The Surprising Skills Needed in the Future

It’s a chaotic, fast-changing time we live in. Automation, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, cyber-threats, business bots, and the internet of things. It would seem that in this age of hyper-accelerating technology, we would need the techie skills to match. Maybe, maybe not.

Recently Deloitte conducted a survey to understand the millennial generation and get their view on the future of business, productivity, and what millennials think of the emerging younger GenZ generation. It’s mostly good news.

Eight thousand millennials were surveyed from all over the world and it turns out millennials are pretty optimistic, particularly when it comes to job readiness for the emerging younger population. The advice of thirty-somethings to their younger generation emerging now doesn’t appear too different from advice from the past. From the study:

  • Learn as much as possible: Begin your career open-minded and be ready to learn from others.
  • Work hard: Do your best and do not be lazy.
  • Be patient: Take your time when entering the workforce and go step-by-step.
  • Be dedicated: Be committed to succeeding and persevering.
  • Be flexible: Be open and adaptable to change and try new things.

Sound familiar? Thomas Jefferson, Michelangelo, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. all gave similar advice at different times in history.

But the surprising discovery in the study regards the specific skills needed to perform at a high level in the future. According to millennials working today in the world, it’s not technical skills that are needed. Analytic skills, IT skills, programming, social media skills, even language skills, and a global mindset, all ranked below the importance of leadership, flexibility, creativity, communication, and professionalism in the workplace.

That’s right. The strongest traits needed in the future to build innovation, and growing economies, are not technical skills, but human to human skills. Relationships drive progress in the world, not tech skills.

This is also good news for those of us who aspire to happiness and lifelong fulfillment. Harvard recently completed a study of over 75 years following the lives of 268 individuals from 1938 until now.

Through wars, marriages, career triumphs, personal tragedies, parenting, habits and daily behaviors, the Grant Foundation followed these people as they lived (and sometimes died) for 80 years. What they discovered is pretty simple.

They learned that the characteristics of a long, healthy and joyful life are strong relationships with other people, and resiliency through hardship. Religion, political opinions or sexual orientation made no difference. A happy childhood is helpful, but not necessary.

They learned that learning is a lifelong pursuit, and not restricted to childhood and adolescence. They learned that the habits you establish before 50 become predictive of mental and physical stability decades later, and the inevitability of a mid-life crisis is a myth popularized in the 70s.

According to the study, the strongest behavioral contributors of a joyful and successful life are the ability to create quality relationships with those around us, being altruistic with others, not taking oneself too seriously, finding joy in alternatives, and persevering through adversity.

Work on the strength of your relationships. It could be the most important thing you do, both for yourself and your community.

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SmallActs-3DShawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building beautiful online learning courses based on the work of best-selling authors. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, (Routledge) just released. You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? Let’s talk.

Twitter: @gshunter
Say hello: shawn@mindscaling.com
Web: www.shawnhunter.com

Your New Idea Is Not Where You Think It Is

In the 1950s, in rural Oklahoma, at a place called Robbers Cave, several researchers performed an experiment we would find unethical today. They invited twenty-two eleven-year-old boys to participate in a three week camp. The researchers advertised a wholesome summer camp experience. The experience they delivered was very different.

What the researchers actually did was to privately divide the boys into two groups of eleven each, and separate them for the first week so they had no contact, or knowledge, of the other group at all. Isolated, each group developed their own habits, expressions, favorite songs, and even their own group names, the Rattlers and the Eagles, which they painted on flags and T-shirts.

Then, after one week, the counselors informed each group of the existence of the other group. Their immediate reaction was to challenge the other group to sporting contests. The counselors arranged for Tug-of-War, baseball, a treasure hunt, and other sporting contests, and arranged for prizes to be rewarded to the winners.

The Rattlers spent the days leading up the baseball game joyous and confident that they would win. They carefully raked and managed the baseball field in preparation for the game, ultimately placing a “Keep Off” sign next to the field and placing a Rattlers sign near home base.

At the end of the first day, the Eagles had lost the Tug-of-War contest. On their way back to the cabins they noticed the Rattlers sign on the baseball field. They tore it down, stomped on it, and then burned it.

