Enlightened Conflict

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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working with a competent incompetent blowhard

July 21st, 2017

ego at the door

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“I’m an egomaniac with an inferiority complex.”

 

—–

Eric Clapton

 

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“Not everything is about you,” Clary said furiously.

 

“Possibly,” Jace said, “but you do have to admit that the majority of things are.”

 

 

Cassandra Clare

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“Who knows himself a braggart, let him fear this, for it will come to pass that every braggart shall be found an ass.”

 

 

William Shakespeare

 

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“Or, rather, let us be more simple and less vain.”

 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

 

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So.

 

ego meter

We all have worked with assholes.

We all have also most likely worked with egotistical assholes.

 

And, unfortunately, we all have most likely worked with competent egotistical assholes. This is the particular type of asshole who actually kind of knows their shit, is overly satisfied with their competence, tells everyone who good they are and says all of this no matter what has actually happened <good or bad>or whether it is actually reflective of reality.

 

I have never really worked for anyone like this <fortunately> but I do know from experience that these people particularly suck to work with because, yeah, they don’t completely suck from a functional professional standpoint … so you cannot completely ignore them and, even worse, they may actually even have some specific skill you may need at some point.

 

What makes it suck for you is that they have some serious flaws <not that they would ever admit it> and that they will take credit for anything and everything they can, they will multiply wins in exaggerated results and effort and diminish, if not even blame others, for lack of successes.

 

They are, and always will be, the biggest self-promoters <assholes> you will capitalism narcissistever encounter.

 

They are, and always will be, the biggest selective users of facts and specifics to showcase whatever self-style & strength they want to portray <their own assholedness>.

 

They are a legend in their own mind <and an asshole to the rest of us>.

 

But, at their best, they are not only competent but can actually contribute.

 

These assholes are tougher to deal with and manage than the incompetent. You can ignore the incompetent <or the ‘less than useful’ or the “beyond their sell-by date’ people>.

Once again … I have never had to report to an incompetent blowhard <or an incompetent non blowhard> but I have had several “senior people who were beyond their sell-by date” who you never permitted in a meeting by themselves <for fear of what they would say or promise> and you always tried to diplomatically curb their responsibilities and impact.

They were not always truly assholes or incompetent just ‘less than desired usefulness’ for the business needs.

 

But the competent blowhards are a bear to deal with.

 

You are constantly sitting there thinking … “Jesus … wouldn’t it be terrific to be able to reap the rewards without putting up with the blowhard bullshit?”

 

I actually found an article suggesting some tips on how you can “harness the superb results these folks generate without having to put up with their acting out.”

 

Whew.

That article was off base. You cannot harness a blowhard … competent or incompetent.

 

An egotistical competent person is … well … an egotistical <typically “narcissistic”> competent blowhard asshole and there is little to get around that.

 

asshole day

 

You just figure out how to get around them, use them the best you can and take them head on strategically <knowing you cannot take them head on all the time>.

 

To be clear.

 

I am using “asshole” loosely here. As someone noted somewhere … the term “asshole” is also used as a euphemistic reference to people whom we classify as “disagreeable.”

 

A blowhard is disagreeable but so can a lot of good people who aren’t narcissistic. Shit. Contrarians can portray some asshole tendencies <see myself as a prime example> but not all contrarians are fucking egotistical self-promoting blowhards.

 

I could argue that since each of us is an asshole to someone the term is always relative. In other words, one person’s asshole can be another person’s hero.

 

Therefore … in my eyes … it takes a lot of effort to be a competent asshole.do not speak again oxygen thief opinion blowhard importance

 

Incompetent assholes don’t know that they are assholes.

Competent assholes KNOW that they are assholes.

 

I am writing this because, unfortunately, this is a conversation we all have in business. Egomaniac assholes are in every business. We have to deal with them and the reality is that sometimes they are in senior management.

They may actually be competent but they are manipulative, obsessive, and aggravatingly boastful and far too often bullies.

They may actually have some aspects of competence and use it to throw anyone around them who also shows signs of threatening competence under the bus at any given opportunity.

They actually do it under the guise of “creating a competitive always improving environment” when they are really simply insecure assholes who want to diminish anyone around them so they look bigger & better.

 

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Hayakawa: Use the Right Word:

 

By definition ‘boast’ suggests a self-important and tasteless pointing out of one’s own successes.

 

Occasionally the word can refer to self-congratulation for a victory not yet won.  Brag intensifies the note of tastelessness in boast, suggesting limitless conceit and, possibly, inaccuracy of the claims being made – bragging about imaginary exploits. And then there is ‘crowing’ which suggests a noisy or vociferous bragging of an extremely offensive kind. And ‘gloating’? Gloating is an intensification of crow – although it need not be verbal and sometimes suggests taunting someone that one has bested.

 

By definition: egomania

…. an obsessive preoccupation with one’s self and applies to someone who follows their own ungoverned impulses and is possessed by delusions of personal greatness and feels a lack of appreciation.

 

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job i am the greatest confidence trump

Look.

