Fable Friday: I’m a safe bet, Part II

[Today’s post will make sense only if you read last week’s Part One. Click the link above in blue and have a look if you missed it.]

When I arrived, the Diebold man was trying various combinations of the four numbers he had set, and I could see at once he could not open the vault that way, as he had nothing written down.  So let me give you the problem.  You are given four different numbers and told they are the combination to a safe but you don’t know in what order. What would you do?

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedHere’s the solution I came up with.  Since the total number of combinations of those numbers must total 24 (remember no repeats), the best way to open the safe is to write down all the combinations, and as you try each one, you cross it off your list!

Let me illustrate.  Suppose the four numbers were simply 1, 2, 3 and 4.  Your list would look like this:


1234 2134 3124 4123
1243 2143 3142 4132
1324 2341 3214 4213
1342 2314 3241 4231
1432 2413 3412 4312
1423 2431 3421 4321

So I sat down at a desk and wrote down all the possible sequences on a pad of paper, then took it over to the vault and set to work. I figured it would take me an hour to open it if the numbers were right.  In fact it opened much sooner than that, and I became the hero of the bank, having saved them tens of thousands of dollars.

The bank rewarded my wife and me with a three-day weekend at a luxury hotel for this feat, and we got to see Jay and the Americans.  Remember this was back in the early 70’s.  (Cara mia, why, must we say good-bye…”)

When I returned to work, the buzz continued and I got frequent requests to open safes, unlock doors and perform other Houdini-like tasks, but I never succeeded at any of them.  In fact, I was never very good at anything, just lucky on two occasions, and those two occasions created an impression about me within the company that I kept for my entire career there, about ten years.

There’s a moral to this true story.  Have you ever worked with people who succeeded, were promoted, or simply continued to be paid by your company based mostly on the impressions of competency they created?  I have, and I bet you have too.  “How does this guy get away with it?” you ask yourself.

So in my next post, I’m going to give you trainers a workshop tip for management training programs.  You’ll learn how to help your participants see beyond impressions, and help them with techniques to identify performance issues and coach more effectively.

But for the next couple of weeks, I’m going to give you a break from all this thinking about number combinations, coaching techniques and business issues. I want you to do what I plan to do, spend time with family and friends, give thanks that you have an opportunity to contribute, and do something kind for others.  I’ll rejoin you in January.

Happy holidays friends.  And remember to…

Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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