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Individual_Improvement

10 Questions to Improve Your Leadership Development Programs

Leadership development is my job, and I continue to see articles about leadership development programs not working.  I totally get the fact that sometimes development programs just don't do what they were intended to do.  However, I also think that leadership programs (really, any development programs) can fail because the people attending and supporting the programs are not willing to put in the required work.  Below are ten questions that I think participants and managers of participants should be asked before deciding a development program is a failure. Research from CEB (Corporate Executive Board) indicates that a manager's involvement before and after a learning program can improve a participant's performance 17-55%.  As a manager, if you decide to send an employee to a leadership development program, you should ask yourself questions like:  Have I talked with my employee about the program and the expectations I have for him or her attending the program?  Is the timing right to attend?  If you're not sending your employee on an all-expense paid vacation, you probably have some type of expectation - maybe the class is targeted toward first time managers and the transition from individual contributor to manager is key.  Share that with your employee so you are both on the same page. Do I, as the participant's manager, have any kind of pre-work to complete?  For many programs, we (learning folks) create content that is helpful to a manager - coaching guides, content guides, program videos, etc.  If these are available, use them!  This way, you're more able to help coach your employee when they return from their program. Am I giving my employee space and time to develop?  You cannot send your employee to a development program, call them out of a program to handle various issues that come up, and expect them to benefit from the program.  One of the biggest complaints I hear from people who attend programs is that they just don't have the time to concentrate on the content of the program.  Make sure your employee has that time!   Do I have a meeting with my employee to discuss what they've  learned and how it impacts their development?  If not, get a meeting on the calendar.  This shows your employee that you're serious about their development and what they're learning.  You can also use this meeting to talk about how you can support your employee in implementing new ideas they learned.  Let's be clear - it's not just a participant's manager that has accountability for supporting the learning process.  Participants need to be accountable for their own learning and should be asking questions of themselves: Have I looked at the objectives of a program to determine if they are in alignment with my development plan?  Does it make sense to attend the program at this time?  These questions assume that you have a development plan in place and that you've discussed it with your manager.  If you don't, start creating one. Is there pre-work that I need to complete?  Pre-work is part of a course design, and the intent is to typically baseline the knowledge of all participants before coming to a class.  If you don't do the pre-work, you're doing a disservice to yourself, the instructor, and the rest of the class. Am I committed to attending the entire program?  You would be surprised at the number of people who register for a program with the intent of "checking it out" or plan to leave early because they want to catch an earlier flight home.  The saying "you get out of it what you put into it" definitely applies to learning. Am I spending time reflecting on what I'm learning and how it applies to my role?  Research tells us that reflection positively impacts performance through improved cognitive and emotional processing.  If you just consume information without thinking about how it applies to you, your learning experience will fall short of any expectations. Do I have a meeting scheduled with my manager to discuss the development program after attending?  If your manager hasn't scheduled a meeting, take it upon yourself to do so.  This meeting is a great way to discuss what you learned and how your manager can support you in implementing new ideas. Do I have check-ins scheduled on my calendar?  If you're trying something new that you learned, schedule "check-in" times on your calendar so you can keep track of what you are doing and if it is working.  You may also want to schedule a call with a fellow participant to keep each other on track (that's called peer coaching) or schedule that check-in time with your manager. If you're the CEO (or part of the executive team), you're still not off the hook.  You should be asking if your actions support leadership development in your organization - do you teach other leaders in your programs; do you fund leadership programs globally; do you require people to spend time learning new things?  Remember, your actions define the learning culture for the entire company! I think when we see articles that point to a problem - leadership development doesn't work - it's easy to jump on the bandwagon and use that excuse as a scapegoat for our own lack of effort.  Rather than be a bandwagon groupie, make sure you're giving 100% to get the most from the opportunity.  Companies send employees to development programs as an investment in the person and in the future of the company.  If you treat that opportunity like the investment it is, you might just be surprised to find out that the program actually does work for you!

Leadership development is my job, and I continue to see articles about leadership development programs not working.  I totally get the fact that sometimes development programs just don't do what they...

Leadership & Management

Evolving Leadership for the Digital Age

Do we need new leaders in a digital environment?  This was a question posed to me last year as I worked on a small team focused on digital transformation.  Once I had this question, I couldn’t let it go, and I spent a lot of time thinking about the question and looking at research on transformation, digital environments and leadership.  In analyzing this information, I’ve concluded that we shouldn’t “toss out” our current leaders, but, rather, encourage leaders to understand this new digital environment and consciously apply existing leadership skills in new ways. When you look at leadership skills, every leader needs core leadership skills regardless of business environment.  For example, a leader needs to communicate effectively, relate team and individual goals to corporate goals, effectively manage direct reports, and build relationship across other teams and departments. A leader needs all of these skills in order to be successful. As the business environment changes, core leadership skills remain, but a leader might need to deploy those skills in a different manner.   As an example, a leader first needs to learn how to communicate effectively with his or her team, often involving things like how to set team goals, how to effectively coach team members, how to hold 1:1 conversations, how to manage performance, and how to have career conversations. As a leader grows in his or her role, communication takes on different challenges – communicating with multiple teams; managing conflicting priorities, goals and personalities; and often doing these things in a virtual environment across multiple cultures. When transforming to a digital environment, these communication skills still need to exist, but a leader faces new challenges in communicating using tools that exist in a digital world.  This might be something like tweeting quick updates; using an online collaboration platform to drive a team’s work; or creating a short video to outline future goals for stakeholders external to the immediate team. I don’t believe we need to “throw out” our existing leaders and create new leaders for the Digital Age.  However, there are eight core capabilities that I think leaders need to develop to both think and act differently in the digital age – all building on existing skills, but transforming those skills for a new business environment.  These eight capabilities are identified in the picture below:   In addition to strong core leadership skills, leaders for the future must build the following abilities: Mental Agility Mental agility is the ability to think critically and make new connections when solving problems.  Mental agility is important to a leader in the Digital Age because those leaders are continually dealing with ongoing complexity and the need to make decisions without complete information.  By having mental models that can help “connect the dots” leaders can be more effective in making decisions and adjusting course quickly in light of the larger picture.  Put It Into Practice:  If you have a strong opinion on a topic, write out the argument that the “other side” might have.  Does this give you any additional insights? Rapid Adaptivity I have to admit that the term “rapid adaptivity” is not my own, but I really like the imagery of this term (and apologies to the creator as I cannot remember where I first read it).  Rapid adaptivity is the ability for a leader to be flexible and change with changing business needs.  Great leaders are willing to experiment and try new things in order to stay relevant in a rapidly changing business environment.  By constantly looking for connections and continually scanning the business environment, a leader can build the capability to rapidly adapt no matter the challenge. Put It Into Practice:  When faced with what you consider a problem, take 5 minutes to identify 2-3 opportunities that might exist as a result of the problem.  Write these down and consider if there’s something you want to (or should) explore. Learning Agility Learning agility is simply the ability to apply past lessons to new and future situations.  Great leaders know that rapid change requires rapid learning – and this learning can come from a variety of sources and experiences.  Most importantly, great leaders believe that people can improve, and they model a learning environment in which all of their people can be challenged and grow. Put It Into Practice:  Add a weekly appointment to your calendar for learning.  In that appointment, identify what you want to learn and then keep that appointment with your brain. Digital Literacy A post on leadership in the Digital Age wouldn’t be complete without addressing digital literacy.  It’s not enough for leaders to know about technology – they have to embrace technology and the opportunities it offers.  Great leaders can use technology to create relationships, build teams, and re-shape their business.  Digital literacy encapsulates this concept of going “all-in” with the possibilities that technology offers. Put It Into Practice:  Check out the Europass Digital Competences grid and evaluate your own digital competence.  If there’s something that you want to improve, document it and make a plan for improving. Customer Focus Customer Focus is the ability to understand customer needs and react appropriately to those things that influence the customer – including how the customer uses technology.  Great leaders in the digital environment will take care to understand their customers’ perspectives; look at market changes from that perspective, and make decisions and adjust strategy with the well-being of the customer in mind.  Further, leaders will instill this thinking across all of their teams. Put It Into Practice:  Make a habit of asking “Does this matter to our customers?”  If it doesn’t, modify your plans.  Take it a step further and actually ask a couple of customers if your decision matters to them. Data Driven If a leader is data driven, they have the ability to use data to improve decision making and business performance.   This isn’t to say that data will be the only thing they look at or that they will always have every piece of data needed to make a decision.  Rather, great leaders in a digital environment will understand what kind of data is relevant, will seek out data when appropriate, and will be effective in applying that data to their decision making. Put It Into Practice:  If you are presenting data in support of an idea, ask someone to play “devil’s advocate” and use that same data to argue against you. Cultural Dexterity Leaders in the Digital Age need to achieve business results in a virtual, cross-cultural environment.  Working remotely will be the norm, requiring a level of trust when managing people and working with customers across the globe.  The ability to work with multiple cultures and respect the difference of those cultures is imperative to the success of a Digital Age leader. Put It Into Practice: If you are presenting to people in another country, ask someone to be your “cultural coach” to review your presentation for any cultural hiccups. Collaborative  A collaborative leader has the ability to lead inclusively, engaging others with transparency, honesty and authenticity.  The “command & control” leader of yesterday is gone.  Great leaders in the Digital Age know that they need to go beyond inclusive – they have to make a conscious effort to not exclude, effectively building trust and using openness and collaboration to achieve goals. Put It Into Practice:  For you or your team members – interview someone outside of your immediate team that you interact with.  Find out what they do and how your team’s work impacts their team’s work.  Share this feedback in a team meeting and look for ways that working relationship can be improved.   Each of these capabilities could probably be its own post.  My intent, however, is to provide you a flavor for each capability and what it might mean.  To succeed in the future, leaders – actually, all people – need the capacity to unlearn, relearn and continually adapt to ever-evolving tools and technologies in order to remain relevant.  Warren Bennis said “Success in management requires learning as fast as the world is changing.”  I’ll suggest that success for anyone requires learning as fast as the world is changing.

