Leprechaun Tractor

I like the Metta World News Segments in the Key and Peele Show. Non sequitors rule. The title of this post is a phrase I thought I heard someone use yesterday. Mondegreens also rule.

Leaving this afternoon for a few days of  not being anywhere near my workplace  visiting my parents and brother, aka the Protosaurs, in Florida and retrieving Mouse from her two-week stay there. I can already feel the muscles in my shoulders and neck starting to unclench.

The 18%

I took one of those internet personality quizzes and learned that I am a mere 18% bitch. It was obviously a bad week for internet personality quizzes, since apparently I was also a “normal kid” in high school. But the bitch thing kind of resonated with me. It’s not that I’m such an all-fired nice person. It’s just that I’m more of a douchebag than a bitch. I’m not a confrontational person, and over the years I have cultivated a long enough fuse that I can usually resolve or find my way out of difficult interpersonal circumstances before I explode abruptly with an outburst and/or outright flight. Neither of these are good supervisory tactics.

(I’m not sure that they’re particularly good adaptive mechanisms in general, but they seem especially ill-suited to the workplace.)

The irony of this, of course, is that I’m considered something of an expert on how managers should provide employees with direct feedback on an ongoing basis so as to forestall the abrupt outbursts and snap decisions that get supervisors in trouble.

Look Upon Procurement Man

Image of the guide to my online contracting class

 

Procurement Man is the star of CON 100, the first of many classes I will complete online and in person to obtain my contracting warrant. I have been spending lots of quality time with him between office tasks and in my vast amounts of spare time. Just wanted to share.

I hope someday that Procurement Man gets his own video game spinoff.

You Are Here

“Self-esteem” was a big deal in education during my formative years. The rhetoric surrounding self-esteem was right up there with Striving For Excellence and Just Say No on my list of reasons for holding adults in intellectual contempt. The problem with emphasizing self-esteem over self-awareness is best expressed in the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The less people know, the more they assume that they know.

My biggest beef with books about “leadership” is the presupposition that readers know where they fit in their organizations and which leadership skills and techniques are appropriate relative to their position in the hierarchy. I get a lot of inspiration out of online leadership literature (leadiature?) from this guy, for example. A typical post offers ideas for generating urgency. There’s something people at any professional level  can get out these insights, to be sure, but do you trust everyone in your organization to decide if and when it is appropriate to burn bridges? I’d love to see a couple of listicles from him on figuring out whether you’re applying the right leadership skill set for your actual place in the organization. This week GovExec ran a couple of good pieces about understanding what your boss wants and leading change from somewhere other than the top.

Dino Spouse and I watched the first two episodes of “World Wars” last night and tonight as I was blogging and reading leadiature. We met young Hitler, young Churchill, young Roosevelt and so on at the outset of World War I and watched them evolve. The on-screen experts more or less mirror the demographics of said world leaders. It’s not bad television, especially when leavened with Dino Spouse cracking wise about the intended audience for the program (“Is it for 12 year-olds?”) and my feminist grumbling (“I just found out that you can’t be an authority on World War I without a penis!”) I’m curious to see how much examination the series gives to the personal leadership styles of its Great Man subjects.  I’m also wondering how much I can admire the charms of the actor playing young Hitler without it being weird.

 

Anger, Now With Less Stupid

Mad love to the Government Executive online venue, GovExec.com, for great content. My only complaint is that I hate hate hate online video and audio podcasts. Maybe this is one the subtle differences between me as a Gen X early adopter of information technology and a proper digital native. If I wanted to hear or watch things, I would turn on the radio or the TV. I want still pictures and text out of my internet experience, by gum. When I find out that the headline I’ve clicked on is trying to direct me to watch or listen to content without offering me a transcript instead, I turn up my nose and click away.

What broke my resistance to multimedia content was the promise of a discussion of how managers can use their anger effectively in the workplace without being stupid. This is a topic near and dear to my heart since I have only seen one or two leaders manage to channel their wrath productively over the course of my government career. “Why Leaders Need to Learn How To Get Angry Without Being Stupid” was the headline that got me to listen to Scott Eblin interview Harry Evans, co-author of Step Up: Lead In Six Moments That Matter. In case you are likewise podcast-averse, the upshot of their conversation was that there are “moments” in any organization that make or break leaders, and a big one is what leaders do when they are angry. Controlling anger is critical, but using it effectively can serve as a catalyst for growth and improvement. To avoid doing dumb things with anger, Evans advises three things:

  1. Admit that you’re angry. You lose credibility if you lie.
  2. If others fail to share your anger, don’t take it as a sign that they don’t care enough to be angry. Lobbing accusations about others not caring is a sure way of making people defensive. Instead, explain what makes you angry in a way that invites others to share in your passion.
  3. Direct feelings toward ideas or actions, not toward other people

This sounds pretty smart. Worth listening to people talk on my computer, even.

Failing Successfully

At work, I’m on the board of an organization that supports the advancement of women into senior positions in my federal agency. Some time in the next month, I am supposed to host an informal brown-bag on the topic of failure. Failure is a topic near and dear to my heart. Professional and personal failures have taught me lots. Sometimes I imagine developing an instruction manual for failure akin to the Handbook For The Recently Deceased in “Beetlejuice.”

There were two posts this weekend that piqued my interest in this regard. One was the Washington Post item April 25 about Martha Johnson, the former director of the General Services Administration who resigned in 2012 in the wake of a scandal. The other was a recently released study of professionalism in the U.S. military circa 1970. Two thoughts occur to me:

  • Encountering professional near-death experiences at the beginning and middle of your career is a blessing, assuming you learn from your mistakes and the reactions of others. I am eager to read Martha Johnson’s book to see what her experiences were earlier in her career. The people I know who have suffered the worst from career catastrophe have been people who never crashed and burned until they were already in senior positions.
  • Failing to analyze mistakes and missed opportunities is a major source of future failure. I recall participating in an exercise at the Army War College in 2000 and being blown away by the military culture of after-action reviews, in which all parties were encouraged to discuss what went right and wrong in a given activity. I don’t know how many of the recommendations from the study were implemented, but I wonder how many federal agencies have undertaken similar studies.

I would love to hear about personal or institutional episodes of failure and recovery from your experiences. Will you share?