“A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations.” — Patricia Neal
Expecting others to do as well as they sometimes do is both unreasonable and counterproductive. It’s like a twelve-year-old hitting a homerun and then being told, “I knew you could do it. Now let’s have another one. You are a homerun hitter.”
The problem is, of course, that there won’t be a homerun every time and now a single is sub-standard performance. The unspoken or perhaps spoken message is, “You aren’t giving it your best effort. You should have gotten a homerun.”
This applies to a sales person making an unusually big sale, a scientist making a new discovery, a team winning the big game, and so on but also applies to less consequential events and activities. It’s appropriate to expect excellent performance but you know that expecting exceptional or perfect performance every time is a sure way to demoralize and frustrate any person.
B-t-B (By The Book) players are slow to deal with problems or conflicts
Once you understand the motivations behind the technique, its use becomes straightforward. First, if the player starts to deal with the issue, he is accepting some degree of responsibility for it. Next, others may hold him accountable for the existence of the difficulties or at least for how things turn out. Playing B-t-B requires someone or something on which to dump the responsibility and the blame, if things go sour. For the player dealing with anything lessens his ability to point the finger anywhere but toward himself.
B-t-B players play it safe
Using this technique is not as easy as you might first think. The trick is to see that it is a very complex play. First, the player must be able to see when there is a risk of any kind. Next, the successful player uses all his options.
Option one is to avoid doing anything that could turn out badly. Option two is to have a backup or a cut-and-run plan.
Rich is another master with the technique. His main play is to do things the same way he always does them. What has worked before is likely to work again. He knows people seldom find fault with his handling things in the usual way, whether it works or not.
Next, Rich always looks at how things can go sour and little at how they can succeed. He asks, “What are the three strongest reasons for not doing this?” His motto is nothing ventured, nothing lost.
Finally, any time he has to do something that has some risk, he spends most of his time figuring out what to say if it goes sour. Of course, the best thing to be able to say is, “I was uneasy about this but went along reluctantly. I handled it the same way we always handle things. I did it By The Book. I can only say I held up my end. Someone dropped the ball.”
Rich’s play calls for doing things the same way he always does them. He avoids all risk as much as possible and has an explanation for failure made up ahead of time. Sure, there is a more simple version of Rich’s play. Do not do anything new or innovative and try hard to keep others from making that mistake. When in doubt, do nothing and there is always room for doubt.
B-t-B players put most time and energy into worrying and keeping things the same.
For the B-t-B player, any change is a risky business. Any time there is change, there is some degree of uncertainty. This uncertainty makes it unclear how to cover one’s self and could require some change in the game plan. For the B-t-B player, the old ways are always the best ways because they are familiar and usually work. Risk to the player is minimal – the player’s bottom line. Any change is risky and must be avoided.
B-t-B players never do anything quickly
Timing is everything. For the successful player, timing is the only thing. Those who are aspiring but not yet accomplished B-t-B players think timing has to do with making the right move at the right time. The experienced player knows better. Timing has to do with nothing but not making the wrong move. Better safe than sorry is the motto of the expert B-t-B player. It is a simple truth that one seldom receives criticism for what he does not do. It is also true things usually work out in a non-negative way so long as no one interferes. It does not matter what positive outcomes have been precluded so long as things do not get worse. Put this wisdom together and you can easily see why the player figures that it is best to put off decisions and actions as long as possible. The logic is sound. You only need to accept the premise that calls for the safety and no risk life of the B-t-B player.
The key to using the technique is knowing how to postpone everything. Having a few tricks will be helpful. Here are some things to say if push comes to shove:
• Let me get back to you on this one
• Get me some more hard data
• Give me a couple of days to give this one a closer look
• Better safe than sorry
• This may seem like a little project, but I think your being involved makes it important enough to go slowly
If the pressure builds up, taking it up the ladder, taking it to a staff meeting, or requesting a written recommendation are useful. If it is already in writing, the player asks for a summary or a more detailed proposal, depending on what is not readily available. The goal is to put the whole thing off as long as possible without seeming to be resistive or less than supportive. Many times, everyone just gives up before having to jump through the hoops.
There is a story about a government type who always asks for written requests. The eager staffers prepare their requests in a few days. The day after they turn them in, the bureaucrat gives the requests back with a demand for more data. This process cycles at least three times. At that point, he reads the proposals. The next step is for him to edit the paperwork and give it back to the staffers. This cycles for two or three rounds and then he refers the proposal to either a staff meeting or up the ladder. From there, the game goes on until the staffers give up, quit, or the idea is out of date. The player’s rule is that nothing is so urgent it cannot wait.
