Like many people, the pandemic was an opportunity to pause, take a step back and reflect.
Co-Vid disrupted my revenue streams and because of that I decided to go back to corporate consulting. For the most part i’ve enjoyed the work (in addition to the steady paycheck). I’m also fortunate that crappy situations often make the best stories.
While I’ve been banking a lot of content and ideas, today is the first time I’ve written on this blog in a long time. One area I find myself drawn to is writing to folks just starting out. So with that in mind, I’ve decided to slightly pivot this space — writing about surviving and thriving in business. Basically lessons learned for folks people who are weird, sensitive, first-generation to corporate, low-income / working class, and/or not fitting in for invisible rule and unspoken reasons.
“The Future is here… it’s just unevenly distributed.”William Gibson
Our society and culture celebrates speed, it encourage us to be the first, early adopters and fast learners. None of my teachers ever pointed out the risk of being ahead of the curve, and the paradoxical need for patience that comes with being quick. Specifically…
Others Have to Catch Up
If others don’t join us into that new future, we can feel stuck, frustrated and bored. In worse case scenarios, being too far ahead of the curve can expose early adopters as outliers and threats. In better cases, it reveals leaders and visionaries. Although as one mentor said to me, you don’t get to be labeled a visionary until after your vision comes to pass.
There are varying theories identifying the tipping point; the point where enough critical mass has been built, change is inevitable and obvious to the hold outs. The lesson here is that it requires patience, perseverance and an understanding of the process.
This applies to new technologies, processes, ideas, social equality and justice.
Folks often preface a request with that phrase. Heck I’ve been known to preface a request like that.
Maybe it’s the pandemic, or maybe it’s turning forty but the truth is I’m generally not “busy.” That is not to say that I don’t have plenty of work to do and more things to do than I CAN EVER POSSIBLE FINISH EVER. That’s life.
The reason I am not “busy” is in part because I am obsessed with working at the right speed and on priorities. When I’m busy it’s generally because I’ve decided to let someone else make me “busy.” Perhaps it’s a new client and the only way to assure them is to spend some time “hop to-ing” or perhaps I’m being a bit ambitious with conflicting events — and I don’t feel like choosing- – it happens.Continue reading ““I know you are busy…””
On the play ground, I’ve always hated when mothers say “it doesn’t matter who started it.” I understand that it is often difficult to unravel and unpack the exact trigger for a fight or an argument — and how an exasperated parent may not want to unpack who started it.
However between you and me – I’ve always found not holding the instigator accountable problematic. One of the things I practice and coach folks on is acting in a way that makes sense in terms of game theory – and that involves understanding if you are in a cooperative or transactional environment. As a creative and collaborator I do my best work in environments where people can open up, explore and trust.
Unfortunately trust is fragile
Recently I was in a situation – where a collaborator refused to do her job, refused to be held accountable, and more than that started try to hold other people accountable; condescendingly telling them they couldn’t do their job because they didn’t understand her specific domain. Then she came after me.
Oh boy. I’m not going to lie, she pissed me off. Yes, I know I’m a meditation teacher and I’m supposed to be all zen and calm. But I am also human and her lack of humility, her lack of self-awareness and her need to take all the credit was tough to swallow. I also don’t have any direct authority over her, so I had to be careful about how I responded.
She was so convinced that she was right it was like talking to a brick wall. She was armored up and used to stream rolling over everyone – which given her primary job was great – but when it comes to creative collaboration is counter productive. Unfortunately, she clearly wanted to be doing the create “cool” work – since she kept trying tried to assume leadership on those projects – but was completely unaware of how her domineering destroys the contribution of others – much less how little she understood about the actual project.
Working with her, felt like going into battle. I had to armor up, move slowing, not rise to her baiting and double check and document everything she said. It took a lot of effort and frankly I wanted to cut her down. When she patronized me, I wanted to point out how she was not as smart as she thought she was. How she was totally lacking in self-awareness and how it was hurting the work.
Unfortunately like many bullies, she was also very good at only picking one target at a time – and unfortunately for a time that was me. I watched as she was all sweetness and light to others, especially those that have clear authority. Me? – she saw me stepping on her turf and she did a lot of subtly, insincere and dirty tricks to stall/delay and obstruct the effort – to keep me off her turf and preserve her power.
Did I start it?
Perhaps, being good at my job, reviewing her work and holding her accountable to her word – is threatening. It’s obviously an area she wanted to be in and wants to be in control of. Still, she has revealed that she is a taker, and non-cooperator. Those of you who know game theory know that when dealing with takers, we can’t be a giver. The right strategy is to act in a transactional way. This is what I coach clients on all the time. But holy crap is it hard.
It’s hard to compartmentalize, to continue to be open, transparent, honest, and collaborative – knowing that there is a snake on the team, just waiting for an opportunity to point out any mistakes or failures – waiting to blame me for the same hubris and pride she possesses – that she does not hesitate to project onto me. As you imagine it is not conducive to psychological safety and I know if I fully I armor up – reacting and even defending myself – she will play the victim – accusing me of being the instigator.
And maybe she’s not entirely wrong.
I am powerful – even when I don’t do anything. I am strong and I know my stuff and am wise enough to get help when I don’t. It breaks my heart but even when I am kind and collaborative there are some people who are going to be threatened by my competence, who are going to want what I have. I love teaching folks — but I can’t share with a taker, because once I do, I know she’ll do everything she can take get rid of me and “lord it over” everyone else.
I can lead my example but I only have as much power and authority as I do. I have to let my leadership manage this – I have to trust my leaders – while at the same time act in such a way that that preserved my energy and quality of work.
