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Archive for September, 2016

If the Shoe Fits: Mike Rothenberg

Friday, September 16th, 2016

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIn the beginning the story of Mike Rothenberg, founder of Rothenberg Ventures, is the story of just how far a privileged background and pure chutzpah can take a 28 year-old.

“What if you could combine the service-model approach of Andreessen Horowitz, and the founder-first community building offline and online approach of First Round Capital, with the processing power and reach of Silicon Valley Angels, and the discretion of Floodgate and the judgment of Sequoia? No one else can make the claim that they are even building those pieces. That’s what we’re doing.”

But a lousy manager according to his people.

…a demanding boss who needed to sign off on all decisions including investments, yet rarely made himself available to do so.

Four years later it’s the story of how fast a privileged background, super-size chutzpah, plenty of swagger, negligent management skills and questionable actions can bring you down.

And the very gifts that enabled Rothenberg to start his fund and carve out a name for himself in the crowded valley venture scene — his youth, his Stanford and Harvard degrees, and his dense social network and splashy events — may have set the course for his fiasco.

Read the story.

Look in the mirror.

Review your track record and actions.

Eradicate any similarities.

Hat tip to Anand Sanwal for pointing me to this story.

Image credit: Hiking Artist

Entrepreneurs: Good Ain’t Cheap

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

https://twitter.com/CBinsights/status/772958529347092485?utm_source=CB+Insights+Newsletter&utm_campaign=a8ddd2fc89-WedNL_8_31_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_9dc0513989-a8ddd2fc89-87432613Back in June, when money got tight and investors started focusing on profits, instead of the emperor’s clothes, we considered why freemium isn’t an enterprise play.

Cheap doesn’t work, either.

Competing on price means keeping costs down.

Keeping costs down typically means skimping on headcount.

That skimping often happens in customer service/support.

Cheaper customer service frequently means online help or offshore outsourcing.

Neither option is known to keep enterprise users happy.

And while inertia may retain consumers, enterprise is quick to walk.

Like the man said, good ain’t cheap and cheap ain’t good.

Image credit: CB Insights

How to be a Great Boss

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/hikingartist/3555349324/Being a great boss is hard work; it doesn’t always come naturally.

Being a boss means understanding the importance of culture.

  • “I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game.” –Lou Gerstner, IBM turnaround CEO

Being a boss means clarity throughout 360 degrees of your communications, i.e., subordinates, peers and bosses.

Great bosses

  • provide their people with all the information needed to understand how to perform their work as correctly, completely, simply, and efficiently as possible.

They do this by

  • providing clear, concise, and complete communications at all times.

Being a boss means a strong focus on hiring.

Great bosses hire smart.

  • “Don’t hire jerks, no matter how talented.”

Great bosses hire sans ego.

  • “There’s two ways to manage. You can hire to be the smartest person in the room or you can hire to be the dumbest person in the room.” –Michael Lebowitz, founder and C.E.O. of design firm Big Spaceship (He says he works at being the dumbest.)

Being a boss means many other things, too, but master these three and you’ll be well on your way to being a great boss.

Image credit: Hiking Artist

Ducks in a Row: September Leadership Development Carnival

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016


The 2016 election season is already too long.

Not to mention too divisive, too nasty, too hateful and devoid of any sign of real leadership

While we can’t hope for an actual leader, as described in this month’s Carnival,  that doesn’t mean you can’t emulate many of the qualities described no matter your position — just tweak them a bit to fit the situation.

Anne Perschel of Germane Coaching and Consulting submitted Golden Rules for Leading Transformation. Anne summarizes, “When the CEOs of Ford Motor Company, Nokia, and Microsoft began changing their respective companies’ core business and/or culture, they each established golden rules for leading transformation. Learn from them how to do the same for your company.” Follow Anne on Twitter at @bizshrink.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited provided Why I’ve Cut Back Working at Coffee Shops. Beth recaps, “Many leaders work in locations outside of their own office from time to time. But it may not always be as productive. In this post, I share some downsides to working at coffee shops.” Find Beth on Twitter at @bethbeutler.

Chris Edmonds of the Purposeful Culture Group contributed Leading a Purposeful, Positive, Productive Culture. Chris reminds us of the important part our company culture plays in getting the results we want. Follow Chris on Twitter at @scedmonds.

