Manage By Walking Around http://jonathanbecher.com Aligning Execution With Strategy Wed, 30 Jul 2014 00:34:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 It’s Hard To Ask Good Questions http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/07/20/hard-to-ask-good-questions/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/07/20/hard-to-ask-good-questions/#comments Sun, 20 Jul 2014 18:51:55 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=4288 It’s amazingly hard to ask good questions. I’ve been in investigative mode over the last month; trying to understand the root cause of a performance issue and also designing a potential new business model. Both projects mean I’ve had to ask a lot of questions. And they also mean I have had to remind myself...

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QuestionsIt’s amazingly hard to ask good questions.

I’ve been in investigative mode over the last month; trying to understand the root cause of a performance issue and also designing a potential new business model. Both projects mean I’ve had to ask a lot of questions. And they also mean I have had to remind myself how to ask questions.

In my experience, the key to asking a good question is to know why you are asking the question. When people ask questions, they do so for one of three reasons:

  • They want a well-reasoned point of view
  • They want an opinion from an expert
  • They want a factually correct answer

That’s right; people don’t always want a factual answer to their questions.

As a result, asking a well-formed question is incredibly important – especially if the answer is a point of view or an opinion. Unfortunately, people usually ask questions which are unintentionally vague. Vague questions produce vague answers.

I had been looking for a memorable way to make the point about ambiguous questions when I re-watched the movie Die Hard with a Vengeance on a recent plane flight. The villain gives the good guys thirty seconds to telephone him on the number “555 plus the answer” or else a bomb will detonate.

The question is the well-known nursery rhyme:

As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives,
Each wife had seven sacks,
Each sack had seven cats,
Each cat had seven kits:
Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,
How many were there going to St. Ives?

Most people try to multiply the sevens to get to the answer. But, if you look closer, the passage never says the group is travelling to St. Ives. So the answer should be one: the narrator.

But wait. We don’t know if the narrator is traveling alone so perhaps a better answer is at least one.

On the other hand, a plausible answer is zero. The last two lines of the riddle state “kits, cats, sacks, wives … were going to St. Ives?” The narrator isn’t a kits cat, sack, or wife, so shouldn’t count as part of the answer.

Since the nursery rhyme is supposed to be a riddle, it’s intentionally vague. But it makes the point. There is no factually correct answer so you can only have a well-reasoned point of view.

Ask better questions. Or as the French philosopher Voltaire said,

Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.

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The 9 Habits to Stop Now http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/07/13/9-habits-stop-now/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/07/13/9-habits-stop-now/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 04:27:25 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=4271 What you don’t do determines what you can do. Tim Ferriss, author of the cult hit and international best-seller ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’, makes that observation in a podcast last month. I completely agree. In my 2009 post on Prioritization, I note: Prioritization is as much about what we choose not to do as what we...

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NOT-To-DoWhat you don’t do determines what you can do.

Tim Ferriss, author of the cult hit and international best-seller ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’, makes that observation in a podcast last month. I completely agree. In my 2009 post on Prioritization, I note:

Prioritization is as much about what we choose not to do as what we do… In most organizations, priority is given to projects with the most political capital or those that are the furthest behind schedule, rather than to projects with the highest impact.

Even though research has shown creating a to-do list will make you more effective, Ferriss argues that “not-to-do” lists can be an even better method for improving performance. Here are the 9 habits he suggests we eliminate to free up time for more important activities:

  1. Do not answer phone calls from people you don’t know
  2. Do not e-mail first thing in the morning or last thing at night
  3. Do not agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time
  4. Do not let people ramble: “Small talk takes up big time.”
  5. Do not check email constantly
  6. Do not over-communicate with low profit, high maintenance customers
  7. Do not work more to fix being too busy
  8. Do not carry a cellphone or Crackberry 24/7
  9. Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should

No matter how much time you invest, there’s always more to do. As far back as 1955, Parkinson noted in The Economist that work expands to the amount of time you give it. Or as Warren Buffet has said:

The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.

Prioritize so you can spend less time on work and yet accomplish more things that are important.

