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Do The Unnatural to Succeed
There is a visceral scene in Glengarry Glen Ross. Alec Baldwin is standing there in front of a room of older salesmen, they are clocking the time cards, counting the hours and the days until they can go home. And here is this sleek sales executive berating, humiliating, and shaming them in what is an extraordinarily memorable movie scene (warning, adult language):
The line, ABC - Always Be Closing is forever inscribed in your mind once you’ve watched that scene. It is a powerful scene, it really goes to move you. Any you have to wonder, why must he lecture about closing? Why is it necessary to go to such lengths to bring the point home that you should “Always Be Closing!”, “Always… Be Closing.” The reason is because it is not natural to close a sale, not natural to close a deal, it finishes the transaction, there is no more, that’s it. You either got the deal you wanted, or you didn’t, or worse, you got no deal at all. It forces you to commit and forces you to force someone else to commit as well. The whole experience is not natural. That is why you need a motivational speech, if you can call it that, and threat of job termination to get people to do it.
I don’t subscribe to this ABC rule, I actually have my own.
“Always Be Constructive”
If you’ve worked for me for more than a week, you likely heard me say this at least once. I don’t take the Alec Baldwin approach, I try to be constructive and encouraging, but if an issues comes up you’ll invariably hear “Always Be Constructive”. To be honest with you, in the back of my mind I do have that Alec Baldwin scene playing, and I do imagine myself being a bit like Alec as I pronounce “Always… Be Constructive” statement.
So why do I feel it necessary to emphasize this so much? The reality is likely the same that Alec Baldwin’s character felt in Glengarry Glen Ross, it is not natural. This is something that requires unnatural action, being constructive, but in a very different way than being a closer.
Let me explain.
When your a closer, and you win, you take the whole responsibility. I did it! I made this happen! I closed the deal! The emphasis is fully and completely on the “I”, the self, and that scene makes it so tangible. Notice that Alec doesn’t care about his salespeople, he only cares about himself, his car, his watch, his salary, it is all about the self, the I. The ultimate self absorption at the absolute cost of everyone else.
To be a constructive individual mandates doing something completely opposite to that. In every situation you are being asked to take someone else’s idea, someone else’s initiative, someone else’s mistake and build in a positive way on it. In a way it is the total effacement of self, it is the complete nullification of the I and subservience to a higher ideal, that of being a united builder. And that flies in the face of natural behavior.
You get that email, someone proposed an idea, a solution, or is surfacing an issue. What is your first reaction? Its likely some form of a no; its a bad idea, that will never work, who caused this problem! That is the natural instinct, and yet, if you follow it, the outcome won’t be good. Being a negative individual, a contrarian to others, is not going to lead to positive results. It may lead to you getting your way, but is that the objective? Is the objective for one person to get their way at the cost of everyone around them? Or is the objective for the team to succeed, for the team to resolve an issue, for the team to build the next great product? That is arguably what you’d like to accomplish because as cliche as it sounds, Together Everyone Achieves More. The whole of a team is always greater than the sum of its parts and if you focus on that, it is how you’ll benefit as well as others. Being constructive forces you to say, that’s a great idea and this is how we can make it even better, that is a wonderful solution you’ve proposed, and this is how we can execute on it even faster and more reliably, it is a shame we’ve encountered this issue, but this is how we can solve it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
It sounds wonderful, yet so hard to do, the reason? You don’t get the credit, you are perpetually in a supporting role, and that may make you feel like you are not significant. What winners will tell you, is that they know that they could have never done it themselves, there is always a cast of characters there to help out. Winning teams also know, that everyone there is willing to sacrifice the self for the sake of a team win, as opposed to support the I in exchange for a team loss. Be a part of a winning team, Always Be Constructive.