Tag Archives: Leadership

Haters Hate, Creators Create

Haters, haters, haters: they will always keep on hating,
So, give exactly zero fucks to what they say, and keep creating.
Dream so big and weird, that everyone will think you’re “nuts,”
Then, laugh until it makes you cry, while counting up your bucks.

Enjoy what you have earned… After all, you do deserve it,
But don’t forget the little guy who’s thinking he’s not worth it.
For some reason, he didn’t walk the “recommended” path,
Plus, Life’s a ‘number’s game;’ he just got left out in the math.

A day, not long ago, that lonely lunatic was you!
Remember how it felt thinking there’s nothing you could do?
You’ve finally made it to the promised land, why ever leave?
The goal was never wealth, but getting hopeless to believe.

  • Not Chris Hoeller
Advertisements

How to Disagree, Win Arguments, and Not Create Enemies.

The web is turning writing into a conversation.

Twenty years ago, writers wrote and readers read. Now, the Internet lets people respond, and increasingly they do: in comment threads, on forums, and in their blog posts.

Many who respond to something disagree with it.

That’s to be expected… Agreeing tends to motivate people less than disagreeing, and when you agree, there’s less to say.

You could expand on something the author said, but he has probably already explored the most interesting implications of that line of thinking. However, when you disagree, you’re entering territory he may not have explored.

The result is there’s a lot more disagreeing going on, especially measured by the word.

That doesn’t mean that people are growing angrier. The structural change in the way we communicate is enough to account for it, but even though it’s not anger that’s driving the increase in disagreement, there’s a danger that the increase in disagreement will make people angrier.

This is especially true online, where it’s easy to say things more abrasive than you’d ever say to someone’s face. If we’re all going to be disagreeing more, we should be careful to do it well.

What does it mean to disagree well?

Most readers can tell the difference between mere name-calling and a carefully reasoned refutation, but it would help to name the intermediate stages.

The Disagreement Hierarchy:

20140509-055654.jpg

DH0: Name-calling.

This is the lowest form of disagreement, and probably also the most common. We’ve all seen comments like this: “u r a fag!!!!!!!!!!”

Also, it’s important to realize that more articulate name-calling has just as little weight. A comment like “the author is a self-important dilettante”
is really nothing more than a pretentious version of “u r a fag.”

DH1: Ad Hominem.

An ad hominem attack is not quite as weak as mere name-calling. It might actually carry some weight. For example, if a senator wrote an article saying that senators’ salaries should be increased, one could respond: “Of course he would say that. He’s a senator.”

This wouldn’t refute the author’s argument, but it may at least be relevant to the case. It’s still a very weak form of disagreement, though.

If there’s something wrong with the senator’s argument, you should say what it is, strait up. If there isn’t, what difference does it make that he’s a senator?

Saying that an author lacks the authority to write about a topic is a variant of ad hominem (and a particularly useless sort), because good ideas often come from outsiders.

The question is not whether a person has the credentials or authority to speak about a particular topic. The question is whether the author is correct or not.

If his lack of authority caused him to make mistakes, point those mistakes out (do not even refer to his lack of authority — that is irrelevant, only refer to any mistakes). If it didn’t, it’s not a problem.

DH2: Responding to Tone.

The next level up, we start to see responses to the writing, rather than the writer. The lowest form of these is to disagree with the author’s tone. For example: “I can’t believe the author dismisses intelligent design in such a cavalier fashion.”

Though better than attacking the author, himself, this is still a weak form of disagreement. It matters much more whether the author is wrong or right than what his tone is.

Mainly, tone is just so hard to judge. On the internet, judging tone becomes impossible and very dangerous:

Someone who has a chip on their shoulder about some topic might be offended by a tone that to other readers seemed neutral.

So, if the worst thing you can say about something is to criticize its tone, you’re not saying much. Is the author flippant, but correct? Better that than grave and wrong. If the author is incorrect somewhere, say where.

DH3: Contradiction.

In this stage we finally get responses to what was said, rather than how or by whom. The lowest form of response to an argument is simply to state the opposing case, with little or no supporting evidence.

This is often combined with DH2: Attacking Tone statements, as in: “I can’t believe the author dismisses intelligent design in such a cavalier fashion. Intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory.”

Contradiction can sometimes have some weight. Sometimes, merely seeing the opposing case stated explicitly is enough to see that it’s right. However, evidence will always help.

DH4: Counterargument.

At level 4 we reach the first form of convincing disagreement: counterargument. Forms up to this point can usually be ignored as proving nothing. Counterargument might prove something. The problem is, it’s hard to say exactly what

Counterargument is contradiction plus reasoning and/or evidence. When aimed squarely at the original argument, it can be convincing. Unfortunately, it’s common for counterarguments to be aimed at something slightly different.

