Summer Memories, More than Sweet

It seems that Labor Day always comes too soon for the boys and girls of summer. I hope you got to do the things you love, whether pick-up games of volleyball on sand or smearing mustard on top of crisp, sizzling hot dogs at a family barbeque.

Coney Island ca 1949While the beach vacation I coveted didn’t materialize this year, I did get to exercise my memories. Some came from an article I read in the NY Times, and others from a box of old pictures that surfaced when my daughter moved to her new house. The article was about a young woman who makes cotton candy at the old sweet shop next door to Nathan’s in Coney Island. Just reading about her filled my mind with images and recollections of summers long past. Coney Island was more than just a beach. It was roller coaster rides with my father, tasting my mother’s iced coffee, sandcastles with my cousins, and jumping waves with the bigger kids.

The old photos were from the same era, and are so familiar. I was probably too young then to be remembering Coney Island, but I sat there with the article on my lap and the pictures in my hand and I swear I could smell the hot dogs and feel the grainy texture of pink spun sugar melting in my mouth.

I learned a lesson from that brief reverie.

It is oh-so-easy to get lost in your own thoughts and to assume that other people experience life in the same way you do. In fact, it can seem downright logical that most people would view a given situation in a similar way. After all, reality is reality, isn’t it? But of course, that’s not true at all. Our life experiences, our thoughts, our feelings, our values, our memories, all contribute to a unique perspective. They make us individuals.

Recognizing that other people might not know where you’re coming from is more than just a lesson in understanding them. It’s the necessary first step one must take in marketing a completely new product and concept. You want to craft a compelling story that meets them exactly where they are, even if that is not exactly where you are. And you want that story to resonate with as many other people as possible.

So I went back and reread the story of the woman who made cotton candy. I wanted to understand why it made the NY Times when the Times has its pick of thousands of stories, and the vast majority of its readers have never even seen Coney Island.

That’s when I realized why the story was so compelling. It had nothing to do with the location or the candy store. It was not about memories of Coney Island or the ephemeral quality of pink spun sugar. The story was so engrossing because it was about a woman who worked in a job that she never planned to do. It was her story. It was about her dreams, her wishes, and her realm of possibilities.

By taking myself out of the picture, I realized how profoundly the author’s message had affected me. In fact, it explained much of the confusion I feel when people do not immediately ‘get’ what I’m talking about. (Like so many Founders, I tend to live in the big-picture, far-off future, often losing in the process that precious connection to immediate need.)

It is a very simple distinction. We can tell our story. Or we can hear the other person’s. We can make it about us. Or we can make it about them. And the exciting thing is, you have a choice.

Think about this the next time you’re tempted to tell someone about the wonders of your product (mine is Teamability®) and how important it is to you. Stop and ask yourself, whose story is this? Then, create an opportunity for the other person to tell his or her own story of team relationships, and weave in the wonders of your Teamabilty as the conversation evolves.

In the end, sharing sweet, sticky cotton candy with your loving family is a wonderful thing, especially when you’re young enough that even an ordinary day is full of wonder. But connecting with someone else’s hopes and dreams, and helping them to flower, can open the door to a bright and beautiful future for all.

You’re Leaning In. Have You Tried a Push Up?

No I’m not shilling for Sheryl Sandberg or Victoria’s Secret here, although I’ve read one and worn the other. And I’m not talking about women vs. men, either.

What I’m talking about is your career, and I mean YOU, no matter what your DNA or externals say about your gender. Many of us are in the habit of playing down our assets, and while there are some good reasons for doing that, there also are some not-so-good reasons.

One, our assets – talents, skills, experience and other qualities – are so familiar to us. We use them every day, so it’s hard to think of them as special. We assume that what we bring to the table, anyone can. And we’re wrong.

Two, we rarely experience genuine appreciation for the ways in which we wholeheartedly contribute to the work of our teams. We may get donuts in the morning, pizza on Friday, or a pat on the back sometime in between, but research* has shown that different people experience respect and appreciation in very different ways. Unfortunately, most people express appreciation in a one-size-fits-all fashion. And they’re wrong.

Three, in many work environments, everyone’s expected to be tough and independent. Asking for, and even giving, too much help is thought to be weak. Sometimes, no matter how much we accomplish or what our colleagues or bosses may say about it, we don’t feel that we’ve made a meaningful contribution. This happens when we’re good at what we do, but our job responsibilities are out of whack with who we really are. And everyone’s wrong.

So let’s hear it for the push up.

A push up happens when the inner you – your Role in service to a team – is being satisfied by the things you do.

It could be that you inspire people. Or you drive progress. You enlighten others and help them become their best selves. You lead the action. You manage the follow through. You have a knack for bringing valuable things back to the team, or making the most out of the limited resources your team has available. You fix the stuff that needs fixing. You preserve and organize and share knowledge that otherwise would be lost. You generate good feelings and build community. Each of these different kinds of contributions is central to a different Role. So whatever it is that you do because you love to do it, and keep doing because your organization needs it – that’s your greatest asset.

Now take your greatest asset and make something more of it. It’s as simple as one, two, three.

One, at the start of each day remember that whatever you will be doing is more than a contribution to your colleagues or your customers. It’s also a contribution to the world at large. Call it a ripple in a pond, a drop of water in the river of life, a stabilizing vibration in a chaotic universe, or whatever makes sense to you, but never lose sight of the fact that positive teaming makes a difference. If you don’t make an effort each day to push up, then there’s a good chance that you will experience a push down. (Don’t confuse a push down with a put-down. Put-downs come from people who mistakenly assume that they will feel better if they make other people feel worse.)

Two, recognize and accept the fact that, for most people, showing appreciation is in the same category as politeness. Even when sincerely felt, it is usually expressed generically. It’s very possible that you are ‘secretly appreciated,’ and you can help that secret come out of hiding. Which of your assets would you wish most to be recognized, and how best might that happen? Here’s one approach: ask your manager for some feedback on the ways that your contributions add value to the team. You might say that you’re trying to figure out how to be more valuable so you’re trying to get a baseline. In an exchange like this, you’ll find opportunities to raise awareness of your own particular asset, even if your manager hasn’t noticed.

Three, please remember that interdependency is the spice of life. It’s common to say that ‘timing is everything’, but it’s truer to say that ‘teaming is everything’. None of us is perfect and no one should be expected to do everything well. Even though some people CAN do just about anything well, that doesn’t mean that they find the doing of it all to be meaningful or enjoyable. It’s better for them, and for every member of a team, to share responsibilities and for each to do what makes them happy. And that happens best when you have each other to lean on – and help each other push up!

* A key finding of the research that led to the development of Teamability® showed that a person’s mode of contributing to organizational need – their measurable ‘Role’ on a team – is closely aligned with the way in which they internalize expressions of respect that have been communicated by others. 

Reflections on, and in, Glass Ceilings

“There is no glass ceiling if you start at the top.”

I remember first reading that line in an article praising the glory of entrepreneurship and thinking how that really describes my life. I mean, no one ever would have promoted me to CEO. I wouldn’t even have been considered a good ‘diversity candidate’. (A diversity candidate, I’ve been told, is one who makes it slightly easier to tell the rest of the finalists apart.) And in addition to that pesky second X chromosome that I carry around, the typical CEO is in the neighborhood of a foot taller than me.

All things considered, it was just easier to start a company and give myself the title, although I have to admit that at the time, no one else wanted it.

On a more serious note, even self-made women CEOs experience well-documented challenges Try googling “women founders getting venture capital”, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s just a fact that many of the places where you’re expected to ‘pay your dues’ have a sign hanging on the door that says ‘No girls allowed’. (Not literally, of course, but savvy women have no trouble reading between the lines.)

After mulling these things over for a while, the whole line of thinking began to bother me. Like I normally do when I need a reality check, or just someone to bounce my ideas off of, I went to Mark, my Vision Former.

Let me take a moment aside to explain that term. My company created Teamability®, the completely new technology that analyzes and organizes teams based on each person’s innate affinity for serving a specific organizational need. In the language of Teamability, the name of each capital-R ‘Role’ in a team suggests the organizational influence the person will most effectively exert. For example, if you have a grand vision, and have even started a company and gotten it off the ground, you are probably a Founder or a Vision Mover, or perhaps both. If so, you haven’t lived till you’ve worked with a top flight Vision Former, who is your perfect complement and counterbalance.

