Enlightened Conflict

questionable civil discourse, calm the rhetoric … and leading

June 14th, 2017

obama sad thoughtful tough

 

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“We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.”

 

—-

Barack Obama on January 12th 2011

 

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On a day which we are faced with someone who decided to take a gun and shoot words rememberpoliticians … and appear to target politicians … I am reminded of several things.

 

The first thing is the rhetoric.

The rhetoric of the citizenry but mostly the rhetoric of our elected leaders. I say that because words have repercussions.

 

Yes.

 

I do believe in personal responsibility and choices are made by individuals.

 

But I also believe leaders lead with words <because most of us cannot view their actions>.

 

And if our elected leaders treat their words as if we will not remember them forever.

 

And if our elected leaders treat each other as if they are truly enemies <and even use that word on occasion>.

 

And if our elected leaders treat each other as if the opposite’s behavior is unfathomable behavior for sane, moral people.

 

And if our elected officials treat each other with verbal hyperbole as the standard rhetoric discourse … and the highest of the elected leaders, the president, tosses out the word ‘unity’ on occasion but 99% of the time does nothing verbally or behavior wise to unite … well … the electors will be tempted to do as leaders do.

 

We need to calm our rhetoric. We need to remind ourselves what we teach our children … that you don’t always get what you want and that most progress sis made in mutual effort.

 

We all need to be speaking more calmly and acting more civilly but we should be demanding our elected leaders do so. I get angry with how they act and what they say because it suggests to people that is behavior we should all embrace — and it is not.  Stop, and stop it now.

 

speechless

 

The second thing I am reminded of is one of the best speeches President Obama ever made.

 

To share my thoughts I will borrow <steal> liberally from a NY Times article written by Helene Cooper and Jeff Zelenyjan. The article was Obama Calls for a New Era of Civility in U.S. Politics and it shares the speech Obama gave on January 12th 2011 in Tucson after the shooting of a US Congresswoman and the deaths of 6 other people.

 

Apparently Obama wrote much of the speech himself the day before.

 

I suggest everyone read the speech but today I will share highlights because it is a nice reminder on a day on which we need some reminders.

 

 

President Obama offered the nation’s condolences on Wednesday to the victims of the shootings here, calling on Americans to draw a lesson from the lives of the fallen and the actions of the heroes, and to usher in a new era of civility in their honor.

 

The president directly confronted the political debate that erupted after the rampage, urging people of all beliefs not to use the tragedy to turn on one another. He did not cast blame on Republicans or Democrats, but asked people to “sharpen our instincts for empathy.”

 

It was one of the more powerful addresses that Mr. Obama has delivered as president, harnessing the emotion generated by the shock and loss from Saturday’s shootings to urge Americans “to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully” and to “remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

 

“At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do,” he said, “it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”

 

The president led an overflow crowd at the evening service at the University of Arizona in eulogizing the six people who died on Saturday and asking for prayers for the wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who the authorities said was the target of an assassination attempt.

 

He warned against “simple explanations” and spoke of the unknowability of the thoughts that “lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.”

He suggested that the events should force individuals to look inward, but also that they should prompt a collective response against reflexive ideological and social conflict.

 

While the tone and content were distinctly nonpolitical, there were clear political ramifications to the speech, giving Mr. Obama a chance, for an evening at least, to try to occupy a space outside of partisanship or agenda.

 

“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost,” Mr. Obama said. “Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.”

 

suicide losing care“If, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse,” Mr. Obama said, let us remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy — it did not — but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.”

 

In the end.

No, I do not believe we will learn anything from today’s event <or the other shooting events that cost people’s lives today> but maybe, just maybe, we can start talking to each other like we don’t want to shoot the other person if given an opportunity. That is a good start.

organizational exhaustion

May 12th, 2017

exhausted organization puppy tie

 

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“I prefer physical exhaustion over mental fatigue any day.”

