“Organise yourself or the secrets of a good subordinate”

Escrito el 1 Enero 2012 por Alberto Andreu en Uncategorized

Nearly 23 years ago I landed in the workplace. I clearly remember my interview with the person who was to be my boss. “What do you expect from me?” I asked, looking for a definition of my work objectives. His reply was blunt and became my first piece of professional advice. “I expect everything. Don’t think we will tell you how or when to do things. You know why you have come here… organise yourself.”

Organise yourself”. It was then I realised that neither my boss nor I knew with exact certainly what my role would be within the company. He had a general idea of the company’s needs and what he hoped to achieve with me; or someone like me. For my part, I also had a vague notion of why they had hired me, but I didn’t know how to achieve it or what results they were expecting of me.

From that moment forward, I had two choices: either wait until others wrote that page of my life, asking for specific instructions for one thing or another; or the other option, I would be the writer and author of this chapter in my life. I chose the second option.

How many professionals have been in a similar situation? Robert E. Kelley saw it clearly in 1989 when he wrote an article entitled “In Praise of Followers” in the Harvard Business Review. Clearly, not many managers know what to do with “the new guy”, and not many subordinates know how to proceed when they join a new company, when they change department, when a new, unexpected, boss is named, or when they face those mergers and acquisition that are so frequent nowadays.

What then is the secret of a good subordinate? Here, just like everything, there are no simple formulas, although there are some general pointers. Kelley gave us some very good ones.

1.      Everyone, in the majority of cases, acts as a team leader and someone’s subordinate at the same time. This is where we get our first clue: managers and employees are positions, not people. That means both manager and subordinate have their own sphere of responsibility where they should define what to do, how to do it and for how much. The big difference between one and the other, normally, must be in the ability of each one to reach the final level of decision-making. This means that, quite probably, a subordinate cannot go on to close a certain project with the president, but it is clear that not all projects end up on the table of the chief executive. There are, therefore, always areas of appropriate responsibility.

2.      Self-management is another basic skill of a good subordinate, the best way to express “standing on your own two feet”. I remember on one occasion, a good friend snapped at his boss: “I don’t need you for anything, only that you sign my holiday requests”. That, maybe, goes a little far, but it is clear that self-management implies, quite simply, to prepare a project, develop it, close it and, if necessary, submit it for the boss’s approval. Each individual should be capable of deciding at which stage to seek approval: opening, developing or closing. This ability is also self-management.

I have always been slightly embarrassed for those subordinates seemingly incapable of doing anything without drawing attention to it in front of their bosses. In reality, their behaviour is due to one of these reasons: they don’t want to let the opportunity to show how much they are doing go unnoticed; they are trying to avoid taking responsibility for anything.

3.      Commitment is key to being a good subordinate. Kelley makes an interesting observation: ”many efficient subordinates consider their bosses to be fellow companions on a worthy crusade; when they suspect that their leader lacks commitment or has different motives, maybe they could withdraw their support: they change job or change boss”.  I still remember the words of a senior manager in the consulting industry: “When I got here, we all had the feeling that we were changing the world a little: that made it worthwhile and compensated for the 16 hour workdays. I decided to leave when I saw that my partners had plans that were more personal that organisational: it ceased to be worthwhile.”

4.      Competence is another decisive factor. Competence means knowing what the organisation needs and what the skills and abilities necessary to satisfy that need are. It also means not waiting until they give a certain course or certain directions before starting work. Additionally, competence shows a subordinate profile capable of sharing their know-how without hiding information from colleagues for one simple reason: they themselves are the deciding factor, for their professional ability, their creativity, their imagination, their capacity to solve problems, for their knowledge, adaptability and ability to reinvent themselves, and surprise others. Their works is there for whoever may need it.

5.      Bravery is another critical variable in a good subordinate. Years ago, I found a company in the communication sector that had focused on the “ability to say no”, raising it to a level of real value and making it a fundamental principle.  I was surprised. And I liked it. Applying this principle to the role of the subordinate, knowing how to say “no” means having to explain the reasoning behind your decisions, investigating the whys and wherefores, to be able to present objections to certain decisions, etc. But it also means being clear, and not undermining decisions agreed upon up front. If I disagree, I’ll say it, but if the decision is taken anyway I will back it completely.

That then is the secret to being a good subordinate: stand on your own two feet, through self-management, competence, commitment and bravery. That said, I believe there to be something even more fundamental. This is that our organisational behaviour should always be governed by self-respect and self-esteem.

