Lessons in Humility…From Dan Rather

Me...and Dan Rather signing books behind me!

Me…and Dan Rather signing books behind me!

This week I attended the HR Florida conference in Orlando.  I applied for and was granted a breakout session where I spoke about performance management.  These conferences are a great chance to network and fertile ground for getting clients.

Since this is one of the largest SHRM chapters in the country, I felt very honored to get a session.  They even asked if I wanted some of my books to be sold in the SHRM bookstore AND if I’d like to do a book signing after my 10:15 AM talk.  Of course I agreed.

I started feeling pretty important.

I could tell my colleagues I was going to speak to one of the largest SHRM chapters.  And have a book signing.

Things went well!  I had my book on display.  They even put up a big schedule and I was right up top, just underneath the keynote speaker who was non-other than Dan Rather, the legendary journalist.

Dan Rather did the keynote.  I was busy setting up my room as my session started immediately after his. By 10:00, my room was packed.  People were even turned away.  I was feeling more and more important.  When my session ended, I raced up to the book signing table and sure enough there was already a line of people waiting for a signed copy…of Dan Rather’s book.  I worked my way around the crowd and sat just a few feet from Dan Rather.

Nobody asked for my signature.  Nobody bought my book.  My perceived celebrity was upstaged by the real deal.  I stayed for about 10 minutes, had Vince, the book store manager shoot my photo, and slinked away from the table.

Now I’m not bitter or angry about it.  I was at the conference to meet people, build a network, and grow my business.  All three of those happened.  It was a very worthwhile trip and I know those who took my breakout left with valuable information that will help them.  Some will reach out to me for help.  It’s a win-win-win.

But then there’s my deflated ego.

And here’s the lesson:  No matter how big you think you are or how big people tell you that you are, there will always be someone bigger and better than you.  You can allow that to paralyze you or you can use it to motivate you.  I choose the latter.  I’ll write twice as often, market twice as hard, and talk to twice as many people now.  I’ll answer twice as many Calls for Speakers for conferences and work to reach out to twice as many groups.  I could complain and blame Dan Rather for stealing my thunder, but the bottom line is that Dan Rather has no clue who I am and so blaming him wouldn’t really fix anything.

What will you do with your setbacks and disappointments?  Your choice is to blame and back down or buckle down and power full speed ahead.  I hope you’ll join me and choose the latter.

I’m sure Dan Rather would encourage you to do the same!

Is It Still Worth Doing?

Tradition concept with vintage letterpressLately my wife and daughter have been binge-watching Greys Anatomy.  Since it occupies both televisions in the house, I’ve been subjected to it as well.  As I see it, the plot revolves around a bunch of doctors, interns, and residents that see patients, get in conflicts constantly, and rendezvous regularly with each other in the on-call room.

Another observation I’ve made though is around the amount of hours the residents are required to work.  On a recent episode, the hospital decided to adhere to the rules of 80 hours per week leading to some of the old-timers complaining that the longer hours made them better doctors.  As a potential patient, that worries me.  I want my doctor to be rested if they’re making life and death decisions about me and my family.

When I was in the Navy, there were a whole lot of traditions, requirements, and customs that made little or no sense to me.  They were blanket policies that really fit better in a shipboard environment (like onboard fire watches, seabag inspections, and safety standdowns) but they were forced fleetwide, which includes shore stations.  This meant I needed to stencil my name and SSN on all of my clothing, including my underwear (yes, a 34-year-old man writing his name on his underwear).  It just didn’t make any sense.

What procedures, customs, and requirements are you using now that are arcane, outdated, and done simply for the sake of doing?  Could your policies be chasing away your customers and preventing talented employees from staying with you?  Are you doing things simply because they’ve always been done that way?

This week, take some time to view your standard operating procedures, policies, rules, and requirements.  Don’t let tradition and past regulations prevent you from future success.