Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sharing = Win-Win (lose if you don't)

When you share physical things, you might lose just a little bit.

But, when you share information (strategies, tips), you lose nothing.

Maybe, you lose just the little bit of time it took to share?  Nope!  You didn't lose that.  That little time you spent sharing, you were:
  1. Reinforcing the knowledge yourself (teaching solidifies learning)
  2. Building up a stronger social network that will payoff 10x or 100x.
So, sharing information is a great investment, not any type of cost.

How many of you played Monopoly?  Don't you remember that often, the winner was one of the traders?   Nearly every trade in the world is a win-win, where the traders both benefit.  The only losers are those NOT trading.

In my new startup (GoPhoto), we're putting these principles to practice, and getting GREAT results.  For example:

Company Name & Logo:
To pick a company name, we did lots of brainstorming & research.  Then, we went to http://crowdspring.com   (fabulous site), and also floated some names & asked for help via facebook/twitter/LinkedIn.   In just 3 days, we got 300+ names to consider, and vetted our top choices against 500+ people we trust.  We're doing the same thing for our new logo.

For a traditional "no sharing" company, they would've hired a design firm, spent $10-30k, and taken 3-6 weeks to get this done, and would end up with something that 15 people liked.

With the open/sharing approach, we took < 1 week, <$1k, and ended up with something that 500+ people like.

Yeah, there are risks to sharing.  What if your competition hears about this info?   But, those risks are far outweighed by the risks of spending more, taking longer, and having worse results because you kept things too secret.  Reap the huge beneftis by opening yourself up to really constructive feedback from your social circles. 

Related: Your value is not in what you've done, but what you will do!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hard Decisions

Making easy decisions are easy. So let's talk about the hard decisions.

Consider your team's choice on getting from start to finish. You can take path A or B.

A and B each have their own +/- (positive/negative aspects).

If the choice isn't clear, then enlist other smart people to the task. (Everyone loves to be a consultant.)  If we all still have a hard time choosing a winner, then just pick one without regret. Close, and keep moving on.

Why? Well, if it's still hard, then the choices are really close anyway. And, what people often forget is: While you're not deciding between A and B, you're already choosing C (no decision, no action)  And, that choice often is the far worse of the 3 options.

After you've chosen, say, path B.... Realize that, yes, there will be bumps in the road on path B ---  Just as there would have been if you chose path A.  Don't keep switching paths unless there is significant new data.  Stick with a path.  You can disagree, but as a team, you must commit and own the path together.

Disagree, but commit:
If you hit a bump in the road, don't be the schmuck who says, "I told you so!" and let the mission fail.  We succeed or fail as a team.  Our customers don't care who's wrong or right and who's to blame.  If one wing of our plane is on fire, it's a fool who says, "It's not my wing on fire!".

If we hit a bump, make the best of it.  Own it.  Help yourself out.  It makes for a better chance of success, and is more fun for everyone.  If we hit a really big bump, that's new data, and we may start over on the decision making process.  But, while the bumps are small, keep going, with no regrets!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Our value (Accomplishments only get you in)

Accomplishments get you in.

Action now and in the future keep you in.

The value I created in the past is great, sure, but what matters most is the value I'll bring to the team in the present and future.

It doesn't matter if you cured cancer in the past. That only gets you the entry into the job in the first place. It's not what's going to keep you on the team now and in the future. You have to create new value for the team every day.

And, isn't it really more fun to bring your best every day anyway?

Reflect on those few "queen bees" (of any gender) you've worked with, who keep things "too close to their chest", and become, happily for them (but resented by everyone else), bottlenecks in an organization. They think this gives them power and job security. On the contrary, this is the first person everyone on the team usually wants to get rid of. Always make sure you're contributing NOW.

Monday, January 18, 2010

MLK: Courage & Justice

On Martin Luther King Jr.'s holiday, let's reflect briefly on just one of his many things he did so well that we could apply today.

In addition to his strong vision & charisma, MLK Jr had was defined by extraordinary courage and justice.

Today, where do team leaders most often need a reminder to summon their courage and increase justice?  Often, it's when they are not holding their team members accountable enough, out of fear of conflict.

