Monday, May 8th, 2017
It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.
Golden Oldies is a collection of some of the best posts during that time.
This week is a two-fer, the first post was written in 2009, while the second is from 2015. Both contain links to other relevant posts. And both address a pet peeve of mine involving words — what else — their use, misuse and baggage.
Read other Golden Oldies here.
The ability to influence is not the sign of a leader; nor are visions, forceful opinions, board seats, titles or popularity. After all, if a high media profile was a sign of leadership then Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are leaders.
Millions of people are influenced and even inspired by writers and actors, but does that make them leaders? Angelina Jolie is considered a leader for her tireless charitable efforts as opposed to her screen credits; Rush Limbaugh may influence thousands, but I’ve never heard him called a leader.
It is the singular accomplishments; the unique actions that deserve the term, not the position you hold or just doing your job.
I knew a manager who thought his major accomplishment was managing his 100 person organization, but that wasn’t an accomplishment—that was his job. The accomplishment, and what qualified him as a leader, was doing it for four years with 3% turnover and every project finished on time and in budget.
Jim Stroup over at Managing Leadership (no longer available) wrote, “There is a strong and general instinct to ascribe positive values to what we have determined to be examples of leadership. In a world that so often confuses forcefulness with leadership, this can be – and frequently is, in fact, revealed to be – an exceedingly dangerous habit… There is a particularly frustrating – and increasing – tendency to characterize any practice or trait deemed “good” as “leadership.” When an executive exhibits behavior that is highly valued – or even expresses a perfectly ordinary one especially well – he or she is declared to be a “leader,” or to have demonstrated “leadership.”
Dozens of corporate chieftains who were held up for years as exemplifying visionary leadership now stand in line for bailout money—or dinner in jail.
There is no way to stop the word being used and abused, but you have the option to hear it for what it really is—a word with no baggage, no assumed meaning.
A word on which you focus your critical thinking instead of accepting it blindly, assuming that all its traits are positive or rejecting it based on nothing more than ideology.
Influence, Persuasion and Manipulation
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
Wednesday, April 12th, 2017
A newish reader called me, mainly, he said, to see if I really did answer my phone (the number and an invitation to call is prominently displayed in the right-hand column). He seemed even more surprised that I would take time to chat.
The conversation covered several topics, but the question I found most appropriate to mention here was, “Do you really think word choice and punctuation make all that much difference or is it just your own personal hang-up?”
Fair question and one I’ve heard before.
Regarding the importance of punctuation I referred him to the lost lawsuit in yesterday’s post, which he hadn’t read, yet.
As to the importance of word choice you need to look no further than the care taken by the shared economy giants, such as the UK’s Deliveroo when referring to their non-employees.
The critical importance of using the correct terms (click the link above for a sample) can be found in Deliveroo’s bend-over-backwards effort to avoid having the government class their non-employees as employees, with all the associated rights and costs.
The six pages of do’s and don’ts are meant to serve as a template for how staff should speak to and about its couriers (though it prefers to call them “independent suppliers”). For example, they want to avoid saying “We pay you every two weeks”, preferring the more obtuse passive phrase, “Rider invoices are processed fortnightly.”
Words are incredibly powerful, as I wrote way back in 2009; more than 50 years ago James Thurber concurred.
Precision of communication is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair trigger balances, when a false or misunderstood word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act.
Of course, precision is just as important, if not more so, when intentionally creating false views and misunderstandings as proven beyond doubt by recent elections here and around the globe.
Image credit: DailyExcelsior.com
Wednesday, November 16th, 2016
Words are incredibly powerful.
If you’ve ever doubted that the recent election is absolute proof.
Words reflect who you are.
Words can bring people together or drive them apart.
Words can wound or empathize; they can build or destroy.
You are the only person responsible for your words, there is no way to pass the blame for things you say — or don’t say.
Knowing that, I kept these Anon quotes foremost in my mind, until they became unconscious habit.
Be quicker of mind than of tongue.
leads directly to the second
I am the master of my unspoken words and a slave to those that should have remained unspoken.
There is a third, that is far less eloquent, but sums things up nicely.
