Problem-Solving

The One About The Squeeze

November 15, 2022

Sometimes in life, you make a move that is uncharacteristic but required. 

I picked up the phone, dialed the number in trepidation, and asked for the president. The assistant on the other end said, “Please hold.” There was a pregnant pause before the assistant returned and said, “I’m connecting you now.” 

The conversation was one I’ll never forget. Why? First, let me offer a quick backstory.

In 2001, I started my career with The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) in Montgomery, Alabama. My mission was to collaboratively develop annual business plans with our bottling partners, align on direction, enable marketplace execution, and lead marketing asset relationships. 

Marketing assets are a fantastic way to connect with consumers and a source of pride for The Coke System (i.e., the Company and its bottling partners). The assets give Coca-Cola access where consumers make memories and develop an emotional connection with the brand. Think about the last game, concert, or amusement park you attended. More than likely, you drank a Coca-Cola product while enjoying the occasion.

For context, these are three things you should know about marketing assets.

Marketing assets are expensive. TCCC and its bottling partner typically split the investment. Hence, there was always a push to gain a return on the investment.

Marketing assets are hyper-competitive. Over time, TCCC accumulated many strategic marketing assets. I always heard that we had an embarrassment of riches. But that meant our primary competitor was forever eager to convert an asset from red (i.e., Coke-owned) to blue (i.e., Pepsi-owned) when partnership agreements expired.

Marketing assets are exigent. Big word, I know. It means that business relationships require attention. Effective partnerships stem from being connected and creating mutually beneficial value. If the parties disconnect, one may take the other for granted, engagements become transactional, and the relationship will eventually erode. 

Enter the #1 Marketing Asset

The University of Alabama was the number one marketing asset in the state of Alabama, and The Crimson Tide had a legendary partnership with Coca-Cola. 

For example, Head Football Coach Bear Bryant used to drink Coca-Cola and eat Golden Flake potato chips during his weekly TV show. The ultimate product placement. And “Great Pair Says the Bear” was the ultimate product endorsement. 

But after Coach Bryant retired and the University of Alabama Football program’s success moderated, so did the relationship between Coca-Cola and the UA Athletic Department.

A head coach carousel ensued with names like Perkins, Curry, Dubose, Franchione, Price[1], and Shula. But no one could restore Alabama Football glory. The only exception was Gene Stallings, who rebuilt the program, regained national prominence, and won the 1992 National Football Championship.

Simultaneously, Pepsi slowly and quietly built relationships behind the scenes with the University of Alabama’s key stakeholders. And Pepsi improved its market share across the State of Alabama, making inroads with customers and consumers.

Everything changed slowly and then all at once. The tipping point came in 1998. 

The Coca-Cola and UA pouring rights contract expired and went out to bid. Quite possibly the worst thing to happen to the current contract holder. It typically means that costs will rise, and it’s a signal that relationships are fractured. 

By the way, I bet you are wondering what’s the big deal about pouring rights. They grant a supplier the right to provide beverages (fountain and bottled drinks) and marketing exclusivity in the sports venues. 

Astonishingly, Pepsi won the pouring rights contract for 10 years. Even after all the history with Coke.

Then, Pepsi was shocked. 

When they signed the pouring rights agreement, they assumed that the University would also award them the out-of-venue media and marketing rights.

Not so fast.

Coca-Cola held the out-of-venue media and marketing rights in a separate contract with Crimson Tide Sports Marketing. CTSM was responsible for all the game radio broadcasts and weekly coaches’ TV shows. They purchased the media and marketing rights to advertise out-of-venue from UA and, in turn, sold them to sponsors like Coca-Cola.

The not-so-good news was that Coca-Cola was left hanging by a thread. Coke was out-maneuvered by Pepsi to win the pouring rights.

But a circumstance of pure serendipity happened. The CTSM contract enabled Coke to maintain a relationship with UA and allowed our team to market the Coca-Cola and University of Alabama association.

We were still in the game. 

But the marketing and media rights contract was about to expire soon. We needed to think and act fast. 

Earlier, I referenced UA as the number one marketing asset in the State of Alabama. Why? Consumers connected with the brand more than any other. If we could effectively market our association, it’d increase Coke’s brand preference, translating into improved sales.

But how? We recognized that the CTSM contract was in jeopardy. It was up for renewal, and we knew Pepsi would pay anything to secure the contract.

Our job was to show UA how Coca-Cola creates value beyond just a big payment. We needed to flex our marketing muscle, which was our competitor’s weakness.

A Bridge to the Future

In pre-strategy development meetings with UA, we discovered they were concerned about the next-generation Alabama fans. The football team’s legacy was fading, and a nationwide survey found that Bear Bryant would all but be forgotten by the class of 2007. UA needed to establish relevance with younger consumers. We could help them do just that and build a bridge to the future.

Our team developed a comprehensive, four-pronged marketing approach to connect and recruit the next generation focusing on four levels: Statewide, the City of Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama campus, and Gameday. Our campaign slogan was “Tide Tradition.”

We presented the strategy and campaign to the UA Athletic Director, Assistant AD, and Head Football Coach. They loved it. They also wanted to see if we would execute it.

That’s when the fun part began.

We implemented a statewide Fall Football promotion featuring the University of Alabama logos on Coca-Cola packaging and point-of-sale material, invested in Tuscaloosa customer agreements and community interests, executed on-campus dining and vending programs, hired a campus ambassador, and activated “Coca-Cola Kickoff on the Quad,” an interactive gameday experience including inflatables, games and sampling. 

The marketing strategy was successful. We literally changed the landscape. As a matter of fact, the plan was the first of its kind. It became the model for other College and University marketing activation nationwide.

One thing remained undone. The CTSM contract. While the renewal was verbally awarded to us, it wasn’t ever signed by the University. At any time, UA could have pulled the plug and awarded the media and marketing rights to Pepsi.

The Game-changer

A group of Coca-Cola executives, myself included, met with Dr. Robert Witt, the University of Alabama President. Our meeting agenda included sharing Coke’s successful marketing strategy and how our partnership benefited the University. We also wanted to explore Dr. Witt’s thoughts about the future and how we could help. 

After an enthusiastic and productive conversation, Dr. Witt produced a 6-pk of LSU Football National Championship 8 oz glass bottles. He said the 6-pack was sent by LSU’s president, reminding Dr. Witt of LSU’s recent accomplishment. Dr. Witt paused and said, “I want to bring both of these back to the University of Alabama, a national football championship and Coca-Cola into Bryant-Denny stadium where it belongs.”

Then, Dr. Witt revealed a surprise. He said his nephew worked for Coca-Cola. “Who?” I asked. “He’s your campus ambassador and is having a wonderful experience. Thank you for all that you’re teaching him.” I had no idea we’d hired Dr. Witt’s nephew. Another moment of serendipity.

