Category: Management


Reading True North: Losing Your Way Exercise

Do you know any leaders who were once great, but lost their way? That is the central theme behind the second chapter of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. Here is the exercise that follows that chapter.

The True North exercises:

  • Introduction Exercise
  • Chapter 1: Your Story Exercise
  • Chapter 2: Losing Your Way Exercise
  • Chapter 3: Your Greatest Crucible Exercise
  • Chapter 4: Knowing Your Authentic Self Exercise
  • Chapter 5: Practicing Your Values and Principles Exercise
  • Chapter 6: Your Motivations and Motivated Capabilities Exercise
  • Chapter 7: Building Your Support Team Exercise
  • Chapter 8: The Integrated Leader Exercise
  • Chapter 9: The Purpose of My Leadership Exercise
  • Chapter 10: Empowering Other Leaders Exercise
  • Chapter 11: Honing Your Leadership Effectiveness Exercise

Why Leaders Lose Their Way

Have you seen leaders lose their way or worked with someone who fits any of the archetypes particularly well?

Yup. Countless times. I’ve heard of many political leaders rise to power through the support of their people, only to fall to corruption and become overthrown by those same people.

Thinking about this brings to mind the theory that people are promoted to the point of incompetence. The theory describes people that are promoted because they’re doing a great job in their current role, without regard for how well they’ll do in the next level.

What are the behaviors and warning signals you have seen in others at risk of losing their way?

Arrogance is perhaps the main warning sign I’ve seen. They become enamored with themselves and believe they are incapable of doing no wrong. Some go as far as to surround themselves, consciously or unconsciously, with Yes People too. ‘Tis quite a shame.


Can you see any of the qualities of the Imposter in yourself?

Note: An Imposter is someone who rises through the organizational ranks with a combination of cunning and aggression. They understand the politics of getting ahead and let no one stand in their way.

Nope. I believe people should rise based on proven merit and potential aptitude for the next role ahead. I was once given the opportunity for a promotion, but turned it down because I knew I wasn’t ready yet and another person would fit the role better.

Can you see any of the qualities of the Rationalizer in yourself?

Note: A Rationalizer is someone who always appears on top of the issues, yet when things don’t go his/her way, he/she blames external forces or subordinates or offer facile answers to his/her problems.

Nope. It’s important to know the root causes of problems, especially when it’s yourself. Without such impartial self-awareness, it’s impossible to improve.

Can you see any of the qualities of the Glory Seeker in yourself?

Note: A Glory Seeker is someone who defines himself/herself by acclaim of the external world. Money, fame, glory, and power are his/her goals, as he/she pursues visible signs of success.

There may be a bit of this in me. Anyone who has a blog is seeking some measure of fame. If someone says otherwise, that person doesn’t understand the nature of a blog.

I don’t want to be a celebrity though. That kind of lifestyle is not for me. But I wouldn’t mind a room in a library named after me – after I’ve made a substantial difference to that community, of course. I’ll happily accept recognition if I earn it, but will never put my kids in a balloon (or not) just to get some fame.

Can you see any of the qualities of the Loner in yourself?

Note: A Loner is someone who avoids forming close relationships, seeking out mentors, or creating support networks. They believe they can and must make it on their own.

Nope. Nothing pumps me up more than to meet with people smarter than I and listen to their advice. One of my roles in life is as a constant student. In that role, I am always learning. Everyone around me is a teacher. There is something I can learn from everyone, if I listen carefully and keep an open mind.

Can you see any of the qualities of the Shooting Star in yourself?

Note: A Shooting Star is someone whose life centers entirely on his/her career. He/she is always on the go, rarely making time for family, friendships, his/her community, or even himself/herself.

Nope. My family is the most important thing in my life. I’m doing all of this for my family, after all. I’ll never compromise my time with my family.

Losing Your Way

Can you envision a situation in which you could lose your way in the future?

It’s difficult to envision that, though anything is possible. Of the derailment roles listed above, I suppose the one that holds the most risk for me is the Glory Seeker. I like to think that I’m grounded enough to never pursue fame over my family or business though. That just sounds insane.

To what extent are you prepared to go your own way and be your own person, despite external pressure?

I’m prepared all the way man! The path of an entrepreneur is full of external pressures. It’s our job to balance them and make intelligent trade-offs.

Do you have a fear of failing? In what ways? Is it because you are afraid of what other people would think about you? Is it personal pride?

