Sometimes to make a point one needs to combine humor with some graphic visualization to break through.

Here are three examples that leverage “waste”.

  1. The turd on the table

  2. The grass is greener because it is fertilized with Bullshit.

  3. No Flatulence does not smell like Chanel 5.

1.The turd on the table.

What is a turd on the table?

It is something that is brown and moist, and people know it is a piece of poisonous waste, but they pretend it is a brownie. They are aware of the stink but perfume over the aroma. Here are some flavors of turd:

Mismanagement. For instance, management (particular leaders or leadership teams) is disconnected from reality and refusing to acknowledge the facts—or they’re guilty of bullying, discrimination, or harassment.

These are incredibly touchy issues, since the former means confronting powerful people in denial and the latter means addressing an individual’s unethical or immoral behaviors.

Toxic cultures. Organizations are highly defensive about their cultures, even when they become cult-like and inflexible or fear-driven. Telling a leader that the culture has become poisoned requires courage.

Financial improprieties. Here, the problem may be a company over-inflating revenue, such as Enron, or one that takes short-term measures to goose the numbers, such as Wells Fargo. Confronting these improprieties that have major short-term benefits and may involve illegal or unethical actions is a challenge.

Major industry shifts. A leader may refuse to address big changes in customer behavior, or the competitive landscape, or mammoth technology changes requiring tough decisions (such as Kodak and digital emergence). It’s easier to rationalize or deny shifts than articulate the business-altering trend and the need for rethinking everything.

People problems. The boss or some person with influence is acting like a jerk, or is playing favorites, or is blind to internal or external developments. In many ways, this is the biggest turd on the table, in that it requires confronting a powerful individual about his or her issues.

How to become a turd slayer?

Do not fear the turd.

Call it out. Shine a bright light on it. Place it on a pedestal. Address the damn thing!

Here are some suggestions for you to become a “turd slayer”

Say what you think. In business we care what is between your ears. If you cannot say what you think (hey if it is wrong you will be told so, in fact even if you are right you will be told you are wrong…). Truth eventually has a habit of breaking in. Why not open the door and save time and damage?

Assume the person you are trying to be diplomatic to about an issue knows what the issue is. If you bring it up, you will be more respected by them. If they did not know, you will earn an ally.

Do not go with the crowd if your instinct says no. Often group and crowd dynamics take over in much decision making. People think about what their boss wants to hear rather than what they should say. People worry about the impact of their career rather than what is right. Sooner or later too many people are dodging their own shadow and playing mind games that lead to slow and bad decisions.

Do not work for a boss who cannot bear the truth or whom you fear. We are living in a time of change and most of the time senior folks need to be told that their core beliefs may no longer be true. I have seen too many companies from newspaper to magazines to many other companies hasten their decline because their leadership did not face reality, in part because their staff was scared of them. Tell all the truth but tell it slant: Once you have decided to address the turd on the table, you might want to do so in a way, so the message gets through. Ideally it is in a way that does not make the person receiving the news “lose face” so much of this is best done person to person. In other times some humility, self-awareness, metaphors or humor will be called for. Emily Dickinson says it best in her poem, too much of shock and you will have blinded someone to the turd!

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant Success in Circuit lies Too bright for our infirm Delight The Truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind

So, let’s address the “turd on the table” wherever it might be.

2. The grass is greener on the other side because it is fertilized with bullshit.

Most jobs are difficult and challenging.

A great job is one which you enjoy and find meaningful 70 percent of the time.

Thus even a great job has days, or weeks or sometimes months where it sucks for a combination of circumstances from revenue setbacks, management drama, talent soap-opera, client intrigue, geo-political shocks, bad calls and more.

If you enjoy what you do 100 percent of the time you are likely not working for anybody or are not being challenged nor stretched so you may be not growing or maybe you are in a coma.

All companies big and small tend to be filled with constant change and challenges which sometimes leaves one feeling out of sort.

The boss we know is a task master, our team sometimes appears to be filled with more buffoons than talent, our Clients from time to time seem to lose their minds, or we are dazed and confused with the change happening around us.

At this time we are so aware of the problems we face that we imagine it is wonderful somewhere else, and are particularly susceptible to fleeing the challenges we know to the siren call of wonder being described by someone trying to recruit us,or the allure of another firm or opportunity.

The other opportunity maybe better but is unlikely to be as wonderful as it is advertised since every company on the inside tends to not look as wonderful from the inside.

Importantly, wherever there are people there is drama, wherever there is change there are challenges, wherever there are P&L’s there are hard decisions, and wherever there is competition there is the potential for business losses.

Too many people flee from one frying pan and fling themselves onto another but now have to learn a new company, build new relationships and re-build internal and external connections.

Switching jobs is often necessary but as one does so be very careful and realize that the grass is greener on the other side because it is often fertilized with bull shit.

Once the romance of courting and the honeymoon of a new adventure have passed one finds that wherever we go the challenges and dramas seem to follow.

3. Flatulence does not smell like Chanel 5.

Today due to our location, income level, choice of media or the algorithmic realities of a digital age which optimize everything around us to make us feel we are the center of the world, we often lose the plot.

This is particularly true in a polarized world where we fail to see or demonize the other side. Taking complex issues, people and challenges and simplify them into silly caricatures of black and white, all good or all bad.

In organizations this ability to lose a sense of reality is likely to happen among elite and powerful people who are surrounded by or ensure that they are surrounded by supplicants, glad handlers, toadies, courtiers, minions, gatekeepers and other genuflectors who confirm biases, double down on delusions, or hyper drive hallucinations to keep bosses happy, remain on their good side while protecting and advancing their own careers.

There are many benefits of being a leader, working at a very successful company and being on the top of the world. Everybody wants to meet with you or think you are cool because of the fame and reputation of your company. The press fawns and friends’ gush.

It gives powerful people a great rush and some get too high on ones own fumes and begin to believe their flatulence smells like Chanel 5.

It does not.


This FREE thought letter is a like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get every Sunday. Full spectrum writing and thinking that covers strategy, tech, poetry, career management and even waste products and aromas! Read by 30,000 people in 105 countries including hundreds of CEO’s:

Rishad Tobaccowala helps grow companies, teams and leaders by helping them see, think and feel differently. Forty years of experience delivered through writing, speaking and advising in ways that are actionable and inspirational. For more about Rishad Tobaccowala click here.

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