Categotry Archives: People

Accepting Consequences of Choice

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When I was a small kid of around 6 years old I wanted to go to see a local house-fire with some of the older kids in the neighborhood.  My dad told me not to go. If I did go, it would be my choice and I would have to suffer the consequences of my choice. Using the short term thinking of a child, how could I possibly get in trouble if I went with a group of older, wiser 12 and 13 year olds? So, I traveled the three or four blocks to see the house on fire. When my dad noticed I was gone he came looking for me. He found me standing with the other kids watching that fire! I then had to pay the piper for my actions!

My dad made me cut a small switch from one of the fruit trees in our yard so he could spank me with it. Although he gave me one quick stinging tap on the touche for my punishment, the real punishment was my having to endure the shame of cutting my own weapon of punishment! He also said something I didn’t understand until years later. My dad told me that “this hurts me far more than it will hurt you”. That day I learned a few valuable lessons from my dad. He may not have been mindful of his teaching but I never forgot his disappointment in me. My dad only delivered the punishment for the poor choice I chose to make.

To this day, I believe in the importance of accepting the political consequences of the choices we make in all walks of our life. I think that whether you are in the workplace or in our country’s capitol, people believe if they own up to their poor choices that they will lose their power. In reality, they would gain more power because the electorate would actually believe them. Same thing happens in the workplace. If you are honest and take your medicine, you build the trust people have in you.

Hiring Mary

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During the mid 1990’s our small company, Ex Officio outdoor and adventure travel apparel, was growing rapidly. One of the challenges we had was hiring receptionists. The receptionist position was not only important as the face of our company but, we also used it as a place to discover employee’s for further promotion within the company.

 

Our receptionist, Kay, was being promoted from her receptionist position and her first duty was to find her potential replacement. As expected, Kay brought two terrific candidates for me to interview for a final decision. Both candidates were young and straight out of college.  The first was very presentable, clean cut, personable and seemed solid. The second candidate had bleached blond hair with dark roots, dressed like a designer might dress, seemed very independent and had an infectious fun personality. After questioning the candidates I found out that candidate #1 was indeed a solid person whom I thought would diligently carry out any task asked of her. The second candidate, Mary, as wild as she looked, had gone to Dartmouth (an Ivy League school with a bit of a party school reputation), had a degree in fashion and was captain of the Dartmouth women’s field hockey team.  After the interviews I immediately knew who I’d like on our team. When Kay came in to discuss her replacement, she assumed, for all the right reasons, I would like candidate #1. Although I did like #1, I picked Mary. The reasons? Mary, having a degree in apparel design, was not afraid to start at a receptionist job to work her way into our company and importantly, she was the captain of her field hockey team. What did being on the field hockey team at Dartmouth tell me about Mary? It told me Mary was a team player, which is necessary in business as well as in sports. By being accepted at Dartmouth, it told me Mary was intellectually smart. And, it told me she probably wasn’t conventionally smart in the tradition of a Harvard, Yale or Princeton. Personally, I like independent thinkers who challenge me and the people around them. Of course, on the downside, independent thinkers can sometimes cause workplace dysfunction. This led me to my final observation. Mary was not only was a team player, she was the captain of her team. Captains are elected by their teammates to lead the team; dysfunctional people rarely are elected to be captains. From this available information, I was able to make Mary my clear choice. Needless to say, Kay was surprised. After I shared my reasons with Kay, I wasn’t convinced she thought I was right. Possibly, she thought I was a bit crazy.

 

Sure enough, Mary eventually made the transition from being a college girl into being a talented young woman. Mary rose rapidly in our company and stayed for over 10 years. Eventually, after we sold our company, my former business partner hired Mary to work with him at his next venture. She’s still there today and every time I see Mary I am excited and happy to know her vibrancy is better than ever!

Taking my own advice

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While discussing marketing ideas with Cindy, my business partner, she asked me how important I thought LinkedIn was. Personally, for business to business marketing, I think it can be an important marketing tool.

In my class on Workplace Psychology at the University of Washington I frequently tell my students the best personal marketing they can do is to simply go up to someone they would like to meet, offer their hand to shake, look the other person straight in the eye and say, “Hi, Mr. or Ms. ”, my name is ” and I’m very happy to meet you”.

