Top Three Mistakes Managers Make With Their Teams

For over 35 years, Shelle Rose Charvet has researched the power of words and language.  At the heart of this is the Language and Behavior Profile (LAB) system, which you can learn from her best-selling book, Words That Change Minds: The 14 Patterns for Mastering the Language of Influence (I included this in my Forbes.com post regarding the best management books for entrepreneurs and executives).  It has proven quite effective for just about any context, whether for business or personal relationships.  Keep in mind that Charvet’s focus is about finding hidden triggers that motivate people at the unconscious level.

Sounds kind of heady, right? Actually, Charvet has a way of making her concepts easy and understandable.

For me, I was particularly interested in how they could help entrepreneurs, who are usually new to management. Yet if they get things wrong the consequences can be devastating.

So in an interview with Charvet, she provided the following helpful advice:

Mistake #1:  Many managers think if you give someone the correct information, it will change their behavior. If you tell someone what to do, they will do it.

Yet research has repeatedly shown that when given the correct information, people double-down on erroneous beliefs.  Most people dislike being told what to think, what to do or what to believe, especially by their boss (or spouse!). Even a simple statement of facts can be perceived as “Command Language” and raise hackles.

Then managers end up spending a frustrating amount of time checking if tasks were completed, and done correctly.

I suggest using the Suggestion Model™, to avoid this passive resistance, get more buy-in, and more things done on time and well. And it’s an easy 4-step process.

  • Make a suggestion
  • State what problem it avoids or solves
  • State the benefit
  • Overall why it’s easy to do

Here’s an example: “I believe this version of the software makes the most sense right now because it doesn’t have the issues the other ones have, plus it integrates well with the other software you are using, and it will be fairly easy to implement.”

Mistake #2: Managers are still using the “Feedback Sandwich” that has demoralized millions of team members around the world.

You know the drill: Your boss compliments you, and then you brace for the expected “improvement point” (lightly-disguised criticism), followed by a vaguely-worded bit of praise. This ubiquitous method has trained people to be immediately suspicious of any positive comments and to feel bad even when the news is only good.

Instead, I recommend completely separating praise from critique, so that people won’t cringe whenever you say something nice. They will be more likely to take in the critique and do something about it and it’s easier for you to deliver.

  • For praise: Go into your team member’s office or phone them when they are unlikely to pick up the phone. Tell them what they did well, and the positive consequence of that, and then immediately leave the room or hang up the phone, saying “Thanks, gotta go.” (If you stay, they will be waiting for the bad shoe to drop.)
  • For critique: You could use the Bad News Formula™ to reduce bad feelings while still getting your message across. This involves clearly telling the bad news first and then adding “but,” which then includes some pieces of good news. It’s so much easier than criticizing.

Mistake #3: A manager often assumes that what is important for him or her is also important for the team.

Having worked with hundreds of teams, the first thing I often notice is the team leader is often disappointed with the lower level of engagement from team members. When they have a discussion on what everyone thinks the objectives are, and which operating values are important, they are all surprised at how different the points of view are.

The first step is to look at the goals and objectives of the team and get input from everyone as to why they are important. Find out what are the personal motivations from the team. It’s not just business. It’s personal!

Alpha Girls: Women Upstarts Who Took On Silicon Valley’s Male Culture

Venture capital is one of the most amazing drivers of growth in the US. It has helped to propel iconic companies like Apple, Facebook, Amazon.com and Uber.

But of course, the VC industry is not without its faults. Perhaps the most egregious is the so-called “bro” culture. If you take a look at VC websites, you’ll notice that most partners are white males. It’s really that simple.

“Progress isn’t happening fast enough and credit in Silicon Valley still flows disproportionately to men,” said Judy Loehr, who is the founder of Bayla Ventures and one of the early product managers at Salesforce.com.

But there is a silver lining – that is, there has been more and more exposure of the culture and this is leading to some change. A good example of this is an excellent book from Julian Guthrie, Alpha Girls: The Women Upstarts Who Took On Silicon Valley’s Male Culture and Made the Deals of a Lifetime. It is a story of the success and struggles of four top VCs: Mary Jane (MJ) Elmore (she was one of the first partners of a VC firm), Sonja Hoel, Magdalena Yeşil and Theresia Gouw.

Often they were the only women in the room. But they certainly made a huge difference. Keep in mind that these four women were instrumental in funding companies like Salesforce.com, Facebook and Trulia.

Now some of the stories in the book are downright horrific. When Magdalena worked at AMD in the 1980s, she was at a sales meeting that had topless women as entertainment … who engaged in sex acts!

Even though speaking up could have easily led to her swift termination, she went to the CEO, Jerry Sanders, and confronted him directly.

Yet many of the other examples in the book are subtle and nuanced. It’s really about the culture where expectations for men are often so much different than for women.
Here’s a look:

  • When Salesforce.com launched its IPO in 2004, Magdalena decided to stay home with her sick son instead of ringing the bell on the NYSE. This was something she would regret later because no male would have done the same.
  • As like any good VC, Theresia was a constant networker while at Accel Partners. But this stirred up rumors. Was she sleeping with founders to get deals? Even worse, the rumors continued when she was pregnant. Then again, it’s understandable that there would be jealousy. She helped snag the $12.5 million investment in Facebook. According to Forbes.com, her networth is estimated at $580 million.
  • Something else about Theresia. Her partners denied her taking a sabbatical. But of course, other male partners had no pushback with theirs.
  • Sonja adopted a baby while she suffered from breast cancer. But none of the partners visited her.

Given all these engaging stories, it should be no surprise that the “Alpha Girls” book was the subject of a bidding war for the film and TV rights. Welle Entertainment won out against Amazon, Universal, Brett Ratner and Smokehouse.

But for the most part, “Alpha Girls” fills an important part of the history of Silicon Valley, which has been mostly ignored. This has also provided a way to impart critical lessons, which often take years to evolve and realize. As MJ has noted so eloquently: “Don’t be a martyr; be more selfish about your own needs; keep your foot in the door of a job you love; and whatever you do, don’t leave to make someone else happy.”

Summer Reads From Tech CEOs

One of the keys to Bill Gates’ success is his voracious appetite for reading books. Keep in mind that every summer he lists some of his favorites on his blog.

But hey, what are other CEOs recommending and why? Well, here’s a look:

Origin Story: A Big History of Everything

Bryan Murphy, CEO of Breather: “This is an amazing book for two reasons. Number one, if you’re the type of person that loves how stuff works, this book is for you. David Christian deftly takes us on a journey from before the big bang, zooms through the Universe’s history and into the future in a cohesive narrative that will make you rethink your perspective on our place in the universe and will blow your mind away at the simplicity of it all. Second, a leader’s job is to make the complicated simple. David is an inspiration to me the way he weaves data and narrative and distills it down to make the complicated simple. I strive to do that every day at Breather as I communicate with customers, partners and teammates.”

The Martian

Jennifer Fitzgerald, the CEO and co-founder of Policygenius: “The Martian by Andy Weir is a parable for what is critical to success in business, but also in running a startup. It’s the story of a stranded astronaut trying to get off Mars before running out of food and oxygen, which is a useful metaphor for creating a successful business from scratch. You have to figure out how to scale a good business model before running out of money. The book really showcases what it means to have grit and be resourceful, as well as how to effectively solve problems, which are such important skills. In fact, because this book speaks so well to many of the Policygenius values, we give all new employees a copy of the book preloaded on a Kindle when they start.”

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

Pini Yakuel, the CEO and Founder of Optimove: “This year, I read The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, which introduced me to the concept of ‘management debt’ that has really resonated with me in both my professional and personal life. Based off the term ‘technical debt,’ Horowitz discusses how quick short-term solutions that act as a ‘loan’ to buy time, always come with an expensive, long-term consequence. While some loans are worth paying in the future, others can become too expensive to justify — and if management does not account for this future interest, they run the risk of becoming bankrupt in the future. What I found particularly interesting about this analogy was that it can actually serve as a model for multiple facets of life. Once I began thinking with this framework, it became a lot easier for me to fully think through my solutions and understand the implications of each decision.”

Americanah

Fred Stevens-Smith, the CEO and co-founder of Rainforest QA: “This book revealed moving and important insights into what it’s like to be a person of color living in America. The author tells an incredibly compelling and lyrical story while sharing eye-opening anecdotes and lessons. More than anything, this book reminded me that, in the era of Trump, America is still deeply racially divided, and the intense privilege that some of us benefit from continues to create barriers that prevent a meritocracy from being realized. The book was a great reminder of the privilege I walk around with, and helped refresh my humility. More broadly it reenergized me around our values and culture. We spend a huge amount of time and energy creating an intentional culture at Rainforest, and Americanah served to inspire me to continue to push harder on this – it’s easy to focus on the short term in our business, and culture is one of the most important long-term investments any company can make.”

Patton: Ordeal and Triumph

Craig Walker, the CEO and founder of Dialpad: “One of my favorite books is Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago, which is about how WWII General George Patton fought against overwhelming odds. One of his most recognizable quotes happens to be my favorite – ‘A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.’ I’m constantly reminded of this as a tech entrepreneur. While old guard legacy players have more resources and recognition, smaller tech startups have an advantage if they take Patton’s advice. Disruption happens by building tech that is more useful, efficient, adaptable — the list goes on. We win when we act quickly. Brains and determination can overcome even the most formidable opponents.”

The Winner Within: A Life Plan for Team Players

Scott Scherr, the CEO of Ultimate Software: “A few years after founding Ultimate Software, I received a copy of The Winner Within, a leadership book by legendary basketball coach and current Miami HEAT President Pat Riley. I’ve made it a point to re-read it almost every year since. In the early days of Ultimate, Pat’s words guided me and he became a mentor, if only through the book. Years later, I met Pat when he gave the keynote at our Connections customer conference in Las Vegas. In 2017, we became teammates in business. Ultimate’s now the official HR/payroll provider and jersey sponsor of the HEAT.

“The Winner Within resonates strongly with me, and Ultimate’s commitment to putting people first. I see many parallels between a team’s success in business and in sports. Your employees are your players. You work together to build an all-star team and win championships. There’s nothing better than being on a team—winning together, learning from losses together, getting stronger together. Pat’s book really helped shape Ultimate’s culture. We continue to coach our players, set goals, and earn championships. Today, we give our people copies of The Winner Within when they join our team. We encourage everyone to read it and learn from Pat’s principles — just like I have.”

The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership