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October 2005
Success Harmony Newsletter


Recently, I sat down with a financial advisor. He works for a large established firm but dreams of having his own business one day. He has some ideas about what he will want to do, and it is clear to him that he has a lot he can learn in his current work that could help him when he finally does set out on his own in, say, five or ten years' time.

We spoke about what he could do to position himself better for the future he wants. It became clear rather quickly that he wanted to be an entrepreneur but did not think like one. He was superb at answering the questions that his clients posed to him. But he didn't know or use the clients' situations to give ideas to problems the clients didn't even know they had. He thought like an employee, not like a partner. What's the difference, and why should it matter to him?

At its heart, employee-thinking is based on focusing on process. The stereotyped government employee who says "it's not my job" to a request that may technically be in someone else's job description but would take him 1 minute to complete rather than 15 minutes to explain first to the "correct" employee. The worker who says "I work hard, I stay late" as a justification for higher pay. The union negotiator who claims that higher pay should be based on seniority.

Is there anything wrong with rewarding more experience, harder work, or clarity in job functions? No, there isn't. But what is wrong is that the focus on such things takes away the correct incentivization, and that is the value of the work and the fact that every job exists to fill a need. The focus should be on whether that need is being met. This is where partner-thinking comes in. At its heart, partner-thinking doesn't ask how long something takes. It asks what needs to be done to fill a need, and then it goes about to do what it takes. It is comfortable with being judged because it knows that its work results in more value than it takes away in the form of pay.

If I have a brain tumor and I go to a surgeon, do I want one that is inexpensive but only has a 8-hour time limit? What if the surgery is complicated and requires 8.5 hours of surgery, but the surgeon had called it quits at the end of 8 hours, because that's the end of his work day? I would far rather have the brain surgeon whose commitment is to get the tumor out as completely and with as few complications as humanely possible. If it takes her 15 minutes to do so and she gets to go home, I don't care. If she gets an insanely per-hour rate for that, I don't care. Good for her. On the other hand, if it takes her 15 hours to do it right, I would love the surgeon who will stay. Where my life is at stake, I want a results-oriented person, not a process-oriented person.

So maybe it's obvious with this example, but it's just the same with any job. Should a janitor focus on the hours put in or how clean the office he's hired to clean gets? Should a postal carrier focus on the number of hours or when the mail gets delivered? In our society, the mainstream focus tends to be on the number of hours worked, and this is fine for all the people who want to remain employees for the rest of their lives, dependent on someone else giving them a paycheck. For those who want to make a switch to being the master of their destiny, they think like partners to those they serve. Partners ask of their clients: "who are you, what do you care about, what do you need, what are your concerns, what are your dreams, what are your goals?" before they ask "how can I help you?" When we ask, "how can I help you?", we assume they know. When we ask, "what is your situation?" first, we (after all, they are coming to us because WE are the expert at our job, right?), we might be in a position to recommend a far better, cheaper, faster, more effective solution than they may have thought of themselves.

There might not be time or relevance to ask this of every person who comes to the local 7-Eleven store, but even the low-paid store clerk can still watch for patterns of who comes in, when, what they buy, what they don't buy, what they ask for that the store repeatedly doesn't have, and what seems to be driving their decisions - and then make recommendations for future stocking decisions. I guarantee that this store, over time, will sell more because people go to places that solve their problems more often than to places that merely punch in and out. How about the store clerk? Will he get valued more by his current employer? Perhaps, and then he will stay. If not, I'd place my bets that he will be opening his own store one day - and do far better with his store than his old employer who couldn't get beyond the "dollars paid for hours worked" paradigm.

Sunshine and smiles,


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"Opportunities multiply as they are seized.."
Sun Tzu

"Those that climb a ladder must start at the lowest step."
German Proverb .

"Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others.
Unsuccessful people are always asking, "What's in it for me? ."

Brian Tracy





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© 2002 Pavla Michaela Polcarova, CPR Coaching Services, Vancouver, BC, Canada