Outstandingly Great Blog

If You Want to Learn Something about Business, Go to a Museum

I was reminded recently of something I learned many years ago in an art history class as an undergrad.  Our professor explained that in art women were most often depicted as either the Madonna or the whore.  Time and time again women were painted as one or the other. Artist rarely exhibit women as something in between.

This dichotomy in art brought to mind all of the extremes that exist in the business world – how so many professionals don’t live in the wide swath of gray but rather hang out on the margins. Leaders are either too forgiving or too punitive. Managers are either too focused on the bottom of line or too worried about being friends with everyone.  While the margins are to our detriment, we gravitate to them nonetheless.  They are easy places to hang out.  Trying to be moderate is hard.  It doesn’t come to us naturally.  Rather than challenge ourselves to do better – to make more of an impact, we retreat to our corners.

The Jewish holidays are upon us.  This time of year is an opportunity for Jewish people to repent for our sins.  This got me thinking about apologizing in the business context. Some leaders never say, “I am sorry.”  Whereas others take ownership for all of the ills of the world.  Both approaches fail.  Effective, memorable leaders are able to apologize when the circumstances call for it, but are able to recognize when they are not to blame.

When it comes to apologizing (and to most other important business skills) successful people are tightrope walkers, suspended in the gray space where work that matters happens.  It is an extraordinary event to witness, breathtaking and memorable, but rare indeed.






How To Get People To Do What You Want

Conventional wisdom dictates that leadership consists of commanding (attracting the respect and attention of) those people from whom you seek compliance. Conventional wisdom would have us believe that leadership means telling (ordering, directing) the minions what to do and how to do it with no regard for the input or feelings of others.

Hugh McLeod recently and brilliantly wrote, “The thing about conventional wisdom is that it’s often the lowest common denominator.” Why mention that here? While the masses may agree that a commanding leadership style is the hallmark of a powerful leader, the masses have missed the mark.

Parents, generals, and Greek gods likely can get away with a commanding approach on occasion. However, when employed by mere mortals like us, the “do it because I say so” approach ends in passive resistance, rebellion, or exodus. If this seems worth considering, read on here.

*As this post applies to all professionals, substitute the word “professional” for all references to “lawyer” and remove the phrase “in the legal profession.” That should do the trick!

Career Killer No. 1 – Making Assumptions

Humans have the ability to draw conclusions and make associations at lighting fast speeds.  And, a smart professional like you likely excels at shortcutting the thinking process.  At this stage of your life, you have a treasure trove of information stashed away.  You regularly tap into this arsenal of data to determine quickly which end is up.

Sounds great, right?  Throughout your life you amass information.  Later you can turn to these life lessons to streamline your methods of analysis and decision making when needed.  Very efficient, very smart, what’s wrong with that?  EVERYTHING.

To move ahead professionally, it is critical that you regain your ability to see the world with a fresh pair of eyes.  The know it all, seen it all, done it all approach limits you.  If you’re picking up what I’m putting down, read on here.

*Please note that while this post was originally written for attorneys, it does in fact apply to all professionals.  Simply substitute the word “professional” for all references to “legal”, “attorney,” and “lawyer.”  That should do the trick!

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: You Are Not the Fairest After All

As it turns out we are neither the most discerning judge of our own character nor the most reliable arbiter of the facts.  The truth is that we do not see ourselves accurately and are much more likely to point out the flaws of others and assign blame.  This tendency amounts to a professional dead-end.

The first step on the path of self-improvement and limitless success is a solitary one.  The only relevant inquiry is along the lines of, “What did I do wrong?” and “How can I improve?”  If this line of reasoning resonates for you, read on here. *

*Please note that while this post was originally written for attorneys, it does in fact apply to all professionals.  Simply substitute the word “professional” for all references to “counselor”, “attorney,” and “lawyer.”  That should do the trick!

So You Want to Increase Profits? Go to Diapers.com

The last time you were looking for a solution to a problem you probably overlooked the obvious fix.  People do it all of the time.  They ignore the evident answer and go for the one that lies further afield instead.

That said, there are exceptions to this rule.  One of the best illustrations is diapers.com, a company where simple and direct reign supreme.  Diapers.com became a 540 million dollar company by a simple return to fundamentals.  No mind-blowing elevator speech, social media marketing, or price slashing involved, diapers.com got itself sold to Amazon all with quick and free shipping, a fair return policy, and a user-friendly communication system. read more…

Play it Safe or Bet the Farm? What Type of Person Are You?

Maybe the reason you’re not getting what you want from your career is because you aren’t able to see the type of person you really are.  Fundamentally, there are two types of people.  There are the “stick with what I know” folks and the “try anything once” bunch.  Which one are you?

If you are in the first camp, you live your life knowing more or less what you are going to get.  The upside is you minimize disappointment.   The huevos rancheros at your favorite breakfast spot are always good, the trip to NYC is fun every time, your tried-and-true presentation never fails to be a hit.  This approach keeps events, experiences and interactions predictable, painless and none too challenging.  Your attitude ensures that your experiences and performance are consistent, maybe even average and, most certainly, dull. read more…