There are things that work and many more that don't. Let's discuss what we've experienced . . . not our opinions . . . but actually what our days and nights as marketers, business leaders, parents, people are teaching us. Please give us a hand. Tell us about your experience with this stuff.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Swinging at Pitches in the Dirt

A key part of any baseball player's training centers around developing a discipline while batting. Critical to any batter's long term success is their ability to avoid swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. Swinging without discipline wastes energy, limits resources and worst of all, wastes oppportunities: you can only swing at a limited number of pitches before your bat is up . . .one way or the other.

So how it works with us is that we're in a meeting or talking with a professional in a one-on-one and someone throws out a criticism, sometimes harsh, sometimes in passing, which we feel compelled to address. And a lot of them are actually pitches in the dirt. By that I mean that they don't really matter and they will only have an impact if we address them.
At that moment I have to evaluate how important the criticism is and how to address it. So here's how I evaluate them:
> Is the comment addressing something within our strategy or established plans which support our strategy? If yes, then we'll need to evaluate how to priortize the issues and allocate resources to address it. But that's not the comment I'm concerned with.
>If the answer to the question above is no, the criticism or idea has nothing to do with our strategy or core execution, then we really have an important moment. To put too much time, effort or personal equity into addressing the criticism takes us away from the central job critical to firm success.
Often the biggest challenge is that we take all comments personally or believe wrongly that criticism inherently makes us vulnerable or is threatening. That's just not true. Often times criticism is a natural function of your progress and role. It shows you are doing the right thing. And sometimes we're just the dog they can kick.
More than anything else we've got to get over ourselves and learn that running with the big boys requires us to put ourselves out of the picture and listen with an ear that evaluates comment's relative to their value or threat to strategy and focused execution.
(The only exception I know to this is if values are being violated. Probably another discussion.)
So as you are listening to the criticism or inappropriate idea, remember that its only important if it attacks firm strategy. If it doesn't, often times you can agree with the speaker and thank them for the comment.
Whatever we do, we can't believe that these comments are personal. Most of the time we are not that important and soon they will forget what they said, much less expect any response.
Accept the arithmetic: its often better to let an unfair or irrelevant criticism go by than to waste your energy trying to address something that in the end won't matter at all.

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