Full Opinion, Half Facts – Grow Great Daily Brief #159 – February 26, 2019

“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.”  -Benjamin Franklin

Judgment is easy. Jumping to conclusions. Making assumptions.

Evidence is hard. Curiosity often difficult to satisfy.

When people have a problem with somebody it’s just easier to tell everybody but the person you have a problem with.

Over the weekend I posted this graphic…

But many of us tend to do exactly this.

The absence of facts or context doesn’t often enough prevent us from knee-jerk conclusions. Conclusions we’re convinced are spot on.

Leaders aren’t immune. Sometimes the power goes to our head, squeezes the logic right out of our brains, and causes us to think we’re invincible in our judgments. It’s another reason – a BIG reason – why we need to be more careful about the people who surround us so we can improve our vision, foster deeper curiosity and find more accurate evidence – all the things that can drastically fuel greater growth.

The solution may be counter-intuitive. Be MORE selfish. Think MORE about yourself.

No, not in some “I’m better than you” way, but in a more genuine way.

Are you going through something extraordinarily tough right now? If so, then hold that thought. If you’re not, then think back to a really bad time. A time when life was really knocking you in the dirt and stomping on your guts. A time when your confidence was setting record all-time lows. A time when you had no idea when this trouble would end, or IF it would end. Get that in your mind right now.

It’s a time that’s embarrassing to you, even though it may not be the result of anything you did. Embrace how you felt (or how you may be feeling right now if it’s happening to you right now).

You want to hide, right? You don’t walk to talk to anybody? And if you do, you want to complain or make excuses so you can explain it all away.

Put yourself in that place.

Now, let me walk into your life at that very moment. Let somebody else – perhaps somebody you think would know you well enough to understand your context – walk into your life at this moment. Friends and family who may have known you for a long time, let them walk in on you at this moment.

For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume these people judge you the way you judge people. We’ll assume harsh judgment is easy…because it is. Each of these people are going to think the worst. Mostly because people seem more tempted to think the worst than the best. Today, all eyes are on you and they’re judging your life by this moment. Not your finest hour, but it’s this chapter of your life where people have now opened the book of your life. You know it’s just a single chapter. They don’t.

How are you feeling? Better?

Hardly. You’re thinking how unfair it is. You’re thinking, “This isn’t the total sum of who I am or what I’ve done. It’s completely unfair to judge my whole life based on what I’m going through right now.”

Welcome to the world of full opinions, half facts. And I’m being generous to spot you with half facts. My experience is that people need far fewer facts than half in order to form a full opinion!

Arrogance, pride and hubris. That’s why we do it. Our own arrogance, pride and hubris.

We feel better about ourselves and our lives knowing that you’re going through something we feel currently immune from. Judging you harshly makes us feel superior to you. Better than you. If only for a moment, we’re able to lift our head higher than yours giving us a feeling of greater success.

But we can do the same thing with ideas, or solutions. We make false assumptions without evidence, believing we’re right, and it drives our decisions. Faulty decisions that aren’t based on enough evidence.

“If only closed minds came with closed mouths.” -anonymous

Enter courage and humility. The two components most needed to overcome the problem. Gratitude and compassion are the other two. Put the four together and you’re going to dramatically improve your life. Love, kindness, and curiosity will soar when you commit yourself to these.

Work on YOU. Stop focusing on everybody else.

You can’t contribute to making a positive difference in the world when it comes to this – or any other challenge – until you first own your life. If more people would determine to do better at judging people and situations with only partial facts or context, then we’d be well on our way to a more civilized, creative and positive existence.

Think of all the improved decisions you could make if you had improved knowledge and context. Think of the potential growth – for yourself and for your organization – you’re leaving on the table. Unrealized growth that isn’t happening because you’ve already made up your mind on half-truths, or no truths.

You once had an idea. A dream. Maybe it was a business idea. Maybe it was a career dream. You craved somebody – or more somebodies – who would believe in you and your dream. You craved encouragement. If you achieved it, it’s likely because somebody was in your life who expressed belief in you, and your idea. Deep belief. It fueled your belief. All it took was one person – brave enough, humble enough, grateful enough, compassionate enough – to not judge you harshly but to show you enough grace to realize they knew only what they knew about you and your dream. But that was enough for them to want what was best for you – and not what was worst!

