One message I have always been careful to deliver to my employees is that complaining about work is not the same as being productive at work. One might find, with a group of like-minded colleagues, a willing audience to discuss things that could be improved. We have all worked someplace where we have encountered bureaucratic headaches, difficult team-members, unfulfilling career paths, and perceived lack of executive vision. Talking about these things can feel encouraging and allow one to walk away feeling like something has gotten done. But it is important to remember that in truth, nothing has been done. The discussion may feel good, but it is not the same as implementing a solution, increasing revenue, or decreasing costs.
Worse yet, when employees feel that this behavior is productive, they tend to do it more and encourage it in others. This increases the amount of complaining, decreases the amount of work accomplished, and results in a downward spiral of productivity and ultimately morale.
It is a manager’s job to prevent this from happening. The first thing one can do is promote an open-door policy. That is to say that the door is always open to criticism, ideas for improvement, and career concerns. Transparency is always a positive thing, and very often ideas are spot on and come with justifications that can help raise them up the flagpole. Secondly, it is important to remind employees that complaining about things to other employees before they have been elevated to those who can act upon them is not only unproductive, but it is unacceptable. This may sound harsh, but it is not. Every company has the responsibility to control its own culture. Organizations have the same right to forbid employer-focused complaining as they do to prevent sexually harassing speech.
But that authority does not have to lead to an authoritarian relationship. When employees know that the things that bug them, the things they want to improve, and their ideas for a better workplace are landing on the welcome ears of an interested manager, the need to complain at the water cooler will be naturally mitigated.
In this series, we have been talking about getting the most out of your sales team by establishing common goals, directing all things that have an impact in the same direction, and holding everyone accountable. In this segment, I am going to list how these tools can be used on a daily and weekly basis to affect behavior in the desired direction. These are just examples, and you should riff on them in your own way. The important thing is to remain consistent in communication and action. If there is a shared goal out there, do everything in your power to make it known and to get your team to reach it. Oh, and you haven’t established your shared goal, then you aren’t doing your job.
Clearly define and publish the company objective – the shared common goal.
Management needs to talk about the shared objective at every opportunity.
Set expectations that individual effort on this goal is expected every week
In weekly sales meeting, openly ask each salesperson if they have made progress and expect a “yes”
Be prepared to set activity quotas around the goal
Recognize that sometimes salespersons are going to make up stuff to fulfill the request – and that’s OK. Everyone recognizes BS when they hear it, and that awkwardness that follows is an incentive to try harder next week. But no one will know if the question isn’t asked. So, ask the questions and suffer the awkward.
Establish honest dialog with everyone regarding the quality of their efforts – call BS when appropriate.
Kindly draw attention to failings and work with the individual to avoid them in the future
Congratulate BDMs who find great new prospects early
Ask the successful BDMs to share how they are succeeding and use that to train
Make sure all obstacles to this goal are being removed – remove friction from the sales process. If the salesman’s credo is ABC, the sales manager’s is ABRF (always be removing friction).
Make sure responsibility comes with authority. Empower your salespeople to negotiate on their own. Ensure they know the product and pricing parameters. It is often good for a process to say, “I have gone as low as I can, but I want to make this work so let me see if I can get my manager on board.” But it is bad for the process when the client feels the salesperson doesn’t have the authority to negotiate to a close. It’s a subtle difference.
Purchase the tools they need to allow them to hit their objectives. If you have a lot of SKUs, purchase and configure a pricing tool from your CRM provider (back to ABRF). If your team need leads, research lead sources, and buy the list most likely to bear fruit.
Let them control their method, but always be available to assist
Hold them accountable
Help your sales team expand their network. There are always more prospective clients to meet. Let them use your person network, or encourage them to join new clubs, groups, or join a charity board.
And everything else you can think of! When shared objectives are clear, identifying ROI on an investment that furthers that goal is an easy task. Spend what you need, support your team, hold them accountable, and keep all the guns pointed in the same direction. If the shared goal is achievable, this is the best, fastest, and most positive way to reach it.
I hope you have enjoyed this post. Make sure you read the ones that accompany it, and please use the comments to tell me what you think or to share your experiences.
In this series, we have been talking about getting the most out of your sales team by directing all things that have an impact in the same direction. But it is also important to know what is not in our control and not waste energy or sleep over it. Broadly speaking, things outside of our control, belong internally to a person and are developed and influenced outside of the organization. Here are my top five.
