Are Screamers the Best Managers?

If you think about some of the most successful business leaders who would you name?

If you’re a technology guy like me you might say Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. If you’re in the entertainment industry, you might mention Walt Disney. In my own life, I’d put the founder of the consulting firm I used to work for as a great business leader.

There is one key personality trait that is common to all of the leaders listed above….They are all screamers! And by “screamer” I mean that they manage by biting the head off of employees who are not performing at the level that the leader believes they should.

These leaders don’t quietly say that it would be best if the employee improved their performance. No, they scream that the person is a “Fucking Idiot!!!” for doing it the way they did it. And they better work the weekend to make it better or they’re fired!!!

Think I’m making this stuff up? Let’s run through some examples:

  • Gates: Whenever a project was not going well at Microsoft, Gates would storm over and scream. “I’ve never met a stupider, more inept group in my fucking life!”, “How fucking hard can it be?”. When asked about Gates people often say things like “There were times he’d yell uncontrollably at me, spit between his teeth, just like my little boy.”  These kind of quotes are repeated over and over in most any biography about Gates.
  • Jobs: Jobs is known to fire people in a tantrum or scold them profusely if they disagree with him. During a meeting, one of the great Pixar founders dared to write on Jobs whiteboard and Jobs threw such a fit that the man left the company.  According to biographer Deutschman. “No one greets him or says hi to him. Low ranking employees are afraid of him. I remember him walking around the campus one time and groups of people in his way would just split and let him walk through.”
  • Disney: Disney’s animators were similarly terrified of him. He would prowl the halls at night and review their drawings. In the morning he would rip them a new one in front of their peers if he did not like the direction something was heading. Most animators would try to avoid him.

As horrible as these people sound, somehow they pushed their people and their companies to achieve greatness. In fact, all of their companies dramatically declined after they left. Disney Entertainment didn’t really recover until about 30 years after their founder’s death when they got another set of screamers (Eisner and Katzenberg). Apple progressively declined after Steve Jobs was let go and was finally rescued when Jobs returned. Microsoft has been on a steady decline since Gates began to focus on other ventures and then finally retire. And my old consulting company has lost its luster without its screaming founder.

So what makes screamers so great? In a nutshell, they will accept nothing but the best and they are passionate about their product.  That in itself is a recipe for great leadership even if it comes in a loud screaming package…

It’s painful when you have some people who are not the best people in the world […] My job has sometimes exactly been that — to get rid of some people who didn’t measure up. Steve Jobs

5 Ways to Track Your Life Like Ben Franklin

Benjamin Franklin is remembered for many things, but I loved the fact that he was always trying to improve himself. In fact, he made a chart of the many virtues that he wanted to improve and then kept track of them on a regular basis.

According to FlameBright’s page:

He committed to giving strict attention to one virtue  [such as Temperance, Frugality, Industry, etc] each week so after 13 weeks he moved through all 13. After 13 weeks he would start the process over again so in one year he would complete the course a total of 4 times. He tracked his progress by using a little book of 13 charts. At the top of each chart was one of the virtues. The charts had a column for each day of the week and thirteen rows marked with the first letter of each of the 13 virtues. Every evening he would review the day and put a mark (dot) next to each virtue for each fault committed with respect to that virtue for that day.

This is exactly what Everyday Excellence is all about — each day trying to focus on how to better yourself!

Nowadays there are some great ways to regularly track your life without having to resort to pen and paper. Also, I like to focus on tracking more practical things like finances, calories, and runs rather than virtues. Here are the ones programs that I like best and use to track my life:

  1. Mint: Assuming you can get around the concerns of putting your financial data online, Mint does an amazing job at simplifying your financial life and putting all your data in one dashboard. It got probably 90% of my transactions correct with no changes, and the built-in reporting is gorgeous.
  2. Calorie Counter:What I love about this site is its online database of food. It makes it trivial to log something like a balance bar correctly without manually entering all the data.
  3. Log A Run: I use this to track my runs and it has a great community of other runners so you can see how you’re doing in comparison (which is always a good motivator).
  4. Allnetic Time Tracker:This is a desktop time tracker that I’ve used for many years to track billable work. It’s always running in my taskbar so it’s easy to change time buckets without having to go to a website.
  5. Public Blog:By writing a blog you are logging your thoughts for a given time. I like the idea of being able to look back and see what I was thinking about and what was important to me on a given day.

Tracking various areas of your life is a great way to improve them. I can’t guarantee you’ll be the next Franklin, but you never know…Maybe you should start working on memorable sayings as well 😉

Lost time is never found again -Benjamin Franklin

Finding the Right Training Partner

Running Partner

A large part of success in life depends on who you associate with. There’s something about having other people around you that push you to do more than you’d do on your own. In many ways, iron sharpens iron.

I’ve been in work environments that are firing on all cylinders where people are pushing each other to learn more and more about their trade. I’ve also witnessed the opposite, where people just don’t care and it turns into a downward spiral.

In general, I like to do activities on my own, but I find that I achieve the most when I’m competing with or being challenged by others.

I do my best programming when I’m surrounded by other great programmers. We talk about geeky stuff and in that group the “coolest” person is the one who knows the most about the programming language at hand.

I do my best long runs when I’m running with someone else. If the partner is a good fit, that person will push me to do more than I would on my own.

So how do you find the right training partner?

  • Circle of Friends: Often times there is someone in your circle of friends that could be a good fit. If not in your immediate circle, then let people know that you are looking for a training partner and have them tell their friends. People won’t be able to help you if they don’t know you’re looking.
  • Local Groups: Depending on the size of your city, there may be local groups for about any kind of activity you could be interested in whether it’s running, politics or sewing. Check out for groups near you and to find people passionate about your specific interest.
  • Hire: Certain training partners can be hired such as coaches and personal trainers for the gym. Michael Hyatt has a good blog entry on hiring the best trainers possible.
  • Electronic: When all else fails there are always electronic versions. For some of my runs, I listen to Lance Armstrong ‘s Nike+Ipod Training tips. He has some real gems like “Remember, pain is temporary but quitting lasts forever!”

Find the right training partner and you will accomplish more than you ever could on your own.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. -Proverbs 27:17

3 Reasons to Write a Blog

People often wonder what the point of blogging is. Especially when starting out, it can be a lot like yelling in a noisy train station. There are lots of others bloggers out there (roughly 70 million at last count), and what you’re talking about may seem to go unnoticed by the world at large.

For most bloggers, their revenue from the activity barely covers their hosting costs. Except for some superstars, blogging is largely still unpaid. So given that I preach that time is your most important asset, you are probably wondering why I think blogging is a productive use of that time?

Even though it most likely will not make you rich, blogging has some key benefits that I believe make it worth the cost for me:

  • Improving Communication Skills: The mere act of writing an idea down helps you to remember it and think it through more deeply. The best way to become a better writer is to write more. Becoming a better writer helps you become a better communicator, and the best communicators have the greatest success in life whether in business, relationships or politics.
  • Spreading Ideas: Great ideas are spread through the written word. Back in the day, if you wanted to spread a great idea you had to do it through the book. Now, blogging provides a simple way to send your idea germ into the world. After you are long gone, your great ideas will still be floating around the internet and cached in search engines.
  • Connecting with Others: By reading someone’s ideas you really get to know them. I feel truly connected to some of my favorite authors and bloggers. So I see blogging as a way for people to get to know me and understand what I think is important.

I’ll let you decide whether blogging is worth it for you, but I’ve made my decision.

“How can I know what I think until I read what I write?” -James Reston

Why I’m (Mostly) a Vegetarian

I relearned tonight why I am (mostly) a vegetarian. I say “mostly” because, as my wife will tell you, I’m not a hard-core vegetarian like she is. I’m probably about 85% vegetarian. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but on occasion I will have chicken or salmon, especially when we’re traveling or at a friend’s house.

Tonight our neighbors, who are from the middle east and love to cook with lots of fatty meats, dropped off a large tray of spiced rice and beef.  I think it’s great that they are kind enough to share their cooking with us, and I really didn’t want it to go to waste. So, given that my wife wouldn’t eat it due to her strict vegetarianism, the burden (or pleasure) fell on me.

I haven’t had fatty beef or pork for a long time so I scarfed it down for dinner and it tasted pretty good. Later in the evening, I had my usual 4.5 mile training run. For the first half, I was feeling strong. Then at about the halfway point, I began to get extremely nauseous and my energy levels dropped rapidly.

To put this in perspective, I’ve been running consistently for months now and haven’t felt nauseous since I ran a mile in junior high gym class. I made it through the run, but at a much slower pace than usual. It just reinforces to me why I became a vegetarian in the first place. My original reasons were:

  • Health: The book that I trust most for healthy eating advice recommends that we get most of our protein from places other than animal products like: beans, soy, peanuts, etc.  Because protein in animal products tends to come with other unhealthy by-products like high saturated fat.
  • Cost: Meat is often the most expensive grocery item. By cutting out meat, you will dramatically reduce your grocery bill and I’m all about keeping costs low.
  • Efficiency: Raising animals for food is an extremely inefficient way to feed people. The U.S. livestock population consumes enough grain and soybeans to feed more than five times the entire U.S. population. Cornell scientists have advised that the U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat.

Now if I can just cut out the sugar,  I’ll really be doing great. That’s one part of my diet that I haven’t fully conquered yet…

To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” – La Rochefoucauld