Thursday, July 31, 2014

So, news... BoostCE (A Work-Related Post)

Excited to announce that my startup (Boost Customer Engagment) has finally exited stealth mode. I have started a consultancy aimed at helping companies improve their customer engagement.  Our approach is to first "fix email" - so many companies jump straight to Twitter and Facebook while neglecting the money-printing direct, just-in-time, mass-personalization potential of their email program.  

Every email that makes it into your customer's inbox is another little advertisement for you. Every email, another chance to interact, reinforce brand, provide customer service, engage, acquire, retain and delight.

Done well, your emails are an engaging, ongoing conversation. Of course, done well means an end to batch-and-blast, it means using what you know about your customers to your benefit (and theirs) and it means being intentional. We're all about using data, testing and measurement to increase engagement and keep customers coming back over and over again.

We're not going to pledge to do everything - for instance, check out our site - design's not our strong suit. You probably already have great designers who know your brand. We'll just help them create appropriate layouts for email. (Though I do know designers and web people and can help with referrals there as well for those who who are still on the sidelines trying to see if this internet thing is going to hit critical mass.)

So, yeah, that's the big news. I'm kind of excited. Our first engagement has come to us with some interesting challenges that we're tackling head-on around deliverability, mobile and keeping an audience engaged for repeat business in the desirable luxury necessity category. (Yep, that's a term I just made up, but I think it fits this business well.)

So please check out the site:

For my colleagues at big orange, there is no change to my "coworker of yours" status. I'll just be putting even more of my hours to better use. (Don't worry, TLHOA, I'll still mow my lawn.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Nevertember Eleventeenth at 1:67 dm.

We were joking about fake dates the other day and "Nevertember" came to mind. I figured that I wasn't the first to think of it, but when I searched Google, I was surprised to find so few. (Or Twitter - one single entry?? Wow.)

Here is, of course, another great date thanks to our brilliant friends at Parks and Recreation:

Monday, July 28, 2014

"Bring Me Solutions, Not Problems" (A Work-Related Post)

I've been giving the phrase "Bring Me Solutions, Not Problems" some thought today, trying to figure out what it really means.

If you've ever heard the phrase uttered, or said it yourself, you probably had a very particular meaning in mind (the last one on this list). But how else might it be interpreted?

That's Not What I Meant! (Hopefully)

I don't want to hear your problems. // I can't be bothered with your problems. // I don't have time for your problems. - I'm overwhelmed - everyone's telling me their problems. I've got problems of my own and no one to take them to. I'm tired of it. Or, maybe it's just you. I'm not interested in your problems because I'm not interested in you. (You're whining, not bringing me a serious problem we need to solve for.)

I don't want to fix your problems. - I don't want to be involved. I want to keep my hands clean. If you fail, I'm not responsible. These are problems, but they're not problems for me and I don't care that they're problems for you.

I don't know how to fix your problems. // I don't understand your problems. - Your problems deal with a specialized subject that I'm quickly out of my element when we talk about.  Frankly, I'm uncomfortable talking too long about the subject, lest you uncover my ignorance and judge me for it.

I can't fix your problems. - You're right, that is a big problem. In fact, you regularly bring me intractable problems that I can't figure out the answer to. And I hate feeling like that. So don't bring the impossible problems to me.

Your problems aren't really problems. - Most of what you bring me aren't problems. They're easily solvable, we've solved them together in the past. You're not thinking broadly, clearly, you're not bothering to leverage past learnings or you're not stopping to consider the context of our business. The cost to address/solve isn't economical when compared to the cost of accepting as-is. This isn't a priority for the business/bottom-line/my scorecard.

Don't wait for me, just fix it. - If I solve your problems, you're not growing. I do not want you to grow complacent, to become trained to look to me to fix everything for you. I might not always be there, or waiting for me may cause unnecessary delays.

