Enlightened Conflict

value ourselves as more than just an image

March 2nd, 2017





“At the end of the day, we have to value ourselves as more than just an image.


 An image is just an image.

If you want more, look deeper within.


Are you a good friend? A kind companion?

How do you treat others?


Those are the things that are a better definition of beauty.’



Sara Ramirez




I imagine all of us want to be seen by everyone as ‘something.’


they must be giants fake lies right lifeTo me … this ‘something’ isn’t famous or with some high falutin’ title or rich … but rather be recognized characteristically as something.

And not something shallow … but something a little deeper that defines you.


I say that but reality is that the driving ‘something’ for us is far too often fairly innocuous … and, yeah, it will vary from person to person … but a shitload of us want to be seen as smart, or well rounded, or beautiful, or funny, or … well … pick your personal poison.

I could suggest that is kind of a shallow something.


I will.

That is a shallow ‘something.’


And what makes that shallow worse is that by making that a fairly significant portion of how we choose to define ourselves we spend an inordinate amount of time & energy planning for ‘someday’ when that ‘something’ is played back to us as our defining characteristic.

uhm what did you say really





If you are not careful … someday stealthily sneaks up on you as ‘today … and then yesterday … and then day by day it just becomes your Life.


Unfortunately Life is not just an image.

Unfortunately Life is ultimately not that shallow.


Unfortunately you have to leave the shallow end of the pool at some point and venture into the deep end in order to find … well … value.


Despite what marketing & advertising & branding folk may suggest … image is not everything and image does not equal any meaningful value.


Image without substance is simply a façade … a mask.

And I can unequivocally state that the number of people who can maintain an entire life behind a mask is minuscule.it is extremely difficult to maintain that façade for an entire Life. It is like trying to play out an act … forever. Someone can do it for a while and fewer can figure out how to build the trappings which can hold the act together … but to hold all of that together for a Lifetime takes some luck, some clever skills, some bravado to appease the cynics & skeptics and, ultimately, some ability to keep the lack of substance out of the spotlight & questioning.

Suffice it to say … it takes a lot of work to wear a mask an entire Life.


intent help flaws self bestAnd maybe that is my larger point.


We all want to eventually be seen as ‘something.’


And we all would prefer that something be of value to those who recognize it and of value to our self-worth.


That means.

If you are not careful you can spend a significant portion of your Life chasing some definition … some ‘something’ you are recognized by … that has little or no real value to oneself.


By the way. I am not suggesting this is easy. Society encourages shallowness. It can do so in a variety of ways but the main way is simple – measurement.

The shallowest ‘somethings’ are easy to see, easy to assess and easy to measure versus either society standards or versus others.


The deepest ‘somethings’ … good, soul, character, integrity … shit like that … are difficult to measure and, frankly, the definition is earned over time and with consistent behavior. You cannot expect instant gratification … at least external gratification … if you pursue a ‘deeper something.’






Here is what I know:


“At the end of the day, we have to value ourselves as more than just an image.

 An image is just an image.

If you want more, look deeper within.


Image is just an image.


How about this.


Image is like masturbation.


A deeper something is like making love.hard to planyou are more


I tend to believe we all want more.


We all want that kind of self-value that is deeper.

We all want more than just an image.


It is a Life truth that Image is seductive.


The good news?

It is a Life truth that if you want more than image, and look deeper within for that ‘something’, you will find a better definition of yourself.

In this time, at this place, I will be defined

February 17th, 2017

 stand for what is right i will be defined now


“I endure.”






“What we do in life will echo in eternity.”


Maximus (in Gladiator)




There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.






“The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”


Howard Zinn





This topic has been on my mind for a while but I hadn’t figured out how to talk future-universe-view-space-open-thinkingabout it without being apocalyptic or overly dramatic.


I know it has been on my mind since Trump entered into our lives <when is the last time you had a conversation where he wasn’t mentioned?> and lately I have found myself placing tags on my posts like “enlightened reading” or “enlightened thinking” or “enlightened politics” or … well … I guess I have been thinking about enlightened a lot. But this doesn’t feel like an ‘enlightened issue.’


And then I had lunch with a good friend the other day and out of the blue he says “this feels like one of those times when years from now people will be asking you what you were doing … or not doing.”




It does.


This does feel like “a moment in the tide in the affairs of man.”


This does feel like a moment in which people will define themselves.



It does certainly feel like a time of angst. An ‘apocalypse’?  Certainly not.


Unrest and uneasiness and uncertainty? Absolutely yes.

take a stand america define

And, frankly, in times like these it is tempting to sit back … maybe, to be harsh, be lazy and fall back on our opinions and “what we believe” and mumble to ourselves, maybe bitch with our friends or just remain silent.


But this seems to be more a time … uhm … no … this is “a time” more than ever to … well … be defined.


Look around if you don’t believe me.


You can see it if you look hard enough that a shitload of people feel the same thing. You may get confused in thinking it is “whining democrats because they lost” or “establishment people afraid of losing their gravy train” or even simply “people afraid of change.”


It’s more than, and less than, that.


It’s the tide in the affairs of man.


And, yes, we can blame Trump for this defining moment time. But he is less relevant in this tide than you may think. He is simply riding the tide … and we are the many drops of water within the tide … the ebbs and flows and crests and furrows are ours to build and destroy.


Take note of what is happening.

People feel this is a defining moment.


I don’t care if it is Hannity who has attached himself to Trump to rise and fall with the man himself <and not an ideology>. He is all in.


never be silent stand up i will be definedI don’t care if it is Jake Tapper on CNN who appears to be attaching himself to truth & facts. He is all in.


