Degrees of Truth, Grasping For Reality,

and Why That Concept Still Matters

I love this fight scene from Monty Python & the Holy Grail.

The fictional Black Knight valiantly denies King Arthur from crossing his bridge and loses all of his limbs in the process.

“Tis but a scratch!” – Black Knight

“A scratch? your arm’s off!” – King Arthur.

“No, it isn’t!” – Black Knight,

Well, what’s that then?” – King Arthur

(Black Knight looks down at his detached arm and pauses)

“I’ve had worse.”  

As the battle ensues, the Black Knight is reduced to a trash-talking torso

hollering “I’m invincible” and “Come back here. I’ll bite your legs off!”  

After all, he’s a Black Knight, and everyone knows that Black Knights are totally invincible.

“Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”.- Oscar Wilde

Take away: Coming to terms with the truth of the situation can sometimes be a painful experience.

It’s said that John Cleese wrote this scene because he hated the saying, “You never really lose until you give up.”

The deadly assault on the Capitol by a bizarre coalition of self-proclaimed

neo-Nazis, white supremacists, camouflaged preppers, Christians, and Viking

wannabe’s, has got to be one of the great head-scratchers of our time.

If you’re anything like me. me you’re wondering, “why are things so haywire?” and “where’s the truth in this situation?”

Everyone wants to believe they’re thinking independently, understanding how things work and why things are happening.

But everyone has only seen the world through the narrow lens of their own experiences and their social network.

There’s a strong force in our human nature that propels us toward interpreting reality in a self-serving and unrealistic way.

There’s an equally strong force that pulls us to conformity.

Demagogues have always understood and exploited this human flaw.

Throw in a compelling storyline that may or may not be true, and suddenly

typically smart people are embracing and defending ideas that range from

goofy to disastrous.

It shows up all over the place.

The same story, again and again.

The best leaders can grasp the reality of situations and take appropriate action for themselves and others. The best leaders also resist self-serving behaviors and mindless conformity.

I really admire that.

To make sure I’m still on track, I revisited my assumptions and framework on the various truth types and how we’re governed by them.

OVERRIDING TRUTHS

“Gravity’s not just a good idea; it’s the law.” Seth Godin

This is one of those absolute, axiomatic truths that just “is.” It doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not.

Gravity is the truth that keeps you from spinning off into outer space. You can ignore it, but there’ll be a price to pay.

You can pretend it isn’t true. That also comes at a steep cost.

The same goes for the seasons of the year, death, and taxes.

Takeaway: The same way gravity keeps you grounded, there’s always an

absolute truth that overrides everything else in any given situation.

WORLDVIEW TRUTHS

(Also referred to as personal or experiential truth)  

We all have a worldview, whether we know it or not. It’s the set of our beliefs and assumptions that serve as our personal operating system.

Most kinds of truth we experience are about the past and the present. These are the easiest to see and confirm, but there are also truths about cause and effect. I.e., stove element- hot! Ice cream – yummy! Etc.

“The only source of knowledge is experience.” Albert Einstein

We all experience things at our own pace and time. Personal experience truth is the truth that’s mostly determined by you.

How you react and respond can only be seen and reported by you.
It’s how most of us interact with truth most of the time.

As we live out a truth based on experience either through direct or indirect participation

“Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.Rita Mae Brown

Take-away: Your worldview is essential, but it can also change as you learn,

change and grow through experience.

MISCELLANEOUS TRUTHS  

Beyond the types mentioned above, there are many perspectives on veracity that fall along a continuum of sorts.

In the strictest sense, truth is provable, objective, and not “opinion.”

“Likely truths.In the sciences, these are called theories. A theory isn’t always right. Instead, it invites skepticism, opinion, debate, and rigorous testing.

A “half-truth” is a deceptive statement that includes some element of truth. The information might be partly accurate but intended to evade, misdirect or lay blame.

“Truthiness,” coined by Stephen Colbert, is a belief or assertion that a particular

statement is true based on the intuition or perceptions of some individual or

individuals, without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or

facts.

Truthiness can range from ignorant assertions of falsehoods to deliberate

duplicity or propaganda intended to sway opinions.

Outright BS – (Not the Bachelor of Science ) Well, that’s self-explanatory.

Take away – The more you know yourself and align yourself with facts and reality, the better off you are.

