You know why I think I’m a good consultant? There’s actually more than one reason. First, I know I know my stuff when it comes to whatever I’m consulting on; otherwise I don’t accept the assignment. Second, I’m good with people I’m consulting with if they’re willing to work with me.

48/365
Jiuck via Compfight

Over my years as a consultant, and many years before that, I’ve found that almost every person finds that others aren’t always as proficient as they are, or think they are. That’s because often we’re not in a mental position to recognize what we’re not good at, or can’t see our faults through our perceptions. That’s just the way life is; none of us is perfect to begin with, but sometimes all of us forge that piece of the pie.

For those times when we’re right about someone else’s lack of proficiency and we’re the ones in charge, it’s up to us to teach or work with others, to try to make them better.

How one decides to approach someone is often more important than the actual act of teaching or correction. Come at them too strong, they may rebel or defend. If you’re not strong enough, you may not get their attention so that they’ll listen. There has to be a balance between how direct you are and how non-threatening you come across.

Let’s get this one out of the way. There are some leaders who feel that being blunt and direct is always the best way to talk to people. What I’ve found is that negative criticism rarely helps because more often than not those being criticized shuts down. I’ve also found that people who believe in the direct approach can’t take it from others, which of course makes them hypocrites. 🙂

There’s always a better way to communicate with someone who you have to work with when there are errors being made or you realize there’s a lack of understanding of what should be occurring. For instance, it’s definitely better to say “I found errors in this report” than to say “You made some mistakes in this report”, but both might be perceived negatively.

I would tend to say “I believe there are errors in this report that we should look at and correct if needed”. It’s direct in its own way, but my way has turned a potential negative confrontation into a collaboration. I start from a position of there not being any blame because it’s always possible there isn’t any.

Albert Schweitzer
Andrew Becraft via Compfight

This works well when working with other leaders, whether they’re reporting to me or we’re peers at the time. It never pays to make someone in a leadership position look bad, especially in front of others, and it still gets the job done. I’ve found more leaders will work with me based on my approach than complain that I’m just another consultant coming in to try to tell them what to do.

There are times when you have to be more direct, especially if you’re doing job performance reviews. You don’t have to be mean about it but being wishy-washy sends the wrong message and makes you as the leader look incompetent.

If I needed to counsel someone whose work isn’t up to standard I might say something like “There are deficiencies in your job performance that we need to address” because it’s direct without being mean. Being more direct eliminates the hearsay aspect, and having it in writing is a must, but you’ll come across as a professional with nothing personal added to your critique.

Saying something like “If you could change a few things I think you’ll do just fine” is a bit too soft because you’ll either not be as convincing as you need in describing the issues an employee has or not actually tell the employee what they’re doing wrong. This is the “friend” approach, and unless you’ve been working with someone for a very long time I tend to believe that leaders and employees shouldn’t really be friends, although being friendly is good.

Saying something like “You need to get better or you’ll be looking for another job” is too direct, even if it’s true. In today’s world employers will be looking for new employees once a month because few millennials or anyone else is as scared of leaving their jobs as they were in the past. Good leaders won’t intentionally alienate employees, which the above statement does pretty well.

Making sure the message you’re trying to convey is understood is crucial, whether you’re talking to peers or employees. Striking the right balance in approach will determine how your message is accepted. Nothing’s ever 100% because people react differently to even minor confrontation, but if you can keep your message balanced and are normally even keeled on a daily basis you’ll end up having the most success long term.
 

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Just over 5 years ago I wrote an article on one of my other blogs that I titled 46 Ways To Reach Your Own Super Bowl. The article contained 46 motivational thoughts (since it was posted around the 46th Super Bowl) that I thought were pretty cool to share.


my motivational mantra

What I didn’t do was flesh any of those thoughts out. Thus, last year I started working on expanding both the number of messages and expounding on each one with either a little story or a recommendation of how to use that particular thought. It’s eventually going to be book #4 though, to be truthful, I haven’t touched it in months; I tend to do that with my books.

I can say I’m about 30% through it but I’m not sure how accurate that is. Instead I’ll say with certainty that I’ve expounded on the first 15 ideas, so in that regard I’m telling the truth. I’ve decided to share a taste of my progress by sharing 5 of those points with you.

Believe in yourself

Nothing starts without belief. Religions needed someone to believe in them. Smartphones needed someone to believe there was a market for them.

