When I was a young boy my dad built a house. After the foundation was laid the framing began. Framing establishes the walls and the general structure of the house. As it turns out there’s a principle for perspective management called framing as well. With framing we evaluate how we’re looking at something.

For example, the oft told joke about the optimist and pessimist twin boys whose parents decide to test them on their birthday. They both are framing their life with their bents, but that year the pessimist’s present was a new bicycle and the optimist’s present was a pile of manure. The pessimist said, “I’m going to get a flat!” The optimist ran outside and exclaimed, “Where’s the pony? With this much manure there’s gotta be a pony around here!”

As we look at management opportunities ahead of us we see that our teams challenge us. They stretch us. They cause us to have to dig deep. And that, my friends, is the fertilizer for the soil of life.

What’s the framing to help you see the manure as fertilizer for growth?

– the MGMT

Explain It Like I’m 5

One of the worst things in today’s acronym laden world is terse explanations where jokes about TPS reports are at home. Nobody needs that. No one on your team needs to have their day spent deciphering gibberish. Acronyms serve a purpose, but any time you get a chance to explain a new concept avoid draping your explanation with a veil of confusion.

I had a manager once who quickly figured out (on his first day) that I was not familiar with his acronym cannon and switched to proper vocabulary and never switched back. It was glorious. I understood many of the acronyms in the industry, but he was new and came from a different background. His observation and flexibility made my understanding a lot easier and faster.

So explain things like your direct reports are five, even if they’re not, because that way it’s abundantly clear. And clear may deliver a better product.

Who Cares?

When I think about what the most important ingredients for a team dynamic are I think of caring.

Does your team sense that you’re aloof? Do you focus on the next career move? Do you ignore their problems? Do they find you difficult to engage? Do you care? Do they know you care? That’s a lot of questions, but caring is an important thing to reflect on because if you don’t care about your team, as a group and as individuals, they’ll pick up on it and you’ll be losing their focused energy if they have it to give. Caring for your team is critical.

I was asked in an interview once, “What is your greatest weakness?” And my answer was, “I care about my team too much.” I really invest myself in them and I want to know them and I want them to know they’re cared for deeply and personally. Sometimes this can color my perspective. However, if I’m not deeply invested in those I’m working with then they’re not likely to put in the effort required to exceed expectations and deliver on what we own as a team.

What are your most important team dynamic ingredients?

– the MGMT

Anger Management

This last weekend my family went up to our favorite BBQ joint ‘near’ us [45 minutes from my home] and my youngest daughter stood just inside the entrance and ‘uked all over the floor. I was simultaneously in shock and rage. She had car sickness that she got over relatively quickly. I pretty much didn’t enjoy my food, I didn’t talk to my family and I just stewed in my anger. It was not my brightest moment.

I tend to have a hard time with anger because I’m not generally an angry person and so when I do get angry resetting is hard because I don’t have a lot of practice resetting from that place. However, below above quote that Tim Ferriss shared on his 5-Bullet Friday newsletter really resonated with me.

“Anger is often what pain looks like when it shows itself in public.” – Krista Tippett

If I’m going to handle my emotional state intelligently (my EQ) then I need to recognize some root causes.  My family, my team, and the world would benefit from it.

Heck No!

No. No two letters, have more power.  To create, to destroy, to empower, or to enslave. When we ask or demand things of others we have the opportunity to commandeer their schedule. When others ask the same of us, we have to evaluate how much commandeering in we can handle.

And this is where no comes in. Saying no is hard for some. I love yes! I want to please others. I want you to like me and think of me as an ally. And we can be best friends forever. Except I’m going to tell you no. And disappoint you. And make you frustrated. At least that’s what I tell myself.

So instead I have to setup criteria for yes. From a principle I learned in Essentialism, by Greg McKeown, I try to employ Derek Sivers’, “Hell, Yeah!” rule. If I’m not compelled to engage with an event, a meeting, an opportunity, a chance to have my time commandeered I say no. Do I have a reason to be here? Will I contribute value? Can this meeting be replaced by a letter tied to the leg of a digital carrier pigeon?

What are your criteria for saying yes!? What about no?

– the MGMT


The Long, Long Line

In 9th grade I had a tremendous amount of apathy for time not spent with friends. On a scale from none to “kiln me now” I was pretty sure that working on anything for school was stupid as I was going to become a rock legend. Rock legends don’t need backup plans. Then Mr.H. happened to me and my history class. The first day of class he said and did a number of things with great intensity. He kicked our collective apathetic butts, and he made us think – even if it was with a little fear.

