Challanging My Affinity for Meyers Briggs

July 30th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

I’m a huge proponent of Meyers Briggs tests. In my businesses, we use these tests to help with hiring, forming teams, determining target markets, and learning how best to communicate with each other. So naturally, I had several employees and potential hires take the test. Here’s the email I got back from one of my senior team leaders.


Subject: I’m an enigma, but most people are…

These personality test results seem like a bunch of horse biscuits. I don’t agree with that thing. I think I contradict my own self. Either way, thanks for the gig.
   
- I like people, but pretty much all of them annoy me after a while.
- I’m emotional, but I love statistics and facts.
- I like parties and so forth, but I always need to detox from socializing.
- I love history. I think about the past all the time. I also dream of the future (living on my farm where all is perfect.)
- I love getting a ton of stuff done, but I can’t maintain a fast pace forever. I also excel at wasting time.
- I’m always late getting places. I’m never late on deadlines.
- I don’t like to hear about people’s problems, but they all tell me about them all the time, so I’m good at dealing with that kind of crap.
- I’m motivated by humor, a reaction, and (humorous) controversy. But I don’t want to be actively involved in controversy. I’d rather make it happen and then watch.
- I have a huge list of pet peeves. (People who smell like their breakfast, wasteful sounds, girls who scream for no reason, old people who give unwanted advice, people who toot their own horn, anything sticky, static, wind, people who say “I’m just sayin”, people who use the word “uber” in regular English conversation, people who eat sushi because it’s trendy, chalk dust, expensive workout clothes, etc, etc. On the other hand, I can also get along with pretty much anyone.
- Personality tests annoy me because there are close to 6,775,235,700 types of people on the earth–not 4.


After I finished laughing, I thought, this is a good reminder that personality tests have their place. We use them to get the conversation started, we use them to aid communication, but at the end of the day…people are unique individuals, all 6,775,235,700 of them.

 

Values Will Guide Us Through The Rough Times – Zig Zag Principle #27

July 29th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

I know of a mother who had a lot of children.  In fact, some people looked down on her for having so many, but she didn’t care.  She loved her children. She had very little materially, but she would look at her kids and say, “I will put you up there with the best of them.”  She had a big goal out there.  It was not only to raise good kids, she wanted to raise children who would be hard working and self-reliant.  She wanted her kids to go out and make a difference in the world.  This was her beacon in the fog. 

This family did not have many resources.  They lived on a dairy farm at a time when milk prices were dropping.  The entire time this family was being raised, there was not one year that their total income was above the poverty level; in fact, many years it was well below the poverty level.  But this inconvenience did not deter this mother.  She had a set of values she was determined to pass along to her children, and those values guided everything she did.  Some of the things she valued were education, hard work, and self-reliance.  She did not want her kids to be dependent on society like many other families in their situation. 

This mother got creative with the meager resources she had, and she taught her children that if there was something they wanted, they needed to do the same.  One of her daughters wanted to take dance lessons like the other girls in her class.  This mother talked with the dance teacher; and even though the mother did not have cash to pay for the lessons, the dance teacher happily took milk and eggs from her farm in exchange for those lessons.  Another child needed some expensive dental care.  The mother went to work at a dental office in exchange for the needed treatment.  This family was growing up in the 1970s and ’80s before personal computers were common.  As her kids became teenagers, the mother would encourage them to take typing classes so they could get a good after-school job.  She then allowed the kids to be responsible for their own expenses and learn how to manage their money. As busy as she was and as much as she stressed self-reliance, she always encouraged them in their homework and helped them seek out scholarships.

Once, one of her children was noticing all the name brand clothes her peers were wearing.  She stopped the mother and asked, “Mom, are we poor?”  The mother thought for a minute or two and replied, “No, we are not poor, we are just broke.”  She wanted her daughter to realize that even though they did not have a lot of money at the time, they could work hard and move up to become whatever they wanted to be.  In her mind a “poor” person was someone with a victim mentality, and she did not want her children to feel as though life was just owed to them.

