Getting the Truth: What A Novel Idea!

In 1987, two British scientists announced that they could create fusion at room temperature.

Scientists around the world began working with this reporting, only to discover that they couldn’t duplicate the same results. It turns out that the two scientists hadn’t told the truth about their research. Millions of dollars and countless hours were wasted.

Science is based on honestly and accurately reporting what happened, as is (it turns out) any kind of reporting of results, whether it be research, journalism, investigations, etc., is also based upon the same kind of honesty and expected truth. We need people to report what’s really truth, so we can not only depend upon it without fail, but that we can work with it to not only come up with real solutions, but accurate ones.

In contrast, we don’t expect the truth in a poker game, in the negotiation of a new car, and especially (given the last few years) the campaign speech of a political candidate. We signed up for smoke and mirrors, hyperbole and some gamesmanship. In other words, if we engage in the process, we’ve signed up for the outcomes. The key concept here (as usual) is the outcomes and how they affect everyone.

If the scientific community is engaged with us in providing the factual results of experiments, then it’s on us to engage with that honestly. If our co-workers are engaged with us to hear the truth about the culture of our organization or the results of a new initiative, the entire system depends upon us providing the factual results regarding that culture or new initiative.

Living without accurate reporting of results (when it’s what we expect), goes far beyond the ethical problem with lying. Like the toxic loans that led to the financial crisis of 2008, when lies are mixed in with the expectation for truth, the system grinds to a halt. As a result, we spend all of our time filtering for the truth instead of actually finding actionable solutions that help us get the real work done.

It’s an incredible honor to have a role where we’re expected to tell the truth. Our colleagues are trusting us, letting down their guard and enabling us to create and produce great work. It doesn’t take much to break that trust and to degrade the efficiency of the entire process.

Truth Be Told, how novel would it be to not only have people expect the truth from us all, but to actually get it?

Facts Aren’t Always Enough

You can drown a doubting person in facts, but if their mind doesn’t want to be changed, facts won’t matter.

In fact, more facts will only make a shaking head shake more, a folded set of arms lock in more tightly, a set of squinted eyes completely close and a set of palms cover the ears.

Most people don’t want to commit to working through the doubt and having the experience because the doubt provides a false sense of safety and protection from fear and panic.

Five hundred years ago, Michel de Montaigne , a 15th century essayist, said: My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.

The science also points out that 85% of what we worry might happen never comes to pass.

Experience is the only teacher that will change a mind and the only thing that will enable an experience is the willingness to have it.

Truth Be Told, the person with a perception will always lose an argument to the person who had the experience.

The Outlier!

When using the term ‘outlier’ as it pertains to statistics, it’s defined as ‘a data point on a graph or in a set of results that is very much bigger or smaller than the next nearest data point.’

When using the term as it relates to people, it’s defined as ‘someone who stands apart from others of his or her group, as by differing behavior, beliefs, or religious practices.’

I think I’ve always felt I was an outlier. I was the only boy and the oldest of 6 children. I have a unique first name that as a kid, always drew questions like “Is that a boy’s name?’ or “What kind of name is that?’ or ‘I’ve never met a boy named Maxie. Who were you named after?’

It also attracted laughter, jokes and funny name-calling such as Maxine, Maxie Waxy, Maxie Smaxie and yes, even Maxi-Pad, just to name a few. It even led to my being bullied unmercifully for two years at the age of 12, before I finally had as much as I could handle and confronted the situation.

In my Senior year of high school, I got a draft notice addressed to Maxine Carpenter from the Women’s Air Corps (WACS). That would have been something if I’d been accepted, huh? To this day, I still get some mail to that name or return emails from senders addressing me as a female in the text of the message because they don’t pay attention to the detail of my text.

Over the years, I’ve come to embrace my name and my uniqueness. I still rarely meet anyone, male or female, with that name. I overcame most perceptions by being an above average athlete in almost every sport I participated and can still school some of you millennial’s on the court, if I care enough to do so. (Funny how that always levels the playing field in our culture.)

I’m articulate, well-read, a very quick study at almost anything I focus on, a voracious learner, always willing to change if it’s the right thing to do and I never quit; still to a fault at times. I’ve come to accept that it’s a part of who I am.

My message to you is this. If you feel like an outlier, you probably are. Don’t fight it for too long. I’d have embraced it years ago if I’d have had the awareness.

I actually look for opportunities to be the outlier; not to disrupt intentionally (which isn’t my nature) but to challenge what I call the RC Factor (resistance to change) that keeps people and organizations from realizing their true capacity, their ability to lead and simply to create better.

Truth Be Told, all hail the ‘outlier’ in each and every one of us!

Power + Influence = Bandwidth!

I’m still amazed at how many people I visit with that think they have neither power nor influence. Helping them understand that it’s impossible not to have either one of those attributes is more rewarding than I can describe.

