Building Community Through Better Relationships

Is That Really Me?

A local organiztion engaged me to write website biographies for their leadership team and staff. The team is both gifted and passionate. As part of the organization’s rebranding, it needed professional help describing the talent that execute their unique mission. After interviewing a key staffer, then submitting her biography, she delightfully squealed, “Is that really me? I want to meet that person!”

Accepting the compliment, I explained that I simply took her comments, then presented them back to her with respect, esteem and a few clever phrases. I told her story, I did not change her character. However, our exchange subtly reminded me that someone’s personal lens can distort their own self-perception. For example, a tall high school tennis champion looks in her mirror and privately sees an awkward loner. The class valedictorian sees her as an athletic goddess who would never want to be seen with him or his GPA. The result is that they daily walk past each other in the hall avoiding eye contact. Both are simultaneously thinking that the other is so cool, but would never be interested in someone like me. Unfortunately, this dynamic extends beyond students.

Marianne Williamson shares in “Our Greatest Fear” that, “We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?” Far too often, individuals fixate on their flaws. Their “realistic” assessment is that they need improvement. Maybe they do. Meanwhile, their true friends implicitly and explicitly remind them how wonderful they are. These friends choose to share their precious life with the self-proclaimed, flawed individual. The individual’s common response is often, “You are just saying that because you are my friend.” But, why are they friends in the first place??? Considering the six billion plus people on the planet, these friends have options! You have friends because you are worthy!! Your friends’ lenses are valid, too. Maybe more so!

As for individuals who do not have others positively pouring in their perceptions, I have two examinations for you. First, examine the good points of your personality and character. Since these are your good points, you get to pick the ones that you like. Second, start examining the other six billion people in the world that are not currently connected to you. You can start in your immediate community, but do not stop there. Upon acknowledging your good qualities, you can then identify others who recognize, respect and esteem those qualities. Make the time to search until you find and connect with people who like the individual that is really you!

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter and Beyond


November 27, 2013 Posted by | Better Community, Better Person | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Learned Helplessness

The primary reason that I teach is to elevate the thinking of my students. The subject is merely a vehicle. Often, students have not because they ask not. The corollary, then, is that they ask not because they don’t believe they can. I know a student who expressed a desire to work in a local community healthcare clinic. Another student suggested that she talk to the Board President of the local community health care clinic for a referral or recommendation. That same Board President happened to be teaching the class they were taking. The first student told her advocate that the teacher would not help me and dropped the topic. The teacher was in the room during the conversation!

The barrier to opportunity was not lack of education, it was not lack of connections, nor was it lack of opportunity. The culprit was learned helplessness. She had clearly been taught that people like her do not get opportunities. And, the lesson stuck. The students may have struggled in Algebra or Business Management, but she aced Helplessness.

Ultimately, the pessimist and the optimist are both right. In this case, like most, success involved risk and the student correctly concluded that she cannot fail if she does not try. She had successfully removed risk from the formula. She and her helplessness were proven right, again. However, what if she embraced risk? Failure as a defining characteristic is a bold-faced lie. Failure is merely a statistical event. Sometimes, the answer is no. The good news is that success is also a statistical event!

Just like helplessness is learned, success can be learned! A student learning facts from a textbook typically will not recall all of them correctly on the first try. But, with additional study, practice and repetition more success is realized. Achieving success in finding a job, performing better on a test, or closing a sale all depend on study, practice and repetition. Academic learning is a metaphor to develop behaviors that lead to achievement. Grades don’t create success. Success creates success. The classroom is a place where success habits are created and results are achieved. If that process requires unlearning helplessness then let’s do that in classroom lessons, and then life lessons. That is why I teach.

Thanks D.G.

Glenn Hunter
Principal of Hunter & Beyond

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Better Communication, Better Person | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

You’re Gonna Do It Anyway!

A very large child barked at an adult, “I ain’t gonna do it and you can’t make me!” The child promptly folded his arms and pouted, clearly indicating that the discussion was over. Except that the adult was not finished. To truly settle the matter, the adult firmly responded, “You’re gonna do it! Because if you don’t you’ll be sorry. You will lose your company!” Your company???

The very large child was a 40-something founder/ entrepreneur and the adult was his business coach. And, the entrepreneur had a choice to either change or risk losing his company. The company’s shares were not in jeopardy, merely its control. The entrepreneur had to change how he controlled his company.

Many companies launch, grow, and experience success only to have the business smothered to death by an overbearing founder. This tantrum stems from the owner’s inability to allow the managers that he hired, do the job he pays them to do. A common problem with successful businesses is that they grow beyond the reach of their founders. More people begin to contribute. Now what was once a reflection of the grown child, who stood at the center of this universe, had become a community in search of a culture. Maturing into a functioning community requires more input from a growing number of stakeholders!

Mercifully, only three steps are required to make this transition to entrepreneurial adulthood a success. But like any child, change and maturation are difficult. But, the reward is a well-adjusted adult, or in this case, a functional and thriving enterprise.

1. Cooperation
Cooperation begins with understanding that the organization is no longer dictated by one individual. Additional size begets additional employees, who begets additional managers. Managers are hired to bring certain expertise like, sales, accounting, or operations. The owner must let them contribute. When the additional voices work together, they form a cooperative environment with a common goal. For success, the leader must empower them to contribute individually while working together. The desired outcome is to develop their individual areas of responsibility and in turn the business.

2. Process
Processes are established to replace the explicit voice of the founder. The coordination that results from a cooperative effort has to be systematized. The system replicates the operational consistency required by the founder when she personally dictated the business’ course. The process now reflects the communal knowledge of the evolving leadership team. For example, to assist the human resource manager, the policy manual systematizes processes surrounding discipline, extenuating personal problems, and compensation. These and other business necessities are difficult in the minutiae, but critical in the aggregate. Finance and reporting processes, like petty cash requisitions or budget exceptions, also fall under this category. The process does the heavy lifting when personal relationships inside the business makes certain decisions awkward or hard.

3. Delegate
Delegation is the largest obstacle because the founder must trust someone else to execute his wishes. Like any parent, just because the founder loves the child the most does not mean that the founder is always best equipped to help the child. The world’s greatest soccer mom, may not be the best calculus tutor. The owner will always love the business most. The owner will also have to trust a loyal and competent team to perform certain functions for the business to reach full maturity. For delegation to work best, the owner must articulate a clear vision and expected outcomes. If sales need to increase 15% for the quarter, then that goal must be explicitly communicated. Next, the consequences for not achieving the goal must be explicitly communicated. Once the resources are in place to accomplish the goal the owner must focus on other higher-valued priorities and trust that he delegated wisely. If it turns out that consequences are required, then consequences must be delivered!

As with children, heartbreak will occur. Also, unfathomable pride emerges when offspring exceeds expectations. But, to experience the enormous personal joy and resultant profits, the founder must agree to foster a culture of cooperation. The employees must come together like performers in a grade school play. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it simply has to make everyone proud. Processes must be in place because once the business is out the crib, the owner has to trust that the kitchen is sufficiently childproof so that the apple of her eye does not burn his hand on the stove. And finally, delegate. The team was built to do a job. Give them the tools, the direction and the consequences so they can do it. Even if the owner can do a job better, does she really have to prove that she makes the best pot of coffee in the company? The organizational alternative is to stomp your feet and cry out loud while the business suffers from malnutrition and stunted growth. Growing up is hard, but it beats the alternative.

By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter and Beyond

November 11, 2013 Posted by | Better Business, Better Communication, Better Person | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment