Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 16, Issue 21;   May 25, 2016: Wacky Words of Wisdom: V

Wacky Words of Wisdom: V

by

Adages, aphorisms, and "words of wisdom" are true often enough that we accept them as universal. They aren't. Here's Part V of some widely held beliefs that mislead us at work.
A bottlenose dolphin

A bottlenose dolphin. Humans aren't the only species that exhibit complex, cooperative behavior. Bottlenose dolphins have been trained to do complex tasks, such as locating marine mines, or helping commercial fisherman by driving fish into nets. They're also known for complex cooperative behavior in the wild. In the Southeastern United States, they've been observed cooperating in small groups by driving shoals of fish onto the beach, where they can then easily catch and eat them.

We've all heard them, starting before we could talk. We call them adages or words to live by. Outside our awareness, we do try to live by them, even though we know they aren't 100% true. To free ourselves, to open new possibilities and to recognize choices that might otherwise remain hidden, let's examine some of these slogans carefully. Here's Part V of an ongoing series.

Names can never hurt me
Possibly true in the schoolyard, but surely false at work. Perhaps the name itself can't hurt, but if the name enhances the distribution of a false belief about you, and people act on that belief in ways that harm you, then the name can hurt. False assertions, rumors, aspersions, slurs, and slander are harmful and dangerous.
Ignoring rumors and other falsehoods can appear to others to be a tacit admission that they're true. See "Responding to Rumors," Point Lookout for April 24, 2002, for suggestions for dealing with rumors.
Never give up hope
Remaining hopeful can be a successful approach to life, if what we hope for is always realizable. But most people, at some point in their lives, hold out hope for something that isn't realizable. For example, I found myself at one point hoping that my boss would stop being such a jerk. Despite my most fervent hopes, he remained a jerk.
Giving up hoping for something that can never happen is wise. Be willing to adjust what you hope for if you're certain enough that what you've been hoping for is no longer realizable. Pick a new hope — something even more wonderful than the old hope.
No committee ever created anything truly innovative
A hint that this adage is false is its breathtaking generality. But even if we were to tone it down, we can easily imagine developing a powerful group ideation process that properly trained groups could use effectively.
We humans "Names can never hurt me"
in the schoolyard, maybe.
But they can certainly
hurt at work.
have a long history of superior performance when we work together. It's a defining characteristic of our species. What doesn't work so well is unstructured problem solving by loosely defined groups. If a group finds the right way to work together, its performance can amaze.
Competition is the only path to superior performance
Healthy, respectful competition can bring out the best in us. Unhealthy, cutthroat competition can bring out the worst. Some people thrive on competition; others don't. Certainly some competitions have produced results of unquestionable value, while others have produced results of significantly lesser value.
Competition isn't inherently good or bad. Whether it's a good choice for a working environment depends on the objective, the resources available, and the people involved. When the objective is challenging, when resources are limited, and when the people know how to cooperate, collaboration will likely produce better results than competition.

Subscribing to over-generalized beliefs is like closing the doors to the rooms in your home. If you open the doors, you magically get more space. First in this series  Go to top Top  Next issue: Workplace Anti-Patterns  Next Issue

For more examples, see "Wacky Words of Wisdom," Point Lookout for July 14, 2010, "Wacky Words of Wisdom: II," Point Lookout for June 6, 2012, "Wacky Words of Wisdom: III," Point Lookout for July 11, 2012, and "Wacky Words of Wisdom: IV," Point Lookout for August 5, 2015.

52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrentZbHqhOmJhKjnYMener@ChacrjrQfSKoAiXGsbcOoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

Jigsaw puzzle piecesFirst Aid for Painful Meetings
The foundation of any team meeting is its agenda. A crisply focused agenda can make the difference between a long, painful affair and finishing early. If you're the meeting organizer, develop and manage the agenda for maximum effectiveness.
An appealing mealFood for Thought
Most companies have employee cafeterias, with the usual not-much-better-than-high-school food service. By upgrading — and subsidizing — food service, these companies can reduce turnover and improve productivity dramatically.
The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill BridgeTen Reasons Why You Don't Always Get What You Measure: III
The phrase "You get what you measure," has acquired the status of "truism." Yet many measurement-based initiatives have produced disappointing results. Here's Part III of an examination of the idea — a look at management's role in these surprises.
Huskies along the trail during start day, March 1998, Iditarod Trail Sled Dog RaceTactics for Asking for Volunteers: I
CEOs, board chairs, department heads and team leads of all kinds sometimes seek people to handle specific, time-limited tasks. Asking the group for volunteers works fine — usually. There are alternatives.
The REI parking garage in Denver, ColoradoThe Limits of Status Reports: I
Some people erroneously believe that they can request status reports as often as they like, and including any level of detail they deem necessary. Not so.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Critical Thinking at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Cargo containers at a port of entryComing May 31: Unresponsive Suppliers: III
When suppliers have a customer orientation, we can usually depend on them. But government suppliers are a special case. Available here and by RSS on May 31.
A blue peacock of IndiaAnd on June 7: The Knowledge One-Upmanship Game
The Knowledge One-Upmanship Game is a pattern of group behavior in the form of a contest to determine which player knows the most arcane fact. It can seem like innocent fun, but it can disrupt a team's ability to collaborate. Available here and by RSS on June 7.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenCUYNCqmgDbestVvwner@ChaczbQUvJvVJjmoeSYKoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

Creating High Performance Virtual Teams
Many Creating High Performance Virtual Teamspeople experience virtual teams as awkward, slow, and sometimes frustrating. Even when most team members hail from the same nation or culture, and even when they all speak the same language, geographic dispersion or the presence of employees from multiple enterprises is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage, and support virtual teams in ways that are too much like the way we lead, manage, and support co-located teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
On 14The Race to the Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.