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.
A mouse recently died in my office wall. You smell the aftereffects of death.
Something that stinks today – died a long while ago.
- Avoidance validates behaviors that suck the life out of you.
- Avoidance energizes behaviors that defeat teams.
My wife and I walk through farmland. It stinks when they spread cow manure.
Someone is spreading crap if something stinks.
- Backstabbing is crap.
- Blame is crap. You are 100% responsible for your team’s performance. Habitual poor performance is the result of tolerance.
- Uncommitted team members spread crap. The uncommitted find fault. The committed find a way.
5 ways to deal with stink:
- 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?”
- 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.
- Seeking feedback. You’ve gone nose blind to your own stink.
- Taking 100% responsibility for your team’s success. The worst excuse is the one you make for someone else.
- 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?
Hey, Dan. This is a bit harsh but a lot honest. : )
Thanks for the feedback Donna. I don’t know if it helps, but I write for myself. 🙂
Very valuable at this moment…measuring team performance by the values of our organization. Have one employee that is high performing but in all the wrong areas…I’m constantly cleaning up after her and have found myself making excuses for not separating her from he organization. I need to step up…
Thanks for your transparency Lynne.
Running interference is an interesting situation. Sometimes it makes sense. We all need to learn to deal with each other’s weaknesses. There comes a point when someone needs to take their weaknesses elsewhere.
Solid article on the skunk!
I like this phrase…
You have to care enough to confront!
I like the phrase you used… you are responsible for what you tolerate!
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Thanks Bill. We reach an important milestone in leadership when confrontation is an expression of a caring heart rather than an angry spirit. Love the quote you added.
Wow – love this!
This is so true: “Avoidance energizes behaviors that defeat teams.”
Thanks Sue. My best thought is using curiosity in the place of avoidance. But, that can get us into trouble too.
When curiosity gets you in trouble, reconnect with positive intentions and evaluate behaviors.
Don’t forget all that elephant DUNG from the elephants in the room! It can make your eyes water.
Thanks Michael. Good one!!! For some reason the eye watering power of ammonia came to mind. 🙂
You had me hooked on Considering this post with the title. Typically, I think about what the title of any piece suggests BEFORE the first read. It be ings up some connections with my interests, learning, and experience: typically, it deepens my understanding OR suggests links / refinements / thinking (counter to my present perceptions or understanding) much more quickly.
Certainly the case here!!! Love this quote from this post: “Something that stinks today – died a long while ago.” Message I received: Stay alert to all facets in your life. Consider them for changes and revisions regularly – BEFORE the stink reminds us we procrastinated too long!!!
Hey John. Great seeing you. Thanks for the feedback, I’m honing my content for a book and it really helps when people tell me what works or doesn’t work for them.
Leaders walk the hall like Smokey the Bear, “Howling and a prowling and a sniffing the air. He can smell a fire before it starts to flame.”
I wonder if an alternative title might be…Big Nosed Leaders are Better than Small Nosed Leaders.
This post resonated with me, as I have been thinking about stink a lot recently: my own (I recently discovered that I suck at timely communication) and the stink resulting from the behavior of a staff member (drama, distraction, attacked / questioned integrity and reputations, divisiveness). MY stink is easier…not easier to hear, but easier to address…I need to learn how to NOT suck at timely communication… but dealing with the other stink is a little more complicated. I’ve been weighing it against what Simon Sinek has to say in “Leaders Eat Last” regarding Circle of Trust…what if others in the organization don’t see / smell the stink the same way? Perhaps the source of the stink isn’t clear to all…what happens when I address the stink and others feel that I addressed the wrong source? What might have I contributed to this stink?
I’m sure Dan is going to have some great advode but I felt compelled to share my own experience too hoping that it might help.
Screwing up quite a few of those types of conversations over the years I finally just started laying it out there as lovingly and respectfully as I could and to my amazement nearly every single person, every single time appreciated I cared enough to tell them and share how they were affected others.
Just like you and I don’t want to suck, neither do they. Just tell them. But do it from a place of care for them and the team and more than likely it’s going to work out. (But have a witness too just in case).
Hi Dan & Bryan – Bryan, it is refreshing to hear a leader admit to some smelliness. My most recent experience with smelly leadership was so stinky that I was placed in a position to decide between staying and taking a stand or leaving for my sanity.
For leaders, avoidance is often a way to ignore smelly situations but for staff with smelly leaders, they are caught between the job, the colleagues, the children they teach, their reputation.
I chose to have the conversation that other staff tell me should/could have been had years before but fear holds many a good people back from calling out the smelliness. And in my situation, the leader turned. It damaged my emotional health and many friends outside of this school advised me to get out.
Dan, what do you advise someone who is “just a teacher” who believes that the leader/s are very smelly?
For me, over here in Australia, I’ve chosen to become an education consultant helping teachers to be all that they can be and more but I’d also like to help leaders remember that they were, and remain, first and foremost, “just a teacher.”
What a great way to think about and visualize problems on a team. It reminds me of Blanchard’s monkey analogy for tasks/problems.
Great post Dan.
In concept, this is a GREAT ARTICLE….BUT in the context of a Government Job Site…..MUCH EASIER SAUID than done due to “Dirty, Good Ole’ Boy Politics” and the “Elites” that can be in control of the Government Site (Though NOT ALWAYS the case…..there ARE, AND HAVE BEEN EXCEPTIONS).
Case in point:. A number of years ago at a Government Site, CLOSE Colleagues of mine told me of a certain situation at another company they worked for. MY COLLEAGUES could DO NOTHING to get a certain OSHA 30.-Hour Site Superintendent thrown off the Government Site, DESPITE THE FACT the OSHA 30-Hour Site Superintendent was DOING COCAINE before work started at another area of the Government Site with another Corporate Executive from another Government Subcontractor on Government Property EVERY MORNING!!
ONCE HIGH ON COKE, the Site Superintendent would show up at My Colleague’s Site Footprint and would put the Health & Safety of the ENTIRE CREW in jeopardy on a daily basis. This shady character even tried to pick a fight with my close Colleague IN FRONT OF MY COLLEAGUE’S CLIENT!!!
Why was the Site Superintendent NOT ABLE TO BE FIRED?? Easy answer: “Dirty Good Ole’ Boy Politics”, plain and simple!! The CEO and OWNER of my Colleague’s Company had a Brother-In-Law that was part of the “Elite” who were in control of the Government Site. Therefore, the Site Superintendent was being PROTECTED by the Prime because he was making the Prime and the Sub ALOT of money!!
hE WAS UNTOUCHABLE!!!
Anyone who thinks this story is B.S. or untrue obviously has not been around or inside “The Government Game” long, enough to see it, have turned a blind eye to it themselves, are incredibly naive, OR ARE INVOLVED IN THE CORRUPTION THEMSELVES…..PERIOD!!!
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