Dan McCarthy of Great Leadership provided 10 Ways to Kill Off Your Star Employees. Dan recaps, “Unfortunately, organizations don’t always do a good job when it comes to nurturing, developing, rewarding, and retaining their high potential employees. In fact, it often seems like they are going out of their way to sabotage their best employees. Of course, most organizations don’t intentionally try to kill their high potentials. It’s just that many managers don’t know how to manage a high potential, and end up doing well-intended things that get unintended results. Or – in some cases – they actually do set their high potential employees up for failure, as a result of feeling threatened or jealousy. So – if you want to kill your high potentials, just follow these 10 steps!” Locate Dan on Twitter at @greatleadership.

Dana Theus of InPower Coaching contributed Insight: Pride vs. PRIDE. Dana writes, “When we flash our PRIDE around – which to an unsuspecting world can feel like a right cross – we miss a great opportunity to really share our value.” Find Dana on Twitter at @DanaTheus.

David Dye of Trailblaze submitted 5 Ways Pokemon Go Will Make You a Better Leader. David summarizes, “Video games are masterful at drawing out people’s natural, internal motivations. David shares how you can be more effective and influential when you get these same motivations working for you and your team.” Follow David on Twitter at @davidmdye.

David Grossman of The Grossman Group shared Open Ended Questions Enhance Employee Communication. David writes, “As a leader, you know that engaging employees and helping connect them to your business goals can directly impact the bottom line.  Your internal communication plan can include two-way communication vehicles like feedback channels and listening sessions to help accomplish this.” Discover David on Twitter at @thoughtpartner.

Jill Malleck of Epiphany at Work contributed Leaders Fighting Fires: What Darby Did. Jill shares, “At some point, all leaders are faced with tense situations. Learn how one leader showed a strong heart in a life-and-death situation.” Find Jill on Twitter at @epiphanyatwork.

Jesse Lyn Stoner of the Seapoint Center shared A Definition of Leadership for These Pressing Times. Jesse Lyn recaps, “What’s your definition of leadership? We need a clear, unbiased definition to form a common language. In this post, Jesse Stoner takes you through her journey of digging down to the root of the word, stripping away assumptions, and creating a definition of leadership for the pressing conversations we need to have. Unexpectedly, this process revealed a different lens for understanding leadership in today’s world. This post has sparked a lot of conversation, and you are invited to add your voice.” Follow Jesse Lyn on Twitter at @JesseLynStoner.

Joel Garfinkle of the Career Advancement Blog submitted Why Strong Leaders Have the Courage to Show Vulnerability. Joel recaps: “Not being afraid to show your vulnerabilities shows confidence and authenticity, which encourages respect and openness in your team. This attitude creates a culture of learning from mistakes and using everyone’s strengths to best move forward.” Discover Joel on Twitter at @JoelGarfinkle.

John Hunter of the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog shared Applying Toyota Kata to Agile Retrospectives. John summarizes, “Creating a culture where it is expected that any improvement ideas are tested and evaluated is one of the most important changes on the path to a company that will be able to continually improve. If not, what happens is some changes are good, many are not and soon people lose faith that any effort is worth it because they see how poor the results are.” Find John on Twitter at @curiouscat_com.

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference contributed Business Leaders Raising Political Voices. Jon shares, “Dangers exist for businesses standing up for certain political issues, especially with the polarization present today. However, business can be a voice for positive change, and employees and customers may now expect business leaders to raise their rational voice in an environment of stalemate and divisiveness.” Follow Jon on Twitter at @thindifference.

Julie Baron of The Thought Board shared Get More Attention: Do’s & Don’ts for Working with the Media. Julie writes, “Want to increase the visibility of your business? Perhaps you seek to educate people about your service, inform them about your events, or change their opinion about your price. Maybe you want to be seen as an industry thought leader or you want to generate business leads or prospective employee interest. No matter the goal, media coverage is a great way to get more attention. These do’s and don’ts for working with the media will boost your chances of coverage success.” Discover The Thought Board on Twitter at @commwrks.

Karin Hurt of Let’s Grow Leaders contributed 6 Reasons Your Training Program Isn’t Working. Karin recaps, “Training programs are great, but sometimes mask the deeper issues. Karin shares six reasons why your training program may not be as effective as you’d hoped..” Follow Karin on Twitter at @letsgrowleaders.

Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC submitted When You Need to Really Listen. Mary Jo summarizes, “Leaders can always listen more, but there are times they really need to listen at a deeper level.” Follow Mary Jo on Twitter at @mjasmus.

Mary Ila Ward of Horizon Point Consulting contributed Hills in the Heat: Why You Have to do the Hard Stuff to Run and Lead Well. She recaps, “Running and leading have many overlapping lessons.  As the author sets out to train for a marathon, she reflects on how doing the hard stuff strengthens success in running and leading.” Discover Mary Ila on Twitter at @maryilaward.

Mary Schaefer shared  3 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement. Mary continues, “Are you getting everything you can from your focus on employee engagement? You may make more impact by rewiring how you think about it” Find Mary on Twitter at @maryschaefer.

Michael Lee Stallard of Michael Lee Stallard submitted 3 Ways to Lead Like Lincoln. Michael shares, “Abraham Lincoln had a talent for converting detractors into loyal supports. These three elements of his leadership and communication style explain how he did it.” Follow Michael on Twitter at @michaelstallard.

Miki Saxon of MAPping Company Success contributed Golden Oldies: Narcissism and Leadership. Miki writes, “Narcissism has always been problematic for leaders. However, it’s not about having narcissistic traits; it’s about how you choose to manage them.” Discover Miki on Twitter at @optionsanity.

Neal Burgis of Burgis Successful Solutions submitted The Curious Leader. Neal recaps, “By adopting a curious mindset, your leadership style goes hand-in-hand with curiosity. Many curious leaders are destined for the C-Suite due to their curious nature in asking questions and exploring ideas for opportunities.” Find Neal on Twitter at @exec_solutions.

Paul LaRue of The UPwards Leader contributed Why Leaders Should Build the Castle First. Paul summarizes, “A great leader showed how to create a positive culture in the midst of a negative one.” Follow Paul on Twitter at @paul_larue.

Randy Conley of Leading With Trust shared Thrown Under the Bus? 8 Tips on Dealing with Unfair Criticism. Randy writes, “Sooner or later we all get thrown under the bus and criticized unfairly, and how you respond shapes the perceptions people have of you as a leader. In this enlightening post, Randy Conley shares 8 strategies for responding to unfair criticism in a healthy and productive way.” Find Randy on Twitter at @randyconley.

Robyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders contributed Are you really a leader? An easy way to tell. Robyn shares, “we are truly leaders when what we do inspires those around us to be, do, and achieve more.” Follow Robyn on Twitter at @thoughtfulldrs.

Shelley Row of Shelley Row submitted Tough Decision? Use Your Secret Weapon – Values. In this piece, Shelley reminds us that we have a built-in secret weapon we can apply when making a tough decision—our values. Discover Shelley on Twitter at @shelleyrow.

Susan Mazza of Random Acts of Leadership provided Why ‘Politically Correct’ Is Not A Four Letter Word. Susan explains, “The more visible your leadership, the more important it is for you to be mindful of your words and deliberate with your messages. But personal honesty and even transparency is not the ultimate antidote to the political correctness that has polarized us and degraded our trust in politics. In fact, it may even be dangerous.” Follow Susan on Twitter at @susanmazza.

Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer submitted What It  Takes to Overcome Distractions in the Workplace. Tanveer continues, ” A lesson from Olympic rowers reveals a powerful message for leaders on how they can help their employees to overcome workplace distractions.” Discover Tanveer on Twitter at @tanveernaseer.

Tom Magness of Leader Business contributed How NOT to Micromanage. Tom summarizes, “Successful leaders stay out of the weeds by avoiding telling their team HOW to do things.  Instead, provide clarity on INTENT, essentially the WHAT and WHY, and allow the team to figure out the rest.  The results (buy-in, empowerment, innovation) are a true game-changer.” Follow Tom on Twitter at @leaderbusiness.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership submitted Getting Fairness Right. Wally recaps, “People won’t give you their best unless they feel like you’re treating them fairly. There are many ways to get fairness wrong.  Here’s what you should know to get fairness right.” Find Wally on Twitter at @wallybock.

Golden Oldies: Ducks In A Row: Do You Have People Or Persons?

