Monthly Archives: July 2014

Talking with Jeff and Reid About The Alliance

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of facilitating a conversation with Reid Hoffman and Jeff Weiner (CEO) at LinkedIn, in front of employees. We talked about The Alliance and took questions from the audience.

Here’s a full video of the chat. Here’s the 25 minute highlight reel (and embedded) below.

“The Must-Read Book of the Summer”

Two weeks in, here are some of the interesting reviews of The Alliance:

  • Mike Bloomberg: “The Alliance offers useful strategies for combating this kind of complacency and creating environments where innovation flourishes. As the authors explain, it all comes down to people.”
  • Arianna Huffington: “The Must-Read Book of the Summer That Could Change the Way We Work…What’s also great about The Alliance is how it gives concrete ways to implement these ideas.:
  • Josh Bersin (Deloitte): “The big value of the book is that Reid and team clearly make this point: 21st Century Management is different. We need to engage people from the very beginning of their work life, tap into their collective intelligence even after they leave the firm, and build alumni networks to create an extended network as our ‘alliance workers’ move on.”
  • Daniel Pink (Author of Drive, Whole New Mind, Free Agent Nation): “A smart, fresh, (and occasionally bracing) look at the evolving relationship between the bosses and the bossed. It’s a terrific and accessible read that provides business leaders with both insights and tools to handle a world in which talent is paramount.”
  • Brad Feld (VC at Foundry Group): “The book, and the concept, is tightly written and extremely readable. The book is an appropriate length – there’s no fat here – just substance.”

If you’re a manager or work with managers, would love to hear your feedback. And thanks for picking up a copy at Amazon, B&N, Hudson’s bookstore in the airport, or anywhere else!

Visual Summary of The Alliance

We published a 60 slide slideshow that expresses the essence of The Alliance and Tours of Duty. Check it out on Business Insider. The combination of visuals and text works really well, I think. It’s already trending heavily on BI (500,000+ views).

Thanks to Ian Alas for all his hard work on creating this deck.

Update: Here’s the deck on Slideshare and embedded below. More than one million views on Business Insider.

Your Company is Not a Family

Reid, Chris, and I wrote a post on HBR.org about the myth of company as family, and explained why in The Alliance we liken companies to pro sports teams. Here’s how it starts:

When CEOs describe their company as being “like family,” we think they mean well. They’re searching for a model that represents the kind of relationships they want to have with their employees—a lifetime relationship with a sense of belonging. But using the term family makes it easy for misunderstandings to arise.

In a real family, parents can’t fire their children. Try to imagine disowning your child for poor performance: “We’re sorry Susie, but your mom and I have decided you’re just not a good fit. Your table-setting effort has been deteriorating for the past 6 months, and your obsession with ponies just isn’t adding any value. We’re going to have to let you go. But don’t take it the wrong way; it’s just family.”

Unthinkable, right? But that’s essentially what happens when a CEO describes the company as a family, then institutes layoffs. Regardless of what the law says about at-will employment, those employees will feel hurt and betrayed—with real justification.

Read the rest at HBR.org.

How Do You Get Employees to Open Up?

One key concept in The Alliance is “mission alignment”: managers and employees ought to  define a mission objective that aligns the employee career goals and values with the company’s. A far cry from the “company man” era, where a notion of an employee’s individuality and autonomy was nonexistent.

In an interview with Chris and me at Inc.com, we explore some of the practical things managers can do to create the space for honest conversation about what your employees really care about. Here are are two excerpts:

2. Forget the notion that you and your employees must have 100% long-term alignment. “The key,” says Casnocha, “is to have sufficient alignment to get this particular tour of duty to work out.”

The phrase “tour of duty” is a term the authors borrow from the military and use throughoutThe Alliance. “The metaphor conveys the key concept that both military and business tours of duty have in common,” they write. “Focus on accomplishing a specific, finite mission.”

What might that mission be? For employees, it could be developing skills or gaining connections that help them transition to a different industry or job type. As a leader, it’s in your power to help your employees with their missions. Think about how much more motivated your employees would be, if they knew you actually wanted to help them make a career transition–even though the transition would mean that they’ll be leaving your company one day.

4. Depersonalize the key questions. Yeh suggests approaching your employees by saying something like this: “It’s my job to help you overcome bottlenecks and all the things that are in your way. What things are preventing you from accomplshing your mission, and how can I solve them?”

Phrasing the question this way enables you to emphasize the mission, rather than the employee himself. It allows the employee to describe what’s wrong with his job, without feeling like he’s critiquing his own performance or ability to adapt to challenging circumstances.

Casnocha says he learned a great conversational tactic from Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University. The idea is another form of depersonalizing questions: Ask an employee what “most people” think of a certain situation. Usually, the employee will tell you what most people think. But in doing so, she will also provide a glimpse of her own personal feelings. Specifically, Casnocha suggests these conversational cues:

  • How is everyone feeling about what’s going on in the office?
  • What do you think people are frustrated about here at work?

These questions allow you, as a leader, to follow up on whatever topics arise. But you can do so delicately, without pouncing on the employee who–even in sharing what “most people” think–has just displayed a great deal of vulnerability.