AMI Consultancy Blog



True Leaders Know the Value of Failure By Stefan Lindegaard

A legendary story about Tom Watson Jr., who guided IBM in its glory days, bears repeating in any discussion about smartfailing.
According to the story, a vice president who had lost the corporation $10 million on an experiment that failed was called to Watson’s office. Fully expecting to be fired, the VP brought along his letter of resignation and presented it to Watson, who refused it with this statement: “Why would we want to lose you? We’ve just given you a $10 million education.”
After hearing those words, how hard do you think that VP worked on his next project…and the one after that…and the one after that? If ever a company president wanted to insure that someone would work his heart out, those were the words to say.
And naturally, as news of this episode inevitably spread throughout the organization, others no doubt from it exactly the message Watson wanted to send: Don’t be afraid to take risks in pursuit of innovation; you won’t be punished if you fail. No wonder IBM dominated the computer industry under Watson’s leadership.
Watson is also credited with saying, “If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.” In this recent post, Tim Kastelle of the Innovation Leadership Network, wrote that he believes Watson meant that we should encourage cheap fast failure. As Kastelle puts it, we should be “testing ideas and finding the ones that don’t work when they are still ideas, rather than things.”



Leading Outside the Lines: Mobilizing the Informal Organization

Right now, the informal elements of your organization are either working for you or against you. Yet for most leaders, say Jon Katzenbach and Zia Khan, authors of Leading Outside the Lines, the informal organization is poorly understood, poorly managed, and often disregarded because it is too hard to think about.

The formal organization has its own way of attracting, selecting, developing, and rewarding people—but it rarely has the power to affect promotion or compensation. Therefore, those who rise to influential positions in the hierarchy are more likely to be more comfortable with and skilled at using the formal organization than the informal….Informal leaders rarely have the kind of explicit qualifications that can be easily documented or communicated, much less evaluated.

The informal organization lies in the human side of the enterprise and as most things that reside there, it is hard. Unlike the formal side with its top-down, rational approach, the informal is fuzzy, constantly changing and hard to measure. So it is understandable that we would like to somehow ignore it or work around it. But, “if you want your entire organization to improvise frequently and energetically in response to fast-moving change, formal management techniques alone won’t get you there. You need help from the informal side as well. Mobilizing the informal organization helps support formal management mechanisms, increasing their chances of success and deepening their long-lasting impact on the organization.”

For leaders, the challenge is to find the balance between the formal and the informal elements of the organization in their particular situation, to achieve concrete, measureable results.

When trying to make a change, our default tactic is to explain “in excruciating detail why the new plan is important.” We think if they get the logic of it, they will get behind it. But they often don’t. People need an emotional connection. Simply formalizing a new set of rules, programs, and structures will not pull the company’s culture along. “To that end, leaders need to be able to translate vision, targets, and strategies into personal purpose, accomplishments, and choices that each one of their people can understand and feel good about pursuing.”

The authors make the distinction that while the formal organization is best when dealing with predictable and repeatable work that needs to be done efficiently and without variance, the informal organization is best suited to unpredictable events—surprises that need to be sensed and solved. They add that in many cases, when activity in the informal organization starts to repeat itself, it “is a signal for broader changes that need to be made to the formal organization.” To move beyond “best practices” and the status quo—to get to “best performance”—a leader needs to learn to mobilize the power and plasticity of the informal.


Are You Working With Energizers or Rotten Apples? By: Robert I. Sutton.

In this excerpt from GOOD BOSS, BAD BOSS: How to Be the Best ... and Learn from the Worst, Robert Sutton tells us about those employees that elevate an office, and those deadbeats and downers that can destroy a company.
Bring on the Energizers
Rob Cross studies social networks: how information, ideas, and influence travel through the Web of relationships that compose every team and organization. A few years back, Rob and his colleagues were designing a survey to map the connections among employees within several big companies. They wanted to identify what kinds of employees were top performers and brought out the best in others. They hypothesized that people who were renowned for having expertise, spreading technical knowledge, and best positioned to gather and weave together information from others would be seen as top performers. At a professional services firm they were studying, an executive argued they were missing something:
We have some of the brightest consultants in the world here. But some are more successful than others, and it has much more to do with what I call buzz than a slight difference in IQ. Our high performers create enthusiasm for things. ... They create energy, and even though this is intangible it generates client sales and follow-on work as well as gets other people here engaged in and supportive of what they are doing.
Inspired by this insight, they added a simple question to their survey: "People can affect the energy and enthusiasm we have at work in various ways. Interactions with some people can leave you feeling drained while others can leave you feeling enthused about possibilities. When you interact with each person below, how does it typically affect your energy level?" The possible answers were: 1 = de-energizing; 2 = no effect/neutral; or 3 = energizing. The colleagues in their team or business were then listed, and each was rated by every coworker.
Rob and his fellow researchers were stunned by how strongly this "energy" question predicted performance evaluations and promotions, and whether people stayed with or left an organization. They also found that the most successful teams and organizations had networks filled with interconnected energizers. Cross and his colleagues have since dug into the kinds of people who are energizers and why they succeed. "Energizers" aren't necessarily charismatic and bubbly; on the surface, many are understated and rather shy. But all create energy via optimism about the possibilities ahead, fully engaging the person right in front of them right now, valuing others' ideas, and helping people feel as if they are making progress.
The late Gordon MacKenzie held a position at Hallmark Cards as "the Creative Paradox." MacKenzie was a successful designer, led innovative design teams, and taught inspiring creativity workshops to everyone from kindergarteners to CEOs. In Orbiting the Giant Hairball, MacKenzie described how he sparked positive energy when he was Hallmark's Creative Paradox:
I became a liaison between the chaos of creativity and the discipline of business. I had no job description and a title that made no sense, but people started coming to me with their ideas, and I would listen to those ideas and validate them. When you validate a person, what you're really doing is giving them power--like a battery charger.
Again, energizers don't need to be bubbly or exciting. When I think of a soft-spoken energizer, Lenny Mendonca comes to mind, a partner at McKinsey who has held senior positions including head of the strategy practice and chair of the McKinsey Global Institute. Before I met Lenny, my stereotype of McKinsey partners was they were smoothtalking egomaniacs. Lenny is exactly the opposite. I remember a great dinner that my colleague Hayagreeva "Huggy" Rao and I had with Lenny at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company (which Lenny owns). Huggy and I were touched by how encouraging and constructive Lenny had been about research we were pursuing. Huggy, an astute observer, pointed out how closely Lenny listened, how he saw possible value in every person and every idea and-- unlike the two of us--rarely interrupted. Huggy and I are just two of Lenny's fans; he has the same energizing effect on everyone who knows him.


You’re Not the Most Important Person in the Room by Ferdinand F. Fournies

When you are knighted [manager], an invisible sign appears in the center of your forehead and flashes on and off: BOSS … BOSS … BOSS. You can’t see it, but everyone who works for you can. You see lines of people standing around waiting to talk to you. The people who talk to you do it with deference. You notice that your subordinates seem to be concerned about the way they talk to you, but you see no reason why you should be concerned about the way you talk to them. You become aware that when you ask people to do things they do them. After all, they are only there to do your bidding. Quite happily, most of them do so, except the incompetent ones. Because people around you do what you tell them, you become even more impressed with your own importance. But what has happened is that you have become deluded into believing that you are the most important member of that group. Because you believe they need you more than you need them, you treat them accordingly. You get involved in self-destructive behavior. You get lazy and you stop managing; you just keep score.