Dr. Witt concluded our conversation with an appreciation for the historic partnership between UA and Coca-Cola and what we were doing to build a bridge to the future. He looked at me and said, “If you ever need anything, just call.”

We left the meeting not knowing how valuable his last statement would be.

Six months went by. I continued to press CTSM, the UA Assistant Athletic Director, and University General Counsel to sign the agreement. I ran into barriers and delays. It seemed as if some backroom deal with Pepsi was in the works. I felt responsible for securing the contract so we could all move on.[2]

Then it hit me. Why not call Dr. Witt and take him up on his offer to help? I was aware of the political damage I might do by going over the heads of key stakeholders. But desperate times call for desperate measures. This move would be uncharacteristic of me but required. Time to take a risk.

Out of impulse, I picked up the phone, dialed the number in trepidation, and asked for Dr. Witt. The assistant on the other end said, “Please hold.” There was a pregnant pause before the assistant returned and said, “I’m connecting you now.” 

“Hello, this is Bob Witt. How can I help you?”

I re-introduced myself and told Dr. Witt about our challenge with the contract signature delay. He said he understood and would call me back in 10 minutes.

Ten minutes seemed like an eternity. All kinds of thoughts rushed through my mind. Surely, I’d overstepped my boundaries and would aggravate my constituents. Bottling Partner leadership won’t look kindly on my approach. University personnel will call for my replacement. I may be demoted or even fired. All unlikely, but those are the thoughts that went through my head.

The phone rang. I picked it up and, with a frog in my throat, said, “Hello.”

“Preston, Bob Witt again. I talked to the University General Counsel, the contract will be signed today, and final copies will be sent to you immediately.”

I was dumbfounded.

I replied, “Terrific, and thanks for your help. I spent almost two years working to have the contract signed. It only took you 10 minutes.”

What Dr. Witt said next always stuck with me. Wait for it…

“SOMETIMES YOU JUST GOTTA SQUEEZE THEM BY THE BALLS.”

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. He snickered as well. I thanked him for his help, and we hung up. 

What a game-changer!

Dr. Witt accomplished what I couldn’t in a matter of minutes. He had the authority to make something happen. Dr. Witt fulfilled his offer to help. He applied the pressure (i.e., squeezed) as required.

The signed contract arrived the next day. And I never faced any repercussions for going around the UA key stakeholders.

That was the last time I talked to Dr. Witt before moving to my next role. I’ll always look back fondly on those times. Not only did the Coke team out-maneuver our competition and secure the media and marketing rights, but we also created a beachhead for a future team to eventually regain exclusive athletic venue pouring, campus dining / vending, and marketing rights in 2018.

What I Learned

Position matters. I’ve often said that influence is leadership without the crutch of authority. But influence has its limitations. While I’d established credibility and grown my influence with UA key stakeholders, I couldn’t ever advance the UA marketing contract to the final signature on my own. No amount of influence I tried to exert mattered. Dr. Witt held the top position at the University of Alabama. He had the authority to make things happen with just one short phone call. A friend once said, “It’s good to know the king.” Dr. Witt’s position mattered.

Persistence pays off. It took two years from receiving the verbal agreement to the day the contract was consummated. And it took another 15 years for Coke to restore its storied relationship with UA. The team’s persistence paid off. If we didn’t fight hard to create the beachhead for the next group to advance the relationship, the campus and city would have indeed turned blue. And Coke would have missed what the future held, Nick Saban and six National Football Championships. 

Providence plays out. Looking back, I’m amazed at how circumstances unfolded during my years working with the University of Alabama. In the above article, I referred to providence as serendipity. But events like Coke retaining the marketing rights even though Pepsi thought they secured them or hiring Dr. Witt’s relative as our campus ambassador without our knowledge of who he was weren’t mere chance. I’m convinced there is a higher power at work engineering all circumstances. The hand of providence played out.

Visit my website to discover more lessons I learned in the marketplace trenches: prestonpoore.com

Cheers, 

Preston


[1] Mike Price was hired to replace Dennis Franchione for the 2003 season. He was quickly dismissed after a well-documented off-the-field incident. My only memory of Coach Price was when we held a Coca-Cola Fall Football sales rally in the Bryant-Denny Stadium locker room. Price was our guest speaker, and our intent for him was to inspire our local sales team. When it was time for him to address the crowd, he pulled out a Pepsi-Cola 20 oz bottle, threw it against the lockers, and yelled, “F**K Pepsi.” We were in shock. Not the way to start a talk. Extremely unprofessional. I shook my head in disbelief and wondered what we were getting into. Needless to say, Coach Price didn’t last very long.

[2] Working with The University of Alabama was a personal passion of mine. When I was young, I watched Alabama football games with my dad. He always pointed out Bear Bryant on the sidelines and talked favorably about him. And most of my extended relatives lived in Alabama. When I moved to Alabama in 1989, I was told I needed to pick Alabama or Auburn (IYKYK). I picked Alabama. But most importantly, my bride went to The University of Alabama. We were season ticket holders and attended the 1992 National Championship game in New Orleans versus The University of Miami. I guess you could say I married “it” (i.e., a passion for all things UA). All of this before working with Coke and leading The University of Alabama relationship for a few years. It was an honor.

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Many Eyes See More Than One: Seven Steps to Create a Personal Advisory Board

February 3, 2022

Last year, I was preparing to launch my new book, Discipled Leader, and build my leadership development platform. While it was an exciting time and a dream coming true, I felt overwhelmed and lacked direction. I was in unfamiliar territory. It was my first rodeo. I’d never published a book before, let alone start a business. It seemed to be a daunting task.

Poet John Donne wrote that “no man is an island.” Meaning I couldn’t accomplish something extraordinary on my own. Success would require the help of others. I knew that I’d only reach my potential with wise counsel and support. And if I reached my potential, others could reach theirs as well.

“No man is an island”

John Donne

That’s when I got the idea to develop a Personal Advisory Board (PAB). I discovered the concept in the Wall Street Journal about how successful business executives surround themselves with trusted advisors to help the business executive develop and accomplish their goals. 

The Latin phrase is correct, vident oculi quam oculus – many eyes see more than one. I set out to create an inner circle that would assist in navigating unchartered waters and help me reach my potential. But I wasn’t looking for “yes” people, those only patting me on the back and telling me what I wanted to hear. I sought guidance, not validation. I wanted to surround myself with people who would push me, ask probing questions, give feedback even if it’s hard to hear, provide creative input, offer a business perspective, and signal watchouts. I needed folks who could help me solve challenging problems and make complex decisions. Lastly, I desired individuals that had experience with my chosen path; they’d gone before me. I wanted them to share their successes, failures, and learnings. Ultimately, tap into their wisdom.

