not speaking up usually pays off in the short-term. not voicing your disagreement with a decision, not adding your ideas into the conversation, and not defending others’ will more than likely keep you safe.
it’s easy to not voice your opinion because there’s no risk involved. not many people have been fired for something they didn’t say. except there is actually a ton of risk involved in staying silent. you’ve merely deferred that risk to the long game instead. some future version of you is going to have a problem to deal with and—knowing how bad news doesn’t age well—it will probably be worse than the problem you’re facing right now.
choose instead to direct the discussion. choose instead to be a part of the initial planning. choose instead to support and defend what you believe in.
it’s hard work now, but future you will thank you for it.
as people and organizations, we all have limits to what we can do and things we merely prefer not to do. it’s our safe zone. it’s comfortable and we know it and it’s never surprising. we can anticipate what we’ll find and how we can expect to deal with it.
but growth happens in the spaces outside of our limits. when we choose to do and be what we’ve refused before, we become better versions of ourselves. more experienced and wiser about our surroundings. by pushing into these spaces we begin to find where our limits truly lie.
it’s foreign and unnatural to us. it brings with it an inherent risk. but you’ll find that the uncomfortable spaces are where the important work gets done. the question then looks more like this: do you want to keep living the same life, or do you want to become something greater?
let’s do some important work together.
along the road to success you’ll see tons of good ideas that never panned out. great ideas—revolutionary ideas—which never see the light of day. crumbled pieces of paper, the back of en envelope, torn-up napkins all filled with tomorrow’s next big thing that never was.
and yet how often does it happen, we’re sitting on our couch, listening to the radio, or reading a book and think, “how in the world did i not think of that?” we see hundreds of examples of seemingly worthless products, overly produced songs, and such basic ideas that we can’t believe it ever was successful.
how? because the simple truth is this: good does not equal success. it’s impossible to predict which ideas will win and which ideas won’t because there are so many factors at play. being good helps, but it’s not a prerequisite.
if you keep waiting around for the right idea to come, or a good time to start that business, or the market to swing back to the center you may be waiting a long time. better to take a chance and boldly go. as they say, you gotta be in it to win it.
there has been a recent influx of questions about personal development on our corporate yammer site. however, they’re simply the wrong questions.
the question should not be about what skills or knowledge our clients are looking for, or what certifications and corporate boot camps are the best to pursue. it should be about what you want to do. about what excites you. about what you want to be doing for the rest of your life.
when did we stop believing in ourselves? when did we stop believing that who we are is good enough? stop worrying about what other people want. do what you want to do. learn what you want to learn. become the person that you were meant to become. people naturally gravitate towards that.
and if you can’t find work to match your skills and interests, it’s your job to create that work.
you owe it to yourself to be happy. stop asking the wrong questions.
there is an amazing amount of information coming out of the field of positive psychology surrounding the reasons why people do what they do. dan pink has one of the most popular TED talks and one of the canonical texts on the topic of motivation. the surprising truth is that rewards and monetary benefits actually have little to do with increasing performance. in fact, the opposite is true: rewards and benefits actually hinder performance.
to have a happy, healthy, and motivated workforce the members of your organization need to feel accomplished. that they are doing work that matters, doing work they enjoy (in a manner in which they want to do it), and reaching their full potential.
yet it seems that every part of management is designed to squash that intrinsic motivation. by the very nature of the management hierarchy, we are told that we are just the worker. we are told that we do not get to make the decisions, and therefore do not get to affect change. our role is to trust in management’s ability to lead the organization where it needs to go. impact? change? that’s not for us.
as we see from dan pink’s work and the work of so many others, this approach worked well for a different time and place. the problem, however, is that our world—and our economy—has moved well beyond that point. forget the post-industrial age, we’re living in a post-information age; we’re living in the idea age where creativity and art is king.
it’s time to modernize our approach to business and any organization that doesn’t risks losing out on the future. markets rise and fall, and organizations can navigate those waters fairly well. but once the future is lost? there is no recovering from that.
it’s easy to find yourself in a crowd of tens of thousands of people and believe that you can’t make a difference. in fact, that’s exactly what the most powerful people in that crowd want you to believe. and on some level they’re right. better not focus on having an immediate impact on the masses because you’ll surely falter.
the way to make change happen is to trust yourself. hold strong to your opinions and your ideas. share them. lead your own tribe.
and whatever you do, don’t be afraid of the sound of your own voice.
my management team likes to say that. a lot.
