Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Old Perfessor

I’ve been going through a bunch of old baseball cards, trying to figure out their values.  The exercise is generating a wave of nostalgia as old names, faces, and statistics surface.  There are an awful lot of cards here from the N.Y. Mets in particular, and of course no discussion of the Mutts (as I lovingly call them) would be complete without mentioning one Charles Dillon Stengel, their first manager.

English: New York Yankees manager Casey Stenge...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Casey Stengel was a decent ballplayer himself (batting .284 over 14 major league seasons) but he was a Hall of Fame manager. We can argue about whether any idiot could have made it to Cooperstown managing the Yankees during the 1949-1960 dynasty era but one can’t deny the achievement of winning the World Series five times in a row.  After managing the best team in baseball, Casey did a 180 and went to manage the worst.  The 1962 Mets were just as world-class as the Yankees except they were a world-class comedy act.

It’s 50 years later and Casey probably isn’t the most-quoted Mets manager.  That would probably Yogi Berra, although most of his famous quotes come from his days as a player, not a manager.  Casey was renowned for his monologues on baseball history and tactics which became known as “Stengelese” to sportswriters. This was also why he was called  “The Old Professor”.

I think we in business can learn a lot from a few of Casey’s key quotes.  The first one is one of my favorites:

Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.

This is probably the biggest challenges managers – baseball and otherwise – face.  In fact, I think this is the entire nature of the managerial job in a single phrase.  Next, a lesson on social media and customer service:

The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided.

In other words, reputation management is something we can’t ignore.  Today it’s almost impossible to keep those two segments apart so controlling the message and minimizing the first segment is critical.

You gotta lose ’em some of the time. When you do, lose ’em right.

The Yankees were always spoken of as a “classy”organization.  I’ve always felt that a big measure in business is your reputation among people who choose not to buy from you at a particular point but who come back and do business with you later.  If you “lose ’em right” there will be quite a few of those, probably more than you’re doing business with at any particular time.  It also speaks to group morale and how we as managers keep our team focused.

Finally, a reminder to any of us who have ever taken a paycheck for managing:

Managing is getting paid for home runs that someone else hits.

A big determinant of our success as managers is our ability to keep those home-run hitters happy and productive.  We need to appreciate that the folks who are actually doing the grunt work are the ones who make the organization hum, not the folks in the big offices.  I’ve never seen an owner win a pennant without players and I never saw a CEO make a dime without people to support him in some way.

The Old Perfessor’s lessons aren’t so old, are they?

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Garlic And Customers

Friday means time for our Foodie Fun screed.  Today, I want to talk about garlic.

An Ikea garlic press, with pressed garlic.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’ve probably cooked with it and I’m dead certain you’ve eaten it.  One thing you’ve probably noticed as you’ve done either is that raw garlic can have an unpleasant, sharp, hotness about it.  If you turn up the heat and try to cook that out and aren’t careful you can burn it, which makes it incredibly bitter.  Even when you cook it carefully, if you do your prep work on the garlic too early and it sits, the flavor can be off.  Who thought something so small could be so difficult!

The root of the problem is something called allicin, which is a compound that forms when you cut into the cells and continues to build as it sits.  The way to handle the build-up is either not to let this happen in the first place, giving it immediate attention by cooking it or to put the chopped garlic into something acidic such as lemon juice to convert the allicin into a few more mellow compounds with long, hard to spell names that also form when the garlic is cooked (they’re sulfides for you chemists out there).  You’d do that for a salad dressing, for example, where you’re using raw garlic.

I realize this is a business blog so you’re probably wondering what the heck garlic has to do with your business.  What came to my mind was how we deal with other people – customers, clients, co-workers, and bosses.  Once something injures them – as when we cut garlic – the defense mechanisms spring into action – just as garlic forms allicin.  The longer we delay dealing with the situation, the more of what we don’t want builds up – allicin or anger, in the case of the humans.  We need to handle problems quickly, either by resolving them or by putting them into a context that allows us the time we need to formulate the solution.  Reacting with intense heat – burning the garlic – usually doesn’t work too well.  In the case of the aforementioned groups, letting them know you hear and understand their situation and that you are working to resolve it is the equivalent of the gentle heat needed to turn raw garlic into something fragrant and delicious.

I don’t advise mixing my metaphors here –  dealing with a teed-off person face to face after eating garlic isn’t going to help matters.  However, the lesson we can learn from the plant just might!

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Locking Your Door

There are many homes in the town where I live that aren’t locked up when nobody is home.

English: A candidate icon for Portal:Computer ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While in some ways it’s a nice relic of a time and society long gone, I’ve always wondered how people were able to file insurance claims or police reports if they got robbed. After all, they did nothing to protect their privacy other than trusting in the good will of the surrounding community.
Unfortunately, the world out there contains a fair number of evil-doers, and that includes the digital world of the web. Most of us know that, I’m afraid, but I’ve never really been sure how many of us take action to prevent those bad guys from entering our digital homes. Oh sure, maybe we use the pre-installed anti-virus stuff (hopefully with up to the minute virus definitions) but how many people are being proactive about keeping their data doors locked?
The folks from Microsoft released a study yesterday and the answer was surprising, at least to me. You can read the executive summary of and view a slide show about the findings here.  The big ones:

  • Forty-five percent said they feel they have little or no control over the personal information companies gather about them while they are browsing the Web or using online services, such as photo- sharing, travel or gaming.
  • Forty percent said they feel they ”mostly” or “totally understand” how to protect their online privacy.
  • An equal number of people (39 percent) said they are turning to friends and family, as well as privacy statements, as their top source for privacy information.
  • Almost a third of those surveyed (32 percent) said they always consider a company’s privacy reputation, track records, and policies when choosing which websites to visit or services to use.

OK, a lot of people get that they’re being tracked and not always for benign purposes, so surprisingly (to me, at lesast) they’re taking action. When asked what, if any, actions respondents had taken to protect the privacy of their online data, the vast majority (85%) report that they had actively taken steps. The most common action reported was the deletion of cookies that may be used to record and track online behavior.

I think this is good news –  locked doors keep the crime rate in our little digital town down.  Of course, it also means that any of us who want to be invited in to consumers’ cookie caches need to play nice.  That means have a clear privacy policy, explain how and if we’re using the data, and make sure that users read and understand what we’re doing.  Otherwise, we’ll have to break in to steal that information, and I think we all know where that can land us.  Regulatory bodies worldwide are already considering harsh and cumbersome rules and we know that they’ll probably get something wrong.  It’s on the industry to get ahead of this and to behave, encouraging people to take charge – lock their doors – and make it simple to do so.

Are you locking your data door?  Who are you letting in and why?

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