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.
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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, "Wacky Words of Wisdom: IV," Point Lookout for August 5, 2015, and "Wacky Words of Wisdom: VI," Point Lookout for November 28, 2018.
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- When Your Boss Attacks Your Self-Esteem
- Your boss's comments about your work can make your day — or break it. When you experience a comment
as negative or hurtful, you might become angry, defensive, withdrawn, or even shut down. When that happens,
you're not at your best. What can you do if your boss seems intent on making every day a misery?
- Shooting Ourselves in the Feet
- When you give a demo to a small audience, there's a danger of overwhelming them in a behavior I call
"swarming." Here are some tips for terrific demos to small audiences.
- Trying to Do It Right the First Time Isn't Always Best
- You've probably heard the slogan, "Do it right the first time." It makes sense for some kinds
of work, but not for all. For more and more of the work done in modern organizations, doing it right
the first time — or even trying to — might be the wrong way to go.
- Coping and Hard Lessons
- Ever have the feeling of "Uh-oh, I've made this mistake before"? Some of these oft-repeated
mistakes happen not because of obstinacy, or stupidity, or foolishness, but because the learning required
to avoid them is just plain difficult. Here are some examples of hard lessons.
- Solutions as Found Art
- Examining the most innovative solutions we've developed for difficult problems, we often find that they
aren't purely new. Many contain pieces of familiar ideas and techniques combined together in new ways.
Accepting this as a starting point can change our approach to problem solving.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming November 21: Make Suggestions Privately
- Suggesting a better way of doing things can sometimes backfire surprisingly and intensely. Making suggestions privately reduces that risk, but introduces a different risk. Available here and by RSS on November 21.
- And on November 28: Wacky Words of Wisdom: VI
- Adages, aphorisms, and "words of wisdom" seem valid often enough that we accept them as universal and permanent. Most aren't. Here's Part VI of a collection of widely held beliefs that can be misleading at work. Available here and by RSS on November 28.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.