Choosing not to be a sellout

Choosing not to be a sellout

 

 

 

“Let me take a look at your Twitter profile,” offered my table companion. We were attending a Chamber-sponsored event on how to make the most of social media. “That’s my area of expertise, and I’m happy to offer up a style suggestion or two. Maybe you’ll decide to become a client.”

Curious, I took him up on his offer.

A few days later, I received an email from him that read in part:

The biggest problem with your Twitter account is that you follow too many people. Your following count makes you look less authoritative and diminishes the value of your message. Be selective and exclusive in who you follow. Think of it as a hierarchy of prestige. I suggest you curate who you’re following and drop those who aren’t influencers or a recognized name. You want to look superior, distinguished, and special, not ordinary.

His advice disturbed me. For lots of reasons.

My dad taught me to be confident yet humble. One of his favorite put-downs for someone acting “high and mighty” was to say, “he forgets we all put our pants on the same way.”

There’s no “hierarchy of prestige” in that mindset. Just common sense and goodness.

Thinking you’re better than others

“The individuals in our sample consistently judged themselves to be superior to the average person.” ~Ben Tappin, The Illusion of Moral Superiority

In one study, two-thirds of the participants agreed with the statement, deep down, you enjoy feeling superior to others. Lots of other studies contain similar findings. There’s even a name for the mental state of thinking you’re superior to others—the self-enhancement effect.

Research shows the self-enhancement effect is most pronounced with moral characteristics. What does that mean? It means we not only see our abilities as above average, but we also see ourselves as more moral, just, trustworthy, loyal, etc., than our peers. That’s too big for your britches territory.

Self-enhancement thinking can lead to self-righteousness. That’s problematic.

Self-righteousness seeps into multiple aspects of our lives—it’s subtle, incremental, addictive, indiscriminate, and destructive. Thoughts about rightness and superiority contribute to polarization, social injustice, intolerance, political discord, and even violence.

My interpretation of the consultant’s recommendation? He wanted me to position myself as being better than other people. Special. Elite. Exclusive.

Creating such a narrative about myself smacked of arrogance and narrow-mindedness, not messages I wanted to convey or even let myself believe. Other social media experts advocate the same approach to those you follow back. For me, curating those I follow back to create an image of exclusivity and superiority felt inauthentic and dishonest.

“What is intellectual honesty? It means always seeking the truth regardless of whether or not it agrees with your own personal beliefs.” ~Perry Tam, CEO Storm8

A very thin line exists between confidence and arrogance. Not crossing that line requires vigilance, commitment, and self-awareness. Curiosity, a desire for humility, a sense of humor, and being kind to ourselves and others are involved, too.

Authenticity over style

 

Maintaining intellectual honesty and avoiding the trap of self-righteousness requires a few do’s and a couple of don’ts if we’re going to lead ourselves and others with grace and goodness.

DO:

  • Respect others as equals.
  • Be willing to listen to opposing points of view.
  • Check our ego at the door.
  • Be confident without being arrogant.

DON’T

  • Judge or label people.
  • Accept our presumed superiority.
  • Attack people who hold different beliefs.
  • Be something we’re not.

I thanked the consultant for taking the time to look over my Twitter account and for sharing his thoughts. He asked if I wanted to become a client so I could capitalize on more of his experience and increase my influencer status.

“No, thank you,” I replied.

“I think you’re making a mistake, so may I ask why you’re not interested?”

“Of course. I walk to a different drummer. I want to be seen as knowledgeable, not superior. Accessible, not exclusive. Kind, not elite. If that means people judge me as not being distinguished, then so be it. They wouldn’t be my target audience, anyway. I’ll take substance over style any day.”

“Have it your way,” he said as he shrugged his shoulders and walked away. Convinced, I’m guessing, of my lack of superiority. I’m good with that.

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

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In the interest of fairness, let’s fix the problem with power

In the interest of fairness, let’s fix the problem with power

 

Power has a reputation problem.

When I use the word power, I’m referring to changing “what is” to “what can be.”

When I ask people to talk about power, they wrinkle their nose in disgust or say, “I’d rather not.” When I ask them why not, they offer up reasons why power is bad, saying things like:

  • Power makes people selfish and insensitive.
  • Power makes you over-confident, narcissistic, and corrupt.
  • Having people makes you intimidating.

