Use Your Voice, Not Your Muscle

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” ~ Mohandas Gandhi


by Pete Ferguson

A few weeks ago I answered Chery’s question about how to resolve conflict at work without being a jerk. She confided in me recently that she still hasn’t taken the “jerk” at her office on, but that she enjoyed the post. I’m also surprised at how often the post is still being read and searched on Google.

It got me thinking that I haven’t written about my #1 pet peeve in the Security Industry. This is likely going to stir a large pot of controversy and that is fine, so I’ll just take it head on.

Why do people always think that to be good at security you need to have a background in the military, policy, FBI, Secret Service, etc?

Physical strength can never permanently withstand the impact of spiritual force. ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Let’s break this down. If you are working with the Secret Service, you have an entire battalion of support for everything you do. You have a decree from Congress that there is no challenge you cannot super-cede if the Nation is at risk. If you need a car towed, pick up the phone and it is done. You need someone menacing to disappear for a few hours. Done.

In the military, break a rule and you will be doing push ups, running laps, cleaning toilets, or spending time locked down.

So my continual question that has yet to be answered is: “How does that kind of experience push you to the front of the pack in the security industry where your budget will be nill and you’ll have a small group of people making just over minimum wage to support you when it comes retirement time and you look at a security job?”

In over 15 years of doing this job, my ability to communicate, budget, and network have always come in handy. I’ve never needed to kick anyone’s butt. Never. I’ve never once needed to handcuff, shoot, or compel someone into submission.

As has been pointed out to me by a coworker, the old adage in police work is “ask, tell, make.”

In the Corporate Security world the matra is “ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask a different way, ask, ask, ask … get creative and find a workaround.”

That’s my point. Resolving a conflict with force only allows one side a very short victory. You write a check you can’t cash. Without the ability to “make” – you can’t get someone to do what you need them to do the next time. And in corporate life, there are just soo many “next times.”

And in the corporate world I’ve just hardly ever seen a scenario where “make” was an option that HR, Legal, and others were comfortable with. Maybe I’ve been at too relaxed of a company (which is great and I’ll happily stay here).

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 7.14.35 AMAs a child I was terrible at physical fighting outside of the home. I remember really bugging a kid named Shane – I forget his last name at the moment – in 5th grade. He called me out and we decided on a time and place we were going to fight (boys were allowed to do that back in the day …). After many years of boxing with my brother and zero experience in wrestling, I made a fatal error. Shane asked what kind of fight we were going to have and I decided that wrestling sounded like a good plan.

Shane beat the snot out of me that warm Spring day. I remember laying on my back looking up at a beautiful blue sky while getting a bloody nose and hit repeatedly.

My brand new jacket was completely muddy and grass stained when we were all done. I lied and told my mom we’d been playing flag football that turned into a tackle game. The grass stains never quite came out of the jacket, a subtle reminder that in this lifeĀ I wasn’t going to win much with muscle so I’d better learn to communicate out of controversy. And so that has been my quest.

There was something about my ears sticking out (and more likely my attitude) that drew every bully in Utah, Texas, and then in New Jersey to immediately find me and want to clean my clock. The lesson Shane taught me that day took a long time to turn into action, but has served me well.

If we get into a situation where I win and you lose, I have lost. Because next time you have an opportunity to settle score, you are likely going to take it and I’ll be humiliated and caught off guard. But if I can work with you and we both agree a course of action is in both our best interests, the next time we interact, you may want to pay it forward and we’ll both win with very little effort on your or my part.

And that is why brains over brawn really does work – or at least has worked – for me.



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