Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

A Note to My 20-year Old Self

November 22, 2017

As we enter into our time of Thanks-Giving with friends and family, and from there into the whirlwind of fun, work and activities of the holidays, I want to stop and write a message to my 20-year-old self.

This message is musings of my wisdom and learnings (such as they are) to the person at 20, so many decades ago, and yet just yesterday in my mind. It is also a message to my own daughter, who will reach that 20-year-old milestone in a few months.

  1. Be bold and keep raising the bar for yourself. Never settle. It won’t always feel good to always be reaching. But in the end, it will be all good.
  2. Know your values and never compromise on them for any reason.
  3. Make a stand for yourself and help others make a stand for themselves, but only if they want your support. This is the only way to overcome injustice and complacency, and help us all as individuals, as leaders, as people do our part in making the world a better place.
  4. “Right” has many definitions, many contexts. Never judge those who feel like they are doing the ‘right’ thing. Beware of people who would judge you for doing what you think is the right thing.
  5. Be ever inclusive, especially with people who don’t think or act like you do. It benefits everyone.
  6. Do the right thing, even if it’s inconvenient, even if there’s no reward, even if there’s a negative consequence.
  7. Have patience and tolerance for yourself and others. It’s a great path for growing and thinking and expanding.
  8. Take a page from Maya Angelou’s book – it’s more important how you make someone feel than it is what you DO.
  9. Celebrate the little things. Don’t take them for granted as they are the essence of life.
  10. It’s all about energy and love. Love what you do, and do it with and for people you love being with. Have the energy to do it well, and enjoy doing it well with and for others.

I hope that you also find it relevant and interesting for yourself and those you touch. Happy Thanksgiving. Happy Holidays!

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Peeling the Onion

October 30, 2017

OnionThe end of the year is a time to celebrate successes, reflect on learnings, plan for what’s next, and appreciate all that you have. This year, I see my gifts in layers, like the layers of an onion.

  1. I appreciate the roots of the onion, which connects it to the ground. It provides for our basic needs like food, water, air. I see the victims of the many disasters this year, from floods to fires to human-related calamity. My heart bleeds for them, and I feel grateful to have ongoing access to basic needs.
  2. The tough basal plate at the bottom of the onion is connected to the roots, and to me represents the basic connections between people which allows us to get along with each other, embracing our similarities and differences. We are all ONE, connected to the root, connected to the earth.
  3. The tunic of the onion – the paper-like outer piece – represents the infrastructure we often take for granted. I’m grateful for the predictable, stable infrastructure in my life – the rules, operations, processes, agreements, procedures, materials – which helps everyone make plans and get places and get things done.
  4. Then there are many ‘scale leaf’ layers of the onion. One of them to me represents the variety of people and experiences around me. Living in a dynamic and diverse region is in turns perplexing and annoying, while also being energizing and fun. I’m grateful for the diversity of people, thoughts and ideas which surround me.
  5. Another scale leaf represents exposure to the brightest, most creative technologists and professionals. I’m grateful for these brilliant others who have helped me to connect the dots in new, novel, different ways which benefit and serve others.
  6. Another scale leaf is the tangible results of connecting the dots – the technologies, products and solutions which have the ability to change the world. May we all be fortunate enough to have access to the tools and information and people who stretch my imagination, build my knowledge, exercise my mind and expand our outlook and perspective.
  7. The most unsavory, but also necessary scale leaf is the way which represents failure and under-performance. I’m grateful for the adversities in my life, and to those who helped me perceive them as a gift, a lesson to be learned, a stepping stone for what’s next.
  8. Another scale leaf represents the ecosystem of associates, family, mentors, and friends who help us overcome that adversity and be a better version of ourselves in many ways.
  9. The scale leaf closest to the center of the onion are the most trusted people – those who provide unconditional love, those who see you at your worst and at your weakest and stand by you still, those who provide support when you feel all alone, those who are just another piece of your very self.
  10. At the heart of the onion is the immature flower. It represents hope for the next generation and opportunities for the future and celebrates all things and people who help us each build and embrace a better tomorrow.

My wish for you is that you can choose an environment which welcomes measured risk-taking, applauds new ways of thinking, speaking and acting, and embraces opportunities for DOING things differently.

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.

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.