Home Blogs Business tips It's hip to be square

It's hip to be square

| Print |  Email
Business tips
Friday, April 26, 2013

BY TOM COX | BUSINESS TIPS CONTRIBUTOR

04.26.13 Blog SquareI’ve recently come to realize it’s hip to be square.

I decided this some months ago when I was helping present a powerful workshop to a corporate group, and one participant – let’s call him Joe – almost missed the boat. Joe is young and bright, and based on raw talent, intelligence and ability, could have gotten more out of the workshop than anybody else in his company.

But he didn’t – in fact, he almost got no value at all. I’d missed (until almost too late) seeing his attitude. He was aloof, impressed with his own cleverness, and was hiding his insecurities (we all have them) behind a facade of sophistication.

That facade of sophistication took the form of being critical of others.

I finally caught on when we were reviewing the major learnings of the workshop. Everybody was asked, what did you like best, or, what lesson will you take from this?

And everybody had an answer except Joe.

When it was his turn, he was a little at a loss for words, then started to offer us – I’m sure in a constructive spirit – some critiques for how we could do a better job with our workshop. I was actually very interested in that (as I always am in critiques of my performance) but my co-presenter stopped him. “We’ll ask for feedback later. This question is for your improvement, not ours. What did you like? What did you learn?”

Joe had no answer.

Afterwards we presenters debriefed, and my co-presenter described Joe as being pseudo-sophisticated. I realized I’d been doing the same sort of thing for years – distancing myself from things around me by viewing potential lessons as all being lessons for other people, not lessons for myself.

John Milton said “a wise man will make better use of an idle pamphlet, than a fool will do of sacred Scripture” and I realize in my fear of seeming “square” I had been playing the fool. Like Joe that day, for years I’d missed learning because I was trying to be “cool”. Learning takes risk and openness. Criticizing others is safe and closed, imposing an intellectual and emotional distance and detachment. How much more would I have learned by now if I’d been less “sophisticated” and more open – more square?

Happily, after Joe’s turn was his President, who had learned a lot and shared his enthusiasm freely. This provided the example I think Joe needed. (And this provided another lesson in the power that leaders have in modeling positive behaviors for others.) I could almost see Joe mentally replaying the workshop in his head, looking for what he liked, for what he could learn. In a somewhat sheepish way he shared it with the group, and I could see he was out of his comfort zone.

He was being square. And I decided I’m going to be more square too.

Tom Cox is a Portland area consultant and executive coach. He helps leaders exceed their business aspirations.

 

Comments   

 
Guest
0 #1 Embrace the SquareGuest 2013-04-26 19:15:55
Tom, I appreciate your article. It reminds me of the idea that the insecurity within us often makes us want to appear to be right or competent even if we're not. Sometimes we humans will scratch and fight to find some justification or rationalization to support our erroneous position because at that moment it is more important to us to appear right than to actually be right. The difference as you said is to have an open and "square" attitude, seeking for the truth of the situation, not to satisfy our vain pride. -Doug Lundrigan
Lighthouse Business Solutions
www.lighthouse4business.com
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

A Recipe for Success

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Two businesswomen, two iconic food brands and one food-obsessed city. We thought this sounded like a recipe for good conversation. So in late August, Oregon Business sat down with Wendy Collie, CEO of New Seasons Market, and Kim Malek, owner of Salt & Straw, to discuss their rapidly expanding businesses and Oregon’s trendsetting food scene.


Read more...

Fork & Bottle

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014

National media can’t get enough of Oregon’s pinot noir, artisan-food purveyors and lively, independent film scene.


Read more...

The 100 Best Nonprofits to Work for in Oregon 2014

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
14BY KIM MOORE

Proud, diverse and underpaid.

Pride in their organizations’ mission, fairness in the treatment of women and ethnic minorities, flexible work schedules — these are just a handful of workplace characteristics that employees of this year’s 100 Best Nonprofits appreciate about their organizations.


Read more...

Revenge Forestry

November/December 2014
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
BY JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG

A flare-up in the Elliott Forest raises questions about détente in Oregon’s timber wars.


Read more...

Shifting Ground

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JOE ROJAS-BURKE

Bans on genetically modified crops create uncertainty for farmers.


Read more...

College Conundrum

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY KIM MOORE

University and college tuition fees have been rising for more than a decade, while state funds for higher education have steadily declined.


Read more...

Water World

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY KIM MOORE

Fred Ziari aims to feed the global population.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS