Pulling a Truman

buck stops

People are grousing about the price? Sounds like a sales problem to me.

Customers don’t understand our product? Sounds like a sales problem to me.

No one came to our seminar? Sounds like a sales problem to me.

One customer thinks another customer is getting preferential treatment? Sounds like a sales problem to me.

People don’t like the new program? Sounds like a sales problem to me.

A friend and mentor used that phrase all the time. His point was that rather than simply acting as a conduit for every voice from the field, we should engage with those voices and address their concerns. Instead, we often throw up our hands and shake our heads, decrying those jerks back at the office whose ridiculous ideas caused the issue in the first place.

We don’t get to make all the decisions ourselves, regardless of what job or position we hold. At some point, we’re going to have to stand in the gap between someone else’s decision/policy/precedent and our constituency. We have two choices: commiserate or moderate.

If we commiserate, we do nothing to help the situation. And we give away any power of our own. Really, we become part of the problem.

If we moderate, we hold the power to improve an unfavorable situation. We become part of the solution.

Let’s take another look.

People are grousing about the price? Let me show you what you get for your money and why it’s a good value.

Customers don’t understand our product? I must not have explained it well enough. Let me give it another shot.

No one came to our seminar? Let me help get the word out next time. I can stir up some excitement.

One customer thinks another customer is getting preferential treatment? What can I do to help him feel appreciated?

People don’t like the new program? Let me show you its benefits and how they could improve your situation.

Don’t think I’m pointing the finger at salespeople; we ALL have to sell ourselves and our work every day to our customers, colleagues, friends, or family. If the buck doesn’t stop with you, it sounds like a sales problem.

By the way, the friend who said that was a VP of sales. How’s that for taking responsibility?

Crying won’t help

IMG_1448A couple of weeks ago, the Miami Dolphins lost to the New England Patriots in an AFC match-up. (Sorry folks, but here comes another football metaphor.) There wasn’t a lot about the game that came as a surprise–the Pats were expected to win, after all. To the Fins’ credit, the score–23-16–ended up fairly respectable.

Unfortunately, respect is exactly where at least one Dolphin took issue.

In that game, the Pats found a play that worked, and they used it. Over and over and over again. Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel felt that disrespected him and his teammates.

Wait, what?

Yep, it’s true. Here’s what he said: “It really [ticked] me off… It was disrespectful to us to run the same play over and over and be successful”, he said, via Brian Briggane of the Palm Beach Post. (H/T PFT) “Normally when somebody’s driving down the field you just think, ‘Well, they just had a good run there,’ but you run the same play over and over, as a competitor that [ticks] me off.” [emphasis added]

Here’s the deal, Tony. Football is your job, and it’s theirs, too. You all get paid to get results, same as I do in my desk job. If I find something that works, something that helps ensure my success, why wouldn’t I use it? In fact, why wouldn’t I use it over and over, as long as it still produces results? Or until I find something better? That’s not disrespectful; that’s just smart.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, Tony. Or in your case, if it IS broke, do something about it. Something besides crying, that is.

Take heart

ImageIn a conference room, educators, administrators, and parents meet at a table. Suddenly, in the midst of their discussion, gunfire erupts nearby. At the moment of recognition, some reflexively dive for cover, while others spring from their seats and head toward danger.

I can’t shake this image.

What makes some people instinctively jump into the fray, even in the face of potential harm? I’d be willing to bet that at the moment of action, not a single person in that room thought about which path she would take. No one weighed the options. No one considered the risks. No one considered what was at stake. In that split second, each person simply reacted. For the first moment, gut instinct was the only driving force.

Please don’t misunderstand; I don’t believe one action was better than another in this case. The people who put themselves in harm’s way died, but they were heroes who tried to save others. The people who sought refuge rejoined relieved and grateful families, sparing them the searing pain of personal loss.  You can’t separate wins from losses in such a situation.

What I’m trying to understand are the reasons people react in such divergent ways.

I’m becoming convinced that in crisis situations, people’s actions are very often the reflexive culmination of their life experiences. Every day is preparation for the next; no action is wasted or forgotten by the psyche. Each one becomes a stone in a person’s foundation. Each one becomes a part of who we are.

If that’s the case, everything I do makes a difference in who I am. When it comes to my moment of truth, I want my foundation to be strong, regardless of whether I face danger or seek shelter.

This changes how I look at everything.

To the women who lost their lives confronting a dangerous man, thank you. Your willingness to stand between others and danger demonstrated courage and selflessness in a way none of us can fathom.

