Are you always present?

 

One evening, not too long ago, I was chatting with my daughter after dinner. My laptop was open and I stole a glance at the screen, responding to an email or two while she spoke. She said something and I responded, “Uh, huh.”

Suddenly, she asked in a very matter of fact voice: “Is that the sound that parents make when they are not really paying attention, or do you agree with what I am saying?”

I stopped in my tracks and gave a feeble response, sheepishly acknowledging that I wasn’t really paying attention to her.

Embedded in that innocent interaction that probably gets enacted nightly in many households is one of the most profound lessons of leadership:

BE PRESENT.

“Being present” means being respectful of the other person’s presence, their ideas, their voice.

It emphasizes the meritocracy of ideas.

It prevents the superciliousness expressed via the mindless tapping on keyboards and smartphone screens — even as we pretend to listen to the arguments and presentations that took somebody countless hours to prepare.

 

Leaders lead by example. If you are finding your teams constantly distracted, ask yourself if you are always present.

Lets face it: multitasking only sounds great in theory. So, put away that electronic device the next time you decide to spend quality time with somebody. The only quality time is being fully present.

Reference : http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20121009155901-554288-are-you-always-present

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Want to be a Compassionate Leader? Call Your Mom!

“Son, you have lost weight and look a bit weak. You should eat more. Here, let me fix you something.”

“Mom, I’m fine, just a bit tired from my trip. How about you fix me a great breakfast in the morning?”

Mom relents, I go to bed.

It is 2 am. I have just gotten off a long international flight and am visiting my mom while on a business trip to Mumbai. This is déjà vu. My mom tries to fatten me up in three days to make up for the 362 days in the year when she does not get to feed me. I try not to remind her that I am 44 years old and quite capable of taking care of myself…

The next day, I am at the LinkedIn office in Mumbai. A lady in her 50’s stops me hesitantly as I walk past the kitchen. “This is my son’s resume,” she says. “He’s a very smart boy. Can you please do something for him?” Her face is both hopeful and a bit scared. She’s fearful that I might not react well to her solicitation and cause a black mark on her employment record, but her desire to help her son is too great.

I look at the resume, fully expecting a new college grad’s resume. It is not easy to find a job in India; youth unemployment is in double digits. But I am surprised. Her son seems to have a good track record as an accountant and is currently employed at a multinational.

“Your son is doing well. You should not worry about him.”

“But his salary is very low; perhaps you can help him find a better job?”

Her eyes are hopeful. “Ok, let me see what I can do.” She lights up. I bring the resume back to my desk and make a note to follow up.

Mothers care.

Mothers always think about their children’s well-being. They want us to eat more, have a better career.

Mothers don’t expect anything in return.

Compassionate leaders do the same.

Compassion is the most important quality in a leader.

Compassion creates lasting employee loyalty, a bi-directional compact based on mutual trust and well-being. You can’t buy that with more money or stock options.

Go ahead. Pick up the phone.

Reference : http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20131007054942-554288-want-to-be-a-compassionate-leader-call-your-mom

Business Plans Are a Waste of Time. Here’s What to Do

If you’re taking time to carefully perfect a business plan to help ensure your company’s model is sound and that it will be a success–stop. That’s the word from William Hsu, c0-founder and managing partner at start-up accelerator MuckerLab.

Hsu, who’s been both a successful entrepreneur and an executive at AT&T and eBay, says that starting a company is “a career for really irrational people. In all probability, whatever the idea is will fail. Building a reality distortion field is how entrepreneurs convince themselves and their employees that this is a good idea.”

With that in mind, he advises:

1. Think people, not ideas.

A great team trumps a great idea every time, Hsu says. “None of us is perfect, and entrepreneurs are usually great at a couple of things, such as having vision and being willing to take risks.” Entrepreneurs–especially tech entrepreneurs–come in one of two flavors: Either they’re like Steve Jobs, visionaries who understand the market but aren’t technically proficient, or they’re like Steve Wozniak, technical geniuses who don’t understand how to market to customers.

In either case, having great team members can fill in any areas where the entrepreneur lacks strength, he says. “We look for three things in a potential start-up: market, team, and concept. The team is by far the most important element, and the second is market. The idea itself is the least important.”

2. Think speed, not perfection.

“Whatever hypothesis you have about the market, it’s probably wrong by definition,” he says. “One out of every 30 venture start-ups succeeds–and that’s after getting funded. What that means is that entrepreneurs need to take a product to market as fast as they can in any form, even if it’s 10% of the original vision. They have to test it to see if it’s a market fit, if it resonates with customers, and is something they’d eventually pay for.”

