Use "Relax, Take Your Time" For Better Results

In 2006, soon after I had started a new position with AT&T, I was called upon to make a presentation on a major deal I had negotiated.  The forum for the presentation was a monthly conference call where 4 Vice Presidents would listen to and debate my proposal and approve or nix my deal.  I needed this deal to be approved to make my commitment to the firm for the year.

I had seen other presenters on this recurring call be abruptly shut down when a single apparent flaw was found in the presentation.  The VPs at times had seemed like they were purposefully intimidating the presenters.  I was a bit nervous.

I joined the call early, and the VP who was hosting the call, who barely knew me at that time, told me to be relaxed and take my time making the presentation.  The presentation went great and the deal was approved.  Even my own VP, who the night before had told me my presentation was “worthless”, was sending me instant messages during the call about how great things were going.

The comment to relax and take my time really struck a chord with me.   Not long after, I was assigned to work directly for that VP.  He had already won me over.  While not everything went my way while I was working for him, that original experience convinced me he was the kind of person that I would give a second, third and fourth chance, and more, if needed.

Why is this?  His leadership style was one of supporting rather than sitting in judgement. I call this collaborative leadership as opposed to authoritarian leadership. He embodied the inverted pyramid, a principal that was taught to me early in my career at AT&T, where we put our teams above ourselves in importance and work to make them successful, which by way has proven to make the leader and the firm successful. 

I have made it a practice when encountering someone in a daily business transaction, who seems a bit frustrated, by slow computers or inability to get a needed contact on the phone with us or something of the like, to tell them “relax, take your time”.  This destresses the situation. I am convinced that they respond more quickly and more accurately when I am not adding to the pressure they already are putting on themselves.

Try it.  Let me know how you perceive the results.



Checking Out At Target

One of my weekly rituals is to take my wife and mother grocery shopping at Target on Saturdays.  I love the 5% discount from the Red Card.

This week, as I was checking out, I asked the young lady cashier, Rhyanna, how her day was going.

She replied, “It is going great.  I love my job.  As someone once said, when you are doing something you love, you never have to do a day of work.”

I smiled and inquired, “Do you like the people you work with?”

She answered, “Yes.  Everyone around here helps everyone else out.  My manager is the same way.  When I need him for something, he may not come right away, because he is helping someone else out at the time, but he will come as soon as he is done helping the other person.  In my last job, it was every person for herself. The manager would take long breaks and was not really interested in helping me when I needed her.  This manager gets dirty just like us.  He said he does not believe in asking others to do anything he would not do himself.”

What an awesome culture at my local grocery store!  Kudos to Target leaders and to Rhyanna.  We will be back next week.




Karma and Competition

The Indian religious concept of Karma essentially means that there is a cause and effect between our intentions and deeds of today and our future happiness or suffering.  In modern Western culture, we might say – what comes around goes around.

Those of us that have spent our lives in the world of business know the benefits of competition.  Competition causes us to do our best, innovate and improve to win and flourish in the marketplace.

So, are these two concepts interrelated?  I say they are. Interestingly, when I did a Google search for “Karma and Competition” there were a very small number of sites that came up.[1]

I was swimming laps at our community center this weekend and at the end of a lap stopped for a moment to talk to the woman that was sharing my lane.  “This is so boring”, she said.  I responded with, “I am thinking of the laps as creating good karma, so for me it has become more than just a physical act I am doing to compete with myself and stay healthy.  This actually keeps it from getting boring.”  She gave me a wry smile and pushed off for her next lap.

The point is, we can and should compete in the business world with more than just intentions on making metrics, getting bonuses and obtaining promotions.  Focus on the karma as well and your daily experience will be much more meaningful. We need to consider how our every intention and deed is knotted together with the intentions and deeds of others. As business leaders, this is especially true. Go forth and conquer, but create good karma while at it!

The endless knot is a common symbol for Karma.

The endless knot is a common symbol for Karma.


[1]  One was a blog by a person who labelled himself as Evil Genius which stated that “karma and competition” are mutually exclusive.

The Golden Rule, Never Give Up on Yourself and Be A Leader

I recently had an opportunity to speak to and have lunch with a group of kids at Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, KS through the ASPIRE program.  I was really impressed by the whole experience - the historic school grounds, the quality of the teachers and the quality of the kids.  The students are at the stage of life where they are preparing to leave the familiar surroundings of being in high school and move to the next segment of their life path.  They had a lot of great questions for me about my path.

I could totally empathize with their anxieties about the future.  When I was their age I had no clear idea of where I wanted to be in 10 or more years.  My life has been more a series of fortunate events than a well directed movie. I shared those events with them, but also shared with them three guiding principles, that I had learned in my life, that would help them no matter what path they walked:

  1. Follow the golden rule. Always treat other people the way you would want to be treated.  It does not matter the color of their skin, their nationality, their religious beliefs, how much money they have, or their status in society.
  2. Never give up on yourself.  Life is not always going to go the way you want it to go. When it does not, keep going and find a way through.  You will all feel sad and down at times, but you need to be resilient and bounce back to positive.
  3. Be a leader. You all have different intentions for their futures.  No matter what your intention,  choose to be a leaders at that intention.



My grandfather, Morris Poulin, at center of the photo below, came to the United States from Poland on a ship by himself at a very young age.  He never went to formal school.  He taught himself English. He was totally self educated. He never stopped learning.

Granddaddy, as we called him, had a favorite quote that he would share at any occasion where he could - "The great philosopher Willam James once said, ' The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated. If you want to be appreciated, appreciate others.'"

William James passed away in 1910, but his words still ring true today. Start by appreciating others, and you will find appreciation multiplying and coming back your way.