Enlightened Conflict

navigators versus sledge hammers

January 4th, 2017

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

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“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

—-

Plato

 

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“A person who can think differently and truly on his feet will always find it difficult to sit and fit as an employee in a workplace, for his attitude & approach towards the work will often hit the ego of most co-workers.”

 

Anuj Somany

 

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“If u want to work in Corporate, then u should know how to play Chess.”

honeya

 

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Ok.

 

I was asked recently about a past job I had where I had struggled to be sledge-hammer-maze-business-get-shit-donesuccessful. After hemming and hawing a little <I have never really been sure what hemming or hawing was> I answered “the position required a dedicated navigator with navigator skills and I am a sledgehammer with some navigator vision.”

 

<note: I didn’t understand that until actually into the role & assumed responsibility>

 

 

Yeah.

 

I am a sledge hammer.

Always have been and I assume I always will be.

 

I respect navigators but they are too slow for my tastes, far too often worried about political correctness and always too skewed toward what is important politically versus ‘what is the right thing to do.’

 

Ok.

 

Let me explain navigators and sledge hammers.

 

In business, there are just some people who see office politics <which all organizations have whether you like it or not> and they have the skills and vision to navigate them to get shit done <they also tend to benefit personally with this skill>.

 

In business, there are just some people who want to get the right shit done and believe if it is right then … well … it is better to just say ‘damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead’ rather than screw around with navigating people’s feelings and politics.

 

 

Now.

 

That doesn’t mean that sometimes a navigator isn’t more effective and that a navigator, which is tightly associated with someone who can play office politics, is always a corporate whore.stay the course direction path compass

 

That also doesn’t mean that there aren’t navigators with good moral compasses because there are a shitload of navigator managers who are skilled organizational politicians who do not showcase questionable behavior or even distastefully ‘sucking-up’ behavior.

 

Pretty much any leader worth a shit takes a realistic approach to managing around workplace politics. This does not mean they are ‘political’, per se, or want to play the political game … it’s just they understand that you have to navigate competing interests, whatever resources may be available, the nuances of what is viewed as authority <and who has the authority … which is most typically “enough to hang yourself’>, the bendable organizational rules and whatever information is available.

 

And, to be clear, the best of the navigators have a sledge hammer in their tool box <and use it on occasion>.

 

And, to be clear, the best of the sledge hammers have either some navigational skills or, at minimum, navigational vision <i.e., they can ‘see’ the politics and organizational rubble affecting your path>.

 

Me?

 

I am a sledgehammer.

 

I like to get shit done.

do what communiqueAlways have and always will.

 

Okay.

 

I like getting smart shit done.

 

And I really like getting smart ‘right’ shit done.

 

The nuance between that stuff is clear … if all I did was get shit done, smart & right being set aside, politics and navigating would become almost irrelevant.

Because then you are simply a doer <not a thinker or a thinker/doer>.

 

But even as a sledge hammer you recognize that whether you hate it, admire it, practice it or avoid it, office politics is a fact of life in any organization. And, like it or not, it’s something that you need to understand to insure not only your professional success but the success of the good shit you want to do.

 

Yeah. Sure.

“Politics” certainly has a negative connotation. It most often refers to strategies people use to seek advantage at the expense of others or the greater good.

In this context, it often adversely affects the working environment and relationships within it.

 

<and sledge hammers abhor this type of politics bullshit>

 

I hesitate to suggest there could ever be something called “good office politics” but some organizational expert asshats believe that is the kind of crap you do which helps you fairly promote yourself and your ideas <they call it networking and stakeholder management … I call it the ‘necessary bullshit you just have to suck up and do in order to get good shit done’>.

 

As a sledge hammer I realized that there were some things that a navigator thinking-maze-navigator-business-sledge-hammer-do-shitwas good at and I should learn if I wanted to be a more effective sledgehammer.

 

About the only thing I truly value in a navigator is “social astuteness.”

 

This is the ability to read and anticipate situations – allows you to prepare, adapt and tailor your behavior based on the people and conditions around you.

In my words this is being aware of the people & what they believe and the situation organizationally.

 

Let’s just call this “context” <at least that is how a sledgehammer views it>.

 

Now.

 

Being aware is different than acting upon it.

Being aware meant that it prepared me, and my groups, to manage the carnage or consequences of slamming your way straight thru a maze.

 

As a sledge hammer it pays to understand the real map, or maze, of the organization.

Internal politics, more often than not, has little to do with the real organizational chart they give you when you sign on.