 

I don’t mind a manager with a healthy sense of ego, but the true competent blowhards are best to avoid if possible because they have elements of toxicity.

 

In Toxic Workers , a new Harvard Business School working paper, Michael Housman and Dylan Minor look at the paradox of “superstar” workers who outperform their colleagues by 2:1 or more, but who are “toxic” — awful to work with and be around.

 

The connection between toxicity and productivity has been validated in several studies, but the question that Housman and Minor set out to answer is, “are 1%, superstar workers worth the trouble they cause in the workplace?”

 

Using a clever empirical methodology, they demonstrate that, basically, you shouldn’t work with assholes. It’s better to hire two average employees than to keep one “superstar” on the payroll, once you factor in the disruption that your talented jerk wreaks on their colleagues.

 

 

Simplistically the blowhards distort things. They exaggerate good, diminish bad,  consistently use a made up unique formula of uncertainties & lack of clarity, offer alternatives <facts & universes> and serve to only create difficulties in exactly describing what is, and isn’t, actually happening.

 

While accomplishing some things, which if discussed like a normal human being everyone would be fine with, the abnormal human being says shit like: “I don’t think there’s ever been anyone who in this short period of time has done what I’ve done.”

 

Uhm.

 

Unfortunately for whoever says this there is typically some actual proof that someone somewhere has actually achieved a lot more. But that really doesn’t matter to this type of person … all they have to do is do enough and make it look hopeful enough that a group of employees ignore the hyperbole and focus on the fact someone has done something.

 

By the way.

 

confidence is silent

What makes this truly toxic is the fact the competent non-blowhards around this person start ignoring the blowhard and just doing their own thing <and his because even more toxic to a business the more senior the blowhard is>.

 

I imagine my point here is that we all know someone at work whose biggest fan is himself/herself. They exaggerate all their contributions and diminish & deflect any blame or negatives.

Those people make it really difficult to compliment. Our first instinct is to try and deflate <or ‘right-size’> accomplishments so that even good gets diminished so it doesn’t get exaggerated. Unfortunately his sometimes means that even when credit is due the person has just made it hard for us to WANT to give them credit.

 

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“Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.”

 

 

African proverb

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Regardless.

 

We all know some of these people who do not recognize that they are one of those people.

Particularly in business.

 

They aren’t psychopaths and they aren’t the kind of assholes that are raging assholes … these are just the assholes oblivious to their assholedness. Suffice it to say far and away the number one way they justify their existence is “the end justifies the means.”

 

“But I made the numbers.”

“We won.”

“We finished.”

 

All the while ignoring the carnage left behind.

 

The carnage can be lost employees, pissed off employees, tired <emotionally and physically> employees, angry peers and disappointed or abused partners.

 

<lost>

 

extremes managementThey couldn’t keep up or they were not good enough <good they are gone … we weed out those who can’t keep up>.

 

<pissed off>

 

You can’t always pamper people to get them across the finish line <they like me because they know it is all done with ‘tough love’>.

 

<tired>

 

I pushed them beyond what they thought they could do <they won’t be angry once they see how I helped them realize their potential>.

 

<peers>

 

The other managers don’t recognize what it takes to get it done <my project was more important and they won’t be angry once they see the result and how the team responded …or … I am showing them how it should be done>.

 

<partners>

 

They have good intentions but I need to keep them focused on our priorities and objectives and needs <they work for us and need us more than we need them>.

 

Those are the tricks of the trade of the competent blowhards.

 

Regardless.

 

Yes.

Success does matter.

 

No.

I am not suggesting we shouldn’t value ‘the kill’ or even ‘ability to effectively stalk the prey’ in business.

 

But … Yes.

I do believe how you kill or stalk matters.

 

Look.

 

Blowhards can try and convince us of competence in a variety of ways … they can showcase fulfilling promises which does not show the actions of a skilled CEO but rather a bumbling overwhelmed CEO focused on showing action to try and cover up incompetence.

 

I say that because even bumbling incompetent CEO’s can do some things right in a flurry of ‘doing shit.’ I say that because even a semi-incoherent senior business person can do some things right AND justify it in some fairly creative common sense sounding ways.

 

The following is something I found somewhere <I cannot find where> from someone who actually responded to “being an asshole manager” which showcase how a competent asshole business person can quite easily justify their actions.

 

Please note that there is a strong thread of truly competent thoughts.

 

Please note that if I were so inclined I could go back through every point and slice out the slightly self-righteous aspects and showcase how you can actually be competent and not an asshole AND not pamper your employees’ every whim … but I will not.

 

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. not sure how you define asshole, but I suppose being blunt, efficient, and unable to cater to every employee’s wants (not needs) goes a long way. I go out of my way to reward my best employees, give them the resources they need, approve their time off outside of work, etc. I take a pedagogical approach to my role, passing knowledge to my employees that will help them advance their careers (and make my job easier). Yet, I’m still the asshole.

