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Balancing what we know with a Changing Reality

by Kevin D. Crone

July 4, 2016
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Not too long ago I was talking with a CEO who had done well in their industry for 25 years or so, and then things changed.  Yes, the economy had an affect but the very structure of his industry has changed.  In other words, his clients didn’t want his high priced, high quality service anymore.  He had many buyers and influencers in each client and the politics had changed as well, affecting his sales.

He was an original Monday Morning Mentor reader so I worked with him privately and in a group.  I watched him challenge the assumptions he had built up for many years. He said it was painful realizing that what he thought was a truth, was just not that way anymore.  He has re-thought his business, improved his offering to match up with the actual motives of his market, and now revenues are growing again.

Assumptions come from our past experience .  Many scientists, like Galileo, challenged their assumptions and found that when they did, they were more open to the truth, more innovative, and up for doing what it took to explore opportunities.

Business people generally aren’t scientists but the lesson is clear.  Any time we start with hypotheses and the assumptions that created it, we can fall victim to creating overlaying concepts and theories into reality that aren’t the truth anymore, or in many cases never were.  The result – we move no where.   We don’t know why or how to improve the business.

In our coaching, we use the term, “start with nothing in mind “, which means don’t overlay our concepts, beliefs, conjectures and/or theories onto “a happening”, a “system”, or “structure”.  Just stay disciplined in staying with, “What is really going on?”

Ask more questions – see it in your head.  I’m not saying it is easy.  Everyone has a preconceived notion of how things are and the truth may upset their ego, agenda or politics, and holding onto their views seems to be more important than seeing reality.  There is a lot to be said for being focused on the actions you need to take but, first, see the reality you are facing so you take advantage of the right actions.

What my courageous CEO friend did, was address the very design of his business:

  • What were the desires behind the actions and systems of the business?
  • Did they support the customer who provided him with the revenues and growth he wanted?  Did they really?  

At the beginning of our conversations, he had a tough time being factual about who his customers were and what they were motivated to buy.  All I heard were his stories and theories from his past.  Now, he is spot-on and, interesting enough, and he is more open to all kinds of innovative, profitable, new opportunities.

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If we feel that we’re in a box and can’t figure out new moves to grow, check out the person who creates the box everyday by your assumptions, conjectures and theories.

We can easily mix up feelings, emotions and facts.   Trying to feel better may not be what you need. You need facts . You don’t have to have a high IQ to make great choices in life.  Get the facts and choose.  We all need to work hard once we have made our choices and bob and weave with what life throws at us to get where we want to go.

You can be hit hard by recessions, changing customer motives, stronger and fresher competitors, loss of team members, but you can survive.  You can adapt and change and you will keep the business game going and growing.

You can find opportunities if you let them be found.  We all want to respect history, and our fun times in the past.  We need a sense of tradition and our past strengths need to be glorified.  But do not let yourself believe you can’t change and adapt because you long for the old days.  See what is really going on – choose and act.

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How about at your next business meeting you start with nothing in mind?

  • Check your pre-conceived assumptions, theories, and conjectures at the door.  Catch yourself every time you lay a theory or concept on what is being said.  (About every two minutes)  Instead get a picture in your mind of what is really going on.
  • Ask pertinent questions. Ask why things are done.  Who are they done for?

Compare that reality to what is really wanted.  Ask out loud, “What do we want?”  Opportunities for action will appear everywhere from the contrast between reality and what is wanted .  Choose the most important, appropriate action and watch the momentum build.  This can grow into a very important discipline for you.  It did for my CEO friend and he is on a roll once again! 

As always, if you have specific questions e-mail me and I will respond quickly.  kdcrone@dalecarnegie.ca

Have a great week!

Kevin D. Crone
Chairman, Dale Carnegie Business Group
kdcrone@dalecarnegie.ca or 905-826-7300 / 1-800-361-2032

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