Enlightened Conflict

getting squeezed

August 30th, 2017

 

 

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 big_squeeze

“Paranoid?

Probably.

But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.”

 

Jim Butcher

 

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“Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.”

 

Evelyn Waugh

 

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“Panic is the sudden realization that everything around you is alive.”

 

William S. Burroughs

 

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Ok.

 

This is about life as a business leader.

 

but i am the best leader i told you soOk.

I do not care how good you are … you will get squeezed.

If you suck, you get squeezed often. If you are good, you only get squeezed on occasion.

 

But good or bad … all business leaders get squeezed at some point.

 

What do I mean by squeezed?

 

In general, the responsibility world as viewed by a manager is a fairly vast place because it rarely is defined solely by direct reports or even full departments you manage but rather all dimensions emanating outwards from every decision you, or your employees, may make.

 

The good news about this is that within all that vastness there is a lot of room to let some of the more horrible or horribly mundane crap just slip by.

 

The bad news occurs when all of a sudden the world shrinks and you feel squeezed and evaluated by the what you had considered fairly mundane up until that moment.

 

And this can happen a lot easier than one may think.

 

Between politics in the office, relentless evaluation from outside the employee believe non believe business lead manageorganization as well as inside the organization and the normal ebbs & flows of everyday business which seem to almost simultaneously uncover grains of truth and cover grains of truth the vastness of what you actually do can become small pretty quickly under all this scrutiny.

 

And if you are not careful … you get squeezed into … well … not nothingness but certainly “lessness.”

 

I would suggest any manager worth a shit will almost always fight back <or respond>. It is almost a survival instinct but it can also be an ego instinct.

 

Regardless.

 

You gotta sharpen your elbows and create some space for yourself in between what all the scrutiny is suggesting <which often feels a lot like demanding> and what your current role is outlining as the right way to think and behave.

 

But here is the hard part.

 

And it is kind of surprisingly hard.

 

It is fairly easy to sharpen your elbows and fight back … but without some thought you are simply fighting — fighting with no purpose other than it feels good to fight <or you are fighting simply out of thoughtless, or less than thoughtful, survival>.

 

transformational leader 1And while fighting back in and of itself is somewhat satisfying because you feel like you should … it is less than satisfying because it has no real focus or purpose. It doesn’t have any ‘long game’ aspects involved <and if you have any desire to be a good leader/manager you have to be able to view beyond the present moment>.

 

I would argue this is where ‘knowing what you want and knowing who you are rears its ugly head.

 

Suffice it to say when you get squeezed you are gonna respond in some way.

You have to.

Because if you are a manager managing the shit in the present it is a fairly small window in which to work. That small window gets even … well … smaller if you are getting squeezed by the past and future challenges. This is what you will inevitably see as some response options:

 

 

  • Tripling down on what you believe makes you look good <this is image … putting on a good face … “talking the talk”>.

 

The risk on this one is that … well … you may be trying to look good on something you may not actually look good doing. In addition. If you are a crappy actor people ll see what you are trying to do.

 

  • Doubling down on what you are actually good at <usually with words and sometime directing people to do shit>.

 

The risk on this one is that what you are good at may not actually be what is needed to get out of the squeeze. You are definitely, and defiantly, playing to your strengths but it just may not be what it takes to penetrate the weakness in the squeeze.

 

  • Flee <absolve of responsibility>.

 

The risk in this is … well … you are a leader & a manager and you have absolved yourself of responsibility. If you cannot make the responsibility stick with someone else I can guarantee that the responsibility will stick with you like your shadow wherever you flee.

 

  • Find a different enemy so that the squeeze decides to go elsewhere.

 

The risk in this is being “anti” something is pretty easy but standing for something is really hard <and most people know that>. I could actually suggest in some ways being anti is lazy.

 

So.

 

All of that leads me to the best way to get out of a squeeze.

 

  • Stand for something.

 

The risk in this is … well … not really a shitload of risk unless you elect to stand for something stupid, bad or idiotic. But if you do this right … convince yourself that what you are standing for is something worthwhile but also mentally accept it may not perfectly align with your group norms as well as societal norms … but still be the right thing to stand for.

