with every day when you’re told this or that cannot be done for set reasons, e.g. “It’s not part of our process”, “...outside of our Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)”, or that “You cannot fight City Hall”? One of the biggest problems with SOPs and procedures are that people treat them as something that Moses brought down from the mountain, written in stone, and unchangeable over time. Processes, rules, and procedures can and should be changed with the times. However, in many other cases, you cannot be a James T. Kirk and rewrite the rules, e.g. you cannot create a “win-win” when it is definitely a “no-win” situation, e.g. the market requirements cannot be fully met by the engineering team due to resources and time or a customer just hates your company without a clear reason.
So What Do You Do with a Kobayashi Maru?
1. Always think like James T. Kirk: “I don't believe in the no-win scenario.” When there’s a will, there’s a way. Rewrite the rules. Change the game. There was an evangelist named “Reverend Ike” who preached prosperity theology. Supposedly, when questioned about the biblical verse: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Rev. Ike replied “A rich man can buy a bigger needle.” Leonardo da Vinci and the Wright Brothers challenged the law of gravity with flight. We talk about shifts in paradigms, thinking outside the box (apologies since I hate such clichés).
2. Destroy the Kobayashi Maru yourself - In “Stone and Anvil”, Mackenzie Calhoun realizes that it is impossible to rescue the Kobayashi Maru so he destroys it himself! He also reasons that it is more merciful to kill the civilians outright rather than let them be captured and tortured; and he assumes that the ship itself was a trap. In real life, your Kobasyashi Maru’s only suck up time and energy to your eventual demise. If your product does not meet the market requirements and you cannot get it completed, then be honest and sink it rather than waste additional release resources. If you are in a bad relationship, get out before it gets worse! (In this case, get out, don't literally destroy your boyfriend or girlfriend. It's illegal.) Too many people are afraid to tell the Emperor that he is not wearing any clothes. Emotions and people are involved so It’s a very difficult but necessary decision. Sometimes, you have to move on. In a Machiavellian world, mercifully ending the Kobayashi Maru’s will allow you to focus on better and more profitable efforts, e.g. investigating how the Kobayashi Maru got stranded to prevent future recurrences, aiding others, etc.
So don't be afraid to face and deal your Kobayashi Maru's in life.
Live long and prosper.
I love my cube*. After years of moving between offices and cubicles, I prefer a cubicle. Some people get very, very emotional when it comes to this topic so I prefer to let them get the office if they want it. Some attach having an office with prestige. Some state that they need privacy. To each his or her own.
Observation 1: Most offices have their doors closed or lights out during the majority of the workday.
Observation 2: The ones who decide and evangelize about open work spaces and the merits of cubicles usually have the biggest offices.
I arguably now have the most tranquil and relaxing work setting in the company. I can just stare out into the deep ocean when I need to look away from my work and PC. I have received quite a bit of compliments and people taking pictures of the cubicle. Yes, I do have more interruptions in a cubicle but that is because people find it more inviting so they can “shoot the breeze” with me. They found my presence in an office and the door to be rather intimidating.
Creating You Own Custom Wall Panels.
What you need:
Color printer, Microsoft Excel, Wallpaper clip art, Velcro (loop fabric).
Level of Effort (1 to 5) : 1 - Very Easy
1. Measure the panel sizes in your cubicle. You will probably need at least 6 panels.
2. Search for appropriate wallpaper clip art that has the approximate panel sizes. "Google --> Images" is a great search engine.
3. Copy the image and paste into Excel, then print. Other programs can probably serve the same purpose but Excel prints the overflow onto separate pages which you can attach together to form larger wall panels. Large 11 x 17 paper is preferable since you will have many sheets to join together.
4. Attach the printed wall panel to the surface of the cubicle wall panel with loop fabric strips.
Note: This is not to preclude any offers for a VP position that requires me to sit in a spacious upper floor office overlooking the city. I will somehow manage.
My original plan in life was to go into social work or law. In fact, I received a full scholarship to a combined, accelerated undergraduate and law school program. I was very surprised when my parents objected violently when I gave them the news. “Where did we go wrong?! We didn’t work so hard to raise you so you can become a lawyer! You’re not going to make it.” I asked them why. “You’re not Jewish. You’ll be eaten alive as soon as the judge sees your face.” So, as the dutiful son and an 18 year old who didn’t know much about careers, I went onto Columbia University for Engineering (because every other Asian kid was also going to engineering or medical school).
