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Here is a summary of a recent HBR article that I think does a great job of outlining Steve Jobs’ leadership secrets.

He was not perfect (are any of us?) and was clearly a very difficult boss. But in reading Isaacson’s biography of Jobs it’s clear that many of those who worked for Jobs would likely do so again if given the opportunity. That to me is a clear sign of someone’s leadership.

Here is a list of the high level characteristics. A link to the article is at the bottom of this post:

(1) Focus – one that is difficult for me but so very important.

(2) Simplify – he says you have to go very deep to effectively simplify. I believe this to be very true with the most successful and effective (eight word or less) vision statements. You have to go deep into strategic planning before concluding with an effective vision.

(3) Take responsibility end to end. Very few people do this.

(4) When behind leapfrog. I think laser focus is required to successfully leapfrog.

(5) Put products before profits.

(6) Don’t be a slave to focus groups. I really enjoy the Henry Ford quote, “If I had asked customers what they wanted they would have said, ‘A faster horse.'”

(7) Bend reality – this was one of his key tools to getting the most out of people.

(8) Impute.

(9) Push for perfection. I find this interesting. Particularly in technology where businesses focus on shipping their minimum viable product in order to get real life customer feedback and then improve, ship, improve, ship.

(10) Tolerate only ‘A’ players. I think this comes directly from passion. If you’re passionate about what you do then you’re already a long way toward setting yourself up to be an ‘A’ player. Conversely, I don’t believe you can be the best at something without being totally passionate about it.

(11) Engage face-to-face. I couldn’t agree more!

(12) Combine humanities with the Sciences.

(13) Stay hungry, stay foolish.

Enjoy the article: http://hbr.org/2012/04/the-real-leadership-lessons-of-steve-jobs/ar/1

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If it feels right then it probably is.

This is a very simple message one of my mentors once gave me when dealing with a particularly challenging management issue.

There are many different styles of leadership.  It may be the case that different circumstances require different approaches – a restaurant manager leading a team in a fast paced retail environment may require a different approach than the managing partner of an accounting firm.

My friend Martin Ertl who was the UBC Alumni Association board chair, co-founder of Navarik and is now founder and CEO of Contractual.ly shared this link on three ways to help people get things done: http://ow.ly/3JSUg .

(1) The bully with the heart of gold.

(2) Creating scarce prizes.

(3) Open the door.

I’ve used method one (in my first business, a 325 seat restaurant) and method three (in my second business, a computer services firm and in various volunteer leadership roles).

I feel best and it feels most natural when I just open the door.  Setting the overall goal and direction, fostering the organization’s culture, bringing really good people around the table, getting them into the right positions, providing them resources and support and then just letting them go and do great things.

I find it works best with professionals, self-motivated and driven people and it works best when those around the table are more skilled than me in their particular areas of expertise.  It also works best when the job at hand requires more than one person!

If you’re leading an organization, starting a new company or manage a team this is worth a quick read.

 

“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” – Sir Winston Churchill

For those of you who do not know me, I have started, managed and sold two start up businesses.  My first was a restaurant which grew to about $4 million in revenue, was profitable and employed about forty people.  My second business was a computer services firm which grew to $1.5 million in revenue and ten employees.

I sold my restaurant when I was 24 years old and felt like I had the “midas touch”.  It was successful out of the gates, was very popular in our community and grew beyond my expectations.  That first success had me convinced that I could do it again without much effort.  Boy was I wrong.  I made a ton of mistakes in my second business and paid for them. 

While I could probably fill many blog posts just listing my mistakes, I think my fundamental error was not developing a well thought out plan.  I am convinced that, had I put some thoughts on paper before starting my second business, it’s doubtful that I would have ever founded it.  This is not because it was a bad business, but more because it was the wrong business for me and what I wanted to accomplish. 

More on my second business in another post.

I often tell budding entrepreneurs that, knowing what I know today, I wouldn’t have invested in myself when I started the second business.  Instead of researching a market, identifying a problem, designing a solution, understanding how I was going to make money and assembling the right team I just “went for it”.  I’m convinced I did this because I had already been successful once, why not a second time?

Since selling the last business I have come full circle and am now a fervent believer in planning.  A business plan doesn’t need to be complex, it just needs to answer a few fundamental questions:

(1)    What is the problem?

(2)    What is your solution?

(3)    How are you going to make money?

(4)    Who are you?

I decided to post on this topic because of a recent email exchange with my sister-in-law.  For sometime now she has been convinced that an opportunity exists for her to develop a patient advocacy consulting practice.  I won’t butcher her business concept here, but suffice it so say that I agree with her (and have recent experience to bolster my point of view) and think she should do it.  But, I don’t think she should do it without a plan.

In our most recent exchange she wrote that she was, “at an absolute standstill.”  She thought it was because she didn’t know how to market the concept (although there are two physicians who have already agreed she has an interesting business in mind and one specialist has gone so far to offer to help market her business through his web presence).  But, in my view, she’s at a standstill because she hasn’t answered the four questions appended above.

She’s going to write the plan and I have offered to act as her sounding board.  The hardest part of planning is getting the first words on the paper, so much like she plans to be a patient advocate, I will be her “planning advocate.”  I will post on her progress here and hope to be able to announce the launch of her business in the not-too-distant future!

The Liberal coalition

December 10, 2008

Some have suggested that by not supporting the Liberal, NDP and separatist coalition in Ottawa, Canadians are saying its “illegal” or “unfair”.  Some have said we in Canada don’t belive in majority rule, democracy or in decision making through deliberation.  

I don’t agree and here are some thoughts on why.

In Canada we really haven’t had more than 50% of the popular vote support the winning party since 1917 (yes there have been interregnums like Brian Mulroney’s 1984 victory), I don’t believe that by expressing opposition to the coalition assembled by the Liberals, Canadians are indicating it is “illegal” or “unfair”. Certainly this Canadian believes it to be shameful – not unfair, not illegal, but shameful. 
What the Liberals did was give the Bloc Quebecois, a party created with the purpose of breaking up this great country, a veto power over the federal government. And they afforded this separatist party that influence simply as a result of the Liberal’s intrinsic believe in themselves as Canada’s natural governing party. 

None of energy, the environment, the economy, the crumbling health care system, the wars abroad or anything else excited the Liberals enough to threaten to fall a government or to form a coalition. What did get them into a froth? The prospective elimination of taxpayer subsidies of political parties in form of a $1.95 for every vote they secured. 

This coalition is a manifest representation of the Liberal Party’s fervent and excited need for power. 

Canadians believe in responsible government which requires the confidence of the House of Commons – parliament. This confidence in and of itself infers that a majority of the lower house must support the government. It is a characteristic of the first past the post (FPTP) system that permits a party to form government with the support of the majority of parliamentarians and not the majority of the people. Just because we have FPTP does not in and of itself suggest Canadians do not believe in majority rule.

Canadians believe in hiring people, letting them get on with their job, rewarding them for success and reprimanding them for failure. Our system has an inherent job review every four or five years (or every three years in the case of Jean Chretien). Do a bad job, get fired. Do a good job and, maybe, get re-hired. In between, get to it

As an electors we want to have confidence in the people we elect. If we are constantly called up to “deliberate” then why even elect a government? Just leave the bureaucracy in place and have all policy decisions made by internet polls. That is the ultimate decision by deliberation.

Now, I have long preferred the American system of checks and balances – particularly when one party is in the White House and another holds the majority (not a super majority) in Congress. Even though he is the most powerful man in the world, the US President has far less direct power there than our Prime Minister. Through the PM’s power to appoint and fire his cabinet, appoint and fire heads of crown corporations, appoint judges all over the country and, effectively, to push policy through without recourse is too much power in the hands of one man. 

England’s Prime Minister is somewhat less powerful because his or her caucus appoints or fires the leader (and I understand that the leader representing the majority of the lower house and has its confidence becomes the PM). This ensures that the party leader and, in the case of government, the PM must keep their caucus onside.

The disappointment that this Canadian feels toward the parties that didn’t vote for Harper’s economic update is not sparked because they didn’t support him. My disappointment, and disgust, materialized firstly because of what the Liberals, NDP and separatists were voting against (subsidies for themselves) and how they were proposing to express their non-confidence (giving the separatist party veto power over a proposed coalition government).

The coalition that the Liberals put together provides a veto to the BQ and the BQ’s purpose is to break up this great country of ours.  This unacceptable for Canada. 

There are some very bright, well read and articulate people suggesting that, because of the machinations in Ottawa, Canadians believe the coaltion to be “unfair” and “illegal”.  Many of their arguments are throught through very well and communicated in very convincing ways.  

However, I think they are drawing some broad conclusions that are wrong.  Canadians believe in democracy, responsible government and a commitment to run our country that is in the best interests of…our country. These interests do not include giving veto power to separatists with the avowed goal of breaking up our federation.

I see a light at the end of Canada’s political tunnel. Unfortunately, it’s a train coming at us.

The Liberals, NDP and Bloc signed an accord that would see the Liberals and NDP forming a minority coalition government for a period of thirty months. The Bloc would hold the balance of power with no formal participation in government, but with a commitment not to vote against the government on confidence measures for a period of eighteen months. The cabinet would be comprised of eighteen Liberal and six New Democrat MPs.

Not only was Harper’s inclusion of party subsidies in his discussion on our fiscal circumstance poor judgment, it was poor government. Canada has been living in an insulated economic bubble, but with oil prices dropping and the US consumer not consuming, reality is quickly setting in for her. Tiny subsidies of political parties have no place in a discussion of our economic strategy. Notwithstanding Harper’s mistake, what the merry band of Dion, Layton and their separatist sidekick are doing is an atrocity. We have tremendous economic instability. Adding this to the mix only creates more uncertainty (look at what the Canadian markets have done thus far this week).

What Dion and Layton are proposing is to replace a party that has formed government after winning in accordance with our first past the post system with a government which will appoint a prime minister who will serve only five months (Dion steps down in May). A government that will stand only with the support of a party which has, as its primary purpose, the objective of breaking up the country. This is nothing more than a power grab by the Liberals. They are the heaviest drinkers of the “Liberals as Canada’s naturally governing party” kool-aid. I’m afraid they’re drunk.

I was impressed with Harper and, on balance, still am. However, Canada needs political leaders that are focused on Canada and not on themselves. This is particularly important at this point in our economic history.

At the moment I’m disappointed in all of them.