When someone is properly held accountable, their individual performance and engagement increases, and you satisfy the teammates innate hunger for justice. 

It's not just the manager's job to hold people accountable. In fact, it's often a better sign of team health when there is peer-accountability.  

So, whether you are the team-leader, or a peer, please do summon the courage to increase justice in your team.  It has great rewards.

But, before you embark on a very difficult conversation, I recommend you help make it easier, with far less hazards, by reading the short tips on feedback pre-conditions, SBIR, and be mindful not to lead by force.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Feedback - SBIR

OK, after checking your pre-conditions, let's look at the best way to deliver feedback.  It's called the "SBIR" method. 

You want the person to say "Yes" to the first 2 questions.  This gets them in an agreeable, listening mode, for the tough parts to follow.  And, if they don't say "Yes", you can check the facts first.

Example:  Bob was late to deliver a training session.

1) Situation
Stick to the facts:  "Do you remember when you came late today to the training session you were running?"   "Yes".

2) Behavior
What were they doing in that situation?  "Do you remember how, when you entered, you didn't even apologize to the audience?"  "Yes"

3) Impact
Share with them what impact their behavior had in that situation.  Combine new data and unconsidered perspectives.  This may be new information for them.  "So, when you waste a roomful of people's time, you're not only wasting time, but also disrespecting a roomful of people.  Disrespect carries far greater costs to the team productivity over time."

4) Recommendation
  • Ask them for their recommendation.  
  • Why not my recommendation?  Their recommendation may be only 80% correct, but will be 99% owned and followed up on.  Your recommendation may be 99% correct, but will be acted on from their sense of obligation (rather than ownership), and only ~50% followed up on.  But, do offer your recommendation if their recommendation is totally unacceptable.
Following this SBIR practice, I've made many diffucult feedback discussions easier, more meaningful, and with better results

As always, I hope this helps you too.  And, let me know how you use this, and how you'd enhance it.

    Feedback - pre-conditions

    Giving negative feedback is hard.  There are so many ways managers typically mess it up and just make things far worse.

    Here are tricks I use to make it a success.  Let's focus first on the important pre-conditions:

    1) Check yourself
    • What's my emotional state?  What baggage might I be bringing?
    • What was my contribution to this?   This isn't likely 100% their fault.  What did I do to create or perpetuate this situation? 

    2) Check the facts

    3) Build a listening* state

    • Open them up:  Remind them that you value them.  After all, this feedback is a personal investment in making them better.  (It isn't?  Check yourself again.)

    • Check your positive to negative ratio.  People truly listen when in a positive relationship.  They don't listen to constant naysayers.
    • It's a good time to talk.  Plan a good time.  Veryify by asking if this is a good time.

    4) *Listening
    • Lincoln said, "Listening is allowing yourself to be truly changed."  Try to get them in this state, and allow yourself to be in this state too.

    OK.  Enough about pre-conditions!  When you're ready to tackle it, check out the next article:  Feedback "SBIR"

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    Lead by giving (limited) choices

    Here's a trick so good, I actually enjoy it when it's played on me*.
    When leading (teams, engineers, children, customers, peers, bosses, etc), give them limited choices.

    0.  Clarify the task in positive terms

    This is a critical zero-step.  More on this later.

    1.  Give them a choice.
    When I have a choice, I have control.  When I'm working from my circle of control, I am less stressed.

    2.  But limit their choices.
    Inform me of the constraints.
    If you have only chicken or fish, ask, "would you like chicken or fish?" 
    Don't ask, "What do you want to eat?"
    If you need 7 things done by next Tuesday, ask your team to volunteer from that list.

    3.   Let them own it!
    Think about how your next leadership tasks will play out.  Compare:

    "OK.  I'll do that task.  If you say so.... "
    "I'll do B!  Here's why I chose it.... It's much better for me than A..."

    The person who was given a choice is going to be much more likely to OWN the solution, which is exactly what you & they want.   Having a sense of ownership is more satisfying, easier to manage, and gets the best results.

    *Like most of the best behaviors/tricks on this blog, this passes the "moral reciprocity test" (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you... Karma/etc...).  Wouldn't you want this from your leaders?  Isn't it good to reflect on how you like to be managed, to remind yourself how to best manage your team?