This is a guest post from Erick Sabelskjöld, Sr. Sales and Business Development Manager at Shark-Sales. An American view on German business:
“You cannot cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore
There are many advantages from working with a large and diverse number of companies. One of the benefits of coaching and consulting such a large audience, it makes it easy to spot trends.
It seems the current trend I find myself faced with is “failure to take action”. It is an ugly trend and drives me nuts!
As an American I know we tend to move faster than most. For those of you that have spent time with me know I am next level when it comes to action. I make people very uncomfortable especially in Europe.
I believe “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow”.
It is interesting how startups and major corporations lose sight of how fast other companies are moving around them. The business world is not standing around waiting for the perfect plan. It’s taking action, moving forward, that gets results and make the world go round.
People always say they “need more information” to make a decisions. But the fact is Information isn’t what’s scarce; it’s the willingness to do something with it.”
A few examples of what I am talking about when it comes to the current trend I am faced with, of little action and too much planning.
European Case Studies:
Company 1 – Needs sales in the worst way they will be gone soon if they don’t start making sales. I am ready to jump into action and make the moves they need to train their sales team and get deals on the board. 2 months later the company still says they are not sure if they have the best plan for the sales team….. Obviously they don’t have any kind of plan to take action and doing nothing isn’t going to get any deals closed. The startup is now out of business.
Company 2 – I was invited to a digital city meet-up, to discuss digital cities and how to make cities evolve faster to the technology available. The discussion turned to “we are Germans and have minds of engineers and it takes us time”. Of course I had to say something, my question to the panel “ do you feel the German culture makes people fear failure so much, that it makes it difficult to keep pace with the US and your cities current needs”. The stone silence made me follow with “do you think it is important to start teaching a different culture to the younger generations and or bring more people like me into these company teams to force action”?
Company 3 – This startup had a once in a life time event and of course wanted to send out a press release after… Most people understand you need to send a press release out as fast as possible and if there is an error or miss spelling the editor that pics it up will help make corrections. I hope your sitting down…… because it took this startup up 2 weeks to get a press release ready to go out after the event. Guess what happened when this company finally sent the press release out? All news outlets and PR companies were very excited about the event but….. too much time had passed to publish it.
There is plenty more examples but you get the point.
So all this little action and too much planning made me wonder where does all this fear to act come from? Is there a way to change the thinking of the majority to get everyone moving in a more forward, take more action direction?
I actually had another American give me an excellent example of how they view this failure to act from the German mind set. It goes like this.
An American stands in front of a closed door and looks at it. Grabs the handle opens it and walks through.
A German looks at the door and, thinks what is on the other side. Then makes sure the door is tall enough to fit through, grabs the door handle and thinks about how much pressure needs to be placed to get make the door latch to release. As the door opens, thinking if the hinges are right or left hand swing. Eventually the door gets opened.
We need to look at some of the reasons people fail to take action or have to over plan everything before any kind of action can be taken.
Where does this German mindset come from? Some experts believe its the
Teutonic mindset, which they say discourages risk-taking. In countries like Israel, entrepreneurs are celebrated as heroes, says Konstantin Guericke, co-founder of LinkedIn. In Germany they are outcasts. People are just waiting for them to fail.
When working groups of over thinkers they always have a wonderful list of reasons why action cant be taken:
“More information is needed”
“Now is not the right time”
“We have never done it like this before”
“Need more planning”……. “Planning is an elegant way of procrastinating.”
“Give us a more detailed plan”
“There is too much to do now to think about this”
“I don’t have time to consider this now”
It is my personal option the biggest reason Europeans have a harder time taking action than Americans is based on fear. The consequences for failure in Europe are so much bigger than in the USA.
For example, for any of you that have spent any time in Silicon Valley have heard this at least 20 times a day. “Fail Fast, Fail Often!” This is the driving force for all innovation fast movement in startups in America.
I NEVER never have once heard anything close to this said in Europe especially Germany. Do Americans have less fear than Europeans? Lets look at how fear drives failure to take action.
I will point out ONE major difference in Europe and United States when it comes to startups and good reason to have fear: In certain countries of Europe, the types of companies that entrepreneurs establish carry with them direct personal liability for the founders. In other words, not only is the risk of failure a social stigma but also a financial burden. Failure is not the badge of honour that it is in the Valley, but a albatross with long-term impact.
However this proves my point in this example fear is what drives the inability to take action. No one ever ran a truly successful company that was only focused on the fear of failure and could not take action.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” — Winston Churchill
2 major forces holding you back from taking more action:
1. Analysis paralysis- poison that entrepreneurs continually feed themselves. We repeatedly go back and forth with our inquiries while trying to make perfect decisions. We listen to new specialists and new points of view. We hold meetings and watch presentations. We hear arguments from all sides. We form sub-committees. We spend countless hours on Google. Then, we determine that we do not have enough information for us to feel comfortable making a decision. So, we start all over with our planning.
