The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective


Posts Tagged ‘Leadership Communications’

Anger …

What do you think about getting angry at work?  Does the boss get mad at you?  Or you at the boss?  Ever write a nasty email?  Ever find yourself yelling at a colleague?  Or at a customer service rep?  Have they been trained to deal with you?

How to Manage an Irate Client Call:

“I’m sorry you’re so upset.  I really feel your pain.  No, I don’t think we can fix the problem.  No, you can’t get your money back.  Well, I am the supervisor.  Let me transfer you to Mr. Dial Tone…” 

Unknown Sage

I’ve tried (unsuccessfully, as my manager knows) to temper my anger over the years.  Then, I read this article published in Sales and Marketing Magazine ©  “Is There A Place For Anger In Management?”  Now I’m not so sure.

Paul Nolan offers several points backed by research that suggest anger is more good than bad in the work place.  Here’s one excerpt:

We’re more likely to perceive people who express anger as competent, powerful and the kinds of leaders who will overcome challenges.  Anger motivates us to undertake difficult tasks.

Competent and powerful… motivate to accomplish difficult tasks… I don’t know – what do you think?  Do his views resonate with you?  Here’s another conclusion from the online publication Quartz ©:

…a negative emotion doesn’t always lead to a negative outcome.

After all, Apples’ Steve Jobs was infamous (or perhaps famous) for his tirades.

Here’s another view courtesy of two, fictitious monks:

Two monks were strolling by a stream on their way home to the monastery.  They were startled by the sound of a young woman in a bridal gown, sitting by the stream, crying softly.  Tears rolled down her cheeks as she gazed across the water.  She needed to cross to get to her wedding, but she was fearful that doing so might ruin her beautiful handmade gown.

In this particular sect, monks were prohibited from touching women.  But one monk was filled with compassion for the bride.  Ignoring the sanction, he hoisted the woman on his shoulders and carried her across the stream – assisting her journey and saving her gown.  She smiled and bowed with gratitude as the monk splashed his way back across the stream to rejoin his companion.

The second monk was livid!  ‘How could you do that?’ he scolded.  ‘You know we are forbidden to touch a woman, much less pick one up and carry her around.’

The offending monk listened in silence to a stern lecture that lasted all the way back to the monastery.  His mind wandered as he felt the warm sunshine and listened to the singing birds.  After returning to the monastery, he fell asleep for a few hours.  He was jostled and awakened in the middle of the night by his fellow monk.

‘How could you carry that woman?’ his agitated friend cried out.  ‘Someone else could have helped her across the stream.  You were a bad monk.’

‘What woman?’ the sleepy monk inquired.

‘Don’t you even remember?  That woman you carried across the stream’ his colleague snapped.

‘Oh, her’ laughed the sleepy monk.  ‘I only carried her across the stream.  You carried her all the way back to the monastery.” 

Buddhist parable

I suppose anger boils down to a matter of degree and the context of the situation.

I don’t always succeed in controlling my anger at work (or outside of work, either).  However, I do try to avoid “carrying it all the way back to the monastery”.


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The pitch…

July marked the 50 year anniversary of the Apollo 11 flight to the moon. Do you remember who the salesman was?  You to remember his sales pitch?

Abraham Lincoln; Vince Lombardi; Lee Iacocca – what were these men selling?  How about these women – Clara Barton and Mother Theresa?

They weren’t sales people you say?

Nothing happens until someone sells something. 

Henry Ford

I too believe whatever the idea; the product; the service; the vision; the cause… well, this excerpt has a better sales pitch than mine:

“The Noble Art”

Salespeople Are the Knights of Business

With permission – by Scott DeGarmo

…noble means pre-eminent and selling is the pre-eminent business skill.  You can have every other element in place, but without sales you have nothing.  A Dun & Bradstreet study of the cause of business failure puts “inadequate sales” at the top of the list.

     Noble also means “of the nobility”, and salespeople are the knights of business.  While their colleagues skulk about the castle, salesmen and saleswomen get out there and make results happen in the real world.

    Like the noble knight, the salesperson has a mission, a crusade.  Belief in his product is his creed.  He knows it can work miracles for his customers.  He venerates his mission, aware that the more he learns about what he is selling, the more he can believe in it – and the more he believes in it, the more convincing he will be.  Not only does he collect great sales stories, he learns the best way to tell them…

     One who is noble is above petty concerns.  Salespeople act nobly when they keep their eyes on the goal despite the most ghastly frustrations.  Where mere commoners would react with anger, resentment, or dismay, the noble salesperson has the inner steel to be gracious and the ruthless resolve to remain ever sensitive to the client’s needs.  His concentration doesn’t waver when he is under attack.  Ego never gets in his way.  When necessary, he adroitly sacrifices real or perceived power in order to move the sale forward…

     Whatever is an art is also beyond the ability of another to fully dissect or reduce to a formula.  It smacks of individual virtuosity and creativity.

     It’s best when you don’t actually see the art involved in selling…  The individual actions of a salesperson, taken separately, may appear outwardly unremarkable.  Yet, the unseen talent used to weave together all the countless elements of a sale may be so ingenious as to …

     Scientists use the word “elegant” to describe their experiments, meaning they have no wasted steps.  Selling can be elegant in this sense when it concentrates the energy of the salesperson, when it eliminates needless activity in the selling process.  Salespeople can be brilliant at stitching together a day of phone calls, lunches, presentations, and follow-up letters.  The casual banter that elicits a piece of vital information can be a master stroke.  What a shame when salespeople are badgered and second-guessed by pettifogging managers, who could be much more effective if they encouraged, assisted, and pointed the way.

     A poem we once published had thoughts along the following lines:  A salesperson must have the quickness of an athlete, the fluency of an orator, the flair of an actor, the courage of a warrior, the acumen of a litigator, the insight of a psychiatrist, and the endurance of a saint…

What are we trying to make happen?  What’s our sales pitch to our children; our neighbors; our communities?


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What is a Manager?

My company is budgeting additional training and support for front line sales managers.  The amount of resources we invest in our people is awesome!  However, I do worry about our investment priorities.

Since I joined the company eleven years ago, a major and continuous priority has been on mastering our internal systems – you know, using the CRM; navigating our on line sales library; filling out all of the flags and fields for each step in our selling motion on every client, every prospect, and every lead; scheduling people for meetings…

There can be an inherent weakness with such emphasis on the internal – those individuals that master the process (and to be fair succeed at sales-quota performance for at least one year) tend to get promoted.  Not because they are stellar with people-management skills; but because they have become an internal systems crutch for less experienced, less knowledgeable teammates.

Fred Smith, Founder of Federal Express, said this:

A manager is not a person who can do the work better than his men; he is the person who can get his men to do the work better than he can.

Being comfortable with helping your direct reports be better than you – there’s an interesting challenge for managers, true?

Where to focus management time is another interesting burden.  I believe this because I have a small following of front line managers who reach out to me periodically for advice.  I find mentoring managers extremely fulfilling, even when their up-line sales leaders don’t know of our conversations.  These front line managers have simply decided that whatever formal support and training they’re receiving from their organization is not enough.

No worries – front line management (in sales or any other function) is one of the toughest roles in every organization, don’t you agree?  And if that’s the case, then I think front line managers should seek guidance, coaching and in many cases counseling from any credible source they feel can help them master that position.

I say “counseling”, because many front line managers feel a need to be involved in and perhaps even in control of things.  I had one manager ask me at our very first coaching (aka counseling) meeting, “Gary, what is my job?”  He went on to clarify his feeling that he should be the “super closer”, involved with every deal on his team.  After that, he felt he needed to inspect each of his direct reports’ “systems excellence”; followed by forecasting (weekly); managing conflict (daily); running meetings; etc. etc. etc.

Of course, when he was done listing all the etcetera’s he felt were a priority his list led to time management concerns on how could he possibly get everything done every day.  Sound familiar to you managers?

