Enlightened Conflict

dreams and dream incubators

June 26th, 2017

Family of four on grass with hands up and dream

 

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“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it.

I want to have lived the width of it as well.”

 

——-

Diane Ackerman

 

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“Well, maybe it started that way. As a dream, but doesn’t everything.

Those buildings. These lights. This whole city.

 

Somebody had to dream about it first. And maybe that is what I did.

I dreamed about coming here, but then I did it.”

 

—–

James and the Giant Peach

 

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Ok.

 

Today I am actually going to talk about dreaming and business.

 

if only dreams wishes

 

Suffice it to say … someone needs to be talking about dreaming because dreamers have been having a tough time of it for a while. Shit. I could argue dreams themselves have had a tough go of it.

 

Pragmatism is the ‘watch word of the day’.

 

Reach for the stars? No way.  You need to think “attainable.”

 

In addition … the outside world seems to get crazier and crazier and more chaotic which encourages the majority of us to just hunker down and get shit done.  It encourages us to not only NOT think about dreaming but even worse …“why dream? I just need to figure out a way of surviving.”

 

All that said.

 

I have two thoughts today.

 

The first is the increasing importance of businesses to an individual’s dreams, and dreaming, and the second is just about dreaming itself.

 

Ok.

The first.

 

I believe the business world is going to start playing an incredibly important role with regard to the future of dreaming.

 

In fact.

 

I believe the successful business organization of the future will be a ‘dream incubator’ rather than the current, more pop culture popular, ‘purpose drive’ organization.

And I say that as a ‘purpose driven organization’ believer.

 

Let me explain.dream wall sitting alone thinking

 

The outside world, as I have noted earlier, doesn’t really seem conducive to dreams and dreaming.

 

The inside world, your job and business Life, is becoming more and more focused on the daily grind and meeting the needs of the grind. In general we are getting squeezed but dreaming, in particular, is getting suffocated.

 

This means there is little space in-between the outside world and inside world for dreams and dreaming.

 

This is where I believe business steps in and maybe sharpens its elbows and creates some space for individual people to remember having dreams can be good and dreaming can actually be a good thing.

 

Businesses can step in and remind people that there is big value in pragmatism and personal responsibility in doing a good job AS WELL AS there may be an equal value in placing a dream or two within the pragmatic ‘do what you need to do’ Life … it kind of adds some rich & royal hues to what could be a duller palette.

 

Now.

Let me address the practical aspect of business and how the idea of ‘dream incubator’ can fit … because a shitload of shortsighted business people are going to suggest they have no desire to have their employees “dreaming” … they want them focused on doing their jobs.

 

Purpose was offered as a glue to hold together, and align, functional behavior <departments & responsibilities> of an organization while providing a deeper value to instill in attitudes & behavior. It certainly offered a version of a North Star from an ethical & moral standpoint but its true objective was to take the place of ‘vision’ in a pragmatic business world seemingly devoid of anything but functional outcome driven behavior.

 

Good intent. Good objective.

 

My belief of ‘dream incubator’ is less functional driven but rather attitudinally driven.

 

My belief is that in a world in which dreaming is not being encouraged a business which encourages you to pursue your dreams WITHIN the business itself will be rewarded <attitudinally, functionally & profitability>.

 

purpose versus dreams organization business 2

 

My belief is that employees, in general, are not driven by their departmental function <which is actually more the ‘keep your head down and do what you need to do’ daily grind> but rather by their dreams — $, ideas, innovations and … well … let me call the last one “perfection.”

 

<please note: this is a simplified version of a more complex organizational idea which I have shared elsewhere, in other words, I know there are more layers to this concept>

 

 

Let me start with ‘perfection.’

 

Some people dream of operational excellence. They get frustrated with politics and missteps and the normal inefficient behavior of a normal organization. These are the ones who offer up the zany process changes which, as a manager, you look at, screw up your face and think “Jesus Christ, what a mosh pit this would be to implement.” And, yet, these are the same zany changes which the organization most likely NEEDS to do to step up from where it is currently running.

 

 

 

$

 

It would be naïve to ignore the fact some employees are financially motivated and that their dreams are tied to more material aspects. They want money and things and your objective should be to inspire them to dream for more and be the organization which can enable their dreams to come true <within the construct of whatever is construed as ‘fair play’ within that organization>.

 

Ideas.

 

ideas dream make fly people think believe imagine educateSome people dream of thinking … and thinking up ideas. Imagine a business which encourages the epe who like t come up with ideas actually helps their ideas come to Life … even if they do not directly apply to the business itself.

 

Huh?

 

Here is a secret a lot of good business people know. While we love to talk about focus and ‘staying in our lane’ and the danger of less-than-strategic expansion, the truth is that a business can accommodate a shitload of different lanes if they are actually good lanes <and good ideas>.

I know when I managed groups while I needed people to focus on what they needed to do … I always encouraged them think about new ideas and talk to me about their ideas – even if it didn’t have shit to do with what we actually did to earn our living. Why did I do that? I could offer a dozen reasons but suffice it to say that it offers them a valuable sounding board for whether they have a viable idea or not <which they liked & appreciated> and I would get the brain working on non-related shit <which invariably gets you thinking about your related shit differently — and I liked that & appreciated it>.

Plus. People like thinking about their dreams even if they can’t actually do them.

 

Innovations.

 

I don’t need to say anything about this. This is obvious. The best innovations are usually a reflection of smart dreaming.

 

Ok.

The second.

 

I believe we need to remind ourselves on occasion that it is okay to dream … and dream big.

 

dream window of opportunity imagine

And that relentlessly pursuing a dream can be inspiring … not discouraging.

 

Now.

 

Being a big dreamer doesn’t mean that you walk around with your head in the clouds. It means that you have a purpose … a big purpose that makes your life bigger and fulfills some promise within you.

Of course … as usual … the key is to find a balance. Think ground and clouds.

Maybe think about it as being pragmatic with no guardrails. A contradiction? Sure. But big dreams are a contradiction. As a practical relatively pragmatic human race we would never have them … unless some of them defied the odds and actually came true.

 

Yeah.

Some really do happen.

 

Anyway.

 

I like the thought of business accepting the role as a business incubator and actually re-energizing the human spirit toward dreams and dreaming.

I like the thought of a business being a ‘dream incubator’ is fulfilling a role life & society seem to be abdicating.

 

Look.

 

extraordinary robbedI have always been a huge proponent that business should accept a larger role in driving societal norms & mores and, in this case, I actually believe that in doing so the business acumen & success is rewarded.

 

Whew.

 

Can you imagine how many resumes a business would get if it said “we want you to make your lives extraordinary, help you make your dreams come true, because if you do … we believe our company will be extraordinary.”

 

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Dead Poets Society:

“Make your lives extraordinary.”

 

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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

 

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“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.

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.

Enlightened Conflict