Do we need new leaders in a digital environment?  This was a question posed to me last year as I worked on a small team focused on digital transformation.  Once I had this question, I couldn’t let it...

Leadership & Management

6 Ways Managers Can Help Employees Be Better Learners

Managers, did you know that you can sabotage your employees' development?  Let's say you send an employee to a 3-day development program, starting on Tuesday.  On Tuesday afternoon, you IM your employee asking him to join an urgent, last-minute customer call.  On Wednesday morning, you tell your employee that he needs to join your staff call to fill everyone in on the customer's status.  Thursday, one of the employee's customers calls with an escalation, so you tell your employee that he is the only one who can appease the customer...and he spends two hours handling the issue.Your employee has now missed somewhere between 4-6 hours of development that your department is paying for!  For a three day program (24 hours), they've missed 17-25% of the program (if you were in school, that would be a "B" or a "C").  And this doesn't even count your employee coming in late, leaving early, or taking a long lunch (and yes, this does happen).  So what's a manager to do?  Here are some tips to keep you and your employee on track:Know your employees' career aspirations.  Having regular development conversation where you talk about how the employee wants/needs to grow and why it's important to his or her development will give you insight into potential development opportunities.  Document these ideas on the Individual Development Plan so you and your employee can refer to them regularly and update accordingly.Agree on expectations when registering for a class.  If a development option is to attend a specific class, talk with the employee about what he or she expects from the program.  Share what you want them to get out of attending the program.  This is a great time to talk about any pre-work required for a program and reinforce the reasons for doing that work.  You can have this conversation prior to the employee registering for a class, but at the latest, have it prior to the start date of the class.Take development seriously.  You're providing the money and time for an employee to attend a class, so realize that it's an investment in the person and in your copmany, and treat it as such.  Ask your employee to be sure he or she can dedicate the time out of the office necessary for the class (if they can't, suggest re-scheduling for a better time).  Support your employee by letting others handle customer calls.  Know that by helping your employee develop, you're helping your team and your company develop also.Schedule a learning debrief.  Schedule a call with your employee a day or two after a class ends.  Ask questions like:What did you learn?What do you think you'll apply to your daily work?How do you think you'll apply it?What will it look like if you're successful?Discuss ways that you can support application of what was learned (this could be as simple as checking in at your weekly 1:1 meetings on what's working or not working).  Your employee is still accountable for modifying his behavior - you're just providing support for that change.  Let your employee share his learning.  In your regular team meeting, have your employee share one or two major things that he learned while attending a program.  This lets employee know they will be held accountable for learning something, and it shows you, the manager, places premium on learning.  You may want to discuss in your debrief meeting what the employee will share with the larger team.Provide ongoing support and feedback.  Your employee has shared what he's learned and how he wants to apply it.  Your job is to help him do that - provide feedback on the behavior changes you see and take the opportunity to coach when needed.  This reinforces and sustains the learning experience.There will always be something "terribly urgent" that can take priority over a learning experience, but as a manager, part of your job is to help your employee focus on learning when required.  Various sources point to "learning agility" or the "ability to change and learn" as top skills a person needs to stay relevant for the future.  Further, learning increases an employee's engagement with his job; allows him to explore new ideas; and encourages knowledge creation and sharing across the organization (there are even studies that show these things also positively impact revenue and company performance).  Investing in your employee is a smart thing to do, and if you show that you're serious about that investment, your employee will take it seriously as well.

Managers, did you know that you can sabotage your employees' development?  Let's say you send an employee to a 3-day development program, starting on Tuesday.  On Tuesday afternoon, you IM your...

Individual_Improvement

Leadership "Best of the Month" - Nov/Dec 2016

I'm running late this month, and December's a short month with holidays, so I'm giving you my internal posts from both month.  I'll even throw in a couple that I cam across doing research but haven't posted yet.  Hopefully, you'll find this round-up useful.  5 Strategies for Big-Picture Thinking - This article explains how you can step back from working on the details of things and spend a bit of time considering the larger picture.  I particularly like the concept of the "Counsel of Heroes" - asking your heroes how they might approach a problem. 5 Ways to Lead in an Era of Constant Change - Jim Hemerling points out that we can make transformation empowering and energizing by focusing on people first through five strategic imperatives. Digital Transformation: Are You Ready for Exponential Change? - Futurist Gerd Leonhard talks about the impact of digitization and how you can prepare yourself for the magnitude of change in the future.  What I thought stood out was the concept that "you" are the only place where innovation is possible, and the idea that anything that cannot be digitized or automated will become extremely valuable - things like creativity, imagination, intuition, and ethics. 7 Super Powers That Will Make You a Great Leader - This is a great checklist to see if you're being as effective of a leader as you can.  Rate yourself against these seven super powers and then think of a couple of things you might try to improve your lowest rated power. Have a great Winter Break - I'm hoping to come back refreshed and ready to do some consistent writing!    

I'm running late this month, and December's a short month with holidays, so I'm giving you my internal posts from both month.  I'll even throw in a couple that I cam across doing research but haven't...

Leadership & Management

Leadership "Best of the Month" - October 2016

I tend to post a lot of stuff internally for my job, but I realized that some of you might be interested in these same things. So, I’m going to try to post a “Best of” article at the beginning of each month, highlighting those things that I found interesting throughout the previous month. This might get me posting on a more regular basis as well. Here are the leadership articles (and some other things) from last month that you might want to check out: 11 Questions to Ask Every Day to Help Improve Your Life - This is a great article for reflecting on who you are and the kind of life  you want to live. I’m a big believer in the importance of reflection, and this gives you a good weekend’s worth of pondering. Why Deep Learning Is Suddenly Changing Your Life - This article is a great primer on AI, deep learning and the potential business impact. Definitely worth a read if you need to understand this emerging area. Leadership Under Pressure, aka Emergency Leadership - This is an interesting article from a combat physician who served in Iraq identifying what it takes to lead when you’re under pressure. 5 Signs You're a "Unicorn" Employee - We might all want “unicorn employees,” but this article made me think about what role a leader plays in helping to create “unicorn employees.” Are You a Strategic Thinker? - Leaders need to be able to think strategically, and this article gives you eight characteristics to consider when thinking about your strategic capability. It also provides advice to improve your strategic thinking skills. Two great quotes from this past month: Mistakes are an inevitable consequence of doing something new and should be embraced. – Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation Studios If fear was not a factor, what would your decision be? - I heard this on the radio, and it made me think about where fear might be holding me back and what might choices might be if I told “fear” to go away. Let me know if you like the “Best of” concept!

I tend to post a lot of stuff internally for my job, but I realized that some of you might be interested in these same things. So, I’m going to try to post a “Best of” article at the beginning of each...

Individual_Improvement

October is National Learning and Development Month

My mom used to tell me that if you can read, you can learn anything and go anywhere.  I realized the truth of that when I was about 7 years old, and she took me to the library for the first time.  I was in awe that all those books were available to anyone who wanted to read them.  Through books, I went on grand adventures, visited different parts of the world, and learned all sorts of new things...and it put me on a path of lifelong learning.Given that, I just heard the best news - October is National Learning and Development Month (only in the USA, but I'm encouraging that anyone in any country take advantage of it)!Why is this a good thing?  Because it places an emphasis on continued learning; it says you don't stop learning when you're done with school; it encourages us to think outside our every day; and it means I can still buy fresh school supplies every fall (okay, I did that anyway).Seriously, though, with the amount of content available on the internet today, we have a ton of ways to learn and to continue growing.  Think about what you do in your job every day - is there something that you learned by the end of the day?  Is there something that you'll do differently tomorrow because of what you learned today?  In today's business environment, you have to continue learning to be relevant.In honor of National Learning and Development month, I want to encourage you to plan how you're going to learn in October and commit to that plan.  Some ideas to get you started:Watch a TED talk each day to inspire the beginning of your day or to end your day on a high note.Listen to a podcast - weekly or daily - on a topic of interest.  Check out the iTunes Management & Marketing preview to find something.At team meetings, encourage your team members to share the things they are learning.  Check out my blog post on Yes, You Can Use My Lightbulb Moments for an idea on how to make this an ongoing thing.Participate in the Oracle Leadership Challenge (this is internal for Oracle folks).Get a small group together to talk about new ideas coming out in your field.  You could do this over the phone, over lunch, or via a social collaboration tool.Attend a MOOC (massive open online courseware) on a topic of interest.  You can find free MOOCs on a variety of topics at Coursera and EdX.Look at your learning options within your organization (for Oracle folks, check out the different options in the Oracle Learning Centers). Find a YouTube Channel that is interesting and follow it.  Make a point of watching the videos and sharing what you learn.  Some channels to get you started:  Harvard Business Review, Stanford Graduate School of Business, INSEAD, Evan Carmichael, Oracle Cloud (you had to know that was coming).So there you have it - multiple ways that you can take advantage of National Learning and Development Month.  You've got three days left in September - what's going to be on your learning plan for October?

