Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for December, 2009

This book is all about rejecting the status quo, leading your own tribe, and getting people to come along.  If this movement can be successful then companies can thrive.  Anyone in the organization can lead.  Individuals have more leverage than ever before.  Your idea could change the game.  Take a stand.  Make a difference.

A tribe is a group of people who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea.  Tribes are everywhere.  With the help of the internet, they don’t need to be localized.

The Factory

Many of us are stuck working for companies who follow archaic rules.  They not only try to avoid change, but they actively fight it. We’re pessimistic and are worried about the outcome of change. We manage instead of lead.  The problem is that without change you cannot sustain your success.  Examples used in the book included AOL and Sears. Once successful companies at the top of their game, they are now lost in the shuffle amid better companies who embraced change.

An example that might be relevant to today’s culture, is Facebook.  A few years ago MySpace was #1 in the social networking world.  Then Facebook started to change.  At first people resisted the change creating groups “Bring back the old Facebook.”  But look at Facebook now.  It proudly sits at #1 because they kept innovating.  Even as Twitter has emerged, Facebook keeps adding features to remain competitive.  And when was the last time you logged into your MySpace account?  Better yet, when was the last you made a change to your MySpace page?

Managers vs. Leaders

A manager completes tasks assigned to them by someone else.  They don’t encourage change because they do not feel that it is required of them.  They are worried they will get fired.  Leader’s don’t care for this organizational structure or process.

I recently heard stories from friends of mine who received very negative, one could say threatening, emails from their managers in attempts to motivate them.  Rather than saying, “What did we miss?  How could we have done this better?  Let’s look at it together and see what we can do.”  the worker was told, “You can be sure this will be mentioned on your review.  I can’t believe what a poor job this was.”  I think the manager felt threatened about the quality of his worker, but did not react in a way to make his worker want to do better.  In a similar situation, after a delivery went bad, a manager sent out an email to his team saying “Maybe you guys should update your resumes with the results of this project.”  If that was sent to me, I would have updated my resume all right.

A tribe contains a leader with motivated employees.  The employee wouldn’t need to be reprimanded, because they would want to improve their work.  In a tribe, the leader and the employees under him have common interests.

Average and Mediocre

Companies often strive to maintain the status quo.  This will work in a stable environment.  But with new technology and the recent economic events nothing is stable.  Time moves too fast, and if you don’t change to keep up you’ll be left behind.  Instead people fight hard to defend the status quo and prevent change.  It wears them out.  It’s like being stuck on a sinking ship with nothing but a bucket to move incoming water.  They don’t have time to patch the hole, or even to try and figure out where it’s coming from.  They’re too busy moving the water.  Sooner or later that ship will sink.

Companies that destroy the status quo will survive.  It is up to the leaders within these companies to push for this to happen.  We can be the leaders.  It doesn’t matter where we fall on the org chart.  We just need to speak up, and motivate enough people to see the need for change. “In unstable times, growth comes from leaders who create change and engage their organizations, instead of from managers who push their employees to do more for less.”

The Peter Principle

The Peter Principle states that a company will reward a good employee by promoting him to a level where he becomes incompetent.  “Johnny is a really good Support Rep, the best we’ve got.  Let’s promote him to Support Lead.”  Johnny ends up being a terrible lead.  He was great at a support rep and working with customers, but he just doesn’t have the management or leadership skills.  This, in a nutshell, is the theory behind the Peter Principle.

Godin states that this can be counter-acted if the right people are promoted.  Leaders will realize that their skill set may not be the best fit for the new position, but being aware of this, they will learn what is required to do the job well.

If we are aware that we are not good at a new position, we’ll do what we can to try and be better at the position.  However, I see ‘The Peter Principle’ happening too often in the real world.  People are put in the wrong positions progress slows.  It would be ideal if the leaders above them then work with these people to try and make them better at their job.  In today’s world of ASAP and “have to have it now” leaders would have a hard time doing both their job and mentoring their subordinates.

Curious George

Godin says there are 2 kinds of people:  fundamentalists and the curious.  Fundamentalists consider whether a fact is acceptable to their belief before they accept it.  A curious person will explore first and then consider whether or not they accept the ramifications.  A curious person will embrace the tension between his core beliefs and something new.  They will think heavily on it and come to a decision on whether or not to embrace it.

This small section of the book may have been my favorite.  I immediately thought of when some people discuss politics.  Regardless of weighing the pros and cons of one side, they immediately take the side of their political party.  “This is what my party believes therefore I believe it to be right.”  I prefer to weigh each topic separately.  It bothers me when people see things always as black or white; a lot of topics have a grey area, and there is no right or wrong answer.  Learn as much as you can before you make a choice.  Be curious.

A Leader Gets His Hands Dirty

Today’s society leads us to believe that leaders are egotistical and driven by fame and recognition.  Godin says the opposite is often true.  Leaders who give are more productive than leaders who take.  An example describes how leaders sometimes sit in cubicles with their co-workers.  I witnessed this at one of my former jobs.  Often the office manager would sit in the cubes with his co-workers and make sure everyone was doing okay.  He ended up getting a very nice promotion.  His leadership skills are what led him to the new role.  I think he’ll be successful in anything he chooses to do.