This is What I Really Meant

You are authorized, deputized and empowered to go forth and solve it. I will back your decision as long as you can prove you've thought it through. - This is what 100% of people will claim they intend when they utter this phrase. The problem, however, comes when people are not truly deputized, or if they feel micromanaged or that they will be second-guessed, challenged or that their solutions will be picked apart, dismissed or aborted. The person who truly means this phrase has developed a culture that rewards initiative, innovation, has a strong reporting/feedback structure so that when a solution isn't optimal, everyone learns from it to better inform future solutions.

There must also be a mechanism for bringing problems to light where the escalator isn't responsible for the solution - because it's not their area of expertise. Not silos, per se, but respecting areas of authority/responsibility.

Unless it's truly a bad boss, the ideal is somewhere in the middle: Don't bring me a problem you haven't thought through. Think about the problem, validate that it truly is a problem. Investigate some possible solutions. If you can execute the solution yourself, do so. If you can't identify the the optimal solution, then come to me. Bring me the clear, concise and well-articulated problem statement. Bring the recommended solution(s). Anticipate my follow-up questions as I seek to understand the problem, including business rationale and be sure to think about how it would impact me at my level, or how it would impact my boss. Be prepared to act upon the solution selected (or a new solution identified) by the boss. A well-prepared plan of attack will look like validation from your boss for the hard work you've put in.

But never should it be a reason to fail to bring problems to light nor should there be any whining.

Of course, all of this presumes something's not on fire. This is why there are procedures put in place in advance to guarantee consistent response when there's an emergency, including the notion that when a problem needs to be escalated quickly that one person attends to the problem while a second person is sounding the alarm.

Further Reading

Positive examples:

Negative examples:

Your Turn

So... what about you? What do you hear when you hear the phrase "Bring me solutions, not problems."?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Book Review: Angelfall by Susan Ee

Angelfall by
Review by ()

I tried to give Angelfall a fair shake, but I ended up giving up. I had just finished Dreams of Gods and Monsters which is also about angels/seraphim but the contrast may have helped to underscore the difficulties I had with Angelfall. Angels have come to earth and been responsible for destruction and mayhem.

Penryn, her wheelchair-bound sister and her insane mother have decided that it's time to try to flee the city. They're the only ones left in their apartment complex and the gangs are getting more ruthless in their attempts to control territory. They wait until dark and then set out. No one in their right mind is outside at night because that's when the angels attack. They figure, however, that they might have a better shot than in the daytime when the gangs are more active.

Before too long, they encounter angels - who are busy attacking one angel. This is when it went south for me - the angels have different wing colors and are described as "snowy angel" (and "Snow"), "Burnt Angel" (and "Burnt"), "Night Giant" (and "Night") and "Stripes." I realize this is an attempt to describe a brutal fight scene and differentiate between characters from the point of view of a character who's trying to describe characters she doesn't know of a race of beings new to the planet, but it was just really distracting.

I did like that after things go horribly awry that the heroine makes a beeline for an industrial park, figuring there will be few people (or angels) there to contend with and there will be plenty of offices and kitchenettes where food may have been overlooked by looters. I love this, I must keep this in mind in the event of an apocalypse.

I really tried to give this a go, but after about 72 pages, it was too much and I had to set it aside - there were other books I could be reading and so it was time to move on.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book Recommendations

I've been asked a few times recently for a list of books I'd recommend. Here's my current recommended list. These are all YA fiction unless otherwise noted.

The 5th Wave - Rick Yancey - Aliens (I just finished book 1, I think book 2 is out now but book 3 hasn't been released yet)

Divergent - Veronica Roth - post-apocalyptic Chicago, people live within four "factions" (books 1 and 2 are good, I'd skip book 3) - good pairing along the Hunger Games vibe.

Shadow & Bone (Grisha Trilogy) - Leigh Bardugo - Warring kingdoms separated by an artificial rift. A ruling class with special powers. Have completed books 1 and 2, will be reading book 3 next.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Smoke and Bone Trilogy) - Laini Taylor - a girl with a really odd job discovers that just about everything she understood about the world is wrong - these are amazing, each one an epic and really long. I'm on page 400 (out of 600) on book 3 currently and there's still new things being introduced, but in a way that makes sense, not as revisionist. Amazingly original.

Ruby Red (Ruby Red Trilogy) - Kerstin Gier - time travel runs in the family, attempting to unravel a mystery in multiple times

The Enemy (The Enemy series) - Charlie Higson - was supposed to be 3 books, but so popular that it's been expanded to 7, only 5 of which are out so far. Everyone over the age of 16 has become a zombie. Book 5 wasn't as strong as the previous 4, but they're hard to put down. Takes place in London so you can creep yourself out by going on Google Maps Street View and finding the places mentioned. We're thinking of bribing our friends in the UK to mail us copies since they'll get the new books many months ahead of the US release.

Enclave (Razorland Trilogy) - Ann Aguirre - really, book 3 could have been two books. Small pockets of humanity exist, eking out a meager existence in a world filled with zombies. I don't know if Charlie Higson's Enemy series had any influence on this, but the two worlds go well together without Razorland feeling like a derivative or rip-off. Solid.

The Looking Glass Wars (The Looking Glass Wars Trilogy) - Frank Beddor - The premise is that there really is a dangerous and mysterious place called Wonderland, that there was a girl named Alyce and that she was forced to flee to England. But Louis Carroll took her stories as fantasy, watered them down and profited from them as his own. An incredibly imaginative series.

Lexicon - Max Barry - words have power. People have learned to harness this power for good and evil. One phrase exists so powerful that if read or spoken aloud, it can kill. (Adult)

The Fear Index - Robert Harris - the investment firm's newest autmoated stock trading AI is so powerful that it's making trades before events occur. Or is its trades causing the events? (Adult)

Enchantment - Guy Kawasaki - A wonderful guide to influencing others without it being so overt. (Non-fiction.)

You can reviews for all about Looking Glass (not sure why I never reviewed LGW) here: - I try not to spoil.

What about you? I'm always looking for recommendations. Please post them in the comments below!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How To: Delayed Sending for Outlook 2011 for Mac

All of the "Getting Things Done" time management experts will tell you to stop checking your email. (They'll also tell you to turn off the little alarm and any other popups or indicators that you've got new mail.)

This is all well and good... unless you work in a place with lots of email.  I would constantly find myself working through some email, and then new email would come in and I'd pop over and read and handle that and then get back to the rest of my email.  I've worked on some other tricks to help me prioritize (like using categories or moving email out of my inbox and handling it in a different folder) but still, new email would come in.  Another trick I'd use was to compose my message and save it as a draft to send later.  That would prevent someone from replying immediately like a hot potato, but it did nothing to stop the flood of new incoming email and worse yet, sometimes I'd forget to send the outbound email.

We recently transitioned to Outlook and with its connection to Exchange, mail delivery is near instantaneous, regardless of what the schedule says, new mail is pushed right away.

Delaying outbound email had several benefits - I could make changes to an email after I'd hit send and sometimes I'd rethink the entire email and delete it altogether.

I researched but could find no method for delaying email in Outlook 2011 for the Mac until I stumbled upon some AppleScripts.  With a little research, I stumbled upon a method that's worked really well for me.  I created a small script that sets Outlook into Online mode, syncs with the server, waits 5 seconds, flips into Offline mode, waits 600 seconds (10 minutes) and repeats the pattern.

This is a bit of a cheat - it means I could send an email and have it delivered seconds later if I sent it right before the sync. But it's good enough - new emails don't go out right away, new emails aren't pouring in constantly.

I just plugged this into the AppleScript editor and hit Run. I haven't done anything fancy with it, but it gets the job done.

repeat 100 times
     log "Sync at - " & (current date)
     tell application "Microsoft Outlook" to set working offline to false
     tell application "Microsoft Outlook" to sync
     delay 5

     tell application "Microsoft Outlook" to set working offline to true
     delay 600
end repeat

Caveat: If you're trying to schedule a meeting with someone or book a conference room, you'll need to flip back into Online mode first to see availability.

If this works for you, or if you have other suggestions, please leave me a comment!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Book Review: The Fallen

The Fallen by
Review by ()

I feel like this should be a short review. By now we're up to book 5 in the series. If you've read the first four, you'll probably read this one. If you haven't read the first four, I wouldn't imagine anyone want to join the series already in progress. That would be silly. Go read the other ones first.

Plus, I don't think this was as strong an outing this time around. The events in this book happen immediately after the events of the first book and at the same time as the events of the fourth book. That might be all well and good if were binging, reading them altogether. But, spread out over time, you forget some of what's happened. And because it's happening at the same time, you end up with a disconnect because the characters that you were just following in the other book aren't in this one.

I think three things set this book apart from the others: first, less travel. There is a journey, but I didn't find it to be tense. I don't know if it's just the nature of the kids getting better and smarter or what. Second, a new plot device. I don't want to say much about it, except that I understood why it was employed before it was explained which caused me to start alternating between fear and smugness at my perceived cleverness. Third, the book begins to explore the cause of the zombification of the adults. The explanation felt way too similar to the genesis of The Passage by Justin Cronin (My Review) except with zombies instead of vampires but one of the outcomes/discoveries in this case was really disappointing, but it's hard to say more without spoiling it.

I will definitely keep reading, but, yeah, there were whole sections of this one that I felt should have been better and too many times where the children only survived because the zombies were seemingly less intelligent than we've seen them be.

The Fallen - Amazon

The Sacrifice (book 4) - Amazon / My Review

The Fear (book 3) - Amazon

The Dead (book 2) - Amazon / My Review

The Enemy (book 1) - Amazon / My Review

Amazon links contain my affiliate code. Thanks for supporting my blog.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Themed Party: Woodland Explorers

My wife enjoys hosting, planning parties and creating elaborate themes. She's really creative, often with some really tricky constraints, such as:

  • It's a party for children who won't notice all the hard work and effort. 
  • There's not a lot of time to plan. 
  • There's no budget.

So... don't kill yourself going overboard. (Don't get Lori started on some of the "1st. Birthday" boards she found on Pinterest. Or do get her started, it could be an amusing post on her blog.)

Here's a recent party she put together for our daughter's birthday. By planning ahead, she was able to use the theme for both a family party and a friends party and we actually still have the 15+ foot tall tree in our dining room.

First, it started with a theme. Rachel and Lori have been reading through Red Wall. Rachel's been re-enacting scenes with her stuffed animals and beginning to write her own stories featuring the characters or characters of her own creation. To make the theme more approachable to children who didn't know Red Wall, they simplified to a more general "Woodland Explorer" theme.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Book Review: The 5th. Wave by Rick Yancey @RickYancey

The 5th Wave by
Review by ()

It seems that most of the YA genre goes for supernatural or dystopia - not a lot of aliens. And it's no wonder. Aliens are difficult. But Yancey pulls it off masterfully. In The 5th Wave, we find ourselves on a planet that's been through four very difficult "waves" at the hand of aliens that have systematically killed most of the human population, an electromagnetic pulse has disabled all electrical devices, then waves and earthquakes, then a pestilence and finally cold-blooded killers who might be humans but who are bent on killing any humans they encounter - usually from a distance with a sniper rifle.

The story begins, following a young girl named Cassie struggling with a new world where nearly everything is an either/or choice, almost all answers are wrong and you have to think quickly or you're dead. In time, we learn more about the four previous waves and why survivors are really on edge, waiting for that fifth shoe to drop.

It's hard to say much about this book without giving spoilers, but the one thing I wish I had understood before I started was that the book is divided into acts. The book follows several different characters, so each act is switching over to another person's part of the story. I was surprised when I got to the end of the first act and suddenly the story wasn't about Cassie anymore. Ultimately, that's fine, but it was just a surprise right when I was bonding with the heroine. (Overall, the book has 13 acts, 91 chapters and was 471 pages in the hardbound copy I was reading. Am I the only one for whom a very well known line from "South Park" popped into their head at the very end of chapter 57?)

So I guess this will be a brief, but yeah, thought it was very well done. Looking forward to books 2 and 3 of the trilogy. (Note: This book is currently being made into a movie.)

The 5th Wave (

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Sift (July 11, 2014)

Happy Friday! Here's some recent internet articles that caught my attention and I felt like sharing.

ENGADGET -- The Guardian's new US newspaper has a robot editor-in-chief

TWISTED SIFTER -- This is What Happens When You Fly a Drone Through a Fireworks Show

THE ATLANTIC -- The Trick That Makes Google's Self-Driving Cars Work

ENGADGET -- Her name is Cortana. Her attitude is almost human. - I think it was brilliant to name the fledging personal assistant after the futuristic very advanced artificial intelligence from a video game (and use the same voice actor). The fact that the AI isn't supposed to have a lifespan longer than seven years is gotta be an annoying point I assume they'll eventually retcon.

ENGADGET -- What you need to know about commercial drones

Monday, July 07, 2014

Overcoming Micromanagement, part 5 (A Work-Related Post)

Welcome to the final installment of my series on micromanagement. Links at the bottom to the previous parts.

So, let's flip to the other side. You've been reading along this week and thought "hmmm... problem... I *might* be a micromanager."

Most don't know they are, but if you think you are, you probably are. That's good. Admitting it is the first step to making the change.

If you are micromanaging:
  • you don't trust them to do it right
  • you haven't explained the process well enough
  • you haven't explained the "why"
  • you are worried they'll do it wrong and make you look bad
  • you want the credit if they do it right
  • you're trying to make their life miserable so they'll quit
Feel rotten yet? Sorry, tough love. But today's the day we make the change. Today's the day we stand up and say "No more!"

You won't fix micromanagement in a day. In some cases, you may wish to speak to the person you suspect you're micromanaging, to try to get their read on the situation. It may be extremely uplifting to hear that your micromanager recognizes the situation and is working to change it. In other cases, if they didn't feel micromanaged, they'll wonder if you're neurotic or lacking in confidence. Tread carefully.

You aren't sure they'll do it right, do it the way you want it done, do it in a way that won't ultimately make you look bad. Is this a process governed by very specific rules, or is there an opportunity for freedom, exploration, trial and error? If the process has an opportunity for leeway, for improvement, give the subordinate specific challenges to make things better, to improve something, to optimize something. Pose it as a challenge. Someone worth their weight will rise to the occasion, emboldened by the confidence you have in them. Start small if you have to, this will be new for both of you.

If the process is specific and rigid, it's important that this is well and clearly understood. Some people thrive in this environment. They don't need someone breathing down their neck every second of the day, though. Look to see if proper controls and metrics are in place to guarantee consistency of delivery. If not, look to the subordinate to help define and create them. This gives them a chance to be a part of the solution.

If you're worried about how your peers or supervisors will perceive your subordinate's work - how it will reflect on you - then you've not done enough to champion your team. While it's true that you should take the blame for the failures of your team and you should give all the credit to your team for their successes, if your supervisors have no clue about who's on your team or how they contribute, then you haven't done enough championing. The more your supervisors see real human beings working for you, the more they recognize that even your best leadership will sometimes result in team failures. Just make sure there's great communication with your team to spot trending issues early and that they feel empowered to fix problems or to escalate quickly. And if they escalate quickly, respond quickly.

Lastly, think about what the rewards and motivations are - how your subordinates know if they are performing to expectations, how they know if they've succeeded or failed. If their only motivation is to avoid you breathing down their necks, they will never take risks, they will never work harder, they will never be motivated to make things better. But if you encourage them, recognize them, celebrate their achievements with them in front of their peers, your peers and your supervisors, they will see an environment where good happens - where things are constantly working towards making things better. And that is to everyone's benefit.

But if you're simply trying to make someone's life miserable because you want them to quit, look in the mirror - that's the person you should be firing.

Overcoming Micromanagement

Friday, July 04, 2014

The Sift (July 4, 2014)

Five things I've read recently that I wanted to share. Happy Independence Day to my American readers.

ENGADGET -- Facebook's company trip to Africa leads to more efficient Android app - this is awesome. I once took a group of my staff and peers to a Starbucks where we imagined how our website would be different if we worked at Starbucks.  As we sat around and drank coffee, it got us out of the office and made us think differently. I wish I had the opportunity to do more of those types of things - imagine what we'd think about if we were answering questions as we walked around Home Depot or Target.

A LIST APART -- Letter to a Junior Designer

NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP -- Define Stronger A/B Test Variations Through UX Research

GOOGLE CHROMIUM -- Web Fundamentals and Web Starter Kit: Resources for Modern Web Development - In retrospect, the questions isn't why Google decided to do this, but why it took them so long?

NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP -- Decision Making in the E-Commerce Shopping Cart: 4 Tips for Supporting Users

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Overcoming Micromanagement, part 4 (A Work-Related Post)

Welcome to day four of my series on micromanagement. You can find the previous days linked at the bottom.

How do you overcome micromanagement?

The first thing we acknowledged is that most micromanagers do not know they are micromanaging. Secondly, it's out of some sort of deficiency: distrust, poor training as a leader, narcissism, work avoidance or because they enjoy being a bully. We only care about "how to overcome micromanagement" if we believe it is possible.

We can further boil all those things (except bullying) down to a single word: trust.

It's time to roll up your sleeves and earn that trust. This isn't something that will happen overnight, this is that point in the job where you have to put in your dues. People who have trouble "suffering fools" have trouble here. People who are smart, people who are driven, people who innately see the problems and clearly understand how to fix them struggle here. Without patience and perseverance, they may jump from job to job looking for that place with fewer problems or they may jump in on day one and try fix things, alienating themselves from their supervisors and peers.

This also may be a form of narcissism and can lead to really successful (or abysmal, colossal failures) if they go it alone to start their own business or non-profit. Most simply end up wrecking their résumé, something that may take years, if not a lifetime, to try to repair.

No, this is a multi-step process of earning trust, building influence and strategically picking your battles. You need to prove you can do the work, that you are capable of following instructions, and that you perform in such a way as to make your supervisor successful.  An unsuccessful supervisor will be miserable, make their subordinates miserable and never be promoted away.

When you make your boss look good, you've proven that you're willing to be a part of the team (or family) - you look good, your team looks good, your boss looks good. You're seen as reliable. You're starting to build the influence.

Why ask why?

This is the time to be asking "why" - another deficiency in many leaders is an inability/unwillingness to articulate the "why" - they may not know it themselves or they may foolishly believe you don't need to know it to do your job well. But you do.

Taking the right approach when seeking enlightenment further solidifies the idea in people's minds that you are a team player, that you are investing in their success. You can't come right out and accuse your supervisor of withholding valuable information and you can't act like a 5-year-old "why? why? but why?" but you can uncover the information you need to be successful.

The more "whys" you can get answers to, the more context, the more history, the more understanding you will have into the problem that has resulted in the micromanaging you now face.  This information that will be invaluable to you as you work to combat the micromanagement.

Now what?

Now, it's a series of tactics that, if only in your mind, speak to an overall intentionality. If you're going to turn a battleship and you've never seen a battleship, you're not going to turn it today. It's going to take research, time, effort, influence, trust (and a few tug boats.)

Prove you can follow directions.

Look for areas to innovate and show value, ways that make your supervisor look good. Act only with permission.

Look for small things you can take on to make their job easier. (Those who are trusted in small things may be trusted in large things.)

Look for the pain points your boss experiences. Solve for those. Then the next time the supervisor feels pain, they remember that you are someone who makes pain go away.

Ask small, innocent questions. Take your time. Allow your supervisor to impart wisdom. You, meanwhile, are assembling the knowledge necessary for your strategic moves.

Begin thinking about the areas where you are micromanaged. Your first idea might be the right idea, but it might not be as you get more context. Take the time to think through how you will approach. Look for the smaller gains, first.

Look for ways to use data. In a recent volunteer situation, a supervisor told me that they felt the (whatever) was too high. I told them that I had measured the (whatever) with a specific tool designed for that purpose and that it said the readings were within the desired range. He asked to see the tool and I handed it to him and he was able to read for himself the sticker that was applied to the tool that listed the desired range.  He asked how it worked, I showed it to him, and he wandered off, intently focused on its screen. A short time later, they handed me back the tool and that was the end of it. It's not my opinion against his, it's an impartial tool that will tell us both the same thing, calibrated by someone he already trusts.

What you're doing here is you're building trust and influence - your supervisor comes to learn that you deliver - you are reliable, dependable and the questions you are show that you are genuinely interested in the process. As you become more credible, the micromanager will feel less and less of a need to hover.

So... what about the flip side? What if you're a really self-aware individual and you realize "Holy crud... I micromanage!"? Let's talk about that tomorrow.

Overcoming Micromanagement

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Overcoming Micromanagement, part 3 (A Work-Related Post)

Welcome to day 3 of my series on Micromanagement. Look to the end of the post for links to the previous days' topics.

Can you overcome micromanagement?

First, you have to ask yourself a few questions:

1. Is this an environment I can continue to participate in? (Am I contributing? Do I have a sense of worth? Is it healthy? Can I respect myself?)

2. Do I believe change is possible in the person micromanaging me? (Will they stop micromanaging me at some point? Do I have a sense of what drives them to micromanage me and can I figure out what it will take to change that?)

If you believe change is possible, then it's time to dive in. In Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki (my review) we're reminded that our job is to do what our superiors want. So we have to start by making sure we're doing what's asked of us. Even if that means doing things in a very specific manner, or filling out highly detailed reports. 

The hard work is ours. We'll look more tomorrow about how to overcome micromanagement and why it starts with us.

If, however, you believe change is not possible, then it's time to move on, especially if this is in the context of a work or volunteer opportunity. Staying simply reinforces the bad behavior of the micromanager.

Overcoming Micromanagement

Running is not cool

This was a work assignment - write and deliver a *short* speech. It was more about giving and receiving critiques, but here's my effort, with edits made to address the critique I received.

Running is not cool.

First, it’s time that you could spend doing other things, like watching TV.

Second, it’s difficult. It takes effort and you get sweaty and grimy.

Third, someone might see you and you might look funny, with funny clothes or in an awkward moment where you almost trip and have to hip and jump and try to avoid falling on your face. Or you could fall on your face and that would hurt.

Fourth, you could get hit by a car while trying to change songs if your iPod started playing something you didn’t want to hear. 

Fifth and finally, it will cause you to feel more guilty the next time you eat a doughnut.

And that's why running is not cool.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Overcoming Micromanagement, part 2 (A Work-Related Post)

Welcome to the second part of my week-long series. Yesterday we looked at "what is micromanagement and why do people micromanage?" You can find that here.

Why do we experience micromanagement?

Sometimes, there may be more "reasonable" reasons why a supervisor acts in a way that manifests itself in the act of micromanagement. (We don't like the way they're acting, but we can see how they got there.)

We may be lacking context: 

  • The report or specific methodology may be to account for a past failure (the report assures we don't miss a step - because we missed a step once and people died) 
  • It may be required by someone else (it's what my boss wants from my department, it's required for this particular grant or by this obscure federal law)
  • It's taken us forty years to come up with this way of doing it. Others (including myself) have tried to improve upon it and failed.

Your reputation is not yet proven:

  • I don't yet know what you are capable of, but I know you won't fail if you do it exactly as detailed here.
  • The guy who came before you said the same things, convinced us to do it differently and a bunch of people died. You're too much of a maverick and I need someone who can follow directions.
  • If you do it "wrong," you'll make me look bad. I'm not willing to take that risk.

Ultimately, if you are being micromanaged, you are not being led and a lack of trust exists - you do not yet have the influence necessary to "break out of the mold."

Look for phrases like "we must (do this)" or "I feel (that)" or "we've always" or "it seems like" - phrases that speak to opinion or phrases that are too inclusive - the supervisor isn't willing to own it directly. This may be a desire to avoid responsibility or they may lack trust in themselves.

So... can we overcome micromanagement? Let's look into that tomorrow.

Overcoming Micromanagement