A Leadership Style User Manual

A Leadership Style User Manual

In the interview above, Adam referred back to one of the more provocative ideas that arose from his hundreds of Corner Office interviews with top leaders, a Manager’s User Manual. Basically, how great would it be if managers wrote a “user manual” about their leadership style, in which they explain some of their unique preferences and quirks to the people they’re managing?

You’ve in charge of a new department, and your reports are wondering what you’re like — your pet peeves, your quirks, and what it takes to earn a couple of gold stars from you. Over a year, they will figure these things out through trial and error, through observation, and maybe through some awkward conversations, you have with them about something they’ve done or haven’t done.

If you buy a car or a new TV, it comes with an instruction manual; however, we humans don’t, and we have to work with people who may have never worked with us before. As we don’t know how each person works, we what worked in the past, but that is not guaranteed to get optimal results. So why not shorten that inevitable learning curve, and let people know what you’re like right up front?

Here is an outline of how to produce a Leadership User Manual.

 

Step 1 – Rough Cut

Take no more than an hour and answer these questions with the first thing that comes to mind.

  • What is your style?

  • When do you like people to approach you, and how?

  • What do you value?

  • How do you like people to communicate with you?

  • How do you make decisions?

  • How can people help you?

  • What will you not tolerate in others?

 

Step Two: First Draft

From the above, you have a rough draft, so now you need to add depth and smooth it out. First, use some other tools to help you refine your manual. Look for clues in assessments you have done in the past. Myers Briggs? Strength Finder? Also, re-read your performance reviews from the last few years for clues.

 

Step Three: Input & Workshop

Ask your colleagues to answer the questions in step one about you. Ideally, this together around a table rather than over email so that group feedback is incorporated. What is their impression? Once you have their feedback, incorporate it into yours and then share your draft and ask for feedback on what they find accurate, off, or not clear.

 

Step Four: Finalize

Based on the inputs from your colleagues, make a final edit.

 

Step Five: Revise

Once a year, dust your manual off and see if it still feels accurate to you and your colleagues. Any new insights?

 

An Example

Abby Falik, Founder and CEO of Global Citizen Year, did this and posted her User Manual on LinkedIn. It is below:

My style 

  • I’ve been hard-wired as an entrepreneur since I was a kid.

  • I hover in ambiguity and possibility and am most energized when I’m connecting dots/people/resources that translate challenges into opportunities. I am always scanning for information to feed ideas in my mind and typically do my best thinking out loud.

  • My high expectations are matched by my commitment to support people in meeting them. I believe in giving people freedom, flexibility, and “stretch” assignments, and equipping them with the tools they need to uncover and develop their potential.

  • I’m determined to prevent my attention from being hijacked by technology. I never open my computer until I’ve written my quick list of what I intend to do; I hide my inbox to help me focus, and I’ve tried to take control of my phone by removing everything that’s not a “tool” from my home screen.

What I value 

  • I value resourcefulness and proactivity.  Be smart, move fast, and pivot quickly. Ask forgiveness rather than permission.

  • I’m obsessed with efficiency: I touch each email only once (respond, delete, delegate, or delay), and live by the law of 80/20 – often prioritizing promptness (i.e. 24-hour rule in following up on a meeting) over perfection. I start each day by “eating my frog” when my energy and attention are fresh.

  • I expect my teammates to value efficiency, as well. Before doing something “the way it’s always been done,” scan for an easier, cheaper, simpler way to maximize your “return on effort.” Before starting something from scratch, ask if it’s already been tried.

  • I value scrappiness and feel an obligation to our staff, Fellows, partners, and donors to focus our limited time and resources on the “real good” vs. the “feel good.”

  • I believe work-life alignment matters more than work-life balance, and that strategic self-care – whether sleeping enough, leaving work early to exercise, meditate, or spend time in nature – is the key ingredient to becoming our best, most productive and happy selves. I am religious about spending time unplugged – a day a week, and a few weeks a year.

What I don’t have the patience for

  • If you make a mistake or something is heading off the rails, tell me before the crash. Failure is great (as long as you learn quickly); surprises are not.

