Enlightened Conflict

old white men and hollowness of behavior

August 16th, 2017

 

it is going very badly good disaster

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“At any other time it’s better.

You can do the things you feel you should; you’re an expert at going through the motions. Your handshakes with strangers are firm and your gaze never wavers; you think of steel and diamonds when you stare. In monotone you repeat the legendary words of long-dead lovers to those you claim to love; you take them into bed with you, and you mimic the rhythmic motions you’ve read of in manuals.

When protocol demands it you dutifully drop to your knees and pray to a god who no longer exists. But in this hour you must admit to yourself that this is not enough, that you are not good enough.

And when you knock your fist against your chest you hear a hollow ringing echo, and all your thoughts are accompanied by the ticks of clockwork spinning behind your eyes, and everything you eat and drink has the aftertaste of rust.”

 

Dexter Palmer

 

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Well.

 

I am surprised at how often Trump and the Trump administration make me go business old white guysback again and again to the post I wrote on November 13th 2016: The Last Stand of the Old White Men.

 

 

It was within that post in which I posed the ultimate judgement we should apply to the new Trump administration …“the potential redemption of a generation.

 

At that time I shared thoughts with regard to how a Trump presidency and his speculated band of merry old white men, his “band of brothers” <his cabinet and advisors>, would guide America to the next level of greatness despite the fact they had built their own personal empires on a variety of greater business acumen & business culture hollow attitudes & achievements.

 

Hollow?

It is my belief that, as a generalization because there are exceptions, old white men have hollowed out the business world in their quest for “winning at any cost” and “maximize win-to-cash” ratio.

 

Everyone should note that Trump is the poster child of this hollowness <and I will aggravatingly point it out over and over again> and I have pointed it out on the following topics already:

 

 

Capitalism.

Branding.

Profit.

Wealth dispersion.

Communication.

want to be like you hollow man trump

 

 

They hollowed them all out.

 

 

But this weekend I was reminded of another … a much simpler pragmatic crime than lack of morality … hollowness of behavior.

 

Now.

 

I hesitated to call this “the hollowing out of morality” mostly because that sounded a little harsh and I tend to believe the reality within this particular hollowness is more pragmatic. That said … it doesn’t make it any better just that I didn’t really want to get into a morality & ethical finger pointing game.

 

 

Behavior

 

Leadership is a complex mix of personal, professional and pragmatic.

When wielded well it is a beautiful tapestry of effectiveness, however, beauty is often in the eyes of the beholder when actual effectiveness becomes the measuring stick. As a reminder, old white men leadership grew up in a business of dictatorship leadership behavior or, at its best, benevolent dictatorship.

Old white men grew up in the hallowed halls of hollowed leadership management. This means that their ‘management twitch muscles’ inevitably provide reflexive business decision making based on this.

The easiest way to point this out is that businesses have developed a myriad of cultural initiatives and, yet, old white men leadership tends to simply treat them as “feel good politically correct” initiatives. They view them as “society dictated” thinking and not “business dictated” thinking. Therefore a hollowness was inherent in the organization between how the old white men leaders attitudinally approached the business, how they viewed behavior and how the organization actually behaved.

Old white men began talking longingly of straight talk, when people knew their place in business and ‘carrot & sticks.’  Old white men started looking at businesses in disdain as vehicles of political correctness and not stark effectiveness. The truth is that many of the old white men simply didn’t buy in to a better way of doing business and, therefore, when put in a corner & challenged revert back to the hollow management style of “do what I tell you to do and shut up.”

To be fair, old white men did not create this hollowness … they simply propagate it.

 

That is Trump in a nutshell.

 

work bad idea panda angry

Anyway.

 

 

To be clear, simplistically, old white business men behavior falls into one of two camps:

 

  • Those who do something because they were shown something and thought “hmmmmmmmmm, this makes sense to do.”

 

  • Those who do something because … well … they think they have to <but still believe it is stupid and that ‘the old way’ was better>.

