Monthly Archives: September 2015

Working with Creative and Non-Creative People

Working with Creative and Non-Creative People

Tips for Working with Non-Creative People

  • Play to their strengths. Have a 7-to-1 ratio of positive to negative comments. When people feel good, it empowers them to take risks.
  • Give them a design buddy. Managers should have a deep understanding of the nuances of each team member, then pair up those with different skill sets.
  • The worst kind of feedback: “That’s bad” or “That’s ugly.” If you’re not a professional creative, it’s not your place. If you don’t trust the person you hired to make visual decisions, they’re just a pixel-pushing monkey.
  • Use “I feel” or “I experience.” Feelings are real. Taste is illusory.
  • Establish design principles. You can bring up these attributes, and that way you’re not complaining—you’re just mentioning concepts that have been mutually agreed upon.
  • Speak unarguably. Say what’s not working and avoid phrases like “Did you consider …”
  • Resist pulling rank. Instead, say things like, “My suggestion would be X, but you have to solve this problem.” If they can’t, let them go.

Tips for Working with Creative People

  • The work should speak for itself. When presenting your idea, say what problem it’s trying to solve, but don’t walk co-workers through the hows and whys.
  • Pick your battles. When a co-worker tells you how she feels, you may be able to straight up ignore her, as long as you solve all major problems.
  • You could iterate forever. Move on once it’s good.
  • Even if someone gives you ridiculous feedback, treat it as valid. His pain is real, even if his issue makes no sense.
  • Avoid a design conversation when receiving feedback. The critique is never a good place to be creative. You can’t design on your feet, so take the feedback to your desk and consider solutions.
  • Ask follow-ups. Phrases like “Tell me why” will get to the root of the problem. When you dig deeper, you’ll find managers want something different than what they’re saying.
  • Annoyed? Explain you want the feedback process to be more open. If bosses refuse, quit.
Posted in Management and Leadership Mental Models and Psychology

Pay attention to the spiritual implications of your actions

In the United States, The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Government has removed itself from anything that touched upon human beings’ relationship with God.

With so much talk about faith and politics in the United States. It often has a very evangelical flavor—especially during election time. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) offers a balanced perspective on the politics-spiritual rhetoric:

Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) The founding fathers were clear about separation of church and state. So they established a democratic system that ensures freedom of religion and prohibits the establishment of a state religion. At the same time, the founders imbued the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution with an ethical and spiritual tone. The separation of church and state was never meant to imply a government devoid of spiritual principles. Actually, the two are compatible. But fear of violating this separation leads some people to reject any discussion with spiritual overtones. As a result, we lose the opportunity to strengthen our institutions by asking that they pay attention to the spiritual implications of their actions.

Posted in Faith and Religion

Charlie Munger’s Sit-on-Your-Ass Investing Concept

Charlie Munger presented the model of “Sit on your ass investing” at the 2000 Berkshire Hathaway Annual meeting. Description courtesy of Losch Management Company, an Orlando, Florida-based investment advisor.

You have value investing, and growth investing, but now we also have “sit on your ass investing”, which is better.

The problem with value investing is it requires too much work.

First you have to find an undervalued stock and buy it cheap. Then you have to sell it when it the price reaches or exceeds your calculated figure for its intrinsic value.

Because this requires many decisions over a long period of time, Charlie Munger prefers his own method in which all you have to do is pick a really great company when it is attractively priced, and then just sit on your ass. The great advantage being that it only requires one decision.

Charlie said: “If you buy a business just because it’s undervalued then you have to worry about selling it when it reaches its intrinsic value. That’s hard. But if you can buy a few great companies then you can sit on your ass … that’s a good thing.”

The whole idea of not having to do something extraordinary is one all investors should heed, yet it is easy to forget, particularly in stressful situations.

