Thursday, May 3, 2012 Review of Get the Cookie, Paco!

This post is going to be shamelessly self-promotional.  The first review of my book, Get the Cookie, Paco! Valuable Lessons in Leadership from My Dogs is out.  See it here at

I've copied it below in it's entirety.  Get your copy today from Amazon!

Here at Dogster we typically don’t do many book reviews, but occasionally something comes along which piques our interest. Andrew Krüger’s new book caught my eye because he claims to have discovered a link between management skills and pet behavior, specifically that of his rescue pups, Paco and Zeke.
Andrew with Zeke and Paco.
Those of you who’ve been around a while will remember that we journeyed down a similar road last year with Mark Levin’s book, All I Know About Management I Learned From My Dog. Mr. Krüger’s book is equally delightful on the dog stories’ side, but far more substantive and scholarly on the management side. To be fair, Levin wasn’t trying to write a textbook. I don’t know if Krüger is aiming to crack the textbook market either, but it won’t take you long to realize that he's discovered some valuable kernels of truth for both academics and dog aficionados.
Get the Cookie, Paco! is equal parts leadership manual, communication devotional, and loveable dog stories, not to mention a human love story, which weaves through the book to the very last page. Krüger is passionate about Paco and Zeke, the intricacies of management and leadership, and the love of his life, Michaele. Somehow he manages to do justice to them all.
Leadership isn’t just for politicians and CEOs to study. It’s for stay-at-home parents, bookstore clerks, and students, too.
According to Krüger, “We need leaders now more than ever. Our world is becoming more complex daily.... If we all increase our everyday leadership skills, even just a little, the accumulated result will be outstanding.” He likens the approach of the book as taking “baby steps.”
This is what I hope you will do with the lessons in this book. Read them. See which ones resonate with you. Try them out. Take baby steps down the hall, out the door, and all the way to becoming a better leader.
Zeke and Paco enjoy the beach.
The approach is not unlike financial advisor and "entreleadership" pioneer Dave Ramsey’s "baby steps" approach to financial freedom. We all know a budget is important, but sometimes we need help devising an effective battle plan to follow in order to achieve financial security. Everyday leadership is the same way. We know it’s important to be a good leader and we want to be better leaders for our families and businesses, but sometimes we need a proven battle plan to guide us. Krüger provides just such a battle plan: baby steps to better leadership, with our dogs guiding the way.
The wisdom Krüger exacts from his pair of lovable pooches is impressive. It's organized into six sections: "Working on Yourself," " Working with Others," "Reading Others," "Leading Others," "The Bigger Picture," and "Parting Thoughts." Here’s a sampling of the chapter titles:
Just Jump In: Acting without complete information
Being Bulldogged: Persistence
The Stare: The drive of a leader
Get the Cookie, Paco! Turning neuroticism into determination
Forget Beer -– Dogs are the Real Social Lubricant: Directing and aligning the efforts of others
Puppy Dog Eyes: Developing personal magnetism
Getting Past Woof: Nonverbal communication is still communication
Not Always the Top Dog: When to lead and when to follow
Chewing Gum Saves Lives: Creating space in the midst of panic and hurry
There are conveniently 52 chapters, so if you’re not one to sit down and barrel through a book in one sitting, Get the Cookie, Paco! works quite nicely as a way to begin or end your week with a little inspiration on leadership. And it is flat out fun to read! Take this gem from chapter 46: “I was stunned. Who thinks to casually unwrap some gum to chew when their plane is going down?” For the details on this true-life crisis in mid-flight, you’ll have to get Krüger’s book.
I’ll close my review with some particularly poignant words from Mr. Krüger:
"If my wife and I had taken everyone else’s advice on what breed of dog to adopt, we most likely would not have adopted either Paco or Zeke. Blue heelers and pit bulls are two of the most abandoned breeds of dogs. They clearly are not very highly valued by others in general as they are dropped off at shelters, left on the side of the road, or worse. We value and love these dogs because of who they are and not because of the perception of others. Something has value because you determine it has value, not because other people say it does."
Get the Cookie, Paco! definitely has value for dog lovers, entrepreneurs, and those interested in the communication skills of effective leaders. Have you learned any lessons in leadership from your pooch? Please share them.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Techniques for Developing Charisma

Today we're going to take a look at eight ways that you can develop charisma. Charismatic leaders maximize the relationship between themselves, group members (followers), and other stakeholders. They increase their referent power (the ability to influence others because one is well liked) and expert power (the ability to influence others because of specialized skills or knowledge).

How, you might ask, do they increase these measures of power? By painting a vivid picture or vision for others, being dramatic and unique, being a good storyteller, and being an affable "character." Charismatic leaders are especially effective at what they do, and communicate using metaphors and analogies to inspire others. They also know their audiences and tailor their messages accordingly. After all, leading a pack of girl scouts takes different communication tactics than leading a squad of marines!

Undoubtedly, some are born more naturally charismatic than others. Yet there are ways to develop charisma:*

1. Create vision for others. Paint a picture of where you are all going, and how great it will be to get there. Attract others to your vision by describing it in ways that are meaningful to them.

2. Be enthusiastic, optimistic, and energetic. Note: this does not mean be fake and inauthentic. Cultivate your real enthusiasm and share it with others.

3. Be persistent. Don't take no for an answer unless you really have no other option. What does this mean? Use energetic good-natured stubborness to push until you can't push anymore. Then know when to change your strategy.

4. Remember people's names. Everyone's loves hearing their own name. Of course you can use tricks and techniques to remember names, but the good old fashioned (and best) way to learn people's names is to actually get to know them and care about them on a personal level.

5. Develop synchrony with others. This has to do with connecting well- "clicking" with others. Search the internet for an emotional intelligence self-test and find ways to develop your EI (emotional intelligence).

6. Develop a personal brand, including making an impressive appearance. Be bold (but not ridiculous) and let your personality out a little bit. As long as you have the skills and knowledge to back you up (and you are tactful - see #5 above), a little flair and confidence can go a long way.

7. Be candid. As long as you are adept at delivering difficult news, speak your mind and communicate directly. You don't want to be abrasive, but simple effective communication is an asset for a leader. Don't beat around the bush- get to the point while still being respectful and polite.

8. Don't be afraid to be tough and aggressive when needed. Although this can isolate you from some people, if your assertiveness is warranted it can gain you a lot of respect from your followers. For example, think of a bartender. While it pays to be a nice guy and treat everyone well to get good tips, the best bartenders know when to lay down the law and get tough with unruly patrons. Kicking out someone who is harassing others at the bar will win lots of goodwill (and tips!) from all the remaining good customers.

*List adapted from DuBrin's textbook Principles of Leadership

(For those of you paying especially close attention, you may notice that this post also appears on Boston University's Leadership Blog. Well, there's a good reason for that- I write those posts as well, and every so often feel a post needs to be in both places.)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

People's Choice Awards 2012: Followers, Choose Your Leader!

anyone else think this looks like Cruella DeVille's younger sister?

The people have spoken!  Long live Katy Perry!  Never mind the divorce, the cancelled tour dates, the mindless hypnotic songs (yes, I find them catchy too- junk food for the brain).  So why is this all on a leadership blog?

As the 2012 People's Choice Awards reminds us, the people choose their own idols, role models, and leaders.  We, individually and collectively, look at the offerings (the endless stream of new faces thrown at the media wall every year), and vote with our dollars, our pageviews and clicks, and sometimes even simply with our votes (I'm looking at you, American Idol).

We ask ourselves of each of the candidates for our attention: do they look like a star to me?  do they sound like one?  do they act like one?  what do my friends think?  are they not popular enough (the band Gotye) yet?  are they too popular and therefore not cool to associate with (Bieber)?  We ask these questions, and we answer in our minds and determine if there are enough "yes's" for us to accept them as a role model, an idol, a star.

This same process happens every day, from the 14-debate riddled Republican primary to the little work group you were put into at school or at work.  At every level we choose our leaders.  Are they enough like us?  Are they better in the important areas (singing, leading a country, getting the project done by the deadline)?  Do we like them?  Are we willing to give our power over to them?  Because make no mistake, that is exactly what we do.  Attention, money, time, energy-- these are all forms of power we voluntarily give up to those we elevate above us.

Just a friendly reminder that to become a leader, it matters not only what's inside, but the perception of others as well.  You can't be a leader all by yourself.  And if you never want to lead, remember that you have a very strong voice in choosing who you are led my.  Exercise it!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Chewing Gum Saves Lives: Creating Space in the Midst of Panic and Hurry

Happy Holidays to everyone!  This is the season where we all rush around trying to tie up last minute shopping and leave our piles of work on our desks to gather dust for the few days we are away from the office.  It is a time of stress and hurry, family and craziness, punctuated- if we are lucky- by moments of peace, reflection, and appreciation.  In this spirit I've selected one of the chapters from Get the Cookie, Paco! that addresses that need to create space in the midst of all of the craziness... space to take a breath, relax, and just be.

