Enlightened Conflict

businesses running hard

August 18th, 2017

company culture die trying

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“To think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult.”

 

Johann Wolfgang Von Goeth

 

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“But if these years have taught me anything it is this: you can never run away.

Not ever.

The only way out, is in.”

 

Junot Diaz

 

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Well.

 

Almost every business I have ever crossed paths with has claimed they were flee run awayrunning hard. Shit. I have never met a business that said “well, we don’t believe in running hard … we are walkers.”

 

Trust me when I say most businesses do not really run hard.

 

I know that because once you have <a> seen and experienced a company that runs hard everything else will look slow and <b> we have all ‘run hard’ in selected moments in our business career but 99% of those companies also say “it is not sustainable” and 99% of the time run at a lower gear.

 

That said.

When a company is running hard there is a slightly odd dynamic that almost always occurs … wondering whether it is worth it.

 

Yeah.

 

When a company is running hard, working hard and doing hard things daily it can be easy to wonder whether it is worth it. Wonder if you are reaching objectives fast enough, doing the right things and whether you are actually getting closer to where you want to be.

 

By the way … this wondering is often exacerbated by poor managers and management who constantly create a false sense of urgency and manage deadlines like a caffeinated rabbit.

 

Regardless.

 

I feel relatively confident most managers fuck up how they address the wondering.

 

This happens because we inherently want to show people they reached something … a goal, a milestone or some ‘finish destination’ when , in reality, progress is the value you should be showing them to show a causal relationship to the energy they are expending. They are running hard, you are asking the company to run hard … you want to show them a often as you can that they are actually making some progress.

 

We fuck it up because we just aren’t taught that it is okay to let them know … “well … we are lagging behind on some sales objectives, but this doesn’t mean someone is doing something wrong, or you aren’t working hard enough or 19 speak the truththat some competitor is doing some magical thing better than we are.”

 

We fuck it up because most of us do not know how to deliver that message well.  most of us make it sound like we are chasing some unrealistic goal, or maybe we throw in some false sense of optimism or maybe we actually create some ‘midway milestone’ which actually encourages people to maybe invest a little less hard, a little less running and a lot more ‘maybe that is enough.’

 

When your people are running hard you don’t want to tell them that it is … well … going to be hard and that is why you are actually running hard.

But you have to tell them.

 

Well.

You have to if you want them to keep running hard.

 

Tell them: You are asking people to change – and change is hard.

 

Most businesses aren’t just selling shit <something> they are asking a potential buyer to change – change current product, supplier or behavior. While change change self getting better and worse same timereally is hard … we get better at explaining how this change we are asking them to do … is easier than they may perceive every day. Sometimes we have to weave our way through objections and sometimes we have to hammer our way through objections … but everyone, every sales person, service person, management, support staff and anyone who interacts with current and potential customers are doing their part today and doing even better the day after.

 

And while asking someone to change is hard actually implementing the change is harder. I sometimes believe most businesses are in the change management business more than anything else.

You have to tell them you know that no one is better at explaining why that change is good and how that change can occur.

The truth is when you are running hard, and not running simply for running sake, people get better at this every day.

 

The truth is we are not where we want to be but getting there … and getting better at getting there.

 

Next.

 

Tell them: You are asking people to believe what you already know – and educating is hard.

 

Even if your company is good, really good, and even if your company is the best, the leader, every company does have competition. People just don’t believe you just because you are the best or the leader – and most of your people know that <no matter how frustrating it is>. In today’s skeptical world people just don’t say “oh, okay.” And, frankly,  we don’t want someone to say “oh, okay” when one of our competitors makes a claim.  We shouldn’t, and don’t, expect our customers and potential customers to simply believe everything we say. This means we need to educate and consistently address each question and request as if each answer is THE one which will make them a partner of our company.

 

The truth is we are not where we want to be but getting there … and getting better at getting there.

 

blanace greater good matters do

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“If in a company you change nothing, you are sure to fail.

 

If you change everything you are sure to fail as well.

 

So the art of winning resides in your capacity to draw the fine line between what should be changed and what should not.

 

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Jean Marie-Dru

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Look.

 

Running hard is not the same as running fast. But businesses are impatient, in general, and absolutely over-the-top impatient if they feel like they are running hard.

 

This means you have to tell them some truth about themselves and the company.