My mom used to tell me that if you can read, you can learn anything and go anywhere.  I realized the truth of that when I was about 7 years old, and she took me to the library for the first time.  I...

Individual_Improvement

8 Ways to Better Learning

In today's world, we are faced with an abundance of information (many times too much information), and we are expected to be experts before we even know what the final picture looks like.So how do you learn in this kind of environment?  How do you take information and make it meaningful for what you're doing?  In my own work, research I've done and just experimenting, I've come across a variety of practices that are useful to me when trying to both learn something and apply that learning, so I thought I would share a few ideas with you:Write down your Questions.  What are you trying to learn?  Why is this important to you?  What questions do you already have about the content you want to learn and its importance to you?  Write these questions down so you can recognize potential answers when you come across them.Find Existing Content.  I like to use Google and Wikipedia.  When it comes to Google, I look for links to reputable sources.  Obviously, these sources will be different based upon the information you are seeking.  I know some people dislike Wikipedia, but I often find it's a great source for getting a broad picture and jumping into additional sites and concepts.  I also use industry and professional sites (ask colleagues for recommendations).Keep a Learning Journal.  If you've read any of my posts, this should not be a surprise to you.  When you are reading through new material or thinking about a problem, write down the questions you have, the thoughts going through your mind, and the larger pictures that you see.  This solidifies both your ideas and your questions and provides additional focus points for exploration.Find Like Minded Individuals. Visit every social platform you are on (this includes OSN for Oracle folks) - read comments to see how others think; click on links that others recommend; look for opposing views to test your own theories.  Continue writing down your questions, ideas, and new things to explore.Hit the Coffee Shop.  Invite someone who has more knowledge than you to coffee.  Pick their brain; ask how they learned about the topic; have them recommend additional resources.  You may want to go into the conversation with a couple of questions, but allow for a bit of serendipity in the conversation.  (You can read more in my post on informational interviews).Use Available Technology.  I often cannot read everything I come across at the time I find it.  But then I found this cool little app called Pocket - this lets me save online article to read later, even if I'm not connected to the internet.  My only "gotcha" is that I have to remember to sync between my computer and my iPad.  Think about the tools you already use and how they might help organize your learning and ask others for new ideas.Popcorn and Movie, Anyone?  Google your topic, and then click "Videos" at the top.  This will give you a list of tons of videos you can watch - many of them by experts in their field.  Again, I tend to look at sources (like TED) that are pretty reputable.  I've also found that looking at the number of hits on YouTube and reading a few of the comments can give you an idea of whether or not something is worth your time.  Take a Break.  In the course of everything you learn, you need to take time to reflect and think.  Are you still on track for what you want to learn?  Are you limiting your knowledge in some way?  Does what you've learned help build a big picture for you?  If you're questioning the validity of this, google <importance of reflection> for more data!These are the immediate things that come to mind when someone asks how I learn about a new topic.  What about you - What are the things you do or the tools you use to learn?

In today's world, we are faced with an abundance of information (many times too much information), and we are expected to be experts before we even know what the final picture looks like.So how do you...

Leadership & Management

When Was Your Last First?

This past weekend, my son asked me "Mommy, when was the last time you did something for the first time?"  Since it was 7am, I had to actually unwrap that question before trying to answer it, but I told him I've had lots of firsts: Managing a team at Oracle for the first time (just this past month) Attending a class at Harvard (last month) Practicing aikido (started this past year) Picking up alto saxophone (since Christmas) Quilting (started two years) I asked him why he was asking, and he said "Because if you don't have firsts in your life, it's probably not a very good life."  Think about that for a second - "firsts" make life interesting.  "Firsts" make work more interesting.  When was your last "first" at work?  Maybe you: Wrote your first blog Worked on high visibility project for the first time Managed a team for the first time Received your first promotion Moved into a new role for the first time Found your passion for the first time As a leader, you have the opportunity to create "firsts" for your people.  We tend to ask people with proven skillsets to work on projects.  But think about asking someone new to work on a project - maybe to be mentored by that experienced person.  You just created a "first" for the new person and maybe a "first" mentoring relationship for the experienced person.Maybe you have the ability to task someone with presenting at a User Group or some other conference - you've created a "first" for them to get noticed by their peers and by customers.  Maybe you're creating the next (your first) famous TED speaker.Maybe you have the chance to participate on a new project that is a "first" for Oracle and for everyone on the team.Think about the last time you experienced a "first" at work.  Were you scared?  Nervous?  Excited?  New experiences give most people a rush - a combination of fear, excitement, and - most importantly -  possibility. As a leader, you have the ability to create those "firsts" at work and help your people define the possibilities.  So what firsts might you create today?

This past weekend, my son asked me "Mommy, when was the last time you did something for the first time?"  Since it was 7am, I had to actually unwrap that question before trying to answer it, but I...

Individual_Improvement

Four Leadership Lessons From Disneyland

Is Disneyland really the happiest place on Earth? My (unscientific) research would indicate that, yes, it is. My family spent this past week at Disneyland and another well-known theme park, and I have to say that there was a marked difference between the two. My research consisted of talking to park employees to determine what makes their park, their job, and their company special. At Disneyland, we came across employees who shared their four keys of safety, courtesy, show and efficiency. We saw employees smiling all the time and asking how they could make your day perfect. I talked with employees who said they loved working for Disney – one worked there through college and then returned after getting her Masters degree; one employee was in his 47th year at Disney. And I talked with employees who said they never get tired of working at Disney because any daily assignment is a 30 minute rotation, and longer term employees have the opportunity to move throughout the park. In contrast, at our second theme park, we saw a lot fewer smiles from employees, and I didn’t see anyone who looked like they had been there 47 years. When I asked about training, I was told that “they have certain things we can and can’t say.” When I asked for directions, the employee pointed and said “I think it’s that way.” The best observation was from my 11-year old when we walked past an attraction late in the day, and she said “He doesn’t look as fresh as he did this morning.” Overall, our experience made me think about the leadership of each park and how their actions can be a lesson to all leaders. The four leadership lessons that I learned from Disneyland include: Set clear expectations. Employees at Disneyland said their job was to make every park guest’s visit memorable and perfect. This expectation was set from the top level down, through all of the training that employees received. At our second park, nobody talked about the expectations of their job, and you could see the difference in performance. Keep jobs fresh. At Disneyland, one employee said he never got tired of what he did because they had 30 minute rotations in their area. By contrast, at our second park, the employee who didn’t look “fresh” at 5:30pm was at the same location when we started our day at 9:00am. If you keep jobs fresh – rotate assignments, provide new projects, and give new opportunities – your employees are more likely to stay engaged with their work Have fun. Nobody wants to work in dreariness. Find ways to make work fun for you employees – create contests out of certain activities, celebrate birthdays, host online holiday parties. When people are having fun, others can see that…including your customers.  My kids easily saw that the Disneyland employees had fun at their jobs – that’s why they’ve been there for 40-plus years! Provide excellent training. Disney employees had one job – to make every guest’s day perfect. To accomplish this, they had training in all aspects of the park that contributed to that. If you expect certain behaviors or actions from your employees, it is your responsibility to ensure they have the right training to meet those expectations. One of my final questions at Disneyland was “Do you ever have really bad employees?” The cast member chuckled and told me that employees who don’t meet Disney ideals don’t last long and typically choose to leave before they’re even in front of park guests. As another point for leaders, it’s crucial to remember that not everyone is fit for the goals of your team. You can fight that, or you can accept it and help them find the right roles. Overall, I saw many employees at Disneyland meeting corporate expectations and making park guests happy. I’m not sure that Disneyland would be everyone’s idea of the Happiest Place on Earth, but if you employ some of the same ideas as Disney leaders, you might have the Happiest Teams at Your Company!

Is Disneyland really the happiest place on Earth? My (unscientific) research would indicate that, yes, it is. My family spent this past week at Disneyland and another well-known theme park, and I have...

Leadership & Management

And What, Exactly, Is an Informational Interview?

