6 Ways Jane Austen Would Have Survived Cubicle Life

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Managerial Competence, Political Competence, Proactive Leaders | 3 Comments

austen

Jane Austen is credited with creating some of literature’s first “modern characters.”

“Modern characters” are just normal people doing normal things. They aren’t powerful warriors in the vein of Achilles or tormented queens like Lady Macbeth.

They’re just the ordinary people you meet every day.

But these characters are hardly boring. Instead, modern characters are recognizable personalities that can teach us a lot about the frustrations and joys of social interactions and institutions.

Jane Austen helped shape this modern movement from a small rectory in North East Hampshire, a few rented rooms in Bath, and a modest house in Hampshire. Her life was quiet and filled with financial stresses, a failed romance, and numerous family dramas.

Austen had little schooling and she never had the time or money to discuss literary theory with London’s primer authors. Yet she wrote six novels that were well regarded both in her century and in ours.

Austen’s ability to observe and her persistence helped her become an accomplished writer–but would these same skills and sensibilities help her survive the modern office? Would her independent and sharp nature thrive in a world of lay-offs and “action-plans”?

These silly questions led me to think of a few reasons Jane Austen might have succeeded in the modern office:

1. Austen Knew How to Deal With Boredom

It’s easy to see Austen making copies and collating documents when she writes in Mansfield Park, “Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.”

Indeed, Austen has the mental fortitude and the jaded wisdom to survive the minutia of office life. Her ability to look at cubicle life as a collection of minor actions will afford her the opportunity to pursue larger goals to stave off ennui. Boredom often produces brilliance.

2. Austen Would Deal With Failure

In 1803 Austen’s brother, Henry, went to a London publisher named Benjamin Crosby. He showed Crosby Austen’s first novel, Susan, an epistolary novel centered around a brash young women. Crosby liked what he saw and bought the book for 10 pounds–but he never published it. Later, Austen wrote a long and angry letter to Crosby asking for the rights to Susan back. Crosby agreed–if Austen could pay back the 10 pounds. Austen couldn’t afford the price and had to leave Susan unpublished.

Lots of writers would lose confidence after a slow, dragged-out rejection–but Austen kept writing and trying to get published. In today’s business world, Austen’s determination would have earned her a few promotions and the respect of her peers.

3. Austen Understands the Golden Leadership Rule

It’s odd when you read an interview with a CEO and they DON’T mention the importance of having a smart team. The golden rule in business demands that you surround yourself with people who can do crossword puzzles faster than you.  Austen agrees. In her novel Persuasion the following dialogue occurs between the obstinate Anne and Mr. Elliot:

“My idea of good company…is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.”

“You are mistaken,” said he gently, “that is not good company, that is the best.”

Austen would only mix with the hard-working, book-loving, strivers in any office and this would propel her career.

4. Austen Could Take Constructive & Un-constructive Criticism

The most scathing critique of Austen comes from Mark Twain. Twain wrote to a friend, “Jane [Austen] is entirely impossible. It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death.” Thankfully, Austen wasn’t around to hear Twain’s remark.

However, Austen faced critics in her own time with little irritation.

In 1811 she published Sense & Sensibility and made a good profit and collected favorable reviews. Soon after, she published Mansfield Park which was panned by critics, but was extremely popular. Austen didn’t let high-brow criticism drown her ambitions and she went on to write Emma, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey.

5. Austen Could Work From Home

We hear the real Jane Austen, momentarily, in Mrs. Elliot’s character in Emma.

She says to the meddling Emma: “Ah! there is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort. Nobody can be more devoted to home than I am.”

Austen rarely traveled and rarely expressed a desire to see the corners of the earth. She was the most productive at home and her mother and sisters would do extra chores so Austen could write without disturbance.

She would have been at home in today’s virtual economy where everything is done remotely, out-of-office, and through email or video chat. Austen could have climbed the corporate ladder without leaving her settee since she was self-motivated and didn’t need a boss or a commute to inspire her to action.

6. Austen Didn’t Like Stupid People

Austen was a master at reading people, mapping out their actions, and dissecting their intentions. All six of her novels prove this point.

But ultimately Austen could judge a person’s intellect by using one criterion.

In Northanger Abbey Austen’s urbane Henry Tilney says, “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

While these words don’t necessarily echo Austen’s sentiment–they probably aren’t too far off. Austen, it would seem, wouldn’t tolerate stupid co-workers.

But the quote also illustrates that Austen valued self-improvement. Novels helped Austen learn more about her craft and the world around her. Her efforts to learn, develop, and grow would have been valued at any firm.

PART I: Do You Innovate Like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? 5 Innovation Strategies of The Beatles

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The Beatles

In 1971 The Beatles’ John Lennon said, “Every f***ing thing we did, Mick [Jagger] does exactly the same—he imitates us.”

For Lennon, Mick Jagger’s The Rolling Stones weren’t innovators much as they were followers.

However, both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones developed unique techniques and strategies that allowed them to produce innovative, groundbreaking work.

The question is: as an entrepreneur or leader which band do you relate to more? Which approaches to work and creativity do you embrace?

Read More

BLG & INC.EDU WORKSHOPS ANNOUNCED

By | Leadership On the Edge, Managerial Competence, Political Competence, Uncategorized | No Comments

blg-inc-edu-logo-v.2The Bacharach Leadership Group is excited to announce their exciting partnership with Inc.edu, a corporate university founded by Inc.com exclusively focused on helping entrepreneurs and small businesses leaders to drive growth. BLG will host two workshops, Master the Skills of Influence & Lead Your Teams For Growth, in NYC, DC, and LA in 2015.These two day workshops will help you grow your business, execute business strategy, more effectively market and sell your products and services, and get all of your employees in your business motivated. These workshops will help you get buy-in from employees, customers, business partners, and investors.

The Master The Skills of Influence workshops will be led by BLG co-founder, Cornell University’s McKelvey-Grant Professor, and Inc.com columnist, Samuel Bacharach. The Lead Your Teams for Growth workshops will be led by Yael Bacharach who is an executive coach, a practicing psychotherapist, and Cornell University Coaching course author. Inc.edu and BLG have worked together to tailor content used by industry leaders like Cisco, SunGard, and the Warner Music Group for entrepreneurs and small business leaders.
If you’d like to register for the upcoming workshops being offered by BLG and Inc.edu do so soon. The NYC workshop begins on February 24h. Space is limited and seats are available on a first come-first serve basis. Bring a colleague or your team to scale your business growth even more.

To learn more and register, please go to http://www.blgevents-incedu.com/

Here are the workshop outlines:

Master the Skills of Influence, February 24-25

In this 2-Day workshop, you will develop the political skills necessary to get buy-in for your ideas so you can execute, get results, keep your teams motivated and grow your business
Learn how to:
  • Master the skills of influence to grow sales & customer satisfaction
  • Persuade and win people over to attract investors and customers
  • Overcome & anticipate resistance to change
  • Map the political terrain for allies and resistors
  • Decipher the agendas of others
  • Pitch your ideas
  • Negotiate and mobilize a motivated coalition

Lead Your Teams for Growth, February 26-27

In this 2-Day workshop, you will develop the skills necessary to sustain momentum,  motivate your teams and keep the growth ball rolling.  More effective leaders and teams result in greater sales and customer satisfaction.

Learn how to:

  • Balance facilitative and directive leadership
  • Acquire a coaching mindset to build your team’s capacity to drive growth
  • Lead for engagement to drive and sustain motivation
  • Master the skills of constructive dialogue for difficult situations
  • Maximize the potential of your team to grow your business
  • Partner for goal achievement

Good Manners Make Good Leaders

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leadership and mannersEstablished in 1769 Derbrett’s is “the trusted source on British social skills, etiquette and style.” They have just released a 432-page guide that tackles modern dilemmas of etiquette. They have ruled that it is “selfish” to recline your airline seat and deemed it rude to smoke e-cigarettes in the office.