More often than not, two people arguing passionately about something are actually arguing about two different things. Sometimes they actually agree with one another, but they become so caught up in their squabble that they don’t realize it.

There could be a legitimate reason for arguing against something slightly different from what the original author said: when you feel they missed the heart of the matter. When you do that, however, you should say explicitly that you’re doing it.

DH5: Refutation.

The most convincing form of disagreement is refutation. It’s also the rarest, because it’s the most work. Indeed, the disagreement hierarchy forms a kind of pyramid, in the sense that: the higher you go, the fewer instances you find.

To refute someone, you probably have to quote them. You have to find a “smoking gun,” a passage in whatever you disagree with that you feel is mistaken, and then explain why it’s mistaken. If you can’t find an actual quote to disagree with, you may be arguing with a straw man.

While refutation generally entails quoting, quoting doesn’t necessarily imply refutation. Some writers quote parts of things they disagree with, to give the appearance of legitimate refutation, then follow with a response as low as DH3 or even DH0.

DH6: Refuting the Central Point.

The force of a refutation depends on what you refute. The most powerful form of disagreement is to refute someone’s central point.

Even as high as DH5, we still sometimes see deliberate dishonesty, as when someone picks out minor points of an argument and refutes those. Sometimes the spirit in which this is done makes it more of a sophisticated form of ad hominem than actual refutation:

For example: correcting someone’s grammar, or harping on minor mistakes in names or numbers. Unless the opposing argument actually depends on such things, the only purpose of correcting them is to discredit one’s opponent.

Truly refuting something requires one to refute its central point, or at least one of them. That means one has to commit explicitly to what the central point is.

So, a truly effective refutation would look like:

“The author’s main point seems to be x. As he says: ‘xyz…’ However, this is wrong for the following reasons:

1. Reason 1.
2. Reason 2.
3. Reason 3.”

The quote you point out as mistaken need not be the primary statement of the author’s main point. The quote only needs to be able to refute something that the main point depends upon.

What it Means:

Now, we have a way of classifying forms of disagreement, but what good is it? One thing the disagreement hierarchy doesn’t give us is a way of picking a winner.

DH levels merely describe the form of a statement, not whether it’s correct. A DH6 response could still be completely mistaken.

Although, while DH levels don’t set a lower bound on the convincingness of a reply, they do set an upper bound:

A DH6 response might be unconvincing, but a DH2 or lower response is always unconvincing.

The most obvious advantage of classifying the forms of disagreement is that it will help people to see through intellectually dishonest arguments.

An eloquent speaker or writer can give the impression of vanquishing an opponent, merely by using forceful words. In fact, that is probably the defining quality of a demagogue.

By giving names to the different forms of disagreement, we give critical readers a pin for popping BS balloons.

Most intellectual dishonesty is unintentional.

Someone arguing against the tone of something he disagrees with may believe he’s really saying something. Zooming out and seeing his current position on the disagreement hierarchy may inspire him to try moving up to counterargument or refutation.

20140509-073456.jpg

The greatest benefit of disagreeing well is not just that it will make conversations better, but that it will make the people who have them happier.

If you study conversations, you find there is a lot more meanness down in DH1 than up in DH6. You don’t have to be mean when you have a real point to make. In fact, you don’t want to. If you have something real to say, being mean actually gets in the way.

If moving up the disagreement hierarchy makes people less mean, that will make most of them happier. Most people don’t really enjoy being mean; they do it because they can’t help it.

Advanced Leadership – The Disappearing Act

As a manager first starting out, I learned an effective, easy method to increase staff productivity: “Managing by Walking Around.” While this is a great method to keep in your leadership utility belt, to evolve from manager to leader, it is necessary to mix in different tactics. First, I will explain “Managing by Walking Around,” and then I will describe its equally important counterpart: “Leading by Disappearing.”

leadership

Managing by Walking Around

Most successful managers are either taught this method, or figure it out from common sense and observation, early on. It is extremely simple, effective, and easy to see immediate results by doing this.

The principle is simple:

  • You are the boss.
  • Employees want the boss to think that they are doing a good job.
  • By you merely being present in front of employees, they will work harder.

