Managing the Optics
This term has crept into business-speak, despite the fact that optics refers to the study of light or instruments with lenses, but never means either. It’s a metaphoric use of course. It tends to mean that care ought to be taken in communicating something since an individual or group may respond negatively. The assumption here is that having to directly address that negative reaction would be bad.
It’s innocent enough in its typical expression-“manage the optics”, which I hear repeatedly, sounds no different than managing perceptions. Everyone does that to a greater or lesser extent. But I’ve been noticing what I think is an unintended consequence of a rise in managing the optics. That it drives communication that is purposefully vague, or worse, that conceals or falsifies information, in the service of creating better optics.
Communication is always nuanced, and it’s important to use those nuances to express new ideas and illustrate distinctions. But in the myriad ways, I’ve heard optics used, it’s typically been to draw attention away from, minimize, or obfuscate an issue. I’ve yet to hear anyone say, we need to “be mindful of the optics”, in the service of trying to be clear or direct. Would you want your team to present to you about something important, and be thinking about managing the optics? I doubt it.
I suggest that when you hear this term it should be a signal for you to inquire (or consider for yourself) about why it’s important. Assume positive intent and that nothing insidious is happening, but look further. What reaction is it that you’re trying to encourage or prevent? Are you avoiding a necessary disagreement or conflict? Is there bad news that has to be addressed? None of this is to say that you shouldn’t present your ideas, performance, or plans with a positive approach. If you are hearing the term “optics” from others or in your head though, it’s worth asking what’s really going on.
The first five people to reply to this newsletter will receive a complimentary seat to How Leaders Improve Performance and Drive Results, sponsored by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. We are 10 days away from this special event, and the Tampa Bay Business Journal has generously offered to extend some complimentary seats for readers of this newsletter. If you want to attend, reply to the newsletter or contact me directly.
Follow up from last month’s newsletter:
Last month I shared my latest article for Harvard Business Review, How to Get Your Sales People to Execute Your Strategy. I received plenty of comments about this being relevant for executives who read this newsletter, so I am including another article this month with some additional perspectives. Your Sales People Are Setting Your Strategy (Are You OK With That?), was published this month on Salesforce.com and includes an example of a client that added $50M in revenue last year with $1B on the way this year using some of the approaches outlined.
A Slice of Life Balance
Take some time to sit still and let your mind take a break from being inundated with stimuli.
For years I tried meditation. Or at least I dabbled in varying forms and was convinced I’d only discovered the cure for writer’s block. Just trying to sit quietly only seemed to accelerate the thoughts and ideas in my head. So much so, that I’d have to stop and get to work on something. But I’ve kept at it and finally found an approach that works for me. However you choose, I encourage you to try this in some form or another.
It is a keystone habit of many of the world’s top performers in business, the arts, and athletics. There are plenty of options for how you can do this, but I think if you try it consistently for a couple of weeks (maybe even a few days), you’ll notice a positive difference.
The Edinger Consulting Group newsletter – Edinger’s Monthly Insights, jammed with resources, focuses on providing information and value to our clients. If you do not wish to receive it, just let us know by replying to this email with the subject REMOVE or click on the unsubscribe option at the bottom of the newsletter.