Work, as we know it, will and must change. All of us are being propelled into a future shaped by demographic shifts and technological advances, radically changing how, where and why we work. In this video, Futurist Jacob Morgan breaks down his vision for the Future of Work.
Henry Ford said “a business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business”. I would add business without ethics is a poor kind of business.
I’m taking the opportunity of the Panama Papers scandal to sit and reflect on the notions of Ethics and Morals. You’ll find below a good introduction of the basic concepts of Ethics. What is Ethics? What does it mean to do the right thing? Is it a universal concept?
Barbara Etter speaking at the AELC Innovation Club in the video (so good to hear the Aussie accent!), gives us a simple definition and defines Integrity as being ” what you do when nobody is looking”. Yes, acting ethically whether in your private life or in business is what you do and how you behave in line with your set of moral standards and values that you stand for whatever the circumstances, whether somebody is watching or not.
On paper, that looks good and we would all consider ourselves ethical. But read the little case below, and answer honestly what you would do faced with this ethical dilemma :
John is the captain of a submarine. An explosion has caused the sub to lose most of its oxygen supply and has injured a crewman who is bleeding badly and is going to die from his wound no matter what happens. The remaining oxygen is not sufficient for the entire crew to make it to the surface. The only way to save the other crew members is for John to shoot dead the injured crewman now. Then there will be just enough oxygen for the rest of the crew to survive. Is it morally acceptable for John to shoot the injured crewman?
There is no incontestably right answer here. Is taking one life morally right to save many ? The Utilitarian approach would justify this choice.
More cases on ethics :
While I was doing my MBA, I came cross this matrix that changed my life forever. It is not an overstatement. Understanding the fine distinction between these two simple candid words URGENT and IMPORTANT has been such an eye-opening experience.
I had never realised that urgent and important were two different terms that I had been interchangeably using my whole life. I also got to understand that working more didn’t mean working better or being more successful.
Rather my aim has become to work smarter not more. Thought I would share that matrix as a reminder that we should only focus our full attention on urgent AND important matters and delegate or get rid of all non-urgent & non-important ones. This has been a life changer as this matrix is applicable both in your work and personal areas of your life.
Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle
Using Time Effectively, Not Just Efficiently
Imagine that your boss has asked you to prepare an important presentation for the next board meeting.
You only have a few days to put it together, your workload is already high, and you have many other urgent tasks on your To-Do List. Because of this, you’re anxious, you can’t concentrate, and everything seems to distract you.
Time stressors are some of the most pervasive sources of pressure in the workplace, and they happen as a result of having too much to do, in too little time. So, how can you beat this stress, and deliver the things that are essential to doing a good job?
Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle helps you think about your priorities, and determine which of your activities are important and which are, essentially, distractions.
What Are “Urgent” and “Important” Activities?
In a 1954 speech to the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was quoting Dr J. Roscoe Miller, president of Northwestern University, said: “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” This “Eisenhower Principle” is said to be how he organized his workload and priorities.
He recognized that great time management means being effective as well as efficient. In other words, we must spend our time on things that are important and not just the ones that are urgent. To do this, and to minimize the stress of having too many tight deadlines, we need to understand this distinction:
- Important activities have an outcome that leads to us achieving our goals, whether these are professional or personal.
- Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are usually associated with achieving someone else’s goals. They are often the ones we concentrate on and they demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate.
When we know which activities are important and which are urgent, we can overcome the natural tendency to focus on unimportant urgent activities, so that we can clear enough time to do what’s essential for our success. This is the way we move from “firefighting” into a position where we can grow our businesses and our careers.
How to Use Eisenhower’s Principle
To use this principle, list all of the activities and projects that you feel you have to do. Try to include everything that takes up your time at work, however unimportant. (If you manage your time using a To-Do List or Action Program, you will have done this already.)
Next, think about each activity and put it into one of four categories, as shown in Figure 1, below:
Figure 1 – Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle
Then use the strategies described below to schedule your activities.
1. Important and Urgent
There are two distinct types of urgent and important activities: ones that you could not have foreseen, and others that you’ve left until the last minute.
You can eliminate last-minute activities by planning ahead and avoiding procrastination .
However, you can’t always predict or avoid some issues and crises. Here, the best approach is to leave some time in your schedule to handle unexpected issues and unplanned important activities. (If a major crisis arises, then you’ll need to reschedule other tasks.)
If you have a lot of urgent and important activities, identify which of these you could have foreseen, and think about how you could schedule similar activities ahead of time, so that they don’t become urgent.
