Enlightened Conflict

you do not get credit for what you are supposed to do

August 28th, 2017

 

work doing the best you can not enough

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“A diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure.”

 

——

Henry Kissinger

 

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“When you do things right, people won’t be sure that you have done anything at all.”

 

God (in Futurama)

 

===

 

Well.

 

 

Think what you want and say what you want to say about Kissinger … but the unseen lifeopening quote is awesome <although, geologically speaking, it may not be truly accurate>.

 

In our quest for recognition as a leader many business people, and leaders in general, seemingly get shoved <on seemingly a daily basis> into some absurd universe where everyone judges you <mostly on some absurd views of ‘being noticed is what matters’ or ‘shine bright like a diamond‘>. I say that because this means thinking of yourself as a piece of coal seems … well … quite underwhelming and quite ‘unleaderly’ <I made that word up>.

 

Uhm.

 

But.

 

One of the most frustrating things you learn early on in a management career path is that you do not get credit for what you are expected to do.

 

And maybe what makes this most frustrating is that this lesson applies to a crisis as well as the most mundane everyday grind responsibilities.

 

But.

 

The thing is as you gain more and more responsibility you learn that this is actually a good thing.

 

People like reliability.

 

People like consistency.

 

People like a foundation of quiet competent leadership.

 

People like you doing what you are supposed to do <with little fanfare>.

leadership confidence credit insecure Trump

 

 

This is a lesson learned early on in a management career … and you can tell the leaders who <a> did not learn it or <b> saw the lesson but lack self-confidence … because they … well … ignore the lesson and exhibit ongoing aggravating self promotion <even on the things they are expected to do>.

 

That said.

 

This doesn’t mean you aren’t tempted to take amount or two to point out in some fairly loud messaging that you want some credit for what you are doing.

 

This is the ‘dance.’ The management & leader “credit dance.’ I call it a dance because every good leader knows they have to do some self-public relations and, yet, they don’t want to be seen as doing any overt self-public relations.

 

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

 

“The price of greatness is responsibility.”

 

—–

Winston Churchill

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Being a great leader is all about doing your job and doing the right things at the right time … and <I imagine> figuring out how to actually tell people that you did the right things at the right time. This means not being seen a as blowing your own horn or being some narcissistic attention seeking, credit seeking asshat but rather one who understands it really isn’t about gaining credit or accolades but rather reassuring people that the right things, the good things, just get done under your watch.

 

I would note that reassurance is a powerful tool.

 

It is powerful because doing things right isn’t about small … nor large … but if you do it right … really right … people will not really be sure that you’ve done anything at all and, yet, feel reassured that you are there.

 

Now.

 

In today’s bombastic world it can actually become a bad thing if no one notices. Why? <insert a ‘huh?!?’ here> because someone else at the exact same time is telling everyone what they did … and yes … unfortunately … often the squeaky wheel does get the grease.

 

Aw heck.

 

The truth is that the value is never in the credit. And leaders know that. And we everyday schmucks need to remind ourselves of that more often.

 

—-

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

————

 

Leaders know that the little things can matter and that just delivering upon good person what you do not what you saywhat you are supposed to do really matters <a lot>.

 

A subtle touch can create the needed ripples. Doing what you are supposed to do insures the right ripples are always … well … rippling.

 

Good leaders know you can be the initiator, instigator or implementer … or even all of them … and it doesn’t really matter.

 

I would note that within the realm of doing what you are supposed to do about the only thing that can truly diminish ‘greatness of simple doing’ is not accepting responsibility – for the bad and the good and all that it takes to get to either place.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that what I just stated is ‘character’.

 

Leaders don’t lead by asking or telling people to follow it most often happens by doing the shit you are supposed to do really well.

I know. I know. that doesn’t sound “great” but greatness really cannot be achieved without it.

 

Oh.

This kind of suggests that greatness is a contradiction.

 

Let’s use Winston as an example.

Huge ego. MASSIVE ego. Charismatic speaker. Maybe one of the greatest orators of all time. Made some huge mistakes. HUGE mistakes.

