Another brick in the wall

This gem of a post was written by my brother who is a physics teacher. While he wrote it about teachers and students, it feels just as applicable to managers and companies. So today on Labor Day, it’s worth remembering that we all have unique motivations for working, no matter what we do.


Dear class of 2014,

A friend brought this article to my attention.  Thanks to the internet, I was able to find the video that Prof. Edmundson references… in about 30 seconds.  (Just as an aside, in the pre-internet age, that would have taken hours of library research.)

Our problems in 2013 are not the same as the ones that motivated the Berkeley Free Speech Movement — at least not on the surface.  I have not been required to sign a loyalty oath in order to keep my job.  Students who wish to be politically active may do so, even on campus.  However, there’s an element of Mario Savio’s criticism that resonates again, 50 years later.

“Credentials factories” is the term Prof. Edmundson uses to describe the schools of 2013.  Mario Savio calls his fellow students “raw materials” in describing his college education in 1965.  Go back another half-century and you…

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A Note to Survive Your Promotion Subscribers

Hi All,

First, thank you so much for subscribing to Survive Your Promotion. I truly enjoy engaging with our community of managers, both new and experienced, and sharing ideas so we can all learn together. This week I did a bit of an upgrade on the site and moved it from to a self-hosted site. If you’d like to continue to receive emails when I publish new posts, you’ll need to stop by the new site and subscribe again – I hope you will, and I look forward to continuing the conversation!

Thanks again and please let me know how I can help!


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How to Keep Your Team Motivated – Incentives that Work

Today as I was flipping through my twitter feed I came across a gem of an article on the likelihood of incentive programs to backfire by Dan and Chip Heath.  It reminded me of the old law of unintended consequences.  As a manager when you act, things happen.  Some of them are things you wanted – outcomes you anticipated.  Others are unexpected – sometimes good, sometimes not so much.

When you’re designing an incentive program one of your best sources of information is sitting right outside your office door.  If you want to know what makes your team members tick, ask them.

In Daniel Pink’s great book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, he talks extensively about how various types of incentives work or don’t work based on the type of work that’s being done.  There’s a lot more to getting people to work faster or better than a straight quid pro quo.  In fact every person has their own unique set of motivations and the real key to getting the best out of your team members is learning what motivates each of them individually.  Rather than a one size fits all approach, some of the best managers I have ever worked for took the radical step of being deeply interested in the individual success of each member on the team.

As Steve Keating recently said in his brilliant post Managing is Not the Same as Leading,

If you’re doing something for your business it’s managing, if you’re doing something for your people it’s leading.

Like many great leadership thoughts, it’s beautiful because it’s simple.  When you focus on the success of each individual, the whole organization benefits.  If you want your team to do their best work, you need to take the time to understand why they work in the first place.

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Surviving Your First Week On The Job

I talk a lot about surviving the transition to management, but a few weeks ago I got to pitch in and give some tips to Aquarius Magazine (a publication of Gulf News) on how to survive your first week in a new job.  The article came out yesterday and it’s full of great ideas from Robert Hargrove (author of Your First 100 Days in a New Executive Job), Michael Watkins (author of The First 90 Days) and others.  What secret strategies did you use to survive your first week in a new position? 

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How Retro – Yahoo CEO Elminates Working Remotely

High tech companies are supposed to be at the leading edge right?  So why did Yahoo’s new CEO just turn the clock back to 1985 and require all of their employees to come into the office?  I can think of a few reasons – what do you think?

  • Workforce Reduction – Don’t like the new policy?  Quit.  Now Yahoo doesn’t have to give you a severance package which could add up to big savings and minimize bad press about layoffs.
  • Weak Management/No Management Development – Poor managers don’t get much productivity out of people they don’t see every day.  Has Yahoo been neglecting their management development or incentive program?  Years of cost cutting and overloading of management staff might be to blame.

While dragging employees back into the office may trim some dead weight, the cost is likely to outweigh the gain.  All those remote workers will now need desk or office space which means a bigger operational footprint and that’s not cheap.  And if they do have a management development problem, having people in the office won’t fix it.

It’s 2013.  We have more collaboration tools and capabilities than ever.  Study after study has shown that flexible schedules and the ability to work remotely conveys substantial benefits in terms of employee satisfaction and productivity.  Bottom line – if Yahoo has a problem with worker productivity, it’s a management problem and it won’t be solved by bringing those workers back to the office.

What’s your opinion – is there any way that this decision makes sense?

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In Defense of the Hand Written To-Do List

If you know me, you know I’m a techie.  I love my smartphone and my iPad, I’ve worked in IT for years, and I’m all about technology.  So here’s a surprise – I hand write my daily task list.  Every day.  Why would I do that when there are so many great tech based tools out there to keep track of tasks?  Here’s why:

  1. The act of writing a task on paper gives me a minute to think about its importance.  As I write each task I evaluate it.  Do I need to do this personally or could I delegate it?  Does this need to be done today or can it wait?
  2. If I check off a bunch of tasks I feel great!  This is true no matter what system you use, but it’s particularly true for me on my little yellow note pad.  There are only so many lines on each page, and my goal is to continuously make room for new tasks.  I can see what I’ve done and feel like I’ve made real progress.
  3. If I don’t finish a task, I have to write it again the next day.  Every day I start with a clean page and re-write all the old tasks first before adding any new ones.  So whatever is at the top of the list is a carry over from at least the day before.  The more I write a task, the more I want to get it off the list and not have to write it again!

What do you think – how do you stay organized and on track?  How many of you use a paper list? 

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Wonderful TED Talk – Eddie Obeng

This is fantastic – Eddie Obeng about the changed world we live in and how to cope with it.

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