Monday, June 13, 2011

Crisis shines an all knowing light

"Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." - Lou Gehrig

I have been accused of being many things, however, at a loss for words has never been one. For the past few weeks I have been unable to write my blog. For all that have enjoyed every incredible word I have written in the past, you know my blog is as much about life as it is business. Lately, life has been all too real.

My father is dying. It's a fact I have been dealing with for some time and by the time you read this he may already have passed. However, the impending definitiveness as I am writing is now here.

My father was very influential in my life and his loss will have long lasting effects on me personally. I am not eloquent or intelligent enough to express in prose his impact on me. However, it's not my father but something my mother once said that is dominating my thoughts. "You learn a lot about people during death. Crisis shines an all knowing light."

My mother’s statement is true in business AND in life. There have been countless examples during the past couple of years of appalling and egregious corporate behavior. However, there have also been remarkable acts of kindness and proper corporate responsibility. Morals are not attached to a financial biorhythm and should never shift no matter the peril. (OK - that fulfilled the business requirement portion.)

Only recently and only to a few have I shared my personal struggle with losing my "hero." I never wanted to project my burden onto others and thought of these types of discussion useless and self absorbed. However, I felt compelled to share to a few who where witness to my morose behavior and countless cancellations to their kind invitations. They were not only understanding, but without my knowledge shared with others who they felt would benefit from knowing my ordeal. Normally this type of personal exposure would make my skin crawl, however what has transpired has changed my outlook completely. A great majority of my life's interactions are through work or with husbands of friends of my wife. As such, I never considered myself someone who had many friends in the traditional sense. I felt those interactions were forced or of some duty on their part, since I was either providing a service to them or in the case of the husbands, stranded on the same island together. There was a part of me that also believed that I was too old to make friends.

However, what I have found out lately is there is no such thing as traditional love, kindness or friendship. In the past couple of weeks so many people have reached out to me, expressing their thoughts and genuine offer of support. Each interaction leaves me bewildered by my luck to know such caring people. I can even be so bold as to say, I have many friends.

Mine is a blog about business and life. If indeed "Crisis shines an all knowing light," I have learned my light shines bright.

Thank you all.


Gregory Salsburg
Miami | New York | London
c: (561) 386-8064
o: (305) 407-1723

Thursday, June 9, 2011

People Are Not Cogs

Thought this blog may be of interest to you, as it was for us ...

Harvard Business Review – Conversations Blog

People Are Not Cogs
Thursday June 2, 2011
by Nilofer Merchant

With peers in a few CEO roundtables, I've heard things like: "I plan on hiring 3 biz dev people to get $345K per headcount in revenues." After publishing a book about closing the execution gap by focusing on the "peopley" stuff, CEOs of major companies took me aside (in a friendly way) to suggest I had made a major faux pas, and would be seen as having gone "soft." In spite of a forest's worth of academic papers and rafts of best practices published by the likes of HBR on the importance of the "soft" stuff, most companies continue to treat people as inputs in a production line. I've had leaders ask me if this "people engagement thing" is something that can be added on, after the core business stuff is done, sort of like adding frosting to a cupcake.

And I. Can't. Believe. It.

Are we still having this conversation, really?

We know our economy has shifted away from mostly producing things . It makes no sense in such a landscape to keep talking about people as if people are disposable, replaceable, cogs in the mix.

Gurus like Don Tapscott, Tammy Erickson, John Hagel, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Gary Hamel, and more recently, Umair Haque, have all written about how our new economy is about producing ideas, experiences, and meaning. Companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Slideshare, and even Groupon are based on the conversion of ideas and creativity into value, rather than shipping physical stuff. Even companies producing "things" have found a way to embrace the new economy. Look at Apple. Their earnings per employee figure is $419,528 per head, beating out even Google's of $335,297/head and well on its way to be double that of Microsoft, currently at $244,831. They outperform their industry because they've figured out how to enable the key asset of the new economy: scalably leverage many people's contributions, including the app developers eager to piggyback on the industry's most attractive devices.

Yet most organizations still operate much as they did in the industrial age. We manage the measurable, rather than the things that create meaning that fuels creativity, that enables innovative thinking and that helps any company to outpace the market.

Am I revealing a certain naïveté in even writing this? Maybe yes, maybe no. Because I know the truth today: In work archetypes, we believe we must choose either performance or people. We can't see them as one and the same. We tag performance as the quantitatively focused work of what we can design, market, measure, track, bill, and monetize. Talent, purpose, culture and creating meaning is the peopley work mostly viewed by the performance folks as "cost centers," or departments that exist only to manage legal risk. The two camps operate with a "live and let live" approach, and they don't attempt to collaborate or interoperate with one another.

I have long believed that this "two camps" model must change, convinced that a more unifying model must be possible. And now we have "existence proofs" in the form of successful companies with different models. And it's not all of these companies were built from scratch; some were reinvented. The peopley stuff is what allows organizations to not just win, but also win repeatedly.

There's plenty of empirical data to support this strategic direction. Gallup, the research firm, recently did a meta-analysis across 199 studies covering 152 organizations, 44 industries, and 26 countries. It showed that high employee engagement brings an uplift of every business performance number. Profitability up 16%, Productivity up 18%, customer loyalty up 12% and quality up an incredible 60%.

We know that life is not just about efficiency. So why do we resist the idea that work can be about greatness?

We know we need more than the simple efficiency that our current measures capture. Our view of performance has become limited by overly focusing on those metrics. Because we can see the outward manifestations of work performance like products shipped, revenues booked, and earnings-per-share, we can discuss them in analyst calls and at management meetings. We can barely see and surely can't measure the soft aspect of how we make great products, revenues or earnings per share.

That doesn't mean that greatness can't be decoded. There are pieces that we can see and understand. It includes groups being creative. It includes people being themselves. It includes all of us having confidence that we're making a difference. It's asking questions that let us reimagine what could be. It's feeling motivated. It's about being challenged within our capabilities. It's all of us having a rich, intense sense of joy at work. It's trusting ourselves, and our ability to learn. It's about being trusted by others. It's when we can say to each other: I believe in you. It's about being courageous and not always trying to fit in. It's about everyone knowing what matters. It's about all of us learning, and growing and changing. It's about creativity and inventiveness, and the ability to go fast because we are adaptable. It's about getting rewarded for caring about the commons, not just the silos.

We need a measure that captures all of that. Something that captures our purpose, our talent, and the way our culture enables us to create velocity in bringing ideas to market.

How do we do start to measure the peopley stuff and also keep on performing and measuring the external stuff — how do we make sure we don't throw out the baby with the bathwater? For too long, the quants have lived in one world, and soft, peopley folks in another. Neither side was particularly willing to take the first steps necessary to bridge the gap, or even to even acknowledge that bridging was possible. I hold that to realize our organizations' full potential, both sides must work hard to get that bridge built.

For now, let's all agree that when someone proposes that we can put off that peopley stuff till later, we can all answer a resounding: "No, we can't." It's not the frosting on the cupcake. It's the key ingredient in how we make the cupcake bigger.

Nilofer Merchant is a corporate advisor and speaker on innovation methods. Her book, The New How, discussing collaborative ways to have your whole company strategize, was published in 2010. Follow her on Twitter @nilofer.