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Golden Oldies: It’s All In How You See It

Monday, January 9th, 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.

You hear a lot about “context” these days; mostly people claiming that their comments were taken “out of context” or some variation of that. People are very aware of context, but seem to forget about “perception.”  Context, in or out of, doesn’t really matter; what matters is the perception, whether your own or others. The recent campaign, no matter what side you were on, is a good example of how perception trumps everything.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

There is an ongoing debate in academic, and other, circles as to whether or not humans have free will.

Reading the latest arguments made for an interesting break, but my final reaction was, “Who cares.” However, the manager with whom I was discussing it was thoroughly upset and demanded to know how I could think that. He said that if he had no free will then all his efforts to improve had no value, since the results were predetermined, it didn’t matter what he did. (Hey, we all have bad days.)

When I explained why I thought his reaction was way out in left field, he said I should blog the answer, that it would do other’s a lot of good, so I did.

Primarily, I don’t care because I’ve found that everything is a matter of perception, and that for every person who proclaims TRUTH (in capitals), there is a counter perception held just as vehemently by someone else.

When people seek to improve/change skills, attitudes or whatever, they do so because they perceive a benefit in doing so, whether there actually is one of not is beside the point.

Fortunately, or not, no matter what the perception, one can find like-minded people who share it—the Earth is round, but not to everybody.

Life lasts a certain amount of time and all lives have highs and lows, but it’s the perception of the individual that determines which is which.

In other words, the choice is yours.

Golden Oldies: Out of the box is about choice

Monday, March 28th, 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.

Do you spend any time reading archives from sources you like? I don’t mean stuff that’s a few months old or even a couple of years. I mean thought pieces dating back 5, 10, 15 years ago or even more, especially those focused on what bosses need to do to motivate, retain and get the best from their teams. The problem is not in the content, nor how pertinent it is. The problem is that it’s still applicable, which means bosses haven’t changed much, if at all over all that time — but the workforce has. Here’s an example of what I mean.  Read other Golden Oldies here.

My post yesterday brought an interesting question from Dan L. in Boston. He said, “Why in the world would any manager do anything that would reduce the options available to identify a solution needed in his/her group, especially a CEO?”

So, I paraphrased five reasons that I’ve actually heard, in one form or another, from top managers who talked about being out of the box, but really wanted to stay in it.

  • Think outside—as long as it doesn’t make me uncomfortable.
  • Don’t challenge the status quo in a manner that scares me.
  • Be creative within parameters I can understand.
  • If you want to breach the box, do it my way.
  • We’ve never done it that way.

At first, Dan was incredulous, then he really thought about what’s behind each of the five reasons, and he understood what anybody who really listens to the thoughts behind people’s words comes to know.

Out of the box is about change, and change is scary—for everybody.

But it’s not about being scared, it’s about how you choose to handle it.

That’s right, choose.

Your responses, your choice.

Think about it this weekend.

Then, when you get to the office Monday and one of your people has a great idea that scares the dickens out of you, consciously choose how you respond—knowing that no matter how you choose the ripples of that choice will spread and impact not only your future, but also the future of your people and your company.

If the Shoe Fits: Silicon Valley Groupthink, Should and You

Friday, January 8th, 2016

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mOn one of the last days of 2015 I read a great article about the groupthink that pervades Silicon Valley these days.

It reminded me of how teens of every generation display their rebellion against society through their choice of clothes, while simultaneously making sure they “fit in” with their peers.

This is most easily seen in a subgroup like the goths, whose black clothing and makeup sets them apart from other teens, but within which a rigid dress code prevails.

Unlike the Silicon Valley I knew in the 1980s and 90s, today’s Silicon Valley is far more homogenized and undiversified, with little perspective on the “real” world.

The result is that it’s far less creative and exciting than it once was.

Silicon Valley groupthink is also the force behind what Danielle Morrill, CEO & Cofounder of Mattermark, calls the “tyranny of should.”

But sometimes when I am able to quiet that story down, I catch myself listening because it is just so much easier to have someone else figure out what I should do.

In the first days of this new year I urge you to choose between taking the easy road of groupthink and should or following Sam Altman’s path of most resistance.

“You should ignore what your peers are doing or what your peers or parents think is cool. (…) And that’s the hardest part. We’re all so much more susceptible to that than we think.”

Yes, another ‘should’, but not all ‘shoulds’ are created equal.

As always, it’s your choice.

That’s both life’s greatest joy and its greatest fear.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Golden Oldies: The Tao of Life

Monday, November 23rd, 2015


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. Read other Golden Oldies here

The Tao of Life

We learn through words and can often learn more by deconstructing them.

Just as one of the most critical managerial (human) actions is found in its own anagram the Tao of another is found within the word itself.

The word is LIFE.

The Tao of life is IF.

IF you think/say/do this instead of that the Tao changes.

The IF isn’t always conscious or obvious.

But it is there.

It’s up to you to choose consciously.

Flickr image credit: gfpeck

Entrepreneurs: Two Kinds of Alphas

Thursday, October 1st, 2015


I wrote the original of this post five years ago and posted this follow-up three years ago.

Considering the media frenzy around the lifestyles of tech CEOs I thought it was time to post it again.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about leadership that included a quote from the main character, a forensic anthropologist, in the TV show Bones.

Anthropology tells us that the Alpha male is the one with the crown, the most shiny baubles, the fanciest plumage, but I learned that the real alpha male is often in the shadows because he is busy shining the light on others.

Founders are typically alphas, whether male or female.

With that in mind I have a simple question to ask you.

Which kind of alpha are you?

Read the original post and then decide.

If you don’t like your answer choose to change.

There’s always a choice.

Flickr image credit: Tambako The Jaguar

Ducks in a Row: Destroy Morale? There’s an App for That

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015


Want to integrate almost real-time employee action analytics to give your people better feedback and potential career boost?

There’s an app for that.

Imagine a tiny microphone embedded in the ID badge dangling from the lanyard around your neck.

The mic is gauging the tone of your voice and how frequently you are contributing in meetings. Hidden accelerometers measure your body language and track how often you push away from your desk.

The app is from Humanyze, the test subjects work for Deloitte, participation was voluntary and the anonymous results positive.

“The minute that you get the report that you’re not speaking enough and that you don’t show leadership, immediately, the next day, you change your behavior,” says Silvia Gonzalez-Zamora, an analytics leader at Deloitte, who steered the Newfoundland pilot.

“It’s powerful to see how people want to display better behaviors or the behaviors that you’re moving them towards.”

But only when there is choice and trust.

Then there’s the truly evil app that records everything employees do 24/7, with no anonymity .

The U.K.-based company The Outside View, a predictive analytics company, also recently gave staff wearables and apps to measure their happiness, sleep patterns, nutrition and exercise around the clock in an experimental project.

So your boss knows when you decide to watch your favorite TV show, instead of taking a work-related course, or sing karaoke, instead of going to bed early.

“It’s bad enough that we lose control of our identities with threats of identity theft. I think it’s even worse if we lose the privacy of our actions, our movements, our physiological and emotional states. I think that’s the risk.” –Kenneth Goh, professor of organizational behavior at Western University’s Ivey Business School

They actually think that employees will be motivated by coming to work and having their boss ask why they didn’t work-out, but were up until 2 am.

I don’t think so.

As with so many inventions through the centuries, no matter how pure the motives of creators, anything can be corrupted and its use perverted by other humans.

Hat tip to KG Charles-Harris for pointing me to these stories.

Flickr image credit: Hans Splinter

Tough or Toxic?

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015


Everybody is talking about the NY Times article detailing little-known aspects and actions of Amazon’s culture.

There is a plethora of discussion, commentary, vehement agreement/disagreement on the information presented in the article and I don’t plan to add more.

What is important is knowing when your workplace crosses the line from tough to toxic.

While the fluidity of the line is a function of the individual, that is only true when there is choice.

And fear, whether real (no new job prospects), instilled (abuse resulting in an “it’s my fault” mentality) or imagined, precludes choice.

Without choice it’s toxic.

Flickr image credit: eek the cat

Ducks in a Row: What Does Your Advertising Reveal?

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/recoverling/2455570917/Just as a company’s culture reflects its values, its advertising typically reflects its culture.

Most ads are relatively generic, cars, food, even drugs; with minor changes to the words or voiceover you can interchange competing products almost unnoticeably.

Most companies prefer to play it safe, whether in advertising or culture, sticking with the idea that “if it works for them it will work for us.” Call it the no/low risk approach.

Back when Apple’s culture was cutting-edge, so were its ads—remember the ad introducing the Mac? It was shown only once during the 1984 Super Bowl, but is remembered 30 years later.
A far cry from the safe, generic iPhone ads of today, which are quickly forgotten.

According to a new ad from Guinness, “The choices we make reveal the true nature of our character.”

A great mantra and absolutely true—for individuals and corporations.

Guinness’ new ad chose to go against every cultural norm found in beer advertising.

Did it work?

Flickr credit: recoverling; YouTube credit: Guinness

The Tao of Life

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013


We learn through words and can often learn more by deconstructing them.

Just as one of the most critical managerial (human) actions is found in its own anagram the Tao of another is found within the word itself.

The word is LIFE.

The Tao of life is IF.

IF you think/say/do this instead of that the Tao changes.

The IF isn’t always conscious or obvious.

But it is there.

It’s up to you to choose consciously.

Flickr image credit: gfpeck

Entrepreneurs: More than Money

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

venture-america-fellowsWanting to make a difference has been one of the top three reasons for people of all ages and backgrounds to join or leave companies for decades and it’s only increasing with today’s attitudes.

Many of today’s most desirable new grads are applying to Venture for America, a nonprofit organization that selects fellows to work in cities, like Detroit, that aren’t the usual magnets for top, young college grads from the most elite universities.

They are turning down six-figure salaries with prestigious firms for the chance to have real impact.

This is the same reason that most people join startups—small team means a bigger impact by each person.

Outsiders and the media most often focus on startups as a path to riches, but that’s not what’s uppermost in the minds of most candidates.

While many crave work on the bleeding edge, whether of technology, medicine, business process innovation or something else, 99.9% are there to have an impact and make a difference.

Even if the effort doesn’t succeed, they want to look back at that time with satisfaction and know that their own actions helped get it as far as it went.

Efforts like Venture for America and the opportunities they create are the best chance to change the course of potential failures that permeates our country.

We need many more of them.

Image credit: Venture for America

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