Enlightened Conflict

shrinking in comparison

May 19th, 2017

 shrinking trump comparison

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“Most of us, shrinking from the difficulties and dangers which beset the seeker after original answers to these riddles, are contented to ignore them altogether, or to smother the investigating spirit under the featherbed of respected and respectable tradition.”

 

—-

Thomas Henry Huxley

 

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“Not fearing death, nor shrinking for distress, But always resolute in most extremes”

 

.

William Shakespeare

 

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Well.

 

Spend enough time in a corporate career and move up in a corporation and pretty much everyone gets some sort of media training <how to communicate trump tweet business hollow empty words awkward situationwith media and effectively communicating your message>.

 

And before you think this is just about senior management folk let me tell you that all you have to do is work with any significant franchise organization and you will invest more energy and time doing media training at all levels than you really would like to do.

Why?

All you have to do is get burned once by some local TV station trying to find some ‘you would be shocked’ story and you will learn the value of media training outside the corporate headquarters and on-the-ground at the service & franchise level.

 

I have received some fabulous media training throughout my career and most likely have a couple of media training manuals and presentations on some thumb drive somewhere. Training can span from a simple one-sheet ‘do this and don’t do this’ to sitting down in front of a camera being taped and grilled by some inquisition-type corporate communications expert <who you will hate for weeks after>.

 

For most of us … all training is excruciatingly painful.

For most of us … all we seek is “an opportunity to keep our mouth shut.”

 

But, alas, corporations and senior management demand face time publicly and it is better to arm yourself than to go into the fight “winging it.”

 

Now.

 

Most relevant to my thought today is that this training pays off in spades when you are forced into a comparison situation. Think being on a panel or standing at side by side podiums. I wrote not long ago about the window of ‘stark contrast opportunities’ in which I discussed the upside in terms of building shift up or downvalue thru contrast.

 

Well.

As with anything good there is also a potential downside.

 

In a contrast situation there is a winner and a loser. And I don’t care how good a thinker you are, how good an instinctual communicator you are or how good an ‘explainer in chief’ you are … you cannot go into any comparison & contrast situation assuming you will  be the better one, the winner by default, in a contrast situation.

 

Contrast situations are fraught with peril.

 

I won’t go into all the training crap but I will point out two core aspects which are relevant to being in a public contrast situation:

 

  • The hard one: simplify without oversimplifying

 

This is hard. Really hard.

And usually takes a shitload of practice & experience … and even then you will not always get it right <except for those truly gifted communicators who make all the rest of us miserable in that because they can do it everyone believes they can also do it>. My belief is always to say just enough so people understand and assume someone will ask a question if they need more information. If you do that, your experience with questions, what questions you get, kind of hone your ‘what is too much and what is too little’.

But you need enough experience and questions in order to be able to bracket what is most efficient & effective.

 

That said.

 

Oversimplifying concludes in one of two places <1> you have no idea what you are talking about or <2> you are out of touch with details and depth of truth

 

You have to figure out a way to showcase you understand the complexity without boring the shit out of people and, ultimately, convincing them you really do know your shit. In addition … you want to give just enough nuance and depth to suggest an ‘attack’, or clarification <which is just another kiss of the comparison death> would be a waste of time.ideas communicate media training shrinking

 

I will not go into all the gory details of how to efficiently communicate complexity <which is actually the advice we should be giving everyone rather than “keep it simple”>.

 

Suffice it to say there are three effective ways to simplify without oversimplifying.

 

 

Bracket your thought with two support points.

 

Triangulate your thought by offering three reasons to believe.

 

Box your thought in with 4 simple reasons why your thought makes sense.

 

A lot of people suggest always providing your thought and one reason to believe support <simple linear support> but the best training I received made the point that this makes your thought more vulnerable to questioning and, if possible <unless you have one undeniable blockbuster reason to believe> you should figure out a simple way to show simple complexity demands nuances smartness.

 

I imagine what I am saying in this aspect is you want to protect your words, thoughts and ideas from shrinking. And the way to do so is to effectively build a wall around them. Without the wall, the protection, the thought can get squeezed until it no longer exists … and you shrink a little every time that happens.

 

 

  • The easy one: avoid hyperbole like it is the plague

 

Hyperbole creates a gap, an empty space, in between reality and some quasi-imagined reality.

 

Uhm.

 

fill-emptiness-empty-with-various-thingsEmpty space to a listener/questioner/debater is like sugar for ants. Our tendency is almost always to make problems look bigger and successes more successful … it makes us look more heroic. But in our tendency to do so it actually … well … shrinks us. The truth is many of us think our jobs are fairly mundane and when discussing what we do, and have done, publicly we think “who the hell wants to hear this?” and then head down the path to make what we do, or did, look less mundane and more challenging or exciting.

