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.

and, just think, we have 1300 more days of this

May 1st, 2017

 

 

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 pretending-to-be-normal

“People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why?”

 

“People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War?

 

Why could that one not have been worked out?”

 

President Trump said during Washington Examiner interview today

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In 2013 bibliographers estimated that more than 65,000 books have been i-cannot-believe-that-happened-what-is-going-on-ouch-ponderwritten about the Civil War.

 

 

Sigh.

 

 

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.

 

 

======= GETTYSBURG ADDRESS: Abraham Lincoln =======

 

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln

November 19, 1863

a profoundly mediocre person

April 30th, 2017

easy hard said

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“I thought it would be easier.”

 

Donald Trump

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“It’s phenomenal, shoots missiles right out of the sky.”

—-

 

Donald Trump on anti-missile defense system

==============

 

Well.

 

Today we begin day 101 of the Trump administration. And while I truly wanted

.......... Trump administration .......

………. Trump administration …….

to suggest that the administration had evolved from clown car status to even possibly a Hyundai status < or at least to a Lada> the leader of the administration, the driver president as it were, seems to want to continue being … well … a profoundly mediocre person.

 

Sad.

 

Sad not in that mediocrity is a bad thing but rather he continues to not see mediocrity whenever he looks in the mirror.

 

Mediocre? The two opening quotes came directly from his most recent interview … this one with Reuters <whose reporter I would give a raise to simply for not laughing out loud at times>.

They seem to sum up everything that makes me think Trump is just a profoundly mediocre person <and, unfortunately, my president>.

 

Frankly, I need to stop reading interviews he gives. Every time I do I <a> laugh out loud, <b> shake my head , <c> am mortified that someone like this is actually leading a country let alone talking with other incredibly qualified people leading their countries and <d> get angry. He always sounds like be believes he is the most interesting man in the world writing his own lines for the “Most Interesting Man In The World” advertising campaign.

 

<note: the Dos Equis most interesting man in the world was actually an interesting man>

 

Sad.

 

I will respectfully disagree with one of Trump’s most ardent followers who suggested yesterday that “that’s how a CEO makes decisions” because the typical CEO does not make decisions like this, does not use words like this nor do they behave like this.

 

All that said.

Another long interview and, once again, we gain some insight into the small brain of the “big handed” Donald J. Trump. He is foolishly naïve … often stunningly ignorant … a profoundly mediocre person.

 

What did he think the Presidency was?

 

Who thinks that being President is easy?

 

Who thinks it’s not a lot of work?

 

How could he be so blind sided … I mean … geez … all you have to do to see the difficulty and complexity of the job, and how that mental burden physically affects a President, is to look at before and after pictures of literally every President <who wasn’t wearing a wig>.

irresponsibility made easy

 

Even in this interview … one 99 days in <so he has had some experience to incorporate into his attitude & behavior> he still sounded like the guy at the end of the bar after having had one too many beers … talking about how he could be as good as any CEO in the world. From the corner of the bar everything looks easier … those of us who have seen the corner office knows it just ain’t that easy.

 

It’s a real job which has real challenges which requires some real skills and demands some real self-awareness.

It’s a real job and not one that resides solely in some imaginative place in which someone sits on a throne where decisions are untouchable and things get done with a word – a presidency may be the world’s most difficult job.

 

Given what I sense was his perception of the job, its responsibilities and its ‘power’ I can only imagine the bitterness he must feel confronted by the stark truth that in the ‘real job’ <not the one he imagined> he cannot simply do what he wants to do and not everyone respects him <if not admires him> simply because he won ‘the crown.’

 

Sad.

 

But lost among all of this “Trump all the time” coverage are the people who voted for him. As he called them “the forgotten American.”

 

You know what? I actually agree with him with regard to a lot of these people. Lots of people and their legitimate grievances were forgotten as we obsessed over a variety of well intended causes.

 

popularity mediocre peopleThey have a cause too … not just survival but economic opportunity and an opportunity to contribute as Americans should contribute.

And these people will pay the price not because as a mediocre president Trump ignores them <as many presidents have in the past> but because he raised their hopes and he is so mediocrely competent he cannot meet even the lowest hope.

 

Oh. That is not just mediocre … that is an asshat.

 

He is a mediocre man whose most immediate concern at the point of any decision is the Trump brand <which, at its core, is built around an image of ‘winning’>.

 

Oh, yeah, that win thing.