In my opinion (and personal experience), front line managers can’t get every task on their daily list done.  And if true, that begets the question, “What do I chose to not do today?”  It may sound oxymoronic, but one key to managerial success is letting go:

Ignore me as needed to get your job done.

– sign on VP’s door courtesy of Liz Wiseman

If the manager has hired the right people; given them the right environment of support; trusts them to be excellent; it is amazing what that manager’s direct reports can accomplish!

Being supportive and creating a fun working environment might be more important than how much managers “know” about the tasks assigned to their direct reports.  Is that how your manager; or you; operates?


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News and no news…

It’s interesting to see people’s reactions when they are waiting for an answer or an update. This happens during common customer service settings.  It also happens with more impactful leadership communication situations.

Take customer service interactions. The customer has a problem; contacts customer service; and expects resolution. “Expects” is the key word. Sometimes the customer service rep has no news.

No news from the service rep begets a wide range of responses from the customer.  On the one hand the customer might calmly accept the, “We’ll get back to you as soon as possible” response.  Then there’s the other hand:

After exhausting every possible way to assist an irate client for the past 45 minutes, and then concluding her phone conversation in the professional manner she had been trained for, the client service representative was heard to let out a pent-up, rhetorical question of frustration, “What does this customer want me to do about their problem, perform magic”? 

Unknown Sage

Similar ranges of reactions occur between a manager and her direct reports.  I have written about leadership communications (and lack thereof) often.  Been there; done that myself.  Jerry Jarvis taught me about the lack thereof:

As Sales Director, I spent at least one day each month observing my sales reps in action; in the field.  All nine of them were tenured and experienced.  Yet, their sales performance was unacceptable.  The owner of the company hired me to turn things around.  We weren’t sure if we had an attitude-problem or a people-problem.  I felt it was the former, but I had recently terminated two of my nine reps.

Today, I’m in Orange County meeting my southern California sales rep for breakfast at the start of my “ride along”.  He seemed nervous; we both knew he was struggling.  Our small talk dissipated quickly, when suddenly he blurted out, “Are you here to fire me?”  Catching me off guard, I paused and replied, “No” slowly and calmly drawing out the O sound.  He took out his cell phone; dialed; and said, “It’s OK honey.  He’s not firing me.”

Much more relaxed now, Jerry tried to change the subject to the itinerary for today’s ride along. I stopped him, saying, “Whoa whoa whoa – what was that all about?” He then proceeded to educate me about leadership communications – or lack thereof: 

  1. He noticed I wasn’t traveling with my PC.  (It was with IT as they were applying several updates.)  Jerry assumed I didn’t have my PC, so I could take his back after firing him.
  2. He was the lowest rep on the sales performance report; I had fired the previous two lowest reps; he figured he was next.
  3. And I had not specifically told him I was not going to fire him; in fact, I had offered him no news at all.  So he filled in the blanks.

Well, I didn’t fire Jerry.  He went on to have a very successful sales year.  He (and his wife) were all worked up over no news – my bad.

In cases where our leaders don’t inform us, we “fill in the blanks” on our own like Jerry did, true?  Our leaders would like us to be patient when they have “no news”.

We on the other hand want “news” – even if it’s simply acknowledging what’s on our mind and providing a frequent and sincere, “I don’t have any news yet, but I wanted to you to know that I’m working on it.”

That is news.


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I don’t know…

We’re in the midst of revising and retooling our sales training program; a periodic ritual all companies go through, you know?  The process we’re following might sound familiar.  Leadership has announced the strategic changes.  Now followership is being asked if the new direction will “fit” our sales constituents.

Naturally, we need to make the new direction “fit”, even if it doesn’t actually “fit”; the change has already been announced.  Though our change management process might sound backward, I’m optimistic the outcome will be favorable.

“Fit” is an often-debated concept in the sales (and sales training) profession.  Ask for input and there seems no end to opinions.  But “fit” is important:

Not a good fit’ is a great conclusion, if arrived at early.  It is a horrible miscalculation if arrived at late. 

