Heart on your sleeve

Fighting every instinct, trying to communicate vision for a group

Part of being a leader is making sure the vision is communicated. As an innovator, I find that extremely difficult because I don't like repeating myself. I want to find a NEW thing to say.  

I work hard at being a good leader, but I may be missing the very first step. 

So onto my check list goes: Did you repeat yourself today??? IStock_000023187335XSmall

First Round Review: 42 Rules to Lead by from the Man Who Defined Google's Product Strategy, 2010-Apr-2 by Jonathan Rosenberg

#1 Be a broken record.

“When you think you’ve communicated something too much, you’re probably just beginning to get through,” says Rosenberg, stressing the importance of all-hands meetings, regular emails, office hours and team off-sites. Even if you’re truly surrounded by the smartest people you’ve ever met, assume all of them are busy with a hundred other things on their mind. “There is no such thing as too much communication.”

Why building a solid culture is tricky--what you say you believe doesn't matter.

As I build my understanding of leadership and customer experience, I'm frequently struck by leaders who struggle with the idea of culture. They want to extract the necessary culture to achieve their goals. Unfortunately, culture is so deeply rooted in the behavior of the leaders, that trying to manage it is challenging. Leaders have to manage themselves, model the behavior they want to see, and recognize it when performed by employees.  IStock_000022531940XSmall

Many people think good recruitment is the key to culture: 'just hire people with the right values.' Unfortunately, smart employees know how to express the values the company has already declared. In the hiring process, you have to look at how people are behaving, not what they say they believe. 

Culture is more about behavior than stated values. And a big company has thousands of behaviors every second. Culture is defined by the predominant behavior. 

Harvard Business Review: Why "Company Culture" Is a Misleading Term 2015-Apr-21 by John Traphagan

Today, the idea that organizations have cultures is rarely questioned by the media, by corporate executives, or by the consultants who make a living helping organizations improve their “cultures.” ... 

Within any group characterized as having a culture, there are numerous contested opinions, beliefs, and behaviors. People may align themselves to behave in a way that seems as though they buy into expressed corporate values and “culture,” but this is just as likely to be a product of self-preservation as it is of actually believing in those values or identifying with some sloganized organizational culture.

I worked for DEC, liked DEC, and did my best, but I don’t think I can honestly say I was ever committed to the values espoused by the organization. I was interested in a paycheck and in order to get that paycheck, I had to align my identity with the patterns of behavior and thought expected by those who had power over me.

How to live without being defined by edges

I spend way too much time reading. But occasionally I stumble across something that blows open my mind, making it possible for me to reach the next level of achievement, or something... a higher state of existence. If you want to go there youself, stop reading this and instead read The Web's Grain by Frank Chimero. You'll enjoy it more if you have a big screen and you may want to turn your sound low if people are nearby.  

I have a habit of drawing circles that represent a day in my life and then to divide it up and try to proportion my interests to the amount of time I have. The worst part is when I actually label the time of the day on the slices. I'm defining my life by its edges. In real life, I'm always running over those slice edges as things take longer than I anticipated. 

If the edge of a slice is the time when we have to leave to pick up a child from school, then we need to put an alarm bell on it. Otherwise we need to understand that these edges limit us. 

I want to live a life filled with passion. When we're immersed in what we're doing, then we go into "flow," and lose our sense of time. We wake up and realize we've gone over the slice edge. 

We cannot live with passion and define our life by slices. Instead we have to assemble the pieces of our lives in a way that they can hold together. It happens all the time in real life. Things just cohere or stick together. The parts grow unevenly and the shape is unexpected. 

David Hockney: Billy Wilder Lighting His Cigar, 1982


FrankChimero.com: The Web's Grain, 2015-Feb-20 by Frank Chimero

Simply put, the edgelessness of the web tears down the constructed edges in the company. Everything is so interconnected that nobody has a clear domain of work any longer—the walls are gone, so we’re left to learn how to collaborate in the spaces where things connect....

The size of what we’re making is unknown until we know what we’re putting there. So, it’s better to come up with an arrangement of elements and assign them to a size, rather than the other way around. We need to start drawing, then put the box around it. ...the perfect example of not drawing the box until you know what goes in it. [Emphasis mine.]

...we’re creating assemblages of elements, then associating them with the appropriate space.... 

