Enlightened Conflict

shrinking in comparison

May 19th, 2017

 shrinking trump comparison

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“Most of us, shrinking from the difficulties and dangers which beset the seeker after original answers to these riddles, are contented to ignore them altogether, or to smother the investigating spirit under the featherbed of respected and respectable tradition.”

 

—-

Thomas Henry Huxley

 

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“Not fearing death, nor shrinking for distress, But always resolute in most extremes”

 

.

William Shakespeare

 

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Well.

 

Spend enough time in a corporate career and move up in a corporation and pretty much everyone gets some sort of media training <how to communicate trump tweet business hollow empty words awkward situationwith media and effectively communicating your message>.

 

And before you think this is just about senior management folk let me tell you that all you have to do is work with any significant franchise organization and you will invest more energy and time doing media training at all levels than you really would like to do.

Why? All you have to do is get burned once by some local TV station trying to find some ‘you would be shocked’ story and you will learn the value of media training outside the corporate headquarters and on-the-ground at the service & franchise level.

 

I have received some fabulous media training throughout my career and most likely have a couple of media training manuals and presentations on some thumb drive somewhere. Training can span from a simple one-sheet ‘do this and don’t do this’ to sitting down in front of a camera being taped and grilled by some inquisition-type corporate communications expert <who you will hate for weeks after>.

 

For most of us … all training is excruciatingly painful.

For most of us … all we seek is “an opportunity to keep our mouth shut.”

 

But, alas, corporations and senior management demand face time publicly and it is better to arm yourself than to go into the fight “winging it.”

 

Now.

 

Most relevant to my thought today is that this training pays off in spades when you are forced into a comparison situation. Think being on a panel or standing at side by side podiums. I wrote not long ago about the window of ‘stark contrast opportunities’ in which I discussed the upside in terms of building shift up or downvalue thru contrast.

 

Well. As with anything good there is also a potential downside.

 

In a contrast situation there is a winner and a loser. And I don’t care how good a thinker you are, how good an instinctual communicator you are or how good an ‘explainer in chief’ you are … you cannot go into any comparison & contrast situation assuming you will  be the better one, the winner by default, in a contrast situation.

 

Contrast situations are fraught with peril.

 

I won’t go into all the training crap but I will point out two core aspects which are relevant to being in a public contrast situation:

 

  • The hard one: simplify without oversimplifying

 

This is hard. Really hard.

And usually takes a shitload of practice & experience … and even then you will not always get it right <except for those truly gifted communicators who make all the rest of us miserable in that because they can do it everyone believes they can also do it>. My belief is always to say just enough so people understand and assume someone will ask a question if they need more information. If you do that, your experience with questions, what questions you get, kind of hone your ‘what is too much and what is too little’.

But you need enough experience and questions in order to be able to bracket what is most efficient & effective.

 

That said.

 

Oversimplifying concludes in one of two places <1> you have no idea what you are talking about or <2> you are out of touch with details and depth of truth

 

You have to figure out a way to showcase you understand the complexity without boring the shit out of people and, ultimately, convincing them you really do know your shit. In addition … you want to give just enough nuance and depth to suggest an ‘attack’, or clarification <which is just another kiss of the comparison death> would be a waste of time.ideas communicate media training shrinking

 

I will not go into all the gory details of how to efficiently communicate complexity <which is actually the advice we should be giving everyone rather than “keep it simple”>.

 

Suffice it to say there are thee effective ways to simplify without oversimplifying.

 

 

Bracket your thought with two support points.

 

Triangulate your thought by offering three reasons to believe.

 

Box your thought in with 4 simple reasons why your thought makes sense.

 

A lot of people suggest always providing your thought and a reason to believe support but the best training I received made the point that this makes your thought more vulnerable to questioning and , if possible <unless you have one undeniable blockbuster reason to believe> you should figure out a simple way to show simple complexity demands nuances smartness.

 

I imagine what I am saying in this aspect is you want to protect your words, thoughts and ideas from shrinking. And the way to do so is to effectively build a wall around them. Without the wall, the protection, the thought can get squeezed until it no longer exists … and you shrink a little every time that happens.

 

 

  • The easy one: avoid hyperbole like it is the plague

 

Hyperbole creates a gap, an empty space, in between reality and some quasi-imagined reality.

 

Uhm.

