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Posts Tagged ‘career

The Aspirational Snobbery of Youth

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It’s the humility with which you accept your lot in life that makes you a gentleman

For some people, for all their life, they were told that an ordinary life was for average people – and they certainly are not average.

With the easy availability of GoPRO cameras these days there a a few bikers doing, what I would call, high-speed video blogs.  Basically, guys on their motorcycles with a GoPRO camera strapped to their helmet with a remote mike riding to work or pleasure riding doing a blog.

One such blogger is YouTube channel Delboy’s Garage.  In addition to showing you all sorts of things related to motorcycles he does a few opinion blogs.

So, here’s an interesting blog in praise of ordinary people with ordinary jobs.

Enjoy the countryside in the UK as you listen to his opinions on the “Aspirational Snobbery of Youth.

Read more

Check out a related post

Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success

Written by frrl

May 27, 2013 at 2:41 am

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Career choices for the “less-than-social”

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So you can’t be social?  What careers are best for you?

Caught this one on yahoo (read it).  What are the top careers for people who are not good at being social?

Interesting that the top careers for people who are introverts and have a need for a “less-than-social” job are in Information Technology .  Anyone who has tried to manage techie teams already knows this.  Managing these folks is like herding cats.  Making matters worse for any organization, is that these folks generally have communication challenges.

In one workplace I observed a couple of techie folks who sat across from each other communicating with each other with terse e-mail messages.  Couldn’t they just talk to each other?  When one company tried to introduce a program that would assemble the collective wisdom of those who were designated as “Distinguished Members of the Technical Staff” and “Technical Fellows” we found that the internal corporate portal discussion groups set up so these folks could collaborate fell mostly empty.  I once asked a woman about the person who sat in the cubicle in front of her.  She did not know who he was or what he did.  Both of these people were part of the IT department at this company. An executive once asked a UNIX admin a question about security.  The UNIX admin responded by e-mailing him a UNIX syslog of thousands of lines of messages with little other explanation.

At another company I asked where the IT folks were.  They pointed me to a locked door near the freight elevator.  Behind the key-pad entry door was the IT staff with desks on raised floor and no windows.  This was office space reclaimed from the days of the mainframe.  For whatever the reason, the business decided to separate these folks from the rest of the employees.  I’m sure this just exacerbated any communication problem that already existed.  Most businesses struggle with alignment of business and IT.  Is it any wonder that business and IT are misaligned and don’t easily communicate when you choose to physically separate groups in such an extreme manner?

In any case, check out the full story on Yahoo here

By Amy Winter

Are you an introvert looking to find your place in the working world? You’re in luck. There are actually a variety of jobs out there that are geared toward the less-than-social.

Career coach Curt Rosengren recommends that introverts look for careers more focused on the internal process.

“Envision doing something where a majority of the time is spent doing things in your head,” says Rosengren. “An introvert would feel more comfortable and enjoy the solo time.”

Career #1 – Computer Programmer

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, computer programmers might spend time alone writing in computer languages like C++ and Java in order to create software programs. They’re also the ones who test code and fix mistakes in the event of an error.

Career #2 – Medical Records and Health Information Technician

Instead of being hands-on with patients, these technicians are generally more hands-on with patients’ health information, making sure it’s accurate, up-to-date, and accessible in paper and electronic systems, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Career #4 – Network Administrator

If you consider yourself a techie and think you’d prefer spending time alone with computer networks versus people, a career as a network administrator could be right up your alley.

As a network administrator, you might be responsible for organizing, installing, and supporting a company’s computer systems, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In order to keep the systems up-to-date, you could set up network hardware and software, gather information to measure the network’s performance, and make the necessary upgrades and repairs, adds the Department of Labor.

Read some related articles

Four Challenges of Techie Teams

Leading Techie Teams

Advice to Engineers from Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple

Top 5 Career Tips for Graduate Engineers… and a few observations

The rise of the new groupthink…  in the NY Times

Written by frrl

June 3, 2012 at 5:28 am

Should anyone take advice from Scott Adams and Dilbert?

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I understand why the top students in America study physics, chemistry, calculus and classic literature. The kids in this brainy group are the future professors, scientists, thinkers and engineers who will propel civilization forward. But why do we make B students sit through these same classes? That’s like trying to train your cat to do your taxes—a waste of time and money. Wouldn’t it make more sense to teach B students something useful, like entrepreneurship? – How to Get a Real Education by Scott Adams

On April 9′th 2011 there was an article in the Wall Street Journal by Scott Adams.  As everyone should know, Scott Adams is the cartoonist that created the Dilbert comic strip.

My gripe with Scott Adams is that I think he has done more to perpetuate corporate dysfunction than anyone else in popular media.  I am not alone in this.  I stumbled on a blog entry from Mark Vogt – Why I Hate Dilbert.  In part…

That’s what I HATE about it, because what I’ve seen over the years (yes, literally YEARS) is that all of the avid/devoted Dilbert follows first IDENTIFY with Dilbert’s frustration over all the myriad problems/weaknesses with the modern business world, then – this is the source of my hatred – they MIMIC his INACTION.

Each time I find myself walking past a cubicle or office (even executives’ offices) with yellowed, ragged-eared Dilbert cartoons stapled meticulously along the walls in artistic, thoughtful patterns, I mentally bookmark that person, then begin observing their behavior in meetings, on projects, in emails or even in the cafeteria….

Sure enough, a most startling & troubling pattern emerges: these people – from the lowest depths to the uppermost ranks in the company – all too often display in real life the very helpless, powerless, wimpy Dilbert behavior they “identify” with in their beloved cartoon.

The bottom line is that Dilbert, even though he realizes he works for a dysfunctional company, is utterly powerless to do anything about it.  Of course Dilbert has no organizational power to change anything - he is a cubicle-dweller at the bottom of the organizational hierarchy.

But the real problem is that Dilbert can’t extricate himself from his situation.  Extricating himself from his situation would mean quitting his job.  And of course that can’t happen or the comic strip would end.  So, for obvious comic strip reasons Dilbert does not leave his job.  But far beyond the seriousness of comic strips, as the quote above points out, many people mimic Dilbert’s helplessness.  And thus. effectively destroy their careers.

Now Scott Adams wants to advise you on Entrepreneurship

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Written by frrl

April 16, 2011 at 8:36 pm

The Law of the Lid Part II – The intractable definition of career success

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Surprised to see Lady Gaga at the front of the Fast Company list of the top 100 creative people for 2010? – well, maybe not.  A little more reasonable is number two on the list – Eddy Cue  ( read it )

Steve Jobs may own the limelight, but Eddy Cue, 46, holds the key to the Apple kingdom. Cue runs arguably the most disruptive 21st-century Web businesses: iTunes and the App Store, the latter of which is poised to create a $4 billion app economy by 2012. The unassuming Cue shot up through Apple’s ranks in the late ’80s, going from desktop support to Hollywood power broker, cutting deals for movies and music. Cue’s next campaign will be challenging Amazon’s Kindle dominance, with the Cupertino cocktail of the iPad and the iBook store.

It’s good to see someone who made it from “desktop support” to Apple Vice President.  That is quite a trip – from helping someone with their desktop hardware or software to leading a part of the Apple enterprise that is projected to tap a market to generate $4 billion in revenue.

If Eddy is 46 years old now as Apple VP in 2010, and if he started out in the 1980′s as desktop support – then that is a nearly 20+ year career journey.  Good for him!

