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Does 10,000 Hours Make the Best Businessman?

July 9, 2010 2 comments

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he talks about the rule of 10,000 hours. He cites researchers agreement that “10,000 hours of practice is the optimum time needed to gain expertise”. He goes on to demonstrate in a myriad of industries that all experts in a field have a minimum of 10,000 hours working or practicing in that field. He cites The Beatles, violin players, Bill Gates and software programming, and numerous other examples.

He does not, however, tie this into any sales, marketing, or other businessmen. Does this ‘rule’ hold true when applied to business? If yes, it would certainly show that “experience” is the #1 factor in determining job hires an success rates; but we know experience is not the #1 factor. I believe that the 10,000 rule can translate to business, however past the point of 10K hours, there is likely little difference in someone who has worked 100K hours vs. 50K hours. At that point, it would be more about innate ability and ambition.

In going back to Gladwell’s book, his examples all talk about “practice”. The Beatles “played” for 10K hours, Bill Gates “coded” for 10K hours…so I’m wondering, how do we “do” 10K hours of business? Does this mean 10K hours of work in 1 area? 10K hours of work researching? I look at myself and executives tell me my ‘best’ skillset is sales. Well, I started to sell when I was 18 and had my own business in college; is that why I’m more successful now than the majority of people my age? Did I hit that 10K hour mark sooner?

I’m not sure about me; but I am sure that I would like to figure out how to go about getting 10,000 hours in each business area – so this will be my next conquest.

Don’t Blame For Profit’s Innovation! Blame State School’s LACK OF

July 4, 2010 7 comments

Am I one of the only people who want to say “thank you” to the for profit schools? To the online higher education market? Thank you University of Phoenix and Kaplan University and all of the other universities who had the courage almost a decade ago to take a risk. A risk that has not only provided individuals the opportunity to get their degrees even while working and taking care of families, but also paved the way and built the models that now allows state universities to offer these degrees online as well.

As congressional talks surrounding the negative impact online education has had on graduation rates and specifically loan default rates; what we are not hearing are long term solutions. We are hearing suggestions of band aids. Do I like the idea of the gainful employment laws? Yes! That said, if we are going to implement them, it should be done across the board and it needs government support to get started. What these lawmakers are failing to recognize is that it took guts, innovation, large investments; and a lot of time NOT being profitable for these for profit online education companies to get where they are today…and the model is less than TEN YEARS OLD. How can the for profit schools be expected to figure out HOW to raise their graduation rates and how to lower their default rates when most of them just recently figured out how to get students to graduate?

The disservice that has been committed in the higher education industry is not from the for profits; but rather – I blame the state universities; specifically, the marketing departments at these state universities. There are hundreds of state universities offering online programs at low to medium prices. We have seen everything from $7,000 M.Ed Programs all the way through $13,000 nursing programs. Not only are these programs far less expensive, but their graduation rates are higher. Again, as these state universities online degrees have only been around for about five years; perhaps there is not enough statistically significant data here, but it does look promising.

So instead of attempting to shut down an industry that has opened the doors for people to better their lives; why not work with the state universities to offer more of these programs that have displayed high graduation rates, low cohort default rates, and other positive statistics. The marketing teams at these schools are to blame; they are the ones not fighting for the budget or not taking the risks. If all of the for profits can run television, why can’t the state schools? It’s relatively inexpensive to run remnant television and these days, television can be run on a cost per inquiry basis. If the state universities and enrollment management companies are too “fearful” to go into the red for a couple years – maybe the government should be forcing them to hand over a portion of their revenue and allow the marketing geniuses at the for profit schools take a stab at branding and developing them.

It’s not the for profit schools that are the problem; it’s the state schools lack of motivation and understanding of how online education will better the lives of millions. The disservice is that of our state schools poor marketing, slow admissions, and fear of investment. The online for profits gave you a model to follow and then MAKE BETTER. Do it already.

