Tuesday, May 29, 2007

McCain on Lord Nelson

I am back to my reading McCain's "Character is Destiny" and found myself overwhelmed with the story of Lord Nelson of the British Navy. It is amazing that as early as late 1700s, today's leadership principles were well developed and evident among one of the greatest navy leader. Here is a excerpt from the book:

...He took great care to cultivate the friendship of his subordinates, and to explain to them in detail his battle plans in advance of an operation. He emphasized to them what he intended to accomplish, and would leave much of how it would be achieved to them. Once guns were firing, he expected them to use their own initiative without waiting for his further instructions, to conform to the extent necessary to the overall line of battle he have given them, but seize opportunities where they presented themselves to destroy the enemy with the courage and daring he always showed in combat. "No captain can do very wrong," he told them, "if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy."

He inspired them to share his self-assurance by his demonstrations of confidence in them. And he saw to it that the rewards of glory and fortune won by daring and ambition were fairly shared. Most important, he did not shift the blame for mistakes and occasional failures to his subordinates, but assumed the responsibility for them himself. He gave his officers greater responsibility that they had ever possessed, and he never shirked his responsibility to them. This quality of command - daring , inspirational, confiding, and fraternal - renowned as the "Nelson Touch," forged extraordinarily strong bonds of mutual trust and affection between Nelson and his officers. It made him the greatest commander of this age....

I know I live for this stuff.. but when you read this excerpt, you have to get a chill in your bones when you think about how Lord Nelson was centuries ahead of his time. If only Jim Collins was writing Good to Great in 1805!

Monday, May 28, 2007

In Memory of those who gave their lives for our freedom!

"Yesterday, the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in America; and a greater perhaps never was, nor will be, decided among men. A resolution was passed without one dissenting colony, that those United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.

John Adams
Letter to Mrs. Adams, July 3, 1776

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
-John F. Kennedy

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Soldier, rest! Thy warfare o'er,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Dream of battled fields no more.
Days of danger, nights of waking.
-Sir Walter Scott

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Are you telling the right stories

Over on the Mind Hacks blog, there is a post on a recent NY Times article on narrative psychology. Researchers are studying how stories we tell can be predictive of our mental perspective and ultimately about our contributions to society. This research is very interesting, especially when you couple it with work being done on crucial conversations and Chris Argyris' work on the Ladder of Inferences.

This is worth a read.. check out this excerpt:

"Jonathan Adler, a researcher at Northwestern, has found that people’s accounts of their experiences in psychotherapy provide clues about the nature of their recovery. In a recent study presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in January, Mr. Adler reported on 180 adults from the Chicago area who had recently completed a course of talk therapy. They sought treatment for things like depression, anxiety, marital problems and fear of flying, and spent months to years in therapy.

At some level, talk therapy has always been an exercise in replaying and reinterpreting each person’s unique life story. Yet Mr. Adler found that in fact those former patients who scored highest on measures of well-being — who had recovered, by standard measures — told very similar tales about their experiences.

They described their problem, whether depression or an eating disorder, as coming on suddenly, as if out of nowhere. They characterized their difficulty as if it were an outside enemy, often giving it a name (the black dog, the walk of shame). And eventually they conquered it."

This work raises more questions for me. Can we predict whether leaders of organizations will be successful by the stories they tell? Or, do the stories we tell ourselves ultimately influence how successful we will be?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mitch's top 8 dimensions of culture

One of my frequent reading mailing lists has been debating the art of facilitating when you have diverse cultures in the room. The debate has been interesting, but it also reminded me of how often we reduce culture differences down to the simplistic issues of the wrong jester or saying something that is not cultural acceptable. While important, there are models out that explain far deeper differences than that which we can easily identify. A quick meta analysis of the literature can yield easily 10 or more dimensions that we should learn more about. These dimensions play significant role in how much success one can have across cultures as well as can be predictive in determining where a conflict might occur. Here are my top 8 dimensions defined very simply:

Time - One of the easiest to understand. Cultures differences around time include:
  • Are you focused on yesterday, today or tomorrow?
  • Are you focused on one issue/person, or multiple issues at the same time?
  • Is late one minute pass the hour, or 30 minutes pass the hour?
Action - One of the most profound dimensions, relates to how we approach team project:
  • Are you oriented on doing the task or building relationships first.
Communication - A biggy.. and we are not talking about language:
  • How important is context to your communication?
  • Are you direct or indirect in what you share?
  • Are you expressive and show how you feel?
  • How big is protocol and formality to you?
Space - Please stop touching my stuff.. Yes.. how private are you?

Power - Do you prefer hierarchical or flat power structures

Competitiveness vs. Collaborative - Does this one really need an explaination..

Structure - Do you prefer order or like to be flexible?

Individualism - Two perspectives explain this one:
  • Is it about you: "Me" generation vs. our is about the community "taking one for the team"
  • Justice -All treated the same vs. each treated based on their situation and who they are.
I know of other dimensions, but these are the ones that I have seen have impact on learners when they explore their own preferences and learn of cultures differing them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Greatest Leadership Lesson

If you could only teach one leadership lesson to your son or daughter, what would it be. There are lots of good ones, but what would be the most important lesson? For me, one principle stands out. One, more than any other, separates the great leader from the simple manager.. the lesson is simple, but difficult to follow:

Seek out the truth!

We live in a world where we are taught to be right. Where competition breeds independence and discourages seeking advice. Credit is given to individuals and teams rarely stay together for more than a few years. (I still miss the BIG RED MACHINE). Heck, I gave up watching pro baseball because the teams change so much. What this breeds is individualism and more important... A need to be right all the time... to be the expert... to have the solution... but no... not the truth. I know, this is a bit of a rant, but take a moment to think about it. Do you enter team meetings seeking the truth: "What is the best answer?" and not your truth: "What is my answer?" This is the first lesson all leaders need to learn.. what is THE truth.. not their truth.

And what examples would I use. I will give you two good ones right now... General Marshall in WWII and Kennedy after the bay of pigs. More on these great leaders another time..

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Social Networking is the "rage" right now. Some of this might be attributed to the Internet and sites like My Space and Second Life. You could also suggest that Gladwell's book on social power, "The Tipping Point" has added to the emphasis on building strong social networks. So, you might find it interesting that this is really nothing new. In fact, Dale Carnegie's first course has lots on social networking.. and it was so successful in 1916, that he began training official "Dale Carnegie Course Instructors." Here are six lessons from Carnegie on building a stronger relationship with others that fit right into today's discussions and how they coorelate with today's blogs:
  • Become Genuinely Interested in Other People
    • Read other people blogs, explore their bios, learn about them.
  • Be a Good Listerner
    • Seek to understand (this is critical on the more controversial subjects)
  • Encourage others to talk about themselves
    • Encourage comments on your blog, ask question when commenting
  • Let the other person do a great deal of the talking
    • Keep your blog posts short and to the point
  • Talk in terms of the other person's interest
    • Seek to apply your thoughts to the life experiences of others
  • Give honest and sincere appreciation
    • Let bloggers know when you appreciate their posts and comments.
Social networking is really nothing new... but it is exciting to see how today's techonology may allow individuals to do this in new and different ways. Can you expand any of these principles.. apply them to other Web 2.0 tools.. Second life, my space..

Social System Quote of the Week

"Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions." - Albert Einstein

Thursday, May 10, 2007

25 Women to watch

Crains Chicago Business recently featured Chicago's "25 Women to Watch" recently. It is a good piece with some rich stories about women who are leading! If you like multi-media (who doesn't), check out the slide show! If you can't get enough of this stuff, here is another post by a buddy of mine on leadership from the perspective of a daughter! All of us (men and women) can learn from these great examples!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Web 3.0: How long till in comes together!

This post is mostly opinion.. there is a bit of data, but it is mainly my view on the social networking buzz. It may be a little non-typical, and may challenge you some if you believe Twitter and delicious are promise land. Regardless, I should say up front that I love these technologies.. all of Web 2.0.. just call me high maintenance...

Kevin Gamble ponders the adoption of Web 2.0 and reflects back on previous innovations of the Internet in his recent post "Pew: The other 41%." I found the following to be insightful from his post...

"Back in 1993 you could show someone Mosaic and they could immediately understand that the world as they had experienced it was fixing to change big-time. That almost never happens with Web 2.0 tools. Most of the time you get a response like John Dorner received last week, "I was trying to explain Twitter to my wife - she looks at me like I've lost my mind." I've noticed that same reaction more than once over the last few years.

Adoption of these new tools takes longer. I know I used for months before I finally started using it religiously. I also know, that my use of it increased dramatically once my closest group of colleagues all started to use it. It wasn't until we had workgroup adoption that its true power kicked-in to play."