2. Important but not Urgent
These are the activities that help you achieve your personal and professional goals, and complete important work.
Make sure that you have plenty of time to do these things properly, so that they do not become urgent. Also, remember to leave enough time in your schedule to deal with unforeseen problems. This will maximize your chances of keeping on track, and help you avoid the stress of work becoming more urgent than necessary.
3. Not Important but Urgent
Urgent but not important tasks are things that prevent you from achieving your goals. Ask yourself whether you can reschedule or delegate them.
A common source of such activities is other people. Sometimes it’s appropriate to say “no” to people politely, or to encourage them to solve the problem themselves. (Our article “‘Yes’ to the Person, ‘No’ to the Task” will help here.)
Alternatively, try to have time slots when you are available, so that people know they can speak with you then. A good way to do this is to arrange regular meetings with those who interrupt you often, so that you can deal with all their issues at once. You’ll then be able to concentrate on your important activities for longer.
4. Not Important and not Urgent
These activities are just a distraction – avoid them if possible.
You can simply ignore or cancel many of them. However, some may be activities that other people want you to do, even though they don’t contribute to your own desired outcomes. Again, say “no” politely, if you can, and explain why you cannot do it.
If people see that you are clear about your objectives and boundaries , they will often avoid asking you to do “not important” activities in the future.
Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle helps you quickly identify the activities that you should focus on, as well as the ones you should ignore.
When you use this tool to prioritize your time, you can deal with truly urgent issues, at the same time as you work towards important, longer-term goals.
To use the tool, list all of your tasks and activities, and put each into one of the following categories:
- Important and urgent.
- Important but not urgent.
- Not important but urgent.
- Not important and not urgent.
Then schedule tasks and activities based on their importance and urgency.
I love this Ted Talk. First Celeste Headlee is plain hilarious in it. Second she gives easy tips to become a better conversationalist. A must-see for those who struggle to engage in small talk or meaningful conversations during networking events or even with friends. ‘Everybody is an expert in something’ and to get the most out of any conversation, let’s assume we have something to learn. That seems basic but when we think about it, oftentimes in a conversation, we tend to do the talking and showcase our expertise or knowledge.
Well, by assuming we have something to learn, it puts us in the position of listener. It might be the secret after all of a great conversation, that is being able to stay in the back seat and truly listen even if what you are hearing is not in line with your beliefs, your political opinions, what you have always thought to be the truth.
That’s what is so enriching about communication, that moment you set aside your own thoughts, beliefs, views to just listen and maybe, challenge your way of thinking. It leaves the room to a more complete understanding of an issue or situation and it makes you see things from all perspectives not just yours. Isn’t it what life is all about, keep learning ?
Let’s see every conversation as a fantastic opportunity to know more. That way we also happen to become a more tolerant person along the way.
As I am in the process of recruiting more staff at my company, I have to sit down and think about the charasteristics of the ideal employee. Is there such a thing as a perfect employee? In the negative, what makes at least an awesome employee? I agree with Ryan Harwood who published an insightful article in Fortune magazine on the topic.
Do not recruit only based on skills. So true. Skills will at some point and faster than ever become outdated. You need someone who will be capable of learning new ones. Better, someone who will be willing to update his skill-set. A lot of candidates say how adaptable they are during job interviews but few truly embrace change once in the job. So it is clearly something I will be assessing and looking for in my next hire.
March 7, 2015 by Ryan Harwood
Not quite, so try looking for this instead.
The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What’s the best mistake you ever made?” is written by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.
Don’t hire based on skills alone.
In the early days of PureWow, I always thought you needed to find the perfect employee on paper. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I quickly learned that you can often teach employees new skills, but you can’t teach them how to fit the company culture. If an employee doesn’t fit the mold initially, they most likely never will. This could force them to quit, or worse, frustrate other employees.
It didn’t take us long to realize how much more fun (and productive) work is when people enjoy their work environment. We encourage our team to constantly communicate at PureWow: ask questions if you don’t understand something, cc or bcc your manager for visibility on emails, and let your colleagues know what you’re working on. Those who don’t like to share and prefer to work in silos won’t do well at our company. However, this wasn’t always the case, it took time for us to clearly define the company culture we wanted to create.
Now, I’m not saying you don’t need to look for skills — of course you do. But hiring smart people that also happen to fit your company culture is what you should strive for. EQ is more important than IQ. In every interview we conduct at PureWow — from tech to edit, and even sales — we ask our employees to consider some of the following questions before hiring anyone: do I want to regularly communicate with this individual? do they have a great work ethic? how do they react during stressful situations?
Brilliant ideas don’t make companies successful; the people who execute those ideas do. That’s why hiring is the single most important thing any company can do and it should be done with great care. It’s the CEO’s job to be the conductor of the orchestra; find the missing puzzle pieces. Seek out employees who complement the skills of those already employed – every company needs a devil’s advocate, right? And most of all, look for candidates who believe in your company’s vision and are more interested in growing the business than achieving individual success.
I have recently started learning Italian. It has always been a dream. French is my mother tongue and I studied both English and German at school. I have to admit my German is now rotten and I will need a proper immersion to be able to speak the way I used to back in high school ! Though Italian is not part of the 6 top languages for global – minded CEOs as per the article below, I am very keen on mastering that language.
Learning a new language from scratch teaches you 3 amazing things.
1 – Humility. You are a beginner again in something and you sound at times quite dumb when you mispronounce words and confuse some expressions. But you keep going because the more you learn, the better you become, the more confident you are and eventually you will get there.
2- Persistence. It teaches you not to give up and keep going. As I said the more you learn, the better you become. It is as simple as that.Hard work and personal belief get you wherever you want.
3 – Cultural awareness. Learning a new language opens a door to invaluable knowledge of a particular country, customs, ways of thinking and seeing the world. So what are you waiting for to take up a foreign language class?
The 6 Top Languages Global-Minded CEOs Should Know
During a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session earlier this year, Microsoft founder and prolific philanthropist Bill Gates said his biggest regret in life is that he speaks only English.
Not exactly what one would expect to hear from the billionaire founder of one of the largest tech corporations in the world.
Gates’s insightful admission comes on the heels of Mark Zuckerberg’s impressive demonstration of semi-fluent Chinese during a Q&A with Tsinghua University students in Beijing last October. By learning Chinese, Zuckerberg clearly demonstrated that mastering a local language is a key step toward developing deeper business relationships and winning the hearts and minds of target markets — and he’s right.
Here, the languages global-minded CEOs should be learning.
Related: The 3 Essentials of Expanding Into Other Countries
Of all the languages in the world, Spanish is the language our online translation agency works with the most, reflecting an enormous market the world over. Aside from the huge potential of almost all of South and Central America with emerging economic powerhouses such as Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela — not to mention the significant market in Spain itself — learning Spanish is worth it if only to reach the Hispanic speaking community in the U.S., whose purchasing power is already more than a trillion dollars and growing.
As opposed to its spoken dialects, Spanish written forms are more uniform than other languages which makes them simpler to learn. As a Romance language, with the same letters and roots as English, you’ll probably twist your tongue a lot less than when learning Chinese.
Portuguese has already become the fourth most-translated language at our company, reflecting an exponential rise in recent years. It’s obviously not Portugal we’ve got our eyes on here, but rather Brazil, which is quickly transforming from emerging market to one of the world’s richest nations. With a huge population, tons of natural resources and a growing tech community, learning Portuguese will go a long way to penetrating the intricacies of the local business culture. Plus, imagine the fun speaking the local tongue come Carnival time.
There are dozens of different languages and dialects spoken in China, and while Mandarin is by far the most widely spoken — in fact, it’s the most prevalent language in the world with 1.1 billion native speakers — other Chinese dialects are spoken by hundreds of millions of people.
Wu, for example, used in the financial hub of Shanghai, is spoken by more than 80 million people — that’s a potential market the size of Germany! Depending on what area of China you’re targeting and the fact that written dialects in the country are basically uniform, learning Wu, Jin, Min or Yue will certainly be worth the effort.
Russia has a market nearly 150 million strong, seemingly endless natural resources and a burgeoning IT sector. Plus, the language is also spoken to varying degrees in post-Soviet states (for almost 300 million speakers in all) — many important emerging economies themselves — making it number nine on our most-translated list. Knowing Russian will go a long way toward winning the trust of local business leaders. And you can read Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky in the original.
Hundreds of millions of people around the world speak Arabic — the fifth most-spoken language in the world — so it comes as no surprise that Arabic is number 10 on our list. The Arab world, with a growing online culture, doesn’t have its own Amazon or Alibaba, making it a market with huge potential, not to mention the deep petro-economies of the region. Executives who speak their language are going to have a leg up in this cross-continental market. The drawback? With dozens of distinct varieties of spoken Arabic, choosing the right one will be a daunting process.
German is the second most-translated language at our agency, reflecting the country’s status as Europe’s largest economy and one of strongest economies in the world. Enough said.
Learning a foreign language may be a major investment of time and energy, but speaking even a rudimentary level of a country’s native tongue goes a long way to breaking down walls.
Love this Ted Talk. Though it might be hard to actually read a book a day, I couldn’t agree more on the importance of reading. Lucky I am an avid reader.Reading is the ultimate education you can get almost for free. Books are treasures. The more you read the more you realise you know little. Reading challenges how you think and what you think. It fosters your imagination, creativity…essential tools to thrive in business. As Tai Lopez rightly put it, books allow you to have a conversation with the most inspirational leaders of all times, right here, right now. Happy reading !
Ava 500 the workforce of the future?
Want to work from home? Send a robot to the office instead. The Ava 500 is virtual collaboration gadget from iRobot you can use to make your presence felt at meetings or in the hallways of the office, without physically being there.
In development for years, the Ava is finally available in the U.S., Canada and some European countries through authorized resellers of Cisco teleconferencing gear.
The robot has an automated navigation system and a 21.5-inch LCD screen so it can move around while transmitting a video of your face. Powerful microphones and cameras pick up and transmit surrounding audio and video back to you. Channeling oneself through the robot requires no more than an iPad Mini. Open the app, select a meeting room or a location on the map and the robot will find its way there and get started.
Telepresence robots are a new niche of products that hope to make the video conferencing experience better for companies.
“The biggest elements in favor of telepresence robots are the freedom of movement, spontaneity and physical presence,” says Youssef Saleh, senior vice president and general manager of iRobot’s Remote Presence business unit. “Instead of being a video on the wall or a voice on the phone, you get a real presence in the room.”
What they don’t tell you in the press release: Ava 500 robots aren’t inexpensive. Each one costs $70,000, though there is a three-year lease option that ranges from $2,000 to $2,500 a month. A similar robot called the RP-VITA, specifically designed for telemedicine, is already in use at hospitals. IRobot has locked down FDA approval for that device.
Since the Ava 500 can map its own environment, there is no need to drive it, or to understand the location’s layout. “The robot will never touch or bump into anything when it is traveling on its own,” says Saleh. “It has several sensors including 3-D, sonar and laser, so it is incredibly powerful.”
The robot’s “neck” can move up and down, and the camera can tilt as well, so the remote user can participate in discussions at standing or sitting height. At the end of the meeting, the Ava 500 simply disconnects and automatically returns to its charging station. The robot offers up to six hours between charging.
No need to change out of those pajamas when done.
Mar 17, 2014 1:54 pm ET
The power of questions. Questions lead us to think and reflect on the WHY behind it all. Questions encourage us to rethink the purpose of our business that drives us and inspires us to do more, to do better, to do differently.
Paul Graham, Jim Collins, Tony Hsieh, and other business leaders share the questions you should be asking if you want to improve your company.
There’s no Superman versus Iron Man face-off between questions and answers over which is the better tool for innovation. But if there were, questions would be winning. Questions ignite imaginations, avert catastrophes, and reveal unexpected paths to brighter destinations. Jim Collins, Marshall Goldsmith, and other thinkers have compiled their own stocks of questions, which they urge leaders to pose to themselves and their teams. The right questions don’t allow people to remain passive. They require reflection, followed by action.
Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question, praises inquiry’s ability to trigger divergent thinking, in which the mind seeks multiple, sometimes non-obvious paths to a solution. Asking good questions and doing so often “opens people to new ideas and possibilities,” says Berger.
To compile this list of provocative questions for business owners, we reached out to entrepreneurs and management thinkers, scanned blogs, and revisited our favorite business books. (Though we tried to identify the origin of each question, some had competing claims of authorship. In those cases, we made our best call.) Have you got a great question that you use at your company? We welcome you to add your own to the list via the comment box below the story. Rigid mindsets are dangerous things. We hope the following will keep your mind supple.
- How can we become the company that would put us out of business? –Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group
- Are we relevant? Will we be relevant five years from now? Ten? –Debra Kaye, innovation consultant and author
- If energy were free, what would we do differently? –Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
Hsieh explains, “This is a thought experiment to see how you would reconfigure the business if you had different resources available or knew that different resources would one day become available. Another question might be, what if storage was free? Or what if labor costs half as much or twice as much?”
- What is it like to work for me? –Robert Sutton, author and management professor at Stanford
- If we weren’t already in this business, would we enter it today? And if not, what are we going to do about it? –Peter Drucker, management expert and author
The late Drucker posed a variation on this question to Jack Welch in the 1980s. It inspired General Electric’s “fix, sell, or close” strategy for exiting or restructuring unprofitable businesses.