Now back to the story. I said to Mark, ‘Maybe I just have never paid my dues like people think they have to, and maybe it’s the dues-paying which is why women are frustrated in typical organizations.’ And he disagreed.

One good thing about having someone whose Role complements yours is that you not only expect the occasional disagreement, you welcome it. It means that by the time you work it out (which you always do) you will both truly and lastingly agree on what makes the most sense.

“Really,” he said, “there’s been plenty of dues-paying for both of us.” He went on to say that the ‘no glass ceiling’ phrase – while catchy – isn’t entirely true, and that there’s a glass ceiling for everyone who isn’t a winner in the ‘lucky sperm club’, i.e., born into money and/or power. (And of course we know that those dues are sometimes extracted in other, even less desirable, ways.)

The Vision Former continued: “There’s no quick or easy fix for women (or men) who are frustrated and want to move up in typical organizations. Entrepreneurship can be an escape route, but (using our startup experience an example) look at how crazy you have be in order to take it! Also, the fascination with entrepreneurship plays into the fantasy that life is better and all will be wonderful at the top. It inherently supports an economically hierarchical model of happiness that really doesn’t work for everyone.”

Role-fit is the first step to happiness on the job, because a sense of meaningful contribution becomes intrinsic to one’s activity. After that, happiness is increased when an organization (including one that you own) understands and facilitates Team-fit and Role-pairings. Further down the road, building a team (or a town, or a society) where each person understands and practices Role-respect will open the door to group happiness.

According to StatisticBrain.com, 44% of new businesses fail within 3 years, and in 76% of the cases, the top reason is incompetence (45%), followed by unbalanced experience and lack of management expertise (30%).

“It’s the people,” said the VF, “not the business.”

Encouraging people to be entrepreneurial when they don’t have the ‘equipment’ for the task (or any way to know whether or not they have it, or where to get it) is not so different from a football coach moving a quarterback to the D-line. It makes no sense, and the outcome is liable to be ugly.

There can be a big advantage in starting and/or being in an entrepreneurial company. It is the opportunity (maybe) to discover who you are and what you really like to do, and it comes from having to serve the organization as chief-cook-and-bottle-washer for a while. People on the big corporate ladder rarely have that much diversity of experience. There is a way to discover who you are, and how you ‘team’ most effectively and happily, without risking the security of your family or future.

Your response to discovering your own Teamability could just as easily be “Now I know I would hate (or love) having my own business,” as “Now I know why I hate my job – I quit,” or “Now I know why I LOVE my job; no thanks, I’d rather not go into management.”

There is the glass ceiling of reality, and a glass box of our own doing. The important question: is yours opaque or transparent?

Take My Pencil. But Please Leave the Computer.

I just read that according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 75 percent of employees steal from their workplace, and many do so repeatedly. Instant flashback to the day my neighbor showed up on my doorstep, lamenting that his kid didn’t get a job because he had flunked the ‘honesty test’ given to him by HR. This is the same person who knocked on my door to confess to having done small thing that I hadn’t even noticed was awry. In short: the most honest kid I have ever known. So much for honesty tests.

I was once president of a sheet metal manufacturing company. It was the kind of business where “theft” meant someone had highjacked your truck and fenced the contents, so I’m sensitive about the various levels of what I prefer to call ‘misdirection of corporate assets.’

Dr. Dan Ariely, behavioral economist and author of bestseller Predictably Irrational, has done dozens of studies on just how far people are willing to go in the direction of dishonesty while still maintaining a self-image as a ‘good’ person. So we have some reassurance from a distinguished researcher that it’s forgivable to take a pen home from work, but not a box of them. But I found it a bit disturbing to realize that I’ve often been overly tolerant of bad behavior.

So what can we do to tighten up the ship? Deterrents work very well. But only if all of these conditions are met:

  1. Everyone needs to know that if anyone steals, something bad will happen.
  2. They need to believe that if they steal, they will be caught and punished.
  3. They need to see that punishment as truly undesirable.