Another time one of the daughters wanted to try out for the cheerleading squad.  Both the mother and the daughter knew the uniforms, shoes, trips, and fees cost a lot of money.  So they brainstormed together about how to make this work.  The daughter got a summer job moving sprinklers and working at Kentucky Fried Chicken to pay for the things she needed.  She had to work a little harder than the other girls on the squad, but those things made her strong.

In the end, every one of this mother’s children went to college and then on to productive careers.  Each one of these children is contributing to society in their chosen field.  One is a doctor, another an engineer.  There is a nurse, a businessman, a businesswomen, and a teacher. Now that her children are grown, people say to this mom “You are so lucky.  How did you do it?”  She smiles, knowing it had nothing to do with luck.  She had established her goals and values before she even had children.  And those children were clearly shown the road map they should follow if they wanted to achieve success.

Don’t Over Think a 3-Foot Putt

July 29th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Today I took a young man named Landon Swenson and my dear friend Ellis Taylor up golfing at one of my favorite golf courses, Wasatch State Park. The outing was in celebration of Landon leaving for a couple of years to serve an LDS mission in the Philippines.

As we started out the day I had a beautiful fairway drive. I got up on the drain three feet from the pin. Then I got a little awkward and ended up missing the three foot birdie putt. That mess up got embedded so deeply in my mind that throughout the rest of the day, every single three-foot putt was a mess.

Each time I got wobbly kneed, crooked, and started thinking, “Don’t miss it, don’t miss it!” Then…panic! I ended up missing almost every three-foot putt that I had today. By the time I got done I had counted seven putts. I put in an incredible round, but I couldn’t hit the easiest shot that there was.

As I thought about this, I realized how frequently I have done that in business. Sometimes I have a straightforward, simple task to do in business, something I just need to finalize it and put it to bed, but I over think it. I get too stressed out. I get too tied up in it, and I end up over-contriving and jimmy-rigging the thing until it ends up a failure.

When you are in business, go with your gut intuition. Don’t put every little thing through too much brain processing. When you have something difficult, go forward with confidence. You will have a much higher probability of success and you won’t miss all your three-foot putts.

Waste Not…Want Not – Zig Zag Principle #26

July 27th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

One of my heroes and mentors was a businessman named Ray Noorda.  Ray was the CEO of Novell when I worked there, and he guided the company through its “glory days.”  During his time as CEO, everybody knew very clearly what the values of Novell were.  Financial responsibility was at the top of the list.  Next was to be on the leading edge of technology.  Another was to take good care of our customers. 

We had a series of mantras that were propagated throughout the company.  These were little statements that Ray was famous for, such as, “Resist change and die, adapt to change and survive, create change and thrive.”  Another was, “Customers first, employees second, shareholders third.”  One of his statements that used to spread fear throughout the company was, “Spring cleaning whether we need it or not.”  All of us knew that every spring the bottom 10 percent of performers would be laid off.  Ray did not like having dead wood in the company.  He felt it was an honor to work at Novell; and if people were not performing, he did not want them to weigh the company down.  Not everyone agreed with his values, but these are examples of the culture that Ray created for Novell. 

Most of us who worked for Ray considered him to be something of a tightwad.  Whether that is a fair assessment or not, he was definitely fiscally responsible. Although he was a billionaire, Ray did not have a fancy office; in fact, he had the same standard issue desk and chairs as everyone else.  When he traveled, he flew coach to save the company money.  He did not wear expensive suits.  He drove an old 1972 King Cab pickup truck.

Not surprisingly, he loved to walk around the company and met people.  He would stay after hours and talk with the custodians.  It was not uncommon for him to come sit on your desk and ask if you had anything good to eat.  He would talk to every level of employee.  As a result, he knew exactly what was happening in the company.

At one point, we had an executive who made it a point to let others know he had money, and one day he came to work with a shiny new Rolex watch.  This employee had failed to take note of the values and culture of the company.  Not surprisingly, he was one of those who ended up getting cleaned out the next spring.  That became one of the many stories that got passed through the company, which reinforced the values Ray used to guide Novell. 

