The Ultimate Daily Crossword Puzzle

I love “obvious & important stuff”—that catches you flat-footed. Twenty+ years ago the matchless car dealer Carl Sewell introduced me to the “simple” idea of Lifetime Customer Value. There were none of today’s lengthy research studies or least-squares data fitting on Customer Loyalty or any other unnecessary complications. Carl matter of factly said in conversation: “If we treat a guy well, he’ll buy a half dozen or so cars from us over time and tell at least one friend. At $35,000 a pop that could easily add up to a half million bucks. I tell everyone from the reception desk to the service bay, that guy is a $500,000 bill walking in the store, ready to be won over, if we all work together to make him our best friend.” No “Loyalty-based selling.” No “experience marketing.” No regression analyses. Just one guy and a friend nets a dozen sales, not one transaction, if we treat the fellow like next of kin. Love it!

Well, I’ll offer another piece of “obvious” stolen advice. This one from Duke’s Coach K [Krzyzewski], courtesy a recent interview for IBD/Investor’s Business Daily. Here’s his “obvious” remark: “Things don’t stay the same. You have to understand that not only your business situation changes, but the people you’re working with aren’t the same day to day. Someone is sick. Someone is having a wedding. [You must] gauge the mood, the thinking level of the team that day.”

That is, your 6-person project team or 7-person training department or 18-person housekeeping unit is a new puzzle every day. It’s far beyond “treat everybody differently according to their skills,” etc. It’s that in a 220-day work year, we the leader-manager face 220 different teams! Every day is a new crossword puzzle! If you get off on doing the morning crossword every morning (metaphorically), you’ll get off on confronting the day’s Unique People Puzzle. I’d add that if such constant puzzle solving isn’t your cup of tea, then leave the leading-managing to someone else! (Any of us with kids, or any primary-school classroom teacher, knows the full truth of this; the kid/s has/have 365 different personalities a year, calling for 365 different-distinct approaches. Mom seems to handle this a lot better than Dad—maybe that goes a long way toward explaining the accumulating evidence on women’s often superior leadership skills.)

Thanks, Coach K!

(Incidentally, after reading this I called an acquaintance who was a well-known former pro football coach just for the hell of it; no surprise, he echoes coach K. “Right on, Tom. Every practice session, from the two-a-days at the beginning of summer camp until the Super Bowl, if you’re lucky, has a more or less completely different character. You haven’t got much time during a game week—you damn well better prepare for what you’re going to face; each player, to use your words, is a different puzzle unto himself each day. Coach K is right—the on-the-road problem, the girlfriend problem, the free-tickets problem, the agent problem.”)

(Related quote, courtesy Mary Pipher: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”—Philo of Alexandria. I like this a lot; I’ve pinned it to my home-office corkboard. Soooooooo true!)

Tom Peters posted this on November 14, 2006, in Leadership.
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