Friday Thoughts – February 24 – How to constructively respond to feedback

By , 02/24/2012 8:23 AM

Always Free and Worth Every Penny”

Since I don’t have much else to do, I diligently read every single comment I get about Friday Thoughts – even if I don’t respond to all of them…..yet each week I inadvertently manage to offend someone in some way – though I have lapsed in my pokes at Canadians or Clemson graduates….

 A few months ago when I took a swipe at Nancy Pelosi, I was accused of being an extreme right wing Tea Party 1% neo-obstructionist Neanderthal…..and a few weeks later damned as a far left wing bleeding heart liberal communist Occupy Wall Street sympathizer  because I took a cheap shot at Fox News ……

I recently received some highly insightful feedback on how I could dramatically improve the quality and value for both of the loyal Friday Thoughts  readers ….

“Hey,  why don’t you save us all some time and pain and cut out all that blathering prose you produce each week in Friday Thoughts?? Just give us the Interesting Unrelated Facts??  It’s all people read any way.

The least you could do is put them at the top so we don’t have to go through the trouble of scrolling past the crap that fell out of your Right Wing Republican brain on Friday morning”

Maybe he has a point – here you go:

Interesting unrelated facts:

  • Wells Fargo maintains two ATMs at the McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Good news – no fees! (Contributed by Daniel)
  • The % of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes jumped from 14.8% in 1984 to 49.5% in 2009. Could this be true? Source: Heritage Foundation
  • Hawaii has three Interstate Highways – think about it for a minute.  
  • People complete over 200 million Captcha authentications each day – Did you know that every time you fill a two word ReCaptcha you are contributing to book digitization? You and 750 million people have helped digitize 2 ½  million books. Great TED Talk
  • A New type face “dyslexie” has been developed to help the 4-8% of the population with dyslexia  read faster and more accurately. Very cool.
  • The World Series of Beer Pong – Game VII (notice the Roman numerals !!) was held in Las Vegas in January and had a $50,000 Grand Prize.  Pong Beer was recently launched – and you can also buy floating beer pong table.
  • Recent research indicates that roughly 500,000 jobs have been created as part of the “App Economy” since the launch of the iPhone in 2007.
  • Happy Birthday! Mr. Potato Head is now 60 years old.   The original idea of using actual fruits and vegetables was stopped in 1964 because new U.S. safety standards required smaller prongs that could not puncture real food. Mr. Potato Head lost his pipe in 1987 when he became the and official ‘spokespud’ of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout. Over 100 million have been produced.
  • Hot stocks for 2012 YTD:

Bank of America ( NYSE: BAC  ) +44%
Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) +63%
Sears (NASDAQ: SHLD  ) +94%
Corinthian Colleges (NASDAQ: COCO) +129%
Friend Finders Network (NASDAQ: FFN  ) +184%

** Past performance is no guarantee of future performance**

  • Word of the week Hemidemisemiquaver – a sixty-forth note – dare you to use that one in a meeting today…. Or say it after a beer pong tournament.
  • The population of Egypt is 10 times that of Israel – Population of countries in the Middle East (millions).
    – Egypt – 80
    – Iran – 75
    – Iraq – 32
    – Saudi Arabia – 27
    – Yemen – 24
    – Syria – 22
    – Israel – 7.9
    – UAE – 4.7
    – Lebanon – 4.2
    – Palestinian territories – 3.9
    – Kuwait – 3.0
  •  Origin of the term honeymoon   – there are two theories:
    1) The Norse word “hjunottsmanathr” means “in hiding” when men would abduct their bride and hide until they were pregnant of their families stopped the search.  
    2) In ancient Babylonia father-in-laws supplied their new son-in-laws with honey wine for a month because it was believed to enhance the fertility of the new couple.

Have a great weekend !!


Friday Thoughts – Feb 17 – Listening – what didn’t he say?

By , 02/17/2012 9:32 AM

Always Free and Worth Every Penny”

A long time ago, before electricity, paved roads and ESPN, I was a freshly minted MBA doing everything possible to keep the firm from realizing they had made a serious hiring mistake. We had just started a project that required us to interview the seven executives that reported to the CEO.

Since no one else had been assigned to the project yet, I accompanied the partner on the interviews.

The EVP of Sales and Marketing was the first – I sat quietly and furiously took notes as the partner asked questions. As partners are prone to do, he left immediately after the meeting for the airport …….and told me to write the interview note.

Back in those ancient times, the protocol was to write a 2-3 page prose summary of the interview. The purpose was to communicate to the rest of the team …. But as I learned later…. more importantly, the act of writing the note forced one to synthesize the key findings from the discussion.

As you have so painfully discovered over the past year or so, writing has never been my strong suit …… especially when complete sentences, proper grammer and punctuation is required……

I sweated for hours to put every sentence and fact from the discussion into the interview note……I was cautiously proud of my 4 page masterpiece and faxed it off to the partner…. and collapsed into bed.  The next morning I had a voice message:

 “ weren’t you listening to him?!!!  If you want a career as a stenographer you are off to a great start – if not, rewrite the note – not what he said – but what he told us – and put it in context”

…….. not exactly the nurturing feedback and encouraging coaching I had been promised when I was recruited…..

I was quite perplexed …. the manager from a previous project helped a bit……. but the 7 page  second draft was rejected before the 3rd page had made it through the fax machine……  

They were figuring out their hiring mistake pretty quickly…..

So the partner sat down with me ……

“our job is to listen very, very carefully, …….go beyond what they explicitly say…we have to understand what they are telling us; draw out the implications of what he said, the context….. and more importantly – what didn’t he say….”

I did not realize the full importance of the last statement until I was in Japan…..this concept of Negative Space used in art – painting around the subject so a silhouette emerges and reveals the subject …..

…   I learned ……and observed……. that often the most critical issues were not discussed directly….. the conversation would carefully touch along the edges of the issue until, to the trained ear, the shape of the real issue was quite clear…. Like the last missing piece of a big jigsaw puzzle…. This is true not only in Japan…..

I will do my best to illustrate in a few words:

My interview note was an extended version of

  • “our sales team has really come together this year….”
  • “we are well on our way to beating plan ….”
  • “Our competitors are giving away their product”
  • “We desperately need the new products to be released out of engineering – they are 3 months late”


After an extended discussion with the partner I realized my summary was incredibly superficial ……

His discerning ear has heard far more than I had…. Most importantly he heard what the EVP did not say – some of which we knew from the CEO…..

  • The sales force cost was 15% over cost target and needed to be restructured
  • plan was 5% lower than the previous year – they lost 10 points in market share
  • he deflected 3 questions on marketing – did not mention that the director left 6 months ago and had not been replaced
  • Two major product launches failed last year – possibly because the sales force was unprepared

What he was telling us:

  • I have no intention of restructuring the sales force
  • I am lost about what to do in marketing
  • We are competing on price – and losing
  • We are counting on the new products – it is an engineering problem
  • You will have to find the truth on your own

I had completely missed the salient points from the discussion – I was amazed of the deductions and insights that the partner had been able pull from the discussion ….I did not understand the importance of what was not said….

…… I realized that listening was much harder than I thought…. And it is not clear that I have learned all I need to learn…….

Did you have an important conversation this week ?
Did you hear what they didn’t say ??

Enjoy the weekend !


Related Posts:

We are not taking the census here!

So What!??


Interesting unrelated facts:

  • Tweet for the week – “Jeremy Lin – only economist from Harvard to make a positive contribution to society  #Linsanity ”  – More: We have a Linner    
  • Word for the week – Kerfuffle  – commotion, disorder, agitation – (try that one at home)
  • “Eleven plus Two” and “Twelve plus One” both equal 13 and both have 13 letters. In fact they both have the same 13 letters


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