Friday, May 28, 2010
In both cases, my approach has been to be as evidence-based as possible. That is, I avoid giving any advice that isn't rooted in real proof of efficacy; I want to pass along the techniques and behaviors that are grounded in sound research. It seems to me that, by adopting the habits of good bosses and shunning the sins of bad bosses, anyone can do a better job overseeing the work of others.
At the same time, I've come to conclude that all the technique and behavior coaching in the world won't make a boss great if that boss doesn't also have a certain mindset.
My readings of peer-reviewed studies, plus my more idiosyncratic experience studying and consulting to managers in many settings, have led me identify some key beliefs that are held by the best bosses — and rejected, or more often simply never even thought about, by the worst bosses. Here they are, presented as a neat dozen:
- I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.
- My success — and that of my people — depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things, not on magical, obscure, or breakthrough ideas or methods.
- Having ambitious and well-defined goals is important, but it is useless to think about them much. My job is to focus on the small wins that enable my people to make a little progress every day.
- One of the most important, and most difficult, parts of my job is to strike the delicate balance between being too assertive and not assertive enough.
- My job is to serve as a human shield, to protect my people from external intrusions, distractions, and idiocy of every stripe — and to avoid imposing my own idiocy on them as well.
- I strive to be confident enough to convince people that I am in charge, but humble enough to realize that I am often going to be wrong.
- I aim to fight as if I am right, and listen as if I am wrong — and to teach my people to do the same thing.
- One of the best tests of my leadership — and my organization — is "what happens after people make a mistake?"
- Innovation is crucial to every team and organization. So my job is to encourage my people to generate and test all kinds of new ideas. But it is also my job to help them kill off all the bad ideas we generate, and most of the good ideas, too.
- Bad is stronger than good. It is more important to eliminate the negative than to accentuate the positive.
- How I do things is as important as what I do.
- Because I wield power over others, I am at great risk of acting like an insensitive jerk — and not realizing it.
If you're like most people I meet, you've had your share of bad bosses — and probably at least one good one. What were the attitudes the good one held? And what great, workplace-transforming beliefs could your worst boss never quite embrace?
Robert Sutton is Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University. He studies and writes about management, innovation, and the nitty-gritty of organizational life. His last book was the New York Times bestseller The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
One of the most common expressions parents can be heard saying is, “I don’t understand why he’s/she’s doing that”. There are eight, very common reasons why children misbehave. It is extremely useful for parents to know these because if they can pinpoint the root cause of the misbehavior, they can be more successful at reducing it.
Listed here are the eight most common reasons why children misbehave and a solution to help reduce or eliminate the problem:
1) They want to test whether caregivers will enforce rules.
Children’s main job is to figure out how their complex world works. In order to master the things they need to at each developmental level they will test their parents. They are literally trying to see where the boundaries are, or, if they exist at all. Although testing is frustrating for parents they should know that it is normal and that this is their chance to really make a difference in their child’s life.
How? By setting boundaries and limits and consistently following through on them. This way, their children will adopt positive values and gain self-esteem
2) They experience different sets of expectations between school and home.
Consistency is hugely important in making a child feel safe and secure and able to have a comfortable understanding of the world and how it works. If they are receiving mixed messages from home and school they will feel uneasy inside and express this through more testing than normal and will feel an inner sense of stress.
The best thing a parent can do is learn a simple method to discipline and then have a conversation with their child’s teacher. During this conversation, the parents should explain their method and ask how the teacher handles situations. The goal is to try and use some of the same language at both the school and at home. With a consistent, clear message, children will rise to the expectation and be happier in the process.
3) They do not understand the rules, or are held to expectations that are beyond their developmental levels.
Sometimes, parent expectations go beyond their child’s abilities. Discipline and guidance strategies should always take into account the child’s developmental level. For example, it would be unreasonable to tell a 2 year old to clean up his room and expect that he will finish the job. At this age, children need a lot of support and guidance to do a job like this.
Reading books about what children can do at each age is helpful with this problem so that parents can know what is developmentally appropriate for them to expect of their child.
4) They want to assert themselves and their independence.
Children begin to show their desire for more independence at around age two. They start to want control over certain areas of their life so that they can feel capable and independent. It doesn’t take long for children to identify the areas they CAN control, much to the chagrin of parents. Situations like eating, sleeping, brushing teeth, and dressing are great examples of times when children recognize their power to get you upset and therefore make them feel in control.