 

Someone outlined this important crap to be aware of really well:

    Who are the real influencers?

    Who has authority but doesn’t exercise it?

    Who is respected?

    Who champions or mentors others?

    Who is “the brains behind the organization”?

 

 

As a sledge hammer I realized there were absolutely some things that were in my control as I bashed my way through the middle of the maze getting to where I believed an idea, or the business at large should go.

 

office-politics-navigator-sledgehammer-business-jerks-speechBut, as a sledge hammer, I also recognized I needed to manage my own behavior <this lesson took some time … and learned thru some painful trial & error>.

 

Through watching others and some painful trial & error you learn what works in your organization’s culture.

 

But you learn really fast … as in REALLY fast … that as a sledge hammer you invest exactly 0% of your time and 0 energy on:

 

 

  • Gossip & spreading rumors: you learn to shut up and even when you hear something you wait and assess the credibility

 

  • interpersonal conflicts – you avoid “like/dislike people” discussions and certainly do not get sucked into arguments

 

 

  • Integrity above all: this is a sledge hammer mantra … be professional, do not cut corners, do things right and always remember the organization’s interests

 

  • No complaining: a sledgehammer accepts it will not be easy and you don’t whine about the tough path you have chosen <because it is the path you have chosen>

 

  • Confidence: a sledgehammer is assertive not arrogant, proactive maybe edging on aggressive without ever sneaking into aggressiveness

 

  • Never personal: a sledge hammer has only one thing in focus … the good of the organization <it is NEVER personal>

 

  • Transparency:  assume everything is gonna be seen anyway so you may as well share it all

 

 

Look.

 

Here is what I know.

 

no-way-said-that-in-a-meeting-sledgehammer-goes-right

……… whoa … did you guys do THAT ………..

When you are a sledgehammer and everything goes right it is not only the best in the world for you but organizationally everyone kind of goes “whoa, that was something.”

 

<which is kind of cool and makes it all worthwhile>

 

 

I will admit.

 

Being a sledgehammer is a lonelier way to conduct business than being a navigator. It isn’t that you are not liked nor does it mean you aren’t viewed as a team member at the table but navigators, I tend to believe, are just more social human beings & employees.

 

But sledge hammers have one thing in common … we are all homesick for an organization where we can not think about anything but getting good smart shit done.

 

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“I am homesick for a place I am not sure even exists.

One where my heart is full. My body loved. And my soul understood.

 

(via lipstick-bullet)

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communications, advertising & the battle for truth

December 6th, 2016

 

everybody needs what i am selling deserve life

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“Forget words like ‘hard sell’ and ‘soft sell.’

That will only confuse you.

 

Just be sure your advertising is saying something with substance, something that will inform and serve the consumer, and be sure you’re saying it like it’s never been said before.”

 

=

David Ogilvy

 

———————

 

“If you try to comprehend air before breathing it, you will die.”

 

=

Mark Nepo

 

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“Seeking truth is a full time job.

Communicating truth is a purpose in Life.

Embrace that truth and your Life will be significantly more complicated, but significantly more rewarding.”

 

=

Bruce McTague

 

——————–

 

Well.

 

Communicating has always been a tough gig but in today’s world it has taken on liaran increased challenge.

 

I scan headlines in magazines and online and I cannot see one topic being discussed, one industry or any one group of influential type people that isn’t under attack by ‘lack of trust’ or, in other words, ‘liars.’

 

What that means is anything you are communicating isn’t starting from a commodity standpoint <all facts and truths are created equal> but rather you are already in a hole trying to climb out of ‘prove to me this is not a lie.’

 

Truth has never had a more difficult challenge than today. This may sound odd because common sense suggests truth is truth and, unvarnished, stands clear of any and all clutter as … well … truth.

Unfortunately that is not … well … true.

Truth, more often than not, is a wallflower and not the one breakdancing in the middle of the room. The schlub doing the crazy dance alone, being watched by everyone, is more likely a lie or a semi/partial truth. You have to coax truth to the dance floor. Someone has to bring it out into the audience and permit it to be seen.

 

Truth telling is hard work. It is not for the faint of heart. Seeking truth is a full time job <which most people, frankly, just do not have the time to do as they do their paid full time job>.

And communicating truth has to be a purpose in one’s life in order to meet the onslaught of untruths, purposeful ignorance, unintended ignorance, semi-truths and … well … cynicism.

 

To be clear.

 

I do not believe we are in some ‘post truth world.’

