Saturday, April 30, 2011
They had to be persuaded to think, for want of a better description, like a lazy person. Consider your current situation. How could you achieve your goals with the least amount of effort? Make a list. Include the silly as well as the remotely plausible. Pretend that it's a contest to find an approach that looks promising. You may find that you have been struggling through sand and mud right next to a sidewalk.
Friday, April 29, 2011
I have a group of cards from several people. All of those are quite formal. Which card do you think I can spot from across the room? Which card immediately told me more about its owner?
The organization that has an A through M through G process is not going to smile on attempts to go from A directly to G, even if such a course of action has benefits. Those of us who are impatient learn to adjust in order to be effective. If we are especially talented, we may discover ways to expedit the journey through the established pattern, but it will be a rare day when we can change the pattern itself. Basing a strategy on an exception to the rules is seldom a sound move.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
- Think at least three moves ahead;
- Separate theory from practice;
- Smell a rat;
- Know when someone is blowing smoke;
- Ask important questions;
- Spot the levers of power;
- Pick the right battles;
- Read people;
- Look beneath the surface; and
- Control the ego.
“Revolution” and “freedom” don’t always mean democracy, respect for minorities, sexual equality, and good relations with neighbors. Such goods are gained as part of an ongoing struggle. Let us welcome the Arab revolutions, for they shatter the fatalists’ illusions. But let us not flatter them or delude ourselves: great risks and even worse dangers lie ahead. We know from our own history that the future holds no guarantees.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
I chose the “Classic European,” a popular bus tour that would traverse five countries in ten days. Payment was due up front. Airfare, hotels, meals, insurance, and assorted charges came to the equivalent in yuan of about twenty-two hundred dollars. In addition, every Chinese member of the tour was required to put up a bond amounting to seventy-six hundred dollars—more than two years’ salary for the average worker—to prevent anyone from disappearing before the flight home. I was the thirty-eighth and final member of the group. We would depart the next morning at dawn.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
You have missed two very funny novels if you have not read "Auntie Mame" or "The Joyous Season." Track them down. Try them out. They're on my Re-Read List.
Amazing stuff that may be lost in the course of the game.
So it is with much of life. There are extraordinary achievements all around us that we can easily miss. As with the people in the stands, we appreciate the game much more when we notice the many marvelous things that did not have to happen that way.
The flea is a minor item and so small that people may be reluctant even to mention it. While it may do little direct harm, if not eradicated, a flea can be hugely irritating and distracting. Left unchecked, fleas can multiply.
They deserve action before they drain attention from larger matters.
What is fun is to crawl into the reasoning behind the Act and the conflict between Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court (as well as lower courts), then translate what managers need to know into plain language. Fun but tricky because there are plenty of side roads to be avoided; ones that could lead to glazed expressions and points of no return.
Always in the back of my mind is the cynical guy who sits in the back of the room, folds his arms, and wonders, "Why should this matter to me?" If I can capture the interest of that guy, all else follows.
Monday, April 25, 2011
The year was 1981. We were in a tiny Italian restaurant in west London, where we would soon be joined by our future first wives. Two elegant young men in waisted suits were unignorably and interminably fussing with the staff about rearranging the tables, to accommodate the large party they expected. It was an intensely class-conscious era (because the class system was dying); Christopher and I were candidly lower-middle bohemian, and the two young men were raffishly minor-gentry (they had the air of those who await, with epic stoicism, the deaths of elderly relatives). At length, one of them approached our table, and sank smoothly to his haunches, seeming to pout out through the fine strands of his fringe. The crouch, the fringe, the pout: these had clearly enjoyed many successes in the matter of bending others to his will. After a flirtatious pause he said, "You're going to hate us for this."
And Christopher said, "We hate you already."
“Do not go shopping through your own junk,” a friend of mine warned me when I told him the plan. “My wife does that and it drives me crazy. We still have the charger for a Sonicare toothbrush they haven’t made since 2003. Do yourself a favor: take it straight to the dump.”
Read the rest of Rob Long here.
That hooked me from the start, simply because I believe in the power of stories and often use them in my workshops. Gruber, the former chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures and the current head of the Mandalay Group - even that title evokes stories - knows the role that story plays in the hit films he produced. [Anyone associated with Midnight Express gets extra points.]