There’s nothing created by humans that didn’t start with a belief they could be accomplished. There’s also nothing created by humans that didn’t start with their belief in themselves. Every single person who’s created anything could have said “I’ll wait for someone else to do it”. Can you imagine what life would be like if everyone who thought that followed through on it?

You’re already special; heck, you were born! All you have to do now is believe in yourself, no matter what you want. If you want to achieve great things, have a wonderful and happy life, or anything in between, it all starts with believing in yourself and believing you deserve it.

Believe in a purpose

Purpose is an interesting concept. Without going to a dictionary, you can see purpose as trying to answer the question “Why am I here?” That seems pretty daunting on the surface so let’s explore it further.

Video Games
Ian Turk via Compfight

No matter what you’ve heard, your purpose should be something that suits you. Everyone wasn’t put on this earth to have to serve anyone else’s needs. If that’s what you wish to do then go for it. If not, then your purpose is something different. There’s nothing wrong with that; after all, our circumstances aren’t the same.

Purpose can take many different directions. You might feel your purpose is to play video games without knowing that there are people who actually make a lot of money playing them. You might feel your purpose is to watch TV without knowing that, at least in a few markets around the country, there are people who get paid to watch and rate potential new TV shows.

You might not even want to go that far; maybe you just want to enjoy life by doing these things and are willing to earn just enough money to live comfortably and be able to do that. If that’s the best you can see for yourself, I’m good with that.

However, I’ve found that almost everyone I’ve talked to in my life has bigger dreams and visions for themselves. What they lack is the passion to give it a shot even once.

That’s where purpose can come into play. I got into self employment because I had a passion for doing certain things that I wanted to share with others and with health care facilities. Over time the passion part left, something I hate admitting to. Yet, I still feel I have a purpose to write about these things, consult when I can, with the intention of trying to help people and hospitals be better than they are now.

Dream big

My wife and I were having a conversation on the phone when I said “You know, one of my dreams is to be able to call you and tell you to quit your job and come home because we just won the $100 million dollar lottery.”

Living Room [HDR]
Creative Commons License Paul David via Compfight

Over the next 5 minutes we talked to each other about the things we’d do with that kind of money: redesign the house, buy another house in a warmer climate, sponsor some scholarships and charities, buy new cars, travel… and of course save enough so that we’d never need to worry about money again.

The more we talked about it the sillier our thoughts got. Yet it produced bit smiles for both of us and helped us feel as though we could own the world.

That’s the thing about big dreams. Even if you never get there, just the belief that you can helps to make you feel better, and it’s something you can always go back to when you need a mental boost. Who knows; you just might get there someday.

Learn everything you can about your dream

Dreams are only dreams. To reach your goals, which might coincide with your dreams, it takes more than just belief. You need to research to find out what it’s going to take for you to get what you want.

It’s at this point that dreams and goals separate. Having a dream of hitting the lottery is sweet, but there’s nothing you can do to affect the outcome therefore it always remained a dream. Having a dream to make $1 million by being a professional speaker is something else because there are a lot of books on speaking, a lot of organizations that hire speakers and pay them, organizations like Toastmasters to help you refine your presentation skills if you need that, and lots of research material on whatever it is you want to speak about.

Once you think of all the things you need to do, at that point you can start planning how you’re going to proceed. Having a process that you can follow and stick to give you an opportunity to fulfill your goals and dreams. Even if it takes time, if you follow your progress and you notice it’s positive it will help you keep going even during those times when things seem to be more difficult. Never stop learning because information is powerful.

Research to make more informed decisions

research via books

Learning about your dream is one thing; doing the research so you can achieve it is another thing entirely. Let me explain.

If your dream is to be a professional singer, you would want to read about all types of singers, listen to their music, find yourself a vocal coach or band to sing with and then see how good you are. You’d figure out what style of music you wanted to sing and immerse yourself in that. You could then close your eyes and imagine it’s you up on the stage, singing in front of thousands of people on a stage or maybe millions on TV. Wouldn’t that be glorious?

The next step would be to research what the life of a professional singer might entail. This is the part that most people skip on the way to their dreams, so when things don’t go right or, in some circumstances goes way too well, they’re unprepared for it and things start to fall apart.

