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I’m Privileged To Work With Really Smart People!

by David Brock on December 7th, 2010

As a preface, at this time of the year, we all have a tendency to reflect a little.  It’s a chance to look back at the year and think a little about what has happened and to begin to establish plans to go forward.  Over the past couple of days, I’ve been thinking about how privileged I am.  Over the past years, I’ve had the great privilege of working with some of the most talented and smart people in the world—each of them dealing with very profound and difficult problems, balancing very difficult constraints.  I really need to write this post as an acknowledgement to my clients and the people I have the privilege of working with, sharing ideas, fun, and helping them address very challenging problems.  I want to thank you for the opportunity of working with you.

This issue was crystallized for me recently.  I was giving a speech to a group of executives, after the speech, one of the executives–actually a client came up to me shaking his head.  “Dave,” he said, “somehow after you speak or I read your stuff, I feel like such a putz (betraying his Bronx heritage).  You make everything sound so simple and obvious.  I feel bad tha I don’t have the same clarity that you demonstrate.”

I was very flattered and thanked him finally for acknowledging his “putzness,” (yes, it is that odd sense of humor that I can’t restrain), but actually I was a little troubled by his comment.  In reality, he is one of the brightest, most accomplished sales executives I have ever met.  He led sales for a $Billion + organization.  He and his team had developed a very high performing sales organization.  They had overcome some tremendous difficulties in doing so.  They had a mentality of constantly pushing themselves to improve–to set even more ambitious goals–to stretch themselves further.

Sometimes, I think we in the blogging and consulting community create a massive distortion field.  For example, I write about lots of topics on sales, leadership, and business strategy.  It’s so easy, in the quiet of my office to think about and write about sales processes and how the way customers buy is changing.  It’s easy to make recommendations about what should be done, or to provide a spark of insight.  In talking about situations I see people face–good things and not so good ways in which they’ve addressed them, I always have the luxury of hindsight.

We all seem to be able to do it, whether bloggers, consultants, managers/leaders, whoever—-our vision is always keener or our ideas are more insightful the further we are from the time something is happening or the greater the distance from the incident or issue.  Being able to freeze time or a situation, to recast it in a way that supports your point is great—but it’s  not possible to say to our customers or our people, “Would you mind holding that thought and let me get back to you when I have a stunning answer.”  Or, “Let’s stop the world and let me have the luxury of figuring out a brilliant strategy before we get going again.”

It’s so easy for any of us to be extraordinarily articulate in talking about very difficult issues, to present ideas and solutions with great clarity and simplicity–of course usually framed in an idealized situation.  The great difficulty is developing these ideas, moving them into implementation, and executing them, all in real time, in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.  One might think of it as changing a tire on a car while driving at 200 miles an hour.

When my friend was feeling chagrined about his “putzness,” I actually felt that I should be thanking him.

I am very privileged and fortunate.  I have the great fortune of working with some of the best sales, marketing, and business professionals in the world.  Whether they are executives in large organizations, entrepreneurs, sales people struggling to achieve the goals, or other consultants, the majority of the people I work with are extraordinary individuals.  They have gotten to where they are in their careers by being outstanding performers.  They have innovated and dealt with very complex issues, balancing lack of resources, lack of funding, bad timing, bad luck, and any number of obstacles.

Most of the people I have the privilege of working with are dealing with challenges to which there are no easy solutions.  There is no “smart” person that can come in and give them the silver bullets to succeed.  I spend hours and days locked in conference rooms with smart people trying to come up with solutions to difficult problems.  We travel to customers and talk to them, we wrestle tough issues to the ground.  In the end, the only way we could solve the problems is by working together–sharing our different experiences.  We then spend more hours and days trying to make our “briliant ideas” work—and they never do the way we thought.  The “gotcha’s” always pop up and we quickly adapt, change things and move forward.  It’s all part of the nitty gritty dirty work of making things happen in the real world.

Hopefully, in this collaboration, we produce great results and successes.  Each time, though, I can’t help but thinking I get more out of it than my client.  One cannot put a price on the privilege of working collaboratively with top notch people solving tough problems.  But it goes further, with each opportunity I learn from great practitioners, I get the privilege of adding something to my own set of tools and skills that I can share with the next group of people that I work with, in turn learning even more from them.

It’s easy to talk to a group or write and make things seem so obvious and simple–we have the benefit of time and hindsight to do this.  It’s great that people appreciate hearing these views.   But the insights are really the result of my good fortune of being able to work with so many different people, with differing talents, different experiences, addressing very difficult problems.  Each interaction and engagement makes a difference in my life.

I am, indeed, privileged and fortunate.  In this season of reflection, I want to thank my clients, colleagues, and extended professional network for the privilege of working with you, sharing ideas, and learning from you.

I’d also ask each of you to think about the people you are privileged to work with–that contribute to your personal success and growth, take the time to acknowledge and thank them for the opportunity.

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  1. Dave

    You’re client was right – you do have an extraordinary talent for analyzing complex business situations and unpacking them in a clear logical fashion. It’s good that your modest about it too.

    I see your point about the benefit of being on the outside looking in. This is a big part of the value you provide as an outside consultant – your objectivity. Not only do you bring your experiences from many other such engagements, but you offer observations that are not colored by internal bias, pressures or loyalties.

    On thankfulness – I am with you 100%. Every moment we get to spend with clients is an expensive gift from them. Andy Rudin recently posted in his blog regarding three indicators that an opportunity is moving forward: Client Engagement, Offerings of Time and Offerings of Access. All three of these mean that our clients have recognized the value we bring to them.

    As business professionals, we do well to express thoughtful appreciation, as you have done, for those fine folks who have shared their business concerns and their priceless insights with us. On your queue, I’m going to build time into my day to appreciate and acknowledge the many fine people who keep handing me bricks.

    Good Selling!

    Don F Perkins

  2. Dave Olson permalink

    Dave – your humbleness is inspiring.

    Here’s to another year of great things in 2011.

    Cheers – Dave O

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