We all exert some kind of power and influence over someone. It’s impossible to communicate without those two components coming into play. However, it’s important to understand that you either exert control over someone or you’re under the control of someone. More importantly, you have a choice of which side of that control you want to spend the most time on.

We’ve built a culture that teaches people to tolerate a powerful ruler, and even seek one out, when no authority figure is readily available. We build schools around the idea that powerful teachers, coaches and administrators tell us what to do, rather than influence us to think for ourselves. We go to a placement office to find a job instead of starting our own idea, because we’ve been taught that this is the way things work, it’s reliable, and it’s safer. In short, we’ve been taught not to take risks.

I remember the first time I created a footprint on the internet with my first website. It was very frightening. I felt the same way when I ‘went out there’ on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. I remember how I felt when I put my first Blog post out there. The first thought I had was not only whether anyone would find it interesting, but whether anyone I knew would see it and think differently about me than I wanted them to. In short, I was scared of the kind of power and influence I might have!

What everyone is missing in today’s environment is that power doesn’t scale like it used to. It doesn’t reside with only the elite, the political or the wealthy. To use an IT description, everyone is beginning to realize they have bandwidth now.

Truth Be Told, we each have power and influence. We just have to plug into it!

Catch 22!

A ‘Catch 22’ is defined as a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions. Let me illustrate.

If the weather allows, I hit the bike trails pretty much every day. I generally get in 10-15 miles and this morning was just wonderful. I get most of the material for my blog posts from these rides, where I have time to just marinate on whatever comes to mind.

There are a few rules that riders are to be aware of such as limiting your speed to 15 miles per hour, staying in the right lane, being respectful of others, watching for those with dogs on long leashes or families walking as a group with young kids, and watching for vehicles at intersections.

In short, just be aware and be safe because (and I’m confident that most riders and runners will agree) the majority of those on the trails are either talking with one another, talking on their cell phone or listening to music with their earphones in. This results in a low level of awareness and people drifting all over the bike trail.

There is one rule, however, that I really struggle with. When you pass someone, you’re supposed to say, ‘On the left!’ I’ve really tried to abide by this rule until I finally concluded that it’s a Catch 22. The responses I consistently get fall into two categories.

  1. If I so indicate, those on the right will invariably respond back with something sarcastic such as ‘I heard you. You don’t have to yell.’ ‘Watch where you’re going!’
  2. If I don’t indicate, especially if there’s clearly enough room and no danger, the response will invariably be ‘You’re supposed to say on the left!’ That response typically comes from someone that I startled because they were paying no attention at all. It’s also often accompanied by a profanity of some kind.

So, what did I decide to do? I opted for making no indication at all, primarily because my bike is built to make a loud, continual clicking noise when I stop peddling, which I do for a few seconds when I come up behind someone. The second reason is that if I say nothing, I get the least amount of responses and I can live with that.

You’re probably wondering if I ever stop because of some ‘over-the-line’ retort. I don’t because I know that’s it’s a Catch 22 confrontation. The only outcome will invariably be escalation. It’s a waste of time to reason with someone that doesn’t want to be reasoned with. They just want to be angry and they just want to be right. I prefer investing my time and energy in enjoying a great ride.

I can’t help but think how that’s generally the state of human interaction in our country today. Easier to create a ‘Catch 22’, where the person with the loudest argument always wins, than to invest in a practical, logical approach that tries to help as many people as possible co-exist and even win.

Truth Be Told, let everyone else argue and shout. For the rest of us, let’s just lead by example.

Entitlement is Optional!

It’s not forced on us, it’s something we choose, and we rarely benefit from that choice.

That emergency surgery, the one that saved your life, when the ruptured appendix was removed? The doctor left a scar. We can choose to be grateful for our next breath, or we can find a way to be enraged, to point out that given how much it costs and how much training the doctor had, that scar really ought to be a lot smaller. On top of that, he wasn’t very nice. After all, aren’t we’re entitled to a nice doctor, or can we choose to just be grateful?

Marketers have spent millions of dollars persuading us that we can have it all, that we deserve it, and that right around the corner is something even better.

Politicians have told us that they’ll handle everything, that our pain is real and that an even better world is imminent. What’s worse is that we believe it! We buy into our privilege as well as the expectation that our privilege entitles us to even more. It’s not even about status; it’s become a cultural norm.

So, what the heck? You’re entitled to your entitlement if you want it. But why would you?

Entitlement gets us nothing but immobility. It blinds us to what’s possible. It insulates us from the magic of gratitude. Most of all, it lets us off the hook, pushing us away from taking responsibility (and action) and toward apportioning blame and anger instead.

Gratitude, on the other hand, is just as valid a choice. Gratitude makes us open to possibility. It brings us closer to others and it makes us happier.

There’s a simple oxymoron at work here: We’re not grateful because we’re happy. We’re happy because we’re grateful. Everything could be better; not because we deserve it but because if we work at it, invest in it and connect with others around it, we can make it better.

It’s difficult work, counter-instinctual work that never ends. So, why do we keep trying?

Truth Be Told, because it’s worth it and because it’s all really on us!

Waffle House!

Image result for waffle house

It seems as if there’s been a Waffle House near where I’ve ever lived for as long as I can remember. Over the years, it has continued to be my favorite place to have breakfast. I don’t eat breakfast every day like I used to growing up as a kid, but when I do, Waffle House is the place I prefer.

If you’re really paying attention, you’ll see the most interesting cross-section of life that gathers in one place at one time anywhere in the country. As with most businesses, a lot of what you’ll see will depend upon the time of day or night. But the one time, especially on the weekend, where you’ll see the most diverse representation of life, is at breakfast.

I’ve seen families coming together that one time of the week when they can all rest from the chaos of their lives, and enjoy each other over a breakfast that includes everything that the experts say isn’t good for you, but that most of them grew up on.

I’ve seen husbands and wives come in for that one time of the week, where they can enjoy probably the only time they’ll have together that week that they can afford.

I’ve seen fathers or mothers bring their daughters or sons in for that one time of the week that is reserved just for them.

I’ve seen divorcees and widowers come in by themselves for that one time of the week, where they can just be around other people and listen to other conversations without feeling alone or pitied.

I’ve seen professionals come in after pulling up in the parking lot driving BMW’s or Mercedes, where they can be around a representation of life that reminds them of where they came from.

I’ve seen drunks come in, not necessarily for the breakfast I’ve seen them fall asleep over, but for the coffee that keeps coming for as long as they need it.

I’ve seen senior’s come in, not only to have breakfast, but to enjoy being around younger people, especially the kids, and you can see the joy that it brings to their faces.

I’ve seen bikers, Goths, ex-cons, prostitutes, preachers, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, mayors, governors, atheists, agnostics, health nuts, beach nuts, teachers, and I could go on and on, in a Waffle House.

They come together in an ebb and flow of humanity that defies prediction or explanation. They all get served by a group of employees behind the counter that are just as diverse as those that they serve and, for the most part, they do it in a way that can only be described as organized chaos.

But, you know what the most amazing thing about all of this is? It just seems to work! In an era, where the iconic institutions of our time – the government, the church, the family, the business community, the financial community, the medical community, the environment – are all struggling, Waffle House just seems to work!

Truth Be Told, I find that truly amazing and I rejoice in it!

The Drama Triangle: A Short Fable

Joan, the town gossip and self-appointed supervisor of the community’s morals, kept sticking her nose into other people’s business. Several local residents were unappreciative of her behaviors but feared her enough to stay silent.

However, Joan made the mistake of recently accusing George, a local man, of being an alcoholic after she saw his pickup parked outside the town’s only bar one afternoon.

George, a dedicated Christian and man of few words, was confronted with this gossip by a concerned friend. He just stared for a second and then walked away without saying a word.

Later that evening, George parked his pickup in front of Joan’s house, walked home and left it there all night.

Joan’s gossiping ceased.

There is always going to be some drama. People have to talk with each other and to think that there will be no miscommunication of any kind is simply unrealistic. To think there’s no chance that someone will assume the role of unappointed keeper of righteousness at some point, is also unrealistic. There will always be that one person, whose personal drama is so severe that the only way they can compensate is to transfer that drama onto everyone and into every environment around them.

This story is very reminiscent of drama that goes on in the workplace every day. However, healthy drama is one thing; toxic drama is quite another. The reaction of most employees to toxic drama is much like the residents of this fabled community.

Unfortunately, the reaction of some leaders is much like those residents, as well. Their lack of reaction is also out of fear, along with an attitude of this too shall pass. This kind of avoidance leadership is not going to cut it.

If you scan the Internet for the term drama, you’ll find all the so-called experts classifying this topic under the banner of relationships. I get that, which is why I maintain that some healthy drama is unavoidable, if not even necessary.

However, the toxic drama I’m talking about is the kind that’s used as a weapon out of the need to disrupt or to inflict pain. I’ve been on the receiving end of that kind of drama on two different occasions in my career. It had nothing to do with my relationship to the gossip mongers and everything to do with their desire to avoid accountability for poor job performance.

Truth Be Told, the only way to deal with that kind of drama is to confront it, get to the context of it and make like Barney Fife, which is to nip it in the bud!

Leadership: Effective or Efficient?

Effectiveness has always been a driver of leadership and business success, particularly since Peter Drucker formulated the rules and required “habits of thought” in 1967’s The Effective Executive.

