A lesson learned a long time ago from my father got reinforced again for me this past week. It applies in many cases more now than ever, and in a few very specific points it is “the only way to think”.

I was very fortunate to grow up with parents that were closely involved in my life. As a youngster I was involved in “Scouting”, meaning Boy Scouts and their younger versions, Cub Scouts. I was very fortunate to have both of my parents involved in both of those journeys with me. My mother was my “Den Mother” in Cub Scouts, and my father was my “Pack Master” at that time. This was just one of the many places that my parents intentionally chose to participate in my life.

At about the same time I grew up playing baseball and participating in Little League baseball. In this part of my youth, my father was my team Coach. It was in this part of my youth that I learned a lesson from my dad that carries on today and means more than ever.

When my “coach” would be working with our team on any one of a hundred different skills I would often hear him say you can’t do NO”.

What he was saying is a fundamental part of the way the brain actually works. Now, I’m not quite sure where my dad picked this brilliant understanding up from, because his formal education stopped with high school, but I DO know that this is a critical part of understanding functional brain workings.

What “you can’t do NO” means is simply that the human brain cannot comprehend the “negative” part of a statement. Let’s use the example of a golfer standing at the tee facing a simple 175 yard shot to the green, BUT over a lake. While we know the objective is to put the ball in the hole on the green, most of us would stand there thinking VERY loudly to ourselves… DON’T HIT THE WATER! It’s not magic, although it seems very diabolical, but that simple statement actually gets understood in simple action terms to quite literally mean “HIT THE WATER”. The “don’t” part of that phrase does NOT impact the brain process and gets left out of the directive to the brain.

In my dad’s case, he would be giving us batting coaching and I would be stepping out away from an incoming pitch as it was crossing the plate in front of me… swinging and missing the ball. His directions to me was NOT, don’t step out when you swing, which is the error that I was making. Instead, his coaching would say…”step INTO the pitch”. Don’t was not included. He knew what worked.

And that is what we need today….desperately! We are all so overwhelmed with the tactical responsive demands of our systems that we are NOT spending enough time on the growth oriented side of our world, both business and personal.

In our own little team at Microchip the client demands to service their “issues” are at an all time high. Business is booming and is extremely pressure filled at every corner. Our clients are reaching out to every resource that they can touch to get any help that they can to solve their challenges… AND that is a good thing! As long as we direct the interactions appropriately.

Like most every B2B entity out there our team has roles that we are structured to execute. The client works hard to break down those structures and “include” everyone in their supply chain challenges. They contact our inside team, our outside team, our corporate planning teams, our leadership team… everyone they can. We understand. There is a better way.

Here is where “you can’t do NO” comes into play.

While it would be very easy to communicate with our team and simply tell them that those that have a role that is not supply chain specialization should NOT participate in these actions…that “you can’t do NO” does not work here either.

In the focus of CUSP (Care greatly, Understand deeply, Serve endlessly with Purpose) you cannot effectively tell someone to NOT care. In fact we actually want the opposite….Care greatly! So what do we do? We coach the way my dad would…

In conversations with our clients, where they are wanting to get everyone drug into the “conversations” our way of serving them at the very highest level, is by Caring the most, and making sure that they get the best service.

We do that by a simple redirection…. And it looks like this..

“Martha (made up client’s name), I care greatly about you and your team receiving the very best information and service that we can possibly deliver to you. While I am happy to also help, our true EXPERTS in serving you in this area is our amazing team of SUPPLY CHAIN SPECIALISTS. Let’s get them on a call together and get this all understood.”

So, we don’t tell ourselves or our team that “WE” don’t have those kind of conversations…but rather, the best people in the world to help our clients is…(whoever that would be in each instance).

We “don’t do NO”… We DO work hard to serve our client by putting them in the very best hands of those that can do the most good… and then we fade into the background as it progresses, to do the rest of the work needed to grow our outcomes.

This is a coaching discussion, both internally and externally that we all must have to insure the ongoing growth of ALL aspects of our endeavors.

We don’t do NO…
AND we do…

Care greatly,
Understand deeply,
Serve endlessly with


Are you willing to find out what you may not know????

I have a challenge for each of you this week. Let’s see who the truly curious are, and who believes they “know it all” already.

One of the greatest thinkers about people and organizations of our time was Stephen Covey. Lost to us not so long ago, his practical insight into people will be forever studied and followed by those that care about others.

One of his best works ever was the study of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (notice that his aim was at ALL people, ALL roles, everywhere).

From Wikipedia: ” Covey presents an approach to being effective in attaining goals by aligning oneself to what he calls "true north" principles based on a character ethic that he presents as universal and timeless. Covey defines effectiveness as the balance of obtaining desirable results with caring for that which produces those results. He illustrates this by referring to the fable of the goose that laid the golden eggs.”

A short summary of the 7 Habits is below with direct excerpts from his work.

The Seven Habits are….

Habit 1: Be Proactive®
Focus and act on what they can control and influence, instead of what you can’t.

Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind®
Define clear measures of success and a plan to achieve them.

Habit 3: Put First Things First®
Prioritize and achieve their most important goals, instead of constantly reacting to urgencies.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win®
Collaborate more effectively by building high-trust relationships.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood®
Influence others by developing a deep understanding of their needs and perspectives.

Habit 6: Synergize®
Develop innovative solutions that leverage diversity and satisfy all key stakeholders.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw®
Increase motivation, energy, and work/life balance by making time for renewing activities.

Written in 1989 Covey, even then, talks about the value of diversity in our world (Habit 6). Where I want to go today is with Habit 5 (Seek first to understand before being understood).

So here is my challenge to us all….

Ask this simple question of many that you know and trust AND that will be candid with you.

“Dear Friend, when you close your eyes and envision me, which of these two visual images come into your mind… a GIANT EAR, or a GIANT MOUTH?”

You want a candid answer? Ask your “significant other!”

This habit of listening first is SO difficult to build into our way of communicating. And my experience is that the most intelligent of those around us are the least likely to do this well. While this is only my correlation, I believe that the higher the IQ the less likely a person is to actually listen to those around them. Thankfully this does not apply always.

I know of two people that I have worked closely with over the past 30 years that are truly brilliant AND are natural listeners. That last part is critical. If in your informal “survey of EAR vs MOUTH” you find a surprise or two, then I suggest that it is time to LEARN the art of actually listening. Not just on a surface level, but on a perspective of actually WANTING to know what someone else thinks and cares about.

The first most obvious trait, of a non-listener, is if that person regularly interrupts another person that is speaking, to “correct” them or let them know that they are off base. Not letting another person complete their thought is a weakness of many folks. I see this happen on a daily basis. I hear this happen in conversations with clients, peers, family, friends, all around us in the stress-filled environment that our world has shifted into. Great minds hard at work, solving problems, AND not listening.

Try the EAR/MOUTH survey… and as my DAD would tell me even as a punk kid…. “Mitch….shut up AND listen”.

Your next challenge is to help the natural “interrupters” break their old habits and develop new HABITS from the 7 HABITS world.

OK, LET’S ROLL… and really LISTEN!


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