And there it is. Some of us grew up in a zero-sum era where we were taught that our loss results from somebody else winning. We were not taught that we could all win. Truth is, we can all win. Life is plenty big enough for it.

When we figure out that our success doesn’t hinge on somebody else losing it’ll change everything for us. The world will be better. Life more full. Kindness more prevalent.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC

Tell Me Something Good – Grow Great Daily Brief #158 – February 25, 2019

Think about the last time you got some good news. Some REALLY good news.

How did it make you feel?

Did it make the rest of your day even better? Or worse?

I’m betting it made the entire day better. Success breeds success, and all that.

Years ago I’m watching a sales guy attempt to brag about a big sale he’d just made. He’s reliving it moment by moment with the owner of the company. It’s a very good sales and he’s clearly excited about it. He also happens to be among the top tier of salespeople in the organization. This isn’t his first rodeo.

The owner grabs the paperwork from his hands, surveys it carefully and begins to grill the salesperson. “Why did you sell them this?” pointing to an item on the paperwork. “You should have sold them (and he mentions something other than the item they purchased).” Almost line by line he criticizes the sale.

The salesman entered the office walking on air, elevated by his success. He left the office crawling on all fours, wondering why he was even working there. A person excited to share good news was summarily shot down faster than an Oklahoma covey of quail.

Tell Me Something Good was a terrific 1974 funky song performed by Rufus and Chaka Khan, written by Stevie Wonder. But it’s more than a 70’s funk hit. It should be a way of life for your leadership. The previous story is how NOT to do it. Let’s talk about how to do it and how to do it better.

You’re smart. You already know that people crave encouragement. You do. You love it when people encourage you. And I don’t mean that empty “come on, you can do this” kind of encouragement. I mean when somebody spends the time to understand what you’re going through, and they want what’s best for you – and you trust them. You crave encouragement that expresses deep belief in you.

That’s universal. Everybody in your organization has the same craving. They’re all anxious to hear something good. Especially something good that involves them.

Your job? Find it. Then share it. Tell people something good. Get in the habit of focusing on the successes.

“Wait a minute, it’s my job to find what’s wrong and then fix it,” says the business owner. Is that right? Is that your job as an entrepreneur and business owner.

Concentrating on something good doesn’t require turning a blind eye on the things that can be improved, or the things that need to be fixed. I’m asking that you flip the priority around from how you may have been approaching these things inside your organization. We focus quickly on what’s wrong – what’s bad. In the process, we too often neglect the slightest recognition of what’s working, the good. We behave like parents of a kid who brings home all A’s and one C. The C leaps out and we give it all the energy we can. I implore our child to do better. We ask them why they’re struggling with this class. The C is the odd man out among a list of A’s and it gets all our focus and energy. Is that what you’re doing inside your company?

Shift your focus. Think differently. Think better.

Try it for a week and let me know how it goes. Starting today, look FIRST for the good news. Find the success. Momentarily, ignore the failure. Ignore the problem. Just for now.

Train yourself to find the good news.

Now, share it. First, go to the people responsible. Do it in front of others. Not in some big, formal fashion. Just do it wherever these people are. Go to them. Don’t call them to your office and do it behind a closed door. Make it spontaneous and on the spot.

“Guys, I was looking at the report this morning and noticed the terrific job you were all doing. Helping that customer put that fire out was impressive and they couldn’t be more pleased. That’s exactly the kind of success we’re aiming for, so I wanted to congratulate you all.”

Be genuinely thankful to them. Show your appreciation. Be specific.

After you’ve told the people most responsible good you can now begin to share the good news with everybody else. How about you now go to the person you hold responsible. Perhaps that team of people who performed at a high level have a manager or team leader. They’re the next logical person to tell.

NOTE: Don’t tell me something good only to tee me up to tell me something bad. Just tell me something good. The something bad can and should be a different conversation. Otherwise, you’ll train me to know that as soon as you finish the good news, the bad news is sure to follow.

