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Flipping the Birds

Tippi and bird playgroundThe other night, I was at my older daughter's honor choir concert. While they were singing the folk song, "Risseldy Rosseldy," I felt myself getting uneasy, like I needed to look over my shoulder. Being an office politics consultant, I allow myself a healthy degree of paranoia, but this overwhelming urge at a music concert was odd. Then it hit me: this was the song the children were singing in the background during the iconic playground scene in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."

If you've never seen the movie, shame on you. Hitchcock builds suspense like few can, and this movie is no exception. In the scene in question, Tippi Hedren's character, Melanie Daniels, is sitting outside the schoolhouse waiting to talk to the teacher and check on the well-being of the children after numerous bird attacks in the area. The children are inside singing a very repetitive song, the chorus being sung sweetly and innocently over and over again. Behind Melanie, birds are gathering on the playground equipment while she, impatient and oblivious, sits with her back to the impending danger. You, the spectator, want to scream, "WOULD YOU JUST TURN AROUND!?!?!?!"

In my career, I've seen a similar scenario played out often. I see individuals or departments who are sitting on the bench getting agitated, while doom flocks behind them just out of sight. Of course, they have the power to turn around and see the danger for what it is, but they're too absorbed in their own little "here and now." So they sit. And they wait. And they ignore.

What are some of the flocks gathering behind them?

  • Processes - Out-of-control processes seem to compound themselves. If a new input, like a novice employee or a software conversion, is introduced, it brings the flawed processes to light. However, most people tend to blame the new input for the problems rather than placing blame where it lies.
  • Toxic Employees - Amazing what one or two really toxic people can do to a workplace and how quickly their cancer can spread to others if left unchecked. Management may relegate it to a "coaching opportunity" or an "HR issue" but it doesn't make the morale improve for those who have to endure.
  • Policies and Procedures - I admire companies who have very small, finite sets of policies and procedures. They're able to hire bright, self-governing individuals who don't need a lot of direction. However, other companies weigh their otherwise high-performing employees down with ridiculous rules written to govern a select few who should just be fired.
  • Behavior - It's hard to look in the mirror sometimes and see how your own behaviors, decisions, and performance may be flocking together to undo all the good you think you've done in your career. Looking at the three above is relatively easy by comparison. It's somebody else's fault. This is one where a good self-reflection can prevent you from getting pecked to death when you least expect it.

Some people assume they are safe exactly where they are. They never feel the need to turn around. So... before it's too late, are you willing and able to turn around?

One Week Down; Fifty-One To Go

Sobcon-logoIt's been a week since I returned from SOBCon (Successful Online Business Conference). I've take a few years off from the conference since my last appearance in 2008. They say "absence makes the heart grow fonder," and it couldn't be more true.

Liz Strauss and Terry "Starbucker" St. Marie create a magical environment in downtown Chicago one weekend each year. They collect some wickedly smart people to share with the rest of us. I got to hear Tim Sanders (former Yahoo big-wig and author), entrepreneur Tim Storm, producer Gary Goldstein, and the incomparable Steve Farber. And that's just the start of the list. If I named everyone who had an impact on me last weekend, this would be a thousand-word post.

I met all kinds of awesome people. I heard all kinds of awesome messages. Messages about balance, and purpose, and community. Messages about changing the world and being flexible in uncertain environments. And it made me think about my own business. I'm still processing all of it.

Sorry I'm not being more specific about the things I learned, but some are of the revelations were very personal.

The greatest reminder was that in the midst of doing a lot of things for other people the past few years, it's OK for me to recharge my own batteries occasionally.

I'm already counting down for next year.

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