Thursday, August 26, 2010

Selfishness a Good Career Move

What should we do with this news? This article on ScienceDaily makes sense, but I still find it curious: Do-Gooders Get Voted Off Island First: People Don't Really Like Unselfish Colleagues, Psychologists Find.

I would be curious if the results are different when teams are engaged in group success. That would be a more enjoyable group to work with.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

PowerPoint is Not the Presentation

I can think of no more practical leadership topic than the use of PowerPoint. This New York Times article about the negative results of the use of PowerPoint by the US military paints a clear picture.

It's easy to be fooled into thinking that your PowerPoint slide deck is your presentation. People say things like, "I can't make the meeting. Please send me your presentation." This causes people to think they have to make their slides speak for themselves. When you can do that, you can skip the meeting.

Your slides are not your presentation. They are a prop you use while you give your presentation. They are a way of emphasizing key points to help get a message across. They are also not your notes to remind you what to talk about. When you present, remember that PowerPoint is simply a tool you use while you give your presentation.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Measurement Dangers

I have always been a little suspicious of metrics as a way to measure people. We have all seen how people can "game" a measurement. For example, measuring software developers by lines of code written can cause developers to write more "verbose" code. When this happens the measurement stops working since people adjust to meet the goal. Worse though, is when the gaming creates unintended consequences. In our example, senior software developers can stop coaching the junior developers to have time to focus on their own lines of code. That is certainly not a positive result.

An article today on BoingBoing describes Goodhart's Law, which essentially says that once you start controlling something with a measure, the value of the measure diminishes. Some measurement is unavoidable, but where you do measure watch for Goodhart's law and other unintended consequences.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Franklin and Madison: Founding Brothers Leadership Lesson

This paragraph paints a picture that reminds me of a key value of teamwork. It is from Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis, page 113. The value of teamwork comes not from like-minded people working together; it comes from different people leveraging their complementary strengths.

If Franklin's great gift was an uncanny knack for levitating above political camps, operating at an altitude that permitted him to view the essential patterns and then comment with great irony and wit on the behavior of those groveling about on the ground, Madison's specialty was just the opposite. He lived in the details and worked his magic in the context of the moment, mobilizing those forces on the ground more adroitly and with a more deft tactical proficiency than anyone else. Taken together, he and Franklin would have made a nearly unbeatable team. But in 1790, they were on different sides.

So, as a leader, seek your opposite and value the strength you can bring to each other.

Monday, February 08, 2010

CBS's Undercover Boss a Good Case Study

I watched CBS's Undercover Boss last night. I'd recommend it as a thought-provoking case study in understanding your business. The first episode showed Larry O'Donnell, President and COO of Waste Management taking on line jobs such as sorting trash at a recycling center, cleaning portable toilets and collecting residential trash.

Let me not spoil the show for you. I'll just say, he gains insight into how upper management policies impact the real people doing the work. While much of this show may be contrived, the simple idea of understanding the day-to-day work of your teams can have great value to your success as a leader.