Civility Has Left the Building

Today, like every day, I listened to the news. I will move between CNN, MSNBC and POTUS during my drive to and from work. I am especially fond of Michael Smirconish. He is both liberal and conservative in his views and tries very hard to give all sides of the political nuances an opportunity to state their case.

Today, on CNN, Michael was talking about the President’s approach to the many confrontational areas throughout the world. I did not think it was an easy topic to discuss and from the approach of the two individuals included in the discussion, it was impossible to agree on anything. Their discussion was contentious, overbearing and at times simply rude. They both talked over each other. They did not listen to each other’s points of view and it became one of those typical verbal battles that produced no real winners. The one who can yell the loudest is the winner. There was no civility. I believe that the ability to talk through an issue is a lost trait that has been replaced by extremism and a failure to understand that there may be more than just two sides to any issue. When recognized, the diversity of any issue might lead to a potential for compromise. What a completely foreign thought.
Compromise seems to be a very dirty word that a majority of the political figures and news commentators do not understand. They are quick to point the finger but they have no real solutions. The other amazing fact is that these political pendants always have something to say but have absolutely no real experience dealing with the facts of the issue. It is only their opinion and nothing more.

It is easier to call someone a name without reason than to face the fact that they may not have all the answers and need to listen. I, like most Americans are so feed up with the political status in the United States. It is simply disgraceful and presents a clear picture to a very silent majority that positive change will never happen. I continue to believe that we need a complete overhaul in congress. We need new blood. Extremism on either side of the political spectrum is NOT the answer. The old guard does not get it and extremist pound their chest for a better tomorrow without providing any solid way to get to any resolution. It is easier to be loud, disruptive and rude than it is to reach a point of agreement. We witness this every day in business, work and life.

I cannot place blame just on the politicians or news commentators. This new normal or way of life seems to be prolific and no one wants to stand up and suggest that this way of approaching life is dead wrong. It exists in business, churches, local governments and other countries. We have lost our ability to talk to each other. We have lost our ability to be civil to each other. Some of this, I believe, is due to the technology. Some of this is also due to the fact that all you see in the world is a lack of civility among all peoples. We see and hear that old adage, “my way or no way.” I understand clearly that at times there are no clear or easy solutions. We are breeding a very complex world that I believe will implode upon itself one day. But there must be a way to help us see that this overwhelming need to shout down the person standing next to you is not appropriate.

I was talking with someone last week. I was attempting to help solve an issue and I could not even get one word in because the person on the other end of the conversation was shouting, directing and dictating what they believed was the only answer to the issue. It did not matter that I had a compromise that would meet their needs. As a result the wrong decision was made and fostered a loss of civility for everyone involved. Civility is just not a word. I should be a way of life. It is not.

Mr. Smirconish tries very hard to present everything he says in a positive civil way but unfortunately his “professional guests” do not have a clue about what that means. As a result of this nonsense I shut the radio off. The discussion went nowhere. It was an absolute waste of my time. No one presented an actionable approach towards civility. It was about what each person wanted. It was not about compromise. It was only about how extremism was the answer to all sides of the issue. This is just one example of how the experts have moved from discussion to a complete lack of civility.

Listening to what is presented from the other side of the issue is important, very important. Understanding that our own position may not be the right position to take is more important now than making sure your position is the only position. We look like a bunch of fools who have lost our way in the forest and forgot about the trees being cut down around us. At the end of the day the forest no longer exists and we do not know why. It is obvious that civility left the building many years ago and returning to any sane position may not be a reality. We have lost our ability to honor those with different perspectives and views. We have lost the art of listening. We talk about transparency and practice dictatorship. It is easier to bully a person into a state of fear than to listen to what they might have to say.

We all have a choice to make. Support the continue lack of civility or stop this trend to be absolutely right. I am going to stop the trend and not participate in this type of destructive behaviors. I am going to bring civility back. Join me in the journey. It is past time for the very silent majority to stand up.

Ten Truths of Managers

The following passage is from my first attempt at writing a book based on lessons learned and taught, and my experience in managing a diverse group on employees. Feedback welcome!

Prelude

I am sure that everyone has their own set of 10 or 20 truths about management. It is not about the experience that we all think is important. It is about the depth of that experience that makes the difference between OK, good and GREAT. It also has to be the best experience possible. That includes both good and bad so that you know the difference.

My truths are not found in a text book or taught in schools of business. My truths come from an awareness of just how much I do not know and still need to learn. Great managers never stop learning and understanding what it means to manage with excellence.

Throughout this book you will see many of the principles and truths overlap. This is because holding the truths steady is often a very complicated process and requires overlapping in order to remain consistent. Great managers never have it easy. There is far too much that poor management will impact and that cannot be changed. The impact of a Poor Manager is just as significant as the impact of a Great Manager. Great managers know this and stay the course, often without much support. Always remember Great Managers are few and far between. It is probably less than 1 or 2 percent of the managers currently in management positions.

