Enlightened Conflict

businesses running hard

August 18th, 2017

company culture die trying

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

 

Johann Wolfgang Von Goeth

 

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

Not ever.

The only way out, is in.”

 

Junot Diaz

 

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Well.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

That said.

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

 

Yeah.

 

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

 

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

 

Regardless.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

But you have to tell them.

 

Well.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

Next.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

blanace greater good matters do

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

 

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

 

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

 

=

Jean Marie-Dru

——

 

Look.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

Anyway.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

disconnected and decision making

August 8th, 2017

think courage work ideas question curious

 

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

 

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

 

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So.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Yeah.

 

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

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

 

I believe this is a real issue.

 

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

 

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

 

 

zero none zilch

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

 

 

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

 

Lets be clear.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Now.

 

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

 

They may be partially right.

 

But I would argue 3 things:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Look.

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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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the myth of simplification

July 19th, 2017

simple i like

 

“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde

 

 

“What a simple black and white world you must live in.” – unknown

 

 

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Communication.

 

Effective communication has been, and always will be, complex and complicated … and a good thing for society. Effective communication inevitably feeds into the minds and enlightenment of the listeners. If you dumb down communication inevitably you dumb down the listeners.

 

Old white men hollowed out communication. I imagine as they hollowed out everything else they found it inherently more productive to gain their objectives by hollowing out communication. Everything became soundbites, powerpoint bullet points and ‘elevator speeches.’ Effectively communicating complexity took on less importance than puncturing the mind with a quick sharp stab <and then walking away>. Old white men mastered the art of emptying communication to a point where businesses end up walking on the slippery surface of irrelevance <cloaked in a beautiful robe called “what is important for you to know.”>

 

Bruce McTague

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Well.

 

I may as well fulfill my contrarian obligations immediately – nothing is it is complicated complex not simple Life worldsimple.

 

Nothing.

 

Look.

 

I may be wrong but I think the world would be a shitload ‘righter’ if we just assumed nothing was simple and started acting that way.

The whole idea of simple and simplicity has … well … fucked us up royally. It has almost become an obsession toward which everyone is consumed by until we are either frozen into inaction <this isn’t simple enough> or we hold our “simplicity prize” up high proudly … only to find in our holy quest we discarded some essential items which would have actually helped this ‘simple idea’ live.

 

We all want to simplify our lives <or at least we talk about it a lot>, simplicity in thinking, simplicity in ideas and simplicity in work … and yet, as a generalization, we all seem to seek every way possible to complicate our lives.

 

We see simplicity as a way to solve problems and, whew, we are a certainly a ‘people’ of problem solvers <but also problem creators as a corollary>.

And, yet, “it seems simple …” may be the biggest problem of all and may be one of the most misused and misguided statements and thoughts in today’s world.

 

 

A good friend of mine, an experienced communications professional, always says “if you are explaining you are losing” as an argument for simplicity. The challenge is that it … well … isn’t an argument for simplicity. It is actually an argument for clearly articulating what you want, and need, to articulate.

In fact … as I will point out later in this rant piece … being too simple actually creates more confusion, therefore, simplicity could actually be creating the explaining.

oh my god cover mouth silence do not speak

 

 

<oh my>

 

 

And that is where the myth of simplification dies. It dies in truth and reality.

 

Simplicity reality, more often than not, consists of two opposing things – security/reliability, which anchors the sense of safety thereby justifying the common sense aspect of simplicity, & passion/risk/newness, which anchors the sense of movement thereby justifying the smartness aspect of simplicity.

Simplicity reality, more often than not, is an amalgamation of multiple fragments crating a mosaic which is pleasing to the eye <and relatively easy to grasp>.

 

Simplicity reality, more often than not, consists of some opposing thoughts in that, typically, if you have one… you can’t have the other.

 

Contrary to simplicity narratives the complexity actually brings in the pragmatism of a simplistic reality <and I would argue effectiveness.>.

 

All this means is that simplicity is rarely simple and trying to capture it in a meaningful single word or image is … well … not only silly but sells the depth & breadth of a decision or situation or idea or thought … or reality itself … short.

 

Reality is complex.

Life is complex.

Most ideas and thoughts are complex.

 

And there is no simple solution to complexity.

 

Simple is hard.

 

It is hard because sometimes, okay, most times simplicity is arrived at by distilling complex solutions/ideas down to its most efficient form.

 

business simplicity complex woekI would note that from my own business experience I would say that many times simplicity ideas can only be found from checking out all of the different solutions. And after sifting through everything simplicity is more often found in a “doh” moment <not an “ah ha!” moment> in that you may be surprised by the fact simplicity is just the thing that makes the most sense at the end of the day.

 

And why is simple THAT hard?

 

Well.

 

Al Einstein said, “Make things as simple as can be—but not simpler.”

 

Geez.

 

So simple isn’t the least.

It may actually be somewhere above the least and significantly below the most <complex>.

 

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek simplicity. But what it does mean is that simple or simplicity shouldn’t be defined by rules or milestones or trite “say it in 10 seconds or less” dictates or, well, any boundaries.

 

Simplicity defines itself it is not defined. Simplicity is reflective of the time, place, people, situation and solution needed.

 

Ponder that my friends.

 

What may make simplicity even more complex is, oddly enough, that part which should make it the simplest.

 

Simplicity, more often than not, is the nitty gritty stuff and not the more glamorous big vision or “big idea” stuff. It is about marrying principle and pragmatism and gradual improvement – piece by piece and part by part.

 

To me, simple and simplicity tends to be found in shit that most people would think has nothing to do with simple:

 

  • Coalesce fragments

 possibilities-plans-ideas-infinity-life-business-choices

“The whole is simpler than the sum of its parts.

Willard Gibbs

 

I think people would be much better off f they understood that while simple may be represented in ‘one thing’ it is actually representative of many things.

The best of the best ‘simplicity finders’ are the ones who are the best at coalescing fragments. Gathering up disparate pieces of information and figuring out how to make them whole in a way that

 

 

  • Box in complexity

 

Let me begin by paraphrasing a quote about how Sylvia Plath wrote…

 

“Whether Plath wrote about nature, or about the social restrictions on individuals, she stripped away the polite veneer. She let her writing express elemental forces and primeval fears. In doing so, she laid bare the contradictions that tore apart appearance and hinted at some of the tensions hovering just beneath the surface of the American way of life.”

 

Margaret Rees

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I used the quote because far too many people think simplicity is about stripping away things to showcase the core instead maybe they should be thinking about stripping away the veneer so that the truth can be laid bare.

Let me explain <you will not agree with this if you do not agree that simplicity is a ‘whole made up of fragments’>.

 

Simplicity, to me, is about using the complex parts to box in the whole.

 

making your point bracket triangulate business combine experienceYou either:

 

 

  • Bracket what you want to offer <simplicity resides within two opposing thoughts>.

 

 

  • Triangulate what you want to offer <simplicity resides in the middle>.

 

 

  • Box in what you want to offer <simplicity gets squeezed into middle>.

 

Now.

Some people may use what I just shared and say “simplicity is the distillation” and I would push back by suggesting “simplicity is reflective of all the parts as it shows the whole.”

Am I parsing words?

Maybe.

 

But when someone says ‘show a picture’ or ‘say it in 5 seconds or you lose them’ and be done with it … I just don’t think it is that simple. Simple stimuli are just as likely to confuse. Provide ambiguity. Generate a feeling of ‘lesser than’ <”I am missing something of value or I missed the opportunity to showcase some value”>.

 

— note: there is a lot of research supporting this thought —

 

Look.

 

Our minds are like real estate.

 

Space is limited and we can’t let every thought, idea, product, person or whatever have a place to stay.

 

That means where the rubber hits the road with regard to being simple and simplicity is that it must create some connection with whomever is touching that simplicity

 

I will end with Chopin. Chopin is one of my favorite classical composers. I seriously doubt anyone who has ever looked at any of his sheet music would suggest his music was not complex. And, yet, close your eyes and listen … it contains a simplicity that connects.

 

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

 

“Simplicity is the final achievement.

After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

 

Frédéric Chopin

 

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

 

All I know is that we have totally fucked up the idea of simplicity to a point where simple, or simplicity, is more a myth than reality. This myth has hollowed us out – hollowed our thinking, our communication and our culture.

 

beauty in the breakdown 2

Most of the worthwhile things in Life are not hollow … they have depth & breadth … they are … well … complex.

 

Reality is complex.

 

Life is complex.

 

Most ideas and thoughts are complex.

 

And there is no simple solution to complexity but I would suggest that the beauty can be found in the breakdown of the complex to its simplest form.

the unexpected move

June 27th, 2017

bad idea beauty life business

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“The unexpected, always the unexpected.