Throughout the years and into my career, I’ve seen people advised to act a certain manner, dress a certain way, and unfortunately, watch people get stereotyped and labeled. “Well, the Myers Briggs test results show that she is in quadrant 3 so she can’t be a leader and should be in this type of role. Only quadrant 1 people are shown to be good leaders".
I also got caught up in this by accepting certain opinions regarding what success and leadership meant and the means to attain it. That only led to internal doubt, fear of being inadequate, frustration, and stress – until I heard the best advice from Robin Sharma: “You need to run your own race”.
Run Your Own Race
Everyone needs to run his or her own race. We have our own start and finish lines, and will encounter different people and experiences along the way. Be mindful and grateful during your unique journey.
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” - David Thoreau in "Walden Pond"
Don’t let yourself be labeled or you will restrict your own boundaries. You can realize your potential only by refusing to follow the herd. Don’t be in in a battle with what everybody else thinks.
So define your mission statement and run your own race. Stop and enjoy the scenery. Live your life, make your own choices, and help others do the same without preaching or labeling.
Nelson Mandela said "As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."
Let your light shine.
“I will call you back when I have an answer.”
“I’ll let you know…”
“You should hear back from us in 3 days.”
Just how many of us have heard that and we wait…and wait…and wait.
What do you think of a person or business that does that? Not much, eh?
I received my mini 360 degree feedback results* and one of the top positive characteristics that my peers and manager listed was “dependability”, “to do what I say and say what I do”. I think that has much to do with one very important habit – I always reply to people as promised.
Getting back to people when you promise is one of the most positive traits there is. If you made a promise to reply by a certain time or day – do so even if you don’t have the answer or deliverables. Just telling others the status and that you are still working on it is important and appreciated. No excuses. Unfortunately, very few people do this!
Replying to people as promised tells others that:
1. You keep your word.
2. You care about and value them or their situation. They are important to you.
3. You are transparent.
4. You are dependable and trustworthy.
Not getting back to people insinuates that:
1. You are not trustworthy and undependable.
2. The other person is not that important to you. You don’t care about them.
3. You are a liar. ("I told you that I will reply to get rid of you!")
4. You are disorganized and unable to remember/track commitments.
A person is only as good as his or her word. It defines you and the organization that you represent.
Remember that people tend to do business with those whom they like and trust.
*Alas, it also showed some "imperfections" which I will diligently work on.
“Stop crying or I’ll really give you something to cry about!”
How many times have I had to pause when my mother was punishing me and saying those words simultaneously? Okay, let me get this straight – I am crying because you are whupping me but you want me to stop crying or you will hit me some more?
Little did I know that I was being introduced to the "Stroop effect" at an early age (and re-introduced for many more years to come)...
The Stroop effect is well-known in psychology and describes an experiment about the time it takes to name the color of printed words. When asked to say the incompatible ink colors in which a list of color words is printed (e.g., to say "blue" in response to the word "yellow" printed in blue ink, "red" in response to the word "green" printed in red ink, and so on), people have a temporary mental block and can't do it quickly. However, when asked simply to read the same list of words (e.g., "yellow" in response to the word "yellow" printed in blue ink, etc.), people fly right through the task.
In most cases, you should have a difficult time with the Stroop experiment above because part of your brain is fixed on the text colors while you are trying to focus on the words. You don’t usually expect things to be so disjointed.
Why should you care about the Stroop effect?
The Stroop effect is really about removing distractions and having consistency to enable efficient completion of tasks. Cut down on all the “noise” that gets in the way of a clear message. It also points to our selective attention, our conditioned processing (for words vs. colors, etc.), mental preference for congruence, and struggle to filter out noise in thinking and working.
As a manager or communicator, your message must match your actions and behavior. Is it “Do as I say, not as I do?” Remember the old joke, “Beatings will continue until morale improves”? It’s difficult for people to do what is asked when they see a conflict in reality.
In product design, pay attention to color, fonts, and graphics. For example, people love to use icons. It’s modern, compact, and saves on translations. Ensure that it truly is universal and easy to understand. For example, we still use a disk graphic to represent “Save” yet an increasing number of adults have never seen a floppy disk. In some cases, text accompanying icons, via hover help or an actual label, may be more user-friendly and efficient.