I’m not talking about companywide celebrations. I’m talking taking mere seconds out of your day to recognize high performance. Taking the time to tell people something good.

Do that all week long. Make it your priority. I have a prediction. You’ll find people working harder to achieve results that will warrant your recognition. You’ll get more of what you’re rewarding with verbal praise. That encouragement people so crave? You’ll be meeting that need. Finally.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC

Communication. Connection. Collaboration. Culture.

These four C’s are a vital part of my work in helping entrepreneurs and leaders. The need is great. Higher human performance in the workplace is stymied by people’s inability or unwillingness to accurately read each other and situations. We used to simply refer to these things as “soft skills,” even though they’re very hard for many people. Today, a more sophisticated term for it is EQ or emotional intelligence. Pick your poison.

If we can’t improve our communication then I don’t know how we can improve our relationship with the truth. It’s too easy to dismiss alternative points of view or opinions that differ from ours. We rather love our assumptions and blind spots. Of course, they aren’t blind at all to us.

Listening is a prerequisite to understanding. First, we must learn to listen with a favorable bias for the truth, which isn’t always absolute. It’s sometimes contextual. That is, I have a truth that is comprised of who I am and the circumstances of my life. Those are unique to me. Yes, you and I may share some common components, but we’re still very different. Not all truths are matters of somebody being right and somebody being wrong. These kinds of truths just “are.”

Our connection fosters our ability to work together and accomplish more than either of us could alone. But first we must understand each other and that’s impossible without effective communication.

You can’t reason with unreasonable people.

Still we often try. I fancy myself to be a fast learner, but I confess that I find myself still trying to help people understand things. Sometimes these people are unreasonable. I’m learning how to better value my time and stop wasting it trying to reason with unreasonable people.

CEOs, entrepreneurs and leaders often lament similar feelings as they work to engage people, convey some important initiative for which they want high engagement — but they find some people wrecking the process. Unreasonable people.

I like to think we can convert people, but maybe not. You have to decide for yourself if the person is worth the effort. Some may be worth it, others not. You know which ones are which. Help those who can be helped. Fire the ones who can’t.

Connection doesn’t look identical to each of us. But it’s obvious when it’s happening and when it’s not. As a leader, you must judge whether people are putting forth the effort to connect or not. My personal decision as a leader is to not tolerate people who won’t work toward connection. Get on board, or get off the boat. I’m not interested in passengers. I want sailors willing to help serve each other. You decide how you most want to roll.

Leaders can get this stuff out of order and find themselves frustrated. For example, the boss gathers a team, throws them in a conference room and then tasks them to work together on a project. An important project.

The problem is there are people on the team who don’t communicate with any regard for the truth, except how they see it. As a result, there’s not any solid connection, but the leader leaps straight to collaboration, then wonders why it doesn’t work as well as he hoped. Cart before the horse syndrome. You have to get communication and connection right. And it’s why this topic took two little episodes to discuss — truth matters.

The truths that are absolute, with compelling evidence. And the truths that each individual holds based on their personality and circumstances. Both require more deeply understanding.

How do you make intolerant people tolerant?

You don’t. Well, to be fair, I don’t know how. My choice, as an organizational leader, has always been to give some effort to convert them, and if that fails, to get rid of them.

Empathy is easier for some than others. It’s easy for me so I don’t quickly or harshly judge people who struggle to understand others. I will quickly judge somebody’s unwillingness to give others due consideration though. That’s inexcusable. That’s a person whose relationship to the truth will never be appropriate or proper.

All of this speaks to one fundamental issue that can cripple your business or your organization’s ability to excel – close-mindedness

Your business depends on success in influence and persuasion. I grew up in sales knowing that the adage is often proven true, “Salespeople are often the easiest people to sell.” It may be because salespeople respect the ability to influence and persuade. Great salespeople know the real key is to serve people by providing as much value as possible. Great salespeople make a solid connection with prospects. If they don’t, the prospect never becomes a customer. Sales is a performance-based activity. Communication fosters connection and leads to collaboration when the prospect agrees to become a customer. If you’re in sales, you know when you’re failing.

And great salespeople are terrific listeners. They want to help their customers get what they want. The only way to find out what customers want is to ask, then listen.

