1.01.2005

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» TIP: When the decision gets tough - sleep on it
» TIP: First, discover your strengths
» MISC: So, you've got the job.
» TIP: When you suspect you are not a genius
» TIP: How we deny ourselves of success
» TIP: Trees, Rivers, and Leadership
» RANT: When your boss can't just say no to your great idea
» TIP: A Winning Formula - how successful executives fail
» TIP: Response positively to a negative performance review
» TIP: When a word is worth $1,000 (each)

TIP: When the decision gets tough - sleep on it

via NYTimes - Snap judgments about people and places can be remarkably accurate, and there is no substitute for simple logic and reflection in determining questions like which alarm clock or cellphone is the best value.

But many more important decisions - choosing the right apartment, the optimal house, the best vacation - turn on such a bewildering swarm of facts that people often throw up their hands and put the whole thing temporarily out of mind. And new research suggests that this may be a rewarding strategy.

In a series of experiments reported last week in the journal Science, a team of Dutch psychologists found that people struggling to make complex decisions did best when they were distracted and were not able to think consciously about the choice at all.

The research not only backs up the common advice to "sleep on it" when facing difficult choices, but it also suggests that the unconscious brain can actively reason as well as produce weird dreams and Freudian slips... Psychologists have known for years that people process an enormous amount of information unconsciously - for example, when they hear their names pop up in a conversation across the room that they were not consciously listening to. But the new report suggests that people take this wealth of under-the-radar information, combine it with deliberately studied facts and impressions and then make astute judgments that they would not otherwise form.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Strength vs Weakness

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TIP: First, discover your strengths

via Wharton - ...According to Buckingham, the best managers share one talent -- the ability to find, and then capitalize upon, their employees' unique traits. "The guiding principle is, 'How can I take this person's talent and turn it into performance?' That's the only way success is possible."... Bad managers play checkers. Good managers play chess. The good manager knows that not all employees work the same way. They know if they are to achieve success, they must put their employees in a position where they will be able to use their strengths. "Great managers know they don't have 10 salespeople working for them. They know they have 10 individuals working for them .... A great manager is brilliant at spotting the unique differences that separate each person and then capitalizing on them." ...

(the world at large) is obsessed with weaknesses and finding ways to fix them. Buckingham cited a recent poll that asked workers whether they felt they could achieve more success through improving on their weaknesses or building on their strengths. Fifty-nine percent picked the former. "A great manager sees the folly in this," said Buckingham, who has interviewed some of the business world's most successful leaders for his books. "A great manager knows he or she will get the most return on investment by working on strengths." ..."Most people are not using their talent at work at all," Buckingham said. So how can managers tap into the talent they have in their organizations? Buckingham said a good first step is to determine what employees are good at. The tasks they learn quickly, the talents they naturally exhibit and the jobs they feel good about doing are hints about their inherent strengths. Once those strengths are uncovered, a good manager will put them to use. "You can only win as a company when you get your people into positive numbers," Buckingham said.

Managing employees successfully is a rare talent. Even rarer, Buckingham said, is the ability to lead. And all good managers are not necessarily good leaders. "I do think there is a rather keen and distinct difference between managing and leading," Buckingham said. The chief responsibility of a leader, for example, "is to rally people for a better future. If you are a leader, you better be unflinchingly, unfailingly optimistic. No matter how bleak his or her mood, nothing can undermine a leader's belief that things can get better, and must get better. I believe you either bring this to the table or you don't." Along with that optimism, great leaders can also bring big egos -- and that's not a bad thing... "If you are going to lead, you better have a deep-seated belief that you should be at the helm, dragging everyone into that better future," he said. "Virtually nothing about a leader is humble. I'm not saying they are arrogant, but their claims are big." Buckingham said successful leaders must find a "universal truth" to rally their followers. These universal truths stem from the basic human needs, fears and desires that unite all people, across all cultures. They also happen to be great tools for leadership.