Extracted from a post published in the daily paper “Diario 5 Días” May 11th, 2001

More post about Organizational Behaviour


Some weeks ago we finished the Organizational Behaviour course in the Master in Communication at the IE University, in Madrid.  Just to start this post, I will say clearly: I enjoy very much this group. I like their commitment; their views; their attitude; their wiliness to learn in every session…

In 15 sessions, we learn how to look at the organizations with a different view, understanding the formal structure, the informal structure, the people needs and the relevance of technology in current organization. We also talked about matters affecting individuals’ behaviour in organizations (leadership, management styles, motivation, interpersonal communication, teamwork, etc.), and matters affecting the way things are done in the company as such an organization (understanding organizations, link communications with formal structures…). So, we realized that organizational behaviour course was about this: understand the actions of individuals in organizations and find out how this influences the structure of the company. In other words, we define the roadmap to “survive” within the organizations.

But in these sessions we also talked about two relevant management “celebrities”: Steve Jobs (the founder of Apple) and… Yoda ( yes, Yoda, the Master of the Force). From Steve Jobs we learn his passion to follow his dream, his vision, his obsession for “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” From Yoda, we learned to understand “Power as a transformation tool”, power as a tool to change things joining people under the same goals, respecting the values and ethics. And from Yoda we also learn that power were not a tool to influence, or try to influence, in the distribution of benefits and damages within the organization.

 In summary, from both of them we learned how to avoid going into the dark side of the force.

So, thank you guys: “May the force be with you all”


Dirigir con Valor y con Valores (*)

Escrito el 7 Diciembre 2011 por Alberto Andreu en Varios

Me gusta la idea de combinar estas dos palabras cuando hablamos de liderazgo: valor y valores. En los tiempos que corren, no parece fácil dirigir con determinación y, al tiempo, no perder los valores. Nunca olvidaré esa escena de “la Guerra de las Galaxias” en la que Anakin Skywalker, a petición del Emperador, mata a sus antiguos compañeros jedis creyendo que así podría salvar de la muerte a su amada Padmé Amidala, lo que le lleva a caer irremediablemente en el lado oscuro de la fuerza. No nos engañemos: ahora que hay que salvar la cuenta de resultados, no es nada difícil caer en ese lado oscuro y mandar a paseo los valores. Por eso me gusta esa combinación.

Tener valor

Dirigir con valor es clave. Clave para fijar un rumbo y no apartarse de el; para tener la determinación necesaria para arriesgarse cuando toca; para seguir tu instinto cuando todos te hacen dudar; para no perderle el pulso al mercado. Pero sobre todo, el valor es clave para romper las inercias internas que habitan siempre en todas las organizaciones. Leyendo la biografía de Steve Jobs me han venido dos ideas para este post en lo que afecta al valor.

– La primera es el consejo que le da a Larry Page, co-fundador de Google, pocos meses antes de morir: “Decide qué es lo que Google quiere ser cuando crezca- le dijo-. “¿Cuáles son los cinco productos en los que quieres centrarte. Deshazte del resto porque te lastran. Están convirtiéndote en Microsoft”. Buen consejo: valor para “matar proyectos” y evitar lastres.

– La segunda idea es la descripción que se hace de una compañía como SONY, que teniendo todo en su mano para lanzar primero algo parecido al iPod (era líder en aparatos reproductores tipo walkman y tenía los derechos de los principales autores en su división SONY Music). En palabras de uno de los directivos de Universal “Steve era capaz de despedir a sus empleados si no había suficiente colaboración entre departamentos, mientras que los departamentos de SONY estaban en guerra unos con otros”. En la biografía se lee una frase lapidaria: “como cada departamento trataba de proteger sus propios intereses, la compañía en su conjunto nunca consiguió definir una dirección para crear un servicio completo e integrado” (de música).

Estas dos ideas me hicieron pensar que el valor es clave para enfrentarse al mercado. Pero es más importante, si cabe, tener valor para enfrentarse a la inercia, a lo que los anglosajones llaman “legacy”, a los costes históricos, a las situaciones enquistadas que poco a poco te van lastrando hasta atarte las manos a la espalda y te impiden avanzar en la línea que quieres.

