lead the band : be the rockstar boss

Rockstar Boss The world of business has changed. Not is changing – it has changed. Factories are so 1970’s and pretty much dead in the western world. The widget and selling it has been usurped by the Internet and the last thing your business has left in its value stack is service, saying thank you and being honest. Not everyone can see this, and this is why we need you.
It’s your turn to be the Rockstar Boss....

17 July 2010 ~ 0 Comments

transfer point

transfer point

Sales people are not engineers. Engineers are not sales people.

Great sales people are extremely charismatic. Well dressed charmers. They reach out, connect, find common ground, establish rapport and convince. Their attitude, tonality and body language adapts to the interaction with other people as they paint an attractive landscape that eventuality leads to trade. They dance as they reduce the risk for change and make what they have in their toolkit the most attractive option for the prospect’s problem.

They are up and they are down. They are emotional and passionate. Success for a sales person is measured as the grand finale act of convincing someone to commit to something they didn’t know they wanted. Every step to reach that point is an exercise in change and analysis and more change.

Real engineers live to solve problems. Instead of the rapidly altering emotion of a sales person, an engineer aims for a point and seldom alters the course until all the relevant data is captured, analyzed and pieced together to reach the solution.

Each problem is a jigsaw puzzle and work continues until it’s solved. A constant flow of thought and activity, trial and error until the goal is reached and the jigsaw completion.

Having a sales person guide engineers is to restart the jigsaw puzzle in every interaction. To have engineers be a component in a sales cycle is to inhibit the fluidity of the conversation and rapport. Each has a different set of motivators and path to success.

When the sales person has done their convincing, insert a transfer point between then and the when engineers being to enact the change agreed to with the client. Purposefully move from a state of conversation to one of action by itemizing the problem and the commitments made to resolve those problems.

Then let the sales person move to the next convincing situation and have the engineer focus on solving the problem.

This may come across as relatively obvious and even, possibly, old fashioned advice. In the modern world we tend to assume that the world is full of change and everyone must be able to accommodate this and people are more or less the same (this, I fear, is narrowed by most people’s built-in assumption that everyone is like THEM). To bridge gaps, technical frameworks exist to embrace change to shorten delivery cycles and bring sales people and engineers closer together.

This is fantastic news, however sales people are sales people because they are driven that way; the thrill and art of convincing and the commission for turning it into trade. The engineer isn’t driven by the same factors, but instead needs quiet time to solve the problems they are handed.

Ideologies of a worldwide ‘group hug’ aside, recognize these differences and be the transfer point between the two worlds when a sale needs to turn to action. In all other stages and steps, keep the two worlds separated.

08 July 2010 ~ 0 Comments



If you find yourself in a situation where you’re surrounded by people you don’t know and are struggling to think of what to say or talk about, keep these in mind…

1. Occasion
Why are you all gathered together? What’s special about this occasion? What’s about to happen?

2. Location
Where are you? Was it easy to find? What are some notable characteristics of the area? Have you been there before?

3. Weather
The constant failsafe for conversation openers. Hopefully you’ll never reach this point for conversation starters.

All three of these share a common element: we’re all in this together. Use that to build bridges with people.

Work with these openers to break a silence, but then move on to asking more about the people you’re with. Avoid question that solicit ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. Instead, try ‘tell me your thoughts on…’ or ‘what do you think about…’.

Very little else keeps a conversation alive than having others talk about or answer questions on their favorite subject – themselves.

22 June 2010 ~ 0 Comments

theatrical royalty

theatrical royalty

Some people never leave High School. The emotive drama, the eternal complaining, feeling threatened by others in their small world who dare to do something, the generating of noise without any tiny inclination toward solving it. Moan moan moan. He said, she said. Have you heard about…? Several faces, each one dusted off and brought out in front of different people when needed. Sprinkles of white lies for added effect.

In previous notes I have asked you to avoid these people. Run away. Never intentionally become caught up in their attention. What happens if they are already in your face? What should you do?

Surprisingly; it is still illegal to shoot these kind of people (well, all people really). That rules out the most obvious course of action. That said, if you are able to fire someone like this – do it. They will continue to be a disease in your teams forever if they stay.


Give them something to care about. A mission or task that they can turn their negative, destructive gossip tendencies into positive bragging and optimistic conversation.

Do not feed their fires to be even more destructive with their words. Hand them a reason to act in the way they do best to build momentum around your vision.

21 June 2010 ~ 0 Comments



You are alone and in a dark room. It’s completely black and you cannot see a single thing around you. In your right hand you have a pretty powerful flashlight/torch. You switch it on.

Standing there, you make sweeping movements to build up a quick view of what’s around you. The intense circle in the center of the beam shows up the most distinct detail. You can see what you’re pointing at and everything else around it fades into darkness in ever widening, blending circles.

