I stepped on stage with Kyle Harty and Wick Vipond from Allen Gerritsen agency to discuss how social advertising is coming of age and Sunoco brand success across-social network campaigns. Check it out!
Fred Warmbier is a brave man. As the owner of Finishing Technology, he’s in charge of a fairly large team of employees. And, like any boss, he makes mistakes. The difference is that most of us don’t blog about it in the New York Times. In a recent post, he tells the story of his difficulty letting go of being the ‘hero.’
When a company is young and there aren’t so many moving parts, its fun being the person who steps in to solve problems. As the owner of a company, or a member of executive leadership, we have the authority to make big decisions on the fly, and the company is still being run in our own ‘image.’
But that role isn’t sustainable. Stepping in to solve problems can actually create an environment where we are expected to take care of problems. What is a much stronger option is to trust big decision-making and problem-solving to other team members, department heads and the like. This kind of empowerment turns the team into excellent problem-solvers, and also avoids the likely scenario where people resent the boss coming in often to tell them what to do.
Changing from a directive management style to become a delegator is tricky…most of us know this. Letting go is hard after we’ve built up a fondness for the way we handle certain responsibilities. But for a growing company, nobody can be everywhere to solve manage every issue that pops up. Not only that, but we really don’t even want to be that person. It’s draining, and can make us cynical.
Fred found himself managing out of habit, rather than really considering what was best for his team, himself, and his company, fighting one fire at a time. By pulling himself out of the picture several times, he found that his great staff were quick to step in and handle it themselves. And, get this, the world kept spinning!
Changing management style is scary, particularly after having success managing in some particular way. But as companies grow, roles expand, and the job description evolves. What’s great about Fred is that he has the self-awareness to examine what isn’t working around him and be able to pinpoint himself as the cause. As he pulls back from fighting fires, he finds himself missing the thrill of being the hero. And, like all of us, he isn’t quite sure what’s around the corner. This is what growth feels like.
Catharine P. Taylor moderates a panel discussing the future of Facebook were they to launch an online ad network.
It’s hard to vacation. Yes, I realize that this is a ‘first-world problem’ (laughably so), but I was struck on a recent vacation myself how it can be difficult to truly disconnect from work in a real way.
While we’re having fun with family, friends, and maybe even the occasional exotic locale, there can be a creeping sense of guilt for missing work. Emails are piling up. Clients are calling. Colleagues need me.
The overwhelmed brain can take a while to wind down.
Here’s the terrible truth about our minds: they’re limited. When it comes to attention, there are two ‘networks’ at play. The task-positive network (referred to as the Central Executive by neuroscientists) is your active engagement with a task. The task-negative network takes over when your mind wanders or is creative. When one of these two networks is active, the other is not.
Both the task-positive and the task-negative networks are very important to us humans. While we need that focused attention to accomplish tasks, the inspiration and ideas come from the daydreaming. It’s a two-part attention system, and it’s easy to abuse at work. Sometimes we force the employment of the task-positive network in order to be extra productive. Sometimes we vacillate back and forth too quickly, like when we allow social media to interrupt work.
Vacations can be enormously restorative, but not if we use our minds in the same way as we do when we’re working. Checking email, thinking about work, or using your Central Executive while on vacation means your mind doesn’t get that break.
So as you manage to eke out a couple days for yourself and your family this month, make sure you do your brain a favor and let it wander. Let your creative mind flow. When you need to concentrate on something, take your time.
Don’t worry, the Central Executive has gotten enough exercise, and will still be healthy when you return.
Recently, numerous high profile leaders have gotten in trouble with the law. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund and a leading French politician, was arrested on charges of sexual assault. Before that, David Sokol, thought to be Warren Buffett’s soon successor, was forced to resign for trading in Lubrizol stock prior to recommending that Berkshire Hathaway purchase the company.
All of these incredibly talented leaders were successful and at the peak of their careers. So why destroy everything they have built by confusing acts and antics? The media has painted portraits of these leaders as evil, terrible people. However the question is raised what makes these thought to be “good” people lose their way?
These leaders did not necessarily become bad people, they rather lost sight of their morals and values. Few people find their way into positions of leadership by cheating or being evil, yet we all have the ability to lose sight of what’s important.
The important message is that people have a hard time staying grounded without some help. Leaders rely on people close to them to help them remain centered. Their spouse or partner can be a great person who knows them best and aren’t impressed by the wealth, prestige and titles.
As Senator Ensign told his fellow senators in a farewell speech in May, “When one takes a position of leadership, there is a very real danger of getting caught up in the hype surrounding that status … Surround yourselves with people who will be honest with you about how you really are and what you are becoming, and then make them promise to not hold back… from telling you the truth.”
I recently wrote a piece for Kinetic Social’s company blog, “Kinetic Conversations.” I thought it was worth highlighting here, especially after having just returned from a conference at the Harvard Business School Rock Center for Entrepreneurship (the “Rock 100” conference). Two intense days at the Rock conference, where we focused on issues of starting and growing companies, certainly underscored this key take away for me:
The Mission Matters. In any setting – military, non-profit, business or otherwise – a group of people forming as a team needs a guiding principle around which they can organize. As Robert S. Kaplan, a professor at Harvard Business School, puts it: “you need a reason to get out of bed and go to work each day.” Something substantial, something that guides you, something you can believe in. Incidentally, making money is a side-effect of building something meaningful in business, but it cannot be the mission … and in those cases where it is, it often doesn’t last long.
At Kinetic Social, we completed our Series A fundraising in May, and we took the summer to take both a deep breath and a step back from our run-like-hell sprint out of the starting gates. Now, we are wrapping up a process of clarifying and codifying our mission. Really, it is more of a vision than a mission (the differences between the two are a subject for another time, but for our purposes here, I will treat them as the same). We are focused at Kinetic on making sense of the world’s social signal. The vision we are developing is larger than that, but that is the essence.
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Don Mathis is the CEO and Co-Founder of Kinetic Social, a social data and technology company focused on making sense of the world’s social signal. He also serves in the US Navy on reserve duty, where he is an Expeditionary Combat Logistics & Anti-Terrorism Officer.