Tuesday, December 27, 2011

how we say what we say is as important as what we say

(excerpted from an interview with Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, author of Infants and Mothers, by Harvard Magazine): "How did you come to understand that how doctors communicate was just as important as what they communicate?

I learned very early that if you tell somebody what to do, they withdraw, set up defenses, and don’t listen. If you wait until the patient finally says to you, “What do you think?” then you have permission to answer their question and say, “What would you like to know from me?” Then they take control and tell you what they need. Waiting for this moment is the hardest thing to do in medicine, because we think it’s going to take a lot of time. The truth is, it takes less time than you’d think. I found, in my own practice, that if I spent an hour in the first two or three visits with patients, then it would never take me more than five or six minutes from then on for each visit. So in spending time at first, I’d cut down on what it took later on."

Managers, leaders, parents -- I'll assume that if you're reading this, you are asking me, "what do you think?" I am answering: listen to Dr. Brazelton! What is true for a doctor with his patient is true for a leader and his team. Build the relationship. Avoid giving advice unless asked. Take the time up front to coach.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What do you deserve?

Because we don't have a working television, I don't watch much, so when I recently spent 4 nights in a hotel with a million channels, I watched what is for me a year's worth. I found I was riveted more by the commercials than by the shows. Who knew there were so many things out there we need! Now!

What has struck me recently is how often the word, "deserve" is used, as in: "you deserve this" or "you deserve the best".

So, what makes any of us deserve any specific thing -- be it a new car or a life hardship? The word "deserve" connotes worth and merit. One who deserves a thing is entitled to that thing. To what are we entitled?

While the vacations and cars were benign, the most egregious of these was a commercial showing a person drinking too much, getting arrested for drunk driving, and hiring the advertised lawyers because he "deserves the best legal team." He does? He could have killed someone. Yes, he is owed a trained lawyer for his money, but what has he done to "deserve the best"? In fact, couldn’t we argue that he doesn’t deserve the best?

People complain a great deal that the current college-age generation acts like it is entitled. These students are more likely to complain about an A- or a B+ than students from years past; they ask for lightened homework and delays in due dates. Maybe they've been influenced by the near-constant advertising message that they are deserving.

Yesterday, a group of girls in the Barnes & Noble bathroom were commiserating (loudly) with their friend who's father had insisted that the puppy he'd given her for her birthday also counted as her Christmas present. "That's unfair," protested one friend. "You deserve a birthday present and a Christmas present."

I held my tongue but wondered if the father could count the puppy’s future veterinarian bills as this year's Christmas present: doesn't he deserve credit for that expense?

My in-laws asked how much I earned and upon hearing the (paltry) sum, gasped and my mother-in-law exclaimed, "But you deserve so much more!"

"I do?" I asked, grinning at how much like a recent ad she seemed.

"Of course," she said. "And soon you will earn so much more. Why, they'll pay you twice that when they see what you've done."

Given that I've asked for and been denied a raise in the last 6 months (“you’re an exceptional instructor but you’re earning at the top of the pay range”), a doubling of salary is as likely as a trip to the moon.

How often do people use that phrase with you: you deserve more / better? Does it leave you feeling dissatisfied with something when previously you were not?

Do we not need to merit something to deserve it -- have these two concepts been divorced of each other?

What does society or life owe us? What have we merited?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

People don't respond to money but to comparisons with others' money

People are not rational, and managers who offer incentives based on the false belief that their employees are rational will waste money and effort. In a recent Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge Newsletter, The Most Powerful Workplace Motivator by Carmen Nobel (October 31, 2011) we see new research demonstrating that most of us are motivated not by money itself but by the comparison of how much money we earn compared to our peers. And not by how we perform against a standard but in how we perform relative to our peers’ performance.

Professor Ian Larkin, author of the study quoted by Nobel, observes salespeople giving up the opportunity to earn $30,000 in commissions to earn a gold star on their name tag (and a few other goodies that nowhere near add up to the lost commission) and scholars downloading their own research papers multiple times to ensure they aren’t out-downloaded by peers. There was no extrinsic reward – no tenure, awards, or outside recognition – associated with a higher download count. Just a public number that they and their peers can see.

This puts most managers in a tough position: if we share with employees how they are doing relative to their peers, we create competition, which will limit sharing of critical information and resources. I observed this first-hand when working at a multi-national retailer, whose corporate president thought he would encourage hard work by needling division presidents about how the other divisions were doing that week: "I see sportcoats are selling well in Joe's division; what's going on here?" While I'm sure this lit a fire in that president's belly and boosted sportcoat sales the next week, it led to infighting, failure to capitalize on inter-division synergies, and judgment errors on product focus.

It's best to encourage our employees to see themselves as competing with an external, rather than internal, competitor -- if we can get the data. How much more powerful it would be to say, "hey, competitor X has 10% turnover; why is ours 14%?" Or, "we pay 5% more than competitor X and offer a better work environment."

How are you using performance comparisons to lead to improved performance? How does your company use comparisons?

Monday, October 31, 2011

risk of asking for a behavior change

I was talking with a group of engineers this week about letting another person know when his behavior is making it difficult for them to do their work. Many of us complain and gossip: "can you believe he's late to every meeting!" "Once again she goes on travel without letting anyone know where she is!" "He's so creepy -- he comes up behind me when I'm working on the computer and rubs my shoulders!"

The outcome of this complaining is that we get solace and comaraderie -- the person or people to whom we complain agree the complained-about person is a creep or an idiot or selfish or whatever characterizing term seems to fit. There is no actual change as a result and our improved emotional state lasts only until the offending person behaves in his "usual" way again.

We have a chance of changing behavior when we let the other person know how his behavior is negatively affecting us and our work. We can say, "we can't make rigorously-analyzed decisions when you arrive late to meetings -- we're missing too much of your input." Or, "when we don't know you're going on travel, we assume we'll be able to work directly with you. It would help our work planning if you'd give us advance notice of travel plans." Or, "I'm uncomfortable when you come up behind me and rub my shoulders. I'd prefer you simply come around my desk and say hello"

Speaking up has the advantages of enabling us to experience ourselves as people with the potential influence to make changes rather than as whiners, providing the other person with the opportunity to change behavior he may not realize is detrimental to others, and limiting gossip, and therefore outgrouping, at work.