Despite that experience, he is not immune from misreading his audience, such as when he tried to get the mayor of Las Vegas interested in building a minor league ball park even though anyone could have told him that Vegas regards itself as strictly major league.
As one might expect from a person with his background, his book is filled with stories from powerful people on the power of stories, some much more persuasive than others. [Having no sympathy for dictators, I could have done without the anecdote about meeting Fidel Castro. There were a few other examples that I thought were weak.]
But don't let those distract you. Gruber's book has important truths that we often overlook, such as:
"The emotional reward of the story makes the connections easy to remember, and every time we do remember, we also experience why the information tucked inside the story matters. By contrast, what's the meaning you attach to a list of numbers in a PowerPoint? Zilch! And that's why lists of numbers or facts are not memorable."
His interview with Steve Denning, a consultant and former director of Knowledge Management at the World Bank, is especially revealing. Denning observes that higher education downplays the importance of emotion and emphasizes the importance of theoretical and statistical models, but when people relax with their friends, they revert to telling stories. That point alone deserves special consideration when presentations are being prepared. We may have been trained to shun one of our most powerful communication tools.
There are entire departments that could use this book. I'm already jotting down ways to use some of its concepts. Check it out. Tell to Win is worth your time.
Read the rest of Jeff Jarvis here.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
I want to suggest that Austen provides something for which young people—even the jaded ones—secretly long. While the world she depicts is in many ways foreign to us, it is only just different enough to bring our own pathologies into clearer relief. In short, Austen reminds us of the largely forgotten categories of the lady and the gentlemen. It is her genius to make us aspire to these roles even in a world where such notions are strange and often ridiculed.
#2. "To be" list. If you went to a play, and someone appeared on stage and proceeded to read the play—with no acting—you'd say they missed the point of theater. Well, management of any sort is, pure and simple, theater with the acting. Who are you going to "be" this morning? How are you going to project yourself upon the scene? What is your tactical interpersonal approach to each and every one of those items on your "to do" list? A manager by definition can't do it all—or maybe can't do any of it. Hence her/his job is to "engage" others—and engagement is 100% about emotion—whereas the "to do" list is 100% engineering. So think through your "leaderhip" approach—and the unabashed "theater" you will use with each of the folks-teams you are attempting to engage re that particular "to do" item.
The 1960s fashion I have called radical chic actually continued well into the 1970s; it didn't die with the end of the war in Vietnam. In 1974 I attended a conference at a university in the Great Plains, a conference called "America in the Year 2000." It was held in a typical student activity center, one of these great butter-almond colored buildings with expando-flex interior walls like accordions that are pulled back and forth by a night watchman in green balloon-seat twill pants. Here come the students in for the conference on "America in the Year 2000." They seem to me very lively, they are laughing, they are chattering to one another. Their veins are pumping with Shasta and Seven-Up. They are wearing bluejeans and bursting out of their down-filled Squaw Valley ski jackets. And no sooner do they settle down into their seats, than the keynote speaker of the conference, a young historian in a calfskin jacket and hair like Felix Mendelssohn's, looks down, and he says: "America is a leaden, life-denying society."
The first literary reference to coffee being drunk in North America is from 1668. In 1773, the Boston Tea Party was planned in a coffeehouse called the Green Dragon Tavern. In protest of the tea tax, the Continental Congress named coffee the new national beverage of the U.S. in 1777. Knowing this explains why coffee was the popular drink served at “tea time” rather than tea.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Read the rest of Roger Ebert here.
Read the rest of Seth Godin's post here.
My current physician, an internal medicine man, has a fairly nice waiting room, not award-winning but comfortable. Most of the other waiting areas were reminiscent of old bus stations. Do I touch the germ-filled magazines or watch the dreck on television? [I never touch the magazines and always bring a book.] It seems that many medical offices now have a "medicine channel" running on a wall screen as if people who are worried about their current medical condition might be interested in whether they have others.
Many a monster story is told of the dragons at the front desk. (My current doctor has a nice front desk team.) I know they're juggling a lot. If they are reasonably friendly and efficient, then I'm fine.
The key customer moment, of course, comes in the examination room. [Such rooms, I should note, have far too many pictures of internal organs. How about some nature scenes?] The experience is measured by the demeanor, the questions, the amount of time, and the conclusions that I receive from the doctor. One reason why internal medicine doctors are my preference is I've found them to be the intellectuals of the breed. They give far more time and attention than the "thump you on the back and listen to your chest" characters who spend a maximum of ten minutes before sending you off with a prescription.