This book had an enormous impact on business leaders with Drucker identifying that doing the right thing was the key to effectiveness. He clarified the why of effectiveness in a way no one before him had. However, he left the how for leaders to define on their own.

I’ve been a disciple of Drucker for many years, but I’ve also learned that great men and women of his pedigree are not immune to further dissection and study. Why? Because the environment around us is evolving on a continuum. It doesn’t mean that the principles he and others like him set forth aren’t relevant anymore by any stretch. What it does mean is that the context of those principles is evolving, as well.

So, what is the trouble with effectiveness?

On its own, effectiveness sets no time limits. In an era when business could afford to take it’s time because of limitations with distance and technology, projects could take many months. For example, something that should have taken four months could take much longer. That kind of urgency won’t cut it anymore. There are companies developing groundbreaking technologies with no sense of urgency, only to have their competitors beat them to market.

As I’ve been saying for a very long time, long-term strategies, even those of a year or less, have proven to be less supportive of survival than adaptability planning, which is being able to pivot in the moment based upon what’s happening in the environment, both internally and externally. The marketplace just moves too fast.

I’ve written and talked before about the four influences that shape an individual’s values on a continuum. It’s the same for organizations, as the mandate for flexibility and agility has been brought on by recent economic shocks, such as the financial collapse of the country in 2008, and the terrorist attack on the US in 2011.

So, what is the trouble with efficiency?

If you’re able to objectively see the flip side of anything, you can also entertain my response to this question, which is that efficiency unrestrained by effectiveness can prove debilitating.

As recently as 2013, a demolition crew in Fort Worth, Texas, did an excellent and very effective job of demolishing a house. The only problem was that it was the wrong house. The code enforcer had put the wrong address on their forms, and no one was home to inform the crew otherwise. In short, they did the right thing wrong. What’s even more ironic is that the very next day, they did the same thing at a different location. Why? Because they didn’t recheck the rest of their demolition orders.

So, what does all this have to do with leadership?

We have to stop talking about leadership exclusively in terms of effectiveness (profitability) and start talking about efficiency (sustainability), as well. Just doing the right things isn’t enough anymore, nor is just doing things right. In short, leaders have to focus not only on doing the right things but doing the right things right.

This tsunami of change in our environment isn’t going to abate. Leaders of today have to be willing to embrace new habits that combine effectiveness with efficiency.

Truth Be Told, the people and organizations depending upon them for a higher standard of leadership really won’t settle for anything less.

What are you willing to give up to lead effectively?

The Marketplace is evolving faster and with more complexity, which means keeping up is getting harder and more complex, as well.

Workplace environments are still bogged down by meeting after meeting, with the most recent data indicating the majority of those meetings are unnecessary. A recent survey of 182 senior managers in a range of industries revealed that:

1. 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work.

2. 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient.

3. 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking.

4. 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.

What’s even more unsettling is that this data hasn’t changed since the earth cooled! I’ve been out of the Corporate environment for a number of years, but it was the same back then, as well.

For today’s leaders, three questions have to be asked and answered:

1. Why are these meetings still as ineffective today as in the past?

2. Why do leaders refuse to change in the face of such irrefutable data?

3. What do today’s leaders need to be willing to give up to lead more effectively?

The answer to the first question is that there’s simply no point to the meeting; there’s no agenda, and as such, most turn into a run-a-way train; there’s too many voices because too many are running for office. (You know what I mean.); the real issues are never discussed because there’s no premise; and without a premise, there’s no conclusion.

The answer to the second question is really very simple. The most common leadership style in the workplace today is still Autocratic, meaning I’m the boss, you do what I say.

You can study any data you’d like regarding the most effective and sustainable leadership style, not only in terms of people, but in terms of productivity and profitability, and the most effective is either Situational or Transformational Leadership.

Yet, in the face of all that data, directive or dictatorial still carries the day.

The answer to the third question is even simpler than the second. The most effective leaders have to be willing to give up the need for control, be willing to share the power, be willing to invite feedback (especially negative feedback), be willing to trust by taking a chance on people, be willing to give credit where it’s due, be willing to admit mistakes, and be willing to show vulnerability, humility and empathy, where it’s required. For Autocratic leaders, because of their personality traits and behaviors, this is simply impossible.

Shifting workplace environments and the attending changes in organizational structure and function today are being so culturally impacted, that Autocratic or Totalitarian leaders are expiring almost as fast as they’re being given leadership roles. We’re seeing that globally, as well.

People today are just not going to put up with it anymore because in a tight economy, where there are choices, they don’t have to.

My mentor, Sam Walton, said Treat your people as partners. In turn, they will treat you as a partner, and together you will all perform beyond your wildest expectations.

Truth Be Told, today’s leaders have to be willing to zero in on caring for others. As they treat their people, so they will be treated.