  • I get antsy with hypothetical musings and over-analysis. I learn best through experience and experimentation and have a strong bias toward action.

  • I default to trust, but if my confidence is shaken, it’s hard to rebuild. Ways to lose my trust: not following through, withholding important information, avoiding hard conversations, or treating others with disrespect.

  • I am turned off by entitlement, boredom and taking things for granted – it’s a privilege to do what we do, and it’s our joyful responsibility to take our work seriously, but not ourselves!

How best to communicate with me 

  • Be crisp.  Start with the headlines. I prefer bullet points to prose, and .PPT to .DOC.

  • I love to solve problems, remove barriers and help others move the ball forward.  Come to me not just with problems, but with plausible solutions and your recommended course of action.

  • I value authenticity, honesty, and transparency. If I say something you disagree with, tell me. I am hungry to be challenged in thoughtful and constructive ways. I respect people who have the right blend of confidence and humility to know when to question someone (even the boss!), and when to defer to another’s expertise.

How to help me

  • I move quickly and don’t always catch every detail (except when it comes to our brand and communications where I’m a painstaking perfectionist).  I appreciate help making sure the details are covered and flagging for me any that need my attention.

  • Nudge me when it’s time to start or end a meeting – but have (some) patience with my flexible approach to time.

  • Tell me what I need to know, not what you think I want to hear.

What people misunderstand about me

  • I am an introvert, posing as a professional extrovert.  Don’t confuse my tendency to work alone in my office with being disengaged.  My door’s always open.

  • I speak with conviction, but I’m not set in my thinking. I’m open-minded and always delighted to be shown a better way.  I make decisions quickly, but if you give me reasoning or data that points in another direction, I’ll happily change course.

Finally, I may be the boss, but I’m also a person, a teammate and a messy work-in-progress. I’m committed to always getting better at my job, and becoming a wiser, kinder and more impactful human.

CEOs and leaders have gotten very positive feedback from their colleagues and subordinates who have received these user manuals. Shouldn’t you consider preparing yours?

 

© 2019 Marc Borrelli All Rights Reserved

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Your Challenger Group

Listening to a recent Tim Ferris podcast, Tim was interviewing Adam Grant and asking him about his success, which is impressive. Adam said that he used Challenger Groups for success. According to Grant, “Your challenge network should be the people who will tell you that you’re not quite where you need to be. These are the people that will push you because they care about helping you get better.” Also, “So if in the last six months somebody has given you really harsh feedback, you’ve probably done everything in your power to drop them from your life. In the short run, that might feel good, it might help with your motivation, but it destroys your opportunity to learn. I think we all need to embrace that challenge network if we want to reach our potential.”

Reflecting on this, (Apologies for unabashed self-promotion as I run Vistage groups), that is what a Vistage group does. As I tell prospective members, we are here to:

  • Challenge your assumptions

  • Prevent your hubris

  • Provide advice; and

  • Have carefrontational conversations – we will tell you, your baby is ugly.

The group is not dependent upon you for a paycheck, or income, or anything other than to know you will help them if they help you. Many prospects tell me, I don’t need such a group, I have friends, a board, customers, or father/father-in-law who does this. However, let’s examine these groups.

 

Friends

Our friends are our Cheerleaders and Supporters. They help us when we are down and tell us how wonderful we are. They are unlikely to have carefrontational conversations with us. If they keep telling us that our baby is ugly and our ideas are wrong, the friendship will not last.

 

Customers

Really!! You will tell your customers that your largest customer has just declared bankruptcy, and you are not sure you have enough cash to last a week! Or, that your product is failing and you are considering the following three plans to fix it, which do they like?

 

Your Board

Your board is the right place, but how often do you meet, and how often can you go to them. Also, can you go to them when you don’t know? Can you bring a personal crisis to them? If you are having a personal crisis as a member did where his wife gave him an ultimatum on their marriage, you know he was not focused on his business, but need a place to talk this through.

 

Your Father/Father-in-Law

Well, one issue you can’t bring to your father or father-in-law is that you want to fire or get rid of him. A couple of other areas that may be difficult are:

  • What if you want a divorce?