 

Media training helps you see this.

And what you do is not worry about what you do but rather show how much you love what you do, or did, which breathes some helium into it and makes it look bigger. Suffice it to say it is incredibly difficult for someone to shrink what you like and what you are passionate about than it is to poke a hole in the empty space created by hyperbole and shrink the entire thought to a shriveled balloon status.

 

 

Ok.

 

Why did I bring this up today?

 

Well.

 

Sigh.

 

It becomes more obvious everyday … the shrinking of America right before our eyes.

 

Yesterday I watched President Donald J Trump stand at one podium and the president of Columbia, Juan Manuel Santos, at another podium. As they each trump santos colombiaspoke I watched Trump shrink before our eyes and America along with him.

 

The adult at the front of the room was a president … just of Columbia.

 

No offense to Columbia or the Columbian president but I don’t expect a country whose economy is 42 times smaller than the US Economy to have a president who sounds smarter, speaks smarter, shares smarter information and handles himself more smartly than the president of the USA. Let alone watching the poor Columbian President trying to be diplomatic when he clearly wanted to look at Trump and say “are you a complete fucking idiot?”

 

It bothered me a little less as we watched Angela Merkel of Germany a month ago stand side by side with Donald J Trump and his words and speech made him shrink before our eyes <and earned Merkel the title of ‘leader of the free world’>.

Yeah.

That’s tough competition for any president so while I cringed at the shrinkage I figured it may be one of Donald J’s most difficult contrast & comparison situations.

 

But in between yesterday’s unfortunate public display and Merkel’s hint of what was to come we see time and time again he is placed side by side with the leader of another country and he shrinks in comparison as soon as they both start talking.

 

By the way … this is a problem.

Not just for Donald J Trump but also for America.

 

When he shrinks in comparison America shrinks globally. This doesn’t mean we will not retain the world’s largest economy which demands that people have to deal with America regardless … but … it effectively shrinks our leadership role globally.

 

Sigh.

 

I honestly don’t know what I would do with Donald J Trump if I was his communications director. I know I would be honest with the Trumpster and say “stop giving interviews because you don’t know when to stop talking” … “don’t answer in paragraphs but rather in sentences because you cannot assemble a coherent paragraph thought” … “never talk about yourself when standing side by side with a peer”“lets schedule some more of those fake campaign speeches  in front of your few rabid followers so you can feel free and complain about everyone & everything and explain how great you are because they will love it.”

 

I also know my honesty would get my ass fired so quickly don’t blink because you would miss my time in the White House.

 

Media training is a pain in the ass but in its pain it grinds you down to reality about yourself. You learn to duck the bad comparisons a little better and seek the opportunities to contrast positively a little better.

 

stop this train add up

 

I don’t believe we need a member of the Mensa society to be the president or even to be effective in positively contrasting themselves in a tough situation in which the other is smart, thoughtful & articulate. But you do need someone who is self-aware in the moment & environment. Media training almost above any other training you may receive in business harshly introduces you to self-awareness.

 

What I do know is that without some very harsh media and communications training President Trump will continue to shrink in comparison time and time again.

sometimes you just cannot make this shit up

May 17th, 2017

 

  cannot make this shit up life

 

Putin willing to give Congress records of Trump’s meeting with Lavrov

 

 

Ok.

 

In the category of “sometimes you just cannot make this shit up” … today the Russian president, who has ‘surprisingly’ <not so surprisingly> dismissed the claim that Trump disclosed classified information in a recent meeting with Russian diplomats/espionage agent, has offered to hand over records of an Oval Office meeting to Congress.

 

This is rich.

 

This would be comedy gold <assuming this wasn’t our presidency and our country>.

 

The idea that America would be able to gain transcripts of a meeting held in the White House oval office to clear up what actually happened from Russia is … well … absurd.

Not to mention the fact they could possibly even have transcripts <which assumes, I imagine, they would have taped the entire conversation> is … well … terrifying.

 

Personally, I think Putin is having fun at America’s expense <i.e., he is trolling us>.

 

Personally, I think why the hell would anyone in the US congress go to Russia to get a transcript and find out what ‘theoretically’ happened.

 

personally i am dead inside make this shit upPersonally, I think we would have officially entered into some alternative universe if a Russian transcript was necessary to “100% confirm” a Trump story.

 

Personally, I think the Russians haven’t stopped laughing since Trump won the election.

 

Personally, I think this entire situation is a tragic comedy.

 

Personally, sometimes you just cannot make this kind of shit up.

the miserable moment when you do not know who to trust

May 16th, 2017

the nature of compromise miserable

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“I never knew it was possible to be so miserable in so many ways.”

 

Amie Kaufman

 

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Well.

 

Trump shares classified information in a moment of braggadocio <does anyone really believe he would do so ‘strategically’? — no>.

