I was in a funk about myself, and my company, when I wrote this letter to myself on a yellow legal pad while sitting in my car during my daughter’s swim meet in Minnesota (please see the typed version of it below – you’re lucky not to have read my handwriting (Read my story about that here). It is the first, and the last, letter I’ve written to myself. I found it in one of my files recently and had two thoughts. First, it might be interesting to share, to give an example of the strange way I think. Second, I should have done more of this because it’s a great way to work through my thoughts, be honest with myself, hold me accountable for my choices; and for my responsibility. I’m hopeful that you’ll find it useful…..or something else that is positive.
I’m writing this letter to myself on June 2, 2009, while sitting in a car in the Rochester, Minnesota Rec Center parking lot. It’s overcast and drizzly. It’s humid. It’s Father’s Day.
Morgan, Jamy, and Rachel are inside waiting out a three-hour gap between Morgan’s 200 Freestyle race and her 100 Butterfly. I’ve got the car on and the air conditioner running, and I’m thinking about my company, about what’s working and what’s not working and, most of all, about what I need to do to help make both the what’s and what not’s better.
Of course, I’m focusing on what’s not working because there’s more pain for me in that than there is joy in what is working. Just my nature. Biggest thing not working is our Sales Program. Paul’s been running that for just over a year, since May ’08, and the only thing that stands out as a significant improvement to me is the forecasting system he’s put in place for the Team. Beyond that I’m at a loss, except to acknowledge that he’s relieved Mike P, Don A and Janet of their positions (early & good calls) and added Gina L and Carrie A who might turn out to be outstanding but are still too new to make a good judgment on at this time.
The sales team is significantly behind production goals, morale is poor, and Paul seems lost in a sea of confusion. He feels to me like a harm, not a help. You no doubt remember why you hired Paul in the first place. Like Greg as Johnny Bravo in The Brady Bunch, Paul fit the suit. You believed that he would bring creative, innovative thinking to our company. You imagined it would be easy, like shooting fish in a barrel, for a technology industry sales veteran like him. You figured that his experience was more important than his industry knowledge, that he had what we really needed to advance the skill, thinking, performance and results of the Team. And you didn’t just trust your instincts (you know you would have hired him using those), you had your top people interview him as well. Bill C, Karen B, Jeff D, Larry L. They liked him too, thought he was a good call. As a result, you decided to hire him. But that was the easy part. The what did you do?
I’ve thought about this a lot and what you neglected to do, stupidly, was to make sure you found and spoke with people who had worked with Paul in the past. How did he handle people, change, culture, difficult situations? Their perspective would have been valuable. Might have saved you from a mistake or helped you prepare for the areas with which he might need help. It’s easy to say you underestimated the complexity of our business to an outsider, and that this put Paul at a disadvantage. I’ve thought a lot about that, and I think you’re being too hard on yourself on that one. ‘Our business is different’ is a too-easy cop out. Maybe it’s more complex than some and less complex than others, but it’s sold the same way they all are; identify needs, create solutions, produce results. Period. Had Paul been more curious and gotten right to work on those things, he would have learned what he needed to learn, understood what clients wanted and needed from us and then made sure that we were giving it to them. Simple as that.
He did not do these things. Instead, he focused too much on what others wanted – what they thought – whatever distractions we put in front of him. He had no plan, so his time was spent on whatever someone else’s plan was instead of what our clients wanted and thought, what our Team and the marketplace needed. Not enough time was spent on selling his ideas, education and work. Not enough on the right things.
That was his mistake. Yours was taking far too long to do something about it.
Well Mike, what are you going to do about this? Is it fair to keep Paul around when you feel like you do? Will you feel like a loser if you let him go? Like a failure because your pick wasn’t a success. Do you have the guts to admit defeat, to give Paul the chance to get back in a situation that works for him, to be a leader, to take the responsibility, to make the change? To get your company back on track? To win?
Well, do ‘ya?
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