Playing the Fool

Skip Bayless is a hack.

For those of you unfamiliar with Skip’s work, he can currently be found on the craptastic ESPN production, “First Take.” On the show, Skip and Stephen A. Smith (a buffoon in his own right) debate the current issues of the day. By “debate,” I mean they script a scenario in which they vehemently disagree about a topic, then set about flogging the viewing public with an incredibly loud brand of annoying incompetence. The show is an outright joke to any serious sports enthusiast, and the hosts have become a punchline amongst the credible media, and even among the athletes they cover.

Oh, also this – “First Take” is the highest rated show on ESPN.

So, here’s my hypothetical – what if you could be in a position at work where you are compensated as a star. You bring money to the company (more than your more talented and credible colleagues) and you have complete job security for as long as your performance ratings remain high (minimum 3 years.) Sounds pretty good, right?

Wait, wait, wait – I’m not done.

The tradeoff for this position is this – you are a joke. A boob. A fool. No matter your success, you will always be viewed this way by your peers and colleagues. You will continue to be the bell cow for your company, but you are ridiculed as an incompetent jackass.

Would you do it?

I wouldn’t, and my guess is that most of you would refuse as well. How are you treated in your current job? Are you appreciated, respected, and valued? Have you made the rationalization to accept poor treatment in exchange for a paycheck?

What would Skip do?

Ball 4 – Karla Robertson

Every couple of weeks, I thought it might be nice to dig a little deeper into the mindset of one of our HR Hardball™ colleagues. Put on your thinking cap as this brave journalist ventures into the realm of the mind…please welcome “The Executive’s NeuroCoach,” Karla Robertson.

  1. Your title scares me – are you developing “Manchurian Candidate” Executives?

No, more like McGyver meets Margaret Thatcher—resilient and resourceful thinker who gets the job done regardless of circumstances with dignity, class and no collateral damage. (British accent not required.)

       2.  “Thinking better” is a big undertaking for someone like me; what’s one tip to help someone who tends to be at a deficit in their attention span (if you get my drift.)

Prioritize and Focus. If you find it hard to develop this on your own, engage a colleague or a coach to help you devise a process that works for you. No matter how old you are you can build new wiring and develop new habits of mind and thus, behavior…

 I meet so many talented people who are also very gifted in getting in the way of their own scalability and success…not only professionally but personally as well. And when we get right down to it, it’s really about the internal narrative that keeps playing the same stories in a loop that dumps them off where they began… 

       3. If LinkedIn had the ability to play a theme song whenever someone viewed your profile, what song would we hear when accessing yours?

Oooo so many choices; so little time…..I would have to say “I Gotta Be Me.”

       4. You’re in the business of helping grant wishes; what wish can “Hardballers” grant you (remember, I’m on a family man budget).

Well, granting wishes is what I do as a volunteer for Make-A-Wish Foundation of NJ. So if you’re looking for a place to donate some discretionary income, please go to www.nj.wish.org

Finally, If someone wants to connect with you, where do they find you?

Over the river and through the woods…or at www.ShiftingGears.biz or www.karlarobertson.com. For those who prefer voice-to-voice, I love to talk so call at 732-845-4833. I am willing to connect with folks on LinkedIn as well.      www.linkedin/karlarobertsoncoach  Just reference how you know me/heard of me. Lastly, I’m on Twitter www.twitter.com/thebraincoach

JFK – The Allure of Conspiracy

LBJ killed John F. Kennedy.

Wait…..WHAT?

Yup, I just have a gut feeling, look at his smug face.” That’s commentary from the Mrs., but could be from any one of thousands of JFK conspiracy theorists. Depending upon your preferred flavor of Kool-Aid, you can find public support for any number of conspiratorial story-lines; the Mob, the CIA, the Secret Service, the “Shadow Government,” the Federal Reserve, the Israeli Government, the Russians, the Cubans, J. Edgar Hoover, LBJ, and even J.D. Tippit (or, as Oliver Stone has suggested, maybe they all did it!)- every one of them makes for a compelling tale of deception and murder, evidence to the contrary be damned.

"What would Oliver do here?"
“Facts, shmacts, I need intrigue!”

To satisfy the public’s hunger for the “truth,” the conspiracy machine fires back up annually, ready for business…and business is good. Almost 40,000 books have been written about John F. Kennedy, thousands of which speculate specifically on the assassination. November in Dallas, and even after 50 years, public interest has not waned when examining the darkest day in our city’s history.

Human nature is funny…our propensity to “believe” or “not believe” is fairly predictable, and can actually be accounted for when planning to deliver a message – no matter what the message is. You can be safe assuming a minimum of 20% of those listening will be resistant to what they hear. If their doubts are left unfettered, that segment of resistance grows like a virus throughout the impacted population – 20% becomes 40%, 60%, or even higher. A lone gunman becomes a conspiracy, simple becomes difficult, obvious becomes shadowy, and printing presses heat up.

