Note: I was looking for something on the internet and I stumbled upon this piece. It’s in a very flashy publication (askmen.com) and the author is ostentatious, even regarding his own name. ‘Mafioso’?, please. Regardless, he does make good points here so I figure why sacrifice the message just because I disagree with the author’s choice of delivery style.
Article: Let’s get right down to business. You’re probably wondering what the title means — an iron fist in a velvet glove. First off, it describes a style of doing or taking care of business. Whether in politics, foreign affairs, business relations, or on the street, a man who hides an iron fist in a velvet glove is a man with the diplomacy and tact to resolve things rationally, and the guts to unleash his iron fist when circumstance demands it.
I’ve got to admit, though, that harnessing power is a tricky thing, especially in a bureaucratic era of “communication strategies” and “research and development” departments. Gone are the days of making quick, cutthroat decisions. Gone are the days of throwing an office tantrum and busting a few chairs in order to get the attention of your office drones. And, perhaps most tragically, gone are the days of pounding an iron fist on your desk and insisting that it’s either your way or the highway.
In short, the days of the stern disciplinarian seem to be numbered. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the vicious iron fist has been put to rest in some museum — it’s just that you can’t always be a war monger. As you goombas must know by now, you can’t just go running around popping everyone who crosses your path. Severity, after all, is often the simplest way to get things done. Just don’t abuse it so that it loses all impact.
So in this installment, let’s look at an iron fist in a velvet glove.
Diplomacy is a velvet glove
To be a good diplomat, it helps if you’ve already established a reputation for diplomacy. Just be careful not to go overboard. Most political diplomats are so bound by their duty to work out compromise that they can never bring the hammer down and call a spade a spade. However, if you know your colleagues and they trust your judgment, you can walk the line between tactful diplomacy and putting your foot down. Persuasive rhetoric and the patient willingness to listen are key tools you should have in your back pocket when mediating or resolving a situation. If this doesn’t work, though, don’t go dragging your story to your supervisor or the human resources department. Sure, these are the people assigned to deal with stalemates, but they’ll just file some paperwork that will get shuffled around and lost. More importantly, if you’ve exhausted every diplomatic angle, the situation now calls for decisive action, and true leadership begins where diplomacy ends.
Reveal the iron fist when: your diplomacy is just lip service and your coworker is becoming an obstacle to your own goals.
Communication is a velvet glove
It helps to know a bunch of your colleagues, to share stories and wisecracks, to eat with them and keep each other up-to-date. What I mean is that you’re killing yourself and adding to your personal workload if you don’t socialize with the people you see every day. After all is said and done, these are the people who will protect you if they like you, and they’ll expose you or ignore you if they don’t. So talk to them. Encourage their stories and their little tidbits of information. If you gab a little bit, you’ll establish a code of trust between parties. If you don’t, you’ll be out of the loop, on the outside looking in.
Reveal the iron fist when: someone betrays your trust. If you’ve established a code of trust and that is broken, it is treason, and that turncoat must pay a price.
Flexibility is a velvet glove
The next step for the tempered businessman is to be man enough to admit his own mistakes. Even an untouchable godfather is prone to making the odd mistake, so it is important to recognize a mistake early on and then accept responsibility. Despite the error, dealing honorably with the situation will foster respect in colleagues and business partners because they will recognize that the inverse is also true; if you accept your own mistake, it means you’re dead-right the rest of the time. And that, my friends, inspires confidence and builds trust.
Reveal the iron fist when: you know damn well you’re right.
Positive reinforcement is a velvet glove
It’s no secret that most people live dull, boring lives and need a stiff kick in the pants once in a while just to get things in gear. More often than not, the office drone is a drone because his life is about going through the motions, while never standing out from the crowd. So pat the guy on the back once in a while. Tell him he’s doing a bang-up job, even if a trained monkey could replace him with very little decline in productivity. If you can get a smile out of your most apathetic worker, then chances are some of the other ones will have a skip in their step, pleased with that whole “significant contribution” crap you fed them during their last evaluation. Having said all that, don’t make a habit of it. Above all, be fair, but if someone doesn’t respond to your pat on the back, it’s time to bring the hammer down.
Reveal the iron fist when: compliments have only stroked your henchman’s ego, instead of motivating him to get it in gear.
making money hand over fist
It takes balance to rule with an iron fist in a velvet glove. However, once you find a way to rule gently but firmly, you should very rarely have to reveal that strong iron fist.