Now that I've had some time off, I've been thinking about the last re-org I went through at BSX, and the kind and qualities of the management du jour that my group reported up through. I've heard that a certain Director evidently thinks its okay to yell at his direct reports. As in literally angry shouting. Personally I'd never put up with that. I'd let the freak finish ranting, and then as cool and as calm as I possibly could muster, I'd say: "Are you finished?" And then I'd point a finger directly at their face and say slowly, using small words, "I'm not sure who you think you are, but let me be clear: Don't you EVER talk to me like that again." Nothing unhinges robot management like resetting the conversation on your terms.
"I always ask myself, would I want one of my sons to work under that person? If he is successful, then young people will imitate him. Would I want my son to look like this?"*
If the answer is "no", then why are you?
Being an authentic leader means "walking the walk" -- if you wouldn't want your son or daughter (or niece/nephew) reporting to your boss, what kind of signal does that send? What kind of new normative behaviors might you inadvertently be picking up? In other words, what kind of person (or robot) are you turning yourself into?
Today's Big Idea: If your boss isn't the kind of person you'd want your son or daughter working for, it's time you found a new boss.
And, if you're promotion minded, figure out if you would enjoy the work your boss does. If not, it might be time to switch careers. Companies are hiring again -- go be valued somewhere else!
* This story can be found for the "5 April, Picking a Leader" entry in The Daily Drucker
There are various versions of today's Big Idea Blog title, attributed to Archimedes the third century Greek inventor (and mathematician, engineer, physicist and astronomer) -- the most consistent accurate translation I can find on having a lever is:
"If I had a firm enough place to stand, I could move the world"
The version that comes to mind most often goes something like "With a big enough lever, I could move the world".
Big Ideas are like that: Once grasped they have the power to leverage change and levers need pivot points. That's where change agents come in -- we identify the pivot points.
In order to effect change you have to understand a little human psychology. What motivates people to change their minds and positions on usually deeply held convictions? It turns out, less than you'd think!
If you're following my tweets or we're LinkedIN you'll know that I've recently been reading "Influencer: The Power to Change Anything" on my B&N Nook -- the highlight feature is working great! (Attention Change Agents of the World: Read this book next! In fact, I would even go so far as to suggest you stop reading whatever you're reading now and go buy/download this and read it right now. It's that important.)
Among the very high number of really big ideas in this book, chief among them is the concept that in order to understand successful outcomes, there are certain vital behaviors (inputs not outputs) that must be identified first -- usually found by looking for positive deviance. These behaviors above all else help explain success versus failures in just about any context. From understanding why the women in one impoverished sub-saharan village have figured out how to filter their drinking water in their dresses to avoid Guinea worm infections and the next village over doesn't -- to radically changing the lives of hardened convicts from repeat offenders to productive, and most of all, happy citizens.
The key to changing just about any behavior, including in ourselves, comes down to two very simple questions. Change one or both of these, and you have a lever to move the world!
Ask or get someone to answer the following when it comes to making a change from where they are, to where they need to be:
1. Will it be worth it?
2. Can I (they) do it?
If the answer to one or ideally both is "YES" 90% of your work is done. Yes, it's really that simple. Weave a compelling story (not a set of facts, figures, or a scared-straight shock approach) and you'll create a vicarious human experience that allows its participants the safe distance of watching while at the same time projecting themselves into the situation.
An example from MBA-land that set out to test memory recall -- the experiment divided a group of students into three sections and presented the same information in three modes; in one, the students were given a set of facts and figures, in the second group, a power point presentation was made from the same data, and in the third, the students we're told the information in form of a story about a struggling winemaker trying to make ends meet. Which do you think had the highest recall even six months later? The students who had heard the story about the struggling winemaker reported having thought about it periodically often as analogous to some other situation they were a part of. The vicarious story gave them a hint of the situated context.
That's academic of course, and as my former business partner Jon used to quote from the Simpsons, "in theory, communism works...in theory....". So lets look for real world, big ROI from using these ideas. The authors recount case after case of positive change from getting a factory union to understand the threat of outsourcing, to turning the tide on the spread of AIDS in Thailand, to encouraging hundreds of thousands of people in Mexico to pour into the streets in search of free literacy material, to changing century's old deeply held traditions on encouraging young women in India to marry at far too early ages. In each case, the power of the narrative combined with the vicarious experience enabled people to realize that whatever change was desired/required -- It was worth it and they could do it!
In each one of these examples (and millions more around you everyday) the critical element is the change agent at the pivot point. People don't spontaneously change deeply held beliefs or traditions on their own. The change agent alone cannot pull the lever by him or herself -- in fact I would argue they don't pull the lever at all (or certainly not by themselves.) They enlist the power of other influencers, primarily people recognized as thought or opinion leaders embedded within the culture itself. These are the people that are consistently looked to as an authoritative source of knowledge and information (also know as a subject matter expert). And it's not authority alone that earns them their position.
