This is What I Thought I Sounded Like . . .

Listen to Are we still DOING this?? to hear an excerpt of my Key Note Speech at a Conference for Chicago Tech Chicago last week. I said something like this and got most of the points in. My practice tape sounds more smooth. We’ll see what the real talk sounds like when @ChickTechChi posts it! I was kind of in the zone, fingers crossed that I captured all the key points!!

 

The World of Possibilities . . .

The World of Possibilities . . .

The Power of Mutual Respect

Unlock the Power of Potential with Mutual Respect

Click to Listen if you’d prefer not to read

I had a client meeting this week. The President of a middle market software firm called me to explore some possibilities of how we might look for a technological solution to solve a current challenge in the business.

Although we exchanged four phone calls, one email and had one live conversation, when I arrived for the meeting he was not in the building. He was called away to a client site.

The intention of the meeting was that he would invite several members of his team to have an exploratory dialogue about what the perceived challenges are and what the potential solutions might be. Unfortunately this was all in his head and had not been communicated to anyone else directly.

When I arrived, the Marketing Manager, who knew me from previous work was surprised to see me. I explained the situation and she said, “The President has talked about this for a while on different occasions. I know he has a vision around it.” We both agreed we didn’t know exactly what he was thinking but this was now becoming a priority. There’s tremendous power in this kind of mutual respect. We were able to advance with no clear direction. There was no anger about not knowing of the initiative. There was no disappointment of not being included in a potential meeting. There was no griping about the President following through on something before all agreed it was the right time. This mutual trust and respect was mobilizing.

Because I know the President pretty well, I knew he’d be very remorseful he forgot to reschedule our meeting in his haste to service a client. I trusted that he would be ok with me sharing our phone conversations with his Marketing Manager. She had a little time so  I shared what I thought the intention was and she shared what her previous experiences were of this potential opportunity. We agreed that we would explore ideas and just talk with no agenda of where the conversation might lead. We knew that there would be a follow up meeting after the President had time to inform the team that he was taking a first step in exploring some possibilities. We agreed, that our dialogue would further that mission.

Later that afternoon I received a sheepish, apologetic call from the President. We talked about how many demands we all face today and how we’re inundated with so much information it’s hard to keep up. He was thrilled we made good use of the time by have an initial dialogue. He and his Marketing Manager teased each other about their complimentary strengths and weaknesses.

I’ll be out next week to meet and explore possible solutions with a greater team to have a richer dialogue.

I can’t wait to work this company again. There’s nothing we can’t create together.

 

 

 

 

How Being a Strong Team Member Builds Leadership Skills

In 2003, I volunteered to work in a Catholic orphanage in Peru. Our team of motivated volunteers were eager to help. We were the second group of organized volunteers from the USA to go to the mission. The organization of the grass roots effort was somewhat messy but extremely enthusiastic and well-intended. The Priest there asked for donations to plant a tree. The volunteer group was appalled, we knew best, people needed medicine and clothes. We wanted our money to make a difference. We’d flown over here to help. We didn’t always have access to Padre Miguel. He was busy overseeing medical facilities, orphanages, job training efforts and putting out fires. People in poverty have issues with drugs, sickness, broken families and crime.

When I finally got a few minutes with him, I asked, “Padre Miguel, why do you want us to plant a tree when there’s so much need here?” He replied, “the children here in Pachacutec have never seen a tree. There’s no nature here. I want them to have the experience of seeing something green.pachacutec

I realized from this experience that by embracing your role and executing in the best way you know how you are serving the vision and the mission. I realized that leaders don’t always have the luxury to explain to every person why each request is made. When I am in a support role today, I do the best I can with what I am asked to do realizing that the solid execution of my work is an integral part of the whole.

If, over time, that trust is broken, we each have the capacity to decide whether or not we want to continue. If you decide that your work is meaningless, please make the decision to find an organization that will value your contribution where you are aligned with the vision and the mission.13 years later after my trip, I can see that Coprodeli is flourishing and growing. The organization has evolved greatly from where it was when I was there

  • Perhaps the money we provided to plant a tree provided hope and inspiration to carry on?tree-oak
  • Perhaps the feedback we provided as the second group of volunteers in a grass-roots effort helped to create more structure?
  • Perhaps the optimism and dedication of volunteers gave the families hope?
  • Perhaps by contributing where we didn’t understand how we were helping, we somehow helped move the organization forward?

I believe the work we performed did help.  It’s evidenced in the growth, the expansion and the enhanced infrastructure of the organization we visited so long ago.

 

What do you think about Millennials?

 

This sometimes leading question can create a heated debate and lots of negative observations about this generation. Some of the things I’ve heard is “they’re spoiled, they are entitled, they have no work ethic, they need constant positive acknowledgement.” Those comments make me smile. Close your eyes and think about it. What generation couldn’t say that about the one that succeeds them? I guess these complaints mean that those that fall into Generation X and Baby Boomers are now officially old. BIG SMILE. The question is also U.S. Centric. Young people that fall into this age group are very different globally and, of course, stereotypes are never all-encompassing and are almost never fact-based.

When putting a team together especially in a situation where timeframes are tight, demands are high and failure is not an option, assembling the right team is a critical success factor. Some of the team members are at the company we’re working with already, some might be on our staff, some might be offshore and some may need to be recruited for a specific assignment. There will likely be several vendors. This complex, matrixed team will no doubt be very diverse consisting of several cultures, personal expectations, age groups and physical abilities. How do you align them to draw the best performance from each one individually, convince them to work as a team, while they are all so inherently different?

Communication is a high impact, low effort, low cost way to align the team. Unfortunately many of us are guilty of assuming that communication has taken place. We all speak, we all write, we understand what we mean. What’s wrong with everyone else? Why can’t they understand? Could it be because they’re young, they’re old, they’re not from here, or we don’t understand their education?team puzzle

When building a diverse team we’ll ask:

  • What can we count on you for?
  • Will you always be on time and prepared? Will you ask questions? Will you challenge in a way that doesn’t sabotage progress but thoughtfully facilitates progress? Are you respectful to those around you?
  • What will you contribute?
  • How do you handle conflict? What will you do when your opinion is not adhered to?
  • How do you handle ambiguity?
  • What do you do when you don’t know something?
  • How do you handle failure?

The answers to those questions are more important than the demographics people fall into.

“There is nothing either good or bad,

but thinking makes it so”, William Shakespeare

There are a lot of qualities about Millenials in the United States that I really appreciate. I like how they are living in really great neighborhoods with a lot of amenities vs. saddling themselves with mortgages they’ll likely never pay off. I like how young parents are willing to leave their children with family or trusted friends so they can continue to travel and learn and explore. They know what it’s like to be raised by a village. I’m inspired by the way they navigate complex relationships. They’ve either been raised in families of divorce and remarriage or are close to people who have. I am intrigued by the way they manage love relationships. A young couple I met was asked if they were serious, they’re reply was “we haven’t put a label on it”. Wow, this stretches my thinking! I admire the way they communicate openly. I am delighted with the creation of the new Holiday “Friendsgiving”

I must admit, I like the way Millenials are forging change. Don’t we all want flexibility? When was the last time someone appreciated you? When was the last time you heard ‘good job’? Do you think you can squeeze in a bike ride today or lunch at a really cool restaurant? If you can, do it.

And if no one has told you today . . . “Good job. I’m glad you’re here.”

The China Study

The China Study thoughtfully, engagingly brings the reader along on the journey of winding roads the authors travelled to ultimately write this book.

As you read the China Study you just can’t help but increase amount of plants in your diet. The wisdom of Moms everywhere to ‘eat your vegetables’ just has to be true. The joy of incorporating plants into your diet that you grow yourself or can visualize coming from the beauty of nature is uplifting. The endless colorful, tasty possibilities of meals you can create and eat from available, seasonal plants is just fun.

T. Colin Campbell PhD, with the support of his son, co-author Thomas M. Campbell II MD, iterate the progressive and sometimes painful path of change in the food industry. They courageously discusses how powerful people and agencies go to great lengths to protect their interests. T. Colin Campbell vulnerably discloses how he, at times in his career, would make statements he knew were not entirely true. He justified his endorsement, while not directly scientifically accurate, weren’t exactly inaccurate, and wouldn’t do any real harm. In addition, there were career benefits to having published statements which would allow him to further his research and cause.

This is a courageous book.

A quick internet search on this topic will release a violent debate. There are strong credible arguments advocating for many diets, Atkins, Weston Price, Raw Milk, Weight Watchers, the American Heart Association, The American Cancer Society, etc and they seem credible. How can we assess what’s right? How do we know which methodology to follow? There are claims the opposing party is motivated by greed and money. Are we all motivated by greed and money? Is money always bad? Are we bad when we have money and use money? Is it ever ok to use money? When is the use of money good? When causes are poor and struggling are they noble? Do causes lose their nobility when their cause gains momentum and the now have money?

Whom do we trust, when do we trust and how do we know our trust is well-placed?

T. Colin Campbell and his son point out something I learned early on as a junior marketing manager and later as a more established business professional – it’s possible to use statistics to justify any cause. When looking at statistics it’s imperative to look under the covers and determine: who paid for the study? what methodology did they use? What did the control group consist of? What factors were included? What factors were excluded? Does this analysis make sense? Why or why not? Is the assessment still relevant based on today’s environment? It is not wise to accept statistical data on face value. I also believe that organizations, corporations and people are doing the best they can with what they know and the influence they have. Violent arguments and passionate protecting of interests is to be expected with any monumental change.