One time I personally witnessed one of Ray’s stories, and I did my part to pass it along.  I was in the restroom when Ray walked in.  There was another man in there who was combing his hair and who kept the water on the entire time he was grooming himself.  He would leave the water running while he went to check himself in the mirror.  Then he’d come back for a bit more water, and then head to the mirror again.  When Ray came in and saw what was going on, he turned the water off.  The guy went back and turned it back on—and then gave Ray a dirty look.  As the guy turned away from the water, Ray shut it off again.  It was obvious this guy had no idea who he was dealing with.  After the third time, Ray wagged his finger in this man’s face and said, “Waste not, want not.”  I am not sure what happened to the offender.  But I know that I was sure quivering and that the value of not being wasteful was ingrained deep within me that day.  These were the stories that would spread like wildfire through the company.  They taught the values and created the culture of how everyone in the company was expected to behave. 

Let’s Talk Football – Zig Zag Principle #25

July 25th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

You can certainly head down the road not really knowing what your values are, but it’s never going to get you anywhere good. For many years, my favorite college football team had an incredible coach.  He was revered by fans, players, and coaches across the country.  He coached the same team for almost three decades and won countless awards, including a National Championship. He valued hiring great assistant coaches; and while there was no mistaking who was in charge, he was a delegator.  When he took over his team as head coach, he could see it would never compete well with a running strategy, so he decided he would find quarterbacks who valued passing the ball.  He faced teams that could score twenty or thirty points running the ball, but his team could score forty or fifty by passing.  So, they won.  Several of his quarterbacks went on to play in the NFL, and more than one took his team to the Super Bowl.

He believed in his coaches, in his players, and in his strategy.  On game day, he stood on the sidelines with his arms crossed, completely non-emotional as he calmly kept pace with his team from the sideline.  If his team won, his expression was the same as those rare times that they lost. 

After this coach retired, a coach came in who didn’t seem to know what he valued. His offensive strategy seemed to change from week to week. He would start a quarterback, pull him out, and then try another quarterback.  At times, he let his assistant coaches do their jobs, and other times he would take over—sometimes in the middle of a game.  When a game was close, he would run up and down the sideline, waving his arms frantically over what was happening.  Players and coaches alike didn’t know what he expected of them; and, as a fan, it was confusing to watch the team during this time.  No one seemed to know what he valued, and, as a result, it wasn’t long before he was fired.  Since leaving the university, he returned to the ranks of assistant coaches where he has had success, but no one has been willing to offer him a job as the head coach.

The most recent coach of this storied team is almost the exact opposite of the legendary coach.  He is much more hands-on, to the point where he has functioned as both head coach and defensive coordinator.  He is much more emotional.  He is much more involved in the community, and expects his players to be as well.  And yet, with all the differences, he is enjoying a winning record that rivals that of the man this school’s football stadium is named after.  The first coach and the current coach have succeeded with different values systems, but they each have one.  And those values were and are crystal clear to each of the players and each member of the staff. 

Whether you are deciding for yourself, your family, or your business, the values you  settle on will determine your behavior, which will in turn determine what stories will be told about you.  These stories will then serve to guide the behavior of those who follow you.

Let’s Talk Football – Zig Zag Principle #25

July 25th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

You can certainly head down the road not really knowing what your values are, but it’s never going to get you anywhere good. For many years, my favorite college football team had an incredible coach.  He was revered by fans, players, and coaches across the country.  He coached the same team for almost three decades and won countless awards, including a National Championship. He valued hiring great assistant coaches; and while there was no mistaking who was in charge, he was a delegator.  When he took over his team as head coach, he could see it would never compete well with a running strategy, so he decided he would find quarterbacks who valued passing the ball.  He faced teams that could score twenty or thirty points running the ball, but his team could score forty or fifty by passing.  So, they won.  Several of his quarterbacks went on to play in the NFL, and more than one took his team to the Super Bowl.

He believed in his coaches, in his players, and in his strategy.  On game day, he stood on the sidelines with his arms crossed, completely non-emotional as he calmly kept pace with his team from the sideline.  If his team won, his expression was the same as those rare times that they lost. 

After this coach retired, a coach came in who didn’t seem to know what he valued. His offensive strategy seemed to change from week to week. He would start a quarterback, pull him out, and then try another quarterback.  At times, he let his assistant coaches do their jobs, and other times he would take over—sometimes in the middle of a game.  When a game was close, he would run up and down the sideline, waving his arms frantically over what was happening.  Players and coaches alike didn’t know what he expected of them; and, as a fan, it was confusing to watch the team during this time.  No one seemed to know what he valued, and, as a result, it wasn’t long before he was fired.  Since leaving the university, he returned to the ranks of assistant coaches where he has had success, but no one has been willing to offer him a job as the head coach.

The most recent coach of this storied team is almost the exact opposite of the legendary coach.  He is much more hands-on, to the point where he has functioned as both head coach and defensive coordinator.  He is much more emotional.  He is much more involved in the community, and expects his players to be as well.  And yet, with all the differences, he is enjoying a winning record that rivals that of the man this school’s football stadium is named after.  The first coach and the current coach have succeeded with different values systems, but they each have one.  And those values were and are crystal clear to each of the players and each member of the staff. 

Whether you are deciding for yourself, your family, or your business, the values you  settle on will determine your behavior, which will in turn determine what stories will be told about you.  These stories will then serve to guide the behavior of those who follow you.

Different Strokes For Different Folks – Zig Zag Principle #24

July 22nd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Although I do believe in right and wrong, it’s important to initially assess your values without judgment. Different businesses must have different cultures and, therefore, values.  A collections company that provides a service of calling people and demanding that they pay their bills will value employees who are assertive and will not back down. The employees would generally value justice more than mercy.  They would need to value responsibility and accountability.  The employer might value being fair, but would define fair in terms of all the parties, with a bias toward the entity that is owed the money. 

      On the other hand, a company in the business of entertaining people would not flourish if it based its business on the same values as the collections agency.  Typically, it would value fun, entertainment, preparation, and social interaction—those values that help ensure that everyone who walks in the door has fun. 

      It would not make sense for the entertainment company to say, “We are an entertainment company that is fair in our judgments.”  Likewise, you’re not going to hear the collections agency say, “We value bringing joy and laughter to our patrons.”  Different businesses, different values.

      I attended a very interesting lecture once where the speaker asked a group of chiropractors the following question: “Are you a healer?  Are you a doctor? Or are you a businessman?”  There was a long and awkward pause, and then he continued, “Your response to this question is going to determine how you will set up and conduct your practice.”  The speaker wasn’t suggesting there was a right or a wrong answer; he was saying that the answer would lead each of these chiropractors in a slightly different direction, so they ought to give it careful consideration.

      Picture how the “healer” might set up his practice.  He would be much more holistic in his approach, focusing on preventative care and wellness.  In addition to his services, he might recommend and provide certain supplements and vitamins.  He would likely encourage exercise and proper diets.  He would certainly teach his patients proper techniques to avoid injury.  His values would likely lead him to spend more time with each patient, which he’d need to consider as he mapped out his billing practices. He might spend more time with each customer and may or may not be as profitable. 

      The chiropractor who sees herself primarily as a doctor is likely more traditional and focuses on getting her patients’ spines back into alignment.  As such, her need for staff, office space, and billing policies are going to be quite different from the healer.  Finally, the “businessman” would have a dramatically different approach to his practice.  He might not even do the day-to-day adjustments, opting instead to have a group of chiropractors work for him.  He will be more focused on the production and efficiency of the practice.  While each of these chiropractor’s values may differ somewhat, what is clear is that their values are going to provide a road map that guides everything from selecting office space to determining rates to the actual care of the patient.

A Firm Foundation – Zig Zag Principle #23

July 22nd, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Values are the infrastructure or highway system we travel on to reach our goal. 

If my family and I were taking a road trip to Disneyland from our home in Utah, we would have two choices.  We could pull out of our driveway, point our car southwest, and begin to drive through neighbors’ dining rooms and yards, through cow pastures and weeds, across streams, and over mountain ranges until we got to sunny Southern California.  The other choice would be to do an Internet search for the best route to Disneyland, and then print off and follow the directions that are given.  I suppose option one would get us there eventually, if I had access to an amphibious assault vehicle…and if we could avoid arrest.  But I think my family and I would enjoy the trip more if we followed the Interstate—and exited the freeway once in a while for gas, a bite to eat, and a chance to freshen up.   

Just as there are roads my family is willing to take and others we’d rather avoid, there are ways of living life and doing business that I am willing to try and others I steer clear of.  For me, I love to drive on paved streets because I know my wife’s minivan will get stuck in the mud if I head off across uncharted terrain.  And, like a good map, my values keep me on the right roads.

Any organization that is going to be successful—whether it is a family, a sports team, or a business—must have a set of values to work from; otherwise, it will end up wandering into the weeds.  When I say values, I’m not necessarily referring just to moral values.  Values go well beyond what we may typically think of when we hear the word.  They are the infrastructure you are going to use as you build toward your goal.  Values include the behavior you are going to exhibit, the culture you want to create, and the rules you will follow. Values set the tone for what the culture in the company will be.  Following or ignoring values creates the stories that then reinforce the culture we are building.  Different families have different values, just as different businesses have different values.  As an example, let’s suppose you want to start a high-class, restaurant with inventive food and a romantic environment.  In this restaurant, you would value using fresh ingredients and having a meticulously clean kitchen.  Quality, refinement, and culture might be some of the values you would promote among your staff and with your customers (whom you might refer to as patrons).  On the other hand, if you were looking to open a family-friendly, fast-food restaurant, you would value speed, efficiency, variety, and the entertainment of kids.  Ideally, you would value cleanliness as well.  You are not going to use the same high-quality ingredients as your gourmet counterpart, and you might have far more options on the menu, including a kids’ menu.  Identifying your values, based on your purposes and objectives, is essential so you can clearly define where you’re headed with your venture.

Life Lessons at 12,200 Feet

July 21st, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Due to the high amount of wind atop a 12,169-foot mountain, this video is a bit hard to hear. Below is the transcription of the audio. I hope you enjoy the view from the top as well as the inspiration I enjoy while working with these young Boy Scouts.

Richard: Alright everyone…we are on top of Delano, which is a 12,200 feet peak in the Tushar Mountain range in Utah. We’re here with the Boy Scouts.

(To the Boy Scouts) Guys this is the most important talk we will have had this entire trip. So, who thought the hike up was a little tough?

(Boy Scouts agreeing it was difficult.)

That is an important life lesson. Nothing in life that is worth having is easy. Throughout your entire life you will face dragons. Remember when we were looking at the Devil’s Tooth and everyone started saying, “Ah! I can’t do this, I’m really nervous.”

There are a lot of moments in life that are scary and the reality is that the number one thing anything worth having in life is hard, and it takes hard work. If something is easy then everyone else has done it and it’s not worth having.

The second point is we zig zagged all the way up here. What if we would have headed straight up that mountain? What do you think would have happened?

A Boy Scout:We would have died!”

Richard: We would not have made it. We would have fallen off those cliffs. So indeed we have proven again today that Zig Zag is a fundamental true principle.

Everyone: It’s AWESOME! We can make it ANYWHERE!

 

 

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Beneath the Cover Guest Post

July 19th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Today I’m honored to be a guest contributor on the insightful and informative site of my friend and colleague Michael R. Drew—www.beneaththecover.com. Of course, I love the catchy name…Beneath the Cover, but I also regularly benefit from the stellar posts such as this recent one: Share Your Downside Openly to Increase Trust & Sales. It’s chockfull of great advice and it’s pretty darn humorous as well.

As an exceptional marketer, an intense thinker, and a whirlwind doer, Michael has played a key role in creating more than 50 national bestsellers. I’m thrilled to have my piece Whose Team Do You Play On? on his site today. Please check it out, and feel free to explore the other content too.

