Archives: March 2010

Quote of the Week/
The Emotional Gender

"The banking crisis was caused by doing what no society ever allows: Permitting young males to behave in an unregulated way. Anyone who studied neurobiology would have predicted disaster."—Sheelan Kolhatkar, "What If Women Ran Wall Street?" (New York magazine/03.29.10)

(Another wonderful part of this "turn-the-tables" story is that the men's principal failing is that they are ... too emotional. The women are calm and measured. This is not anecdotal; the evidence is overwhelming. So much for the flighty girls and just-the-facts boys mythology.)

Audio-Video Updates

New audio files! Tom read the whole of The Little BIG Things, and it's available from the usual sellers as an audiobook. But we're also giving you a chance to hear his reading by posting a section at a time on our book page. Today's section is titled "Opportunity." Don't miss it!

#12: Tough Times? Matchless Opportunity!
#13: Boring Is Beautiful! (Or at Least It Can Be.)
#14: "Old" Rules. (Yes, Even in the "Age of the Internet.")
#15: Build Green Now. (No Excuses!)
#16: Bottom Line in Bad Times: Obsess Over the Top Line.

And, the latest video is "Thoughts on Budget," in which Tom says that you shouldn't ignore budget, but how many memorable engineering projects can you name that didn't go over?

[Here's the video (time: 3 minutes, 4 seconds) and a transcript (PDF).]


I really don't need to do this, but I will anyway.

I Tweeted this morning on over-testing in healthcare: Buy MRI/CAT scanner. Big bucks. Must amortize in piecework/pay-by-procedure medicine by ordering as many tests as possible. Leads to $1 trillion over-treatment price tag. Leads to at least 10,000 deaths.

You know what?

I'm also pissed off that most companies don't cater to HUGE older folks market.
I'm also pissed off that most companies don't jerk their strategies around 178-degrees to serve the women's market.
(And put women in leadership roles accordingly.)
I'm pissed off that managers aren't assiduous in practicing MBWA.
I'm pissed off that managers are such shitty listeners.
I'm pissed off that managers say "thank you" so infrequently.

Bob Waterman, my In Search of Excellence coauthor once told, as I recall, BusinessWeek that, "Tom's not happy unless he's pissed off."

Probably true.

Yipee! The reviews of The Little BIG Things have been mostly very good. But those who don't like it invariably complain about too much stuff in BOLD print. I understand their point, and suppose it is sometimes distracting.

But I'm pissed off.
And pissed off requires ... BOLD.

Hey, it's not worth getting out of bed unless you are determined to alter some small corner of the world. That's a BOLD aspiration.

So, for better or for worse ... BOLD it will be.
Must be.


Green shoots showing amid brown stalks

Wednesday is the last day of the 1st quarter of the year.

Ye gads.
Feels as if the Christmas tree lights were just re-boxed.

Quarterly earnings reports are a big deal for public corps. Too big a deal, some say, because of their emphasis on short-term results.

Maybe it's my age showing, but I think 90 days is a long time.

If you made some serious personal or professional "resolutions" for 2010, and your progress is slim, well, 90 days is a looooong time. That is, you're pretty far behind the eight ball.

My point: I heartily urge you, in, at most, the next 10 days to issue a 1Q10 Results Report for Anne R. Smith, or Robert Edmonds or ...

I suggest that the report be Formal in all respects, and 2 pages or less in length (there can be Appendices). I suggest that it more or less cover:

• Progress, scored quantitatively, against key resolutions.
• Projects underway or completed and their score on a 1-10 "Wow Scale."* (*One
measure of "Wow": Odds that I'll be talking about this one 2 years from now.)
• Revised or new or discontinued resolutions for the year.
• Network development activities-plans-goals. (Be rigorous in your reporting.)
• Lifelong learning projects launched or completed. (Including coolest new area you're busy learning about right now.)
• Key steps for the 1st 2 weeks of the new quarter.
• Progress against a set of personal behavioral aspirations such as improvement at listening or showing appreciation or ...
• A 10-word summary of 2010 for you so far. ("Really demonstrating my project start-up skills."
• Overall "Grade" for the year to date.
• If you're a boss, specific successes at people development (answer in detail, no generalizations allowed—use Appendix.)

I suggest that this effort is worth a pretty decent investment in time.
And I suggest that you review it with a trusted advisor or two; otherwise it need not see the light of day.

[Some things have started but have a long way to go. Picture above, Spring in Tinmouth VT is a possibility but hardly around the corner yet!]

Tom's Been Talking

This past Friday Tom talked to several bloggers, so over the weekend a crop of interviews became available that we'd like to mention.

Anthony Iannarino at The Sales Blog posted his interview with Tom on Saturday and Sunday. You can read it here: Part One (27 March 2010), and Part Two (28 March 2010).

At Wall Street Journal online (subscription required), Alexandra Levit did an interview titled "Grandma Was Right." (She was referring to age-old wisdom in The Little BIG Things.)

Finally, Ron Holohan at asked Tom his opinion of the Toyota recall news. You can find that interview in text and audio here, and soon it will be available at iTunes. We'll add a link when it's done. [March 31 addendum: Link to iTunes.]

We've been linking reviews of The Little BIG Things on our book page and on our media page—you might want to take a look. We appreciate all the great feedback, especially from our Cool Friends.