You see the only door in the beam you’re casting across the room. It’s over to the right. Slightly ajar, it makes sense to head that way and leave the room you’re in. It’s your way out of here and the starting point of where you’ll go next.

This somewhat simplistic analogy has recently had a more profound meaning for me. Having cleared my life of all my habits around email, Facebook, Twitter, meetings and other interruptions; I started to move in a room with no light.

Start reading a book I’ve been meaning to. Hit a section early on that would be cool to try out on the iMac. So I stop reading and do that. Tinkering with code I remember that I wanted to send a payment out for a bill. I flip over to that. Knee deep in Bank of America’s website the nagging of did I/didn’t I leads me to the cupboard to check if I marked another bill as being paid. On a shelf there’s a snowball mic. I really wanted to record some audio for the book (long story, will explain/demo another time). So I do.

The result? Lots of little things. Lots of nothing really. No big result. No result.

It’s too easy to underestimate the importance and pure effectiveness of sitting down, uninterrupted, and concentrating for a solid period of time on doing just one thing. Like sleep, your brain takes a short while to warm up to what it’s absorbing right now. In the early stages of reading a book you will be distracted with other thoughts. If you let them.

From spending time with children to conversations to absorbing a book, experience or something else that’s going to add value to your life: be present, switch on your flashlight, point it at the door and walk toward that. Switch on a light and you’ll see everything, want to use everything and end up never moving. Or lots of moving around but with no progress forward.

12 June 2010 ~ 0 Comments

human being

human being

People sometimes forget that they are human beings.

In amongst all the non-fiction books of the moment that are discussing the physical makeup of the brain and all it can do and perhaps why it does it, often referred to in a business context of why we all fail to conquer the world today, there feels like a greater point missing.

We are all human beings.

We like things and sometimes we don’t. We are dashingly unpredictable.
We fall in love with new people and stay in love with people who have been around us forever. We take care of them and they take care of us.

We can and do cry, go crazy and ramp up emotionally without the insincerity that business calls for. We can genuinely want to kiss someone with the spark of fluffy kittens or hurt that same person with the fire of watching them punch those kittens.

We do things to be near people who are like ourselves. We mourn loss and conversely can live for weeks on the adrenaline of excitement for something we want to do or people we want to see.

Politics, whether in government or an office, injects a paralyzing dose of inhumanity into our brain.

The professor-like part of our brain loves politics. The other part, the wild horse, hasn’t a clue what is going on and nor should it.

Through heavy applied processes, unimaginative business mechanisms and even religious fears; for far too many the wild horses have been deemed injured and are summarily shot. The glue factories are doing a roaring trade these days while the professors’ dully and duly procrastinate ahead with no notion of love, regret, compassion or feeling.

It’s okay to be in love (with people or things you do). It’s also perfectly fine to swear out loud, cry, drive a day to see a waterfall, surprise someone who means a lot to you, smile at a passing stranger (especially a cute one) and step into craziness every now and again.

The human part of being a human.

01 June 2010 ~ 0 Comments

more gas

more gas

Things need to change around here. I think I know exactly what’s needed.

Business textbooks, MBA courses and the common logic around change prescribes more. More process, more people, more money.

A friend who was moving to the US from France told me of a theory he’d heard about American companies. When there is a problem, American companies immediately apply ‘more gas’.

If something is broken, if a company isn’t performing well, the last thing to do is add on top of the mess. Instead refine, simplify, intertwine people and communication and focus only on doing one or two things exceptionally well.

17 May 2010 ~ 0 Comments

two for change

two for change

There are two layers to change: the people and the environment. Change only one and, well, no change.


This isn’t necessarily the physical person. Sure, there are people who don’t work out in the role that they are in. Many people are in a place where they really cannot succeed. Nobody is stupid, however everybody is good with at least one thing and this may not be that thing for this person.

People’s attitudes can and often change too. Add a few new faces to the environment and people will tend toward the people that are most like themselves or what they perceive themselves to be. Failing that, the person with the most promising story or aesthetically pleasing qualities. Yes, human beings are fickle that way (for example; the draw of the busty blonde sales girl in the technology sector remains, sexism aside, an incredibly effective mechanism to make sales).

If the environment stays the same, people and their attitudes default back to how things were. Even a new person will naturally gravitate to the behaviors and flow of the environment surrounding them, which is most often the same behavior as the person they succeeded.


The seating arrangements, the processes, the interactions between people, the way to gather people together, the communication channels, the nature and attitude of the communications, the lighting, the software packages, the color of the walls and flooring, the brand of coffee and what people wear all have a strong psychological effect on those immersed in the environment.

Cube farms are especially strong, unmovable constants in any environment. It’s almost a nest-like paradigm at play to those forced to be in them for eight hours every working day.

Change the environment and you begin to agitate the people in it. This causes discomfort, which is not a bad thing. It is change you are after, after all, and it is not going to come about without some element of anxiety.

However, changing the environment but not adapting or modifying people’s roles and purpose in that environment encourages the pull back to how things used to be.