What is the solution? Give them loads of choice in their daily life so that they feel in control of their life in other, more positive ways. As well, it is key to learn a simple, loving method to discipline so that misbehavior are taken care of easily, without any emotion required. Without emotion, there is no reason for the child to want to rebel in order to gain control.
5) They feel ill, bored, hungry or sleepy.
When children’s basic needs aren’t met regularly each day they are always more likely to misbehave, cry, throw a tantrum, etc.
The solution to this is simple: have a routine where the child eats, has individual play time, parent and child play or interaction time and sleeps.
6) They lack accurate information and prior experience.
When children do something such as go to cross a road for the first time, they do not know that they are supposed to look both ways, so we all know that we must explain to them to look left and look right, etc. However, the same technique needs to be applied to discipline situations. Children will repeat a behavior over and over until they have accurate information as to what they should be doing instead and prior experience of the consequence if they continue the behavior.
Using clear, concise language stating what they “need” to be doing rather than what they “shouldn’t” be doing is extremely important. Better to say, “Carry this carefully”, rather than, “Don’t drop this”. In other words, give them something to use as prior knowledge for next time.
7) They have been previously “rewarded” for their misbehavior with adult attention.
No parent would ever think of purposefully rewarding bad behavior, but it subtly happens quite often.
Remember, negative attention is still attention so if they misbehave and their parent either yells or spanks, they have just been rewarded.
If the child whines, cries or throws a tantrum and mom or dad eventually gives in to make them become quiet, they have just been rewarded.
The solution? Say what you expect without emotion and then follow through consistently if they continue the negative behavior. The two keys here are: no emotion and little talking.
8) They copy the actions of their parents.
The best teacher of how to misbehave or act and speak inappropriately is by watching mom or dad misbehave or act and speak inappropriately. Remember, what children see and experience in the home is what their normal is. So, if they see mom and dad yelling, they will yell. If they get spanked, they will likely use hitting to express their anger or frustration. If they hear, “What?” instead of “Pardon?” that is what they will use. How can we expect any different?
Although not always simple, parents need to look at parenting as a life lesson in personal growth. I always say that children can make open and willing parents into the best human beings in the world because they have the opportunity to practice being their best selves every single day of the year. Looking at parenting this way makes it easier to catch oneself more often and start demonstrating good behavior by modeling it.
Erin Kurt, B.Ed, spent 16 years as a teacher and nanny around the world. Now, she applies her expertise as a parenting expert and author of Juggling Family Life. You can learn more about Erin and her simple, loving parenting method, and subscribe to her weekly parenting tips e-zine at ErinParenting.com.
In gearing up for my next book, Good Boss, Bad Boss, I am putting together a list of "12 Things that Good Bosses Believe," which you will soon see on this blog and elsewhere. In the process, I took two or three ideas from my old list of "15 Things I Believe" that has been on this blog for a long time. So I decided it was a good time to update and expand that list, as I have not changed much in the last couple years. So I spent the morning updating the new list, now "17 Things I Believe," which you can see to the left.
The first 9 items aren't really changed much, although one or two of the links are updated. Items 10 through 16 are all new. And item 17, which I removed for awhile, is back because I thought it was important to remind others -- and myself -- that there is a lot more to life than work. Here is the new list. As always, I would love your comments, and as this is a pretty big change, if you have ideas about items you might add (or subtract) if it was your list, or that you think I should add or subtract, I would love to hear your reactions. Here it is (and note that #17 has no link):
17. Jimmy Maloney is right, work is
an overrated activity.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Regardless of how good it is, no idea sells itself. Before getting commitment to proceed with an idea for a new product, process, venture, technology, service, policy, or organizational change, innovators must sell the idea to potential backers and supporters, and neutralize the critics. They must find resources, expertise, and support. They must convince colleagues to advance the idea in meetings they don't attend.
People whose ideas get traction — that manage get out of the starting gate — take advantage of this practical advice for selling ideas.
- Seek many inputs. Listen actively to many points of view. Then incorporate aspects of each of them into the project plan, so that you can show people exactly where their perspectives or suggestions appear.
- Do your homework. Be thoroughly prepared for meetings and individual discussions. Gather as much hard data as possibly to have command of the full facts, and speak knowledgeably from a broad information base. Know the interests of those to whom you're speaking, and customize the message for them.
- Make the rounds. Meet with people one-on-one to make the first introduction of your idea. It's always a good idea to touch base with people individually before any key meetings, and to give them advance warning of what you and others are planning to say at the meeting. Then they can be prepared (and coached) in your point of view. And you know theirs, so you can modify your proposal accordingly.
- See critics in private and hear them out. One-on-one meetings are especially important when you expect opposition or criticism. Groups can easily turn into mobs. Avoid situations in which critics can gang up on you, or when a group of people leaning positive turn negative because the listen to a few loud voices. Never gather all of your potential critics in one room hoping to hold one meeting to brief everyone all at once. This kind of event mainly helps them discover each other and their common concerns, so they coalesce as a group united in opposition to the idea.
- Make the benefits clear. Arm supporters with arguments. You might rehearse them for meetings in which questions about your project will come up. Stress the value that the idea will produce for them and other groups. Remember that selling ideas is at least a two-step process. You sell one set of people so they can sell others. You convince them to back you because you reduce the risk to them by giving them the tools for selling their own boards or constituencies.
- Be specific. Make your requests concrete, even while connecting your idea to unassailable larger principles. Wait to approach high-level people until your have tested the idea elsewhere and refined your vague notions. The higher the official, the more valuable and scarce his or her time, and thus the more focused your meeting must be. Use peers for initial broad discussions, then ask top executives for one simple action.
- Show that you can deliver. People want to back winners. Early in the process, provide evidence, even guarantees, that the project will work. Later, prove that you can deliver by meeting deadlines and doing what you promised.
British Petroleum: Why can't they say they are sorry and trying to make sure it will never happen again? by Bob Sutton
BP: Why can't they say they are sorry and trying to make sure it will never happen again?
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Forget carrots and sticks, they don't always work
In the first of a new series on business development, we reveal how a new approach to motivating teams is changing corporations for the better
Friday, May 21, 2010
As the great Nebraskan Fred Astaire (born Frederick Austerlitz, Omaha, 1899) used to sing, 'There may be trouble ahead...' An article in the latest issue of Academy of Management Learning and Education reports that over the past 25 years college students in the U.S. have scored steadily higher on tests for narcissism. Professors Bergman, Westerman and Daly note that 'the mean narcissism score of 2006 college students on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) approached that of a celebrity sample of movie stars, reality TV winners and famous musicians.'
Fabulous. If that weren't bad news enough, 'Narcissism in Management Education' (Academy of Management Learning and Education, 2010, Vol. 9, No. 1, 119-131) also cites research indicating that 'narcissistic tendencies such as materialistic values and money importance tend to be particularly evident in business students.'
Most studies of narcissists in business focus on their usually awful eventual effect on co-workers. To ride along with them can be energizing, even inspiring at first, but frequently ends in tragedy. As I was reminded last week when I caught one of the last New York performances of Lucy Prebble's 'Enron,' which pretty much reduces that company's rise and fall to a story about Jeff Skilling's increasingly delusional hubris. (A hit in London, the play bombed in Babylon on the Hudson, which already has enough challenges to its own hubristic tendencies these days.)
In a terrific 2001 HBR article, Michael Maccoby argued that a "productive narcissist" can be good for a company — setting out a vision, rallying the troops to achieve it. (As examples he cited Jack Welch and George Soros.) But in my observation, narcissism in strategy-makers almost always represents an invitation to disaster.
This for at least two reasons. Narcissistic executives usually create around themselves a miasma of distrust. They take credit for other's work, value no one else's ideas as highly as their own, and are so busy looking after No. 1 that they can be oblivious to the welfare of others. This makes it tough to develop a strategy in consultation with colleagues, who usually know more about vital details of the competitive situation than the Great One. And even tougher to actually carry the strategy out, except under the narcissist's lash, which most talented people quickly lose a taste for.
The more fundamental problem may be that with sufficient feeding of their grandiosity, narcissists deteriorate in their ability to do what psychologists call 'reality testing,' being able to spot the difference between the movie they're playing in their heads (guess who the star is) and what's actually going on in the world.
The classic posterboy for this syndrome: John De Lorean, father of the Pontiac GTO, who when he wasn't hanging out with movie stars or marrying again was going to set the automotive world on fire with the De Lorean Motors gull-wing doored DMC 12. The entrepreneur's arrest for drug-trafficking — allegedly to raise money for his failing company — put the finishing touches on that endeavor; even though he eventually beat the charge, he would spend the rest of his days bouncing down the stairs, eventually into personal bankruptcy.
In the face of what may be a rising tide of MBAs with, how shall we say, narcissism issues, and the chance that some may climb into strategy-making positions, the news of Britain's new coalition government comes as all the more intriguing. Here you have two politicians, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, heads of rival parties, who, admittedly under serious pressure, manage to quickly form a partnership that has at least some observers suspecting that the country may have lucked into a governing solution better than any one party could have afforded.
