January 18, 2007

The 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 Rule

A few observations about being in a leadership position.

The 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 Rule: You'll find that your co-workers fall into three camps. About a third will support you through anything. About a third could take or leave you. Another third are generally against you. Your job is to do outstanding work, with integrity, so that the middle third sides with you, silencing the last third.

Save Your Pennies: For most, the ride eventually ends. So save your pennies.

Don't Listen To Them: Even if you do a good job, that silent third will tell you all the reasons why your ideas are bad. If you're doing an average job, or you are threatening the status quo, the remaining third becomes vocal --- very vocal. Don't listen to them. They will criticize anything you do.

Everybody Is Fighting A Great Battle: You can see this in the eyes of your employees. Somebody had a child who spent the entire evening throwing up. Another employee's mother just passed away. Yet another employee spilled a latte on his slacks. Everybody has problems that superceed work. To them, these problems are epic, mighty battles. Recognize this, and manage to it.

At Some Point, You Have To Choose Between People And Money: This is probably the biggest decision you'll have to make. Somewhere along your journey, you will be asked to drag your staff through mud in order for the business to make more money. If you want to go to Heaven, choose your staff. If you want to be a superstar, side with Money. If you figure out how to effectively deal with this tension, please let me know how to do it!

If You Are Working More Than Fifty Hours A Week, You Are Failing: Contrary to popular belief, the burned-out executive lifestyle is not all it is cracked-up to be. If you are working longer than 7-5 or 8-6 or 9-7, you are failing. Either your staff is not ready to take on more work, or you have failed to hire the right number of people to do the work, or you have failed to effectively say "NO" to projects. Every hour over fifty is one hour you will never get back with your spouse, children and hobbies.

Bad Behavior Is Your Fault: You need to set expectations in the first few days of your new assignment. The longer you let certain behaviors fester, the harder it gets to change them.

Honesty > Politics: You can make a choice to be honest with your folks, or you can be political and choose not to share non-confidential issues with them. Side with honesty. If you aren't honest and trustworthy, your folks will paint their own canvass. That leads to gossip. Gossip kills productivity, and gossip kills relationships between employees.

If You Did A Great Job In A Forest, And Nobody Saw You Do It, Did The Great Job Really Happen? At some point, you have to figure out, within your culture, how to effectively market you and your team. In many cases, the marketing of you and your team is more important than the outcome of the work you actually do.

Support Your Boss, Or Leave The Company: Some of my biggest mistakes happened when I did not support my boss. If something unethical is happening, tell somebody, and then consider leaving. If you have a difference of opinion, make the choice to support your boss and move on, or leave. Arguing gets you nowhere.

Know The Profit And Loss Statement Inside Out: Those who know the p&l know how to cost-justify projects and initiatives. Not surprisingly , these folks get things done.

If You Want To Be Appreciated, Lead When Sales Are Increasing: Ever notice how quick folks are to hire those who have worked at successful companies? You can do outstanding work at a failing company. But if your goal is to be an upwardly mobile executive, align yourself with the updraft. A whole generation of online marketers and search experts are doing this as we speak. You don't hear a lot of "He did a spectacular job of keeping CD sales flat at Tower Records", do you?

Do Not Fall In Love Your Company: The blogosphere is filled with marketing experts promoting the myriad benefits of 'brands', with an adoration seldom paralleled in society. We focus a disproportionate amount of energy on the magical power of Apple, or Nike, or Starbucks, thinking any company or any idea can result in the success Apple, Nike or Starbucks experienced. Build the brand!!! We offer advice for every brand (improve your customer service, clean up your stores, give me a free phone, listen to your customers, do these things and we'll love you). When is the last time a 'brand' loved a person? When is the last time a company was there for a person when something awful happened to the person? Leaders can be there for people. Co-workers are usually there for people. The Human Resources department is there for people. Brands are never there for people. The purpose of a brand is to facilitate the transfer of wealth from customers to shareholders. When this transfer of money is not happening as efficiently as it should happen, your job is in jeopardy. The 'brand' will chew you up and spit you out in a heartbeat if the 'brand' thinks you are in some way impeding the re-distribution of wealth. Fall in love with your company, and your feelings will inevitably be hurt when your brand turns on you.

Celebrate The Victories: There are untold victories in everyday work life. Appreciate and recognize people for making these things happen. I can certainly improve my skills on this one.

Give Credit: Your people are responsible for everything that happens. You may think your vision is legendary, even bordering on brilliant. Your vision doesn't happen without your people --- people who put aside their dreams to make your dreams come true.

Please add to this list, offer your contributions based on what you've learned.


  1. Anonymous8:10 AM

    Nurture your employees. When they do a good job, not only do they look good, but so do you.

  2. Anonymous8:22 AM

    If you don't have a clue - STFU!

    Nothing drives a technology/developler/techop person more mad than imprecise, wrong or buzzword filled statements about their area of expertise.

    Respect your co-workers are more to the detail in almost everything - this is why you are managing them and not doing their job. Ask, learn, but don't say: "Our AJAX driven framework supports SOA and SQL faster than XML based servlets - which is good for our revenue target."

  3. Don't be an asshole.

  4. Anonymous10:48 AM

    No pissing on the fence post. If you want to mark your territory, do it at home. Otherwise, your employees are likely to come behind you and lift their leg.

  5. Anonymous11:57 AM

    In a less-electronic world, this would be the sort of thing one would cut out of the newspaper or magazine and tack to the bulletin board right next to one's cathode ray tube monitor, where it would be out of sight to visitors, but constantly in one's sight.

    Great advice -- would that we all would have the wisdom to heed it.

  6. Excellent post. To remain human in the face of profits and losses is definitely the biggest challenge. Remember, we exist for each other.

    RunFatBoy (http://www.runfatboy.net)

  7. Anonymous2:11 PM

    how about when your employee gives you all his good ideas and keeps you alive? dont steel his thunder and make sure you remember what he did at bonus time

  8. Anonymous2:15 PM

    Reminds me of this:

  9. Thanks everybody for your comments, I appreciate it!

  10. Lead by example.

    Be humble.

    Keep an open mind.

    Keep everyone involved.

    Share your experience, but not arrogantly.

  11. What is that ringing sound in my ears? It sounds like "truth". Great observations.


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