I had lunch recently with an investor who expressed frustration about founders of startups and scale-ups.
They are not a fund partner, nor VC or from the Private Equity world. No, they actually built a business of value and lived it for the whole journey through to an ultimate sale and cash out for a significant sum, thus giving them space and funds to invest in other businesses. Cards on the table, I prefer such investors as they’ve been through it personally, rolled the sleeves up. Experience brings empathy at a level that is irreplaceable. This gives them a powerful edge in mentoring founders, who often are sorely lacking sounding boards on the roller coaster ride.
So, why was this investor so frustrated when I met them? Could it have been that they wanted to vent along the lines of my own common frustration with founders focussed on raising round after round of funding without actually building a business that generates revenues? Not that day, though certainly something I may write about another time!
No, they were frustrated with founders pretending they are bulletproof. (more…)
This week I went to the cinema in the UK with my oldest son.
During the previews, there was one for the new movie “Bohemian Rhapsody”, a biopic about the amazing Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen. As a teenager I saw Queen live twice, then along with basically the whole of the UK and much of the world, saw that amazing performance in 1985 at Live Aid from Wembley Stadium.
The trailer gave me goosebumps, but then came another video, of a primary school show of children performing the song Bohemian Rhapsody. At the very end of that film came two brand logos and a statement, and the goosebumps were at a whole higher level.
It was, in fact, a brand ad. Not just “a” brand ad, but the BEST. BRAND AD. EVER.
Today I’ll share a clip of Queen at Live Aid, then the movie trailer, the children’s show of Bohemian Rhapsody, then a short explanation of what makes it the best brand ad ever. (more…)
So, how can you be rid of brilliant jerks without firing them, particularly in this world where hiring and firing can be a minefield laden with so much employee legislation, policies, procedures, protocols?
My answer? Lead your organisation rigorously based on values (ie where values are not just words framed on a wall or on a website!), then brilliant jerks will leave of their own volition, you won’t need to fire them.
In fact, keep reading my daily posts, as I’m going to keep riffing around this as feel like I’m on a role, and coming soon will be a post on “no fire” policies and companies that have successfully put this at their core. (more…)
Today I sit on my terrace early in the morning, preparing in my own way for coaching calls with two new clients from an organisation I am supporting as they bravely transform.
While sitting quietly as I tend to do before such calls, I opened my online notes of “things to read, watch, listen to” when I have this kind of space, somehow serendipitously choosing to watch a TED Talk by Amanda Palmer called “The Art of Asking”
So, a “Tom-ism” is: “A leader is someone others choose to follow”
If you make someone follow you, you are a boss, not a leader. If you ask them to follow you and they choose to, things are very different. In addition, those first followers are truly important, as once they follow you, others join them. The more enthusiastic your followers, the more others follow you, and then you have a movement.
Asking people versus making them is more powerful, but why would people choose to do what you ask? The answer is because you have connected to them and we all crave connection.
Amanda Palmer’s superpower is connecting with people, she has done this her whole life, it is her supreme gift. (more…)
So much is said in the media in recent years about how transparency is key to trust. We pressure businesses, institutions, even countries to be transparent so that we can trust them. Really?
This year I was at a talk by Rachel Botsman, author of “Who can you Trust ?”, where she very effectively questioned this conventional wisdom, by asking us to consider a thought experiment, as follows:
“You are married, your spouse has been away on a business trip for an extended period. When they walk into your house, do you immediately ask them to unlock their phone, then investigate every message, email, facebook post they have made or received since you last saw them?”
I’ve run this thought experiment several times since. The answer is always “no, of course, I wouldn’t”, then when I ask “why is that?”, the automatic answer is always “because I trust them!”.
If that is the case in personal relationships, then why do we consider transparency a universal “good”?
Let us extrapolate that idea of checking the phone to business and governance.
Do shareholders in a business insist on going into that business and checking the work of any or all staff at a detailed level? Of course not, it would be incredibly inefficient to do so.