Beneath The Cover strives to “uncover” the entire book industry, so it’s a good place to find insider info. (From beneaththecover.com) “Our articles contain the most up-to-date details and news from writing to publishing, authors to consumers, agents to distributors—and everything in between.”

I suppose it’s true that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, so go Beneath the Cover and find out more.


What’s YOUR Big Audacious Goal? – Zig Zag Principle #22

July 17th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Eating Our Own Cooking

Froghair, the company I’m currently spending most of my time on, has spent a considerable amount of time wandering in the fog.  As I explained in chapter 1, when I started the company, it was a very low priority, we went through various permutations of ownership, it morphed into a little business I ran out of my garage with my boys, and I ultimately sold it.  Then, when my partner and I took Froghair back, we found we needed to create a much clearer focus.  Our beacon in the fog is now to become the leading agency in the outdoor sector that helps launch brands internationally.  Our catalyzing statements have to do with specific benchmarks we have set for each month as we have tried to undo the damage created by the previous owner.  And having those benchmarks (which will be discussed in more detail in subsequent chapters) has turned Froghair from a company that was under deep water financially into one that is beginning to make a profit and move my partner and I toward our broader goals.

On a far more personal level, my overarching beacon in the fog is to make a dent in the poverty that permeates developing countries.  But that is an overwhelming challenge, one that world leaders, philanthropic organizations, and development agencies have not been able to solve.  Recognizing my inability to fix such an overwhelming issue with my limited means, I turned to a catalyzing statement that motivates me each day and that has brought many like-minded individuals on board with me—to educate 1,000 young people from developing countries by the time I turn fifty.

Conclusion

The beacon in the fog is our destination.  Where do we want to go?  This is our big, audacious goal.  For some, it is a dream vacation to France.  For John F. Kennedy, it was his goal of having the best space program in the world. For me, it is educating young people in developing countries.

Our beacon in the fog is not a short-term goal; it is a long-term goal that our short-term goals are leading to.  We then supplement it with our catalyzing statements, which add specificity.  As we zig zag toward our individual beacons, it is essential that we pause long enough to climb high enough up a tree to see beyond the fog.  We are then able to check our bearings to see if we are heading in the direction our zig zagging is supposed to be taking us.

 

Don’t Pick Your Zits

July 14th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

 

Never pick your zits when you’re a teenager, and especially not when you’re in business.

 

Several years ago a delightful young woman came up to me dressed in a white dress and a bright smile. She looked me straight in the eyes and started talking. Then about thirty seconds into our conversation she broke out into tears.

 

Crying she said “I know, I know, it looks terrible, it looks awful. I tried everything I could to cover it over but I just kept picking it and now I have this zit that is just all over my face! I’m so sorry, it’s so hideous!”

 

The funny thing is that I never even noticed that she had a zit. Quite frankly I was enjoying the conversation with this delightful young woman. How frequently in life and business do we stumble and make the same faux pas?

 

Last week I was contacted by a close friend and associate who has an online problem with Google and he was seeking some SEO advice. Apparently when you Googled his name the second listing that pops up is a negative term. As I dug deeper into the scenario, I realized what had happened—indeed he had picked the metaphorical zit. Frequently in business we become fixated on a small negative problem, and then we pick it and we pick it and we pike it, until it becomes a huge problem.

 

Several months ago, this individual noticed that when you searched his name…way at the bottom of the auto fill was the term lawsuit listed with his name. The interesting thing is this lawsuit result had nothing to do with him. This lawsuit was not his problem. However, he and his entire team, and everyone around him became so fixated with the “problem” that they repeatedly searched and clicked on the erroneous lawsuit results, repeatedly.

 

As anyone who knows anything about Google knows, the repeated searching and clicking, alerted Google that this certain search result was, in fact, pretty important and relevant. What was the result? The zit grew bigger, the problem got bigger because the team and the individual himself kept picking the zit.

 

So, when you have a problem, highlight the beautiful, good things, don’t get fixated on a negative problem. Don’t highlight it and bring it to everyone’s attention.

 

The lesson from that young woman that came up and looked me in the eyes and started a delightful conversation is this: Most people would never have noticed or cared. We don’t need to point out our problems. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t open and real! it simply means that we don’t need to make small problems into big problems.

 

Constructing With Integrity – Zig Zag Principle #20

July 12th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

As I’ve come to understand and apply the concepts of beacons in the fog and catalyzing statements, I’ve watched to see if others who have achieved significant success follow the same pattern.  Alan Layton is an associate of mine who was central to helping Utah-based Layton Construction grow from a family business to a major commercial construction corporation.  As I asked him about how the company grew, Alan shared a very telling story.

Back in the late 1980s, Alan was attending a conference with several of his key executives. The speaker asked the question, “Who has a mission statement for their company?”  Alan raised his hand, but the speaker didn’t ask what Alan’s mission statement was.  Instead, he asked if any of Alan’s executive staff were in attendance.  When Alan responded that they were, the speaker asked the executives, “What is your company’s mission statement?”  These individuals stuttered and stammered and could not recite it. Alan told me he was embarrassed while the members of his staff were very apologetic.  He then wrestled with what he could use to clarify the company’s purpose and unify his executives around it.  He settled on the phrase:

    Constructing with Integrity

Alan went on to explain in detail what that mantra meant:

    1. What We Produce: Build using the highest level of quality and not cut corners.  Use the best materials and the best methodologies available to construct with integrity.

    2.  How We Deal With People: Behave ethically and treat all people equally and with respect.  Construct relationships with integrity

    3.  The Organization We Build: Remove posturing and politics and build our organization and interactions with each other with respect.  Construct the organization with integrity.

These simple three words—Constructing with Integrity—became the North Star, the guiding beacon, for Layton Construction.  What grew out of this beacon were Layton Construction’s catalyzing statements.  And, as Alan told me, “Everyone understood what we stood for, and it was very rewarding.”

Some time later, at a company function, someone took a camera around and began asking team members what Constructing with Integrity meant to them.  Here are a few of the statements from that day:

    “It means I can live the same way on the job as when I am at home with my wife.”

    “It means I don’t ever have to apologize to anyone for what we do.”

Catalyzing statements go way beyond articulating a goal. They emotionally charge us and align us. They emotionally motivate us to seek and believe and move forward.

A good example of the power found in a broad goal with a catalyzing statement is Bill Gates.  In the early days of Microsoft, he would boldly declare, “We’re going to become the largest software company in the world!”  That sounded great, but at that time nobody even knew what software was!  Was Gates referring to a pair of snuggly, warm pajamas?  No one could really wrap their heads around what he was saying.  Then one day he made the statement, “I picture a world where there is a personal computer in every home and on every desktop.”  That was something people understood, and it became Microsoft’s catalyzing statement.  The rest, of course, is history. And, just like John F. Kennedy, Alan Layton, or Bill Gates, your catalyzing statement needs to be something you use as your emotional fuel that can rally the troops.

Several years ago I was in Japan, and I had the opportunity to visit a company in Tokyo called Fujita. From the moment I entered this company’s headquarters, I knew it was unique. The tone, the conduct of the staff, and the presentation of the boardroom were simply different. It was very clear that everyone was focused and clearly on a mission.  At the end of our meeting I could not help but probe a bit, so I asked the individual I was meeting with to explain more about the company, its founder, and its history.  His answer was immediate and brief—and it told me everything I was looking for.  He simply said, “Fujita’s vision is to bring American culture to Japan”.

Now that is a powerful, huge, audacious, and crazy goal.  “Bring American culture to Japan!”

Fujita’s daily activities include selling hamburgers, movies, clothing, and other products, most of which are imported.  But those things are simply vehicles in support of Fujita’s catalyzing statement.  And that catalyzing statement has resulted in Fujita bringing McDonald’s, BlockBuster, and Toys R Us to Japan.