One person in the program said, but what if I speak up and the person doesn't change his behavior? Yes, this is a risk. Perhaps the other person's habits are so deeply ingrained that he can't change them, he lacks the emotional intelligence to make changes, or our requested behavior was unreasonable.

I have a student with whom I've talked in person and to whom I've sent several heart-felt emails about arriving late to class. I've talked about what he's losing, what his learning group is losing, and what our class is losing by his missing so much of the class period. He continues to arrive about 30 minutes late. He will not change. That's his choice; a choice that will be reflected in his grade. And if you're thinking, well that gives you positional power, not so fast. This student is the first to complain about course process (often about things he insists I don't do for students that I do at the start of classes which he misses) and I have no doubt he will complain to the department and in his evaluations. These complaints can influence the department about hiring me for future classes and can influence future students' thinking about taking the class. His coming in late will cost me.

I can't change his behavior but if I had not tried I would not have changed his behavior nor would I ask other students to make this change. Yet every other student who habitually arrived late changed behavior after a few words from me. We must see each person and situation as unique. If I stopped speaking up, I'd see myself as powerless and I would become powerless.

When we say nothing, we get nothing.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Can you teach "heart"?

I noticed this sticker on a student's computer: "you can't teach heart".

I asked him about it -- what does it mean by "heart" in this context? Kindness? Generosity? Empathy? (all of which I believe can be taught)

He said the saying is "absolutely true" and in his context it meant commitment to the sport (jui jit su). So, what do you think? Can you teach someone to be committed to a sport -- to give his heart to it?

I disagree with this quote. While I believe we cannot motivate another person -- that the other person has to be self-motivated -- I do believe we can do things to teach commitment:

  1. model commitment ourselves. We can demonstrate to our employees, teammates, peers, and children our own commitment to our group, company, team or family. We are teaching all the time. Do we give our heart to our organizations or work teams? Do we give our heart to our families? How often do we just go through the motions, get through the day, finish the task? We cannot expect heart when we don't give heart.
  2. actively demonstrate the outcomes of commitment. Oftentimes people don't go the extra mile because they don't see the value in doing so. We think those folks are lazy and lose interest in them. They get less attention and see even less value in giving their hearts, and we've facilitated a negative spiral. We may know why we're committed, but if we haven't shared the overarching goal -- our organization's reason for being beyond making a profit, our team's goal beyond winning the next game, and our family's role in our lives beyond someone to add to the laundry basket -- then we cannot expect anyone else to have that goal at the front of their minds.
I'm sure there are more ways to teach "heart". What ideas do you have?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How to carve practice space out of existing performance space

You can create a space for practice by ensuring psychological safety on your team and by using the coaching process created by Denis Kinlaw in Coaching for Commitment.

Psychological safety: Develop mutual trust whereby you are all willing to be vulnerable to each other because you assume the others have positive intentions. Your team will trust you when you are authentic, consistent, competent, and principled.

Coaching process: Instead of solving problems for your employees, invite them into a discussion of discovery. Purposefully use your conversations with employees as practice spaces -- encourage them to share what they know that you don't, build on their ideas to make the most of what you both know, and focus on gaining insights rather than on immediate end results.

When your employees know that there are times they can talk out their ideas with you and you will make both the time and the mental energy available to focus on what they have to say, when their words have influence over what happens at work, and when it's okay for them to test theories, raise concerns, stretch for higher goals, make mistakes, and attempt new skills, they gain new and useful competencies. These competencies give them the confidence to stretch for even higher goals, building ever greater competency -- a self-perpetuating upward performance spiral.

When you create a space for practice at work, you enable employees to reach their fullest potential.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Do you create practice space for your team?

Sports teams practice and perform: 5 or so days a week they get together and experiment with new plays, try out different tactics, push limits, and test theories. They expect some of these won't pan out -- they'll fail -- and they'll learn from what didn't work to determine what will.

Players increase competency by seeing what works and learning from what doesn't, by reaching for more speed or endurance or skill, and by learning how to respond to setbacks. And competency creates confidence, which inspires players to try to reach higher goals.

When game day comes along, they use what they've learned combined with their confidence to succeed.

In some work environments, employees perform all the time. There's no room for trying something new, testing unique ideas, or failing. As a result, confidence wanes, leading employees to be less willing to stretch themselves, less likely to take risks, less comfortable offering suggestions. New competencies aren't developed and existing competencies aren't strengthened.

What can you do to create room for practice at work?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Does fear of vulnerability make us more vulnerable?

A student expressed concern that if he told people how their behavior affected him, they'd have the power to affect him negatively. The other students responded that few people in his environment were out to get him, and I think that's probably true. Yet, I'm not sure if that was comforting enough for him to risk sharing his concerns with others -- how would he know who to trust with his feelings?

Trust is the willingness to be vulnerable to another person because we expect their intentions and actions toward us to be positive, or at the least, not negative.

So, would it be a bad idea to let someone you don't fully trust know their words or actions cause you hurt or frustration, or in any way limit your ability to do your best work? Yet if we don't trust the other person, and we don't say anything about the negative impact their words/actions have on us, aren't we more likely to be more hurt in the future when they continue that behavior?

And in the end, if they decide not to change their behavior then we know beyond a doubt that we have to change our response to their behavior. After all, we have control over our own emotions; no one can make us feel something. So, perhaps it's better to get it on the table where we can no longer ignore it and hope it will change?

What do you think? Have you ever had someone hurt you more than they had in the past after and because you let them know their behavior resulted in a negative experience for you?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

business rationale for a leading up culture

You've seen in this blog that I promote the value of a leading up culture -- one where leadership expects, and sets the structure in place for, employees to share critical information with those above them on the organizational chart. Leaders cannot know what those on the front line know --what's happening with competitors and customers day to day, what skills and resources are needed to meet customer needs right now and in the future, and an assessment of our own level of these.

Now there is quantitative support for creating a culture where employees are encouraged to speak up and leaders are expected to listen: The Daily Stat, a publication of the Harvard Business Review, reported today that "Companies rated by their employees as being in the top quartile in openness of communication delivered an average total shareholder return of 7.9% over a recent 10-year period, compared with 2.1% at companies in other quartiles, according to the Corporate Executive Board."

Leaders must create a psychologically safe environment, one where employees can share bad news and know that their leader won't shoot the messenger. The Corporate Executive Board's report goes on to say that "nearly half of executive teams lack information they need to manage effectively because employees withhold vital input out of fear the information will reflect poorly on them."

How can leaders surface the critical yet hidden information employees are afraid to share? What can you do to enhance "employee's comfort in speaking up, even when they have negative things to say"? -- the "one (indicator) most strongly correlated with a company's 10-year-returns"?

What are you doing to ensure you hear what needs to be said?

Quotes sourced from: Open Door Policy, Closed-Lip Reality, by Michael Griffin, Executive Director, Head of Global Research, Corporate Finance, Corporate Strategy, and Corporate Services Practices. © 2011 The Corporate Executive Board Company.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Early wins central to employee engagement

I've talked before about the importance of early wins to building momentum toward a major change.

Today's HBS Working Knowledge demonstrates that early wins create the sense of progress, and that sense of progress is critical to employee engagement. More than cash, awards, and recognition, most of us feel a strong desire to achieve. We want to see progress. Early wins provide tangible evidence of progress. And this leads us to feel more engaged, more committed and therefore more likely to succeed further.

So what to do about early losses? If my team fails to achieve a planned goal, is all momentum lost? Not necessarily. Turn that loss into a sense of progress by taking the time to discuss what was learned. Planning what to do differently next time is progress. Ensure your team recognizes this as progress.

If we never fail, we'd never learn. Something else I've
talked about in this blog ;-)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Do more transnational companies mean an end to future war?

In the research paper, Death of the Global Manager, by Julia Hanna, Harvard Business School professor emeritus Christopher A. Bartlett says. "How does it (a transnational company) move beyond its role as an economic entity and recognize itself as a key player in the sociopolitical environment in which it has responsibility as well as power?"

As we move toward a working environment where many people interact with others across the globe, will there come a time when citizens will prevent (democratically-elected) governments from attacking their coworkers' home countries? In the US, large corporations have tremendous influence over government actions; as organizations grow, will they increase their influence over other governments? As marketers and designers and managers gain understanding of consumers and employees in other countries, could that understanding lead to enhanced relationships among the countries' leaders?

I can hope, right?

Friday, August 5, 2011

confidence without competence a dangerous thing

"difficulty builds mental muscle, while ease often builds only confidence"*

And then what do we do with that confidence? We act on it. But we haven't built the brain muscle to act appropriately. Self-esteem is good but it seems sometimes we put the cart before the horse when we give people (and ourselves) easy tasks so that they can succeed and feel good about themselves. We've done no one any service when we promote someone who isn't really capable, applaud mediocre work, hand out awards to those who showed up rather than holding them accountable to difficult goals.

Would you expect to be able to run a marathon because you can run around the corner without getting out of breath?

What can we do to encourage others, and ourselves and our children to try the difficult challenges, yes, maybe fail, and applaud the effort while encouraging them/us to try again?

*From: Come On, I Thought I Knew That! By Benedict Carey (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/19/health/19mind.html?pagewanted=1)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Eliminate time wasting activities

Now, as for the tasks that you're engaged in that are neither important nor urgent, well, it's time to ask yourself, "why am I doing this?" Listen, everyone needs a little Angry Birds time in his day. But not every day and not for more than 10 minutes -- especially if you also need a little Facebook time and a little Twitter time and a little . . . . well, you get the idea.

Pick one timewaster per day and set your computer's timer or alarm system to go off after 10 minutes. That's about all any of us needs to spend in the fourth quadrant.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Eliminate time spent searching for documents

Do you spend too much time at the start of a task searching for critical documents? One quick trick: when you put the task on your calendar, also write in the notes section where the document is filed. For example, let's say I set up a marketing meeting regarding Project X in another state with a resource working on a small but critical part of the project for 2 months from today. I know when I set up the meeting that we'll need to discuss the marketing results up to that time and the plans going forward. He may also want some information on the vendors.

When I put the meeting on my calendar 2 months ago, I write in the notes section, "F:/project x/marketing & F:/vendors; bring results & plans".

Now when it's time to pack for my trip, I know exactly where to go to get the several different files I'll need. I also try to match the names on my paper files to the names on my computer files. That way, if I need to grab something that is printed out, I'll know to also get that same file from my cabinet.

Hope this helps!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Eliminate time wasting interruptions

To open up time in our day for the truly important things -- discussions, reading, and research that enable us to learn new concepts, coaching sessions with our direct reports that facilitate their development and commitment and improve our department's productivity, planning and communications that facilitate the smooth-running of our projects -- we have to eliminate time wasters.

Time wasters include: interruptions on issues that are not relevant to us or our organizations, time spent searching for documents or materials that are not where we first expected them, and time spent on activities that we think relax us but only add to our stress (such as reality television).

How do you handle people who pop into your office for a chat that neither builds your relationship (which is important as good team relationships facilitate work completion) nor supports your work?

Learn to triage all interruptions. After a brief welcome, help people get to their point by asking, "how can I help you today?" Based on their response, determine quickly if the discussion will be about something urgent or not urgent. If not urgent, you can politely say, "I'd love to talk with you about that. Let's meet for coffee, say around 2?" Put it on your calendar and send the chatter on his way. It's okay, you need to take a walk at 2 anyway.

You can preempt some of these interruptions by instituting "quiet time": post a notice on your door (or chair if you have no private space) that says, "quiet hours: M - F 10 - 11 and 2 - 3" (or whatever time might work for you).

Let people know you are available for emergencies, but for non-emergencies they should please stop by another time.

Any other solutions out there?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Yet we keep looking for the easy solutions

"difficulty builds mental muscle, while ease often builds only confidence"*

I teach an engaging interactive class. Students love being in the environment and report learning a great deal. When I can keep class size to 15, students report that they have to work hard to keep up with the discussion, they can't hide. Bigger than that, and I know there are some folks who, while they are listening and learning, they're not pushing themselves hard to build those mental muscles.

Those who do push themselves build those mental muscles. It's clear in their work products and in-class comments.

Yet, other instructors and often students assume that because they're having fun, the class must be easy. Students seem to feel betrayed when they earn a B or C -- their work floats above the surface, they're not digging deep, and they've earned the grade they've earned. And administrators and other instructors overlook the grade distribution noticing only that students like the class so it must be easy.

What a weird position to be in: I can get people working their brains hard and reward those who dig in and do well, but because they work their brains hard in a way that's engaging, everyone assumes the class is "light". If I stood there and talked at them -- which I think would be a far easier class as I spoon feed them ideas -- everyone would think the class is challenging.

