OPTIMISM vs pessimism

So I thought this really matched my philosophy to a T on optimism and pessimism. 


As Joel Rosenberg put it in his book The Ezekiel Option, “In the long run everything would turn out fine…but tomorrow could be a disaster.”


In short, this equates to:


I’m a strategic optimist, but a tactical pessimist. 


My mom used to say, “If I am pessimistic, I’ll never be disappointed.” LOL


I think though when we have faith then we know that truly, in the end everything is for the best and will be okay.


In the short term though, there are challenges to face and these can be tough indeed. 


– Strategically an optimist. 


– Tactically a pessimist. 


Plan for the worst, hope for the best. 😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Hammer and Nail

Often, we have a one size fits all orientation to life. 

“To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”


We try to solve fresh daily problems, yet everything we are going through is seen through our preset filters and mindsets. 


In many cases, we are simply and undeniably biased, mistakenly believing that what worked in the past or for particular challenges will always work in the future and for all our problems. 


We stereotype people and races and see them as either “the good guys” or “the bad guys”–but there’s no grey in there to further differentiate.  


Also, we work in a comfortable zone of blind routine thinking that we wish it’s all as simple as wash, rinse, and repeat.


But while some die-hard habits and lessons learned in life are very valuable and should be mentally recorded and referenced, seeing life through a single, or even a few handy-dandy, filters can prove disastrous when things or times change. 


For example, one big criticism of our dealing in Washington is that:

“Politicians, like generals, have a tendency to fight the last war.”


Instead, if we evaluate the nuances of each person and particular situation, we can work to get a more detailed evaluation, and potentially be able to fine-tune approaches for what needs to be done, and how, with each and every one, accordingly. 


Chucking a batman belt approach to just using whatever tools are immediately available, can facilitate a broader and more creative approach to problem-solving. 


Sure, to a certain degree, we are creatures of habit–and we intuitively rely on what’s worked in the past, and reject and shun what hasn’t–but past experiences do not necessarily foretell future successes. 


If we don’t stay agile and resilient, we can easily get blown away by the situation or the competition. 


There is always a new challenge to test us and someone coming up who may be better, faster, or stronger that wants to try and take us on or down. 


A shotgun approach, in lieu of a more precise surgical strike, can result in a lot of collateral damage and maybe even missing the mark altogether. 


Think, think, think. 


Focus on what needs to get done–apply lessons learned as applicable, but also look for new sources and methods to build a bigger and more versatile tool chest.


In the walking dead, a hammer to the head works fairly well on all Zombies, but sometimes there are too many zombies in the hoard or even more dangerous living people and situations to attend to. 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to stevepb)

Adaptability And Integrity In The Face Of Catastrophe

Adaptability And Integrity In The Face Of Catastrophe

The Walking Dead is the #1 TV show–and this past Sunday was just amazing not only in terms of the plot, but the lessons it provided.

The big question raised was can people change?

The Governor went through a seeming metamorphosis after the destruction of his prior town and murder of his people (by his own hand) and now he has a newfound family and tribe.

When he comes to attack Rick and the prison to take it for the protection of his own people, Rick says let’s just share it, it will be hard to overcome old rivalries, but we can do it–we can change!

But the Governor, yells in a blood curdling voice, “Liar!” and proceeds in a craze to chop off Hershel’s head.

What is particularly dramatics about this–aside from their opposing views of change–is that Hershel is the doctor who not only takes care of the physical health of his people, but also is the conscience of his group seeing that they don’t lose their moral way.

The Governor is a cold killer that truly can never change–and he not only executes Hershel, but screams “Kill them all!”

He also kills his newly adopted daughter after she is bitten by one of the walkers..he shoots her right in the face.

At first, this seems like the Governor has changed, he can kill a Walker even if it’s from his new family, as opposed to his own real daughter that he kept (unwilling to let her go) until Michonne kills her.

But this was not real change for the Governor, because as he told Hershel about attacking and killing someone else’s children to survive, “they aren’t mine!”

The Governor is all about himself and will do anything selfishly to survive without consideration of others–this does not change.

On the other hand, Rick and others survive by their ability to change and grow–they kill when they must, they have empathy when they can, they live by a code of right and wrong–in every situation, they adapt.

For example, in a prior episode, Carol is forced to leave Rick’s group because she brutally killed and burnt two of people in the prison when they got sick and were a threat of spreading the disease. However, Rick understood that this was wrong and banished her for what she did. Not all killing is justified, even if it helps you survive.

The Governor (and his new cohorts) are finally killed off in this episode, and although the safety of the prison is gone, and Rick and the others must leave and wander again, they continue to survive another day–changing with ever new challenges and adhering to an informal code of conduct that they maintain, even in the face of a world catastrophe.

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

Leading Along The Continuum

Body_lines

There’s a cliff.

