The Hairdresser’s Paradox

Have you ever gone to a new stylist for that first appointment, and you can just sense the silent (or not so silent) judging about your hair?

The subtle looks and clucking that subtly declare:  “Who came up with this hot mess?  Why did they do it this way?  I would never have done THAT,”  etc. etc.

As someone with a double crown, I’ve gotten used to being someone with limited options at the hair stylist.

From a dentist in Dallas in the 80s to hair stylists in the 90s, to consultants of all natures, anytime.  No matter your industry, we’ve all been on either the receiving or delivering end of such subtle criticism of decisions.  Like the famous “barber’s paradox” (yes; it’s really a thing — Google it), the consultant can’t ever truly walk in your shoes, or it takes a great deal of empathy and experience to understand how you or your organization got to this point.

I hired a consultant last year to clean up some long-standing issues in our network infrastructure, and he did a great job doing some of the heavy liftings that we’d struggled with off and on. I had a very clear understanding of what needed to be done, so the scope was clearly defined.  Some pesky bottlenecks that had existed forever were finally dealt with.  However, when I was ready to move to a new router/firewall combo, he was against it.  His “hairdresser judging” came to the forefront and colored his viewpoint in a way that said more about his interest in doing more hourly work for me than an honest assessment of the direction I felt was better for our organization.

I went for the system I had I had in mind (detailed earlier in the Dyson of Firewall/Routers), and it’s been a great experience: it’s met all my expectations for a cloud-driven device that quietly monitors my network, switches silently between WAN hosts, etc. etc..

We still like that consultant and use him as conditions warrant, both inside the walls and outside with our partner agencies, so no hard feelings.

As I continue to transition from being an IT practitioner to more of an overall leader of the organization, I have to be sensitive to this.  If my colleagues don’t get my vision, it’s my fault for not conveying them in a way to make it clear and compelling.  

I’ve been reviving my skills as a listener.  For years, as the Supreme Technical Diagnostician, one of my blessings was being able to see a few steps ahead to solve problems FAST.  But that often meant I wasn’t fully understanding people’s problems or their perception of their problem. 

Much like a 12-step participant, sometimes I feel the need to call up my former employers and say:  “Thanks for giving me leadership opportunity when I was green, and Sorry for you having to train me in the ways of collaborative leadership.”

Note the funky drop cap above, and the swirl divider: I upgraded WordPress to 5.0, and am embracing the new Gutenberg editor.  It’s approach of building a page in blocks looks very promising — and maybe a little reminiscent of Quark Xpress back in the early 90s…

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