Category: Uncategorized

Mar 05

Three Management Dog Breeds

When it comes to managing your team are you a Sheepdog, Golden Retriever, or a Greyhound? 

A while ago I came up with a silly dog triangle to share with new managers. Those first few months transitioning into management are so rough and it catches everyone off-guard — fires, escalated emotions, competing priorities — it’s a lot. Most people I’ve worked with fall into three bad habits that I’ve characterized into three dog breeds. Last week I stumbled upon these illustrations that I made years ago and thought it would be a fun way to kick off my blog again. Enjoy!


Sheepdog (the “Protector”)
Sheepdog managers are protective by nature. They love hierarchy, honor and developing foolproof plans. Once the sheepdog is on your side, you won’t find anyone more loyal or dependable. However, the desire to protect and defend the team leads to a few pesky habits:
  • Says no a lot. The Sheepdog says no, no, no until convinced there’s no risk to saying yes. After a while, people figure out how to get things done without the Sheepdog’s approval and this lack of respect for boundaries makes the Sheepdog furious!
  • Hates change. The Sheepdog’s role is to make sure everything goes as planned. After all, change brings unpredictability and potential failure! As a result, people avoid difficult conversations with the Sheepdog until the change is certain. Now the Sheepdog is the last to know everything! Grrrr…
  • Implements unnecessary rules and procedures. If you want to work with the team, you have to run it by the Sheepdog first. This leads to email lists, approval forms, weekly task meetings and other forms of bureaucracy. The Sheepdog might know what’s going on but everyone else is clueless. The Sheepdog is okay with that.
  • Avoids working with other teams.  The Sheepdog prefers to stand its ground and fend off intruders. If you want to collaborate with the Sheepdog, you have to convince the Sheepdog that the current non-collaborative plan is ineffective. Proactively reaching out just to see if there might be ways to help each other is crazy.


Golden Retriever (the “Pleaser”)
The Goldie wants one thing: to please, please, please. Goldies love being involved and keeping team morale high. Goldies are great at developing team cohesion, seeing the best in others and taking everyone’s opinions into account. You probably have the best team tees and inside jokes if you work for a Goldie. However, the Goldie is surprised when their desire to please everyone somehow makes people unhappy!
  • Can’t make tough calls. The Goldie just wants to say yes. This leads to flip-flopping, delayed decision-making and postponing unpopular work to keep everyone happy. The Goldie wonders, “Isn’t there a plan that makes everyone happy all the time? Maybe the team should just vote? Maybe the issue should be escalated? Guys, I don’t know — what do you think we should do?”
  • Cliquish. The Goldie love to play and tend to combine work with fun: one-on-ones over foosball, happy hour post-mortems and coffee meeting planning sessions. As a result, Goldie’s tend to gravitate towards people with the same social habits as their own. But if you don’t like playing Goldie ball, watch out!
  • Can’t give hard feedback. Everything is super wonderful according to the Goldie. Team members might have to read between the lines for real feedback, “Everything is great. If I were to change one tiny thing, I might consider taking a look at this small issue that you probably didn’t even do intentionally and I didn’t even notice at first. Actually, it’s really okay and I’ll let you know if it becomes a real problem.” The Goldie is shocked when their team members say they aren’t getting individual coaching!
  • Unintentionally throws people under the bus. When a Goldie needs to finally deliver tough feedback, it’s easier to say, “Listen, I think you’re amazing. Of course, I love what you’re doing. But the exec team wants me to pass along this hard feedback. I know this is tough and I’m really, really sorry!” Whoops! Now the Goldie has introduced politics!


Greyhound (the “Doer”)
The Greyhound loves learning, problem solving and questioning the impossible. They were promoted because of their exceptional domain expertise, but now they believe that the team just can’t get it done without them. However, the converse is true. The team could do anything if the Greyhound Manager would just focus on managing the team and would resist the urge to jump into the team’s tasks!

  • Hates delegating. The Greyhound doesn’t realize that you inspire the team by doing the manager job well — not by proving that you could do your team’s job better.
  • But that’s not my way! The Greyhound is accustomed to being the thought-leader. When someone proposes a new execution plan, the Greyhound can’t help but show some skepticism, “Well… we can try it your way first but just so you know, this is how I would personally do it!”
  • Runs to the emergency. The Greyhound needs little excuse to drop all manager duties and dive into the day-to-day — especially an emergency! However, they fail to recognize that one fire is frequently followed by another fire. As a result, the Greyhound gets embroiled in emergencies and the team loses its leader when they need one the most.
  • Goes stir crazy. Sometimes a manager doesn’t have any formal tasks to do except respond to emails, be available to the team, and think. To the poor Greyhound, that sounds like, “You want me to sit at this desk all day and do absolutely nothing? Worst thing ever!”
  • Poor time management. If the Greyhound’s day is filled with meetings, email, and helping team members, it’s only at night that they get “real work” done. The Greyhound will burn out or drop important issues if they continue to work two full-time roles. How can folks be upset with them when it’s clear the Greyhound is trying so hard! No one else tries as hard as a Greyhound!

Feb 08

the first idea

When I ask folks why there aren’t more funded females entrepreneurs, I typically hear one of two responses: 1) the ideas from female teams aren’t good – they are all beauty review sites or 2) females lack the technical expertise to get things going.

I don’t have an answer for #2. I certainly wish there were more females in tech – especially when engineering talent is so scarce.

However, I think that reason #1 – female ideas aren’t good – is misleading. It’s true – if you attend a women’s entrepreneurial event, there’s a 99% likelihood that someone is launching a beauty review site within the week. It’s only natural that people are excited by their personal interests and until the male beauty sector catches up (Men Pen or Man Glaze anyone?), females are likely to dominate this category.

However, I also remember my days as an engineering student and hopeful entrepreneur coding for project classes. Though we were given freedom to build nearly anything we wanted, I was always surprised when nearly all group projects fell into one of a few categories (woah – someone else thought of building a dating app too?). Years later, I judged a few HCI events, and even then, the same ideas were circulating.

Now I believe that there are a few ideas that every engineer needs to get out of their system before they can move on to more promising ideas. Those include:

  1. Organizer & list-maker: develop a better to-do list, create group calendars, or make it easier to find available meeting times with busy calendars.
  2. Fitness tracking: track your diet or fitness plan and get encouragement from a health-oriented community.
  3. Recipe creator & grocery planner: create a consolidated shopping list based upon your planned meals or find recipes using the existing ingredients in your fridge.
  4. Review sites: a social network dedicated to providing expert reviews for business, car, food, beauty supply, pharmaceutical, bike, etc. categories.
  5. Dating: online matchmaking with a twist like requiring videos, community exclusivity (religion, location, occupation, education, etc), or maybe even allowing your friends to choose whom you date.
  6. Finding places to eat: review daily lunch options, find new dining pals, get daily deals, or locate the shortest lines.
  7. Real-time location: track your running route, find your lost parked car, find someone at the coffee shop whom you should network with, or look at tweets that are happening in your vicinity.
  8. Drink mixer: get the 101 on how to make any drink like a pro. This category is my favorite because it usually has the best student project names.
  9. Campus party finder: Stanford CS147 wouldn’t be complete without a campus report-a-party app. Bonus points if it’s combined with #1 so you can stay on top of your busy party calendar.

Having an idea on this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad idea. However, if you want your beauty product review site to grow into something beyond a fun side project, you need a competitive edge and wide appeal. Instead of a beauty article on warm and cool skin tones, perhaps you can consistently deliver expert insights such as how hemoglobin and melanin govern skin tones or you have novel image recognition technology that accurately assesses skin color regardless of the lighting condition.

It takes skill to generate and evaluate ideas. In school, design classes made us practice generating 100 solutions to a problem in 15 minutes which helped avoid the habit of falling in love with your first idea. It might seem like females are always gravitating towards the same beauty review site concept but I think it’s more likely that we all gravitate towards certain problems.

And, full confessional, I’ve been guilty of #1, #3, #4, #5, and #6 🙂