To the people who took refuge, thank you, too. Fewer families will be torn apart by the grief of losing a parent, child, spouse, sibling, or friend. Each spared life is a blessing to all of us; there is enough suffering in the world.

Boy of my heart

ImageI don’t write about my son very often. Where my daughter takes center stage (she demands it), my son prefers to run under the radar. He has a sharp wit, a sly smile, and a spectacular capacity for logical debate. And he’s really, really funny. He gets it.

The best part is that today is his day.

Fourteen years ago, this boy’s arrival transformed me into a mother, and I’m so glad he did. I’ve gotten to watch him grow and mature, moving from crawling to walking to running–literally. This past year, I’ve watched this boy of my heart realize the physical and mental benefits of physical activity.

Through running and wrestling, this boy has opened up and blossomed. He is more confident. He smiles more. He feels better. He’s doing better in school. He has swagger. He has become a leader.

He’s a great kid, my son. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Happy birthday, Bub.  You’re the boy of my heart.

Ask yourself

ask yourselfA wonderful thing happened in a meeting I attended last night. Someone asked a question. It wasn’t just any question either; this man admitted that he didn’t understand an issue and asked for it to be explained.

If that doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, consider this. The last time you were in a group setting and didn’t completely get it, did YOU do that? Or did you assume everyone else was on board and you didn’t want to look silly? Did you speak up and say Time out! Can we go over that again? Or did you text a trusted colleague and ask What is he talking about? Did you say This doesn’t completely make sense to me. Where did I get off track? Or did you sit quietly and make plans to do some homework after the meeting?

I know what I normally do.

The funny thing is, when the man at my meeting spoke up, “looking silly” didn’t even cross my mind. My first thought was that I was really glad he asked, because I didn’t completely understand the issue either. My next thought was that he either had a lot of guts or he was really, really comfortable with himself. Either way, I admired him for it.

And you’ll never believe what happened after that. Someone else asked a question. That lead to a really good discussion, which led to a more thorough understanding of the issue all around–and a much better final decision. I learned more in that meeting than in any of its predecessors.

All it took was one question. Don’t be afraid to ask.

‘Tis the season

2012 treeRemember when I wrote that I need to learn from my own insights? Well, I’ve been thinking about my Thanksgiving post in particular since the words flew from my fingers. Now that we’re well into the Christmas season, I’ve really gotten stuck on the ability to share my fortune with others from my what-I’m-thankful-for list.

I started considering what I really do to share my fortune. Without burdening you with the gory details of my hyperanalytical thought process, I concluded that I should be doing more. I have a lot. I give my kids a lot. I’ve got room to give others a lot more.

So in this season of giving, I made a new rule for myself. My local grocery store keeps a bin of brown paper bags near the front of the store. They’re all filled with various grocery items and stapled shut, each carrying a price tag of $3, $5, or $10. Rather than functioning as grocery grab bags, they instead are filled with items needed by the local food bank. When a shopper buys one, it is placed in another bin to be delivered to the food bank. My new rule? Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I buy one every time I visit the grocery store, even if I’m just picking up a gallon of milk.

I don’t know how many I’ve bought, and I don’t care. That’s not the point. I recently wrote some copy for a company Christmas card that included the line, With prosperity comes responsibility. Or, in the true Christmas spirit, For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required.

I have been given much. ‘Tis the season.


Colts locker roomMy football team pulled off another unlikely victory this weekend. As I reveled in the afterglow, I cruised around the team’s website to prolong it as much as I could. Lately they’ve been posting short video clips of post-game locker room celebrations, and I found myself grinning broadly as I watched grown men–BIG grown men–jumping up and down and dancing. How fun is that?!

It struck me that football, like all professional sports, offers an opportunity most of us don’t get in our day jobs: constant, immediate metrics. Results. Every week, those guys either celebrate a win or mourn a loss.

Whoa. That’s a big difference from my daily routine. Of course, I have projects whose culmination can be measured in something akin to a win or loss, but certainly not as clearly. Even so, those are few and far between. Like most people, I spend my time keeping things running, plugging away at daily tasks and putting out fires. Sprinkle that with some strategic thought and ship steering (dinghy, in my case), and you have a picture of how I spend most of my time. Rarely do I go home and say I won today.

A weekly goal with definitive measurement? I think that would be fantastic. I’d love to go home knowing whether I succeeded or failed, and then gear up to do it all again the next week. Somehow, there’s got to be a way to make that happen even in a non-sports career. And I’m going to figure it out.