Take a position!

by Russ Hill on April 24, 2013

I remember his suspenders.  And his endless pacing.

He made you wonder if he forgot to stop by the bathroom before his presentation.

Every time he came to town he insisted on having an entire box full of new markers and three easels at the front of the room.  And those large sticky pads of paper on them.

Our company paid him to fly into town and stand before us to boldly declare global trends.

It seemed like most of his predictions were wrong.  Enough so that I wondered how he made any money declaring things that never transpired.

But, the truth was he wasn’t there to declare trends.  He was there to make us think.  About the big picture.

As he taunted members of the executive team to challenge his opinions he’d constantly bark a line that still rings in my ears years later.

“Stop hedging.  Quit sitting there,” he’d say.

“Take a position!”

With one hand stretching out his suspenders and the other pointing a marker in your face he forced you to speak up.

“It’s time to take a position,” he’d call out.

I’ve now experienced enough of life to realize why my bosses paid him to annoy us with that line.

It’s because so few people are willing to take a position.

In business, it’s the biggest stumbling block to break out success.

In careers, it’s why most people are still in the job they swore they were going to leave five years… uh, fifteen years ago.

Sure, we boldly declare whether we support the Yankees or Red Sox.  Whether we’re for or against Obama.

But, when it comes to the less trivial matters in life I’ve found a ton of what I call Wind Vanes.

These are the people who face whichever way the wind is blowing.

In matters of business strategy or societal morals and values they sit and listen.  To the breeze.  Only after discovering wind patterns in the room do they speak up.  And expand the echo chamber.

I so badly desire more people who stand for something.

Few things bring me more happiness than a mid-level manager speaking up even as he gets used to the feel of the chairs in the conference room.

Or the teenager who left the party early.  Or quickly deleted an inappropriate text.

Or the parent who got off the couch and sat in the pew.

Or the employee willing to risk it as she reached for the next level.

The easy route through life is to gauge the wind.

To blend into the crowd.

To sit on the sidelines.

To be a spectator.

To straddle the fence.

I realize most employees just want a paycheck.  Most people just want to be able to watch some TV.  And most companies are okay living off last year’s clientele.

That path ensures your personal contribution will be limited.  Your time here quickly forgotten.

And the company’s growth always in the low single digits.

History celebrates the one who stood alone.

The one who spoke up.

The one who offered a different way.

The one who dared to take a position.

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