The Idea

Today’s Lesson: Share your goofy ideas. They might become good ones.

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The lesson I learned today has nothing to do with the idea I am about to share. The lesson is to share an idea. Having an idea and talking about it stretches your imagination, works your brain, and helps breed creativity, which leads to newer, better, stronger ideas. Even if none of your ideas become reality, they might become seeds for somebody else’s idea which may turn into a real thing… like doors that magically open when you walk up to them.

When Gene Roddenberry dreamed up automatic sliding doors for the original Star Trek series, it was something he imagined would happen another 400 years from now. However, the idea sprouted in other people’s minds and took form. Today, when we walk up to a grocery store and the doors whoosh open, we do not even think twice about it.

So here is my (admittedly poorly thought out) idea:

When you shop for something on Amazon, do you read the reviews before buying? I do. I check the reviews for any online product before I buy it. I even check reviews for products I have no intention of buying online. Some reviewers, though, are prolific. They review on multiple sites, they gain trust, and are essentially certified by sites like Amazon. They provide thorough information and are genuinely eager to help.

What if there was a new social media site (I don’t know, maybe “UReview.com” or something) where all of a person’s reviews are gathered in one place?

 

No matter what you review, no matter what site you post your review on, you can link all your reviews to UReview (or whatever you call it). Reviewers can build credibility and reputation scores by votes and endorsements from other trusted reviewers.

Rather than search for the same product on 10 sites and checking all the reviews on each site, search for the product review from a trusted, verified reviewer on one site, then just pick the site you want to buy it from.

People can review anything: books, movies, boats, shoes, pet medications, whatever. If you want to know if something is good, you go to this site.

 

Anyway, if you decide to run with my idea, just remember me if it is a huge success. An annual check for 5% of the profits would be pretty cool. Just throwing it out there…

You never know what will happen with any idea you share with people, but you certainly know what happens with any idea you share with nobody.

 

 

 

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Trash of the Titans

Today’s Lesson: Remember what a story is and what makes it resonate.

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**Warning: mildly offensive language in this post (most of my posts are foul-language free so I am just letting you know…)**

In the remake of “Clash of the Titans” (the one from 2010 starring Sam Worthington), Perseus (our hero) is rallying his team to fight Medusa who, with one look, can turn a person to stone. He says at the end of a mildly moving speech, “Trust your senses… (dramatic pause)… and don’t look this bitch in the eye!” Cue big swell of music and team roaring in approval.

I imagine a room full of tee-shirt wearing, pimply writers practically ruining their frayed jeans when they laid that gem down. No doubt there were chest bumps all around and someone shouted, “Man, that is SO Badassss!”

But no. It is not. It is just bad writing.

It is supposed to add punch to the speech, but it pulls the viewer out of the film in a couple ways. I am not sure if the word “bitch” was around during the time Greek mythology was created, but it is a contemporary word nonetheless and immediately draws your attention to it and then to the context. “Trust your senses,” followed by, “…And don’t look (her) in the eye!” is terrible advice, considering vision is one of your senses. Not to mention, “trust your senses” is terrible leadership advice. It is like saying, “Okay, team. The situation is bad. Here is our strategy for success, though: do your best.”

Finally, most people in the movie’s target audience know the story of Medusa and Perseus and how it turns out (this is a remake of a movie that was a retelling of a story that is nearly a thousand years old and part of basic elementary school education). Those lines add no “punch” or value to the unnecessary foreshadowing of what is to come. Why not choose clever writing instead? Or just fair writing. Anything that is a step up from groan-inducing.

Apparently, in the 2010 version of the story, instead of having the power to turn people to stone, Medusa had the power to turn writers to Dumb.

When you tell a story (even if you are not a writer), keep in mind one thing that makes it compelling is that the hero faces increasingly challenging choices, with more at stake at each turn.

In fact, a story (if you ask me) is mostly a series of set-ups for bigger and bigger choices. Consider this: “I went to the store yesterday,” is not a compelling story. But, “I went to the store yesterday and saw the tattooed woman in line ahead of me had her hand in her torn denim jacket pocket, around the butt of a gun…”

That probably compels someone to say, “Oh, wow. What did you do?”

You would want to know what choice I made. Did I confront the woman with the gun? Did I pretend not to notice and walk away? Did I call for help?

“I waited until she was at the register and when she moved to pull her hand out of her pocket, I grabbed her elbow and pushed it back so she couldn’t actually extend her arm. Confused, she looked at me, and then looked directly at the cashier…”

Now, you have to know what happened. The stakes just went way up. What did I do? Did I try to subdue her? Did she succeed in pulling the gun anyway (and then what did I do)? When she looked at me, did I slowly shake my head, indicating she better not try anything? Did I call for security? What happened next?

Realizing that she and the cashier were now eye-to-eye, I did the only thing I could do. I shouted at the cashier, “Don’t look this bit*h in the eye!”

But it was too late. The story had already turned to Dumb.

 

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How to Tactfully Challenge Your Boss (5 of 5)

A friend asks: “Do you have a blog post on ‘How to tactfully challenge your leader?” Yep. I have 5!

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Your boss asks you to do something that seems bad for business or bad for your team. You want to speak out but you are not sure how without the situation backfiring.

Every boss and every working relationship is different, but here are five tips that help me keep the peace while challenging the status quo:

((Read part 1part 2, part 3, and part 4.)) 

 

5 (of 5). Ask dumb questions. A “dumb” question is what I refer to as “a blatantly obvious question to which you already know the answer“. Pretend you have no idea why your boss is asking whatever he is asking and that you are somehow missing the point. Ask the dumbest question you can think of that will innocently challenge his proposal (probably something like, “Okay, but may I ask why?” or “Help me understand why we are… ” And consider following up with, “Okay, what can I do to help?”

Today’s Lesson: Sometimes asking dumb questions leads to great insights on both sides of the conversation.

I hope this series helped you find ways to politically and tactfully challenge the ideas you think might not lead to the best outcomes. If you want to keep the conversation going, share a story, or offer a tip of your own, be sure to comment on my FaceBook or Tumblr page, or via Twitter. Also, if you found value in the posts, be sure to share them or subscribe to the blog. Thanks for reading and sharing!

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How to Tactfully Challenge Your Boss (4 of 5)

Reader question: “Do you have a blog post on ‘How to tactfully challenge your leader?” Why, yes. In fact, we have 5!

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Your boss asks you to do something that seems bad for business or bad for your team. You want to speak out (and your peers are hoping you will) but you are not sure how to do it without the situation blowing up.

Every boss and every working relationship is different, but I can offer five tips that help me keep the peace while challenging the status quo:

((Read part 1part 2, and part 3.)) 

4 (of 5). Use humor. Not agreeing with your boss is almost always more palatable if you can have her laughing while disagreeing with her. Most people love to laugh and are more amenable to suggestions if they are at ease in a good mood. Here is a super secret pro tip I stole from James Altucher: if you know you are going to confront your boss tomorrow, spend today listening to comedians or watching stand-up comedy.

Think about it. Stand-up comedians are professional speakers who challenge conventional ideas for a living and they do it in ways broad audiences accept (and even laugh about!). Before having a challenging conversation, watch stand-up acts. Pay attention to their movements, mannerisms, and vocal cadence. Notice the pauses and set-ups for punch lines. Don’t steal their act. Steal their actions.

This tip is also great as preparation for public speaking, interviews, most social gatherings (if you feel nervous about crowds), or pretty much any speaking engagement.

 

Today’s Lesson: Laugh it up before putting yourself on the spot. It puts both you and the other person at ease. Also, learn from the people who do what you need to do best.

Tomorrow, I’ll share a dumb tip that works magic.

 

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How to Tactfully Challenge Your Boss (3 of 5)

From a former colleague: “Do you have a blog post on ‘How to tactfully challenge your leader or something like that?” Why, yes. Yes, I do. In fact, we have 5 now!

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I have been there. My boss asks me to do something that seems bad for business or frankly just sounds like a bad idea. I want to speak out (and my peers are counting on me to) but I am not sure how to do it without the situation blowing up.

Every boss and every working relationship is different, of course, but I can offer five tips that help me keep the peace while challenging the status quo:

((Read part 1 and part 2.))

3 (of 5). Understand your boss might not necessarily agree with the instructions he or she is giving you either. If your boss is generally a bright person yet he is asking you to do something that seems counter to his personality or typical leadership style, he might be following directions, too. A good manager never lets his direct reports distinguish from the Company’s viewpoint and his own (because that is a sure-fire way to disenfranchise employees and pit them against their employer, as well as make the boss seem ineffective and powerless). Or he might understand how the Company is looking at it because he has information you are not yet privy to. That info might change your mind but he may not be at liberty to share it yet.

In all my years leading teams, I have never seen a strategy rolled out without the Company’s best interest in mind. Companies never come up with ideas to sabotage themselves (not intentionally). Front line workers and middle managers do not always see the big, long-term picture. Unfortunately, middle managers are stuck between both standing behind the Company and standing up for the Employee–it is a tough, unfair spot but that is why the best people in the company are usually there.

 

Today’s Lesson: Companies and bosses, like all people (which is what companies and bosses are made of) sometimes have to learn from their mistakes before they can grow again. You can challenge every decision you think is bad but remember you might not have all the information and you can always try trusting your boss first…

Tomorrow, I will give you a super-secret tip that will help you stand up in front of any crowd!

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How to Tactfully Challenge Your Boss (2 of 5)

Question from a reader: “Do you have a blog post on ‘How to tactfully challenge your leader or something like that?” Why, yes. Yes, I do. In fact, we have 5 now!

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((Read part 1.))

I have been there. My boss asks me to do something that seems bad for business, for my team, or frankly, just sounds like a bad idea. I want to speak up (and my peers are counting on me to) but I am not sure how to approach my boss without the situation blowing up.

Every boss and every working relationship is different, of course, but I can offer five tips that helped me keep the peace while challenging the status quo so far in my career:

2 (of 5). Keep your emotions out of it. When your boss asks you to do something you think is stupid or not in your best interest, probably two things are happening. The first is, your boss likely struck a nerve that makes you feel intimidated by the request or demand (which probably means it will lead to personal growth–something we all react to with initial resistance). The other thing that happens is it becomes an interruption to your emotional comfort zone, which means you are going to feel emotional about it. The problem with acting on your emotions is they are sometimes misplaced or out of proportion to the actual problem.

We sometimes become irrationally mad at inanimate objects that do not act differently than they have acted before (I am prone to be angry at my phone when it runs slowly–something it sometimes does yet I am always surprised and angered by until I reign in my emotions). When I react emotionally, I am giving away my power and authority to random chemicals and inciting the other person to do the same. Soon, any actual conversation has ended and we are both only trying to out-emotion each another (whoever seems angriest wins). The actual problem is never solved. The only resolution is the contest of emotions is over and ultimately my boss has the trump card on that anyway.

You can not control or dictate the emotions of someone else but the calmer and cooler you remain the more you signal the other person to do the same and the more power you gain in the conversation.

 

Today’s Lesson: Some people think power is loud and boisterous. Power is the opposite. It is the quiet, calm collection of thoughts and precision placement of words and influence. Before any storm, there is always the Calm.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you what your boss can’t or won’t.

 

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How to Tactfully Challenge Your Boss (1 of 5)

Great question from a friend: “Do you have a blog post on ‘How to tactfully challenge your leader or something like that?” Why, yes. Yes, I do… now. In fact, we will have 5 this week!

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I have definitely been there. My boss asks me to do something that either seems bad for business, bad for my team, or frankly, just sounds like a bad idea. I want to speak up (and sometimes my peers are counting on me to speak up) but I have no idea how to approach my boss without the situation blowing up in my face.

I do not think there is a good “fits all” cookie-cutter answer for this because every boss is different and every working relationship is different, but I can offer five tips that have helped me keep the peace while still challenging the status quo. I can probably also offer 100 tips of how I learned NOT to approach bosses and challenge them, but here are 5 that have not bitten me back so far in my career:

1 (of 5). Start with a request for help (even if you do not actually need help). “I need your help with…” or “Help me understand why…” is a more effective way to start the conversation than directly confronting someone who has power over your employment. Starting with a request for help is better than starting with, “Well, I just don’t agree with that…”

Requesting help puts the burden on your shoulders as someone who wants to do the right thing but is maybe not understanding how, instead of putting your boss in a corner and forcing him to defend his character or actions. Put another way, “I need your help with…” translates to, “I don’t get why you are asking me to do this AND… I want to get it right.” On the other hand, “I don’t agree with…” translates to, “I don’t get why you are asking me to do this AND… I think I can do your job better than you can.”

 

Today’s Lesson: Sugar is a better way to attract flies than salt. Sweeten your challenge to an idea by becoming a partner (asking for help) instead of by becoming a combatant (which at the very least tarnishes your boss’ opinion of you and at worst can lead to the end of your employment).

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how to prepare yourself for any tough conversation, including challenging your boss.

 

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Today’s Lesson: Movies Aren’t Real [140810]

I overheard this during vegan brunch today at Brick Road Pizza, and I thought it was a perfect lesson for today. A father was giving advice to his teen boy (who apparently keeps getting into trouble with his friend). He said:

“Dumb and Dumber is a funny movie but it’s no way to go through life, son.”

I remember when I was that young and dumb… occasionally I’m reminded I’m just older now.

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