And that, my friends, is where the Warren Commission made a grievous error in judgment. Not (as conspiracy theorists will proclaim) by providing a lack of credible information to support its findings – the amount of evidence incriminating Lee Harvey Oswald is overwhelming; no, the error was in assuming that a logical conclusion would prove adequate to those sitting outside of the “inner circle.” The Commission held private hearings; no press, no public oversight, no daily transparency ~ and it was that way for ten months. In terms of communication vacuums, ten months is a lifetime. This committee of seven, led by the Chief Justice of the United States, supported by an additional 28 legal and administrative staff, produces a 889-page document based on almost a year of research and sworn testimony – yet somehow creates more suspicion.

Witness the creativity of the human mind when left to its own devices. It becomes easier for people to believe a conspiracy encompassing hundreds of people than it is to believe a single demented megalomaniac could kill our President.

Have you been part of a corporate merger? The people making the decisions are often guilty of the same faulty thinking. An “announcement” describing the logical reasoning for the merging of companies does very little to address the fear and uncertainty felt by the masses impacted in the decision. We get caught in the trap of withholding information to somehow “protect” those impacted, when in fact we breed contempt and suspicion. Without serial communication efforts designed to educate, inform, and reinforce the message, the true message will be lost.

Instead, you will have innuendo. Guesses. Theories. Rumors. Gossip. And yes, whispers of conspiracyLogic and reason are easily replaced by fear and mistrust when uncertainty prevails. It can be impossible to reverse the momentum of bad information, even 50 years later.

There’s an over-used mantra used during times of disruption and change (probably because it makes so much damn sense); “Don’t just communicate, OVER-communicate.

People demand an explanation; in lieu of that, they are happy to develop another narrative to fit the information they piece together in their own minds…usually followed by a Best-Seller.

You Are The Problem, Part 1

During times of organizational change, it’s estimated that at least 30% of those impacted can be categorized as “Resistors,” actively opposed to the change initiative; another 50% will be “Undecided.” While I usually spare you the math, my ciphering tells me that leaves 20% of the pie acting as a proponent of change. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of people on the front line. Your “Change Warriors” are carrying the flag without a whole lot of people following them. What’s the problem here?

Well, the easy answer is this – the problem is YOU.

But, it’s not as clear-cut as “people don’t like change“…that’s too broad of a statement. I propose that “change” isn’t the real issue. “Change” can be managed; we can assign benchmarks, objectives, work streams, and project responsibilities to “change.” We can, to a certain extent, have our hands in the process – because that is what “change” is… a process.

We can deal with change… but if we couldn’t? Well, to you I say “dinosaurs,” Sir. If you are reading this, you are a change machine. Stop and count the number of times you’ve changed over the course of your lifetime, if not only the last few years – we do change quite a bit.

No, our problem isn’t the change process; our problem is our reaction to the change process. Clear as mud, right? Not when you consider our primal instincts to protect, defend, or flee from things we perceive as threats. When we sense danger (which we do almost immediately when change is thrust upon us without warning) our response is quite predictable – we assume the worst.

change-fear
“It’s really not so bad if you don’t breathe.”

How do you combat something that is hard-wired into our DNA? Brick by brick, that’s how.

#1. Self-Assess. The “FIRS” assessment is a favorite Pritchett product, but it’s certainly not the only show in town. Find an assessment you trust, and get a baseline on your strengths in areas of successful change. We advise to specifically focus on Flexibility, Innovativeness, Risk Tolerance, and Stress Tolerance (“FIRS,” get it?). Need a quick and effective one for free? Try the VIA Character Assessment. Challenge yourself in these four areas, to the extent you are stretching outside of your comfort zone. Speak in front of a group, offer up a best practice to implement, buy some ridiculously unstylish clothing (see Sackett), go to Parent-Teacher Night, whatever it takes to be uncomfortable. 

Practice now. Take some baby-steps in your personal development, and prepare for the day (soon) where big bad “change” knocks on your door – pretty soon you won’t worry so much about what’s on the other side.

Monday Morning PSA – The Nobility of Gratitude

In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.” —Mark Twain

For those (like me) who have never served our country, it’s too easy to minimize the courage of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Today, as I enjoy the freedoms given to me by those who came before me, I can only express my gratitude. Thank you for serving our cause, and for being people of “scarce” character.

Shark Bite!

Fred Fox, Jr. is to blame. Seeking a splash for the Season 5 premiere of Happy Days, Fred wrote a script depicting Arthur Fonzarelli (“Fonzie”) jumping a freaking shark on water-skis (looking back, please forgive the “splash” pun.)

shark-bite-jump
I sooooo got this….

“Jump the Shark” became pop-culture lingo in the late 1990’s, and we’ve been beaten about the ears with the term ever since. One could even say that the term “jump the shark” has, in fact……jumped the shark (again, I apologize.)

Most of us associate the term with “beginning of the end” ~ an occurrence or event so blatantly desperate or ridiculous, no fate other than extinction will be forthcoming. But that’s a bit of a mischaracterization of the real impact of a “Jump the Shark” moment. Extinction is often delayed for years – Happy Days, for example, would air for 7 more years after the ridiculous premise of Fonzie’s jump. It didn’t kill the show, it just made it suck really, really bad. For current points of reference, see Sons of Anarchy or Homeland, both of which seem to have a abducted a pack of wild chimpanzees to author their respective weekly installments.

But…..damn my eyes if I don’t watch them anyway. Not because of the quality, but because I need to see an end.

That, my friends, is a glimpse into the routines which somehow limit our ability to act rationally. Instead of removing the residue of Charlie Hunnam’s questionable acting skills from my frontal lobe, I’m sticking with the show to see how the ridiculousness unfolds.

Silly examples, maybe, but how many times do you stick with a job, a relationship, or a habit long after you realize it has outlived its usefulness?

It’s time to break the routines that bind us; start small if necessary…the important thing is to startStick with a bad show too long, and next thing you know Joanie Loves Chachi is in your life.

Button it!

Never miss a good opportunity to shut up.” – Judge Roy Bean
If you don’t know Michael Keaton’s fine performance as Billy Blazowski, do yourself a favor: stop reading, watch Night Shift, and then we can talk. Specifically, look for a scene where “Billy Blaze” listens to a recorded message over & over (courtesy Henry Winkler) reminding him to “SHUT UP.” Now, that my friends, is good advice.
Especially in HR.
“Shut up?” Wait, aren’t we, as ‘protectors’ of the company, required to stand up and be heard? Yes… and no.
There’s a time to talk, no doubt, but not at the cost of listening. In HR, we have multiple opportunities to effectively shut up. For example:
  • As a Coach. The most effective coaching technique you can utilize is allowing the client to create their own solution. That requires patience and silence. If you’re yakking, you’re advising, not coaching. It’s tougher than it sounds, but resist your need to offer solutions.
  • As an Investigator. Awkward silence is your friend… those quiet lulls in between questions? Let the subject fill those gaps; that’s where the juicy information comes out. Shut up and let it happen.
  • As an Interviewer. Savvy job candidates know how to get their interviewer talking…the more you talk, the less control you have in the interview. I used to crack up at the Sales Managers with whom I would co-interview – these are salespeople you are interviewing, quit letting them sell you! We had candidates walking out with account information, product information, POA. Shut up, man.
  • In your Inner Circle. Admit it, one of the cool things (maybe the only ”cool” thing) about being in Human Resources is access to privileged conversations, confidential information, and other various skeletons buried in the corporate closet. The urge to share this information can be almost irresistible…bury it. Put it in the vault, shut up already.

While we’re on the subject, I’m told (quite a bit actually) that this same advice can be equally beneficial to married men.

That seems ridiculous, but I’m still compiling data…more on that later.

November Reign

Ah, glorious November…step outside and you can literally feel the changes all around you as the mercury drops and the days get shorter.

Professionally, we are fully engaged in Q4 objectives ~ strategically speaking, we have two more months remaining in the year, complicated by the reality of six “real” weeks of productivity available. In that window, performance reviews and 2014 budgets are due, and, (should you find the time) it would be really nice to see your 2014 objectives ready for review.

Besides that, the calendar is wide open…

In times of overwhelming responsibility, many of us will actually show a tendency to assume more ownership for the situation, despite the critical mass we are accumulating. Fearing the failure of any one of these tasks, we will instinctually try to control the situation with more involvement. This can make the last two months of the year especially stressful and we haven’t even reached the silly season yet.

My friends, now is the time to resist the urge to dive into the weeds ~ instead, use the multiple objectives due in November as development opportunities for your team. These are meaningful assignments to be given to the people you are viewing as potential leaders in the company.

Performance reviews, budgeting, and goal-setting are key components of any managerial post, yet they are rarely experienced prior to assuming the role – here’s your chance to offer a glimpse into the world of leadership, separate the wheat from the chaff, and give yourself a break at the same time.

“Ready Now” is a philosophy to embrace when considering organizational succession planning. One of the real challenges of assuming a management position is the lack of actual experience in the merit review and budgeting processes, respectively. Well, November is the month to offer an incredible opportunity to include your talented pipeline in actual strategic planning.

It can be difficult to relinquish ownership for such important tasks, but the benefit to the development of your people (and of you as a leader) more than equals the discomfort.