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Three Ways that Simplicity Pays http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/07/11/three-ways-simplicity-pays/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/07/11/three-ways-simplicity-pays/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 15:16:52 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=4266 Remember ‘keep it simple, stupid’? Even though it has been a popular mantra since 1960, simplicity is a hot topic these days. In my previous blog, Is Complex Better than Complicated?, I wrote about two Zen of Python’s 20 design principles: Simple is better than complex. Complex is better than complicated. Ultimately, simple is what we are...

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Remember ‘keep it simple, stupid’?

Even though it has been a popular mantra since 1960, simplicity is a hot topic these days. In my previous blog, Is Complex Better than Complicated?I wrote about two Zen of Python’s 20 design principles:

  • Simple is better than complex.
  • Complex is better than complicated.

Ultimately, simple is what we are all striving for both in life and in business.

In our personal lives, scientific studies show a connection between simplicity and pleasure. Humans may be conditioned to seek simplicity and avoid complexity.

In business, the reason is even simpler. Simplicity pays.

Here are three specific ways simplicity can have a positive influence on your bottom line, your customers’ experiences, and employee engagement.

1. Revenue

Strategic branding firm Siegel + Gale, whose tagline is “simple is smart,” surveyed more than 10,000 consumers in seven countries as part of its 2013 Global Brand Simplicity Index. The firm asked consumers several questions about the simplicity/complexity of a brand in relation to its peers. The study yielded important insights such as:

  • 75% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand if it offers a simpler experience
  • 100% of S+G’s simplicity portfolio brands have beaten the average global stock index since 2009

In a similar study called Decision Simplicity, the Corporate Executive Board found brands that simplify customer decision making are 115% more likely to be recommended and 86% more likely to be purchased. As I’ve blogged before, simplicity helps consumers avoiddecision quicksand.

Simplicity impacts both the top and bottom line.

2. Customer Experience

If your business wants to walk the customer experience talk, leadership must do more than write a new mission statement.

For many customers, the relationship with your company begins on your website. According to research by Internet marketing blog Conversion XL, simple websites arescientifically better than complex ones. This is because the human brain “decodes, stores and processes information” more quickly and efficiently when the information is presented simply.

A simple website means happier customers and higher conversion rates.

User experience research firm Change Sciences analyzed the usability, engagement, and conversion of 15 bank websites for the “Consumer Bank Web Site User Experience 2013”study. Three findings:

  • Consumers are 17% less happy when interacting on bank sites compared with experiences on other types of sites
  • Consumers are 22% less likely to convert on bank sites than on other sites
  • Bank websites are 25% less usable than e-commerce sites like Amazon and Walmart

Being empathetic to customers means providing a clean, consistent, and simple experience for customers not only online, but at every touch point.

3. Employee Engagement

Like your customers, your employees are also on a journey. Unfortunately the reality isonly 13% of employees feel engaged at work. Research by Warwick University shows happy employees are more engaged with their work. And according to the Harvard Business Review, engaged employees contribute to less turnover, fewer safety incidents, and fewer quality incidents. Disengaged employees cost U.S. employers between $450 and $550 billion dollars per year in lost productivity.

So how do businesses make their employees happy? Science has shown simplicity can lead to pleasure and happiness. Providing a simple employee experience may be the critical ingredient many businesses and employers miss.

In February, I wrote about a Google hangout between myself and Gary Hamel, president of the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX). Last month, the MIX announced the winners of the Unlimited Human Potential Challenge, designed to discover bold and innovative ideas to unleash the power of people in the workplace. Each of the winning ideas offers a unique approach to simplifying the employee experience.

Brazilian software company VAGAS, for instance, won the M-Prize for its unique horizontal management. At VAGAS, there is no hierarchy and no command structure – employees are free to pursue the organization’s strategy autonomously. At VAGAS, simplicity means putting zero barriers between the employee and the organization’s goals.

