Joe Mechlinski: Lessons in RESET

Today, we have a special treat for our readership.  My mentor, Joe Mechlinski, President and CEO of entreQuest, has written the guest blog post below.  Joe’s new book, Grow Regardless, made The New York Times best-selling list for strategies to use to expand your business.  If you are interested in expanding your business, please be sure to check out Grow Regardless.

Lessons in RESET: Using Small Business, The Government, and A Triathlon

This is one of the most straightforward graphics from Grow Regardless—it helps me remember that RESET applies to three different levels of leadership. It applies to you as a person, you as part of a team, and finally, you as part of an entire company.

As the graphic above represents, RESET must always start with you (the bulls-eye), but you can’t get there without buy-in from your team and your company.

RESET doesn’t just apply to the business world—take what’s happening in D.C. for example, our elected representatives have thrown up their hands and proclaimed they couldn’t find a way to prevent the sequestration. It strikes me that if our government were an entrepreneur, it would be out of business. Congress would be just another statistic among the many businesses that fail to survive. In some ways, the dysfunction and brokenness we see in our nation’s capital mirror the problems that plague companies.

As I’ve mentioned before, RESET stands for: Recognize, Expose, Surrender, Empathize, and Terms and Time Frame. You can read more about each of these steps in Chapter 4 of the book; but for now, I’m going to focus on how and why the process of RESET must be done on all three levels to be completely successful.

First, you must look internally—are you willing to make the tough decisions and put yourself in a position to grow regardless? Before spreading the concept of RESET to your team and your company as a whole, you must fully invest in resetting yourself.  You must be open to hearing what others will say, and more importantly, willing to really listen to what it is they’re saying so that you can begin to make changes as needed.

After you have gone through all five RESET steps as an individual, then it’s time to bring everything to the table with your team.  At this point, the focus needs to be on gaining alignment on a common ground.  As a team, you must accept the new reality for what it is and begin to make moves in a forward direction.

Once you and your team are in alignment on the new direction the company is headed, you can take it to the entire organization; this includes all employees, as well as clients, and the community. RESET is about making a promise for and with your people: we’re all in this together…

The business world and entrepreneurship are great learning grounds for these concepts, but they aren’t the only ones. I experienced these principles in action 12 years ago, competing in my first and last triathlon. Before this event, I was not an avid runner. I didn’t own a bike and I barely knew how to swim. I signed up because a buddy promised it would be fun and we were starting a company at the time. A triathlon, with its heady sense of accomplishment, seemed like a great way to kick things off.

I trained, sort of. On race day, the weather cooperated, sort of. Delaware’s Bethany Beach was on the edge of a tropical depression and they considered canceling the event. By the time we got the go-ahead to swim, the ocean was roiling with a five-foot chop. In this triathlon, you swam into the ocean for the length of about two football fields, turned to swim about 12 football fields parallel to the shore, and then turned to swim back in. Growing up, I was the kid who got saved by the lifeguard more times than I care to admit. The prospect of ocean swimming scared not just me, but also my parents, who came to the race to show their support. When my group launched into the water, we went head-first in a huge pack, fighting the waves, pushing the tide, a crowded churn of arms and legs. It took about 10 minutes to reach the first buoy, but it felt like 30 minutes. It wasn’t easy, but it was action: Leaving the safety of the shore and doing something.

When I swam around the buoy to tackle the long stretch, I focused on one thing: Keeping my head down. I swam as fast as I could. I never looked up once to check my course. By the time I stopped swimming and looked around, I was way out in a patch of water by myself. I couldn’t see anyone. For a split-second, I thought, “I won!” Actually, because I hadn’t checked course, I swam in the wrong direction, almost all the way back to shore. Obviously, swimming head-down, without stopping to calibrate, wasn’t the best decision. If I had eased up for a minute—recognized my situation—I could have adjusted to stay on track, saving time and energy. I swam back to where I was supposed to be, but by then, I was beat. I put my arms up in the air to signal that I needed help from a lifeguard.

This is where I see our Congress today: out of gas, out of energy, and out of emotion. Just like the sequestration, suddenly my situation wasn’t so funny, either. My whole body cramped. Jellyfish stuck to my body. My legs felt so heavy I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stay afloat. Still, there was no sign of the lifeguard. I began to worry I might sink to the bottom of the ocean simply because I could not stay afloat much longer. What kept me going was the thought of my parents, back on shore, rooting for me. I couldn’t sentence them to a life of grief. I wrestled back and forth with my decisions¾my decision to do the race, to reach the second buoy, to give up, to stay afloat. It was through resetting, giving myself new terms and timeframes along the way, and shifting my focus to others (this is a hint for our politicians) that I was able to finally make it to shore.

These lessons are powerful, whether we learn them in Congress, business shops and offices, or out in the Atlantic Ocean. America’s entrepreneurs have proven, time and again, we have the persistence and the ingenuity to overcome some of our nation’s biggest challenges. We have taken action, navigated complex conditions when the path was unclear, made and re-made decisions, one small step at a time. It’s an approach that could uplift the rest of the country, moving us forward to achieve something you might even call monumental- in a great way.

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