Random invites

Three reasons random invites fail, and why you should be worried if they succeed…

This blog is prompted by a noted increase in the number of random invite connections received on LinkedIn this month. I love connecting with new people, but some basics can be identified which seem to offer a universal truth.

visibility | behaviour | trust

I conclude this is principally a question of trust. But this connects to visibility, and to behaviour, with both necessarily increased if trust is to be found.

v | b | trust

Random invites. Context free and no prior history. Unless of course they can find you off-guard, but that is intent (i.e., behavioural) which should be inviting more than distrust because of the hidden truth that reveals (i.e., visibility).

v | behaviour | t

This is the behaviour of someone in a rush; or grouping you with many others; or hiding their intentions, concealing their real identity, and/or attempting to appeal to vanity where the less information offered is enabling more directed distraction. As such invites are also more likely part of a cluster, this offered more indicators that the invitation is intended for spamming or farming or otherwise hidden intent (i.e., purposeful low visibility)

visibility | b | t

This random invite is offering minimal visibility. With no note to bring to attention toward the intent of the invite. Less information, offering more uncertainty. Or targeted information without intended subterfuge (i.e., negative behaviour). Perhaps this is overtly using a profile title or photo image to attempt to skip past checks. Note how much more suspicious it is when with minimal extra effort you reveal there is limited information in the profile to offer context.

These are three categories to consider why random invites fail. Low trust, reinforced by minimal information or positive action.

The intentional deceit. And so what of covert attempts to overcome these signals? When might these random invites succeed? How about appealing to that covert side of our own behaviour, using that same overtly visible shallowness against us. Why might that work? I think deep down, we all know. It’s the means to override our more attuned sense of when to trust. Am I alone in being doubly suspicious when an unnecessarily dressed up face wants to say hello? Too right, I am. And if you are selling yourself by your image, that’s precisely the unsaid term I have just used. Without apology. Without limitation to ones preferences or bias. There are plenty doing this from all sides. These seem to me the most common-sense flags to avoid the many fake accounts that overtly play this game.

Examples of invite warning signs:

  • reliance upon shallow appeal (e.g., photo, title, pod followership)
  • offering little in way of content or prior chat
  • nothing relatable in profiles
  • industry or geography that seems completely left field

The interaction of visibility | behaviour | trust

So let me finally return to that telling lack of a note. That should say plenty. Why would you think someone is going to accept an invitation without a note that has something that connects you?

Conversely, I do actually send invitations without a note. But only because prior discussion has made that blatantly unnecessary. But then that’s increased trust, built via prior visibility and relatable behaviours.

Trust is built upon these principles, but should also be where it is lost…

Coaching more…

“…are your people empowered to spot quality issues, and the conditions that breed them, and speak up…?”

Dave Stitt (2022) “Coach for results”

A blog to briefly congratulate Dave Stitt on a book worth a place on the desk of any construction manager (and people managers everywhere).

Coach for Results : Empower your people to achieve the extraordinary. Dave Stitt (2022)

Dave and I connected instantly when we first spoke last year, completely unrelated to this or any other book. Our discussions have been varied since, always with shared enthusiasm, and unabashed confidence of where we have been, or going. His energy is infectious, his perspectives easy to align to, with pithy anecdote never far behind.

It was therefore no surprise at all to read his 2022 book in similarly attuned frame of mind. His passion comes through on every page; and the anecdotes help keep a steady pace, fixing each new point firmly into the construction paradigm.

Coaching Leadership

Here is Dave explaining what is different in engaging with your people in a coaching style

“…you stop seeing them as a problem to be fixed and you start seeing them as a treasure to be discovered…you say, ‘what do you think?’, and then you listen…you the coach and them the thinker…”

Stitt (2022) Coach for Results pp9-10

and Dave of the wider cultural transition possible

“…courtesy, respect, and esteem are universal…it is the antidote to exclusionary micro-cultures…”

Stitt (2022) Coach for Results pp25

The premise of the book is not new. The coaching leadership style is well documented and has probably not passed by any MBA or well-read manager or consultant. But Dave’s writing is to the point, backed up with pertinent example, and just enough academic reference to be assured the bridge between the two is secure. Crucially, everything is directed back to what counts most: the day to day of management and leadership, as it connects to the construction project world; and the care and growth of those coming through that are its future, and it’s today. Chapter 4 of this second edition offers confirmation of this appreciation, from at least a dozen cohorts from his accompanying training course.

