Enlightened Conflict

what firing someone says about you

May 10th, 2017

you sir are fired

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“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

 

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

 

—-

Agha Abedi

 

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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.

 

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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

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“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

 

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

 

—–

Sigmund Freud

 

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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.

 

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

 

William James

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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.

 

 

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.

 

toil and risk are the price

February 21st, 2017

 disturb-the-universe-dare

 

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“Toil and risk are the price of glory, but it is a lovely thing to live with courage and die leaving an everlasting fame.”

 

—-

Alexander the Great

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“The time is always right to do what is right.”

 

—-

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

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“I would rather die right then live wrong.”

 

—–

Me

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Well.

 

I believe Alexander’s full quote was:

 

 

It is a lovely thing to live with great courage and to die leaving an everlasting fame,

Macedonians!… Why do you retreat?!… Do you want to live forever?!

In the name of Zeus!… ATTACK!

pooh test thought

 

I tend to call this “selective thoughtful recklessness.”

 

Yeah.

 

I am not really sure something exactly like that exists … but whether it has a name or not … it is a characteristic of winners and ‘everlasting fame’ … as well as a characteristic of everyday schmucks like me who want to do the right thing, desire some everlasting fame as in ‘known for doing good shit the right way’ and am willing to work hard for it <that is the ‘toil’ part>.

 

It may sound odd but I do believe if you are dedicated to doing the right thing and doing good shit you have to be comfortable assuming some risk.

 

Now.

 

I get some shit for my ‘comfort with assuming risk’ , my attitude with reagrd to risk … as well as my general disdain for people who have the absurd principle of ‘making a decision instinctually.’

 

Therefore.

 

I came up with my own phrase – selective thoughtful recklessness.

 

This combination seems to me to be better than simply being rash or foolhardy in behavior. It is better because I have a full respect for consequences and hold consequences in high regard.

choice consequence

And there is never any absence of forethought <which is where I typically find ‘instinct’ fails miserably>.

 

And I certainly have extreme care and concern with respect to not only other people’s welfare … but my own.

 

And, yes, there may be a bit of daredevil in the attitude … but without the flair and debonair style associated with a daredevil.

 

What is there is … is a certain defiance to odds once a decision has been made and a complete “In for a penny n for a pound” attitude. <Cambridge Dictionary: something you say that means that since you have started something or are involved in it, you should complete the work although it has become more difficult or complicated than you had expected >.

 

My epitaph will absolutely be “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world” but my mantra seems to be captured in what I said upfront … “I would rather die right then live wrong.”

 

That is not courage … nor is it an attitude … it is a choice that simply requires some mental resilience. You feel doubt, resistances to choice and even outright disagreement … but someone who embraces the selective thoughtful recklessness remains mentally resilient towards anything that attempts to stop you from doing what you believe, and maybe even know, is right.

 

And maybe that is where the thoughtful daredevilishness steps in.

In order to find glory <in this case I believe glory is ‘doing what is right’ and not some fame or accolades> you have to first & foremost reframe the story of what is … and what is possible. I am not suggesting some alternative universe nor am I suggesting fooling yourself into believing something truly impossible is possible.

This is more along the lines of the traditional disruptor definition … seeing the conventional in unconventional ways. By reframing the story the boundaries & limits in the original story become new & different boundaries & limits. Rarely do they align with the old ones and it is within these differences that the ‘thoughtful reckless’ wander.

life whispers listen sign

But this also demands one other thing.

 

Let’s call it ‘intense listening without attachment.’

 

What I mean by this is you have to be aware of everything going on around you but you do not necessarily get attached to what is being said. It’s like recognizing the clutter around you and rummaging thru it for the useful and avoiding the useless.

 

Lastly.

 

Here is maybe the most controversial thought I will share on finding glory.

 

Be small.

 

Yeah.

 

I just said ‘be small.’

I don’t mean live a small Life but I do mean if you want to find the kind of glory I am discussing, and you want to be selectively thoughtfully reckless, and you want to die right rather than live wrong … you think about being an energy for ‘doing’ like an atom, or a pebble in a pond, where you make yourself as solidly, strongly and distinctly rightly small … and choose your path.

And maybe that is why I balk at ‘daredevil’ so much. It sounds big & flamboyant. I find that being defiantly, and successfully, right in your choice is more often found in the ‘toil’ … in the small stuff and avoiding the small stuff at the same time.

It is more about being solidly small in your solidly rightness.

 

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“Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.”

 

 

Jim Rohn

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And, yes, maybe it is about a small quiet courage found in the everyday.

 

Do I think I am courageous? Certainly not.

 

Resilient? Absolutely yes.

 

But this kind of resilience seems to contain a version of courage that is easy to miss.

 

It is a small resilient courage.

 

courage tattoo reckless risk tryIt is the small courage you hold on to … to stay when it is easier to leave.

 

It is the small courage you hold on to … to keep doing when everything says ‘quit.’

 

It is the small courage you hold on to … to respect difference when we would much rather judge.

 

It is the small courage you hold on to … to accept some vulnerability when building a wall feels much safer.

 

It is the small courage you hold on to … to recognize your own agenda needs to be revised to accommodate another’s better idea.

 

It is the small courage you hold on to … everyday <even though it takes some ‘toil’ to create it>.

 

It is the small courage you hold on to … to not only become who we really are … but which enables the better version of who we are.

 

It is the small courage you hold on to … in a world that often doesn’t seem to encourage courageous everyday acts.

 

 

Anyway.choose courage or comfort reckless try do

 

Life isn’t easy. Business isn’t easy.

And navigating both shouldn’t be easy because of that … and it isn’t.

All I can suggest is some selective thoughtful recklessness can you help you out on occasion.

And it surely, when done well and with ‘good as an intent’ gives you a shot at glory.

 

Just remember.

 

it is a lovely thing to live with courage and die leaving an everlasting fame

 

I would rather die right then live wrong

 

Enlightened Conflict