Then, he says, pivot and reconfigure on the basis of that market response. “You have to iterate as fast as you can. I don’t mind if a batter has a .100 average–a 10% success rate–if the batter gets 10 or 20 at bats. The more chances you have, the better. So the team that can execute the fastest and build the most relationships with customers by listening to them will win.”

Because of this need to iterate quickly, Hsu advises building an in-house team that will have all the design, technical, and product capabilities you need. “You don’t want the entrepreneur outsourcing these types of functions, because it means there will be a cost in dollars to each new iteration that will drain capital. Every pivot should get you closer to success, rather than closer to failure.”

3. Think vision, not plan.

“A lot of entrepreneurs have a perfect deck of slides, a perfect business plan, and a perfect financial model. But that’s all they have,” Hsu says. “They think starting a business is having a business plan. But being an entrepreneur is about creating the future one step at a time.”

Does that mean you should never look ahead? Not quite, he says. “Where you have two or more co-founders, it’s important for them all to put down on a piece of paper, or a whiteboard, the canonical things they all agree on. They need to agree what the vision is and what the path to success will be. But don’t spend time trying to put that into a 40-page document. I’d rather you take that time and talk to 10 more customers instead.”

Reference : http://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/business-plans-are-a-waste-of-time-heres-what-to-do-instead.html

Recognize Intrapreneurs Before They Leave

 

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Any CEO can tell you that finding ideas is not the always the problem. The real issue is selecting and spreading the best ideas, testing quickly, and executing flawlessly. An “innovation engine” is an organization’s capability to think and invest in long-term opportunities along with the competence to drive continuous innovations for top-line growth each year.

To build your innovation engine, your firm must excel at operationalizing ideas from your energized people who are willing to do everything they can to fight off internal resistance without creating chaos. This is your bench of corporate innovators: your intrapreneurs.

You already have natural intrapreneurs in your company. Some you know about, but most are hiding. These individuals are not always your top talent or the obvious rebels or mavericks. But theyare unique and certainly the opposite of “organization men.” When you find them and support them correctly, and magic will occur.

Intrapreneurs can transform an organization more quickly and effectively than others because they are self‐motivated free thinkers, masters at navigating around bureaucratic and political inertia.

In a firm with 5,000 employees, we’ve found, there are at least 250 natural innovators; of these at least 25 are great intrapreneurs who can build the next business for your firm.

Failed Leadership

Many senior leaders, surprisingly, are actually afraid to promote out-of‐ the‐box thinking for fear of losing their best employees to success and then to competitors; this is a sure sign of failed leadership.

Tomas Chamorro‐Premuzic argues that 70% of successful entrepreneurs got their business idea while working for a previous employer. These talented individuals left because the environment did not have an intrapreneurial process to pitch their ideas–and their bosses were unbearable. We find that smart people leave companies to start their own ventures because their firms did not believe in intrapreneurship as a critical tool for growth.

Successful Intrapreneurs

Based on our work with corporations, we have discovered six patterns of successful intrapreneurs:

Pattern #1: Money Is Not the Measurement. The primary motivation for intrapreneurs is influence with freedom. They want to be rewarded fairly, but money is not the starting point for them. Reward and compensation are a scorecard of how well they are playing the game of intrapreneurship.

Pattern #2: Strategic Scanning. Intrapreneurs are constantly thinking about what is next, one step into the future. These passionate change agents are highly engaged, very clear, and visibly consistent in their work and interactions. They are not sitting around waiting for the world to change; they’re figuring out which part of the world is about to change, and they will arrive just in time to leverage their new insights. Learning is like oxygen to them.

Pattern #3: Greenhousing. Intrapreneurs tend to contemplate the seed of an idea for days and weeks between calls, meetings, and conversation. As they shine more light on it, the idea becomes clearer, but they don’t yet share it. They know that others may dismiss it without fully appreciating it — so they tend to ideas in their greenhouse, protecting them for a while from potential naysayers.

Pattern #4: Visual Thinking. Visual thinking is a combination of brainstorming, mind mapping, and design thinking. Only after an exciting insight do intrapreneurs seem able to formulate and visualize a series of solutions in their head—rarely do they formulate just one solution. They do not act impulsively on a solution immediately, keenly aware of the need to honor the discovery phase for the new solution, giving it time to develop and crystallize.

Pattern #5: Pivoting. Pivoting is making a significant, often courageous, shift from the current strategic direction. It sounds scary and unfathomable to most mature organizations, although it’s often what is needed to resuscitate a dying company.

For example, Steve Jobs pivoted Apple from being an education and hobby computer company to a consumer electronics company. Wipro of India pivoted from being a small vegetable oil manufacturer to a software outsourcing powerhouse. CEO Tony Hsieh of Zappos pivoted from  selling only shoes to becoming an online customer experience company. (In 2009, Amazon bought Zappos for $1.2 billion.) Jeff Bezos pivoted Amazon from being the world’s largest online megamall that sold everybody else’s stuff to selling its own hardware—the Kindle line of readers. This strategy has paid off well—as of this writing, Amazon owns about 60% of the e-reader market share, and its market capitalization value is north of $100 billion.

Pattern #6: Authenticity and Integrity. The intrapreneurs we studied demonstrate the attributes of confidence and humility, not the maverick-like behavior often associated with successful corporate innovators. They all, however, exuded high self-awareness and sense of purpose.

You can begin a senior-level conversation about intrapreneurship by addressing the following important questions about building a bench of intrapreneurs:

  • What is your organization’s definition of a corporate intrapreneur?
  • How does one become a successful intrapreneur?
  • How can you find intrapreneurs within and outside your company?
  • What are methods and tactics to develop intrapreneurs and intrapreneurial teams? How can your organization implement them to nurture your intrapreneurs?

Successful companies with their own innovation engines understand how to find, develop, and retain intrapreneurs. In order to outcompete, they promote and nurture a small start‐up environment within a large organizational structure that embraces continuous experimentation to find the next big thing.

Reference : http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/09/recognize_intrapreneurs

The Best Job Interview Question Ever

 

As a young manager working for a large hotel chain, Bill Keena was tasked with interviewing a group of MBA students for potential jobs. The HR leader handed him a list of questions to ask the fresh-faced recruits.

Bill cleared his throat. “Um, I know I’m new at this, but …”

“Yes?” the HR leader asked.

“I think they’ve practiced the answers to all of these questions.”

“What would you ask then?” the HR person wondered, not amused.

“I’d ask, ‘How will you motivate our dishwashers.’”

It’s a brilliant question, and one that the large hotel chain still uses today. According to Bill, who is now the general manager of the Rivers Casino near Chicago, there is only one correct answer: When the dishes are stacked high, as a manager you need to roll up your sleeves and start washing them, too. (For the record, only one MBA student got the answer right during Bill’s interviews that day and he was a former military officer.)

As anyone who’s worked in the hospitality industry knows, washing dishes isn’t the most glamorous job out there. Rinsing half-eaten chunks of food into a sink full of a cat food-like concoction has little appeal for most people. But say you’re the one working the sink. You’re hot, sweaty, and your boss walks by in his suit and tie and offers a glib “keep up the good work, buddy.” You’d probably think that’s about as helpful the crusty cheese stuck to the plate.

But what if your boss walked up and said, “Hey, it looks like you’ve got a ton going on. Let me lend you a hand.” There would simply be nothing more motivating.

And that’s exactly the point: If we dig in and help rather than mutter “good job,” we’ll build a sense of respect and engagement. So remember, no natter what you do, find a way to help out to strengthen your culture.

Reference : http://www.inc.com/chester-elton/the-best-job-interview-question-ever.html

Why Would-Be Entrepreneurs Need a Reality Check

A woman contacted me about six months ago, asking for some feedback on a startup idea. While not a friend, I had known her for quite some time and always enjoyed chatting with her. She had been a visible member of the business community for a number of years and had a good reputation. I agreed to a 30-minute meeting.

She arrived with her husband, and immediately, they jumped into a barrage of questions about hiring, funding, and technology. I stopped them and asked, “What’s the business?” She said, “That’s confidential.” In response to my surprise and befuddlement, she turned to her husband and said, “OK, have him sign the NDA.” I smiled and said, “Can I give you a reality check?” They both nodded uncomfortably.

NDAs, Confidentiality, and Idea-Stealing

People don’t steal ideas because they have a plethora of their own crappy ideas. Ideas are common; execution is mind-bogglingly difficult. The chances of someone hearing an idea, then spending years grinding and sacrificing to turn it into a company, is infinitesimally small. In fact, the challenge for people capable of building a company is not finding ideas — it’s deciding which to work on. Are there copycat startups? Absolutely. But people don’t copy a “new” idea with an unproven business model.

Despite this, many entrepreneurs, especially inexperienced ones, insist on an NDA to “protect” their idea. If you’re not familiar with the terminology, an NDA is a non-disclosure agreement aimed at ensuring confidentiality and disallowing the recipient from utilizing the information discussed.

I never sign them, nor do I know anyone in the startup world who does. Why?