Well, the flag-burning incident started a whole ‘nuther level of battle as the camps took turns raiding the other groups’ cabins at night, stealing and vandalizing. They had food fights, and actual fights. Their animosity toward each other was real and vicious.

At breakfast on the last day of the tournament, the Rattlers sang “The enemy’s coming….” They described the Eagles as a “bunch of cussers,” “poor losers” and “bums.”

The boys who took part in this study back in the 1950s are in their 70s now, but in interviews they all have vivid recollections of the strong group cohesion of their own tribe, and the fierce animosity they held for the other group.

And it was all contrived by researchers. The dynamic of creating in-groups and out-groups was artificially constructed as a demonstration of intergroup conflict and in-group cooperation.

The interesting thing about in-group cohesion is that we almost always see our own in-group as more creative, intelligent, and diverse. And we see out-groups as more homogeneous, and less varied. This perception is amplified when opposing teams are in competitive situations.

When two opposing athletic teams, or product development teams, or sales teams, or companies in similar industries face off, we almost always think of our own in-group as more diverse, varied, flexible, and creative, and we think of the opposing team as all the same.

In one study, 90 sorority members all described their own sorority as having more dissimilar and unique members in their own group, than the other sororities. Basically, they believed that each of their own members were more special than members of other groups. It’s why we love our people. Our group is special.

So when your son does something stupid, and then rationalizes it by saying Joey did it first, you should not say, “So if Joey jumped off a cliff I suppose you would to?” Because he probably would.

Understand that other people in the world are not so different. We all have the same aspirations for health, safety, engaging and interesting work, a sense of purpose, and a sense of community. We may just have our own opinions on how to get there, and then align ourselves with others who think the same way.

Your best source for new ideas, inspiration and innovation is not going to come from asking the same people, from your same in-group, the same questions. Take a chance. Have lunch with someone new. Ask them about their work, their life. Just listen.

To learn more about building new relationships, and adopting a growth mindset see:

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SmallActs-3DShawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building beautiful online learning courses based on the work of best-selling authors. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, (Bibliomotion) will be out in October, 2016. You can pre-order a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? Let’s talk.

Twitter: @gshunter
Say hello: email@gshunter.com
Web: www.shawnhunter.com

Snap Out of the Trance of Unworthiness

The 13-year old boys walked off the field kicking dirt and shaking their heads. Aiden anguished, “If Ben’s shot had gone in, it would have been a totally different game.”

In the first few seconds of the game, immediately after kick-off, the boys had a fast break down the right side, and suddenly Ben was in control of the ball sprinting alone at the goalie. His shot missed, barely, and there was a collective “Oooooh” from the stands as the ball went wide.

After that, the game slowed down, and eventually they lost 0-2.

According to Dr. Daniel Amen, we have thousands of little negative thoughts each day. Thousands. It’s because in any given situation, negative events and emotions have a greater impact on us than positive ones. It’s unfortunate, but true. It’s why negative political campaigns have a greater influence on the emotions and decisions of voters than positive campaigns.

This negativity bias can be triggered by small interactions and sometimes hold fast in our minds for a long time. A colleague recently mentioned to me that she can’t stand someone else we both know. I was surprised, and asked why, since he seemed like such a nice person. She explained that once, years ago, he ignored her ideas at an important meeting.

According to Jonathan Haidt, psychologist at NYU, “Over and over the mind reacts to bad things more quickly, strongly and persistently than to equivalent good things.”

When we are in a negative mental state we also close down intellectually and creatively. We lose our attention span, and our ability to think holistically and systemically.

According to positive psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson, positive emotions have the inverse effect. Positive emotions deepen our attention, and widen our intellectual and social connections. In other words, choosing positive emotions in the face of distressing events will lead us to becoming more generous, thoughtful, and intellectually curious.

“Positivity transforms us for the better. This is the second core truth about positive emotions. By opening our hearts and minds, positive emotions allow us to discover and build new skills, new ties, new knowledge, and new ways of being.”
– Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D.

Here’s an idea from Dr. Daniel Amen, on how to switch your thinking. When an automatic negative thought pops into your head (I suck, my work sucks, he never listens to my ideas, etc..) do this: Write it down, ask yourself if it’s true, then challenge and discard that idea. It’s an effective tool used in counseling and can help shift your thinking.

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SmallActs-3DShawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building beautiful online learning courses based on the work of best-selling authors. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, (Bibliomotion) will be out in October, 2016. You can pre-order a copy now.

Twitter: @gshunter
Say hello: email@gshunter.com
Web: www.shawnhunter.com

You. Put It in Your Work.

girl-dance-music

Are you funny? Sarcastic? Witty? A dog lover? Maybe your passion is coaching youth sports. Or maybe it’s a cup of tea and a sci-fi novel on the couch. Maybe it’s Downton Abbey or maybe it’s The Walking Dead. Maybe it’s snowboarding with your kids. Whatever it is. Whatever gets your groove on, put it in your work.

People have passions and joys in their life, yet do stale, tired work. We get stuck trying to do the work we think someone else wants, instead of the work that inspires us. We get trapped thinking that if we hide who we are, we will fit in better, and be more likable. The opposite is true. When we conceal valuable parts of our identity we begin to feel alienated from those around us, and alienated from our work.

Some people come alive Friday night on the dance floor when the lights go down and the beats go up. And yet give boring, sad, sales presentations on Monday morning. They’re not boring, sad people, they just switched off their true self when the time came to work.

Here’s a challenge. Take what you love and put it in your work. Yes, you might alienate a few people. You might turn some people off with your basketball analogies, or comparisons to cooking, or your stories about hiking in the Swiss alps. (Please no more cat videos.) But you will be understood. People will get you. They’ll understand where you’re coming from, what you value, and what you hold dear in your life. And because of that, they will respect and appreciate your work more.

What if writing good clean code is similar to your passion for gardening. What if building a marketing plan is a lot like a carefully planned hike with friends. And maybe killer graphic design is a lot like a great conversation with an old friend. Put it in your work.

Emerging generations are increasingly more assertive in expressing their identities, proudly, openly. And that’s a good thing. According to a recent study from Deloitte, when people within a diverse and multigenerational workforce begin to express their whole self at work, they begin to look past differences and start to focus on business results.

Millennials are refusing to check their identities at the doors of organizations today, and they strongly believe these characteristics bring value to the business outcomes and impact.
– Christie Smith and Stephanie Turner, Deloitte Leadership Center for Inclusion

When people within the organization become less concerned with concealing who they are, they start to become more interested, and active, in developing deeper and more meaningful collaborations with those across the organization to drive innovation and business results.

The result is an environment of psychological safety. In psychologically safe teams, members feel accepted and respected, and as a result feel safer to take risks, to be more audacious in their work.

Bring more of you to your work, and encourage those around you to also.

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Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 2.45.37 PMShawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building beautiful elearning courses based on the work of best-selling authors. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, (Bibliomotion) will be out in October but you can pre-order a copy now.

Twitter: @gshunter
Say hello: email@gshunter.com
Web: www.shawnhunter.com

Being Available Is Not the Same as Being Engaged

Many things we chase after in our lives are elastic. The amount of twitter followers we chase, the number of likes on an instagram post, the amount of money we make, and the number of fitbit steps we take each day. We think these numbers can just keep going up and up if we work hard enough, chase it hard enough.

But our time is finite. By age 50 we have had just over 18,000 days to share. That may sound like a lot or it may sound like a little depending on your point of view, but one thing is true: that’s all the days there are. No more. Which is why, in a very real sense, our time is the most precious gift in the world. And time spent focused and engaged pays dividends. It’s true in almost all aspects of life.

Make no mistake. Time measured merely in quantity, not quality, can be ineffectual, and sometimes detrimental. Offering lots of your time to your colleagues, your friends, your partner, or your kids, when you are distracted, nervous or stressed-out, has a negative effect.

According to a 2015 study on parental involvement, over the past forty years, the time invested in our kids has been going up. In general that’s a good thing. And for it to be a great thing, the time spent needs to have quality and meaning. It turns out that when the researchers measure impact based on the sheer volume of time spent with kids, there is almost no relationship to how our kids turn out – not in reading and math scores, not in emotional well-being, and not in behavior.

