Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Create a Friction-less Experience

September 26, 2017

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In this age when we are inundated with so many choices, and the ‘do-nothing’ choice is so attractive to many, it’s important to provide a friction-less experience in order to build mind-share and revenues.

  1. Being friction-less means knowing what you’re providing, and delivering it to those in need in a way that works for them.
  2. Provide a product or service which is both relevant and sustainable, both scalable and versatile, one that is configurable with many standardized elements.
  3. Everything end-to-end – from ordering to integration, from support to billing – should be easy, intuitive, seamless and elegant.
  4. Documentation should be freely and easily available. Support should be patient and understanding. User communities should be welcoming and helpful.
  5. Make the product or service available in modes most convenient to the customer – desktop, mobile, device, etc.
  6. Build a community of users who can connect to each other, and work together to help improve the offering.
  7. Allow this community of users to customize the product or service offering and provide feedback for desired future functionality.
  8. Track the right metrics, and know what the metrics mean about the needs of the customer, so you can deliver the experience they’re seeking.
  9. Be laser focused on the value-add of your product or service. Collaborate with partners for elements which are not part of that core offering, but make sure that your partners are delivering an exceptional frictionless experience.
  10. The bottom line is that the leaders and the product and service offering must provide a stellar service offering, and inspire trust and loyalty by consistently delivering results which customers define as exceptional.

Sounds easy and obvious right? But few are able to execute well on all elements. Maybe your offering will be one of those lucky few.

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A Magnet for Positive Energy

August 24, 2017

PositiveEnergy

There’s power in positive energy – all good things are based on one’s ability to create, attract and build on that positive energy.

This month’s post reveals my strategies for attracting positive intentions, positive people and positive results.

  1. Consciously choose to feel happy, healthy and alive, embracing your current circumstances – living your today rather than wishing for a future to come, a fond memory of the past. Note that those who are more grateful for simple everyday things will be much happier and will have much more positive energy than those who see these gifts as tiresome, same-old things.
  2. Decide to break a habit, whether it’s a good one or a bad one. Simply doing things differently will bring positive energy and help open up more possibilities.
  3. Along those same lines, adopting a routine of someone you admire is another way to choose more paths to happiness and positive energy. It also attracts more positive and happy people to your circle.
  4. Celebrate the little things regularly. It will help you better appreciate the journey of life. Don’t wait until someone/something happens exactly a certain way – a circumstance which may never occur.
  5. Challenge yourself regularly to level-up something – your goals, your energy, your exercise routine, your pampering plan… something that stretches how you experience your life and your world.
  6. Laugh deeply and often and spend time with people who make you love doing so.
  7. Ask someone how they accomplish the things that you do every day and consider adopting their way of doing it.
  8. When you share about your day, highlight both the roses and the thorns, but spend much more time detailing the roses – the good stuff.
  9. Know what it feels like when you enter a vortex, a download spiral of energy, ideas and people. Spin out of it – don’t let it draw you in. If you *must* engage, protect yourself, bring a support system and make sure that you can successfully climb out of it!
  10. Those who have positive energy treat failure like a badge of courage, learning the lessons from each experience rather than feeling fear, shame and inadequacy.

May positive, constructive energy surround you.

From Hard-Ass to Bad-Ass

August 24, 2017

BadassWomanText

The next time you hit a crossroads in your life path, consider the options – Should I be half-ass about it, or choose to be a bad-ass? There’s something to be said for being half-ass. It’s safe, it’s predictable, it’s necessary (depending on what else is going on in your life).

But if you choose that bad-ass path, it may be kind of scary. It’s choosing to be consistently great, being confident that you can do it when you may not be sure you can, choosing to level yourself up, knowing that you’ll inevitably fail. If you have the courage and insight to choose that path, perhaps this post will help you succeed.

  1. Set and respect your moral compass. It is the foundation you need to succeed. With it, you’ll know that your successes will matter to yourself, your team, your company, the world. Without it, nobody else will really care if you succeed.
  2. Know your strengths and cater to your strengths. Do the internal work necessary to know unequivocally what your proven and aspirational strengths are, plus any areas of weaknesses you need to bolster in order to succeed.
  3. Follow your vision – it has to start with a passion to change the world and a strategic idea which can be tactfully implemented.
  4. Follow your instincts, but make sure that the data backs up your instincts. Your gut is seldom wrong so listen closely to it. But be curious about the facts behind your feelings.
  5. Embrace the uncomfortable. Staying comfortable made you good at being half-ass. If you’re choosing bad-ass, be open to ideas, people, functions, protocols, technologies and everything else which makes you shiver in fear, shudder in disgust, cringe with dread.
  6. Surround yourself with people who are better than you. Empower people around you to succeed.
  7. Find your best fit within a group of great people. Park your ego and seek and realize the greater good. Disassociate from people who do this in thoughts and words only.
  8. You’re going to fail, so accept that fact and be stronger and smarter with the next iteration. Not even bad-asses can bat 1000.
  9. Make a statement, don’t stand on the fence. Even if it means swimming against the tide.
  10. Believe that you can change the world. We need a world of change agents.

Share YOUR bad-ass story.

Befriending Dragons

June 11, 2017

PrincessDragon

There was once an ordinary princess who lived in an extraordinary world. It was a world where cars were driving themselves, where remote-controlled drones performed remarkable feats, where communications spread across the globe like wildfire. It was a world where the brilliant and hard-working earned massive amounts of money, influence and credibility, where world-changing solutions made daily headlines, where happiness and world peace were just a start-up, a funding, an exit away.

The princess was told her ideas lacked merit, by those who leveraged those ideas to conquer new lands. She was told her inexperience caused discord and indecision, by those who benefited from her new approaches to solving problems. She was told that her gowns were dated, and that the house coat suited her better anyway.

She was ousted from her castle, by those who claimed her throne. She was relieved of her treasures by those who swore to care for it. She told herself she preferred to live in the cottage at the foot of the castle, and wander with the animals in the forest.

Once, in her wanderings, she came upon seven wise men, on their way to work. She greeted them with surprise and pleasure, hungering for friendship. After a brief and pleasant interchange, they parted ways, agreeing to convene later in the forest at day’s end.

The princess told her story at the evening meal, and the wise men shared their advice on befriending dragons.

Dopey said, “If you’re the princess, why aren’t you on the throne?”

Sneezy said, “It’s because of those dragons. I also have an aversion to self-serving dragons. ah-choo”

Sleepy said, “What a great story. Let me sleep on it and get back to you.”

Doc said, “The best remedy is to regain your rightful place on the throne. Let’s go befriend those dragons. We can sleep now and tackle the dragons in the morning.”

Bashful said, “Do we have to face those dragons?”

Grumpy said, “Yes, Bashful. Doc’s right, if we have to face those dragons, let’s get it over with.”

Happy said, “Find a way to be happy, despite what dragons say and do. And choose new dragons you can be happy with.”

In the morning, the princess and her wise men marched to the castle and charmed, humored, cajoled them, while outwitting, outplaying, and out-maneuvering them, and otherwise conquering, ousting or be-friending them one by one. The princess regained her rightful place on the throne for many years to come, to the delightful of the good people of the castle.

*No dragons were harmed in the writing of this post.*

Tell Me Your Story

March 28, 2017

Story

People build instant credibility when they share their story. That is, if that story is true, is authentic, and resonates well with the intended audience. When you meet someone new, he or she wants to know not just about what you’ve done and where you’re going, but also about who you are, and how that might intersect with who they are, and what their interests are at the time. Telling your story will not only help you connect with people you newly meet, but also with people you’ve known for a lifetime. What’s more, it helps you connect better with yourself and your meaning, direction and purpose. Below are some thoughts on how to best tell your story.

  1. Decide to tell your story, rather than providing that resume in verbal or written form. The story will help you define both your purpose and your direction, and help you thread together the stepping stones along the way, first for yourself, and then for your audience.
  2. Don’t hide the warts. But don’t dwell on them. Nobody’s perfect. And if you *are*, you haven’t lived well enough. Understand why you took the detours along the way, and even consider the experiences ‘features, not bugs’. Emphasize the learnings behind the un-planned events, and how that added to your wisdom, strength, knowledge, direction and experience.
  3. But don’t highlight the warts. Especially if you’re getting the same life lesson again and again…
  4. Focus first on the beginning, then on the middle and then on the end. Your beginnings shape you and direct your successes and challenges to date. Your middle is where you are right now. How has that beginning shaped your middle? What kind of end would you like to shape? Are you headed in that direction? If so, detail it. If not, why not, and where would you like to go? And what’s stopping you from getting from here to there?
  5. Define the key characters in your story, and the choices you make to keep them engaged in your story. Do the have a full cast of characters? Who’s missing? Who’s engaged? Who’s playing the wrong role?
  6. What patterns are you finding in your story and what, if anything, should you do about it?
  7. What or who is missing in your story to date and what can you do to address that missing piece or person?
  8. What could you do today that you couldn’t have done yesterday or last year or five years ago?
  9. Who knows your story, and who should know your story? What would it mean if they found out about your story?
  10. What will you celebrate about your story? How will you celebrate? Who will you celebrate with?

Create your story . . . make it the middle and ending of your heart’s desire. Share it with those who matter to you.

In Search of Clarity

November 23, 2016

Arctic landscapeWith the dramatic end to a colorful and divisive election, most of us realized that the world is not what it appears to be. Some have responded with retreat and anger, disbelief and shock. Some have celebrated in quiet disbelief, some have lamented in public outrage. To me, it’s a message that things are not as they appear, that people are not who we think they are, that feelings are deeper and closer than we once thought. It’s an invitation to double-down on understanding ourselves and the world we live in, the people we live with.

  1. Respecting people for who they are is fundamental to understanding them. Judging people based on gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, religion or anything else is not respecting them as individuals. There is no way to find clarity and understand the world we live in when these types of classifications happen.
  2. Proactively seek to understand the viewpoints of those who don’t think like you.
  3. Appreciate the time and energy it takes for someone not-like-you to share his/her viewpoint.
  4. Be curious about their reality – their background, world view and experiences are likely different than your own, in ways that are hard to imagine.
  5. Ask relevant and poignant questions and LISTEN at all levels to what is said and what is not said.
  6. Express compassion for the trials and challenges they describe.
  7. Share a connection through common experiences, common obstacles.
  8. Sit comfortably with the differences you have with others’ viewpoints, accepting without judgement.
  9. Concisely and clearly respond to questions without the ulterior motive of converting someone to your own point of view, without anger or judgement.
  10. Agree to disagree where appropriate, still embracing the thoughts above.

This Thanksgiving, I hope that we will all sit together as one, come together as one, grow together as one.

Five Minds of the Future

October 20, 2016

5mindsforthefutureHarvard Graduation School of Education Professor of Cognition and Education Howard Gardner Hobbs is ahead of his time. His Feb 2009 ‘5 Minds of the Future‘ book made me think and be more relevant. Perhaps my thoughts are also helpful to you.

1. Choose to have a more disciplined mind, backed by logical and methodical thought in disciplines including science, math, and history.

Fact-based, logical, methodical thinking is foundational to knowledge, and filtering out distracting, non-information data will lead to understanding.

2. Choose to have a more synthesizing mind so you can organize, understand and interpret the massive amounts of information and communicate its impact on yourself and others.

We are immersed in a world inundated with data. Once we filter out only the data that is true and real, synthesizing the implications of that data will help us make informed decisions.

3. Choose to have a more creative mind and revel in unasked questions – and uncover new phenomena and insightful inquiries.

Having that creative mind set will help us deviate from the norm and solve larger problems in adjacent spaces.

4. Choose to have a more respectful mind, appreciating the differences between human beings, embracing the nuances of differences.

Embracing the diversity amongst us will help us work together to solve bigger, broader, larger problems.

5. Choose to have a more ethical mind and fulfill one’s responsibilities as both a leader, worker and contributor for today and into the future.

It is incumbent upon all of us to contribute to the greater cause even if nobody invited your participation, even if you don’t think it’s YOUR problem, even if you feel so small in a problem so vast.

I’ll conclude by referring to Howard Garner’s book on Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences and the picture below created by Mark Vital. What types of intelligences do you possess? What could you/would you like to develop? How could this intelligence help you deliver any of the above?

intelligences

Level Up Your Listening

September 28, 2016

listening

I was commiserating with my mentor a couple of weeks back on how one trait separates true leaders from the rest of us – the ability to listen deeply enough so that the speaker feels heard. This post builds on a March 2015 blog I wrote entitled Listen Up, and is stimulated by a exceptional September 2016 HBR article entitled What Great Listeners Actually Do, and suggests ways on how to improve listening for leaders of all levels.

Safety First:

  • A relationship must be established so that people feel comfortable speaking. What you say, what you do, and who you are helps create such an environment. And how you show up under trying circumstances is the litmus test for the type of leader you are. Remember that people are watching, especially when the waters are murky and the circumstances are complex. Act with morality and competence, exercise grace under pressure, do the right thing even when it’s painful in the short term.

Focus is Key:

  • It goes without saying that distractions such as phones, laptops and shiny objects should take second seat to someone sitting in front of you, wanting your full attention.
  • But beyond this obvious fact, remember that all your energy and focus should be on the person in front of you, so that she/he feels comfortable and safe communicating ANYTHING to you.

The Substance of the Message

  • Focusing on the speaker helps you capture the substance of the message in detail. Asking clarifying questions and restating what’s communicated will help ensure that you have heard the full message, as intended, which is a foundational platform for listening.

The Implications of the Message

  • Beyond the message itself, listen for the implications of the message for them physically, socially, emotionally, in the short term and for the long term.
  • Listen also for why the message is given to YOU and why the message is given NOW. What is the understanding and the expectations and in what timeframe?

What’s NOT Said

  • Non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, perspiration, gestures, posture, as well as verbal cues like tone, emphasis, pace, and other factors may help you understand the message beyond the verbal message.
  • Being curious and asking the deeper questions based on these non verbal cues will help you better understand the given and the intended message.

The Feelings Behind the Message

  • Often the emotions and feelings behind the message is more important than the message itself. Helping the speaker feel comfortable sharing the full and complete message along with the emotions and feelings beyond the message, even if it dredges up uncomfortable experiences and experiences, is the mark of a superior listener and an exceptional leader and friend for that matter!

Support Without Judgment

  • A true hallmark of the best listeners is the ability to help the speaker better understand all aspects of what they are communicating, especially those around the emotions, without judgment, no matter how urgent, dire, emotional, distressing, confounding, annoying . . . it can be.

Looking Beyond Yourself and Your Circumstances

  • If there is trust beyond measure, support without judgment, and experience beyond the realm of the speaker, both the listener and the speaker can see the problem or issue in a new light, see new possibilities and opportunities and open up one more path.

We all have our hot spots and bad days, but may we all have good listeners around us to help us pick ourselves up, take a deep breath, pull our shoulders back and say ‘What’s Next?’

We hope that this post helps YOU level-up to see and hear what’s next for yourself, and for all those who listen to you and speak to you.

Your Good is Good Enough

August 19, 2016

KiralyGoodIsGoodEnoughKarch Kiraly is one of my heroes. He’s a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, a winner of at least one tournament in 24 of the 28 seasons he has played, a medalist in tournaments held in 24 different states with 13 different partners, and one of THE reasons that beach volleyball has risen so quickly within the US and worldwide, for men and for women.

As if that’s not enough, he’s that star coach who has flawless technique, is strategic and mentally tough, and creates a culture that’s positive, energetic and supportive, not an easy task when you’re working with top athletes! He stood out again to me this Olympic season when China took the opening set against the American women’s team, in large part because of six American service errors in a game to 25.

Most coaches would have been pulling their hair out in frustration. But Karch said, “Your good is good enough”. It gave me goose bumps. It helped the team turn it around, winning the remaining three games 25-17, 25-19, 25-19.

It said to me that if you get out of your own way, your own head, you are better than you thought possible, and greatness is within your reach but only if you don’t over-reach.

Think ‘your-good-is-good-enough’ when:

  1. you’re waiting for someone to call you a Great Pretender;
  2. when you’re tweaking at something so long and hard you forget why;
  3. you settle for less than you’re worth;
  4. you don’t know what to do when opportunity knocks;
  5. you’re challenged beyond your comfort zone;
  6. your little voice tells you you’re not big, smart, strong, good, right enough;
  7. you’re waiting for the right time, moment, place, scenario to play at the next level;
  8. you think that someone else might be a better person for that raise, promotion, opportunity, project, etc.,
  9. you replay your failures over and over again; and
  10. you wish that something didn’t happen exactly that way.

