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Perspective

February 28th, 2010 1 comment

I read this today and  it resonated with me because it reminded me how our perspective can skew how we “see”.

A young couple moves into a new neighborhood.

The next morning while they are eating breakfast,
The young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside.
“That laundry is not very clean”, she said.
“She doesn’t know how to wash correctly.
Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.”

Her husband looked on, but remained silent.

Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry,
The young woman would make the same comments.

About one month later, the woman was surprised to see a
Nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband:

“Look, she has learned how to wash correctly.
I wonder who taught her this.”

The husband said, “I got up early this morning and
Cleaned our windows.”

Categories: Behavior Tags: ,

Trust

February 3rd, 2010 2 comments

I arrived early at a restaurant for a meeting and overheard a discussion while waiting for the others to arrive.   Here is an excerpt from their conversation that resonated with me.

They don’t get it!  They are oblivious to the fact that no one trusts their team. I mean they claim to be transparent but when we need information from them, need have to search for it ourselves.  I think it is short sighted on their behalf when they watch me search, even if we ask them for help and they don’t help.  Then when we find the information that we need, they claim that they are being transparent with us.  Yeah right!!

I discussed this behavior with a colleague and he was familiar with the behavior that was being discussed above.  He labeled it as “discovery driven disclosure”.  He also mentioned that he had experience with behavior in the past and it had been really difficult to partner with that team because  their behavior undermined trust.  As a result, the teams spent a lot of time questioning each other and not so much time collaborating which impacted their ability to successfully deliver a solution.

The comments and followup discussion got me thinking about Trust.

Trust is the basis of all relationships, both personal and professional. We all establish trust with others in our own manner.  We also have our own starting expectations for others when it comes to us trusting them.  Some of us will trust others with little evidence, giving them the benefit and assuming positive intent. Others expect the trust to be earned and start off with a much lower level of trust.

Building on this starting point for trust, let’s look at some of the other elements that influence how we establish trust.  The first one, is how the role that we perform affects the trust level. We all tend to trust people that have “earned” a higher standing.   For example, we expect the chef at a fine restaurant will use fresh ingredients and work in a pristine kitchen when they prepare our food. If that chef is from a Michelin 3 star rated restaurant, then the expectations will be even higher.

The final and most important  element is the impact of our actions.  Therefore we need to be conscious of the impact of our actions or inactions on our trust level.   Be careful of disingenuous behavior, disrespecting others, selfish behavior and of course lack of disclosure or transparency because these behaviors will impact our trust level negatively..

Pulling it together

To help illustrate how all of these areas relate to each other and how they impact the level of trust, here is a formula to help quantify the trust level.

a – Starting Expectations

b – Role

c – Actions

To use the formula, each of these variables needs to be assigned a number of between 0 and 5, with 5 being the highest rating.  Now just rate each of the elements and then total up the numbers.  This will provide you with a qualitative trust rating.  Having some of your customers, partners or employees provide you with their ratings, can be an eye-opening experience.

Regarding the evaluation of the total value.  This will be unique to you and you will need to determine what numbers you are comfortable with.  For me personally, the number needs to be above 10.  I also use the formula by assuming positive intent and therefore if I have not seen any actions or behaviors, I assign either a 4 or 5 and then evaluate again when I have more data.  Using the graphic below, the red area is the high risk area while the green is the safer area, naturally with the ideal being a perfect score.

I finish this post with a quote a Robin Sharma book:  Leadership Wisdom from the Monk who sold his Ferrari.

Being open and truthful also means that you take care of the little issues and skirmishes that come up every day before they escalate into full-blown wars.

Silver Bullet

February 1st, 2010 No comments

Careful, I am on my soapbox on this one!

I am still astounded by the number of people that are always looking for the silver bullet.  The magic pill that will make them lose weight, the one job that will make them rich and of the course the magic software that will solve this problem overnight.  Come on folks. after looking for the silver bullet for so many years, have you considered that it does not exist?

It seems that this behavior has been prevalent through the ages.  Vincent van Gogh gave us the following advice and he died in 1890.

Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of
small things brought together.

Categories: Behavior, Quotes Tags: ,

Be conscious about your actions / behavior

January 25th, 2010 No comments

The basic principle is simple: be conscious about what you do, or do not do.

To put it differently:  Think and be aware of what you are doing.  Do not just bumble along in an unconscious manner.  It is important to be aware (conscious) about the actions that you are currently performing.  If I know exactly what I am doing at this moment, then I am managing not only the present, but also my future.  It is important for my current actions to contribute to me meeting my goals.

If you want to switch off and relax, go do that. However if you are not relaxing, be conscious about what you are doing, what you are meant to be doing and what others are expecting you to be doing.  When you do things with a purpose, it bring a level focus that otherwise might not be there.

So let’s look at some examples of how to implement this behavior.

  • When you have a list full of tasks.  Be conscious of what tasks will help meet your goals and that not all the tasks are equal.  Some of them demand a higher level of diligence while others just need to be good enough.
  • Do you approach your important meetings with a purpose and an agenda?  Be conscious about what you need to get from the meeting.  Now with remember these goals, be clear about how you are communicating your points and how they are being received.  Be conscious about what the other peoples needs are.  Soliciting feedback and input from the other person is always a good tactic.
  • Now let’s look at soft skills and being conscious of the other people’s behaviors and reactions in various situations.  Being conscious of other people and your environment starts with being conscious of yourself first.  When you sit down in a chair, be aware of how your back feels against the back of the chair.  It sounds crazy but this awareness of your body and the chair will help.
  • For those of us that attend a lot of meetings:  Evaluate each meeting to determine why you need to attend that specific meeting.  Although I am cognizant that I might be fighting the culture of some companies, I believe that meetings are not the place for status updates.  A far more efficient mechanism is to use a simple, concise and clear emails.  If you have a good reason to attend meeting, define what you are going to achieve at that meeting.  If you are running the meeting, then define an agenda that ensures that the goals are met and finish the meeting early by keeping people on topic.

Key points of this post:

  • Whatever you do, perform the action with purpose and be conscious about your actions.
  • Ensure that your actions contribute to your goals.
  • Be conscious of the expectations of others.

Categories: Behavior 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.

Never Give Up!

January 3rd, 2010 1 comment

Here are some well known folks that Through the ages there have been numerous instances of this rule.

  • Abraham Lincoln suffered a nervous breakdown and was defeated numerous times in his political career.
  • Henry Ford’s first automobile company was a failure.
  • Thomas Edison failed with his phonograph company.
  • Albert Einstein suffered from speech difficulties as a young child.
  • Babe Ruth held the #1 spot as the best slugger from 1918 to 1928.  during this period, he was either in either the #1 or #2 position for strikeouts during these years too.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. – Thomas Edison


Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense – Winston Churchill

Categories: Behavior, Quotes Tags:

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: ,

Learning to ride a bicycle

December 3rd, 2009 No comments

Here is an extract from a recent conversation with one of my mentees, let’s call him Larry.  First off,  a little background:  I have been mentoring him for about 8 months and we work at the same company.  He is a manager of a team individual contributors that consists of engineers and project managers; the team is focused on solving various tactical business issues and therefore they tend to have 2 or 3 projects running in parallel with each project taking up to 90 days in duration.

Larry: “I never seem to have any time and I am working 60 hours weeks.”

Me: “Why, what are you spending your time on?”

Larry:  “I am super-busy ensuring that the projects that I am accountable for are getting done.” ………..he shared a lot of the details that I have removed from this post.

Me: “Humor me please, while he take a little detour into your past.  Can you remember when you learned to rides a bicycle?”

Larry:  “Yep”

Me:  “I assume that you rode a bicycle with training wheels for a while?”

Larry: “Yep and then my dad took them off.  He ran next to me a couple of times and I cannot remember when he let go.  I realized that he had let go when I started to turn around to ride back to the house and saw him standing in the street in front of me.” – he had a big smile on face while he shared this memory from his youth.

Me: “Did you fall?”

Larry: “Ouch, quite a few”

Me: “Was your dad there to pick you up when you fell?”

Larry: “Nope, but my Mom did provide the Band Aids”

Me: “So back to work:  Regarding your team, when are you going to let them go and allow them to ride by themselves?”

Larry, with a very started look on this face”  “But I cannot let them fail!”

Me: “Why not?”

Larry: “They might not recover”

Me: “Really?  Do you doubt their ability to learn from their mistakes?

Larry with a big smile on his face  “No!  But what happens when they fail?”

Me: “You give them a Band Aid and ask them how they are going fix things.  You just need to watch out for the cars to ensure that they do not get killed.”

Larry: “I get it!!  Thanks”

—————————————————————————-

Management is similar to teaching someone to ride a bicycle.  The trick is not to let go too soon because they will crash.  Too late and their learning will be stalled.  Once we have let go and they are off riding, we need to keep a look out for the cars to ensure that they are not hit by any cars.  In business terms, we need to give our people the room to make their own mistakes, and learn from them.  We must resist the urge to stifle them.  If they have the self awareness to stop and ask for feedback, then we need to be prepared to provide them with feedback on their behaviors to help them learn and grow.

Categories: Behavior, Management Tags:

Ready to lead?

November 30th, 2009 2 comments

I was asked recently what traits I look for to determine if someone is ready to move into a leadership role, either as a manager or as a thought leader.  This is easy if I have worked with the person because they will display the majority of these traits in their daily actions.

In addition to this post on Leadership, here are some of the traits that I looks for:

  • Consistently demonstrates core values
    • Respect for others
    • Strong work ethic
    • Honesty & Integrity
    • Self motivation
  • Discipline excellence
    • Deep discipline knowledge
    • Ability to mentor & coach others
    • Results focus
  • Leadership
    • Desire to lead
    • Consistently demonstrates accountability
    • Mobilizes others to action
    • Credibility
  • Soft skills
    • Communicates clearly and effectively
    • Self aware
    • Selfless
    • Responds well to feedback
    • Cares for others
      • Helps develops others
      • Demonstrates empathy

And the final item that I look for is:

Are others willing to follow that person’s lead?

Categories: Behavior, Leadership Tags:

The Genius of Others – Guy Kawasaki on Innovation

November 23rd, 2009 Comments off

I am always humbled by genius and talent; therefore when the writings of Guy Kawasaki are converted to wonderful imagery by Martha McGinnis, I just have to share.

The art above was created by Martha McGinnis – a hi-res version can be found here (7.4M)

Guy Kawasaki wrote this blog post on The Art of Innovation and provides a little insight to the visual artistry above.

Categories: Behavior 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: , ,

Meeting Purpose

August 19th, 2009 No comments

I recently had the opportunity to chat with a senior executive of a multi-Billion $ company. He shared his guidelines around meetings, or more specifically his expectations of the meeting organizer.  He expects the meeting organizer to define what they expect from him.  Is the purpose of the meeting to Inform him, for him to provide Input or for him to make a Decision because he will adjust his behavior accordingly.

Meeting Purpose Exec Behavior
Inform Listen and ask clarifying questions
Brainstorming Active participation and provide Input
Decision Listen and make a Decision

He made it clear that if the meeting organizor did not explain what they want to achieve at a meeting, his admin will decline the meeting request.  Since he adopted this behavior, he mentioned that 90% of his meetings tend to end earlier too.

Categories: Behavior, Expectations 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:

Lesson Learned: Egg and Bacon

August 9th, 2009 No comments

A couple of years back I had the privilege of having breakfast with a very successful top-tier VC.  We met for breakfast at an upscale hotel in downtown San Francisco.  He is an avid skier and in incredible shape; therefore I was expecting to see a selection of health food on his plate.  To my surprise, he was having  fried eggs and bacon for breakfast. I could not resist and asked him about his choice of breakfast.  He laughed and explained that it was one of  his indulgences and it also served as a reminder for him.  My quizzical expression said it all and he started to explain.

The chicken was involved in the creation of the egg but the pig was committed to the creation of the bacon.  The pig died to produce the bacon while the chicken lived another day to lay more eggs.

He quickly acknowledged that when you have a pig, you need to investigate all options.  For example with a pig you have two options:  cut it up, smoke it and sell it as bacon or put lipstick and a dress on it and market it as Miss Piggy.  Either way you can make money, it just depends on that the market wants.

Needless to say I longer look at egg and bacon the same.

Lesson Learned:

  • I now ask my myself:  Am I committed or involved?
  • There are always options and as long as as there is a market, it is possible to make it work.

Setting Career Goals

July 1st, 2009 No comments

Over the years I have had many discussions around setting career goals.  Many of these discussions centered around people not knowing what they want to do when they grow up.

Here are some suggestions that have helped folks in the past.

  • Identify some roles that sound interesting and go and speak with the folks who are already in those roles.  In most cases they are willing to discuss it and share what it takes to fulfill the role.  If things still sound interesting then take it to the next level and see if you can shadow the person for a day or two.
  • Often it is easier to start with what you do not like. Create a list of roles that are not attractive at all.  Analyze those positions to determine what it is that is distasteful to you.  Convert the dislike list to a like list and simply use it to identify possible roles that meet those criteria.  Evaluate the roles as per the previous point.
  • If your company has a website that lists open positions.  Find some positions that you find interesting and would like to have in the future.  Go the the hiring manager for those positions;  explain to the hiring manager that although you know that you are not currently qualified but you would like to understand what they are looking for in a person to fulfill that role.  After a couple of these discussions, you have a clear understanding of what the hiring managers are looking for.  Now do a self assessment and create a GAP analysis between where you are today and what you need to be.

Hopefully by following some of these suggestions and merging them with your own ideas, you will have worked out what it is that you want to do or where you want to be.

To build the action plan:

  • Write down the end goal
  • Working backwards from the end goal write down steps along the way back to the present
  • These steps are your roadmap to that goal
  • It is much easier to determine what it will take to achieve the steps along the way

Review the roadmap and discuss it with your mentors, coach or boss to gather feedback.  To take this to the next level, put dates to each step.

Work at each step and do not forget to hold yourself accountable.

Overcoming adversity

June 24th, 2009 No comments

During one of my mentor sessions, I was educated about a bit of American history, specifically about a lady called Harriet Tubman.  A short biography can be found here:  http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761567329/Harriet_Tubman.html and  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Tubman

I was struck by how she overcame so many obstacles to make such a significant impact on the lives of so many others.

  • Born to slave parents and therefore she was destined to be a slave too.
  • She was a woman at a time when women had few rights.
  • She was African American at a time when racism was deemed acceptable in the South.
  • She was hired out as a slave while she was still a child.
  • She was beaten and whipped on numerous occasions.
  • She was illiterate.
  • As a teenager she was almost killed after being struck in head by a weight that was thrown at her by the overseer of an escaping slave.  She suffered from headaches, seizures and bouts of sleeping spells for the rest of her life because of this injury.
  • Despite numerous attempts, her poor health meant that she could not be sold.
  • Her family was split up because they were sold as slave to out-of-state masters.
  • She used to work as a domestic worker to make enough money so that she could head back to the South to help free slaves.
  • Despite working for the military for no pay, she was denied a military pension after the war too.
  • She struggled financially her whole life.

Despite these obstacles, her achievements are astounding!

  • She managed to escape from slavery in the South.
  • She worked as a domestic worker to raise funds that enabled her to return to the South to free more slaves.
  • She then returned to free her family from slavery.
  • Her military service started with her serving as a cook and nurse before she migrated to a more active roles as a spy and scout behind enemy lines.
  • She continued to return to the South and liberated a reported 70 to 300 slaves. (exact number is unclear)
  • Her nickname was “Moses”
  • She never lost a single slave on her many rescue missions.
  • After the war she cared for her parents.
  • She started a new career as a community activist, humanitarian, and suffragist.
Categories: Behavior, People Tags:

Business and/or team growth and how it can catch people unaware

June 11th, 2009 No comments

I am in the hi technology industry and therefore I am very comfortable working at companies that are growing and leading teams that are growing.  Now let’s take a look at this year-to-year growth where the ellipses show the needs of the business.  In this example our employee, which we will call Mo, is represented by a star.

Year 1

The blue ellipse shows the business needs for Year 1.  Mo is doing pretty well in Year 1 because his skills put him on the high end of the business needs.  Therefore he is well within his comfort zone to deliver against the needs of the business.

Year 2

The greenish ellipse shows the business needs for Year 2 have moved on from where they were in Year 1.  Mo is not doing very well here though because he barely has the skills needed to successfully meet the business needs.  Mo is going to have to have to step up and grow his skills.  Mo needs to either have the self awareness that the business needs are changing or he could be caught unawares that his skills not longer meeting the business needs.

Year 3

The orange ellipse shows the business needs for Year 3.  Mo is in serious trouble here because he does not have the skills needed to meet the business needs.

The disadvantages of this model

  • In Year 3 Mo might find himself unemployed or marginalized due to his skills not meeting the business needs.
  • In Year 3, the business might need to go through the expenses of recruiting someone that can meet the needs of the business.
  • Replacing Mo will not only disrupt the team dynamics but it will also take time for the new person to acclimatise to the business.

Improved Situation

Now let’s take look at another scenario where Mo is not stagnant and grows his skills in a similar direction to what the business is moving in.

Year 1

The blue ellipse shows the business needs for Year 1.  Mo is doing pretty well in Year 1 because his skills put him on the high end of the business needs.  Therefore he is well within his comfort zone to deliver against the needs of the business.

Years 2 & 3

The greenish ellipse shows the business needs for Year 2 have moved on from where they were in Year 1.  Mo’s skills have improved too and he is keeping track and staying aligned with the needs of the business.

The benefits

There are significant benefits to Mo growing his skills.

  • People that are growing tend to find their work roles to be much more rewarding and therefore are much happier employees.
  • If one person grows, they tend to drag the rest of the team along the road too, ultimately resulting in a team climate of growth.
  • Because Mo’s growth is parallel with the business needs, they both win because he can customize his growth to meet the needs of the business.  The business gets someone that is really closely aligned with the needs.
  • The team dynamics continue to improve and grow because people get to knw each other better and therefore they are able to work better as a more cohesive unit.

Categories: Behavior, People Tags: , ,

hire the best – a follow-up discussion

June 10th, 2009 No comments

Recently I had a conversation with a colleague about my post on “hiring the best”.  Our conversation hinged on the implications on the manager of hiring less than the best.  Here are some of the key points from our discussion.

less overhead on the manager

Both of us were of the opinion that it is much easier on the manager to have more capable people on our teams.  Although both of us had many exceptions come to mind where some highly skilled people lacked certain soft skills.  We are of the opinion that well rounded and skilled people  need little to no guidance from their manager. These people are also able to offload work from us, thereby allowing to focus our time in other areas.

impact on the team

Will Smith’s interpretation of an old Confucius analect  is: “You are who you associate with” and this is definitely holds true.  In my experience, all it takes is for one person to raise the bar resulting in a positive impact on the team and those who deal with the team.

irritation factor

Then there is the irritation factor.  This is when the junior person is not able to meet the expectations, or  interrupts fellow team members to ask for guidance.  The irritation level can grow quickly if the person does not have the soft skills needed or the mental horse power needed to learn quickly and perform.

learning vs adaptation

A junior person requires time to learn and get up to speed.  They have to improve on multiple fronts:  They need to learn how to fulfill the role and also learn the skills needed to deliver the goods.  This takes time, drive and effort.  To contrast this where the more experienced/senior person can adapt to the new environment.  Because they already have the skills, they are able to simply slot into the role and start to deliver the goods.

financial impact

Having spent many years with startups; I am sensitive to the impact on the cash flow that a senior and experienced person can have.  I do believe that hiring the best that you can afford is the best option for all concerned.  The return-on-investment (ROI) for the more skilled person far outweighs costs and in most cases I believe that a skilled person with soft skills is worth way more than a more junior and less capable person.

time

For the most part, the more junior the person, the longer it takes for them to be fully productive.  The more senor people are able to be productive in days or weeks and not months or years.

flexibility

This can be a massive challenge and I have seen ot go both ways and therefore is one of my hiring requirements now.

capability

By hiring the person that is most capable also increases the team’s capability to deliver more and faster.  Because the team is more capable, they are able to achieve more and therefore win more.  Winning leads to more winning.

Categories: Behavior, Management, People Tags:

control what you can control

June 3rd, 2009 No comments

Earlier this week, I was a coach at a function that was targeted at managers.  The event provided a forum for the managers to share experiences on how they overcame the plethora of management challenges encountered in this recession.

During the discussions, it became extremely evident, to me, that some of the managers were worried about any cuts that the company have to make to survive. I provided them the following guidance:

“control what you can, know what you cannot control, and make peace with it”

control-what-you-can

control what you can (green)

This takes a significant amount of effort because it takes a constant level of vigilant awareness to look for new opportunities.

Here are some examples of what can be controlled:

  • your boss & peers
  • your actions, attitude and demeanor

I put boss & peers down as items that can be controlled because they can be influenced if you have the credibility and trust established.

know what you cannot control, and make peace with it (red)

The key here is know your limitations, the constraints that have been imposed on you and to make peace with it.  It just does not help to beat yourself up about the stuff that you cannot control.  Here are some examples of things that we cannot control:

  • the weather
  • the economy
  • senior management (assuming that they are more than 2 levels of separation)

So if you cannot control things like this, it just does not help to worry or beat yourself about things like this.  So make peace with things and focuss your efforts and energy on the things that you can control.

Categories: Behavior, Expectations Tags:

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