I am not a fan of cute little sayings that attempt to convey meaning. Some are accepted because they sound cool. Some, because they are repeated so often that people just come to believe they are true. We like familiar stuff – it feeds into our illusions of control.
Having said all that, there are still a few sayings that actually do convey some wisdom worth knowing (as I’m hitting snooze on the hypocrisy alarm). We’ll go through my worst five and then, the best five (unless I can’t think of five that I like). Here goes.
The worst trite advice:
5. “Don’t start the project until you know exactly what the outcome is and how long it will take.”
4. “When a change fails, it is mostly the fault of poor leadership.”
3. “There is often not time to explain a leader’s decisions to the team.”
2. “Sound documentation is the key to web development”
1. Any statement with the word “robust” in it. Did I run out of ideas, or have I just gotten tired of hearing the word “robust” abused in business? You decide.
Confucius didn’t say these things, but should have…
5. “It is easier to tear down a house than build one.” Middle brows love to tear apart ideas, presentations, and material created by others. I believe there is something to be learned from most material – read, think, and internalize what is good, and assign the bad (after careful consideration) to the mind’s archive without tearing down the author.
4. “Perfection is the enemy of good.” Or a variation from Michael Eisner “I learned not to confuse excellence with perfection.”
3. “Leadership is about showing, not telling.” this one comes from the Harvard Business Review’s collection of essays on Breakthrough Leadership. Good new research coming from HBR on leadership – stay tuned.
2. “Value expertise and intelligence above rank and title” From Laura D’Andrea Tyson in HBR. I’d also throw in words like “qualifications, appearance, and age.” You can guess on which side of the ledger each fits.
1. “Managers overrate knowing where they are going, understanding what business they are in, defining their mission. It is a macho, militaristic, and self-misleading posture. Giving up control in exchange for freedom, creativity, and inspired adaptation is my preference…” Ricardo Semler in HBR.