Alternatives Are More Valuable Than Criticism

So one lesson of life that I have learned is about criticism. 


It’s easy to criticize, but tough to come up with real solutions. 


Criticizing someone else, does not usually provoke a good response. 


UNLESS, you can provide a bona fide better alternative in a loving way. 


It’s important to solve problems and not just create new ones. 


Criticizing without an alternative just causes anxiety and frustration in the other person. 


But when you says something isn’t right and why, and provide a better alternative, now the other person can see concretely what you are talking about, and they know they have options and that you are trying to help. 


No one wants to be told they are no good or their choices are no good. 


But people don’t mind and perhaps may even embrace being told that there is even something better for them out there.


Don’t criticize, instead give alternatives that are good for the other person. 


That’s real love without being a jerk. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Don’t Give A Fire Truck

Sometimes, others can get negative at you in life.


People are unhappy. 

 

Complaints are rolling in. 


It seems like you can’t do right.


But you have to have a thick skin or as one colleague told me:

You need to be like Teflon and have it all just roll off you.


And this book title reminded me of this:

“The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck”


Yes, we do have to care about doing good in what we do. 


It’s just that we shouldn’t “give a f*ck” when others are just wanting to tear us down and enjoying it. 


Constructive feedback is good. 


But destructive negativity at every turn is just hurtful.


It’s also a way for others to not take ownership.


We all need to do our part to make things better in this world. 


Sure, no one does everything right and no one is perfect. 


But everyone needs to try their best, and when others just want to beat on you…


That’s a completely appropriate time to not give a firetruck. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The UNITED States of America

Flag.jpeg

Continuing the theme of unity…

I really liked this amazing American flag.

Instead of stars, it has the abbreviations for all 50 states.

Imagine what we can accomplish if we all learn to love each other and band together again.

And know for sure what will happen it this hate and infighting continues.

Unfortunately, there seems to be selfish forces of corruption and evil at play.

Put the country first.

By all means disagree and constructively criticize.

Influence things for the good.

Work together and solve problems.

And let’s try to be the UNITED States once again!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Clothing Optional

Empress Has No Clothes.jpeg

This was a funny painting in the gallery. 

A naked lady with a big colorful sun hat on. 

Be careful you don’t want to get too much sun!

The painting also makes me think of the saying “The empress (or emperor) has no clothes.”

The leader thinks they are wearing beautiful clothes, but the reality is they are naked in front of their subjects. 

People see when their leaders are shelling out a clouded vision, tempting them with empty (campaign) promises, or pushing ideas that don’t hold water in the real world, but often people are simply too afraid to say anything.

Instead, they acknowledge the beautiful clothes or brilliant ideas that aren’t there and in groupthink fashion, they fail to call out the folly for what it is, when it is. 

Naked is naked, and we should say the truth albeit with respect and in a constructive way, if we really want to make genuine collective progress. 

True–lauding or blinding following what simply isn’t there and has no substance may land you a seat at the royal table, but what good is it, if you are sitting with some leaders that may be nothing more than naked idiots. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Looking Forward, Backwards

Looking Forward, Backwards

Farhad Manjoo argues in today’s Wall Street Journal that “there’s plenty” of innovation going on, despite the grumblings that their isn’t.

His main argument is that “the smartphone and the tablet ‘are’ the next big things.”

Manjoo tells us to “grow up” and calls us “spoiled children,” because we are not satisfied with these and simple future enhancements of this.

He would have us accept that there won’t be “anything as groundbreaking in a generation.”

Well, looking back at past innovation and calling that as our current and future innovation is like looking back at our past successes and simply resting on our laurels as good enough.

Unfortunately, no business can rest on their past successes–they must constantly innovate to stay relevant in the marketplace and meet their growth targets for revenue, profit, market share, and customer satisfaction.

As they say in financial prospectuses, “past success is no guarantee of future success.”

Similarly, as individuals we do not just settle for past success, but we strive everyday to make a contribution, to learn, and to grow as long as we have the strength to try.

When we stop striving, we may as well be heading downhill in the cycle of life, because as we all know, “if you are not moving forward, then you are moving backwards.”

Life is not stagnant, and yesterdays innovations are not todays creative breakthroughs or tomorrows leaps forward.

The rate of innovation is no longer measured in generations in the 21st century–and for those who think it is, they would have us accept defeat in this highly global, competitive marketplace.

While we should not be greedy, why are we so ready to say good enough, instead of really critiquing ourselves (e.g. calling a dry spell, a dry spell) and continuing the tough journey into the future.

At least Manjoo cites incremental work in privacy, enterprise technologies such as cloud computing, and robotics as tech trends – so maybe there is still hope. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Big and Small–Who’s Who?

Father_and_son

Yesterday, I go into a store with my daughter to shop for a new iPhone case.

A clean-cut kid–maybe 13 years old–comes out from behind the counter and asks me what I’m looking for.