On LinkedIn I have a number of contacts, but the majority are from people who have extended the invitation to connect to me. When someone asks me to connect on LinkedIn, and I know them, I feel flattered and typically accept. But interestingly, I’m uncomfortable asking others to connect to me. After thinking about why I might feel this way, I realized it was because of the same uncomfortable feeling I had when I was a young man introducing myself to and shaking hands with someone I wanted to meet. Is there a reason I should feel uncomfortable when reaching out on LinkedIn to business people I know? Absolutely not!

It is far easier to give advice than to take it, even if it’s your own. I constantly have to remind myself, “Joe, take your own advice!”

#3 – Tell the Truth: Pelzie’s Principles (Part 4 of 4)

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Tell the truth … the third Pelzie Principle, seemingly simple but possibly the most difficult for his kids or anyone else to authentically grasp.

I think the reason telling the truth is difficult is because we can so easily rationalize and convince ourselves that we aren’t stretching the truth. The easiest lies, and possibly the hardest to detect, might be the lies we tell ourselves. Jonathan Haidt from the University of Virginia says that the greatest moral philosophers are the best at rationalizing their own lies. We see this in politics and business all of the time but, can we rationalize and lie to ourselves about our own authenticity?

In the late 90’s our company, Ex Officio, Inc., attended the Outdoor Retailer trade show, an important four day event held twice a year in Salt Lake City. Our company had nonstop appointments from the beginning of the show to the end. After one meeting, I noticed our National Sales manager was having an intense discussion with two women from one of our smaller accounts. I didn’t know the account so I decided I would go over and introduce myself. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I had interjected myself into the middle of a difficult discussion about short shipping this customer. Short shipping is when a company does not fully fulfill a customer’s purchase order.

As it turned out, our customer who was short shipped was extremely angry because the shirt style they didn’t receive was one of their best selling styles. I apologized and asked our customer what we could do to make her happy. She did not want to hear anything we said other than that we would ship her store the shirt style we weren’t able to ship. She went on to accuse me of holding shirts back for our largest customers in order to curry favor with them instead of shipping the smaller accounts. I told her this wasn’t true but she continued to insist that it was.

After accusing me of being deceitful, I stopped the conversation, took a breath and said “we were at fault for not shipping you your product, but if you are questioning my integrity, I don’t think we should continue to do business with each other. Thanks for coming in, good-bye!” She and her partner got up and left. You can safely assume the atmosphere in the booth wasn’t exactly jubilant.

Well it wasn’t long until the work day was finished. My two business partners, our VP of Sales and I decided to have a fine meal and a few beers at one of our favorite Italian joints. And guess what? We were seated at a table right next to the two customers we had earlier clashed with! We gave them a polite nod and sat down. Fortunately the place was boisterous enough so our respective table’s conversations couldn’t be heard. After a few moments, I had an inspirational thought. I told my partners we were going to pick up their dinner tab. I thought they might not go along with this idea if I simply offered so I discretely found their wait person and told him I wanted to pay for their dinner. When our customer went to pay their bill, the waiter told them that we had already picked up their tab. As I thought, they weren’t very happy about it, and grudgingly they came to our table to give us a quick one word “thanks” before leaving the restaurant. Now I wish I could say my suggestion of picking up their tab was because I was being genuinely nice and trying to make amends. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I expected this gesture would grate at them.

The next day, the woman who accused me of deceitfulness came to our trade show booth. She apologized for her actions the previous day and genuinely thanked me for picking up their restaurant tab. Making a special trip to our display booth to apologize and thank me for dinner had to be extremely difficult for her, but she did it anyway.

After she left, who do think felt like the jerk? Although I rationalized that picking up their check was simply “comical”, in actuality it was done to make these people feel uncomfortable. It certainly did not represent the esteemed integrity that I fought to defend the day before. I think you could easily make the case that my authentic intention for picking up the check was far closer to being unkind than being upright.

The lesson I learned from this experience was the importance of being completely authentic as a person in all facets of my honesty and integrity. I hope I never forget that the biggest lie may be the one I rationally tell myself.

The last of the three Pelzie principles, number three “tell the truth” … not as simple as we might think!

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