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Ducks in a Row: a Different Role Model

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015


Good bosses work hard to provide a positive culture where their people can learn, grow, make a difference and build a career to be proud of.

Most cast a wide net to find role models and use what they learn to improve their organization.

Sports has provided many of these role models, but most are the tough-talking, in-your-face style that many managers and most workers don’t like.

But Pete Carroll, Coach of the Seattle Seahawks, takes a different approach.

“Football has an old-school mentality: We’re going to grind you into the ground, we’re going to make men out of boys, and when you do something bad, we’re going to demean you. But here, they feel like you guys are already men and we’re going to treat you like men. It’s literally all positive reinforcement.” — Jimmy Graham, all-star tight end

And it’s not a when-times-are-good attitude that falls by the wayside when adversity hits — as it always will.

Even the intercepted pass that cost the Seahawks the Super Bowl last year didn’t rattle or change Carroll’s approach.

In his five years leading the Seahawks, he has made a mark not just by winning games but by reshaping the role of N.F.L. coach. Carroll, 63, has embraced diversity, encouraged free expression, promoted self-discovery and remained relentlessly positive.

Just think what your team could accomplish if you choose to emulate Carroll, instead of the more typical coaches.

Flickr image credit: Mark Lee

Influence, Persuasion and Manipulation

Monday, March 23rd, 2015


Last week I had lunch with four managers, “Larry,” “Mandy,” “Paul” and “Ashish.” At one point the conversation turned to how the ability to influence people affected the ability to lead.

It was a lively conversation, but I stayed on the sidelines; noticing my silence, Ashish asked me what I thought.

Instead of responding I asked all of them what the difference was between influence, persuasion and manipulation.

This provoked another active discussion, with the upshot that while it was acceptable to influence people it was wrong to manipulate them. This time it was Mandy who asked what I thought.

I responded that I didn’t see a lot of difference between the three.

That shocked them all, but really upset Larry.

So I explained my thinking, which formed the basis of this post in 2011.

Influence = Manipulation

Every conversation about leadership talks about ‘influence’ and how to increase yours.

In a post at Forbes, Howard Scharlatt defines influence this way,

Influence is, simply put, the power and ability to personally affect others’ actions, decisions, opinions or thinking. At one level, it is about compliance, about getting someone to go along with what you want them to do.

He goes on to describe three kinds of influencing tactics: logical, emotional and cooperative, or influencing with head, heart and hands and talks about ‘personal influence’ and its importance in persuading people when authority is lacking.

A couple of years ago I wrote The Power of Words and said, “Personally, other than socially acceptable definitions, I don’t see a lot of difference between influence and manipulation,” and I still don’t.

I realize most people consider manipulation negative and influence positive, but they are just words.

I often hear that leaders are good people, while manipulators are bad people. But as I pointed out in another post,

  • leaders are not by definition “good;”
  • they aren’t always positive role models; and
  • one person’s “good” leader is another person’s demon.

Everyone believes they use their influence in a positive way, but when you persuade people to do [whatever] who are you to say that both the short and long-term outcome is positive for them?

Influence, persuasion, manipulation; call it what you will, just remember that it is power and be cautious when you wield it.

In spite of the heated disagreement I saw no reason to change my thinking.

I was surprised at the end of the discussion when even Larry commented that while it made sense that the words didn’t actually signal intent he still didn’t like it and wasn’t about to use them interchangeably, which made sense to me, because language carries the meaning (and the baggage) of the time and place in which it’s used.

Image credit: Anne Adrian

Ducks in a Row: Consider the Source

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Giant corporation, medium company, small biz or startup chances are you have in the past or are working now with someone you can’t stand.

The cause can be anything from annoying habits to seriously bad performance, but the result is the same—it drives you nuts.

HBR provides some good advice on the subject in How to Work with Someone You Hate that is useful to anybody and in non-work situations.

But there is one attitude I’ve relied on for most of my life that has served me well, “consider the source of the comment before considering the comment itself.”

Typically, we do the opposite taking in the words along with any baggage, and allowing them to do their worst.

Whereas, if we consider the source, including who said them, our relationship with that person, respect level, circumstances and context, the impact of what was actually said dissipates completely.

Considering the source is worth sharing with your kids, friends and colleagues.

Over the years I’ve found it takes the bite out of the majority of critiques, criticisms and commentary that fill our days.

Even remembering it late, after the hurt or upset has died down, has put things in perspective more times than I can count.

Try it; you’ll be surprised how much more positive, not to mention peaceful, your world will become.

Flickr image credit: fauxto_digit

Ducks in a Row: Motivating Your People

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

It’s always surprising how often different sources address the same problems offering similar solutions, but in such different ways that at first glance you wouldn’t notice.

Within days of each other, both Fortune/CNN and BNET offered up good information on employee motivation. Fortune/CNN article was science-based, while BNET was experience-based, with a leavening of humor.

They both said essentially the same thing with one exception, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Motivating employees means providing real purpose in their work; it requires challenging them and encouraging them to learn and grow; and it requires clear communications, including well-defined plans, roles and responsibilities.

Pretty standard stuff.

Now for the exception; the science offered up a new twist that just might help your implementation.

Removing obstacles is not the flip side of providing purpose, challenge and clear communications.

In other words, this is not one of those times that removing the negative means the positive will automatically rush in to fill the void or vice versa, that having the positives will overcome the negatives.

In this case you need to address the two as totally separate subjects.

First, remove any obvious negatives.

Next, start implementing the positives.

Third, be on the lookout for new obstacles.

Fourth, and most important, be sure that you on the side of the angels and not one of the obstacles.

Flickr image credit: zedbee

Entrepreneur: Murphy’s Law

Thursday, August 25th, 2011


Most people are familiar with Murphy’s Law, which teaches “anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” but entrepreneurs have a special relationship with it.

More accurately, entrepreneurs are intimately familiar with its corollary, O’Brian’s Law, which states, “Murphy was an optimist.”

Entrepreneurs are definitely, glass-is-three-fourths-full, keep on truckin, fight-through-the-pain people and, like Murphy, optimists.

If they weren’t, they would never become entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs face dozens of obstacles and sometimes money is the least of them.

Whether you want to build a small biz or scalable enterprise, you need to ask yourself one question—not if you believe Murphy’s Law, but whether you can live by O’Brian’s.

Flickr image credit: Szalik

Quotable Quotes: Chuck Palahniuk

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Chuck Palahniuk has an interesting, if cynical, view of life; in fact, much of it is too cynical for my taste, but not all.

Palahniuk said, “Everybody here thinks the whole story is about them. Definitely that goes for everybody in the world.” That attitude makes navigating one’s own existence almost surreal, especially if you are of that small minority (like me) that doesn’t see themselves as the center of the universe .

He also offers a good explanation for today’s need to stay connected, “People used what they called a telephone because they hated being close together and they were scared of being alone.” How sad, because when all is said and done you remain alone until you make friends with yourself.

Decades ago I embraced the attitude that people can’t move emotionally further in one direction than they had experienced in the opposite, but Palahniuk words are much more elegant, “The lower you fall, the higher you’ll fly.”

Many humans seek immortality by building great artifacts, but it is only in the intangibles that they will find it. “The unreal is more powerful than the real, because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. because its only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. stone crumbles. wood rots. people, well, they die. but things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on.”

There is nothing wrong with the human desire to live on; to be remembered long after death. “We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” A worthy goal if kept in perspective. While the something we create doesn’t have to be world-changing, it is best if it is positive, although many negatives live on in infamy and offer immortality to their creators.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

After The Layoff

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Layoffs are so common these days that there’s little left to say about them, but what about after?

Whether you are a team leader, a CEO or something in-between, you need to deal not just with the casualties, but with the survivors—many of whom are walking wounded.

Morale and productivity go hand in hand and both usually go south when layoffs happen and all those empty desks are a constant reminder of the friends and colleagues lost in the storm.

Even if those laid off didn’t always pull their weight or weren’t that well-liked, the layoff erases all the bad leaving only positive memories uppermost in the minds of those still there.

Shortsighted as it is, many large companies are more concerned with subletting empty space than with the effect of empty offices and shifting employees to further cut costs. The more forward thinking ones bring in professionals to help with space reorganization—but the money spent on that can backfire if employees see it as money that could have gone to keeping jobs.

The problem is even more critical for smaller businesses where the loss of one or two people often creates a hole as big as hundreds do in a larger organization.

What to do?

Follow the lead of the designers in the article without spending the bucks.

  1. Don’t leave the spaces, whether offices or cubicles, empty. If you do, they become a constant reminder of friends who are gone.
  2. Reusing the spaces, equipment, furniture or stuff is fine, but not on a first come, first serve basis. Assign it based on real need, not seniority, and don’t play favorites.
  3. To use the space in the most productive way bring your people together and brainstorm ideas.
  4. Changes, such as a lounge or brainstorming area, can be done without expensive goodies.
  5. Use imagination instead of money in changing/redecorating the company and reinventing extra spaces.
  6. There is amazing art to be had in thrift stores and garage sales and you may have employees who love that kind of shopping.

Finally, this kind of creativity is fun and exciting; it not only saves money, but unites people in a common goal.

Like the alchemists of old, you can’t really turn a layoff into a positive event, but you can, with effort, keep it from being a black hole and convert it to an opportunity to move forward.

Image credit: Jake Sutton on flickr

Miki’s Rules To Live By: Focus

Friday, August 28th, 2009

What do you talk about in your life?

What do you go to bed thinking about; what dominates your dreams; what do you ponder during the day?

Your aches and pains; the gray hair you found; the new outfit you bought, but aren’t sure is right? Do you dwell on the words or email that may be a slight—or maybe not? The colleague you’re not sure likes you; the boss who seems OK, but…?

It’s more than a matter of the glass being half full or half empty.

Like the dog that worries a bone, constantly thinking and talking about anything focuses you on it; prioritizes it and makes it paramount until it dominates all other thoughts.

Focus works in both directions—it can launch you to the heights or toss you into a dungeon of doom—taking your friends with you.

Most importantly…

Focus is a choice.

Choose wisely.

Image credit: LilGoldWmn on sxc.hu

You And The Two Kirks

Monday, August 24th, 2009

In a classic episode of the original Star Trek, Capt. Kirk is split, so there are two Kirks, one good and the other dark.

It’s not a new idea, Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde predate it by decades, but it  struck much closer to home because both Kirks were identical and, in an interesting and realistic twist, neither functioned well without the other half.

And that is a lesson well worth learning.

There are many people out there who only present one side, spending enormous effort to submerge or mask the other.

Some want to be know for their positive MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™), for always being up, supportive, giving, etc. and they believe that any form of negativity will spoil the image. The problem is that that image doesn’t always ring true and you may come over as a phony; I’ve seen this happen even when the MAP was real.

Others hide their positive side for fear they will be used or taken advantage of in some way.

Real people are a mix of positive and negative, the two complementing each other and in some strange form of alchemy producing a better person than either does separately—which was Star Treck’s well-made point.

All of you has value, so you should use all of you for the good of your team and to accomplish your goals. Even your not-so-nice side can contribute positively if you control it and use it sparingly in the appropriate places.


Just nine more day to enter the contest running on Leadership Turn, so click over and share your favorite business OMG moments for the chance to win a copy of Jason Jenning’s Hit The Ground Running.

Image credit: ilco on flickr here and here.

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