5. Leaders: An Endangered Species, Part 3

In this, our final installment of our 3-part episode on leadership, we’ll talk a little more on how to relate to people. How to listen to them. How to make sure that you’re all on the same page. We’ll also clear dispel some of the myths of what leadership really is.

Show Notes:

  • Follow the Platinum Rule
    1. The Golden Rule tells you to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
    2. But not everyone is like you.
  • Don’t Confuse Obedience for Loyalty
    1. Blindly following orders doesn’t make you loyal
    2. Loyalty is a shared commitment to a set of values and principles, not the everchanging whims of an individual
  • Don’t Confuse Climate for Culture
    1. Taco Tuesdays and team happy hours don’t really define your culture
    2. How you work together and live out your values are
  • How Many Leadership Teams Would Survive a Vote of Confidence?
    1. Leaders get to choose you, you don’t get to choose them
    2. Take surveys seriously, don’t just let people slide because they’re nice or you don’t want to make waves
  • Take the Crap Sandwich Off Your Menu
    1. Two pieces of praise with criticism in-between
    2. Tries to soften the blow
    3. But comes across as less than honest
  • Welcome the Hard Conversations
    1. No one wants things to come to a boiling point, but you can’t let things faster
    2. Look forward to relieving the uncomfortable awkwardness behind, moving forward to better things
  • It’s Not a Principle Until It Costs You Money. – Bill Bernbach, On the Mount Rushmore of Advertising if Advertising Had a Mount Rushmore
  • You Spend the First Fifteen Years of Your Career Trying to Get Into Meetings and the Rest Trying to Get Out of Them. – Tom Goodwin
    1. Meetings tend not to be productive, but they make some people feel important
    2. Prioritize and be productive
  • Two Pizza Maximum
    1. Too many people in a meeting means too much productivity lost
    2. Shouldn’t have meetings where you need more than 2 pizzas to feed everyone
  • I’ve Searched All the Parks in All the Cities and Found No Statues of

          Committees. – Gilbert K. Chesterton

  1. Collaboration is important
  2. Yet we must respect the individual contributions of people


Welcome to Episode 5 of Navigating the Fustercluck—a podcast full of snackable insights to help you navigate the love/hate world of creativity.

My name is Wegs, like eggs with a W, joining you from Deaf Mule Studios in Dallas, and whether you work in advertising, design, gaming, fine art, commercial art, content creation…whatever you’re pouring your heart & soul into.

In our last 2 episodes we focused on leadership, and man-o-man, I think we struck a nerve. So, let’s keep on keeping on down the leadership track. Because if it’s important to you, it’s important to us.

Now, I generally I hate rules. Rules of any kind. But sometimes, rules can be pretty freeing. Here’s one that if you can follow honestly and consistently, and that’s not easy, you’re probably 90% of where you need to be as a leader, and a person, for that matter…

Follow the Platinum Rule

The Golden Rule tells you to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But not everyone is like you. They don’t like everything that you do. You may like continuous feedback. Someone else may prefer a bit more space. You may want a promotion. Someone else may want more vacation. You have to get used to one another. Get to know each other. Walk in their shoes so you can understand where they stand and where they want to go. That’s what empathy is all about. That’s when you get the most out of everybody.

Don’t Confuse Obedience for Loyalty      

Loyalty. Perhaps the most abused word in leadership. Too many so-called leaders believe that since they’re “good people”, all their actions must also be good. Even when those actions require the rationalization that “the ends justify the means.” This need to bridge the gap between their self-image and their real-life impact opens doors for opportunistic “Yes Men” and henchman to constantly reassure and flatter them. About all you can do is keep your head down and give such bosses ideas that will allow them to do the right thing and actually become the heroes they crave to be.

Don’t Confuse Culture with Climate

Taco Tuesdays, birthday cakes and happy hours are all great. They put people in a good mood. They keep things fun. All-in-all, they help make for a good atmosphere, and nice office climate. But they aren’t at the core of your culture. Culture centers around your deep-seated values, and how you bring them to life. Are you a top-down command-and-control outfit, or a collaborative grassroots organization? Do you “celebrate” diversity, or actually reflect it? So, seriously- seriously– ask yourself, do you have a feel-good climate, or a clear, actionable culture?

How Many Leadership Teams Would Survive a Vote of Confidence?   

