Leadership: Trust

: belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.

Originally posted on LinkedIn.

I would like to devote the second post in my leadership mini-series to this fragile substance - to trust. As you can see in the definition, it is "just" a belief. Something that cannot be bought or ordered to people. On the other hand, it is very stable. Like your belief in any kind of God. It is something that does not change overnight. Usually a terrible experience changes someones belief in God. They either begin or cease to belief.

And the same is truth for trust. Gaining trust is a hard work. You can imagine this like a glass of water that someone holds. This would represent the level of trust this person has to you. The good thing is that you typically do not start with a completely empty glass. Let's say it is somewhat half to two thirds full. People are insane optimists.

The tricky part is that you can pour out all the water by a single act at any time. Or you can be regularly drinking from that proverbial glass. The only thing you cannot do is to put it under a tap and full it at once. Only little drops can be added to the glass especially when completely empty.

Now what can empty the glass? There is a plenty of things and it can be done even unintentionally (be careful to differentiate between intentions and looking for excuses). What are the most typical conscious acts that pour out the water? Here is a few examples.

First, quite simple thing - promising something and do not mean it, or actually never fulfilling the promise without showing any remorse. We are very limited in our powers and we are not capable of achieving everything even if we wanted. However, by giving promises that you do not mean or even never try to accomplish, we send a clear message out: "My promise does not mean a thing, do not believe it."

Second, saying one thing and doing another not only sends mixed signals but also shows a great level of inconsistency. It is fine to change our mind. We learn constantly and under the circumstances of new facts, we might want to act differently to what we originally anticipated. Just make sure this is clearly communicated. Or in some situations, it is perfectly fine to tell that you did not want to share your plan or opinion. This is definitely better than making up a fake story. Having this inconsistency too often is like saying: "Well, no matter what I tell, it is just some gibberish, you cannot count with it."

Third, it looks suspicious if you are nice to someone or help people for no obvious reason (and you are not Mother Theresa). There is no good turn without any motivation. In such a case, this often leads to the trouble with a hidden agenda or misuse of people. Either way, someone helps you to achieve your goal without knowing or even worse, by you masking it as their benefit.

And the last example, which can be very obvious, is called symmetry. Trust is a bidirectional relationship. It is very hard to build trust if you do not provide any. Just ask yourself, could you belief someone who does not trust you? I guess hardly ever.

Now the question is what can I do to gain trust? Except for avoiding the above, we can be open, honest, genuine, we should be the ones of high moral value. Simply lead by example. Typically, decalogue is a good manual which has just a tiny design flaw. Violating decalogue can be fixed easily during a confession. Trust cannot be regained that easy.

It looks simple and you might say that I just skipped through this part quickly with a very obvious statement. Here I would like to ask you to simply digest the statement, to validate all your daily acts against it. Demonstrating the trustworthy attributes is an extremely hard job.

I should have asked the following question at the beginning probably but why would I want to gain trust with people? I am the boss, people listen to my orders and then go and do the job. Really? Do they? What is the quality of the result? Do they work with passion? Nobody gets the best out of them if they do not believe in what they do. If there is no trust you need to breath down their necks to work hard. And the day you are not in the office is celebrated. If you do not watch closely and do not supervise at a great level of detail people will do nothing. And you cannot blame them. They do not know what to do without you. Not because you are that important (a big shock?). It is because you never gave them the responsibility because there is no trust between you.

Do you have a very detailed system of measurements of employees efficiency? Do you have a very detailed system to check the work done, to ? Or do you even check all work done by your team? Does not this approach sort of paralyze your organization? Would not it be better if everybody took the responsibility and accountability and did what just needs to be done?

If you would like to read more on changing your organization towards the one with open communication and trust, I would recommend you the following books:

  • Stephen R. Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  • Jim Whitehurst: The Open Organization
Image source Freepik.com


Leadership: People or shovels?

Originally posted on LinkedIn.