 

All that said.only the paranoid survive complacency

Unfortunately getting squeezed can also encourage another outcome & response – paranoia.

 

In fact … I almost called this paranoia (enemies everywhere).

 

I almost did that because paranoia is possibly the worst reflective response to being squeezed. What I mean is that once you have been squeezed a portion of you may start worrying that there is some hidden cabal or agenda ‘out to get you.’

But I did not call it that because paranoia is only one possible response to getting squeezed.

 

I would suggest that paranoid carries a fairly negative connotation. The reality is having a slight thread of paranoia <lets say “proportionate to your depth of confidence”> can often keep your head out of your own ass and more on a swivel watching what is going on around you.

 

Some would suggest it keeps you aware of your “what if” muscle. I would suggest it can keep your “if it can go wrong, it will” muscle.

 

Paranoia, when living in a healthy state, often helps your view of all the potential outcomes and solutions, with a thought of “proactiveness” to head off shit before I even exists.

 

Obviously, if paranoia is your only response to being squeezed and is your constant state of mind, that is neither healthy for you or the organization.

 

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“Paranoia is just the bastard child of fear and good sense.” (Charlie)

“Poor thing. Let’s adopt it, give it a last name and raise it right.” (Jace)

“You want to get it a puppy, too?”

“Sure. We’ll call it Panic. It and little Paranoia can play together at the park and scare the hell out of all the other kids.”

 

 

D.D. Barant

 

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In the end … all managers and leaders get squeezed at some point. I would also suggest that how you navigate ‘the squeeze’ early in your management career will set you on a certain type of path with regard to how you manage being squeezed. And, just like with any pattern, the more often something works the next big thing lots of small thingsmore likely you will be to continue doing it.

 

Yes.

 

I will agree that sometimes a new challenge later on in Life will force someone to reflect and ‘rise to the occasion’ and shed some of the lesser aspects of who and what they may have been up to that point … but most people just stick with what they believe got them to where they are.

 

All I can say is that being squeezed has a tendency to squeeze out whatever character you may have within – some will be disappointed by what is squeezed out and some will be pleased. Just know that whatever is squeezed out can be seen by everyone.

 

you do not get credit for what you are supposed to do

August 28th, 2017

 

work doing the best you can not enough

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“A diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure.”

 

——

Henry Kissinger

 

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“When you do things right, people won’t be sure that you have done anything at all.”

 

God (in Futurama)

 

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Well.

 

 

Think what you want and say what you want to say about Kissinger … but the unseen lifeopening quote is awesome <although, geologically speaking, it may not be truly accurate>.

 

In our quest for recognition as a leader many business people, and leaders in general, seemingly get shoved <on seemingly a daily basis> into some absurd universe where everyone judges you <mostly on some absurd views of ‘being noticed is what matters’ or ‘shine bright like a diamond‘>. I say that because this means thinking of yourself as a piece of coal seems … well … quite underwhelming and quite ‘unleaderly’ <I made that word up>.

 

Uhm.

 

But.

 

One of the most frustrating things you learn early on in a management career path is that you do not get credit for what you are expected to do.

 

And maybe what makes this most frustrating is that this lesson applies to a crisis as well as the most mundane everyday grind responsibilities.

 

But.

 

The thing is as you gain more and more responsibility you learn that this is actually a good thing.

 

People like reliability.

 

People like consistency.

 

People like a foundation of quiet competent leadership.

 

People like you doing what you are supposed to do <with little fanfare>.

leadership confidence credit insecure Trump

 

 

This is a lesson learned early on in a management career … and you can tell the leaders who <a> did not learn it or <b> saw the lesson but lack self-confidence … because they … well … ignore the lesson and exhibit ongoing aggravating self promotion <even on the things they are expected to do>.

 

That said.

 

This doesn’t mean you aren’t tempted to take amount or two to point out in some fairly loud messaging that you want some credit for what you are doing.

 

This is the ‘dance.’ The management & leader “credit dance.’ I call it a dance because every good leader knows they have to do some self-public relations and, yet, they don’t want to be seen as doing any overt self-public relations.

 

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“The price of greatness is responsibility.”

 

—–

Winston Churchill

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Being a great leader is all about doing your job and doing the right things at the right time … and <I imagine> figuring out how to actually tell people that you did the right things at the right time. This means not being seen a as blowing your own horn or being some narcissistic attention seeking, credit seeking asshat but rather one who understands it really isn’t about gaining credit or accolades but rather reassuring people that the right things, the good things, just get done under your watch.

 

I would note that reassurance is a powerful tool.

 

It is powerful because doing things right isn’t about small … nor large … but if you do it right … really right … people will not really be sure that you’ve done anything at all and, yet, feel reassured that you are there.

 

Now.

 

In today’s bombastic world it can actually become a bad thing if no one notices. Why? <insert a ‘huh?!?’ here> because someone else at the exact same time is telling everyone what they did … and yes … unfortunately … often the squeaky wheel does get the grease.

 

Aw heck.

 

The truth is that the value is never in the credit. And leaders know that. And we everyday schmucks need to remind ourselves of that more often.

 

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“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

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Leaders know that the little things can matter and that just delivering upon good person what you do not what you saywhat you are supposed to do really matters <a lot>.

 

A subtle touch can create the needed ripples. Doing what you are supposed to do insures the right ripples are always … well … rippling.

 

Good leaders know you can be the initiator, instigator or implementer … or even all of them … and it doesn’t really matter.

 

I would note that within the realm of doing what you are supposed to do about the only thing that can truly diminish ‘greatness of simple doing’ is not accepting responsibility – for the bad and the good and all that it takes to get to either place.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that what I just stated is ‘character’.

 

Leaders don’t lead by asking or telling people to follow it most often happens by doing the shit you are supposed to do really well.

I know. I know. that doesn’t sound “great” but greatness really cannot be achieved without it.

 

Oh.

This kind of suggests that greatness is a contradiction.

 

Let’s use Winston as an example.

Huge ego. MASSIVE ego. Charismatic speaker. Maybe one of the greatest orators of all time. Made some huge mistakes. HUGE mistakes.

 

But humble in his responsibility. He permitted  the people to get credit for success and strength and what needed to be done … all the while doing what he as supposed to be doing.

 

He was vocal, and sincere, on issues and the people of Great Britain getting credit.

All despite his ego.

 

Great leadership reflects a unique balance of ego and humility.

Ego to effectively lead and humility to be effectively followed.

 

I would imagine those with the greatest character reside somewhere on the line between those two things.

 

I would imagine those with the greatest character reside somewhere in between not getting credit for what they are supposed to do and actually being acknowledged for enabling greater greatness.

 

Well.

 

I know it isn’t popular to say this but most of the best things in Life, and leadership,  are found in the unspectacular:

 

  • The best people more often than not go unseen and unnoticed by the majority.

 

  • The best moments more often than not go unseen until looking back.

 

Just as perfection is most often found in the imperfections … spectacular is most often found in the unspectacular. And, yes, doing what you are supposed to do is unspectacular.

 

But I would argue the spectacular would never ever happen if the ‘supposed to do’ shit never happened.

 

In the end.

 

do what you said you would

Great leaders are often judged by what you don’t see them doing. This also means great leaders are often judged by what they feel comfortable remaining silent about … by what they don’t say about what they are supposed to do and supposed to be.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out this is a little more difficult than it may appear. It is a little more difficult because a great leader does have to have some ego and some higher level of confidence and, therefore, some positive affirmation kind of helps to put some well needed oxygen back into the confidence balloon.

It takes a awhile to learn you don’t have to ask for oxygen or even try and fill it yourself … well … at least good leaders learn that … the bad, insecure ones never do.

 

 

power concedes nothing unless demanded to do so

July 26th, 2017

 dynamics-of-power

 

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

 

—–

Frederick Douglass

 

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

 

Benjamin Disraeli

 

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Well.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

You have power over decisions.

 

You have power over people.

 

You have power over funds and their allocation.

 

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

 

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

 

Now.

 

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

 

But here is the thing.

 

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

 

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

 

Is that holding onto power? Sure. I guess.

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

 

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“Never relinquish the initiative.”

 

—–

Charles de Gaulle

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

It must be demanded to be relinquished.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

All that said.

 

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

 

Authority reveals.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Anyway.perspective common sense justice good people

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Paulo Coelho

 

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Enlightened Conflict