Today’s Leaders Are Open, Smart Enough to Temper Fear

Have I told you all how great you look today?

Long live brown nosing.  It came in at #8 in this weeks Business Week article by Liz Ryan “Ten Signs of Fear-Based Workplace.”

Thankfully, number 8 is the only item that I see today in my immediate workplace.  And when I really think about it, brown-nosing is healthy when we it goes both ways.  When genuine, it can introduce a dose of humility that helps balance or temper our hubris, our drive to assert our will and get things moving in our desired direction.

In my team, the Global Communication Group at Intel, I believe for the most part we all lead AND we all help when and where needed.  I’m workin’ it alongside great communicators who are also doers  — not merely strategists or plan makers.  Actions help build trust.

Lots of fear has been removed in the past decade since I joined Intel in 2000.  I bet that can be said by others who worked at Intel in the 1990s, when a major mantra was Only the Paranoid Survive, coined and well explained by wiseman and former Intel CEO Andy Grove.  Grove was not wrong, in fact his approach infuses much needed severity, concern and smart motivation, especially when you’re doing battle or fighting competition.

Garden leading to the Sistine Chapel, Rome, Italy

Fear-based decision making is effective, especially when you need to be in “survival mode.”  “Survival mode” may be best run autocratically, but I don’t think autocracies scale and grow quickly enough for today’s creative, faster-paced, technology-driven, cross-cultural entwined world.  Our government may be at war and our businesses may be in do-or-die competition, but leaders rise above this somehow.  Like how Odysseus cleverly created the statue Horse to get his top worriers inside the walls of Troy in one of the most epic, storied battles.

Seems that in the past, mistakes were devastating.  Today, honest mistakes can be inflection points for improvement and growth.  In fact, I hear many leaders saying that if you aren’t making mistakes, you’re limiting yourself, you’re not experimenting or trying as hard as you can.  You’re not tapping deeply enough into your skills, desires and potential.

Today I’m surrounded by stellar, inspiring people — veterans and new talent.  In my 10 years, I’ve witnessed the rise of new, open and capable managers and veteran managers who are embracing change by involving the right people up and down our organization.

Over time, our work environment has evolved to be simpler yet more dynamic.  Managers have empowered each individual more than I what I remember seeing 10, eight even five years ago.  This is because of all around, top to bottom, side to side better communication, better understanding of what motivates each individual, and trust and appreciation.

When you’re not in survival mode, this is leadership:  Here are our goals, tell me how you can help achieve them measurably, go do your thing your way, and let me know how I can help.  Let me take that back…that’s the best approach to surviving and thriving, bu harnessing the most, best potential out of each individual.

This is a trend well explained in the book by Altimeter analyst Charlene Li titled “Open Leadership.”

In my workplace, we’ve embraced then moved beyond fear into an era where we are all managing an almost overwhelming amount of opportunities and possibilities, where it’s OK to make mistakes but vital that we make progress.  Because we’re moving at Internet speed, we must make our mistakes and handle them smartly, make them count and don’t make the same ones twice.  Do this by communicating and getting more comfortable with being wrong occassionally while being quick to respond with honesty, humility and a remedy.  This is hard to do as an individual, as a spouse, parent and employee.  But starting there and bringing this devoted integrity approach to the workplace can result in integrated, magnified, multiplied results and reward for the individual, team and company.

A team may have one or two stars, but each player performing to their potential is benefiting the team, the company as a whole, better than individuals making decisions driven by fear.

The hard, cold, real conclusion Liz Ryan gives in her Business Week article explains why open leadership is ahead of fear-based leadership:

Chief executives know in their hearts that smart people, set loose to solve big problems, are responsible for every success and innovation industry has ever seen. Fear-trampled employees don’t do a thing for your business. Still, management by fear is a hard habit to break, because fear-whipped underlings don’t squawk. Meanwhile, your competitors may be hiring your best talent away and stealing market share while you make it easy for them to do so. Those meek, submissive, broken-down employees might blossom in your rival’s trust-based culture. Do you really want to find out?

