The Law of the Skunk

Engage in behaviors that have high return on energy, ROE.

Stinky things you tolerate – but should confront – suck the life out of you.

Law of the skunk: deal with stink.

Let stink singe your nose hairs. Whatever you do, don’t turn away.

Rot stinks.

A mouse recently died in my office wall. You smell the aftereffects of death.

Something that stinks today – died a long while ago.

  1. Avoidance validates behaviors that suck the life out of you.
  2. Avoidance energizes behaviors that defeat teams.

Crap stinks.

My wife and I walk through farmland. It stinks when they spread cow manure.

Someone is spreading crap if something stinks.

  1. Backstabbing is crap.
  2. Blame is crap. You are 100% responsible for your team’s performance. Habitual poor performance is the result of tolerance.
  3. Uncommitted team members spread crap. The uncommitted find fault. The committed find a way.

5 ways to deal with stink:

  1. Curiosity trumps confrontation. Evaluative questions focus on what happened, but you haven’t dealt with stink until you ask, “What will you do next time?”
  2. Stop being nose blind. Intolerance surpasses tolerance when it comes to things that stink in your organization. You’ve been living with things that stink so long, you’ve gone nose blind. Investigate failure. 
  3. Seeking feedback. You’ve gone nose blind to your own stink.
  4. Taking 100% responsibility for your team’s success. The worst excuse is the one you make for someone else.
  5. Assume the best, unless you’ve tolerated a track record of irresponsibility. You are responsible for the things you tolerate.

Intolerance is an asset when it comes to things you should investigate and improve. You never thrive when you tolerate stink.

What would you say to nose blind leaders?

How might dealing with stink have high ROE?