Mahan Khalsa

We are late in our process, but it should be OK.  After all, our constituents won’t know the difference.  They only go through our sales training activities once, so they won’t be making comparisons.  Even if we suck going forward no one will know; keeping in mind we may not suck – we may have something better.  I am comfortable saying I don’t know.

He who knows most, knows how little he knows.

Thomas Jefferson

Although I’m change-adverse (like many in my profession), I’m keeping an open mind on the new program.  Philosophically, I’m in alignment with the strategic intent of consistency across all sales channels.  Others smarter and more successful than I have led their companies to greatness based on the principle of consistency:

I wanted to get the ‘creativity’ out of the sales process.  If you want to be creative, go write a novel. 

Larry Ellison

But to be fair, I believe there is a big difference between pronouncing a strategic change vs. developing and delivering the multitude of tactical details that go into the execution of such strategy.  I don’t know… but I’m think the key word here is execution.

We followers are supposed to be domain experts; we’re expected to execute on the plan.  What’s the military saying about battle plans – “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”  (Here’s background on that quote.)

Helmuth von Moltke the Elder knew last century that the complexity of war prevented any one leader from grasping the entirety of details necessary to win battles.  The writer (Sean Newman Maroni) offers cross-over connections to the business world.  His cross-over has agreement from at least one famous business leader I know:

‘What do we need a sales guy for?’  I smugly replied, ‘To sell more of our software, perhaps.’  That’s an inside glimpse of our top management team at work discussing the expansion of our distribution capacity.  I knew we needed to build a sales organization, although I certainly had no idea how one worked. 

Larry Ellison

Even though Larry Ellison said he didn’t know (as published in the book Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle©), that didn’t prevent Oracle from achieving tremendous business (and sales) success.

When we launch our revised sales training program I’ll be a bit nervous about “surviving first contact”.  But I “know” we will improvise if necessary in the short term and adapt in the long term to insure success.

However, if in reality I don’t know, I’m comforted by titans of military history and the technology industry – if they don’t know; then it’s probably OK that I don’t know.  On the other hand, if you know – please let me know, OK?


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Big hats…

2017 has been an “interesting” year – to say the least! It might be more accurate to say it has been an “extreme” year. Lots of alterations occurring all around us, true? Sometimes transformation is a good thing; sometimes seemingly not.

All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.

Ellen Glasgow

When displacement occurs in the corporate world, employees spook easily. We want to know what this switch means to us; our role; our department; even the company itself. Leaders prefer we not spook so easy; leaders prefer we accept, rally around the differences. They’d like us to follow John A. Shedd and his big hat:

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.

I believe we’re willing – but need a little help – a little, well… leadership.

There has been such significant conversion occurring at my company in 2017 that I was recently invited to participate in a feedback session to help my company’s leaders ascertain what impact all of these modifications are having on employee engagement.

It was fascinating to hear the responses from my fellow employees of their opinions and reactions to the “adjustments” we have gone through (with the promise of yet more “improvements” to come). There were a wide range of views (some positive, some negative) on how assimilation has influenced our jobs; our daily routines; our future; our engagement.

For my part, I’ve been focused on our leadership’s approach to communicating shifts to the rank and file throughout 2017. This year has afforded me a bird’s eye view of who is stepping forward; who is wearing a big hat as all of us go through a time of revolution. Big hats are always in the spotlight during such times.

I pontificate about leadership often. I sometimes put on a big hat, myself. In his book Tribes©, Seth Godin offers these thoughts about leaders and leadership:

My thesaurus says the best synonym for leadership is management. Maybe that word used to fit, but no more…

Leaders have followers. Managers have employees. Managers make widgets. Leaders make change.

Change is frightening, and to many people who would be leaders, it seems more of a threat than a promise. That’s too bad, because the future belongs to our leaders…

And leaders must put on their big hat to lead change.

I believe we all experience significant change throughout our life. Maybe not each and every day; but certainly throughout each year. When we are the ones to stimulate the change, we feel good about what’s now new. We wear our own big hat and lead those around us that this change will be good.

On the other hand, when we are the recipient of unrequested change our reaction to the event can be quite different. In the corporate setting such change albeit inevitable, is still challenging:

As one IT Professional put it; “We’ve been reorganized, restructured, re-engineered, right-sized, down-sized, up-sized, TQM’ed, and MBO’ed, and if I hear the word empowered once more, I swear I’m gonna scream!”

Geoffrey James

During times of change followers look to leaders for continuous clarification. Leadership communication separates the true leaders from the imposters, or as it is said in the south;

Big hat; no cattle.

When our companies are going through cycles of uncertainty, I believe employee engagement is tied directly to the frequency, clarity and effectiveness of leadership communications. In absence of continuous word from the top, we look for our own big hats, yes?


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Historical leadership…

One of my favorite hobbies is reading about the leadership displayed by historical leaders during times of crisis as documented in the writings of American history.  It is amazing to learn about the stress that those events, coupled with the expectations followers, had on leaders.

How did those leaders do it?  Could you (or me) rise to the occasion the way they did?  What does one do, when there is no “opt out” option?  What does it take to be that type of leader?  Is it some sort of innate ability; learned; trained for?

Of course, there are many examples where leadership has been summarized in a simple synopsis.  Take the Civil War – a heightened time of crisis in American history.  On the bloodiest of battlefields in American history, great generals rose to the occasion and in so doing are remembered, albeit for what in retrospect seems to have just been good judgment:

Grant knew from Sherman’s telegram that a crucial lesson had been learned at Collierville, that an army commander should know just where he was going, long before he actually arrived there. 

Jeff Shaara

Know where you are going – seems so simple today.  But during times of crisis leadership can become anything but simple.  In Civil War times, navigating terrain was a huge obstacle.  No GPS; a few crude, hand-drawn maps; directions only available from local civilians – and we all know what hazards that can bring:

Winfield’s Dictum of Direction-Giving:

The possibility of getting lost is directly proportional to the number of times the direction-giver says, “You can’t miss it.”  

Unknown Sage

In today’s world, Google Earth enables anyone with an Internet connection to view the landscape with ultimate clarity.  Navigating business circumstances?  There’s no Google app for that.

Take my company.  We’re in the process of being acquired – maybe.  I say maybe, because surprisingly our leaders have vanished.  When the initial announcement was made public, there was a company-wide web meeting and the leaders informed the followers it was merely business as usual.  That was it then; and that has been it ever since.  No updates; no further employee communications; no status; nothing.  Not very comforting.

It could be that they really don’t have any updated information that can be disclosed yet.  As a publicly traded company, there are SEC rules and regulations that apply when a company is “in play”.  However, in absence of leadership communications followers will dream up their own narratives.  And in a vacuum, such narratives tend to drift towards worst case scenarios, true?

Speaking for myself only (as if there was another option), this event could be good news or it could be bad news for my continued employment at my (new) company.  But if my leaders asked, I would tell them I can handle it (as if there was a choice):

One can either face reality at the outset or one can disseminate the bad news on the installment plan. 

Norman Augustine

So when I read and reflect on historical leaders and how they led their followers, one common theme emerges – they kept their people informed:

The key to being a successful skipper is to see the ship through the eyes of the crew. 

D. Michael Abrashoff

I wonder if our leaders today invest any time learning from historical leadership.  Perhaps they believe their view of the ship is the only view of the ship and the right view of the ship and their followers on the ship should just get over it.


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Seems familiar…

I wanted to publish this before the final outcome; seems like I’ve been in the situation before (see ).

Back then, my company was acquired.  New leadership did what new leadership often does; fired a lot of employees.   It wasn’t a surprise; I was told by a Vice President and friend of mine that the company was “in play” before I even took the job. It was a risk I accepted.

Under a “silver lining”, that event benefited me greatly; it resulted in me finding my current role which has been among the best jobs I have had in my entire, 40 year career.  Now in October, my current company will be acquired.


The feeling you’ve heard this bull before. 

Unknown Sage

I believe I’m the obvious choice to continue in my current role.  But – who knows what the new leadership will value?  It’s OK though; this time is quite different from the last time and that’s what I wanted to share before the final outcome is revealed.