So how do we assess what is right? How do we know what to do? How do we do the right thing with something as primal and basic as food?

Check next week’s post to learn more . . .

 

Education vs. Learning

I recently took a course in renewable energy at NYU. As I signed up for the course I received 20 or so emails containing different promotional announcements. After the first email which provided the details of the course, I did not open the remaining 19 or so messages. This is unfortunate for me as one of the emails contained the syllabus that listed the pre-reading for the course. I received that email the day before directly from the instructor. I spent the entire day consuming hundreds of pages of data. This oversight was my error, I just didn’t have the time to filter through the emails to determine which ones were relevant to me and which emails contained information that I might want to review at some time.

It was also announced in one of the unread emails that NYU would be changing their certification course program, eliminating certifications now calling the courses Career Advancement Courses. I loved it. After one or two courses I would have enough information and connections in the any given field to pursue my interest in that field. If I want to or if it’s necessary I can pursue an advanced degree in this discipline. As is true with any change, many students did not value the certification and many were disappointed that the certifications was being eliminated.

Gift vintage certificate / diploma / award border template in vector

I congratulate NYU for taking this bold move. If a university the caliber of NYU has the courage to make such a decision, others will follow. That’s impressive leadership. NYU made this decision by evaluating the data of students that took their courses. They learned most took one or two courses but did not complete the certification. Non-certification courses are also less expensive and more accessible to a wider audience. The goal of the courses is career advancement, so they decided to call the classes what they are: career advancement courses.

As I work on large, complex transformations business architects assess the resources of: People, Processes, Technology and Information. (PPTI) When evaluating the resources of the People we have today and the talent we need to implement a transformation, education and certifications can become a barrier. The current staff, while functioning adequately, may not have the required education. If they are not functioning sufficiently and need to develop new skills quickly the time it takes to earn a certification or advanced degree is just not agile enough for the goals of the project or to remain competitive. The available talent pool may not have the required formal education but might have transferable skills.

When we do find the talent that meets all criteria they may not want to do the tedious work that is necessary as it may be vastly different to the reward and experiences they had in academia. Compensation may not be available to adequately counterbalance the investment the student has made in their education. While the candidates may have the education required, they may not have the skill further delaying progress.

There is a gap.

Victor Saad created his own solution to the large investment in education and the lack of guaranteed employment as result of the education in the Leap Year Project. This is not an accredited program yet but I hope one day it will be. Mr. Saad is sharing his process with the creation of the Experience Institute.

Why do we now rely so much on education and certifications? My view is it is the path of least resistance. When hundreds maybe thousands of resumes are received for a position it’s easy to electronically cull the universe and make it more manageable by dismissing any resume that does not have the required education. It also, on the surface, relieves the responsibility of hiring managers and leaders of critically assessing talent and being accountable for their results.

What talent are we not considering by relying on education alone? Those over the age of 50 that have had long-term careers? Those that have worked in non-competing industries in similar functions? Veterans that have skill, discipline and leadership skills that are needed but don’t easily translate? Those educated outside of the country that have the skill but their education is not accepted in the US?

It would require time, leadership, communication skills and critical thinking to evaluate the current and potential resources of People.

Some will argue with me that there are laws that prohibit them from considering other talent and they cannot incur the legal risk. This is sometimes true but not always true. My opinion is we do not allocate enough time to hire talent. Once we do hire, we are reluctant to have uncomfortable conversations and invest in those we recruited so diligently.

If we recognize the accurate amount of time it takes to recruit and to develop people as well as having the courage to have uncomfortable conversations; we will readily identify we are surrounded by a pool of potential talent.

Why is Fast better than Slow?

When an outsider evaluates the progress of a project a question that often comes up is . . . “how long did that take you?” There might be a touch of cynicism in the tone, a little judgment. The assumption is progress is taking too long. Team members also may value fast progress over slower progress.

Illustration of an old alarm clock with a globe behind

The time it takes to achieve a task is only one measurement. When gauging progress consider the following categories.To remain agile — assign a status of High, Medium, Low to this assessment. In your project are you:

  • Building a strong business foundation?
  • Taking thoughtful risk and assessing consequences carefully?
  • Are you anticipating risk and planning for possible outcomes?
  • Have you employed thoughtful recovery from failure?
  • Are you using resources wisely?
  • Are you employing a sage use of time?
  • Is your work aligned with the organization’s vision? strategy?
  • Is every action true to the organization’s values?
  • What is the best possible solution considering your current capabilities?
  • Are you establishing realistic goals? adjusting when necessary? Are your processes as efficient as they can be?
  • Is there effective Leadership on all levels?

Once you apply a high, medium or low status to the above then determine if you are moving too fast or too slow.

Be careful of letting a stopwatch alone dictate your results.