The Truth About Work

Now sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.

Longtime readers and coworkers alike know that I am a pretty straight shooter. In fact, in my younger days I thought the more honest the better as I spewed forth the “truth” – as I saw it – in meetings and convos without regard to consequence.

Much like an unguided missile in a dark room I had no idea what the collateral damage might be and in my own wacky sense of righteousness I didn’t care.

Thank god I ran out of fuel before I blew something – or someone – up.

You see, the art of collaboration is not in taking intransigent positions and bending others to your will: that’s just being an emotional infant. Collaboration is about taking in new information, looking at things in different and nuanced ways and co-generating solutions built by the group. “Right” has a 101 permutations, not one.

In work and life the challenge is seeking out best solutions while not abridging or abandoning one’s values. I find Marcus Buckingham’s Stand Out so helpful here. By illustrating the tendencies I have in life and work, I have been able to ask myself if my own defaults are really the best strategies.

People confuse vision and polarity sometimes. I believe in vision, and I’ve worked for more than a couple of people who radiated it. Vision is powerful, yet, its powerful precisely because it is not prescriptive. It allows us to choose different paths and tactics and approaches. Vision is energy, not direction.

Taking an insular position and labelling it a vision is not emotionally intelligent: people know its just a hard line in the sand. When we mistake our personal stubbornness with vision we confuse everyone including ourselves.

Today’s workplace is all about collaboration and generating solutions in a landscape that has a thousand variants. Absolutes seldom work. What is “right” has everything to do with the essence of human behavior and interaction: the way we treat coworkers, customers and stakeholders. The absolutes here are in terms of ethics and integrity and are not mutable. You either behave ethically or you don’t.

And perhaps that’s the point. Today, having matured, I assume everyone is engaged in enterprise for the right reasons even as those reasons vary from person to person. I assume good intent even if all the people I interact with don’t utter those words. And when – on the very rare occasions – I come across a situation where people have not behaved ethically I recognize and deal with that on a one-off. I don’t condemn the whole system or organization.

I don’t need to stand on the table and spew forth my version of the “truth.”

Its a beautiful thing to be engaged in vision and the collaboration required to realize it. And the world is doing just fine without my Greek chorus critique along the way to achieving that.

I can do so much more by jumping in and helping then I can by standing back and criticizing.

So can you.


One thought on “The Truth About Work

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this Chris! “People confuse vision and polarity”. That’s gold. I think that there are so many leaders who are leading with polarity and that is creating a negative culture in their company. People think they have to be like that in order to lead.

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