Quite a few years back, I decided I wanted to know more about some areas of the company I was working in (it was a large company). I asked my mentor and my manager for some advice on who I might talk to, and they gave me five names. I contacted each person and asked if they might have 30 minutes to talk with me about their area of the business and how it integrated with my own. All five said yes. So I moved forward with all five interviews. My great-grandfather used to tell me that God gave me two ears and one mouth..and why do you think that is?...so I went into each interview planning to listen more than I talked.  Great-grandpa knew what he was talking about – I met some great people and learned a lot about different areas of the business. I hit it off with a couple of my interviewees, and we exchanged information periodically. Two years later, both of them helped me out when I needed to accomplish a difficult project in a short time. All because of that initial informational interview. In essence, an informational interview is an opportunity to learn more about someone else and what they do. It is NOT, NOT, NOT a job interview…nor is it a plea for a job…nor an opportunity to provide your resume. It is an investment of your time to learn about someone. That’s it. So why would you ever do an informational interview? Because you think someone is interesting; or something they do is interesting; they might be a future member of your network; they might become a mentor; they might put you in touch with another person who sparks your future. Let's assume you’re on board with the concept of an informational interview. “How do I do it?” Glad you asked. Here are my tips for conducting an informational interview. Know what you want to learn.  You should identify the topics that you want to learn about. This will also help you determine the appropriate people to contact. Find the right people. If you know what you want to learn, ask your manager, mentor or someone else who they would recommend you talk to and why. This will give you the information you need to initiate contact. Schedule a conversation not to exceed 30 minutes. The person you’re talking with is probably busy, so let them know that you will limit your conversation to 30 minutes. If your interviewees want to spend more time with you, they will. Have a great starting question.  Your first question will get the entire conversation underway.  You may want to start with something like “What was your career path that brought you to your current position?” or “What kind of knowledge does someone in your position need?” Have 3-5 good questions ready, but know that might only need your first great question. Listen. This is kind of a “duh,” but to actively listen takes a lot of work. You need to concentrate, respond appropriately and build upon the conversation – this is called active listening. If you think your listening skills could use work, check out this MindTools article or Fast Company article for some tips. Don’t take notes. This might seem counter-intuitive, but taking notes means that you are concentrating on writing something down rather than concentrating on the person talking. Definitely jot down a question that comes up or any major ideas that you want to remember or follow up on. Just remember that your primary purpose is to focus on the person in front of you. Use the ultimate final question. At the end of every interview, ask “Who else would you recommend that I talk to about <insert your topic>?”  This opens up additional opportunities for you to talk to others as you can start with “X said that I should contact you to talk about <insert your topic>.” Not only is it an easy way to initiate contact, but you’ll learn even more about others in your company. Send a thank-you note or email.  This is super important. Someone just gave you 30 minutes out of their very busy schedule - the least you can do is say thanks.  Additionally, make sure you send the thank-you no later than 48 hours after the interview.   So that’s it – eight easy steps to an informational interview. Once back at your desk, feel free to write down notes about your interview. As you reflect on your notes and your experiences from the interviews, you’ll realize that every interview is a development opportunity – it gives you the chance to make yourself known, to develop your knowledge of the company, to expand your network, and to increase your knowledge in a topic.  Informational interviews are a great tool for your professional development, but it’s up to you to use them. Happy interviewing!

Quite a few years back, I decided I wanted to know more about some areas of the company I was working in (it was a large company). I asked my mentor and my manager for some advice on who I might talk...

Leadership & Management

Feedback: What They Want, Or What They Need?

This weekend, my husband and I drove four hours into the mountains to take our kids to church camp.  After getting my "almost 8" year old registered, he hugged me and said, "I'm going to miss you, Mommy." "Really buddy," I asked, feeling a little "aawww" in my heart for such a rare show of emotion. "No," he giggled.  "I just know you want me to say that." Bammo!!  Reality hits hard when it hits! His comment, though, made me think about something all leaders are responsible for, and some of them don't do very well - feedback.  Often, people in leadership positions will tell people what they want to hear (like my son) - a true leader, however, tells people what they need to hear. Providing feedback to people is tough - you don't want to hurt their feelings; they might perceive it as negative; you're not sure if you're getting through; the feedback might not be specific enough; the conversation will likely be uncomfortable; and your employee might not like you very much at the end of it.  Great picture, huh? Here's a different picture.  You start with positive intent - feedback is designed to help a person perform better.  You gather specific actions and results related to your feedback; you talk with your employee about these actions and results and what needs to be different; you ask them how, together, you can help others from making the same mistake in the future; and you both leave the conversation feeling like something was accomplished. In their book Your First Leadership Job: How Catalyst Leaders Bring Out the Best in Others, authors Tacy Byham and Richard Wellins explain the concept of using STARs for feedback (Oracle employees can access the book via Safari).  STAR stands for: Situation/Task (ST): basically, what was being handled or addressed Action (A): what a person did that was effective Result (R): the positive impact of the action The book further explains the concept of STAR/AR for providing developmental feedback, where the /AR stands for: Alternative Action (A): what a person might have said or done instead Enhanced Result (R): what might have been more effective as a result of the alternative action A Zenger/Folkman study written about in Harvard Business Review indicates that people actually want corrective feedback, even more so than they want praise (or positive feedback).  What employees do not want is "constructive criticism" because, let's face it, any criticism is not really constructive.  Additionally, employees don't want feedback that is focused on them, as a person.  For example, if you started the conversation with "I can't believe how inept you were in that discussion," the conversation will undoubtedly go downhill from there. Instead, experts suggest that the feedback you provide focuses on specific actions (like in the STAR/AR model), and when providing feedback, you: are timely - you don't wait until performance reviews at the end of the year to address an issue from 8 months prior are explicit - you explain exactly what you saw and what you would like to see differently so your employee doesn't have to read your mind ask questions - you ask your employee to consider alternativse by asking them how they perceived the situation and what might have worked better follow through - the first conversation isn't the end.  You need to follow up with your employee to find out how changes are going and how you can continue to support him or her. Yes, feedback can be uncomfortable, but if you approach it as an opportunity to improve one's performance, it can be well received...much more so than just telling your employees what they want to hear.

This weekend, my husband and I drove four hours into the mountains to take our kids to church camp.  After getting my "almost 8" year old registered, he hugged me and said, "I'm going to miss you,...

Leadership & Management

What's Your Leadership Lesson Plan?

In my former life, I was a high school English teacher, and I was expected to have a lesson plan for every class. I was even given 50 minutes each day to ‘plan’ lessons for my five different classes (about 10 minutes per class). Because I was starting out in my teacher role, I actually spent substantially more than 10 minutes planning for each class. What was included in my lesson plan? Glad you asked. I had an overall plan for each unit, including the learning objectives for the unit. For each daily lesson, I had an introduction to the lesson, learning objectives, notes on what I would say, how long it would take, discussion questions, vocabulary that might be new, quizzes, handouts, and potential essay questions, etc. I was very prepared for each day. And I knew what I wanted my students to learn and how I was going to build upon each day throughout the semester. And that made me think about graduation and the fact that companies have a host of graduating college students joining their ranks. If you are going to be leading a team of new college hires, how much time have you spent identifying what you want those new hires to know? Think about what skills you want your new hires to learn – how are they going to learn those skills, who is going to help them, how are you going to provide feedback, and how is your new hire going to show he or she has learned the skill? And do the skills you’ve identified align with the goals of your business unit? I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Millenials in the workplace, including research that indicates Millenials aren’t all that different from other generations. That group of college hires that you have coming in probably want the same thing that the rest of your team wants – consistent communication from you, knowledge of how their work fits in the bigger picture, feedback on how they’re doing (beyond once a year performance reviews), and they want to feel valued as an employee and as a person. Research indicates that Millenials want these things, but - no surprise - so does the rest of your team. A teacher creates lesson plans not to be completely rigid about each day, but to ensure that they are providing the greatest amount of learning opportunity for their students. Likewise, as a leader, you should create a lesson plan for you team that provides the greatest learning opportunity possible for all of your team members. This might mean that those new hires mentor older workers on new technologies; older workers provide business context around the ‘college learning’, and you, as a leader, provide the structure that makes it all work. Creating a lesson plan is hard work, but the payoff is tremendous. You have 50 minutes – go!

In my former life, I was a high school English teacher, and I was expected to have a lesson plan for every class. I was even given 50 minutes each day to ‘plan’ lessons for my five different classes...

Leadership & Management

1 Easy Rule for Being a Great Leader

I've been reading a lot of blogs and articles that talk about how you should treat your employees in order to motivate them, help them achieve peak performance, engage them, etc.  The advice is generally really good, but I admit that I'm one of the people who is going to forget to: Smile at people every day; Talk to my team to really get to know them; Remember to marry employee desires to corporate strategy; Know the top three things that motivate each employee; Help tie personal goals to corporate goals; Have 1:1 meetings; Have career conversations with each employee; Avoid blame; Bring others along on a change journey; Build trust; Maintain integrity; Build meaningful relationships and networks; Conduct an annual performance review; Be vulnerable...be strong; Communicate often...don't over-communicate. I'm sure you get the picture.  So, I've boiled it down to just one single rule for being a great leader:  Treat everyone on your team the way you would like to be treated.  This is a rule that was drilled into us in kindergarten, but somewhere along the way, we forgot about it.  It's the "Golden Rule" in many religions, but somewhere along the way, we forgot about it.  It's the rule of the philosopher Plato when he said "Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."  But we forget about it. Instead, we rush to work in a traffic jam that is being created just to piss us off and start our day off wrong.  The person in front of you saw you coming up to the door and slammed it in your face instead.  The one employee that you really needed to perform today should know that you need more from them.  And why did your whole team decide to slack off when you needed them working hard.  By golly, you have a right to be mad as hell and take it out on everyone! But we forget. Take a deep breath. That traffic jam occurred because there was an accident on the highway, and someone was killed.  The person going through the door in front of you happened to be blind and didn't even know you were there.  The distracted employee just learned yesterday that her parent had a stroke.  And that team that wasn't working...they were working to support their co-worker who was just diagnosed with cancer. Treat everyone on your team the way you would like to be treated. Instead of being mad that a traffic jam exists, use the time to think about how you're going to approach a specific problem.  Instead of assuming ill-intent from your employee, ask her "I notice that you're attention isn't really here today.  Is something going on?"  Instead of being mad that someone in front of you didn't hold the door, hold the door for the person behind you.  And instead of assuming that your team isn't working, ask them what is top of their mind. Most people don't wake up and plan how they are going to make everyone around them miserable.  They don't plan how badly they can screw up at work.  They don't plan how they're going to make everyone else look bad.   So the next time you are interacting with your employees, think about how you would like to be treated.  Ask instead of assuming.  Listen with respect.  Show compassion.  Act like a human being.  Remember Plato's advice to "Be kind."  Chances are pretty good that you'll learn something about your employees, and they'll learn that you are, indeed, a great leader.

