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.

the fraying of organizational communication

May 8th, 2017

fraying communications

 

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“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

 

—–

Benjamin Franklin

 

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Ok.

 

It seems like in today’s world leaders are getting the shit kicked out of them if they communicate in a precise fashion, in a measured way and in what appears bland magic in the headto be calculated communicating.

They are called unauthentic, bland and blamed for being ‘less than truthful.’

 

This is creating a sense that semi-impetuous blurbs of ‘here is what I think’ communication is deemed of higher value from our leaders.

 

Well.

 

It is a sad state of affairs if we value the latter in a leader more than the former.

But let me point out the flaws in the impetuous less-than-thought-out thought communicating.

 

I call it the fraying of organizational communication.

 

You learn fairly quickly once you begin leading a larger group of people, and desire them to grow beyond simply being order takers, that precise communications matters.

 

You learn you cannot be everywhere at once, you cannot be in every meeting and you cannot have people simply parrot your own words because … well … they are your words and not theirs <and for them to grow they need to figure out how to articulate things on their own>. Therefore, you learn that you need to precisely communicate an idea so that they can offer up their own words to share that idea.

 

You learn this because impreciseness means people start having to answer not only unnecessary questions … but are also being demanded to explain ‘what you meant.’

 

This is a dangerous slippery slope.good and bad thoughts words

 

People work for you for a reason <you most likely have more experience and have some skills they do not have>.

People have different titles for a reason <they most likely have different or less experience and have yet to learn some skills they do not have>.

 

This means that farther out your words & thoughts have to be explained the more likely the explanation is not going to be exactly right.

Oh.

 

And let’s ad in ‘the stress factor.’

 

This is where ‘fraying’ becomes obvious.

 

The less precise a leader is the more likely the communication fabric is going to be tugged at the edges. The edges being where many of your least experienced people reside. The less precise a leader is the more the pressure at the farthest point of communication.

 

This is where the ‘fraying’ becomes most obvious. As more and more questions are piled upon the person on the edge with regard to the “whys” and “whats” the communication becomes more and more stressed … and mistakes are made.

 

wrong faultThings are said that just may not be exactly right.

 

Something is said in exasperation.

 

Something is communicated as a ‘well, could be’ scenario to offer some space.

 

This is not the fault of the person on the edge … the responsibility lies with the person at the center.

 

Anyway.

 

As a leader, the people closest to you most likely don’t need the precision, calculation and measured words … but you give it to them anyway. You do so because those closest to you will find their own words to say what you said … without losing its meaning.

 

A flawed message at the top doesn’t lose its flaws as it expands … its flaws become increased.

 

Some people call it ‘getting your talking points in line’ … I do not. I simply call it “clarity & precision from the top.” I do that because while it may seem bland and it may seem calculated … it avoids the more difficult problems and criticisms.

 

ato normal center abnormal societyA leader must hold the center verbally. It can sometimes be held with vision and soaring rhetoric but more often it is captures in the calculated pragmatic words which are easily carried by those on the edges out beyond the organization.

 

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‘Things fall apart, the center cannot hold….

The best lack all conviction,

While the worst are full of passionate intensity

 

—–

William Butler Yeats < The Second Coming>

 

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As a leader there may be nothing worse than confidently saying the wrong thing. For when you do the rest of your organization feels compelled to support your confidence … uhm … and the wrong thing.

 

And if the ‘wrongness’ is compounded with any sense of vagueness in meaning ‘wrong’ becomes his multidimensional blob of slime which mucks up the entire organizational engine.

 

I am fairly sure mom & pop businesses don’t learn this lesson <or maybe not as well>. They have no real need to do so. Most words are in the domain of the ‘mom & pop’ and any family members or close knit employees will most likely simply regurgitate whatever the mom & pop say with earnestness … but no real understanding. There is no need to understand … it just is.

 

And maybe that is where leaders, who are precise and calculated in wording, understand what truth about success within an organization is — that understanding matters.

 

People cannot defend what they do not completely understand and, well, you know as a leader you cannot always be there to defend and you need to depend on others to do so … not by interpreting what you said but through understanding what you said.

 

In the end.

 

We may beat the crap out of ‘bland colorless calculated’ communication from leaders but we should all recognize that it isn’t necessarily done out of fear of saying the wrong thing or political correctness but rather done because … well … good leaders know they hold the center. They know that understanding limits spotlight seat lead follow center alonefraying at the edges of the organization.

They know they have a responsibility, boring as it may be on occasion, to pragmatically say what needs to be said in a way that doesn’t encourage guessing or questioning.

 

Clarity really does matter.

And ‘bland’ can be underrated.

But fraying communications farther from the center is a reflection of a leader not assuming responsibility for holding a strong center.  A good leader knows that while they may have a dozen things they really want to say 11 of those things will most likely make the people on the edges edgy and miserable.

A good leader knows that an organization is not just about what the one wants to say <the leader themselves> but rather organizational effectiveness resides in ‘out of many, one.’

 

I imagine what I am saying is that if you see some people on-the-ground who are part of an organization and you start hearing verbal mistakes … 99% of the time it is a reflection of the fact the leader was vague, imprecise and didn’t hold the communication center <that would make them a bad leader>.

 

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

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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>

 

Enlightened Conflict