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Archive for March, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Meaning—Add It to Your Life

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010


Image credit: Lucretious on sxc.hu

Ducks in a Row: How to Kill Creativity

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

ducks_in_a_rowYoungme Moonm, the Donald K. David Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, created The Anti-Creativity Checklist, a wonderfully irreverent video incorporating every cliché, past and present, used to kill creativity.

All around us people kill creativity through their frequent, unconscious use, as shown in a quote from last Thursday’s post by Jonah Rockoff, an economist at Columbia University, who said, “…no research he can think of has shown a teacher-training program to boost student achievement. So why invest in training when you could be throwing your money away?”

Not doing something new because there is no proof that it will work is number five in this video by Youngme Moon, a business professor at Harvard Business School.

Which have you heard recently in your workplace?

Which have you used?

Did their use kill creativity or just put it on hold?

My Anti-Creativity Checklist from Youngme Moon on Vimeo.

Image credit: Svadilfari on flickr and Youngme Moonm on Harvard Business Review

When Managers are Us vs. Them

Monday, March 29th, 2010


There is a major disconnect for many managers between what they think others do, what they say they do and what actually happens. It is a disconnect that affects not just their own teams, but spreads like ripples in a pond when a stone is tossed.

Most managers are unaware of it and are horrified when it’s brought to their attention—once they stop trying to rationalize it.

‘It’ refers to deeds and actions they condemn in others, but practice themselves.

It the idea that when ‘they’ do it it is unfair, immoral, or illegal, but if ‘we’ do it it’s OK—and it’s happening everywhere.

We see it in

  • political and religious leaders who preach high moral codes while practicing immorality;
  • parents who demand better education and then condemn any teacher that doesn’t give their child a good grade;
  • business leaders who preach ethics and practice them only as long as it’s convenient;
  • colleagues we condemn for filching company supplies even as we use company time to shop, update Facebook and Twitter; and
  • friends who, much to our dismay, share our private information even as we share someone else’s.

When managers do it it can damage, even destroy, the team, because it is a form of hypocrisy; hypocrisy kills trust and without trust there is no team.

A vicious circle that only the manager can break by listening carefully to the feedback she doesn’t want to hear.

Image credit: ravasolix on sxc.hu

mY generation: Resentment

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

See all mY generation posts here.


Quotable Quotes: Maya Angelou

Sunday, March 28th, 2010


I had lunch with a guy friend this week and I almost threw my margarita at him, except that would be a waste of a good drink. Here’s what happened.

March is Women’s History Month and we had been talking about various women who had been written up in one place or another. “Rich” mentioned several he found very impressive; I asked if he ad ever read anything about Maya Angelou, because I like the way her mind works and she is wise.

Rich said he didn’t read poetry; he also reminded me that he wasn’t into sentimental stuff.

And that’s when I thought about throwing my drink, but my self-control held and instead I told him he was an idiot and to read today’s post.

Maya Angelou has a tough, practical side and I freely admit I connect with it more easily than what Rich calls the ‘sentimental stuff’—but above all, the woman is wise and it is that wisdom which draws people in and teaches almost anything you want to learn.

So, Rich, in honor of you and Women’s History Month read these and recognize real wisdom from a woman who can make words sing.

In these days of 24/7, totally wired living it’s important to take these words to heart, Making a living is not the same thing as making a life.

Someplace back in the Seventies the idea that life was a series of challenges that needed to be overcome took hold. I never could stand that attitude; my own approach is better summed up in Angelou’s words, You shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back…

Maya Angelou is a firm believer in the power of MAP, although she’s probably never heard of it; but I know it’s true because she said, If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

That’s right, most of the time we try to change what’s outside and forget to change what’s inside, but, as this wise lady tells us, Nothing will work unless you do.

Even for Rich I can’t leave out two of Angelou’s statements that are deep life lessons; absorb them into your MAP and I can guarantee you will reap the rewards long after you’ve forgotten the source.

The first to remember is this, People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

And finally, real wisdom, the kind you don’t hear very often, Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

I wish you many breathless moments in your life.

Image credit: adria.richards on flickr

Expand Your Mind: Leaders to Copy

Saturday, March 27th, 2010


Leadership is one of those things that everybody talks about, lots of people write about and some do it. My preference is to focus on those who have performed as leaders.

Although leadership doesn’t always equate to being in the top position, the links today refer to positional leaders who do a superb job leading.

Let’s start with an interview with Kip Tindell, chief executive of the Container Store, who talks about the principles underlying the culture, communications, hiring execs and a very interesting concept called the size of your wake.

Most people’s wake is much, much, much larger than they can ever imagine. We all can’t imagine that we have as much impact on the people and the world around us as we really do.

Next is David Hauser, co-founder and CTO of Grasshopper, a virtual phone system specifically for entrepreneurs. Started when he was still in school it reached profitability quickly; like most entrepreneurs Hauser wears many hats, including the company’s culture.

When we started we did not clearly articulate the values at all and that was a big mistake and today we talk about it all the time.

Now meet Jay Goltzm who owns five small businesses in Chicago and writes about the two things he does to keep his happy employees happy. He

  1. treats them well, and
  2. fires the unhappy ones.