 

That is the thought … and the moment … which we are all faced with today <again it seems>.

 

trump-and-calvin

……… young Trump ………..

We are faced with a headline which, anonymous sources or not, on the face of it is believable.

No one … not even the ones with their heads so far up Trump’s ass they can only see darkness … can say it doesn’t have a hint of believability given everything we know about the man.

 

He said something while boasting. He was just being the non-thinking loudmouth we have watched for decades.

 

Well.

 

This is when the birds come home to roost for all the despicable ‘fake news’ and ‘alterative facts’ and all the other lying bullshit.

 

This is the moment we wanted to have someone from the White House step up to the plate and say, unequivocally with no word parsing, “not true” and we would all breathe a sigh of relief and say “whew, okay.”

 

But we are past that point.

We are now at the miserable moment when you do not know who to trust.

 

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“He doesn’t really know any boundaries. He doesn’t think in those terms.

He doesn’t sometimes realize the implications of what he’s saying. I don’t think it was his intention in any way to share any classified information. He wouldn’t want to do that.”

 

Anonymous White House Advisor

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trust is like paperYou want to trust the journalists … and, yet, you don’t really want to <because if they are we have more proof our President is an incompetent asshat>.

 

You want to trust the only people left in the administration who actually seem trustable <Tillerson, McMaster> … and, yet, their words ring a little hollow.

 

You want to trust the president because … well … he is the president … and, yet, that train has already left the station.

 

To be clear … what Tillerson and McMaster said in defense of Donald J Trump are not quite lies. They are just incredibly well parsed words expressing either truths which are not really the issue at hand or half truths about what the real issue is <but it does not really matter because within 12 hours Donald J Trump just partially undermined what they said anyway>.

 

To be clear … what the Washington Post wrote is most likely quite truthful. They offer incredibly parsed words expressing thoughts run through a paranoid filter that “we better not be wrong.”

 

<note: Does that mean Washington Post never gets things wrong? No. But a story this big this means an editor is going to be extremely careful before running it. I would suggest the reason to trust the Washington Post, and other major journalists at other papers, here is twofold <1> they have high journalistic standards that lead them to being accurate much more so than other media options and <2> they know if there is something wrong in their reporting, other reputable news sources will be all over their shit in a second>

 

But, to be clear … what I may think doesn’t really matter … because echoing across America today is a basic feeling of “yikes, this sounds bad, but I do not know who to trust.”

 

That is what Trump hath wrought.

 

Some very good people <Tillerson, McMaster, maybe even Spicer, some prominent politicians, etc.> have had their reputations tainted by the Trump slime – enough that people of seemingly good character are being doubted.

 

We have reached a point, a point which the current Presidency is desperate to offer some honesty & truth to slow down the downward spiral … a downward spiral in which we realize that not one of us can assume that any one of them is going to say some simple truth.

 

The only truth we know is that once having manipulated the truth, once having misrepresented the truth, once misdirecting us from the truth … that person is most likely to do it again.

You need not lie as colorfully and openly as the President to be seen as someone not to be trusted. His depth & breadth of lying offers little room for his associates to do the typical word parsing they may be accustomed to.

 

Journalists have realized this dilemma and the real journalists are rising to the occasion seeking to limit parsing and innuendo and offering as much starkness as possible <that is a path to success>.

 

I could argue that we are having a crisis of character but at the moment I woke up today realizing we are in the miserable moment when you do not know who i am too sad to walkto trust.

 

I have spent months telling everyone Trump is not competent to be president, I question his competence as a business leader in general … and that good CEO’s do not act this way.

 

But today? Today I can only sigh … and think about what a sad world to live in where when you trust no one you end up believing everything & nothing at exactly the same time.

 

This is a sad time for the United States of America.

 

Bad.

 

windows of opportunity

May 15th, 2017

 dream big opportunities

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“Oh, How insanely outside the window

О,   как   безумно   за       окном

 

Howls and rages the evil storm,

Ревёт, бушует  буря злая”

 

Alexander Blok

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“Every advantage is temporary.”

 

Katerina Stoykova Klemer

 

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“The weather-cock on the church spire, though made of iron, would soon be broken by the storm-wind if it did not understand the noble art of turning to every wind.”

 

Heinrich Heine

 

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In business we talk incessantly about visions and missions and purpose and strategic objectives and important long term type thinking to insure everyone get out of the way window wallknows where they are going and how they will go about doing it.

 

We worry about how to smartly effectively compete.

 

We worry through some fairly random details, talk about being the best and then … uhm … proceed to be anything but the best.

 

So … you know what?

If you are better and have a better offering and are truly worth a shit and want people to know you are worth a shit … well then … there is no real intellectual challenge.

 

You get on with getting on.

 

I am not suggesting being stupid about competing.

