How To Lead A More Effective Team By Disagreeing

It’s great when people agree with you, isn’t it? It’s a wonderful validation – of your thoughts, your ideas… of you. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Yes, it’s great when people agree with you.

Except it doesn’t move the needle. Especially when the agreement comes too early.

There’s a great scene in the old TV series The West Wing. Leo McGarry is the Chief of Staff to liberal Democratic president Jed Bartlet. In this scene, Leo is offering a job to wickedly smart conservative Republican Ainsley Hayes. Ainsley is confused as to why a liberal president would want a conservative Republican working in the White House. Leo then says a line that I think should be committed to memory by every leader at every level:

“The president likes smart people who disagree with him.”

If you’re a leader, substitute your name for “the president” (unless you happen to be the president, in which case you should probably still substitute your name, because referring to yourself by your title is stupid and pretentious). Let’s just make it simple. Here’s the new sentence:

“I like smart people who disagree with me.”

I want you to make that one of your primary leadership mantras. “I like smart people who disagree with me.”

If you want to build your muscles, you do resistance training. The resistance can be in the form of weights, elastic bands, or your own body (for example, when doing pushups and pull-ups). Resistance makes muscles stronger.

Even the best ideas benefit from resistance. This resistance comes in the form of pushback by a smart person. Even if the smart person is just playing devil’s advocate, the challenge serves a purpose. When an idea is challenged, one of three things will happen:

The idea will be reinforced.
The idea will be reevaluated.
The idea will be abandoned.

Any of these three is preferable to the idea being blindly accepted by a team that’s either too intimidated to question, or too disengaged to care.

When an idea is challenged, it is examined. This examination will find one of three things about the idea, which correspond to the list above:

The idea is sound.
The idea is flawed but can be improved/fixed.
The idea is flawed, and cannot be improved. (Even in this case, though, the “bad” idea could be the spark that leads to the “good” idea.)
Agreement is a good thing, but not when it’s automatic; not when it’s a rubber stamp.
Agreement is a good thing when it comes at the end of smart debate. Agreement is a good thing when it rises out of disagreement.

‘Official’ Blockchain Standards for 2019

The succinct statement details the government’s pending official definitions of blockchain regulations. Publicly advertised rationales may appear comparatively innocuous or indeed prudent yet such official justifications are an obvious attempt at the curtailing rather than development of decentralized technologies. Even rudimentary, preliminary investigation of the statements highlight what may generously be labelled as contentious logic.

“China is set to publish official standards on blockchain technology next year, with one official telling Xinhua they will “give the industry some guidance” on the technology.

Li Ming, a director of the Blockchain Research Office under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), told Xinhua’s Economic Information Daily that work had already begun on forming the standards. Li, however, made clear that while standards would provide some guidance to blockchain developers, authorities did not expect official guidelines to “quickly advance the development” of the industry. Despite efforts to clamp down on the financial risks associated with cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings, the Chinese government has looked to show its support for blockchain development. China was the world’s biggest source of blockchain patents in 2017, while last September saw a blockchain research center opened by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, a research institution under the MIIT.

The new standards being drawn up by the Blockchain Research Office will include guidelines for the application of blockchain in terms of business, information security and reliability, Li told Xinhua. Despite the exciting potential surrounding blockchain, the technology remains in a stage of infancy. Without clear regulations in place, security problems have caused nearly 2.9 billion US dollars’ worth of losses worldwide between 2011 and 2018, according to Baimaohui Security Research Center, a specialist in online security that has worked with Alibaba and Huawei.

The last two years alone have seen 1.9 billion US dollars lost because of blockchain security issues, according to Baimaohui. Not only are China’s leading tech firms and banks applying for blockchain patents and researching how the technology can improve services and boost public trust in supply chains, China’s Ministry of Public Security is also studying how to implement the technology in terms of data storage. Earlier this week, data from China’s Intellectual Property Office showed that a patent application had been filed by the Ministry of Public Security for a blockchain system that would securely and transparently save unalterable data to the cloud. Such a system could be used and shared by police across the country, allowing data to be shared rapidly between various agencies. ( CGTN )”

To begin let’s not forget the differentiation of decentralized capacities versus centralized services. A regionally authorized service naturally adheres to geographically specific governing legislation. For example an international fast food chain may, in some European countries, sell alcoholic beverages over the counter while the same operator is typically not permitted to do so in North America. This variation is possible because of service use being localized. To have ‘official’ guidelines of decentralized capabilities would be to imagine access and or use of decentralized services being regional, or under the same legislation. It may not. It is decentralized.

Secondly it has been calculated by the American Government Accountability Office ( GAO ), that the 2008 financial crises cost $12.8 trillion dollars. This further omits subsequent bailouts, unemployment and broad reaching detrimental consequences suffered by millions.

The causes of the 2008 financial crises have been largely attributed to deregulation, securitization (double dipping and bundling), sales of subprime mortgages and the Federal Reserve’s raising rates on subprime borrowers. In short, actions conducted by government, banking and financial industries.

By contrast for one set of activities to lose under $3 billion over seven years is minuscule. Regardless of political stance, decentralized technologies offer the capacity for individual’s independently enacting personal choice. Personal loss resulting from bad decision making, such as ICO investment, is contained. Moreover it is a conscious participation where any individual may only invest or access a set amount, that which is in their immediate control. Compare this ceiling to unilateral extents achievable by governments and corporations.

To incorporate decentralized technology into one regional government’s operational guidelines may prove nothing more than redundant methods of double accounting. Used by individuals whom may collectively be under no single government’s purview, concurrently decentralized technological capacity must itself be equally discovered.

How Prepared Is Your Board for Cyberspace?

While cyber security is an important issue for boards, it has not always been top of mind. Because a major corporation like Equifax had a breach in its IT system, many companies are rethinking how to secure cyber security.

Boards around the world are examining the Equifax case to determine how to best secure their organizations valuable information stored in their IT systems. So who is responsible? Since the CEO has stepped down, it is apparent he was being held accountable. However, where was the board of directors?

In today’s world of cyberspace, corporate boards have to think about more than governance, CEO compensation and strategy.

As it stands, it is in the board’s best interest to ensure the company is not exposed to debilitating risks. Companies have workplace safety standards and sexual harassment policies to mitigate lawsuits. They even have disaster recovery plans in the event of natural disasters or occurrences like the World Trade Center plane crash. These plans and policies are in place to keep business running smoothly and perpetually. It protects customers and employees.

However, with sophisticated computer hackers around the world, it is no news that computer systems and valuable information can be breached and stolen. There are hackers who breach computer systems as a business. They ask for ransom in the amount of tens of millions of dollars. If it is not paid, they threaten to release the companies secure information, which sometimes could contain private email communication from top executives.

While many enterprises as large as Equifax may have disaster recovery plans for their physical operation, they may not have the same plan for cyber breach. The disaster recovery policies would include immediate action steps based on size of the breach, who made the breach, what information was taken, were company smart phones breached, what to communicate to employees, the public and shareholders as well as other important factors.

In some cases, it may make sense to inform the FBI. In other cases, it may be better to pay the ransom. The challenge with calling the FBI is that the hackers could be in countries like Russia. In Russia, the FBI may not pursue them. Why? Because the Russian government is always looking for good hackers. If the FBI exposes the hackers in Russia, the government may hire them, which can present long-term problems for the US. When it comes to paying ransom, it’s tricky. If you pay, they may hack you again as though you are an ATM machine. If you don’t pay, they may expose confidential information. These are also the kinds of challenges that directly involve the board.

What’s most important is that the board is talking about cyber security before there is a problem. There should be constant audits of the cyber security system to mitigate any risks. In addition, as a board, they should hold the CEO accountable for that security. Furthermore, there should be clear policies to guide the board and the executive team on how to handle the various moving parts in a delicate situation. Boards with disaster recovery plans and high accountability with the CEO are more likely to be forward thinking about cyber vulnerabilities and proactive about updating the security system.

One Bad Decision Can Cost a Hospital Millions

Things can go wrong without the right team in place

I recently read an article that was attempting to explain the cost overrun experienced by a hospital during the launch of their new EMR. The article was clear on what caused the overrun but failed to communicate why the decision was made that created the cause.

In many hospitals, emotions can run high fueled by attitudes of resistance to change. The pressures and stress associated with go-live can be a challenge to manage; however, allowing those forces to affect decision-making can have lasting adverse financial effects. When all planning, budget, constraints, and common sense that should be applied are set aside, you can almost always expect the worse. It may feel like appeasement is the right thing to do to relieve the stress, but it may not be the best thing. Sticking to the plan, and staying within the budget should always be the guiding factor that drives decisions even when the pressure is great.

It’s unfortunate, but some decisions are based on problems that may not exist at all but are only perceived based on excessive negativity. Having an experienced team in place that can help make decisions based on fact is vital.

Negotiating Skills Do Pay Off!

When doing logistics, treat it like it’s your money

Getting one of the best hotels in the city to give you the lowest rate with great concessions is excellent. In this agreement, the hotel managed the flight itineraries and provided transportation to and from the airport. They supplied one large conference room for orientation and then surprised us in the contract with a complimentary welcome reception for 120 guests with heavy hors-d’oeuvres. Provided two fifty-six seat luxury buses and several shuttles to transport consultants to the training facility and back. They also agreed to use their shuttles to take those consultants that worked within two miles of hotel to work and back each day. Everything listed above was in the price of the rooms $105.09 with tax. Note, this took a huge burden off the consulting firm, and the savings were passed on to the hospital.

When a hospital hires a consulting firm, that consulting company should put forth all effort to save money, not spend money. Creating a positive cost variance (CV) indicates the consulting firm is in fact on your team. Negotiating for the best price is good, but getting the most value for the lowest price is better.

Consultants Saved the Day!

Good consultants can mean the difference between success and failure

I sat in an auditorium with over three hundred consultants when the speaker invited to the podium the senior implementation project manager. “Dr. So and So has overseen the EMR implementation of nineteen plus hospitals please give him a round of applause.” Wow, nineteen projects that’s impressive. However, it turned out to be a challenging project in many areas but mainly with significant workflow issues.

Although it is confusing why this happens, it is clear the leadership was out of touch. Seeking someone with excellent qualifications can be attractive for any hospital, but having someone with the insight that can eliminate problems before they exist is priceless. I am not sure why this project manager didn’t know this.

Fortunate for everyone the consultants came with the experience and knowledge necessary to handle these types of issues. Jumping into action and based on past experiences they began the process of educating the staff and leadership on what works. This go-live would have never survived without the tremendous efforts of the consultant.

The Worst Cashflow Mistakes Small Business Owners Make

The worst cash flow mistakes a small business owner can make can be counted on one hand. They have one thing in common, and that’s about failing to follow the money. They’re about keeping your eye on the prize, and we go through them here, ending with advice about how to track your own company money using expense management software for small businesses…

Failing to think before you splurge. Great! You’ve started a business. You’re on the road to fame and fortune, and now’s the time to invest in an expensive suit and a new car, isn’t it? No, in short, it isn’t. This is exactly the time NOT to commit money – yours of the company’s – to anything you don’t need. So there’s the first lesson. Understand the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. To succeed in business you need a phone, but the Armani suit can wait…

Expecting the best. This is about your financial planning. Understand that you’re not going to be a millionaire in the first year. On the contrary, you’ll be doing well if you can afford to pay yourself anything like a salary in Year One. If you overestimate the number of units you can sell, or the clients you can get to come on board, then revenue will be lower than you predict, and you may find yourself overstretched with any finance package you’ve put in place.

Offering credit. Poor paying suppliers can cripple small businesses. If you’re made to wait for payment, that’s like offering them an interest-free loan, and you shouldn’t do it. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask for payment up front, so long as you’re ready to honour your commitment. After all, you wouldn’t expect the local supermarket to give you a month or more’s credit on your grocery shop (though if you’re a supplier to them, the boot would be on the other foot). In general, large organisations are slower payers, and also have complex internal procedures in place about how and when payments can be made. Better to work with smaller companies, where you have direct access to the person with the power to pay.

Being cash poor. If you’ve made careful and conservative cash flow forecasts in the early days of your business, everything’s fine, so long as cash moves as you’d predicted. But what happens if it doesn’t? If you have no cash cushion you could be in trouble. Try to have a couple of months-worth of cash in the bank so you could carry on if you had no income at all. It’ll help you sleep easier, too.

Not making an unpaid finance assistant work for them. Bet that caught your attention didn’t it? This is not about the kind of modern slavery that has people working for nothing, but it’s about technology. It’s about arming yourself with good quality business expense management software for small businesses and being disciplined in its use. In the early days of your business you need to be especially careful with money, because having little of it generally sharpens the focus in the need to be a good money manager. In later years, when you’ve earned a wedge, there’s no reason to take your foot off the control pedal. Keep a tight rein on finance, and you’ll be rewarded with better dividends in the future. Selection of the right small business expense management software will enable you to keep track of expenses very easily, but more importantly, it will allow you to interrogate the data, and show you how effectively you’re managing spending and cashflow – and show where improvements can be made. And picking the right package means it’ll offer excellent value for money, because the savings you make by using it are probably going to be more than the cost of investing in it in the first place.