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Inspiration at The Airport

June 14, 2010 2 comments

One of the only times I get “me” time is at the airport. I used to hate the airport, and now try to get there 2-3 hours early after a hard week of work simply to sit at the bar, read a book, have a drink, and just BE. My favorite part is the people you meet in that short time. There’s always the few furiously typing on their phones, the inevitable “I missed my flight and I’m stuck here for 6 hours until the next one” person, and usually several who are like me; en route home from a business trip.

I’ve gotten my routine down and usually have 1 drink while I read a book for the first half hour; at the same time scoping out the place to see if anyone looks remotely interesting. Yes, I know…”don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, but here’s what I do…I try and make eye contact and smile. It’s amazing the responses you get. Sometimes people look away, but most of the time they smile back. Even more amazing is how much you can learn about someone just from a smile. The tight lipped smile that lasts a nano second and then the individual looks away = “don’t bother me, I’m busy”, the half smile – genuine, but exhausted “It’s been a long trip”…and then there’s the inviting smile. Not the, “I want to take you home to have sex” invitation smile, but the type of genuine smile where it’s not just the muscles around one’s mouth turning upwards, but more so – the eyes light up and the whole face smiles. It invites conversation. This is how I met a man named David Enders at the airport on Friday afternoon.

He sat a few seats away and as soon as the ‘inviting’ smile passed between the two of us, conversation was engaged. I didn’t know what he did, but knew he had to have a job where he was great with people (management), but also something “important”. Meaning, he had the vibe of someone who did something he believed in everyday. My ‘gut’ said college professor; but I didn’t want to ask. Turns out, I was close. I found out he was the head of Security for American Express. Not surprised at all, I wanted to know more about his job; crisis management, internal investigations, and so much more – I could see him working with thousands of employees who respect him, yet at the same time really LIKE him; and respond to him.

I could see him as a great manager, but was a bit surprised he wasn’t in teaching (although some could argue management is largely about teaching). He then told me he was involved in an organization called POPPA. This stands for “Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance”. This mission of the organization is to facilitate families and individuals in coping more effectively with the multitude of stresses experienced during the course of their law enforcement profession. In other words, they are similar to a “mental health” volunteer unit designed specifically for law enforcement officials. That said, it is not a ‘mental health’ unit, because many of the measures are actually preventative. Although POPPA was formed in 1996, it was after 9/11 that nearly 40% of NYPD officers utilized its services. This peer to peer network is setting a standard that other organizations should follow.

Turns out that the man I met is a trainer and group facilataor at POPPA. I guess my “gut” instinct that he wanted to take care of and teach others wasn’t too far off.

As coincidence would have it (or maybe it wasn’t coincidence, depends if you believe in the “Law of Attraction” or not), I’m currently working on spreading the word about a new criminal justice program; George Washington University’s online Bachelors and Masters degrees in police science / security management. I’ve always loved working in the higher education industry as I do genuinely feel like I’m “helping people better their lives”…however after meeting this man in the airport, I realized, I’m not only “helping people better THEIR lives” – I’m actually helping people to better other’s lives as well.

Hence, the inspiration at the airport.

Categories: Uncategorized

Does Your Mentor Ever Leave You?

May 30, 2010 13 comments

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The smartest move I’ve made in my professional life was to take a salary cut.

When moving from my first “Corporate job” at 24 years old to my first “start up”, I took a pay cut. Why? I could see the value and ROI in a longer term investment. I left a company where I was the ‘best’ of about 1600 people to go back to the bottom. For what? I found my mentors. I found two businessmen who, between the two of them, encompassed everything I would ever need to be successful. What’s ironic about this is it is now about 6 years later and when I look back at those wondrous three years working with these two men, I remember what one used to say to me. He would say, “You should be paying ME for allowing you to work here because you are learning more than you would be in any MBA or Doctorate program”. Looking back now, he was right. I should have been paying him. Everything he taught me, everything I watched, the meetings that I had become a part of; he truly taught me not only how to build a business, but more importantly – how to build and successfully manage the people in that business. He was the best sales and marketing individual in my industry and I was his sponge.

