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Entrepreneurs: Soledad O’Brien and Starfish Media Group

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Soledad OBrien

What was your work history before you became a founder?

Many founders don’t have senior management experience, let alone CEO/President or COO experience.

Some are young; others were non-executive managers, team members or individual contributors.

Which is OK, if they recognize that having the title and filling the shoes are two different things.

That’s not just my comment; it’s what award winning journalist Soledad O’Brien, founder and CEO of Starfish Media Group, said about herself.

Another challenge was that I was successful in my previous role because I really worked hard and took a lot of responsibility for making things good. But that’s not actually a great skill for being a boss. The job of the boss is to help other people reach their goals and their dreams.

At what point will I actually grow into this job, because I have the title? At what point will I actually be making decisions like someone who is the C.E.O. of the company? I would say it took a solid year before I felt good about it.

And I’m willing to bet, based on her own words, that she has little interest in hiring “stars,” who are usually full of attitude and ego.

You hire for character and teach people skills. And environment is very important to me. It’s important to me that people aren’t unpleasant and that they treat each other respectfully. It’s hard to be creative when there’s someone or something that’s really irking you.

So are you a person of integrity who makes the environment a really nice space? I will watch how they treat the person at the front desk versus me.

Whatever kind of startup you have, take a few minutes to read the O’Brien interview.

Then look in the mirror and accept that no matter what your background is you probably have a steep learning curve before you become your title.

Flickr image credit: Starfish Media Group

Golden Oldies: MAP and what comes at you

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over nearly 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.  

How often do you find yourself reacting angrily to another’s actions? Saying/thinking stuff that would turn the air blue or gesturing to voice your feelings? We’ve all been there, so this post is as true today as it was when I wrote it nine years ago. Read other Golden Oldies here

I write a lot about the actions fostered by good MAP, how to evaluate your own MAP and how to modify/change it if you’re so inclined—but this only applies to output, what about input?

Now and then we all find ourselves dealing with %#@$&, better known as jerks or, to be truly polite, difficult people.

The Talmud says, “We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.” Further, it’s often as we are that particular day, or even minute, and even as we change, minute to minute, so do others.

There’s lots of good information on identifying and dealing with jerks in the article; also, here are four of my favorite MAP attitudes that have helped myself and others over the years.

  • Life happens, people react and act out, but that doesn’t mean you have to let their act in.
  • Consider the source of the comment before considering the comment, then let its effect on you be in direct proportion to your respect for that source.
  • Use mental imagery to defuse someone’s effect on you. This is especially useful against intimidation. Do it by having your mental image of the person be one that strips power symbols and adds amusement. (Give me a call if you want my favorite, it’s a bit too rude for a business blog, but has worked well for many people.)

And, finally, the one I hold uppermost in my mind

At least some of “them” consider me a jerk — and at times they are probably correct.

Attitude

Monday, September 28th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fazen/100739711/

There is nothing like the various advice columns to keep you abreast of societies attitudes.

One I enjoy is called Social Qs; I like the insight it gives into people’s attitudes and questions of how to respond to everyday happenings.

Now and then the attitude behind a question will leave me speechless.

Like this one.

I took my sweet little dog for a walk. He got agitated by a cat sitting on a porch, pulled free of me and raced toward the house, knocking over (and breaking) a large ceramic urn. I acknowledge that I am partly responsible for the damage. But don’t the homeowners have some responsibility, too, letting their cat sit out in the open? —ANONYMOUS

Not surprising that it’s anonymous; few people would have the courage to admit to that level of self-absorption.

The Social Q response was perfect (as one would expect).

You break it; you bought it. “And your little dog, too,” growled the Wicked Witch of the West. The cat is free to sit on its porch with regal impunity.

No kidding. It wasn’t even roaming around, just sitting quietly, minding it’s business and watching the world go by.

Yet it’s the owners who are somehow responsible.

And that’s today’s attitude in a nutshell.

Flickr image credit: Stefano Mortellaro

Entrepreneurs: Branson on Hiring

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/geteverwise/14885458606/

When hiring ask yourself what’s more important?

Who they are or what they know?

Education or experience?

In my eyes, personality always wins over book smarts. Company knowledge and job-specific skills can be learned, but you can’t train a personality.

Expert qualifications or skilled generalist?

Time and time again I’ve seen people with a background of broad-ranging employment and skills hired for a job where they don’t necessarily tick the specialist criteria boxes, but become incredibly successful by offering a new level of understanding to the role.

Do you hire what you know or what you don’t.

Spanx’s CEO Sara Blakely once said to me: “The smartest thing I ever did in the early days was to hire my weaknesses.” I couldn’t agree more. I can attribute a lot of my success in business to hiring people who had the skills I lacked.

Is their passion/purpose focused on your vision or to learn enough to focus on their own?

Purpose is no longer a buzzword. It’s a must-have. Passion and purpose will keep people focused on the job at hand, and ultimately separate the successful from the unsuccessful.

Do you grab available talent or hold out for the right person?

While it may seem like a desperate rush to get somebody through the door to help carry the load, it is worth being patient to find the right person, rather than unbalancing the team.

So the next time you find yourself salivating over a programmer who can crush Ruby, but thinks he is a god, think like Richard Branson, before doing “whatever it takes” to hire him.