 

fill-emptiness-empty-with-various-thingsEmpty space to a listener/questioner/debater is like sugar for ants. Our tendency is almost always to make problems look bigger and successes more successful … it makes us look more heroic. But in our tendency to do so it actually … well … shrinks us. The truth is many of us think our jobs are fairly mundane and when discussing what we do, and have done, publicly we think “who the hell wants to hear this?” and then head down the path to make what we do, or did, look less mundane and more challenging or exciting.

Media training helps you see this. And what you do is not worry about what you do but rather show how much you love what you do, or did, which breathes some helium into it and makes it look bigger. Suffice it to say it is incredibly difficult for someone to shrink what you like and what you are passionate about than it is to poke a hole in the empty space created by hyperbole and shrink the entire thought to a shriveled balloon status.

 

 

Ok.

 

Why did I bring this up today?

 

Well.

 

Sigh.

 

It becomes more obvious everyday … the shrinking of America right before our eyes.

 

Yesterday I watched President Donald J Trump stand at one podium and the president of Columbia, Juan Manuel Santos, at another podium. As they each trump santos colombiaspoke I watched Trump shrink before our eyes and America along with him.

 

The adult at the front of the room was a president … just of Columbia.

 

No offense to Columbia or the Columbian president but I don’t expect a country whose economy is 42 times smaller than the US Economy to have a president who sounds smarter, speaks smarter, shares smarter information and handles himself more smartly than the president of the USA. Let alone watching the poor Columbian President trying to be diplomatic when he clearly wanted to look at Trump and say “are you a complete fucking idiot?”

 

It bothered me a little less as we watched Angela Merkel of Germany a month ago stand side by side with Donald J Trump and his words and speech made him shrink before our eyes <and earned Merkel the title of ‘leader of the free world’>.

Yeah.

That’s tough competition for any president so while I cringed at the shrinkage I figured it may be one of Donald J’s most difficult contrast & comparison situations.

 

But in between yesterday’s unfortunate public display and Merkel’s hint of what was to come we see time and time again he is placed side by side with the leader of another country and he shrinks in comparison as soon as they both start talking.

 

By the way … this is a problem. Not just for Donald J Trump but also for America.

When he shrinks in comparison America shrinks globally. This doesn’t mean we will not retain the world’s largest economy which demands that people have to deal with America regardless … but … it effectively shrinks our leadership role globally.

 

Sigh.

 

I honestly don’t know what I would do with Donald J Trump if I was his communications director. I know I would be honest with the Trumpster and say “stop giving interviews because you don’t know when to stop talking” … “don’t answer in paragraphs but rather in sentences because you cannot assemble a coherent paragraph thought” … “never talk about yourself when standing side by side with a peer”“lets schedule some more of those fake campaign speeches  in front of your few rabid followers so you can feel free and complain about everyone & everything and explain how great you are because they will love it.”

 

I also know my honesty would get my ass fired so quickly don’t blink because you would miss my time in the White House.

 

Media training is a pain in the ass but in its pain it grinds you down to reality about yourself. You learn to duck the bad comparisons a little better and seek the opportunities to contrast positively a little better.

 

stop this train add up

 

I don’t believe we need a member of the Mensa society to be the president or even to be effective in positively contrasting themselves in a tough situation in which the other is smart, thoughtful & articulate. But you do need someone who is self-aware in the moment & environment. Media training almost above any other training you may receive in business harshly introduces you to self-awareness.

 

What I do know is that without some very harsh media and communications training President Trump will continue to shrink in comparison time and time again.

sometimes you just cannot make this shit up

May 17th, 2017

 

  cannot make this shit up life

 

Putin willing to give Congress records of Trump’s meeting with Lavrov

 

 

Ok.

 

In the category of “sometimes you just cannot make this shit up” … today the Russian president, who has ‘surprisingly’ <not so surprisingly> dismissed the claim that Trump disclosed classified information in a recent meeting with Russian diplomats/espionage agent, has offered to hand over records of an Oval Office meeting to Congress.

 

This is rich.

 

This would be comedy gold <assuming this wasn’t our presidency and our country>.

 

The idea that America would be able to gain transcripts of a meeting held in the White House oval office to clear up what actually happened from Russia is … well … absurd.