Leaders must not ignore these guidelines however inconvenient. “Politeness,” Theodore Roosevelt said, “[is] a sign of dignity, not subservience.” Emily Post, the famed etiquette scribe, best describes the utility of proper manners:

If you had a commission to give and you entered a man’s office and found him lolling back in a tipped swivel chair, his feet above his head, the ubiquitous cigar in his mouth and his drowsy attention fixed on the sporting page of the newspaper, you would be impressed not so much by his lack of good manners as by his bad business policy, because of the incompetence that his attitude suggests. It is scarcely necessary to ask: Would you give an important commission to him who has no apparent intention of doing anything but “take his ease”; or to him who is found occupied at his desk, who gets up with alacrity upon your entrance, and is seemingly “on his toes” mentally as well as actually? Or, would you go in preference to a man whose manners resemble those of a bear at the Zoo, if you could go to another whose business ability is supplemented by personal charm? And this again is merely an illustration of bad manners and good.

George Washington would agree with Post’s sentiment. As a young man he even wrote a handy list of rules not to be forgotten. Number 11 is a personal favorite: “Shift not yourself in the Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails.”

Leaders must not scoff at Derbrett’s new guide, but rather study its advice with care.

How To Be Successful & Only Work Two Hours A Day

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Greene, in a rare moment, caught working

Greene Hard At Work

When Graham Greene was asked if he was a “9-to-5 man” he replied, “Me? Good Heavens, no. I’d say I’m a 9 to a quarter past 10 man.”

Greene wrote, on average, a novel a year during his professional career as well as numerous articles and reviews. How did he find the time if he only worked less than two hours a weekday?

One can only assume it came down to his strict discipline and routine. Greene wrote 500 words, Monday through Friday, and only 500 words no matter what. Not one word more or less. Exactly 500. If he was in the middle a sentence, he’d stop.

Michael Korda observed Greene at work and described the process in The New Yorker:

An early riser, he appeared on deck at first light, found a seat in the shade of an awning, and took from his pocket a small black leather notebook and a black fountain pen, the top of which he unscrewed carefully. Slowly, word by word, without crossing out anything, and in neat, square handwriting, the letters so tiny and cramped that it looked as if he were attempting to write the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin, Graham wrote, over the next hour or so, exactly five hundred words. He counted each word according to some arcane system of his own, and then screwed the cap back onto his pen, stood up and stretched, and, turning to me, said, “That’s it, then. Shall we have breakfast?”

In this day and age when leaders are required to innovate it’s useful to know that self-discipline and a set routine can help unleash creativity.  It’s further heartening to know that less than two hours labor a day can produce such extraordinary results.

A Small Leadership Lesson From Margret Thatcher

By | BLG Leadership Insights, Features, Managerial Competence | No Comments

margrat thathcer black and whiteWith the news of Margaret Thatcher’s death this week much has been said about her achievements, political savvy, and courage.

There is little we can add to the compelling, moving obituaries.

However, there is one Thatcher anecdote that I think leaders can make use of and learn from.

Paul Johnson writes a chapter on Margret Thatcher in his book, Heroes. He applauds Thatcher’s heroism and ability, but he says Thatcher had an “irritating habit of feeding you back your own ideas.”

He remembers that while she was PM he told her a clever phrase about the government’s roll within society.  Thatcher stopped him, took out a pen and notebook from her purse, and wrote the line down. Weeks later Johnson was watching Thatcher on the news and without missing a step Thatcher repeated Johnson’s phrase verbatim.

Johnson found this to be “annoying” and we can see why he feels slightly miffed by the whole ordeal. However, the anecdote teaches us a valuable lesson about Thatcher’s character and leadership style. She had a tremendous ability to listen and, more importantly, to learn. Though Johnson wasn’t happy with the phrase theft, he admits, “No one was ever keener on acquiring knowledge, and correcting her faults and deficiencies.”

Like Thatcher, leaders should carry around a notebook to record ideas and lesson. It helps leaders listen and learn key concepts. However, I’d recommend not repeating phrases word-for-word.