While I agree totally with Kevin's belief that these tools take longer and require workgroup adoption, I could argue the same was true of FTP Servers.. You need a critical mass of documents, valued knowledge so to speak. You needed a grasp of a set of commands and patience to face your typos. In fact, when we were using FTP, boy could not say enough great things about it.. it was going to change the world.. and we could not figure out why everyone was whining so much about learning a couple of commands.. Then came . Mosaic! Seemless.. smooth.. and it danced.. it made things where anyone could do it...., Digg, Twiter, Analytics, etc.. getting it all setup and encouraging a community (non-technology) to join you can be overwhelming. I continue to play with these technologies for two purposes.. leadership and organizational development uses. I see the potential, but I believe there is strong evidence that we are not close to moving these technologies past the IT world...

Consider the following:

  • The Top 4 blogs on Technorati (based on links) are all technology blogs. (when is the last time the front page of your newspaper carried a technology article?)
  • Out of the top 10, 6 are technology oriented, 3 are political, and one is anomymous photo/card sharing site. Not one of these sites is what I would call a non-technology knowledge source. Oh they are interesting, but they are not mainstream learning communities (except for IT).
  • Disciplinary non-tech groups are not dominating Web 2.0. For example, the highest rated marketing blog (Seth's Blog by ) is way down on the Technorati list.
  • Tom Peters' blog is rated a lowly 1512 by Technorati.. and Tom.. well lets just say he makes a fine living on keynotes.. so why isn't his blog more popular. Web 2.0 popularity is not uniformly connected to what the non tech world measures as success.
  • If you dig down, you can find good blogs in lots of disciplinary communities, but I would estimate that they are a long way from what Kevin would call workgroup adoption.

So if our ultimate goal is workgroup adoption and effectiveness, the question remains.. do we increasd performance through training or through technology advancement. Right now, I have high hopes for technology advancement... I see movement toward intergration with firefox that gives me hope, but I still think much more advancement is needed. Truthfully, calling it Web 2.0 doesn't make it the next generation of web technology, but to be a conformist.. I will just say I am begging for Web 3.0... I need the "Mosaic" for social networking... a tool that does for social networking what Mosaic did for information access.... Makes it seemless, makes it so smooth, that asking someone to join you on Twitter is a one click.. and that will take intergration.. at a level we have not seen so far..

Monday, May 7, 2007

ASTD LEAD2020 Twitter Colony

Hello All,

At one time or another, our paths have crossed, usually at ASTD, but sometimes in other contexts. In anticipation of ASTD - Atlanta, I have decided to do a social networking experiment at ASTD. I am seeking to create a twitter colony for the ASTD meeting. Check out my recent blog.

If you don't know what twitter is, here is as simple a description as I can find:

Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send "updates" (text-based posts, up to 140 characters long) via SMS, instant messaging, the Twitter website, or an application such as Twitterrific. Twitter was founded in October 2006 by San Francisco start-up company Obvious Corp.

What it does, is allow me and others of a community of twitters to communicate our thoughts and activities with a large number of individuals who have self-selected to be apart of our friend network, using very short 140 or less characters. So, I got to thinking.. what a better way to create a community of learners than to allow us to chat back n forth during the conference.. I can see it helping me to learn more, as well as allow me to keep up with my colleagues during the huge ASTD conference.

If you want another description of what twitter is about.. check out John Dorner's post on his blog.

SO. .if your interested in being a part of the ASTD LEAD2020 Twitter Colony:

Go to

and then add me as your twitter friend. If you have a treo, we can chat all during the conference. There is a time lag, but we can at least trade reflections and thoughts.. might be useful

Please share this post with anyone who is attending ASTD. Thanks, Mitch

Powerpoint: Should you use it?

This month's ASTD Learning Circuits Big Question is on when PowerPoint is the appropriate tool for teaching or in the case of this blog.. leading? There are scores of opinions on this.. Tony did a quick scan on his blog and listed numerous links to opinion on PowerPoint and it's use. And while, Learning Circuits poses some very good questions, I would like to take the dialog in a different direction. Here are five principles that we should take into account when evaluation PowerPoint as a tool?

  • Quality Instruction is active, engaging, and consists of more than a one-way communication stream. Adult Learning 101. There are lots of other aspects of the art of instruction that we should be spending time on other than PowerPoint.
  • Good Instruction is contextual requiring visuals to adapt to the situation. For example, presenting to 4 people over coffee is quite different than a keynote to 7000. Likewise, we know from research on stress that we all loose a few brain cells when we are upset. The ole 7 bullets a slide may not work in all cases!
  • Human beings learn in very different ways! Learning style needs of learners require that our presentations address a spectrum of needs in a normal audience. We know visuals are only one aspect of this and any programmed way of presenting will have learning styles it will match with and those it will be less likely to match.
  • Tools that gloss over one's shortcomings are favorites of the weakest performers. Poor performers will often seek out tools to help overcome their shortcomings. PowerPoint is no different than other quick fix tools that often become the solution for an instructor who is not prepared for a teaching obligation.
  • Powerpoint is neither the cause of nor the reason for good or bad instruction. Bad teaching is bad teaching.. bad leading is bad leading. (don't blame the robbery on the gun.. it is the human behind the gun)
I know that fourth principle may raise some questions in your mind. It is counter intuitive, much like when my 8 year old son will spend 2 hours protesting a chore that would have taken 5 minutes to do. Add any priniciples you think of to the comments section. Feel free to point out where I have gone too far...

