February 9, 2017

If You Can’t Fix It, Feature It

The first time I heard this phrase was at a cocktail party. Someone said, “Group picture– look this way!” The gentleman next to me said, “I do not like having my picture taken. Look at the size of my nose! But– if you can’t fix it– feature it.” Then he turned to the camera and gave the photographer an enormous smile.

“Wow,” I thought. “Cut. Print.”

The trouble with a perceived problem is that we often spend a lot of time thinking of ways to distract others from noticing it. You see this a lot with fashion—we’ll wear flat front pants to look thinner, or vertical stripes to look longer, etc.

But a far smarter choice is to figure out a way to make your liability an asset.

Recently, I’ve noticed that the golfing community has gotten on board with this idea—billing formerly-perceived-as-inferior 9-hole courses as an “Executive Courses.”  You know, because their players are so busy and important they don’t have time to play 18-holes….

Way to make a perceived problem into a solution.

If you’re wondering how this might apply to your world, here’s an example from one of my clients who was interviewing for a new job in banking. The reason he called me was that he’d been out of work for a while and—before that—had moved from firm to firm to firm. In his interviews, this was kept being raised as a problem. It ‘read’ for interviewers as incompetence on his part. In reality, he’d just had the misfortune to land more than once at a firm that went through a merger while he was there. What I told him was that since his history couldn’t be changed, he needed to change how his history was perceived.

How did we do this? We decided to feature it. In his next interview I told him to bring it up as soon as possible. To say, in fact, that he wasn’t interested in the job if a future merger was in the offing because he simply didn’t want to go through that again. And the truth is it really was important to him to find a stable situation. The trouble was that he wasn’t featuring it. When he did, he got what he asked for.

So the next time you find yourself or your team running into a situation that common sense or your corporation or society might tell you to ignore, downplay, or cover up, flip your thinking. Ask yourself, “What would I do if I wanted to give this a starring role?” What you thought was a problem, might just be a solution.