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Archive for April, 2013

Ducks in a Row: 7 Steps to Change

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jpockele/3726480621/When you want to create change, whether of culture, process or something else, there are seven steps you need to follow whether you are CEO or a first line supervisor,

  1. Know who you are: This step is strictly between you and yourself, so you need to be brutally frank as to your attitudes, motivation, what’s important, what’s OK to do, etc., if you want to create authentic change.
  2. Define your goals: Whatever change you want to effect needs to be well-defined and make sense to those affected.
  3. Know what you have: Honestly assess (warts and all) whatever it is you want to change.
  4. Be aware of the cost of change: Every/any action has a price and change is no different, so it is important to be sure the improvement/ROI is worth the cost.
  5. Don’t assume: The human race functions to a great extent on various sets of unconscious assumptions. In the workplace people tend to assume that people with similar educations, experience levels, positions, etc., have similar mindsets, attitudes and philosophies. Predicating acceptance of change on the assumption of deep, unproven commonality is a recipe for disaster.
  6. Don’t overwhelm the troops: Whatever the target and goal of the change recognize that you can’t just come in, make an announcement, and expect people to buy into the vision. Present it in small bite-size pieces and such a way that people feel they have input in the process, which creates a feeling of ownership.
  7. Communicate and sell—don’t order and tell: No matter how positive the goal of the change you can’t just walk in on Monday and announce the new whatever and expect people to cooperate for understandable three reasons.
    1. It’s unlikely that anybody will believe you (talk’s cheap);
    2. if you’re new it’s unlikely they’ll trust you (no track record with them);
    3. whether you’re proposing a radical change or just tweaking something, generally speaking, people hate change and need a compelling reason to get on the bandwagon.

In the final analysis what you do carries far more weight than anything you say, so be sure you have the courage to walk your talk.

Flickr image credit: Jannes Pockele

The Power of Powerless Communications

Monday, April 29th, 2013

www.flickr.com/photos/pinksgalaxy/8307413717/In a previous post about givers, takers and matchers and who gets ahead I linked to an article about Wharton professor Adam Grant, who did the research.

Near the end Grant talks about the power of “powerless communication.”

You hear an expert, and when the expert spills coffee all over himself, you actually like him more. It humanizes him, it gives you an authentic connection with him. That’s a lot of the power of powerless communication.

Way back in the early Nineties I read You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation by Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University. (Great book; I highly recommend it.)

Tannen researched the differences in how men and women use language and one thing that has stuck with me is that men use language to negotiate status and that not knowing, let alone asking, puts them “one down” the other person “one up.”

Obviously, it’s not 100% applicable to all men on all subjects; moreover, I find many women have embraced the style.

These people always need to be one up and will do whatever it takes to maintain that image.

Personally, I find great amusement watching them work to become influential powerhouses by cultivating their reputations as experts—the kind who would never spill coffee let alone be seen in public that way.

Flickr image credit: D. Sharon Pruitt

If the Shoe Fits: Are You Sick?

Friday, April 26th, 2013

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


“The higher you go in life, the greater the capacity for self-delusion.” George Mitchell

There’s a very contagious illness making the rounds and it reached pandemic proportions more than a decade ago.

To check if you have it take the simple quiz below.

In the privacy of your own mind how would you answer the following questions?

  1. Are you usually the smartest person in the room?
  2. Are you annoyed when someone doesn’t instantly “get it?”
  3. Do you listen equally well to all your people?
  4. Is your main networking criteria WIFM?
  5. Did you succeed because of others?

If you answered yes, yes, no, yes, no then you’re already sick.

If you considered the answers obvious you have a serious case of what Pat Riley calls the “disease of me,” while the startup world knows it as “founder’s ego.”

It means you not only do things better than others, but also can do no wrong.

While there is no inoculation against it, there is a cure.

The cure requires changing your MAP and it’s free.

Hat tip to Wally Bock for a great reminder on how easy (and stupid) it is to buy into your own infallibility.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: Don’t Hope for Viral

Thursday, April 25th, 2013


I hear the viral thing from a lot of entrepreneurs; it has practically achieved Holy Grail status when talking about marketing.

Not just from entrepreneurs, but from companies across the spectrum of size, industry or any other category you can think of.

Ask anyone directly or indirectly involved about their latest marketing campaign and you’ll likely hear someone say, “we hope it goes viral.”

I’ve also heard when something went viral that it was “more luck than brains,” but I never believed it.

I assumed that, like most thing that succeed, it was mostly brains with a dollop of luck that made it happen.

Now Jonah Berger, a Marketing professor at Wharton has proven my gut instinct was accurate.

Berger did the research and just published the results in Contagious: Why Things Catch On; not only the proof, but some good guidance on increasing your viral chances.

Word of mouth isn’t random and it’s not magic. By understanding why people talk and share, we can craft contagious content.

He found six key drivers that shape what people talk about and share; he calls them STEPPS, an acronym for

  • Social Currency,
  • Triggers,
  • Emotion,
  • Public,
  • Practical Value, and
  • Stories

So, the next time you craft a marketing scheme that includes a desire for viral think about STEPPS and even luck, but forget about hope.

Flickr image credit: seanrnicholson

The Boss’ Real Job—Communicating

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

The Boss’ Real Job—CommunicatingBosses’ tasks may differ depending on their position, level, industry, etc., but one thing is identical for all of them—communicating.

Here is my small effort to clearly explain exactly what is required of every boss at every level in every company and at all times.

  • Your goal is to provide your people with all the information needed to understand how to perform their work as correctly, completely, simply, and efficiently as possible.
  • You do this by providing clear, concise, and complete communications at all times. This is about more than talking clearly, it’s about providing all the background necessary for people in the company to understand why they are doing their jobs, as well as what jobs they are to do; it rarely involves telling them how to do their jobs.

You will know you are doing it correctly because productivity will improve, as will innovation; your company will be more successful, you will be a more effective manager, have less turnover and better reviews.

And as an added bonus everybody will be happier.

Flickr image credit: Wesley Fryer

Ducks in a Row: Dark Side of Communications

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/marinaavila/2815807603/Did you know ‘communications’ are like the Force, with both a light and dark side?

Communications may be used to engage, enlighten and clarify.

Communications may be used to confuse, coerce and obfuscate.

I usually write about the light side of communications.

Dark-side communications are what brought the economy down and are still popular, most recently at JP Morgan.

Consider the following presentation written by Bruno Iksil, the whale himself, on Jan. 26, 2012, as the losses were growing. He called for executing “the trades that make sense.”
He proposed to “sell the forward spread and buy protection on the tightening move,” “use indices and add to existing position,” “go long risk on some belly tranches especially where defaults may realize” and “buy protection on HY and Xover in rallies and turn the position over to monetize volatility.”

Confusing? Don’t feel alone; that was the finding of the Senate investigation report.

“This proposal encompassed multiple, complex credit trading strategies, using jargon that even the relevant actors and regulators could not understand.”

Companies of all sizes have a responsibility to communicate so their customers understand.

Bosses have a responsibility to communicate in ways their people understand.

Not that you’d know it listening to them or reading the content they produce—it’s full of jargon and jargon is the bane of clarity.

So which side are you on—light or dark?

By the way, that choice carries into your personal life in the way you choose to communicate with your family, friends, pets and all other constant or random interactions with anything that breathes.

Flickr image credit: Marina Avila

For Love of (Real) Books

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

I love reading.

I love books—real books.

And for that reason I’m sharing a video that was sent to me by my niece—a middle school teacher and librarian who also loves to read books.

I leave you to create your own commentary and, hopefully, share it with us all.

YouTube credit: The Last Bookshop blog via bakerytv

If the Shoe Fits: Destroying Your Team

Friday, April 19th, 2013

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mJody Foster is chair of the department of psychiatry at Pennsylvania Hospital; immediately after receiving her MBA she has a very different experience assessing startup teams for VCs considering investing.

…to understand who the main players in that company were, how the team functioned together, what kinds of personalities they had, and which ones needed watching as the company, and the venture capitalists’ investment, grew.

I’ve said for years that people aren’t faucets and can’t/don’t turn their feelings and attitudes on and off depending where they are; Foster puts it differently.

“People are people, no matter what industry they are in, and they bring their basic personalities to work,” says Foster. “When they act out in inappropriate ways — by, for example, bullying employees who work under them, compulsively micro managing, displaying narcissistic tendencies — it can be devastating to the entire workplace.”

Founders need to evaluate potential new hires as objectively as Foster would.

