Montessori Management

Montessori-ManagementThe September 7th issue of The Economist had an article titled “Montessori management.”  It starts with, “Time was when firms modeled themselves on the armed forces, with officers (who thought about strategy) and chains of command. Now many model themselves on learning-through-play ‘Montessori’ schools.”

Plenty of business greats were educated in Montessori schools including the Sergey Brin and Larry Page (Google) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon).  Yet, as stated in the article, “…it would be wrong to conclude that the success of Google and Amazon vindicates Montessori management. Both companies have pragmatically mixed progressive ideas with more traditional ones such as encouraging internal competition and measuring performance.”

Here are some takeaways:

  • Collaboration is good to a point.  A study out of Berkeley looked at over 180 teams trying to win a professional services contract.  The more time teams took consulting others, the less likely they were to win.
  • At the top of the food chain, the article goes on to state “Excessive collaboration can lead to …mediocrity.” Look no further than BlackBerry… the once 10,000 pound gorilla in smartphones brought in two CEOs… one technical and one a manager to be Co-CEOs.  In the last week, they announced plans for laying off 40% of their workforce and reported a $1B Q2 loss.
  • Disagreement is good.  When we do our yearly strategic planning meeting, I remind the team the day we all agree without debate is the day we’re headed down the wrong road.  In short, either we can be hard on ourselves or our competition will be happy to do so.

Would Your Employees Recommend You?

20130912-151537.jpgThe latest issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review had an interesting article “Would Your Employees Recommend You?” by Julian Birkinshaw. Mr. Birkinshaw is a professor at London Business School and the author of Becoming a Better Boss: Why Good Management Is So Difficult.

In his research, he and his team, developed a Net Management Promoter Score (NMPS). The NMPS (think of it as an internal Net Promoter Score) was based on the question:

“How likely is it that you would recommend your line manager to a colleague, as someone they should work for in the future?” (1 = not at all, 10 = extremely likely.)

The article states “…the NMPS is a good indicator of the level of employee engagement in a company… the correlation between employee responses about their level of engagement at work and the likelihood that they’d recommend their manager to a colleague is approximately 0.75.” A correlation of .75 is very high. In short, if you’re likely to recommend your boss, you’re very likely to be engaged at work.

High engagement indicates how likely someone will put discretionary effort into a job. While there are other factors in engagement–quality of work, physical working environment, etc.–the NMPS suggests no matter how great a workplace, it may mean nothing if the employee dislikes his or her immediate manager.

Diana Nyad, 6 Leadership Lessons

Above:  Diana Nyad at Tedx Berlin in 2012

By now, you’ve heard Diana Nyad, a 64 year-old endurance swimmer, swam from Cuba to Florida.  There are great leadership lessons in her accomplishment:

  1. Never give up.  This was her fifth try.  What a lesson about commitment.  This is spot on with what Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
  2. Trust your team.  This same trek–from Cuba to Florida–was done twice before, most recently by Susie Maroney.  Nyad’s the first to do it without a shark cage.  Part of her team included scuba divers who swam with her on the lookout for sharks.  Talk about trust!
  3. Believe in yourself.  Her first try was when she was 29 (Maroney did it at 22 with a shark cage that in addition to providing protection, lessens the waves).  It would have been understandable if she rationalized, “If I couldn’t do it at 29, how could I do it at 64?”
  4. Set small goals that align with the overall goal.  When she jumped into the water, she said her goal wasn’t to swim from Cuba to Florida.  Her goal was to swim until dusk.  At dusk, her goal was to swim until dawn.  She kept repeating these interim goals until she reached the shores of Florida.
  5. Overcome adversity.  If you’ve read about her life, you know she’s was dealt a horrible blow as a child.  Similar to never giving up, she’s proven we’re empowered when we focus on what we can do vs. what could hold us back.
  6. Be thankful of the team.  A few miles before Florida–exhausted, hungry (she couldn’t hold food down and kept throwing up in the ocean) with lips so blistered she was barely understandable–she stopped and treaded water.  She thanked her support team who were in surrounding boats.  She knew that while the light may shine on us as individuals, we are not possible without the support of others.