Your Brand is also subject to the Stroop effect. Ensure that all customer “touch points” when interacting with you, e.g. design, customer communication, collateral, service, etc. are all consistent with the message that you want to convey.
In Marketing, the Stroop effect implies that people are conditioned to respond more to concepts and words that draw them in mentally and emotionally (versus a product). You can see in the Stroop experiment the power of color.
So keep the Stroop effect in mind in all that you do or convey...otherwise, you might just get the opposite of what you want!
One of the most profound ways of thinking about and shaping your reality is to consider your life to be a story (or movie). It can be a melodrama, comedy, tragedy, or any combinations and the most amazing thing is – you are the author of your own story.
I grew up on the Lower East Side of NYC and attended the local elementary and junior high school. All my classmates were basically of the same background: poor and had parents who never had an education. A good number of us went onto to productive lives, went to college, got jobs, raised families, etc. A few, unfortunately, went to prison. There were no common denominators that decided who would “succeed” or “fail”. What was different? Unknown to us, we were each protagonists living our individual stories. Many of our stories had similar hardships and events but our reactions and attitudes led to different paths and outcomes. Some of us "stayed clean", studied and worked our way out. Others dropped out of school, turned to drugs, crime, and wrote a much different story.
Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. We can’t control the beginning (our birth and background) and the past is the past – as Rafiki said to Simba in the “The Lion King”: “You can either run from it, or... learn from it”. What we do have the power is to decide what the rest of the story will be and work to make it so. "Live in regret or longing for the past, or in a constant state of trying to protect yourself from future misfortune, you will miss the real and potentially amazing opportunities that are staring you right in the face, in the now" - (quote writer unknown).
There are 3 basic steps to writing your story:
1. Purpose – Decide on the purpose of your story, your reason for being*. You might refer to this as your mission statement.
2. Reflect – review your current story. Is it going the way that you want to achieve the “ending” that you want? Does your current story appear misaligned with what you want, e.g. you want to be there as your children grow up but yet you are neglecting your diet and health. Are you being consistent in your story? You can’t have your purpose as being a benevolent leader if you decide that you can be nice to some people and not others.
3. Rewrite – visualize and write down what your story will be. Create the new storyboard; take the steps needed to change the story to go in the direction that you want.
When you change your story, you change your life. Be bold; make it a great story!
*Note: Your purpose should not be “to be CEO of this division”, “to have a 6 figure salary “. You can, but it would be a very poor story. To quote Victor Frankl: "Again and again, I therefore admonish my students in Europe and America: Don't aim at success - the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run - in the long-run, I say! - success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it."
Edward Koch was a beloved mayor of New York City, the quintessential New Yorker. One of his most enduring questions when encountering citizens in the public was “How’m I doing?” He’d pause to listen to the replies and then start talking. I used to see him in retirement sitting at a street cafe in Little Italy chatting and taking pictures with passers-by.
Product and Market Managers should learn to be like Ed Koch and reach out to customers to find out “how am I doing?”* You can’t just rely on sales and service for third party feedback about your products and the user experience. I followed the “Ed Koch” school of thinking to the extreme by regularly calling strategic and random customers from our installed base. (You can always take a break during each week to do this. No excuses.) Users were pleasantly surprised when someone from “Corporate” was willing to take time to call, thank them for their business, and just making sure that they were happy – without any hidden pretenses. Many times, I learned that they were happy but might have a question or was unaware of certain product functions which would have made their life easier – these were easily resolved with some instructions or a few product tips. There were some rare occasions where they were quietly unsatisfied but gave me the opportunity to make things right – I might create some software templates for free or give some training via a web meeting, They ended up as very happy customers who otherwise would have walked away in the future. Other times, they may have an issue with another business group and I would relay that information to the appropriate managers for corrective action.
What did I get in return? A personal connection and opportunity to learn directly from users about what they liked, had difficulty with, how they used the products in real life, feedback on what they would like to see in future revisions, a pulse on their business and market, as well as business referrals and customer references. I would connect with over 100 customers in this very efficient and non-obtrusive manner each year. I call that a win-win!
* I feel that every manager and every person can do a reality check with this method. It may not be with customers but with your staff, Sometimes, the "Emperor has no clothes" but those closest to him won't tell the truth.