You see, the last time I went through this my Manager(s) disappeared.  As soon as the announcement was made it very quickly became “every man for himself”.  I did not have one single business interaction with my Manager at that time once the announcement occurred.  Not a phone call; not an email; nothing.

His replacement, who was hired by the new company’s leadership offered the business courtesy of a phone meeting or two.  But when we gathered in Omaha for what turned out to be the “final audition” for a remaining few spots, my new manager was nowhere to be seen.  It was pretty obvious that I was not going to “make the cut” – and as I wrote about – I didn’t.

This go ‘round has been an entirely different and an impressively professional experience.  The Vice President I report to has maintained open and frequent dialog with his direct reports.  Often with these almost daily phone conversations he can’t offer me much in the way of substantive information – we’re still in a “quiet period”.  It’s all happening relatively quickly, but even so I and my fellow colleagues have been in limbo for what will turn out to be 3 months.

In spite of the obvious reasons for trepidation, here’s my boss – fearless in his willingness to maintain open and frequent dialog.

It’s one of the most challenging leadership skills of all – maintaining open communication with your reports when the over-arching theme could be bad news.  He has been unbelievably even-handed and totally appropriate with his updates.  He doesn’t speculate; he doesn’t preach hope; he simply sticks to the facts as he knows them – and we all take it one day at a time.  Regardless of the final outcome, his leadership strength is admirable; one we can all learn from.

For obvious reasons, we are all hopeful.  As I stated earlier, this time I believe I am the obvious choice.  But soon enough we will all find out if the news is good or bad. It will be interesting to see how things will be communicated:

The phrase, “I have good news and I have bad news”, is really just bad news. 

We all know this because we learn of good news this way; “You’re not going to freaking believe this, but…” 

Thanks boss for maintaining your dignity – and respecting ours – in the face of adversity.  This may seem familiar but I’m very confident things will turn out for the best, regardless.


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15 and 50…

Observing leadership communications and leadership style have been an enthralling side benefit I have enjoyed throughout my career.  Of course in 2016 we are witnessing a big dose of our Presidential candidates’ leadership communications style.  I wonder what the journalists and historians will write 15 and 50 years from now.

What leadership communications style do you prefer?  Those who boast; blare; and blurt out the bigness of their bravado?  Those who calmly convey a collaborative and conservative approach?  Do we prefer political experience?  Intellectual superiority?  Business acumen?  All of the above?  Have your preferences changed over the past 15 or 50 years?

It’s been longer than 50 years, but Abraham Lincoln is recognized as one of America’s greatest leaders.  He had a particular leadership communication style, true?  What do you remember of his persona – his physical image?  His story-telling?  His unique way of managing people and politics?

My policy is to have no policy. 

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln’s flexibility and willingness to adapt his “policies” to short-term circumstances is considered legendary.  But from a principled perspective almost every Presidential decision he made was grounded on saving the Union as being paramount above all else.  I think they will continue writing about Lincoln’s leadership 15 and 50 years from now.

Maybe you prefer leaders that advocate family-friendly work environments.  Much is being written these days about work-life balance; challenging and fulfilling assignments; the “gig economy”; more paid time off.  Of course, smart leaders don’t worry about employee vacation time – perhaps they follow the teachings of our favorite Unknown Sage:

Luten’s Laws

When properly administered, vacations do not diminish productivity: for every week you’re away and get nothing done, there’s another week when your boss is away and you get twice as much done.

Yes, I’ve enjoyed observing leaders and their communication style for more than 50 years.  Not just business leaders; but world leaders, sports leaders, even the leadership my wife displays as the patriarch of our family.  I’ve hoped some of their greatness has rubbed off on me – or at least appeared to have rubbed off:

The difference between being an elder statesman and posing successfully as an elder statesman is practically negligible. 

T.S. Eliot

Recently, Evan Goldberg Chairman and Founder of my company NetSuite, was interviewed for the benefit of the employees.  One leadership communication challenge is maintaining “contact” with employees when the company grows from a start-up to a multi-national corporation.  It’s been just a few more than 15 years since Evan launched his company with a great idea; a handful of employees; and a passion to succeed.