I've been reading a lot of blogs and articles that talk about how you should treat your employees in order to motivate them, help them achieve peak performance, engage them, etc.  The advice is...

Leadership & Management

3 Characteristics of Poetry That Can Help You Communicate Better

My fifth grade daughter has a new assignment in school - she has to read 100 poems by the end of May, with specifics about the types of poems to be covered and what information is to be recorded for each poem.  Almost immediately, I pulled out all sorts of poems that she could read, running the gamut from Christopher Marlow to John Donne to Emily Dickinson (I was an English major, so I have a fairly large selection of poetry on my bookshelves). As I started reading through different poems, I was reminded once more of how incredible poems are because they teach us how to communicate more effectively than we might imagine possible.  I might have lost you at the mention of reading 100 poems, but if you're still with me, let me explain the characteristics that I'm talking about: Word choice:   Poets carefully choose their words to paint a picture of what they want you to see. Instead of "it was cloudy," a poet might say "the wisps of white were like puffs of dandelion floating in a gentle blue breeze."  The poet has selected words that create the image of puffy clouds slowly moving in the breeze.  It is this kind of careful selection of words that we should strive for in our own messaging - using powerful words to tell our story.  Brevity:  With the exception of epic poems (apologies to Homer, Milton, Vyasa and others), poems don't spew forth every word known to man.  Poets manage to get their points across in as few words as possible.  Think about this - the human brain can store 5-7 'chunks' of information in short term memory.  If you want to get your point across and be memorable, you should aim for 'short and sweet' in your message. Reflection:  A great poem gives you something to think about, and the message of that poem may stay with you long after you read it.  Likewise, if you are presenting a message, you should think about what you want your audience to continue thinking about long after the presentation.  This can help define the words that you use when you communicate. You may think word choice and brevity conflict with each other, but they really don't.  A poet might choose very precise words to create the imagery that is necessary for the meaning of the poem, but the overall poem may be very short.  Check out the following: Risk - Anais Nin And then the day came, when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to Blossom. Emily Dickinson If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain; If I can ease one life the aching, Or cool one pain, Or help one fainting robin Unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain. Hans Christian Anderson To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, To gain all while you give, To roam the roads of lands remote, To travel is to live. Nin tells us that at some point we have to step up and take a risk; Dickinson tells us that what we do actually matters to others; and Anderson makes us want to get on the next plane to some unknown destiny.  And they do this with beautifully painted imagery and a minimum number of words. Long after you read this post, you'll probably be wondering 'What risk should I be taking?'  Or 'Who's life might I have impacted by my actions?'  Or 'Where should I go on my next journey?' And therein lies the reflective nature of poetry and its message. Poetry may not speak to the masses (at least that's what my husband tells me), but if you consider the word choice, brevity and reflective qualities of poems and and how they relate to your own messaging, poetry may just help you become a more effective communicator.

My fifth grade daughter has a new assignment in school - she has to read 100 poems by the end of May, with specifics about the types of poems to be covered and what information is to be recorded for...

Leadership & Management

Are You Leading With a Growth Mindset?

Growing up, my mom would tell me "You can achieve anything if you set your mind to it."  Mom was also a big believer in PMA, or Positive Mental Attitude.  If I was having a bad day...PMA.  If I was having a bad gymnastics meet...PMA.  If I didn't achieve to the level I expected of myself...PMA.  My mom wasn't going to let me feel sorry for myself or dwell in negative thought; instead, she insisted that I figure out what went wrong and move forward with a positive mental attitude.  I heard PMA from Mom so often that when I left home for college and then moved away to start a career, I would tell myself "PMA" whenever I was having issues with something (I think that was my mom's goal). Little did I know, my mom was teaching me to have a growth mindset.  The term 'growth mindset' refers to the belief that abilities can be developed and honed through dedication and hard work.  In contrast a 'fixed mindset' is the belief that you are born with a level of talent and intelligence that really can't be changed.  These concepts are the basis for Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck's book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.  Dweck maintains that how we feel about things like risk, learning, intelligence, tests, failure , effort (and other things) form our beliefs, and those beliefs can ultimately impact our performance and success.  This is a great graphic differentiating growth/fixed mindset: (image used with permission of Nigel Holmes) Fortunately, as Dweck explains, mindsets are simply our beliefs, and we have the power to change our beliefs and our mind.  In Dweck's TED Talk The Power of Believing That You Can Improve, she describes the power of "not yet."  The phrase "not yet" implies a learning path into the future and provides a person the confidence to persevere.  Think about it like this - you are coaching an employee on a particular issue, and they come to you with an idea on how they will solve the issue.  Do you say No, that won't work or do you say You're not there yet.  Think about what else you might do? "That won't work" closes down the conversation and forces the employee to give up.  On the other hand, the "not yet" phrase gives the employee permission to grapple with the problem, learn from what he or she has already tried and come up with a better solution.  And, an additional benefit is that the employee has learned to persevere and think outside his or her comfort zone - this causes neurons in the brain to form new connections, which helps with future problem solving.  You are, in essence, setting up the employee for success. If you tend to have a fixed mindset, you can change it!  First, learn to "hear" your fixed mindset when it occurs.  Second, recognize that you have a choice on how you interpret what is happening.  Third, talk back to your fixed mindset with a growth mindset voice.  And finally, take the growth mindset actions.  Details of each of these steps can be found on MindSetOnline.  New research tells us that leaders with a growth mindset tend to be better coaches to their employees; they are more likely to notice improvement in their employees; they make better negotiators; they seek more feedback so they can improve.  And - I think this is a biggie - they are modeling a growth mindset for their employees.  Even Harvard Business Review has written about "How Companies Can Profit from a 'Growth Mindset"  (Hint: words like trustworthy, commitment and innovation are used). Leadership is all about the willingness to grow and change and to help your people do the same...this is the embodiment of the growth mindset.  You may not have my mom whispering "PMA" inside your head whenever you're facing a challenge, but you do have Carol Dweck telling you that the only thing standing between you and your goals is the story you tell yourself about why you can't achieve them.  And the beauty is, you have the power to change that story!

Growing up, my mom would tell me "You can achieve anything if you set your mind to it."  Mom was also a big believer in PMA, or Positive Mental Attitude.  If I was having a bad day...PMA.  If I was...

Leadership & Management

Leadership Lessons from the Hallway

A couple of weeks ago, I was at my kids’ school, and I was sitting in the hall working while the high school students had lunch. Since I’m curious about kids today and their leadership skills tomorrow, I decided to ask them a few questions (this is where my husband would cringe and say “Do you have to?”). Despite the fact that I was a “mom,’ the kids were really receptive to the conversation. I started with “What does leadership mean to you guys?” They proceeded to tell me that “leadership” means putting others before yourself; helping others do something while you’re doing it as well; not being judgmental; equality; being able to direct people without having a superiority complex. One boy even offered the comparison that good leaders direct and help while bad leaders sit on the sidelines and point fingers. All of these kids understood that leadership was about helping others be better. Then I asked what they felt leaders needed to learn, and I was blown away by the answers. Be personal – tell me you need my help, and I’ll want to help you. Let me know how things relate back to me and what I’m supposed to be doing. And then there was this – leaders need to teach people how to think for themselves and teach those people how to teach others. Too often, we’re taught how to think in one way, and that can stifle our creativity and ability to solve problems. Wow! The question around social media was quick as all the kids said they don’t really pay attention to social media as they would rather talk to someone; employees  shouldn’t be consumed by social media and should have a life outside of work; and it’s a good tool to post those things that college recruiters and potential employees would like to know about. I also asked the kids what they thought would be the biggest issues in the next 15-20 years as they started moving into leadership positions. One response was that we need to keep in mind that the world is shrinking and will only get smaller, and we need to be able to make hard decisions without groups feeling left out of he decision. Another student said that we need to focus – he went on to explain that we don’t focus as much as we used to because there are too many different things competing for attention. All of the kids felt that the conversation we have need to be “bigger” and more inclusive. My final question was “How many of you see yourself working in an office 8-5?” They all laughed. Lunch was over, and when I apologized for taking their whole lunch period, all of the kids responded with something along the lines of “No, this was great. It gives us a chance to really think about what we might do in the future.” Why am I sharing this? Because I thought it was interesting that we complain about “kids these days” and “those millennial” who are entering the workforce; and, if these kids are any indication, I don’t think we have that much to worry about. I learned that these kids have it right – leadership is about helping others become better; it’s about becoming better yourself; and it’s about remembering we’re all human and that we should focus on the important things. If the high school students can get it right in the hallway, we should be able to get it right in the cubicle! Thank you to the high school kids at Cornerstone Christian Academy who spent their lunch with me that day!

A couple of weeks ago, I was at my kids’ school, and I was sitting in the hall working while the high school students had lunch. Since I’m curious about kids today and their leadership skills...