*From: Come On, I Thought I Knew That! By Benedict Carey (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/19/health/19mind.html?pagewanted=1)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Step two: evaluate time management matrix

Now you have the data you need to complete Covey's time management matrix:

Urgent Not Urgent
Important Crises Pressing Problems Deadline-driven projects Prevention, PC activities Relationship building Recognizing new opportunities Planning, recreation
Not Important Interruptions, some calls some mail, some reports Some meetings Proximate, pressing matters Popular activities Trivia, busy work Some mail/email Some phone calls Time wasters Pleasant activities

* PC = production capacity
P = production

Source: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

What percent of an average day to you spend in each quadrant? Is the greatest percent in the second quadrant -- important and not urgent? If not, what we want to work on is moving tasks from the 3rd quadrant -- not important but urgent -- to that quadrant and on eliminating items in quadrant 4 -- not important and not urgent.

More in the next posting.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Step one: keep a daily diary

Want to get a handle on your to-do lists to ensure you spend less time fighting fires and more time discovering opportunities, coaching your team for future success, and accomplishing more important tasks? The first step is to write down everything you do in a day, and do so for several days.

After you've written it all down, code each item:
1) interrruption -- trivial
2) interruption - important and urgent
3) interruption -- important and not urgent
4) interruption -- urgent but not really important
5) task - urgent and important
6) task - urgent but not really important
7) task - important but not urgent
8) task - trivial

Then sort the items and add up the amount of time spent on each item. Now you have a picture of where your time is going.

In the next posting, I'll share what to do with that information.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Time management training helps people complete important tasks

Of the 73% of planned tasks that an average R&D Engineer completes in a day, less-important tasks are somewhat more likely to be completed than more-important tasks according to Things to Do Today . . . : A Daily Diary Study on Task Completion at Work by Brigitte J.C. Claessens, Wendelien van Eerde, Christel G. Rutte, and Robert A. Roe.

After all these years of Steven Covey telling managers (in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) to focus on" important but not urgent tasks", for most of us, "tasks that are both important and urgent are more likely to be performed, but tasks that are only important and not urgent are unlikely to be completed."

The authors write that "respondents who were more conscientious and emotionally stable had completed a higher percentage of the planned tasks. Also, those who had participated in a time management program prior to this study completed more of their planned work."

What are some of the things you do to ensure you complete important tasks to prevent the firefighting that accompanies completing urgent-and-important-tasks?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Risks of a narcissistic work force

Narcissims is defined as: a personality marked by self-love and self-absorption; unrealistic views about your own qualities and little regard for others.
narcissistic personality

According to new research from Appalachian State University (http://jme.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/05/12/1052562911408097), today's college students have "significantly higher levels of narcissism than college students of the past, business students possess significantly higher levels of narcissism than psychology students."

Why? Why would this generation have less realistic self-perceptions and less concern for others? (I blame reality tv, which seems remarkably un-real to me, but then, I'm very old). What do you think?

And why do business students in particular have higher degrees of narcissism? Is it in the self-selection for the career -- you have to think highly of yourself to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of business? Or is it in the way we're educating these students? -- is there too much coddling and have the standards relaxed so much that everyone assumes his A means he's tops?

The researchers go on to say that "narcissists expect to have significantly more career success in terms of ease of finding a job, salary, and promotions." What kind of shock have we set up for these students when they hit real life and all of its challenges? Will their strong sense of self-importance help them weather life challenges or will it lead to confusion or despair?

And most importantly, what do we do about it? For these current students and for our children?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Emailing effectively & efficiently

So much time is wasted with inefficient emailing. How can you improve the efficacy of your emails?

(first of two podcasts)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A healthy diet plan -- for your brain?

This week I met with a highly educated, very dedicated group of attorneys. Several times throughout our meeting I heard one or another comment on their overwhelming quantity of work. Harvard Business Review has just published a blog by David Rock that states that so many people are overwhelmed that the problem has reached the danger level (http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/06/this_week_the_us_government.html)

Rock recommends a brain diet, similar to the revamped US government's food pyramid, now "choose my plate". Rock's "healthy mind platter" has us balancing focus time with play time and connecting time and so forth, much in the way Steven Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People recommends we plan for all aspects of our lives, not just our work life.

All great advice, but what will help the group of overworked attorneys? Unless we reduce the work quantity, how can they allocate time to other aspects of their lives/brains? While I agree they would be more productive with, and less stressed about, their excessive work load if they took a walk at mid-day, regularly scheduled 10-minute calls with loved ones once a day, and got a good 7-8 hours of sleep each night, ultimately I believe that they'll have to set limits on work quantity.

They'll have to learn to say "yes, and", as in "yes, I can complete the first step in that process by Friday and meet your full request by two weeks from today." Or, "yes, I'd be happy to help you with that research. And if you'd review my other priorities with me, we can find which item could be delayed."

How do you accept work requests?

Interestingly, I know of many employees who are under-worked! When a team mate is producing less than others, the overworked folks not only feel overworked but also angry. Burnout is not due to excessive workload, it's due to negative feelings about the workload. Managers must coach all employees, and communicate about workload openly and honestly, to prevent burnout.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Who defines project goals: top management or implementers?

It matters. When top management defines a project they usually do so because they have information front-line employees don't have: a competitor's new market strategy will affect sales; a new technology will soon be available that may reduce costs; the cost of capital is going up/down which influences the ability to expand.

All good reasons. The risks of a top-defined project: top level managers often don't know enough about implementer constraints and resources: current employee skills do not match the project requirements; current technology can't support project needs; other projects and daily tasks are more critical or salient to the employees' success. Sometimes current employee evaluation, compensation and promotion systems lead employees to focus on goals that are at cross-purposes to the project goals. While this is something within top management control, they rarely acknowledge or even notice it, and therefore it goes unchanged.

When front line employees define project goals, they may do so because they see the need first hand: customer behavior changes, calling for a new service method; access to a supply changes, requiring substitutions; or there's a shift in the labor pool, requiring new training systems.

Again, good reasons. The risks of bottom-up defined project scope are that folks at the front don't have access to or understanding of corporate resources, and may ask for unreasonable funding or management attention. They don't see where the overall organization is headed, and may not realize that their project goals run counter to the strategic direction. And they don't have access to competitive analysis that might require them to speed up or slow down or drop their project.