 

But humble in his responsibility. He permitted  the people to get credit for success and strength and what needed to be done … all the while doing what he as supposed to be doing.

 

He was vocal, and sincere, on issues and the people of Great Britain getting credit.

All despite his ego.

 

Great leadership reflects a unique balance of ego and humility.

Ego to effectively lead and humility to be effectively followed.

 

I would imagine those with the greatest character reside somewhere on the line between those two things.

 

I would imagine those with the greatest character reside somewhere in between not getting credit for what they are supposed to do and actually being acknowledged for enabling greater greatness.

 

Well.

 

I know it isn’t popular to say this but most of the best things in Life, and leadership,  are found in the unspectacular:

 

  • The best people more often than not go unseen and unnoticed by the majority.

 

  • The best moments more often than not go unseen until looking back.

 

Just as perfection is most often found in the imperfections … spectacular is most often found in the unspectacular. And, yes, doing what you are supposed to do is unspectacular.

 

But I would argue the spectacular would never ever happen if the ‘supposed to do’ shit never happened.

 

In the end.

 

do what you said you would

Great leaders are often judged by what you don’t see them doing. This also means great leaders are often judged by what they feel comfortable remaining silent about … by what they don’t say about what they are supposed to do and supposed to be.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out this is a little more difficult than it may appear. It is a little more difficult because a great leader does have to have some ego and some higher level of confidence and, therefore, some positive affirmation kind of helps to put some well needed oxygen back into the confidence balloon.

It takes a awhile to learn you don’t have to ask for oxygen or even try and fill it yourself … well … at least good leaders learn that … the bad, insecure ones never do.

 

 

staying above even when stepping down

June 25th, 2017

 

inspire people dont give up

 

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“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

 

—-

J.R.R Tolkien

 

 

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“And though she be but little, she is fierce.”

—-

William Shakespeare

 

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Ok.

 

lead togther step down dominant

This is about business and business leadership.

 

Leading is a big job. It carries big responsibilities and big burdens. You have to be big enough in some way <skills, charisma, character, smarts, etc.> to stay above the organization and employees. And I say “above” because part of leading is being able to see above the heads of everyone so that you can lead and align and step in when & where appropriate.

 

Above is not dominance per se just that you maintain a dominant position from which you can most effectively & efficiently lead.

 

Now.

 

Here is what any good leader knows … you don’t have to be big to … well … be big.

Heck. You don’t even have to act ‘big.’

 

In addition.

 

A good leader can leave the comfort of the ‘throne’, i.e. the trappings of the ‘bigness’ –the natural ‘dominance’ that comes with a title — and still remain above even when stepping down from all those things.trump dominant Genuine people fake people

 

However.

 

Not everyone is a good leader. And not every leader is particularly good at navigating the natural doubts <am I doing the right thing, am I doing the best thing, am I doing the thing I should be doing, etc.> that come along with being a leader. By the way … any good leader has some doubts on occasion … it keeps them grounded.

 

Regardless.

 

What that means is there will inevitably be business people who fear looking small. And they protect their illusions of ‘bigness’, or being bigly, mainly in several ways:

 

  • They diminish everyone they can in the attempt to make others as small as they can so that they look bigger no matter the comparison

 

  • They find a ‘safe space’ in which they place their metaphorical throne and make everyone come to them <this is kind of like the boss who purposefully has their desk built slightly higher and the chairs facing the desk slightly lower to insure they maintain a physical dominant position>

 

  • They avoid, as much as possible, one-on-one interactions with anyone their own size <unless they can control the environment>.

 

  • They ground themselves in platitudes under the guise of “flexibility & adaptability” so they can avoid having to defend anything specific with anyone who could diminish their bigness

 

 

Well.

 

Why I decided to write about this is … uhm … day in and day out Donald J Trump offers us in the business world reminders of ineffective leadership style and the characteristics of insecure leadership.

And the number one business dunce stupid brand marketingcharacteristic of insecure leadership is the inability to step down and still stay above.

 

Insecure leaders are extremely hesitant, if not completely resistant, to leaving their ‘dominant position.’

 

Let me explain ‘dominant position’ because it can sound bad <and it is mainly meant to express a position of authority>.

