The way we win matters

What’s that? ANOTHER movie reference in a blog post? Hell yes. Buckle up, buttercup. Let’s do this.

It’s no secret that I love science fiction (and science fantasy, where I firmly place Star Wars, but that’s a discussion for another time). I started reading Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison at a very young age. Which explains a lot, really. What I appreciate about the genre is that it is such a mirror of who we are as a society – and who we want to be. Some sci-fi is post-apocalyptic and depressing, some is unnaturally cheerful and optimistic. (You can probably guess what kind I tend to watch.) All of it acts as a social commentary for the time in which it was made.

One story I experienced first as a movie and then as a book is Ender’s Game. Regardless of what you think of the book’s author, the story and world building is brilliant and engaging. Years ago, Earth was invaded by an alien species and barely survived. Since then, society has been obsessed with preparing for the next attack, training children to be the leaders of the battle because their brains can process the multitude of data faster.

Ender, so-called because he is a third child in a society that limits most families to two, is unique among his peers. He is the perfect combination of aggression and compassion, believing that the best way to defeat his enemy is to love them, because only then do you understand them. When confronted by bullies at his school, he gravely injures the toughest boy – an apparent over-reaction to the situation. When questioned why later, he replies that he wasn’t fighting to win that battle – he was fighting to win all future battles, too. (Seriously, go watch the movie and read the book – so good.)JALWS Letterhead I

One line in particular has stuck with me. [SPOILERS AHEAD] Near the end of the story, Ender and his unit have been undergoing simulation after simulation to defeat the Formics (insect-like aliens). In the final simulation, they risk nearly everything to defeat the entire race of Formics. Ender sacrifices thousands of (he thinks) simulated lives to achieve victory. Following the simulation, the adults cheer…it turns out, the simulation was the real battle. Colonel Graff (played by Harrison Ford) explains they didn’t tell Ender because they didn’t want him to hesitate…that they needed him to do what was necessary. Graff insists Ender will be remembered a hero. “We won,” Graff proclaims. “That’s all the matters.” Ender fires back, “No. The way we win matters.

This line says so much. It embodies so much of our humanity…or lack of it.

How many times have leaders claimed winning is the only option? How many organizations sacrifice values, integrity, dignity because they tell themselves the ends justify the means? Win at all costs. No holds barred. You have to play the game to win the game.

How many times do people regret that approach? In the long term, I hope it’s all of them. Because you give up something vital when you tell yourself that it doesn’t matter how you won. In the short term, it might seem like the smart play, but ultimately, history judges us all. It exposes the lies we tell ourselves and lays bare our mistakes.

Right now, American society is at a crossroads. We have an administration that values “winning” and loyalty over all else. We have a majority party in Congress that is willing to “win” no matter what the cost. We have organizations that are choosing to align themselves with a president who has been accused of sexual assault, and then turn around and speak about the dangers of #metoo. We live in a world where the number of  impressions and Twitter followers appear to be more important than values and critical thinking.

Is this what winning looks like?

I’d like to believe we’ll right this ship; that we’ll realize that attention isn’t the same as regard. That small “victories” are meaningless if we lose the larger battle. That sacrificing what we believe for the sake of a photo op means more than a slight PR hit. The decisions we make moving forward as leaders – as human beings – say more about us than short term gains. Are we willing to admit that sometimes the right thing to do IS the hard thing to do? Do we have the courage to turn down what looks good in favor of what IS good? Are we willing to speak up when our leaders can’t? Or won’t?

I hope so.



Are You Engaged? (special guest post!!)

Fret not.  I’ll be posting an article of my own shortly.  I thought this (engagement and finding your happy place) was a good topic for those of you out there trying to survive leadership in one way or another.

Today’s post is brought to you by Dr. Daniel Crosby (@suitedjobs), creator of  Suited is an easy-to-use online tool that provides “fit scores” for folks who are curious about their company culture and/or job, and it provides suggestions for work that might better suit them. Give it a try!  (And if you don’t know Dr. Daniel Crosby, you really should.  He’s smart and stuff.)

Take it away, Dr. Crosby!


Those who came to this post expecting to see pictures of cakes, gowns, and tuxedos, keep surfing. For the rest of you…get back to work!

Sadly, if you do not find work to be engaging, involving, and satisfying, you are among the majority. According to the Gallup Organization, less than 30 percent of working Americans are fully engaged at work. As it turns out, your employer isn’t the only one who loses. In this case, being a part of the majority isn’t such a great thing. Employees who are not engaged not only perform worse, but are less satisfied in their work.


Effectively managing your level of engagement on the job starts before you even receive a job offer.

Setting aside your own self-interest is easy when work is interesting and rewarding. Far too many of us justify our investment to a job with the “It pays the bills” attitude. Determining whether your own values and interests align with those of an organization is an integral step in ensuring your own capacity for engagement.

1.       Know your own values.
If the ghost of your job history’s past kidnapped you in the middle of the night, what would you see? Try it out! Imagine yourself at every job you’ve ever had. Yes, every job – even the ones you deleted from your resume years ago. Which job made you feel the most meaningful? Involved? Satisfied? Energized? Counted on? Brainstorm what it was about the job which made you feel a particular way when you worked.

Keep in mind that the job market today is not always conducive to helping job seekers get in touch with their own values. How many times have you squeezed buzz words into your resume or cover letter to try to catch the eye of a prospective employer? Don’t get me wrong: strategically couching your experience can be very important to help a company see the value you could add. But it shouldn’t come at the expense of your sense of self.

2.       Know the company of interest.
Do your homework on a prospective employer to get a feel for the culture. Browsing a company’s website is not enough to learn what you need to know. A website may help you know about the image the company is trying to portray, but it may tell you little about what it would be like to be a part of the organization.

Identify individuals who currently work for the company of interest. If possible, find employees in a similar role and in the office that you would potentially be working in. Then ask away! If you have already done your homework, employment interviews offer you a chance to supplement what you already know. Capitalize on opportunities to ask questions in interviews to learn more about the organizational culture.

As you can see, setting yourself up to be engaged in your work takes a lot of work itself.

Speaking of work…break’s over!  Get back to it!


Got some thoughts on Dr. Crosby’s point of view?  Think he’s on to something?  Do you believe he stole my writing style?  Leave a comment, give him a shout-out on Twitter (@suitedjobs), or shoot me a note and I’ll pass it along!