Archive for April, 2014

What Donald Sterling can Teach us about Words

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Dave Weber - CEO/President

As the NBA reaches the end of its season, the news headlines center around a scandal far from the court, a recording allegedly of an argument between Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his former girlfriend. The ignorant and small-minded comments about race have players, coaches and owners calling for the league to remove Sterling.

The comments—whether they end up confirmed as Sterling’s or not—are unacceptable, and the entire episode casts a poor light on the sport, where other owners, coaches and players were some of the original trailblazers and boundary-breakers in the civil rights movement. As the story continues to evolve, I hope it will generate productive discussion about racism, privacy, and business ethics. But, with the information we have now (which is not much), here’s a few things to think about:

  1. Words are powerful—One of the main thrusts of my book, Sticks & Stones Exposed, is the idea that our words can do more damage to others and ourselves that we’ve ever realized. Whether spoken, emailed, Tweeted, or texted these little black scribbles can wreak havoc in an instant. In the age of “friends and followers”, it’s wise to be even more aware of how far-reaching our words can be. The words spoken in the recording have hurt plenty of the people in Sterling’s life and many that he doesn’t even know.
  2. Words have consequences—So often we blurt out something without considering the consequences. Or, without considering that our words even have consequences. This is a HUGE mistake! Our careless and thoughtless words can wreck relationships, poison corporate cultures, and sink innovative ideas and projects. It does not matter if you are in public or private, “in the heat of the moment” or “just joking around.” You may not stand to lose an entire NBA team, but your damaging words might put your relationships with employees, clients and family on the line—and isn’t that really the most important?
  3. Words create collateral damage—Maybe you know that sometimes in the heat of the moment, you tend to say some colorful things that might hurt others. Get over it, you think. What you don’t realize is that you’re also hurting yourself. Similar to a boomerang, the hurtful things you say DO come back to you—in the form of a bitter spouse, resentful and unmotivated coworkers, fed up customers that finally disappear, and friends that begin to avoid your phone calls. When your words hurt other people (even unintentionally!), their opinion of you, and consequently their treatment of you will change as well. Your life is the collateral damage.

ASAP

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Dave Weber - CEO/President

As soon as you saw the title of this post, you knew what I meant. An efficient abbreviation borrowed from the U.S. military, ASAP is now generally understood across disciplines and industries. When your boss sends you an email that reads, “I need to hear back from you ASAP,” you drop everything else and attend to the request.

We are a culture that loves to get things done, well, ASAP. Between emails, direct deposits, texts and a myriad of other technologies, we’ve essentially abolished the need to wait for anything. Except at the DMV.

Usually, this works out great for us and for our coworkers and customers. But that’s only when the answer or solution is apparent at first glance. The problem with living in an ASAP culture is that not all of our challenges can be solved with a half-hour meeting and a few three sentence emails.

We work and live in a world where many situations are complex and intricate—whether that’s negotiating contracts and company mergers or trying to come up with a new way to keep the interest of a room full of fifth graders. And, as I’m sure you’ve experienced, sometimes the first solution that strikes you is not always the best solution. ASAP decisions run the risk of completely missing out on a factor or a detail that might further complicate our entire project.

As I thought about this problem I came across an article about Harvard professor of humanities Jennifer L. Roberts. In an art history class Roberts asked each of her students to choose one painting to be the subject of their term paper. Part of completing the assignment was to visit the painting (in person, if possible) and study it for three hours.

As you can imagine, her students were not exactly thrilled at the idea of staring at a single work of art for the better part of an afternoon. And, as someone who is easily distracted by shiny things, I am positive that I would have failed Professor Roberts’ art history class.

However, for the brave souls that did attempt the assignment, something interesting happened. The students reported that as they studied the paintings, they began to notice details that, while they didn’t seem important at first, were actually critical to understanding and appreciating the work. For many of them, this dramatically changed the focus and direction of their term papers. Roberts explained it this way, “…there are details and orders and relationships that take time to perceive.”

Although Roberts is referring to art, I believe the same principle is true in our professional environments. There are details and orders and relationships that take time to perceive. Think about starting a new job. For at least the first two weeks you are overwhelmed with learning how to do your assignments within the context of a new company. You’re learning your way around a new office. You’re figuring out a computer program or network that you’ve never used before. And on top of all that, you’re trying to navigate the interpersonal relationships of your new coworkers. It may take you weeks before you figure out how to use the copy machine!

I believe that when it comes to finding solutions or making big decisions, we don’t need to rush. What if we looked at these situations like one of the art students? You may not have three hours to think about a problem, but I bet you could find ten or fifteen minutes to jot down some ideas. And you may be surprised at the details and relationships that slowly come to light as you put the brakes on for a few minutes.