  1. An NDA causes complexity. People who sign more than 10 NDAs will find it impossible to remember what they can and can’t discuss.
  2. It doesn’t actually protect much. Most NDAs merely address disclosure (hence the name), not utilization.
  3. In the end, you won’t sue. Legal proceedings are expensive, time-consuming, and rarely useful.
  4. Ideas are rarely truly original. With rare patentable exceptions, there’s nothing new under the sun. What is uncommon is a combination of excellent leadership, thoughtful strategy, and valuable culture.

While “stealth” sounds sexy, the reality of it is damaging. Loads of honest feedback from a variety of sources is incredibly valuable. Buzz attracts users, investors, and partners. You want a company culture of openness and excitement, not silence.

Painkillers, Profits, and Blinders

People are busy and distracted, and frankly, they don’t care unless they have significant pain. People with pain are a different animal. They’re attentive, willing to expend effort, and not price-sensitive. At the root of every great company is pain and its painkiller. The trick is to find the pain, devise a cheaper, better, or faster painkiller, and create scalable systems that can deliver more painkillers at a higher margin.

Unfortunately, real pain is hard to find. The couple I spoke with recently had trouble buying and selling a house. They knew little about the industry but saw an opportunity to help connect homebuyers with home sellers. Their methodology was what you would expect: a marketplace website with supply provided by brokers and agents. Their plan was to advertise online for buyers and “get a lot of PR.” Oh, and they were going to focus on Missouri and a town in Texas — because her sister lived there.

I responded by asking them about competitors, market opportunity, and the people who felt the pain. They responded that there were no competitors, recited how many homes were sold in Missouri last year, and said, “Agents want to sell more homes, and buyers want to buy them.”

After 10 minutes of picking apart their business model, pointing out competitors, and explaining the challenges of building a marketplace, I shifted my focus to “the facts of entrepreneurship,” hoping to scare them out of proceeding.

The Birds and the Bees

Almost everyone knows that “startups are hard,” but the entrepreneurial reality can be a rude awakening. Failure rates are quoted between 66 and 90 percent, depending on the definition of failure, industry, and background. So, why is it so hard to even survive the startup phase?

Default Is Death: The basics of good business demand understanding the factors that influence negative outcomes and mitigating the risk. But startups are a different animal. Seemingly everything can kill a startup. The pace is chaotic. The clients are fickle. The vision is necessarily fuzzy. The only way to survive is to work, work, work, and hope to have a few things eventually fall your way.

Emotional Roller Coasters Are Trying: Emotionally, startups are brutal. One minute, you’re on a clear path to intergalactic domination; and the next, you’re an inch away from insolvency and shame. Realizing that it’s never as good or as bad as it seems will help, but most people can’t handle it.

Hidden Risks Are Around Each Corner: In the beginning, every startup feels easy because the hidden risks are not yet known. There’s an overwhelming amount of regulation, industry oddities, and historical momentum lurking underneath the surface, waiting to jump up and swing at you.

Human Misjudgment Hurts Us: Our minds play tricks on us. We buy into our own BS, distort reality, minimize others’ contributions, maximize our own contributions, engage in self-justification, recall what is easily available, and struggle with overconfidence. We are susceptible to stress, change anxiety, and ideological biases. With that in mind, managing yourself may seem challenging, and you haven’t even begun to build a team.

There’s a Lack of Resources: For people who have always been employees, it is a startling realization that IT, HR, accounting, taxation, logistics, compliance, finance, and operations all fall on their shoulders. All that “stuff” seems easy until you get your first threatening legal demand letter. That “stuff” gets real, painful, and wildly distracting in a hurry.

Projections Are Difficult to Set: Startups die because of poorly conceived projections. Revenue is projected high. Costs are projected low. In reality, it always takes twice as long, costs three times as much, and results in half of what you were expecting.

Reality Unchecked

After spending closer to an hour trying to check their reality, the couple left, more emboldened than ever. While they said my questions were helpful and my cautions were logical, they had a “billion-dollar idea” and felt compelled to take the leap.

Three months later, I followed up with her. She explained that she had quit her job and spent $85,000 on software development and $25,000 on professional services. They were hopeful to have the first version of the product released within the next two weeks. She rattled off a game plan for attracting users and had decided to expand the scope of the company beyond the previously discussed geographical boundaries. I was surprised and even a little impressed. I thought for sure this was headed down an unfortunate path.

Last week, I followed up again and got a different response. The startup had failed. They ran out of money, couldn’t get any traction, and couldn’t find anyone else who wanted to risk time or money on the project. Her last sentence was, “Apparently, startups are hard.”