Tener valores

Pero tan importante como el valor, son los valores. He dedicado buena parte de mi vida profesional a construir la identidad de grandes marcas y sus valores. Para ello, siempre he recurrido a un método sencillo en la práctica, pero enormemente complejo en su ejecución: definir la visión de la empresa; fijar un set de valores asociados a la marca; establecer unos principios para filtrar la toma de decisiones; y construir progresivamente políticas de gestión capaces de poner en practicas la visión, los valores y honrar a los principios.

Fácil. ¿Fácil? Y un carallo, que dirían los gallegos. No hay nada más complejo que definir una visión, unos valores y unos principios y, sobre todo, actuar conforme a ellos. O porque nunca se hace una definición precisa; o porque el proceso de trabajo es top down y no bottom up; o porque suelen aprovecharse los momentos de cambio para repensar en estas cosas (y ya decía Santa Teresa que “en Tiempos de turbación convienen no hacer mudanza”); o porque cuando vienen mal dadas los Tsunamis son de tal calibre que se llevan todo por delante. Sea por lo que fuera… ¡Qué difícil es dirigir por valores y principios! Ya lo decía Groucho Marx: ” estos son mis principios; si no le gustan, tengo otros”.

Y lo cierto es que ahora, más que nunca, se hace necesario dirigir por valores: si algo ha causado esta crisis es, precisamente, la ausencia de valores. El todo por la pasta, la ausencia de límites, la avaricia… no hay más que ver la película “Inside Jobs” para darse cuenta de esto.

Valor y valores

No sé muy bien con qué conclusión quiero cerrar este post. Más allá de un titulo más o menos brillante (y que, además, es prestado), lo que me ha parecido después de estos pocos párrafos es que, para mantener tus valores, lo que hay que tener es mucho valor. Y eso, por lo general, hay que demostrarlo dentro de tu casa (de tu organización, de tu universidad, de tu empresa) antes que puertas afuera. Para eso, me temo, sí que hay que tener valor.

(*) He tomado la expresion “Valor y Valores” del libro “Valor y Valores: ética para Directivos”  de Ulrich Hemel, publicado el 15 de abril de 2010 por Ediciones Deusto. El post no desarrolla el contenido de ese libro.

Más artículos sobre comportamiento organizacional, en mi blog AlbertoAndreu.com


¿De la Wikipedia a la “Wikiempresa”?

Escrito el 29 Noviembre 2011 por Elena Méndez Díaz-Villabella en Uncategorized

¿De la wikepedia a la wikiempresa?

Wiki Wiki, es un término de origen hawaiano que significa: rápido, y en términos tecnológicos es un software para la creación de contenido de forma colaborativa. Creo que este concepto de colaboración acabará llegando ¿por qué no? a los modelos organizativos y a la gestión de personas. Porque como se dice en una de las tesis del manifiesto cluetrain, “los hiperenlaces socaban las jerarquías”.

Las rígidas estructuras jerárquicas, son modelos agotados que chirrían con la realidad compleja e interconectada que vivimos. Donde las personas a veces están más orientadas a sus jefes, para mantener su “status quo”, que a las necesidades del mercado. Donde el control de mando y las luchas de poder, no aportan ningún valor para al negocio. No escuchan al mercado, sólo se escuchan ellos.

La empresa es una construcción metafísica, entre mercados y empleados que  cada vez se conocen y hablan más. ¿Cuáles son las  fronteras de las organizaciones un mundo tan hiperconectado?

¿Por qué no pensamos juntos? ¿qué organizaciones necesitan nuestros negocios hoy en día? ¿Podríamos definir Las “wikiempresas”? puestos a dejarse llevar por la imaginación, podrían identificar un modelo de empresas más participativas con estructuras en red más descentralizados y próximas a las personas. Donde haya verdaderas conversaciones. Donde se encuentran fórmulas para combinar la autonomía y la iniciativa, con una organización ágil y eficiente, que escuche al mercado.

El concepto de “co-creación”, que se basan en el principio de que la mayor fuente de innovación radica en la interacción y la participación, creo que será clave en los desarrollos futuros de los modelos de gestión. Los profesionales buscan empresas con las que puedan compartir valores comunes y ser escuchados.

Ahora las personas empiezan a definirse también por los contenidos que comparten, por las personas a las que siguen y las personas que les siguen en las redes. Del “pienso, luego existo” las personas estamos pasando al “comparto luego existo”.

Las empresas también pueden aplicarse el cuento del “mando luego existo” al “escucho luego existo”.


