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Archive for November, 2011

WW: Christmas Shopping 1

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

It’s that time of the year again; time to find that unique present for the special people in your world, whether business or personal. So, in the interests of lending a helping hand, I thought that over the next four Wednesdays I’d offer up some unique presents for boss, colleagues and other business connections as well as loved ones.

From Business Week comes 31 gift ideas to fit every pocketbook; prices range from as low as $11.50

to $3.5 million (in case your company went public or was acquired).

But if you don’t care to bid, here is an idea that, while still impressive, is far more affordable at a paltry $229,000.

Image credit: Business Week

Ducks in a Row: the Importance of Saying What You Mean

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Today’s post is short because reading the articles to which it’s linked is critical.

Are you a good communicator? Do you provide clear, complete, timely information to your team? Do you ever worry that it’s not as understandable as you think?

Have you ever read or heard a professional communicator and wished you could do that, too?

You would expect the two top people of an innovation consultancy to be good communicators and not make the assumption mistake.

They recently wrote an article in Business Week describing the three types of people to fire immediately if you want to increase innovation in your company.

The article was the most read for eight days and generated in excess of 1000 comments, mostly negative.


Because the way the article reads it’s the workers who should be fired, not the bosses.

So they wrote an apology and explanation.

“And that brings us to the ultimate irony. When we talked about firing people, we were thinking about those higher on the org chart, not lower. We meant the boss and senior management team. … We thought we made this implicit in the article. Judging from the response, we didn’t. We should have made it clearer.”

Communicating takes effort and the number one rule of clarity is no assumptions.

Read the articles and save them to read again whenever you find a disconnect between what you communicate and your team’s actions to be sure that you aren’t the source of the problem.

Flickr image credit: zedbee

Hiring Outside the Box

Monday, November 28th, 2011

What extracurricular activities do you look for in your entry level candidates?

Too many mangers chess team means a thinker/problem solver, debate team assumes good verbal and written skills, captain of anything indicates a leader.

How impressed would you be if you saw FAA, i.e., Future Farmers of America on the resume?

Many managers would write that off as irrelevant at best and valueless at the least, unless it was an agriculture-related position.

Not so fast.

Consider Gamaliel Rizzo, an apartment dweller from Brooklyn who is studying to become a doctor. He says he spent more time honing skills like public speaking and developing business budgets than learning about farming.

“What amazes me is the degree to which they have made themselves relevant when by all expectations they should have simply ceased to exist.” –Pamela Riney-Kehrberg, historian at Iowa State University.

And it’s not just in the heartland that the FAA is thriving.

About 70 percent of its members live in rural areas, and 19 percent live in small towns. The fastest growing segment, however, is in urban and suburban areas, now making up 10 percent of the membership.

So what’s the take away on this?

If you want the unusual, look for the unusual.

If you want to hire people who think outside the norm then you should look for those who did things outside the norm.

If you need talent that will challenge conventional thinking and not cave to the nay-sayers look for the ones who went against the tide and persevered in spite of the cardinal sin of “not fitting in.”

It’s not that conventional activities, such as chess, debate and sports, aren’t good, but looking further, even if it’s not on the resume, will help you uncover the hidden gems that others miss.

Flickr image credit: Bush Library

mY Generation: Family Dinner

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Unfortunately, it’s likely that Jim won’t be able to continue mY generation, so we’ll finish the year from the archives while I look for a replacement. See all mY generation posts here.

Please contact me if you or someone you know would like to draw a business-oriented Sunday panel.

Quotable Quotes: Sustainable Conversation Starters

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

‘Sustainable’ always finds an audience, especially when you can relate them to unusual topics.

This one is especially useful, because it applies to gardeners, those interested in healthcare and vampires—the liquid inside young coconuts is used as a substitute for blood plasma.

For those who have trouble waking up and mainline coffee in the morning you can suggest this healthy alternative, apples, not caffeine, are more  efficient at waking you up in the morning, but I don’t know why.

In case you end up making conversation with snobs who love showing off their wealth you can mention that they should be careful around the salad dressing, since pearls dissolve in vinegar.

Finally, to lift the mood of the over-fifty remind them that oak trees don’t produce acorns until they are fifty (50) years of age or older and that they are at least as proficient as a tree.

Image credit: Tomorrow Never Knows

Expand Your Mind: All Role Models are Not Created Equal

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

People tend to take their role models whole; kind of an all or nothing approach, which isn’t a very smart approach. A few weeks ago I wrote that in some ways Steve Jobs isn’t the greatest role model. Take a look at some others better taken piecemeal or even not at all.

Graham B. Spanier did an amazing job growing Penn State into a powerhouse, but threw up defenses at the first hint of criticism. Says close-to-retiring anthropology professor E. Paul Durrenberger, “If you’re always focused on promoting the brand and there’s no scrutiny, that leads to covering up.”

On the surface Eric Lefkofsky, co-founder and chairman of Groupon, may look like a great role model, but due diligence is as important when assessing role models as investments.

Lefkofsky’s track record, reflecting failures and successes, bears certain hallmarks: rapid revenue growth accompanied by big losses, a penchant to sell stock early on, and lawsuits filed by investors, lenders or customers who feel they have been wronged. … Lefkofsky and his family have already cashed out $382 million from Groupon before the IPO filing.