His counter part, my other mentor, had quite the opposite skill set. He was master in operations and finance (yuck). That said, “if you want to run your own business one day, you have to be able to have worked in all areas of the business that you will be running”. I did. I learned operations, I learned finance; and I even learned to like and see the value in both.

So, a year after leaving that business, there are so many lessons and conversations that run through my head daily, sometimes hourly. I feel that everything I do has their “mark” on it because they taught me to be the business person I am today. Looking back through this blog, most of my posts are things I’ve learned from them; and in my everyday life…their faces and voices run through my head constantly. To share a few of the key learnings:

1. Hold yourself accountable – don’t play blame games and don’t ever blame anyone else for something that is in your domain. If something goes wrong in your department or on your project, OWN UP TO IT. While your manager or boss may be angry, they are going to respect you more for coming to them vs. hiding it from them and trying to fix it on your own. Most importantly, take a step back and learn from your mistake; explain your learnings to your boss when owning up to your mistake.

2. Get out of your comfort zone – if you’re good at something, congrats! Now…GET OUT! If you’re comfortable in what you’re doing, you’re dead; you won’t grow anymore. Figure out ways to either scale what your doing, train what your doing, or change it in some other way. If there are no changes needed, get out and do something different. Ask yourself, “would you rather be in the minor leagues as the best player for 10 years?” or would you rather jump into the major leagues; you may not be the best in the beginning, but you will get there.

3. It is the manager’s fault if someone is terminated or quits – LOOK in the mirror every time you lose an employee. If you cannot look in the mirror and say, “I’ve done everything in my power to keep this employee”, you’re not a good manager. People don’t leave companies, they leave managers.

4. Treat everyone as if they are your most important client – this means vendors, employees, bosses, etc. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect; you will get more production out of treating people with respect than you will berating them.

5. Don’t waste your time doing something that has been done before. If you’re not innovative, you lose. Developing the same business plan and just “doing it better” is a waste of time; your competition, the company that was there first, will rise up eventually. Do something that has never been done and always have a unique value proposition. It’s all about disruptive technology.

6. Your gut is great for ideas, tests, and innovation. Data is better.

7. Test everything you can make a business case for.

I could go on and on, but that’s not the purpose of this post.

Unfortunately, as with all good things – the relationship came to an end. Since that time, I’ve worked with so many intelligent and innovative people. I take minimal and sometimes do not even charge executives that I would like to work with, simply so I can learn from them.

Interestingly enough, I have yet to find anyone that I want as a ‘mentor’. Not like “before”. Perhaps this is part of growing up? I’m not sure. There are a couple people who I want to take bits and pieces from, but no one I would work for FT to become an all around “better me”.

As with any relationship, I’m beginning to see that I’m “comparing” everyone with the best mentors I’ve ever had. I remember doing the same with boyfriends before I got married…and I remember being told by everyone NOT to do so.

Also analagous to any other relationship, I think the foot prints that were left in my heart and my head from these men will be there forever; and it’s time to move on, take my experiences with them, and build upon them.

What I’m stuck with; Am I getting too “old” to work with people I will learn from so entirely? Do I need to be in the same organization / work with them to do so? More importantly, will a day in business ever go by where I don’t think of my first two mentors?

Harvard Business Review Says, “Don’t Work So hard”…

May 18, 2010 1 comment

In an article entitled The Productivity Myth, Harvard Business Review Blogger Tony Schwartz starts his article off stating that American’s are working 10% less now than we were before the recession, yet our production remains constant – the same. What he neglects to mention in this article is how he is defining “production”, but it appears as one reads on – he is speaking of the amount of tasks one gets done in a given time frame OR how many hours one puts in.

The conclusion or summary of this article is that one need not be concerned with the amount of time put in or tasks complete, but more importantly – we need to be concerned with the value of what we are working on. I agree with this statement.

