Why I’m Not Serving Turkey This Year

I love Thanksgiving.

It feels like one huge American party, beginning with pre-holiday crowds hefting fresh, frozen, or fresh-frozen (whatever that is) turkeys, on through the annual debate over what makes the best stuffing. You can be pretty well sure that the whole country is collaborating in this annual ritual, right down to the traditional pro football extravaganza.

But you know, much as I love good food, and as much as I love cooking for people I love, I really and truly love the feedback I get from those same people on what they’d really like to be eating. If you’ve ever had lunch with us at TGI, you know how true this is. And you probably also noticed that I value honesty.

So this year, just in case anyone happened to have a bright, shiny, innovative menu idea, but wasn’t talking, I decided to poll all of my Thanksgiving dinner guests separately. Much to my surprise, it turned out that everyone had an original idea. Sort of.

My daughter said, why don’t we just order in from our favorite Chinese restaurant. Her reason: she likes the leftovers better.

My son said, Mom, you don’t even like turkey that much. (This was his scientific assumption, based on the ratio of leftovers remaining in our refrigerator compared to the ten-course doggie bags that went home with everyone else.)

And my husband, of course, said, let’s just do what the kids like. (He knows I treasure his flexibility.)

So this year I’m going with the flow…almost. I know I won’t be able to completely forego tradition, so I’ll probably make something on the stove at the last minute, perhaps involving bok choy and broccoli, even though I may wind up being the only one who eats it. But at least I won’t be the lone Thanksgiving celebrant who is not cooking anything.

In the midst of all this, I hope I’ll remember to focus on what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about: being thankful. That’s because gratitude always involves other people more than anything else, and like food, it’s only good when it is shared.

So, before I start setting the table, may I take a moment to express my thanks to all of you who are users and fans of Teamability®, and friends of The Gabriel Institute. You are very special to all of us here. Whether you’re reading this because we’re innovative, or because teaming is the world’s oldest way of getting things done, or because of any of the many other reasons you may have, no matter where you are, we’re glad that you’ve got a seat at our table!

What If We Gave an Election and Nobody Came?

Election Day will be here soon. Wherever you live, you’ll probably be asked a few ballot questions along with your selection of candidates for whatever job openings there are. Yours might be about your willingness to fund some project or change some tradition or underwrite some new bureaucracy.

Did you ever notice that these Election Day quizzes are always made up of yes/no questions? I’ve taught college and grad courses where essay questions are the norm, but it’s taken me a while to understand what’s been bothering me. We’re cheating our electorate by only giving multiple-choice exams – with only two choices yet. We can write in candidates, but where we’d really like to give our opinions, only yes or no are acceptable. What’s wrong with this picture?

What if, instead, this year’s ballot had essay questions? Might that not produce a more solution-focused agenda? Perhaps it could look like this:

Public Question #1: What do you plan to do, personally, in the coming year to make your hometown a nice place to live?

Public Question #2: How can we fund government so that no one individual or group feels put upon?

Public Question #3: Is our society a just one? Answer by citing three examples, pro or con, and analyze each within the context of domestic and foreign policies.

Now I know you’re thinking:

  • I just don’t have time for this.
  • I barely made it to the poll before it closed last year.
  • I didn’t know we were having a test or I would have studied for it.
  • All of the above.

What if we gave an election and no one came?

Perhaps its time for us to take responsibility: for the future of our families, our businesses, and our world. Perhaps it’s time to make participatory democracy a reality. Perhaps we need to stop making it so easy to vote and then to forget what it was that we voted for. What better way to do that than to ask citizens to go beyond merely pulling levers? What better way to truly invite the entire spectrum of feeling, of belief, and of thought that our electorate is capable of than to ask them to share it with all of us?

The pedagogues among you may ask how I plan to grade these essays, to determine which ideas are worthy. The answer is simple. When you rise above the dichotomy of yes and no, you listen in a new way. You find solutions that incorporate the diversity. You give an election and everyone comes.

Giving and Taking…and More

We all like to think of ourselves as ‘givers’ but as Dr. Adam Grant, author of NY Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, Give and Take points out in a recent blog, “generosity is earned, not claimed.”

For the most part – and to most people – giving is just giving. However, there is a big difference between giving to one other person and giving to your team.

Dr. Grant’s research has given us a broadly applicable understanding of what goes on in person-to-person giving. Having identified the key players as Givers, Takers, and Matchers, the effect (often surprising) that each type of participant has on the other two becomes clear. He has also described the impact that these three modes of interaction can have on organizational culture in general, and I for one am all-in!  Who wouldn’t prefer a culture of giving to one of taking?

Giving to (or taking from) another person has a concrete sensibility. It also calls for a human act of courtesy and/or closure, in the form of reciprocation. Givers give without any expectation of thanks or repayment, but culturally we have learned to give back, and few would fail to take note of an earnest ‘thank you.’ Matchers, being attuned to the balance between giving and taking, are very likely to notice whether or not reciprocation has occurred. And hard-core Takers, who may have no intention of giving anything meaningful in return, will take care to verbally reciprocate in order to maintain their guise as a Giver or Matcher.

But when it comes to ‘team giving,’ the plot thickens.

When people give-and-take with each other, the exchange is person-to-person. But in a very real and significant way, ‘the team’ is like a living entity with needs of its own, and can also give and take. The nature of this exchange is person-to-team, but the team (being a conceptual construct) cannot say ‘Thank you’. Instead, your ‘reward’ is the satisfaction of an inner need to make a team contribution.

Most people have a specific sense of what ‘making a meaningful contribution’ is. It varies from person to person, but generally aligns with a specific team need. We call this distinct sense of purpose a person’s ‘Role’ – with a capital R – and the greatest reward for ‘team giving’ comes when the nature of the giving is aligned with the giver’s Role. When other Roles are also giving to (serving) the team in this way, the communal sense of wellbeing becomes very strong. Why? Because giving one-to-one is a simple exchange. When you give to the team, you answer a higher calling. This is the essence of ‘team spirit.’

So, in comparing the dynamics of person-to-person giving to those of ‘team giving’, our attention shifts from ‘how much and how often’ to ‘where’, ‘why’, and ‘to what end’.

With that understanding, here are the ways the ten different Roles give to their team:

Founders give Inspiration. Inspiration is distinct from Positive Programming (see Vision Formers, below) in that Founders seek to attract a desired mode of behavior, not to directly access and shape it.

Vision Movers give Direction. While some people (Vision Movers, in particular) don’t like the idea of being directed, it is a welcome gift to people with other Roles, who can then contribute with the assurance that their group is on a proper course to the goal. Direction is ‘advice on steroids.’

Vision Formers give Positive Programming, defined as fostering desired attitudes about people and teams, and their future productive behaviors.

Action Movers give Service, which is why they make excellent soldiers and other kinds of ‘get it done’ people. Some people think of doing service as the equivalent of selflessness, but for an Action Mover, service and self are completely intertwined.

Action Formers give Discipline, which in the world of work, you can think of as organizing, structuring, and setting limits.

Explorers give Unexpected Treasures. These are things that you didn’t even know you needed – but which often turn out to be ‘just the thing.’  What an Explorer brings might be as simple as a hilarious new joke, as exciting as the first look at a tremendous business opportunity, or as vital as early warning of danger ahead.

Watchdogs give Nurturance, which consists of accepting, validating, and caretaking behaviors. They often give mentoring right along with anything else they’re doing for the team.

Conductors give Solutions. They focus on short-term problem solving and making things work better. The word ‘hack,’ – the application of ingenuity to a puzzle or problem – is a fit to what the Conductor likes to do. However, Conductors are wedded to expediency. If it works, it’s good. Longer-term consequences are of comparatively little concern to the Conductor.

Curators give Wisdom, which often serves as the link to deeper thinking, to more creative problem solving, to guidance from past experience, and to the avoidance of pitfalls.

Finally, Communicators give Information. Let’s be clear that in giving to a team, information is to the Communicator as wisdom is to the Curator. At times the information might sound like gossip, but that’s not what Communicators do. Their activity comes from the desire to connect (or reconnect) people with the vision and mission of the team, and also with each other to create a common bond. Quite literally, Communicators build communities.

These ideas on giving are offered freely as a creative spark for further inquiry into giving, taking, and teaming. A better understanding of collaborative team structures will make it possible to design teams and organizational cultures in which greater giving and meaningful work are available to all. That is the goal of The Gabriel Institute, and the life purpose of its founders.

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.


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.



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.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,782 other followers

%d bloggers like this: