Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Self-confidence – Me Versus We

After a couple of interesting incidents over the last couple of weeks, I have been reminded that hubris is alive and well in business.

It is true that self-confidence is essential to success - there aren’t many people who are “doormats” who have managed to become wildly successful in their field.  Doormats aren’t great at showing the self-confidence, vision and leadership necessary to get “stuff” done nor do they inspire others to do the same.

However, there is always some point in the execution of a company where help is needed.

And that’s where the self-confidence needs to change, from one of “I have everything I need” to one of “we have everything we need”.

The transition from “I” to “we” is essential in the internal dialog, starting before a collaboration is first suggested and being consistently present through to the completion of the collaboration.

Of the many companies I have been privileged to work with over the years, I have had a few organizations approach me for help with the following common scenario:

1. They have little or no strategy and their poor execution have led them to a very precarious position.

2. They have waited until the last minute to ask for help (and needed a miracle by the time they asked) and were now demanding immediate remedies.

3. Their self-confidence level is off the charts with no results to validate it.

4. They believe they can set the terms for what happens next and proceed to make a “my way or the highway” offer that heavily favors the people who created the problems in the first place.

One company owner, just before losing over 25 million dollars in a complete corporate collapse (a good bit of it being taxpayer money), said to me “Of course I can set the terms – this company was my idea and I deserve to harvest the majority of the rewards”.

Maybe so – but I know that if I am in trouble, the last thing I want to do when asking for help is to tell the world what it owes me.

It reminds me of one night back in the 1980’s when my car broke down while I was driving in the area of Gatineau Park in Quebec.  It was late at night, in a remote area, minus 40 degrees with the wind chill and before the days when everyone had a cell phone.

I was in trouble.

When the two Quebec police officers happened to come upon me by chance, did I say “I can’t believe you don’t have any coffee in your cruiser. What kind of rescue is this?”.

No – I was profusely grateful for the help.

I was reminded then as I have been many times since that, despite our belief in our abilities to get stuff done, there are always times when we need others.

Some moments call for an “I can do it”.

Others call for a “we can do it”.

Successful people know when each is appropriate.

In service and servanthood.


The same entry can be found on my Musings-in-a-Minute blog, found here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Creating Relationships–Offer Before Asking

I’m always amazed how many people out there still forget a golden rule when it comes to creating new relationships – the golden rule of asking “How may I serve your needs?” instead of overwhelming someone with a list of demands before a relationship has even been created.

I had someone reach out to me recently because they had a strong interest in a particular slice of my network.  The person, whom I did not know but who had found me via social media, politely described her intention and need.  She wanted to solicit my network to increase the business of her company and in order to accomplish this, wanted me to pass on to her the names and contact information of everyone that would be of value to her.  There was nothing in it for me (not that there always has to be) but the fact that the request was so one-sided in benefit stood out starkly.

Imagine a stranger calling you on the phone and saying politely, “I would like to call all your friends and family to see how they can help me grow my business.  Would you be kind enough to give me their names, relationship to you and phone numbers please?”

I’m sure you’d hop right on that, wouldn’t you, being delighted to provide this information to a complete stranger with no idea how the information would be used, what impact this person might have on them and no insight as to what your relationship with these people might look like after the stranger had worked their “magic”.

Yeah … right.

I replied with an explanation of how I don’t give my network contact info to strangers without context for how the information would be used.  However, I did indicate that if she could offer a different model where we would collaborate; helping me to understand what she wanted, how she operated, how we could craft something that benefitted all parties for the value of the respective contributions, how her intention would benefit my network, etc., then I would more than delighted to have a dialog with her.

Her response was “a no thank you” regarding collaboration (making it clear that my thoughts regarding a one-sided collaboration were right on) to which I replied that she gave up too easily.  Her reply was that she would reach out to me in the future with the same ask.  Knowing what I know now, perhaps she shouldn’t waste her time unless her approach to collaboration changes.

The dialog highlighted something interesting.  When one attempts to create a new relationship, one shouldn’t open with a message that says “I don’t care about you, I have a need that looks like this”.  This is the surest way to turn someone off and guarantee a failure to engage with that person.

When the same person turns down an offer that transforms a a “what’s in it for one person” into a “let’s explore something that creates a win for everyone”, then that person is not destined for sustainable success, either as an individual or as a collaborator-wanna-be.

They fool some of the people some of the time but eventually either exhaust the list of people who will listen to them or learn the hard way that collaboration with a foundation built upon an understanding of respective needs, styles, and values is far more beneficial.

When one sees that the path to success is through someone else (either a long-time acquaintance or a new contact) consider making an offer to them first.

Find out what “turns a person on” personally or professionally.  Is there something about their values-set, their style of execution, a particular element of Life, a project of importance to them or some other aspect of their Life where you can provide assistance to them?  Do they drop “bread crumbs” that signal how they like to engage with others?

Find out what these are FIRST and bring value to their Life, who they serve and what is important to them.

Good people, feeling that what is important to them is important to you also, will respond in kind with an offer for assistance for something important to you.

Everyone wins.

If you don’t take the time to find out what is important to them, then they feel that they don’t matter or they are being used.

And they are probably right – not a great way to create a new relationship or strengthen an existing one.  It is in fact a way to kill a relationship that otherwise may have born fruit for everyone involved.

The next time you need someone’s help (especially in a new relationship), ask yourself this before approaching that person.

What is important to this person?

What are their values?  How do their values align with mine?

How does this person prefer to be engaged in a relationship?

What turns this person on or off?

What gifts do I have that can help that person move towards their Life goals and objectives?

Too much work?  Then you weren’t in it for a mutual collaboration in the first place, were you?  Maybe the objectives you are trying to achieve for yourself are not important enough that you would be willing to invest in someone else to achieve them.

However, if you strive to understand the answers to these questions (and the others that may arise as you answer these), then you are ready to reach out and make an offer to them.

Not an ask.

You are ready to say “Hi, my name is so-and-so, you have an interest in such-and-such and I believe my gift / talent in the area of such-and-such can help you.  Would you be interested in hearing more about how I can help you?”

Conversely, nothing kills a dialog faster than receiving a message from someone seeking help that implies “I’d like to care about you and your interests but I don’t - I am more important”.

I would think that creating relationships is a lot more fun and impactful than killing them.

Don’t you?

In service and servanthood,


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Creating Relationships – Offer Before Asking”, please click here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wanted: Leaders For Immediate Hire

As I read the news, I have this thought running through my head about a classified ad that we need to run in papers around the world.  It looks something like this:

Newspaper - Leader Classified

Skimming over some headlines reveals some alarming trends in regards to some of our leadership.

In Canada this week, the CRTC (the body that regulates the broadcast industry in Canada), banned the Dire Straits song “Money For Nothing” because it used the word “faggot” three times.  They banned the song based on the complaint of one individual who felt the song was demeaning to gay people.

Meanwhile, the song “Grenade” by Bruno Mars is soaring high in the charts with graphic lyrics about someone who is willing to do anything for someone, including:

I'd catch a grenade for ya
Throw my head on a blade for ya
I'd jump in front of a train for ya
You know I'd do anything for ya
I would go through all this pain
Take a bullet straight through my brain

The singer indicates they would do anything for this person, even though this person claimed that the other person beat them:

Black, black, black and blue, beat me 'til I'm numb

With all the violence in the world today, especially with suicide being one of the top killers of young people, the continued high occurrence of domestic violence and the shooting incident in Tucson, Arizona last week, these lyrics are not entertaining. 

But where is the outcry?

Speaking of Tucson, Arizona, it is disappointing to see leaders of the NRA and other pro-weapons organizations step forward to champion the right for every American to own any type of gun, including people-killers such as glocks and such.  One pro-weapons advocate in Arizona even said it is human nature to be armed.  Legislators are also VERY quick to continue to champion the need for people to possess these weapons. 

I wonder how Congresswoman Giffords, a pro-weapons advocate herself, will feel when she has recovered and discovers that a 9-year-old girl was killed as a result of Ms. Giffords being targeted.

Despite this, the annual gun show in Tucson this weekend (one week after the shooting) is expecting record sales of weapons.

Meanwhile, people who need access to mental health care struggle to make their way through the red tape, cost and excessive wait times so that they can receive the treatment they need.  These people deal with the pain they are enduring and the stigma that unfortunately accompanies mental health concerns while it takes forever for legislators to find solutions.

President Obama said in his speech “We can do better”.

I should be inspired by such a statement but I am not, especially since the people who are in government today have the authority to create a better result but choose not to.

The guy who buys the gun, then buys his ammo at Wal-Mart and proceeds to kill people is only half the picture.

Enabling him with the right to purchase such weapons indicts the people who embrace the laws that provide him with this right.

Which causes me to think …..

We all own the inconsistency of leadership that we see around us.

We like to lament about how government, or certain corporations or other leaders aren’t getting the job done.

The truth is that they will get it done when we demand it – not before.

We know that such inspiring, intelligent, transparent, values-based leaders are out there.  If they weren’t, the world would be in much worse shape.

We see many examples of inspiring leaders throughout history, including many today.

However, we need more of them – a LOT more of them.

The world is on the cusp – balanced precariously between a future of difficulty and pain and one of amazing potential.

Given this, consider that the classified ad above has been posted.

Will you or someone you know answer the call?

Will you encourage others to answer the call?

I hope so.

The world is ready for the next generation of leaders who will make a positive difference.

It doesn’t need people who assume power under the guise of “we can fix things in the future”.

It needs people who demonstrate that “we are fixing things now”.

And it needs such people NOW.

As Plato once said (substituting the word “leadership” where he used the word “politics”):

"The penalty that good men pay for not being interested in leadership is to be governed by men worse than themselves."

In service and servanthood,


My Musings-in-a-Minute blog contains the same entry and can be found here.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

We Are The Masters of Our Domain–Aren’t We?

As I sit here this morning, many of the roads all around the city are closed because of blowing snow and whiteout conditions.

The temperature with wind chill is a delightful MINUS 29 degrees Celsius.

Hundreds of vehicles are stranded on highways outside the city as their owners wait for fuel, food and water and maybe a tow truck to lift them out of the ditch.

It sure sounds like we are masters of our domain alright.

What do you think?

I’d say Mother Nature has the high hand today and I for one know that if someone were to bet on me versus Mother Nature, not many bets would be on me. 

Not even my own! :-)

There are many people out there in our personal and professional lives who believe that they are masters of their domain.

They believe that they have such control over their lives, that they truly believe that they and they alone can manifest whatever they need without anyone’s help.

They choose one-man-band syndrome over collaboration.

They choose intimidation over consideration.

They choose greed over sharing.

They prefer to take credit instead of sharing it or giving it away, except when something goes wrong.  They happily give this credit to others.

I have a prospect on the verge of total collapse who is trying to dictate the terms of engagement to me using a bully-like approach as his ship sinks, failing to acknowledge that the water is up to the rails.  For this gentleman, now is not the time to be asserting that he is the master of his domain with heavy-handed techniques.

People like this may accept help when they are down but when they get back up, they tell a great story about how they saved themselves through a stroke of genius.  Unfortunately, many of them are then too busy to help others in turn.

What is predictable to everyone around them is that success will elude many of them or will be short-lived at best.

We Are Stewards – Not Masters

When I think of our stay on Earth, I find it interesting that we like to praise ourselves for our understanding of its systems and our knowledge around saving and preserving it (even as we destroy it).

The funny thing is that the Earth was around long before we showed up and if we don’t get things right, will be around long after we are gone.

Masters of our domain indeed.

We are stewards of the Earth, charged with taking care of it while we are here.

By the same token, we are stewards of each other, charged with helping each other to overcome adversity, grow each others knowledge and understanding, share our skills, knowledge and talents and to help make each of us, our society and the Earth itself a better place.

How we accomplish this comes in an infinite number of forms.  Not all of them will be gentle or easy but what matters is that we do it.

We need each other to amplify our respective talents, knowledge and strengths.

And when we understand this, our Life gets easier.

I don’t have the right to tell you what to do.

You don’t have the right to tell me what to do.

But we do have the responsibility to do the best we can to help each other do what we need to do so that each person has the opportunity to fulfill their Life purpose.

And maybe then we will have mastered something after all ………

… the art of serving and helping each other.

In service and servanthood,


The same entry for “We Are The Masters of Our Domain – Aren’t We"? is on my Musings-in-a-Minute blog and can be found here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

What Do You Stand For?

Deep within our heart and soul, many of us have something that we believe in or dream about when it comes to our potential and Life purpose.  We tell compelling, riveting stories to our friends over a coffee about how “someday I’m going to ……..”.

I’ll bet you have one of these compelling stories.

Are you living your story?

How does your dream stand up to the following questions?

  1. What are you willing to do to prove your dream is possible and even necessary for you to accomplish?
  2. What would you do if you discovered that the world is actually waiting for you to embrace your story and bring it to Life?
  3. Do you have the courage to share your story with others in a forum other than in whispered conversations amongst a small group of friends?
  4. Are you willing to expose your dream to public scrutiny, knowing that it can stand on its own merits and perhaps be stronger as a result of public scrutiny?
  5. Are you willing to collaborate with others to bring your story and theirs to fruition?
  6. Is your dream in alignment with your values and beliefs?
  7. Will accomplishing your dream make you proud of the legacy you are leaving to others?
  8. Do you realize that living your dream will inspire others?
  9. How will you be remembered if you had the courage to live your dream?

It’s Tougher Than It Looks

I find that many people who have a compelling story cannot answer most of these questions with a positive answer. 

By dreaming one story but living a different one, they are not being authentic to themselves or to others

It’s like the paradox of living in today’s world, where people are encouraged to take the short, quick-hit, impatient view of getting anything they want right away (and going into debt to do it) while being encouraged to take a long term, patient view of investing for their retirement.  We put opposing principles inside someone’s head and then we act surprised when they can’t do both.

The challenge is that the longer people choose to be inauthentic to themselves and others, the lesser the chance that their story will ever see the light of day.

…. the lesser the chance that they will be able to live their Life in congruence with their perceived purpose or to even know what their purpose is.

…. the lesser the chance that their story will have an opportunity to impact the world or to inspire others.

It’s not easy, is it?

Oftentimes, being authentic is difficult or seemingly impossible to achieve consistently.

Many times we can justify why it is safer or easier to not be authentic.

The Danger of Inauthenticity

The problem is that every time we are not authentic with ourselves or others, we weaken our belief in our dreams and therefore weaken our potential.  Eventually we may believe we have no potential or purpose at all.

Try this: Ask someone WHY they think they exist on this planet or what their purpose is.  Most people cannot answer this question at all.  Can you? 

At some point, we invent another persona that has unlimited potential.  After all, we reason, “who I am is of no interest or value to others, so let me see what the populace-at-large likes and I will promote and become that person”.

I know several well known self-empowerment experts who promote to their customers that if you think, say and do as they do, you will live an empowered life like they do.

The unfortunate secret is that these “experts” are financially, emotionally, relationally and spiritually broke.

I think promoting a façade of success when you don’t have it is to promote a lie and I tell them this (which makes them angry).  When you take someone’s money to teach them these “secrets of success”, you are stealing from them because you can’t actually prove the system works.

When I explain to these “experts” that they should be honest and transparent with their customers, they tell me they cannot do that.  They even write inspiring stories about being honest and transparent and live the opposite way – the ultimate level of inauthenticity.

And success eludes them while they tell others that success overwhelms them.

Perhaps if they had the courage to be themselves and not work so hard to be someone else, then success might follow.

They fear that to reveal their true selves would be an embarrassment.

I think that having the courage to be authentic would inspire others. 

New Year’s Resolutions

This is the season for New Year’s Resolutions.

This is the time of year when most people resolve to accomplish the same list of things they resolved to accomplish last year, the year before, etc.

The primary reason most of these resolutions fall flat is that they are not hooked into what inspires the person making them and for this reason, they lose their sizzle and the person eventually falls back into the same old routine.

Perhaps if we realized that our story, as big or small as we think it is, could serve as an inspiration to others, we might be more inclined to resolve to do whatever it takes to make our story a reality.

Perhaps if we decided to embrace ourselves and our story instead of being someone else with a story designed to make other people happy or to impress them, then we would have some real things to work towards.

Maybe then we would discover our true purpose – the answer to the questions “Why am I here?” and “Why do I matter?”.

Maybe then we would have real, inspiring things to work towards that matter to ourselves at the deepest level of who we are.  Maybe then we could make tangible resolutions that would help us move towards our true self; a self that inspires others and that leaves a positive impact on others.

Now there’s a resolution worth keeping.

I know you would keep such resolutions.

So what are you waiting for?

Resolve to be true to yourself – it is the greatest gift to yourself and to others.

In service and servanthood,


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “What Do You Stand For?”, please click here.