During this show, we conclude our conversation on "Race, Don't Chase".
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I'm sure there are going to be a few people very upset with me. I frankly don't care.
I do not like Twitter.
I've used it, and I don't like it, and I'll tell you why. Because if you're a manager, and as we like to say, if you're an executive, which is not as exclusive a territory as it used to be, you have no business learning when other people are doing laundry, when other people are working with clients, or driving to school, or working with their kids, or whatever else, because that causes you to be distracted from what you're doing.
The idea that anybody else would care about what I'm doing, frankly, is not terribly exciting to me. But it's really much more about other people. If you have 100 or 150 people that you're keeping track of, the idea that the banality of some of the Tweets, I think is what they're called, is far beneath the time constraints of most managers and executives.
You have to control your time. This concept of continuous partial attention, if you've been reading about it, it's complete and utter blather. It makes no sense at all. Executives can only suffer from continuous partial attention, and Twitter is the classic example of it.
Look, email was invented after we all learned how to read and write and after we all learned how to communicate. It's a great technique, and we all use it terribly poorly. And Twitter is just all the negatives of email on steroids.
I'm sure some of you like it, and that's great. I like playing golf, but I don't do it in my office, and I certainly don't do it when I'm trying to be effective around my work. Twitter makes you ineffective almost always. Stop it.
Most any manager can manage well, or at least look good managing, when times are good. Retention is as easy as it will ever be, budgets tend to grow to hide lack of controls, and others want to join your team, so hiring is easy too.
But during tough economic times, the professional manager has to manage with more effectiveness than at almost any other time. She is distracted by her own concerns, while having to keep tabs on the concerns of her team. She has to listen to the rumors flying around about layoffs and mergers and industry moves, and then apply them not only to her situation, but also make sense of them for her team.
And oh yes, she has to do all this and cut costs too. Listen in and we'll share the first rule of budget management in a downturn.
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At some point, we are going to do a couple of podcasts, perhaps 10, 20, 30, I don't know, regarding culture in the workplace. A big part of culture at the workplace is stories we tell one another.
I read a "Harvard Business Review article" a while ago, it may have been over a year ago, in which companies were decrying the fact that employees weren't speaking up. They weren't responding to requests for information or feedback about how things are going.
And the article basically says, "Sometimes employees fear speaking up because there is a perception, maybe not reality, but there is a perception that the organization, managers in particular, were genuinely hostile about past suggestions or recommendations for change, which imply that something is wrong."
And basically, they held back because there were broad and sort of vague perceptions about this and no one could really point to anything specific necessarily. And basically what it boiled down to was a culture is built, at least partially, on stories and on collective story telling. And the problem, folks, is that stories that get told are always dramatic. You don't tell anybody about going to the copier and making a copy successfully.
Stories at work are like news in our lives. The news is famous for saying, "We don't report every plane that lands safely" and while you may agree or disagree with what news gets covered and why, the fact is, news is dramatic and stories are dramatic. Even if you are going to tell a story about someone, for example the fact that somebody got promoted. Usually if someone tells a story about getting promoted, it is about carping that he got promoted or she got promoted and I didn't.
A good example would be, somebody says something in a public organizational venue, at a meeting in town hall or something, and as somebody put it afterwards, "he spoke up and suddenly he was gone from the company shortly thereafter."
It is probably not entirely true, this story, or he may have left on his own. But it doesn't matter - the story goes around and that gets into people's genes, which basically says "Don't speak up, don't talk, don't respond to requests for information." In part, because my boss has a hat on in his head, or a sign on his forehead that says "Watch out I am your boss, I could fire you".
If you are a leader, if you are a manager, be careful of the stories you tell. I am sure I can't convince you to not tell any negative stories, but I can suggest: please consider telling positive stories every once in a while to add it to the myth-making that your employees do about your company.
Mark has been re-reading Peter Drucker's The Effective Executive for the billionth time lately. Every time he reads it, something different strikes him. This time he was looking to get some validation that Drucker believed that consensus is overrated (it is), and he stumbled across this gem. It's two simple sentences, but as only Drucker can do, they're powerful:
In fact, no decision has been made unless carrying it out in specific steps has become someone's work assignment and responsibility. Until then there are only good intentions.
Seriously, can you just hear the power of that idea? All those times we felt good when we "made" a decision? That feeling of "it's done", and "glad that's over", and "can't wait to be proven right"?
Yeah, well, we were all wrong.
Because a decision, says Drucker, isn't made until work assignments and responsibilities have been made clear.
The question is, HOW?
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