Monday, March 5, 2012

How NOT to lead a boardroom...

Donald Trump has had a great deal of success with his various iterations of "The Apprentice." For me, the novelty wore off after a season--although I did come back for the first "Celebrity Apprentice." But last night, I came back and I was struck by something: I really hope there are not impressionable minds out there that think that Trump's actions in the boardroom are anything close to how to actually lead and evaluate people.

It seems that one of Trumps favorite moves in the boardroom is the "gotcha" move. Last night, he asked Clay Aiken what he thought of George Takei as a leader. Clay, being the polite guy he was, answered that he thought George did a great job. But see, Trump already knew that his son had talked to Clay during the project and asked that same question of Clay. At that time, Clay chuckled a little bit (it wasn't nearly the laugh that Trumps son implied). This was, of course, thrown back into Clay's face in front of both teams in the board room and Clay was left to explain it away--in front of both teams.

What was worse was Trumps insistence on asking the Project Manager's who they would bring back to the boardroom if their team lost. George Takei answered the question and ticked off Lou Ferrigno (although, it apparently doesn't take much to insult Lou). The ladies team Project Manager managed to avoid the question even after The Donald insisted that "you know you have to answer the question." I kept saying out loud. "just say 'I'll deal with that if my team is the one that lost.'"

Back to my point, though. I've been deeply involved in performance improvement research lately and this act by The Donald just sticks in my craw. Yes, I am aware it is done for TV. However, I am also aware that many people take what they see on TV as being "reality." After all, that's what it is, right? "Reality TV?"

There is something to be said about the very simple management rule that Captain Walter Kelly, USAF taught me back in ROTC at the University of Akron: "Praise in public, criticize in private." I know Capt. Kelly didn't invent that saying but he was the first person I remember hearing that from...and it left an impression.

I wonder how The Donald would feel if Ivanka was in MY boardroom and facing the same kind of questions? Wait a minute...I've got an idea for a new show! "Celebrity Apprentice: Trump Edition!" I'll let you know as soon as I hear from the network...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lintastic Lesson!

Plenty has already been written about how in the world Jeremy Lin could have gone unnoticed for so long. Certainly a lot of factors have been discussed: his race, his size, his overall "look" (meaning he didn't look overtly athletic), and his self-admitted lack of flashy play. But one reason strikes me as being a poignant lesson for leaders and coaches of leaders: he wasn't really given a chance.

In his stints in Houston and Golden State, Lin didn't get much playing time. Even when he arrived at the Knicks, he had more bench time than playing time--by a large margin. Now, not everyone gets to play as much as they want--even in the NBA. The disparity of talent from starting 5 to bench can often be dramatic. So, this is not an argument that "everyone should play." This is the big leagues. This is the real world. This isn't community-center kids basketball where everyone gets a trophy.

But, what seems to be clear is that this is a situation where scouts, coaches, and GM's didn't really look hard enough at their talent. Instead, they seemed to be content to buy-in to the "conventional wisdom" about Lin. When they got him on their team, they put him into the role that fit that conventional wisdom--without giving it a second thought.

Then disaster pretty much struck the Knicks. Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, THE big stars of the team, both were gone--at least temporarily. That gave Lin an opportunity. Make no mistake, I don't think this story has anything whatsoever to do with great coaching or insight by Knicks Coach, Mike D'Antoni. He was forced to play Lin because of a shortage. He should feel embarrassed just like a lot of Lin's former coaches do. To Lin's credit, he made--and is making--the most of this opportunity. NOW, D'Antoni has to do some coaching because he has to figure out how to keep Lin in the mix when Stoudemire (now back) and Melo are both on the floor. That will also be a challenge for Lin but at least now he has a chance to deal with it--rather than sleep on a couch and dream about it.

The lesson for us in the business world is this: who is the Jeremy Lin on our team? Have we put enough effort in evaluating--and re-evaluating our talent? Have we given our teams a chance to fail? Yes, I said "fail." You can't really give people the chance to succeed if you, as the leader, are also willing and prepared to allow them to fail.

Leaders: avoid buying into the conventional wisdom regarding your team. Make your own judgments and put forth significant effort in giving your team the opportunity to fail. The results just may be Lincredible!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Influence People!

I had the pleasure of listening to Brian Ahearn this evening at the Central Ohio Coaches meeting at THE Ohio State University. Brian is one of only 27 people--in the world--who is certified by to present the principles of Dr. Robert Cialdini
He shared some great insights into simple--really simple--things that people can do to influence people! And "people" has significant meaning to Brian's message...but you have to go to his blog to find out what it means! I couldn't help but frantically scribble notes as ideas popped into my head inspired by Brian's talk tonight!

Do yourself a favor and check out Brian's blog: Influence People.