What I don’t agree with are the reasons he cites work American productivity being “too much” and people working “too much”.

If we look at this in the context of running a sales department, there is no such thing as “too many sales” (assuming you are being ethical). If employee “A” can produce a work product that is of the highest value in 5 hours and it takes Employees B, C, and D 8 hours each to put together the same product of equal value, why would I want Employee A to work less? I wouldn’t. Employee A is not only efficient, but also creates value. Employee A is either smarter, more determined, or it could be something small like – doesn’t socialize at the office as much – but employee A is making me more money than Employee B. Encouraging Employee A to take time off would be analogous to taking your quickest and highest converting sales rep off of the sales floor because they have hit their goal. It doesn’t make sense to me.

Categories: Uncategorized

I’ve Turned Into My Parents!

May 18, 2010 4 comments

It’s happened. After all the years of hard work thinking I would become different than my parents; I’m the same. And this is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life; so I guess they had something going!

I grew up watching my father own his own retail business and watching my mother own her own speech business; everything she did was contract work. With a father who owns a retail business, you can imagine – retail businesses fluctuate with the economy…so our lives fluctuated with the economy as well. As soon as I was out of college and working in “Corporate America”, I always said…”I will never own my own business”. I LOVED the security of that paycheck. I loved planning in advance how I would budget and what I would do with my money. This was a sense of security and independence I’d never known before and I was NOT giving it up. As I said, “I would never own my own business”.

My mother always saw 7 or 8 patients / day (speech pathologist working in home health) and I didn’t realize until I was older (over the past couple years) what a fantastic job she had. She made great money per hour / per patient (Has her Masters and is well known in the field) AND she could work her own schedule. From ages 21-27 while I was in corporate America, I always “assumed” I would be one of the women who brought their child (or whose husband brought the child) to daycare around 8 or 9 am…and then would pick up the child around 5 or 6 PM. This was “the plan”. As I starting working more and working with more “working mothers”, my ideologies began changing. All they did all day was look forward to spending time with their child. They “worked” literally for their children or so they could pay daycare; I didn’t think this would “work” for me.

So now, almost 30 years old…what am I? I’m a business owner who contracts and consults on an hourly basis. I make my own schedule; and have times when I’m CRAZY busy and have times when I’m bored (not many yet, but there will be). What have I become? I’ve become my parents. A combination of / the best parts of both of them.

I don’t have a child yet, but like my mother – I want to be at every after school sporting event and be able to schedule days off without having to worry about “the number of sick days”. Like my father, I don’t want anyone else taking a percentage of my money or telling me what to do and when to do it.

So – while it’s taken me almost 30 years to admit it, I guess they got it right; and I’m going to be just like them.

Part 2 of “The Recipe to Become a Sought After Consultant”

May 17, 2010 Leave a comment

We’ve already discussed track record and now want to look at the sub-category of, “relationship building / networking”.

This falls right after “track record” as when you begin consulting, who are your easiest clients to target? Those you have built relationships with in the past.

How do we build relationships? I was lucky enough to be 3-4 years into my career when ‘networking’ went from face to face to much more internet based. Why was I lucky? Because I learned both.

A few rules of thumb that have worked for me:

