Archive for March, 2010

Do You Recognize and Own Your Value?

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

A number of years ago, one of my relatives who is a successful sales person decided to take a job with a different company in the same industry. When I called to congratulate him, he told me he was studying the catalog of his new employer, which didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me, however, was what he told me next. He confessed that he was afraid that his new boss would fire him when he found out that he didn’t know the new company’s products inside out.

At first I thought he was kidding, but quickly realized he was serious. Thus it was a revelation to him when I suggested that the reason he was hired was not because of his knowledge of the equipment he would be selling; rather, it was because he has a talent for being able to sell anything to anyone. I explained that it’s easy for employers to teach people about their products. What they cannot teach are talents, which are innate. In short, he had no idea of his true value.

How many times do we see people – ourselves included – who are unaware of the value they provide to others? Because our talents come naturally to us, we tend to overlook them because they come easily. I believe this is one reason why we fail to recognize their value to others. After all, didn’t we grow up hearing phrases like, “No pain, no gain?” Surely things that come easily can’t be worth much to anyone, right?

We couldn’t be more wrong! I challenge you to take a close look at your talents. Better yet, ask some of your close friends to tell you what talents they see in you, and how valuable they are to others. And then start owning that value, if you don’t already do so. I invite you to let us know what you discover!

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Language: The Key to the Quality of Your Environment

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

What if I told you that you could dramatically increase the quality of your environment simply by your choice of words? It’s true: our words shape our beliefs, which inform our behaviors. The words and phrases we use significantly influence the decisions we make and the actions we take.

To see how easy it is to change our behavior simply by changing the language we use, try this quick exercise. Think of an upcoming social engagement or event about which you feel ambivalent. Now jot down all the reasons why your going would be a really bad idea. Your list is likely to cause you to decline the invitation immediately! Before you do that though, write down all the reasons why you would love to attend. Without a doubt, that list will make you wonder why you ever considered skipping the event!

The way we talk to ourselves and others creates our reality. This means that we get to choose how we experience the situations with which we are faced. Do we want to go down a life-affirming path, or an energy-draining path? Our behavior will follow the images we envision based on the words we select and the questions we ask. Each of us has total control over our language, and thus how we experience our environments at any given time. In addition, we can influence the quality of others’ environments simply through how we frame our questions to them. That is, our questions will lead others to seek the answers in either positive or negative directions.

For example, consider a situation in which managers want to raise the organization’s customer service level from competitive to distinctive. Which set of questions below contains language that is likely to create a motivating learning environment that will encourage employees to hear the lesson and become part of the solution?

    – What complaints have you heard from our customers this week?
    – What did we do wrong in serving our customers this week?
    – What is the most inspiring compliment you heard our customers pay us this week?
    – In what ways did we delight our customers this week?

In this case, two different choices of language result in totally dissimilar answers, and thus in vastly divergent learning environments.

Here are examples of five common scenarios in which the language chosen prompts totally different responses:

    Dealing with an irate customer:
    “We can’t do that” vs. “Here’s what we can do”

    Persuading a decision-maker to adopt a program:
    “Here’s how much the program will cost” vs. “Here’s the return on our investment”

    Allocating scarce resources:
    “What services should we cut?” vs. “What value can we offer our customers?”

    Improving performance:
    “What are our weaknesses?” vs. “How can we leverage our strengths?”

    Optimizing business results:
    “What obstacles does this challenge create?” vs. “What opportunities does it present?”

What are some of the ways in which you have improved the quality of your environment by choosing your words carefully? Let us know!

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Where’s the Money Really Coming From?

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

In a recent controversial ruling (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional certain limits on corporate campaign spending. In essence, the justices declared that incorporated groups such as companies, labor unions, and associations have the same right as individuals to freedom of speech when it comes to expressing their political views.

Since that decision was made public, debate about its implications has been raging. Some people feel that corporations will be spending their profits freely to sway politicians’ votes, and that individuals’ voices and interests will be drowned out completely. Others believe that this ruling, which includes labor unions and associations, is a requirement for a truly democratic political system to function properly.

In light of this debate, I was interested to read an article in Time magazine (2/08/10) that included a list of the top ten political donor organizations between 1989 and 2010. Of the ten organizations, only two were corporations (AT&T and Goldman Sachs); the remaining eight were labor unions or associations. If one assumes that the unions’ interests are aligned with those of the employees they represent, one interpretation of these data might be that the interests of unionized workers seem to have been rather well represented during this period of time. The question I would raise is whether the unions’ interests truly are aligned today with those of individuals who have chosen NOT to seek their representation, who collectively make up the lion’s share of the U.S. workforce.

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the Court’s decision, and whether you are optimistic or pessimistic about the impact it will have on politicians’ decisions that affect the work and personal lives of those who live in the U.S., perhaps the lesson here is that well-informed citizens would be well served to pay close attention to the sources of funding for political causes and candidates, particularly in these days of unprecedented partisanship.

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Why Looking for Opportunity is Not Enough

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Opportunity surrounds us; we need only recognize it for what it is. Even during times of economic and other types of hardship, it presents itself. Yet many people are so focused on looking for opportunity that they fail to see it, even when it’s right in front of them. What I have learned is to stop merely looking for opportunity and start recognizing it – because it is everywhere. We just may need to see if through different eyes.

To me, there is more than a semantic difference between looking and seeing. To “look” seems to be passive, accepting, and non-analytical. That is, we observe things in front of us, collecting the images that present themselves in our range of vision. In contrast, to “see” seems to be active, questioning, and analytical. We perceive meaning in the objects or actions that we have “collected” through the act of looking, we recognize or identify patterns, we interpret and make sense of what is there by creating a context for it. Thus looking is a necessary but not sufficient precursor to recognizing opportunity. We have to take the next step if we are to find it.

If we seek opportunity, we will find it. Look around you with the intention of recognizing the help that is offered. Sometimes there are obstacles that prevent us from seeing it. Ego and stubbornness are two that I am well acquainted with; in retrospect, I realize that both have prevented me from seeing or taking advantage of opportunities that were mine for the asking. As a result, some life experiences have been harder than necessary. The lesson for me: though the opportunity may not be exactly what I had in mind, I would be well served to accept it for the lesson I can learn. We each retain the right to choose whether to recognize and receive opportunity, or to reject it. Why not learn the lessons that are offered, even if they don’t seem to be what we want or need at the moment?

How often do we refuse the help or the gifts that are offered? Perhaps they take the form of a person who is willing and able to help us, yet we fail to receive the opportunity he or she represents. What are we losing out on when we make these choices? Imagine how different our lives would be if we started recognizing the opportunity that is offered! How can we learn to see rather than merely to look?

Begin by becoming aware of the differences between looking and seeing. Actively seek the meaning in people, things, and actions around you. Put your ego aside and be open to receiving from others. I have found that even simple things will help me practice recognizing opportunities both large and small. For example, receive a stranger’s smile, a child’s curious stare, a door opened for you (literally or figuratively). Accept the opportunity with thanks, and you will find yourself experiencing the world in a different way.

© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.