“I could literally show you 20 charts, and 19 of them would show no relationship between the amount of parents’ time and children’s outcomes. . . . Nada. Zippo,” – Melissa Milkie, Sociologist, University of Toronto

That comprehensive report got a lot of parents upset and angry at Washington Post reporter Brigid Schulte because they had quit their jobs, compromised their own sleep, and distanced themselves from their own well-being to spend time with their kids. But time spent with others when we are exhausted, stressed and feeling alienated from our professional lives isn’t time well-spent.

The key variable in the study when making a difference in the lives of our kids is the amount of time spent being simply “available” versus being “engaged”. Being available isn’t the same as being engaged. In the study there was, however, one exception to the “time spent” finding. Researchers did find that time spent being simply accessible and available did have a positive impact on the behavioral outcomes during the teenage years.

Being present with others is an act of compassion. And compassion and kindness is the most sought-after trait in the human experience. Researcher David Buss studied 10,000 people in 37 countries to figure out the most powerful attractor in a lifelong mate. It wasn’t money, and it wasn’t beauty, and it wasn’t even intelligence.

The #1 characteristic desired around the world when looking for a long-term relationship is kindness and compassion to others. Give your time, your focus and your energy to those around you. It’s a small act of leadership we can all do.

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    Shawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building powerful human and digital learning experiences based on the work of best-selling authors. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, is a Washington Post bestseller! You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? Let’s talk.

    Last summer, my son and I bicycled across America with two other dads and their teenagers. We published a new book about it called Chasing Dawn. I co-authored the book with my cycling companion, the artist, photographer, and wonderful human jon holloway. Grab a copy. I’ll sign it and send it to your doorstep.

The Small Rituals of Great Teams

In our house if the coffee isn’t ready by the time my wife leaves to teach, her mojo is off for the whole morning.

I’m sure lack of caffeine is part of the problem, but it’s only half of the story. Another meaningful part of the process is the brewing of the coffee, the pouring of the coffee, stirring the half and half in her favorite mug, in just the right quantity, and sipping the coffee on the drive to school. It’s the ritual of the coffee that is equally as valuable as the taste and the caffeine.

Rituals performed in groups can be even more powerful. When we take time as a team, to savor moments or engage in rituals before events we can greatly affect the outcomes. For example, simply taking time to share a toast before a sip of wine, will make make the wine taste better to everyone.

According to researcher Kathleen Vohs, the principal reason is because the ritual forces everyone to be very present in the moment. Another form of savoring is when we close our eyes while listening to music we enjoy. By intentionally closing one type of sense, we are opening and accentuating another.

These are small examples of savoring experiences, which involve taking time to appreciate and amplify the small moments of life such that they become more powerful and meaningful. Families are the most basic and essential teams in our lives. And building positive rituals in our families can have immense impact. According to author Bruce Feiler:

“A recent wave of research shows that children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, get pregnant, commit suicide, and develop eating disorders. Additional research found that children who enjoy family meals have larger vocabularies, better manners, healthier diets, and higher self-esteem.”
– Bruce Feiler

Sports teams innately understand the power of rituals. Consider the awesome and fear-inducing Haka performed by the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Team before every game. This powerful expression of native dance not only reinforces their heritage and cohesiveness as a team, but also channels any pre-game anxiety into unified energy and focus. In this instance, the Haka ritual also acts as a social glue to bind the team together.

You can easily build rituals into your professional team culture as well. Here’s an simple example for your weekly or monthly team meetings. Often these meetings involve the same people. And often the more junior participants speak less while the boss speaks more, which is exactly opposite to what a healthy culture looks like. Healthy, participative teams want ideas and insight from everyone at the table.

Here’s the idea from Paulo Guenzi’s book Leading Teams. Tell everyone in advance of the meeting that if they don’t participate and share their best ideas, they could get a yellow card as a warning. If they get a red card after two warnings, they aren’t permitted to attend the meeting next week. Don’t be too worried that people will intentionally get a red card to leave the meeting. It’s not likely people will actively seek negative reinforcement to get themselves kicked out.

What’s more likely to happen is that you will begin to develop a team meeting culture in which everyone is encouraged to bring forth their best ideas. Good luck!

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Shawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, and the author of Out•Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes. It’s about how to lead joyfully in life, and also to lead cultures in your company to drive great results.

