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:

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?