Nor am I suggesting bludgeoning the industry and competitors with some dull edged hammer.

 

I mean … for god’s sake we can talk forever on all the topics I just listed and Walls To Windows of opportunity businessstew over all the long term type shit … but … we all know the holy grail of business success actually resides in ‘windows of opportunity.’

 

Now.

 

Windows of opportunity arise all the time if you are paying attention.

 

As I have noted before ‘white space’ analysis in positioning is archaic thinking mostly because it explores a stagnant 2 dimensional industry when in reality any business in today’s world is 4 dimensional, at its most simplistic, and constantly moving & a swirl of constant activity in which no one competitor is ever truly standing still.

 

What that means is, basically, in today’s business world you set out down a road you want to go down and seek small windows in the chaos of normal business activity to “hit the hole.” Just like as a running back there is a huge mass of men & pads in front of you and you ‘just get going’ assuming a hole will open and you get through it.

Ah.

And then … of course … there are the windows that get placed in front of you. you don’t need to go looking for them … they are just there.

 

Windows of opportunities come in all shapes and sizes but the one you kill for is the opportunity for a stark contrast.

 

Stark contrast is the holy trinity of windows because it is the opportunity to create distinction, separation and build value. Uhm. That is if you actually use this window of opportunity correctly.

 

We assess this type of window two ways <because stark contrast also represents potential issues>.

 

  • A stark contrast shouldn’t really come at the obvious detriment of a competitor. While a stark contrast certainly represents an opportunity to laugh at a competitor or possibly make them look foolish to do so is to miss the larger opportunity. The larger opportunity isn’t to diminish their value to make yours look bigger but rather use a stark contrast to leverage more value for you.

 

  • A stark contrast really shouldn’t come at the obvious detriment of the category/industry. This one is a little tricky but is a corollary to my first point. You don’t want to make the category look stupid or ‘less than.’ A part of how you conduct your business is protecting the larger institution. In other words … you never sacrifice the greater institution simply to try and gain a temporary advantage for yourself. .

navle gazing The Grass Is Greener On The other side

<note: both of these are incredibly hard lessons to maintain in a highly competitive, selfish thinking, short term view business world>

 

And then, of course, even if we do think those two things through well and then take that temporary advantage offered us I will note that we, in business, are incredibly poor at knowing when to quit the contrast so we keep pounding the nail into the board even though it is already all the way in.

 

That said.

 

The true value of this stark contrast opportunity is distinction. Why do I put such a high value n distinction?

 

Distinction is one of those fabulous things that the more you try to be distinct the less likely you will actually be so <at least in a meaningful way>.

 

And if I could convince more companies to think about this with clear heads I am not sure I would make any more money but I am sure they would.

i know, I know … easy for me to say.

 

But the pursuit of the elusive distinction can sometimes drive businesses to some fairly irrelevant, if not absurd, and absolutely meaningless places. I know it sounds crazy but, if they ignored it, I bet it would happen. Well. It would happen if they were smart about focusing on themselves … who they were and who they wanted to be … uhm … and took the temporary advantage offered them in stark contrast windows of opportunity.

 

So let’s call it a crazy smart idea.

 

But tough to do <as most crazy smart ideas are>. Tough because it doesn’t everything can be figured outexactly match up with the standard “this is how you are supposed to do it” management guides. Waiting for opportunities isn’t something that they teach you in ‘how to aggressively beat the crap out of your competition in the industry” school.

 

Anyway.

 

Maybe that is the most important point.

 

There are a lot, a shitload, of crazy smart business people out there.

But there are not a lot of crazy smart business people who seem to be willing to do something crazy like ignore the business books “plan to success” blueprints.

 

Here is where I put my money.

The few. Those crazy enough to not plan for distinction but rather let distinction and originality simply evolve from who they are, what they think and their vision of what they think they should be and the ones who ‘get going’ smartly to starkly contrast themselves when a window opens.

 

Crazy?

Probably.

 

But in a world where the majority of businesses, and new ideas, fail … maybe this isn’t a crazy a thought as it sounds.

 

And, at its core, the concept of what I just outlined isn’t that crazy because businesses are always seeking an advantage.

And they should.

 

I imagine the point I am going to make is that most businesses don’t consider ‘advantage’ as temporary. When it actually happens … they treat it as sustainable.

And ultimately that becomes their downfall.

Windows of opportunity close. And 90% of the time they close quickly. And maybe that is where the ‘sustainable ‘ belief really screws most businesses. They jump through the window of opportunity, and let’s say they even treat the stark contrast opportunity correctly and do all the right things, they then act like they are going to stay on that side of the window <acting as if the advantage and opportunity is sustainable>.

be wrong stand in your wrongness divide

Wrong.

Bad decision.

 

Windows of opportunity are meant to be jumped through … opportunity maximized … and then you jump back before it closes again.

 

Why?

 

Stark contrasts are most typically contextual to a certain situation. Most businesses are smart enough if they give you a stark contrast opportunity to actually change the context to insure the contrast opportunity ceases.

In addition … knowledge never stops. Knowledge, in and of itself, changes environment … it is never stagnant.

 

Sustainable advantage is really rare.

Extremely rare.

 

And, frankly, many businesses are actually too slow to take advantage of their … well … advantage. The window of advantage does not stay open long.

 

Businesses work to gain it. They get it. They build plans to take advantage of the advantage. They go and do … and … well … their advantage is not only as advantageous as it used to look but in many cases it is no longer even the advantage that you thought it was. The window is closed. Oh. Maybe worse? To dirty windowyour dismay you look around the room and another frickin’ window is open.

Damn.

Wrong window at the wrong time.

 

Ok.

 

My last point on a stark contrast window of opportunity.

 

While everything I just discussed is about opportunity to build value and distinction a stark contrast opportunity offers you the one thing which is the one thing you dream about as a business – an interested person.

In general, in a sea of business sameness and a cluttered world of meaningless communication, whether you are trying to sell something or showcase value you will be faced with a great barrier of lack of interest.

 

People, in general, don’t care until they have to care.

I would like to point out that while we all say “the greatest thing since sliced bread” that sliced bread was not that great to people in the beginning … people just didn’t care about sliced bread … they liked what they had <unsliced>.

 

Anyway.

 

The corollary to that thought?

 

Everything is interesting at some point.

Yup.

Everything.

 

obsessed uninterested switchIt’s all about uncovering the most relevant time to be relevant <and interesting>. Pick the wrong time and you waste $’s because the consumer just doesn’t care. Be interesting at the right time and the brand becomes relevant <and sales increase>.

Whenever I bring this topic up oddly <in general> I find everyone gravitating to the ends of the spectrum … half believe whatever their widget is that everyone is interested in it … and the other half suggest the world has gone to hell in a hand basket and people don’t care about anything.

 

Regardless.

 

Assume people don’t care about what it is you want to tell them. And assume they don’t care about your product <until you do something wrong>.

 

But the one time you may actually have a chance to generate some interest in a stark contrast. Most times your advantage or difference or distinctness is almost indiscernible to the human eye <despite how proud you may be of it>. and that is where a stark contrast offers you the greatest part of the opportunity – it is discernible.

 

All businesses need to remember that people just don’t care until they have to care … but people always care about vivid comparisons and take note of hem in a grayish world — that is why you take advantage of stark contrasts windows of opportunity.

 

That’s it for businesses and stark contrast windows of opportunity.

 

In general … stark contrast opportunity or not, personally, I believe many businesses mismanage any ‘advantage’ opportunities.

In attitude and in behavior.

They think incorrectly, or have a flawed view when they think, and implement too slowly. They overthink the wrong things and under think the right things.  They think long term sustainable within what are really short term opportunities. They think of ROI in terms of “time I have maintained active or the advantage” rather than viewing time in a “37 seconds used wisely is a lifetime.”

 

I tend to believe it is because businesses try to simplify as much a possible with the intent to replicate as much as possible. Neither of those thoughts in that last sentence are particularly effective with regard to a stark contrast window of opportunity. Oddly, the pursuit of simplicity increases cumbersome less-than-effective responses.

 

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“The world is not as simple as we like to make it out to be. The outlines are often vague and it’s the details that count.

Nothing is really truly black or white and bad can be a disguise for good or beauty … and vice versa without one necessarily excluding global window of opportunitythe other.

Someone can both love and betray the object of its love … without diminishing the reality of the true feelings and value.

Life and business <whether we like to admit it or not> is an uncertain adventure in a diffuse landscape whose borders are constantly shifting where all frontiers are artificial <therefore unique is basically artificial in its inevitable obseletion> where at any moment everything can either end only to begin again … or finish suddenly forever … like an unexpected blow from an axe.

Where the only absolute, coherent, indisputable and definitive reality … is death. We have such little time when you look at Life … a tiny lightning flash between two eternal nights.

 

Everything has to do with everything else.

Life is a succession of events that link with each other whether we want them to or not.”

 

Arturo Perez Revarte

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Whether you want to simplify or not … one of the wisest things you can always keep in mind is … Everything has to do with everything else. Life is a succession of events that link with each other whether we want them to or not.

 

Another wise thing to keep in mind is windows of opportunity always arise but the ones that offer stark contrast may be one of the most valuable opportunities you can ever encounter in business.

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.

 

persistent setbacks

May 10th, 2017

 setbacks persistent alone

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“We all have a personal pool of quicksand inside us where we begin to sink and need friends and family to find us and remind us of all the good that has been and will be.”

