Sunday, January 22, 2012

Take Me to Your Leader

One of the shining moments in 2011 was Game 6 of the NBA Finals, when the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat to win the NBA Championship.  It does not get old watching that video clip.

In 1992, when my wife and I moved to Dallas, the Mavs were flirting with the futility mark set by the '72 Philadelphia 76ers, who went 9-73.  In the words of Charles Barkley, it was turrible.  We were actually in the stands when they won the 10th game, avoiding infamy.  We were jumping, screaming and hugging people in the stands that we didn't know.  We might as well have been shouting, "We're not the worst!  We're not the worst!"  The years from 1992 until Mark Cuban came along were tough, but victory tasted sweeter last year, because the team had come from so far down.

Stuart Scott says to Mark Cuban, "We're very short, you, me and JJ..."
What was the difference from the 2010-2011 Mavs and the 2005-2006 Mavs who lost to the Heat in the finals?  Did they need to live through losing in the Finals before they could win?  Was Rick Carlisle a better coach than Avery Johnson?  Did Cubes show more calm and that helped the Mavs focus more on the games?  Did Dirk elevate his game substantially?  Were his teammates substantially better?  Was it all-of-the-above?  I would contend it was some combination and more, and with successful teams it does not matter.  Separating the individual elements of a team's success is meaningless.  That does not prevent every individual from assessing their performances and setting goals to improve, but accomplishing the team goal is all that matters.

Sometimes the team is much more than the sum of its parts.

Leading in business is quite the same.  Its takes all kinds to make up a great team, and the important part is a single-minded focus on the big goal and to know how to communicate, motivate and grow through both good and bad situations.  When the team wins, some will benefit more than others.  That is natural with meritocracy, but everyone needs equal recognition and fair consideration.  As leaders, though, the most important lesson is that a leader is only as good as their team.  The leader is inseparable from the team.

As leaders, the dangers of putting ourselves above the team are substantial in terms of loyalty, motivation, and loss of leadership equity which is the core catalyst at dynamic companies.  Yesterday, I received a message via LinkedIn from an old friend who worked with me at my first startup.  He sent me a fascinating research paper on the extreme affects when leaders lose this perspective, and how it can affect their decision making based on the wrong criteria.

Sometimes, as leaders, with success, the way to get the most credit is to take none.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Liberty and Sopapillas to All

One of the key principles that America was built on was to "secure the blessings of liberty to all".  The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I totally support the government in its efforts to try to curb pirated content and punishment of those that promote or distribute pirated content, but much like the Patriot Act, there are lines that should not be crossed, when those lines are the fundamental principles that our country is founded on.  First, there are too many cases throughout history of what happens when governments or individuals in power abuse those situations at the expense and welfare of the innocent.  Second, the government has unfortunately demonstrated that it does not understand the technology or ecosystem well enough to be able to legislate effectively in this case.

Take your time, read up on the SOPA and PIPA proposed bills being discussed.  Make up your own mind.  I really like the simple video below that describes the bills and their issues in simple terms:


What can you do?  Take action.  If you agree with me, sign Google's petition here.  If not, I am sure there are equal ways to show your support, as well.  As they say in Spanish, reb├║scate (translation: find it, yo' damn self!)

In the meantime, I am working to get our legislators to focus on sopapillas instead of SOPA or PIPA, as I am sure they were confused when this whole thing started, and who doesn't like a hot, sweet sopapilla!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Foursquare, We Have a Problem

I've been using Foursquare for a few months, mostly as a function of my job, to see its potential impact on my client's businesses.  For a while, I was only annoying my less socially-connected friends by my constant posts on Facebook about every time I went running in the morning on the local bike path, for which, I am the mayor, thank you very much.

Embarrassingly too much Tex-Mex
Then, in November, my mom and I went to dinner at ma peche in New York City, and while sitting at the bar, I received a buy-one-get-one-free deal for drinks.  Score!  Then, the week of Thanksgiving, American Express started with their small business deals, getting me money back when I spent at local businesses, here and there.  Very sweet!  Life was good.

The deals have waned, which makes me wonder if this is really enough to get me to check-in.  Even for me, it's a chore to whip out my smartphone every time, when one time out of 8000 gets me a deal, and my wife's stare is burning holes through the back of my head.  I'm not saying that the City of Dallas needs to celebrate my presence on the running trail every morning, but maybe once in a while, a small marching band would be appropriate.

Today, though, as we brought my wife's niece to the local, up-scale mall, I encountered a more serious Foursquare's challenge: connectivity.  There never is any at this mall.  That's why so many teenagers must hang out here, so their parents can't get a hold of them, and they have a valid excuse.  I was able to sneak a check-in for American Eagle Outfitters, but when I clicked on their deal, the Interwebs failed me.  Most other places, I could never check-in, even though I really wanted to and tried very hard, against my nature.  Most humans would never try the second time.

Clearly, malls are not on the rise, but this is not the only place that I have had Foursquare connectivity issues, sometimes not seemingly caused by connectivity issues.  The problem is not that this will not improve.  In fact, Foursquare might consider subsidizing fempto cells in some shopping areas and malls or encouraging some of the innovative schemes that exist to improve data network and spectral efficiency.

Anything to improve the experience, because most people's bozo bit is more sensitive than mine for new technology and services like this one.  Once it gets flipped, it's hard to reset.