Should authority figures hide their emotions?


(c) Rell DeShaw

An interesting exchange about expressing emotions generated as a result of our work.

The two examples are of a journalist breaking down during reports on the Paris attacks and a judge weeping during a trial.  We are all emotional beings and it is normal that we will be affected by our work.  That said, we may be in jobs where our expression of our own emotions about a situation might not be a helpful add-on to helping others understand what we are trying to convey.  As I’ve discussed before, if someone is enraged with you, a fear reaction can actually cause you to go temporarily deaf – you’ll miss most of what they’ve said (though you’ll get that they were really mad).

I’m more and more convinced that as I work with top notch professionals who are putting out their best every day, it’s enough to say “this didn’t quite hit the mark” to make your point in most cases.

I liked that the exchange in this article made it clear that though expressions of emotions can occur involuntarily or justifiably in  a work context the emotions don’t make the essential message any more true:

“…[W]hile a reporter’s emotions may pay testament to his humanity, they should not be mistaken for the path to a deeper truth.”


The Best Managers Are Boring Managers

A good article written in praise of the boring, emotionally-intelligent and even sometimes “faking it” manager:

“…[t]he more predictable, reliable, and, yes, boring, they are, the higher they’re rated on integrity, and the more morally they behave.”

Source: The Best Managers Are Boring Managers

Dealing with a Hands-Off Boss – HBR

Dealing with a Hands-Off Boss – HBR.

A solid piece that lays out the difference between the “hands on” and the hands off” boss.  The former would likely be called a micro-managing boss in more derogatory terms.

I like that the author lays out that if someone leans into a hands off style, there are valid perspectives that can accompany this lens that have nothing to do with laziness or lack of confidence in managing unfamiliar or rigorous subject matter and rather have to do with empowerment.  Hands off bosses can also focus their energy into areas of value that are more unique to a strategic role.

That said, everyone will need to see-saw between hands off and hands on approaches depending on the need of the employee or the task at hand.  Newer employees will often have a much smaller range of movement and certain projects may demand the same tight circle particularly with quickly moving deadlines or high stakes.

With luck, the long term game for the most senior employees will merit a hands off style of high degree of autonomous file management with a high degree of trust that facts have been checked, templates followed etc.

Though you’ll likely have a default style that can suit most circumstances, there will be fumbles where the style is a mis-match for the employee or the situation requiring a quick re-calibration (and perhaps an apology).

I like that this lecture suggested that you have a microscope in one eye and telescope in the other.  Perhaps the same should be said for the ability to alternate in management styles as the situation demands.

The Art Of Letting Go: How I Learned To Stop Procrastinating | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

A good short article on one person’s strategy to let go of procrastination.  The things I found most powerful were the suggestions of thinking of the pain it would cause in the end to keep avoiding the real work and the challenge to think about whether the trade off to give in to  distractions were worth it to avoid the difficult work that would precede a satisfying outcome.

via The Art Of Letting Go: How I Learned To Stop Procrastinating | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

On Legacy


I’ve been enjoying chipping away at the special Legacy Issue of the Rotman School of Management Magazine and a few snippets that I have found valuable have helped shift my thinking from a definition of legacy that goes beyond awards, scholarships and other named recognition but also reaches beyond changes that outlast the person who instigated them.  I take no big quibble with these definitions of legacy but I prefer the more nuanced treatment highlighted in the survey of articles in this magazine.  How people think and behave as a result interacting with you is your legacy.  And as importantly to me as a manager, maybe our key role is help others build their legacies.

Brief: Make an Impact with Saying Less

This book was a decent read in the era of information overload.  As the author says, the most important commodity to a busy person is their time – don’t waste it.

The author focuses on the need to have three key things to tell a tight story:  a headline, a consistent narrative and a powerful conclusion.   It’ll be valuable to do a quick outline with your headline (focal point) and then lay out the challenge, the opportunity and the payoff.

Most helpfully to me was the instruction to start in the middle.  This helps articulate a struggle that I have had in giving feedback for years on why briefings aren’t working.  You lose an audience very quickly if you don’t jump in at what feels like the middle of the story and explain why the audience should care about what you are speaking about.

The book also has some good reminders to study all available information to avoid traveled ground – too many people start the briefing from the top and want to give a full picture of all the circumstances.  Instead you should focus on what you have to say to the audience that is different and valuable from what your audience already knows.



Beyond measure – The secret sauce that makes excellent teams


(c) Wayne S. Grazio

(c) Wayne S. Grazio


I’m enjoying the new series of short books (long essays really) put out by the TED group. These are single topic books that you can buy for your kindle for approx $10-$15 Canadian. I’ve enjoyed all that I’ve read including this first one called “Beyond Measure.” The book is a good and easy read but I’d welcome a longer treatment of the topic – it’s an important one.

The thesis on this one is that great teams are made by something difficult to measure and this is a strong work culture. The author calls it the secret sauce of organizational life.  Culture is comprised of small actions and though often beyond our control as managers, it is happily non-linear in its spread.

You can create a strong work culture by building trust in an environment that generates the best ideas.

Unhelpfully. our brains like efficiency and search for matches including in hiring when we tend to hire mirrors of our selves not people who will help us be windows to the outside world. This means we don’t get the best ideas.

To generate a stronger team culture where new ideas are introduced including ones that will run against the grain, we need courageous leadership.  This is a culture that will see people calmly raise issues and concerns. Unanimity is a sign that participation isn’t really whole-hearted. (She uses harrowing examples of plane crashes caused by bad work cultures and lack of communication, to illustrate this point).

She makes a good point there is often more give in most systems than we’d expect for raising new ideas.  The challenge is to solicit discomforting data which will help us elaborate what we’d see if we were wrong.  She uses a great example of US intelligence sniffing out the end of the cold war in her text.  Basically, the top gun had been told that the cold war was in full force but when he stated probing if contrary data was available he found it. (meat being stolen from trains with no state recourse).

Hearteningly, she tells us what it takes to get collective intelligence in a team:  ensuring each person speaks an equal amount of time, getting a group that is socially sensitive (to needs of others, group dynamics) and groups that include more women (this is thought to be linked to the second element).

The higher the social capital of a group, the better it can deal with conflict. The capital is created through a culture of trust and the ability to build on good ideas to make them even better.

Finally she cites “Project Oxygen” the study Google did on what makes a good manager. Subject matter expertise was found at the bottom of the list which was a surprise to many. At the top, good managers were ones who believe in and care about their staff and take an interest in their lives and allow employees to sort things out by asking them questions instead of giving direction.

Getting to yes with yourself and other worthy opponents

Getting to yes with yourself and other worthy opponents by William Ury

This is a review of a recent read billed as a prequel to Getting to Yes the famous negotiation text that focuses on finding solutions of mutual agreement. I liked it because it knitted together other books that have changed my thinking such as the Art of Possibility and texts on non-violent communication.  The book is about exploring how much of a negotiation is within your own control including attitudes and behaviours.   Most powerful for me were two bits: 1) the reminder that we can find ways to create shared value to overcome scarcity thinking (the win/win/win approach – where are winning for each party and the greater good).  For example a union/management dispute might focus on the customers and 2) the exploration about self care through mediation as a path to creating space for empathy for others.

The book is framed around six tenets and largely illustrated with a combination of stories from negotiation in high stakes conflicts and raising a daughter who has required 14 major surgeries. I think it might have been a slightly richer read of you had “Getting to Yes” fresh in your mind but is a stand alone book.

1) Put yourself in your shoes

This is about holding true to what you really need and remembering that only one person is needed to transform a relationship.

2) Think about your best alternative to a negotiated agreement.

This is about making an unconditional commitment to take care of your own needs no matter what other people do. This gives you confidence of an alternate plan and less dependent on others to meet your needs though the alternatives may not be obvious or easy

3) Reframe your picture

This is about seeing the world as a place of safety and saying “yes” to the world the way it is. If you see the world as hostile you will react differently than if you see the world as friendly.  With exceptions, we are generally more resilient than we’d imagine and significant events, good or bad will not have a lasting effect on our happiness (whether you lose both legs in an accident or win the lottery, researchers have found that people have the same level of happiness a year later). Most of our losses and worries are overblown. Some conflict is because we think that only another person can make us happy, especially through relinquishing when we have more capacity within our selves for making happiness.

4) Stay in the zone

This is about trying to put ourselves in a place where we can neutralize reactions and access our natural creativity. We want to try to be in a state of relaxed alertness so we can look for the present opportunity – we can see openings if we are in a place to see them.

We are trying to let go of our internal resistance that takes the form of resentments of the past and anxiety about the future. We need to trust the future and have confidence can meet challenges. Having trust is not a one time shift in attitude – we have to constantly choose between fear and trust. We are destined to lose many things so goal is to focus on what lasts and accept what passes

On a practical level, staying in the zone requires us to:
– observe the fear and release it
– take deep breaths
– use simple reality testing questions to determine if threats real or imagined?

5) Respect even if…

Respect and give positive positive attention without feeling the need to like a person or behaviour. We are saying yes to a basic humanity that exists in all of us. Having capacity to extend this respect is related to meeting our our own needs – meditation enhances our ability to see others and dissolves artificial social distinctions to increase elemental respect.

6) Give and receive

The biggest driver of win/lose thinking is scarcity thinking. It would be better to look at ways to expand the pie to sufficiency and even abundance before you divide it. Move from giving and taking (win/lose) to win/win/win thinking. Go from taking to giving and creating value for others.

Under stress a fear of scarcity can take over and we will only create value for ourselves and not others If we feel satisfaction and sufficiency we can address needs of others.

An attitude of giving is to:
– give for mutual gain, give for joy and meaning, give what you are here to give.


A whiteboard video on persuasion summarizing many years of study on the the psychology of persuasion.  Also the key components from a book that is on my “to read” list.

The key shortcuts to persuasion are:

– reciprocity
– scarcity
– authority
– consistency
– liking
– consensus

Though it’s useful to have shortcuts that can be used ethically to influence, I have likely benefited more from reading about how to communicate with people in a way that is compelling  (like the Heath brothers’ work, Made to Stick).