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Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Two Faces of I

I” is a very powerful pronoun, but it has two distinct personalities – no doubt you have observed both.

I” can be used to convey power and significance to the subject at hand – the speaker is going all in as the poker players would say – infusing their knowledge, experience, and reputation into the statement. They are signaling commitment and purpose. Some examples:

I know (personal knowledge)
I learned (personal experience)
My (I) vision (path to the future)
I will (personal commitment)
I promise (personal assurance).

Used in this fashion “I” creates a spotlight and the speaker is center stage – everyone else is outside the circle of light – in the shadows, unnoticed. “I” is inclusive of you and exclusive of all others.

Thus, the second personality – as strong as the pronoun is to focus attention on you, it is equally as powerful for excluding the others from being acknowledged. Please consider the message in the following:

I grew the revenue
I won the contract
I increased sales
I launched the new product line
I developed the new service.

If you were leading a successful team, department, division, or organization, your “I” contributes to the outcome but the accomplishment of others are significant factors in achieving the great results. Using “I” ignores the others, even when their participation is assumed or implied.

The use of “WE” is inclusionary, bringing the other contributors into the picture, sharing credit for attaining the goal.

Great leaders are mindful that the effective use of “I” can can build credibility with customers and stronger team bonds without diminishing leadership effectiveness or awareness.

The leaders' adage is: share the credit for success, but be first to accept the blame for mistakes. The corollary is “I” is a solo spotlight, but “WE” shares the glory.

To illustrate the two faces of “I”, recall the reaction to an organization's leader who repeatedly says “I” while speaking about the success of the organization; now recall the reaction when listening to a leader who talks about how “WE” achieved superior results. Which approach is more effective? For customers; for employees?

Great leaders share the spotlight with sincerity and avoid the ego trap of rhetorically claiming sole credit for success.

Entertaining experience - Sales Lab Video Channel

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Leadership Is Actions and Words

Even when he was a little guy, my son had picked up some mannerisms and used some phrases that mirrored mine. I first made this discovery when he had a vocabulary of only three 'words': ma, da, chit – he learned the latter term when I got to the bank after the drive-in window had closed for the weekend (long before ATMs).

Our kids are like a sponge – they absorb everything and are constantly observing parents for the standard of how to do and act.

I was under constant scrutiny – my actions and conversations were a model for my son's development – it was an inspiring (and scary) realization for me – for him, I was a role model.

Actions and words of a leader have a similar impact on their followers and others outside the organization.

George Washington was a masterful leader in words and deeds. Notable examples are how he retained the army for the second crossing of the Delaware and the Cornwallis surrender.

A pivotal point in the Revolutionary War was the crossing of the Delaware for the battle of Trenton – unfortunately, the commitment of virtually all army troops had expired before the operation could be launched. General Washington got no takers when offering to pay the soldiers, but got an overwhelming response when he spoke with the troops, saying that they would never have another opportunity in their lifetime which would have such a significant effect on the future of the country and their freedom, as was facing them right now – and that he would be honored to have them fighting by his side to succeed in winning the battle – leading by example and appealing to the higher purpose.

The Army defeated the British in the seige of Yorktown, General Cornwallis sent a message that they wished to surrender and wanted to present his sword to General Washington to complete the process.

Washington refused to accept the sword, instead indicating his second in command, Benjamin Lincoln, would be the recipient. Lincoln had been defeated by Cornwallis in an earlier battle and honoring Lincoln in this manner would salve the pain of that loss, as well as signify Washington's continuing confidence in his Second. Also, this would make the defeat more memorable to Cornwallis, when his sword was not received by the leader of the Revolutionary Army.

As with a parent and child, the leader's actions are always being observed, his or her words are listened to and interpreted, and the leader's consistency in saying what they do and doing what they say is constantly monitored. Success is determined by the collective results – which achieved by the words and actions of the leader and the reception and implementation by the followers.

A leader who keeps in mind the effect of actions, words, and the consistency of the two may be successful in avoiding the equivalent of a three word vocabulary which includes an inappropriate word.

Rainmakers – insight in 300 seconds

Monday, October 28, 2013

Management Reports

Management reports remind me of the peephole in my front door. I seldom see anything I recognize.

Management reports are backward-looking documents, rehashing the recent past. Often used as part of a roll-up, by people charged with repeating others’ reports, usually without understanding them. (See GIGO)

At best, they represent 90 minutes of diversion condensing the last 50 hours/30 days/90 days of work.

Worse is a response of “Let’s discuss,” which turns into hours of the dance of gray fantasy, “Tell me what you want, I’ll agree.” A smart economist told me last month, You don't torture a dataset until it confesses.

If the right answers were available, don’t you think I’d have put ’em in there? I wrote one of these reports last week.

Ever notice that when the right answers are available, they are no longer worthy of the report? We’ve already moved to a next stage.

Just checking, did we get through the next gate when I wasn’t paying attention?” It’s a management fantasy, like being on a cruise ship and waking up in a new port.

If you weren’t going to use management reports to reverify known history again, or trying to change reality to observers’ preconceptions, what might you do?

I’ve always found management reports are light on senior commitments, “When I come down the trail, hotly pursued by the entire population of hostiles, you’re sure you will have that skyhook rented and ready?” 

I assure you, we’ll really try our best!”

Or what about celebration? The middle of a project can get kind of dreary, or it can be wonderful. That’s up to manglement. Which do you think gets you better work product?

Heck, something good must have happened, otherwise how will we remember what good is?

If you’re just going to roll up your GIGO, how about supplying some top down information that improves strategy, speed, or safety? Best practices are either blindingly obvious or they’re fiction. Best practices are hard work, a lot like blogging, and that’s why we pay the top guys the big bucks.

How would you improve this list?

Tips 4 The Big Chair – Goodness that will curl your toes!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Backhoes and Bureaucracy

We use tools because they make us more efficient, able to get more done, with less effort.

I use tools a lot, for construction, software development, management, leadership, organizing, travel, and I appreciate mechanics who can really use a tool.

I worked a summer with Sterling Guthrie, backhoe artist. He had a totally different way of thinking about work and a more creative relationship with gravity than did men who stood on the ground. He would use his backhoe for up, down, sideways, and twist, saving hundreds of man hours and increasing the production and safety of our crew. Sterling got more completed work out of his backhoe than any man I’ve known.

I was remembering Sterling last week while I was on a Caribbean cruise. Every time we left or came back on the ship we ran a security gauntlet. Ship’s crew, mainly from the Philippines and Eastern Europe, ran us through a scanner at a brisk pace, 100% document check, speaking to each of us by name, actively looking for signs of “not right.” They were smiling, because smiling increased their engagement with each passenger, they were engaged because they were going to be on the ship if anything went wrong, they were establishing personal connections because that is what experience professionals do.

For that cruise, we started from the Port of Baltimore, saving time, complexity, and the security-by-threat of air travel. That was a major bonus.

While I was on the cruise I got to think about why our government had shut down my municipal golf course, memorials, cultural institutions. How had they ever gotten authority to spread that misery?

I remembered a conversation with an in-law a couple of years ago. He was explaining the healthy pay bump he got from carrying a gun to his job, “I’m not a toll collector, I’m a bridge guard!” I couldn’t help myself, “Really? How many get away?”

When we came back, we went through US Customs, after 6 runs through private security screening that week. This time there was no engagement, no encouragement, with a crew who had decided our security was best protected by being unhappy and uninvolved.

Providing negative reinforcement, making no reinforcement the desired state, misses half the available reinforcement response. Our official customs experience was a little less efficient than an open doorway.

I used to accept the occasional government foul up as a part of being a citizen. As business and social groups have gotten more efficient, the government I interact with has lowered their successful completion baseline, while increasing their citizen-threat behavior.

A bureaucracy is a tool, just like a backhoe. If the operator can’t provide value while delighting the customer, it’s time to get another operator.

Sometimes you have to Drop The Other Shoe

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


A Full Bird in the Pentagon said, “All computing is logistics.” Since he was a customer, he wasn’t wrong. The customer may not always be right, but they are never wrong.

Figuring that code is the record of culture, perhaps logistics is more.

Jack and I are watching the crash-and-burn of four organizations. Previously successful efforts, crashing vigorously.

They are each useful, fill a need, and are leaving a lot of anxious customers.

In each case, management got bored with logistics, the blocking and tackling of doing the business. They started focusing on something grander.

A couple of years ago, United had a commercial, black and white, about a manager saying business was down. And they were going to come back. So he started handing out airline tickets to go see the customers. And things were going to get better.

I liked that commercial. I see too many people with an intense internal focus.

Reports aren’t work. Reports are reports of work.

How much of your day adds value? Do you even have a working definition of value?
“Um, good coffee. Tasty!”

Perfecting logistics can make a healthy organization.

Monday, October 14, 2013


I was reading Reagan In His Own Hand, a collection of drafts Ronald Reagan wrote for his radio show and other presentations. The premise of the 550 page book is that since the talking heads knew Reagan was a dolt, it might be interesting to see what he actually wrote.

I never heard his radio show, and even today I would rather read a transcript than listen to a podcast, so this was fun for me.

I saw how Reagan developed a strong sense of what worked and what didn’t in this world interviewing and analyzing people who were making things happen. How he adjusted his views as he discovered new data.

When he later had an off-the-cuff observation (or “soundbite” as the talking heads say), it wasn’t a first time thought, it was the result of years of study.

Can’t Get A Break Department:
From Praise for Reagan, In His Own Hand (blurbs in the front of the book),

“These speeches certainly show what the (book) editors contend: ‘The wide reading and deep research self-evident here suggest a mind constantly at work.’ How come I – and my colleagues – never discovered these Reagan depths? To use another response that sounds like Reagan: ‘It beats me.’”
    - Godfrey Sperling, The Christian Science Monitor

No shame, no embarrassment, no outrage at revealing yourself as a lightweight. My spiritual counselor calls it “surface thinking.”

Back in the late ’60’s, I was a journalist, and the only way I could get accurate reporting on Vietnam was Nat Hentoff in the Village Voice. A jazz columnist, fer cryin’ out loud, who was angry enough to wade through the disinformation to get pieces of the story.

Knowing more didn’t make me popular, kinda made me sad, and greatly reduced the surprises. Same way I felt reading Reagan In His Own Hand.

Today the trustworthy news I find comes largely from bloggers. Solution oriented thinking comes mostly from bloggers. Examples of good behavior comes from bloggers.

But if you want to have a simple solution that exercises your emotions, without getting the details right, try a news outlet. They are in the business of selling hope and pills.

The Internet makes everything available, Finding trustworthy information takes work. Why would you want the right stuff?

WordPictures – Phrases That Lit The Bulb

Friday, October 11, 2013

Thank Goodness for Customers

We truly appreciate our customers for buying our goods and services – without them we would merely have a hobby instead of a business.

However, customers provide us with several valuable resources and contributions which may not be as obvious...less top-of-the-head mindfulness on our part.

  • Customers keep us sharp and competitive – they have an expectations of us for providing value, quality, and service
  • Customers tell others about our goods and services – bragging on our behalf when we exceed their expectations; warning others when we don't
  • Customers give us feedback and suggestions – good, bad, or indifferent, they periodically have something to say and share it with us
  • Customers like value, but expect fairness – when something goes wrong they expect a fair, hassle-free solution
  • Customers demonstrate affiliation and loyalty by alerting us of problems or situations – often they are the first to report a problem with our on-line presence or alert us early about things like an emerging trend in slow delivery
  • Customers realize we're not always perfect but expect us to strive toward practical perfection – how quickly do we identify and correct problems; are we innovating by adopting proven new technology
  • Customers want to be treated with respect and consideration – they expect to us to follow up on commitments – like a promised return call or sending additional information
  • Customers like simple and easy transactions – simple items like recognizing a returning customer so we can complete routine and contact information from stored data
  • Customers return to buy again where they have a relationship and receive value, quality, and service – we can control all these variables.

Organizations that recognize the value of the customer beyond just today’s sale have a precious resource to aid in their success – like the 12th player on the field for some football teams – the fanswhich have a huge influence on the outcome of the game by being engaged and enthusiastic.

Organizations with no direct customers, or who do not recognize the contributions by the customers, will have a harder time achieving success. Know of any?

Philosopher George Santayana said: those who do not learn from history are obliged to repeat it mistakes – a business corollary of today is: organizations who do not recognize the value of listening to their customers are bound to make the same mistakes repeatedly, but not to the same customers (they have moved on).

Sales Lab Posts a fresh outlook

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Project Template

Do you keep templates for improving your next project?

I build organizations, teams, destinations on the internet, and publications, and for each project, I have one or several Benefits of Hindsight Templates. With a nod to Professor Keith, I wanta know now what I shoulda known then...

I was talking with Jack about a professional editors response to my exact typography standards, when he said, “Well you use them several times a year, of course you know them better than someone just feeling their way.” Those standards have been developing since 1989, when the other Robin Williams published The Mac Is Not A Typewriter. Before that I had been setting standards by eye on the Vydek and then Trash 80. Didn’t do any good to set standards on .dos, because every printer was different.

