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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

A Bit of Miki Wisdom

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/b_lumenkraft/8347201742/From now through November 8 you will be inundated with political ads, tweets, postings, robo-calls, etc.

It’s worse for me. I live on the Washington/Oregon border, so I have the displeasure of being snowed by two of everything, both states, local (Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR) and, of course, Federal.

Of course, my area’s not alone; I’m sure the same thing happens to others in similar geographical areas.

So, in honor of the season, I thought I’d share something I wrote that is worth keeping uppermost in your mind at least through November 9 — and probably all year long.

“Once there was a talking horse named Mr. Ed on TV. These days there are dozens of talking asses on all kinds of media.”

Flickr image credit: #mr_ed

Ducks in a Row: the Power of Storytelling Cultures

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/lidok/7584888654/

Six years ago I recommended using stories as a management tool; three years later I wrote that entrepreneurs should use stories to present themselves to the world.

Now a Carmine Gallo, a much bigger name than me, has written The Storyteller’s Secret, highlighting the importance of story from building a culture to building a brand or entire company.

Vinod Khosla, billionaire venture capitalist here in Silicon Valley, where I live, tells me that the biggest problem he sees is that people are fact-telling when they pitch him. They’re giving facts and information and he says, “that’s not enough, Carmine. They have to do storytelling.”

When Ben Horowitz, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, another big venture capital firm, tells me the most underrated skill is storytelling, or when Richard Branson, who I interviewed, said, “entrepreneurs who cannot tell a story will never be successful”

Of course, what can you expect from generations that don’t read much and think communication is an email or, worse yet, texting?

When it comes to a storytelling culture it has to start from the top and isn’t just a good story about the product.

Every day at the Ritz-Carlton there is a brief morning meeting of housekeeping.

And they ask the question of the employees: “Is there a great customer experience that you’ve been a part of, that you can share with the rest of us? (…)They start sharing stories with one another, and then they start competing for who has better stories. They get recognized publicly.”

Southwest’s success is the result of a masterful storytelling culture.

So they created what’s called a storytelling culture, where every week the HR teams go out, and they take videos of real passengers who have had a struggle, or have maybe almost missed a funeral or a birth, or a life-changing event, and stuff like that. But they were able to do it because of Southwest.

Apple is a giant at storytelling, as is Microsoft and Zappos.

So is Whole Foods, KPMG, every farm-to-table restaurant and even ugly food.

Just don’t kid yourself about why the stories work.

The work because they are real, true, authentic or any other adjective you care to use.

The stories are based on/backed by employee actions, which is what makes them resonate.

That means the CEO and all the executive team not only believes in the importance of customer experience, but also knows that the experience is created and facilitated by their people at all levels — especially the front-line people.

Lida / Flickr

If the Shoe Fits: What are You doing?

Friday, February 12th, 2016

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

 “I look back on my career and I didn’t change the world as an entrepreneur; I did as an educator. So I’m a little wistful. Now, my charge for twentysomething entrepreneurs is, do you want to be known as the guy who makes the next porn app or fart app or do you want to put men on Mars?”Steve Blank

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIn light of Blank’s question above, you might want to take time to ask yourself ‘what am I doing’?

    • What value am I adding to my intrinsic worth as a human being?
    • Does my product/service make even a tiny portion of the world a better place in any way?
  • How will my kids describe/explain me to their kids?
  • What legacy will I leave behind?
  • How will I be remembered?
  • Will I be remembered?

Now write down your thoughts/answers.

Reread them over the next several days/weeks.

If you don’t like the profile that emerges it’s time to pivot your life.

Not randomly, but with the same consideration and planning you would use to pivot your company.

Image credit: HikingArtist

If the Shoe Fits: Founder Ego Can Kill Your Company

Friday, December 18th, 2015

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIf you truly want to succeed it’s important not to let your ego get in the way.

Or, as Marva Collins said, “If you can’t make a mistake, you can’t make anything.”

During the first startup boom in the Nineties it was called “founder ego,” but there were those, such as me, who just called it stupid.

Perhaps there is a new term I haven’t heard or it’s gone underground, but founder ego sinks more startups than you can imagine.

The thing to remember is that you

  • don’t’ know more than everybody else; and
  • can’t do everything better than anybody else.

You will screw up, you’re human, but people will think more highly of you and trust you more if you admit it and move forward by unscrewing it no matter where or who the solution comes from.

Thanks to Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership for sharing Collins’ quote.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Commitment by the Numbers

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

kg_charles-harris

There’s a lot of talk out there about the best ways to engage your people, with the dual goals of juicing creativity and innovation and hiking productivity.

As founder and CEO of Quarrio, I spend a lot of energy and time building and sustaining a culture that fosters an environment in which our people flourish.

I believe that is what  produces the desired engagement results.

That is why we don’t give a damn about gender, age or alma mater; even skills and experience take a backseat to attitude when we hire.

My whole team, not just senior staff, talk about this frequently.

Recently one them shared this internet meme as a mathematical view of what we all believe.

And since it’s the time for gifts and sharing, I thought I would share it as my holiday gift to you.

This comes from 2 math teachers with a combined total of 70 yrs. experience.

What Makes 100%  ?

What does it mean to give MORE  than 100%?

Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%? We have

all been to those meetings where someone wants you to give over 100%.

How about achieving 103%?

What makes up 100% in life?

Here’s a little mathematical formula that might help you answer these questions:

If:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Is represented as:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.

Then:

H-A-R-D-W-O-R-K 

8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98% 

And

K-N-O-W-L-E-D-G-E

11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%

But, 

A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E 

1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%

And, 

B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T 

2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20 = 103% 

And look how far ass kissing  will take you.  

A-S-S-K-I-S-S-I-N-G 

1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+14+7 = 118% 

So, one can conclude with mathematical certainty, that while Hard Work and  

Knowledge  will get you close, and   Attitude  will get you there.

It’s the  Bullshit  and  Ass Kissing  that will put you over the top. 

Now you know why some people are where they are!

I wish you a wonderful holiday season filled 100% with joy, family, friends, colleagues and great food.

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