 

—-

Regina Brett

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

 

“Making the best of things is… a damn poor way of dealing with them.

My whole life has been a series of escapes from that quicksand.”

 

—-

Rose Wilder Lane

 

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Well.

 

We all encounter setbacks in our lives. Some people call that ‘life.’

 

setback speed bumpThe positive psychologists just call the setbacks “obstacles” as if they were some hurdles you just learn to either leap or get around.

 

In other words … it is assumed if you stick to your guns no setback is a dead end but rather simply a speed bump.

In other words … we are offered some simplistic discussions about overcoming obstacles.

 

If you really really think about this … this advice is kind of nuts.

 

Yeah.

You may have to think really hard to come on to my side of this argument.

 

You may have to work hard because as soon as you are old enough to comprehend words you get bludgeoned with advice and wisdom with regard to ‘overcoming obstacles.’

 

In its most simplistic form it is uttered as “if you believe, you can overcome anything” or even the famous “it’s not the mistake that matters it is what you do with that mistake.”

 

You get pummeled with things like this:

 

===============medication over medictaion problemsolving2

“Do not fear the conflict, and do not flee from it; where there is no struggle, there is no Virtue.”

 

Joyram

 

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When you start living the life of your dreams, there will always be obstacles, doubters, mistakes and setbacks along the way.

 

But with hard work, perseverance and self-belief there is no limit to what you can achieve.”

 

Roy Bennett

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Well.

 

I don’t doubt the sincerity of this advice but what all of this trite wisdom, mostly offered by wealthier & whiter people whose setbacks are slightly different … okay … exponentially different, then not only the everyday schmuck but those who are in more vulnerable environments seems to overlook is that A setback is manageable … persistent setbacks are a whole different game.

 

I love virtue but after a while you cannot sustain yourself, mentally and physically, on virtue alone when faced with persistent setbacks.

 

What I mean is that we treat setbacks as if they were like a cold … with a little time and some fortitude and some chicken noodle soup you can overcome it and move on.

 

But sometimes setbacks are like a virus … this virus is more like ‘persistent setbacks.’

 

setbacks persistent quicksand

 

And, yes, this is different than what I call “quicksand” or “quicksand setbacks.”

 

Quicksand setbacks are more often in a defined period of time and comes to fruition mostly in a helpless unraveling before your eyes.

It’s like in a football game where one fumble leads to an interception which leads to the other team running a punt back for a touchdown. Everyone fights as hard as they can … but the setbacks stream in a way that drives you deeper and deeper into a hole. Most times quicksand setbacks stop and depending on the quicksand you are in a deep dark fucking hole or just a hole <or something in-between>.

 

A hole is a hole. It sucks.

But most times if you do get your shit together, get your head on straight and maybe get a little help you can get out of the hole <regardless of how deep it is>. And once you get out of a quicksand hole you actually find you have learned some stuff and … well … most times you see future quicksand and avoid it.

 

 

And then there are persistent setbacks.

 

problems overcoming obstacles

….. and, yet, the opportunities can only be found in darker deeper holes ………..

 

They are brutal.

Fucking brutal.

 

You face a setback.

You pick yourself up, recover and get going again. And maybe just as you get going again … well … you get another setback.

 

This one hurts a little more because you knew you had invested and you knew you had done it right … and you still got screwed again with another setback.

 

 

You figure … what the hell … I did it once and I can do it again and you pick yourself up again and get going, recover and you are starting to put the last setback in your rear view mirror and … doh … another setback.

 

 

This one hurts. Hurts bad.

 

But … you know you have no alternative but to get up, try again and get going.

This time is a little different though. This time you are a little more tentative.

Maybe even doubt a little more. You still put energy into it and you are working hard but this time your head is more on a swivel.

 

Uhm.

And then another setback happens.

 

Most will get up and go again. But this time doubt is your companion and while you are trying your best … you are most likely not really your best.

 

And then another setback happens.

 

This is where the trite positive ‘pick yourself up’ people sort of get things wrong.

 

It’s not that you don’t have the desire … you just have lost hope that you will ever get a break or that it will finally be someone else who will have a setback and not you.

 

Sigh.

 

I read this quote somewhere:

 

“Time to bet on yourself, big, huge, gigantic bet on your genius and abilities to change the world for the better because nothing is going to stop you, no force is going to hold you down or get in your way and make you lose your inner motivation again.”

 

 

Well.

 

kitchen-table-study-problems-concerns-home-life-leadThat sound good … really good … but persistent setbacks are a whole different game. You can be motivated, you can bet on yourself and all of those things <which are usually necessary for any success> but … well … what happens if you have to keep on going back to the well again and again and again?

 

What happens when Life just seems to provide one more setback after you have just recovered and gained some momentum for the last setback … which you had done after the setback before that one and … well … you get it.