Recommended Reading: ‘Charlie Munger: The Complete Investor’ by Tren Griffin

Posted in Investing and Finance

Mungerisms: Amusing Quotes from Charlie Munger from the Berkshire Hathaway 2014 Annual Meeting

Amusing Quotes from Charlie Munger from the Berkshire Hathaway 2014 Annual Meeting

Charlie Munger is not always politically correct, always offers a wealth of information, and hilarious now and then. At the 2014 annual meeting of Berkshire Hathaway, here are some of his best zingers:

  • On the interplay between CEOs and corporate directors regarding compensation: “You start paying directors of corporations two or three hundred thousand dollars a year, it creates a daisy chain of reciprocity where they keep raising the CEO and he keeps recommending more pay for the directors.”
  • On CEO pay and work habits: “Does the Supreme Court work less hard because they don’t get paid like corporate executives? We have some corporate directors who draw more pay than members of the Supreme Court. That’s crazy,”
  • On taxing the 1%: “The taxes on wealth were much higher when I was much younger. So for somebody of my age, I don’t think they’re ruining the world because I’ve lived through way more punitive taxes on the rich than we have now … I don’t think everybody who’s been especially favored should take the last dollar that he or she should get. I think we all have an obligation to dampen these fires of envy.”
  • On Facebook, Twitter, and the appeal of social media: “It just doesn’t interest me at all to gab all the time on the Internet with people and I certainly hate the idea of young people putting in permanent form the dumbest thoughts and the dumbest reports of action that you can ever imagine.”
  • On his favorite advance in technology: “I’m in love with the Xerox machine.”
  • On Donald Sterling, the then-owner of NBA Clippers, who then faced racial remarks and lifetime ban:”He’s a peculiar man. He’s past 80. His girlfriend has had so many facelifts she practically can’t smile. This is not the noblest ideal of what the American businessman should be.”

Insightful books about Charlie Munger

Posted in Investing and Finance Philosophy and Wisdom

Servant Leadership: See and Serve

Servant Leadership

For the past decade, we have focused primarily on the what of leadership, and only tangentially on the why of leadership. Of course, the whole concept of leadership is problematic today because modern technology has produced prosperity and a growing professional class of independence, competence, security, and self-confidence.

All of this has led to the egalitarian anti-hierarchical spirit of the age, which threatens to make traditional management unimportant and leaders dispensable. The mystical charm of “being managers” has been drastically reduced as the fulcrum of the problem-solving has shifted to professionals, of course, without the power or authority.

Servant Leadership Today

I now define leadership simply as the vision to see, the ability to serve, and the skill to design and sell and implement a strategy that meets the first two criteria.

The vision to see is to have an accurate assessment of where you are, where you want to go, and how you plan to get there. The vision to see includes manpower, methods, and motivation. Organizations, like individuals, are born, grow to maturity, establish their identity, and use this to create their niche in the marketplace, and then grow less nimble and flexible and ultimately decline.

As the individual has to reinvent himself at different stages of his life to remain competent and competitive, so also does an organization. As the individual’s vision becomes more myopic, requiring the aid of glasses, contacts, or laser surgery, so also must an organization install corrective devices to focus and see things as they are rather than as they once were or as they should be.

The organization’s culture, communications, and competence are closely tied to manpower, methods, and motivation.

Culture is the invisible hand that dictates what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. The structure of work determines the workplace culture; the culture represents the values and beliefs; these drive behaviors. The function of work determines the structure of work, the structure of work determines the workplace culture, and the culture prescribes organizational behavior. If the organization knows what it wants to achieve and is structured to accomplish that goal, behavior will be purposeful, and the goal will be achieved. The goal or objective plus the appropriate culture equals purposeful performance.

Manpower relates to having the right mix of people to do the jobs required with the appropriate training and skills. This demands an assessment of readiness of skills available, a talent bank, and a critical analysis of changing manpower needs.

Servant Leadership: Motivation and Methods

Methods involve the infrastructure of how work is done. If you design a company where there are discrete departments, work will follow territorial imperatives out of which develop pecking orders, levels of elitism, and status. Conversely, teamwork cells represent an organic approach where departments and functions are integrated into a common goal, and support each other in user-friendly terms.

Motivation is the litmus test of productivity, which is based on the perception of control and satisfaction as a function of structure. Morale and motivation are often confused. You can have high morale and low productivity. You likely won’t have high motivation and low productivity. Morale is an effect, not a cause. Motivation is a cause, and motivation is not directly tied to incentives.

