The Human Side Of Enterprise, Douglas McGregor and The Quest For The Ideal Outcome – Season 2020, Episode 32

Douglas McGregor was a founding faculty member of MIT’s Sloan School of Management. In 1960 he published, “The Human Side Of Enterprise.” The book is most noted for introducing the world to Theory X and Y. Simply put, Theory X assumes workers are lazy and unambitious while Theory Y assumes workers are internally motivated, want to do good work, and will strive to improve.

I was happy to run across this book when I was still quite young. It was the mid-to-late 1970’s. By then the book was almost 2 decades old, but it reinforced what I had hoped was true. There was a better way to manage work and lead people.

I had learned that bosses were mostly tyrannical barking out orders and riding people hard in order to get the work done. I was well into my 20’s before I ever experienced a boss who offered any encouragement or practical coaching. Up to that point, every boss I had was a jerk. Self-centered. Uncaring. Greedy. Autocratic.

For years I had stuck to the notion that there must be a better way, but I had no proof. Until McGregor’s book showed me I might be right.

In all fairness, much of my speculation was born from my Christian faith. Kindness evidently had no place in business as I had experienced – especially between boss and employees. But I knew that was required if I was going to practice what I believed as a Christian. Yes, it was incredibly difficult to be kind to the boss and most of us did it only because we were afraid.

McGregor was the first person to apply behavioral science to business. It seems strange to us today to think that psychology and how people think and behave wasn’t really part of human management theory until Douglas McGregor focused on human behavior so intently.

He believed that as society grew more complex and technology expanded to provide more competitive advantages, that people would grow increasingly more critical to make groups successful. In 1960 he thought we were not even close to approaching maximizing the potential in human behavior. Sixty years later, and I could easily argue that not much has changed in many circles.

“Strictly speaking, the answer to the question managers so often ask of behavioral scientists — ‘How do you motivate people?’ — is, ‘You don’t.’ Man is by nature motivated.”

McGregor wrote that in an essay entitled, “The Manager, Human Nature, And Human Sciences.” He believed we needed to think about the problem differently if we had any hope to solve it. Namely, it meant treating people as individuals, knowing that each one has his own set of values and internal motivations. Organizations are living organisms comprised of people who want to learn, grow and improve. It was McGregor who pointed out how we’re all defined by how we think so he urged business to change our assumptions about people – Theory Y was a major shift from Theory X, even though McGregor felt both were two sides of the same coin.

If Mr. McGregor were alive today – he died in 1964 – he’d likely see a world more receptive of his ideas than ever before. He saw the future, an ideal future. And that’s my main point today. To encourage you to see the ideal outcome for your group, team or organization. Especially as it pertains to the people who are inside.

As you read McGregor – something I strongly encourage you to do – you’ll find it remarkable that these ideas were crafted by a man who lived when autocracy, hierarchy authority and viewing people as merely interchangeable parts were the norms. In some places they still are. Sadly.

He wrote this in The Human Side of Enterprise…

“Managerial practice appears to reflect at least a tacit belief that motivating people to work is a “mechanical” problem. There are certain similarities between this view of man at work and Newton’s Law of Motion. To a considerable degree, man has been perceived to be like a physical body at rest. It requires the application of external forces to set him in motion – to motivate him to work. Consequently, extrinsic rewards and punished are the obvious and appropriate “forces” to be utilized in controlling organized human effort.”

McGregor knew there was a better way. A simpler way. A more human way.

He felt managers should behave more like gardeners than tyrants. It was, he argued, their job to grow people because people are organic, living things – fully capable of growth, improvement, renewal, adaptation, and change. It’s not about fixing people, but it’s about helping people become better!

Much of what McGregor preached could be boiled down into the word “relationships.” We need each other. Learning to leverage the power of others in our life – and our ability to help others by letting them leverage our service in their lives – it makes an enormous difference in our lives. It’s our ideal path forward. It’s our ideal outcome.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

A Conversation With Leo Bottary, Author of PEERNOVATION – Season 2020, Episode 31

I first met Leo Bottary via an email I sent him. A cold email. He had no clue who or what I was.

