decision-making

Decision-Making for Success: Platinum Problems and The Gifts That Keep on Giving (Part 1)

In my world, there are two categories of problems:
  • Platinum Problems*, and
  • The Gifts that Keep on Giving.
Both are good - but only if you make them good. Otherwise, they make you nuts - and lead you to make bad decisions.

In this post, I'll talk about the first category, Platinum Problems, specifically what they are and how to handle them...before, during and after.

Platinum Problems

Things are going great. They're better than you could have ever imagined. Everything is moving well and quickly. You're growing. You're thriving. You're succeeding.

Welcome to the world of Platinum Problems.

On the surface - and particularly for those outside your function, department or organization - all it looks like is good. To a great extent, that's how it looks to you, too.

Why should you look at it differently?

Because when everything is 'great,' you make different decisions and, most importantly, you make them differently. Suddenly, rather than working from a position of scarcity, you're surrounded by abundance that seems as if it will never end.

It's that last part...the 'as if it will never end' bit...that turns these marvelous opportunities into their counterpart, The Gifts That Keep on Giving. (We'll get to those in the next post.)

The risk in Platinum Problem decision-making is that you and your people forget what it took to get you to 'great' and, instead of continuing doing what you do so well, you start doing other things. You buy. You expand. You hire. And you do it fast...because, after all, you have to keep up with everything that's being asked of you by the outside world.

Most importantly, as a result of all that pressure from the outside world, you stop thinking and you start reacting.

It takes a lot of time, energy and thinking to build success. You and everyone else in your enterprise have to be fully engaged to get there. You innovate. You question. You create. You build.

When, seemingly suddenly, you're a success, the tendency is to stop doing those things. Instead you simply do more of what you've done. You don't do new and different that keeps your current customers happy and creates whole new markets at the same time.

You rest on your laurels without even knowing you're doing so.

Think Starbucks and the way they had to reverse their expansion and the many years it took to put them back on track. Think Sony and how they lost their standing as the leader in consumer electronics and are still trying to regain that status.

What you see is a "Success Arc" that takes the company and/or its products and services from inception to success to failure - unless it's caught in time.

On the other hand, think Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos' acceptance that, someday, even his company will be disrupted by another...just as his disrupted so many large and small organizations and industries.

Bezos treats Amazon's success as a Platinum Problem that has to be solved - and solved again - every day in every customer interaction and management decision that is made.

The Solution

What does this mean for you?

When you see success in your organization, stop, take a deep breath (or a few) and become highly analytical. Specifically, and in this order:
  1. Objectively assess what the enterprise did to create that success.
  2. Identify what, of those systems and actions, need to be continued and grown to ensure new successes beyond the current success (e.g., Amazon's "customer centricity").
  3. Determine what you need to do to address the growing needs for the products and services that have caused the current success.
  4. Ensure that you have the appropriate systems, procedures and risk analysis in place to build the business in the immediate and the long-term without causing undue - or unconscious - harm.
  5. Analyze. Make sure you've got the right metrics in place for the immediate and the future. That way, you know - at every moment - whether you're moving in the right direction.
As you can see, what this system does is takes you out of reaction and puts you immediately into a current response and future expansion mode simultaneously. That way, the Platinum Problems remain platinum...which is exactly what you want.

_____
*Props to my brother, Sam, for teaching me the expression, Platinum Problems.

Lean In Applied: The Secret for Your Success

While I wholeheartedly recommend that you read the whole of Sheryl Sandberg's wonderful book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, there's one secret that will ensure your success from your start to wherever you want to go.

It's adopting what I've come to call The Zuckerberg Question as a mantra. That question is:

What would you do if you weren't afraid?

This question, consistently posed by Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is plastered and painted on the walls of Facebook and Ms. Sandberg correctly plasters it right up front in her book, using it as the subtitle to her first chapter.

Only it's not a subtitle. It's not a sub anything.

It's everything.

Because one of the most important things I learned as I worked with C-level executives and Board members is that - men and women, both - they make far too many of their decisions based on fear. Oh, they wouldn't admit it and they always had excuses - but, far too frequently, the decisions they made came from that one devastating emotion:

Fear.

As a result, those supposedly brave executives and Board members on whom employees, shareholders, customers, suppliers and local communities were relying didn't do the things they knew were right. Because they were afraid.

What or who were they afraid of? It varied - but there was always some outside entity that drove them in a direction they knew wasn't best but was workable. Sort of.

That led me, over the years. to consistently remind my clients - whether applied to a specific person, a competitor or the unknown 'other':

They don't matter.

Because they don't.

What does matter is that you do what you know is right - recognizing but not becoming a victim of your fear - moving ahead in achieving your goals for yourself and, if they're smart, your organization.

