letter to a new manager

On Legacy

In recognition, teams on August 19, 2015 at 8:00 pm

(c) lendingmemo.com.

I’ve been enjoying chipping away at the special Legacy Issue of the Rotman School of Management Magazine and a few snippets that I have found valuable have helped shift my thinking from a definition of legacy that goes beyond awards, scholarships and other named recognition but also reaches beyond changes that outlast the person who instigated them.  I take no big quibble with these definitions of legacy but I prefer the more nuanced treatment highlighted in the survey of articles in this magazine.  How people think and behave as a result interacting with you is your legacy.  And as importantly to me as a manager, maybe our key role is help others build their legacies.

Brief: Make an Impact with Saying Less

In busyness, Communication on August 18, 2015 at 7:50 pm

This book was a decent read in the era of information overload.  As the author says, the most important commodity to a busy person is their time – don’t waste it.

The author focuses on the need to have three key things to tell a tight story:  a headline, a consistent narrative and a powerful conclusion.   It’ll be valuable to do a quick outline with your headline (focal point) and then lay out the challenge, the opportunity and the payoff.

Most helpfully to me was the instruction to start in the middle.  This helps articulate a struggle that I have had in giving feedback for years on why briefings aren’t working.  You lose an audience very quickly if you don’t jump in at what feels like the middle of the story and explain why the audience should care about what you are speaking about.

The book also has some good reminders to study all available information to avoid traveled ground – too many people start the briefing from the top and want to give a full picture of all the circumstances.  Instead you should focus on what you have to say to the audience that is different and valuable from what your audience already knows.



Beyond measure – The secret sauce that makes excellent teams

In brainstorming, Communication, creativity, crisis leadership, emotional intelligence, failure, humility and leadership, influence, listening, teams on July 12, 2015 at 9:10 pm


(c) Wayne S. Grazio

(c) Wayne S. Grazio


I’m enjoying the new series of short books (long essays really) put out by the TED group. These are single topic books that you can buy for your kindle for approx $10-$15 Canadian. I’ve enjoyed all that I’ve read including this first one called “Beyond Measure.” The book is a good and easy read but I’d welcome a longer treatment of the topic – it’s an important one.

The thesis on this one is that great teams are made by something difficult to measure and this is a strong work culture. The author calls it the secret sauce of organizational life.  Culture is comprised of small actions and though often beyond our control as managers, it is happily non-linear in its spread.

You can create a strong work culture by building trust in an environment that generates the best ideas.

Unhelpfully. our brains like efficiency and search for matches including in hiring when we tend to hire mirrors of our selves not people who will help us be windows to the outside world. This means we don’t get the best ideas.

To generate a stronger team culture where new ideas are introduced including ones that will run against the grain, we need courageous leadership.  This is a culture that will see people calmly raise issues and concerns. Unanimity is a sign that participation isn’t really whole-hearted. (She uses harrowing examples of plane crashes caused by bad work cultures and lack of communication, to illustrate this point).

She makes a good point there is often more give in most systems than we’d expect for raising new ideas.  The challenge is to solicit discomforting data which will help us elaborate what we’d see if we were wrong.  She uses a great example of US intelligence sniffing out the end of the cold war in her text.  Basically, the top gun had been told that the cold war was in full force but when he stated probing if contrary data was available he found it. (meat being stolen from trains with no state recourse).

Hearteningly, she tells us what it takes to get collective intelligence in a team:  ensuring each person speaks an equal amount of time, getting a group that is socially sensitive (to needs of others, group dynamics) and groups that include more women (this is thought to be linked to the second element).

The higher the social capital of a group, the better it can deal with conflict. The capital is created through a culture of trust and the ability to build on good ideas to make them even better.

Finally she cites “Project Oxygen” the study Google did on what makes a good manager. Subject matter expertise was found at the bottom of the list which was a surprise to many. At the top, good managers were ones who believe in and care about their staff and take an interest in their lives and allow employees to sort things out by asking them questions instead of giving direction.


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