Another example Godin mentions is how Jimmy Carter now builds houses for Habitat for Humanity.  Leaders like this get ‘paid’ by watching their tribe thrive.

Someone towards the top of the pyramid that doesn’t get their hands dirty is too far from the action to make a difference.  If they don’t see the day to day activities they aren’t in a position to make an impact.  A leader who works hard to get to the top, remembers what it took to get him there, and then remains involved with his tribe will be successful.

Leadership and Bravery

Leadership requires acting like the underdog.  Managers follow rules, they live by the book.  Following the book is hard work but it feels safe.   Leaders challenge the rule book.  They recommend things that don’t exist yet.  This takes bravery.  Managers are happy to do just enough to get by.  Real leaders fight for a worthy cause that people want to join.

The easiest thing we can do is react to something.  The second easiest thing we can do is respond to it.  The hardest thing to do is to initiate something.  Leaders initiate.  When others take themselves out of the game, leaders swoop in and create opportunities for themselves.

A line in the book I says “The status quo is persistent and resistant.”  People think that what they have is better than the risk and fear that comes with the unknown.

Life is Short

Life is too short to be both unhappy and mediocre.  We shouldn’t keep counting the days until our next vacation; rather we should construct our lives in such a way that we don’t feel like we need to escape.

Thermostats vs. Thermometers

A thermostat is much more valuable than a thermometer.  All a thermometer does is indicate the status of something.  The thermostat has the ability to change the environment.  This goes back to previous posts where I’ve disagreed with metrics.  A metric is a thermometer.  You need to do something about the results of those numbers if you want to see changes.  You can’t just have meetings explaining the results of the quarter and expect things to change for next quarter.  You need an action plan.  Godin says every organization needs at least one thermostat.  I would debate that in a very successful company you have a thermostat in every department.

Maintain the Status Quo

People show up to work every day.  They do the same thing they did last week.  They expect something to change because they are following processes. Isn’t one of the definitions of insanity doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result?

Customer service reads from scripts and escalate issues to the next tier.  Successful companies like Zappos don’t use scripts.  Successful employees would want to learn how to solve a problem instead of escalating it.  Successful companies would encourage employees to do this.

People go through these routines because they feel they have to, not because they necessarily want to.  It leads to ‘the long slow death of the stalled organization.’  Leadership is the antidote.

Believe in what you do, do what you believe.  If it’s any good people will follow you.

Connecting

Godin makes a lot of strong statements that really make you evaluate yourself and how you present your ideas.  For example, if you hear my idea and don’t believe it, that’s my fault.  If you see my product and don’t buy it, it’s my fault.  If you don’t learn what I am teaching, I have let you down.

I can design my products so that you will want to learn more.  I can make them user friendly.  I can captivate an audience when I am teaching.  The choice is mine.

Recruit

When you are trying to get people to join your tribe, don’t start with the leader of the opposition.  You are better off persuading individuals who have not attached themselves to a philosophy yet.  If you can convince them to join your tribe, others will see the benefits and follow.

Try Something New

The Los Angeles Philharmonic is a very well known orchestra who needed a new conductor.  They could have picked one from the resume pool of thousands of applicants.  They hired a 26 year old newbie from Venezuela named Gustavo Dudamel instead.

They could have went with the tried and true.  But they went with something new.  They wanted something that could attract new audiences.  They got that with Gustavo.

Positive Deviants

Leaders can appear throughout the ranks in an organization.  Managers do not like deviants.  A deviant goes against standard processes which a manager sees as a failure.  A manager tries to get rid of deviants.  Leaders understand that change is necessary.  Change allows processes to become more productive, leading to happier people.  A leader welcomes deviants.

The Peanut Butter Manifesto

Brad Garlinghouse, a former Yahoo employee wrote a very persuasive memo to his superiors.  He noticed the flaws in the company’s strategy and offered solutions on how they can improve.  The full text can be found here, and I highly recommend you read it.  The memo was leaked and featured in the Wall Street Journal.  It started a chain of events that led to the CEO’s departure and kept Yahoo breathing for a few more years.  (Ironically as of this writing Brad has left Yahoo and joined AOL.  It looks like he enjoys fixing companies that were once #1 but have since taken a hit.  Maybe his next job will be at MySpace.)

Now

Godin says that the very nature of leadership is that we’re not doing what has been done before.  If we were we would be following instead of leading.  It is up to us to make the choice to lead.  We can do what thousands of others have done in the past.  Or we can try something new.

In closing Godin asks us if we’ve gotten anything out of the book, perhaps by highlighting or post-it-ing it to death, to give this copy to someone else.  I’ll leave a copy of this book on the bookshelf in my office.  I encourage you to read it for yourself, and put it back for the next person.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »