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- In jobs in engineering, this comes up in the context of due dates, requirements, quality, functionality and equipment.
- In sales, it relates directly to the question of meeting sales quotas, since it seems the sales staff agree to them, but then too often fall far short.
We carry our burdens with us all of the time; sooner or later we will not be able to carry on as the burden becomes increasingly heavier. But certain types of stress are very good for us. For many of us, these pressures provide the stimulation for our achievement far beyond what we might accomplish without such stresses.
There are six particular follies of thoughtless thinking that have a way of easing into boardrooms, informal meetings and organizations. Recognizing these six follies is the most important step to eliminating them and achieving clear and informed decision-making. Do you make any of these mistakes?
“The teacher could be wrong. Think for yourselves.” A sign with these words used to be placed in British classrooms. It is an interesting idea that any school would remind their students to challenge their teacher’s authority of the material they are teaching.
“The teacher could be wrong. Think for yourselves.”
A sign with these words used to be placed in British classrooms. It is an interesting idea that any school would remind their students to challenge their teacher’s authority of the material they are teaching.
There are many trappings you can fall into when trying to think thoroughly – and knowledgeably – about a subject or plan. Becoming entrapped in thoughtless thinking or deluded ways of thinking can cause great plans to falter and sub par plans to be pursued with gusto.
For example, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, many Japanese leaders believed that an attack on American soil would dishearten the American people and cause them to not want to enter World War II. Very few dreamed that the opposite could be true and the Pearl Harbor attacks would galvanize the American spirit and war effort and perhaps cause the United States to enter the war sooner than they might have originally.
There are six particular follies of thinking that have a way of easing into boardrooms, informal meetings and organizations.
Recognizing these six follies is the most important step to eliminating them and achieving clear and informed decision-making.
Do you make any of these mistakes?
Over-generalization is probably the most common, most seductive and potentially most dangerous of all of these fallacies. Aristotle was well aware of the dangers of over-generalization, calling it “reasoning by example,” meaning too few examples, or not enough to specificity. While generalization is an important reasoning skill, over-generalization is a danger.
Attacking the person instead of his logic or position is a very common trap – especially in legal issues or American politics. If you can’t beat someone else’s argument, attack and abuse the person who advances it.
This fallacy, meaning “thou also” or “you are another,” consists of rotating a charge upon your accuser. Instead of addressing an issue, an arguer will launch an irrelevant counter-attack.
The formal term “post hoc ergo propter hoc” means when one event precedes another event in time, the first is assumed to be the cause of the second. This fallacy can be seen prominently in medical history. For example, malaria baffled scientists for many centuries. It was observed that those who went out at night developed it, so it was wrongly reasoned that malaria was caused by night air.
This fallacy of false analogies or insufficient reasons is particularly troublesome because analogies are quite helpful. However, no analogy can conclusively prove anything. The best an analogy can do is help bring an event or topic to the magnitude of the ordinary experience. The fallacy occurs when we use an analogy in lieu of proof.
This trap, the appeal to revered authority, is embodied by our starting thought encouraging students to think for themselves. Teachers and authority figures may provide great thoughts and reinforce some ideas, but the danger here is when one ceases to think or analyze situations for themselves.
RIGHT THINKING, THINKING RIGHT
So how to think right? Simple.
Observe the situation. Listen and question others.
Analyze the pros and cons. Then think for yourself. Thoroughly. Deeply.
The problem with OADA lies in the analysis. For it to lead to right thinking, right decision-making and right action you need to insert the following step.
Stop. Take a deep breath. Disconnect from all media. TV, radio, the Internet, your mobile phone. Everything. Find a private quiet spot.
LISTEN TO THAT ODD SOUND YOU HEAR
If you do it right you will hear an odd sound. It’s called silence. It’s what you need for a right thinking analysis. Envelop yourself in that odd sound called silence. And … eliminate the six meretricious follies of thoughtless-thinking to achieve clear and informed decision-making.
Right thinking is thinking right.
There is only one way to do that; Think for yourself.
Winston Churchill once said, “I am always willing to learn, however I do not always like to be taught.” I’ve always admired this phrase, but speaking as a salesperson, I feel it can be adapted easily to have more resonance in the field. One might say that we are all eager to buy, but we do not particularly enjoy being sold. Understanding this fact is important when it comes to understanding our customers and their buying processes. While we may be involved in a “sales cycle,” our prospects are not. They are involved in a buying cycle.
