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Tag: Thinking

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Fear, Insecurity and the Scarcity Mindset

Fear, Insecurity and the Scarcity Mindset

I feel as if there is a significant volume of works adoring, in a sense, and vilifying the scarcity mentality in our culture. I was fist exposed to these concepts by Brené Brown, and I was challenged by her first TED talk. Personally, I was inspired and motivated for the longest time by the “greed is good” mantra. I felt the constant longing for more was a staircase that drove us to higher levels of personal and professional development. Life is not simple. I learned that it could just as easily be a death spiral that we were riding.  Having taken this train ride up and down over my career, I have learned one key element. The lack of satisfaction with what we have or achieved thus far in life is not the panacea of upward growth I once thought when it is anchored in the bias of scarcity. We are consumed with desires for more time, effort, energy, goodwill of others, and building our professional kingdoms (power) while burning ourselves and others out.  It will never be enough; there is always another mountain to climb.

Further thought provocation arrived when I was pressured to define scarcity and its possible causes. The conversation began to focus on root causes in our culture and my sub-culture. In Southern California, we, for the most part, do not suffer from any real form of scarcity.  So, the best causal idea was to attribute scarcity mindset to a misguided belief of insecurity.  Scarcity mindset and fear are interwoven, and I believe they are mutually reinforcing.  It might be a fear of loss, of limited attainment, sustainability, achievement itself, or not knowing what is coming next that develops the fear and sense of scarcity.  These fears are the life blood of insecurity and lead people to extreme levels of consumption.  It is the “more for you is less for me” taken to an aggressive stance. The void we try to fill by over consuming everything can never be filled because of a nagging scarcity fear.  It is a zombie-like craving that controls and takes away bits of our humanity and the enjoyment of everyday experiences.

At some point in your career, you arrive at a moment when you start questioning everything.  You wonder what will be the next challenge or goal that should be undertaken. I thought a lot about what I had received, and what I am giving back.  This was the first step for me.  I stopped and began to question my motives, desires, and long-term goals. I bounced ideas off people, sought out feedback, worked with a coach, and took more time to be with my family and friends.  I made no significant changes or jumping to a different track of life.  I made a few tweaks here and there and had a realization that my thinking had to change. Like everyone else, I am a work in progress, and each day I hope to make a positive contribution to my endeavors.  I am more content with what I have achieved, adjust goals and pacing, and finally appreciate how much I enjoy helping others to achieve their aims.

I intentionally did not edit or refine from my first draft…I just felt like writing tonight, and this was what was on my mind.

Photo Credit: Stream of Consciousness (CC BY 2.0) by jurvetson
Really, How Informed is our Decision Making?

Really, How Informed is our Decision Making?

Opinions are a form of judgment that require people to perform a decision-making process. In reality, these decisions are often supported by the thinnest levels of credible information and rational thought. Formation of these ideas is based loosely on questionable facts and flashy headlines. We can see evidence of this from the world of high politics to the simplest of daily conversations.

Decision-making is highly influenced by people’s internal scripts, biases, and cognitive maps and frames that allow for mental shortcuts in information processing. These shortcuts of our marvelous minds are wonders to behold and do their best to keep us moving forward with our lives. However, I am not convinced they are capable of maintaining the pace with the increasing onslaught of information.

Recently, I had my opinions about several political and social topics challenged.  I took the time to explore my thoughts and do some research. Looking into each of these issues took about an hour, and I limited myself to primary news sources, academic research, and speaking with people who had first-hand experience. No matter how people try to avoid it, everything has a bias one way or another. We are all human, and some skepticism in what information we consume is healthy.

What was my result? Many of my positions were ill-informed and based largely on drive-by exposures to mass media. I was a little shocked at how I formed many opinions through exposures to the headlines and 30-second media blurbs.

When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?
–John Maynard Keynes

Am I so different than everyone else? I started an active inquiry about topics when I found myself in casual conversations with friends and associates. I must say, my opinion formation experience is not uncommon. I am no different from these other educated and successful people who are in my life. We are in a wash of information, so we deal with it as best our minds can through the use of mental information processing shortcuts. We cannot be “informed” about a majority of topics because of limitations of time and mindshare. However, we need to be aware that others with knowledge on specific topics will use drive-by information tactics to sway public opinion.

We need to be cautious of our thoughts and ideas as they may not be as well informed as we think. Advertisers know how to move ideas through a population segment. In fact, we send people to school to learn these skills. I am not a black hat conspiracy theorist. This is not subversion, but effective use of marketing driven by various specific, and often competing, agendas.

A better practice that I try to follow:

I realize that I cannot be informed on all issues, so I stopped trying. When having a conversation with someone about a subject which I have not thought about deeply, I will share my current thinking, but let the person know they are my superficial thoughts. This feels like blood in the water with a shark circling. Watch how they will move to sway or reinforce your thinking about the topic.

When the topic is of particular significance to me, my family, business, or community, I do my research. Every information source has an agenda, so I expect it. I look for reputable sources that are fact based and not primarily opinions or interpretations. I try to spend an hour or two to develop a baseline understanding of the arguments. Warning: personal biases will quickly come into play – watch for confirmation bias in the information source selections!

