Category Archives: Leadership

Entrepreneurship and Leadership with Mark Maples

My Friday video for this week is on entrepreneurship and leadership from the Stanford Ecorner. If you haven’t been there for a while, check it out. There is a new interface, and it’s a great collection of speakers on entrepreneurship, startups, business, and investment.

Here’s the intro from the site:

Silicon Valley veteran Mike Maples Jr. shares heartfelt advice urging aspiring entrepreneurs to “only do things that you think have a chance to be legendary.” By committing to always doing exceptional work and being around inspiring people, Maples says you will reap the cumulative benefits of a lifetime of excellence, and be able to enjoy it again whenever you look back.

This is a two-minute excerpt from a longer talk.

Great TED Talk: Gender Equality is Good for All

This TED talk is true, insightful, funny, and real. A great reminder to so many of us:

Privilege is invisible to those who enjoy it.

Please take a few minutes to watch and listen. As enticement, here are a couple of quotes:

  • “White men are the beneficiaries of the greatest affirmative action program in the history of the world. It is called: ‘The History of the World.’ “
  • “That by the way is why I think men so often wear ties … what could be a better signifier of disembodied western rationality than a garment that at one end is a noose, and the other end points to the genitals.”

1 Thing Coaching Kids Taught Me About Management

Most people do better with carrots than sticks. I just posted 3 best ways to reward people on your team over at Up and Running. As I wrote that, it reminded me of this. One thing I learned by coaching kids soccer.

coaching praising incentives motivation kids soccer flickr cc

Try this: To manage people in business, helping them to perform better, try emphasizing what they’re doing right, and celebrating that, instead of constantly criticizing what they’re doing wrong.

Of course you have to use common sense to make that work. Don’t go to extremes. People have to have real information about performance and problems. But seriously, are you repeating the bad news too often? And, if you are, is that working for you?

I had eight years of coaching little kids in soccer. Some kids were naturals and led the team and that was cool. But for those who weren’t so gifted, didn’t want to get the ball, or in some cases didn’t want to give the ball up, I learned to wait until they (even if it was accidentally) did the right thing. Then I’d shout that up to the skies. And, at the same time, I stopped steadily, constantly, repeatedly urging them to be more aggressive, or pass, or whatever.

With some kids it took patience, waiting for them to do the right thing. But it paid off big time when they did.

And I learned, running a business, that this basic principal applies to grownups as well as it does to little kids. Do you agree?

(photo credit: sean dreilinger via photopin cc)

Pop Quiz: Why Do Men Need Women. Business Perspective.

Yesterday my sister sent me the link to Why Men Need Women, a New York Times opinion piece by Adam Grant. This morning one of my daughters sent it. It starts with this:

New York Times Opinion Why Men Need Women

New evidence reveals a surprising answer. The mere presence of female family members — even infants — can be enough to nudge men in the generous direction.

Grant, a professor at the Wharton business school, cites a collection of interesting studies where researchers drilled down into details, discovering:

  • A Danish study showed CEOs reduced average salaries after having a son, but not after having a daughter.
  • An American study showed American legislators with daughters vote more liberally. A UK study showed voters did the same.
  • A Dutch psychological study using game methodology showed that players having sisters were more generous than players who didn’t.

Grant, a popular prof at Wharton, also the author of Give and Take, draws some logical conclusions about gender balance in school and workplace:

What would happen if every classroom followed the jigsaw structure, with mixed-gender study groups providing boys with the opportunity to learn from girls? In addition to gaining knowledge, perhaps they would learn something about teaching, helping and caring for others.

At work, we sorely need more women in leadership positions. We already know from considerable research that companies are better off when they have more women in top management roles, especially when it comes to innovation. Professors Dezso and Ross have recently shown that between 1992 and 2006, when companies introduced women onto their top management teams, they generated an average of 1 percent more economic value, which typically meant more than $40 million.

And he adds:

We recognize the direct advantages that women as leaders bring to the table, which often include diverse perspectives, collaborative styles, dedication to mentoring and keen understanding of female employees and customers. But we’ve largely overlooked the beneficial effects that women have on the men around them. Is it possible that when women join top management teams, they encourage male colleagues to treat employees more generously and to share knowledge more freely? Increases in motivation, cooperation, and innovation in companies may be fueled not only by the direct actions of female leaders, but also by their influence on male leaders.

What do you think?

Do You Think You Can Copy Silicon Valley?

Doesn’t it seem like every other place wants to be Silicon Valley? We call the New York tech scene Silicon Alley, Portland is Silicon Forest, somewhere in Southern California is Silicon Beach, Austin Texas is Silicon Hills, and so on. There’s job envy, and growth envy. Googling “the next Silicon Valley” generates 46 million hits. 

So I like the juxtaposition of two articles in MIT Technology review that contradict each other delightfully. 

Silicon Valley MIT Technology Review

The first, from MIT Technology Review on July 3, is Silicon Valley Can’t be Copied. Author Vivek Wadhwa subtitled his piece “For 50 years, the experts have tried to figure out what makes Silicon Valley tick. The answer is people.” He explains:

Note that from 1995 to 2005, 52.4 percent of engineering and technology startups in Silicon Valley had one or more people born outside the United States as founders. That was twice the rate seen in the U.S. as a whole. Immigrants like me who came to Silicon Valley found it easy to adapt and assimilate. We were able to learn the rules of engagement, create our own networks, and participate as equals. These days, the campuses of companies such as Google resemble the United Nations. Their cafeterias don’t serve hot dogs; they serve Chinese and Mexican dishes, and curries from both northern and southern India.

This is the diversity—a kind of freedom, really—in which innovation thrives. The understanding of global markets that immigrants bring with them, the knowledge they have of different disciplines, and the links that they provide to their home countries have given the Valley an unassailable competitive advantage as it has evolved from making radios and computer chips to producing search engines, social media, medical devices, and clean energy technology.

The second, published in the same MIT Technology Review yesterday, is Brad Feld on the Rise of Global Startup Communities. In which “startup scenes are popping up in cities all over the world.” That’s an interview with Brad Feld:

In his by-the-bootstraps guide, the 2012 book Startup Communities, Feld laid out a guru-ish, four-point plan for how to create a growing mass of startup companies. But his rules boil down to just one: entrepreneurs must be the “leaders.” Everyone else—universities, governments, investors—are “feeders” that, though important, can’t kick-start a startup community on their own. Feld says if even fewer than a dozen established entrepreneurs team up and get serious—create an incubator, for instance—that nearly any city from Detroit to Cape Town can create a meaningful startup sector.

Feld’s principles have weight because he’s lived by them. He is a co-creator of TechStars, which gives startups seed money and three months of intensive training. Conspicuously absent from Silicon Valley, TechStars instead operates in seven other American cities, including Boston, Chicago, and Austin.

To me it’s perfectly reasonably that both of these contradictory points of view could be true. That’s good editing.  What do you think?  

How Human Recall Screws Up Management and What To Do About It

When the experts dig down into it, human recall doesn’t work. What you remember isn’t what happened; it’s a mosaic of truth, impressions, past experience, guesswork, etc. If you have any doubt, watch the riddle of experience vs. memory and why eyewitnesses get it wrong on TED. 

bigstock stones path management

This cuts hard into the fundamentals of management. What do you do with following up on what was said, and what was done, when every individual story is different? And no one story is more valid than the other? We agreed what? When? 

Traditional management makes this simple: the boss’ version is correct. Just like they say that history is written by the winners. 

The right way, however, is also simple, but only if you have the patience and discipline to record the steps:

  1. Always look for objective measurable goals and progress reporting. Sales and costs and expenses are obvious, but also tweets, follows, likes, leads, calls, presentations, minutes, trips, or whatever. Agree on the future goals and acceptable progress. Make something both boss and worker can track, via objective tools. Make the numbers visible. 
  2. Track, measure, and follow up. Watch the progress. Review performance. 

Everybody wants a score. Everybody wants to be in charge of their own numbers. Make it real. 

You Can’t Teach Leadership. But You Can Lead.

From Be Vulnerable by Brad Feld, venture capitalist and startup catalyst:

Brad Feld Post Be Vulnerable

“We are told that leaders must be strong. They must be confident. They must be unflinching. They must hide their fear. They must never blink. They cannot be soft in any way.

Bullshit.”

That’s a nice tangent spin on my post here yesterday. And it’s based on a book he just finished. He writes:

I’m vulnerable to the broader community I engage with. I’m open about my struggles – personally and professionally. I’m not bashful about being wrong, and owning it. And, when I get feedback, my ears are always open. Sure, I get plenty of random criticism from nameless, faceless people. That used to annoy me – now I just put them in the bucked of “anonymous coward” and delete it from my brain. If they can offer me the feedback directly, in their own voice, with their own identity, I’m open to it. I’ll let myself be vulnerable in that context. But I draw the line at random, anonymous attacks, especially ad hominem ones.

 So yesterday I wrote that you can’t teach leadership. Today I’m really liking this take on it. Maybe what brings those two contradictory ideas together is that you can’t teach leadership,  you can lead.