Category Archives: Management and Strategy


With so many of us confined at home to stop the spread of COVID-19, it is fortunate that much economic activity, from buying groceries to banking services, can be carried online. As it turns out, many business deals and negotiations also happen online these days. As opposed to email, phone calls or instant messaging, video-conferencing is the tool that resembles regular face-to-face meetings the most. That being said, it can’t convey as much information about the parties’ non-verbal cues. And sometimes, during technological glitches, we might miss a few words and refrain from asking the person to repeat, thus missing out on verbal cues as well. In these challenging times, video-conferencing has the benefit of being a considerably cheaper means to conduct negotiations than face-to-face meetings. Given the fact that many companies are struggling due to contracting economic activities, videoconferencing may be a more sensible way to conduct business going forward, at least until the situation returns to normal, which could take months if not years. Hopefully, business negotiated via video-conferencing will help companies save costs and navigate stormy waters to a calmer and safer harbor in the future.  Read More >>


In the life of a startup founder, it is normal and to be expected that she or he will inevitably face rejection in many areas, and for a long time. Invariably, rejection has many forms and faces. Many smart people have prognostications on how to handle rejection. If you get a “no” from a potential customer, consider asking for feedback on why they went with another solution. At minimum, thank everyone that you meet with for their time and interest. Find common areas of interest that will allow you to follow-up over time. Be kind, courteous, fair and consistent in all of your behaviors. Make sure your reputation online reflects who you are and how you want to be perceived. If the fit was never there, consider whether it was not meant to be. Is there a lesson to be learned? Some startup founders take rejection the wrong way, either ignoring the nay-sayer, or worse, taking personal offense and even lashing out. While you may suffer from a bruised ego, the way you prepare for, conduct and follow-up from each meeting speaks volumes to your target audience about your aptitude for future success.  Read More >>


Metrics are essential to running a business. We all know that. What may not be as obvious, though, is how metrics intersect with your company mission and even employee happiness. Prioritize a single number — to the exclusion of all others — and you’ll invariably leave a lot of people and priorities out.  Instead, it took a constellation of metrics to capture what the business needed to scale and how each team could facilitate that success.  This constellation is made up of three kinds of metrics: quantity, quality, and efficiency. In relationship to each other, they tell the story of your business and allow for prioritization and alignment.  Of your top three metrics, one should become a north star for the business — almost always this will be the quantity metric that you are trying to optimize.  No metric is perfect. But understanding, and regularly reassessing, the relationship between quantity, quality, and efficiency is critical to more deeply understanding your business — and to staying nimble.  Done right, metrics are among the best ways to make people truly understand how their work impacts the business in a positive way.  Read More >>


The right mix of experience and innovation generates a great start-up top management team.  The pre-entry experience of the top management team tends to affect its initial strategic choices. This experience also tends to affect the ability to access complementary assets, other resources (including the acquisition of talent) required to succeed in the industry. It tends to affect the evolution of the team itself and the eventual survival of the firm.  A diverse group is more likely to learn. Equipped with a learning mindset, it is more likely to adapt and therefore succeed. Rather than focus only on start-up founders, we also need to value the entire management team. Dynamic capability and cognitive flexibility allow teams to revise their ideas about products and the marketplace, helping them find new paths in a shifting environment.  In sum, it is critical for entrepreneurs to develop the cognitive flexibility to adapt to new and changing environments. Much of this cognitive flexibility seems to be related to broad experience in prior industries as well as learned experience. For those who may not have such experience, there is still great hope of success. Being aware of the need to change and being open to it may be the most important quality of all.  Read More >>


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 >>


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 >>


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 >>


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 >>


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 >>


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 >>