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Views from the Prairie

October 11

Want to Believe

One of the most powerful forces in human relations is the "Want to Believe". We see this force operating in Ponzi schemes, startup companies, and companies about to go under. It is the force that keeps many people staying in their position even when things are not very good.

Every salesperson, coach, and corporate CEO knows about this force. We use it every time we build the picture in the customer's mind of how they will benefit from our products or services even when those products do not yet exist. We use that force to pull a team together to build a new product or to face an opponent far better than us. One sales training web site starts by saying "give them something to believe."

The "Want to Believe" starts in childhood. The small child who is told about Santa Claus wants to believe that it is true. Later, they may know the truth about that, but want to believe in their baseball team. In teenage years, we want to believe in causes or go on trips with hardships to "carry the word" to others and "do good". This "Want to Believe" drives many efforts to build a better world.

When a team shares a common belief, they can do far more than when some doubt. When all of management believes something, the workers can sense that common belief and respond far more positively.

But real belief is hard to generate. This real belief has to start at the top and not be a way to manipulate the workforce. It requires a clear view of reality, consistency of action, integrity, and persistence. We have all seen efforts where managers went through the motions but did not believe. The results have always been worse than not going through those efforts.

One of the hardest parts of that process is getting a clear view of reality. Many a CEO has started to believe their own pronouncements with the result that they no longer lead. Their employees see the disconnect from reality and don't follow.

The "Want to Believe" is such a powerful force that few can challenge a common belief. Challenging a belief is so hard that very few people at Enron were able to piece through and see the coming disaster. Regulators at the SEC believed that Madoff was an upstanding fund manager and could not see his falseness even though people were trying to present such evidence to them. Repeatedly, email scams, phishing, repair scams, and fake crisis calls take in people who want to believe. Last year, a local elderly lady refused to prosecute a repair scam artist because "she thought he was doing a nice job" as he charged her $30,000 for a paint job others would charge $500.

It is difficult to face reality, dream up how to get to a better place, and communicate that dream such that others believe in it. But when we do, we lead a team to scale great heights.

Is your Strategy Statement killing your company?

Companies and many a non profit organization spend a lot of time and effort writing a "strategy statement". Unfortunately, many an effort results in statements that don't help. The resulting statements are full of big, psychological words that few people understand. The net effect of such statements is that the organization has wasted valuable resources to produce something that has no clarity, is not understood by those who read it, and does not help people in the organization do their job.

If such a statement could be safely ignored, then that wouldn't be so bad. Many an organization wastes valuable time and resources. However, a number of these strategy statements mislead the people in the organization. Because of the lack of clarity, people put their own understanding of the words into the statements and make the "strategy" something totally different from what was intended. In that case, it would be better to operate without such a statement. Bad strategy statements are worse than having no statement.

Most "Strategy Statements" are simply wishful thinking wrapped up in big words. A real strategy statement provides a coherent approach to defining the major problems of the company showing how the different parts of the company will work together to solve them.

Contrast that with what you see in your company. Would your company do better with a better statement or with no such statement at all?

Risky World.

We want to believe the Internet. Yet, crackers are doing their best to break the security at the root of the Internet. Recently, crackers broke into three root certificate companies and issued fake certificates. One of the companies went bankrupt.


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