2 Essentials: Know Your Strength. Don’t Roam.
Here's a quick video on why I wrote this post. Enjoy.
I need to change. I need to stick to what I am good at doing. Here’s the story of how I discovered this truth.
My friend Regi used to mimic me. He would scrunch his face up, look me right in the eye, and with this annoying, old geezer, scratchy voice, say, “You know what your problem is?”
I would laugh. He would laugh. I would deny I ever said that. He would insist I always did. Then, sometime later in our conversation, I would find myself saying, “You know what your problem is?” The man knew me.
He used to say something else too. (This was the secret that made us such a good investment team.) When people would ask him about our partnership, he would say, “Charlie is the 'what' guy. I am the 'how' guy.”
This was a very accurate assessment.
But problems showed up when I walked into his “how” territory and when he walked into my “what” territory.
I learned our effectiveness as a team in an executive meeting focused on building a sales force. We were meeting with the CEO and VP of sales of one of our startups. We were there to help them jump-start sales from moderate growth to fast growth.
I started first on the market. It went something like this.
Define the market we are aiming to reach.
Define the problem they are trying to solve.
Tell me who in the company owns the problem.
Tell me his alternatives to solving the problem.
Show me why this person will be attracted to our solution.
Tell me who this person goes to for advice on solving the problem.
As the management team answered these questions, I began building a model. When the model was clearly defined, I said, “Our prospects are easily identified and reachable. The best path is to reach out to them directly. So go build a sales force.”
This statement resulted in a deer in the headlights look from the management team. They helped build the market model with me. I took them along, step by step. They gained clarity on their market they didn’t have before the meeting. They agreed with the conclusion. But now they needed help in how to go about building a sales force.
I was out of answers.
That’s when Regi jumped up. He grabbed the marker from my hand and started a whole new discussion. With the “what” clearly defined, he began the “how” discussion.
I remember sitting there slack-jawed as I watched him fill the whiteboard. He asked totally different questions than I did. His questions all started with “how.” When he was done, there was a logical step by step plan on how to build a sales force.
I learned a lot about myself in that meeting. That was the day I said to myself, “You know what your problem is?”
God made me one way. He made Regi another way. I needed to respect this.
But I didn’t.
I wanted to also lead the “how” discussion. This caused all sorts of friction between us. More importantly, it caused confusion for the very people we were trying to help, the entrepreneur and his team.
I realized my “how” suggestions were logical steps but were only opinions. I never built a sales force. He had. He discovered the right way to build a sales force by doing it. He made the right decisions and, more importantly, the wrong decisions. He had wisdom in this area. I didn’t. I needed to shut up. Regi needed to talk.
That company went on to be our greatest success.
Did I learn from this experience? Yes and no. I learned I was really good at getting to the “what a company should be doing.” And I was not good at how they should go about doing it. How to do something just doesn’t interest me.
But the market is filled with people who want to know how to do something. It is not filled with people who want to know what they should be doing. People think they already know what they should be doing. So I find myself trying to be good at the how, but I am just not that good at it.
I believed because I have a skill, a gift from God, that everyone had it. I minimized what I was good at because it came easier to me. I was drawn to it.
But I wanted to be good at more than my skill. I wanted to be good at what Regi was good at too.
I regret this deeply.
We could have done so much more together. But we didn’t. And that was because of me, not him. I wanted to be the total solution. The "what" guy and the "how" guy.
The fact of the matter is, I got in my own way in aiming to achieve greater levels of success. Together we were great. Separately we were just good.