            Years ago I had a client who owned a small airport. They offered a flight school, firefighting services, plane storage and avionics repairs, and a flight shop. When I was interviewing the general manager, who was also an accomplished pilot, I asked him if he’d ever had an emergency while on a solo flight. “Sure,” he told me. When I asked him what happened, he responded that the single engine just cut out when he was at about ten thousand feet. He was all alone, and the plane started to go down. I’m not a big fan of flying, so the story was especially captivating, as it played out my worst fears. I asked, “So what did you do?”
            “Well,” he responded, “I reached into my shirt pocket and took out the pack of Juicy Fruit gum I always keep there.” He looked at me.
            “And?” I asked, on the edge of my seat.
            “And then I took out a stick of gum, removed the foil wrapping, and put the piece into my mouth.”
            “But what about the plane?”
            “Oh, it was going down at this point,” he assured me. “I chewed my gum for a few seconds, thought about my options, chose the best course of action, and followed it.”
            “That makes sense, but why in the world did you need a piece of gum right then?” I asked.
            “Well, taking that gum out, unwrapping it, and chewing it for a moment gave me a chance to gather my thoughts and make sure I was not just panicking, but choosing the best option. What I lost in time then more than made up for it when I knew I was making the right decision on how to best correct the situation safely.”
            I was stunned. Who thinks to casually unwrap some gum to chew when their plane is going down? But it did make sense. Those extra few “wasted” minutes were vital to his safety, as it kept him from just doing anything (and probably the wrong thing) when the crisis hit. He had created space to do nothing in the midst of a situation that demanded he do something and was better off for it.
            One of the hardest things to do is nothing. Try it. Actually, if you are trying to do nothing, then you aren’t really doing nothing—you are trying. In our increasingly busy lives, we never schedule the time to do nothing. If we schedule downtime it usually is taken up by an activity—reading, watching TV, or sleeping. My dogs spend the better part of their days dozing and lazing around. Of course this isn’t possible for most of us, but giving yourself even ten (ideally fifteen to thirty) minutes a day to just be can be very beneficial. It serves as a time to get perspective and get energy.
            I try to meditate every day. Usually I fail, and I end up spending my extra time in some frivolous activity like surfing the net. The times that I do get to meditate are wonderful. Recently I began to take on a few more clients. This happened just as my last classes at Boston University were heading into finals and my wife started a new job. Things got hectic really quickly. When I finally found a chance to simply sit and focus on my breathing, I could actually feel the clutter in my mind start to settle. It was like a Tetris game where all the pieces are poorly placed and new ones keep dropping quickly from above. When my “screen” (my mind) was almost filled to the top, things finally started to fit together. With each minute I sat quietly another piece fell perfectly into place, reducing the chaos and creating space in my mind for new information and peaceful reflection.
            Not long ago a friend of mine introduced me to a small start-up company she had heard of. It’s a brilliant idea. The company sells T-shirts and asks the purchaser to commit to ten minutes of helping others each day the shirt is worn. Each morning that the shirt comes out of the drawer in the morning, the wearer makes a mental promise to find ten minutes in the day for the benefit of others. The idea (and the business) is based on the fact that the idea will spread with others buying a shirt and making the same conscious choice to help. Knowing how beneficial it is for me to take a few minutes of each day to meditate, I thought of co-opting the idea for a company called Take 30. The wearer of this T-shirt would commit to spending half an hour of his day doing nothing. It could be meditating, lying on the couch staring up at the ceiling in silence, or sitting in the car at the beach with the radio off looking out at the surf. The rule would be that during those thirty minutes, you could not sleep, watch anything that ran on electricity, or interact with any other person (or pet). You could not actively pursue any goal other than just being.
            There is so much we don’t know about ourselves, and we look everywhere outside for it. We soak up information, get advanced degrees, pursue our careers, buy things, and build relationships. Yet, we don’t look inside. Aside from being a useful way to step out of the fray in order to better handle it when you step back in, the simple exercise of doing nothing is a first step to getting familiar with yourself.
            It’s difficult enough to lead others effectively. If you don’t have a decent knowledge of yourself, it’s almost impossible. I had a friend a few years back who had all the characteristics of attention deficit disorder. (I don’t know whether or not she had been diagnosed.) Sweet as she was, she would run around all day frantically putting out fires (real and imagined) and following her active and worried mind. I asked her once what she would do if she was forced to sit down quietly with herself in a room with no distractions. She told me she would probably explode. Maybe she would have needed more than a T-shirt.

do nothing

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fire These Three People Right Away

These are from G. Michael Maddock, author of the upcoming book Brand New: Solving the Innovation Paradox—How Great Brands Invent and Launch New Products, Services, and Business Models.  I liked them so I thought I'd pass them along to you. 

Of course, nothing is so black and white as just firing people based on the below info, but it does have a grain of truth to it.

Fire These Three People In Your Organization Right Away

The victim. This is the person who sees problems as occasions for persecution rather than challenges to overcome. The persecution apparently comes in the form of you name it — humans, processes, and inanimate objects with equal ease. And if there isn’t a problem, the victim will find one. The victim is often angry, usually annoyed, and almost always complaining. Note to HR: After termination, the victim will no doubt look for someone like you for sympathy and agreement that the world is against him.

