Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Big Discovery

Self-imposed barriers mark the perimeters of our self-worth. Those barriers are pushed out as faith in our self worth increases and undeveloped potential is discovered.

––Danny Cox

Somerset Maugham, the great English author, once said, “Adversity puts iron in your flesh.” Another one of my favorite authors, a man by the name of Orison Swett Marden, said, “Adversity sometimes strips a person, only to discover the person.” Well, through adversity I discovered quite a lot about my person. I went back to square one and started learning not only about my own potential, but also about the potential of the people who worked for me. And the biggest lesson I learned was that salespeople can get better––right after the sales manager does.

There are universal applications in that principle. Employees get better right after managers do. Kids get better right after parents do. Students get better right after teachers do. Audiences get better right after speakers do. Customers get better right after salespeople, sales managers, upper management, receptionists, secretaries, order clerks, and anybody else who happens to be in the company get better.

I had been with the company two years (one as a salesperson and one as a manager) of one of their small offices. I had been promoted three months prior to this time to the highest producing office out of 36. In those 90 days we slid to #36! My boss told me he was looking for my replacement.

I had to work fast to save my career. Two days away from the office and I figured it out. My problem was trying to turn my salespeople into “copies” of me, an idea that they rejected. My new strategy was to be aware of their weaknesses but communicate with their strengths. It worked! And 120 days later we were back to Number One.

That was a moment to be savored, not only because of the sense of achievement, but because it would then be possible to ease off a bit and relax after that incredible climb back to Number One. Or so I thought. There’s a certain danger in taking that kind of attitude. If I had hung on to it, you know what would have happened, don’t you? Our sales would have plateaued back out and you’d be reading a Blog by some other author, not me!

Well, my salespeople and I started talking about this phenomenon. It can happen to anybody working in any job at any level: When you get to a certain way to doing your job, it’s tempting to just quit getting better at it. That is what is called a self-imposed barrier. We’ll be looking at that kind of barrier in greater detail a little later on, but I want to take this opportunity to give you the introductory tour now.

Nobody builds a self-imposed barrier for you. You build it for yourself. A self-imposed barrier is not a wall around your life; it’s just the margin of your life, where you stopped growing. These barriers can rise up at just about any level, whether it’s low, medium, or even high productivity!

Immediate Action: Think of a time when you’ve told someone––perhaps a friend or family member––“Come on you can do better than that.” Did you ever hear that person reply, “No, I can’t––I’ve never done this job better than that.” The truth is, that’s not a reason that’s not even a good excuse. It’s only the flag atop the so-called barrier. It shows where the new potential starts.

Point to Ponder: Phillips Brooks, the minister who wrote, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” had a powerful thought: “When you discover you’ve been leading only half a life, the other half is going to haunt you until you develop it.” He was absolutely right.

No-limits thinking is the kind of thinking that’s dedicated to finding a way to live a full life––so that the unexplored half of your identity, the half you can develop but don’t doesn’t come back to haunt you.