“we need to make this so that anyone off the street can jump in and use it.”
the problem, however, is that i’m not designing a remote control for a television. i’m not building the newest innovation in coffee making. i create decision support tools; the key word there being support. in my line of work, the best i can do is point someone in the right direction and give them the data and information to make a better choice—but i can’t actually make the choice for them. i write the poetry, but it is my clients who give the words their meaning.
you see, fine art is fine art because it’s not popular art. certainly there are some pieces of fine art which do have mass appeal, this is true, but the value is in the details. it’s in the appreciation of how delicate the strokes from a painter’s brush bring life and energy to the lips of the woman in their paining. it’s immersing yourself in the tempo of a symphony, experiencing the ups and downs, and feeling the strength and sorrow in the bass drums and violins.
you need those details to really understand what you’re looking at or the music you’re listening to. it’s seeing the whole, but having an appreciation for the individual pieces. that’s what separates a connoisseur from just anyone off the street.
anyone off the street can listen to a symphony or walk around a museum and never experience the art surrounding them. stop walking through your world and start experiencing it. get into the details. become a connoisseur instead.
when you start to do that you’re going to begin appreciating life more. i promise you.
“i have this idea that i think might work.”
“oh, that’ll never work. [insert reason why].”
that’s not a conversation.
in fact, that’s the direct opposite of a conversation. that’s stomping on a dream.
instead of listing all the reasons why you’re different from your competitors, or how your organization’s goals are unique and special, or trying to explain to someone how it didn’t work for you before when you tried it with some other clients, or just giving people grief because you get nothing but grief and want to share your misery—try having a conversation instead.
ask the person how they think it will work. ask what kinds of strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) they see. gauge their passion for what they’re talking about. find ways to feed that passion. discuss alternatives. ask questions to narrow down larger topics into the most basic and most important element. then—after all that is done—perhaps your reason why it won’t work will still be a good one, but you should at least have the conversation.
and maybe if you have an idea it’s just your job to ignore everybody and do it anyway. or at least start looking for people who share the same crazy ideas as you.
“it’s going to be like that anywhere you go. you just have to play the game.”
you may play the game, and you may play the game very well. it may even work out for you on a few occasions. a raise here, a promotion there—but be careful.
if you play the game long enough, you may start to hate the player you’ve become.
what i think is one of the worst preconceptions about business and management is that workers need to be motivated. this notion that the workforce is this entity that needs to be incentivized into doing something.
i believe that everyone is motivated by something. i’d say that most accountants have a natural love of working with numbers. i’m sure that stock brokers get a special kind of high out of making the deal that nets their clients big returns. and i’m sure that if you spent even just a little time with three of my colleagues as they talked about solving linear programs and differential equations you’d be amazed at how much they can geek out over it. but when was the last time, as a manager or leader, that you had a discussion with your employees to find out what drives them?
some of you might answer–if you’re being honest with yourself –”the job interview”. how long ago was that? people change over time, and so you must be willing to spend the time to really watch and track how your people are changing and the kinds of people they’re changing into. you might have someone with a modeling and simulation background whom either suddenly or even gradually falls in love with data visualization. you might have a history teacher whom has a new-found love of english literature. but you’ll never know any of this unless you take the time to know your people.
do you have carrots (bonus structures, awards systems) or sticks (hard deadlines, performance reviews) in place because they actually work? or is it just because it makes your job simpler?
everyone is motivated to do something.
find out what that is. then have them do that.