Saturday, May 19, 2007

More Than Words

What would you do if my heart was torn in two?
More than words to show you feel that your love for me is real
What would you say if I took those words away?
Then you couldn't make things new just by saying "I love you"

Extreme, “More Than Words”

General George S. Patton took command of the Third U.S. Army in March of 1944, just prior to the quickest and most successful military advance that history has ever known. To commemorate his acquisition of command of this fine organization he gave a couple of speeches. The most famous is the one directed at the privates and non-commissioned officers of the unit. A lesser-known version, however, was given to his headquarters staff. Before reading the short excerpt, please know that it contains mild coarse language:

You are here to fight. This is an active theater of war. Ahead of you lies battle. That means just one thing. You can't afford to be a goddamned fool, because, in battle, fools mean dead men. It is inevitable for men to be killed and wounded in battle. But there is no reason why such losses should be increased because of the incompetence and carelessness of some stupid son-of-a-bitch. I don't tolerate such men on my staff.

I’ve long equated the intricacies of combat with those of life. We each have our objectives and we need to employ strategy and tactics to reach those objectives. Modern management theory has taken cues from the practice of management and leadership in the most stressful environment that a person can undertake, in fact.

As an avid student of military history and effective leadership, I have studied a lot of Patton over the years. He understood many of the basic principles of effective leadership:

· Results should be the only measure of success

· The level of potential risk is directly proportional to the level of potential reward.

· Perseverance

Ideally you will have a method to determine the results of your actions and how successful your tactics and strategies have been. Use feedback to adjust your tactics and strategy.

Risk begets reward. There is rarely reward without sacrifice. Ideally you will be intelligent, artful, and graceful in your approach. As in picking locks, however, sometimes the best method is with a sledgehammer and explosives. Or, as I’m fond of saying—if all other methods don’t work, use the brute force approach.

Finally, perseverance: If at first you don’t succeed—try, try again. The man that invented rubber tires, the man that Goodyear Tire is named after, spent most of his life until he succeeded in his goal of creating the right rubber for the job of being part of a tire. The reward: Arguably the most recognizable name in the business of tires.

In the end it is only a function of “just how badly do you want success?”

If a Tree Falls in a Forest…

…Does it make a sound?

I was first confronted with a new way to answer this question when emailing a “pen pal” Lutheran pastor when I was in school, in the years before the Internet had graphics and bulletin board systems ruled the bandwidth. We were discussing the wonderful world of quantum physics where the laws of the physics of Newton and Galileo break down and take a different shape; where the ultimate rules that govern the universe underneath it all are manifested.

So, does it make a sound?

Not if anyone is there to hear it, to see it, to perceive it. If no one is there to perceive the tree, it doesn’t exist. If no one is there to perceive the forest, it doesn’t exist.

I’ve found over the years that this can be used as an analogy for human interaction. People are usually very apt to “talk the talk,” but without a perception of that talk manifesting itself into actions…it doesn’t exist. “Talk the talk, but not able to walk the walk.” Anything internal to you has no effect on anything or anyone but you unless you express it externally. In other words: Thoughts and feelings that are not perceived by the world mean nothing to it.

How to effectively express these thoughts and feelings to the rest of the world? This often requires insight, thoughtfulness, and creativity. “Fortune favors the bold,” I often find myself saying to myself when interacting with people, “and I hope that you do, too.” In 1936 a well-known motivator of a man known to the world as Dale Carnegie wrote his magnificent piece of work How to Win Friends and Influence People in which he described a list of tenets in dealing with other people. A select few of these I list below:

1. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

One of my degrees is in marketing. To this end, I fully understand the importance of self-marketing. Every action in which you partake, every word which you utter, each non-verbal communication which escapes you helps to paint a picture of the world’s perception of you. Some people are more observant than others, but that aside: People interpret everything you communicate in one form or another based on their biases, prejudices, and worldview. To arouse an eager want in an individual it is critical that you know the person: Their wants, needs, and desires, implementing bold actions that make an impression in line with their worldview. This is the third technique that Carnegie offers in successfully dealing with people.

2. Make the other person feel important—doing so sincerely.

This is the last of six suggestions that Carnegie asserts to the end of influencing people to like you. Making someone feel important is always creative, always different, always renewed and fresh and alive. I have always believed—always—that personal achievement, on a secure foundation of integrity and honesty, is a paramount trait: Especially to the end to making the world a better place. I have realized that a person does these things to the end of feeling important. People want to feel important, feel like they belong. Sometimes someone comes into our lives and touches us in a very special way,” I once read: Sincerely seeing to this in another person is the quickest route in which have the other person feel that you are important to them.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Grew up in a small town, and when the rain would fall down
I'd just stare out my window dreaming of what could be
And if I'd end up happy, I would pray

Kelly Clarkson, “Breakaway

There was a sharp chill in the air, the crispness of the weather matched only by the silent sanctity of the world. Stars filled the sky, but only the footsteps beneath me could break the news to me: I was leaving this place for another, on a grand journey.

