Enlightened Conflict

getting squeezed

August 30th, 2017

 

 

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 big_squeeze

“Paranoid?

Probably.

But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.”

 

Jim Butcher

 

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“Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.”

 

Evelyn Waugh

 

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“Panic is the sudden realization that everything around you is alive.”

 

William S. Burroughs

 

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Ok.

 

This is about life as a business leader.

 

but i am the best leader i told you soOk.

I do not care how good you are … you will get squeezed.

If you suck, you get squeezed often. If you are good, you only get squeezed on occasion.

 

But good or bad … all business leaders get squeezed at some point.

 

What do I mean by squeezed?

 

In general, the responsibility world as viewed by a manager is a fairly vast place because it rarely is defined solely by direct reports or even full departments you manage but rather all dimensions emanating outwards from every decision you, or your employees, may make.

 

The good news about this is that within all that vastness there is a lot of room to let some of the more horrible or horribly mundane crap just slip by.

 

The bad news occurs when all of a sudden the world shrinks and you feel squeezed and evaluated by the what you had considered fairly mundane up until that moment.

 

And this can happen a lot easier than one may think.

 

Between politics in the office, relentless evaluation from outside the employee believe non believe business lead manageorganization as well as inside the organization and the normal ebbs & flows of everyday business which seem to almost simultaneously uncover grains of truth and cover grains of truth the vastness of what you actually do can become small pretty quickly under all this scrutiny.

 

And if you are not careful … you get squeezed into … well … not nothingness but certainly “lessness.”

 

I would suggest any manager worth a shit will almost always fight back <or respond>. It is almost a survival instinct but it can also be an ego instinct.

 

Regardless.

 

You gotta sharpen your elbows and create some space for yourself in between what all the scrutiny is suggesting <which often feels a lot like demanding> and what your current role is outlining as the right way to think and behave.

 

But here is the hard part.

 

And it is kind of surprisingly hard.

 

It is fairly easy to sharpen your elbows and fight back … but without some thought you are simply fighting — fighting with no purpose other than it feels good to fight <or you are fighting simply out of thoughtless, or less than thoughtful, survival>.

 

transformational leader 1And while fighting back in and of itself is somewhat satisfying because you feel like you should … it is less than satisfying because it has no real focus or purpose. It doesn’t have any ‘long game’ aspects involved <and if you have any desire to be a good leader/manager you have to be able to view beyond the present moment>.

 

I would argue this is where ‘knowing what you want and knowing who you are rears its ugly head.

 

Suffice it to say when you get squeezed you are gonna respond in some way.

You have to.

Because if you are a manager managing the shit in the present it is a fairly small window in which to work. That small window gets even … well … smaller if you are getting squeezed by the past and future challenges. This is what you will inevitably see as some response options:

 

 

  • Tripling down on what you believe makes you look good <this is image … putting on a good face … “talking the talk”>.

 

The risk on this one is that … well … you may be trying to look good on something you may not actually look good doing. In addition. If you are a crappy actor people ll see what you are trying to do.

 

  • Doubling down on what you are actually good at <usually with words and sometime directing people to do shit>.

 

The risk on this one is that what you are good at may not actually be what is needed to get out of the squeeze. You are definitely, and defiantly, playing to your strengths but it just may not be what it takes to penetrate the weakness in the squeeze.

 

  • Flee <absolve of responsibility>.

 

The risk in this is … well … you are a leader & a manager and you have absolved yourself of responsibility. If you cannot make the responsibility stick with someone else I can guarantee that the responsibility will stick with you like your shadow wherever you flee.

 

  • Find a different enemy so that the squeeze decides to go elsewhere.

 

The risk in this is being “anti” something is pretty easy but standing for something is really hard <and most people know that>. I could actually suggest in some ways being anti is lazy.

 

So.

 

All of that leads me to the best way to get out of a squeeze.

 

  • Stand for something.

 

The risk in this is … well … not really a shitload of risk unless you elect to stand for something stupid, bad or idiotic. But if you do this right … convince yourself that what you are standing for is something worthwhile but also mentally accept it may not perfectly align with your group norms as well as societal norms … but still be the right thing to stand for.

 

All that said.only the paranoid survive complacency

Unfortunately getting squeezed can also encourage another outcome & response – paranoia.

 

In fact … I almost called this paranoia (enemies everywhere).

 

I almost did that because paranoia is possibly the worst reflective response to being squeezed. What I mean is that once you have been squeezed a portion of you may start worrying that there is some hidden cabal or agenda ‘out to get you.’

But I did not call it that because paranoia is only one possible response to getting squeezed.

 

I would suggest that paranoid carries a fairly negative connotation. The reality is having a slight thread of paranoia <lets say “proportionate to your depth of confidence”> can often keep your head out of your own ass and more on a swivel watching what is going on around you.

 

Some would suggest it keeps you aware of your “what if” muscle. I would suggest it can keep your “if it can go wrong, it will” muscle.

 

Paranoia, when living in a healthy state, often helps your view of all the potential outcomes and solutions, with a thought of “proactiveness” to head off shit before I even exists.

 

Obviously, if paranoia is your only response to being squeezed and is your constant state of mind, that is neither healthy for you or the organization.

 

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“Paranoia is just the bastard child of fear and good sense.” (Charlie)

“Poor thing. Let’s adopt it, give it a last name and raise it right.” (Jace)

“You want to get it a puppy, too?”

“Sure. We’ll call it Panic. It and little Paranoia can play together at the park and scare the hell out of all the other kids.”

 

 

D.D. Barant

 

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In the end … all managers and leaders get squeezed at some point. I would also suggest that how you navigate ‘the squeeze’ early in your management career will set you on a certain type of path with regard to how you manage being squeezed. And, just like with any pattern, the more often something works the next big thing lots of small thingsmore likely you will be to continue doing it.

 

Yes.

 

I will agree that sometimes a new challenge later on in Life will force someone to reflect and ‘rise to the occasion’ and shed some of the lesser aspects of who and what they may have been up to that point … but most people just stick with what they believe got them to where they are.

 

All I can say is that being squeezed has a tendency to squeeze out whatever character you may have within – some will be disappointed by what is squeezed out and some will be pleased. Just know that whatever is squeezed out can be seen by everyone.

 

shared responsibility

April 17th, 2017

 generation think attitudes collective individual share

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We tend to hold ourself accountable for things we never did.

Hearts we never broke. People we didn’t hurt.

Souls we didn’t crush. “

 

coral-vellichor

 

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All these years I’ve been looking at the wrong side.

 

(via madelinemharris)

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Ok.

 

Accountability, or responsibility, is always a good topic. And, yes, I am a big personal responsibility person. But in business, within an organization, being responsibleresponsibility tends to be more shared responsibility than simple personal responsibility.

 

Oh.

 

To be clear.

 

I believe there is a strong relationship between shared responsibility and personal responsibility. The stronger the shared responsibility attitude & behavior within leadership & mentors & role models the stronger the development of personal responsibility muscle occurs in everyday schmucks like me. Conversely, if you are surrounded with lack of shared responsibility examples <or even those who espouse ‘selectively chosen shared responsibility’> the value of personal responsibility diminishes to an individual, therefore, they see less value in exhibiting personal responsibility.

 

We don’t talk about this relationship enough.

Far too often we flippantly suggest “people should take responsibility for their actions.”

 

Well … no shit Sherlock.

 

But if your roles models or leaders are constantly passing the buck when the shit hits the fan to save their own bacon <and image> then what the hell … why would you not do the same?

irresponsibility made easy

Yeah.

Sure.

 

Everyone has to pull their weight and do their job and do what they say they are going to do … but very very rarely does an individual perform in a vacuum in a business.

 

This happens more so even in management.

 

It drives me a little nuts when I hear some leaders discuss “delegating.”

 

Somehow delegating equals “absolved of responsibility.”

 

This is stupid irresponsible thinking.

