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

Branching out

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
DSC04185BY LINDA BAKER

A blueberry bush is a blueberry bush — except when it’s a blueberry tree.


Read more...

Why I became an educator

News
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
03.04.14 thumbnail teachBY DEBRA RINGOLD | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

How can we strengthen the performance of institutions charged with teaching what Francis Fukuyama calls the social virtues (reciprocity, moral obligation, duty toward community, and trust) necessary for successful markets and democracy itself?


Read more...

How to handle the unexpected

Contributed Blogs
Friday, March 28, 2014
03.28.14 thumb disasterBY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER

The next mysterious (or disastrous) event could be one that you or your team might suddenly need to respond to, probably under intense scrutiny.


Read more...

The 2014 List: The Top 33 Large Companies to Work, For in Oregon

March 2014
Thursday, February 27, 2014

100best14logoWebOur 100 Best Companies project turned 21 this year, so pop open the Champagne. Our latest survey gives us plenty to cheer.

 


Read more...

Are millennials reshaping politics in the Pacific Northwest?

News
Wednesday, April 02, 2014

MillennialsThumbA new report explores the impact of millennials on Oregon's business and political climate.


Read more...

Tech makes the world go round

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, March 20, 2014
03.20.14 thumb internetBY JASON NORRIS | GUEST BLOGGER

I don’t think anyone can (or should) remember what it was like to get things done without the internet. This milestone in technology has certainly benefited brick-and-mortar companies and subsequently launched a new era of businesses.


Read more...

Workplace benefits

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Health care and vacations rule. That’s the consensus from our reader poll on workplace benefits that help retain and recruit employees.


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