Here is an article written by Steve Tobak for BNET, The CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.
Up front, I want to acknowledge that I do not think it is possible to motivate another person. However, I do believe that it is possible to inspire, activate, energize, nourish, and support self-motivation.
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About the biggest mistake successful managers make is thinking they’ve got all the answers. Let’s face it, when you’ve got enough successes and failures under your belt and plenty of gray hair on your head, it’s a natural tendency to spend more of your time talking than listening.
That’s a pitfall none of us should fall into, and that includes me. While it sometimes seems like I have enormous disdain for some “leadership gurus,” especially the academic type, I’m always on the lookout for folks who, like me, have real-world management experience and the inclination to share it with others.
Angel investor, entrepreneur, and former high-tech executive Martin Zwilling appears to be one of those guys. In a post on Business Insider he shares some excellent advice on how to motivate and engage employees, which he says derive from three key factors:
Alignment of the employee with the goals and vision of the company.
Faith of the employee in the competence of management and their commitment to realize the goals and vision.
Trust in their direct supervisor that he or she will support his or her people and help them to succeed.
Zwilling goes on to name 14 management dos and don’ts to help accomplish those three goals and engage your team; I expound on 10 that resonated with me
[Here are five do’s. Tobak also offers fuve don’ts. To read the complete article, please click here.]
1. Don’t send mixed messages to your employees so that they never know where you stand. Nothing gets people running around in circles, chasing their tails, like saying one thing today and flip-flopping tomorrow. Be consistent and clear.
2. Don’t BS your team. Be genuine and straightforward. If your management sets direction you don’t agree with, explain that you don’t always agree with them but then, you’re not the boss. It’s called “disagree and commit” and it is effective.
3. Don’t act more concerned about your own welfare than anything else. Selfish behavior inspires the same in your team.
4. Don’t avoid taking responsibility for your actions. Holding yourself accountable is the only way you can credibly hold others accountable.
5. Don’t jump to conclusions without checking your facts first. Mature leaders never react or overreact to a single data point or event. All that accomplishes is getting others to panic and start pointing fingers.
Above all, remember that the day you stop listening and learning is the day you stop growing as a manager, as a leader … and as a person. In my experience, expertise is both relative and transitory.
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Steve Tobak is a consultant, writer, and former senior executive with more than 20 years of experience in the technology industry. He’s the managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a Silicon Valley-based firm that provides strategic consulting, executive coaching, and speaking services to CEOs and management teams of small-to-mid-sized companies. Find out more at www.invisor.net,
Improvise, innovate, or both? My answer to that question is “both.” To improvise is to make the best of whatever one has…to innovate is to make it better. I agree that Robert Tucker that anyone and everyone within an organization, whatever its size and nature may be, can and should make what they have and whatever they say and do better (i.e. more effective and more efficient, less wasteful). At this point, we are well-advised to consider recent research conducted by highly reputable firms (including Gallup and TowersWatson) that indicates that, on average, less than 30% of a workforce in the US are positively and constructively engaged; about 50-55% are passively engaged, mailing it in, doing only what they must to keep their job, etc.; as for the others, they are actively involved in efforts to prevent the given organization from achieving its objectives.
Of course, Tucker is fully aware of these statistics and their implications. In fact, he suggests (and again I agree) that organizations are putting increasingly greater (often unnecessary and avoidable) pressure on their people to produce more and better work, in less time and at a lower cost. “Simply working harder will not be enough. Relying solely on your functional skills and expertise will not be enough. And even accumulating more years of experience on the job will not be enough.”
“The underlying issue is this: “The system wants to eliminate your job. Nothing personal, you understand. Just the way it is. But you don’t have to give in to anxiety.” OK, then what to do? “The good news is that there is something that you can do to take charge of your career if [HUGE ‘if’] you are willing to consider it. That is what this book is about.” More specially, Tucker does everything humanly possible to help his reader how to master and then continuously strengthen what he calls Innovation Skills, “or I Skills for short.”
One of his most important points is that, with all due respect to improving anything and everything you do and how you do it (i.e. making better rather making the best of), innovation is more than that. “It’s about how to add value where you are and where you work. Innovation is the act of coming up with ideas and successfully bringing them to life to solve problems and create opportunities.” Tucker devotes most of Part 1 to explaining how to develop the mindset that is needed, then in Part 2 he locks in on “seven fundamental I-Skills” needed to become indispensable in today’s hypercompetitive world.”
Although Tucker offers no head-snapping revelations nor claims to, this book can be invaluable to those who wish to strengthen their employable skills and thereby increase their appeal to both a current and future employer as well as to anyone to whom they report; it can also be of substantial benefit to those who have direct reports and wish to help them increase their value in “today’s hypercompetitive world.”
For decades, Robert Tucker has helped hundreds of companies to improve the products and services they offer. In this book, he effectively applies the same principles of innovation to helping people improve their skills and, thereby, their prospects for professional growth and personal fulfillment. Bravo!
Discipline is hard – harder than trustworthiness and skill and perhaps even than selflessness. We are by nature flawed and inconstant creatures. We can’t even keep from snacking between meals. We are not built for discipline. We are built for novelty and excitement, not for careful attention to detail. Discipline is something we have to work at.
Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto
The list of posts on this blog referring to the 10,000 hour rule, the need for deliberate practice, the books Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, is long. We have chronicled the ascendancy of, the centrality of — call it what you will – “work ethic,” “it take s10,000 hours to master anything…” thinking.
The quote that indicts me personally, in a way that I cannot escape, is the one from Gawande: “We can’t even keep from snacking between meals.”
With the exception of our military, we are a flabby lot, and I’m not just talking about girth. We are merely disgusting in that department. I’m talking about our self-discipline, our individual will, our self-respect, our voluntary order.
Note the operative words: self, individual and voluntary.
We don’t need bureaucrats and politicians to dictate how to behave; how to spend (or save); what and how to eat. We need to be the people we were meant to be: strong, resilient, disciplined, entrepreneurial, focused, wise, playful, humorous, humble, thoughtful and, please, self-deprecating. We have all the tools and opportunities a planet can confer.
We are a flabby lot. And it shows – not in a good way. We’ve read all about 10,000 hours, but how many of us actually put in the work?
As always, we are back to the “knowing-doing gap.” We know, we just don’t do…
Take inventory. Be honest with yourself. Are you flabby, undisciplined, unfocused? If so, you’ve got your work cut out for you (as do I). Let’s get to it.
A Quote For The Day From Former President Bill Clinton – With Insight and Reflection On Life-Long Learning
I try to stay away from all things political on this blog. So – please view this not as a political comment. This is a simple observation about one very important life practice – life-long learning.
In the impromptu press conference of Friday, after meeting with President Obama, former President Bill Clinton took a few questions. Here is a line that reveals much:
Let me just say a couple of things. First of all, I still spend about an hour a day trying to study this economy. And I’m not running for anything, and I don’t have a political agenda. I just — I try to figure out what to do.
Bill Clinton, press Conference, December 10, 2010
Bill Clinton has always been known as a serious student, and a serious, continual reader. So, the idea that he would “study” (“study” – this is a serious word!) the economy for about one hour a day seems believable in his case.
But, his statement got me thinking… You know, we throw out the phrase “life-long learner” a lot. But a “learner” has to study. A “life-long reader” may not quite be a “life-long learner,” but a “life-long learner” is probably, almost certainly, a “life-long reader.”
What are you studying regularly? In a serious way? Are you a life-long learner?
Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Marc Cenedella, founder and C.E.O. of TheLadders.com, a job search Web site, says that “How are you doing?” is not a very fruitful interview question.
To read the complete interview and Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.
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An Interview Is More Than a Social Call
Bryant: Tell me about the first time you were a manager.
Cenedella: That was at HotJobs. I’d been at a private equity firm for two years before that, and I inherited a staff of 10 during the dot-com boom, and I learned a whole host of lessons that first year on the job. All of the errors you make as a first-year manager, I made them.
Bryant: Give me a couple of examples.
Cenedella: Not setting expectations, not building relationships first. I’d come out of private equity where it’s about deals. In an operating company, that doesn’t really work.
Bryant: Where did you go from HotJobs?
Cenedella:After we sold HotJobs to Yahoo, I ended up taking six months off and traveled literally around the globe. I thought a lot about what my experience had been and the way I was managed, and what was good or bad about how the company was managed.
Bryant: What was your approach when you started TheLadders seven years ago?
Cenedella: It became a matter of figuring out how to build a team and share with them what inspired me to start the company. There’s a quote from the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that really spoke to me. It says, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
So the management style that I have is first, share your passion. Explain to people why it’s an exciting idea and how they can be involved in it. In an entrepreneurial business, the most important thing, the thing that creates the most excitement and value and interest in the business is the big picture — where are we going. You can destroy little bits of it by all these little errors that you make. But if you fix all of them and you don’t have the big picture, then you’re never going to get there. Really engaging people in that big picture is way more important, I think, to success.
So I’ve learned to do the big-picture stuff, and I can be really great at the analytics — sitting down and running the numbers. What I’ve had to learn over time is the middle part about, O.K., how do you build a team? How do you assign a team to do something? How do you give them enough rope to be successful, and when do you take it back? The middle part has been trial and error for me.
Bryant: Talk more about that.
Cenedella: At 30 employees, you can kind of still be an entrepreneur and see everybody and bark out orders. Beyond that you really can’t, so you have to decide, “Hey, is this what I want to do?” There are many serial entrepreneurs and they go on to the next thing and that’s great. For me, this is something I want to be involved with for my life. And if I’m going to be the manager, I ought to learn more about managing.
Bryant: How did you learn to do it?
Cenedella: Getting a coach is the best thing that you can do. I’ve done four years with two different coaches, and it is just fantastic. There’s what you say and there’s what people hear, and the gap between those two is sometimes enormous. What really matters is what people hear, not what you say.
Being a manager also isn’t about trying to become perfect. You’re not going to stop making errors. But it’s about having a mature appreciation for the fact that you’re a flawed human being. Probably everyone around you is a flawed human being. What are your flaws and how are you going to manage around them? What are your strengths? How are you going to optimize those?
I also learned a good trick, which is to ask somebody, “How are you doing?” They’ll usually say, “Good.” And I’ll say, “No, no, really. How are you doing?” And they’ll answer, “Good.” But then I’ll say, “Tell me what would you say if you weren’t doing good? How would you express that to me?” And then they tell you things. It’s partly little tactics, but the more important part is making it clear that you want to hear what they have to say.
Bryant: How else has your management style evolved, particularly as the company has grown?
Cenedella: For me, the demarcation lines have been 120 employees and 360 employees.
Bryant: How so?
Cenedella: Let me say something that’s going to sound surprising. As C.E.O. today, I actually can’t get anything done. So if I have a really good idea and I go tell people, “Hey, you have to go do this,” or I impose it on them, people wonder, what does he really mean? It’s open to so much misinterpretation and confusion that actually you’re doing more harm for the organization than you are good.
So the job of the C.E.O. becomes, “Hey everybody, what are everybody’s good ideas? O.K., and what’s yours? That’s awesome. What do you think of that? Hmm, now anybody have a different view?”
I came out of Harvard Business School and the case study method, where the professor speaks 10 percent of the time, and the students do the rest. It’s tremendously valuable in business in general. You’ll get better answers than if you, the C.E.O., try to come up with ideas and impose them. You actually get better work out of folks as a result.
Bryant: What else do you do at the company to set the tone you want?
Cenedella: When we do something good, we come together and we celebrate. In baseball, a guy hits a home run, goes around the bases, and all his teammates come out and they give him a high five, and that’s awesome. And then every time somebody hits a home run, they do that.
In business, people tend not to do that enough, so when we achieve a goal, we have to go celebrate. And there are two reasons why we need to do that. As human beings, we’re not emotionally and anthropologically different from who we were on the plains of Africa 100,000 years ago. We need to feel that hey, I’m in a community.
The second reason is that out of everything that I could be focused on in a year, the thing that gets rewarded with a party will be the thing that I really focus on. So I’ll tell everyone, if we hit this mark or we hit that mark, we’re having a party. Then it’s been concretely expressed to the employees that that must be the important thing. So it’s a way to double and triple underline the really important goal.
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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times‘ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.com that he started in March 2009. To contact him, please click here.