Cool head or warm heart? Managing from “the guts”

Escrito el 27 Noviembre 2011 por Alberto Andreu en Gestión Empresarial

Admit it: when it comes to making an important decision, how many times have you found yourself choosing between what your head tells you and what the heart wants, or balancing the cool head and the warm heart? Answer: more than once and maybe even several times a day. In a situation like this, thousands of arguments can be taken into account.

Cool head or warm heart? A cool head is something that has been recommended to us ever since we were children: don’t lose your temper, don’t be moody… Thinking with a cool head, you have to weigh carefully what would be won, what lost, what would you stop earning (personally and economically), the cost of the mortgage, the loan for the car, school for the children, or that beautiful professional career that could be put in danger if the heart shows through just a little.

However, it would be interesting to air the benefits of decisions taken with the heart in the heat of the moment. I’m not going to try and defend a type of “gut management”, but it does seem interesting to reflect upon when, where and why it is sometime appropriate to give free reign to the heart when making decisions. When?

1. When you are starting something from scratch. Since I have nothing to lose and everything to gain, I can allow myself the luxury of being a bit crazy, of taking certain decisions that, in other circumstances, I wouldn’t risk. Specifically, I am referring to the founding of “visionary” companies, those companies that more than one person thought would be brought back to earth with a bump right after being started.

People like William Hewlett and David Packard (HP): or David Filo and Jerry Yang (Yahoo); or Steve Jobs and Steve Wosniak (Apple); or Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google); or Enric Bernat (Chupa Chups); or Ramón Areces (El Corte Inglés) probably knew that logically what they were doing wasn’t the best way to proceed; but their gut feeling, heart, reaffirmed their intuition.

2. When you believe your principles are being violated. I am referring to both specific and abstract things such as friendship, ethics, dignity, professionalism, responsibility, honesty and exemplariness. And you can’t be dogmatic when it comes to these things, because each person and each culture has their own values. There are no absolutes and each person defines their own limits. Taking these differences into consideration, the heart can play a useful role. In addition, heart can tell us many things when it comes to staying true to decisions in times of doubt; in this sense, it is interesting to experience the strength of values and principles in finding personal peace.

3. When your team or employees are suffering injustice. This is normally one of the more difficult areas, because who would dare to put their hand in the fire to defend another person? At that point, even when the head has to be capable of measuring the consequences, I think the heart has to start to beat strongly. Don’t be fooled: by the extent that you don’t want to or don’t know how to defend those around you, know that sooner or later they will come for you. This was something said by Martin Niemöller (not Bertolt Brecht), the German protestant Pastor who in 1945, after talking about the passiveness of the world as the Nazi exterminated the communists, the social democrats, the union leaders and the Jews: “When they came for me, there was nobody left to protest”.

4. When you know that you have lost everything. Here, together with a great adrenaline rush, the heart plays a part in giving us epic stories. We could find some good examples from the business world, but on this occasion I prefer to use football.  I will always remember the 1999 Champions League Final, when Manchester United scoring two last-minute goals in injury time to win 2–1, after having trailed for most of the match. This victory came because the players felt their hearts rate rise to 180bpm, clenched their teeth, knew how to play through the pain, and gave it all or nothing. It was no place for the timid.

5. When a person’s professional or personal life is about to change definitively.  Vargas Llosa, in his book Conversations in the Cathedral, recounts a conversation between two friends who are reflecting on the moment in which their country, Peru, went to the dogs: “When was Peru screwed?” one of them asked the other.

That phrase, knowing the exact time something happened, reflects exactly what I am talking about. In our professional careers, we have all experienced moments that, looking back, have been moments that changed our lives: if I hadn’t kept my mouth shut, if I had done something or if I had known. I have my moments and you, dear reader, I am sure you have yours. What’s more, I am even fairly certain of the exact date when the five or six key moments in my professional life happened. And in nearly all of them, believe me, I allowed my gut feeling to have its say.


So that’s the thing. Cool head or warm heart. And it must be important, because at last Spielberg and Kubrick’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) has hit the cinemas. And even on the silver screen a robot boy wants to follow his heart, and if a robot wants a heart, why do we humans keep trying to hide ours?