The nonbeliever. This person lives by the Henry Ford quote: “If you think you can or think you cannot, you are correct.” Winners really believed they can do it; losers (nonbelievers) always doubted it was possible. The link between believing and succeeding is powerful and real. So is the link between nonbelieving and failure.

The know-it-all. The best innovators are learners, not knowers. The same can be said about innovative cultures; they are learning cultures. Those who think they have nothing to learn will invariably be overtaken by learners, or will drag down an organization and let the competition overtake the organization. They never see new things coming because they think there are no new things. That’s how it is when you think you know everything.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lead from the Middle of Your Leadership Compass

In other posts I've mentioned that the ability to influence the behavior of others is not only from the top down.  You don't have to be high up on the organizational chart to exhibit effective leadership.  Of course it is easier to use coercive power from a position of authority over someone else, as you can control rewards and punishments.

But influence works in many directions.  Not only can you influence "up" the ladder, but left and right as well.  Richard Haas thinks of it in terms of a compass: "North represents those for whom you work.  To the South are those who work for you.  East stands for colleagues, those in your organization with whom you work.  West represents those outside your organization who have the potential to affect matters that affect you."

How do you use influence?  Joseph Nye argues that there are three ways: coercion, payment, and attraction.  People can either want to do what you want them to do, be paid to do it, or be coerced into it.  In many cases it is a subtle combination of the three all at once.  You may enjoy the type of work that you do, but at the same time you may not do it for free.  Perhaps you'll work a little harder at meeting a deadline if you know a round of layoffs are coming up.  By using all three in the right combination, you can effectively influence or wield power over another.

Although leadership and power are not the same thing, they are interrelated.  To lead is to help define and achieve shared goals.  To do this, you need power.

Think about the four points of your compass.  Who do you report to?  Who reports to you?  How can you use the techniques of influence to affect the behavior and decision making of these people?  How about your colleagues?  And who is outside of the organization who is important to your job?  Clients?  Peers in other similar organizations?  The media?

By keeping this compass model in the back of your head you'll remember that you're in the center of a network of influence and you have some ability to use it to achieve your goals, both personally and professionally.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Do's and Don'ts of Email

Email is so common now it's almost passe.  Texts threaten to usurp- and further abbreviate- other methods of communication.  As septuagenerians venture online, tweens consider email old news. But in the arena of effective leadership (and management), real communication is still one of the pillars of effectiveness.

So this month I bring you a brief list of email do's and don'ts to help keep yourself out of trouble in the workplace, and to make your communication just that much smoother around the office:

  • Use email to set up meetings, to recap spoken conversations, or to follow up on information already discussed face-to-face
  • Keep email messages short and to the point.  Many people read the messages on tiny screens on their phones
  • Use email to prepare a group of people for a meeting (sending materials to review, reminders of time and location, etc.)
  • Use email to transmit standard (non-sensitive) reports
  • Act like a newspaper reporter: Use the subject line to grab attention, put the most important info in the first paragraph, answering the important who, what, when, where, how, and why right away
  • Be aware of the email "tail" - you know, that part of the email that contains the history of the conversation back and forth that automatically builds when you hit reply.  I have seen more than a few people very embarrassed by forgetting that there is a whole history down there, and sending it off to someone new.  When in doubt, just start a brand new email to reply and avoid all the history.
  • Know your audience.  The better you know them, and the longer your history in working together, the more you can assume that they can "read between the lines" of your message and get the correct intent.  Be more careful with those whom you just started working with- the potential to get a message misinterpreted is higher.  

    • Use email to discuss something with someone who sits right next to or down the hall from you- get off of your chair and go see them the old fashioned way!
    • Respond in anger or while agitated.  If something sets you off, set it aside for 10 minutes or more and get some perspective.  Try to get some perspective and calm down before responding- and ask yourself if you even need to respond to such emails.  Sometimes no response is the best one.  Remember-email is forever... do you want your explosion of anger frozen in time for others to pull up later?
    • Hit reply to all without giving some serious thought as to how your response will be seen by EACH and EVERY recipient.  Conveying emotion electronically is hard enough, but sending one message to many recipients makes it that much harder.  Read and re-read that email response before replying to all.
    • Write anything in an email that you wouldn't want to have published in a newspaper or company newsletter for all to see.  Because let's face it, when you come right down to it, that's basically what email is.  There is more chance that something WILL leak out than it WON'T.  
    Happy emailing! 

    note: more than a few of these do's and don'ts come from Andrea Poe's article "Don't Touch that 'Send' Button" article from HR Magazine 7/01.