Twitter: @gshunter
Say hello: email@gshunter.com
Web: www.shawnhunter.com

Nobody Else Knows What They Are Doing Either

“I don’t belong here. I have no idea what I’m doing. They’re going to figure out I’m a fraud.”

Have you ever believed you are not deserving or worried people will reveal you as a fraud? Have you ever thought someone else could do your job better, or thought you got that bonus or promotion by luck?

Have you ever been in a hurry to leave before someone finds out you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about?

Olivia Fox Cabane teaches at Stanford. Each year, she asks her incoming group of freshman this question: “How many of you in here feel that you are the one mistake that the admissions committee made?” Each year, over two-thirds of the students raise their hands.

It’s human nature to compare. In any given situation we often look around and make comparisons. And these comparisons make us feel inadequate. We know that the less we focus on comparisons, the happier we will feel about ourselves, but we can’t help ourselves anyway. Someone else is smarter, prettier, funnier.

impostor-graph

Dr. Margaret Chan, Chief of the World Health Organization, once said, “There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert. How do these people believe all this about me? I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.”

The immensely talented and brilliant Maya Angelou authored 11 books in her lifetime. She once said, “but each time, I think ‘Uh-oh. They’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.”

Kate Winslet won an Academy Award for her role in Titanic. After receiving the award, she said, “I’d wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and think, ‘I can’t do this. I’m a fraud.’”

“Why compare yourself with others? No one in the entire world can do a better job of being you than you.”

The interesting thing about Imposter Syndrome is that the more successful you become, the greater the likelihood of encountering more bouts of self-doubt. The reason is because as you enjoy greater and greater success, you encounter increasingly successful people for you to compare yourself against. Here’s the secret: They don’t know what the hell they are doing either. They’re just winging it too.

Social media doesn’t help. We all get to see the happier, more beautiful side of everyone else online, instead of the moments of doubt, sleeplessness, and insecurity. Sure, they know something about something, which is what got them there in the first place. But when under the influence of a self-doubt attack, you begin to believe those around you must be brilliant.

Try to remember these truths: You do deserve to be here. It wasn’t luck. It was your tenacity and hard work. Ambition is a good thing. Strive for more. It’s OK to ask. And stop comparing, it’s self-defeating.

You are a better version of you than anyone else.

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Our company Mindscaling, is busy building powerful human and digital learning experiences for companies of all sizes. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, is a Washington Post bestseller! You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? I love to work with groups large and small. Let’s talk.

Your “Smartphone” May Be Dumbing Down Your Conversations

“People who had conversations in the absence of mobile devices reported higher levels of empathetic concern.”
– Shalini Misra

American adults are consuming over 11 hours of digital media daily. Keep in mind we are only awake 16 to 17 hours a day.

It’s been steadily increasing over the years for American kids too. Today, on average, kids are spending over 7 hours immersed in “entertainment” screen time. And that’s outside of the screen time they may have at school working on computers doing homework or school-related activities.

It’s true that sometimes it’s nice to sit together at a coffee shop and absently chitchat about nothing while we scroll through our devices. Together, yet apart. But more often, we all want our conversations to be meaningful, connected, deep, expressive, honest, intentional, substantial, and empathetic. New research demonstrates that even the mere presence of a smartphone, in our hands or just sitting on the table between us, detracts from the quality of the conversation.

That’s right, even if we don’t actively look at it, the simple presence of a smartphone detracts from the quality of the conversation. Simply the anticipation of a text or alert distracts us from meaningful interaction.

In a recent study, researchers Shalini Misra and her colleagues asked 100 pairs of students to spend just 10 minutes talking about either a casual, light topic or alternately a deeper, more meaningful topic.

Meanwhile an observing researcher nearby noted the amount of non-verbal behavior and the amount of eye contact. After the conversation took place, the observer asked questions related to the quality of the conversation itself. Participants were asked to qualify their “feelings of interpersonal connectedness” and “empathic concern” they experienced during the conversation. Questions included “I felt I could really trust my conversation partner” and “To what extent did your conversation partner make an effort to understand your thoughts and feelings?”

The results were clear: “If either participant placed a mobile communication device on the table, or held it in their hand, during the course of the 10-minute conversation, the quality of the conversation was rated to be less fulfilling.”

