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Are You Selfish Enough to Succeed?

Author: David Brock

Let’s face it, we care about what we care about–usually, it’s about ourselves. Are we achieving our goals, are we getting the things done that are important to us? It’s our highest priority.

Not that we are bad people or don’t care about others, but we are fundamentally driven by what is important to us and our abilities to achieve our own goals. Each of us is different–some are driven by recognition, some are driven by money, some are driven by power, some by contribution. The list goes on, each of us is different.

The one common thing is we focus on ourselves and what we want to do/achieve.

You’re probably getting uncomfortable at this point.

If you are a long time reader, you’re thinking, “Dave, have you flipped out?  You always talk about being customer focused, or focusing on your people…..”

Alternatively, while you might quietly agree, you recognize that it’s really socially inappropriate to be so blatant in focusing on self interest. We know our own reactions when we encounter someone who is blatantly narcissistic, demanding to be the center of everything, ignoring all others.

Hopefully, you are a little uncomfortable with the blatant self centeredness I’m focused on.

But here’s the secret to high performing pragmatically selfish people.

They recognize they are dependent on others for their own success.

As sales people, if we can’t help our customers achieve their goals, if we can’t help them learn and improve, we won’t be successful, we have no way of achieving our quotas and goals.

As managers, we only achieve through our people. If our people aren’t performing at the highest levels possible, we can’t possibly achieve our goals.

As organizations, we are focused on growth, profitability, shareholder value, and results.  But we are dependent on our people, suppliers, customers, and markets to achieve those results.

Our customers are selfish as well–as they should be.  They’re focused on achieving their goals and dreams.  They are busy with what they care about.  Anything that distracts them from that is wasting their time.

Where we go off base with our self centeredness and selfishness, is we think it’s only about us.

As sales people, we think it is about us and our products. But our customers can’t translate it into what’s in it for them. Or we think it’s about achieving our numbers–but if customers aren’t buying, we can’t achieve our numbers. The only way customers buy is if they see how what we do helps them achieve their goals.

Likewise as managers, we are completely dependent on our people.  Our goals are basically a roll-up of their collective goals.  It’s impossible to achieve our goals unless we have the right people.  If we don’t equip them with the right tools, systems, processes, programs, and training, they can’t perform–as a result, we can’t perform.  If we aren’t coaching them to maximize the performance of each person on the team, we won’t be achieving our goals.

As organizations, we focus viciously on customers that have the problems we are the best in the world at solving.  We don’t waste time on customers outside that sweet spot–we don’t help those people–it’s not our job, they aren’t our market.  We’d be wasting their time and our time, because we can’t do anything for them.  We focus viciously on the people and organizations have the need for what we do.  We want to focus on customers that value what we do–because it helps them–who we can serve profitably.

Pragmatic selfishness becomes a win win, solely because we recognize that we need others to achieve our goals.

Stupid selfishness, is clueless, we think it’s only about us, not recognizing we achieve nothing until we help others achieve.

Which kind of selfish do you choose?


David Brock is president of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a management consulting firm focused on sales productivity, channel development, strategic alliances and more. Read more blogs from Brock here.

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