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Bullwinkle on Business
Motivational Secrets of a Chief Executive Moose
By John Hoover
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2007 John Hoover, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
ESTABLISH A PERSONAL VISION OR REMIND ME WHY I'M DOING THIS
"The thunder of jets in an open sky, a streak of gray and a cheerful ... "Hi." A loop, a whirl, a vertical climb, and once again you know it's time for ... well, you know what it's time for. The cheerful "Hi" comes from none other than Rocket J. Squirrel, known to millions as Rocky, the Flying Squirrel. This particular loop and whirl took place in the skies above the tropical paradise of Riki-Tiki. The aerobatic squirrel looped through the window of a Riki-Tiki tropical island hut, where he landed gracefully beside his longtime counterespionage partner and stalwart friend, Bullwinkle J. Moose, who looked up briefly from a letter he was reading.
BULLWINKLE: "Oh, hi, Rocky."
ROCKY: "Whatcha reading, Bullwinkle?"
BULLWINKLE: "Oh, just fan mail from some flounder."
ROCKY: "Did it wash up on the beach in a bottle?"
BULLWINKLE: "No, the postal person delivered it. Say, Rock. What does 'lit-i-ga-tion' mean?"
The giant moose handed the letter to the much shorter squirrel.
ROCKY: "I don't know, Bullwinkle. This doesn't look like fan mail to me. Whoever wrote this is suing you."
BULLWINKLE: "Suing me? Like on Judge Judy?"
ROCKY: "I think so. And they want ten million dollars in damages."
BULLWINKLE: "That's funny. I don't remember damaging anything recently."
The moose cradled his massive snout in his hand and pondered for a moment.
BULLWINKLE: "Hm-m-m. There was that limbo pole at the Riki-Tiki Tavern last month."
ROCKY: "I don't think that's it, Bullwinkle. These people are from Seattle and it says that this is a class-action suit."
BULLWINKLE: "Seattle? Class action? Why would school children in Seattle sue me?"
ROCKY: "It says here that you sold them sunshine in a bottle and it didn't shine."
BULLWINKLE: "Hm-m-m. It must have leaked out of the bottle in transit."
It was true. Well, not the part about the sunshine leaking from the bottle in transit. But, as the lawsuit stipulated, Bullwinkle, now retired with his pal Rocky on Riki-Tiki since they single-handedly caused the collapse of the Eastern Block, had grown bored with monotonous paradise and sought to start a new enterprise by bottling tropical sunshine and selling it via mail order to citizens on the mainland. However, unbeknownst to the antlered entrepreneur, at that moment public sentiment against his export business was growing.
SEATTLE CITIZEN ONE: "I ordered this bottle of Tropical Sunshine from Island Moose Incorporated and there's nothing in it."
SEATTLE CITIZEN TWO: "How do you know?"
SEATTLE CITIZEN ONE: "We're in Seattle. The jar is open. Do you see any sunshine?"
SEATTLE CITIZEN TWO: "I see ... I mean I don't see any sunshine."
SEATTLE CITIZEN ONE: "Exactly. If there was any sunshine in Seattle, imported or otherwise, I think we'd notice. It's a jar full of nothing and I'm going to sue."
SEATTLE CITIZEN TWO: "Well, why not? It's raining outside and there's nothing else to do but drink coffee and write software."
Fortunately for the enterprising island moose, the lawsuit was dismissed by an environmentally sensitive judge before it came to trial. As the only North Woods moose on the island of Riki-Tiki, Bullwinkle was classified as an endangered species and thereby indemnified from further harassment.
ROCKY: "Boy, that was close, Bullwinkle. I hope you learned a lesson."
BULLWINKLE: "I sure did. I'll never try to bottle sunshine again."
ROCKY: "Good for you."
BULLWINKLE: "I'm going to bottle trade winds."
It was another agonizing moment for the basically reasonable squirrel, hearing yet again the ravings of his mush-headed friend. Bullwinkle was, in fact, the only carbon-based life-form in recorded history capable of suffering the unfortunate consequences of groupthink all by himself. In a sort of groupthink solitaire, Bullwinkle was all too eager to take up causes that would have been best left alone. Showing true executive potential, he moved forward boldly on ideas that had no merit, completely ignoring and avoiding anything to the contrary, regardless of how much sense it made.
ROCKY: "Oh, Bullwinkle. How are you going to bottle trade winds?"
BULLWINKLE: "Simple. Just watch."
Bullwinkle opened a jar, held it outside the window of the tropical hut, and then screwed the lid back on.
BULLWINKLE: "There. That ought to be enough."
ROCKY: "How do you know there's anything in there?"
BULLWINKLE: "How much can they expect for $19.95?"
ROCKY: "I'm afraid your customers might get upset again, Bullwinkle."
As if anticipating Rocky's question, Bullwinkle proudly held up a piece of paper.
BULLWINKLE: "I'm way ahead of you, Rock."
ROCKY: "A money-back guarantee?"
BULLWINKLE: "Nope. A set of instructions with every bottle."
