@MoneyForLunch Interview: The Zuckerberg Question

I recently had a great time doing an interview with Bert Martinez on his radio program, Money for Lunch.

We talked about executives and business owners...their development and success, the challenges they face and, interestingly, how their fears impact their decision making.

The answer to the last is what I refer to as "The Zuckerberg Question:"

What would you do if you weren't afraid?

Answer that, execute on it and you've got it made!

Here's the link to the program. I'm second up.


Ben Horowitz: Don't Follow Your Passion

As you must know by now, I'm more than a great fan of Ben Horowitz. I think he's wonderful - and his commencement speech at Columbia University simply provides another reason why.

The video is below - but, before we get there, here's just a snippet from his speech explaining what to do instead of the always popular "follow your passion":
"Follow your contribution. Find the thing that you're great at. Put that into the world. Contribute to others. Help the world be better."
Like I said: Wonderful.

It's What You Can Contribute from Andreessen Horowitz on Vimeo.


Lost Opportunities through "Improved" Customer Service: The Apple Store

Dear Angela Ahrendts,

You don't know me, but I'm one of your customers. In fact, I'm one of your most important customers...because I've been an Apple customer - and devotée - since 1984.

What that means is that I've lived through the askance, side-eyed looks from business colleagues and clients wondering why I wasn't "smart" enough to prefer a PC.

I lived through being called a MacHead.

I've defended the company's vertical strategy when friends and colleagues spoke of being held hostage by Apple.

I believed in Steve Jobs - and awaited his return when the Apple Board turned on him. I also believe in Tim Cook and what he's bringing to the company - including defending him to colleagues, clients and analysts when he was first appointed and they asked me why I thought he could do what Steve Jobs did...and more.

I've been through it all - and, throughout, I've held firm that Apple knows what it's doing...until I visited an Apple Store recently and found out about your new, "improved" customer service policy for the Genius Bar.

The idea is good: Staff the Genius Bar so that the stores can handle walk-in customers' needs.

What isn't good is that it has had a knock-on effect on the rest of the staff working the floor. They've turned into salespeople.

One of the great joys of the design that Steve Jobs and Ron Johnson incorporated into the Apple Store (and, yes, I was positing from the first that they were revitalizing and redefining the retail experience - which they did) was that the Apple Store was a place not just to see and touch these "magical" products. It was a place to play.

What that meant was that the folks on the floor not only answered customers' questions. They shared their own excitement about and experience of what the technology can do.

As a result, they were like mini-Geniuses. It wasn't uncommon for staff members to try to answer customers' questions. Not technical questions. And definitely not fixes when something was mechanically wrong. But User questions.

And that's what's gone. Somehow, as you conveyed the new policy about Genius Bar support for walk-ins, what also got conveyed was that the floor staff weren't supposed to answer questions anymore - at least not unless the questions were about product specs and price-points.

They've become salespeople - and that's a terrible thing.

There's no give and take. There's no shared excitement. There's no fun and sense of possibility - from the "I didn't know you could do that!" wow factors to the "Oh, is that how I fix that problem!" relief that came with talking with someone who shared your experience and had greater knowledge to offer.

I've visited - and purchased items - in Apple Stores in multiple countries and the experience was always the same.

This, too, has been the Apple Experience. Not just the technology. It's the feeling Steve Jobs engendered from the first that, as an Apple user, you were part of something more. Something big.

You could Think Different.

Evidently, not so much anymore. At least not amongst your floor staff.

This is a quick and easy fix, Ms. Ahrendts, and I hope you take care of it. Soon.

After all these years, I don't want to be proved wrong.

Yours sincerely,



Management: If You Don't Fire The Ones Who Deserve It, Then You Should Be Fired

Yes, it's as simple as that.

If you don't fire the people in your organization who deserve to be fired, then you should be fired.

Why? Because you're not doing your job.

Here's an example:


Rewards and Recognition: What Are You Really Rewarding?

I have a friend who works at a university. The woman puts in hours that simply don't quit.

She's not in management. There are no bonuses and her salary is fine but nothing to write home about. 

The fact that she's exempt doesn't play into her thinking. For her, the job is the job - and her job is to do whatever it takes to ensure the students participating in her programs succeed. 

They do. 


Leadership for Innovation: The Value of a Cathartic Puke

Based on the recent job numbers, the US is seeing the beginning of the end of the worst of the global recession that began in 2007/2008. It's taken long enough.

What interested me from the beginning of the financial implosion, however, was the way that various "experts" had differing opinions about what was going on - and whether it was really as bad as we all thought. (For most, it was worse.)

There was one particular analyst I recall who went on at great length explaining why what was happening was a good thing. No one was enjoying it, he explained, and it certainly wasn't comfortable. But, according to him, it was necessary.

From his perspective, the financial system needed to be "cleaned out." As far as he was concerned, the only way that it could be done in a healthy and successful way was if it was thorough. Then, he explained, it could be completed and the global economy could put itself on the right track.

He called it a "cathartic puke."


The Inestimable Value of "I don't know."

Probably the least valued and least stated sentence in any organization is "I don't know."

That's sad - because saying "I don't know" isn't an admission of some kind of failure. It's the opening of a door to new information, ideas and vistas...the kind of vistas that change jobs, organizations and, sometimes - just sometimes - the world.

Think about it. How often have you heard a manager or executive say, "Don't bring me problems! Bring me solutions!"

But what if the person experiencing the problem doesn't and can't know the solution? What if they don't have access to the information available to more senior members of the organization?