Ten Truths of Great Managers

  • Ownership
  • Responsibility
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Common Sense
  • Instinctive Decision Making
  • Other Directed – Servant Management
  • Risk Taking with Purpose
  • Understanding the Importance of Outcomes
  • Strength of Character

The most important aspect of these truths is learning to trust your own instincts before you trust others. So often, in an effort to meet the needs of my bosses or someone else, I would change my mind and not follow my own instincts or truths. I still ask others but I typically will not change my mind.

This will be a challenge because some individuals will attempt to dismantle all of your truths based on their truths. The strength it takes to manage is a journey that challenges the mind, heart and soul. Only those who are committed to this profession, as a way of life, will truly be successful and that is about 5% of the total number who currently have positions in management roles or titles.

Yes, 95% do not really get it and never will. Those who really make it and make it great are very small in numbers but are an extremely important group of individuals who make a difference every day in the lives of the people they touch. These individuals have their own set of truths and that is what sets them apart from all of the others. They trust themselves to make a difference even when it means that decision is the only one not accepted by the majority. To think that great managers are not challenged would be an error in judgment.

We make sure we are challenged. It keeps us in the mix. It forces us to stay alert to the needs of the group and organization. That is why others follow our intentions. They know that our decisions are about the group and organization’s success. We make it easy to understand where we are going and why we are going in that direction. It is just not an easy process to make it clear.

We are different. We are usually fairly complex individuals who may shift our approach at a moment’s notice. Our processes are intentional and deliberate when we are taking actions and we understand how to move from one pinnacle to another without endangering our staff or the organization. It is risk with purpose and others will know it.

We have been successful for a majority of our careers and through that effort have a level of respect that we have earned. We are a very rare group who understands we do not make it happen without the right people supporting us. This includes staff and top management. We also know that we must make changes that may go against all that is taught, believed or followed over the past millennium.

The great managers know what is needed before they start. Everything comes with a calculated risk. There are those who will purposely make attempts to undermine our efforts but we will prevail. Some will simply leave and move to more unsuccessful outcomes. It is easier than doing it the right way. We do it the right way.

We have a tendency to be mavericks but that too is with a purpose in mind. We are meant to shake it up. We care about the people we work with and support the individuals we work for with a passion not measured in society but rather by the awareness that we make a difference every day in the live of those we touch.

There is one very unfortunate but glaring truth that all of this appears to be fading into an automated decision making process that is supported by greed, money and self-absorption. Strength of character is something that has a definitional change based on who is in charge and not what is right.

We are producing MBA’s that leave the university setting with a belief that they can take over the world only because of the type of degree they received in college. Their beliefs may also be based on the university they attended. I am always amazed at the arrogance of where you might have attended. It is not about the school it is about you. Great managers are Great because they understand management before they manage. They truly understand the outcomes needed to be successful. We have corporations placing new graduates in extremely difficult roles with the belief that these new graduates will make it work. They cannot and do not.

This book is not for those who believe they have mastered the art of management. It is really not possible. This book is for those who have a desire to understand how they might become great managers. It may also offer a Great Manager a reminder of what he or she gives to others through their servant management. We need the few to stand and continue the journey toward excellence in the management of others.

Greatness

I have always written about what it means to be a GREAT Manager. I guess the first thing is that you have to be a GREAT person. That would probably be the first step in recognizing what is or is not “great.” In a discussion last night with my guidepost he helped me understand what “greatness” is all about. My thoughts about real greatness in a person are part of my blog today.

The definition of “greatness” is defined by others, always. It is not something we can define or declare with our own thoughts and perspectives about our self-image. It is defined by those whom we work with or move throughout life with. One time, a very long time ago, my oldest son said, “dad, you are a great dad and I did not realize how wise you really were until now.” It was a wonderful thing to hear and has been part of our relationship since the day he told me. All parents want their children to think they are great. A small thing for many but a tremendous pouring of emotions and feelings for others and for me his words were very emotional. I have never forgotten.

What is greatness? It is something observed and potentially not measured but recognized by many people consistently over time. It is when you give everything you can to others without any intended interest in meeting your own needs. It is about how you do the right things the right way. It is more than just giving back to others; it is about giving back with all of your heart, soul and mind. It is about what the heart knows and the head will admit is the truth. It is about what you say, how you say it and when you say it that has nothing to do with power, advancement or manipulation of the truth. It is not about half truths but whole truths. It is about friendships that last through all challenges. It is about caring for someone more than you care for yourself and having that caring recognized for what it really is, deep appreciation for another human being. It is about love, true friendship and a desire to make the connection between what is real and what is not.

You cannot measure or defined greatness without feedback or a declaration by others. We do the best we can to make a difference in the lives of people we touch every day, with excellence. That excellence is measured and defined by others. It is never defined by us and can never be defined by self.