I can see you shaking your head at that third one, asking yourself, isn’t every punishment undesirable? Actually, no. The usual punishment for stealing things at work is getting fired. For some people, that’s a reward, not a punishment. This is especially true if the person heads directly to the unemployment office and collects benefits because you didn’t have the heart to fight it.

America’s prisons are filled with people who: a) never thought or believed that they would get caught; b) thought that getting caught wouldn’t be all that bad; or, c) just didn’t care at the time. That’s the problem. It’s truly rare that all three of the essential conditions of deterrence are present at the same time.

So here’s the question: How do you make sure your people are not among the three-quarters of the workforce cited as pilferers (or worse) by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce? The answer: You can’t ‘make sure,’ but you can make improvements.

First, do a security audit and check on critical systems and processes in Finance, IT, and physical security. Remember: when you allow vulnerabilities, you create the other guy’s temptations.

Second, know that most people do desire to ‘be good’, so take action to reinforce that orientation. One of the most effective tactics is to educate and improve management skills in reducing workplace stress. Why focus on stress? It’s because uncertainty, verbal abuse, and unfair treatment makes people frustrated and angry. And when people are angry, one of the ways they work it off is to take things and self-justify that it is only ‘evening the score’.

Finally, take the advice you’ll find on any typical investment brochure: “Past performance is not an indicator of future performance.” Think about this when you invest your trust in people. Some of the best and most honest workers you can hire might have slept behind bars for a time, and learned the hard way that they never want to go back. It’s called ‘going straight’, and it really happens. Meanwhile, there are plenty of ‘honest, respectable folks’ who might be just a bad mood or a breakup away from dipping into the till.

Now, getting back to that dad on my doorstep with the kid who flunked the honesty test. Here’s what I told him…after first calming him down and citing chapter and verse on the virtues of his admirable and upright offspring:

“Would you really want your son to work for a company that doesn’t trust him?”

This post originally appeared on Innovation America.

 

Do You Work in a Culture of Mehdiocrity?

No, my spell checker is not out of order. In fact, I had to fight to get it to stop correcting me.

Mehdiocrity:  A state of being wherein the only acceptable alternatives are to be non-reactive, to be unengaged, or to raise indifference to an art form.

There’s a lot of it going around.

Mehdiocrity is not as simple as mediocrity.

With mediocrity, you get a result. And if your team is truly mediocre, it’s probably a result that’s repeatable and reliable. This condition is even built in to the quality metrics of ISO 9000: the product doesn’t have to be excellent, just consistent. Work gets done in a mediocre culture, but it doesn’t make your heart sing.

Mehdiocrity is much different.

It has nothing to do with intelligence, talents, abilities, skills, values, ethics, emotions, or personality. In fact, it’s totally cultural. By which I mean contextual, and not related to where you grew up or how your family celebrates birthdays. It’s not you: it’s your work environment. Perhaps the cause is stagnant growth, lack of healthy competition, or stultifying business processes. But it’s often said that ‘people don’t leave companies, they leave managers’…so it could be your boss.

Right now, you’re probably wondering, so here’s how to find out.

The Mehdiocrity Test:
Just answer yes or no. No maybes. (That would be mediocre.)

  1. I don’t know what the purpose of my job is and I have given up trying to figure it out.
  1. I only receive praise for things I don’t care about and for accomplishments that I can’t actually remember ever doing.
  1. My opinions only count when they match those of my manager and the people around me who my manager is favoring at the moment.
  1. I use my allowed leave time as soon as it is granted, since I feel I must have regular ‘mental health’ days.
  1. While I may occasionally have opportunities for learning, I don’t bring the knowledge back to my business unit because it might conflict with the unyielding mindset of my manager.
  1. When my colleagues at work ask me ‘How’s it going?’, the only honest answer I could give (but usually don’t) is “meh…”

Scoring: Yes = 0 or 1, are you hiring? Yes = 2, merely mediocre; Yes = 3 or 4, uh-oh; Yes = 5 or 6, go to YouTube immediately for Lewis Black rant-therapy. 

OK. Now you know. What are you going to do about it?

Remember it’s just your environment. You could leave. Or you could plan to leave. Or maybe you are still thinking that the money and benefits are worth it.

These days, not many people have the luxury of a quick exit. Where you work, the people who were able to leave have already left. So let’s assume you’re going to stay. Here are three steps to preserving what’s left of your life force while you figure things out.