“Mobile phones hold symbolic meaning in advanced technological societies. In their presence, people have the constant urge to seek out information, check for communication, and direct their thoughts to other people and worlds.”

While the use of devices and technology to allow people to communicate digitally increase, face-to-face interaction decreases.

Meet William Powers. A digital lifetime ago back in 2008, Bill Powers and his family decided to reclaim their lives from their devices. He, his wife and now 17-year-old son were increasingly spending their evenings and weekends facing away from each other and spending hours deeply entranced by their screens, instead of each other.

They are certainly no Luddites. Bill is a researcher and journalist, and his wife is a novelist, so they both spend long hours at their computers, researching and writing. They are also both keenly aware that the internet and their ability to connect digitally grants them the freedom to work at home, and make a living because of the information and connectedness they enjoy from the internet.

But they were also spending less and less time simply talking with one another, and instead texting and emailing each other from across the house. They were spending less and less time taking walks, enjoying the outdoors, and spending meaningful time with one another.

For the past 7 years, their family practices something they call “selected disconnection.” Each weekend they have an Internet Sabbath. Starting late Friday evening until Sunday evening, they turn off the WiFi in their house, and their smartphones, and their computers, and they disconnect digitally.

When they first started the experiment, Bill said, “It almost had an existential feeling of, ‘I don’t know who I am with the Internet gone.’ But after a few months it hardened into a habit and we all began to realize we were gaining a lot from it.”

Ok, so maybe the thought of totally disconnecting for two days is terrifying or unrealistic. Start with just an hour, or two. Then if you think it’s a meaningful exercise for you or your family, turn it into a whole evening. Worst case scenario is you all learn something. And that’s a good thing.

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Shawn Hunter is the author of Out•Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes. It’s about how to lead joyfully in life, and also to lead cultures in your company to drive great results.

Twitter: @gshunter
Say hello: email@gshunter.com
Web: www.shawnhunter.com

Go ahead and ask. You can be more assertive than you think.

Recently our daughter Annie and I were at the store picking out a card to for her to send to a friend. In the card display was a big section dedicated to Taylor Swift. We examined each card – Taylor Swift looking dreamy, sassy, alluring, or even defiant. Taylor can certainly strike a pose. I asked Annie to pick one.

“I can’t decide,” she said. Then, “Wait, what about that one!”

It was the display poster, the marquee advertising the Taylor Swift section of the greeting cards. “Well, that’s not for sale sweetie. It’s just the banner. You know, the poster for all the Taylor Swift cards.”

Annie says, “Yeah. Can we get it?”

There was also a little sign saying the Taylor Swift card collection was being replaced in a few days. I shrugged, “Let’s ask.” I took the poster from the wall and Annie carried it to the checkout counter.

“I can’t find a price on this,” the clerk said.

I replied, “Yeah, well, it’s..ah…the display poster. But the sign says you are getting rid of the cards in a couple days. Can we have it?” The clerk frowned. “I need to talk to the manager.”

We waited and the manager arrived, looked at the poster, and said. “I’m sorry but we don’t own those banners. The card company does. We can’t give them away.” I turned and saw Annie’s face wrinkle in confusion. “But why not?” she asked.

For a second no one moved. Then the manager said, “Tell you what. If you give us your phone number, we’ll ask the card company and call you if they say you can have it.” I was pretty skeptical, but Annie’s face lit up and she carefully wrote down our phone number for the manager as I said it out loud.

We drove home and I forgot all about it. But Annie didn’t forget. Sure enough about ten days later, the drug store manager called and asked if we still wanted the poster. Within the hour, that Taylor Swift poster was hanging in our daughter’s bedroom.

When in doubt, ask.

People seen by others as getting assertiveness right, often mistakenly think they’ve gotten it wrong.

In a study by doctoral students at Columbia Business School, 57% of those who believed that they were appropriately assertive in their requests and negotiations, were actually seen by the other party as under-assertive, and under-demanding. In other words, more than half didn’t ask for enough.

On the other hand, those who believe that have been overly-assertive and overly-demanding in their requests and negotiations often fall victim to a belief that they have “crossed a line” and gone too far in their requests. The result is that they backpedal, try to smooth things over, and acquiesce to a lesser deal. In the end, both parties often accept a worse deal.

