Where the Hammer Will Fall the Hardest

The courage to make the decision to act in the first place is the thing that is lacking the most.

The courage to raise our hands, take responsibility, and to engage with accountability (rather than assigning blame or taking credit) is the work that your children will eventually be paid for.

But not handsomely.

It’s also the work that you’re not getting paid for now, but that your boss, team leader, supervisor, or coach really wants you to lean into.

The people who understand these two principles, that are now coming online as fundamentals of development, engagement, and interaction between people, will “win” the future.

In case you’re thinking “Well what if I don’t want to be responsible beyond my own desire to be? What’s the future look like for me and my children?”

The top three areas of growth, innovation, and development (which will translate to wealth making and value creation in the future) will be in the following areas if the current trajectory of education, work, organizations, and society, doesn’t change significantly:

Making something so “new,” no one has ever thought of it.

Working for the person who made the “new” thing.

Selling the “new” thing.

But since “new” things only come along once in a great while (i.e. the car, the I-phone, the Internet, etc.) the chances of being able to survive as a visionary as the first one are slim.

Which means that in the next two areas, working for someone who’s innovating, or selling the innovation, education, work, organizations, and society need more individual people to behave courageously, engage where it’s uncomfortable, and do the things that are hard now in the present-day, which will resemble a game of patty cake later.

Courage (the lack of it, the abundance of it, or just enough of it) is where the hammer of the unknown in the future will fall the hardest.

Are your children ready?

Are you?

What We Can Have

There can be truth and justice and civility in a civil society.

For if we sacrifice any of the three—in service of achieving any one of the others—the pillars of civil society fall apart.

And then, we become the very monsters of oppression we are fighting to destroy.

Leaving Workplaces

Studies show that people don’t leave workplaces, they leave bosses.

And at a deeper level, people don’t leave workplaces, or bosses, they leave the conflict cultures that are developed, tolerated and supported in the organization.

We can argue all we want for better workplaces (that certainly happens in this space) and we can all argue for people trapped inside of organizations to be more intentional and use better strategies to address the conflict cultures they are already in (that happens here as well) but what’s tolerated, developed, and supported must change first.

Or else, we must come to the realization that we pick the conflict culture of the organizations we’re working for.

And we pick to stay there, in spite of them, as well.

Grace from Here to the Moon

The steps toward forgiveness and reconciliation include the giving of—and getting of—grace.

We don’t often think about grace (other than maybe as a person’s name, in light of physical attributes, or as a ritual that some families perform before a meal) but the fact is, there used to be public, shared discourse around grace, regardless of politics, emotions, educational attainment, or material situation.

This was grace in the Christian conception of such a term, meaning “God’s unmerited favor.”

Webster’s New World College Dictionary provides this theological definition of grace: “The unmerited love and favor of God toward human beings; divine influence acting in a person to make the person pure, morally strong; the condition of a person brought to God’s favor through this influence; a special virtue, gift, or help given to a person by God.” This definition is based in virtue harkening toward a strong moral core.

Another way of framing grace is that it is getting what we least deserve, when we least expect it, through no effort of our own.

Getting grace implies faith and surrender.

Giving grace implies forgiveness and reconciliation.

Understanding and appreciating the depth of the need for grace and the skillset to give grace is implanted in people through developing a strong moral center.

This is deep and dark waters though, because moral centers (and the ballast that undergirds them) are so very rarely considered by individuals at depth, much less by societies at scale, in countries where the Church is no longer as powerful a moral force as it once was.

We outsource parts of our emotional life to politics that we used to outsource to the Church. The Church used to be a bulwark of morality—even in the face of conflicts so detrimental and consequential that they used to escalate to World Wars.

But the skills that undergird giving grace—such as humility, obedience, and discipline—are harder to acquire now than ever before both individually and corporately. And when the skills that undergird giving grace are lacking, getting grace seems as unattainable as going to the moon on the back of a cardboard rocket.

Grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation; these are what the world—and our civil discourse—need now.

On Holiday

Taking a holiday from conflict—either from managing them or resolving them—is something too many of us are engaged in too regularly.

A holiday is supposed to be a break and a time of renewal, yes, but it is also to be a time of mindfulness, refocusing, reframing, and rededicating ourselves, our behavior, our thoughts, and our feelings toward the future.

As has been recently said, holidays are a time on, not a time off.

Holidays are also a time for genuine celebration.

Celebrations come with different traditions, but practicing traditions (such as taking a day off) without understanding or appreciating the deeper meaning behind them, is hollow religion of the worst kind.

With that being stated work (or at least our modern conception of work) is considered a practice that a holiday is a break from.

But some of the best work is performed when a person is engaged with mindfulness, refocusing, reframing, and rededication to the outcomes, people, and relationships that matter.

Taking a holiday from conflict management, or from pursuing resolution, is a practice worthy of being abolished.

Go to work.

The original founders behind holidays—particularly those focused around renewal, unification, and reconciliation—would want you to go to work.

Strategy is a Skill

It is important to note that strategy in managing people in conflicts is still considered by many to be a talent, rather than an attainable skill.

In a conflict, thinking about how to manage it effectively requires exercising all the same planning and engagement that engaging in the conflict in and of itself does.

However, the pushback against this type of thinking most often comes in the form of the complaints that “strategy is too hard” or that “people are unpredictable.”

Individual people may be unpredictable, but general human behavior is predictable, and outcomes from such behavior are even more predictable depending upon which conflict management behavior it is that a party chooses.

Good, effective strategy, that produces satisfactory outcomes requires intentionality.

To plan strategically, understanding three points intuitively begins the process:

  1. Know what you can manage in a conflict around stress, anger, fear, and failure. Without knowing yourself, knowing the other party becomes that harder.
  2. Have the courage to care and be curious. The number one reason negotiations around conflicts fail, is due to genuine lack of curiosity by one party, about the other party’s motives, opinions, and desires for resolution—or management—of a conflict scenario.
  3. Realize that the conflict process is messy and, unlike a chess game, if you plan one step ahead of the other party (rather than two—or seven) your conflict goals toward management and resolution have a greater chance of success.

There is strategy involved in attaining the skills of humility, self-awareness, responsibility, and even empathy.

Almost as much strategy as is involved in letting things “just go,” not paying attention, focusing on issues in the conflict that don’t matter, and not understanding the nature of the conflict (and the other party) that you’re in the arena with.

Strategy to manage and resolve conflicts is a skill that can be learned. Almost in the same way—and at the same level—that extending and not resolving conflict is a skill that is learned.

Raising and Lowering Expectations

There are two actions that you can do with expectations in a conflict situation:

Raise them.

Lower them.

Raising expectations (either through pursuing management, resolution, or reconciliation of a conflict) comes with its own set of problems. When expectations are raised, they wind up being discussed. When they are discussed, they can be agreed upon, or disagreed with, but they cannot be ignored.

Which is what happens when expectations are not raised.

Raising expectations also involves heightening the other party’s desires, needs, and wants—or their expectations—and sometimes this can be damaging if you don’t think that you can fulfill unmet expectations that have already been raised.

Or the unmet ones that haven’t been raised.


Lowering expectations (either through downplaying outcomes, ignoring raised expectations, or just not bringing them up in the first place) brings more complications than raising expectations. When expectations are lowered, they wind up being resented as even being in evidence in the first place. When that resentment builds, it can be addressed, ignored, or added to the list of issues to be resolved, reconciled, or managed.

Which is what happens when the conflict is seen less as a process to be experienced and more as an arena where one version of reality will win, and another version must inevitably lose.

Both raising and lowering expectations comes with conflict consequences.

It’s probably a good idea to be strategic about which set of consequences you’d rather address as an antecedent to resolution.

Pushing Your Chips Forward

“There’s a real lack of moral fiber,” he said, before launching into a story about local criminality, theft, drug smuggling, and a situation that—while murder may not have happened yet—was certainly in the offering.

“It’s almost like No Country For Old Men,” another party in the conversation quipped. Trying to recall the lines from the film, I misquoted, so I’ll quote accurately here from Ed Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones [emphasis mine]:

“…You can’t help but compare yourself against the old timers. Can’t help but wonder how they would have operated these times.

There was this boy I sent to the ‘lectric chair at Huntsville Hill here a while back. My arrest and my testimony. He killt a fourteen-year-old girl. Papers said it was a crime of passion but he told me there wasn’t any passion to it.

Told me that he’d been planning to kill somebody for about as long as he could remember.

Said that if they turned him out he’d do it again.

Said he knew he was going to hell. “Be there in about fifteen minutes”.

I don’t know what to make of that. I sure don’t. The crime you see now, it’s hard to even take its measure. It’s not that I’m afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. But, I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He’d have to say, “O.K., I’ll be part of this world.”

A person observes it happening and the temptation is to believe that it has always been this way. The sky has always been falling, and it’s always been the end of the world.

But the reality is, things really have changed and our conflict culture (which used to be focused around, first going along to get along) is now increasingly focused on winning at the expense of everything else.

When the clarity of fiction sheds light on the murkiness of facts, the problem revealed is deep at the core of our culture and society.

The further away culture drifts from a moral core, the harder civility and grace become, both as states to attain and as skills to practice.

We see this fact in our conflict communication, in the tools that ramp up and give power to the tendencies we already had, and in the interactions, we allow to happen to us on a daily basis.

How many of us are willing to push our chips forward and meet something, without moral fiber, that we don’t understand?

H/T to the Anonymous Storyteller who mentioned this to me.


In every training, workshop, seminar, or presentation, there are participants who don’t want the stories, the philosophies, or the underlying data.

They merely want the skills.

The bullet points that will allow them to plug-in to a situation or conflict, and make it turn out in the most optimum way possible.

For them.

Unfortunately, the skills that they are seeking to learn are not the ones we need to acquire for success in the work world of today—and tomorrow.

How do we determine what skills we do need be learning, though?

A good rule of thumb is to observe carefully the patterns of behavior that you’re engaged in that may not be getting you the outcomes you think that you deserve.

Once that observation is complete, then act to change those patterns of behavior. Get a conflict accountability “buddy.” Gather with others who have overcome the patterns of conflict behavior that you have overcome and share your stories.

And lastly, engage with your new skills by making some tough choices. Some of them will not be easy, particularly if they involve family, friends, or workplaces that are toxic, not supportive of your change process, or that wield power over you in subtle (and not so subtle) ways.

And once you’ve partially gotten through this path to learning skills that are based in what we do need more of (empathy, courage, moral clarity, responsibility, and accountability) then write about what you’ve done and the path that you’ve walked to get to where you are now.

We need more people writing, making videos, and recording podcasts, about how they’ve actually learned the skills that work, rather than more fluff about the spectacles that entertain.

At that point, and only at that point, will the listicle dragon be slain.

Human to Business Sales

Selling to people in businesses is hard for three important reasons:

  1. There are very few (or no) champions of your product or service offering because no one knows how good your product or service offering is inside the organization you’re selling to.
  2. There are no direct ways to influence the people who can make the decision to buy from you—today.
  3. There has been a massive shift in consumer behavior, but not a massive shift how businesses purchase from you based in the reality of shifting consumer behavior.

These are big problems and they’re getting bigger because the practice of creating buyer personas still dominates in a big way in almost every piece of advice available around advising organizations on how to sell to organizations.

While buyer personas are a fine shorthand for figuring out the profile in your head as a seller to businesses, the downfall of them is that they neglect each of the three areas above. In addition, they depersonalize the act of buying (or purchasing or procurement) and attempt to reduce it to a series of formulaic and discreet steps.

Which, of course, makes the three reasons above more problematic, not less.

Here are three ideas that may help when you’re selling (peace, consulting, freelance solutions, or even you’re next “gee-whiz” product to a skeptical procurement buyer):

Champions are easy to get (and even easier to lose), but require engaging with personality, care, and empathy.

Most of the people who are going to become your champions are the ones who have the power to say “no” but no power to say “yes.”

There are still gatekeepers in many organizations, and going where they are (in-person, online, emotionally, rationally, etc.) will go a long way toward engaging with them.

You must determine if buying today is all that matters, or if arbitraging the time to build a relationship today against the dollars that you are going to get tomorrow, matters more in the long run.

The short run will take care of itself.

Does your selling strategy include a 1,000-year long plan?

The reality of consumer behavior means that buyer personas are dead as predictors of selling success in the B2B space.

It also means that running after every social platform for sales is also dead.

This is a good thing.

In principle, this means that consumer behavior in business to business sales is the same behavior in business to consumer sales, but the volume of the connection is lower.

In practice, this means that targeted videos on a YouTube channel, embedded in an email campaign, direct to a buyer, matter more than the number of Facebook likes you happen to be cultivating that aren’t converting to sales.

In practice, this also means that providing value to the small number of businesses you work with as a selling organization, trumps the number of actual businesses that you work with.

Or that you think you should work with.

Champions, behavior, targeted engagement, and long-term strategy matter more for business success than just closing the sale and moving on to the next client.