By fortuitous coincidence, Bullwinkle's first Trade Winds in a Bottle customers lived in none other than Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, near the Canadian border.
FROSTBITE FALLS CITIZEN ONE: "Doesn't seem to be much air movement coming from this bottle, Ole."
FROSTBITE FALLS CITIZEN TWO: "It says here in the instructions to set the open jar in front of an electric fan."
FROSTBITE FALLS CITIZEN ONE: "So it does."
Moments later, the open jar was sitting in front of a rotating electric fan.
FROSTBITE FALLS CITIZEN ONE: "Seems to be working now, Ole."
FROSTBITE FALLS CITIZEN TWO: "So it does."
FROSTBITE FALLS CITIZEN ONE: "I would have thought trade winds would be warmer than this."
FROSTBITE FALLS CITIZEN TWO: "It doesn't say 'Tropical Trade Winds' now, does it?"
FROSTBITE FALLS CITIZEN ONE: "So it does not."
Fortune was smiling on Bullwinkle again. In an act of fortuitous oversight and omission, Bullwinkle had forgotten to include the word "tropical" in his new product label. Since trade winds technically occur thirty latitudinal degrees north or south of the equator, the citizens of Frostbite Falls had no cause to question the temperature of the enterprising moose's bottled trade winds. As usual, there was just enough murkiness, ambiguity, lethargy, and apathy to keep the Frostbite Falls citizens from taking legal action.
Halfway around the globe two other recent arrivals to the free-enterprise business world were having similar struggles. In the not-so-tropical climate of Pottsylvania, none other than Rocky and Bullwinkle's old nemesis, that crumb of crumbs, that schlemiel of schlemiels, that asp in the grass, that perfidious scoundrel ...
BORIS: "Just say the name!"
... Boris Badenov ... and his accomplice, the exotic, engaging, and much taller Natasha Fatale, were having problems of their own.
BORIS: "We have advertised Siberian Breeze in a Bottle for months and months and still not one order."
NATASHA: "Vhere have you been placink the advertisink?"
BORIS: "Here in Siberian Business Monthly."
Boris held up an issue of the publication, which was a single sheet printed on only one side.
NATASHA: "Maybe that's your problem."
BORIS: "I'm not following you."
NATASHA: "Ees seemple. Why vould eenyone who leeves een Siberia vant to pay perfectly good rubles for breeze they get free for goink outside?"
Boris rubbed his chin as he struggled to grasp Natasha's point.
NATASHA: "And ees other problem."
BORIS: "What other problem?"
NATASHA: "Ees no address or telephone number to order your product."
BORIS: "Of course not. We are secret organization."
NATASHA: "Oh, my leetle schnook. This ees going to be deefficult."
BORIS: "Are you trying to be smart?"
NATASHA: "Someone needs to be."
Back on tropical Riki-Tiki Island, Bullwinkle continued to fledge his fledgling enterprise.
ROCKY: "You don't seem to be sending out as many bottles of trade winds as you did at first, Bullwinkle."
BULLWINKLE: "Once the initial rush died down, I figured it was time to settle in and fill the reorders."
ROCKY: "How many reorders have you received?"
BULLWINKLE: "None. But, it's only been three months."
ROCKY: "I don't think that's a good sign, Bullwinkle. Have you figured out why you're not getting any reorders?"
BULLWINKLE: "Nope. There must be some holdup at the post office."
ROCKY: "I suppose that could happen ... but, for three months? The post office is much better than it used to be. The lawsuit papers arrived in a week."
BULLWINKLE: "You make a good argument and I'm an open-minded moose. I'll give it another month or two and rethink my theory."
PEABODY'S IMPROBABLE PROGNOSIS
In the laboratory of Mr. Peabody, far, far from the tropical island of Riki-Tiki, the erudite beagle and his adopted boy, Sherman, emerged from Mr. Peabody's WayBac machine after observing the antics of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Boris and Natasha in their respective geographical locales.
SHERMAN: "Gosh, Mr. Peabody. It sure looked like Bullwinkle and Boris were having trouble getting their businesses off the ground. They acted confident enough but didn't seem to know what to do next."
MR. PEABODY: "Excellent observation, my boy. Therein lays the essence of this journey through human motivation in business."
SHERMAN: "Human motivation in business? I didn't know that business was about human beings."
MR. PEABODY: "Precisely, Sherman. You'd be surprised how many people in middle and senior management share your ignorance on the subject."
MR. PEABODY: "Perhaps I should phrase that more gently and say that they lack awareness and sensitivity to the central role human beings play in business success and/or failure."
SHERMAN: "Why is that?"
MR. PEABODY: "Business begins and ends with people, Sherman. People create needs and desires for businesses to fill; people then create, produce, and deliver the goods and services to fill the needs and demands of others; and everyone in turn creates new needs and demands that keep the economic cycle alive. Business is first, last, and always about people."
SHERMAN: "When you say it like that, Mr. Peabody, it makes perfect sense."