For all the usual bromides about how 'you can't run a company by committee' and 'you gotta have clear lines of authority,' partnerships have worked remarkably well in running a few fabled companies, including in setting their strategy. The modern Walt Disney Co. was at its best when Michael Eisner was complemented by Frank Wells. Coca-Cola's patrician, aloof Roberto Goizueta wouldn't have accomplished nearly as much without the consummately personable Donald Keough presenting a smiling corporate face to the world. Some of us wonder whether Goldman Sachs would be in the doghouse it is today if it had stayed with its tradition of two-headed leadership — John Weinberg teamed with John Whitehead, Robert Rubin with Steve Friedman. Astaire wasn't the only Nebraskan who appreciated the value of a good partner — to every Warren Buffet, his Charlie Munger.
If you have responsibilities for forging strategy, consider asking yourself three partnership-related questions:
- Would the enterprise be better off if I were sharing this work? More information boiled into the process, including that all-important dissident information? More minds and hands enlisted in the success of the strategy from the outset?
- If I were to recruit a partner or two, who would they be, and why? As wonderful as you and your mix of skills likely are, imagine all that a complementary set might bring to the brew.
- If you don't have a partner already, why not?
Hmmm, anyone else detect of slight whiff of narcissism in the air around here?
Walter Kiechel III is the former Editorial Director of Harvard Business Publishing, former Managing Editor at Fortune magazine, and author of The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World. He is based in New York City and Boston.
One of my students, Rob, just sent me a link to this video on how the design of the stop sign is ruined by a bad creative process -- unfortunately, this parody resembles the process in far too many organizations and teams that try to do creative work in real organizations. It is funny but disturbing. He
saw this in Tina
Seelig's class, who teaches a fantastic class on the creative
This video brought to mind three things:
1. One of the main sicknesses you see in this video is a failure to kill ideas. Most of the ideas are, on their own, sort of logical. But when you mash them all together, the complexity ruins the experience for the users and the designers end up doing many things, but none very well. See this post about Steve Jobs on the importance of killing good ideas for more on this crucial point.
2. Th process in the video, where a good idea isn't shown to users or customers, but each internal voice adds more and more, and forgets the big picture in the process, also reminds me of the stage gate process at its worst, where it each stage, the product or service is made worse as it travels along.
3. Finally, if you want a great companion innovation video, check out Gus Bitdinger's amazing song "Back to Orbit," which he wrote and performs. I wrote a bit more about it here. It was Gus's final project for an innovation class that Michael Dearing and I taught a few years back, and he does an amazing job of summarizing the key points of my favorite creativity book, Orbiting the Giant Hairball. It sort of addresses both the problems in the stop sign video and the solutions -- and in general is a delight and very instructive on the creative process.
This all raises a broader question: What are the most important things a boss can do to speed and improve the creative process. Certainly, talking to customers and users to identify their needs and test your ideas is standard and increasingly, so is the advice that you've got to kill a lot of good ideas, not just bad ones. I have also always been enamored by the power of a fast and civilized fight, and touch on a lot of other related topics in Weird Ideas That Work. Also, don't miss Diego's 17 Innovation Principles at Metacool;I especially like #17: It's not the years, it's the mileage. But I also know that there are some essential elements being left out here... what would you add?"
Whenever I’m asked to give a commencement speech, I’m intimidated by the challenge of finding something to say that’s profound and practical without being trite. I haven’t succeeded yet, but that hasn’t stopped me from trying. So here are some thoughts for graduates:
- By all means, set goals and go after your dreams, but know that your ultimate happiness will depend not on your plans but your ability to cope with unexpected turns and unavoidable ups and downs. You may not get what you thought you wanted, but if you’re willing to adapt, you can get something even better.
- Don’t ever underestimate the power of character. If you want to win, don’t whine. Success is made from hard work, perseverance, and integrity, not luck.
- Listen to both your heart and your head. Pursue your passions, but don’t confuse feelings with facts. Almost nothing is as good or as bad as it first appears, and all things change.
- Remember, pain and disappointment are inevitable, but tough times are temporary. The enduring impact of experiences and the true nature of relationships are only revealed by time. Persist with confidence that no negative emotion can withstand your will to be happy.
- Fill your life with laughter, but don’t confuse fun or pleasure with happiness. Don’t sacrifice a thousand tomorrows for a few todays.
- Live within your means and don’t overestimate your ability to resist temptations that threaten your relationships or reputation.
- How you make a living is important, but how you make a life is vital. If you don’t pay attention to your personal relationships, no amount career success will be enough.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.