While driving my car through the winding corridor that left Custer State Park for the nearby highway I heard this very song on the radio for the first time. I’ve always looked at it as an omen for things to come. Rarely does circumstance meet with providence in such a fashion as to properly narrate your life with a meaningful song or lyric. This was one of those days.

As the following days passed and I passed through a number of states I heard the song played more times. Sometimes a change in geography is ripe for a change of mind, a change of paradigm, a change of your life: To “breakaway” from one existence and move into another.

Sometimes, though, it doesn’t require something so dramatic. Change is a funny thing: Everyone I know will often recite about it “change is the only constant” or some variation thereof. Change can be good and it can be bad, but regardless of the positivity or negativity of it, it is often the only consistent thing that can be relied upon.

A leader facilitates change, driven by the momentum created by the energy of teams. A leader takes the role of the change agent and change warrior. They fight for the change, minimizing the destruction that can be caused in its wake by transforming. Anyone can perform a transaction: A discrete exchange of things of value. Leaders, on the other hand, prefer transformation over transactions such that there is a distinct qualitative change, a change in fundamental relationships.

Sometimes change is necessary to counteract the forces of entropy. True transformational change takes a certain amount of energy: By this account it is perfect to apply to a situation in which we’re worried about the constant degradation of energy in the system, seeking to bring it to oblivion.

Proper change is meant to move an organization forward, to move everyone forward—including yourself—so to that end, go out and initiate a positive change in the world today.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Wonderful, Whacky, Crazy Misadventures of Windows

Double your drive space. Delete Windows.

…Let me tell you: I’m about to. I currently have my computer booting on a 150 GB Raptor hard drive. This required me to move my Windows Vista and Windows XP Pro partitions onto partitions on the new drive, using the eventual method of reinstalling everything from the operating system to the suite of programs I use. A fun experience if you’re a someone like me, perhaps. It was still stressing, very stressing.

I’m down to one or two programs wanting to give me blue screens of death which I hope to solve by the weekend and image the partitions and……voila, I’ll be past my phase of wanting to delete Windows.

More of the usual stuff tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

In the Search of Change: Are People Static or Dynamic?

A question that tends to repeat itself every so often is the debate between people that think that people change and the ones that think that, fundamentally, people do not change.

Who is right, who is wrong?

Once upon a professional lifetime I worked as a Resolutions Support Consultant, or quasi-supervisor/analyst, with a major wireless firm. The team that I belonged to was an elite group of former floor representatives in the receivables management department: When you want to pay a bill, particularly when it is past due, these are the agents to whom a person speaks. Resolutions, on the other hand, was the team that these agents turn to for technical, protocol, and procedural guidance as well as to pass on escalated callers. I have several an earlier blog post about this period in my life. Despite all this fun in handling escalated callers in suspenseful situations, we were also subject matter experts in the field of wireless phone customer service and receivables management policies and procedures and all that jazz.

There were rules in “Res:” Written rules that dictated how we could behave on escalated calls, how far we could bend, how systems worked, etc. There were also, unwritten rules: The ones that you are bound to out of a sense of honor and respect for the position. Those of us serving on the team didn’t always agree with one another. The culture that predominated was one that emphasized “go ahead and prove me wrong, because that gives us both an opportunity for growth.” Substantiating and disproving matters became part of the everyday marching orders. By virtue of our position we were just right. In reality, we weren’t necessarily always right…but as a team we were.

Say, for instance, I am speaking with a customer who has asked the floor representative to speak to a supervisor regarding a misunderstanding (which, generally, is what most conflicts are about). While speaking to the customer I validate their concerns and listen to their particular situation. I proceed to advise the customer that, despite their special circumstances, policy prohibits me from offering an exception. The customer interprets this as me taking a hard line and requests another supervisor. This first tier escalation turns into a second tier escalation. I continue by asking the customer to hold while I contact another supervisor, dial back into the Resolutions queue and get the next available Resolutions Consultant. I inform them about the basics of the caller and then warm transfer the call. What could happen from here is that the second tier escalation turns into an opportunity for the customer to be offered an exception. Likely, what happened, is that new information surfaced that changed the situation enough to warrant a different behavior be expressed.

In life the same sort of situation happens: We change our behaviors based on new information made available to us. We take in new information, process it and (perhaps) do a risk-reward assessment. Based on our interpretation of the new information we will change our behavior or personality, thus changing how we interact with our environment.

Again: New information changes our behaviors. It can, therefore, affect our personality. Our behaviors also shape our environment. Information that changes, however, isn’t always something that is welcome to the recipient. Often, information that conflicts with that which we believe in any degree is resisted. Information that reinforces is more easily accepted. In order to get the most benefit from new information one must be receptive of it and not outright resist it based on our prejudices and biases.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Monkey Mondays

Not all monkeys are good. There is an evil one out there.