From time-to-time, you’ll see some country hold a vote of confidence to gauge opinion on their leadership. But in business, beyond the occasional survey, the rank-and-file rarely get the opportunity to be heard by those top dogs that they never see, and wouldn’t recognize, even if they knew their names. Perhaps they should conduct their own vote. Not necessarily to be acted upon, but just so everyone can take the temperature of the team at-large. And if leadership retaliates, you’ll have proof that they truly aren’t fit to lead. Of course, you’ll also be jobless.

Take the Crap Sandwich Off Your Menu

Who on earth would serve a Crap Sandwich? Probably you. Not that you meant to, but it happens. It happens when you try to sandwich some negative criticism between two fluffy, but somewhat disingenuous pieces of whitebread praise. Faint praise at that. The thing is, people pick up on it. And they don’t appreciate it. Straight talk. And honest feedback. That’s what people want to hear. That way, people will take your criticism and praise seriously. They’ll take you seriously. That doesn’t mean that you have to be a jerk about criticizing someone. Just don’t insult their intelligence.

Welcome the Hard Conversations

Paolo Coelho said, The fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. Isn’t that the truth when it comes to “showdown” talks? The ones you dread? That come with tension and anxiety. But you just can’t put off any longer. So, prepare yourself the best you can, and rip that Band-aid off. The good thing is that once it’s over, you can get a little relief. And you may just be able to hit the reset button. Clear the air. Come to a better understanding. But you won’t find out or move forward if you keep procrastinating.

It’s Not a Principle Until It Costs You Money. – Bill Bernbach, On the Mount Rushmore of Advertising if Advertising Had a Mount Rushmore

Values and principles. How proudly we hail ours until push comes to shove and we actually have to prove that we actually mean them. Live them. For better or worse. I once worked at an agency that caught an employee defrauding a client. Did they reimburse them? No, didn’t even tell them, because it would cost a lot of money, and they were afraid of the client’s reaction. While it wasn’t my place to alert them, I share in the shame. Not surprisingly, that agency no longer exists.

You Spend the First Fifteen Years of Your Career Trying to Get Into Meetings and the Rest Trying to Get Out of Them.  – Tom Goodwin

Prioritize. If you don’t figure out how to prioritize your day, people will find a way to pull you every which way, until stretched beyond the point where you can focus and be productive. Meetings are rarely productive, so eliminate those that waste time, and limit those you attend to only the ones that are deserving of the time and effort.

Two Pizza Maximum

At the time of this writing, Jeff Bezos of Amazon is the richest person in the world. Part of his success may be attributed to his decision to stop complaining about excessive meetings and actually do something about them. For one thing, at Amazon, there are to be no meetings that require more people than can be fed with two pizzas. Beyond that and all the wasted productivity in the room leads to nothing more than a major fustercluck.

I’ve Searched All the Parks in All the Cities and Found No Statues of Committees.

– Gilbert K. Chesterton

Collaboration is key. Delegation is crucial. But shirking your responsibilities to make the hard decisions is not promoting teamwork, it’s seeding anarchy. Chaos. A rudderless ship. Pardon the alliteration, but… Countless Committees are the crutch of cowards. Dammitt, at some point or another you have to make a decision. Decisions don’t make themselves.

Let’s Take a Short Breather… (EXHALE.)

…We’re here at Deaf Mule Studios to remind everyone that this is Navigating the Fustercluck. And I’m Wegs, your world-weary host hoping that you can avoid many of the mistakes I’ve made during my otherwise adventurous career. Now back to the broadcast, or narrowcast with one final thought on leadership:

You Gotta Stop Watering Dead Plants

If you’ve gotten to the leadership level, part of it is probably because you’re tenacious. You don’t give up. You keep on well beyond the point most would call it quits. If there’s a challenge, you fix it. Including people. But people aren’t machines. Or spread sheets. You can’t always fix their performance. And if you’re spending an exorbitant amount of time on these people, you may well be neglecting those who are ready and willing to take the next step forward. Be honest with yourself on who deserves your time and how much of it. Cool?

Well, that about wraps up our fifth episode of Navigating the Fustercluck.

I’m your host, Wegs, like eggs with a W, here at Deaf Mule Studios. And that indeed is our 5nd show. Thanks for listening in. Until then, please feel free to reach out to us on Twitter at Navigating F. And remember, we’re all in this together, so thanks for doing your best to buck the cluck. Here’s to you. Here’s to the future.