You could say that our current technological arrangement has spread out too far, and it is starting to look and feel wrong. Fortunately, we can treat this over-expansion just like everything else I’ve mentioned. We can draw a line, and create a point of reassembly for what we’ve made. We can think about how to shift, move, and resize the pieces so that they fall back in line with our intentions.

Why you can't motivate other people

Thanks to Ann Iverson for linking up this classic McKinsey article about customer experience. We are reminded that you can manage your company culture and incentives, but you cannot actually motivate people--they decide to act based on their motivation. All you can do is set the stage for them. 

When your organizing your team, you have to anticipate a range of good and bad motivations, plan your own reactions, make some announcements, and consider the messages your own actions are sending. Incentives should allow you to elevate some people as role models without generating too much negative competition. It's one of the hardest jobs we have to do as leaders. 

McKinsey.com: The Moment of Truth in Customer Service, 2006-Feb by Marc Beaujean, Jonathan Davidson and Stacey Madge

As everyone knows, a range of motives drives human beings: from the purely selfish (fear and greed) to the more creative, altruistic, and personally fulfilling (problem solving, artistic excellence, service to others). Great customer service companies are invariably good at allowing people to discover their motivations themselves. After all, these companies know that most frontline employees actually want to help customers and to gain their goodwill. The trick is to allow these employees to express this urge while simultaneously restraining their selfish motives, which experience suggests are incompatible with good behavior at moments of truth.

"People will work hard when they are given the freedom to do the job the way they think it should be done, when they treat customers the way they like to be treated," observed Jim Nordstrom, the former copresident of Nordstrom. "When you take away their incentive and start giving them rules, boom, you've killed their creativity."

Is Friendship Being Changed by Social Media?

My assumptions about friends on social media were up-ended by this story in The Atlantic. A well-connected artist decided to get to know her 600+ Facebook "friends" better. Much to her and my surprise, many casual connections were excited to extend their friendship off-line. She visited and photographed them, usually in their homes.  Tq131020td

My hunch is that social media give us a chance to extend our social life to people we would have liked if we had met them in real life. Also, we can maintain permanent online profiles that help people reinforce their memory and understanding of us. We may really be raising our number of personal relationships in a revolutionary way. 

The Atlantic: How Real Are Facebook Friendships?, 2015-Feb-4 by Jacoba Urist

“Can you really know somebody if you’ve never seen their home?” Hollander asked. “To me, when I started, a friend was someone whose house you knew, someone you had eaten dinner with, but now I’ve realized that might not be as important to the definition of friendship.”  She felt an immediate sense of connection to the Facebook friends she visited, even those she had never met physically—as did they, she believes, evidenced by the high participation rate.

Trying not to frighten people by talking about innovation all the time

In reviewing the challenges and frustrations of the past year, it's clear I need to do more to build trust. Not trust that I'm honest, but trust that I'm dependable and responsible. I clearly spend too much time trying to encourage people to take risks.  Tq-120720-td

Innovation Excellence: Re-Framing Innovation in 2015, 2015-Jan-1 by Mukesh Gupta

Re-framing failure as "iterations" provides the employees the necessary cushion to explore slightly more riskier insights/ideas when going after innovation.

As with most of the challenges relating to culture, leaders should start talking and behaving in a way that not only tells the employees that it is OK to go after big challenges and fail now and then as long as they are able to admit failure, learn from the failure and do so quickly and cheaply, continue to pivot and address the challenge through pursuing different insight/ideas.

Why the power of relationships drives my work

Lately I've been questioning what it is that I do. Where do I contribute? I know that my passion is in helping businesses build stronger relationships. Too many businesses look for transactions. But transactions, whether of love or commerce, arise because people think they can do something better with you than without you. David Brooks expressed it beautifully when recently talking about the movie Interstellar.  Tq131020td

NY Times Opinion Pages: Love and Gravity, 2014-Nov-20 by David Brooks

Nolan introduces the concept of quantum entanglement. That’s when two particles that have interacted with each other behave as one even though they might be far apart. He then shows how people in love display some of those same features. They react in the same way at the same time to the same things.... 

...People have always bent their worldviews around the latest scientific advances. After Newton, philosophers conceived a clockwork universe. Individuals were seen as cogs in a big machine and could be slotted into vast bureaucratic systems.

But in the era of quantum entanglement and relativity, everything looks emergent and interconnected. Life looks less like a machine and more like endlessly complex patterns of waves and particles. Vast social engineering projects look less promising, because of the complexity, but webs of loving and meaningful relationships can do amazing good.