Are you a liger…. or maybe a leadager?

Ligers are a hybrid male lion and female tiger mix.  They are very rare, occurring only in captivity, and are generally bigger and stronger than their purebred counterparts. They have attributes of both breeds, and are generally very healthy, demonstrating none of the speculated risks of cross-breeding species.

Every now and then I meet someone who reminds me of a liger, because he or she is a hybrid leader and manager. They don’t get caught up in which one they ‘really’ are – they embrace both roles and bring them together seamlessly.  If someone calls them a manager, they say ‘yep, I deliver’, and if someone calls them a leader they say ‘I’m fortunate that people choose to follow my lead’.

These are people who gets things done and therefore lead, and who lead and therefore gets things done.


What’s the hardest part of your day?

If you are a manager, you might feel like the hardest thing you do every day is try to convince people to do their jobs the way you want them done.  How often do you stop to consider why you want things done in a certain way and if it really makes sense?

Do that often enough, and it might become the hardest part of your day….. and convincing people to do it might become incredibly easy.

holocracy – fiction, fad, or for real?

Seems we are hearing a lot these days about “holocracy”.  Its alliteration might stir up some fiction in your mind, with thoughts of Orwell, Roddenberry, or even Golding coming up. But it isn’t any of those things in the business world.

The Zappos announcement at the beginning of this year kicked off a media storm about holocracy “getting rid of managers” and doing away with hierarchy.  If you listen to much of what the media is writing, you would think that Zappos and other companies considering this type of structure are going to a free-for-all type of environment, an “anything goes” lark of a work environment where there is no accountability or structure.

If that were true, I’d place my bets on holocracy being a fad.  But, if you look at the actually well established constructs of a holocracy, you will find that much of what the media is portraying is incorrect.  Within this type of approach, there is most definitely structure, hierarchy, and accountability. The “Holocracy Constitution” does justice to the extent to which governance and structure is embedded in the assumptions of a functioning holocracy.

While Zappos is making news these days with this somewhat new term, there are companies that have been modeling this type of approach for decades. W. L. Gore might not call their structure a holocracy, but back in the 1950s when it was founded, it took a very different approach to hierarchy and management that it has sustained throughout its history. If you want to know if a company like Zappos can take this route and thrive, check out how Gore has done it (here’s a great Fast Company article) in a sustainable way.

I think that as the media hype settles down and people start to pay serious attention to the alternative approach a holocracy provides while also attending to a very human and social desire to organize around social structures, we will find that the ideas are here to stay.  It is a well thought out “social technology” that goes far beyond a surface thought of getting rid of managers and hierarchy. Whether older, larger, more established companies that have been in traditional hierarchies with autocratic or overwhelming bureaucracy can turn to something more distributed is certainly a good question, but don’t dismiss it too quickly as an idea, especially for start-ups or targeted divisions or groups within larger companies. I think it is here to stay, in some form or another, and as a viable alternative hierarchy to the often bloated and suffocating hierarchies of companies today.

Want to get something done? Try using a name.

Names are incredibly powerful connection tools across cultures. They establish boundaries, they indicate relationship power structures and levels, they build intimacy, and they serve to bring someone closer to you, even in small ways.

Consider the difference between someone referring to you by an old and familiar nickname as opposed to your surname, or Mr. or Ms. so-and-so.  Your relationship to that person is immediately apparent to those around you and it is reinforced between you. And yet, it is easy to fall into a rhythm in relationships both personal and professional where we forget to use people’s names. Whether face to face, over the phone, email, or messaging services, we sometimes simply bypass the initial greeting these days, and throughout the whole conversation never once use a persons proper name or even a nickname.

Using a name is a powerful connection device that serves to remind, reinforce, or build a relationship.  Give it a try – for one day, make a point of using people’s names at least once in every interaction. Notice the checkout person’s name at the grocery store and use it in a sentence (‘Thanks, Joe, have a great day’). When you order your lunch, take note of your server or checkout person’s name (‘Laura, I’ll have the chicken salad’). When you get home from work, use your significant other’s name in a sentence (‘Matt, what do you think we should do for dinner?’), and with a co-worker try and use a name at least once in a conversation (‘That’s a great point, Mary, here’s what I think….’).  You may be surprised to find that it takes some effort to put a name into what is a routine interaction, and also at the results – people stop and really look at you, they pay attention to what you are saying in a different way, and it often leaves them with a smile because they have been recognized in a special way. Often, you get better service, more attention, and higher response rates from people with whom you have both close and distant relationships.

Names matter, and even though we now have caller-id and other clues to knowing for ourselves who is connecting with us, acknowledging the interaction with a name will create a stronger connection and often better quality results. Try it, and see what happens then.

