Month: June 2011

When Talent Can Hinder Your Performance

Sounds crazy, but sometimes it can, but not for the reasons you may think at first blush.

Talented people in any pursuit have one thing in common. If they ‘know’ they are good they will more often than not under prepare. If they don’t ‘know’, some will over prepare stifling the talent portion for pure adherence to mechanics. In other words, they don’t allow the flow (aka talent) to be realized in their endeavors.  A lot of very talented people also do something far too often. They rely too much on their talent, and procrastinate or just never work on any self improvement believing they can pull rabbits out of the air when needed. They do this because they’ve done it so many times before. More often than not, this continually reinforces itself because most stay within their comfort zone. But once they find themselves in a situation out of the so-called comfort level, the talent shows itself to be not enough, and they falter, or choke.

The hardest point to get across to the talented individual is the concept of basic fundamental improvements. That’s because the talented person believes they have the basics mastered. They reason, if they didn’t, how could they be so talented? And there lies the quagmire.

Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics years back was arguably one of the best shooters in basketball. However, not only was he good, he was good when he needed to be. When everything was on the line. Why? Was it because of talent? Sure it was but was that all of it? Larry I believe knew that he was talented. But unlike most of his day, Larry was always to be found out on the court hours before any game shooting baskets when only the cleaning crew was around. No coaches, no other team mates, just himself most of the time. He didn’t rely on just his talent to get him through his games, he lived, and breathed the fundamentals. He became so proficient in shooting that when he was asked to do a commercial for a soft drink, and the skit was for him to miss a shot he couldn’t! He was so wired from practicing that there were stories about the camera crew laughing because it took him more than a few throws to miss.

When you rely on your talent alone, and the time comes to make the big shot or what ever needs to be accomplished, you want your fundamentals to be as much a part of you as your talent. You always want to have a “success game plan” running even when you’re not trying or thinking about it. This is when it becomes “you”, just as much as your talent, and the two together can produce incredible results. But if you rely on talent, and talent alone, you’re more than likely to choke in the big game of life.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

The Assumptions of Assumed Perfection

Saying that today’s world is far different from yesterdays is not only obvious, it’s an understatement. But what I see as strikingly obvious is how so many take the attitude that everything today, no matter what it is will work perfectly all the time, anywhere. I’m not just talking about technology, or if you have a dropped call. I mean everything.

It was not that long ago if you were taking a road trip by car you would do a full inspection checking tires, making sure the spare was usable, the oil, and everything else that would top any one of today’s service calls. You could never assume that help was just a phone call away because it wasn’t. Usually, there were no phones. Having an array of tools for either your house, or apartment was also just a given. If something broke (and it usually happened in the dead of night) you had to try to fix it with what you had on hand. There were hardware stores of course, but there wasn’t a 24 hour home improvement center, or Walmart® to run to.

I know people today that will get in their car and drive 100 miles in the winter, and have nothing more than a sweater with them. When questioned, the response usually goes something like… “The coat’s too heavy to wear on such a long drive, I want to be comfortable, besides the car has a heater you know.” Yes it does. As long as the car doesn’t stop running for any reason, or you get stuck somewhere. And what happens if you have to walk somewhere to find help? That “comfort” feeling will be long gone as soon as you start. Today, many will hop in a car to drive cross-country, and not even give a second thought to having any troubles on the road. People just assume everything, everywhere will work with no hiccups. You can also see this when you travel by air. Just look at how many people you’ll see either boarding, or disembarking from an air plane in tongs, or some form of flip-flops. You might say, “Oh well it’s so much easier going through security.” I’ll grant you that, but you are traveling on something that can have problems, very big problems. I’ll venture to say as you’re trying to make sure your fashion wear stays on your feet, the people who have on shoes will be vaulting over you as you’re looking for the one that fell off.

Everything we buy, touch, or use today has this implied assumed perfection built into it. Sometimes it all works as promised, but when it doesn’t it can be a little more unsettling than just an inconvenience. You can have very big problems.

You can’t carry a rescue bag with you everywhere you go. Nor can you have a perfect plan for every emergency. But what you can do is remember things break, and usually break at the most inopportune times. If you just get that thought back into your lexicon, I feel you’ll be prepared more than most. You’ll intuitively make sure you have something you may rely on for getting you out of trouble.

Even if that something, is yourself.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights reserved

A Lesson in PR… Not All Advice Is Good Advice

In today’s world people from pop stars to the boardroom executive try to control what others perceive of them. This not only goes for people, but also for places, brands, and so on. Would it be unreasonable for one to estimate that politicians would have some of the keenest instincts on public perception. Would it be crazy to imagine that they knowing how anything can be turned into a negative from a positive faster than a nano second ( I’m not sure if a sound bite is even that long) that they of all of us would understand this, and would display skills that one would envy?

