Lessons from 2010

I view myself both as a practitioner and student of business.  Therefore, I always try to find learnings in my experiences and to crystallize those learnings into nuggets that I can remember.

Here are some of my key, nugget-ized learnings from 2010.

  • Analyze from near and far.  While we live in a information-obsessed world (and I view myself as a data junkie), for some decisions less information is better than more.
  • Only work with people you like, trust, and respect.  Life’s too short to do otherwise.  (I stole this one from a board member who says that people buy from people they like, trust, and respect.  I think both are true.)
  • If you don’t look forward to speaking with one of your coworkers, it’s a problem.  In theory, you should be eager to speak to all your colleagues, so you can work together to solve problems.  If you’re not eager, then you need to understand why.  It could be the tip of an iceberg.
  • Assume you are missing information.  This is an oldie but goodie.  It’s very hard for Meyers-Briggs J’s like me to defer reacting to a situation (because we just love making decisions) and instead say “I must be missing information” and even “the crazier the situation appears, the more probable I am missing information.”
  • Listen to words, but watch behaviors.  As a word-oriented person, I often fall into the trap of using only my ears and not my eyes in gathering data.  If you’re the same way, then I encourage you to keep listening, but to start watching as well.  Word/action inconsistency can be a big tip-off.
  • Listen for what is said as well as what is not.  Omission is a very powerful communications tool.
  • Your need to talk with someone is an inverse function of your desire to do so.  In business, stressful situations develop and that stress can cause conflict avoidance.  Conflict avoidance causes conflict.  Break the cycle by talking when you least want to.

Those are my takeaways from the year.  What are yours?

4 responses to “Lessons from 2010

  1. Comment I received over email from an anonymous financial type:

    Good one. My take away for 2010 is stick to what you know, play to your strengths and realize your limitations. Not necessarily in that order. I know the difference between a good business and a bad business, hopes and realities, and real and imagined end markets. These are critical to sound research and analysis but very loosely correlated to stocks.

  2. >>> If you don’t look forward to speaking with one of your coworkers, it’s a problem. In theory, you should be eager to speak to all your colleagues, so you can work together to solve problems. If you’re not eager, then you need to understand why. It could be the tip of an iceberg.

    There’s a hidden value prop here too, at least there has been for me this year:

    Realize when two of your colleagues are avoiding confronting an issue; bridge the gap; assist in confronting and resolving the issue; stand back.

    Differences are essential to any venture, but if your colleagues are unable to resolve their own differences, this may indicate misalignment on several levels.

  3. Hi Piers,

    Yes, I love the corollary. If you see two people who should be talking, not talking, then that’s also a problem. Agree with your assessment. Would also argue that technical people by nature are rather conflict averse which can result in non-communication as opposed to direct conflict.


  4. Agreed – this also ties back into your point about missing information. For instance, you look in your bug tracking system and notice a low severity defect, but you fix it because you have some spare cycles; when you fix it, a high severity defect which was masked is uncovered. You didn’t have enough information to even recognize the critical issue until the non-critical issue was resolved.

    When two people are failing to communicate on a critical topic, the communication breakdown may itself seem non-critical, with the result that information which should lie squarely in the “critical-known” quadrant is left “uncritical-unknown”.

    One of my credos this last year has been “CC: someone on everything.” If a conversation is truly private, I’ll handle it face to face, behind closed doors if necessary. Otherwise, my experience is that there is always somebody who can benefit from inclusion in your conversation.


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