 

A CEO or a president is clearly in a dominant position by title and by responsibility and, in most cases, by some larger skill that got them to where they are. A true ‘dominant position’ <let’s call it “authority”> combines all aspects.

 

Therefore the person in the dominant position combines substance & style. And this is where insecurity steps in … because if a leader has any true doubts with regard to their ‘dominant position’ – mostly doubts on their substance — they start exhibiting some insecure characteristics.

They will dial up their style aspects to cloak any substance deficiencies and become excruciatingly careful with regard to how they interact with other people.

 

But the one I thought about today was “stepping down.’

 

Let me explain.

 

I heard Donald J say the other day “they should call us to participate.” In other words … they need to come to me <thereby establishing some aspect of subservience and feeds the sense of ‘dominant position.’

 

shift up or down

This was not a one-off comment.

He does this … every … frickin’ … day.

 

Trump never “goes to people” nor does he unite by inserting himself into any opposing groups <people who may not agree with him> opening himself up to say “let me be part of what you want.” I cannot envision him ever going to opposition and suggesting he wanted to work with them <they have to come to him>.

His whole leadership style is driven by an insecurity of ‘dominant position’ and he fears stepping down from his position because he fears it will expose the fact he isn’t really above anyone other than in title.

 

In other words … he fears looking small <or ‘not bigly’>.

 

And therein lies the larger lesson.

 

Good leaders don’t become smaller when they step down or go to people rather than make people go to them. They know there are no ‘little people’ but rather only big responsibilities of which everyone has.

 

Little people are little wherever they go … even if they just sit in the corner office.

Unfortunately for us a little leader knows this … and doesn’t know this.

What I mean by that is they can sense their littleness therefore they go out of their way to stay within whatever cocoon of ‘bigness trappings’ to encourage the belief they have that they are actually big. And, yet, they don’t know this rump dominant Do you think clouds look down on people and thinkbecause they tend to have an oversized view of themselves <every should come to me attitude>.

 

They see themselves through a fairly warped view of self-relevance … “everyone else becomes more relevant by being around me therefore they become bigger in my bigness.” And that partially outlines their main fear.

Loss of relevance.

Anyone who becomes more relevant than them is a danger. Loss of power, the illusion of or real, is the danger.

 

What that all means is that an insecure leader more often than not lives in a “you need to come to me, call me or ask me” mentality.

 

  • Foreign dignitaries come to visit him <and he does not visit them>.
  • Democrats should call me instead of being obstructionists.
  • People need to visit him at the White House <or Mar a Lago>.
  • He never works with people or offers to meet them.

 

He treats everyone as if they should be subservient to him and if they do not meet that desire he is dismissive or even attacks them as ‘obstructionist.’

 

leadership go your way

 

Let me be clear.

 

No sane business leader <in this generation> has this attitude.

You cannot.

You cannot because you know many of the people working for you are actually smarter than you and a shitload more just may know something you do not know.

You cannot because oftentimes your peers, who actually report to you, may actually be better than you at some things.

You cannot because you know that good people never want to feel subservient but rather want to feel being a key part of overall success.

 

Most of those who lead have learned these things not by attempting to learn to be ‘above’ but rather by learning how to lead. And you learn that mostly by getting into ‘the game’ and realizing you can play anywhere at any time. I know that I took an advertising job as a young newly promoted VP in NYC not out of any desire to be the best but because I was curious. I was curious to see if I could “play in the NYC advertising game.” I didn’t need to be the best nor did I desire to dominate … I just wanted to see if I could play.

I can tell you that once you become comfortable with knowing you can play at the biggest level and the lowest level you have a fighting chance to become a leader.

 

Look.

 

We all have numerous character flaws and it is a sad truth the majority of us can’t see them. This is even more difficult in a leadership position because you do naturally become more self-aware of any of the things you are good at and yet also not good at … but you also lean heavily on the things you ‘perceive’ got you where you are today.

 

I say that because insecure leaders are relatively hollow on the self-awareness.