I don’t care if it is Meryl Streep who has attached herself to celebrity moral authority. She is all in.


I don’t care if it is the millions who walked in a women’s march without any real reason other than it felt like they should. They want to be all in <on something>.


I don’t care if it is someone who fills out petitions and sends $5 to whatever organization possible. That person is all in on something.


I don’t care if it is a white nationalist who now attaches their feelings to real words said in public or statement clothing. That person is all in.


I don’t care if it is someone who has their senators on speed dial and calls them every morning during their commute to just leave a message with whatever is on their mind. That person is all in.


I don’t care if it is someone who attaches themselves to ‘deplorable’ without really knowing what embracing deplorable really means other than it permits them to make a statement. That person is all in.


I don’t care if it is someone like me … someone who hasn’t given a rat’s ass about politics up until now … who now writes pieces, posts almost every day and emails writings & thoughts to different people … from Mark Cuban to John Lewis to John Kasich … The National Review to The Guardian to CNN … hoping that someone somewhere will affect this tide of affairs of man.


I tend to believe we all feel the tide of affairs shifting.

And as we feel it a range of emotions surges … some excited riding the tide and many many others desperately, and helplessly, feeling like they are fighting a tide they don’t like or do not understand <and this where we see some angry people … as they feel helpless struggling in this tide of affairs>.


This is a defining moment.


And I think we all know that this moment is different.  In the past, maybe without truly consciously thinking about it, we recognize most moments actually create their definition … because, for the most part, they are all about creating something from nothing.


That is different than this moment.


In this moment, in this time and place, something is happening of which we have to create nothing … but rather shape it. And, in doing this shaping, we are actually building something within the moments we elect to stand up and define ourselves … well … building “us” … okay … maybe it is building “me or I.”


This moment is different because it demands that we take a whole bunch of seemingly meaningless little moments … almost unrecognizable … that have got us to where we are attitudinally, intellectually and physically … and stop and speak out in some way that will be meaningful to us for the rest of our lives.



In this moment … I would suggest that this is not the time to define yourself by standing against something but rather standing up & for something. This is not the moment to be “anti” something but rather “pro” something.  ‘Anti’ suggests you can turn, or stem, the tide of affairs when the reality of ‘affairs of men’ would most likely suggest a tide is a tide and affairs will be affairs and by being ‘pro’ it may be possible to show which harbor the tide should enter. Don’t define by what you are against … define by what you are for.


That said.

now or_never_web_design_grandeI could suggest that for many of us this is a “now or never” time.




“Sometimes there is no next time, no time-outs, no second chances; sometimes it’s now or never.”

Alan Bennett




In the general tide of affairs of men there often seems to be unending line of second chances standing outside your door.

And then in the tide there comes a time when … well … you look outside one morning and all those second chances are gone to Starbucks.


Just gone.


And you are alone.


And you can’t play the next time card or ask the next second chance to come on in. or say … uhm … can you wait a minute? <until one of the second chances comes back from the bathroom>




It’s now or never.


Life is looking right at people … right at you & me … and saying … ‘okay, what’s your call?’

speak the truth i will be defined stand up

And this is actually your judgment call and no one else’s.


This is your defining moment and your decision.


Life is not going to help you out on this one … Life isn’t going to lean in and whisper in your ear … “hey, just so you know, this is one of those no time out, no second chance, no next time moments.”


That is my job today.


My job today is to tell you what I believe is the truth … that while Life is typically extremely generous in giving time outs and second chances … this feels like a ‘now or never moment’.



“attack everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which.”


Douglas Adams




This is a daunting feeling.


Because while you may actually have done a gazillion things in your Life to prepare yourself for this ‘now or never moment’ … I seriously doubt anyone feels competent for this moment. It is slightly daunting to think this is a ‘now or never’ moment which will live with us for years to come.



It certainly feels slightly daunting to think that what you do will define you … for eternity.good people defined losses victories




On top of uncertainty or excitement or helplessness or a feeling of freedom to do & say what you have always wanted to do & say you are being asked to choose how you want to be defined.


The kind of thought that makes us think about choices and what we elect to do … because … well .., what we do echoes in eternity.


The Gladiator quote was perfect … it suggests that the way we live … and what we choose to do … not only affects our present … but also determines our eternity.

He suggests what we do in the present will affect not who we are and what will happen but also our future … beyond death.


He suggests that you … well … matter.


That your thoughts matter.

That your choices matter.

That your actions matter.


And not only within this moment.

But in the moments which end up in eternity.


Your life matters. What you do is up to you, but your life matters to the degree that you choose it to matter. Life means something … especially if you defiantly define who and what you are.

defy word defiance

Defiance is not easy.


It is much much easier to not push back, to not push yourself forward, but go along for the ride … wishing it were better than it seems to be.



Defiance is a choice.


And, I would remind everyone, that choice defines destiny … not chance.


If you are defiant, and push back, you are more likely to control the destiny of … well … your definition and how you will be defined.


And that is what today’s world feel like. a moment to be defined. A moment to be defiant with regard to who you are, what you believe and what you stand for.

It feels like you cannot be silent … and you have to choose.



I purposefully have tied “I will be defined” with an attitude … one of defiance.

I do so because of … well … Trump.

He has far too often been called a ‘disruptor.’ In businesses a disruptor is not one who creates & encourages chaos but rather one who ‘overturns conventional wisdom’ to take what exists and reshape it into a new way of doing things. A true disruptor envisions what can be <let’s call this ‘a plan’> and dismantles only that which encumbers in the here & now to enable the “what will be.” In the business world Trump is more often called ‘an agent of chaos.’ He is one of those managers who cannot tell the difference between chaos & doing — they are of equal in his mind. He holds up doing as proof of his value. A true disruptor holds up ‘what can be’ as proof of value.   Calling him a disruptor is an insult to the true disruptors.


This means, even more than ever, those who choose to stand in this time & place and define themselves will have to be defiant.


Defiance is standing still, standing strong, speaking out … amidst chaos.

This will not be about the one, or ones, who speak the loudest but the ones who speak the smartest and steadfastly. This will be about the ones who defiantly stand in the face of chaos and stubbornly defend what they believe and what is right.

And, in doing so, the country will be defined by who and what we coalesce around. The fragments <which are what some people will call “divisions”> will cluster until the cluster of that which is the country itself has spoken and defined itself. As a country … it is false to suggest we are divided … we are fragmented. There is a huge difference between those two thoughts. And it is actually within that difference in which Hope for something better resides.



In this time, at this place, I do believe this country will be defined. And it will be defined by those who not just endure the moment, the tide of affairs of man, but rather the ones who stand up and say “this is how we will endure.”


You may be angry, you may feel helpless, you may feel excited … but whatever you feel it is because you are caught up in a unique tide in the affairs of man … i will be defined stand up speak outand you will be defined not because you endured but rather by how you endured.


My friend was right. This is a “moment.”


We will look back in time at this ‘moment’ and you will be defined by what you did do … or didn’t do.


Me? I have made my decision. In this time, at this place, I will be defined.


responsible for what you tame

January 25th, 2017

responsible for what you tame leadership people employees



“People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.”



The Little Prince





I cannot play with you,” the fox replies. “I am not tamed.”


“What does that mean – to tame?”


It means to establish ties. To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…please, tame me!”


I want to, very much,” the Little Prince replied, “but I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”


“One only understands the things that one tames,” the fox said.






afraid to grow into your heights life loseLeaders have a tough job.


We call it managing but in reality it is taming. You tame the independent wildness and tame the ability & potential so you can understand it, and it can understand itself, so that eventually there is a mutual progress to play the game as well as it can be played.

Please note that nowhere in there have I suggested “blind obedience.” Taming, in this view, is reaching true understanding so that real personal growth occurs.


That said … in that metaphorical expression of leadership … you own what you tame.


I say that because far too often we leaders & managers view management as something we do for the benefit of the organization and, hopefully, the benefit of the people … but we ‘own’ no responsibility for the individual in terms of actions or who they become — and certainly not ‘forever.’


Some of us view ourselves as shapers in some form or fashion but lean back against the belief we only dent the surface of who and what the person is and will become.


We view what we do as possibly taming but within the purview of just a chapter in their lives … not an entire story.


In some ways we do this simply as an act of self-survival.


The truth is that investing too much personally into your business; the organization and the employees can … well … kill you.



Maybe not literally kill you … but figuratively it can become a daily strain on your psychological health.


Many of us, out of pragmatism, eye our relationship with employees as a story with a finite end – be it positive, sad, joyful, disappointing or ambiguous – but it is, in reality, just the end of a chapter.


The story keeps going.

Ours and theirs.

business inclusiveness

And while we may represent only a chapter in a larger narrative … well … we own what we tame. This is an inclusive way of leading & managing.


You include yourself in someone’s Life and … well … you own what part you tame.




Of course … this can also swing to the opposite more dangerous side – an exclusive leadership side.


This is ‘ownership’, not owning, of what you tame.


You don’t become part of them you simply offer a voice to them – I sometimes call this ‘pack mentality leadership’.


These are the leaders who say “on my team <or in other words “mine”> forever.”


Leave and my wrath is upon you.


Not want to be tamed by me? you are “un” whatever it is I stand for.


And this is where exclusive leadership truly rears its ugly head.


There is little vision, there is a lot of ‘features’ in the offering <more money, more jobs, more titles, more wins, more whatever> and therefore the incentives do the work and not any persuasive direction or vision. The ‘pack attitude’ is a means to an end and a vision in and of itself.




“Managers tend to use compensation as a crutch.

After all, it is far easier to design an incentive system that will do management’s work than it is to articulate a direction persuasively, develop agreement about goals and problems, and confront difficulties when they arise.”

Michael Beer, Harvard professor of business administration



chaos team alignmentThe features, the actions & behavior of those who belong on this team, are how they speak of unity and teamwork, i.e., “everyone should act this way … but we are the ones who do.”


Or how about this?


“The only important thing is the unification of the people – because the other people don’t mean anything.” <Trump used these words once awhile back>


In other words … the only people who truly count are the ones who are in this leader’s team.


Even worse?

They use the ‘us versus them’ polarization as a means to suggest “team personality & character” all the while these types of leaders actually do it to create their own power structure.


They don’t desire to include anyone else nor do they tend to reach out to others <albeit they make some inclusive noises on occasion> they desire to build a construct where people ask to join <because they should, of course, have to ask> and are not asked to join.


Excluding leaders love the ‘us versus them’ aspect. They love being derided and they love opposition. All these things do is solidify the team’s belief they are different & better & know more than the others.


The team becomes what represents what is real & right and the leader controls what is real & right. The leader’s people are truly the only people that count and the leader hasn’t tamed ability but rather attitude.


And here is where the ownership of what you tamed hits a dangerous spot.asshole bad manager


The leader has tamed an attitude but feels little ownership of the people themselves. Therefore should the leader decide to move on or get tired of whatever it is they are doing at the moment they feel no remorse in leaving people behind <who still harbor the attitude he/she tamed>.


The pack remains, the pack mentality still seethes, but the pack leader is no longer there.




Let me close with some thoughts.


I think it is a healthy thought for every manager & leader to ponder ‘you own what you tame.’


Leadership and leading is never easy and I have the scars to show to prove it.


Bad we help thatI found it naturally tempting to build a quasi-pack mentality in my groups as a younger leader & manager.

I was, and have always been, a more aggressive business person – I am not fond of status quo and not particularly fond of ‘the safe road.’


I can absolutely state that as a manager you can feed off of the ‘pack mentality’ attitude. It is exhilarating and almost like a drug … and maybe more dangerous … it can feed into a self-belief aspect that can edge upon arrogance and obliviousness to the greater good.


I don’t think I ever fell off the cliff on this but I certainly got a glimpse of the edge.


As I gained more experience I saw the danger in doing so <to my team member, to my organization & to myself> and sought to find some balance.


You can tame your people’s ability & attitude and they, and you, will benefit at the time and in the future <whether you are still working together or not>.


Don’t give me sob stories

September 3rd, 2016


this is business sob story



“Don’t give me sob stories,” she ordered me with sudden vehemence, striking the key words for emphasis.


“Every day people appeal to my emotions.

You can’t govern that way.

It simply isn’t fair.”



Margaret Thatcher to John Le Carre





want need sign hard easyRunning a country is hard. Very hard.


Running a business is hard. Very hard.


It doesn’t mean you don’t have good days and it doesn’t mean that all the ‘hard’ doesn’t reap some benefits and joy but … well … hard is hard.


And maybe, just possibly, the hardest part is managing the emotional appeals you are faced with on an almost daily basis.


And I say that while ignoring the inevitable larger events & stories which compound the emotional aspects of leader decision making.


Leading is mostly about the day in and day out responsibility to the greater good and the greater whole. This certainly doesn’t mean you don’t look at the parts and how the parts & pieces are affected but you can’t get too close to individual aspects for fear of … well … a couple of reasons:


First is the functional responsibility a leader has.

The greater responsibility is to the whole and insuring the whole is fair, respected and healthy. There is certainly a responsibility to parts, the germs & healthy cells roaming the lifeblood of the whole, but sometimes I let a germ live because it has lesser consequences to the health of the whole than if I invest in something that makes the already healthier cells even more healthy.


Second is basic perspective.

Research studies clearly show that emotional decisions are often quite irrational and often quite … well … bad <or maybe better said … less than optimal>. A leader has the difficult responsibility to maintain perspective … even in the face of a crescendo of criticisms demanding ‘this situation is unique.” The optics of a good leader often looks bad.


Aloof. Disconnected. Unempathetic.


The greater responsibility is to the whole perspective and insuring what is fair and respectful to the whole.


This is going to sound bad … really bad in fact.


<… I am taking a deep breath here>

this too shall pass tough time choices decisions


But good leaders have a sense for “this too will pass” and simply pass on engaging with the individual engagement demand of the moment.

Yes. You acknowledge it and then ignore it.


To be clear. You don’t always make the right call and you don’t always get it right but the intent is 99% of the time purposefully not engaging to maintain perspective.



All that said.


Disconnecting from the emotional sob story, while still remaining connected to empathetic reasoning, may be one of the most difficult aspects of leading.


I don’t care if its 350 million people, 350 people or 35 people this tug of war between caring but not caring too much is constant and challenging. In addition it is a constant battle for self survival.


When thinking about this … inevitably what I believe most of us every day schmucks struggle to understand is the perspective.


Most people view things “I” up … and a leader has to look “we” down.


In other words … “I” has specific needs and I am willing to think about insuring other “I’s” have the same needs met. There is nothing wrong with this and it certainly can insure some healthy altruistic attitudes & behavior. But it does not reflect good leadership thinking.


In other words … “we” have larger needs and I am willing to sacrifice some of what some “I’s” want <and even, unfortunately, need in some cases> to insure the “we” needs are met. There is nothing wrong with this and, when done well, the greater whole prospers and is, in general, happy.


But it isn’t easy.

It is really hard.


And suffice it to say “ruling” by ignoring emotional appeals is more fair but it is still emotionally draining to a good leader.


Whether the 350 million, 350 or the 35 recognize it … there are many days when the 1, the leader, leaves the office with a heavy heart. And it is not heavy because 349,999,900 people, 341 people or 34 people went to sleep that day feeling pretty good about their day and their needs & wants & hopes … but because the few with a true sob story went to sleep that day sobbing.


You govern and lead by what is fair to the whole.


That’s just the way it is.


And just as Margaret Thatcher did … I would vehemently emphasize this business truth to anyone.


But.just do your best

That doesn’t mean I don’t think she went home some nights with the weight of someone’s emotional appeal on her mind.


That’s what I thought about today after I read this quote from Margaret Thatcher.




And I also thought about whether I was fair and maintained the balance as a leader. I am not sure. I take some solace in the belief that almost every leader wonders the same thing.


believing and non-believing management

July 18th, 2016


people management psychology believe do business



Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”


e.e. cummings




“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.

Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”


Golda Meir




Today I am rambling about the psychology of managing employees … specifically an aspect of managing that I would call “believe and non-believing management.”



This is not about motivating employees.


free employees of themselves believeThis is more about unlocking employees – unlocking potential.


This is more about that seemingly nonstop discussion you have with employees where you curb the overreaching confidence in some … and instill some confidence in others. In my mind … this is the ongoing discussion you have with your employees with the intent to set the best version of themselves free.


To be sure.


If you talk with enough people who have managed groups & companies and you will notice that at some point someone will bring up “I have to be a psychologist.”


To be clear.


Do business managers have to be psychologists to be effective? No. not really.