Not to mention the fact they could possibly even have transcripts <which assumes, I imagine, they would have taped the entire conversation> is … well … terrifying.

 

Personally, I think Putin is having fun at America’s expense <i.e., he is trolling us>.

 

Personally, I think why the hell would anyone in the US congress go to Russia to get a transcript and find out what ‘theoretically’ happened.

 

personally i am dead inside make this shit upPersonally, I think we would have officially entered into some alternative universe if a Russian transcript was necessary to “100% confirm” a Trump story.

 

Personally, I think the Russians haven’t stopped laughing since Trump won the election.

 

Personally, I think this entire situation is a tragic comedy.

 

Personally, sometimes you just cannot make this kind of shit up.

the miserable moment when you do not know who to trust

May 16th, 2017

the nature of compromise miserable

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“I never knew it was possible to be so miserable in so many ways.”

 

Amie Kaufman

 

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Well.

 

Trump shares classified information in a moment of braggadocio <does anyone really believe he would do so ‘strategically’? — no>.

 

That is the thought … and the moment … which we are all faced with today <again it seems>.

 

trump-and-calvin

……… young Trump ………..

We are faced with a headline which, anonymous sources or not, on the face of it is believable.

No one … not even the ones with their heads so far up Trump’s ass they can only see darkness … can say it doesn’t have a hint of believability given everything we know about the man.

 

He said something while boasting. He was just being the non-thinking loudmouth we have watched for decades.

 

Well.

 

This is when the birds come home to roost for all the despicable ‘fake news’ and ‘alterative facts’ and all the other lying bullshit.

 

This is the moment we wanted to have someone from the White House step up to the plate and say, unequivocally with no word parsing, “not true” and we would all breathe a sigh of relief and say “whew, okay.”

 

But we are past that point.

We are now at the miserable moment when you do not know who to trust.

 

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“He doesn’t really know any boundaries. He doesn’t think in those terms.

He doesn’t sometimes realize the implications of what he’s saying. I don’t think it was his intention in any way to share any classified information. He wouldn’t want to do that.”

 

Anonymous White House Advisor

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trust is like paperYou want to trust the journalists … and, yet, you don’t really want to <because if they are we have more proof our President is an incompetent asshat>.

 

You want to trust the only people left in the administration who actually seem trustable <Tillerson, McMaster> … and, yet, their words ring a little hollow.

 

You want to trust the president because … well … he is the president … and, yet, that train has already left the station.

 

To be clear … what Tillerson and McMaster said in defense of Donald J Trump are not quite lies. They are just incredibly well parsed words expressing either truths which are not really the issue at hand or half truths about what the real issue is <but it does not really matter because within 12 hours Donald J Trump just partially undermined what they said anyway>.

 

To be clear … what the Washington Post wrote is most likely quite truthful. They offer incredibly parsed words expressing thoughts run through a paranoid filter that “we better not be wrong.”

 

<note: Does that mean Washington Post never gets things wrong? No. But a story this big this means an editor is going to be extremely careful before running it. I would suggest the reason to trust the Washington Post, and other major journalists at other papers, here is twofold <1> they have high journalistic standards that lead them to being accurate much more so than other media options and <2> they know if there is something wrong in their reporting, other reputable news sources will be all over their shit in a second>

 

But, to be clear … what I may think doesn’t really matter … because echoing across America today is a basic feeling of “yikes, this sounds bad, but I do not know who to trust.”

 

That is what Trump hath wrought.

 

Some very good people <Tillerson, McMaster, maybe even Spicer, some prominent politicians, etc.> have had their reputations tainted by the Trump slime – enough that people of seemingly good character are being doubted.

 

We have reached a point, a point which the current Presidency is desperate to offer some honesty & truth to slow down the downward spiral … a downward spiral in which we realize that not one of us can assume that any one of them is going to say some simple truth.

 

The only truth we know is that once having manipulated the truth, once having misrepresented the truth, once misdirecting us from the truth … that person is most likely to do it again.

You need not lie as colorfully and openly as the President to be seen as someone not to be trusted. His depth & breadth of lying offers little room for his associates to do the typical word parsing they may be accustomed to.

 

Journalists have realized this dilemma and the real journalists are rising to the occasion seeking to limit parsing and innuendo and offering as much starkness as possible <that is a path to success>.