To quote David Allen:
"Want to know one of the easiest ways to act on your creative ideas? Stop trying to hold them in your mind. Your mind is a great place to have ideas, but a terrible place to manage them."
As many of you know, I am a practitioner of David Allen's GTD system and I've used the following to illustrate life for most of us (I've always seen smiles and nods when I show this):
Here, we have Bill interrupt our thoughts at least 4 times... without a productive end result. It's natural and it's real.
So remember, your mind is for creating ideas, not to hold them. Get a system to organize your tasks and day - and stick to it...so you don't wake up and think about Bill at 2 AM in the morning.
The website 43Folders.com is a great introduction to GTD (Getting Things Done) or search this blog for earlier GTD articles.
"There's a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn't that kind of the point?"
- Pam's final line in “The Office”
How many of us half-jokingly feel that we are in the movie “Groundhog Day”, repeating the same day over and over? Do you sometimes just “go through the motions”? How often do you treat a person coming into your office, a phone conversation, or an email, as an interruption or just something to take care of? Have you ever been treated like an interruption?
I learned about awareness, being fully present and mindfulness from my dad - but not in the way most would think. Life changed when my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. He knew that he had arthritis but we never told him about the Parkinson’s. I could see that his steps were getting slower and smaller, getting up from the couch was increasingly more difficult, his speech more slurred, yet he always had his smile and laugh. Each visit home was a chance to see and be with him one more time. Dad tended to repeat his stories about his past. He would regale about “the good old days”, being in the Merchant Marine, on British convoys being attacked by German subs, recalling the speed of the destroyers, working in Russia (“it was so cold that you can see your urine freeze as you pee'd”). I would always laugh and ask questions so that he could talk more. Someone suggested that I record the conversations for posterity but I just could not. A part of me felt that listening to them later in life would be too painful; I also felt that no recording would ever be able to capture how special those moments were to me. It was important for me to be fully present, to live the father-and-son moments. I made an extra effort to imprint those conversations and our connection into my brain and my heart. Perhaps that is why I can picture him on his couch right now looking at me, smiling and happily recounting his adventures.
Awareness, being present, mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to what is happening to you from moment to moment. It’s the old phrase: “Stop and smell the roses”. A manager at a major internet company sadly told me about her international travels – she hated it because all she ever saw were airports, hotels, and offices.
It’s also about respect and honor – for others and one’s self. I learned the importance of seeing each person as worthy of my undivided time and attention. I refuse to gaze over to a ringing phone or flashing PC calendar – the individual talking to me is the most important person to me at that moment. It is a privilege not an interruption. Managers (especially technical people) tend to try to solve the problem in mid-conversation, to interrupt and be impatient. I learned not to be judgmental, to do what Stephen Covey calls “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. The same applies at home. No matter how tired I am, I try to live the moment with my family trying to imprint the time reading with my boys or just going to the playground.
It also means transparency and honesty, to only make those commitments that I can keep and to push back when I know that I cannot deliver.
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou
Being present and mindfulness means taking the time to acknowledge, connect with others, to thank them, to touch base, to genuinely care about someone's family or something of importance to them, to show them that you value and appreciate them. It's about thanking the cleaning lady and returning the shopping cart at the parking lot - all people at all levels. These personal connections and conversations have led to better understanding and more productive and fulfilling relationships. Colleagues and customers have become friends and people whom I truly care about.
Finally, awareness, being present, and mindfulness means to be grateful for all you have received and to repay those who helped you in your journey. Pay it forward by helping others through acts of kindness, good deeds and charity.
The character, Jim, in the final episode of "The Office" said: "I wish there was some way to know that you're in the good old days before you leave them." Try to be fully present, aware, and mindful. What you are looking for is often already around you - you were too busy looking to see it.
There was a TV show named “The Dating Game” where a bachelorette would ask questions to three bachelors, hidden from her view, and then choose one to go out for a date at the end of the show. Each male contestant would try to stand out from the others by showing swagger, being witty, and sometimes have put-downs of their rivals. “Bachelor No. 2 – How would you describe a romantic night out with me?” “Well, Bachelorette, I would pick you up in my Ferrari, then we fly to Paris in my personal jet for dinner, and finally to my home to play Xbox (my mother makes a delicious cup of hot chocolate).”
Life is “The Dating Game” whether you are dating, working, or selling...