1. Connect people who can help one another. It only takes 10 minutes of your time; and people will remember this.
2. Help others when you can; for free. In other words, if your area of expertise is “marketing” and someone says to you, “I want to put together a marketing plan, but don’t know the compenents”, don’t ask them for money. Send them a sample of something you have done or to a website so they can learn. Good chance they’ll come back to you if they can’t execute it on their own. I always (whether working for someone else or myself) keep 1-2 “pro bono” business projects going.
3. Be honest. If you are not THE BEST person to consult on a project with someone, refer them to the best person. They will thank you for it and you will not only get referrals, but more projects from that company in the future.
4. Use internet networking tools; make it a priority to spend a set amount of time per day on whichever social network you have found works best for your industry. LinkedIn has always worked for me. The trick is, HOW you use it. I will typically go to the ‘group discussions’ and see if there is anything I feel strongly about. If yes, I respond to the discussion. More often than not that sends someone to my profile where they see me as a ‘consultant’ and I receive a message or email.
5. Maintain relationships with executives; other than the ones you’ve worked with or for. Some of the best relationships I have are with executives that I haven’t worked with or for, but I’ve met on an interview, in a networking session, etc. and they have been great for not only referrals, but also for references. A “personal” reference from the CEO of a fortune 100 company that you have not worked for or with speaks loudly.
6. Listen. No matter how much knowledge you think you have of an industry or company, listen to the executives. listen to the managers. most important, listen to the employees who will be using your services; the recipients…they will decide whether you are successful or not. By listening to them, you will build trust quickly.
7. Do not tell companies they have problems when they seek out consultation. It is your job to offer solutions, guidance, and insight; but don’t do so without assessing situations for yourself.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Recipe to Become a Sought After Consultant

May 16, 2010 9 comments

50% Track Record
50% Relationship Builder / Networker

Is it really so simple?

Under each of these areas are several bullet points / advice on how to mazimize each bullet point; but once you hear my story, I have proved this is the recipe for a thriving ‘restaurant’.

While I was working in the corporate world, I always did projects on the side; pro bono. Sometimes they were internal, sometimes helping partners I was working with (relationship building), but always seeking to build 1) my knowledge base 2) My network. I also always wanted to prove to myself that I couldn’t “only do” what was needed in my day to day jobs; I wanted ‘practice’ with other industries and the experience of working with different executives.

When I left my most recent company (about 5 months ago), I was going to take a few month “break”, as I’ve been working 80 hour weeks for about 8 years now, but didn’t have the chance. As soon as “word got out” that I had left a company, my phone was ringing; my email was flowing. Companies that I had ‘partnered’ with in the past, prior colleagues, they all had projects for me. I certainly wasn’t going to say “no”, but I did need to learn the consultancy market in about 3 days…which of course, I did. I was truthful with the people I called and asked how they ‘normally’ pay consultants. The same 4 or 5 options were out there, so I adopted each to diffferent projects and was on my way. Here is where and how I’ve found success and clientelle – with no direct response or branding marketing. As sad as this is…I haven’t even had time to put together a website. Go figure.

Part One: Track Record

Under this category lies several things that companies love to see.

1. Obviously the successes in each of your positions or endeavors. While this is important to put on your resume or linkedin page, what I’ve found is that my track record of MISTAKES (when speaking to companies) has worked equally as well in my favor. My explanation – “I succeeded in ‘X’, but would not have done so had I not made these mistakes…which I learned from and constantly adopt in my new endeavors”.

2. TYPES of companies worked for:

one suggestion I have for anyone who is entrepreneurial, ambitious in business, and wanting to really learn how to build a company is to work for a start up company. This shows executives at companies several things (dependent on your role and in what type of company). Just to be sure we’re on the same page; when I say, “start up company”, I am referring to a company that is IN THE RED with minimal employees.

First, it shows that you are willing to take RISK. Important for someone hiring a consultant for 2 reasons: 1) The company will not be ‘afraid’ to give you something as a project 2) The company and consultant can create different deal types that puts the onus on the consultant to get work done. It’s allows the consultant to take on a ‘pay per performance’ model, which companies love.

Second, it shows that you have likely worked in an environment where you have had to wear a myriad of professional ‘hats’. For example: while you may have held a “biz dev” role, the likelihood is you also probably had to learn the ‘sales operations’, developed the sales process, the documents, even the ‘creative’ to send out to clients. That is three other skillsets other than biz dev: Operations, BPI, and marketing / creative development.

Third, it shows you are tenacious with a phenomenal work ethic.

Fourth, The “best” type of start up you can work at…one that is “doing something that has never been done before”. If you can work for that company in a managerial role and move up to an executive role while there; AND be there while the company is successful, going from the “red” to a “black” going concern…you’re a golden child.