  • What to do about getting rid of your sibling?

  • What about killing off the division, product, they started?

 

So where to?

Find a group of people that have no reliance on your for a paycheck or income, and who will help you if you help them, but will challenge you and enter into those confrontational conversations when needed. If not Vistage, then some similar group, but one that will do the above, as Vistage members on average outperform their non-Vistage peers by 2.2x revenue growth, and higher profit margins.

 

© 2019 Marc Borrelli All Rights Reserved

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Wicked! The Queen Lost at Martian Tennis Again, You Shouldn’t

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Many, if not most, people draw from experience to solve problems, and they do it very effectively. They look at a situation, draw on their expertise, and execute. If you were to ask them, they might even say that they do it without thinking, they are on autopilot. While this works very well in many areas, we find that it doesn’t work in all. They are specialists and excellent at what they do. So why does it go Wrong?

 

The Queen

My wife and I binge watch the Crown on Netflix, as she loves it, and I, as a Brit, enjoy it as it brings back many memories of the times I lived in England and ex-colonies. However, watching the episode on the Aberfan mining disaster in Season 3, I suddenly reflected on several situations that have all caused significant issues for the Queen.

 

Aberfan Mining Disaster

Aberfan is a Welsh mining town, and on October 21, 1966, after heavy rains, a landslide of liquified coal waste descended a mountain slope above the town. The mudslide decimated several farm cottages and the Pantglas Junior School resulting in the death of 133 people, mainly children. The Queen delayed her appearance there, despite advice to the contrary. Royal biographer Sally Bechdel Smith claimed this was because the Queen feared her presence would be a distraction to the rescue efforts. Members of the Queen’s inner circle at the time have said the Queen does regret not visiting sooner. “I think she felt in hindsight that she might have gone there a little earlier,” said Sir William Heseltine, who worked in the royal press office at the time. “It was a sort of lesson for us that you need to show sympathy and to be there on the spot, which I think people craved from her.”

  

Death of Princess Diana

Following her divorce from Prince Charles, Princess Diana had started dating Dodi Al-Fayed, son of Harrod’s owner Mohammed Al-Fayed in the summer of 1997. Paparazzi were following the celebrity couple in Paris in the early hours of Sunday, August 31, 1997, when their car crashed and they were both killed. Prince Charles, Prince Philip, and the Queen were first to receive the news, and their reaction was one of “dazed bewilderment,” according to royal expert and author Ingrid Seward. The royal family, holidaying at Balmoral, had no idea of the crisis that was about to overwhelm them when they received the news. The British public’s reaction to Princess Diana’s death was unlike anything the Royal Family or the country had ever seen. Mourners left thousands of floral tributes and messages at the gates of Buckingham Palace. Diana’s fans held candlelit vigils and wanted the flag above Buckingham Palace to be raised to half-mast to honor the princess. While against royal protocol, the Royal Family eventually caved to mounting public pressure and pandered to the demand. Furthermore, in an unprecedented Royal move, Princess Diana was even given a state funeral, which thousands of mourners turned out to watch.

  

Prince Andrew’s recent interview on BBC

Prince Andrew appeared on the BBC recently to clear his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein and disabuse the notion that he had had sex with a minor provided by Epstein. Many thought that the interview was a bad idea; however, he proceeded, and it was an unmitigated disaster. As a result, Prince Andrew is stepping down from all Royal engagements and has lost most of the corporate support for his various charities.

Looking at these three cases, the commonality in all of them are:

 

  • A Bad Situation 
  • A Royal Response that is Inappropriate for the Time
  • A Public Reaction which damages the Royal image/brand

With hindsight, it may be easy to say that the Queen and her advisors should have known better, but is that the case? The issue, I would argue, is that the Queen and her advisors are all specialists at the Crown.

We have all heard of the 10,000-Hour Rule made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers! The claim is that greatness requires enormous time, 10,000 hours of practice. The Queen was brought up to be Queen; she knew all that she needed to know about being Queen. Her advisors, over the years, were well-educated people with great diplomatic backgrounds.

