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Ryan’s Journal: How To Establish Culture With Asymmetrical Information

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevecorey/14292160302/Public image for both companies and people has always been important and even more so with the availability of information at our disposal. But even with these tools we are still dealing with asymmetrical information when making decisions and establishing culture.

I spoke to a friend over dinner the other night who travels overseas for work quite a bit. As a result he is not up to speed on current US events and was unaware of the string of crisis that have impacted Uber.

He was shocked to learn that they were involved in lawsuits, scandals and more. It was actually a bit like hearing it for the first time myself as I had a chance to see his emotions as he learned the news.

His opinion of Uber was shaped on asymmetrical information.

I had mentioned in a previous post that some local companies that tout their high employee reviews are not as shiny from the inside. Again, asymmetrical information.

The director of the FBI has been fired, we as the public are dealing with asymmetrical information for the reasons behind it.

I state all of this to say that we must constantly strive to learn, ingest and understand as much as we can when making decisions about the companies we deal with and people we hire.

I recently took part in a process where a new employee was terminated. It was unfortunate but they were not a good fit for the role, exaggerated a bit during the interview process and then didn’t make up for it after being hired.

This person is someone that I wouldn’t mind being friends with, but they were not suited for the role they were in. The hire was a result of asymmetrical information.

I have looked back on my own life at times when I made foolish mistakes due to my lack of information. Rash decisions that cost me time and money. How do we learn from them?

Here are a few ways I have dealt with this moving forward.

  • Have trusted friends or mentors to bounce ideas off of.
  • Take a day or two when making big decisions.
  • Try to remove emotion from the decisions to ensure you’re not swayed.

These all may be basic (I am not as lofty as I would like), but they can make an impact for the positive.

Image credit: Steve Corey

If the Shoe Fits: Answer 5 Questions To Boost Your Management Skills

Friday, January 20th, 2017

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mDid you start this year with a promise to yourself to be a better boss?

If you didn’t you should have , because no matter how good you are you can always improve — but that’s true for everything.

In December I gave you 56 words that would change your life and at the start of the year three steps to being a better boss.

Today I’m providing five questions to ask yourself.

  1. How well do you delegate, AKA letting go/loss of control.
  2. Is your self esteem tied to your Klout score or your team’s accomplishments?
  3. Are you so tied to your vision that you’re blind to your market’s response?
  4. Do you practice culture by design or by accident?
  5. Do you want to get things done or just done your way.

Next, query five trusted colleagues for objective, outside input.

Compare the responses.

Depending on you’re your goals, adjust your attitudes and actions accordingly.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: The Power of Open Communications

Thursday, February 26th, 2015


Remember Sun Microsystems? In 1998 they had a great ad that should bed on the wall of every startup and the goal of every manager, especially founders. It said, “Information shall circulate as freely as office gossip.”

Open communications is the basis of an enlightened workforce and enables world-class performance, unleashing creativity, and promoting a good working environment.

Great leaders/managers start with three basic assumptions:

  1. People are intelligent, motivated, and want to help their company succeed.
  2. People are required to act with initiative.
  3. People’s performance is directly impacted by the quality and quantity of the information they receive.

Open communications means

  • managers providing employees with all the information they need to do their job
  • sharing knowledge between employees. The double goal being to encourage employee growth and substantially reduce the time they spend reinventing the wheel.
  • eliminating one of the two pillars of political power.
  • documenting. Good documentation plays a role in every part and process of a company. Without the knowledge of what has been done in the past, it is difficult to fulfill the demands of the present, let alone make viable decisions for the company’s future. Documenting is as much attitude as action, so it is critical to continually develop the mindset among employees that no project is finished until it is documented.
  • making sure that people can easily understand information. Visuals, from a manager’s quick sketch, to the detailed drawings used by engineering to describe a product to manufacturing, are the fastest and easiest way to present information to busy people. Processes and information that can not be represented visually are probably too convoluted and bureaucratic.

Make open communications one of the core values on which you base your company’s culture.

Image credit: Communications Network

Ducks in a Row: 6 Principles of Great Culture

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

“[If people are] frustrated by red tape or by having someone breathing down his neck, someone for whom he has scant respect, if he has little influence on decisions which affect his work, and which he may not agree with, then he will pack up and go. And so he should. It is up to us, therefore, to create an organisation which will allow gifted individuals to unfold.”  –Ove Arup

408368847_fe60776e3c_mArup walked his talk and ran a company that embodied the six basic principles of a great place to work.

  • Differences are nurtured, so individuals can be themselves at work and contribute their unique talents.
  • Information is not suppressed or distorted, so people can find out what they need to know to do their work.
  • Individuals are given meaningful chances to grow, becoming more valuable to the organization in the process.
  • The company is a place where everyone feels proud to work, spurring them to go beyond their stated roles.
  • People’s day to day work makes sense to them, and they understand how their own jobs fit in with everyone else’s.
  • And they are not hindered by stupid rules.

It may not be easy, but no matter what approach your company takes, or what level manager you are, you can infuse these principles in your own group and shelter them from those above.

It’s not easy, but it can be done and the payoff is amazing.

Flickr image credit:

Expand Your Mind: Attitudes

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Today we look at what’s going on in and around your head.

According to current research, being an overconfident, rude jerk is a great way to get ahead and have people look up to you. (In reality this only applies to men.)

In other words, overconfident people are perceived as having more social status, and social status is golden. (…) …research suggests that we also see rudeness as a sign of power.

Offended? Good. Because before you decide that jerkism is your best path to success see why it doesn’t really work most of the time

For all their charisma, bravery and bravado, jerks don’t do as well as you might think.

Jerkism covers a multitude of sins including positive thinking (free registration required), especially when it holds 110% sway over the minds of leaders.

But several recent studies have critiqued the positive thinking movement, highlighting the negative personal and organizational effects (…) In short, Prozac leaders can wind up believing their own narrative that everything is going well.

People spend large amounts of time these days trying to assimilate all the available information applicable to their job, project, etc, because it will improve their results. But maybe that’s not such a good thing; instead consider the idea of two lists.

It’s hard to do because maybe, just maybe, that next piece of information will be the key to our success. But our success actually hinges on the opposite: on our willingness to risk missing some information. Because trying to focus on it all is a risk in itself. We’ll exhaust ourselves. We’ll get confused, nervous, and irritable.

What will your life be like as you age in an era of DIY toughness? If you are lucky, EngAGE, a program that enhances life for the 99% will become a model.

“We see people without money, who had very hard lives, who are not aware of their own potential,” said Maureen Kellen-Taylor, the chief operating officer of EngAGE, a program in the Los Angeles area that provides arts and other classes for some 5,000 people — the vast majority of them low-income — living in senior apartment communities.

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

Ducks in a Row: Sharing Information Yields Innovation

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Think about all the information that comes your way, especially if you are an executive.

It’s usually shared at peer level and (maybe) one or two levels down.

But full sharing of that information should be embedded deeply in your company’s culture.

In fact, when information, particularly competitive and market intelligence, is widely disseminated throughout the organization it juices innovation and boosts productivity.


Because increasing the number of people with access to the information increases the odds for breakthrough thinking and reduces the risk of wheel-spinning.

  • An article on a competitor’s product can spark an engineer’s original design idea;
  • gossip about changing industry dynamics can prevent a stumble in marketing;
  • an investment report on a new service offering can suggest an innovative sales approach to a desirable customer.

Highly visible industry developments circulate swiftly and prompt immediate strategy meetings and fast responses, but the rest of the information often languishes; instead, it needs to be easily accessible by everyone.

Think about it, everybody in your company picks up valuable industry intelligence along with potentially valuable gossip.

  • CEOs receive strategy reports by investment firms, management consulting companies, along with high level information and gossip from the Board.
  • Managers receive reports from hired industry experts and publications.
  • Marcom and others interact with the media.
  • Salespeople gain information from customers.
  • Engineers and others observe competitive equipment at trade shows.
  • Admin and other support people hear and overhear stuff, often because they are ignored by those at higher levels.

People talk—at tradeshows, networking events, industry conferences and seminars, as well as at social events, bars, restaurants, etc. Most people spend at least part of that time talking about business-related topics.

Unfortunately, some managers derive their power through information control.

Smart managers make sure that the information is shared, up, down, and horizontally, by using internal blogs, intranets, wikis, etc. Further, they actively work to encourage everybody to read and discuss it.

Since the goal is to encourage everybody to share everything, no matter the source, all posts should include attribution; a public thank you to the person who took the time to share it.

Whether formal (reports, white papers, news) or informal (conversations, hearsay, gossip) the content needs to be accurately assessed and valued.

There is no way to predict what bit of knowledge will spark the creative process, so be sure that your people have full access everything available in an easily searchable format.

Flickr image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zedbee/103147140/

Ducks In A Row: Managers

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

In a speech to company managers, reprinted in The HP Way, Dave Packard perfectly summed up what makes Jane or Johnny run.

“People work to make a contribution and they do this best when they have a real objective, when they know what they are trying to achieve and are able to use their own capabilities to the greatest extent.”

I would add that “their own capabilities” means

  • being given full information and authority to get the job done, as opposed to
  • being forced to return again and again for clarification or having to constantly run to the boss to get something authorized.

The first approach is the one chosen by managers so confident and powerful that they work to hire people smarter than themselves, empower them and spend their energy developing them—knowing that they will either be promoted or leave.

The second approach is the choice of mangers who are weak and insecure.

Which are you?

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zedbee/103147140/

A lynchpin for integrating social media tools?

Monday, May 12th, 2008

Image credit:Gauravonomics

Friday I wrote that age-neutral, fear-related information control is the greatest barrier to the spread of social media tools.

Today I read an interesting post by Hutch Carpenter suggesting that companies create a new position, Social Media Manager, to shepherd, not ramrod, the adoption of SM tools.

Hutch says that “The successful social media manager will be someone who can engage a wide variety of personality types. Who can handle a variety of viewpoints.”

I would add that the person should also have strong shrink-type skills to deal with MAP-based resistance.

With that one addition I think Hutch has hit on good idea, one I hope companies will jump on—or at least cautiously climb aboard.

Do you think that a social media manager makes sense?

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