Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

diversity is a lot more than just what’s easy to see

March 9th, 2018 No comments


Last week, I overheard a discussion where someone was complaining about too many assholes joining their team. As I listened, it became very apparent that the person was complaining about behaviors and perspectives that where different from their own. When I pointed out to them that different mindsets, opinions and behaviors was diversity, he became very belligerent telling me that diversity was either race or sex. Well Simon, yes, those are glaringly obvious and don’t require any thought which make them easy to spot. We were interrupted and this interchange got me thinking. I started to write this post highlighting how travel, our past, mindset’s and attitudes all impact diversity when I realized that I was missing the point.

No matter how we define diversity, the key is to respect the differences. To ask questions, to understand them and learn about them. While we can decide to return some perspectives to their owners, the key is respect. Respect their perspectives, especially if our’s are different.


This Job Description sucks…

March 6th, 2018 No comments

There is research that our language is a reflection of our perspectives and biases. As such, the terms and language that we use can negatively affect people when they are reading our job descriptions.  Here are some of the highlights that I learned researching this topic and how we now approach the creation of job descriptions.

Key Lessons Learned

  1. Most men in the USA will read the job description and when they see 3 or 4 items that they can do, they apply for the position. This is not true with many other cultures and mindsets where they will read and evaluate the job description numerous times, determining which criteria they don’t meet. Simply put, they self exclude. an example of this is listing a looooong list of desired skills in the required skills section.
  2. Some labels or terms can be perceived by the reader to indicate a culture that is aggressive, comfortable with conflict or that a teammate has to fail in order for someone else to succeed. e.g. ninja, rockstar, cowboy, crush competition, dominate, work hard – play hard
  3. For folks that are in the early stages of their careers and others that are blessed with a learning mindset, the workplace needs to be a safe environment where people can make mistakes and learn from them. For these folks, a learning environment is key and so they will be looking for keywords that indicates safety. Safety is a key aspect of a healthy culture too!
  4. Focus less on the title and more on the role and don’t list all of the levels that HR has associated with the roles. Why lose a talented candidate because they don’t like a cookie cutter title?
  5. Ten plus years of experience doing something really doesn’t equal competence and excludes people who are talented and deliver the results needed but meet the number of the years experience. Quite honestly, this is how the recruiting team leverage the resume automation to exclude unqualified applicants.


How we’ve implemented the lessons learned:

  1. Tell a story of that what the company is like; describe what a day in the life of this role is like. Potential candidates can then easily visualize themselves in that role and determine if it’s a  fit for them or not.
  2. The job description is not a wish list of skills – if there are two or three skills that you cannot live without, list those but resist the urge to publish a wish list.
  3. Focus in on the what the candidate can learn, how they can learn, how they can collaborate with teammates & customers. Learning is a massive part of our life journey and as such people that want to grow are looking for indicator of a safe culture.
  4. Have one name for the role. The level and associated compensation can be addressed with the successful candidates based on their capabilities. That is in internal stuff and shouldn’t complicate the hiring and recruiting process. In our world where we value deliverables that delight our customers, we have learned that ego and compensation is not in the top decision criteria.
  5. Experience solving the following types of challenges in a collaborative manner: ……… People that are excited about the problems that need to be fixed based on their life experiences.

So did this work?

The short answer is: YES!!

We saw a much larger percentage of women apply and the majority of people applied were in our target audience. There were the normal percentage of under qualified or SPAM submissions. The candidates who made it to the short list and were looped for interviews were all exceptional candidates and we had difficult choices on our hands.

We develop software service leveraging an agile-methodology in a disciplined, collaborative environment where creativity & learning is valued; we are sensitive to our customers needs and invest in developing warm relationships with our customers. This approach to writing job descriptions definitely helps us find people that fit right in and thrive in our culture.


Additional reading:

FastCompany article on how job description wording affects people -


Online tools to evaluate your job descriptions

Free tool:

Paid tool:



Leadership and Management Quotes

November 12th, 2015 No comments

I started reading a book titled: Leadership: Elevate Yourself and Those Around You – Influence, Business Skills, Coaching & Communication (Leader, Effective Teams, How to be a Leader, Teamwork, Public Speaking, Team Management) by Ross Elkins and bass on the first couple of chapters have led to this blog post.

Here are some quotes regarding Leadership:

A leader makes decisions and sets up goals, then he or she will lead his or her team members toward those goals. A leader has a group of followers. With collaboration, communication and trust, they stand united and face every challenge together to achieve their desired goals

Leadership can be defined as the process of influencing the behavior of one’s subordinates, without making them feel like they are working under a dictatorship

And some quotes regarding Management:

manager is someone who wants their employees to work for them. Managers have subordinates or employee

Managers have a position of authority vested in them by the company, and their employees work for them and largely do as they are told


I am still reading the rest of the book but wanted to share the quotes above.






Categories: Behavior, Leadership, Management, People, Quotes Tags:

So you want to be a People Manager

August 26th, 2015 No comments

Over the years, I have had many conversations with folks that considered the option of moving into people management.  For the purposes of this blog post, I am going to assume that as a new manager, you will be a team lead with people reporting directly to you.

Put others first

This is a big one and one that does not come easily.  Are you prepared to put the welfare of others ahead of your own?  e.g. When someone on the team messes something up and causes an issue, will you point them out and throw them under the bus?  Or will you take the heat and work with them to improve?  Are you prepared to wait for the team to succeed even if your boss wants you to deliver the project today?  Are you willing to work someone on improving their skills even if you can perform the task quickly and accurately in a fraction of the time it will take them?


Are you able to communicate what you need done in a manner that they understand and want to deliver?  This is critical because if you are not able to communicate what needs to be delivered in a clear and understandable manner, the team will not know what needs to be delivered.


Do you have the patience to let them make mistakes and learn?  Or even more difficult, do you have the patience for them to take twice as long to complete a task than you could do it yourself?

Tough Love

I used the term “Tough Love” here on purpose because I do not mean firing someone.  If you want to fire or tell people what to do, then you just failed on #1 because you are putting your wishes above those of others.  What I am referring to here,  is the ability, and willingness, to have difficult conversations that are beneficial to the person. A great example of this is appropriate dress code when meeting with customers.








Higher ethics = less $

May 17th, 2012 No comments

Hmmmmm.  Considering all of the bale outs and the increased diligence on keeping companies honest, it seems that higher ethics are not valued.  At least that is according to this Harvard Business Review email.


Categories: Expectations, Management Tags:

Awesome Article about great management behaviors

April 25th, 2012 No comments

I spent 5 minutes today reading an article by Geoffery James today.  It is a clear & concise article titled 8 Core Beliefs that make extraordinary bosses




Categories: Behavior, Management Tags: ,

Hi-tech Company Org Charts

June 29th, 2011 No comments

Many a true word is spoken is in jest and I had to laugh when I saw this post showing the Org Charts of some of the large hi-tech companies.

The Org Charts Of All The Major Tech Companies (Humor)


Categories: Management Tags: ,

Simple Approach / Plan for Change

June 2nd, 2011 No comments

How to drive change in a predictable and reproducible manner has been a topic of discussion with three of my mentees.  Why predictable and reproducible?  The answer is simple, when you shock people, they tend to stop and evaluate what is going on before moving forward.  So if our behavior is predictable, then we will not shock them.  As leaders, we are expected to reproduce results consistently and being able to do it once, just makes us lucky.

Experience has taught me that I can greatly increase the chances of success by reducing the number of variables or unknowns.  As a result, I use a pragmatic approach with as little process as possible and keep things simple, thereby making things easy to explain and easy to understand.  For more mature or process heavy personalities or organizations, this approach might not be acceptable.

This approach works as long as the plan takes into consideration the unique situational requirements and evaluates progress / results on a regular basis.   This means that you only need to change where needed and not reinvent the wheel every time.

So, to the plan.  There are four key areas of the plan.  The first is Awareness followed by a Planning phase before the Execution phase.  A much forgotten phase is Monitoring or measuring the progress, or destruction.  Here is a visual representation which hopefully makes things clearer.



In this phase we need to become aware of the problem or issue.  If is it is a behavioral issue, someone might provide us with feedback.  If it is a business opportunity, this might be a customer or prospect sharing with us their business challenge.

Recognizing this phase:

  • Becoming aware of a situation that we were previously unaware of.  The Ah Ha moment.
  • Finding out that there are different perspectives to the one that we have.  Most often we personalize this and say that person has a different opinion.

Manager’s Note:

  • If you need to provide someone with behavioral feedback, it is important to focus on the behavior and not your judgement.
  • This phase can be traumatic, be patient with your people and help them through it.


  • Often we tend to ignore or deny the incoming data / perspective because the situation does not match our preconceived idea or notion of how we want it to be.  Ignorance is bliss, or is it?
  • This phase can be traumatic and depending on the implications or if the situation it may have an emotional on us.



If we don’t know where we are going, how are we going to get there?  In some cases we also need to take a look at where we are and then determine the gap between where we are and where we want to go before we start down the road.  I am not advocating analysis paralysis but at lest know what you are going to do.  A very important element of this phase is what are measurements are we going to use to determine if our execution phase is working or not.  The monitoring phase will help you determine if the plan is working or not.

Recognizing this phase:

  • Deciding what to do and what not to do.
  • Providing clarity around where we are going or what we need to do.
  • When people ask what needs to be done.

Manager’s Note:

  • clarity, clarity, clarity
  • Sometimes you need to place a bet and make a move rather standing still and looking around.
  • Continue to gather feedback.
  • Being in a management position, does not always give you the right to dictate the plan.
  • Ensure that the plan is being communicated in a manner that people understand it.
  • It is OK for the plan to be different to how you would do it.  Diversity is great!!


  • Not doing anything because waiting for the data. (analysis paralysis)
  • Omitting this step.  If you don’t plan, the execution phase will be delayed while people work out what they need to do.
  • Not using data to define the path forward.  Be careful about perceptions because they depend on the person and the filters that person uses.
  • Bad or no communication does not make it a bad plan.  In some cases, the plan may lay out the lesser of two evils and therefore it will be unpopular.



This phase is all about delivering the results as defined by in the plan.  If you, or the people executing the plan, are not clear about what needs to be done, go back to planning.

Recognizing this phase:

  • There is work that needs to be done.
  • The plan is defined and now needs to be executed.

Manager’s Note:

  • Do not get in the way of the execution.
  • Being critical of the execution.


  • Losing focus
  • The execution elements where not simplified or fragmented enough to be executed because they are still too large or complicated.



This often overlooked phase is key because it provides us with the safety net for the planning and execution phases by monitoring  how the execution phase is really addressing the need.

Recognizing this phase:

  • The execution is in full swing.
  • People are providing feedback on the progress, or lack thereof.
  • Not knowing if are making progress or not, it’s time to monitor.

Manager’s Note:

  • Monitoring is not a step that people like.  In most cases, they do not like to be measured.
  • Feedback is a form of measurement, it is just subjective.


  • In most cases, we are not very good monitoring ourselves.
  • Skipping this step means that you never know how you are progressing.
  • Not having milestones or metrics means that progress is subjective.
  • Not having a baseline before you started executing means that you do not know if your are having a positive or negative impact.


Categories: Behavior, Leadership, Management Tags:

Signs of Incompetent Managers

January 27th, 2011 No comments

Earlier this week I downloaded a paper titled “Eight Signs of Incompetent Managers”.  The link to register and download the paper is at the bottom of the post.

Based on research that Profiles International conducted to identify America’s most productive companies, they identified the following Eight Signs of an Incompetent Manager

  1. Poor communication skills
  2. Weak leadership capabilities
  3. Inability or unwillingness to adapt to change
  4. Poor relationship-building skills
  5. Ineffective task management
  6. Insufficient production
  7. Poor developer of others
  8. Neglectful of own personal development
To get the details, you can download the paper here:


February 3rd, 2010 2 comments

I arrived early at a restaurant for a meeting and overheard a discussion while waiting for the others to arrive.   Here is an excerpt from their conversation that resonated with me.

They don’t get it!  They are oblivious to the fact that no one trusts their team. I mean they claim to be transparent but when we need information from them, need have to search for it ourselves.  I think it is short sighted on their behalf when they watch me search, even if we ask them for help and they don’t help.  Then when we find the information that we need, they claim that they are being transparent with us.  Yeah right!!

I discussed this behavior with a colleague and he was familiar with the behavior that was being discussed above.  He labeled it as “discovery driven disclosure”.  He also mentioned that he had experience with behavior in the past and it had been really difficult to partner with that team because  their behavior undermined trust.  As a result, the teams spent a lot of time questioning each other and not so much time collaborating which impacted their ability to successfully deliver a solution.

The comments and followup discussion got me thinking about Trust.

Trust is the basis of all relationships, both personal and professional. We all establish trust with others in our own manner.  We also have our own starting expectations for others when it comes to us trusting them.  Some of us will trust others with little evidence, giving them the benefit and assuming positive intent. Others expect the trust to be earned and start off with a much lower level of trust.

Building on this starting point for trust, let’s look at some of the other elements that influence how we establish trust.  The first one, is how the role that we perform affects the trust level. We all tend to trust people that have “earned” a higher standing.   For example, we expect the chef at a fine restaurant will use fresh ingredients and work in a pristine kitchen when they prepare our food. If that chef is from a Michelin 3 star rated restaurant, then the expectations will be even higher.

The final and most important  element is the impact of our actions.  Therefore we need to be conscious of the impact of our actions or inactions on our trust level.   Be careful of disingenuous behavior, disrespecting others, selfish behavior and of course lack of disclosure or transparency because these behaviors will impact our trust level negatively..

Pulling it together

To help illustrate how all of these areas relate to each other and how they impact the level of trust, here is a formula to help quantify the trust level.

a – Starting Expectations

b – Role

c – Actions

To use the formula, each of these variables needs to be assigned a number of between 0 and 5, with 5 being the highest rating.  Now just rate each of the elements and then total up the numbers.  This will provide you with a qualitative trust rating.  Having some of your customers, partners or employees provide you with their ratings, can be an eye-opening experience.

Regarding the evaluation of the total value.  This will be unique to you and you will need to determine what numbers you are comfortable with.  For me personally, the number needs to be above 10.  I also use the formula by assuming positive intent and therefore if I have not seen any actions or behaviors, I assign either a 4 or 5 and then evaluate again when I have more data.  Using the graphic below, the red area is the high risk area while the green is the safer area, naturally with the ideal being a perfect score.

I finish this post with a quote a Robin Sharma book:  Leadership Wisdom from the Monk who sold his Ferrari.

Being open and truthful also means that you take care of the little issues and skirmishes that come up every day before they escalate into full-blown wars.

Learning to ride a bicycle

December 3rd, 2009 No comments

Here is an extract from a recent conversation with one of my mentees, let’s call him Larry.  First off,  a little background:  I have been mentoring him for about 8 months and we work at the same company.  He is a manager of a team individual contributors that consists of engineers and project managers; the team is focused on solving various tactical business issues and therefore they tend to have 2 or 3 projects running in parallel with each project taking up to 90 days in duration.

Larry: “I never seem to have any time and I am working 60 hours weeks.”

Me: “Why, what are you spending your time on?”

Larry:  “I am super-busy ensuring that the projects that I am accountable for are getting done.” ………..he shared a lot of the details that I have removed from this post.

Me: “Humor me please, while he take a little detour into your past.  Can you remember when you learned to rides a bicycle?”

Larry:  “Yep”

Me:  “I assume that you rode a bicycle with training wheels for a while?”

Larry: “Yep and then my dad took them off.  He ran next to me a couple of times and I cannot remember when he let go.  I realized that he had let go when I started to turn around to ride back to the house and saw him standing in the street in front of me.” – he had a big smile on face while he shared this memory from his youth.

Me: “Did you fall?”

Larry: “Ouch, quite a few”

Me: “Was your dad there to pick you up when you fell?”

Larry: “Nope, but my Mom did provide the Band Aids”

Me: “So back to work:  Regarding your team, when are you going to let them go and allow them to ride by themselves?”

Larry, with a very started look on this face”  “But I cannot let them fail!”

Me: “Why not?”

Larry: “They might not recover”

Me: “Really?  Do you doubt their ability to learn from their mistakes?

Larry with a big smile on his face  “No!  But what happens when they fail?”

Me: “You give them a Band Aid and ask them how they are going fix things.  You just need to watch out for the cars to ensure that they do not get killed.”

Larry: “I get it!!  Thanks”


Management is similar to teaching someone to ride a bicycle.  The trick is not to let go too soon because they will crash.  Too late and their learning will be stalled.  Once we have let go and they are off riding, we need to keep a look out for the cars to ensure that they are not hit by any cars.  In business terms, we need to give our people the room to make their own mistakes, and learn from them.  We must resist the urge to stifle them.  If they have the self awareness to stop and ask for feedback, then we need to be prepared to provide them with feedback on their behaviors to help them learn and grow.

Categories: Behavior, Management Tags:

Not delivering the results?

November 17th, 2009 4 comments

I don’t know about you but I have run into the situation where a great employee  is not delivering the results that the business needs.  Here is the question that I ask myself:

If I put that person in a Life or Death situation where they face death if they are unable to deliver the results.  Are they able to deliver the results?

And the options are:

  • if they are able to deliver the results: – then there is a motivation issue
  • if they are still not able to deliver the results: -  then there is a skills issue

I do not recommend that you put any of your people in a Life or Death situation.  For me, the ideal approach is to have conversations with them to determine what the issue(s) are.  As long as you have already established a culture where they can share issues without any repercussions, they will share with you.

Categories: Management, People Tags: ,

Do you Build or Buy the ideal employee?

October 28th, 2009 1 comment

I come from a software development background and this is an age old discussion.  When should we buy technology or product and when should we build it ourselves.  As engineers, we tend to believe that we can build it better than anyone else.  As a result of this mindset,we tend lean towards building it ourselves and then rationalizing the decision.  Therefore I use a number of evaluation criteria to help overcome this bias and to ensure that we make decisions that are beneficial to the company.  Some of the evaluation criteria that we use are: time to build, predictable costs of buying, risk of building, specific / customized requirements, discovery of unknown issue(s) during building, scope creep, and of course time to market.

Now, let’s go back to management and look at a similar decision that we have to make on how to staff our teams.  Do we bring in talent from outside (buy) or do we grow (build) someone that we know into the position?

some of the benefits of growing a known person into the position

  • known entity – we know how they will fit in with the team and have existing relationships inside the company that they can leverage
  • risk - Because they are a known entity, they are a known risk
  • employee motivation – when the company is prepared to invest in people, it definitely helps boost the team morale which helps motivate people to grow
  • integrated into culture – the person is already integrated into company culture and therefore there will be able to operate within the culture
  • team player – because they are known, you know if they are a team player or not

some of the cons of growing a known person the position

  • growth time – it takes time for a person to grow and acquire the skills needed
  • training – not only is there the financial investment with training but there is also the question that the training investment will be able to be converted into results
  • errors – mistakes are part of the learning experience
  • risk – it is possible that the person will not be able to perform at the higher level
  • company focused growth – as the person grows into the position, their growth can easily be customized or focused to meet the company / team needs
  • personal investment – for the employee to grow, they will need to invest in themselves and often they underestimate the investment needed or are not willing to make the sacrifices needed to learn and grow

some of the benefits of bringing in new talent

  • fresh perspective – new people bring their perspectives and experiences that can greatly contribute to the team diversity
  • exact skills needed – because require skills are available immediately, the results are delivered with a shorter wait
  • acclimatization only – because the new outside talent already has the skills needed, all that remains is for them to acclimatize

some of the cons of bringing in new talent

  • unknown entity – we will still need to discover what the person’s weak point are
  • integration into the team / company – how will the person mesh with the company culture / team climate
  • resume inflation – does the person really have the skills that they claimed to have?

So, after looking at these Pro & Cons, is it better to build or buy your ideal employee?

Although, I have a preference to build.  It really depends on the business need.  Do we have the time  to invest in our people and still achieve the business results?

In the end, the decision really boils down to the person.  Here are some of the additional items that I take into consideration.

  • drive / self motivation – Is the person a self starter?  Do they turn into a victim when the going gets tough or do they persevere through challenges?  This is so much easier to evaluate with a known entity.
  • team work – are they a team player?  Again definitely easier with a known entity.
  • work ethic – I am one of those that does not believe that it can be learned?
  • feedback – How do they respond to feedback?
  • mental horsepower – simply put, gotta have the mental capability and be able to use it to solve the business challenges on hand
Categories: Management, People Tags:

Reference Guide on Freedom and Responsibility Culture (Netflix)

August 5th, 2009 No comments

One of the PMs in my org shared this with me earlier today.  Thanks Susan!   It is a slide show from Netflix titled: Reference Guide on our Freedom and Responsibility Culture. 

Although I really enjoyed the deck, here are some of the messages that really resonated with me.

Slide 19 – The 9 behaviors and skills: Judgment, Communication, Impact, Curiosity, Innovation, Courage, Passion, Honesty, and Selflessness.

Slide 33 – It’s about effectiveness – not effort – even though effectiveness is harder to assess than effort.

Slide 38 – The Rare Responsible Person – Self motivating, Self aware, Self Disciplined, Self improving, Acts like a leader, Doesn’t wait to be told what to do, Never feels “that’s not my job”, Picks up the trash lying on the floor, and Behaves like an owner.

Slide 77 – The best managers figure out how to get great outcomes by setting the appropriate context, rather than by trying to control their people.

Slide 78 – Context – Strategy, Metrics, Assumptions, Objectives, Clearly-defined roles, Knowledge of the stakes, Transparency around decision-making. Exceptions (emergencies, learning, wrong person) slide 79

Slide 82 – Good Context – Link to company/functional goals, Relative priority (how important/how time sensitive), Level of precision & refinement (no errors, good enough, rough), Key stakeholders, Key metrics/definition of success

Slide 115 – High performance people are generally self-improving through experience, observation, introspection, reading and discussion.

The slides can be found here:

The Changing Face of Management

July 29th, 2009 No comments

Business has changed:  We have moved from business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) to Consumer to Consumer(C2C) model.  20 years ago C2C was pretty much limited to a swap meets.

I believe that the face of management has also changed.  There is a move from the pure hierarchical model where top-down rules to a more social form of leadership where the followers get to choose who they want to follow.

To me, there is a new social era of management where leadership plays a much larger role than before.  This is especially important when working with Millennials.

Here are some  key elements:

  • put your followers first
    • if you put yourself first, they will follow your lead
  • listen to your followers
    • feedback from your followers is important – listen to it!
  • grow your followers
    • provide feedback consistantly
  • trust your followers
  • share information with your followers
  • step out of the way and allow your followers to step into the vacuum – enabling you to move into something else

Hire for Today. And Tomorrow. But remember the investment required.

July 20th, 2009 No comments

I came across this blog post yesterday; it is by F. John Reh and titled Hire Talent, Not Just Skills –

It got me thinking about how hiring the right person can solve both the short term and also the long term challenges that the business is facing.  Even the most talented candidate will require time to acclimatize before they can work on meeting the business needs.

However even with someone with immense talent, in addition to time, it takes an investment from the manager to provide the candidate with regular coaching sessions and also ensure that the opportunities are provided for the candidate.

I have seen managers totally ignore this responsibility and as a result not only does the company lose because it takes longer for their investment in the talented candidate to mature.  The candidate also loses because their career does not progress as they expected, which often creates a negative perception about that company.

The candidate is not without responsibility in this equation.  The candidate needs to evaluate both the managers and the company culture on growth.  After the candidate has joined, they now need to manage their growth and totally embrace the opportunities presented.

hire the best – a follow-up discussion

June 10th, 2009 No comments

Recently I had a conversation with a colleague about my post on “hiring the best”.  Our conversation hinged on the implications on the manager of hiring less than the best.  Here are some of the key points from our discussion.

less overhead on the manager

Both of us were of the opinion that it is much easier on the manager to have more capable people on our teams.  Although both of us had many exceptions come to mind where some highly skilled people lacked certain soft skills.  We are of the opinion that well rounded and skilled people  need little to no guidance from their manager. These people are also able to offload work from us, thereby allowing to focus our time in other areas.

impact on the team

Will Smith’s interpretation of an old Confucius analect  is: “You are who you associate with” and this is definitely holds true.  In my experience, all it takes is for one person to raise the bar resulting in a positive impact on the team and those who deal with the team.

irritation factor

Then there is the irritation factor.  This is when the junior person is not able to meet the expectations, or  interrupts fellow team members to ask for guidance.  The irritation level can grow quickly if the person does not have the soft skills needed or the mental horse power needed to learn quickly and perform.

learning vs adaptation

A junior person requires time to learn and get up to speed.  They have to improve on multiple fronts:  They need to learn how to fulfill the role and also learn the skills needed to deliver the goods.  This takes time, drive and effort.  To contrast this where the more experienced/senior person can adapt to the new environment.  Because they already have the skills, they are able to simply slot into the role and start to deliver the goods.

financial impact

Having spent many years with startups; I am sensitive to the impact on the cash flow that a senior and experienced person can have.  I do believe that hiring the best that you can afford is the best option for all concerned.  The return-on-investment (ROI) for the more skilled person far outweighs costs and in most cases I believe that a skilled person with soft skills is worth way more than a more junior and less capable person.


For the most part, the more junior the person, the longer it takes for them to be fully productive.  The more senor people are able to be productive in days or weeks and not months or years.


This can be a massive challenge and I have seen ot go both ways and therefore is one of my hiring requirements now.


By hiring the person that is most capable also increases the team’s capability to deliver more and faster.  Because the team is more capable, they are able to achieve more and therefore win more.  Winning leads to more winning.

Categories: Behavior, Management, People Tags:

Feedback for Managers

April 25th, 2009 Comments off

In a previous blog post titled: feedback, I covered how to make the best of feedback that is provided to us.  Now let’s take a look at how to give feedback to others in a structured manner.  Providing feedback to others, such as our directs, it is not good enough just to create the awareness.  As managers we also need to define what the desired state or behavior is and follow it up with the definition of the plan to make changes.  So let’s look at the 3 distinct sections of the feedback:  Providing the feedback, defining desired state or behavior, determining plan of action based on feedback, and finally the ongoing coaching.


Providing the feedback

Like all feedback, it is imperative to provide the feedback in a way that the recipient of the feedback can understand it.

  • Deliver the feedback in a manner that creates the awareness about the behavior and also leaves them with incentives to address the behavior.  The goal is for the person that is hearing the feedback, to be motivated to take the feedback and make some improvements.
  • It helps to ask them if you can provide them with feedback about a behavior or situation that is still fresh in their memory.  Providing feedback once a year from a laundry list does not help the person improve.
  • It does help to explain the impact of the persons behavior on you or team.
  • Feedback needs to be about things that people do well and areas that they can improve.
  • Here are some Do’s
    • Ask for permission to provide the feedback.  This ensures that the person is receptive.  If they say No, find out why and what time would be better.
    • Explain how the behavior makes you feel.  Because it is your feelings, no one can argue with you about you feel.
    • Always speak in the first person about yourself or your team. Use terms such as I’s, me, my team, etc.
    • Exact instances and stick with the facts.
    • Timely feedback, provide the feedback within days of the event or cause of the feedback.
    • For your directs provide regular feedback.  Praise is also feedback.
  • Here are some Do Not’s
    • Feedback in a public forum is not feedback, it is public humiliation.
    • Do not pass judgment.  No one likes to be told that they are an idiot.
    • Do not only provide feedback about behaviors that need improvement.  Also provide feedback about things being done well.
    • Do not dredge up hearsay or rumors.

Defining the desired state/behavior

The feedback only creates the awareness, as managers we also need to show the way.  Therefore rounding out the feedback by providing the light at the end of the tunnel and defining the desired behavior or state provides the person with guidance on what the goal posts look like.  In most cases this also goes a long way because it balances out the negative feedback by helping the person by defining what is the desired state.  Having discussed the desired state or behavior, have the person define how they see the end state to ensure that they see it in a similar manner.  Ensuring that you are aligned at this stage is important because you do not want them heading off in another direction.  For the person receiving the feedback, they get to understand where the goal posts are and what they look like.

Plan of action

In our role as managers, we are responsible for providing guidance for our people and therefore after making the direct aware via feedback, and establishing the desired state/behavior.  We now need to ensure that the desired state or behavior modification is achieved.  This requires a plan of action that both parties agree to with specific milestones that allows for progress tracking.