Why should I buy from you? Why should I hire you? What separates you from the crowd? These questions apply to you as an individual and to your company, products or services. This is the premise of branding.
You start to define your brand by creating a positioning statement. This is a short synopsis of who you are and what makes you special - the proverbial "2 minute elevator pitch". It helps others match you with what they need, see value in what you offer, and clarifies your niche and articulates how you want to be perceived throughout your community. It strengthens your identity by helping you see yourself through the eyes of your “customer” and highlighting that "one thing" (or "big things") that sets you apart.
Take your time to think about and internalize these Starter Questions:
1. Who are you? What do you do?
This should come from your mission statement. (All individuals should have personal mission statements regardless of whether they are doing personal branding or not.)
2. What are the specific needs or problems of the market that you serve? How do you satisfy those needs or solve those problems?
Think of three specific and unique ways you can address these needs or problems.
3. Who are your preferred customers? What is your value to these customers?
Identity who you trying to sell to. You cannot be all things to all people so think about which customers you wish to target and why they would choose you. Think about what the customer cares about and what your compelling value propositions are. (Determine your single most compelling value proposition, the top three, and no more than a total of five to maintain focus.)
4. Who are your competitors? What unique benefits set you apart from the competition so that the customer chooses you?
Each product or service has a different set of competitors so carefully identify them and determine what differentiates you enough so that the customer selects you. Define the criteria that customers use when making purchase decisions. Remember all benefits and values are compared relative to the competition.
After answering the above starter questions, you can construct the positioning statement in several ways but I like these two slightly different templates. Template 2 is a modified version of a template from personal branding expert and author, Karen Kang. I got to meet her (fabulous person) and highly recommend her book, "BrandingPays".
Remember that you may have different positioning statements for different products and situations. Be the contestant that stands out and wins in your daily version of "The Dating Game"!
A file with both templates can be downloaded here.
Today was a wonderful day! Almost thirty of us went to the local food pantry to sort canned and dried foods collected by the US Postal Service food drive on Saturday. Together, we unloaded bins and bags of food and sorted them into different boxes for further distribution to those in need. It was wonderful to see the small mountain of food, the camaraderie among us, and knowing that we did a good deed (with double Brownie points since it was in a church). Everyone was smiling and cheering each other on while doing some serious lifting and running around - we sorted 16,750 lbs or ~8.3 tons of food in a record 2 hours 15 minutes!. It was fun organizing the event at work - the sign-up was full within days.
There’s something about volunteering and charity that gives more meaning and fulfillment to life. You get to meet others and see a better side of people and society. On the personal side, I work with charities and volunteer organizations, be it serving on advisory councils to tap into my marketing, writing, or management background or just when they need some heavy lifting. I am also a proud member of the Instron C3 group (which stands for “Community Connection Committee”) with the mission statement of “Making a measurable difference in our community by extending awareness about local needs and providing opportunities for Instron employees to help and serve”. We do the monetary campaigns, e.g. the One Fund Boston for those affected by the tragic events at the Boston Marathon, as well as “Days of Caring” where people can donate time and skills. We also work very closely with The United Way - we received the Cornerstone Award for our overall contribution to the United Way of Tri-County in 2013. It's wonderful to learn how many caring people I work with (many unassumingly).
Change this paradigm, change the world.
Many of us are brought up to be self-centered, always asking “What’s in it for me?” and “Looking out for #1”. If we change this paradigm, we change the world. Practice random acts of kindness. Pay it forward. Never look down at anyone unless you are helping them up. Do something good without expecting anything back – and you will definitely receive more than you give.
Remember that kindness and compassion do not have to be organized activities. Nor do you have to have a lot of (or any) money. It can be just a "little thing". See the video below to understand.
In life and Sales, there exists the Zone of Possible Agreement. The Zone of Possible Agreement is considered an area where negotiating parties may find common ground - where parties will often compromise and strike a deal. In a traditional sales negotiation, it is defined by the highest possible price that the buyer is willing to offer, and the lowest possible price that the seller is willing to accept. (Remember that ZOPA is not necessarily just about price in terms of money. It can include other terms and conditions.)
