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Archive for January, 2011

Grow Up to Grow

Monday, January 31st, 2011

2814824048_f05a61dfa0_mOne of the hardest things that bosses of growing companies face is the need to stop shooting from the hip.

I frequently hear from startups, small biz and entrepreneurs that growing up would ruin their culture.

They tell me it stifles creativity. It’s for larger companies. It’s bureaucratic. It’s too time consuming.

“It” refers to the underpinnings of all successful companies. “It” includes stuff like,

  • Financial controls
  • Annual operating plan that includes financial planning (you can’t plan to do something if you can’t pay for it)
  • Organization charts and definitions of responsibilities
  • Hiring process
  • Long-term planning
  • Centralized information technology implementation and planning

Whether it’s just you, or one, ten, fifty or more employees, whether full time, part time or virtual, you need viable processes to keep you focused—think of it as coloring inside the lines.

Everything on this list can and should be scaled for applicability, but all are necessary in some form for any business endeavor.

You don’t have to implement them all at once, but none will happen as long as you allow your MAP to reject or begrudge them.

And don’t confuse process with bureaucracy. Process is like MAP, it gets you where you want to go, whereas bureaucracy stifles whatever it touches; process, like MAP, is ever-changing and growing, while bureaucracy is carved in stone.

It boils down to the fact that bosses can’t be cowboys, so hang up your boots and spurs and do right by your company and it’s people.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/daryl_mitchell/2814824048/

mY generation: Bathroom Confessionals 2

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

See all mY generation posts here.

Quotable Quotes: Inventors

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

4503374874_11d31be2d7People who invent things are endlessly fascinating. To see around corners; to conceive of something where there was nothing is an amazing act.

Inventors are also been known to stick both feet in their mouth for real, not as an urban legend.

DEC (it built minicomputers) founder Ken Olson said, There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home. Obviously, he was a little shortsighted.

Another technologist, Robert Metcalfe (co-inventor of Ethernet), missed the mark by eons when he said, The internet will catastrophically collapse in 1996. Well, nobody’s right all the time.

Beyond inventing stuff, inventors often have excellent insights on people and the act of living.

Erno (the cube) Rubik said, Our whole life is solving puzzles. Which, most people will agree, makes him a master of understatement.

Edwin Armstrong (invented FM) shows both his insight and sense of humor in this observation, It ain’t ignorance that causes all the trouble in this world. It’s the things people know that ain’t so.

However, if you believe Dean Kamen (think Segway) it doesn’t matter anyway, If history is any indication, all truths will eventually turn out to be false.

Here’s a great sound bite from David Sarnoff (RCA and NBC) that should be embedded in every manager’s brain, Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people.

Right alongside this one from Edwin (Polaroid) Land, The most important thing about power is to make sure you don’t have to use it.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bojo/4503374874/

Expand Your Mind: Dumb, Stupid and Dimwitted

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

In my ongoing effort not to offend I am wracking my brain to think of a polite way to say this, but I’ll try.

Ahem. The amount of idiocy masquerading as brilliant management advice pales in comparison only to what is offered in the name of leadership. (How’s that for diplomatic?)

These are the supposedly silver bullets that will solve all difficulties and turn around any problem, not to mention making your organization run perfectly. (And if you believe that I have a great deal on a bridge for your front yard.)

What they are is dumb, stupid and dimwitted, in spite of being preached by high profile CEOs, consultants and various pundits.

But it seems as if I’m not the only person who is fed up with the management/leadership solutions du jour, although some have been around for decades.

BNET had three posts that cover the idiocy pretty completely.

The first is The 5 Dumbest Management Concepts of All Time, which are

  1. Downsizing
  2. Leadership
  3. Human Resources
  4. Empowerment
  5. Business Warfare

The second is The 8 Stupidest Management Fads of All Time, which are

  1. Six Sigma
  2. Business Process Reengineering
  3. Matrix Management
  4. Management by Consensus
  5. Core Competency
  6. Management By Objectives
  7. The Search for Excellence
  8. Management by God

The third is 5 Dimwitted Leadership Strategies, which are

  1. Command and Control
  2. Bottom Line Be All End All
  3. Tradition and Prescription
  4. The Black Hole
  5. The Lone Ranger

And since we are on the subject of dumb, stupid and dimwitted check out the review of a new book that takes a different look at leadership. I can’t add my two cents, since I haven’t read it, but the review is hilarious.

Naturally Selected: The Evolutionary Science of Leadership is a peculiar, sometimes interesting, sort of pseudoscientific, and often baffling explanation of how evolution has created a subspecies of men who grow tall, remarry constantly, and make oodles of money. If it’s true, it might one day give Upper East Side divorce lawyers the same clout The Origin of Species gave biology teachers.

Image credit: MykReeve on flickr

Leadership Kool-Aid: Visions

Friday, January 28th, 2011


There is a wonderful post by Kent Lineback at HBR called The Leadership Learning Moment That Wasn’t. In it he tells of blowing a great opportunity because he couldn’t get the other executives in the company to buy into his vision.

“What do you think is going on? I made an important point and everybody yawned and moved on.”
“It was an important point,” he [the consultant] said, “but you didn’t build any bridges.”

Lineback goes on to say that he thought long and hard about the consultant’s words and realized he was right.

“I didn’t build bridges. I didn’t reach out and connect with others on their terms. I talked at them. I had a solution, a beautiful vision. I knew the answer, and I spent my time telling everyone what it was and what the company had to do.

But that didn’t change anything.

I knew he was right. I knew I should do what he said. But I couldn’t debase my perfect vision by turning it into a free-for-all idea jam. Better to stay pure and fall on my sword, a martyr.”

That is one of the great problems of leadership visions, they are the property of one person; one person who will do almost anything to sell the vision—anything except share and modify it.

Leadership visions happen at all levels of a company from the CEO down to the newest supervisor.

It’s a side effect of drinking the leadership Kool-Aid, so you might want to think twice before indulging your thirst.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/khurt/5252851284/

Entrepreneurs: Hiring is Important

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

4121026060_66438bdc29_mThe fastest way to kill your startup is to screw up your hiring.

If you don’t kill the company bad hiring will your culture.

Even if nothing dies poor hiring will make growth far more difficult.

I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Vator.tv asks this question in its investor profiles: What is the #1 mistake entrepreneurs make; samplings of recent responses are telling:

  • Rajil Kapoor, managing director of Mayfield – Not hiring people better than themselves
  • Tim Chang of Norwest Venture Partners – Not building a world-class team
  • Joe Kraus, entrepreneur and investor – Not hiring well and/or hiring too fast (lesson learned as an entrepreneur – hire slowly and hire better than yourself, always.)

A few years ago I wrote You R Who You Hire; that wasn’t the first time I wrote on the topic (there are dozens of posts here on the importance of hiring well and how to do it) and this one won’t be the last.

So in the interest of better hiring, I’m posting RampUp’s CheatSheet for InterviewERS for you to use. It works for any hiring manger, whether in a startup, an enterprise or anything in-between.

Be sure to join me next week for a way to ensure a great interview.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thetruthabout/4121026060/

WW: Parents and Teens

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Image credit: Internet (if anyone knows the correct attribution please tell m e)

Ducks in a Row: Creating Destiny

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

There is much written about the importance of authenticity and trust when it comes to engaging employees and developing culture.

Enough, in fact, that you could spend years trying to digest it all.

So I thought it would be useful to offer up some very basic advice (often attributed to Frank Outlaw, the Josephson Institute can find no proof of him as the author).

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

This common wisdom is the kind of thing you can print out and keep as a mantra.

Best of all, it applies equally to individuals, companies and other organizations.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zedbee/103147140/

Who are You?

Monday, January 24th, 2011

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” –Dr. Seuss

2870888435_cd9f7ed4eb_mMany years ago when I was a recruiter a third-level manager I was good friends with was laid off. One day, over lunch, Roy said that another recruiter had called him about a position, but said that he would have a better chance if he shaved his beard and he wanted to know what I thought.

Roy’s wife didn’t like the idea; he’d had a beard since college days. When I asked him if he thought he would regrow it after getting hired he said definitely.

In that case, there was no question that Roy should keep the beard for the interview. If the company didn’t hire him because of the beard they would feel conned when it came out that he only shaved for the interview.

There are many ways to break trust, but one of the fastest is to be someone other than your real self at the interview and the real Roy had a beard. (He didn’t shave and still got the job.)

This is just as true for a hiring manger. If something is done a certain way and you present a different scenario in order to land the candidate don’t be surprised when your new hire walks after getting a taste of the actual reality.

Whether manager, company or candidate, trust starts before the first conversation.

It starts with a street rep. Not what they say about themselves, but with what others say about them.

Remember “what goes around comes around?” These days it not only comes around with a vengeance, but thanks to social media it never goes away.

Being yourself makes you authentic; being authentic makes you trustworthy; being trustworthy makes your street rep great.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/a6u571n/2870888435/

mY generation: MLM

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

See all mY generation posts here.

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