More than ever, I feel — and I hope more people are feeling — fortunate, smarter, more motivated, creative and able to confront and share criticism in real time at work…and everywhere.

Are You Past, Present of Future Focused?

RSA Animate – “The Secret Powers of Time” by The RSA on Monday, May 24th, 2010 (via

Professor Philip Zimbardo conveys how our individual perspectives of time affect our work, health and well-being. Time influences who we are as a person, how we view relationships and how we act in the world. View the full video of Professor Philip Zimbardo’s talk at the RSA.

This video came my way through @cassondra in this Tweet:

RSA Animate –Zimbardo’s talk on The Secret Powers of Time this is the talk I mentioned @Kenekaplan. Enjoy!

I really like the past, present future perspective. I’m not sure we’re all one or the other. I’m a present and future person. My wife seems more a past and future person. The anecdote about Italy cutting itself in half — north and south — is very true, a living example of opposite perspectives/lifestyles create tension in close proximity — but can work together (hopefully)! And the fact that their is no future tense verb in Sicilian dialect is amazing — even the language focuses on past and present.

This got me thinking about other stories and themes of how technology is impacting human behavior for better or worse.

My team at Intel have been talking about the Hourglass Syndrome and how many of us want better performing computers because we hate to wait.   A survey commissioned by our team revealed that many people lose 3 days a year “waiting” on their technology.  Here are two tongue-in-cheek videos about Hourglass Syndrome:

Here are a few other related stories I’ve read recently that show that many people are more concerned about the impact of technology on our lives, and behaviors:

An Ugly Toll of Technology:  Impatience and Forgetfulness in The New York Times (June 6, 2010)

Our Clutterned Minds, a New York Time Book Review on “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains” by Nicholas Carr (May 27, 2010)

Your Brain on Computers — Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price in The New York Times(June 6, 2010)

Teach Behavioral Intelligence Across All Academic Fields, Along Every Career Path

The recent “Collaborating and Sharing Bring Real Value” post hijacked my imagination this morning. What if behavioral intelligence could be woven into our college major corriculum?

Principles of Psychology 101 would remain on the basic requirement list. As we climbed closer up our chosen education ladder towards our career path, that’s when we could build an understanding for how to work with people we’ll be collaborating with in the work world.

For any decision making situation — crisis or process — our professor might ask her students some empowering questions. As we move into careers, we might continue asking these types of questions:

  • How can I help, not force or overwhelm others into (submission) understanding?
  • Who do I admire and might my heroes behave?
  • What would Martin Luther King Jr. say ?
  • How would Gandhi handle this?
  • If I did it like this, might I be elitist, arrogant and doomed like Mussolini?
  • How might Seth Godin flip my view in a better direction so that my decision results in something special others find helpful, useful?
  • Does what I’m advocating entails shouting at a market rather than what Doc Searls might do: participate with others in a market?
  • What question would Jeremiah Owyang ask that’d break down a wall blocking me from reaching a goal with measurable results?
  • How might Rohit Bhargava take my well-intentioned approach and subtly re-engineer it into a more interesting, compelling and engaging action that might be more meaningful for my team or others I’d like to run with my idea/hope/plan?
  • How would springboard storyteller Stephen Denning craft a meaningful visual anecdote to help me jettison the imagination of my teammates, sending them surfing on a parallel brainwave alongside me?
  • Is there a point where I can squeeze in some passion sparked by my “Life Purpose” like Eckhart Tolle teaches?

My BookStack, collection of classics and poetry play a role in my decision making and influence how I embrace change.  I just found Terry’s Take on Business, a cool blog with a great collection of succinct book reviews for business.  For me, data is important but behavioral intelligence is the “core” or “key takeaways” inside every great great book, story, poem, movie…even a campaign plan.