Successful entrepreneurial leaders create a compelling vision of where organizations should head. They continuously communicate how to proceed and energetically guide and encourage the development of the organization’s capabilities to advance that vision in a relentless pursuit of success. Unshakeable will, undaunted determination and a relentless pursuit of desires and goals are key hallmarks of these endeavors.
Successful entrepreneurial leaders create a compelling vision of where organizations should head. They continuously communicate how to proceed, and energetically guide and encourage the development of the organization’s capabilities to advance that vision in a relentless pursuit of success.
THE UN WORDS
Unshakable will, undaunted determination and a relentless pursuit of desires and goals are key hallmarks of these endeavors.
It’s hard to foster the entrepreneurial spirit over time, many are born with the desire to create, to innovate, to differentiate and to lead.
But what does it take to be the entrepreneurial leader of tomorrow today?
Self-Confidence, Not Arrogance
I think that all truly great leaders are marked not only with an exceptional sense of self-confidence, which encourages and stimulates others, but also with a sense that penetrates deep into the subconscious of a leader and permeates all that a person is or does. I do not think it is possibly to overstate the power of such a type of conscious and subconscious self-confidence.
The entrepreneur’s self-confidence cannot be merely bravado or arrogance, but must be infectious and inspiring to their followers. This self-confidence makes it easier and more natural to bear the responsibilities of leadership and to make the tough decisions essential to leadership.
Focus on Differentiation
Being self-confident is only one piece of the puzzle – an entrepreneur’s idea or product must be viable as well. They can’t rely solely on innovation either, as differentiation is just as important.
Innovation focuses upon the provider’s offerings. Differentiation, on the other hand, focuses upon the value, satisfaction, utility or delight that the innovation uniquely provides to the customer. Innovation without the differentiation that entrepreneurial energy generates, seldom produces optimal appeal and value to customers, nor does it create the optimal advantage and preference for the seller necessary for success.
When these differentiations are significant, whole new categories of business opportunities can be, and are, created. It only takes one person to begin a category before it can boom as new opportunities are provided to others to improve and expand the possibilities spawned by the original entrepreneurial leadership.
Play Nice with Others
Burning bridges isn’t recommended in any business setting regardless of job title, but it is especially important for entrepreneurs to not do so. All entrepreneurial activity involves a number of human beings.
Engagement is crucial as like-minded individuals can help troubleshoot challenges and difficulties and stimulate positive constructive responses to help leaders expand themselves, their business and their ideas.
It is also important to understand that each person has strengths and weaknesses. Each person is as good as the best that they have done and bad as the worst. A successful entrepreneur will recognize that people are a mixture of an almost endless variety of contradictions. The best will develop a realistic view of humans and learn to take a person as they are rather than as they may wish or imagine them to be.
Follow Your Rules
While everyone would love the liberty and freedom to pursue our own heart’s delight, there must be public laws, rules and codes of conduct that restrain and regulate us lest we damage the freedoms and liberties of others. However, there are also personal regulations.
Honor. Integrity. Conscience. Ethics. Values. Morals.
Successful entrepreneurs understand that these personal regulations and codes of conduct are at the same time both regulators and energizers. Acting contrary to your personal beliefs will only cause delay as doubt or guilt sets in.
With these few thoughts, I’ve only tried to offer some ideas, which may help in your various leadership and entrepreneurial endeavors.
I hope these ideas will help, even if only in some small ways, to aid all of us to change our world for the better.
Delegation is the essence of leadership. It is the soul of management and the empowerment of the organization.
Those who will not delegate cannot lead, cannot manage and cannot help grow an organization through the empowerment of its most important resources and assets.
All leaders and organizations achieve their goals and their visions through their people. The strength of an organization comes from the diversity, not the conformity, of its skills and capabilities. An organization is a team of individuals with unique gifts, backgrounds, personalities and strengths. The key is to realize that all of these individuals, with all of their unique strengths, are using their energy working towards the same goal of completing a project, improving the bottom line or growing the organization.
WHO TO CHOOSE?
The first key to delegating is choosing the right people to whom any authority or responsibilities will be delegated. There is such a wide spectrum of people ranging from the outspoken to the reserved, from extroverts to introverts, from technicians and administrators to marketing and sales to management, from experienced to relatively newer staff that no cookie-cutter approach could ever be effective or successful. But certain character traits surface in successful examples of delegated authority.