Ultimately, when project requirements come from the top, the implementers complain that management is being unreasonable: "we can't possibly get this done in that amount of time!" When project requirements come from the bottom, senior managers don't value the outcome and therefore don't reward success and may not supply needed resources or champion-support.

Solution? Communication!

While ideas for projects should come from everywhere, project scope and resource allocation must be defined by a cross-level group. Senior people in the group must recognize that by their very title they may inhibit surfacing of critical information and must therefore make extra effort to create psychological safety within the group. Everyone should recognize what each member brings to the table.

With open communication and clear understanding of each person's limited vision, project goals will be defined more precisely, leading to greater success.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Managers help people find and mine the gold that lies within them."

Edward Hallowell. Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People

Friday, April 8, 2011

In-groups and out-groups

Do you have in-groups and out-groups in your work team? In-groups are those with whom the group leader is most comfortable, while out-group members seem to live on the periphery of the leader's world.

On the one hand, as a leader I know I prefer to work with people who are self-motivated, who are willing to disagree and to do so agreeably, whose work quality is consistenly high, and who either do what is asked or explain why they shouldn't do what is asked. And those not fitting that profile? They end up in the out-group.

On the other hand, there are risks when some members of the group have the leader's ear and others have less influence: good ideas get lost and perceptions of (or actual) biases lead to active disengagement. The full work-group's potential is reduced.

So, is that just the way it is? Because some people, no matter how hard a leader tries to coach a poor performer or communicator, will not get to the level that others achieve we will always have in- and out-groups?

When I teach leaders to coach their employees, I encourage them to focus their energies on those with the greatest potential to improve: taking a B-quality employee to A-quality is like mining gold. Getting a D-quality employee to a C? Well, then you still have a C-quality employee -- what good is that? And at what level of effort and investment of time?

What if the leader eliminates lower-performing employees? Then there won't be out-groups, right? Unfortunately, I see in-groups and out-groups even when employees are working at a high level.

What happens is that leaders, like all humans, are more comfortable with some personality types than others. I might like to talk about my kids but you might like to talk football. I might be into technology and want to show off my latest app, and you might find such talk tedious or vapid.

If you're the leader, TOO BAD! It's up to you to be sure to eat lunch with a variety or employees, take care not to have coffee with the same 1 - 3 people every day, stop by everyone's work space on a regular basis, ensure employees are communicating with each other consistently, and generally be on a friendly basis with everyone equally. Take care to allocate the most visible projects and juicy challenges equitably. Talk up and support all employees when communicating with the higher ups. Close friends are for outside of work.

A leader will make decision-errors if he hears more information or gives more credence to information from his in-group. Take extra care to disband in- and out-groups at work.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Burnout vs. exhaustion

People talk about burnout at work as if it's caused by spending too much time doing high stress tasks or in a high stress environment. It is not. That is exhausting, but is not burnout. If it were, doctors, firefighters, teachers and others in these types of environments would be burned out all the time.

Burnout is doing work that has no meaning to you personally. People burn out even in low-stress jobs completed in 8 hour days. I've been overworked and I've been burned out. Burnout is a much worse experience and to be avoided at all costs. Overwork is life for most people trying to do something truly great. That's why there are vacations.

Vacations don't cure burnout yet many people expect them to. If you do work that to you has no value, you will be just as burned out when you return to that work from vacation as you were when you left it.

There are two cures: either redesign your job or get a different one.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What if I do all this and I fail?

In the last few days, no fewer than 5 people said, in response to my asking them what is keeping them from doing the work they say they need to do to reach the goals they set for themselves, "what if I do all this and I fail?" Now, I've heard this before; most successful people fear failure. However, what is new here is the "all this" part -- it isn't just "what if I fail" but "what if I fail after I've expended tremendous effort or time."

To each I responded, "and then what? What happens if you did all this and failed."

Common response, "then it would have been a waste of energy/effort/time."

And I'm thinking how is this wasted time different from the time wasted watching tv., posting to facebook, etc.? But I don't say this because such a comment would take them to a different place -- defense or shame -- than where they need to go.

Me: "Ok, then what. You wasted some effort or time, so . . . "

Common responses:
1) So, then I would have failed. If I don't try then I can always hold out hope that if I were willing to spend the effort I might succeed. Whereas if I fail, I'll know the truth is I can't do it. Then, I might not try anything like it again.

2) I'd burn out from all the work. I need to conserve my energy.

3) I wouldn't have fun and if I didn't have fun then my life would be really sad.

In the context of my discussions with these folks -- one of helping them develop the capacity to solve their own problems -- I didn't want to lecture them from my perspective and values on these three responses. For the purposes of this blog, though, I want to ask my readers: what do you think about these three responses? If you were to give advice to these folks, what would it be?

Finally, while the "fear of failure" concern comes up frequently in my coaching work, I'd never heard concerns 2 and 3 before. Both were from people under age 25. Is this a new generation thing? Is there some new fear of over-exertion and lack of fun?

Monday, March 21, 2011

What is meaningful to you at work?

Overhead from an 8th grader's mom: I can't get my son to do any schoolwork. "Why bother, mom", he tells his mother, "I already got into the high school I want to go to."

Well what did she think? Clearly she's taught him that the goal of middle school is to get into a competitive high school. Does she not know that the goal of high school will be to get into a competitive college, then a competitive graduate school. Gee mom, I wonder what he'll do the last semester of high school and college? Learn? Doubt it.

My 7th grader said to me, "I'd rather be in an incredibly difficult chemistry class, working really heard to earn a C but actually learning something, than sitting in this easy class taking my A for doing nothing."

And I felt both pride and a little prickle of fear: if he goes for those high-level classes taught by the self-described "tough graders" maybe he won't get into the top colleges when all the other kids are grabbing the easy A's. On the other hand, he won't feel like a fraud when he does get in: he'll know how hard he worked and he'll know what he learned.

What happens at work? Do we work for the next promotion? Then what? At some point in the vast majority of careers, there is no higher place on that org chart we're going to reach. We either need to start our own business or decide that the work itself is meaningful.