 

Here are some reasons I’m an asshole manager:

 

  1. I’m responsible for making a diverse group of people with varying job roles work together. Try coming up with one rule or guideline that makes everyone happy.

management new

  1. Some employees only work as hard as they have to. And they hate it when you ask them to do more.

 

  1. Some employees (often the ones who only do the bare minimum) expect to be promoted just for showing up. You can print them a crystal clear roadmap to success within your company, and they’ll still paddle along, doing nothing to distinguish themselves, then ask to be supervisor.

 

  1. Ingratitude is the status quo. Once, everyone in the department got tiny raises (three figures). The reason they were tiny is because we shifted our fiscal year; there was a tiny pool for compensation increases. Because someone had left, I was able to get every one of my employees a raise larger than the 1.5% average everyone in the company had to adhere to. I know it’s not a lot, but I put in a lot of effort to make their tiny raises a little less tiny. The fact they got more than the average was clearly explained to them. The response: the raises “were a slap in the face.” Fine. Next time, we’ll spend the money on a clever fucking food truck half of you won’t like.

 

  1. As a manager, much of your employee’s well-being (compensation, promotion, career growth) depends on you. At the same time, this isn’t a day care center; it’s a business, and my job is to get my employees to do their jobs. That’s a hell of burden, and it makes me less likely to be everyone’s buddy when instead I have to be fair and compassionate, but also directive and efficient.

 

  1. In the same vein, employees know how much power you have over things like compensation, so they’re never, ever totally honest with you. Personality problems I constantly hear about third-hand magically disappear when I’m leading from the floor. Also, employees will admit to making small mistakes, which upon five seconds of investigation, turn out to be related to much larger mistakes they say nothing about.

 

  1. Paranoia is the status quo. I can’t explain to employee #1 why I wrote employee #2 up. That would be unprofessional, and would betray the disciplined employee’s trust. Yet if it appears on the surface that I’m being unfair, then the conspiracy theorists kick in and all of a sudden I’m playing favorites. Example: Two employees don’t show up to work. One is written up. The first employee has a documented record of excessively calling in sick, and misses work yet again, without notice. The other, who has an exemplary attendance record, has a family emergency and calls into work in advance. The former would get written up before the latter every time. Employees aren’t privy to these details, so they form their own conclusions baked in resentment. And God help you if the employee who incorrectly thinks they’re being treated unfairly is a woman or a minority.

management bullshit

  1. You can’t listen to music with the N-word in it. You can’t describe the hot girl you met. You can’t tell off-color jokes, listen to Howard Stern, or share clips of that R-rated stand-up comedian. I’m going to write you up for breaking those rules. You may even get fired. The alternative is me losing my job because I tolerated a hostile work environment. So yes, we’re a friendly, down-to-earth, casual company…until tone-deaf legal standards force us to behave otherwise.

 

  1. Millennials, calling into work because you’re stressed isn’t a good excuse. Especially if it happens exclusively on Fridays and Mondays. I’m going to call you out on it.

 

  1. When HR makes a decision to fire you, I’m the one who breaks the news. When finance says we can’t afford that tool to make your job easier, I’m the one who communicates the message. Part of my job is to be the face of the company to you. Your bridge to the massive bureaucracy. Of course I’m going to sound like an asshole to you. And no, I don’t have time to make you feel better about it. So put my picture on the dartboard. Slander me if it makes you feel better about things. As long as you’re doing your job and I’m doing my best to treat you fairly and humanely, the rest is your problem.

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So.

 

That sounded fairly reasonable, didn’t it?

 

I chuckled a little and stopped myself from going back and showing the author where they were … well … as asshole <but still pointing out their competence>.

Being a manager and a leader is not easy. If it were then … well … not only could anyone be one anyone could actually be a good one.

I shared the 10 thoughts above because the difference between an asshole leader, and a competent non asshole leader, can often be defined in shades … not vivid colors <although the result often can be viewed in vivid displays of rich & royal hues>.

And that vivid comparison truly comes to Life if you are viewing a competent arrogant blowhard.

 

I was an okay manager & leader. I did some things okay and some things not so okay. I can honestly say I did get better at it as time went on and I am much better now, and how I discuss leadership, than I was even 5 years ago.

 

I am much better at identifying incompetence and the characteristics one management what growing-global-executive-talentshould look at in defining and judging managers and leaders than I was at the beginning of my career <at the beginning it was just “boy, that feel and looks wrong” and now it is “let me point out the five things which are wrong that makes it feel wrong.”

 

And … I will admit that it can sometimes be a fine line between solid confidence and overestimated ego.

 

What I can tell you is that you don’t need me to point out an arrogant, narcissistic, semi-competent blowhard. You can see them a mile away and even if you just “feel it” you are more than likely right.

 

An asshole is an asshole. Once you have seen an asshole and felt what it is like to be around an asshole … well … you will never forget the feeling.

 

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“Besides, nowadays, almost all capable people are terribly afraid of being ridiculous, and are miserable because of it.”

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Fyodor Dostoevsky

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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.

Enlightened Conflict