Ongoing coaching

Sometimes the direct needs additional guidance as they attempt to modify their behavior.  They need to feel comfortable to come and ask for additional guidance, either from you or from others.  Remember coaching is asking questions in a manner that allows the person to solve the problem for themselves and not corrective instructions.

Why should I do this?

I have had many discussions with my directs where they are not comfortable with exerting this level of guidance on their directs.  Many of them felt that this was looking for conflict.

Look at providing feedback as the gift that it is.  Most people like gifts.

Managing Expenses Proactively

March 11th, 2009 No comments

Considering the recession that we find ourselves in, I guess it is not surprising that I find myself having many discussions about how to handle the situation where cuts needs to be made.  Unfortunately, I have watched many leaders take an overly optimistic view and totally underestimate the dip of the market and then over estimate their available resources to weather the storm.  For startups with limited resources, this can be fatal.


In this graphic, I have used the blue line to denote the revenue coming into a company.  The red line denotes the expense reductions that the company is making with the exact points of reduction marked with the A, B, C and D markers.  The area marked in green between the two lines is the bad zone for companies without sufficient reserves to weather the downturn.  Unfortunately, I have also seen  the plug getting pulled because of insufficient funds.

Although this approach is fairly common, it tends to have a rather disastrous affect on the people in the company.  The people are under continuous threat of additional cuts and therefore some of them resort to some rather significant self preservation behaviors.  In these circumstances, the teamwork takes a backseat and as such the productivity also take a massive hit.  In addition, talent retention is an issue and in most cases the best people walk first, because they can, leaving the lower caliber folks behind.


This graph shows a totally different behavior and the blue line shows the incoming revenue while the green line shows expenditure.  In this case the expenditure has been drastically reduced when the incoming revenue has declined.  In this graph, I have created the impression that there is very little between the incoming revenue and the expenditure but there are some very successful companies that follow this model but have a much healthier buffer between the the incoming revenue and the expenditure.  In this case, cuts in expenditure are made at points A and B and these cuts do mean job cuts.  Nothing should be spared from the cuts.  e.g. it is far better to sacrifice the free sodas instead of your office mate.

The purple area is where the company is doubling down and investing for the market upturn.  This investment, provides the company with a head start on their competitors.  This approach has some significant benefits because the people trust the management more because they are actively managing the situation.  In addition because a strategy is being followed, it creates an open environment that is predictable for the employees and leads to much less fear and uncertainty.  I have found this approach to be much more acceptable to the high performers and therefore allows you keep the staff that you want to keep.

Lesson Learned: Am I Behaving Like a Teenager?

March 5th, 2009 No comments

Let’s call this executive Steve, he is a  senior level executive, in his early 60’s.  He is very well respected by the people in his organization in a large part due to his extremely calm demeanor.

Steve’s directs are all VP’s in the company and they had been struggling with an issue for close on 7 weeks and were all frustrated.  To make matters worse, these execs had allowed the issue  to impact their interpersonal relationships with some of them having their little versions of the “cold war”.

So during a meeting in the boardroom, Steve watched with mounting displeasure as his directs expressed their frustration at not being able to solve the problem.  Each of them proceeded to provide excuses or point at some or other reason why they could not address the issue on hand.  Steve demonstrated his patience and calmness again by allowing each of them to express their opinions. He then asked them how they were working together on addressing the issue.  Again they behaved in like ducks with watertight backs.  Steve then asked them about what they would do if they were in his shoes?  Again they had many words and Steve slowly stood up.  Some of his directs paid attention but others did not.

However, when Steve slammed his hands down on the table, the loud clap drowning out the expletive that he had just uttered.  All of his directs stared at Steve, dumbfounded, and then he said something:  “If I wanted to hear reasons why this cannot be done, I would have asked my teenage son!  I am paying you significantly more to solve problems.  So why don’t you stop behaving like teenagers and act like the professionals that I am paying you to be!”

Needless to say, his directs had a solution ready for him four hours later.

So the Lesson that I Learned from this, has changed how I approach things.  Now, when I am moaning or bitching about something, I simply ask myself:  ” am I behaving like a teenager?”  If the answer is yes, then I modify my behavior and to ensure that I am adding value.

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