Klick Health, the world’s largest independent digital health agency, won the M-Prize for Genome, its transformative operating system. Genome harnesses big data and social technology to create personalized experiences for each of its 400 employees. Employees “log into Genome at the start of their workday and use it for workflow, goal-setting, administrative and reporting tasks, training and more.” At Klick Health, simplicity means creating personalized workflows and experiences for employees.

VAGAS and Klick Health are among the forward-looking companies that are delivering simple experiences to their employees, to everyone’s benefit.

Revenue, customer and employee engagement – how does simplicity pay in your business?

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn on July 7, 2014.

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Douglas Adams’ Technology Rules http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/06/30/douglas-adams-technology-rules/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/06/30/douglas-adams-technology-rules/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 04:15:47 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=4241 We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works. This is a fantastic quote from Douglas Adams, best known as the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the answer to life, the universe and everything. This specific quote appears in another book, The Salmon of Doubt,...

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We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.

Douglas AdamsThis is a fantastic quote from Douglas Adams, best known as the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the answer to life, the universe and everything. This specific quote appears in another book, The Salmon of Doubt, which was published after his death and is based on multiple articles by him on the subject of technology.

While you might not think of Adams as a technologist, he has a fair amount of street cred. According to various sources:

  • Adams used e-mail extensively long before it reached popular awareness
  • He started using a word processor in 1982
  • Adams created his own USENET newsgroup (alt.fan.douglas-adams) in 1983
  • In 1984 he was the first person to buy a Macintosh in Europe

The Salmon of Doubt also includes an essay called ‘How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet’ which first appeared in the News Review section of The Sunday Times in August 1999. In the essay Adams suggests a set of rules which describe our relationship to technology:

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
  3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Apply this list to movies, rock music, word processors and mobile phones to work out how old you are.

Take social media, for example. Social media is about a decade old and, based on the above generalization, would be less prevalent with those who are 45 and older. That seems about right to me – what do you think?

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Is Complex Better Than Complicated? http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/06/26/complex-better-complicated/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/06/26/complex-better-complicated/#comments Thu, 26 Jun 2014 18:40:57 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=4217 Unless you have a software background, you’ve probably never heard of longtime Pythoncoder Tim Peters. In Zen of Python, he suggests 20 design principles including: Simple is better than complex. Complex is better than complicated. How is “complex” better than “complicated”? After all, their dictionary definitions are similar and they are listed synonyms in the thesaurus: Complex – adj. not...

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Unless you have a software background, you’ve probably never heard of longtime Pythoncoder Tim Peters. In Zen of Python, he suggests 20 design principles including:

  • Simple is better than complex.
  • Complex is better than complicated.

How is “complex” better than “complicated”? After all, their dictionary definitions are similar and they are listed synonyms in the thesaurus:

  • Complex – adj. not easy to understand or explain: not simple
  • Complicated – adj. hard to understand, explain, or deal with

Since I love writing about words and word origins, I decided to dig deeper into the distinction between the two.

Education reformer Larry Cuban writes that complicated systems “assume expert and rational leaders, top-down planning, smooth implementation of policies, and a clock-like organization that runs smoothly.” Complex systems “are filled with hundreds of moving parts, scores of players of varied expertise and independence…missing a ‘mission control’ that runs all these different parts.”

Roberto Poli, Research Professor at the University of Trento, Italy, wrote a similar analysis for The Cadmus Journal.

Complicated problems originate from causes that can be individually distinguished; they can be addressed piece-by-piece; for each input to the system there is a proportionate output; the relevant systems can be controlled and the problems they present admit permanent solutions. On the other hand, complex problems and systems result from networks of multiple interacting causes that cannot be individually distinguished; must be addressed as entire systems, that is they cannot be addressed in a piecemeal way.

Using Cuban’s and Poli’s definition, we can come up with some examples:

  • Brain surgery? Complicated.
  • Election and campaign reform? Complex.
  • Designing and implementing an underground tunnel system? Complicated.
  • Lowering the incidence of drug use in a low-income community? Complex.

This makes intuitive sense. However, from Cuban’s and Poli’s perspectives, complex isn’tnecessarily better than complicated. In a complex system, there’s no central “mission control” to manage the moving parts, making the process more difficult.

I kept looking for definitions that would validate the Zen of Python. According to the Stack Exchange:

Complexity is intrinsic. Something is complex if it involves a lot of [metaphorical] moving parts even when considered as a Platonic ideal. Complication is extrinsic. Something is complicated by external influences, or because of external influences.

Pedantically, something can be complex without being complicated, or complex because it is complicated. (Things are rarely complicated without also being complex.) Using this Stack Exchanges definition, we go back to our examples:

  • Brain surgery? Complex.
  • Election and campaign reform? Complicated.
  • Designing and implementing an underground tunnel system? Complex.
  • Lowering the incidence of drug use in a low-income community? Complicated.

The extrinsic forces which complicate a system are inherently harder to manage than the intrinsic ones. Extrinsic forces cannot be centrally controlled. Brain surgery, for example, is complex because it is intrinsically difficult. It would seem a skilled surgeon would find less difficulty performing brain surgery than a skilled policy-maker trying to reform elections. The extrinsic forces make the system or process much more complicated. By this definition, complex is better than complicated.

Words have immense power to change concepts and clarify conversations. However, this seems to be a situation where there isn’t clarity. Understanding if complex is better than complicated seems to be a complex question.

Or do I mean complicated?

This story originally appeared on LinkedIn on June 12, 2014.

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Four Oxen and the Lion http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/06/15/four-oxen-lion/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/06/15/four-oxen-lion/#comments Sun, 15 Jun 2014 21:12:32 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=4142 During my career I’ve often used animal stories to help illustrate specific points, reinforce behaviors, or to provide colorful rallying cries. Whether it’s elephants, monkeys, or camels, stories about animals are easy to remember and therefore more likely to be repeated. The heart of good communication is repetition. When I originally introduced the story of the...

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Four Oxen and The LionDuring my career I’ve often used animal stories to help illustrate specific points, reinforce behaviors, or to provide colorful rallying cries. Whether it’s elephants, monkeys, or camels, stories about animals are easy to remember and therefore more likely to be repeated. The heart of good communication is repetition.

When I originally introduced the story of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant, I was hoping to help people think beyond their normal point of view to take into account other peoples’ perspective. In my experience, most people understand their own function, group, or business unit but almost never know how they fit into the overall organization or how their actions impact others. As a result, people unintentionally hurt overall performance when they make decisions that optimize their own portion of the elephant.

While the story is memorable, it may not emphasize the downside of silo thinking. To make that point, I introduced the 6th century Aesop fable of the Four Oxen and the Lion:

A Lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell.

Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them.

At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field.

Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.

It’s a vivid reminder of the consequence of operating in silos: united we stand, divided we fall.

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For Networks, Bigger Is Not Always Better http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/05/25/networks-bigger-always-better/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/05/25/networks-bigger-always-better/#comments Sun, 25 May 2014 21:49:44 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=4097 Practically everyone has a machine-to-machine Internet of Things story they like to tell. It might be refrigerators automatically reordering milk, cows that send texts to farmers when they’re in heat, or understanding the demand for ice cream in real-time. We are living in a networked economy. The traditional understanding of networks is based on the...

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BreakpointPractically everyone has a machine-to-machine Internet of Things story they like to tell. It might be refrigerators automatically reordering milk, cows that send texts to farmers when they’re in heat, or understanding the demand for ice cream in real-time. We are living in a networked economy.

The traditional understanding of networks is based on the following arguments:

  • Value is created and shared by all members of a network rather than by individual companies. This is why it is sometimes called the sharing economy.
  • Economies of scale increase (exponentially) with the number of active connections in the network. Thus, the collaborative economy.
  • Open networks are preferable to closed ones, as transparency in operations typically increases usage.

Unfortunately, network theory typically gets summarized with “bigger is better” and networks focus on exponential growth.  The financial markets and the popular press fuel this obsession. Mobile networks, social networks, and wireless networks all report on subscribers/users/scale.

Noted entrepreneur Jeff Stibel believes this is fundamentally flawed thinking. In his book ‘Breakpoint: Why the Web will Implode, Search will be Obsolete, and Everything Else you Need to Know about Technology is in Your Brain’, Stibel claims all networks reach a breakpoint at which they have gotten too big and begin to decline. He uses MySpace as an example:

It grew too quickly. Pages became cluttered and confusing. There was too much information. It grew too far beyond its breakpoint.

Stibel argues that Facebook and Google are in danger of reaching the same breakpoint.

By contrast biological systems inherently avoid the breaking point. Nature doesn’t focus on size. “The fittest species are typically the smallest. The deadliest creature is the mosquito, not the lion.”  Ant colonies don’t get larger over time, they get smarter.

What is missing—what everyone is missing—is that the unit of measure for progress isn’t size, it’s time.

It’s a reminder for all of us who track ego metrics on the size of our social networks.  Number of followers doesn’t matter.

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Do Facts Have A Half-Life? http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/05/18/facts-half-life/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/05/18/facts-half-life/#comments Mon, 19 May 2014 00:04:55 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=4084 Having been in the technology industry for the last 25 years, I’ve felt the need to be constantly learning just to stay current. When I was a developer, it was programming languages: FORTRAN, Pascal, C, Smalltalk, C++, Java, Perl, Python, Ruby – I could never quite keep up. Over the last few years, I’ve experienced...

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Half-life of FactsHaving been in the technology industry for the last 25 years, I’ve felt the need to be constantly learning just to stay current. When I was a developer, it was programming languages: FORTRAN, Pascal, C, Smalltalk, C++, Java, Perl, Python, Ruby – I could never quite keep up. Over the last few years, I’ve experienced a similar phenomenon in social media. Almost every day, someone mentions a ‘new’ must-have social tool I haven’t tried.

While staying current has been a challenge, I was comforted by the idea that once I learned something, I could count on it. After all, facts are facts.

Or are they?

Samuel Arbesman, a Harvard mathematician and author of “The Half-life of Facts“, claims that knowledge exhibits radioactive decay. While you can’t know which specific fact will be invalidated over time, you can know how long it will take for half the information in a specific discipline to become obsolete.

Arbesman studies scientometrics — literally the science of science. In his words,

Facts change all the time. Smoking has gone from doctor recommended to deadly. We used to think the Earth was the center of the universe and that Pluto was a planet. For decades, we were convinced that the brontosaurus was a real dinosaur. In short, what we know about the world is constantly changing.

In his book, Arbesman provides an example from the study of the liver diseases, hepatitis and cirrhosis. Researchers collected nearly 500 articles from over fifty years and asked a panel of experts to judge which were still factual or disproved based on subsequent findings. When they charted the how long it took each article to become outdated, the resulting graph showed that half of the information was disproved in 45 years. Essentially medical knowledge about cirrhosis and hepatitis had a half-life of forty-five years.

The fact that half of what you know will eventually be out of date isn’t a reason to stop trying to keep up. The process of learning makes it easier to learn new things. As Arbesman writes, “the accumulation of knowledge can then lead us to a fuller and more accurate picture of the world around us.”

While knowledge may decay over time, one thing should never change: dedicate yourself to a lifetime of learning.

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Fantastic Failures from Famous Folk http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/05/12/famous-failures/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/05/12/famous-failures/#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 04:01:36 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=4077 As a way of encouraging my team to take more risks, I’ve been espousing the philosophy “Failure is the new black” and have been cataloging quotes on failure from famous people. But increased risk-taking doesn’t just come from pithy quotes, it helps to provide examples of people who failed… and thrived.  Here are four such stories:...

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FailAs a way of encouraging my team to take more risks, I’ve been espousing the philosophy “Failure is the new black” and have been cataloging quotes on failure from famous people. But increased risk-taking doesn’t just come from pithy quotes, it helps to provide examples of people who failed… and thrived.  Here are four such stories:

Henry Ford’s first automobile company went out of business and he left the second company after only a few months, even though it was named after him. Ford Motor Company would later become one of the world’s largest and most profitable companies.