Feelings: Everyone is responsible for their own feelings. Some people are more susceptible than others to outside stimulus, but there is no standard. You as a manager should not worry whether a team member is happy, sad, angry or remorseful. Your job is to deliver information honestly and treat them fairly. Furthermore, sometimes people are not happy in general. That doesn’t mean they can’t be a great at sales. A top producer can be going through a divorce and still be excellent at opening doors and closing. As managers, we want everyone on our team to find their happiness, but that is out of our control and not something to worry about.
Productivity: Some folks are super productive, and some aren’t. You will always have a spectrum on your team. Productivity tools may improve everyone’s performance, but they will not eliminate the gap between the most and least productive. As they say, a rising tide raises all boats.
Motivation: As with productivity, some people are motivated, and some aren’t. Sometimes motivated people go through periods when they are not motivated. You never know what is going on in a team members head. What you do know however is that if you are honest with them, set their goals fairly, and give them eth tools they need, they will get there or suffer the consequences.
Philosophy: As I mentioned above, you can’t get into your team members’ heads, and you certainly can’t change what’s there. So don’t even try. You can lead by example, you can make sure they have what they need, but the way they think about sales is up to them.
The ability to mind read: Manager’s simply cannot hold people accountable for things that are not articulated clearly. If you aren’t getting what you want, ask yourself if your requests have been delivered in precise, honest language.
An important note: The one-time sales managers do have control over these things is during the hiring process. In an interview we can search for those who think the way we want and pass on those who think differently. So, make sure you identify the traits you value and craft interview questions that will shed light on personality traits important to you and your organization. This is a good time to review your company’s Core Values.
I hope you have enjoyed this post. Make sure you read the ones that accompany it, and please use the comments to tell me what you think or to share your experiences. In tomorrow’s post, the final in this series, I will share examples of putting all these tools into practice.
Core values are the most powerful tools in your belt
In this series, we are talking about getting the most out of your sales team by establishing common goals, pointing all things that have an impact in the same direction, and holding everyone accountable. But when we talk about everything pointing in the same direction, a few of the things in our control have special significance. These are your most powerful tools.
Shared goals. They can take many forms including account growth, retention, speed of closing, and new business development. I liken these to the Eiffel tower, a destination in the distance that we can always lift our head up and see to ensure we are heading in the right direction. But they are also powerful motivating tools. We all know that sales guys are competitive and will strive to maximize their performance. However, what makes a professional athlete happier, achieving his personal best or winning the championship. Andre Dawson won the MVP in 1989 while playing for the last place Cubs, but he would trade that award for a World Series Ring in a heartbeat. Fortunately, being part of a team chasing a shared objective allows individuals to follow their personal interest and participate in the excitement of team victories.
Honesty as a Core Value. When you are not honest with your staff, they know immediately, and they create a narrative as to why you are lying. These explanations often veer towards the extreme and lead to speculation about impending lay-offs, interpersonal affairs or loathing, or illegal activities. Always answer honestly, and if there is something that is proprietary to the executive team, just say that isn’t something we are talking about right now if asked.
Consistency. Advancing from a manager to a leader is hard and one of the things it requires is consistency of message. All the things I talked about yesterday (concepts) and will talk about on Friday (examples) need to be done every day – and many times every day. If there is a shared common goal (and there always should be), it should lead and end every discussion you have with your team. You will hold your people accountable if you want to succeed, but you will also do it all the time – privately and in front of the team. Everyone must know that what you expect of them is the same thing they can expect of their peers.
I am a big fan of Core Values having experienced how powerful they are when brought to a team that was working without them and over time I may add to this list.
I hope you have enjoyed this post. Make sure you read the ones that accompany it, and please use the comments to tell me what you think or to share your experiences. In tomorrow’s post, I will talk about the pitfalls managers encounter when they try to control things over which they haven’t any power.
Getting the most out of a sales team can be a struggle. Even the best salespeople struggle to open doors even when qualified leads are presented. And management teams know that successfully incenting behavioral changes can be an elusive goal. Still some teams seem to get it right, and those that do almost always follow the same two simple principles.
They ensure that BDMs have all the tools required to be successful
They hold each salesperson responsible for the achievement of assigned goals
We all understand the concept of accountability, even if sometimes we have a hard time delivering on it. But what on earth is “tools required”? It’s more than a CRM, or an targeted comp structure but those things are on the list. The actual list of tools required is EVERYTHING we, as managers, have at our disposal to influence behavior in a desired direction. And when all are lined up, behavior is guided salespersons are better prepared, and holding people accountable becomes much easier.
