Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Leadership and Management Quotes

November 12th, 2015 No comments

I started reading a book titled: Leadership: Elevate Yourself and Those Around You – Influence, Business Skills, Coaching & Communication (Leader, Effective Teams, How to be a Leader, Teamwork, Public Speaking, Team Management) by Ross Elkins and bass on the first couple of chapters have led to this blog post.

Here are some quotes regarding Leadership:

A leader makes decisions and sets up goals, then he or she will lead his or her team members toward those goals. A leader has a group of followers. With collaboration, communication and trust, they stand united and face every challenge together to achieve their desired goals

Leadership can be defined as the process of influencing the behavior of one’s subordinates, without making them feel like they are working under a dictatorship

And some quotes regarding Management:

manager is someone who wants their employees to work for them. Managers have subordinates or employee

Managers have a position of authority vested in them by the company, and their employees work for them and largely do as they are told


I am still reading the rest of the book but wanted to share the quotes above.






Categories: Behavior, Leadership, Management, People, Quotes Tags:

Online Brainstorming Technique

September 17th, 2015 No comments

A couple of years ago I did a blog post on a Simple brainstorming technique. This blog post is an updated version that leverages tooling while still maintaining all of the benefits of the old manual technique; now enables simple and easy access for remote folks and simple record keeping.

If you are anything like me, you will have attended many brainstorming sessions that have gone horribly wrong where:

  • the person with the most senior title rules
  • people position themselves before the brainstorming in an effort to establish some credibility ( in my experience the largest time consumer)
  • someone has dominated the session with their diatribe(s)
  • people who won’t stop talking about their ideas
  • it has deteriorated into a session of I am right and you are wrong and it turned out that they were saying the same thing, just a little differently
  • people were so intimidated that they did not contribute
  • people belittle the ideas thrown up
  • it becomes more about who’s idea it is rather than what the suggestion is
  • remote employees are not able to participate fully
  • the documentation is always after the fact and late….

The purpose of a Brainstorming session is to capture as many ideas as possible. The term, think outside the box is often used when it comes to brainstorming. It is very common to have a totally unrealistic statement stimulate an idea with someone else that was just brilliant. In an effort to get ideas out quickly and without most of the preamble, here is a mechanism that is quick, fair, enables remote participants, and is personality sensitive.


Pre requisites

  • Online agile planning tool, I will use Trello for this blog post. I am currently biased towards Trello because I have successfully used  for audiences in excess of 100 people.
  • Create a board on your tool of choice so that people can capture their ideas
  • Depending on the tool that you use, you might need to adjust the visibility of the board. If you are using Trello and not have Business Class, you will need to create the Team first and then create the board under the Team.
  • Depending on your tool, you might need to create a group and invite people to board that you created
  • Enable the ability to vote on the cards
  • If you are doing this session with remote folks, I do suggest some form of screen sharing mechanism so that everyone can be focused on the same screen.
  • Using the board, create some existing groups/lists such as the following to streamline the brainstorming session.
    • Issues
    • Suggestions
    • Do Not Do
    • Vent
    • Duplicates
    • Parking List
    • Collect Input
    • Action Items



Participant Guidelines

  1. one idea per card (ideally 8 or less words) You can use the card description for more data or explanation.
  2. do not discuss what you write down
  3. have fun
  4. respect all ideas
  5. do not judge (especially your own ideas), just put them on a card
  6. think outside the box
  7. ideas can be added at any time time during the session (especially during the discussion)

Instructions for the Brainstorming session

  1. Ensure that everyone understands the participant guidelines. How do you know this? Ask.
  2. Everyone needs to capture their issues as a card in the Issues list. One idea per card and if your idea needs data or explanation, you can include that in the card description.
  3. Prioritize the issues by moving the higher priority cards to the top of the list. Feel free to add more to the list as people understand other cards. Merge duplicate cards and move the old cards to the Duplicates list.
  4. Brainstorm – review the cards in the Issues list and add ideas on how put ideas on cards. One idea per card and if your idea needs data or explanation, you can include that in the card description.
  5. Read what others have put up remembering it is about the idea and not who created the card
  6. Put more ideas up, especially if they were stimulated by what you read.
  7. Now group the similar themed suggestions together. It sometimes helps to create additional list/groups in order to collate the similar themed ideas together. I have also color coded ideas with similar themes.
  8. Move the the duplicate cards to the Duplicates List, leaving one card on the list. It might be necessary to change the title.
  9. Have everyone vote on their top five items.
  10. Arrange the cards with the highest number of votes to be at the top of the lists.
  11. Variations
    1. Option 1: Now discuss all of the ideas; as an active participant, it is your responsibility not to belittle any idea or person. I put this step in as a transitionary step. As people get more comfortable with this approach, this step should be eliminated because it favors the talkers and over shadows the introverts. That being said, it also enables the talkers to think and do as a team, you will need to time box this step or it will never end. Create cards with Action Items for the next steps or actions to bring the ideas to fruition.
    2. Option 2: This is the more effective method. Have the team create create cards with Action Items for the next steps or actions to bring the ideas to fruition.
  12. Some suggestions will require additional input to be collected and they can be moved to the Collect Input list.
  13. To help with the flow from idea to Action Item, word tag the idea or color code it