 

My belief that it is stupid thinking is rooted in some common sesne I am fairly sure the US Military says:

 

 

You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility.

 

 

In other words … you can give others the power to do things … you can delegate … but, no matter what happens … if something goes wrong … the final responsibility always lies with the one who has delegated authority.

 

Sticking with the military as my guidance … this means if your business has an initiative that has gone SNAFU <“Situation Normal: All Fucked Up”> the blame … and the ultimate responsibility for the mistakes <fuck ups> falls … uhm … up.

The leader assumes responsibility.

 

This is shared responsibility.

 

In other words … this is leadership.

 

Yeah.

 

Once you become a business leader past a mom & pop management style business you have to face the concept of shared responsibility <and some embrace it and some reject it>.

 

puzzle people connect shared responsibilityDespite the fact you have delegated authority that ‘authority’ does not represent a discrete event and period in time.

You bear the responsibility for the cascade of events, decisions and actions leading up to the ‘authority giving’ which means everything you have done up until that point provides the context for the delegating … yeah … you own the arena in which you have placed the delegatee.

 

But this gets exponentially worse <if you are thinking about becoming a business leader>.

 

You actually also share responsibility for the consequences … uhm … intended and unintended.

 

This is different than delegating authority <although it relates to it> and owning responsibility for the action … this goes beyond to the actual ripples from the decisions & actions.

 

Now.

 

Some leaders have a nasty habit of assuming responsibility for the decision and the effect of the decision — within a finite period of time. The weakest leaders try and tie “that was out of my control” or “I wasn’t there for that” as soon as they can to a decision they make.

 

The strongest leaders worry less about any carnage that has been left behind but rather start worrying about any carnage the decisions & actions could possibly create for the future.

 

The truth is that business leaders should take a moment and remember the wise words of … well … an American Indian.

 

Red Cloud, an Oglala Lakota leader who led his people against the U.S. Army and later as his people transitioned from life on the plains to the reservation, stressed that when Indian people made a decision, it should be done with the welfare of the next seven generations in mind.

 

Whew.

world is yours ours share life

In a short term world where most business leaders are trying to make quarterly goals and just try and keep their job … thinking with the welfare of the next 7 generations seems … well … impossible.

 

I imagine the real point is that most good business leaders assume some responsibility for the generations to come.  Some people may call this ‘long term strategy’ and some others will call it ‘keeping your eye on the horizon’ or even ‘having a vision’ … well … I am no Harvard Business guru and all that high falutin’ stuff seems unnecessary. To me it is much more simple.

You make decisions accepting the burden of responsibility for what will come … and may arise from your decision.

 

You share the responsibility for what will, or may, come.

 

And if you do that? Damn. You will do good and be good.

 

And if you do not do that? Damn. You may get a shitload of attention and applause in the moment and a shitload of attention and anger in the future.

 

 

Why do I say that?

 

Because if you don’t really believe in shared responsibility and flit from one decision to the next in a transactional “responsible only to the moment” way you will end up rushing from issue to issue, reacting without a plan or a strategy or <worse> no care of longer term affect, creating carnage yet to be seen <because that type of leader tends to seek only the cheers in the moment>.

 

Uhm.

 

Innovative solution plan as a pencil trying to find way out of maze breaking through the labyrinth as a business concept and creative metaphor for strategy success and planning achievement.

Just to point it out … with no plan that means anything can happen and a leader can justify anything. Because with no plan to measure a decision against anything can look right … and unpredictable can be touted as ‘flexible to the situation.’

 

All of this fits a short term leader in a short term world.

 

The people are few and far between these days who weigh their responses and assess long term affects. In today’s world it almost seems a race to be the first to judge or comment on a decision or action and far too many leaders actually manage to the public race to comment rather than the longer term assessment.

 

This is scary stuff for anyone to do but a business leader? Dangerous.

Even the best short term decision makers, if forced into a gauntlet of short term decisions, will struggle to insure at the end of the gauntlet they have kept walking northwards as they had been looking down the entire time. More often than not North will not be the direction you are facing nor will you have actually moved any closer to the North star.

 

I am not suggesting this longer term shared responsibility attitude is easy.

In fact .. it is really really hard.

In fact … it almost means you have to embrace a little “impossible” into what you actually make possible.

 

Huh?

 

 

In general I have always liked logical thinking <no matter how random the logic may be> but I always love it when someone combines some unexpected logic.

Generally speaking the best unexpected logic actually comes from those who do the impossible … thinking of the impossible and seeing possibilities — the impossible being “knowing for sure what will happen in the future.” They make the spectacular leaps/chances, accepting responsibility and sharing responsibility, so that business can make the needed changes or just do the semi-risky things that keep a good business doing good things <things that may push against the borders of the status quo>.

 

Yeah.

Spectacular errors can only happen if you take spectacular chances. I am not fond of irresponsible risk taking and decision-making, but I am fond of doing ‘the right thing’ even when it may appear to be going against the stream. Sometimes that means a spectacular success, sometimes a spectacular error. But always something spectacular.

 

And I will tell you … what more could you want to say about your life as a leader but that you have done something spectacular? Especially if that ‘spectacular’ actually happens a generation later which permits you to sit back and say “I did the impossible … I viewed the future well.’

 

Anyway.

 

Shared responsibility is the burden of any good leader. They tend to be the leaders who understand they cannot really be sure what is going to happen to them over time, they weigh the risks to the best of their ability and let the chips fall as they may.

I tend to believe their attitude is one of “you don’t want to act more fearfully than you have to.”

 

Good leaders have a tendency to hold themselves accountable for anything, everything and everyone … in varying degrees depending on the anything, everything and everyone. And, maybe most importantly, I tend to believe they understand that there is a relationship between shared responsibility and personal responsibility.

 

And, practically speaking, you will never be viewed as a true leader if you do not.

 

Well.my life is my message duty

 

You know what?

 

To end this thing today … let me offer two other words, typically associated with responsibility, obligation and duty.

 

Obligation refers general to something you are compelled to do by regulation, law, promise or morality. I think good leaders feel obligated to assume shared responsibility.

 

Duty, more so than obligation, springs from an internal moral or ethical impulse rather than from external demands.

I think good leaders feel a duty to assume shared responsibility.

 

Shared responsibility … not only do I believe we should discuss it more often <because it will foster better value in personal responsibility> but I also believe we should be demanding it of our leaders more often.

that we contain our own future

March 26th, 2017

 look-to-the-future-principles-telescope-view-past-older

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“Life, too, is like that. You live it forward, but understand it backward.”

 

—-

Abraham Verghese

 

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“It’s the one thing we never quite get over: that we contain our own future.”

 

 

Barbara Kingsolver

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So.

 

Thinking about what legacy you want to leave behind can make you start thinking a little bit about what you may want to stubbornly stand for and demand of Life … and what you may decide to compromise with Life to insure you have something … some progress to show at the end.

 

A significant part of this grand bargain we negotiate with Life is how we decide to compromise with those around us and those who affect the arc of our lives.

 

Ah.

 

That word “compromise.”

 

Therein lies maybe one of the most difficult topics of the current generation.

 

The topic is that the concept of compromise … meeting someone half way … is now a nebulous concept.

death of compromise

Why?

 

Because I am not sure I know where the hell half way is.

 

And I tend to believe a shitload of people are standing with me, on one side or the other, not really sure where the hell half way is.

 

And if you cannot even see the middle ground how the hell can you figure out how to make a stand on it?

 

Now.

 

This gets compounded by a massive online communal world in which we all live side by side where even the marginalized people <real or perceived> who now have a place to gather into likeminded groups, share as much a space as mainstream views.

For good, or for bad, online any group of people can organize & mobilize & challenge the status quo … or pick & choose which status quo fits their view.

 

The internet amplifies discourses critical of … well … any status quo you can think of.  And, as anyone could expect, all the critical discourse triggers a corresponding equal backlash from those who fear an uprooting of their beliefs the nature of compromise miserable<and the self identities that are inevitably attached to these beliefs>.

 

It just becomes one huge mosh pit of criticism and cocooning of likeminded people.

 

People … all who are angry.

 

Within all of this situation & anger … it seems like no one is civil to one another. And maybe worse is the fact there is this ‘digging in’ aspect where we refuse to see any merit in other people’s opinions.

 

Sadly, I can only conclude that we have lost the ability to converse, discuss, debate and have a dialogue with one another.

 

It seems obvious <at least to me> but if we could figure out how to come together and compromise, that we could go a long way toward not only creating a better version of society in general … but it may give me, and all of us, at least a fighting chance with regard to where we make our own personal stand … and where we compromise … and how we attain the future that we contain.

 

As long as people cling to unbending attitudes & beliefs, the divides between us will not deepen … but will remain an unbridgeable divide.

 

I tend to believe most of us want better that that.

I tend to believe most of us would be willing to work to make this a better and more civil world to live in.

 

And if you do not embrace this thinking?

 

I would remind everyone that America is representative of a great compromise. The U.S. Constitution is possibly the greatest Compromise ever negotiated <it created a nation>.

 

 

But as a first step to bettering this entire situation we need to figure out how to better define Compromise.

 

compromise not an act weaknessFar too many loudmouthed people have ripped the meaning out of the word,  twisted the value of the word making it seem valueless, and ultimately created an environment in which  we demonize the entire process of trying to reach compromise.

Compromise no longer means understanding your differences and working together toward a common goal but now it seems to represent weakness, losing and not being strong enough to get what you want.

 

This unwillingness to work together has wrought havoc to society where the unwavering stance seems to be “don’t compromise, stick to your guns, don’t give in to the other side”.

 

Sigh.

 

Look.

 

I find it hard to believe that the majority of America is really that selfish and that stubborn.

 

Sure. I know the people most passionate about any issue tend to be the ones less willing to compromise on them.

And, yeah, I would guess most of us are fairly passionate about ourselves – what we decide to stand for … as well as what we will decide to sacrifice within compromise to attain some progress.

 

But within this wacky world where no one seems to want to compromise anything on anything … well … shit … some of us are trying to think a little bit about what you may want to stubbornly stand for and demand of Life … and what you may decide to compromise with Life to insure you have something … some progress to show at the end.

 

It seems like the situation we are in has arisen because we have permitted the stubborn voices of the radical marginalized <real and perceived> to drown out the pragmatic voices of realistic positive compromise.

 

If we want society to start working again we need to embrace compromise — and let it retain the positive definition which has served it well through time.

 

To end this I will go back to the beginning.

 

The “I” aspect.

 

I tend to believe all of us, with the intent of finding the best version of ourselves from which our ultimate legacy will be defined, will seek to find the balance of being stubborn and demand that Life bend to us and our principles and compromise where we make a grand bargain with Life in order to continue progressing.

 

Uhm.

 

If we believe this … then why wouldn’t we want this in Life and in business and in politics and in … well … everything.

 

There was a book that discussed this. In The Spirit of Compromise <Amy Gutsman and Dennis Thomson> they note that Americans support general compromise as an idea and like the idea of ‘other people’ working together to get stuff done <statistics support this in a variety of studies & polls>.

 

Oh shit.

 

However.

 

The authors then note that support for compromise breaks down when it addresses specific issues <Americans are much less likely to support a compromise life good want you theycompromise on a specific issue>. As with most things in Life we enthusiastically embrace the conceptual behavior and balk at the actual behavior.

 

Compromise is complex … and simple.

 

What I do know is that we contain our own future and building that future demands that we will have to make some compromises.  That is simple.

Making the specific choices is complex.

And while I am mostly interested in my own future and making my own compromise choices … I tend to believe we would all find the better version of ourself contained within … if the society as a whole were more willing to refind the value in compromise.

 

Enlightened Conflict