The Lone Worker, the First Advance

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week.)

I haven’t posted a Monday quote in a while, but here goes.*

Today’s quote comes from Scottish biologist, pharmacologist, and Nobel Laureate Sir Alexander Fleming (6 August 1881 – 11 March 1955). Fleming shared the 1945 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine — that’s the whole name of the thing — for the discovering the antibiotic penicillin in 1928. In addition to a knighthood granted in 1944, his other honors include being named one of the “100 Most Important People of the 20th century” by Time magazine.

Considering that Fleming shared the Nobel Prize with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain, I find it interesting that he’s quoted as saying,

It is the lone worker who makes the first advance in a subject: the details may be worked out by a team, but the prime idea is due to the enterprise, thought, and perception of an individual.

That interests me from the standpoint of creative work, and indeed all work. Even when we collaborate with people to produce something, the initial idea — the prime vision — always comes from one person. Rarely can one person nurture that idea from conception to birth and beyond, but the impetus is always a solo achievement.

We strike the spark of creativity in the deep primordial darkness of the mind, though we are not equally warmed or illuminated by it. The moments before we strike that spark may be suffocating or invigorating, and the mental space we inhabit may be silent or deafening, but neither family, friend, nor foe can join us in the confines of our cranium at the instant the idea strikes.

(Image: “Flint spark lighter being struck,” by Tim McCormack, on Wikimedia Commons.)

And the idea, like God saying, “Let there be,” is only the beginning.

Something to think about. Have a great week!

*I had actually intended to revive the “Monday Morning Quote” program, and to do so via live streaming video. Obviously that didn’t work out, since it’s now Monday afternoon and there’s no video here. C’est la vie.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Angel Call

Sometimes you need an angel. Maybe a guardian angel, maybe an avenging angel. Maybe just someone who can step in to help in a touchy situation.

But how do you call that angel when you need them?

In the “harebrained scheme” department, I first thought about this a year or so ago, when I was at a local watering hole with some old office mates. Simply, I wondered whether bars, restaurants, and other “date night” kinds of places, or even stadiums, might install simple alert systems in their women’s restrooms. They might not rise to the level of being “panic buttons” — then again, they might.

Maybe these already exist in some places — I don’t go in the ladies’ rooms, so I wouldn’t know. But I only found a couple of references to restroom call buttons on the Interwebz, plus a recent article on panic buttons being given to housekeepers in Chicago hotels, so I get the impression that this isn’t a common accessory.

Anyway, the way I figured it, the button could send a discreet signal to the management (e.g., a light behind the bar at a pub, a security office in a stadium) so they could send someone to assess the situation and call for help, if needed. In general, it would be the same principle as the emergency telephone pylons installed on college campuses years ago, from which people can summon the campus police.

(Image from the Clemson University campus safety operations page.)

It seemed to me that something like that might be useful for ladies whose dates are becoming threatening, or who feel they’re being stalked. It might also be used by other women who see someone being abused but who aren’t prepared themselves for a confrontation.

It wouldn’t have to be limited to ladies’ rooms, but at the risk of being considered sexist I thought of it as primarily a ladies’ room addition because it seemed to me the need would be greater there than in a men’s room. Also, the potential problem of overuse and especially prank use (“crying wolf” or even trying to distract the management) would seem to be higher among men — and particularly young men.

Again, maybe this kind of “Angel Call” thing already exists. If not, I imagine it could be pretty simple to build and install — a one-to-one transmitter-to-receiver RF link would do the trick. Alternately, a wifi-and-app-based system, maybe like the “Rave Guardian” app, might be useful in large venues with multiple restrooms and a central security office (call it the “Staydium Safe” or somesuch).

Granted, I guess venues might not want to install something like that. Staff would have to be trained on how to deal with different possible situations — when to watch, when to speak, when to call the authorities, etc. — which could raise some liability issues. And since staff are there to do specific jobs, this kind of customer assistance would be “above and beyond.” Add in the difficulty of false reports, which might lead managers and workers to ignore the signals, and it might cause more problems than it solved.

Then again, it could be geared toward making certain nightspots “blind date safe.” In this age of Tindr and Match and eHarmony and whatnot, that might actually bring in a few customers.

I don’t know. It’s just another wacky idea.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Unsubtle Manipulation of Birthday Fundraisers

This past weekend, Facebook reminded me that my birthday is coming up* by suggesting that I set up a fundraiser for people to contribute to.