 

I cannot explain exactly what my feeling was when I read that in the middle of a discussion with reporters <on day 98>  about Chinese President Xi Jinping Donald J Trump stopped  and handed out copies, to each reporter in the room, of what he said were the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map.

 

“Here, you can take that, that’s the final map of the numbers,” the Republican president said from his desk in the Oval Office, handing out maps of the United States with areas he won marked in red.

“It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us.”

 

Oh. Now I know how to explain that feeling – mediocrity.

 

A mediocre man seeking to make everyone feel he is not mediocre.

 

A mediocre leader seeking to find ways to suggest he does not do mediocre sigh-thought-bubblethings.

 

Sigh.

 

On occasion we get glimpses of what I would call, if I were generous, … encouraging signs of reality buried in the bluster. Signs that he knows how difficult the job is <which sucks compared to his incoming beliefs> and that he is woefully unprepared for it all.

 

And when I am generous I start to think he could get better at it.

I hope so.

 

Oh.

Who am I kidding? He is a 70 year old, bombastic, thin skinned, desperate for approval, narcissistic, mediocre asshat. He is not going to change. We may see a glimmer of ‘good shit’ on occasion but I can almost say with 90% confidence level he will remain who he is … a profoundly mediocre person.

 

In the end … his desire to create entertainment and the constant image/perception of ‘doing something’ only creates more uncertainty & angst than it does real solutions & progress.

 

Beyond the fact he doesn’t act the way we should expect a leader of a business to act <let alone a president or a global leader> he verbally and behaviorally:

 

  • remains a constant threat to free speech, free press, independent courts, checks and balances with congress, minority rights

 

  • treats laws on nepotism and conflicts of interests as though they don’t exist

 

  • lies so habitually that we now hesitate to trust anything he says

 

  • is constantly amazed that the job is as difficult as it is, the world is as complicated as it is and that maybe the people who had been doing things in the past just were not as stupid as he thought they were

 

All of which provides constant evidence, to us, that so far is he is an utterly incompetent President.

 

Yeah.

 

only the mediocre quoteSorry to tell everyone but underlying all the glimmers of hope resides the one underlying truth of the moment … he is a bullshit artist and a profoundly mediocre person and that is what we should expect from day 101 on.

 

As one article summarized it perfectly — Trump is simply a profoundly mediocre person tragically unfit for the presidency.

 

He was on day 1. He was on day 100. He is on day 101. And he will be on every foreseeable day from this day on. A mediocre person who only sees an extraordinary person when he looks in the mirror.

 

“I thought it would be easier.”

 

Sad.

the dark days bad days sad black hole life

 

<and, yes, I will continue to criticize him as long as he stays in my criticism crosshairs on my chart>

 

the importance of fairy tales

April 13th, 2017

 book fairy

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“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

 

Neil Gaiman

 

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So.

 

Turn on TV these days and you can see a variety of fairy tales being mangled by special effects, simmering adult romance and almost every form of bastardization of the moralistic aspects of fairy tales imaginable.

 

What a shame.

 

This may sound a little silly, particularly with some of the wacky things happening in the world today, but I think people <adults in particular> need fairy tales more than ever … the original ones and not the bastardized Hollywood versions. I think now, maybe more than in a long time, we need to be reminded we can actually beat dragons.

 

 

No.

I don’t want people to live some fairy tale Life.

 

Yes.

I do want people to believe in the underlying messages of fairy tales themselves.

 

intelligence fairy talesThe truth is that, metaphorically, fairy tales tend to depict the most difficult, complex challenges we face.

 

Even better?

 

99% of us know these fairy tales.

 

Yeah.

The truth is that almost every adult knows these fairy tales … which should creates a common understanding of what we need most… that we have an inner strength and a belief if we do our best and what is right we can overcome the worst monsters imaginable.

 

Sigh.

 

But this only works if we adults actually believe a fairy tale offers something useful to us in our adult Life.

 

Here is a truth.

Fairy tales, when at their best, simplify the most complex dilemmas <which seem to keep many of us awake at night as adults> into a less complex, mostly resolved environment, in which danger is met … and while the moment carries a burden of huge significance to the main character … reaches a resolution.

 

I could argue that it is adults who most to need fairy tales and we could actually use them to start believing in some important shit we need to believe in order to deal with reality.

