Category Archives: Leadership

Broken Windows and Corporate Decency

Broken Windows

Over the weekend, I became aware of trouble at GitHub, a collaborative center for software developers. Prominent developer Julie Ann Horvath (@nrrrdcore) detailed a campaign of discrimination and harassment at TechCrunch.

She described being harassed by the boys’ club of fellow developers, which she initially just ignored. Then, it appears that – as she gained prominence in the community – she was targeted by one of the founders and strangely, his wife, who was not an employee but frequently on the premises. And her code was wrecked by another developer whose social advances she had rejected. Bravely, she spoke up over the weekend, to describe her experience and explain why she was leaving the organization. Continue reading

Stop Communicating…

dialogue 2 large_2945003307

Communication is the biggest problem in human life.  Not because it’s a bad idea, but because we do it all wrong.  So let’s drop our typical vision of business “communication” to start something much more effective: “dialogue.”

I’ve been reading an interesting discussion of project managers on LinkedIn.  The discussion started with a question about the most important element of successful projects.  A large percentage of the comments center around project communication with a recurring theme that said roughly this: “you can be the world’s best communicator, but some people just won’t get with the program.”

Bunk.

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A Look at Women and Influence

Graphic - Women and Influence

Today is International Women’s Day, so it’s fitting that I capture a few thoughts on women and influence.  Last year, Warren Buffett said, “America has forged (their) success while utilizing, in large part, only half of the country’s talent.  For most of our history, women — whatever their abilities — have been relegated to the sidelines.  Only in recent years have we begun to correct that problem.”

Women are often relegated to the sidelines.  Despite Sheryl Sandberg’s advice that we “lean in”, there are forces at work that have nothing to do with an ability to get the job done.  Many of those forces are benign, a simple artifact of decades (centuries) of male-dominated societies.  Women do things differently, and those differences are somewhat hard-to-understand for the pantheon of men-at-the-top.

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Leadership Lessons from the Herd

Ever wonder how a flock of birds knows when to change direction?  What about a herd of deer which seem to zigzag through a field?  By taking a look at the behavior of other species, we can learn some lessons about leadership, and apply them to become better managers.  I’ve identified four keys which influence animal behavior, with implications for how you can better influence your team.

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Leadership Lessons from Backgammon

Backgammon Board 06-15-2014

Do you play backgammon?  After years of not playing, I pulled our board out of the closet recently.  Since then, I’ve been thinking about the game, and even playing a little on my iPad.  Like with so many other games, I like to think about the life lessons one can learn; maybe it’s because I’m a geek, or maybe it’s a justification for playing a game on my iPad.

Here are the leadership lessons I see in backgammon:

Think it through.   For those of you who don’t know the game, I’ll give the simplest possible explanation:  The point of the game is to roll two dice and move your pieces around the board.  When you roll, of course you could just pick up any of your game pieces and move them to an open slot, without any consideration of what might happen next.  However, backgammon, like leadership, is a game of strategy.   Continue reading

Is Syria Becoming a Quagmire?

Quagmire Sept 2013

Is the trouble in Syria becoming a quagmire?  I fear that it is, creating an intractable mess for the US, and for the portions of the international community who choose to engage in a fight.

At heart, I am a pacifist and want us all to choose life and beauty and freedom.  But in looking at the pictures and video from Syria, I know that these actions are uncivilized… abominable.  This is not the first time we have been confronted with atrocities.  But we – all of humanity – must firmly say, “this cannot be tolerated.”  And then we have to find a way to protect the innocent while we pursue the guilty.  Foreign relations is a tricky business.  There’s no doubt we have to tread cautiously, but we cannot turn away.

In the US, we know – and often resent – that we are the world’s policemen.  But we are less alone than we think.  Continue reading

Working in the Matrix (Organization)

Centuries ago, there were landowners (managers) and there were peasants (workers).  That management structured worked up until roughly ten years ago, when we began to see the rapid move toward the “matrix organization”.

I know… it already sounds like I’m skeptical of the matrix.  I’m not.  But I’ve seen it plenty.  And it doesn’t always work as well as it could.

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Anti-Disparagement Starts with Trust

An article in today’s Guardian mentioned some details of a deal between Microsoft and former Windows chief Steven Sinofsky.  The jist of the deal is that Sinofsky, in exchange for a payout from Microsoft, will not seek employment at Apple, Google, Facebook or Amazon until post-2014.

That’s certainly understandable.  Although I think that technology is moving quickly enough that a 6-month hiatus from one of Tech’s Big 5 would clear out any useful info, Sinofsky was a senior exec and a one-time confidante of Bill Gates.  So the extended period makes sense.

It’s the second part of the agreement that makes me sad.  The agreement includes a “mutual non-disparagement clause” which prevents Sinofsky from being publicly critical of Microsoft.  (One can presume that Microsoft would be perfectly comfortable with public praise.)

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The Speed of Knowledge

Genetic Code June 2013In 1987, the US Department of Energy announced a 15-year project to map the human genome, with a projected start date of 1990.  By 2000, scientists working on the project submitted a draft of the human genome, and submitted the final fully-mapped genome by April of 2003.

Yesterday, Eric Lander spoke about the project at the 2013 Aspen Ideas Festival, illuminating the stunning progress that has been made in the decade that has passed since we completed the first map of a single human being’s genome.

That’s what I want to write about here.  Not just the progress of this particular scientific achievement, but the exponential speed of progress when a community is focused on a goal.  And the economics society experiences as products and services move from invention to mass production. Continue reading

Unexpected Delight: Pope Francis Shines

Here’s something I wasn’t expecting:  to make my first official post on RemarkableIdea, discussing the thoughts of our relatively new Pope.  But here we go…

On Wednesday, the Pope was speaking after his daily morning mass, to those gathered in the chapel at his residence.  My understanding is these gatherings are made up of invited guests, mostly Vatican staff and visiting dignitaries of the Catholic Church.  Every day, the Pope delivers a “homily”, which is a short sermon, usually unscripted remarks on a topic of interest.  During this particular homily, the Pope mentioned that God “has redeemed all of us…not just Catholics.  Everyone.”

He went on to talk about the nature of performing good works, saying, “If we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter…  we need that so much.  We must meet one another doing good.”

Huh?

This is not your average Pontiff.  Continue reading