 

I doubt you will ever get to where you want to be as fast as you would want. I imagine every leader in every industry is always perpetually dissatisfied in this way. I imagine every adventurer, every explorer and every innovator is always perpetually dissatisfied in this way. I imagine this is partially what makes an average company great – you understand that tomorrow’s company will be a little bit better than the company today.

Our sales will come. They will never come as fast as you want but our company doesn’t just work hard, you work smart and success is ours whether it arrives in small steps or great leaps.

 

 

Anyway.

 

I have away said this — part of what makes a company great is that feeling of dissatisfaction.

 

A great company wants to be more agile, move faster, and retain that perpetual feeling that they can always do more and be better.kitchen-table-great-idea-concept-lead

 

A great company has a spirit that drives them and gives everyone the sense that tomorrow is another opportunity to be better than today.

 

A great company, typically, does run hard but, maybe most importantly, has a leader who can breathe constant oxygen into the runners in a way that is neither false nor insincere.

 

Not everyone who says they are running hard are really running hard but if you are in a company who is … I can almost guarantee the organization will explode without good leadership and will be an Olympian marathoner with good leadership.

do you ever lose wanting the fairy tale?

August 14th, 2017

 

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graffitti talent

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“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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“We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing in them becomes too high.”

 

Ransom Riggs

 

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So.

 

hope i want the fairy taleI came across this “I want the fairy tale” gif on a tumblr site <from the mediocre movie Notting Hill with a fabulous British cast> while looking for an image and I ignored it for awhile … and then kept coming back to it.

 

 

I kept thinking … “wanting the fairy tale”.

 

Now.

 

I didn’t mean a ‘love fairy tale.’

Nor, as I have written before, am I discussing the importance of fairytales, the stories, themselves.

 

I am thinking more as in ‘your fairy tale.’ As in “doing something that matters” or “be anyone you want” or “being important” or “being on the front cover of Time magazine” or … well … whatever fairy tale you believed was possible when you were young.

Maybe we could call it “your dream.”

 

I guess I don’t care what you call it … but … do we ever really lose wanting the fairy tale?

 

I tend to believe somewhere within us … well … maybe the 90% of us every day schmucks who never really reached the ‘fairy tale’ we may have envisioned in youth … that we haven’t really completely given up 100% of the desire for “it all” … or “the fairy tale.”

 

Now.

 

That said.

 

I don’t really agree with good ole Ransom when he says we cling to our fairy tales until the price.fight for the fairy tale does exist

 

I don’t agree because I actually believe we don’t cling to them … we more often let them slip away under the guise of “Life.”

 

 

I say slip away despite the fact it may seem like we have given it up.

 

 

In fact … I would guess the majority of us have shoved that ‘fairy tale’ deep back into some dusty corner of our mind because … well … we have shit to do and shit to deal with.

But I don’t think we should confuse that as “not wanting our fairy tale.”

 

To me.

 

This is simply reality shouting so loud that our fairy tale cannot be heard.  Its there. It just loses its voice the older and older we get.

 

But here’s what I think I know <and I could be wrong>.

 

  • Your fairy tale is always there

 

I truly believe if you had a real dream, kind of the ‘fairy tale you wanted’, not some silly childish dream … it never goes away. In fact … I think it actually whispers n your ear more often than you are most likely to admit. What I mean life whispers listen closelyby that is it whispers … and we purposefully ignore it as “silly”, unrealistic, ‘that was then’, ‘when I was young and naïve’ and … well … pick your silencing mechanism. We have a zillion different ways to muzzle our fairy tale.

 

On occasion … maybe in a moment of reflection … we actually pull it off some dusty shelf, dust it off, wonder if it still represents the fairy tale we thought it could be <and we could be> and maybe even listen to its whisper for a while.

 

Regardless.

 

Even if you do not hear it … it is still there.

 

Even if you only hear a whisper … it is still there.

 

Even if you believe you have moved on and its voice is not worth listening to anymore … it is there.

 

Which leads me to …

 

  • A fairy tale has no expiration date

 

Fairy tales do not really die. They can live forever. I think we confuse death with “we have quit on it.” now. “Quitting on it” can take on a number of extremely viable good looking high quality t-shirts.

 

Everyday life.

 

My existing career.

 

I am too old to change direction.

 

Its too late.

 

I have too many responsibilities for what I think is a ‘just me’ decision.

 

All of these t-shirts look frickin’ good on you when you look in the mirror.

 

But none of the t-shirts represent the death of your fairy tale … just something that can cover it over. A fairy tale has no expiration date.

And with that said … the only thing stopping you from pursuing your fairy tale is time <depending on your existing starting point and what you may need to do to attain your fairy tale>.

 

Uhm.

 

I think my point today is I am fairly sure most of us had some fairy tale which means that we actually still have a fairy tale.

 

I think my point today is that I am fairly sure most of us believe Life has persecuted us by persecuting our dreams and fairy tales.

 

I think my point today is that I am fairly sure most of us are making a vulgar mistake.

 

Fairy tales don’t go away, we don’t really stop wanting them and they really have no expiration date. You may find yourself at 30 going “time to go for my fairy tale” … or maybe you do so at 50 or at any age.

 

I think we forget that we really do want ‘the fairy tale’ because … well … ‘fairy tale’ sounds so “what kids think.”  fairy tales are more than true

 

That is a mistake … a vulgar mistake of not dreaming simply because you feel like Life is contradicting, and contradictory, to your fairy tale.

 

Personally I think it does no harm to sit down and say “I want the fairy tale” … and then see if it is the time to get your fairy tale. It does no harm because … uhm … what happens if you actually do make the pivot and get the fairy tale?

Sounds like it would be worth it.

disconnected and decision making

August 8th, 2017

think courage work ideas question curious

 

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“Developing our abilities to think more clearly, richly, fully — individually and collectively — is absolutely crucial [to solving world problems].”

 

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Adrian West, research director at the Edward de Bono Foundation U.K.

 

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So.

 

I was asked the other day about what I believed the internet, and connectivity’s, brain connection peoplegreatest impact on business was.

 

After chuckling that there was no one thing and we didn’t have enough time to talk about all the aspects that have impacted us … I did suggest one thing we don’t talk about which has a larger ripple effect on the future of business – connectivity’s impact on decision making and how we teach decision making.

 

Simplistically, technological connectivity has killed maybe 90% of the delegation of critical thinking & decision making.

 

Yeah.

 

There are a couple of other sociological insidious things seeping into organizational culture – discouragement of risk taking, particularly among younger employees, ‘flat’ organizations which tend to only put the senior decision makers closer to actual tactical decisions and things like that.

But what connectivity has done is make the most experienced decision makers more available 24/7 and younger people more likely to “send them a quick text asking them what to do” or an email with the question at hand … so that the younger person doesn’t have to make the decision. This translates into less decision making experience, less real ‘outcome of decision experience’ as well as all the critical thinking that gets crammed into one’s head when forced to make some decision <which always takes on some extraordinary size & significance when younger and less experienced>.

 

I believe this is a real issue.

 

In fact … I believed it was so important I googled it to do some research for this post.

 

  • ‘how connectivity has killed decision making’0 results.

 

 

zero none zilch

  • how the internet has killed decision making’ … 0 results on the topic … most on ‘overthinking’ or ‘Information overload is killing our ability to make decisions’

 

 

I even tried ‘how the smartphone has killed decision making’ and got zilch other than some crap about how ‘smartphones are destroying a generation’ and shit like that.

 

Lets be clear.

 

This isn’t about ‘distractions’ or ‘short attention span’ this is about circumventing critical decision making skills through easy connectivity to someone who can make the decision <instead of you>.

 

And I found it extremely odd that there is nothing obvious in terms of the discussion online because society views technology through an extremely critical eye on perceptions of how it forms, or doesn’t form, critical thinking skills. And nowhere is the conflict more apparent than in the business world where in a seemingly non-stop 24/7 world where we deem “speed” as having some absurd value above anything else we force more and more decisions ‘up’ in an organization.

 

Let me tell you how it worked in a disconnected world.

 

As an old guy we had no smartphones and computers weren’t chugging out hundreds of emails between employees all the time.

 

My bosses sat with other bosses in some high falutin’ section of the office space <most often with doors and big desks> and I didn’t have easy access to my bosses because … well … they were not within shouting distance and they had their own shit to do.

 

I had team members, clients and other departments who always needed answers so they could do shit and make some progress <to meet deadlines that I had inevitably placed on them> and, when they needed a decision, 90+% of the time they didn’t want me hanging up the phone saying “I will get back to you after I speak to ‘x’ person.”

And many times I was out of town in meetings and … well … decisions had to be made.

 

In this disconnected world 25 year old Bruce had to make some decisions … the fuck question fucking stupidhopefully some good ones.

 

 

This didn’t mean that afterwards I didn’t sit there going … “fuck me, was that the right thing to do?” … because I did.

 

 

So in that disconnected world I would have to get up when I had a free minute and track down my boss and walk them through what was going to happen because I had made some decision.

 

I could go to Pat, who would sometimes be laying on his back under his desk looking at a world map he had taped under his desk thinking <claiming it gave him a different view of the world>, who would 99% of the time asking me why I thought it was the right decision, what other things we could have considered and start tearing apart the decision to better understand it.manager good

 

I could go to Charlie who would 99% of the time go ‘okay’ … and then in a burst of energy start talking about what we could do now, a kind of “what’s next attitude” now that the decision had been made.

 

I could go to Beth who would always, always, just listen … and then start talking about how we could follow up with some research, or data, or support so that <in her words> “the decision doesn’t get killed by someone else’s opinions.”

 

I could go to any number of other bosses throughout my younger years and discuss a decision that I had made after the fact.

 

In a disconnected world a less experienced person was demanded to assume some responsibility.

 

The bottom line it was my decision and I had to live with it. I didn’t have a shitload of bosses who tried to kill the decision but rather seemed to accept it, warts & all, and figure out how to move forward from it.

 

Now.

 

A shitload of people may argue that in a connected world better decisions are made <slightly> faster <assuming you can reach the decision maker in some timely fashion> therefore business has benefited.

 

They may be partially right.

 

But I would argue 3 things:

 

pivot-mistake-awkward-learn-manage<1> Most decisions made at a lower more tactical, or less strategically influential, level are not really business killers nor are they even ‘not fixable’,

 

<2> by delegating responsibility for a decision ‘upwards’ … someone never learns the critical thinking necessary, sometimes under time duress, nor the burden of responsibility,

 

<3> and ability to bear burden of responsibility is actually an indicator of future leadership skills.

 

I have gone on ad nausea over the years with regard to our short term paranoia within the business world and how it is killing us … and this ‘delegate decisions upwards because connectivity permits it’ is just one additional example.

 

Look.

 

The people who have the most confidence in their decision making skills, unless they are narcissistic asshats, are the ones with most experience in making decisions. And examining decisions made by someone else <which is what a younger person does if a more senior person makes a decision> is not even close to the actual experience of running the mental gauntlet of making the decision yourself … and understanding he burden of responsibility you assume by doing so.

 

By outsourcing our decisions to more experienced people, or even the false ‘certainty’ in data, we cheat ourselves.

We are left responding rather than thinking creatively, critically and autonomously.

And maybe worse we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to unlearn what we believe we have learned <which truly can only happen through trial & error>.

 

Gut feelings, and instincts, or even data … are not the best tools for an ignorance unlearn untrueuncertain world … they only offer the illusion of certainty.  The business world is a complex world with thousands of decisions and a relentless onslaught of uncertainty.

 

About the only thing to maneuver your way through all of this complexity & uncertainty is by using the skill of critical thinking.

 

When we deny people the challenge of thinking critically, evaluating situations, making your own decisions and bearing the burden of responsibility we are heading towards a future where future manager will lack the cognitive ability, and critical thinking skills, to effectively think and make good decisions.

 

While I have several worries with regard to what technology and connectivity is doing to our business world … this is one we do not discuss enough if we are truly interested in the next generation of business people to be better than us.

power concedes nothing unless demanded to do so

July 26th, 2017

 dynamics-of-power

 

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 “Power concedes nothing without a demand, it never has and it never will.”

 

—–

Frederick Douglass

 

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“Next to the assumption of power is the responsibility of relinquishing it.”

 

Benjamin Disraeli

 

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Well.

 

We don’t talk about power and people often beyond the tripe about how power power authority leadcorrupts people <as I have written … only people can corrupt themselves>.

 

So let me talk about the dynamics of power in business in a non-corrupting way. What I mean by that is … well … responsibility & authority. Whether anyone really admits it or not once you attain a senior position in a business you have gained power. Now.

