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Archive for July, 2007

Jul
24

Business As Unusual

Today I was talking to some media clients, who – like almost all our media clients – are focused on figuring out how to operate in the space where TV and interactive/digital/ new media (call it what you will) overlap. We’re supporting them to envision a future business quite different from the one they’re operating now — and almost completely different from the one they were operating fifteen years ago!

It’s one of the most difficult things, I think, for organizations to come up against: their core business changing out from under them. There’s a wide variety of possible responses, few of them useful.

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For instance, think about the whole complex of organizations that supported the horse as a mode of transportation in the early twentieth century: stables, horse breeders and sellers, carriage builders, makers of tack and whips, etc. etc. As automobiles started to become more common, what did all those people do? Well, some of them saw the writing on the wall, and gradually switched their businesses to the analogous new businesses: from building carriages to building cars; from making tack and whips to making driving gloves and leather seats. Some people, though, resisted the idea that their business was going the way of the dinosaur, and thought they could succeed by just becoming the very best at what they did…breed the fastest horses, make the most modern coaches. And some people even fought actively aginst the new: in England, for instance, the horse-and-carriage lobby passed a law around the beginning of the 20th century requiring that a man walk in front of each car as it drove, waving a red flag! (People began to ignore it almost immediately.)

I’m sure you can draw the parallels: all around us, organizations are denying the seismic changes brought by technology, or actively fighting aginst those changes that threaten their traditional businesses. Only some are trying to figure out how to transition and/or incorporate the new into their existing businesses.

Those are the organizations – and individuals – that will continue to thrive and prosper.

In the words of George Santayana,”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Let’s reflect on the successes of those left standing after previous changes, and follow their example.

Posted in News

Jul
19

Simplify

Link: Productivity Cafe.

Here’s a cool blog I just found. This woman, Susan Sabo, is a productivity expert, and offers practical, simple, good-natured advice on – as she says – “getting things done, being effective, and having some fun.”

Since nearly everyone I know seems to be continually on the edge of overload, this seems like a real service to humanity!

Now, if someone could just figure out how to simplify the US tax code…

Posted in Work

Jul
15

What?

Sometimes I find things on the internet that simply astonish me. As I was wandering around tonight I found a blog with some “advice” to managers — this was meant seriously, mind you — to the effect that in times of change, it’s important not to let employees know too much, because they may get upset and become less productive.

I really, really, hate it when “gurus” advise people to behave in ways they would never want someone to behave toward them. Really, think about it. What if the person who gave that advice was working in an organization and his boss didn’t tell him about a critical change that would affect him. And then, later, when the “guru” found out and objected to being kept out of the loop — imagine if the boss said, “Well, I was worried you’d get upset and lose your focus.” How do you think the guru would feel?

Right. Insulted and angry.

So, why do people give advice like that? I think it’s because they see themselves as being different and better than mere “employees.” It’s a kind of organizational caste system that is simply bad business: my experience is that if you treat people like recalcitrant children, that’s how they’ll behave.

Generally, as a manager, you won’t go too far wrong if your treat people with the kind of respect you’d like to get from them.

Posted in Leading People

Jul
8

Justified Crankiness

Link: TPN :: The Cranky Middle Manager Show .

Check this out – what a wonderful service this guy is doing: it’s a blog with great podcasts (interviews and opinions) by Wayne Turmel. He says, “this is the podcast for middle managers – those too low on the food chain to claim omnipotence and too high on the food chain to claim ignorance.”

As you know, in the words of Bill Clinton, I feel their pain. One of my rallying cries, and the point of my book, is that managers get way too little help to succeed. Wayne is funny, smart and irreverant (an example – he uses King Lear’s problems with succession planning as an example of how people drive their bosses crazy…you have to listen to get it), and he’s offering good and bracing insight for managers.

Party on, Wayne.

Posted in Organizations

Jul
7

8CR Again

A quick post before I head out into this beautiful summer day. Just found out from the 800CEOREAD folks that Growing Great Employees was in their top five best seller list twice in the past ten days: #1 on June 25th, and #3 on July 3rd.

Many thanks for buying my book, whoever you are — and I hope you enjoy it and find it useful!

Posted in Books

Jul
4

A Mixed Bouquet

I was sitting in a meeting this afternoon, one being conducted by other people, so I had the opportunity to put my attention fully on listening and watching, vs. managing or facilitating. I learned a tremendous amount, and I had a chance to observe a leader for whom I have a great deal of respect, as she navigated through this very complicated and delicate meeting.

Not only did she do a truly fine job, I was struck by her style of leading. She’s much more patient than I am, and tends to bring people around to her point of view gradually and on their own terms, by listening very deeply and then responding calmly and objectively. It was a pleasure to watch almost everyone in the room (myself included) eventually have his or her own “ah-ha” about the validity of her insight.

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Now, in order to be effective, her style requires a strong team: because she gives people so much credit, leeway and authority — they have to be capable of dealing with it well! Fortunately, she also has a great eye for talent and is an excellent people manager. So it works for her.

It’s not always the best way to approach a situation — but it often is. And her particular brand of extremely inclusive leadership, I find, is in short supply. If more leaders had some of those tools in their toolkit, work would definitely work better.

But the main thing I saw – yet again – was, as my mother used to say, that there is more than one way to skin a cat. Horrible saying, but you get the jist: there’s usually not just one “right” way to do things. Another leader might have dealt with the same situation in a more directive way and been equally effective; someone else might have used humor; yet another person might have gotten good results by (respectfully) requiring people to make their case. I’ve seen it all, and I’ve seen it work.

There are some core qualities I think all good leaders need (I intend to talk about that in my next post), but beyond that, good leaders come in many flavors….

And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Posted in people