The right attitude is one of the most important aspects to be considered. To determine ones attitude, their beliefs must be determined. Beliefs govern behaviors and behaviors determine what one becomes – attitudes are begotten from beliefs.
Attitude is also a function of character, personality and core values. One can’t readily or easily guide a rude, dishonest, abrasive, amoral, insensitive, bigoted, lazy or narcissistic person to be polite, virtuous, genial, principled, thoughtful, tolerant, energetic or selfless. This is an assessment that has to be personal and delicate. One who falls short today might learn, grow and become the superstar of tomorrow.
For some people, good character and simple human decency are not in their current nature and may never be. But many people are self-starters and self-motivated, flexible and adaptable, they do take responsibility and admit mistakes, are energetic and resourceful, are goal oriented and achievement driven.
It’s this kind of person to whom we must ultimately delegate authority. So, the people one recruits and selects today will largely determine the culture of an organization, the service an organization renders to the public, and the reputation and success the organization will enjoy (or endure) in the future.
Once you’ve identified the correct person to delegate responsibilities and authority to, you can’t just throw tasks at them. You must use one-on-one mentoring, group learning, team dynamics and on-the-job experience to guide and shape the capabilities of the person to make sure the task will be successfully completed. The proper budget, technologies and facilitating and enabling support must also be provided.
Effective communication is imperative in a delegation situation. The delegator should not dictate the communication, Rather, the delegator should inquire, question, guide and support the chosen person to clarify and enhance mutual understandings, agreements and accomplishments.
Just as the delegator should not dictate communication with those to whom they delegate tasks, they should also not lapse in communication. Delegation is not an abdication. The person to whom something is delegated takes on some of the responsibility and accountability of the task, but the delegator must take responsibility for making the decision – be it good or bad – of whom to transfer power to.
Always remember: everyone who has responsibility is always responsible to someone else. And, you are all working together to empower your organization or realize a goal. And there is no greater joy than seeing your company soar on the wings of people you have empowered by trusting and delegating responsibilities and authority to.
We end as we begin. Delegation is the essence of leadership. It is the soul of management and the empowerment of the organization
DELEGATION - a delicate, demanding, yet delightful art of business.
To Start a Revolution of Initiative and Innovation Ignite Your Intrapreneurs–Then Get Out of the WayJune 2nd, 2011
Authority, Responsibility and Accountability
Some principles for sound commercial, social and political functionality are vital. Among these are that every right implies a responsibility and every privilege a duty. Authority is an empowerment vested in, or earned by, someone which confers power. But, power demands accountability.
The principle of accountability is an intrinsic, inherent and quite necessary factor in all aspects of these processes, including the regulation, control and accountability of power, responsibility and authority.
Pleasant or Painful?
There is, and always will be, the demand that each individual person should take full responsibility for each one’s own choices and actions. The demands and the required willingness to accept the consequent criticisms, deficiencies, punishments and the penalties for our failures are inherent with the accolades, rewards, and recognition that accompany our successes and achievements. Our ideas and our behaviors always have consequences. These consequences can be pleasant or painful, dependent upon whether a good or an evil was thought or done.
Power Must Be Held Accountable
We know that “Power Corrupts.” So, power must be held accountable. Accountability is the necessary and integrating glue that holds a relationship, an organization and a society together. Accountability ensures that power is responsibly held and used for the best interests of all involved in a community. Therefore, not only individuals but organizations, and societies too, must be held accountable.
The rise and fall of persons, companies and nations are all examples of the interacting of opportunity, power, responsibility and accountability. In every situation, there is an implicit and implied common agreement among all members of any and all relationships that each will, or should, be held responsible, and hence accountable, for their dealings with one another.
Everyone is Accountable to Someone
This accountability demands that we each must answer to someone else for what we each may do, or fail to do, for and to that other. Wherever there is power of any type there must also be a regulating and controlling accountability. Simply said, everyone is accountable to someone else. When we serve another that other has every right, indeed a duty, to hold us accountable, just as we each must hold our own self accountable to perform.
Consequences are inextricably bound to behavior. Good behavior should be rewarded; bad behavior should be punished. The governing principle is that every individual within every society is accountable for, and accountable to, that society, and to each of its members, for each one’s own behavior as it involves or affects the other.
