Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Just Keep Swimming" Is More Than Dory's Line...

The sales organization I headed for Cisco was broad in scale at 500 people in 14 countries. We of course had numerous organizational wins, some of which were stupendous. However, it’s by far the individual stories that I enjoyed the most. With Finding Nemo being released back to theaters, it reminds me of one of my favorite stories and favorite employees.

The inside sales roles in this org were not easy (are any?). Despite a stringent hiring process, extensive training, and supportive peers and management, the velocity at which we moved and the sheer breadth of the entire Cisco SKU list could make the ramp period overwhelming for any seller. And Amy (not her real name), about a month in, was overwhelmed.

I loved walking the sales floor at this particular location in Salt Lake City and chatting with the sellers. But when it’s going poorly out of the gate, you can see it in the eyes and the posture as much as the words or the performance. I remembered that Amy was a mom from when she was first hired. When I got to her cube, I asked her if she had seen Finding Nemo. Of course she had.

Amy and her family
(Looking for Nemo?)
“Just Keep Swimming,” I said.

When I walked by later, she had that printed out and pasted above her monitor. I knew it could work. I hoped that it would. I wondered if it would.

It worked alright.

Every time I heard from her or visited that office in the following weeks and months, she mentioned it.

Just Keep Swimming.

It never left her monitor and it became a mantra for her to get her through the tough times. It didn’t really take all that long until she was tearing it up. But there was more to it than that. The confidence she got from overcoming her challenges led her to become more than just a successful seller, she turned in to a respected and effective leader among her peers and was regularly recognized by them as such.

An interesting adjunct to this is that Amy is an amazing writer, and although that talent didn't play much into her role as a seller, it did play in to her leadership. She certainly appreciates the power of effective words; properly delivered in a timely fashion.  

Just Keep Swimming.

Effective words I didn’t write, but ones when effectively delivered at the right moment, made a difference for Amy. Would Amy have "righted her ship" eventually? Probably. She is very talented. 

But at that moment, three words gave her something to hold on to. (Resisting "grab shell dude" reference here). Whether you are a leader or not, whether you are in sales or not, you can do the same for someone who's struggling.

So when you have the opportunity, three more powerful words I didn't write:

Just Do It.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Amygdala...It's Not Just For Neuroscientists Anymore...

Sometimes ironic things happen when you start writing.

Not hipster ironic...impactful, meaningful ironic.

The amygdala of the title of this article, is a small mass of nuclei that are located within the temporal lobe of the brain. You've likely never heard of it. Many of the finest leaders, entrepreneurs, and sellers I know have never heard of it. That's too bad, because it controls their/your life.

The irony, is that the spell checkers of both Chrome, as well as of Blogger itself, say I misspelled the word. I didn't, it's just not in their dictionaries. So, at least if it's not in your personal dictionary, you're in good company.

The company you would rather keep in this instance is the company of neuroscientists...or at least those who write about them. Because if that were the case, you would understand the tremendous impact the amygdala has on you.

It has a tremendous impact on emotions, is one of the master keys to the fight or flight decision, and filters almost every decision that you make. It is constantly scanning the world for threats, and often sees them when they aren't there.

And, unless you have looked into neuroscience, you don't know anything about it. But once you do, you'll recognize it.

There are plenty of great resources to learn about its function, how it impacts you, and how learning about it can transform how you go about your personal and professional life. Go find one...or ask me and I'll suggest one.

Rene Descartes put forward the famous: "I think therefore I am." The amygdala is at the very core of that statement.

Your amygdala is activated right now, evaluating what this is all about.

Since that is the case, have a look. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Day Too Long, A Dangerous Difference (Oh Snap!)

Not sure when I’ll get to post this blog due the ice-storm induced blackout we’re enduring in my neighborhood, but it’s being written late on a Thursday.  (Yes, of course I am wearing my red sweater. As well as a balaclava. Inside. That’s a first. For not being in a ski lodge.)

Yesterday, I took particular notice in the common area behind our back yard, of a 15-foot tall deciduous tree that still had not shed its leaves. The leaves had turned varying beautiful shades of red. Maroon, rouge, crimson mixed in with a dark green…yet were still hanging stubbornly on.

They looked even more beautiful against the snow that was falling Wednesday morning, which is likely why I took particular note of it. They were also hanging on a good month past when the other trees like it and near it had shed their foliage. Even that was pretty late…well into December for most of its peers.

This morning when I looked out, the leaves were gone. And so were the branches. And pretty much the whole tree. The ice that coated the bare branches of that tree’s peers made their boughs bow and bend…but they were still intact.

But for that one spectacular, enduring tree that held on to its leaves too long, beautiful as they and it were, it was game over.

I don’t know why those leaves were still hanging on yesterday.  I suppose it didn’t matter why come today.

The lessons to be drawn from this story are so many and so varied…and so obvious. I’ll let you make your own interpretation and application as apropos for your life.

But the common thread no matter how you apply it: there’s a time to let go, to transform, and be ready for the next cycle nature brings. Hold on too long…even one day sometimes… the snow turns to ice...

Oh snap!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Rogers, Conley, Haque & Me. A Whole New Neighborhood. (Plus Jang.)

In my neighborhood, for the past few months, just about any time you would see me in my home / home office, you would see my new favorite sweater. It’s a beautiful red Merino wool zip-up from Icebreaker in New Zealand that is the most comfy thing you can possible imagine. Originally bought from REI to keep me warm in the mountains while snowshoeing, it’s become my regular companion pretty much everywhere around the abode.

As pointed out to me by my wife, my regular reliance on it also gives me a vaguely Mr. Rogers vibe. (That’s his famous red sweater, not mine, on display at The Smithsonian.)

Credit: Randomduck
While this comparison might concern you, I don’t mind it.

One, you could say I look like Snuffleupagus, it wouldn't stop me from wearing my favorite sweater. (Did I mention I love this sweater?) Also, from a practical standpoint, the more I wear it, the less it costs per hour. Icebreaker Merino wool ain’t cheap.

Two, when I was a kid I loved Mr. Rogers. It was only as an adult that I fully appreciated how creepy some of those puppets were, but that’s another story. As a kid is where this story begins.

When I was around six years old, I wrote a letter to Mr. Rogers telling him how much I enjoyed his show. It was, to my memory, a fairly long letter for a six-year-old, requiring some effort. Then I realized I didn’t have his address. I thought of sending it to his neighborhood, but I was also fairly pragmatic at six, and realized that probably wouldn’t be good enough. So the letter never got mailed. Not sure why I’ve always remembered that…I suppose I am not a big fan of wasted effort. I am, however, a fan of letting people know when I appreciate them and their work.

Fast forward to 2009.

Seeing it displayed in an airport bookstore, I read Chip Conley’s book Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow. The book was fantastic. I have read a copious amount of books over the years, but this was the first time I was moved enough to want to go the Mr. Rogers note-of-appreciation route. So, I hit Chip’s website, and sent him a note of appreciation through the feedback page. About 12 hours later, I was surprised and pleased to receive a gracious email back from Chip, who was on his iPhone in Bangkok. Chip has also been gracious enough to stay in touch since. Too bad Mr Rogers didn’t have email.

But that whole process was oh-so-2009 in the neighborhood.

Fast forward again to the last week of 2011. 

While on Twitter, I saw a Tweet from someone I follow about a new Amazon single from Umair Haque called Betterness: Economics for Humans. I downloaded a sample and was very impressed. Thus, I downloaded the whole book, read it in about an hour...and was extremely impressed. When I checked out Umair on Twitter, he happened to be in the midst of a chat session. I joined it, was able to communicate directly with him, and he was as well gracious in appreciation of my readership. We've also had further exchanges since.

In reflecting on the progression of both commerce and communication listed above, I was struck by the stark change in the "neighborhood". (More so from 2009 to now than the previous!)

In 2009, it took going to a bookstore, purchasing a physical book, later hitting a website to communicate with the author, and getting a static email back some time later. Weeks. Physical movement. Transportation. 

In 2011, it was a span of no more than 90 minutes from first becoming aware of the book, to downloading it, to communication directly with the author.

All while sitting in my house.

And, of course, wearing my red sweater.

Fred Rogers passed in 2003. That was the year Time proclaimed, believe it or not, the camera phone one of the Best Inventions of The Year.

Mr. Rogers would never have believed what has happened to the neighborhood. 

That was going to be the end of the article. Then, after hitting Publish at 1am on a Sunday...

...I had a quick Twitter exchange with Seattle news anchor and social celeb Lily Jang about the dream of a Seahawks-Texans Super Bowl.

I won't go into detail about my concomitant-to-Mr Rogers-70's-era affinity for solid newscasters starting all the way back with Bill Beutel and Roger Grimsby on the "original" Eyewitness News in New York City.

But suffice to say, another great example of the new neighborhood. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Connectors and a New Ear of Opportunity (er...Era)

I've been watching a fascinating exchange lately.

A couple of small businesses I follow on Twitter have been communicating with each other about a potential deal for one due to the need of the other.

The connection came about for a few reasons.

One, the company in need, instead of doing their own research on who could provide their need, just put it out there on Twitter. "Hey, we need this. Help."

Two, I saw the need, thought of the providing company, and told the company in need: "Hey, check these folks out."

The fascinating part though is how the relationship has developed. As far as I can see, it's all been via Tweets between the two companies. All out there for anyone to see. Essentially, public email exchanges (or text messages I suppose given the short length).

It really is a new era of transparency, connection...and opportunity. (Interesting Freudian slip. When I first wrote this, I wrote "ear of...opportunity". It's that too...if you're listening to the right media channels.)

In some recent consulting engagements, I was surprised to see how unfamiliar some sales teams, leaders, and individuals were with the social media tools available to them. Following unfamiliarity were disinterest, and often, disdain.

Much as I hate to say it, there was a significant correlation to age when it came to acceptance of the new tools that are out there. This kind of phenomenon has been well documented.

What hasn't been has been lost opportunity and commissions...