One of the coolest things I have ever seen...

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

Reflecting on our careers and the hundreds to thousands of situations we have found ourselves involved with, there are always one or two that stand out. Why they stand out will be as unique as our individuality  - This is one of mine. As you can appreciate I will change all the names and be a little vague with the business situation but for the event itself, I will try to help you see what I saw as it really one of the coolest things ever. So sit back, grab a glass of wine and enjoy the "spinning" of my tale.

The company I worked for had a very strong and historical relationship with a business partner who distributed their product through us...for very complicated reasons we were asked to take on a sub-distributor as part of their distribution supply chain. Let's just say it was one big hot mess from our perspective and a road trip was needed to discuss the situation, and if we got our way, have this god awful situation dissolved. We were to meet with Malcolm the President and Susan his VP of Sales and Marketing. On our side it was the GM, the sales leader and myself representing marketing; we all knew why we were there as they had heard our "shit show" story before.

You know when you are on your game - When everything moves the way you want it to, you are two answers ahead of the discussion and it unfolds as if you had written it yourself?  This was one of those moments. Discussion point after discussion point Malcolm was engaging and leaning more and more to dissolving this sub-distributor contract - You could literally feel it, it was on the tip of his tongue, he was about to say those magic words, "we have to dissolve this arrangement as it's bad for our business" (or some words to that effect). A glorious day!

Then it happened.

 Susan who had been sitting next to Malcolm all this time, saying very little actually, put a single finger on his forearm and said, "Malcolm, we should talk about this before you make a final decision". There was a short cryptic conversation between them regarding broader business ramifications and those magic words never came. The meeting was over. Our good old college try was appreciated but ultimately we walked away with umbrellas open back into the storm. It happened so quickly.

So why do I still look back on this business moment with a certain fascination?

The momentum change for one thing, it was like a pin touching a bubble but it was in Susan's simple act to be sure, the way she symbolically pushed the button with her finger and tossed the wrench in. I had worked with Susan a number of times, respected her skills as well as her leadership and would have worked for her in a second... there was no doubt she was a trusted business confidant and important part of Malcolm's leadership team. And maybe that is truly why to this day I remember it all so clearly; it was the team Malcolm had... what I saw was a glimpse into his team, how they operated and his leadership - the people who surrounded him

Tim Ferris is quoted in saying, “But you are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn't making you stronger, they're making you weaker.” I wonder if he has met Malcolm as he did a really good job with who surrounded him.

The symbolism of that simple touch on the forearm will forever resonate with me as it really was my first peak into something I know now as a simple truism... good people are everything.

So there you have it.



I think I'm a Change Agent... just damn.

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

Two independent but related events happened over the past week that got me to thinking and they both involve the term "Change Agent". I was writing a blog post on Amanda Palmer and out of nowhere found myself typing the words "Change Agent", which made me feel funny somehow. Then a couple of days later I was helping a friend solve a problem with a PowerPoint presentation and her new Mac where in the conversation she called me a Change Agent. To that I paused, again felt funny and corrected her by saying, " No I am not... I am just adaptable."

This did however give me an idea to write about Change Agents, have some fun with it and create a fictitious spy agency featuring a bunch of "Archers"* leading the charge for change while reporting to a father figure named "Chief"** - Sounds like some good fun and I do love change! So it turns out that it was a painful chore, as I found there was always this block as I typed away... that funny feeling again. With my desire to get this published I figuratively looked in the mirror and whispering, "Ya I know, I'm a Change Agent... just damn"*** with a conflicted acknowledgement of the calling. Why the reticence you ask? 

See being a Change Agent, is all about "living in the contradiction" where on one hand intellectually we know survival is all about changing, evolving and adapting, something visionary leaders love... but on the other hand, deep down most of us, many of us, almost all of us don't like change, ambivalence and the perceived loss of control -  We want the predictable, as it offers a sense of security, control and safety... hence the contradiction. People love the concept of us but really don't want us at the "party"... although ultimately we do make the party list and stand in the corner eating cocktail wiener doodles. 

Bet if you Google "Change Agent" you will get a definition something like this - Someone who can envision the need for change and has the ability to execute on it. Usually enabled with competencies such as resource management, operational understanding and execution, strong networking abilities, influencing skills as well as intuitive leadership. (many times without a title of influence). Let me also add, and it goes without saying, that they have a very high tolerance for change, emotionally embrace it, can operate in ambivalence and probably a contrarian. And by necessity, to be a good change agent, "ya' gotta be different".

So lucky fucking me, as I deep down I do want to make it onto the A party list. So really, unlike the secret organization outlined, being a Change Agent is more of a calling, which takes you places that others tend not to go, or at least resist (sometimes with great drama).

And why? It's the word change... I mean, if there was the word  "execution" in front of agent for sure you would make the A list, get all the top shelf liquor and most definitely have a cool organization.

Again, we all know why we dislike change so it is not my purpose to offer any lofty position on the subject other than to say it is simply not something that bothers me really... yes sometimes it's "inconvenient" but as "god is my witness" it's not something I fear or am even uncomfortable with. And here is the simple reason - Change brings opportunity.

So here is my advice... stop looking at change as a bad thing, as you are simply self fulfilling your prophecy and opening the door to your worst fears or whatever "negative" you associate with change. I have attached the "Who moved my Cheese" video, so check it out as is is worth the 17 minutes - I love this story and share it when the "Topic of Change" comes up. (it' a great little book to hand out to people when change is "afoot")

So please, if I can ask two things of you, remember change truly equates to opportunity and try to get us on the A party list as I understand the cocktail wiener doodles are the best.


Archer is an American adult animated television series created by Adam Reed that follows the exploits of a secret agent

** The  Chief was the head of CONTROL played by Edward Platt in the TV series GET SMART. (a classic)

*** Originally I said "I think I'm a Change Agent...just fuck" but calmed it down a bit for this post.




Falling in love with Amanda Palmer a little ...

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

I watch TED talks regularly as I find them inspirational, thought provoking and they introduce me to people that I most likely will never meet but who say things worth listening to - I highly recommend it!

It was TED who introduced me to Amanda Palmer.

Let me back up a second here and let you know that way back when, like all of us, I had to make a decision as to what I would do "when I grow up". For me I did have to decide if I wanted to travel the road of an artist or go into the sciences - ultimately I took the science route as I figured there was enough angry young man art already without me adding to the collection. The sciences have served me well but I have a great affinity for the arts in all shapes and sizes as it makes me whole.

Amanda Palmer is a musician as well as a poet I suspect, so right away I have a soft spot for her - she is also tall, attractive, well spoken, daring and original. The foundations for a crush are set but then compound watching her TED talk a couple more times, checking out her web site and watching some of her music videos and it becomes official that I've fallen in love a little. I've attached her TED talk so you can check it out and see for yourself.

I would like to think I do not slide into "groupie status" so easily and hence my "science/ business hybrid side" kicks in and I need to discover what is really at the core of this newly minted crush. I actually like Amanda's cabaret punk but it turns out my crush has nothing to do with the artist per se but actually the business woman... it's probably not even an aspect of any formal business frame work but more simply who she is, which serves business very well. 

I've fallen in love with Amanda because she is uber-customer connected and different! 

For me, Amanda has redefined "customer oriented"... in fact, I'm now throwing out the term as a part of my lexicon and using "Customer Connected". I look at my business career as well as other businesses that believe they are guided by being customer oriented but I dare say they are probably not - at most "transactionally efficient", which is by no means customer connected. I dare you to look at your customer through Amanda's eyes... look hard at what you see and decide if you are really connected. Oh one more thing, I get that having a bunch of drunken Germans draw on you may be hard to scale but the spirit of it most definitely isn't!

I'm was almost afraid to write the word "different" as it's a black hole for debate, definition and every philosophy ever created; so in the context of my crush I will say that Amanda being different allows her to see the status quo and say, "why do we have to do it that way" and "the way I see it, it needs to change for success"... different is what drives change. Different is that Change Agent people whisper about and that is what Amanda Palmer is.

So there you have it... someone who truly connects with the customer as well as who can see past the current situation to change the game... how can a person not fall in love a little?


PS: Amanda, if you ever read this know there is a couch at my place with your name on it. Bring Neil too, as I like his books.