The intractable definition of career success

It’s amazing the diversity of the definition of career success.  If Eddy, at 46, was still a desktop support person, would he be considered a failure?   Is there a “right way” and a “wrong way” when it comes to careers?  How and why is Eddy Cue, at 46, a Vice President at Apple and not a desktop support person? 

Is preference for progress or personal achievement an  unfair bias?

Is it an unfair bias to say that people “must” have a career progression – and if not, they have failed in their careers?  What about the “bias” of progress in history?  Is it a foregone conclusion that we must see progress in culture and history?  What if the colonization of America by Europeans resulted in the Europeans taking on the culture of native american indians and keeping the status quo?

If America was, in 2010, simply a static repetition of the native american culture and “progress” that we see today in 2010  (science, culture, technology) was erased then would America be a “failure” against its potential?  What makes one way better than another way?  If America never landed a man on the moon, never became a superpower, never built great cities, or did anything that America is known for, would it be considered a failure aginst its potential?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Are personal careers like the progress of a nation or culture?  Is “progress” demanded, and is it “natural”?  And if the progress in your career is like the progress of history and culture then is the lack of progress considered some sort of failure?  A failure of ability to achieve potential.  Again, why is “progress” better than no progress?  What about mediocrity?  What’s so bad about mediocrity – or just being “average”? It certainly takes less effort to be average than it takes to be remarkable?  Why be remarkable?  What drives people toward achievement?  And, why is mediocrity acceptable, and preferred, by some people?

If the worldwide global culture was still “swinging in the trees” would it matter?  Or, is there something “natural” in human being that progress is natural, and that lack of progress is somehow to be avoided,  undesirable, and to be discouraged?

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Written by frrl

June 21, 2010 at 10:22 pm

How to Look Really Brilliant with Little Effort

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Here is a story from Jack Canfield

Virginia Satir, the author of the classic parenting book Peoplemaking, was probably the most successful and famous family therapist that ever lived.

During her long and illustrious career, she was hired by the Michigan State Department of Social Services to provide a proposal on how to revamp and restructure the department of social services so what would serve the client population better.  Sixty days later, she provided the department with a 150 page report, which they said was the most amazing piece of work they had ever seen.

She replied, “Oh, I just went out to all the social workers in your system and I asked them what it would take for the system to work better.”

One of my favorite quotes from Henry Ford is this

Why is it that whenever I ask for a pair of hands, a brain comes attached?
– Henry Ford

What amazes me is that there are still so many “industrial age” corporations out there that think like Henry Ford.  That is, that the executive team has all the answers and the workers are just the “hands” that do the work and offer little else.

Brilliance?

So, was it “brilliance” that allowed Virginia Satir to go ask the social workers how to make the system work better – or simply lack of common sense on the part of the executive team at the Michigan State Department of Social Services?

An old joke from consulting is… “a consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you what time it is and then hands you a bill.”  This is exactly what Virginia Satir did.  She borrowed the states own employees to tell her how to do things better, compiled, analyzed, and delivered the information, then she handed the Michigan State Department of Social Services a bill. 

The approach of asking employees for input on improvement must have eluded the Departments executives.

The Toyota Way

Toyota is famous for The Toyota Production System (TPS) - which is not only a manufacturing system but also a corporate culture and philosophy.  A large part of TPS is employee empowerment.  Here are some recent statistics

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Written by frrl

June 13, 2010 at 5:22 am

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Fast Path to a Golden Parachute – Eleven Accelerators

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Mapping the Path

David Dotlich and Peter Cairo are a couple of executive coaches with experience coaching top executives.  Along with psychologist Robert Hogan these guys put together a sort of laundry list of why executives fail.  Or, in our terms, execute a fast path to a Golden Parachute.

Of note is that the list that these folks put together centers on behavior and psychological attributes of people.  The list of career derailers does not include things like lack of domain knowledge, industry expertise, or other sorts of “knowledge-based factors” or “vision/strategy factors”.  This is not to say that CEO’s do not lose their jobs based on performance unrelated to behavioral factors.

Behavioral and Psychological Factors that can Speed Your Exit

The focus of their list is behavioral and psychological attributes that cause people to undermine and/or sabotage their careers.

According to David Dotlich and Peter Cairo

The third thing that we know for a fact about leaders is that perhaps two-thirds of the people currently in leadership positions in the Western world will fail; they will then be fired, demoted, or kicked upstairs

… leadership failure is a behavioral phenomenon.

… leaders fail because of who they are and how they act in certain situations. Especially under stress, they respond with a pattern of behavior that can sabotage their jobs and careers. They rely on a specific way of thinking, speaking, and acting that ultimately causes them to fail. Many times, they’re not even aware that their behaviors have become reflexive.

A central focus – The inability to build a team

From Dotlich and Cairo

The most common reason for their failure will be their inability to build or maintain a team.

Their inability to build a team will be a function of certain dysfunctional dispositions, interpersonal tendencies that are usually invisible during job interviews or assessment center exercises.

These tendencies usually become apparent when people are under pressure or when they let down their guard. Moreover, there is considerable consensus regarding the nature of these dysfunctional dispositions. They reliably fall into eleven categories, and they can be assessed with considerable fidelity.

What’s so bad about failure?  It could be very lucrative

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Written by frrl

June 11, 2010 at 4:35 am

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Toxic Corporate Cultures: Lessons from the Enron Debacle

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What can we learn about corporate cultures from the Enron Debacle?

Dr. Paul Wong, a Clinical Psychologist, took a stab at identifying five aspects of a Toxic Corporate Culture.  He wrote an easy-to-read 6 page paper – Lessons from the Enron Debacle: Corporate Culture Matters!

So, take a read

From the paper, here are the five signs of a toxic corporate culture and four signs of health.  This is just a summary.  Each of the these are treated in more detail in the paper along with background on how Enron conducted business.

Toxic Corporate Cultures

The following corporate cultures are described as toxic because they are dysfunctioning in terms of relationships and adjustment to changing times. They undermine the social/spiritual capital, poison the work climate and contribute to organizational decline.

  1. Authoritarian-hierarchical culture - The big boss alone makes all the major decisions behind closed doors. Even when the decisions are harmful to the company, no one dares to challenge the boss. The standard mode of operandum is command and control, with no regard to the well being of employees or the future of the company.   Hierarchies without accountability tend to have a corrupting influence on ambitious, autocratic leaders. When the boss is dysfunctional and has the power to impose his selfish, irrational decisions on others, the entire company suffers.
  2. Competing-conflictive culture – There is always some sort of power struggle going on. Leaders are plotting against each other and stabbing each other on the back. Different units and even different individuals within a unit are undercutting, backstabbing each other to gain some competitive advantage. There is a lack of trust and cooperation. People often hide important information from each other and even sabotage each other’s efforts to ensure that only they will come up on top.  There is no regard for the larger picture and the overall goal of the company. It is everyman for himself.  Both management and workers are obsessed with their own survival and self-interests.
  3. Laissez faire culture – There is a vacuum at the top, either because the leader is incompetent and ignorant, or because he is too preoccupied with his personal affairs to pay much attention to the company. Consequently, there is an absence of directions, standards and expectations. When there is an absence of effective leadership, each department, in fact, each individual does whatever they want. The leadership void will also tempt ambitious individuals to seize power to benefit themselves. Chaos and confusion are the order of the day. No one has a clear sense where the company is going. Often, employees receive conflicting directions and signals. Often, decisions are made in the morning only to be nullified in the afternoon. Given the lack of direction, oversight and accountability all across-the-board, productivity declines. In this kind of culture, the company either disintegrates or becomes an easy target for a hostile takeover.
  4. Dishonest-corrupt culture – In this culture, greed is good and money is God. There is little regard for ethics or the law. Such attitudes permeate the whole company from the top down to individual workers. Bribery, cheating, and fraudulent practices are widespread. Creative accounting and misleading profit reports are a matter of routine. Denial, rationalization and reputation management enable them carry on their unethical and often illegal activities until they are caught red-handed or exposed by correcting forces of the market. When management are blinded by greed and ambition, their judgment becomes distorted and their decisions become seriously flawed; as a result, they often cross the line without being aware of it. Enron serves as a good example.
  5. Rigid-traditional culture – There is a strong resistance to any kind of change. The leadership clings to out-dated methods and traditions, unwilling to adapt to the changes in the market place. They live in past glory and any change poses a threat to their deeply entrenched values and their sense of security. Workers are discouraged or even reprimanded for suggesting innovative ideas.

