Three ways to help people get things done – Seth Godin

Don Meyer was one of the most successful college basketball coaches of all time, apparently. His biography is quite a sad book—sad because of his tragic accident, but also sad because it’s a vivid story about a misguided management technque.

Meyer’s belief was that he could become an external compass and taskmaster to his players. By yelling louder, pushing harder and relentlessly riding his players, his plan was to generate excellence by bullying them. The hope was that over time, people would start pushing themselves, incorporating Don’s voice inside their head, but in fact, this often turns out to be untrue. People can be pushed, but the minute you stop, they stop. If the habit you’ve taught is to achieve in order to avoid getting chewed out, once the chewing out stops, so does the achievement.

It might win basketball games, but it doesn’t scale and it doesn’t last. When Don left the room (or the players graduated), the team stopped winning.

A second way to manage people is to create competition. Pit people against one another and many of them will respond. Post all the grades on a test, with names, and watch people try to outdo each other next time. Promise a group of six managers that one of them will get promoted in six months and watch the energy level rise. Want to see little league players raise their game? Just let them know the playoffs are in two weeks and they’re one game out of contention.

Again, there’s human nature at work here, and this can work in the short run. The problem, of course, is that in every competition most competitors lose. Some people use that losing to try harder next time, but others merely give up. Worse, it’s hard to create the cooperative environment that fosters creativity when everyone in the room knows that someone else is out to defeat them.

Both the first message (the bully with the heart of gold) and the second (creating scarce prizes) are based on a factory model, one of scarcity. It’s my factory, my basketball, my gallery and I’m going to manipulate whatever I need to do to get the results I need. If there’s only room for one winner, it seems these approaches make sense.

The third method, the one that I prefer, is to open the door. Give people a platform, not a ceiling. Set expectations, not to manipulate but to encourage. And then get out of the way, helping when asked but not yelling from the back of the bus.

When people learn to embrace achievement, they get hooked on it. Take a look at the incredible achievements the alumni of some organizations achieve after they move on. When adults (and kids) see the power of self-direction and realize the benefits of mutual support, they tend to seek it out over and over again.

In a non-factory mindset, one where many people have the opportunity to use the platform (I count the web and most of the arts in this category), there are always achievers eager to take the opportunity. No, most people can’t manage themselves well enough to excel in the way you need them to, certainly not immediately. But those that can (or those that can learn to) are able to produce amazing results, far better than we ever could have bullied them into. They turn into linchpins, solving problems you didn’t even realize you had. A new generation of leaders is created…

And it lasts a lifetime.

So true. A very very good article!

Lyndon Johnson’s 10 point formula for success

1. Learn to remember names. Inefficiency at this point may indicate that your interest is not sufficiently outgoing.

2. Be comfortable personal so there is no strain in being with you. Be an old-show, old-had kind of individual.

3. Acquire the quality of relaxed easy-going so that things do not ruffle you.

4. Don’t be egotistical. Guard against the impression that you know it all.

5. Cultivate the quality of being interesting so people will get something of value from their association with you.

6. Study to get the “scratchy” elements out of your personality, even those of which you may be unconscious.

7. Sincerely attempt to heal, on an honest basis, every misunderstanding you have had or now have. Drain off your grievances.

8. Practice liking people until you learn to do so genuinely.

9. Never miss an opportunity to say a word of congratulation upon anyone’s achievement, or express sympathy in sorry or disappointment.

10. Give spiritual strength to people, and they will give genuine affection to you.

I never thought a concept like this existed but this was a formula penned down by the man that helped him greatly in his quest to become President of the US of A. Time to start working on my formula then! :)

Unwashed Vessels in your sink

For those who don’t have/use dish washers and still wash vessels old style (i.e. with detergent and a sponge), I’m sure you have walked into your kitchen in the morning and groaned at the pile of unwashed vessels in your sink.

Here’s an interesting poem that a friend remembers when she finds an unwashed vessel pile –
Thank God for Dirty Dishes,
They have a tale to tell.
While others are going hungry,
We’re eating very well.

With home and health and happiness,
I shouldn’t want to fuss.
For by this stack of evidence,
God’s very good to us..

Worth remembering for next time. :)


‘Don’t expect’ is a tenet I’ve heard from time to time. The logic is simple of course – ‘if you don’t expect, you don’t get disappointed.’

In my humble opinion, it would take the joy out of life.
Imagine walking into an important meeting without the anxiousness that comes with expectation. Imagine walking out after a great meeting feeling numb.
Imagine receiving THAT call saying the ‘deal is done’/’you got the job’ and just smiling contented.
Why, of course, you had no expectations.
Imagine making a pass at a woman/man and then not bothering to look at his/her reaction?
Isn’t expectation that makes romance memorable? Isn’t expectation what builds into ‘hope’ – that wonderful emotion that helps keep our heads up during tough times? Isn’t that what inspired Gandhi? Isn’t that what inspired Victor Frankl in that tough concentration camp?
If you didn’t expect, would you bother hoping?
More questions than answers. One thing is certain, I am not cut out for the ‘ascetic’ life that involves meditation in the mountains. I love people too much.. and I find expectations to be wonderful things – through them, you taste failure and success, love and disgust, sadness and happiness – through them, you taste life.

Will this even matter in 10 years?

Some events are great levelers. Failure, for example, is one. You could be flying really high thanks to some recent success and then wham!. Failure makes us reflect, makes us understand ourselves better – and is a great leveler.

I find the ‘Will this even matter in 10 years’ question a great leveler too. I believe that life is just a long bumpy road with many picturesque views. For every picturesque view, there are a multitude of bumps and ditches. We have many co passengers in the journey – our parents to begin with, then friends, colleagues, spouse, kids etc. And of course, we have the all important choice – to be happy, or not. There is always enough to complain, always enough to get us down – so finding happiness is not all that easy. We only make it tougher for ourselves when we let small things get to us.
Like this morning, when I saw something that pricked a bit of the happiness balloon. Being my reflective day of the week, I thought myself to sleep. (if there ever existed a phrase) And when I woke up, for some reason – I asked myself the ‘Will this even matter in 10 years’. ‘Not a chance’ was the answer that came right back.
Bam! Decision taken. No looking back.
So, I smiled, woke up and decided to blog about it.

The Blessings people

Since last July, I’ve been writing out daily learnings, blessings etc on an every work-day basis.

And I found myself flipping pages and realized 2 things –
1. People form 80% of what I thank the lord for. There is the occasional time I’ve thanked the lord for sports I play, my phone, my laptop, some rather cool apps or systems and of course, quite a few thanks have to gone to a-connect (i.e. my company) as well but still – 80%, on average, is to people who mater.
2. And I also realized that a few people show up on these pages with unfailing regularity. Often, it didn’t even require significant interaction with them – one short email or phone conversation already had me thanking the lord for having them in my lives.
It’s always interesting to know a new thing about myself. So, if I’m feeling down in the dumps, what would potentially work is get busy finding a new app for my phone/comp – but what is almost sure to work is to spend time with some of ‘the blessings people’. That should sort it out.
So, what would you think would be up your blessings list?