Sunday, January 20, 2013

Understanding people makes the difference

According to Covey (see my post on the mission statement) by understanding that people perceive things differently, we can understand each others better. People can even change the way they perceive things. It is called a paradigm shift. Actually people can change their lives by shifting the paradigm!

The picture I'm posting below is a classic one. I post it as a reminder to all of us, as it demonstrates how differently people can see and understand the same thing.  None of the perceptions are incorrect. 

What do you see? 

A beautiful young woman wearing a necklace or an old lady?

Or something else?

What you see is a result of your conditioning and determines your attitude and behaviour towards the woman in the drawing. When we acknowledge different alternatives, we can better understand each others and even change the way, we perceive things.

Jobs and Branson - Part 2

"Oh, it is actually a piece of shit" said Jobs about the Windows program. "Yeah, it's a nice little piece of shit" replied Gates.

This blog post is about the leadership styles of Jobs and Branson who were very different leaders. Needless to say, both were very successful. Let's look at some of the differences in the styles.

Products vs. People
Jobs was an exceptionally unreasonable genius together with his unbelievable ability to articulate his vision. He made people to build products he wanted! Most of those products people thought were impossible, but Jobs made them to create them. Think about groundbraking products such as iMac, iPad, iPhone, not to forget programs such as iTunes and digi movies from Pixar- along the way of his career, Jobs and his people transformed seven industries: personal computing, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, retail stores, and digital publishing.

Branson seems to be more down to earth and relaxed leader than Jobs, although he also is known by setting huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them. He built Virgin Airlines, Virgin Music, Virgin Comics etc and now the space trips. However, he argues he has much more human approach than Jobs. He says his priority is the people: "for us, employees matter most. Start off with a happy well-motivated workforce, you're far more likely to have happy customers".

Criticism vs. Praise
Jobs had his special way of challenging people. It was usually three words: "This is shit". Those words were often said when the employees presented their innovations or work results to him. People learnt to interpret them as "Tell me why this is the best way to do it", says one of the engineers who worked for Jobs.  Employees did much better after Jobs had challenged them, "which shows, you can push back on him, but should also listen as he’s usually right", he continues.  Jobs also could come back to his employees and present the idea he had just rejected as his own. 

Jobs always said, it was his role to be honest. He would  shout at a meeting, "You asshole, you never do anything right," Debi Coleman recalls. “Yet I consider myself the absolute luckiest person in the world to have worked with him." If Jobs wasn’t crying about getting his way, he was usually making those around him to fear- he had a way of spotting personal weaknesses, and calling them out to devastating effect.  Despite this, many supertalents worked for him, even loved to do so. It seems the  leadership style of Jobs was awful, but it was an integral part of his personality. The passion, intensity, and extreme emotionalism he brought to everyday life were things he also poured into the products he made, says Isaacson. That all was part of his perfectionism

Branson who also is regarded as a passionate leader in the business world has a very different view on leading people. He believes the people working in his company are members of his family and his company is a home for him. It is all about people. He thinks, one needs to draw out the best in people, but by lavishing praise and not criticizing. It has been his role as a leader to inspire his people to flourish. Branson believes criticism only makes the employees shrivel. He praises his people and believes in them and their ideas. He also says never humiliate your employees for the mistakes they have made, whereas Jobs would shout at them. Branson talks to them personally about the mistake and finds a quick solution to fix it. This all sounds like a perfect world!

Hire A Players vs. Promote Internally
Steve Jobs believed that recruiting was the most important thing he did. He managed all of the recruiting for his team; never delegating it. He wanted to hire A Players and believed, A Players hire A Players as they want to work with other A Players. This worked perfectly! Before Jobs died, he was surrounded by an intensely loyal cadre of colleagues who had been inspired by him for years. These people were exceptional talents. Jobs treated them as top athletes who needed to be pushed and challenged to reach their limits, not to become bothered. He also said, those supertalents do not need any "baby" things.