At the time of the Aberfan disaster, her private secretary was Baron Michael Adeane, who had attended Eton and Cambridge. Baron Adeane had been an aide-de-camp to the Governor-General of Canada for two years. He served in World War II and afterward was Assistant Private Secretary to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth for seven years before becoming Queen Elizabeth’s Private Secretary. Baron Adeane was a member of the Privy Council, a body of advisors to the sovereign who comprises mainly of senior politicians. Thus, he knew the role of the Monarch and what the country expected, but he failed.

When Princess Diana died, the Queen’s private secretary was Baron Robert Fellowes, who was also Diana’s brother in law. Baron Fellowes attended Eton and then joined the Scot Guards, after which he entered the banking industry where he was a managing director of Allen and Harvey and Ross for 11 years. He was then recruited to join as Assistant Private Secretary in 1977 and finally became Private Secretary to the Queen in 1990. Again someone who knew the role, the country, the people, and was prepared for his job.

There is no need to go through the latest situation as I am sure the advisors to Prince Andrew were as equally well trained and prepared.

These men had the 10,000 hours of training, they were well educated, they knew their jobs, but it all went wrong. Why?

 

Range

Research by Daniel Kahneman identified two kinds of environments:

  • Kind: where a learner improves simply by engaging in the activity and trying to do better, the rules are known, with repeatable patterns. Examples of Kind Environments are Chess and Golf.

  • Wicked: where experience doesn’t improve the results of the specialist because the rules of the game are often unclear or incomplete, there may be no repeating patterns, and often feedback is delayed. Examples of Wicked Environments are emergency rooms, insurgencies.

David Epstein’s recent book, Range, Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, defines Wicked environments as “Martian Tennis.” You can see the players on the court with balls and rackets, but nobody has shared the rules. It’s Martian, so even how things operate in the environment is different. It is up to you derive the rules, and they are subject to change at any time without notice. “

Thus, in all these situations, the Queen and her advisors were playing Martian tennis. The rules had changed; the public expected new things from her, and what worked no longer did so. It was not that she and her advisors were wrong; it was that they were playing the wrong game.

Unfortunately, most of the world is more like Martian tennis than Chess, and that in most fields—especially those that are complex and unpredictable—generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. According to Epstein to succeed in a Wicked Environment; we don’t need specialists, we need generalists, who juggle many interests rather than focusing on one and who are more creative, more agile, and able to make connections between all their area of interest.

Thus when looking for people to lead or advise at top levels, we need to look for people with Range and generalists that can succeed in these Wicked Environments. Ideally we want polymaths, but failing that I would suggest the following three things business leaders can do when looking to hire people with range:

  1. Variety. Look for variety in what the person’s interests and activities. Epstein notes that Noble Laureates are more likely to play musical instruments or act than non Noble Laureates.
  2. Experimentation. Look for people who have tried many things before specializing. Not necessarily people who have tried many things and given up, but who have completed them but then changed direction as they seek to maximizing what economists call “match quality,” or the degree of fit.
  3. Don’t seek precocity. You don’t want someone who has done this all their life from an early age. Those people suffer “fadeout” and have not range when shown something outside their expertise.

Along the same lines, James Carse, the NYU professor and religious scholar has identified two types of games:

  • Finite games have known players, fixed rules, a clear end. The purpose is to win. Like a football game.

  • Infinite games have known and unknown players who shift around. Rules change, and there’s no finish line. Also like a football game.

The problem, according Simon Sinek, is that too many companies think they’re in a finite game. You can’t “win” business, and approaching it like you can could open you up to failure. In Sinek’s new book, The Infinite Game, he offers a framework for individuals, groups, and organizations to shift their thinking and practices to play an infinite game. From a local police department to the Fortune 500, he shows who’s done this successfully…and who’s failed.

As I have reflected on Range and The Infinite Game, it reminds me of the The Wisdom of Crowds, where I think the Crowd recreates Epstein’s range. For wise crowds to outperform irrational ones, these critical criteria are needed:

Criteria Description
Diversity of Opinion Each person should have private information even if it’s just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts.
Independance People’s opinions aren’t determined by the opinions of those around them.
Decentralization People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.
Aggregation Some mechanism exists for turning private judgements into a collective decision.
Trust Each person trusts the collective group to be fair.