I do my best to question my bias and rational. I want to understand what were the motivators and influences of my initial position.

After researching and thinking about it, I will wait a few days before making a decision or opinion formation.  I review my notes and thoughts before making a newly informed decision. I do not always change my starting opinion about a topic or issue. As often as not, my starting place remains the same, but I am better informed on the issue.

This is not the end. I do my best to stay up on the subject and look information that may cause me to reevaluate the position. I consider the ability to change my mind as an attribute of strength and not indecisiveness.

Always, remember that John Maynard Keynes quote!

Photo Credit: freeimages.com/Robert Lincolne
Work is a Means to an End

Work is a Means to an End

Meaningful work is a preferred method by which the majority of people wish to get many of their goals in life. Well, this is at least my firm belief. The work in-of-itself is not “the goal” or the be-all end-all purpose for our lives; it is a vehicle that moves us down a chosen path. Albeit a simple concept, it took me a while to internalize its meaning and applicability.  Many people get caught up in their careers while losing the connection to themselves. The inner person may become twisted and warped resulting from a lack of internal alignment between personal values, goals, and actions.

Looking back, I understand why my mentors and leaders placed a high value in the idea that work or a career is a method of achievement and not the purpose of life or the central point of our identity. My executive coach accelerated my learning in this area by incessantly challenging me to question my long-held beliefs.  I would seek shelter in the safety of what got me to that point before gently (or not so gently) pulling the rug out by merely questioning me in a way that cut right through the layers of obfuscation I had carefully constructed.  This is what I needed for me to realize the fallacy of my earlier logic that put work ahead of everything else and allowed me the freedom to explore new concepts.

The difference for me arrived when I understood that work and career are a vehicle of life and should be designed to give an opportunity for me to achieve, explore, and expand whom I am as a person while providing a valuable service to my firm and the needed financial support to my family.

I work because I want to work; where I want to work; and I am with the people I want to be around.  Work is not optional for me; I have to work if I want to fund my family’s lifestyle and prepare us for retirement.  Still, I work because I want to work, and I work where I want to work. My career is personally fulfilling, but it is not who I am or what I do with my life.  Work is no longer my identity. It is part of me but not all of me.

As I shifted and understood my real priorities, changes flowed naturally.  I have lower stress, a happier life, and even more professional success. I did not realize how much easier things become when you are aligned in thinking, values, and actions. By putting first things fist, I support the needed alignment for both personal and professional success.

Photo Credit: "Conversation" (CC BY 2.0) by Sharon Mollerus
Dealing with Different Decompression Times

Dealing with Different Decompression Times

I do not often post about other articles I come across online. I prefer to comment on them, and if I like them, I will post them to LinkedIn. However, when something speaks to me, or it is a topic that is under appreciated by the masses, I will take the time to write a short post. I came across one such article today. Ed Batista wrote a piece on Harvard Business Review talking about the conflicts that arise between couples when they get home from work. This is a topic that many people in leadership do not fully appreciate or acknowledge the toll it takes on families and relationships.

We work diligently in our careers and all too often take home the stress we experience during the day. While it is not fair to come home in this mindset, I believe we are human, and it is hard to shake off a rough day in the typical 30-minute commute home. By no means am I excusing the behaviors of people, but I am just as guilty as the next when bringing home a bad day from the office.

Below is my comment on the article. In addition to the recommendations provided by the author, a little early communication between partners can go a long way to disrupting the conflict cycle.

I think this is underappreciated and recognized condition for many people in the professional community. It is incredibly tough to shake off a rough day at the office when we walk through the door to our home.

My wife or I will typically call each other on our way home to give and receive brief rundowns of our respective days. It is also an opportunity for us to understand each other’s current state before walking in the door. This way, we help each other cool down when we get home even if it means just providing some quiet space.

Photo Credit: "Facts Do Not Cease To Exist" (CC BY 2.0) by sillygwailo
Our Truths are also our Facts (regardless of the underlying facts)

Our Truths are also our Facts (regardless of the underlying facts)

“Archaeology is the search for fact… not truth. If it’s truth you’re looking for, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall.”Indiana Jones (and the Last Crusade)

Is there a conceptual difference between truth and fact?  I see a clear separation of these ideas. The concept of “Facts” embodies the tangibility and concreteness of existence or knowledge of an occurrence. The meaning behind a fact may be debatable, but its occurrence or existence is widely accepted. The idea of truth is murkier. The “Truth” of something is real and factual for a person, but it is bound and understood through their personal perceptions and interpretations. As such, truth is subject to debate. What is the “truth” for one person may not be true for another. It is important to understand that each person’s truths are also their facts. This is one of the reasons why we have a fractured world. I base this position on Max Wertheimer’s excellent 1934 paper entitled “On Truth”.

As we understand the idea of individual’s truths versus facts, our ability to interact with people achieves a new level. Often, it is the truth of the situation that must be addressed and not the facts. Connection breakthroughs occur when we seek to understand the other person’s truth before we try to apply our version of the truth. Interestingly, as we do this our view of the acceptable possibilities and potential of any situation is expanded as we experience more of the other person’s truth.  New ideas and creative concepts sprout from this level of mutual understanding.

The variability in perceptions and interpretations of the truth is the source of its power and mystery. It can make people think and seek a level of understanding before it is possible to internalize its meanings. Finding truth is a scary process for many people as it shakes the foundations of their knowledge and long-held beliefs. I love the concept of truth because it can be soft and guiding, or a quick jab to people’s tender underside. It all depends on the individual’s openness to pursuing understanding at that moment. The truth may also be seen as an action or the search for understanding, meaning, and applicability beyond the sterility of the underlying facts.

Finally, the clarity experienced through understanding the truth when supported by the facts and applied to life’s purposes can become a fundamentally altering event for a person.  This leads to real wisdom. I see wisdom as the application of understanding that derives from the pursuit of truth that is grounded in facts. While I do not consider myself wise, I work each day to understand the world through the lenses of truth and facts. One day with continued effort, I hope to reach a stage of wisdom.  Of course, the truly wise may say that state is unachievable but its pursuit is the right journey, but that is a line of thinking for another day.

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Two Leadership Styles in Action

Two Leadership Styles in Action

Recently, I read a couple of examples of excellent leadership styles, and I took some time to think about the benefits of the style and how they overcame resistance to change. I believe that leaders are responsible for the success or failure of change initiatives within their organization. As such, they have multiple leadership styles to utilize in support of a change initiative. For example, leaders at any level may act as the change initiator and orchestrator; communicators and motivators; or the resources to support change.

Sanofi and Jon Fairest

According to Jon Fairest (2014), he took over as CEO of Sanofi when they were beginning a significant change initiative. The company was going to relocate their corporate headquarters and change the floor plan to an open workspace concept. Major organizational concern about the change was rampant throughout the leadership and employees. Communication was going to play a significant role in successfully changing the corporate culture.

[pulledquote]People are resistant to change primarily out of a fear of the unknown and loss aversion.[/pulledquote]Leadership as an interpersonal communicator and motivator helps to bring about change through the ability to build teams, motivate and engage employees, and communicate within the organization. Jon Fairest knew this would be a significant challenge to embark on as a new CEO. Employees needed to become comfortable with the new facility and approach to its floor plan. Mr. Fairest began a 12-month long campaign communicating the importance of this change and how it will improve the company’s culture, collaboration, and spur innovation while lowering employee turnover (Fairest, 2014).

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A Hypothetical Debate – Concerns over Conduct at Company Events

A Hypothetical Debate – Concerns over Conduct at Company Events

I recently had an interesting discussion with a professional friend regarding the issues of alcohol at company events and the legal liabilities they may ensue. This was a purely hypothetical conversation over a glass of wine and involved no particular companies. Below is a brief discussion of some of my thoughts on the topic. In full disclosure, I was sandbagging in this conversation because I have written on this subject before for an entirely different purpose. I pulled from that content in our discussion and for these blog posts.

Background on the Discussion

The leadership of a company values their employees and wishes to have regular recognition events to celebrate the hard work and success of the team. The company sponsors an event on Fridays where employees may relax from the work week and consume some burgers and beer. The leadership feels this is an important activity for employees to relax, build morale, and reinforce elements of the company’s culture. Recent events have raised the issue of excessive alcohol consumption to the management team. The leadership wishes to address the safety concerns while maintaining its fun corporate culture. This culture includes providing alcohol at company events as a non-negotiable element.

An organization may be held liable for the actions of its employees even when those actions occur outside of normal work times. Furthermore, the organization could be culpable for the result of any accident that is even partially attributable to the alcohol consumed during the company sponsored event. Beyond legal accountability, companies have a moral and ethical responsibility to the safety of their employees as well as the broader public.

Anyone driving under the influence creates a dangerous situation. They put their lives at risk as well as pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles. Driving under the influence is never acceptable; be smart and Call Uber.

A Solution Requires Change in Corporate Behavior

Based on an old proverb regarding finding yourself in a hole and realizing the importance of ceasing the digging, the first step in developing a solution is recognizing the problem (p. 112). The leadership must decide what is the correct course of action for the company. Given the desire by management to maintain the event structure, a risk mitigation approach is most advantageous in meeting their goals.

My Proposed Solution
The organization wishes to keep the event but lower the risk of a safety incident. The company should institute a two alcoholic drink maximum per employee and offer no-cost and no-questions-asked rides home for any employee who becomes intoxicated. This solution allows the management to maintain spirit and joviality of the event while significantly lowering the risk of an alcohol-related traffic accident.

His position on my approach
The company is in danger. Employees are free to choose to drive, and they may be impaired. This creates an unacceptable level of risk to the enterprise.  The event should have all alcohol removed.

My response to his position
His solution is outside of the stated parameters. My approach is based on risk mitigation. It meets the requirements set out by leadership and addresses the safety concerns. The issues with the success of the solution will be how it is implemented and supported by the leadership team. It will succeed of fail in their hands because of how they choose to reinforce and integrate the changes into the corporate culture. In the second part of this post, I would like to share some thoughts on the implementation and pull-through.