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If the Shoe Fits: Who Do You Ask?

Friday, February 17th, 2017

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mHow many members of your team have been “bloodied in combat?”

How many have worked successfully through multiple economic (upturns/downturns) realities?

Who would you ask if you needed dynamic (question/discuss), as opposed to static (online postings), advice of “the been there/done that” variety to

  • land a candidate;
  • sell in a recession;
  • tweak/kill a marketing campaign;
  • beat the competition; or
  • Layoff a team member?

Don’t ask me; I’ve answered this question multiple times in varied forms.

Instead, ask millennial Tom Goodwin.

Maybe you’ll listen to him.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Golden Oldies: Ducks in a Row: They Are Not You

Monday, January 30th, 2017

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.

In case you might think this post contradicts the one about how to be a great boss by giving your people what you wanted from you boss, it doesn’t.

The difference happens if you provide what you wanted, but only the way that would satisfy you, with no consideration of how they want it.

For example, recognition. While most people crave it, they want it displayed in different ways. I’ve always liked mine loud, more or less public and without having to ask. (Asking is akin to reminding your person that it’s your anniversary/birthday/Valentine’s Day, because they obviously forgot.) Others don’t want a fuss; to them, recognition comes from nothing being said. For them, feedback happens when something is wrong, so silence means everything is fine.

The trick is to not only give people what they (and you) want, but to give it to them how they want — sincerely.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/hammer51012/3545163854Most of us crave acknowledgement when we do something well, I know I do.

Decades ago when I worked as a recruiter for MRI in San Francisco my boss, “Ray,” wasn’t big on that.

It’s not that he wouldn’t do it, he just never thought about it.

Acknowledgement wasn’t something Ray needed, so he was blind to its effect on others.

When he did give the kind of heady feedback that makes people hungry for more, you could see that he didn’t understand it.

Worse, more often than not, it came in response to what he was told — you literally had to walk into his office and say you closed the deal or got a new client to have it happen. 

But praise caught by fishing or out-and-out asking is not worth a whole lot when it comes to motivation.

Nor did he understand how to build a strong team; the kind that could put an ‘Office of the Year’ award on the wall.

I still remember his effort to create the same esprit de corps as “Jeff,” another MRI manager and good friend of his, enjoyed.

The effort failed, probably because Ray considered Jeff’s approach rah-rah stuff — the kind of stuff he was known to disparage.

Ray’s problem was similar to many managers I’ve worked with over the years, i.e., he assumed others wanted to be managed in the same way he liked to be managed.

When Ray did try doing it differently it felt like a con.

Which it was, because he didn’t really believe in what he was doing.

Image credit: Jim Hammer

Golden Oldies: The Abuse Of Authenticity

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

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.

“…that’s the way I am” How many times have you heard it? How many times have you said it? Is it valid? How much damage does it do?

Read other Golden Oldies here.

no-excuseMAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) is a wonderful thing, encompassing as it does everything that makes you you.

MAP is also the great excuse, the adult version of the “because I said so” people use on their kids.

How often, when asked why you do X, have you responded “because that’s the way I am.”

Organizations have two versions, “not-invented-here” and “we’ve always done it that way.”

Whether individual or company, both use them to avoid innovation, change and disturbing their comfort zone.

But at what cost?

Marshall Goldsmith calls it an excessive need to be me and tells the story of a CEO who was lauded in other areas, but refused to provide positive feedback because it wasn’t him and would, therefore, be phony.

The example isn’t as extreme as you might think. I’ve talked with many executives, managers and workers who use authenticity as their reason not to change their MAP.

And because authenticity is hot, it’s the perfect excuse for not tackling the root causes of whatever needs to change, although, as with most excuses, it doesn’t hold up well to the light of honest, intelligent analysis.

But what do you analyze; how do you know what to change?

Take feedback from your colleagues, team and customers; then take a hard look whenever the answer to “Why?” is some variation of the reasons mentioned earlier.

Then think it through; ask yourself if there is a real, rational reason to stay that way or if it’s something that would be better to change,

And remember, whether individual or company, the most powerful reason for changing MAP is that doing so pays off handsomely, as the CEO in Marshall’s story learned.

Image credit: pattista on flickr

If the Shoe Fits: Keep The Best — Get Rid Of The Rest

Friday, January 13th, 2017

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mAs I’ve said before, Steve Jobs may be a good role model for building a company, but not for building a culture.

Just think what would you could build if you combined the best of Apple’s culture with the best of cultural benchmarks — the way Pearl Automation is doing.

