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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disconnected and decision making

August 8th, 2017

think courage work ideas question curious

 

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“Developing our abilities to think more clearly, richly, fully — individually and collectively — is absolutely crucial [to solving world problems].”

 

——–

Adrian West, research director at the Edward de Bono Foundation U.K.

 

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So.

 

I was asked the other day about what I believed the internet, and connectivity’s, brain connection peoplegreatest impact on business was.

 

After chuckling that there was no one thing and we didn’t have enough time to talk about all the aspects that have impacted us … I did suggest one thing we don’t talk about which has a larger ripple effect on the future of business – connectivity’s impact on decision making and how we teach decision making.

 

Simplistically, technological connectivity has killed maybe 90% of the delegation of critical thinking & decision making.

 

Yeah.

 

There are a couple of other sociological insidious things seeping into organizational culture – discouragement of risk taking, particularly among younger employees, ‘flat’ organizations which tend to only put the senior decision makers closer to actual tactical decisions and things like that.

But what connectivity has done is make the most experienced decision makers more available 24/7 and younger people more likely to “send them a quick text asking them what to do” or an email with the question at hand … so that the younger person doesn’t have to make the decision. This translates into less decision making experience, less real ‘outcome of decision experience’ as well as all the critical thinking that gets crammed into one’s head when forced to make some decision <which always takes on some extraordinary size & significance when younger and less experienced>.

 

I believe this is a real issue.

 

In fact … I believed it was so important I googled it to do some research for this post.

 

  • ‘how connectivity has killed decision making’0 results.

 

 

zero none zilch

  • how the internet has killed decision making’ … 0 results on the topic … most on ‘overthinking’ or ‘Information overload is killing our ability to make decisions’

 

 

I even tried ‘how the smartphone has killed decision making’ and got zilch other than some crap about how ‘smartphones are destroying a generation’ and shit like that.

 

Lets be clear.

 

This isn’t about ‘distractions’ or ‘short attention span’ this is about circumventing critical decision making skills through easy connectivity to someone who can make the decision <instead of you>.

 

And I found it extremely odd that there is nothing obvious in terms of the discussion online because society views technology through an extremely critical eye on perceptions of how it forms, or doesn’t form, critical thinking skills. And nowhere is the conflict more apparent than in the business world where in a seemingly non-stop 24/7 world where we deem “speed” as having some absurd value above anything else we force more and more decisions ‘up’ in an organization.

 

Let me tell you how it worked in a disconnected world.

 

As an old guy we had no smartphones and computers weren’t chugging out hundreds of emails between employees all the time.

 

My bosses sat with other bosses in some high falutin’ section of the office space <most often with doors and big desks> and I didn’t have easy access to my bosses because … well … they were not within shouting distance and they had their own shit to do.

 

I had team members, clients and other departments who always needed answers so they could do shit and make some progress <to meet deadlines that I had inevitably placed on them> and, when they needed a decision, 90+% of the time they didn’t want me hanging up the phone saying “I will get back to you after I speak to ‘x’ person.”

And many times I was out of town in meetings and … well … decisions had to be made.

 

In this disconnected world 25 year old Bruce had to make some decisions … the fuck question fucking stupidhopefully some good ones.

 

 

This didn’t mean that afterwards I didn’t sit there going … “fuck me, was that the right thing to do?” … because I did.

 

 

So in that disconnected world I would have to get up when I had a free minute and track down my boss and walk them through what was going to happen because I had made some decision.

 

I could go to Pat, who would sometimes be laying on his back under his desk looking at a world map he had taped under his desk thinking <claiming it gave him a different view of the world>, who would 99% of the time asking me why I thought it was the right decision, what other things we could have considered and start tearing apart the decision to better understand it.manager good

 

I could go to Charlie who would 99% of the time go ‘okay’ … and then in a burst of energy start talking about what we could do now, a kind of “what’s next attitude” now that the decision had been made.

 

I could go to Beth who would always, always, just listen … and then start talking about how we could follow up with some research, or data, or support so that <in her words> “the decision doesn’t get killed by someone else’s opinions.”

 

I could go to any number of other bosses throughout my younger years and discuss a decision that I had made after the fact.

 

In a disconnected world a less experienced person was demanded to assume some responsibility.

 

The bottom line it was my decision and I had to live with it. I didn’t have a shitload of bosses who tried to kill the decision but rather seemed to accept it, warts & all, and figure out how to move forward from it.

 

Now.

 

A shitload of people may argue that in a connected world better decisions are made <slightly> faster <assuming you can reach the decision maker in some timely fashion> therefore business has benefited.

 

They may be partially right.

 

But I would argue 3 things:

 

pivot-mistake-awkward-learn-manage<1> Most decisions made at a lower more tactical, or less strategically influential, level are not really business killers nor are they even ‘not fixable’,

 

<2> by delegating responsibility for a decision ‘upwards’ … someone never learns the critical thinking necessary, sometimes under time duress, nor the burden of responsibility,

 

<3> and ability to bear burden of responsibility is actually an indicator of future leadership skills.

 

I have gone on ad nausea over the years with regard to our short term paranoia within the business world and how it is killing us … and this ‘delegate decisions upwards because connectivity permits it’ is just one additional example.

 

Look.

 

The people who have the most confidence in their decision making skills, unless they are narcissistic asshats, are the ones with most experience in making decisions. And examining decisions made by someone else <which is what a younger person does if a more senior person makes a decision> is not even close to the actual experience of running the mental gauntlet of making the decision yourself … and understanding he burden of responsibility you assume by doing so.

 

By outsourcing our decisions to more experienced people, or even the false ‘certainty’ in data, we cheat ourselves.

We are left responding rather than thinking creatively, critically and autonomously.

And maybe worse we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to unlearn what we believe we have learned <which truly can only happen through trial & error>.

 

Gut feelings, and instincts, or even data … are not the best tools for an ignorance unlearn untrueuncertain world … they only offer the illusion of certainty.  The business world is a complex world with thousands of decisions and a relentless onslaught of uncertainty.

 

About the only thing to maneuver your way through all of this complexity & uncertainty is by using the skill of critical thinking.

 

When we deny people the challenge of thinking critically, evaluating situations, making your own decisions and bearing the burden of responsibility we are heading towards a future where future manager will lack the cognitive ability, and critical thinking skills, to effectively think and make good decisions.

 

While I have several worries with regard to what technology and connectivity is doing to our business world … this is one we do not discuss enough if we are truly interested in the next generation of business people to be better than us.

Enlightened Conflict