Young people entering the workplace will often ask me how they can get ahead or how they can be noticed. In an Instagram world where you can go to the fanciest hotel in town and take a selfie in the lobby, fooling people into thinking you’ve got a room there for a week…authenticity and connection are lost. My answer likely disappoints: help your boss by doing whatever you can to make their life easier. Do everything in your power to serve your boss.

That’s the bottom line to all this talk about our relationship with the truth. It’s about OTHERS. It’s about listening to others. Giving consideration to others. Understanding that your perspective may not be the only valid one. Learning that you may not even have the right dots connected. Allowing that you, and others, have room to grow and improve.

How’s your relationship with the truth? Let me study your relationship with others and I’ll likely be able to give you an honest, accurate answer!

By working on our selfishness we work on ourselves. By serving others, we’re best serving ourselves. It’s not just some fanciful noble notion. Practical. Real-world. Right. Helping others excel lifts us up. It puts us in closer touch with the truth, too.

The logic isn’t tough to follow. When we put in the work to serve others we expand our circle of people willing to help us. People who influence us to achieve more These people also challenge us to see things in ways we wouldn’t otherwise consider.

We gain the benefit of seeing things through our eyes, and the eyes of all these people. We gain the benefit of hearing things through our ears, and the ears of all these people. We learn not only from our experiences but now we learn from the experiences of others.

The power of our lives moves from us (singular) to the power of the collective (us plus all the others we learn to trust). It’s exponentially increased power available only to those brave enough, vulnerable enough and confident enough to give of themselves and to accept the giving of others.

Isn’t it time you put yourself in a better room, a space where you can flourish? Sure it is…if you want to improve your relationship with the truth. And if you really want to grow.

Are you an entrepreneur in the United States? Do you operate a company where you’re close enough to the work that you don’t bristle at being called “an operator?” Then I want to ask if you’re open-minded enough to consider a powerful growth vehicle – a vehicle with an intense focus on communication, connection, collaboration, and culture. It’s a peer advantage group of just 7 entrepreneurs who are willing to come together twice a month to listen, share, learn, understand and grow. Men and women who are open to hearing what others think so they can improve their vision, and hopefully rid themselves of blind spots that can hinder their leadership and their business success.

I’m enrolling entrepreneurs today at BulaNetwork.com/apply. Details are at ThePeerAdvantage.com. Yes, this is a paid for peer advisory group with a high-value proposition. The cost is nominal for the return I know you’ll receive. Check out all the details at ThePeerAdvantage.com, or jump start things and give me a call at (214) 736-4406.

This isn’t networking. It’s about building your business and your leadership within your business. It’s a safe space where we can share ideas, experiences, and issues. Safe. Secure. Confidential. The perfect soil for high growth. I look forward to hearing from you.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC

Ronald W. Pies is a professor of psychiatry in New York. He wrote an article in The Conversation back in March of 2017 entitled, ‘Alternative facts’: A psychiatrist’s guide to twisted relationships to truth.

It’s a timely topic for any time, but increasingly timely given how little culture seems to care about truth or facts. Opinions and feelings are the order of the day. A heightened radar for being offended is a prize possession today. We’ve taken political correctness to new extremes.

Here’s what Professor Pies writes in the article:

First, we need to make a distinction often emphasized by ethicists and philosophers: that between a lie and a falsehood. Thus, someone who deliberately misrepresents what he or she knows to be true is lying – typically, to secure some personal advantage. In contrast, someone who voices a mistaken claim without any intent to deceive is not lying. That person may simply be unaware of the facts, or may refuse to believe the best available evidence. Rather than lying, he’s stating a falsehood.

“You can’t handle the truth!”

Jack Nicholson’s character, Colonel Nathan R. Jessep, in the 1992 movie, A Few Good Men, shouts from the witness stand that famous line. It’s never been truer and in context than today. People seem to be unable – more like, unwilling – to handle the truth. So we fight back with lies and fake claims. Or we take issue with everything as “offensive.”

What’s the impact on our organizations, our businesses, and our leadership? 

