Monthly Archives: June 2014

A Change in Perspective

A lesson I have learned recently is that your present perspective is just one of many. But think about how current issues can demand much of our time, emotion, and energy. We can be so focused on the here and now that we forget that in a couple weeks it will be the there and then. Disappointment 2 weeks ago that something you wanted didn’t work out becomes the liberation that you might be destined for different things.

I think in life this happens to us more than we think. Often we have a belated appreciation for things. The same experiences, people, situations look so different with even a slight change in our circumstances. That tough and difficult boss now seems appropriately demanding; that stressful and never-ending project seems to have stretched you out of your comfort zone; that difficult and flagrant co-worker now seems to have challenged your assumptions and biases. Ideally it would help if in the midst of whatever is happening we could remember that the present perspective is just one of many.

(Inspired by the Daily Reflection–Fr. Don Talafous, St. John’s University)

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Are You Afraid to Work Out Loud?

Many have heard the benefits of Working Out Loud as they relate to connecting with others and as I’ve written, to create more Leadership Impressions.

So why doesn’t everyone do it?

I think many are afraid.

Afraid of the perceptions it could create. Afraid of being controversial. Afraid of having your thoughts, God forbid, written down.

At some point, however, those fears that paralyze us from working out loud will actually cause us to become irrelevant.

Work will require us to be so fast that playing this game of Switzerland just won’t scale. Teams will require us to be responsive, stand for something, debate, challenge, and continuously improve. Employers will expect employees, including leaders, to create communities that foster open collaboration. Customers will want vendors to acknowledge (and more importantly) quickly fix problems. Trying to hide a defect for fear of customer backlash will result in customer backlash for hiding the defect.

I feel a shift coming. Our own future relevancy will require us to change the way we work and change the way we lead.

Old Tapes

For those of you old enough to remember, tapes preceded CD’s for consuming music.  You could also record stuff.  Recorded stuff could be played back, over and over again–play and rewind, play and rewind.

When the concept of playing something back, over and over again, is applied to a previous, and often times negative experience or association about people, the metaphor “old tapes” gets used.  Think about it, do any of the statements below sound familiar?

“She manages up well, but not side-by-side or below.”

“He’s more about the numbers than the people.”

“He’s more concerned with his own career than anything else.”

We all have done it. It doesn’t feel to me that any real good can come of it.  It’s what the author Brenda Frederickson calls “gratuitous negativity.”–negativity for nagativity’s sake.

So why do we do it?

Some of us like to talk and contribute.  When asked a question about someone, we feel like we need to blurt out what is top of mind, instead of nothing. And while it is top of our mind, it could have happened 4 years ago.  But yet we still say it as if we know it to be true today (when we don’t).  Another reason might be that we don’t like the other person (for whatever reason) or we feel insecure. Playing back old tapes validates those negative feelings within us.

Receivers of this type of messaging should make a conscious effort to try and qualify the statements as true.  “Are you sure?”  “When was the last time you observed this?”  “Have you directly talked to the person recently?”

When you hear people citing old tapes, those questions are good guidelines to use. It’s also OK, in my opinion, to let people say “I don’t have any recent observations on that person.”

Brian Buford once said, “If you haven’t observed someone in at least two, preferably three, different (and recent) settings, don’t give feedback.  You always can share perceptions, but that’s different from feedback.  Ram Charan believes that superior talent assessment results from suspending judgment and intentional observation.  Only through deep observation of one’s actions and decisions can we confirm or disconfirm our hypotheses.  Then we can share informed feedback.” (parentheses mine)

Assume good intent, people can change.  I saw a post I liked recently saying, “you don’t know what battles I’m working through.” Essentially, there are times where we do or say things because of something larger going on that others don’t know about. Ask them questions, seek to understand, and collect multiple data points.  Providing real, recent, and relevant context is what matters.

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I Believe in You

I keep coming back to these 4 words in my leadership journey. They are simple and clear. And powerful. I guarantee that my best work relationships have those 4 words resonate with both parties. I also think it’s true in other leadership capacities. I’ve seen recently a son of mine perform at a much higher level in basketball this spring with a new coach. I asked him why and he said, “coach believes in me.”

Conversely, my poorest relationships didn’t have those 4 words going both ways. A lot of it was me. I tend to have high expectations for myself and for others. I found myself disappointed one day and a friend told me, “Omar, there you go again, you and your high expectations. If you would just lower them you’d be a lot happier.”

Truth is, I can’t. For me, having high expectations of myself and others can work, and when it does, we all believe in each other. Then we have that solid foundation to do extraordinary things. Getting to that place, however, requires some hard work and sweat equity. No one said it would be easy. If you are willing to take it, head on, you will see a huge upside. You might have some hard conversations, or not see “eye to eye” on some things. But who said we’re always supposed to see “eye to eye” on everything?

But I also found that I was not saying those 4 words enough when I truly felt them. I was missing opportunities to engage and inspire people just because I was focused on other things. I’ve learned to pause more and recognize when that feeling is really there. Taking that time has resulted in some great work. My advice to you: Say those 4 simple words to the people working hard every day around you. It means a lot.