Suppose that you want to sell a product that costs you $18,000. You calculate that you can reluctantly let it go at the break-even sell price of $20,000 but would like to sell it for $30,000 to meet target margins. A buyer wants to buy it for $15,000 but is willing to pay up to a maximum of $25,000. The ZOPA where both buyer and seller can negotiate within would be between $20,000 to $25,000. You (the Seller) would not entertain a bid at $15,000 because you would lose money and the Buyer would not consider your asking price of $30,000.
Beware the dangers of not understanding the ZOPA. If you, the seller, start your offer at $40,000, so far outside the buyer’s ZOPA, the buyer will walk away since he or she may think that any discounting will never reach their buying range. The Seller had demanded too much and shut down negotiations. Likewise, the Buyer may make such a starting bid so low that the Seller might not think that he/she is serious and decides to walk away.
In Sales, a negative ZOPA exists when the walkway points of both parties are too far apart with no common area of overlap – a negative ZOPA. With a negative bargaining zone both parties may (and should) walk away.
If we study the current North Korea standoff, we see this negative bargaining zone. North Korea’s current walkaway point is that the US and world must drop sanctions before talks. The US walkaway point is that N. Korea must abandon pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Moving a ZOPA
Can you move the ZOPA? Yes, but it requires combining common interests to create a “win/win” for all. I, as the Seller, might be able to offer a demo or refurbished version of my product at a slightly reduced price which reduces my break-even sell price. The Buyer may be willing to offer me a testimonial for my promotional material or offer to buy in volume to reduce the Seller’s transportation and installation costs.
Likewise, a Seller or Buyer can shrink a ZOPA by adding terms and conditions during negotiations. True Story: A couple was getting very serious about marriage. The woman kept mentioning “little” things which got the man’s spiderman senses tingling (their ZOPA was shrinking). Finally, she mentioned that she would be in charge of their future finances and ration him $50 per week – their ZOPA went completely negative and he ran for the hills...and is still running.
Gac Filipaj (Courtesy Columbia University)
The Story of Gac Filpaj
Gac Filipaj left a war-torn Yugoslavia as a refugee for the United States in 1992. He fled after almost finishing law school in Belgrade, where he commuted for years by train from Montenegro.
He started working as a restaurant busboy while living with his Uncle in the Bronx. In his words: “I asked people, which are the best schools in New York?" Since Columbia topped his list, "I went there to see if I could get a job."
Gac worked full time as a custodian at Columbia University. He spent several years taking English proficiency classes (his mother tongue was Albanian), then enrolled in the School of General Studies in 2000. Mr. Filipaj took advantage of the University's policy that allows employees to enroll in college courses for free, provided that they are able to hold their own academically. For Mr. Filipaj, he would open his books after returning late at night to his Bronx apartment after working a 2:30 to 11:00 PM shift, cleaning the school's bathrooms and emptying the trash. He would pull “all-nighters” before exam time or to finish a paper, then go to class in the morning and then to work.
In May 2012, after 12 years of dedicated study, Gac Filipaj at the age of 52, donned a cap and gown to graduate with a bachelor's degree in classics - with honors, from what is arguably the fourth best university in the country - shortly after Harvard, Princeton and Yale.
The Model of Circle of Influence versus the Circle of Concern
Gac Filpaj is a wonderful example of Stephen Covey’s “Circle of Influence versus Circle of Concern”.
All of us have a wide range of concerns in our lives – the economy, friends and family, the environment, the Kardashians, etc. Within this whole universe of our concerns, there are some things we can influence and some things we can only stay concerned about. We have a choice about where we focus our attention and energy. We can choose to focus all our attention on: 1) what we can change ("Circle of Influence") or 2) the area that is outside our influence ("Circle of Concern").
Don't we all know whiners? They get annoyed about other people’s shortcomings, blame the government, global capitalism, the weather, a rotten childhood, bad luck, etc. Everything becomes ‘poor me’. Such people are living almost exclusively in the Circle of Concern. They become reactive and stuck.
Gac Fipaj chose to focus on things that he could change - his Circle of Influence. Influence does not mean just the more immediate or ‘trivial’ concerns. It also means focusing on aspects of larger problems that we can exert some influence over. Influence does not necessarily mean direct ‘control’; we can influence things in an indirect way, for example in our own personal, daily behavior.
So don’t play the “Blame Game”. Gac Fipaj didn't whine about having to move to a foreign country and not knowing the language. He recognized his Circle of Influence: he learned English, got a job at a good university which would pay for his studies, and took courses until he graduated with honors. (Fipaj continues to take courses to this day.)