Take, for example, one of the great human fears -- fear of the future. "We all share a fear of the unknown," Buckingham said. "The problem for the modern-day leader, of course, is that you traffic in the future." Buckingham says some the best leaders can overcome this fear -- and build confidence among their followers -- with a weapon of their own: clarity.... "The best way to turn anxiety into confidence is this: Be clear. Clarity is the antidote to anxiety. If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear." Former New York City Mayor Giuliani provided a good example of effective leadership through clarity, Buckingham said. When Giuliani took office in 1993, he could have turned his attentions just about anywhere; America's largest city certainly had its share of problems. But Giuliani set one specific, clear and focused goal for his administration. He would reduce crime and improve quality of life for residents. Then he laid out three simple ways he was going to start making that happen: He announced he would get rid of the window washers who pestered New York City drivers; clean subways of graffiti and then keep the vandals away; and make all cab drivers wear collared shirts. The issues were, on their surface, minor. But they were relevant to his citizens. And by setting three immediate goals -- and then achieving them -- Giuliani was able to build trust among residents and respect among his workers. That trust carried over as he tackled larger challenges, and within a few years of his arrival, the FBI named New York the safest big city in America. "You can do a lot worse than pick just a few areas you want to take action on right now," Buckingham said... "When you want to lead, start with the future." Buckingham said. "Get specific. And get vivid."

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Strength vs Weakness

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MISC: So, you've got the job.

Wait, you are not of the hook yet, according to a recent study by Leadership IQ. 46% of newly-hired employees will fail within 18 months... contrary to popular belief, technical skills are not the primary reason why new hires fail; instead, poor interpersonal skills dominate the list, flaws which many of their managers admit were overlooked during the interview process. The study found that 26% of new hires fail because they can't accept feedback, 23% because they're unable to understand and manage emotions, 17% because they lack the necessary motivation to excel, 15% because they have the wrong temperament for the job, and only 11% because they lack the necessary technical skills...

While the failure rate for new hires is distressing, it should not be surprising: 82% of managers reported that in hindsight, their interview process with these employees elicited subtle clues that they would be headed for trouble. But during the interviews, managers were too focused on other issues, too pressed for time, or lacked confidence in their interviewing abilities to heed the warning signs. "The typical interview process fixates on ensuring that new hires are technically competent," explains Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ. "But coachability, emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament are much more predictive of a new hires' success or failure. Do technical skills really matter if the employee isn't open to improving, alienates their coworkers, lacks drive and has the wrong personality for the job?"...

The following are the top areas of failure, matched with the percentage of respondents.

  • Coachability (26%): The ability to accept and implement feedback from bosses, colleagues, customers and others.
  • Emotional Intelligence (23%): The ability to understand and manage one's own emotions, and accurately assess others' emotions.
  • Motivation (17%): Sufficient drive to achieve one's full potential and excel in the job.
  • Temperament (15%): Attitude and personality suited to the particular job and work environment.
  • Technical Competence (11%): Functional or technical skills required to do the job...

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

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TIP: When you suspect you are not a genius

StudyGS - you can use the same strategies as Aristotle and Einstein to harness the power of your creative mind and better manage your future.
  • Look at problems in many different ways, and find new perspectives that no one else has taken (or no one else has publicized!) Leonardo da Vinci believed that, to gain knowledge about the form of a problem, you begin by learning how to restructure it in many different ways. He felt that the first way he looked at a problem was too biased. Often, the problem itself is reconstructed and becomes a new one.
  • Visualize! When Einstein thought through a problem, he always found it necessary to formulate his subject in as many different ways as possible, including using diagrams. He visualized solutions, and believed that words and numbers as such did not play a significant role in his thinking process.
  • Produce! A distinguishing characteristic of genius is productivity. Thomas Edison held 1,093 patents. He guaranteed productivity by giving himself and his assistants idea quotas. In a study of 2,036 scientists throughout history, Dean Keith Simonton of the University of California at Davis found that the most respected scientists produced not only great works, but also many "bad" ones. They weren't afraid to fail, or to produce mediocre in order to arrive at excellence.
  • Make novel combinations. Combine, and recombine, ideas, images, and thoughts into different combinations no matter how incongruent or unusual. The laws of heredity on which the modern science of genetics is based came from the Austrian monk Grego Mendel, who combined mathematics and biology to create a new science.
  • Form relationships; make connections between dissimilar subjects Da Vinci forced a relationship between the sound of a bell and a stone hitting water. This enabled him to make the connection that sound travels in waves. Samuel Morse invented relay stations for telegraphic signals when observing relay stations for horses.
  • Think in opposites Physicist Niels Bohr believed, that if you held opposites together, then you suspend your thought, and your mind moves to a new level. His ability to imagine light as both a particle and a wave led to his conception of the principle of complementarity. Suspending thought (logic) may allow your mind to create a new form.
  • Think metaphorically Aristotle considered metaphor a sign of genius, and believed that the individual who had the capacity to perceive resemblances between two separate areas of existence and link them together was a person of special gifts.
  • Prepare yourself for chance Whenever we attempt to do something and fail, we end up doing something else. That is the first principle of creative accident. Failure can be productive only if we do not focus on it as an unproductive result. Instead: analyze the process, its components, and how you can change them, to arrive at other results. Do not ask the question "Why have I failed?", but rather "What have I done?"

