Tuesday, December 20, 2011

i-TFTD #347: Rumination from the Front Row

Over the past two weeks, I had the rare privilege to observe, at close quarters, a new business leader engage with teams, trying to grasp the contours of the challenges at hand while getting to know people; asking questions innocent and sharp, memorizing new acronyms and probing to discover the limits of available information; dissecting elements of strategy and distinguishing them from objectives; revealing and sharing to begin establishing credibility and style. One quality of this person was of special interest to me, namely, this person is a voracious reader who quotes business aphorisms and thinking frameworks—in somebody's words, this person is a walking, talking i-TFTD!

Some of the topics of discussion I witnessed has inspired this bonus edition of i-TFTD. First of all:

The next thing to saying a good thing yourself, is to quote one.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

Proverbs encapsulate wisdom. They become famous through their usefulness across time for people to recall a point and to make it effectively. They can act as shorthand to convey rich thoughts in a manner that attracts through compactness or elegance.

In a complex information gathering situation, there are plenty of disclaimers about history and incompleteness of views. But:

To a clear eye the smallest fact is a window through which the infinite may be seen.
-Thomas Henry Huxley, biologist and writer (1825-1895)

Actually we make many important decisions like hiring a person based on subjective impressions in a brief interaction. The reason for this being a popular method is that a better one has not been found. Therefore:

Precision of communication is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair-trigger balances, when a false or misunderstood word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act.
-James Thurber, American author, cartoonist and celebrated wit (1894–1961)

One interesting concept I picked up was, "Questions requiring numerical answers, when responded with English, could be a sign of trouble!"

Not that clear and precise communication is easy to achieve. Because:

After all, when you come right down to it, how many people speak the same language even when they speak the same language?
-Russell Hoban, American fantasy writer (1925–2011)

Perspectives and dimensions of awareness figured in the conversation as an undercurrent. There is only so much that explanation and dialogue can achieve. Remember:

You cannot speak of ocean to a well-frog, the creature of a narrower sphere. You cannot speak of ice to a summer insect, the creature of a season.
-Zhuangzi, Chinese philosopher (370-301 BCE)

Aspects of personal and organizational change have been a perennial favorite covered in i-TFTDs before, such as i-TFTD #298: Change How We Face, i-TFTD #294: On the Difficulty of Change, i-TFTD #284: Navigating Change, i-TFTD #287: On Choosing Dots to Connect, and i-TFTD #252: On the Why and How of Change among others. Proactive change initiators are a rare breed but should constitute a necessary proportion of any performance-oriented team. As it is said:

Progress is 95 percent routine teamwork. The other 5 percent relies on restless, inner-directed people who are willing to upset our applecart with new and better ideas.
-Michael LeBouef, American business book author and professor (1942-)

While acknowledging the need for different kinds of individuals, it pays to keep in mind the strengths approach concept, which we have extensively covered earlier in i-TFTD #335: Managers Need to be Strengths-Spotters, i-TFTD #160, i-TFTD #115: Only One Move, i-TFTD #142: Don't Send Your Ducks to Eagle School, i-TFTD #79: 3 Tips to Be a Prime Mover, i-TFTD #20: Motivation + Talent = Strength and i-TFTD #10: Abolish SWOT Analysis. So finally:

The question, 'Who ought to be boss?' is like asking, 'Who ought to be the tenor in the quarter?' Obviously, the man who can sing tenor.
-Henry Ford, American industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company (1863–1947)

If you like the way I connected one thing to another, you can connect with me by letting me know!

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