The five types of toxic cultures are not mutually exclusive. For an example, a corporation may be both authoritarian and traditional. Similarly, a corporation can be both authoritarian and corrupt. When a company suffers from a multiple of diseases, drastic operations are needed to save it from demise. Unfortunately, not many managers are competent in the diagnosis and treatment of toxic corporate cultures.

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Written by frrl

June 7, 2010 at 11:38 am

The Law of the Lid and why Leadership can’t be taught

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The greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and we miss it, but we aim too low and reach it. – Michelangelo

The Journey

Why do some people stay employees all their life?  Why do some people become self-employed and start businesses?  Why do some small businesses stay small businesses?  Why do businesses that start out as single-owner sole proprietorship stay that way and never become employer businesses?  Why do some companies grow to global enterprises while others never even have a nationwide presence?  Why are there enduring “Mom and Pop” businesses while at the time a single Wal-Mart store in Rogers Ark.  can grow to 8,400 stores, 2.1 million employees, and 400 billion dollars in revenue over 4 decades?

The answer to the question above lays in many parts – timing, circumstances, resources, and perhaps, just dumb luck and serendipity.  There is one aspect that one can ferret out of the numerous aspects that determine how far an individual, team, organization, or company gets on the journey to “success” – for whatever definition of success one chooses to define.

What is “The Lid”

The “lid” is a term used by John C. Maxwell.  Here is how he explains it

Leadership is always the lid on personal and organizational effectiveness. The lower an individual’s ability to lead, the lower the lid on his potential. The higher the leadership, the greater the effectiveness. Your leadership ability–for better or for worse–always determines your effectiveness and the potential impact of your organization. If you want to grow your church or company, you need to lift your lid.

A few years ago, I met Don Stephenson, the chairman of Global Hospitality Resources, Inc., an international hospitality advisory and consulting firm. At the time, his company took over the management of hotels and resorts that weren’t doing well financially. I asked him to explain how they did it.

Don said that whenever they went into an organization, they always started by doing two things: First, they trained all the staff to improve their level of service to the customers; and second, they fired the leader.

“You always fire him?” I asked. “Don’t you talk to the person first–to see if he’s a good leader?”

“No,” he answered. “If he’d been a good leader, the organization wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in.”

And I thought to myself, Of course. It’s the Law of the Lid. To reach the highest level of effectiveness, you have to raise the lid–one way or another.

The good news is that getting rid of the leader isn’t the only way. You can also do it through personal growth and development. 

To further illustrate the Law of the Lid, Maxwell tells the story of the McDonald Corporation.  Which, if you didn’t know, if it wasn’t for Ray Kroc,  would not be the global corporation that it is today.

If the McDonalds corporation was left to the McDonalds brothers – Dick and Maurice,  McDonalds would be a single restaurant on the corner of 14′th and E streets in San Bernardino California.

Here is the story of Dick and Maurice McDonald as told by Maxwell

Let me start by telling you a story that illustrates the Law of the Lid. In 1930, two young brothers named Dick and Maurice moved from New Hampshire to California in search of the American Dream. In their search for success, the brothers tried out a few business opportunities in and around Hollywood. In 1937, they struck on something that worked. They opened a small drive-in restaurant in Pasadena.

Dick and Maurice’s tiny drive-in was a great success, and in 1940, they decided to move the operation to San Bernardino, fifty miles east of Los Angeles. Their business exploded. Annual sales reached $200,000, and the brothers found themselves splitting $50,000 in profits every year–a sum that put them in the town’s financial elite.

As times changed, so did they. In 1948, they streamlined everything, reducing their menu and emphasizing service with speed. And their profits soared. The two young men had the golden touch.

Who were these brothers? Their names were Dick and Maurice McDonald. They had hit the great American jackpot, and the rest, as they say, is history, right? Wrong! The McDonalds never went any farther because their weak leadership clamped a lid on their ability to succeed.

It’s true that the McDonald brothers had one of the most profitable restaurant enterprises in the country. Their genius was in customer service and kitchen organization. But when they tried marketing the McDonald’s concept to open other franchises in 1952, their effort was a dismal failure. The reason was simple. They lacked the leadership necessary to grow their organization. Dick and Maurice were good restaurant owners and efficient managers. But they were not leaders. At the height of their success, Dick and Maurice found themselves smack-dab against the Law of the Lid.

In 1954, the brothers hooked up with a man named Ray Kroc, who was a leader. He soon struck a deal with Dick and Maurice, and in 1955, he formed McDonald’s System, Inc. (later called the McDonald’s Corporation).

Kroc immediately bought a franchise to use as a model and prototype to sell other franchises. Then he assembled a team and built an organization. The “lid” in the life and leadership of Ray Kroc was obviously much higher than that of his predecessors. Between 1955 and 1959, Kroc opened 100 restaurants. In 1961, for the sum of $2.7 million, Kroc bought the exclusive rights to McDonald’s from the brothers, and he proceeded to turn it into an American institution and global entity.

Today the company has more than 21,000 restaurants in no fewer than 100 countries. Leadership ability–or more specifically its lack–was the lid on the McDonald brothers’ effectiveness.

So, there are a couple of points to make

  1. The Law of the Lid sets the limit of effectiveness of an individual, team, organization, company, or for that matter – a society, culture, or a nation.  (If we extend Maxwell’s concept to the extreme.)
  2. According to Maxwell, Leadership can be taught. (“The good news is that getting rid of the leader isn’t the only way. You can also do it through personal growth and development. “)

Number one is true’; Number two is “maybe” and “usually not”

Here’s why

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Written by frrl

June 1, 2010 at 2:25 am

What Makes Men?

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Some thoughs based on the thinking of Ronald Heifetz at the John F. Kennedy School of Government

Some societies, social systems, cultures, and organizations “get stuck” - and in the worst case, die –  due to their inability to objectively face reality and constructively (productively) adapt. 

Ronald Heifetz calls this “work avoidance”.  You can observe this in politicians, CEO’s, and almost any place where the ability to objectively assess reality and face problems head-on is lacking.

From the “school of experience” perspective, one gains the ability to deal with these uncomfortable and distressful situations over time simply by being placed in these situations time and time again and gaining the proficiency to productively deal with them rather than falling into the trap of work avoidance. 

Sometimes people are challenged too quickly and they collapse into inaction or are paralyzed by the situation.

From Hiefetz:

People fail to adapt because of the distress provoked by the problem and the change it demands.  They resist the pain, anxiety, or the conflict that accompanies a sustained interaction with the situation.  Holding on to past assumptions, blaming authority, scapegoating, externalizing the enemy, denying the problem, jumping to conclusions, or finding a distracting issue may restore stability and feel less stressful than facing and taking responsibility for a complex challenge.  These patterns of response to disequilibrium are called work avoidance mechanisms… 

While more research should clarify the distinction between productive and avoidance behavior in different social systems, some rules of thumb are useful.  One might detect work avoidance when the subject of discussion is suddenly taken off the table…; when the focus shifts from attending to the problem to alleviating the symptoms of stress…; or when responsibility for the problem is displaced to an easy target (as with scapegoating).  One ought to take a skeptical stance, at least momentarily, when some action suddenly makes everyone feel good.

Again, some people placed into a position to solve these types of gut-wrenching problems are destroyed.  For others, the opposite happens – they are transformed by it.  Some have called this experience “The Crucible” – a sort of furnace of life-changing trials where one learns and earns confidence of rock-hard determination – a cauldron of turbulent crisis where both character, and sometimes, new societies are forged.

Think of the American Revolution and the founding fathers – Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and others.  What happened to folks like these?

The question is this, in the context of work avoidance and the idea of the crucible, “Did the situation make these men or would these men have risen to prominence without the situation?”.  There is no lack of “crucible situations” – but perhaps lack of people who are willing and able to step into the cauldron of a turbulent crisis and seize the opportunity to  “become” men.

Written by frrl

May 17, 2010 at 2:36 am

The Four Stages of Competency & Predictors of Career Success and Failure

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“Know thyself” is a greek aphorism that was inscribed at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.

A couple of weeks ago I ran into someone who not only did not know what he did not know but also had a pretty good idea (in error) of what other people know and did not know.  For a person who did not know himself, making an assertion of what other people know and do not know is quite an accomplishment.

Here are the four stages of competency

  1. Unconscious Incompetence.  The individual neither understands nor knows how to do something, nor recognizes the deficit, nor has a desire to address it.
  2. Conscious Incompetence – Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, without yet addressing it.
  3. Conscious Competence – The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires a great deal of consciousness or concentration.
  4. Unconscious Competence – The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it becomes “second nature” and can be performed easily (often without concentrating too deeply). He or she may or may not be able teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

So this person I met was in the “Unconscious Incompetence” camp.  When I told him about the thing he did not know I also told him how he could find out more about it – but he was not interested.  In the context of the environment in which this person was working, other people do know, so this lack of knowledge on the part of this individual will be noticed.

Related, are those people who get “stuck” in other ways – never learning from mistakes.

Diagnostic Job Interview Questions

These types of interview questions will “ferret out” those people who have and do not have the capability of critical self-assessment and learning from mistakes.   The capability to engage in ongoing critical self-assessments and learning from mistakes is taken as a  predictor of career success or failure.

  1. Discuss the most difficult constructive criticism or feedback you have received. How did you address it? What have you learned from it?
  2. Describe a failure that you have experienced. What role did you play, and what did you learn about yourself?
  3. What have you learned from a mistake?
  4. Please provide an example of a team failure of which you’ve been a part. If given a second chance, what would you do differently?

If you can’t candidly face, discuss, and work on your flaws, or if you try to hide them, blame others, or blame circumstances it shows a lack of self-knowledge and maturity.  Don’t expect to be a viable candidate for senior leadership.

Another common flaw is work-avoidance.  This is the inability to face difficult alternatives in terms of values, procedures, operating styles and power within an organization.  People with work-avoidance will do everything but solve the problem directly.  CEO’s or executives in this situation will do everything to quell the organizational disequilibrium  except face and solve the problem directly.  This is the avoidance mechanism at work.

More related concepts  - Illusory Superiority - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusory_superiority

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Written by frrl

May 13, 2010 at 3:37 am

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Making Innovation an Expectation & Celebrating Failure as Learning

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Try this at your company…

At the end of every meeting the chairperson should set aside 15 minutes for anyone who is exploring a new idea.  If no one has anything to say they are told that they are not doing their job.  This process, followed consistently, produces a stream of new ideas and creative thinking.

Jack Welch, former CEO of GE,  used to insist that every meeting include an exchange of new ideas or new techniques.

A “forgive and remember” learning culture…

We celebrated mistakes at a management gathering with 1,000 people in the room. A manager would get up and say why the environmentally sensitive light bulb or whatever it was…had failed…Then we’d give them $1,000 or a TV or something, depending on the scale of the thing. The point was to share the learning and get smarter as an organization. – Jack Welch

An early experience…

Kirsty Wark: “I understand one of the first things you did at GE was blow up the plant you were working in and that it had a profound effect on you. Can you explain?”

Jack Welch: “I did accidentally blow up the plant, yes. I was about 25 and had been experimenting with a different mixture. There was an explosion. I was scared stiff when I went to the manager. But, he was mainly curious as to why I had done what I had done and what I had learnt from it. ‘Would the process I was trying have worked,’ is what interested him!

That real encouragement to get it right rather than a punishment did have a profound effect on me, yes.”

The Innovation Machine at Google

Given the strategy to let a thousand flowers bloom, many products are bound to fail. However, Google executives appear to be undeterred by failure. In fact, Schmidt encourages it: “Please fail very quickly—so that you can try again” is how he described his outlook to the Economist. Similarly, Page told Fortune that he had praised an executive who made a several-million-dollar blunder: “‘I’m so glad you made this mistake. Because I want to run a company where we are moving too quickly and doing too much, not being too cautious and doing too little. If we don’t have any of these mistakes, we’re just not taking enough risk.’” Needless to say, that level of risk tolerance is rare in corporations, despite the widespread belief that error and innovation go hand in hand.
Reverse Engineering Google’s Innovation Machine, Harvard Business Review April 2008

Written by frrl

May 11, 2010 at 4:05 am

On Multiple Intelligences, Minds, and the Education for the Future

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A couple of decades ago (1983), Howard Gardner came up with this idea that IQ (“Intelligence” Quotient) only measures one type of intelligence.  Observation shows that people possess abilities that IQ tests can not measure.  Gardner got the idea that to really understand the full range of human capability it was necessary to extend the concept of “intelligence” beyond the traditional default definition.

Gardner came up with the theory of multiple intelligences.  The belief was that multiple  intelligences better capture the full capability of human being and that an individual, evaluated on traditional IQ tests alone, did not tell the full story on a particular individuals capability.

Here is a list of Gardners 9 intelligences Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

April 24, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Insecurity and the Egoholic

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Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm– but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.

– T. S. ELiot

I snagged the quote below off the web (see below).  But first a few comments.

Whoever wrote the quote got it wrong by mixing “egoholic” behavior in political and organizational situations and mapping this to insecurity.

Those is politics who have a desire to control everyone and everything do this out of ego but certainly not out of insecurity.  Quite the opposite.  Folks like Lenin and Marx wanted nothing less than to create a new form of human being and a new form of society - a Utopia – a Paradise on Earth – a workers paradise free from the exploitation of man by man and through the abolition of private property and a class(full) society.

Such a political aspiration to transform human being and society certainly is based on ego, but not concomitantly based on insecurity.

Obama and the Dems that want to control healthcare and everything that can be linked to it have big egos but these actions are not motivated by insecurity – quite the opposite.  If anything, its ego plus ideology and confidence.

Those in organizations who have a desire to control everyone and everything do this out of ego,  insecurity, fear, and self-doubt.  They have the need to find an environment where they can have control to compensate for situations where they have no control and are powerless.