There’s one other reason I wanted to develop a PAB. I crave positive affirmation. But when I receive it, I can easily get big-headed and begin to think I’m all that. Pride creeps in, I get puffed up, and I tend to take credit for things that go well or blame others when they don’t. I know my weakness, and I can become arrogant without an external party pointing it out to me. My egotistical and self-absorption bent made personal and professional accountability a must. I had to stay grounded and remain humble.

So, I began recruiting PAB members. In the initial communication, I shared with them why I was starting a PAB, what I was trying to accomplish, and then invited them to participate in something bigger than themselves. If they’d joined me on the journey, they’d be able to shape the outcome. 

I recruited six original members that agreed to serve for 12 months, two women and four men, including a former NFL player and corporate executive, a head pastor, an internationally renowned composer, a healthcare consultant and seminary student, and two best-selling authors that own speaking/training small businesses.

I began monthly, ten-minute, one-on-one meetings with the PAB members. Our initial meetings were clunky, but we slowly got the hang of it. Before the sessions, I sent an executive summary, including activity updates and areas where I needed feedback. 

They’ve helped me make many sound decisions, provided creative input, offered penetrating feedback, and encouraged me when I was down. I couldn’t have done it without them. Ultimately, my book launch was successful, and my platform continues to evolve.

The other good news is that each PAB member renewed for another 12 months. We’ve even added another member, a former beverage industry executive, and leadership coach.

So, do you want to start a PAB? Here’s what I recommend…

  1. Define your why. What are your business or initiative’s purpose, contribution, and impact? I recommend using the following Why Statement: To (contribution), so that (impact). For example, “To engage and inspire people, so that people are motivated to do something creative every day.” Writing a Why Statement will help you distill your thoughts and articulate them to others.
  2. Design your ideal board member profile. Imagine what your perfect board member would bring to the table. What complementary characteristics, skills, or experiences will an individual contribute to your journey? Do they have a thinking style different than yours (e.g., strategic, creative, analytical, critical)? Do you trust and respect the individual? Will the potential board member openly share feedback, ask hard questions, encourage you, give advice, pray with you, support your effort? Is the person influential and well-connected? Do you share similar values and faith? What will you have gained from and given to the participant a year from now? Answering these questions will help you think through the ideal board member.
  3. Identify candidates and recruit. Based on your ideal board member profile, begin thinking about your circle of influence and connections. Look across your friends, colleagues, mentors, and broader network for potential candidates. I identified a list of people I believed would want to partner with me for my initial PAB. Then, I sent an invitation email to the candidates with my Why Statement, what I hoped to accomplish, why I identified them as potential candidates, and how they’d make a difference. I invited them into something bigger than themselves. If the individual was interested and wanted to learn more, I’d set up a follow-up Zoom call to share more details.
  4. Manage time expectations. How you view time is a mindset. Are you asking the advisors to spend time with you or invest time with you? If you invest in something, you’ll experience a return, directly or indirectly. If you approach the requested time as an investment, people will be more open to supporting you. And be upfront about the time investment you’re requesting. I asked folks for a 12-month commitment. It takes time to develop an effective process and productive sessions. I found that almost everyone is willing to invest a 10-minute, one-on-one, monthly appointment to help. Lastly, I highly recommend that you honor the time commitment. Be concise and be done. Do your best to stay within the scheduled time allotment. If you are in deep conversation, ask permission to extend the appointment or schedule additional time. Time is the most precious resource we have. Respect others’ time, and they will appreciate it.
  5. Send a pre-meeting executive summary. Before every round of PAB meetings, I send an executive summary of what I’ve accomplished since the last meeting, plans, feedback requested, decisions I’m considering, or problems I’m trying to solve. I’ve found that the executive summaries prime the discussion pump and give the members something to respond to. I advise the PAB members that I’ll reach out individually to set up the next one-on-ones. Then, I move to text and converse with the PAB members to schedule time.
  6. Conducting the session. This is the fun and value-creating time. I always ask if the PAB member received the executive summary and if they have any specific questions. This is where the conversation can go in many different directions. Caution! Sometimes a PAB member doesn’t have immediate questions or feedback. If this is the case, I’m prepared to give a brief update or ask a question related to PAB members’ skills, experience, or interests. Be sure to summarize the key takeaway to the advisor and discuss potential next steps. I always recap the key takeaway during the next session and provide a progress update. Listening and acting will demonstrate to the PAB member that you value their insight. Lastly, always ask how you can help the PAB member. You want to create a reciprocal, mutually beneficial relationship. Not only receive value but return value.
  7. Rinse, refine, repeat, recruit. Like I said earlier, the process may feel a little clunky as you start out. Evaluated experience is the best teacher. Reflect on each round of one-on-ones. What worked, didn’t work, and what can you improve? Apply your learnings to refine the overall process and PAB member experience. Lastly, keep scanning your network for potential PAB members and cultivating relationships. Anticipate that people will eventually rotate off your PAB, and you’ll want to have a pipeline of people to fill open slots.

One of the best things I’ve done is create a PAB. The members shaped my mission, influenced my thinking, and molded my approach. They’ve helped me navigate unchartered territory, solve perplexing problems, and make sound decisions. Even better, they feel they’re engaged in something bigger than themselves, something extraordinary.

I agree with John Donne; we aren’t islands. We can’t do it alone. We need others on this journey we call life. How about you? Do you have a dream, vision, idea, or a burning passion, but you’re unsure where to start? Surround yourself with a PAB, meet your goals, and watch your dreams come true.

Want to learn more about becoming a leader others will gladly follow? Visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!

Cheers,

Preston

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Six Sure-Fire Ways to Reduce Uncertainty

June 29, 2021

“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.” —Jeremiah 29:11 AMP

Leaders know that decision-making always involves some level of uncertainty. You’ll never see the result of an option until it’s chosen, and the decision is converted into action. The more information, advice, and experience you have to decide, the higher your confidence level will be. You’ll be able to anticipate potential outcomes and assign probabilities. 

On the other hand, incomplete, inaccurate, and unreliable information, a lack of wise counsel, and inexperience will lower your confidence level. You’ll be unable to adequately assess potential outcomes, let alone foresee likelihoods.

Your role as a leader is to reduce uncertainty. How?

