Monthly Archives: January 2011

Managing By Cliches, Part 3: Moderation In All Things

Detail of The School of Athens by Raffaello Sa...

"Moderation in all things" has been urged by philosophers since the time of Aristotle

This is the third in our series of posts around the idea of “managing by cliches.”

Recently, I’ve become more and more aware of a paradox of management behavior: a leader’s greatest strength is often their greatest weakness.  (I’m not sure if this is actually a “cliche” — but I’ve said or thought it enough that it has become one in my mind, at least!).  That is, when an outstanding skill or technique is over-used, or mis-applied (or used without self-awareness), it can create a negative effect more than equal to all of the good that is done when the skill is applied properly.

The Meaning of Moderation

Moderation in all things.*
Chilon, ancient Greek philosopher, c. 650 B.C.

Since this precept was first inscribed on a column of the Temple of Delphi in Ancient Greece, innumerable philosophers have weighed in on its meaning.  An alternative translation of the phrase is “nothing in excess.” Does this mean that one should always be moderate in word and deed (i.e., never going to extremes of forcefulness, or passion)?  Or, rather, does it mean having balance (i.e., balancing one strength with other, even if neither are “moderate” in any way)? And, what can this tell us as managers 27 centuries later? Continue reading

Managing By Cliches, Part 2: Let the System Work for You (not vice versa)

Michael Dorn and Robert O'Reilly as Worf and G...

Naming an HR database after Star Trek villains wasn't a good omen

This is the second in our series of posts around the idea of “managing by cliches.”

During the past few weeks, I’ve been involved in a number of on-line and real-life discussions about the merits of various performance evaluation systems.  One colleague described a particular system as being powerful but “difficult to learn and implement.”  This brought mind past experiences implementing unwieldy systems — times when it seemed that rather than the system working for us, we were working for the system (never a desirable state of affairs).

The Klingon System

Once about a time, I worked for a Fortune-500 company that chose to implement “Klingon” as its HRIS database.  OK — that wasn’t really its name Continue reading

An Unexpected Lesson (or two) from “Lombardi”

The other day, I had the good fortune to take in the Broadway play, Lombardi, about the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi.

The legendary coach, Vince Lombardi

Told with humor and emotion, the show was terrific, the cast was uniformly outstanding, and the production (as theatre in the round), was intimate and engaging.  (Note: It is only running through March — so if you’re a fan of the NFL, or of great leaders, definitely make plans to see the show, if you’re anywhere near New York).

Growing up as a sports fan, I had read a number of books about Lombardi and the great Packer teams of the 1960’s.  My brother, who accompanied me, played football for four years in high school — so we were both looking forward to the show and even got in a football-and-red-meat frame of mind with a steak dinner at Ben Benson’s Steakhouse in the Theatre District before the show. Continue reading

Managing By Cliches, Part 1: Knowing When To Cut Your Losses

Picture of hole cards in a game of texas hold 'em

Knowing "when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em" makes all the difference in "not throwing good money after bad"

I came to the realization not long ago that managing my work by cliches wouldn’t be a bad idea.  I mean, cliches might be considered trite, boring, and unexceptional — but they became cliches because there is truth in them, right?  I mean, as odd a saying as it might be, can any mature adult really disagree with the notion that “you can’t have your cake and eat it, too”?

With this in mind, I thought that I’d begin a short series of posts exploring the work-related implications of a number of cliches.  Today’s post focuses on the notion of knowing when to cut your losses (or not “throwing good money after bad,” or, in the words of the Kenny Rogers song, “knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em”).

Cutting Your Losses: Backstory

As with most people, I have a wealth of answers to the standard job interview question, “Tell me about a failure you experienced — and what did you learn from it.” (LOL – or “laughing out loud,” as they say in the texting world).  This particular case involved building a database to manage the HR side of my former company’s frequent acquisition activity.

Continue reading