Sunday, January 29, 2012

Easy A or risk an F

“Schools teach you to imitate. If you don’t imitate what the teacher wants you get a bad grade. Here, in college, it was more sophisticated, of course; you were supposed to imitate the teacher in such a way as to convince the teacher you were not imitating, but taking the essence of the instruction and going ahead with it on your own. That got you A’s. Originality on the other hand could get you anything – from an A to F. The whole grading system cautioned against it.” (Robert M. Pirsig, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, 1974)

I’m reading this philosophical novel and crossed this paragraph. The situation that Pirsig was describing in the classroom is very comparable to the workplace when it comes to leaders. Leaders step out and try new things. They are often misunderstood by their peers and bosses because it is hard to separate the results from the methodology. Leaders often do things in a different and more productive way. This confuses people. The results get lost in the discussion. The blog post “Pioneers are lonely” from November 2009 shared this same sentiment in a different setting.

Do you encourage your people to be just like you or to reach and try new approaches? Are you willing to support those different methods when put under pressure?


Sunday, January 22, 2012

The return of Charlie

In July I blogged about meeting Charlie, the over-confident kid that brought his game to the local basketball court. I said at the time this kid was one to watch.

Well, Charlie showed up at the local Sunday pick-up games. He was about a foot taller and told me he made the local high school freshman team. Charlie was confident as ever, but he was playing his game the same way he played it when he was at the lower level. He was reaching on defense rather than moving his feet. He was watching his shots rather than crashing the boards. He was jogging the fast break rather than running full out.

Charlie will be fine, but it made me wonder if anyone actually told Charlie the game at the next level is different than the one he dominated. This situation happens all the time in the workplace. As if experienced managers want the newly promoted to learn by mistake the way they did. What a waste of time and resources. I always try to inform the newly promoted the two or three things they have to change on day one at the next level. I identify the things that made them successful which will cause them failure at the next level in the organization.

Do you pro-actively guide the newly promoted to navigate the pitfalls you know they will encounter? What are the few you have noticed are the most helpful?


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Do you know your “handling fee”?

Have you ever making an on-line purchase and during the check-out process a surprise “handling fee” turns you off so much you cancel your purchase?

I heard a commentary this week on the radio where the commentator (sorry, I did not catch the reference to give appropriate credit) compared this handling fee to the “baggage” we are bring into the workplace. You know, “John is an amazingly smart guy that delivers the goods, but he can be...” Whatever our handling fee, we should what it is. How much work do we create for our leaders? Jack Welch refers to this as using up our “political capital” in his book “The 4E’s of Leadership”. In baseball this is referred to as the player’s contribution in the clubhouse.

I suppose some of us think we are just super people that are effortless to lead. Something tells me this is just not the case. I thought about myself. I really do not want much from my leaders. That said, this in itself might be a challenge because there are very few external motivators that influence what or how much I do. It is all internal.

As leaders, how do you balance the great work of a teammate that has a high handling fee? Do you know your handling fee and are you worth it?


Sunday, January 8, 2012

The return of Dr. Rosling

Whether you are presenting an accomplishment, negotiating for more budget or selling a great idea, the effectiveness of your message often ties directly to your ability to summarize and present your data. Data is only mildly interesting until it becomes useful information.

In March 2009, I posted a blog (“Turning data into information”) about Professor Hans Rosling’s work at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. While his TED video was about national statistics, it was his ability to present information that captivated me. Dr. Rosling is back and with some technology friends. Together, they are really pushing the edge of effective presentations.

It appears LiaV was not the only group to recognize his keen ability. He had made the transition from impressive researcher to effective presentation guru.

What techniques have you seen help smart people improve their presentations?


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