Branson surrounds himself with people who are genuinely excited about what he is doing. He built a philosophy in Virgin of trying to promote from within. "The advantage is you know someone's weaknesses and strengths when they get promoted. We often promote people above the position they'd expect. I've had the cleaning lady running the record studio. I've had someone who was a flight attendant managing a hotel. She worked her way up" says Branson.

Delegate vs. Micromanage
Jobs rarely delegated anything, and was very well known of his micromanagement.  Jobs was legendary of his attention to details, together with his vision. That all links to his perfectionism. After he passed away, Apple employees missed mostly his micromanagement, not innovations.

Branson is a great delegator who does not try to do everything by himself: "whatever you spend all day doing, try to find someone better than you to do that to replace you at it so you can go off and think about the next big picture“. He believes an entrepreneur is not a manager, but someone who is great at conceiving ideas, starting ideas and building them, but then requires other people for implementing them and managing people.

Although these leadership differences, Jobs and Branson have both been genius leaders with vision, passion and courage!

I have added below couple of interviews of Jobs. He does not seem to be that awful leader in these videos than one can read from his biography, but the passion he has is almost tangible:

Last, but not least, let Branson to tell his own words what it means to be an entrepreneur and how to make best out of it:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thomas Minder wants the fat cat on a diet

A Swiss cosmetic entrepreneur and politician Thomas Minder was not happy. The realities of the financial world with risks hit him. He had inherited a toothpaste company that supplied herbal toothpaste to Swissair.  This company called Trybol made some losses during the Swissair grounding. At a same time he lost money, the CEO (ex CFO Nestle) of Swissair receive millions CHF compensation. Minder was very unhappy for the the high compensation level of Monti, who who seemed to destroy the value of the company. Minder thought, the Boards that take care of the shareholders interests are not capable on taking proper decisions on the senior management and even their own compensation in Switzerland. The outcome of his mental journey was a "rip-off" initiative to put "the fat cat" on forced and governed diet. It is also called the Minder initiative.

In Switzerland, Swiss citizen may propose changes in the law through an initiative. It needs to be signed by 100k citicens within 18 months in order to be taken to a nationwide vote. In Feb 2008 Minder collected 114k names. Five years later, the vote is taking the place in March 3. In order to win, Minder needs to get the majority of the votes from citizens and cantons. In case he does not make it, the indirect counter-proposal will become effective with two year transition period.

Minder initiative clearly shifts the responsibilities of the Board to shareholders with binding votes on "say on pay".  That is fine as long as people who have the say, have the knowledge and understanding. Opinion polls also make it more difficult to blame anyone. Shareholders can not blame the Board as their opinions are the ones that count. 

Thomas Minder. Photo from webpage (Simon Brühlmann, Schaffhauser Nachricten)

Imagine companies with globally over 125k shareholders from private to institutional ones. Now imagine an electronic voting system and someone in Trinidad and Tobago voting on the total compensation on the company X's senior management and the Board members. It is challenging as one needs to understand more about the individuals, their performance and how the compensation is defined and related to the company's profits in order to make a responsible decision to vote "yes" or "no". Minder also seems to think the shareholders are neither always capable in making the compensation decisions as he wants to prohibit certain payments totally, such as sign on and severance payments.

Now let's think about to the basic reason of the existence of the company. It is to add value to the owners, society, customers and employees. By adding value to the shareholders, companies pay dividends, grow and improve their shareprice. Simultaneously with increasing profits the tax income paid to the societies is increasing. Companies may even donate to charity and to universities in order to give something back to the communities. Most importantly, in order to make profits and pay to the other stakeholders, companies need to add value to customers with their products or services.  Companies need a great leader who hires great people. All these people need a compensation for their resources, as do the owners for the money they have invested. Typically companies make their senior management as their owners and align their interests with the shareholders.