People aren’t wrong when they say these things about power. Who hasn’t worked for bosses who were all these bad things—and more? If personal experience isn’t enough, research affirms that some people who have power are selfish, corrupt, and cruel.

As a result of these unsavory encounters, power becomes the bad guy to be avoided, like the creepy stranger who lures kids into cars with candy.

The problem with this avoidance solution?

It leaves the bad guys in charge.

In reality, power, in and of itself, isn’t inherently good or evil. Power takes on either the goodness or badness of the person using it.

Power undirected by high purpose spells calamity; and high purpose by itself is utterly useless if the power to put it into effect is lacking. ~Theodore Roosevelt

Because so many people abuse power, we confuse power with the bad person misusing it and say we don’t want power.

When thoughts like this get into our heads, they can be hard to get rid of. However, for the greater good, now’s the time to let go of the notion that power is a bad thing and reclaim it as something good.

The problem? The bad person misusing their power

 

The problem with seeing power as an evil force to be avoided? This view removes the person who has the power from the equation. They become an innocent bystander to a situation of their own making. That’s not right.

Linguist Julia Penelope says the nouns we use and where we place them in a sentence changes how we, and others, interpret a topic. She says we sometimes go so far as even to forget that a person is responsible for what happened to us.

Julia uses the following series of sentences to illustrate this omission:  John beat Mary. Mary was beaten by John. Mary was beaten. Mary was battered. Mary is a battered woman.

By the time we get to the third sentence, John has disappeared, and the topic has shifted from John beating Mary to Mary’s identity as a battered woman. When we make these thinking shifts, we delete whomever or whatever initiated the event.

We’re doing the same thing when we say power is bad. Power itself isn’t bad, it’s the greedy or egotistical person who’s changing “what is” to “what can be” to suit their own purposes who is.

What power does is that it liberates the true self to emerge. ~Joe Magee, a power researcher and professor of management at New York University

Professor of psychology and sociology G. William Domhoff notes that power is one of a few universal dimensions that humans encounter at the interpersonal, group, and societal levels.

Why is power’s universality important to recognize? Because doing good involves having and using power—but for the greater good, not personal gain.

It doesn’t matter if the doing good happens at work, at home, in the community, or in pursuit of social justice or equality. Changing “what is” to “what can be” requires power. If you’re like me and want society and workplaces to be more equitable, inclusive, and kind, we need power to effect those changes.

Eligibility checklist for power?

 

I confess. My tolerance for selfish, money-oriented, glory-grabbing people in positions of power has been exhausted. Because of that, I’ve been thinking about what can be done to ensure that the people who have power are the ones who can properly handle it.

Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power. -Seneca

Here’s what is on my list so far:

1) Change what’s measured and rewarded. Require that leaders at all levels be held accountable for people, principles, and profits. Measuring success only by dollars and cents perpetuates bad behaviors while encouraging more of them.

2) Call’em out. Rather than lauding their actions, criticize CEOs and Wall Street analysts who focus on only the bottom line. Who says capitalism must be heartless?

3) Take a leadership oath of office. Doctors do it. So do new citizens, politicians, soldiers enlisting for the U.S. Army, nurses, lawyers, and pharmacists. Part of the oath would be a promise to hold people, principles, and profits equally important.

What would you put on the power-eligibility list?

Image credit before quote: Pixabay

 

 

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4 business lessons drawn from tough times

4 business lessons drawn from tough times

business lessons

Business can lead to cutthroat competition in more ways than one, but I learned that the darkest moments also can lead to the greatest triumphs and best business lessons.

It’s the worst experiences that sometimes teach us the most important lessons. I encountered turbulent times in the inner city of Los Angeles as I built my company into a trusted institution among underserved communities.

My employees and I faced harrowing experiences, such as armed robberies and threats from the mob, which hoped to block some of his expansion plans. The 1992 riots that erupted after a jury acquitted police officers in the beating of Rodney King proved especially distressing. Many businesses were looted or burned to the ground, so we had to scramble to protect my check-cashing locations.

It was gratifying to learn that loyal customers prevented some branches from being torched albeit in unexpected ways. A gang member called us to say he’d always been treated with respect at Nix, so his gang had decided not to burn our buildings because we were part of the community.

4 business lessons learned from hard times

 

My experiences taught me a number of valuable lessons that relate both to business and life, such as:

  • Take responsibility.

This applies to everything that happens, including things you can’t control. Once when an economic downturn left me unable to pay my bills, I contacted each creditor to explain my predicament and work out a payment plan. This upfront approach helped me to avoid bankruptcy.

  • Never play the victim role or blame game.

Avoid replaying misfortunes over and over in your mind. Accept setbacks gracefully and concentrate on getting back on track. In the 1990s, a business deal that went awry nearly forced me to sell my company, but instead I focused on solving the problem and stayed in business.

  • Be courageous.

The most debilitating human emotion is fear. Learn to keep it in perspective, minimize it when applicable, and harness it to your benefit when need be. Standing up to bullies as a child set the stage for me to be able to stand up to the mob.

  • Maintain integrity.

Operating with fair play and compassion is important in building trust. The way some community members protected some of our branches during the riots reflected this. Treating people fairly and supporting community programs paid off.

Good times may be more enjoyable, but challenging times provide more opportunity for growth. Realize that bad people, tough times and mistakes are your teachers. Always ask yourself, “What business lessons do I need to learn from these events?”

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Today’s guest contributor is Tom Nix, author of the memoir Nixland, a pioneer of the check-cashing industry, and currently a public speaker and writing focused on helping people overcome obstacles and be successful.

 

 

 

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What conflict and courage have in common

What conflict and courage have in common

leverage conflict

 

Just like spring breezes and pollen, conflict is in the air.

Contentious attitudes are everywhere. We find them in the media, in workplaces, in our social media feeds, in the streets, between friends, and at the dinner table. Civility and respect for other’s rights to have their opinions are beginning to feel as outdated as a wall calendar.

A number of people have shared how they’re struggling to stay calm and deal with the friction and discord swirling around them.

I’m struggling with that, too. You?

I’m also struggling with discovering I didn’t know people I thought I knew. It’s been hurtful to be on the receiving end of their unpleasant attacks. Their darkness tugs at some dark spot in me that cries out to respond in kind.

Lessons from a wise man

 

That feeling isn’t new. I experienced it back when I worked in labor relations and contentious was the flavor of the day, every day.

Joe had been a labor relations attorney longer than I was old and was willing to help me learn the ropes. The first lesson he taught me was how to disagree without being disagreeable; the second was not to make things personal by attacking others.

He believed conflict wasn’t logical or rational but rather emotional and relational. What we think shapes how we feel and act. For many, feelings become facts.

The same issues that lead to protracted conflict (e.g. values, status, and identify), are also the triggers of strong emotions. People who feel ‘unfairly attacked, misunderstood, wronged, or righteously indignant’ are typically overcome with emotion and respond with hostility and aggression. ~Michelle Maiese, Emotions, Beyond Intractability

Joe said only a silly person believed they could solve a conflict based in differences of opinion or perspective. He said people needed to accept that, in those situations, conflict is a fact of life.

Here’s his wise counsel for dealing clashes of interests:

  • See conflict as something ongoing that needs to be managed; not exterminated like termites.
  • Aim for a constructive, goal-oriented solution that gives everyone a small win.
  • Strive for outcomes that improve performance.
  • Look to advance the greater good; there’s something bigger than all of us out there.
  • Accept that differences of thought, opinion, and perspective are both healthy and uncomfortable.
  • Handled without skill, patience, or compassion, conflict can easily become ugly, leaving people frustrated and angry. Don’t go there. Find a way to let respect over-rule self-righteous anger.
  • Take the high road and be productive, not the low, unproductive one.

That last point about making conflict either productive or unproductive is crucial. Conflict, handled constructively, can be an instrument of growth. Handled unproductively, well, too many of us have experienced unpleasant attacks—that sometime get so bad that relationships and friendships are lost.

Wondering which side of that productive/not productive line you sit on? Imagine you’re a party to a conflict that’s flared up because of differing principles and values. Think about what you would normally do when you feel your needs, interests, or concerns are threatened. Then take a look at the table below.