There’s a lot to learn about being a professional singer. It’s not only about singing. You have to learn about the financial aspects of it, the traveling aspects of it, contracts, possibly different languages… there’s a lot to know, but you want to be prepared for all of it because being successful is more than being famous. That part might be nice but you have people like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain who didn’t deal with it all that well.

Find likeminded people who also have a vision, whether it’s the same as yours or not

You know that thing that says you will only be as successful as the people you surround yourself with? That statement isn’t necessarily black and white, but it is a true statement.

If everybody you hang around with once to stay in the status quo, whether they like it or not, it’s going to be hard for you to break out of a stagnant cycle. If you don’t have friends or family who have better dreams for themselves or are able to offer you support, it helps to find other people who have dreams and goals of their own, even if it’s on a different path than yours.

This happens a lot when you’re in college. If you’re even moderately outgoing, you meet a lot of different people who have dreams and goals of their own, but they are inherently different than yours.

When I went to college, I started out wanting to be a sports broadcaster and then changed to wanting to be a songwriter. I had friends who wanted to be in weather, media, science, education and a lot of other things. Their visions were inspiring enough for me to keep reaching for my dream. All of us felt good being in each other’s company and urging the other to be the best they could be, even though our ultimate goals were different.

Just so you know, these aren’t the first 5 lessons, and some of them will probably be fleshed out a bit more before I’m through. For a blog post, though, I think it’s a nice start. Let me know your thoughts… I can take it. 🙂
 

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Back in 1992, there were horrible riots in Los Angeles after an all-white jury acquitted 4 police officers of using excessive force against a man named Rodney King, even though there was extensive video footage of the beating, which also included a lot of other police officers standing around watching it happen. As is wont to happen, a bunch of people set up a quick press conference to get Mr. King’s thoughts on what was going on and we ended up with this now famous “misquoted” statement:

People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?

Los Angele's three day Shoot , Loot & Scoot 1992 (Rodney King beating)
ATOMIC Hot Links via Compfight

In the almost 25 years since that particular verdict came down (April 29, 1992), I feel it’s safe to say that what’s occurred everywhere in the country since then proves that no, we can’t all get along. Actually, we’ve never been able to get along, and now it feels like things have gotten worse.

The LA Riots and the vitriol from both sides after the O.J. Simpson verdict in 1995 got a lot of us thinking that it was all about race, and that was a pretty convenient narrative for discussions to start from. I’m big on diversity and fairness for all, so I spent a lot of time talking about this throughout the 2000’s and I still talk about the inequities even now.

Only… it turns out that the arguments, other than discussions, actually don’t have as much to do with race as I’d always believed. Yes, that’s still a big issue we all need to deal with, but these days it’s more about ideology, the belief that “we’re right and they’re wrong”, and the absolute dissipation of common sense, common values and the apparent belief that being nice means one is showing weakness.

The best place to observe this is in a strange place for it to be… that being the social media site LinkedIn. As bad as I thought things were getting before last year’s election, it seems like things have gotten worse, even though one would think that people would realize that everyone’s watching this bad behavior all the time… on a purported business site no less.

It doesn’t help that LinkedIn is trying to become Facebook, but it doesn’t excuse a lot of the behavior either. I see a lot of people posting things that actually happened to them at their place of work and at least 25 – 50% of the comments calling them “babies” and “malcontents”… only not using language that nice.

She cooks too!
Katie Spence via Compfight

I used to think that most people who were saying things like that were hiding behind fake names, which is something you see on a lot of social media sites and places like local online newspapers. What I’m realizing is that it doesn’t take a fake name for all people to show the worst side of themselves… at least not online. If people can forget themselves on a site that’s meant to help people generate business, and a site that makes people use their real names (for the most part since all social media sites can be gamed), then this sends a horrible message to the world that getting along isn’t close to being in the equation.

This sounds bad doesn’t it? We’re at a point where we almost shouldn’t even try to talk to anyone outside of our “friend” sphere of influence… and even there, we should take great care in how much we can trust some of those we haven’t known for all that long a period of time.