 

I could argue that we are having a crisis of character but at the moment I woke up today realizing we are in the miserable moment when you do not know who i am too sad to walkto trust.

 

I have spent months telling everyone Trump is not competent to be president, I question his competence as a business leader in general … and that good CEO’s do not act this way.

 

But today? Today I can only sigh … and think about what a sad world to live in where when you trust no one you end up believing everything & nothing at exactly the same time.

 

This is a sad time for the United States of America.

 

Bad.

 

windows of opportunity

May 15th, 2017

 dream big opportunities

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“Oh, How insanely outside the window

О,   как   безумно   за       окном

 

Howls and rages the evil storm,

Ревёт, бушует  буря злая”

 

Alexander Blok

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“Every advantage is temporary.”

 

Katerina Stoykova Klemer

 

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“The weather-cock on the church spire, though made of iron, would soon be broken by the storm-wind if it did not understand the noble art of turning to every wind.”

 

Heinrich Heine

 

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In business we talk incessantly about visions and missions and purpose and strategic objectives and important long term type thinking to insure everyone get out of the way window wallknows where they are going and how they will go about doing it.

 

We worry about how to smartly effectively compete.

 

We worry through some fairly random details, talk about being the best and then … uhm … proceed to be anything but the best.

 

So … you know what?

If you are better and have a better offering and are truly worth a shit and want people to know you are worth a shit … well then … there is no real intellectual challenge.

 

You get on with getting on.

 

I am not suggesting being stupid about competing.

Nor am I suggesting bludgeoning the industry and competitors with some dull edged hammer.

 

I mean … for god’s sake we can talk forever on all the topics I just listed and Walls To Windows of opportunity businessstew over all the long term type shit … but … we all know the holy grail of business success actually resides in ‘windows of opportunity.’

 

Now.

 

Windows of opportunity arise all the time if you are paying attention.

 

As I have noted before ‘white space’ analysis in positioning is archaic thinking mostly because it explores a stagnant 2 dimensional industry when in reality any business in today’s world is 4 dimensional, at its most simplistic, and constantly moving & a swirl of constant activity in which no one competitor is ever truly standing still.

 

What that means is, basically, in today’s business world you set out down a road you want to go down and seek small windows in the chaos of normal business activity to “hit the hole.” Just like as a running back there is a huge mass of men & pads in front of you and you ‘just get going’ assuming a hole will open and you get through it.

Ah.

And then … of course … there are the windows that get placed in front of you. you don’t need to go looking for them … they are just there.

 

Windows of opportunities come in all shapes and sizes but the one you kill for is the opportunity for a stark contrast.

 

Stark contrast is the holy trinity of windows because it is the opportunity to create distinction, separation and build value. Uhm. That is if you actually use this window of opportunity correctly.

 

We assess this type of window two ways <because stark contrast also represents potential issues>.

 

  • A stark contrast shouldn’t really come at the obvious detriment of a competitor. While a stark contrast certainly represents an opportunity to laugh at a competitor or possibly make them look foolish to do so is to miss the larger opportunity. The larger opportunity isn’t to diminish their value to make yours look bigger but rather use a stark contrast to leverage more value for you.

 

  • A stark contrast really shouldn’t come at the obvious detriment of the category/industry. This one is a little tricky but is a corollary to my first point. You don’t want to make the category look stupid or ‘less than.’ A part of how you conduct your business is protecting the larger institution. In other words … you never sacrifice the greater institution simply to try and gain a temporary advantage for yourself. .

navle gazing The Grass Is Greener On The other side

<note: both of these are incredibly hard lessons to maintain in a highly competitive, selfish thinking, short term view business world>

 

And then, of course, even if we do think those two things through well and then take that temporary advantage offered us I will note that we, in business, are incredibly poor at knowing when to quit the contrast so we keep pounding the nail into the board even though it is already all the way in.

 

That said.

 

The true value of this stark contrast opportunity is distinction. Why do I put such a high value n distinction?

 

Distinction is one of those fabulous things that the more you try to be distinct the less likely you will actually be so <at least in a meaningful way>.

 

And if I could convince more companies to think about this with clear heads I am not sure I would make any more money but I am sure they would.

i know, I know … easy for me to say.

 

But the pursuit of the elusive distinction can sometimes drive businesses to some fairly irrelevant, if not absurd, and absolutely meaningless places. I know it sounds crazy but, if they ignored it, I bet it would happen. Well. It would happen if they were smart about focusing on themselves … who they were and who they wanted to be … uhm … and took the temporary advantage offered them in stark contrast windows of opportunity.

 

So let’s call it a crazy smart idea.

 

But tough to do <as most crazy smart ideas are>. Tough because it doesn’t everything can be figured outexactly match up with the standard “this is how you are supposed to do it” management guides. Waiting for opportunities isn’t something that they teach you in ‘how to aggressively beat the crap out of your competition in the industry” school.

 

Anyway.

 

Maybe that is the most important point.

 

There are a lot, a shitload, of crazy smart business people out there.

But there are not a lot of crazy smart business people who seem to be willing to do something crazy like ignore the business books “plan to success” blueprints.

 

Here is where I put my money.

The few. Those crazy enough to not plan for distinction but rather let distinction and originality simply evolve from who they are, what they think and their vision of what they think they should be and the ones who ‘get going’ smartly to starkly contrast themselves when a window opens.

 

Crazy?

Probably.

 

But in a world where the majority of businesses, and new ideas, fail … maybe this isn’t a crazy a thought as it sounds.

 

And, at its core, the concept of what I just outlined isn’t that crazy because businesses are always seeking an advantage.

And they should.

 

I imagine the point I am going to make is that most businesses don’t consider ‘advantage’ as temporary. When it actually happens … they treat it as sustainable.

And ultimately that becomes their downfall.

Windows of opportunity close. And 90% of the time they close quickly. And maybe that is where the ‘sustainable ‘ belief really screws most businesses. They jump through the window of opportunity, and let’s say they even treat the stark contrast opportunity correctly and do all the right things, they then act like they are going to stay on that side of the window <acting as if the advantage and opportunity is sustainable>.

be wrong stand in your wrongness divide

Wrong.

Bad decision.

 

Windows of opportunity are meant to be jumped through … opportunity maximized … and then you jump back before it closes again.

 

Why?

 

Stark contrasts are most typically contextual to a certain situation. Most businesses are smart enough if they give you a stark contrast opportunity to actually change the context to insure the contrast opportunity ceases.

In addition … knowledge never stops. Knowledge, in and of itself, changes environment … it is never stagnant.

 

Sustainable advantage is really rare.

Extremely rare.

 

And, frankly, many businesses are actually too slow to take advantage of their … well … advantage. The window of advantage does not stay open long.

 

Businesses work to gain it. They get it. They build plans to take advantage of the advantage. They go and do … and … well … their advantage is not only as advantageous as it used to look but in many cases it is no longer even the advantage that you thought it was. The window is closed. Oh. Maybe worse? To dirty windowyour dismay you look around the room and another frickin’ window is open.

Damn.

Wrong window at the wrong time.

 

Ok.

 

My last point on a stark contrast window of opportunity.

 

While everything I just discussed is about opportunity to build value and distinction a stark contrast opportunity offers you the one thing which is the one thing you dream about as a business – an interested person.

In general, in a sea of business sameness and a cluttered world of meaningless communication, whether you are trying to sell something or showcase value you will be faced with a great barrier of lack of interest.

 

People, in general, don’t care until they have to care.

I would like to point out that while we all say “the greatest thing since sliced bread” that sliced bread was not that great to people in the beginning … people just didn’t care about sliced bread … they liked what they had <unsliced>.

 

Anyway.

 

The corollary to that thought?

 

Everything is interesting at some point.

Yup.

Everything.

 

obsessed uninterested switchIt’s all about uncovering the most relevant time to be relevant <and interesting>. Pick the wrong time and you waste $’s because the consumer just doesn’t care. Be interesting at the right time and the brand becomes relevant <and sales increase>.

Whenever I bring this topic up oddly <in general> I find everyone gravitating to the ends of the spectrum … half believe whatever their widget is that everyone is interested in it … and the other half suggest the world has gone to hell in a hand basket and people don’t care about anything.

 

Regardless.

 

Assume people don’t care about what it is you want to tell them. And assume they don’t care about your product <until you do something wrong>.

 

But the one time you may actually have a chance to generate some interest in a stark contrast. Most times your advantage or difference or distinctness is almost indiscernible to the human eye <despite how proud you may be of it>. and that is where a stark contrast offers you the greatest part of the opportunity – it is discernible.

