Enlightened Conflict

working with a competent incompetent blowhard

July 21st, 2017

ego at the door

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“I’m an egomaniac with an inferiority complex.”

 

—–

Eric Clapton

 

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“Not everything is about you,” Clary said furiously.

 

“Possibly,” Jace said, “but you do have to admit that the majority of things are.”

 

 

Cassandra Clare

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“Who knows himself a braggart, let him fear this, for it will come to pass that every braggart shall be found an ass.”

 

 

William Shakespeare

 

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“Or, rather, let us be more simple and less vain.”

 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

 

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So.

 

ego meter

We all have worked with assholes.

We all have also most likely worked with egotistical assholes.

 

And, unfortunately, we all have most likely worked with competent egotistical assholes. This is the particular type of asshole who actually kind of knows their shit, is overly satisfied with their competence, tells everyone who good they are and says all of this no matter what has actually happened <good or bad>or whether it is actually reflective of reality.

 

I have never really worked for anyone like this <fortunately> but I do know from experience that these people particularly suck to work with because, yeah, they don’t completely suck from a functional professional standpoint … so you cannot completely ignore them and, even worse, they may actually even have some specific skill you may need at some point.

 

What makes it suck for you is that they have some serious flaws <not that they would ever admit it> and that they will take credit for anything and everything they can, they will multiply wins in exaggerated results and effort and diminish, if not even blame others, for lack of successes.

 

They are, and always will be, the biggest self-promoters <assholes> you will capitalism narcissistever encounter.

 

They are, and always will be, the biggest selective users of facts and specifics to showcase whatever self-style & strength they want to portray <their own assholedness>.

 

They are a legend in their own mind <and an asshole to the rest of us>.

 

But, at their best, they are not only competent but can actually contribute.

 

These assholes are tougher to deal with and manage than the incompetent. You can ignore the incompetent <or the ‘less than useful’ or the “beyond their sell-by date’ people>.

Once again … I have never had to report to an incompetent blowhard <or an incompetent non blowhard> but I have had several “senior people who were beyond their sell-by date” who you never permitted in a meeting by themselves <for fear of what they would say or promise> and you always tried to diplomatically curb their responsibilities and impact.

They were not always truly assholes or incompetent just ‘less than desired usefulness’ for the business needs.

 

But the competent blowhards are a bear to deal with.

 

You are constantly sitting there thinking … “Jesus … wouldn’t it be terrific to be able to reap the rewards without putting up with the blowhard bullshit?”

 

I actually found an article suggesting some tips on how you can “harness the superb results these folks generate without having to put up with their acting out.”

 

Whew.

That article was off base. You cannot harness a blowhard … competent or incompetent.

 

An egotistical competent person is … well … an egotistical <typically “narcissistic”> competent blowhard asshole and there is little to get around that.

 

asshole day

 

You just figure out how to get around them, use them the best you can and take them head on strategically <knowing you cannot take them head on all the time>.

 

To be clear.

 

I am using “asshole” loosely here. As someone noted somewhere … the term “asshole” is also used as a euphemistic reference to people whom we classify as “disagreeable.”

 

A blowhard is disagreeable but so can a lot of good people who aren’t narcissistic. Shit. Contrarians can portray some asshole tendencies <see myself as a prime example> but not all contrarians are fucking egotistical self-promoting blowhards.

 

I could argue that since each of us is an asshole to someone the term is always relative. In other words, one person’s asshole can be another person’s hero.

 

Therefore … in my eyes … it takes a lot of effort to be a competent asshole.do not speak again oxygen thief opinion blowhard importance

 

Incompetent assholes don’t know that they are assholes.

Competent assholes KNOW that they are assholes.

 

I am writing this because, unfortunately, this is a conversation we all have in business. Egomaniac assholes are in every business. We have to deal with them and the reality is that sometimes they are in senior management.

They may actually be competent but they are manipulative, obsessive, and aggravatingly boastful and far too often bullies.

They may actually have some aspects of competence and use it to throw anyone around them who also shows signs of threatening competence under the bus at any given opportunity.

They actually do it under the guise of “creating a competitive always improving environment” when they are really simply insecure assholes who want to diminish anyone around them so they look bigger & better.

 

—————————————–

Hayakawa: Use the Right Word:

 

By definition ‘boast’ suggests a self-important and tasteless pointing out of one’s own successes.

 

Occasionally the word can refer to self-congratulation for a victory not yet won.  Brag intensifies the note of tastelessness in boast, suggesting limitless conceit and, possibly, inaccuracy of the claims being made – bragging about imaginary exploits. And then there is ‘crowing’ which suggests a noisy or vociferous bragging of an extremely offensive kind. And ‘gloating’? Gloating is an intensification of crow – although it need not be verbal and sometimes suggests taunting someone that one has bested.

 

By definition: egomania

…. an obsessive preoccupation with one’s self and applies to someone who follows their own ungoverned impulses and is possessed by delusions of personal greatness and feels a lack of appreciation.

 

——————————————

 

job i am the greatest confidence trump

Look.

 

I don’t mind a manager with a healthy sense of ego, but the true competent blowhards are best to avoid if possible because they have elements of toxicity.

 

In Toxic Workers , a new Harvard Business School working paper, Michael Housman and Dylan Minor look at the paradox of “superstar” workers who outperform their colleagues by 2:1 or more, but who are “toxic” — awful to work with and be around.

 

The connection between toxicity and productivity has been validated in several studies, but the question that Housman and Minor set out to answer is, “are 1%, superstar workers worth the trouble they cause in the workplace?”

 

Using a clever empirical methodology, they demonstrate that, basically, you shouldn’t work with assholes. It’s better to hire two average employees than to keep one “superstar” on the payroll, once you factor in the disruption that your talented jerk wreaks on their colleagues.

 

 

Simplistically the blowhards distort things. They exaggerate good, diminish bad,  consistently use a made up unique formula of uncertainties & lack of clarity, offer alternatives <facts & universes> and serve to only create difficulties in exactly describing what is, and isn’t, actually happening.

 

While accomplishing some things, which if discussed like a normal human being everyone would be fine with, the abnormal human being says shit like: “I don’t think there’s ever been anyone who in this short period of time has done what I’ve done.”

 

Uhm.

 

Unfortunately for whoever says this there is typically some actual proof that someone somewhere has actually achieved a lot more. But that really doesn’t matter to this type of person … all they have to do is do enough and make it look hopeful enough that a group of employees ignore the hyperbole and focus on the fact someone has done something.

 

By the way.

 

confidence is silent

What makes this truly toxic is the fact the competent non-blowhards around this person start ignoring the blowhard and just doing their own thing <and his because even more toxic to a business the more senior the blowhard is>.

 

I imagine my point here is that we all know someone at work whose biggest fan is himself/herself. They exaggerate all their contributions and diminish & deflect any blame or negatives.

Those people make it really difficult to compliment. Our first instinct is to try and deflate <or ‘right-size’> accomplishments so that even good gets diminished so it doesn’t get exaggerated. Unfortunately his sometimes means that even when credit is due the person has just made it hard for us to WANT to give them credit.

 

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“Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.”

 

 

African proverb

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Regardless.

 

We all know some of these people who do not recognize that they are one of those people.

Particularly in business.

 

They aren’t psychopaths and they aren’t the kind of assholes that are raging assholes … these are just the assholes oblivious to their assholedness. Suffice it to say far and away the number one way they justify their existence is “the end justifies the means.”

 

“But I made the numbers.”

“We won.”

“We finished.”

 

All the while ignoring the carnage left behind.

 

The carnage can be lost employees, pissed off employees, tired <emotionally and physically> employees, angry peers and disappointed or abused partners.

 

<lost>

 

extremes managementThey couldn’t keep up or they were not good enough <good they are gone … we weed out those who can’t keep up>.

 

<pissed off>

 

You can’t always pamper people to get them across the finish line <they like me because they know it is all done with ‘tough love’>.

 

<tired>

 

I pushed them beyond what they thought they could do <they won’t be angry once they see how I helped them realize their potential>.

 

<peers>

 

The other managers don’t recognize what it takes to get it done <my project was more important and they won’t be angry once they see the result and how the team responded …or … I am showing them how it should be done>.

 

<partners>

 

They have good intentions but I need to keep them focused on our priorities and objectives and needs <they work for us and need us more than we need them>.

 

Those are the tricks of the trade of the competent blowhards.

 

Regardless.

 

Yes.

Success does matter.

 

No.

I am not suggesting we shouldn’t value ‘the kill’ or even ‘ability to effectively stalk the prey’ in business.

 

But … Yes.

I do believe how you kill or stalk matters.

 

Look.

 

Blowhards can try and convince us of competence in a variety of ways … they can showcase fulfilling promises which does not show the actions of a skilled CEO but rather a bumbling overwhelmed CEO focused on showing action to try and cover up incompetence.

 

I say that because even bumbling incompetent CEO’s can do some things right in a flurry of ‘doing shit.’ I say that because even a semi-incoherent senior business person can do some things right AND justify it in some fairly creative common sense sounding ways.

 

The following is something I found somewhere <I cannot find where> from someone who actually responded to “being an asshole manager” which showcase how a competent asshole business person can quite easily justify their actions.

 

Please note that there is a strong thread of truly competent thoughts.

 

Please note that if I were so inclined I could go back through every point and slice out the slightly self-righteous aspects and showcase how you can actually be competent and not an asshole AND not pamper your employees’ every whim … but I will not.

 

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. not sure how you define asshole, but I suppose being blunt, efficient, and unable to cater to every employee’s wants (not needs) goes a long way. I go out of my way to reward my best employees, give them the resources they need, approve their time off outside of work, etc. I take a pedagogical approach to my role, passing knowledge to my employees that will help them advance their careers (and make my job easier). Yet, I’m still the asshole.

 

Here are some reasons I’m an asshole manager:

 

  1. I’m responsible for making a diverse group of people with varying job roles work together. Try coming up with one rule or guideline that makes everyone happy.

management new

  1. Some employees only work as hard as they have to. And they hate it when you ask them to do more.

 

  1. Some employees (often the ones who only do the bare minimum) expect to be promoted just for showing up. You can print them a crystal clear roadmap to success within your company, and they’ll still paddle along, doing nothing to distinguish themselves, then ask to be supervisor.

 

  1. Ingratitude is the status quo. Once, everyone in the department got tiny raises (three figures). The reason they were tiny is because we shifted our fiscal year; there was a tiny pool for compensation increases. Because someone had left, I was able to get every one of my employees a raise larger than the 1.5% average everyone in the company had to adhere to. I know it’s not a lot, but I put in a lot of effort to make their tiny raises a little less tiny. The fact they got more than the average was clearly explained to them. The response: the raises “were a slap in the face.” Fine. Next time, we’ll spend the money on a clever fucking food truck half of you won’t like.

 

  1. As a manager, much of your employee’s well-being (compensation, promotion, career growth) depends on you. At the same time, this isn’t a day care center; it’s a business, and my job is to get my employees to do their jobs. That’s a hell of burden, and it makes me less likely to be everyone’s buddy when instead I have to be fair and compassionate, but also directive and efficient.

 

  1. In the same vein, employees know how much power you have over things like compensation, so they’re never, ever totally honest with you. Personality problems I constantly hear about third-hand magically disappear when I’m leading from the floor. Also, employees will admit to making small mistakes, which upon five seconds of investigation, turn out to be related to much larger mistakes they say nothing about.

 

  1. Paranoia is the status quo. I can’t explain to employee #1 why I wrote employee #2 up. That would be unprofessional, and would betray the disciplined employee’s trust. Yet if it appears on the surface that I’m being unfair, then the conspiracy theorists kick in and all of a sudden I’m playing favorites. Example: Two employees don’t show up to work. One is written up. The first employee has a documented record of excessively calling in sick, and misses work yet again, without notice. The other, who has an exemplary attendance record, has a family emergency and calls into work in advance. The former would get written up before the latter every time. Employees aren’t privy to these details, so they form their own conclusions baked in resentment. And God help you if the employee who incorrectly thinks they’re being treated unfairly is a woman or a minority.

management bullshit

  1. You can’t listen to music with the N-word in it. You can’t describe the hot girl you met. You can’t tell off-color jokes, listen to Howard Stern, or share clips of that R-rated stand-up comedian. I’m going to write you up for breaking those rules. You may even get fired. The alternative is me losing my job because I tolerated a hostile work environment. So yes, we’re a friendly, down-to-earth, casual company…until tone-deaf legal standards force us to behave otherwise.

 

  1. Millennials, calling into work because you’re stressed isn’t a good excuse. Especially if it happens exclusively on Fridays and Mondays. I’m going to call you out on it.

 

  1. When HR makes a decision to fire you, I’m the one who breaks the news. When finance says we can’t afford that tool to make your job easier, I’m the one who communicates the message. Part of my job is to be the face of the company to you. Your bridge to the massive bureaucracy. Of course I’m going to sound like an asshole to you. And no, I don’t have time to make you feel better about it. So put my picture on the dartboard. Slander me if it makes you feel better about things. As long as you’re doing your job and I’m doing my best to treat you fairly and humanely, the rest is your problem.

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So.

 

That sounded fairly reasonable, didn’t it?

 

I chuckled a little and stopped myself from going back and showing the author where they were … well … as asshole <but still pointing out their competence>.

Being a manager and a leader is not easy. If it were then … well … not only could anyone be one anyone could actually be a good one.

I shared the 10 thoughts above because the difference between an asshole leader, and a competent non asshole leader, can often be defined in shades … not vivid colors <although the result often can be viewed in vivid displays of rich & royal hues>.

And that vivid comparison truly comes to Life if you are viewing a competent arrogant blowhard.

 

I was an okay manager & leader. I did some things okay and some things not so okay. I can honestly say I did get better at it as time went on and I am much better now, and how I discuss leadership, than I was even 5 years ago.

 

I am much better at identifying incompetence and the characteristics one management what growing-global-executive-talentshould look at in defining and judging managers and leaders than I was at the beginning of my career <at the beginning it was just “boy, that feel and looks wrong” and now it is “let me point out the five things which are wrong that makes it feel wrong.”

 

And … I will admit that it can sometimes be a fine line between solid confidence and overestimated ego.

 

What I can tell you is that you don’t need me to point out an arrogant, narcissistic, semi-competent blowhard. You can see them a mile away and even if you just “feel it” you are more than likely right.

 

An asshole is an asshole. Once you have seen an asshole and felt what it is like to be around an asshole … well … you will never forget the feeling.

 

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“Besides, nowadays, almost all capable people are terribly afraid of being ridiculous, and are miserable because of it.”

————-

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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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.