 

The problem is that the latter group is incredibly good at pointing out how they are technically ‘hiring more women, promoting more women, giving opportunities to minorities, discouraging sexist and racist behavior in the office’ and everything else they would throw into the “mamby pamby politically correct business bullshit” bucket … all the while chafing under the true spirit of behavior.

 

I say all this because if you strip away all the horrible racist and incorrect moral equivalency rhetoric you will find an old white man who’s “make great again” is grounded in a pragmatically hollow view of behavior. There is no subtext nor is there any higher ground it is a simple black & white behavior analysis in which everyone’s behavior is viewed as a commodity and the only differentiation is ‘effectiveness’ or outcomes.

 

I say all this because while I pointed out the old white men have a chance at redemption we saw, in the spotlight and podium, one old white man not seeking any redemption nor showcasing any redemptive characteristics. I worry that this one man is beyond redemption.

 

And as I say that I remind everyone that the old white man Donald J Trump is surrounded by a crusty bunch of curmudgeonly old white men who we would hope we could find some level of pragmatic redemption.

 

thoughts people stand up i will be defined

I say that to point out the other piece I authored which continuously pops up as a reread – at this time, at this place, I will be defined.

 

 

I wrote it February 17th 2017. In it I said:

 

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

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

And.

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

That said.

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

 

 

Look.

black white gray

I can point out all the issues with old white men and all their flaws which could potentially impact, negatively, the united states of America until I am blue in the face.

 

And I will continue to do so.

 

But inherent in pointing out hollowness is the unequivocal truth that hollowness begs to be filled with something. And in today’s world, in this time and in this place, it will inevitably filled by the decisions of each of us, one by one, on how we will choose to be defined.

 

Each of us will do this. That I believe. It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow. But at the end of this wretched situation we find ourselves in I believe everyone will have chosen where to stand and how to be defined.

 

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

 

Shakespeare

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believing in something is powerful enough

July 7th, 2017

 

ideas dream make fly people think believe imagine educate

 

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“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

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“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

 

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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.

 

the unexpected move

June 27th, 2017

bad idea beauty life business

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“The unexpected, always the unexpected.


If they expect you to move right, move left.


The first law of survival in this jungle that you’ll inhabit.
The unexpected move. “

 

—-

The Avengers

 

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“She was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you.”

 

Terry Pratchett

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Well.

 

Far too often in business we talk about making an “unexpected move” to gain an advantage as “zig when they zag.”

 

So … lets’ take a minute and talking about the whole “zigging when they zag” bullshit.

 

Oh.

Yeah.

 

On a football field zigging when they zag can be effective … but in business it is bullshit.

 

Look.

 

I am all for running with a temporary advantage when given the opportunity <and, yes, about 97.385% of advantages are temporary — I made up the 97.385% number>.

But that is not ‘zigging’.

 

I am all for hunkering down on a specific distinctness when it appears the rest of the category is bumbling around in an array of meaningless claims.

But that is not zigging.

 

I am all for leaping through a window of opportunity when the window cracks open.

But that is not zigging.

 

Suffice it to say … zigging, in general, is a stupid strategy.

 

Let me explain why.

 

Most industries once they have a fair number of competitors is more like a 7 zig zag highway unexpected businesslane superhighway where everyone is driving in the same direction within the same guard rails.

 

Not everyone will like thinking that but the truth is that most businesses have smart people who see the same information and do all the necessary research with people who are likely, and not likely, to buy whatever it is they are selling and therefore strategies are in the same realm and everyone is pretty much competing in the same arena.

 

This means a couple of things.

 

Everyone is speeding toward the same destination.

If something is obvious to you, it is most likely obvious to them.

 

What all of this means is you have to move but most moves have to be done artfully.

 

So maybe despite the fact I balk at the whole ‘zig when they zig’ and ‘unexpected’ anything in business gives me heartburn it is possible I could discuss the art of the unexpected move.

 

I call it “art” because unpredictability as normal behavior is bad. No one likes someone who is unpredictable 100% of the time and organizations <alignment, operations and ‘day to day doing’> tend to respond poorly to unpredictability.