 

All businesses need to remember that people just don’t care until they have to care … but people always care about vivid comparisons and take note of hem in a grayish world — that is why you take advantage of stark contrasts windows of opportunity.

 

That’s it for businesses and stark contrast windows of opportunity.

 

In general … stark contrast opportunity or not, personally, I believe many businesses mismanage any ‘advantage’ opportunities.

In attitude and in behavior.

They think incorrectly, or have a flawed view when they think, and implement too slowly. They overthink the wrong things and under think the right things.  They think long term sustainable within what are really short term opportunities. They think of ROI in terms of “time I have maintained active or the advantage” rather than viewing time in a “37 seconds used wisely is a lifetime.”

 

I tend to believe it is because businesses try to simplify as much a possible with the intent to replicate as much as possible. Neither of those thoughts in that last sentence are particularly effective with regard to a stark contrast window of opportunity. Oddly, the pursuit of simplicity increases cumbersome less-than-effective responses.

 

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“The world is not as simple as we like to make it out to be. The outlines are often vague and it’s the details that count.

Nothing is really truly black or white and bad can be a disguise for good or beauty … and vice versa without one necessarily excluding global window of opportunitythe other.

Someone can both love and betray the object of its love … without diminishing the reality of the true feelings and value.

Life and business <whether we like to admit it or not> is an uncertain adventure in a diffuse landscape whose borders are constantly shifting where all frontiers are artificial <therefore unique is basically artificial in its inevitable obseletion> where at any moment everything can either end only to begin again … or finish suddenly forever … like an unexpected blow from an axe.

Where the only absolute, coherent, indisputable and definitive reality … is death. We have such little time when you look at Life … a tiny lightning flash between two eternal nights.

 

Everything has to do with everything else.

Life is a succession of events that link with each other whether we want them to or not.”

 

Arturo Perez Revarte

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Whether you want to simplify or not … one of the wisest things you can always keep in mind is … Everything has to do with everything else. Life is a succession of events that link with each other whether we want them to or not.

 

Another wise thing to keep in mind is windows of opportunity always arise but the ones that offer stark contrast may be one of the most valuable opportunities you can ever encounter in business.

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.

one of the saddest business things I have read in quite some time

May 5th, 2017

sad numbers hear listen business

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“Where there is little risk, there is little reward.”

 

Evel Knievel

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

 

 

 

So.

 

I don’t read Advertising Age often. I never really enjoyed reading ‘insider industry’ magazines and now that I am not involved with agencies that much it doesn’t mean much to me except an opportunity to catchup on the news of some people and places I know.

free-bad-advice-business-blog-contrarian

But today a link popped up in my email:

 

 

What’s the Most Risky Thing You’ve Done in Your Career?

Ad Age Asks Participants at Detroit Brand Summit

—-

 

I clicked on it.

 

I figured the advertising business, while often ground down to a nub by brand managers and clients who have an allergic reaction to risk, would offer some good ‘most risky actions I have taken‘ stories.

 

Here is a sampling:

 

 

biggest risk was undertaking Pepsi “refresh project,” a 2010 initiative by PepsiCo to award $20 million in grants to individuals, businesses and nonprofits that promote a new idea that has a positive impact on their community. “We took money off the Super Bowl, a property Pepsi had been on for almost a quarter century, and we put it into a different idea,”

 

 

Tylenol talking about product benefits and pain relief. His team, however, advocated toward making the message about feeling better with a nontraditional campaign including events.

 

 

single biggest gamble: “Leaving BBDO to go to The Abundancy, which was a little startup incubator that was trying to do things differently and reinvent how advertising worked,”

 

 

“It was a first-ever auto reveal with Snapchat,” Lenard said. “Together we answered a lot of questions internally about who is the audience of Snapchat: Aren’t they 12-year-olds who are never buying vehicles?”

 

——————–

 

Ok.

 

I worked in the advertising agency business for a long time … that is oh no embarrassedembarrassing.

 

If that is risk, let alone ‘biggest risk’, in today’s advertising world as outlined by some people who I assume are leaders in the industry … the industry is in a world of hurt.

 

As a business person I have always embraced the concept of risk … okay … calculated risk. No sane business person is flippant with risk.

All risk is assessed and calculated for ROR <return on risk> … as well as RODN <return on doing nothing>.

 

I could argue that between ROR and RODN you aren’t really taking any risks … you are simply doing what needs to be done to be successful.

 

That said.

I was sorely disappointed by how these people assess ‘biggest risk.’

 

Look.

 

avoid question bomb stink business problemsEveryone takes personal risks in business.

 

Not everyone takes business risks. And business risk is very different than personal risk … confusing the two, or even conflating the two, in a business environment is fraught with peril.

 

Yes.

Business risks inherently include personal risk … but personal risks don’t have particular consequences to a larger business risk – they are more your risks than anyone else’s.

 

I say that as a professional calculated business risk taker. I can honestly say that any time I ever assessed a business decision or what could be construed as a business risk I never took into consideration any persona risk I may be assuming. To me it would simply clutter what I would assume is a decision cluttered already with ‘what ifs’, ‘maybes’ and ‘uh ohs.’

 

I always believe business risks revolved around what is best for the business … and you let the chips fall as they may with regard to you personally.

 

Now.

 

Getting back to that sad list of ‘biggest risks.’

 

People can confuse risk with change. Change is change. Any change includes some risk because … well … it is change.

But change, in and of itself, is not necessarily originality. And that is where risk truly resides … in something original.

 

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

 

“Safe marketing is the riskiest marketing you can do.”

 

—-

Bill Bernbach

 

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

 

organization business elephant adpat nimble get shit done

Anything original is never safe simply because it has no real record of behavior & consequences. That means you are modeling and researching and doing a whole bunch of good smart shit to insure it isn’t just a guess … but … sigh … it is just a guess.

 

That is risk. Risk is a … well … thing.

 

Originality is a real thing … a challenging thing … and a risky thing.

And to be truly original … in some ways … you must ignore what exists and what has been done before.

 

You must abandon the safe and secure.

 

Just think about this little factoid about pretty much any great original idea that has ever happened:

 

  • It’s effective

 

  • It’s always preceded by a meeting in which you will hear ‘are you nuts?’

 

Well.

 

Maybe we all need to be a little more nuts.

Maybe we all need to be a little less afraid of the different.

 

Maybe instead we should focus on what I believe almost all business people really do know … the new and untried can generate the bigger gains then simply changing the status quo or ‘what is’.

 

I would note that originality has a close relationship to exceptional.

 

Ah.

The root of that word exceptional?

 

Exception <please note … that is a significantly different word than acceptable … or safe …>.

 

We are comfortable in our cocoon of what is acceptable and sameness but it is making ‘an exception’ … taking that slightly risky step … that truly pays off.

 

used rainbowsIn business … if you have nothing to offer but used ideas, you are just a used car salesman.

 

And does anyone in business really want to be that?

 

<unless they are in the used car sales business of course>

 

And maybe that is why the article I read was one of the saddest business articles I have read in a very long time – there really wasn’t anything original or any monumental change. Some were personal risks and the business risks were more tweaks on existing machinery to fine tune the operation.

And maybe that is what the business world has come to <sadly> … a world in which tweaks constitute risks.

 

Sad. Very sad.

 

I know risk is difficult. But I also know it is much better than always doing the sure thing – always making the safe decision.

 

The problem is if you really want any progress or growth … meaningful progress and growth … risk cannot be avoided. You must seek ‘the exception.’

 

In the end.

 

I do think business needs to embrace a little more risk.

 

But to avoid being sad about what we do, maybe most importantly, I think business should stop calling tweaks risky. They are tweaks. They are attempts to make small big and the truly big too small.

 

And, lastly, maybe we need to start thinking more often “but it might just work.” I wrote about that phrase to make a point about how we, in business, are becoming far too hesitant to make changes.  There was nothing in the ‘biggest risk taken’ article that convinced me my point isn’t still valid. We embrace tweaks to avoid “but it might just work” actions.

 

 

“Biggest risk ever taken.”

road to success business graffiti

 

 

Shit.

 

These should be monumental type questions with monumental type responses.

 

And if you don’t have a monumental response maybe, just maybe, you need to look around what what you are doing and seeing of maybe you aren’t playing it too safe.

And, most of all, if you don’t have a monumental response, you should not try and make something small monumental.

 

Bigger risk deserves better than that.

Enlightened Conflict