Civil Discourse in Life, Work & Leadership Roles

Imperfect but Beautiful!

Imagine your child, or your grandchild, going off to school for the first time. It’s natural for us to be anxious; our little one is venturing into the big, bad world, all alone, for the first time. That’s almost as traumatic a time for parents & grandparents, as it is for the child. Still, we take comfort from our parenting skills. And from the values we share with friends & neighbours in our community. It’s a nice school, with respected teachers, who are reliably acting in loco parentis. Everything will be fine.

Until you collect your weeping child at the bus stop!

The gut-wrenching, heart-stopping impact of this moment can be felt by almost every human being. Upon discovering that your child was denigrated by another. Be it for reasons of appearance, affliction, race, religion, or any other cause, the immediate, visceral reaction may be one of extreme anger towards the perpetrator.

But, often, the pain was caused another child. Despite our emotion, we reign in our more agressive instincts & proceed with a more cautious & civil approach. We need to, both, sooth our child, & to address the problem. And in such a manner that it allows both children to move forward, together, in a civil & mutually respectful way.

In just about every sales course I’ve ever attended, or any sales book I’ve ever read, we are cautioned against speaking ill of our competition. Despite that, I’m guessing that most sales people will admit to having uttered a phrase that starts out something like this …

“That’s an interesting point, Ms. Customer, but …”

I should add a little mea culpa at this point, for my own, very rare, transgressions!

How about politics? It almost seems like the norm nowadays, in many countries, is to denigrate & divide. And some of us seem content, perhaps at times gleeful, that this is the case. As a politician, if you can lock in the firm support of a sufficiently large part of the constituency, you have a blueprint for successfully winning, & holding, power. It seems like everything is in play here; truths, half-truths, & possibly mis-truths, can be all be used. So long as the win is delivered. Sometimes, this is the will of the majority. And that may be democratic. But is it right?

Taking that political logic back to sales; were we to use truths, half-truths, & possibly mis-truths in the sales environment, would we be more successful? Frankly, if I could win 40 or 50% of the orders in my customer base, by modelling my approach on this political strategy, I would probably win some additional orders in the near term. Sure, half the base wouldn’t be speaking to me. But who cares? I’m still ahead where it matters. Right!?!

It almost feels like we’ve come around to believing that civil discourse is no longer required in our political leaders. Is it still required in our working life? Or in our daily interactions within our communities?

If this is the kind of world we want to live in …

Why do we pretend to teach our children that they should grow up to be nice, kind of heart, generous of spirit, & capable of civil discourse, as adults?

And if this is not the kind of world we want for our children …

Why do we sponsor & model such behavior for them?

Sales, Marketing, Diet, & Civility

This is a different kind of post for me, so please stick with it if you come across an unusual comment along the way. It’ll come clear by the end, I hope.

Montréal Fast Food

Montréal Fast Food

I’m heading home from Montréal last Friday & it’s Montréal in December, so I’m at the airport early in case there are any weather challenges in getting there. My phone needed to be charged & , once at the gate, I sat at one side of those little tables with the power outlets & charging ports at the back. At the other side of the table was another traveller, doing the same thing. While my sales regalia is often chinos & a company-logoed polo shirt, this guy was dressed in a really sharp suit, with a nice tight Windsor-knotted tie. In my defense, I have to climb inside working machinery sometimes. And yes, I can do a nice Windsor knot too! His shoes, unlike mine, were polished to a high shine. How’d he do that with Montréal’s salted & slushy streets? While I love to chat, other than a nod & a quick smile, I tend not to bother other travellers, as many want to be left alone. Having the earphones in is the clue to that!

After a few minutes, he unplugged, & started to chat. OMG, was this a gay guy hitting on me? I was used to a lifetime of women swooning at my feet, wouldn’t it be natural for a gay guy to feel the same way? Turned out he was, shocker this, in sales & marketing. With a focus on social media & the digital universe.

I was immediately engaged & the conversation took off, with both of us fighting for airtime. This guy had a very different outlook to mine. Over the course of my career, I’ve greatly enjoyed the company of the people I have had the pleasure of working with. Sure, I’ve met a few doorknobs along the way but, for the most part, I have enjoyed the company of colleagues, suppliers & customers alike. And I’ve made some really good friends along the way. His response to this was pretty blunt …

“Are you in business to make friends? Or to make money?”

Can’t you do both?

Not according to my fellow flier! His approach is to isolate & attack, hard, his target audience. In part, by denigrating the “others”, other suppliers & other customers. His philosophy is like some maniacal abuse of the Pareto principle … Forget the 80%, they don’t matter. Instead, focus on the 20% with the highest potential return. And milk them dry. Any way you can. For as much as you can.

But what about longer term relationships? And repeat business?

All garbage, according to this philosophy. The immediate kill is where it’s at. There is no long term view. Other than just doing more of the same with new prospects.

This went against everything I believe. I was gobsmacked, time & again, listening to his gospel. But he was relentless. He took a look at my blog on his phone & ridiculed that. Brutally. And, given the weight-loss bias of the blog, he laughed out loud as he rolled his eyes, while nodding towards my waistline, and passing a very sarcastic comment. One I’m too embarrassed to repeat here. Then he told me, guaranteed me, that I’ll do better with my diet after hearing his message. I’ll come back to that point below.

Montréal is a great town to eat in. I often think that spending my early years in Canada, in Montréal, contributed to my circumferential challenges. I had just enjoyed a week of dietary debauchery in this great city. I had had lunches & dinners with suppliers & customers. Though he ripped me apart for my choices of dining companions too. The bottom line was that I knew the scale would echo his condemnation when I got home.

Despite the scars, I held my calm demeanour, even if only on the outside at times. I wondered how it might have gone in my younger, more volatile, years. That gave me pause for an occasional smile, & that seemed to throw him off stride every now & again!

Before leaving, this wasn’t his gate, he gave me some blogging advice. Most of which was far too callous than I think I could ever use. But he did relent & give me a couple of milquetoast (his description!) things to try. They’re in this post, did you spot them? Send me a message & let me know. I’m curious to see if he’s as good as he thinks he is.

Despite it being a great conversation, I still think there is more to be said for just being a little more caring & civil towards each other. Sales is all about taking away a customer’s pain, not inflicting more. I want my customers to come back to me. Again & again.

Oh yes! The rat was right about one thing, my diet is going better since I returned. In fact he was right about two things, he also told me that I wouldn’t have the balls to do the post without explaining it, or putting a warning label on it. I guess my warning label was the opening paragraph. Go figure!