Category Archives: learning

Bob Sutton’s 15 Beliefs:

  1. Sometimes the best management is no management at all — first do no harm!
  2. Indifference is as important as passion.
  3. In organizational life, you can have influence over others or you can have freedom from others, but you can’t have both at the same time.
  4. Saying smart things and giving smart answers are important. Learning to listen to others and to ask smart questions is more important.
  5. Learn how to fight as if you are right and listen as if you are wrong: It helps you develop strong opinions that are weakly held.
  6. You get what you expect from people. This is especially true when it comes to selfish behavior; unvarnished self-interest is a learned social norm, not an unwavering feature of human behavior.
  7. Getting a little power can turn you into an insensitive self-centered jerk.
  8. Avoid pompous jerks whenever possible. They not only can make you feel bad about yourself, chances are that you will eventually start acting like them.
  9. The best test of a person’s character is how he or she treats those with less power.
  10. The best single question for testing an organization’s character is: What happens when people make mistakes?
  11. The best people and organizations have the attitude of wisdom: The courage to act on what they know right now and the humility to change course when they find better evidence.
  12. The quest for management magic and breakthrough ideas is overrated; being a master of the obvious is underrate
  13. Err on the side of optimism and positive energy in all things.
  14. It is good to ask yourself, do I have enough? Do you really need more money, power, prestige, or stuf
  15. Jim Maloney is right: Work is an overrated activity
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Creating sustainable competitive advantage

No successful web company (not eBay, Flickr, Amazon, Facebook…) succeeds because of a significant technological barrier to entry. It’s not insanely difficult to copy what they’ve done. Yet they win and the copycats don’t.

Few organizations succeed in the long run because of proprietary technology. Not Starbucks or CAA or Nike, certainly. Not Caterpillar or Reuters either.

Technologists often tell me, “this product is very hard to build, that will insulate us from competition and protect our pricing.” It might. For a while. But once you’re successful, the competition will figure out a way. They always do.

So, what to do?

  • You can own something that’s hard to copy (like real estate).
  • You can race down the pricing and scale curve, so it’s cheaper for you to do what you do because you have a head start.
  • You can create switching costs, so that the hassle and cost of moving to a cheaper competitor is so great, it’s just not worth it.
  • You can build a network (which can take many forms–natural monopolies are organizations where the market is better off when there’s only one of you).
  • You can build a brand (shorthand for relationships, beliefs, trust, permission and word of mouth).
  • You can create a constantly innovating organization where extraordinary employees thrive.

The reason the internet is such a home to wow business models is that it’s easier to create a network here than any other time in history.

Change Initiatives and Employee Engagement

According to a recent global study by Right Management, 94% of employees who report that change was not handled well in their organizations – are disengaged.

Drawing from research of 28,000 employees in 15 countries, Right Management’s key findings from the global study include:

  • Employee engagement is a key driver of organizational effectiveness and directly impacts productivity and profitability.
  • Best-performing organizations manage change nearly four times more effectively. In top-performing companies (defined as those achieving higher revenue and above-average customer loyalty profit results), 60% of employees responded that “change is handled effectively in my organization,” compared to 16% of employees in below-average performing organizations.
  • Less than half (43%) of employees are confident in their organization’s change process. One in three employees believes their organization does not handle change effectively.
  • The biggest downfall for senior leaders is the perception that they do not follow through on what they say they will do. Less than half (47%) agreed that senior leaders communicated change effectively; 54% of employees doubted senior leaders’ ability to respond appropriately to changing external conditions.
  • Organizations that do not manage change well are four times more likely to lose talent. Twenty percent of employees who perceived change was not handled effectively indicated they planned to leave within one year versus only 5% of employees who held a favorable view. The latter planned to stay for at least five years.
  • Ineffective change management can lead to lower levels of job confidence. Of the employees who reported that change management was not handled well, 45% expressed favorable feelings about not losing their job within 12 months, while 32% did not. This is in stark contrast to organizations with effective change management, where 80% of respondents had positive feelings about keeping their job versus only 7% who did not.
  • Ineffective change management negatively impacts an organization’s ability to attract talent. When employees reported that change was managed poorly in their organizations, 75% of respondents had concerns with their company’s ability to attract talent.

