Balancing Act: The Newsletter (No. 127: March 2010)
Follow me on Twitter! You can find me here:
New consulting and leadership tips posted daily!
And find me on Facebook:
Techniques for Balance
I was sitting in the back of a meeting room in which I was about to conduct a workshop. It was about 8:30 am, and my wont is to sit by myself and simply watch people. This is one of my primary learning devices.
One of the participants had asked my permission to bring his dog, a hound somewhat larger than my own German Shepherd. It was a dog-friendly hotel, he assured me that the dog would keep quiet, and he would stay in a very large cage. If there were problems, the hotel could make other arrangements.
Indeed, despite the people, noise, and food, the dog was quite content to look around and take things in. (We were actually in the same mode, but the dog had a quite nice stuffed rabbit of some kind in his massive paws.)
I noticed that as people walked in, there were only two reactions, since you couldn't very well miss this huge creature in the cage. People either said something akin to, "Whoa, what a dog!" and went over to talk to him (full well knowing that talking to me in the morning is not very productive), or they quickly looked away again and found themselves a seat. I'd say the ratio was about 70/30.
Which prompts this observation: Assuming you're not allergic to dogs, or have recently lost one and don't want to be reminded, why would you simply ignore this large animal in unusual surroundings? And especially at the start of a day, don't you tend to be energetic, inquisitive, and enthusiastic?
Alas, a lot of people begin their day in a funk, grouchy and semi-belligerent, and things go rapidly downhill from there. Occasionally this happens to us all, but if this is the normal modus operandi, there's something wrong. It's not necessarily transgressive not to be interested in a dog, but it is a poor start to a day when you lack curiosity and verve.
All dogs, of course, are naturally interested in their surroundings, and can read the shrugs and twitches of people with near-Gnostic precision. Yet I've seen people on the sidewalk completely ignore someone climbing the side of the building they are passing, and when it is pointed out, they reply, "That's nice, but I have other things on my mind," or "I'm running late."
So remove the dog (those of you objecting to my allowing the dog—who was totally quiet—in the room, and not providing vaccination shots to everyone, please send your letters to my address, care of Buddy Beagle, but also see the next column in this issue) and my point remains the same. There are people who light up a room with their enthusiasm and inquisitive nature, whom you're happy to see and comforted to be with. There are others who cast a pall as they absorb energy and oxygen from the immediate vicinity.
I know whom I want to be near, and whom I want to avoid. I know for whom I'm more likely to be candid and sharing and even inconvenienced.
And I know with whom I'm more likely to trust my dog and my money.
hear no evil
I can understand people getting upset with me when I write about controversial topics. I'm a provocative guy, I like to poke people, love to make them think. When it happens to me, I write a letter to the editor, or the author, or the keeper of the book of truth (Wikipedia). But I keep on reading.
Recently, a guy vituperatively ended his (free) subscription to Alan's Monday Morning Memo® because I had cast aspersions on attempts at collaboration. My point, in less than a single paragraph, was that most such attempts are purely conceptual and theoretical, and many times the collaborator often merely wants something you have.
Well!! My ex-subscriber went into a snit because his company had "collaboration" in its name, it was always good, always laudable, always to be sought. He ranted, ungrammatically, that "I should had a more open mind."
Perhaps. But perhaps he could have engaged in a discussion with me (I had 20 favorable comments on the piece and only his negative one), or challenged me back, or used my blasphemy in his own blog to show how benighted I am. Instead, he called me names, put his hand over his ears, started yelling "yayayayayayayaya," and ran away into the night.
That's what happens when you cancel subscriptions, end memberships, stop visits, and otherwise bail out once you've heard something that threatens your belief system. How strong and well balanced is your belief system if a contrary view drives you to hysteria? There are people threatening the New York Times and Golf Digest and Stamps Magazine every day with non-renewal and cancellation over some perceived threat or damaging remark. Maybe they should read more carefully and try to intelligently determine a) if they are right to be outraged, and b) how most effectively to react if they are right.
Can you imagine a board meeting where every opposing view is met with shouts and refusal to listen to the other side? Pretty soon, you'd have the South Korean parliament, where they tend to throw punches and chairs over legislative disagreements.
A healthy condition seems to me to be one where we listen to opposing views, consider their merits, and make reasoned decisions whether or not to change our own. We can then feel free to try to enlighten the other party if we believe they are laboring too far from the street light at dusk.
But to act as if decency itself had been offended, the lords and ladies endangered, and society teetering on the brink, and then turn your back and slink off into the crepuscular depths, well, that's too much like those monkeys covering their eyes, ears, and mouths.
Other opinions aren't evil. And running from them is simply stupid.
I had ordered a steak in a superb restaurant, but was dismayed to find I had been given a regular dinner knife and not a steak knife. I had been told that the steaks were unusually tender, but I was convinced this knife was insufficient.
Sure enough, the steak arrived and I began sawing away, hardly making a dent. I promptly motioned to the captain, who rushed to the table. I pointed out the obvious problem.
He then turned my knife over, so that the serrated edge was facing the steak. That, of course, seemed to do the trick.
Balancing Act® is our registered trademark. You are encouraged to share the contents with others with appropriate attribution. Please use the ® whenever the phrase "Balancing Act" is used in connection with this newsletter or our workshops.
Having problems viewing this email, click