We have to remember what we learned in our formative years:
“Know what battles to pick.”
Great advice unless you never seem to choose a battle.
I was recently asked what kind of advice I would give to the new generation of educators and students. My advice was (and still is) simple and straightforward,
Pay attention to the difference you can make.
Challenge the status quo (that includes your own status quo).
Don’t settle for the easy way.
Either you create your story—or you let someone else create it for you.
This past week I had the opportunity to catch up with a student I taught nearly 30 years ago. She related a story about how a boss of hers, while conducting a staff meeting, was less than civil to say the least. While all of her compatriots quietly sat and squirmed a bit, my former student stood up and calmly challenged the boorish behavior. As she told the story, I beamed. She did not need my approval—but I could not have been prouder.
Far too many times I have witnessed otherwise smart and insightful adults sit on their hands rather than challenge a wrong-headed workplace/career-related situation. Why do people fail to take action in situations clearly calling for action? Here is what I have seen and heard for years.
- “I won’t be here long. This job is just a placeholder until I get my big break and move on.”
- Did you ever consider you may never get that big break? The job you planned on keeping for no more than a year or two ends up being yours for five years or more. I’ve seen people like this wake up one morning, ten years later, with kids in school and a mortgage. Guess what? They are not going any place. And, like it or not, they have created a less than savory workplace environment for themselves and their co-workers by their inaction over the years. The story they are living is the story they have created.
- “Did you see what they did to Suzy down the hall? I’ll fly under the radar, thank you.”
- Poor managers use fear to control and (they think) motivate their workers. How long do you plan to fly low? See #1 above.
- “If I don’t rock the boat, I’ll be safe.”
- Hmm, again. A few waves just might make the boat a bit safer for everyone. Like my former student above, a well-directed and civil challenge might catch attention and, if not change things for the better right away, might at least put the perpetrator on notice.
- “I will do anything to make sure I am seen as a team player so that I can continue to move up the organization’sladder. At the very least, I’ll be able to keep my job.”
- Really? I’ve seen people sell their souls for the job. Then once they have been used up by the transactional leadership, they are downsized or otherwise unceremoniously dismissed. One day they wake up without a job, and without a soul.
Speaking up is not always easy. It takes courage and articulation skills. Some of you are born leaders, ready to take the lead. Many others, not so much. I get that. Even the quiet ones amongst us, however, can quietly support those who are out front pushing for change. If, for reasons that apply to your situation in life, you choose to remain silent, then at least recognize the potential consequences of that choice.
Yes, we have to remember what we learned in our formative years: “Know what battles to pick.” Great advice unless you never seem to choose a battle. As Edmund Burke reportedly admonished, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.”
What can you challenge this week? Nothing large. Nothing outlandish. Nothing dangerous. Nothing stupid. Nothing boorish. Just a well-calculated step to find a more humane and thoughtful way to make a meaningful change for yourself, your family, your workplace, and/or your community. Consider a mentor, coach, adviser or counselor to help you sort things out and move along the best path.
Little steps create the journey. No steps create a journey of another kind.
Video recommendation for the week:
Sara Bareilles wonders what would happen if we say what we want to say.
Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.
I am venturing into the realm of podcasting. Check out my first one “Powerful (Mindful) Preparation. Powerful Presentation.”
(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.