I once dropped a doctor who, although in internal medicine, seemed hurried. He set a record for the fastest annual physical in history. My wife later asked me if I'd had my physical exam and I replied, "I think so."
So the common customer service thread to all of this seems to be respect: Is respect for the patient shown in the physical surroundings, the behavior of the support staff, and the manner and quality of the examination? Call it the Rodney Dangerfield Syndrome.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Once a language is removed, I'm not certain. Both psychology and philosophy are appealing. Although I've studied a lot of history, there is still so much more to learn. Narrower subjects, such as the French Revolution and the American Civil War, are very attractive.
Which way would you lean?
Jalopnik notes the same thing:
These days, marketers believe that the death knell of a car comes when people consider it's too "girlie." And that's precisely the one broad stroke the second-generation Beetle found itself brushed with. The new Beetle that drops the "New" — which wasn't supposed to be revealed for another hour until Motor Trend and others were apparently so excited they dropped some of the embargoed news five hours early — is supposed to get a bit more man-like.
According to an interesting article in BNA's Employment Discrimination Report for the week of February 23, "EEOC Ponders Potential for Hiring Bias In Excluding Unemployed Job Applicants" by Kevin P. McGowen, the EEOC believes that such a rule has a disparate impact on people who are black, Hispanic, have disabilities, and are older workers.
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Margaret Thatcher
- Martin Luther King Jr.
- Mahatma Gandhi
- Winston Churchill
- George Washington
- Abraham Lincoln
[I met with a group several months ago on a leadership issue. The team members were arguing over the options. One question - "How would Teddy Roosevelt handle this?" - brought some smiles and a quick and practical resolution.]
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
How is the online life ranked below the in-person? The rudeness to me is an individual who thinks that just because I am standing next to them they may monopolize my time for hours on end. I am to be shared.
Do The Work isn’t so much a “follow-up” to The War of Art as it is an action guide that gets down and dirty in the trenches. Say you’ve got a book, a screenplay or a startup in your head but you’re stuck or scared or just don’t know how to begin, how to break through or how to finish. Do The Work takes you step-by-step from the project’s inception to its ship date, hitting each predictable “Resistance point” along the way and giving techniques and drills for overcoming each obstacle. There’s even a section called “Belly of the Beast” that goes into detail about dealing with the inevitable moment in any artistic or entrepreneurial venture when you hit the wall and just want to cry “HELP!”
- You don't really need a degree to do this job but we like to pretend that you do.
- The "years of experience" requirement was grabbed out of thin air. We thought that "five years" sounded sort of nice.
- "Other duties as assigned" may seem vague, but they will constitute 90 percent of the job. Think about what that means.
- Unless it's a tech job, "extensive computer experience" means the ability to type in Word.
- All of those other items in the announcement were taken from an outdated job description that never accurately described the job. They were left in to discourage people. HR doesn't want to process a mountain of applications.
- The initial selection screening will be done by HR. The interviews will be done by the hiring department. Those two groups seldom talk to one another.
- If you are invited to an oral board, be prepared to discuss your abilities with a bunch of people who don't know how to interview and who want to go to lunch.
- If you call to check on the status of your application, you will make people very nervous. The term "borderline stalker" may be used.
- If your interviewing skills are a little rough, you may want to take a workshop to smooth them out. The people who make hiring decisions often find inarticulate candidates to be unimpressive. Of course, they don't trust smooth ones.
- It may take us a while to complete the selection process. This may seem even longer to you because you'll probably never hear from us again. If you are eager to see if a decision has been made, see item 8 above.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
- I am sometimes under enormous pressure from upper management; pressure that you seldom see. Anything that you can do to make my job easier will be greatly appreciated.
- Your interests are important, but please remember that I also have to juggle the concerns and feelings of a bunch of other people, including individuals outside of the department.
- I may not have been given a huge amount of training before being named to a supervisory position. As a result, I’ve had to learn through trial and error. That's not always bad. Many of my responsibilities can only be learned through practice.
- If you are a former co-worker of mine, please recognize that supervising former peers is one of the toughest jobs any supervisor faces. The support that you give me is crucial.