But being a psychologist on occasion certainly doesn’t hurt.


I am fairly sure what I am discussing has some high falutin’ organizational behavior ‘management principles’ published and formal white papers with long esoteric discussions on employee personality types and some personality testing voodoo.


I am also fairly sure, okay … certain, it is possible to be a competent if not good leader without understanding all that personality crap. in fact … I could argue, and I have argued, that personality tests trap individuals into some defined box in which if any of their behaviors don’t fit that box from that point on they will be mismanaged because … well … they aren’t doing what the box said they would do.




Most good managers clearly understand that different people are motivated by different things and that different things can inhibit the potential of each employee.


Suffice it to say, in my mind, it really all comes down to one basic management principle: possibilities & pragmatism management. Unlocking each employee’s potential is almost always a balance of pragmatic doing and getting them to employee believe non believe business lead manageenvision what they are possible of.


Simplistically your objective is always to free your employee to be their best and do their best. But in order to achieve that … well … sometimes this means stripping something away … and sometimes this means adding something.


And that is where my whole ‘believing & nonbelieving management’ comes into the discussion.


More often than not while you are teaching & coaching skills and pragmatic ‘here is what you need to do’ crap you will find yourself facing an employee who is either bursting with belief in themselves and their abilities or semi-frozen in an ‘unsure of what to do and if I can do it’ attitude.


Both need some attitudinal adjustments.


The ‘belief’ employees run the gamut from the young employee who is sure they are smarter and better than you <or others around them> to a senior sales guy who hasn’t met a sale he couldn’t make <doing it his way if only the company would get out of the way>.


The ‘nonbelievers’ also run the gamut from young & inexperienced to older doing it for the first time or even mid level employees dealing with something completely unrelated that has pricked their confidence bubble in some way.


And, no, I certainly do not consider any of this ‘cheerleader engagement.’ In fact … I would suggest that any manager who does needs to rethink their thinking.


Managing people certainly can contain some aspects of ‘enthusiasm management’ but one of the most basic manager self-survival techniques you learn <or die> is how to manage without too much investment of self. Therefore I have always viewed this aspect of employee management as simply assessing work together believe employee talk leadtheir ‘believe level’ and adjusting appropriately to enable the true potential to be there when it counts.


As a manager you always hunker down on the pragmatic aspects of what needs to be done first.



It is kind of your heuristic trick to assess any attitudinal challenges to getting the frickin’ pragmatic aspect done.


But you always keep an eye, and an ear, open during the pragmatic assessing the ‘possibilities of whether the shit will actually get done … and done as well as it can be done.’

This is the place where you look at the employee and assess the ‘belief factor.’


Some are easy to read. Some are a little more difficult. And, no, I cannot offer some trite generalism here.


Exuding belief believers can come in all shapes & sizes & behaviors.

Nonbelievers can come in all shapes & sizes & attitudes.


And it can get even trickier.


Tricky because the same employee who was bursting with blind belief one day will be the same employee sitting in front of you the next day discussing a completely different project or task … semi-frozen in non-belief.




The fundamentals of effective management are pretty much the same everywhere.

But this ‘possibilities & pragmatism management’ thing I am discussing takes some commitment. It doesn’t take being a psychologist … you just have to be committed to managing the individual ‘believe’ gauge. And this means being committed to both stripping away some unnecessary <or risky> belief and bolting on some belief where needed.


Unfortunately this can sometimes take a fine subtle touch … and most of us everyday manager schmucks aren’t always subtle. Nor are we particularly talented at balancing both possibilities & pragmatism.


I imagine I wrote this not to offer any “how to” guide to anyone. I wrote it because I just faced it and thought about it.


In one day I had to ponder the talented more senior sales person almost blinded with belief charging ahead <not particularly aligned with what the company thought was best practice> and an extremely talented younger person threaded with the burden of nonbelief.


In one day I had to ponder how to deftly encourage a little less blind belief and thrust some belief upon another.


And that is most likely a typical day for a manager.


I didn’t care about personality type.


I didn’t confer with any HR people.


I didn’t go online searching for ‘communications techniques.’


I didn’t do so not because I didn’t want to … but because managers mostly don’t one on one employee believe business managehave time for that shit.


You gotta deal with what is in front of you and get shit done and get the best out of your employees.


Believing and non believing management.


Possibilities and pragmatism management.


Kind of two sides of the same management coin.

hatred of boredom

June 26th, 2016

 hatred of boredom f scott quote



“I’m a slave to my hatred of boredom.”




F. Scott Fitzgerald










Far too often I think we confuse a lack of attention, attention spans, or attention in general, with a hatred of boredom.


I imagine I could say that this is simply about discussing two sides of the same coin.


look bored blink

One side is boredom.


One side is attention span.



Regardless of my imaginary coin … attention spans, in general, are certainly one of the main “topic du jours” a shitload of people, and ‘experts’, pontificate on espousing on “a generation borne of short attention spans” <the infamous … “we have attention spans of a goldfish” — note: we do not>.


I have always said we do not have significantly shorter attention spans today than we have had in the past and that technology isn’t make us a society with an attention deficit.


And I have a post coming up soon discussing the important, and responsibility, of getting someone’s attention.


But why doesn’t anyone ever discuss WHY our attention wavers?




Many people, I included, have discussed relevance matters in gaining attention and maintaining attention  and many people, I included, have discussed how interest and attention are inextricably linked … but why don’t we just simply talk about boredom?


Because if I am bored I will not pay attention.boredom structure boredom





If a goldfish is bored they will not pay attention.




If you are bored enough <as the chart “structure of boredom” suggests you attain “demonic boredom” – this is the type of boredom which can make you say stupid things out loud>





Here is the flipside of the coin.


If you can keep me from being bored? You have my attention.


Personally … I hate being bored.


Some people confuse this with a lack of ability to pay attention. They are wrong.


People have my undivided attention and focus … if I am not bored with what is being said or shown.


I don’t think I am particularly unique n this.


I do know because of my hatred of boredom that I have quasi-mastered the art of ‘surface attention.’


Surface attention?


What this is … is … well … let’s say you are in a meeting. And some bonehead is engenders boredom speaking too muchdemanding you sit through a 75 page PowerPoint presentation.

I can guarantee you that I am gonna feel some hate <some boredom> within those 75 pages <and the 75+ words that must be said accompanying every page>.

But that hate will not keep me from perking up on … well … say … page 51 where … well … you aren’t boring me.


And I have to admit. It is good that I have mastered this particular skill because F. Scott and I have something in common … I am a slave to my hatred of boredom.


Because outside of a meeting or some environment constricting my ability to flee my boredom … not only do I not pay attention but I move on. I actually will get away, if not actually flee, from boredom.

I hate being bored so much I have been chastised for being rude <and sometimes it can also mistakenly be construed as some version of ‘self superiority’>.


I am neither rude nor do I believe I am smarter, or superior or better in any way … I am simply a slave to my hatred of boredom. In fact … as a parallel point … I will actively search out ‘non-boring.’ So … its not like I don’t want to hear what people have to say and i actually highly value other’s opinions, especially of they are contrarian views., but just as i am active n my pursuit for non-boredom i am also quite active in avoiding, and fleeing, actual boredom.


Maybe I don’t handle it as well as many other people but, once again, I just don’t think I am that unique.  Given the opportunity I believe most of us schmucks would haul ass when bored by someone or something.


In most cases it isn’t rooted in any thought that someone is ‘dumb’ or ‘an asshole/asshat’ … we are just fucking bored.


I imagine my real point <and this would be great advice to professional marketers> is … well … if you want my attention don’t bore me.




This doesn’t mean ‘entertain me’ or ‘make me laugh’ or … well … any simplistic tripe many experts spout. Don’t overthink it. There is no formula. And there is no ‘one thing’ to do.


Just don’t bore me.


I don’t care how you do it.

engage me bore interest listen

You can engage me intellectually.


You can engage me by … well … being engaging.


You can engage me by making me smile.


You can engage me by tapping into my inner altruism.


You can engage me by tapping into my sense of responsibility.


The list of how to engage someone is relatively infinite.


But one thing circumvents the infinite list of possibilities … boredom.


I am a slave to my hatred of boredom.


And while I may hate boredom a little more than the average everyday schmuck … in general … I tend to believe most everyone hates being bored.


Well.boredom dog bored attention



There is some professional advice.


Don’t be boring and don’t bore people you have an interest in communicating with.

cover the universe with drawings we have lived

May 20th, 2016






Each one of us, then, should speak of his roads, his crossroads, his roadside benches; each one of us should make a surveyor’s map of his lost fields and meadows. idea art creative draw life imagine


Thoreau said that he had a map of his fields engraved in his soul.


And Jean Wahl once wrote … [“] The frothing of the hedges / I keep deep inside me [“] … Thus we cover the universe with drawings we have lived.”



Gaston Bachelard




“You have to live a life to understand it.

Tourists just pass through.”









Let me give you a reason not only for living … but experiencing Life. And I don’t means “savoring Life” type trite bullshit. I mean experiencing what is going on around you and being aware, to participate in Life … and actually experience the realities of the here & now <and not divert your attention toward some imaginative “boy, I imagined something completely different than what is occurring”>.


Nor am I going to hijack any of that nutjob Eckhardt Tolle’s “live in the now” nonsense.


All I will suggest is that each experience, especially when you pay some attention to it, etches something in us.


Think of it like acquiring a tattoo.

And if you do accept the tattoo metaphor <or is that an analogy?> it seems to me you should take some care with what gets engraved upon you.


dance color cloud skirtWhy care?


While the fact Life is in constant movement and that can become incredibly tiring trying to dance with it  all day long … your dance partner, named either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ typically arrives without invitation. I would suggest more of us would be slightly more content if we didn’t focus on the fact our dance partner made us smile <lets assume that is “good”> or is a complete asshole <lets call that dance partner “bad”> but instead focus on the dance itself.


That, my friends, is experiencing Life.


The steps, the movement, that path and arc of the dance and the fields upon which our feet are placed in their movement.



Thoreau tells us ‘ he had the map of his fields engraved in his soul.’ That is … well … because he not only walked them but he saw and felt the steps as he placed them.


This is all about recognizing the value of being aware. And it is this perceptive appreciation of the time & place, past & present, permits us a healthy balance of reality and memory.


Even better?


This awareness actually permits us to embed the moments better in our heads.

This isn’t to say we will remember it correctly <because psychologically we suck at correctly & accurately remembering things> but rather the moments themselves are engraved upon us.


To be clear.


This ‘thing’ we embed is actually a reflection of the natural gap in our minds between the complexity of reality and our ability to experience the complexity.

What I mean by that is we tend to view reality heuristically. Therefore we don’t truly see reality but rather a simplified translation. Unfortunately … this simplified version naturally builds in some blind spots.




There is a whole bunch of psychological mumbo jumbo about ‘dimensions of recognition’ and ‘symbolic complementariness of the person’s first-hand life events/involvements’ but it is much easier for everyday schmucks like you and I to think of it in a linear fashion … any initial connective personal involvement in a moment begets some reflection <how it may relate to other moments> which inevitably creates some ongoing narrative in our head.



Forget all the psychological stuff.


Simplistically … the map of our Life is engraved upon our minds if not our soul … assuming we actually are aware enough to experience the map as we traverse it. Our universe deserves to be covered with our drawings.


I am fairly sure a lot of people will read this and be shaking their heads going “I have great memories … I could cover my universe with drawings” … you aren’t telling me anything of value.


And you may be right. Absolutely. You may be.


But I would suggest that most people would actually end up papering their universe with someone else’s drawings of their experience … like taping postcards on the wall of everywhere you have been. That is not covering your universe with drawings of what you have lived.cage bird tattoo


Those are simply superficial surface expressions of real actual experience.


Let me go back to my tattoo metaphor.


If I were to get a tattoo on my soul I imagine, at least me, I would not choose a tattoo of a postcard but rather I would prefer choosing an expression of what I felt when I placed my feet where that postcard was. Don’t be a tourist with Life … live it.


That’s all I’m sayin’.

negativity, motivation and business

April 18th, 2016

negative positive employees



“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”



Anna Karenina







I admit. I don’t have many conversations with business leaders about managing negativity in their businesses.




I admit. I have so many emails in my junk mail about “how to effectively manage negative employee situations” or “managing negativity in the workplace” it must be an issue.




I am not convinced negativity in the workplace is a huge issue if you know your business shit as a leader & manager.


To be clear. In my mind … managing negativity in the workplace consists of a look attention listensimple two step program:



  • Do not ignore any negativity


  • Talk with any negative employee





Maybe I could do an email program on that.

<Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm … business building idea ….>


Here is why negativity, real counterproductive negativity and not simple daily bitching & moaning, is rarely a big issue.


More often than not we business people in management muddle through understanding that in any organization with any significant number of employees someone will be unhappy about something at any given time.


All businesses have some aspect of dysfunction, some weird employees and odd situations which compel employees to have opinions on everything. As a leader … you recognize that all employees are yours, you love them the best you can, you try and not hate them the best you can and try and create an environment in which they feel welcome and be productive.


You don’t ignore the negativity but you also don’t invest gobs of energy trying to make everyone happy.


I say that and, yet,  there is an entire industry of people having weird discussions and offering some weird advice with regard to negativity and motivation.


Because this advice giving industry seems to have some viable place in the business word I have to imagine there is some meaningfully sized cadre of business leaders or managers who cannot discern between a difficult employee and a larger negative thread running through an organization.work negative business bullshit employee


My guess, though, is that many leaders just don’t have the time & patience for the glimmers of negativity which flash in and out like a dying light bulb and just delegate responsibility to deal with it to someone else.


And in delegating it … well … all of a sudden there becomes this weird Crazy Ivan shift from simply managing the negativity to instead examining how to motivate people. As if negativity can be reversed into motivation <or something like that>.


And inevitably this “what do I do” discussion devolves into some simplistic reward positive behavior versus discipline negative behavior initiative discussion.


Basically … this means a lot of people invest a lot of energy trying to change negative attitudes to positive attitudes.


<please note that i think that is a little crazy>





While I suggested some negativity is a given in any organization when I fall into a discussion about perceived negativity in an organization and probe the leaders a little it seems like there are some common spaces in which the discussion falls:


  • We went through a rapid expansion and hired a shitload of new people <and now we are dealing with the fallout and the normal curve of good hires to less than good hires>


  • We have had relatively flat sales and a consistent business <stagnancy & staleness breeds some questioning … bitching … worrying which creates second guessing>


  • We made a business strategic shift <strategy shifts create change … and not all employees will embrace change>.



The easy thing to say now is that more than likely high level decisions or company vision type things were not communicated well.


Let’s assume this is correct. If so I don’t need to motivate I need to communicate … and I certainly don’t need to discipline.


But let’s say there is a real problem.


Many of these discussions begin off the wrong foot. Many business leaders <in fact the older they are the more what I say is most likely true> don’t even acknowledge the extent of the problem.


And by that I mean while everyone kind of accepts the fact you cannot have everyone, or make everyone, happy 100% of the time they are reticent to acknowledge pockets of negativity or threads of negativity – they are more likely to suggest it is just individuals. And while that may conceptually be so I will suggest farther on that emotions and the emotional construct of your total employee base is where everyone should begin.


It is really really easy to do one of two wrong or misguided  things as a leader:

attention pay no to

  • Mentally suggest the issue is individuals: the biggest flaw in this is that many negative attitude employees can actually be high performers. In their external negativity they are internally motivating themselves to do good shit. In other words … not all pain-in-the-ass employees are created equal.


  • Mentally bucket the solution into “employee initiative” <because it is a perceived employee poor behavior>: the biggest flaw in this is that the harsh truth is if there is any significant negative thread in an organization … it is more often a derivative of something the leader is doing, or not doing, than it is a real employee issue.



So leaders actually have to address the really really hard thing … and ‘mentally’ is actually the key word here.


Negativity, and motivation by the way, is a mental thing <attitudinal>. Forget the compensation and rewarding and disciplining crap for a while and focus on the mental attitudinal stuff.


This creates a huge challenge if you do so because … well … some personal attitudes are next to impossible to change. Cynicism is cynicism just as overly optimistic is overly optimistic.

But you can affect attitudes with regard to the organization itself. Morale in an organization is almost inextricably linked not to individual stuff but greater good stuff <without losing sight of some balance between individual needs and greater good>.


Interdepartmental bitching is aggravating but rarely the ring of the death knell for an organization … but the insidious hallway sniping of the organization, or the leadership, itself is the stuff that undermines productivity and f productivity is undermined … well … the entire business becomes at risk.




I will admit. I am not a big “carrot & stick” organizational motivation fan or believer. When I hear about disgruntled employees or negativity whispers in the hallways I very rarely begin thinking or discussing “what can we do to create a more positive culture in the organization” but rather turn the microscope on the leadership and ask “what are you saying? What are you doing?”


I believe to be an effective, respected leader you are the one who has to rein in any out of line negativity and it is up to you to get your organizations’ heads on straight and productivity back on track.




I believe it is foolish to believe every work day can be met with passionate smile negative employee business fakeenthusiasm. There are far too many things that can affect the moods of the individuals let alone the mood of the organization to believe everyday should be, let alone could be, 100%.


You really only worry if the “less than optimal” mood is persistent … or if it affects a specific day in which negativity has to be shelved for the moment.


But motivating employees day in and day out? Yikes.


Motivation is intrinsic. The fact is that someone is motivated or they aren’t.

That doesn’t mean you cannot tailor some management techniques to specific individuals but organizational motivation is not an initiative nor is it some “list of things we are going to do.”


Motivation, just like negativity and being positive, is an internal engine.


As a leader you need to recognize that there truly is only one high grade gas you can put in this engine – the organizational vision, the cultural soul & … well … truth <not transparency … but truth>.


If an employee believes in the organization & believes the leadership, any negativity they may have is semantics. It more often than not just means that part of their gig is bitching & moaning.




This all adds up to an ability to feel the pulse of an organization.


This is as easy and as difficult as anything in business.

The reasons it should be easy is because … well … if you are even worth half a shit you kind of know your organization, know your team, know the employee desires <not necessarily the employees themselves> and you know when it feels “right.”


The reasons it should be difficult is because … well … business shit and people shit are two different kinds of shit. As a manager and leader you are being barraged day in and day out with real business shit – sales, expenses, meetings, distribution problems, results, questions, the crisis of the day, etc. – and with all of this you can sometimes get a little numbed to the people shit. This does not mean you are any less aware of what the people are feeling … it is just that sometimes you lose your sense of how big or how small the people shit is.


There are absolutely tools you can implement to try and keep a finger on the pulse and even some tools which may kind of feel like lurking or spying on your employees but can be slightly helpful in identifying any negative symptoms before it has the opportunity to grow into some morale demoralizing consequences which damage the workplace.

But they are tools.




Two step program:


  • Do not ignore negativity


  • Talk with the employee


Sad place.

You must address the issues. If you don’t … well … just imagine the worst. It is a pain in the ass to resolve negativity once it has grown some roots or has gathered some momentum.


And it may seem not very time efficient to implement my two step program but it actually is.






Face to face handled well creates at least a thread of positive … “I still have a negative attitude but I will give you credit with the rest of the organization for listening and addressing it face to face.”




Face to face gives you the opportunity to do the deeper dive into the real negativity issue.


While I do not believe you can eliminate all negativity and you certainly do not want to fire anyone simply because they can have a negative attitude < with exceptions – severely negative persons who purposefully disturb the work environment despite all your efforts need to be shown there are consequences for the negativity> I think it helps to focus not on the negativity but rather the root of it … because most times a negative attitude is derived from negative emotional feelings … rather than simple negative situations/scenarios. This is a slightly contrarian point of view as you are most likely to view managers and leaders trying to address simple “stimulus – response” negative situations.

But I tend to believe the hierarchy of organizational/employee negativity is negative emotions in a person create negative perceptions of the situation or what is going on around them and then ultimately these perceptions drive a negative attitude.


I suggest that because this would mean you wouldn’t necessarily focus on situations <like “lay offs” per se> but rather focus on negative emotions associated with “lay offs.”

Only a face to face can uncover this kind of stuff.




While negativity in individuals can almost take on a larger amoeba form way beyond the actual issue … negativity is like a magnet. In a face to face with a negative person you actually hear ALL the possible negativity threads within the organization. Some people call this gossip … I do not. I call it the unplanned hallway conversations, which I never hear because … well … I am a manager and it just doesn’t happen, which are kind of the pulse of the organization.


A negative person more often than not, if you listen well, will give you some thoughtful thoughts which you can use to head off some other issues as well as proactively





I think I view negativity in the workplace a little differently than many other business people.


I believe humans are not born with either positive or negative attitudes … and organizations are not created with ether positive or negative attitudes <although someone can enter an organization with some well-grounded perceptions>.


The positive or negative attitude is the outcome of perceptions about the situations, events etc., which one experiences.


Attitudes develop over a period of time. and attitudes can often be changed over time.

It all begins with creating a foundation of positive emotions <or the most positive you can create> which will inevitably lead to developing positive perceptions with regard to what is happening around them and thereby creating positive attitudes.


And that being said I believe any negativity in the workplace is <99% of the time> directly linked to leadership behavior & attitudes <what they do or do not say and what they do and do not do>.


You have to insure the management team models whatever behavior is desired … this includes positive. Far too often management looks to charisma in leading an organization positively. They believe that charisma inspires people to new heights of belief and passion and positive motivation.


I do not agree.world better place improve hate love




“The three most charismatic leaders in this century inflicted more suffering on the human race than almost any trio in history: Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.

What matters is not the leader’s charisma. What matters is the leader’s mission.”


Peter F. Drucker





Integrity. Treating others with dignity.


And a purpose dynamic beyond … well … the simple nuts & bolts of what the business does.


If you, as a leader, build a campfire employees will naturally gather around it and warm their hands, hearts & minds.

If you do that? Well. How could negativity prosper in that environment?

Enlightened Conflict