In Summary 

Centuries ago, a famous religious leader declared “the truth shall set you free!”. 

This phrase’s original context and intent refer to spiritual freedom from the bondage of our mortal sins.

“The truth shall set you free” has become part of our common English lexicon.

It is one of those axiomatic truths that has a liberating effect

wherever applied.

This works in business, in relationships, and yes, even in politics.

Yours Truly,

Until next time,

Lorne

 

COMPLICATED VERSUS COMPLEX
You Don’t Need To Be A Brainiac To Spot the Difference

I think we can agree that the world became a more complex place in 2020. The grand irony is that I chose “simplify” as one of my guiding themes for this year. Little did I know that enforced simplicity was headed my way. Lots of things became more simple (i.e. staycations) while other things accelerated towards complicated.
Rapidly evolving circumstances pushed even more things beyond complicated, into the complexity zone.

Most of us think of degrees of complication. The first is simple, the second is complicated and the third is complex. Many leaders I know mistakenly believe complexity is just a higher order of complicatedness as if there is some sort of continuum.  Umm….  Not so!

I’m an ardent fan of straight-forward simple. Simple never really equates with “easy”,  but once achieved, simple is elegant and functional.

Decision-makers commonly mistake complex systems for simply complicated ones and look for solutions without realizing that ‘learning to dance’ with a complex system is definitely different from ‘solving’ the problems arising from it. — Roberto Poli

I’m borrowing heavily from the work of European scholar Roberto Poli, `who writes about Anticipatory  Futures and Systems Theories.

Most complicated situations can be compartmentalized, reverse engineered, and put back together in a workable fashion.

Complexity on the other hand is a whole different animal.

And This Is Important Why? 
Leaders and decision-makers who try to tackle complexity the same way as they deal with complications, soon find themselves mired in futility. It’s much like trying to brush your hair with a toothbrush or nail Jell-O to the wall. It takes an entirely different approach to mindset, skillset, and toolset.

As a coach and consultant, I often get asked to provide a “once and for all” solution to intractable problems that are mislabeled as complicated, when they really are complex.

While much of my life as an executive was in the context of complex issues, I can’t say I’ve always been super successful at it. After a while, the characteristics that differentiate merely complicated scenarios from complex ones become evident.

Being able to identify these quite often is the key determining factor in good outcomes.

Here are five differentiators to help sort things out.   

1. Identifying Root Causes 

Complicated: Has a fairly linear cause-and-effect trajectory where you can pinpoint the individual cause and observe its effects.
Complex: Characterized by patterns of multiple intertwining and overlapping causes. Root causes may be disguised as other things. There’s no real straight line cause-to-effect relationship.
Takeaway: Much time can be squandered trying to analyze root causes in a complex situation. Usually, complex situations in organizations evolve from a host of combined factors over extended time and aren’t quickly or easily reversed.

2. Knowing if there’s a Timeline 

Complicated: Has a finite timeline where you can reasonably predict outcomes. Every output of the system has a commensurate input.
Complex: There isn’t an easily predictable timeline. Outputs in the organizational eco-system aren’t necessarily proportional or linearly related to inputs. Small changes in one part of the system can cause sudden and unexpected outputs in other parts of the system.
Takeaway: Large and costly initiatives can have zero impact, while one misspeak in an email can lead to a chain reaction of revolt. Small “safe-to-fail” experiments are more informative and useful than large projects designed to be fail-safe.

3. Can it be reduced to it’s simplest parts?

Complicated: We can break things down and isolate structural components to better comprehend how things work between the various parts.
Complex: We can’t presume to fully comprehend all the moving parts. Because complexity is a shifting target, conventional approaches and familiar change tools have little or no effect.
Takeaway:  Complex systems are emergent, they are greater than the sum of their parts … we need to interact or “dance” with the system in order to influence it. We also need to understand that our mere presence is already changing things.

4. Is it Controllable?

Complicated: You have a bit of a framework or structure to contain and control problems while they get diagnosed and solved.
Complex:  Complex problems emerge from multiple random moving parts in an unstructured way, so it’s difficult to distinguish the combination of real problems. Even the smallest well-intentioned interventions may result in disproportionate and unintended consequences.
Takeaways: Fluid complexity is prone to bring surprises and uncertainty. Knee jerk interventions can bring unexpected changes and even new or worse challenges. Leaders need to shift the “problem/solution” thinking to “evolving patterns” thinking.

