Hitting the Air Waves


Radio Interview

I was recently interviewed about “Seduction of the Leader” and, for your listening pleasure, I’ve provided a link below:

Thoughts on Steve Ballmer’s Exit from Microsoft

I was asked to comment on the shakeup at Microsoft and this post in the New Yorker. 

So, here are a few bullet points of my initial thoughts…

  • Fear snuffs out creativity.
  • Taking smart even brilliant people and having them compete to avoid failure breaks every rule of how to build motivation and morale.
  • It is obvious that Microsoft didn’t know how to build effective working teams — either in the management of the enterprise or the the creation of ideas to make the enterprise competitive.
  • Brilliance without heart is not sustainable.
  • Steve Jobs was, at times tyrannical, but he had a sense of the team, of how to motivate and challenge individuals. 

I could go on and on.

Just because you’re intelligent doesn’t mean you’re smart – whether you’re an individual, or a organization.

Call me “Sir”

To my father, children were polite, quiet, hardworking diligent adults in young people’s clothing.  As a 55 pound eight year old caught between extraordinary fear and respect, I had few choices.

I searched carefully for any signal that I was straying off course. I watched his eyes, the veins in this neck, the tone and depth of his voice, how quickly he turned toward me. If any of these forewarned a problem, I tried to correct it immediately.

Sometimes he got me before I could atone for the indiscretion. When, in a deep, annoyed voice he said, “Come here, big boy,” I knew I was about to get a licking – usually for some minor impropriety. Today, they would call it child abuse; then, they called them spankings. And those who heard me scream probably figured I deserved it.

Whatever you called what he did, I remember this; a small boy running, on command, to receive 10 or so wallops – and peeing in my pants before he ever hit me.  The fear and humiliation was enough incentive to behave. Do as you’re told, never complain, and, above all, be polite above the age of two.

That formula I developed to survive certainly doesn’t cultivate creativity and risk taking; it doesn’t encourage one to spread his wings and learn to fly.  But it keeps you safe.

Sadly, it sounds like many businesses I consult, where the employees drive the boss nuts because they don’t behave the way he wants them to.  With his punitive / judgmental response, he can’t understand why they’re so unwilling to try new ideas, why they’re always covering their proverbial asses, why they’re so uncreative and, finally, why they show little initiative – preferring, instead, to wait to be told what to do and how to do it. Fear is the basis of dependency and an effective extinguisher of creativity.

As I did, they stay out of sight as much as possible.  They’re invariably polite and avoid delivering bad news.  Their response to fear, intimidation and judgment is to go underground, complain and bitch, moan to each other, laugh at “Dad’s” frailties behind his back and, above all, hide the truth and protect each other. 

Not a great recipe for innovation, motivation or productivity.