The Effective Manager

Podcast Awards - Manager Tools Wins Business Category

Last night we were delighted that Manager Tools won the People's Choice Podcast Award in the business category. It's the fourth time Manager Tools has won in this category and the whole team is thrilled that you, our listeners, voted for us again.

Mike, Mark, Maggie, Dani, Mytyl, Traci, Kate and Liza were all over the States making management and careers better for you, so Wendii accepted the award on their behalf in Las Vegas.

It's a privilege to serve you. It's a joy to work for you every day. We're delighted with your support. We thank each and every one of you for your nominations and your votes.

Thank you!

What's Your Burning Management/Career Question?

We're compiling an FAQ for our new website. We'd love to make sure that it's answering your burning questions about management and careers. Please post them in the comments below and we'll make sure they get answered!

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    • How to handle resistance
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  • All the emails available at any time for you to look forward and look back

They're Coming For The Kids Now

If you read the book Blind Side, rather than just saw the movie, you know that there is a significant business in the US scouting high school AND junior high school kids for professional sports, especially football. And basketball. And baseball. And hockey, too.

Yes. There are grown-ups making money going to high school and junior high school football games all across the US and making videotapes of kids and talking about their skills, and of course their potential. They are looking for talent, and they are evaluating that talent. Size, and speed, and social situation, and family situation, and genetics, and academic ability, and habits, and learning ability.

Recoil all you want, but it's happening. Horstman's Ninth Law: Embrace reality.

So why, then, is ANYONE surprised that major corporations who recruit on major campuses are looking at candidates' social media profiles? I hear parents and college kids saying "it's wrong" all the time (while they themselves vet others whom THEY meet). This is the sound of regret, not of a moral argument.

I would do it. And have. (I've never learned anything that bothered me, but I'm way picky way before I would get to that stage).

Does that bother you? That young college kids are being evaluated in this way?

Folks, that's old news. You are behind the curve.

College seniors are (young) ADULTS. It's reasonable to expect them to know better, if for no other reason than they are about to get paid like adults. No, whom we are talking about high school kids.

Roughly a quarter of the top 500 colleges in the US review the social media profiles of high school students who are applying to their college. The bleeding edge (right now) of social media vetting is at the high school level.

I would do it if I were at Harvard, or Northwestern, or USMA, or Georgia Tech, or Champaign-Urbana. Some kid is a bully and touts it on his FB page? Some kid gets drunk when underage and then brags about it on his FB page? I know kids drink and do stupid things. But bragging about it - and that's what they're doing when they share it with social media - that's something I think crosses a line I think I can draw.

Publicizing one's life is the same thing as making it public.

Can kids still be kids? Sure they can. Can they make kid errors? Sure they can.

But they can't publicize them and then ask us to not draw conclusions.

Ryder Cup Disappointment

In a stunning come from behind effort, the European team beat the US team at the Ryder Cup matches this past weekend.  My disappointment isn’t with the US loss – the Euros were brilliant.  Well done boys!  

I’m saddened by the lack of sportsmanship.

I don’t like it when Americans cheer when the Euros hit a bad shot.  Really?  Cheering a failure?  It's like booing; it just...isn't done.  I don't like it when two professionals compete for 4 hours, being close to one another the entire time, and then only briefly shake hands at the end.  No true congratulatory moments from the loser.  Nothing more than well done and good effort.   There’s a lot of talk about what each team says among themselves, rather than the teams breaking bread together, and congratulating one another. I think if that would have been happening, it would have been reported.

There’s some history here.  You golfers know about Brookline, where an early celebration by an American team (and it WAS early) was seen as not cricket. What’s been forgotten is Jack Nicklaus conceding a not trivial putt to Tony Jacklin in 1969 to allow the match to be halved (versus the Americans winning outright, even if the draw still meant the Americans kept the cup.)   Nicklaus's decision was a classy move, giving a tip of the cap to friendly competition, rather than to competition between friends.

Why didn’t a single US player walk over to the Euro crowd at the end, and look each of them in the eye, and shake hands, and say, “well played, gentlemen”?  Why do I get the sense that some would see that as not being a "team player"?

When did competition overcome being a gentleman, or a lady?  Was it the money?  I suspect so.  I wouldn’t say sports stars have to be role models.  They want to be jerks, fine.  But there’s a market for Phil Mickelson (see below).

It’s become about the “W”.  But it ought to be about more. 

We can do better.  When you're at work, remember that you can compete in the marketplace.  Compete hard.  Work your tail off.  And respect your competitors.  Remember you're not competing against them but FOR the customer.

And teach your kids to congratulate the other team, genuinely.  Bench them if they don't. It's okay to teach winning.  But don't forget to teach living.