- I will make mistakes. Please give me the same understanding that you’d like me to give you when you blunder.
- If I do something dumb or am on the verge of doing so, please tell me. Don’t hint. Tell me.
- I don’t like unpleasant surprises. Let me in on bad news as soon as possible. (Things that you believe are obvious may not be that clear to me. On the other hand, you'd be surprised at how quickly the latest gossip reaches my ears.)
- I expect you to take initiative. If you keep bouncing things to me, I’m going to wonder why I have you around.
- You should ask questions if you don’t know what to do. On the other hand, you should not have to be taught the same thing over and over again.
- Let’s respect each other’s time. We each have a job to do and the more we can reduce unnecessary interruptions, the happier we'll each be.
- Don't let all of my talk about meeting goals and producing results lead you into unethical behavior. You always have my permission to be ethical.
- If either of us has a problem with the other's performance, let's talk about it.
- If something is simple, the burden of proof should be on those who would make it complicated.
- "We've always done it that way" is not a sufficient reason to keep doing it that way.
- "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is another unpersuasive argument. We shouldn't have to wait for things to break before we improve them.
- The Wing-Walker Rule: Don't let go of one thing until you have a firm grasp of another.
- If the practices of those who came before us seem foolish, perhaps we need to review their reasoning. They may have understood something that we overlooked.
- "Bold" and "Daring" are not always "Best." George Armstrong Custer was bold and daring.
- Read the minutes. What happened before? Which actions were deferred or never considered? Which points were raised by the opposition? You won't know many of these if you don't read the minutes. [Also be aware of who is writing the minutes. That job can be extremely powerful when there is creative editing.]
- Get some sleep. Fatigue can produce sloppiness and cowardice. The amount of sleep that you get can seriously affect the quality of your decisions. Make sure your team gets enough rest.
- Study the environment. Know the boundaries. Know which ones are brick walls and which are mere fences. Some may be kicked down, but consider why they were constructed.
- Know your roles. As leaders, we each wear an assortment of hats. It is important to know which hat we have on and whether it matches the occasion.
- Stay off of side streets. Carefully control the amount of time and energy that is spent on matters that don't contribute to the primary mission. Such journeys may be attractive and enjoyable but they can also be a huge distraction.
- Don't expect a cow to be a camel. Carefully fit resources and people to the particular task.
- Know what you are neglecting. Determine if it is the right thing to neglect and how long it can be neglected.
- Eric Ambler. The old master of spy novels. If you've never read him, start with "Coffin for Dimitrios" or "Journey into Fear."
- Gerald Seymour. Another great spy novelist. He wrote "Harry's Game" years ago and probably hasn't written a bad book since. I'll let you know. I've been catching up.
- Tom Sharpe. Politically incorrect humorist. A pleasant change from the usual thin gruel.
- Paul Scott. Author of "The Raj Quartet." Good for slow reading on a winter's night.
- William Faulkner. If his books are too strange, try his short stories. Wow.
Monday, April 18, 2011
- More people are afraid of giving speeches than of lawsuits or scandals.
- You might buy the tact book for others, but will get the presentations book for yourself.
- The presentations book is easier to read and/or a better book.
- The one on tact needed some references to Charlie Sheen.
- Absolutely nothing.
I first became interested in the subject of modesty for a rather mundane reason—because I didn’t like the bathrooms at Williams College. Like many enlightened colleges and universities these days, Williams houses boys next to girls in its dormitories and then has the students vote by floor on whether their common bathrooms should be coed. It’s all very democratic, but the votes always seem to go in the coed direction because no one wants to be thought a prude. When I objected, I was told by my fellow students that I “must not be comfortable with [my] body.” Frankly, I didn’t get that, because I was fine with my body; it was their bodies in such close proximity to mine that I wasn’t thrilled about.
Read the rest of the Fortune article here.
You can see this in the political arena. Some politicians will stick to certain standards and criticize allies and supporters who deviate from those standards. Other politicians will tolerate and even defend behavior by friends and allies that they would have loudly condemned if the same conduct was by an adversary.
The universalists may be too rigid on occasion but the particularists face a greater danger. Their practices destroy credibility in the short term and character in the long.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
- FutureLawyer has become a Thunderbolt fan.
- Doesn't follow the script: The male-female pay gap?
