Archive for the 'human nature' Category

The secret to effective people management

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, talking and reflecting these last few months on a broad cross section of things. One of them is people management, which actually has been a competency I’ve spent years trying to understand: whether it was managing volunteers at non-profits, coaching junior staff in a work environment, or observing how other people interact with others and the impact it had. Today I came across something on Quora that Ben Pieratt wrote and which I think is very wise. He reflects on the work ethic:

I think it comes down to the fact that, for some people, work is personal. Personal in the same way that singing or playing the piano or painting is personal.

As a creative person, you’ve been given the ability to build things from nothing by way of hard work over long periods of time. Creation is a deeply personal and rewarding activity, which means that your Work should also be deeply personal and rewarding. If it’s not, then something is amiss.

Creation is entirely dependent on ownership.

Ownership not as a percentage of equity, but as a measure of your ability to change things for the better. To build and grow and fail and learn. This is no small thing. Creativity is the manifestation of lateral thinking, and without tangible results, it becomes stunted. We have to see the fruits of our labors, good or bad, or there’s no motivation to proceed, nothing to learn from to inform the next decision. States of approval and decisions-by-committee and constant compromises are third-party interruptions of an internal dialog that needs to come to its own conclusions.

Worth reading is also this interview with the CEO of Zynga (one of the fastest growing companies in Silicon Valley). He says what he does to motivate staff, which put words to what I’ve seen in my own observations of effective (and ineffective management).

You can manage 50 people through the strength of your personality and lack of sleep. You can touch them all in a week and make sure they’re all pointed in the right direction. By 150, it’s clear that that’s not going to scale, and you’ve got to find some way to keep everybody going in productive directions when you’re not in the room…

…I’d turn people into C.E.O.’s. One thing I did at my second company was to put white sticky sheets on the wall, and I put everyone’s name on one of the sheets, and I said, “By the end of the week, everybody needs to write what you’re C.E.O. of, and it needs to be something really meaningful.” And that way, everyone knows who’s C.E.O. of what and they know whom to ask instead of me. And it was really effective. People liked it. And there was nowhere to hide.

In case you miss the point, this is it: giving ownership is a powerful emotional state that can literally transform the perception someone has of their work.

Update 11 October 2010: My good friend Alisdair Faulkner — an experienced technology entrepreneur and executive — explains the spirit of the term “ownership” better with a clarification. Alisdair says it’s less so about  ‘ownership’ than it is ‘creative control’, which he says means “Authority and Accountability vested in the same individual”.

Social melebrities and the externality of arrogance

The biggest impact the web and the Internet has had on society can be described using one word: "social". Social computing, social networking, social software, social media – the list goes on. The ability for humans to connect sounds simple, but it’s literally shaking up entire industries. With the rise of mass collaboration however, there has been the creation of a new class of denizen.

Social melebrities
Social media is a broad-based buzz word now becoming mainstream, to describe technologies that enables many-to-many communication between humans. A defining characteristic of social media is that it’s a public discussion. It’s like having a conversation with someone around a water cooler and the people sitting nearby join in on the conversation. Although the message is directed to one specific entity, that same message can be seen by people not originally intended to get the message.

Enter the social melebrity: a social media celebrity. They are people aware of how others can see their message, and consequently, modify their behaviour accordingly.

Celebrity

The problem with social melebrities. As someone becomes more engaged in "social media", a natural fact that emerges is that you become better known. People will subscribe to your content and communications, which in turn creates this sense of self-importance. It implies if people are watching you then therefore you are influential.

An externality of this process however is arrogance. It feeds into the day-to-day language of people, and creates unhealthy behaviours. Like the obsession of people getting more followers on a site like Twitter, is really a symptom of someone chasing for influence to feed their insecurity that they somehow matter.

Extending Twitter as the casestudy,
– most people that follow you are spam and inactive accounts. That growing number of followers doesn’t mean anything. That’s not influence.
– Most people that use Twitter have a job. That means, they cannot physically track every Tweet and at the same time be productive. In other words, if they are people that are doing amazing things in this world, they haven’t got time to track everything you say all the time. That’s not influence.

Arrogance

Remind yourself that you’re unique – just like everyone else. Once you delve into this world, just assume you are going to get a lot more exposure of your personal brand. Good on you if you do – but remember, it doesn’t matter. Real influence comes from the types of people that follow you, not from the amount of people that follow you (and following can vary in itself depending how how engaged they are in you). There’s no easy metric to determine "real" influence or reach, but there’s a lesson in that nevertheless: drop the arrogance. You might be famous now – but so is everyone else.

People think like two-year-olds

A few thoughts:

1) Property ownership is one of the central tenets of capitalism.

2) At work, I am involved in a special assignment. Throughout the initiative, I’ve caused a lot of friction with various groups because it was perceived that I was infringing on their “territory”.

3) Myspace allows users to customise their profile however they want. And people do.

4) My two-year old niece is going though a stage where everything is “hers”.

5) Capitalism works better than any other economic system; my firm is very successful as an organisation; Myspace is a run-away hit; my niece is a happy baby.

Notice a trend? The only difference between you and a toddler is that you don’t say “mine” every time someone takes your toy. Want to get peoples’ support or to buy your product? Then remember this: property and giving people a sense of ownership is how us humans work. We take comfort in what we can control.