 

This power is most often not embodied in any nefarious way but rather it is simply a reflection of responsibility & authority.

 

You have power over decisions.

 

You have power over people.

 

You have power over funds and their allocation.

 

You even have power over ideas … which ones die and which ones live.

 

Most of us do not see this as some all empowering power or even eye it with an power-within-corrupt-strongauthoritarian belief. We do not view it as some “center of power” but rather we see it is actually more like a linear tool <or hammer> selectively used.

 

Now.

 

Wielded well … power can look like a central source of authority but ‘wielded well’ is actually a flurry of linear tools, like playing whack-a-mole, applied to establish selective moments of desired behavior and progress <and this flurry actually creates the sense that there is a larger centralized power>.

 

But here is the thing.

 

Once you have gained authority you are extremely hesitant to concede the ‘power.’ This hesitancy actually shifts into full-on “hold on with ragged claws” if you have mastered <or you feel like you have mastered it> the ‘useful flurry of power’ in appropriate ways.

 

Partially I think this is the allure of … well … owning the initiative – or having some power over initiatives. This shouldn’t be undersold. It is exhilarating and … well … powerful. In business while we measure results and report ad nausea the most satisfaction most leaders get is not in measuring parts & pieces but rather the totality of what they do.  and once you taste that satifation you have no desire to conceded anything that could keep you from possibly attaining that satiscation again.

 

Is that holding onto power? Sure. I guess.

But I tend to believe it is more “I know how to do my shit and I want to keep ding that shit” attitude than any ral bad ‘power trip’ type attitude.

 

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“Never relinquish the initiative.”

 

—–

Charles de Gaulle

 

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Unfortunately … people on the outside just don’t see it that way.

 

And it is understandable they may not see it the right way because I believe it speaking Power of Words 577x600was Geoffrey O’Brien who said ‘history unfolds as always in the midst of distraction, misunderstanding, and partially obscured sight-lines.’

 

That is how the authority version of power works. It unfolds in the midst of distraction and partially obscured sight lines.

 

That is how authority works. It unfolds in the midst of a flurry of choices, decisions, delegations and doing <all blurry and, yet, creating a sense of central power>.

 

Regardless of what it is … or what it looks like … once attained we tend to not want to relinquish it – we do not want to concede it.

 

It must be demanded to be relinquished.

 

And here is where it gets tricky. Because even if there is a demand to relinquish, and you do have to relinquish <you get fired and have to take a ‘lesser authority job’ or you get demoted or you simply shift jobs with a different authority level> … we hate to concede it.

 

I mention that because that is one reason why older senior people who decide to take a lower titled job <even with the best intentions and capability to actually ‘do the job’> can struggle or just be a pain in the ass.

 

It’s not that they truly are a pain in the ass it is simply … well … they have felt the satisfaction of authority and dislike the loss of that authority.

 

All that said.

 

Power concedes nothing <unless the power owner is stupid, foolish or arrogant> … but as someone smarter than I said once … it always reveals.

 

Authority reveals.

 

And maybe what I am suggesting today is that authority can actually reveal character and ability. And once you have seen what you can do, what you are capable of doing and what you like to do … well … it is not an easy thing to conceded or relinquish.

 

And, let me be clear, you can actually be good with authority and effective with use of power and can still be demanded to relinquish it.

 

It is a falsity to suggest that being good at something means you will always be able to do it <or someone will always seek to have you do it>. you can be forced to relinquish authority, even if you are good at it, for a variety of reasons in business <ranging from well-intended to absurd>.

 

It is natural to want it again if you were demanded to relinquish it.

 

Anyway.perspective common sense justice good people

 

I say this so that maybe you take a second before you rush to claim someone is ‘power hungry’ or ‘protective of their power’ … and mean it in a bad way. Having authority and enjoying authority and wielding authority well is addictive <or maybe just like having ‘the perfect buzz’>.

Is it wrong to be hungry for that? Whew. Sure doesn’t seem wrong.

 

I say this so that maybe you take a second before you rush to judge a person who has had a senior role and has decided to assume a position with lesser responsibility & authority because … well … once you have had authority it is really really hard to relinquish it.

 

While power concedes nothing I would suggest that the feeling of authority used well tends to not want to concede anything.

 

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“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.”

 

Paulo Coelho

 

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Enlightened Conflict