What do they do instead? They appoint qualified and experienced managers, they implement systems, processes and controls.
As a Caymanian, I am considering why there is such a drive from the UK Government to insist, in the name of transparency, on open registers of all owners of companies.
The Cayman Islands Government already has qualified and experienced managers, systems, processes and controls that are efficient and effective ways to ensure criminal and other ownership issues are open to the authorities of other nations.
Why insist on such a level of inefficient transparency then?
Could the answer be simple, that the UK doesn’t truly trust the Cayman Islands? Despite the diplomatic talk from the UK of the importance of the relationship between the two countries, it is a universal truth that trust is at the heart of all relationships. Does the insistence they are making on transparency indicate that the trust between the countries is damaged?
Naturally, that particular conversation may be nuanced, but it does make me wonder.
Transparency? Trust ?
When you are insisting on transparency, ask yourself honestly, is it something I truly need, or is it (to some level at least) driven by a lack of trust?
Peter Drucker famously said : “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, though I prefer the way Nilofer Merchant put it in this HBR article a few years ago:
“Culture Trumps Strategy, Every Time”
A core element of Culture is Trust, how we behave around each other, how far we will go for each other, yet in our increasingly online world we seem to spend more and more time sacrificing building real relationships and instead focussing on shallow ratings, so sacrificing trust for ratings.
I’ve just watched an episode of the Netflix series Black Mirror, called Nosedive (and thanks to Glen Trenouth for the recommendation). Released in October 2016, this episode talks about a world only a little exaggerated from our own where we constantly rate all interactions with each other, almost always with 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟, as if every interaction is a) meaningful, and b) warrants a maximum five stars.
In this futuristic (hmm ?) episode, access to everything, every service, job, airline ticket etc is based on your rating out of 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟. (more…)
I frame the equation that way as for the “value” of a Radical Transparency “score”, to me, would be powered partly by being audaciously, radically transparent, but the real power comes with humility, by removing ego from the equation. (more…)
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” is a wonderful sentiment attributed to the Mahatma (sanskrit for “Great Soul”) that was Gandhi.
What he actually said was “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. ”
Similar, yet even more powerful.
How often are we dissonant with ourselves ? Do we say one thing but do another ?
For me, what am I doing about that ? What is the change I am being in order to make change ?
As a privileged white male, one area I have taken on for years is in promoting diversity ? So many words, yet so little tangible results in our world. As I wrote recently :
I am simply all about change and being the change I wish to see in the world. I am purposeful and passionate about diversity of thought, as well as helping others #BeMoreYou.
What am I doing about it ?
One of the areas I focus on is in mentoring women. This is something I have always done, added to which the majority of my coaching clients over the years have been women leaders.
Despite decades of talk, we are still a very long way away from diversity of thought being present where decisions are made in our world, whether that be in the workplace, in board rooms, in politics, in community action. Wherever you look, women are almost always under-represented.
One of my favourite books of recent years is Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. She clearly is someone who has a life purpose around empowering women, and she lives this wherever she finds an avenue.
Recently she launched #MentorHer through the LeanIn site. Please take a look at the site and consider what you may choose to commit to.
For women reading, ask yourself what you can do to lean in to this, what men could you ask to mentor you ? If you would like to talk to an inspiring confidence coach, Patrycja Skurzak approached me a few year ago via Linked In as she started her journey as a confidence coach. I’ve mentored her for years and she has inspired me. It all started with her leaning in, having the confidence to ask to talk to me. Talk to Patrycja about leaning in to this, having the confidence to ask for what you need in all spaces !
For men reading, ask yourself what you can do to focus upon mentoring women. I’m also happy to talk to you, first listening to what drives you and what you feel you can do, then, where it resonates, share my thoughts and advice from my own experience.
For now, a few thoughts from me based on that experience.
First, we need radical positive discrimination to really effect change in diversity of all forms (and, as per the “My Work” page, this goes beyond gender diversity, though this post today has that focus). Yes, I get and agree with the argument that one should always look for the best person, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, orientation… and yet we are failing to represent adequately beyond the “pale, male and stale” stereotype, so we need discrimination in a positive sense to effect change !
