Articles

Play Hard. Play Fair. Nobody Hurt. Simple rules for great meetings and teams

March 7, 2014

Working together is hard. Running an effective meeting can be even harder. One of the challenges is that everyone wants to be heard. To make it even more challenging, not everyone speaks up.

Setting a few ground rules is one of the surest ways to get everyone engaged while producing amazing results. Let it be known that you expect full engagement and everyone to be pulling in the same direction. My favorite set of ground rules comes out of the “New Games” movement from the 70’s. Their motto was Play Hard. Play Fair. Nobody Hurt. I can’t think of a better set of guiding principles for great meetings and vibrant teams.

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Mentors are everywhere, you just need to know what to look for

February 28, 2014

Success can be finicky. For those who have made it big, the real reasons for their success are rarely the things they remember and write about. The building blocks of success are always much more subtle and nuanced.

This is where mentors come in.

In our quest for growth, progress, and success, we have this latent desire for someone who will take us under their wing and co-pilot our journey from the mailroom to the corner office. Or, more realistically, we imagine a relationship with a mentor who meets with us once or twice a month over a long period of time and imparts wisdom like a college professor working through a syllabus.

It doesn't work that way.

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Pictogram of two rowers

Build the Team First

February 19, 2014

In typical entrepreneurial circles — business schools, incubators, venture capital firms — nascent company leaders are relentlessly challenged with two questions:

  1. What is your idea or product?
  2. Who is your market?

While these questions are important, they fail to paint the whole picture. No product makes it to market as originally conceived. Further, no company survives for very long with one product. This means that, even during the earliest days of a company’s existence, there is something more fundamental to a startup’s success than the product idea.

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Portrait of Jennifer Kahnweiler

The Rise of the Introverts

February 19, 2014

Jennifer Kahnweiler was interviewed by the American Management Association.

I am often asked why we are hearing so much about introverts. “They are everywhere”, someone told me recently. No, they have always been everywhere but now you are noticing their existence … I call it the “rise of the introverts”. Part of it is the influence of the new wave of leadership where people are not command and control anymore. There’s more research coming out that says that people who are more humble, quiet and calm tend to get more results without a lot of noise, with those loud rattling of the sabers.

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Cover of "To Sell is Human" by Daniel Pink

To Sell Is Human

February 14, 2014

Daniel Pink is a master of the art of the amplification of curated research. Like his kindred spirit, Malcolm Gladwell, Pink has taken keen insights in real life, organized them into a theme, woven the theme together with interesting and germane research, and capped it all off with regular doses of great advice.

This is not a book about sales — at least not in the classic sense. Instead, To Sell Is Human is a book for people who want to improve other’s lives and make the world a better place. I’m guessing that includes just about all of us.

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Employee Talent Hiding in Plain Sight

February 11, 2014

We have a tendency to think that past performance is an indicator of future results. And yet, we know this isn’t true in other realms. The financial industry warns us with every earnings call and SEC filing that past performance is not an indicator of future results. However, in building our organizations and in leading others we make exactly this mistake.

We can use Matthew McConaughey’s career as a lens to explore how someone’s potential might be hiding in plain sight. McConaughey had some early career success and seemed to be coasting on a wave of celebrity. He was popular, no doubt, but deemed only a mediocre talent by most critics.

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Man trying to work out how to get a square peg into a round hole.

Have we been looking at 'cultural fit' all wrong?

February 6, 2014

Most of the time — especially when we are looking to hire someone — we put a lot of emphasis on cultural fit. We’ve got a round hole and we go looking for a round peg.

I’m afraid that we’ve got the idea of ‘fit’ backwards. You don’t go looking for someone who fits. You start by articulating what fit looks like on your team and then go looking for someone willing and able to adapt.

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Team Dynamics: Learn, Improve, Repeat.

January 31, 2014

Continuous Improvement” is a mantra for just about all areas of our businesses and — if we’re ambitious — our lives. Companies make huge investments in everything from lean manufacturing to agile software development knowing that the best way to make things better is through steady and continual improvement. We reengineer our business processes to have feedback loops so we can learn from what we have done and build on those learnings.

Learn. Improve. Repeat.

It’s a no-brainer, right? The relentless pursuit of perfection, as Lexus would say. Everything is fair game. Nothing is exempt from the beneficent outcomes of continuous improvement…

Well, almost nothing.

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A triangle of three people drawn on a yellow sticky note with a circle of arrows pointing to each one.

Advice to Writers (and Leaders)

January 29, 2014

Tim Siedell (aka BadBanana) is one of my favorite personalities on Twitter. His tweets are always good for a smile.

Last fall he was interviewed by Jon Winokur on a site called Advice to Writers. Tim’s insights strikes me as great advice for leaders too.

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Let's Make 2014 The Year of the Strong Organization

January 8, 2014

"The only way to change the world is through strong organizations. No visionary leader, no charismatic leader can change the world unless they know how to build an organization and a team around them."
— Sally Blount, Dean of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

We all need a livelihood. For most of us, that means going to work at companies and in organizations. Unfortunately, too many of those organizations manage to suck the life out of us. It doesn't have to be this way. I kick off 2014 with a call to put an end to the dysfunction and the insanity. Dilbert has been published since 1989. Why haven't our organizations evolved at all in the last 24 years? Why is it still funny?

Join me in making 2014 the year of building great organizations.

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