  1. Build knowledge: Learn as much as you can about each option. What are the required information and parameters you need to decide? The Bible says, “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out” (Proverbs 18:15 NIV). Do your best to validate the information’s completeness, accuracy, and reliability. At the same time, be at peace when you don’t know everything.
  2. Involve people: Seek advice from others. Listen to people who listen to God. The Bible says, “Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers” (Proverbs 24:6 NIV). Pursue different points of view, encourage debate, and listen carefully. 
  3. Determine predictability: Based on your knowledge and advice you’ve received, rank each option according to its positive outcome likelihood; 1 is a low positive outcome probability and 10 is a high positive outcome probability. The higher the probability, the lower the uncertainty. The lower the probability, the higher the uncertainty. You want to lean toward options that have the highest likelihood of success. 
  4. Understand and accept risk: I learned a long time ago from Dale Carnegie to ask myself, “What’s the worst that can possibly happen?”[1] Consider what you might lose. What’s at risk? If you understand and accept what’s at risk, you’ll reduce the anxiety that comes from uncertainty.
  5. Remember your values: Grounding a decision in your core values and guiding principles will help you navigate uncertainty. Without values, you’ll be tossed about and be at an even more significant disadvantage when faced with doubt.
  6. Remain flexible: Keep all of your options open to accommodate an uncertain future. You may need to course-correct and select another option as a contingency plan. 


The goal of improving decision quality is about reducing uncertainty and increasing the probability of positive results, not guaranteeing them. Let’s take this a step further. 

For the believer, you can reduce uncertainty to a large extent and make the best decision possible. You may make a terrific decision and not achieve your objective. Or, you may make a lousy decision and somehow achieve your goal. Uncertainty remains. Either way, there is one thing that is for sure: God is in control. You can trust him with the outcome.

Think about some Bible heroes who made decisions and weren’t so certain about the outcomes: 

  • Noah decided to follow God’s direction and build an ark but wasn’t exactly sure how everything would unfold.
  • Abraham faithfully followed God’s call and left his home, not knowing where he was going. 
  • At Jesus’ invitation, Peter courageously stepped out of the boat and walked on water, moving from certainty to uncertainty as he sank. 

In all three examples, each person decided in the face of uncertainty and trusted God with the outcome. 

  • Rain covered the earth, but Noah and his family were rescued in the Ark. 
  • Abraham settled down and his descendants became a mighty nation. 
  • When Peter began to doubt and sink, Jesus grabbed his hand and pulled him up.

Noah, Abraham, and Peter trusted God with the outcome. You can too! Why? God promises that he is for you, not against you (Romans 8:31). He has wonderful plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11). And he works all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). 

When faced with uncertainty, consider asking

  • How do you reduce uncertainty when deciding? 
  • Do you trust God with the outcomes? 
  • Do you believe he has a plan for your life and will help you make sound decisions?

Look to him when you’re faced with a decision and uncertain outcomes. Whether you experience a successful result or make a mistake, know that God is in control. Place your trust in him.

Do want to learn more? Visit http://www.prestonpoore.com

Cheers,

Pres


[1] Dale Carnegie, The Leader in You (Diamond Pocket Books Pvt Ltd, 2020).

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Choosing Wisely

June 15, 2021

“My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment. Hang on to them, for they will refresh your soul. They are like jewels on a necklace.” —Proverbs 3:21–22 NLT

Indiana Jones is one of my all-time favorite cinematic heroes. In the climactic scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy and the Nazi collaborators, Elsa and Walter, find themselves in a cave after an arduous journey searching for the Holy Grail. Legend has it that the cup was used by Jesus during the Last Supper. The Grail is purported to have mystical powers granting eternal youth, happiness, and abundance. Whoever finds the highly sought-after relic will possess great power, and the Nazis wanted it for evil purposes.

The old and weary Knight guarding the Grail stands in front of a broad shelf displaying several vessels, all different shapes, and sizes, many of which are ornate. Any one of them could be the Holy Grail. The Knight proclaims, “Choose wisely. The true Grail will bring you life. The false one will take it from you.” 

The villains go first. With glory in her eyes, Elsa chooses a lavish chalice and hands it to Walter. He admires the chalice and says, “It certainly is the cup of the King of Kings.” Walter fills it with water, toasts to eternal life, and takes a drink. Walter looks satisfied when suddenly he starts to shake and cough. Expecting to find eternal youth, he experiences quite the opposite. In horror, his age accelerates, and he disintegrates right before their eyes. Life was taken from him. 

The Knight states, “He chose poorly.” 

Next, Indy surveys the vessels, discerning which one to choose. He knows history and looks for a humble cup. “The cup of a carpenter,” he says. Indy reaches to the back of the shelf, past all of the lavish chalices, and chooses a simple goblet. To test the cup, he fills it with water and takes a drink. Nothing happens. 

Indy turns to the Knight and hears, “You have chosen wisely.”



Indy exercised discernment. He had good sense, a particularly keen way of seeing things that seemed hidden or obscure. But what exactly is discernment? Scottish Theologian Dr. Sinclair Ferguson sums up the attribute beautifully: “True discernment means not only distinguishing the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient. And, yes, it means distinguishing between the good and the better, and even between the better and the best. . . . It is the ability to make discriminating judgments, to distinguish between, and recognize the moral implications of, different situations and courses of action. It includes the ability to ‘weigh up’ and assess the moral and spiritual status of individuals, groups, and even movements.”[1]

God-given discernment will help you go deep below the surface of an issue or problem to see the motives, causes, and agendas. Additionally, it will enable you to distinguish good from evil (2 Samuel 14:17) and to see through outward appearances (Proverbs 28:11). Discernment will also help you to be sensitive to potential trouble, be keenly aware of danger, and prevent unintended consequences. 

Do you choose wisely? Consider these self-reflecting questions.

  • How can you exercise discernment in your daily life? 
  • What’s blocking you from being more discerning? 
  • Would people say you have “good sense”? 
  • Why or why not?

When faced with a decision or problem, don’t be like the Nazi collaborators who lacked discernment and made the wrong choice. Be like Indiana Jones, exercise good sense, and “choose wisely.”

Do you want to learn more? Visit www.prestonpoore.com

Cheers,

Pres


[1] Sinclair Ferguson, “What Is Discernment?” Ligonier Ministries, last modified May 8, 2020, https://www.ligonier.org/blog/discernment-thinking-gods-thoughts/.

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The Hard Work Few Are Willing to Do

June 8, 2021

“Think over these things I am saying [understand them and grasp their application], for the Lord will grant you full insight and understanding in everything.” —2 Timothy 2:7 AMP

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein, one of the best thinkers who ever lived, asserted, “Thinking is hard work; that’s why so few do it.”[1] I assert that not only do so few do it, but they also don’t know how to do it. 

