Effective leadership begins with professional intimacy

November 28, 2011

By Christina Haxton   Article

“Your ability to communicate with care and compassion is actually felt and builds trust. …

Professional Intimacy is a three-step process in which you can become a more sustainable, resilient leader while building trust.

  • Know thyself. … Who am I? Where am I going? Why am I going there? Reflective questions build your EQ, or emotional and social intelligence muscles,  in your brain. Take time to reflect on what you learn about yourself from successes and mistakes.
  • Seek to understand others. The same brain chemicals that are responsible for you feeling fear are also responsible for you feeling curious.  The only difference between feeling fear and feeling curiosity is how I explain the situation to myself, which may be inside or outside my awareness. When you are curious rather than defensive (fear) and willing to listen to others at a deeper level, the conversation becomes a way to make a positive connection at a personal and emotional level. This is experienced as caring, which inspires hope, connection and resilience in others. …
  • See relationships as opportunities. It is in relationships that we learn and grow and in conversation that we create reality for ourselves and others. Here is your opportunity to build trust and create a strong relationship, which is the key ingredient to facilitating positive change, inspiring creativity and fueling internal motivation in people. Every conversation is an opportunity to learn and grow, which is the ultimate brain candy.”

How to avoid irrelevance, guaranteed!

November 28, 2011

by Dan Rockwell   Article

““Customers are the boss.” A.G. Lafley.

Customers determine what you must do well. You may be the world’s best pickle packer. But, if the world doesn’t value perfectly packed pickles, you are tragically irrelevant. …

Drucker said, “The purpose of a business is to create a customer.” It doesn’t take a genius to understand the value of understanding customers.

P&G got it right because the only way to deliver valuable-value is to deeply understand customers. You must understand their aspirations, needs, wants, and desires. Understanding them is the only way you can deliver meaningful solutions, services, and products.

Good but off target:

You might think your core strength is innovation, efficiency, communication, leadership development, or organization. All of these are important, even necessary, but not first.

On target:

The center of your business, leadership, or management is your customer. Without a customer you’re irrelevant. The only way to create, serve, and retain customers is to deeply understand them. P&G nailed it. …

Choose your core competency carefully. Every list of core strengths must begin with, “Deep understanding of the customer.””

The specification is dead; long live the specification

November 28, 2011

About Ben Yoskovitz   Article

“In the olden days, most people followed a waterfall method. It involved writing “complete” specifications on exactly what had to be built, how it would be built, how it would work, look, etc. You’d have the “complete” package of documentation up-front and then you’d start coding. Seems like eons ago…

Then we were introduced to agile development, which encouraged us to throw away big specifications and go with user stories, or to eliminate documentation entirely and just start coding, building things iteratively.

I’m greatly simplifying the evolution of software development into a couple paragraphs, but you know the drill — specifications went from being necessities to being outlawed. To draw a quick parallel, the same has happened (to a large extent) with business plans. They started out as big ass documents you’d write before doing anything practical / hands-on with your business. People then decided they weren’t necessary whatsoever. We’ve now found a middle ground (which is constantly shifting and evolving based on practice and results vs. whim) with things like the Lean Canvas, which provides us with a focused and simplified means of designing a business. …

I don’t see specifications as ultra-descriptive product roadmaps. I see them as four things:

  1. A high-level, but “all-encompassing” brain dump;
  2. A customer-centric description of the value we’re trying to provide, describing the functionality to be built short-term (often including ideas, brainstorms, differing options);
  3. A future-looking description of things to be considered, and potentially planned for; and,
  4. A launchpad for discussion, debate, validation (or invalidation) with customers … a “working document.””

First, let’s fire all the managers

November 28, 2011

by Gary Hamel   Article

“How essential is it to have layers of executives supervising workers? Managers are expensive, increase the risk of bad judgment, slow decision making, and often disenfranchise employees. Yet most business activities require greater coordination than markets can provide.