Another great type of company to work for is one that offers continuing professional and management development courses. While there are some “large” Fortune 100 companies that put you in a position, teach you about that position, and ‘call it a day’; there are others that invest heavily into bettering their employees. You’re looking for a company that seeks promotion from within as well as one that values the education of their employees.

A third company that will help what others view in your ‘track record’ is one that may not be a start up, BUT is constantly building out new smaller businesses, departments, concepts, products, etc. If you can become part of that “new” team, fantastic experience as well.

Start up businesses seem to be the place where most consultants are sought out, so let’s talk about the type of person you have to be to not only enjoy this role, but be successful in it. This takes a particular type of individual, so before you jump on that, let me explain attributes needed. Start ups are NOT for everyone.

1. The vision to identify the “right” start up. Don’t kid yourself; this is a gift and a skill set. As 95% of start up companies fail, you need to learn how to identify the ones that “have a high chance of success based on the market, product or service, and executive team. If any one of these components are not at 100%, your business will fail.

2. The “NO FEAR” attitude. You are going to be placed outside your comfort zone 75% of the time. That’s the FUN of the start up! You cannot be scared to do something you’ve never done before, you cannot be scared to share your opinions even if everyone else is countering it, you cannot be scared to work 100 hours / week, and you certainly cannot be ‘scared’ of success or failure.

3. Passion; you must be passionate about the mission of the company. If you are a person who is typically not ’emotional’ or does not get “attached” to their job or feel loyalty for their product, service, or team members; this may be a tough transition for you.

To Be Continued This Eve

Social Media + Keeping it Real = Money, Learning, and Great Friends

May 13, 2010 2 comments

As social media continues to dominate the web space as well as play a part in most of our daily lives, I began using social media tools several years ago; but never with the intention that it would “get” me anything. I did it for the simple reason that…I’m social. I genuinely have a love for people and believe that every person I meet is the opportunity to learn something new.

My first encounter with social media was using “Friendster” and LinkedIn. This was so long ago, that there weren’t even ads on either of the sites. This expanded to MySpace and then Facebook, Twitter, and Brazen Careerist. As of about 6 months ago, I was using these tools in my professional arena; posting ads, targeting different groups, learning how to make campaigns “viral”; but I still did not have much use in my personal life.

I had worked with a man named Jay Berkowitz, the owner of Ten Golden Rules, for the past year on my professional campaigns and began listening to his podcasts and reading his blog, books, etc. I did all of this solely to learn for “business” purposes, but found it all intriguing.

When I stopped working FT for a ‘company’ and started consulting (this was only about 4 months ago), I called Jay to let him know; the first thing he said was, “Start blogging”. So I did. What I found was that I loved blogging because I would be “me”. I kept it real, I said what I thought, I backed up what I thought with data, and there was no one there to tell me HOW to write or that what I was writing was bad or boring. It became a release for me. It has also become a basis for the reason companies want to work with me. They know I may not be the most “corporate” in the bunch, but I will be blunt and deliver results.

While I have almost 3,000 ‘friends’ on Facebook and almost 1,000 connections on Linkedin, I still used FB for social purposes only and Linkedin – I had made some deals, recieved some job offers, but had not gone on daily to answer questions in the networking groups or used any of the other tools they offered.

I then came upon Brazen Careerist. I’m unsure why it appealed to me, as I’ve been invited to thousands of social netowrks and never sign up, but I signed up for this one. As soon as I signed up, I recieved emails from the community manager, Ryan Paugh, inviting me to join networks, saying he was a ‘fan’, etc. While I’m guessing these were auto-triggered, what I liked about them was that they seemed more personalized (even if they actually weren’t). The commuincation appeared as if it was directed towards me, not AT me.

I “fanned” a few people and started recieving emails about them making / posting comments. What I liked about these comments was that people weren’t trying to “sound smart”; these were individuals that were asking REAL questions about day to day sitautions and REAL things that affect our everyday lives. I had finally found a social network that not only “kept it real”, but also kept me interested. Unlike Linkedin, Brazen does not send out one mass bulk email everyday, but is smart enough to keep people engaged throughout the day by sending an email each time a comment is made or responded to. While I thought this would be annoying, I enjoy it. It only takes 10 seconds to glance over an email to see if you’re interested in the comments and it is a welcome break from the day to day monotony of “work”. At the same time, Brazen has become a kind of professional development tool for me as well.

So, I probably spend about 5 minutes each hour (sometimes 10) on Brazen doing nothing but having intelligent, intellectually driven conversations with like minded business people. While it is mostly “Gen Y”, there has been an uptick in the numbers of “Gen X” and “Baby Boomers” recently. Their experience combined with the ‘no fear’ / entreprenurial factor of “GEN Y” makes this site captivating; and I’m always learning.

I recently recieved an email (personalized this time) from Ryan Paugh, telling me I had won a scholarship from the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. They had partnered with Brazen in search of the most “social” person. I knew my big mouth and blunt style would get me something someday ( ; Surprisingly, I got calls from several newspapers, but of course remained true to my Florida Gators and only spoke with the ALLIGATOR.

My point in telling all of this is not to ‘sell’ you on the idea of social media; but more so to inform those of you who continue to work or ‘play’ in this arena; I never applied for anything. I did not go out and attempt to get followers or fans. I write my blog for ME only and I use it as a release. But what the social media world is starting to recognize is that being YOU is exactly what we, as a society, need. No more corporate, politically correct doctrines…no more fake responses…but a reality. A world where we can say and do what we want. If people don’t want to listen, they can ‘de’ friend us or not go to our blogs…but for those who are listening – listen to me: Keep doing what you’re doing. Be yourself in all of your conversations and posts. You will get recognized. I did.

The Power of “WE” vs. “I”

May 12, 2010 6 comments

In a conversation with fellow blogger, consultant, thinker, coach, and innovator, Josh Allan Dykstra, he brought to my attention an article written by Pixar’s CEO called, “How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity”. Our original discussion was surrounding a blog post I did months ago as well as a TED video talking about how schools and corporations kill creativity and Josh sent me the article as he thought I would enjoy Pixar’s creative process. I not only enjoyed the article, but picked out something that we all ‘say’ we understand, but don’t. This article made me realize the difference in a good company versus a great company as well as a good manager versus a great manager. The difference is only 2 letters: WE.

While working at the Kaplan Inc conglomerate for about six years, creativity was not only appreciated but welcomed; and a team approach was sought to build out ideas into actions. When I was 23 years old, a woman named Wendi gave me one of the best pieces of advice that I’ve received to this day. She said, “Don’t ever use the word ‘I’. Always say ‘we’ when you’re talking about a success story, a new idea, anything; whether it be to a partner, colleague, or manager”. At the time, it made sense – but I thought it was kind of a ‘sales’ tactic. It doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out if you say, “we”, others are going to subconsciously feel a part of what you’re doing; especially if it’s a success story or an idea that will be successful.

It’s taken the last few years to realize the importance of that “we”. It is not merely a ‘sales’ tactic, but it defines a culture. The culture of companies like Pixar or Google. I didn’t “love” the last company I worked for and could never put my finger on the reason why; great vision, smart people, etc. but it hit me this morning…in meetings, it was always, “MY marketing campaign is driving $1 million in revenue” or “I will have the highest conversion rate”. It was a bunch of egoists. Now, I don’t have a problem with egoists as I believe most of us can be one some of the time. The reason I started blogging was so I could be an egoist…write about what I think and about what I want…but I did not bring and work hard to leave the “ego” at the door while doing business.

What I’ve learned is that Pixar’s philosophy is not brain surgery; it’s the basics of any team oriented business model. The difference is that everyone, including the CEO, buys into it. They live it, breathe it, and it has become their culture. Hats off to Pixar and hats off to anyone else who works at a company where “we” beats the “I”.

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