All blogs of type POV
It’s a simple but painful problem that has plagued business people since the beginning of time, I’m sure. From shopkeepers in ancient Rome to English factory supervisors during the Industrial Revolution to software engineering managers in modern Silicon Valley, leaders have always struggled with the question of what to do about a difficult employee. And the dilemma is almost always seen the same way: should I continue to tolerate this person or let them go? The first step toward solving this simple and painful problem is coming to the realization that it is a false dilemma.
Perhaps the most popular — and misunderstood — term of the first decade of the new millennium is ‘innovation.’ A new stack of books and articles is produced every year asserting the critical importance of innovation for organizations that want to survive, especially during these challenging times. And to a large extent, I agree with that assertion. Unfortunately, most organizations in search of innovation seem to be generating as much cynicism as they are new thinking. The problem isn’t so much that we’re over-stating the importance of innovation; it’s more about what so many leaders are doing with it.
As we move into the season of television re-runs, I thought I might share a thought I had about a TV show that I’ve watched recently. The truth is, I don’t watch a lot of television. That’s probably due in equal parts to my busy schedule these days and my distaste for most of what I see coming out of Hollywood. I hope that doesn’t make me sound like a grumpy old man. In any case, when it comes to knowing what is happening on Lost or 24 or American Idol, I will admit that I’m woefully uninformed. However, enough people encouraged me to watch the relatively new show Undercover Boss that I finally took the time to view a few episodes.
I am absolutely convinced that one of the most important keys to success in business (and life) is discipline. I am absolutely convinced that one of the most important keys to success in business (and life) is spontaneity. I am absolutely convinced that one of the greatest sources of stress in business (and life) is feeling guilty about not being disciplined or spontaneous enough, depending on your personality. As a naturally spontaneous, creative (a.k.a. disorganized) individual, I am constantly down on myself for not being more disciplined in just about every aspect of my work life.
Since Getting Naked was published last month, we’ve been surprised by one aspect of the response we’ve received. Though we certainly knew that the principles of the book related to consultants and anyone else who works with clients, we did not expect such an immediate and strong reaction from people who work outside of consulting. Real estate agents to financial advisors to internal service providers within corporations have responded with their own stories of getting naked. Frankly, we thought it might take more time before other professions rallied around the naked concept.
When I graduated from college and became a management consultant, one of the first things I was taught was how to answer questions from clients without giving away my age or lack of business experience. “Instead of admitting that you graduated from college last spring, just say that it’s been a while since you were in school.” The underlying message was that we needed to portray ourselves as having more knowledge and experience than we actually did. That carried over into our work.
This has been a big year for the flu, and my family was certainly not spared from it. It was a long and painful Fall in our house, though we seem to be largely recovered, thank God.
Now, if you’re anything like me, when you get sick you find yourself yearning desperately to be healthy again. You pledge that when you get better you’re really going to appreciate your health, not take it for granted. And if you’re anything like me, when you do get better, you too easily forget how you felt when you were ill and eventually start doing the same things – eating poorly, working too hard, staying up too late at night, forgetting to take vitamins &ndash that make you susceptible to catching the next flu bug that comes around.
Maybe it was just the kind of kid I was, but I’m guessing that most children are constantly reminded by adults to be more efficient. Maybe not exactly in those words. More likely it comes in the form of phrases like “don’t be late”, “use your time wisely”, “don’t waste money” or even “turn off the lights when you leave a room”. And while it’s difficult to argue with a parent’s or teacher’s or coach’s motivation for instilling these principles in the youngsters they’re responsible for, there comes a time in life—especially in certain situations—when those very traits become problematic.
When it comes to tapping into the competitive advantage of diversity, few companies succeed. Yesterday I was reminded why. Our firm was having a meeting to discuss important elements of our strategy and marketing efforts, when something really great happened—we got into an argument. Not a disagreement. A loud, contentious, uncomfortable and passionate argument. On one side of the battle was a pair of our team members who were arguing their point based on a very accurate and literal interpretation of something we had decided months earlier.
During a recent plane ride, I found myself sitting next to a former colleague from my first job as a management consultant. Actually, he was the leader of the consulting firm where I worked, but he’s now running a different consulting firm that focuses on non-profits. After having the inevitable conversation about the differences between consulting to for-profits and not-for-profits (I’ll call them FPs and NFPs), a question occurred to me: why do we make such a distinction between the two? The only real distinction between them is a financial/legal one.