  • First, make sure to be doing something outside of work that is not mehdiocre.
  • Second, find things you can do (without being noticed) that are important and beneficial. Think ‘stealth productivity.’
  • Third, make sure you are fighting on the side of the angels by doing things that leave the world just a little bit better. And when you do, don’t forget to reward yourself!

Got any mental health days left?

 

Does Your Team Suffer From ‘Connectile Dysfunction’?

According to recent research by Shikhar Ghosh, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, based on data from more than 2,000 companies, 75% of venture-backed startups fail.

Of course, there are different ways to define failure, but losing all the money you’ve put in – or losing your dream – certainly qualifies. Some might use shorter-term benchmarks, like achieving sales and revenue targets within a given timeframe, in which case an even higher percentage of funded startups would probably wind up sporting a big red F.

This is important, not just for startup teams and not just for the investors, but for the U.S. economy as well. This chart showing 33 years of net annual job growth tells you why: Startup ventures create jobs. Big companies don’t.

presser

So the really big questions are, why do so many startups fail – and what can be done about it?

Studies have identified various issues that contribute to the blow-up of startup teams, including competitive factors, market factors, technology churn and such, but the #1 – by a long shot – indicator of pending demise can be summarized with just one diagnosis: Connectile Dysfunction.

Connectile Dysfunction (or CD, as we team-oriented entrepreneurs call it) causes the heartbreak of startup failure, which leads to chronically depressed economies.

Sound dangerous? Contagious? Fatal? It can be. But thankfully, CD is diagnosable and treatable. There’s even a way to immunize against it.

CD happens when the way in which people connect with each other lacks sufficient respect, trust, and faith in the team vision. This can happen with people on the team, as well as with customers, investors, vendors, and the larger social community.

CD creates disappointment, misunderstandings, and stress. This exacerbates the problem, and also blocks quick resolution. The side effects can have long lasting, demoralizing effects on every team member.

So, let’s say you believe your team has some level of CD and just isn’t up for the challenge. (Yes, there is a spectrum of severity for this disorder.) What to do? Start by asking these not-so-simple questions:

1. Do you have the right people on the team? That is,

  • Do they actually want to do that work?
  • Do they do the work at the quality level the job demands?
  • Are they relatively free of ways of working together that you don’t want to encourage in your culture?

2. Are they doing their work in a way that keeps their connections with people ‘clean and clear’? Do they have the right kind of supports and do they have the appropriate level of autonomy?

3. Have you noticed any particularly odious qualities to the way they interact with others?

Keep in mind that 75% of VCs and private investors thought they knew the answers to these crucial teaming problems. But they didn’t, and it cost them plenty. Now they are probably a little gun-shy and less likely to pull the trigger on the next startup opportunity, which won’t do anything for the economy.

A variety of new approaches, from neurological studies to the mining of ‘big data,’ are being applied to the search for new ways to identify, assemble, and lead the right teams for the right mission. One such technology elicits ‘teaming’ behavior, and takes a direct measure of the different ways that individuals seek to contribute to organizational needs, thereby producing the analytics of team chemistry, and new ways to structure and manage teams for optimal performance.

Now picture an island holiday, a glass of fine wine at sunset beneath swaying palms, with the promise of great things to come hanging heavy in the air: profit-sharing, stock grants, market domination, culminating in a climactic liquidity event.

That’s reality for some entrepreneurs – the ones who built great teams. So before you invest your dreams, time, energy, and/or money, take personal responsibility for preventing CD, and look for help in the areas of team analysis, teaming analytics, and team development.

You could start by tweeting me, @DrJaniceStat.

This post originally appeared on Switch & Shift.

 

DO…YOU…MIND?!??

We’re learning more and more about the mind all the time. Neurological functions. Brain chemistry. Thought processes. Feelings and states like being ‘in the zone,’ or ‘positively engaged,’ or even ‘transcendent.’

But it seems we are talking more about mind, and using it less.

We used to use the word ‘mind’ as an action verb or concrete noun. I present three examples for your analytic pleasure.

