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Setting the Stage for Success

Married in 2005

I’m going to get a bit naked here. Maybe I’ve been reading Naomi’s blog too much (don’t worry, my mom washed my mouth out with soap as a kid, so I’ll never talk like her). A few days ago Julie and I took a series of walks, whose dialog revolved around perception, motivation and sex. I asked Naomi for advice because I wanted a woman’s view and found out that she and her lad had a similar dialog. So for the woman’s perspective, check out her post (should be up tomorrow).

Our dialog over the last weeks have made me think a lot about setting the stage for success and giving someone what they need to perform. What food feeds their soul? What projects do they excel at? What feedback do they need? What turns them on and gets them going?


[This is a parody. A reading delicacy provided for your entertainment. No couples were harmed in the creation of this post. Any and all resemblance to a certain writer and his wife are a fiction of your own imagination and purely coincidental. Please don’t try this at home, and if you do, have some couth and say it a lot nicer that I did.]

wife: “why don’t you pursue me more often?”

husband: “why don’t you send signals that say you are interested in being pursued more often?”

wife: “if you pursued me I would”

husband: “if you dressed sexier when you got home from work, kept your makeup on and created a canvas for pursuing I would. In your robe and sweats, the desire often escapes me”

wife: “so I have to put lingerie on to attract you?”

husband: “not necessarily (thought totally encouraged) – you need to flirt with me and let me know that you are interested. I don’t tend to shop at stores when the lights are off”

wife: “well, why don’t you flirt with me”

husband: [pause] … “cuz I’m a dumb ass”

wife: “I don’t always want to put on lingerie. why do I have to be uncomfortable to turn you on”

husband: “there have got to be comfortable sexy clothes for goodness sakes. I would be thrilled to buy you some”

wife: “don’t you find me attractive as I am”

husband: “I do. You are my beautiful lady. I tell you all the time. I am going to try to use a metaphor.

I am very visual about my sexuality (hence men and porn – I’m not alone here). On the other hand, you are very emotional about sex. We just get turned on differently.

So in a metaphor:

When you look ratty and expect me to be turned on, it is like me yelling at you and asking you to be turned on.

It just doesn’t work that way. For you to be turned on, I have to give you my full attention and pander to you – it is foreplay.

For me to be tuned on – you need to pander to my visuals and flirt with me.”

Perhaps working with people is not that different that the act of courting. Which brings me to the heart of management. The way I get it, my job as a manager is to give you everything you need to perform and kick ass, then get the hell out of your way. I’ll still be there in the corner when needed. The goal is to set you up for success. What I am starting to learn though (it sounds obvious from the outside), is that we all run on different fuel and need different staging and props. What turns you on may have no effect on me at all, or even worse backfire.

Understand Motivation: Mana & Ambrosia

Last week, I went to Santa Cruz’s first geek dinner (go Santa Cruz!). I snuck over to the cool kids table and plunked my skinny ass down into the only empty seat. During our conversation that evening, David Beach, gatherer and organizer of people for yahoo brickhouse, turned to me and said, good luck on your goal for a million. Kind of cool as I had never met this guy before. Suddenly I was face to face with a reader of our blog who I didn’t bully, cajole or beg into reading my posts (I love you all, thanks for being here). He said he liked the blog and followed our doings. I was excited for days and even though I feel silly, I’m still stoked on it. The idea that someone who leads innovation within a company like Yahoo is actively listening makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

A few days later, Peter & I met with Sean Tarrio, Director of Sales for UnitedLayer and the following day with Gerald Barnett, Director of IP for UC Santa Cruz. Both were looking to get Peter & I involved in entrepreneurial development projects. Sean is trying to build a Venture Fund that will drive business in Santa Cruz and Gerald is spearheading a program for companies to fund and mentor students at the university with startup ideas. If you are local and want to know more, shoot me an email. They wanted our financial and business support. After some discussion, I expect we will participate in both. The interesting thing is that we get pitched quite a few opportunities. Why participate now? Because each made a pitch that targeted our personal hot buttons. They laid out a plan which offered the opportunity to be helpful and of service in a way that might help further our own business interests.

A bit long, but I’m making a point. Can you guess what is one of the key ingredients to get me to be energized and productive? How would you set the stage to make me get out there and kick ass?

Ding, ding, give me a gold star (and a sticker please). Yeah, I am a sucker for recognition and the chance to be of service and hence, what I call influence (Seth Godin style). I like seeing things happen and know that I participated. That is my fuel. If you were my manager you would want to make sure that I was in a project where I could help steer the outcome, my voice would be heard and I have a sense of shared risk. Oh, and you will need to add a fun, positive group with a consistent lineup of new and different challenges. This is my ideal situation. But that wouldn’t drive most of the people on our team. In fact, I think most people on our team would freak out in my ideas environment (as I would in their’s). It all comes down to personality.

Want to learn more? Go read my article on The Model of Human Behavior – Understanding Personality.

Get them the Tools and Information They Need

Not everyone needs the same level of information and support for a project.

In the 1899 issue of the Philistine magazine, Elbert Hubbard published an inspirational essay title A Message to Garcia. Andrew Rowan, a young American soldier was given the task of delivering a letter with military strategy to the leader of the rebel forces in Cuba. Rowan did not speak Spanish, did not know the location of Garcia nor his forces. He had never been beyond the borders of the United States. To frame his task, the Spanish army had been hunting Garcia and his band of rebels for over a decade and never found them. So with no information, no leads, and no preparation he went on his errand. And delivered his letter.

Now I tell you this story because it inspires me, but I have also found that from a management perspective, this is total bullshit. If I told my team, go deliver a message to Garcia, it might happen but it might not. I am a business man not a gambler. But, if I take the time go make them a map, my odds go way up. Each person needs a different level of detail. Personally I can function of minimal information while Peter needs a much greater sense of definition. It has a lot to do with our personalities. There is an optimal amount of information a person thrives with – too little or too much and productivity stops. Learning that information gap in yourself and in your team is vital to everyones success.

Get out of Their Way

Ryan, my breakfast buddy from eBay, and I were talking management yesterday and he threw me the three key ideals he lays out for each person on his team. He leads by example and expects them to be: honest, predictable and committed. In that order. I got me thinking that not only is that vital in a team, but that is really the heard and soul of being a manager. With that foundation, the people I work with can be vulnerable enough that I can learn their hot buttons and their panic buttons.

As Ryan explained to me, the goal is to set a stage of trust. Brandon called me a week ago with a quandary. Another client of his was pushing him to come to a meeting across LA after Brandon had already said no because he had committed to some tasks for us and some time with his lady. The client pushed hard in a hard nosed manner. Brandon called me. We discussed the situation and I asked him if the issue was the time or the way in which the request was done? Was it the inconvenience or the person? He wasn’t sure. I turned it around, “If I had asked you to do this, would you be feeling differently right now?” “Oh, sure” he responded, “I’d go because I know you would only ask if it was absolutly critical.” And that made me realize, I have his trust. Because I am honest, predictable and there is no doubt about my commitment both to the business and his well being.

Because of that, I trust that Brandon will come to me when he gets stuck. You see, I believe you can only get out of someone’s way once the mutual trust is built that someone can come to you and talk. That you are predictable enough they can count on your response. That trust is not explicit, it is earned. Hard earned at times.

I had a tough (for me) talk with one of our contractors a few weeks ago after I learned that he pulled an almost all nighter on his wife’s birthday. In my eyes – big faux pas. In her’s too. The issue was that he never told us. He is a relatively new contractor in our team. I basically had to tell him, if your wife decapitates you, then we won’t be able to work together, you’ll be dead. And we began to talk a little more about time management. Getting out of someone’s way is not abdication. I tried that too – kaboooom. Getting out of their way is an act of trust that needs to be earned, in both directions.

Get Over Yourself

I was on the end of a very tough lecture a few years ago. I was not relating well to someone and in retrospect we were both being a bit childish. The difference was that while they were clueless, I knew better. Tom sat me down. “It is the responsibility of the person who has the knowledge to act upon it. Sometimes, someone has to take the first step, and the second, and the third, before the other person can join us in a dialog.” That is the heart of setting someone up for success. After all, they wouldn’t need the help if they had everything they needed in hand.

As leaders of companies, of families, I write this to you because we need to have the courage and set our ego aside. The world is full of people who react to emotional stimuli rather than pausing and responding. Take a stand. Be a better you and catch yourself. As I tell Julie, “I know you asked twice already, please ask me a third time just as nicely. I notice when you are being the better person and it invites me to grow.” Be patient with your clients, your kids, your preachy as hell blogger, your parents, your employees and your contractors. Help set the stage for their success. Learn how to romance your spouse, I am and it pays delicious dividends.

I am always learning. How to manage better, how to sell, how to write and how to speak. I’ve had good and bad managers. I have had the blessing to have great mentors and follow amazing leaders.

What makes a great manager? How about a great leader? Do you think they differ?

What about a great student? Or a great follower?

Alright you all – it is late and tomorrow if Julie’s 32nd birthday. Time to be a good hubby and dote!