What is meaningful and important to you at work? What do you think is meaningful and important to your children in school?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

We are teachers all the time

If you want your team to treat each other with respect, treat everyone with respect. If you want your team to make ethical decisions, make ethical decisions yourself. But be sure the people you're trying to inspire think of you as "like them" in some way. We are all influenced by the behavior of others: if we feel an affinity with you, we'll behave more like you. If we don't, we just might do the opposite. If you hold yourself apart, you may not have the influence you expect to have.

Francesca Gino and Dan Ariely "gave groups of college students from Carnegie Mellon University a series of math problems and paid them based on how many they solved correctly in five minutes." Gino explains in an HBR article, "We hired an actor who made it clear to the other participants that cheating was possible. The actor was asked to wear a plain t-shirt in one condition, and a t-shirt of a rival university in another. When the actor appeared to be a member of the students' community, participants were more likely to cheat than when the actor appeared to be a member of another group. The actor was setting the norm for whether cheating was acceptable."

What you do is reflected in the actions of others.

What does your team see you do? Do you pad your expense account? Do you order more expensive meals at a business lunch than you would order if lunch were on your own dime? Do you squeeze the supplier you know needs the sale just because you can? What does your team learn?

What do your children see you do? Do you take home pads of paper from the office? Do you sneak your short 13-year-old in to movies with a "12 & under discount"? Are you making little cheats on your taxes? What do your children learn?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Trust is critical to any successful team

As Peirre Beaudoin tells McKinsey Quarterly, "if you want to make a change . . . You need the people who are willing to make themselves vulnerable, the people who are willing to learn, to work in teams, to promote the leadership skills that we agree are important."

Trust is the willingness to make oneself vulnerable to another based on one's belief in that other's good intentions and/or competency. Bombardier's successful change effort was moved forward because leaders were willing to accept that vulnerability. He goes on to say that those who couldn't do so were let go, even if they had been top performers. They simply no longer fit the culture.

The company had been one where no one was willing to tell hard truths; things were always "great". Silos were powerful, information sharing was poor. To become a culture where privately held information could bubble up from all levels, leaders had to learn to trust one another. How successful has that turnaround been?

  1. "The level of engagement in employee surveys has climbed more than 15 percent since 2004" -- this in a recession!
  2. "recently named the third most admired and trusted brand in Canada in a survey of consumers; the survey also ranked our workplace second most admired.4"
and for those of you who find #'s 1 and 2 too "soft" how about some hard financial data: Bombardier went :from an EBIT3 margin of 2 or 3 percent to 8 percent, a $500 million improvement."

Ultimately, change takes hard work and a lot of internal trust. Two "soft" things Bombardier has achieved.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Don't underestimate the power of early wins

As John Kotter teaches, if you want to create change in your organization you have to provide opportunities for early wins and then use those early wins to build momentum. In an interview with McKinsey Quarterly, Pierre Beaudoin, CEO of Bombardier explains how they used early wins to persuade those who weren't convinced: "We started by identifying discrete projects that were small enough to show the organization fairly quickly that if we accepted change, we could succeed. There were five or six. Once these were working, we could take the doubters to see them, and the employees who had been involved in the successes could talk to the others. We believed that if we could involve about 30 percent of the organization that transformed in this way, the ideas would catch on in the whole organization."

When working toward a major change such as that implemented by Bombardier, the organization must have specific, measurable, relevant, timelined and achievable yet challenging goals. Achievable so that you feel confident you'll get those early wins, yet challenging or your detractors will say, "of course they achieved that goal; it was easy."

Groups, and therefore organizations, find themselves in upward, virtuous spirals or downward vicious spirals. An early win can be the push upward. An early loss does not have to push downward; leaders must be quick to identify and communicate what went wrong and plan to overcome the challenge. Then, as the saying goes, try, try again. Create a new stretch goal, and ensure success on which you can build momentum.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Need a little tiger management too!

Okay dammit, lead from the front already.

Perhaps I've pushed this lead from behind concept too much? Last night my grad students "climbed Everest" (via Harvard B. School Publishing's simulation). Because I assign roles in advance of class, leaders are predetermined (the teams don't get to choose their leaders).

Unlike my undergrad leaders, who seemed to completely lack the ability to lead from behind and yanked their team up the mountain whether they wanted to go or not (some team members have hidden goals to stay at lower camps -- a setup in the simulation), the leaders last night seemed to be working so hard to be nice, neither got a single member to the top!

These students attended my management course and are now in a more advanced leadership course. In the management course I taught them to listen to and coach their teams. But I thought I balanced that with meeting organization and personal goals. One has to listen: honor direct reports' goals while ensuring surfacing hidden information. Then one must make a decision or, if using a participative management style, ensure the team makes the decision based on fully-available information and with full awareness and understanding that some individual goals will not be met. By struggling to ensure each teammember met his individual goals, neither leader came close to meeting group goals.

What about you? Have you figured out how to be the right mix of tiger and participative manager?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

We need Nelson Mandela now

Nelson Mandela said: "a leader is like a shepherd … he stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go on ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind."

Many business consultants and writers encourage leaders to lead from the front. The reality is, most leaders already do this. We need to get leaders to take a facilitator's role at least some of the time. Develop the most "nimble" to lead by letting them lead while you provide necessary support and resources. Get out of the way of your best people.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Matthew Alexander, author of Kill or Capture, is on NPR right now talking about his role as a Senior US Interrogator in Iraq. He says something important to all of us -- managers, leaders, parents, and citizens: the number one thing that prevents getting good information is stereotypes. When interrogators stereotyped Arabs or Muslims, they took the wrong approach or couldn't establish the trust necessary to form the relationship that would encourage the Taliban member in front of them to share critical information.

For example, if you believe that all Muslims are anti-US, then you are unlikely to look for areas where you share likes and dislikes. Alexander used these connections to develop trust that eventually leads to the capture of senior Taliban.

By the same token, if you assume all lower-level employees care only about their paycheck or have no loyalty to your organization, you won't look for ways to enable commitment that do not involve compensation. If you believe that they're all stupid, you are unlikely to search for underlying causes for specific challenges your organization faces, and therefore you'll be far less likely to solve those challenges sustainably. And if you believe your children only want things, you are unlikely to form relationships with them that will lead to their self-development.

What stereotypes get in your way to being a great manager, leader or parent?

Management lessons from the 4th grade

In the car today my sons talked about being a safety in fourth grade: safeties are responsible for ensuring children entering and leaving the building before and after school get to their car/bus safely. Here's what my guys had to say:

  1. Captains and lieutenants seemed to have been chosen randomly – and because they were in the position for the full trimester, no one ever got a chance to earn the position
  2. Captains and lieutenants were given the combination to the safety locker (where badges were kept), which led the other safeties to feel as though the school didn’t trust them. Why not give the code to all the safeties?, they asked.
  3. Some safeties seemed to abuse the position, as in, when a safety would do something wrong and another child threatened to tell, the safety might say, “you can’t do that, I’m a safety” as if being a safety granted him/her immunity.
  4. Because everyone became a safety eventually, the kids who were safeties in the last trimester knew they only got chosen because they were left over. And more, this did not demonstrate that school officials saw you as especially capable or dependable, thereby diminishing the honor.

Now I’d like not to get into the debate about how American sports and schools give everyone an award for showing up, but I would like to see how we can take this 4th grade view of the world and apply it to management and leadership:

  1. Are your team leads chosen carefully, with input from the full team? Does your company have specific promotional plans clarifying expectations and ensuring that all employees both have a chance for advancement as well as a chance not to advance? When a promotion is made, is the choice explained well and using more than one medium (or do you rely on the mass email: “congrats to so ‘n so, chosen for his such ‘n such”)?
  2. Do your employees experience themselves as being trusted? If not, can you expect them to trust you?
  3. Do you have systems in place to ensure that team leads use their positions well? Remember: Power corrupts. So does the lack of power. When abusive power leads to powerlessness, corruption spills over into business processes and eventually the bottom line.
  4. Do you provide meaningful opportunities for development, growth, and achievement? People are motivated by different things – some by challenge, others by esteem, and so on. Managers must provide a variety of outcomes to ensure all employees have the opportunity to self-motivate.

What does your 4th grader have to say about management and leadership?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Have you created spaces where hunches can collide?

Steven Johnson tells us that great ideas take years to come to fruition during which hunches incubate and collide with other hunches. Today's managers have to create spaces to allow for both of these. By now you've heard about Google's 20% time (when everyone gets one day a week to work on whatever they want) and another company's (sorry forgot the name) 24 hour period where they work on whatever they want and how these "time off" periods have led to some of these companies' most profitable products or most critical fixes to serious glitches.

It seems as though I have so much work that has to get done in so little time, as does everyone working for me and with me, that I don't know how to give up (or at least it feels like giving up) a day of work.

But beyond incubation time, let's think about the "how" of the colliding hunches. Most of the people with whom I work I rarely see F-2-F. So, how do we create spaces for the collision of hunches when we rarely share a cup of coffee and debate ideas? I've been polishing my virtual management / teamwork skills and I've come to realize that sometimes we have to meet synchronously and visually. Skype is nice because it's cheap, although the slight time delay is awkward. Perhaps we can have a Skype coffee?

Ideas anyone?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Do we need individual leaders or is it time for shared leadership?

"We are part of a culture that glorifies the role of individuals and loves to find the hero in every story, often when achievements are the work of many 'unsung heroes'. I am part of a collaborative research project that connects 20 leadership organizations and 200 individuals who are sharing resources and writing about these questions on a public wiki so please join the fray (www.leadershipforanewera.org). We are asking about the limitations of seeing leadership as the behavior of an individual exerting influence over others, and believe that leadership is a dynamic process through which individuals and groups connect and take action. The situation in Egypt is a great example of the power of collective leadership – and one that shows us that whether we are talking about work places, community life or global issues, we will never reach the scale of change or progress we seek, developing one leader at a time."

Deborah Meehan responding to an HBR article, "Do We Need Leaders?"

Friday, February 11, 2011

Powerlessness corrupts too

"Powerlessness corrupts as much as power does." -- Linda Hill (professor at Harvard Business School)

Have you had (or been) an employee who had no authority but was held accountable? What usually happens as a result? How do people get around that -- either they take what they have to take or they find a way to squirm out of the accountability.

Have you been in this position? Share the outcome or what you did to overcome it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Are we really just horses?

Fewer feet that own more shoes, but basically horses that our bosses can motivate with a carrot in front of us and a stick at our back?

Daniel Pink tells us that carrots and sticks actually demotivate us! What do you think? And how do we implement his ideas at work?

I remember years ago I wanted to increase the sales of a particular product so I ran a contest -- whatever store sold the most each week got a mention in that week's store bulletin, the store with the most sales over the month got an extra bonus to split among the employees and the manager got a bigger bonus for himself, and after 8 weeks the overall winning store got another bonus. Immediately sales went up. But over the course of the contest I noticed that the winning stores kept winning and the losing stores began to see sales drop off. As if, what's the point -- we're not going to win anyway. What should I have done instead?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Why lobster's on the menu

When it comes to making decisions, we are not as rational as we think we are. Many of our choices are determined by how the options are presented to us. What choices have you made lately? Watch as Dan Ariely shows us how irrational we all really are:

BTW: lobster is on the menu so that the chicken looks like a good deal!

Ted copy use: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

Thursday, February 3, 2011

How do you communicate with this kind of finess . . .

. . . online? :

In person this works great, but in emails? I don't have the hang of it. Any suggestions?

Go to: thisisindexed.com for more great index cards from Jessica Hagy.

People want to be successful

"People want to be successful, and if you show them the way they will follow." Mike Spracklen, Coach of the Canadian Olympic Gold Medalist Rowing Team

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Who picks up trash lying on the floor?

A "rare responsible person", according to Netflix's HR team, the kind of person they look for, along with "self-motivating", "self-aware", "behaves like a business owner". You have to bring in the right people for your company and the job. It's very difficult to create an open trusting culture, one where rules are limited, when there are people in the organization looking for loopholes. And we want a low-rule workplace because we want people to think and for that people have to be treated like adults. People have to be free to make common sense decisions about when to start and end work, when to take a day off, and when a project should be dumped to make room for something better. Managers and leaders cannot and should not be babysitting.

Most intelligent dedicated people chafe under the constraints companies tend to place on employees to prevent the few who cannot be trusted from taking advantage of the company. Yet, as an instructor, I find myself loading up on rules and requirements because every semester some student finds some way to use the creative freedoms I put in place to serve his own ends -- to demand a grade he really hasn't earned, to demand less rigorous learning, to nibble away at the integrity of the learning objectives. How can I strip away the requirements I've put in over the years so that I can get back to the creative freedom necessary for my students -- and me! -- to bring our authentic selves to class and to free our minds for learning?

Can I teach to the "6"? I once heard a singer say that she used to feel demotivated when she sang in nightclubs --she'd be on stage singing her heart out and most of the people would be talking over her, drinking, laughing. What was the point, she thought, in giving it her all when she was just background noise? A human radio. Then her grandfather advised, "sing to the six" -- there are 6 people out in that audience listening. Sing to them. She was able to renew her love of singing.

I need to teach to the 6, and not let those who seek an easy "A" derail my method. Netflix hasn't had any problems laying off people who don't produce at a high level; no one has sued and remaining employees report that they appreciate working in a place that doesn't hang on to deadwood. Can't fire a student, though. And sometimes it seems you can't even give them a B. What happens when the B-students who scream they want an A get fired? I wonder? I'd bet they don't get hired by the Netflix's of the world.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Is perception reality?

Don't you hate when people say that? There is an objective reality. Perception is what one person believes to be reality. And we all have our own perceptions, our own views of that reality. What do you see?:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tiger manager?

Anyone heard enough about the Tiger Mother book (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother)? I have decided not to weigh in on the parenting style, but can't help but see if there is any connection to this type of parenting and management. Which is better: telling a person what he or she will be good at, and then pushing that person to practice that skill over and over until he becomes good at it; or trying many different things and seeing where the employee naturally excels, then finding lots of opportunities for him to engage that skill?

Chris Morris, Associate Vice Provost, Continuing and Professional Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, says, "As a leader, my most important skill set is recognizing the skills and talents of people in my area and designing a structure that allows them to use their strengths and do what they are internally motivated to do in the service of a shared vision."

What do you think? Are you a tiger manager? If so, how is it working for you? Please share your ideas here so that we can all learn.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What is courage?

Courage, says Brene Brown, comes from the Latin root, cor or heart. Its earliest meaning was: tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

Many people are afraid to be authentically themselves at work. We wear a mask -- I'm dependable; I'm smart; I'm tough; I'm nice. But that mask, even if it describes a part of who we are, hides the whole truth of who we are.

The cost to ourselves and others is that we find ourselves working to support that mask -- taking care not to do or say anything that might put a nick in it in others' eyes -- while others don't have access to those hidden parts of us that may be supportive of their work. Further, others may be more likely to wear a mask themselves because we do; we've made it de rigueur.

For example, let's say I maintain the nice-guy image at work. What do I do when someone asks me for something that is going to slow down my current projects? What do I say when I'm passed up for a promotion? Most likely, I say nothing. My company loses because I am less productive on my project in the short term and because they are missing the opportunity to fully utilize me long term. And clearly, I lose visibility and promotions.

Are you wearing a mask? What benefit does it provide? Would you be willing to risk that benefit? Why or why not? What would happen if you told the story of who you are with your whole heart?

If you have time:


How to craft a sentence

A sentence is not just a series of words strung together. To persuade another person in writing, we must choose words that precisely express our ideas and that flow so well with the other precise words in our sentence that the reader wants to keep reading. Like this:

And the words slide into the slots ordained by syntax, and glitter as with atmospheric dust with those impurities which we call meaning.

--Anthony Burgess, Enderby Outside (1968)

To learn how to craft a sentence, read. Read good writing on subjects that interest you. Over several semesters I've surveyed my students about their reading habits. Those who read consistently earn the highest marks. Doesn't matter if they read Car & Driver or The Economist.


For more, go to: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/25/133214521/stanley-fish-demystifies-how-to-write-a-sentence

Monday, January 24, 2011

Is failure an option at your organization?

What happens if you fail at something you try at work? I once made a $5 million error (on paper, thank goodness, not in actual dollars; but still!). I called a favorite professor and asked him if he thought I should resign. He told me the story of a man who lost a million dollar client. When the man went to his company president, hat and resignation letter in hand, his enlightened president responded, "You can't leave! I just spent a million dollars on your education!"But what if failure in your organization isn't an option (and you can tell by the way leaders respond to those who've erred in the past)? What does the organization lose by disallowing errors?

How would your boss respond if you lost a million dollar client, or made a $5 million error?

What would you say or do if your direct report made a huge error (assuming he or she admits it quickly and offers solutions)?

And, what are the likely outcomes of different responses?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

If it's in your head, it's hidden to everyone else

Does your team know the changes you are making to project plans? Often we think because we've discussed something (however long ago), then thought about it and come to a decision on our own, everyone will know our intentions. But they can't read our minds! We have to take that extra minute to communicate our decisions to those affected by them.

What decisions have you made today? Who will be affected by your decisions? How will you let them know? --call, email, IM, other?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Are you afraid to ask "what if" because others will think you're stupid?

An HBR article on how successful innovators think states that innovators ask a lot of "what if", "why" and "why not" questions. They then "associate" -- connect their own challenges to other seemingly unrelated ideas -- matching the questions with potential solutions.

How many opportunities do you have today to ask, "what if"? What, if anything, might get in your way of asking?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rethinking Capitalism

Watch this interesting video from Michael Porter (HBS professor and strategy expert).

Rethinking Capitalism

What is the purpose of business?

Do corporates have a responsibility to society beyond earning the highest possible profit? Why or why not?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Guilty at home and at work?

Re, previous post: what if you feel guilty at home and at work? Can you be great at both? According to Dr. Flynn (article here), people who feel guilty at work are more likely to be perceived as excellent leaders.

But will all that dedication to work make it difficult to give your all at home too? This is something I have not reconciled -- and it's why I work part time!

I need your advice on this folks. What is the balance between being an excellent leader at work and excellent leader at home?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A happy brain or a guilty brain

Hmm, according to Francis Flynn, the director of the Center for Leadership Development and Research at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, the more guilt-ridden you are the better you are at leading others (see the article/listen to an interview here).

Can you be happy (see previous post) and guilty? Given the real definitions of these states of mind, yes! Perhaps the more conscientious we are, the more satisfied we are with our work and therefore our life.

Dr. Flynn demonstrates that people who are dedicated to their work, who care about and take personally work outcomes, and have a strong sense of responsibility are considered to be better leaders by their coworkers. And, interestingly, they are also more satisfied with their jobs and more committed to their employers.

What do you think? What is your experience with guilt and work?