Inspire the people you have to want to do something different, something infinitely better. Spend time with every person individually and find out what their one great skill or talent is then change their world to make the most of this for your business. Adapt the world around them to let them be the best they can at this.

As an example: if a person is in technical support, complaining about how the company is not helping the customers as best they should be… don’t beat them up for complaining. Don’t listen and ignore.

Change their responsibilities and put them in charge of customer support (and fire or move the person who is in charge of that today, as they may not be doing the best job they can be). Physically move their seat and desk and place them in a different setting. Tell everyone that this person is now in charge of how customer’s are dealt with. If this person wins, lots of other people win.

Shift the attitude of people and surroundings ninety degrees out of kilter from where it was and watch the change take hold and spread.

16 May 2010 ~ 0 Comments

you be you

you be you

In an office environment there are good people, great people and bad people. They surround you and you cannot help but be influenced by them. Hopefully you are more drawn to the characteristics of the better ones, naturally, however never underestimate how rapidly a negative personality burns through a team too.

The classic copycat characteristic is to behave like your boss. Or their boss if a double jump up the ladder is desired. Often there are people who are incredibly charismatic, seemingly powerful or apparently successful. Staff navigate toward these beacons of the workplace and they are often emulated and adored. There is always a smaller minority who sits and criticizes these most prevalent characters.

All adoration does not matter in the context of getting things done. Not one tiny bit. Replace ‘office environment’ for ‘high school’ and the same social dynamic applies with more or less the same emotive effects.

But what is so special about the beacon that draws people to him or her? Have they read the right books? Attended the right business schools and were taught the right way to behave? Unlikely. They are more likely simply being themselves.

Forced behavior is obvious. People, everyone, can see through this layer of facade exceptionally easily. We are all naturally skilled at spotting this.

In the age of the factory to be like someone else was important. It was a desirable quality when management considered switching out a cog in their machine for a better, more appealing cog.

In the age of the knowledge worker people should be naturally self-directed and working to make their surrounding world better, rather than collecting a regular wage for attendance or adhering to ’smaller, faster, cheaper’ principles.

In seeking the beacon to follow, people aren’t looking for the best, shiniest, most charismatic cog in the machine. Nor should you be.

Be yourself. Don’t emulate someone else, especially someone in your immediate surroundings. If you believe something should be done a certain way, do it that way even if those around you would likely not have.

You are paid to be you. You need to be you because people around you need you to be you. Be the beacon for everyone around you.

(If you are in a company that only values having cogs in a machine, what are you going to do about it?)

10 May 2010 ~ 0 Comments

thirty minutes a day

thirty minutes a day

If you restricted checking, writing and responding to emails to just thirty minutes a day…

Only two and a half hours of your working week would be taken up with email. That’s just 6% of your Monday to Friday hammering the keyboard to clear your way through the modern equivalent of the paper memo stack.

A five-day-week work habit turns into a mere 122 and a half hours a year hunched over a keyboard, smacking keys to continue ever lengthening threads of notes from your colleagues.

That’s only three entire weeks of your business year typing to avoid picking up the phone and calling someone. Possibly even lifting cheeks off seats and walking over to the people for whom a quick conversation would avoid the need to type out an explanation and a request.

But you don’t spend just thirty minutes a day on email, do you?

(feel free to remove the term ‘email’ and insert Facebook, Twitter or the name of your favorite social media cocaine instead)

07 May 2010 ~ 0 Comments

street sweeper

street sweeper

There’s one wise saying that has stuck with me since childhood: “it’s better to be the world’s best street sweeper than an average boss”. My dad said it and I cannot for the life of me remember the context or exactly when he told it to me (though I’m certain he said it more than once).

Decades have passed by since I first heard it and only now does it truly make sense to me.

The “Peter Principle” famously states “In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.”. It’s not difficult to find examples of this. Lots of them. Incompetence is only one factor that renders poor Peter useless. Fear, anxiety, lack of experience, absence of mentors, ego, jealousy. Poor Peter.

Any person’s natural instinct is to jump on that ladder and climb. The bigger the jump in steps, the better. A hierarchy in a company is it’s own game show. Must win. Must be the first. Want to control EVERYTHING.

Inside every person is a core value. Not a ‘be nice to everyone’ or ‘save the planet’ value, but rather one thing that makes you want to stay awake at night to finish something and has you jumping out of bed in the morning to carry on with it. It’s in your blood and you’re incredible when you do it. For me it’s Product Management – starting from zero to fully launching a new product to a receptive audience, with everyone around you happily along for the ride. What’s yours?

Does this mean pausing at a point in a company where you’re doing what you love should be confused for lack of ambition, laziness or corporate insanity? Definitely not.

Be the street sweeper. Be the best one in the world. Do it with heart and pride and people will notice, the world will be a better place because you’re doing something you care about and the legacy you leave will inspire others.