There was this interesting suggestion by Scott Adams the creator of Dilbert …  As a reaction, these people create a fortress of technology competency and an air of superiority which, according to Adams, “is patently a compensation for their powerlessness” within the organization. Scott Adams was referring to people like Dilbert who are at the bottom of the organization and have no management or executive power to determine anything – in short, they are powerless – they do not contribute or control the corporate strategy or direction, control the allocation of resources, make personnel decisions, or even control their own assignments.

The result of this powerlessness can manifest itself as compensation played out as egotistical behavior and desire to control everything and everyone in situations and environments where they can find an opportunity to realize this.  The challenge for these folks is finding environments, situations, and people  where this can be realized.  That is, environments and people who will assent to this type of treatment.  The character of Milton in the movie Office Space is a good example.  Lumbergh can dispatch Milton to a basement office to have him “control the rat population”.  Milton is diminished as a person and Lumbergh can feel good about himself by being able to treat Milton in this way.  Milton and Lumbergh have a sustainable symbiotic relationship as long as each plays their part.  If you saw the movie, you can see what happens when Milton “snapped” and burned the place down out of being treated in this manner.  Milton became his own Lumbergh in this ultimate act of defiance of being powerless.  And so it goes.  ( Watch the Milton clips from Office Space here )

So, bottom line, big egos in politics is based confidence.  Egoholics in organizations .. just may be the facade for underlying insecurity, self-doubt, and compensation for other environments and situations where these folks are powerless.

Here is what I snagged off the internet that got me thinking

The Demise Of The Egoholic

We all know them, we have seen them at school, in work and we see them playing politics on TV and in the news.

The egoholic needs to control people and often to demean and belittle them, in order to validate themselves.

Whatever authority they have relies on their title, their uniform or intimidation.

When I was younger this kind of “authority” was normal, thankfully in modern organisations these characters are increasingly rare.

What drives people to behave this way is their own insecurity.  Insecurity or lack of self-confidence can lead to dramatically different behaviours.  At one end of the spectrum insecurity can lead people to be reticent and hold back, at the other end to be arrogant and intimidating.

The results of egoholic leadership are all around us and are blighting our lives and worse for many.  At the very least we are paying more tax to fund the excesses of egoholic bankers and to pay for the conflicts caused by egoholic politicians.

It is time to say good-bye to the egoholic.  Your drive and determination was valuable in it’s day, it lead us to a far deeper and greater sense of personal responsibility.

Ego and insecurity related to ideology and politics - hardly.
This poem written by Karl Marx

Then I will wander godlike and victorious
Through the ruins of the world
And, giving my words an active force,
I will feel equal to the creator

Ref: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/enlightened-living/200911/ego-insecurity-and-the-destructive-narcissist

The bully’s ego is artifice. His arrogance is a hollow confidence. His condescension is a need to belittle. His rage is a need to control. This ego for him is a fragile thing, driven by fear and narcissism, not by power, nor by the power he wishes so desperately to possess. In fact, the bully is actually quite powerless, for he is only as powerful as the power we give him. He feeds on our fear, but his hunger is driven solely by his own.

The key for the bullied is to recognize that the bully’s bullying is not about us — it’s about him, and his weakness. It’s about his sense of being threatened, and his horror at being found out as an imposter or a poser. He is afraid — quite afraid – and all the time. With this recognition that it’s not about us, we can then stand firm, or even push back; thusly not get lost in the self-doubt and self-victimization that potentially perpetuates for us the abusive and socially sadomasochistic relationships in which we might find ourselves by accident, by choice or by default.

The bully is always the weakest kid on the playground. Push back, and watch with compassion as he collapses into a pale reflection of whom he pretends to be.

Related: ( Narcissistic Personality Disorder )  http://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx36.htm

Written by frrl

March 25, 2010 at 4:59 am

Be, Know,Do: Forming character the West Point Way

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Conventional wisdom says that by the time young people reach college, it’s too late to change them. The U.S. Military Academy begs to differ. The civilian world can learn a lot from the way West Point instills values, shapes behaviors, and builds character.

… West Point embarked upon an intense institutional conversation that continues to this day. We questioned our basic assumptions and reexamined our very essence. In a world that had been remade virtually overnight, what was the purpose of the U.S. Military Academy, and how exactly should we go about meeting that obligation?

Check out the article – http://frrl.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/beknowdo_formingcharacterthewestpointway.pdf

Written by frrl

March 21, 2010 at 5:03 am

What it takes to be great

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The critical reality is that we are not hostage to some naturally granted level of talent. We can make ourselves what we will. Strangely, that idea is not popular. People hate abandoning the notion that they would coast to fame and riches if they found their talent. But that view is tragically constraining, because when they hit life’s inevitable bumps in the road, they conclude that they just aren’t gifted and give up.

Maybe we can’t expect most people to achieve greatness. It’s just too demanding. But the striking, liberating news is that greatness isn’t reserved for a preordained few. It is available to you and to everyone.

Read the entire article from FORTUNE Mag -
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2006/10/30/8391794/index.htm
and – Outliers: The Story of Success

and the opposing view…

  • You need the government’s help.
  • No one expects you to make it on your own.
  • Because others are rich, you are poor.
  • You are a victim

Advice for victims

  1. Affiliate with a proven victim group. While this is not essential to permanent victim status, it provides a good head start.
  2. Avoid taking ownership of your behavior.  You may have said something stupid or done something wrong or neglected the important things in your life for years, but that doesn’t mean you should have to face the consequences.
  3. Stay immobilized. Nothing will get you out of victim status faster than doing something productive to improve you situation.  To overcome this urge, start thinking about all the things you can’t do.
  4. Master VictimSpeak. The words you use shape your thinking.  Avoid phrases that suggests confidence.  Come up with a personal list of dis-empowering phrases.
  5. Assume the worst about the future. Affirm the future is likely to be just like the past and probably worse.  Refuse to entertain the notion that others have been where you are and have overcome their adversity.  This is nothing but mean-spirited self-reliance propaganda.
  6. Become a spokesperson for the cause. Reaffirm your victim status publicly as much as possible.
  7. Stay the course. The path to permanent victim-hood can be very rewarding and liberating.  The small price you have to pay today can turn into small reward down the road.  And with very little work on your part, you can become the type of victim that other victims admire.

Read more – The War on Success: How the Obama Agenda is Shattering the American Dream

In high school I read Emerson.  Emerson’s essay on Self-reliance, read at that early age,  influenced greatly how I saw the World.  Read the essay for yourself – Self-reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Written by frrl

March 13, 2010 at 5:10 am

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Are all great leaders Narcissists?

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By choosing the “nuclear option,” Obama is demonstrating do-or-die fanaticism. This makes for great TV football, but it’s very dangerous for the man in the biggest power seat in the world. We are seeing Obama the Radical taking over from Obama the Pragmatist — if that one ever really existed. From what we know about his fanatical associates like Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright, sacrificing the Democratic Party majority in Congress would be only a small price to pay.

The question is what real damage Obama may do to the country. This man has been entrusted with the greatest power in the world. He will have that power for the next three years at least.

But he may not be able to emotionally tolerate any real limits on his need for self-aggrandizement and power. And still he can’t be allowed to beat the country into submission.

Check out this article on American Thinker by James Lewis regarding an assessment of Obama against characteristics of Malignant Narcissism.

A partial checklist of Malignant Narcissism from the article in American Thinker

  1. Common to malignant narcissism is narcissistic rage. Narcissistic rage is a reaction to narcissistic injury (when the narcissist feels degraded by another person, typically in the form of criticism).”
  2. When the narcissist’s grandiose sense of self-worth is perceived as being attacked by another person, the narcissist’s natural reaction is to rage and pull down the self-worth of others (to make the narcissist feel superior to others). It is an attempt by the narcissist to soothe their internal pain and hostility, while at the same time rebuilding their self worth.”
  3. Narcissistic rage also occurs when the narcissist perceives that he/she is being prevented from accomplishing their grandiose fantasies.”
  4. Because the narcissist derives pleasure from the fulfillment of their grandiose dreams (akin to an addiction), anyone standing between the narcissist and their (wish) fulfillment … may be subject to narcissistic rage. Narcissistic rage will frequently include yelling and berating of the person that has slighted the narcissist, but if strong enough could provoke more hostile feelings.”
  5. Individuals with malignant narcissism will display a two faced personality. Creation of a ‘false self’ is linked to the narcissist’s fear of being inadequate or inferior to others and this mask becomes ingrained into their personality so as to project a sense of superiority to others at all times.”
  6. The narcissist gains a sense of esteem from the feedback of other people as it is common for the malignant narcissist to suffer from extremely low levels of self-esteem.”
  7. The … false self of the malignant narcissist is created because the real self doesn’t meet his or her own expectations. Instead, the narcissist tends to mimic emotional displays of other people and creates a grandiose self to harbor their internalized fantasies of greatness.”
  8. The [false self] is used by the narcissist to present to the outside world what appears to be a normal, functioning human being and to help maintain his or her own fantasies of an idealized self. The narcissist constantly builds upon this false self, creating a fictional character that is used to show off to the world and to help them feed off the emotions of other people.”

There’s ongoing debate about “malignant narcissism” as a diagnosis, and some people prefer to use the standard DSM-IV version. It doesn’t make much difference in this case.

Here is Theodore Millon’s definition of the fanatic type:

fanatic type – including paranoid features. A severely narcissistically wounded individual, usually with major paranoid tendencies who holds onto an illusion of omnipotence. These people are fighting the reality of their insignificance and lost value and are trying to re-establish their self-esteem through grandiose fantasies and self-reinforcement. When unable to gain recognition of support from others, they take on the role of a heroic or worshipped person with a grandiose mission.

This is the definition from The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition,

  1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  4. requires excessive admiration
  5. has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  6. is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  7. lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  8. is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Written by frrl

March 5, 2010 at 5:15 am

Kill Bill Vol. 2 – Superman

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Over the weekend I rented Kill Bill Vol 1 and Vol 2 by writer-director Quentin Tarantino.  This film, in two parts, was released in 2003 and 2004.  The star is Uma Thurman as The Bride.  Thurman  received a Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama nomination in 2004 and 2005 for her work in Volume 1 and Volume 2.  Total running time for both parts of the movie is about four hours.

After watching 4 hours of Kill Bill I can say that I am now ready for psychological counseling.

There are some memorable speeches in this movie.  One that comes to mind is Bill’s (David Carradine) speech on Superman

… Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there’s the superhero and there’s the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone.  Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He’s weak… he’s unsure of himself… he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.

So, Bruce Wayne puts on a costume to become Batman; but Superman puts on a costume to become Clark Kent.  One puts on a costume to create the appearance of strength; the other puts on a costume to create the appearance of weakness.

What do they have in common?  Both are a critique on the whole human race. In the first case, indirect; in the second case – direct.

Written by frrl

March 3, 2010 at 5:18 am

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Why you should fire yourself – (before someone else does)

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It’s the start of a new year and a good time for a self-evaluation to avoid what could be called the “GM syndrome”.

Unfortunately, the GM situation reflects the reality that most managers become enamored with their own strategies and have trouble breaking free of their tried and true patterns. In other words, even when we intellectually understand that the world has changed and we need to do things differently, it’s difficult to let go. We become invested in what we’ve created and how we’ve learned to do things. And it’s not just managers at a troubled company like GM; it’s all of us.

Read the article – http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2009/12/why_you_should_fire_yourself.html

 Cached copy here

As an aside, back in 1985 former Intel CEO Andy Gove was in his office with Gordon Moore (Moore’s law) wondering how they would compete with the Japanese in the memory market.  Grove asked Moore “If we got kicked out of here and the board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?”.  Moore responded, “He would get out of memories.”  Grove said, “Why don’t you and I walk out of the door, come back and do it ourserlves?”

This was a strategic inflection point for Intel – exiting the memory market and getting into the micorprocessor business.  The story is told in Groves book: Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company

Written by frrl

January 3, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Jack Welch – On Differentiation: Or, making winners out of everyone

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JackWelchOn Differentiation by Jack Welch

If there is one of my values that pushes buttons, it is differentiation.

Some people love the idea; they swear by it, run their companies with it,and will tell you it is at the very root of their success. Other people hate it. They call it mean, harsh, impractical, demotivating, political,unfair—or all of the above.

Obviously, I am a huge fan of differentiation. I have seen it transform companies from mediocre to outstanding, and it is as morally sound as a management system can be. It works.

Companies win when their managers make a clear and meaningful distinction between top- and bottom-performing businesses and people, when they cultivate the strong and cull the weak.

Companies suffer when every business and person is treated equally and bets are sprinkled all around like rain on the ocean.

UNDERNEATH IT ALL

A company only has so much money. Winning leaders invest where the payback is the highest. When all is said and done, differentiation is just resource allocation, which is what good leaders do and, in fact, is one of the chief jobs they are paid to do. A company has only so much money and managerial time. Winning leaders invest where the payback is the highest.   They cut their losses everywhere else.

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Written by frrl

October 31, 2009 at 5:26 am

Jack Welch on Candor – It just unnerves people… the biggest change for the better

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Jack Welch,  former CEO of General Electric

JackWelchI have always been a huge proponent of candor. In fact, I talked it up to GE audiences for more than twenty years. But since retiring from GE, I have come to realize that I underestimated its rarity. In fact, I would call lack of candor the biggest dirty little secret in business.

What a huge problem it is. Lack of candor basically blocks smart ideas, fast action, and good people contributing all the stuff they’ve got. It’s a killer.

When you’ve got candor—and you’ll never completely get it,mind you—everything just operates faster and better.

Now, when I say “lack of candor” here, I’m not talking about malevolent dishonesty. I am talking about how too many people—too often—instinctively don’t express themselves with frankness.

They don’t communicate straightforwardly or put forth ideas looking to stimulate real debate. They just don’t open up. Instead they withhold comments or criticism.

They keep their mouths shut in order to make people feel better or to avoid conflict, and they sugarcoat bad news in order to maintain appearances. They keep things to themselves, hoarding information.

That’s all lack of candor, and it’s absolutely damaging.

And yet, lack of candor permeates almost every aspect of business.

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Written by frrl

October 27, 2009 at 12:02 am

Managing Your Career – When IQ and Expertise are not enough:Or, why you need Emotional Intelligence to get ahead

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Or, why you need Emotional Intelligence to get ahead

corporate_ladder

The natural career progression

There is a natural progression in one’s career.

Generally, one starts out as a Individual Contributor, moves to Manager, and then to Leader.

From Self to Team to Organization

The transition along the continuum from Individual Contributor to Leader is a move of the focus of self to team to organization.

As an Individual Contributor one works on individual tasks and projects – it’s basically a solo effort; the focus is on self.  A key differentiator between an Individual Contributor and a Manager is the ability to delegate .  A successful Individual Contribution is measured by personal achievement and successful completion of individual tasks assigned by someone else.  A successful manager is measured by the success of the team.  Leaders are measured on the success of their organizations.