 

There is only so much anyone can take before they get tired … start having doubts … and then simply lose hope.

Look.

 

Everyone can pull themselves together after a setback.

A quicksand  setback is a little trickier but depending on deeply you sink … most people can pull themselves together.

 

But persistent setbacks? Whew.

 

You aren’t looking for a big break … you are just looking for A break.

 

When in a persistent setback cycle … it is relentlessly exhausting.

 

Your plans all seem to not go as planned.

 

You can do your best, and it may actually be pretty good, and it can still fail.

 

You can be really smart, have a smart idea, articulate it smartly, and it can still be rejected or ignored.

 

You can work harder than anyone else and pour your heart & soul into something and it can still go unnoticed.

 

And all of that gets exponentially harder to take with each ongoing setback.

 

In addition … persistent setbacks take on a darker hue if you start looking around you and see mediocrity winning and rising and some of the least qualified not facing the setbacks you are.

 

Now.

 

I did some research.

And I found how we deal with setbacks depends on how much control someone feels they have over a situation.

 

The study found that changes in certain brain areas were related to persisting with goals after encountering setbacks.

 

Participants more often persisted with their goals, choosing to try again to earn the same academic degree, when they perceived they had control over a setback than if they perceived that they did not have control over a setback.

 

What’s more, activity in a brain area called the ventral striatum was related to persisting with goals in cases where the setbacks were controllable. Participants who showed greater decreases in brain activity in the ventral striatum when they encountered a controllable setback were more likely to persist with their goals.

 

On the other hand, changes in a brain area called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex were related to persistence when the setbacks were uncontrollable. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex is involved in regulation of emotions, and the new study suggests this brain area helps people cope with negative emotions in order to persist in the case of uncontrollable setbacks.

 

 

drowning no water lifeIn other words … when setbacks are uncontrollable they affect us in a more emotional way.

 

Yup. When persistent setbacks seem to continue in ways that are out f our control … well … they fucking kick the shit out of you mentally.

 

 

I say that because I think most of us overlook how persistent setbacks affect the mind.

 

And while I just outlined how I believe it affects an individual … there is also an effect on the people around you.

 

Say you are a parent and you are in this doomed cycle of persistent setbacks.

As a child that is all you see. That is all you hear about. That is what you start thinking Life is more like than what you see on TV with regard to ‘work harder than anyone else and your dreams can come true <or you can do anything you want>.’

 

Let me tell you what I mean by showing you some research numbers I just saw.

 

Among the dozens of research studies post 2016 election I found some number about the working class and education that made me sit up a little and think about this whole ‘persistent setback’ issue and how … if it is affects a swath of the population long enough … can affect their larger attitudes.

 

In an analysis by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic 54% of white working-class Americans said investing in college education is a risky gamble … this includes a whopping 61% of white working-class men <white working-class voters who held this belief were almost twice as likely as their peers to support Trump>.

 

Ok.

That is bad. But it gets worse.

 

This belief is even more prevalent among white working-class Americans under 30.

 

This belief means that they are not buying into the idea that if you do work really hard, if you do study and go to school, you will be able to get ahead.

 

In my persistent setback theory we have an entire swath of America who has given up hope that they can ‘overcome the setbacks and get ahead.”

 

“The survey shows that many white working-class Americans, especially men, no longer see that path available to them. … It is this sense of economic fatalism, more than just economic hardship, that was the decisive factor in support for Trump among white working-class voters.”

<Robert P. Jones, the CEO of PRRI>

 

 

I don’t really want to discuss Trump voters and white working class people today but I do want to make a point about persistent setbacks and how they affect people’s attitudes.

 

Black, white, Asian, American Indian, whatever … persistent setbacks are an equal opportunity hope killer.

 

Any setback sucks. I don’t care how old you are … a setback is a setback and lovers quarrel life and medepending on where you are in life a setback can be crushing.

 

All the positive encouragement to pick yourself up and get going again kind of misses the mark. I don’t offer a solution today I am just making a point and bitching.

 

And all the bitching aside.

 

Everyone just needs to recognize that setbacks come in all shapes and sizes, not all setbacks are created equal, setbacks can be deceiving in their appearances and if you don’t recognize all that you run the risk of missing what someone else is enduring with regard to persistent setbacks.

 

 

the fraying of organizational communication

May 8th, 2017

fraying communications

 

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“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

 

—–

Benjamin Franklin

 

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Ok.

 

It seems like in today’s world leaders are getting the shit kicked out of them if they communicate in a precise fashion, in a measured way and in what appears bland magic in the headto be calculated communicating.

They are called unauthentic, bland and blamed for being ‘less than truthful.’

 

This is creating a sense that semi-impetuous blurbs of ‘here is what I think’ communication is deemed of higher value from our leaders.

 

Well.

 

It is a sad state of affairs if we value the latter in a leader more than the former.

But let me point out the flaws in the impetuous less-than-thought-out thought communicating.

 

I call it the fraying of organizational communication.

 

You learn fairly quickly once you begin leading a larger group of people, and desire them to grow beyond simply being order takers, that precise communications matters.

 

You learn you cannot be everywhere at once, you cannot be in every meeting and you cannot have people simply parrot your own words because … well … they are your words and not theirs <and for them to grow they need to figure out how to articulate things on their own>. Therefore, you learn that you need to precisely communicate an idea so that they can offer up their own words to share that idea.

 

You learn this because impreciseness means people start having to answer not only unnecessary questions … but are also being demanded to explain ‘what you meant.’

 

This is a dangerous slippery slope.good and bad thoughts words

 

People work for you for a reason <you most likely have more experience and have some skills they do not have>.

People have different titles for a reason <they most likely have different or less experience and have yet to learn some skills they do not have>.

 

This means that farther out your words & thoughts have to be explained the more likely the explanation is not going to be exactly right.

Oh.

 

And let’s ad in ‘the stress factor.’

 

This is where ‘fraying’ becomes obvious.

 

The less precise a leader is the more likely the communication fabric is going to be tugged at the edges. The edges being where many of your least experienced people reside. The less precise a leader is the more the pressure at the farthest point of communication.

 

This is where the ‘fraying’ becomes most obvious. As more and more questions are piled upon the person on the edge with regard to the “whys” and “whats” the communication becomes more and more stressed … and mistakes are made.

 

wrong faultThings are said that just may not be exactly right.

 

Something is said in exasperation.

 

Something is communicated as a ‘well, could be’ scenario to offer some space.

 

This is not the fault of the person on the edge … the responsibility lies with the person at the center.

 

Anyway.

 

As a leader, the people closest to you most likely don’t need the precision, calculation and measured words … but you give it to them anyway. You do so because those closest to you will find their own words to say what you said … without losing its meaning.

 

A flawed message at the top doesn’t lose its flaws as it expands … its flaws become increased.

 

Some people call it ‘getting your talking points in line’ … I do not. I simply call it “clarity & precision from the top.” I do that because while it may seem bland and it may seem calculated … it avoids the more difficult problems and criticisms.

 

ato normal center abnormal societyA leader must hold the center verbally. It can sometimes be held with vision and soaring rhetoric but more often it is captures in the calculated pragmatic words which are easily carried by those on the edges out beyond the organization.

 

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

‘Things fall apart, the center cannot hold….

The best lack all conviction,

While the worst are full of passionate intensity

 

—–

William Butler Yeats < The Second Coming>

 

==========

 

As a leader there may be nothing worse than confidently saying the wrong thing. For when you do the rest of your organization feels compelled to support your confidence … uhm … and the wrong thing.

 

And if the ‘wrongness’ is compounded with any sense of vagueness in meaning ‘wrong’ becomes his multidimensional blob of slime which mucks up the entire organizational engine.

 

I am fairly sure mom & pop businesses don’t learn this lesson <or maybe not as well>. They have no real need to do so. Most words are in the domain of the ‘mom & pop’ and any family members or close knit employees will most likely simply regurgitate whatever the mom & pop say with earnestness … but no real understanding. There is no need to understand … it just is.

 

And maybe that is where leaders, who are precise and calculated in wording, understand what truth about success within an organization is — that understanding matters.

 

People cannot defend what they do not completely understand and, well, you know as a leader you cannot always be there to defend and you need to depend on others to do so … not by interpreting what you said but through understanding what you said.

 

In the end.

 

We may beat the crap out of ‘bland colorless calculated’ communication from leaders but we should all recognize that it isn’t necessarily done out of fear of saying the wrong thing or political correctness but rather done because … well … good leaders know they hold the center. They know that understanding limits spotlight seat lead follow center alonefraying at the edges of the organization.

They know they have a responsibility, boring as it may be on occasion, to pragmatically say what needs to be said in a way that doesn’t encourage guessing or questioning.

 

Clarity really does matter.

And ‘bland’ can be underrated.

But fraying communications farther from the center is a reflection of a leader not assuming responsibility for holding a strong center.  A good leader knows that while they may have a dozen things they really want to say 11 of those things will most likely make the people on the edges edgy and miserable.

A good leader knows that an organization is not just about what the one wants to say <the leader themselves> but rather organizational effectiveness resides in ‘out of many, one.’

 

I imagine what I am saying is that if you see some people on-the-ground who are part of an organization and you start hearing verbal mistakes … 99% of the time it is a reflection of the fact the leader was vague, imprecise and didn’t hold the communication center <that would make them a bad leader>.

 

Enlightened Conflict