Except for Phil Mickelson

The exception this weekend was Phil Mickelson.  As he was losing his match to a series of WOW putts by Euro Justin Rose, he smiled and clapped, and gave his fellow competitor a thumbs up each time.  Well done, sir.  I will tell my kids: be like Phil.

This is what I ask for: compete like the devil, but win or lose like the angels.  Yes, I’ve seen Tiger win mind games with his competitors.  And sure, winning is important.

But if winning is all it’s about…well, that’s small beer.   And sometimes, sadly, it’s American small beer, which just isn’t as good.


Change is Hard...For a Reason

If you've ever held out hope that some sort of organizational change effort you were engaged in would ever really take root, only to have your hopes dashed, you know, "change is hard." The generally accepted reality among CEOs is that in large organizations, fundamental change takes seven years. Seven. YEARS. Even if you just try to change your little part of the organization, with the power a manager has, you know that even your little team of folks has their own inertia.

Why is change hard? Because it's supposed to be. Because we're made that way.

There's a growing body of evidence, from neuropsychologists, and behavioral economists, that our natural tendency is risk aversion. Most of us, if we are given the option to make a bet with a return of 110 USD, while only risking 100 USD - with a 50/50 outcome probability - will decline. This is a GREAT bet in the real world. You would certainly get rich with this bet and a little capital.

Of course, almost no bets work that well. Casinos may advertise all kinds of winners, and big winners at that, but surely the math of profitable casinos tells us something about whether our bets make sense there in the long run. I'll never forget going to a casino and seeing a sign in the parking lot saying they returned 97% of their bets. This is an inducement???!?? (Please no emails about the 3% (and more) being made up for by the thrill of the games.)

We avoid that bet because most of us tend to be, on the whole, risk averse.

But again, why? Why would we avoid a sure thing?

Because we're made that way. Because a part of our brain doesn't want us to BELIEVE it's a sure thing over time, because there's a risk of loss there now.

When human babies are born, we can only sense two of the five tastes. Sweet and bitter. Why? As a baby, why would being able to taste sweetness be good for you, why would it help the species? Because sweet means sugar, and sugar is energy. Sweet doesn't just "taste good" - we're programmed to consume easily available energy.

Okay, but what about bitter? Bitter tastes don't lead to more energy. No, but bitter tastes do correlate very well with naturally occurring poisons. Bitter doesn't just "taste bad" - we're programmed to avoid poisons.

But the real story is about those other tastes: salty, sour, and umami. What do babies do with those? Let's just do a thought experiment, or for you parents, a memory experiment. Think for a minute about carrots, or peas, or squash, or green beans. Are they sweet or bitter?

Neither. Now ask yourself: what do babies do when you introduce these foods to them for the first time?

They spit them out.

Why? Because they're made to be risk averse.

That baby doesn't know - because she wasn't programmed for it, and she hasn't learned it yet - that those foods have energy in them. It's far better for the species to only consume SURE THINGS when it comes to energy, and avoid uncertain foods that MIGHT be poison.

And we're all still, in some vestigial way, made to be similarly risk averse. Your directs don't dislike your changes because they're yours..they dislike them because they're changes. People in the organization don't dislike change because they've logically analyzed the pros and cons. They dislike change because they...just dislike change. They're made that way.

Disliking change isn't just normal - it's programmed into us from day one.

So, next time you go about change, remind yourself: They. Are. NOT. Going. To. Like. This. It's not you, it's not the change, it's not the idea.

If nothing else, let's not be surprised when there is resistance. It's normal.

Don't overreact when your team "babies". ;-) You were one too. You've just lived with your idea longer, and it's not your first bite of those peas.

Pewter Bullets

While I was in Tasmania, I played golf with some locals, and we initiated the Mark Twain Tasmania-Texas Trans-Pacific Golf Tournament. I had such fun at ....Barnbougle... that I committed to obtaining an actual cup we could play for. ( I lost, btw.) I told Wendii to see what she could come up with. "Find us a sterling cup or salver we can engrave, maybe something trophy-esque."

We found some on eBay. The right one, beautiful sterling silver: 5,500 USD. Holy Crap. No silver golf cups.

But then, because I'm weird and only think about management, I thought:

No silver bullets, either.

One of the banes of my existence is people who want management to be easy. They want the one thing that will solve their problems. They want less drama, more performance. They want to have a job where they have the pay of a manager "without all the people problems." They're so busy with the "real" part of their job they don't have time for "the people stuff."

Amazing. Just the fact that they ask means they believe there really might BE such a thing.

Why would management be the one place where there would be such a thing? Why would there be a silver bullet for management when there isn't a silver bullet for anything under the sun?

You can't just get married and then quit at the relationship. Even a great budget spreadsheet needs to be updated, and sometimes those numbers tell an ugly story ;-). Even a great product needs marketing, and a plan, and support, and customer service lines, and an upgrade and a line extension. Even salesmen know there's always the next sale, and you have to work on the relationship. And believe me, sales people love the idea of silver bullets more than most. But they usually behave like they know there isn't one.

