Sunday at church our minister posed a profound question that I have been wrestling with ever since: “At the end of our lifetime, what would people line up to thank us for?” I had two immediate thoughts. The first, “How long would my line be?” The second, “Who would be in the line?”
I grew up the son of two ministers. My father and mother both graduated from Yale Divinity School. Additionally, my Grandfather was not only a minister, he was also a Brigadier General Chaplain in WWII. When he deployed for the war, his church ordained his wife as the minister of that church. I am surrounded by ministers and have always been around the church, constantly involved in giving and serving through local communities or missions. Having said that, as I reflect on my impact as a professional, I wonder what wisdom I have shared, based on my life experiences, beyond the walls of my company and with my customers. Therefore, the impetus of this series of articles is to share what I’ve learned over my 33 years in business in hopes that it will be of help to those that take the time to read it!
So often in business, we are encouraged to protect our ideas and solutions in fear of the competition stealing our “secret sauce”. Well, after contemplating my minister’s question this past Sunday, I’ve decided to share openly what I’ve learned through (primarily) real-life experiences. If it helps my competition, then it will help my industry – and we will all win – so here we GO!
In case you don’t know about our GoPivot Team, allow me to sum it up in two words: CHANGE MAKERS! Change is what we do; “We give everyone a reason to change!”
Change? Big word isn’t it? Can anyone really be an expert in change? Change is constant. It surrounds us every minute of every day. We cannot escape change, yet I’ve heard it said a thousand times, “People just don’t like change.” Really? Is that true? Do you know anyone who can make it even one day without experiencing change? Think about it for a second. Does anything in life go exactly according to plan or are things changing everywhere around us?
As an example, let’s talk about traffic. I live in Atlanta and believe me, the traffic in this town rivals traffic anywhere in the world. I have commuted here for over 30 years now. I can honestly say that the way that I come to work each day has never been exactly the same. Yesterday, I changed lanes 20 times coming to work. Today, it was raining, so I took a different route. The cars and trucks around me have been different every single day.
Let’s talk about another example of constant change. How about the weather? Does the wind blow the exact same way every day? Is each sunny or rainy day identical? Of course not. So, to say that people don’t like change is a misrepresentation of change. For me, the same exact weather every day would be boring. I like the change, and I love the seasons. Traffic? Can I do anything about the traffic? Absolutely! I could decide not to drive in it. I could look for another job that allows me to work from home. Believe it or not, I choose to be in the traffic. Why? The other changes that I would need to make to get out of the traffic are changes that I don’t want to make.
I think the truthful answer is that, “People are all unique and one positive change for one person could be perceived as a negative change for another.” Some people prefer cold weather while others prefer tropical weather. We are all wired differently.
Recently, I was watching “The Equalizer” and there was a line in that movie that got my attention. Denzel Washington was sitting in a café’ late at night and had befriended a young lady, who was making her living on the streets. He was encouraging her to pursue her passions and she quickly shot him down by claiming that, in her world, she could never pursue singing. He immediately responded, “Change your world!”
Change your world! Change your world! How does that happen? Pretend that you are playing catch with one of your friends, but are tired and don’t want to play anymore. You yell at your friend, “Hey, I’m tired and I don’t want to play catch anymore.” As these words are coming out of your mouth, your friend throws the ball back to you and…you catch it. In frustration, you say again, “I don’t want to play anymore,” and throw it back at your friend. Then, before you know it, here comes the ball again and…you catch it. What’s going on here? You are telling your friend that you don’t want to play, yet your actions say something else. You continue to catch and throw.
Now, let’s look at life for just one second. Let’s say you work for a company that always has meetings late in the day, but this is a big problem for you as you need to pick your kids up from school. You’ve asked many times for the meeting time to be changed and have offered many other solutions, but nothing has changed. The meeting still happens late in the day and you begrudgingly are in attendance despite the concerns you’ve raised. You feel trapped. Have you ever felt that way? Well, here’s a novel thought: don’t show up at the next meeting. What? Really? “I’ll get fired if I do that.” Let’s think about it a little further. You have a lot of documentation expressing why this meeting time is a problem for you and have suggested numerous alternatives, which have all been ignored. Will you get fired? How vital are you to the meeting? Can the meeting really carry on and be productive without you? My wife experienced this years ago, when her work supervisor had meetings on Sunday mornings. She went through all the hoops (as described above) and we decided that it was highly unlikely that she would get fired. And if she did get fired, we agreed that such an action would clearly reflect a company culture that wasn’t right for her. So, she didn’t attend the next meeting. “Where were you?” they asked. “We had a meeting this morning.” She politely told them that she had repeatedly indicated that she could not meet on Sunday mornings, so it shouldn’t have been such a surprise to them that she didn’t show up. Guess what? She didn’t get fired and they changed the meeting time.
Here’s the question: when did the world change in that scenario? It did not change until my wife changed. In the other example, if the ball comes and you don’t catch it, what happens?
Let me use food as another example.
I love popcorn. It’s my biggest weakness. My wife likes to make me happy, so she buys it for me. One day, I said, “I eat way too much popcorn. It has so much butter and salt. I’ve got to stop eating popcorn.” I said this over and over again as the popcorn was popping in the microwave. Well, one evening, I went to the pantry…and there was no popcorn. “Honey, where it the popcorn?” She responds, “You ate it all.” “I know that, but why didn’t you buy some more the last time you were at the store?” “I didn’t buy any because you said you wanted to stop eating it,” my wife explains. I then said in irritation, “You mean to tell me that I have to drive to the store to get some?” “Yes, that’s what I mean,” she firmly replies.
Interesting dilemma; could I drive to the store? Yes, I could – but I didn’t want too. My shoes were off and I was comfortable. So, what did I do? I ate blueberries instead.
Indulge me a little bit more…
My dad and his wife are always late. If we need them to be somewhere at 5pm, they will show up after 6:00 pm. This past Thanksgiving, the meal was at our house. I told them that we would be eating at 3:00 pm. I knew at that moment that they would be late. In past years, we all waited for them; not this year. 3:00 pm rolled around and I circled everyone up. “It’s time to eat.” “Where’s Dad?” my sister asked. “I don’t know, but he’s not here,” I replied. Stunned, my sister asked, “Shouldn’t you wait on them before we eat?” I quickly replied, “No. Why should I make everyone else wait?” So, guess what? We didn’t wait. My dad walked in around 4:15 pm apologizing (like he always does) for being late and I responded, “Why apologize? The rest of us weren’t late.” “You guys ate without us?” he asked. “Yes, we did. .I told you that we would be eating at 3:00 pm,” I assertively replied.
Now, let’s fast forward to Christmas Eve dinner. I instructed my dad that we would be eating at 7:00 pm. Guess who showed up at 5:30pm? Not only that, he and his wife joined us for the Christmas Eve Service at our church.
So back to the original question: change your world? Worlds change when we change. My dad decided he didn’t want to miss another meal because I am known in my family for being one hell of a cook. Point is, I had to change. How many times are we frustrated because of the lack of change in those around us? We often live in fear. “Oh, I can’t do that.” You should have seen the looks on my sister’s faces when I said that we weren’t waiting on Dad to arrive.
How does all of this apply to our tagline, “We give everyone a reason to change.” Tune in to the next article as I unpack my secret formula to, “Changing our worlds!”
Don Doster – CEO, GoPivot