Article by Ben Gilad
I just finished running another analysis module for ACI via Zoom (Feb. 2021). I love that I don’t have to travel.

For a teacher, though, who loves teaching (I know, it’s ironic, isn’t it; A fisherman loves fish? A teacher loves teaching?), Zoom is slow death. I use the Socratic method of making people get to the solutions themselves and Zoom makes it impractical.

In face-to-face classrooms, I can feel the crowd. I can do my job’s two parts well: One, identify stars. Mentor them for years to come until they make VPs and go through lobotomy. Second, bring out the shy, reluctant-to-speak-up attendees. Give them gumption.

I can’t do it on Zoom. The best analyst on my screen last week was a student whose face I couldn’t even see. It was a disembodied voice. Hi, Alex. I wonder who you are.

On Zoom, speaking up is a real issue because unlike a class full of people and ruckus interaction (my style) and laughter and people jumping to help, here you stand alone being questioned by this cranky old man (me) who doesn’t play nice (I play the top exec they will face), with no one coming to your defense.

My colleagues at the Academy are much better at being nice and encouraging. I am the tough SOB; I love you, but I am not helping you by being easy on you.

Many on Zoom just go there to die. How would a big boss even know they are bright if they are a small square in a large meeting? This is the age-old dilemma of a tree falling in the forest when no one is there to hear it. Does it make noise? No, it doesn’t. It’s imperative in corporate careers to make a noise.

You’ve got to make noise

You’ve got to make noise to be noticed, and you’ve got to be noticed to go somewhere.

“I don’t care” is a legitimate sentiment. If you do your job and are satisfied, who cares that you are not being noticed?

Ahha.. the fatal mistake. Your fate depends not only on doing a “good job” but on the company doing well, the industry doing well etc. Industries go through convulsions. This year the Energy industry is under attack. Next year, Pharma will be, the year after maybe Defense. While some outraged LinkedIn members whine about political posts, either being naïve or worse, political change spells trouble for many despite their good work. Who’ll survive?

Those who made noise and went somewhere. In essence, they used their ability to identify early signs of risks and opportunities to safeguard their own career. That’s real intel at work though on a personal level.

Executives respect some gumption

Being the small square in a computer screen is the reason why anyone predicting that remote work will continue after Covid is wrong.  It fits only those who are happy not to stand out, fade into a crowd. Legitimate, but not a long-term strategy. Technology will guarantee their replacement. Conferences and vendors will not help them. And then what will they do? Live on government unemployment for the rest of their lives? What are we, France?

How to stand out without making enemies?

In our book, The New Employee Manual, @Mark Chussil and I discuss various techniques for mavericks to stand out without alienating their teams. Going against consensus is one sure way to stand out. Above all, however, Mark and I are the perfect example of how to take a stand without killing each other. I love the guy and I disagree with 87.56% of what he says. OK, 50% of it is because he uses lofty English and quote obscure musicals and I am an immigrant, but the rest is fundamentally different perspective on everything including strategy, politics and the fun in aggravating people.

Yet we wrote a book together. The rule that we both observed during that year was always to respect the other side. I don’t respect the lunatics I argue with on LinkedIn, many of them are simply entertaining with their ignorance. But I never disrespected Mark. I know his perspective is backed by as much education and rational conviction as mine. OK, almost as rational. At times, we make a conscious decision to stop arguing because it doesn’t get us anywhere. There is a lesson in it: Dropping an argument – “agree to disagree” – is a respectful way to move on.

Of course, my perspective has always been the right one. Just saying. Respect.

The 5 types of push-backers

Anonymity is death by a thousand cuts, or in the case of corporate Zoom meetings, by a thousand hours of dying in front of a screen. So, engage. Then engage more. Push back, respectfully.  

If you summon the courage to debate, watch out for these people:

1.     The manipulator. They will agree with you, agree with the others, and offer a compromise. It makes them look good, but compromises are rarely as sound as the original argument. Just think the US budget voted by Congress.

2.     The dangerous. They will ask an innocent question and follow your logic and then, boom, expose your weak points. Respect. Try to be this one if you are competing for the same promotion.

3.     The reinforcer. They will agree with your basic argument and offer to strengthen it. Buy them lunch afterwards. Do the same when it’s your turn. You got yourself an ally. Getting ahead is all about building a coalition. Politics is an essential skill of the analyst.

4.     The feisty. They just refuse to go away peacefully. I respect them. And it’s not easy to gain my respect. I am cranky.