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. 


Mueller Pulls "Dirty Harry" on Anti-Trump FBI Agent, Reassigns to HR... (with Video)

In case you missed it, it was reported over the weekend that the special counsel examining alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election removed a top FBI investigator from his team for exchanging text messages with a colleague that expressed anti-Trump views.  Here's a taste of what happened from Reuters:

"The New York Times and the Washington Post identified the investigator as FBI agent Peter Strzok, the deputy head of FBI counter-intelligence. He was reassigned last summer to the FBI’s human resources department after the Justice Department’s inspector general began looking into the text messages, the papers said, quoting several unidentified people familiar with the matter.

A source familiar with the matter confirmed the reports Strzok was transferred to the human resources department over the politically charged text messages.

Strzok played a key role in the FBI investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, the papers said.

During that probe and the 2016 presidential election, Strzok and an FBI colleague exchanged texts that disparaged then-Republican candidate Donald Trump and favored Clinton, his Democratic rival, the Washington Post said. The newspapers did not disclose details of the text messages."

The point of this post isn't drum up feelings related to politics, it's to point out when you're really pissed at someone in many walks of life, you don't suspend them or fire them - you reassign them to Human Resources.

Damn. That hurts to write, but it's true.  Mueller couldn't fire the guy from the agency, but he could put him so far in the doghouse it would be obvious to all how he felt about the individual in question. 

That statement is to reassign to HR.  And it has precedence in pop culture.

A young Dirty Harry played by Clint Eastwood once got punished for renegade behavior by "the man". That punishment? You guessed it - reassigned to what we used to call Human Resources - aka Personnel.  

Watch the video below (email subscribers click through for the video) and soak up the vibe of of the insult.  Be sure to watch Harry's partner react to the reassignment.

Love you HR - even if other people don't.


What I Hate About SharkTank...and How to Deal With It...

And as you might suspect, it's linked to leadership and talent.

I love SharkTank as a show - when I'm not sure what to watch, especially with my teenage sons around, SharkTank is the go- Shark-tank-to.  It's entertaining, educational and conversation-provoking with my sons able to think about deals, negotiation, etc.

But there's one thing that drives me crazy:

I absolutely hate it when a shark makes and offer and tells the target he/she has to decide RIGHT NOW!!!  Without entertaining other offers...

I know what you're thinking.  "That's why they call it SharkTank, KD."  "Grow up, KD."  "Sucks to be them, KD."

You're right.  BUT - the very things people like Mark Cuban value most in a partner are the things they're trying to bully them out of.  Standing up for yourself - keeping deals/offers afloat why you shop for something better, etc.

The sharks in SharkTank would never be bullied like that.  But, they have people in front of them that value their involvement, want to go away with a deal, etc.  I'd say over half the time the strategy works.  The other half of the time the entrepreneur fails to deal with the expiring offer/bullying tactic in an effective way.

That's why it's about time for the pitching entrepreneurs to wise up and have a strategy to deal with the bully.  Here's the strategy they should use whenever a Shark makes them an offer and tells them it goes away unless they accept immediately without hearing other offers:

1--Thank them for the offer.

2--Remind them of the type of partner they want. "Mr. Wonderful, I know you're going to expect me to negotiate for you/us if we become partners, so please allow me to hear any other offers.  Since you were first, I'lll guarantee I'll come back to you and give you the right of counteroffer/first refusal if someone else makes an offer that's better than yours."

3--Proceed.  If they go away, they go away.

4--If you proceed and there aren't any other offers or you want the original offer, come back to the Shark who tried to use the bullying tactic and say, "Mr. Wonderful, your offer expired and I told you why I wanted to do what I did.  I'd love it if you came back in with that offer.  While I didn't heed your ultimatum, you now know I'm a partner that can seek the best deal for our business if I'm in a environment that requires negotiation."

I'm shocked more people aren't prepared for this tactic when they appear on SharkTank.   

The only time entrepreneurs who appear shouldn't use this talk track is when the Shark gives them 100% of what they asked for, or when 3 or more Sharks are already out.  That's common sense. 

But if a Shark gives you a lower than expected offer (as the first or second one in) and tries to bully you to accept right then and there, have some spine people.  Be prepared and use the talking track above in your own words.  It effectively turns the energy against the Shark and forces them to publicly confront what they want in a partner.

Oh, and never take an offer from Mr. Wonderful.