That means ignoring their skills and looking at the whole person warts and all.

Your team can survive a person with great attitude, but weaker skills, until they strengthen and grow.

What your team won’t survive is the so-called star with superb skills who brings with them the traits Foster mentions or any that are in direct opposition to the culture you are creating.

They will destroy you.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: Young, Wealthy, Alone and Lonely

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

www.flickr.com/photos/29074894@N05/4733118093/Successful startups have spawned thousands of wealthy, young, predominantly male, workers who spend the majority of their daily 24 hours on a computer programming, gaming and surfing.

Additionally, more often than not, if they aren’t on their computer they’re doing the same stuff on their cell phone.

Most have little social life and fewer real-world social skills; more comfortable interacting with their buddies than with someone of the opposite sex.

Over the last few years ‘entrepreneur’ has come to mean anyone starting any kind of business.

The abundance and easy access to a myriad of Internet tools combined with the power of social media marketing makes it simple to start and run a business, whether it’s all online or has a real-world presence.

The combination forms a powerful attraction to another type of entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.

Josephine” — a local prostitute — arranges a collection of t-shirts across the table. They’re emblazoned with phrases like “Winter is Coming” and “Geeks Make Better Lovers.” She wears them in her online ads to catch the eye of the area’s well-off engineers and programmers.

“I’m trying to communicate to them that I understand a little bit what it’s like to be techy, nerdy, geeky,” she says. There’s another thing Josephine and her clients have in common: Like many of the techies she caters to, Josephine views herself as an entrepreneur. (…)”I’m quoting Belle de Jour, who did Secret Diary of a Call Girl, but you know, you sell the strength of your arms when you dig a hole. Selling our bodies — which everyone thinks of as this big scary thing — anyone who has a job that requires labor does that.”

I don’t see this as a bad thing, as long as pimps, drugs and coercion are not present and the cops seem to agree.

Kyle Oki of the San Jose Police Department, works on San Jose’s Human Trafficking Task Force, which focuses on stopping coerced prostitution. He sees technology as one of the sex trade’s biggest growth drivers.

Some of the women have day jobs, but not all.

“I consider the sex work that I do my career,” Siouxsie says. “I would like the podcast to be a vehicle to really humanize sex work and have people see that I am just a girl trying to make a living and pursue the American dream.”

What I do consider sad is that most of the guys don’t have a clue to handling themselves in social situations.

Stryker’s a comics fan with tattoos of molecules on her neck who considers herself a natural-born nerd, and is happy to “train” geeky clients on how to interact with those they’re smitten with. “You explain it to them in a way that’s like a formula,” she says. “Then they say ‘ohhhh, math. It’s math. Eventually if I plug these things into the formula, it will work.’

Sad as well is the story of YouTube celebrities Jenna Marbles and her ex Max Weisz.

They both say the work is lonely. “Luckily, I have a buddy now who holds my camera for me,” Mr. Weisz said.

Ms. Mourey, on the other hand, still operates the camera by herself. She is adjusting to living alone in a city where, for all her Internet fame, she has few friends and rarely goes out.

Like lots of other YouTube personalities, Ms. Mourey said, “for the most part, we all just stay in our houses, alone, making videos.”

Your twenties used to be a time to learn about yourself in relation to other people; develop interpersonal skills that would last a lifetime and form relationships that would do the same.

It makes me wonder what kind of future life these kids will live.

Flickr image credit: 22Lauren

Getting Ahead—Giver, Taker, Matcher

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

You’ve all met them (or maybe you are one of them); the person who tracks the room when talking with you instantly dropping the conversation if there’s nothing in it for them.

That attitude instantly classifies them as takers, where as those who bend over backwards to provide assistance are givers.

And in most people’s minds, the takers win and the givers lose

Simple and obvious, but neither as simple nor obvious as you might think according to new research by Wharton management professor Adam Grant.

Oftentimes givers put themselves at risk in the short run. But in the long run, they end up building the kind of social capital that’s really important for success in a very connected world.

I’m not going to summarize the interview, because it’s worth reading and watching—if for no other reason  than to learn about a third category called ‘matchers’, as well as how to be a smart giver.

I will suggest that you take time to take the test to learn which you really are, giver, taker or matcher, along with how others see you. (It’s free, but requires registration.)

Video credit: Knowledge@Wharton

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