Simple enough, right? In the rare instance when a person does not want the boss to think that they are doing a good job, you should probably reconsider that individual’s employment status. It’s one issue if an employee does not do well, it’s an entirely different issue if an employee just does not care at all. This is all assuming that this is a decent place to work, has a successful culture, and that you are not a complete asshole…

So, simply being visible to employees will improve productivity. However, the real benefit from this method is when you actually engage with the staff:

  • Ask them questions.
  • If you see any mistakes, this is a perfect opportunity to immediately correct.
  • If you see any positives, this is a perfect opportunity to praise an employee (remember: praise publicly, correct privately).
  • Use this time as a chance to reiterate the overall vision or important factors that affect the business.
  • Do role-play scenarios that challenge them by seeing how they would react to a variety of obstacles.
  • Teach, teach, teach! “This is what to do when x happens. This is why we do it like that.”

By being present, you’ll make your staff more effective, but only for the duration of your presence. You cannot always be everywhere, which is why you engage with the staff during your “visits.” You encourage them, correct any errors, start having them buy-in to the vision, and prepare them for situations when you will not be available.

It is necessary to engage with the staff in this way, in order for your staff to start wanting to do things the right way. Managers improve productivity by staying involved. Leaders improve productivity and develop staff by convincing them that the “right” way is best (regardless of if you are there or not).

See the difference? A manager gets short-term results by successfully getting the team to be more effective, because the staff wants to do a good job. A leader gets long-term results by successfully getting the team to be more effective, because the staff wants to do the right thing. A leader’s role is to prepare the team for independence. A leader will create more leaders among the staff, by setting expectations, encouraging positive behavior, and most importantly making employees believe in what they are doing.

Invisible_Man

Leading by Disappearing

Now that you are engaging, role-playing the unexpected, and instilling the vision to the staff on a regular basis, you are ready for some “advanced” methods. The “Disappearing Act” is one of my all time favorites. I have found it to be extremely effective in developing new leaders, as well as getting a reality check to just how effective your team really is.

As I said, please do not attempt this until you are already doing those things above. Otherwise, you are only setting up your team for failure.

It’s a bit more than just disappearing:

  • Be spontaneous.
  • Go out the front door… come back in the back door 15 minutes later.
  • Have a minimal schedule and don’t even follow it.
  • Call and say that you’ll be there in 45 minutes. Walk in the door 5 minutes later.
  • Show up 5 hours late for work.

“That sounds like a terrible boss!” No. Remember that as a leader, you have a different role to play in the big scheme of things. Your “lack of reliability” is irrelevant, because it is not your job to make the staff better when you are there. It is your job to make the staff better all the time, regardless of who is in the building.

By combining these two methods, you will slowly start to develop leaders out of the staff. You will see who takes responsibility and “keeps it going” in your absence. That’s what I would have done, when I was just starting out. That is the sign of a natural leader.

You know that they aren’t just acting perfect when you are around and slacking off the rest of the time. If you do not believe that there are employees exactly like that, you are blinded to reality. What better way to test their credibility than by seeing how they act when you are not there.

FYI: nothing destroys employee morale more than when one of these two-faced, suckups get wrongfully promoted. Plus, do you really want to promote someone like that?

The Rule of Thirds

I know that I have high expectations compared to the “average consumer,” but that’s because I don’t tolerate excuses.

I know that a high level of customer experience can be achieved, every time, if the focus is put in the right places. The area, where focus is most often currently placed — profit — will take care of itself, if the customer experience is taken care of.

This is one of the reasons why I feel that I am more capable, beyond my years of experience, to run a company is because I my “big picture” focus is where companies need to be placing their effort. Effort should be placed equally in three areas of the business:

The Rule of Thirds

  • 1/3 on maintaining an excellent product quality.
  • 1/3 on amazing and memorable customer experiences.
  • 1/3 on constant innovation (thinking of ways to improve).

Rule of Thirds

If effort is placed equally on these three areas, businesses will result both in fantastic short-term success, but more importantly long-term customer loyalty and retention.

For those who feel that customer retention plays a relatively minor role in helping a company grow a healthy bottom line, here are a few statistics you might be interested in:

According to Bain and Co., a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%. 

And if those numbers don’t impress you, Gartner Group statistics tell us that 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers. 

Still not sold on customer retention? One final statistic provided by Lee Resource Inc. should give you plenty to think about:

Attracting new customers will cost your company 5 times more than keeping an existing customer.

– Forbes.com

It All Starts With the Customer…

I started a huge focus on “Customer Experience” about 3 years ago, when I started looking for a new career path. I foresaw “Customer Experience” becoming the main focus of modern business (and also my way of getting into the tech industry).

I didn’t have tech industry experience, but I did have a decade of leadership experience in customer-centric environments, mostly in restaurants. In restaurants, the customer experience happens quickly, which mirrors how almost every business operates now that we live in a “connected world.”

  • A customer reads an advertisement
  • Calls on the phone
  • Visits the host stand
  • Gets walked to the table
  • Gets taken care of by the waiter
  • Drinks are made by the bar
  • Food is made by the kitchen
  • Cleanliness is maintained by the bussers

Every single one of those separate interactions serve as “touch points” where a customer interacts with the business. So, these departments must not be managed individually, but looked at as equally important aspects of a customer’s journey.

If you drop the ball in any of the areas, the customer experience is bad, resulting in an eventual decline of sales. In the “connected world” that we now live in, every single business now has to take this “customer experience” methodology into account:

  • An advertisement that a user clicks on
  • The look, feel, and user-friendliness of the website.
  • All social media engagement.
  • Signing up for a service or buying a product.
  • The quality of the product or service.
  • Any support that a user needs or questions they may have.
  • Any problem that may arise and how it’s dealt with.

All of them are “touch points,” just like in a restaurant. Every single interaction that a customer has with any area of a business contributes to their overall experience. If any of these areas fail to impress the customer, sales will eventually go down.

Online Business’s Customer Experience:

Online Customer Experience

Everything now runs like a restaurant, with multiple areas of specialty converging simultaneously on the customer. Businesses can no longer be managed separately in compartments. Leaders in a business must be cross-functional, look at the big picture, and take into account how each department affects one another and what impact they have on customer experience.

Everything is a Touchpoint:

All the Possible Touch Points of Customer Experience
Department heads can’t just be grouped together once in a while during a staff meeting, either; There needs to be leaders who always look at the individual departments as pieces of a whole.

This means that leaders in a “connected world” should not be extremely specialized in one function, but instead be adaptive generalists who can just as easily talk with developers, designers, engineers, customer support staff, business strategists, marketing specialists, salesmen, or executives.

Generic Customer Experience

More than that, they must be able to communicate the “big picture” to each department in a way that it can identify with. Leaders must inspire the big, shared vision of excellent customer experiences to every employee.

“What we need to do is learn to work in the system, by which I mean that everybody, every team, every platform, every division, every component is there not for competitive profit or recognition, but for contribution to the system as a whole on a win-win basis.”

– W. Edwards Deming

The Connected World

As society continues to evolve, due to connectivity, businesses must also evolve. This may mean changing the organizational structure or looking for leaders with a different set of skills than what has worked in the past.

Connectivity can be good or bad. While people are waiting a long time or receiving bad service, they are equipped with smartphones and can post/ tweet/ text/ etc. their experiences in real-time to hundreds of their connections. Twice as many people talk about bad experiences than good ones, too. However, having a good experience is rewarded with repeat business and referrals.

One thing that is becoming more apparent to those in the tech industry (as well as other industries, such as medical) is the focus on providing exceptional customer experiences. Looking at each and every touchpoint a customer has with a business as one aspect of the customer’s journey. This means breaking down the walls that separate departments and seeing the big picture.

Medical Customer Experience:

Medical Visit Customer Experience

Where was “Customer Experience” a primary focus long before it became a buzzword?

Restaurants.

When managing a high volume restaurant, the lead manager must work together with every department, in real time, to ensure a positive experience for the customer (despite the fact that each department operates fundamentally different). A great restaurant manager must be in constant communication with all departments, despite their differences, to achieve the shared goal of excellent customer experience.

The tech (and every) industry needs those same type of leaders: Someone who floats effortlessly from designers, developers, engineers, marketers, business strategists, and salesman. Someone who can speak the language of each department and inspire the same shared vision: excellent customer experience.

Generic Customer Experiences - Exceptional vs Good

If even one of the departments fail to share the vision, that customer may be lost forever to the competition. In the “connected world” that we live in today, it probably also means the loss of several other customers and tarnishing of the brand name.

Customer Experience - Companies Can No Longer Hide in a Connected World

How to Build Innovative, Next-Generation Products Before Anyone Else Does

Avanade_CustomerJourney_graphic

Put yourself entirely into the mind of a consumer (except slightly in the future):

  • How they will think.
  • How they will feel.
  • What your business will look like from their POV.
  • How your product will seem from their POV.
  • What they truly desire.
  • What would make their life easier, simpler, or more enjoyable?

Completely “become the customer” in your mind. Forget about reports, stocks, the shareholders, the technical limitations, and the cost. For a significant amount of time, try and see everything through their eyes, not through the experienced eyes of an experienced businessman.

Try not to recognize the technical limitations taught to you in engineering school. After all, the customer doesn’t care about those things. They do not exist to a customer.

BECOME THE CUSTOMER

consumer

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.”

– Steve Jobs

Imagine the product that would make your life easier, better, or more enjoyable in someway. Now take this imaginary device and try your best to explain it to your team. It’s at this point that you may realize certain “impossibilities” of the product you’ve imagined. You may realize at this point that the technology needed to build this product is a decade away, or is still in the experimental phase.

START BUILDING THAT PRODUCT, REGARDLESS

QuotesCover-pic22.png

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”

– Steve Jobs

Then, you simply build the product that you wanted, with all hands-on-deck to push along the development of any aspect of it that is not yet possible. Double the R&D funds to that department, if necessary. They key is to build the product that you imagined, and to do it faster than originally seemed possible.

You imagine first, then you make it possible.

“In the end, for something this complicated, it’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

– Steve Jobs

That is how you disruptively innovate an entire culture with a single product. By doing so, you get to the prize (the fully developed product) several years before your nearest competitor. Everything they do will be a rip-off of your invention, or a counter-move to catch up.

The Future of Business

20140108-184018.jpg

Most business experts agree on the importance of the customer’s insight, especially as technology makes it easier for them to communicate with one another via social networks, texting, and ratings websites.

The most popular solution:

Implementation of a CCO

The CEO empowers a Chief Customer Officer (CCO), responsible for ensuring quality of the entire customer experience (the relationship a customer has with a business at every touch point, from advertising all the way through buying and using the product or service). According to these experts, the CCO should be strongly backed by the CEO. This is because some of what the CCO may have to say is contrary to what other board members want to hear, but it needs to be said. It is the voice of the customer.

Personally, I believe in a completely different strategy to ensure incredible customer experiences:

Transformation of the CEO to a CCO

The CEO serves as the “customer with a big imagination.” He remains ignorant to the “technical aspects” of the business, purposefully, to keep him blind to what’s possible and stay focused on what should be.

The customer does not care about “what’s possible.” The customer also does not care about cost-cutting, technical limitations, or mistakes in development. It is department head’s responsibility to constantly innovate and improve to turn the “dream” into a reality. This philosophy was made popular by Steve Jobs, named “the reality distortion field.”

  • The COO interprets the wild ideas of the CEO, turning them into possible, executable steps and delegates them to the various departments. In a sense, the COO “runs” the company, inspired by the CEO.
  • The various departments stay in touch with visits from the CEO, who maintains and inspires the overall vision.
  • The various departments may run into difficulties executing certain aspects, at which time the CEO will serve as a “problem solver” to seek creative solutions to their deadlocks.
  • The CEO also motivates the departments with his passion for the vision, his viewpoint as an average customer, and his unwillingness to accept excuses as an answer. There is always a workaround.
  • The concept flows from dream, to pattern, to design, to strategy, to process, creating a more refined product as it reaches each level.
  • The last level is the outlook, at which point the CEO will see, touch, and feel the product that will hit consumers (as a customer). He will be able to see how the finished product matches up to the original vision… In some cases, it will be an improvement. In some cases, it will be inferior and sent back to a certain, earlier stage in development.

As a “customer,” anything less than a “wow” at this stage, from the CEO, is unacceptable.

After the product release, results from numbers compare with steps in the development. Steps in the development can be refined for further enhancement of future products released.

Why Should the CEO be the CCO?

What shows that customer experience and satisfaction comes first more than by making the top-ranking official responsible for it? I’m not just talking about publicity here, I’m also talking about the message sent to the entire company, internally. Why should a CCO have to be so heavily backed by the CEO to clarify the message of how important customer experience really is?

With the CEO responsible for customer experience, it shows an undeniable devotion to the overall satisfaction of the customer; and that message is coming from the top. The CEO being ignorant to certain knowledge allows his imagination and his desire to build the ideal product unstinted by technical limitations. This is not dissimilar from how Apple ran during its most creative period.

Steve Jobs was a visionary who dreamt up products that customers would want and pushed the individual departments to innovate and improve  to create that vision. He had minimal to no technical skills by the time he was the great innovator we think of him as. Too often, CEO’s become too far removed from what customers want and rely too heavily on metrics and costs, when they need to put themselves in the shoes of the customer.

This strategy requires a different style of CEO than is typically recruited to run multimillion dollar companies, but it is a more effective, long-term strategy to make sure that there is constant innovation and excellent experiences. Since the CEO is ignorant to certain aspects of the details, it also requires that he be surrounded by a strong team that make up for his weaknesses, to allow his strengths to shine. If it is a “Steve Jobs” visionary-type CEO, then it’s prudent to surround himself with very detail-oriented people.

QuotesCover-pic22.png