Enlightened Conflict

organizational exhaustion

May 12th, 2017

exhausted organization puppy tie

 

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

—-

Clotilde Hesme

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

 

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

 

—–

John Maeda

 

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So.

 

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

 

Okay.

I am being stupid.

 

It’s not like running a race.

Nothing like it.

 

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

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

 

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

 

I say all of that to talk about organizational exhaustion.

 

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

 

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

 

Now.

HOW you meet this objective typically takes some experience.

What do I mean?

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

Here are a couple I learned along the way:

 

  • I had to be consistent.

 

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

 

Words surely matter.

Setting expectations surely matter.

Actions surely matter.

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

 

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

 

  • Keep some strong threads of consistency.

 

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

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

 

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

 

organize fish

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

The peril? Exhaustion. frustration. Waste energy.

 

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

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

 

Look.

 

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

 

But that is also not sustainable.

 

organizational exhaustion battery

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

 

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

 

Oh.

Think about that a second or two if you will.

 

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

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

 

My main point?

 

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

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

 

Yes.

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

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

 

All that said.

 

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

 

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

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

 

Oh.

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

 

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

 

all sins are attempts to fill voids

February 26th, 2017

dog bacon thoughts desires

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“I desire the things which will destroy me in the end.”

 

—-

Sylvia Plath

 

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“All sins are attempts to fill voids.”

 

—-

Simone Weil

 

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Well.

stop trying to convince

 

We all know at least one person who is always trying too hard.

Or maybe they always seem to be overcompensating for something.

Or even that they know they are ‘not as good as’ and spend far too much time trying to convince everyone they are at least better than maybe we know they are at something.

 

We like these people because we like the overall sense that someone is dissatisfied with the present person and seeking a better person.

 

We don’t like these people because we don’t like the overall sense of desperation and the trappings that often come with it.

 

We look at these people and … well … we think about ourselves and the crazy shit we do.

 

Let’s face it … Life makes us do a lot of crazy shit.

 

Okay.

 

It doesn’t actually “make” us … just full-throatedly encourages us to do some crazy shit.

 

It does so because it makes us desire  a shitload of things that can chip away at the better version of ourselves. And by better version I don’t mean external stuff but internal stuff … soul, integrity & character. But life has a nasty habit of encouraging us to think more about external stuff than internal stuff.

 

The size of your bank account.braver he who overcomes own desire achievment soul how winning victory

 

How you look and what you wear and whether you sport Gap or Brooks Brothers.

 

The size of your house and whether you have gold drapes or Pier1 window hangings.

 

This kind of crap can screw you up let alone destroy you.

You can get so caught up in what Life is whispering in your ear as what is important … well … over time that is all you can hear and see.

 

Life becomes almost a parody of itself.

 

‘Less is more’ becomes the mantra of everything but you personally where ‘more’ just seems to look less & less. Life can twist you into a pretzel trying to match up with all the external trappings of what it suggests you should desire.

And as you get twisted all it really does is squeeze out character & integrity & principles drop by drop as Life twists harder and harder.

 

And as you get this squeezed out of you … you will naturally get thirsty. Therein lies the big Life choice … what do you drink?

 

What do I mean?

 

Remember that kid you knew growing up who was always the bully, always the exaggerator, always the one trying so hard to show everyone how great they were … at some point they realize that they are thirsty.

Either thirsty for more or thirsty for what is getting squeezed out of them.

And don’t think Life is standing by silently.  All the while Life will whisper sweet nothings in that kid’s ear telling them what to drink to stay on their path to a ‘better person’ <and it is most likely the sweetest, least healthy alternative>.

 

Look.

 

At some point we all get thirsty … even that young bully … and your Life gets energized by what you drink <and I could suggest you get addicted to what you drink at a fairly early age>.

 

 

always more and more life desireThat said.

 

What I do know is that almost all of us end up being constantly nudged to believe we neither have enough nor are we enough.

 

And it is within those ‘not enough’ spaces, the voids if you wish to call them, in which we commit our sins.

 

We commit our sins most often as we overreach.

 

Okay.

We are tempted to overreach … in our words, our resumes, our successes, even our recaps of our ‘what we did today’ lists.

 

Some overreach more than others. But we all get tempted. And, just as I noted above, it is explainable and understandable. When Life is trying to constantly tell you ‘not enough’ you will constantly be trying to showcase ‘more than enough.’

That is a natural response.

 

And this is where people separate themselves into two basic generalized groups … those who define how they matter <enough> by an internal balance sheet versus those who define how they matter <enough> by an external balance sheet.

I am not suggesting it has to be 100%, internal or external, because most of us figure out how to commit a few ‘sins’ as possible and try and manage what they desire in a way they don’t ultimately get destroyed by their desires. Most of us figure out our ‘best version’ is pretty good … maybe less than some but more than others.

 

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“And so we all matter – maybe less than a lot, but always more than some.”

—–

John Green

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not good enough trying

But some people truly do end up in the 100% column.

 

It is quite possible someone like the Pope is close to the internal 100% judgement … but I imagine a lot of people actually slide close to this Life self-framing. It comes with some external expenses but a shitload of people are willing to sacrifice those things because they know the gold curtains fade, the money can be lost and the houses can burn down. External trappings can only provide so much comfort.

 

On the end of the spectrum are the … well … hollow people. They look glitzy. They sound confident <if not arrogant or blowhards>. They have all the trappings of success. But their sacrifice is whatever internal compass that can guide goodness or true fairness as well as empathy & compassion.

They have sacrificed counting internal cues … because external cues are all that count.  All the while they are trying too hard, seem to be overcompensating for something and … well … spending a shitload of time trying to convince everyone they are at least better than maybe we know they are at something.

 

All that said.

 

We all know at least one person who is always trying too hard.

 

This is the person who desires the things which will destroy me in the end.trying human being

This is the person whose sins are attempts to fill voids.

 

This is the person we know … wish we could change … but is quite possibly the most unchangeable person we know.

 

We all have voids.

We just need to be very very careful that what we fill that void with doesn’t destroy us in the end.

Enlightened Conflict