Incentives are meant to put a fire under you. Motivation involves creating a fire in you. Motivation ties into the third part of my definition of leadership where selling is involved. Incentives are external stimuli in the form of rewards to workers who are dependent on the reward giver. Motivation is inner directed and represents the self-satisfaction of a job well done. Incentives are manipulative devices successful with other-directedness, while motivation is enabling or selfdirected. It is the difference between a worker going to management with a problem and a worker going to management with a solution.

Incentives work well when a passive work force is the norm, where management acts as parent to workers. Those days are gone. No organization can afford a passive and dependent work force.

Today 80 percent of the work force is white-collar and college-trained. Knowledge power beats position power. Lateral communications or horizontal integration of effort at the operating level is critical to success, not vertical directives from policy makers remotely located at the top. Timeliness is critical in decision-making, meaning most decisions must be made at the level of consequences to ensure success.

Servant Leadership: Motivation and Morale

Motivation and morale dovetail if success is to be realized. Motivation is based on the attitude of the individual. Attitude is a predisposition to act in a certain way. Morale is a corporate or group index. These have been confused, as companies have created cultures of comfort and complacency in an attempt to raise morale, thinking high morale was the key to productivity and that motivation would follow naturally. Supporters of this concept give workers everything but the kitchen sinkrecreational complexes, liberal policies, generous benefits, paid leaves-and few, if any, of these benefits are tied to productivity measures. Even performance appraisal becomes a routine exercise for incremental raises. Cultures of comfort and complacency are merely fun places to go and socialize; work is not necessarily the primary focus. What motivates people most is a culture that provides clear work objectives, the training and tools to accomplish tasks, the trust that they will perform well, the freedom and control of the work, the support needed when they fall short of the mark, and a fair economic split in company profits. These people don’t need a lot of bells and beads, slogans, or rah-rah sessions. This is the culture of contribution as opposed to that of comfort and complacency because workers own what they do and are pro-active rather than reactive.

When people are provided with challenging work and measured and rewarded fairly with regard to that work, motivation, morale, and productivity follow. The focus of morale is on the work climate; the focus of motivation is on the job. Leadership with a vision to see blends these two factors to support productive work.

The second factor in leadership is the ability to serve. Leaders must be complete followers. They must have the best interests of those they serve in mind, and know them as they know themselves—how they think, feel, believe and behave; what they value, why they value it, and what are their greatest hopes and fears. Otherwise, their ability to serve is a charade. That does not mean the leader gives people all that they want, but rather that he helps them find the way to what they need. The goals of the company and the needs of the workers are interdependent. It would be wrong to meet goals at the expense of the workers, but it would be equally counter-productive to meet the needs of the workers at the expense of company goals. The leader behaves not as a concerned parent but as an honest broker, sharing with workers his vision of where they are, where they are going, and how they might get there. This means he shares information strategically, enabling workers to make decisions appropriate to the work at hand and the company’s best interests.

Moreover, the ability to serve does not suggest that what is proposed is always necessarily supported by the majority. The majority often has a vested interest in the status quo, and the status quo may be what is derailing the operation.

Some CEOs are culpable for malfeasance, corruption, cover-up, or cooking the books, but to me their greatest crimes are lack of vision, betrayal of those they serve, and failure to create a cohesive and winning strategy in the face of bold new challenges.

Posted in Management and Leadership

How Do You Inspire Others

How Do You Inspire Others

Leaders who are rated as “highly inspirational” are also rated high in the following three areas:

  1. Have positive expectations of others. Inspirational leaders have faith in the people with whom they work. They believe that others are capable of great accomplishments. They believe others will work hard, follow through on assignments, and do whatever is needed to achieve goals. Having positive expectations of others predisposes leaders to expect more, check less, and encourage people to give their best.
  2. Get people the resources they need to do the job. Leaders often create a compelling vision of what needs to be done; however, as employees start to do the real work, they look for the resources to support them, only to find that systems don’t work, equipment is on order, or added personnel can’t be hjred. Leaders who inspire provide needed resources at the same time.
  3. Ask for input. When communicating, most people concentrate on their message and how it is delivered. Yet one of the strongest competencies for communicating powerfully is involving others—asking others for their input and encouraging alternative approaches. Leaders rated low give their prepared presentation but fail to ask for input from the audience.
Posted in Management and Leadership Mental Models and Psychology

How to Manage a Virtual Team and a Distributed Workforce

Manage a Virtual Team and a Distributed Workforce

Workplaces increase collaboration among virtual teams. Remote workplaces allow companies to bring in the right expertise, regardless of their location.

As a manager of a remote team, you need to measure people based on their accomplishments and deliverables. Support their activities by ensuring that they have what they need to succeed.

Here are four guidelines:

  1. Establish a purpose. Ensure that each virtual team member has a defined purpose and objectives against which they will be measured. When remote workers have goals and incentives for reaching those goals, they are more motivated and productive. Create a training schedule for your e-learning program, so that people are learning new skills.
  2. Measure the output, not the process. Virtual teams are more structured than teams located in the same office. Since face-to-face meetings are not practical, you must adopt other ways to communicate and seek approvals. Managers of virtual teams should create a culture of trust, be available through instant messaging for quick questions, hold conference calls to identify when a project is off track, and make use of instant messaging, e-meetings, and team workspaces. Focus on output, not hours.
  3. Balance between virtual and face-to-face meetings. While e-meetings are great for keeping up with progress, they are not so great for team building. Face-to-face meetings, for example, are important for brainstorming sessions, building trust and getting to know each other. Schedule face-to-face gatherings quarterly to foster team building, rapport, and communication among team members.
  4. Use presence awareness to show your virtual office door is open. Presence awareness technology embedded in an e-workplace will let your reports know when you are available to discuss progress, answer a quick question, or to chat about their concerns. It can also alert your staff if you are online via a mobile phone, so they know to keep messages short or call on the phone.

Virtual teaming and telecommuting are necessary responses to our global economy. With an distributed workplace, people can interact with more colleagues, break down barriers, respond more rapidly to customers, make decisions faster, and be more productive.

Posted in Management and Leadership

Unwind at Zao Onsen in Japan’s Yamagata Prefecture

Zao Onsen, Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture

Open-air baths do not come more extraordinary than this. Nestled at the mouth of the Zao national park, the biggest of the steaming pools of purifying waters at the Zao Onsen is big enough to hold 200 people. The best part of the rustic dai rotem buro, a trio of bubbling outdoor pools, is a enormous tub built into a ravine with impressive views of the forest-covered mountains. Zao Onsen is one of the most well-known and long-established skiing & snowboarding resorts in Japan as well as a popular all year traditional onsen hot spring resort village. The water rushing from the hot springs will ease your joints in all seasons, leaving you totally relaxed.

Discovered as far back as 110 C.E., the Zao hot springs are the oldest of the three famous hot springs of Japan’s northeast Tohoku region. According to local legend, an injured warrior drew an arrow from his body and cleaned the wound at a spring. The injury recovered inexplicably, and the healing properties of the waters became famous. The high acidity of the milky white waters, which preserve a constant temperature of nearly 125 deg F, is still regarded as a cure for skin conditions and gastrointestinal disorders.

Snow Monsters of Zao Onsen The village has managed to preserve its traditional charm and an virtually Zen-like sense of calm. After a soak in the springs, wander through the lantern-filled streets lined with rickety ryokan inns. A bus ride away from Yamagata bullet train station, Zao Onsen is as popular with skiers as with hot spring lovers. When snow falls, it is transformed into a winter wonderland with fantastic ice-covered trees, better known as “snow monsters.” One of the oldest ski resorts in Japan, the mountain at Zao Onsen reaches an altitude of more than 4,000 feet. For the brave, the Wall is a 1,000-foot run with a 30-degree slope. For a more laid-back option, lights light up the piste for romantic night skiing.

Posted in Travels and Journeys

The Power of Sustainable Leadership

The Power of Sustainable Leadership

In 1886, an Atlanta pharmacist named John Pemberton concocted the formula for Coca-Cola. Today, the secret formula for Coke is locked away in a secure vault in Atlanta. Only a select few have access to this recipe that has given longevity to one of America’s landmark companies and strongest brands.

At UPS, the formula for success is not locked away in a secret vault or hidden from view with restricted access. On the contrary, UPS’s formula is out in the open for every employee to see and to provide the guidance the company needs to respond to business needs.

UPS was started in 1907 by a determined 19-year-old, Jim Casey, with $100 in his pocket. His idea for a bicycle messenger service would turn into one of the most successful enterprises in the world. Today, his entrepreneurial spirit lives on in the 360,000 UPSers who are reinventing the business to synchronize global commerce.

UPS’s formula for success is alive and well in the words and actions of the company’s founder, Jim Casey, and in the countless people who have followed in his footsteps to continue his legacy.

UPS Aircrafts

As the world’s largest parcel delivery company, United Parcel Service uses more than 500 planes and 100,000 vehicles to deliver on average 18 million packages per day to residences and businesses around the globe.

In UPS’s drive to keep its success formula fresh, one thing remains constant. That is a culture built on the timeless values of integrity, excellence, quality, and the human spirit. It’s about doing the right thing each day to manage the company’s reputation. USPS have a new logo and look at UPS, but the company maintain the values that have served us well. At UPS, everyone is a steward of the brand.

One of the greatest challenges that growing companies face is finding, developing, and retaining leaders. I believe corporate culture plays a big role in this process. Developing a strong culture is necessary to create a sustainable enterprise. UPS contributes to the economy through innovation, job creation, and economic opportunity. That means growing the company’s organizations. I’ve spent my entire career with UPS.

So what does UPS know about the challenges of growing a business? Plenty! UPS’s customer base is made up of thousands of smaller, emerging companies whose leaders have aspirations of greatness. At UPS, the company’s leadership spent years developing the products and services you need to run your business, improve your processes, and better connect with your customers, partners, and employees. UPS offers quality and value, and deliver on a promise of service excellence.

UPS is the largest player in a business where network size matters, both in reaching the most recipients on the planet and in spreading costs over a larger volume of packages.

UPS continually re-evaluate the company’s strategies. Markets change, requirements change, competitors change, and customers change–faster than ever before. There are many threats to the company’s business, but perhaps the greatest threat is if UPS were to become complacent. UPS evaluates its strategies to ensure they are still relevant to the customer and are effective in today’s market. This is a continuation of Jim Casey’s constructive dissatisfaction—the concept of pursuing excellence and the drive to better the company and improve ourselves. When determining where UPS needs to go and what the leadership need to accomplish, they often ask, “What would Jim Casey do?”

Now some people may think of UPS as a conservative company that is risk-averse, maybe even afraid to change. While they are fiscally prudent and make calculated decisions, they really are masters of change. UPS’s history is one of constant re-invention and transformation.

Today, UPS is a synchronizer of global commerce. UPS gets the right product to the right place at the right time in the right physical and financial condition. UPS views every aspect of the supply chain and the management cycle as one continuous and synchronous business process: from sourcing to final delivery, from order entry to fulfillment and returns. It’s about moving packages, but it requires managing critical information about those packages.

Next Generation of Leaders

A big part of UPS’s formula for success is developing sustainable leaders to guide UPS as a company. Soon UPS will be facing intense competition for workers and the next generation of leaders. When 76 million Baby Boomers begin retiring, the number of people exiting the workforce will far exceed the number entering.

Leaders must ask: “Where will our next generation of leaders come from?” Many leaders are putting their budgets where their priorities are. And those priorities include leadership development.

For most executives, leadership development is a major priority. In most cases, senior executives are committed to funding leadership development programs at high levels. Indeed, investment in the bench strength of “high potentials” is not faltering.

At UPS, domestic package operations generate about 62% of consolidated revenue, and international package adds 22%; less-than-truckload freight delivery, freight forwarding, logistics services, and retail stores contribute another 16% of sales.

Investing in UPS’s people for a life-long career has been a big plus for UPS and its people. For UPS leaders, employment longevity enables them to get experience across many different parts of the business. I’ve worked in many jobs in many places—and that kind of experience and training delivers continuity. So when a new chairman takes the reins at UPS, as Mike Eskew did two years ago, the leadership transition is seamless, logical, and strategic. UPS’s experienced leaders are trusted to perform their roles without disruption.

Jim Casey institutionalized these concepts of legacy leadership. He knew that the best way to prepare for the future, to meet the challenges, and to capitalize on the opportunities was to develop people into leaders. He also knew that success was not the result of one person, but rather the combined strength of determined people working together. At UPS, the company fosters an appreciation for the principles of business success laid down by Jim Casey. UPS calls this: “Preparing for the future by studying the past.” These timeless principles include combining structure with room for innovation, putting the customer first, and operating with integrity.

UPS also puts its managers through ongoing training programs and schools to develop their leadership skills, and UPS encourages them to make a difference in their local communities.

The result of all this leadership training at UPS is the creation of a new generation of leaders who can step up to responsibility without the company so much as missing a beat.

In their book, Built to Last, authors Jim Collins and Jerry Porras explore what makes up a great company. A great company has a strong vision that encompasses both an immutable core ideology and envisioned future. That vision transcends the current leader because it has been institutionalized. A visionary company religiously preserves its core ideology—changing it seldom, if ever. From this adherence to a set of beliefs comes the discipline and drive that enables a company to succeed in rapidly changing environments. The fact is, culture matters. It takes more than charismatic, visionary leaders to build visionary companies. It requires a core ideology.

UPS’ less-than-truckload segment (about 5% of revenue) exposes the firm to a market in which slowing demand leads many competitors to bid rates down to break-even margins.

Culture, leadership, integrity, and the spirit of UPS

What’s UPS’s secret to maintaining a reputation of excellence for 97 years? Culture, leadership, integrity, and the spirit of UPS. The formula for a sustainable culture is not simply a matter of “just add water and stir.” It takes hard work, constant management, rethinking, reconditioning, refining, and reinventing when necessary. That’s what’s involved in managing culture-using a formula for success to create a sustainable enterprise.

Posted in Business and Strategy Management and Leadership

The Magnificent Bhoganandishwara Temple Complex in Nandi (near Bangalore)

Sculptures at Bhoganandishwara Temple Complex

Bhoganandishwara temple in Kolar district is one of the finest Dravidian temples in Karnataka.

Actually it is not a single temple but a complex built over a period of more than six centuries beginning from eighth century A.D. According to inscriptions this temple was built by Ratnavali, the queen of Bana king Vidyadhara. As Bana Vidyadhara ruled during the last quarter of the eighth century A.D., the earliest part of this temple should have been built by that time. There are many Chola inscriptions of eleventh century A.D. in this temple.

The temple consists of a huge prakara of 320 feet long and 250 feet broad. The original temple consisted of two garbhagrihas, two sukhanasis, navaranga and two nandimandapas. The northern garbhagriha had an image of Bhoganandishwara while the southern garbhagriha was dedicated to god Arunachaleshwara. Sukhanasi and navaranga have finely carved jalandhras with sculptural embellishments. The nandi mandapa has Chola inscriptions and perhaps this was built during the Chola period.

Bhoganandishwara Temple Complex in Nandi

The four pillars in the navaranga are carved with minute sculptures on all the sides. The ceiling over these pillars is huge and has Siva and Parvati along with eight dikpalas. In front of the navaranga entrance is the nandi mandapa with doorways on east, north and south. In front is a kalyanamandapa built of black stone. There are ceilings of ashtadikpalas. The beams have fine sculptures of Siva, Vishnu, Lakshmi, etc. The pillars are also carved with gods and goddesses like Hanuman, Vishnu, Lingodbhava, Krishna, Surya, Tandavesvara, Brahma, Gopalakrishna etc. The patalankana in front of the mukhamandapa is surrounded by an open verandah which stands on an ornamental plinth.

The outer walls of the early shrines have decorative plinths with pilasters, turrets and jalandhras with some sculptures here and there. In the prakara are found two shrines of a later period which have Prasanna Parvati and Apitakuchamba aspects of Devi as consorts of Bhoganandishwara and Arunachalesvara. To the north outside the encloser is a hall known as Vasantha mandapa which has sixteen fine pillars. Opposite to it is another mandapa with four pillars known as Tulabhara mandapa. To the north of this is a tank called Sringitirtha. Thus the entire temple complex is vast and attracts a large number of pilgrims from all over Karnataka.

Posted in Travels and Journeys