No, I’m not afraid of failing. I rather welcome it. I expect to fail many times before I succeed.

That’s not to say I will be a failure. I am just realistic about the life of an entrepreneur and have my expectations set accordingly. Failure is really an opportunity to learn. Therefore, I welcome failure and look forward to the education it will impart to make me a better entrepreneur, leader, father, and person.

How is your fear of failing impacting your decisions about leadership and your career? Are you consciously or unconsciously avoiding situations in which there is a risk of failure?

I suppose I don’t need to answer this question if I’m not afraid of failing. To failure, I have this to say: In the words of Joe XXX, “Bring it on!”

How could the experience of failing help you achieve your ultimate goals?

I just wrote about this above. Failure is really an opportunity to learn. The more I learn, the easier it is, and closer I get to my ultimate goals.

In what ways do you crave success?

I crave success in myself, with my family, in my business, and in my community. The answers are broad because the vision for each is broad.

In myself, success means maturity, health, happiness, rewarding challenges, and peaceful contentment. With my family, I want the same as I want in myself, such as a healthy & happy family. In my business, success means self-sustaining profitability, the betterment of the lives of our customers, and a happy & rewarding place to work for my employees. In my community, it means some kind of improvement in the lives of my neighbors and community members.

How is your craving for success impacting your decisions about leadership and your career? Are you consciously or unconsciously choosing situations that give you a high probability of success?

My desire for succeeding in my life goals has a strong and conscious influence over the choices I make. The positions and roles I’ve held have all been a conscious stepping stone towards entrepreneurship, for example. This career in the web and the flexibility it offers was also a conscious decision, so that I could work from home often and spend more time with my family.

How would you answer these questions?

The True North exercises:

  • Introduction Exercise
  • Chapter 1: Your Story Exercise
  • Chapter 2: Losing Your Way Exercise
  • Chapter 3: Your Greatest Crucible Exercise
  • Chapter 4: Knowing Your Authentic Self Exercise
  • Chapter 5: Practicing Your Values and Principles Exercise
  • Chapter 6: Your Motivations and Motivated Capabilities Exercise
  • Chapter 7: Building Your Support Team Exercise
  • Chapter 8: The Integrated Leader Exercise
  • Chapter 9: The Purpose of My Leadership Exercise
  • Chapter 10: Empowering Other Leaders Exercise
  • Chapter 11: Honing Your Leadership Effectiveness Exercise


Reading True North: Your Story Exercise

What’s your story? That is the question covered by the first chapter of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. I’m covering each of the exercises that follow the chapters of this book.

The True North exercises:

  • Introduction Exercise
  • Chapter 1: Your Story Exercise
  • Chapter 2: Losing Your Way Exercise
  • Chapter 3: Your Greatest Crucible Exercise
  • Chapter 4: Knowing Your Authentic Self Exercise
  • Chapter 5: Practicing Your Values and Principles Exercise
  • Chapter 6: Your Motivations and Motivated Capabilities Exercise
  • Chapter 7: Building Your Support Team Exercise
  • Chapter 8: The Integrated Leader Exercise
  • Chapter 9: The Purpose of My Leadership Exercise
  • Chapter 10: Empowering Other Leaders Exercise
  • Chapter 11: Honing Your Leadership Effectiveness Exercise

Discover Your Leadership in Your Life Story

During your early years, which people had the greatest impact on you?

My parents and teachers had the greatest impact on me. Both of my parents are in leadership positions, though each varies significantly in leadership style. Their range has taught me to consider a range of techniques for any given situation.

A handful of teachers also made an impression, such as my fifth-grade teacher and her weekly Poor Richard’s Almanac quotes (“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, “A penny saved is a penny earned”, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”, etc). I love quotes, those little nuggets of wisdom. Perhaps that love originated from fifth-grade.

Starting with your earliest memories, which experiences marked turning points in his life?

There were many. First, I was a quiet, introverted kid. Then a series of fortunate events evolved me into, surprisingly, an extrovert. The change has been so striking that I sometimes wonder if my true nature is to be an extrovert and my childhood environment nudged me into being an introvert. (Not that there’s anything wrong with being an introvert. Extroversion and introversion are merely where you get your energy and place your attention – from other people or from yourself.)

Once that foundation was set, my first true taste of leadership came in college. In my junior year, I became the public relations officer of a student-run community service organization. Then its president in my senior year. Leading a team of intelligent type-A officers and student volunteers like myself was a remarkable experience. I had to learn how to deal with my weaknesses, hone my strengths, delegate, communicate effectively, motivate officers and volunteers already swamped with school work, coordinate social events, and grow the organization.

The next turning point was becoming an engineering manager at Yahoo! (YHOO). At the peak of this role, I managed a small organization of 22 developers and first-line managers. The experience allowed me to hone a set of management techniques & principles that have become my management style.

The latest turning point has been launching WebMocha, where my leadership role evolved from leading teams to leading a company with business partners. In this role, I was fortunate to find partners who complemented my strengths and weaknesses, and I theirs. A whole new set of leadership behaviors had to be refined here, such as managing workers, dealing with client projects, winning the hearts and minds of prospective clients, managing finances, working towards profitability, etc.

There was also another significant turning point – a nearly fatal accident while skydiving. That profound experience taught me to appreciate life and view it graciously. It’s also made me realize the importance of being myself, of being authentic. Because when I’m on my death bed, what do I want to be proud of: having lived my life as someone else or having lived my life as myself?

In which experiences did you find the greatest inspiration and passion for leadership?

Any instance where someone in my team achieved greatness, success, recognition, or reached his/her own goals has been inspirational. I was fortunate enough to experience this over and over again while at Yahoo! The high I received was way better than any drug, lemme tell ya.

Looking at patterns from your early life story, what people, events and experiences have had the greatest impact on you and your life?

These questions are a bit redundant, huh? My parents and teachers had a significant impact on me. As did the events I described in the last two questions.

Can you identify instances where you were dissatisfied with your leadership or received constructive feedback from others about it?

There are a few poignant moments at Yahoo! that I regret. Having 22 members meant being responsible for evaluating the performance of many direct reports. That was more than I could handle. Arguably, it’s more than anyone could handle. As a result, some of the members I didn’t know as well didn’t get fair & accurate performance evaluations.

In one case, I had a developer with great potential, provided he had the proper guidance. Unfortunately, there were too many other priorities at the time. When review time came, he was dissatisfied with his evaluation and didn’t feel like he was working to the best of his capabilities – which was absolutely true. He ended up leaving my team and becoming a senior developer on another team. Thankfully, he was able to reach his true potential there, unlike in my team, where I feel like I failed him.

Has there been an instance in your life where you felt like a victim?

Nope. I’ve always felt that I have control over my life. The bad situations I’ve gotten into are my fault, and it’s my fault if I don’t learn from them.

Do the failures or disappointments you experienced earlier in your life constrain you, even today, or have you been able to reframe them as learning experiences?

They are definitely learning experiences. Fantastic learning experiences too. While some past experiences were very unpleasant, they’ve made me who I am today and I’m happy with who I am today. After all, “we remember some of what we are told, a little more of what we read, and almost all of what we experience.

The Journey to Authentic Leadership

Do you currently view your life and leadership as a destination to a certain point or as a journey in which you seek to maximize your learning and experiences?

Life is always a journey. If you reach a goal or destination, then it’s time to set another goal and return to the journey.

The journey can be made much easier if you learn from previous mistakes. Otherwise, you’re doomed to repeat them. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like repeating dumb mistakes over and over again.

What are the most significant leadership experiences you have had to date and what did you learn from them?

The major life turning points I wrote about above are also some of the most significant leadership experiences I’ve had so far. From becoming the president of a student-run community service organization in college, to an engineering manager at Yahoo!, then to the principal of WebMocha, I’ve learned a lot from these wonderful experiences, which I’ve written above too. Cheers to redundant questions.

What experiences do you need to develop your leadership to take it to the next level?

The next step in my leadership education is becoming a successful entrepreneur. Fortunately, I’m already on this path with WebMocha.

If you are just entering a new phase, have you assessed the goals and experiences you would like to have during the phase?

Yes. My goals are sustainable profitability and growth from WebMocha. The experiences I’m going to learn from this journey will be invaluable.

Do you think you need to make any adjustments to your personal and leadership development as a result? If so, what are they?

I will definitely need to make adjustments. My leadership experience has been mainly people-based, as opposed to business-based. While managing a business shares many of the qualities needed to manage people and teams, there are also notable differences too. This is what I will need to learn.

This will include greater reliability on intelligence business managers & leaders in my social network for wisdom & advice. I am fortunate to have a good and varied network. As my schedule eases up, I look forward to meeting with each of them regularly.

How can you take your previous experiences and apply them more optimally to your leadership now?

The failures I’ve had will be an important lesson in the future. I know that being an entrepreneur is difficult and fraught with challenges. Failure is a certainy. Success isn’t.

How would you answer these questions?

The True North exercises:

  • Introduction Exercise
  • Chapter 1: Your Story Exercise
  • Chapter 2: Losing Your Way Exercise
  • Chapter 3: Your Greatest Crucible Exercise
  • Chapter 4: Knowing Your Authentic Self Exercise
  • Chapter 5: Practicing Your Values and Principles Exercise
  • Chapter 6: Your Motivations and Motivated Capabilities Exercise
  • Chapter 7: Building Your Support Team Exercise
  • Chapter 8: The Integrated Leader Exercise
  • Chapter 9: The Purpose of My Leadership Exercise
  • Chapter 10: Empowering Other Leaders Exercise
  • Chapter 11: Honing Your Leadership Effectiveness Exercise


What We Are Told, What We Read, What We Experience

Categories: Management, Psychology

For the life of me, I can’t remember who said this line:

We remember some of what we are told, a little more of what we read, and almost all of what we experience.

I don’t even remember the exact phrasing of that line. Instead of “some,” “a little more,” and “almost all,” it might have been percentages like: 25%, 50% and 100%.

It’s a good quote. At least, the sentiment behind it is sound. Everyone learns differently, but at the core, we all learn best by doing.

And sometimes, by doing and failing – because nothing is a better teacher than the harsh burn of a mistake.

I want to say Jack Welch said this line, but I can’t find a reference to it anywhere. Does this line sound familiar to you? Know what the exact wording is, or who said it?


Management by Reframing

It’s all about perceptions. You can view that horrible mistake you made last week as a horrible mistake that will scar you forever. Or you can view it as a learning opportunity. A teachable moment, in presidential parlance.

As a manager, it is your job to remove the roadblocks that hinder your team’s path. Even if the roadblock is themselves, such as fear, anger, confusion, frustration, misunderstanding, or a mistake. A roadblock such as missing information is easy to resolve. Just get them the information they require. A roadblock such as fear is harder because you’re dealing with a psychological issue.

So how do you deal with such an issue? Reframing.

Reframing is an extremely powerful technique. It involves changing one’s perception of a particular situation from a negative, disabling one to a positive, enabling one. For instance, a mistake is really a teachable moment. Something you fear is really a chance to overcome that fear. Someone who’s angered you is really a chance to better understand that person.

Let’s take a more concrete example.

You are John’s manager. John has been working with the manager of another team for weeks now. The other manager, Bill, has been micromanaging him, despite not being John’s direct supervisor. It is known amongst the department that Bill is a micromanager, as he does this to his own team too. It usually doesn’t effect you and your team, but on this project, John needs to deal with Bill and thus encounters his micromanaging style.

You’ve spoken to Bill several times about this. After each talk, he eases up a bit on John. But after a few days, he’s back to his old ways.

What can you do about this?

  1. Keep on talking to Bill and reminding him about his behavior every few days. This would be time-consuming, however.
  2. Talk to Bill’s boss. Recommend that Bill be sent to a management class. If he’s on a critical project, he may not be able to go, even for a few days. Or his boss may not agree with your suggestion.
  3. Get Bill off the team. Talk to his boss and the overall supervisor of the project. Recommend that Bill be replaced. That may be a long & ardorous process, depending upon the politics involved and the policies of your company.
  4. Talk to John and reframe the situation for him. First, talk to Bill and find out why he’s micromanaging. Get to the fundamental psychological issue. Perhaps he’s a new manager and is very nervous about his job. Explain this to John and help him to understand Bill’s point of view. Since Bill is insecure, he wants lots of communication. Work with John to come up with some low-impact processes that give Bill all the information he wants. Perhaps a daily status report or issue-tracking tool will assuage his insecurities.
  5. Talk to Bill and reframe the situation for him. Understand his point of view, world view, and motivations. Relate to him how his micromanagement style is effecting the team. Offer alternatives, such as daily stand-up status meetings, issue-tracking tools, or other project management techniques. You could even suggest management training or self-help books to Bill directly.

I’ve been in this situation before. My approach was both options four and five. I talked to both John and Bill to help them reframe their behaviors and perceptions. In my scenario, we set up daily stand-up status meetings. This gave Bill all the information he needed to feel comfortable and got him off of John’s back. As a result, John was much happier and more productive.

The downside was requiring a fair bit of upfront time from my busy schedule, especially on the part of Bill. I had to talk to him several times in a supportive, non-threatening manner. I related to him my struggles as a new manager and how I dealt with a perceived lack of communication and control, then helped Bill with solutions.

For John’s part, he had believed that Bill didn’t like him. He didn’t realize that Bill was insecure in his role and simply wanted more information, which he was glad to provide. Understanding Bill’s point of view also encouraged John to provide more details in his status reports.

I essentially reframed the situation for both John and Bill. I helped them both understand the other’s point of view, then worked with them to set up solutions.

Reframing is a powerful technique that can be used by managers to enable their teams to become more effective. It is the art of changing one’s perception of a particular situation from a negative one to a positive one. I was able to use it to make the lives of John and Bill easier. Hopefully it can help you on your projects as well.

Photo by: Sundials by Carmichael


Reading True North: Introduction Exercise

I’m reading another great book right now. True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership by Bill George. He is a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School and well-respected former corporate executive. Along with coauthor Peter Sims, he wrote a great book on leadership as a follow up to his first, Authentic Leadership.

Each chapter of True North is preceded by a set of leadership exercises. I thought it would be fun to post my answers here as I went through this book.

The first exercise helps you “think about the basis for your leadership and the process you need to go through to become an authentic leader.”

The True North exercises:

What leaders, past of present, do you admire most?

  • What is it about them that you admire most?
  • Which of these leaders do you consider to be authentic leaders?
  • What can you learn from their leadership?

Damn. Those are tough questions. The leaders I admire are:

  • Jack Welsch – I admire the advances he’s made in the field of management and his dedication to the craft, as well as his desire to share that knowledge and encourage others to succeed, as evident in how often General Electric (GE) executives were sought after by other companies.
  • Warren Buffet – I admire his sensible & long-term thinking about the investment industry and his desire to give back & teach the community.
  • Bill Gates – I admire the fact that he was able to build one of the most powerful & impactful companies in the world, become the richest man in the world, then dedicate his life to humanitarian causes. Criticize him all you want, but his philantropic efforts have been enormous.
  • Joel Spolsky – I admire his dedication to his craft and the thought leadership he provides through his blog. It’s obvious he loves what he does and is always challenging himself and his company to do better.
  • Matt Mullenswag – I admire how he built a viable business on open-source software and attracted a huge community of developers & evangelists around something he personally cares deeply about.

To me, they are all authentic leaders. Looking at this list, I also notice that they all:

  1. love what they do
  2. believe in what they do
  3. give back to the community

Those core facets are what I admire most about them and what speaks “authenticity” to me. Hopefully I can emulate them and be half as good a leader as they are.

Thinking back over all your leadership experiences in your lifetime, which ones are you proudest of?

I was once the president of a cultural community service club in college. One of our activities was a street carnival that required a tremendous amount of work, especially for a busy college student with a double-major, two jobs, and officer responsibilties for a second club.

On the day of the carnival, I overslept, exhausted from my schedule. When I woke up in utter panic and rushed over to the street, I saw the carnival operating as scheduled. It was my job to meet the vendors and get them set up. So what happened?

My officers happened. They saw that I wasn’t there and stepped in to take over. At the time, I saw this as a failure of mine, but when I look back, I’m deeply proud of my team and what we did. The event also raised a lot of money for a church and their efforts to help the homeless.

During my time as an engineering manager at Yahoo! (YHOO), I had the pleasure of working with a large team of talented developers. There are dozens of seemingly small but important incidents that occurred over my time there.

For instance, there was the developer we considered a long-shot who floundered in his role for a while. Despite his performance, I always felt he was destined for more. I tried to give him as many opportunities as I could to shine in the form of side projects. One day, he was offered the perfect role for him by a team who had seen his side projects. He is now flourishing in that role.

There’s another developer who was a rock star, but didn’t realize it. Fortunately, neither did our competitors, with whom he was also interviewing. I was able to attract him to our company. I wasn’t even hiring for my team; I just knew he’d kick ass and wanted him in the company somehow. And he has definitely kicked ass.

Then there was the developer who didn’t have the solid experience we needed, but had an extra quality that intrigued me. Since hiring him, he’s risen to one of the top developers in the company. People try to woo him all the time now.