Homer’s Iliad showed me the ruinous destruction of wrath and hubris — something I watch for in me and bubbling up in teammates. Then Homer’s Oddysey opened my eyes to the endless potential of intelligence as Odysseus blends knowledge of self, and open mind, quick wit, teamwork and cunning to keep on course. Odysseus makes me think of Mike Moran’s Do It Wrong Quickly — sure, we’ll stop at this isle of nymphs or scheme the giant Cyclops…be let’s hit it and quit it so we can escape alive and sail back home to my castle to be with the woman I love.

I wonder if The Institute of Behavioral Sciences could help create a common thread of behavioral intelligence training across all fields of academics. And career coaches and businesses would continue driving better appreciation and understanding of productive behavior, behavior where excellent criticism is immediately followed with excellent suggestions that help move things ahead.

If we really can mature civility with each generation, this is the time to pump up the importance of behavior in our information era.

At some point in our lives, we all say, “I’m going to keep learning forever!” Books are essential for learning. Yet there are are other powerful sources for learning behaviors that help us improve through times of change.  At any decision making point the people you involve become ingredients for moving beyond goals.  These ingredients build trusting relationships strengthen by informed behaviors that help us accomplish things better, more quickly.

If you regularly sharpen my behavioral skills, would you be more valuable, more helpful to your team, company and your own career.

Collaborating and Sharing Bring Real Value

Chris Heuer shared a link to a great post by Christian Kreutz, who hits on my favorite topic that I hope becomes more valuable the more we understand how it.  It’s the underlining meaning for why we work together and share our collective experiences, discoveries…and I’d say even our emotions…with our teammates. Information is free most of the time, but we can bump up the value every time we touch it, favorite it, bookmark it, tag it, collect and sort it then share it. That helps us more quickly find the right people and right information we we want. That’s the power within an organization, not the classical hierarchical, political structure most people are dealing with today.

Christian offers these “bottom-up approaches”:

  • Start a collaborative tagging experiment over with colleagues to see how easy the sharing of valuable information can be, or open up a room on friendfeed to discuss right away resources.
  • Use external tools for your team to make project management easier. One example could be a blog for your project’s history, milestones and other management tasks.
  • Connect with colleagues through existing social networks such as Xing, Linkedin or Facebook and use it for exchange.
  • Extend informal activities on the web and make other colleagues be aware of it: bulletin board, liftsharing etc.

Separately, but complimentary….Chris offers an example of how FriendFeed can replace email as a collaboration tool.

  • As Joitske commented on my first blog post, you can address a specific problem and use social media for an open transparent discussion.
  • Cluetrain at 10 – Hangin’ with Robert DeNiro of Intel

    I had the pleasure of spending a day of getting my mind cracked open by wisdom from great people at the Cluetrain at 10 event hosted at sweat SAP digs in Palo Alto on May 29.

    I go to hang with the young Robert DeNiro of Intel, Michael Brito. He’s a force of energy and good ideas that he shares inside and outside of Intel.

    The Cluetrain at 10 was a day well spent, especially getting the chance to see Doc Searls in person for the first time. Deb Schultz gave my favorite presentation of the day.

    Hoping to find time to share more of the great one liners and many pearls of wisdom like: Get out of marketing and get into markets. One could spend a whole career exploring the meaning of that line by Doc Searls.

    It was about sharing and learning.

    Speaking Improvement Resources from Mark Ivey

    Mark Ivey is someone I heard about quite often after joining Intel in 2000.  .

    Mark was a nationally acclaimed Intel PC Dad, a dynamic duo along with my newfound broadcast partner (and fellow Chico Wild Cat) Ralph Bond. Ralph continues to be a mentor with his great communications and storytelling skills.
    Mark is remarkably gifted communication pro.  These days he’s keenly tuned to the role of social media for communications pros.  Here’s a recent post Killing Off the Social Media Specialist. I finally got to meet Mark in 2007.  Since then, he’s been keeping me in mind whenever he comes across great resources.  Like these:

    Thank you, Mark!