What becoming a Grandfather taught me about Business
I’ve become a Grandfather in the last few months.
Of twins even….
Everybody’s very happy and the girls are gorgeous and cute and they’re eating as if the world’s running out of food soon.
These are my first grandchildren and the experience is really interesting… but more about that later.
Another thing that happened is that I just finished reading a book by Dan Pink: “To Sell is Human”. The book is all about selling (in all its forms) in today’s world and how to do it well.
Coincidentally I found myself working with a client who employs a number of consultants. The development of my client’s business is hampered by the fact that many of his consultants are challenged in the area of sales. My client is a great sales person and has always been able to make sales and now finds it very challenging to work out how best to manage and coach his consultants to improve their sales performance. The consultants are mostly very willing and excited, but they experience all sorts of fears and anxieties in the area of sales and would rather poke their own eyes out with a blunt stick than to “ask for the business” at the right moment.
So what is the connection between my grandfather-hood, the book by Dan Pink and my client’s consultants?
Vincent and the Captain
In a recent article I wrote about Change and the Comfort Zone, (Read the article here: http://www.newperspectives.com.au/archives/change-why/ ) I told a story from my recent past. I’d come to realise that a self-belief and self-image I had was no longer serving me and that it was time to change. I had come to the realisation that my self-image of being a ”Struggling Artist”, Vincent, had to be replaced by that of a “Captain”, Captain Roland.
What I didn’t write about was the process I went through, and the experience I had while replacing Vincent with the Captain.
The process was quite tough, but also really powerful.
Famous management consultant and author William Bridges explains that any change process must go through three stages or transition.
Stage 1: Endings (or leaving the “Comfort Zone”)
Stage 2: The “Neutral Zone” (or being in the Wilderness)
Stage 3: New Beginnings, arriving in the “New Zone” (or getting to “The Promised Land”)
Every human Change-process goes through these three stages.
And each stage is integral to the process of Change, you can’t step from stage 1, The Comfort Zone, straight into stage 3, The Promised Land, however much you might like to.
What actually happened
So when I wrote in my article that I went from seeing myself as a struggling artist to believing myself to be “The Captain”, I omitted what actually happened in between.
What actually happened was that I found myself in the Wilderness for a considerable length of time and what is more, The Wilderness was a very uncomfortable place to be. The whole process probably took 6 months and the first month especially was extremely uncomfortable, painful even, for me.
Welcome to the Wilderness
Here is what we all experience, when we embark on, or are forced into a process of Change:
When you step out of your Comfort Zone you will immediately find yourself in a strange place, where you don’t recognise the world and yourself anymore and you will you feel lost. This is the Wilderness.
Much as you’d like to, you can’t actually get to The Promised Land yet, because it simply doesn’t exist yet. You actually have to create The Promised Land before you can get to it. In other words, you have to develop the new “You” first, and the only place you can create the new “You” is in the Wilderness. It is only when we are totally free from the constraints of the Comfort Zone that we are able to develop our new “selves”.
The new You
There is no other way. The Wilderness without its boundaries is the zone of maximum resourcefulness and maximum creativity; it is where you can start to shape the new “You”, that will allow you to move ahead into the Promised Land.
This was exactly my experience when I decided to leave Vincent the struggling artist behind and set out to become “The Captain”, Captain Roland.
I did lot of soul-searching and for a number of weeks I’d get up early in the morning and sit on a park bench by the water just writing and thinking.
Slowly but surely I started seeing my way forward. I realised that I had to start by changing my look and behaviour and how I sounded. If I was going to be The Captain, I had to behave, look and sound like The Captain.
The Captain’s uniform
From that day I decided to only wear a certain kind of outfit (the Captain’s uniform). I also had a piece of jewellery made in the shape of my company logo that I wore on my lapel (the Captain’s insignia). I practiced walking into rooms differently and I wrote and rehearsed scripts for how to introduce myself. I actually even introduced myself as Captain Roland in some environments.
I can assure you this felt awkward for a while, but over time it became more comfortable and I slowly started to identify with being the Captain.
Now I’m back to becoming a grandfather a few months ago. Let me explain how that experience is connected with the story of the Captain, the conversation I had with my client and the book I read by Dan Pink.
Firstly: Dan Pink makes a number of powerful points about what it takes to sell products, services and ideas in all human contexts. Some of the main points he makes are that selling is a normal human condition, and that it is about a lot more than selling used cars; That selling isn’t only done well by “natural sales people’, everyone can learn to do it well and finally that to do it well involves fostering a new mindset… Change in other words.
Secondly: My client’s consultants have to change. They have to take on board what Dan Pink says about what it takes to sell well and they have to change their mindset about sales. In other words, they have to change their self-belief and they have to change how they see themselves, their self-image.
Thirdly: Grandfather-hood has had an interesting impact on me. It is just another change process, a transition, for me and I realised last week that I am in the middle of The Wilderness in relation to this Change in my life. Yes I do feel weird about being a grandfather, the only one amongst my friends and peers.
Looking in the mirror
I simply don’t know what it means yet for me to be a grandfather and I have trouble picturing myself as a grandfather. The classic image or archetype of a grandfather is not what I see when I look at myself in the mirror.
But that is exactly how it should be… it’s perfectly ok, I can trust that I will get out the other end of this experience and that I will work out what being a grandfather means for me. I will become clear about what I want to see when I look in the mirror, 6 months from now.
Changing all the time
We go through change all the time. As I said in the previous article, our business (and our life) is what it is because of who we are today, so if we want to change an aspect of our business (or life), one thing is certain: we have to change first.
My client’s consultants have to go through Change too. They have to step out of their Comfort Zone, close the door behind them and stay there. And while sitting in the discomfort of the Wilderness, they have to start creating their new selves, so that they can enter the Promised Land. The Promised Land where they have become the kind of person that can go out and make sales, good sales.
As friends, partners, employers and bosses of people who are going through the Wilderness the best thing we can do to support them is to acknowledge that change is hard and weird and can often be frightening. We can reassure them that they do have the courage and resourcefulness to create their new selves and enter The Promised Land. And we can hold their hand (as it were) and be with them while they are in the midst of the turmoil and weirdness. By doing so we might make it a little more bearable for them to stay in the wilderness and hence employ their resourcefulness to create their new selves.
Hold their hand
So my client can best support his consultants by helping them to picture themselves as great sales people, to imagine the world from that vantage point and to start to feel what that is like. All the while “holding their hand” as it were while being in that unfamiliar place, until they start to feel more comfortable, bit by bit.
The moral of the story is this: Learn to accept that the discomfort you are feeling is ok. It is actually ok to be scared and anxious and to feel a bit lost or out of control. You have every reason to trust yourself. After all, you got this far… didn’t you!
I’ve consciously experienced a number of these transitions in the past 10 years and the outcome of each one of them has been unexpected and very positive. I see no reason to believe that learning how to be a Grandfather will be any different …
Especially not if you knew how cute those two little girls are.
I suggest You can Trust yourself too.