I wish I could go on – the developer who had the aptitude and eagerness to be a leader herself, and with some training, is now leading an important project; the developer who flailed nervously in his first role, then left to start his own successful company; and the developer who wanted to learn a different role and with some encouragement, training, and the right opportunities, has made it there. All of these are moments that fill me with pride whenever I think about them. I’m smiling right now as I type this.

Think about the basis for your leadership and the kind of leader you would like to be as you answer these questions:

  • What qualities do you bring to leadership?
  • What leadership qualities would you like to develop further?

My leadership style is that of a teacher. One of my former developers even called me his therapist and our one-on-one meetings as his therapy sessions.

I also regard myself as someone who is able to identify talent and harness it, through encouragement, reframing, training, discipline, and proper positioning. Wearing this hat, I told my team I was their agent and they, my rock stars.

While that’s great and all as a people manager, what I need to build now are my business management skills. Although I believe being good in business is largely a product of one’s knowledge of psychology (dealing with employees, customers, vendors, and other stakeholders is an interpersonal art), the ability to read a company’s key metrics is important in determining its financial & operational health.

Although I’ve always believed that I could hire someone who is smarter than me to do that, I feel I should also have that skill to some extent.

Asses yourself against the five dimensions of an authentic leader:

  • Do you understand your purpose?
  • Do you practice your values?
  • Do you lead with your heart?
  • Do you demonstrate self-discipline?

I understand that the search for a purpose can be a long, philosophical, and even spiritual journey for many people. For me, I believe a person can also choose their own purpose. I’ve already chosen mine – to improve our society fundamentally through education. The road is tough and I have a long way to go, though I’m thankfully not alone.

Everyday, I apply my values to my life. I believe that being a parent is one of the most difficult, important, and rewarding roles a person could ever play. To be a good parent, I need to be a good role model. To be a good role model, I need to live my life with honor, compassion, understanding, adaptability, discipline, and values.

Although I tend to be a cerebral thinker who decisively weighs all alternatives, if I don’t believe in an organization or goal, I cannot work in or towards it to my full extent.

Back to being a good parent, the overall sentiment is one of self-improvement. Self-kaizen, so to speak. Included in such a personal journey is constant self-discipline, the pillar for a strong mind and strong body. I don’t believe you could be an effective parent, or business owner, without self-discipline.

Do you feel that you are more effective as a leader when you are authentic, or does being authentic constrain your leadership effectiveness?

Being authentic is vastly more effective. If you are true to yourself, you’ll be able to lead with your most effective skills & talents, therefore making you a more effective leader.

Are you consciously developing your leadership abilities at this time?

I’m developing my leadership skills (as a business owner, father, etc) all the time. Also, I’m reading this book, aren’t I? Wink wink.

How would you answer these questions?

The True North exercises:


Recessions Are a Great Time to Hire

It’s true. When other people are downsizing and firing, you should be hiring.

In slumping economies, rock star employees are easier to woo. If you’re lucky, some may be less expensive right now – though you shouldn’t count on that. Most are finally available because their former employer foolishly laid them off, or they quit because out of a change of heart or growing disgust.

Methinks Facebook knows this tip and is hiring in full force. The story has even made Techmeme and the blogosphere. Smart move guys.

Back at Yahoo! (YHOO), I helped grow a new role from three people to forty, than to hundreds. This was during the last dot-bomb, when strong talent was out on the market and easy to find. We hunted for developers who specialized in advanced CSS and JavaScript development, doing what is now commonly known as AJAX. I don’t know if we could have attracted such a rock star team had it not been for the stunning availability of them in the market – though I like to think our supportive environment and industry-wide ambitions were a big factor too.

Looks like Facebook is another company who is doing that right now. I’m sure there are dozens more. If you are one of them, good luck and happy hunting!

Photo by: DrBacchus


The Five Key Evolutions of Entrepreneurship

Oh wait, there’s more. Yesterday, I cited a quote from the article “How to Thrive in 2009” by Bo Burlingham of Inc. Magazine. In it, he interviews Jim Collins, author of Built to Last and Good to Great.

Collins also talks about what he calls the “five key evolutions that have helped bring to life the idea of entrepreneurship as a systematic, replicable process” since the 1970s. Before that era, starting your own company was a momentous task that was done without any kind of support. Now, these evolutions have allowed countless individuals to become entrepreneurs:

  • Raising Capital

    There are all kinds of ways to raise capital now, as compared to the 1970s: venture funds, angel networks, private equity, search funds, IPOs, etc. These new methods have enabled many more businesses to grow.

  • Learning To Be An Entrepreneur

    Starting a new business is now considered a learnable process, as opposed to something just wacky, gutsy people do on their own. There are now entrepreneurship classes, seminars, workshops, books, and websites galore, all geared towards teaching someone how to start a business.

  • Being a Hero

    In the 1970s, the role of an entrepreneur was seen as exploitative and sleazy, sort of like a used car salesman. Somewhere along the way, the role did a 180 and is now socially acceptable, even heroic, in some cases. What a flip-flop!

  • Building a Better Process

    Remember the phase, “build a better mousetrap”? That was what being an entrepreneur meant in the 1970s. Now, it means building a better process.

  • Going Through the Stages of Entrepreneurship

    Entrepreneurship has evolved through three stages so far, with a fourth that has been emerging. They are:

    Stage One
    You have a great idea.
    Stage Two
    You build a successful business.
    Stage Three
    You build a great company.
    Stage Four
    You start a movement.

Wow, I got two blog posts out of one Inc. article. Nice!

Photo by: foundphotoslj


The Employee, Self-Employed, Business Owner and Investor

Cashflow Quadrant: Rich Dad's Guide to Financial Freedom Who do you want to be? An employee, self-employed, a business owner or an investor?

Each is a significantly different way of viewing oneself. It is possible to be in more than one role too. Robert Kiyosaki describes these roles in Cashflow Quadrant: Rich Dad’s Guide to Financial Freedom as:


A person who earns money by holding a job and working for someone else or a company.

The majority of a population has an employee mindset. They wake up, work hard, get a paycheck, and go to sleep. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s a very honorable lifestyle. Unfortunately, it often leaves them financially insecure or, if they’re smart about saving up and investing appropriately, financially secure. While this role used to carry little risk, nowadays, layoffs have removed the guarantees this role used to afford.


A person who earns money working for him/herself.

Some people decide to strike out on their own, to start their own business. They become self-employed entrepreneurs. Maybe they work alone as a freelance designer, business consultant, or financial accountant. Maybe they hire some employees and operate a cafe, a furniture store, or an ecommerce business. Whatever the case, they are now their own boss. Their lifestyle is characterized by lots of hard work and specialization in their chosen field. For their effort, the financial benefits can be greater than that of an employee; financial comfort is a more realistic goal. The risks are higher too. Self-employed entrepreneurs often leverage most or all of their personal savings to launch their business. If it fails, they risk bankruptcy.

Business Owner

A person who owns a business that generates money.

Few others decide to become business owners. This is more than just being a self-employed entrepreneur. The business owner entrepreneur has less control than the self-employed entrepreneur, because it involves sharing & delegating responsibilities & ownership with others. In some cases, business owners don’t even work on a day-to-day basis and have a manager run the operation. Although they don’t have to work very hard anymore, business owners need to be intelligent about how they structure their business. Fortunately, this extra free time allows them to strengthen their business acumen, which is where they apply their knowledge, as opposed to specializing in their chosen field. The financial rewards are high – financial comfort and financial wealth are in their grasp. The risks can be high too, though intelligent business owners learn how to shelter themselves appropriately. It is not easy to become a business owner. You have to work smart, not hard, to get here.


A person who earns money from their various investments – in other words, money that generates more money.

Even fewer others become full-time investors, such as angel investors and venture capitalists. The investor role, however, isn’t just about doing it full-time. Anyone can be an investor. It is not just about buying stocks. If you have money in a mutual fund or 401k plan, you are already an investor. This role is characterized by being able to assess a company’s or industry’s projected perceived performance. The financial rewards vary greatly; very few can make a living just being an investor. Those who do oftentimes got here because they were self-employed, owned a business, or were an employee of a young company that offered significant equity and later became wildly successful (which is extremely rare).

Personally, I’m shooting for the business owner role. I’m currently in the self-employed role in order to get my business off the ground. But that’s a temporary place to be, not a mindset I have.

Kiyosaki argues that being a business owner and investor is the way to financial security, comfort, and wealth. I totally agree.

It is not about working hard, it is about working smart. If you can structure your business intelligently such that it can operate without needing you everyday (by hiring and delegating appropriately), you will have extra time to think strategically and carry your business further. Or even have extra time for your family.

And that’s who I want to be. What about you?