I had read his first book (co-authored with Leon Shapiro, CEO of Vistage) – THE POWER OF PEERS. I wanted to see if Leo had any interest in starting a podcast. I found great value in the ideas put forth in that first book. And wondered if a podcast might help get the word out that there’s tremendous power in helping others and allowing others to help us.

I did a series of audio summaries of that first book – THE POWER OF OTHERS – right here. You may want to go back to check out those episodes. Click here and you’ll see the entire list. Or click here for the first in that series of summaries – and go here for Leo’s interview after I summarized all 11 chapters of that first book.

Well, one thing led to another and we launched a podcast called YEAR OF THE PEER. Today, it’s called PEERNOVATION (just like the title of Leo’s third book).

Days ago the book was released – Peernovation: What Peer Advisory Groups Can Teach Us About Building High-performing Teams.

Leo has intentionally priced it for the widest possible audience. We both hope you’ll invest in a copy. Better yet, we hope you’ll employ the framework to help you become part of or leader of a higher-performing team.

Today, Leo joins me as we talk about his childhood and growing up in Boston to a fantastic story about his father’s late-life success in a brand new career.

Visit Leo’s website at LeoBottary.com. Here’s the show we did at the Peernovation podcast this week on the birth of this new book.

Connect with Leo on Linkedin | Twitter | Instagram

Tweet him that you enjoyed today’s conversation.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Changing Your Point-Of-View – Season 2020, Episode 30

I’m like Picasso. No, I’m not great at art, but I’m not great at math, either. Neither was he evidently.

During his early school years when the teacher asked him to write the number 4 on the board, he’d see it as a nose, then proceed to draw the rest of the face. The other kids saw the number four. He saw a nose. Such is the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. Or the difference between an artist and a mathematician.

Perspective impacts just about everything.

Look no further than this current polarizing Presidential election to prove how true it is. Nevermind that social media platforms *may* continue to feed you information that’s congruent with the viewpoint they know you have based on your Internet behavior. Rarely have I seen (in fact, I don’t think I’ve seen it happen once) a person change “sides.” I’m a Capitalist, which means I’m apolitical. But on one side of me is a person with Biden/Harris signs and on the other side is a family flying a Trump flag. Something tells me they each have a viewpoint that’s not likely going to change. They see the world in certain ways and I suppose they’ll vote based on the signs in their yard.

In my coaching practice, which is slowly morphing to incorporate a group component – I call it THE PEER ADVANTAGE, I often have conversations with people about being part of a professional peer group. That’s a group where all the participants share a major common denominator – for instance, I’m building a group of SMB owners. Dip your toes into the “mastermind” arena and you’ll quickly hear things like, “Find somebody who has already achieved what you hope to achieve.” Or, “Join yourself to people who are ahead of where you are.” Or, “Be part of a group where people are achieving higher success than you are.”

Do you notice the problem?

You’re on the bottom of the totem pole in every case. Which begs the question, “Why would somebody more successful than you want to be part of a group that has YOU as a member?” (Thank you, Groucho Marx!)

But there’s something else to think about.

The more familiar we are with something the more complacent we tend to become. Additionally, the more accomplished we are at something, the greater the threat to not appreciate any variations. It’s the whole “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” syndrome.

One of the value propositions of a professional peer group is the ability to help us see different perspectives. What we see as a four may be seen by somebody else as a nose. Both people are helped by the other viewpoints. You only get that with diversity, not sameness.

Curiosity drives understanding. And curiosity is fueled by wonder, not some certainty that we already know.

That’s why professional peer groups with people who share something important – like being an SMB owner – are highly valuable when there are other big differences like industry, revenue volume, age, experience, and personality.

We so rarely change our point-of-view because we don’t often enough seek understanding. We don’t want to understand a viewpoint different from ours because our familiarity with our own viewpoint has convinced us we’re right and all others are wrong. Or less right. What we know to be right may not be ideal. Or even right at all.

Pick any industry. Go find websites or periodicals (trade magazines) of that industry and you’ll quickly see how everybody in that industry is reading the same things, thinking the same things, and largely doing the same things in the same ways. Some are more successful than others and those less successful are envious of the industry leaders. In some instances, the industry leaders aren’t achieving superior success because they’re doing anything terribly unique, but they found some serendipity. Or they’re in a hot market. Or they’ve got fewer competitors. I’ve seen it over and over again – superior success is often achieved not because of what they’re doing, but sometimes it’s happening in spite of themselves.