—-

Clotilde Hesme

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“There is a construct in computer programming called ‘the infinite loop’ which enables a computer to do what no other physical machine can do – to operate in perpetuity without tiring.

 

In the same way it doesn’t know exhaustion, it doesn’t know when it’s wrong and it can keep doing the wrong thing over and over without tiring.”

 

—–

John Maeda

 

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So.

 

ideas within organizationLeading an organization is not like running a race … well … at least it is not like running a sprint.

 

Okay.

I am being stupid.

 

It’s not like running a race.

Nothing like it.

 

It is more like managing the health of a body in which you do want some exercise and you do want some healthy eating and you do want to insure proper amount of sleep.

Suggesting you want to run a business like you are in some marathon is silly and misguided.

 

It is just as misguided to think about an organization like a machine with gears and moving parts and keeping it well-oiled and full of gas and shit like that.

 

I say all of that to talk about organizational exhaustion.

 

If you stay away from silly metaphors about what an organization is, or is not, simplistically you are trying to insure your organization is putting forth a proper amount of effort against the efforts you want it, and need it, to be working against. This is a daily, weekly, monthly and annual leadership objective.

 

Different leaders have different styles working against this objective but, simplistically, that is the objective.

 

Now.

HOW you meet this objective typically takes some experience.

What do I mean?

 

I assume most leaders do not inherently know exactly how to do this … pacing an organization takes some experience and some practice, some mistakes and some successes and then you zero in on how to do it well <or just keep getting better at it>.

 

Using me as an example … I liked a hard charging group when I got to a eat sleep work organizational exhaustionteam/group management level. And I, personally, would be ecstatic if I didn’t have to sleep and I could go 24/7.

And, in the beginning, that was my vision for my groups.

 

By the way … in general … good intentions … bad idea.

 

But what that meant was that I probably learned this lesson, pacing and applying effort appropriately, too slowly <and I most likely will have a bunch of past team members chuckling painfully in agreement>. Going hard charging all the time is not sustainable — you juts have a constantly exhausted group.

Effective hard charging doesn’t mean 24/7 it means picking your moments and going hard.

 

That said… in desiring to have hard charging organizations there were certainly some lessons anyone would learn to limit needless organizational exhaustion.

Here are a couple I learned along the way:

 

  • I had to be consistent.

 

It doesn’t get discussed often enough but expectations go both ways. As a leader setting clear expectations is certainly expected <and I will mention that in my second learning> but it really helps an organization if you establish clearly what people can expect of you – behaviorally and attitudinally.

 

Words surely matter.

Setting expectations surely matter.

Actions surely matter.

But consistency matters above all. No leader is perfect and no leader will make the perfect decisions, let alone good decisions, all the time. Therefore it becomes incredibly important to just be consistent. Your organization, and specifically people, will become better accustomed to where you will be really really good and where you may be slightly off <and they will naturally accommodate both>.

 

In other words … your consistency actually offers your employees some direction for what they should do. Your best people will assess situations and know where you are consistently most likely right on, know the things you consistently overlook and know where you consistently leave some spaces for them to ‘do their thing.’

 

  • Keep some strong threads of consistency.

 

Threads of consistency permit an organization to not have to think about some things.

There were some really simple tactical things that I could control.

 

  • What do you mean <clarity in articulation>
  • Where are we going <set a visible North Star>
  • What do you want me to do <pragmatic expectations>

 

organize fish

If you could keep these three things solid and not have people milling about talking amongst themselves on these three questions you were staying ahead of the game.

 

It permits your organization to progress and not be stagnant. It permits your organization  to not invest unnecessary energy against those things and apply energy against doing shit.

 

 

Of course, a leader doesn’t have to do these things.

 

Of course, a leader doesn’t do these things at their own peril.

The peril? Exhaustion. frustration. Waste energy.

 

Not doing these things has an expense to an organization and mostly that is defined by two things – time & energy. I would point out that both of those things are not infinite resources to an organization. I point t out because if they are finite than you better have them available to you when you actually need them.

And that is why I chose to not use an organization as a race metaphor at the beginning but rather an organization as a body metaphor.

 

Look.

 

As a leader of larger organization you can hide your misjudgments or poor decisions in a variety of creative ways … mostly by shifting resources from one group to another or have another department assume some different responsibilities or by shifting some people into the work gaps or to buttress the best people who are flagging with some support.

 

But that is also not sustainable.

 

organizational exhaustion battery

The organization gets exhausted doing all that maneuvering … in addition … they get exhausted by you doing that.

 

I will admit that I got better at this as I moved up in responsibility. And, I will admit, I partially got better at it simply because I had more moving parts, departments and groups to manage. That is because I loved working 24/7 and I thrived with the energy of solving problems and … well … just energy. In a larger organization there is always something going on, some project or problem or initiative somewhere within an organization that needs attention or needs a little ‘push.’ This naturally permitted me to let one part of the organization ‘rest’ while another part of the organization ‘ran.’

 

Oh.

Think about that a second or two if you will.

 

What I just suggested is that an organization as a well-rounded circle or the classical myth of a ‘well rounded person’ is … well … simply a myth. In fact … the idea of it creates a false narrative in our heads.  As an organization learns and thinks and gains experience it does not expand smoothly but, rather, raggedly. Day after day, despite the fact it may feel like business is a grind or it may even feel too fast <or too slow>  an organization is constantly running toward some thought and experience … or … leaping from danger or something  disagreeable or some problem or some success and … well … suffice it to say it is anything but balanced.

And it is certainly not creating any smooth well rounded growth.

 

My main point?

 

exhausted all possibilities tried everythingThere is no such thing as a well-rounded person and there is no such thing as a well rounded organization. A leader may certainly aspire to create a well-rounded organization but, even at your best, the organization at any given point in time is some shape other than a circle.

The good news is that this means organizations also naturally get excited to explore the edged forays into interesting things and, in parallel, get snagged on the ragged edges of unexplored thoughts or even second guesses with regard to the lack of smoothness in what is happening in departments, groups and efforts … as well as thoughts and growth.

 

Yes.

I will point out that this is why an organization can feel slightly uncomfortable on occasion as employees, departments and groups wrestle with this discomfort, as well as dealing with the ragged edges constantly poking at everyone, but I will also point out that is why the things I mentioned earlier become even more important –the consistency, the clarity and the lack of chaos.

I will also point out that his kind of ‘uncomfortable’ is okay. Ito a leader it is actually a sign that things are going okay and the organization is not stagnant <and good leaders know how to point out good non-stagnancy to calm uncomfortable>.

 

All that said.

 

I can unequivocally state that no organization is successful when needlessly exhausted. They can be tired at the end of the day but exhaustion is a symptom not of ‘a good day’s work’ but rather unnecessary mental stress trying to get things going, understand what to do and what to say and kibitzing over why it is so hard to get what seems like normal shit done.

 

When an organization is running well … whether the 350 million, 350 or the 35 organizational exhaustion balancing workrecognize it … there are many days when the 1, the leader, leaves the office exhausted.

And the one is exhausted despite the fact that 349,999,900 people, 341 people or 34 people went to sleep that day feeling pretty good about their day and their needs & wants & hopes took one step forward that day … and they are a good tired … not needlessly exhausted.

 

Oh.

Despite the fact the one went to bed exhausted that one will arise the next day fresh because the organization is ready to go again the next day … and not organizationally exhausted.

 

I will end by pointing out that an exhausted group, an exhausted department or an exhausted organization is the sign of poor leadership. And, most importantly, it is a precursor to signs of inefficiencies and declines in measured productivity.

 

shared responsibility

April 17th, 2017

 generation think attitudes collective individual share

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We tend to hold ourself accountable for things we never did.

Hearts we never broke. People we didn’t hurt.

Souls we didn’t crush. “

 

coral-vellichor

 

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All these years I’ve been looking at the wrong side.

