The law of averages

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How do you respond to bad news?
Do you get upset when people do undesirable things?
Are you disappointed when people don’t perform up to their potential?

There is nothing more frustrating than investing your time in an employee, spending hours, days, or even months training them and in the end they don’t live up to the potential that you see in them. They show signs of glory and talent, only to give up before they really get going.

Salesmen have the same frustration with prospects who they invest a large amount of time and energy, only for the prospect to take their work and go with a different vendor. Coaches see similar frustration with players who have major talent, but never apply themselves.

So what is a healthy way to handle your concerns about your investment of time and energy that is being thrown away?

Every leader needs to understand the law of averages. Let me try to explain what this means. If you do something often enough a ratio will appear. It will appear if you are prospecting for new clients, it will appear if you hire and train enough new employees, and it will appear in all aspects of sporting events. If you do ANYTHING long and often enough this magical ratio will appear and you can begin to use it as an advantage.

If you think of it like a batting average and you only get 3 hits out of 10, you are an exceptional hitter. If you get 1 new client for every 10 you talk to, you now have a ratio to work with. When you need 3 new clients you should talk to 30. If you hire 5 employees and only 3 of them work out; you now have a percentage from which you can work with. When you know you need 6 employees, you should hire 10.

The more skill you develop over time the better your averages become. You may with time, only need to talk with 3 prospects to develop a customer. The trick is to know your averages and use them to your advantage. If you are new and lack the skill, make up what you don’t know in quantity.

Don’t get upset or angry when things don’t go your way. Just know it’s the law of the averages kicking in. Everyone is not going to buy from you, every new hire isn’t going to work out, and you aren’t going to get a hit every time you step to the plate.

In the bible, Jesus even understood the law of averages. In the parable of the sower in the field he teaches about ratios and what your expectations should be. I’m not a bible scholar by any means, but let me try to explain how the parable goes. There is a sower who is throwing out seeds. Some he knows that the birds will get. Some will fall on rocky soil. Some will be choked out by the thorns. And some will fall on good ground and produce a harvest.

The sower is not upset that the birds will get some of the seed. He understands the birds can’t get all of the seeds and his time is too valuable to go chasing the birds. He stays disciplined and remains in the field. When some of the plants spring up, the sower understands that they are on rocky soil and will not last when adversity strikes. When some are choked out by the influence of harmful plants, he disciplines his disappointment.

Many times as leaders, we get upset and angry when our investment in others doesn’t pay off. Be like Jesus and discipline your disappointment and remember the law of averages. Instead of becoming distressed when the seed doesn’t land on good soil, learn this key phrase “Isn’t that interesting.”

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4 thoughts on “The law of averages

  1. jasonray428 says:

    This is an outstanding post on the law of averages. I greatly enjoyed the relation to the Bible story. Managers should read this post and understand this is a process of controlling self and organizational goals. If you utilize the law of averages, then there is a threshhold that is being created. Then, managers can use the averages to help obtain organizational goals and outcomes. Thank you for a great post!

  2. Thanks Jason. Your encouragement means a lot!!

  3. philjackman says:

    Never thought about it this way. I know I can’t win them all but now I can have a stab at how many I will. Thanks.

  4. Thank you Mr. Jackman. Your are apparently good soil. ; )

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