Douglas Adams once noted: "Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so."
On the same theme, Keith McFarland was in Toronto to speak to the YPO Leadership Forum. He is the author of The Breakthrough Company and talks about the impact of leaders who have not matured. Keith talks about one leader who said "All Buyers Lie". This negative attitude to customers impacted terribly on his long term revenues eventually.
Here's a quick story I valued from Keith in BusinessWeek:
The hotshot vice-president who took over the marketing group where I worked when I was in my 20s was a great anti-mentor. Arrogant, quick-tempered, and controlling, it took him only about six months to turn a great department into a loose collection of warring fiefdoms. I knew I wanted out, so I observed what I thought at the time was proper etiquette:
me out of it but finally relented, extracting only one promise: I would allow him to tell the president of our organization about the change.
What I didn't know at the time was that he and the president were at war over some of the same issues that were causing me to flee and that he intended to use my departure as a weapon against the president, who had been my friend and sponsor for a number of years. So my boss said I was leaving my post because I was tired of the president meddling in the affairs of our department. Nothing could have been further from the truth, but the president appeared to believe him and was so offended by the statement that it took several years to repair my relationship with him.
What did my first anti-mentor teach me? That people, even those you view as untrustworthy, are essentially reliable. Wait, hadn't this person betrayed me by lying about my motivations for leaving the job? Yes, and that's precisely my point. His actions were entirely consistent. I knew he was selfish, manipulative, and insecure. So to expect him to behave otherwise was bad judgment on my part.
I realized right then that people are surprisingly dependable and vowed to use what I knew about them to predict how they're likely to act. When my boss asked me to let him relay my move to the president, I should have been on my guard. I should have said: "You know, my relationship with him goes back almost 10 years, and I wouldn't want to offend him by not telling him myself."
The funny thing is, as the years have passed, the anger I felt for my first anti-mentor has dissipated. The lesson to treat every person as reliable (based on who they really are) has served me well as an entrepreneur, whether I'm dealing with colleagues, investors, or customers.
Posted by Jacoline Loewen - see YouTube interview with National Post: VIEW