I was re-reading some passages from Peter Drucker in The Effective Executive. He has a chapter on CONTRIBUTION – I hope some of these nuggets speak to you like they continue to speak to me:
“The effective executive focuses on contribution. He looks up from his work and outward toward goals. He asks: “What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and the results of the institution I serve?” His stress is on responsibility.” (Note: Peter Drucker lived from 1909-2005. His writing and thoughts on management were visionary and clear and his observations from the 1970’s still represent some of the best thinking on ‘management’ I can find. I’ve left quotations as they were originally printed but wanted to recognize that his writing is very ‘male dominant’.)
“Commitment to contribution is commitment to responsible effectiveness. Without it, a man shortchanges himself, deprives his organization, and cheats the people he works with.”
“The man who focuses on efforts and who stresses his downward authority is a subordinate no matter how exalted his title and rank. But the man who focuses on contribution and who takes responsibility for results, no matter how junior, is in the most literal sense of the phrase, “top management.” He holds himself accountable for the performance of the whole.”
“To ask, “What can I contribute?” is to look for the unused potential in the job. And what is considered excellent performance in a good many positions is often but a pale shadow of the job’s full potential of contribution.”
And another great guiding question, “What can I and no one else do which, if done really well, would make a real difference to this company?”
One of my go-to books on STORY and INFLUENCE is The Story Factor by Annette Simmons. First published in 2001, Simmons did a wonderful job pulling together frameworks and practical examples that illustrate how influence happens (or not) through the power of framing (i.e. STORY.)
It’s really powerful to pull some nuggets from this book during a general election cycle – Think about these points the next time you’re arguing politics with your relatives! (Good luck!)
“A good story helps you influence the interpretation people give to facts. Facts aren’t influential until they mean something to someone. A story delivers a context so that your facts slide into new slots in your listener’s brains. If you don’t give them a new story, they will simply slide new facts to old slots. People already have many stories they tell themselves to interpret their experiences. No matter what your message, they will search their memory banks until they find a story that fits for them.”
“Whenever you tell a story that contradicts someone’s core story they will usually get angry. This is a natural defense. Understanding anger is an important part of telling influential stories… If you choose to tell empowering stories you will encounter anger as people defend their ‘victim stories.’ When a new story demands courage, extra effort, or invalidates past choices, people usually get defensive.”
“Facts don’t have the power to change someone’s story. Their story is more powerful than your facts. As a person of influence, your goal is to introduce a new story that will let your facts in.” “The beauty of story is its ability to last in memory long after the facts and figures are gone.”
“In the end, the best story wins. Not the right story, not even the most frequently told story, but the story that means the most to the greatest number of people—the one that is remembered. Lawyers know that. In the courtroom, diagrams, passionate language, exhibits, and the art of questioning witnesses are orchestrated to tell the story a lawyer wants told. A storytelling lawyer activates the emotions and senses of a jury and invokes the power of drama to influence the decision. The timing and style of a prosecution attorney walking ‘the murder weapon’ around the room can ignite the fears, horrors, and imaginations of the jury. They may be consciously concerned about the facts, but their subconscious mind is watching that gun and playing a story they imagine might have happened complete with screams, blood, and emotion. If this ‘story’ becomes real enough for them, they will find the facts to fit the story their subconscious already believes.”
This last part is worth summarizing: The best story wins. People will find facts to fit their ‘story.’
His core message: Do less, but better. You can unlock quality and make your highest contribution toward the things that really matter by doing only what is essential.
He dubs this ‘Essentialism.’
In some ways this isn’t a new idea, and yet, I found myself underlining nuggets on every page:
If you don’t prioritize your life, somebody else will.
To embrace the essence of Essentialism requires we replace false assumptions with three core truths: “I choose to,” “Only a few things really matter,” and “I can do anything but not everything.”
Once we accept the reality of trade-offs we stop asking, “How can I make it all work?” and start asking the more honest question “Which problem do I want to solve?”
Essentialists spend as much time as possible exploring, listening, debating, questioning, and thinking… Almost everything is noise, and a very few things are exceptionally valuable. This is the justification for taking time to figure out what is most important.
This makes a lot of sense. Recent discoveries in neuroscience tell us that the decision-making function in our brains does not prioritize!
Essentialism is applicable to any human endeavor:
Sales/Major Gifts. Spend more time with better prospects. Just Visit. Just Ask. The discipline of the Sales Process (e.g., strategy, predisposition, follow-up.) These are the essentials; almost everything else is noise and nonessential.
Life. An Australian nurse named Bronnie Ware, who cared for people in the last twelve weeks of their lives, recorded their most often discussed regrets. At the top of the list: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” McKeown argues for LIFE DESIGN, “This requires, not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials.”
I agree with McKeown’s notion that Essentialism is an idea whose time has come. We are in an age-of-noise. Discern. Focus. Do less. Have more IMPACT.