I would like to open a new mini-series of posts on leading people. All I learnt about leadrship in the past was quite obvious and logical to me. So I wondered why I should tell the others how it works. And yet it seems like it might not harm to look at a few concepts...

We live in the era of automation. More and more of old job positions are getting replaced by machines. You might have seen some articles in your local newspaper how terrible this is and what the poor people are going to do when they get replaced by machines. Maybe it is time to move on. To give up on dull jobs that can be done by machines and use the best tool we have. Use the thing that makes us unique on this planet. Our brain!

There is some evidence that we should be capable of achieving that. I know, it is simplified. So how about this - we are likely to use our brain at work much more than we did in the past. This change already started as you mostly buy your coke from a machine.

So just imagine that your employees decided to think about what they do more than they ever did. Now comes the important decision. I can either be a manager and command my workers, or I can be a leader and lead my team. Is there any difference in that? Am I just playing with words? I do not think so, and those who do not understand this will have hard times trying to manage smart employees who use their brain.

A manager of a production line screams at the workers and they do what they were ordered. Those who scream louder have bigger truth. Motivation is zero.

Employees in the 21. century do not want to be treated like that. They can work their hands off for you but you need to give them a very good reason. To motivate them. But wait, why would you waste your precious time with that? You can fire the few rebels and hire new good sheep, or?! Really? Can you? Are your employees replaceable like shovels?

Let's have a look on the price of an intelligent employee. How long did it take for you to find the candidate? How many interviews did you have before you found the best guy for your team? What did this guy learnt while working for you? Did they grow in their abilities and career? How efficient they are now compared to their first day at work? Did this guy ever improved anything in your company? How about others? Isn't this guy a sort of leader to them? Won't they lose morale?

There are plenty of questions like that. What I wanted to point out is that maybe the value of such an employee is bigger today. As you already made the investments. You cannot replace people like shovels. They became diamond decorated shovels, if you will. To give you a better feeling of this, I might even ask you - would you change your child for the one of neighbors'? Why not?

People mostly need a leader. These leaders even do not need a formal authority. Like Mohandas Gandhi who never had any official function. A true and genuine leader is a guy who knows what he does, who understands his job, does care about the consequences and about others. A leader has a high morale value. Once people see you as a leader, they will like to follow you.

Let's consider a negative example as a contrast. Do you know Big Brother from 1984? He was everywhere, talking to people, telling them what to do, what not to do. And yet, nobody liked him unless tortured.

Where do you want to be? Do you want to be a manager or a leader?


Book review: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People + The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness

From principles of personal development to the true fulfilment

  • Author: Stephen R. Covey
  • Ranking: I think the whole menkind should read this
It is a long time since I read a book that would have had such a great impact on me. I literally think that everybody should read both of the books. And mainly - people should start living according to the principles suggested in these books. I believe people would be more happy with their lifes.
The first boot (7 Habits) introduces some basic principles. Something like decalogue, if you will. While everybody might find these principles of life the correct ones, only a bunch of people around me actually live them. The book is full of deep experience and practical cases. I did not find any dull or boring parts and read it really quick. Stephen Covey (the author, 1932-2012) did a great pre-search of literature on this topic and do not hesitate to introduce even an opposite opinion.
The second book (8th Habit) concentrates on how to get to another level of effectiveness and happy living - to the greatness and on spreading this to your surrounding. The author admits that he was wrong when he believed the 7 habits are enough. The 8th Habit actually is not a single habit but a more complex approach on how to build trust and be the one who is worth following by others.
I did not read this book that quick as the first one and found some parts not that cool but it is also a recommended reading for everybody by me.
The next on my reading list by Stephen Covey is: Principle-Centered Leadership


3G module similar to ESP8266

Anybody here who dares to create something like a small 3G module similar to ESP8266?
I think I do not need to introduce ESP8266 chip to you. In short, it is a small and powerful all-in-one WiFi chip. One can upload their own code to it, use several GPIO pins, it has low power consumption, and you can get it for under $4. This is ideal to start developing IoT appliances. But! Do you have WiFi signal everywhere? I don't.
So the next logical Google search would be for a cheap 3G module with similar abilities. You can find something like this for around $47. Wow, that is not a friendly deal.
On the other hand, you can buy an USB 3G modem in China for $10. It even has more stuff in it than I would need. I do not care about the plastic case and the USB/UART converter inside.
I would need a similar all-in-one chip with UART interface that would behave like a 3G modem. I would just connect a memory chip, external antenna, and a nano SIM card. The chip could have some more free GPIO ports which would support SPI and I2C. All for around $5-$8.
Am I asking too much? Isn't there anybody who would be able to design and develop anything like that? I am open to suggestions and wishing to support such a development!


Passion for life

I am not that kind of person that just quietly sits and waits for what is coming. I do not believe in faith, I rather have a control over things that are in the zone of my direct influence. Especially when it comes to the question how to make this world a better place to live. For that reason one might say that I have a Nose for trouble.
However, I still have the inner desire that makes me constantly go forward, the will to do something special. Not because of self-conceit but I still see many imperfections around me that need to be fixed. I cannot do everything so I am constantly thinking whether I follow the right direction.
This leads me to the fact that I have a very close example of what a man's life could be. From its very beginning till the end. Moreover, this is a way I would like to explain why the relation I have with my grandfather was so special to me.

Also, I am not going to summarize the sad facts about the end of the life. Mark Little did that very well some time ago. I would rather pick up the things I have learnt from this great example I had in my close family. Plus I want some of these things to be remembered.

My grandfather was born on October 18th 1925. The first world war was over, the second did not start yet but nobody knew. Many things were very different, there were no personal computers, no antibiotics (first commercially available in 1932)...
The economy situation in the former Czechoslovakia was not that bad and there was a promise of a great era coming. This did not come true and the Second world war started. My grandfather was 13 and he joined a guerilla (partisan) group fighting against Nazis. Once my grandfather stole a Mauser C96 from a German officer. An immediate death sentence would be clear when he had been caught. He used to say: "I could have been dead like thousand times.". This demonstrates courage to me and that you have to be brave and take risks if you are following the right path and you are living with your core principles. It is of course important to carefully select those principles (I might write about mine later).
There wasn't any long lasting happy era when the war was over as you might expect. The communists took over the rule in Czechoslovakia and they were not fun guys to play with. I would recommend everybody to read some basic facts about the 1953 Monetary Reform to get an idea.
So starting from ground zero, living in very bad conditions in a part of a warehouse (storage), my grandfather did not loose faith and simply went forward. When he was on his mandatory army service for two years, he was an army photographer. He created his own mixtures for developing photos and demonstrated a real passion for this "modern" art. My aunt was born around 1954, my father followed her in 1957.
The sixties were little better, there was again a glare of a light at the end of the tunnel. The atmosphere was more loose, people were able to travel abroad more, it was possible to play English songs on radio, the freedom of speech looked almost possible. Until the Soviets said no in the night between August 20th and 21st in 1968. The screws were tightened for another 20 years.

My grandfather became a Manager of the division for foreign automobile spare parts in Mototechna (the only company selling cars in Czechoslovakia, source only in Czech). Many people tried to destroy him on his career path but by sustaining high moral values and not following any dirty rules, they had only a little chances. Once it helped him that there was a Minister of agriculture with the same family name. My grandfather was openly picking holes in the company's management and a rumor started that he is so brave because his relative is a minister (which was not true). But as long as he was right there was only a little to object.
Many people were coming to him to ask him for a favour - they usually needed some spare part for their western cars that was not available on the market. They were also offering bribes immediately. My grandfather just did his job right. He tried hard until he managed to get that part. He did not take the bribe so he made many friends and acquaintances. This helped the whole family when we needed a good doctor for example.

My grand-grandfather was a rifle manufacturer. He also had a printer around the beginning of the 20th century. The Germans took them everything as both of these abilities were dangerous to them. So this rose another passions of my grandfather - guns and books. He was a professional hunter - like the one that feeds animals the whole year in the wood and then shoots them. He said that they would proliferate too much but I never bought that idea. However, he collected and read books related to anything he was doing: photography, weaponry, hunting, economy, customer care, traveling (see the Czechoslovakia adventurers Hanzelka and Zikmund), playing chess (I never won over him), fiction from all the world famous authors...
Before he started doing anything, he first studied a literature on the subject. While not having a university degree he had a great overview on almost any subject. Now there is a library in his flat. I developed him an application to create an index of all these books and spent the summer holidays in 2000 with him creating it. There are around 7000 books. Even in the wardrobes and closets where you would expect clothes, there are books!

My grandfather never stopped learning new things and kept himself aligned with the state-of-art in technology and computer science. This created a strong contrast between him and other grandfathers I saw around. Old people usually keep telling that everything was great 40 years ago and young people are all spoilt. I never heard that from my grandfather and I do not think this is true. I can see why it is easier and comfortable to simply stop where I am. Fortunately, I never saw this as an option for me.

When I demonstrated interest for electronics when I was a kid, my grandfather gave me a lot of books on that topic. I did not think about anything bigger at that age and I dreamt of a career of a repairman of electronic devices. I was always curious how things work, so when my grandfather bought a first computer Didaktik M (which was a Czechoslovakia clone of ZX Spectrum) I immediately started investigating how it works. The games were boring and I was discovering Basic programming. But how come my programs were not that fast as the original games?

In early 90's, my grandfather bought Commodore 64 in Vienna. This one was much cooler but even harder to understand as there was nobody around to teach me and manuals were in German. Also no books were available around. I already did not have this computer when I realized that there was an underlying assembly language that allowed better efficiency of the programs than Basic v2.
All in all, it was my grandfather who showed me the bigger picture and brought me to the computers.

He managed to learn working with a PC when he was 68 years old. In the environment where I grew up this was a typical no-go. People in their fifties were all scared: "I do not want to touch it, I am afraid I would break it!". He needed it for his work - he was an administrator and a bookkeeper for several properties owned by his friends. He did that until all his clients died some time around 2000. So he did not retire actually.

Short after 2000 he bough a digital camera and a color inkjet printer. He was able to take a picture of his friends visiting him and immediately print it. You should see those ladies admiring him. My grandmother died in 1993 so we encouraged him to have a look around. But he always said that he did not wanted to have a crush on an old hag. His theory was that the woman's age should be half the age of the man plus seven ;-)
Sadly almost all of his friends died many years ago.

After a very long adventurous life he was perfectly ready to die. Until the last summer he was able to completely take care of himself. Unfortunately because of a bad hearth condition he had to permanently move to a retirement house/hospital.
During my last conversation with him, he told me: "I did not expect the dying to be so hard, I just thought I would die and that's it. I do not like it this way, I hope to die soon. I am sorry but I cannot make it to your wedding the next year".

He died couple of days later on November 24th 2014 aged 89.

Is there anything he could take away with him? Any of these 7000 books? Any achievement he did? Who did he influence in his life except me? What is then really important in one's life?

The obituary notice below translates the last line of the following verse by Rabindranath Tagore (aka Rabi Thakur).

Traveller, must you go?
The night is still and the darkness swoons upon the forest.
The lamps are bright in our balcony, the flowers all fresh, and the youthful eyes still awake.
Is the time for your parting come?
Traveller, must you go?

We have not bound your feet with our entreating arms.
Your doors are open.  Your horse stands saddled at the gate.
If we have tried to bar your passage it was but with our songs.
Did we ever try to hold you back it was but with our eyes.
Traveller, we are helpless to keep you.  We have only our tears.

. .