The 10 Fatal Flaws of Leadership

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman recently published a poignant list of attributes that “derail leaders” in the June 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review (p. 18). They are worth considering given that it’s going to take strong leadership–civil and business–to turn our country around. The worst leaders:

1. Lack energy and enthusiasm.

2. Accept their own mediocre performance.

3. Lack clear vision and direction.

4. Have poor judgment.

5. Don’t collaborate.

6. Don’t walk the talk.

7. Resist new ideas.

8. Don’t learn from mistakes.

9. Lack interpersonal skills.

10. Fail to develop others.

Think about the leaders in your life who have influenced you and made a positive impact on you. How many of these attributes did they exhibit regularly? If I were to add an attribute to Zenger and Folkman’s list it would be that the worst leaders believe leadership is about being right, not doing the right thing. This flaw is based on pride, lack of ethics and an unwillingness to recognize that even a leader is falible. And one of the principles taught by Warren Bennis is that managers do things right. Leaders do the right thing.

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The Future of the Internet – Vinton G. Cert

“Vinton G. Cerf, vice president and Chief Evangelist for Google, discusses the past, present, and future of the Internet. Cerf predicts that Asia’s cultural influence will grow as the continent’s Internet penetration rates reach European levels. He says that, while IPv6 will provide enough Internet addresses to last through his lifetime, the implementation of IPv6 creates difficulties for the Internet in terms of compatibility, security, and broadcasting. Cerf describes the trends and opportunities of the Internet in the 21st century: the transformation of information consumers into information producers; the rise of social networking; the emergence of new economic systems in online games; the development of user-generated advertising content via streaming IPTV; and the transformation of mobile phones into multi-purpose devices that provide geographically indexed information. In Cerf’s view, the increasingly lower cost of storing and transporting bits fosters a new economics of digital information and the emergence of new Darwinian business models that challenge existing entities to “adapt or die.” As a result, Cerf says the Internet is an unprecedented and unpredictable innovation engine because its infrastructure enables people to invent new applications simply by writing new software on the edge of the network without having to ask for permission” (E Corner).

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Twitterers Are Getting Bored With Twitter

twitter-iconTo tweet or not to tweet? Amazingly, this has become a pressing question of late given the astronomical hype generated around the microblogging site by news correspondents (Larry King) and American icons (Oprah) alike. And it’s apparently become a big deal when someone like Ashton Kutcher breaches the 1,000,000 followers mark. But will the popularity last? Can Twitter sustain its growth of new users or will its appeal fall by the wayside like that one website…uh, what was it called? Oh yeah, Second Life.

Twitter is in trouble. Nielson Wire has reported that “more than 60 percent of Twitter users fail to return the following month, or in other words, Twitter’s audience retention rate, or the percentage of a given month’s users who come back the following month, is currently about 40 percent. For most of the past 12 months, pre-Oprah, Twitter has languished below 30 percent retention.” [Since this article was originally written, Nielson Wire posted an update that verified its findings.]

So what implications does this have for the droves of people still signing up to stake their virtual claim in Twitter’s popular world of status updating? Time will tell. Personally speaking, I initially climbed on the bandwagon to see what all the hype was about. That was only a few days ago and now I’m certifiably addicted. That’s right, I’m a tweeting Twitterer. I primarily use it to 1) advance a dialogue centered around entrepreneurship, 2) connect with other users interested in entrepreneurship and 3) promote my blog. But if Nielson Wire is right then this addiction won’t last and I’ll either get bored and move onto the next big thing within a month or Twitter will see the writting on the wall and develop a sustainable retention strategy.

“How to Raise Venture Capital” Links

Need growth money for your startup? Here’s a list of links (and their post dates) on how to raise venture capital. I’ve done my best to distill the information into a comprehensive list that will help any entrepreneur prepare for the VC plunge.

Venture Blog

Wired Teaches Us How to Get Funded by a VC

Raising Venture Capital: How Much Money Matters (Aug 2008)

Pitching a VC: The Basics Revisited (Jan 2008)

August Capital V: We Are Long on Human Innovation (Mar 2009)

Will VCs Continue to Suspend Disbelief? (Jan 2009)

The Deal Category (All Posts)

How to Change the World

The Art of Raising Capital (Sept 2008)

All Venture Capital Tags (All Posts)

Note: a three-part video interview with Kawasaki is available in my videos section.

Quick Sprout

How to Raise Venture Capital (Jan 2009)

The Sideboard

Understanding Your VC

Attract Venture Capital by Avoiding Angel Investor Round Conflict

What Venture Capitalists Really Want

Inc. Magazine

How to Raise Venture Capital

The Reality of Raising Venture Capital

Seth Godin

The Realistic Entrepreneur’s Guide to Venture Capital (Mar 2007)

More Business

Raising Venture Capital (Aug 1998)

Venture Capital Funding to Expand Your Business (May 2007)

Business Week

Do You Really Want to Raise Venture Capital? (Dec 2008)

Advice for Startups Seeking Venture Capital (Dec 2008)

Venture Capital Loves Virtual (July 2008)

Venture Capital Still Loves the Net (April 2008)

Attracting Venture Capital in 2008 (Dec 2007)

The Truth About Venture Capital (Feb 2008)

Growthink

Finding a Venture Capital Firm; How to Raise Venture Capital

How to Write a Business Plan for Raising Venture Capital

Raising Angel Capital the Wrong Way

Checking References Saves You Trouble

One of the lessons from Jim Collins’ Good to Great (2001) is that great companies strive to place employees in the right seat of the bus. Your own due diligence as a hiring manager or business owner is the best way to ensure that 1) you have the right employee for the job and 2) they are placed in the right seat of the bus. It’s been my experience, however, that many employers fail to perform adequate due diligence in the process of checking references. This is crazy! It would seem only appropriate that if you’re considering spending the money and time to hire and train a new employee then you’d want to thoroughly check as many references as possible.

The fear of being involved in a lawsuit after you check on or provide references can be a powerful motivator to avoid the situation entirely. At least, it is for many hiring managers. But checking references is critical and can be done in a way that hedges, if not eliminates, the risk of being involved in any legal repercussions.

AllBusiness has published the following 9 Tips on Checking References:

1. Tell all applicants that you will check their references before you make any hiring decisions. Business owners often hire applicants because of a sharp-looking resume or a “good feeling” from an interview. No matter how quickly you’d like to get a position filled, always perform due diligence before you take the hiring plunge.

2. Ask each applicant to sign a release form permitting you to ask detailed questions of former employers and other references (sample background check permission forms are listed on this page). Make sure the form prevents the applicant from suing you or any former employers based on the information you learn during the reference checks. Without this permission, you may only be able to confirm employment dates, pay rate, and position – information that tells you little about a prospective employee’s character. Also, check with your lawyer, because some kinds of liability cannot be waived.

3. Fax over a copy of the prospective employee’s background check waiver and your personal credentials before you call a prospective employee’s references. Many employers fear being sued for defamation if they say anything negative about a former employee. Your fax will ease their fears. Keep in mind that some states now consider employers’ comments to be “qualifiedly privileged.” That means the employer cannot be held liable for the information he or she reveals unless he or she knows it to be false or reckless. If that’s true in your state (check with your lawyer), make sure the references know it.

4. Verify basic information such as employment dates, job titles, salary, and types of jobs performed. If one of the basic checks doesn’t match the prospective employee’s resume or what you heard during an interview, you’ve got a clear sign that something may be amiss.

5. Avoid vague questions. Ask specific questions based on what you learned about the applicant in the interview. For example: how did the employee contribute to projects mentioned in the interview?

6. Pay attention to neutral or negative comments from references. Lukewarm comments or half-hearted praise speak volumes. Ask the former employer if they would hire the person back. If they hesitate, move on to the next applicant.

7. Put less weight on positive references. Most people can find someone to say something good about them. And some employers give positive references even to bad ex-employees, because they’re afraid of legal action or are tired of paying unemployment taxes on the applicant.

8. Use former supervisors or senior coworkers as references. An applicant might not want you to contact their current employer (who might not know about the job hunt), but there are always people who can provide a reference.

9. Don’t rely on prospective employees’ verbal word regarding salary figures. Ask for a current pay stub to verify employment and pay rate.

Twitter, Twitter, Twitter!

twitterWell, it’s finally happened. I just created an account on Twitter (user EverydayEntr). I know, I know. It was bound to happen with the massive exposure they’ve had lately (CNN’s Larry King just interviewed Ashton Kutcher because he was the first to have 1 million followers). I’ll admit that I’ve been holding out for as long as possible. But after hearing enough buzz about something I’m compelled to check it out. That’s the power of marketing, though.

One of the reasons Twitter is so popular is because businesses are now using it to mine for sales leads by using the advanced search feature. Enter a few keywords related to your product or value proposition and Twitter lists all the related comments that could potentially represent a sales lead. This function will become more popular as network externalities increase.

How To Nail An Interview

Oh my goodness! I can’t stop laughing at this guy. It’s a great example of what NOT to look for in your applicants.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

How To Nail An Interview lists some good pointers and hilarious clips. But I’m more interested in the response from the other side of the table. What kinds of questions should managers be asking during the interview? What shouldn’t be asked?

My experience has been that–for whatever reason–interviewers can be just as nervous as their interviewees. It may be that they feel intimidated by the situation. Or they might feel inadequate in their ability to asses the candidate’s quality. Whatever the reason, it usually manifests itself in their questions. Personally, when an interviewer asks, “What kind of animal describes you best?” you know they are either inexperienced or scraping the bottom of the barrel for something to help them drag out the time. Don’t ask this question. It’s meaningless. It tells you nothing about your applicant. I mean, who cares if your talking to a buffalo or door mouse? There are much more effective questions you can ask, such as situation-based or behavioral questions. These come in the form of, “How would you respond to [given situation]?” These questions do a better job of extracting job-related behavior that can be verified against your own due diligence when calling references.