Enlightened Conflict

and from time to time they permit themselves to be told

April 4th, 2017

letters to myself never read

 

==========

 

“The world is full of stories, and from time to time they permit themselves to be told …”

 

—–

An aboriginal saying

 

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

 

I believe that the magic and power of a story can encourage and fascinate you.

In prehistory, outside the cave it was dark, but inside they had a fire and somebody was good at telling stories.

Every time I write, I think of the cave.

We are one group, outside it’s dark and wolves are howling, but I have a story to tell.

 

—–

Haruki Murakami

===========

 

Ok.

 

stories on wallsIt’s difficult to discuss stories too often.

The fact is that being able to tell a story … okay … tell the story you want … well … is possibly one of the most important skills anyone can have – in life or in business.

 

But let me stay on the business side of stories.

 

Throughout my career I have had the fortune to work with the most unglamorous products & companies you could ever think of <industrial products, commodity like machinery, etc.> and some fairly glamourous products & companies.

 

What they all have in common is that they have a story to tell … and when told well it makes them successful — in sales, in market place positioning, in competitive scenarios, in public discussions, etc.

 

I used to think storytelling was so natural to everyone I assumed everyone would want to tell their story … or maybe better said … talk about their business, their company, their product … as a story.

 

I no longer think that.

 

I haven’t figured out if it is that not everyone can actually tell a good story or that business has beaten the shit out of people so badly that the default articulation is a list of functional features and pragmatic benefits. What I do know is that business storytelling, in general, sucks.

It is absolutely horrible.

 

Meaningless metaphors and less-than-relevant analogies and misused quotes are scattered among the useful functional and pragmatic in the attempt to elevate that which is usefully boring to interestingly useful.

And because that is the case … well … most people either think storytelling is really really hard or that storytelling really has no place in what they are doing.vivid story demonstration metaghor

 

That is nuts.

 

The truth is you can take the most boring of boring, the most functional of functional & most ‘seemingly same of seemingly same’ and wrap it within a story and it … well … becomes compelling, interesting and distinct.

 

The truth is any business contains the essential parts to create a story … heroes, villains, vivid demonstrations or metaphors, life & death and even mysteries and solutions.

 

The truth is anyone can tell a story <it is possible that not everyone can write a story though>.

 

In fact … I feel relatively confident is stating that a good story to tell makes everyone better & more interesting.

 

I do not care what industry you work within or what type of product or service you sell or represent your word is full of stories … and, most likely, a fabulous story just asking for permission to be told.

 

All that said.

 

Someone is most likely sitting somewhere scratching their head thinking … “WTF, that sounds good but I have no clue what to do.”

 

Aw.

 

You do.

You do know what to do.

 

Stop thinking about selling your idea or selling your product/service or even selling your company … think about telling a story.

 

Shit.

 

nuts and bolts commodityI could work for a nuts & bolts manufacturer and be able to put a picture of two nuts & bolts side by side <one mine and one someone else’s>  which look 99.9% exactly the same … and be able to say … “Let me tell you a story about this nut & bolt … because its story is different than this nut & bolt. They look the same but their story is different.

 

Oh.

 

And my story wouldn’t be solely some manufacturing mumbo jumbo but rather a story about who counted on it and how my nut & bolt was the best friend to someone and … well … you get the point.

 

Unfortunately we don’t seem to be in the storytelling business in business these days.

 

Instead we bore down on manufacturing specifications, stress quotients, side by side rankings and a whole bunch of technically important functional aspects.

 

And you know what?

That shit is important.

 

Really important.

 

nuts an bolts story city growTo be sure … if it is my nut & bolt holding a wing on some plane carrying 300 passengers you can bet your last dollar the technical aspects of my nuts & bolts matter. I don’t argue that.

What I argue is HOW the technical aspects are articulated and delivered. What I argue is that if I can make my nuts & bolts look like a city of ideas through some story … I win.

 

Stories make presentations more interesting.

Stories make bland functional aspects take on some color <which equals value>.

Stories persuade people think <and thinking equals engagement>.

Stories to motivate us to see beyond the simple nut & bolt.

 

Suffice it to say … what you say is lost if you do not master how you say it.

 

Storytelling has been a mainstay of the marketing world since … well … forever.

And while it tries to sneak into the non-marketing aspects of the business world it often gets stiff armed by functional communicators – “get to the point” people.

 

This ‘get to the point’ point is nonsense.

 

Storytelling doesn’t sacrifice the functional and pragmatic and practical … it actually elevates it to ts highest value.

 

I could argue that stories are the essential driver of value, change & persuasion … throughout the history of business.whispers stories

 

Look.

 

I would never tell a business to not show the numbers, graphs and facts. It is important.

But strategic use of a good story can make those same bland things surprise people, make them become compelling characters in a story and instead of being cold hard facts laying on a page they can become things that make us think & feel.

 

Story telling is important in that it engages people, communicates relevant meaningful information, builds value on some things that can often be difficult to build value on and, ultimately, it makes you, your product or service & your company distinct.

Why? Because it has a story to tell.

 

The business world is full of stories, and from time to time they permit themselves to be told …

 

 

responsible for what you tame

January 25th, 2017

responsible for what you tame leadership people employees

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

 

“People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.”

 

—–

The Little Prince

 

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

 

 

I cannot play with you,” the fox replies. “I am not tamed.”

