Empower your team

This past weekend I had the opportunity to give a presentation that shares a few tips about leading turnarounds at Product Camp Seattle. We had a good interchange of ideas and experiences, and one of the tips that generated a good deal of conversation was: “Empower and require people to fix problems. They usually do fine and you can’t do it all alone.” Every business has issues to fix and opportunities to explore. If your team is bringing the issues and opportunities to you for a decision about what to act on and how to do it, they aren’t empowered and you’re being a bottleneck…even if that’s not what you … Read More

3 benefits of disgruntled employees

We have all been in the meeting where the pointy haired manager speaks and everyone knows the plan is doomed but nobody wants to point out the obvious. Then suddenly, out of nowhere comes that voice, like nails on a chalkboard, instinctively you cringe because every time this employee speaks their biting tone of voice and an insatiable desire to complain about virtually everything drains you. This is the person you never want to have lunch or coffee with, much less stand too close to for fear of guilt by association. But…when they speak, there is this part of you that knows the core of their message is right, even … Read More

Advice to employees of an acquired company

Question What is the best advice for employees of a company that is in the process of being acquired? Answer My advice is specific to the level of the employee… If you are an executive: 1. Get your head around the fact that you may not have a place in the new organization and that is okay. 2. Do everything you can to ensure a smooth transition and to ensure your team is treated fairly. 3. Be the communication conduit to the team so they know what to expect and you can help retain key talent and prevent a the productivity dip that happens because everyone is running around worried … Read More

Your breakout moment

When an elephant is a baby, the trainer will put a shackle around it’s leg and drive a stake in the ground so the little elephant can’t walk away. Tug as they might, they are stuck. When the elephant is huge and could easily pull up the stake, they don’t try. This is known as learned helplessness and it is an epidemic that prevents people from fulfilling their career potential because the rules that got you where you are will not get you to where you want to be. Here is a real life example: I had just started a turnaround project, it is the middle of summer, I am … Read More

Life lesson from a park bench

We all have pivotal moments in our career that stick with us, and form the story line of who we are. I’m a mash-up of many such stories. Early in my career while working for a software start-up in Seattle, we had an opportunity to make a sale to a client that would put our tiny business on the map. The risk was…we didn’t yet have the product features they wanted to buy, and they were far larger than any prior customer so my area, software implementation, would be a real challenge. Our CEO convened a meeting of all of his direct reports to get input and weigh the pros … Read More

Smile, You’re being watched

You may be an executive, a mid-level manager, a lead or project manager of a matrixed team, but if you lead a team, you are always being watched. The people you serve, and the organization at large are reading your verbal and non-verbal signals like a weatherman at a barometer. The reference to weather is pretty accurate too. If the company is growing (spring time), employees will see lots of energy and enthusiasm from leadership. There may be occasional bad days and growing pains showing up on your face, but as long as they are as short lived as a spring storm, the team will let it pass. It is … Read More

Lead with honesty

 This is a follow on post from 5 steps to build support for metrics. In that post I talk about bringing your plan for change to your team before it is a fully formed idea, so you can get their input. Here is why this matters… I few years ago I was involved in a strategic planning session for top management.  We were going to be flown to a far off destination to enjoy sun, a little golf, and do some Blue Ocean thinking.  Well that is what most folks thought. As is pretty common on these trips, we were going to break into teams of about 8 people and brainstorm to … Read More

The one thing to never worry about – and the one thing to obsess about

Every day has plenty to do and keep on top of, and if you are like most people you have your fair share of things you worry about. The one thing you should never worry about is what can’t be done, and the one thing to obsess about is what must be done. People around water coolers all around the world can be heard commiserating about the things that can’t be done… “I can’t make the customer happy because I can’t set product priorities” “Our department can’t catch up because of a hiring freeze” There certainly are business constraints, but most of the time these “can’t stories” we tell ourselves … Read More

5 steps to build support for metrics

We have all seen it, someone has an urgent need to implement a set of metrics able to provide the visibility necessary to manage the business. As the manager of the team they are well within their rights to define and implement quickly, but they don’t involve their team so the resistance to change causes adoption to severely lag the intended target. Implementing metrics can be a bit tricky because there are two dimension of change at play here. First of all, things are different, and most people don’t like different. The second concern is that when it comes to metrics people have experience being bludgeoned by ham-handed managers armed … Read More

Let’s hear it for the managers!

We hear a lot about leadership these days, and leadership is important, but what about management? The typical debate about leadership or management puts leadership in a lofty, strategic position and typically casts management as the work done by people that have not made it to the leadership level.  Don’t get me wrong, we need people that can lead, but managers turn strategy into revenue, they turn fluff into stuff! I would like to take a moment to recognize the value of managing and give you 4 reasons to be proud you are a manager: You understand your industry: No industry hopping for you, you have been in industry for years, and maybe even decades. … Read More