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Article link here: http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/the-world/article/likeability-its-an-inside-job-bruna-martinuzzi

Likeability: It’s an Inside Job

Sep 07, 2010

Except for functional sociopaths, everyone wants to be liked. Yet, despite this innate desire to be liked, we often behave in ways that make us unlikeable. There are many dictionary definitions of likeability but my favorite comes from author Tim Sanders who describes likeability as “an ability to create positive attitudes in other people.”

The business case for likeability is strong. As an example, a Harvard Business Review article entitled “Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools, and the Formation of Social Networks,” looks at how people choose those they work with. The research refers to the informal social networks that evolve at work and that are vital for getting things done in today’s collaborative business environments. It shows that people choose who they partner with at the office according to two criteria. One is job competence (Does Joe know what he’s doing?). The other is likeability (Is Joe enjoyable to work with?). The evidence is strong that personal feelings regarding a person’s likeability play a pivotal role in forming job-oriented relationships and informal networks that are crucial for the completion of tasks. In fact, likeability is so powerful that in many cases, it will trump competence!

Whether you are a sales person, a business owner, a leader, or a receptionist, an absence of likeability is a social handicap, one that can hinder your effective functioning in both, your personal and professional life. This article is not about faking likeability by showing up in a shrink-wrapped version of ourselves, complete with a fake 500-watt smile, while feigning interest in others. People see through this veneer very quickly anyway. This article is about developing genuine likeability which can only come from deep within, from who we are when no one is looking.

What can we do to be more likeable? Here are a few tips:

1. Assess your likeability. Take a moment to complete this free, online likeability self-assessment. If your score is high, congratulate yourself. Perhaps you can mentor someone. If your score is low, consider incorporating some of the elements of likeability in your every day behavior with colleagues and in your personal relationships. In particular, focus on eliminating any unlikeability aspects. Choose one to concentrate on and keep practicing it until it becomes a part of your operating system. For example, “I talk more than I listen.” If this describes you, consider being the last one to speak in a meeting, once in a while, and see what happens.

2. Cultivate an emotionally attractive personality. Are you so engrossed that you may unwittingly appear cold and impersonal to others? Are you buried in your Blackberry while someone is talking to you? We can get so task-focused at times that we end up paying scant attention to others’ contributions. Make an effort to know more about others and communicate deserved appreciation at every opportunity. Know how to make the first two or three minutes comfortable for another person or the group so that work can proceed on a positive tone. Be aware of not giving signals of disinterest by fiddling with your papers or looking at your watch. In meetings, do you frequently give people the washboard forehead? Don’t overlook the small interpersonal niceties that are the oil that makes relationships run smoother.

3. Address people by their name more often. “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Dale Carnegie didn’t say this for nothing. Calling someone by their name is the quickest way to shorten the distance between you and that person.

4. When you greet others, lead with your smile. This is borrowed from Tim Sanders’ The Likeability Factor: How to Boost Your L-Factor & Achieve Your Life’s Dreams. In his book, Sanders unveils the following four elements of personality that are essential for being perceived as likeable:

  • Friendliness (Communicating liking and openness to others)
  • Relevance (Connecting with others’ interests, wants and needs)
  • Empathy (Recognizing, acknowledging and experiencing others’ feelings)
  • Realness (Your integrity that stands behind your likeability & guarantees its authenticity)

5. Be likeable in your online community. We all share an innate need for social connection—being noticed, appreciated, having a sense that others care about what we are doing. The same applies to our virtual relationships. Make an effort to support those in your social network. It takes a second to press a “Like” button or re-tweet an article you enjoyed. Once in a while, leave a comment on a blog that you found useful. If your habitual response to a blog topic, however, is to simply add a link about your own treatment of the same topic, then consider that you may be the equivalent of the conversation stealer, who interjects his own story to change the focus of the conversation to himself. As well, consider including, in your blog, links to useful articles posted by others, even if the posts happen to be those of competitors. Paradoxically, the more we shine the light on others, the more we are noticed. Share generously online: don’t withhold your best content. This is coming from a place of abundance, a magnificent force. Observe Twitter etiquette. To that end, read Guy Kawasaki’s article: How to Avoid Twitter Cluelessness.

6. Handle criticism with velvet gloves. In the privacy of our hearts, none of us likes to be criticized. Consider first of all if delivering a judgment on the faults and actions of someone else is more about you than about them. Emmet Fox put it brilliantly: “Criticism is an indirect form of self-boasting.” If the criticism is essential and a part of getting the job done, then follow a few good rules: Focus your comments on the work or project and not the individual; keep it succinct—no lecturing; phrase it in positive terms: this means focusing on what the person needs to do rather than on what the person is doing wrong; point to the benefits, the same way you would do if you were selling something.

7. Add emotional value to all of your transactions with clients. Emotional value is the monetary worth of feelings when customers have a positive experience with your organization. This includes not only products but contacts with people and services. As Janelle Barlow and Dianna Maul explain in Emotional Value: Creating Strong Bonds with Your Customers, customers always have feelings, sometimes intense, other times barely perceptible, when they make purchases or engage in transactions. That’s why it is imperative that an organization establishes a company-wide ethos that stresses creating positive emotional states for employees and clients. Unhappy employees cannot add emotional value to customers. Friendliness and empathy, essential elements of likeability, are central to adding emotional value. The book includes a brief test for assessing the quality of your organization’s empathy. For example, “What is the impression your organization creates by the speed with which you respond to customers?”

8. Don’t hire malcontents. These are unlikeable people who seem to be in a perpetual bad disposition and are a vexation to all those who have to work with them. They scare customers off, cause divisiveness, affect productivity, and are often the cause for losing good people on the team. Get all those in charge of recruiting to understand the importance of hiring for both competence and likeability, for every position in the company. Consider that one of your most important jobs as a manager is to hire the right people. Get involved in the hiring process and involve others. A negative person can fool one interviewer and pass through the corporate filter, but it is not likely that he will succeed in fooling an entire team.

9. Handle complaints with grace. It’s a known fact that we prefer to buy from people we like. And the litmus test of our likeability is our behavior when things go wrong. How you make a person feel when they are seeking redress is a key determinant of whether or not you will see them again.

Likeability is just too important to dismiss in our harried lives. The more we are liked, the easier it is to have a positive effect on others and our organizations. Being likeable has a ricocheting effect on us and our ability to accomplish things and succeed, in both our personal and professional life. Whether we are dealing with a desk clerk, a shopkeeper, a teacher, a senior leader, or a professional—from the boiler room to the boardroom—likeability is everyone’s business. And the only way to achieve it is by genuinely working on increasing our emotional worth, for ourselves and for those around us. Likeability is an inside job.

Bruna Martinuzzi is a facilitator, author, speaker, and founder of Clarion Enterprises Ltd., a company that specializes in emotional intelligence, leadership, and presentation skills training. Her latest book is The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow.

Tags: tim sanders, how to change the world, research, how to avoid twitter

Article link: http://www.littlethingsmatter.com/blog/2010/06/11/the-value-of-a-mastermind-team/

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The Value of a Mastermind Team

Posted on June 11th, 2010 by Todd Smith – View Comments |

I have heard many powerful quotes during my life, however, there is one that I continue to replay in my mind over and over again.  Jim Rohn, my mentor, said, Success comes from a series of good decisions made over time while failure comes from a series of bad decisions made over time. The reason I continue to replay that quote is because of its significance.

If you want to live a successful life both personally and professionally, you absolutely must take pride in your decisions. These decisions include everything from the little decisions you make throughout each day as described in Our Lives Are a Mirror Image of the Little Decisions We Make to the big decisions outlined in How to Make a Critical Decision, which includes how Bill Clinton used a mastermind team.

The fact is our lives are a reflection of our decisions. Sure, you can sit back and blame others for where you find yourself today but, if you are completely honest with yourself, you will admit that you are where you are based on YOUR decisions.

Benefits of a Mastermind Team

All the great teachers of success from Napoleon Hill to Anthony Robbins have talked about the benefits of using a mastermind team to make better decisions.

In People Are as Different as They Look, I talked about how everyone’s life experiences are different. When you gather insights, ideas, and feedback from a group of people, you not only benefit from their individual life experiences, but you also benefit from the combined input created as this group kicks around ideas.

Napoleon Hill said, “No two minds ever come together without a third invisible force, which may be likened to a ‘third mind.’ When a group of individual minds are coordinated and function in harmony, the increased energy created through that alliance becomes available to every individual in the group.”

Results of Using the Mastermind Principle

The value of a mastermind team first became apparent to me when I started serving on the board of a successful direct sales company 19 years ago.  This board was brought together each quarter to work as a mastermind team on everything from brainstorming on ways to grow the business to making critical directional decisions for the company.

I began sitting on this board as a young 28-year-old who thought he knew everything, but this experience opened my eyes to the value that can come from bringing together a diverse group of people to discuss ideas and make decisions.

At first the board was made up of males—each with different backgrounds and life experiences.  When the board was expanded to include females, the creativity of the board went to a new level. I recall listening to the women speak and thinking, “Wow!  What a different perspective!”  This is one of the reasons I believe that women should be included in the leadership team of any company or organization.

During the 18 years I sat on this board, I experienced firsthand the positive results of a mastermind team. I know why Napoleon Hill made such a big deal of including others in the decision- making process and I now seek out the views and opinions of others.  In fact, I will NEVER take on any major project without forming a mastermind team to help me make my decisions.

How I Formed a Mastermind Team

In last week’s post How to Prepare and Plan for New Projects, I shared how I formed a mastermind team when I started the brainstorming process of my Little Things Matter blog.  My team had three meetings last fall to kick around ideas and make decisions. In addition, I chatted with others to gather their insights and recommendations.

Step 1. Know the purpose and plan

Before forming this team, I began the process by creating a document called my “Creative Brief” listing all my thoughts, ideas and goals. It was important that I clearly understood and articulated what I wanted to accomplish before involving others in the process. Once this document was done, I selected my team members, scheduled our first meeting, and put together an agenda. Here is our October 31st agenda.

Step 2.  Meet together

During the first meeting I reviewed the “Creative Brief” with the team and sought their feedback on each point.  This allowed me to gather the views from each person as I walked through the key components of my strategy.

Step 3.  Work in harmony

In the two subsequent meetings we reviewed the “Creative Brief” for the website design.  This included the sample design layouts that my son-in-law Josh gathered. We then reviewed the “Marketing Brief” my son Gerrid designed, the “Identity Package” my daughter-in-law Jessica created, and finally the “Roll Out Plan” I put together. (The links in their names go to their websites.)

As I sit here today, I can’t recall one decision I have made on this blog in which I did not seek the opinion of other team members. The success of my blog is truly from a collaborative effort of my mastermind team.

Over the years I have used mastermind teams on countless occasions to help me do everything from creating a new brochure to making critical life-planning decisions.

Now it’s Your Turn.

The next time you are working on a project in which you would benefit from the life experiences of others, let me encourage you to put together a mastermind team.

The greatest value of a mastermind team comes from gathering as a group to meet in-person. If getting together is not possible, set up a conference call with FreeConferenceCall.com and have your meeting over the phone.

While you will seek feedback from the team, remember you are the leader of the team and you must be the one to run all meetings and assign responsibilities when appropriate.

If you want to improve the accuracy of your decisions, you would be wise to put your ego on the shelf and seek counsel from those you respect.

About the Author: Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 29 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s daily lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts.

http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/the-world/article/how-to-be-a-good-boss-matthew-e-may

How to Be a Good Boss

Sep 03, 2010

If you’re a boss, what do your employees really think of you? If they had a choice, would they continue to work for you? What are the hallmarks of a good boss?

And as a good boss, what do you need to accomplish every day?

These are just some of the major questions Stanford professor Robert I. Sutton seeks to address in his new book, Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best…and Learn from the Worst, which is a sequel to his stunning bestseller The No Asshole Rule.

If you’re not familiar with Bob Sutton’s books or blog, Work Matters, now is the time to get acquainted with his thinking, because it’s invaluable to anyone running a team or business. Sutton teaches in a few of Stanford’s schools. What sets him apart is the practicality of his ideas, something that remains elusive for many scholars that teach.
There is so much pragmatic wisdom in Good Boss, Bad Boss it’s hard to decide what to focus on here.

Take “The Mindset of a Great Boss” — a five-part series of questions such as, “Do you treat the work you lead as a marathon or sprint?” and  “Do you see your job as caring for and protecting your people, and fighting for them when necessary?”

There’s “Tricks for Taking Charge,” which comes with the caveat: “WARNING!! Learn to be just assertive enough!” The message: Don’t become an overbearing jerk when you use these strategies.

He offers 10 tips on “How to Lead a Good Fight,” which includes advice like “Encourage everyone to argue. Gently silence people who talk too much and invite those who are silent to jump into the fray.”

There’s “The 11 Commandments for Wise Bosses,” which begins with “Have strong convictions and weakly held beliefs” as well as “The 12 Commandments of Bosses’ Dirty Work: How to Implement Tough Decisions in Effective and Humane Ways.”

There’s “Bosshole Busters: Tips for Squelching Your Inner Jerk,” which delivers rather provocative notions such as “If clients treat you like dirt, fire them if possible. If you can’t, charge [higher] taxes, give employees who work with them combat pay, and limit everyone’s exposure to these creeps.”

There’s the “EGOS Survey (Evaluation Gauge for Obnoxious Superstars),” which helps you answer the question of whether you are hiring and breeding greedy and selfish employees.

But my favorite is “Stepping Stones for Can-Do Bosses: Tips and Tricks for Eradicating Impediments to Action.”

It includes nine such tips and tricks:

1. When your people suggest a promising idea, say (as often as possible): “Great! Do it” This is inspired by a UPS commercial, where two slick consultants propose cost-cutting ideas to a receptive client. The client replies: “Great! Do it.” The consultants look bewildered and respond, “Sir, we don’t actually do what we propose. We just propose it.”In contrast, the best bosses and followers do what they propose.

2. Assign your worst smart talkers to shadow your best doers. Reward both parties if the smart talkers become more action oriented.

3. Fire or demote incurable smart talkers — and let your people know why you did it. Beware of creating a climate of fear, so give people feedback and warnings first. But if you let these rotten apples stick around, they will infect others and produce vile consequences for all.

4. Say the same simple and good things again and again until the message shapes what people do. Use the philosophy espoused by former P&G CEO A. G. Lafley of keeping things “Sesame Street Simple.”

5. Tell juicy stories about destructive things to stop doing. One manager tells about how he used to tune out the conversation and answer emails on conference calls. He kept missing important things, and his direct reports concluded that he didn’t care about them or their work. Now he imagines his people are in the room, and governs his actions accordingly.

6. When in doubt, throw it out or don’t add it in the first place. If you can’t easily explain to each other — and to customers — the differences among your products and services, perhaps it’s time to get rid of some.

7.  Fight the Otis Redding (Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay) Problem, aka “can’t do what ten people tell me to do, so I guess I’ll remain the same.” List all the performance metrics you use. Pick the three most important. Do you really need the rest?

8. Ask yourself and your people if you have practices that “everyone else” uses, but are a waste of time or downright destructive. Like performance evaluations. Like layers upon layers of approvals.

9. Link hot emotions with cool solutions. Crank up your people’s fears and hopes to get their juices flowing, then direct that energy to effective and concrete behaviors.

Good Boss, Bad Boss isn’t just good for business. It’s just good advice, whether we’re presiding or parenting. If you follow just 10 percent of Bob Sutton’s guidance, you’ll be a 100 percent better boss.

Matthew E. May is a design, creativity and innovation author and coach. He blogs here. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Jul 12, 2010

“The force multiplier throughout history,” write Gallup research veterans Bruce J. Avolio and Fred Luthans, “has often been attributed to the leader’s ability to generate hope.”

Leaders are purveyors of hope. With the unease caused by the Great Recession, it is easy to spiral into a negative state of mind and ignore the promising signs that the worst of the panic is past.

Despite the economic pressures, says a recent editorial in The Vancouver Sun, “The U.S. is the richest nation on earth because it is the most innovative, the most creative and the most productive. It is the country millions of people living elsewhere want to move to — and have.”

You may lead a large organization or a small business. But no matter the size, chances are you rely on others to achieve results. One of the minimum prerequisites for achieving positive results is giving people a sense of hope and optimism, and instilling confidence that things will work out.

As the leader, one of your chief responsibilities is to give people hope, to help them see that tomorrow can be better than today. This is not about ignoring the real challenges you may be facing; It’s about deliberately choosing to align everyone around a single-purpose focus: how do we make the organization succeed and what is everyone’s role in achieving this goal?

So how do you inspire yourself and others? Here are a few practical tips from some of the best thought-leaders in their fields:

1. Understand the bio-chemistry of gratitude. We have often heard the importance of counting your blessings rather than your burdens. Now we have scientific proof that practicing gratitude for what we have creates some beneficial biological changes such as a decrease in cortisol and stress levels and a more harmonious heart rate. Help yourself and your people by reminding everyone of all that you are grateful for. Gratitude is the quickest route to a positive attitude. It boosts energy and enthusiasm and it’s a smart thing to do.

2. Assemble a personal library of material to inspire you. You cannot inspire others if you are not inspired yourself. Take care of your spiritual well-being by spending 10 or 15 minutes every day reading inspirational material.

This may be different for each person. Some may be inspired by daily quotations, others by reading biographies of successful people in their field or reading bio-adversities.

Yet others may derive inspiration from reading about innovations: An inspiring website for ideas on building a better tomorrow is The World Future Society. You might also be inspired by watching video clips from such diverse individuals as a little girl practicing positive affirmations or the moving final lecture of Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch before he succumbed to cancer at the age of 47.

3. Protect team members from negative people. Negativity is a communicable disease! We know that our brain is highly malleable and has the ability to reorganize itself every time we have new experiences. According to John Kounios, Drexel University Medical School Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, our neural connections change even after a twenty-minute conversation. This gives new meaning to the negative impact on performance that a conversation with a negative person can have. You know who these people are on the team. Take them aside and coach them.

4. Watch this video clip many times or read the articles. It is Tom Peters’ 44 Strategies for dealing with the recession. Better still, send it to everyone in your organization.

5. Be a mirror for the positive attitudes you want others to adopt. As a leader, you are in a looking glass and people watch you for cues on which way the wind is blowing. We can learn a thing or two from leadership in the military. Imagine the effect on troop morale and energy that an overwhelmed, anxious, or discouraged leader would have? And how about a leader who is plagued by uncertainty? “Indecision,” as H.A. Hopf says, “is contagious. It transmits itself to others.”

6. Match your body language to your message. Are you aware of your habitual facial expressions? What is the non-verbal message you impart? While this may sound New-Age, consider the infectious nature of a sincere smile when you greet people every day. In a TIME magazine piece Mandela: His 8 Lessons of Leadership, one of the attributes mentioned is that he had “a smile that was like the sun coming out on a cloudy day.”

7. Continue to remind people of the vision. Communicate in person, and often. If you are accustomed to leading via email, now is the time to be more visible than ever. Spend time to craft your message in a way that connects with people and inspires them. If you need some guidance in enhancing your ability to communicate with guts and heart, consider reading Terry Pearce’s Leading Out Loud: Inspiring Change Through Authentic Communications.

8. Pay particular attention to the people who are the direct link to customers. Are employees’ own anxieties spilling over to customers and unwittingly eroding the customer experience? Help people understand their crucial role in customer retention. If you have eliminated training to save on costs, consider sending a strong message about the importance of creating and maintaining a strong customer service culture by bringing in training in that area.

As President Barack Obama recounted in his book The Audacity of Hope as well as in speeches as a presidential candidate, hope is “the bedrock of this nation. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead.”

Hope opens our eyes to view the possibilities. It drives us to action. It sets a tone of vitality and inspiration for you and for others.

Bruna Martinuzzi is the president of Clarion Enterprises Ltd., a firm that specializes in emotional intelligence, leadership and presentation skills training. Her latest book, The Leader as a Mensch, explains how you can become the kind of person others want to follow.

How Will You Measure Your Life?

by Clayton M. Christensen

Don’t reserve your best business thinking for your career.

Editor’s Note: When the members of the class of 2010 entered business school, the economy was strong and their post-graduation ambitions could be limitless. Just a few weeks later, the economy went into a tailspin. They’ve spent the past two years recalibrating their worldview and their definition of success.

The students seem highly aware of how the world has changed (as the sampling of views in this article shows). In the spring, Harvard Business School’s graduating class asked HBS professor Clay Christensen to address them—but not on how to apply his principles and thinking to their post-HBS careers. The students wanted to know how to apply them to their personal lives. He shared with them a set of guidelines that have helped him find meaning in his own life. Though Christensen’s thinking comes from his deep religious faith, we believe that these are strategies anyone can use. And so we asked him to share them with the readers of HBR.

Before I published The Innovator’s Dilemma, I got a call from Andrew Grove, then the chairman of Intel. He had read one of my early papers about disruptive technology, and he asked if I could talk to his direct reports and explain my research and what it implied for Intel. Excited, I flew to Silicon Valley and showed up at the appointed time, only to have Grove say, “Look, stuff has happened. We have only 10 minutes for you. Tell us what your model of disruption means for Intel.” I said that I couldn’t—that I needed a full 30 minutes to explain the model, because only with it as context would any comments about Intel make sense. Ten minutes into my explanation, Grove interrupted: “Look, I’ve got your model. Just tell us what it means for Intel.”

I insisted that I needed 10 more minutes to describe how the process of disruption had worked its way through a very different industry, steel, so that he and his team could understand how disruption worked. I told the story of how Nucor and other steel minimills had begun by attacking the lowest end of the market—steel reinforcing bars, or rebar—and later moved up toward the high end, undercutting the traditional steel mills.

When I finished the minimill story, Grove said, “OK, I get it. What it means for Intel is…,” and then went on to articulate what would become the company’s strategy for going to the bottom of the market to launch the Celeron processor.

I’ve thought about that a million times since. If I had been suckered into telling Andy Grove what he should think about the microprocessor business, I’d have been killed. But instead of telling him what to think, I taught him how to think—and then he reached what I felt was the correct decision on his own.

That experience had a profound influence on me. When people ask what I think they should do, I rarely answer their question directly. Instead, I run the question aloud through one of my models. I’ll describe how the process in the model worked its way through an industry quite different from their own. And then, more often than not, they’ll say, “OK, I get it.” And they’ll answer their own question more insightfully than I could have.

My class at HBS is structured to help my students understand what good management theory is and how it is built. To that backbone I attach different models or theories that help students think about the various dimensions of a general manager’s job in stimulating innovation and growth. In each session we look at one company through the lenses of those theories—using them to explain how the company got into its situation and to examine what managerial actions will yield the needed results.

On the last day of class, I ask my students to turn those theoretical lenses on themselves, to find cogent answers to three questions: First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career? Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness? Third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail? Though the last question sounds lighthearted, it’s not. Two of the 32 people in my Rhodes scholar class spent time in jail. Jeff Skilling of Enron fame was a classmate of mine at HBS. These were good guys—but something in their lives sent them off in the wrong direction.

One of the theories that gives great insight on the first question—how to be sure we find happiness in our careers—is from Frederick Herzberg, who asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements. I tell the students about a vision of sorts I had while I was running the company I founded before becoming an academic. In my mind’s eye I saw one of my managers leave for work one morning with a relatively strong level of self-esteem. Then I pictured her driving home to her family 10 hours later, feeling unappreciated, frustrated, underutilized, and demeaned. I imagined how profoundly her lowered self-esteem affected the way she interacted with her children. The vision in my mind then fast-forwarded to another day, when she drove home with greater self-esteem—feeling that she had learned a lot, been recognized for achieving valuable things, and played a significant role in the success of some important initiatives. I then imagined how positively that affected her as a spouse and a parent. My conclusion: Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team. More and more MBA students come to school thinking that a career in business means buying, selling, and investing in companies. That’s unfortunate. Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people.

