How To Be Smart While Showing Courage at Work
We begin our careers full of optimism. We expect to encounter people who are eager to hear what we have to say — as our teachers were in school or college. Over time, we hear stories of people who stick their necks out or go against the established thinking only to be assigned dead-end projects or even lose their jobs.
Given such evident risks, courage at work may seem ill-advised, however leadership experts suggest otherwise. Even in organizations where silent assent pervades, visibility and bold moves are usually rewarded more than reticence. Taking a risky act before you understand the political landscape, however, can result in career damage, and young people in particular are prone to taking risks without adequate knowledge of their professional landscape.
If you avoid risks, you lose the opportunity for both the learning and career progress that can result. The key is to observe carefully before jumping in. Acting both intelligently and courageously requires knowing what’s expected — what the local parameters are in terms of making bold moves. Often, it takes a while to identify them.
A senior executive at a sporting goods company shared with me that as a young man and new employee, he’d been told “to get all the money possible — to make a huge profit for the company.” Those in the company who had hired him hadn’t indicated where the line was in terms of taking this goal too far. Once, in front of the CEO, he recalls insulting a senior vice president by suggesting he do some things differently to improve his performance. The CEO never said anything about this to him (nor did the senior vice president), but the promising, young employee found himself edged out of meaningful projects and assigned dead-end jobs. He got the message, changed his behavior, and kept his job. Now he believes, “If you ignore politics and make someone above you look bad, you’re going to have a short career.”
Since that time, he says he has taken some criticism from colleagues for being a “political animal.” His response: “It’s better to be a political animal than political roadkill.”
Since standing up to powerful people can be hazardous to your career, how do you know just when to do it? Some prerequisites must be met before making courageous political moves at work. First, cultivate a deep sense of what matters most to you, which requires reflection on your priorities. Second, something you stand for, believe in, or hold dear should be under threat if you’re going to have to go where others fear to tread. Once you know what truly matters, then what others think becomes less relevant, less of a priority. As President Harry Truman once said, “I wonder how far Moses would have gone if he’d taken a poll in Egypt.”
People who show courage at work — as opposed to people who simply spout out what they’re thinking and thus commit political suicide — are in touch with a sense of their “center.” Knowledge of self in terms of priorities and purpose is the bedrock of courage. Add to this the following:
- An informed view of the political terrain, (including knowing the right people to influence and those who may be political landmines)
- Highly developed communication skills
- Careful assessment of timing — the pros and cons of waiting
- Consideration of potential collateral damage of your actions
- An awareness of, and willingness to live with, the consequences
- Contingency plans in case all goes bust
These considerations make it far more likely that the result of risky career moves will succeed, and, in the end, be seen as courage rather than political fiasco.
Kathleen also writes about this and related topics here.
Photo: Nic Nelsh/Shutterstock.com
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
A recent study gives new meaning to the saying "fake it 'til you make it."
- The study involves four experiments that measured individuals' socioeconomic status, overconfidence and actual performance.
- Results consistently showed that high-class people tend to overestimate their abilities.
- However, this overconfidence was misinterpreted as genuine competence in one study, suggesting overestimating your abilities can have social advantages.
Is this proof of a dramatic shift?
- Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
- Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
- A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses
Dramatic and misleading
Image: Reddit / SICResearch
The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.
Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.
The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.
Let's zoom in:
- It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
- By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
- Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
- In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
- Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
- By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.
Image source: Reddit / SICResearch
This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?
- "The end is near."
- "The idiocracy grows."
- "(It's) like a spreading disease."
- "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
- "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
- "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
- "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
- "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."
Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:
- "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
- "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
- "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
- "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."
"Old people learning to Google"
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)
But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:
- "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
- "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
- "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
- "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."
A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.
The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.
One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.
Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.
It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.
CNN, Fox and MSNBC
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison
For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):
- Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
- MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
- CNN: 706,000 (-9%)
And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
If you thought your mother was pushy in her pursuit of grandchildren, wait until you learn about bonobo mothers.
- Mother bonobos have been observed to help their sons find and copulate with mates.
- The mothers accomplish this by leading sons to mates, interfering with other males trying to copulate with females, and helping sons rise in the social hierarchy of the group.
- Why do mother bonobos do this? The "grandmother hypothesis" might hold part of the answer.
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