Self-Determination Theory

As part of my psychology MSc this year, one module focused upon classical and contemporary social psychology. I have concluded that much of the management jargon I have been fed over the years, at least the decent concepts, have been influenced from here. Dave has a chapter outlining one of the most significant revelations (in my opinion). He does not name the series of connected theories per se, but he cites Dan Pink who is well respected in this psychological field, and Dave describes this and related theories perfectly.

It is called Self-Determination Theory, one I have written about before {here}. It helps explain why our obsession with motivation by cash incentive, as employer of internal teams or of external contracts and work packages, ultimately causes organisational or project harm. As Dave states “…external enticements…extrinsic motivations…are not very effective…” pp11, to which he then makes the comparison to command-and-control style management which is very much the abrasive construction norm most can relate (be that employee or supply chain relationship carrot and stick, comply or die culture we all know).

In Dave’s words:

“…command and control…sucks initiative, confidence and accountability out of a team…”

Stitt (2022) pp26

“…risky when…commercial agendas are indifferent to the success of the project as a whole…. Are your people empowered to spot quality issues, and the conditions that breed them, and speak up…?”

Stitt (2022) pp27

Understanding these implications of externalising motivations are lessons we should all have close to hand.

Managing the coaching conversation

Thereafter Dave offers some excellent practical advice in managing the coaching conversations. As an empathetic manager myself, with training from several multinational organisations seeking to enable this style of communication and learning leadership, these chapters resonate. Learning the right way to prepare and start such discussions, how to direct them, and how to conclude them in empowering rather than directing ways. These are important things to give your people their means to find their why. I am reminded of my own why in reading his words here, but also improved by these practical chapters and how they can be applied.

How far can coaching go?

I do disagree with Dave on one thing. His pragmatic stance is one in which the fundamentals of construction are considered beyond absolute change – it is just how it has evolved to be. My opinion, is that this confrontational industry norm is a reflection of how we set projects up. And if this more engaging coaching style of leadership were present in senior political spaces – where expectation was on leaders to bring teams with them, not just drive them hard to the next staging post – the projects serving these masters would be less caustic from the start. A world better informed and more real in its possibility in consideration of this project management style. But that is my research challenge – and therein my bias.

There is more I could offer in review. Dave has given plenty more insight and well reasoned connection to contemporary thought, similarly linking other behavioural thinking to construction project application. But I will let you read the rest for yourself. At 126 pages this is an afternoon’s single sitting read. But one to keep close by as that next chance to try “…a tool for challenging and supporting your people…”, pp14, to which both you and all your leaders-in-waiting should be demanding and apply.

Stitt, D (2022) “Coach for Results : empower your people to achieve the extraordinary” 21CPL Productions

49 not out – what about you?

Generation X-it

Can we afford to retire … with the work half-done? A blog relating the prospect of retirement, possibility of resignation from role, and the need to carry-on

Boris is done – surely – the rogue that some love but who many more have come to hate. If there is one undeniable truth – two words not quickly associated with his testimony – it is that he never gives up on himself.

My first question tonight is just how different is he from the leaders we may each aspire to be? We of similar age, if not similar bravado and self-belief. Boris, 58 years old – born June 1964 – represents the last of the baby-boomers by category of age (baby-boomers born 1946-1964). I am firmly within generation X (born 1965-1980), and by age alone it is now we whose time of life sees us amassing towards those top-most roles. So are we going to be the first of better, or the worst that there has been? We who grew-up to the mantra of greed is good, into low inflation and cheap flights, distracted by new tech and toys, and the internet of disposable things, when millionaires were the wealthy, not anyone with a maxed out pension pot. Are we set to be the most self-serving, self-righteous, and guilty in possibility of being the keenest to call time of any generation before? Is Boris the last, or the first of more to come?

Control of narrative or action?

I took the time to watch Boris’ testimony at the liaison select committee today {here}. His excuses extended to suggesting a culture of alcohol abuse in government {here 1:47:01}. No indication that lessons learnt in this latest episode include the appropriate checks of or support to candidates for government roles. In response to being asked what system is in place to help people with behavioural problems or alcohol, there was no offer of explanation beyond “we all have a duty as colleagues to look out for each other and to try and help people” (ibid ~1:48:03). There was curiously little suggestion that serious allegations of sexual misconduct sit long in his memory. Nor much indication that the vague recollection of parties which required an independent enquiry to help him recall, were being supported by any more rigorous means of decision-making assurance via record keeping or data control. Related or unrelated, such facts seem to reflect outdated cultural norms. Truth engineering or political spin, what his tenure exposes is an infection or pandemic of woeful attitudes, actions, and beliefs that exist alongside a lack of interest in critical controls, scrutiny of people or process, or even the basic expectations of recall of what to most would be stand-out moments of concern.