- What trophy do we want on our mantle? – Marcy Massura, a digital marketer and brand strategist at MSL Group
Massura explains, “Not every business determines success the same way.Is growth most important to you? Profitability? Stability?”
- Do we have bad profits? –Jonathan L. Byrnes, author and senior lecturer at MIT
Byrnes explains, “Some investments look attractive, but they also take the company’s capital and focus away from its main line of business.”
- What counts that we are not counting? –Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality and head of global hospitality for Airbnb
Conley explains, “In any business, we measure cash flow, profitability, and a few other key metrics. But what are the tangible and intangible assets that we have no means of measuring, but that truly differentiate our business? These may be things like the company’s reputation, employee engagement, and the brand’s emotional resonance with people inside and outside the business.”
- In the past few months, what is the smallest change we have made that has had the biggest positive result? What was it about that small change that produced the large return? –Robert Cialdini, author and professor emeritus of marketing and psychology at Arizona State University
- Are we paying enough attention to the partners our company depends on to succeed? –Ron Adner, author and professor at Tuck School of Business
Adner explains, “Even companies that execute well themselves are vulnerable to the missteps of suppliers, distributors, and others.”
- What prevents me from making the changes I know will make me a more effective leader? –Marshall Goldsmith, leadership coach and author
- What are the implications of this decision 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years from now? –Suzy Welch, author
- Do I make eye contact 100 percent of the time? –Tom Peters, author and management expert
- What is the smallest subset of the problem we can usefully solve? –Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator
- Are we changing as fast as the world around us? –Gary Hamel, author and management consultant
- If no one would ever find out about my accomplishments, how would I lead differently? –Adam Grant, author and professor at Wharton
- Which customers can’t participate in our market because they lack skills, wealth, or convenient access to existing solutions? –Clayton Christensen, author, Harvard Business School professor, and co-founder of Innosight
- Who uses our product in ways we never expected? –Kevin P. Coyne and Shawn T. Coyne, authors and strategy consultants
- How likely is it that a customer would recommend our company to a friend or colleague? –Andrew Taylor, executive chairman of Enterprise Holdings
“Taylor’s use of this question at Enterprise Rent-A-Car inspired Fred Reichheld to create the Net Promoter Score, a widely used metric for customer loyalty.
- Is this an issue for analysis or intuition? –Tom Davenport, author and professor at Babson College
Davenport explains, “If it’s a decision that’s important, recurring, and amenable to improvement, you should invest in gathering data, doing analysis, and examining failure factors. If it’s a decision you will only make once, or if for some reason you can’t get data or improve the decision-making process, you might as well go with your experience and intuition.”
- Who, on the executive team or the board, has spoken to a customer recently? –James Champy, author and management expert
- Did my employees make progress today? –Teresa Amabile, author and Harvard Business School professor
Amabile explains, “Forward momentum in employees’ work has the greatest positive impact on their motivation.”
- What one word do we want to own in the minds of our customers, employees, and partners? –Matthew May, author and innovation expert
May explains, “This deceptively simple question creates utter clarity inside and outside a company. It is incredibly difficult for most people to answer and difficult to get consensus on–even at the highest levels. Apple = different. Toyota = quality. Google = search. It’s taken me three years to get one of my clients, Edmunds.com, to find and agree on their word: trust.”
- What should we stop doing? –Peter Drucker, management expert and author
- What are the gaps in my knowledge and experience? –Charles Handy, author and management expert
- What am I trying to prove to myself, and how might it be hijacking my life and business success? –Bob Rosen, executive coach and author
- If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what would he do? –Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel
In 1985, with the company’s memory-chip business under siege, CEO Grove famously posed this hypothetical to Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, leading them to ditch memory for microprocessors.
- If I had to leave my organization for a year and the only communication I could have with employees was a single paragraph, what would I write? –Pat Lencioni, author and founder of The Table Group
Lencioni explains, “Determining the substance of this paragraph forces you to identify the company’s core values and strategies, and the roles and responsibilities of those hypothetically left behind.”