All systems of order have interrelated systems of law and justice that are built upon these principles. Of course, many of us may prefer that mercy be a harmonizing part of justice, especially if we are the ones who are being judged. Indeed, we insist that “cruel and unusual punishment” be prohibited, and that the punishment must fit the offense. And we also insist upon “equal justice in law.” We abhor the idea that those of power, circumstance, privilege or position should be somehow exempt from these principles or “above the law.” Conversely, we insist that everyone, regardless of status or condition, be equally protected and entitled under all provisions of law and societal behavior. None should be exempt from accountability; none should be prohibited from opportunity. None should hold unaccountable power. These are important ideals of a properly functioning organization and society.
The Lame Blame Train Doesn’t Stop Here
And yet, as basic as are such concepts, we see that these ideas are quite often ignored, and even challenged in our society, and in our organizations. For example, we may say we are not sure who is to blame – or that so many are to blame that it is hard to identify the villain. Was it society’s fault, or the parents’ failings that caused the adolescent to go astray and damage another? If the organization, or its management, fails to properly train, inform or direct one, or some, of its individuals, or if inadequate resources were provided or insufficient power was conferred, or inadequate responsibility was defined, should those individuals who fail to perform be held accountable?
But while it may seem to serve self-interest to cast blame elsewhere, inevitably the iron law of accountability eventually prevails. Even if the guilty parties are exempted, or escape accountability, others must bear the brunt of the pain caused by the failures, omissions or misconduct.
In Business … There is No Escape From Accountability
The organization that does not consistently demand, and practice, proper accountability throughout its entire structure “top-to-bottom” soon becomes so slack and out of condition that it becomes no longer able to successfully compete. The fate of such an organization in a competitive world is just as certain as is the fate of an unfit animal in the wild. There simply is no escape from the laws of accountability, either in society, or in the jungle. Merciful justice may be highly desirable, but in the free enterprise competitive world of worldwide commerce there may be little justice, and even less mercy.
Enter the Manifesto of Non-Accountability
And yet, for various reasons there is a growing confusion and differing degrees of opinion and dissent from, and about, these ideas. So prominent have such differences become that one of the leaders in the argument against accountability has been called one of the most influential thinkers of the second half of the 20th century. That man, B. F. Skinner, wrote the book entitled “Beyond Freedom and Dignity.” This book, which was called “the manifesto of non-accountability,” was heralded by the very influential New York Times as one of the most important books of the 1970s. And Skinner was subsequently honored by Time magazine when Time provided its coveted cover portrait to this psychologist of non-accountability. These were not small honors.
We Are Not Responsible for Our Behaviors
According to Skinner, we are not responsible for our behavior. He argues that because the forces and influences of our environment are constantly manipulating us, our actions are forced upon us by the conditions that we have experienced in our life. So powerful are these influences, teaches Skinner, that no matter what we become or what we do, we could do no differently. Therefore, we should no more be praised for doing “good” than we should be punished for being “bad” when we behave or perform badly. While we may accept that none of us is either truly good or hopelessly bad, Skinner goes much further. He teaches that we merely behave according to the conditions that exist in us and around us. Skinner and his disciples would say that we are not responsible. They would disagree with the idea with which William Henley concluded his famous poem “Invictus,”
“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”
There is not herein the space nor may there be the sufficient need to merit herein the much fuller and more thoughtful discussion that this topic deserves. But, our own experiences every day confirm to us that accountability can be ignored, neglected or challenged, only at very great peril to all involved in a relationship. So for the sake of brevity, let me now offer just a few principles of accountability as they are widely accepted by many.
Accountability Principle One:
With every responsibility, there must be accountability.
This principle is like that of stewardship. Within this idea is also contained the realization that the more we own, the more we owe.
On these ideas, which apply to stewards, to managers, to owners, and to all persons in authority or with influence, Richard de Vos once wrote that,
“A man of wealth is expected to do more in his financial contributions than a man of modest means. A person of great influence has a greater responsibility for the effect of his life on others than the anonymous guy who has little ‘clout’ in the world. The individual born with a brilliant mind, or a great talent of any kind, has a larger responsibility to use it for good than the person of limited ability.”
Another sagely advised:
“At each level of an organization, all employees have accountability to fulfill their functions for the organization. Their degree or amount of accountability at each level should be similar, in that they are either meeting the expectations for the job or not. And the organization cannot function unless all levels of it are doing their jobs. What does change, as the amount of responsibility increases going up the organization chart, is that the consequences of not meeting the expectations and not being held accountable for it grow significantly.”