Five Miles


Remember Boston – The power of imagery

A year ago two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon. Four people were killed, hundreds were wounded, and thousands of lives were changed forever. Today marks the anniversary, and in taking a moment to remember, I visited Robert Fogarty’s amazing website, Dear World.  Robert uses images in pictures and video to capture the essence of what people want and need to communication.  Their stories are told so simply and so powerfully in his work.  It is a wonderful reminder that often in communication less is more, and that stories transcend in our memories.

Check them out and take a minute today to remember not just Boston, but those around the world who have been just going about their lives only to be caught up in something that has nothing to do with them. What they do then is astounding in its resilience, its hopefulness, and its testament to the power of the human spirit.

Robert Fogerty’s Dear World Series on Boston Survivors Robert Fogarty's Boston Pictures


Truth or power – can you tell the difference?

Today we have more transparency and access to information than ever before. Sometimes it is overwhelming, other times it is wonderful to have so much at our finger tips. It makes us feel we have all sorts of ways to find”the truth” about almost anything.

It is still challenging to find ‘the truth’  though, and perhaps it is bound up in the way we cling to a belief in “the truth” – a single, finite, ultimate truth about something that is “the last word”. Is there ever really a single truth, a final statement? Think about all of the truths that have been debunked or modified over the centuries as the political power structures have changed. Try to imagine for a moment the truths we believe in today that will seem quaint or even harmful in years to come.

Nietzsche said that “All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.” It may be tough to accept that our fundamental beliefs, our most deeply held truths, are influenced by functions of power. When we challenge power structures, we challenge truths, and that can be dangerous business. But, if we can’t be at least open to the possibility, our worlds are very narrow.

One of our biggest challenges as humans is to really see power at work in our worlds and to acknowledge how it influences our beliefs, what we hold to be true. We naturally tend to view truths provided by powers that privilege and reinforce us as ‘correct’ and truths provided by powers that challenge, disrupt, or threaten us as being ‘incorrect’ or ‘not true’ and we look for evidence to support that.  Science is as susceptible to this influence as any truth-making machinery ever invented, even with the controls it has in place – the constraint Nietzsche describes is everywhere.

Perhaps we can’t escape it, but don’t be afraid to question the ways in which power influences your interpretation of what is true and not true. Be bold in examining how your own power is supported by what you choose to view as true. It can be scary to think about what happens then – once you’ve stripped away some of the reassurances and gotten below the surface, but it can also help you to develop whole new views, attitudes, and approaches to the world, which is pretty cool to do.

From Crystal Coast Optometry, here's an optical illusion that will challenge you to think about how your eyes can deceive you from the truth - are the dots really moving?

From Crystal Coast Optometry, here’s an optical illusion that will challenge you to think about how your eyes can deceive you from the truth – are the dots really moving?


Are you a curious person?

A few posts back I talked about curiosity feeding innovation (see here).

I think that people who are known for innovation are naturally curious not just about their specific areas of expertise but about the world at large. They talk to people, they take an interest in what others do and think, and they naturally expose themselves to new ideas.

If you want to develop your curiosity, start with your immediate surroundings. What are three things in your  world that you take for granted, that you don’t understand, or that you might have wondered about? Maybe it is what the person three offices down really does, or how WiFi really works, or if those three different kinds of fuel at the pump really matter for your car. Whatever it might be, pick one and spend just a few minutes investigating and learning.  It doesn’t take signing up for a semester long course or some other big commitment to develop your curiosity – it can be as simple as asking a few questions every day. Soon enough being curious will be a habit you can’t live without, and wait until you see what happens then!

The other day I was curious about this sign at the local bagel shop. When I went in I had to ask….. wouldn’t you  ??

Do you drive through, or do you park? Hmm…..

Do you drive through, or do you park? Hmm…..


What happens then? You just come back.

Two months ago I put my blog on hiatus while I finished up a very cool project with a great client,  then went on a family vacation, and then had some downtime at home.  As I sat down last week to start writing again, I got a call from a former coaching client and we had a great conversation. He is interested in starting a blog, and I mentioned that I was getting back to writing this week. He asked me if it was hard to get started again and I said “well, you know, you just come back. There are no rules, there’s no etiquette, there’s not a process map to follow.  You just start writing again, it really is that simple.”

For those of you who have been reading for a while, thank you, welcome back, and I hope you enjoy this month’s focus on driving business results through innovative approaches to thinking about products, customers, markets, and sales. If you are new, please feel free to say hello, send in any questions or suggestions, and / or peruse the past.  I’m looking forward to getting back to writing, and to hearing about your experiences, questions, and thoughts.

In the meantime, enjoy this picture from my recent holiday in Cayman Brac, a lovely island with friendly people and fantastic diving!

Sunrise off of Cayman Brac

Sunrise off of Cayman Brac