November 2018

About to flame someone at work with an email? Don't.

Someone at work has just done something unbelievably dumb. You have authority over this person. You need to show how annoyed you are. You want to put your outrage on the record. You have composed a forceful email showing exactly where blame lies and why the behaviour is unacceptable. You are about to click SEND.
I give this advice to attendees of my leadership programme, Fast Forward. When you are angry, do not hold meetings, write emails or do anything else that can't be reversed. Give it one night. Go to sleep, wake up, then look at the situation again. If the email still looks OK to you, send it. Better still, hold a meeting with the person in question and talk it out.
Do not trust yourself when you are very angry. That is when you are at your smallest as a leader: brimming with self-righteous anger, looking to take it out on someone. Hold yourself back. A better you will emerge after a night's sleep. Some context may appear. You may see a bigger picture. You may now take the necessary action. If disciplining is needed, you will go ahead and do it. But in a more calm and collected manner.
Some of the worst mistakes of leadership are committed when the red mist has descended. Don't join the ugly brigade.

Tech disruption is most potent when it's intensely local

Google has not had a happy time with social networks. Its last experiment, Google+, just got shuttered (seriously, did anyone use that?). In India, though, Google is making a fresh start - with a key difference. Neighbourly is a networking app that allows people to share information about local facilities and services. Google spent two years researching this one - and found that there was great need for an app that mimics the traditional Indian neighbourhood. It also listened to people saying they did not want intrusive interactions or spamming, and wanted relative anonymity. This helps a lot more women to come on board. The app also allows you to speak your question in your local language.
Meanwhile, Amazon figured out that only 10 per cent of India's 1.3 billion people speak English, and has made its website and apps available in Hindi. WeChat exploded in China but was a dud in India, because it committed basic boo-boos like putting out a 40MB app where most phones had less than 200MB internal memory. Or not putting in video compression, thus killing a vital sharing function in a low-bandwidth setting.
When you take your hit product to a hot new market, think local first. Can your assumptions. Do your grassroots research properly. Find out what the quirks and pecularities of the local scene are. Hire locals to lead the show and understand the hidden nuances.

Alive at Work, by Daniel Cable

“Exploring, experimenting, learning: this is the way we're designed to live. And work, too. The problem is that our organisations weren't designed to take advantage of people's seeking systems. Thanks to the Industrial Revolution - when modern management was conceived - organisations were purposely designed to suppress our natural impulses to learn and explore.”

So true: we fail to learn and grow and innovate at work because that's what most organisations are designed NOT to do. Most are set up to confine you, make you play safe, understand your boundaries. They reward you for performance that's preset by someone else; they punish you for not doing things someone else thinks you ought to. They instil fear, not adventure. If that's your organisation, don't look so surprised when creativity and innovation are epic fails.
This is one of the most important books I have read for a while, one that concords with my own lifetime of observation, teaching and writing. We are doing the human-at-work thing wrong.

Why don't good employees come to work for you?

If you're an entrepreneur or business leader, you probably ask this a LOT: where do I find talent? Why are great employees so scarce? Where should I look for them? What's the secret?
Here's a short video to help you understand that those are all the wrong questions. You don't find great employees; THEY find YOU. What are you doing to create a workplace the best people ask to join? Click above for some pointers.
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