5. Are There Constraints? (Boundaries or Guardrails)

Complicated: Complicated can usually be defined by some kind of sandbox or context.
Complex: Complex systems are more open, to the extent that it is often difficult to determine where the system ends and another start. Complex systems are can also be nested part of larger trends, ideology, or movement. It can become hard to separate the system from its context.
Takeaway: Context matters, ignore it at your peril. As soon as organizations become too internally focused, the naval-gazing makes them vulnerable. Making sure that adequate and diverse feedback mechanisms are in place is a key strategic imperative.

Wrapping Up 

When dealing with complexity, keep expectations realistic. Getting to “maybe” might just be as good as it gets.
It will always take longer than you thought, and the end results may not be what you expected. From experience, it’ll always be worth the journey.
Complexity does demand a new breed of leadership. Today’s successful leader is relational vs. organizational, permission-giving vs.command & control. He or she works in overlapping circles vs. being linear and hierarchical.
Me – I’m still working on it. 

Until next time,
Stay safe,
Stay strong,
Lorne

References: A Note on the Difference Between Complicated and Complex Social Systems, Roberto Poli, 2013

Burnout.

Not only is it a career-killer, it’s seriously bad for your health.

Earlier this year, burnout was recognized by the World Health Organization as a significant workplace health hazard. That officially makes it “a thing“.

https://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/burn-out/en/

The term “burnout” was first coined in the mid-’70’s by American psychologist Herbert J. Freudenberger, who used it to describe symptoms he had experienced: “exhaustion, disillusionment, and withdrawal resulting from an intense devotion to a cause that failed to produce what he expected. In earlier times it was generally termed “nervous breakdown” or emotional exhaustion”

Burnout today refers to a collection of different physical, emotional, and mental reactions that occur in response to prolonged stress and overworking. Surprisingly, experts can’t agree on an exact definition.

While I sort of knew about burnout, I never thought it would happen to me. Even-keeled and rarely stressed out, I thought I was Iron Man in this department and nothing could break me. Burnout carries a stigma as a sign of weakness and since I am not weak, I couldn’t reconcile how burnout could come knocking at my door.

My energetic “Type A” approach to building a career I that I loved, led to deep down fatigue – the kind that doesn’t go away with a good night’s sleep. I was getting snappish and reactionary around trivial things and feeling increasingly grim about the future.

The Car Crash You Don’t See Coming

Burnout is an insidious condition that sneaks up on you. It happens slowly, over a lengthy time frame. The consequences can be life-altering.

That’s why it’s so important to spot the hazard signs and symptoms early.

Symptoms could include:
– Chronic fatigue and a sense of dread about what lies ahead on any given day.
-Insomnia. In the early stages, you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep one or two nights a week.
– Forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention. Lack of focus and mild forgetfulness are early signs. Later, the problems may get to the point where you can’t get your work done and everything begins to pile up.
-Physical symptoms may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal pain, dizziness, fainting, and/or headaches (all of which should be medically assessed).
-Getting sick easily and often
– Vague anxiety. Early on, you may experience mild symptoms of tension, worry, and edginess. As you move closer to burnout, the anxiety may become so serious that it interferes with your ability to work productively and may cause problems in your personal life.
-Depression. In the early stages, you may feel mildly sad and occasionally hopeless, and you may experience feelings of guilt and worthlessness as a result. At its worst, you may feel trapped and severely depressed and think the world would be better off without you. (If your depression is to this point, you should seek professional help immediately.)
– Unreasonable anger. At first, this may present as interpersonal tension and irritability. In the latter stages, this may turn into angry outbursts and serious arguments at home and in the workplace. (If anger gets to the point where it turns to thoughts or acts of violence toward family or coworkers, seek immediate professional assistance.

Could you be burning out?

“Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long.” Michael Gungor

Understanding Three Varieties of Burnout

I didn’t realize there are different types of burnout but thanks to the American Association of Psychological Science, here they are:

  1. Overload burnout

With overload burnout, the tendency is to work too long and too hard work in an amped-up search for success. Sleep, personal health, and overall well-being are sacrificed in hot pursuit of ambition. Business is worn like a badge of honor even though it’s stressogenic.

2. Under-challenge burnout

Less understood, the “under-challenge” can cause burnout. Feelings include feeling unappreciated, boredom, and a lack of learning opportunities. When there’s no passion or enjoyment in work. Coping mechanisms include distancing, indifference, cynicism, avoidance of responsibility, and overall disengagement.

3. Neglect burnout

This subtype of burnout stems from chronic feelings of helplessness at work. There are feelings of incompetence or falling behind on the demands of the job. This results in stasis, passivity, and low motivation.

The Causes

In a 2018 research piece, researchers at Gallup identified 5 leading causes of workplace burnout.

https://www.gallup.com/workplace/237059/employee-burnout-part-main-causes.aspx

5 Causal Factors Leaders Should Be Aware of
These five factors were most highly correlated with burnout syndrome in the study:

  1. Unfair treatment at work
  2. Unmanageable workloads
  3. Lack of role clarity
  4. Lack of communication and support from the management
  5. Unreasonable time pressures

De-Risking Burnout

Burnout is not inevitable.
You can prevent — and reverse — burnout by changing how you manage and lead yourself and those who rely on you. If you don’t address the root causes of employee burnout in your organization, you won’t have a healthy environment that empowers your people to be and do their best.

What to Do

As a leader, it’s particularly important to spot the signs and symptoms of burnout early, because it’s associated with numerous health problems. The human and corporate toll can accumulate fairly rapidly.

Also, as a leader, you can set an understanding and respectful tone on how this gets addressed. This is a human problem not a “personnel issue.” Here are some practical steps to take.

  1. Create a “psychological safe space” to talk about it.
    Encourage discussion of specific concerns. Work together to change expectations or reach compromises or solutions. Be realistic about setting goals for what must get done and what can wait.
  2. Don’t do this alone.
    Encourage those impacted to reach out to their co-workers, friends, loved ones, or even you as their manager, for the support and collaboration that will help them cope. Recommend to your team that they utilize an employee assistance program if they feel stuck and unable to approach you. These and other relevant services can help with employee burnout.
  3. Engage in relaxation activities
    Either suggest or help involve your employee or co-worker in exercise programs that can help alleviate stress. This can include group runs or cycling, or more gym-related activities such as yoga, meditation or tai chi.
  4. Get some exercise and sleep
    Carving time for physical exercise is known to help relieve stress. Regular physical activity can take your mind off work and help restore broken sleep patterns.
  5. Mindfulness.
    This may not be for everyone, but mindfulness is a great way to alleviate stress and stave off burnout. Mindfulness is the act of focusing on your breath flow and being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment, without interpretation or judgment. In a job setting, this practice involves facing situations with openness and patience, and without judgment.

Conclusion
Burnout is a real thing. It happens when you least expect it.

In my instance, I caught it early and was able to turn it around. This came with the help and support of my wife, friends and a very smart family doctor.

Others aren’t so lucky.

You may toil for years at the same pace and suddenly found yourself in the middle of burnout without even seeing it coming. It’s good to love your work. But you have to love it in moderation. If you don’t, burnout will make you hate it, and that’s harder — much harder — to bounce back from that.

Let’s have a great month of August!

Lorne

Hi there,

Thanks  again for being a part of our readership tribe.
It’s April 2 and we’re 91 days into this rocking adventure of 2018.  
Already I’ve learned a lot from your responses and feedback on your 3 words for the year and a bunch of other cool stuff you send me. Please keep that feedback coming.
 
So, why am I here? Top of each month, I enjoy rolling up my sleeves, having a cup of something hot n’ tasty and laying down some ideas, experiences and truth powered concepts to move us forward in being a foremost housing and health organization. It’s my personal mission to inform and inspire us, keep us focused on the realities of the month ahead. I want each of us to be our best and do our best in life, in leadership, and in our work together.

Right now I’m cozied up to steaming mug of Instant Nescafe’ Decaf. You’re saying whaaat..??

Before you go all snobby judge-y on me, let me explain. It’s one of my sometimes favorites. It’s a nostalgia drink for me. It reminds me of my granddad who was a very special guy in my life. He was this sod busting, multi talented, settler, farmer and community leader who had some mad paranormal skills when it came to finding water in the drought driven prairies. Bribe me with a real coffee and I’ll tell you the story. BTW an occasional dose of positive reflective nostalgia is very good for you. Seriously …
 https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/more-than-just-being-a-sentimental-fool-the-psychology-of-nostalgia.html

Anyway, this month I’d like to talk a bit about the dynamics of “change”. Given where we’re at, I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. Can’t say I’ve got all the answers right now, but here are several insights from experience that should help give perspective. 

Why Is “Change” So Blinkin’ Hard?

If change gives you gut churn, night sweats, the royal HeeBee GeeBees, you name it, you’re not alone. It’s a very natural discomfort in our lives. Our species tends to like that which has been around for a while. (Like maybe me) That’s the obvious reason for why we don’t like change. 
But it runs deeper than that.

Some of the strongest resistance comes from what people ask for or think they want. Why? “Uninformed Optimism is always followed by “Informed Pessimism” and us humans will almost always choose the comfort of familiarity over the anxiety that comes with the unknown.

All that excess uncertainty. 

If change feels like walking off a cliff blindfolded, then people will reject it. People will often prefer to remain mired in “stuck-ness” than to head toward an unknown even if it makes perfect logical sense. Here’s where that saying comes in, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.”

Surprise, surprise!
Decisions or circumstances that are harshly imposed on us with no time to get used to the idea or prepare for the consequences, are strongly resisted and resented. That’s probably why I hate surprise parties. It’s always easier to say No than to say Yes. As leaders, it’s always preferable to craft changes incrementally rather than springing them all at once. It’s better to plant seeds — that is, to sprinkle hints of what might be coming and seek collaboration and input.

Departure from the past

People who identify strongly with the last version, or the one that’s being superseded are likely to be super defensive about it. When change involves a big shift of strategic direction, the people responsible for the previous direction dread the perception that they may have gotten things wrong. As leaders we can help people maintain dignity by celebrating those elements of the past that are worth honouring and making it clear that the world has changed. That makes it easier to let go and move on.

Everything’s so different. 
Well, yeah!  Change is always about something different, but how different? We are creatures of habit. Routines become automatic, but change jolts us into consciousness, sometimes in uncomfortable ways. Too many changes coming too fast can overload someone’s space for change and make things very disorienting and confusing.

It’s coming at us faster.
If things seem to be happening faster these days, it’s because well,…uh, they are.
Brainiac inventor, author and futurist with a pretty strong prediction track record, Ray Kurzweil coined the phrase “law of accelerating returns”.

In 2001 Kurzweil wrote about the fact that every decade our overall rate of progress in technology was doubling, “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” 

The Internet and the mass availability of decentralized instant knowledge has spawned a whole new world of work and it has resulted in a whole new genre of businesses like Uber, Air BnB, and Amazon and millions of others.

BTW. Some of Ray Kurzweil’s predictions from the last 25 years may have seemed a stretch at the time—but many were right. 

See https://singularityhub.com/2015/01/26/ray-kurzweils-mind-boggling-predictions-for-the-next-25-years/

We’re only 18 years into the 21st century and the progress has been pretty astounding—the global adoption of the Internet, smartphones, ever-more agile robots, Artificial Intelligence that actually learns.          
We sequenced the first human genome in 2004 at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Now, machines can sequence 18,000 annually for $1,000 a genome.


These are just a few examples of the law of accelerating returns driving progress forward.

The human element
Now here’s the part many leaders, experts and management gurus seem to ignore.
Because absorbing change requires physical, emotional, and intellectual energy, some very weird stuff happens when we run out of personal capacity to deal with it. On any given day you and I can only absorb so much change before our capacity hits overload and we hit the wall of zombie like dysfunction or “future shock”.

Back to the law of accelerated returns , when the conditions are right  the returns on investment can be exponential.

In agriculture this is known as “bumper crop”. In finance, it’s compounded interest. In business activity, it’s called “scaling up”.
When it comes to “change”, this isn’t new territory. We’ve been here before .

Because the future is approaching much faster than we may realize, it’s critical to keep thinking exponentially about where we’re headed and how we’ll get there.The world we knew starting out is vastly different to the world we face today.

The new wrinkle for us as leaders in this increasingly uncertain world is how dow we build “resilience” and “change capacity” into ourselves and the communities we lead? 

As leader we need to understand our times so that we know what to do.


Got any changes that are jamming you up ? 
Give me a shout, hit me up.
 
Love to help.  

Lorne