Last week I talked about anticipating the ideal outcome. It’s a hot button topic for me because success can be the worst kind of complacency. It causes us to stop thinking about what could be. It fosters complacency and self-assuredness that we’re all that and then some. It cements us in a way of looking at things and a  way of thinking about things. If we see a number four we’re unable to see a nose!

What If?

Hypotheticals have value. Logically, I think many of us know that. Why then are we so reluctant to ask the hypothetical questions? Why are we even more reluctant to answer them?

What if you were the very best in your field? I don’t mean, “What if you were better?” I mean, quite literally, what if nobody was better at it than you? What would that look like? What would you have to look like? How would that version of you be different than the current you?

I spend more time watching home construction YouTube videos than I care to admit. Sometimes during my late-night bouts of insomnia, I’ll start watching to learn about the new technology being incorporated by the best home builders in the world. One thing I enjoy about these people is their willingness to chase hypotheticals. What if we could reduce the energy consumption of a house by 50%? What about a 75% reduction?

Merely asking the hypothetical sets in motion thinking that seeks what that might have to look like. Not asking those questions fosters no such thinking. That’s why so many home builders around the world are simply copying what everybody else in their industry is doing. How boring!

This past weekend I went to watch one of my grandsons play football. The team was playing poorly and being soundly beaten by the opponent. The opposing team was bigger and faster. Before we got too far into the game my grandson’s team was down by four touchdowns and it was apparent the scoreboard might not have enough digits to display the final score. Enter misbehaving coaches, the scourge of youth sports. The head coach behaved so poorly the officials finally threw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct on the sideline. That prompted further tirades from the same coach, who then got flagged again for the same thing. That’s when the officials warned him that one more such call and he’d be dismissed from the game. Enter his assistant coach to pick up the mantle of poor behavior. He barked insults at the officials and at one point when an elderly man there to support his own grandson said, “Come on, coach, you’re hurting the team” he turned and unleashed his wrath on the granddad.

Two grown men whose team was being soundly beaten, choosing to see the officials as the culprit of their team’s poor play. If I thought I had sufficient persuasive power to change their mind, I’d have gladly attempted it. But I knew to leave well enough alone.

I share that story to illustrate how embarrassing a single point-of-view can look. As I watched my grandson’s team lose all enthusiasm for a sport most of them love, and as I continued to watch these men display what immaturity and foolishness look and sound like, I wondered, “What if the coaches decided to remove all the pressure from young boys trying to figure out how to handle this steam roller they’d run into?” And, “What if the coaches didn’t teach these boys that the officials are the reason for their poor play?”

Instead, as you might imagine, the players quickly began to lean on the excuse that the officials were doing a poor job. With few exceptions, it was obvious the sideline was filled with complainers who felt they were victimized by the game officials. That wasn’t true, of course. The other team was substantially better. And my grandson’s team was being coached by men who couldn’t see the game any other way than how they were seeing it. As a result, nobody was accepting responsibility for the outcome that they clearly deserved. Nobody had fun. Nobody learned anything, except how to insult officials.

That’s the power of a point-of-view unwilling to see it any differently. Unable to adjust in order to achieve a more suitable outcome.

I’d like you to think of those coaches every time you find yourself unwilling to question how you’re looking at something. Especially whenever you catch yourself unwilling to listen to somebody else who may not see the number 4, but instead they see a nose. You may be robbing yourself of something very special that can help you immeasurably.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Anticipating The Desired Outcome: Why It’s Fun To Aim For The Ideal – Season 2020, Episode 29

Perfectionism seems to be a thing that people enjoy claiming.

Others enjoy pointing out the futility of it and how it can provoke procrastination.

We’ve talked in the past about how if you’re going to do something, it’s worth putting in the effort to do it well. Today’s show smacks of a similar theme – of aiming high. Why not?

There’s a big difference in authority and leadership. And an equally big difference in leadership that takes high aim at an ideal versus leadership that accepts the status quo.

Conversations about “what could be?” often reveal how limited our thinking can be.

Sitting down with the boss of a 300 person company that manufactures aircraft parts, the discussion turns to his company’s culture, a culture he feels fairly good about. I ask, “How can it be better? What do you think you’d have to do to make it ideal?”

He’s thinking about it.

Seconds pass.

He’s obviously struggling to answer. I’m usually very comfortable with silence in a conversation, but it has a look I’ve seen before. A look that has shown me he may need further prompting to get the wheels moving more easily. I oblige.

“Surely there’s one thing that isn’t working so well. What is it?” I ask.

“I’m often frustrated at our lack of speed in handling certain people-performance issues,” he replies.

I ask him to explain. He goes on to share a few stories of people who weren’t corrected or supported in real-time. He wishes his leadership team wouldn’t sit on such actions. Some sit on them longer than others, but he confesses it’s a nagging problem that he’s not been able to fix to his liking.

“So what would the ideal look like?” I ask.

The wheels are turning. He’s explaining in vivid detail how things would look, sound, and feel.

Keep in mind, he’s in a very heavily regulated industry with lots of inspection and quality control. Anything having to do with airplanes has life and death potential. So getting it right is priority number 1. This CEO is very familiar with hitting the ideal in manufacturing. But like all of us, he’s susceptible to accepting less than the ideal in other areas – like these people problems he’s talking about.

For the next 40 minutes or so we discuss this ideal that he’s not yet been able to realize. He’s engaged and energized. Toward the end of our session he stops and says, “Man, that’s pretty fun to think about.” I have to tell him, “Imagine how much fun it’s going to be to execute.”

Have you ever planned something big? Maybe it was a move. Maybe it was a vacation. Maybe it was something with your career. Maybe it was a wedding. Something that took some time and planning.

Think about it. Remember how it felt while you were working toward it. Think about the things you did to get ready for it – to prepare for it to become reality.

The other day I was talking with an older gentleman who had retired from one career to begin a new one, his post-retirement career. Some call it “the encore.” He’s now 75. About 8 years ago he stepped away from the work he had done for decades. As he told me about the work he had put in to prepare himself for this new career you could see his eyes light up. Three years in the making. He studied. He read. He made notes. He talked with others who were doing this new line of work (new for him). His final 3 years in his old career were greatly enhanced because he was a man on a mission. To get his retirement career as right as he could.

“Was it fun?” I asked. “The planning and all the work you put in to prepare?”

“Oh, lands yes. I had a blast,” he said.

“I can’t remember when I had that much fun.”

Every time we plan something big we think about it going as well as it can go. The couple planning to get married don’t plan their wedding to be mediocre. They anticipate everything going perfectly. They want it to be extraordinary. They have an expectation that is very high. Rightly so.

Jim is a home builder. Well, more accurately he’ll tell you he’s really in the land business. He has a great knack for buying land at a good price, then developing it. He’s a master at buying low and selling high because he creates subdivisions and builds houses on land that enhances how money he can make. Sadly, he’s not terribly interested in being a great home builder. The homes are just a means to an end – a way to sell the land for more money than he otherwise could.

The houses are perfectly fine, but the workmanship isn’t terrific. Jim doesn’t mind though because it’s a detail that he simply doesn’t care about. In fact, he has very little to do with the construction part of his own enterprise. I look at his business and wonder what it might be like if he took more pride in the home building. I’ve often wondered, “What if he aimed for a higher outcome in craftsmanship in the homes like he does in his land deals?”

I doubt we’ll ever find out because he’s printing money and making more money than he’s likely ever made in his life. I have no working relationship with him, but privately (now publicly) I’m fascinated to wonder about what could be in his business – including profits. And I sometimes wonder if Jim might have some fun in trying to become world-class in building custom homes instead of just trying to hit price points and other measurements that help him add more exotic cars to his fleet.

Through the years I’ve found it interesting how business people who earn extraordinary incomes share stories of striving for something important. Their enthusiasm is apparent as they recite stories of taking a high aim. They can get animated whenever they’re telling me about something they were going to try to achieve that hadn’t been done before – at least, by them. Looking forward to reaching the goal is sometimes its own reward.

Recently, my wife and I went on a pretty rigorous 4-mile hike. We’d done it before and this time we felt we were better prepared. It took us about 90 minutes. The terrain in places was challenging for novice hikers like us. Check that, old novice hikers. At places we were both winded.

Along the route, trees were marked with yellow paint or yellow arrows to show you the path. Every half mile there was a marker.

Before we started we anticipated that it might take us 2 hours. The first time we did it I think it was closer to 3.

We didn’t have a time goal. We just wanted to do it for the sake of doing it.

All along the way we anticipated the next marker.

.5 mile

1 mile

I remember hitting that first mile marker and saying to my wife, “Twenty-five percent down.”

Anticipating getting to the end alive was my ideal outcome!

After an hour and a half we emerged. Finished the course. No twisted ankles. No broken bones. No bruised egos. Just two old bodies looking to sit down and guzzle a Route 44 Sonic soft drink!

My wife said, “It feeels good to have done it.”

Truth is. It felt pretty good planning to do it again. And it felt pretty good all along the way knowing we were going to do it and in a much shorter time than we’d done it the first time.

Carly Simon sang that famous hit song, “Anticipation.”

The first lines of the song say…

We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway

When it comes to our organizations and our leadership, let’s think about the ideal outcomes anyway. Even if you may be tempted to think it’s never going to happen. What if you’re wrong? What if it’s possible? What if much, much higher performance is possible? What if you’re the impediment because you just won’t dream big enough? Or anticipate the desired outcome as being ideal?

What if you’re missing out on loads of fun? The fun to plan – and try to achieve some new outcome? The very best outcome?

What if Jim took aim at maximizing his real estate value by taking his home building skills to a whole new level? What if his company was a premier custom home builder known for a fit and finish that others simply couldn’t rival?

How good can you be?

How good can your organization be?

It’s fun to ask. It’s even more fun to plan the ideal answer.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

P.S. If you are the owner of a small t0 medium-sized business, l invite you to check out The Peer Advantage by Bula Network. It’s a small think tank just for owners who aspire to be the very best.

I’m Not The Sharpest Knife In The Drawer, But I Am A Knife (The Power Of Curiosity) – Season 2020, Episode 28

When it comes to understanding people and situations I’ve not found anything more powerful than curiosity.

Curiosity drives understanding.

When our curiosity is low, our quest to understand is low, too.

How do we know?

We stop asking questions. Mostly because we either lack curiosity, we don’t care or we think we know enough already. Or any combination of those things.

I’ve told you before how limited my super-powers are, but I do have a few. The other day I’m having this conversation with a CEO about business. He’s telling me about his background and how he came to be where he is, both in business and life. He asks me about my background and I explain to him how I’m like so many of my generation who stumbled into things, made the most of it and it sorta worked out. I told him I wasn’t like the rare friends I had who grew up always wanting to “be” something specific. Or like those people who have many talents from which to pick. When your talents are somewhat limited life can get easier I suppose. You either soar with your strengths (as Donald O. Clifton evangelized, he of what once was “Clifton’s Strengthfinder” fame), or you don’t. The key is knowing your strength of course. Again, easier to do when there are so few of them. Harder to do when you have to pick among the many you may have.

At which point I made the remark that serves as today’s title. And he laughed. But it’s not merely a funny line. It’s completely true and we went on to discuss how asking questions is the only way to satisfy our curiosity. But also how afraid we often are to ask the questions – especially the ones that are most obvious to us at the moment.

Here’s some context for you, regarding the title.

The subject was the power of questions. And curiosity.

But the real subject was (and is) UNDERSTANDING.

Umpteen years ago I concluded that “the quality of our questions determines the quality of our business.” Whether it was a customer interaction, a vendor decision, a contract negotiation…questions seemed to be a great barometer of whether or not I was on track as a business leader. Any time I took a shortcut thinking I knew enough BEFORE asking more questions, I almost always lost. That’s why I made up my mind that after I had asked the obvious questions (those I felt were obvious), then I’d search for the not-so-obvious ones. I adopted the “Columbo Rule” of asking one more question after I felt I had exhausted all the questions.

Over the years I learned that the thing always getting my way was ME. My arrogance. My ego. My pride. That’s what would prevent me from getting the understanding I most needed to make better decisions and to behave better.

When that epiphany hit me it almost didn’t make sense. Only because of one thing – I had always embraced my naivete. I was the person unafraid of asking the stupid question. I was the person in the conversation circle when somebody would ask if you knew somebody, or if you’d seen some movie — who would say (if it were true), “No, I have no idea.” Rarely would I feign understanding. I’ve always been pretty shameless at avoiding pretense for the sake of understanding. Hence, the statement I made to the CEO which kinda-sorta serves as today’s show title: “I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but at least I know I’m a knife…and not a fork.”

My being a knife is my strong desire and curiosity to understand.

Coaching executives and leaders involves me asking lots of questions. Not interrogating them, but in seeking to better understand what’s going on with them, and to figure out how they’re operating. Sometimes I’m trying to understand what they’re feeling whenever they’re frustrated. Or excited. Or feeling terrific.

When it comes to understanding people and situations I’ve not found anything more powerful than curiosity. Which is why today I’m encouraging you to embrace it more fully in your life. It can help push your life and career forward faster than anything I know because it’ll accelerate your learning, which in turn will fuel your growth.

Learning can be hard. Or it can easier. We get to decide.

We can go it alone thinking we’ll figure it out eventually. And maybe we will. But maybe we won’t. This is the slowest way to learn something.

Think about learning to play the guitar. You can sit at home with your guitar, unaided by anybody or anything, and maybe you’ll figure it out eventually, but your progress will be glacially slow.

You could sit at home alone with your phone or computer watching YouTube videos. That’ll pick up the pace enormously. Why do you think YouTube is the number one searched platform for “how to?” Because there are millions of videos that show how to do most anything you can dream of. Whenever we leverage YouTube or anything other web platforms to learn something we’re leveraging the power of others.

You could step up your game by taking some instruction – private or in a class. With another experienced guitar player sitting in front of you, giving you some structured approach to learning guitar, you’ll likely accelerate your learning even more. More evidence of the power of others.

If you decide to befriend other guitar players, especially experienced ones, you’ll find yourself being helped by people who can show you many tricks and tips to step up your learning even more.

Go it alone, asking no questions except those you ask of yourself, and it’s the slowest possible route.

Go it together with others, being intentional and purposeful in surrounding yourself with generous guitar players willing to show you the ropes and you’re now flying in a super sonic jet compared to all that alone time.

Like me, the thing that’ll get in your way is pride and ego. Embarrassed to let the experienced guitar player know that you have no clue what you’re doing…you’ll rob yourself of the power of others. Your lack of humility will ruin your curiosity to understand how to play the guitar.

Apply that logic to anything you’d like to learn – or anything you’d like to learn how to do better!

It works with people, too.

My naivete often helped clients see things from a vantage point they hadn’t previously considered. It’s common for me to hear a client say, “I haven’t considered that it might be that way” or words that express how they’ve only been viewing something from a single point of view.

Which way is right? Which way is wrong?

Don’t think of it in such binary terms. Think of it more in shades of gray and not so black and white.

Maybe it’s less about right or wrong and more about which is better. Or maybe it’s about which is more accurate. Which is more clear.

What if I entered your life during your worst, darkest days? What if I observed your life during this time period and concluded that what I’m seeing is the totality of who and what you are? Would I be accurate?

No. Of course not.

Our worst isn’t a fair sample of who or what we are. It’s the far extreme of what likely does NOT represent who and what we truly are.

Just because you’ve read one chapter of my life doesn’t mean you know my whole story. You need more context. In order to figure out the context, you need what?

Curiosity. Enough curiosity that you want to learn more so you can figure out the whole story. Or at least more of the story so you feel you’ve got a more full context.

If it’s unfair for others to judge you based only on your worst, then why do you think it’s fair for you to do that with them?

Because judgment is easy. Just like making assumptions.

The hard, but fun part is learning more. Asking questions so you can make sure you understand is thrilling if you make it the habit of your life.

Have you ever gotten something wrong? Thought you knew what was happening…only to discover that what you thought was happening wasn’t happening at all? Thought you knew somebody only to find out you had them pegged all wrong?

Not a good feeling. It’s an awful feeling.

Contrast that with the feeling you get when you took the time to figure out what we really going on. Feels good, doesn’t it? Of course, it always feels good to get it right.

Commit yourself to being a knife. A sharper knife. Embrace deeper curiosity in your quest to figure it out. Embrace it as you work to figure anything and everything out. You don’t have to be the sharpest knife in the drawer. You just have to make sure you’re a knife.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

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