When In Doubt – Be Grateful

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet on your shoes.

You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

You’re on your own and you know what you know.

You are the guy who’ll decide where to go” — Dr. Seuss

Today for reasons I don’t fully understand, everything seems complicated to me.  Attribute it to lack of sleep, the relentless beating of the rain on the roof, the aches and pains that seem to accompany me uninvited with greater regularity these days.  Decisions are playing hide-and-seek in my head (so I’m choosing not to play, for I hate that game), the banal rituals that provide an outline for my day seem purposeless and silly (ok, brushing one’s teeth is always a good thing).  So, I’ve decided to write about these last three months or so and see if it can help define my day’s path – even if it’s temporary – something that produces more than my frustration with the NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle.

I started blogging because I was curious to see what would come out of this crazy head of mine, because I now had the time to pursue alternatives which had piqued my interest in the past and because I am driven by this nauseatingly neurotic need to make a difference.  Let me clarify – a positive difference.  When I was working, so many people encouraged me to write a book – I’m not sure that will happen.  Blogging seemed like a logical step towards exploring the feasibility of publishing.  I could see if a) I was entertaining enough, b) had a message worth sharing and c) had the discipline to do it.  I’m still not sure I have these answers, but I am truly enjoying this experience even though I will likely never be a candidate for ‘freshly pressed’ (not sarcastic or wry enough, don’t use enough media links in my posts and arguably may not write well enough either).  But – in less than three months, over 2600 people have checked me out (figuratively speaking of course), some incredibly smart people have commented on my entries with cogent, inspiring wisdom (family and friends exempted ’cause they’re already pretty awesome) and I am slowly beginning to find my uncensored voice about work, life, leadership etc – I can only imagine what will flow from these keys once I feel my own personal FCC beginning to fade into the distance.

I have learned that there is so much friggin’ talent out there, that I’m humbled to be part of a circle of people who truly question and opine with thought and humor.  I don’t know any of you, and yet I look feverishly for your responses every time I put up a post.  And you never disappoint.  Every time someone ‘likes’ a post, I feel like Sally Field during her ridiculous Oscar acceptance speech (“You like me!  You really like me!”).  When I see a comment, I feel the same anticipation as I did when I used to get my report card in elementary school (that’s when the comments were kinder, but for the standard reminder that I’d learn more if I socialized less).

Specifically, there are bloggers who have kept me going, totally unaware that their generosity, opinions, and ‘atta boys’ were providing me with commitment to this exercise when my spirits began to flag.  These are people you should read – for their originality, entertaining perspectives, experience and life stories.  Props to them all – and my abundant thanks for keeping me engaged in this process as I figure out where I want to go next.  Here’s my list of tremendous writers – I hope you take the time to check out their sites:  kungfuleadership; manage better now; david kanigan – lead.learn.live; misunderstood genius; greg blencoe; rlagee; business coach steve; girl on the contrary; the good greatsby; where’s my T-back and other stories; never contrary and the middlest sister.  I could go on – there’s truly some terrific talent on WordPress.  But I know what I know and I said what I meant/Your talents inspire me 100 per cent.

That you for your shout outs on Twitter, your encouragement and ability to remind me of the beauty and insanity on this little planet of ours.  I feel like I have found an invisible, yet powerful cohort group, as understanding and accepting as my friends and family.  People who understand that on days like this, sometimes all one needs to do is breathe – and be aware of all there is for which to be grateful.  Consider yourself counted.

A Dirty Little Secret – Sort Of

“There is an enormous number of managers who have retired on the job” – Peter Drucker.  Ah Pete, you’re killin’ me.  I’m not sure if anyone who falls into this category – or anyone supervising people in this category – really wants to be outed.  However, this dirty little secret is becoming more and more apparent.  The good news (if you want to call it that) is that there’s no need to worry – I’m not sure anyone’s going to get called on it.  It requires too much effort.  If you were expecting something more salacious – I’m sorry – but I also wanted to get your attention.

There is an interesting article in The Washington Post today about Daniel Pink, his reincarnation from political speechwriter to successful author and his perspective on the effectiveness of merit pay as an incentive for teachers.  Many jurisdictions are adopting this methodology, despite the data that underscores its ineffectiveness.  The research indicates that extrinsic rewards are successful when the objectives are simple and routinized.  “But for complicated jobs that require judgment and creativity, the evidence shows that it just doesn’t work well”.  Clearly those are expectations that the best educators embrace, and we as parents seek them out  as the teachers-of-choice for our kids.  I am not suggesting that we pay teachers less; I don’t think they’re paid enough.  Presuming equitable compensation though, is this an effective motivator?  Apparently not.

For the sake of this post, can we extrapolate these findings into the world of professional services, C-suites, management, for-profit organizations? As the need for creativity, energy, sound problem-solving and dynamism in management increases, it seems counter-intuitive to me that our tendency is to focus on process-oriented results,  limited provocative dialogue and increased structural layering that renders many positions narrower and more circumspect.  If you are involved in a different organization and structure, no need to read further.  You are in a marvelously unique situation that is not replicated with enough frequency.  Enjoy it and keep thriving.

Let’s get a little risky in our dialogues about what factors will distinguish the adequate-from-the-great companies in the years to come.  It’s just insufficient to nod to those who talk about their commitment to their people and reflect it by offering limited collective opportunities,  provide superficial exercises that are packaged as training and proudly aver that they’re ‘upcycling’ the strong performers when in fact their challenges and objectives have remained the same year over year (or worse, have been marginalized to the point where their talents gradually fade into the background).  What if the tenor of the conversation changed and our responsibility was to engage in and develop substantive strategies with our folks?  What if we didn’t take the easy out and refused to create any more versions of ‘Groundhog Day’ because of its expediency in the face of our other responsibilities?  What’s stopping us?   Have we lost our motivation and/or forgotten one of the most critical components of great leadership?  When was the last time you turned around to see if anyone was following you? I imagine it would be a serious bummer to realize that there may be no ‘there there’.

If you’re out in front then this is your primary objective.  If the goal is to increase employee satisfaction,  realize a greater ROI, build an environment where people are jazzed and engaged, then let’s at least begin the hard work.  Turn around.