I want students to leave my classroom knowing that.

Create a Strategy for Your Life

A theory that is helpful in answering the second question—How can I ensure that my relationship with my family proves to be an enduring source of happiness?—concerns how strategy is defined and implemented. Its primary insight is that a company’s strategy is determined by the types of initiatives that management invests in. If a company’s resource allocation process is not managed masterfully, what emerges from it can be very different from what management intended. Because companies’ decision-making systems are designed to steer investments to initiatives that offer the most tangible and immediate returns, companies shortchange investments in initiatives that are crucial to their long-term strategies.

Over the years I’ve watched the fates of my HBS classmates from 1979 unfold; I’ve seen more and more of them come to reunions unhappy, divorced, and alienated from their children. I can guarantee you that not a single one of them graduated with the deliberate strategy of getting divorced and raising children who would become estranged from them. And yet a shocking number of them implemented that strategy. The reason? They didn’t keep the purpose of their lives front and center as they decided how to spend their time, talents, and energy.

It’s quite startling that a significant fraction of the 900 students that HBS draws each year from the world’s best have given little thought to the purpose of their lives. I tell the students that HBS might be one of their last chances to reflect deeply on that question. If they think that they’ll have more time and energy to reflect later, they’re nuts, because life only gets more demanding: You take on a mortgage; you’re working 70 hours a week; you have a spouse and children.

For me, having a clear purpose in my life has been essential. But it was something I had to think long and hard about before I understood it. When I was a Rhodes scholar, I was in a very demanding academic program, trying to cram an extra year’s worth of work into my time at Oxford. I decided to spend an hour every night reading, thinking, and praying about why God put me on this earth. That was a very challenging commitment to keep, because every hour I spent doing that, I wasn’t studying applied econometrics. I was conflicted about whether I could really afford to take that time away from my studies, but I stuck with it—and ultimately figured out the purpose of my life.

Had I instead spent that hour each day learning the latest techniques for mastering the problems of autocorrelation in regression analysis, I would have badly misspent my life. I apply the tools of econometrics a few times a year, but I apply my knowledge of the purpose of my life every day. It’s the single most useful thing I’ve ever learned. I promise my students that if they take the time to figure out their life purpose, they’ll look back on it as the most important thing they discovered at HBS. If they don’t figure it out, they will just sail off without a rudder and get buffeted in the very rough seas of life. Clarity about their purpose will trump knowledge of activity-based costing, balanced scorecards, core competence, disruptive innovation, the four Ps, and the five forces.

My purpose grew out of my religious faith, but faith isn’t the only thing that gives people direction. For example, one of my former students decided that his purpose was to bring honesty and economic prosperity to his country and to raise children who were as capably committed to this cause, and to each other, as he was. His purpose is focused on family and others—as mine is.

The choice and successful pursuit of a profession is but one tool for achieving your purpose. But without a purpose, life can become hollow.

Allocate Your Resources

Your decisions about allocating your personal time, energy, and talent ultimately shape your life’s strategy.

I have a bunch of “businesses” that compete for these resources: I’m trying to have a rewarding relationship with my wife, raise great kids, contribute to my community, succeed in my career, contribute to my church, and so on. And I have exactly the same problem that a corporation does. I have a limited amount of time and energy and talent. How much do I devote to each of these pursuits?

Allocation choices can make your life turn out to be very different from what you intended. Sometimes that’s good: Opportunities that you never planned for emerge. But if you misinvest your resources, the outcome can be bad. As I think about my former classmates who inadvertently invested for lives of hollow unhappiness, I can’t help believing that their troubles relate right back to a short-term perspective.

When people who have a high need for achievement—and that includes all Harvard Business School graduates—have an extra half hour of time or an extra ounce of energy, they’ll unconsciously allocate it to activities that yield the most tangible accomplishments. And our careers provide the most concrete evidence that we’re moving forward. You ship a product, finish a design, complete a presentation, close a sale, teach a class, publish a paper, get paid, get promoted. In contrast, investing time and energy in your relationship with your spouse and children typically doesn’t offer that same immediate sense of achievement. Kids misbehave every day. It’s really not until 20 years down the road that you can put your hands on your hips and say, “I raised a good son or a good daughter.” You can neglect your relationship with your spouse, and on a day-to-day basis, it doesn’t seem as if things are deteriorating. People who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in their families and overinvest in their careers—even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness.

If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you’ll find this predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification. If you look at personal lives through that lens, you’ll see the same stunning and sobering pattern: people allocating fewer and fewer resources to the things they would have once said mattered most.

Create a Culture

There’s an important model in our class called the Tools of Cooperation, which basically says that being a visionary manager isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s one thing to see into the foggy future with acuity and chart the course corrections that the company must make. But it’s quite another to persuade employees who might not see the changes ahead to line up and work cooperatively to take the company in that new direction. Knowing what tools to wield to elicit the needed cooperation is a critical managerial skill.

The theory arrays these tools along two dimensions—the extent to which members of the organization agree on what they want from their participation in the enterprise, and the extent to which they agree on what actions will produce the desired results. When there is little agreement on both axes, you have to use “power tools”—coercion, threats, punishment, and so on—to secure cooperation. Many companies start in this quadrant, which is why the founding executive team must play such an assertive role in defining what must be done and how. If employees’ ways of working together to address those tasks succeed over and over, consensus begins to form. MIT’s Edgar Schein has described this process as the mechanism by which a culture is built. Ultimately, people don’t even think about whether their way of doing things yields success. They embrace priorities and follow procedures by instinct and assumption rather than by explicit decision—which means that they’ve created a culture. Culture, in compelling but unspoken ways, dictates the proven, acceptable methods by which members of the group address recurrent problems. And culture defines the priority given to different types of problems. It can be a powerful management tool.

