It feels like we are at war with ourselves on some level when it comes to corporate business. Somewhere up there, “they” don’t get us. Somewhere down there “they” don’t understand. It is difficult to know a person (leader or follower) through the layers of other people between you. It doesn’t matter why this happens but it matters that this is reality.
Leaders may say something very generic that means something to everyone and nothing to someone.
It was a bit nerve racking to send the request up to our boss. It always feels that way when we do something out of the ordinary and take a chance. Good old risk, we fear for the unknown even though the unknown is around us all the time. I wondered if I would get my good friend and team mate in trouble along with myself. It seems that we could get to be a problem for our organization if we keep speaking with leadership and moving up through our chain of leaders as often as we have.
I have been asked by peers, middle management and some senior leadership why we ask for time to meet with so many people. The answer is that we are practicing our trade. When a person speaks to an audience the message is generic to all of the audience as opposed to when a person interacts with us individually, the story and thinking is much more coarse and rich. It also is an opportunity for us to ask questions and get real (raw) and politically insensitive answers. If people have a willingness to talk and give us a little time, we have a strong desire to look, listen and learn.
In our world there are a lot of assertive, smart, well-educated and dynamic people. They are the intrapreneurs, they are the source of our abilities and they are the arm that executes but with all that; WE who are THEY feel something just short of empowered. I have felt it too, in my press of coherence and ultimate simplification of “us and them” I made the separation and pointed up towards the sky and said “The Ivory Tower.” That didn’t help me get answers, it just raised more questions and I started to feel disconnected. This keeps going back to the same point, it is about how I feel. It is about how you feel too. It is about us as people both together and individually. Why? Because emotion is the elephant! See Elephant and Rider think of your emotions as an elephant and logic or “rational you” as the rider. “The rider represents the conscious controlled processes and the elephant represents all of the automatic processes. The metaphor corresponds to Daniel Kahneman‘s Thinking, Fast and Slow. This metaphor is used extensively in both The Happiness Hypothesis and The Righteous Mind. ” If emotion is powerful and in most cases automatic. We may be challenged to settle ourselves down. This is where the conversation becomes important.
My Wife Can End a War With A Whisper.
The kids are fighting and screaming, stuff is getting thrown and tempers are flaring. The youngest of the bunch is swinging fists of fury and yelling at the top his lungs! Something magic happens when my wife leans forward getting close to him and whispers. It is almost like an on/off switch and he stops. I noticed that she does it with the big kids too, including this big kid. In business, the conversations are just as charged but most of the time the people at the bottom don’t get heard and the anger and frustration builds. It seeps out now on social networks, writing and hallway water cooler conversations but instead of being productive, it becomes destructive. The results are bad and that is the truth. What I am suggesting is that we should take the approach of whispering while there is conflict and that whisper is the beginning of the conversation. We were told that leadership would not see us. That was untrue. We started talking up through our leadership chain and had very good conversations that allowed us to express our feelings and provided information for us to shape our path. It wasn’t with a scream, it was with a whisper. The people we spoke with expressed their feelings as well. These conversations are not one-sided or mechanical as some would suggest they should be.
You would like to know that we are told that our ideas and dreams are not possible. To those that don’t believe me, I say “when we get where we are going, we will come back for you.” If you are reading this I want you to know that I don’t think that I am any different from anyone else or special. I am not being treated in a special way either. Talking with people is not always easy but it is what we CAN DO. We can talk to each other and we can find ways to communicate, collaborate and cooperate in order to help each other. We are not alone and neither are they. Fear is not going to shape our lives and stand between us and our potential. We press through our fears and make decisions based on our perception of opportunities and our vision.
What do “They” Want?
What can I do to help? That is the most common question that we hear. WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP? This question doesn’t mean that we get everything that we want or that they are even capable of providing what they want but it is the beginning of a conversation that opens the door to the possibilities. The concept that comes to mind for a lot of people here is wrapped in the art of negotiations but I would say that sometimes we can’t negotiate everything. We have to find the shared values and the shared winning solutions but because we are dealing with emotion (powerful) we may not always get rational perspective on what winning means. For us, sometimes it feels like we are moving inches when we are in fact moving miles. Most people regardless of rank or status want to help and more importantly they want to be loved.
Crisis does not drive our Solution
It isn’t easy.. This isn’t a 12 step process or some secret sauce pattern that if we follow the recipe all will be well. This is hard work and sacrifice. When I repaired computers for a living, I would joke that when I cut myself and bled into the machine that is why it would work. The joke was on me, because I did bleed in the machine. I bled my time and my sweat and the actual blood from my hands. It takes hard work and sacrifice. A stone is shaped by the beating it takes by the stonecutter. We as people aren’t always willing to do what it takes because it is hard. Sometimes it feels like we are alone and that we have had to fight everyone and negotiate with everyone. There is doubt and disbelief all around and on top of this our economy is in a crisis. In the discussion point above about talking to leadership, I mentioned that we are able to start the conversation and that can take us miles. The world is a big place and sometimes it is a far distance to get from here to there. When I feel unmotivated, I am inspired by my wife, my children and my friends. I know for my friends and family, I work hard to do the same for them. It is our support system that makes us strong and that is what I work hard to keep up. When I feel weak, I enjoy the benefit of someone else sharing the load. This year we have had difficult challenges in business and the difficulties are adding up and pressing on us. In the Federal government and Department of Defense, our people are pressed and stretched to the end of their patience and abilities. Most companies are responding to these same pressures by throwing the baby out with the bath water-link added for Wendy.
We have chosen not to react to every individual activity during this prolonged crisis. We decided to think long-term and stay strong through the difficult and frankly scary challenges. While planning for the worst and hoping for the best, we are also seeking out the best opportunities and possibilities to change the dynamics of the situation. In other words, we seek to change our situation as opposed to specific behavior.
When man first flew up into the clouds, did he think he could touch them? The sky itself is elusive. Even when you are in the clouds you can’t hold them in your hands. They could never be yours to own. That being said you could live in the clouds. You could soar through them and enjoy them. Most of what we deal with regarding everything and anything is about perspective. This is known to all of us but we forget that when we are in a rank and file position. The truth about getting attention from leadership is that you are important. You are important but they don’t know you to know that you are important. If you have ideas and want to be heard, find the language in which your leadership speaks (not just $$) and reach out to them. If they tell you “no” try someone else. But don’t give up if you have something to say or you want to learn how you can best make a difference.