- Who have we, as a company, historically been when we’ve been at our best? –Keith Yamashita, author and founder of SYPartners
- What do we stand for–and what are we against? –Scott Goodson, co-founder of StrawberryFrog
- Is there any reason to believe the opposite of my current belief? -Chip and Dan Heath, authors who teach at Stanford’s and Duke’s business schools, respectively
- Do we underestimate the customer’s journey? –Matt Dixon, author and executive director of research at CEB
Dixon explains, “Often, companies don’t understand the entirety of the customer’s experience and how many channels may have already failed them. They don’t understand that the customer goes to the website first, pokes around but can’t find the answer to their question, and then tries to start up a chat with an agent, only to get frustrated by the delayed response. Only then do they go to the Contact Us tab and call. From the company’s perspective, the call is square one. The customer sees it as, you’ve already wasted 15 minutes of my time.”
- Among our stronger employees, how many see themselves at the company in three years? How many would leave for a 10 percent raise from another company? –Jonathan Rosenberg, adviser to Google management
- What did we miss in the interview for the worst hire we ever made? –Alberto Perlman, CEO of Zumba Fitness
- Do we have the right people on the bus? –Jim Collins, author and management consultant
- What would have to be true for the option on the table to be the best possible choice? –Roger Martin, professor, Rotman Business School
Martin uses this question when members of a group bring diverse opinions to a decision. It allows people to step back from their strongly held beliefs and contemplate a range of circumstances that might–or might not–support each option.
- Am I failing differently each time? –David Kelley, founder, IDEO
- When information truly is ubiquitous, when reach and connectivity are completely global, when computing resources are infinite, and when a whole new set of impossibilities are not only possible, but happening, what will that do to our business? –Jonathan Rosenberg
- Do we aggressively reward and promote the people who have the biggest impact on creating excellent products? –Jonathan Rosenberg
- What is our Big Hairy Audacious Goal? –Jim Collins
- Is our strategy driving our strategy? Or is the way in which we allocate resources driving our strategy? –Mark Johnson, co-founder, Innosight
Johnson explains, “You might think you have a strategic plan, but your people may be doing things on a day-to-day basis that are undermining it. It’s essential that people believe in the strategy so they can make the daily decisions that support it.”
- How is the way you as the leader think and process information affecting your organizational culture? –Ari Weinzweig, co-founder Zingerman’s Community of Businesses
Weinzweig explains, “Describe the culture you’d love to have in your organization. Then check the desired characteristics of the culture against the way you think and process information. Are they congruent? Do you want collaboration but think in isolation? Do you want a flat organization but think hierarchically?
- Why don’t our customers like us? –James Champy
- How can we become more high-tech but still be high touch? –James Champy
- What do we need to start doing? –Jack Bergstrand, CEO, Brand Velocity
- Whom among your colleagues do you trust, and for what? –Charles Handy
Handy tells this story: “One CEO had a problem with his best subordinate, who was very good at his job. But he was also personally ambitious, so the CEO could not trust him to be totally loyal. The dilemma was whether to keep him because of his abilities or lose him because he couldn’t be sure of him. The answer was for the CEO to either assign the subordinate jobs where his loyalty wasn’t relevant or to confront him with his feelings. After some pushing from me. the CEO did the latter, and it cleared the air.”
- Are you satisfied with your current role? If not, what is missing from it? –Charles Handy
- Do you keep 50% of your time unscheduled? –Dov Frohman, engineer and executive, author
The 50% stat may be somewhat arbitrary. But Frohman’s point, laid out in his book “Leadership the Hard Way,” is that leaders should make sure they maintain sufficient “slop” in their schedules to allow space for reflection and the assimilation of lessons learned from experience.
- What would I recommend my friend do if he were facing this dilemma? –Chip and Dan Heath
- What kind of crime could a potential new hire have committed that would not only not disqualify him/her from being hired by our organization, but would actually indicate that he/she might be a particularly good fit? -Pat Lencioni
Lencioni explains, “In this case “crime” is a metaphor. This question speaks to values. A particularly idealistic organization may be okay with hiring someone that was previously reprimanded for standing up for his beliefs or blowing the whistle on something. A particularly competitive organization may be okay hiring someone who in prior positions was reprimanded for being overly arrogant or difficult to work with.”
- If our customer were my grandmother, would I tell her to buy what we’re selling? –Dan Pink, author
- If our company went out of business tomorrow, would anyone who doesn’t get a paycheck here care? –Dan Pink
- What is something you believe that nearly no one agrees with you on? –Peter Thiel, partner, Founders Fund
- Do you have an implicit bias for capital investments over people investments? –Tom Peters
Peters explains: “Capital enhancements are important. They’re also cool. You can get your picture taken next to a new robot. People investments are invisible and hard to measure. The tendency is to favor the hard stuff over the soft stuff. But the soft stuff is invariably more related to long-term strategic success than the hard stuff.”
