Category Archives: leadership

Start With Why

Why do you do what you do?

There. Don’t read the rest of this blog post. Just chew on the above for a solid minute. Five minutes, if you’re generous with yourself. Ten minutes, if you’re on a roll. Twenty minutes, if you’ve lost track of time and the thought of a growing inbox squeezed itself to the forefront. An hour, if you’re on one of those monk-like retreats where you’re on a vow of silence, and yet you’re reading blogs, like mine. A day, if you’re a fasting, silenting, enlightenmenting, non-showering, monkish type.

I mean, if you do decide to read on, you’ll see my notes on Start With Why, the book by Simon Sinek, as well as the results of what the book inspired me to do: figure out why I do what I do. Continue reading

Vote Every Day

(The following is what I shared with my co-workers today shortly after noon, Boston time, the day after we elected Trump to the presidency.)

To those of us who voted, hello there. This is for you.

I was born in a literal kingdom (…of Saudi Arabia) 8,000 miles away, onto soil that was… not home. I spent the first half of my life (17 years) there, surrounded by ex-patriots knowing one day we’d all… go home. One day, we’d go live in America, and do American things, like vote.

That’s why yesterday was special for me. I got to vote yesterday.

In the hope of connecting to others’ humanity ( [robot face] [winking face] ), and at the risk of sounding unprofessional, I’ll share my candidate didn’t win the presidency, and this has gotten me to think about what it means to vote. ( controversial hook / tension builds… ) Continue reading

Quirktastic or Corporate Bingo

Ever read a passage from an article on a lazy Sunday afternoon while sipping a cappuccino, and say, “Man, I totally gotta lift that and make that the basis of my next blog post?”

Nope, me neither.

I also remember watching my dad speak to everyone in the town square on the Fourth of July. He was up in this little white gazebo, and he was talking about the state of the city. He used the word “ain’t” at least a dozen times, so afterward I gave him the gift of feedback. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Are you really trying to help me get better or are you embarrassed?”

I said, “Honestly, a little bit of both.”

He said: “Son, this is who I am. And look out there. This is who they are. And if they can see me be imperfect and be the mayor, then one of them will aspire to be the mayor, too. People prefer their leaders with flaws because it makes these positions more attainable for the rest of us.

Here, Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit, in an interview by Adam Bryant for yesterday’s ‘Corner Office’ column of the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times, talks about his parents. In the process, he talks about the benefits of appearing human when in a position of leadership. Sure, the mayorship appears more attainable, and I would argue that is because the mayor appears more relatable.

Ever listen to a public relations message or a corporate pep talk and it is littered with stuffy-sounding jargon? “At the end of the day”, “Productize”, “Quality Initiative”, “Deliverable”, “Going Forward”, “Opportunity For Improvement”, some buzzphrases sound self-aggrandizing, some of these come off as adding no value, some do both, and man do these really grind my gears. They are very effective at being incredibly impersonal. Don’t use them.

Be relatable.

Hell, I’m trying, but that’s because I’m really a robot.

A handsome, charming, Spanish, sword-fighting robot. Don’t tell my wife.

Clarity And Courage

I’m telling ya, last Sunday’s Corner Office column in the New York Times covered some good ground. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner was interviewed, and the first question is always about learned lessons in leadership. To this, he responds with a very Scrum-y principle: prioritization. He talks about his time at Yahoo, when Jerry Yang just became CEO:

True prioritization starts with a very difficult question to answer, especially at a company with a portfolio approach: If you could do only one thing, what would it be? And you can’t rationalize the answer, and you can’t attach the one thing to some other things. And I was struck by the clarity and courage of his conviction.

I have not thought of prioritization in this light: clarity and courage. The ‘clarity’ part, I understand; picking out what is more important than others does require a refined vision, either an ultimate outcome or a chosen path. It is clarity of not only direction, but also values, the rationale for choosing one over another. You have to answer to at least yourself for making these choices, and thus in making these decisions, you are taking responsibility, which can entail courage. Hmmm… so the very act of deciding takes courage, since every action has an opportunity cost.

The opposite of prioritization is NOT making decisions and then living off the decisions made by others. Responsibility becomes shifted onto somebody else. Laissez-faire is neither courageous nor clear.

Don’t Have A Fine Day

Don’t do it. Just don’t. Whatever it takes.

If somebody asks you, “Greetings, citizen! How fares your day?” and you say, “Fine!” …then… think about that.

Fine? Do you really want a fine day? Just… fine? It’s your day, so if you could chose an adjective to be associated with it, would you really want it to be ‘fine’? Come now, fair citizen, surely you wish this not.

This line of thinking comes from ‘Tribes’ by Seth Godin, where he says that if you are having a fine day, then you’re not leading, because leaders are the heretics, out causing trouble, passionately speaking out against the status quo and creating change because the marketplace demands it. To be a leader, I can see this definitely applying.

To be a living human being, I can’t see why this shouldn’t apply.

If you’re having a fine day, then it is not an exciting day. Could you have an exciting day and honestly say it was just, well, y’know, fine? This echoes a definition of happiness from ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ by Tim Ferriss, where he equates happiness to excitement. If you are doing things that excite you (excites you to your core), then you are living life happily.

Let’s take this a step further and rock the boat a little: If you’re having a fine day, then you are not happy.

Ending on a lighter note, I challenge you to not have a fine day. Ever. Fo’ realz. Don’t float along the currents of everybody else’s life. Wake up every morning and tell yourself to make waves. I make this a part of my morning Scrum.

Stay in trouble, citizen.