Enlightened Conflict

businesses running hard

August 18th, 2017

company culture die trying

===========

 

“To think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult.”

 

Johann Wolfgang Von Goeth

 

=====================

 

“But if these years have taught me anything it is this: you can never run away.

Not ever.

The only way out, is in.”

 

Junot Diaz

 

===================

 

Well.

 

Almost every business I have ever crossed paths with has claimed they were flee run awayrunning hard. Shit. I have never met a business that said “well, we don’t believe in running hard … we are walkers.”

 

Trust me when I say most businesses do not really run hard.

 

I know that because once you have <a> seen and experienced a company that runs hard everything else will look slow and <b> we have all ‘run hard’ in selected moments in our business career but 99% of those companies also say “it is not sustainable” and 99% of the time run at a lower gear.

 

That said.

When a company is running hard there is a slightly odd dynamic that almost always occurs … wondering whether it is worth it.

 

Yeah.

 

When a company is running hard, working hard and doing hard things daily it can be easy to wonder whether it is worth it. Wonder if you are reaching objectives fast enough, doing the right things and whether you are actually getting closer to where you want to be.

 

By the way … this wondering is often exacerbated by poor managers and management who constantly create a false sense of urgency and manage deadlines like a caffeinated rabbit.

 

Regardless.

 

I feel relatively confident most managers fuck up how they address the wondering.

 

This happens because we inherently want to show people they reached something … a goal, a milestone or some ‘finish destination’ when , in reality, progress is the value you should be showing them to show a causal relationship to the energy they are expending. They are running hard, you are asking the company to run hard … you want to show them a often as you can that they are actually making some progress.

 

We fuck it up because we just aren’t taught that it is okay to let them know … “well … we are lagging behind on some sales objectives, but this doesn’t mean someone is doing something wrong, or you aren’t working hard enough or 19 speak the truththat some competitor is doing some magical thing better than we are.”

 

We fuck it up because most of us do not know how to deliver that message well.  most of us make it sound like we are chasing some unrealistic goal, or maybe we throw in some false sense of optimism or maybe we actually create some ‘midway milestone’ which actually encourages people to maybe invest a little less hard, a little less running and a lot more ‘maybe that is enough.’

 

When your people are running hard you don’t want to tell them that it is … well … going to be hard and that is why you are actually running hard.

But you have to tell them.

 

Well.

You have to if you want them to keep running hard.

 

Tell them: You are asking people to change – and change is hard.

 

Most businesses aren’t just selling shit <something> they are asking a potential buyer to change – change current product, supplier or behavior. While change change self getting better and worse same timereally is hard … we get better at explaining how this change we are asking them to do … is easier than they may perceive every day. Sometimes we have to weave our way through objections and sometimes we have to hammer our way through objections … but everyone, every sales person, service person, management, support staff and anyone who interacts with current and potential customers are doing their part today and doing even better the day after.

 

And while asking someone to change is hard actually implementing the change is harder. I sometimes believe most businesses are in the change management business more than anything else.

You have to tell them you know that no one is better at explaining why that change is good and how that change can occur.

The truth is when you are running hard, and not running simply for running sake, people get better at this every day.

 

The truth is we are not where we want to be but getting there … and getting better at getting there.

 

Next.

 

Tell them: You are asking people to believe what you already know – and educating is hard.

 

Even if your company is good, really good, and even if your company is the best, the leader, every company does have competition. People just don’t believe you just because you are the best or the leader – and most of your people know that <no matter how frustrating it is>. In today’s skeptical world people just don’t say “oh, okay.” And, frankly,  we don’t want someone to say “oh, okay” when one of our competitors makes a claim.  We shouldn’t, and don’t, expect our customers and potential customers to simply believe everything we say. This means we need to educate and consistently address each question and request as if each answer is THE one which will make them a partner of our company.

 

The truth is we are not where we want to be but getting there … and getting better at getting there.

 

blanace greater good matters do

——

“If in a company you change nothing, you are sure to fail.

 

If you change everything you are sure to fail as well.

 

So the art of winning resides in your capacity to draw the fine line between what should be changed and what should not.

 

=

Jean Marie-Dru

——

 

Look.

 

Running hard is not the same as running fast. But businesses are impatient, in general, and absolutely over-the-top impatient if they feel like they are running hard.

 

This means you have to tell them some truth about themselves and the company.

 

I doubt you will ever get to where you want to be as fast as you would want. I imagine every leader in every industry is always perpetually dissatisfied in this way. I imagine every adventurer, every explorer and every innovator is always perpetually dissatisfied in this way. I imagine this is partially what makes an average company great – you understand that tomorrow’s company will be a little bit better than the company today.

Our sales will come. They will never come as fast as you want but our company doesn’t just work hard, you work smart and success is ours whether it arrives in small steps or great leaps.

 

 

Anyway.

 

I have away said this — part of what makes a company great is that feeling of dissatisfaction.

 

A great company wants to be more agile, move faster, and retain that perpetual feeling that they can always do more and be better.kitchen-table-great-idea-concept-lead

 

A great company has a spirit that drives them and gives everyone the sense that tomorrow is another opportunity to be better than today.

 

A great company, typically, does run hard but, maybe most importantly, has a leader who can breathe constant oxygen into the runners in a way that is neither false nor insincere.

 

Not everyone who says they are running hard are really running hard but if you are in a company who is … I can almost guarantee the organization will explode without good leadership and will be an Olympian marathoner with good leadership.

believing in something is powerful enough

July 7th, 2017

 

ideas dream make fly people think believe imagine educate

 

==============

 

“We are tossed about by external causes in many ways, and like waves driven by contrary winds, we waver and are unconscious of the issue and our fate.’

 

We think we are most ourselves when we are most passionate, whereas it is then we are most passive, caught in some ancestral torrent of impulse or feeling, and swept on to a precipitate reaction which meets only part of the situation because without thought only part of a situation can be perceived.”

 

Will Durant

====================

 

“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

 

============================

 

So.

 

good bad idea battle for path businessIt would be an understatement to say that the number of ways a leader can lead are so numerous it would most likely take a book to explain them all <and people have certainly tried>. Trying to simplistically suggest “this is the way to lead” is … well … simplistic tripe.

 

It would be an understatement to say that the number of ways a leader can articulate an idea for people to rally around and follow are so numerous it would most likely take a book to explain them all <and people have certainly tried>. Trying to simplistically suggest “this is the way to share ideas in a meaningful way” is … well … simplistic tripe.

 

That said.

 

Today I will talk about leaders and ideas and articulating ideas … let’s call it “the business idea” leadership challenge.

 

For those of us who have had the fortune, or misfortune, of walking the halls of management in business we have all crossed paths with all the scary tactics and rhetoric associated with leaders who cannot articulate an idea if they actually tried <and most do try>.

 

These are the leaders who do not really have the ability to articulate an idea well enough for the idea to gain traction and be implemented.

 

it exists truth example life ideas business

……………….. the idea ………………….

I sometimes believe what makes a good leader is the ability to articulate an idea so that <a> people can grasp it, <b> people can envision it as “something” tangible enough to want to hold it and <c> people can attach some emotional connection to it <ranging from ‘I believe’ to ‘passion’>. But many leaders just struggle with idea articulation and use a variety of tricks to present an idea in a way that encourages people to … well … believe in the idea.

 

To be clear.

This is more a discussion of the psychology of managing employees … let’s call it “believing management” more so than motivating employees.

 

This is more about unlocking employees – unlocking potential. I mention potential because that is what ideas do … they are like a powerful chip inserted into people which energizes, focuses and drives individuals <and inevitably the organization itself>.

 

And because of all of what I just said there are a variety of ways to create some energy behind ‘believing’ in an idea.

 

Us versus them.

War analogies wherein those who don’t believe in our idea are ‘enemies.’

The narrative behind the idea always seems to have a “good versus evil” aspect.

 

 

Two thoughts on that.

 

  1. Selective tactical ‘good versus evil’ leadership is appropriate. Sometimes you need to give an organization some “oomph” <a technical organizational behavior term> and this is an easy way to create some energy around the idea.

 

 

  1. Being reliant on “us versus them” narrative is lazy leadership. Yes. Counterpoints always provide some contrast which permits some clarity, however, an idea should be able to stand on a blank page in a blinding spotlight and create enough ‘belief’ in that idea that people will want to fill the blank white space simply because they want to … they choose to … not because they ‘have to.’

 

 

people crowd ideas together friends waitbutwhyBad leaders misunderstand leading with an idea.

 

They always feel like they have to have an enemy which the idea has to slay. Or they feel like they have to divide so that their idea looks bigger.

They have it wrong. And dangerously wrong.

 

Good ideas power up on their own. Good ideas have a size to stand up to … well … any size idea out there.

 

Good ideas encourage people to go out and evangelize not destroy or kill or attack. The belief in the idea, in and of itself, is enough to make people go out … sometimes attack bad ideas, more often defend the idea and all the time presents the idea as some desirable thing that anyone in their right mind should want.

 

I have always believed that if you have a good idea, and you have people who believe in that good idea, you shouldn’t worry about competition or naysayers & doubters but rather focus all your energy on … well … showcasing the energy of the idea.

 

Now.

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 playing the psychologist role on occasion certainly doesn’t hurt.

 

I am chuckling. 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 and lots of ‘how to energize organizations’ crap.

 

Anyway.

 

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, once you move past trying to motivate a specific individual one-on-one it really all comes down to one basic management principle: the idea.

intangibe idea yet to be future business

 

 

Simplistically every leader’s objective is always to free your employee to be their best and do their best. But sometimes this means stripping something away … and sometimes this means adding something … and it always means giving them something to believe in <not just do or ‘fight’>.

 

More often than not while you are leading your organization you invest gobs of energy focused on the pragmatic ‘here is what you need to do’ underpinnings crap which keeps everybody focused on the shit that keeps the doors open in the business every day.

 

But, at some point, you have to energize the attitude.

And that is where “idea” comes in. This isn’t really a vision … this is the idea of who and what the company is and the ‘belief’ which is kind of the unseen glue which makes “one, out of many.”

 

This idea is a heuristic management tool because while leading people certainly can contain some aspects of ‘enthusiasm management’ one of the most basic leader self-survival techniques you learn <or you will die> is how to manage without too much investment of self. Therefore I have always viewed “the idea” strategy think anger angry business ideas filteras the compass AND engine for the true potential of the organization.

 

Yeah.

 

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

 

Always.

 

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 ‘whether the shit will actually get done … and done as well as it can be done’ for the employee’s, and organization’s, idea ‘belief factor.’

 

And while Belief can come in all shapes & sizes & behaviors one thing remains constant … make the idea tangible and anyone can see it <rather than have it be some nebulous thing they have to define in their own heads>.

 

And it can get even tricky.

 

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 ‘belief doubt’ or ‘belief confusion.’

 

Look.

 

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

 

But, ‘idea belief management’ can, unfortunately, sometimes take a fine subtle touch … and most of us everyday leader schmucks aren’t always subtle.

Therefore, we tend to lean on “us versus them” and “we are at war” to create some sense of “we must defend this idea” rather than instilling the idea, of the idea itself, as thoughtful rabbit idea quick slowhaving value even in times of ‘non-war.’

 

Ok.

 

I imagine I wrote this not to offer any “how to” guide to anyone. I wrote it because I just saw someone aggressively and darkly outline a world in which the business idea was under attack and attempted to drive belief in the idea through ‘threat’ rather than ‘inner belief.’