I chat with the boy for a few minutes about their products and the prices of the various items–and I was genuinely impressed with this kid’s “business savvy.”

Sort of suddenly, a larger man emerges, whom I assume to be the boy’s father.

Making conversation and being friendly, I say to the man, “Your son is a very good salesman.”

The father responds surprisingly, and says, “Not really, he hasn’t sold you anything yet!”

Almost as abruptly, he turns and stumps away back behind the counter.

I look back over at the kid now, and he is clearly embarrassed, but more than that his spirit seems broken, and he too disappears behind the counter.

My daughter and I look at each other–shocked and upset by the whole scene–this was a lesson not only in parenting gone wrong, but also in really poor human relations and emotional intelligence.

As a parents, teachers, and supervisors, we are are in unique positions to coach, mentor, encourage, and motivate others to succeed.

Alternatively, we can criticize, humiliate, and discourage others, so that they feel small and perhaps as if they can never do anything right.

Yes, there is a time and place for everything including constructive criticism–and yes, it’s important to be genuine and let people know when they are doing well and when we believe they can do better.

I think the key is both what our motivations are and how we approach the situation–do we listen to others, try and understand their perspectives, and offer up constructive suggestions in a way that they can heard or are we just trying to make a point–that we are the bosses, we are right, and it’ll be our way or the highway.

I remember a kid’s movie my daughters used to watch called Matilda and the mean adult says to Matilda in this scary way: “I’m big and your small. I’m smart and your dumb”–clearly, this is intimidating, harmful, and not well-meaning.

Later in the day, in going over the events with my daughter, she half-jokingly says, “Well maybe the kid could’ve actually sold something, if they lowered the prices” 🙂

We both laughed knowing that neither the prices nor the products themselves can make up for the way people are treated–when they are torn down, rather than built up–the results are bad for business, but more important they are damaging to people.

We didn’t end up buying anything that day, but we both came away with a valuable life lesson about valuing human beings and encouraging and helping them to be more–not think of themselves as losers or failures–even a small boy knows this.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Allen Ang, and these are not the people in the blog story.)

Speak Up or Shut Up

Shut_up_vs_speak_up_organizati

We’ve all been there–organizations that are run by the king or queen and their proverbial gang of 6 or 7 or 8 or 9.

These are the organizations that are dominated by powerful, but narcissistic leadership (notice I do not call them leaders–because they are not).

According to Forbes, (11 January 2012) in an article entitled Why Narcissistic CEOs Kill Their Companies, in these organizations, the c-suite is dominated by those showing four narcissistic personality traits:

Exploitative–They are in charge and everyone else had better respect–or better yet worship–them. Typically they are surrounded by “yes men” and eager beavers, ready to please at just about all costs.

Authoritarian–They insist on “being the center of attention,” they always know better, are always right even in the face of evidence to the contrary, and with their people, it’s their way or the highway.

Arrogant–They are full of themselves and usually something else 🙂 and believe they are superior and therefore entitled to their positions of power and stature.

Self-Absorbed–They admire and and are preoccupied with themselves, and not focused on what’s ultimately good for the organization, the mission, and its people.

In such organizations, and with such pitiful leadership, generally we find cultures of fear and what Harvard Business Review (January-February 2012) says are organizations where people “are afraid to speak honestly.”

In these dysfunctional organizations with inept leadership, the workforce is stunted–they cannot genuinely contribute or grow and where organizational candor, trust, and collaboration is low, organizational performance is predictably poor.

HBR suggests that greater candor and sharing is possible by “breaking meetings into smaller groups,” assigning people to “notice and speak up when something is being left unsaid,” and to “teach ‘caring-criticism'”–where input is provided constructively and not personally attacking and where honest feedback is viewed as “generous, rather than critical.”

I think these suggestions may help organizations that are fundamentally well-run by caring and professional leaders, but when narcissists and power mongers rule the day, then the culture is not speak up, but rather shut up.

One of the things that I have been fortunate to experience and learn is that diplomacy from the top-down goes a long way in creating a professional and productive work culture.

When people are given respect and the freedom to speak up constructively, when they can work in true-teaming environments, and when relationships matter more than winning the day, then the workforce and all the individuals therein have the opportunity to grow to their potential. In speak uporganizations, people can voice their opinions, provide valuable input, and contribute to the mission–both the people and the organization thrive.

In contrast, when the workplace is shut up, because of narcissistic and poor leadership, the workforce is essentially shut down–they are in essence muzzled in speech and ultimately in deed. These organizations choke off their own talent and lifeblood, while their head swells from the arrogance and power at the top.

Diplomacy is a skill not only in international relations, but in life and in the workplace, and diplomatic leaders are notnarcissists trying to wield and hold power, but rather polished and professional leaders who foster a culture of speak up and team up–they are ready to take their organizations and people to new levels of productivity, growth, and meaning.