Leadership and The Power of Doing the Work...

From my drive time this week, I got two very different takes on a public figure in the business world - a guy named Gary Vaynerchuk.  Here's a description of Gary that I pulled from Inc.com so I didn't have to think about how to describe him:

If you’re an Inc reader, you’re probably familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s the entrepreneur who grew his father’s business from a humble liquor store into a wine empire through a combination of social media and content marketing. Today he’s a media mogul, bestselling author, and aspiring New York Jets owner. Clouds and dirt

The man is a massive success, and he’s certainly no dummy.

That said, unless you’re a certain type of person in a very specific set of circumstances, following his "Jab, Jab, Crush It" model could likely sabotage your shot at success. Before you call me crazy, let me tell you why.

He relies on brute force.

Gary V. talks a lot about how hard he works. He regularly stays up until three in the morning, sending and responding to emails to cement connections. He tweets in every spare minute he has--in cabs, in-between meetings, during commercials. And when he’s not doing all that, he’s creating content and running his company.

Believe me when I say I admire the guy. But the fact remains that his approach to building a following is all about brute force. It relies on huge sacrifices of rest, free time, and deep concentration.

If you want a taste of Gary V, go here and here.

He's a polarizing figure.  One great friend of mine saw him speak recently and is all in. Another great friend of mine wouldn't slow down if Gary crossed the road in front of her SUV - she'd actually speed up.

But even if you hate Gary V, one thing you can't deny in his message is the power of doing the work.  It's something all of us forget as we move into leadership roles and start managing others.  Are you still doing the work on a daily basis?

Are you sure?  Or are you managing others doing the work?  Not the same thing.

Gary V has a new theme in his act - it's called "Clouds and Dirt".  The meaning of that theme is pretty simple -the clouds—the high-end philosophy of what you believe and also you being a dictator of strategy—and the dirt—the low-down subject matter expertise that allows you to execute against it. Gary V thinks you should forget about everything else.

He believes in Clouds and Dirt so much that he has a new Kswiss shoe - I'm not making this shit up - coming out in a few months.  That shoe is called "Clouds and Dirt."  Blue stripes for clouds, brown stripes for dirt.  Really. Kswiss shoes have 5 stripes for the uninitiated.

Behind the hype, Gary V is right about one thing:

Your strength as a leader comes from never losing your roots as a practitioner. Can you do the stuff you talk about?  The longer you and I are in leadership positions, the less we do the work.

Even if you do one thing a day that is actually "the work", do that one thing.

Be a practitioner.  Get grimy with some stuff in your shop.  It will make you a better leader and build empathy for your team and industry at the same time.

 


Is It Better to Be Feared or Loved in Corporate America?

I know, I know.  The cliche is that it's better to be feared, right?  Would you believe that an expert along the lines of Machiavelli disagrees at times?  Here's what Machiavelli has to say about protection against conspiracies in the Prince, which are plots to hurt someone on some level and reduce their power.

Being feared, Machiavelli says, is an important protection against a conspiracy.  But the ultimate protection, he says, is to be well liked.  Not simply because people who love you are less likely to take you down, but because they are less likely to tolerate anyone else trying to take you down. If a prince guards himself against that hatred, Machiavelli writes, "simple particular offenses will make trouble for him...because if they were even of spirit and had the power to do it, they are held back by the universal benevolence that they see the prince has." The prince

The problem with power on any level in an organization is that you have to make tough decisions.  Tough decisions ultimately hurt someone and cause enemies to be made.  In that circumstance, having the vast majority love you does seem to offer some protection against those who would want to harm you career-wise.

But Machiavelli is a bit of a thick read and contradicts himself from time to time, including this additional passage on the being feared vs being hated:

Here a question arises: whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the reverse. The answer is, of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved. . . . Love endures by a bond which men, being scoundrels, may break whenever it serves their advantage to do so; but fear is supported by the dread of pain, which is ever present.

I'd add to this and say that if it's power you want to hold in an organization - it's better to be in the extremes - you either want to be feared or loved.  The middle isn't going to do you much good.

Which brings us to who you are behaviorally, right?  If it is power you have and it's easier for you to be hated than loved, than you should go with it.   Nice guy or gal? Let your benevolence shine through like the flashlight on your iPhone.

Do you want to be loved or hated?  Do you and don't be someone you're not.

 


Professional White Guys and Stretch Goals for Business Casual: Ricky Rubio Edition...

It's Friday, and whether you work in a software company or a bank, you had a decision on what to wear to work.

