Is This The End Of The World?

“Think about it: send SLASH receive. Email is the frenzied killer of proper communication.”  ― Fennel Hudson, A Writer’s Year – Fennel’s Journal – No. 3

Our email went down.  For a couple of days.  On and off.

I’d been thinking about a “no email Friday” or something like that, just to see what would happen.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such moaning, wailing and gnashing of teeth.  It’s as if all communication had stalled!

I was smiling.

Yes, I use email too, but I really enjoy getting out of the chair and walking around to talk to people.  And evidently, it’s more effective.  In an online article in Inc, Jessica Stillman noted that a discussion face-to-face is more likely to produce a result than email.  It’s easier to send an email, but less effective if you’re looking for a real solution for something.

We feel like we’re getting more done because we can dash off ten emails in a short period, and then think we’re effective.  Then comes the follow-up questions, the explanations of what you meant, etc.  What you could have done in one face-to-face turns into several emails.

Emails can be great to set an agenda or recap a discussion, but I’m not so sure the idea of managing your workday and trying to get solutions, from the inbox does what we think.  The human factor is more effective and means we spend less time with the “reply-all” demon.



I’m In Charge Here and You Aren’t

“Men who speak endlessly on authority only prove they have none.”  Gene Edwards, A Tale Of Three Kings.

“I’m in charge so I can do anything I want.”  Or,”I’m the (insert title here), and you should do what I say.”

It’s a type of mantra from some managers – not leaders – who see their job as continually criticizing the person and not the performance.  There are a lot of reasons for this, trying to tear others down so they can build themselves up, finding criticism easier than being positive, and, of course, plain old narcissism.

They’re easy to spot when walking through an organization.  They’ll tell you of their latest success, which is usually a success of one of their people, and their office often screams, “I’m important!”

They’re also the single biggest reason for turnover.  And remember, the best people leave first.

I feel sorry for these people.  They’re often very unhappy people, and may never know the happiness that comes with being positive, encouraging and building people up instead of tearing them down.

This Side Toward Enemy

The most important thing I learned is that soldiers watch what their leaders do. You can give them classes and lecture them forever, but it is your personal example they will follow.”– General Colin Powell


When the team is together, everyone talks teamwork.  When it’s public, we’re all aware that people are watching.  But when in pairs, or by themselves, when they think no one is around, it’s sometimes different.  They’re not leaders, I’m not even sure they’re managers, but I know they are toxic.

There’s a reason the military has “This side toward enemy” printed on the front of claymore mines.  They know that sometimes people are in a hurry, not paying attention, or just don’t understand the ramifications of which way it needs to go.  I’m sure in the early days there were cases of those devices being planted in the wrong direction.  But in the business world, a backfire is a glitch.  People aren’t killed.  Harmed maybe, but not killed.

The difference is you, and your leadership.  When you’re complaining about your boss, or another leader, when you’re rolling your eyes at their comments, or when you try to create an alliance to ensure you win, you’re planting a leadership claymore in the wrong direction

Ridiculously In Charge!

Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.” Robert Louis Stevenson


I’ve been reading Boundaries For Leaders by Henry Cloud, great book about growing a culture of leadership.  In it, he talks about a leader he was talking to who was complaining about the culture around him.  Cloud kept asking questions about why these things were happening, which led the leader to realize the culture was up to him! Finally, the leader was in charge…ridiculously in charge.

Leaders and managers spend a lot of time complaining about how their workplace operates without ever realizing that they are the ones who can fix it.  I won’t give you all the details of the book, but two of the principles that will allow you to be ridiculously in charge are what you create and what you allow.

What you create is based on what you aspire to see, the culture you create (intentional or not), the goals you set, the strategy you employ and the leadership you demonstrate. These are usually the things we want.

What you allow are the things you don’t want to happen, but seem to anyway.  It’s the things that happen because you don’t work against them.  If you never say anything to people about coming to work late, they will come to work late.  If you allow people to snipe at each other, sniping will grow as a tactic.

Of the two, what gets the least attention is what you allow.  All those irritating things that happen – that you actually allow to happen – that you can’t understand.  The things you don’t really want to deal with, because it’ll be too tough or complicated.  Also, the things that you do yourself that only become irritating when it happens back to you.

This is one of the easiest to understand books about leadership that I’ve ever seen. Don’t expect to breeze through it, some parts are more difficult than others.  You’ll also want to go slow enough give yourself time to absorb it.

One reason I love it is because it challenged me, but then gave me simple, doable answers.  We can all improve our leadership skills, even if we’re only leading ourselves. This could be one of the biggest answers to a challenge you’ll find this year.

Now Turn Right

True leadership lies in guiding others to success. In ensuring that everyone is performing at their best, doing the work they are pledged to do and doing it well.- Bill Owens

It’s hard to remember the days of paper maps, and going into a new town, driving while trying to figure out where you are. Just one of the reasons I love the navigation system in my Z4 as it “guides” me to places I haven’t been before.
Being that it’s a German car, the Nav voice is very specific and precise. “Turn right in one mile…now turn right.” I’ve been given the instructions and you can hear a subtle edge in her voice that I’d better do it.

But it’s more than being ordered around by a disembodied female voice, if you look on the screen you can see a place for instructions, and a map to give me context. What would it be like if the voice just ordered us around without the ability to glance at the map for that important context? She doesn’t tell me after I turn right I’ll have to immediately turn left, but the map does provide that context.

Somehow, being me, this reminded me of my early days as a Program Director. I was much more apt to tell people what to do without providing any kind of context…the why. Naturally, without the context, I wound up getting precisely what I’d asked for from the other person’s perspective. I’d often be frustrated that I didn’t get the result I wanted. Now I realize that without the context, I was asking people to read my mind…and that wasn’t a part of their job description.
My problem was that I was still managing, not leading.

A leader knows his or her role is one of people, not activities, and can’t afford to ignore the context. No one will automatically understand and you’ll be frustrated. Plus, the individual will never understand how their role connects to the bigger picture and the “why” for what they’re supposed to do. Instead of a team of motivated and challenged people, you’ll eventually earn a group of frustrated, unmotivated, unskilled robots who are waiting for you to do everything.

Believe me, one way is much more productive and fun than the other.