What Happens When the Boss Fails?
If one or two engineers or salesmen fail, the organization can still prosper overall; however when high level managers fail, their entire part of the organization, if not its entirety, will necessarily suffer.”
An integrating idea can be developed as follows: While each is equally accountable for each one’s own responsibilities and duties, there are varying degrees of impact, or consequences, as authorities and responsibilities differ.
Know this: At every level, responsibility and authority demand appropriate accountability.
Accountability Principle Two:
If one is to be held accountable, that person must be provided the freedom and the authority to make free choices.
Accountability and freedom, or free will, go together. One cannot demand the one without the other. In effect, a non-accountability conclusion infers some rejection of “free will.” But, intellect and free will are the dearest and the most important of all human gifts. It is these faculties of the human spirit that so radically distinguish and set us apart from animals. In fact, it is only persons who have intellect and free will.
Popular imagination and understanding have not caught up yet with the revolutionary ideas of today’s science, which have superseded Newton’s mechanistic universe entirely. We still at least subconsciously perceive there to be a gap between what seems to be explainable as a mechanistic and predictable universe on the one hand and our firsthand knowledge of the human spirit, mind, and free will on the other. Rupert Sheldrake writes in “Natural Grace” that “The doctrine that everything is determinate and in principle totally predictable suffered a blow with the development of quantum theory in the twenties…. More recently the recognition of chaos and chaotic dynamics [with emergent order] has made the old idea of determinism untenable, not just in the quantum [sub-microscopic in this context] realm, but in the weather, in breaking waves, in the activity of the brain and indeed in most natural systems.”
So our freedom to make choices should be seen from both the traditional and moral perspective, and from a scientific perspective as an emergent property of the human mind and will.
With regard to authority, that can be put into the business context, and again at any level, by considering the expectations for a job vs. the means that the person or people have to succeed at it. “Authority” is usually thought of as pertaining only to managers, but it can be generalized to be thought of as simply the resources that colleagues at any level have to accomplish their job, and thereby meet the expectations of the organization for them. There is either an implicit or explicit agreement between the manager and the staff that should synchronize these expectations.
In the case where expectations are high and being met, it is usually implicit with both parties in agreement.
Where they are not being met, it may be because an associate does not have the resources, or the competence and power, or the willingness to perform as is expected and required. But, it’s up to him to raise the issue early on with his manager and make it clear he is unlikely to meet the expectations.
And that’s where accountability needs to begin, when missed expectations that have been mutually consented to, are not fulfilled as agreed. When there is no accountability, it is easy and seemingly secure for the employee to agree to the expectations rather than raise concerns about them, or the means he or she has available to reach them, as an issue. But after agreement has occurred on expectations, there must be accountability for performance relative to those expectations.
So, we must do all that can be done to develop our own, and to aid the intellectual development of others, to the very fullest potential possible. But, we must be equally mindful and devoted to the fullest development of a free will that chooses the “good” (to well perform) and rejects the “bad” (to fail to perform as expected and promised). It is these choices that form one into becoming a person of good and responsible character. Such a person expects to be held accountable for the goals and the objectives, and also for the responsibilities and duties freely accepted, and welcomes the constructive functions of accountability and responsibility.
With freedom, there must always be accountability. It’s as simple as that.
Accountability Principle Three:
Accountability must always include both evaluation and examination.
In this sense, accountability and evaluation may be considered to be almost synonymous. If one is to be held responsible for a certain level of competence, performance, skill or quality of work, or capability, then it is imperative that such performance be regularly and carefully evaluated by the person or authority to whom that individual reports, or said differently, is accountable. It is, therefore, a duty and a responsibility of the manager, or the one with higher authority, to properly and regularly conduct these evaluations. And these are reciprocal responsibilities. Just as one cannot manage what one does not measure, so too one cannot regularly examine one’s own performance unless the rules, regulations and requirements are carefully and thoughtfully defined and supported by proper and regular evaluations.
We have used two different words that may be thought to imply the same idea. These words are “evaluation” and “examination.” The reason for the selection of two different words is to imply two different ideas. Evaluation is herein meant to be that which the higher level authority does for the other regularly (for and of the other); examination is that which the individual continually does of one’s own self and of one’s own performance and behavior as each individual seeks for constant self-improvement, and for continuous improvement in one’s own performance and behavior.
