Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be.
Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go.
Acceptance is a small, quiet room.
“The whole is simpler than the sum of its parts.”
While attaining leadership positions is often a difficult weaving and winding path strewn with obstacles, losing your leadership role is pretty easy. It is easy because, well, while the compass to actually being successful leadership has a clear center line <uniting in a common cause> the path has to be wide enough to accommodate all the lanes necessary so that the organization can fit on the path <you cannot leave some behind and you cannot just take the “we few” along for the ride>.
Alignment in business is always a difficult thing.
Alignment in any group environment is always a difficult thing.
Alignment is a multi lane highway, not just offering a center line, which needs to be continuously paved with a deepening trust and cooperation. But, suffice it to say, nothing kills trust & cooperation faster than lack of trust in competency. In other words “not knowing your shit.” Words need to meet actions, actions need to meet decisions and decisions need to meet the greater needs & wants of the whole not just the parts.
All leaders, all of us, have made promises as we assumed responsibility. Some were hard promises and some were hopeful promises. As we shifted into leadership maturity we learned, often the hard way, how to shade the promises properly. What I mean by that is while in our minds something was a hopeful promise, in our employee’s ears it was a real promise <albeit … the savvier ones were skeptical>.
Ah,skeptical. I will suggest the ‘skepticals’ are the most important employees in an organization in terms of “mutual progress” and the ultimate success objective. Skepticals are the ‘swing employees’, i.e., the ones who held your organization together or tore it apart.
The skepticals listened to how the hopeful promises were shared. The skepticals discerned whether you … well … “knew your shit.” This is more the attitudinal part.
The skeptical also view with an eye toward another aspect. What you actually do, or did as things proceed, with your hopeful promise. This is the functional part.
While any business leader worth half a shit only offers ‘hopeful promises’ which contain at least a glimmer of possibility those words then have to shift into “what we are gonna do to attempt to make that glimmer a reality.”
Oh. Yeah. This is the plans, the what we are gonna do, that kind of pragmatic practical shit.
This is where skepticals really own your ass.
They are the careful readers of promises who sit back and ask themselves whether they want to believe such a thing badly enough to overlook its improbability. They are the ones who can actually drive the organization through improbability towards probability.
Yeah. Even more so than the delusional rabid believers. Why? Because the ‘believers’ are far too often blind to the real obstacles and wildly bludgeon their way toward some objective no matter how improbable the objective. Believers have a nasty tendency to create carnage.
It is the Skepticals who create a path which is sustainable.
Skepticals are always, well, skeptical of the ‘new thoughts’ you share with them and relentlessly compare it against not only what they know but also against whatever other information is out there <they are the ones who maddeningly demand “have you done this before and where”>. Skepticals are always, well, skeptical enough they focus on what I believe the Intelligence Community calls ‘expectability.’
Skepticals understand that when promises are made there is a significant difference between ‘it might be true’ versus ‘you can’t prove it’s not true.’ They are quite good at recognizing when you are misleading versus when you are honestly trying to get the organization somewhere … even if it does seem slightly improbable.
Look. No one can be sure of anything 100%. And an organization is never 100% aligned when a new leader steps up to assume the responsibility. Therefore you, everyone, assigns a rating to information. And an organization with a strong skeptical segment most typically turns to these skepticals, not the believers, for some guidance on how to rate the leaders words & promises. Outside of the rabid few, an organization is usually not willing to run right out of the gate with a new leader <and we who have led know that>.
You assume as you step to the front of the room that the Skepticals look at you with an uneasy sense you are simply playing your role and not really worthy of the role. They seek to get behind what they, skeptically, view as the mask of who you are and what you offer.
You learn quickly that you, and consequently the organization, are doomed out of the gate if they end up frustrated. Frustrated either that they cannot discern what is behind the mask or frustrated that what they can see looks less than what is needed to deliver upon the promises made or frustrated by what they view as “making shit up” versus “knowing your shit.”
I know everyone knows this, but a leader can get fired for any number of reasons. The ones most overlooked are:
- Failure to convert skepticals <attitudinally>
- Failure to convert skepticals <functionally>
Converting Skepticals is always the key to organizationally unity <sorry, no, it is not breeding excitement among the fewer believers nor is it attempting to placate the non-believers>.
I say that to make another point.
Skepticals reside in the promised land for a leader. One foot in hopeful promise and one foot in practical promise. Most good leaders recognize that there is a significant difference between war against the status quo and war against stagnancy. Status quo, most typically, has aspects of shit that keeps the trains running. In other words, not all status quo is bad and throwing out the baby with the bath water is never good.
And, therefore, you learn very very quickly as a leader you just cannot lie and that hyperbole kills you with Skepticals. You realize it is dangerous, to the organizational success and your own success, to embrace any kind of absurd unblinking willingness to look your people in the eye and flat out lie to them. You just cannot do shit like say “things are going great … just the way they planned” when to the skeptical, and possibly the organization as a whole, it sure appears like “there is a lot going wrong.”
This believability gap can very quickly shift from a simple hiccup on the path or crack in the alignment plan to a crevasse of dysfunction. Regardless. None of that suggests alignment or unity. It all undercuts competency and creates concerns with regard to capabilities, planning and implementation … all of which are the foundation on which any leader stands upon <even more so than vision and hope>.
Discrepancies force people to choose between what they hear and what they see and what they actually know in their own experience.
A leader can only create an upside down world for so long before the skepticals decide to make it right again – whether the leader wants it to be that way or not.
In the end?
Ignore the Skepticals at your own peril. Any successful leader will tell you focusing on Believers will not only put your own career in danger … but it puts the organization, as a whole, at risk.