Just Chill.

Guess what? My most recent blog post received double-digit comments—a new record for me. Whether that occurred due to the subject matter or the fact that I shamelessly asked for comments (remember…I’m breezy!) is debatable, but a couple of the responses have led me to develop another first—a follow-up post.

Consider this comment from Lou, one of my Plante Moran colleagues:

Just chill out! I understand and appreciate the concern expressed about undermining authority. However, authority is earned and is the product of effort and contribution times experience. Using “gentler pressure” is actually a way to influence the longer term, not only the moment you respond. Once you’re viewed as harsh or overly direct, your audience shuts down. I use the adage that I attribute to Frank Moran (likely he noted from someone else): “gentle pressure, constantly applied yields results and avoids major interruptions.” Just my $0.02.

Of course he’s right. Authority is earned, and I understand that there’s a fine line between direct and abrupt. Moreover, I consider that Frank Moran quote a personal mantra (though for my purposes, it’s “gentle pressure, relentlessly applied”). I think about the people I respect most professionally—men and women—and all have made an art out of this. But there are “just” so many gray areas…

Consider this.

The same day my last blog came out, I was copied on an email from Lindsay, PM’s marketing tax consultant. It began like this: “Hi Mike — wanted to give you an update on the latest private equity tax article.” Immediately afterward, she forwarded that email to me with the following comment: “You’ll be happy to know I removed three instances of ‘just’ from this email.”

And I was happy! Because I could see the effect of removing those “justs” in action. Look at that first sentence; I’d be willing to bet my next paycheck that it initially said, “Hi Mike — just wanted to give you an update….” But instead she went with the more direct “…wanted to give you an update….” And there’s nothing harsh or off-putting about it.

What do you think? Should I just chill out? And are there any specific topics you’d like me to touch on? I’ll be back in about two weeks.

Word of the Week:  Anodyne (I heard a vendor say this in a presentation last week. Good word.)
Song of the Week:  “Summertime,” Will Smith


From Rocks to Diamonds

At Plante Moran, we have a tradition where departing staff members write “green memos” to say goodbye, thank those who made an impact on them, and disclose what they’re doing next. Recently, a staff member with whom I worked closely left the firm, and she mentioned me in her memo: “Mindy Kroll — you are this firm’s secret weapon….I’ve said it a million times, I love your brain! I hand you a bag of rocks, and you turn them into diamonds.”

Nice, right? It actually made me tear up a bit. I’m a pretty humble person, and I’m not great at accepting compliments. But I do agree with the rocks into diamonds part. I sometimes refer to myself as “Mindystiltskin,” for I have the ability to convert lines of messy, questionable prose into a well-organized, understandable and—on a good day—engaging piece of writing. Something akin to gold.

So when I decided, recently, that I’d like to have my own blog, developing one around writing and grammar seemed a good fit. I had other ideas; I thought Steve and I could have our own music blog, or my friend, Lisa, and I could write about our struggles with technology or love of the 1980s. But this makes the most sense.

When I told my colleague, Dan, that I was considering this blog, his response was typically pragmatic: “You should have a blog. I should, too. It’s good for our resumes.” The next day—without any prompting from me—he designed this site for me.* (You didn’t think I did this myself, did you? Like I said earlier…technology struggles. So many technology struggles.)

This doesn’t mean I won’t occasionally write about other things. As the author of this blog, I reserve the right to write about whatever I want. I hope you enjoy it.

Word of the week: whorl

Song of the week: “Diamonds and Pearls,” by Prince