From Today to Fiscal Year to the next 5 years.

The transition along the continuum from Individual Contributor to Leader is a movement of focus of longer and longer time-frames and from tactical to strategic.

An Individual Contributor works on tasks in a time-frame of today, tomorrow, and the next day – tactical.  Managers focus on time-frames of this quarter, next quarter, and this fiscal year – tactical.  Leaders focus on direction setting for next year, three years from now, and perhaps five years from now – strategic.

Are the traditional transitions similar to this enough to get you to the CxO positions in major corporations?

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Written by frrl

October 19, 2009 at 6:13 am

The University of Phoenix – Business model mystery solved

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UniversityOfPhoenix

This take on the University of Phoenix (UoP) is complements of Michael Gerber. Gerber has written a number of books targeted for small business owners.

Gerber is probably most famous for this concept of the E-myth with a book of the same name.  The E-Myth: Why Most small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It.

The e-myth is stated below- It is the “fatal assumption” and why many small businesses fail.

“E-Myth stands for the “entrepreneurial myth,” the end product of which is most often a business and life disaster.  The E-Myth says that technicians suffering from an entrepreneurial seizure believe that because they understand how to do the work of the business they intend to start, they are automatically gifted with an understanding about how to build and grow a business that does that work.”

But enough of that – if you want to read Gerber’s E-Myth books – have at it.

I mention the E-Myth in the larger context of Gerber’s analysis of what makes a business successful.

Back to the University of Phoenix (UoP) and Gerber’s take on this.

Gerber uses UoP as an example of the clarity one must have in setting up a business.  That is, clarity of your business model – clarity in which category you compete; clarity of who your customers are; clarity in what product you are offering; clarity in what your customers expect, and so on, and so on, and so on.

The Chimera of the University of Phoenix

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Written by frrl

September 5, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Posted in Commentary and Opinion

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How to NOT derail your corporate or organizational career

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How to NOT derail your corporate or organizational career

corporate_ladderI always like this quote from major league baseball player and manager Yogi Berra – “You can see a lot just by observing.”

Lack of Self-Awareness and Self-Assessment

The really great thing about human nature is the lack of self-awareness.  That is, the inability to see ourselves the way other people see us.  As one moves up the corporate ladder, self-awareness becomes more and more important.

To the extent that folks lack this self-awareness and self-assessment of where they are in relation to where you want to be then they will fail.

The Leadership Pipeline

And remember, if you want to climb the corporate ladder then to be successful you need to follow other peoples rules.  For mature organizations those rules are generally encoded in management and leadership development programs.

Check out our related posting on The Leadership Pipeline along with the book recommendations and other assets in the Resources section.

There are many opportunities to fail

There are many opportunities for one to derail their corporate careers

You can think of a corporate career as a transition from Individual Contributor, to Manager, to Leader.  At each stage you can get derailed if you don’t understand what is expected at each stage.

Some dreams deserve to be crushed

In fact, if you do get derailed at a certain point in your career, then good!  Not good for you – but good for your company.  Companies becomes dysfunctional to the extent that people get promoted to levels for which they are not ready.

Ten Fatal Flaws That Derail Leaders

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Written by frrl

July 18, 2009 at 5:48 pm

On Being Crushed: The Value of Adversity. Or, taking advantage of defining moments

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writerThis story from the Associated Press is getting a lot of attention.  The story is short and you can read the full text below.

At issue is a girls basketball game where the ending score was 100 points to nothing.

The losing team, Dallas Academy,  was “crushed”, “trounced”, “hammered”, “clobbered”, “obliterated”, “thrashed”, “wasted”, “pommeled”, “flogged”, and “driven into the ground” - not just defeated.

And now the team that scored the 100 points to zero victory, Covenant School,  has “winners remorse” – they are sorry – they want to forfeit their victory.

Why should this be?

The new ideology – Apology for Success

Why should anyone apologize for a victory?  Why should anyone apologize for success?  Ifone is winning, then why should one “back off”- stop their winning pursuit in an endeavor – why is this the “right” thing to do?

The story by the AP seems to drift toward an implicit idea that “winners” need to be mindful of the competition and “back off” if the performance or accomplishment gap becomes too wide – a sort of achievement self-governance that sets limits based on the (lack of) attainment of another group of people.  Is this idea and behavior of benefit to society in general?  Since the context is high school, and high school is where many values takes shape, maybe this is a more important issue than it seems.

The winning school wants to forfeit the game and apologize.  Why?

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Written by frrl

January 24, 2009 at 7:16 am

Posted in Commentary and Opinion

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From Loading Dock to CEO in 6 painful steps. Or, Navigating the Leadership Pipeline

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leadershippipeline

Reference: The Secret to GE’s Success: A Former insider Reveals the Leadership lessons of the World’s Most Competitive Company (Hardcover) by William R. Rothschild

Reference: The Leadership Pipeline: how to build a Leadership-Powered Company by Ram Charan, Stephan Drotter, and James Noel.

Reference: Developing your Leadership Pipeline – Harvard Business Review December 2008

Before you read this posting, read our previous posting:
Amateur Radio Clubs: Good to Great; Good to Gone; Lost in Mediocracy.

writer

The Questions

How do companies deal with the war for talent requiring ever increasing compensation packages which are now sky high for talented people?

Why do companies recruit leadership talent from outside rather than promote from within? Is hiring gifted people from outside the organization good as a tactic or long term strategy?

Is it better to buy leaders or build them? If you can build leadership then how is this accmplished? 

The theme of this posting is building leaders from inside of an organization, which companies do it, and how they do it.

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Written by frrl

January 9, 2009 at 8:41 am

Organizational Behavior: The Myth of Accountability and the Parent-Child Relationship

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Read our related article:
Building Teams: Prescriptive Advice for Building Great Teams

writerMaking some observations

The man in the hole.

If you grew up in Chicago – or perhaps any big ciy for that matter – maybe you came across this scene.  Walk around Chicago and you are bound to see people working in a manhole.  Usually, there are a couple of city workers standing around looking down into the manhole.  There is one guy in the manhole doing the work – sewer, electrical, or whatever.

What are the guys doing who are looking down watching?  Those people are the supervisors.  One of the roles of the Supervisor is to make sure the man in the manhole does the work.  So he is watching.  enforcing compliance, compelling, the man to do the work.

Sometimes another city worker drives around the city and stops by the work being done in the manhole.  One of the roles of this person is to make sure the supervisor is doing his job.  It could be the case that the supervisor has decided to take the whole team on some personal errands, or maybe they are sleeping in the truck.

So, the city checks up on the supervisors – watching the supervisors to make sure they are watching the man in the manhole doing the work.

The Role of the Media

The city of Chicago has two major newspapers – the Tribune and the Sun-Times.  These newspapers send out reporters to watch – just in case the city is not watching the supervisors watch the workers – to ensure compliance to the work to the benefit of the Chicago citizens/taxpayers – for which this City government has as its prime mission – or supposedly so.

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Written by frrl

January 6, 2009 at 8:06 pm

Can you be embarrassed? – What to learn from Rod Blagojevich

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Or, “nothing but sunshine hanging over me.”

See our related posting:  Good To Great Part II: The Gift of Governor Rod Blagojevich

writerThe case of Illinois Govenor Rod Blagojevich is a real gift to psychology and organizational behavior. 

It is from these extreme cases of human behavior where one can learn the most.  To be “in the mainstream of behavior” makes one almost invisible.

