The key question for managers to ask themselves – How do employees feel after they interact with you?

Posted: October 29th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: posts | Tags: , | No Comments »

There was an excellent nugget of management advice in Bob Sutton’s Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders podcast, What Great Leaders Do. Dr. Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering in the Stanford Engineering School, referenced work by Rob Cross, from the University of Virginia. Apparently, the findings were derrived from a network analysis study done for a large management consulting firm. (If you want to listen to the section, it starts around 43:25 in the podcast.)

In this study, Cross included a question in the study that had interesting results:

After you talk with your boss, do you have more or less energy?

When analyzing the results from the study and subsequent studies using the same question, they found a strong correlation between whether the employee was promoted, management’s performance evaluation of the employee (whether the employee was promoted/fired) and whether the manager is surrounded with a network of energized innovators.

Therefore, Dr. Sutton suggests that the most salient question for managers to ask themselves is:

How do people feel after they interact with you?

I think this is a great way of boiling down what can be difficult to evaluate for yourself (how am I doing as a manger) into something straightforward to focus on. In your interactions with your employees, energize them. Empower them.

I think we all know from personal experience how difficult it is when you have a manager that drains your energy. Where interacting with them sucks your enthusiasm for the job away. It’s not a good experience for either party.

Make sure you’re energizing & empowering your employees each and every time you interact with them.

(More on this from Bob Sutton here)

Greetings from Ireland…

Posted: November 23rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: posts | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

When I last posted in June, we were heading to Europe to continue growing the FanGamb product. I’ve taken a bit of a vacation from blogging while I’ve been focusing on all that’s been involved in this.

I moved to Dublin in July and we’ve been rapidly rebuilding our team and the product. I’ll be able to go into more detail on the changes when the product re-launches in the near future, but things are going well. We’re having a great time in Ireland and have really enjoyed working abroad.

Since I can’t yet delve into the details of the move and transition, or the next version of the product, I’ll be focusing for a while on what it’s like to working abroad, and also some topics that I haven’t given as much “airtime” to in the past. Most of my posts to this point have been on various startup/entrepreneurship topics, which I’ve enjoyed writing about. A large part of my job, though, as VP of Product & Technology for Three Screen Games, has me deeply involved with both the technical product development and customer-centric product management efforts. These are petty broad areas and I look forward to exploring them further through future blog posts.

And of course, an update to the seed stage accelerator list is overdue – it’s amazing how this space has continued to grow in the last few months.

Anyway, it’s good to be back.

Exciting FanGamb Changes, Moving to Europe

Posted: June 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: posts | Tags: , , | 6 Comments »

It’s been just over the one year mark since we started Three Screen Games and FanGamb. I left IBM on May 1, 2009, and we began the DreamIt Ventures program on May 18, 2009. It”s been an interesting and crazy year. We’ve learned much about what it takes to make a successful social game, and a successful startup. And we’ve positioned ourselves and our team for much greater success.

Part of what we’ve learned over the last year is that the industry of social gaming is still in its infancy and there is a host of new models to be experimented with. We have some exciting things in the works and as a result, will be moving to Europe later this summer to continue developing our product and business. We can’t yet share all of the details on why we’re making the move, but I’ll share more as soon as I”m able.

It’s certainly quite a change and not one that we expected a year ago, but we’re confident that it’s the best direction for our company and are extremely excited about the next phase of FanGamb. Personally, it should prove to be a valuable experience, working internationally and experiencing the European technology and startup communities.

So, if we”re moving to your part of the globe, or you’re just passing through, give us a shout! We’re very much looking forward to meeting new folks and saying hello. For everyone else, I’ll share the experiences through the blog and photos on my Flickr account.

Motivation – The Startup Advantage

Posted: June 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: posts | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

If you work with people, at some point you’re going to need to motivate them to do something you want. We’re not talking anything malicious, just getting stuff done. For most things, that’s always been the carrot and stick approach – if you do what I ask well, I’ll give you a carrot. If not, I’ll whack you with my stick. In essence – if you reward something, you’ll get more of what you want. If you punish something, you’ll get less.