Founded in 2014 by three former senior managers from Apple’s iPod and iPhone groups, Pearl has tried to replicate what its leaders view as the best parts of Apple’s culture, like its fanatical dedication to quality and beautiful design. But the founders also consciously rejected some of the less appealing aspects of life at Apple, like its legendary secrecy and top-down management style.

Pearl’s cultural focus is totally inclusive, based on the idea that, since, every employee is contributing to its success, every employee has a “need to know.”

The start-up, which makes high-tech accessories for cars, holds weekly meetings with its entire staff. Managers brief them on coming products, company finances, technical problems, even the presentations made to the board.

Of course, the first thing you need to do is accept that you are not Steve Jobs.

The next thing is to understand that both creativity and failure are necessary to succeed.

Eswar Priyadarshan, who sold his mobile advertising company, Quattro Wireless, to Apple in 2010 and stayed for four years, said that he learned about design and aesthetics during his time there. But he noted that Apple’s high compensation, focused product mission and top-down decision-making tended to damp the risk-taking necessary to start a company.

Mr. Priyadarshan, who is now chief executive of BotCentral, a six-person start-up, compared Apple to a community of warrior monks. “Warrior monks don’t talk and do whatever is asked,” he said.

The actual question you need to answer is: do you want to lead a team of warrior monks or are you more excited about herding a team of innovative, quirky, creative cats.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Ducks in a Row: To Get It, First Give It

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/southpaw2305/3311925355/

A response on Quora offers a key good insight for human interaction. It’s especially applicable when leading/managing a team, whether you’re a CEO or just-promoted supervisor.

A knight on his weary horse pulling up to house of a peasant. “Peasant, water for my horse and food and ale for me.”
Whilst eating and drinking, he says to the peasant “I am heading for the next town, what are the people like there?”
The peasant inquires “What we the people like in the last town you visited?”
The knight thinks and says, “The towns’ people were dishonest, unfriendly thieves, I was glad to leave the place.”
The peasant replied “Sadly, I think you will find the people in the next town the same.”

One week later another knight pulls up to the same peasant on his weary horse and says, “Excuse my look, but my horse and I have travelled far. If you have some food and water for my horse and also for myself, I would be grateful.”
The peasant feeds them both, with ale for the knight also, when the knight asks, “We are heading for the next town, what are the people like there?”
“What were they like in the last town you left?”
asks the peasant.
“They were the most wonderful, generous people I have ever met. I was sad to leave them,” answered the knight.
“Do not worry,” said the peasant, “they are are the same in the next town.”

In other words, people rise to your level of expectations.

Not only do they rise, but they also sink when expectations are low. This is most obvious when considering the difference between schools and teachers.

Although more subtle, it applies just as accurately to the workplace.

If you want your people to trust you — trust them first.

If you want respect — offer it first.

While the list of wants is endless, the recipe for achieving them remains the same.

To get what you want, give it first.

Flickr image credit: Chuck Black

Ducks in a Row: 4 Absolute Management Truths

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wilsonb/4555559156/

  • I believe that people would rather have a lousy job working for a great person than a great job working for a bad manager.
  • And I believe very strongly that the single largest component of a business that adds to shareholder value is great management, and the single largest destroyer of shareholder value is bad management.
  • Now, being a good manager is really, really difficult. And the sooner people who are managers recognize that, the sooner they’ll start being a good manager.
  • It takes unbelievable courage to be a good manager. It is hard to have difficult conversations with people when they’re not doing well. Who likes to do that? That takes courage. You can’t slide out of the way and hope it’s going to take care of itself.Aron Ain, CEO of Kronos (a global vendor of workforce management enterprise software)

Not a lot for me to add, considering I’ve been saying the same thing for over a decade, but maybe hearing it from Ain will carry more weight.

High employee retention pays off; Kronos is a billion dollar company based on revenue, not investment rounds.

“Kronites who feel valued stay longer and develop a deeper understanding of and stronger relationships with our customers. It is their experience and knowledge that allows Kronos to deliver incredibly innovative products and a superior customer experience.”

Image credit: Wilson Bilkovich

Golden Oldies: Staff R (not) Me

Monday, September 26th, 2016

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

Last Tuesday, We considered the bottom line value of gratitude, which reminded me of a post from 2009 when I wrote a leadership blog for B5 Media. Good morning. Thanks. I appreciate X. So few words, so little effort and such enormous returns.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

different_1Back when I wrote for B5 media, Phil Gerbyshak over at Slacker Manager quoted an interesting statistic. He said that “7% of employees leave their managers because they didn’t say good morning.”

In the conversation that follows, Roger says, “I have always been of the ilk that I don’t always say “Good morning” to people in the office. I have felt that once a week is good enough… However, this is probably just a reflection of what feedback I personally need. As a manager I have to think that others are different and have different needs.” (Current links unavailable.)