Nor do I believe what someone said “there are no facts anymore.”

 

Facts are facts and truth is truth.

There may be some confusion around this but … of all industries … advertising and marketing communications people had sure as shit better be fucking clear on this … or they are in deep shit.

 

Anyone in the professional communications business had better be absolutely fucking clear that communicating today ain’t like communicating yesterday … or they are in deep shit.

 

While I believe business, in general, benefits if they start on day one embracing the thought they are in the decommoditization business <rather than in the ‘uniqueness business’> I believe communications would benefit by embracing the thought they are in the ‘establishing truths’ business.

 

Look <part 1>.

 

Advertising, marketing and all of professional communications is in a challenging position. Challenging in that businesses spend money on marketing & advertising most typically to sell shit. Therefore its main goal is to … well … sell nothing in boxes business selling stuff capitalismshit.

 

This means that if I represent a product and its main buying audience is white, male & blue collar <or pick any demographically based segment> … I am going to use imagery and words that will appeal to them <sometimes to the detriment to other audiences who are less likely to buy your shit>.

 

Now.

 

Of course you want to do it with style and substance and some sense of responsibility <not be stupid>. So any advertising person with any chops <any good> will figure out a way of not doing the stupid shit to sell shit.

Even then … your audience is your audience and while we would like to suggest everything is made to be created with a larger purpose of ‘bettering the world’ … to a business who only has maybe $1000 to market something <or some finite budget amount> that $1000 is spent on selling shit and not ‘bettering the world.’

 

Simplistically … you sell to the people who will buy or have bought.

 

Simplistically … you sell to those people who will buy in the most effective way so that they will actually buy.

 

I say hat because someone on the outside looking in can take apart imagery & words and make some very valid points with regard to the kinds of messages they send … but marketing people & advertising people are under a lot of pressure to sell shit. And, remember, they are in the service business … they ultimately do not do anything but ‘strategically create persuasive creations’… and a business makes the decision on whether what they create will actually be produced and put in front of people.

 

And here is where the communications folk can get a little sideways. They focus on imagery & words & ‘attention’ with the intent to gain interest … not specifically sell shit. And they ignore truth as … well … too complicated & too complex. And it is quite possible we communications folk may have gotten away with that in the past, but in today’s world, sure as shit, you better be grounded in hard, clear truth or you are gonna get screwed.

 

Look <part 2>.

 

In the good ole days … truth was appreciated, but aspirational sold.

 

sell hope i canWell.

 

That was before we all got a good dose of cynicism and started drinking from the fountain of untruths.

Messages are everywhere and simply suggesting you were offering truth because “you’re too clever to fall for manipulation” gave people permission to at least think you were offering truth.

No more my friends.

While aspirational drives value, lack of truth suffocates value into nothingness.

This doesn’t mean there will not be a boatload of products and services who make a sale standing on the superficial surface of irrelevant, but appealing, value. But that will be the geography populated by the hacks.

This truth thing may not be a battle which some people want to fight. And that is okay. But someone has to or the entire industry will become … well … irrelevant. If no one tells the truth then why would I listen to anyone.

I, personally, am not suggesting ditching aspirational but I am suggesting that truth, communicating the truth in a away that people actually believe it is true, is the key to future success.

 

Look <part 3>

 

I have worked in and out of the marketing and advertising business for <yikes> over 30 years so I feel like I have some qualifications to comment on the industry.

 

Everyone on the outside of the advertising business looking in thinks those creating the advertising think about shit that … well … truthfully … advertising people actually never waste their time thinking about.

 

And everyone inside the advertising business thinks about more shit than people outside the advertising could ever imagine they think about.we all scream for the truth

 

Suffice it to say I could gather up examples of advertising using material over 20 years and make pretty much any point I want to make – good, bad, absurd, true, untrue, semitruthful, smart, insightful or blatantly uninsightful.

 

Anyway.

 

Here is a communications truth — perception is not reality.

 

The perception is that advertising makes shit up, makes stupid vapid shit and says nothing <as much as possible> and if they do say something it is a lie and, ultimately, they try and make people feel something <to sell>.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth <with the non hacks>.

 

The problem in advertising typically arises when the ad creators struggle to articulate the benefit <or convince themselves that it is ‘non differentiating’ and then seek to ‘differentiate’ in some form or fashion>.

 

It then can unravel from there because the ‘go-to’ phrase at this point in time is ‘do something brave’ … or ‘entertaining’ or ‘edgy’ <notice nowhere in there is “smart, insightful, thoughtful, truth”>.