If they expect you to move right, move left.


The first law of survival in this jungle that you’ll inhabit.
The unexpected move. “

 

—-

The Avengers

 

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“She was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you.”

 

Terry Pratchett

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Well.

 

Far too often in business we talk about making an “unexpected move” to gain an advantage as “zig when they zag.”

 

So … lets’ take a minute and talking about the whole “zigging when they zag” bullshit.

 

Oh.

Yeah.

 

On a football field zigging when they zag can be effective … but in business it is bullshit.

 

Look.

 

I am all for running with a temporary advantage when given the opportunity <and, yes, about 97.385% of advantages are temporary — I made up the 97.385% number>.

But that is not ‘zigging’.

 

I am all for hunkering down on a specific distinctness when it appears the rest of the category is bumbling around in an array of meaningless claims.

But that is not zigging.

 

I am all for leaping through a window of opportunity when the window cracks open.

But that is not zigging.

 

Suffice it to say … zigging, in general, is a stupid strategy.

 

Let me explain why.

 

Most industries once they have a fair number of competitors is more like a 7 zig zag highway unexpected businesslane superhighway where everyone is driving in the same direction within the same guard rails.

 

Not everyone will like thinking that but the truth is that most businesses have smart people who see the same information and do all the necessary research with people who are likely, and not likely, to buy whatever it is they are selling and therefore strategies are in the same realm and everyone is pretty much competing in the same arena.

 

This means a couple of things.

 

Everyone is speeding toward the same destination.

If something is obvious to you, it is most likely obvious to them.

 

What all of this means is you have to move but most moves have to be done artfully.

 

So maybe despite the fact I balk at the whole ‘zig when they zig’ and ‘unexpected’ anything in business gives me heartburn it is possible I could discuss the art of the unexpected move.

 

I call it “art” because unpredictability as normal behavior is bad. No one likes someone who is unpredictable 100% of the time and organizations <alignment, operations and ‘day to day doing’> tend to respond poorly to unpredictability.

 

unexpected changeIn my highway metaphor unpredictability most likely means either <a> a crash or <b> slowing down and you get passed or <c> you are now on a completely different road than all the other competitors speeding toward sales, & customers.

 

As for predictable?

Yikes. Boring. Lack of creativity. Bad <in a different way> … let’s just call predictable “lack of any art.”

 

In my highway metaphor this most likely means you are cruising in one of the right lanes, the slower lanes, and people are passing you all the frickin’ time.

 

This suggests making a move in your industry take more art and artfulness to navigate the path you desire or take advantage of the opportunity that may open.

 

This also suggests, in the business world, you sit up and pay attention just with a little more focus when someone pulls out the “maybe we should zig when they zag” tritism. You do so mostly because anyone who says that who is not on a football field most likely has their head up their ass <but want to say something catchy in a meeting to be noticed>.

 

I say that, again, because most time in a business industry companies are going in a direction for a reason … that is where the sales are. So ‘zigging’ when everyone else ‘zags’ more than likely means they are heading toward sales and you are not <but you can always say you zigged when they zagged>.

 

Ok.

 

Now.

 

If you want to tie ‘unexpected move’ to survival … well … that is a different story.

 

Survival does have a nasty habit of forcing some unexpected maneuvering. Ok. Maybe out of desperation the predictable in us decides that maybe being ‘unexpected’ may actually be called for.

 

I would suggest that if you find yourself in desperate times rarely is anything artful in that moment.

But I would suggest that in a desperate survival mode I can offer tow lists you should write up on some big board in some big conference room and make sure you discuss.

 

There are basically 4 basic responses to a threat <or opportunity I imagine>:

 

 

  • Fight

 

  • Flee

 

  • Deceive

 

  • Submit

 

 

Any move you choose to make will be derived from one of these four spaces.

Choose wisely.how we survive makes who we are

 

Once you have chosen <wisely> effectiveness in a survival fight basically comes down to 4 things <in the order of importance>:

 

 

  • aggression and willingness to hurt your competition

 

  • willingness to get hurt yourself

 

  • skill and knowledge

 

  • strength and power

 

 

Some may haggle with my order but the top two will dictate your success regardless of how you stack the last two.

And of the last two is would suggest most of the time knowing what to do is more important than brute strength.

Choose wisely <but always choose the first two or you will get crushed>.

 

I offer these two lists because when anyone suggests zigging when someone zags I bring these out.

Shit.

