Management Questions

Client Red Flags? Ask These 4 Questions

Ever get a call or an email from a new client and, well, it just doesn’t feel right? I mean, red flags go up, your spider sense starts tingling, the hair on the back of your neck sticks up? You know something’s not quite right but you’re just not sure what it is.

1. How did you find me?
2. Have you ever worked with a _________ (fill in the profession) before?
3. Did you find it useful?
4. What did / didn’t work for you with that professional?


Motivation: It’s Not About Carrots or Sticks
Daniel Pink, author of the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, gives this fascinating 18-minute TED talk in which he declares that sweet carrots (for example, “if you do well, I’ll give you more money”) actually stress people out and often decrease productivity. So what does work to motivate workers? Forget extrinsic motivators like carrots and sticks for difficult tasks that involve problem solving or creative thinking. Instead, focus on intrinsic motivators like:

* Autonomy, the urge to direct our own lives
* Mastery, the desire to get better at something that matters
* Purpose, the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

What are the implications for how managers should run their teams, and what sort of jobs will most motivate young people like you?

Dan focuses here only on Autonomy and gives a few good examples, and touches on the ROWE (Results Only Work Environment). People working under a ROWE system do not have fixed schedules per se and can work at any time. They can show up when they want, essentially. This would not work for all professions due to fixed schedules (teachers and airline pilots come to mind), but it works for a lot of folks in design and software and other creative fields.

Name the Greatest Business Partnerships

Asked by to name his top five historical partnerships, Harvard Business School Dean Jay Light produced this unlikely list:

1. Marie and Pierre Curie
2. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
3. Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale
4. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard
5. James D. Watson and Francis Crick
6. Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs

Lewis and Clark are highlighted, for example, because they are a fine example of complementary opposites. Writes Light:

“Lewis and Clark bonded over a shared love for the outdoors, but they had markedly different personalities. Lewis was a moody, introverted intellectual with a deep knowledge of cartography and natural science. Clark was the gregarious extrovert with a natural flair for leadership. Lewis needed Clark to keep up the esprit de corps through three arduous years while he focused on scientific discovery. Clark simply needed a job.”

Here’s my favorites: Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. At the dawn of the personal computer generation, Wozniak had the technical genius and Jobs had the marketing instincts to transform early attempts at a personal computer such as the Altair, which appealed to hobbyists, into an eventually mainstream consumer electronics device.

The Success Trap

Few businesses are able to avoid the “success ruins everything” syndrome. Some firms overexpand and fail to maintain consistent standards, a fate that has befallen numerous restaurants and celebrity chefs that have spread themselves too thin. Others lose sight of their quality and performance standards in the push to grow quickly. Toyota, which built its reputation and economic success on its quality and design processes, recently admitted that it had let those standards slip in its quest to become bigger than GM. Toyota’s newly appointed CEO promised to return the company to its roots, fixing its quality problems and reinvigorating its technical innovation.

Some companies respond to success by resting on their laurels and ceasing to innovate. Microsoft, with its dominant position in many software markets, failed to improve security and other features on its browser after it crippled Netscape. This lacuna in product development permitted Mozilla to rise from Netscape’s ashes, build a more user-friendly browser, and in the process, gain almost a quarter of the browser market.

The complacency that often comes with success provides a window of opportunity for underdogs and upstarts. Witness Apple’s recent dominance over former cell-phone kingpin Motorola and Ryanair’s profits in a European airline market where its larger competitors are losing money in the face of declining revenues.

And it’s not just companies that suffer from success. So, too, do personal relationships. When a group achieves great success, it can split apart with jealousy as individuals each seek credit and a disproportionate share of the resources from their collective accomplishments. Individuals in firms often come to feel that they could make it on their own and really don’t need their colleagues. “When you’re climbing up the mountain, that’s when you really need each other. Then, when you get near the top, it’s over.”

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