Across the headlines for the last few weeks we had a disgraced Congressman. His downfall was not entirely his actual deeds, but more or less his handling of the matter. For anyone who followed this train wreck that was splashed across both national, and international media outlets, it seemed although his acts were tawdry, it was more on how he tried to handle his PR. (public relations) Not only was it horrific, it seemed he was trying to demonstrate “The Lesson” in what not to do. I would have to guess somewhere, someone was giving him advice, and by that I mean paid advice. Can anyone imagine a politician doing something without asking a paid adviser “How will this poll?” I can’t.  One might also think he was a person of limited resources, and probably couldn’t afford better advisers, and that would be a fair point. So to quote Emeril LaGasse “Let’s kick it up a notch!”

All this month reports on the economy have been dismal. A problem for any politician is the reports are a direct reflection on their handling of the matters at hand. Doesn’t matter if you agree to the fairness of the charges, public perception is the reality for the people at the top. Doesn’t matter if they hold the title CEO or Mr. President. So let me repeat again…perception is reality! So why one might ask would anyone with the resources to have the worlds best advisers allow themselves to not only be caught looking like they were out of touch, but actually promoting it!

Just imagine yourself seated in any boardroom as someone rolls off these bullet points.

  • Sales are off much more than anticipated. Not only are they down but they are showing further declines with no signs of rebounding.
  • Our competitors are gaining market share at such speed that they are negotiating better terms with our suppliers than we can.
  • Our bank has notified us that they are reducing our lines of credit, and they are looking to increase our debt service charge in 90 days.
  • We have just been notified the loans on our hard assets have been acquired by our largest competitor because the banks that previously held them has since been liquidated for being insolvent.
  • Operating expenses such as utilities, fuel, and inventory supplies are rising with seemingly no end in sight.
  • Workers at all our facilities are uneasy, and fear layoffs or worse. The over-riding theme when employees are asked is the response of, “I feel they are out of touch at the top.”

So with this broad overview someone in a perfectly tailored suit gets up, pulls out a laser pointer, asks for the lights to be dimmed, and states the following as the Powerpoint® presentation roars to life…

“What will quell the frustration, and fears throughout both the company, and our valued customers is…wait for it….a GOLF OUTING!” Yes ladies, and gentlemen there is nothing that says business to the common man as the top executives playing a round of golf. What we’ll do is have the CEO, the COO, along with the CFO, and the General Manager play a foursome on one of the best golf courses money can buy. Along with this we’ll not only allow the press, but we’ll encourage them to cover it as many times as they can along with up to the minute scores, jokes, and fairway banter. Ladies, and gentlemen, I contend nothing demonstrates leadership more through tough times than a round of golf!”

It’s as comical as it is tragic. Because it seems someone actually said, “Yes…That’ll work!”

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved

The “Heads Down Display”

I speak to a lot of people on a range of topics. But what I’m realizing more, and more these days, is there may be a test you can self administer on whether you’re really heading in the right direction in both business, and your personal life. Let’s call it a “correlation.” or if you prefer we can use the term “causation.” Both terms have different meanings, however the outcome for the individual is the same in my opinion. So what’s the test?

Do you walk with your head up looking forward at people, places, and things? Or do you walk with your head down while texting, surfing, or anything else you can do on a phone these days? Here’s another variation on the same theme. Do you sit across from a person at a table, and engage in conversation? Or do you have your head down checking your phone every 30 seconds waiting to see the next twit, tweet, or update so you can immediately, twit, tweet, or update a response? Sad to say, but I think too many people can’t pass this test. I am also becoming convinced of late that it just might be the equivalent of showing a persons “caliber” as what one thinks quietly when seeing someone at a black tie event showing up in shorts, and flip-flops. Yes, I really think it’s that telling.

People argue the need to “be in touch” with the same furor one hears if talking politics or religion. The younger the person the more the eyes roll as in “you just don’t get it.” Problem is, I believe I do get it. This is not a new phenomena if looked through the eyes of time. It’s only a different tool, allowing for the same behavior. In other words, not paying attention, and willing to fill ones time with mindless tasks, while having no regard whether the behavior is unproductive, or impolite. I don’t care who you are, or how important you think you are. There is no reason why you should be on the phone talking while at the counter of any business making a transaction. There is also no reason except to display that you might have been abducted by aliens, and under mind control if you’re walking around with a blue light flashing in your ear while carrying on a conversation to what appears empty space. To those of you shopping, it looks like you’re talking to the mannequins. (Which makes you look oh so intelligent. Just saying.)

Technology has changed everything, and at a breakneck speed. It has also ushered in a time like never before that busy work can look like real productivity. And people who argue the most about how productive they are, in reality, are only being productive at looking busy. And they are professionals in that discipline.

If you are trying to get more out of the day, or more out of life I suggest you turn off your phone at times. I personally don’t turn mine on 1/2 the time, and if I need to be accessible for any reason, that’s what voice mail is for. If it’s important, I’ll get the message.

If you want to be really productive, or not look foolish while you’re surfing, texting, and chewing gum. There’s an App that let’s you see where you’re going while you’re looking down. This way you don’t bump into those of us that are watching where both we, and you are heading. Then again, just having the App might mean taking the test is not needed. You’d already have the results.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved

Adventures in Stupidity, Better Know as Advertising

As one of my favorite comedians Joan Rivers would say...”Can we talk?”

