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Posts from the ‘Business’ Category

Adaptive Workforce Motivation

I was recently approached by a group that wanted to get my thoughts on a number of team leadership issues. One of the questions seemed odd to me – it was phrased something like “Describe a time when you felt you had to (or successfully) motivated your team.” The reason this seemed odd to me was I feel like I do it all the time.

The question that you should be asking yourself as a leader is, “What motivates people?”  But don’t ask it so generally unless you’re just looking for a pool of potential answers. Motivation is different from person to person, and as a leader you need to be adept at identifying an individual’s motivators and adapting your technique to individualize rewards.

Appreciation is a remarkably simple motivator, yet it’s one that I have often felt lacking in many environments. It turns out that my gut instinct was right. A recent from Tony Schwartz, Why Appreciation Matters So Much on the HBR blog network, notes that

The single highest driver of engagement, according to a worldwide study conducted by Towers Watson, is whether or not workers feel their managers are genuinely interested in their wellbeing. Less than 40 percent of workers felt so engaged.

Appreciation costs nothing, and when it is genuine, it is noticed. Tony goes on to discuss some reasons as to why appreciation is not shown more. One that I think is overlooked is that it makes the leader feel vulnerable. To show appreciation is to indicate that one could not do it alone. While this is a pretty standard truth, actually saying it may make one feel like their ego has been dinged. Whatever the case, most of us can’t go it alone, and appreciation should be a key piece of one’s toolkit when leading and motivating teams.

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Give ’em the Razor, Sell ’em the Blades

I’m speaking of Gillette’s strategy in the subject of this post, but it is a business model that several companies have implemented in their product lines. Gillette would give away the base razor, which would then encourage you to re-use it by buying their blades which carried a high profit margin.

HP took a similar tactic with its inkjet printers – they would have gladly given them away in order to get you hooked on purchasing ink. I was once told that if you did the math on HP ink, it’s retail price would come out somewhere around $10,000 a gallon. And you thought a gallon of gas was expensive these days. What HP found was that when it came to technology, if it did not cost money, people would assume it was inferior. So they set out selling those inkjet printers for anywhere between $49 and $129 dollars and would gladly bundle free ones in with laptop and desktop purchases to in order to secure the future income stream from ink.

It looks like Amazon has bought into this model with the Kindle Fire. This makes sense given their moves into a streaming video provider, cloud music purveyor, and digital book seller. Amazon’s value chain was already highly optimized for cost, allowing them to sell dead trees with printing on them for 30% less than bricks and mortar retailers. Imagine their profitability if they are the de-facto leader in electronic books and they are able to scale back the size of their distribution operations. So – give ’em the Kindle, sell ’em the e-books and movies. A recent FastCompany article points out Amazon’s point of leverage:

The Kindle Fires maker also happens to be the worlds largest online retailer, and it can leverage that position to stomach a short-term hit for a long-term future of getting more customers hooked addicted on Amazons services and content.

The fire easily serves up books and movies, and I’m assuming it handles games as well. By taking a small loss on the device, Amazon is poised to fuel sales in its content channel for the next 2-3 years. Seems like a smart move to me.

via Why Amazon Isnt Sweating Losing Millions On The Kindle Fire | Fast Company.

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Building a Culture

One of the challenges we face in business is building a team identity, and ultimately, a company culture. We have team building exercises, mission statements, birthday cakes, and all sorts of other mechanisms in place to try to make people feel bonded to one another. The benefits of a cohesive team are innumerable, and members of a “gelled” team often feel like they can accomplish anything.

That’s challenging enough to do at a company – a simple microcosm of a country. Finland seems to be attempting to do this as a country, and at my first glance I would say succeeding at it since 1949. How? Baby boxes. Yes, expectant mothers in Finland receive a box full of baby clothes and such (or a 140 Euro stipend). Not just poor mothers, but ALL mothers. Imagine walking down the street with your decked out new born and seeing all the other new parents walking with their toddlers in the same style. It’s an instant cultural identity.

While the box alone cannot create material equality for all babies born in this country, it is only one of many benefits designed to give children a good, fair start to life. There’s no shame in using public aid that everyone accesses and there’s no statement of consumerist individuality in the clothing that all babies are wearing. The box gives us lots of fun opportunities to play baby punch buggy and it spared us more than a few shopping trips and plenty of money, but its real value lies in its message of social justice for all children.

Ok – I’m not a fan of the punch buggy game, but the rest of it makes sense to me. Babies are the future of society, why not spend a trivial amount of money starting them off right?

via The Finnish Baby Box « All Things Mothering.

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Do You Watch Your Credit Card Statements?

I watch my statements like a hawk. One trick I have used recently to find recurring charges is to not use one card for an entire month, and see what charges hit it. That technique found an online newspaper I never read, and called to my attention the large sum of cash going to Netflix, DirecTV, etc. Once that cycle ends, I simply charge everything on that card and let the opposite sit dormant for a month. It’s a very enlightening process.

Most recently, I saw a charge for $44.99 to “RRS*SPORTSVIP YOUSAVE!” on my recent activity. I haven’t ordered any running shoes or apparel from them in over 2 years, and I certainly did not 2 days ago. I called and the agent told me “That’s for our VIP program renewal.” The guy was courteous and put in a request to refund me that money. Hopefully it’s all honored.

The strange thing is, when I go to RoadRunner’s site, I see the promotion to get into the VIP program for $1.99 and then it says it auto-renews each year for $24.99. So why was mine $44.99? I already stopped shopping there some time back – needless to say I will not shop there any time soon. In this age of “Card on file” technology, you have to watch your credit card statements like a hawk!

Deciphering Corporate Speak

Those of you working for smaller, private companies may not have been exposed to the vernacular I am about to rant about. The same may hold true for government employees. But for whatever reason, when you get into a company with 10,000+ employees with shareholders, etc. you end up speaking a different language. A new website, Unsuck-It has come to the rescue to help you decipher these words and phrases so that you will understand what the person is REALLY trying to say. Here are a few examples:

Drink the Kool-Aid – Meaning to follow blindly. I assume the origin from this was the Hale-Bopp comet people that all drank poisoned Kool-Aid thinking they were going to join aliens on the tail of the comet. If nothing else, they left quite the legacy on corporate America.  Update: Drew corrects me via comments that “but the origin is from the mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978 when Jim Jones convinced his followers to drink poisoned Kool-Aid.”

Disambiguate – doesn’t clarify sound so much better? I actually used this word in a meeting yesterday to poke at someone else’s overuse of flowery language.

Operationalize – make it work. Could you imagine if management actually said you need to make something work? That would sound like they had a product that didn’t work. Hmm….

Social Media Strategy – Hahahaha. Defined as “Typing into text areas.” So true. I’m reminded of our social media guidelines at work, and the minor uproar they caused.

And my favorite: Ping Me – I recently said this to someone and haven’t heard from her since. Coincidence? Further proof that you should avoid corporate speak in all of your conversations with non-co-workers. Check out Unsuck-It and see what words and phrases you should be avoiding.

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