 

unexpected changeIn my highway metaphor unpredictability most likely means either <a> a crash or <b> slowing down and you get passed or <c> you are now on a completely different road than all the other competitors speeding toward sales, & customers.

 

As for predictable?

Yikes. Boring. Lack of creativity. Bad <in a different way> … let’s just call predictable “lack of any art.”

 

In my highway metaphor this most likely means you are cruising in one of the right lanes, the slower lanes, and people are passing you all the frickin’ time.

 

This suggests making a move in your industry take more art and artfulness to navigate the path you desire or take advantage of the opportunity that may open.

 

This also suggests, in the business world, you sit up and pay attention just with a little more focus when someone pulls out the “maybe we should zig when they zag” tritism. You do so mostly because anyone who says that who is not on a football field most likely has their head up their ass <but want to say something catchy in a meeting to be noticed>.

 

I say that, again, because most time in a business industry companies are going in a direction for a reason … that is where the sales are. So ‘zigging’ when everyone else ‘zags’ more than likely means they are heading toward sales and you are not <but you can always say you zigged when they zagged>.

 

Ok.

 

Now.

 

If you want to tie ‘unexpected move’ to survival … well … that is a different story.

 

Survival does have a nasty habit of forcing some unexpected maneuvering. Ok. Maybe out of desperation the predictable in us decides that maybe being ‘unexpected’ may actually be called for.

 

I would suggest that if you find yourself in desperate times rarely is anything artful in that moment.

But I would suggest that in a desperate survival mode I can offer tow lists you should write up on some big board in some big conference room and make sure you discuss.

 

There are basically 4 basic responses to a threat <or opportunity I imagine>:

 

 

  • Fight

 

  • Flee

 

  • Deceive

 

  • Submit

 

 

Any move you choose to make will be derived from one of these four spaces.

Choose wisely.how we survive makes who we are

 

Once you have chosen <wisely> effectiveness in a survival fight basically comes down to 4 things <in the order of importance>:

 

 

  • aggression and willingness to hurt your competition

 

  • willingness to get hurt yourself

 

  • skill and knowledge

 

  • strength and power

 

 

Some may haggle with my order but the top two will dictate your success regardless of how you stack the last two.

And of the last two is would suggest most of the time knowing what to do is more important than brute strength.

Choose wisely <but always choose the first two or you will get crushed>.

 

I offer these two lists because when anyone suggests zigging when someone zags I bring these out.

Shit.

I bring these two lists out almost any time a business wants to talk about effectively competing in an industry.

 

Why?

 

Because nothing really matters if you do not figure out these two lists.

 

Why?

 

Temporary as long asGoing back to what I said earlier … advantages are temporary   and the other guys/gals you are competing against are as smart as you are.

You don’t zig just for the sake of zigging <that is wasted organizational energy> and if you do have to take an unexpected move it is most typically a response to something in the situation.

 

While we like to talk about zigging and zagging the reality comes back to the highway. You have to move forward and keep moving forward <or get run over>.

The only zigging anyone should ever talk about is either moving into another lane to pass someone or another lane to let someone pass you or change lanes to avoid a crash.

 

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“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change.

Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.

 

—-

William S. Burroughs

 

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Unexpected moves just to do something unexpected is … well … stupid.

It is in the same category as change for change sake.

It is in the same category as zigging when they zag.

 

Now.

 

Unexpected moves made in the search for something incredible waiting to be known <some desired destination>? Well … yeah … that isn’t stupid.

 

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“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

 

—-

Carl Sagan

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.......... zig zag mistake ................

……………. zig zag mistake …………….

Unexpected moves made to survive on the competition highway? That isn’t stupid.

 

Unexpected moves made to veer through a window of opportunity that arises? That isn’t stupid.

 

But zig when they zag? C’mon. That’s just stupid.

 

It is stupid because more likely than not it just means you will have not left the comeptition behind but rather just left the competition.

Enlightened Conflict