In using this model to address the question, How can I be sure that my family becomes an enduring source of happiness?, my students quickly see that the simplest tools that parents can wield to elicit cooperation from children are power tools. But there comes a point during the teen years when power tools no longer work. At that point parents start wishing that they had begun working with their children at a very young age to build a culture at home in which children instinctively behave respectfully toward one another, obey their parents, and choose the right thing to do. Families have cultures, just as companies do. Those cultures can be built consciously or evolve inadvertently.

If you want your kids to have strong self-esteem and confidence that they can solve hard problems, those qualities won’t magically materialize in high school. You have to design them into your family’s culture—and you have to think about this very early on. Like employees, children build self-esteem by doing things that are hard and learning what works.

Avoid the “Marginal Costs” Mistake

We’re taught in finance and economics that in evaluating alternative investments, we should ignore sunk and fixed costs, and instead base decisions on the marginal costs and marginal revenues that each alternative entails. We learn in our course that this doctrine biases companies to leverage what they have put in place to succeed in the past, instead of guiding them to create the capabilities they’ll need in the future. If we knew the future would be exactly the same as the past, that approach would be fine. But if the future’s different—and it almost always is—then it’s the wrong thing to do.

This theory addresses the third question I discuss with my students—how to live a life of integrity (stay out of jail). Unconsciously, we often employ the marginal cost doctrine in our personal lives when we choose between right and wrong. A voice in our head says, “Look, I know that as a general rule, most people shouldn’t do this. But in this particular extenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s OK.” The marginal cost of doing something wrong “just this once” always seems alluringly low. It suckers you in, and you don’t ever look at where that path ultimately is headed and at the full costs that the choice entails. Justification for infidelity and dishonesty in all their manifestations lies in the marginal cost economics of “just this once.”

I’d like to share a story about how I came to understand the potential damage of “just this once” in my own life. I played on the Oxford University varsity basketball team. We worked our tails off and finished the season undefeated. The guys on the team were the best friends I’ve ever had in my life. We got to the British equivalent of the NCAA tournament—and made it to the final four. It turned out the championship game was scheduled to be played on a Sunday. I had made a personal commitment to God at age 16 that I would never play ball on Sunday. So I went to the coach and explained my problem. He was incredulous. My teammates were, too, because I was the starting center. Every one of the guys on the team came to me and said, “You’ve got to play. Can’t you break the rule just this one time?”

I’m a deeply religious man, so I went away and prayed about what I should do. I got a very clear feeling that I shouldn’t break my commitment—so I didn’t play in the championship game.

In many ways that was a small decision—involving one of several thousand Sundays in my life. In theory, surely I could have crossed over the line just that one time and then not done it again. But looking back on it, resisting the temptation whose logic was “In this extenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s OK” has proven to be one of the most important decisions of my life. Why? My life has been one unending stream of extenuating circumstances. Had I crossed the line that one time, I would have done it over and over in the years that followed.

The lesson I learned from this is that it’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time. If you give in to “just this once,” based on a marginal cost analysis, as some of my former classmates have done, you’ll regret where you end up. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place.

Remember the Importance of Humility

I got this insight when I was asked to teach a class on humility at Harvard College. I asked all the students to describe the most humble person they knew. One characteristic of these humble people stood out: They had a high level of self-esteem. They knew who they were, and they felt good about who they were. We also decided that humility was defined not by self-deprecating behavior or attitudes but by the esteem with which you regard others. Good behavior flows naturally from that kind of humility. For example, you would never steal from someone, because you respect that person too much. You’d never lie to someone, either.

It’s crucial to take a sense of humility into the world. By the time you make it to a top graduate school, almost all your learning has come from people who are smarter and more experienced than you: parents, teachers, bosses. But once you’ve finished at Harvard Business School or any other top academic institution, the vast majority of people you’ll interact with on a day-to-day basis may not be smarter than you. And if your attitude is that only smarter people have something to teach you, your learning opportunities will be very limited. But if you have a humble eagerness to learn something from everybody, your learning opportunities will be unlimited. Generally, you can be humble only if you feel really good about yourself—and you want to help those around you feel really good about themselves, too. When we see people acting in an abusive, arrogant, or demeaning manner toward others, their behavior almost always is a symptom of their lack of self-esteem. They need to put someone else down to feel good about themselves.

Choose the Right Yardstick

This past year I was diagnosed with cancer and faced the possibility that my life would end sooner than I’d planned. Thankfully, it now looks as if I’ll be spared. But the experience has given me important insight into my life.

I have a pretty clear idea of how my ideas have generated enormous revenue for companies that have used my research; I know I’ve had a substantial impact. But as I’ve confronted this disease, it’s been interesting to see how unimportant that impact is to me now. I’ve concluded that the metric by which God will assess my life isn’t dollars but the individual people whose lives I’ve touched.

I think that’s the way it will work for us all. Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people. This is my final recommendation: Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.

Useful tips for young managers out there…although I’m not sure I agree with the advice to work on odd hours and weekends just to show you are working harder than your team.

Article link here: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/08/managing_older_managers_a_guid.html

Managing Older Managers: A Guide for Younger Bosses

You already know that winning depends in no small part on hiring people better than yourself. If you are a youngish entrepreneur or boss, that will entail hiring older and more experienced people, especially in top roles for your organization. Managing a colleague with ten or fifteen more years of experience than you can present unusual challenges of motivation, boundary-setting, and leadership. Here are some ways to get the most out of your hires and your collaboration with them.

Load them up on context. Even more than with other colleagues, you should over-communicate your company vision, industry objectives, and company-wide targets. This should be the number-one focus from the first recruiting day and should remain so for the duration of your relationship. Senior managers, no matter their level of experience, will look to you as the leader to set and communicate the vision. Without it, they will perceive the ship to be rudderless. Remember that the definition of vision is the ability to connect a big goal with the intervening steps required to attain it. You must be able to communicate in broad strokes how the overall objective depends on the performance of each senior manager’s sphere. Ideally, you will make this connection so clear as to communicate that the entire company’s fate is in her hands.

Avoid getting too granular. The excellent senior manager will take it upon herself to apply the context you provide to the mission with which you have charged her. Expect as much, and she will feel respected and fired up. Giving her wide berth to define operating details is the best way to get optimal performance. Ask her to set her own divisional targets or metrics. Inviting a senior manager to do so is an essential trust-building step. You can and should feel free to tweak her draft, but letting her set out the first iteration is a best practice.

Conversely, if you find that one of your senior managers is not performing, the most effective way to communicate that is to tighten your grip on operating metrics and methods. Senior, experienced people like nothing less than having you interfere in their day-to-day work. You should therefore avoid this lever until you can’t, but don’t be afraid of it when it comes time.

Let them know that you are working long and hard. Even accomplished, self-motivated senior colleagues won’t work harder than you will for very long. Send emails early and late. Invite meetings on weekends and at odd hours. Be in the office or online all the time. Dial into meetings at insane hours during overseas travel. Understand that managers older than yourself may have families that require them to live by different rhythms from yours — they may need to be offline from 6 to 8, for example. But expect them to be working long and hard, whenever it is, and make sure you are always doing more than they are. Because you have less natural authority when working with older people, reinforce your “moral right” to demand hard work by showing that you demand even more of yourself.

Show that you are calm in a storm. Good senior managers will follow people they think have good ideas, good judgment, and good cool under pressure. They’re likely to believe that a young, entrepreneurial boss has good ideas, but they may be skeptical that good judgment and calm wits accompany them. If you think you may be prone to anxiety in a pinch, practice whatever Obama-style mind-over-matter Zen control thing you need to do to keep your voice steady, your humor at hand, and your body language relaxed. That doesn’t mean you can’t wake up your team at midnight when the website goes down, the key account blows up, or the factory machine line stops. You should. But keep the coolness and light in your voice when you do.

Seek their opinions, even when you don’t really need them, especially on topics that aren’t within the reach of their roles. As a younger boss, you have an implicit perceived deficit to overcome that you will be territorial about decision-making. A simple workaround is to ask for opinions often. Your senior managers will trust your process and feel that their experience is valued. Seeking their opinions on topics not in their immediate jurisdiction — asking the business development guy how to handle a personal issue or the operations gal her view of the sales team’s customer segmentation model — will give them a confirmed glimpse of how your generation manages. They will feel part of the whole company. If you’re a start up, some will likely be excited for the general management adventure that they didn’t get in their large company careers. Seeking cross-functional insight will also yield unexpected wisdom more often than you might think. Exception: No need to invite too many opinions on “everybody’s got one” topics like marketing copy, company naming, and logo design.

You have a natural perceived advantage when it comes to dynamism. Leverage it. Make sure your energy level sets the pace for the business. Demonstrate your zeal for your industry, and take the time to explain why your business is hugely important for your customers, for your category, or for the economic development of your country. Many younger bosses with high integrity are afraid that talking about the greater promise of their business will be an imposition on their colleagues, especially more seasoned ones. On the contrary, they will look to you to do it, and they will respond to the infectiousness of your passion.

Don’t be afraid to pay them more than yourself. Especially in the early days, when cash is at its highest premium, don’t stand on current compensation ceremony. If it takes more scrip to recruit a key senior colleague, don’t sweat signing up for it. You can explain that you’re paying her more than yourself; doing so will signal the value you place on her experience.

At the end of the day, remember that this is your business to lead. You should invite the insights of your colleagues and benefit from their experience. But do not defer to their judgment when it contradicts your instincts. After you have solicited debate and considered the evidence, trust your instincts, no matter how senior your colleagues are. The biggest decision-making mistake I see younger, high-integrity managers make is betraying their own instincts in deference to a more seasoned person’s perspective. It’s your organization (or unit), and you’re the one holding the bag for the consequences of good or bad decisions. There’s a reason you are in charge. You must value the experience and insights of the senior people you hire. But you mustn’t shirk the responsibility of making the final call.

Michael Fertik is a repeat Internet entrepreneur and CEO with experience in technology and law. He founded ReputationDefender in 2006 with the belief that citizens have the right to control and protect their online reputation and privacy. Michael recently co-authored Wild West 2.0 which quickly gained acclaim as an Amazon.com Number 1 Bestselling Internet book.

Some good sharing on what it means to lead and listen

article link here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/business/05corner.html?_r=1

Learn to Lead From the Back of the Boat

This interview with Anne Berkowitch, co-founder and chief executive of SelectMinds, a social networking company, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.

Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

Anne Berkowitch is a co-founder and the chief executive of SelectMinds, a social networking company based in Manhattan. She says she has learned that “leadership is really about asking questions and letting people answer them.”

Corner Office

Every Sunday, Adam Bryant talks with top executives about the challenges of leading and managing.

Q. What do you think are the keys to effective leadership?

A. It’s really being able to listen to people. So much of leadership, I’ve come to learn, is about getting a team to work together. It’s not about being smart. It helps, but it’s not about that. It’s really about being able to bring together a group of people, get the best out of them and get them wanting to work as a unit toward some goal post. I think the building blocks that go into that are listening to people, really understanding what motivates them and getting them to push themselves beyond their comfort zones.

And all of that is really having a basic psychological understanding and genuine interest in the people you’re trying to build a team with. I think if you come at leadership with an attitude of, “I’m going to do this, and these people are going to follow me and be my support team,” you’ll lose.

Q. How has your leadership style evolved?

A. If you think about how you steer a boat, it’s always from the back, and I’ve moved toward the back of the boat. Initially, my sense of leadership was to be the military general out in front of the troops and the first one rushing into battle. You have to be a leader. You have to be visible. People have to know that you’re in charge and that you’re leading the charge, but I think it’s got to be almost more of a support role.

Q. How did you learn that lesson?

A. Before founding SelectMinds, I worked in management consulting for 10 years. And that culture is very much about being smart and being visible and making sure everybody knows how smart you are. So I was molded in that environment, and then, when I became C.E.O. of SelectMinds, I really didn’t have much leadership experience. I led the way I had managed consulting teams. It just took a lot of false starts to learn that being smart isn’t the same thing as being a leader. We were going down the runway but the plane wasn’t taking off.

Q. Why was that?

A. There were four of us who co-founded the company, and we worked for too long as equal leaders. None of us emerged as a natural leader. It wasn’t actually until I took on the role of C.E.O. that I said, “O.K., I’ve got to really figure this out.”

It’s really in the last couple of years that I feel like I finally have the experience and confidence and the clear understanding of how I really wanted to build this company and lead it. I very consciously went out and recruited a senior team and worked very, very differently with them.

Q. But how much of it was the team, and how much of it was your leadership style?

A. To me, they are two sides of the same coin. If you’re not clear on how to lead a group, you’re not bringing the right people on. I think you attract the right people if you can convey a sense of leadership and confidence and vision. The good people are going to join you for good reasons. If you’re not clear on what you want to do with the company, I think you get B players, and B players attract B-minus and C players. A players attract A players.

Q. So how did you recruit the A players?

A. I said, “I need partners in this business,” and I was very transparent about everything — about the good, bad and the ugly in the company. I mean, that is actually a key element to my leadership style. I said: “Here’s where we are. This is what I want to do with the company. There’s an opportunity for you to bring all of your expertise. I want to hire you for what you know and what you can do, and I’m going to let you do it.”

I was very clear that I wanted people to be mini-C.E.O.’s of their area. It’s going to be an opportunity for them to grow, for them to have impact. I was not going to micromanage them.

You can’t be too far in the back of the boat, but I think it’s really important that each member of my team feel that they’re on the front lines of their own area, and I’m pushing them more and more into stuff they don’t necessarily know how to do.

Q. What other things have you come to understand about leadership?

A. Ask a lot more questions and make a lot fewer statements. Leadership is really about asking questions and letting people answer them. I think it’s the only way you get your team to think. If you’re constantly talking at them, they don’t have to think. So, it’s the way to put them on the front line. My job is to get the questions out and have people answer the questions.

At the end of the day I have to make the decisions, but I will make the decisions based on having heard a lot more input from everybody, not just a preconceived notion that I have in my head. So, I think leadership is actually getting everybody to ask and answer questions, and then ultimately, I make a decision if a tiebreaker is needed.

Q. Other lessons?

A. As important as it is to ask questions and not make statements, you’ve also got to make the decisions, and faster. One thing I’ve been working on is, “Make the hard calls sooner.”

While it’s great to get input from everybody, if you do that too much you get into analysis paralysis. I have a very analytical background — applied math, biology, finance, management consulting. I hoover up all this information and make sense of it, and you can’t do that too much.

There’s a balance between getting input and hearing what people think and making decisions, and I think that I’ve learned to trust my gut. It’s turned out that my gut has actually been right more often than I had given it credit for. Experience teaches you to do that. I think your team needs you to do that. They don’t want to see you waffling.

Q. You talked about building a new team. Can you talk more about the way you hire has evolved?

A. I started out recruiting for skills that I knew I didn’t have and I didn’t understand intuitively. I was putting way too much emphasis on skills and background and what I could see on paper. I wasn’t trusting myself to evaluate whether these were the right people. I’d say I went through a spate where I made the wrong hires. Then I said, “I have to do this differently, and I’m just going to trust my instinct about the right kind of person to bring onto this team.”

I had to hire people who had skills and experience I needed, but who they were as a person played a much bigger role in what I looked for.

Q. So how do you hire now?

A. The people I want to hire share a number of characteristics. They’re smart. They’re problem-solvers. They’re good at what they do. They are honest with themselves, which to me is extremely important. If you’re not honest with yourself, then too much of your energy goes toward managing what you’re saying to everybody else, rather than what you should be doing. They are curious and they want to do things outside their comfort zone. They’re passionate — it doesn’t matter about what. It could be about theater. It could be about your kids.

The other quality is they’re people who want to be part of a group to build something. They’re not looking for title. They’re really motivated by coming on board. At this point, I feel like I could talk to somebody for five minutes and have a good sense of whether they have those qualities, and I’ll be right 85 percent of the time.

Q. So, let’s say you’re interviewing me. How does that conversation go?

A. Well, first, I do as little talking as possible. So, I’d just to start out with: “Tell me where you are right now and why are you looking to change? What are the issues?” I’m very curious to see what they put out there and how candid it sounds. And then I’ll ask, “What are the qualities of a job you’re looking for?” Do they talk about the workplace? Do they talk about the kinds of people they want to work with? Do they talk about what kinds of responsibilities they want to have?

I’ll ask them to tell me about a challenge they overcame because I think that if you haven’t overcome some challenge, and if you can’t admit that to yourself, I’m really not interested. I look for people who can be pretty candid about themselves, both in terms of what they’re good at, and what’s hard for them.

Q. And if you could only ask two questions, what would they be?

A. “What do you think you’re really good at?” And, “Tell me about a challenge you’ve overcome, and don’t tell me a work challenge — in life, what’s a challenge you’ve overcome, either as a child or as an adult?”

The reason I ask both of those is I want somebody who is humble and honest enough to tell me what they’re really good at, without any attitude. I want people who are good at what they do and who have the confidence to tell me, without it coming across as egotistical.

I want to hear about a challenge they overcame somehow because I don’t want people who have had it just totally easy their whole life. There’s something about their life that’s difficult or was difficult. Until you fall, until your expectations are dashed, until you didn’t know how to get out of a situation and you had to figure something out, until you went to sleep at night crying over something — whatever it is — you don’t get the best of yourself until you’ve overcome something.

Q. What’s your career advice to college grads?

A. Just go work. It doesn’t matter what you do, because you’ve got to go live life.

Q. But what about people who think they have a clear idea about what they want to do?

A. I would say, “Be as honest as you can with yourself about what you like to do and what you don’t like to do, because if you fundamentally don’t want to go to Wall Street, don’t go. You won’t do well.”

So, if you want to be a writer, whatever it is, be honest with yourself because you will excel if you do what you really want to do. You’re going to struggle if you go somewhere that you think you should be and your heart’s not in it. And you might not know at this point, and so maybe you have to strike a middle ground. Maybe you have to go try something you think you want to do or you should do, but go into that knowing that you owe it to yourself to have that constant dialogue. The last thing you want is to spend 10 years of your life doing something you think you should be doing, and then think, “Shoot, I missed the boat on this other thing.”