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Gen X vs. Gen Y?

Thanks to Be Excellent blog for their post on Gen X vs Gen Y... It is a new study and they report the following:

  • More Generation Y owners say 'having fun is a priority in my business' (75% Generation Y vs. 66% Baby Boomers)
  • Generation Y business owners are more likely to find it 'very difficult' to leave their work to go on vacation (39% vs. 26%)
  • They are also more likely to put in the long hours - 10 or more hours a day (66% Generation Y vs. 58% Baby Boomers)
  • Surprisingly, Boomers also report having more natural energy than their younger peers (60% vs. 50% Generation Y)
  • Despite Generation Y's perceived greater ease with technology-- two-thirds (66%) of Generation Y entrepreneurs consider themselves tech savvy compared to less than half (47%) of Baby Boomers--both age groups agree that experience trumps tech savvy in terms of business success.
  • Passion is the leading driver for both Generation Y and Baby Boomers in starting their businesses (55% Generation Y, 40% Baby Boomer)
It is interesting data. I have to think that on most of these points the difference is not cultural.. but rather related more to life stage. It is fair to say that as we all get older, for most of us, our priorities shift a bit. For example, I am more likely to go on vacation today than I was 10 years ago. I know the business will survive without me... I like to think that has a bit to do with maturity. Not sure understood myself and the world this well back in my 30s..

I think we have to be careful not to read too much into this data. There are a ton of consultants out there trying to sell the concept that you have to manage Gen Xs and Gen Ys differently most I have heard are good, but they take the data too far sometimes. As we think of how we supervise and manage our employees, this is just one aspect of what a leader needs to consider.

For example, I don't know an employee who is going to say "please don't make my work fun!" And yet, we all know, there are parts of every job that can not be made fun. If Gen Ys have less tolerance for those tasks, the grungy part of work, this will present a new challenge for leaders. Either through good selection practices, or through internal coaching, today's business leaders need to address these challenges. Balancing the needs of your workers at their lifestage is just one more skill today's leaders need!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Twitter: Time to Grow Up

First.. a big thank you to k1v1n.. our dialogs over the past few weeks have helped me gain back some of my passion for emerging technologies.. and begin exploring applications that might be meaningful to organizations. I should also preface this post by quoting another good friend.. She tells me all the time "I really don't care about technology that doesn't solve some problem I am facing." She likes to point out I play with technology.. well.. just because it is technology. And she may be right.. I can toy technology for hours with no real goal in mind.

Today I am feeling a need to be more purposeful and primarily with Twitter. I like twitter and have used it now for several weeks. Personally, I have enjoyed keeping up with friends and family... but underneath of it all.. I have felt, well.. there has to be more to this than knowing what my buddies had for dinner. Personally, I intuitively know thatTwitter has a huge potential, but it is not really making a difference in personal performance right now and well that bugs me. So, I began thinking.. how can we help twitter grow up.

First, I should tell you I use twitter mainly to keep track of 3-5 people who I already know pretty well. Most of the rest of my twitter friends are more like a reality tv show.. well sort of. Except, I feel like I am missing most of the best parts of the show. So, one purpose for Twitter is to strengthen existing relationships.. that's a good thing and maybe worth the effort.. but even I get lazy about posting and I play with technology for the sake of playing with technology. I don't see this catching on in the mainstream just for this purpose. Needless to say.. I don't think this will sustain Twitter.. There has to be a higher purpose.

I got excited two weeks ago with Twittervision. Cool, but I lost interest very quickly.. Honestly, I really care less about where someone lives.. and more about our common interests. If twitter vision could somehow map people with like problems, say learning needs.. that might be make twitter use explode. So, I asking David Troy to explore adding a tagging can map more useful knowledge.

Of course last week, kv1vn, was nice enough to set up some customer twitter groups. And.. I figured out what was bothering me.. Twitter has no context. If you could use it in conjunction with anything that gives it context.. and it has to be a useful context. Geography is nice, but what if I could twitter with people who are planning their spring gardens.. WOW.. watch out. It becomes more powerful. and much more useful.. So finding a useful context is key and the segmenting individuals who can not contribute in that context.

Let me give you an simple example of how I could really put twitter to use: Next month, I will attend ASTD's International Conference. At this conference will be 7000+ people attending hundreds of sessions. Some of them good, some of them not so good. I will be attending with about 20 people I know very well, but we have a way of getting lost from each other. The context.. huge conference.. need to communicate with many in a group learning experience.. but logistics are impossible.. It is also important to spread knowledge quickly.. issues like, which are the best speakers, where are we meeting for dinner, what do you think this speaker's main points.. Solution = TWITTER.

So.. this brings me to ambitious experiment.. I plan to try to create a twitter colony.. for just one week at ASTD. I plan to post this and begin letting people know. If possible, it would be best to have an easy way to segment our colony.. I need your help.. Hopefully I can find enough twitter friends to make this experiment work, but if you can spread the word that would be great. I need to add as many twitter ASTD friends as possible. Go to my twitter page to add me as your friend.

Another approach will be to get the ASTD bloggers to notice this experiment. The challenge will be connecting all the twitter friends. I plan on contact ASTD to see if they want to help, but if you know of a simple trick that will help me get everyone twittered up.. please share.. I look forward to your comments on how I might build this colony.. I need all your suggestions.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Web 2.0... We have a long way to go...

This post is going to be close to a rant.. but it is really about leadership and the future. I am staying tonight in what could be consider one of the nicest hotels in Buckhead (Atlanta, USA). I have everything you could possible want in my room.. nice bed, High Def TV.. it is really great, except.. they expect me to pay extra for the Internet. And, I am not going to name the hotel.. cause they are not alone.. Lots of our high end hotel chains don't get it.. in case they are reading... "Internet is water.. we all need it to survive".. And yet they treat it like the booze locked in a cabinet.. like it is something a few people may like to sample. So what's this got to do with leadership and innovation...

The Internet is not a baby anymore.. Amazon is selling millions.. Google is a household name.. and yet, we have hotel executives who still do not see the Internet as something every guest should have access to.. They still think of it as a preference item. Why is this? Check out my Innovation Rule of Condiments.

Innovation Rule of Condiments

If an innovation is treated in the marketplace as a condiment (something that might be added to the already purchased product), four things occur:

  1. Sales data will undervalue the level of demand (People who are interested in the service will choose not to purchase or even inquire due to the additional hassle).
  2. Leaders will intepret such data as validation of their already closely held belief that the service is really just a preference. (Despite being told by line employees that it should be included in the overall price)
  3. Resistance by organizational leaders to include the service in with full pricing will increase resulting customer dissatisfaction and a slower adoption rate by the hotel chain.
  4. Competitors will steal market share.

So what is the point of this Rule of Condiments. Be careful how you choose to market a new service or product. Sure, it is ok to do some condiment pilot testing early on, but once a product is in demand.. include it in the total price. The lesson is when an innovation is ready for growth, condiment marketing taints the data.. and you miss the ride!

Ok.. now to sleep... but first, can I have a cup of Internet before I go to bed....

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

"Determined men can do anything!"

"At the end of the last war we were operating only in Seattle. We were ambitious. We wanted to expand. We had no money, so the logical thing was to set about to find some source of money. In our quest for money we called upon an investment banker in Seattle named Carstens. Mr Carstens patiently listend to our story. He must have known we were inexperienced in finanacial affairs, and probably in many other ways. We were young - about 30. The banker himself was rather elderly. He listened to our story for a while and then he leaned back in his chair, put his feet up on the desk, and in the next 15 or 20 minutes - perhaps half an hour - he gave us the most enlightening, most inspiring talk on the economics of busines that I have ever heard, or that has since been my privilege to hear."

"One of the remarks that Mr. Carstens made on that occassion was that determined men can do anything. These words struck in my mind. He didn't give us the money we were after, but we expanded into Oakland within two months. And that really was the beginning of the development of our present organization."

"I don't know where Mr. Carstens is today. He was rather elderly man then, and he is probably dead and gone."

"But if Mr. Carstens could be with us here tonight; if he could see what a fine group of people we really are; if he could learn for himself how much we know about our particular subject, and could get some idea of the combined business knowledge that is contained in the minds of those present here; if he could be told of the great nationwide business organization which all of us here together have worked to build, in which all of us have had a part; if he could know, too, that we own that organization ourselves; and if Mr. Carstens were called upon to review the past and to offer a guide to the future, I think he could do no better that to say: Determined men can do anything."

James E Casey - UPS Plant Managers Conference - 1942