 

Sure.

 

Great advertising messaging always is, and will be, imbued with some sense of courage.

 

Why?

 

Because if you want to be distinct you will not please everyone.

Because if you want to tell the truth you will not please everyone.

 

on-top-of-the-worldThe hack advertising people use the ‘do something brave’ phrase indiscriminately to justify bad advertising.

 

The good advertising people use this phrase to do something smart in order to not be different but stand ABOVE everyone else.

 

Yup.

 

Huge difference.

 

Hacks say ‘stand apart.’

 

Non hacks say ‘stand above.’

 

And this is where I imagine articles about advertising should focus their attention on.

 

Why doesn’t the advertising stand above <and not be below what is good & right & untrue>.

 

Advertising should be smart and not talk down to people but actually enable them to rise up to the occasion … and FEEL like they are rising up to engage with that brand or company.

 

Communications should be truthful, regardless whether it is simple or complex, and enable people to be able to FEEL truth in such a way that doubts about that brand or company are swept away.

few thinking and feeling

And it all has to be done with an eye toward ‘decommoditizing’ or being distinct in some meaningful way <because truth, in and of itself, is not a differentiator>.

 

Advertising cannot be dull and uninspired … and you cannot use a small budget as an excuse.

 

In fact … the truth is that a limited budget is typically what drives innovative advertising.

Yup.

Inspired smart creativity tends to make each dollar be more effective <hence you can live with a smaller budget>.

 

In other words … a smart, insightful, relevant, entertaining ad will be more memorable than a typical ‘category using sacred cow imagery’ ad therefore it needs to be seen less for the same effect.

 

Oh.

And if you add in ‘truth’ <in a way in which you aren’t just communicating it but people actually BELIEVE it>, your communications is more memorable, more believable, can be seen less for the same effect … and is, of course, of higher value.

 

By the way … smart means not any obvious photoshopping or any exaggerated ridiculous claims or just plain inaccurate information or anything fluffed up or untrue.

 

By the way … smart means avoiding stereotypes, typecasting and idiotic generalizations and lies.

 

Note to advertising people:

We can see through those slimy tactics. Realize consumers are people … people who are smart and informed.

Make me aware of a product.

Educate me.

Relate to me.

Tell me the Truth.

 

Regardless.

 

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“A dull truth will not be looked at.

An exciting lie will.

 

That is what good, sincere people must understand. They must make their truth exciting and new, or their good works will be born dead.”

 

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Bill Bernbach

 

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Truth is truth.

 

Lies are lies.

 

Responsibility is responsibility.

 

And if you do not accept your responsibility to tell the truth as excitingly and politics lies and truth and repeatingconvincingly as you possibly can … lies will win.

 

If you choose to vulgarize the society or brutalize it … or even ignore it <all under the guise of ‘understanding what the consumer wants’> … society will lose.

 

I honestly do not despair when I look at business in today’s world … or even marketing & advertising behavior.

 

I get aggravated.

 

No.

 

I get angry.

I get angry that we are not accepting the responsibility.

I get angry that we are not strong enough to accept the burden.

I get angry that many do not even presume the responsibility is within their purview.

 

Business, whether you like it or not, shapes society. Business, whether you like it or not, shapes truth.

 

What we do matters.

 

Selling stuff doesn’t matter.

It only matters as a means to an end.

 

What really matters is the shaping of attitudes <which ultimately shapes behavior>.

 

Far too often by simply focusing on ‘selling stuff’ the byproduct of our ignoring the larger responsibility is that we brutalizing society in some form or fashion – in this case and in this time and place … it would be truth we are brutalizing.

 

Am I suggesting that selling stuff or being profitable isn’t important? Of course not.

 

All I am suggesting is that HOW you sell stuff and be profitable matters.

And that you have a responsibility in HOW you do what you do.

 

Because HOW you do things impacts society.

It shapes society. It can vulgarize or brutalize … or invigorate or instill good.

 

HOW you do things has a power way beyond simply you or what you do in that moment.

 

HOW you do things is a pebble dropping into a pond.

 

In the end.

 

I will not argue that all advertising is good.

I will not argue that all professional communications is good.

A lot of it is shit.

 

But I will argue that good communications & advertising people, not hacks, are smart and tend to create smart insightful educating communication pieces that avoid the trite and stereotyping imagery and focus on telling the truth, if not A real truth, rather than lie or some semi truth.

