Thursday, September 29, 2011

Would You Move Away From A Burning Car?

If you were next to a burning car, assuming there’s no one inside, would you move away? 99% of us would. But, just how far away would you move?

There are two general strands of thought in motivation methods: people move away from something (getting fired, losing the house, getting another heart attack, etc.) or people move toward something (a raise, a bigger house, a new car, etc.). The problem with the first one is that it tends to be short-term.

When that car starts to burn, people in the crowd move quite differently. Some will run away as fast and as far as they can, leaving the scene before the cops can get there to ask questions. Some will walk briskly away. Some will just saunter off a few steps. Most will move a safe distance away, turn around and stare at the car to discuss what happened. A small few will remain too close and get injured or even killed when the gas tank finally explodes.

When the boss comes in and announces that the unit is not producing where it should be and that some people will get fired if performance doesn’t improve, the employees will behave like the crowd and the burning car. Some will really start producing as fast and as much as they can. Some will start producing enough to keep their jobs, but not much more than that. A few will not produce enough and get reprimanded and even fired.

The other problem with this approach to motivation is that it is the easiest thing to do: threaten people with something terrible. It only moves people so far. You have to keep doing it over and over again, and then it becomes a very negative environment.

Moving people toward something is much harder. Which is why most managers don’t do it. You have to know your people and know how their own goals intersect with your organization’s goals. It’s more targeted and requires long-term thinking. That’s hard. Leadership is hard. It requires thinking.

On the other hand,there's the rare organization where people work together to pull everyone away from getting fired, like the crowd that rushed to save a man under the car. That would be a great organization to work for. Is your organization like that?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The answer is not in the's in the PowerPoint®

I use that phrase sometimes: the answer is not in the spreadsheet, it's in the PowerPoint®.

Both really do similar things. They take information and data and organize it. One looks at it in the micro view and the other in the macro view. The spreadsheet provides the dots. The PowerPoint® connects them. This assumes you've done it well. While the meat is in the spreadsheet, people will be able to see the answer in the PowerPoint®.

Good leaders use both effectively but show the answer in terms that are easy to understand and absorb in PowerPoint®. The spreadsheet is the back up when people want details. If all you show is the spreadsheet, it will overwhelm most people. If all you show is the PowerPoint®, it will leave doubts about the details. Effective leaders communicate with both.

Choose your tools well, practice your use of both and use them sparingly.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What's your organizational chart look like?

Seth Godin has an interesting take on the organizational chart. I like the ones describing Microsoft and Apple. I assume Steven Jobs is the red dot in the Apple chart.

The Microsoft one is particularly telling because it has each unit pointing guns at the other units within Microsft! The Oracle one shows way more lawyers than engineers.

In many organizations, instead of arrows showing connections, you might actually include barbed-wire fences and moats between units. In other units, you might show open doors or even no boxes at all.

So, what's your organizational chart look like? More importantly, how does it really work? Instead of arrows and lines, how would you draw your organization and then your unit within the organization?

The actual way an organizational chart works is not a function of its legal formation. It is a result of the leader's style and what he or she allows or not to happen between individuals and units. What atmosphere are you creating with your leadership style?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Never ask for a raise

Never ask for a raise. Ask for a raise wrapped in a challenge that will stretch your capabilities.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Chance Favors The Connected Mind

Steven Johnson has a short but very informative ">video about where ideas come from.

He talks about how some ideas take time to come together and develop. Once they come together, it seems like a stroke of lightning.

Following Steven's line of thought, I will revert to the old Mexican saying, "El diable sabe mas por viejo que por diablo." (The devil knows more because he's so old than because he's a devil.)

Innovation, like good leadership, sometimes takes time to mature.