When I was a kid, “mind the baby” was a phrase often directed to older siblings by an otherwise-engaged parent. It was a call for attention and action – at minimum a few doting moments playing peekaboo or counting fingers. Today, the more likely strategy would be to put the baby in front of the television, or perhaps an attention-grabbing app running on a baby-proofed tablet. Stimulation, yes. Mind? Not really.

A few years later, when I had come to understand some of the ways that my actions affected other people, I got a lot of reminders to “mind your manners.” I’m not the product of a white-glove household. There were no silver spoons at our table and never more than one fork at a time either, so the rules found in etiquette books weren’t part of the manners that were supposed to be minded. To my mother, manners were simply morals in action. You were expected to come to any situation with your morals intact, to be aware of them, and then to apply them to the situation. Respect wasn’t just a song title.

And then there’s the expression I remember from a time when I had just had my feelings hurt in some teenage way by some teenage boy. I was commiserating with a friend when her mother, a southern belle of great wisdom, said “Don’t pay him no never mind.” To my New York City ears, that was about as confusing as a suggestion can get, but it stuck with me. I deconstructed the sentence and realized that, with three negatives in it, she was really telling me not to expend any more of my time, attention, or misplaced emotion on someone who didn’t deserve it. And she was right. There’s a cost to you when you pay with ‘mind.’ It’s like any other investment: start by estimating your ROI and act accordingly!

I know there’s a renewal of interest in ‘mindfulness’ or self-awareness, and that’s a good thing. I just hope that it takes the form of what Adam Grant (in his best-selling book, Give and Take) calls ‘otherish’ behavior. Without the blend of self and others, it’s a cold and lonely world.

Perhaps, to your mind, none this really applies to you, and I’ve misunderstood your personal situation. If so, I hope you’ll call it to my attention so I can act on it. Or, if you happen to have been a fan of Saturday Night Live in the 1970’s, just picture me as the late Gilda Radner’s delightfully dotty character, Emily Litella, who misheard, misinterpreted, and misspoke, until finally set straight.

“Never mind.”

This post originally appeared on Innovation America.

Getting Engaged

Big-city high-rises often have exercise/pool areas that rival the best-equipped health clubs. I like to use the one in my building as a study. Late one evening, relaxing in the hot tub after a day of constant business activity, I was joined by two young professionals who were having a discussion – actually a debate – on the topic of ‘engagement’* surveys. One is a psych major turned HR manager and the other a product manager with a degree in marketing. I’m going to call them ‘Psych’ and ‘Product.’

Psych was asking Product if he could get her a copy of the Gallup Q12 – a set of questions that test for employee engagement so she could use it to survey people in her company. Product pointed out that the Q12 is copyrighted material, and went on to lecture Psych about the value of such attitude surveys – or more accurately, the lack thereof. He must have taken great notes in class. He cited chapter and verse from product marketing literature, summing it up by stating categorically that although people might give you rave reviews, if they aren’t buying your product, who cares?

Psych was not convinced. She had been given an assignment by her boss, and was determined to follow through. I felt sorry for her.

If you are – or know – someone who feels compelled to measure engagement, especially if the assignment has career-altering consequences, here’s a set of questions that you can offer without exposing them to copyright infringement litigation. Why am I doing this? Well, I’ve done 30 years of study and research on what makes great teams great, and I know there is a big difference between a person’s attitude about their place on a team (their level of engagement, if you will) and the underlying factors that influence ‘teaming’ behavior. The former will tell you about existing conditions. The latter will tell you why, and what you can do about it, thereby bridging the gap between attitudes and business results. (see http://www.Teamability.com)

Here are my survey questions. Tell people to rank them on a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). (If you want to credit me and send a link to your results, even better.)

The ‘Teamability® 7’:

  1. I know the vision, purpose, and/or goal for everything I do at work.
  2. When problems arise – of any kind – they are usually resolved in a reasonable and efficient way.
  3. My job responsibilities are aligned with my desire to serve my team and my organization.
  4. I get respect and recognition from others in a manner that is meaningful to me.
  5. My manager ‘gets’ me – consistently listens to me, values me, and encourages me to grow.
  6. My coworkers feel like a real team to me. We share the load, we support each other, we have fun together, and we get the job done.
  7. I may not have the most important job in the company, but I know that I make a significant contribution.

