Monthly Archives: December 2011

Your Team’s Plus One

With the year winding down, I’m reminded of how forgetful I can be. But luckily we are all connected and we all help us to remember everything, together. So I was delighted to just now receive a message from the uniquely gifted Mukara Meredith. The subject line was “Re: The Tenth Person” – taken from an email interchange I had with her loooong ago.

Mukara pointed out, to me, how often times within the workings of a team, the leader is often fixated on the many individual and group relationships/dynamics within the membership. Her point was that we so often look for “teamwork” and yet we don’t give it a role on the team itself. In other words, we don’t often enough write the job description for the “invisible” member of the team, and then hold him/her/it accountable for the performance of the overall team. So as a practical example, for a team of nine you want to call out the “tenth” member of the team as someone/something that needs a performance review alongside everyone else as representing the id of the team’s teamness.

As a concept, this might seem a bit uncomfortably ethereal – because it is. And yet it helps to make the intangible quality of “teamwork” entirely tangible, and accountable with the human resources instruments that we are already employ. Thanks for reminding me of the extra, invaluable member of every team, Mukara! -JM

And Daddy Lost

Author Douglas Huh is working on a book on passion in work life, and he sent me a list of 18 interesting questions on the topic. One of his questions reminded me of an episode in my life that gave me a different perspective on things.

13. I believe people can acknowledge their level of passion when they are “truly moved by their own efforts”. Borrowing this aspect, could you share with us your experience of being truly moved by your own efforts?

I disagree. When you allow yourself to be moved by your own efforts you can easily become complacent. So in answer to your question, I’ve never been moved by my own efforts. It allows you, sometimes, to see something else of greater importance that you may have missed.

Long ago, I was nominated for an award at a multimedia festival that used to be held in Cannes. I brought my oldest daughter, who was 9 at the time. For fun, we went to McDonalds together — which was special to see the French version with her. The award ceremony opened with a massive production that was Cirque de Soleil style and over the top. Then there was the big moment where the nominees were being announced, and my producer was getting us all psyched to go up to the podium for the win. But my name wasn’t read. We went back to the hotel, and my daughter wrote a fax to my wife, Kris, to report the day’s events. It read, “Dear Mommy, We went to McDonalds and I got a Bugs Life toy in my Happy Meal! We ate Indian food for dinner. Daddy’s producer made someone eat a hot chili pepper. There were acrobats and clowns. And Daddy lost. Good night!” I was reminded how children help us notice what truly matters in life.

Only a few more days left in the year of 2011. Reflecting. -JM

Bob and Roberta Smith

I attended a lecture at the RISD Museum in October by the British artist Bob Smith (Roberta is his alter ego). It was dark in the Metcalf auditorium, but I scribbled some notes that I’ve always wanted to transcribe because much of what he said was at the intersection of being serious, funny, obvious, contradictory, over-the-top, and downright inspiring:

  • “Artists, poets, dancers, architects built America and they will rebuild America with art at its center.”
  • “Artists are people who speak out. So being an artist is a tough, dirty job.”
  • “Art is the economic stimulus that the world needs right now.”
  • “Everybody needs/enjoys/consumes images.”
  • “The art world is a gated community.”
  • “I need to think that art can help.”
  • “Artists are people that want to add something that they see missing.”
  • “Creativity is about a certain kind of rebellion.”
  • “Everything is made.”
  • “While art is being accepted into society, it’s important for art to retain a critical underground.”
  • “Make your own d*mn art!”

Bob leads what he calls the “Art Party” — a kind of politics that the world might need right now. -JM

Forgetting why you/they’re here

I enjoyed this quote from Joi Ito in a recent article in Fast Company:

“The Japanese government once asked me to be on a committee about taxes and information technology. The first thing I said was, ‘Let’s figure out a way to use resources more efficiently to lower taxes.’ And they said, ‘No, no, no–this committee is about using computers to collect more tax.’ So I asked, ‘How do we reduce costs?’ And they said, ‘Oh, there’s no committee for that.’ [Laughs] That’s the problem with large organizations. They create roles and constraints, and sometimes people forget why they’re there.”

It’s similar to something I overheard recently, “Your customer doesn’t really give a **** about your silos or internal politics.” In essence, we so easily forget why you/we/they’re here. -JM