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John Maxwell Team

John Maxwell Team Certified Member

Priscilla Archangel is a John Maxwell Team Certified Coach, Teacher and Speaker.

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    risk

    Your Pain Point: The Motivation for Change

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    I had a conversation with several leaders recently about changes they needed to make in their organization. They said that they wanted to change, but their behavior didn’t align with that statement. After further discussion, it became apparent that for them, the perceived pain they would experience to change their present situation, was greater than the actual pain of continuing in it, even with an impending negative impact for others involved.

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    Doing Nothing – The Biggest Risk

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    There’s a well-known parable about a wealthy CEO who took an extended business trip. He left his company in the hands of his three VPs, and gave each of them a portion of the net assets to manage in his absence. Based on what he knew of their capabilities, he gave the first one, we’ll call her Pat, $50 million. The next one, Chris, was given $20 million, and the last, Joe, was given $10 million. When the CEO returned, he asked for a report of their activities and earnings during his absence. Pat proudly showed him how she had doubled the assets entrusted to her, and now she had $100 million. Chris was pleased as well to show that she now had $40 million. Joe by now realized he had fallen far short of his CEO’s expectations. He was afraid to take a risk in losing his leader’s money, after all he couldn’t afford to pay it back, so he did absolutely nothing with it. Nothing. Joe didn’t even try to increase it, or put it in an interest bearing bank account. You can imagine what the CEO did with Joe after that. He likely didn’t have a job.

    Now Pat and Chris could probably tell some interesting stories about their journey to doubling their assets; things they learned along the way both about themselves and their business strategies. They likely had some failures, but they were able to effectively manage through them.

    Rut vs. Risk

    Joe was afraid to take any type of risk with the valuable resources he had. He simply sat on them. Hopefully he had an idea of a business strategy he could try, something he wanted to do, but unfortunately he didn’t know how to do it or was afraid to take the risk. And by doing nothing, he effectively lost ground.

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    Your Best Advice

    What’s the best advice you ever received?  Fortune magazine asked this question to several business leaders recently. They identified the people who gave them their best advice, who helped them become successful, to realize their potential more fully, and kept them from making life altering mistakes.

    Here are a few of the lessons they learned.

    Ask Questions, And More Questions

    Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments and nonexecutive chairman of DreamWorks Animation helped Jeff Katzenberg, DreamWorks’ CEO, think through the pros and cons of a major acquisition. He describes her as “the Picasso of questions” for her ability to ask powerful questions that helped him consider the details and come to the right conclusion for the business.

    Similarly, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin learned that “the best answer to almost any question is another question”. He credits current White House budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell, his former chief of staff, with the ability to frame and probe discussions with key parties during the 1995 budget crisis, in a way that enabled them to develop a new and different alternative. This required patience, and the willingness to look at the situation from many different perspectives. I call it don’t just do, think first. 

    Admit it. Sometimes when we have what we think is a great idea, we want someone to validate it, not poke holes in it.  So if someone starts asking meaningful questions that we can’t answer, or the answer doesn’t support our great idea, it can be frustrating.  We can blame that person, or recognize the value of their input and thank that person. When we’re emotionally involved in an issue, it’s important to have a rational mind to paint the picture in front of us that vividly shows the pros and cons of that decision, to help us prioritize what we want to achieve. Leaders select the people on their team very carefully, because it’s important that they have individuals whom they can trust to provide the right insights.

    Pursue Evaluated Experience

    While every octogenarian may not be a fount of wisdom, I’ll take advice from Warren Buffett any day.  Warren at 83, along with Charlie Munger, his 89 year old Vice Chairman, have dished lots of advice to each other during their 54 year friendship. They’ve made mistakes but have learned from their lifelong experiences and observed “what works, what doesn’t and why”.  Their shared evaluated experience has benefited their business.

    This means you must be willing to listen to someone who’s been through what you’re going through, and learned from it, instead of dismissing their advice as no longer relevant to today’s challenges. Seek out experienced people and carefully consider their counsel.  What you’re attempting is probably not uniquely different from what anyone else has done.  

    Find a Truth Teller

    Who do you have in your inner circle who won’t hesitate to tell you the truth, even when it hurts? They’re not sticking a knife in you; they’re holding a protective shield in front of you so that you see your decisions closely reflected in the hardened metal of reality. Carefully surround yourself with people who care about you enough to give you candid and constructive feedback. This is advicethat will help you grow, and push you to continual improvement and different approaches. Munger helped Buffett to see the wisdom of a different investment strategy that has obviously paid off handsomely for both of them. Katzenberg reports that Hobson’s communication style is like a knockout punch, but so smooth that it feels like you got hit by a feather.

    A trio of entrepreneurial friends, Alexa Von Tobel, Daniella Yakobovsky, and Lucy Grayson Deland shared valuable information and advice as they were founding their respective companies. They were a sounding board for one another in a way that entrepreneurs don’t typically communicate. Having a trusting relationship like this with someone who will demonstrate transparency and openness is critical to gaining honest insight into how to improve your behavior, and your business.

    Take Smart Risks

    Peter Salovey, President of Yale University and Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation have been collaborators and friends for over 30 years. They bounce ideas off of one another, distilling them to understand which ones would have the greatest impact on the real world.  In other words, there’s a lot of great information out there, but they think about what’s really important to know and understand in order to positively leave a mark on their environment.

    Leaders who play it safe and fail to take risks, fail to make progress. Playing it safe means staying with what you know, instead of learning something new. Can you imagine not taking the risk of learning to do something new, whether pursuing a new career, learning new technology, or launching a new business initiative? Rather than back away from it, gather advice from smarter experienced people about how to be successful at it, and take the plunge.

    Smart people take smart risks based on information, evaluation and education. And while every action won’t achieve the desired result, smart risks create the best learning opportunities, which lead to better longer term results.

    My Best Advice

    To position yourself to receive valuable advice, you need good relationships. During his 20s, Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and other best-selling business books, formed a personal board of directors to provide him with life shaping advice.  Some of the most meaningful tips were from Peter Drucker, who advised him not to worry about trying to survive, but to focus instead on trying to be useful.  Bill Lazier, his co-author of Beyond Entrepreneurship, told him that people view life either as a series of transactions or a series of relationships.  Only those who view it as relationships will have a great life. And John Gardner, former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Lyndon Johnson told him to spend more time being interested, not interesting.

    A trusted mentor recently encouraged me to pay it forward; to commit a portion of my time and talents to help others become successful, without expecting anything from them in return. I had done this in other areas of my work, but he was challenging me in a new area.  I’m going to accept his challenge and consider it a seed sown to build stronger relationships, that in time will produce a harvest of benefits in others’ lives as well as my own.

    Read Jim Collins info here.

    All other stories from The Best Advice I Ever Got, Fortune, November 18, 2013, p. 117-130

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    Copyright 2013 Priscilla Archangel

     

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