My answer to that is quite simple: No.

No, I will not ask you to donate to some cause on my birthday, even if it’s a cause I care deeply about and support myself. Why? Because I don’t think I’ve ever asked you to buy me a present for my birthday, so why would I ask you to spend money on my behalf for a charity?

The same goes for why I’m unlikely ever to support your birthday fundraiser, even if it’s a cause I might care about. Look at it this way: If I’m unlikely to buy you a birthday present, or even a birthday card — have I ever bought you a birthday present? — I’m not going to suddenly decide to spend money on your birthday just because you picked a charity fundraiser for it. And even if I usually get you a card or even a present, chances are I’d rather do that again.

(Image: “Charity,” by Nick Youngson, from Alpha Stock Images.)

I would never stop you from donating money somewhere for your birthday, or even from telling people that you’ve given your own money to help save the whales or save the seals or whatever. But this business of “here’s a cause that’s special to me, won’t you contribute to it on my behalf because it’s my birthday”? No, thank you.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s great that you want to support a charity. And if you have a cause that’s special to you, for which you’ve worked or to which you’ve donated throughout the year? Sure, tell me about it, and tell me why it’s important, and I might contribute. I might even help you recruit others to your cause. Not because it’s your birthday, but because it’s your cause. Tying it to your birthday just seems manipulative to me.

So I won’t do it. Even when it gets to be my birthday.

*Seems to come around once a year or so, and I’m okay with that.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Where Are You on the Killing Continuum?

So, here’s another oddball idea.

It seems possible to me to illustrate people’s comfort level with deadly force along a continuum, ranging from the unwilling — people for whom taking another human life is completely anathema — to the needing, whose desire to murder their fellow human beings has blossomed into a deep-seated craving, an urge they must satisfy. We might characterize it as being a continuum between “nihilicide” and “omnicide,” between the refusal to kill anyone and the compulsion to kill anyone, if not exactly everyone.

The unwilling, or perhaps the refusers, would not, under any circumstances, pick up a deadly weapon to defend themselves or anyone else. It may be that they would prefer to be killed than to kill. The number of people in this category is probably fairly small, but the best thing about them is that they pose very little threat to anyone else. (Originally I thought they might pose absolutely no threat, but accidents happen, so … no intentional threat, anyway.)

Moving along from there would be people reluctant to apply deadly force, but who recognize that it might be necessary in some circumstances. The idea of killing makes them uneasy, perhaps enough that they would be unlikely to purchase weapons or seek training.

Next would be the willing — those who have thought through the mental process of what it would take to apply deadly force and have become somewhat used to the idea. They might prefer not to, but have steeled themselves to carry it out if need be, and may have gone through some specific training in that regard. I would think most law enforcement and military professionals would fall into this category.

When I posed this question in my newsletter — to which you can subscribe using the form in the top right — a friend suggested that the boundary between the reluctant and the willing might be home to the reluctantly willing. (Perhaps we might consider them the grudging.) They may have had some amount of training, maybe from prior military service or from civilian security or police work, but their willingness to kill may not be quite firm. It might be a matter of caution, or conscience, or uncertainty, or religious conviction; or it might be something they cannot quite articulate. (For the record, this describes my position on the continuum pretty well.)

Moving further along the killing continuum, though, we find more problematic cohorts, beginning with people wanting to kill: people who are not only comfortable with the idea of killing others but who consider it desirable (for whatever reason). The fact that we are not overrun with murderers indicates that this group is relatively small; however, the boundary between this group and the preceding groups can be somewhat porous. Some people may shift into this cohort temporarily, for example, driven by extreme situations, and may occupy it only for a short time (perhaps not even long enough to carry out an attempt).

Beyond them, though, as we approach the omnicide edge, is an even more extreme and far more dangerous cohort: the needing group. Whether it is a matter of obsession, or sadistic pleasure, or devaluation of others, or some other driving force, people in this group intend to kill and may never be satisfied until they have done so. Thankfully, the number of people with such psychopathy is also quite small.

The first question, as stated above, is where do you fall on such a continuum?

The Killing Continuum. Mathematically, it seems the probability of carrying out an attack using deadly force would approach zero on the “nihilicide” end and unity on the “omnicide” end.

Perhaps that continuum is too simple, though. For instance, a friend suggested that it may be possible to add another axis and turn it into a killing matrix, with willingness on the horizontal axis (as above) and some assessment of “rightness” on the vertical axis. The rightness axis might cover a range of attitudes about killing, from its being always wrong up through being right only in certain circumstances (e.g., self-defense, defense of others, preemptive defense) all the way up to seeing homicide as being unequivocally right. On such a matrix, for example, there may be a population of people “willing” to kill who nonetheless believe that homicide is never right. (In the interest of keeping this post from growing out of all proportion, I won’t attempt that expanded version; you are free to work on it as an exercise, though.)

I started thinking about this in terms of whether it may ever be possible to identify people on the increasing-probability end of the continuum — those wanting and even needing to kill. If we could zero in on their intentions and predict their actions, I wonder whether it may be possible to stop them before they succeeded or even to pull them back from the brink, to help them shed the need and the desire to kill before they tried to satisfy it. Another friend pointed out that it probably won’t ever be reliably possible to identify people like that — many of us are able to hide our baser instincts, after all, though most of our baser instincts don’t present threats to our fellows — and that even if we could, we might come to regret the level of totalitarianism that would produce.

So to me the question then becomes, after we consider where we fall on the continuum, whether any manner of societal pressures can prevent a person who wants to kill — or even who thinks they need to kill — from doing so. And, if there are mores and norms and beliefs to counter the urges that lead to such deeds, whether our society has the will to exert such pressures, or even to endorse them.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Pride of Doing

Pride sometimes gets a bad rap. Often its bad rap is deserved. But sometimes pride is important.

For those of us raised in the Christian or Jewish traditions, or even marginally aware of some of the Old Testament’s aphorisms, pride’s place as a “deadly sin” is solidified in the book of Proverbs:

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

That usage, as I interpret it, is related to hubris, i.e., excessive pride, the kind of pride that exudes from puffed-up ego rather than solid character. In contrast is a lesser degree of pride, the type that is useful and necessary to everyday life and especially important to success in everyday life: the pride of doing something well.

This is not the pride of being — being good, being smart, being beautiful, being talented — but the pride of accomplishing, the pride of making, creating, discovering. The pride of doing is the pride that derives from building up the world. The former pride, the pride of being, only builds up ourselves.

The pride of doing, and doing well, is vital. If we had no pride in our work, for instance, we wouldn’t show it to others for their evaluation, their approval, or especially their purchase. When we have worked diligently and produced something of which we are proud, our degree of pride is likely to be proportional to our work’s value — if we have judged it properly. Not that we don’t see the flaws in it, but that we are rightly proud of having produced something of quality. That is, we are more likely to receive recognition or compensation in the open market for work we are proud of than for work we disdain. It only makes sense that if we are not proud of what we have produced, chances are others may not find much value in it.

(Image: “Vulcan Forging the Thunderbolts of Jupiter,” by Rubens, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Working hard and producing something of which we can be proud, then, is an important component to being successful. It doesn’t guarantee success — nothing does — but we increase our chances of success if we judge our own work fairly and honestly and our level of pride reflects its value.

In truth, being able to distinguish between things that are shoddy — things of which we should not be proud — and things which are excellent — things of which we should be proud — is an important skill. Unfortunately, not everyone possesses that skill because the only way to develop it is to have enough pride in our work to show it to someone who will give us honest feedback about its strengths and weaknesses, and then to be willing to listen to the feedback and make adjustments.

In my professional life I regularly see the work of writers who seem unable to distinguish good work from bad as it pertains to their own results. Whether they make the distinction when it comes to others’ work, I have no idea; but like those who suffer from the “Dunning-Kruger Effect” these writers display inordinate amounts of self-confidence and pride, having produced relatively mediocre work. In contrast, many of my writer friends — even some of the most successful — are actually quite humble about their own work (even work of which they are justly proud).

So, pride of doing is important in that we want to produce things that make us proud; however, that pride should be informed, accurate, and truthful. Otherwise, our pride will go before our destruction, at least so far as our work is concerned.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Bullies on Our Side

I think odd thoughts sometimes, and this may be one of the oddest: I come not to bury the bullies, but to praise them. At least, the bullies on our side.

(Full disclosure: I have only been bullied a little in my life, and I’m ashamed to say I was something of a bully for a while. It was part of my being young-and-stupid, and one of many parts that I would change if I could. What I’m talking about in this post, though, goes far beyond the schoolyard though it can be just as discouraging.)

Because when we think we’re right and other people are wrong, and we decide we need to enforce our rightness by making others conform to standards we set, we often end up relying on bullies to help us get our way. Not so much on the individual, interpersonal level (as adults), but enlarge the scope to the level of civic interaction and pretty soon the bully we know, the bully we like, the bully on our side becomes a most valued ally.

Why? Because much of society is unbalanced, power-wise.

Two equals who have different viewpoints and preferences are more likely to “live and let live” than two unequal parties, and even two closely matched entities may find it better to negotiate settlements. But in many cases where the power differentials are substantial, the less powerful party’s behavior is coerced in some way. Sometimes it’s overt and natural, as when parents teach their children how to behave in civil society. Sometimes it’s expected and voluntary, as when military members submit to higher authority. Sometimes, however, it’s subtle, insidious, and dictatorial.

Uninvited coercion on larger scales can be peaceful, as in the nonviolent movements of Ghandi and King that used moral suasion to great effect. It can also be martial, as in every revolution and riot that resorts to violence and the threat of violence to achieve its ends. Either way, the end result is accomplished by applying pressure — and remember, in physics terms pressure is force applied over an area. Force does not have to be shocking: the force you feel from atmospheric pressure is different from the force you feel if hit with a hammer, but it is a force nonetheless. And force, or the threat of force, is often what gets results in the wider world.

You may not think of such group action as bullying. But whenever we force someone who is not in our charge to do something they would rather not do, we effectively bully them — whether directly, or by proxy. And the biggest proxy bully around, that we have empowered to do the bullying on our behalf, is the government.

Yeah, don’t tread on me … but if you wouldn’t mind, those other people over there need to be trod upon…. (Image: “The Gadsden flag,” on Wikimedia Commons.)

The government offers us choices of who we might select as our favorite bully. It might be the legislature, since they pass laws that make other people do things that we want them to (or stop them from doing what we don’t like). Or it could be the judiciary, since their decisions can amount to much the same thing. We might choose the executive, since they enforce laws and may do so in our favor. Or it may be the police, because they keep all those lawbreakers and ne’er-do-wells in line.

Or perhaps our favorite bully is closer to hand, like our supervisor or plant manager or CEO — if we’re one of their favored employees. Maybe we ally ourselves with someone at work or church or the gym who has some degree of “informal” power, and they become the bully on our side. Or maybe we choose the mob: not the capital-m Mob of organized crime, but the gang around us — the school clique, the workplace cronies, the neighborhood crowd, the thinks/acts/looks like us mob that comes together at opportune times to make our wishes and even our demands known and strives to make them come to pass.

It could be that our favorite bully isn’t a person at all. It might, for instance, be the Bible, if we use it to tell other people — whether or not they share our faith — how they should act. (For the record: From what I can tell, if we try to make the Bible’s guidelines apply to nonbelievers, we’re wrong.)

How refreshing it would be if we would admit liking when government officials enforce the laws we approve, especially when those laws apply to other people, or when the government fails to enforce laws we despise (that usually apply to us).

We may be reluctant to admit that because we know it’s no fun being bullied. Maybe we don’t have a favorite bully, and don’t cheer when authorities and powers-that-be start bullying others — even if we approve of the result. Maybe we’re rather more libertarian than we usually think; it does seem that in many respects the lowercase-L libertarians have the right handle on the overall “live and let live” approach. And even if we’re not very libertarian-minded, we may sympathize a little with those on the opposite side since we know what it’s like to be coerced.

We may prefer not to consider all this to be bullying, although our ends — especially if we think of them as pure and noble — can justify all manner of different means. And in pursuit of those ends, even if we don’t call them by name or like them very much we still turn our bullies loose on those we think should do things to our liking. And if those other people complain or disagree, that’s fine — as long as they still comply.

We despise the other side’s bullies, of course, who stand ready to force us to do what we would rather not. But when we believe our way is the only right way, and we’re so dead set on getting our way that we will countenance force (or, pressure) to achieve it, we need our bullies. We may not love them, but we’re willing to rely on them.

As long as we’re convinced they’re really on our side.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

GW4GP: What’s It All About?

Have you ever been in one of those moods where you’re evaluating your life and trying to make sense of things?

Early last year I was in such a mood when I found myself driving through South Carolina and reflecting on what I do. I don’t recall what book I was listening to at the time — something related to entrepreneurship — but part of it talked about developing a clear sense of mission: not at all unusual for a book like that, except that I was more in the mood to think about it than usual.

“My crystal ball is cracked, no magic images appear.” (Photo by Christopher Rinehart.)

Anyway, on that trip I came to the conclusion that my mission, my vision, my purpose in life is to write Good Words, for Good People. I like to think that’s what I actually do, but at the very least it’s what I want to do, what I intend to do.

I know that I don’t write perfect words. I don’t write anything like great words, or monumental words, or world-changing words. But I think I write good words — whether they come in the form of stories or songs or ideas, whether you encounter them here on the blog or in my newsletter or in a book or magazine or CD or speech.

“Good” in that they are adequate to the task, usually well-suited to the occasion.

Perhaps “good” in that they provide value for the investment of time and treasure.

And hopefully “good” in the sense that they make the world, or some small part of it, a little better.

I know sometimes I fail, and what I write is poor: poorly worded, poorly constructed, poorly thought. At other times, whether I succeed or fail will be … questionable. For instance, some things I write may challenge you, contradict you, even upset you, and you may assess them as being poor while others assess them differently. That’s okay, because I can’t (and don’t) expect anyone to agree with me all the time — as I’ve written about before.

But from the perspective that I am trying to produce “good” words, I’m comfortable saying that

  • My CDs aren’t perfect, or even masterful, but they’re pretty okay
  • My book on education isn’t the best thing ever written on the subject, and it won’t change anyone’s life who reads it, but it’s pretty good and (I think) is worth a reader’s while
  • My novel may not be the best thing anyone reads this year, and it won’t be to everyone’s taste — what is? — but it’s a pretty good near-future science fiction story, and some people have even found it to be moving
  • My newsletter is no paragon of excellence, but I try to keep it friendly and conversational (plus, if you subscribe I send you a free song, a free story, and a free e-book)

So, then, Good Words — that’s one thing.

But Good People — who are they?

To my way of thinking, pretty much everybody qualifies as “good people” — certainly you do! We may not agree on much, we may barely get along, we may not even like each other very much, but we’re all doing our best, the best way we know how, and the vast majority of us are trying to do things the right way, so far as we know the right. We’re not just trying to do well, but most of us are trying to do good. And I’m serious about you fitting that category, even if we’ve never met, because I sincerely believe that anyone who takes the time to read something I’ve written, or listen to something I’ve sung, or think about something I’ve said, is “good people.”

That’s GW4GP. The more I’ve thought about it, boiling down what I do and why to its very essence, what came out of the mental crucible that day was quite simple (and perhaps even a bit elegant): I write; and what I write, I hope, are Good Words, for Good Peoplelike you.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. If you’re of a mind, I hope you’ll visit and “Like” the “Good Words for Good People” Facebook Page. Thanks! GWR

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

How NOT to Give a Webinar

I signed up for a music-related webinar a few weeks ago, and after sitting through it — or, trying to … twice — I’ve been stewing about it ever since. It was that poor an experience.

In fact, I have very little nice to say about it, so this is probably not the best way to follow up the post in which I admitted my tendency to be more critical than discerning. I can say that in my ongoing struggle to be less overtly critical I tried to follow the “praise in public, criticize in private” principle; if that had worked, I probably would not have written this post. Still, I will not link to the product or the responsible person, nor will I call them by name.

Part of the reason the whole experience annoyed me so much is that I am — or was — a fan of the person giving the webinar: I appreciated their music, and found their songs to be insightful, profound, and even brilliant. The lesson here is that it takes a lot to turn a fan completely and totally against you, but you, too, can alienate and drive away some of your fans if you follow these aggravating steps:

  1. E-mail your fans and invite them to your webinar — emphasize the interactive nature by calling it a “workshop” — and be sure to offer multiple sessions, and also to employ neat tools like countdown clocks and e-mail reminders about tuning in;
  2. Set it up and make it appear to be a live event — have “live” be part of the web address, start with some banter directed toward people listed in the sidebar, allow attendees to post their own comments, and even answer questions from a few of the listed people;
  3. Have the event freeze partway through;
  4. Don’t respond to e-mails about the event freezing;
  5. When people tune into the next available session, replay the exact same thing even though the URL again says “live” — sit there wearing the same T-shirt, repeat the exact same banter and questions from the exact same people … make it blindingly obvious that not only this session but also the first session they saw was actually a recording;
  6. Have the event freeze at almost the exact same spot; and
  7. Don’t respond to additional e-mails about the event freezing, and especially don’t respond when called out about deceitfully presenting the session as if it was live.

Yes, if you follow those steps, you’re almost guaranteed to alienate someone who was coming to you for useful information and who expected a different experience. (Most importantly, be sure to bill it as a webinar –a web-based seminar — and sometimes as a workshop: don’t you dare bill it as simply a video tutorial, and especially don’t bill it as the long-form advertisement it really is.)

the world wide web
Web-based seminars can be great, but they can also leave people wanting more — especially when they don’t deliver what they promise. (Image: “the world wide web,” by frankieleon, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Note that twice I followed the “critique in private” principle by sending e-mails directly to the party involved, to no avail. The silence was stunning.

The sad part is that I’m not sure I can bring myself to listen to that artist’s music again. As much as I appreciated their music, I’m certainly not a fan of the person as an Internet marketer. I found them to be deceitful, uncommunicative, and manipulative.

But, in the “silver lining” department: obviously I did learn from them some things not to do if I ever decide to produce a webinar.

So that’s something, I guess.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Two Warring Spirits

We have two warring spirits inside us, of criticism and of discernment, and of late I have become acutely aware of their battle within me. Even in posting this, and admitting my own failures, I’m tempted toward criticism rather than discernment — tempted to point out the motes in others’ eyes (maybe even yours) rather than acknowledging the beam in my own.

What is this critical spirit I struggle against?

The critical spirit bites and devours. The critical spirit tears down and does not rebuild. The critical spirit speaks without thinking or reflecting. The critical spirit does not have equal weights and measures; it does not apply the same level of scrutiny to itself as it does to the other.

In contrast, what is the discerning spirit that I try — and all too often fail — to employ?

The discerning spirit wants to protect, not destroy. The discerning spirit warns; it does not push. The discerning spirit can speak hard words, and often does, but it is the scalpel of the surgeon, not the cudgel of the mugger.

Do you struggle with this, at all? Or am I the only one?

Lord, help us — help me — discern more than criticize, build more than demolish, and support more than undermine.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The ‘Spinach in Their Teeth’ Test

I’m trying to be a better person, but it ain’t easy.

A couple of years ago, I decided that I would try — with all deference to Yoda and his “Do or do not, there is no try” advice, which is patently ridiculous — to implement a leadership principle I learned in the Air Force to my social media and other interactions. Specifically, that I would try to praise in public but correct in private.

In other words, I decided that I would try to avoid coming down hard on people in public — to not flame them in comments on their posts or hold them up personally to ridicule, and instead to try to find good things to say in public (or to say nothing at all, following the advice of Thumper’s mom). That is, if I thought someone needed to be corrected, I would try to do so privately: in person, perhaps, or at least in a private exchange of messages.

Which leads me to what I’ve come to call the “spinach in their teeth” test. When I hear people say things or see them post things on social media that I think warrant some form of correction, I’m trying to treat those people the same way I would if they had spinach in their teeth. I might be tempted to say nothing at all, but if I thought they needed to know I certainly wouldn’t stand up and announce to the world, “Hey, so-and-so has spinach in their teeth!” No, instead I would lean in and say softly, “Hey, looks as if you have some spinach in your teeth.” Correcting in private.

Because being corrected in public can make us pretty uncomfortable:

Being corrected in public can feel rather like being pulled on a scamnum. (Image: “G. Guidi, The correction of dislocations,” from Wellcome Images [UK] on Wikimedia Commons.)

I admit that I fail from time to time — probably more times than not. As I said, this self-improvement thing ain’t easy.

Does it work? Sometimes. I’ve had a few good conversations with people about various issues, though from what I can tell some of them still have bits of metaphorical spinach in their teeth. And that’s life: we can’t expect everyone to heed what we have to say, especially when it’s a corrective. (Lord knows I don’t heed all the corrections that come my way. [Please don’t look too closely at my teeth.])

At the very least, I hope that having these conversations privately, one-on-one, at least comes across better than broadcasting to the world. But maybe I’m just deluding myself.

What do you think? Is that leadership principle even valid anymore, in our social-media-saturated world? Because sometimes it’s hard to bite my tongue, or stop my fingers from typing out responses….

P.S. In case you’re interested, you can find more of my views on leadership in my novel, Walking on the Sea of Clouds, and in Quality Education. I’d be much obliged if you’d check them out! GR

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailby feather