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:

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)

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2017 Mitch  Mitchell

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. 🙂

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I remember a time many years ago when I was working with a health care group out of state. They brought me in to do an assessment of their charge capture process throughout a 2-hospital system. I’d been working on the project for about two weeks, and things had been going fairly well. Come the beginning of week three, there was an incident which almost gummed up the works.

Tyler Denniston vs Paul Aya
Creative Commons License via Compfight

The principal on the project, who’d hadn’t been there the first two weeks, finally showed up on week three. It took him until Wednesday of that week to finally come visit me. He seemed like a nice enough person initially, but I sensed that the mood of the group of people I’d been working with had suddenly changed.

Everyone else worked for the company that had brought me in, but since I’m an independent, I decided to continue working on my own project, doing the work I was hired for. I work well with others, but I didn’t care to allow my mood to change just because everyone else’s had.

Late in the afternoon this man comes to my office and starts asking me questions about my part of the project. I realize early on that I don’t like his style. He would ask me a question, and while I was trying to answer it he would cut me off. He was one of those fast speaking guys, and I got the impression that he was used to being heard but wasn’t all that good of a listener. I even endured a question which I felt was a direct attack on my abilities.

I got angry, but instead of yelling or showing my anger I continued answering his questions as best I could. I also decided on a course of action where I started to continue giving my answers during those times when he was trying to cut me off. I didn’t work for this man, though I was contracted by his company, and they had flown me all the way to Texas to do a specific job that he wasn’t qualified for.

By the time I was finally establishing that I wasn’t about to back down from him or to be intimidated, he suddenly changed gears. He stated that it looked like we were on the same page, and started working his way back out of my office. He never addressed my work again… at least he didn’t to me personally, and the project manager never said anything about it.

I was irritated by what had occurred throughout the night and into the next day, but knew that I had a job I was hired to do. Some of the joy had gone out of the project, but I had stood my ground. LI eventually had a conversation with the project manager and told him about the conversation that had taken place the previous day.

I was told that they had been in a meeting for about four hours on Wednesday and that the meeting hadn’t gone well. Pressure was being put on them because of promises that had been made to the senior management of the hospital, promises that shouldn’t have been made. He said that when the meeting had ended this man was upset with how everything was going, and that’s the mood he was in when he came to talk to me. He apologized for this man’s behavior, and said he’d talk to him about it.

Transference is the act of transferring emotions from one person to another. In the above scenario, there was a transference of anger from the principal on the project being mad at others and projecting it onto me, even though I had nothing to do with his consternation. In many situations, such transference would keep passing itself from one person to another all day until, by the end of the day, the office environment is a mess.

All of us have instances when things don’t go our way. We can have some of the highest highs, and we can have some of the lowest lows; sometimes in the same day, sometimes within minutes.

From a management perspective, when you have people working for you it doesn’t help your credibility if you have wild mood swings during the course of a work day. Employees will always be on edge, wondering which emotion they’re going to have to deal with for the day. When your employees are on edge, their performance is ultimately going to fall short of your expectation because they become so fearful of making mistakes that they become hesitant to make decisions. Whenever anyone is hesitant in doing their job, they will make mistakes.

To follow up on the above scenario, after my encounter with this particular gentleman, even though I was upset, I didn’t show my angry side. I talked to every person the same way I had before the encounter. Later on, when I was meeting new people as part of my project, I treated each person as my equal and someone whose responses I valued. I did get a bit quieter for the rest of the evening and into the next day, but I refused to fall into the trap of taking out my anger on someone else.

How do we as managers, employees or people find a way to stay balanced while dealing with our emotions? Below are some things to watch out for, as well as tips you might find useful:

1. Don’t fall into the trap while the event is occurring.

Much better mood to be in

You’re allowed to feel and deal with any negative emotions while something bad is occurring. You always want to try to manage your situation because the only person you can control is yourself.

Don’t get caught up in a transference where you’re yelling at someone because they’re yelling at you; the same thing goes with your choice of language. Don’t allow anyone to treat you as less than a person at that moment either. Learn how to strike a balance between what’s acceptable behavior and what’s not from others, and figure out a way to use what you’re taking from someone else against them. In my example above, I began to keep talking while being interrupted, and he finally started listening to what I had to say.

2. Take some time to gather your thoughts together before interacting with others.

Every once in a while you may need a few moments to decompress and regain your wits. Try taking some deep breaths, or even going for a short walk. A good Reese’s peanut butter cup might make you feel better. 🙂 When you’re dealing with something like this, if you need to break your normal protocol in order to get yourself back under control, do it.

3. It’s okay if others know you’re upset.

I don’t know that I believe in ESP, but I do believe that people who work with each other can usually sense when something is out of order emotionally. I certainly felt that the mood of the people around me had changed, and I didn’t know them all that well.

Being upset with an event or a person doesn’t give you the right to take it out on others. Sometimes you might have to mention to the next person you see that you’re a bit upset without going into too many details, especially if it involves a co-worker. It’s better to say something like “I can’t deal with that issue right now; give me some time”, than it is to try to get through it if you’re not emotionally ready. People will not only be forgiving, but they’ll appreciate that you didn’t transfer your angst on them.

4. Take time to think about what transpired and learn something from it.

I don’t subscribe to the theory of forgetting something happened and moving on. When you do that, you’re liable to keep having recurrences of that type of bad behavior from someone; that’s never fun. Learning how to deal with the types of people you encounter life will help you gain an advantage when dealing with them a second time. You not only protect yourself from having that same type of emotion occur again but, as Dr. Phil likes to say, you get your opportunity to teach them how to treat you.

5. Don’t expect perfect outcomes.

You’re going to replay it in your mind later, many times. The event is over; it played out the way it did.

Don’t try to change what happened in your mind; it doesn’t work anyway. Instead, break down what you remember: when things went bad; how quickly or slowly things progressed; what type of language was used and how it was delivered; what did you do that may have worked or failed. You want to know more about who was ultimately in the right when it comes to deportment and use that as a learning tool.

6. Give yourself a break.

If you gave it your best shot, don’t beat yourself up over the outcome. You’re not perfect, the other person isn’t perfect, and hopefully after you’ve each had time to think about what occurred you’ll each make sure things don’t get to that point again. Hopefully both of you will have learned some important lessons but the only person you can control is you… as I said in point #1. 🙂

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Why yes it is my 12th anniversary of blogging; thanks for noticing! Although I always highlight the post I write from the previous anniversary year, I rarely go back and share the post that started it all. It was a humble beginning that, because of circumstances, I had to do a second time. I explained the meaning of that when I celebrated my 1,000th post here, which you can check out if you’re interested in knowing a bit of the backstory.

Best Leadership Blog 2017
a moment for myself 🙂

Here’s an interesting blogging reality. In 2009, the New York Times stated that over 95% of blogs were abandoned; it’s expected that numbers grown as more people have started and quit blogs during that time. I’ve known a lot of people who’ve blogged over the years, and there are only a few who have kept blogging since I started in 2005. No, blogging isn’t easy, and writing on a niche like leadership can also be challenging.

How challenging? Well, I made a list of best leadership blogs of 2017, and there were maybe 50 of us listed. Out of those 50, only 4 of them have been writing longer than me, and out of the other 46 only one started in the same year as mine. At least all of those folk are still blogging; check out that link to see some of the big name people I’m associated with. 🙂

Here’s the thing about my 12 years and leadership. Even though I’ll take on a controversial subject here and there, for the most part I try to be nice when I write these posts. Most of the stories I tell are pretty nice stories with happy endings; who doesn’t love a happy ending?

I tend to believe that the best leaders are nice people. Some may argue that tough leaders are pretty good and my response to that is that only works in professions where someone could get killed or kill someone else. I want my military leaders to be tough. I want those training physicians to be tough. Everyone else, including police… nice please!

With that said, I’m taking a different direction this year than I usually do. Instead of listing my favorite posts over a specific time period, which is getting harder to do with the number of posts I have now, I decided to talk about 12 ways leaders and others can be nice to people. The thing with being nice is that, when appreciated, both sides end up feeling good. It’s nice being nice, and it’s nice having others be nice to us; who’s going to disagree with that?

We’re certainly not going to get 100% compliance 24/7/365, but if all of us try our best to be nice most of the time, the world would be a better place and we’d feel better.

Are you with me? If so let’s go:

Greet people

Is it really so hard to say “hello” to people? If so, what about the people you work with, or people you encounter often? I’ve known leaders who never try to be courteous to anyone, including customers, because they don’t take the time to learn the difference between them. I’ve known other leaders who have a good word for everyone, to the point that it doesn’t matter if they initially know one from the other because, for them, everyone’s a customer and is worthy of attention.


I’m someone who greets people all the time while walking around stores and throughout the mall. If I make eye contact, I’m probably going to say hello. I don’t get reciprocated all that often but when I do, I get kind of a smile on my face and an extra lift in my step. If I’m not making someone’s day they’re certainly making mine. How much effort could it possibly take to project a sense of proper decorum?

Say thank you

I’m always thanking people for something, even if they should be thanking me. I thank people for holding doors. I thank people who serve my food in restaurants. I thank the people at the checkout counter in stores. I get way more smiles from people I thank than people I greet.

I’ve always thanked people in the workplace for talking to me. I thank them for a job well done. I thank them for putting up with me. I thank them for a lot of things. In today’s world, more young people want to be shown that you appreciate the work they’re doing for you. What’s simpler and stronger than a good thank you?

Ask about someone’s health and listen

This isn’t one that you’re probably going to do on a daily basis unless you’re pressing the flesh a lot, but it’s pretty important if you’re paying attention, and as a leader you should be.

You’ll notice that people aren’t always putting out happy vibes. Sometimes they’re angry; there’s little you can do about that unless it’s your fault.

If it’s not anger then it’s some kind of distress, either physical or mental. Don’t ever be scared to ask someone how they’re feeling. If they’re willing to share, all you normally have to do is listen; is that so hard? I’ve always made it my rule to never give advice on things that I’m not 100% sure about, but I will be consoling and I can offer other options when possible.

This shows that you care about people and is one of the nicest things you can do for others. At least consider it if you have the time to put into it.

Ask people if you can help them

This is probably the scariest thing on my list, even moreso than the point above. This step means you’re ready to commit to something if the person you’re talking to accepts your offer.

The thing about this one is that you have to be earnest while understanding your limitations. For instance, I’ve never volunteered to help anyone move things because I’ve had back issues since I was in high school, which I remember most of the time. I have volunteered to drive people places because that’s something I can do easily enough and I’m willing to give a time commitment to it.

In the workplace, before I was a consultant, I would always ask people throughout the hospital if I could help them with something. I knew not to ask about medical stuff because that’s not my forte, but I always knew there were other areas where I could be of assistance. It not only helped them but it helped the organization, and it was always appreciated whether it was accepted or not.

Offer information

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With almost 1,350 articles on this blog, 1,750 on another, and over 5,000 articles, 3 books and other products, one could say I offer lots of information. With that said, I’m always available to offer a lot more free information than I charge for… which is a bad talent for consulting. lol

I’m the guy on Facebook that lets people know if the information they’re sharing is wrong. I’m the one who’ll research something without asking so that everyone knows the answers to things. I’m the guy who usually has a solution to a problem if I have enough information about it.

I’m also the guy willing to share whatever I know with others. I’ve had lunch with a lot of people locally who’ve asked if they could pick my brain about something. I’ve answered a lot of questions for free online or over the phone, even with people in my industry who could be considered a competitor. I have a limit though; after all, I do have to make money sometime. lol

Still, unless it’s a major project or someone wanting an in depth response, I’m usually giving away a lot of information freely. I always hope people appreciate it but I know it always makes me feel pretty good.

Motivate someone to greatness

At the beginning of January, on another blog of mine, I decided I was going to write a blog post a day for 31 days. When I announced it at the beginning of the project, I asked if anyone wanted to join in on the fun. Only one person decided to take up the challenge, though she started about two weeks behind me. Most of her posts are short since she’s a beginner, but I think this one about email organization is probably the best of the batch.

I talk a lot about motivation because not only do I believe that the best leaders motivate their employees to greatness, but because the best leaders are also extremely motivated.

The best reason for motivation is to inspire people to do their best, and if their best is so good that they are able to supersede you, frankly I don’t find anything wrong with that. All great leaders are fearless when it comes to this, not because they want to be surpassed but because they know if it happens they had a hand in it. I recently wrote a post where I mentioned that helping an employee become a leader, even if it’s in another company, is one of the most satisfying things I can think of in my life, and I’ve had the pleasure to make that happen a number of times.

If you’re afraid to motivate people towards being great then that’s an issue you should explore.

Share something with someone that you know they’ll like

I do a lot of online marketing for business. I also try to get to know a lot of the people I’m connected to. This gives me an opportunity to share things I come across that I know some of these folks will like or be interested in with them.

I’ve always done that when I’ve had the opportunity. Sometimes it’s been things I also liked, but many times it’s things I’m not overly interested in that I share. It’s not always easy to remember everything about someone, but if you care enough to remember at least one or two things, be willing to give of yourself to make someone else feel good.

Share something of someone else’s and let them know you did

If you’re in the workplace and someone has a great idea, always make sure you let others know whose idea it was, even if you had to pt some effort into to make it work. Never take credit for the work or knowledge of others.

A bit part of my Twitter marketing strategy is to share things other people have created rather than just talking about myself all day long. When they’ve given the information, I’ll also add their Twitter handle so that they’ll know I shared it with other people. It’s amazing how many people appreciate the effort, because only 1/4th of the people know how to add their Twitter handle to their share buttons, and people who write on sites that accept articles from multiple writers never put their handles into those buttons.

Sharing is caring; at least that’s what I’ve heard. 🙂

Donate something

I’m not the biggest giver to all charities because I tend to believe that my efforts work best by giving more to a few than a little to a lot. My wife and I donate a lot of stuff such as clothes and appliances to the Rescue Mission because it’s our way to help others who might need some pretty good stuff to help them get by.

I’ve also donated some of my time to non-for-profit organizations. I was a board member of an organization called Arise Inc, which works with disabled people to allow them to live independent and productive lives and show the rest of the world their talents. I was with them for 13 years before leaving at the beginning of 2016. I’m not the type to do soup kitchens or call a lot of people up asking for money, but I shared my expertise and time in helping to promote the group and helped to oversee the financial progress of the organization in my 4 years as chairman of the finance committee.

It doesn’t have to be anything big or expensive or time consuming. It can be as small as deciding to buy dinner for a hungry person, which I’ve also done. It doesn’t even have to be an everyday thing; just think about helping someone every now and then.

Say something nice to a stranger

Carol Burnett used to say that if she noticed someone was having a bad day or was in a bad mood that she’d find something about them and compliment them about it. She said it almost always produced a smile and got people out of their melancholy or distress.

I’ve found this to be true, although I don’t wait for people to be in a bad mood. I’ve been known to compliment people on what they’re wearing, how they’ve styled their hair, and the sound of their voice. The thing is, I’m not doing it to change their mood as much as I do it because I’m impressed by a lot of things that I either can’t do or never thought about doing.

For instance, I’m never getting a tattoo; just ain’t happening! Yet, there are some tattoos I’ve seen on people that are just outstanding. Being me, I’ve walked up to people and commented on their tats, and then asked them stories about them. People love talking about themselves and it’s a rare occasion where someone laments getting their tattoo.

It might be hard to believe but I’m a bit of an introvert. I don’t walk up to people all that often and just start talking. However, when I come upon opportunities to say something nice to someone, especially when they’re not expecting it, I’m there.

Do something nice for yourself

Like what they say on airplanes about putting your own mask on before helping someone else, it stands to reason that you can’t take care of others very well without taking care of yourself as well. Few things make us always feel better than doing something nice for ourselves.

It doesn’t have to be big things. The quickest way for me to feel better is to get something sweet (yeah, I hear all the bad things about sugar; phooey!), preferably chocolate. A quick Reese’s peanut butter cup and I’m one of the happiest people you’ve ever met.

It’s nice to reward yourself as often as possible but it doesn’t have to be seen as a reward. I don’t really know how to relax, so when I figure out a way to take 30 minutes for myself it’s one of the most precious things I can ever think of, and most of the time it doesn’t cost a thing.

Be the best person you can be

This should be simple, but it turns out not to be reality for a majority of people. The world beats us down to the point where many of us end up going through the emotions. We forget the dreams we once had and we don’t even think of trying to live current dreams and wishes.

Some people fear the unknown of success. When I was working in Memphis years ago, I was surprised to run into so many people who never wanted to be in leadership. Their response was that leaders get fired more than regular working people and they’d rather always have a job than try to be anything more.

What I had to tell myself is that everyone isn’t meant for leadership… at least not officially. My dad only wanted to be a master sargeant instead of an officer. My friend Scott could probably run the company he works for but he likes being the IT guy. It doesn’t mean that neither of these folks could be the best they could be; both were actually the best they wanted to be.

Being the best person you can be extends beyond proficiency. Being the best person you can be means not intentionally hurting others. It means trying to make your corner of the world better. It means helping other people be and feel better while bettering yourself.

If you’re going to lay bricks, be the best bricklayer in the world. If you’re going to be a teacher be the best. If you’re going to go out to dinner every night be the best patron you can be. Be your version of a leader and a nice person. The best people have a lot of both in them.

Welcome to my anniversary; let’s see how easily the road leads to year #13.

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Leadership is easy; no it’s not. Leadership is hard; no it’s not. Even though I put together a book titled Leadership Is/Isn’t Easy, truth be told, the hardest parts of being a leader should be the easiest ways to deal with it.

What really makes leadership hard is the pressure to perform and deal with others. What contributes to it are the feelings of not being sure you know what to do and not addressing your own needs when you need to. Just like they tell you in an airplane to put your own mask on before you help someone else, as a leader you have to acknowledge your own needs and mental health before you can actually be any good for others.

Luckily, you have me here to give you some tips on how to do some self care and still be a good leader. Let’s take a look at some of these.

1. Give yourself opportunities to improve

The fact is that there aren’t an overwhelming number of good leaders. That means there are even fewer great leaders. Some people take to it easily. For those who don’t, they need to look to a bit of self improvement if they want to be better and gain some confidence in leading or managing.

How? Here’s a few ideas.

First, there are lots of good books out there on leadership and management. Even though it’s older, I’ll tout my first book on the subject of leadership. There are a lot of great thought leaders on the subject, from Ken Blanchard to Tom Peters, that will offer you a lot of knowledge and comfort.

Second, there are networking groups in almost every industry in the country. Many of them will be filled with your peers and some top industry leaders who are probably pretty good at it. It always helps to talk to someone else who either is going through the same thing you are or might have some positive options for you. It also helps that these people don’t work where you do, as I know it can feel embarrassing acknowledging to someone you work with that you’re unsure whether you’re doing things correctly.

Three, take in a few seminars on leadership and management. I’ve run into a lot of people who complain that they go to too many of these things. What I’ve found over the years is the people who don’t complain are not only the people who are good but the ones who keep going to seminars to improve on their skills.

2. Stay relaxed; no one can do it all

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I’ve fallen into this trap a few times in my days as an employee when I’d start a new job as a director. I would spend my first 4 to 6 months trying to immerse myself into my new role by trying to do everyone else’s job, working overly long hours, and forgetting that I was the person in charge and not one of the employees.

Sometimes we all get into that mode where we forget that leadership doesn’t mean we’re supposed to do it all. There’s no way we can do everything. That’s the reason we have employees to work with in the first place.

Outside of the employees who report to you, it’s always a smart move to establish a nice working relationship with some of your peers in the company. You’ll find, just like you would in the networking types of groups I mentioned above that having someone to talk to every once in a while will help you relax. It’ll also probably help you to focus on your tasks and goals, even if they don’t really know what you do. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of communication to help you push forward during the day.

3. Take some moments for yourself during the day

I rarely took any breaks during my work days when I was a director. I’d often go to the cafeteria, grab some food, and come back to the office to eat… that is, when I ate at all. I always enjoyed working, and felt that the breaks I was taking were when I got to talk to some of the other directors or my own supervisors.

That is, until I was diagnosed at being diabetic. That meant it was time for a few lifestyle changes. The first was making sure I took my lunch breaks, which sometimes meant hopping into the car and driving somewhere so I could have a bit of time to myself or sitting in the cafeteria with some of the other directors, which I wasn’t doing before. Sometimes it meant going outside and walking around, either to clear my head, give some thought to a project, or for a bit of exercise and movement.

It’s never in your best interest to wait until a health issue forces you to change some of your bad habits. Your employees get mandated breaks and take them; you should make sure to do the same.

4. Don’t be afraid to evaluate yourself

Now I have an employee evaluation module where, if I were an every day director, I could put together criteria that I felt was important and use it to evaluate my employees. Back when I was a director I didn’t have anything like that.

Instead, what I used to do was kind of a two-pronged thing that I set up in Excel. One part of it were the departmental numbered goals that I wanted all of us to hit. The second part was putting down the criteria of how I wanted to act and treat the employees who reported to me.

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Then I would evaluate myself to see how well I thought I was doing on both fronts. Luckily, we were often doing well with the numbers so I couldn’t beat myself up on that. On the other front, I might recognize that I wasn’t making sure to keep in touch with everyone like I said I would, or wasn’t offering enough encouragement, or even walking out of my office to make sure everyone could have a chance to talk to me if they chose to do so.

If you do something like this and find yourself lacking, don’t beat up on yourself. Once you acknowledge something you feel you’ve been deficient on, just fix it. 🙂

5. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself when you feel you’re right, or accept criticism when you may be wrong

Here’s my truth. I was always good on the first half of this statement but not as good when it came to the second. About half the people I meet are good at the first part but universally bad at the second part. Why?

Standing up for ourselves is hard to do because sometimes we feel like we’re being whiny or making excuses for things that go wrong and we feel like we should just take it. We might also feel that our opinions aren’t wanted and keep them to ourselves.

That was never me. I’ll always believe I lost one of my favorite jobs because I spoke up in a meeting and countered everything upper management was saying about something I knew a lot about. I found out many years later that I was kind of set up to take the fall for something that not only wasn’t my fault, but that I’d mentioned was faulty reasoning and date in that meeting. Although I was crushed to lose that job, it was gratifying to learn that I was right, even if it took 7 years to find out.

It’s because of that reason that I’m often bad at accepting criticism when I might be wrong, because I go out of my way to try to always be right. Yet, I have accepted it when I’ve been proven wrong, which sometimes happens when I assume something without asking the proper questions or doing enough research on all aspects of a situation.

With that said, the one thing I’ve always been pretty good at is listening to the criticism all the way through before I’ll comment on it. After all, you can’t learn what’s going on if you’re always interrupting the other person. I figure that’s both the courteous thing to do as well as the smart way of going about things. There have been a number of times when I’ve been wrong, and I’ve never been afraid to admit them if I agree.

As a leader you have to work on keeping an open mind about how good or bad you are. Balance is the key; work towards perfection while realizing you can’t always get it right.

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