A quick note on “Titles”

I am super busy this week so I thought I would take a quick moment to reflect on titles.

I was cold called today from someone in Tokyo selling me stock. They kept trying to build rapport with me by calling me the “Managing Director.” Needless to say it failed, because 1. it isn’t my title and 2. they weren’t at the equivalent level (sales peon calling MD please pick up) and were trying to be chummy. Titles kills rapport when handled badly.

If your like me and you have sized your business model to emphasize small there is a tendency to worry about having the clout that a great title brings. To me this is a departure from why I would want to scale small. I scale small to emphasize rapport and relationships, personal attention to detail and the security of always having to deal with me not a random sales associate.

I wouldn’t be the first person to scale small to reflect benefits like this. If I took a title like “Managing Director” I also wouldn’t be the first person with a staff of ten people or less to use a similar title. In essence a lot of entrepreneurs have scaled small but want to create an impression that they work on scale big.

I get why, but in my business model unless there are enough people to generally manage, or offices that actually need chief executing, or directors in need of managing it is better to leave the titles well enough alone. Use a business title to emphasize your corporate philosophy not to overstate your business function. If you want to scale small pick an intimate title that reflects being at the head of a new movement not that as my mother would say, “puts on airs.”

Fitzgerald and the Fourth Person Perspective

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Crack-Up” (1936)

I like this quote quiet a lot. Since I don’t have much time to write this week I want to use it as a jumping off point.

A few years back I used to run a networking event in Guangzhou called Oriented. Oriented.com is or was a social site for people living in key cities abroad or in the US with an interest or background in Asian culture. In the Summer of 2005 one of my attendees dropped into my hands a copy of the Harvard Business Review with an article on Action Logic aptly titled Seven Transformations of Leadership. A year later I went to the UK to get certified by Harthill UK in the administration of the psychometric assessment that looks at how to measure those seven stages. If you would like to know more about Harthill you can check out their website here are you can go online and take their snapshot evaluation. If you feel intrigued enough to take the whole assessment you can contact me directly and I can arrange that.

To me F. Scott Fitzgerald isn’t really just talking about intelligence he is using the language he had available to him at the time to describe the ability to see a situation from a fourth person perspective. Fitzgerald is here labeling “a first rate intelligence” where what he is actually looking at in my opinion is development stage. It would make sense though given his social circle that he would also associate the traits he saw as being bright and capable with being further along on the spiral development track. If you would like to spend a bit of time looking at what spiral development is check out this presentation from a couple years back.

This all comes to mind this Monday morning after watching a few debates play out over the past couple of weeks. There is a tendency by people to think that answers are either one way or the other. Actually debate is founded on the idea that when we have two different ideas one has to be right and the other can be proven to be wrong. Some people who make it to the later stages in life might point out that there are shades of gray and that context affects most arguments so that it is hard to make sweeping statements.

What Fitzgerald is proposing and what a fourth person perspective provides is that in many cases there are no shades or grey and that it isn’t in fact a “sometimes” or “on occasion” world. In fact, things exist in a plurality rather than singular point of view. In other words what can be black can also be white. Not just in context or sometime, but always and in fact they aren’t two ideas but actually one. Fitzgerald wouldn’t be the first person to point this out either. Kierkegaard points out that we can only truly be “free” when we accept paradoxes (his specific point of view as a Christian existentialist is the paradox of death and rebirth) and in that same vein of Saint Augustine in 400 AD made similar points.

So my challenge to readers this week is to push for the paradox. Don’t accept the idea that it has to be either or this week. To use the language behind Action Logic, get post-conventional this week. Challenge yourself that there isn’t one singular point of view and try to see the other side which arguably is the same side. Then make Mr. Fitzgerald proud by continuing to function while fully embracing the paradox…