During a trip home for the holidays, a few old friends got together for one of our semi-annual solve-all-of-the-world’s problems sessions.
We haven’t yet succeeded. But the quest continues undeterred.
One of the familiar subjects we often chat about is the adventures of a guy we grew up with. I’ve long joked that this guy is a higher-IQ version of Forrest Gump.
He ends up in situations and places that leave us shaking our heads in wonderment.
This guy had a sketchy track record (in our eyes) yet had navigated his way into an amazing job with a respected company. Then, in the catbird seat, he left the company.
We hypothesized that the only explanation for this had to be that he was an idiot.
He then started various endeavors that seemed ill-advised. Those ventures failed, and “hindsight-geniuses” could easily point out why they were destined to fail all along.
But then one took off and has become an impressive, profitable company.
Something I noticed about our most recent conversation about our Gump-like friend was that it had gone from incomprehension to respectful acknowledgement and even admiration.
I pointed out that this person built a resume of failed endeavors that is truly impressive. Most folks would never be able to rack up as many disappointments because they would have been “smart enough” to quit trying long ago.
But he apparently wasn’t as enlightened as the cynics.
So, he kept on creating new opportunities to fail…until, well, he didn’t fail. And his biggest problem now is figuring out if financial success is enough to keep him from getting bored.
As problems go, that’s a pretty good one to have.
There is a tendency to look at people who fail publicly and peg them as, well… failures. Let them do that a few times and the hypothesis is proven!
And when these folks eventually find success, it seems, well… accidental.
But it’s far more likely that their eventual success was found not in spite of numerous failures but actually because of them.
It’s the folks who treat their failures as lessons - instead of verdicts - who tend to ultimately reach their goals.
Bumps and potholes along our career roads are to be expected. The only way to avoid them is to stop driving.
And you won’t go far with that strategy.
Keep driving for your goals this year.
A senior management buddy recently shared an observation that I’ve heard in one form or another more times than I care to remember over the years.
He made an impromptu visit to one of his in-store branches and said that if he would have had a check list of what the branch should look like, he’d have given it high marks.
Everything looked fine.
But as he stood back and observed the branch, the thing that nagged at him was that the branch and its employees seemed non-existent to shoppers in the store.
People went about their business and didn’t notice the branch much at all.
The more troubling thing to him was that it seemed that his employees seemed no more interested in the customers just a few steps away from their branch than those preoccupied customers were in them.
He joked, “I wanted to walk over and say, ‘Can I ask a favor? Can we maybe step out there and just say hello to a few people? Please?’”
I laughed and told him that was far from the worst idea I’d heard recently.
I then pointed out that he wasn’t thinking of suggesting, “Can we just step out there and sell something?”
Okay, maybe he really was thinking that. But he instinctively knows that simple greetings and small talk are the first steps toward future, more consequential financial conversations.
Non-sales-focused conversations are not simply okay. They are absolutely essential to developing relationships.
I suggested that we too often create sales cultures that actually reduce the number and quality of the conversations we have. When we only leave our branches to talk about our products and services, folks soon judge us by our actions.
Store customers aren’t seeing my friend’s employees as nice folks they can have a sociable chat with. They see salespeople.
And most folks react to salespeople as they would to zombies.
His teams aren’t looking at shoppers as potential new friends and customers but as apathetic cold-call prospects. And they aren’t exactly enthused about getting out there and being summarily rejected.
So they avoid putting themselves in that position by staying in the branch.
Remind your teams in this New Year that some of their best customers of years to come are still simply waiting to make their acquaintance.
Can we maybe step out there and just say hello?