No one is more confused than the professional class white guy.  I'm on record about having opinions on this through the following tutorials:

BEST PRACTICES IN BLUE BLAZERS FOR THE CONTEMPORARY WHITE PROFESSIONAL CLASS MALE

BEYOND BLUE BLAZERS - THE PANTS CHOICES OF PROFESSIONAL WHITE MEN IN AMERICA

If you're not a white guy, feel free to partake in these tutorials as you see fit and use at your discretion - there are lessons for all in these, but as a white guy, I'm an expert in the behaviors of the caucasian male. Rubio2

But back to today's post.  Let's say you've devoured the contents of my tutorials and have your game together.  You pants game is tight and you've updated the blue blazer you wear.  You're content, but now you want more.

Where do you go?

Well, I don't want to freak you out or cause your spouse to say, "what the hell happened to my 'Dockers-sensible' husband", but I've got the next step for you.

Two words: Ricky Rubio. (email subscribers click the title of the post in the email to go to the site if you don't see the pictures)

--Ricky Rubio is a professional basketball player for the Utah Jazz.

--Ricky Rubio is from Spain.  I think many females would say he's not hard on the eyes.

--Ricky Rubio kind of looks like Jesus these days, which is good for appearing relatable.

--Ricky Rubio is hurt and was on the bench for game one of the Jazz series vs the Houston Rockets.

--Ricky Rubio showed you the path for what's next if you've complied with my first two tutorials on dress for professional (white) guys.

Ricky Rubio rocked a gray hoodie underneath a smart, stylish blue blazer. (email subscribers click the title of the post in the email to go to the site if you don't see the pictures) Can you pull this off, professional white guy?  You say no, I say MAYBE.  It all comes down to will.  Once you walk through the office one time, the shock has been delivered.  Then you're on to your day and everyone around adjusts to the new normal, but you have to keep the blazer on.  Let's say your name is Pete.  The process of the office coping with you breaking some type of professional dress barrier goes something like this: Rubio1

--Did you see what Pete was wearing?

--Pete may have lost his mind.

--You know, that actually doesn't look bad.

--Pete dresses better than anyone around here.  I wish these other slobs were more like Pete.

--Pete is a cool #*#*##.

Or maybe it goes to hell for you.  You won't know until you try, right?

Click here for all the twitter buzz on the Rubio style and enjoy.  


Lesson #2 from #March Madness: Being Conservative Can Get You Beat (UMBC Cinderella Rule)

Capitalist Note: Throwing a couple of talent/business lessons I was reminded of as I watched the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament this year.  March Madness has something for all of us.

Some organizations/teams play to win.  Assertiveness rules the day, which means those organizations and teams are always Umbcgoing to be on the attack, looking to improve their circumstances by being active and aggressive on all fronts (this can be professional in nature, by the way).  From the top down, they are always looking to attack.  From a corporate standpoint, think Uber as an extreme case of this.

Other organizations are more conservative in nature.  These entities generally have already had some level of success and they're looking to remain successful.  In the DNA of these organizations, the best way to protect a lead is to circle the wagons and be very pragmatic about the risks they take.   These organizations want to win - the risk aversion is more of a stylistic choice on the success they've already had.

But being conservative doesn't mean you've eliminated risk in business - or in basketball, as evidenced by lesson #2 from the first weekend of March Madness 2018:

Talent Lesson #2 from March Madness - Conservative approaches decrease your margin for error.  The  UMBC upset of Virginia is a great example of this truth.  Virginia plays a conservative style on both offense and defense - they aren't incredibly talented, but they execute their base strategy very well.  That conservative approach wins a lot - but in a "lose one game and you're out" type of environment, it can be deadly.  The other team gets hot, and suddenly you're out.  The moral of the story? Even if you have a good to great team, never stop trying to upgrade the talent you have.  Conservative approaches in basketball - the grinding out wins mentality - are often there because it is the best way to win with average talent.  Same thing is true in business.

Virginia has a very conservative approach.  They're a defense-first, grind it out in the half-court type team.  They are world class using that system, but playing conservatively means they don't beat teams by large margins to begin with - mainly because the number of possessions in a game goes down as a consequence of their style.  That means inferior teams can hang around, if it they hit a couple of shots - watch out.  The opposition can get confidence and it can spin out of control into an upset.

The same thing is true in organizations, and happens most often when a company is protecting a cash-cow, dominant position in any marketplace.  You're the leader, you're making money and things are great.  That means you get away from taking risks, you've probably got a large legal department telling you "no" and the talent on your team is generally poker-faced and unemotional when something goes wrong.  

Just play our style.  Protect the margin.  Don't rock the boat.

Then you look up and the UMBC of your industry or market wins a HUGE deal in a head to head match up with you.

You do a loss analysis, ask the prospect for feedback and it comes back clear - your company was to locked into the way you do it.  The upstart was willing to do things outside of scope to customize the solutions.

You just got UMBCed.  

 


Lesson #1 From #MarchMadness - Uniqueness Is Always an Advantage...

Capitalist Note: Throwing a couple of talent/business lessons I was reminded of as I watched the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament this year.  March Madness has something for all of us.
 
Sometimes it's better to zig when others are zagging from a strategy perspective.  Here's Syracuse23zonedefense-768x511something I was reminded of via March Madness:
 
--Uniqueness wins because it's hard to prepare for. Whether it's hoops or business, being different from others means you're hard to prepare for.  Syracuse deploys a defensive scheme called the 2-3 zone while most other schools use a man-to-man approach.  That means they are hard to prepare for, which was a key in them knocking off one of the tourney favorites in Michigan State.  When you have a strategic or tactical plan that's different than your competitors and the talent to pull it off, your organization will get unexpected wins - simply because you look and feel different from others.
 
Of course, the decision to look and feel different from your competitors isn't an easy one.  It's much easier and safer from a career perspective to be a "fast-follower", which means you go with the crowd and try to be acceptable to the largest percentage of clients/prospects/whoever you're trying to gain the interest of. 
 
The old saying that my bosses had back in the day was that "no one ever got fired for buying IBM".   No one ever got fired fast for looking like everyone else either - because looking like everyone else is the acceptable thing to do.  Of course, the key there is no one ever got fired fast.  You'll get fired for being a fast follower if results ultimately don't follow.  
 
So the big question is - how are you going to get results?  By looking like everyone else or doing something differently?
 
Syracuse uses a freaky 2-3 zone to be different.  It rose up at the right time and provided the advantage needed to take down a March Madness favorite.
 
Are you like everyone else or do you have a differentiator up your sleeve when you need it most?
 
#survive_and_advance

ADJUST/EVOLVE: The Biggest Thing I've Learned In The Last 5 Years...

Quick thought on a Monday.  I've been lucky to have a great career in the world of HR and recruiting.  I've been active on the side in basketball as well.  The two are interconnected when it comes to times that I didn't get the results I wanted.  At work, in projects, on the court, etc.  Here's the common lesson I've learned in both:

When I don't get great results, I can almost always look back and blame myself for not adjusting or evolving quickly enough.  I didn't scrap Plan A quickly enough.  I held onto what worked in the past and didn't experiment with a new approach when performance was flat.

The biggest enemy of sustained success in your career is the success you've already had.  That success makes you hold onto the way you've always done things - even when your present day results are telling you that change is necessary.

It worked before, so it should work now.

Things aren't going well, but if I hang on, it will get better.  My way works.

They're wrong. I'm great.

Your way won't be successful forever. Eventually your competition figures you out, your market tunes you out or you simply become flat in your delivery.  The first time you feel failure with the way you've always done it, maybe it's a fluke.  The second time you feel failure after a great period of success, you should check the crispness of your delivery/plan.  If that detail check doesn't solve it, you probably need to reinvent the way you're approaching your goals.

March Madness is all about survive and advance.  Your career is all about evolve or die.  Or at least evolve or fade away.

Change your approach to something this week.


When Your Boss Acts Like a Dinosaur and You Just Serve Up The Brontosaurus...

In case you missed it, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is the latest leader VP level FTE of the free world to espouse the benefits of having his underlings print stuff out for him to chew on.  Damn kids!  Where's my digital information printed out on something I can take notes on?  Or use to throw away my gum?  BTW, I'm almost out of Big Red - send the intern to the store. 

OK, let's look at the quote and analyze it after the jump.  More from Newsweek:

"Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that he prints out President Donald Trump's tweets and uses them to inform decision-making on foreign policy. Tillerson

The Texan was speaking to his predecessor Condeleezza Rice at a Stanford University event on Wednesday, at which he said the president is "world-class at social media," on which he reaches millions of people via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with messages that sometimes even his own team remain unaware of. 

"The challenge is getting caught up because I don't even have a Twitter account that I can follow what he is tweeting, so my staff usually has to print his tweets out and hand them to me," Tillerson told Rice."

Random and at times, astute thoughts on this:

1.  Condi is pressing her tongue against her teeth - or whatever method she uses - not to laugh out loud at Tillerson thinking he's being cool with this response.

2.  It's hard when you have an otherwise talented boss ask you for something stupid.  Sometimes the caveman just wants to eat, and it's easier to serve him the Brontosaurus than walk him through the issues.