Helpful Hints

  • To help the folks in the group that need time to think and process, it is advisable to include the brainstorming topic in the meeting invitations.
  • Provide a link to the topic and these instructions as part of the advanced notification.
  • Do not shoot the messenger!  Brainstorming is all about getting the most hair brained ideas out.  Remember that your crazy idea can stimulate someone else’s thinking that results in that killer idea.
  • Do not be afraid to screwup. Please refer to the point above.
  • The ideas can now be evaluated on the merits of the idea and not who’s idea it is.
  • If you have written it down, you do not need to talk about it too. It might make you feel better but it is also taking up time. This is especially difficult for first-timers.
  • For the discussion phase: Some folks need to talk in order to think. It helps to have these folks remote as they can mute themselves while they talk.  don’t worry, because you’re on a conference call it comes naturally. I would also suggest time boxing the discussion; you will see there is a rhythm and when folks start to repeat themselves, it is time to cut it off and move on.
  • It is pretty common to have similar ideas, so just merge them and move the duplicates to the Duplicates list.
  • Some folks will not be able to move off their points and will attempt to convince others that they are right. remind them that they are not respecting the ideas of others and are assuming that they are right. All ideas need to be able to stand. If explanation is needed, then add the collateral to the card.
  • For folks that are used to discussions, they might feel that this method is impersonal or that their voice is not being heard. For these folks, explain to them the purpose of this technique is to capture everyones input as efficiently as possible and they should not focus on the busy exercise of them being able to talk.


When time is a factor, I have had the participants complete steps 1 to 3 before the meeting. Alternatively, I have also split into two meetings by completing steps 1 to 4 at one meeting, sorted the ideas out off line and then conducted the discussion at a followup meeting.



What is important to you?

September 10th, 2015 No comments

“Gavin, these guys are late again!  I am really tired of them not delivering as they said they would!  I really want to give them a piece of my mind and explain to them the concept of accountability.” Joe said explosively.

I am sure that we have all found ourselves in a similar situation where we would like to blow off some steam, send a flame mail, and/or even give the person a piece of our mind.

For those of us that are aggressive results driven people, we tend to find this lack of accountability painful and frustrating.  Here is a suggestion that was shared with me years back and I am sharing on a technique to handle this type of situation:

What is more important?

We need to be conscious about what is more important to us.  The results that we are trying to achieve or being able to vent at them?  By asking this question, it forces me to think about the situation, what the business needs and what what the costs are of an emotional outburst are from me.  Sometimes I am more successful and other times not so much…..

Looking for a new job?

September 8th, 2015 No comments

I have spoken with a number of people that are either unhappy in the their current positions or are feeling an extremely strong desire to move onto the next chapter in their careers.  For the folks that are extremely unhappy or frustrated, I know that this is going to be difficult but in order to move forward, you need to have a clear head.  So take a couple of deep breaths and get those frustrations under control.  Frustration is just a form of anger, get it under control or the anger will be visible to those that you speak with and is that the message that you want to send to prospective employers?

Now that you have decided to find greener pastures, you have decided haven’t you?  Remember, no decision is a decision.  If are not deciding, then you are either choosing to stay or allowing others to control your career and dictate to you.

If you have decided to move to greener pastures, the first is to take a look at what’s out there right?  Actually not!  The first step is to identify what it is that you are looking for and then to do a targeted search in the organizations that meet your criteria.

It’s all about youSparkPilot.com_What_makes_you_happy

So let’s look take a quick look at what you want or what makes you happy.  What we are trying to achieve here is to get to know what it is that we want.  The concept is quite simple.  We play this game with ourselves all the time, where we are looking to be happy but we never really take a look at ourselves to determine what will make us happy.  So what areas do I suggest looking at to ensure that we understand what will make us happy at work?  Why do this?  Simple, if you know what will conditions, environment etc make you happy, you can go and look for that instead of arriving at a place or role and finding out that you are not happy.

Still reading?  Good, now let’s take a look at the criteria that I suggest you look at to determine where or what your next opportunity should be.  There are two key elements for this approach to work and it is important for you to know yourself before evaluating the new opportunity.

Your Passion

What is your passion?  This is core to your job being fulfilling for you.  Are you doing something that you really enjoy doing?  When you wake up in the morning, are bushy tailed and rearing to go?  If not, you job does not align with your passion.  I have seen people go through life listless about what they are doing and after doing this for years, they think it is normal.  Folks, find what you really care about and what makes you happy.  And it is possible that your passions may change as you mature.  It is OK for your passions to be outside work.  I have had the pleasure of working with two guys where their passions where their kids.  Their job was just a way to provide for their kids.  I know that some management/executives do not like this answer because they expect to be #1, but this is their shortcoming, not yours.

Your goals

What are your goals that you want to achieve and how will this new role help you achieve your goals?  If you do not have goals, then this is a great time to start defining some.  And please write them down because without them being documented, we tend to drift based on the situation.  When you document, it provides you with a great baseline and something that you can review over time.  I had an employee who thought he was great at executing.  To help him understand that this was an area of improvement, I had him document his goals for the month.  At the end of the month, we reviewed what he had completed and to his horror he had completed nothing that he had committed to complete.

Your Style

How do you prefer to operate?  While I do acknowledge that this is situational. we all have a preference for a particular style.  Do you know what yours is?  If not, ask a significant other and your colleagues and they will provide you with feedback very quickly on how they see your behaviors.  What we are trying to discover here is what is your natural style.  To help here, I had a situation where the organization culture had become very combative and confrontational, mainly because of a single person’s style and culture and the leadership did not want to run the risk of losing and therefore they chose not to put him on a behavior modification path.  I personally found this to be an unacceptable situation, not only the culture but the lack of leadership and therefore I chose to leave, as did 63% of the organization.  For me to be happy, I like people being happy and being able to share ideas in an open and collaborative manner.  What is your preferred style?

