Monday, January 28, 2008

Big Tent Thinkers

I recently met a very ambitious young man at a presentation I gave at a networking breakfast. I admired this guy because he wore his desire to create a better life on his sleeve. He is actively trying to grow his career, and is not shy to tell people about his dreams.

We talked after the presentation and he was interested in introducing me to his supervisor, as he felt that my message of the power of business relationships and networking would inspire others in his organization. I gave him the information about how to hire me as a speaker and looked forward to hearing back from him.

Here is part of the email I received, which did not disappoint me (hey, not everyone is going to hire me to speak at their company)...but it did get me to thinking about how quickly people jump to conclusions and lump others into preconceived categories.

"I spoke with one of the decision makers [in my company]. He said that no matter how good your book is, it is only a one-time presentation that does not have any kind of mentorship.

He said that while someone would be enthusiastic about applying these techniques right after seeing a presentation or reading a book, in a few weeks, if there were few short -term results, most people would quit trying to apply the techniques."

So is he saying that his people should never read business books or listen to motivational presentations? YIKES!!! While I am a huge fan of mentoring and coaching, the most successful business people I know are avid learners who gather information from a variety of resources. Additionally, I do customize follow up and mentoring aspects of my presentation with many of the companies when appropriate (but this guy did not ask that question).

I look at my books and speaking engagements as a collaborative experience with those whom I share information. This manager is very quick to judge and lump all books and live presentations into one bucket. This is the antithesis of the type of win / win networking and long term relationship building that I teach. One has to give, give, give, give before they expect to receive. If we expect everything we do to have an immediate pay off, we will be waiting forever for the results from networking.

Many managers are focused on the transactional side of their business and only want the quick hits of sales. They do not see any value from building long term relationships that do not have guaranteed results (meaning that everyone you network with had better be able to send business or they are a waste of time....YIKES, that is false!). Creating a true referral network takes a long time, and when executives are only rewarded on the short-term hits, networking becomes irrelevant. These are the folks that discredit books and training, as they simply want their people focused on short term sales. Churn and burn, baby!!! It is a numbers game, and nothing else will ever matter.

Of course no one book or presentation will change the world or motivate a sales team to all take lock step action. Yet if individuals don't expose themselves to books, CD's and motivational speakers then they will just be stagnant. I read a ton of books, and while few have changed my life by themselves, the combination of the nearly 400 business books I have read in my life do make me better at every situation I encounter.

True change inside an individual comes from reading, learning, listening, thinking, and growing a little bit at a time. There is no magic pill, it is a lifestyle. It only comes to those who are "Big Tent Thinkers".

A "Big Tent Thinker" is someone who trys to keep an open mind that is always expanding to accept new thoughts and ideas. They do not pre-judge and work hard to avoid putting everyone into a bucket without exploring all the options. The manager I addressed above could have just as easily decided NOT to hire me after learning more about what I bring to the table. Okay, that is fine, not everyone will hire me. But his knee-jerk email shooting down the idea of his subordinate is most likely an indicator that this guy would not know a big tent if it fell on him. He is a small tent thinker, where there is no room inside his tent except for his own ideas. Bummer for him.

As a "Big Tent Thinker" you will not agree or embrace every idea, concept, theory that you run across, but you will always look for ways to find a nugget of knowledge or inspiration from everyone and everything. While this takes effort, it also creates opportunity. I have known many successful business people who seek to find way be inclusive before being exclusive. This leads to greatness.

Have A Great Day.



Anonymous said...

I have worked for people like this manager. An ambitious young employee comes in with an idea (ie: let's hire this speaker for our next sales meeting), and the manager belittles the suggestion with some high and mighty explanation to the employee reminding him / her that they are not as smart as the boss.

The result, the employee stops sharing ideas with the boss. Everyone loses.


Brian said...

This manager aside, there's also a seed in there. Maybe you have a regular speaking fee, and then there's the 'Gold Plan' that includes follow up and coaching.