Our 2007 New Year’s Resolutions

Here are our 2007 New Year’s resolutions. Theresa plans to improve her public speaking, Francis wants to develop a better understanding of theories of entrepreneurship, and Sean hopes to develop a more positive outlook.

Our 2007 New Year’s Resolutions

Theresa: my 2007 New Year’s Resolution is to do more public speaking. Given how nervous I get speaking in public, I’m going to start with baby steps and talk at our upcoming workshop, Getting More Customers. Hopefully I will have enough nerve to do a joint talk later this year.

Francis: I also want to get better at public speaking but since Theresa took that one I will take a different one. I plan to read the books mentioned in Sean’s talk “Twelve Books for the Busy CEO” this year.

Sean: focus more on the positive accomplishments of clients and prospects. I think it’s an occupational hazard as a consultant to try and “add value” by pointing out where folks are making mistakes or have problems. It’s just as important to acknowledge what’s working that we can help them build on. I blogged about this in Hey Wait a Minute, That’s Me in the “Before” Picture but it’s worth more focus in 2007.

Hey Wait a Minute, That’s Me in the “Before” Picture

In Adding Value — but at What Cost? Marshall Goldsmith distills a useful prescription out of a recent conversation:

In my experience, one of the most common challenges that successful people face is a constant need to win. When the issue is important, they want to win. When the issue is trivial, they want to win. Even when the issue isn’t worth the effort or is clearly to their disadvantage, they still want to win.

Research shows that the more we achieve, the more we tend to want to “be right.” At work meetings, we want our position to prevail. In arguments, we pull out all the stops to come out on top. Even at supermarket checkouts, we scout other lines to see if there’s one that’s moving faster.

In Jon’s case, he was displaying a variation on the need to win: adding too much value. It’s particularly common among smart people. They may retain remnants of a top-down management style even if they don’t want to. These leaders are smart enough to realize that most of their subordinates know more in specific areas than they ever will, but old habits die hard. It’s difficult for them to listen to others disclose information without communicating either that they already knew about it or that they know a better way.

The problem is, while they may have improved the idea by 5%, they’ve reduced the employee’s commitment to executing it by 30%, because they’ve taken away that person’s ownership of the idea. Therein lies the fallacy of added value: Whatever is gained in the form of a better idea may be lost six times over in the employee’s diminished enthusiasm for the concept.

It can be painful to see yourself in the “before picture” of an advice column, and this one points how you can fool yourself by cleverly reframing “winning” as “adding value” and be just as obnoxious and counter-productive. I guess that’s the difference between my 20’s and my 40’s. In my 20’s I believed that I was held back by the people around me (typically managers) and situations I found my myself, now I see that it’s mainly my own actions/inactions that hold me back.

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