Leadership & Management

Mentoring: It's Not For Wimps

My family spent three days last weekend skiing in the Colorado mountains.  It was a great deal of fun because my daughter skied with some of our friends, and they took her down moguls, terrain parks, jumps and a variety of other things that my husband and I were not going to do.  My son, on the other hand, took two days of lessons, and then I had to ski faster to keep up with him.  We all learned new things over the weekend thanks to people who knew more than we did.  And that got me thinking... As part of my day job, I've been doing some work on mentoring programs and best practices around mentoring.  A disturbing theme that I'm seeing in my research is that mentoring is viewed as something for those people on their way out - that is, if you have a mentor, you're obviously not doing very well in your current position.  I'd like to take that idea and throw it out the window!! Think back to 7th Century BC...Thales, one of the 7 ancient sages, founded a school of philosophy to share knowledge.  Every philosopher that came after Thales learned from the ones who came before.  Fast forward 1500 years to the Middle Ages, and you have apprentices who are learning and perfecting skills taught by master craftsmen.  Fast forward to today - we have apprentices who work under a master in a skilled trade; we have Masters students who study for a Doctorate under the supervision of an "expert;" we even have television programs where musicians are being mentored by current stars.  In all sorts of fields throughout history, people learn from those with more knowledge.  But we're suppose to look down on that in the business world?  Inconceivable!!  (to steal a line from The Princess Bride) If you are a mentor, you have one of the most important jobs around.  You need to have a wealth of self-awareness and understanding about what makes you successful, and then you have to be able to share that with your mentee in a way that they can internalize and apply to their own development.  You have to dig in and push someone beyond their comfort zone because you are the person who is helping someone else define their future and take appropriate steps to reach those goals.  That is no small task! If you are being mentored, you know that learning from someone who has been in your position or is in a position you would like one day is the best way to explore that experience...without actually going through the experience.  A person being mentored has basically stood up and said "I want to be the best that I can be" and has found people to help him or her achieve that best and is willing to take on the difficult work of self-reflection and achieving goals to become their best.  This is not not the behavior of a person headed out the door - this is the awareness and actions of someone that you want on your teams!  You may not ever follow someone down moguls or terrain parks while skiing, but if you have the drive to help others as a mentor and/or the desire to achieve your best by being mentored, the resulting relationship will set both of you up for success no matter what path you choose.

My family spent three days last weekend skiing in the Colorado mountains.  It was a great deal of fun because my daughter skied with some of our friends, and they took her down moguls, terrain parks,...

Leadership & Management

Stay Interviews: A Great Tool for Great Leaders (Including You)

I’ve been a fan of stay interviews for a long time, but in the last couple of weeks I’ve seen questions from people about what a stay interview is and comments that they’ve never heard of stay interviews. Since I’m a fan, I figured I would share a little bit of information about stay interviews and why I think it’s a great leadership tool that you should be using regularly. What Is a Stay Interview? At its core, a stay interview is a conversation with your employees to learn why they stay at Oracle and with you. That is, what are the specific things that contribute to an employee’s decision to remain in their current position rather than move to a different position or company? These factors might be things like salary, ability to work from home, free soda, fitness centers on location, FMLA access, great insurance, ability to try new things, going to OpenWorld, etc. The point is, you want to understand what motivates each employee so you can do more of that for each unique person. How Do I Initiate a Stay Interview? This is an easy one! You simply make an appointment with one of your employees and say “You’re a key contributor on the team, and I’d like to know more about what you like about your job and why you choose to stay at Oracle.” Honestly, if you’re not in the habit of talking to your employees (and there are books written on that topic!), your employees will probably hesitate and wonder what kind of trick you’re playing. Your best option is to be honest and simply tell them “I read about something called a stay interview, and it got me thinking about what makes our team members stay here.” Your employees may be a bit jaded from previous managers who simply didn’t care, but if you keep trying, they will respect your effort and open up to you. What do I say during a Stay Interview? If you google stay interview questions, you will receive 271 million hits. Since looking through 271M hits isn't really feasible for most people, I've identified a dozen common questions that you might consider: What about your job makes you excited to come to work? If you changed your role completely, what are the things that you would miss most? What job from your past would you go back to if you had to stay in it for an extended period of time? Why did you choose that job? What skills do you have that you are not using but would like to? What have you felt good about accomplishing in your current position? What bothers you the most about your work? What kind of feedback would you like about your performance that you are not currently receiving? What development opportunities would you like that can push you past your current role? If you could spend 10-20% of your time exploring something related to your job, what would that be and why? What do you like to do outside of work? What are you passionate about? What is one thing that you would change about your current position, team or company if you could? What can I do more of less of as your manager? Keep in mind that you primary job is to listen…and maybe take some notes. Whatever you do, do NOT rebut anything your employee is telling you. Nothing will shut down the conversation faster than you saying “But that’s not true. We really do (fill in the blank).” Your goal is simply to understand what motivates and engages your employees and to let your employees know that you recognize and appreciate their contributions. Also be aware, that this is not the time to promise anything to your employees. You are simply gathering information to help you understand your employees and identify what keeps them satisfied. What do I do with the information I get? Your first step is to simply review your notes and ensure you understand what you heard. From there, determine what you can do to support those things that motivate your employees. Perhaps you have an employee who is motivated by the opportunities for professional development. Maybe you can approve their attending a conference, working with an extended team on a cross-functional project, or securing a presentation at a local User’s Group conference. The point is, you don’t know that you should be doing these things if you don’t know that your employee is motivated by development opportunities. You should also be sure that your Stay Interview isn’t a one-time event. Your employees have given you great information. You need to have continued conversations with them to make sure that both of you are on the right track. As you have these conversations with your employees, you will be building trust in those relationships, which can open even more dialogue about the team and its achievements. Finally Stay Interviews are not difficult – you are simply having a conversation to learn more about your employees and why they continue to work for you. There are no judgments, no promises, no pressures – just an effort to understand what motivates your employees. One thing to consider – conduct Stay Interviews with all your employees within a set timeframe (within a couple of weeks). This allows you to see any trends across all employees and implement any changes right away rather than letting something negative sit within your team for an extended period of time. If you’re concerned that a Stay Interview might be difficult, think about the best performer on your team. Do you know what keeps him or her in their position? What might you do if you knew that information? Start with this one employee. My guess is that your conversation will inspire you to do the same for all of your employees – and your employee will talk about what a great leader they have!

I’ve been a fan of stay interviews for a long time, but in the last couple of weeks I’ve seen questions from people about what a stay interview is and comments that they’ve never heard of stay...

Leadership & Management

Do You Have a Learning Habit?

Habit (hab'it) An act or practice so frequently repeated as to become almost automatic. A tendency or disposition to act consistently or to repeat. We all have habits, and most of the conversation around habits consists of talking about how bad the habit is and how difficult it is to stop the habit. I’m going to switch the conversation on you and tell you that for 2015 you should have a habit – a learning habit! I was on a call a couple of weeks ago, and the topic of learning habits came up. The question was “What learning habit do you have or will you build for this year? Using the definition above, a learning habit is something that you do repeatedly or consistently in order to develop your knowledge. It’s really nothing more than making a commitment that you are going to do something to stretch your knowledge. On my phone call, people shared what they already do or are planning to do, including: Read one news article each day in my professional area. Watch 2 or 3 TED talks each week that look interesting. Read one business related book each quarter. Read one Business Book Summary each week. (Oracle employees have access to Business Book Summaries through the Virtual Library). Interview one leader each month that you feel is a great leader and find out what they do differently. Have one-on-one meetings with your team members each month to learn more about them and what they want to achieve. Finish my degree (whatever level it may be). Any advice we read on leadership tells us that great leaders are continual learners – without constantly assessing where you are, where you want to go and what you need to get there, you will never improve. So here’s my challenge to you – figure out what you are going to do in the next 7 days to start your learning habit. Write it down in your learning journal. At the end of seven days, check in with yourself and see how you did. Repeat this process for the next month (or quarter) until your habit is established. If you’re feeling up to it, share a comment about what your new habit will be. By incorporating a learning habit into your leadership actions, you will be modeling continual learning for your employees and taking a great opportunity to develop yourself.

Habit (hab'it) An act or practice so frequently repeated as to become almost automatic. A tendency or disposition to act consistently or to repeat. We all have habits, and most of the conversation around...

