Business Growth Ideas #310 This week: Work stories, Expectations, Lights

Sales and marketing Newsletter

Quick notes to help you grow your business in less time with less effort. . . sometime next week.

In this issue:

– Techniques for FIT
– Being Human
– Random Stuff

Techniques for FIT

  • A chain is only as strong as the weakest link, they say. It seems a string of Christmas lights is only as strong as four burned out bulbs. (and about as hard to identify)
  • If the day before a vacation is the most productive, the day you get back has to run a close second. Short focused bursts of work both requiring a lot of planning and prioritization. My confirmation bias brings this up whenever I see Herculean work week brags.  
  • Are you reconsidering life and your role in it as we stumble through the pandemic? You’re not alone. If it helps, remember the stories we tell ourselves will determine most of the meaning we get from life.
  • Historiography is the study of how history is written. Key questions are who told the story, their agenda, and toward what end. I took a historiography course in college, didn’t get along with the professor, and scraped by with a B*.
    (*citation needed)

Being Human – Meeting expectations

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
—Nelson Mandela

Elizabeth Holmes Agenda Trial Document

It’s frustrating when work doesn’t get done. You are clear on outcomes, timeframes, and boundaries. Yet something is amiss. It’s time for a meeting.

You already know the best meetings come with agendas and outcomes, but I have another tip for you.

Ask for participant expectations to start. 

When I ran a computer training center we did this and customer satisfaction scores went way up. Everyone in the course knew the outline, but still brought additional expectations to the classroom. We taught the instructors to ask for expectations before the day’s instruction start. They would list them on the white board without jumping into answers, and assure everyone the requests will be honored. Many of the expectations would be addressed in the flow of the course exercises, and the rest were addressed before and after breaks. At the end of the class the instructor would go through the list with the class, ask if the item had been addressed satisfactorily, and cross it out.

Although you’re not teaching a class, these “fix it” meetings have the same communication challenges. The participants understand the agenda and outcomes, but still bring in adjacent expectations. These need to be addressed before you can make progress.

This happened to me just this week. The manager was hot under the collar, the reps were sullen, and both sides were ready for a knock-down, drag-out affair. I asked the manager if I could help, explained what I was going to do, and he let me do it.

The Technique

“Before we get started . . .” is my lead in. We make a list, including the manager’s ideas, and push the list around asking, “is there anything else?” No answers are given, just list making. Once the list is complete, we start the regular agenda.

At the end of the meeting we go back through the list, address missing issues, make a new meeting for a deeper issue, and clarify one item. The rest are crossed out.

Surveying the team post-meeting, all parties feel heard, the main issue is uncovered (next meeting), and the work starts to recover.

Try it. It works.

Random stuff


“Memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth, but not its twin.” – Babara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams


First things first. I knew someone would know a trained anthropologist. I didn’t know so many of you knew or knew of trained anthropologists! Thanks for the notes. I will be in touch soon, if I haven’t reached out already.

Hectic week in paradise, aka, Wilson’s house.

I should re-phrase that. It looks like it’s been a hectic week here. We’re in the seasonal-decoration-switch part of the calendar. This means there are turkeys and brown-gold things around mixing with the red-green things emerging from green-red Rubbermaid bins. I am stringing up some lights to ward off the darkness and many of them are working. For those that aren’t, I have a new tool. My trusty red twinkle light checker is currently misplaced, so it has a new brother, the green Holiday Living Light Tester. It doesn’t work the same way, but it’s successfully recovered 2/3 of my last darkened strand.

We’re not the first on the block to put up Christmas lights, but we’re generally the last to take them down. We used to always lose the last place battle to my neighbor Steve, who you may know as Lenora’s dad. Steve and his wife moved away to be closer to Lenora some years ago, and I miss seeing him around. His cars had AUG UAA as a license plate. I assumed it was funny spelling for water, but it wasn’t. He is a scientist and explained AUG UAA in genetics was blah, blah, blah, heart disease, blah, blah, virus sequencing, and when I said, “oh, I thought you were just trying to be funny about spelling water,” he just looked at me.

Steve never took his Christmas lights down. His house was joyful year round. They weren’t classy white twinkle lights either. He strung big multi-colored bulbs all along his front fence and roof-line. It looked like a restaurant and always made me smile as I drove by.

Steve is legendary in my head for other things too. He didn’t seem to wear shoes and strolled up and down the block at all hours. In the 90s, he hated the new police helicopter and each time it flew overhead he would call 9-1-1 and scream, “there’s an unidentified flying object over my house!” He’d also crank call the neighbor in the middle of the night when their dog was out barking on the porch. Looking back, Steve may have been an insomniac. Or just a guy making up funny stories.

He loved to see my son playing ball in the driveway. We shot baskets once, playing H-O-R-S-E. In high school I probably spent more hours playing basketball than he did. He definitely spent more time studying. I should look him up. It’s that time of year.


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