I bring these two lists out almost any time a business wants to talk about effectively competing in an industry.

 

Why?

 

Because nothing really matters if you do not figure out these two lists.

 

Why?

 

Temporary as long asGoing back to what I said earlier … advantages are temporary   and the other guys/gals you are competing against are as smart as you are.

You don’t zig just for the sake of zigging <that is wasted organizational energy> and if you do have to take an unexpected move it is most typically a response to something in the situation.

 

While we like to talk about zigging and zagging the reality comes back to the highway. You have to move forward and keep moving forward <or get run over>.

The only zigging anyone should ever talk about is either moving into another lane to pass someone or another lane to let someone pass you or change lanes to avoid a crash.

 

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

 

“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change.

Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.

 

—-

William S. Burroughs

 

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

 

Unexpected moves just to do something unexpected is … well … stupid.

It is in the same category as change for change sake.

It is in the same category as zigging when they zag.

 

Now.

 

Unexpected moves made in the search for something incredible waiting to be known <some desired destination>? Well … yeah … that isn’t stupid.

 

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“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

 

—-

Carl Sagan

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.......... zig zag mistake ................

……………. zig zag mistake …………….

Unexpected moves made to survive on the competition highway? That isn’t stupid.

 

Unexpected moves made to veer through a window of opportunity that arises? That isn’t stupid.

 

But zig when they zag? C’mon. That’s just stupid.

 

It is stupid because more likely than not it just means you will have not left the comeptition behind but rather just left the competition.

staying above even when stepping down

June 25th, 2017

 

inspire people dont give up

 

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“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

 

—-

J.R.R Tolkien

 

 

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“And though she be but little, she is fierce.”

—-

William Shakespeare

 

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

 

 

Ok.

 

lead togther step down dominant

This is about business and business leadership.

 

Leading is a big job. It carries big responsibilities and big burdens. You have to be big enough in some way <skills, charisma, character, smarts, etc.> to stay above the organization and employees. And I say “above” because part of leading is being able to see above the heads of everyone so that you can lead and align and step in when & where appropriate.

 

Above is not dominance per se just that you maintain a dominant position from which you can most effectively & efficiently lead.

 

Now.

 

Here is what any good leader knows … you don’t have to be big to … well … be big.

Heck. You don’t even have to act ‘big.’

 

In addition.

 

A good leader can leave the comfort of the ‘throne’, i.e. the trappings of the ‘bigness’ –the natural ‘dominance’ that comes with a title — and still remain above even when stepping down from all those things.trump dominant Genuine people fake people

 

However.

 

Not everyone is a good leader. And not every leader is particularly good at navigating the natural doubts <am I doing the right thing, am I doing the best thing, am I doing the thing I should be doing, etc.> that come along with being a leader. By the way … any good leader has some doubts on occasion … it keeps them grounded.

 

Regardless.

 

What that means is there will inevitably be business people who fear looking small. And they protect their illusions of ‘bigness’, or being bigly, mainly in several ways:

 

  • They diminish everyone they can in the attempt to make others as small as they can so that they look bigger no matter the comparison

 

  • They find a ‘safe space’ in which they place their metaphorical throne and make everyone come to them <this is kind of like the boss who purposefully has their desk built slightly higher and the chairs facing the desk slightly lower to insure they maintain a physical dominant position>

 

  • They avoid, as much as possible, one-on-one interactions with anyone their own size <unless they can control the environment>.

 

  • They ground themselves in platitudes under the guise of “flexibility & adaptability” so they can avoid having to defend anything specific with anyone who could diminish their bigness

 

 

Well.

 

Why I decided to write about this is … uhm … day in and day out Donald J Trump offers us in the business world reminders of ineffective leadership style and the characteristics of insecure leadership.

And the number one business dunce stupid brand marketingcharacteristic of insecure leadership is the inability to step down and still stay above.

 

Insecure leaders are extremely hesitant, if not completely resistant, to leaving their ‘dominant position.’

 

Let me explain ‘dominant position’ because it can sound bad <and it is mainly meant to express a position of authority>.

 

A CEO or a president is clearly in a dominant position by title and by responsibility and, in most cases, by some larger skill that got them to where they are. A true ‘dominant position’ <let’s call it “authority”> combines all aspects.

 

Therefore the person in the dominant position combines substance & style. And this is where insecurity steps in … because if a leader has any true doubts with regard to their ‘dominant position’ – mostly doubts on their substance — they start exhibiting some insecure characteristics.

