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Golden Oldie: When Execution is an Anagram of the Act

Monday, May 1st, 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 some of the best posts during that time.

Often the most important stuff we need to learn doesn’t require multiple videos, books, and coaching. Sometimes a simple memory aid that’s easy to remember will do it, although execution still requires effort and self discipline, as in this case.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rebeccabarray/8985496669/An executive once asked me what the single most import thing he should do and how best to do it.
I told him the answer was simple and the key to execution was found in an anagram of the act.
Can you guess the action and anagram?
The action is to LISTEN.
The anagram is SILENT.
The first is impossible without doing the second.
Flickr image credit: RebeccaBarray

Entrepreneurs: Reality vs. Wishful thinking

Thursday, November 17th, 2016


For years I’ve interacted with entrepreneurs from the US and other countries. And while they have many traits in common, there is one that never ceases to amaze me — their approach to their users.

Maybe ‘approach’ is the wrong word; perhaps attitude or interpretation or wishful thinking is closer.

Your users are who they are, not who you want them to be.

That means it doesn’t matter if you/your friends/peers think it’s cool.

Or that you/your friends/peers like the style/fashion/etc.

That’s why Lean Methodology says to get out of your office, your comfort zone, and talk to your market.

Actually, rather than talking, you should listen to your market.

Truly listen.

Hear what they are really saying, instead of hearing what you want to hear.

Doing the latter has sunk many a startup.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for a look at some of them.

Image credit: Ky

Ducks in a Row: John Legere and T-Mobile

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016
T-Mobile un-carrier movement

*click image to read

John Legere is not your typical big company CEO. Legere is an ancient 58 year-old leading a company filled with Millennials in a market driven by them.

Perhaps he should be termed the “un-CEO,” just as he is branding T-Mobile as the “un-carrier.”

… his mission to turn T-Mobile into an Un-carrier — essentially the opposite of any other mobile company.

The interview with him is worth reading, especially if you want to learn how to compete against brands (AT&T and Verizon) that are better known and far richer and successfully lead people who are not like you.

In just four short years he has taken Deutsche Telekom owned T-Mobile from a joke to the third-largest and fastest-growing carrier in the US.

Not too shabby.

He radically changed the culture, and, as he says, “set out to solving customer pain points in an attempt to fix a stupid, broken, arrogant industry.”

And not just with talk; but with an additional million square miles of LTE and new services, such as Binge On (unlimited streaming at 480p quality from services like Netflix), forcing competitors to follow suit.

His advice to business school students is something that anybody at the helm of any company, from the the corner dry cleaner to the Fortune 5, should embrace.

“I can summarize everything you need to know to lead a major corporation. Are you prepared to write this down?” And then they get all ready. I tell them I can summarize how I succeed as a leader: Listen to your employees, listen to your customers, shut the f— up, and do what they tell you. Then I say that the genius of the marketing strategy that we’ve had in every company that I’ve ever been in, is that if you ask your customers what they want and you give it to them, you shouldn’t be shocked if they love it.

Ask your customers. Listen to your customers. Give your customers what they want.

Definitely rocket science.

Image credit: T-Mobile via BI

Golden Oldies: When Execution is an Anagram of the Act

Monday, November 30th, 2015

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rebeccabarray/8985496669/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

When Execution is an Anagram of the Act

An executive once asked me what the single most import thing he should do and how best to do it.

I told him the answer was simple and the key to execution was found in an anagram of the act.

Can you guess the action and anagram?

The action is to LISTEN.

The anagram is SILENT.

The first is impossible without doing the second.

Flickr image credit: RebeccaBarray

Weeds in Your Garden

Monday, November 9th, 2015


This post first appeared in 2012, but I believe both its premise and its point deserve another airing.

Managing Weeds

As companies grow and managers build their organizations they frequently talk about “weeding out” low performing employees—Jack Welch was a ninja weeder.

If that thought has crossed your mind you might take a moment to think about James Russell Lowell’s comment, “A weed is no more than a flower in disguise.”

As with weeds, there are better ways to look at under-performing employees.

Seeing a weed as food changes everything, just as seeing people’s potential does.

95% of the time it’s management failures that create weeds and those failures run the gamut from benign neglect to malicious abuse and everything in-between.

Weeds can come from outside your company, inter-departmental transfers and even from peers in your own backyard.

What is amazing is how quickly a weed will change with a little TLC.

“Weeds can grow quickly and flower early, producing vast numbers of genetically diverse seed.”

People grow quickly, too, and often produce innovative ideas — just because someone listened instead of shutting them down.

And while trust that your attitude won’t change takes longer to build, the productivity benefits happen fairly rapidly.

So before you even think about weeding look in the mirror and be sure that the person looking back is a gardener and not a weed producer.

Flickr image credit: Clare Bell

If the Shoe Fits: Who are you?

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mHow would you respond to what works best?

Do you agree with Carlos Brito, Brazilian chief of Anheuser-Busch InBev NV?

“If you want the best out of people you have to put pressure on them all the time.”

Or are you more like Shamsheer Vayalil, founder and managing director of VPS Healthcare, founded in 2007; today it has 650 physicians and 7,500 employees and serves some 2 million patients a year?