“The human brain, according to a recent New York Times article about scientists investigating why we think the way we do, has evolved into a narrative-creating machine that takes ‘whatever it encounters, no matter how apparently random’ and imposes on it ‘chronology and cause-and-effect logic. Stories impose meaning on the chaos. They organize and give context to our sensory experiences, which otherwise might seem like no more than a fairly colorless sequence of facts. Facts are meaningless until you create a story around them.”
Here are some ways I’ve processed and coached around this recently:
As a speaker or leader. I promise you no one else is over analyzing your work or your presentation to the degree you are – especially when things go bad. You’re spending 95% of your whitespace-thinking trying to align your world in your head… how you did with a presentation or how you are doing in your role. Other people have reactions to your work but they don’t dwell on it — they dwell on themselves. They can ‘let it go’; you should too.
As a human being. Now that you’ve read this, take note of how often you’re making sense of your own life, your own narrative. What if we can shift it to something more like 50/50!? I believe we can! Or, at least, we can direct our 95% toward more empathetic thinking.
On a visit. Whomever I’m sitting with is spending 95% of their time working on their own narrative! What’s the narrative!? (Discovery! Discovery! Discovery!) I want to listen and then tie to that!
Based on Napoleon Hill’s famed Laws of Success, Think and Grow Rich represents the distilled wisdom of distinguished men of great wealth and achievement. Andrew Carnegie’s magic formula for success was the direct inspiration for this book. Hill’s “secrets” are founded in universal law and principles.
Originally published in 1937, it has been characterized as one of the most influential books of all time in pointing the way to personal achievement.
W. Clement Stone wrote “more men and women have been motivated to achieve success because of reading Think and Grow Rich than any other book written by a living author.”
Following is a story Napoleon Hill uses to underscore a number of the key principles of Think and Grow Rich:
Definiteness of Purpose
Organized Planning to Achieve a Purpose
The following story is quoted from the book. The (parenthesis) are mine – Tom
While Dr. Frank W. Gunsaulus was going through college, he observed many defects in our educational system. These were defects that he believed he could correct if he were the head of a college. (His challenge!) He made up his mind to organize a new college in which he would carry out his ideas without being handicapped by orthodox methods of education. (Creativity, out of the box thinking, unorthodox!!!)
He needed a million dollars (Specificity) to put this project across. Where was he to lay his hands on so large a sum of money? That was the question that absorbed most of this ambitious young preacher’s thoughts. He turned it over and over in his mind until it became a consuming obsession with him. Dr. Gunsaulus recognized, as do all who succeed in life, that definiteness of purpose is the starting point. He also recognized that definiteness of purpose takes on animation, life, and power when backed by a burning desire to translate that purpose into material equivalent.
In his own words:
“For nearly two years, I had been thinking but I had done nothing but think! The time had come for action!”
“I made up my mind then and there that I would get the necessary million dollars within a week. How? I was not concerned about that. The main thing of importance was the decision to get the money within a specific time, a strange feeling of assurance came over me — such as I had never before experienced. Something inside me seemed to say, “Why didn’t you reach that decision a long time ago? The money was waiting for you all the time!”
“Things began to happen in a hurry. I called the newspapers and announced that I would preach a sermon the following morning entitled ‘What I Would Do If I Had a Million Dollars’.
“I went to work on the sermon immediately. But I must tell you frankly, the task was not difficult because I had been preparing this sermon for almost two years.”
“Long before midnight, I finished writing the sermon. I went to bed and slept with a feeling of confidence, for I could see myself already in possession of a million dollars. (Visualization!)
“The next morning I rose early, went into the bathroom, read the sermon, and then knelt and asked that my sermon might come to the attention of someone who would supply the needed money. In my excitement, I walked out without my sermon and did not discover the oversight until I was in my pulpit and ready to begin delivering it.”
“It was too late to go back for my notes, and what a blessing that I couldn’t. Instead, my own subconscious mind yielded the material I needed. When I arose to begin my sermon, I closed my eyes and spoke with all my heart and soul of my dreams. I not only talked to my audience, but I fancied that I also talked to God. I told what I would with a million dollars if that amount were placed in my hands. I described the plan I had in mind for organizing a great educational institution, where young people would learn to do practical things, and at the same time, develop their minds. (The Ask!!!)
“When I finished and sat down, a man slowly arose form his seat about three rows from the rear and made his way toward the pulpit. I wondered what he was going to do. He came into the pulpit, extended his hand, and said, ‘Reverend, I liked your sermon. I believe you can do everything you said you would if you had a million dollars. To prove that I believe in you and your sermon, if you will come to my office tomorrow morning, (The Response!!!) I will give you the million dollars. My name is Philip D. Armour.”
Young Gunsaulus went to Mr. Armour’s office and the million dollars was presented to him. With the money, he founded the Armour Institute of Technology (now known as the Illinois Institute of Technology).
“The damage done by one bad apple is far greater than the benefit done by one good egg. A lot of executives are afraid that if they weed out their bad apples, their organizations would lose some competitive toughness. This is not so.”
-Adam Grant, Professor, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School