Bryan Lindenberger

Résumé, portfolio, published articles and more at BryanBerg.net

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Stop Fighting over Your Masters

Does your town have a "downtown revitalization" project? I'll bet it does. Every town I've lived in at any time has one. From Pittsburgh to Vegas, D.C. to Gering flipping Nebraska has one. And they'll have another in 5 years (the high end of the typical voter's memory.)
Goes something like this. 
You're a rich kid in school and thus popular, but kind of hapless and useless. Think George W. Bush, but you probably already have someone you know in mind. So you gotta do something with yourself, but what? The only thing you're good at is getting people to like you. Boom. You go into politics. Raise some damn money!
Turns out, that's hard work too. But remember how this person was kind of popular. He or she has actual, useful friends. They maybe lay pipe, build foundations, some kind of manufacturing or construction. You go to them!
"Hey ... fund my dopey campaign, and I'll take care of you!"
"Okay, but what are your views on abortion, trade, jobs, education, growth....?"
"Derp, I dunno. I like hot chicks, cars, and boats!"
"Okay, we'll work on that." Hands him a list. "Sound good, future councilman?"
Can't read but sounds pretty good. This shell of a person now has "views."
It can be more complicated than this. There might be a law degree along the way, but this is about right.
I cannot figure out why people hate certain politicians, let alone take up sides. Harder time still why they LOVE certain politicians. If it weren't for politics as a profession, you'd be pissed at these same useless people for f--ing up your order in the drive through.
BTW ... that downtown revitalization project is over-budget and late.
You're surprised? Does it hurt?

Maybe you like it that way.

Bryan Lindenberger is a communications consultant working in higher education, non-profit, and manufacturing. Find him at bryanberg.net or follow him at LinkedIn



Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Am I a Micromanager? Check for Symptoms.


I begin with a confession. I micromanaged. I started a new job managing a team of six plus four contractors, tasked with putting together an event in five weeks that had previously taken four months of planning. This was no ordinary, one-day event. It was a week-long, National Science Foundation camp for students with disabilities that included recruiting 30 students, creating a syllabus with teachers including anticipated outcomes, plus organizing vendors, multiple speakers, lunches, scheduling halls, science supplies and … you get the idea.

When the event took place, I raced around in an attempt to be three places at once, maintained mobile contact with staff and volunteers, ran through every presentation with the speakers a final time, and I was there to see a break in the food line at lunch and hand out portions of the meals. I did everything right, assuming I didn’t know anything about what I was doing. I micromanaged. By midway through, I faced a mutiny.
The irony of micromanagement (mm) is that the most organized, punctual, precise, want things to run smoothly types can create the most disruption, chaos, and bad feelings. Did I mention – when I jumped into the vacancy in the food line, I frustrated a volunteer who showed up a moment later and stood behind me for minutes, waiting to do her job? Yes, that happens when you micromanage.
No one considers him or herself an mm. We’re simply better organized, right?
The only way to see mm in yourself objectively is to watch for the symptoms.

Symptom One – The Moment I Turn My Back, Nothing Gets Done.
Here and throughout this short article, I assume that you are in a management position, so you have input in who gets hired, and that you are competent in that. As such, your staff is qualified and competent overall. Fellow staffers usually handle a slacker if you somehow made an error and one of those sneaked into the mix. If things aren’t getting done without your constant hovering, strong odds are that you have created an environment where no one feels in charge of his or own piece and is afraid to act without permission. At the least, human nature has kicked in and they see no point in acting until directly told – again, no sense of ownership. There’s nothing like an mm to sap your staff of pride and the motivation that comes with it.

Symptom Two – None of My Staff Has Fresh Ideas.
You read their résumés. You heard of their prior accomplishments. You were diligent in hiring and had confidence in the energy and intelligence you brought on board, so what happened? Well, maybe you happened. Think of a time you suggested a vacation to a significant other. They loved the idea! But the next thing you knew, they were hovering over you to make sure you booked the right hotel at the right rate on the right night, planned the dinners out at the right times in the right sequence and – oh no, we don’t have time to relax at the beach on Thursday, let’s bump that to Friday between 4:30 and 5:45 when the sun isn’t so hot and.... Can you feel the joy getting sucked away yet? Will you make another suggestion soon? Maybe, but with someone else!

Symptom Three – I’m Afraid to Take a Vacation.
And if you do, your check your work email and text constantly. Maybe you’re just a workaholic. But that’s different than checking for problems you believe only you can resolve. If you must work, remember your position (and the next) and plan great things! That’s different than checking in constantly because you believe only you can solve a problem. If only you can, then you created the underlying issue yourself through mm. I’m a strong believer in Market-Based Management where a major tenet is “The person closest to the problem should have the skill, training, and authority to resolve that problem.” That is common sense for any small business owner, soldier, or nurse. If you hired and trained well and still worry, then re-check Symptoms One and Two.

Symptom Four – I delegate tasks based on what I don’t want to do.
Every job has its tedious times, whether you are a receptionist or CEO. But when you frequently give assignments not based on the skills and abilities of those you hire, it’s not just not poor resource management (though it’s that too). It can be a symptom of mm. Think of the flipside to what you are doing. By pushing off the mundane, you may be keeping the high end work for yourself. Which can be fine – you are in that role – until it turns into giving your MBA with an ethics degree and 10 years of solid outcomes in business your email hit list and what to say – say it just like this – because you believe only you can manage the new project in partner and funding stream development. The great thing about hiring and trusting the best is that they make you look good!

Symptom Five – Mutiny.
It’s almost too late. People call in sick. Everyone is slacking on the job. You find a résumé on the hard drive and someone isn’t at the desk who should be so you question them and – stop! You’re doing it again. Beating up the symptoms won’t cure the disease, and the disease is mm. It’s time for discussions with your staff. It’s time for meetings and one, two, or even three won’t fix it. By now your staff feels too cornered and distrustful for honesty. This is going to take a while, and may include after work talk or even a staff retreat. It’s going to take a lot of listening and introspection on your part. The alternative is to fire all those in mutiny, keeping only those fearful enough to agree that yes, we’re better off with those troublemakers gone. The problem will persist in the long run if you treat these symptoms and not the disease of micromanagement.


Bryan Lindenberger worked 15 years as a freelance writer with plenty of retail in the mix before 10 years in communications, marketing and research, and grant management and writing for education, nonprofit, and business. Please feel free to connect at LinkedIn and visit BryanBerg.net

Friday, October 14, 2016

The introduction that will not appear

Back when I wrote for a living, I'd set arbitrary goals.
One was 3500 to 5000 words per day. Didn't matter if I threw it away, with no outcomes, I reached that each day. The other was 5 publications per month. 3 Paying (easy) and two for fun (non-paying, harder.)
So I did that, knowing that all goals are arbitrary. It's why video games are fun, and why no one gets 1 point for discovery or a kill - you have to drop some zeros in there for the game to work. 1000 points. 10,000. Now we're having real fun!
So I did it with snark, sarcasm, irony, and dropping lines that would make any human cringe. This was the 1990s after all. If you could pull that off, you could get published. Five a month, bills paid.
And yet every now and then - never admitted this - someone would cut me at the knees. Whether writing raunch, sci fi, mainstream, or Christian ... once or twice a year a story would appear alongside mine that was really, really good.
Like ... instead of showing ugliness and laughing about it (as mine would do) made the world hopeful and beautiful in words. That really cut to the struggle and gave hope with meaning.
And I'd be in awe.
Those were the days I wrote no words.
My happiest moment as a writer in some ways was going to the store and seeing two of my works in print. Both at the check out line at the local supermarket. One in a paperback anthology of "fantastic literature" and the other in a "tabloid." It wasn't about pay or popularity. I felt I had infiltrated the culture at two unlikely ends. Call it "viral."
No one would have guessed - no one will ever guess - that both were mine. A pissy, confused, weird kid from a small town on the great lakes. But there they were. If we had mobile then, I would have captured it. It'd be on Instagram. The memory is better.
I wonder if I can write the stuff that cut me at the knees. That made me take a day off. That inspires without platitude. Can I be honest without being a dick. I think I know what a lot of people are seeking right now. Maybe I have a story that tells it. Easy on judgment and conclusions, a little bit stronger than my one-liners.
Because I'm 48, and being a writer who now waits 3 days for permission to make a Facebook post is all the irony I need to kick me in the ass back into writing.