Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

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.

What Kind of Leader are You?

July 19, 2016

WhatKindofLeader

Everyone wants to be a leader, and in a perfect world, we are all great leaders. The best leaders know what type of leadership is needed for any circumstance, and she/he knows how and when to best excel, and who can complement his/her own leadership style. I find it helpful to understand the types leaders I most respect, especially as I notice that each one shines under different circumstances.

1. The Beacon is the leader that shines the way. She/he doesn’t get into the details but inspires because of a vision described or an impossible task performed, or both.

2. The Cheerleader is the leader that believes unconditionally in the person, the team or the cause. He/she is ever the person to pick up everyone after a failure, a set-back, an unintended result. The resilience and optimism is contagious and necessary for the success of any project.

3. The Anchor keeps everyone focused on the values and the goals of relevance to the team. She/he carries that moral compass and measures and communicates the results generated.

4. The Devil’s Advocate helps vet new ideas to help ensure that they fit the mission and vision of the project or organization and that they are practical, considering the resources available.

5. The Mediator resolves issues between team members by smoothing feathers, by clarifying communications, by facilitating compromises and re-focusing everyone on the shared mission and vision.

6. The Negotiator is the leader who works with those outside the group to gather more energy and resources so that results can be realized.

7. The Translator helps ensure that people from different backgrounds and perspectives are speaking a common language and working toward a common purpose.

8. The Ambassador advocates for the project or cause to ensure that there are sufficient resources and time so that results can be generated.

9. The Prodigy is the learner and next-generation leader who will carry the torch for future projects. He or she is curious and energetic, open-minded and multi-faceted.

10. The Leader of Leaders have a touch of each of the above, and knows which facet to turn on when to make things happen.

What type of leader are you? Which circumstances require what type of leadership?

Here’s to the Heroes

May 30, 2016
Heroes

Lieutenant Alix Idrache, Photo taken by Staff Sgt Vito T  Bryant at May 21, 2016 graduation from West Point

In this time of graduations and celebrations, on this day when we honor those who have served/are serving/will be serving our country, I would like to humbly acknowledge  the heroes amongst us. (See also the inspiring and patriotic article behind the photo.)

  1. Here’s to those leaders who were the glue who held us together, the oil who kept us running smoothly, and the lighthouse that led the way, especially when the possibilities seemed bleak. Most notable amongst them to me is John F Kennedy, who he challenged us as a nation to “Go to the Moon” in his speech to Congress on May 25, 1961.
  2. Here’s to the persistent visionaries who overcame insurmountable odds to define a new world of possibilities. Notable amongst them is Christopher Columbus, who defied those who feared falling off the end of the earth, who overcame the reservations of his backers, Queen Isabel and King Ferndinand – Isabel and Fernando, los Reyes Católicos – (who in the end didn’t think he would succeed, but didn’t want to lose out on the benefits if he did), and who overcame a near mutiny of his sailors, before sighting the white sands of San Salvador Island in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492.
  3. Here’s to those who have inspired and challenged us to question and change the status quo. Notable amongst them is Mahatma Gandhi. inspired others to change their world through nonviolent civil disobedience, not just to help India gain independence from Britain, but also to inspire movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.
  4. Here’s to scientists like Albert Einstein and Madame Curie whose research changed the way the world works and opens up new possibilities for all of us.
  5. Here’s to those like Pocahontas who have bravely bridged two worlds, opening up the possibility of understanding and collaboration.
  6. Here’s to the explorers of new frontiers including Christopher Columbus, Lewis and Clark, Neil Armstrong and their funders. The world is a better, broader place because you’ve done so.
  7. Here’s to the selfless givers amongst us, who put others in front of themselves. Notable amongst them is Mother Theresa.
  8. Here’s to those who have stretched our perceptions about what’s ‘normal and acceptable’, to the creatives and un-structureds, and hyper-normals who stretch our comfort and reality zones. People like the Beatles, Jackie Robinson, and of course Picasso and Dali have changed and opened up our thinking.
  9. Here’s to the leaders who accepted criticism, injustice and adversity with grace and humor and fortitude. I stand behind our President Barack Obama and his numbers to date, but don’t want to get political. I appreciate his humor and wit in his ‘Obama Out‘ speech at a White House correspondence dinner.
  10. Lastly, here’s to the everyday, unnamed heroes who are humbled and inspired by the trust and faith of others, overwhelmed and inspired by the possibilities ahead, and resilient, ethical and competent enough to continue leading the way.

Who are YOUR heroes and what do they stand for?

What It Takes to Lead

April 25, 2016

Group of woman

I’m one of those people who gets out there and meets a lot of people, whether it’s for the events that I run monthly or with the execs I coach or the start-ups I advise, or just at social and neighborhood gatherings, networking is part of my DNA – I like connecting people with each other, and connecting disparate ideas into something new.

So when I’m asked ‘What does it take to lead?’ I think about it from the context of meeting and knowing a wide range of leaders – at all levels of the hierarchy, representing all roles, from start-ups with a seed-of-an-idea to Fortune 10 companies. Below is my view of what the best leaders have in common.

What It Takes from the Inside – Your HEART

They say that every great leader has a vision of what’s possible, a vision she/he is passionate about.

  1. I would agree, and also add that this vision may not be specific to a business. It may be a social and community vision implemented by a Mother Theresa or a social vision implemented by a business icon through their foundation.
  2. But I would add that having that vision isn’t enough, for one must also have the energyand ability to make it happen, the attitude to persevere and succeed despite insurmountable odds, and the wisdom and patience to manage the inevitable stress which always arises when big things happen, when many people are involved.

What it takes to Execute – Your HANDS

A vision is only a dream, unless a leader knows how to make it a reality. There are four elements of execution:

  1. Financial execution which focuses on the P&L and efficient, scalable operations.
  2. Cultural execution which ensures that the right people join and grow and stay within the organization.
  3. Product execution which works with product, development and sales/marketing/customer/ops teams to ensure that customers are happy with the product or service.
  4. Growth execution which engages the right staff, customers and alliances to proactively grow the product or offering.

What It Takes to Be Smart and Strategic: Your HEAD

Assuming that you have the vision to make things happen, and the ability to execute on that vision, you will need to be strategic and smart enough to weave the pieces together.

  1. Every great leader embraces technology as a great enabler, as a great tool for serving ever more demanding customers.
  2. Every great leader is a transparent, clear, proactive communicator with the ability to influence others to make things happen. 
  3. Every great leader chooses opportunities for continuous learning, and continually raises the bar for herself/himself. No great leader does things the way it has always been done, even if they do that same thing exceptionally well.
  4. Every great leader seeks the win-for-all collaborative solution which engages all stakeholders in delivering results.

So based, on this criteria, who do you know that’s great? And what criteria would you use to define greatness?

Thoughts on the Future of Work

March 1, 2016

FutureOfWorkThere’s  been so much change in the way companies, leaders and businesses work with each other and together, so it’s difficult to plan your future, whether you’re new to the workforce, returning to the workforce or planning how to remain gainfully employed in later years. Here are my thoughts on the type of work that’s available and how to embrace these opportunities and and prepare for the challenges to come.

  1. The tech-philic worker will be favored, and those who reject or deny this fact will be much less employable. Technology will help workers to gather and interpret data and information so that they can be more productive and better serve the customer, both of which are critical to the performance of any company.
  2. The learning-agile worker will be favored. Those who are resistant to learning new ways of doing things will be left behind, especially as automation will replace the need of workers-who-perform-repetitive-tasks.
  3. The communicative worker will more likely succeed as it would be easier for them to work with all the internal and external stakeholders involved in any job – from colleague to teammate, from partner to customer.
  4. The patient, helpful, service-oriented worker will be better positioned to serve demanding customers. There will always be jobs for people who know how to make even the pickiest of customers happy.
  5. Collaboration between people and companies will more likely succeed. Leaders will be those who can envision the benefits of collaborating across roles, companies and industries, and create and facilitate those successful partnerships.
  6. If you combine the 5 traits above, you will find a worker who may be able to tailor products and services to the needs of the customer. There will always be a role for people who can succeed in doing this well.
  7. Company leaders will be more focused on data and analytics, and there will be more meritocracy-based cultures and less politics.
  8. Along those same lines, productivity of people and product/service lines will be based more on data and information, and less on politics and agendas.
  9. Company leaders will help make it easy for a diverse population of workers to succeed – whether it’s making remote work possible or providing tech tools to support an aging or disabled or other non-standard worker.
  10. The bottom line is that companies and leaders will acknowledge that they are only as good as their people, and think, speak and act accordingly.

Those are my thoughts on the Future of Work. How will these things impact YOU? What can we do to support you in planfully remaining well employed? How can we support your company in attracting, developing and retaining the best and brightest?  Your comments are welcome.