 

“What does that mean – to tame?”

 

It means to establish ties. To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…please, tame me!”

 

I want to, very much,” the Little Prince replied, “but I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”

 

“One only understands the things that one tames,” the fox said.

 

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

 

Leadership.

 

afraid to grow into your heights life loseLeaders have a tough job.

 

We call it managing but in reality it is taming. You tame the independent wildness and tame the ability & potential so you can understand it, and it can understand itself, so that eventually there is a mutual progress to play the game as well as it can be played.

Please note that nowhere in there have I suggested “blind obedience.” Taming, in this view, is reaching true understanding so that real personal growth occurs.

 

That said … in that metaphorical expression of leadership … you own what you tame.

 

I say that because far too often we leaders & managers view management as something we do for the benefit of the organization and, hopefully, the benefit of the people … but we ‘own’ no responsibility for the individual in terms of actions or who they become — and certainly not ‘forever.’

 

Some of us view ourselves as shapers in some form or fashion but lean back against the belief we only dent the surface of who and what the person is and will become.

 

We view what we do as possibly taming but within the purview of just a chapter in their lives … not an entire story.

 

In some ways we do this simply as an act of self-survival.

 

The truth is that investing too much personally into your business; the organization and the employees can … well … kill you.

 

Okay.

Maybe not literally kill you … but figuratively it can become a daily strain on your psychological health.

 

Many of us, out of pragmatism, eye our relationship with employees as a story with a finite end – be it positive, sad, joyful, disappointing or ambiguous – but it is, in reality, just the end of a chapter.

 

The story keeps going.

Ours and theirs.

business inclusiveness

And while we may represent only a chapter in a larger narrative … well … we own what we tame. This is an inclusive way of leading & managing.

 

You include yourself in someone’s Life and … well … you own what part you tame.

 

Uhm.

 

Of course … this can also swing to the opposite more dangerous side – an exclusive leadership side.

 

This is ‘ownership’, not owning, of what you tame.

 

You don’t become part of them you simply offer a voice to them – I sometimes call this ‘pack mentality leadership’.

 

These are the leaders who say “on my team <or in other words “mine”> forever.”

 

Leave and my wrath is upon you.

 

Not want to be tamed by me? you are “un” whatever it is I stand for.

 

And this is where exclusive leadership truly rears its ugly head.

 

There is little vision, there is a lot of ‘features’ in the offering <more money, more jobs, more titles, more wins, more whatever> and therefore the incentives do the work and not any persuasive direction or vision. The ‘pack attitude’ is a means to an end and a vision in and of itself.

 

—-

 

“Managers tend to use compensation as a crutch.

After all, it is far easier to design an incentive system that will do management’s work than it is to articulate a direction persuasively, develop agreement about goals and problems, and confront difficulties when they arise.”


Michael Beer, Harvard professor of business administration

—–

 

chaos team alignmentThe features, the actions & behavior of those who belong on this team, are how they speak of unity and teamwork, i.e., “everyone should act this way … but we are the ones who do.”

 

Or how about this?

 

“The only important thing is the unification of the people – because the other people don’t mean anything.” <Trump used these words once awhile back>

 

In other words … the only people who truly count are the ones who are in this leader’s team.

 

Even worse?

They use the ‘us versus them’ polarization as a means to suggest “team personality & character” all the while these types of leaders actually do it to create their own power structure.

 

They don’t desire to include anyone else nor do they tend to reach out to others <albeit they make some inclusive noises on occasion> they desire to build a construct where people ask to join <because they should, of course, have to ask> and are not asked to join.

 

Excluding leaders love the ‘us versus them’ aspect. They love being derided and they love opposition. All these things do is solidify the team’s belief they are different & better & know more than the others.

 

The team becomes what represents what is real & right and the leader controls what is real & right. The leader’s people are truly the only people that count and the leader hasn’t tamed ability but rather attitude.

 

And here is where the ownership of what you tamed hits a dangerous spot.asshole bad manager

 

The leader has tamed an attitude but feels little ownership of the people themselves. Therefore should the leader decide to move on or get tired of whatever it is they are doing at the moment they feel no remorse in leaving people behind <who still harbor the attitude he/she tamed>.

 

The pack remains, the pack mentality still seethes, but the pack leader is no longer there.

 

Anyway.

 

Let me close with some thoughts.

 

I think it is a healthy thought for every manager & leader to ponder ‘you own what you tame.’

 

Leadership and leading is never easy and I have the scars to show to prove it.

 

Bad we help thatI found it naturally tempting to build a quasi-pack mentality in my groups as a younger leader & manager.

I was, and have always been, a more aggressive business person – I am not fond of status quo and not particularly fond of ‘the safe road.’

 

I can absolutely state that as a manager you can feed off of the ‘pack mentality’ attitude. It is exhilarating and almost like a drug … and maybe more dangerous … it can feed into a self-belief aspect that can edge upon arrogance and obliviousness to the greater good.

 

I don’t think I ever fell off the cliff on this but I certainly got a glimpse of the edge.

 

As I gained more experience I saw the danger in doing so <to my team member, to my organization & to myself> and sought to find some balance.

 

You can tame your people’s ability & attitude and they, and you, will benefit at the time and in the future <whether you are still working together or not>.

 

Enlightened Conflict