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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

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

Golden Oldies: “Or Else” Management

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

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.

Have you noticed the threats flying around this political season? Not in-your-face threats, but the subtle kind; the kind that end with an implied ‘or else’. And some not so subtle, with the ‘or else’ loud and clear. ‘Or else’ may be common, and even acceptable, in  politics, but when used as a management tactic the results are always negative. Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamescridland/4334589129/How often do you (or your boss) add “or else” or words to that effect when assigning a project or discussing a deadline?

It happens more than you would think.

The threats are rarely direct—Do it or start looking.

More often, they are subtle, unstated—I expect employees who work here to be team players.

Have no doubt, the threat is there: Do X if you want to keep your job.

Anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of a threat will tell you that they aren’t exactly motivational.

What they are is atrocious management.

Threats are costly not only to the threatEE, who loses confidence and the threatenER, who loses credibility, but also to the organization itself for allowing it to happen.

Far worse is the ripple effect that the sows seeds of a self-propagating culture of intimidation.

Threats kill creativity, innovation, motivation, caring, ownership, in fact, everything that it takes to compete in today’s economy.

Managers who choose to use ultimatums as a motivational tool should not be surprised when employees respond with their feet.

Flickr image credit: James Cridland

Entrepreneurs: What to Build

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/centralasian/8261449212New year, new ideas — one would hope.

Less ‘me too’ and more ‘me new’, or, as Matt Rosoff puts it, stuff that impresses his 5-year-old son.

By groundbreaking, I mean a technology that changed society, changed every other industry in the world. The World Wide Web was groundbreaking. The internet was groundbreaking. The personal computer was groundbreaking.

And before you write Rosoff off as a know-nothing consider Peter Thiel’s comment.

“We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”

It’s nice to know my nobody-know-nothing opinion is in good company.

In the tech world IoT is supposedly the bright light on the horizon, but don’t hold your breath.

According to a study by Accenture of 28,000 consumers in 28 countries, the world is tired of gadgets and no interest in replacing what they have.

Worse for tech, the public is waking up to the fact that it doesn’t give a damn about people’s privacy, security or even safety as long as they buy — at least not until it’s forced to and then only enough to shut up the noise.

As Accenture puts it, companies must “ignite” the next five years of growth by coming up with products that “offer a compelling value proposition,” “ensure a superior customer experience,” and “build security and trust.” 

Read the article. Digest Accenture results.

Then think about what you can build that would impress a 5-year-old—even a little.

Flickr image credit: centralasian

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

Weeds in Your Garden

Monday, November 9th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/southpaw2305/3465219891/

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

Ducks in a Row: Lars Dalgaard on Being Human

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/eiriknewth/474679387/This great leadership information from Lars Dalgaard, general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, is applicable to every boss, whether startup or Fortune 50.

The biggest thing in my life is really daring to be human, and that’s the approach I take to the working world. We could all be so much more human, but we don’t allow ourselves to do it. I think it’s because we’ve been brought up thinking that when you’re in a business role, if you show any emotion, then that’s the opposite of being tough.

The funny thing is that you’re actually a stronger leader and more trustworthy if you’re able to be vulnerable and you’re able to show your real personality. It’s a trust multiplier, and people really will want to work for you and be on a mission together with you.

Dalgaard’s approach is the opposite of so many of today’s bosses, who act as if every day is a tough mudder experience.

To them, being vulnerable is the same as being weak — and weak loses.

Worse, by acting on that belief they, in turn, force the attitude on their people.

The end result often turns a workplace into a warplace, with X% of your people trying to out-tough each other and the rest running for cover.

So give them, and yourself, a break by recognizing that you’ll go further, and have more fun getting there, by being, and showing, that you are human.

Flickr image credit: BK

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

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/archeon/2379648126

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

Ducks in a Row: the True Source of Happiness

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tico24/50459406/in/photolist-5sBPL-bkrFTn-5fN9HR-cqv8F-5wzJ1f-5wvpDz-7akhzi-5wzJ9s-8bUK32-6B39pQ-bPCwjF-knctJn-4FMm9r-FJK7i-oPVLSb-9EADLW-8P2Cay-edzmtp-7vFaT7-c7KcF1-edF2Ty-edF2Zq-4aT4WK-65WvUX-7kNcQE-exwVN-8RrQYH-7roNWJ-2L3da-pZpoJ8-4UAHBd-5KRj4X-edF3Fh-dpbyL5-bXbL51-65WvX8-7atcFQ-rmeqo-ehm9UX-e2Yvkc-f6DVD-rykAwn-5ZWobq-8dJ4o8-fbkejU-2vhvHS-9BsWWz-b5eaHM-6eqP4V-5MQKUq

It’s been proven that the happier the workers the higher the productivity and creativeness.

So what really makes people happy?

Lawyers provide a good example, in spite of all the jokes.

Researchers who surveyed 6,200 lawyers about their jobs and health found that the factors most frequently associated with success in the legal field, such as high income or a partner-track job at a prestigious firm, had almost zero correlation with happiness and well-being. However, lawyers in public-service jobs who made the least money, like public defenders or Legal Aid attorneys, were most likely to report being happy.

I wrote What People Want one week short of nine years ago and after rereading it see no reason to update it.

As research continually proves, the basic human operating system doesn’t really change.

Flickr image credit: tico_24

Ducks in a Row: Which Culture?

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/infomastern/11128219076/

Last Thursday we looked at the importance of using your culture as a screening tool to be sure the people hired are, at the least, synergistic with it.

Note that being culturally synergistic has nothing to do with either age or gender.

Friday warned against confusing perks with culture.

But with culture, what you see may not be what you get.

More important than the company’s overall culture is the culture that develops under any given manager, based on individual MAP, and the individual’s management approach.

To ensure a successful hire the culture and management style described must actually exist as opposed to an idealized or misleading version created for interviews.

Strange as it sounds, managers often describe their style more as it ought to be, i.e., what they think it is or what they think the candidate wants to hear.

Obviously, managers aren’t about to tell candidates that they micromanage or don’t believe in helping their people grow, because they might leave.

But today’s workforce is the savviest in history.

Mix that savvy with the uncontrolled and unfiltered information provided by social media and you have a situation that demands authenticity and honesty.

At the least, it requires sins of omission.

Lies, AKA, sins of commission, such as describing the opposite — a boss who encourages growth, provides complete information, then gets out of the way, etc. — as reality pretty much guarantees a turned-down offer or fast turnover — in other words, an unsuccessful hire.

And in case you’ve forgotten exactly what a successful hire is, it’s hiring the right person into the right position at the right time and for the right reasons.

Flickr image credit: Susanne Nilsson

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