Jumping Lines

by Chris Chambers on October 20, 2013

LineTypesI have a friend who always ends up in the wrong line at the store. At the airport security check point. At any place where there is a line.

Always. No matter what. The line he picks is the longest. It’s the one that needs a price check. The one where the person at the front lost their ID. The one where…the one where…the one where… Honestly, it doesn’t matter why.

His line could have two people in it. Every other line could have 4, 6, 7, 20. He’s still standing in it as the other lines clear.

But notice that I didn’t say, “…he always gets in the wrong line”. Because that would be incorrect. He usually gets in the right line. But, then, as he stands in that best line – the one he instinctively went to first, he notices what might be a hiccup. Or he sees another line that appears to be moving faster.  Or he just starts worrying.

And so he panics. And he jumps. And he moves to another line.

There is no careful consideration, no rational thought process. There is virtually no thought. There is only a knee jerk reaction, worry. And fear.

This may seem a bit extreme. After all, we’re talking about standing in line. But the stress of the rest of life is there with him in that line. The pressure to get back to the office or home to the kids. Worries about a deadline. Racing through because it might rain. They all kick in and contribute to this reaction – this underlying fear that causes the quick switch.

The quick switch that was wrong. That lands him in the ‘bad line’. And that ends up costing more time, more frustration and more stress.

He pathetically laughs about this curse (his endearing term, not mine) and always tells anyone that’s with him to stand in another line. He tells people not to follow him through the store. It’s become a bit of a joke, the stuff of folklore and late night stories. He thinks he’s simply having bad luck.

But it’s something that I see onsite all the time. And luck isn’t even remotely involved.

We’ve been planned a meeting, a launch, a broadcast, a ________ (fill in the blank) for months or weeks or years.  Everything is set. It’s been thought through. Scoured. Planned. Prepped. But at the last minute, compounded and piled on by bosses, higher ups, stress of deadlines, pressure of performance – people get scared.

They feel that knee-jerk reaction…when they see something shiny or smooth or new over ‘there’. They want to add it in. They want to change everything. Or something. They can’t stand still.

The imperative to jump lines is overwhelming.

It’s hard to watch. It’s hard to see that everything is going to be okay in the line we’re all in. That even if there are some bumps, we’re prepared for this line. It’s best to hold steady and move forward.

This isn’t about being risk averse. The pre-plan and strategy are packed with new, never-done-before ideas, we’ve pushed the limits. But we’ve done so in a way that is calculated.

Trust the plan, I say. The little devil on your shoulder urging you vehemently somewhere else is up to no good. It can smell fear.

Just ask my friend. He tells me the new line is always worse. And he always regrets his knee-jerk jump over ‘there’. Every time – he wishes he had just stayed where he was.

Chris Chambers, CEO , MJM    



Showers are for cleaning…not rehearsing

by Chris Chambers on July 12, 2013

I don’t know about you, but when I sing in the shower…I sound terrific. Of course, the acoustics help, perhaps the steam, but most definitely the fact that there is no one there to hear me.

Same vein, different venue: I have a friend who claims she’s a fantastic driver…but only when no one else is in the car.

This is an odd phenomenon because we are usually our own worst critics, right? But there are some instances when we don’t do ourselves any favors by being our own biggest fans: and rehearsal time for meeting speakers is one of them.

Sidebar: Corporate meetings sometimes include professional guest speakers—those who actually make a living speaking in front of others. But they always include company spokespeople (eg. CEOs, COOs, brand leaders). And let’s be honest here…many of these folks are stellar at their official jobs, but not so comfortable speaking in front of an audience.

The moral of this story is that the best thing you can do for your speakers is to get them in a conference room. Start three or four weeks before the meeting. Simulate the meeting environment: give them a podium, a count down clock, confidence monitors, a teleprompter. And fill the room with a trusted audience.

(Gently) force them to practice. To say it out loud. They’ll tell you they know what they’re going to say, that they don’t need to practice. But the inside of their heads is just a smaller shower, ie. a place where they can skip over the fuzzy parts and tell themselves they’ll ‘figure that bit out later’.

Face it together. Meet the tough parts head on…ahead of the pressure that comes when the meeting is days away, or tomorrow. Bring your speakers and the content together, so that they’re tight, seamless and confident before they step on the stage. It’ll be cleaner that way—no shower required.

image credit: misfitgirl


The ‘Other Team’ dynamic

April 29, 2013
Washington Nationals vs Pittsburgh Pirates Stephen Strssburg

I’m a baseball guy. I love it – everything about it. Some people think baseball’s boring, but I’m fascinated by every second of the many hours it takes to play each game. In fact, the slow pace often lends itself to the fascination. A team that starts strong might get tired and blow the last […]

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The OTHER elephant in the room.

March 28, 2013

Not the elephant no one will talk about even though its presence is ginormous. This is the elephant that a stakeholder won’t stop talking about. And it’s not an idiom. It’s an actual elephant (or fireworks display or ice sculpture). In the room. Or ballroom, as the case may be. I’m talking about the idea […]

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Losing the paper

February 24, 2013

A good friend of mine is a TV Director for Fox News. (He’s also a paramedic and our in-house Live Broadcast Director, but who’s counting.) Knowing that I’m a huge ‘live’ geek, he invited me to watch him in action at Fox. We got off on the 9th floor at News Corp, walked down a […]

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February 6, 2013

Back in college, I worked with a great friend installing fire and burglar alarm systems. After all the wires were run through the house, from every window and every door back to the panel, we still weren’t done. We still had to test everything. Inevitably, one of those zones failed the first time we tried […]

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It always comes back

January 18, 2013
Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 3.05.05 PM

There’s a small piece in the Sunday Times this week about, of all things, leggings. I didn’t even know what leggings were, but fortunately there were pictures. Turns out my daughter wears them all the time. And she’s not the only one. Seems there’s a bit of a leggings craze happening right now on the […]

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January 8, 2013
sketch room

When you are not a painter and you walk into a museum, you see finished products—inconceivable framed miracles…or at least great feats created by the combination of a brush and some paint. But, when an artist invites you into his/her creation process—letting you see the generation of every line and curve, asking for your ideas, […]

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Set. Point.

November 6, 2012

Our bodies are brilliant. They provide us with built in mechanisms to protect us. We sweat to cool off when we’re hot. We shiver to warm up when we’re cold. We go into numbing shock when we encounter serious pain. When we have no food, our metabolisms slow down to maximize our stores. New experiences […]

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Find a window…and another window

August 19, 2012

Of the many critical things I was taught as a fireman that I have since applied to just about every other aspect of my life, this one ranks pretty high. Here it is: always have a second way out of the room. In the case of fighting a fire, there is no guarantee that the […]

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