Friday, May 18, 2018

Why I'm a native American

I don’t know if I have any particular kind of ancestry, but I often claim to be “native American.”

Why? I do so when some institution is “surveying” so-called-race, which is a bogus concept to begin with. See 

Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race, by Ashley Montagu.


People say I should choose “White,” but I’m definitely not white. My skin is pinkish yellow, or yellowish pink, and it grows red and brown when I’m out in the sun. I can’t imagine why its color would be important to anyone, except maybe a fashion consultant.

So, when surveyed, I choose “native American (small n)” because I was definitely born in America, so I’m a native. It’s a protest. I would be proud to be a Native American (capital N), but as far as I know, I have no such ancestry.

An interesting sidelight. Years ago when the university insisted I make a “race” choice, they assured me that the information was completely confidential. A year later, when I returned from a trip out of town, I found a note on my desk from Russell Means, a prominent Native American who had visited the university.

I wondered why he would write a personal note to me, until I found out that the administration had sent him to see me, their token “Native American Professor.”

So much for confidentiality. So much for the trustworthiness of bureaucrats.


In such a world, I shall remain “native American,” and I hope Elizabeth Warren and other smart people follow my example. 

Saturday, May 05, 2018

What is the difference between a good manager and a bad manager?

Because a previous blog of mine asked about good and bad managers, the question naturally came up about what's the difference.

There are, of course, many ways to be a bad manager. Or a good manager. But if I’d been asked for a single difference (and you didn’t use the plural) I’d say that the First Law of Bad Management is this:

If what you’re doing isn’t working, do more of it, faster and louder.


For more on good vs. bad management, take a look at 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Stumbles for New Leaders and Managers


We were asked, "What were your greatest stumbling blocks as a new manager?"

Paige’s article is a terrific introduction to this subject. 

These are the four rookie manager mistakes described in the article:

Rookie mistake #1: Creating a blanket policy for one bad apple

Rookie mistake #2: Embracing the mantra, “do as I say, not as I do”

Rookie mistake #3: Fixing things that aren’t really broken

Rookie mistake #4: Not taking an interest in your employees’ futures

In my career, I’ve made all four of those mistakes, and lots of others. But the one I most remember, and most regret, is micromanaging.

Somehow, I couldn’t believe that other people could solve problems as effectively as I (thought I) could. My mantra was something like “for your own good,” or “for the organization’s good.”

It took me far too long to learn that other people’s solutions were simply other solutions than mine. Some might be worse than mine. Some might even be better. But most of all, they usually solved whatever problems we were dealing with. There was no need for me to push in with my approach.

I’ve gradually learned to reduce this micromanaging behavior. (I’ve never learned to stop completely.) As I’ve succeeded, I’ve noticed:

* people learn faster when allowed to make their own mistakes

* people listen to me more attentively on those few occasions when I do intervene

* I have more time for doing my own job

I strongly suggest that you loosen your grip on your own ideas and allow your employees and co-workers to implement theirs.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Leaders: Smart-but-evil versus Dull-but-good? 

Who's better in a leadership position, a smart but evil person or an unintelligent but good person?

There are different kinds of unintelligent people. For one thing, some not-so-smart folks know they’re not so smart and have learned some simple tactics to cope with their inadequate intelligence.

For instance, in managing software, such managers will refrain from micromanaging their programmers, whereas the smart-evil person is quite likely to interfere with the development and testing work.

What you want in a manager is a person who knows how and when to delegate, understands their own limitations, and cares about improving the environment for all the people on the staff. You don’t have to be all that smart to do that.

But if you are an evil person, your intelligence may be serving the wrong master. It may happen that your intelligent moves help your employees, but that’s not what you’re attempting to do, so it’s hit or miss.




Thursday, April 19, 2018

Life hacks for introverts?

I was asked, "What are the best life hacks for extremely introverted people?"

Call it a hack if you like, but what helped me most in being an introvert is realizing that we (in the USA, at least) live in a society that (mistakenly) believes there’s something wrong with being an introvert.

Here’s a typical example. In Olympic diving, Greg Louganis won 4 gold medals. As he emerged from the pool after winning his fourth, the TV announcer said something like, “Isn’t that amazing. And he’s an introvert!” As if introversion somehow cripples a person so he cannot dive.

Electroencephalographi studies have shown that introversion is a physical characteristic, so introverts can be identified by their brain waves. So, if you’re an introvert, you might as well accept it. If you don't accept your introversion as being just fine, then you're like a person who thinks there’s something wrong with their genetic skin color, just because they live in a prejudiced culture.

You do live in a prejudiced culture—prejudiced against introversion— but you don’t have to internalize that (or any) societal prejudice.

Don’t listen to people who advise you how to change, unless you want to change. And, then, if you want to change your behavior in some way, try some of their “hacks.”

Take me, for example. I'm a strong, strong introvert, but my training and consulting business required me to be out interacting with lots and lots of people. Few of them suspected my introvert side because I concentrated on my people-loving side whenever I was with others. My introversion was temporarily put on the back-burner, to be brought out again when I found the opportunity to be alone.

So, if you're like me, you could try my "hack" and see how it works for you. Just don’t be down on yourself if someone else's hacks don’t work the way you wanted


You can do whatever you want, whether you’re an introvert or an extravert. Remember, personality is not destiny.


Monday, April 09, 2018

How can I become a software developer who only designs?

A young programmer asked me, "How can I become a software developer who only designs the whole software architecture and gives instructions to other developers rather than actually coding by myself?"

I told him he could do that right away, as long as he didn’t care if the other developers listened to his instructions and followed them. And if he didn't care of he was paid.

In general, software developers will not follow the lead of someone for whose designs they have no respect. And why would they respect your designs unless you had previously proved yourself by what you’ve built?

So, build things, and build more things, until you demonstrate that others have some reason to follow your lead.


And, at the same time, work on your people skills, because even if you’re the greatest designer in the world, if you’re a self-centered jerk, nobody will follow you or your designs.

For more on designing, see

Monday, March 26, 2018

March Madness or December Dementia

Every March, the USA goes wild with something called "March Madness," a pair of college basketball tournaments. The format of the tournaments is called "single elimination," which means that candidate teams are dropped out of the tournament when they lose. Eventually, one team remains, and they are the "winners."

So, what is the overall effect of this type of tournament? The men's tournament starts with 64 of the best teams in the nation, and when all is done, 63 of them have become "losers." No matter how good their season's record may have been, they ended that season with a loss—something to remain on their minds until next year.

I enjoy watching March Madness, but I think it could be improved. At least, there could be another tournament with a much more satisfactory result. Here's how it would go:

First, we choose the 64 worst teams of the season. Then we pair them off to play one another. The winner of each game is dropped out of the tournament, and the losers are paired for the next round. 

This elimination of winners is continued until only one team remains. They are the winners of the tournament. And, notice, that every other team has ended their season with a victory. Doesn't that feel much better?

Now perhaps this sounds like a stupid idea, but in fact it's extremely popular in the business world. Managers devise award systems that select one or a few individuals (rarely teams) as "winners." In doing so, they have managed to make everyone else feel like "losers."

I guess the theory is the these "losers" will be motivated to work harder or smarter for the next award cycle, and I suppose that sometimes that happens. What I've seen, however, is quite the opposite. Most people respond to "losing" by losing their motivation in the next round.


I've noticed that many of these management awards are given at the end of each year. Maybe a few smart managers could come up with not a March Madness but a December Dementia system that would positively motivate all their employees.

www.geraldmweinberg.com