Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 201, May 2016)
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I'm sitting on a high speed train traveling with my wife from Milan to Venice. A decidedly freelance Indian porter took us from the limo Emirates had provided at the Milan Airport to a waiting area, but assured us someone else would come to take our bags to the train. Sure enough, at the appointed time, an "authorized" porter appeared to take us to our designated coach, bag and baggage.
The Italian immigration agents in a deserted Milan airport were dressed like rear admirals. The train conductor was a dignified looking man dressed like airplane pilot. Our limo driver was one of many who met us in the Emirates lounge where they assigned drivers to passengers. (All first class and business customers receive free limo service at both ends of the trip within certain distances.) He drove a Mercedes hybrid in true Italian fashion: At 80 miles (not kilometers) per hour, pull up to within six feet of the car in front of you until it vacates the left lane.
As the scenery rushes by in fast-forward, we see "old Italy" and new, sleepy farm houses on serene streams and modern businesses on slide-rule-precision streets. There are cows and carillons, MacDonald's and mechanization.
In Venice, the old architecture evokes the Republic, once a maritime power. Fish schools of boats ply the canal, a matrix of movement. Motorboats pass gondolas. Hotel lobbies are at waterside. You turn a corner and the gondolier casually mentions, "That was where Marco Polo lived." Looking out from my balcony, most of what I see is older than my country.
We sightsee, I have some business meetings, I easily run my business from here. The Danieli hotel is stately and dignified—with modern wifi, cable TV, and amenities. I am American, but a global citizen. I can run my business from anywhere, and have.
This is the world to come. Rooted in a vivid history, but transforming into a global megalopolis. "Global village" is the wrong metaphor, reeking of farms and squalor. Instead, it is simply "one world," with diversity, opportunity, and fulfillment.
The human condition: Initiative
I have a mantra: I never argue with success. If someone tells me they have secured all their business through cold calling, I tell them that's great, even though it's a bizarre exception. Tell me that you can convince people over the phone without ever meeting them, good for you, though I'd never recommend it.
Some of my coaching clients—usually coaches themselves—want to know what my coaching regimen is, or even try to superimpose their own. I tell them that it differs with each person, and I use my initiative. A few of them are aghast, but realize I've already cashed their check.
When I ran global sales forces, I offered all the assistance I knew how to provide, but if someone had a different method that worked and was consistent with our values it was just fine with me. There has been historical criticism about "throwing someone the car keys and a map of the territory," but for quite a few, that was sufficient.
I think everyone—and especially our kids—should be encouraged to use their creativity, and to fall back on procedure, protocol, and process if that doesn't work. I've experienced doctors prescribing medicines meant for one malady to deal with an entirely different one (which is where Rogaine originated). I've told clients to simply paint the walls instead of launching into costly team-building efforts (people were staring at red walls all day). I love car dealers who throw you the keys and say, "Take it for the weekend, see how you like it," instead of sitting in the back seat giving you directions as if you're back in school.
An Apple employee at a genius bar in Sydney, failing with my dead laptop holding the slides for my full-day presentation, said, "Let me try something completely different," and resurrected the machine. Clients have told me, as if informing me for the first time, "That's highly counterintuitive."
Yes it is. Yes I am.
Our talent is squelched when we insist on never breaking the rules, never deviating from the path. We become faithful followers but boring people, and underperformers.
Outstanding people tend to be maverick, not mainstream.
I arrive at the Hamburg Hyatt Regency at night, and the desk manager showed me to my suite. It was fine, but as in many hotels these days, the lighting was awful. After she left, I was astonished to find that there was no shower, only a bathtub with a hand-held gizmo. I made a mental note to complain the next day.
In the morning, after using the awkward arrangement to bathe and wash my hair, I painfully hit my elbow while drying off—on the shower door across the room.
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Don't ask me what you should do, explain what you're thinking of doing.