Individual_Improvement

4 Leadership Challenges for 2015

With the start of a new year, there are predictions all over the place about what 2015 will bring. So what makes my predictions any different? They’re mine…and you have to wait 12 months to tell me that I was wrong!! These predictions are based solely on my own research and trends that I’m seeing in the industry. So, with that, here’s what I think will be happening with leadership in 2015: Leaders will become marketeers to a new workforce. The global workforce will drastically change as more employees approach retirement age but still want to work reduced hours and younger employees choose work that really matters to them. We will see a rise in micro-consulting – short bursts of project-based work that is still very important to the business (check out platforms like Maven, Guru and Elance). Leaders will have to develop marketing skills that continue to ‘sell’ the organization and projects to these ‘sometime’ employees, especially if they want the employee to come back for more projects. Further, the ability to quickly and effectively coalesce a team will be required as the ‘sometimes’ employees and full-time employees will need to work together to achieve project outcomes. The leader’s ability to manage this diverse knowledge community will be  crucial in meeting the needs of an organization and its customers A leader’s new career tool will be the Learning Portfolio. The world is constantly changing; information continues to increase at exponential rates; knowledge is doubling every 12 months, with the rate expected to increase to every 12 hours with the build out of the “internet of things;” and leaders will be expected to stay ahead of the curve. Now, more than ever, learning agility is a key to leader success. Organizations will start looking at how a leader has learned throughout his or her career to determine if they are capable of creating and driving new ideas. Rather than a resume, this proof will instead come in the form of a Learning Portfolio that documents everything learned – degrees, MOOCs, mentoring, formal and informal learning – how it’s learned, and learning plans that show a leader’s growth and indicate what they plan to learn in the future. And the best jobs will go to those who can prove that they are continually learning. Accountability will be the battle cry. We have more leadership advice available than ever before, and more people are unhappy with their managers and leaders than ever before – a Forbes article even indicated that 65% of Americans would prefer a new boss over a raise. I think this has to do with the trust that employees have in their managers and their companies. We are told to focus on we and us rather than me or I – and that allows us to shift responsibility from me to the unknown them.  Accountability means taking ownership of your actions and decisions – not passing them off as group-think and -actions. Leaders who hold themselves accountable for their actions and decisions build trust in their organizations, and that trust allows for greater accomplishment. As we see leaders hold themselves to a higher level of accountability, we’ll see their teams and employees being held to a higher standard as well. If you’re wondering what accountability looks like, check out Michael Hyatt’s article “How Real Leaders Demonstrate Accountability.” The Re-emergence of Systems Thinking. Systems thinking is basically understanding how individual things influence one another within a whole. In today’s business environment, we need to be able to make connections like never before – connections between multiple projects, company strategies, competitor strategies, world economies, business trends, geographical differences, remote teams, our social networks, and so on. The complexity that we live in increases every day, month, year. Successful leaders will need to look at their business with a systems mindset – they need to influence across multiple differences; they need to recognize recurring patterns and behaviors within the system; they need to address cause/effect and unintended consequences resulting from their (and their teams’) decisions; they must project potential risk and accelerate decisions within an increasingly complex business environment; and they need to help their people (and themselves) deal effectively with the ongoing complexity. By having this broad understanding of their system, leaders will be able to have an increasingly positive impact on their organizations’ performance. Are there other things that leaders will have to concern themselves with in 2015? Yes. Things like employees as stakeholders, leaders becoming career coaches, mass customization of learning, cloud based learning, and so on. But, those are fodder for another post! So, what do you think? Will these four things become big issues for leaders? What do YOU think will be the biggest leadership challenges this year?

With the start of a new year, there are predictions all over the place about what 2015 will bring. So what makes my predictions any different? They’re mine…and you have to wait 12 months to tell me...

Individual_Improvement

Your Mom Loves You, But She Doesn't Work Here

You’ve probably heard the stories about helicopter parents – those moms and dads who show up to their kids’ job interviews and don’t hesitate to call the hiring manager to find out why little Johnny didn’t get the big grown-up job. Now picture this kind of parent “helping” you at work. He or she makes an appointment with your manager (and maybe you in the room) to ask why you don’t have a career path mapped out in order to be CEO by the time you’re 32? Your manager turns to you and says “Because you didn’t make one. And you didn’t tell me anything you wanted to do. Nor did you ever tell me you wanted to be CEO. Further, I’m not a freaking mind-reader.” No good manager is seriously going to be that blunt (probably), but he or she will get the same point across through many 1-on-1 conversations with you about your development and your career. The point of the scenario above is that you – and only you – own your own career and development. You have to put in the thought to figure out what you want to be, what goals you want to achieve, when you want to do it, and what you need to know to get there. You are also responsible for coming up with the steps you’re going to take to obtain that knowledge. So, what does a manager need to do? Think of your manager as a tour guide. They are there to guide you, to open doors, help define possibilities, fine-tune your development or career plan so that it works with the goals of the business (this assumes that you’re not wanting to change careers from a programmer to a children’s book artist or something like that). They do this by having conversations with you where you share what it is you want and how you think you might achieve it. What does your manager not do? The things you would expect a helicopter parent to do. Your manager does not decide what your career path looks like. Your manager does not assume that you want to achieve a specific role unless you tell them. Your manager does not question your level of achievement by a certain age. And your manager definitely doesn’t read your mind to know exactly what you want. Now, you might read this and think it’s all good and well, but then you say “But my manager doesn’t have development conversations with me.” My response is going to be “Take the initiative.” Send an email to your manager requesting 30 minutes to talk about your career. Tell him or her you would like their advice on how your aspirations can help build the department or contribute to the company. Any good manager will welcome a conversation like this. It’s called managing. Defining where you want to be in 5-10 years helps you determine the steps that you need to take and the help that you need to ask for to get there. However, the key is that you need to be the one defining the end goal. After all, you want to be happy in your career – not in someone else’s.

You’ve probably heard the stories about helicopter parents – those moms and dads who show up to their kids’ job interviews and don’t hesitate to call the hiring manager to find out why little Johnny...

Leadership & Management

Want to Be a Better Leader? Answer One Question.

They’ve actually done studies that indicate January 16 (or January 23, depending upon the research) is the most depressing day of the year. Why? Because that’s the day most people realize they’ve failed to maintain their New Year’s resolutions. Seriously – 16 days in to the new year and it’s over?? What on Earth should you do for the next 349 days? How about set some new goals! Everyone talks about the fact that the beginning of the new year is a great time to set personal goals, but what about goals for you as a leader? I think the best question that I’ve heard for leaders is “What are you going to do today/this week/this month/this quarter to make yourself a better leader a year from now? What I like about this question is that it gives you an opportunity to re-examine and refresh your goals whenever you need to. Maybe you want to become conversant in a particular subject. That could be your “do this week” goal. Maybe you want to work on having 1-on-1 conversations with your employees each week – that’s more of a monthly/quarterly goal. What matters is that you’re spending time thinking about you as a leader and what you want people to see when they look at you, the leader. How do you know if your goals are right? Don’t be concerned with “right” – be concerned with “right for now.” I firmly believe that goals should be a bit fluid as you never know what will happen. You could face a health crisis, there may be a collapse of your marketspace, you could get re-org’ed or acquired. As long as you have a direction, however, you always have the opportunity to change that direction. Whatever goals you create, grab your learning journal and write them down!! Why? Because research indicates that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goals simply by writing them down. Michael Hyatt suggests five reasons that writing down goals will help you achieve them: It forces you to clarify what you want. It motivates you to take action. It provides a filter when additional opportunities come up. It helps you overcome resistance by focusing on the goal. It enables you to see – and celebrate – your progress. I’d go one step further – write down your goals and then tape them to your wall, by your computer – anywhere where you can see them on a daily basis. That way, they’ll stay in front of you and help drive your behavior and decisions. Additionally, make a habit of reviewing your goals, reflecting on what you’ve learned, and recording your successes. If you do this, at the end of 2015, you’ll be able to say “This is what I’ve accomplished to make myself a better leader.”

They’ve actually done studies that indicate January 16 (or January 23, depending upon the research) is the most depressing day of the year. Why? Because that’s the day most people realize they’ve...

Individual_Improvement

5 Easy Ways to Make Your Employees Leave You

A boss asked his employee to do some research on salaries for like positions around the country, and when the employee came back with the information, the boss said “If you want to make that much money, you should be looking for a different job.” And then there was the boss who shared confidential information and, when found out, said “I’ve worked too hard to get to where I am, and I’ll be damned if I’m going down for this.” And finally, there was the boss who asked for an estimate of what could be accomplished for a given cost…and at an All-Hands meeting announced that one employee was going to achieve the full plan…at zero cost. We’ve all had bad bosses, but the one great thing about a bad boss is that he or she helps you realize what you would never do as a leader. From my own experiences (the three above as examples) and from watching leaders in other companies where I’ve consulted, I can tell you some common themes that can cause your employees to start looking for a new position. You make everything an emergency. Yes, we know that there are really emergencies, but someone a level up from you asking a question does not mean that we need to pull an all-nighter to write a white paper on the subject. Use Covey’s time management matrix to determine if a request is both urgent and important before calling “all hands on deck.” You don’t give any recognition. Everyone likes to know that they’re contributing to the team and that their work has an impact. A simple “You did a great job on X” can be all the encouragement someone needs to continue doing that great job and feel a part of the team. You can find additional ways to motivate and recognize employees here and here. You don’t provide feedback. How often does a coach tell a soccer team “We’re going to practice every day, play about 20 games or so, and I’ll tell you how you did at the end of the season?” Common sense tells us this is ridiculous, and yet, some managers will not provide any feedback to their employees and then whack ‘em with a surprise at year-end reviews. You should be having enough conversations     throughout the year that nothing is a surprise at performance reviews. MindTools has a great article on Giving Feedback. You take all the credit. As an employee, my job is to make my manager and my team look good. However, when you refuse to acknowledge the contributions of your team members, it makes us cranky. Let people know when your team does great work, and you’ll be admired as well for being such a great leader. You fail to articulate goals. If you let us know where we’re going, chances are good we all have some great ideas on how to get there. However, if you can’t tell us what our goals are, you are not allowed to get upset with us for not achieving them. Read this short article for tips on articulating a vision. Research tells us that people leave managers – not positions. If you can avoid these five ways of making your employees crazy, chances are pretty good that they’ll stick around.

A boss asked his employee to do some research on salaries for like positions around the country, and when the employee came back with the information, the boss said “If you want to make that much...

Individual_Improvement

God, Demi-God, Monster, or Mere Mortal - What's Your Leadership Style?

