The Voices You Choose
The following is a guest post from our board member, William Tincup. I’ve been having interesting conversations with William for over 5 years. Whether I’ve agreed with what he was saying or not, he always makes me challenge my assumptions.
Like most parents, my parents cared deeply about who I hung around with when I was growing up. You know the drill: Who was a supposedly “good influence” versus those who were a “bad influence.” I really didn’t pay much attention to their warnings. Sometimes I would hang out with guys that I knew were bad for me, sometimes I hung with guys that I knew would be a good influence on me. Sometimes, I was the bad influence. More often than not, I was perceived by adults and kids as the guy to stay away from. In some ways, I encourage that perception. And it didn’t help matters that I did and still do make a terrible first impression. Not much has changed in this respect during my 43 years on the blue planet.
What has changed is my appreciation for surrounding myself with voices that are different than mine. I’ve rarely been the smartest guy in the room and now, more than ever, I’m comfortable with being the weakest link in the room. Please let me explain and forgive the political references henceforth.
Mass perception of Bill Clinton was that he surrounded himself with “smart” people, folks who may agree or disagree with him, but would logically argue positions – kind of a “best idea” wins environment. Smart people, smart ideas: bring your A-game and be prepared to argue your points. In this perceived scenario, the President was but a bit player in a much larger ongoing internal debate. It’s assumed that he won his fair share of arguments; it is also assumed that people around him convinced him of their ideas.
Okay, probably all kinds of things wrong with the perception versus what really happened behind the veil. I was clearly NOT in the room but I do read the USA Today on a daily basis. <sic>
Now, let’s juxtapose that with the perception of George Bush.
The mainstream perception of President Bush is that he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer and that his presidency was mostly run by people other than him. The perception is that he surrounded himself with folks that were like him, people he already had a lot in common with resulting in less internal debate, dialogue, and disagreement. In sum, a group of people that already had shared values, shared outlooks, shared everything. To the outsider, this might look like cronyism. Suffice to say that if the perception was close to the reality, meetings during the Bush presidency were probably fairly efficient.
I have no idea if either of these perceptions represent what really happened behind closed doors. My guess is that neither perception is totally accurate BUT thinking about these important historical figures provides insight into who I choose to surround myself with and whose counsel I seek.
If you can, stop thinking about your love or hate for either Clinton or Bush for a moment: no more politics.
Please think about your workplace, your environment, your version of your White House and then answer these three questions?
- Who do you listen to? <all workplace voices>
- Who’s in your inner circle? <internal>
- Who’s on your personal advisory board? <external>
We all make choices in terms of who we filter in and out. We do this by determining what content to consume, what authors to trust, what speakers to listen to, what blogs to read.
We also make choices related to how we build the team around us: How we select the team, interview them, hold meetings, etc, etc, etc.
We consciously surround ourselves with voices. These voices permeate everything we do at work. So, how do you choose the voices you listen to and by default, don’t listen to?
Of course, this has been on my mind for quite some time. So, when I received the call from Joyce in December about my interest in joining the WFI board of advisors, I immediately said hell yes. My reasoning was simple: Every single person that is involved with WFI is smart and passionate about the workforce of tomorrow. And as you look at their bios, you’ll notice they are decidedly different than me. So I get to hang out with smart, passionate, innovative people… um, how fast can I say yes to that?
I believe we are greatly influenced by the voices around us. Maybe my parents were right all along… damn that’s hard for me to say…