During this interview, one of the questions he was asked was about the type of employees he relies on to help with the company’s continued growth and success.  Evan cited two main attributes.

First, he looks for people who have “casual intensity”.  I like that description!  He described this attribute as those who work hard; invest long hours; willingly make personal sacrifice, without making a big deal about their efforts (and sacrifices).  These are the people Evan said that just go about getting the job done.

And the second quality of employee he prefers are those types of people you would enjoy going out to lunch with.  Coincidently, this attribute was echoed by my best friend Steve:

Never trust someone who doesn’t go out to lunch with you.

Well, truth be told I’m not much of a go-out-for-lunch-type.  It’s OK though – I doubt anyone will remember that 15 or 50 years from now.


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Style and Subtlety – Boom!

Yep – did it again.  Yesterday I fell into that all-to-common digital trap of our modern century – I blasted a colleague (and friend) on IM.  Ate those digital words this morning:

Pratter’s Prayer

Lord, make my words as sweet as honey, for tomorrow I may have to eat them. 

Unknown Sage

It was the usual setting:  I was digitally multi-tasking; fast and furious.  It’s quarter-end; a stressful time that comes around… oh… just every 90 days (funny how that works).  The combination meant I could, “double my pleasure – double my fun”:

I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once. 

Ashleigh Brilliant

I texted him a question; he texted back an answer; I didn’t like his answer; he didn’t like my question; I asked for an alternative; he said not a chance…  A frequent, digital argument expressed with directness and written in digital shorthand; punctuated with emoticons; all behind the shield of our monitors.

Collegial banter?  Depends on who’s the banterer and who’s the banteree.  That type of typing can quickly cut to raw emotions lurking nearer the surface during stressful times such as quarter-end.

We were briefly embattled with a “my way or the highway”; “I’m right – you’re wrong”; “compromise is for sissies”; “I eat Marines for breakfast” blast-fest.  Totally devoid of style or subtlety.  U2?  Been there done that I bet.  Not one of my proudest moments, digital or otherwise.

Style and subtlety; certainly diminishing dimensions in today’s digital era.  It’s actually worse than that.

Seemingly gone are the days of subtlety, statesmanship, irony, even sarcasm.  Texts and emails are written in black and white; read as black OR white.  Intentions behind the expressions are easily misinterpreted; feelings easily hurt; and everyone seems to have barbed retorts at the ready.

Even our political process has degenerated into a continuous barrage of confrontational accusations and insults vs. the skilled and stylish statesmanship of centuries past.  Oh they were direct back in the day, but within the context of a statesmanship image coupled with face-to-face bravery vs. digital cowardliness:

A story is told of a Woman Member of Parliament who, after an extensive tirade at a social function, scornfully told the Prime Minister, “Mr. Churchill, you are drunk”, to which Churchill replied, “And you Madam, are ugly.  But I shall be sober tomorrow.”

Today, we don’t know if the statesman’s statement was sarcasm or irony having not been there to witness the state of his drunkenness nor the appearance of his accuser.  Because the event was face-to-face vs. digital, there could easily have been expressions of irony or sarcasm that dulled the barbs of the barbs.  Stylish statesmen of centuries past were able communicators and skilled in the art of avoiding black OR white confrontations.

Statesmanship, style and subtlety of the 20th century?  Boom!  Sacrificed for the sake of today’s digital age.  Replaced by the barrage of black OR white hyperbole perfect for IMs, emails, emoticons, and the evening news.

In business, should we even care?  Can we stop hiding behind our monitors?  Is subtlety mightier than the digital sword?  I think our favorite, Unknown Sage still believes so:

Subtlety is saying what you think, but then leaving before anyone really understands what you meant.

Digital communications technology can be wonderful – when used properly.  It can also be barbed weapons; hurting feelings; killing relationships when not.  Too easy and too often taken as black OR white.  Agreed?  Well, if not… I’m right and you’re wrong!


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