 

Some analysis somewhere online suggested that the power of a fairy tale to an adult is that the fairy tale has its roots in a mixture of “honest harshness” and “wishful hoping” combined with specific harsh challenges and specific ways out or through the challenge.

fate master of

I could argue that fairy tales showcase that the fate of our destiny resides within our own heads, hearts & hard work … not anyone else nor even at the hands of any monster standing in our way.

 

I could argue that fairy tales remind us that the world is unpredictably hostile to us and often quite destructive to our desires, if not to our survival, and, yet, it is also unpredictably full of resources if we are smart enough to look around enough … and hard enough.

 

I could argue we need more people to believe in fairy tales and certainly a mixture of “honest harshness” and “wishful hoping”. It doesn’t mean they are nuts or out of touch with reality … I mean, what the hell, people need to find hope & answers however they can.

 

Some people will find hope in a fairy tale and, frankly, why should anyone have any say in where a person may look for that hope?

 

Some people will find answers in a fairy tale and, frankly, why should anyone care where a person may look for answers to Life?

 

Look.

 

All people want to be happy.  Different people just get there in different ways.

All people want to figure out roadblocks to our happiness. Different people just get there in different ways.

 

Who’s to say the ones who read fairy tales aren’t the smart ones these days.

 

All my own thoughts aside.

 

Let me share Psychology Today’s point of view <so you can see what an expert may suggest>:

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Yet it seems very important to me, perhaps even more important today, that these ancient stories should be repeated again and again. The violence within them is always contained within a fate and beginningssatisfying structure with a reversal, and the requisite happy ending.

Here good and evil are so conveniently and completely separate. There are no grey areas in the fairy tale. The appearance of the villain allows the child to freely project his own violent feelings onto these separate and satisfyingly wicked beings. Unable to express anger or hatred directly toward those adults on whom the child depends, he/she can displace this natural aggression and give free reign to it personified by the villain: the step-mother, the wicked wolf or the witch.

 

At the same time, having split good and evil so completely and satisfyingly the child can identify with the good hero or heroine.

He/she can beat his way valiantly through the thick forest to rescue sleeping beauty or magically acquire the carriage, grand dress and glass slippers to enchant the prince. The child can identify with the small, the weak or the downtrodden (little Cinderella, sweeping the hearth, for example) who, in a gratifying reversal, is able to overcome the odds and triumph, marrying the prince.

These tales thus permit both the expression of natural violence and at the same time preserve that essential part of life without which the child cannot prosper: hope.

 

Psychology Today

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And maybe that is where a fairy tale is most powerful for an adult who deigns to reads a fairy tale … there are no grey areas in the fairy tale.

 

Maybe someone who reads fairy tales somehow feels safer and more capable to face the unpredictable world because it clears the mind from the ambiguities, which many seem man-made, and permits us to see the truth — most challenges can be beaten.

 

Maybe fairy tales help someone beat their way valiantly through the thick forest to rescue their dream or magically acquire what they need to enchant Destiny <and their fate>.

 

I can honestly say that I hope the rest of the world doesn’t try to beat the fairy tale reading out of the people willing to reread them and talk about them … because it would be a shame.

 

Look.

 

It’s a hard time for anyone who believes in fairy tales these days. And it doesn’t help that reality suggests some fairy tale crap of its own.

 

Oddly enough … we seem to think endlessly of an end goal or an outcome as success in Life <which is a fairy tale> … and a dream or fairy tale as some unrealistic ‘thing’ consisting of rainbows, unicorns and unrealistic endings <yet the tale itself offers us a lesson for reality>.

 

Uhm.

 

I have news for everyone … the real fairy tale is a belief that everything in our lives would instantly be perfect if only we could have ABC … or do XYZ.attitude dream think

 

And reality may actually be more like the fairy tale story where unpredictable challenges are beaten by finding unpredictable resources within ourselves without any moral ambiguity.

 

How backwards is that?

 

Anyway.

 

We should all read more fairy tales.

They will remind us that we can do more than we believe and overcome more than we sometimes believe … and that fairy tale endings aren’t fantastical and not indicative of reality but rather just happy.

 

Not fantastical because, partially, you are reminded  you can resolve the unpredictable challenge and get past it.

 

Not fantastical because, partially, they remind us we can beat dragons.

 

Sure does seem like we could partially find both of those learnings quite useful these days. But. That’s me.

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“The unicorn is a lonely, solitary creature that symbolizes hope.”

 

Ally McBeal

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Enlightened Conflict