Leadership Lesson #2

This has been around a while, but always worth revisiting. From the Wharton Leadership Digest:

Lessons in Leadership from a Janitor by Col James E Moschgat

 

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We are our own media channels

Let’s begin 2012 coming to the understanding that we, as technology enhanced social beings, are now our own media channels. We have been for a while, yet many still don’t understand this simple fact. Organizational leadership, especially, must come to realize they must put more effort into communicating. Communication is a leadership function and the method for getting things done (more on this later). As social beings, humans do things with words.

Words don’t just describe things, they create things. We create things with words that motivate others to action, educate, and either contribute or detract from our community. By our words we create or destroy, which are you engaging in?

Chris Brogan posted Monday about our responsibility as media channels which makes a compelling argument to think before we speak, post, tweet, update our status. This is the same thing my Grandma used to tell me, sort of. Are you communicating for impact or just adding to the noise? Either is fine when you understand what effect you’re having on your community. Remember the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf?

Something that might help, and an issue I have with Chris’ post, is to understand we are not “consumers” of media. It’s not just Chris, but many, if not most, writers on the the subject of media view communication, information, and media as something that is consumed. It is the wrong philosophical model of what happens when people communicate. My ability to receive information does not inhibit your ability. We must learn to separate the act of communicating from the channel used.

Let’s walk through the process. First, an idea is generated. An idea doesn’t truly exist until it is communicated. The act of communicating gives the idea substance in the physical world. Writing the idea or telling the idea to someone now creates information. The information exists in the confines of the medium used to transmit it; spoken or written words. The act of communicating the idea transforms energy either for or against the idea in the form of human action. Information is the technical process, communication is the human process.

So, you see, we cannot simply “consume” communication, information, or media because the words we use will always create something new, be it good or ill, positive or negative.

Words change things.

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It’s Who You Know

First you need to read this article.

For all the noise that surrounds the term “social media” most of us still don’t understand what all the “new media” means to us. I was on a panel a few weeks ago discussing the changes in attitudes and use cases for social media in government and through it all there is still this lack of understanding of the fundamental change that has occurred. I say again, it is not about the network, it is about people networking.

The article by Natalia Yefimova-Trilling points out we need to understand people networking. It is all about who you know. The power in social media is the fact that you may not know who you know until you need to know them. And they may not be who you think they are, but you won’t know until you know. It is the ability to connect to people you don’t know through the people you do. The power is in the networking.

Who do you know?

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Leadership Lessons from my Uncle Robert

My Uncle Robert is a quiet, unassuming man. Very practical and a very strong in his beliefs and steadfast in his way. Not one to be trifled with, Uncle Robert is a very fair and focused man. He is one of the four most important men in my life.

He has lived through the great upheavals of the 20th Century; the Great Depression, the Dustbowl, the Internet and yet still conducts his business with determined vision, a steady hand, and great concern for his employees and their production. This has allowed him to maximize the use of his own facilities and his reputation is such that he has the use of the property of others with few questions asked.

He treats his employees with great care. He sees that they have what they need, are well supplied and that their environment is as good as he can possibly make it. He’s always there to help, coax, and defend them when necessary and values their production no matter how small. Yet he has no tolerance for the unproductive.

As a young man, I would look forward to the summers when I could work for him. It was truly a rewarding and fun experience. Uncle Robert was a man of patience and timing when it came to his business. Now, understand that Uncle Robert never had more than one or two people working for him at any particular time except during the summers when he would have somewhere around fifteen of us kids, cousins all, scattered across his operation.

Yet his employees made him one of the most prosperous men in the community.

You see, Uncle Robert is a farmer. The employees I write of are not necessarily those individual people working for him, but the individual seeds and the individual plants that bring forth individual products.

He knows the proper time to plant and that once planted you have to have patience. You have to wait to see which individuals survive the process. When the first shoots spring forth is only one indication of the process. Some will come up later than others and still others simply will not survive the process. The life of the organization is just not in them.

Those that do survive he cultivates. He sees to their needs. He insures their environment is all that it can be for them to thrive and produce. He keeps track of their production process, makes sure they are well supplied and values each and every little thing they produce. He knows that individual production is the key to the overall harvest. He also know what his return will be, because he knows what he planted; he reaps what he sows. We all do.

Are you cultivating or curtailing?

Do you prune or do you prevent?

And if you don’t like what you’re reaping, change what you’re sowing.

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Roots of conflict

Most conflict arises because of unmet expectations. Expectations are fueled by assumptions which are bound by presumptions. We presume things, usually facts not in evidence, and then make assumptions based on those presumptions. These assumptions form expectations and when actions don’t agree with expectations conflict arises. When we don’t re-examine our assumptions we don’t find the presumptions and if we do not inquire our disagreement begins to broaden until the divide becomes a problem in and of itself. Communication is a complex art form.

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What happened to Americans?

Watching CBS Sunday Morning has always been one of my favorite things to do. Sunday mornings are relaxing and Charles Osgood is comforting. He just makes everything seem alright, no matter what the news for the week may be.

Today’s story, The U.S. Tax Codewas a very interesting take on where we are as a country in the global budgeting mess. What I found most interesting was what was NOT in the story. The why of why the U.S. Tax Code is such a convoluted mess. They covered the who, what, when, and how. Then the interview with Leo Hindery, Morris Pearl, and Dennis Mehiel  begs the question, “What has happened to Americans?”

I’m no tax expert but I did pay attention in my high school civics, government, and history classes. The tax code was originally designed to help pay for the wars the nation fought as these endeavors cause a shock to the budget. Outside of that, most U.S. citizens had as much government as they were willing to pay for and that seemed to suite most just fine.

Following the Great Depression and World War II the cost of government increased with the percieved failure of government to prevent the financial collapse, the Dust Bowl, and both World Wars. How much was the fault of government for any or all of these events is still highly debateable but it is suffice to say what is, is.

It is my opinion that the tax code became convoluted over time in an attempt to bring fairness to a complex system and the accompanying economic fluctuations over the time added for political fodder the requirements to serve one segment of the population over another. This only makes a complex system complicated.

Income tax is a tax on production. A tax on production, even at the individual level, is an overhead cost and a burden to factors of production. The intent of tax breaks to the wealthy should be to increase the  flow of capital into a system that has proven itself worthy of reinvestment as those individuals contribute to the business of producing goods and services. How’s that for complex?

Basically, it is investing money with those who have proven to be able to make more money. In the making of that money, they build businesses, produce goods and services, and employ the labor of other individuals. They create a marketplace and provide an opportunity to raise the quality of life for all in their sphere of influence.

A tax break for them is the government’s belief that they will continue to invest, build and produce. For all individuals, there are tax breaks to invest in the things that you believe in for the betterment of society in your sphere of influence as you see fit. This is why we have not-for-profit institutions and why donations to them can be deducted from your taxes.

I believe we need to re-think how we’re thinking about society, government, our individual responsibility and what it means to be a Citizen of the United States of America.

If you think you are not paying enough taxes what is keeping you from paying more? Why are you asking the government to take it from you? Is the government forcing you to keep it? Andrew Carnegie didn’t ask the government to build libraries, he built them himself and donated them to communities around the country. What happened to philanthropy? If you see a need, why do you not fill it yourself?

This may not be as big a deal as I’m making it out to be — yet. And after the last month in Washington, D.C. perhaps sensitivities about money, taxes, and budgets are high. I just wonder what we’re doing to ourselves.

Perhaps we should re-think on what end and at what point in the business cycle would be better for taxing in order to increase fairness and revenues.

I’m just thinking about it …

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Thinking, training, surviving, thriving

I’m finding myself in more and more discussions about how organizations should be using social media. Leaders are realizing that the environment is changing and they want their organizations to capitalize on it. I’ve been saying for some time now that New/Social Media is not new tools we need to learn to use, but a new environment in which we need to learn to live. Most of the people I’ve talked to view this new environment from the perspective of doing business the  way they’ve always done business. Most are trying to optimize the Web for their business processes rather than optimizing their business processes for the Web. This is like living at the beach and then wearing flip-flops and a swim suit to go hiking in the mountains. Surviving and thriving is a matter of preparing yourself for the environment.

I’m curious as to your thoughts? Are you seeing or thinking this way too?

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