Be sure to start brain before putting mouth in gear.
Image credit: TRF_Mr_Hyde
Thursday, March 24th, 2016
What would you do?
You are driving down the road in your car on a wild, stormy night, when you pass by a bus stop and you see three people waiting for the bus:
1. An old lady who looks as if she is about to die.
2. An old friend who once saved your life.
3. The perfect partner you have been dreaming about.
Knowing that there can only be one passenger in your car, whom would you choose? (answer at the end of this post)
How carefully do you hire?
Your assets go home every evening…and your hiring mistakes re-appear every morning. –CNI Recruiting via KG (a quote, not a recommendation.)
Did you know…Apollo to the moon via the woman who wrote the code.
Code not only written by a woman, but written by hand. – Wikipedia via KG (can you write code, or anything else, by hand?)
Do you know the ins and outs of thin slicing? You should.
Within moments of meeting you, people decide all sorts of things about you, from status to intelligence to conscientiousness. Career experts say it takes just three seconds for someone to determine whether they like you and want to do business with you.
Magic Johnson, who is as successful in business as he was in basketball, offered some astute insights at the Upfront Summit.
“You have to look like America looks, and right now the tech space doesn’t look like America.” It’s not just about finding businesses that target minorities or underserved communities, but realizing that the demographic shift also means a shift in power.
And here’s the solution: The old lady of course! After helping the old lady into the car, you can give your keys to your friend, and wait with your perfect partner for the bus. –from Lateral Puzzles via the CBI Blog (more on CBI next Thursday)
Monday, November 23rd, 2015
It’s amazing to me, but looking back over nearly a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time. Read other Golden Oldies here
The Tao of Life
We learn through words and can often learn more by deconstructing them.
Just as one of the most critical managerial (human) actions is found in its own anagram the Tao of another is found within the word itself.
The word is LIFE.
The Tao of life is IF.
IF you think/say/do this instead of that the Tao changes.
The IF isn’t always conscious or obvious.
But it is there.
It’s up to you to choose consciously.
Flickr image credit: gfpeck
Wednesday, July 15th, 2015
Did you know that the US, UK and many other governments keep lists words claiming their usage may indicate a terrorist.
These trigger words were revealed back in 2013 as a way for enforcement agencies to deem someone a potential terrorist. The list is currently growing and, in fact, may top 40,000 words.
Knowing that, do you wonder whether the words you choose will be “noticed” and put you on a suspected terrorist list?
Emil Kozole did, so he decided to find out.
Created by a Slovenian artist, Project Seen is a typeface that automatically flags all the trigger words used by international law-enforcement agencies
Now you can download the font from Project Seen and stop wondering.
You will also find it amazing what words are considered a red flag.
Flickr image credit: jai Mansson
Sunday, January 27th, 2013
Words can provide encouragement and add value—or do the opposite. Listen carefully beyond the surface of a person’s words and you will know that person’s heart and even their soul.
There is no attribution, but every manager and thinking person knows the truth of this comment, “A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.”
Answers aren’t always the best use of words as Naguib Mahfouz reminds us, “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”
There’s an old saying that goes “open mouth insert foot,” but Lawrence J. Peter says it far more elegantly, “Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”
Those who spend (waste?) time trying to refute the myriad of lies found in modern media would do well to remember the words of William McAdoo, “It is impossible to defeat an ignorant person in an argument.”
Listening to the politicians, pundits and corporate titans always reminds me of this old Chinese proverb, “The longer the explanation, the bigger the lie.”
And I think I’ll let the words of Jimi Hendrix round out today’s thoughts; “Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.” Can’t say it more clearly than that.
Image credit: Jon Assink
Saturday, January 19th, 2013
As you know, I have a fascination with words, their meanings, usage and contrariness; phrases, too, because their longevity in a world as transient as ours is surprising.
Both words and phrases can go out of style in days or be lasting—at least enough to make a 2012 list of most the popular, but only time will tell their staying power.
ALL due credit to petroleum and technology, social media and memes, and the humbling power of the weather, for their ability to generate and sustain new words. And the 2012 elections also made for a bountiful harvest of new political expressions.
