Archive | March, 2010

Going to NO!

30 Mar

Recently in a meeting of managers we were discussing succession.  The discussion was flowing until a person who had been silent bluntly communicated his discontent with the ideas.  Although the meeting staggered on, he essentially killed the conversation.  Later, in a debriefing with a vice-president we discussed how some people seem to be hardwired to “go to NO”.

Ask yourself:  Do I go to NO?  We all do occasionally, but some people seem to be trapped in NO.  They become roadblocks to change and in positions of responsibility they essentially suppress the free flow of ideas.  Therefore they only hear what is safe for others to share with them, rendering them uninformed about what they don’t like – the very information needed to make good decisions.

What to do?  If you work for or with someone who quickly goes to NO, try to feed ideas to them in a context that is safer for them – because they react in a rapid, visceral manner and need time to consider ideas.  Short, carefully crafted memos can do this.

If such a person works for you, one-on-one feedback is essential to help them better accept new ideas.  You may suggest instead of saying NO (in one of it’s many versions) they try “interesting.”  This gives them a graceful way to slow the process that somehow elicits the NO behavior.

Any ideas out there?

Listen to an interview with John on Iowa Public Radio about Beyond Luck

Eternal Verities

24 Mar

A couple weeks ago my lady and I drove out to Ladora, Iowa with another couple to visit a fine little bistro (Iowa is filled with many such fine little places – must be the corn).  Walking into the bistro I was struck by the dictum on the façade of the building.

As imbibing fine wine often makes my companions and I wax philosophical. we were discussing the power of these words:

The wealth of the community embodies the richness of her soil and the integrity, frugality and diligence of her people.

How timely these are today and how leadership embodies these three exemplary characteristics.  Food for thought

On the comments:

Thank you for the comments on e-media issues.  A diversity of perspectives: inter-generational differences, organizational disruption from letting IT dominate the business and two very personal examining the joys and travails of email.  Interesting how many mentioned going back to the gold standard:  speaking directly with others in person or by phone – what a novel idea.

E-media & Internal Organizational Communications

17 Mar

In a meeting last week the following question surfaced:  How has the development of information technology/e-media changed the nature of communication in organizations? What problems have been introduced?  If you are interested in examining this issue please help start a conversation with a comment.

Pump Primers:




Smart phones





For insights on the massive accumulation of data go the cover story in the February 27th Economist:  The data deluge.

Thank you for your insights – jl

Balancing task and relationship

10 Mar

In a recent leadership meeting (n = 6) a member noted a colleague who was separated from a company about five years ago and is still making covert war on the person who removed her.  Another group member expressed that as  a woman, letting go of an old wound was likely more difficult.  A spirited conversation about gender differences ensued.

Out of this came consideration of balancing tasks and relationships.  In general, women are more relationship focused whereas men are more task focused.  As with most generalizations there are many exceptions.  This dichotomy is almost equivalent to linear vs. intuitive thinking

For example, mixed gender groups generally perform better that single gender groups.  The effect however is easily trumped by individual differences.  Thus it is better to have the best people at the table than gender balance.  I am aware of a high functioning group (n = 6) that only has one woman, but the quality of the people trumps any need to add more women.

Two considerations for reflection come from this discussion.

Individual differences are almost always more potent than group differences.  There is a huge body of research and practice to support this statement.  Example: it is better to hire for and manage talent than to expend effort on trying to balance and manage intergenerational differences.

One of the challenges of effective management is the necessity to maintain a balance between extremes whatever the dichotomy.  Example: assertive vs. aggressive or passive styles.

For more on leadership and management check out a Beyond Luck interview on Iowa Public Radio.  Scroll down until you see Beyond Luck.

Crabs in a barrel

2 Mar

Last week the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business and locally owned Hills Bank co-sponsored the annual Hughes Lecture.

The speaker, an economist from Virginia Tech, ended an extremely lucid and entertaining talk with a discussion of “crabs in a barrel.” He noted that if you put crabs in a barrel and one tries to climb out, the others will swarm and drag it down.  His point was entrepreneurs, managers and executives must focus more on the quality of the people in their companies, developing the performers and weeding out the destructive people.

In Beyond Luck there is an extensive discussion of troublesome employees. These people have common characteristics: “anger, cynicism, unrelenting complaining and ducking responsibility, generally disliked by their co-workers and they help create toxic workplaces.”

Research by Gallup Corp shows that one major source of job satisfaction is respected colleagues who often become best friends.  In an earlier post the premier importance of people as an asset was discussed.  Do you have the values, knowledge and skills to manage a high performance workforce?