To solve that potential dilemma and get away from the fear requires putting it together with one of Ms. Sandberg's other early stage crucial points about what holds so many women back:

Likability and Success.

What it comes down to is that, for men, there's a positive correlation between success and being liked - whereas, for women it's exactly the opposite.

Yup. If you're a woman and you're successful, chances are people aren't going to either actually like you or think that you're as likable as you would be if you were successful and were a man.

Why do you think that Time magazine put the headline "Don't Hate Me Because I'm Successful" over their cover photograph of Ms. Sandberg? They weren't kidding - as the research Ms. Sandberg's cites in her book clearly demonstrates and as she, herself, has experienced since going live with her book and Foundation.

(For those of you old enough to remember - or want to find it on YouTube - it's all reminiscent of the supposedly tongue-in-cheek, but very intentional Kelly LeBrock Pantene commercial, "Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful.")

So let's take a look at this for a moment.

When you're dealing with success, you'll find that there are generally three kinds of people in an organization:
  • The Glommers (people who ride your success),
  • The Underminers (people who do everything they can to take away your success), and
  • The Supporters (people who believe in what you're doing and support it with their own actions).
Frankly, you're not going to avoid any of them so the trick is to plan for them even before you've achieved your success. Then remind yourself of that plan every day as you see them pop up.

So, let's play for a moment. Let's say an opportunity arises and you want to move on it - or at least you think you do. Here's what you do in five easy steps:
  1. Ask yourself: What would I do if I weren't afraid?
  2. Using that answer as a foundation, put together a plan or a means of demonstrating why you're the right person or you've got the right solution.
  3. Don't wait for permission to execute. Do it. Act on it. Find all the ways you can to move forward what you're offering or have to offer, positioned in such a way that others simultaneously see the value of your solution and how valuable you are because you're the one who came up with it and knows how to execute on it successfully. That's because you're already doing so - whether in stealth mode (so that no one can steal your solution or your success) or outwardly (if there's low risk of theft of your Intellectual Property...because that's what your solution is).
  4. Remind yourself that you're not afraid - and if you find yourself falling back into fear, ask The Zuckerberg Question again: What would I do if I weren't afraid? then move forward with your fears back in check.
  5. Watch those around you. Look for who is falling into each of the categories - Glommers, Underminers and Supporters - and act accordingly. Specifically: 
  • Build with the Supporters. Get them more involved. Learn from them. Incorporate their ideas. Make your idea or solution even bigger than it was. Remember - you're not afraid and that means that there are no limits on your thinking.
  • Study the Underminers. Figure out their strategy and the arguments they're using (or trying to use) to undermine what you're trying to do. Then reverse engineer them so that you preemptively build on what they're trying to do and undermine them before they can undermine you. Other than that, ignore them. They don't matter.
  • Keep an eye on the Glommers. For the most part, they don't matter either - but, depending upon how they use what you're doing to fulfill their own agenda, you want to be aware of any personal or professional undermining that they may create. 
And, throughout, don't sweat being liked. Clearly, based on the categories, some folks will and some folks won't.

For the ones that do like you and show it by supporting what you're doing, good for them. They're the smart kids and you want them in your cadre.

For the ones who don't, they don't matter. Seriously. They don't.

There are over six billion people in the world. Some of them are at work with you. Most of them aren't. Keep that six billion number in mind when you lean in - because for the ones who are waiting to lean in and simply need a catalyst, that's you.

Because you're not afraid.
________
More on Leaning In:
   Sheryl Sandberg and Lean In: Why the Time is Now (llk)
   Preparing to Win: When you Lean In...there be monsters (llk)
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (sandberg)
The Lean In Foundation

Mindfulness and Business: Coulda Woulda Shoulda

It's a week, now, since the beginning of this year - and, frankly, even a Martian who landed in the Western Hemisphere (and parts of the rest of the world, too) would know it must be the New Year simply based on the number of advertisements for weight-loss and exercise that now riddle every form of media we have.

It's time to lose weight.
It's time to exercise.
It's time to lose weight and exercise.

And, oh, by the way, they say, you've probably already lost sight of those New Year's Resolutions you made...to lose weight and exercise...and we have the answer!

No, they don't. But you do.

And, just so you know, it's not about the resolutions. It's about being mindful about what you're doing as you're doing it.

I'm going to be talking a lot about mindfulness in this blog with the help of my friend and yours, Dr. Leon Lessinger. The Leadership Quantified Experts will be writing about it from their perspectives, too. Because it's time that we all bring a new level of presence and consciousness to the decisions we're making and the actions we're taking. (BTW, the weight loss and exercise industries are hoping you do exactly the opposite. That's the only way their business model succeeds.)

Okay. So. Mindfulness. Sounds good - or not. Sounds woo-woo - or not. What it is - always - is practical. So, let's start with how to identify the indicators that you've not been mindful in the past. (Because that's going to change now.)

Think back over the past 6-18 months and identify all the "Coulda Woulda Shoulda" experiences you had. These are the ones where, after the fact (no matter how short or long a time period) you say to yourself:
  • We could have done that after all, or
  • We should have done this instead, or
  • We would have done that, but....
Any or all of those - individually or in any combination - are your indicators that you were not being fully present when making the decision you made...particularly when, even as you're making the decision, you know you coulda/shoulda/woulda gone the other way. But you didn't.

Over my years working with executives around the world and in different languages, the two most common versions sounded like this (usually in a 2 am phone call):
"Leslie, you're not going to like what I did, but..."
or
"Leslie, you were absolutely right. I should have..."
In both cases, the origin was the same - they knew they were not making the optimal decision even as they were making it. The only difference between the two was when we talked about it (i.e., immediately or long after the associated actions were taken).

Which brings us to an important point: Regrets are not the same as mindfulness.

Regrets occur after the fact. Mindfulness occurs in real-time. In the present. As you're making the decisions you need to make.

That's why doing a Coulda/Woulda/Shoulda Retrospective Analysis is so important. What you're trying to figure out are the situations that lead you to make decisions that you later regret.

That way, you've got the best insider information possible. You know your habits and trends. You also know the habits, trends...and fears...of your team that lead to the after-the-fact regrets expressed.

So, starting now - because you're being mindful and present - look at the decisions you're making...both small and large...and, before finalizing them and either taking or assigning action, identify whether there are any Coulda/Shoulda/Wouldas that you know will arise later. (You may not want to admit it - but you know them. Now.)

Then, take the actions necessary. You'll find that your own and your business's productivity and success accelerate faster than you could ever have imagined.

Decision-Making and Managed Risk-Taking

If you read me, you know that I'm a serious fan of Josh Brown's blog, "The Reformed Broker." He may be talking about finance and the financial services industry, but if you read closely, you'll see that the foundation of what he's talking about is always decision-making and managing risk.

Yesterday he had a perfect example.  After the US Federal Reserve announced its forthcoming policy and decision he wrote (emphasis mine):
"Now everything is different. At first blush QE3 does indeed look like a game changer. 
This business is not about making calls and and sticking with them for the sake of being able to say you were right all along, it is about processing new information that will make a difference and dropping the opinions that have been invalidated. I come to work every day hoping I'll be able to do that. It's easier to write about than to actually do. Is your decision making process flexible? Are you hung up on what "should happen" rather than what is likely to happen?"
With that in mind, take a look at your decision-making process.
  • Are you flexible? 
  • Open to new information?
  • Using it to fuel your and your team's new thinking?
  • Do you drop old opinions and decisions as the new information gives a different direction or guidance for you to follow?
The answer to all those questions should be 'yes.' If it's not, start tracking how you make your decisions - as well as how others in your organization make them - and determine how to balance managing risk with courageous steps forward.

Game changers - big and small - are happening all the time. Use them correctly and you'll exceed your vision...not just achieve it.
________
Read The Reformed Broker Blog
Follow Josh on Twitter (he's loads of fun!)


Google, Social Media and Watching Larry Grow

Not long after Larry Page took over as Google's CEO, he made it excruciatingly clear that Google was - finally - going to crack the code and get good at social media.  Really good.

How?

In great part by making sure that the multiplier used for bonus calculations for every Googler (the name Google employees give themselves) was directly impacted by the company's success in the social media space.

Nothing like putting everyone's money on the line.

But, give Google their due, under Page's guidance - and his commitment to creating a company-wide 'ecosystem' for social media - he's making sure the company makes the investments needed so that everyone can win.

That's why the announcement that Google has purchased PostRank means more than just the fact that the company has bought another social media-related enterprise.

Because PostRank is right up Google's alley. According to PC World, PostRank is an analytics firm that provides "real-time data on on the number of comments, tweets, bookmarks and other social responses that a particular piece of content or information has been able to generate on the social web."

That's necessary because social is moving directly toward monetary conversion pressures and expectations. It's a great fit, however, because there's nothing that Google likes more than numbers,
algorithms and mechanisms that help figure things out.

So, good decision Google - because you've made the right acquisition strategically and culturally. 

Sweet.

This move, among others, is a clear demonstration that Larry Page was ready for the CEO seat...contrary to many of the contrarians who were convinced that Eric Schmidt stepping out was the beginning of the end of the company.

They were wrong.

No one knows who will win the social media wars, but, whatever you do, don't figure Google for roadkill anytime soon.  Page is fighting to win - and now he's got a new tool to help.

(This article was originally published on Technorati.)