My dad, a college professor, and Cal Tech Applied Mathematics Ph.D. always told me that schools teach people what to think but not how to think. The challenge is that sound decision-making, exercising good judgment, and problem-solving require your ability to form an opinion or idea. If you don’t know how to think, you’ll be handicapped; you may make the wrong decision or be unable to solve a problem. 

But the good news is that you can learn how to think. God created you in his image. He’s given you the capacity to reason, evaluate words, and assess the truth. I believe there are four essential thinking skills or mental processes needed to become a successful leader:

  1. Analytical: Using comprehensive data, you can break down the complex into the simple, detect patterns, and develop insights. 
  2. Critical: You can carefully evaluate information, determine what’s relevant, and interpret data when making decisions. 
  3. Creative: You can consider problems or issues in a new way and generate ideas. You can also offer a fresh perspective with unconventional solutions through brainstorming.
  4. Strategic: You can leverage unique insights in a changing environment. You can synthesize information, consider opportunities and threats, and imagine a future direction. This leads to a clear set of goals, plans, or new ideas required to survive or thrive in a competitive setting. 

How do you develop superior thinking skills? 

Take a class, volunteer for a special project, engage a subject matter expert, read books, or play games. Have a learning mindset. Stretch yourself.

Your role as a leader is to think, but it is the Lord who grants you understanding. He will give you the ability to perceive the nature and meaning of problems to be solved, issues to be handled, or decisions to be made. He’ll illuminate your thinking and shine a bright light on events. If you do the hard work of thinking and seeking God’s insight, you’ll be on the road to making sound decisions, developing good judgment, and solving problems.

How to self-evaluate your thinking skills

  • Rate yourself from 1 to 10 (1 = deficient, 10 = mastery) on each of the thinking skills: analytical, critical, creative, and strategic. 
  • Which is the lowest? 
  • How will you improve your ability?
  • Which is the highest? 
  • How will you strengthen the skill?
  • How will improving or enhancing the skills benefit you? 
  • When will you start? 

If you do the hard work of thinking and seeking God’s insight, you’ll be on the road to making sound decisions, developing good judgment, and solving problems.

Want to learn more? Visit http://www.prestonpoore.com

Cheers!

Pres


[1] John C. Maxwell, Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work (Center Street, 2005).

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Decision Fatigue: What It Is and How to Avoid It

September 8, 2020

Each decision you make reduces your ability to make good decisions. It can quickly reach the point that you’ll actually avoid making decisions once a certain threshold is reached. There are only so many good decisions you can make each day.

Decision fatigue also leads to impulse spending. Self-regulation also suffers during decision fatigue. There’s a reason you’re more likely to eat unhealthy food or do something else detrimental to your well-being at night. 

Have you ever noticed that many influential and successful people tend to make inadequate decisions at night? These self-destructive decisions often come after a long day of making important decisions at work.

Use these strategies to avoid decision fatigue and make wise decisions:

  1. Make important decisions early in the day and during times of low stress. When you’re relaxed and in your safe space, you can kick back and make decisions without any pressure or distractions.
  2. Choose your clothes the night before. It’s mentally exhausting to search around for clothes that match when it’s time for work.
    • You can also limit the scope of your wardrobe and achieve the same effect. Steve Jobs and Barack Obama were famous for their limited wardrobes. Both felt that the fewer decisions they had to make each day, the better.
  3. Plan your day the night before. Then, you just need to put your head down and get to work. You’ve already made the basic choices of how you’re going to spend your day. All that’s left to do is perform the necessary actions.
    • For example, know what you’re having for lunch, breakfast, and dinner before going to bed.
    • What are the most important things you have to do tomorrow? When will you do them?
    • This will leave you with a more exceptional ability to make good decisions the next day.
  1. Keep your life simple. A complicated life is fatiguing. The fatigue extends to your ability to make decisions. Our brains weren’t designed to handle ongoing complexity. A simple life is easier on your mind and will allow you to make better decisions.
  2. Delegate decisions. Not all decisions have to be made by you. Let someone else pick the restaurant and the movie. Allow one of your employees to make the less-critical decisions. Let your kids decide what you’re going to do this weekend. Avoid decision fatigue by requiring others to make some decisions.
  3. Take a nap. A nap is a great way to rejuvenate your mental faculties. Sleeping for just 10-30 minutes will recharge your decision-making capacity. Make a daily nap part of your day, if possible.
  4. Know your priorities. When you know what is important to you, decisions become easier to make. Quick decisions don’t induce a lot of decision fatigue. You’ll avoid torturing yourself over all of your choices if you understand which decisions matter and which don’t.

The quality of your decisions influences the quality of your career, health, relationships, and overall success. Inadequate choices lead to personal challenges. These challenges include financial issues, work and school difficulties, health problems, and other personal and social issues.

Each decision you make has a biological cost. After making too many decisions, you’re more likely to argue with your partner, make unnecessary purchases, and eat junk food.

As your brain fatigues, it searches for shortcuts. One of these shortcuts is to make decisions quickly and recklessly. After all, thinking takes energy. The other alternative is to refuse to make a decision at all.

Decision fatigue is something everyone should be aware of. The consequences of inadequate decision-making can be severe.

Want to learn more about making sound decisions and becoming a leader others will gladly follow? Visit: https://prestonpoore.com

Thanks, and take care,

Preston Poore

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Problem Solving: The Surest Way to Establish Credibility & Gain Influence

December 22, 2018

Have you ever dealt with a head-scratching, complicated problem, and you weren’t sure how to solve it? I have… Here are my story and seven steps to solving unsolvable problems – if you follow them, you’ll gain credibility and increase your influence…

The anticipated announcement was made: The large beverage company I worked for agreed to purchase two competitive beverage companies. The incoming water and juice brands were fantastic and complementary acquisitions to our existing portfolio.

However, the acquisitions came with complications and created internal competition. Each acquired company had its own sales team and developed its business plan. My role was similar, focusing on my company’s legacy brands.

During my tenure, I’d established strong relationships with the bottler. However, my influence slowly eroded as the new sales teams began integrating. The new team members leveraged exciting incentives, expensive dinners, and premiums to woo the bottler. Excluding me, they tied up meeting times and market visits. Our mutual bottling partner became enamored with the shiny new penny and took their eyes off the ball. 

Execution of all the legacy brands began to slip, and total sales stagnated. I discovered that the newly acquired companies only contributed 10% of the bottler’s total revenue; all of the legacy brands I represented contributed 90%. I determined that our problem boiled down to focus; we wouldn’t make our collective business plan if we didn’t re-calibrate our focus on the 90%. At the same time, we needed the newly acquired brands to flourish.

I began considering my alternatives. The only solution I could think of was to fight fire with fire. I’d need to double my efforts. Get back in the game with more attractive incentives, fancy dinners, and premiums to woo the bottler’s attention back. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with this approach but believed there was a solution somewhere. I didn’t know where.