The other night when I was talking with a magazine editor, who asked for my opinion of her work. I had some specific improvements, and was giving her a string of numbers for changing her typography in both Word and open source software. She stopped me, saying, “Is there open source software I could use for setting my publications?”

Well now, that’s another template. And that template came from my Pagemaker Ninja status, where I learned, “You become a ninja when the sun comes and you hadn’t intended it to.”

The other Pagemaker story was when they ported it to Windows, one of my clients ran out and bought copies for their code wranglers, since they had been been giving me their data, I would go home at night and come back with their finished product.

We tried their Windows version, and it sat there like a lump and blinked at us..

Finally, I got frustrated and started suggesting Mac keyboard commands to the operators. The file started to take shape, but it was hard work.

Eventually, we shipped, and one of the programmers brightly said, “Well that’s the difference between Windows and Mac. Mac has keyboard commands.” Aargh! Something like that.

My Doctor Of Proposals is smart, but that CD with his previous creative solutions makes him a force of nature. He’s like Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity, the combining of man and machine.

It’s not the words or data, it’s how they were used, the creative solution, that gets us to the next level. It’s not the length of the wand, but the magic of the magician.

So many people don’t keep their lessons, so they are doomed to repeat them, usually losing details and quality.

The beauty of templates is that all those details that were so brilliant at the time don’t get away. That let’s me spend my time on the new details.

What do you save to take forward?

Moments of Truth – New Strategies for Today’s Customer Driven Economy

Friday, October 4, 2013

Cutting Development Time

I read that Jeff Bezos of Amazon makes champions of new projects start by writing an imaginary press release about the benefits of the new project. That’s nice.

Then after a while, I understood. This is different from typical development, where you build something and then try to figure out the benefits.

By starting with the benefits, when there is still energy to edit and improve, we get the very best benefits, the sparkling benefits. That cuts out a lot of trial-and-error development, and makes a more purpose-designed product, slimmer and more elegant.

Instead of picking up the castoff ideas from the shop floor, or going from version 1 to version 2 to version 3 to come up with a successful product, why not spend your energy to define what good is and start there?

WordPictures – Phrases That Lit The Bulb!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fishing and Catching

Two weeks ago, while at the shore in North Carolina, I came upon a seasoned angler fishing from a small dock on the sound. He had a couple of rods, a tacklebox bursting at the seams, a cooler, and was casting his line into the water seeking fish.

I stopped by for a quick chat about 'how they're biting?' - he caught me up short saying the fishing is fine, but the catching leaves a lot to be desired!

His explanation:

I have a variety of hooks, rods, rigs, sinkers, lures, and types of bait because fish have preferences – some like certain bait while others go for a specific lure, or are more likely to hit a line rigged a certain way.

The trick is to use the right combination of items to achieve the desired result...catching.

This made sense, so I asked how he knew what was the right combination? He grinned and said you have to ask the fish – by trying various configurations and remember which works.

He noted that two fishermen can be fishing in the same location – side by side – with one pulling in fish after fish as the other is waiting impatiently for a hit. You must offer what is appealing to the fish to get the desired results.

This wise fisherman may have been talking about fishing, but he was describing business – we can have the best equipment, processes, procedures, and presentation, but if it is not what the customer wants, it is not effective.

Like with the fish, to know the right combination that will meet the need of the customer, we must listen to what they have to say and develop a solution which satisfies that need in as simple and straight-forward a way as possible.

Fishing is like a business with the equipment, process, and energy, but catching is using the right resources to get the desired results.

Who knew that fish were so smart!

Applied leadership – Gibbs Rules

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Work is making and keeping promises.

Delegators want to factor complexity into their failure. No points off.

Work requires learning and developing improved processes. No points off for ignorance.

Work requires maintaining successful relationships in the environment. Losing is losing.

Work is a tough game. No one is ever error-free. Which gives everyone a chance to succeed.

There are three stages to making and keeping promises.

The first is the youngster who figures that not making any promises means not having to keep any promises. He’s the one who was so lonely his momma had to tie a pork chop around his neck to get the dog to play with him.

The next step is making adequate promises and enjoying the thrills and spills.

The last step, since life is a rodeo, is making the promises that should be made, and enjoying heaven and earth shifting so you keep them.

What is your work style?

For more ideas, see out new web page, About Work!