Man on the Moon – Zig Zag Principle #19

July 9th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Catalyzing Statements

Soon after John F. Kennedy became president, he began to see the importance of the manned space program that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had envisioned; in fact, in his State of the Union address in January 1961, he made his support of manned space flight clear.  Then on April 12, 1961, the Soviet Union sent the first man into space, which seemed to show the world that while the United States had dreams and ambitions, it was lagging behind in achieving its goal. President Kennedy did not want to fall behind the Soviet Union, which was putting more money and effort toward space than we were at that time, so on May 25, 1961, he stood before a special joint session of Congress and outlined what could be viewed as his beacon in the fog.  He said:  

     I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership [in space travel]. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to ensure their fulfillment 

It’s important to note that President Kennedy did not stop there. Instead, President Kennedy added what my associate Rick Sapio refers to as a catalyzing statement when he said: 

     I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. (Special address to the United States Congress, May 25, 1961.) 

Of course, that goal was fulfilled when on July 20, 1969, less than a decade after President Kennedy made his famous speech, Neil Armstrong did indeed walk on the moon and returned to earth safely.

Catalyzing statements add specificity and are the fuel that motivates us—and those around us—to keep moving toward our beacon in the fog. 

At the risk of sounding immodest, I would say that my beacon in the fog of helping people in developing countries is noble, but it is also too broad. This leads to two problems.  The first is that, even though I have a goal, it lacks any specificity to guide my actions day to day.  The second is that, as I try to garner support from others, my goal seems overwhelming and unattainable. 

So, I refined my goal and concluded I wanted to help educate youth from around the world.  Even with that, though, it still lacked focus and was too vague for others to grasp.  Eventually, I arrived at my catalyzing statement, which is: “I plan on educating one thousand youth from around the world before I turn fifty.” That was the point when I became very focused and also found others who were willing to support my dream.  Suddenly doors opened and opportunities arose that helped lead us closer to this goal. 

On a very different scale, what I did was much the same as when John F. Kennedy declared, “We will get a man on the moon before the end of the decade…and return him home safely.” We must clearly identify our beacon in the fog, and then we must follow that up by creating our catalyzing statement.

Areas of Influence vs Areas of Concern- Zig Zag Principle #18

July 8th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Finding that beacon took quite some time, but as I searched for it, I realized I have always been concerned about the plight of the poverty stricken women and children around the world.  It just dismays me to see the starving children and the abuses of women in developing countries.  I have travelled in some of these countries, I watch the news, and I worry about these people, so much so that I developed a rather general goal of helping women in developing countries find their way out of poverty.  However, I felt for a long time that this was a goal that was largely out of my area of influence. 

Many experiences have helped me change my view, but perhaps none more powerfully than when I had the opportunity to interview a man named Steve Comrie, who is a pioneer in the satellite television industry.  He and his business partner, David Reid, have both been very successful in their field.  At one point, the two somehow became aligned with Afghanistan and discovered a group of freedom fighters who desperately wanted to bring honest, fair, and open television to the Afghanis.

Over time, this goal became Steve and Dan’s beacon in the fog, despite the realities they faced in dealing with a corrupt government, Taliban strongholds, and many others who were hostile to the idea of a free flow of information.  As they undertook this endeavor, the two men spent many weeks and months having no idea how they would find their way through the darkness.  But they had a goal in mind, and through a series of miraculous events, Steve and Dave made the decision to go to Afghanistan to play their part in helping these freedom fighters.  At great personal risk, they were able to set up uncensored television programming.  They even created a program called The Mask, in which Afghan women who usually have no voice in social issues can wear a mask and speak freely about what is happening in their country without fear of reprisal or death. 

Was this undertaking at the very edge of Steve and Dave’s comfort zone?  Indeed it was.  It was also right on the fringe of their area of influence and their area of concern.  But through identifying and pursuing their beacon in the fog, they have been able to expand their area of influence, and they are actually doing something about their area of concern.  Their undertaking meant they had to spend considerable time zigzagging through the fog guided by their beacon, but in the process they did something remarkable for the women and the men of Afghanistan. 

I contend that all the great breakthroughs that occur in the world happen when people act right on the perimeter of their area of influence and their area of concern.  This is where real power and influence is born.