The Popeye Factor

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By Paula Ford, Contributing Blogger

Anyone in the room who hasn’t read at least a dozen self-help books? How about Strategic Planning for your business? Effective Marketing & Sales? Better Hiring & Training Titles?

Yep, we’ve all done that. And yet somehow many of us remain “stuck” with one or two nagging problems that we have given up on, that absolutely stop us and keep us from going from good to great.

I remember President Kennedy – who appointed his brother Bobby as the attorney general. When Bobby told him it was a bad idea politically JFK replied, “Bobby, where else can I find someone who will TELL me when I’m full of sh**?”

This past week I’ve been lucky enough to have one of my employees tell me just that. Is it a bit self-congratulatory that I’m giving myself a little credit for listening to her and realizing that she was right? (I am, but I need to salve my ego a leeeeetle bit….) If you’re wondering what particular brand of sh** I got caught with – basically it’s that I take my key people for granted. I’m offhandedly expecting more and more. I’m reasonably good at acknowledging them with decent raises, but they’d like to be ACKNOWLEDGED more. Ouch. Careless not Care Less? Does it matter from the other person’s perspective? Of course not. Am I willing to work on that? YES. Will I follow through for a week or so, and then backslide, or will I really change? This is a biggie. (No I’m not going to let this slide.)

In the words of “Pogo” (a comic strip that ended in the 1970’s for the younger set):

We have met the enemy
…and he is us.

The older I get the more I believe that funny little line. We keep beating ourselves up trying to change the outside – other people and other situations – when 95% of the time what we really need to do is get over “The Popeye Factor”.

The plain truth is that every time I’ve been willing to give up one of my most dearly held prejudices, I’ve come up smelling like a rose.

It’s risky business, because most of us do things that “work” so why mess with what “works”? It is hard to admit that sometimes a situation only “works” because we’ve thrown excessive effort and tons of band-aids at the problem. We expend 90% of our total energy keeping a bad situation “working” which means we have nothing left over for growth.

So challenge yourself. Find what you think is the one big energy-sucking recurring problem in your life, double check with someone who WILL tell you that you are full of it – to see if they think that is your real problem. Then find a way to DUMP that problem effectively.

Find the real problem
A female employee kept having “boyfriend drama” through multiple boyfriends – each one was a bigger drunk and loser than the previous one. She never dumped a boyfriend until she had another one standing in the wings. The real problem? SHE was an alcoholic… the boyfriends were camouflage.

An answering service owner can’t find reliable help and has 400% turnover every year. He’s tried pre-employment testing, he’s used remote operators, and he’s even opened a remote location in an area with 9% unemployment. And still he just can’t keep staff. The real problem? He’s a nitpicker and a fault finder. His employees can’t do anything right, ever. His employees can’t do anything right, ever…. and he can’t figure out why they can’t stand working for him. What’s his “full of it” factor? He hasn’t realized that accepting “good enough” will work better than demanding “perfect”.

Another owner signs up 50 new clients every month, and has zero growth. Which should he work on, marketing or retention?

I talked to a medical-only service last week. Their manager was complaining about more and more cost pressure AND more services competing for the same doctors. Is it unthinkable with today’s equipment to have a “medical only” service and a “general service” that share the same equipment, the same office, and the same power backup? Two company names is about all it requires.
The minute you hear yourself doing the Popeye Factor “I y’am what I y’am and that’s all that I y’am” is the moment you’ve guaranteed that it’s all you ever will be.

Change IS hard. Stagnation isn’t?

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