Thursday, March 13, 2014

When All You Have is a Hammer, All the World's a Nail

Inappropriate for taking care of babies!
First, let me make clear that the title of this post is an expression. Neither hammers nor nails should be used in the proper care of a baby.

This blog for the next four months is, of course, entirely speculative. The following years of writing will be looking back at the first few months saying, "woah, why did I ever think that?" Your entertainment, dear reader, is that as you read each post, you can places your bets on which posts will get the "Woah? What?" treatment in years to come!

Humans have the remarkable ability to synthesize knowledge of the familiar to prepare for and respond to the new and unfamiliar. So, as I approach the coming challenge of raising a child, I draw upon my extensive knowledge of sales and management techniques. The knee jerk answer to that is "a child is neither an employee nor a prospect, and the same principles that apply to them cannot possibly apply to a child."

The core principles of business which I follow are fundamentally about understanding a person and what they want. It is about understanding their needs and desires, especially those that they are are unwilling or unable to express, and finding a way to fulfill those desires in a way that is mutually beneficial. That sounds to me like child raising... if it were explained by an emotionless robot.

In the research I am doing in preparation, I am reading a book called The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year, by Armin Brott. Brott explains that a baby wants to communicate. She wants specific things, and she wants to let you know what those things are. It is simply up to the parent to be open to those signals. Of course, those signals will not be as clear as "please get me a bottle because I am hungry." It will be more like "wah, wah, waaaah," but hopefully with some sort of gesture of pitch that might differentiate it. In sales it's not always clearer. When I sold cars, sometimes the best indication I had of what a customer wanted a guttural grunting sound when we approached and SUV or a hatchback, or a subtle grimace at the thought of a red car.

In sales, there is a concept of WIIFM: What's In It For Me which I speak of often in my other blog, People I Meet. Most people go through life only thinking about what they want, and not what the people they encounter want. The salesman who wants to make a sale but does not consider why the customer would want to buy. The panhandler who wants people to give her money but does not consider why they would want to. The parent who wants the baby to stop crying but does not think about what the baby wants.

Too often, people blame the other person for their lack of success. The salesman who is not making sales will blame these stupid customers who don't want the product. They can blame the customer all they want, but it won't make one more sale. The only thing the salesman can control is the salesman, so the only useful line of thinking is "What can I do to get the result I want? What does the customer want and how can I provide that?"

Likewise, some parents with a child that is crying will blame the baby. "What's wrong with this kid, he cries all the time!" That is not useful thinking. The only thing the parent can control is the parent, so the only useful line of thinking is "What can I do to get the result I want? What does the baby want and how can I provide that?"

Sure, sounds easy enough, but what if nothing seems to work. This happens in sales too. Sometimes the
customer will just say no while giving no objections. Obviously there is a reason why he is saying no, but he's not going to tell you. This is where being a professional comes in. Knowing the possible objections allows the salesman to answer all the possible objections even without input:
"I understand that you are a bit hesitant, but we do have a less expensive model if that interests you."
This could apply to either scenario that I describe.
"The vehicle is available in a number of different colors and styles."
"There is another trim level that gets better gas mileage."
"You can get a back up camera, heated seats and bluetooth in this car."
"Oh, why didn't you say so."

Likewise, a baby might be similar.
"Do you want you bottle?"
"Is your diaper dirty?"
"Do you want to be cuddled?"
"Do you want to your binky?"

Most of the customers I have worked with, I have had a great personal respect for, and I have done my best to understand where they are coming for. Some, however, have sounded a great deal like crying babies. Now, to reverse the process and hear a crying baby as a person with unexpressed needs that I will use my skills and experience to satisfy.

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