Category Archives: Management and Strategy

TWO PRINCIPLES FOR LEADING YOUR ORGANIZATION THROUGH THE COVID-19 CRISIS

Business leaders are in the midst of a global crisis. The challenges facing organizations, employees, and communities are unprecedented, the stakes are high, and certainty is nowhere to be found. Under such staggering circumstances, it is only natural for leaders to feel unprepared to lead capably, nimbly, and honorably. There are two main things leaders need to understand in a crisis—two mantras, if you will, that offer a calm way forward, no matter what the situation. COVID-19 is no exception. Mantra 1: You’re going to do the right thing, and you’re going to do the best you can do. It sounds deceptively simple, so say it again. And again. You’re going to do the right thing. You’re going to do the best you can do. After all, that’s all you can do. Mantra 2: You’re going to tell people what you know, what you don’t know, and when you’ll get back to them to discuss what you didn’t know before. Leaders who follow these two mantras closely stand the best chance of emerging from the current crisis with their conscience—and their organization—intact.  Read More >>

A SHORT GUIDE TO BUILDING YOUR TEAM’S CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS

According to a 2016 survey of 63,924 managers and 14,167 recent graduates, critical thinking is the number one soft skill managers feel new graduates are lacking, with 60% feeling this way. This confirms what a Wall Street Journal analysis of standardized test scores given to freshmen and seniors at 200 colleges found: the average graduate from some of the most prestigious universities shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years.  There is little agreement around what critical thinking is. From there, it gets even less clear. Most employers lack an effective way to objectively assess critical thinking skills and most managers don’t know how to provide specific instruction to team members in need of becoming better thinkers. It’s time to reject the notion that critical thinking is either an innate gift that can’t be developed or a skill learned only through experience. Companies can help their employees harness critical thinking skills by executing, synthesizing, recommending, and generating creative thinking.  Read More >>

NEED TO MAKE A CRITICAL DECISION? HERE’S HOW TO ENSURE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT INTEL

For business leaders, there are few things more unnerving than making decisions with enormous consequences, only to later discover that key information relevant to those decisions had not been conveyed.  In the military, the stakes are often too high to let details fall through the cracks. So it has developed a robust protocol for ensuring that people across the organization are aware of how they need to share information.  Fortunately, the military’s protocol applies just as readily in the civilian world. The first is to establish specific information priorities (and do so as early as possible). The second part of the protocol is to link those priorities to key decision points.  The third is to communicate information priorities to your team. The final part of the protocol is to revise priorities as new information comes in.  Read More >>

IS YOUR COMPANY CULTURE ON AUTOPILOT?

For startups, the early days can feel exhilarating, even romantic: a handful of dedicated employees all focused on an original idea, solving problems as they arise and growing the business in the process.  But with growth comes a range of leadership challenges: ones it can be easy to overlook until it is too late. The following are three tips for leading a rapidly growing organization. The first is to invest in human resources early.  Startups tend to hold off on investing in a dedicated human-resources function as long as possible, instead handling recruitment on an ad-hoc basis. The second is to not get attached to the original team. It is unlikely that the team a founder starts with will have the exact skills and expertise as the team that should run the organization when it has tripled or quadrupled in size.  The final tip is to be mindful about remaining an attractive place to work. Being thoughtful about culture is not the same as maintaining the early culture at any cost. With more people and more hierarchy, more structure is required. This naturally changes the culture, which may be met with resistance by employees, particularly those who are used to the more free-spirited early days.  Read More >>

TAKE 5: THE UPSIDE OF FAILURE

No one sets out to design an unsuccessful product or get turned down for a big promotion. Yet there’s a growing awareness that failing actually has its upsides. One probably messes up more often than they think. Many people like to believe that they miss the mark less than the average person, even when it comes to ethical lapses. Indeed, research from professor Maryam Kouchaki suggests that people tend to experience what she calls “unethical amnesia,” wherein they recall their own unethical behaviors with less-than-perfect clarity. Additionally, one’s career can benefit from their failure. Adversity itself is what can push rejected people to succeed. Failure can also create great stories. Failure anecdotes can show character, reveal leadership skills, and demonstrate drive. It is possible for companies to foster a culture where failure is okay. Additionally, sometimes what looks like success can actually be failure in disguise.  Read More >>

