The Quantity/Quality Conundrum



Measure Of Success

Let’s say there’s a sales guy, working in a sales function in a sales-driven organization.

His company was acquired by a group of investors who are systematically changing the way business is being done. They have metrics for everything and statistics drive every decision.

Our sales guy has been the top producer for many years. He has deep customer relationships and generates significant repeat business.

But you can’t benchmark relationships, so the powers that be decide he must have lucked into a rich sales territory and proceed to carve it up to spread the wealth. They parcel his clients out to the rest of the sales team, leaving our sales guy with a severely diminished book.

Oh, and a mandate to make 35 calls each day.

Off the record, his boss says that it doesn’t matter if the calls are to qualified prospects or not – all the bean counters want to know is that the calls are being made because they have forms to be filled out.

Six months go by.

Sales are way off.

Repeat business is non-existent.

And our sales guy has found another job.

Because he knows that his strongest suit – his true superpower – is the ability to create relationships, and the bean counters who value quantity over quality simply don’t get it.

He knows that he can make one call and generate as much business in fifteen minutes as two other guys could get in a week. How? Because his clients know him, like him and have years of experience working with him – they trust him.

Some of his customers like him better than they like his product – what he sells is less important than how he sells to them. Which is why the guy is going to be successful wherever he goes.

If I were in charge of a sales organization, I’d hire a hundred people with the ability to generate referral business rather than hire a thousand robo-callers.

Because quality always wins out over quantity.

But maybe that’s just me.

Today it seems that so many organizations want their people to be as uniform and interchangeable as widgets.

As if one sales guy is absolutely equal to another sales guy.

That one teacher is as good as any other teacher.

That a 60-year-old surgeon who’s done a thousand procedures is absolutely equivalent to a 30-year-old surgeon who’s so desperate for business that she’s willing to deeply discount her fee to get people in the door.

I don’t think so.

Sure, it’s comforting to think that if you check off all the boxes then you’re less likely to fail. Does our health plan provide access to a surgeon? Check  - yes. The question so few ask: Is that surgeon any good?

Quantity is: We have a 20-person sales team making 35 cold calls every day. Quality is: Are they talking to the right people? Are they taking time to build relationships? To build trust?

There’s not a box to check next to those quality questions because they’re rarely being asked.

It’s likely that you have quantity/quality decisions to make every day in your own life. And all I ask is that you keep a few things in mind:

It’s not the number of brownies you make that’s important, especially if they taste awful. Make good, quality brownies and let that be enough.

It’s not the number of bills you have in your wallet, especially if they are all ones. If you want to sit down, it’s better to have five $100 bills in your back pocket than 250 singles.

It’s not important that you have a whole lot of friends, especially if you have no one to call for help in the middle of the night.

When it comes down to it, real success comes from the things that cannot be quantified – connection, relationship, kindness, appreciation, trust.

I don’t know about you, but I want more of those quality things in my life and work, and I’m consciously working on them every day.

I really like the idea of being un-metric-ifiable.


Pay Attention To Taylor Swift. Really.


taylor-swift-vance-joyA friend reached out this week to ask if I’d ever read Viktor Frankl’s classic book Man’s Search For Meaning. I told her I had, it remains one of the most important books in my life and it’s formed much of my approach to living. We had a sparkling dialogue about it (I just love sparkling dialogues, don’t you?) and the next day I pulled my copy off the shelf and settled in for a re-read.

Frankl, a leading psychiatrist and thinker, was imprisoned in Auschwitz and other camps during World War II. Coming from that horrific experience, Frankl gained deep understanding of how people under tremendous physical, emotional and spiritual pressure react. It became his life’s work. In short, Frankl believed that people can endure nearly anything if they are deeply connected to something bigger than themselves, or are doing something in service to others.

This is why you might stay in a job you hate – it provides the income you need to give your children a great education. Or, it allows you to care for your aging parents. It might give you the space to write poetry, or raise rescue animals.

You do what you do – even if it’s hard – when you feel you’re serving a bigger purpose.

In the re-read, a key passage from Frankl’s preface stood out to me:

“Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run – in the long run, I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.”

And that’s when I realized just how powerful Taylor Swift is.

You see, I recently saw Taylor sing on a British TV show called The Live Lounge. Now, the premise of the show is this: famous musicians sing songs that aren’t theirs. They cover other popular songs - a really fun concept.

So, Taylor could have chosen any song. She could have phoned it in – I mean, she’s an international superstar! She could have been silly or jaded or intent on preserving her famousness and make a boring choice.

But she didn’t.

From what I could see when I watched the clip, Taylor chose to sing a song that gave her joy, that she could be creative with.

She covered Vance Joy’s great song “Riptide.” Here’s the link: BBC Radio

If you watch it, you’ll see that at certain points Taylor is amused with herself as she sings certain words. She lingers on phrases. She doesn’t just cover the song – she interprets it.

And that’s when I realized that Taylor Swift is deeply, powerfully connected to her “why”. And it doesn’t seem to have a whole lot to do with seeking fame.

Her why, in my opinion? She’s a musician. Plain and simple.

I am sure she faces a lot of pressure to be commercial and crank out hit after hit. There are probably people who suggest she phone it in and collect the cash. I’ll bet she has plenty of haters.

But I’ll also bet that despite all of that pressure, she feels compelled – yes, compelled – to do what she’s doing. And to do it her own way.

She’d do it even if she wasn’t famous.

Which, according to Frankl, is precisely why she’s famous.

Now to you. And to me. What can we learn here?

I think it’s this: whether you know it or not, whether you’re currently connected to it or not, you’re here to create something. You’re here to make meaning with your life – to do good – in service of something larger. The more you do it, the happier you’ll be. The more you do it, the more successful you’ll be.

Try as you might, it doesn’t work to only pursue fame – you live fully when you fully pursue meaning. 

Serve your creativity – whatever it looks like for you – and in so doing, you will succeed. It might be a long path, and the success may look really different than you imagined, you might even fail a time or two. But if you are deeply in touch with your “why”, you’ll get there.

And, if you’re at a place in your life where you feel disconnected, or things seem futile, or you don’t even know why you wake up in the morning – do yourself a favor.

Read Frankl.

 [photo credit: Time]

The Simple Manifesto

Red-Tailed Hawk
Let’s make this simple.

And when I say that, I don’t mean just these words you’re reading right now.

I mean, let’s make everything simple.

Let’s stop making things hard just because we have an idea that anything worthwhile has to be a challenge.

Let’s stop complicating things in some misplaced effort to justify ourselves and affirm our right to be at the table.

Let’s be done with attempting to prove something by being difficult and inscrutable.

Because it really never works. That is, if you intend to get anything done.

Sometimes people complain to me that they send email and never get any responses. When I review what they’ve written, it’s easy to see why – they’ve very formally written right around whatever they have to say. And often they fail to clearly ask  for what they want the reader to do, so they never get what they need.

That right there is the definition of ”doesn’t work”.

And we want it to work, don’t we?

Here’s something to consider if you’re struggling with the idea of “simple”:

Wordy, flowery, clever does not equal smart, insightful, helpful.

Formal, complicated and incomprehensible does not help clarity, understanding and action.

1 + 1 does not need sine, cosine or tangent to solve.

When you have a choice, and you always have a choice – pick simple.

Make your presentation less about bullet points and more about a story.

Make your meeting less about catching everyone up and more about making decisions.

Make your email less about sparkling, witty repartee and more about asking directly for what you want/need.

Take one clear step forward instead of three steps to the left if you want to move ahead.

Always, always, always look for the simplest solution. You don’t need stress and friction.

Own easy.

Be easy.

And you’ll win, easy.

Why Do You Do What You Do?



These days I am obsessed with why.

huge-wave-featAs Simon Sinek illustrated in his viral TEDx talk, plenty of people know what they do and they even know how they do it. But ask them why they do what they do?


Recently, I’ve been playing with simple and direct ways to figure out your why. Testing first on myself and then on two willing guinea pigs, I think I may have come up with a new tool to do it.

And now would be a pretty terrific time to ask, “Michele, why bother?” Or, even, “Speaking of why, Michele, why in the world do you do what you do?”

Funny, because just yesterday I was asked what I do for a living. When I replied, “I’m an executive coach”, the guy perked up and said, “What sport?” ["Uh...not a sport. I help people get better at their job, or find a job they'll like better." He eyeballed me. Then said, "Think you could help me?"]

I got exposed to the coaching world in early 2004 and was drawn immediately to the work of Thomas Leonard. Considered one of the founders of modern coaching, Leonard was an innovative thought leader in the field and the more I learned about him and his work, the bigger fan girl I became.

