Saturday, March 7, my wife, Jeri, went to the North Park Mall in Dallas. Her destination was Nordstrom’s. Now anyone who has read the business press recently knows that except for Wal-Mart, retailing results are off. Even Neiman Marcus has announced layoffs. We are told consumers are holding on to their pocketbooks, not spending and saving more and more. No doubt that view is valid.
Imagine Jeri’s surprise then when she arrived at North Park Mall to find not a single parking space available at 2:30 in the afternoon in the parking lots around Nordstrom’s – not even in the last rows. In fact, people were circling the lot waiting for cars to leave. Assuming perhaps the lack of parking was due to proximity to a movie theatre, Jeri drove to an adjacent parking lot in the mall near Barney’s, expecting that surely there would be spots available there. But there weren’t. Every space was full. Finally, Jeri found a spot not in an actual space, but in a line of cars that had parked in an open space and had in effect created their own lot.
Entering the Mall and making her way to Nordstrom’s, Jeri entered the shoe department. The department was so crowded that customers needed to wait for shoe salespeople to help them, and the salespeople were assigned via loudspeaker. “Next sales associate please!” Despairing of finding a salesperson in anything resembling a reasonable amount of time, Jeri left. She entered North Park Mall. She described it as “packed.”
Does anyone else notice a disconnect between what you read in the press and what you see around you? No doubt the unemployment rate has risen, major financial institutions are facing the consequences of senior mismanagement, and the housing market is down. But what does that mean for executives and managers trying to lead people to create a future, unconstrained by the relentless pessimism of the media. We all know intellectually that bad news sells. But that doesn’t mean we’re immune to its constant barrage. Emotions are contagious. If you don’t want to infect your people with a debilitating fatalism, what can you do?
First, don’t pay attention to the news for more than ten minutes per day. That doesn’t mean ignore it altogether. It means we should know generally what’s happening, but filter out the commentary disguised as “analysis.” In particular, avoid The New York Times except for the Sports and Arts sections. Next, actively look for what is working and underline it. Who made a sale? Who went the extra mile? Who went out of his or her way for a customer? Who closed a deal? Be a vocal proponent of “we can do it.” Accomplishment begets accomplishment. Foster and promote it.
Be grateful. Notice all you have around you for which to be thankful, professionally and personally. In the midst of the challenges around you, find the blessings. They are there, probably in more abundance that you know. All that is required is for you to look.
Tune out the news. Promote the accomplishments around you. Be grateful.
And get to the mall early.