Rocking the boat can get you thrown to the sharks

29 11 2016

“The only guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

You’ve been there.  You and your group are in a crunch-time situation (for example, our current business pilot, and the pressure to hit our numbers), and almost everyone on the team has their head down, rowing aggressively (or in this case, smiling & dialing  🙂 ).  At the same time, someone on the team is checking their selfies on the phone, or shopping for holiday gifts.  They’re basically rocking the boat, by making you work harder than them in order for the team to succeed.

Leaders… Those among you who have a leadership title, or just you line workers who have the respect and admiration of your team.  THIS is the time to step up, and confront the person who is rocking the boat instead of rowing with the rest of the team.   Basically, make it more uncomfortable for them to NOT work than for them to work their butt off.  When they do turn around, don’t forget to praise them.  Positive reinforcement and optimism can be a force multiplier, allowing 10 people to accomplish the work of 15!

Speaking of guys…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.


The idiot in the grocery store

29 06 2016

“When one burns one’s bridges, what a very nice fire it makes.” ~ Dylan Thomas

Yesterday, after having her ankle run into by the same woman’s shopping cart for the third time (while the woman loudly dropped f-bombs and worse cuss words over the cell phone), a woman in the next lane decided she had enough.  She turned around, and chewed out the offending idiot right in the checkout line – to the point that the “ankle-bruiser” burst out in tears and left.  At that point, the rest of the customers loudly applauded the woman with the abused ankles.  There’s a real satisfaction to finally having taken enough from someone, and unloading on them.  Telling them how X (stupid, rude, mean, selfish) they are has a certain cathartic feeling about it.  However, you should understand that when you light that fire, you probably won’t be able to put it out.

Leaders, never forget that you MAY have to work again with someone that you call out.  It could be a vendor, a teammate, or an employee.  Before pulling that trigger, remember that the shoe may be on the other foot someday, and when you go asking for a favor, you might get your face laughed at.  So, certainly, when it’s time to stop putting up with something unacceptable, say something.  Just know that if you don’t say it nicely, you should be sure that the bridge that you’re burning isn’t over a river you may need to cross one day.  On the other hand, sometimes idiots in the grocery store just need to be told a little bit about themselves.

Speaking of fire…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Oh, the humanity.

24 06 2016

“People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned.” ~ James A. Baldwin


I’m a politically centrist creature, choosing my issues based on individual circumstance, not strongly on any party line.  You might imagine that while hanging out in my nearby restaurant/pub, some regulars occasionally speak loudly about strongly entrenched in their political views.  While there, I sometimes hear something that is so offensive that I have to quietly challenge a person on it, and point out that what they said was pretty offensive, and I don’t want to hear that while in my “happy place”.  They almost always either laugh, or “puff up” a little bit, then look in my eyes and see that I’m serious, and usually apologize and we move on.

I’ll see these people again during future visits and other regulars might remark that they are surprised that I’m being civil to a person who I “disciplined” the last time we were together.  I point out that I believe that in this country that I served as a soldier, that everyone can think what they want, and I try hard to respect them as humans even if we disagree.  Leaders, keep that in mind when you have to discipline one of your staff for doing something that you can’t abide by.  If you handle it well, you can explain that their behavior is unacceptable, and then be polite to them going forward, as long as that behavior isn’t consistently repeated.  If it is repeated, then eventually, you’ll have to walk them to the door.  If that’s the case, you can do even that while treating them with the respect they deserve as fellow humans.

Speaking of floating…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Call them on it every time – they’ll eventually stop.

8 09 2015

“Stress is an important dragon to slay – or at least tame – in your life.” ~Marilu Henner

One way to get rid of stress is to have some physical activity.  A good workout gets rid of it.  Another way to get rid of stress is to TALK ABOUT IT.  Too many people go home frustrated & stressed out with something at work.  They then have sleepless nights, have health issues, and otherwise suffer from bottling it up.  It’s taken me many years to understand that there are 2 ways to deal with stress, and only one of them has a good night sleep attached to it.

Get it out of your system!  If someone frustrates you, point out to them your frustration.  Do it respectfully, and in a professional manner, but tell them.  You’ll often find that they either didn’t mean it the way you took it and/or they didn’t intend to frustrate you, as they didn’t see the impact of whatever they said on you.  Rarely, people go out of their way to frustrate, hurt, or impede you (passive aggressive folks, and incompetent folks fall into this category).  How do you, as a leader help them to stop?  Call them on it every time. Make it progressively more uncomfortable for them to deal with the consequences of messing with you, by getting louder and more direct with them each time they push your buttons (still professional – remember that right is on your side).  Eventually, they’ll stop or leave, and either of those results will feel good!

Speaking of Tame…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Have the guts to shake the tree, and pick up the fruit.

16 04 2015

“I think that if you shake the tree, you ought to be around when the fruit falls, to pick it up.” ~Mary Cassat

In business, we often have to disagree with an idea presented by a peer/supervisor or subordinate.  We also might have to give tough love to a co-worker, by pointing out weaknesses (areas of opportunity), or personality quirks.  It takes a lot of guts to give that criticism to their face, but it’s the right thing to do.

When you’re frustrated with someone, and have the urge to go over their head to their supervisor, you’ll have a way better relationship with them if you take it up with them first.  How that is taken by them can go any number of ways, and you might have to still go over their head in the long run, but they just MIGHT surprise you by taking it to heart, and changing their behavior without the need to go over their head.  They might end up thanking you for having the courage to be around to pick up the fruit after you shook their tree.  So, start with the source of your frustration, not with the people they work for, or even worse – the people that work for them.

Speaking of shake…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

You have one minute…

1 05 2014

“Ignoring a child’s disrespect is the surest way to guarantee that it will continue.” ~Fred G. Gosman

Back in the day, when my daughter was around 3 years old, we went to a weekly family tradition – Friday Happy Hour.  Every Friday, a random member of our extended MD family would host happy hour.  “The usual suspects” were invited – everyone brought a small dish, and one of the folks with kids would bring a fun project for the little ones.  One particular Friday, my daughter started out a bit moody, and it quickly degenerated into a screaming little cuss.  My wife looked at her, and said, “If you don’t get it together in 1 minute, we’re taking you home.”  My daughter pushed it, and devolved the tantrum into overdrive.  Without another word, my wife threw her over her shoulder, told me to get our stuff, and we went home.  Even as I was looking back over my shoulder saying “but honey, we were going to make tye-dyed shirts tonight”, my daughter was shocked straight, and said “I’m sorry mommy, I’ll be good”.  My wife looked at my daughter and said “I gave you one warning – you can show that you’ll behave yourself next week.”  My daughter has since NEVER had a temper tantrum that lasted beyond one minute.  We’re not one of those families that constantly threaten our misbehaving children with punishment, but never execute, and most people that know us would agree that My daughter is a well behaved young lady.

People in the workplace may occasionally test you, too.  When that happens, either as it’s happening, or immediately after (depending on the situation), call them on it.  It’s tough to do that, but call them on their behavior once, maybe twice, and they’ll re-think trying to test you in the future.  It’s an uncomfortable task that, when done properly, will create long term peace in your work life – if they’re unfairly challenging you.  On the other hand, if you confront them, they may point out that you are the one who needed calling out in the first place.  Either way, dialog has begun, and you should work better together going forward.

Speaking of Guarantee…



Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Why can’t we be friends?

10 04 2014

“If we know that our own men are in a condition to attack, but are unaware that the enemy is not open to attack, we have gone only halfway towards victory.” ~Sun Tzu

While scholars of Sun Tzu argue over what this means, I’m going to use my own interpretation for today’s leadership kumbaya.  In business, you can get all fired up for a confrontation.  You don’t like the way that so-and-so said something to you, and you’re going to have it out with them the next time you see them.  So-and-so is unaware of the offense, and hence “not open to attack” (i.e not looking for a fight).  You might start a “war” (in which both sides lose something) without a need for one.

Without assessing the situation before you attack, you risk creating a problem when there wasn’t one in the first place.  To that end, when you hear something that may or may not be intended as an affront, I’ve recently learned a great strategy:  Ask them to repeat what they just said in a different way.  Don’t wait, and have to have the he-said/she-said conversation about what was actually said yesterday.  Stop them right there, and ask them to clarify.  I’ve found that doing so the last 3 times I heard a potential slight avoided a lot of drama and angst, and allowed the speaker to clarify what they meant – which was not at all as offensive as it was taken the first time I heard it.  Bad news does not get better with age.  When you feel that you’ve been slighted, you probably weren’t, but isn’t it better to know right away however they meant it?

If it WAS a backhanded compliment or other slight, calling someone out as it’s happening, and watching them back-pedal away from it, because they were called out will, if nothing else, make them think twice before saying something “snarky” next time.

Speaking of Halfway…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.