Thank you Coach Karch, for helping me embrace what’s good enough in me.

Building Hope in a Time of Change

August 3, 2016

HopeInATimeOfChange

Change happens. It’s a part of life, especially if you work in a Silicon Valley based tech company. I recently participated in an all-hands meeting for a company undergoing massive changes real-time.It’s a testament to the leadership team that shares have soared amidst all this change. And it’s a further testament to the leadership team that the all-hands panel discussion was planned to help address questions and fears of staff around the world. Featured on the panel were a wide range of leaders from different locations and roles. All these leaders were new to me, and as with any new leader, my first question is ‘who are you’ The response to that first question was resoundingly clear: they are each authentic, experienced and passionate leaders invested in the success of their people and their company. They have led and persevered during and beyond their time at with their company, and generously shared their wisdom and advice – see notes below.

Be the type of resilient leader anyone would want on their team.

  • Change is inevitable. Choose to bend but not break. See change as an opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Focus on the positive opportunities implicit with each change. It rarely goes as planned, but with the right mindset, it can go better than you could have imagined.
  • Whether you choose to focus on social, physical, spiritual or community activities outside work, find ways to stay centered during times of change.
  • Have a broader perspective so that you can navigate inevitable changes, whether that involves connecting with others outside work, focusing on others’ realities which make work challenges seem small, or comparing your own challenges with those less fortunate.
  • Identify the facts and accept and focus on what you can change, and what needs to happen so that the change is effective.
  • Manage your perspectives and emotions throughout a change. It’s a waste of energy to assume negative intent in times of change. Find out the facts, and assume positive or neutral intent so that you can proactively manage the change.
  • Accept that wherever you are is where you are meant to be. Be fully present in each moment.
  • Learn from your own mistakes and transfer those learnings on to others.
  • Build relationships wherever you go. Don’t bucket someone as all-negative. Be open that she/he might change, or might be different in another context. And even if he/she is no better than you thought, she/he might wind up being your boss, so you have to make the best of it. Never burn a bridge.

Support others as they navigate through change.

  • Model the way as a leader, no matter where you sit at the table, even if there’s no table. Have confidence, faith and trust in the change at hand, and work hard to deliver to that shared commitment.
  • Regardless of who you’re talking to, and what level they are at within the organization, communicate proactively, transparently and candidly. Don’t sugar-coat it. Don’t be vague. But do be as positive as you can be.
  • Proactively manage your emotions and coach others on how to do the same. Nobody wants complainers and naysayers. It’s OK to be a safe haven for those who need to talk it out, but not OK if that turns into a grouse session.
  • Stick to the facts. It’s easy to make up stories or assume negative intent if you don’t stick to the facts. Help others do the same, sifting out what actually happened from what the perception/interpretation is of what happened.
  • Privately call others out for their snarky remarks, their negative body language, their passive-aggressive actions, their deflating energy, etc. Be that mirror for them and show them how their behavior is affecting themselves, those around them, and the bottom line results.
  • Communicate the positive results created since the last change, and say that the current change offers a new opportunity to deliver beyond what anyone may be expecting.
  • Be that glass-half-full optimist. Even if things go the-way-not-preferred, consider what the best case scenario would be.
  • Encourage and support those around you to understand and manage their stress during change, and to craft and own their plan for navigating through the change.
  • Appreciate the perspectives and backgrounds of others so that you can help them navigate through the change.
  • Assume that change will happen and develop pre-planned change-mitigation strategies. This will help you get through those layers of shock, denial, arguing, etc., which might naturally come with unexpected changes.
  • Paint a detailed picture of the worst-case scenario and talk through it, to help understand that it may not be as bad as you might think, especially if you’re plan-fully aware of it.
  • Some people don’t have the experience and background to know how to persevere through adversity. Consider it an opportunity to help them navigate a change, and help them see the up-side of that adversity/change.
  • Never say that your reality is worse than theirs.

In conclusion, I’ll quote Shakespeare ‘to thine own self be true’. Regardless of what change comes forth, know who you are, where you are going, and what can be learned with every change.

I follow the first question with a second one: ‘where are we going from here and why’. The response I personally have to these leaders is ‘anywhere you’d like to go, I trust you to lead the way.’ May there be more leaders like these out there and may their company and all they touch continue to thrive.