Flickr image credit: Get Everwise

Entrepreneur: 2 Thoughts for Spring

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Today is the first day of Spring; happy news for all of us.

I’m going to work in my garden, which is getting active—especially the weeds.

So I thought I’d provide some food for thought in the form of two images that need absolutely no further commentary from me.

best teacher-last mistakenot wealthy-cant buy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a wonderful day; I plan to!!

 

Ducks in a Row: Rigidity — Sources And Cures

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/trombone65/16411683125

Is your boss rigid? Or maybe it’s your colleagues — or even you?

Rigid in action, thought or imagination?

Rigidity is a mental habit and, although often grounded in ego, often has as much to do with the corporate culture as with the individuals involved.

Openness is based on trust and if the people or the culture don’t foster trust then you should expect them to be ultra turf conscious, not interested in sharing, and prone to spending large amounts of energy fighting every new thing that comes along.

Twenty-somethings often regard rigidity as synonymous with age, but that’s a wildly inaccurate assumption and not born out by the facts.

While the age thing may play on the surface, it should be recognized that rigidity is present in all ages.

There are a lot of pretty rigid twenty- and thirty-somethings and no one in their right mind ever called a teenager flexible

If you have any doubts about this, try getting your twenty-something co-workers to approach a subject from any position other than the one they advocate.

Rigidity is not so much about doing it differently as it is about doing it ‘my/our way’ and that attitude has substantially worsened.

It seems that everybody has a group and while their group is OK, other groups, i.e., any that don’t agree with theirs, are rigid, inflexible and standing in the way of progress.

In many ways rigidity is a form myopia.

The cure is simple to state, but difficult to implement, because it requires truly honest self-appraisal, which is not something with which most people are comfortable.

The thing to remember is that there’s value to be found in most approaches and when that value is tweaked and/or merged with other methods the result is usually worth far more than the original.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For additional input and insights to being a boss, be sure to check out the March Leadership Development Carnival.

Flickr image credit: trombone65

Thought for the New Year

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

2400 year old advice that still holds true today.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/14522998942

No additional comments necessary.

Image credit: BK

Entrepreneurs: the Magic of Urgency

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bullgator0892/11371185513

Steve Jobs is an icon and a beacon to entrepreneurs around the globe, although not as a management role model.

Many have weighed in on what made Jobs so great, but in a recent talk Malcolm Gladwell focused on a trait that anyone, in any field and any position can cultivate and become great at.
It’s not a trait that’s inborn nor does it require any special abilities.

It’s what Jobs had in abundance; it’s what drove him.

It’s what you can have, too.

What is this magical trait?

“Urgency,” Gladwell declared, characterizes Jobs and other immortal entrepreneurs. (…)  “The difference isn’t resources,” Gladwell said. “It’s attitude.”

Cultivate urgency.

Own it.

Flickr image credit: Pati Morris

Hiring Mojo

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/agiraldez/5535714052When filling an opening do you look for primarily for world-class skills?

Do you long for the person who can ‘hit the ground running’ with little-to-no time or assistance needed to come up to speed?

Are your hires generally successful in both productivity and longevity?

If your response isn’t an unqualified ‘yes!’ then maybe you’re ignoring the most important factor.

Attitude, which translates to cultural fit.

Or, as David Ogilvy puts it, hire for the 3 P’s philosophy: Performance, Promotability and Potential

By the same token, the hottest candidates don’t always grab for the biggest bucks or need to be the biggest frog in the pond; there are intangibles that resonate on a purely personal level.

Every boss craves a world-class team.

Every candidate wants to play on one.

World-class is achieved most quickly when attitudes align.

Flickr image credit: Alex Giraldez

If the Shoe Fits: What Number are You?

Friday, June 20th, 2014

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_m“Vic” is the go-between and coach for an organization that arranges for entrepreneurs to pitch panels of investors in an ongoing program.

The investors provide feedback on the product, pitch, etc., and may end up funding it.

When entrepreneurs apply Vic sends them a questionnaire and set of pitching guidelines.

Both were developed by the investors to ensure high quality pitches that contain the information they want and address their basic investing concerns.

Completing the questionnaire makes it simpler to organize and build the pitch, while the guidelines include important Dos and Don’ts.

Vic then works with the entrepreneur to refine and polish the pitch, which results in better and higher-level feedback from the investors.

I thought it sounded like a great program for founders looking for early investment and asked how it was received.

Vic’s response was about what I expected.

There are eight points in the questionnaire. Of the ten accepted applicants, only a couple will return the forms and even their response are the result of being asked two or three times. Moreover, those who do respond only cover two or three of the eight questions.

I asked Vic how creditable the pitches were and what was the investor reaction.

Most of the pitches are missing crucial information, which annoys the panel and makes their feedback more abrasive, because they feel their time is being wasted. The constructive part is much more basic and often covers verbally the same information that was in the questionnaire and guidelines.

I asked how the entrepreneurs reacted to that.

They aren’t happy and often blame me for not coaching them on the what and how of the presentation. One guy, who didn’t return any of the prelim work, even said, “Why didn’t you help me the way you were supposed to?”

Now the question you need to answer is if this guy is a ten (on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst) what number are you?

Image credit: HikingArtist

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