That’s why we need leaders (or parents) to preserve boundaries, to maintain cultures of trust and hold people accountable when they disrupt those cultures. Yes – perhaps we should turn the check or walk away once may be even twice – but after awhile enough is enough. After a while if you don’t stop folks from “starting it” we’ll have to deal with what happens when it’s finished.
Under the makeshift desk I have set up in the living room is a pile of shoes. Every so often I need to collect them and return them back to the shoe rack where they belong. They clearly accumulate because I kick them off while writing.
The weird thing is …Continue reading “Mindless Shoes”
I was 0 days old when I first heard the term “tend and befriend” as an alternative stress response to fight or flight. Seriously, though it’s a massive shift – it explains my mama bear complex and honestly makes me feel less “weird.” Check out the podcast below for more shit kicking wisdom.
I think, this idea is something I’ve always known. Having language that fits our experience is empowering and comforting. “Rationality”, is rooted in the need for people to compare notes, to rationalize and make sense of the world by sharing perspectives. We can use more pedagogy that is not rooted in fixed zero-sum thinking.
One of the reasons I write is for the accountability. I’m not claiming that I won’t change my mind. In fact quite the opposite, but I do my best to write what I believe is true, at the time I am writing it. For the most part, I think I do a good job – and while I am open to change, and accounting for more perspectives, at this point my core “truth” is pretty solid.
My friend Bryanda calls it speaking in drafts. I find this iterative approach – to life, relationships and work – works well. I write in drafts. I create in drafts. I live in drafts. I claim nothing other than that I am honestly doing my best, which is better some days than others.
Accountability also comes up in the literature on building trust. I have in the past struggled to tell people in positions of power that I do not trust them. If you’ve ever had to manage someone with low EQ and positional power – you know the feeling of walking on egg shells. Brene Brown has a wonderful check list for diagnosing trust breaches, that I find enormously helpful for articulating and communicating when there has been a breach of trust. B-R-A-V-I-N-G. It’s absolutely worth digging into, but I want to focus on,Continue reading “Accountability”
WiIw or “What if I’m wrong?” Do you ask yourself that question? I do. A lot.
I’m not a masochist. The truth is I don’t like being wrong. More accurately I dislike when know-it-alls point out when I (or my team) have missed something obvious. I’m also not a fan of messing up in public or in front of a client. If we can be open to learning something new and learn a lesson quickly – we can fix it. Boom! Done. That is the joy of asking “what if I’m wrong.”
Once when I switched teams – moving from a group that had a lot of trust and psychological safety to a competitive low trust environment. I was astounded when my annual review came back and I learned that co-workers interpreted this WiIw habit as a lack of confidence. Reporting that it seemed like I doubted myself and everyone.
As it turned out, it was true, I DID lack confidence. I lacked confidence in a culture that was too insecure to question itself or factor in divergent perspectives.
I’m excited to announce that I am working with CAnon – a diverse collective of published authors on a shared world collaborative anthology. As such I have been authorized to invite others to submit a short story for Volume One of the Ghost Virus.
What kind of writers are we looking for? A writer who enjoys writing (and reading) character-driven scifi, horror or speculative fiction, can finish a story and is eager to share a fresh perspective.
Here are some of the reasons those already in the CAnon have chosen to participate.Continue reading “An Invitation from CAnon”
I think a lot of about psychological defaults these days. Partly it’s a function of living in the DC-metro area in the middle of an election year – and partly it’s a function of studying leadership and motivation.
The rule of reciprocity…
Robert Cialdini’s book Influence, is one of the best and most recommended book on the topic of persuasion. It’s worth picking up and keeping it as a reference. Fans of the book will recognize the term “click whirr.” The term refers to when a “cue” is initiated and triggers a resulting action. In nature this might be when baby birds chirp and the mother bird nurtures them. As it turns out, it’s not even necessary for the chirp to come from baby birds. Scientists found that a recorded sound of baby birds chirping, coming from from stuffed pole cat (a natural predator) was enough to cue the same behavior in the mama bird.
Humans unfortunately are not immune to similar click whirr effects – one of those you may have experienced in your own life. It happens when someone does you a favor or gives you something and you feel an debt or obligation to return the favor. This is what is known as the rule of reciprocity.Continue reading “Mind the Click Whirr”
I once asked Joanne Lipman, if writing about hard things, difficult things, things that infuriate you, frustrating things, wrong things … if it ever gets easier.
I was hoping that she, as a seasoned pro, would give me some cheerful encouragement. I was hoping, I think, for a secret, some magic pill for placing emotions in a jar and carrying on.
But she didn’t have anything like that. Instead she bluntly told me, it doesn’t get easier. Even after so many years, she admits she has to step away sometimes. What keeps her going is to remember why she is writing … who she is helping and the change she wants to effect.
It’s advice I come back to quite often.
I was reading Ezra Klein’s “Why We’re Polarized” and I came across a lovely idea, which is that we are not meant to be rational by ourselves. Put another way we are stronger when we take in and listen to multiple points of view. This is certainly something I have found to be true. Recently someone pointed out the root “rational” is “ratio” – which implies both comparison and balance. I like the idea of revealing the truth by comparing notes, or our various versions of reality.
As to ascertaining the a rational balance, whenever I work with statistical ratios and percentages, I’m also mindful of how slippery they can be. Change can happen in either numerator or denominator (or both), and big changes can be obscured in the resulting ratio. So-called rationality is rooted in a lot of obscured assumptions. It makes sense to check the default paradigm and the legitimacy of any comparison – before venturing a guess as to what is and what is not rational.
… and of course there is also the matter of what happens at the margins.