B-t-B players avoid responsibility
For these players, not accepting responsibility is axiomatic but let’s elaborate. The challenge for the player is not to give his game away. Success in the organization depends on being seen as accepting responsibility. The more responsibility the player’s superiors think he accepts, the more likely the player will get promotions and more responsibility.
How can the player get the benefits of accepting responsibility without taking on the liabilities? It is actually fairly easy.
First, the player does everything necessary to get into a position of authority or leadership. At lower levels, this happens by volunteering to head projects, chair committees, or anything else that makes other people responsible to the B-t-B player.
The next trick is to delegate all tasks or decisions to those under the player. If things work out well – and they usually will – the player smiles and gives the credit to those who did the work. Of course, everyone can see that this classy person is quite a manager and is definitely someone who can handle responsibility.
If things do not go well, a fixed B-t-B rule says never blame your subordinates. The skilled player says, “My people gave it all they had. They are a great group. It was just a little beyond their reach this time. They have what it takes, though. They will do nothing but get better.” Notice how the B-t-B player stays close but just a little above his people. The failure is not their fault and they will do better next time. Of course, the failure has nothing to do with the player himself. The trick here is to be the leader and not part of those people who are responsible.
Sure, the player will need more people, more resources, and probably a bigger title to get the job done next time. It also is as sure as oil going up the wick that there will be a next time.
B-t-B players take no chances
The FastChip Corporation is a small computer supply business catering to the home computer market. Its location in a large shopping center gives the store a lot of traffic and a high percentage of small cash-and-carry sales. The rest of the sales are in the area of $1,000 to $3,000. These larger sales are hardware.
The store policy is not to sell their display stock. If there is not stock in the back, the customer gets a 5 percent discount and delivery within twenty-four hours. This assures that each customer sees the full line.
On Monday, December 1, the store’s policies are a problem. An aircraft manufacturer experiences a power disaster that brings down its computer system. As an interim measure, it sends out for thirty-two PC systems. The disaster makes the need urgent.
Rick, the FastChip manager, receives a personal visit from the manufacturer’s buyer. The offer is to buy the twelve systems in stock for 90 percent of the retail price. This takes the systems on display and those in the back.
Rick has a problem. Should he follow the store’s policies or make a $17,000 sale? Of course, this is not a problem for a B-t-B player like Rick. His first step is to tell the buyer that it will take until 3 p.m. to get a decision. From 11 a.m. when the offer comes, Rick stews over the decision and tries to contact the owner. At 3:30 p.m. when the buyer calls him, Rick tells the buyer they cannot help out this time.
It is a triple play of sorts. Rick puts off dealing with the issue, worries about it, and then opts to play it safe.
What does the owner say when Rick tells him about the missed deal? Do not be silly! B-t-B players never tell, unless it is on someone else. Even if the owner finds out later, Rick can assure him that he tried to contact him. He also can reference store policy and honestly share how much he worried about and struggled with the decision. B-t-B players are, if nothing else, company people. The worst part is that Rick is sure he made the right decision. Better safe than sorry!
“Respect a man, and he will do all the more.” — John Wooden
Demonstrate your respect for and pleasure with the successes and accomplishments of other people. The key here is twofold. You respect the achievements of others and actively demonstrate that respect and the pleasure you experience when they do well. Respect in this context includes holding the other person and the action or accomplishment in high esteem, feeling delighted, and actively expressing approval.
“Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow.” — Dorothy Thompson
Resist the temptation to either focus on what is not going well or on what is. It may be a function of human nature to attend mostly to the negative or to the positive, depending on one’s personality; but you understand that this is not a simple matter of choice or personal preference. The key to success is seeing that neither focusing on the positive nor on the negative is advisable.
At a more fundamental level, the reality is that things are continuously transitioning from a past state to a future state. Your primary responsibility is to affect the transition so as to actualize the desired future state. To do this, the task is to reduce and eliminate the disparity between the present and future states, without redefining or compromising the desired future state. Your focus then needs to be on the cluster of elements that affect the future state either as contributors or as detractors, understanding that neither is more or less important than the other. Focus must be on the gestalt.
“We must exchange the philosophy of excuse for the philosophy of responsibility.” — Barbara Jordan
Holding people responsible and accountable on the one hand and blaming and accusing them on the other are not the same. Holding someone responsible is a performance standard. Holding them accountable is a performance expectation. Alternatively, blaming and accusing imply negative opinions and perceptions of the individual.
To blame someone or accuse them represents a pejorative assessment of them. Blaming and accusing are always subjective and personal while responsibility and accountability are performance elements that can be objectively evaluated and, if necessary, adjusted. Since other people are accountable for their performance, the level of responsibility extended to them may be increased or decreased, depending on their performance. To blame or accuse are counterproductive. Holding people responsible and accountable are key elements in your approach with people. It starts with holding yourself responsible and accountable and then simply extending the principle to other people.
“Praise out of season, or tactlessly bestowed, can freeze the heart as much as blame.” — Pearl S. Buck
You aren’t stingy with praise nor are you lavish with it. You are quick to recognize and acknowledge the successes and accomplishments of others but don’t confuse praise with simple good manners. Please and thank you and noting that someone did a good job or was helpful are not examples of praise. They are, rather, merely examples of good manners and are integral to your habitual deportment. Alternatively, praise is an intentional and thoughtful action which privately or publicly acknowledges and commends excellence. You reserve praise for exceptional or extraordinary performance, never missing an opportunity to praise when anyone meets that standard.
“Anything in life that we don’t accept will simply make trouble for us until we make peace with it.” — Shakti Gawain
Accept people as is. Your goal isn’t to change anyone. Rather, you focus on encouraging and facilitating in ways that enable each person to achieve optimal performance within the context of their skills, abilities, and interests. Concurrently, you expect people to expand and improve their capacities and are ready to help with that process however you can. People aren’t expected to change but are expected to grow and develop.
“Whatever we expect with confidence becomes our own self-fulfilling prophecy.” — Brian Tracy
This is no less true when we expect other people to succeed, expect them to do things correctly, expect them to give everything they do their best effort. You are surprised when other people make mistakes, give things less than their best effort, don’t succeed. Since you expect success, you assume personal responsibility for mistakes of others, lackluster effort, non-success. Your first take on the situation is that you haven’t been smart enough or skilled enough to effectuate the right outcome. You then work with the person to identify the deficiencies. You modify your performance so that you better facilitate the other person’s success.
“If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.” — Margaret Mead
Have a high tolerance for and acceptance of differing personalities, traits and characteristics, personal styles, individual values and beliefs, and for the idiosyncrasies of people. Similarly, carefully manage fluctuations in people’s moods, points of view, and interests. Alternatively, have little tolerance for sub-standard work, less than complete attention to the task at hand, or lackluster performance. You always give your best effort and expect others to do the same.
“When we have begun to take charge of our lives, to own ourselves, there is no longer any need to ask permission of someone.” — George O’Neil
Don’t shirk or avoid responsibility. Do everything you have agreed to do to the best of your ability. The underlying principle here is this. All of your internal systems and processes are on high alert and active. You are much sharper and better able to perceive and manage things, when you are giving your best effort.
“Indecision is debilitating; it feeds upon itself; it is, one might almost say, habit-forming. Not only that, but it is contagious; it transmits itself to others.” — H. A. Hopf
Make decisions and take action thoughtfully but quickly. Don’t delay or postpone decisions or actions, don’t try to avoid or defer doing what needs done, and don’t hesitate or proceed reluctantly. Your actions and reactions aren’t impulsive or ill considered. They are, instead, decisive and timely. In part, you are able to do this because you tune into and trust your intuition. Experience tells you that trusting yourself is a reliable path to success.
“Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road.” — Dag Hammarskjöld
Focus most of your time and energy on goal attainment. Minimize time and energy absorbed by worrying about unlikely contingencies and maintaining the status quo. This strategy maximizes your focus on the here-and-now. It minimizes the amount of static or irrelevant data thus enabling you to focus your intuition nearly exclusively on goal-centered data.
“Thoughtless risks are destructive, of course, but perhaps even more wasteful is thoughtless caution which prompts inaction and promotes failure to seize opportunity.” — Gary Ryan Blair
Be cautious without becoming paralyzed by the potential downside of action. Pursue your goals continuously but incrementally, testing/evaluating progress toward the goal. This approach assures movement toward the goal without exposing yourself to unnecessary and avoidable jeopardy. You shouldn’t simply play it safe but should play it cautiously. You don’t proceed haphazardly or impulsively, risking not giving yourself time and opportunity to process, analyze, predict, evaluate, and modify actions and circumstances. By exercising caution, you provide your intuition maximum opportunity.
“All men have an instinct for conflict: at least, all healthy men.” — Hilaire Belloc
Don’t avoid dealing with conflict, disagreements, and difficult issues for fear of stepping on the feelings of others. Neither should you charge ahead insensitively or inconsiderately. Rather, deal concurrently with the issue or concern and with the feelings and sensitivities of others.