Category: Business

Tachi Yamada

I enjoyed reading this interview with Tachi Yamada, M.D., president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program.

Q. How did you first learn to become a manager?

A. I think the most difficult transition for anybody from being a worker bee to a manager is this issue of delegation. What do you give up? How can you have the team do what you would do yourself without you doing it? If you’re a true micromanager and you basically stand over everybody and guide their hands to do everything, you don’t have enough hours in the day to do what the whole team needs to do.  Learning how to delegate, learning how to let go and still make sure that everything happened, was a very important lesson in my first role in management. And that’s where I learned a principle that I apply today — I don’t micromanage, but I have microinterest. I do know the details. I do care about the details. I feel like I have intimate knowledge of what’s going on, but I don’t tell people what to do.

Q. Talk about how you hire.

A. You have to have people in an organization who are willing to truly embrace change, because if they don’t, then what you have is an organization that’s constantly fighting to stay at the status quo. And, of course, that leads to stagnation. It’s also an unsustainable model.  I’ve made an observation about people. There are people who have moved. Take somebody who’s a child of an Army officer — they will have moved 10 times in their lives. And then there are people who’ve been born and raised and educated and employed in one town their whole lives. Who do you think is willing to change? I think, in this modern world, you really have to be sure that your work force has the experience of being elsewhere. That experience then has the ability to ensure that you will be comfortable with change.  The biggest problems I see in a group of people who don’t embrace change is that they will always fight anything new, any new idea, any new concept, any outside point of view. And, of course, there are many examples of companies that have failed because of that. So I think that’s a critical point. Almost all of the people on our staff have traveled all around the world, have lived everywhere.

Q. What else are you looking for when you hire?

A. Native intelligence is critically important. I don’t think you can train people to be more intelligent.

Q. How do you test for that?

A. I really try to understand people, what their values are. So it’s usually quite an unstructured interview — where they come from, their family members. And then I try to understand how they deal with difficult interpersonal issues.

Q. Why?

A. Intelligence is often more displayed in what I would call complex abstract thinking, and there’s nothing more complex and abstract than human relationships. And if they can work their way through a human relationship problem intelligently, my guess is that they’re very smart people. Not that they can’t add and subtract six-figure numbers multiplied by whatever, but that they can take a complex problem, break it down into its pieces and figure out the best way forward.  I also look for people who’ve moved. Did you move when you were a kid? When you went from one high school to another, what was it like? How did you deal with it? This kind of thing is often very informative about how people have had to deal with crisis, different circumstances and how they’ve had to adapt or change.

Q. What is your best career advice for young people?

A. I think one of the hardest things to do is to figure out what your North Star is. What is it that you really are interested in? This helps you to weigh one option versus another. And then keep your eyes and ears open.  Be open to new challenges. I don’t think anyone should do one job for too long a time. I think every five to eight years you should be willing to take on some different challenges. It’s so easy to get stale. Every time I’ve left a job, I was loving the job that I left. But I never regretted the next move that I made.

Q. What else?

A. A second key lesson was from a doctor named Marcel Tuchman. He was the most compassionate person I have ever met in my life — I mean, full of human kindness. And every time he met somebody, you had the sense that he cared more about them than anything else in the world.  So what I learned from him is that when you actually are with somebody, you’ve got to make that person feel like nobody else in the world matters. I think that’s critical.  So, for example, I don’t have a mobile phone turned on because I’m talking to you. I don’t want the outside world to impinge on the conversation we’re having. I don’t carry a BlackBerry. I do my e-mails regularly, but I do it when I have the time on a computer. I don’t want to be sitting here thinking that I’ve got an e-mail message coming here and I’d better look at that while I’m talking to you. Every moment counts, and that moment is lost if you’re not in that moment 100 percent.

How Jack & The Beanstock & Your Intranet Are Related

I recently replied to a Internal Communication LinkedIn group question and wanted to share it with a larger audience in hope others would be able to benefit and reply to it.  Evidently others liked it so hope you do as well.  Don’t forget to comment on it so we can all learn from one another!

The question: “What messaging and tools have you used to convince the non-believers that your intranet site will benefit them.”

My answer: “This may not help you and you may have done much of this, but I’d start with asking your users what new and existing features on your intranet site would/do benefit them the most. If you need a quick answer another option is to look at your site analytics to tell you much of what users are going to today and look to improve upon that.

I see our intranet as the “one stop shop” for global communications so the more you can aggregate global communications to show value (while still retaining usability) may help. So many employees have to check email, the Intranet, hard copies, voicemail, calendar, tasks, and more which takes time so find a way to aggregate those conversations to one location and make it dead simple. Post communications that are going to provide value as well because if you are not careful the communications your Executives ask you to communicate sometimes is not what your audience finds useful or relevant so never forget to focus on what your content consumers want and need to read.

Make your intranet social so your audience is more engaged and if possible implement features which allow the audience to share, subscribe to, and filter so the content is more valuable and applicable to them. Part of the reason society likes Facebook and Twitter are they are giving us very personalized content from sources we want to get our information from (except all that Farmville and Mafia Wars stuff).

Keep your content fresh and add polls on your site which engage your audience and at the same time allows you to get insight into what they want. Think about Facebook for instance, they have polls and applications surfaced on them all of the time and they can use that information to better target advertising to you and ultimately be successful (make money).

In Jack and the Beanstalk Jack found some magical seeds which grew the giant beanstalk right? I think of the beanstalk as the Intranet. I feel there are 4 essential things for beanstalks to grow which are soil, fertilizer, water, and sun. I see the soil being the infrastructure, the fertilizer being new Intranet functionality, the water being its users/audience, and the sun being your company’s culture. The only problem (at least one of them) with my analogy is eventually Jack’s Beanstalk was chopped down and the giant fell with it. :)

Now its time for the full disclaimer which is I wish I could take my own advice! Hope to hear from everyone else…”

Outta My Way I’m Going To Starbucks!

I was at a Starbucks drive-through when I noticed the license plate frame of the car in front of me.  The license plate read “Outta my way I’m going to Starbucks!”.  The reason I took the picture was it was interesting to me that I was in a long line of cars for a $4 latte and the car directly in front of me loved the company so much they proudly displayed it on their license plate.  What does it say about a company when people (not companies) make and sell license plates which allow you to display your affection for a particular company?

I don’t think it is too difficult to create a company people will love and respect so much they will tell the world about it.  Companies of course try to attract customers to get them in their door but are some companies simply looking to get customers in the building, or are they looking to build relationships with their customers?  I think you can build a relationship with your customers through your brand, transparency, serving the community it serves, customer service, quality products, and differentiating products.  I think if you do any of those things to a high standard (not too difficult these days) customers will come back and they may even be so passionate about your company they will tout it on their license plate.  Is there a recipe for the success of a company?  If you were to make the perfect recipe for a company you love so much you wanted to share it with the world, what would it consist of in your opinion?

Standing Out In A Crowded Marketplace

This FastCompany Magazine (one of my favorite magazines by the way) video discusses Voodoo Donuts in Portland, OR as well as Zipcar which are two business who have been able to stand out in a crowded marketplace.