Be like Farve with Skeptical Team

In the category of “Man, I wish I’d written that,”  my blogging friend Mike Figliuolo had a great post last week called “Ten Reasons Your Team Hates You.”   It was a brilliant piece with so true they might hurt items such as you don’t fight for them,  you micromanage, you’re a suck up and you’re above getting your hands dirty.   It’s gotten a lot of well deserved attention, is definitely worth a read and is a post you’ll likely want to share with others.

Brettfavre So, it was with Mike’s post in the back of my mind that I watched Brett Favre lead the Vikings this week to a 30 – 23 win over his old team, the Packers, on Monday Night Football.  If you follow football at all, you understand why I’m making the connection between Mike’s “Why Your Team Hates You” post and Favre. Even non-sports fans are likely aware and completely sick of Favre’s multi-year act of will he retire or not retire, who will he play for, when will he play, etc., etc., etc. He’s done about as much as he possibly can to make his colleagues skeptical of his motives and intent. And yet, the Vikings at 4 and 0 so far this season seem to be gelling around him.

If you take the publicity, the uniforms and the bone crunching hits out of the equation, Favre appears to be successfully doing what you’ll likely have to do at least once in your career – stepping in to lead a team that for whatever reason is skeptical of your motives and has their doubts about whether or not you’re the right leader. In spite of all the drama baggage he carries with him, Favre is winning the Vikings over. How is he doing it? Here are a few things he’s doing that I think apply to leaders in fields other than football:

Win: Winning games – whatever that looks like in your context – can solve a lot of problems. Favre brings the skills and the experience of a winner to the Vikings. He’s getting it done.  It’s a lot easier for a leader to win the team over win he or she brings the talent and experience needed to help them win.

Spread It Around: Prior to his Monday night win, Favre had changed his game plan of firing off passes to one that got a lot of other players involved in the game. The Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson, has been a key part of their offense this year. When a leader sets things up so everyone gets to contribute at the full extent of their talent, there’s a much better chance of full engagement from the team.

Throw Some Blocks: On a fairly regular basis, you can see Favre throwing a block downfield to help clear a path for one of his runners. This is his way of counteracting Mike Figliuolo’s point about not getting your hands dirty.  By throwing a block, Favre is stepping out of his role to help make his team successful.  Leaders in every field need to look for and act on their own opportunities to “throw a block” for their team.

Keep It Light: Say what you will about Favre, when he’s on the field he looks like he’s a lot of fun to play with. He jokes, he jumps around, he bumps his teammates in celebration, he gives noogies. I’m not suggesting that you give noogies to your teammates, but there are ways to keep it light. Look for them. (Just don’t go over the line. Michael on The Office offers weekly examples of what over the line looks like.)

Passion: If you’re still playing in the NFL at almost 40 years old, it’s safe to say that you have a fair amount of passion for the game.  Favre clearly does. The presence of the leader influences the presence of the team.  Favre’s passion is infecting the Vikings in a positive way. Showing your commitment and passion through your words and action is a great way to win over your team. Watch out though.  If passion is all you bring to the table, you’re likely to lose them.  Remember the first Favre lesson. It helps to win.

The Five Reasons Strategies Fail

In a recent survey of 163 CEOs by Forbes Insights in conjunction with the Association for Strategic Planning and the Council of Public Relations Firms, chief executives report that one-third of corporate strategies fail, and they fail for five reasons.

The five reasons why strategies fail are:

  1. Unforeseen external circumstances (24 percent).
  2. A lack of understanding among those involved in developing the strategy and what they need to do to make it successful (19 percent).
  3. The strategy itself is flawed (18 percent).
  4. There is a poor match between the strategy and the core competencies of the organization (16 percent).
  5. There is a lack of accountability or of holding the team responsible (13 percent).

The whitepaper, “The Powerful Convergence of Strategy, Leadership and Communications” can be downloaded here.

Why People Cheat – a little

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Failure: The Secret to Success