Your natural Pace

Do you naturally move at 110mph or 40 mph.  The pace of industry is getting faster and faster and I have seen this become more and more of an issue.  Ten years ago it was very seldom an issue but the pace of technology is frenetic and therefore if you do not like moving quickly, do not target a role where fast paced is a necessity.  But you need to know what your pace is before you start looking……..


 The new role / job

OK, so now this section of the post is all about the new position and some suggested areas to research before you sign on the dotted line.

Company / Team Culture

What is the culture at the new place?  Do they value cross group collaboration or is the culture very combative? Are they are a bunch of sports nuts that work out twice a day or a bunch of single people that socialize together a number of times together every week.  You will need to fit in with this culture, so make sure that it is who you are and that it is what you want.  A big red flag here is if the org is leaderless or recently underwent a leadership change because the culture is set from the top and influenced at the ground level.

I am putting this under culture but it can stand by itself – office hours.  What are the official office hours and then the unofficial work hours.  Do they start meetings at 7:30 AM and then expect people to be in the office until after 7PM in the evening?


What are their values?  I had a friend who took a position because they gave him a large salary bump only to find out that some of his office mates were members of a religious cult.  As a lifelong Catholic, he left within a month because he could not relate to people that had a vastly different value system to his own.

A note to the technical people that value a high level of technical prowess.  Think about others who do not share this value and do not have the skills that you do.


What is the management style.  I have come across a startup where the CEO does a daily war room meeting so that his 30+ employees can cover what they are going to do during the day.  He them checks in on them during the day to ensure that they are on track.  He was very confused when I asked him who was running the company while he was micro-managing the people.  Needless to say, he was experiencing a rather staff turnover and he kept on saying that it was because people did not have the work ethic for a startup……  Remember that your manager has control, or at least some influence in your career trajectory while your are employed with that company.

It is always a good idea to see how others in similar roles to you interact with the management and how management interacts with them.  And never overlook how they interact with each other.  That is so telling!

Senior Leadership

Do they believe that only senior leadership can drive initiatives or do they believe that anyone can lead an initiative?  If it takes the involvement of one of the anointed ones to have an initiative succeed, is that what you are looking for?    Alternatively, the lack of leadership will kill any idea / initiative extremely quickly and then the people will mill around and often bicker about often irrelevant things because there is no direction.

 Money / Benefits

Yeah, I have to bring up the piece that no one wants to talk about but the latest research is starting to highlight that higher reward does not equal more results.  In some situations, company’s are having to provide larger packages in order to compensate for other situations such as work environment or just because they are not able to find suitably skilled people that want to do the job. In addition, some companies are having to pay large packages in order to attract and retain talent.

 The role

If possible, I suggest speaking with the people that are currently performing similar roles to the one that you will be performing.  Is the role really what they documented in the job description?  Where there peers on the interview loop?

Their Expectations

This is a loaded one.  Are they expecting you to build a new product / technology / team without really understanding of what it will cost to deliver?  Yeah, this is a personal lesson that I learned where the company wanted the results but was not willing to invest what it took to deliver that caliber of results.  In their mind, they were paying me to deliver but did not understand that it takes a team to deliver a world-class product…..  Now I always ask what it is that they want to get from me and in what timeframe?  The shorter the time, the higher the investment needed.

You also need to remember is that the more that they pay you, the higher their expectations will be.



Categories: People Tags:

So you want to be a People Manager

August 26th, 2015 No comments

Over the years, I have had many conversations with folks that considered the option of moving into people management.  For the purposes of this blog post, I am going to assume that as a new manager, you will be a team lead with people reporting directly to you.

Put others first

This is a big one and one that does not come easily.  Are you prepared to put the welfare of others ahead of your own?  e.g. When someone on the team messes something up and causes an issue, will you point them out and throw them under the bus?  Or will you take the heat and work with them to improve?  Are you prepared to wait for the team to succeed even if your boss wants you to deliver the project today?  Are you willing to work someone on improving their skills even if you can perform the task quickly and accurately in a fraction of the time it will take them?


Are you able to communicate what you need done in a manner that they understand and want to deliver?  This is critical because if you are not able to communicate what needs to be delivered in a clear and understandable manner, the team will not know what needs to be delivered.


Do you have the patience to let them make mistakes and learn?  Or even more difficult, do you have the patience for them to take twice as long to complete a task than you could do it yourself?

Tough Love

I used the term “Tough Love” here on purpose because I do not mean firing someone.  If you want to fire or tell people what to do, then you just failed on #1 because you are putting your wishes above those of others.  What I am referring to here,  is the ability, and willingness, to have difficult conversations that are beneficial to the person. A great example of this is appropriate dress code when meeting with customers.