A few real examples as ideas. I’ve used and still do use these for positive discrimination.
If you are facilitating a Q&A, always take the first question from a woman. Always.
If you are asked to be on a panel discussion, ask them who the other speakers are. Note to the organiser that you won’t be on any panel without a woman speaker.
If you have the chance to select from a group of qualified candidates for a key internship, filter it to choose a woman.
Make your first hire a woman (edited to note a caveat from feedback from a woman leader, “if you are only hiring one person then that woman you have hired first had better be the best person for the job. Lots of women wouldn’t want to be that person otherwise.”)
If forming a peer group and setting up meetings through connecting with contacts, focus on women and other diverse groups for your initial members so as to create diversity of thought consciously.
Create and launch a women’s leadership group. Yes, I did this, though at the time felt I couldn’t be part of it, I just conceived it and made the launch happen.
Finally, be part of groups supporting women in leadership. See point 6 above, where my own discomfort used to make me shy away from this. However, women themselves kept asking me to participate, so as the Mahatma said “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” Also, the #MentorHer site notes that men are increasingly uncomfortable working with (and mentoring) women. Step out, lean in, get comfortable being uncomfortable, change the conversation.
As a father of three wonderful boys, I absolutely echo these words from the late, great Coach Jimmy V. He took his NC State Wolfpack team to a remarkable NCAA title in 1983 and his players would have walked through fire for him.
He believed in them, they believed in him. An amazing leader.
A few days ago my son was visiting me in London and we took the River Bus to Greenwich and then the cable car across the Thames. This was hand written on a board as we walked in.
Particularly appropriate words given that I doubt anyone uses that cable car specifically to get to a destination (unique for “TFL” (Transport for London) stations), instead we are all there for the journey over the river Thames and the views. (more…)
In my daily posts on this site, if you dip in and out you may not sense an overarching theme. However, should you choose to get in the habit of reading daily, I hope it will be clear to you that my theme and passion is leadeship, and more particularly what I call #OpenLeadership.
So, what is this diagram about ? Radical candor. (more…)
In 2009, Netflix published the now famous “Culture Deck”, 120 slides, a manifesto for the revolutionary culture created at Netflix.
Sheryl Sandberg famously referred to this deck as “the most important document ever to come out of the valley”. It is still available to view and very much worth reading in full.
So. what is so special about the Netflix culture, and, now that this 2009 deck has been updated and abbreviated to 10 pages of prose, what can I synthesiste and distil for you in a post of no more than two pages of prose ?
Now, I’ve recently moved to the UK after living more than half my life in Cayman, an environment where medical care is broadly similar to the USA model of “pay for service”.
The service at Pindrop is exceptional, yet one thing stood out for me. After my consultation with Rony Ganguly, the founder of the practice, as I got up to leave I asked him if I was to pay at reception. In a highly relaxed way, he said, ‘oh no, we’ll email you the invoice”.
Really, I asked ? You see, I’m so used to paying at the time, if not being made to show I could pay before even receiving a consultation or treatment. Not here. I’d made the appointment online (and then received convenient confirmations by both email and text), then simply come to the consultation. No proof of insurance, no request for payment in advance, and now no requirement to pay before I left.
Refreshing and different !
Sure enough, that same day I received the email invoice, so I was energised to go to my online banking and pay it right away.
Now, a few days ago I then had a follow up with Rony’s colleague, Rakesh Patel, at their other location in London. It was a quick appointment and he didn’t have someone else waiting right away, so I felt to share my experience and ask him his thoughts on this.
As an experienced leadership coach focussed on the “being” of leaders and the presence they bring and philosophies they live, what Rakesh said next really landed.
“We want our patients to trust us, so it makes sense that we choose to trust them”
Nothing more to say here, other than I saw everything in their practice, who they are, how they show up, how they operate…. all of it radiated out from Rakesh’s simple statement.