But not Rod Blagojevhich.  On December 9,2008 Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested by FBI agents for what U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald called a “staggering” level of corruption involving pay-to-play politics in Illinois’ top office.

In a press conference Rob Blagojevich said:

I’m here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. I intend to stay on the job and I intend to fight this thing every step of the way…I have done nothing wrong.

Blagojevich vowed to “fight fight fight until I take my last breath.”

The Quandary

The interesting question is how two groups of people can interpret the same series of events from opposite perspectives and arrive at conclusions that are at opposite extremes.

On the one hand, Illinois lawmakers are on a course to impeach Blagojevich.  The senate has gone on record that they will not seat anyone who Blagojevich names to fill the senate seat left open by Obama.

On the other hand is Blagojevich who thinks he has done nothing wrong and will “fight fight fight”.  Blagojevich described himself as “in the limelight”.  Being in the limelight is generally understood as a positive attribution.  But nothing could be further from the case.  Blagojevich shows up for work as if nothing is wrong – as if he is in a state of denial.  He has said as much “I have done nothing wrong.”

The Dilemma of the Observers

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Written by frrl

January 3, 2009 at 8:36 pm

Posted in Commentary and Opinion

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Building Teams: Prescriptive Advice for Building Great Teams

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Building Teams:

Prescriptive Advice for Building Great Teams

Read the following previous parts to catch up on our journey.
Amateur Radio Clubs: Good to Great; Good to Gone; Lost in Mediocracy
Good To Great Part II: The Gift of Governor Rod Blagojevich
Good to Great Part III: Building the Team

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In Collins book  Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t he gives some pretty simplistic advice – First who, then what.

That is, the priority of the right people over starting with direction and building the team around an already determined goal.  Get the right people on the team first and they will figure out the rest – and be able to compensate for changing internal and external circumstances.   In a word, “agility”.

The second part of Collins advice about teams– get the right people on the team,  get the right people in the right roles, and get the wrong people off the team.

Beyond Collins on Teams and Team Dynamics

Collins book is at a high corporate level.  He does not drill down into the more specific questions about how to find the right people or what the characteristics are of those individuals on great teams.  It really does beg the next set of questions.

How do successful teams function?  What are the signs of dysfunction on teams?   If you do find dysfunctions on a team then what are the mitigation strategies and tactics that you can put in place to remedy these dysfunctions?  In building a new team, can you come up with a prescriptive set of guidelines – ground rules – calibrations – on how the team will function given the common pitfalls that a team may encounter?

How can one benefit from what one can learn by studying cases from the success and failure of real teams?  There is no benefit in repeating the mistakes of others.  It’s all in the name of continuous improvement learned from past experience – yours and from other organizations.   “We don’t have time to make other peoples mistakes.”

The above questions are the theme of this posting.

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Written by frrl

December 24, 2008 at 4:39 am

Good to Great Part III: Building the Team

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Good to Great Part III: Building the Team

Read the following previous parts to catch up on our journey.

Amateur Radio Clubs: Good to Great; Good to Gone; Lost in Mediocracy
Good To Great Part II: The Gift of Governor Rod Blagojevich

The Case Study Approach

A compelling aspect of Jim Collins books Good to Great and Built to Last is that they are both based on empirical research of real companies over an extended period of time.  Books based on real companies, real data, and an established methodology certainly have an advantage over theoretical ideas on prescriptive organizational behavior that have not been tested or validated.

This approach of real world analysis of real companies, real people, real events, real data, and so on is one of the defining characteristics of the Harvard Business School case method of learning that has been copied by many other schools.  Such an approach keeps ones feet on the ground and avoids the risk of one propounding elegant idealistic theories that really don’t work in reality.

If you have been following along with our previous parts you know that Jim Collins set out to study the phenomenon of companies that made and sustained the transition for Good to Great.  His books describe what he found.

First Who, Then What

When we began the research project, we expected to find that the first step in taking a company from good to great would be to set a new direction, a new vision and strategy for the company, and then to get people committed an aligned behind that new direction.

We found something quite the opposite.

The executives who ignited the transformation from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there.  No, they first got the right people on the bus ( and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it.  They said in essence “Look, I don’t really know where we should take this bus.  But I know this much: if we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.

Get the right people ON the Team

Collins argues that it is better to assemble a cohesive team of “A players” with perhaps differing perspectives on organizational direction and strategy than it is to have a predetermined direction and then assemble a team that is (already) committed to that direction.

The reason that the fist approach has an advantage has to to with the obvious reality of uncertainty and change.  If the external circumstances change and you have an executive management team dedicated to a established purpose which is no longer relevant then the organization is at a distict disadvantage – the organization may continue on a losing path due to the dedication of these team members to a specific goal, or the team may not be able to adapt to the new circumstances and direction.

Collins quotes Wells Fargo CEO Dick Cooley

… he and chairman Ernie Arbuckle focused on “injecting an endless stream of talent” directly into the company.  The hired outstanding people whenever and wherever they found them, often without any specific job in mind. “That’s how you build the future”, he said.  “If I’m not smart enough to see the changes that are coming, they will. And they’ll be flexible enough to deal with them.

Get the Wrong People OFF the Team

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Written by frrl

December 21, 2008 at 8:55 am

Excuse Me. Your Class is showing

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Excuse Me. Your Class is showing

See our related posting:  Things not going too good?  Maybe you need a Second Life

updating_womanSerendipity. Or, an accident of the Dewey Decimal System

It was an accident of the Dewey Decimal system at the local  library.  I went looking for a book, found it, turned around to leave, and facing me in the stacks on the opposite shelf was 646.77 LOW.

I wasn’t particularly interested finding 646.77 LOW – but it found me.  646.77 LOW was UpDating: How to Date Out of Your League (Paperback) by Leil Lowndes . How could one not pick up a book with a title like that? So I did. Paged through it. Looked interesting. It’s mine for two weeks.

Why do we do what we do?

In a book about the early life about Apple CEO Steve Jobs ( Steve Jobs, the Journey Is the Reward ) the story is told about his relation to his father.  Jobs father was in the used car business -sort of.  His father was a shade tree mechanic that bought cars, fixed them up,and then sold them out of his used car lot which happened to be the the family driveway.

Steves father tried to get him interested in repairing cars. Steve was not interested. Steve was more interested in who would buy cars like this. That difference in focus – a focus not on the car but on the person who would buy the car probably made all the difference in the world for the future of his career.

The “other Steve” – Steve Wozniak co founder of Apple with Steve Jobs – was more like Steves father – interested in the “thing” and not the “person” who would buy the thing. The history of Apple shows the very divergent paths that the two Steves took. One to CEO of Apple, CEO or Pixar, and CEO of NeXT; the other Steve ( Wozniak) remained mostly a technologist.  The divergent paths of esch was based on the fundamental difference in focus of these two Steves.  One with a primary focus on the desires of people; the other with a primary focus on technology.

The point is this. It’s sometimes interesting to ask why people do things.  Why would a person buy one type of car and not another type of car? Why would one spend time in Second Life rather than their First Life? Why would one want to “UpDate” – date a person out of their league?  All this gets to the underlying question that marketing folks ask – what motivates people to desire/consume a specific product or service?  How can this desire be fulfilled?  Or, perhaps, how can one create a desire or demand?  All this comes down to understanding the person and not the thing.

Is the desire to be what we are not, or have what we do not have,  based on Class?  Why do some people want to be of a “Higher Class” or have a mate of a “Higher Class”?

How different classes define Class

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Written by frrl

December 16, 2008 at 7:59 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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