The sad but true fact is that YOU NEED THEM MORE THAN THEY YOU NEED YOU. You can’t get the job done without them.

Adapted from Coaching for Improved Work Performance by Ferdinand F. Fournies.



Practical Steps for Growing Leaders

  • Reframe leadership as a one-off act that can be shown up as well as down. 
  • Clearly differentiate leadership from management.
  • Upgrade management so it is seen as a supportive, facilitative function.
  • Train budding leaders to focus on content first, influencing skills second.
  • Coach managers on how to foster bottom-up challenges.
  • Reward teams and those who manage them for generating the most useable ideas.
  • Greater chance of winning the war of ideas through faster innovation
  • More fully engaged knowledge workers.
  • More widely distributed ownership for organizational direction.
  • Less pressure on executives to be heroes, to monopolize ownership. 


Why work doesn’t happen at work

A great TED talk by Jason Fried on why the office environment isn’t a good place to be..


Making Room for Reflection Is a Strategic Imperative by Umair Haque

Business is, above all, busy. And maybe it’s too busy.

Let’s face it. Most of us spend most of our time chasing the immediate reward, the short-run “objective,” the near-term “goal — in short, the expedient and the convenient. But maybe business’s obsessive focus on doing hasn’t defused any of the following conflagrations, and is, instead, dumping Molotov cocktails on each: customers as detached, distrusting, and “disloyal,” investors firing back at boardrooms, regulators with bloodlust a-burning in their eyes, and about a trillion low-cost factories who can do it all faster, quicker, and cheaper anyway.
What most companies (and economies) don’t do is to stop doing — and that’s a self-defeating problem. We seem to be clueless about making room for deep questioning and thinking: reflecting. Our doing/reflecting ratio is wildly out of whack. Most action items might just be distraction items — from the harder work of sowing and reaping breakthroughs that matter.
The most disruptive, unforeseen, and just plain awesome breakthroughs, that reimagine, reinvent, and reconceive a product, a company, a market, an industry, or perhaps even an entire economy rarely come from the single-minded pursuit of the busier and busier busywork of “business.” Rather, in the outperformers that I’ve spent time with and studied, breakthroughs demand (loosely) systematic, structured periods for reflection — to ruminate on, synthesize, and integrate fragments of questions, answers, and thoughts about what’s not good enough, what’s just plain awful, and how it could be made radically better.
They consistently ask — in my experience, at least once a week, in informal, quick powwows — a handful of interrelated questions, never taking for granted that they’ve found the right, perfect, everlasting answer, but understanding instead, that the better answers evolve (and coevolve) with the world around them. In turn, reflection becomes the rocket fuel for experimentation, the lifeblood of high-level innovation, the spark of deeper meaning, and the wellspring of enduring purpose.So throw Frederick W. Taylor‘s textbook about “productivity” squarely at my nose if you’d like, but I’d suggest: the sharpest implement you might not yet have in your toolkit is a set of reflection items. Reflection items are what Mycroft was to Sherlock: the smarter — but largely invisible — big brother.
The catch is that most companies don’t know how to reflect. They’ve been finely engineered, instead, to do. So here’s how to craft your own reflection items.


Help is Not a Dirty Word by Mike Myatt

As much as some people won’t want to hear this, “help” is not a dirty word. Rather asking for help is a sign of maturity as a leader. So my question is this: Are you easy to help? Think about it…do you make it easy for others to want to help you, or is your demeanor such that most people won’t lift a finger to assist you in a time of need? How many times during the course of your career have you witnessed executives and entrepreneurs who desperately need help, but either don’t recognize it, or worse yet, make it virtually impossible for someone to help them? In today’s post I’ll address the importance of positioning yourself to be helped…
If your pride, ego, arrogance, ignorance, the way you were raised or any other excuse (yes I did say excuse) keeps you from asking for help, it is precisely those traits that will keep you from maximizing your potential. I hate to break it to you, but you don’t know everything or everybody, so why even bother pretending that you couldn’t use a bit of help? No single person can or should go it alone in today’s business world. The more partners, sympathizers, champions, allies, supporters, enablers, influencers, advisers, mentors, friends, and family you have helping you succeed, the faster you will achieve your goals. Without question the most successful business people on the planet are those that have learned to blow through self-imposed barriers to openly harness the power of broader spheres of influence.


Quieting the lizard brain

How can I explain the never-ending irrationality of human behavior?
We say we want one thing, then we do another. We say we want to be successful but we sabotage the job interview. We say we want a product to come to market, but we sandbag the shipping schedule. We say we want to be thin but we eat too much. We say we want to be smart but we skip class or don’t read that book the boss lent us.
The contradictions never end. When someone shows up and acts without contradiction, we’re amazed. When an athlete just does the sport, or when a writer just writes the words, we can’t help but watch, astonished at the purity of their actions. Why is it so difficult to do what we say we’re going to do?
The lizard brain.
Or as Steven Pressfield describes it, the resistance. The resistance is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise. The resistance is writer’s block and putting jitters and every project that ever shipped late because people couldn’t stay on the same page long enough to get something out the door.
The resistance grows in strength as we get closer to shipping, as we get closer to an insight, as we get closer to the truth of what we really want. That’s because the lizard hates change and achievement and risk.
The lizard is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive. Why did the chicken cross the road? Because her lizard brain told her to.
Want to know why so many companies can’t keep up with Apple? It’s because they compromise, have meetings, work to fit in, fear the critics and generally work to appease the lizard. Meetings are just one symptom of an organization run by the lizard brain. Late launches, middle of the road products and the rationalization that goes with them are others.
The amygdala isn’t going away. Your lizard brain is here to stay, and your job is to figure out how to quiet it and ignore it. This is so important, I wanted to put it on the cover of my new book. We realized, though, that the lizard brain is freaked out by a picture of itself, and if you want to sell books to someone struggling with the resistance (that would be all of us) best to keep it a little more on the down low.
Now you’ve seen the icon and you know its name. What are you going to do about it?


Why You Should Focus on "Worst Practices" by Umair Haque

If you want to be disruptive, don't start with best practices. Try, instead, find your industry's worst practices and take tiny steps — or better yet, giant leaps — towards bettering them. When you learn how to see them, worst practices lurk everywhere — because they're baked into the tired, toxic assumptions of business as usual. Customer service nightmares (think Dell Hell), design desolation (as I discussed in my recent post on Pontiac), lowest common denominators (like KFC's stomach-churningly grody Double Down), marketing by half-truth, and what you might call total zombification (think GM's reanimated IPO) — they're just a few shining examples of the worst of the worst, desperately crying out to be bettered. But they're not the only ones — and your challenge is finding and then bettering a few of your own, to form the basis of a disruptive competitive position.
So how do you find your worst practices? Here are four ways to get started.
Ask your critics. The simplest way to uncover a worst practice is to ask your critics — the fiercer, the better. Most companies have been taught to bash, beat, and silence them — but if you really want to discover where "best" is far from good enough, your critics are worth about five hundred times their weight in management consultants, pundits, and assorted beancounters. Way back in 2005, Jeff Jarvis wrote about his original experience of Dell Hell — and if Dell had listened to him with intent and candor, perhaps there wouldn't be an instant replay today.
Spend a day in the trenches. I'll admit it: I'm a compulsive watcher of "Undercover Boss." Why? Because there's nothing like watching a cloistered suit get a hefty dose of reality — and there's nothing to deliver that dose like spending time doing battle in the trenches. Want to discover what really sucks about your distribution, marketing, pricing, service, partners, or products? When you're in the boardroom, a dozen yes-men can cook up a billion excuses — but when you're the one doing the above, there's no escaping the truth. What might happen if the Gap's senior management had to spend time actually trying to sell its uninspiring clothes to increasingly fashion-fragmented teens? I'd bet they'd cotton on quick to their worst practice: aesthetic aridity.

Examine your past.
Most forlorn, fading companies had a day in the sun — once. And a great way to look for worst practices is to get historical. There's nothing like looking backwards, and examining the treasured memory of what made you great, to provoke the "a-ha!" moment about what you lost, when you lost it, and, most importantly, why you lost it. Once upon a time, Sony made awesome stuff like the Walkman because it was hyper-attuned to people's rapidly evolving expectations. If I had to put money on it, I'd say that's exactly what Sony lost somewhere along the corporate-reshuffling way. Now, like too many doddering corporations, Sony's stuck on auto-repeat, pushing capital intensive, overmarketed, marginally improved, less-than-relevant stuff at people, instead of igniting new markets for what they will want next — but don't yet have. Funny — that sounds a bit like the story of the American economy itself.
Diet on your own dogfood. What would happen, one wonders, if every CEO had a new clause inserted into his or her gilded contract: you make it, you use it — exclusively. It's just a hunch, but I'd bet that if fast food execs could only eat fast food, if bankers could only invest in their own toxic securities, and if pharma execs had to swallow a handful of their own pills every morning, the economy might not be so riddled with toxic, self-destructive junk. Hence, if you want to track down your worst practices, start by making what you make part of the fabric of your own daily life. What — you think Steve Jobs types his emails on a Dell? Of course not. There's a lesson there for every company struggling to break out of the lumbering herd, by bettering its worst.
While we might not want to admit it, I'd bet that deep down, we all know it: business as usual isn't just marginally, barely not good enough — at doing stuff that lasts, resonates, and matters, it's downright lousy. Business as usual is to enduring worth, bigger purpose, and deeper meaning what motivational posters are to the Mona Lisa. Result? An economy awash in the trivial, banal, inconsequential — and the downright toxic.
The 20th century's best just might not be good enough to create 21st century advantage. To get there, you have to master the art of mattering. One way to start is hunting for what's terrible, insufferable, and downright awful — and then striving, relentlessly, harder than your rivals think is even conceivable, to better it.



Entrepreneurs Must Focus on Learning by Patrick Lefler

The Entrepreneurial Mindset written by Rita Gunther McGrath and Ian MacMillan is one of the best resources available for organizational entrepreneurial strategy. While the book was written ten years ago in 2000, it still defines the methods for success for fast competitors who “move on ideas that others overlook and who confidently act while others dither.” One of the authors’ key points for success is to “keep the focus on learning.”
“Ensure that team members practice the discipline of discovery-driven planning. Document assumptions and test them before making major investments. Systematically redirect your project as you convert assumptions into knowledge. In particular, learn from surprises as well as mistakes. A surprise is what occurs when you do better than expected. Even so, you did something wrong! Often the results won’t be analyzed, because it was positive. But because surprises stem from incorrect assumptions, you need to check out those assumptions to make sure that you continue to be surprised.”
Converting assumptions into knowledge is one of the most important determinants for success–whether it be a radical new market start-up or a product line extension–for any new venture. And the first step in this process is to actually write down all your assumptions. Getting these assumptions or hypotheses down on paper is essential because you’ll be referring to them, testing them, and updating them throughout the process. These assumptions can be on a myriad of factors that can affect the success (or failure) of your entrepreneurial venture, but most likely they fall into these six categories:
  • Product
  • Customer challenges
  • Distribution and pricing
  • Demand creation
  • Market type
  • Competition
Just about the only way to test these assumptions and convert them into knowledge is to get out of the office and speak to the market. Talk to customers (current or assumed). Find out what their challenges are. Find out what they might be willing to pay for a solution that solves their challenges. Don’t just target the users or decision makers, also find out who the influencers are, who the recommenders are, and who the real economic buyers are. In many cases, the economic buyers are different from either the users and decision makers. And one more thing, find out who the saboteurs are-the individuals and groups who have become comfortable with the status quo and would be most threatened with your new product, solution or entrepreneurial venture.
Here’s the takeaway: Testing your assumptions and converting them into knowledge is an essential first step in getting any new venture started. Spend time formulating these assumptions; write them down; test them and then modify them. Continue to repeat until the feedback loop tells you otherwise.


The Five Habits of Highly Effective Hives by Thomas Seeley

How the hive makes its most important decision One of the popular misconceptions about honey bees is that their lives are ruled by a queen — or perhaps by even some more fanciful system. But in the forty years that I've spent studying bees, I've learned that their colonies are remarkably complex, in many ways comparable to an animal brain, despite being individually quite simple. And every year, faced with the life-or-death problem of choosing a new home, honey bees stake everything on a process that includes collective fact-finding, vigorous debate, and consensus building. It is a democratic process that humans — especially office drones — might do well to emulate.
When a beehive becomes overpopulated, usually in the late spring or early summer, some two-thirds of the workers and the old queen, often up to 10,000 bees in total, leave home in a swarm and gather on a nearby tree branch in a beard-shaped cluster. From there, a few hundred scout bees, which are often the bees that have the most experience with the world beyond the hive, take off in all directions, searching for tree cavities. The ideal space for a new hive can be difficult to find: the opening should be small, about 10 meters off the ground, and lead to a 40-liter cavity inside a sturdy, living tree. Each scout that discovers a promising site inspects it to see if it is suitably roomy and secure, and then returns to the cluster to announce her find by performing a waggle dance. The dance indicates both the location and the quality of the site.
As the scouts report on their respective sites, other scouts observe and follow the directions to the indicated locations. (The direction of the waggle dance shows the direction of the new location relative to the angle of the sun, and the duration of each circuit of the dance indicates distance — I told you this was complicated!) Each scout inspects the site she navigated to and if she agrees that is a desirable dwelling place, she too performs a waggle dance when she returns to the swarm.
Bees are thoroughly honest advertisers. The better she judges the site, the longer she dances, and the more effective she is in recruiting other scouts to make their own forays to the spot. This means that, despite the competing information that scouts bring back to the swarm, eventually, usually over a day or two, enough scouts will agree on the best site to cause them to induce the rest of the swarm to fly there.
Even though an individual bee is not particularly intelligent, the collective intelligence of the group produces impressive results. Almost always — about 90 percent of the time in my experiments — the swarm chooses the best of the options it has found.

What we can learn from the hive


Building Balanced Teams by Roy Luebke

It can be very obvious when looking at dating or married couples that opposites attract. We see strengths in others that we do not possess ourselves and it oftentimes brings people together. Yet it can be these very differences that cause the conflict, misunderstanding, and frustration which cause couples to break apart. The fact that people of opposite natures do attract one another is important to consider when building teams of people in the work environment. We have probably all been on dysfunctional teams as well as fantastic teams. Why is it that some teams work great together, while the same set of people configured on different teams will struggle?


"I don't have any good ideas" by Seth Godin

Now I know you're bluffing.

First, everyone has good ideas. Maybe not as fast or as often as others, but are you telling me that in your entire life, you've never had one good idea? Ever?
Second, and way more telling, what happens if I give you a good idea. Here. Take it. Now what? You have it, right?
Now you need to find a second reason for not making things happen. "I don't have enough time." "I can't get the resources." "I'm not sure, really sure, guaranteed, that this is a good idea." "My boss won't let me."
And so the lizard brain speaks up, and so the cycle continues, and so the Resistance wins.
There are more good ideas, right here, right now, for free, than ever before. More opportunities to connect and lead and make a difference and an impact and a living. Fewer guarantees, sure, but more ideas.
It's your choice about whether or not you do anything with them, but please don't tell me you don't have any good ideas.



Six Keys to Being Excellent at Anything by Tony Schwartz

I've been playing tennis for nearly five decades. I love the game and I hit the ball well, but I'm far from the player I wish I were. I've been thinking about this a lot the past couple of weeks, because I've taken the opportunity, for the first time in many years, to play tennis nearly every day. My game has gotten progressively stronger. I've had a number of rapturous moments during which I've played like the player I long to be.
And almost certainly could be, even though I'm 58 years old. Until recently, I never believed that was possible. For most of my adult life, I've accepted the incredibly durable myth that some people are born with special talents and gifts, and that the potential to truly excel in any given pursuit is largely determined by our genetic inheritance.
During the past year, I've read no fewer than five books — and a raft of scientific research — which powerfully challenge that assumption (see below for a list). I've also written one, The Way We're Working Isn't Working, which lays out a guide, grounded in the science of high performance, to systematically building your capacity physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
We've found, in our work with executives at dozens of organizations, that it's possible to build any given skill or capacity in the same systematic way we do a muscle: push past your comfort zone, and then rest. Aristotle Will Durant*, commenting on Aristotle, pointed out that the philosopher had it exactly right 2000 years ago: "We are what we repeatedly do." By relying on highly specific practices, we've seen our clients dramatically improve skills ranging from empathy, to focus, to creativity, to summoning positive emotions, to deeply relaxing.
Like everyone who studies performance, I'm indebted to the extraordinary Anders Ericsson, arguably the world's leading researcher into high performance. For more than two decades, Ericsson has been making the case that it's not inherited talent which determines how good we become at something, but rather how hard we're willing to work — something he calls "deliberate practice." Numerous researchers now agree that 10,000 hours of such practice as the minimum necessary to achieve expertise in any complex domain.
There is something wonderfully empowering about this. It suggests we have remarkable capacity to influence our own outcomes. But that's also daunting. One of Ericsson's central findings is that practice is not only the most important ingredient in achieving excellence, but also the most difficult and the least intrinsically enjoyable.
If you want to be really good at something, it's going to involve relentlessly pushing past your comfort zone, along with frustration, struggle, setbacks and failures. That's true as long as you want to continue to improve, or even maintain a high level of excellence. The reward is that being really good at something you've earned through your own hard work can be immensely satisfying.


Childish vs. childlike by Seth Godin

Childlike makes a great scientist.
Childish produces tantrums.
Childlike brings fresh eyes to marketing opportunities.
Childish rarely shows up as promised.
Childlike is fearless and powerful and willing to fail.
Childish is annoying.
Childlike inquires with a pure heart.
Childish is merely ignored.


Get Buy-In by Keeping It Simple

When presenting a new idea or proposal, chances are that you know more about the topic than your audience. When this is the case, it can be tempting to bombard them with data and analysis. But rather than being convinced, your audience is likely to feel overwhelmed. Forget the hundreds of pages of numbers you have to back up your argument and keep it simple. Present your point in a short, uncomplicated, and clear manner. Focus on what the audience cares about and use common sense — not fancy charts and complicated analysis — to win their approval.                            


Over commit to one thing by Dan Rockwell

“Successful people have a glaring tendency to over commit,” Marshal Goldsmith. Leaders live for opportunities. Opportunities ignite passions. As a result they may chase too many chickens at once and end up empty handed. In other words, opportunities may create over commitment. Over commitment yields mediocre results. Get further by doing less not more.


12 Things Good Bosses Believe by Robert I. Sutton

What makes a boss great? It's a question I've been researching for a while now. In June 2009, I offered some analysis in HBR on the subject, and more recently I've been hard at work on a book called Good Boss, Bad Boss (published in September by Business Plus). In both cases, my approach has been to be as evidence-based as possible. That is, I avoid giving any advice that isn't rooted in real proof of efficacy; I want to pass along the techniques and behaviors that are grounded in sound research. It seems to me that, by adopting the habits of good bosses and shunning the sins of bad bosses, anyone can do a better job overseeing the work of others.
At the same time, I've come to conclude that all the technique and behavior coaching in the world won't make a boss great if that boss doesn't also have a certain mindset.  My readings of peer-reviewed studies, plus my more idiosyncratic experience studying and consulting to managers in many settings, have led me identify some key beliefs that are held by the best bosses — and rejected, or more often simply never even thought about, by the worst bosses. Here they are, presented as a neat dozen:
  1. I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.
  2. My success — and that of my people — depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things, not on magical, obscure, or breakthrough ideas or methods.
  3. Having ambitious and well-defined goals is important, but it is useless to think about them much. My job is to focus on the small wins that enable my people to make a little progress every day.
  4. One of the most important, and most difficult, parts of my job is to strike the delicate balance between being too assertive and not assertive enough.
  5. My job is to serve as a human shield, to protect my people from external intrusions, distractions, and idiocy of every stripe — and to avoid imposing my own idiocy on them as well.
  6. I strive to be confident enough to convince people that I am in charge, but humble enough to realize that I am often going to be wrong.
  7. I aim to fight as if I am right, and listen as if I am wrong — and to teach my people to do the same thing.
  8. One of the best tests of my leadership — and my organization — is "what happens after people make a mistake?"
  9. Innovation is crucial to every team and organization. So my job is to encourage my people to generate and test all kinds of new ideas. But it is also my job to help them kill off all the bad ideas we generate, and most of the good ideas, too.
  10. Bad is stronger than good. It is more important to eliminate the negative than to accentuate the positive.
  11. How I do things is as important as what I do.
  12. Because I wield power over others, I am at great risk of acting like an insensitive jerk — and not realizing it.
What do you say: does that about cover it? If not, tell me what I missed. Or if you're not quite sure what I mean in these brief statements, stay tuned. Over the coming weeks, I'll be digging into each one of them in more depth, touching on the research evidence and illustrating with examples.
If you're like most people I meet, you've had your share of bad bosses — and probably at least one good one. What were the attitudes the good one held? And what great, workplace-transforming beliefs could your worst boss never quite embrace?

Robert Sutton is Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University. He studies and writes about management, innovation, and the nitty-gritty of organizational life. His new book is Good Boss, Bad Boss.



Organizing for joy by Seth Godin

Traditional corporations, particularly large-scale service and manufacturing businesses, are organized for efficiency. Or consistency. But not joy.
McDonalds, Hertz, Dell and others crank it out. They show up. They lower costs. They use a stopwatch to measure output.