Looking at Trump it is easy to see that he grew up thinking he could get away with whatever he wanted. He lived in a bubble in which young, mentally lazy, rich, amoral white men routinely got away with whatever they wanted. These same characteristics are exhibited in his insecure leadership style.

 

Here is what I know.

trump ominant look down on other people

Big leaders are big leaders.

 

And they are big because wherever they go they retain their bigness. That means they need not ‘stay above’ to be big … they can step down … sit in town halls answering questions from real people as well as sit down with people who didn’t vote for you as well as sit down with peers and discuss ideas … and walk away just as big as they entered the room.

 

Small leaders cannot do those things, therefore, they do not.

 

I have now given you a way to judge big leaders from small leaders. Judge away. Every leader should be judged … and judged harshly … because … well … they are leaders and that is their burden.

saying what matters and it matters what you say

June 16th, 2017

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own your words maps to your intentions

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“Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.”

 

Robert Frost

 

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Well.

 

blog-writing-work-from-homeI write a blog.

In fact.

A couple thousand pieces and a couple million words.

 

In my mind … I have something to say and I say it. Maybe it all means nothing and as Frost suggests … I am one of those who have nothing to say but say it.

 

Regardless.

 

If I say it … I own my words.

 

I say this because we are edging into a world where people are of an age that are shifting into leadership positions, positions of influence, who … well … have blogs or have written for blogs.

 

And, uh oh,  they are being demanded to justify their words, thoughts and ideas. In other words … they are being asked to own their words. They may have had nothing to say but they said something and now they have to explain something about their nothing.

 

This is all incredibly interesting <and slightly amusing> to me because if you go online you will find thousands of writing advice columns <usually formatted in the heinous listicles and written by self righteous older people> written for the attention of young people … warning them of the dangers of what they put online and how it can affect their future employment.

 

The amusing part? I found none <zero> advice columns directed toward … well … me <self righteous older people>.

 

And you know why? Because we older folk are supposed to know better.

what are you going to do i do not know

 

 

Sadly.

Some of us do not know better.

 

There are lawyers seeking higher positions, business people seeking a seat in a C-level suite and even doctors seeking to shift into a more general business world who are finding that their words are following them <and they need to own them>.

 

And, no, “it was just my personal opinion on my personal blog” doesn’t hack it. if you shared a thought you own the words in how you shared it, therefore, you own the thought AND the words.

 

To be fair … I will spend a second in the tricky part.

 

Is the past a predictor?

 

Should we waste our time revisiting the blog writings of someone who most likely sat down and vented personal thoughts on things of matter?

And … maybe more importantly … should we be held accountable for words we decided to put down and share on the world wide web?

 

Simplistically I would say … of course we should be held accountable for the words then … just as, of course, what we said then may be different than what we would say now … and we need to own those words <and justify the difference>.

 

Simplistically I would say … it is indefensible to solely make a stand on ‘you said it because you can’ and , simplistically, it is indefensible to simply say ‘that was then and this is now.’

 

If you write, you own the words. Therefore, use words with care.

 

 

blog posts scary

I don’t have time for many blogs … the daily diaries, the motivational tripe, the pieces that don’t really have a point, emotional directionless solution-lacking pieces … these have some value in some ways but they aren’t really the potent things <albeit … you own those words too so be careful>.

 

But many blogs are there to make a point. And if you make a point, you own it.

Oh.

And … you own the words you use to make that point.

 

I make no mistake when I post something in that I know when I open my mind and share my words they represent a potent formula that can be drunk with pleasure or peril.

I know whether it is a large presentation, a one-on-one discussion or a 998 word post on my blog I am doing so as a public speaker.

 

I own my words. I own my thoughts.

 

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“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”

 

Yehuda Berg

 

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I am surprised when older people get trapped in business discussions having to discuss things they may have written. I am surprised because I know when I write and share those words … I can use these words as a constructive force or a destructive force. And with either path I own what I construct as well as own what I deconstruct.

 

Now.

 

What also surprises me a little is that older people who have blogs or write opinion pieces are not young inexperienced people but, if you are making a point, you really do know that simply ranting or using some childish phrasing or hyperbolic rhetoric diminishes what you have to say.

