Meet Seth Godin

Seth on Leaders

Seven questions for leaders

Do you let the facts get in the way of a good story?
What do you do with people who disagree with you… do you call them names in order to shut them down?
Are you open to multiple points of view or you demand compliance and uniformity? [Bonus: Are you willing to walk away from a project or customer or employee who has values that don’t match yours?]
Is it okay if someone else gets the credit?
How often are you able to change your position?
Do you have a goal that can be reached in multiple ways?
If someone else can get us there faster, are you willing to let them?
No textbook answers… It’s easy to get tripped up by these. In fact, most leaders I know do.

Seth on Trust

Assuming goodwill

Productivity comes from interactivity and the exchange of ideas and talents.
People are happiest when they’re encouraged and trusted.
An airport functions far better when we don’t strip search passengers. Tiffany’s may post guards at the door, but the salespeople are happy to let you hold priceless jewels. Art museums let you stand close enough to paintings to see them. Restaurants don’t charge you until after you eat.
Compare this environment of trust with the world that Paypal has to live in. Every day, thousands of mobsters in various parts of the world sit down intent on scamming the company out of millions of dollars. If the site makes one mistake, permits just one security hole to linger, they’re going to be taken for a fortune. As a result, the company isn’t just paranoid–they know that people really are out to get them.
This is the fork in the road that just about all of us face, whether as individuals or organizations. We have to make an assumption about whether people are going to steal our ideas, break their promises, void their contracts and steal from us, or perhaps, that people are basically honest, trustworthy and generous. It’s very hard to have both postures simultaneously. I have no idea how those pistol-packing guys in the movies ever get a good night’s sleep.
In just about every industry (except electronic money transfer, apparently), assuming goodwill is not only more productive, it’s also likely to be an accurate forecast.
Trust pays.

Seth on Legacy

The worst moments are your best opportunity

That’s how we judge you and how we remember you.
You are presumed to be showing us your real self when you are on deadline, have a headache, are facing a customer service meltdown, haven’t had a good night’s sleep, are facing an ethical dilemma, are momentarily in power, are caught doing something when you thought no one else was looking, are irritable, have the opportunity to extract revenge, are losing a competition or are truly overwhelmed.
What a great opportunity to tell the story you’d like us to hear about you.

Seth on Creating Linchpins

Three ways to help people get things done

A friend sent me a copy of a new book about basketball coach Don Meyer. Don was one of the most successful college basketball coaches of all time, apparently. It’s quite a sad book—sad because of his tragic accident, but also sad because it’s a vivid story about a misguided management technque.

Meyer’s belief was that he could become an external compass and taskmaster to his players. By yelling louder, pushing harder and relentlessly riding his players, his plan was to generate excellence by bullying them. The hope was that over time, people would start pushing themselves, incorporating Don’s voice inside their head, but in fact, this often turns out to be untrue. People can be pushed, but the minute you stop, they stop. If the habit you’ve taught is to achieve in order to avoid getting chewed out, once the chewing out stops, so does the achievement.
It might win basketball games, but it doesn’t scale and it doesn’t last. When Don left the room (or the players graduated), the team stopped winning.

A second way to manage people is to create competition. Pit people against one another and many of them will respond. Post all the grades on a test, with names, and watch people try to outdo each other next time. Promise a group of six managers that one of them will get promoted in six months and watch the energy level rise. Want to see little league players raise their game? Just let them know the playoffs are in two weeks and they’re one game out of contention.
Again, there’s human nature at work here, and this can work in the short run. The problem, of course, is that in every competition most competitors lose. Some people use that losing to try harder next time, but others merely give up. Worse, it’s hard to create the cooperative environment that fosters creativity when everyone in the room knows that someone else is out to defeat them.

Both the first message (the bully with the heart of gold) and the second (creating scarce prizes) are based on a factory model, one of scarcity. It’s my factory, my basketball, my gallery and I’m going to manipulate whatever I need to do to get the results I need. If there’s only room for one winner, it seems these approaches make sense.

The third method, the one that I prefer, is to open the door. Give people a platform, not a ceiling. Set expectations, not to manipulate but to encourage. And then get out of the way, helping when asked but not yelling from the back of the bus.
When people learn to embrace achievement, they get hooked on it. Take a look at the incredible achievements the alumni of some organizations achieve after they move on. When adults (and kids) see the power of self-direction and realize the benefits of mutual support, they tend to seek it out over and over again.
In a non-factory mindset, one where many people have the opportunity to use the platform (I count the web and most of the arts in this category), there are always achievers eager to take the opportunity. No, most people can’t manage themselves well enough to excel in the way you need them to, certainly not immediately. But those that can (or those that can learn to) are able to produce amazing results, far better than we ever could have bullied them into. They turn into linchpins, solving problems you didn’t even realize you had. A new generation of leaders is created…
And it lasts a lifetime.

Seth on Lists

Creating the list

…is not the same as obeying the list.
Do you make the list you check off, follow and work on every day? When does it get made? Who approves it? Do you identify tasks or perform them?
If you had a better list, would you do better work? If you made the list instead of just obeying it, would you be a more valuable member of the team?
Yes, asking questions is often more valued than answering them. (If they’re the right questions.)

And finally….Seth on Limitations

Accepting false limits

I will never be able to dunk a basketball.

This is beyond discussion.

Imagine, though, a co-worker who says, “I’ll never be able to use a knife and fork. No, I have to use my hands.”

Or a colleague who says, “I can’t possibly learn Chinese. I’m not smart enough.”

This is a mystery to me. A billion people have learned Chinese, and the failure rate for new kids is close to zero. If a well functioning adult puts in sufficient time and the effort, she”ll succeed.

The key to this disconnect is the unspoken part about time and effort and fear. I agree that you will never ship that product or close that sale or invent that device unless you put in the time and put in the effort and overcome the fear. But I don’t accept for a minute that there’s some sort of natural limit on your ability to do just about anything that involves creating and selling ideas.

This attitude gets me in trouble sometimes. Perhaps I shouldn’t be pushing people who want something but have been taught not to push themselves. Somewhere along the way, it seems, I forgot that it’s none of my business if people choose to accept what they’ve got, to forget their dreams and to not seek to help those around them achieve what matters to them.

Not sure if you’ll forgive me, but no, I’m not going to believe that only a few people are permitted to be gatekeepers or creators or generous leaders. I have no intention of apologizing for believing in people, for insisting that we all use this moment and these assets to create some art and improve the world around us.

To do anything less than that is a crime.

 

Related Posts

Leave a Reply