April 2006

Business19 Apr 2006 02:05 pm

I’ve been thinking recently about mutinies and passive aggressive behavior. In my career I’ve been subverted a number of times. Really, who hasn’t – BUT – I’ve had no full mutinies. In business, I’ve always been able to handle mutineers in one of three ways.

  1. Communicate – Most often mutineers feel that they’ve been slighted, but for whatever reason they’re afraid to confront the manager about it. Personally, I feel that this is half the leader’s fault and half the mutineer’s fault. Leaders MUST earn the trust of their team. I’ve found that by extending an olive branch, leaders are able to not only put down the rebellion, but often get the mutineer to switch sides. This is most effective when dealing with other leaders. On the other hand, if you are the mutineer, and you have a legitimate beef, you either need to find the courage to confront that person directly, or you need to find another leader. This IS one of the 25 unwritten rules of management:
  2. “Work for a boss with whom you are comfortable telling it like it is. Remember that you can’t pick your relatives, but you can pick your boss.” –Bill Swanson

  3. Transfer Them Out – Sometimes mutineers are unable to figure out that their divisive behavior is negatively affecting the team. Often there is a personality quirk that prevents them from working well on the team. Often these people would be more efficient elsewhere in the organization – or in another organization. Helping these people to shift out of your team is often an excellent way to make everyone happy. It is important to note however that you should identify whether this person CAN be successful in another setting. Transferring a problem to another group is never appreciated. If you’re the mutineer in this case, you should be anticipating the opportunity to transfer. Hopefully the leader will recognize that there is just a personality conflict, but you could just as easily find yourself looking for a new job.
  4. Encourage Them to Leave – The difference between this item and the prior item is the mutineer’s ability to succeed. If the mutineer finds pleasure in stirring the pot, and will not be successful elsewhere in the organization, it’s time to encourage them to leave. I believe that there are a rare few of these people, but I tend to find them in community organizations. Why is it that volunteer organizations seem to be the most of these people? If you’re in this category as a mutineer, you had best get a self help book because truthfully you will NEVER be successful professionally, or in charity work.

In my career, most subversion falls into the first category. By communicating and clarifying, I find that I can often quell a mutiny. I’ve had a couple of mutineers in the second category that went on to be successful in other groups and teams. I’ve never had to let anyone go or push them out for subversion. Which I think is a good thing.

In volunteer work, it has been a different story. I’ve encountered a number of people who subvert for the attention that blocking a process creates. They often thump their chests without realizing the negative impact that they’re having. In the end though, these people tend to either implode an organization –OR- they move on to some other target – hopefully before they’ve done too much damage.

Finally, once a full out mutiny starts, nobody wins. The leader is labeled as incompetent and the team is labeled as trouble. These labels follow as long as the players remain at the company. The only way to win is to stop it quickly, end the drama, and get back to work. Good Luck!


Business13 Apr 2006 02:35 pm

Working with smaller companies and in startups, I hear two age old debates… “Do you bet on the Horse or the Jockey?” and “Is experience or education more valuable?”

There’s a guy named Josh Kaufman who believes that the second question is weighted in the direction of experience. He is promoting a Personal MBA program, and to be fair it looks like a good program. His approach is simple. Read business books by master business people and work really hard at improving yourself at work. The real question is can this possibly work?

  • We all know excellent people who don’t have MBAs. We also know excellent people who don’t have degrees or even diplomas. How is it that they are able to be excellent without education? The answer is experience and intuition. I find it interesting how many people I know that talk about how worthless an education is when compared to their years of experience, yet when confronted with something new they can’t figure out what to do. It turns out that education gives you a varied experience in an abbreviated time frame. You are guided through an “experience path” in order to gain exposure to the right experience in an abbreviated way. Having said that, if you will read good books and apply what you’re learning, you to can gain the same abbreviated experience. Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates, Walt Disney – these are all self-taught men. Excellent people are excellent even without education –BUT– I believe that excellent people are even better with an education.
  • I know people who are dumber than rocks and can’t creatively or otherwise escape from a paper bag. Oh yeah, and did I mention that these people are MBAs, PhDs, etc. Clearly education is not a guarantee of success in business, but why does education still seem to open doors for them? It turns out that education is still the single most reliable measure of someone’s ability to succeed. That’s why education is so valued in the big business world where it’s no longer about taking risks to achieve an above average return, it’s about minimizing risk so that you don’t get a below average return. Given the choice between a licensed plumber or an unlicensed one, which would you choose?

My MBA experience was excellent – I spent two years thinking about solving business problems that I would not have likely encountered in 30 years of operating a business. I could operate a different business every month for 30 years and not have encountered some of the problems I had to solve in the couse of my education. I also met some excellent people in the business community, and the contacts have helped immensely. Finally, I was cross pollinated by other great minds, and that stretched me and forced me to grow.

Can the personal MBA provide a high level of cross-pollination and networking? I don’t think so. To be successful, it is still up to you to make the networking and cross pollination happen. Is that bad? I don’t think so, there are all sorts of business groups available and every one of them will have business people with interesting problems. Like anything else, it takes discipline to grow.

Finally, there’s the certificate on the wall. Can a personal MBA give you that? No. This is the only place where the personal MBA falls quantifiably short. Most employers respect the degree, and it can be hard to make headway without it. Remember what I said about companies not being willing to take a risk? That’s the problem here. On the other hand, if you’re willing to work you’re way up, you just might be able to forge a path that works. At which point, it may not matter. Good Luck!


Business&Technology04 Apr 2006 09:24 am

Dennis Forbes was able to get his hands on the domain registry database.  He loaded it into SQL server and proceeded to do some interesting analysis.  It’s worth a read.  I guess this explains why peterbowen.com was snagged by a speculator the SECOND that it became available. The details of his analysis are available here.