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15 Apr 2009 / Julie

a few guiding principles (or the quotes on my desk)

I have a few quotes taped to the overhead bin of my cubie that represent the main principles that guide my work as a manager. I’d like to share them with you.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This one is about shared vision. People like to know that they belong and are making a difference. Having a shared vision that people can contribute to, belong to, buy in to, and help shape is a great way to a) keep the whole moving in the right direction, b) give people a sense of how they fit into the larger picture and c) energize people into moving forward.

Everyone likes to have a purpose. Instead of “I make widgets* all day” (which has tones of boredom and tediousness to it), if the widget maker knew that his widgets went on to the doo-hickey line for additions and then on to the thing-a-magig plant for inclusion in the final product that did XY&Z for people in the real world, the widget maker would know how he’s contributing to the whole. Also, in seeing the whole picture, he’s able to contribute his ideas as to making the whole better. If you don’t know what your widget is for, how do you work to improve it?

This quote is guiding me in my development and modification of the AskUsNow! vision. The point is not to tell people “you have to greet customers” but rather to get them to want to build connections with their customers.

“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” Andre Gide

This one is about letting go and allowing space, time, and support for play. Change is scary. But it’s also inevitable. An environment needs to be created that lets it be okay for people to let go of the side of the pool and venture into the deep end. People need to know that they’re safe, that they’re not going to blow anything up if the press this button, and that it’s okay to be uncomfortable.

One of my favorite college professors said “get uncomfortable” one day in class. I can’t remember which class or what we had been talking about at the time but i had written it down on a post it that day and put it on my bulletin board. That post it has moved with me from dorm to dorm, apt, to apt, desk to desk for the last 5 or 6 years reminding me that the only way i’m going to learn anything is if i leave my comfort zone. Yes, it’s safe in your comfort zone, but it’s also boring. Nothing new happens in your comfort zone. You have no room to trip,  fall flat on your face, or massively fail in your comfort zone. And the only way to learn and evolve and change is to make mistakes and fail (and learn from those mistakes or failures).

“The satiated man and the hungry man do not see the same thing when they look upon a loaf of bread.” Rumi

This one has two meanings for me; the value of multiple perspectives and the need for clarify and never assuming.

1) No one has had the exact same experience in life. Everything we’ve ever seen, heard, touched, smelled, felt, or experienced has made a mark on us in some way. It is these marks that make us view the world from the perspective in which we do. Everyone brings a unique perspective to the table. The many perspectives among a group often strengthen the group as a whole. All perspectives have value (even if they are in direct contrast to yours).

2) When explaining something, don’t assume they see the world the same way as you do.  I’ve grown up with computers all my life. i know what a widget is, i know that play is important, and i’m not afraid to dive right in. Someone else, looking at the exact same internet, could be scared, not have the same ideas of what is of use or value, or how things work. Knowing this, i always ask where people are to try to guage what they know before diving into something that might end up being over or under where i think they are. When unsure, always ask.

“Punctuation is very important to the writer. Consider these two examples:
Duck sausage.
‘Duck! Sausage!’”

This one is more self explanatory.  Be careful how you say things as different meanings may be applied. Also, always use good punctuation. Though, truthfully this one may be up because it makes me laugh. :-)

I am interested to hear of the principles that guide other people in their life or their business… who wants to start?

* it occurs to me that in the world of web2.0+, “make widgets” has a whole other meaning then it did when my dad used to say “make widgets.” Funny how the word morphed.

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