Mr. Peabody, altogether deserving of Sherman's admiration, nevertheless acknowledged the compliment only by nodding his head slightly in his characteristically humble manner. Sherman, in his characteristically curious manner, continued to press on with more questions.
SHERMAN: "Does that apply to everyone in business?"
MR. PEABODY: "Absolutely. People play a vital role in the success of entrepreneurs who deal regularly with their customers face-to-face as well as intrapreneurs who deal regularly with their colleagues and collaborators."
SHERMAN: "Intrapreneurs ...?"
MR. PEABODY: "People who work inside larger organizations, but who behave like entrepreneurs in that they attempt to build thriving enterprises within larger enterprises."
SHERMAN: "Can a department head or area supervisor act like an entrepreneur?"
MR. PEABODY: "Act like an entrepreneur is a good way to phrase it, Sherman. They might or might not be compensated based upon their business unit's performance and have varying degrees of autonomy, but true intrapreneurs act as if every business relationship is vital to his or her success, just the way an entrepreneur should."
SHERMAN: "Where does that leave the other managers and executives?"
MR. PEABODY: "Executives who spend their business energies and resources in places other than on promoting maximum participation, involvement, and loyalty among the people building the enterprise are usually left wondering why the competition is leaving them in the dust."
SHERMAN: "Bullwinkle and Boris didn't seem to be dealing with any of these things."
MR. PEABODY: "Yes and no, Sherman. They certainly didn't have an acute customer focus, which is one aspect of building a people-centric business. Internal customers are as vital to business success as external customers."
SHERMAN: "But Bullwinkle and Boris didn't have any internal customers."
MR. PEABODY: "Ah, but they did, my boy. And that brings us to the crux of our first point about people energizing the enterprise."
SHERMAN: "It does?"
MR. PEABODY: "Bullwinkle and Boris were their own internal customers."
SHERMAN: "Each one was his own team?"
MR. PEABODY: "Indeed. As sole proprietors they were team leader and team member at the same time. If they worked in a large organization they would still be their own first customer. That's why establishing a personal vision is so important."
SHERMAN: "Personal vision?"
MR. PEABODY: "That's Exercise One in building a people-centric enterprise. Whether a person is operating alone or in concert with a thousand peers and colleagues, he or she owes it to him- or herself, and to the organization, to take a personal inventory and be keenly aware of why he or she is working and what he or she is working toward."
SHERMAN: "Doesn't everybody do that anyway, Mr. Peabody?"
The profound implication of Sherman's innocent question elicited an uncharacteristic sigh from his trusted teacher. Although one would hope that such self-awareness would precede any professional decision, Mr. Peabody was forced to share the bad news with his pupil. He did so, however, with his characteristic scholarly dignity, bordering slightly on the dramatic.
MR. PEABODY: "Alas, my boy. Such self-examination and subsequent awareness is the exception, not the rule. If the antitheses were true, many more people would be content in their work and, dare I say, more inspired and productive."
SHERMAN: "That would be a good thing. Right, Mr. Peabody?"
MR. PEABODY: "People who are content and confident in their work tend to be highly motivated and eminently more productive. They collaborate more freely with peers and colleagues, and cooperate better with those they report to on the organizational food chain. And it all starts with self-awareness in the form of a personal vision."
SHERMAN: "Is that a 'yes,' Mr. Peabody?"
MR. PEABODY: "That is a 'yes,' Sherman. It's a 'yes' whether a person works alone or within an enormous organization, stretching to the farthest reaches of the planet and beyond."
SHERMAN: "You sure do get dramatic, Mr. Peabody."
Mr. Peabody cleared his throat, somewhat embarrassed to be caught in such a way.
MR. PEABODY: "Yes. I sometimes let my passion peek through an otherwise composed countenance."
SHERMAN: "I like it when that happens."
MR. PEABODY: "Well, Sherman. My penchant for the theatrical is a somewhat repressed component of my own personal vision, which perhaps we'll discuss another day. Right now it's time for Exercise One to energize your enterprise."
ESTABLISH A PERSONAL VISION
As Mr. Peabody pointed out, it's important to establish a personal vision because people need to align who they are and what they want out of their careers with their occupational choices. Resonance is the key. If who people are, what they want, and their occupational choices are out of alignment, recognizing the dissonance for what it is will allow people to compensate in healthy ways. Bullwinkle, for example, had an entrepreneurial idea he imagined would make him a fast financial killing and didn't give much thought to what it meant to the bigger picture of his life. Such is the frequent dilemma of the entrepreneur or a person who seeks a job in an organization based only on superficial criteria.
Whether or not a person elects to be an entrepreneur, to build an organization, or is an intrapreneur within a larger company or agency (a self-starter carving a career from within an organization), there are must have conversations to conduct and must ask questions to be answered. Even if a person has been with the firm a long time, these questions are critical to job satisfaction and career growth, perhaps especially if the person has been in the same job with the same firm for a long time. He or she might be stuck in a rut and not even be aware of it.
Excerpted from Bullwinkle on Business by John Hoover. Copyright © 2007 John Hoover, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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