- Tim Sackett at Fistful of Talent looks at Applebee's and the apple juice incident.
- Team assignments in school: Where the weak rely upon the strong.
- Michael P. Maslanka on permitting employee Internet access at work.
"Topsy-Turvy" is the smartest backstage movie ever made, a deeply knowing fictional study of how a theatrical production takes shape. The acting, especially that of Jim Broadbent as the irascible, anxiety-ridden Gilbert, is as convincing as it is possible to be. But "Topsy-Turvy" is also a cinematic scrapbook of Victorian life, a probing portrait of what it felt like to be a Londoner in 1885, the year "The Mikado" opened. We visit the office of Richard D'Oyly Carte and notice with surprise that he has a phone on his desk; we dine in Victorian restaurants, sit in Victorian parlors, go backstage at the Savoy Theatre and watch a prop man shake a piece of sheet metal to simulate the sound of thunder. Detail is piled on imaginatively re-created detail, and by film's end you feel as though you've taken a stroll through a vanished world.
I was reading an updated transcript a couple of weeks ago in which one of the four men who rushed the cockpit on Flight 93 said to the person on the other end of the phone line, “We are waiting until we get over a rural area.” They knew what was likely to happen, so they were waiting in order to minimize the death toll. What extraordinary human beings these ordinary Americans turned out to be.
- Put teams in rigid boxes to discourage cooperation between work units.
- Give employees inaccurate job descriptions.
- Encourage happy talk and squelch candor.
- Exile mavericks.
- Reward the office politicians and overlook the real producers.
- Hire quickly and fire slowly.
- Cave in to special interest groups.
- Have everyone waste time with a worthless performance evaluation system.
- Use hiring quotas.
- Don't train people unless forced to do so.
- Wink at violations of core values.
- Ignore urgency.
- Reorganize frequently.
- Use one narrow leadership style for all circumstances.
- Create factions.
- Favor style over substance.
- Have long and frequent meetings.
- Isolate upper management.
- Turn the lawyers loose on the managers.
- Have lots of rules.
- Treat the employees as if they are adversaries.
Friday, April 15, 2011
For one, compressed natural-gas vehicles are cheaper than electric cars. The vehicles contain compressed gas tanks instead of pricey lithium-ion batteries. Honda's Civic GX CNG vehicle costs $25,490--compare that to the Chevy Volt, which cost $41,000 before tax credits, or the Nissan Leaf, which starts at $32,000 before credits (these are considered the most affordable of the new batch of electric cars).
Cool Tools likes the Cambridge Soundworks Portable Speaker System: I have used it for parties, outdoor BBQs, and on vacation and it never fails to sound great. The included speakers and amplifier, the necessary cables, and your iPod, all pack into the included hard case (which also contains the subwoofer).
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Once that list is completed, we then should jot down the assumptions that are currently guiding our actions.
How many of those will withstand the scrutiny of time?
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Art Contrarian looks at a concept that failed. An excerpt:
But perhaps the greatest problem was what to do when the pilot had to bail out of a single-engine plane; without special steps taken, he would be chopped up as he passed through the propeller arc. Solutions included feathering the prop or detaching it before bail-out. Another solution was the ejection seat common on jet fighters but something that didn't emerge until towards the end of World War 2.
Clearly there are opinions on major issues that could be conveyed, but just on a personal, day-to-day life level, what would you do differently that people back there might have done but did not?
Now leap ahead, then back. If you arrived here today from some point in the future, what changes might you make to your daily routine or personal life? What types of chores or tasks do we take for granted that people in the future will have greatly altered?
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
He was enthusiastic at the beginning, but then wondered aloud if his managers would feel the need to be, to put it bluntly, that good. He said that unless a B or B+ manager was under the gun, the person might be happy to remain at that level, possibly because the person might regard his or her work as A level.
He had a point. In fact, I've noticed that the people who are most inclined to seek management assistance are the genuine A level performers. That's how they got there and that's how they stay there.
All of which brings up a marketing observation: Sometimes, those who want a product don't need it that much and those who need it the most don't want it.
Which of your current strengths can be used to a greater degree? Are there some skills or products that were employed in other arenas that can be modified and used today? Go back ten years. Review all of those projects that were successful "once upon a time" and look for hidden treasure.
You may be surprised at what emerges.