3.  There would be A LOT MORE DINOSAURS in the world receiving this level of service.  But most of us saw administrative assistants go away in the 1990s, never to return.  So while this type of story is rare, it would be more common had the great OD plague of the 1990 not wiped 80% of the admins from the face of the earth.

4.  Tillerson has a legitimate security concern in not having a twitter account.  But I'm pretty sure that there's an analyst at the State Department that can set up autoforwarding to his smart phone via email or even a secure app - let's name it Sexy Rexy - and have it pop the minute Trump tweets.

5.  And yes, someone close to Tillerson has to tell him how bad this makes him look and help him at least have the appearance of looking digital.

It's one thing to have Marge print out the tweets.  It's another thing to tell the world you're on top of twitter and use it for policy by - wait for it - printing stuff from "The Twitter Thing" out.

 

 


You Might Need A "Managed By Me" Operator's Manual in 2018...

Quick thought for you today.  If you're looking to refresh the working relationship you have with the people who work for you in 2018, it might be time to publish an "operator's manual" for those that report to you.  What's a "Managed By Me" Operator's Manual look like?

Managed by Me Operator's Manual - a guide put together by a manager of people to let his/her direct reports understand the best way to operate the complex machinery/algorithm that represents them as a manager. Hit me

Wondering what could be included in that?

1--Behavioral strengths and weaknesses.  Don't forget that most extreme scores in any behavioral category serve as both strength and weakness.  Depends on the circumstances.

2--For Best Results, please ___ and ___.   You're human, so it stands to reason that there is a "most effective" way to deal with you.  This could easily be broken up into guidance on how to maximize results related to communication style, level of information you want, etc.

3--Common Issues.  Yes, people have had problems with you before.  You've been manufactured in a six sigma facility, but given the number of reps you've been used, there's bound to have been some problems.  You tell people about those problems and tell them how to fix/who to call/what the warranty period is.

4--Some Maintenance Required.   That's right!  You don't just run a car for 20,000 miles without doing some routine things to make sure you're good to go.  The same holds true with you.  Tell them what maintenance is required to maximize their time with you.  If you expect rundowns of major projects, tell them what you need, how often, etc.

The point of the "Managed by Me Operator's Manual" is to refresh.  You've been around your people for awhile, and things might seem flat.  You can change it up by providing this doc to you people and perhaps have some fun on the way.

You think they know how to work with you.  I guarantee they don't know everything you think they know about you.  In addition, we're trained as managers of people to believe that it's up to us to manage our teams.  

Truth is that managing teams is a two-way street.  They're as responsible for managing up to you as you are directly managing them - if you want the best results.  The Operator's Manual on you as a manager is a fun way to refresh the relationship and put some of that burden back where it belongs - on them.

 


VIDEO: Using BHAGs as a Goal Setting Technique for High Performers...

Big, hairy, audacious goals, or BHAGs, are visionary, strategy statements designed to focus a group of people around a common initiative. They traditional differ from our other goal setting techniques because BHAGS are usually positioned toward by a large group (rather than individuals) and they typically span a large amount of time than any of our other goals. They’re huge.

Even though BHAGs are generally goals for companies and collective groups, smart managers are increasingly using them for individuals as well. I explain the merits of using BHAGs in this fashion in the following episode of TalentTalks from Saba Software.

Take a listen (email subscribers click through for video below) and hit me in the comments with a BHAG that's been useful in your career or managing a talented direct report!!! 


VIDEO: Jamming Your Business Approach/Best Practice Down Someone's Throat...

The scene - team discussion about a direction with client work.

The problem - client doesn't know what they want.  They're attempting to neuter rock star work, which will hurt the end product.

What do you do?  Your choices

1--Neuter the work.  Work product suffers, but you take a "the client is always right" approach and give them what they ask for.  Cross off the client as a reference - They'll be happy, but you won't be proud of the work.

2--Battle with them.  They're wrong.  You're right.  Let's go to war.

Of course, there is a third approach - you've got to educate them why you're approach works, maybe give them a concession or two and try to work as a consultant to take most of what you know they need.  Senior level influence in this regard - you can show them others in the industry are already deploying your approach or find others in their organization who support you.

Need a video to parody this approach?  I thought you'd never ask.  Take a look at the video below (email subscribers click through to see the video) - it's from my life as a card-carrying member of Gen X.  It's a music video from a alt-rock group called Sum41, and the intro is what I want you to look at, as the band visits a music executive who tells them he wants them to change their name to the "The Sums" based on the success of groups like "The Strokes" and "The White Stripes".

Favorite quotes from the exec:

"Do you smoke? You do now, smoke 'em up Johnny".

"What's your name? (kid says Derrick)  Not anymore it's not. It's Sven"

Get out there and influence.  They need what you got, people.