Survival Blinders (Issue 866)

In which we are reminded to keep our antenna up even when we’re under pressure to hit a target.

[Text received] “Hey, Nick. Rob Smith here. Were you just in the Orlando airport?”

Rob is one of my favorite clients. I received his text a few minutes after I settled into my Jet Blue seat for my flight back to Boston from Orlando. I’d had to run for my gate (Gate 6) because (no excuses) I had gone to the wrong one (Gate 7).

[Text sent] “YES! Gate 7.  You didn’t shave today, yes?  I had a moment of recognition when we passed and then thought, ‘No, couldn’t be.’ Sorry I didn’t act on the hunch.  It’s a small world. Yikes!”

[Text received] “Ha, ha, ha. I DID shave today and had the same exact reaction. I was headed to the rest room rather urgently as I was with the family at Epcot and drank a ton of water before heading to the airport. Very small world indeed. Safe travels.”

As my plane pulled away from Gate 6, I wondered “How could we walk past each other like that?” and marveled at the power of focus, particularly when survival is at stake. Each of us was intently focused on a survival objective – he on quickly reaching the restroom, I on quickly reaching my gate. Each of us registered the other…. and our brains dismissed the moments of recognition.

Have you ever had that happen?

I participated in a sales call role play last week. I played the customer, the sales rep was the seller, and the rep’s manager was… the rep’s manager.  The “seller” had prepared a specific call objective and lines of questioning (both committed to his manager and neither revealed to me ahead of time). No pressure, right?

As the role play call started, the “seller” proposed his agenda for the call, to which I agreed.  When the “seller” began his discovery process, I went with him for a while, and then mentioned an item I wanted to cover.  He continued with his questioning.  Again, I dropped a hint. On he went.  I dropped a third hint.  Still, he forged ahead. His line of questioning was, ultimately, going to yield no opportunity; the hints I was dropping suggested a significant opportunity. It was as if he couldn’t hear me, so intent was he on reaching the call objective and call plan he had committed to his manager. Again, a small survival scenario.

It’s good to have a plan, yes. And it’s VERY good not to operate in the “survival” mode because our brains squash everything that doesn’t fit with our survival plan, whatever that is – reaching a rest room or a departure gate, or executing a promised call plan – and we miss cues that could really help us.

 

P.S. A riveting book on this subject:  Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales. I read the book several years ago and I can still remember several of the stories he shared and the lessons learned.

Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more profitable relationships, faster, with business clients, their owners, and their employees. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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