I was stuck…

I prayed to God and asked for wisdom to meet the challenge and identify a game-changing solution. 

Then it happened… Inspiration hit…

I remember watching my all-time favorite movie, the 1959 Academy Award-winning Ben-Hur. There’s a scene when the movie’s main character, Judah Ben-Hur, observed a chariot race practice. The chariot was pulled by a team of four strong and fast horses. However, the chariot driver lost control of the horses as the team ran wildly down the track. Just before the chariot approached a curve, Ben-Hur commented that the chariot would never make the turn.

And he was right… The horses ran straight through the turn and off the track. When asked how he knew that the chariot would run off course, Ben-Hur told the owner he raced in the Roman circus. Based on his experience, he observed that the horses were strong and fast. Still, they weren’t positioned to leverage their individual strengths. They were running as individuals, not as one. Ben-Hur rearranged the horses with the slower, more steady horse on the inside to anchor the team during turns and the fastest horse on the outside. The owner said, “Show me.” Ben-Hur raced the chariot around the track in record time without incident to the owner’s amazement.

The parallel was striking to me. We have a strong team of people representing our brands to the bottler. I wondered, “What if we worked together and everyone achieved their goals? What if I harnessed the team, positioned them by strength, and we ran as one?” 

Said another way, if you can’t beat them, join them.

After some internal alignment and planning, I invited 15 new brands and bottler representatives to a groundbreaking “Brand Partner Summit.” Our objective was to build trust, open lines of communication, initiate collaborative planning, enable dynamic execution, make the plan, and most of all, stem internal competition. 

The meeting’s theme was “Running as One.” We began our time together horseback riding in the Smokey Mountains, a chance for everyone to connect outside the office and get acquainted. After the team-building exercise, we gathered for a Roles and Responsibilities dinner—all of the individuals shared how they added value to the company. The next day, I opened the Summit with the Ben-Hur chariot practice movie scene and asked the team to consider how we begin to run as one. Participants started making connections and collaboration recommendations as we reviewed each other’s business updates, priorities, and plans.

Ultimately, the Brand Partners concluded that our initiatives needed to be integrated into a comprehensive monthly Sales Plan. The Sales Plan captured and communicated all of the execution priorities allowing the Brand Partners and our bottling partner to be on the same page.  

The Sales Plan solution mitigated internal competition, collaboration improved, execution excelled, and everyone hit their business plan. We ran as one. So much so that our Brand Partner Summit and Sales Plan were deemed a best practice and adopted by other parts of the company.

If you’re faced with a problem like I was, I recommend you follow my seven steps to solving challenging problems:

  1. Define the Problem. Articulate the problem in writing. Distill the problem into its simplest form. For my above example, the problem was focus. Identify the implications and consequences of not solving it. Also, ask repeatedly why? that is a problem. This will help identify root causes.
  2. Provide Context. What is the history of the challenge you’re trying to solve?
  3. Believe There is a Solution. Have the attitude that all problems are opportunities and can be addressed. Be creative, use your imagination, and brainstorm with others.
  4. Identify Alternatives. It’s always best to determine multiple solutions and evaluate which one will best solve the problem.
  5. Develop a Recommendation. Based on your alternative evaluation, allow the best one to surface.
  6. Plan and Act. Once the recommendation is made, put a plan in place and execute it.
  7. Pray. I highly recommend praying and seeking God’s wisdom when faced with problems or decision-making for the person of faith. The Bible says, “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all”. (Proverbs 3:5-6 The Message)

The surest way to gain credibility and increase your influence is to solve problems. If you define the problem, provide context, believe there is a solution, identify alternatives, develop a recommendation, plan and act, and pray, you will become a leader who makes a positive difference.

Do you want to discover more about establishing credibility and gaining influence to make a positive difference? Please visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!

Cheers!

Preston

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How to Bend a Negative Performance Trend

August 16, 2018

After completing my short-term stint with Hershey’s Sales Development department, I anxiously awaited my next assignment. I’d invested two years learning everything about the confection business and knew that my new role could be anywhere in the U.S.

The phone rang. “Hi, Preston. This is Dave. We’d like you to become the Giant – Carlisle key account manager and stay in the Hershey area.”

My heart began to sink because I’d heard how difficult it was to call on Giant. 

Dave continued, “Your role won’t be easy at first. As you know, Giant is in our backyard. A majority of our employees shop in Giant’s stores. You’ll be under a microscope.”

Microscope? – I imagined thousands of Hershey employees complaining about something.

“And, our company has a lot of baggage with Giant. Things haven’t gone well with them over the past few years. We’ll want you to “bend the trend” – restore relationships, turn the business around and deliver results. Are you up to the challenge?”

With a lump in my throat, I quickly processed the opportunity and said, “yes.”

Dave said, “Great, and welcome aboard. I’ve already set up a meeting with Giant’s confectionary buyer tomorrow. I’ll brief you on the way to the meeting. No better way to do than to begin.”

Boy, this will be a quick transition. It’ll be sink or swim.

Dave briefed me on Giant and Matt, the candy category buyer, in the car ride to our appointment. He told me that Matt was one of the most stringent buyers in the Northeast. In his opinion, Matt was arrogant, very demanding, and hard to get along with. He was ambitious and only approved innovation or promotions that made him look successful. No one at Hershey had been able to materially breakthrough with him. The most recent Key Account Manager was run over by Matt and was highly ineffective.

The two company’s relationship was purely transactional with little hope of developing a strategic one. To complicate matters, our key competitor took advantage of Hershey’s challenges with Matt, and he showed a preference for their brands. It didn’t look or feel good having our key competitor beating us in our home market.

Dave and I met Matt for lunch. Right off, Matt was defensive and began telling us all of the things that were wrong with Hershey’s customer service. He said we had great brands, but we didn’t deliver on promises; he’d throw us out if he didn’t absolutely need us.

The conversation turned to the “baggage” Dave mentioned. Giant made big plans to promote Hershey brands during last year’s Halloween season. However, Hershey couldn’t deliver the product due to an untimely SAP data platform conversion; multiple candy truckloads were “lost” in the system and never made it to Giant’s warehouses. And as a result, Giant lost millions of dollars in sales. Matt felt burned – he didn’t receive an incentive, and he’d lost favor in management’s eyes.

After lunch, Matt looked at me and said, “I’m not sure you want this role. I’m not going to be of any help to you or Hershey.”

Leaving the meeting, I wasn’t fearful; something arose in me, and I embraced the challenge. I figured if I could somehow breakthrough with Matt, we could turn the two company’s relationship and business around.