2. Fear of success- there are two main fears at work here that will prevent a person from taking action.
The first is the fear of rejection, this is one of the worst fears and the strongest. Of course society has taught us, especially in Europe, that is easier to go along with the crowd then to stand up and take action. I cant count the number of times I have witnessed in companies the one person who is actually trying to make something happened is so often punished for making mistakes. While the rest of the masses sit obediently at their desks pushing paper from one side to the other, don’t get singled out.
The second fear stalling action is Perfection. This for me is complete bullshit! No matter how perfect you think you are I have news for you…. You’re NOT perfect and never will be! There is NO perfect plan, NO perfect person, NO perfect business. The perfectionist are the scariest ones in the room!
Perfect. Verb: to make something completely free from faults or defects
Here’s James Dyson, founder of the billion dollar vacuum company echoing how this principle led him to his breakthrough:
“There are countless times an inventor can give up on an idea. By the time I made my 15th prototype, my third child was born. By 2,627, my wife and I were really counting our pennies. By 3,727, my wife was getting art lessons for some extra cash. There were tough times, but each failure brought me closer to solving the problem. It wasn’t the final prototype that made the struggle worth it. The process bore the fruit. I just kept at it.”
Definition of Action: The fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim.”ending child labour will require action on many levels”
Steps, measures, activity, movement, work, working, effort, exertion, operation More”they recognized the need for local community action”
act, take steps, take measures, take the initiative, move, make a move, react, do something “still, there is pressure to take action regarding food labels”
Action has enormous power, action is magical, action always delivers results.
In General Norman Schwarzkopf’s autobiography, It Doesn’t Take a Hero, he shares 14 rules for leadership. Rule 13 says, “When placed in command, take charge.” Making a decision is the only way to move forward. Yes, even incorrect decisions. A person who makes a thousand wrong decisions is better off than a person who makes no decisions at all. Why? Because a person who has made a thousand wrong decisions has ruled out a thousand things that do not work for them. They are much better prepared to move forward towards success than the person who is in day four of watching PowerPointpresentations on Plan A vs. Plan B.
What are the results of this fear of action having on the Germany economy?
The below chart makes it painfully clear the massive gap from the largest German tech company to the rest of the US companies. For centuries Germany was the main driver of innovation in the world. But now that’s disappeared. Its companies are just too risk-averse and bureaucratic.
This fear of taking action in Europe is only go to prevent the innovation and economic growth from taking place that Europe obviously needs. If there is not a major culture shift in this risk aversion mind set and fear of failure then I believe most of the top talent from Europe will continue its exudes to the United States.
There is light at the end of the tunnel I believe thanks to companies like SAP. I am so proud of SAP for their announcement this week that they will do what ever they must do to over take Salesforce in the CRM market.
Most people think they are out of their minds for making such an announcement but I think it takes balls to make such a statement on international TV. It’s this type of no fear, take action like SAP the Europeans need to embrace to really evolve in the tech landscape.
NO QUICK FIX
This is the part of the article where everyone leaves you some halfass quick fix 1 2 3 to make you feel better about yourself. The truth is there is NO quick fix for taking action. For most people taking really decisive meaningful action is like jumping out of a fucking plane with no parachute.
I highlighted one of the most powerful countries in the world that have to figure out how to take more action. Learning how to take more action will not come from someone asking you ridiculous questions….
“Your why”? Knowing your why won’t help you take action knowing your why won’t give you the power to face your fears. To get to the real action and make a difference you have to understand what is holding you back at your core.
Not everyone likes to work with,or can work with SharkSales because we push you to be the best version of yourself. We don’t offer water down solutions only real talk that get you real results.
SharkSales believes in P.Diddy rules for success and these are 5 keys to help you start to overcome your fears and to take action.
Always know the reality.
“Always know what you’re getting yourself into, know how hard it’s going to be, how competitive it’s going to be.”
Figure out what you want to do NOW.
“The sooner you make the decision, the better that it will be for your life, and the better chances of success you’ll have. Because you’ll have more time to mess up and you’ll have more time to fall down.”
Information is king.
“No matter what, it could’ve been the times of Jesus, before Jesus, caveman times. It was about being around information. Back in caveman times, it was about, “who knows how to make a fire? Because my ass is cold!”
Experience trumps a degree.
“A degree means something to me, but experience kind of means more. A point-of-view of where people want to go means more than somebody saying “I have a Masters from Harvard.”
Work for a higher purpose.
When asked the types of people he likes to hire, P. Diddy said those that are “not just doing it as a job, they’re doing it as a part of their life. And they’re also doing it for a higher purpose. Just bigger than them. They really want to make whatever they’re involved in affect people in a positive way.”
Big shout out to Erick for this amazing contribution, thank you!
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