If you read books on great companies, they usually leave out a dirty little secret. It doesn’t make for good public relations — like talking about how you “empower people” or how your “greatest assets” are your people. Both of these well-worn clichés are true. What is also true is that it’s hard to build a great company with the wrong people.

And in response to a few of the comments he clarifies what he meant.

Instead of unhappy, I probably should have said disrespectful (to others, not me), incompetent, unreasonable, undependable, irresponsible, unproductive, dysfunctional (I did say that one), angry, whiny or mean — and beyond a manager’s ability to repair.

Last, but certainly not least is Guy Kawasaki, co-founder of Alltop and managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, who is known for, among other things, his irreverent approach to himself. It’s on full display in this interview about learning to manage and lead.

When I finally got a management position, I found out how hard it is to lead and manage people. The warm, fuzzy stuff is hard. The quantitative stuff is easy…

Image credit: pedroCarvalho on flickr

How to Communicate

Friday, March 26th, 2010

communicateSuccessful communications go a long way to sustaining successful relationships.

Relationships are a function of human interaction and whether they are short or long you need to communicate.

When those involved are peers, as in a marriage, good communication is a responsibility of both.

But when one person is subordinate to the other, such as parent and child, it is up to the parent to make sure that whatever is being communicated is understood.

Human interactions in companies are also relationships and follow the same rules.

If you are a manager how do you make sure you are heard?

It’s pretty simple as long as you remember to do it every time, no exceptions.

Did you know that all people have a mental model through which they hear?

That means their understanding of the words you use may have little-to-nothing to do with what you meant when you said them.

It’s a grave tactical error to assume anything else

There are 3 actions you must do to assure that you are heard correctly.

  1. Start by carefully explaining your model and your assumptions when giving direction;
  2. give your people clear, complete information on the subject. This includes what you want done, project outlines, deadlines, everything—you do not want them to have to keep coming back and asking for more—getting information should not be like pulling teeth; and then
  3. check by having them explain it back to you; it’s the only way to be sure that they have actually heard and understood your information, rather than their version of it;
  4. do it today, do it tomorrow, do it all the time.

It may feel awkward at first, but eventually it will become second nature.

The more these actions are needed the greater the likelihood of them being perceived as nuisance, but not doing them is a career-killer.

Your payback will come in rising productivity, more motivated people, and lower turnover—all positively affecting your personal bottom line.

Image credit: Torley on flickr

Leadership’s Future: Teaching Teachers

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

teacher-awardsToday’s post will be relatively short, because I want you to take time to read a NY Times article called Building a Better Teacher.

Education is an industry and from any viewpoint, it’s obvious that American education is in trouble—poor quality, low productivity, enormous turnover and bad press.

There is a raging argument about who are responsible—politicos (who hold the purse strings), administrators or frontline workers, i.e., teachers.

There is a move to shutdown underperforming plants and fire those frontline workers en masse.

Out with the old ad in with the new; the assumption being that “new” always means “better.”

In education as in any industry there are innovators and traditionalists—think Steve Jobs and the executives of the music industry.

Innovators: Deborah Loewenberg Ball, Michigan State’s school of education assistant professor, part time math teacher and originator of Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching, and Doug Lemov, teacher, principal, charter-school founder and author of Lemov’s Taxonomy. (The official title, attached to a book version being released in April, is “Teach Like a Champion: The 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College.”)

Traditionalist: Jonah Rockoff, an economist at Columbia University, who favors policies like rewarding teachers whose students perform well and removing those who don’t but looks skeptically upon teacher training. [because]… no research he can think of has shown a teacher-training program to boost student achievement. So why invest in training when, as he told me recently, “you could be throwing your money away”?

Hmmm, there was no market research to show that a personal music player would sell before the iPod changed history.

Read the article, it points the way to changes that will affect you no matter your age or if you have kids.

Changes that will determine America’s future.

Image credit: St Boniface’s Catholic College on flickr

Wordless Wednesday: the Result of Good Culture

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010


Image credit: HikingArtist on flickr

Ducks in a Row: If Culture is Simple Why is Creating It Difficult?

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010


Have you noticed that all the stuff written about culture and how to create one that sparks innovation, attracts Millennials, boosts productivity, retains people, etc., consistently boils down to some pretty simple advice.

That lesson was driven home again in a Harvard Business Review post by Melissa Raffoni called Eight Things Your Employees Want From You.

Now think about the kind of culture created when the boss provides them,

  1. Tell me my role, tell me what to do, and give me the rules.
  2. Discipline my coworker who is out of line.
  3. Get me excited.
  4. Don’t forget to praise me.
  5. Don’t scare me.
  6. Impress me.
  7. Give me some autonomy.
  8. Set me up to win.

The descriptions change from writer to writer, but the underlying principles stay the same and have for decades. In fact, workers have craved these basics for centuries, long before the idea of business culture took form.

So, if the desire is that ancient and the pay-back that great why don’t more managers provide the desired environment—they certainly talk enough about it.

Both experience and observation tell me that the lack of implementation tracks back to the boss’ MAP—and the boss’ unwillingness to change it.

Image credit: Svadilfari on flickr

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