 

And I say that knowing I am free with the swear words and generous with snarkiness.

 

But what helps me is that I have found over time that conceptually I write in the same framework as I learned how to communicate in the professional world.

Stylistically it is me … all me <maddening to some people who visit the site> … but the framework resides in what I have always believed is the most simplistic way to create a simple message.

 

Sure. I may not communicate what I want to say simply but underneath the swear words, the snarkiness, the faux intellectualism and the casual use of grammar resides a desire to hit what I have always believed is the message simplicity bullseye <by the way … anyone, blogger, opinion writer and even a communications agency can use this simplistic guide>.

 

The bullseye.

 

simplicity bullseye business

 

On one axis, the horizontal, you are bookended in framing.

 

On one end is whatever issue & solution I can offer — functionally what I have to offer <my experience, my ideas, my thinking> — followed in toward the bullseye by … well … me, the writer, and who I am and what I stand for <so that my thinking gets filtered through who and what I am … lets call that my character>.

 

On the other end is the need or want – functionally what is needed – followed in toward the bullseye by what the situation, or people, may desire <or think they desire> so that pragmatism gets filtered through the sometimes random irrational minds of people.

 

The other axis, the vertical, is even simpler … hero, conflict and resolution. It is basic story telling applied to ideas.

 

simple story connection message bullseye

 

 

I want to offer a hero <it can be an idea> which can enter into a conflict unflinchingly, or flinchingly if appropriate, and offer a resolution. Simple stories work the best and, as one writer articulated it … “incorporate elements of hero, conflict, and goal.”

 

All this permits me even in my most dry pieces to attempt to offer my version of a story which, as stories are supposed to do, address deeper and enduring emotional levels tapping into personal  “issues” such as self-esteem <conformity versus individuality>, self-doubt and economic wellbeing.

 

Everyone who writes should have a story. They shouldn’t toss out words thoughtlessly, or worse, irreverently.

 

Anger doesn’t guide a good story <typically> but as long as you continue to aim forward the bullseye even an anger driven critique can end up in an okay place when viewed by someone in the future.

 

And all of that matters if you assume at some point someone will demand you own your words.

 

The story formula is simple:

 

  1. Pick what matters <a conflict>

 

  1. Offer a distinct meaningfully view, hero and resolution

 

  1. Imbue with your personality & character <which will inevitably be captured in the hero apects>.

 

I could argue, and I would, that if you stay within this framework what you take care of your thoughts care of your words ownwrite today will be representative of something you want to say tomorrow. You may not want to say exactly the same thing today, or tomorrow, as you did in the past but you will most likely be able to leverage from the past to what you want to say.

 

I mention this today not just to share my framework for writing but rather because many people my age, or slightly younger, are being measured more and more by the words they shared online. And more and more of them are finding that they have to choose between what they believe in <most likely reflected in something they wrote in the past> and what they need to say to get what they want in the moment.

 

That seems kind of nuts to me … that choice I mean.

 

What I want today should be aligned with what I believe in. I can take a fairly hard stance on a variety of issues, and I have, but I also hope that my heroes & resolutions reflect adaptability to other’s views and the situation at hand. When I do meet new business people or people I haven’t seen in a while and sometimes they bring up something I have written … well … let’s say 5 years ago … I am good. I may not think exactly what I did then but my basic beliefs have not changed.

 

It surprises me when some fairly qualified people have not assumed that stance in what they have written.

And.

I certainly have no patience for those who are more than willing to toss out their own past words as “I said that then but now …” or “I wish I had chosen my words more carefully.”

 

I will not suggest we should all get our words right every time <I surely don’t> but not all words are created equal and the really important ones … the potent ones … the ones that can construct or deconstruct … you should get right.

 

Well.

At least right enough that someday in the future your career will not hang in the balance over a poorly thought out blog piece. Conversely, if you did think it out and your career can hang in the balance over it … well … you made a stand.own your words who you are

 

And backing off that stand simply to get to where you want to be is … well … not good.