 

(via madelinemharris)

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Ok.

 

Accountability, or responsibility, is always a good topic. And, yes, I am a big personal responsibility person. But in business, within an organization, being responsibleresponsibility tends to be more shared responsibility than simple personal responsibility.

 

Oh.

 

To be clear.

 

I believe there is a strong relationship between shared responsibility and personal responsibility. The stronger the shared responsibility attitude & behavior within leadership & mentors & role models the stronger the development of personal responsibility muscle occurs in everyday schmucks like me. Conversely, if you are surrounded with lack of shared responsibility examples <or even those who espouse ‘selectively chosen shared responsibility’> the value of personal responsibility diminishes to an individual, therefore, they see less value in exhibiting personal responsibility.

 

We don’t talk about this relationship enough.

Far too often we flippantly suggest “people should take responsibility for their actions.”

 

Well … no shit Sherlock.

 

But if your roles models or leaders are constantly passing the buck when the shit hits the fan to save their own bacon <and image> then what the hell … why would you not do the same?

irresponsibility made easy

Yeah.

Sure.

 

Everyone has to pull their weight and do their job and do what they say they are going to do … but very very rarely does an individual perform in a vacuum in a business.

 

This happens more so even in management.

 

It drives me a little nuts when I hear some leaders discuss “delegating.”

 

Somehow delegating equals “absolved of responsibility.”

 

This is stupid irresponsible thinking.

 

My belief that it is stupid thinking is rooted in some common sesne I am fairly sure the US Military says:

 

 

You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility.

 

 

In other words … you can give others the power to do things … you can delegate … but, no matter what happens … if something goes wrong … the final responsibility always lies with the one who has delegated authority.

 

Sticking with the military as my guidance … this means if your business has an initiative that has gone SNAFU <“Situation Normal: All Fucked Up”> the blame … and the ultimate responsibility for the mistakes <fuck ups> falls … uhm … up.

The leader assumes responsibility.

 

This is shared responsibility.

 

In other words … this is leadership.

 

Yeah.

 

Once you become a business leader past a mom & pop management style business you have to face the concept of shared responsibility <and some embrace it and some reject it>.

 

puzzle people connect shared responsibilityDespite the fact you have delegated authority that ‘authority’ does not represent a discrete event and period in time.

You bear the responsibility for the cascade of events, decisions and actions leading up to the ‘authority giving’ which means everything you have done up until that point provides the context for the delegating … yeah … you own the arena in which you have placed the delegatee.

 

But this gets exponentially worse <if you are thinking about becoming a business leader>.

 

You actually also share responsibility for the consequences … uhm … intended and unintended.

 

This is different than delegating authority <although it relates to it> and owning responsibility for the action … this goes beyond to the actual ripples from the decisions & actions.

 

Now.

 

Some leaders have a nasty habit of assuming responsibility for the decision and the effect of the decision — within a finite period of time. The weakest leaders try and tie “that was out of my control” or “I wasn’t there for that” as soon as they can to a decision they make.

 

The strongest leaders worry less about any carnage that has been left behind but rather start worrying about any carnage the decisions & actions could possibly create for the future.

 

The truth is that business leaders should take a moment and remember the wise words of … well … an American Indian.

 

Red Cloud, an Oglala Lakota leader who led his people against the U.S. Army and later as his people transitioned from life on the plains to the reservation, stressed that when Indian people made a decision, it should be done with the welfare of the next seven generations in mind.

 

Whew.

world is yours ours share life

In a short term world where most business leaders are trying to make quarterly goals and just try and keep their job … thinking with the welfare of the next 7 generations seems … well … impossible.

 

I imagine the real point is that most good business leaders assume some responsibility for the generations to come.  Some people may call this ‘long term strategy’ and some others will call it ‘keeping your eye on the horizon’ or even ‘having a vision’ … well … I am no Harvard Business guru and all that high falutin’ stuff seems unnecessary. To me it is much more simple.