None of the successful entrepreneurs or great leaders would say they work for money. They say, they love what they do, money is not the driver. However, everyone has his or her pride and self esteem. People want to be paid on a fair way. If one runs the business successfully, there needs to be a fair pay involved. If one fails, typically the person loses the job or in the worst case the whole company ends up in bankruptcy. The role of the Board is to prevent the bankruptcy. 

If someone steals from the company or makes irresponsable or illegal decisions, I don't think it is a compensation issue, but it definitely is a court case and needs to be dealt over there. Naturally, if found guilty, the individual should pay back any compensation that has been paid based on wrong information on one's performance, but I also think, there should be more to be paid and the jail waiting. 

Minder is less interested in that. He wants to put in jail those who deviate from his compensation and corporate governance regulations. The CEO could go in jail, if he paid sign on award to his senior manager. Maximum length goes up to 3 years in prison and a monetary fine up to 6 years of the individual's compensation. 

If the initiative makes it through, a Board mandate or a senior management role may become uncool in Switzerland. Public companies could also list themselves outside of Switzerland and delist over here. Companies may also focus on buying back their own shares and increasing their ownership to have a bigger say instead of focussing on a profitable growth and adding value to all the stakeholders. The indirect counter proposal has a more human approach than rip-off initiative. It covers almost the same topics than Minder, but provides necessary flexibility without a punishment system in jail for deviations.

Read more on the initiatives:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

It is all about harmony

According to Mahatma Gandhi:
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."

Vision without action or action without vision? These options are for sure better than a lack of both vision and action, but neither of them may help you in becoming successful.

If you blindly act as a workaholic without knowing why, without vision, you'll fall under the group : "grey mices" according to Prof. Dr. Martin Hilb. Those who only talk or develop visions without actions, he groups as: "coloured birds" (rare fish in the picture below).  Not to ignore those people who are totally alienated from work and lacking any ambition (inner resignation). They don't even have any funny name.

Successful managers, entrepreneurs, students (you name it) have integrated success intelligence. Hilb says, they have:

a cool head
a warm heart and
working hands

As a manager a cool head is for dealing successfully with the uncertainty of a business environment and making responsable decisions.  A warm heart is for reaching out to the people to work with and whose support managers have to win. Those who like people, can lead them! Working hands show the commitment of managers' own. Only by showing the example managers can ask their employees to do their best. These "cool head, warm heart..." individuals are human co-entrepreneurs. They behave in the company as if the company actually was their own: with the same responsibilty, commitment, care...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

What is your mission statement?

A top-seller self-help book "the 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People", written by Dr. Stephen Covey, has been encouraging over 25 million readers to change their mindsets and improve their actions to reach the goals in their lives. The journey takes time and there is no quick-fix. Each of the 7 habit is cumulative, neither one can be skipped or the order changed for fast results. The book is very practical, direct and an enjoyable reading experience. However, the value of the book comes from the journey of the self-study, the habits are nothing new. It is hard work, there is no free lunch!

Covey recommends to begin the journey with the end in mind and to build an own personal mission statement. One may start it by visualizing her/his own funeral, people over there and their speeches. Would those people and their speeches reflect one's values? In order to influence in the funeral picture, Covey recommends one to develop a mission statement that focuses on what one wants to be (character), what one wants to do (achievements) and her/his values or principles.

Do you have your mission statement? You may call the statement with different terms, for instance a philosophy of your life, but according to Covey, once you have built and implemented it, it is more efficient in guiding your life than a baggage from your past: "when we create a mission statement of our own and choose to live by it we can flow with changes".

How to create a mission statement:
1. collect quotes and notes that reflect your values
2. what are your roles in your life (f.ex. parent, team leader, entrepreneur, son/daughter etc.)
3. what would you like to achieve in your roles and the steps to get there

Once you have the sense of your mission, you have the vision and values that direct your life.

Read more about the book and the writer:


Saturday, January 5, 2013