Some see it as optimism versus pessimism but often it’s a matter of preference between tearing something down, or building something up. Seriously, some people naturally prefer the tear down process. Me, I’m an optimist for sure, and I’ve come to understand that rather than first focusing on what needs to be fixed, you are better off dreaming of a future state and building it. The fixes come as a part of that process, but the lens is one of positive improvement versus destructive criticism. This has worked well for me in my personal life, family and career.

When I am hiring people I look for this quality. Having hired a lot of sales people over the years, I’ve found that you don’t want someone driven by money or defeating the competition, but people who are driven by success. They thrive on knowing they were a part of building something great and take pride in it. As for money, they know if they get this part right, the money comes anyway.


Companies struggling today are too quick to assume the fix is adopting a culture of “accountability” which oftentimes manifests itself in the corporate vocabulary, causing great people to rethink their careers and leave. Don’t get me wrong, people should be accountable, but it is a death spiral when you start to think they won’t perform unless you tell them you’re going to hold them accountable. As an organization or as leaders in an organization, your job is to provide the environment and resources needed for success, not to adopt some draconian tone of accountability. People actually want to succeed, do you belief that? If you don’t you might want to read Daniel Pink’s Drive. It is an illuminating and research based look at the motivation of the workforce.

If the scoreboard counts for anything, Apple founder Steve Jobs by anyone’s account, nailed leadership. Say what you will about his rumored micro-management, with a company as large as his, he wasn’t looking over the thousands of employees shoulders. Instead he managed with leadership. Pixar’s John Lasseter recalls the one thing Steve always said was “make it great.”

“Make it great” is the best leadership mantra, any other message from leadership expresses doubt in the people’s desire to do their job. Too often companies direct “how” to do things, start measuring things, and demonstrate a disbelief that individual can and want to “make it great.”

Too little nowadays, employers express confidence in their workforce. Perhaps they could take a page from Steve Job’s leadership book and merely remind their workforce that they believe in them, and to merely ask them to “make it great.”

Free Marketing

With the internet came a new way to market your product and services, but sadly many companies have still not caught on. Inbound Marketing is the opposite of how it was done in the past. in the past marketers concentrated on getting folks attention through interuptions (phone, direct mail, spam email, unwanted newsletters, radio, print and TV advertising) that today just don’t work anymore. The good news is that the power of the internet and social media allows you to find just those that have an interest in your service and have a dialogue with them. With this comes credibility and new clients.

Today’s marketer utilize tools like Eloqua, Hubspot and others and with the internet can use their brains not their money to manage their brand with SEO and SEM.

There is still a purpose for using email, brochures and even advertising, but today’s lean, fast companies must recognize the transparency of the markets today and build a brand based on bringing valuable content forward. The day of meritocracy is here.

Many companies encourage collaboration, flat organizational hierarchy and transparency, and refer to their culture as having “an open door” policy. But just having the door open is not enough. Are your managers skilled in listening without judgement? Do they know how to turn the conversation from a complaint into a constructive discussion and plan to make things better? Most importantly, do they know when to keep the communicated opinions and concerns to themselves and move forward without predjudice for the messenger, or does the the open door become a trap door in the floor.

If you really want feedback from your employees you must not be punitive when they speak up, or culturally you’ll end up with lots of open doors, but no one sitting in the room with you.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of collaboration. But if it is deployed as a fad or business trend, it could do more harm than good. Collaboration means utilizing varied skills, disciplines, views and experiences in search of the best and most efficient solution. What it is not is a means to ensure everyone is involved in every decision with an equal vote. To be avoided is the burning building scenario. If the building is on fire, it is not a great time to brainstorm ideas, take a vote on the best exit strategy and most importantly, to do nothing until consensus is gained. That method kills everyone.

Even in collaborative environments, ground rules must be set, timelines adhered to, and individuals selected to be part of the collaboration based on their ability to contribute.

My two cents of course.

In the late 90’s fueled by the rapid spread of the internet, companies were quick to adopt internal portals to share information, extend brand and build culture. During that time I worked for a great company that did an outstanding job of managing an intranet. It actually was most employee’s desktop front page. Why? Because they found value there starting at the front page. It was not uncommon to find picture and messages from the leadership, an accessible calendar of company events, current and archived versions of the company newsletter (also a stellar product), an interface that was easy to navigate and chalked full of resources based on categories of need and functionality. They even had their own internal version of Craiglist so employees could swap items, get new puppies or search for a babysitter. This all went a long way in making us more productive and to feel more “part” of something.

Since then I have worked for several firms and I have come to learn that few firms do this, or do this well. As corporate belts have tightened, companies have discontinued their focus on making their Intranet a cultural watering hole, and have opted for static, life-less document storage and have discontinued the resourcing around building community, they still demand it, they just refuse to invest in it.

In my mind there’s a high ROI on this kind of spend that comes in the form of increased engagement, productivity, discretionary effort and loyalty. I think it is time to rethink it value.