 

My writing style, or lack of style, aside … I don’t understand ever being trapped by owning your own words if you have decided to be “true to thineself” no matter what. I said something then and maybe I could have used better words but the basic thought premise is what I believe. Take it or leave it because getting the job, sitting at some table in a discussion, getting something I want doesn’t mean that thought can be discarded … if I believe it … well … I own it.

 

I will admit that owning up can be difficult but, as I once said, mistakes or things you have said in the past can be an awful lot like a hurricane … and “I” is always at the center of a hurricane — stay steady and hold the center.

 

I have no time and I have no patience for older people who do not own their words. And they should be ashamed of themselves for discarding thoughts and words so easily just to get something they want now.

Thoughts and words are far too valuable to be that disposable.

 

one of those dumb days where

June 13th, 2017

do nothing sloth impossible every day jo

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“We are dying from overthinking.

 

We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything.

Think. Think. Think.

 

You can never trust the human mind anyway.

It’s a death trap.”

 

Anthony Hopkins

 

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

 

“It’s one of those dumb days where nothing’s really wrong but nothing’s really right either and the sky can’t even choose to be white or gray.”

 

Andrea Portes

 

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nothing neon sign

 

“Nothing” days.

 

 

Its hard to believe with all that shit we always seem to have to do and all the shit that seems to be happening around us and all the shit society, people and culture claims we are demanded to pay attention to … there can be nothing days.

The dumb days in which nothing happens <albeit lots of somethings actually happen>.

 

I think this is one of those things I didn’t think about until I actually thought about it — how can a day be nothing when you actually did a shitload?

 

Sure.

 

There are some people who get busy doing nothing <I actually call this ‘the art of looking busy’ and have a piece on his coming up>.

 

But the majority of us do a shitload of something on the days which we tend to i expect nothing still too muchview as having done nothing.

 

And I am not sure that is particularly healthy.

 

You can surely assess what you have done and apply some value less than what you wished you could assess … but even that “lesser value” is not zero, therefore, it is not nothing.

 

Personally I think this happens because the majority of us have a natural resistance to nothing. What I mean by that is being associated with “nothing”, particularly in a country that extols doing, creates some sense of diminishing or diminished.

 

And no one likes to feel either diminished or having whatever we actually did do be diminished to … well … nothing.

 

Anyway.

 

What that means is we will apologize for ‘nothing’ with a variety of reasons – distracted, bored, tired, etc. – because in the end our internal integrity compass wants to point toward something to make us happy.

In fact … someone created something called the Nothing Day which has been commemorated since 1973. The day is literally about doing nothing at all. There is absolutely no purpose or intended structure for this pointless celebration.

 

especially if its nothing days

 

My point isn’t that we should celebrate nothing or doing nothing or even the feeling we actually did nothing but rather that we see “nothing” where there really is something.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

This is even making my head hurt.

 

Let me try this.

 

Far too often we fall into an all or nothing assessment with regard to our day. What that means is we could actually do a shitload but if it doesn’t meet some “something” standard it then falls to a 100% nothing value.

That is nuts.

 

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“Either I reigned supreme or sank into the abyss.”

 

Simone de Beauvoir

 

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And I can honestly say its nuts because I do it. I can reach the end of a day with a long list of shit I have done and sit back and say “shit, I did nothing.”

And I don’t think I am that different than a lot of people.

 

I could speculate why we do it but I will not.

 

Mostly it is because we think, think & think about the shit … and overthink it … and it is a death trap.

 

Mostly I think society & culture seems to put an extraordinary amount of value on tangible recognizable outcomes therefore if you just do shit … but the shit doesn’t offer some trophy outcome you can hold up for everyone to see than … well … we think we have nothing to show for it. That is also a death trap.

 

That’s dumb.something and nothing sign

 

Not only is that dumb it is the foundation for one of those dumb days where nothing’s really wrong but nothing’s really right either and the sky can’t even choose to be white or gray type feeling … which is a pretty dumb feeling to have.

 

All I can say is that the next time you think it is one of those dumb days where you did nothing … maybe stop overthinking and make it a simple thought — I did some shit today. I will do more shit tomorrow. And eventually some good shit will happen.

Enlightened Conflict