The problem with this mindset is that as you approach the asymptote of maximum efficiency, there's not a lot of room left for improvement. Making a Chicken McNugget for .00001 cents less isn't going to boost your profit a whole lot.
Worse, the nature of the work is inherently un-remarkable. If you fear special requests, if you staff with cogs, if you have to put it all in a manual, then the chances of amazing someone are really quite low.
These organizations have people who will try to patch problems over after the fact, instead of motivated people eager to delight on the spot.
The alternative, it seems, is to organize for joy. These are the companies that give their people the freedom (and yes, the expectation) that they will create, connect and surprise. These are the organizations that embrace someone who makes a difference, as opposed to searching for a clause in the employee handbook that was violated.



Define Leadership and Exercise it – The Missing Key Success Factor in Change Management

How you define and exercise leadership in the present climate will be a significant determinant in your organisation’s fortunes – and especially in the context of change management.
Let’s define leadership: Leadership is the process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective. Leaders have a vision that they share with others. It is the leader who binds the organisation together with beliefs, values and knowledge… and who makes it more cohesive and coherent.
Leadership is also defined as a process that…motivates people to excel in the field in which they are working.
Is this you? Is this your direct up-line report?

So can leadership be taught?
Many would say that leadership qualities are not inborn but can be developed gradually through education and self-study. Personally I am not so sure about that.
The current assumption is that leadership can be taught. There are very many many courses, seminars and books on leadership and a big demand for training to develop leadership skills.
On the basis of my life experience and as I define leadership – it is my view that you can only teach leadership skills to someone who has the latent [and maybe unrecognised and unacknowledged] potential to be a leader.
Management skills can be taught to just about anyone of at least average intelligence and education [and in saying that I am not denigrating management]. However, a brief review of the differences between leadership and management suggests that leadership owes as least as much to “nature” as it does to “nurture”.
It may not be a popular thing to say but in my experience – most people would rather be led than lead. In my experience – the vast majority of people are followers and not leaders and very happy to remain so. Leaders are a very small percentage of the population maybe less than 1% and really strong leaders with the potential to really change things [for better or worse] probably less than 0.1%.


The Eight-Word Mission Statement by Eric Hellweg

Day one of the PopTech conference in Camden, Maine was a polyglot delight. Presentations covered topics as far afield as the establishment of jaguar preserves to the neurological patterns that occur when humans encounter non-expected data. Fascinating stuff. My colleague Associate Editor Sarah Green and I have been Tweeting the conference in process. You can follow our real-time reports at and, respectively. 
One of the many presenters who spoke on a topic of real interest to the HBR community was Kevin Starr, the executive director of the Mulago Foundation. Mulago channels investments to socially minded businesses. It looks for opportunities to invest in "lasting change that goes to scale." The social sector is a young sector, and as such, is awash with many different ideas, companies, and approaches. There's also a strong amount of investment in the sector, and like any burgeoning field, there's a range of quality when it comes to the approaches to and efficacy of the various companies'.
 Mulago has a compelling approach to help it winnow out the pitches and approaches of lesser quality, and it revolves around the mission statement and a very simple way to stay focused on a single issue. Most companies, regardless of their sectors, have a mission statement. And most are awash in jargon and marble-mouthed pronouncements. Worse still, these gobbledy-gook statements are often forgotten by, misremembered, or flatly ignored by frontline employees.
 To combat this, Starr insists that companies he funds can express their mission statement in under eight words. They also must follow this format: "Verb, target, outcome." Some examples: "Save endangered species from extinction" and "Improve African children's health."
 The mission statement is a key part of Mulago's approach, but it's not the only part. Once the mission statement is establish, Starr insists that companies that get investment "measure the right thing" and "measure it well.
Mulago's approach is refreshingly sparse, and really helps to clarify the thinking. It's a great "forcing function" as well. As Starr spoke, you could almost see PopTech attendees workshopping their mission statements, trying to get them down to under eight words in this format. It can be quite hard to do.

How long is your company's current mission statement? Do you think you could get it down to under eight words using the "verb, target, outcome" format? It's a good exercise to consider running, if only to start real conversations at your company about what you're doing, to/for whom, and toward what outcome. Fascinating approach.



Getting Past the "But We Already Tried That" Response

John Kotter is an emeritus professor at Harvard Business School and bestselling author of Leading ChangeA Sense of Urgency, and founder of Kotter International. His new book, with coauthor Lorne Whitehead, is called Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea From Getting Shot Down. 

You and your team have been wrestling with the problem of increasing efficiencies without a big budget to make it happen. You've been authorized to look at every aspect of the process. One particularly enterprising young woman on your team has found that a complicated safety inspection procedure that was put in place fifteen years ago is no longer necessary because the parts that required inspection no longer exist in the product now being produced. And yet workers are holding up the production for the required amount of time in order to get sign-offs anyway.

Great! Simple! We get rid of this inspection process for parts that don't exist and increase productivity by 15%!

Not so fast. When you bring this insight to the management committee, one grizzled fellow says, "That won't work. We tried that five years ago and the lawyers wouldn't let us take it out of the subcontract." Now, this particular grizzled fellow is used to having his words taken as law. Everyone defers to him because he has been around a long time, is in a position of power, and knows a lot about the ins and outs of the critical and complicated production paths.

What do you do?
Certainly you could try to argue your point, but you don't have all the facts of what actually happened five years ago and past experience has shown that arguing with this fellow can be a dangerous activity.
The basic comeback for "We tried that already and it didn't work" is to say something like: "That's a good point, but that was then and this is today. You know, things change. They always do, for all companies everywhere. We don't make the exact same products. Our customers are changing" [or other basic, clear, facts that illustrate how things have changed]. "I'll make a call to the lawyers today, just to be safe" [if you haven't already done so, which you may have] "and if there's a problem with doing this now, we'll try to solve it and get right back to you. But we need the 15%, right? So unless the lawyers scream, why don't we agree now to go forward with the plan. I mean, it really is a terrific idea."

You must never get sucked into the black hole of "what happened 5 years ago."
He may have more facts than you do, and make you look as if you didn't do your homework. (Of course it's always a good idea, as part of your preparation, to learn about earlier similar efforts and why they didn't work out.) The real danger, though, is getting drawn into a distracting conversation that goes on to the point where the idea is put aside because you've run out of time on the agenda. Or that the ensuing discussion either bores or confuses people so that they give up and lose interest.
"We already tried that" is one of the familiar attacks I've seen many times over the years. Be prepared for it, and mold your response to your own particular situation. What are some of the variations on this attack that you have seen?



Do You Have a Complexity Complex? by Holly G. Green

Are you overwhelmed by how fast the world moves these days? Does it seem like everything is getting more complicated? Do you sometimes feel like you might be out of your league when it comes to leading an organization in today’s chaotic markets?
Welcome to business leadership in the 21st century.
Technology was supposed to make our lives simpler. While it’s safe to say that technology has simplified many tasks, activities, and processes, I don’t think anyone would argue that it has made our lives more complicated. Add instant communications (with anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time), information overload, and a massive increase in global competition into the mix, and no wonder that many of today’s business leaders are wondering how to keep up and get ahead.


A movie on creativity, good idea's and connectivity

'Where good idea's come from' by Steven Johnson.

One of our most innovative, popular thinkers takes on-in exhilarating style-one of our key questions: Where do good ideas come from?

With Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson pairs the insight of his bestselling Everything Bad Is Good for You and the dazzling erudition of The Ghost Map and The Invention of Air to address an urgent and universal question: What sparks the flash of brilliance? How does groundbreaking innovation happen? Answering in his infectious, culturally omnivorous style, using his fluency in fields from neurobiology to popular culture, Johnson provides the complete, exciting, and encouraging story of how we generate the ideas that push our careers, our lives, our society, and our culture forward.

Beginning with Charles Darwin's first encounter with the teeming ecosystem of the coral reef and drawing connections to the intellectual hyperproductivity of modern megacities and to the instant success of YouTube, Johnson shows us that the question we need to ask is, What kind of environment fosters the development of good ideas? His answers are never less than revelatory, convincing, and inspiring as Johnson identifies the seven key principles to the genesis of such ideas, and traces them across time and disciplines.

Most exhilarating is Johnson's conclusion that with today's tools and environment, radical innovation is extraordinarily accessible to those who know how to cultivate it. Where Good Ideas Come From is essential reading for anyone who wants to know how to come up with tomorrow's great ideas.


Can't Change Your Leader? Change How You Follow by Li Xin Bai

  1. Research conducted worldwide shows that leadership contributes to 70% of corporate atmosphere, while corporate atmosphere contributes to 30% of corporate performance. Therefore, leadership can exert direct influence on 21% of corporate performance.
  2. In Chinese companies, 19.1% of the managers are found to be high-performance leaders, 9.8% inspiring leaders, 13.4% leaders who create no obvious value, and 57.7% leaders who actually discourage their employees. That is to say, 70% of the managers either don't help or discourage their people.
The first conclusion reinforces that leadership does have a significant impact on organizational performance. But the second conclusion tells us that leadership development in Chinese companies really has a long way to go.
As a follower, we may not be able to change our leader's style. But we can help solve the problem by adjusting our own work style. Based on my experience — meeting with two or three CEOs a week for the past five years — I have come to think of leaders as falling into one of three categories. Being able to categorize which type of leader I'm working with has helped me figure out how to work most effectively with them.


The cognitive surplus will change our world

Clay Shirky looks at "cognitive surplus" -- the shared, online work we do with our spare brain cycles. While we're busy editing Wikipedia, posting to Ushahidi (and yes, making LOLcats), we're building a better, more cooperative world.


People and Leadership by Mike Myatt

When you closely examine the core characteristics of what really makes for great leadership, it’s not power, title, authority or even technical competency that distinguishes truly great leaders. Rather it’s the ability to both earn and keep the loyalty and trust of those whom they lead that sets them apart. Leadership is about trust, stewardship, care, concern, service, humility and understanding. If you build into those you lead, if you make them better, if you add value to their lives then you will have earned their trust and loyalty. This is the type of bond that will span positional and philosophical gaps, survive mistakes, challenges, downturns and other obstacles that will inevitably occur.


What Makes Teams Smart by Thomas W. Malone of MIT

What makes some groups perform better than others?
A new study published in Science  found that three factors were significantly correlated with a group’s collective intelligence — in other words, its ability to perform a variety of tasks collectively, from solving puzzles to negotiating.
The three factors are: the average social sensitivity of the members of the group, the extent to which the group’s conversations weren’t dominated by a few members, and the percentage of women in the group.  (The women in the study tended to score higher on social sensitivity than the men.) In other words, groups perform better on tasks if the members have strong social skills, if there are some women in the group, and if the conversation reflects more group members’ ideas. The groups studied were small teams with two to five members.

The study was conducted by Anita Williams Woolley of Carnegie-Mellon, Christopher F. Chabris of Union College, and Alexander Pentland, Nada Hashmi and Thomas W. Malone, all of MIT.
Interestingly, the researchers found that collective intelligence wasn’t strongly correlated with the average intelligence of the  individuals in the group — or with the intelligence of the smartest person in the group. They also found, as they wrote in Science,  ”that many of the factors one might have expected to predict group performance — such as group cohesion, motivation, and satisfaction — did not.”

For more on Malone’s ideas about collective intelligence, see MIT Sloan Management Review’s Spring 2010 interview with Malone.



We're All Predictably Irrational - Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University, presents examples of cognitive illusions that help illustrate why humans make predictably irrational decisions.

The Power of Positive Feedback by Barry Gruenberg

Most high level executives do not expect a lot of recognition from others. Nor do they give a lot of recognition to others. Many managers are like the guy who, when his wife complains that he doesn’t tell her he loves her any more, responds that he told her he loved her when he married her — and he would have let her know if anything had changed.
Similarly, most managers act as if the act of hiring an employee is recognition enough — and they would have let them know if anything changed.


Innovation Can Require Changing Rituals by Jeffrey Phillips

Far too often, we in the innovation space are interested in creating a really interesting new product, rather than thinking about the product in the context of its use or experience. It was during a car trip with some new friends at Pure Insight when we were talking about daily rituals that I realized what a powerful “lens” rituals could be for focusing on new innovation opportunities.
We happened to be talking about shaving – in this case, the drudgery of waking up every day to scrape the bristles from our faces (our correspondents happened to be men. I’ll assume women think the same way about shaving their legs, etc). While we complained about the task, the discomfort, the risk of cuts and so forth, we also came to the realization that each of us has a specific ritual about the way they approach shaving, and for the most part that ritual is the same no matter where they shave, or when they shave. The same steps, the same thinking applies, and to break that ritual seems almost like breaking a sacred vow.


Karl Weick On Why "Am I a Success or a Failure?" Is The Wrong Question

Found on the blog of Bob Sutton. For those who want to learn today and tomorrow.

I've written about The University of Michigan's Karl Weick here several times before, for example here and here, as he is one of the most creative and thoughtful people I know.  He, more so than anyone know, looks at the same things as everyone else, but sees something different.  I was just reading a paper that he wrote on renewal this morning and came across this stunning set of sentences:
Roethlisberger argues that people who are preoccupied with success ask the wrong question. They ask, “what is the secret of success” when they should be asking, “what prevents me from learning here and now?” To be overly preoccupied with the future is to be inattentive toward the present where learning and growth take place. To walk around asking, “am I a success or a failure” is a silly question in the sense that the closest you can come to answer is to say, everyone is both a success and a failure.
As usual, Weick sees things another way, and teaches us something.  One of the implications of this statement is that the most constructive ways to go through life is to keep focusing on what you learn and how you can get better in the future, rather than fretting or gloating over what you've done in the past (and seeing yourself as serving a life sentence as a winner or loser).  Some twists of Weick's simple ideas are explored in Carol Dweck's compelling research in in Mindset.
P.S. The source for this quote is Weick, Karl E. How Projects Lose Meaning: "The Dynamics of Renewal." in Renewing Research Practice by R. Stablein and P. Frost (Eds.). Stanford, CA: Stanford. 2004.