 

And as I watched I thought “this person has no idea how to articulate an idea in a way that the idea itself exudes energy in and of itself.”

 

As I watched I thought “this person doesn’t understand that ideas don’t need enemies to be meaningful and powerful … believing in something is power in and of itself.”

 

Look.

 

I have different expectations for different levels of leaders and I certainly understand that when presenting or communicating things you gotta deal with what is in front of you and get shit done and get the best out of your employees. And sometimes you do whatever it takes in the context of the situation.

 

But.

And this is a big but.

 

A business cannot always be at war in order to justify, and formalize, the idea it idea think explode expandbelieves in. The idea, in and of itself, should be good enough … and articulated well enough … to be powerful enough for people to just believe in it.

 

I am not suggesting this is easy … but that is what separates a good leader from a crappy leader …the ability to make the most of an idea by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”

 

I imagine my real point is we should all be wary of the leader who can only articulate an idea through an ‘us versus them narrative’ or a divisive tone.

Why?

 

Because they are either lazy or they don’t know their shit.

 

staying above even when stepping down

June 25th, 2017

 

inspire people dont give up

 

============

 

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

 

—-

J.R.R Tolkien

 

 

============

“And though she be but little, she is fierce.”

—-

William Shakespeare

 

=================

 

 

Ok.

 

lead togther step down dominant

This is about business and business leadership.

 

Leading is a big job. It carries big responsibilities and big burdens. You have to be big enough in some way <skills, charisma, character, smarts, etc.> to stay above the organization and employees. And I say “above” because part of leading is being able to see above the heads of everyone so that you can lead and align and step in when & where appropriate.

 

Above is not dominance per se just that you maintain a dominant position from which you can most effectively & efficiently lead.

 

Now.

 

Here is what any good leader knows … you don’t have to be big to … well … be big.

Heck. You don’t even have to act ‘big.’

 

In addition.

 

A good leader can leave the comfort of the ‘throne’, i.e. the trappings of the ‘bigness’ –the natural ‘dominance’ that comes with a title — and still remain above even when stepping down from all those things.trump dominant Genuine people fake people

 

However.

 

Not everyone is a good leader. And not every leader is particularly good at navigating the natural doubts <am I doing the right thing, am I doing the best thing, am I doing the thing I should be doing, etc.> that come along with being a leader. By the way … any good leader has some doubts on occasion … it keeps them grounded.

 

Regardless.

 

What that means is there will inevitably be business people who fear looking small. And they protect their illusions of ‘bigness’, or being bigly, mainly in several ways:

 

  • They diminish everyone they can in the attempt to make others as small as they can so that they look bigger no matter the comparison

 

  • They find a ‘safe space’ in which they place their metaphorical throne and make everyone come to them <this is kind of like the boss who purposefully has their desk built slightly higher and the chairs facing the desk slightly lower to insure they maintain a physical dominant position>

 

  • They avoid, as much as possible, one-on-one interactions with anyone their own size <unless they can control the environment>.

 

  • They ground themselves in platitudes under the guise of “flexibility & adaptability” so they can avoid having to defend anything specific with anyone who could diminish their bigness

 

 

Well.

 

Why I decided to write about this is … uhm … day in and day out Donald J Trump offers us in the business world reminders of ineffective leadership style and the characteristics of insecure leadership.

And the number one business dunce stupid brand marketingcharacteristic of insecure leadership is the inability to step down and still stay above.

 

Insecure leaders are extremely hesitant, if not completely resistant, to leaving their ‘dominant position.’

 

Let me explain ‘dominant position’ because it can sound bad <and it is mainly meant to express a position of authority>.

 

A CEO or a president is clearly in a dominant position by title and by responsibility and, in most cases, by some larger skill that got them to where they are. A true ‘dominant position’ <let’s call it “authority”> combines all aspects.

 

Therefore the person in the dominant position combines substance & style. And this is where insecurity steps in … because if a leader has any true doubts with regard to their ‘dominant position’ – mostly doubts on their substance — they start exhibiting some insecure characteristics.

They will dial up their style aspects to cloak any substance deficiencies and become excruciatingly careful with regard to how they interact with other people.

 

But the one I thought about today was “stepping down.’

 

Let me explain.

 

I heard Donald J say the other day “they should call us to participate.” In other words … they need to come to me <thereby establishing some aspect of subservience and feeds the sense of ‘dominant position.’

 

shift up or down

This was not a one-off comment.

He does this … every … frickin’ … day.

 

Trump never “goes to people” nor does he unite by inserting himself into any opposing groups <people who may not agree with him> opening himself up to say “let me be part of what you want.” I cannot envision him ever going to opposition and suggesting he wanted to work with them <they have to come to him>.

His whole leadership style is driven by an insecurity of ‘dominant position’ and he fears stepping down from his position because he fears it will expose the fact he isn’t really above anyone other than in title.

 

In other words … he fears looking small <or ‘not bigly’>.

 

And therein lies the larger lesson.

 

Good leaders don’t become smaller when they step down or go to people rather than make people go to them. They know there are no ‘little people’ but rather only big responsibilities of which everyone has.

 

Little people are little wherever they go … even if they just sit in the corner office.

Unfortunately for us a little leader knows this … and doesn’t know this.

What I mean by that is they can sense their littleness therefore they go out of their way to stay within whatever cocoon of ‘bigness trappings’ to encourage the belief they have that they are actually big. And, yet, they don’t know this rump dominant Do you think clouds look down on people and thinkbecause they tend to have an oversized view of themselves <every should come to me attitude>.

 

They see themselves through a fairly warped view of self-relevance … “everyone else becomes more relevant by being around me therefore they become bigger in my bigness.” And that partially outlines their main fear.

Loss of relevance.

Anyone who becomes more relevant than them is a danger. Loss of power, the illusion of or real, is the danger.

 

What that all means is that an insecure leader more often than not lives in a “you need to come to me, call me or ask me” mentality.

 

  • Foreign dignitaries come to visit him <and he does not visit them>.
  • Democrats should call me instead of being obstructionists.
  • People need to visit him at the White House <or Mar a Lago>.
  • He never works with people or offers to meet them.

 

He treats everyone as if they should be subservient to him and if they do not meet that desire he is dismissive or even attacks them as ‘obstructionist.’

 

leadership go your way

 

Let me be clear.

 

No sane business leader <in this generation> has this attitude.

You cannot.

You cannot because you know many of the people working for you are actually smarter than you and a shitload more just may know something you do not know.

You cannot because oftentimes your peers, who actually report to you, may actually be better than you at some things.

You cannot because you know that good people never want to feel subservient but rather want to feel being a key part of overall success.

 

Most of those who lead have learned these things not by attempting to learn to be ‘above’ but rather by learning how to lead. And you learn that mostly by getting into ‘the game’ and realizing you can play anywhere at any time. I know that I took an advertising job as a young newly promoted VP in NYC not out of any desire to be the best but because I was curious. I was curious to see if I could “play in the NYC advertising game.” I didn’t need to be the best nor did I desire to dominate … I just wanted to see if I could play.

I can tell you that once you become comfortable with knowing you can play at the biggest level and the lowest level you have a fighting chance to become a leader.

 

Look.

 

We all have numerous character flaws and it is a sad truth the majority of us can’t see them. This is even more difficult in a leadership position because you do naturally become more self-aware of any of the things you are good at and yet also not good at … but you also lean heavily on the things you ‘perceive’ got you where you are today.

 

I say that because insecure leaders are relatively hollow on the self-awareness.

Looking at Trump it is easy to see that he grew up thinking he could get away with whatever he wanted. He lived in a bubble in which young, mentally lazy, rich, amoral white men routinely got away with whatever they wanted. These same characteristics are exhibited in his insecure leadership style.

 

Here is what I know.

trump ominant look down on other people

Big leaders are big leaders.

 

And they are big because wherever they go they retain their bigness. That means they need not ‘stay above’ to be big … they can step down … sit in town halls answering questions from real people as well as sit down with people who didn’t vote for you as well as sit down with peers and discuss ideas … and walk away just as big as they entered the room.

 

Small leaders cannot do those things, therefore, they do not.

 

I have now given you a way to judge big leaders from small leaders. Judge away. Every leader should be judged … and judged harshly … because … well … they are leaders and that is their burden.

what firing someone says about you

May 10th, 2017

you sir are fired

=============

 

“We should place confidence in our employee. Confidence is the foundation of friendship.

If we give it, we will receive it. Any person in a managerial position, from supervisor to president, who feels that his employee is basically not as good as he is and who suspects his employee is always trying to put something over on him, lacks the necessary qualities for human leadership – to say nothing of human friendship.”

 

—–

Harry Humphreys

 

============

 

 

“The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work.”

 

—-

Agha Abedi

 

=============

 

Well.

 

Leading and managing people is possibly one of the most rewarding things you fire bee strategy drive incan do in a business career.

 

Firing people is possibly one of the most unrewarding things you can do in a business career.

 

Unfortunately these two things are inextricably linked.

 

I could argue that once you assume responsibility for firing someone you learn more about yourself, and I imagine others learn about you, than almost any other responsibility you assume as a leader.

 

No one likes firing people. Well. no one who is any good at business leadership. I don’t care if you absolutely hate the person you are firing, if the person has actually committed a fireable offense and you are in the right to fire them, or even if you fire someone for good reason … suffice it to say … it never feels good to fire someone.

 

And because of that … a good business leader never delegates the tough termination. And they never send someone to terminate a direct report.

Generally speaking … you fire anyone who is a direct report, or you were directly responsive for hiring, face to face.

 

Yeah.

setbacks one of those days poohThis may not be, logistically, the easiest thing to do but it is part of the burden of responsibility. It is the mantle you wear and it is what you are obligated to offer the person being terminated – dignity & respect.

 

Anything less than that and you are shirking your responsibility.  Anything less than that is … well … chicken shit. And you are a chickenshit business leader if you do not do these things.

 

Sure.

 

What I just shared is a hard lesson but one business people learn in young management.

 

I will never forget the first person I ever fired. Paul.

An absolute great guy in absolutely the wrong position and possibly career. But that doesn’t mean it was easy to terminate him. While I was 99% sure it was the right thing to do <and my boss and her bosses agreed> there was an extraordinarily loud 1% in my head that kept me awake that night.

Inevitably he chose a different career and went on to become an SVP of sales.

And he was kind enough to drop me a couple of notes to tell me it all worked out for the best.

 

But I will never forget firing him. I can honestly say I never forget anyone I have fired <and that is a semi-long list after years of management>.

 

However.

I would like to think my leadership career is measured more by the people I did not fire.

 

Not firing, in a larger organization, can be harder than you think.

 

I think I spent more time explaining to the most senior people why I would not fire some of the people I managed than I did ever discussing almost anything else about employees with them.

 

Well. That is … it felt that way.

The crap that floats upwards into senior leadership about individual employees is amazing. The littlest mistakes and quirks seem to take on exponential size when it arrives at the most senior people — and they do not hesitate to share their disproportional views.

 

Regardless. All of those views cut into the ‘trust belief’ … are they respected within the organization, do they have the trust of the organization and can they be trusted with their responsibility.

totally worth it show for it life

And that is when you earn your stripes as a manager. You do not cave in to the ‘easy thing to do’ but rather stand up for your people and let the chips fall as they may. Oh. And you learn it is totally worth it to not take the easy way out.

 

Let me be clear.

No one is perfect. I was not a perfect employee nor was a perfect manager. And, yet, when judging employees there sometimes is the ‘perfect measure’ of which becomes the absurd standard.