By focusing attention and energy on our circle of influence, we become increasingly proactive. The energy we expend is enlarging; each little victory motivates us to find new ways of exerting influence. We don’t waste energy on things we can do nothing about, but direct it towards what we can change. With each step we feel stronger and more creative. And so our circle of influence expands.
Here’s another very common example: How many people feel limited by or hate their jobs? A whiner would complain and blame his or her manager, the economy, colleagues, etc. However, you cannot change your manager, the economy, your colleagues, or the past. This negative way of thinking, playing the “blame game” accompanied by inaction to change things, results in shrinking your circle of influence.
So what can you change? You can change your attitude, seek your manager’s honest advice and help, expand your horizons and skills from external learning, do a reassessment of your values & behaviors, participate in projects beyond your role, observe how successful people thrive, get a mentor/life coach, etc. These are things within your circle of influence – worthy things that you can focus attention and energy on. You become increasingly proactive and start to expand your circle of influence. You build up your credentials; people start recognizing your contributions, your teamwork, reach out for your thoughts, and you can move up or out.
What’s the lesson here?
1. Identify what is within your Circle of Influence and your Circle of Concern.
2. Continuously work and focus your energy on what you can change to expand your Circle of Influence, e.g. your relationships, your mission statement, purpose.
3. Slowly but surely, your Circle of Influence starts expanding to take up more of your Circle of Concern. This is because you can start making changes as your life role and capabilities expand.
4. Your Circle of Concern should always be larger than your Circle of Influence – otherwise you become self-centered.
5. Your Circle of Concern also grows as you widen your Circle of Influence - we care more and more about some of the very challenging things in our world as we learn we can influence them.
Spending your energy daily on things that you cannot influence is a waste of time with a negative compounding effect. You end up feeling like you are stuck with no control of anything (which leads to stress).
Focus your efforts on what you can control. You will create a positive compounding effect that brings the reality that you want.
Here is a fine example of user innovation which brings back painful memories. We talked about “User Innovation” – innovation by intermediate or end-users, rather than by the producer or original designer.
Recall Prof. Eric von Hippel's research: many products and services are modified by users to meet their particular needs. Modern manufacturing is based on economy of scale so products are developed to meet the widest possible need. When individual users face their own “unique” problems, they develop their own modifications to existing products (or new products) to solve their issues. Users readily share that with the producer or other users in hopes that their changes and ideas will be incorporated into the product.
Case Study: The Feather Duster
The unassuming feather duster is used by most of Western society for dusting. Ah, but the Chinese mother has literally “turned it around” - into the child disciplinary tool of choice. The parent comfortably grips the feathers while whacking the child with the bamboo or stick end. I have never seen my mother use the feather duster for dusting…but I was very well acquainted with the stick end. Many Chinese parents have used the feather duster to the point of bending or breaking the stick while permanently compressing the feathers with their tight grips. My mother must have replaced at least 5 feather dusters because of me. (One replacement was due to my attempt to surgically saw a duster stick just enough so that it would break the next time it was used. Unfortunately, I sawed it all the way through which really upset my mom - leading to a serious beat down after she bought 2 new feather dusters, always keeping one in reserve for the future).
I never liked or understood this user innovation. Nor did I understand the warning that followed to “Stop crying or I will give you something to cry about” (I’m crying because you just beat me with that stick so you’re going to beat me some more because I’m crying? Talk about a “vicious circle”.) Now, of course, my mother as the grandmother of my children admonishes me to never physically punish her grandchildren: “You should always reason with them. They’re young. It can hurt them physically and mentally.” To which I reply: “Hello? Have we met? Who are you?! Don’t you remember beating me with that feather duster?” And my mother’s final reply would be “Well, you were a different case.”
Note: There is an actual Facebook group named 'My Chinese Parents Used to Beat Me with a Feather Duster'.
Sooner or later, you have to give presentations so check out the site "Presentation Zen" from Garr Reynolds to learn more about how to give great presentations.
Frank Lio is a Product Manager, Strategist, and Change Agent in the Hi-Tech industry. His growing track record of successes include creating 3 winning software products, leading nationwide seminars, and turning around a failing business unit. He is currently serving a dual role as Product Manager and Business Team Support Manager at Instron ITW.
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