I’m sure you know what you want, so I don’t have to tell you the ‘right’ answers.

Oh, and just in case you are wondering what happened between the two young professionals in the hot tub…

I just heard they are getting engaged.

* An “engaged employee” is described, variously, as one who is fully involved in and enthusiastic about his or her work; who acts in a way that furthers the organization’s interests; who will ‘go the extra mile’ for colleagues and customers.

This post originally appeared on CustomerThink.

Privacy, Trust, Data, and Love

The near-complete annihilation of privacy can be a terrible thing. But when it happens between two people, the result is an extraordinary reward called ‘falling in love.’ So why, then, are we seeing such an uproar about something that – under the right circumstances – we are so willing to surrender?

Perhaps the current conversation on privacy needs a refresh on the element of context. In this sense, context would include the set of limitations we put on the scope and depth with which we are willing to interact with a particular ‘other’.

Using myself as an example, there are people with whom I will share the entirety of my self: not merely the quantitative, but also the qualitative. That’s because, for me at least, it feels good to be understood, and to truly understand another person requires a high level of information, both historical and current. Further, there needs to be a high level of confidence that this information will be used in a positive way, if not for me then for someone or some thing we both care about.

And then here are entities with whom (or with which) I share selected information. They will never fully understand me, but they may offer me something I could not easily locate or obtain for myself. (Yes, if you have black t-strap kitten heels that I like, I will happily disclose my shoe size. But I’m not telling you my secret number – the price I’m willing to pay – because that makes for too one-sided a relationship.)

Lastly, perhaps sad to say, there are those with whom I will only share misinformation. If I sense a bait-and-switch, or an attempt to capture my information under false pretenses, I am likely to provide entirely fabricated data, chuckling to myself as I fool your system. I don’t trust you because I learned that you don’t have my interests at heart, and may be even be opposed to them.

And so, I may trust you with my data, my information, my heart, and even my soul. But remember, I will always be asking one question.

Will you still love me tomorrow?

This post originally appeared on Innovation America.

Cheats and Crooks and Creeps. Oh my!

Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore. The moral compass that Auntie Em and Uncle Henry provided has been spun through the eye of the tornado and it has lost its direction.

I just read that McKinsey, one of the most prestigious consulting companies in the world, has instituted a new set of rules to prevent another ‘incident.’ That’s my mild-mannered way of saying that two senior leaders in the firm had been caught in a high-stakes game of insider trading. As a result, the new Global Managing Director has decided that McKinsey’s 87-year tradition of individual and corporate integrity wasn’t working anymore, and needed shoring-up by stringent directives and compliance testing.

Apparently rebellion is afoot at McKinsey. Against what rules, I don’t know. After all, I’m not an insider. But as a mom as well as a CEO, I have some advice to offer to the rule-makers.

What you’re doing is obviously needed, but it seems that some of your insiders have said the changes create a ‘nanny-state.’ They seem to feel that they have been thrust back into kindergarten.

Maybe they should be. It’s the place where, if mom and dad haven’t drilled it into you yet, you learn the basics of ‘working and playing well with others’ (as it was described on mid-20th century report cards.)

Perhaps I can offer a way to underscore that lengthy, detailed document that everyone is now required to sign. Here’s what I’d do. I’d keep it simple, and deliver it with my best attempt to mimic a 1940’s military drill sergeant. Here’s my rap:

Listen up! This is the stuff that you should have learned a long time ago.

1. Don’t take other kid’s toys without asking. (The corporate behavior code probably refers to this in a few places. Padding your expense account may not seem like outright theft but it is.)

2. Don’t sneak a peek at other kids’ cards. Really? Even if they aren’t too careful about protecting them? Damn right! (Consider swapping ‘Inside info’ for a more accurate phrase: Trusted confidential material. If you have access to sensitive matters and can’t keep a secret, you belong on the outside, looking for a new job.)

3. Don’t be a bully. And don’t make excuses for bully behavior. (You know what I mean. The greater your position of power, the greater your responsibility to ensure that the rules are fair and the playground is level.)

Violate any of these and you are at best a creep, and at worst a cheat or a crook; or maybe even all three.

This post originally appeared on Innovation America.

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