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August 20, 2014 Volume 14, Issue 34
 
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You Can't Control What Other People Think

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Ever think that the world would be a much better place if you could control what other people think? Maybe it would be. And maybe not...
A rescue puppy

A rescue puppy. Photo courtesy Animal Services Department of the City of San Marcos, Texas.

Maybe you've never thought this, but many people have: "The World would be a better place if only people would think like I do." Rarely is this a useful thought. You can influence others, once in a while, maybe. But you can't control what other people think. The evidence is overwhelming.

In a world where people can control what other people think:

  • …there will be only one brand of toothpaste, and we'll all like it
  • …meetings will be much shorter because we'll always agree about everything and we'll all arrive on time
  • …there will be no divorce lawyers, because there will be no divorces
  • …there will be a broccoli shortage because the broccoli people will figure out how to make everyone like it
  • …there will be no need for war, bullies, editorials, elections, cosmetics, or advertising. Hmmm. Sounds pretty good.
  • …we'll be able to control what we ourselves think (I don't know about you, but I can't do that now)
  • …we won't lose as many arguments because everyone will have the same opinion
  • …we won't have to dress to impress anyone else, because we'll figure out other ways to impress them that don't involve dry cleaning
  • …there will be no salespeople because everyone with something to sell will know how to make us want it
  • …we won't have to say You can't control what other
    people think. The evidence
    is overwhelming.
    no to anyone because we'll know how to force them to withdraw their requests or not make them in the first place
  • …we'll be able to trust everyone
  • …our supervisors will love everything we do
  • …the people we supervise will love doing whatever we ask them to do
  • …all projects will have the resources and time their people think they need (but they will still be wrong by 100%)
  • …cable news programs will still be bad, but instead of their guests yelling at each other, they will all agree with each other
  • …children will rule the world
  • …no, never mind, dogs will rule the world
  • …lying will actually work
  • …performance reviews will all be "exceeds expectations"
  • …raises will still be low, but we'll think they're fine
  • …employers won't provide paid vacation time, because we'll all be perfectly happy working 52 weeks
  • …everyone will be patriotic in ways we approve of
  • …there will be no new ideas because everyone will think, "Hey, I thought of that, too"
  • …we'll all be wrong at exactly the same time, in exactly the same way
  • …there will be only one country
  • …people will probably still argue about religion (some things never change)

So, are you convinced that you can't control what other people think? No? Well, I can't control what you think. Go to top Top  Next issue: Deep Trouble and Getting Deeper  Next Issue
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Most targets of bullies just want the bullying to stop, but most bullies don't stop unless they fear for their own welfare if they continue the bullying. To end the bullying, targets must turn the tables.
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Some see workplace politics and integrity as inherently opposed. One can participate in politics, or one can have integrity — not both. This belief is a dangerous delusion.
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If you're ever in a tight spot in a meeting, one in which you must defend your actions or past decisions, the soundness of your arguments can matter less than your demeanor. What can you do when someone intends to make you "lose it?"
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Many idolize the no-nonsense manager who says, "I don't want to hear excuses, just make it happen." We associate that stance with strong leadership. Sometimes, though, it's little more than abuse motivated by ambition or ignorance — or both.

See also Workplace Politics and Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

Forthcoming Issues of Point Lookout

Langston Hughes, poet and leader of the Harlem RenaissanceComing September 2: That Was a Yes-or-No Question: Part II
When, in the presence of others, someone asks you "a simple yes or no" question, beware. Chances are that you're confronting a trap. Here's Part II of a set of suggestions for dealing with the yes-or-no trap. Available here and by RSS on September 2.
Navy vs. Marine Corps tug off war in Vera Cruz, Mexico ca. 1910-1915And on September 9: Holding Back: Part I
When members of teams or groups hold back their efforts toward achieving group goals, schedule and budget problems can arise, along with frustration and destructive intra-group conflict. What causes this behavior? Available here and by RSS on September 9.

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Most Ten Project Management Fallaciesof what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

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On 14The Race to the South Pole: The Organizational Politics of Risk Management December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in risk management, its application to organizational efforts, and how workplace politics enters the mix. A fascinating and refreshing look at risk management from the vantage point of history and workplace politics. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

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TeamsTeam Development for Leaders at work are often teams in name only — they're actually just groups. True teams are able to achieve much higher levels of performance than groups can. In this program, Rick Brenner shows team leads and team sponsors the techniques they need to form their groups into teams, and once they are teams, how to keep them there. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

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