There's no place in the world where silver bullets are the answer because the whole point of silver bullets is that they don't exist in real life, any more than werewolves do.

And management is just a part of real life.

As Noah said to Allie, "we're gonna have to work at this every day." Even in fairy tales, they know there are no silver bullets!

Everyone who played with Michael Jordan didn't comment on his talent, silver-bullet-like though it might have seemed. They said he worked harder than everybody else. The WSJ golf writer, John Newport, wrote a book about trying to be a pro golfer. He was looking for answers, something to help, something extra to get him into the big leagues. He visited with a famous golf thinker and asked for help with HIS silver bullet. Here's what he was told:

"Long term practice leading to incremental improvement is really the only thing that works."

Just like marriage, just like budgeting, just like marketing, just like sales. Just like management.

Just like life.


We ended up with this lovely cup:

10 inches tall, and 50 bucks. PEWTER. One one-hundredth the cost of the sterling ones.

Looks shiny, like sterling, huh? It's been polished.

For what you'll spend trying to find silver, you can get a HUNDRED in pewter. Shine them yourself. Work at it.

A hundred real bullets and hard work beats just one magical bullet in any life that matters.

Manager Tools Customer Experience

In June of 2012, Mike and I had a chance to sit down and talk with Marc Grainger, Managing Director at Credit Suisse. We discussed Marc Grainger's experience with Manager Tools, both as an individual manager and executive, as well as in his broader managerial development role at Credit Suisse.

We thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and believe you will as well.


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Stewart Brand and Louis Vuitton - Two Very Smart Guys Who Agree

Last Tuesday, 26 June, was the 7th anniversary of the launching of the Manager Tools podcast. Mike and I got a lot of nice anniversary notes - many thanks, all.

Also last week, our Intellectual Property attorney, Jay Brooks, forwarded us a note that someone was asking about licensing our work to use for teaching business English to foreign students. We got many similar notes years ago, from other instructors overseas. (We may still get them, but I don't see them anymore.) What they wanted was not really a license...they wanted a license for free.

Even though we were sympathetic, we generally said no. Mike and I spent a good bit of time thinking about the "freeness" of our work, and the affect that would have on our ability to protect it. Jay told us the fact that they weren't asking to use our stuff for management didn't change things. Basically, if we give away our stuff too often, in any fashion, we end up losing the ability to protect it. This is an oversimplification, but a helpful one for us relative to the way our work appears in different forms and at different prices. The "price" of the shows are "free"...but they're still protected. That's hard for some to understand.

I admit that I am always surprised when folks get angry with us that we won't give them access to all of our work for free. And, they do get angry every once in a while. Still, the frustration that's expressed does still surprise me. I mean, you CAN get virtually all of our knowledge for free... in the podcasts. Isn't that good enough? Do you really expect me to type your work for you?

Some times, the folks who want access to our licensed materials throw this quote at us: "But information wants to be free!!!"

I'm always tempted at that moment to say to them, sure, okay, please tell me your bank account numbers, online passwords, and social security number. Because that, too, is information, and I think you should set it free. [For those of you familiar with the FreeAsInBeer/Speech meme, I know what I just did, don't write me. ;-) - H]

So, next time someone tells you information wants to be free, correct them. That's not the whole story.

The guy who said those words is Stewart Brand. He's an original Silicon Valley guy, and is exceptionally bright. Not many people can say that they were there and helped when the first mouse, videoconference, teleconference, and word processing were demonstrated, all in one presentation. In 1968. Brand can.

But what he said about information wanting to be free, devoid of context, is like saying a drop of the ocean IS the ocean. It is.. but then again, you couldn't drown in that drop. It's true... but misleading. Here's what he actually said about information:

On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.

I always find it fascinating that what gets quoted is the second point he makes. Read it again - he talks about the value of information as being what makes it expensive. THEN he talks about free-ness. He even went on to mention the inevitable tension.

Brand was saying that valuable information OUGHT to be expensive, not that it should be "free" as in "free beer". He WENT ON to say that thanks to the internet, it's getting cheaper to DISTRIBUTE valuable information.

I like to tell folks who quote Mr. Brand that at 15 USD a month, we've already factored the reduced cost of distribution into our pricing. ;-)


Bleeding Edge Humor, Unless It Happens to You ;-)

When we first hired Jay, our IP attorney, he advised us that we needed to formally protect our works with the Copyright office.

So, he called the digital products group of the copyright folks. Got the - read as "THE" - digital rights expert there on the phone.

Told him he had a client that wanted to copyright their podcast.

Dude says - remember now, this is THE digital copyright dude:

What's a podcast?