What is in our control?
The list of everything can be long, but here is the top dozen:
Shared Common Goals – the single most powerful tool at a manager’s disposal. More on this later.
Compensation – a program which favors the behavior we desire and penalizes all others.
Incentives – perks which support the behavior we desire in a nonmonetary way.
Reprimands – pointing out (privately for god’s sake) when an employee does not live up to expectations.
Culture – one that is psychologically safe and encourages sharing and ideation. It is the size of the pie that matters, not the size of the slice! When the pie grows, everyone’s slice can grow also.
Training – Ensuring the team has all the skills needed to hit their goals.
Process – process removes confusion from sales and allows greater focus on the relationship.
Tools – CRMs, Pricing tools, technology, fashion consultants – whatever they need to maximize their efficiency and eliminate friction.
Performance measurement – count everything and show it over time and relative to success.
Core values – This is 50% of why people stay or leave. The trinity of Trust, Honesty, and Accountability is a good start. More on this tomorrow.
Reinforcement – When someone does a great job, let it be known!
Expectations – Salespeople will pursue exactly the goals they are given. When management is clear and desired numbers are written, incentives align.
If the world wants the product you sell, and all guns are pointing in the same direction, the team will hit its target.
I hope you have enjoyed this post. Make sure you read the ones that accompany it, and please use the comments to tell me what you think or to share your experiences. In tomorrow’s post, I will talk about a couple of the items on this list that have significant power.
I have described myself as a right leaning centrist and even used to call this blog a commonsense conservative. During the Trump era, conservatives moved to the right in a way that made me uncomfortable with that title, and I changed the name to what you see here, the card-carrying centrist. It was not intended to signal a change of positions – until today.
In all my years writing and thinking about politics and policy, I have stayed away from second amendment issues. I was not raised in a gun culture home and went shooting a few times and really hated it. Guns never found an exciting spot in my imagination. That being said, my position as a commonsense conservative often put me in discussion with second amendment proponents and in general, I supported their positions. Unlike a lot of other controversial issues, gun rights are clearly mentioned in the constitution, and that carried a lot of weight for me. I also noted that the places with the toughest gun laws, like Chicago, also had the highest instances of gun violence leading me to conclude that gun control laws hurt the good guys and did nothing to stop the bad guys.
Well, let me tell you dear readers, my opinion has changed. Following three mass shooting in the last two weeks, we need to take some serious action to reduce the easy availability of guns – particularly to young and mentally troubled people. There are a number of steps that make sense and I recommend all of them as listed below.
First, background checks need to be intense. It should be harder to own a gun than it is to drive a car. In addition to mental health and criminal records, a gun license application should require interviews or letters of recommendation confirming that the applicant is capable of responsible gun ownership. As a friend said about the Uvalde shooting Tuesday, “Somebody in that dude’s family knew that him having a gun was a bad idea.” We have to try to unearth those sources before handing out weapons.
Second, there needs to be a waiting period between the time that someone seeks to buy a gun and they receive a gun. It should be fairly long, like a month, it should be publicly disclosed, and the public should be invited to weigh in on the application. This would not mean that only popular people could own guns. Concerns would be vetted by qualified civil servants, only valid ones would be considered, lies would be removed, and perpetrators of harassment would be prosecuted.
I will suggest that these first two changes would be more successful than the existing red flag laws which have been demonstrated to be unreliable.
Third. No one under 21 can get a gun. You can’t legally drink a beer until you are 21. We all know that law exists because teenagers’ fearlessness, hormones, and inexperience lead them to do stupid things. Same here.
Fourth. No more assault weapons in homes – automatic or otherwise. I am not saying you can’t own them. I respect the rights of collectors. However, they must be stored in a licensed and regulated gun club, kept under lock and key, and accessed only within the property of that establishment. Honestly, I think it would be cool to own a howitzer, but it would be even cooler if it came with someplace to shoot it.
Fifth. No more gun shows – or at least as they exist today. If you want to go to a convention center, look at guns, place some orders, and experience some controlled shooting, newly designed gun shows would be the perfect place for that. But if you order a gun there, you have to have a license, wait for 30 days, have your application published online, and – if it is an assault weapon – have it shipped to the gun club where you are a member. Vendors who violate the regulations go to jail.
Finally, all these things would dramatically increase the cost of gun licensure and that’s OK. Government taxes people all the time. People in many states pay $1,000 per year in taxes and fees just to drive to work. There is no reason a starting gun license can’t cost $1,000 per year.
None of these things would prevent gun lovers from the joy they find in their hobby. But they would help to ensure that guns are not used against society. I remember a discussion I had with an anti-gun mom a few years ago. She argued that government should “just do something, anything – even if it is ineffective nonsense – just to show that the issue isn’t being ignored.” I disagreed with that argument, and I still do. Laws must be effective and few. Smaller government and fewer laws are good in general. But gun control is an area where we need more and toothier laws quickly. I don’t want to again experience the pit in my stomach that has been there the last few weeks.
I have always believed in a flat organization. I have managed big teams in high pressure situations when a positive outcome is not guaranteed. Information is capital and it is my experience that individuals will respond well when everyone starts with same amount of it. When everyone knows the challenges as well as the stakes, they head off in the same direction, and they work as a team. And it doesn’t stop there. When flat hierarchy and open dialog are core values, when they become habit, cohesion can be maintained indefinitely.
Yet hierarchy-refusal can be taken too far, as I once learned. I was so once committed to a flat structure, that, I decided no one on my team would have any title. For reasons outlined above, this seemed like the right thing to do until one of them pointed out, that for all my horizontal preaching, the organization wasn’t flat. There was one person on the team that had a hierarchical title – me. When I looked at my business card, I realized how disingenuous I had been. But I also realized how much I liked my title. It had been given to me by my boss and it meant something.
It’s weird, hierarchy is important outside the office. It is a yardstick that tells the world how far one has come. Titles open doors, impress the ladies (or men), lead to greater sales, and can ensure a better salary at the next job. But teams work best when hierarchy is eliminated inside the office. People can make different amounts of money, have different skills, and have different words on their business cards, but when in the office, when part of that team, everyone is held to the same standard, everyone is expected to work hard, and everyone is expected to do everything they can to ensures the success of their teammates.
When I started this blog 6 years ago, I had a clear mission to share common sense ideas positioned to the right of many of my Chicago peers. As my bio states, I am an economist at heart and that perspective often unearths challenges with otherwise well-meaning progressive policy ideas.
Back then, the term conservative fit. It didn’t mean right winger, zealot, or evangelist. Those far right of center subscriptions each had their own labels, and conservative was a term with which I was comfortable – at least when it came to non-social issues. I still believe that the cost of big government is personal freedom, that building one’s station through personal productivity is one the clearest paths to happiness, that contemporary unions are wolves in sheep’s clothing, that history matters, and that there are just too many darned laws.
But the former President and his attention-drunk followers co-opted the word conservative into something else. Now it leans toward anti-maskers, isolationism, good-old-days, and social justice insensitivity – concepts just as dangerous as their left wing counterparts: hyper-maskers, pandering to our international enemies, the tyranny of woke, and defunding the police. Idiots on both sides of the spectrum are equally in need of a slap.
My gut feeling is that there has never been a more equitable, more just, and more opportunity-filled time to be an American. The foundation of society, as we come out of this rule-breaking shut-down, is more pliable than ever before. It’s an unprecedented opportunity to make changes for the better. But we’ve been through a boiler of a year and it’s bubbled a lot of nasty things to the surface. These things need to be addressed openly and without fear and I look forward to exploring them on this site.
So welcome to my site, A Card Carrying Centrist. Same content, same mission, new and improved name.
On about a decade ago, I received a day in Charlie Trotter’s kitchen as a gift from some friends. They had purchased it for me at a charity auction. I like to cook for my friends and do so often. I also worked in restaurants through my teens and college so I have nearly a decade’s experience at the prep and line level. As far as home cooks go, I consider myself a pretty good one, but by no yardstick a chef.
Charlie Trotter’s, if you do not know, was – maybe still is – one of the most important restaurants in culinary history. Following Alice Water’s legendary focus on highest quality dill for salmon and chocolate for cakes, Charlie Trotter blew it up by putting the chocolate on the salmon. Chicagoans were lucky that he built his practice in Chicago. His was the spear tip that drove culinary innovation. His protégés sparked countless award-winning restaurants and turned Chicago into one of the finest restaurant cities in the world.
By the time of this story, these kitchen certificates were standard fare and had been given to charities for years. They were more special to the recipient and less expensive for the restaurant than a gift certificate. Hundreds had gone before me, and the program was well established. I was greeted at the door by the sommelier and escorted into the secondary dining room where lunch was awaiting me. He explained the day which included some time in the kitchen, the pre-shift meeting with the manager and servers, some front-of-the-house time, and some other experiential but out-of-the-way activities. He also asked about my expectations. I told him I wanted to experience the true Charlie Trotter’s working environment. “How are your knife skills?” he asked. “Pretty good, I think, but you can be the judge.” With that I was sent down to change into my awaiting restaurant-supplied whites.
The kitchen was abustle when I entered. Bright lights, colorful ingredients, and a dozen rapidly moving chefs gave the room a magical intensity. I was set-up on a prep table and handed 2 dozen sous-vide artichoke hearts. I was instructed to quarter them and carve each part into the shape of a flamingo – the choke making a colorful beak. I’m sorry what? The chef picked one up, pulled a raptor knife from his pocket, and with one deft slice, turned the vegetable into a bird.
I wasn’t deft but I figured it out. I guess I did a passable job, because when I was finished, they let me stay. Next came in an overflowing tray of morels. You could have bought a used car with what these mushrooms were worth. I cleaned and cored them for maybe an hour. “Next?’ I inquired? Out came 4 flats of strawberries – each to be cored, cut in half, and then sliced onto 32 equally thick pieces, which would then be added to the maceration solution. On this task I spent the next two hours.
Another give-back that Charlie Trotter created was a program that hired inner-city high-school kids to work in the kitchen. They cleaned, prepped food, and assisted the chefs. I am sure that many of them went on to successful careers in the culinary industry. I wish I remembered the name of the fellow in this roll the day I was there, because he is important to this story but for that I apologize. We had been working side by side for a while, chopping away, when he referred to me as “Chef Curt.” I chuckled humbly and informed him that I was just renting the spot for the day and a chef by no means. For the first time that day, he stopped moving, looked straight into my eyes and asked me, “are you working in Chef Charlie Trotter’s kitchen today or not?” I agreed I was, and he informed me, “then today you are Chef.” This soon turned out to be truer than I could have imagined.
I had been working at the team’s disposal for so long – and perhaps so quietly – that the front-of-the-house staff forgot I was there. I missed the pre-opening meeting and the shift meal with the wait staff. In fact, by the time I proudly lifted my head from that glorious vat of liquifying strawberries, the kitchen was buzzing in a whole different way. I ventured to the front of the room and found a safe place to observe. Dinner had started and the staff had moved to their action positions around the line. Well-dressed waiters were coming in, grabbing plates, wiping the edges, and heading out. Charlie had not yet arrived, but the chef in front, likely the sous chef, controlled the room like a conductor directing an orchestra. There was commotion, but also a sense of forced, busy quiet.
As entrees started going out, the appetizer dishes started to pile up. I noticed with interest that there was not person assigned as dishwasher. This organization was so flat that every chef was expected to do everything of which he was capable. I also noted that the institutional dishwasher was a brand I recognized from my own high-school restaurant days. It was many decades newer but worked basically the same. I set to work rinsing the plates, placing them in the racks, opening the door, running the machine, and removing them to airdry. The process took about 60 seconds per load. I had no idea where they went, so I just stacked the dishes on the counter and prepared the next load. After about 10 minutes of this, I heard a sharp request. “Chef Curt! Did anyone tell you to wash those dishes?” “No sir” I replied, “but I know the machine and figured I would help.” “Chef Curt,” he now ordered, “I need you behind the line at the sauté station!”
You want some context? Imagine, you are sitting at Wrigley Field in some hard-won front row seats. Anthony Rizzo has been yanked, and David Ross approaches you and tells you that you are needed at first base – right now! My job was sautéing salmon – four to six pans at a time, moving between them, ensuring that none stick, and flipping when ready. Once to temperature (no thermometer, you tell with a touch), they were plated and garnished. I was getting along surprisingly competently when Chef Trotter arrived and asked what I was doing there. I learned later that in all the years of the charity certificate, I was the only recipient who had ever received this honor. I was sprinkling brightly colored flowers across a plate while I introduced myself, and he responded with, “well, welcome, now, damnit, more purple!” I absolutely beamed.
This is one of my favorite stories and not without lesson. The whole day turned with an earnest and insightful request from a teenager that I reconsider how I view myself. I had hoped for a terrific spectator vantage leading to improved understanding of people I admired. But when my heart and mind opened, the experience carried me beyond my expectations. I came to observe the show, but in the end I was part of it.
Following my 10 minutes behind the line, I was handed a glass of fantastic Brunello and sent downstairs to change out of my whites. My wife and another couple were meeting me there for dinner, and I had brought a change of clothes. In my excitement, I accidentally (I swear) put my restaurant supplied whites into my backpack with my own dirty clothes. I meant to return them, but the restaurant closed several months later. Those whites have hung proudly next to my suits, for the past 9 years as a reminder of the time I got yelled at by Charlie Trotter for not putting enough purple flowers on top of a piece of salmon and was able to live-out a real-life fantasy because a kid told me to be more than I thought I was.
This story is going to sound a bit like a western, so my apologies for that.
You see, I used to run internet products for Ameritrade. I am the guy who brought the Company to the Internet. Maybe it was right place, right time, but, man, did I love that job. The tools that my team and I built for an initial audience of dozens grew to support millions of users by the time of this story.
But wait. Some background is important for the rest of this story to make sense. Most companies have three different data handling departments: backend, middleware, and frontend. The backend is the customer and transactional databases. This story isn’t about them. The middleware determines what information can be shared, keeps the bad guys out, and directs the traffic. This story is about them. And the frontend delivers pretty applications and pages to users. Frontend. That’s where I worked.
And we were dependent on the middleware. Unfortunately Ameritrade’s middleware was really old by the time the internet came along. We struggled to work with it, but an application is only as good as its data. That middleware had to be replaced.
The middleware team was also long in the tooth. There had been few new requirements for years, and they had grown complacent. They resisted change on procedural grounds and were viewed as uncooperative. When the mandate came to rewrite it, they were not prepared for success. Deadlines came and went, attrition skyrocketed, and even the new requirements started falling out of date. The danger the company was in because of this can not be overstated.
This is where the story ties into the quote above. My team was terrific. Because we did the fun stuff, we could hire the best people, and many of the best technologists in the Company had chosen to join us. I realized our talent, our understanding of customer needs, and our productive attitude could solve the middleware problem. But I also knew that pulling my team off frontend development would temporarily hurt us in the competitive standings and direct a lot of negative pressure towards me – from the encroached upon data services teams, from the business units, and even from the financial press. Just so you know, I am the guy in the white hat here. Guess what I did?
I offered up my best project manager and all my senior developers. But it got worse than I predicted when those folks were assigned to another VP. Not only would I lose their productivity, but I would not receive the spotlight of their success.
Following this, my options appeared limited. My crippled team was living off scraps, our competitors pulled away dropping us to dead last in some standings, and my once bright star was fading fast.
But as clearly as I knew my days were numbered, I also knew that I still had control of the future. Three powerful things were left in my pocket. First, my remaining team, having written the middleware requirements, knew what to expect when the project was finished. Second, my knowledge of the customers allowed me to predict what an industry leading application would look like in the future – even if I could not build it yet. And third, the rewrite had not taken my graphic designers, that creative core that turns good data into great applications. Together my scrappy band would design the application that the Company would need at the other end of this dark, 8-month, tunnel.
My professional capital fell far into the red. I had a terrific boss who tried to shield me, but there was only so much he could do. His boss, a man for whom I have great respect, chose a different path – which must have been very difficult for him. He knew what I was doing, and he got out of the way. He protected the necessary resources to ensure the success of our future knowing it might be the last thing I did with the Company.
And it was. But it was also a homerun. The data streaming through the new middleware coupled with our visionary application design put us back atop the competitive rankings and painted my team in great light. I left proud of what I had accomplished and knowing that my superiors valued my efforts. Ride off into the sunset. End credits roll.
So, here’s the lesson. For years I have viewed this story as me self-sacrificing a job I loved for the betterment of the Company. But through recent introspection I have reached a different conclusion which is made clear by understanding the true options I faced:
I could take on another department’s problem. I was confident my involvement would facilitate the best outcome for the Company but also understood it would lead me out the door. I could hope that the act would end with the Company back in its preeminent competitive position, my team – a group of people I loved – once again positioned to build fantastic things and maintain their position at the top of the corporate cake, and me exiting in a super strong position to go build wonderful things for another firm.
I could do my job and let the middleware do as it would. It was not my problem to fix, and my head would not be on the block if it failed. My team and I could still build new applications, but the opportunities for building groundbreaking things would continue to diminish. Ameritrade’s competitive advantage might slide and eventually turn us into a takeover target – at which point I would be viewed as an average manager, and either be let go or receive a position appropriate to an average manager.
You see, I was faced with two options and neither was perfect, but my genuine desire to serve others, to improve the standing of the Company, and to make my team successful, led me to the best outcome – for all of us, me included- even if it appears to have been against my self-interest.