In last week’s post I gave 3 ways of trying to make conversations more productive so we could try to have more discussions instead of arguments. This week I’m going to offer 5 pieces of advice that we all need to consider before we post anything online. I’m dealing with online issues now because what I’ve found for the most part is that around 3/4th of the people who say hurtful things online don’t have the guts or the nerve to say it to someone in person… probably because in person consequences can be more severe is more ways that one… just sayin’…

1. Think about the pros and cons of whatever you’re about to post or say.

There’s almost no such thing as universal agreement on anything in this world. If you post pictures of puppies there are going to be cat fanatics who are going to be upset about it (I’m not lying here lol). If it can happen to relatively innocuous things, it can certainly happen when you post something a bit more serious.

2. Think about what those who might not agree with you might say and whether you’re ready to deal with it.

Something I also see often is that if someone posts a response to someone that feels out of line, a lot of people will come to the defense of the original poster and all heck breaks loose. Even on blogs it can happen if those writing the content aren’t careful in moderating comments to keep it all under control (I’m big on that). Disagreements are one thing; making sure people respect your space and what you have to say can be another.

3. Think about whether you care what someone else has to say or not.


The least popular posts from this blog are those I write on diversity issues, whether it’s about race or sex or something else. Yet, because I find it important to discuss and keep bringing up, it’s one of the few topics I’m never afraid to address or talk about, sometimes even being a little confrontational when I do.

Sometimes you may feel you have to take a stand and protect your convictions about a subject or about the protection of others. In those times, worrying about what someone else might think about it isn’t that important… at least it shouldn’t be. If you believe you can’t handle people coming back at you then don’t even think about putting yourself out there. Just remember this line from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (for whom the 49th anniversary of his assassination was yesterday): “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

4. Never feed the trolls; let others do it for you if necessary.

Trolls are people whose only goal in life is to get a rise out of you online. Most of the time they don’t even care about the subject; they get their jollies just by seeing you respond to some stupidity they’ve uttered in your space.

Whether it’s intentional or someone else’s ill-gotten chosen words that may upset you, the best thing to do it… nothing. Don’t respond, don’t read it if you can help it, don’t let it get you down. If you’re able to, delete it, block them and move on. You can do it on your blogs, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter… maybe one day LinkedIn and Google Plus will catch on, since both want to be Facebook so bad.

5. Please, PLEASE, make sure your heart is in the right place.

I tend to believe that people get back what they put out, and that people who put out hate and negativity are actually hateful and negative people. I’m sure they wouldn’t see themselves that way, but if it walks like a duck…

If you can’t say something helpful when you disagree with someone you don’t know, it’s probably best not to say anything. If you’re putting out good vibes it’s possible you’ll get some negativity coming back your way, but you’ll probably get more good than bad.

One of my pet peeves is seeing so much non-business items (including things that might help promote their proficiency) being posted on LinkedIn, but instead of griping about it on someone’s post I leave it alone. I like to think most of those people’s hearts are in the right place when they put that stuff on there. I also hate seeing those same people getting a lot of mean comments from curmudgeonly types who have nothing better to do than espouse acridity that’s not deserved.

If your hearts in the right place, then whether or not I like it shouldn’t be your concern. The same applies to everyone else who might say something. If you’ve considered the first 3 points above and you’re still good to go… you do you Boo! 🙂

By the way, in case you want a little bit more on trying to get along with others, check out this video of mine from 2014:


https://youtu.be/qBjo6eu6mZA

 

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Usually when I write a post on a diversity issue I get few people to comment, let alone read it. That’s why last week’s post about privilege & cultural appropriation stood out because not only did it get a couple of comments but it got me talking to a few people on Twitter.

discussing this cow
discussing this cow

The first person I talked to is someone I know locally. We had a nice discussion where, I hope, we both got to talk and listen to each other (thanks Ben).

Just as our conversation ended someone else jumped in and was kind of on the attack mode. I didn’t mind it initially because there are people who don’t believe in diversity initiatives or the concept of cultural appropriation; I never expect everyone to agree with me. However, he kept getting a bit more belligerent until he finally said that I obviously didn’t have a real argument because I didn’t answer his question… which of course I did.

Being me, I decided to look at his Twitter profile and stream to see how he talked to people in general. I noticed that he was an attacker, which is an interesting style but rarely produces good results. Badgering someone’s position never works, and dismissing them when they respond to your questions is not only rude, but it’s argumentative; frankly, I don’t waste my time talking to people like that for long.