My Socialist Day

I think of my self as a free-markets fanatic. I've earned my keep on that score, through everything including testimony to Congress. Hey, I was even asked to contribute a blurb to a collection of F.A. Hayek readings from the U. Chicago press.

Nonetheless ...

I started my day, you'll be glad to hear, with a clean T-shirt. Made in China, of course, but odds are, made in China from highly subsidized cotton grown in Texas. Milk on my cereal this morning, rather inexpensive, courtesy the New England Dairy Compact. Off to the country store to get papers—traveling on a tax-subsidized road. Waved to neighbor's children waiting for a subsidized bus heading to a subsidized school. Whoops, forgot, was online at dawn's early light; most of the tools I used, microchips, Internet, etc., were to a significant degree products of Department of Defense-funded R&D.

If my sore throat doesn't get better, off to the doc's. More subsidized roads, and when I get to the office, out comes my Medicare card. Several testing devices will doubtless have been covered in part by subsidies of some sort.

And so on.
And on.

So I will go on preaching self-sufficiency, free markets, unfettered entrepreneurialism, and the like. But every now and then I reserve the right to laugh at myself for thinking that I'm a self-reliant person.

The Grameen Lesson?

When Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus began his micro-lending efforts at Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, he had no preference as to whether loans went to men or women. To make a long story very short, male recipients often frittered the money away (alas, drank it away in many instances), while women overwhelmingly devoted their loan proceeds to their business, their family, and their community. As a result, through trial and error, Grameen has ended up with over 90% female recipients. (This is all the more startling given that Bangladesh is a Muslim country.) (And the story has been repeated, pretty much chapter and verse, elsewhere by Grameen and others.) (In the NGO aid-dispensing business, it's a given that getting the local women's network on your side is a 100.00% necessity.)

All this got me thinking about the controversial new healthcare bill. Women pretty much everywhere are the principal decision makers in family affairs. And, among other things, they make upwards of 80% of family healthcare decisions. (Actually about 90%, but I'm being conservative.) Moreover, the old saying goes, as you get older you had better hope that you had a daughter; when it comes to old-parent affairs, "boys" are notoriously, uh, not "girls." (I've observed this numerous times; and I am stepfather to two boys; and I am non-young.)

Oddly, most of the polls on the healthcare legislation were not divided by gender. But the two readings I did get, courtesy Newsweek and Princeton Research Associates, did not surprise me. In short, women were 12% more favorable in one case and 20% more favorable in the other (in the latter, women were +14%, men –6%). Also, alas, it doesn't take a genius to recognize that most of the intemperate public remarks came forth from the mouths of males. (The most memorable women's quote on the House floor, to my mind, went more or less, "With this bill, being a woman will no longer be a 'pre-existing condition.'" Insurers in several states, nine as I recall, tag spousal abuse as a pre-existing condition.)

There is honestly no "bottom line" to this post; but as I have been vociferously championing women's issues (women as underserved market opportunity #1, women in leadership positions in greater numbers to match market power) for about 15 years (pretty much the only "guru" to do so), I simply wanted to see how it played out in healthcare legislation.

(NB: God knows, I'm not claiming that men don't care about their families. I am suggesting that men are less likely, far less likely, to be decision-makers concerning family issues.) (In the Grameen case, it's, of course, a little more extreme than that.)

Strategies: Diversity Wins

In the latest addition to the video series, Tom reports that mixed-bag groups do better work than those made up of experts.

You can watch the video (2 minutes, 55 seconds) or download a transcript: Diversity Wins.

Cool Friend #146: Bill Warner

Our new Cool Friend Bill Warner was about age 20 when he started his first company. Twelve years later, in 1987, he founded Avid Technology, a company that went on to win an Emmy and an Oscar®—the Oscar being for transforming the editing process in film-making! Currently Bill is working with nonprofits including FutureBoston and Move With Freedom, guiding start-up companies, and working to transform the high-tech scene in Massachusetts. He has acted as an angel investor for eight start-ups and for three nonprofits. Read the interview to learn Bill's thoughts on how intention leads to invention, the difference between intention and vision, and how to keep "your" people happy. There's no book as yet, but we hope there will be soon.

Life’s Work!

What do managers do for a living?

How many of us could call ourselves "professional helpers," meaning that we have studied, like a professional mastering her craft, "helping"?

Not many, I'd judge.

I've got the solution!
Or, rather, Edgar Schein, emeritus Professor of Management at MIT, does.

Ed has been a pioneer in organization and personal change. At it since the 1950s. And now he's written his summa, a 157-page book titled Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help. Based on tested theory, it is very readable. And practical.

The last chapter consists of "tips" and 7 "principles." E.g.:

"PRINCIPLE 2: Effective Help Occurs When the Helping Relationship Is Perceived to Be Equitable.
"PRINCIPLE 4: Everything You Say or Do Is an Intervention that Determines the Future of the Relationship.
"PRINCIPLE 5: Effective Helping Begins with Pure Inquiry.
"PRINCIPLE 6: It Is the Client Who Owns the Problem."*

*TP: Love the idea that the employee is a Client!! (Words matter!!)

Employee as Client!
"Helping" is what we [leaders] "do" for a living.
STUDY/PRACTICE "helping" as you would neurosurgery.
("Helping" is your neurosurgery!)