So long, Ray Lewis, and a tale of two retirements

Ray_Lewis_by_youngandreckless
Ray_Lewis_by_youngandreckless

Ray Lewis by youngandreckless

If any of you watched the Ravens – Colts football game this past weekend, you were treated to the final home game played by one of the NFL’s all-time greats.  Ray Lewis, an iconic figure for over a decade in the NFL, has announced he will retire at the end of this season. While I am not a fan of Ray Lewis, personally, any fan of the game of football still must respect and appreciate him for his tenacity, toughness, on-the-field and locker room leadership and overall football smarts. 

 What has always turned me off to Lewis is his ballsy bravado and showmanship that is so very much the hallmark of many a famous athlete.  It does nothing for me, whatsoever.  Nonetheless, watching him play the position of inside linebacker has been a site to behold for a very long time.  

The Ravens defeated the Colts handily and, although the game was well out of reach, Lewis took the field for the game’s final play – a meaningless kneel-down to run out the clock from the Colts rookie QB sensation, Andrew Luck.  There was no need for Lewis to be on the field.  In fact, he stood about 15 yards away from the line of scrimmage, deep in the defensive backfield, avoiding even the suggestion of contact on the final play of a game in which he played with a large, heavy brace on his injured arm. 

This play, however, was the most memorable thing for me in the entire game, even with amazing circus catches from Anquan Boldin and explosive runs pulled off by Ray Rice still lingering in my mind’s eye.  Ray Lewis left the stadium where he made himself a legend in the one place where he should have – on the field.  He was not on the sideline, high-fiving teammates, hugging coaches or waving to spectators.  He was active, involved, in the game and doing his job – no matter how trivial or small the play he was going to be remembered by everyone in that stadium as spending his last final moments right where he should have been – on the field. 

Now, let’s contrast that with another story…… 

I knew someone who, after spending over 30 years with a company, decided to retire.  After a long but unspectacular career, it was time to leave the rat race as just about every single one of us who is not a legendary NFL icon will do.  Unfortunately, also unlike those legendary NFL icons, leaving the job with an iota of respect wasn’t in the cards. 

You see, the rulebook indicated employees needed to work on such-and-such days in order to receive certain benefits.  This meant reporting to work for 2 more days, even though operations on those days were just about completely shut down for the Holidays.  And, of course, there’s no way that a full day of work could be done with all the retirement congratulations going on, not to mention the complete lack of motivation to throw yourself into anything knowing you are never – ever -never-ever-never coming back. 

Rather than thanking this person for a lifetime of commitment and riding off into the sunset with a feeling of admiration and respect, like Ray Lewis, the company required reporting to work for a couple more days just to satisfy some meaningless policy requirement from which no value to anyone could be derived. And that is the difference between running an organization on the basis of cost vs. running one on the basis of value, and the difference between people in an organization that understand what Respect for People means, and those who do not.

Be honest with yourself (a call to conscience)

My conscience
My conscience

My conscience by bittersweetvenom

I am often surprised, when presenting someone with new ideas for how work can & should be done  (many of them proven via case studies or, in some cases, personal experience), at the reaction I receive.  Yes, there’s often disbelief that work can be a place of enjoyment, or that bullying is a suboptimal approach.  What strikes me as completely strange, however, is the number of people who are certain they are acting in acccord with the best possible practices and that anything other than their own well-developed habits is, clearly, not the way to get things done.

This dynamic seems to surface most often when talking about the behavioral aspects of work relationships.  Those based on interpersonal dynamics, respect for people, leading with humility and the determimation to avoid comman-and-control in favor of collaboration focused on developing autonomy, mastery and purpose.  It is these so-called “soft skills” – those that focus on invoking humanity, where it often seems that conscience is something to be ignored, denied or suffocated rather than something to be embraced.  Pointing a finger and blaming, in perfect accordance with the “naming, blaming & shaming” dynamic so prevalent in most workplaces and especially apparent in failing organizations, is how they get things done.

Clearly, berating or embarassing a person is, simply, not nice.  It’s rule #1 of kindergarten behavior.  Yet, it’s seen as a sign of strength and leadership by many, if not most.  For these folks, never having to get o that point isn’t even considered.  For them, the ability to dismiss humanity, and not embrace it, is the key to leadership.  Which is nonsense.

