Courtesy and cold fusion

One yardstick of wealth is how much you give away. It’s easy to run out of time and money, but there are no hard limits to your supply of courtesy and consideration.

I’ve had several interactions with courteous, engaged service people this week, and they made a huge difference to a difficult week – I still feel glad about them. Being courteous – assuming the best, being polite, giving respect and space to people before you’re forced to concede ground or fight for it – is a wonderful form of generosity. It makes almost everything better, feels great, and almost always creates more energy than it costs.

It’s cold fusion.

Vision. Positioning. Execution. (4)

Execution

Being able to execute means being able to get the right things done at the right times. Good execution is a combination of:

  • Knowledge – do you know what to do and how to do it? This is a type of vision, but I include here for completeness.
  • Skill – are you able to do it? Skills need to be learned and practiced, and intuition improves with experience.
  • Will – are you committed? Do you make things happen and get stuff done? Skill doesn’t matter if you don’t take action.
  • Performance – how well do you do your part? Do you make the most of what you’ve got?
  • Bringing people with you – who else is involved? Are they ready?
  • Luck – do things go your way?

The Key

Having a strong will – strong enough that you consistently act on it – is the most important of these. Unless you’re committed and determined and actually show up, make things happen and get stuff done – nothing else matters.

Vision. Positioning. Execution. (1)

You see the traffic, approach the road, pause at the kerb, lean forward just as someone passes to get some forward motion, then step into the space between cars.
Or you press the button and wait for the light.

You see a public holiday on the calendar, decide that you want to go away, decide where and who with, then you book, pack, and go.

You see a teammate with the ball and an opposing player moving to tackle. You move into position for a pass – changing course slightly once the ball is in the air – catch it, and run into space.

You see your child growing up and glimpse what they need now and will need in future. You make changes to free up time. You learn new things to share with them. You spend the time, play, talk, teach, give them things they need.

You see a need for a product or service, know that you can make it, start working, gathering resources, building relationships with suppliers and buyers, making it, sharing it with the people it’s for.

You see a glass on the edge of a table and someone gesturing enthusiastically. You move the glass, continue the conversation.

You see someone in need, move closer to find out what’s going on, do what you can to help.

Vision. Positioning. Execution.

Leadership: don’t say it

You may have a very good point.

You may be entirely in the right.

It may be that you’ve understood their (bad) motivation perfectly, that they are wrongheaded, inconsiderate and rude to boot.

It may be that there’s a values-conflict that’s going to take a lot of deep and difficult work to address.

Some of the above is probably true. All of it may be true*… But saying it to them now – saying it how you’d most like to say it, maybe throwing in a few of the things that you’ve been carrying for a while – saying it now, in the heat of the moment, won’t help.

Grit your teeth. Breath deeply. Don’t say it. Instead do the harder work of fixing the deeper issues and slowly, slowly getting the boat moving in the right direction.

 

P.S. Of course, I said it. 

*And of course, it’s just possible that many of them are not true, or that you need kick in the empathy to know how to respond properly

John Gardner on regeneration

Values always decay over time. Societies that keep their values alive do not do so not by escaping the process of decay but by powerful processes of regeneration. There must be perpetual rebuilding. Each generation must rediscover the living elements in its own tradition and adapt them to present realities. To assist in that discovery is one of the tasks of leadership.

Leaders must understand how and why human systems age, and must know how the processes of renewal may be set in motion. The purposes are always the same:

– To renew and interpret values that have been encrusted with hypocrisy, corroded by cynicism or simply abandoned; and to generate new values when needed.

– To liberate energies that have been imprisoned by outmoded procedures and habits of thought.

– To reenergize forgotten goals or to generate new goals appropriate to new circumstances.

– To achieve, through science and other modes of exploration, new understandings leading to new solutions.

– To foster the release of human possibilities, through education and lifelong growth.

John Gardner – On Leadership

Caterina Fake: 5 Cs

If you look at all of the companies that I’ve been involved with and the investments that I’ve made, they are companies that emphasise creativity, communication, connection, collaboration and community.

Caterina Fake – Tim Ferris Show #360

Caterina Fake co-founded Flikr, where they popularised – newsfeeds, tags (which later evolved into hashtags), followers and likes. She played a key role in the development of Etsy, Kickstarter, and a many others besides.

These five Cs are values that she describes as being key to the success of her projects.

What role do they (could they, should they) play in yours, not just for you and your team, but for your partners, donors, customers, clients?

Conflicting values

If you keep butting up against the same problem with a colleague – a problem you think you’ve fixed, but that comes up repeatedly in slightly different variations – it could be a sign of conflicting values.

Values conflicts often seem to arise over:

  • Money (fees, salaries and expenses)
  • Time (working hours, punctuality)
  • Effort and focus (work ethic, productivity, accountability)
  • How we treat people (respect, courtesy)

If it is a values conflict (and it’s worth double checking that it’s not a case of your own poor management), you can be pretty sure that it’s going to keep on appearing until you do some deep work to address it.

These conflicts are tricky to handle because they’re often both emotion-laden and subjective. That is, we’re all pretty sure we’re right, and we’re indignant about being wronged – and our feelings of indignation double when realise how the other side of the argument perceives the things we say and do.

Some questions for working on values conflicts:

  • What’s the history here? How has this problem shown up in the past, and what seems to be the root cause?
  • What shortcoming of yours might they think is the root cause?
  • How is everyone feeling about the issue? How will that affect the way they communicate?
  • Assume for a moment that they have the same values as you do on this. What might make them act this way?
  • What information are you missing (or failing to recognise the importance of) that would help you make better decisions here?
  • What information do they have that might help you?
  • What factors are you assigning importance to that they don’t know about or don’t recognise, and how can you close those gaps?
  • Get advice – think particularly about people who might be able to fill in the missing information, or give perspective on how each party feels and why – and point out to you when you’re being unreasonable?
  • Where does the power lie in this conflict? Does this affect how you should behave?
  • If you’re convinced there is a conflict in values – check that you’ve consistently demonstrated the value in question in your treatment of others. What do you need to change?
  • How can you talk about the value, sharing information and telling stories that weave it more deeply into your organisational culture?
  • How will this affect how you choose new colleagues, suppliers or partners?
  • Where are the lines you’re not prepared to cross?
  • Are there people – respected colleagues, board members – that you can involve in the process in a way that takes the heat out of the situation, or reduces the extent to which you are seen as responsible (or are responsible) for the point of conflict?
  • If (when?) you make a mistake in addressing this, how can you make sure that it’s a mistake on the side of kindness, generosity and trust?

Invisible compromises

Why are our compromises so often invisible to others?

We take a deep breath, struggle to assume the best, let go of a few things and then stretch out with all the patience and generosity and grace that we can muster to offer a compromise and meet them in the middle…

… and nobody sees it.

If only our families, friends, colleagues, suppliers and customers would be more reasonable, they’d compromise too.

Passionate about their beliefs

This familiar phrase gave me pause when I heard it on the radio recently, used in praise of a cast member who passed away. It was a tribute to a loved colleague, but I thought to myself: “I hope they don’t say that about me.”

Intensity can be a virtue. Passionate commitment can change the world – but direction matters. “Passionate in their commitment to insert cause here.” is much better.

Better still to say something specific about what they actually worked for: “… working to help people in poor communities gain access to clean water, driven by their belief that a better life should be possible for everyone,” or similar.

Better still if they have something to say about the way you did it: “They were known for countless small kindnesses and many large ones, and for (only rarely stumbling in) their graciousness toward those they disagreed with… and for having fun along the way.”

At the end of the day, though, I’m not sure that passion is as important as commitment,* and – to misuse Eugene Peterson’s phrase – “a long obedience in the same direction.”

*Though in my experience they feed each other

Trust

Make your systems strong.

Have a clear process: where does the money come from, where does it go?

Account for it transparently: how are movements of money planned, approved, recorded, tracked and evidenced?

Have checks and controls: Who sets things up? Who approves payments? Who checks? Who checks the checker?

Minimise temptation and opportunity.

But at the end of the day, if you can’t trust someone – don’t work with them.