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I’ve often been accused of being a constant whiner. Actually, I take some pride in the ability to usually find room for some improvement in just about anything. I once worked at a company that gave me the “Constructive Criticism Award” for my input and observations. Then, within 6-months, terminated me because I could not “conform” to their “usual policies and procedures”, although I had already been “conforming” for the previous six years! Go figure! Basically, they just didn’t have any appreciation for outside observations and alternative input. A lot of today’s management is like that and common sense should have simply told me to keep my mouth shut, get my check, and go with the flow. Unfortunately, that’s one common sense lesson I have STILL not been able to incorporate into my being.

The historical truth of the matter is, that if many of our great American companies from the past had gone along with the attitude that they don’t want to hear any thoughts on what might be wrong or how something might be improved, without management being “offended”, then I guess Ford would still be delivering Tin Lizzys and all of the worlds aircraft would be bi-planes! Of course, in reality, we know this has not been the case, because these companies would have failed had they not adapted, improved and changed to meet competition. Funny thing about this analogy, if Ford did still offer “brand new” Tin Lizzys, they would probably be able to sell a very large number of them today. I wish I had the molds and parts to build new 57 Chevy’s!

Anyway, the point being that input, even negative, is important to the eventual success and evolution of a company. If people are so discouraged that they fail to notice, point out and even seek areas that, although they may not constitute major problems, can be improved; then the biggest problem is that they will very likely fail to also recognize or acknowledge serious problems when they arise. Until a problem or potential area for improvement is actually acknowledged, no solutions will be forthcoming. It’s like an individual failing to notice they have a questionable spot on their skin. As it changes and grows, they continue to ignore it. People mention it to this person, who responds with, “it’s nothing and should not be of concern because they know it’s there and it’s been there for a while with no consequences”. One day they finally do decide to address it and learn it is a melanoma. Unfortunately, by then it may be too late for treatment. Had they addressed it earlier it would have been 100% curable, but they waited until it was beyond treatment. There is a lot of corporate management today that basically do not want to hear anything that does not come from their own hierarchy. This kind of management can be fatal to a company.

As children, many of us were offered the opportunity to pick up some of life’s precious lessons through Fairy Tales. Maybe some remember the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale about the king’s clothes. A devious salesman played on the king’s unwillingness to admit he could not see that which only true royalty and upper class people should supposedly be able to see. The king thereby bought and wore clothes made from nothing but the salesman’s lies. The king’s court refused to say anything for fear of also being accused of not having the same gift of royal sight, or for fear of offending the king. Even the commoners, wanting also to be like royalty, refused to acknowledge the king was running around bare. It took the innocence and purity in the mind of a child to finally state “Look! The king is naked!”

People and companies need to learn to appreciate the truthfulness of friends, associates and employees. Listen, compare and even solicit additional opinions on the thoughts being offered before making final decisions. Never discourage adverse input. Although some of it may often be without merit or offered for self-serving reasons, you don’t want to miss out on that one idea that just may be able to turn a bicycle into an airplane.