Mother Hen at Work

June 14th, 2012 No comments

I recently received a call from an ex-colleague, whom with I hadn’t spoken with in almost a year.  She wanted to talk about an open position on my team, which surprised me because she did not have the skills that we were looking for.  However, she wanted to talk about someone else who she knew had applied for the position and was hoping to get an offer, let’s call him Joe.  I was floored when she then started to tell me that Joe was part of her brood and she just wanted to make sure that this was the right thing for him.  This went on for quite a while with me scheming about I could get off the call ASAP.   Then she started to tell me that I needed to treat him right or the Mama Bear in her would come out.  Wow!  At first, I was ready to hangup but then I realized that she did not mean this as threat and it was just her expressing her concern.  Nice but………….. Mother Hen Image

This made me think back about a similar situation a couple of years back where a where Jane, was irritating her workmates.  They felt that she was constantly trying to tell them what to do.  In their opinion, it was always about what she wanted to do and she would not respect their opinions.  Jane was not happy either and spoke to me about it.  Here is where we landed.  She was a single mother of three and therefore at home she had to be “the strong one”.  This meant that she was so used to issuing instructions to her kids and not listening their responses. It was the only way that she was able to keep control of them. When questioned by the kids, her response was:  “because I say so”.  In the work environment, she often saw questions from her colleagues as personal attacks and that they did not listen to her.  During our discussions, she realized that listening was very different from them doing what she said.  She also realized that she just wanted to be heard but her home role had skewed what she wanted and she was expecting her colleagues to do what she said.  She changed her expectations and things flourished from then on.

So, based on these two situations, I might be coming across as anti-Mother Hen.  This is not true, all I ask is that the Mother Hen identify first whether the person/people that they are communicating with recognize them in the role of Mother Hen.

Let’s contrast these two environments


  • It is the parent that generally provides the leadership and guidance.
  • The parent role equals total authority and the de facto leader so it acceptable to make unilateral decisions that affect them.
  • Because I say so, can be an age appropriate response, especially in a crisis or where confusion prevails.
  • We are parents by birth.
  • Parents define the acceptable behavior boundaries in the home.


  • The leadership and guidance could be anyone, peer, manager….
  • Our colleagues choose to follow our leadership or not.  It is their choice not ours.
  • We are appointed to our roles, either because that is our role or because someone else says that we have the qualifications.  Generally the role is formal.  i.e. engineer, nurse, manager?  I don’t think the mother hen role exists.
  • A formal span of control exists.  Do you have the authority to make decisions on their behalf?
  • Laws, corporates guidance, people’s culture and their expectations of us define the acceptable behavior boundaries in the office.


So before you assume the Mother Hen role outside the home, please think of the following:

  • That person that you mothering / herding, did they ask you to mother or herd them?
  • The person that you are interacting with, do they recognize the Mother Hen role in the office?  Do they see you as the Mother Hen?  And more importantly, how do they judge you as the Mother Hen?
  • Is it appropriate for you to play this role now with me?
  • Know your limits and the person’s boundaries and do not overstep them and just to make sure, ask.




September 29th, 2011 No comments

In a previous post titled: Simple Approach / Plan for Change, I brought up Awareness as the first phase for change.  This has been the stimulant for a number of conversations about what Awareness and requests for more clarity on the topic.
I have been having lot’s of conversations with managers about how to get people to modify their behavior. Behavior modification starts with making the person aware of the impact of their behaviors. The awareness state is the first step of a journey that enables us to change the situation or address the issue.  Getting someone to the aware state can be a rather daunting hurdle, mainly because our egos get in the way. Awareness is just having the knowledge about the current situation or state of affairs. So let’s look at the process that we all go through to become aware. Awareness Flow


Moving from an unaware state to an aware state is a journey that requires an event or trigger to kick start the transition process of moving from an unaware state to an aware state. For self-aware folks, you are able to generate this event without help from the outside. However for most of us normal folks, we require some outside help to generate the the event. Think of the event as your alarm clock going off in the morning. We might not particularly enjoy it going off but it can definitely help us from being late and is therefore very beneficial to us. Managers:  We might need to be the ones that create the event that kick starts this process.


In this phase we tend to ignore or deny the incoming data / perspective because the situation does not match our preconceived idea or notion of how we want it to be.   This phase can be traumatic and depending on the implications or if the situation it may have an emotional on us.  This phase is the most impactful all around because the personal that is doing the denying can feel that they are being picked on.  The people that are trying to help can easily just stop trying to help because they are getting told that there is not an issue.  People just get tired of trying to help and walk away.

Recognizing this phase:

  • Our perspective is different from other peoples.
  • Unwillingness to discuss the situation with others.
  • Denial will manifest itself as emotional spikes or silence.  The more passive the personality, the more the silence.

With practice this phase can be shortened but unfortunately not bypassed so make peace with it.  It is OK to wish and / or wonder why this is happening to us.  The circumstances of the event and associated emotional impact with have an impact of the duration of this phase. Managers:  Give people time to process the event and the implications.

Manager’s Note:

  • Work with your people and take them through the trauma.  In certain situations, they might need to get external help, so work with your HR representative and be aware of the manpower laws.
  • Do not mistakenly categorize silence as denial because analytical personalities take time to process the data and they tend to process in silence.


  • Getting stuck in this phase means that we are disconnected from reality and often leads to argumentative behavior.
  • People that just deny will find that people will stop trying to help them.


Redirecting the attention elsewhere is an attempt not to involve ourselves.  This phase is where people find the reasons and attempt to rationalize things why not to accept this information that is different to our perspective or desired state.

Recognizing this phase:

  • Redirecting the attention or blame onto others.
  • I can’t do anything about this situation / issue.
  • Raising points about similar behaviors / issues with others thereby justifying their perspective.

Manager’s Note:

  • Do not allow people to play the victim or to rationalize the situation as not theirs issue.  Accountability starts here.
  • Equality for all – do not treat people differently because it is divisive to the team morale.
  • Stay focused on the individuals situation and do not fall into the trap of discussing this issue as a relative issue.


  • This is the victim state because it is a lot easier to redirect the attention form us.



Yeah I know I talk too much We all start off in an unaware state where we do not have the knowledge in our minds. If we are lucky enough we manage to make it to an aware state where we have the knowledge and are then able to define our action plan based on the knowledge we have gained. Let’s look at the process of how we move from the unaware state to an aware state so that we can remove the luck portion and manage the situation better. People that are self-aware have the ability to generate the Event with little to no outside help.


Recognizing this phase:

  • Run out of excuses is the most common.
  • You have adopted or modified your perspective to include the points raised.
  • Able to list the points where your perspectives were different or the similarities.


Manager’s Note:

Acknowledgement is last step of awareness but for managers it is important to help our people use this new awareness to modify their behavior appropriately.  Help them and coach them through to the desired state.



  • It is important to differentiate between acknowledgement and a plan to address the issue discovered through the new found awareness.
  • When dealing areas of improvement, it is important not overwhelm the person and also to help with a plan to address these issues.  Without the help, they will quickly become demoralized.






Simple Approach / Plan for Change


September 5th, 2011 No comments

Last week, a friend shared this article titled:  Caring for Your Introvert and I though that I would share some of the highlights from my perspective:

  • Introverts brains work differently, seriously, there is scientific research on this.
  • Introverts find dealing with people tiring.  It is not that they cannot do it, or do not like people.  They just need to recharge their own energy levels afterwards.  Unlike most extroverts, they are not energized by social interaction with people.
  • While a lot is known about extroverts, very little is known about introverts.
  • Please accept them for who they are.





Categories: Behavior, People Tags: ,

Doom Loop System

December 18th, 2010 2 comments

I was in my early twenties and starting to take this thing called work a little more seriously.  I was learning from real world experiences, both my own and those of my colleagues.  I was fortunate enough to be mentored by one of my more experienced and senior colleagues, who we shall call Mo.  Over about a year, Mo became more and more dissatisfied with his role in the company.  I was confused to why he was dissatisfied, after all he was where I was working to get to.   Then a mere 18 months later, I found myself in a similar situation where I was dissatisfied with my role.  I followed Mo’s lead and left the company and took a position that was more stimulating at another company.

Over the years, I have seen this behavior repeat itself, both to myself and to others.  In the illustration above I have created a graph to depict the trend  of our job satisfaction over time.  In the illustration I used growth or satisfaction on the y axis.  For those people earlier in their careers they are more focused on their growth applies.  For those that are in a matured role, job satisfaction is a more appropriate label for the y axis.

The good news for us is that there is some research that shows that this curve is normal behavior in a book titled “The Doom Loop System” by Dory Hollander.   The time it takes for this curve to manifest itself is influenced by a number of circumstances both personal and job related.  As we go through the job satisfaction curve, our emotion play a role where we like and dislike the various stages as shown in the diagram below.

So far we have focused on our perspective.  In the diagram below, let’s take a look at things from an outsiders perspective, more specifically at our performance through the curve.  Not surprisingly, our performance tends to be better at the top of the curve where we have the knowledge to perform.  The interesting piece is that our performance declines on the tail end of the curve too.

The Doom Loop System is the brainchild of Dory Hollander and the first chapter of the book covers the Doom Loop System.  The rest of the book provides insight on how to continue career growth using the information gained from the use of the Doom Loop System.

The Doom Loop System builds on the curve and everything else that we have covered and that you are now familiar with.  The Doom Loop System follows our progression along the crve with the start in Quadrant I in the bottom left of the graphic below.  Then onto Quadrant II in the top left, Quadrant III in the top right and then down to Quadrant IV at the end of the curve.

The Doom Loop System

Each of the quadrants are covered below together with some keywords that can be used to describe our attitudes in each of the Quadrants.

Quadrant I

Quadrant I is generally the beginning of the curve where we are excited about the opportunities. That being said, we are still working on learning the environment or even building the skills needed for optimal performance.

Motivated Insecure Pressured Eager
Challenged Excited Fearful of failure Connected
Nervous Worried Overwhelmed

Quadrant II

In Quadrant II we have the skills, know the environment and therefore are able to perform at a higher level.  As a result, we tend to feel more upbeat and this is reflected by our attitude too.  As such, we are both happier and have the highest level of performance at the peak of the curve and therefore this is the ideal quadrant for us.

Satisfied Glad to be here Challenged Involved
Attentive Focused on the here & now Excited Confident
Striving Energized through work Committed In Control

Quadrant III

In Quadrant III we have peaked and are now on the downhill portion of the curve.  As a result, not only are starting to enjoy things less and our performance is also starting to deteriorate.

Vaguely Dissatisfied Careless / distracted In Crisis
Bored Frustrated Lacking self-discipline Panicky
Disappointed Out of control Questioning self / past Secure
Meeting needs mechanized Passively coping Dusty

Quadrant IV

Quadrant IV is the least pleasant place to be, both for us and for our employers.

Lethargic Desperate Hopeless Angry
Trapped Disillusioned Feeling like a failure Alone
Depressed Worried Bored

How does this apply to me?

So can we use our feelings and attitude to provide us with some insight into how the Doom Loop applies to us.  You can complete a Doom Loop online assessment that uses response about your feelings and attitudes to plot out a Doom Loop Matrix for you.   The URL for the online assesment is:

Interpreting the Results

The resulting matrix has been plotted out according to the responses to the online assessment.  The numbers in the quadrants reflect the allocation of the survey results that are applicable to that quadrant.  The matrix reflects your perspective and does not reflect the perspectives of others or reflect your capabilities and skills.

Overcoming this behavior

The book covers in a lot of detail on how we can manage this in our careers.  The book introduces the concept of capstoning, where we need toe evaluate which quadrant we are in and when we are at the peak, we then move onto another role that stretches us further.

As managers, we can create the environment to help our people stretch and grow. The key is for us to know when our folks are transitioning from Quadrant II to Quadrant III.  We then create some new opportunities for them, while they are at their peak, either in new roles or expanding their current roles to include new challenging and exciting elements that will move elements of their role back to Quadrant I.  This is beneficial not only for the company but also for the employees because they do not have to go through the stress of finding a new role in or outside the company.  This approach also eliminates the integration phase because the person is still working with people that they have already established relationships which they can leverage.

Awesome Motivation Video

November 23rd, 2010 No comments

A great reminder that we all have to fail…….before succeeding.

Categories: Behavior, People Tags:

June 9th, 2010 No comments

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

– Eleanor Roosevelt –

Categories: Mindset, People, Quotes Tags:

Optimistic Mindset

January 13th, 2010 No comments

I was born and raised in Africa and like most places in the developing world (politically correct term for 3rd world) , culturally, we looked to the 1st world countries for leadership and guidance. As a teenager, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to a number of visitors from various 1st world countries. This exposure allowed me to see, firsthand, some of the cultural generalizations.

Working with American, the first thing I noticed was how they increased the volume of their voice when they perceived that someone did not understand them.

The second thing I noticed was their optimistic mindset.  They were always willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt and listened to their input, ideas and feedback in a non-judgmental manner. I watched in amazement how these people responded very well to this behavior. They changed from being interested parties to involved participants. It was awesome to see how the energy levels increased and how the folks cooperated together.  Needless to say, the goals were achieved quickly and with little fanfare.

I believe that one of the biggest advantages that the Americans have, is their optimistic mindset.

Over time, I have come to realize that the behavior that I was exposed to as a teenager was a combination of the optimistic mindset and also an ability to listen.  Listening is a skill that all managers should have in their arsenal and constantly practice.  For some of us, this does not come easily, but for the sake of your people please continue to work on it.

10 Reasons why we fail? Plus 3 from me for an unlucky 13

December 8th, 2009 3 comments

I recently came across a post regarding 10 reasons why people fail.  For the folks that know me, I prefer to focus on the positive but in this case I do believe that there are some great points raised. I have taken the liberty of changing the ranking sequence listed in the original post slightly.  I also inserted a number of  items of items of my own in the list.  Please refer to the original blog post for details on the reasons that are from the original post that can be found here:  10 Reasons Why You’re Probably Going to Fail

And the 13 Reasons…..

  • It’s not your passion
  • You don’t have a plan.
  • You’re waiting for it to be perfect
  • You’re afraid of failure
  • You’re not willing to work hard
  • You don’t have the skills or knowledge
    • Not knowing what to do becomes  tends to cause more paralysis the longer the challenge stays without a solution.  Here are some tips that can help:
      • Break the problem into smaller pieces
        • Large problems generally consist of lots of smaller issues/challenges.  Think of the problem as Thanks Giving dinner – eat it one mouthful at a time with a smile
      • Separate the problem from the solution
        • Define and understand the problem first.  When the problem is defined and clear, then work on the solution for each problem.
      • Put your ego away and ask for help
        • To soften the blow on the ego, you can do brainstorming sessions to elicit help from others.
        • Discuss the situation with your mentors and get their input.
        • Enlist help from team mates, when part of a team, it is less about asking for help and more about collaborative teamwork.  Remember, your baby is never ugly, so get people to help you make the baby.
      • Fill in the skills Gap
        • Attend a class
        • Do research and Read – books, blogs, Internet searches
        • Ask for help
  • You don’t trust yourself
    • Or put differently, I don’t have the self confidence
      • The first thing here is to stop stabbing yourself with the butter knife!!!  Come on, putting yourself down like this is no different from stabbing yourself with a butter knife.  Your get to stab but no one knows that you are stabbing yourself because it is not life threatening.
      • Build yourself up through supportive statements
      • Trust in your instincts / gut, afterall in most case, your manager would not have hired you if you could not deliver the goods
      • Start small and build up slowly and regularly.  Succeed at least once a day!
  • You do not have the support
    • We cannot succeed alone and we all need support.
      • Start by supporting yourself!!!  When others see that you are supporting yourself, they will follow your lead and support you too.
      • Support generates support other in a genuine manner because then they will support you
      • Ensure that you goals align with your manager’s because then they are incented to support in return
      • Teamwork and collaboration is the best source of support
      • Get a mentor(s) and/or a coach
  • It’ll outgrow you
  • You’ve had success in the past
  • You’re unwilling to stop doing something else
  • You won’t build a team of friends
  • You won’t have the tough conversations

Categories: Behavior, People Tags: ,

Vampires and Wolves: No, watch out for the Zombies?

December 6th, 2009 No comments

With the current Twilight craze going on, everyone is talking about Vampires and Wolves.  This got me thinking about the various “personalities” that we encounter at the office, more particularly High Performance Teams.  The three that came to mind, are the Vampires, Wolves and Zombies.

Vampires – there are different types of vampires.  The vampire that comes to mind is the blood sucker or the Sang Vampire or Sanguinarian Vampire as the smart people call them.  There are a number of other types but the one that I will touch on here is the Psychic Vampire or Psi Vampire.  These folks will either conscious or unconsciously feed on the life-energy of others.  In the majority of cases, they will feed from the energy from groups but the ones that we need to be aware of,  are the ones that suck the energy from us individually.  For me, the best way to handle these folks that come to drain our energy is just to say “No!”.   It does not make them bad people and often they do not realize what they are doing, they just find it energizing to be around you or in large groups.

Wolves – These guys & gals have their territories and search for food in those territories, they run in packs and will defend against anything that they perceive encroaches on their turf.  Because they are pack animals, the key is for them to see you as part of the pack and to achieve this, the key is to remind them that the enemy is not inside the company.  The enemy is outside the company and in most cases it requires management support to define the common enemy.  That is why they are called competitors.  Internally in the company we call the people that we work with colleagues.

Zombies – these are the folks that come to the office because they need the paycheck.  I am not judging this behavior, I am pointing out that the problem with this behavior is the impact on the rest of the High Performance Team who are busting their humps to solve the business need in the most expedient manner.  Therefore as managers, these folks are our biggest challenge because we need to help them with their self awareness, so that they can see the impact of their behavior on the rest of the team.  I have found that they tend to be blissfully unaware of the impact that their behavior is having on the on the team.  They tend to be horrified when they see how their lack of commitment is impacting the team. They are stunned when they see that their team mates are having to fill in for them not being fully engaged.  In certain cases, some of the team are putting in 110% to make up for them just cruising at 60%.

If the zombie chooses to make the transition back the land of the living, they will struggle with the change in priorities.  Often they are unprepared to handle the sacrifices that the changed priorities demand.  Managers need to be there for their folks to help them and coach them through these new challenges.  As the zombie reengage with the High Performance Team, often they will dedicate a significant amount of time and effort, they need to search for alternative techniques and skills that will allow them to meet the biz needs in a more efficient and sustainable manner.

Categories: Behavior, People Tags: ,

Not delivering the results?

November 17th, 2009 4 comments

I don’t know about you but I have run into the situation where a great employee  is not delivering the results that the business needs.  Here is the question that I ask myself:

If I put that person in a Life or Death situation where they face death if they are unable to deliver the results.  Are they able to deliver the results?

And the options are:

  • if they are able to deliver the results: – then there is a motivation issue
  • if they are still not able to deliver the results: –  then there is a skills issue

I do not recommend that you put any of your people in a Life or Death situation.  For me, the ideal approach is to have conversations with them to determine what the issue(s) are.  As long as you have already established a culture where they can share issues without any repercussions, they will share with you.

Categories: Management, People Tags: ,

Ten Rules for Being Human

November 13th, 2009 No comments

by Cherie Carter-Scott

  1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it’s yours to keep for the entire period.
  2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called, “life.”
  3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately “work.”
  4. Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.
  5. Learning lessons does not end. There’s no part of life that doesn’t contain its lessons. If you’re alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.
  6. There” is no better a place than “here.” When your “there” has become a “here”, you will simply obtain another “there” that will again look better than “here.
  7. Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.
  8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
  9. Your answers lie within you. The answers to life’s questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
  10. You will forget all this.
Categories: People, Quotes Tags:

Do you Build or Buy the ideal employee?

October 28th, 2009 1 comment

I come from a software development background and this is an age old discussion.  When should we buy technology or product and when should we build it ourselves.  As engineers, we tend to believe that we can build it better than anyone else.  As a result of this mindset,we tend lean towards building it ourselves and then rationalizing the decision.  Therefore I use a number of evaluation criteria to help overcome this bias and to ensure that we make decisions that are beneficial to the company.  Some of the evaluation criteria that we use are: time to build, predictable costs of buying, risk of building, specific / customized requirements, discovery of unknown issue(s) during building, scope creep, and of course time to market.

Now, let’s go back to management and look at a similar decision that we have to make on how to staff our teams.  Do we bring in talent from outside (buy) or do we grow (build) someone that we know into the position?

some of the benefits of growing a known person into the position

  • known entity – we know how they will fit in with the team and have existing relationships inside the company that they can leverage
  • risk – Because they are a known entity, they are a known risk
  • employee motivation – when the company is prepared to invest in people, it definitely helps boost the team morale which helps motivate people to grow
  • integrated into culture – the person is already integrated into company culture and therefore there will be able to operate within the culture
  • team player – because they are known, you know if they are a team player or not

some of the cons of growing a known person the position

  • growth time – it takes time for a person to grow and acquire the skills needed
  • training – not only is there the financial investment with training but there is also the question that the training investment will be able to be converted into results
  • errors – mistakes are part of the learning experience
  • risk – it is possible that the person will not be able to perform at the higher level
  • company focused growth – as the person grows into the position, their growth can easily be customized or focused to meet the company / team needs
  • personal investment – for the employee to grow, they will need to invest in themselves and often they underestimate the investment needed or are not willing to make the sacrifices needed to learn and grow

some of the benefits of bringing in new talent

  • fresh perspective – new people bring their perspectives and experiences that can greatly contribute to the team diversity
  • exact skills needed – because require skills are available immediately, the results are delivered with a shorter wait
  • acclimatization only – because the new outside talent already has the skills needed, all that remains is for them to acclimatize

some of the cons of bringing in new talent

  • unknown entity – we will still need to discover what the person’s weak point are
  • integration into the team / company – how will the person mesh with the company culture / team climate
  • resume inflation – does the person really have the skills that they claimed to have?

So, after looking at these Pro & Cons, is it better to build or buy your ideal employee?

Although, I have a preference to build.  It really depends on the business need.  Do we have the time  to invest in our people and still achieve the business results?

In the end, the decision really boils down to the person.  Here are some of the additional items that I take into consideration.

  • drive / self motivation – Is the person a self starter?  Do they turn into a victim when the going gets tough or do they persevere through challenges?  This is so much easier to evaluate with a known entity.
  • team work – are they a team player?  Again definitely easier with a known entity.
  • work ethic – I am one of those that does not believe that it can be learned?
  • feedback – How do they respond to feedback?
  • mental horsepower – simply put, gotta have the mental capability and be able to use it to solve the business challenges on hand
Categories: Management, People Tags:

Is Passion a Key Element for Success?

September 9th, 2009 No comments

I recently attended a talk by a famous professional photographer.  At one stage in his career he had grown his company to a point where he was hiring a lot of people, wearing a suit and no longer shooting photographs himself.  Therefore he was looking for and hiring talented photographers, to do the shooting, while he ran the business.  He started off basing his hiring decision on the normal criteria of skills, work ethic, interpersonal skills and sales ability.  Often he had numerous candidates that all had the same skill level and could all perform the job.

Over time he found that the folks that were passionate about photography, would go the extra mile needed to do a great job thereby ensuring a higher level of customer service and satisfaction.  Therefore he came to conclusion that passion should be his primary decision making point, followed by the rest of the criteria.  As a result of this change, he found that his pool of candidates was significantly smaller.  Surprisingly he also found that his pool of candidates had a slightly lower skill level but were more than willing to go that extra mile to ensure a great job.  So he took a chance with the lower skill level and moved ahead.  It was a successful gamble and he now attributes this change of hiring policy as one of the pivotal points that contributed to his business growth.

The image on the right, shows quite a gap between what is needed and the skills and and passion combination.  This gap (the visible red portion) is a massive opportunity that someone else can easily step into.

As I am writing this post, a rerun of Hells Kitchen was playing in the background.  Gordon Ramsey said the following to one of the contestants:   “I can teach a chef to cook but I cannot give you a heart.”

So is Passion a key element for success? I believe that passion can be a key differentiator.  It can be a great multiplier for your capabilities and can help close the gap between skills and the need.  (as shown in the image on the left)

I say that passion can be a great multiplier because passion is a blade that can cut both ways.  You need to channel your passion in a manner that complements your capabilities and not against your capabilities.  For example, throwing a temper tantrum when things do not work out your way is a good example of passion going against you.  Leverage your passion to complement your capabilities while being very aware of the possible price of passionate behavior.

So if passion is so important, what do I do if I am not passionate about what I am currently doing?  The answer is short and simple.  Do something that you can be passionate about.  Go and experiment and try different things.  A well known author only discovered her passion when she was her early 40’s.  It took her 8 years to write the book and it has since been reprinted 43 times.  Those culinary blood hounds will know that I am referring to Julia Childs.  So if you do not know what your passion is, go an experiment, learn from failures and try new things until you find your passion.  Until then be very passionate about what your current word provides you with.

When you do what you are passionate about what you are working on, it comes through in not only the results but also in how you go about your efforts.  Not only will your passion be evident to others but it also provide you with an additional level of energy.  When channeled appropriately it will provide yu with an additional 10% without you realizing it.

Categories: Behavior, Emotions, People Tags: , ,

Comprehension and how it affects our professional life

August 11th, 2009 No comments

I have been reading various articles and books by ED Hirsch; his writing is thought provoking.  Although the most of his writings are focused on the state of the American schooling and how the reading and comprehension.  Naturally, I am trying to apply his perspectives to my life as a hi-tech professional.

My takeaways from his writings are:

  • Reading is the comparatively simple exercise of deciphering the letters and words
  • Comprehension is the more complicated effort where the intent behind the words needs to be understood.
    • As part of our daily interchange we often need to understand what is being not said as well as what not being.  After all we need to understand what the person is trying to communicate and what what they say sometimes…..
    • We need to have a baseline level of knowledge about the topic to understand what is being communicated.  He used tennis example and conveyed the message very well because if you do not know that the games stops for rain or a baseline game is, you will not be able to follow the conversation.

These points got me thinking about these points and the lessons that can be taken across to the work environment.

Here are Ed Hirsch’s books on Amazon:

Reference Guide on Freedom and Responsibility Culture (Netflix)

August 5th, 2009 No comments

One of the PMs in my org shared this with me earlier today.  Thanks Susan!   It is a slide show from Netflix titled: Reference Guide on our Freedom and Responsibility Culture. 

Although I really enjoyed the deck, here are some of the messages that really resonated with me.

Slide 19 – The 9 behaviors and skills: Judgment, Communication, Impact, Curiosity, Innovation, Courage, Passion, Honesty, and Selflessness.

Slide 33 – It’s about effectiveness – not effort – even though effectiveness is harder to assess than effort.

Slide 38 – The Rare Responsible Person – Self motivating, Self aware, Self Disciplined, Self improving, Acts like a leader, Doesn’t wait to be told what to do, Never feels “that’s not my job”, Picks up the trash lying on the floor, and Behaves like an owner.

Slide 77 – The best managers figure out how to get great outcomes by setting the appropriate context, rather than by trying to control their people.

Slide 78 – Context – Strategy, Metrics, Assumptions, Objectives, Clearly-defined roles, Knowledge of the stakes, Transparency around decision-making. Exceptions (emergencies, learning, wrong person) slide 79

Slide 82 – Good Context – Link to company/functional goals, Relative priority (how important/how time sensitive), Level of precision & refinement (no errors, good enough, rough), Key stakeholders, Key metrics/definition of success

Slide 115 – High performance people are generally self-improving through experience, observation, introspection, reading and discussion.

The slides can be found here:

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