one of the first signs of any organization’s demise is a lack of youthful prospects. it’s most readily apparent in sports when the core of the team grows past their prime and the minor league systems are sparse of potential superstars. production goes down, and the next available substitute isn’t capable of being an everyday player.
take stock in your organization. see how many potential superstars you still have, and—most importantly—count how many have already left. you’ll start to see the true value of your organization via one simple metric.
how old is your core? who do you have to replace them? and what do you do when everyone else is gone?
there is a lot of discussion lately surrounding marissa mayer’s decision to discontinue the work from home policy at yahoo!
people both for and against the decision have stated their case ad nauseum, so i won’t do that here. (for the record i support marissa’s decision.) but one thing i wanted to comment on are the comments on marissa having a nursery in her office. they claim the ban on working from home is an attack on working parents—mostly working mothers—and that it’s unfair that she gets to take care of her child while other yahoos can’t.
but think about your own organization. how many perks do the people above you in the hierarchy get?
company-issued smart phones?
the ability to expense certain items you can’t?
in any hierarchical structure, the people at the top get more than the people at the bottom. that’s part of what drives people to reach those upper echelons. bigger offices, fancier conference rooms, personal assistants. if you’re not going to storm the castle in disgust at your own organization’s leadership for taking advantage of opportunities that you don’t get, then perhaps we should be a little more lenient towards marissa mayer.
it’s just the perks of being a CEO.
image by vittonettophoto, flickr artist
it’s true. every team needs a superstar.
balance is important to a winning formula, and i think we all know that. people have to complement each other, make up for each others faults, and bring a certain set of skills to the table â€” even if those skills aren’t going to make many people stand up and take notice. you hear it many times, “someone has to do the work.”
but there is such a thing as having too much balance.
we’ve become enamored with utility players in our businesses. people that we feel we can take and throw into any situation and they’ll still produce dividends for us (and for our shareholders). we want everyone to be able to do everything. we’re even groomed as such, going all the way back into our childhoods and early adult lives.
image by NHLFlyers, official twitter handle of the philadelphia flyers
when your favorite sports team finds issues to work on, they spend more time on it in practice.
powerplay numbers down? you can bet that your favorite hockey team is going to spend more time in the umbrella during practice.
not winning the battles along the boards? eat your wheatiesÂ and have yourself a powerbar before you hit the ice, because we’re doing nothing but 2-on-2′s for a solid 15 minutes down in the corners.
sloppy line changes in the second period? get ready to play a lot of dump and chase and listen for your line to be called.
i think we’ve got the individual training down pretty well in industry. we have one day training events to introduce people to new concepts. we have 2 and 3 day seminars to teach solid fundamentals of what makes a good consultant. we have week long “boot camps” for certification training and exams. but what about the rest of your team?
image by wolfsavard, flickr artist
elephants are extremely interesting creatures. they can grow up to weigh 15,000 lbs, but still be afraid of a mouse. they’re massive creatures, and anything that large â€” you’d imagine â€” can have quite a bit of influence. they’ll shape their surroundings and modify their environment to suit them. if the fruit is too high, they’ll knock over the tree. if the water’s gone, they’ll dig a hole to find some more.
circuses are interesting in their own right. a collection of sights, sounds, and smells that you can’t find any place else. and with so many different performance acts, everything has to be perfectlyÂ choreographed â€” and the ringmaster is in charge of it all.
image by unclebumpy, flickr artist
i recently came across a post on wired.com’s science section about american bullfrogs and their leaping ability. Â in short: when in the wild, bullfrogs have a certain expectation of maximum leaping distance which scientists have previously measured at 4.3 meters. however, at a county fair in californiaâ€™s calaveras countyÂ their bullfrogs have been known to leap over 7 meters when involved in their frog jumping competitions. Â that’s quite an improvement!
in business, it seems everyone is focused on collaboration; on finding synergies and maximizing productivity. Â but what if we increasingly looked not towards collaboration on our teams, but towards competition? Â how would the game change then?
image by Round Indigo Rock, flickr artist
we’ve had a big hiring push lately at my firm, and to be quite frank i don’t really like it.
to me it’s not enough to hire bright, intelligent, promising people to add to your workforce. Â you have to go beyond that and think about the team(s) those people will be on. Â this is hard to do when you are hiring people for their capabilities rather than a particular task. Â you need to be asking: can they become the new leaders of this team? Â can they handle the pressures of a highly dynamic development process? Â will they be able to form those trusting bonds with their coworkers?
i’ve been a part of many teams in both my academic and professional lives to know that just because someone has all the skills necessary, and their resumÃ© checks all the boxes on your list of “the perfect candidate,” that doesn’t mean that they’re the right fit for your organization. Â conversely, i’ve known people who have not been the brightest or the most talented but whom have made the organization thrive because they were excellent teammates.
image by virtual sugar, flickr artist
i was reading my most recent copy of espn the magazine when i found a brief article about ‘touch’ in sports called “contact high.”
“berkeley social-psych researcher mike kraus, along with psych professor dacher keltner, decided to track the performance of nba teams by the amount of positive physical contact players made during the 08-09 season. their work â€” to be published in an upcoming edition of the journal emotion â€” reveals a strong correlation between touching and win totals.” … “kraus explains that fist bumps, for example, serve to improve team chemistry, spatial awareness and cooperation among teammates.”
i found this to be particularly intriguing because of my liberal use of the #fistbump hashtag on twitter and yammer. Â i fist bump people all the time â€” in real life and in virtual space. Â i guess i knew all along, on a certain level, that fist bumps had a secondary benefit aside from serving as the actual congratulatory action â€” but now i’ve got science to back me up!
if fist bumps and high-fives can help the boston celtics and la lakers reach the nba finals, why can’t they help bring together an executive brief or trade show presentation?
image by foreverdigital, flickr artist
i’m not sure exactly what my favorite part of hockey is. as a goaltender (in my younger years), i have to admit that few things get me going more than a glove save on a 2-on-1 breakaway. i can still appreciate a fine dangle, though.
i can tell you with conviction, however, that one of the best moments is the celebration when a player scores a goal. the unbridled passion, the camaraderie, everything great about the sport of hockey comes through in one moment shared by 5 players on the ice (sometimes more). it’s one single moment that embodies all of what hockey is about.
image from Crashmaster007, flickr artist
it’s easy to tell people what to do or what’s expected of them, but leading by example says a lot about who you are as a person, not just as a leader.
when you’re a leader, one thing you expect from your team or organization is accountability. Â you expect your people to embrace their roles, take ownership of their tasks, and ensure that their work is done when it needs to be, at a level of quality that will positively represent your organization. Â if you expect that from your people â€” shouldn’t you expect that from yourself as well?
everything that you expect from your people, you should be willing to do yourself. Â work hard, and let people see you working hard. Â be prepared for different situations, and let people see you prepare. Â you should do what you expect the people following you to do, and you should let them see you do it. Â it’s inspirational, it forges trust, it sets a good example.
you can’t tell your people, “stop working so hard and take time for yourself,” and send emails at 1:00a on a weekday or 9:30p on a weekend. Â it seems more like a challenge to work harder than a sincere concern about work-life balance.
so as a leader â€” when you make a promise, or institute new rules, or try to change habits â€” it’s best if you start with yourself.
leading by example says a lot about who you are. Â what are your actions saying about you?