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

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TIP: How we deny ourselves of success

Brandon Hull blogged
  • We lack concentration. We think we can wing our way through crucial moments in work and life. Rather than translate experience into expertise, we let it translate into bad habits.
  • We don't seek to improve our technical skills, let alone our people skills and attitudes. We're satisfied with where we're at in life, especially if improvement won't come easy.
  • We surround ourselves with the wrong influences. People with no ambition, no goals, no optimism, nothing positive to contribute.
  • We expect people to cater to us, or give us things...
  • We're just too proud. We don't seek advice, guidance, input, or even casual suggestions from others. We think we can go it alone forever.
  • We don't put in enough time. We slip into a mediocre, half-hearted routine, and we lack the self-discipline and achievement drive to stick to successful, daily habits.
  • We have no inspiring, internalized reasons for wanting to be successful. We move as the carrot and stick dictate. Or, our stated reasons aren't compelling enough to cause daily behaviors.
  • When we don't hit our objectives, we too quickly point to external reasons or place blame on someone besides ourselves
  • We've got our ladder against the wrong wall. Either we're in the wrong position, the wrong company, or the wrong industry. And we ignore all the signs that it's a bad fit.
  • We're not willing to "endure to the end." We get fired up for a short period of time, but then flame out.
  • Most tragic of all: we don't want to succeed. We're willing to settle for mediocrity.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Strength vs Weakness

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TIP: Trees, Rivers, and Leadership

I'm fascinated by the parallels between nature, man and business, Marketing author Sam Decker blogged. Take, for example, the recurring natural theme of tributaries and branching You see this in rivers, branches, our nervous system, our blood system, lung alveoli, and so forth. What are the common characteristics of Tributaries?

TRIBUTARY PRINCIPLE: There is a solid foundation from which the depth, breadth and strength of the branches are determined.

LEADERSHIP PARALLEL: Culture is driven from the top. The stronger the winning culture, the bigger, larger, wider, and more prevelant the branches of growth.

TRIBUTARY PRINCIPLE: Branches follow a natural path, the path of least resistance or most opportunity for growth. Branches on trees grow up towards the sun. Rivers flow where there is gravity.

LEADERSHIP PARALLEL: First, people should do the jobs they were made for. Each person has unique gifts and core competencies. Their 'branch' will be largest if they go with this gravity. Second, business initiatives are most successful when the execute towards the sun...be it the customer or their core competency, or both.

TRIBUTARY PRINCIPLE: The branches strengthen the base. As branches grow, it allows the base to expand, roots to stretch, and become a stronger tree.

LEADERSHIP PARALLEL: Hire A players that will hire A+ players. Great employees make the managers better. A company is built as much bottom up as it is top town...actually, more so.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

Your Turn!

 

RANT: When your boss can't just say no to your great idea

Bestseller author Kathy Sierra blogged - Tom Kelley--general manager of IDEO--believes that "devil's advocate may be the biggest innovation killer in America today." We've all been in a meeting where a passionate idea is put forth but someone plays devil's advocate and drains the life out of the room. Invoking "the awesome protective power" lets the devil's advocate be incredibly negative and slash your idea to shreds, all while appearing not only innocent but reasoned, balanced, intelligent... all attributes loaded with business "goodness". Whew! Thank GOD for the devil's advocate, or we'd all be off blundering with our stupid ideas, oblivious to the insurmountable problems we were too clueless to see... "What makes this negative persona so dangerous is that it is such a subtle threat. Every day, thousands of great new ideas, concepts, and plans are nipped in the bud by devil's advocates. Why is this persona so damning? Because a devil's advocate encourages idea wreckers to assume the most negative possible perspective, one that sees only the downside, the problems, the disasters-in-waiting. Once those floodgates open, they can drown a new initiative in negativity."

Part of the problem is simply the timing of the devil's advocate invocation; if the devil jumps in at the earliest stage, the idea never has a hope in hell, or ends up being having all of its sharp edges smoothed over. And there's a big difference between someone crushing an idea based on spinning out possible negative scenarios, vs. someone who voices a genuine concern backed with real facts.

But this is tricky and subtle... I've been known to be the one to "voice a genuine concern backed with real facts" without stopping to consider whether those "facts" were still valid. The old, "We tried that before and it didn't work." is probably the fastest way to stop an idea, but someone always needs to ask, "Are we sure we tried EXACTLY that?" and "Has something changed in a way that invalidates what we tried earlier?" Or even just this response when someone says, "We tried that...", "You tried what?" Maybe the thing that was tried before was different in some non-obvious but profound way.

The other tricky thing is that if you try to shut a devil's advocate down, then you're perceived as being "unwilling to hear criticism" or "can't handle any disagreement". And of course, for however dangerous the devil's advocate is, there's the equally-dangerous "angel of optimism". The "angel of optimism" is one who answers every genuine criticism with a cheerful and dismissive, "Oh, there's always someone thinking the sky is falling." This doesn't mean that being cheerful and positive is a bad thing (as one who is all too often accused of playing this role), but both the angel of optimism and devil's advocate can do damage when they shut down other solutions...

One thing I know for sure, whether playing devil's advocate, angel of optimism, or any other persona, I believe the emphasis should be on offering solutions, not just criticism. Yes it's true that one can know something is wrong without knowing how to fix it, but if people tried to adopt the perspective that "I'm going to try to always include possible alternatives and solutions when I critcize", it might make meetings a little more bearable.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Ordinary vs Extraordinary

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TIP: A Winning Formula - how successful executives fail

Success usually fails, and the executives along with it, Speech Writer Jane Genova blogged, because everything keeps changing. The cluster of variables from the past that generated that particular success will most likely not work today or tomorrow. Yet, few leaders will let go of a winning formula. Just look at how beleaguered Coca-Cola wants to revive that winning commercial from the past about teaching the world to sing.

Well, the useful question to ask is, can this syndrome be prevented? You bet. There are the Warren Buffetts, the A.J. Lafleys, the Rosabeth Moss Kanters who have remained in the zone of success. No catastrophic failure... What they know, I'm convinced, is a truth as old as the philosophy of Buddhism. Buddhist tenets were put together long long ago to help mankind avoid suffering. Mankind can do that by recognizing and embracing that all things change. Nothing is permanent. Therefore, Buddhism holds that human beings will duck plenty of unnecessary pain if they don't become "attached" (big concept in eastern thought) to what is...

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Opportunity vs Trap

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TIP: Response positively to a negative performance review

CNNMoney - First, breathe deep and stay calm. Then follow these tips...

Go into this meeting with the goal of coming out with three specific ideas for doing your job better. If you concentrate your attention on figuring out these three things, you'll be less likely to respond to your boss's critique with an emotional outburst.

You might also, "help your reviewer distinguish between an incident and a pattern... For instance, if he says you're not a team player, does that mean you're habitually self-absorbed under pressure, or that you lost your composure one time when you were at the end of your rope?" Likewise, was your recent mistake with a client a one-time slip-up? If so, you naturally want to avoid repeating it, but you could respectfully point out that it didn't reflect how you deal with clients in general...

After the meeting, take a little time to think calmly about what was said. Then write an e-mail to your boss outlining what you understood to be his main points and briefly tell what you plan to do about them.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

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TIP: When a word is worth $1,000 (each)

Bestselling author Seth Godin blogged - ...Almost all the instances of disrespect didn't have to do with the substance of the transaction, it was the style of it. If the person had accepted some responsibility and acknowledged how I might feel, the outcome wasn't really a big deal.

"I'm really sorry you had to wait. Mr. Wilson's eardrum exploded and we're doing everything we can to help him."
"I know you worked long and hard to make this deal work, but we just can't figure it out. I'm so sorry we wasted your time."

It's really simple: most of the time, most of your customers will cut you slack if you just acknowledge that the outcome isn't the one they (think they) deserve. People have a hard time with this. If someone feels as though they're treating you technically correctly, they don't want to apologize. They don't want to acknowledge the feelings of the other side. This is awfully short-sighted. These are words that are worth thousands and thousands of dollars in lost sales and word of mouth.

"You must feel terrible about what happened. I know I do. If there were any way I could figure out how to make this better for you, I'd do it." When isn't that a true statement when you're dealing with an unhappy customer?

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Ordinary vs Extraordinary

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