That’s a bummer, because in the study often those who were assertive and demanding were actually interpreted by the other party as being fair and appropriate.

According to the research, you should go for it and ask for a little more. And not back off or feel badly about what you ask for.

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Shawn Hunter is the Founder of Mindscaling and author of Out•Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes. It’s about how to lead joyfully in life, and also to lead cultures in your company to drive great results.

Twitter: @gshunter
Say hello: email@gshunter.com
Web: www.shawnhunter.com

Does Your Company Have a Mental Dress Code?

conformity

Bafflegab
noun, North American, informal
Meaning: incomprehensible or pretentious language, especially bureaucratic jargon.
“the smooth chairman had elevated bafflegab to an art form”

If we took a time machine back to the 1990s and visited American corporate culture, in addition to wide ties and blocky cell phones, we would also see the Apple Newton in action, and fax machines widely in use. There was the Netscape IPO of 1995, Japan was the king of semiconductors, and the NASDAQ tipped over 1000.

We would also find people talking differently. They didn’t use the word “business model” widely. That term wouldn’t make it’s way out of MBA classes for a few more years, and people were still largely thought of as resources to be applied against goals, objectives and strategies. According to Harvard business historian Nancy Koehn, people weren’t talking about “energy” or “passion” or “purpose” in the way we do today.

Language certainly matters a great deal. The words we use when interacting with one another say a great deal about what we believe and value. But I’ll argue that repetition and overuse of insider language can balloon into an enormous crutch. It’s the reason business bingo exists.

In the 1980s, Pacific Bell publicly abandoned a failed $40 million “leadership development” effort based on the work of former aspiring-mystic-turned-management-consultant Charles Krone. The training program attempted to get everyone in the organization to adopt new, and often fantastical, language to gain efficiency and speed.

During this expensive and failed experiment of confusion and lost productivity, “task cycle” was an invented term to describe a system of managing a problem. Even the word “interaction” had it’s own impenetrable 39-word definition that employees had to understand.

Pushing people to speak and interact all the same way is the equivalent of enforcing a mental dress code.

There are plenty of annoying popular business phrases out there. “Let’s not try to boil the ocean” means let’s not waste time on something that will take forever. Rowing to Australia would take a long time too, but we don’t say that. Incidentally, the expression “boil the ocean” supposedly came from the humorist Will Rogers when asked how we should deal with German U-Boats during WWI. His answer was to simply boil the ocean, and added that the details of how to do that are up to someone else.

“Out of pocket” sounds silly. It means unavailable. The original intent was to explain a reimbursable expense, as in the cost came out of my pocket. Lord knows how this became reinterpreted to mean I will be unavailable. I searched and searched and found no satisfactory answer.

“Over the wall” needs to be canned too. It means to send something, like a document or a proposal, to a client or a vendor. But metaphorically it’s alienating. The expression suggests we’re dealing with someone foreign, even hostile. Why does it need to be a wall?

“Low-hanging fruit” came out of 1980s restructuring at General Electric. Peter Drucker had been hired by Jack Welch in the early 1980s to help get GE out of a down-cycle (damn, I did it myself!), and they worked together to try to remove corporate jargon from the conversation. Ironically, along the way they created more new terms in an attempt to destroy the old language. In addition to “low-hanging fruit,” that exercise also brought us the terms “rattlers” (meaning obvious problems) and pythons (meaning bloated bureaucracy).

“Burning platform” conjures images of Gandalf and the dragon Bairog fighting over a crumbling bridge above a cauldron of fire. Stop it. Try using the word “urgent” instead.

It goes on and on. Let’s keep this one: “ducks in a row.” I like that one. It’s cute. It comes from the days of pre-automated bowling alleys when humans had to place the bowling pins upright.

Whatever the common bafflegap in your organization, I encourage you to simply your language. If the expression needs explanation to anyone outside your company, you should probably slow down on use of it.

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outthink_book_coverShawn Hunter is the Founder of Mindscaling and author of Out•Think: How Innovative Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomes. It’s about how to lead joyfully in life, and also to lead cultures in your company to drive great results.

Twitter: @gshunter
Say hello: email@gshunter.com
Web: www.shawnhunter.com