 

Yes.

We should judge senior people more critically but we should judge them fairly.

 

Anyway.

 

I didn’t fire a lot of people. And I can think of at least 4 who made me incredibly proud that I didn’t … despite some pressure from others to do so.

 

All 4 of these have sent me notes at different points, not thanking me for not firing them but rather for simply giving them a chance, believing in them and seeing something in them that they knew <because all employees know when they are under ‘the human resources microscope’>  many others didn’t.

All 4 of them have been professionally successful and, more importantly, are solid good human beings. Neither of those are because I didn’t fire them but rather vindicate the non-firing decision.

 

All that said.

 

Firing someone, despite the pain of actually doing it, is often the easy way out and is certainly a way to avoid looking at your own flaws.

 

Flaws? I sometimes believe one of the hardest things you can learn in your career is that your best is not particularly special.

Learning the fact that your talent, in reality, is matched by a shitload of people.

Learning that your best is relatively easily matched by a shitload of people.

 

It is an unfortunate truth that:

 

  • Talent is talent.
  • Smarts are smarts.
  • And expertise is almost always relative.

 

reality-slapped-you-really-hardAt any given point in Life and your career you can look around you and if you are self aware you will note you are rarely the most talented, rarely the smartest one in the room and rarely the only expert.

 

Even on your best day you may not actually be the best.

I imagine that is a tough thing to get your head wrapped around.

But I also imagine if you do wrap your head around it evaluating employees and how you fire them is affected.

 

I always watch how someone terminates an employee.

You can learn a lot about people in that situation … and you can learn a shitload about how someone feels about dignity, respect and responsibility in how they terminate an employee.

 

===========

 

Postscript 1: under the general heading of “chickenshit” from a business perspective:

 

There are hundreds of different viable reasons to fire someone and if you have the responsibility to hire & fire and it is ‘at will’ you can do what you want. But HOW Trump fired Comey was chickenshit.

 

It wasn’t face to face with a direct report <or even face to face with anyone … just a letter delivered by a non-government employee>.

November 24, 2015

While there appeared to be no sense of urgency to terminate the action was taken with an absurd sense of senseless urgency which permitted Comey the indignity of being blindsided, in the middle of a commitment to the people who reported to him and not even in town.

 

This was a chicken shit way of terminating an honorable employee. It is indicative of Trump’s lack of character.

 

Postscript 2: Under the general heading of “this is some crazy shit” from a business perspective:

 

Firing someone for lack of confidence when the people who you are actually working for have a general lack of confidence in you is slightly surreal.

 

This may actually be the ironic point of the day.

Yesterday Donald J Trump fired his FBI Director because of ‘lack of confidence.’ Well. If that is a true criteria and I were to look at some national polling data I could argue Trump could be fired on the same criteria by the American people.

 

Most leaders do not defend their firing decision through childish name calling.

 

“Crying Chuck” “Richie” in quotes <instead of Richard>. Calling people diminishing names. Childish crap like that. I have been criticized as a leader for people I have fired, as well as people who i didn’t fire, and when appropriate I responded with some “why I did it” information but I never deflected my choice & decision onto others by suggesting they were not qualified to criticize … and I certainly always treated peers with a modicum of respect.

 

Tweet response rather than standing up in person

 

Sniping from the sidelines is not leadership.

Period.

‘nuf said.

unstimulating relationships & your work life

May 2nd, 2017

burned out employees unsatisfied

===========

“I see a lot of people in unstimulating relationships. If people were a little less scared of ending things they’d get more out of life.

You meet the right person at the right time and they fulfill a certain something in your life. You fulfill something in theirs.

 

But there’s a time limit to that. “

 

Laura Marling

 

=====

 

“When inspiration does not come to me, I go halfway to meet it.”

 

—–

Sigmund Freud

 

=====

 

So.

 

Unstimulating relationships. This is actually about business … and about ‘time limits.’

limitations difference knowing

As a business manager you end up grasping a couple of truths about your employees and their relationship with what they do, their work, their careers and the company.

 

The first truth is that many of the employees are just doing their job. They are in a relatively unstimulating relationship with their job & career … and they are kind of okay with that.

 

As a manager you genuinely try and make the relationship a little more simulating for them and, if you are truly genuine, while the these employees may never get as passionate or interested as you would like … they appreciate you caring enough to try and … well … on occasion … will try harder for you and the company.

 

The second truth is that there are some employees who are actively seeking stimulated relationship with their jobs, careers and the company. If they are in an unstimulating relationship, suffice it to say, they will make you miserable out of their own miserableness.

 

As a manager you genuinely try and keep these employees stimulated. If you do it well, these people kill it. they are absolute monster achieving workers/thinkers/doers in the work place. Get it wrong with these employees and … well … most leave to find some stimulating relationship.

 

Understanding these two truths is surprisingly like getting a pail of cold water thrown in your face.

Well. At least it was for me.

 

I am not sure it was the same for others but this may have been one of the most difficult things for me to understand, and deal with, when I moved from managing a group <where you get to hire everyone and try to have them match your attitude> to managing multiple groups, departments and a bunch of people you do not hire yourself.going through the motions good work unsatisfied

 

I, personally, struggled to understand how anyone could come into work each day, be relatively unstimulated and not only do good work but actually want to come in and do good work every day.

 

But a lot of people do just that.

 

It took me awhile.

But I got it. At the same time I also understood that you never really let the unstimulated group of employees remain completely unstimulated. You kind of never really let them completely start doing their work by rote or like robots.

Mostly you just try to give them some positive stimulation on occasion.

 

Anyway.

 

Being an employee is a dance. You have a dance partner and sometimes there is a song you hate and do not dance, sometimes there is a song you hate and you are asked <or told> to dance and sometimes there is a good song and you will dance no matter what.

That is a fairly metaphoric example of a stimulating employment.