Is there a way to combine the freedom and flexibility of markets with the control of a management hierarchy? Economists will tell you it’s impossible, but the Morning Star Company proves otherwise. It has been managing without managers for more than two decades.

At Morning Star, whose revenues were over $700 million in 2010, no one has a boss, employees negotiate responsibilities with their peers, everyone can spend the company’s money, and each individual is responsible for procuring the tools needed to do his or her work.

By making the mission the boss and truly empowering people, the company creates an environment where people can manage themselves. …

Your organization probably wasn’t built around the principles of self-management. It’s most likely a bureaucracy—with a thicket of policy rules, a multilayered hierarchy, and a host of management processes—built to ensure conformity and predictability.

Control is the philosophical cornerstone of bureaucracy, as Max Weber pointed out nearly a century ago. In a bureaucracy managers are enforcers who ensure that employees follow rules, adhere to standards, and meet budgets.

Bureaucracy and self-management are ideological opposites, like totalitarianism and democracy. To build a self-managing organization, you can’t just prune the brambles of bureaucracy—you have to uproot them. The founders of the United States didn’t set out to temper the excesses of a monarchy; they sought to supplant it. In the same way, if you don’t make an unequivocal commitment to self-management, you’ll content yourself with easily reversed half measures when you should press for more.

Nevertheless, no one is going to just give you permission to blow up the old structures. You will have to demonstrate that self-management doesn’t mean no management and that radical decentralization isn’t anarchy. Here’s how to get started.”

There’s no such thing as constructive criticism

November 28, 2011

By Tony Schwartz   Article

“Here’s a question guaranteed to make your stomach lurch: “Would you mind if I gave you some feedback?”

What that actually means is “Would you mind if I gave you some negative feedback, wrapped in the guise of constructive criticism, whether you want it or not?”

The problem with criticism is that it challenges our sense of value. Criticism implies judgment and we all recoil from feeling judged. As Daniel Goleman has noted, threats to our esteem in the eyes of others are so potent they can literally feel like threats to our very survival.

The conundrum is that feedback is necessary. It’s the primary means by which we learn and grow. So what’s the best way to deliver it in a way that it provides the greatest value — meaning the recipient truly absorbs and acts on it?

There are three key behaviors, I believe, and they’re each grounded in the recognition that what we say is often less important than how we say it. …”

What students don’t learn about work in college

November 28, 2011


1. Effort doesn’t matter; results do. … In the workplace, you’re judged by the quality of what you produce, not by how hard you worked to produce it. …

2. Procrastinating is a really bad idea. … At work, if you put off a project until the last minute and then you’re sick or something else gets in the way, you risk your professional reputation—and you could even get fired.

3. You need to be concise when writing in the workplace. … When writing for work, shorter is nearly always better. Most bosses don’t want to read long memos—they want the key highlights, ideally in bullet points.

4. Good writing isn’t stiff and formal. … the ability to write conversationally is a highly valued—and marketable—skill. Whether it’s a cover letter or a business memo, the best writers don’t sound stiff. …

5. You need to address both sides of an issue. … At work, you’re expected to consider all options thoroughly and make a recommendation that includes pros and cons. …

6. Conforming to business culture matters. … In the workplace, employers are looking for employees who fit in with the culture. That means conforming to office norms about dress and conduct and even small things like how phones are answered or how meetings are run. …

7. Employers are looking for experience, not just knowledge. Don’t spend all your time taking classes. Get out there and get some experience doing actual work.

8. Appearance counts. In most industries, if you dress overly casually or too “young,” you won’t be taken seriously. Flip-flops, nose rings, ultralow-rise jeans, visible bra straps, or revealing necklines all say that you’re still dressing for class, not a job.

9. You have to keep learning. … You’re expected to keep your skills and knowledge up-to-date and continue learning throughout your whole career. College is just the beginning!

10. No one will care about your career like you do. …”

The 99%

November 21, 2011