I began with a series of short sales calls to connect with Matt. I asked him questions about Giant’s strategy, operating model, and what mattered to him. I listened to him with an open mind and a solution bent.

After learning what was essential to Giant and Matt, I began proposing promotion or new item opportunities aligned with Giant’s strategy. . .. He said “no” to me so many times I lost count, but I kept plugging away.

Matt continued to keep me in the penalty box because of the previous year’s Halloween delivery debacle. To prove his point during my first few months working with him, Matt only ordered 10% of his regular Halloween candy order. The small order put our business in a huge hole, and I needed to figure a way out of it.

I decided to take a different approach and win Matt’s heart first; then, I’d ask for his hand. I took a risk and invited Matt and his girlfriend to a Washington Redskins football game. Why? Matt told me that he was a huge Redskins fan but hadn’t ever been to a football game in D.C.

My wife and I rented a chauffeured limousine, picked up Matt and his girlfriend, and made our way to the stadium. I secured four company tickets in the second row. Matt wore his Redskins jersey; he was like a kid in a candy store (pun intended). He was genuinely excited and seemed to loosen up. I was very intentional not to bring up business during our conversations and wanted to connect with him personally.

Shortly after we arrived at our seats, Matt brought up business. He told me that I’d been in the penalty box too long; “nothing personal,” he said. He’d seen how hard I’d tried and really appreciated some of the business opportunities I’d shared with him. I asked him what it would take to turn our business around and restore the relationship between Giant and Hershey. He told me, “do what you say you’ll do.”

I responded, “Ok, I’ll do everything in my power to deliver. With that in mind, what can I deliver?” We began brainstorming ideas for a game-changing promotion where both companies would benefit. He shared best practices other manufacturers used to help grow Giant’s business. I listened to all of his ideas, and we aligned on a plan. I asked him if Hershey delivered on our collaborative concept, would Giant be aligned? Matt answered, “yes.”

I went to work with my cross-functional team to develop a “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” movie tie-in and partnership with Coca-Cola. We developed a shopper marketing program before shopper marketing was cool. The program included joint POS, in-store merchandising, an exclusive movie premiere, and supporting radio promotion.

I presented the plan to Matt, and he loved it. I showed him how the plan’s execution would grow his business and align with Giant’s strategies. The proposal met all of the promotion elements we discussed. Only hitch. . .. The moment of truth. . .. The close. . ..

I took a risk and asked for an unprecedented order. I asked Matt to quadruple his Holiday candy order versus last year. I knew that If Matt did, the order would overcome the Halloween deficit and put Hershey over our annual plan. Matt didn’t hesitate and said, “Ok. Write a suggested store level order and have it to me by next week.”

“One other thing,” he glared and demanded, “you’d better deliver!”

I confidently grinned and replied, “We’ll do what we said we’re going to do.”

And, we did. The promotion was a smashing success. Giant and Hershey both exceeded their annual business plan. It was gratifying to play a role in bending the performance trend and restoring relationships. To boot, my team won Hershey’s prestigious “President’s Cup” – the highest sales performance in the company versus the prior year. And Matt got promoted.

What about me? Well, that’s a story for another time. Let’s just say that bending the trend sometimes comes with a price.

If you are faced with the opportunity to drive positive change, I recommend you:

  • Connect with Others. John Maxwell’s Law of Connection states, “Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.” [1] Begin implementing a change by getting to know the key stakeholders. Find out their interests, ambitions, hopes, dreams, challenges, and fears. Listen intently and be authentic. Make changes based on the feedback you hear. You’ll find trust and credibility begin to develop as you make the genuine effort to connect with others.
  • Create Momentum. Once you know what makes someone tick and understand what they want, help them get it. Secure quick wins that will help you create and build momentum. Work hard and follow-through; deliver on your small commitments, and they’ll have the potential to turn into big ones. Create momentum and consistently pursue your goal. You’ll eventually experience a breakthrough and go beyond what you thought possible.
  • Be Persistent. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t give up. Always be willing to try something new if what you’re doing isn’t working.

If you’ll connect with others, create momentum and be persistent, you’ll become a trend bender too.

Want to discover more about becoming a leader others will gladly follow? Please visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!

Cheers,

Preston

[1]Maxwell, J. C. (2007). The 21 irrefutable laws of leadership: follow them, and people will follow you. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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How to Manage the Tyranny of the Urgent

July 19, 2018

One of the most challenging roles of my career was on the Strategic Merchandising Team. I led a group of folks responsible for developing retail outlet point of sale and racks that enabled irresistible shopper experiences for three years. The responsibilities included:

  • 12 project managers and multiple cross-functional partners
  • Ten suppliers
  • ~$100M annual spend
  • 10,000s of POS elements and racks were produced, shipped, and deployed
  • 100s of projects in various stages of design and commercialization
  • 100s of customers
  • 70+ bottlers
  • 30 yearly objectives developed by management
  • Multiple daily meetings with key stakeholders with no margin to work

The role was very complicated, high-pressure, and thankless at times. Chaos was the norm. I was pulling my hair out; multiple fire drills or problems occurred daily. The tyranny of the urgent ruled the team. Everything was a priority.

Because of the job stress, I began not sleeping and constantly worried about the next challenge around the corner. The work was controlling me; I was burning out and dropping balls. What’s worse is that I wasn’t leading my team well.

One day, I was sitting in a meeting, and someone presented a priorities 2 x 2 grid. I’d seen the concept before but never used it. The presenter showed how the grid helped segment initiatives and prioritize them based on levels of urgency and importance:

  • High Importance/High Urgency. The work that matters most. Do these first.
  • High Importance/Low Urgency. Valuable work that can be added to the daily routine.
  • Low Importance/High Urgency. Complete these quickly or delegate.
  • Low Importance/Low Urgency. Low-value work that should be eliminated if possible.

The light bulb went off in my head. I realized that I needed to go back to a very fundamental practice that I’d ignored – prioritization. Then, I blocked out some white space on my calendar to think and walk through the priorities grid. I identified areas where I could invest my time, leverage my strengths and make a difference. Once the grid was complete, I shared it with my manager, who loved it. We agreed to use the document during our weekly 1:1s as our discussion focal point. We’d align on the priorities and what could fall off the to-do list.

Eventually, I began to gain control of the work and my schedule. I became more productive, less stressed, and a better leader. My team noticed the difference and asked what had changed. I shared the priorities grid with them, how I used the tool and how it helped me focus on the essential work. I recommended that they implement it as well. At first, the team members were hesitant, but they slowly adopted the priorities grid. They began seeing the difference prioritization made in their work and how it impacted their well-being.