Monday, September 12th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written. Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

Companies are fond of calling those who toil for them by different names. ‘Human resources’, which morphed to just ‘resources’ was one of the first. Then came ‘talent’. Next, the pendulum swung back to ‘people’. Managers, on the other hand, have always talked about their ‘people’. But no matter what the company or manager called them, they were individuals; each with different skills, goals and passions — and need to be managed as such.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

ducks_in_a_rowDo you work for a company or a manger?

If you ask most people who they work for they’ll name a company, but if you ask them why they love or hate it, stay or leave, they’ll usually mention a manager, the people or the culture, which is a projection of the manager and the people.

People quitting is expensive and bad for team morale, but having them quit and not leave is the worst thing that can happen.

Think about it, who do you manage? And How?

Adequate managers manage employees.

Good managers manage people.

Great managers manage persons.

Yes, persons.

Individuals, because you can’t manage (or lead) everyone the same way.

The same words often mean something different to different people, so you need to say what’s necessary in whatever words will ensure that each individual hears and understands your message.

I’m not saying that it’s easy, but you aren’t paid for easy—you’re paid for results.

And knowing how to manage persons is the best way to ensure that your people won’t quit.

Image credit: ZedBee|Zoë Power on flickr

If the Shoe Fits: Rollercoasters and Responsibility

Friday, September 9th, 2016

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

Last week KG shared a quote from Marc Andreessen.

“First and foremost, a start-up puts you on an emotional rollercoaster unlike anything you have ever experienced. You flip rapidly from day-to-day – one where you are euphorically convinced you are going to own the world, to a day in which doom seems only weeks away and you feel completely ruined, and back again. 

Over and over and over. 

And I’m talking about what happens to stable entrepreneurs. There is so much uncertainty and so much risk around practically everything you are doing. The level of stress that you’re under generally will magnify things to incredible highs and unbelievable lows at whiplash speed and huge magnitude. 

Sound like fun?”

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIt’s likely Marc wrote this with founders in mind, but it applies to all employees, as well as those whose lives are connected in whatever way — spouses, kids, relatives, friends, etc.

Actually, it is worse for them, because they rarely have a full picture of what’s going on.

Sometimes that’s good; workers need to concentrate on their work.

But they also need to know when difficulties arise; they need to know if their job may be going south.

They need honesty and transparency from the person they’ve chosen to follow and whose vision they are working to make real.

It’s part of the social contract Matt wrote about a few years ago.

It’s Zach Ware’s focus about what to do when a startup needs to close.

It’s what the founders of Shift and WrkRiot chose not to do — to the total detriment of the people who trusted them.

It’s my recommendation regarding bad news.

It’s on you because it’s your rollercoaster, your responsibility to do the safety checks and your job to notify people before it jumps the track.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: Working Smarter

Thursday, September 8th, 2016


Have you ever noticed that you have a conversation or meet someone with an unusual name and within a day the same subject/name keeps popping up?

Yesterday I wrote about working long hours for bragging rights, along with the resulting perils.

This morning I got up to find a great post from Steve Blank in my mailbox.

In Working Hard is not the same as working smart Blank talks about the fallacy of measuring effectiveness in the 21st Century based on hours worked.

In the 20th century we measured work done by the number of hours each employee logged. (…) This was perpetuated by managers and CEOs who had no other norms and never considered that managing this way was actually less effective than the alternatives.

Blank recommends three actions to start building a better measurement system than hours.

  • Define the output you want for the company getting input from each department/division
  • Define the output you want for each department
  • Ensure that the system does not create unintended consequences

You can get the details in the original post.

And I’ll add the following

  • Focus on the human side
    • Make sure you have full buy-in from all managers
    • Be sure your team understands completely
  • Monitor the human side and correct as necessary

Finally, never forget that excessive hours are the result of bad management and are unsustainable.

Image credit: Judit Klein

When More (Hours) Equals Less (Everything)

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016


Short post today, because the links are more important than anything I can say.

These days too many people brag about working excessive hours and too many managers rate their people based on their willingness to work those hours.

As Labor Day approaches, and a single day of rest from all the hours we Americans spend on the job is upon us, people can’t seem to stop talking about the crazy hours they work.
One of the most-read articles on the Wall Street Journal’s web site last week was a piece about how 4 a.m. — a time so ungodly there’s even a TED Talk about how surreal it is — has become the most productive hour for go-getters.

That’s in spite of research that excessive hours quell innovation and creativity, reduce productivity, increase errors and can cause serious health problems.

Yet research, time and time again, shows the problems with overwork — on people’s health, on turnover, on absenteeism, on productivity. Studies have shown that after about 50 hours a week, productivity actually decreases, and it plummets after 55 hours, leaving no detectable difference between those who work 56 hours and those who work 70 — or 130, as Mayer suggested may be needed for successful startups.

Many years ago a smart senior manager, who became a serial entrepreneur, commented that the need for 50+ hour weeks was a sign of bad management.

I can already hear the arguments, because I’ve been hearing them for years (decades, actually).

So here’s proof from someone who’s not an academic or researcher who doesn’t understand, because they don’t work in the real world.

Jeff Bezos.

Last Wednesday, Amazon announced it was preparing to launch a pilot program in which a few dozen employees would log only 30 hours each week. In return they would receive 75% of their normal salary and retain full benefits.  (…) By offering employees more flexibility, Amazon sends the message that life outside the workplace matters. The new policy also indicates that the world’s second-largest retailer is acknowledging the limits of human cognition, whether or not that was the Amazon’s intent.

That’s it. Now read the links.

Image credit: Martin Cathrae/Flickr

Ducks in a Row: Assumptions Result in Bad Hires.

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rainbowy/15498377216/Even after working decades with bosses at all levels, from CEOs to team leaders and first-time supervisors, their ability to make inaccurate, let alone stupid, assumptions based on nothing solid still astounds me.

The smartest/most creative people only attend top tier universities. No they don’t. The wealthiest/most indebted, unless they were on scholarship, attend those schools.

I can spot instantly talent, even with just a casual conversation. No you can’t. What you can spot are people like yourself.

Hiring/poaching top talent always pays off. Not hardly. Consider JC Penny, Bob Nardelli, Marissa Mayer and thousands more at every level and in every field.

Or that a birdbrain, even the smartest, could figure out the eight steps it took to get a reward, with no coaching?

As opposed to the wisdom of crowds, assumptions are more often the bias of crowds.

Video credit: The Kat on the BBC
Image credit:  Holly on Flickr

Golden Oldies: Hate, Intolerance and Responsibility

Monday, September 5th, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time. It’s been four years since I wrote this, but it could have been anytime in the last several decades. The time difference wouldn’t have been that noticeable, except that what I described just keeps getting worse. I find it both sad and disgusting that we humans seem incapable of growing and, instead of moving forward, we move backwards. Read other Golden Oldies here

my-way-hwyAnyone reading the news—local, national or global—knows that hate and intolerance are increasing at an alarming rate everywhere.

Also, because there have been/will be so many elections around the world this year ‘leadership’ is in the news even more so than usual.

What responsibility do leaders—business, political, religious, community—bear in fostering hate and intolerance?

A lot.

Not just the age old race and gender intolerance, but the I’m/we’re-RIGHT-so-you-should-do/think-our-way-or-else.

The ‘we’re right/you’re wrong’ attitude is as old as humanity and probably won’t ever change, but it’s the ‘do-it-our-way-or-else’ that shows the intolerance for what it really is.

And leaders aren’t helping; in fact, they are making it worse.

During my adult life (I missed being a Boomer by a hair) I’ve watched as hate and intolerance spread across the country masked by religion, a façade of political correctness or a mea culpa that is supposed to make everything OK, but doesn’t.

Various business, political, religious and community leaders give passionate, fiery talks to their followers and then express surprise and dismay when some of those same followers steal trade secrets, plant bombs, and kill individuals—whose only error was following their own beliefs.

We are no longer entitled to the pursuit of happiness if our happiness offends someone next door, the other end of the country, or the far side of the globe.

I remember Ann Rand saying in an interview that she believed that she had the right to be totally selfish, where upon the interviewer said that would give her freedom to kill.

Rand said absolutely not, in fact the reverse was true, since her selfishness couldn’t impinge anyone else’s right to be selfish.

Leaders aren’t responsible; we are, because we go along with it—as did the Germans when Hitler led them down the hate and intolerance path.

That about sums up my attitude

What’s yours?

Image credit: Street Sign Generator

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