In these processes, it is important that we operate in a way that is more consistent than that which may be a more usual mode. When evaluating others, some may too often judge harshly and critically and unfortunately may also tend to be reluctant to consider extenuating circumstances; but others, or even the same person, in different circumstances or with someone who is viewed differently, may not judge or evaluate too harshly, but too leniently or too favorably.
In addition to these factors, surely everyone realizes that we may assess behavior differently based upon how we may cherish one or have less regard for another. All of this, and much more too, leads to inconsistency in our evaluations. So, we may too often emphasize justice, and not mercy, in these “evaluations” of others while we may also carry leniency or mercy to a fault. But in the “examination” of ourselves, it is mercy and not justice that may quite often be the prevailing sentiment, or consideration. We may not only excuse, but may even justify our own faults and failings while our own self-love seeks to cast blame elsewhere, or indict another as the cause or reason for our own failings and shortcomings. Our proper approach for both “evaluation” of others and “examination” of self should be one of non-biased consistency. This type of consistency must be based on objective standards of “right and wrong,” “good and not so good,” “proper and improper,” “acceptable and not acceptable,” and well-balanced between justice and mercy.
However much we may want to avoid the potential conflict, or fear the worrisome dangers or pains of confrontation that an evaluation may be imagined to cause, evaluations are a duty and a responsibility that must be faithfully and skillfully conducted on a regular basis.
The first step preceding actions is the evaluation and agreement to the expectations by both sides. This establishes the criteria by which the subsequent results will be evaluated and examined. Second, I’m not sure that we generally evaluate harshly and examine lightly; I think the human tendency, unless personally wronged by someone else, is to evaluate lightly also.
Evaluation and Examination must be regular, consistent and objective, fair and balanced, with mercy and justice properly harmonized.
It is impossible to recognize and reward excellence, which we so desire to do, without implicitly identifying inferior performance or inadequate competencies, which is not always an enjoyable duty. But if we procrastinate, or fail to recognize and reward excellence, or we fear confronting or embarrassing the inadequate and/or incompetent, we will inevitably cause a gradual decline in performance throughout an organization, a relationship and, eventually, even a whole society.
Unlike excellence, which must be encouraged, recognized, acclaimed and rewarded to optimally stimulate its rise and increase, inadequate performance is more like the action of water, which always and naturally seeks its own level. That level inevitably becomes the lowest level possible, or accepted. And how else are we to aid ourselves, and others, to improve our capability, behavior, evaluation processes, and self-examinations except through accountability?
Yet, while an organization may itself destroy the incentives and the encouragements for excellence through failures to properly examine and evaluate itself, and the performance of its various members, competitors are not hesitant in their evaluations. Just as the lions always prey upon the slowest zebras, so too do competitors eagerly feast upon an ill-disciplined and unfit competitor. While there may be many in the jungle that are not predators, in the competitive marketplaces populated by humans, an organization must be either predator, or quickly become prey. In the marketplace, an organization must either win to eat, or be eaten away while still alive. Mercifully, organizations that cannot, or will not, do all of those things necessary to consistently win in the marketplace, do not live long as they are quite literally being eaten to death while still yet alive. “Survival of the fittest” prevails everywhere. Just as surely as the principles of “natural selection” devastate the inadequate they reward excellence in execution with numerous advantages.
But, in these improvement processes, conflict and confrontation are aids and allies. They are not to be avoided as unpleasantries or dangers. Rather, conflict and confrontation must be constructively and positively used to eliminate the faults, flaws, failings and inadequacies that prevent success, progress, advancement and improvement. An opposing force is almost always necessary for development. Just as the knife is sharpened when opposed to the grindstone, so too are we. That’s why competitive sports are at the same time both enjoyable and constructive for the improvement of the participants. And in many competitions, the losers tend to quite often learn, and thereby improve, more from the experience than do the winners. It’s the same with the game of life. The more we are tested, the more we tend to grow.
Within an organization, or a society, where there is no advantage or reward for excellence nor any penalty or pain associated with incompetence or non-performance, disaster looms not too distantly for all. That’s why accountability is everywhere woven into the very fabric of life.
Similarly, conflict, competition and confrontation are positive and necessary constructs for success and happiness. So, we do no one a favor by trying to shield or shelter one’s self, or another, from the concept, or the demands, and the hazards of accountability any more than if we try to avoid or insulate ourselves, and others, from the dangers of conflict and the discomfort of confrontation.
Surely many of us realize that we must take responsibility for our own personal actions, or failures to act, and accept the positive and negative consequences that we bring upon or cause for ourselves, and for many others, as we seek to become what we want to be or to achieve whatever we want.
If we want to change what we are, we must change what we do.
Good stories fascinate us all. They always have. They always will. Basically, there are two types of stories: Truth Stories and True Stories.
The first type, that is, Truth Stories, are those that convey timeless messages that convey universal truths. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey were the first Truth Stories.
Ulysses Confronts the Cyclops Polyphemus – Jacob Jordaens
These epic stories respectively recounted the Trojan War and the journeys of Ulysses. They were stories about heroes and their roles in epic events. These stories were orally communicated, sung by traveling bands for centuries. In the process of communication, these stories were doubtless enhanced and extended. So, they had many authors.
The Message Is the Point – Maybe Not the Truth
“Fear Greeks Bearing Gifts,” – Lacoon on the Trojan Horse
They were Truth Stories because they contained great moral lessons.
Some of the content may have even been true. But, including the true into Truth Stories is beside the point. The message(s) is the point—not necessarily the facts.
Achilles, Hector, Ulysses, Ajax, Paris, even Helen of Troy and the Trojan Horse may never have existed. Many have wondered whether Troy itself ever existed. And, even though there must have been a first initiation of at least some of the story, some wonder …
… “Who was, or were, Homer?” “Did he even exist?” But really, who cares?
Truth Stories are not dependent upon whether their characters, events, or even their author, were ever true.
The Real Value—Meaning
Their value is in the Truth, or the meaning, of their message and the lessons offered, not their truthfulness.
True Stories, by comparison, do attempt to tell what is true.
The first of these True Stories were history stories formally written (not told) by Herodotus. He is, therefore, known as the Father of History.
Begin with Inquiry
The word history itself gives us insights into their intent. The word history (historie) in Greek, of Ionian origin, meant inquiry. We may speak of Homeric epics, though there may never have been a Homer, but history begins with historians. It is they who do the inquiries that uncover the facts that they report as histories.
From There to Eternity
Their stories are intended to be formally stated True Stories. Ideally, they may also contain eternal and universal Truths, or moral lessons. If so, they can become eternally admired and regularly quoted and retold stories as well.
Herodotus began his history with these words:
“These are the researches of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, which he publishes, in the hope of thereby preserving from decay the remembrance of what men have done, and of preventing the great and wonderful actions of the Greeks and the Barbarians, from losing their due mead of glory; and withal to put on record what were the grounds of feud.”
So, Herodotus formally wrote his history. That way, his history would not be subject to the ongoing changes that a verbally communicated message always tends to experience.
Why Is This Important in Business?
Every day wonderful things happen in your business. And every day some not-so-wonderful things happen. They need to be remembered, passed on and learned from. Both the “Truth Stories” and the “True Stories.”
I’ve found that to be successful in business, you have to be a great communicator. The best communicators are the storytellers that grab you by emotion, seize your mind and prompt you to action. They take you on a magical journey, if only for a moment.
Businesses need Stories, Storytellers and Story Sellers to succeed in the market.
A Vanishing Skill
Unfortunately, the values and the importance of the ideas of Stories, Storytelling and Story-Selling may not be as well understood by many of us. Nor may all of their many implications and possibilities be fully realized and appreciated by all of us to the degree they deserve.
Don’t Just Be a Face in the Crowd
Think Like a Storyteller
It might be hard. It might get lonely. But stories resonate through all human beings in all cultures and have throughout time.
I urge you to think about all of the events and experiences with which you may be involved, or have seen or heard about, that would make good stories to help your business. You don’t have to write them yourselves if you feel uncomfortable about it. Find someone in your company that will support your efforts. There are storytellers in your business somewhere … or your business wouldn’t exist. Provide them with your story ideas. Stories that can either be True Stories or Truth Stories – but ideally they would be both.
Businesses need Stories, Storytellers and Story Sellers to succeed in any market.
Flickr photo #2 courtesy of E.Gold
Flickr photo #3 coutesy of Peter Van Allen
Is it possible to summarize the essence of all that has been written and taught about the art and science of value-based selling in complex environments into as few as three key ideas? Ideas that can be readily understood, easily remembered and successfully practiced by most sales reps?