In order to be a thought leader, two simple conditions must be evident:
1. Are you recognized as having a deep knowledge of the given subject?
2. Do people trust your motives?
No one ever went to a movie and said "Well the acting was good, but the story was unbelievable."
Movies, like many creative efforts, start with the writing. You don't hire a bunch of actors and the say lets find a movie for you all. Movies start with a script.
Aside: Ads are currently running for MacGruber, Saturday night lives latest entry into the it worked as a sketch, so it must make a good film genre.
A script is a story. A story that moves us from one place to another - everything from to the Care Bears movie to Citizen Kane. *
MacGruber is a parody of the MacGyver. Each of the sketches is the same; MacGruber is faced with a bomb, which he fails to defuse. 45- 60 seconds each. That's it. That's the whole sketch.
For reference, a brief list of SNL movies that were complete cinematic stinkers:
A night at the Roxbury
Stuart saves his Family
Good SNL sketch based movies:
that's 3:1 against.
Without even seeing anything more than the trailers, here are the reasons it will be bad --
It will be like the sketch - one joke. Repeated.
It will not be like the sketch - it can't be. Every 1 min sketch ended with Mac Gruber being blown up.
Its an SNL based film (see above)
"Gag" based films (Blazing saddles, Airplane!, Hot shots, the various monty python's) are hard to write.
Based wholly on a tv show from the 80's.
BIG IDEA: Story matters. Writing matters. Get the basics of your project in place before you move forward.
I'm a big fan of the StrengthsFinder approach to self-actualization. I'm kind of a self-assessment test junky -- Myers-Brigg, StrengthsFinder, Insights Discovery -- if I actually believed in astrology I'm sure I could find something interesting in the fact that I'm a O-Positive-Fish-Monkey (combine Japanese blood types with Pisces with the Chinese Zodiac as presented in most noodle shop paper place-mats -- I'm sure there's a new self-help book in there somewhere).
So what are my weaknesses? Chief among them....Hollandaise sauce*.
There's a fun quote I like to use when it comes to abilities:
"Just because you can, doesn't mean you should"
For example, I could create a line of The Big Idea clothing, t-shirts, coffee mugs, wall-clocks and bumper stickers.
But its not my strength. Not even close. Instead, I outsourced it!
Introducing The Big Idea Shop, compliments of CafePress! With a few clicks and a couple of minutes of messing around with the font, voila! Instant online shop with ready made products. Who couldn't use another coffee mug? And with every purchase you'll be helping to stimulate the economy!
We're going to be announcing a new logo design contest in a few days.
Today's Big Idea: Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Outsource your weaknesses.
You may find that someone can do it much better, faster, and cheaper than you could ever hope to achieve on your own. Leverage your network and you may find that when the tide comes in, all boats will rise!
* My current favorite hollandaise sauce is the stuff they smother the eggs benedict with at Salut on Grand Ave in St. Paul
One key function of Public Relations is recovery...after your company makes a huge error.
The advice from PR professionals is always the same.
1. Admit your errors.
2. Fix them.
Et tu? British Petroleum.
So Travelers insurance, my insurance company for 15+ years....
BACKGROUND: My agent Mary Forslin, over at Doliff insurance, sent Travelers an inquiry about our policy. Travelers treated it as a change and cancelled us. And then opened us up a new policy at twice the previous rate. This was quite surprising to us as we had no notice of the change. It also caused some considerable stress.
So we did what you might do - called and emailed our agent, asking for more information...Now here, dear reader you might expect that we got a call back right away explaining and apologizing...Nope. We spent days wondering what had happened and how we were going to pay our bill.
ASIDE: Our agent, Mary, is not an adjuster. Travelers handles that. She neither sends no receives our billings. Her whole job, and in fact her job title is "customer service." Her only job is customer communication -- that's it. Literally nothing else. No call back from her or anyone else in the office.
Days later we call her again (after emailing as well for answers.) She explains the mistake. She begins to fix the mistake. Anyway can she get us a correct bill on time for payment? -- No idea, as she doesnt offer this solution. And, for whatever reason -- no apology to me.
Cost of an apology - zero dollars.
Value of a prompt call and apology - PRICELESS
BIG IDEA: Mistakes will happen. Assure that Your PR department -- even if that's just you -- is ready to shine. Admit. Fix. Apologize.
POSTSCRIPT -- A full year later -- Still no apology to me from our agent. Oh, and caught another billing error on their part. (An error, oddly enough, in their favor. Again.)