At the bottom is a body.

What do you think may have happened?

It’s a matter of how you interpret what you find.

If you think the person:

1) Fell…
–then it is viewed as an accident.

2) Was pushed…
–then it was murder.

3) Jumped…
–then it was a suicide.

Three scenarios…three different interpretations.

With our personality attributes, it’s the same way–they can viewed either positively or negatively.

Is the person?
– Trusting or gullible
– Optimistic or impractical
– Caring or smothering
– Self-confidant or arrogant
– Ambitious or ruthless
– Organized or controlling
– Persuasive or pressuring
– Decisive or rash
– Imaginative or a dreamer
– Entrepreneurial or reckless
– Cautious or suspicious
– Economical or stingy
– Reserved or cold
– Methodical or rigid
– Analytical or nit-picky
– Thorough or obsessive
– Principled or unbending
– Flexible or inconsistent
– Sociable or dependent
– An experimenter or aimless
– Curious or nosy

Every good trait, can be viewed and interpreted as bad and vice versa.

When it comes to the workplace, you need to apply good situational leadership.

Apply your strengths with the right amount of measure along the continuum and you’re golden.

Lean too far toward either extreme, and you risk becoming a poor manager.

The better leader can apply their traits in a purposeful way rather than being controlled by them.

While the weaker one is a victim of their personality flaws.

So was it an accident, murder, or suicide?

The facts are there somewhere, but when it comes to personality much depends on how you apply it.

(Source photo: here with attribution to NYC Arthur)

Leadership Is Not A One Personality World

Myers-briggs

An article in the Federal Times (13 November 2011) called “To Change Government’s Culture, Recruit Leader, Not Loners” was very unfortunate.

According to the author, Steven L. Katz, “Government in particular, attracts, rewards, and promotes people who want to be left alone.As a result we have a government of loners…seen in the scarcity of people with a healthy balance of substantive and social skills who are needed for leadership, management, and bringing projects large and small to completion.”

Katz identifies these “loners” as Myers-Briggs ISTJ–Introverted Sensing Thinking and Judging. Moreover, he proposes that we consider “more people who test in the range of Myers-Briggs ENTJ–Extroverted Intuitive Thinking Judging”–to assume the leadership mantle instead.

In other words, Katz has a problem with people who are introverted and sensing. In particular, it seems that the introversion type really has Katz all bent out of shape–since this is what he rails at as the loners in our organizations. What a shame!

Katz is wrong on almost all accounts,except that we need people who can communicate and collaborate and not just in government:

1) Diversity Down The Toilet–Katz only acknowledges two Myers-Briggs Types in our diverse population–ENTJ and ISTJ.  He is either unaware of or ignores the other 14 categories of people on the continuum, and he promotes only one type the ENTJ–1/16 of the types of people out there–so much for diversity!

Further, Katz makes the stereotypical and mistaken assumptions that introverts are shy and ineffectual, which as pointed out in Psychology Today in 2009 (quoted in Jobboom) “Not everyone who is shy is introverted, and not everyone who’s charismatic and cheerful is extroverted.” Further, shy people are ‘routinely misunderstood as cold, aloof, or stuck up.”

Katz missed the point as taught at OPM’s Federal Executive Institute that all of us have something to learn, teach, and a preferred pathway to excellence.

2) By the Numbers–Contrary to Katz’s implication that introverts are a small and social inept portion of population that should shunned, a report in USA Today in 2009 states that ‘50% of baby boomers are introverts” as are 38% of those born after 1981 with the onset on the modern computing age, Internet, and social media. Interestingly enough, Katz is even dissatisfied with these Millennials who according to him: their “dominant form of communication and relationships is online and on cellphones.”

Moreover, according to a 2006 article in USA Today quoted on Monster.com, “Introverts are so effective in the workplace, they make up an estimated 40% of executives.

Included in these successful introverts are people like “Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Diane Sawyer, Andrea Jung, and Bill Nardelli”–Sorry, Steve!

3) Situational Leadership Is Key–While Katz is busy searching for personality type scapegoats to government problems, he is missing the point that Myers-Briggs is “neither judgmental not pejorative” and instead “helps assess the fit between person and job” (Reference: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in Organizations: A Resource Book).

In fact, according to a recent study published in Harvard Business Review (4 October 2010), introverts are not only incredibly effective, but are “the best leaders for proactive employees.” Moreover, HBR points out that “Both types of leaders, the extraverts and the introverts, can be equally successful or ineffectual…”

So for example, Introvert leaders (who are “more likely to listen to and process the ideas”) tend to be better leaders in a situation with a extroverted team, while extroverted leaders (who “end up doing a lot of the talking”) tend to excel with a more introverted one.

However, the ultimate key according to HBR is “to encourage introverted and extraverted behavior in any given situation”–that is to use situational leadership to lead and manage according to the situation at hand, and not as a one personality type fits all world!