The other thing that most of us need to realize is that true greatness does not exist in many but in a few. A very few can potentially be defined as great but that number is so small, smaller than the number of those who may define themselves as great leaders or managers. The first step in this declaration is to be a great person. The rest of the declaration will come from others and then with a great deal of humility, be recognized only by the great manager or leader as something to be attained and not reached. To be a great leader or manager is a journey that really never ends. There may be a starting point in this journey but there is never an end point.

In my 40 years of management I have known two great individuals. It was not about their profession that made them great. It was about their strength of character and willingness to make a difference in the lives of those people they touched every day, with excellence. Yes, just two people. Both of these individuals have made an indelible impression on me that will never leave me. That is what greatness is all about…leaving a lifetime impression that will never leave you. I hope your find that one person in your life that has made a difference in your life through their greatness.

The Right and Wrong of Things

The other day I was asked how I would handle something in the “secular” workplace.  You see I work in religious institution and I guess because it is a religious college there is an assumption that the work of work and the functions related to work are different based on two different approaches to work and work outcomes.

Well the truth is, there is really no difference.  Work is work and the base for that work has nothing to do with whether it is secular or connected to some religious denomination.  To assume that because it is a religious company that needs to be honest or have a high degree of integrity or strength of character is simply a false assumption.  Influencing the minds of others to believe in what you are doing has nothing to do with the format or constructs of a company, school or entity.  I am not sure that any organization, religious or secular has the corner on what is right or wrong.  To suggest otherwise would be arrogant and pointless based on the diversity of views expressed by many others who might feel or perceive life differently.

Through grace, kindness and a willingness to accept people for what they are seems like an OK thing to do.     If we looked at how we provide service to others and tried not to be too judgmental, maybe we would not have to concern ourselves with what is more correct, right or wrong.  I have worked in both the secular and religious organizations for over 20 years.  Each has good and bad in both organizations.  Neither organizational type can lay claim to what is absolutely right or wrong although both sides will tell you they have all the answers.  Both are incorrect when they have this level of response to the needs of others or the outcomes of the organization.

I am fairly sure that while we continue to develop a great deal of separateness between our worlds, we continue to be a lot closer than we think.  It is way past time for thinking with some degree of clarity about who may be right or wrong.  Let’s start thinking about building relationships and not try to second guess our process, needs or motivations….It may even be a better world all the way around.

Make a Change

I spent a couple hours today attempting to mentor someone.  It is what I do and most of the time I do it well.  But some days I fall short of my goal to make a difference in the lives of those I serve and touch.  Today was no different.  The conversation was engaged.  The topics interesting and the outcomes were, at times, very productive.  The bottom line was that I wanted to help someone “make a change” in their own life.  Move in a more collective and productive way toward something different, exciting, challenging and maybe touch their life in a way that had not been touched in the past.  The first thing I had to remember was that mentoring is really a one way street and that street is dependent upon the person being mentored and that often takes time.

Most individuals do not understand how mentoring works.  It is not the action of telling a person what to do or not to do.  That is coaching.  Mentoring is helping another person find their own way through self-discovery, recognition and clarification of self.  I attempted the same thing last week with a seasoned business person and that engagement was less successful than I wanted.  In order to “make a change” and then make a difference you must first understand who you are and then engage in that recognition.  That means that the person being mentored really needs to understand their own complexities and needs.

Many years ago I attended a “values clarification” certification workshop.  I was certified at the end of the process but there was one very important part missing.  I did not understand the value of values to others and how that understanding impacted the lives of others.  I missed or forgot a very important aspect of my questions.  It was about the other person and not me.  The same is true for the mentoring process.  Why should anyone have to mentor others?  The real truth is that most individuals fail to recognize their limits and their excellence.  Their abilities, skills, strengths and talents are all part of that recognition.  Not all of us are great a doing or great at thinking or great at strategic processing or even completing a process.  We are not perfect human beings.  We are all different and understanding who we are is the first step in the mentoring process.  I have always taken a great deal of time to support my staff in their quest for who they are.  Most are clueless at the end of the day but once in a while someone will actually get it and understand their internal strengths and talents.  But the majority do not.  They cannot recognize both sides of this equation, the good and the bad; determine the success from the failure; what is known and what is not known; what they are capable of and what they really cannot do.

If you want to make a change and your mentor is attempting to provide an avenue for you to make a change, stop for a second and think clearly about what is presented.  The change is really inside yourself, not outside.  The mentor does not possess the change in you.  The change is about you not some process or procedure.  The change is about making a decision that may not feel right but is right.  The change is about a recognition that you are singular different than others you work with and your contribution and your changes in perceptions about self will also be much difference.  Take the time to figure this out and you will not need the mentor.  You will become one.