Phil Gerbyshak over at Slacker Manager quoted an interesting statistic. He said that “7% of employees leave their managers because they didn’t say good morning.”

In the conversation that follows, Roger says, “I have always been of the ilk that I don’t always say “Good morning” to people in the office. I have felt that once a week is good enough… However, this is probably just a reflection of what feedback I personally need. As a manager I have to think that others are different and have different needs.”

I worked for a guy like this. Oh, he said good morning and was a really nice guy, but he didn’t understand that our needs differed from his.

Most of us are like that to some extent. We see the world through our own MAP and unconsciously make the assumption that others see it the same way.

This is especially true with regards to people we’re close to, such as family, or with whom we’re friendly, such as team members, peers, colleagues, even bosses.

Think about it. How many times have you recommended a book or movie only to have the person ask you why in the world you suggested it; or introduced two people you really liked only to find that they can’t stand each other.

My old boss didn’t care about pats on the back, positive feedback or congratulations when he accomplished a critical piece of the sales process. It’s not that he wouldn’t do it, but he just didn’t think of it on his own.

I still remember one time that I closed a really big deal. He was out of the office, so I put the paperwork dead center on his desk where he couldn’t miss seeing it. He came back mid-morning, but it wasn’t until I went to his office, asked and he congratulated me—but when you have to ask, it has no value.

And even when he did say the right thing it was obvious that he didn’t know why he was saying it. It wasn’t that he didn’t mean it, he did, but he never really understood why it needed to be said.

So more important than saying the right thing; saying it at the right time; or honestly meaning it; is taking the time to learn and understand why you’re saying it.

Image credit: flickr

Entrepreneurs: Innovation in Slovakia

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

We all know that Silicon Valley people are open-minded, multi-cultural, multi-gendered, full of authenticity and not a shred of arrogance.

Just as we all know that pigs can fly.

Whereas entrepreneurs in Slovakia don’t think much of flying pigs, they saw no reason why cars couldn’t fly.

Video credit: Business Insider

Ducks in a Row: Why ‘Why’ Itself is Often a Solution

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevepj2009/3321617833/

A post in Forbes / Entrepreneurs by Jane Chen talks about the importance of knowing your ‘why’.

In my personal experience, this “why” is so important because it helps you rally people behind your mission. It gives you purpose and meaning. It helps you make the right decisions. And when things get hard, as they inevitably will as an entrepreneur, the “why” keeps you going – especially in those moments when you want to give up.

‘Why’ isn’t only for entrepreneurs; it’s always been a high priority item to me personally and should be embedded in every company’s culture.

But finding the ‘why’ isn’t exactly a popular pastime; in fact, for many it’s positively uncomfortable.

Of course, many of the things that are good for us are uncomfortable.

‘Why’ not only provides purpose and meaning, it also spurs innovation, solutions and closure.

So, the next time you are faced with a need for motivation/inspiration or  a problem/challenge/angst/confusion find your way past by first identifying the ‘why’.

You may need to go no farther.

Flickr image credit: steve p2008

Golden Oldies: Verbal Avoidance

Monday, June 13th, 2016

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

I wrote Verbal Avoidance in 2011, not because it was new, but because it was so prevalent — and since them it’s gotten more so in spite of all the talk about honesty and authenticity. Read other Golden Oldies here

1211065_danger_help_need_peace_and_silenceThere’s a bad habit I see sweeping through companies. It’s not really new, but it has gotten much worse in recent years.

This particular habit used to be more the province of arguing couples, relationship counselors and divorce courts.

Always more of a guy thing, I now find it on the rise among women.

I call it “verbal avoidance” and it is irritating to say the least.

It occurs when something happens, or is supposed to happen, and person A needs to communicate that to person B.

And doesn’t.

A doesn’t because

  • what happened is going to upset B and A either doesn’t want to be the messenger, since messengers are sometimes killed or deal with the fallout if/when B gets upset.
  • B is waiting for A to notify him of good news, but B doesn’t have the information yet, so rather than saying that, he doesn’t call.

Of course there are dozens of variations, but they all boil down to the same thing—A does not communicate with B as expected.

When B does reach A, A offers a variety of reasons why the contact didn’t happen, but reasons don’t excuse anything.

B feels frustrated/disappointed/disgusted/angry/betrayed.

Verbal avoidance for any reason breaks trust.

And trust is the basis for any kind of relationship, whether at work, at home or in the world at large.

Silence isn’t always golden.

Stock.xchng image credit: Sigurd Decroos

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