5 SURVIVAL TIPS FOR STARTUPS WORKING WITH LARGE COMPANIES

Because of the fast pace of innovation, many of today’s large companies form partnerships with startups that have the technology or know-how they need.  In theory, the partnerships should be great for the smaller company because the more-established organization has the financial resources, name recognition, and market access the startup needs.  Don’t partner with a company just for its name recognition or its financial assistance, but for how the relationship can help your startup grow. Large companies with layers of bureaucracy move slowly. Some projects take years to complete. Startups need to develop a trusted relationship with knowledgeable and committed employees and managers who are motivated to make the partnership succeed.  If negotiations become too fraught, the relationship becomes uncomfortable, things get bogged down in bureaucracy, or the timing doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to terminate the partnership.  Read More >>

MAKING JOY A PRIORITY AT WORK

Human desire is as essential to achieving business goals as ever. Companies are making massive investments in technologies that can more closely link their people to each other, to customers, and to other stakeholders. Joy connects people more powerfully than almost any other human experience. In any team environment, joy arises from a combination of harmony, impact, and acknowledgment. Business leaders can engender all of these in their organizations. When the diverse skills and strengths of teammates are really clicking together and harmonizing, it feels great. Team harmony leads to impact, which further fuels joy. Acknowledging each player’s contributions and cheering for each other powers the entire joy-success-joy cycle. Joy can pack as much practical punch as technology if we allow it to. Technology provides the infrastructure for connectivity, but the foundation must be a culture dedicated to the human experience of harmony, impact, and acknowledgment. In sum, joy.  Read More >>

HOW TO DESIGN FINANCIAL INCENTIVES IN PROFESSIONS THAT ARE HIGHLY TERRITORIAL

A study of doctors shows that the best incentive schemes harness a desire to expand and protect professional turf. If one would like employees to more consistently fill out tedious paperwork or be more attentive to customer needs, the solution is usually quite simple: pay them more to do it. Little is known about whether financial incentives like this work for professionals such as doctors, who have high autonomy and esoteric expertise, and often feel a dedication to “duty” over mere self-interest. Such professionals are infamously hard to manage by any means. They don’t want to be told how to do their jobs. And throwing more money at them isn’t likely to make them budge. In a study performed by Jillian Chown, doctors responded to financial incentives attached to tasks where they had low jurisdictional dominance.   Read More >>

THE PERILS OF SURVIVORSHIP BIAS

Many aspiring entrepreneurs believe that dropping out of college to start a company is the key to success. Many successful CEO’s well-known stories give the impression that to triumph in business, all you need is a big idea in college and the will to quit school to pursue it. The problem is that college dropouts do not usually become billionaires. There are many more budding entrepreneurs who dropped out of college to start companies and failed than those who succeeded. To focus on the people who left school and made it big is to ignore the far larger set of dropouts who never got anywhere. This is what is known as “survivorship bias.” Survivorship bias is an error that arises because we look at the data we have but ignore the selection process that led us to have that data.  Read More >>

STARTUPS BET THAT LONELY FREELANCERS CRAVE COMPANY

Work clubs say productivity improves when you have a buddy.  This has become a problem from remote workers, who miss the interactions of nearby co-workers in the office.  There is a new trend of ventures coming into fruition: transforming remote work into a group activity. Many people get more work accomplished where there is no distraction at home, but feel more motivated in the workplace surrounded by peers.  Start-ups like Focusmate are trying to solve this problem. This start-up features fifty minute video sessions with randomly assigned partners. For $4 a month, users have unlimited access to the program, which can be an asset for people with deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Read More >>