For staying power, as well as mystery, you’ll have to go a long way to match the phrase the whole nine yards? Did you ever wonder where it came from?
For decades the answer to that question has been the Bigfoot of word origins, chased around wild speculative corners by amateur word freaks, with exasperated lexicographers and debunkers of folk etymologies in hot pursuit.
How many words does it take to create a dialog? Try six. A few years ago I introduced you to Smith Magazine, where people sum up their life in 6 words. Michele Norris, the National Public Radio host started a dialog about by asking people for their six-word thoughts on race.
She asked for just six words. (…)Two years later, the cards have become almost a parallel career for Norris, best known for her work on the NPR show All Things Considered. She and an assistant have catalogued more than 12,000 submissions on theracecardproject.com. People now send them via Facebook and Twitter or type them directly into the website, leading to vibrant online discussions.
Society defines many actions through words, but what happens when the actions change and society has no viable words that fit? People have to come up with their own.
…what to call two people who act as if they are married but are not. (…) One might imagine we would be less tongue-tied. The faux spouse is a pretty ho-hum cultural specimen for such a gaping verbal lacuna. But none of the word choices are good.
Finally, for those who prefer pictures, or at least visually enhanced content, there are infographics (and how to make them).
Many people don’t realise that the term information graphic, or ‘infographic’ was first coined over 100 years ago, with the Coxcomb chart by Florence Nightingale in 1857 being one of earliest recognised examples. They have existed in many forms since then, but only in the past few years have infographics developed into the art form we know today.
Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho
Sunday, January 13th, 2013
I love plays on words and playing with words; I hope you do, too. The following were accumulated from a variety of sources just for your enjoyment.
I grew up playing with a dictionary and my mother used the same language with me that she used with her friends; if I didn’t understand something I was told to look it up in the dictionary, but why is the word dictionary in the dictionary?
Another thing that always worried me and made me wonder was if a word in the dictionary were misspelled, how would we know?
Spelling is my bane (spell check is my salvation); I sounded out words, but why isn’t phonetic spelled the way it sounds?
If adding ‘in’ makes opposites, e.g., cautious and incautious, why do flammable and inflammable mean the same thing?
I don’t know about other languages, but English is confusing; for example, if a pronoun is a word used in place of a noun, is a proverb a word used in place of a verb?
Riddle me this, is an oxymoron a really dumb bovine?
Finally, in a nod to my techie friends I ask, are part-time band leaders semi-conductors?
Flickr image credit: TEDxNJLibraries
Sunday, August 19th, 2012
Remember the line “these are a few of my favorite things” from Sound of Music? I have favorite words. They have varied meanings, but all have one thing in common; they are fun to say and feel good in your mouth. So without more ado, here are seven of my favorite words along with what they mean and some irreverent commentary from moi.
Bumbershoot = umbrella. I learned this word when I was really young and just like to say it; try it, it will cheer you right up.
Humongous = extraordinarily large. This one is fun to say and useful, too.
Utterly = completely; absolutely. I use this mostly in response to something about which I feel strongly.
Adamant = utterly unyielding in attitude or opinion in spite of all appeals, urgings, etc. A good description of most public figures (especially politicians) these days.
Boondoggle = work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy. This is actually the secondary definition, although the one people are most familiar with. The primary definition is “a product of simple manual skill, as a plaited leather cord for the neck or a knife sheath, made typically by a camper or a scout.” That’s not nearly as much use as the other, but either way it’s a word that’s fun to say.
Scallywag = a scamp or rascal, but that’s the informal definition. The formal definition was news to me: “(after the US Civil War) a White Southerner who supported the Republican Party and its policy of Black emancipation. Scallywags were viewed as traitors by their fellow Southerners.” Take your pick or just say it fast three times for fun.
Scrumptious = very pleasing, especially to the senses; delectable; splendid. Great meaning and tastes great as it rolls off your tongue.
Elan = dash; impetuous ardor. The perfect way to live your life.
What are some of your favorite words?
Flickr image credit: ercwttmn
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