An edited excerpt from Workplace Warrior: People Skills For The No-Bullshit Executive
The Battle Plan
(This is an edited excerpt from Workplace Warrior: People Skills For The No-Bullshit Executive. Please add your comments and perspective.)
A no-bullshit executive demonstrates the ability to get results in seemingly impossible situations. They accomplish this with a work ethic that accepts nothing less than always giving their all and making sure their projects are done on time and within bud- get. They are always goal focused. They drive for results, demand discipline, and hold their people and everyone else accountable— relentlessly. Even above-average performers may wonder where the no-bullshit executive gets the energy to keep going.
Warriors are the elite class of no-bullshit executives—the best of the best. This elite group includes military leaders—literal warriors—committed to completing their mission and protecting both their team and noncombatants in situations most people would describe as impossible. As used in this book, the term includes business leaders working around the clock to launch a start-up or bring a failing business back to profitability. Warriors can be leaders of nonprofit organizations working tirelessly to serve under-resourced communities. They are doctors and nurses in an emergency room dedicated to saving injured people after a severe accident. Mothers and fathers can be warriors as well. This book is intended to help you embrace that elite status and to use it to accomplish incredible things.
So, as a no-bullshit executive—and maybe a warrior—what is your motivation? If you are like most no-bullshit executives, you have a combination of three motives: being the best and/or being right, achieving great results, and serving. Each of us has our own unique mix of these qualities, but they’re the crucial makeup of a no-bullshit executive. Your motivation to be the best makes you want to become CEO, destroy your competitors, and generally kick butt. As you have evolved, you have grown from wanting to win for yourself to wanting your team or your company to be number one.
Your motivation to achieve makes you commit to accomplishing great—some people would say impossible—things. For you, it might be turning around a failing company, achieving unbelievable business results, or designing a disruptive innovation. If you are in the medical field, that goal might be curing a disease that takes millions of lives and, until now, has been incurable.
Your motivation to serve makes you commit to eradicating poverty, ending oppression, or helping disabled veterans. On the lighter side, it may make you want to make technology easier to use or more available or to make legal or financial information available at a much lower cost. It may also make you committed to understanding and meeting the needs of your work colleagues and reports.
However, your high standards and constant drive for success might leave you frustrated and annoyed when others do not live up to your standards. Sometimes, you are not appreciated for your contribution to the success of your company or organization. You may have been called names like bully, jerk, hyena, narcissist, or toxic. If you are female, these names might have included bitch or ballbuster. In our current employee-relations environment, you are vulnerable to complaints and job action for disrespect, breach of company policy, discrimination, and creating a hostile work environment. Like many no-bullshit executives, you may think this is a bunch of politically correct garbage.
In some cases, you feel you have simply given honest, matter- of-fact feedback, and the people who received it were oversensitive. In other cases, you must admit you were impatient or sarcastic or perhaps crossed the line to disrespect. Still, it is hard for you to understand how it is possible that this is more of an issue than the behavior and performance of people who are not as committed as you, not as honest as you, and not producing as much as you.
You have some theories. Many no-bullshit executives think they get unfairly criticized because America has become “soft.” They ask themselves and others, “How is it bad that I expect people to perform at a consistently high level? Is it unreasonable to expect the people I work with to be able to deal with being told their performance is not what it could or should be? Isn’t that just treating them like adults? Are people so damn sensitive that they can’t handle an honest conversation?”
I get exasperated when I hear that some schools will not let children play tag in school because being “it” might hurt their self- esteem. In 2015, James Harrison, then of the Pittsburgh Steelers, set off a national debate when he refused to let his children keep participation trophies they had received in school. He wrote on Instagram,
“I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they earn a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to some- thing just because they tried their best . . . cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better . . . not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut you up and keep you happy.”
I see situations like this and can sympathize with Mr. Harrison’s impatience with our overprotective, even coddling culture. The purpose of this book is to help you continue to drive for success while covering your butt in our current, politically correct (or just overprotective) environment. On your way, I’ll be advising you to do the least you can do. You’ll see what I mean.
The Least You Can Do
“The Least You Can Do,” has two meanings: Either may apply to you. The first meaning is literal. You may believe that the pressure to be more respectful, to go easier on coworkers, or to get along better with others is a lot of PC nonsense. At the same time, you recognize that the recent events in the corporate world, Hollywood, and politics mean that if you continue leading and communicating in the same way, you risk an unhappy or shortened career. You are faced with the dilemma of protecting yourself by changing, although you do not believe you should have to make these changes. In this case, you may only want to literally do the very least you would have to do to protect yourself.
The second meaning is the pursuit of the morally, ethically, or professionally “right” thing to do. These are actions you would do even if all the pressure disappeared and you received no reward. For example, if someone in a wheelchair asked for help, you would certainly assist them to cross the street. If they offered to pay you, you might say, “Absolutely, not. This was the least I could do.”
If I do my job, you will decide to adopt the mindset and people skills presented in this book because they are the least you can do in this second sense. The good news is that, if you adopt this attitude and these tools, you can be 100% authentic, and you will be even more successful in achieving your goals than you already are. At the same time, you will be seen as tougher than you were seen before.
What makes this book different is the perspective about what it means to be a no-bullshit executive—and a warrior—that I have come to understand as a result of my volunteer work with The Honor Foundation (THF). THF is a nonprofit organization that helps the US Special Operations Forces transition to civilian life. These include the Navy SEALs, the Marine Raiders, the Green Berets, and the Air Force Pararescue men and Combat Controllers.
Because of my work with THF, I am better able to articulate that your warrior spirit is not recognized and appreciated in our current culture. Ultimately, this book is about challenging you to become a better no-bullshit executive. The point is not to convince you to start taking bullshit. It’s to help you become a better warrior.