The three conditions for a group to be intelligent are diversity, independence, and decentralization, and the best decisions are a product of disagreement and contest. There is no need to chase the expert.

However, the authors note that Crowds produce terrible judgment when the members of the crowd were too conscious of the opinions of others and began to emulate each other and conform rather than think differently. If the decision-making environment is not set up to accept the crowd, the benefits of individual judgments and private information are lost, and that the Crowd can only do as well as its smartest member, rather than perform better. In looking at historical failures of Crowds, the first item he identified was Homogeneity – the lack of sufficient diversity within a Crowd to ensure enough variance in approach, thought process, and private information.

Looking at the Queen and her advisors, they had all come up through the same system, schools, and training. There was too much homogeneity.

So what does this mean for business? Since most of the world is not on the Kind end of the Spectrum, especially not in the fast-changing business world, CEOs have to either hire people with range or ensure that the C-Suite has enough diversity to operate as “great crowd.” They learn beyond practice and assimilate lessons that might even contradict their own direct experience.

May you win at Martian Tennis!

 

© 2019 Marc Borrelli All Rights Reserved

 

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TikTok, Why and Should You? Yes

TikTok, Why and Should You? Yes

Even if you are not on TikTok, you have probably seen the videos. In the world of social media, you’ve got to move with the times and if you’re not fast, you’re last. TikTok is the fastest growing social media platform with more members than Snapchat, and as a marketer, you shouldn’t ignore its rapid growth and rise in popularity. Currently, TikTok is taking share from all the other social media channels and growing like crazy. If your business is B2C you need to understand it. If you are B2B, you should so that you understand the under 30s coming your way!

What is TikTok?

  • TikTok is a mobile app that allows users to create a short, 15-second video of themselves, often featuring music in the background, which can be sped up, slowed down, or edited with a filter.

  • Users can film their reaction to a specific video, and with the app’s “react” feature, place it in a small window that is movable around the screen.

  • The “duet” feature allows users to film a video alongside another video. The “duet” feature was another trademark of musical.ly which TikTok acquired

  • Users to set their accounts as “private” and can choose whether any other user, or only their “friends,” may interact with them through the app via comments, messages, or “react” or “duet” videos.

  • Users also can set specific videos to either “public,” “friends only,” or “private” regardless if the account is private or not.

  • TikTok’s “for you” page is a feed of recommended videos to you based on your previous actions on the app, consisting of what kind of content you’ve liked.

  • TikTok has over 1 billion all-time downloads, and its popularity and influence have only continued to spread.

  • TikTok enables everyone to be a creator and encourages users to share their passion and creative expression through their videos.” Music is the gold in TikTok, and the platform works with musicians whose videos are going viral to help them improve the use of the platform.

While TikTok is a social network, it has nothing to do with one’s social network. It doesn’t ask you to tell it who you know. The app has a “Discover” page, with an index of trending hashtags, and a “For You” feed, which is driven by an AI system that analyzes and tracks user behavior to provide a continually refined, never-ending stream of TikToks optimized for your attention. Essentially, the platform is an enormous meme factory, and giving small pieces until you yell enough!

 

How did it get here?

ByteDance, a Chinese tech company, founded in 2012, owns TikTok. In 2016 ByteDance launched a short video app in China called Douyin, and Douyin took off. Within a year, Douyin had 100 million users and 1 billion video views a day. A year later, Douyin decided to expand outside of China to select international markets under a new name – TikTok. As TikTok shot up the charts in other Asian markets, in the US, a short video app was taking off, Musical.ly, which focused on 15-second lip-syncing music videos. When Vine closed in October 2016, many of its influencers moved to Musical.ly to continue their work. In November 2017, ByteDance acquired Muscial.ly for $1 billion. In August 2018, ByteDance announced it was shutting down Musical.ly and merging it with TikTok. In December 2018, TikTok peaked in the US with 6 million installs that month. ByteDance received a three-billion-dollar investment from SoftBank, and last fall, it was valued at more than $75 billion, the highest valuation for any startup in the world.

 

How does it make money?

TikTok generates a million dollars annually, according to Crunchbase. However, TikTok is aggressively investing in growth right now and is grabbing market shares away from other popular social media channels.
A few potential monetization strategies might be:

  • Advertising revenues generated via targeted ads (similar to YouTube)

  • Allowing content creators to monetize their content as a user-generated platform is critical to the platform long-term success

  • A subscription model for original, more extended form content from the platform that assembles the best short-form content

TikTok has grown so fast that Facebook has taken notice and is building an app, Lasso, to compete against TikTok. However, given TikTok’s position, that may not be easy. TikTok is following its users of a specific demographic around the web via paid ads, and it appears to be ubiquitous. It is blitzscaling to gains as much growth and share as fast as possible.

 

Some TikTok Stats

  1. TikTok was downloaded more than 660M times in 2018.
  2. TikTok is more popular on Android than iOS with 80% of users on Andriod
  3. More than 500 million people globally use TikTok monthly, and 26.5 million are in the US
  4. TikTok’s user base is primarily based in India at 43% of all users.
  5. 66% of users are younger than 30-years-old.
  6. Users typically spend around 52 minutes per day on the app.
  7. In-app purchases increased by 275% year-over-year.
  8. 29% of monthly users open TikTok every day.
  9. The #RaindropChallenge has over 685.7 million views on TikTok.
  10. Jimmy Fallon’s #TumbleweedChallenge created 8,000 videos with over 9 million views in seven days.
  11. There are more than 5 million #InMyFeelings challenge videos on TikTok compared to 1.7 million on Instagram.

 

The Content

TikTok is available in 150 markets. Typically built around music, language doesn’t pose a significant barrier for its videos. As few of the videos have anything to do with the news, they don’t quickly become dated. Kids do TikTok better than adults. According to Jack Wagner, a “popular Instagram memer, “I haven’t seen one piece of content on there made by an adult that’s normal and good.” However, adults are also using the platform, including:

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger, riding a minibike and chasing a miniature pony

  • Drag queens

  • Opera singers

  • the Washington Post

  • dogs on Instagram; and

  • The self-made celebrities of Generation Z.

 

 

Why it is appealing

The platform doesn’t pretend to require a good reason to visit; the only reason is it serves videos that retain your attention. Through its AI system, half an hour has passed before you realize it. What makes it unique is that unlike Instagram and Facebook, it doesn’t make us feel irritated, looking at friends having a better life. The whole family can watch together if the content is appropriate, making it more fun and engaging rather than falling into our closed silo with our device.

Further, TikTok focuses on whatever will retain our eyeballs, and it provides the incentives and the tools for users to copy that content with ease. The platform then adjusts its predilections based on the closed-loop of data that it has created. The scary thing is that the algorithm provides what we want, and we deliver what it wants. When do we know what the difference is between the algorithms and us?

In addition, TikTok has a couple of differentiators. First, as a Chinese company, it has huge market penetration in China, unlike many of the other large social media companies. But TikTok has local market adoption more than other social media companies, helping get more user attraction. Finally, TIkTok is focused on developing local creators in each market and limiting influencers.

 

US Government’s Concern

In January 2019, the Peterson Institute for International Economics, an American think tank, claimed that TikTok poses a national security threat to the West. It noted the app’s popularity with Western users, including armed forces personnel, and its ability to convey location, image, and biometric data to its Chinese parent company, which is legally unable to refuse to share data to the Chinese government. There is discussion in Congress about legislating or banning it, but for now, it is still up and running.

 

So Why Should You Care?

Brands are slowly appearing on the platform. From fashion brands like River Island and Guess to restaurants like Chipolte, to massive sports teams like NFL’s New York Giants, an array of favorites taking up space on the channel now. If your demographic includes Generation Z then you should definitely be considering TikTok as a brand channel. Also, remember that as teens are often ahead of the curve on most things, so even if Gen Z isn’t your thing, your actual target audience may be moving to this platform in the near future so it’s worth reserving your handle and get experimenting!

 

© 2019 Marc Borrelli All Rights Reserved

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