I wonder what would happen to the image these folks have of themselves if they were asked to sit down, reflect upon their actions, and to judge those actions through the eye of basic politeness?  What if they also examined their actions in terms of long term, prolonged success for themselves, others, and their organizations?  The diminshed productivity and quality in environments where bad behavior is the norm is well known and frequently dicussed and written about.  Yet, it prevails.  So, we need a slightly different focus than simple, analytical reports demonstrating the business impacts.

What we need is a call to conscience.  Pushing people to achieve more than they thought themselves capable of in order to achieve a greater good is, indeed, a high, humanistic goal.  Consider the drill seargent or coach who hollers and shouts at their charges, earning their hatred but, ultimately, earning their respect.  This is a person for whom creating interpersonal difficulty is done not just for a purpose, but with an intense understanding of emotional intelligenace.  They know how to push.  They know what drives a person to achieve more than that person had thought possible.  These great coaches, however, are very often also the ones who know which people can be shouted at and which ones need to be massaged.  Simply put, they understand people.  And they use that understanding to achieve a greater good for the organization as a whole.

For others, however, they yell in order to create an atmosphere of authority and an impression of themselves.  Since most people don’t like getting yelled at, these folks who act without much sense of conscience – if conscience means doing what is right, for as many as possible, for as long as possible – are able to get their way right now.  Unfortunately, that short-term thinking usually means they are always yelling, since no one will work with or for them for very long, so they must always yell to get their way since they never foster long0-term relationships and a shared understanding of a future vision.

If you want sustained, long-term performance, you must create an environment that allows it.  By listening more to conscience, and less to the need for short-term, immediate, and fleeting results – perhaps the foundation will be built for generating healthier, happier people and, consequently, more successful orgnizations, too.

You can’t buy pride (and I just like to write)

Writer
Writer

Writer by jacobdca

Many times, I have been asked with regards to this blog, “What do you expect to et out of this?”

Well, fame, fortune, world-wide recognition for being an intellectual genius, a great job, tons of friends, an awesome new car, my kids’ college tuitions paid for and a bottomless glass of beer would be nice.

Unfortunately, as much as I can dream, I don’t actually think I’ll get those things (at least, not all of them).  So what do I honestly  expect?

Writing this blog is, sort of, its own end.  Yes, I’d love to have achieved all these wonderful things as a result of my writing, and maybe I will.  However, even if I don’t – I will keep writing.  Because it’s the one thing that comes easily and naturally, and that people seem to tell me I’m pretty good at.

And, it has some very, very nice rewards, too.  I’ve interacted with many great people, who have done amazoing things that make me envious.  My words have reached 6 continents and been cited by corporate honchos and students conducting research alike.  In perfect alignment with my  mid-life crisis, that gives me some feeling of having at least a little bit of a legacy to leave behind, long after my remains join the floating particles of the universe.

So, in a way, that’s what I expect to get from this – some recognition.  And that has come with a wonderful sense of purpose and pride that ought to be cultivated in everyone from an early age.  All too ften, however, pride gets muddled together with the brute application of effort – and that is supposed to be a healthy trait – working through arduous, difficult circumstances for the sake of doing a good job or one’s duty.  We really don’t do enough to tell people to play to their sttrengths and enjoy what they are good at.  Rather, we reward those who have overcome something difficult – even if the difficulty, in reality, was self-imposed.

Perhaps we ought to rethink the things we take pride in.  Perhaps, then, we will focus more on the people who do the little things to avoid fires rather than make heroes of those who put them out (figuratively, of course – real firefighters are, genuinely, heroic). 

Pride can’t be bought.  You can’t simply give someone a heap of rewards and expect them to be prideful.  It is an innate sense of producing something the individual cares about – even if the larger organization surrounding the person doesn’t.  If you can recognize and appreciate what a person cares about, and provide them with opportunities to do exactly that thing in such a way that they can be prideful in their work and benefit the organization – I am willing to bet you will have given that person not just a sense of pride, but of purpose as well.  They will no longer be working only for themselves – but for both their own sense of self as well as the good of the group.

The interactions I’ve had so far as a result of writing this blog have certainly created a sense of purpose and pride that are far greater than any monetary rewards. 

Now, if only I could get paid for it…….

 

;^)