I was a good listener. I would listen to people. I would accept that I didn’t have any experience. So I hired the best people on the job.

If you’ve read much of what I write you’ll know I support Shamsheer’s attitude far more than Brito.

As do Marc Benioff and Jeff Bezos.

Different approaches, both yielding success.

Either way the message is clear: the best CEOs in the world listen more, whether it’s to customers, employees, or business partners — and doing so can go a long way.

Yet another reason to make sure you know yourself.

Flickr Image credit: HikingArtist

How Well Do You Hear?

Monday, October 19th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/caninest/4394678079/Bosses at all levels waste their human resources every day.

How? By only listening to those at X level or higher.

Common sense should tell you 

  • Nobody suddenly develops a brain as a result of being promoted.
  • If they were good enough to promote then they should have been good enough to listen to in their previous positions.
  • If they can’t contribute in the position for which they were hired, why hire them at all?
  • Even new grads hired for their potential need to be heard; they are like eggs and like eggs they must be cared for if they are to hatch.

Bosses afflicted by “positional deafness” often experience high turnover and lament the lack of loyalty, especially in “more junior workers.”

But the term ‘junior’ is very subjective; for some managers it refers to those with just a couple of years of experience, for others it’s a level within the company and for still others it’s relative, with the baseline how long it took them to finally be heard by their boss.

How do you know if you suffer from positional deafness?

Simple; just consider the sources of your input over the last quarter and what you did with it.

Better yet, ask the people you trust to tell you the truth, not the ones who tell you what you want to hear.

Flickr image credit: Caninest

Entrepreneurs: Basic Choice

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/126369362@N04/14693029044Fact: culture stems from manager MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™).

Fact: there are two basic, unconscious attitudes that underlie MAP.

  • “TaIk to me, I don’t know everything;” or
  • “Shut up and do what I say; my vision, my way.”

Know which you are — brutally honest inside your head.

If you are the first then it should be a critical factor when hiring (easy to confirm when checking references).

If the second applies be prepared for higher attrition.

It’s your choice.

Image credit: Grace Keogh

Dan Amos’ Simple Sync Solution

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Dan Amos-Aflac

I said yesterday I’d provide a simple way to get back in sync with your people.

It’s not rocket science and certainly not new.

In fact, I’ve been telling managers for decades that if they want to know what someone thinks or wants to ask, instead of assuming or “figuring it out.”

They rarely listen, so I thought that if it came from Dan Amos, chairman and chief executive of Aflac, the giant insurance company it would carry more weight.

Aflac chief Amos admits his solution sounds obvious: If you want to know what would keep someone from quitting, ask. “It sounds like common sense, but not many companies really do it.”

I’ve also been saying that money is around five on most people’s list; making a difference, recognition, challenge and opportunities to learn and grow come first.

Employers often assume, Amos says, that everyone will just want more money. But most people’s wish lists are more complicated — and more realistic — than that. Amos started polling Aflac’s employees when he became CEO in 1990. The top requests: More recognition for their work and day care for their kids.

Many companies survey their people.

The difference is that Amos acts on the results of the survey—both requests were implemented — not just in the home office, but across the country (read the article).

Amos says that “the survey rules” and the proof is found in ease of recruiting and turnover numbers.

That willingness to listen has helped Aflac — the only insurance company to show up in Fortune’s Best Companies ranking for 13 years running — to successfully recruit talented women from all over the U.S. and from as far away as India.

It also, apparently, builds loyalty: Aflac’s annual employee turnover is pretty close to zero.

Flickr image credit: Aflac

If the Shoe Fits: How Well do You Listen?

Friday, February 7th, 2014


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

I’ve cited Harvard Business School’s James Heskett’s insightful questions and the discussions they foster many times.  

This time he asks if listening is becoming a lost art.

In his new book Quick and Nimble, based on more than 200 interviews, Adam Bryant concludes, that, among other things, managers need to have more “adult conversations” —conversations needed to work through “inevitable disagreements and misunderstandings” —with our direct reports. Such conversations require careful listening.

In the same book he reports that CEOs expressed major concerns about the misuse and overuse of e-mail, something that they feel encourages disputes to escalate more rapidly than if face-to-face conversations had taken place instead. The latter, however, would require people to listen.

As to the concerns about email, I would add abuse to the misuse and overuse, as well as adding texting, instant messaging and, although not as obvious, cell phones. (Nobody is really listening while navigating rush hour, zipping down the highway at 70 or listening to the GPS when they are late to a meeting.)

Listening is both skill and art, but it’s also a revenue generator—just ask Tony Hsieh, whose own willingness to listen helped create a culture that’s the envy of corporations everywhere, while the listening skills he encourages in his CSRs have sold millions of pairs of shoes, or the Asana founders, who built the company on mindfulness, a philosophy grounded in listening.

Incorporating listening into your cultural DNA requires it to be universally manifested starting with you.

If you aren’t willing to put down your phone, discuss stuff in person, facilitate and carefully listen to disagreement then don’t expect anyone else to do so.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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