Legendary immaturity in business

20 January 2014
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MANILA, Philippines – Typically the word “immaturity” is not a word we associate with business people. When most folks think of business behavior, they conjure up noble terms like “professionalism,” “discipline” or “strategic,” to name a few. Immaturity? This is how we talk about adolescent children!

But indeed, unfortunately, the business world can be rife with immature attitudes and behaviors. On many occasions I can recall being literally flabbergasted at the immaturity of a colleague or direct report. To the point it has career impact. Do I really want to entrust multimillion-peso budgets to an immature manager? How can I expect the people, or business, to progress in the face of immaturity?

Some events over the past few days have triggered a painful recollection of some of the most common, and irritating, business immaturities. As a lesson for all, here is an outline of the three “legendary” immaturities any seasoned manager is sure to see with time — and should personally avoid.

“I demand a guarantee of how my career and pay will work out over the next five years.”

This one always shocks me. A young manager walks in, and basically demands to know precisely how the next five or 10 or more years will be: titles, pay, all the details! It’s amazing. They feel like it is their “birthright” and they never mention any personal accountability they should have — like performing like a star! “If you are going to act like a star, then you better give star performance!” The immaturity is in failing to realize there are no guarantees in life. As I have bluntly answered many such demands, “God does not guarantee you will be alive tomorrow. So don’t ask a company to guarantee anything five years from now, and hence hold a corporation to a higher standard than you hold God.”

“I want and deserve the perks without paying my dues.”

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Once, in Nigeria, I had the son of a prominent leader who joined the company. Within a short period of time, he asked for a transfer to sales, and to transfer in at the most senior of levels. He felt he “deserved it.” He thought he was special. And, he felt his name and father’s success meant he could bypass working in the open markets and learning the sales job from the ground up like any good sales manager has done. He wanted graduation “right to the air-conditioned office”! It’s a fundamental lesson about patience and paying one’s dues. I had to burst his bubble and explain he would have no credibility with his teams if he didn’t pay his dues and prove himself on the streets, with real customers. Respect must be earned and is not assigned automatically due to one’s title. We all have to pay our dues.

“I didn’t make a mistake.”

This is probably the most common. Business is far from science, it is more an art. So despite the best data, we can and will make mistakes. I have a long history of enormous successes in business — and major failures. What is important is to acknowledge failure and learn from it. This is how we grow. Failure is a far better teacher than success.

But some people are consumed by an immaturity driven by either ego or fear, which makes them incapable of acknowledging they made a mistake. So they try to rewrite history, or point fingers, or worse, selectively use data to try and prove “I was right all along.” It’s sad. And this kind of immaturity blocks progress on all fronts — personal and professional.

I almost dropped the newspaper in shock the other day when I read an article about various groups wanting to protest Sin Tax reform and ask for its repeal due to all the “damage” it has caused. Groups, of course, which had predicted doom and gloom when the Sin Tax debates were taking place over one year ago, and now confronted with the facts, are simply unable to admit they were completely wrong. So instead of growing and moving on, it’s a selective use of information to drive an agenda. Never have I seen such a clear-cut case of being totally wrong about a future action! Here is a fact-based “report card” on Sin Tax reform:

The bottom line is, Sin Tax reform was a slam-dunk for the country. The facts speak for themselves.

Makes one wonder what planet some of these people are living on.

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