I finally responded to him saying that exact thing, then decided to block him. It wasn’t worth my time to continue on a discussion that wasn’t going to end with either of us being happy. The funny thing is that as I was ending that conversation someone else asked a question about it, and he and I exchanged a few messages, once again a discussion, and we ended it with a better understanding of each other.

I’m not someone who likes arguing all that often. I’m not an angel, so every once in a while, if I’m in a mood or a subject is touchy to me, I might argue for a while, but there’s always a point where, if it goes on too long, I’ll recognize it’s a loop situation and pull away from it. The book Crucial Conversationsicon talks about those times when one needs to have a dialogue to clear things up, especially when people have to interact with each other over time, but in almost every case of mine I might never see or hear from those people again.

Yet, there are some people who love arguing, to the extent that it becomes the only way they know how to talk to others. It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s productive; they’d rather browbeat someone into submission than actually learn something about another person’s position. I wondered why that is, so I decided to see what I could find.

I came across an article titled PsychTests Study Reveals Why Certain People Tend to Pick Fights, which was put together by Larry Buford and figured it was a perfect source because instead of using just opinions it has some actual statistics. It was based off a group of people taking as emotional intelligence test by a group called PsychTests. Let’s look at a few results:

* Argumentative people have less impulse control (score of 51 vs. 67 on a scale from 0 to 100)

* Argumentative people have low self-esteem (score of 56 vs. 77)

* Argumentative people are less content with their life (score of 52 vs.72)

* Argumentative people have a more negative mindset (score of 58 vs. 74)

* Argumentative people are less skilled at resolving conflict (score of 55 vs. 66)

There are a lot more stats and a bit more detail in the argument so I recommend you check it out if you’re interested. I’ll offer the caveat that it’s not totally scientific, but it’s still pretty good. Maybe you’d like this video instead, which, interestingly enough, got both discussions and arguments in its comments lol:


https://youtu.be/JTN9Nx8VYtk

Since that’s out of the way, let’s figure out how we can make conversations a bit more productive and move from arguments to discussions:

1. Know your position

Many people get themselves into a conversation without knowing what they’re talking about or not taking the time to do any research. When that happens, all they can do to support their decision is shout the other side down. Winning isn’t everything is there’s nothing to be accomplished.

2. Have a reason to care

There are a lot of people who try to get me into a discussion or argument about something I don’t care anything about. Luckily, I’m someone who will say I don’t care and will immediately get out of the discussion, no matter what the other person might want to do.

Argumentative people will automatically take the other side and a battle’s going to ensure. Feelings will be hurt and emotions will be tested. Frankly, no one has time for that kind of pointless diatribe so if you really don’t care about the issue try to leave it alone and walk away.

3. Listen before challenging

Often when an argument ensues it’s because people are already set to respond to a person’s side of the justification rather than what they’re actually saying. These days it happens more often online because it’s hard to know the tense a person’s words have without any type of emoji or not knowing the other person all that well.

It’s always best to make sure one listens, or reads, to what’s exactly being said by the other person before making a response. Sometimes it might involve asking some clarifying questions to make sure you know whether what you have to say is necessary or not, especially since sometimes language can be very imprecise.

We can’t always hide from times of distress when certain conversations come upon us. The best we can do is be perspicacious in what we want to put our time into or what’s best to leave alone. These days I’m looking for more peace in my life, so I’d rather have discussions than arguments. Is this you? Would you like it to be?

(the link with the light blue line denotes an affiliate link if you’d like to check out the book)
 

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It can be tough being an older guy who’s not into pop culture all that much. It can also be tough being an older guy who’s dealt with stupid comments about race from people who are privileged to not have to deal with any issues of face against themselves that they feel they have the right to speak out against others who feel otherwise… thus reflecting that they have no idea what they’re talking about.

Kung fu 3
Chris Bird via Compfight

In this case I was reading an article about a new show called Iron Fist (I don’t even know if it’s called a TV show since it’s only on Netflix), which is getting critical reviews and even worse ratings. I don’t know anything about the story except that there seems to be a lot of people criticizing the show and wondering why the lead character isn’t Asian.

One of the co-creators of the original comic the story is based off, a man named Roy Thomas (someone else I don’t know) decided he had to defend the casting of the character of the show. He used some fairly choice words that didn’t help his cause, while showing that privilege believes it’s always right… even when it’s not.

His first statement is that the original character was white when he helped create it in 1974 and “that people who complained about whitewashing had too much time on their hands.”

Let’s talk about that one for a moment. Cultural appropriation isn’t a new concept in America. Who remembers the TV show Kung Fu starring David Carradine, a man of Irish descent who played a Shaolin monk from China? What about the movie Scarface, a movie about a Cuba immigrant who becomes a major drug lord, where almost every lead role was played by Italians in dark skinned makeup? For that matter, who remembers Pat Boone’s musical career was based on appropriating Little Richard’s music and making it palatable for a larger audience?

It seems that even Thomas forgot that he admitted that he and his partner created and based their lead character on a kung fu movie he’d seen. Just because he decided his main character was going to be white doesn’t mean he didn’t steal the idea from people with a different culture.

Next he said this: “Don’t these people have something better to do than to worry about the fact that Iron Fist isn’t Oriental, or whatever word? I know Oriental isn’t the right word now, either.”

Wow! I’m surprised he didn’t follow this up with “I’m not prejudiced; I have a Chinese friend.” For those who don’t know, Oriental is a rug; the people are called Asian these days.

Look, I get it. Times have changed, and the political landscape makes a lot more people feel emboldened to say whatever they want, no matter how crass and bigoted it might seem. I understand it’s hard to pick one’s words carefully so as not to offend; I also understand that in today’s world it’s more of a standard to say and do what you want up front and then apologize on the back end “if anyone was offended by” your words.

scarlett johansson
Rakka via Compfight

Strangely enough, the world is indeed changing, but in the direction of more people realizing that cultural appropriation is a big deal. Just ask Matt Damon (someone I really like by the way), who starred in a movie set in China that probably should have had a lead Chinese or Asian actor, who had to deal with his own diversity comment and apologize for it, along with trying to clarify what he actually meant. Or talk to Scarlett Johansson, who’s about to star in a movie that was based on a Japanese series that was originally set there as well (I don’t know where the new movie well be set), who’s probably wishing she hadn’t walked into this type of controversy just as she’s started earning major dollars for some of her film roles.

White people hate when minorities talk about this concept of privilege and immediately want to defend themselves against it. The best tactic is to try to turn it around and call us “sensitive” (which Thomas also used in his interview) and say we should be concentrating more on trying to do better for ourselves rather than blame them for keeping the rest of us down. Yet, it’s the 800-pound warthog in the room, and as I like to say (which I appropriated from Dr. Phil), we can’t address what we won’t acknowledge. In a period where the Apple board of directors decided that diversity proposals weren’t needed to increase diversity at senior levels (where, out of 18 positions, only 3 are women and one of those women happens to be a minority), I definitely feel it’s a topic that needs to be talked about.

Last March around this same time I was part of a local news story that talked about how the lineup for the concerts at the new amphitheater were mostly white and male. A couple of statements I was quoted as saying were:

“I’m betting there are no people of color on the committee who chooses these acts,” said Mitchell of Liverpool. “It doesn’t mean those acts aren’t impressive, but there’s a definite lack of diversity.”

“The truth is people are scared to talk about diversity,” he said. “Most people don’t think about it until someone brings it up. But good leadership is inclusive. Good leadership always thinks about diversity.”

Oh yeah; I also said this:

“If you mention it to them, they’re going to make excuse after excuse,” he said. “That’s what the Oscar people did. People get defensive, even if you’re just telling the truth. People are scared to be called racists or bigots.”

This followed the Oscars last year, which were so controversial that the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite became a crusade of its own. It certainly reflected well in this year’s Oscars, didn’t it? Locally though? So far this year every single act is white and male once again, although one of the groups does have a female lead singer; I guess that counts for something.


More inclusion please!

I guess is someone’s got to say it, it’ll have to be me. Folks… privilege isn’t something to be proud of. The word all of us should be striving for is inclusion.

I shouldn’t have to be the one telling businesses that it’s been proven that having a diverse employee culture that includes management helps companies succeed and become more prosperous with their consumer base than companies that seem to think inclusion is just another “I” word (ask the founder of Uber about this one). In 2017, I shouldn’t have to be the one who came up with a generic succession plan for leadership diversity as a sole proprietor when other companies have way more employees and should be doing this themselves.

What people like Roy Thomas seem to be missing isn’t that the rest of us don’t believe he has the right to create whatever he wants and however he wants. Really, we don’t care as much as you think we do. What we care about are your reasons for doing it your way when, because we’re not stupid, we know where you got the idea from. You’re nothing new; we’ve seen the same thing for centuries (y’all don’t really believe the original cowboys were white do you?).

No one’s looking for a handout. We’re not looking for affirmative action.

We’re looking for fair opportunities, especially in representing ourselves. If you say there are no qualified minorities, then help make some. Stop explaining or apologizing; let’s get moving on solutions to a better way.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2017 Mitch  Mitchell

“You can’t just hide and act like nothing’s going on.”

“Sure I can.”

“Don’t you care about what’s happening?”

“Not really, because there’s nothing I can do. I have no power; minorities have no power. I did my part; now I’m done.”

“I’m not giving up. I’m going to fight for the next 4 years.”

“You do that. I’ll be over here looking for peace, defending health care when I can and writing about leadership and diversity. I don’t have to be a leader all the time.”


This is a recent conversation I had with a friend of mine. I’ve had a few of these types of conversations since late December, when people were finally ready to try to talk to me about what happened last November after I almost quit social media.

I’m a guy who writes about leadership. I’m a guy who writes about diversity. I’m a guy who writes about communications. I’m a guy who writes about health care. I’m a guy who writes about motivation.

Almost all the time when I’m writing about these things, I’m relating them to how they should be applied in a business sense. When I wrote about things leaders do that managers don’t do, that was specifically in a business sense. When I wrote my latest piece on different types of motivation, it was geared towards business and employees.

Occasionally I’ll go off business for a while like I did when I talked about moving my mother into my house because leadership topics aren’t always confined to business. The same goes for motivation and diversity topics. Nothing’s all black or white; not even life and death.

When I was working at hospitals, I was in a leadership position. As a consultant, sometimes I’m in a leadership position. In those times I’m paid to be a leader, and I like to think I do it pretty well.

When I was younger I was often the leader on a sports team, and I’ve lead a lot of other things in my past. But most of the time, outside of work and my own business, the only time I’m potentially a leader is when I apply it to myself. I’m not always such a good leader even then.

Back last July I wrote a post saying that no one should be compelled to take a stance on controversial topics. At that time I was talking about Michael Jordon, who had finally stepped into a role as a leader when it came to race and, oddly enough, was castigated by a certain segment for not doing even more than he did. Sometimes there’s never enough you can do for some people, so one has to live their own lives and do what they feel they need to do to get by. I couldn’t say something like that about Michael Jordan and not apply it to my own life, could I?

Like most everyone else, I have other things to think about without being out there wasting my time protesting this or that, even if I agree with some of those positions. I’ve moved my mother, who has dementia, into my house, and she’s become my primary concern… even more than my business, although I’m working on changing my business model. As if that wasn’t enough, last week she had a heart attack; that was pretty scary and has raised the concern meter up a bit, though she’s fine now.

I had a book I need to finish that I haven’t even opened the file to write in during 2017; that’s not good. I have a digital product that’s on hold and a webinar series that I’m ignoring for the moment. I’ve also done little to no marketing since the middle of January; other things have gotten in the way.

You know what? I don’t want to be a leader all the time… even if sometimes I’m forced into it. I have to be the leader for my mother. I have to make sure I don’t stop taking my medication (which I keep forgetting here and there, even with my alarms). I also have to make sure I eat my meals when scheduled; even with my wife home I don’t always follow that one either.

I don’t have a yearn to be a political leader. I don’t have a yearn to be on the front steps protesting about bad behavior towards minorities and other groups. I don’t even have a yearn to fight against the potential elimination of the ACA. I know there’s not a single thing I can do to prevent anything I don’t like from happening. I was part of the 88% last year; that got me nothing except depression.

None of us have to do anything just because someone says we should unless we ask them for help. It doesn’t matter what we do or say in a different arena, we don’t have to always be “on”; comedians deal with this all the time.

You don’t have to be a leader all the time; I’m certainly not going to be. I’ll lead when and where I have to; that’s the best anyone should expect from me or you.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2017 Mitch  Mitchell

When you were a regular employee, you pretty much knew the job you had to do. You had specific duties that had been laid out, you were taught in a straight forward manner how to perform them, and that’s what you did. Day after day you did the same exact thing with few deviations, relied on your wits and got things done. Every once in a while you were given a project to work on that was out of the ordinary, and you wondered how the head of your department decided to dole out the workload.

delegation overwhelm

Suddenly you’re in a leadership position, and the rules have changed. You may or may not have specific duties you’re responsible for. You definitely have people you’re responsible for. They have things they’re responsible for, just like you did before.

But the parameters have changed. You’re going to be privy to being on the inside of a few more things than you were before, and some of them are going to involve projects that you won’t always have the time to work on yourself.

When you have others you should pass work onto, or to help you accomplish department goals, that’s called delegation. I call it the “art” of delegation, because I find a lot of leaders aren’t very good at delegation, whereas others are Picasso’s in their own right. It can take a delicate balance to achieve good results without getting a lot of negative feedback from those you select for assignments or, for that matter, those you pass over.

It comes down to your knowing who can do the task the best. Sometimes you give out an assignment to test the skills and abilities of an employee. Sometimes assignments are given out as punishment; that’s never good. It’s also a bad thing to give all of your work to others because you don’t want to do it.

In my book Embrace The Lead, I tell a story about my first position as a hospital director. I’d come into a situation where the facility had been without someone in the position for 4 months, while 5 months earlier they’d gone through a computer conversion. My predecessor didn’t want to learn how to use the new system and decided to leave when he realized it was going to be a critical component to his success.

I came in and immediately was over a department of 75 people, all of whom needed to be taught how to use the computer system more effectively. I knew I couldn’t do it until I learned the system, so I spent my first two weeks learning the computer system. I spent the next three months learning all the nuances of the computer system, and how it affected billing and registration (remember, I worked in a hospital).

delegation overwork

Finally, one night after working a series of 14 hour days over the course of most of those weeks (including going in on weekends), which also involved 45-minute drives each way, it hit me that I was trying to do it all. I had hired new employees to go along with those I already had because I recognized that we were understaffed, but I wasn’t taking much time teaching them anything I was learning.

I’d fallen into a classic trap; I was trying to do all of the work on my own. I had done some training, but I spent most of the time actually working accounts, which wasn’t my job. I’d taken it upon myself to help everyone catch up instead of educating anyone on how the new system worked so they could help me help them. I had forgotten the principle of delegation, thereby foregoing any possibility of my department becoming more efficient and proficient.

There are more traps than that one. Below are 6 traps that you should watch out for, as well as some ways to make delegation more effective for you.

1. Realize that you can’t do it all.

As a manager you’re supposed to be there for your employees. There has to be a symbiosis between the leader and those who report to the leader in order to get things accomplished.

2. Learn the strengths of each person in your department.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have a department where everyone is equal and capable at every single task. If you’re like everyone else, then each person will have their own strengths and weaknesses. An adept manager will know which situations to use a specific person for assistance.

3. Make sure to spread the wealth.

Even though some employees may not see it as an opportunity, you as a leader should. Delegating projects to others allows you to determine where skills may be lacking, as well as determine the actual proficiency of an employee.

It also allows employees who succeed to get a sense of accomplishment when they’ve done a good job, and it gives you the chance to reinforce positive feelings. You should always remember to log the results somewhere so you can either give credit for a job well done, or indicate the need for improvement when it comes to performance reviews.

4. Don’t give work to others so you don’t have any.

Employees work well when they have a good example to follow. If you’re always sitting at your desk playing solitaire on your computer, whether your employees can see the monitor or not, they’ll know, and you’ll end up with dissension that you’ll never overcome.

5. Don’t delegate to someone else because you don’t know how to do it.

As a leader, you’re not expected to know everything, though you may feel that’s what’s expected of you. When something comes your way that you’re unsure of, just passing it along to someone else won’t get the assignment completed. If the employee doesn’t know how to do it either, the department fails, and that’s ultimately your responsibility. If your employee needs to ask questions and you don’t know the answers, you undermine your credibility.

6. Delegation doesn’t mean “punishment”.

Never abuse your position to unload on someone else because you have a problem with them. If you have to deal with a troublesome employee, there are other ways to discipline them when necessary.

As I said before, delegation is an art. Used properly, your department will hum, and you will be considered a genius. Use it wrong and you create a scary Lucy. No one wants that. 🙂
 

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2017 Mitch  Mitchell