Summary of a post published in the daily paper “Diario 5 Días” October 5th, 2001

More post about Organizational Behaviuour in my blog


10 Pistas sobre la Innovación en RRHH 2011

Escrito el 21 Noviembre 2011 por Elena Méndez Díaz-Villabella en La profesión de RRHH

A partir de las experiencias recibidas en la IX Edición de los Premios E&E  a la innovación en la gestión de personas, que se organizan con la Dirección técnica del IE Business School:

1)    Además de reestructuraciones y dimensionamiento los departamentos de RR.HH. están haciendo un esfuerzo para gestionar más y mejor el talento interno que se queda. Un 45% de las experiencias recibidas están relacionadas con esta prioridad. Identificar el valor interno para aprovecharlo mejor (Mapas de talento, evaluación y reconocimiento).

2)    Larga vida al aprendizaje y la formación. El aprendizaje se hace más social, aprovecha los entornos colaborativos 2.0. Aprovechar más y mejor la inteligencia colectiva, el networking, el debate y aprendizaje colaborativo. Se busca un aprendizaje más experiencial.

3)    Desempeño y reconocimiento: Alinear más y mejor los esfuerzos. Más conexión salarios-desempeño-productividad.

4)    Sistemas de gestión de personas: Buscando el equilibrio entre el control y la autonomía. El foco en el cliente pasa por el foco en el empleado.

5)    Participación e Integración: ¿Pueden permitirse las empresa que el liderazgo recaiga sólo en unos pocos? “co-liderazgo” “co-creación”.

6)    La RSC se mantiene más allá de las dificultades económicas. Su reto: la medición. Se vincula la ejecución de estos proyectos, a resultados y objetivos de negocio.

7)    Comunicación interna: Alinear lo que se dice con lo que se hace. Difundir los beneficios y fortalezas del cambio, la contribución de las personas. Aprendiendo a combinar los canales offline con los online.

8)    Conciliar, también es posible en entornos complejos: consultoría, servicios con amplios horarios o sectores con baja presencia femenina. Las empresas más avanzadas incorporan el enfoque de ciclo de vida del empleado para atender la demanda de diferentes combinaciones de familia, vida y trabajo.

9)    Selección, no se selecciona más, sino de otra forma. Cada vez más extensivo el uso de tecnologías 2.0. La distancia entre empresas y candidatos disminuye, menos intermediarios.

10) La tecnología: Herramientas 2.0, el 60% de las experiencias utilizan herramientas 2.0. Facilita el desarrollo de prácticas de RRHH más sociales y móviles. La dificultad no es tecnológica, es cultural.

Algo que acompaña a la innovación es el deseo de comunicarse y compartir sus avances. Toda persona u organización capaz de crear quiere compartir su obra y desea comunicarse con un grupo que lo comprenda. Por eso queremos darle las gracias a todas las empresas que han participado en estos premios por compartir sus avances con nosotros.

Más información en el Informe Técnico “Innovación en Recursos Humanos 2011” que hemos elaborado desde el IE Business School para los Premios E&E a la Gestión de Personas.


There is no such thing as friends at work… or is there?

Escrito el 13 Octubre 2011 por Alberto Andreu en Varios

How many times have you felt surprised or, putting it more strongly, betrayed at work by someone that you considered a friend? “I just couldn’t imagine it”. A friend told me some time ago: “I never thought that this person, someone I had helped out countless times, someone that relied on me in both his personal and professional life for more than 10 years… was incapable of defending me. I don’t understand it” -he repeated nearly in tears-.“He was my friend”.

My response was clear: “There are no friends at work,” I told him, “You can have a close, complicated or even trusting relationship. However, believe me: only when you leave the company will you know you your friends really are. If, after leaving, you maintain contact, trust and the relationship, then you were really friends”.

So, this is the question: Is it possible to care for, maintain and keep friendships in the workplace jungle? To answer this question let me give you two premises and two small pieces of advice.

Two Premises:

1.      Work is work. Personal interest and internal competition play an important part in working relationships. Everyone that works wants to have his or her area of responsibility, whether great or small; to be noticed once in a while; be recognised as the author of something. Admit it, we all like to get a pat on the back and be told that we are clever.

This is something good: the absence of competition generates organisations and individuals without initiative because… why should I work harder if I’m not going to earn more?  On the other hand, too much competition could generate mercenary and self-destructive organisations, where anything goes and the ends justify the means. In this atmosphere it isn’t unusual to see different divisions of the same company steal clients from each other just to come out better in the annual photo.

2.      People are just that: people. Good people or bad people, don’t matter on which side of the table people are (near or in front of you). When you are working, don’t confuse collaboration with friendship; this is nothing to do with friendship but rather mutual interest. If you think like this, then you won’t end up with nasty surprises or thinking that someone has betrayed you, nor will you take things as a personal affront.

Two small pieces of advice.

1.      Don’t work looking for friendship, but for mutual respect and trusting relationship. To do so, put your legitimate interests and the rules of the game on the table clear from the beginning; openly state the objectives of your project; and understand the objectives (and the dilemmas) of your colleague’s project. Only then you can share common objectives. And it’s not a question of friendship; it’s a question of respect.

2.      If conflicts arise, act as you would like others to act towards you: work towards solving the problem, don’t cheat, and keep your word. I know that sometimes it is difficult to fulfil commitments with your colleagues, bosses or subordinates (this is the collateral effect of internal competition).  If this is the case, you would like the person with whom you reached an agreement call you and explain why it didn’t happen, that they tried their hardest and could do it. If that is what you would like, then you should also do things in the same way.

So, as you can see, in the end it is simple to construct a relationship of understanding and mutual respect if you apply these rules in your relationships. If you have clear principles, you will find that it is simple to apply them. From here… who knows? Maybe, as Bogart said to Captain Renault in Casablanca… this is the start of a beautiful friendship

Let me invite you to visit my blog AlbertoAndreu.com


How to manage enemies at work

Escrito el 2 Octubre 2011 por Alberto Andreu en Competencias RRHH

Some time ago, I stumbled upon the following quotation: “It is sad to have no friends, but it is worse to have no enemies, because if a person has no enemies it is likely that they have: no talent that overshadows others, a personality that leaves no impression, no value to be feared, they are not worth gossiping about, have no belongings worth coveting, nor anything good that causes jealousy.” They are nothing.

Do you know who said that phrase? It’s by José Martí, the poet and father of Cuban independence. When I read it, I admit I was alarmed. But later I realised that it contained, in essence, a hot topic within organizations: if you want to survive you must manage your enemies.  Let’s see how we can do it:

  1. Assume that from this moment: you already have a small number of enemies. Even if you are completely at peace and secure in the knowledge that you have nothing against, and have not done anything to wrong, anyone.  The causes of these grudges can be as diverse as people themselves. Envy in one: José Martí, with infinite precision, said that envy is in the cause of all grievances; envy of talent, personality, of worth, of honour, of possessions or of anything else a person could have. Self-esteem might be another good way to increase the list of enemies. In this regard we could list thousands of examples (Mozart and Salieri), but it is not necessary.
  2. Keep enemies close to you. There are some people who think that the farther away an enemy is the better. However, remember one thing: is it not easier to predict the actions of someone next to you, than try to guess the movements of someone you cannot see? If you don’t believe me, you only have to realise that the world was safer before than it is now. Before, there was a great enemy, institutionalised and official. Now, nobody knows where the problems can come from. Therefore, you should never close off ways for dialogue, directly or through third parties, with those who are your enemies.
  3. Making peace” with some people is just a waste of time, the battle is lost before it has begun. It is strange, but, the more you attempt to convince someone that you haven’t done anything; the more you try to be nice; the more you do to fix things… the worse it is. I don’t know why, but this is usually true. Maybe because that attitude on your part stirs up more envy and augments the insecurity of the enemy. That’s why I believe that you shouldn’t waste your energy trying to fix things with some people.  
  4. Put the conflict to bed, or, in sporting parlance, calm the game down. As the saying goes, time heals everything, and additionally, as Spanish Nobel Prize Camilo José Cela said, usually “the person who lasts the longest, wins”.
  5. Indifference or ignoring them is another good way to combat your enemies. Don’t “fall in the trap”, don’t get involved in small fights; remember that the excesses of your enemies should be like “the buzzing of flies” as Mika Waltari put it in his book The Egyptian.

 And there you have my thoughts on the existence of enemies. As the saying goes “whoever has a friend has something to treasure”. But, maybe, having a good enemy is not such a bad thing. A friend of mine said “a good enemy dignifies you”. Maybe it makes you stronger when facing others, a better speaker, colder and more thoughtful. And, in addition, forgive them. Oscar Wilde put it well saying: “Always forgive your enemies. There is nothing that annoys them more.”

Let me invite you to visit my blog  AlbertoAndreu.com


¿Existe realmente el “talento social”?

Escrito el 29 Septiembre 2011 por Alberto Andreu en Competencias RRHH

Hace unos días tuve la ocasión de participar en unas jornadas de “Talento Social” organizadas por el Instituto de Innovación Social de Esade, la Fundación Luis Vives, la Fundación ICAI y Sector Cuatro. Y tuve la oportunidad de compartir “cartel” con Ignasi Carreas (de ESADE) y Patricia Moreira (de Ayuda en Accion).

El tema del debate era este: ¿Existe realmente un talento social que le haga ser distinto del talento llamamos “convencional”? No sé si los participantes en la mesa supimos o pudimos contestar a la pregunta, pero reconozco que me fui a casa pensando si realmente hay alguna característica especial que pueda diferenciar uno y otro talento. Y después de darle alguna vuelta, me han salido algunas ideas, la mayoría recogidas en la jornada, pero que, quizá, juntas, puedan dar algunas pistas. Ahí van:

1.      El talento social se basa, sobre todo, en la calidad humana. Ignasi Carreras fue así de directo. Y coincido con él. A lo largo de la historia nos hemos encontrado a muchas personas con talento, pero que, en el terreno personal, no están a la altura, bien por no tener principios, bien convertirse en “picadoras de carne”, bien por pasar por encima de todo y de todos para conseguir sus resultados.

2.      El talento social pone tanto énfasis tanto en el cuánto como en las formas. No todo vale, hay líneas rojas para conseguir las cosas, hay que tener coraje para mantenerse fiel a unos valores y no transgredirlos. Ahí hay talento social.

3.      El talento social es capaz de mirar la organización en busca de aliados para conseguir sus propósitos, mientras que el talento “ordinario” en más individualista, mira más sus intereses y tiende a compartir menos los éxitos y los fracasos. No se trata de buscar consensos (Patricia Moreira lo dejó claro). Se trata de compartir objetivos, entender los dilemas del otro e intentar construir “sociedades” internas.

4.      Fruto de lo anterior, el talento social es más trasversal que vertical. Las organizaciones acostumbran a trabajar en silos, sin compartir recursos (humanos o económicos) y prestando atención a sus propios objetivos. Pero el talento social suele crear fórmulas de win win. Es preferible ganar el 50% de algo, que no el 100% de nada.

5.      El talento social trasgrede las estructuras formales de las organizaciones. Las convicciones (o la ideología, que decía Carreras) son armas poderosas para no pararse en barras ante los obstáculos. Y eso mueve montañas

Y con estas ideas, me fui a mi casa. Y, pensando, pensando, llegué a una conclusión: me guste más o me guste menos, el talento social es más femenino que masculino. Me explico. Existe una teoría antropológica que dice que las mujeres, históricamente, eran recolectoras, mientras que los hombres eran cazadores. Para recolectar hay que andar en horizontal y agacharse a recoger los cultivos, trabajar en grupo para cubrir zonas más extensas… Para cazar hay que ser sigilosos,  aprovechar la oportunidad de disparo y, además, hacerlo casi en solitario.

Y esa puede ser una de las claves. Mientras que las mujeres tiene mayor capacidad de conectar (ideas, personas, conversaciones, grupos, materias), los hombres somos más “monofásicos” (una conversación cada vez, una ejecución a la vez, una idea primero, la otra después…). Me temo que ahí, nos queda mucho por aprender. Nunca es tarde.

Te invito a visitar mi blog: AlbertoAndreu.com


All the secrets of the difficult art of management

Escrito el 7 Septiembre 2011 por Alberto Andreu en Varios

“I’m going to give you the secret to the art of management. Note down these three things and never forget them. First: only choose the best. Second: delegate as much as possible; you should only do what the others cannot do better than you. And third: after having done points one and two, completely support anyone who makes a mistake; no-one will always get 10 out of 10: the secret is to maintain an average of 7 out of 10.”

This is the advice of one of my teachers. He received it, over 15 years ago, from one of the most charismatic presidents of one Bank of Spain. That advice was, and still is, worth its weight in gold. I have applied it whenever I have been able and, moreover, it has also served as a basis for discussion in my classes on leadership or management style etc. However, throughout my career as a lecturer, consultant and manager, I have met few people able to put it into practice. That’s to say, I have met many who have disagreed, not understood or even applied it backwards. So maybe we should look at what is behind that piece of advice.

1. First things first: What does it mean to choose the best? For organisations in good corporate health, the best is the person who, because of brainpower, professional judgement, initiative or independence, capacity for work, is able to thrive and solve complex tasks in a brilliant and efficient way. In other words, the best are usually those who, being given the objective, are able to take responsibility for tough assignments, reduce the need for your involvement, and produce a quality final product. This point includes some ideas:

  • For organisations that are sick and suffering from Slave syndrome (meaning those that allow – under the false appearance of a lot of activity – a yes-man culture, encouraging personal adulation, the protection of acquired privilege and the status quo) “the best” is usually the one who does not overshadow the boss and is willing to do much and think little. I remember the day when one of my bosses snapped, “I take care of the management. I don’t pay you to think; I pay you to do what I say”. I hardly lasted three months.
  • We shouldn’t kid ourselves. It is not uncommon to find organisations that “kill talent”, incapable of taking advantage of the potential offered by a professional who simply thinks differently. On the other hand, it is very difficult to find institutions capable of systematically getting the best, professionally speaking, out of employees working together but with enough personality to apply their own criteria when faced with complex problems.
  • Connected with this very point, choosing the best, I heard another tale of the ridiculous worthy of mention. The old head of one of the largest business groups of the 80s never missed an opportunity to put his employees in their place. “Do you know?” he would say to them “Why, in banking, there used to exist the position of subaltern? Let me explain: sub, because they are under me; and altern, because when I got tired of them I changed them.” Long live democracy.

2. The second point is delegate as much as possible; you should only do what the others cannot do better than you.” In this area, just like the previous one, I have also found different interpretations. For healthy organisations, delegating means assigning tasks and demanding responsibilities. It means defining the what (the objectives), how much (the budget) and when (the timeframe). Above all, it means defining those things while respecting the professionalism of the employees (“I want this done, do it as you see fit, I trust your judgement”), with loyalty (“when you are finished, I will take a look”) and without organisational “noise” (“you are the one who knows how to do it, take responsibility, and don’t hide behind work groups or committees”). But it really means much more:

  • Delegating as much as possible means that your boss is only needed when you, for technical or political reasons, are stuck. In other words, your boss is there to help solve problems, not to create tension or more problems than you already have. They clear the way for you to do your job.
  • However, in dysfunctional organisations, delegation is understood differently. Scapegoats are sought to do the dirty work and it is hidden so that only the few take the credit. In these organisations, it is common to find bosses who want to control everything, obsessed with the smallest detail -their greatest input is to add a couple of commas in a text or change one word for another-, but rarely do they add anything of real depth. They will never teach you to define objectives or understand the global view of a subject. In dysfunctional organisations, delegation of work doesn’t exist. What is delegated, or handed down, is tension and problems, and you can solve them the best you can.
  • Additionally, in this type of organisation you will only ever speak in the first person: I, me, with me, about me… Your boss is that lucky type of superior being that is able to play in any position: goalkeeper, midfielder and centre forward. He is also capable of taking a corner kick and score from his own cross. He will certainly make sure that he is the one who receives all the medals.

3. And now we get to the final point: having done points one and two, completely support anyone who makes a mistake. This is something that never happens in an organisation afflicted with Theodore syndrome. Whenever the boss does not score (after having taken the goal kick, passed through the midfield and centred it for the striker who failed in front of goal), you should know that the buck stops with you, not him. Either you didn’t lose your marker, didn’t create space, didn’t strike the ball well or whatever it may have been. It was your fault.

That’s how it is. It is that sad. How many managers have we known that were able to prosper by passing the buck, that’s to say: laying the blame at the feet of co-workers? This is exactly what bad managers do. They get out of the way when there are problems, don’t support their people and publicly blame them for mistakes.

That said, in healthy organisations, your boss plays firmly in defence for the team and, sometimes, is even the goalkeeper. Their function, first and foremost, is so the opposition don’t score goals. They also have to be capable of motivating the team, play them in the right positions and teach them to pass well. A good manager, like a good central defender or sweeper, gives good support play, will advance for the corner kicks or even score the occasional surprise goal to get the result. A bad manager, however, will want to be at the centre of every play, wants others to do all the work and, most of all, want others to gift him the ball in front of an open goal.

Another point is that a good manager, like a good central defender, cannot always clear the ball close to the area; sometime he will have to foul or launch the ball in “row z”. That’s why the advice “it can’t always be 10/10; it’s about getting 7/10”.  Not all games can be won by a landslide, sometime we need to know how to simply grind out a win.

That’s what the game is all about. Giving your team room. Signing the best, let them do their job and completely support them. It is very, very close to being a good coach. After all, both have the responsibility to lead people.

I invite you to visit my blog AlbertoAndreu.com

Published in the daily paper “Diario 5 Días” April 6th, 2001

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