Source of this blogpost:

Leadership and Change by Mike Myatt

First the bad news: If you’re not willing to embrace change you’re not ready to lead. Put simply, leadership is not a static endeavor. In fact, leadership demands fluidity, which requires the willingness to recognize the need for change, and finally the ability to lead change.
Now the good news: As much as some people want to create complexity around the topic of leading change for personal gain, the reality is that creating, managing and leading change is really quite simple. To prove my point, I’ll not only explain the entire change life-cycle in three short paragraphs, but I’ll do it in simple terms that anyone can understand. As a bonus I’ll also give you 10 items to assess in evaluating whether the change you’re considering is value added, or just change for the sake of change.
An Overview on the Importance of Change:
While there is little debate that the successful implementation of change can create an extreme competitive advantage, it is not well understood that the lack of doing so can send a company (or an individual’s career) into a death spiral. Companies that seek out and embrace change are healthy, growing, and dynamic organizations, while companies that fear change are stagnant entities on their way to a slow and painful death.
Agility, innovation, disruption, fluidity, decisiveness, commitment, and above all else a bias toward action will lead to the creation of change. It is the implementation of change which results in evolving, growing and thriving companies. Much has been written about the importance of change, but there is very little information in circulation about how to actually create it.
While most executives and entrepreneurs have come to accept the concept of change management as a legitimate business practice, and change leadership as a legitimate executive priority in theory, I have found very few organizations that have effectively integrated change as a core discipline and focus area in reality. As promised, and without further ado, the change life-cycle in three easy steps:

Six Keys to Being Excellent at Anything by Tony Schwartz

I've been playing tennis for nearly five decades. I love the game and I hit the ball well, but I'm far from the player I wish I were.
I've been thinking about this a lot the past couple of weeks, because I've taken the opportunity, for the first time in many years, to play tennis nearly every day. My game has gotten progressively stronger. I've had a number of rapturous moments during which I've played like the player I long to be.
And almost certainly could be, even though I'm 58 years old. Until recently, I never believed that was possible. For most of my adult life, I've accepted the incredibly durable myth that some people are born with special talents and gifts, and that the potential to truly excel in any given pursuit is largely determined by our genetic inheritance.

The Surest Way to Destroy an Innovation Initiative by Chris Trimble

There are three, and only three, models for organizing innovation that work.
The first is the "turn the masses loose" model, also known as the "innovation is everyone's job, every day" model. It works, to a point. With proper motivation, you can get a huge number of small projects done. But the limitation to this approach is significant and easy to see: People are busy. They have day jobs, and once their day-to-day responsibilities are complete, there's little left — time, energy, motivation — for innovation. You may get 5% of Larry's time plus 5% of Mary's time and so on, but slivers of free time are difficult to aggregate beyond a few people, and make it hard to get anything substantial done.


Seth Godin on entrepreneurship and standing out


Define Your Personal Brand With Simple Questions by Ron Ashkenas

Though I've been writing for The Conversation for several months, this is the first post in my own, "personally branded" blog — so readers who want to know what I'm thinking can access my thoughts more directly. But why someone would want to do that? (I'm guessing it's probably not because of the picture.)

Regardless of whether you also actively contribute content online, I believe this is a question that everyone should periodically address about themselves. We are all the chief branding officers of our own personal brands. We have the power to determine and control our own reputation, whether through our actions at the workplace or through what we decide to Tweet. We are able to create our own sense of distinctiveness, trust and confidence. In every environment, from the workplace to the Web, people make choices that affect their personal brand — whether it is who to work with (and who to avoid), who to follow, who to "friend", or what special message to share in 140 characters.

How you manage your personal brand in any of these mediums will determine how others view you — and ultimately shape your career and your life.

To crystallize your personal brand, ask yourself what you want to be known for — what differentiates you from everyone else who might have a similar background or set of experiences? In other words, what skills, abilities, knowledge and attitudes do you have (or are developing) that will make people want to work with, follow or "friend" you — online or off? What value can you create for others as a friend, blogger, colleague, teammate, boss or subordinate? And what will make you satisfied and fulfilled that you are indeed making a contribution?

These are tough questions, and admittedly, I have trouble answering them myself. But let me give it a shot: First, my "brand" of leadership insight is practical, straightforward and simple — no complex theories or frameworks. In fact, much of my work is about taking complexity out of your company: I call this "simplicity-minded management." Second, the style of my brand is direct, challenging, and hopefully thought-provoking — with ideas that are based on thirty years of consulting with some of the smartest (and toughest) managers in the world, from GE, Cisco, the World Bank, public sector organizations, hospitals, start-ups and everything in between. So that's an overview of my personal brand. What's yours? What do you want to be known for? What sets you apart?



11 Signs You're A Bad Boss: From AMEX OPEN Forum


Thanks to Guy Kawasaki and Matthew May, two posts have recently appeared at the American Express blog for small business, OPEN Forum.  Matt describes these as "yin and yang" posts because the first, by him, was a review and discussion called "How to be a Good Boss" (that cool sign above kicks off his post).  That was followed with an opposing post that I wrote (with a lot of guidance, coaching, and editing from Guy -- he  amazes me with his ability to frame things and use language so that ideas are sound, fun, and sticky) on "The Top 11 Signs that You're a Bad Boss."  Here is a reprint of that post for readers of Work Matters:
The most crucial test of a boss is self-awareness. The best bosses are in tune with how the little things they say and do impact people, and they are adept at adjusting to bolster both performance and dignity. Several studies, including one by the College Board, suggest that the more incompetent a boss is, the more out of touch he or she is likely to be. 


What's your bottom line?

The story of two companies that are changing the world and working for profit at the same time. A short documentary about social enterprise and marketing to the bottom of the pyramid.

The Double Bottom Line from Alex Godin on Vimeo.


Why teams don't work

This is an article I found on the Harvard Business website. In my opinion interesting because it completely follows our own conclusions on team effectiveness in our Karacter approach. Investing in a performance team is a very important decision that should not be taken lighly. What do you think?

'The belief that teams make us more creative and productive - and are the best way to get things done - is deeply entrenched. But Hackman, a professor of organizational psychology at Harvard and a leading expert on teams, is having none of it. Research, he says, consistently shows that teams underperform despite all their extra resources.


Measuring Success by Mike Myatt

Measuring Success

Over the years I’ve come to believe that there is only one sure fire litmus test for measuring leadership success, and to the chagrin of many reading this post, it has little to do with what happens on the job. Today’s post might push a few buttons and test the boundaries of your comfort zone, but if you stick with me, I promise you’ll be glad you did. I’m going to peel back the layers on your personal brand, question your priorities, and quite possibly put a big dent in your carefully crafted professional facade. We’re going to get very personal today – How’s your family life?

If the opening paragraph caused you to wince, then the text that follows is written just for you. If the next sentence seems a little preachy, it’s meant to be. The true test of any leader is not measured by what’s accomplished in their professional life, but rather by what’s accomplished at home. If you’re a well oiled machine at work, but your family is falling apart at the seams – who cares? Let me be blunt – you won’t earn anyone’s respect, at least not the respect of anyone who matters, if your concern for career success overshadows your concern for the well-being of your family.

My advice is simple:
Create a legacy that transcends your career. Having the advantage of the hindsight my gray hair affords me, I can say with great certainty that who you are as a person is infinitely more important than the title you hold at work. There are few things in life as thought provoking as witnessing what by all outward appearances seems to be a successful executive, but as you begin to peel back the layers of their carefully crafted veneer, you quickly come to realize that they are little more than an empty, bitter, and frustrated person. They work their entire career chasing some illusive form of fulfillment only to fade into the sunset with nothing more than an empty lifetime of regrets as their reward.
I’ve simply lived too long to buy into the myth that success in the workplace will create happiness at home. While it makes for a nice sound bite to console those with a guilty conscience, IT IS A LIE. If your business is growing, but your spouse is crying and your children are neglected, it’s time to do a reality check on your priorities. If your secretary respects you, but your spouse doesn’t you have serious issues that need your immediate attention. If you would rather spend time with your online “friends” than with your children, it’s time to pull the ripcord on your internet connection.
Here’s the cold hard truth…if you cheat your family to invest into your career, you and your loved ones will pay a very heavy price. It is simply wrong to value your workplace commitments over your family commitments – moreover it’s not necessary. If your focus is on your family, your career won’t suffer, it will flourish. Get this wrong and not only will your family suffer, but so will you as you someday mourn the loss of what could have been, but cannot be recovered.
If you really want to get to know me, don’t waste time reading my bio or scrutinizing my professional successes and failures, get to know my wife and my children. My best work, the work that I’m most proud of, is the relationship I have with the love of my life whom I’ve been married to for almost three decades, and with my two grown children who now consistently teach me more about life than I taught them. While I’ve had more career success than I probably deserve, I’m just as flawed as anyone reading this post. What I can tell you is that I’ve always made my family a priority. I don’t regret a single second of time I’ve invested in my family, but I’ve lost track of all the regrets I have over time squandered on the job.
You see, everyone creates a legacy – the question is will it be one worth leaving? While a legacy is classically defined as something of significant and/or lasting value that survives its creator, the best legacy is one that can be lived before it is left behind.

The bottom line is this:
If you’re a superstar at work, but a slacker at home you’re not succeeding at anything other than being a disingenuous, ego-centric charlatan. If this describes you, you’re not a leader you are a poser. As a very wise person once said, “don’t waste your time investing in those who won’t be crying at your funeral.”



Keep your goals for yourself by Derek Sivers

After hitting on a brilliant new life plan, our first instinct is to tell someone, but Derek Sivers says it's better to keep goals secret. He presents research stretching as far back as the 1920s to show why people who talk about their ambitions may be less likely to achieve them.


Rediscovering the why of work

Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey advocates for creating organizations that value teamwork, transparency and trust. (Darden Business School/Darden Business School)


Managing Yourself: The Boss as Human Shield by Robert I. Sutton

Good leaders protect their employees from lengthy meetings, meddlesome superiors, and a host of other roadblocks to doing real work.
William Coyne headed research and development at 3M—the company behind Ace bandages, Post-it notes, Scotch tape, and other inventions—for over a decade. Shortly after retiring, Coyne spoke to a group of hundreds of executives about innovation at 3M and his own management style. He said he’d started at 3M as a researcher and learned firsthand how well-meaning but nosy executives who proffer too many questions and suggestions can undermine creative work. So when he became head of R&D, he was determined to allow his teams to work for long stretches, unfettered by intrusions from higher-ups. Coyne understood his colleagues’ curiosity; if successful, an R&D project could generate millions in new revenue. But he limited their interference (and his own) because, he said, “After you plant a seed in the ground, you don’t dig it up every week to see how it is doing.”

Coyne knew that the performance of his employees—as well as his career and the company’s success—depended on shielding them from threats. This notion that management “buffers” the core work of the company from uncertainty and external perturbations is an old theme in organizational theory, going back at least to James D. Thompson’s 1967 classic Organizations in Action. The best bosses are committed to letting their workers work—whether on creative tasks such as inventing new products or on routine things such as assembling computers, making McDonald’s burgers, or flying planes. They take pride in being human shields, absorbing or deflecting heat from inside and outside the company, doing all manner of boring and silly tasks, and battling idiots and slights that make life harder than necessary on their people.
Sidebar Icon Protecting Your People Isn’t Always Practical
As a boss, you can protect your people’s backs in seven ways.


How to Sell an Idea to Your Boss by Roberto Verganti

"My problem is not how to be innovative. My team often comes up with interesting ideas. But when we introduce them to top executives, they always turn them down. How can I convince my boss to invest in our ideas?" The question — asked at the end of a seminar on innovation at a major IT firm — did not surprise me.

One of the hardest challenges for creative people — especially those working in units such as R&D, design, or marketing — is how to win top management's support for their ideas. Many feel that their proposals are killed not because they have poor potential but because their boss simply does not understand them or does not even listen to the presentation. They feel frustrated and dream of working with CEOs like Steve Jobs or Alberto Alessi, who often invest in breakthroughs.


Forget Change Management by Holger Nauheimer

We are living in asynchronous times. There are still a lot of potential clients who haven’t even accepted that their complex projects don’t follow linear patterns. Some have just started to implement change management programmes. On the other side, many, in particular large international companies have gone through myriads of change projects and have experienced that even the smartest change management strategies can’t prevent that 60-80% of those projects fail.

It’s time to change change – forget change management.

Here is my analysis of the crisis of change management:


Ten Principles for Leadership Communication

by Robert P. Gandossy, Hewitt Global Practice Leader for Leadership, Talent, and Employee Engagement

Here are ten principles every great leader should know.
  1. Everything communicates. The way programs, policies, tools, and initiatives are designed and delivered communicates more strongly than the marketing and information about them. As a leader, how you act and what you do, communicates more clearly than the words coming out of your mouth.
  2. Model the behavior you are looking for from others. Communicate with your employees the way you would like to be communicated with — transparent, open, with respect and trust. And do the things you believe matter. If you focus on employees and customers, so will everyone else.
  3. Have a point of view. It's much easier to have consistent communication when you have a clear brand or market-facing value proposition and core values — whatever you want to call it. But whatever you call "it", you better have it. Just be sure it is clear, easy to remember, makes sense for the business, has an element of inspiration, differentiates you as an employer, will hold up for at least ten years, and is everyone's job to live it — and that means you.
  4. What you hear is as important as what you say. Communication is a two-way process. Have a number of upward channels and do something with what you hear — and tell people about it.
  5. You haven't communicated anything until you have been heard by your audiences. Understand your audience. Take a lesson from the marketers — know the demographics and psychographics of your various audiences and tailor communication messages, content, style, and channels to them.
  6. They both end in "tion" but there's a big difference between "information" and "communication". Communication influences thoughts, feelings, and actions. Information simply informs. And how you communicate depends on what you are communicating. If you are trying to engage people, don't use e-mail.
  7. Communicate courageously. If you communicate openly and honestly, you will make some mistakes but those mistakes will be better than the bland, sanitized, and uninspiring communications in many companies. And there will be times when you don't have the answer. Admit it. Your employees will understand and will respect your courage and honesty. Both are in short supply.
  8. Remember you are competing for attention. Every employee receives hundreds of messages every day. Your message competes with all of them. Each person selects what to pay attention to and what to ignore. Why should employees pay attention to messages from you?
  9. If it looks important, it must be important. How you package the communication about programs has a big impact on perceptions of the program itself. Match the packaging to the level of importance. And if you follow up, it must be even more important. Too many executives think once they've communicated, they are done. They couldn't be more wrong. Redundancy matters.
  10. Practice. Great communicators practice. A lot. Writers write and rewrite. Great orators like Winston Churchill and more contemporary speakers like Malcolm Gladwell practice and rehearse. Gladwell writes out every word of every speech. They are good at what they do because they work at it.
And if you do just one thing, do this: Choose future managers for their communication skills as much as their achievements. Front line managers have the greatest influence over an employee's engagement. Managers who are good communicators get more from their direct reports than managers whose strong skills lie elsewhere. Managers who are good communicators are the insurance policy for keeping the best workers focused, engaged, and productive.