You make decisions accepting the burden of responsibility for what will come … and may arise from your decision.

 

You share the responsibility for what will, or may, come.

 

And if you do that? Damn. You will do good and be good.

 

And if you do not do that? Damn. You may get a shitload of attention and applause in the moment and a shitload of attention and anger in the future.

 

 

Why do I say that?

 

Because if you don’t really believe in shared responsibility and flit from one decision to the next in a transactional “responsible only to the moment” way you will end up rushing from issue to issue, reacting without a plan or a strategy or <worse> no care of longer term affect, creating carnage yet to be seen <because that type of leader tends to seek only the cheers in the moment>.

 

Uhm.

 

Innovative solution plan as a pencil trying to find way out of maze breaking through the labyrinth as a business concept and creative metaphor for strategy success and planning achievement.

Just to point it out … with no plan that means anything can happen and a leader can justify anything. Because with no plan to measure a decision against anything can look right … and unpredictable can be touted as ‘flexible to the situation.’

 

All of this fits a short term leader in a short term world.

 

The people are few and far between these days who weigh their responses and assess long term affects. In today’s world it almost seems a race to be the first to judge or comment on a decision or action and far too many leaders actually manage to the public race to comment rather than the longer term assessment.

 

This is scary stuff for anyone to do but a business leader? Dangerous.

Even the best short term decision makers, if forced into a gauntlet of short term decisions, will struggle to insure at the end of the gauntlet they have kept walking northwards as they had been looking down the entire time. More often than not North will not be the direction you are facing nor will you have actually moved any closer to the North star.

 

I am not suggesting this longer term shared responsibility attitude is easy.

In fact .. it is really really hard.

In fact … it almost means you have to embrace a little “impossible” into what you actually make possible.

 

Huh?

 

 

In general I have always liked logical thinking <no matter how random the logic may be> but I always love it when someone combines some unexpected logic.

Generally speaking the best unexpected logic actually comes from those who do the impossible … thinking of the impossible and seeing possibilities — the impossible being “knowing for sure what will happen in the future.” They make the spectacular leaps/chances, accepting responsibility and sharing responsibility, so that business can make the needed changes or just do the semi-risky things that keep a good business doing good things <things that may push against the borders of the status quo>.

 

Yeah.

Spectacular errors can only happen if you take spectacular chances. I am not fond of irresponsible risk taking and decision-making, but I am fond of doing ‘the right thing’ even when it may appear to be going against the stream. Sometimes that means a spectacular success, sometimes a spectacular error. But always something spectacular.

 

And I will tell you … what more could you want to say about your life as a leader but that you have done something spectacular? Especially if that ‘spectacular’ actually happens a generation later which permits you to sit back and say “I did the impossible … I viewed the future well.’

 

Anyway.

 

Shared responsibility is the burden of any good leader. They tend to be the leaders who understand they cannot really be sure what is going to happen to them over time, they weigh the risks to the best of their ability and let the chips fall as they may.

I tend to believe their attitude is one of “you don’t want to act more fearfully than you have to.”

 

Good leaders have a tendency to hold themselves accountable for anything, everything and everyone … in varying degrees depending on the anything, everything and everyone. And, maybe most importantly, I tend to believe they understand that there is a relationship between shared responsibility and personal responsibility.

 

And, practically speaking, you will never be viewed as a true leader if you do not.

 

Well.my life is my message duty

 

You know what?

 

To end this thing today … let me offer two other words, typically associated with responsibility, obligation and duty.

 

Obligation refers general to something you are compelled to do by regulation, law, promise or morality. I think good leaders feel obligated to assume shared responsibility.

 

Duty, more so than obligation, springs from an internal moral or ethical impulse rather than from external demands.

I think good leaders feel a duty to assume shared responsibility.

 

Shared responsibility … not only do I believe we should discuss it more often <because it will foster better value in personal responsibility> but I also believe we should be demanding it of our leaders more often.

Enlightened Conflict