- Do we have enough freaky customers in our portfolio pushing us to the limit day in and day out? –Tom Peters
- Who are you going to put out of business, and why? –Brad Feld, managing director, Foundry Group
- What happens at this company when people fail? –Bob Sutton and Jeff Pfeffer, Stanford professors
- How will you motivate the dishwashers? –Bill Keena, independent casino consultant
Job interview questions comprise a genre unto themselves, so we chose not to include them in this article. With one exception. Keena says the only correct answer to this question, posed to manager candidates in a hotel chain, is “If they are overloaded I would roll up my sleeves and start washing right alongside them.” That speaks to the candidate’s ability to create employee engagement. Turned inward, however, the question reveals even more about culture. Ask yourself this: Are we the kind of company that cares whether our dishwashers are motivated?
- Do your employees have the opportunity to do what they do best everyday? –Marcus Buckingham, author
- Where is our petri dish? –Tim Ogilvie, CEO. Peer Insight
- What Microsoft is this the Altair Basic of? –Paul Graham
- Do we say “no” to customers for no reason? –Matt Dixon
You may have created your customer policies at a time when you lacked resources, technology wasn’t up-to-snuff, or low service levels were the industry norm. Have those circumstances changed? If so, your customer policies should change too.
- Instead of going to current contacts for new ideas, what if you reconnected with dormant contacts–the people you used to know? If you were going reactivate a dormant tie, who would it be? –Adam Grant
- Do you see more potential in people than they do in themselves? –Adam Grant
- Are you taking your company in the direction of better and revenue or cheaper and cost? –Michael Raynor, director, Deloitte Services LP
- Would you rather sell to knowledgeable and informed customers or to uninformed customers? –Don Peppers, founding partner, Peppers and Rogers Group
Partly it’s a matter of values: uninformed customers can be easy targets who swallow your pitch without pushing back. Selling to knowledgeable customers, by contrast, “is a mark of a trustable firm–one that is working to advance its customers’ best interests,” says Peppers. And there’s another benefit: “Your most valuable customer references are not the ones who spend the most, but the ones who have the most expertise and authority. That gives them credibility with their peers.”
- What are we challenging, in the sense that Mac challenged the PC or Dove tackled the Beauty Myth? –Mark Barden and Adam Morgan, founders, eatbigfish
Barden and Morgan explain that for companies challenging market leaders with greater resources, competing on the status quo is death. Instead they must assault the dynamics of a category (the dominance of PC) or a cultural meme (what society defines as “beautiful” in women).
- In what way can we redefine the criteria of choice in our category in our favor, as Method introduced style and design to cleaning and Virgin America returned glamor to flying? –Mark Barden and Adam Morgan
- In the past year, what have you done (or could you have done) to increase the accurate perception of this company/brand as ethical and honest? –Robert Cialdini
Cialdini explains: “Of course, the preferred way to increase the perception of a company as ethical is to foster ethical practice within the organization. However, sometimes a company can be ethical without a corresponding perception in the marketplace that this is indeed the case. Therefore, companies should strive not only to enhance and reinforce an ethical culture but also to arrange for a warranted perception of that ethicality to be part of their brand.”
- To whom do you add value? –Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood, co-founders, The RBL Group
- Why should people listen to you? –Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood
- How would our PR, marketing, and social media change if we did not use outside agencies? –Guy Kawasaki, founder, Garage Technology Ventures and Alltop
Kawasaki explains, “Let’s see what happens when a company can’t abdicate these functions to hired guns. I’d bet that employees, because they know and love their product more than any agency, can do a much better job at less expense to boot.”
- What was the last experiment we ran? –Scott Berkun, author
- Are your clients Pepsi or Coke drinkers?” –Marcy Massura
Massura explains: “This is a symbolic question that gets at how deeply you have researched your target clients. Business leaders can find out more about their customers than ever before thanks to the ability to collect data on a grand scale. Such detailed information allows the company to interact with targets in new ways and to assess current product development and marketing roadmaps.”