They will dial up their style aspects to cloak any substance deficiencies and become excruciatingly careful with regard to how they interact with other people.

 

But the one I thought about today was “stepping down.’

 

Let me explain.

 

I heard Donald J say the other day “they should call us to participate.” In other words … they need to come to me <thereby establishing some aspect of subservience and feeds the sense of ‘dominant position.’

 

shift up or down

This was not a one-off comment.

He does this … every … frickin’ … day.

 

Trump never “goes to people” nor does he unite by inserting himself into any opposing groups <people who may not agree with him> opening himself up to say “let me be part of what you want.” I cannot envision him ever going to opposition and suggesting he wanted to work with them <they have to come to him>.

His whole leadership style is driven by an insecurity of ‘dominant position’ and he fears stepping down from his position because he fears it will expose the fact he isn’t really above anyone other than in title.

 

In other words … he fears looking small <or ‘not bigly’>.

 

And therein lies the larger lesson.

 

Good leaders don’t become smaller when they step down or go to people rather than make people go to them. They know there are no ‘little people’ but rather only big responsibilities of which everyone has.

 

Little people are little wherever they go … even if they just sit in the corner office.

Unfortunately for us a little leader knows this … and doesn’t know this.

What I mean by that is they can sense their littleness therefore they go out of their way to stay within whatever cocoon of ‘bigness trappings’ to encourage the belief they have that they are actually big. And, yet, they don’t know this rump dominant Do you think clouds look down on people and thinkbecause they tend to have an oversized view of themselves <every should come to me attitude>.

 

They see themselves through a fairly warped view of self-relevance … “everyone else becomes more relevant by being around me therefore they become bigger in my bigness.” And that partially outlines their main fear.

Loss of relevance.

Anyone who becomes more relevant than them is a danger. Loss of power, the illusion of or real, is the danger.

 

What that all means is that an insecure leader more often than not lives in a “you need to come to me, call me or ask me” mentality.

 

  • Foreign dignitaries come to visit him <and he does not visit them>.
  • Democrats should call me instead of being obstructionists.
  • People need to visit him at the White House <or Mar a Lago>.
  • He never works with people or offers to meet them.

 

He treats everyone as if they should be subservient to him and if they do not meet that desire he is dismissive or even attacks them as ‘obstructionist.’

 

leadership go your way

 

Let me be clear.

 

No sane business leader <in this generation> has this attitude.

You cannot.

You cannot because you know many of the people working for you are actually smarter than you and a shitload more just may know something you do not know.

You cannot because oftentimes your peers, who actually report to you, may actually be better than you at some things.

You cannot because you know that good people never want to feel subservient but rather want to feel being a key part of overall success.

 

Most of those who lead have learned these things not by attempting to learn to be ‘above’ but rather by learning how to lead. And you learn that mostly by getting into ‘the game’ and realizing you can play anywhere at any time. I know that I took an advertising job as a young newly promoted VP in NYC not out of any desire to be the best but because I was curious. I was curious to see if I could “play in the NYC advertising game.” I didn’t need to be the best nor did I desire to dominate … I just wanted to see if I could play.

I can tell you that once you become comfortable with knowing you can play at the biggest level and the lowest level you have a fighting chance to become a leader.

 

Look.

 

We all have numerous character flaws and it is a sad truth the majority of us can’t see them. This is even more difficult in a leadership position because you do naturally become more self-aware of any of the things you are good at and yet also not good at … but you also lean heavily on the things you ‘perceive’ got you where you are today.

 

I say that because insecure leaders are relatively hollow on the self-awareness.

Looking at Trump it is easy to see that he grew up thinking he could get away with whatever he wanted. He lived in a bubble in which young, mentally lazy, rich, amoral white men routinely got away with whatever they wanted. These same characteristics are exhibited in his insecure leadership style.

 

Here is what I know.

trump ominant look down on other people

Big leaders are big leaders.

 

And they are big because wherever they go they retain their bigness. That means they need not ‘stay above’ to be big … they can step down … sit in town halls answering questions from real people as well as sit down with people who didn’t vote for you as well as sit down with peers and discuss ideas … and walk away just as big as they entered the room.

 

Small leaders cannot do those things, therefore, they do not.

 

I have now given you a way to judge big leaders from small leaders. Judge away. Every leader should be judged … and judged harshly … because … well … they are leaders and that is their burden.

Enlightened Conflict