If more of your actions fall on the left side of the table, take a step back and reflect. It’s likely you’re not letting people feel heard, respected, or free to voice a dissenting opinion. Aren’t those things you’d want people to do for you?

How conflict makes us productive…or not

Unproductive Productive
Refuses to see other’s position Open to exploring another point of view
Respond with anger or accusations Respond calmly and respectfully
Becomes defensive Acknowledges thoughts or feelings and doesn’t try to justify
Reasons or argues others out of their invalid thoughts and feelings Approaches issues with facts, not emotions, saying when you do xx in this situation, I feel yy
Withdraws love and compassion Continues to care and be compassionate
Nonverbal communications (facial expressions; posture; gestures; pace, tone, and intensity of voice) are hostile Nonverbals are agreeable, pleasant, nonthreatening, and friendly
Focuses on winning and losing Understands that success is more than a score or coming out on top
Passionately defends individual power and rights Seeks mutual interests
Dredges up the past Focuses on the here-and-now and the future
Refuses to let go of any contrary issue Knows when to pick a battle
Makes it personal Doesn’t let things become personal
Always goes with the gut; doesn’t see the need to research or seek to understand Gets the facts from checking multiple sources
Denies being wrong Shows courage and openness to being wrong
Co-mingles and conflates people and problems Respects people, attacks the problem
Jumps to conclusions Gathers additional information before deciding
Intolerant of differences Welcomes differences
Refuses to negotiate or compromise Aims for inclusive consensus
Is eager to escalate, exaggerate, or embellish Stays level-headed and keeps to the facts
Demands my-way-or-the-highway allegiance Commits to working together to work it out
Presumes that others will live up to and/or accept their expectations Gives others room to have their own expectations

 

Thanks to Joe all those years ago, today, whenever I’m facing a vocal someone who passionately sees things differently than I do and who’s starting to get under my skin because all they can say is that I’m wrong, wrong, wrong, I take a step back and think about their right to think differently.

I have to understand and respect that I’m never going to change someone else. Only they can do that.

I know I can’t control the other person’s response, but I’m in total control of mine.

I have endeavored to remember that the object of life is to do good. ~Peter Cooper, industrialist and philanthropist 

 

Image source before quote added: Pixabay

 

 

 

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Ready to create a reaction chain of goodness?

Ready to create a reaction chain of goodness?

leadership goodness

“You are a total idiot! No one in their right mind thinks that way.”

The conversation coming from the group at the far end of the coffee shop had kept getting louder and louder. Everyone knew they were talking about immigration.

The “idiot” fellow had shared that immigrants deserved compassion. From the spirited debate and name-calling his words produced, it was obvious he was in the minority.

I’d recently been involved in a similar but way less passionate discussion regarding leadership, i.e., that my conversation partner believed the best ones kicked butt and took names. I believe the best leaders practice tough empathy, that they’re both tough and tender.

Why are caring and connection so threatening?

Time for research.

I looked into emotion, fear, love, neuroscience, psychology, leadership, and change management.

Machiavelli’s words about fear—that it was more reliable because it can be “maintained by dread of punishment, which never fails” and that “it was safer to be feared than loved” popped up several places.

Safer. Fascinating word choice. Machiavelli didn’t say fear was better than love, just safer.

Funny how a single word can unlock a whole new line of pondering. What is unsafe about caring?

Expressing love makes us vulnerable—we have to get close; fear can be elicited from a distance.

Detachment doesn’t ask for an emotional investment, empathy does.

Reaching out is harder and riskier than walking away.

Fear and love aren’t forever either/or choices, though. We really need them both, no matter what we’re doing in life, love, and leadership.

Context matters.

Sometimes we need a warm heart; others times a cool head. Sometimes we need the boot in the bottom, other times it’s warm hug. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree, choosing not to be ugly towards those who see things differently.

How do we learn to not default to fear but rather to first seek to understand and then do what’s right for the situation?

I found these words from Umair Haque, author, economist, Director of the London-based Havas Media Lab that helped me answer that question:

Those who truly wish to be leaders in an age of discontent—not merely its demagogues, bullies, hecklers, and tyrants—will have to turn reject and refuse ruling through fear, and toward leading with love.