He told us that the next class we’d take the hardest test we’d ever take (it was), and that if we promised to study he wouldn’t give us another one that hard. So we came into class and ran out knuckles over the cheese grater of his test and realized in brokenness that we weren’t as smart as we thought we were. But then something really cool happened: we realized he actually cared about us.

Mr. H. drew a long line across two chalk boards and used his thumb nail to scratch a tiny line out of the chalk. He turned to the class and said “This side of the line represents the infinite of the past. And this side of the line represents the infinite of the future. And this scratch represents your life. Can you see how short it is? You can’t change the past, but you can have a massive impact on the future, and it’s my job to help you do that.”

And my life has never been the same since.

– the MGMT

The Wheel of Life: Mentoring Others

There’s nothing like hope to take the edge off of risk. There’s a naivete, hope, optimism, and then the negative rest of the list going on down towards, “I am a member of a late 80’s boyband.” Thats bad. Hope is awesome, though, because it cross beyond just being optimistic towards having a goal to execute towards. Change means risk to what is comfortable, to what has been safe, but also to what has been the default. The default, as we’ve said before, is high risk for long term atrophy.

As a manager of people you have to help them connect the dots between where they are and where they’re going to be. You need to help them see how they’re going to get there and what value that presents. I am of the opinion that the super-manager has a hard time when they’re promoted because he has a team of best choices to choose from for his own replacement. That’s because he or she has buried growth and quality so far into the psyche of their team that they all – no matter their core competencies and personality types – are prepared to take on the challenges of leading a team.  The reality is that some people don’t want to be managers, and not all people grow at th same pace. But we’re not here for that discussion, we’re here to discuss how to mentor your direct reports.

Your direct reports are going to need to be presented with the Law of the Lid from the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and understand that they’re part of their problem in growth, but also the part of the solution. You want to have already covered their personality profile so they get their strengths and weaknesses from that end. You want them to understand their core competency. And then you want to help them uncover a growth plan that helps them grow as a whole person so that they have specific results they’re after. Growth with purpose. Growth they can celebrate.

This is personal growth, right? So you’re going to give them the list, but you’re also going to give them a framework for the rest of their lives. This is the foundation for Key Result Areas (KRA) that will come later for work related metrics.

The value for the manager in mentoring through these things is to help establish a personal investment and bond. A path of hope, and establishing a baseline for future development. KRA’s will be a logical next step for growing people vs. The standard to work down to for those who don’t care and just see a meaningless metric.

Some tips to consider: make this a personal exercise for your direct report. Don’t force them to share their list, but let them know you’re going to ask how things are progressing and that they’re welcome to share as much or as little as they like.

Ask your direct report if there are any specifics that you can help with personally. Tell them – and mean it – that you want them to grow and you want to celebrate with them as they do that.

What do you wish your managers of the past had mentored you on?

– the MGMT




The Wheel of Life: Applied to You

The wheel of life is one of those things that Zig Ziglar left as a legacy to those who come after him on this planet (and maybe some day off of this planet). It’s the simplest of wheels, but it has a problem: without intentional behavior, you’re going to get flat spots. The list of categories is at the bottom of this post.

Several months ago I sat down with the categories from the wheel of life and wrote down my personal assessment for where I was on a scale from bad, ok, good, great, and perfect. I wrote down my state and then wrote down a specific thing I was going to do to change that part of my life. I wrote it down, and then began acting on those areas. I’m going to be frank: I had let my life float on default for most of 2016 and many areas were just OK or bad. I had to let that sink in. The only area that was good was my spiritual walk, and that should be much better than that!

Now I need to review that list every month and begin to take actions as I progress to fix the flats.

So, why do you need to go through this exercise as a manager? Because you need to develop yourself, and you need to be in a good place to develop your team. Nobody wants to be mentored by someone barely hanging onto OK. And nobody barely hanging onto OK is really in a position to mentor or coach.

So, your assignment here is to pause and write down (or copy from below) the wheel’s categories and do a self assessment. Then come up with a plan to fix your flats!

    Next step:
    Next step:.
    Next step:
    Next step:
    Next step:
    Next step:
    Next steps: 

– the MGMT



Accounting for Accountability

The word accountability has had disciplinary connotations for many people.  I have a variety of good stories about getting caught doing things I should not have done from growing up. I thought I was clever [but was not] and my parents were very consistent with their follow through. However, accountability is a potentially positive thing, and this writeup is an exploration of that idea.

Core Elements of Accountability
To account for the things that need to be done for success in various situations, the following elements are worth considering so that people can be held accountable for tasks:

1) An understood clear objective
2) A generally understood means of execution
3) An understood and agreed upon Deadline
4) Clearly understood benefits of success and/or consequences of failure
5) A review of completed work

The fifth element is key because when something succeeds it should be celebrated, and when it fails we need to be able to review which of the first 4 elements was missing or misunderstood. It’s the accounting of accountability.

Clarity of Objective
Knowing the objective of a task is of utmost importance. We need to be able to understand in detail what is being asked of all parties.  Often the critical piece missing from this step will create major issues for the next two elements.  The problem could be a gap in expectations because the objective was not clear.  If you point up into the Colorado Rockies and say to a friend, “Let’s go hike that mountain off in the horizon,” It will be hard for your friend to know which mountain you’re referring to.  However, if you say, “Let’s go hike Mount Evans,” your mate will have half a chance to understand clearly what is expected.  The clear objective should be understood and possible.

Clarity of Path
It’s easy to imagine the impossible, state it in clear and understandable language, and then have no way to arrive at the impossible objective.  I can say, “Let’s create a self driving hyperloop vehicle that can be turned invisible,” however, there is no clear path to achievability despite the clarity of the goal. Those leading projects should very carefully look for these sorts of tasks and avoid them with diligence.

Once a clear goal is understood those involved in the task need to have a solid outline of how the goal will be achieved.  This should be reviewed carefully, moving between the means of execution and the deadline.  If participants cannot come up with a plan for a schedule tied to an understood means of execution that seems agreeable, reasonable, and probable then the objective should be revisited or the deadline should be evaluated.  One of the worst things teams can do is understand the objective, but not have an agreed upon solution so that success seems highly likely.

Exceptions to this come with experience and the type of task.  For example we might have a team of experienced engineers doing some innovative work that is hard to plan for.  However, if it is easy to observe that there is no clear path through towards the goal this might be a red flag that should keep us from proceeding without more research.

Clarity of Timeline
After creating a situation where the goal and execution are agreed upon, the deadline should also be agreed upon.  How many times have you been approached after a deadline is given where someone wants to move it up by a week?  How many times have you agreed upon an outcome without a deadline?  Both of these situations are sub-optimal and create a harmful environment for those doing the work, those expecting the work, and accountability will be difficult to have because agreements were either broken or not made at all.  I once spoke to someone about a project they wanted rushed through for an already scheduled demo.  However, the clarity of the goal was not provided first, the only element that was agreed upon was when the demo of the product was to be ready.  That’s high risk.

Clarity of Benefit and Consequence
Take time to go over both positive and negative consequences of success and failure.  Positive consequences may be bonuses, continued employment, a big customer deal, and the negatives may be a release from a position, or a lack of a bonus.  Don’t be unclear on this, but don’t make it a threat.  The purpose of accountability is not fear, the purpose of accountability is confidence, clarity and deliverability.  Once the consequences are outlined review the goal, the means and the timeframe so that all parties are prepared for the consequences and can sign off on them ahead.  There should be no blindsiding of consequences if at all possible (sometimes 3rd parties can do this unexpectedly, but internal parties should never do this).

Clarity of Achievement
Lastly the retrospective, or post mortem, should be done to discuss what was delivered, what was learned, what could be done better next time, and a celebration of benefits or facing of consequences.

Single projects that do not have a guaranteed “next time” will still benefit from this because all parties will get a chance to learn from the experience.  It is not uncommon for R&D projects to be canceled, but leadership will still be able to learn about what happened during the steps of the process.  The post mortem also allows for failures to be called out.  Because the clarity of the first 3 parts were given participants can be held accountable.

Gracious Accountability
This review time should also be a place for contextual grace. If it is discovered that there were unclear expectations or a delegate or direct report is new to the principles above then grace may be the right response. This grace should be shown in context and all learnings discussions should be reiterated. As was said by Dr. Henry Cloud, “A fool has patterns, a Wiseman has a problem.”

Outside risks may also be a condition for leniency when an unexpected interruption of higher critical importance comes, or third parties do not deliver. These are still opportunities for growth and learning.

Concluding Thoughts
Proper accountability will actually be properly enabling.  When all of the elements above are clear then all parties can move with more confidence.  Sure, negative consequences may be possible, but positive outcomes are the goal.

Locus of Control

What is the most important thing for you to acquire? Is it money? Is it position? Each of the things we want in life usually comes with some level of control required. Someone else has something you would like – and given the right relationship, trading, or negotiations you could gain control over that thing. Locus of Control is the term used to describe who has control. Locus means location.

What often happens on teams is a shuffling of control without transparent cooperation. Deliberately managing for locus of control is important to bringing efficiency through clear roles and ownership.  When we identify who has control, why they have control, and what gives them that control we can then begin moving the control towards ourselves.

Fear is often a control removal tool that is used by sales people to get you to buy the extra warranty, but it can also be the thing that we as managers succumb to that leads us to under perform and not deliver innovation and deliberate change.