Monday, September 29, 2008

Why the Bailout Failed

Hoisted by one’s own petard

1. (idiomatic) to be hurt, or destroyed by one’s own plot or device, of one’s own doing which one intended for another; to be “blown up by one’s own bomb”

He has no one to blame but himself; he was hoisted by his own petard.

Most people have a short attention span during non-stressful times and when they are afraid that attention span drops to zero. As a result people jump without thinking, onto what they hear, draw the wrong conclusion, and then remain fixated there resistant to new facts and evidence. Such a mindset is much stronger than all the logic and convincing in the world.

Witness how a tantruming baby can bring an entire dinner if not vacation to its knees.

This is what is happening in the current financial crisis and why once people are locked onto believing that the bailout is all about Wall Street and giving the pigs who caused it a second chance at the trough they will not change their minds.

Given how often I have seen people stay fixated on the wrong thing until the bitter end, I am not optimistic about their changing their mind soon in this crisis. I hope I am wrong.

What usually changes their mind is such a real threat (vs. “dire”) to their survival –losing that job, not having money to buy food, having their car repossessed, or junior returned from college for failure to pay tuition—that they finally see the light and being right or self-righteous doesn’t seem so important. People will keep choking on pride until something is literally choking them to death.

How did we develop such “jump to the wrong conclusionitis?” Americans by nature find reading, listening, thinking painful and will avoid all of them if they can. They have lost their curiosity and replaced it with what is exciting in the moment. They have become adrenaline junkies where they keep chasing after what is interesting at the expense of what is important. And that compulsion/addiction is reinforced everywhere. Why wait for something to be satisfying when you can get immediate gratification now? Why bother with college when you can become an American Idol? Why bother learning when you can be a “know it all” today?

Wall Street, sensationalistic movies, video game manufacturers, ipoderations and political candidates have done everything they can to take advantage of this increasing tendency to be both thoughtless and impulsive.

On the latter note, both candidates do everything they can in every ad they run to take whatever the other has said out of context, because they know they can hook you and me and bend you to their will.

Unfortunately, this devolution (reversing evolution) of Americans from thoughtful humans to thoughtless animals has now put us all on the hook.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Usable Insight - Don't Panic!

first seen at: basil and spice!

When you focus on what needs to be done today and just do it,
you stop being afraid of what might happen tomorrow.
-Bob Eckert, CEO and Chairman, Mattel

Bob Eckert, the CEO of Mattel, Inc., told me the story of a time when panic nearly overtook him. It was Sunday afternoon in 1990, and the 35-year old Eckert, then a division president at Kraft Foods, stared at the NFL game on television. He felt like a deer in the headlights of a career disaster.

Kraft had been accused of price gauging in the Chicago Tribune. The outcries against the company and Eckert were immediate and strong. “Legislators were talking about coming down on Kraft as a monopoly and multiple trade rags said that heads were going to roll,” he recalls. “And the head that would roll first would no doubt be mine. My fear of failure was palpable.” Watching the game, he felt like he was about to be massively and injuriously tackled.

Bob Eckert kept staring at the television and listened to an interview with the innovative Cincinnati Bengals coach Sam Wyche. The Bengals – who had won the Super Bowl the previous year — had just lost their ninth game of the season. Wyche had been called on the carpet; it was common knowledge that he was about to lose his job.

A reporter approached him and said: “Coach, you’re going to get fired on Tuesday. Tell me about it.” Wyche responded directly to the camera: “You know I’m going to get fired Tuesday and I know. But that’s not important. What is important is to help this team get better up until I’m let go.”

Eckert felt stunned. “It seemed like he was talking directly to me,” he said. The next morning, he went back to work accepting that he would be fired, but determined to help the company do better in the meantime. Instead of continuing to feel like Chicken Little worrying about the sky falling, he applied himself to important tasks that pulled Kraft through the crisis.

Needless to say, Eckert wasn’t fired. He stayed on at Kraft, became its President and CEO, and moved on to the top job at Mattel, Inc.(where he has continued to heed this advice through the recalls of many Mattel products using lead paint).

“Of all the advice I’ve ever received and followed, Wyche’s is pre-eminent,” Eckert told me later. “Maybe it’s because when you’re alone in self-doubt it can escalate rapidly until you can’t move. But when someone who’s in the hot seat shows such determination, it can inspire you to develop your own resolve. Wyche’s advice helped me to overcome being afraid to fail. It guides me still.”

The above was excerpted from“Chapter 16: Panicking” Get Out of Your Own Way at Work …and Help Others Do the Same, by Mark Goulston, M.D. Perigee Books, $14.95).

Of additional interest on the topic of this blog in the same book is “Chapter 9: Lacking Self-Discipline.” The essence of that chapter is that life is not about self-discipline, it is about habits. Successful people have different habits than unsuccessful people AND people who panic have different habits than those who remain calm. A habit is a routine behavior that you do regularly that requires little to no effort to maintain, because it has become internalized.

* LINKS AND EVENTS FOR USABLE INSIGHT SUBSCRIBERS:* WE ARE ALL IN THIS WORLD TOGETHER, BUT IN TIMES OF FEAR WE PULL APART, ISOLATE AND THAT’S WHEN FEAR CAN TURN TO PANIC. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY. IF YOU WANT TO BUILD A TOUGH, SMART, “BAND OF BROTHERS” TEAM AND CULTURE THAT CAN MAKE IT THROUGH ANYTHING, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE SIGN UP TO ATTEND THIS SEMINAR. Become a Tribal Leader, September 30, 2008 9:30-11 AM PST. Live virtual seminar featuring Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fisher Wright authors of Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization, hosted by Dr. Mark Goulston at The Center for Great Management.

* Join my new FOCUS and READY, AIM, CHANGE Groups at the new Keith Ferrazzi community. Sign in and become a member.