Katz is right that communication and collaboration are critical skills, but he is wrong that there is only one personality type that gets us all there.

(Source Photo: here)

>The Lens of Leadership

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I read an interesting article in Harvard Business Review (March 2011) called “Zoom In, Zoom Out” by Elizabeth Moss Kanter.

In the article, Kanter states that “the best leaders know when to focus in and when to pull back.”

The idea is that like a camera lens, we can choose to zoom in or out—and change perspectives in the way we see the world.

Perhaps, more importantly in my mind, it is the change in our perspective, that can change the way we, as leaders, behave across three dimensions—in handling ourselves as people, in decision making, and in problem solving.

I have summarized in the graphic (above) how the different perspectives of when we zoom IN and OUT manifest across those three critical leadership dimensions.

Overall, zooming IN and OUT with our leadership lens differs in terms of the impact of Ego versus Institution on how we view the situation; whether decisions are driven primarily by politics or principles; and whether problems get solved using quick fixes or long-terms solutions.

Zooming IN: helps us get into the weeds and deal with the dirty details. It involves dealing with people, process, and technology issues—up close and personal. Typically, to get a problem fixed—there are internal politics and some horse trading involved. Resolution of the problems on the ground are typically based on “who you are and who you know” and being structurally, situationally, and practically-oriented.

In contrast, Zooming OUT helps us see the big picture and focus on principles. It involves pulling back from the nuts and bolts to focus on the long-term strategy. Problems are treated as puzzle pieces that fit neatly into patterns. These are used to find “underlying causes, alternatives, and long-term solutions.” Sometimes appearing a little remote or aloof (reserved), at the extreme like an ivory-tower effort, the focus is clearly on the Institution and vision setting.

According to Kanter, “the point is not to choose one over the other, but to learn to move across a continuum of perspectives.

I would say that zooming IN is typically more like a manager and OUT generally more like a leader. But that a polished leader certainly knows when and how to zoom IN to take the management reins, when appropriate, and then zoom OUT again to lead in the broader sense.

One thing that I think needs to be clear is that those that can effectively build relationships and teamwork will show greater success whether zooming IN or OUT.

In the end, we can all learn to go along and get along as each situation dictates. As they say, “blessed be the flexible for they never get bent out of shape.”

>Hard On Issues, Soft on People

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There is a classic article in Harvard Business Review entitled “The Hard Work of Being A Soft Manager” (1991) by William H. Peace, which sums up “soft leadership” this way: “the stereotypical leader is a solitary tough guy, never in doubt and immune to criticism. Real leaders break that mold. They invite candid feedback and even admit they don’t have all the answers.”

The author recalls his mentor whom he says “taught me how important it is to be a flesh-and-blood human being as well as a manager. He taught me that soft qualities like openness, sensitivity, and thoughtful intelligence are at least as critical to management success as harder qualities like charisma, aggressiveness, and always being right.”

To me, there is a time and place for hard and soft leadership qualities. Leaders must be firm when it comes to driving organizational results and performing with the highest ethical conduct and integrity, but they should act with greater flexibility when it comes to open communications and collaboration with people.

I believe that leaders would be wise to follow the leadership adage of “be hard on issues and soft on people”. This means that great leaders stand up and fight for what they believe is best for their organization and they team and collaborate with their people to make results happen. In this way, leaders and their staffs are working in unity of purpose and as a genuine team, with leaders seen as human, credible and worthy of people’s dedication and hard work. To me the perfect example of this leadership style is Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks who is relentless in his pursuit of a successful global coffee retailing company, but is also passionate about taking care of his diverse stakeholders from employees to coffee growers and even the environment.

In contrast dysfunctional managers are hard on people and soft on issues. They are indecisive, waiver, or are seen as subjective on business issues and this is hard on their people. Moreover, these managers let out their professional and personal frustrations on the very people that are there to support them in the enterprise. Here, leaders alienate and disenfranchise their people, fragment any semblance of teams and fail at their projects. The leaders are viewed as powerful figures that rule but do so with injustice and without meaning. An example of this failed leadership style is “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap who relentlessly cut people to cut costs, but as Slate put it (31 August 1997) “built his ‘turnarounds’ on cosmetic measures designed to prop up stock prices.”

By being unyielding in doing what is right for the mission, and acting with restraint with people, leaders can bring the best of hard and soft leadership qualities to bear in their positions.

Of course, these leadership traits must be used appropriately in day-to-day situations. Leaders should be hard on issues, but know when to throttle back so business issues can be worked through with stakeholders and change can evolve along with organizational readiness. Similarly, leaders should be soft on people, but know when to throttle up to manage performance or conduct issues, as necessary. In this way, hard and soft qualities are guidelines and not rules for effective leadership, and leaders will act appropriately in every situation.