What is the Manifesto* for Your Practice?

What are the Ethical, Practical Principles and Behaviors That Guide and Drive Your Practice?

The Seventh Discipline of the Trusted Strategic Advisor

My career has been more than forty years of refining what I stand for, always searching for the truth first and helping others do the same. I share this list with anyone interested, but especially those I’m advising. In order to be a truly successful Trusted Strategic Advisor, you need to teach what you coach in ways that help CEO’s absorb what you are talking about and do, in many cases, what you advise. You need to teach you right along with the advice you give.

This list keeps growing and so will yours. Start building your own practice manifesto now.

What will your practice manifesto look like? Here’s mine to get you started.

*A public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives. – dictionary.com

Jim’s Practice Manifesto

  1. Seek the truth first, find ethical, civil, and decent pathways, promptly and urgently.
  2. Truth is generally best expressed in positive declarative language and consists of 15% facts and data and 85% emotion and point of reference.

    There is a mistaken notion (from business schools) that the more facts presented the more likely the truth will emerge. The exact opposite is true. The more facts and data are released, the more confused people get, but more importantly, burying people, especially victims, in facts and data makes them feel stupid or foolish, and they get angrier and more powerful. The challenge of truth is understanding the emotionality of truth and especially the fact that there are different points of reference on every issue or question. In fact, there is a different point of reference for every witness, every victim, and everyone affected. Each of those points of reference is valid and true from the perspective of the person involved.

    The challenge of truth is always finding significant and important factual information but understanding, interpreting, and sometimes negotiating with people whose point of reference is very different from others involved in the same issue, situation, or problem.

    Management often uses facts and data as a defense against having to interpret, explore, and explain emotions. The more facts are used as weapons, the bigger your loss will be when you finally settle the issue.
  3. Use truth-hiding and truth-confusing techniques very carefully. Storytelling, metaphors, allegories, euphemisms, “ . . .in other words”, similes, and analogies rarely reveal, explore, or produce truth. Remember, these techniques are frequently used by liars. If something is a half-truth, it is a whole lie.
  4. Avoid known patterns of failure: silence: stalling: denial: victim-confusion: testosterosis: arrogance: searching for the guilty: fear of the media: whining. All of these behaviors build suspicion and anger.
  5. Ask better, tougher, more constructive questions than anyone else.
  6. Be 15 minutes early, or first.
  7.  Avoid surprises, forecast trouble (have a readiness plan in hand).
  8. Think before you edit, put your pencil down. Question all edits. Resist mindless editing. Seek simple, sensible, constructive explanations and information. Effective editing makes the truth easier to see, often in fewer words.
  9. Constantly challenge the standard assumptions and practices of our profession; build its importance, enhance the ability of all practitioners to better serve others from their perspective. Raise your hand. Speak up. Break the silence. Reveal the truth.
  10. Be productive, do the doable; know the knowable; get the getable; arrange the arrangeable, avoid the dumb and troublesome decisions and actions you know you should. Make a list. Remember. If you make a bad decision, never repeat it.
  11. Say things others fear to say, voice them first. Start with what is obvious and likely true. All crises ripen badly. In crises, things will always get worse before they can get better.
  12. Say less but make it more important. Write less but make it more meaningful and memorable.
  13. Go beyond what those you advise and those you work with already know or believe.
  14. Intend to make constructive, positive ethical differences every day. Keep a log.
  15. Intentionally look at every situation and circumstance from different, constructive, and surprising perspectives.
  16. Look out for the real victims. Always put victim interests first. Fail to do this and the victims will bury you.
  17. Remember, it’s your boss’s “bus.” They get to drive it wherever they want. Your role on “the bus” is to help the driver drive better. If you don’t like it, or them, can’t change it, or them, hop off, find another bus, or find and drive your own.
  18. Stop trying to save the day. The biggest staff mistake is to hang around in the vain belief that you can redeem yourself or, change how someone powerful does things, believes, and behaves. When they are done asking you and listening to you, find a new bus. When they have an opportunity to look a new direction, they surprise you by hiring an outsider and then you’re gone.
  19. Remember the loyalty exception: If whatever is happening on your bus is illegal, immoral, monumentally stupid, what are you doing there anyway? Leave that bus today and find a better one!
  20. Be aware that every issue, question, concern, or problem is a management/leadership issue, question, concern or problem (rather than a crisis) before it is any other kind of issue, question, concern or problem (including public relations).
  21. Start where leadership or management IS or you will end up in different places and fail.
  22. Strive for simple, sensible, sensitive, positive, constructive, compassionate, helpful, honorable, and ethical action options. All other approaches lead to trouble.
  23. The most usable advice format for leaders and managers to choose from is options. Always provide your advice as 3 options: doing nothing (0% option), doing something (100% option), doing something more (125% option). Let the person whose career is on the line choose the options and make the key decisions. That’s their job. Your job is to identify plausible, ethical, sensible, doable options from which managers and leaders can choose.
  24. Be Inconsistent. Inconsistency is the greatest virtue of strategy. The strategist’s greatest value is intentional inconsistency. If all you can provide are things the people around you already know, why are you there?
  25. Avoid, prevent, or stop Evil, the increasingly intentional harming of innocents and people without power. Innocents include vulnerable populations, animals and living creatures, and living systems (forests, bodies of water, the earth). (See V. below.)

My Fundamental Beliefs

  1. All questionable, inappropriate, unethical, unconscionable, immoral, predatory, improper, victim-producing, and criminal behaviors are intentional. Adults chose specifically to do wrong.
  1. All ethical, moral, compassionate, decent, civil, and lawful behaviors are also intentional.
  1. The choice is always clear and always yours.
  1. Those who lead with genuine integrity, civility, respect, decency, humility, and compassion are likely to be more ethical, and trustworthy.
  1. Unconscionable intentions, behaviors, actions, and decisions that vilify, demean, dismiss, diminish, humiliate, cause needless but intentional pain, express anger and irritation, demand or bully, are mean, negative, insulting, disrespectful, disparaging, tone-deaf, without empathy, that intentionally injure, accuse, overbear, are punitive, restrictive, exceed the boundaries of decency, civility, and integrity, are, in my judgement, all unethical.
  1. Teaching what I can do, how I can help, the perspectives I bring, this is the substance of the seventh discipline, teaching the CEO how to best utilize my skills and services. If it doesn’t work or only works for a limited time, be prepared to move on, because they may have for any number of reasons.

What About You?

What are the principles that guide your practice, your thinking, your actions? What does your practice manifesto look like? I am always open to conversations about all these ideas. Contact me at jel@e911.com, subject line: “Ethical and Practical Principles”. If you do write or call me, I will send you my powerful one-page “Model Personal Profile, The purposes and passions of my life”.