Successful founders are considered excellent role models, but is there a down side when they stay?

Visionaries are fantastic, but their companies are often notoriously hard to run. Sometimes, these leaders cling to dated visions and stifle innovation. And sometimes, they simply won’t get out of the way. Promising executives with new ideas get fed up and leave.

Many entrepreneurs are known for the size of their egos and none more so than those from Russia, but not all of them buy a sports team, larger yacht or another home. Several years ago Vladimir Kekhman, who made millions in bananas and other fruit, left his company to focus on the local ballet company; he just pulled off another “first” by pirating two premier dancers from the Bolshoi.

And Mr. Kekhman, at age 43, recently gave up all of his day-to-day responsibilities as a major owner of Russia’s biggest fruit company to focus on the Mikhailovsky. “I have a new profession right now,” he said. “And this profession has brought a new life to me.”

Finally, good health role models lurking in a place you would never expect to find any—long-haul truckers.

“I’m being stupid if I don’t lose the weight,” she said, “because I’ll lose my job.” — Jill Garcia, 50, a driver from San Antonio

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

If the Shoe Fits: What You See vs. What You Get

Friday, November 25th, 2011

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mPeople never cease to amaze me even though I know that what you see isn’t always what you get.

“Pete” is a great example of that.

Pete is an entrepreneur and a friend of mine works for his company.

My friend raves about the great culture. He says it is merit-based, treats everyone fairly and has very little of the politics and favoritism he has seen at other companies. He likes the values and Pete’s attitude to giving back to the community.

The company isn’t new, but it is still private, so when my friend heard that Pete was thinking of issuing stock he sent a link to Option Sanity and introduced me.

Long story short, we had an extensive conversation; Pete talked about his belief in the importance of fairness and merit and giving back and I explained how Option Sanity™ would strengthen his culture and work to ensure the fairness that seemed so important to him.

And because Pete was so emphatic about the importance of giving back I told him about 1% of Nothing, started by Shervin Pishevar and Matt Galligan, with the goal of getting startups to donate 1% of their equity to a charity of their choice.

Pete ended our conversation saying he wanted to think about it and work with the Option Sanity demo.

I just received an email and I thought it ironic that it came on Thanksgiving.

Although he dressed up his response in complimentary language, the upshot of what he said was that both Option Sanity™ and 1% of Nothing were naïve ideas.

He said that he wanted to have complete freedom when awarding incentive stock as opposed to committing to a methodology, even though he structured it. Some employees were relatives or good friends and he wanted the ability to give them more. He wasn’t worried about performance, because he could always rescind the grant or fire them.

With regards to 1% of Nothing, although he planned to give to some of the proceeds of an eventual sale to charity there was a good chance that certain products in development would substantially increase the value of the company.

He had a specific dollar amount in mind for charity and saw no reason to possibly exceed that by giving the 1%.

I was totally floored.

Option Sanity™ is authentic

Come visit Option Sanity for an easy-to-understand, simple-to-implement stock process.  It’s so easy a CEO can do it.


Do not attempt to use Option Sanity™ without a strong commitment to business planning, financial controls, honesty, ethics, and “doing the right thing.” Use only as directed.
Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

I write these posts at least a day ahead, so they publish early for readers on the East Coast, and over the last six years I’ve rarely missed a day.

That said, I’m taking this Thanksgiving, i.e., Wednesday, off.

But if you really need a “Miki fix,” here are links to my favorite Thanksgiving posts of the past.

Getting Through an F Day

Life, Kindness and Thanksgiving Wishes

Food for Thought this Holiday

Be sure to read Friday’s post for a thought-provoking look at a nameless entrepreneur and tell me if you agree with him.

Flickr image credit: richcianci

WW: Got Milk?

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

What do you get when a bichemist is also a fashion designer?

The first truly sustainable fabric that looks great and doesn’t require 10,000 liters of water to make two pounds of fabric like cotton.

Image credit: YouTube

Ducks in a Row: Why is Culture an Uphill Battle?

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

With all the research and resulting proof, much of it expressed in dollars, why is it so difficult for companies to execute good cultures?

There is no lack of advice and how-to help available and in a variety of ways, from consultants to books, blogs to videos.

Real-world facts show that good culture is still elusive; one of those ‘should’ actions that are frequently talked about, but often not done.

You create the culture in which those subordinate to you work, no matter your level of management, from team leader to CEO,

CEOs set overall company culture, while subordinates then create, intentionally or not, their own culture that either copies it, is synergistic to it or diametrically opposed to it.

The only guarantee is that whatever culture emerges will accurately reflect its creator’s thoughts, values, beliefs—in other words, MAP.

And therein lies the reason and the problem.

All the cultural intelligence focuses on good culture, with touchstones such as fairness, trust, authenticity, merit, etc.

If those attributes aren’t the bedrock of your own MAP then it’s impossible to implement a culture that embraces them.

So if you are looking to change a non-performing culture or improve a mediocre one, be sure to look deep inside yourself first to know what is possible and what won’t stick unless you change first.

Flickr image credit: zedbee

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