Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In business Manners Maketh Man

Watching back to back Downton Abbey episodes it is hard to escape the focus on manners and tradition in the English way of life. Form matters. What you wear, how you behave to a lady or to one another, defines you in the eyes of the people around you.

But working in a silicon valley technology company does this matter? Do English manners have a place?

I believe they not only have a  place, but they particularly have a place in business. The small behaviors that indicate respect make a huge difference in how the people around you feel, and the behaviors cut both ways between the genders.

Consider, for example, being late. When you are late for a meeting you are telling the people waiting for you that you think your time is more important than theirs. Of course, sometimes you get held up, but a person who is repeatedly late (as Marissa Meyer is purported to be) is abusing power and disrespecting the people around them. In time, you yourself lose the respect of your team if you can't, or won't manage your time. In contrast, when you are on time you respect the other person's time, as the team at Andreessen Horowitz strives to do.

Many of the behaviors we consider as good manners have a cultural bias in how men should treat women. Holding a door open, standing up when a woman enters the room or paying for a meal but, in today's business world, these behaviors are as appropriate for a woman as for a man. One of the marvelous side effects of women's growing equality in the office is that while it would be risky to treat your female office mates with patronizing chivalry, treating everyone politely allows women to display chivalry towards men.

When a customer walks into a conference room you should stand up, of course. Welcome them into the room. Offer to fetch a cup of coffee or glass of water. When you are walking through a door it's polite to hold the door open for the next person, whether they are a man or a woman. If you go out for a meal the most senior person should pay, or the vendor should pay, or if you are with business peers offer to pay. Anything else is just crass.

And one of the areas that I (as essentially English) wish more people would pay attention to is manners at the table. When you wait for the other people at the table to start eating you respect that you are sharing a meal with them. When you carefully watch their pace to make sure you finish your plate just after them you ensure that no one else feels embarrassed to be finishing last. Common courtesy.

Saying thank you, sending a small thank you note (or email) when someone has spent time with you, or done a favor for you, goes a really long way in establishing relationship.

In the end, it does not matter what role you are in, or whether you are male or female, treating the people around you with respect - through your manners - makes a positive impression, and will earn you respect. Behaving badly, disrespecting others with your behavior may not change whether you are the boss or not, it may not change whether someone buys from you or not, but it does change what people privately think about you, and over time, whether they want to work with you or not.

William of Wykeham used Manners Makyth Man as the motto for the colleges he founded 650 years ago. And the value of manners is as true today as it was then, especially in business.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Gift of Love

My reading at our lovely mother's cremation today:

1 Corinthians 13

"If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."

Anstice Ann Onians (nee Flux Dundas)
December 12, 1933 - January 16, 2013

1960 California

1975 The Lake District, England

2011 Rome, Italy

Gifts in her memory to Ovarian Cancer Action here.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cameron Russell: Image is Powerful

Every young girl should see this talk. Every person who wonders if they would be happier if they were thinner, or their hair was better, should see this talk. Very gutsy.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Why booth babes at CES is a dumb marketing decision

Yes sex sells, but only if the type of sex you are using to promote your product attracts your target buyer. Otherwise it's just a turn off.

Which is why having booth babes at CES today is such a dumb marketing decision.

Some fun facts about women today: they make 80-85% of the consumer purchase decisions and control more than 60% of all personal wealth in the US and as Bounce Ideas says:

"There are 2 sexes in the human race. And one of them does most of the buying.... As a marketer, you’ll have a huge advantage if you know how to speak her language, earn her business, and, ultimately, her referrals."

So why-oh-why would you think young women in limited clothing draping themselves around your booth is going to position your products well for your primary buyer? Or make it comfortable for the many female journalists to cover your products?

BBs are not a new phenomenon, the Atlantic tracks them back to the inaugural show in 1967 in A Brief History of CES Booth Babes. Thankfully the B2B trade shows I frequent have a lot less skin in view than B2C shows like CES - and yet the buyers are more likely to be men in the B2B world so you'd think a bit of cleavage might be acceptable. But probably good taste and fears of sexual harressment make saner heads prevail for B2B shows.

There was a backlash discussion against booth babes at CES 2012 and the BBC stirred up the discussion with their Booth Babes controversy video last year. Never ones to miss a chance to keep a story alive the Beeb put together the update "Booth babe debate returns" this year - and again documented the tasteless phenomenon. It's good to keep the discussion current.

Sadly, sexually objectifying women in CES advertising gets worse than booth babes.

Why would you think tying your product to oral sex the way Voco Nation did last week with the tag line "because oral is better" is going to help you with 80% of your potential buyers? Miss Representation and Jolie O'Dell did a great job of getting the word out about how bad this ad was - with the end result that Voco Nation had to take down their facebook page, delete all the many negative comments, and then put it back not accepting comments.  Way to go crisis management guys. But they could not stop the thrashing @VocoNation received on Twitter as consumers voiced that they were #NotBuyingIt.

The offending ad

It's time. There is absolutely no need to objectify women to sell millions of dollars worth of consumer products. It's just dumb now. Women make the majority of the buying decisions today. They'll out earn men by 2028. The advertising industry needs to get into the present and stop living in the 1960s.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Don't be too busy to lead

Do you respect the leaders who always look busy, or the ones who are calm and collected? Do you want to follow someone who's harried, or someone who's accessible to you?

Obvious right?

And yet the cult of being busy, and the sense of self importance that comes with that, undermines many aspiring leaders.

Being busy is not a virtue (except maybe in bees). It means you can't manage your time, don't have a competent admin or are trying to do too much (which impacts your ability to lead). Or it means you've hired the wrong people. And since a leader must never be a victim she must always take responsibility for being so busy.

The challenge is the more intense your job the more demands there are on your time, so it's important to set up a system where you are still accessible. This means not over scheduling each day. Whether you or your admin book your calendar, don't ever book every time slot. Leave blocks open so you can walk the halls and respond to people who want to talk with you. And get creative about how you can be available on the phone -- in the car, on the treadmill (although hard to do in the pool!)

When you telegraph that you are over booked you telegraph that you're not in command of your time. Don't ever tell someone you're "triple-booked" - even if you feel like you are. Never make someone feel bad for interrupting you - figure out gracefully how to give them your time at some point in the next 24 hours.

What's underneath all of this is that great leaders telegraph to their employees that they are important to them. Provided you're not dealing with someone who abuses access, your people are more important. They are doing the real work, your job is to facilitate their ability to do their job. The days of the executive who sits in a remote office behind a big desk with three admins in front of them are gone. The days of the social-media-using, accessible leader are here.

Image: Busy Bee on DeviantArt by tyrantwache

How not to pick up an executive in a bar

The scene is the Los Altos Bar and Grill. A known pickup joint but one that has a good wine list, great food and live music so those not looking for the scene enjoy it anyway.

The actors – two female executives sitting at a bar enjoying a glass of wine together. And two men enjoying dinner together at the same bar. The men first try and strike up a conversation along the bar.
Some lame question like “Do you like Hawaii?”

One of the women engages for a few groundstrokes and then returns to her companion, who is simply not interested.

The men finish their dinner, but undeterred then stand next to the two women and strike up a conversation. The women can tell they are not going to go away. They pull up stools and are aggressively close in a crowded bar. The quieter woman checks her email. The more gregarious woman responds to the first volley with “So what do you do?” (the first thing anyone wants to know in this over-achieving society).

And as the story unfolds Ms email, who really does not want to be chatted up in a bar after a long day at work, watches how not to impress a woman…

 “I run a hedge fund”

“Really, what type of hedge fund”

“We use technology and social media to invest”

“Really, what social media”


“Do you read the Twitter feed directly or go through a third party like GNIP”

 (with some hesitation) “uh, GNIP”… the ball drops at the net.

… a short rally then about what the women do… and then the drop shot...

 “So your hedge fund – how much money do you have under management?”

“Well I haven’t actually closed it yet, but I’m close to closing $11M”.

 Golden rule #1. Don’t overstate your position too early.

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