I know my manager is flailing and/or drowning when:

  • Too busy all the time
  • S/he starts contradicting herself day to day.
  • There is all talk and no action.
  • She doesn’t have the time to check in and ask how to help; or she has too much time and keeps changing the story of what’s important.
  • The asking is replaced with telling.
  • They end the conversation with acknowledging open issues.
  • I am afraid of bringing him news because I know he will not like it.
  • They don’t follow-up on action items we identified (team, 1:1, or hallway meeting).
  • They stop asking questions.
  • Her messages and manner become inconsistent.
  • They stop coming out of their office.
  • Staff members start getting thrown under the bus.
  • His calendar is full of weekly project meetings with no time blocked for 1:1s or other work.
  • They have a new opinion after every meeting they attend.
  • Every new thing becomes the highest priority.
  • Communication becomes limited to terse tactical directives.
  • He asks me questions that indicate he doesn’t know what I do.
  • Becomes insecure and creates conspiracies.
  • They don’t ask about what team members are trying to learn/get better at.

(Sourced via the fine humans on Twitter.)

Word of the Year: “Dumpster fire”

As a metaphor for a situation that is out of control or poorly handled, dumpster fire came into prominence in 2016, very frequently in the context of the U.S. presidential campaign. It evokes an image of an uncontrolled blaze in a dumpster, a large trash receptacle that originated as a proprietary name. Dumpster was in commercial use beginning in the 1930s before becoming genericized.

Isn’t that two words?

(Via The American Dialect Society.)

Regardless of seniority, every good manager will:

  • Order pizza.
  • Give feedback.
  • Listen.
  • Take out the recycle/trash. Not a metaphor.
  • Need to find additional things to delegate.
  • Try to support their direct reports to eventually become better than them.
  • Consider constructive feedback regardless of who delivers it.
  • Do what they say.
  • Have regular, un-cancelable 1:1s.
  • Protect their team, push for greatness, and prepare for the future.
  • Get their hands dirty when called for.
  • Focus on helping their team to be wildly successful.
  • Put people first.
  • Give a shit.
  • Relentlessly hustle for their team.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Care.
  • Feel deeply and profoundly awful for disappointing someone on their team.
  • Make mistakes and learn from them.
  • Remove fear.
  • Be the bullshit umbrella and not the bullshit funnel.
  • Remember (and maybe learn from) the time when they weren’t a manager.
  • Work harder than their employees.
  • Educate.
  • Provide consistent and predictable structure.
  • Back up their team when they say “no” to something.
  • Not be a prick.
  • Model the culture and spirit they want to develop in their workplace.
  • Translate corporate bullshit into normal-speak.
  • Empower their staff members.
  • Move things out of their way, including yourself.
  • Regularly feel self-doubt.
  • Be an advocate.
  • Be an ally.
  • Amplify the good in people.
  • Fight the grapevine confusion.
  • Be the first to metamorph to the chrysalis phase.
  • Define reality and say thank you.

(Sourced via the fine humans on Twitter.)

Nine Headlines for the Best Nine

Flew back through amazing clouds in New Zealand. The Dancing House in Prague has advertising at its base. In a battle between El Capitan and Half Dome, the latter only wins on curves. Most good photos contain fractals. Some are just different angles of familiar things. Manhattan always wins on buildings. The iPhone camera can amaze you. Why Half Dome wins. Why home always wins.

Stupid Cat Pictures

I’m still angry with Facebook. It’s unfair anger because Facebook is full of the things (fake or not) that we created. Facebook algorithmically determines which of those things (fake or not) to show to a particular set of humans. They do this matching quite well because they have a bajillion daily active users.

There’s an easy way to avoid being a daily active user. You don’t show up.

However, twice a day, I want stupid cat pictures because they make me laugh. This one makes me laugh 48 hours later just thinking about it. In the morning and at night, I have a short window where I need the inane and Facebook protest is hindering my cat stupidity.

Reddit to the rescue.

I’ve been a daily active user of Reddit for years, but this break I installed the newly revamped mobile application, and it’s good. A clean interface accompanies a front page which does a far more aggressive job of unfurling videos and images. This means very little of clicking to see the reveal behavior that I do on the website.

Stupid cat pictures, dumb questions, insane videos, and pictures of cute animals. Perfect.

On Bullshit

Stellar piece on Aeon regarding bullshit:

Bullshit is much harder to detect when we want to agree with it. The first and most important step is to recognise the limits of our own cognition. We must be humble about our ability to justify our own beliefs. These are the keys to adopting a critical mindset – which is our only hope in a world so full of bullshit.

I aggressively prune my inbox, but Aeon’s mailing list is one of a handful of publications that makes the cut. You should sign-up for their mailing list.

Top 10 Most Viewed Fact-checks of 2016

Questions: How many of these did you hear or read? How many got in your head and made you mad or glad? How many did you assume were true or false without actually doing the work to determine if true or false? Embarrassed to say I heard many of them, raged a bit, and didn’t fact-check most.

(Via Politifact.)

The Next Big Thing

The icing on the cake when I do a presentation is Q&A. Being peppered with random questions might seem problematic, but I love it. First, because it tells me what the audience heard and, second, because it allows to me fill in the gaps of the presentation.

There are a standard list of questions I get on a regular basis, and one of them is, “If you were going to found a start-up, what would it be?” My answer has been consistent for the past five years, “I don’t know how I’d do it nor how I’d make money, but I would provide a service which allows a human to determine the source of a piece of information.”

Everyone suddenly cares about this idea a lot. Facebook recently announced it’s plan to vet alleged fake news with five different independent news/fact-checking groups. These groups are:

I remain jaw on the floor shocked how much opinion that swirls me is repackaged as facts. I’m not pointing the finger at a particular demographic; I’m talking about everyone (including myself) who says, “That insert-fact-here just feels wrong.” We are 100% entitled to our opinions. Our views are also protected. However, usage of an opinion as fact is rotting our national discourse.

Kudos to Facebook for taking action, but a better course of action is when you hear or read a fact that seems just plain off check out one of the sites above get the real facts.

p.s. There is a fact-checkers code of principles.

It Takes Five Years for Holacracy to Work

Solid piece from Quartz on the state of the Holacracy experiment at Zappos. I’ve never worked at Zappo’s, but it seemed to me like a healthy culture to boldly engage in different productivity and leadership experiments. However, as reported, it does not appear to be working.

Nearly a third of the company has walked to the door. I don’t know what Zappo’s annual attrition rate has been, but I guess that is higher. When you combine this with the fact that Zappos dropped off the Forbes “Best Companies to Work For” list, you have evidence of a larger systemic problem.

To me, the money quote in the piece is, “Robertson [Holacracy’s creator] says it takes five years for Holacracy to work.” There’s a short list of the larger companies using Holacracy on their wiki, but my question is two fold: what does working mean and what company has successfully done it?