 

I would also argue that good communications & advertising people, not hacks, have the opportunity to save truth in today’s society.

telling-truth-piss-you-off

I think many of the world’s institutions are embattled but the one that concerns me the most is Truth.

The institution of truth is under siege.

I can honestly say I don’t think most who are attacking truth are trying to facilitate its downfall … most are simply unclear what is truth and what is not. I believe anyone in any position of influence should be proactively assuming the burdensome responsibility of telling and protecting truth <that will come at an expense> but today … I think the professional communications industry should be at the forefront of the battle.

 

Why?

 

They get paid to communicate. If they cannot figure out how to effectively communicate truth, who can?

 

They must … must make their truth exciting and new, or their good works will be born dead. Uhm. And lies will win.

seek_truth

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About the author:

I am a 50something who believes my generation hollowed out Truth by simplistically suggesting truth was best told through simplicity.

Truth is neither simple nor hollow.

I have had one framed picture in my office since maybe 2000: Seek Truth.

 

if you have a choice between the right or wrong

September 20th, 2016

now or_never_web_design_grande

 

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“Be strong.

Don’t be a follower.

Always do the right thing.

If you have a choice between the right or wrong, do the right. “

 

Jennifer Lawrence

 

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Ok.

 

reality welcome sign

 

I am a huge proponent of doing the right thing.

 

But.

 

We act like choices walk up and down the street wearing huge signs saying “I am the right thing.”

 

It just is not that easy.

 

And today I am not talking about when the right thing to do is impossible but rather when you truly do not want to follow along blindly and truly want to make the right choice and do ‘right’ and … shit … uh oh … a lot of choices look ‘right.’

 

In this situation I can equivocally state that some ‘wrong’ is cleverly disguised as ‘right’ as they intermingle with right, somewhat right, very right, kind of right and ‘incredibly right feeling but not practically the thing that benefits the most.’

 

This is not about any bias with regard to what is right or wrong or even necessarily about opinions.

 

This is simply about the fact even when you actually stop long enough to ponder <which is not often> the ‘choice du jour’ can appear to have multiple shades of ‘right.’

 

Uhm.

At least to you.

 

Because you are gonna get screwed in this situation no matter what.

 

I say that because while you stand there with a range of ‘rights’ in front of you I can guarantee that some loud mouthed asshat is gonna be pointing at one going “that one, that one , that one!!”hands-waving-in-air-panic-jo

 

 

<sometimes accompanied by a lot of hand waving>

 

 

 

Okay.

 

 

There will most likely be a number of asshats pointing at one of them.

 

Okay.

 

There will also most likely be a number of asshats not even there who will eventually wave their hands and point out that you should have chosen some other ‘right’ then the one you did.

 

Now.

 

While I could simply suggest that there are just a lot of asshats out there in the world and that is part of Life … I will not.

 

Because the asshats will always be there and your choices will always be your choices.

 

Yet, while the choices are yours, the outcomes are not necessarily yours <which is why ‘right’ is a very very tricky topic>.

 

I can honestly say that the best choice is the one you can see the farthest on.

 

friends unfluencers ripples2The best choice makers have the ‘far sight’ ability.

 

Let me explain far sight because it isn’t easy as ‘seeing ripples’ or even ‘see the end result.’

 

A choice is rarely simple cause and effect.

 

It is more the starting gate from which effect springs forth. And, uhm, it is not a 100 yard dash type race where you stay in your lane and everything else stays in its lane.

Your choice actually enters its own little survival race needing to zig and zag in order to avoid the inevitable things which will attempt to steer it off its intended course.

It needs to be strong enough to absorb some hits.

And smart enough to adapt when appropriate.

 

Not everyone can see far when making a choice and not everyone can actually choose the choice with the highest likelihood of survival. And even the best choice makers don’t get it right 100% of the time.

 

All that said.

 

If you think about choices this way one of two things could happen … you can simply feel a sense of helplessness and say “well, my choice probably won’t matter in the end anyway” … or you can just become overly cynical with regard to “right in today’s world.”

 

Yes.

 

Society, life and people are relentlessly tough on ‘doing right.’

 

But here is what I know about choosing between right and wrong.

 

The attempt matters.courage to keep trying succeed try

 

While it is incredibly tempting to think nothing will change … if you refuse to believe that … well … the next 10 choices you make could shape 10 different futures and maybe shape things that can happen over the next 10 years.

 

And that, my friends, may be the only reason to ‘do right’ when having a choice between right and wrong.

Enlightened Conflict