Lately I’ve noticed a commercial playing on the financial news channels, and every time I see it I shake my head and think...”Who decided this was a good use of resources?” Or better yet, what “committee?”  These commercials are in a heavier rotation on cable than a Lady Gaga song is on the radio. The only difference for the rotation is people want to hear Ms. Gaga. These commercials get so much air time because there is more free time available than paying advertisers, but that’s another column.

I don’t want to embarrass the company by naming them, nor am I making a statement on how I feel about one side or the other. This is about what I see as just foolish. Or spending dollars on advertising to customers that hate you. Think I’m kidding?

The commercial tries to be high brow. It shows the “Big Company” telling its story on how they are doing this or that, and why you should be impressed. In a split screen shot, it shows what you are to take as a customer making statements on how, and what the company needs to do with its resources, money, and development of products that would put the company out of business if it did. Oh yes. it sounds like someone might have a point, but they don’t. The reason…If the so-called customer portrayed in the commercial had their way, they would put the company out of business, and cheer about it. You don’t have to take my word for it, all you have to do is listen to the wonderful dialogue some writer drafted up. It goes something like this (warning the words have been changed to protect someones job, though I would fire them myself.) “I think the big stone companies should start making plastic pebbles because once you crush stone you can’t put them back together.” then the Big Company comes on and says..”Well we’ve created more rock than anyone else since the big bang, and we’re creating more everyday.” only to hear the other side state something on the idea of, “What do they do with the money they make from stone…We need that money.” only to hear some diatribe about how the big stone company reinvested in the community. All I know is please make this foolishness stop!

The customer that the company is trying to win over hates their company, what they stand for, and buys their product only because they have to. If they didn’t there would be no amount of money you could spend to convince them your nice, and friendly. It’s a pathetic waste of time, resources, and capital. If you’re going to spend money on advertising why not spend it on your true customers, like the customers that buy your product, or the customers that buy your competitor’s product. Ge’ez who’d a thunk it?

You will never change a customer’s mind that can’t stand you or your business. But you just might get the customers who enjoy the benefits of your products to help in changing their minds if it can be changed at all. But you first have to get rid of the committee that thinks it’s a good idea to neglect your paying customers, for customers that want you to pay them for not using your products.

Maybe the advertising committee needs to see a commercial about a more important renewable resource…Happy paying customers.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved

Lament at the Movie Theater

Hollywood is complaining more, and more about theater attendance dwindling. Research is showing year over year the trend is going lower. Movie viewership dropped from an average of 5 movies seen per year, to 4.2 movies now. That’s near a 20% drop.

But is it for the reasons they claim? Going to the movies used to be a family event. For some it was the requisite date night for both single, and married couples. But the last time I went, I just about wanted to either scream or walk out. The reason? Telephones, and NO manners.

I’ve talked about this with others, and the first response is usually “I know , the kids are just unruly these days.” But I take issue with that response.  It’s not just the kids. Granted, the teenagers (and an increasingly larger number of adults!) of today seem to have far fewer skills on how to act in public. But kids have always been to some extent distracting in the theater, that’s why you would go at different times when you could assume the chances of a packed movie house of teenagers was low. So what about now? Enter the wonderful world of “Dim the Lights…and Light Up those Phones!”

Since when did this uncontrollable urge to text, talk, tweet, and so forth every time the world goes silent for more than 4 seconds come from? And why do people not think that it’s just down right rude. It sure doesn’t enhance my movie experience when the people on both sides of me start glowing from the light coming off their phones. I feel like I’m experiencing what it must be like in the world of Tron. Or better yet, how about when the movie gets to an important scene where you’re on pins, and needles. Just then you hear the vibrating phone from the person next to you go off, and they start to chuckle as they read the mysterious glow emanating from their lap. Better yet is the person a few rows away that gets the call with a ring tone blaring “I Gotta Be Me!” that has the same decibel level of a Boeing 747. The real kicker is when this charming person can’t find where they put this shrieking loudspeaker, and now make more noise than the device stating “Where is it? I can’t find it! Oh this is embarrassing!”   Yeah..I bet.

With the advent of today’s home theater components you just don’t need the theater for the “experience” that it once gave. In most cases the biggest experience at the movies is no longer the attractions, but the distractions. What the theaters nor Hollywood are getting in my opinion, is they are not losing attendees because of the lack of interest in movies. They’re losing patrons who are interested, and actually want to go see a movie. Once this is truly realized maybe things will change, but I’m not holding my breath.

This is the same crowd that decided popcorn, and candy should cost a years salary after all.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved

In case you wanted to know what I was thinking….

About a week ago everyone wanted to tell me how I just didn’t get Linked In. All were touting, “It’s different this time.” And I had no idea what I was talking about on such companies.

Fair enough…but I would like to submit “Exhibit A”…Just for the record.

They were right. It was different this time. It happened quicker than I first thought.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved