Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The “what” is more important than the “who”

In fables, animals often take place of humans. For example, the fable of the Frog in the Well teaches a lesson about being boastful.

Imagine for a second though, that you told this story to a colleague and their response was something like, “well yeah, but frog's can’t talk.” Silly response, yes? Well, here’s an example that may hit closer to home.

You’re chatting with a colleague. Your colleague says, “did you hear that Steve got our manager to increase our customer surveys from 4 to 6 this year?” Wow, big news. Your colleague got approval to increase an expense when your expenses were cut 20% and you have the increased deliverables.

Now you have two ways to react. You could focus on the who, Steve, and be jealous that he got a budget increase while you got your budget cut. You may think things like, “well Steve and our manager always go for coffee so they’re buddy-buddy, no wonder he got approval.”

Your second choice, which is vastly more productive, is to focus on the what, Steve got approval to increase customer surveys from 4 to 6. As Malcolm Gladwell laid out in his excellent new book, Outliers successful individuals don’t just happen they have help along the way. Steve didn’t magically get approval from your shared boss he had help (not the “buddy-buddy” help mentioned above).

You want to find out is what Steve did to get approval from your boss because that information will help you get approval for your next idea. Was it charts and graphs; an amazing PowerPoint; statistics that linked surveys to increased revenues? There’s one person who knows, Steve – ask him.

Yes, it might suck that you are being asked to do more with less; however, reacting emotionally only drives you farther away from your goals. By focusing on the what of your situation instead of the who you will bounce back from adversity faster and be more likely to get approval for your ideas in the future.

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