And the bigger the carrot and stick, clearly, it would seem to make sense that the better the motivation derived from them. Because this system is ingrained in us, we see this everywhere.


To escape the status quo, everyone who works with or manages individuals should watch the below video, capturing the highlights of Dan Pink’s book Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. (Not only is it extremely interesting, it’s also a really great lesson in using whiteboards to make engaging videos :) ) Pink also gave a TED talk last summer.

Hopefully, you took a moment to watch it. For those of you that are reading on, here’s a quick summary:

When tasks call for cognitive skill over mechanical skill, larger rewards result in poorer performance. Pay people enough to take money off the table. And, emphasize the three key factors that lead to better performance and personal satisfaction:

1) Autonomy – self-directed
2) Mastery – getting better at their craft
3) Purpose – making a contribution

I found the video extremely interesting. While the carrot and stick approach is so intuitive to us, when you really stop to think about the tasks that we’re motivated to work on, Pink’s points hit home.

When you’re toiling away, in the bowels of some huge project, working on some small part that isn’t going to significantly make or break the big picture, are you really driven to do your best work? Compared with, if you are the “CEO of your job”, making a clear contribution.

This is one key reason why most corporations are at such a huge disadvantage to most startups when it comes to innovation. Having huge amounts of money and resources are fantastic, until you’re trying to get top talent to apply it to new problems. The main corporate driver is to maximize profit, and you work on small chunks of something larger that the end customer really doesn’t care about. Startups facilitate their people in maximizing purpose, making contributions. And if they don’t, they should be – startups aren’t just vehicles to accomplish the founders’ purpose. Startups are an opportunity for everyone on the team to work towards achieving something, a collective victory.

Also, since startups are one of the few places that have the capability to go against the status quo, to implement processes that would make corporate managers shiver in their cubicles, they’re also well setup to allow individuals the other two key factors – autonomy, to decide how best to achieve the task at hand, and mastery, to provide an opportunity to get better at their craft.

The Mark Pincus “Be the CEO of your job” example is a good illustration of this. So is the example that Pink uses in the video about Atlassian and their “FedEx Days”. Who knew how productive one day could be if you just gave your employees free reign to decide how best to make a contribution?

Jeff Atwood has a great post on how he’s applying these principles at Stack Overflow. Are you maximizing purpose and leaving your carrots and sticks outside? Or is your motivation based purely on dollars and thus is an ineffective sham? What’s working for you?

Thoughts on Current State of Entrepreneurship at Penn State

Posted: June 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: posts | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments »

Recently, an alum interested in supporting entrepreneurship at Penn State asked me for my thoughts on the current state of support for student entrepreneurs. Given my involvement with the Lion Launch Pad, an accelerator for students at Penn State that I co-founded, this is a topic that I have a strong interest in.

I have a much longer post on ideas to help support student entrepreneurs that I’m working on, but for today, I’m just going to stick to the current state.

I wrote a summary of the various groups, individuals, and programs at Penn State that I was aware of, which are involved in supporting student entrepreneurship in various ways. That document is embedded below.

If you’re an entrepreneur at Penn State, or even just someone interested in entrepreneurship, I would be very interested in your feedback and thoughts on the programs listed, along with my thoughts.

From the document:

Key Strengths:

  • There are a number of programs on and around Penn State’s campus that are dedicated to helping students explore and succeed in entrepreneurship. These include both academic and business resources. If students know where to look, there is generally something that can help get them moving in the right direction.
  • Penn State has both a history of entrepreneurial success and some recent entrepreneurship success stories. This is in addition to a fantastic resource in its alumni base, spread out across all areas of business.
  • The past several years have seen huge growth in programs for supporting early- stage entrepreneurs. No longer is there a gaping void between idea and venture capital funding. Entrepreneurs have a number of programs beyond Penn State to turn to and benefit from.