Plenty. And the cost is going to escalate. Our organizations mirror society. Whatever demons society battles find their way inside our organization. People are touchy. Dug into positions. Closed minded. Unwilling to listen. Not interested in understanding. Selfish. Proud. Conceited about their own knowledge and intelligence. The epidemic is well underway.

Situations are unique. It’s impossible to come up with some short list of solutions that apply universally. Life is too complex for that. People and circumstances have to be considered. And therein lies a big part of the problem. Our ability to read people and situations determines how well we can handle the truth. It can completely determine our vision and our blind spots.

We don’t know what we don’t know.

Increasingly, we don’t care either. Ignorance is bliss, but we feel our ignorance is superior knowledge. Greater wisdom. We’re right. They’re wrong. Period. End of discussion.

Mainstream news and politics are at the forefront of the nonsense, but it permeates every arena. It’s especially disconcerting for a guy like me who has committed emphasizing communication, connection, collaboration, and culture as the basis for higher human performance. The need has never been greater. Sadly, closed minds may have never been more rampant.

Our relationship and value of the truth – even if that truth isn’t absolute, but how somebody else sees a thing – determine our willingness to engage in the first of the four C’s that are my focus. Communication.

“Wait a minute! You don’t agree with me? Then I’ve got nothing to say to you and I’m sure not going to listen to anything you’ve got to say.”

That’s often our default. Lost along the way is the fine art of persuasion and influence, things we need if we’re going to move forward. I know we think of these things in terms of marketing and selling stuff, but we need them if we’re going to advance ideas and find better solutions. Persuasion and influence aren’t enhanced by being combative or closed minded (or both). They often go hand in hand. When’s the last time you had an encounter with a closed mind that was polite or kind? Yeah, me neither.

He says, “I’m not open to being persuaded. I’m dug in.” He’s proud of the statement. Gotta give him credit, he owns it. I’m quite sure it’s nothing to be proud of, but he feels the way he feels. His mind is like that proverbial steel trap. Nothing gets in. I’m not sure what’s getting out.

We’re not able to communicate. And if we can’t communicate, there’s no way we’ll be able to improve connection and collaboration, all the things needed to improve our culture.

Our relationship with the truth is so fractured, our unwillingness to listen so deep, that we’re mostly willing to shout at each other. The Twitter mindset doesn’t work in real life. It’s destroying organizations large and small as people come to the table with their minds made up, dug into their beliefs and fully committed to their blindspots thinking they don’t have any.

We’ll wrap this up tomorrow with part 2 of this, but for today I want to leave you with a few suggestions for you to consider – things you can begin to do today to get the ball moving in a more positive direction.

For starters, be the leader. Your employees will likely mirror your behavior and take cues from you. Be responsible.

Guage your own open-mindedness. Look closely at your relationship with the truth. Improve it.

Be honest with yourself. And with your organization. Are you prone to making up your mind before you give an audience to others? Are you listening only with thoughts of rebuttal? The sooner you recognize your biases, blind spots and assumptions, the better. Talk about these things with your leadership team. Admission of your humanity isn’t a bad thing. Don’t shy away from it. Few things will build greater trust as people see your willingness to admit you need to learn, understand and grow.

Lead the way.

Then, provide opportunities for your leadership team to do the work. Have meetings intended to foster diverse opinions and thoughts. Facilitate these meetings, not by imposing yourself, but by making sure everybody is fairly heard. Show the team how listening benefits everybody and gives the company the greatest advantage to find improved solutions.

Impose a few rules. Nobody interrupts. Everybody make good eye contact with the speaker. One good exercise is to have people summarize what they heard the person say. It’s a good way to improve listening.

It’s common in such exercises to ask person 1 to summarize what person 2 said. Then you ask person 3 to summarize what person 2 said. They’re often very different. Then open up discussion among the participants about what they heard and why they think what they heard was so diverse. It’s just one way of facing the communication problem head-on.

It’s also a great way to gauge how well we relate to the truth.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC

Strife doesn’t build a stronger organization. Conflict won’t deepen a leader’s influence.

Confrontation is commonplace leadership topic. I often hear managers lament how they hate it and work hard to avoid it. Frequently they feel that confrontation is synonymous with strife and conflict. It’s not. Well, it doesn’t have to be.

Let’s talk about this and see if we can better understand how our leadership is too often damaged because we’re not seeing things clearly enough. Defining some terms can help. We’ll start with some dictionary definitions because that’ll help point out why we’ve got a problem.

Strife is angry or bitter disagreement.

Conflict (which is synonymous with strife) is a serious disagreement or argument.

Confrontation is a hostile or argumentative meeting or situation between opposing parties.

Do you agree with those definitions?

Let’s work in reverse now. Confrontation has another definition, based on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. And this is the first definition listed.

“a face-to-face meeting”

Strife and conflict aren’t even third cousins to confrontation. But we confuse them. Easy to do because of the idiocy behind keyboards today where people can spew whatever venom they want. Daily we see folks dig into positions, stop up their ears, and refuse to listen long enough to understand anybody else, especially anybody who may disagree with them.

Waging war is easy. Understanding is hard. So too often people plant their flag and declare war!

Is it possible for your leadership and your culture to foster disagreement without increasing strife and conflict? Can people disagree in your organization without behaving poorly? Can people disagree without being disagreeable?

Of course, they can, but some things are mandatory.

Strong leadership is a must. Fairness and respect have to be protected.

Strong leaders understand that enthusiastic debate can fuel some of the best ideas and creative solutions. Rather than putting a negative connotation on the emotions, strong leaders help people harness those emotions toward learning, understanding and growth. Team members are encouraged to listen without judgment. Strong leadership can help show people the value of supporting the team’s effort, even though there may be disagreement over specifics. This largely happens when the leader keeps the team focused on the big objective. Disagreement over details doesn’t have to result in disagreement over what the team is trying to accomplish. Nor should it.

Safety and trust are required. If they don’t exist, all bets are off. Conflict is sure to follow.

Teams can build trust and safety. To elevate team performance, leadership must make those qualities top priority in the culture.

Intentions matters! If people are pursuing agendas other than those best for the group, then it’s easier for individuals to behave selfishly. Trust and safety don’t exist where selfishness is allowed.

Strong leaders are tough on intentions. People don’t behave perfectly. Sometimes we all mess up. But it’s very important that people learn to exhibit care and concern for the team and the team’s objectives.

“If your end of the boat sinks, so does mine.”

Strong leaders require behaviors to reflect that intention. They don’t allow anybody to violate that without great personal cost. It’s not being intolerant of individualism. It’s being intolerant of autocratic tyranny.

Ideas, opinions, and thoughts deserve to be tested. Vigorously. 

If people can merely toss out some idea, or make some comment and not sustain a challenge…then that’s good for higher performance. That’s why disagreement is so highly valued. Truth and solid ideas are born from going through the fire of discussion and disagreement.

The best human advancements have been made because what was believed absolutely, positively true was challenged. And was unable to withstand the discussion of disagreement.

Prove it. Have your viewpoint. Listen to the viewpoint of others. Let them make you prove your viewpoint to be accurate. Make them prove their viewpoint. You’ll both emerge victors for your willingness to caringly challenging each other. I realize we rarely get to this point because we can get this far along on the path. Simply, we can’t get past our own pride, hubris, and selfishness.

Too many people don’t have an open mind. They too highly value their own viewpoint while simultaneously discounting the viewpoint of anybody else, especially those who disagree with them. Such people destroy the culture of high performance, which is why your strong leadership is so needed.

Being disagreeable means “marked by ill temper.” That’s what’s unacceptable.

Debate. Disagreement. Facing off with opposing viewpoints. Those aren’t automatically marked by ill temper, but it’s shocking how many people think so. Society isn’t helping matters any. Twitter wars abound. One person takes offense at another. And the fight is on. Keyboard shouting, accomplishing nothing, but strife. No learning. No understanding. No growth. An epidemic of dwarfism of ideas. Is that the culture you want inside your organization?

Then put in the effort to create an environment where people feel safe to disagree because they genuinely care about each other and doing the best work of their lives. Build a culture where people aren’t allowed to judge each other harshly, but where people are required to give grace to each other knowing that everybody has the best intentions to create the best solution.

Help your people disagree without being disagreeable.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC