You Don’t See Me Here

Lance Creativity, Excellence 2 Comments

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Surprise a rabbit in your front yard and you’re likely to see neither Fight nor Flight but the third oft-forgotten option: Freeze. “Don’t move. Hide in plain sight. Blend into the background and survive” the amygdala screams.

This strategy isn’t just for surprised rabbits in suburbia. In organizations large and small where Fear and Uncertainty are the norm, hiding becomes an all-too-rational option for employees. When it becomes standard practice for companies to meet short term financial targets by laying off people (wrapped in the anti-septic euphemisms of “reorganization,” “restructuring,” or (the lamest of terms) “right sizing”), surviving becomes the focus of employees’ work lives. This means blending into the background, avoiding risk that could go wrong, and never sticking out. When the Layoff Lion comes as he always does, hiding in the middle of the pack is the safest bet.

Of course, bland, beige, conventional effort and ideas is the precise opposite of what companies need when they are failing to meet expectations … yet their choices in those moments setup the very cycle of their own demise.

No matter the size, no leader leads an “organization” — Leaders lead PEOPLE, and people react to uncertainty and fear in predicable ways. If it’s excellent work and creative innovation you need from your people, lead in a new way: quit stirring up the cortisol and build a large “Circle of Safety.”

Quitting Forward

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Quitting leaves such a bad taste in one’s mouth. It’s supposed to: without it, nothing worth doing would’ve ever gotten done. Quitting is associated with —

  • Failure
  • Weakness
  • Immaturity
  • Laziness
  • Mediocrity
  • Cowardice

These are all correct, of course. Too often, though, we only contemplate quitting as a two dimensional question: “Did you quit or not?” If yes, welcome to the weakness of failure, you mediocre coward. If that’s all there is to quitting, then it is certainly better to never be a quitter than to always be one.

But successful people know there’s more to it than that. For all the truth about being a negative choice, sometimes it is the necessary one. There is a third dimension to quitting beyond “quit / didn’t quit” and that is WHY. Elevating growth and success come when quitting can also be associated with —

  • No more throwing good money after bad
  • Ending toxic relationships
  • Letting go of an obsolete way of doing things
  • Achieving focus by curating away distractions
  • Leaving the security of a known comfort zone to seize an opportunity
  • Conceding a fight that really isn’t worth winning
  • Breaking the chains of past decisions in order to adapt to a new reality

If you’re in a rut, there is no valor in dutifully pressing onward. If what you really need to do is quit, this book is a great place to start:

Pure Simplicity

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The passion that captured the heart of the man who defined the modern understanding of physics wasn’t mathematics (he actually wasn’t a fan) — it was Mozart:

Mozart’s music is so pure and beautiful that I see it as a reflection of the inner beauty of the universe itself. Of course, like all great beauty, his music was pure simplicity.

There were lots of smart thinkers in Einstein’s day trying to unlock the mystery of the forces at play in the Universe. The genius that separated Einstein from the rest was in the creative imagination and the appreciation of the beauty of simplicity that he brought to the most complex questions science had to offer.

Far too many leaders and organizations tackle the daily challenges they face with one half of their brain tied behind their back. The beauty of Simplicity is often ignored or even derided in comparison to the over-engineered complexity that is typical of modern life.

Ask yourself:

  1. what interest or activity do I invest time in that stimulates creativity?
  2. and (more importantly) how do I fold that side of me into my work?


To Think or Not To Think

Lance Accountability, Ideas, Leadership Leave a Comment

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From Simon Sinek’s latest book, Leaders Eat Last:

 It is strange indeed how traditional, top-down organizational management aims to train people to follow procedures and not think for themselves even as the quest for computer AI (artificial intelligence) strives to teach machines to do the opposite – think for itself and not follow scripted programming.

People can’t be accountable for the decisions they didn’t make. When everyone is simply “following orders,” no one is responsible for the consequences of those orders being followed … until they are.

Once upon a time, information was scarce and travelled slowly. The only people in an organization who could get access to enough of it to make sound decisions were those at the top. But we don’t live in that world anymore. Because information is now ubiquitous and instantaneous, no CEO, VP, or Director can hope to know as much as fast as the people who populate the organization beneath them.

Instead of consolidating authority, decision-making should be dispersed down and as close to the real knowledge of what’s going on as possible. Instead of unifying decision making authority as a means for keeping everyone moving in the same direction, the modern leader uses a unifying vision and consistent culture. Instead of robotic people and thinking machines, this new age demands thinking people … and maybe some thinking machines too.