Leonard wrote this:

The professional coach is…

Your partner in achieving business and personal goals.
Your champion during a turnaround.
Your trainer in communication and life skills.
Your sounding board when making choices.
Your motivation when strong actions are called for.
Your unconditional support when you take a hit.
Your mentor in personal development.
Your co-designer when creating an extraordinary project.
Your beacon during stormy times.
Your wake-up call if you don’t hear your own.

And most importantly.

The professional coach is your partner in helping you have all of what matters most to you.

(Excerpted from Thomas Leonard‘s ‘How to Coach Anyone’ Solutions to 68 Common Coaching Situations published by Wealthy Thought Leader)

Leonard died in 2003, so I just missed knowing him personally. However, his legacy continues today via his co-author and colleague Andrea J. Lee, who I’m happy to call a friend.  She posted the above on her Facebook page the other day which happily coincided with the exploration of my own why.

Super helpful, because Thomas’ words gave me a big context in which to frame my why.

Yes, my what is coaching – I do all of the things Thomas Leonard suggested in his list. And my how? Well, I use every bit of my training and experience in each coaching session. And I’m learning more every day.

But my why?

The thing that drives me?

The thing that causes me to wake up each morning eager to work with my first client at 7:15am? To speak with the guy in France despite the time zone and cultural challenges? To connect with you in Chicago? Or are you in San Francisco today? Maybe it’s Seattle this week?

What compels me to stand in front of the room with a clicker or a Sharpie in my hand, gesticulating wildly to make a point? What motivates me to write, speak and mentor?

What’s that kind of big, honking, super why?

(Deep breath)

My why is this: I want things to get better. For you, for me, for all of us.

And I absolutely know for certain that you can have exactly what you want  - things can get so much better – when you are completely clear about who you are at your best and are brave enough to live that way.

So, I help people get clear and brave.

And then lives change for the better.

Then offices change for the better.

And families change for the better.

And neighborhoods, towns, cities, states, countries, worlds – all change for the better.

Sort of way out there big picture, but I’m sure you get the idea. You do, don’t you?

Completely thought you would.

Now, I told you mine. What’s yours?


(photo credit)



On A Tightrope Over A Chasm of Failure



I wonder about you.Own It!

I know things are stressful, and you’re unsure.

Every day you question. Every day you worry that you don’t know where you stand, and if what you’re doing is appreciated.

Or even seen as important by anyone. At all.

I know it’s not fun to be so uncertain. Not one bit.

So, I wonder if –  for just one day – you could shift it.

That for one day, as a test, you could own that…you actually do know what you’re doing.

That you’re not making it up as you go along. That you’re not walking on a tightrope over a chasm of failure, one error away from falling.

What if – for one day – you could ignore the tightrope and come at your day from a place of calm? Generated from a deep understanding of your own expertise?

Not in a boastful or bullying way, but with a centered sureness.

Sure in your bones that you haven’t gotten to where you are by luck, chance or happenstance.

Because, you, my darling friend, are not a fluke or a mistake.

No, you’ve gotten where you are by showing up, doing what needs to get done and honing your practice.

Whatever your practice might be.

I know it’s easier in some ways to say that it’s all luck. Or chance.

Because then you don’t have to claim anything. You’re sort of off the hook.

And no one can say you’re too big for your britches.

Or that you’re calculating.

Or trying too hard.

Or not nice.

If you shrug off your expertise, you’ll probably continue to fit in with the crowd. You know, the Whac-A-Mole herd-like people who are only happy when no one sticks their head up?

Those people.

There is comfort in a crowd, for sure. But you might also feel anxious. And as if everything could change in a moment.




Do you know what I’m talking about?

Does it keep you up at night?

It doesn’t have to.

You can have calm, steadiness and success. You can have great days.

But to get there you have to own who you are and what you’ve got.

So, for one day – just one – give it a try and see what happens.

Stop pretending you don’t know what you’re doing and start owning everything you do know.

Of course, be open to learning. Be open to the perspectives of others. That’s what people who center in their strengths do.

It’s what the best leaders do.

It’s what you can do.

Step away from the crowd. Dip into your expertise. Feel it. Own it. Live it.

For just one day.

Just one.

I wonder what that will be like.

I wonder if this week holds the day you’ll give it a try.

And as one day leads into another, maybe you’ll happily find that you’re permanently off the tightrope and walking your own, broad path of success.