Boris does not stand and fall alone in this, but his leadership does stand apart for its sheer audaciousness in its disregard. Whilst I do not seriously think baby-boomers or generation X are suitably tarred with that one brush, it is we, generation X, who have every chance to be equally complicit and be remembered with similar disgrace if our own interest in those we serve and the wider communities we are part are not held higher in our priority of care.

Rewiring or retiring?

This I now present in its wider context. The world stage of which we are each now citizen actors upon. Change is upon us, environmental and socio-economic. Whether we are to blame or not is now irrelevant. The world need has changed, or at least our awareness of it has become more complete. It is with the constructive criticism and reflection of the likes of Boris Johnson that I think it this generation of proxy leaders, generation X, that is most in need to respond to what comes next. Not because we took more, or gave less, but just because we must.

Leadership is landing in the laps of many who may never have wanted it. For others it is reward for 30 years of work that has come before. Nest eggs, houses accruing value, or simply a realisation that the work can soon come to an end. We are now that generation that sets the culture in our workplace. And hearing Boris acknowledge an integrity vacuum under his watch, but to then present alcohol abuse as a cause not an effect, offers new insight into just how loose his hand upon the reins have been, and how undignified his grip now is. The flippant question may be where is his stewardship of those he serves beyond the garden G&Ts? The more serious observation is where is the control environment he should be the champion of, to aid his memory and not his sleaze?

Control environments can assist the management of actions, at least to a point. But what of attitude? And is our attitude, generation X, really so different in that respect? Whether we are a leader or labourer, this is our time. To first of all demand better from our peers. Second of all to take ownership of what mess we now preside over, even if not ours made. In my opinion there is plenty who need to rewire their thinking, their behaviour, and their beliefs. But most of all, we are now either the last generation to lead for ourselves, or the first to lead for the next. That’s the attitude rewiring we may be forced to make.

Next is the question of retirement. A rather recent societal expectation in historic terms, and one that seems rather 20th Century in a time of longer life and longer debt. Retirement seems to me the last thing we should be aiming for, despite it now being within our grasp. For some I fear that is perhaps already not a choice. But it seems to me what the world needs right now is all the help it can get. And if it’s help that is required, maybe we are the generation that now needs to show what leadership is in deed, not reward for making it to the lucrative top step. Many of us have lived our whole lives in debt, but what we are borrowing most of all, is the future planetary health for the next.

If Boris and his party bus is demonstrating anything to us – his real peers – it is that leadership is action, not title. And deed is assessed by those whom one is serving, not by those to who the perks are being served. If leadership feeds a machine that serves itself, the disorder and disrespect that spreads to all is absolute. Boris’ time in charge should stand for that. A caricature from which generation X should note, reflect upon, and seek to be opposed. But wider still is that me first attitude, the consume today pay tomorrow, the dispose and disregard, we have all become culturally attached. It is from this expectation that politics is permitted to be about the now, and therein the never never.

If there is money to retire, there is money to do more whilst needing to be paid less. Maybe that is a deed that sets the leadership example to the next. Aiming toward a sustainable platform (contribution), not sustenance towards gout (consumption). Generation X-it, becoming generation fix-it.


Visibility | behaviour | trust

Closing remarks using v|b|t. By such leadership failings it’s getting harder to find places to hide. Yet there seems a whole barracks of generals still strategising over shared greed. It’s a minority but seemingly unaccounted and unopposed. We must be an army of people at the top of their game – generation X now approaching those years that count double – doubling up or halving effort – that could be stepping out armed with the questions that cut deepest in repost. Or being the more selfless leader seeking less but wanting to contribute more.

Maybe it is we, generation X, who secretly eye up the retirement age escape, that should be first to redirect the aim. Seeking out those opportunities to do more. To bring more to the table than we take away. And in acting, so demand more of those in these roles to do the same. Maybe then we can watch our peers with pride. And not cringe in shame, as we see the self-serving lies they try to hide.

Visibility returning to the blindest eyes. Behaviours unbecoming both permitted and rewarded, lies told in defence, blame diverted and scape-goats made. Trust lost even from the closest aides, as the last knot of control by distraction is finally frayed.

Maybe such metric along such lines can indeed be found. Seeking to identify where projection and controls are so desperately unaligned. That one, in some small way in the research I have set out to undertake, I am putting down to me.

To be continued…