Are We Failing to Fail?

Today I attended an hour and a half, lively, funny presentation by a man I had never heard of before, but who I intend on paying at least a little more attention to in the future. His name is Terry Paulson. He’s been described as the Will Rogers of Management Consultants and he pretty much lives up to that description. He was invited as part of a series of ongoing events put on at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne called Passport to Leadership. This series is always open to anyone who wants to attend. Due to space limitations there is online registration available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Most of the time, unfortunately, the room (generally it’s held in an auditorium that can seat about 150 people) isn’t quite full. Sometimes it’s overflowing; depends on the speaker, the time of year, and what’s going on in the company at the time.

I chose to attend this particular event not because I had any idea who Terry Paulson was, but because of the title of the event – “The Innovative Leader’s Challenge: Inventing the Future in a Cost-Containment World”. Intriguing. Surely, anyone paying attention nowadays knows just about everyone is paying attention to costs more so than usual. What I really liked about his approach was its level of (in the words of his website) optimism, resilience, and hope – not to mention a good dose of animated humor. He made it clear he wasn’t talking about being a Pollyanna,  full of false promise and glittering visions of the future, but of being a realist; of looking at things and seeing them for what they are and being willing to face them head on. Interestingly, though he didn’t say it, his home page talks about something I heard many years ago from a radio psychologist by the name of Dr. Toni Grant. I used to listen to her on KABC radio here in Los Angeles when I was driving a truck in my family’s wholesale food business back in the late 70’s. She talked about the propensity many people have to be perfectionists, and she said perfectionism was the beginning of what she called “The Three Ps” – Perfectionism, Procrastination, Paralysis. Many people who read this recognize how frequently this is the case. I know I’ve experienced it at times in my life.

Here’s a quote from his website that kind of sums up the presentation he gave: “Most get an ‘F’ where it counts the most. They fail to fail! Too many get stuck in the Three P’s: Perfection, Procrastination, and Paralysis. They are so worried about making a mistake that they end up doing nothing at all. Most mistakes are not terminal; they become stepping stones to success. Get moving!”

At any rate, here are some of the takeaways I have from this presentation:

  • Frequently ask people questions like “What are you doing differently” or “What have you learned lately?” or “What’s working for you?”
  • When you attend a conference or a presentation don’t sit with people you know (they’re “used”)
  • Don’t wait for direction; get busy inventing the future by capitalizing on emerging opportunities
  • Continually use your quality processes and innovation as a strategic advantage to create the new “good old days”

Here are a few other concepts he discussed . . . and passed out in a nice handout I can easily copy them from 🙂

  • Claim the optimism advantage by using setbacks as stepping stones to progress
  • Build a learning organization in support of strategic innovation
  • Use bridge building strategies to make collaborative innovation work

One of the things I found most amazing about his presentation was every slide he showed was a quote by someone else. Normally I would find this abhorrent but, in his case, he supplemented every one of them with his own stories and anecdotes and his spin on what the message of the quote was. Even the way he read them was entertaining. He was very animated, very funny, very entertaining, and pretty damn enlightening. Like many presentations I’ve attended, he didn’t necessarily tell me anything I didn’t already know. Nevertheless, his style – and his substance – reinforced many of these things, either reminding anew of those things I perhaps needed to strengthen my skill at or providing some positive reinforcement that I’m heading in the right direction.

One of my favorite quotes (at least a portion of one) comes from Barbara Waugh, a personnel manager and change agent at Hewlett-Packard. She has talked about “amplifying the positive deviants”. I like to think she was talking about me when she used that term.

About Rick Ladd

Since my retirement from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in 2010, I have spent quite a bit of energy on developing work as a social media marketer for small business, a business manager for an AI software development firm, and as an editor/proofreader for a number of business books and a couple of novels, as well as a two-year return engagement at Rocketdyne from 2015 to 2017. I have decided to stop actively pursuing business in these fields and am now positioning myself to be a writer. I have done quite a bit of writing over the years, but I’ve never really attempted to make any money at it; at least not specifically. I’m starting out with a couple of memoirs and, currently, I’m studying the craft, creating a detailed outline and timeline, and honing my skills as a storyteller. Pretty sure I’ll be writing some fiction as well. View all posts by Rick Ladd

Go ahead! Give me a tongue lashing.

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