Sunk Costs in the Conflict You’re In

By | Jesan Sorrells Blog, Leadership Philosophy, Leadership Theology, New Posts

When you’re an entrepreneur, the emotional labor you put into the project is a sunk cost. So is the time you spent on not getting a deal. The coffees and dinners that you paid for are also a sunk cost.

When you’re experiencing a divorce, the twenty years of marriage is a sunk cost. So are the kids that you raised together and the house that you bought together. The money that you spent on gifts, trips and other items is a sunk cost.

When you’re going through a lawsuit, the respect that you once had from neighbors, co-workers, friends, and relatives is a sunk cost. So is the peace and quiet you worked so hard to achieve in the face of what was metastasizing under your nose.

When you’re fired from work, the mistakes you made at work and recovered from are a sunk cost. The emotional engagements that didn’t work out. The twenty years with an organization and the self-worth that you exchanged for a paycheck—these are all sunk costs.

Continuing to invest time, money, attention, emotional labor, caring, and other investments in a conflict situation, because you’ve been doing it anyway, even after the conflict proves to be intractable, unsolvable, and the other party is unwilling to work, is a fallacy.

It’s understandable. After all, time, emotional labor, attention; these are finite resources from a human perspective that, once they are spent, can seemingly no longer be recovered.

There are two options in a conflict then: lament the fact of the sunk costs and seek to ameliorate the impact of the cost in terms of future gains. Or, just write it off and let it go.

The choice is yours.

Seeking Support

By | Jesan Sorrells Blog, Leadership Theology, New Posts

There are five different types of support you can seek ahead of launching any type of initiative inside of your organization:

Moral support—this type of support comes from individuals who cannot give material support, but who believe fervently in whatever it is that you are doing. Belief in you, belief in the initiative, belief in the story of the initiative—these stories distill down into moral support.

Material support—this type of support comes from individuals who may not morally (or ethically) believe in what you’re doing, but they have access to power, money, and other organizational resources. Sometimes this access is conditional, sometimes this access is unconditional, and sometimes this access starts as one thing and ends as another.

Emotional support—this type of support is often confused with moral support in the mind of the person receiving it. The important difference is that moral support has little to do with whether I like you or not. Emotional support is all about whether I like you or not.

Public support—this type of support generates the same feelings of “being picked” in the person receiving it that being chosen on the grade school playground engenders. Public support is oriented not towards you—or towards the initiative you are championing—but is oriented toward convincing the audience that you are supported and that what you are championing has value.

Private support—this type of support generates the same feelings in the person being supported that material support does. The important difference is that private support is almost always exactly that: private. In this context, private means: “I’m supporting what you’re doing, but politically it’s more important for me to preserve private face than to endure the consequences of public exposure.”

When you’re launching an initiative, be sure that you are carefully considering what type of support you are seeking, and from whom.

ROI of Ethics

By | Jesan Sorrells Blog, Leadership Theology, New Posts

One of the main reasons that social entrepreneurship is sometimes scoffed at by audience’s observing from the outside, is the recognition of the obvious tension between the founders’ personal ethics and business revenue generation.

So, what’s the ROI (return on investment) on founders’ ethics?

The ROI on founders’ ethics is the same as the ROI on using the Internet and the tools of communication to leverage business practices against future audiences’ time and attention.

The ROI on founders’ ethics is the same as the ROI on corporate social responsibility—the idea that business must be more like Martin Luther King, Jr., and less like Milton Friedman.

The ROI on founders’ ethics, at the core of social entrepreneurship practices, comes down to deciding whether maintaining principles matters more than generating revenues through all manner of non-ethical business practices.

But, every business person, every founder, every person who starts a social entrepreneurship project, must decide—usually at the beginning of a project—about what those principles are.

And about how far they are willing to travel with them.

Old Ideas

By | Jesan Sorrells Blog, Leadership Philosophy, Leadership Theology, New Posts

There are old ideas—and “old” just means “ideas we don’t think will ‘work’ in whatever cultural, economic or political ordering of the world humanity is advocating for now”—that sometimes need new traction.

Ideas fall out of favor for a variety of reasons that reflect cultural evolution. When this evolution reaches a standstill (or when going forward seems scarier than standing still) old ideas from the past tend to return to the minds of the present.

Unfortunately, the speed of the Internet has convinced humanity (at least in some places on the globe) that the speed of cultural evolution should match the immediacy with which an individual can order a latte from their phone.

Here’s a list of some old ideas that are still relevant regardless of how fast you are culturally evolving:

  • Love your enemies.
  • Do good too (and for) those who would seek to do wrong to you.
  • Actively practice humility and grace.
  • Live your life according to a set of values, ethics, and morals that you can explain when the rubber meets the road.
  • Help others who are not as fortunate as you in acquiring stuff.
  • Be interested, open and caring about another person’s story so that you can grow as they grow.
  • Listen more than you talk—either with your hands or your mouth.

When an old idea returns to prominence (or when an idea that never had traction in the first place takes its turn in the milieu of cultural evolution), we often say that it is “an idea whose time has come.

Of course, for ideas as old as the ones above (and many others I’m sure that you could think of) their time never really left.

There is Risk Everywhere

By | Jesan Sorrells Blog, Leadership Theology, New Posts

There is risk everywhere and fear of risk leads to avoidance, delay, or surrender in the face of conflict and change.

The thing about risk profiles is that they differ based on the stories that we tell ourselves about how we can either succeed or fail in the face of conflict or change.

The stories of failures (“People like us tried something like this before. And it didn’t work.”) and the stories of successes (“People like us tried something like this before. And it worked.”) both share at their core, a story about risk looming large.

If you want to succeed in managing a conflict effectively, or if you want to manage change for other people, or if you want to “win” at a negotiation, here are three points to consider about risk.

By the way, these are not exhaustive points, they are merely starting points:

Everyone has a risk profile. Many people believe strongly that they have something to lose.

For some, its respect, face, honor, the ability to do work tomorrow, or even deeper emotional hurts.

For others, its position, title, money, or the ability to get to show up tomorrow in a place that feels safe.

Most risk profiles, based on fear, is not about physical harm (most of us in the West have eliminated those factors from our daily lives) but is instead about psychological harm.

And psychological safety.

Everyone’s risk profiles mismatch to everyone else’s. This should be obvious, but the fact of the matter is, empathy is in short supply—and always has been.

It becomes even less of a factor when we are so focused on convincing the other party that their risk profile is wrong or misguided, we miss the fact that what matters is empathy to the presence of the mismatch, rather than trying to resolve it.

Everyone wants risk reduced at the least, or eliminated entirely at the most. Reduction and elimination of risk are acts that move parties toward a sense of safety in situations where risk is high, profiles are mismatched, and empathy is in short supply.

The party who succeeds in diplomacy, change management, or conflict reduction is the party who is in tune with what stories will reduce (or eliminate) feelings of risk in the other party.

By the way, the things that people focus on as being “risky” or that they believe they have to lose the most, sometimes are drivers for their most impactful, deeply held stories.

Understand the risk profiles (and the safety and trust needs) of the other party at the table, before trying to convince them of your “I’m right.”

That way, you’ll be sure they listen.