I’ve since moved into another role. Recently, I ran into one of my former Strategic Merchandising Team members. She smiled and asked me if I remembered the priorities grid. I nodded “yes,” and she told me that she still uses it today – a very gratifying moment for me.

If you struggle with a complex environment, need help establishing priorities and staying focused on the work that matters most, here are a few helpful thoughts and tips:

  • Initiatives vs. Priorities. People confuse these two words. There can be many initiatives, but it’s up to you to prioritize them. Nothing is a priority if everything is a priority.
  • Spending vs. Investing Time. Time is one thing that we can’t manage. However, we can manage the priorities we focus on and the corresponding energy level we expend. This is a mindset. Think about it. When you spend, you’re just passing the time. When you invest, you’re actively engaging in something or someone to gain a return. What if we began investing our time in the highest impact people or projects versus just spending our time? Ask yourself, “what will give you the greatest return on my time?” and invest there.
  • White Space. We all need time to think. I’ve found that most folks don’t purposefully schedule time on their calendar to block everything out and intentionally reflect on the work that matters most. Look at your daily and weekly calendar. Do you have time to invest in yourself? If not, how do you take control of your schedule and build in white space to think without distraction? It’s hard to do but worth the time.

Suppose you’re faced with a complex work environment where the tyranny of the urgent is managing you. In that case, I recommend you take time to think, determine the work that matters by working through a priorities grid and invest your time where you can make the most significant difference. If you do, you’ll become a more effective leader.

Want to discover more about becoming an inspirational leader? Visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!

Cheers,

Preston

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Three Ways to Grow Your Influence

July 6, 2018

Ever get one of those meeting invites, and something seemed a little fishy? I did.

The meeting invitation subject line read, “Summer Promotion Planning Session.” The purpose of the meeting was for directors, like me, to present our Summer promotion plans to the Marketing Vice President, Edward. No other description or direction was provided.

While Edward was a brilliant and accomplished marketer, he had a reputation for being volatile and flying off the handle at any given moment. He’d been known to verbally abuse his team when someone didn’t know the answer to one of his questions or work didn’t meet his expectations.

I had a number of my peers ask me why we were summoned to the planning session. I told them I had no idea but encouraged them to have their facts together; the meeting could be rough.

Because of a scheduling conflict, I attended the meeting virtually. I logged onto the meeting website, and I could see my peers sitting in the quiet room, looking a little apprehensive. Edward stormed into the room, sat down, and asked who wanted to go first. One poor soul raised his hand to volunteer.

Before the first presenter could get a word out, Edward began peppering the individual with questions. Edward’s tone was condescending and became more intense as the dialogue progressed. The first volunteer didn’t have some of the answers to Edward’s questions.

Edward stopped the individual in mid-sentence and said, “Either you are incompetent, or you don’t care. Which is it?”

I felt like I was watching a shark that smelled blood and began circling its prey.

After a long, uncomfortable pause, Edward said, “You obviously don’t know your business. What are you worth? I ask again whether you are incompetent or don’t care. Which is it?”

The first volunteer’s face was bright red, and steam came out of his ears. However, out of fear, he didn’t respond.

Edward turned to the next person and demanded, “How about you? What are your Summer promotion plans?”

As the next person bravely began presenting, Edward pounced on the individual with pressing questions. The person became flustered and couldn’t spit her words out.

Edward sarcastically asked, “You too? Either you are incompetent, or you don’t care about our business. Which is it?”

Edward then proceeded to ask everyone around the table the same question. When he finished, Edward stood up and said, “I think I made my point. Everyone had better know their facts next time!” He stormed out of the room just as quickly as he entered.

I was spared the berating because I attended virtually, and Edward didn’t call on me. I couldn’t believe what I just saw. It wasn’t right. No one should be marginalized like Edward did to the team; it was utterly demoralizing.

The next day, I told my manager what had happened. He told me that he’d already heard the negative feedback and assured me that Edward’s behavior would be addressed.

Then, I got a wild idea that I could positively influence the situation. I thought to myself, “Meetings don’t have to be like the one Edward just held. They can be productive, effective, and constructive all at the same time while treating people with respect and dignity. Why don’t I volunteer to lead the next plan presentation meeting and show there’s a better way?”

I mentioned the idea to my manager. He paused and asked, “What will you do differently?”

“I’ll let people know upfront what’s expected of them, create a positive environment where ideas can be exchanged, and feedback can be given,” I replied.

My manager smiled and said, “I like it. Let’s give it a try on our next go around.”

To make a long story short, my approach was successful. I reached out to different VPs to align with my proposed format. I developed and provided a plan report template outlining information expectations. Lastly, I facilitated a planning meeting with all of our cross-functional partners in a very positive environment.

I received great feedback, including a note from someone that worked for Edward, “the plans shared today were excellent, and definitely instilled the confidence for success against this critical initiative. Thank you for all of the collaboration with your customers in building out the details.”

Because I influenced the situation, which led to a positive outcome, I was asked to lead other innovation launch and program plan presentation meetings. I proved that there was a better way to do things by treating people with dignity and respect.

As Christians, we are called to be salt and light (i.e., to influence). The Bible says,

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth… Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16 The Message)

It’s our job to shine and influence the world around us. So, what does it mean to be salt and light, to influence? Vocabulary.com defines influence as “the power to have an important effect on someone or something. If someone influences someone else, they are changing a person or thing in an indirect but important way.” To be influential means having the ability to shape and mold people, events, or the environment around you. Influence is leadership.

How do you grow your influence?

  1. Build Trust. Walk with integrity and establish people’s confidence in you – Do what you say you’ll do. Trust others and be trustworthy.
  2. Care About Others. People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Treat people with dignity and respect. Take time to listen to people genuinely. Also, determine what interests others and motivates them, and help them get it.
  3. Lead by Example. Remember, actions speak louder than words.

In the above story, I influenced the situation and the people around me by building trust with the team, creating a positive work environment, treating folks with dignity and respect, and leading by example.

How about you? When you see something that isn’t right, do you have the influence necessary to make a change? If not, what will you do to become influential and make a positive difference in your world (e.g., business, community, school, or church)? If you build trust, care about others and lead by example, you’ll become an influential leader.

Do you want to discover more about becoming an inspirational leader? Please visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!

Cheers,

Preston

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Preston Poore

I’m a disciple of Christ and an executive at a Fortune 500 Company. In my blog, The Discipled Leader, I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work.

As a certified coach, speaker, and trainer with the John Maxwell Team, I help others grow their relationship with Christ, develop their leadership skills, and understand how they can make a positive difference in today’s chaotic world.

Let me help you reach your potential.

I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work. I invite you to subscribe to my blog and learn how to develop Christlike character, influence your culture and change your world.

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