 

Leading through love means overcoming the ever-present temptation to abuse and belittle people, to guilt and shame them, to mock and taunt them — to force them into line.

 

It means creating the conditions for them to grow into following the principles that you espouse. It means not just arguing tendentiously with nor patronizingly explaining to people things that they are not ready to, equipped to, nor prepared to understand, but putting faith in people — even those who damn you — first, always, everywhere.

Wow. Those are some powerful thoughts on getting right with fear and love.

After reading Umair’s words, I thought about the fellas in the coffee shop and my colleague and I.

In those situations, no one was getting through to anyone. No heads or hearts were being changed. All we all were doing was making noise. Rattling our sabers of fear, certainly not extending compassion or empathy.

To find the sweet spot of respect without defaulting to either fear or love, it’s necessary to:

  • Respect other’s right to think, feel, and act differently.
  • Accept that we’re not always right.
  • Not allow evil and hatred to make us numb to what’s good, paraphrasing Henry Adam’s remark that evil is done by those who think they are doing good.
  • Be mindful when words and phrases like either/or, should, or need to be control our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
  • Assure we’re practicing both logic and emotion as we chart our lives.

My promise to myself: to replace my wagging finger with grace and aim for creating a reaction chain of goodness.

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay

 

 

 

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Embrace Being #2: Six Ways to Handle Rejection

Embrace Being #2: Six Ways to Handle Rejection

dealing with rejection

Ten years ago, in the 2008 Olympics, Michael Phelps won the Gold Medal in the Men’s 100M butterfly beating out Milorad Cavic by a mere .01 second. Literally, in the 1/30th time it takes to blink, Phelps’s dreams were realized, and Cavic’s were dashed.

Over the course of your lifetime, it’s inevitable that you’ll face this same struggle.

You’ll be told no. You’ll be rebuffed. You’ll even be harshly rejected because of differences between you and your competitor that may seem minor or even trivial.

The good news for Cavic was that he won an Olympic silver medal, something to place on his mantle for future generations of the Cavic family to view, awe, and admire.

When you earn second place, you get nothing…nada…the big goose egg.

So, how do you avoid this harsh reality and always finish first?

The truth is you can’t.

That reality means you need to build what our colleague, Kendall Colman, calls your “rejection muscle” because you’re going to be told “no” way more often than not.

Since you’re going to be told “no” 70-80 percent of the time, you’re going to need to know how to handle rejection.

 

6 ways to handle rejection

 

We offer six ways to handle rejection:

1) Understand that “NO” is not negative, it’s only feedback. Life is neutral. The only one who is placing a label on this event is you.

2) Remember that labels are sticky. Once a rejection occurs, it’s easy to move the label from the event to ourselves. Ever hear yourself saying these things? “I suck.” “I’m a terrible person. “I’m such a loser.” Breathe and stop with the labels. Interrupt your “label” thinking with “It’s just experience.”

3) Reflection is not just a three-syllable word. Most people make the same mistakes over and over because they never ask themselves or their colleagues, customers, etc., what they could have done differently. People will often be incredibly open with you about the reasons they said “no” if you ask them.

4) Embrace being #2. We once visited a coffee roaster who said, “Our Company likes being #2. We know that our competitor’s best clients are just one mistake away from calling us.” Never burn a bridge. Stay in contact. Catch up at networking events. Never stop being a resource for them.

5) Be a resource broker. What’s the fastest way to become someone’s #1 choice?  Send your prospect “a trickle” of contacts that they need to know either personally or professionally.

6) Realize you are not the Godfather. In the movie, The Godfather Part II, Michael Corleone famously mumbles, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Remember, the workplace is not the mafia. Make friends with those you see as your competitors—give them reasons to like and trust you. This advice may go against every dog-eat-dog, business-world, spidey-sense you have; but remember, your competitors are just like you. At times, they’re overwhelmed or need the help of outside expertise.

So, here’s our point, the possibilities to be rejected are limitless, but so are your ways to graciously respond to them.

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Today’s guest contributors, Tim Brown and Dan Streeter, are the co-authors of Old School with New Tools: The Extra 5% That Takes You to the Top of Your Sales Game and Keeps You There.

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay

 

 

 

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