Marilyn Monroe’s contract with Twentieth Century-Fox was not renewed, as they believed she wasn’t talented enough to be an actress. 60 years after her death many regard her as the quintessential American sex symbol.

R.H. Macy had several failed retail businesses, including a NYC Macy’s in 1858. By 1924, Macy’s Herald Square became the “World’s Largest Store” with more than 1M square feet.

Dr. Seuss’ first book was rejected by 27 publishers and he was about to burn the manuscript when the rights were bought by a classmate. He is now the most popular children’s book author ever.

As great as these are, the best failure story I’ve ever heard comes from Paul Smith in the book ‘Lead with a Story‘:

At 22, the company he worked for went bankrupt and he lost his job.
At 23, he ran for state legislature in a field of 13 candidates. He came in eighth.
At 24, he borrowed money to start a business. By the end of the year, the business failed and the local sheriff seized his possessions to pay off his debt.
At 25, he ran for state legislature again. This time he won.
At 26, he was engaged to be married. But his fiancée died before the wedding.
At 29, he sought to become the speaker of the state legislature. He was defeated.
At 34, he campaigned for a U.S. congressional seat. He lost.
At 35, he ran for Congress again. This time he won.
At 39, when his term ended, he was out of a job again. There was a one-term limit rule in his party.
At 40, he tried to get a job as commissioner of the General Land Office. He was rejected.
At 45, he was one of the contenders for the VP nomination at his party’s national convention. He lost.
At 49, he ran for the same U.S. Senate seat a second time. And for the second time, he lost.
At 51, after a lifetime of failure and still relatively unknown outside of his home state of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln was elected the sixteenth president of the United States.

Be a failure. Be Abraham Lincoln.

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McChrystal on Leadership http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/05/04/mcchrystal-leadership/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/05/04/mcchrystal-leadership/#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 04:31:41 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=4040 Seven years ago (!) I wrote a blog titled Management by Marching Around which suggested that traditional command and control leadership no longer worked in business – or in the military. Instead, I believe in management by influence (suggesting direction) more than by control (enforcing rules). I also recommend management by exception (tell me about...

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General McChrystalSeven years ago (!) I wrote a blog titled Management by Marching Around which suggested that traditional command and control leadership no longer worked in business – or in the military. Instead, I believe in management by influence (suggesting direction) more than by control (enforcing rules). I also recommend management by exception (tell me about exceptional successes or unexpected issues) rather than management by status (tell me about what you accomplished).

While skimming the memoir “My Share of the Task”, I discovered that retired four-star general Stanley McChrystal has similar views. Even in the military, leaders must learn how to motivate people over whom they have no formal authority. Even though General McChrystal was officially the leader of U.S. counter-terrorism in Afghanistan, he had no authority over the civilian government agencies. In his words,

I couldn’t hire them, I couldn’t fire them, I couldn’t give them a pay raise, I couldn’t give them a bonus. [... ] You had to convince people that what you wanted them to do was something they wanted to do, and that it was in their interest.

McChrystal also urges strong leaders to admit to their mistakes and not to pass blame onto others. Living up to his own ideals, in 2009 McChrystal appeared on television to apologize to the Afghan people for a military operation that had mistakenly killed civilians. And in 2010, McChrystal resigned as commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan after a Rolling Stone article quoted his staffers making disparaging remarks about administration officials.

In an hour-long video, General McChrystal provides this and other leadership advice to students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. For those that don’t have time to watch the entire video, a few points stood out to me:

  • A team is not a fixed structure but includes whatever individuals are needed to achieve a goal.
  • Repeatedly refocus individuals on the goal. Everyone on the team must be motivated and rewarded.
  • Regard every personal interaction as important. Each conversation has the potential for positive or negative impact.
  • Build relationships with your superiors, because working well with subordinates often requires working well with those above you.

And one that especially rang true:

  • In a crisis, everyone will watch to see how you respond.

Regardless of your feelings about the military, this is leadership advice to take to heart.

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