Key Opportunities:

  • Despite the large number of available programs, unfortunately, the entrepreneurship landscape is heavily fragmented and resources are not integrated. Consequently, students interested in entrepreneurship use their time looking for the necessary resources rather than taking advantage of them.
  • There is an issue of general awareness. Without high profile recent wins, there is a limited number of students who consider entrepreneurship as a viable career path or application of their ideas/creativity. Furthermore, students are seldom aware of academic entrepreneurship programs beyond their college/major.
  • The third section of this document provides a highlights of the recent growth in external programs for early-stage entrepreneurs – there is a large opportunity to align with these programs and incorporate their best practices.
  • Penn State’s alumni base is a tremendous resource, yet, unfortunately, it is difficult to access and leverage. There is an opportunity to structure this resource more effectively, thus benefiting all Penn State entrepreneurs.

Existing Programs

For details about the existing programs, along with some thoughts as far as how to improve upon the current state, please read the full document and leave your thoughts and reactions in the comments!

You can download the document in PDF format.

10 Things I’ve Learned About Blogging This Year

Posted: June 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: posts | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

BloggingI started blogging again this January. So far, so good. I’m enjoying where my blog is going and, based on traffic and subscriber metrics, you readers out there seem to be enjoying the material and coming back.

I’m certainly not an expert on blogging and have a lot of learning (through testing and trying things) to do. But someone recently asked me for my thoughts on what I’ve learned about blogging so far. As someone who has tried blogging a couple of times in the past, I thought maybe my thoughts on what I’ve learned from my recent attempt might be interesting.

So, here are 10 things I’ve learned about blogging so far in my exploration. How does this align with what works for you?

  1. Don’t worry about making posts perfect. Just write something. A little trick I like is to go back in the archives of any blog on the web. Go back to the very start and take a look at the posts when that blogger started out. You’ll find a vast difference between the post quality then vs now. Its a process, a journey – everyone figures out what works for them somewhere along the way. You will, too, with time.
  2. You’ll have times / days when you’re really into the blogging thing and others when you’re too busy/etc. Use those periods of motivation to write a bunch of posts and schedule them out into the future to keep a consistent schedule. Break up long posts into series / multi-day posts. You can get a lot of mileage out of large encompassing topics and multi-part discussions.
  3. Let your audience guide you. Some people use Twitter to “trial balloon” topics, by seeing how people react to specific thoughts they’re considering writing posts about. Whether you do something that formal or not, pay attention to what posts really engage your audience. Write more of them.
  4. Pay attention to what you enjoy writing about. After all, if you don’t enjoy it, it will become a chore and you’ll either stop all together or stop being authentic.
  5. Throw out the rules. Your blog should be an exploration of different topics that interest you. Don’t let it get too dry or predictable – try out new things and mix it up a bit. Again, you don’t want it to become a chore – you want it to remain fresh and interesting to you personally.
  6. Lists work really well. Make a list of things and expand on it. My list of startup accelerator programs is my most popular, most discussed post.
  7. Find yourself giving similar advice to folks? Did a friend ask a particularly insightful question? These kinds of conversations prove extremely fruitful for posts, I think. Start to notice what you’re talking about, and let that become part of your bogging discourse. Jot down a list of ideas for topics. Add to this as you have ideas. I use EverNote to collect links, data, etc for future posts.
  8. Tweet your posts when people are awake to read them. There have been some interesting posts about when the optimal time to tweet your posts is. Late morning / early afternoon Pacific time seems to be the most common response. Regardless, it makes sense to let people know you’ve written something when they’re awake to see it. Restrain yourself and queue up the tweet to go out later. (By the way, this is implied, but it’s worth mentioning: Use Twitter to promote your posts and get thoughts. Most of my traffic comes from Twitter now vs. RSS feedreaders.)
  9. Start by taking an article/other post and link to it and give your reaction. Good way to get into a post. And take a point of view. Middle of the road, generic posts don’t draw any interest or comments. The blog should be your side of a conversation that you care about.
  10. Have fun. Trite, but true – if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t post. :)

Anyway, those are some things that have worked for me. What works for you?