- What is your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement)? –Roger Fisher and William Ury, negotiation experts
- What’s the best design framework for an organization in a post Industrial-Age if the top-down, command and control model is no longer relevant? –Traci Fenton, CEO, Worldblu
- Who are four people whose careers I’ve enhanced? –Alex Gorsky, CEO, Johnson & Johnson
- Where can we break convention? –Shane Snow, co-founder, Contently
- Whose voice (department, ethnic group, women, older workers, etc) might you have missed hearing from in your company, and how might you amplify this voice to create positive momentum for your business? –Jane Hyun and Audrey Lee, partners, Hyun & Associates
- In retrospect, of the projects that we pulled the plug on, what percent do we wish had been allowed to keep going, and what percent do we wish had ended earlier? –Ron Adner
- Do you, as a leader, bounce back quickly from setbacks? –Bob Rosen
- Who do we think the world wants us to be? –Geoffrey Moore, organizational theorist and management consultant
- How will we build a 100-year startup? –Phil Libin, CEO, Evernote
- What successful thing are we doing today that may be blinding us to new growth opportunities? –Scott D. Anthony, managing partner, Innosight
- If you could go back in time five years, what decision would you make differently? What is your best guess as to what decision you’re making today you might regret five years from now? –Patrick Lencioni
- What stupid rule would we most like to kill? –Lisa Bodell, CEO, FutureThink
- What potential megatrends could make our business model obsolete? –Michael A. Cusumano, professor, MIT
- What information is critical to our organization that our executives are ignoring? –Max Bazerman, professor, Harvard Business School
- What have we done to protect our business from competitive encroachment? –Tom Stemberg, managing general partner, Highland Venture Capital
- If you had to rebuild your organization without any traditional competitive advantages (i.e., no killer a technology, promising research, innovative product/service delivery model, etc.), how would your people have to approach their work and collaborate together in order to create the necessary conditions for success?” –Jesse Sostrin, founder, Sostrin Consulting
- What are the rules and assumptions my industry operates under? What if the opposite were true?Phil McKinney, innovation expert
- Do the decisions we make today help people and the planet tomorrow? –Kevin Cleary, president, Clif Bar
- What is your theory of human motivation, and how does your compensation plan fit with that view? –Dan Ariely, professor, Duke University
- How do you encourage people to take control and responsibility? –Dan Ariely
- Who do we want out customers to become? –Michael Schrage, professor, MIT
- How do I stay inspired? –Paul Bennett, chief creative officer, IDEO
- Do I know what I’m doing? And who do I call if I don’t? –Erin Pooley, business journalist
- Do they use it? –Howard Tullman, CEO, 1871
- What is our question? –Dev Patnaik, CEO, Jump Associates
- How is business? Why? –Thomas A. Stewart, executive director, National Center for the Middle Market
Here’s a great article from Harvard Business Review that makes the distinction between a mere manager and a leader.
Peter Drucker once said ‘ Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things’.
Vineet Nayar’s own definition is quite spot on too.
A young manager accosted me the other day. “I’ve been reading all about leadership, have implemented several ideas, and think I’m doing a good job at leading my team. How will I know when I’ve crossed over from being a manager to a leader?” he wanted to know.
I didn’t have a ready answer and it’s a complicated issue, so we decided to talk the next day. I thought long and hard, and came up with three tests that will help you decide if you’ve made the shift from managing people to leading them.
Counting value vs Creating value. You’re probably counting value, not adding it, if you’re managing people. Only managers count value; some even reduce value by disabling those who add value. If a diamond cutter is asked to report every 15 minutes how many stones he has cut, by distracting him, his boss is subtracting value.
By contrast, leaders focuses on creating value, saying: “I’d like you to handle A while I deal with B.” He or she generates value over and above that which the team creates, and is as much a value-creator as his or her followers are. Leading by example and leading by enabling people are the hallmarks of action-based leadership.
Circles of influence vs Circles of power. Just as managers have subordinates and leaders have followers, managers create circles of power while leaders create circles of influence.
The quickest way to figure out which of the two you’re doing is to count the number of people outside your reporting hierarchy who come to you for advice. The more that do, the more likely it is that you are perceived to be a leader.
Leading people vs Managing work. Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success. Influence and inspiration separate leaders from managers, not power and control.
In India, M.K. Gandhi inspired millions of people to fight for their rights, and he walked shoulder to shoulder with them so India could achieve independence in 1947. His vision became everyone’s dream and ensured that the country’s push for independence was unstoppable. The world needs leaders like him who can think beyond problems, have a vision, and inspire people to convert challenges into opportunities, a step at a time.
I encouraged my colleague to put this theory to the test by inviting his team-mates for chats. When they stop discussing the tasks at hand — and talk about vision, purpose, and aspirations instead, that’s when you will know you have become a leader.
Vineet Nayar is the founder of the Sampark Foundation based in Delhi, and the former CEO of HCL Technologies. He is the author of Employees First, Customers Second. Follow Vineet at twitter.com/vineetnayar.