Changing Beliefs

I am always amazed about how Millennials think and behave. I caught myself another day thinking of what changed the most in me since I was their age and concluded it was all about beliefs. Below I tried to compile a quick list of the main changes I was able to name.

Change #1: I do not know exactly when it happened but at some point in time I stopped believing in predestination.

Change #2: I used to believe that good people always win. Now I believe that good people win more often and that it takes much more than just being good and honest to be successful.

Change #3: I used to believe that there is a reason for everything and that not seeing the particular reason of something was about my limitation as an ordinary human being. I now believe that too many things happen just by odds.

Change #4: I used to spend way too much time looking for reasons. I now spend way more time looking for solutions.

Change #5: I used to be proud and cocky about the knowledge I got from the books I had read. Now I am scared about all the knowledge that is in the books I have never read.

Change #6: I used to spend more time thinking about how to do things than about what things I should do. Now I spend most of the time selecting what worth doing and what doesn’t.

Change #7: I was obsessed about the meaning of happiness. Now I just do my best to be happy no matter what it means.

Change #8: I thought I didn’t care about what others thought of me and my acts. Now I became courageous to admit that I do care but I am more willing than average to ignore that when it is convenient to me.

Change #9: I used to pick my heroes based on their achievements. Now I pick my heroes based on what I can learn from them.

Change #10: I used to think that business required a lot of people due to its intrinsic complexity. Now I believe that business is a very simple matter which we usually make unnecessarily complex by bringing in too many dispassionate people.

Change #11: I used to pick my battles just with my intellectual integrity in mind. Now I put a second filter about my chances of winning them.

Change #12: I did believe that there was successful altruistic people in business. I am now totally convinced that altruistic people do not stay too long in business and quickly switch to alternative careers.

Change #13: I did believe in the power of ideas. I now believe in the power of how ideas are transmitted.

Sense of Humor is an Important Leadership Attribute

“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done”

Dwight Eisenhower

The best leaders I knew had very good sense of humor. They have something like a positive energy which emanates from inside and resonate in their organization even under difficult situations.

When a team reaches a dead-end which seems catastrophic the leader can weather help people float again or kill engagement forever by getting in a bad mood. A good laugh can certainly help deal with the stress involved in failing then creating an environment which is more open to discuss the causes and fix them.

Even in not so stressful situation the sense of humor can be a very effective leadership tool. Self-depreciating sense of humor is in my opinion especially effective when dealing with behaviour change in a working group.

And to foster some inspiration I will leave you with an Out of office Auto Reply which I created when I left for my last year’s vacation trip.

“Hello! I am Flavio’s Blackberry and I am here sitting in a locker while he enjoys national holiday and vacations with family in this nice water park at the Northeast of Brazil. I really expect him to come here take me to see the sun at least a couple of times a day but if perhaps he doesn’t do that please don’t be sad on him as you humans got this issue of requiring a rest once in a while. I ensure you that as soon as he sees your message he will do his best to answer promptly. Leaving a message at my voice mail could be even more effective if your subject is an urgent matter because I feel a huge pile of e-mails are moving here inside my guts. He will be back on Oct 18th.”

The Best Business Books of All Times

I spend about 30 to 40% of the time that I dedicate to reading just to choose what to read and just the remaining 60 to 70% actually reading the books. Reading a book is a considerable investment of time so neglecting the selection can end-up being a terrible investment. How good you are in selecting what you read has a much stronger influence on what you learn  than the number of books you read. I evaluate the books I read by how much they change the way I think and I really don’t care about the quantity. As a matter of fact I am much more concerned about the knowledge in the books I have never read than proud of the number of books I have read. In order to help those that think like me I put together a small list of business books which I think really worth the time in whatever stage of your career you are. Enjoy!

Leadership: First, Break all the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently and Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading

Change Management: Leading Change

Job Transition: The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels

Risk management: Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk and The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable 

Strategy: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t and Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done

Negotiation: Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

Operations Management: The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

Management: The Age of Heretics: A History of Radical Thinkers Who Reinvented Corporate Management

Office Politics: Games at Work: How to Recognize and Reduce Office Politics 

Innovation: The Theory of Economic Development and Innovation to the Core: A Blueprint for Transforming the Way your Company Innovates

Don’t agree or think I missed any? Please leave your comment.

Do You Work for Your Company or for Your Boss?

There are two kinds of employees and two kinds of leaders. There are employees that work for their companies and employees that work for their bosses. There are also leaders that expect employees to work for them and leaders that expect employees to work for their companies.

Are you able to diagnose in what quadrant you are in the plot below?

If you are in a Tacit Silo Pact you do not face a career threat in the short-term but if this is a widespread practice in your organization you are collectively going nowhere what certainly represents a long-term threat for you. This is the typical game in companies with inside-out focus where territoriality rules the internal dynamics.

If you are in a Corporate Strategy Execution Pact and this is widespread in your company, the best you can do is to stay right there where you are. Your company will be a winner and your career will progress as your boss can understand the sacrifices you do in lieu of the bigger picture.

If you are in an Employee Performance Trap I and this is widespread in your organization my recommendation for you is to search for another job. If perhaps when you look around you see that other bosses behave differently you should try to make an internal move in the same Company trying to report to a boss that play for the Company.

If you are in an Employee Performance Trap II you should change your mindset quickly before someone makes a choice for you. It will not take long for your boss and team mates to notice that you do not belong to that environment and start marginalize you until the point it becomes unsustainable.

It’s that Time of the Year Again!

For most people working in large corporations the budget season will be open in August and most of the people’s time and energy spent throughout the remaining 5 months of the year will migrate away from customers, strategy and even from the quarterly results to the painful budget planning.

Except for few privileged companies and businesses this process will in general result in meaningless detailed projections on headcount, expenses, revenues and capital expenses which emerge from bargaining games that cascade from the very top and permeate down to all levels. The result will be lots of spreadsheets which represent nothing but the consensual settlements which was acceptable to all people involved in this intricate political process among business units, geographies, functions and corporate clerks.

This ineffective bargaining mechanism has become so institutionalized that most people lose the capacity to get indignant about all the energy spent in this exercise and just take it as “the way things work around here”.

In my opinion however worse than being a waste of energy this is a wasted opportunity of building a well done process which links strategy to operation enabling execution as a key competitive advantage of the enterprise.

Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan in “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done” describe a perfect analogy of how things usually work from a planning stand-point in conventional companies:

“Your boss has asked you to drive from Chicago to Oskaloosa, Iowa, a journey of 317 miles. He’s prepared a budget for you with clear metrics. You can spend no more than $16 on gas, you must arrive in 5 hours and 37 minutes, and you can’t drive over 60 miles per hour. But no one has a map with a route to Oskaloosa, and you don’t know whether you’ll run into a snowstorm on the way.”

Taking advantage of this analogy we know that a lot of time is spent in bargaining about speed and expenses while absolutely no time is invested to discuss more important points like what is the best way to get to Oskaloosa, the contingencies if something goes wrong and the assumptions underlying the plan.

The question now is: How to change this state of affairs if you are not leading from the top? Well, if you are courageous and willing to put your career at risk there is a way of doing it by just refusing to play this game. Some tips that will put you in the line of fire but will help your organization much more than just letting it go are:

Trap Sandbaggers: instead of asking for input on the Revenue projections for the next 5 years you can rather ask: How much are you not going to grow due to constrains?

Trap Budget Slush Funders: instead of asking how much they need for delivering the goal you can rather ask: Which constrains if removed would unleash the biggest growth?

Trap Pseudo Leaders: instead of asking how many people they need you can rather ask: What are the main skills needed to meet the biggest growth plan? Do you have these skills in your team?

There are several other actions that could be done besides those but this is a good beginning to start implementing an Execution culture in your working group.

The Top 30 Mistakes that Kill Innovation

I have insisted for some time that fostering innovation is more about stop doing some things than about doing different things. Below I listed the top 30 mistakes divided in 3 dimensions that if a company stops doing will certainly improve innovation.

1) People

  • Preferably promote scientific managers who manage by the numbers
  • Promote risk-averse people
  • Promote people who you are 100% sure will deliver the next quarter even if that requires to sell the dinner to buy lunch
  • Promote people who is apologetic of the status-quo
  • Get rid of everyone who does not fit the standards
  • Manage by fear
  • Over-rate experience as a key leadership attribute
  • Avoid stretching the talents too much
  • Reward doers in expense of creators
  • Reward creators in expense of doers

2) Processes

  • Allocate resources using the low hanging fruits criteria
  • Let the finance department have the strongest voice on project selection
  • Establish fancy processes and approval processes
  • Don’t move without listening the lawyers before
  • Trust that innovation is doable without more resources
  • Ignore execution and invest just in creativity programs
  • Ignore the need for innovation training
  • Don’t establish clear metrics
  • Ignore the need for tools
  • Hold a specific department accountable for innovation

3) Culture

  • Foster intolerance with failure
  • Close your eyes to hidden agendas and silos games
  • Do not listen to your customers
  • Make the quarter EBITDA the first priority
  • Make long-term growth your last priority
  • Avoid bold market movements
  • Announce lay-offs every time you disappoint investors
  • Reward just optimization and operational excellence
  • Trust that innovation should happen from bottom-up
  • Foster incremental thinking as a religion

The Emerging Guiltless Economy and Its Opportunities

The Western civilizations live in a cyclical pendulum between waves of altruism and individualism. From the hippie counter-culture to the yuppies we saw a swing from one extreme to another in less than two decades.

What about these days? I believe we are living in an era of extreme balance which I would name Individualistic-Altruism which creates several opportunities for innovators and marketers.

Individualistic-Altruists are not willing to sacrifice consumption to respect the limits of Earth but are showing a clear behavioral shift towards guiltless products and services. It is not about consuming less but rather about consuming better.

They want to keep consuming their cosmetics but do not want to feel guilty about animal tests or about rain forest biodiversity. They want to keep consuming their favorite soft drinks but do not want to feel guilty about Global Warming from PET bottle production. They want to keep using air conditioning but do not want to feel guilty about Nuclear Waste Management. They want to wear fashionable clothes, shoes and eat chocolate but do not want to feel guilty about children labor. They want Tablets but do not want to feel guilty about electronic waste. They want to own a car but do not want to feel guilty about carbon dioxide emissions. They like the convenience of drinking  bottled water but do not want to feel guilty about those who do not have access to drinkable water.

Some companies have been very successful in identifying this trend and developing value propositions for the guiltless segment: The Body Shop’s Values & Campaigns are practically their brand’s Value Proposition , Natura’s program to support the development of local communities where they extract their natural ingredients , Coca Cola’s PlantBottle , Dow’s POWERHOUSE Solar Shingles, Toyota Prius and its “Harmony between man, nature and machine” motto  and Startbucks’ Ethos Bottled Water.