 

But I will point out something I purposefully did. I suggested the bad song is playing in two of the three scenarios.

 

Yeah.

And that is still a stimulating relationship.

Go figure.

 

For some reason we seem to think we need to love our jobs all the time <or the significant majority of the time> or inject passion into what we do.

That is, frankly, a little nuts.

 

Mostly we should be seeking to have employees be proud of what they do <even if they don’t actually love what they do> and, as a manager, be wise enough to know what to overlook.

 

=================

“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook. “

 

William James

===========

 

after a tough day of work drinkWork is called work, and not ‘play, for a reason.

 

It’s work.

And sometimes work takes some … well … work.

 

I could actually argue that the ‘working at work’ can be stimulating if you view it correctly.

But that really doesn’t sound logical enough to invest energy in.

 

And maybe that is the key to understanding this whole ‘unstimulating relationship” thing … logic.

 

I can truthfully say that behind closed doors senior managers talk far too much about “logical” ways to stimulate employees and tap into some mysterious passion muscle we absurdly believe every employee has within <to be focused on our business and their work within our business>.

 

Once again … that is kind of nuts.

 

To be clear. I do believe everyone has a passion muscle within but to think it can randomly be directed toward ‘work’ <which, I will remind everyone, is called ‘work’ because it is work … and not play or relaxation or ‘fun’> is the nuts part.

 

Logically we should just accept the fact that many employees have mentally we are just going through the motions unsatisfiedcome to grips with a job in which they are not in an overly stimulated relationship with.

That doesn’t mean they don’t want to do a good job nor does it mean they will not care it just means that their job is more a paycheck and not a career.

 

All that said … let me close with where I started … “time limits.”

 

All employees have limits in an unstimulating relationship – all … the ones who live with being unstimulated and the ones who actively seek stimulation. I am fairly sure most employees don’t create tangible definable limits … they more often probably fall into the “I will know when it is time.” 

 

All business managers should recognize that all employees have ‘time limits’ when it comes to anything unstimulating. What that means is you cannot get away with being an uninvolved, uninterested, un-energy creating manager for too long. I don’t mean to imply many managers do that but I will note that creating stimulation and seeking to energize a stimulating relationship between your employees and your business is hard work.

 

It isn’t about some motto or slogan.

 

It isn’t about donuts in the mornings and fun team meetings on Fridays.

 

 

unsatisfied key to success passion business womanIt is about finding ways to show employees that their work is respected, their contributions are valued and that there are opportunities to grow as a person <intellectually, skills or responsibilities>. Yeah. I just offered that up as a solution to stimulate relationships and nowhere in that was any activity or initiative. All I outlined was possible destinations – mind, body or leadership.

 

Nothing stimulates an employee business relationship more than being a business that suggest they will enable an individual to ‘be more than they are today’ if they have the time and interest.

 

To me … businesses with an unstimulated relationship with their employees may be doing ‘things’ but they are just going through the motions , maybe using too much logic, to create some false stimulation.

 

Here is the truth. Show people where they can go and tell them you believe in them … and a shitload will be stimulated, all on their own, to engage in the relationship.

 

 

sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream

April 15th, 2017

 American Workers sweat hard hats

==============

 

‘In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream …’ It’s a ‘death trap,’ a ‘suicide rap.’

‘I want to guard your dreams and visions.’ ”

 

Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run

 

==============

 

“This man said that you can move to Greece, live in Greece, but you can’t become a Greek. You can move to Japan, live there, but you can’t become Japanese; or France and become a Frenchman; or German—or become a—all of these things.

But he said, everybody or anybody from any corner of the world can come to America and become an American.”

 

—————–

Ronald Reagan

 

=========

 

Ok.

 

I have a piece coming up on globalization but today it is about the American work flintstoneswork ethos and American workers and, I imagine, a view on any version of isolationism <extreme to practical>.

 

I admit.

I find very little appealing in an isolationist concept <any aspect of it> … even the common rhetoric of the day.

 

Simplistically I feel like it suggests we, America, cannot compete globally. In my pea like brain I view it like sports … sports in which almost every home team retains an advantage … despite the same rules, same number of players, same dimensions of the court & field. Mainly it comes down to coaching, ability and , I imagine, pride of home field … uhm … but I still get on a bus and go play away games.

 

I believe it was Ronald Reagan who said ”American workers don’t need to hide from anyone.”

 

Which reminds me of how much during American presidential campaign, and even now somewhat, I found it extremely aggravating how we had a bunch of people talking about American workers and American businesses.

work sheep wolf

They all seemed to forget that our ethos is “just do it.”

 

When set free to do the voodoo it does … American business is dynamic, energetic, innovative, can-do and actually gets out there and makes & sells shit.

 

We shouldn’t be impatient because the success is coming fast enough and in our impatience “change the rules” or “hide within our borders” but instead we should use our impatience to invite competition, sweat it out and beat the crap out of them.

 

My impatience? I sometimes get a bit impatient when I hear people moaning about the state of the world and the inevitable “the sky is falling” or “the world is unfair” <pick your poison>.

 

Given an opportunity every generation believes it is tougher for them and will create their own prognostications of doom & gloom and, yet, we are still here and still have the world’s largest economy <and best on a variety of measures>.

 

I am not suggesting there aren’t real business issues and I am not suggesting from a regulatory standpoint there are some tweaks to the system which would enable businesses to improve themselves to compete better <please notice I didn’t say “to constrict the competition” but rather to have us improve to compete>.

 

Isolation goes against every bone in our “just do it” American body & soul.

 

Nike trademarked it but the pilgrims brought it to America. From day one immigrants, with the help of Native Americans, went to work building America … stone by stone … seed by seed … idea by idea … sweat drop by sweat drop.

 

labor american workerAmerica First should never be America Alone.

 

America has never been an individual competition it has always been about a team competition.

 

America First should be earned on the playing field competing against the best of the best and winning <by the way … that defines ‘exceptionalism’>.

 

America should be about building a better engine, building a better race car and running a better race.

 

===============

”It’s time to gun the engines, not put on the brakes.”

 

——–

Ronald Reagan

==========

 

It is aggravating to hear “close the borders” combined with “the world is going to shit” … which all leads to ‘disengage from the world <competition>.’

 

Really?

 

REALLY?

 

What kind of shit response is that?

What kind of “winner” doesn’t want to compete and compete against the best?

 

It seems like we should be investing not in building advantages for ourselves but rather in building a better team. That is where money and energy should be spent.

 

Hire better coaches.

Offer better training programs.

Buy better equipment.

Study better strategies.

Create better plan of attacks.

no substitute for hard work sweat edison

 

 

I wasn’t a huge Ronald Reagan fan but he got it … he hated changing the rules of the business game <tariffs & regulations> and only did so situationally, tactically and for short term ‘balancing out’ … as he says …  given a respite from predatory import practices, can become competitive in a world market.

 

But … he understood the importance of the attitude of the American worker above all else … check out these words he said to Harley Davidson:

 

… you gave some folks in Washington an important lesson about how we go about buying and selling with other nations. You see, we’ve shaken hands on an agreement with most of the other nations of the world, an agreement that sets the rules for international trade. We have problems, of course, with some of those nations—the ones that don’t let us sell to their people as freely as they sell to ours. But the agreement, called the GATT agreement—that’s the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade — gives us ways of dealing with those problems, and it also gives us ways of giving industries the kind of breathing room we gave you.

 

And if they’re as serious as you were about shaping up—now we’re about to begin worldwide talks on how to make this agreement even stronger.

 

Because of the GATT agreement, when you were ready to sell more bikes around the world, no one stopped you.

But now there are some in Congress who say, in effect, that the United States should break its word with the other countries.

They say American workers need to run and hide from foreign competition, even if that means other countries will strike back by not letting you sell your bikes to their people. Well, Harley-Davidson has shown how wrong that is and what the truth is. American workers don’t need to hide from anyone. America does best when America sticks by its word. And American workers can take on the best in the world, anywhere, anytime, anyplace. No one is better than you are.

 

You may have heard that my temperature’s up about some trade legislation that’s before the Congress right now. On TV the other night, it was called one of the toughest trade bills of this century. I remember the last time we had a so-called tough trade bill. It was called Smoot-Hawley, and they said it would protect American jobs. Instead, after other nations were through retaliating, it helped us—or it helped give us, or at least deepened, the Great Depression of the 1930’s. I’m probably the only one here that’s old enough to remember that. I was looking for a job then. [Laughter] Twenty-five percent were unemployed, including me.

 

The Harley-Davidson example makes a very strong statement about how government, through the judicious application of our trade laws, can help the best and the brightest in American management and labor come together in ways that will create new jobs, new growth, and new prosperity. Government’s role, particularly on the trade front, should be one of creating the conditions where fair trade will flourish, and this is precisely what has been done here. Our trade laws should work to foster growth and trade, not shut it off. And that’s what’s at the heart of our fair trade policy: opening foreign markets, not closing ours. Where U.S. firms have suffered from temporary surges in foreign competition, we haven’t been shy about using our import laws to produce temporary relief. Now, there are those in Congress who say our trade policies haven’t worked, but you here at Harley-Davidson are living proof that our laws are working. The idea of going to mandatory retaliation and shutting down on Presidential discretion in enforcing our trade laws is moving toward a policy that invites, even encourages, trade wars. It’s time to work to expand the world market, not restrict it.

 

Today, as many as 10 million American jobs are tied to international trade, including many jobs right here at Harley. For more than a century, when America’s trade with the world has grown, America has created more jobs. When trade has declined, so have the number of jobs. So, when it comes to making new jobs, free and fair international trade is America’s big machine. It’s time to gun the engines, not put on the brakes. Your chairman, Vaughn Beals, summed it up when he said, and I will quote him: “We’re sending a very strong message to our competitors and to the international industrial community that U.S. workers, given a respite from predatory import practices, can become competitive in a world market.”

 

The best way to meet foreign competition is also the right way: by sticking to our agreements with other countries and not breaking our promises, by making sure other countries also stick to their agreements with us, and by being the best. As America prepares for the 21st century, you’ve shown us how to be the best. You’ve been leaders in new technology. You’ve stuck by the basic American values of hard work and fair play.

 

================

 

A danger we are currently meandering our way toward is one of attitude.

 

attitude foreign life adventureWe currently have a president who doesn’t foster attitude and belief in self but rather believes success is found solely in removing disadvantages, real or not, and removing “unfairness” <even if the other team were simply playing the game better or had better players>.

 

He is wrong in his approach.

 

Business is often more about attitude and fortitude then it is about whether “the pitch was mowed at 1 inch instead of an inch & a ½.”

 

It is a false narrative, and a dangerous narrative, to suggest success is based on ‘fairness’. Why? Because … well … more often than not we will always find that the world was unfair in some form or fashion … and you know what?

You still gotta compete, you still gotta play the game and you still gotta figure out a way to win.

 

America is at its best just doing it … sweating it out on the streets seeking the runaway American dream.

 

America is at its best when it ignores all the reason why we cannot do something and just go do it anyway.

 

America is at its best when we have a leader standing up in front of us not making excuses, not whining about unfairness and all the reasons why we haven’t been successful … but one who is instead saying “here is what we are gonna do and lets go do it.”

 

It was Theodore Roosevelt, in 1904, who said:

“We, the people, can preserve our liberty and our greatness in time of peace only by ourselves exercising the virtues of honesty, of self-restraint, and of fair dealing between man and man.”

But he also reminded everyone of the importance of work ethic.

“They stood for the life of effort, not the life of ease.”

Freedom, Roosevelt warned, had to be earned by the exercise of restraint, and its bounty could only be harvested by diligent labor.

 

Anyway.

 

I am not an isolationist mostly because of all I have written today. I am a compete flower bloombusiness guy and as a business guy I want to compete … and I believe I can compete well and win often enough if I put in the smart thinking and the diligent labor.

 

While I may proudly wrap myself in an American flag I also proudly wrap myself in an attitude … ”American workers don’t need to hide from anyone” … and I am an American worker.

 

We should never underestimate the American worker and American business ingenuity.

We shouldn’t hide from the world … we should be building the best team and sending them to the far corners of the world, wherever they may have an opportunity to compete, and win through hard work and fair play.

 

Isolation is the wrong path. It’s not American. We compete, work hard, play by the rules … and win more often than we lose.

 

American workers can take on the best in the world, anywhere, anytime, anyplace.

shifting gears professionally

March 8th, 2017

 

gears working elite blue collar people experience

=========

 

“Don’t dwell on what went wrong.

Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.”

 

Denis Waitley

 

============

 

“You are always a student, never a master.

You have to keep moving forward. “

 

Conrad Hall

============

So.

 

This is about shifting gears professionally.

watch-your-step

What made me think about this?

 

I recently watched a professional acquaintance who shifted gears.

 

Oh.

 

To be clear.

He shifted up.

 

He had a good business, good business model and a good business sense. In my eyes he was cruising along in maybe 2nd or 3rd gear <good … not bad … and not great> … and then … well … he found another gear.

 

To be clear.

 

When I first saw his business he was maybe in 2nd gear … not really rocking the boat or rocking the world but steady consistent and moving forward and solid business.

 

Looking from the outside in I never saw spectacular but I saw steady. I saw … well … 2nd gear.

 

He didn’t know it but, behind the scenes, I would never hesitate to recommend him, maybe not typically for those who needed to shake the etch a sketch,  but 100% for those who just needed a good engine tune up. Over the years he steadily shifted up to maybe 3rd gear … always steady and solid <good, maybe very good, just not that extra little great>.

 

But then that changed.

formula success steps

One day I saw his business newsletter and … well … I sat up a little straighter and read it a little closer.

 

And read it again.

 

It felt like he had shifted gears.

It now felt like 5th gear stuff.

 

I got the next newsletter.

Definitely 5th gear.

 

He had shifted gears professionally.

 

I tend to believe this happens a lot as you get older.

 

We shift gears.

We reach a point professionally where you have it pretty good, you have some good experiences which have taught you a shitload of different things … and you sit back and scan it all <comparing it to what you have done>.

 

This is where the shift occurs.

 

Some decide to downshift.

 

Some decide to shift up.

 

shift up or downNow.

 

To be clear.

 

There is a huge swath of people in the business world who simply go in to earn a paycheck, their only gear is the one that does their job <mostly well or well enough> and their career progresses in that one and only gear.

I would note, just for the record, day to day business relies on these essential people and their steady gear attitude <so stop giving them shit or look down on them in any way>.

 

This is not about them.

 

This is about the business people who want more. They want to use another gear then other employees … and for the most part throughout their career … they do.

 

Inevitably these people reach a point, maybe some success, maybe a title, maybe it is just some more good experience where they … well … decide to shift gears.

 

up or down shift gearsAnd, yes, this is where some shift down.

 

These ‘shift downers’ have decided they have been working hard and they see the other relatively happy one gear people and say “I am going to slow down.”

 

Some people call it selling out.

Younger people look at these older people as ‘wasted space.’

 

I just call them people who believe they deserve to down shift <so stop giving them shit or look down on them and look to maximize their experience>.

 

This is not about them.

 

This is more about the business people who wanted more … and then see that maybe they could actually “be more.”

 

These are the business people who shift up.

 

And you know what? Shifting gear seems like the appropriate metaphor here because ‘the analogy of ‘shifting gears’ is used to identify and explain the key factors (agents) involved in driving career formation, and describe the level of interconnectedness between these drivers.’

 

To shift up … in order to respond to the pressure … the gears have to be in sync, work simultaneously and coordinate the rest of the body around them.

 

And that is what happens. You have accumulated a lot of knowledge, expertise and experiences <practical functional stuff> and then you decide to incorporate some personal clarity to the horsepower.

 

It is almost like you find some clarity … in yourself professionally which permits you to better identify the largest and most influential parts in the gear box.

And then … you shift gears.

 

I feel qualified to write about this because I did it. I shifted gears up.

And I have seen others in my generation shift up … and down.

 

expectations outcome disappointment 1I will admit that it has taken me awhile to not have disdain for people who down shift … mostly because it is so far out of my DNA I, frankly, couldn’t understand it.

 

But I do now.

I certainly see the value of ‘down shifters’ and believe any organization would benefit from having a mix of good, qualified, experienced, downshifters.

 

As for shifting gears up?

 

Whew.

Seeing someone in my business generation do it is … well … a joy.

Mostly because, in general, the shift is tied to a decision that our generation may have not always been the best for the business world and possibly injected some flawed thinking with regard to business acumen & principles. This means that most ‘shifting up’ is tied to trying to address those ‘wrongs’ or at least try and inject some ‘righter thinking.’

 

I get some shit from people because I am hard on my entire business generation … everyone.

 

Look.follow heart brain tupac

 

I think more of us should be.

To be clear.

 

I don’t expect everyone in my generation to decide to shift gears up but I would like more of my generation to at least understand some of the consequences of our behaviors & principles.

 

And for those who decide to shift gears upwards? I hope they get a chance to implement their new horsepower because today’s business world can make it pretty difficult for people in my generation, who truly have something to offer and are willing to not be attached to the old ways of doing things to actually get to do what they truly offer.

 

Enlightened Conflict