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Management and militarism: Just who are we fighting?

Management and militarism: Just who are we fighting?
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Two of the greatest influences on management thinking and practice have been the militaristic politics of the Roman Empire (via the Roman Catholic Church—a masterpiece of top-down, centralized, hierarchical control) and the world’s armies.

Look at the words we use: “command and control,” “stuck in the trenches,” “didn’t have the firepower.” We “attack the issues head-on.” When people oppose us they “shoot down our ideas” or “get us from behind,” forcing us to “retreat in disorder” or “give up without a fight.”

Management and leadership books are full of military phrases. Leaders are expected to be “steady under fire” and “take the fight to the opposition.” Colleagues praise those who “tough it out” and “show what they’re made of.” For small businesses, there is “Guerilla Marketing.” Even words like strategy, tactics, and leadership itself began on the battlefield.

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Does it matter? I think it does. The words we use to describe things reflect our mind-set in thinking about them. To a large extent, they determine the way we think about issues and the solutions we choose.

The distinctive language of Hamburger Management
If a manager describes competition with another company as “a war to the death” or “a fight to the finish,” a subtle message is being conveyed that this isn’t going to be a civilized rivalry between organizations. Warlike language produces warlike thoughts. If a team is told to “take the other guys down,” they’re not going to hear that as an instruction to behave with courtesy, sensitivity, or understanding.

All this macho, militaristic language, with its overtones of fighting and winning, inevitably produces an effect in the hearers. If we constantly “attack problems” and “take no prisoners,” where is the need to understand or get to the heart of issues? In our haste to “chalk up a victory,” there’s no space or time for compassion or thoughtfulness.

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Militaristic language is also quintessentially masculine. Perhaps that’s another, hidden aspect of the problems women face in organizations. If success is described in masculine terms—“winning the fight” and “destroying the opposition”—it’s little wonder if career women feel the only way to succeed is to take on masculine attributes.

Hamburger Management—that mix of aggression, cost-cutting, macho posturing, and ultra-short-term thinking that characterizes so many organizations today—uses harsh and warlike language almost as a reflex. That’s because it so accurately represents that way of thinking, with its emphasis on winning at all costs and “taking no prisoners.” And the more that type of language is accepted into executive suites, board rooms, and even training classes, the less likely we are to see the behavior implied by such language as unacceptable in any way.

Beware what you call things
It’s time we thought more carefully about the words we use and what that is doing to our thinking. Are the military virtues of aggression, dash, obedience, and heroic resistance truly what we need in organizational life? Do we want every disagreement turned into a “last-ditch defense” and every rivalry into a “fight for territory?”

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William Tecumseh Sherman said “War is cruelty” and he knew, better then most, what he was talking about. Importing the language of war into boardrooms and management suites quickly brings some of the cruelty along with it.

At the start of the twenty-first century, it seems our corporate leaders —like many of our middle managers too—are being encouraged to act more like Roman centurions battling the barbarian hordes than thinking, civilized managers.

Is that what we really want? When managers retire, do we want the “war stories” they tell their grandchildren to be truly tales of war?

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Be careful with your words. People around you will pick up on the overtones and subtle implications of what you say, as much as the meaning itself. Your subordinates will often act as you sound, not just as you ask. Customers too.

Unless you want your daily work to take place on a battleground, try using language that better expresses the civilized arena we would all like our workplaces to become.

Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order, who now lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life, and its companion site Slower Living. His recent articles on similar topics include When organizational loyalty creates a culture of fear and The importance of NOT doing things. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization, is now available at all good bookstores.

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019

8 Life-Changing Skills You Can Learn in Less Than 6 Months

8 Life-Changing Skills You Can Learn in Less Than 6 Months

Everyone has the ability to learn a life-changing skill not just this year, but in the next 6 months.

By life-changing, I mean something that can have a positive impact in your life moving forward, even if it’s something you can’t envision today. Certain skills we can immediately reap the benefits of, while others will be life-changing when we least expect it.

In this article, we’ll share 8 life-changing skills you can learn in 6 months, where you can learn them, and how you can get started today.

1. Speed reading

Bill Gates has been known to state that if he had one superpower, it would be the ability to read faster. What Bill and the rest of the mega-successful understand is that knowledge is power. The ability to process information faster from books, articles, and reports is what will help us learn faster, and therefore improve each aspect of our life faster as well.

Where you can start learning: Speed reading courses are becoming more popular, as more people realize how important it is with the limited time we have. You can check out free courses like Read Speeder or you can start learning how to use Spritzlet, which allows you to speed read articles online with a browser extension.

2. Public speaking

Research shows that people fear public speaking more than death itself. There’s something terrifying about being in front of dozens or hundreds of people, and exposing yourself completely. It’s when you’re most vulnerable, but learning how to public speak is a life-changer.

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Warren Buffett has given advice to recent graduates that the number one skill you can have to succeed is public speaking skills. Everything from communication, confidence, and sales is developed when you develop your public speaking skills.

Where you can start learning: Luckily, there are great communities out there like Toastmasters that organize local meetups all around the world. You’ll find amazing public speakers that are looking to get to the next level to beginners that are just getting started. Check out Toastmasters’ website here.

3. Spanish

As the third most spoken language in the world, the ability to speak Spanish will allow you to reach over 500M people around the world. No matter where you live, knowing how to speak Spanish is becoming increasingly more important, with the Hispanic population and economy spreading quickly worldwide. If you’re living in the US, this is even more important, with over 30% of the population being Hispanic.

Spanish is also on this list, because it’s one of the easiest languages to learn. Sure, Mandarin is an important language to learn, but it’s an incredibly difficult one to learn. If we were to measure the level of importance and the time to learn for all the languages available, Spanish would make it to the top of the list.

One of the biggest reasons why people never reach fluency in any foreign language is: using the wrong method, and lack of time.

It turns out that humans retain only 5% of what we learn from lectures, 20% of what we learn from apps (visual cues), and 90% of what we learn from immediate immersion. Yet, how do 90% of learn a new foreign language? Language schools (lectures), books, Duolingo (apps), etc that don’t provide the real-life immersion required for our brains to learn faster.

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Where to get started: If you want the most effective way to learn a language, learning from real-life interactions is the best way to do it. There are great websites like Rype, which offers Spanish coaching for busy people, solving the issue of lack of time and bringing real-life immersion to your screen. With Rype, you can book as many lessons as you want, at any time of the day, any day of the week, allowing you to fit it into your schedule, no matter how busy you are.

4. Accounting

If you’re looking to get into business, accounting is one of the core fundamentals you’ll need to succeed. While you don’t need to be an expert, you definitely should understand the basics.

This skill can also be used to manage your personal finances, to meet your financial goals, and having more control over your life.

Where to get started learning: If you didn’t learn accounting in school, no worries. You can either teach yourself using books, or check out free accounting courses online.

5. Microsoft Excel

Most people reading this probably have a basic understanding of Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet. While this is a good start, there are so many powerful functionalities that are hidden, which could make your life a lot easier.

Excel is also a great asset to have whenever you’re looking for a job, as many corporations rely on Excel to organize and manage multiple parts of the business.

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Where to get started learning: With the popularity of Excel, you can find tons of free resources and videos online to learn. Check out Excel Exposure, Lynda, and Excel with Business.

6. Blogging/Vlogging

Blogging is a powerful tool if you want to spread your ideas, build your brand, or grow your business. Since it was introduced, blogging has taken on a life of its own, and today there are ~2M blog posts being written on a daily basis.

Where to get started learning: Anyone can start blogging today. All you need is a content-management system like WordPress, which is completely free. Personally, I think the best way to start learning how to blog is to just start writing. There are techniques you can learn on how to promote your blog, but the best way to grow your blog is to write great content.

7. Weight training

Yes, weight training is a skill. It’s not as advanced as learning how to code, nor will it take as long as learning a new language, if you just want to learn the basics.

We’re not promising that you’ll get a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but you will see much faster results for whatever goal you have, just by understanding how to workout properly. And of course, when you’re dealing with an activity that involves physical strain, you’ll always want to caution yourself.

Where to get started learning: There are amazing body builders that are sharing all of their secrets for free on Youtube. You can check out Bodybuilding.com’s Youtube channel to get started.

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8. Photo and video editing

In the digital world that we live in, from Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook, there is no avoiding photos and videos. In fact, social media has increasingly gone away from text sharing and almost everything to photo and video editing.

Where to get started learning: For photo editing, you can use Photoshop. For video editing, you can use iMovie or Final Cut Pro. Keep in mind, there are dozens of editing software tools for video and photo editing, but what’s more important are your editing skills, not the tool itself.

Check out education websites like CreativeLIVE or Skillshare, where you can learn from experts themselves on how to best use design and software tools.

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