My kids are enamored with fantasy fiction, so we spend a lot of time in the car and at bedtime reading such books. Our current book is “Percy Jackson, Lightning Thief.” In the story, 12-year-old Percy has to complete a quest to basically save the world. He’s challenged along the way by both monsters and the Greek gods, befriended by satyrs and demi-gods – and we’re anxiously waiting to find out if he succeeds in his quest. As I was reading the book to my kids the other night, I realized that the sets of characters in the book are all leaders in some way, but they all have extremely different leadership styles. The four main groups of characters are: Gods. The Greek gods are an interesting lot. They rule the world (and the underworld), are temperamental, and they have fits if things don’t go their way. I liken this to the unenlightened leader who believes that being a leader is akin to holding power over others. These characters (in the book and in life) might have great experiences that we could learn from, but they have to lose the ego if they want us to pay attention. Demi-Gods. The demi-gods are half god/half mortals who struggle throughout the book – they’re basically trying to find their way, but they’re not getting a lot of help. In the business world, this is similar to the person who gets tossed into a leadership role and provided the advice “sink or swim.” While it’s nice to know that people believe in you, it would be better if you actually had a plan of some sort to help you be more effective. Monsters. The monsters like to cause problems – a three headed beast that attacks from all sides, hellhounds that dish out punishment, minotaurs who kill, Medusa who turns people into stone. In the business world, these are the leaders who drop in, drop a bomb and then exit quickly, leaving the rest of us to pick up the mess. Although we’re glad when they’re gone, it would be nice if these leaders would think through the mess they’re about to create (and maybe restrain themselves from creating such mess). Mere Mortal. The mere mortal doesn’t have a lot of power other than the ability to not see a lot of the ugly things happening around them. The mortal concentrates on their own life and has little to do with the gods and their world. This is similar to the leader who chooses to move forward without regard to events around him. Many of us may feel that we fall into this category as other people/gods “do things” to us, and we have no power to change anything. The mere mortal can benefit, however, from exploring the context of his or her world and understanding how he or she can work in that environment. You might never have a quest where the fate of the world depends on your actions. However, it might be worth a few minutes to think about where you fall on the god/mortal styles of leadership as the fate of your people and your teams definitely do depend on you.

My kids are enamored with fantasy fiction, so we spend a lot of time in the car and at bedtime reading such books. Our current book is “Percy Jackson, Lightning Thief.” In the story, 12-year-old Percy...

Individual_Improvement

No Raise? No Development? No Way!

The other day, I was asked why we should be concerned about development if we're not getting raises or bonuses.  I asked the person if they were getting a ‘performance review’ or a ‘salary review.’ After chuckling, the person responded "Yea, but really, what's the point?" What’s the point? Let me start with a story. When I was in grade school, I told my mom that I thought I should get an allowance. After all, my friends did. Mom and I negotiated, and I walked away with $3 per week. At the end of the first week, I asked my mom for my allowance, and she gave me $3 with an extra piece of paper. When I opened the paper, it was a bill…for $5. Mom explained that this was my charge for room and board – after all, I was earning money, so it was only fair that I contributed to household expenses. When I complained that the bill was more than I earned, she simply said “You’ve got a problem, then.” She explained that when you are part of anything – family, team, or organization – you do certain things because they are expected of you as part of your role. So let’s go back to development – why should you care? There’s no immediate financial reward (unless you count your paycheck). You’re not getting a diploma. You’re not having a party thrown in your honor for completing a class. So why should you care? Because development is something expected of you as part of your role – your role on your team, in your organization, in your community and in society. Dictionary.com defines “development” as the act or process of developing; growth; progress. If we chose not to grow, adults would still act like 2-year olds (okay, some still do, but that’s another post); technology would be irrelevant; and we’d still be rubbing sticks together to make fire. Since I like the idea of growth and progress rather than stagnation and uselessness, here are some reasons why I bother with my own development (and why you might want to bother, too): Preparation for the Future: Learning new things, studying emerging trends and exploring possibilities prepare me for changes that will happen in the future. I can’t predict what will happen, but if I have knowledge of the possibilities, I can predict what I might do in different circumstances. (Shell Oil refers to this as scenario planning’ and uses it extensively in developing Shell Scenarios to aid their business strategies). Career Advancement: I’m not aiming for a C-level position (I’m sure Mark and Safra are relieved), but I know that if I am continually improving my skill set and my capabilities, I’ll be ready if/when an opportunity comes up. And I also know, based upon what I’m learning about myself and my skills, what kind of opportunity I’m actually willing to take on. It Keeps My Brain Happy. I have to admit, I’m one of those people who does not do well stamping loan papers “Paid in Full” and calling it a day (that was actually one of my summer jobs in college). With every new thing learned, I end up asking more questions…and learning more new things…and coming up with more new ideas.  All of these new ideas form new connections for me and keep my brain engaged in my work. My Manager Cares About It. Listen up, leaders! If you care about development (including your own), your people will care about it too. My manager pushes information to me, she asks about my interest in different conferences, she asks about new things I’m learning. And she shares new things that she’s learned, information from conferences, etc. She takes an interest in what I know and how my knowledge applies to what we’re trying to do, and having a manager who cares can be a great motivator! The World Is Changing. Knowledge doubles about every 12 months. What you know now is probably not what you will have to know in three years. If you keep abreast of new developments, you will be able to incorporate these things into your work and show that you are future-minded. Need an example? Twelve years ago, you didn’t know about wikis, LinkedIn (both 10 years old) or Twitter (8 years old) My Network Needs It. Every time I learn something new, I have the potential to interact with other people learning the same thing. I might interact with people who have the potential to mentor me. I might interact with people to whom I can teach this new thing. All of these provide the opportunity to expand my professional network and build relationships that might not have existed if I wasn’t willing to learn something new. Collaboration Rules. As our business environment moves more toward collaboration, it will be increasingly important that we’re able to work together and share knowledge (check out the HBR Insight Center Making Collaboration Work). However, if you are unwilling to learn anything new, you won’t have much to contribute in a social and collaborative world. Development doesn't have to be taking a class (see my post on 45 Ways to Check the Development Plan Box). Rather, pick something that you’re passionate about and determine how that passion ties into your business role. Maybe you’re excited about developing a new application that customers are going to love – do a 30-minute presentation to a Sales team to show off those new features. You’re fine-tuning presentation skills; learning more about customer needs (because Sales folks will tell you what will/will not work); expanding your network (because now you and the people in your presentation know of each other); teaching others (and improving your own knowledge); and preparing for the day when you get asked to present at OpenWorld (but you don’t know that’s coming yet). You might notice that none of the reasons on my list are associated with salary or bonuses. Instead, they’re all about preparing yourself for future opportunities. The future might hold opportunities you would love that don’t exist and haven’t even been imagined yet; but you have to be ready for those opportunities...and that is why you should care about your development.

The other day, I was asked why we should be concerned about development if we're not getting raises or bonuses.  I asked the person if they were getting a ‘performance review’ or a ‘salary review.’...

Leadership & Management

Leadership, Reflection, and 34GB a Day

Information is flying at us throughout the day. A few years back, a report from University of California, San Diego estimated that an individual consumes 34 gigabytes of information each day. Further, human knowledge tends to double about every 13 months, with IBM estimating that the build out of the ‘internet of things’ will cause human knowledge to double every 12 hours. It’s no wonder that we feel stressed! Last week I read an article titled “Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write.” The article stated that writing allows a person to focus on moving forward rather than “obsessing unhealthily” over something that has happened. Writing allows a person to pull together disparate pieces of information and make sense of them. With writing, you have the time to connect information, see patterns, and notice those things that get lost in the daily bustle. As you do this, you’re creating more complex mental models that allow you to make more connections, and, ultimately, potentially better decisions – about yourself, your work, your team, your leadership. So what does this have to do with leadership? Research tells us that a leader’s health and a leader’s ability to reflect are crucial to his or her success. Too often, however, leaders don’t take time for either. We don’t have time to get to the gym. We need to make just one more critical decision. It will hold until tomorrow. But, it won’t hold until tomorrow. As a leader, you owe it to yourself and your team to invest in your health and in the practice of reflection. One line in the article I read stood out for me – “even blogging or journaling is enough to see results.” Think about it. If you spend 5-10 minutes a day simply writing about your leadership practice, you are exploring higher levels of cognitive thinking; you are opening yourself up to more innovative ideas; you are giving yourself the opportunity to learn new things about yourself and how you learn; and you are potentially lowering your level of stress and your blood pressure. Right now, you might be thinking “Yea, I buy into it. But I don’t know where to start.” Guess what? I have five simple steps that will help you start a practice of reflection: Pick your tool. Use a blog (published or not), a journaling app on your tablet (there are some good ones for free), or even a cool notebook that you picked up when shopping back-to-school supplies with your kids. It doesn’t matter what you use as long as it works for you. Select your time. Maybe first thing in the morning at your desk, or in the evening before you go home. Perhaps it’s on the weekend when you’re the only person awake at your house. Aim for twice a week (or more if you want), but figure out your best times and stick to it. Add it to your calendar. Yes, you are busy, but adding it to your calendar makes it a commitment that you’re more likely to honor. Write. You might be telling yourself that you don’t know what to write about. Try some of these ideas: What went incredibly well last week? Which of your leadership skills contributed to this success? What was the worst thing that happened last week? What leadership skills could you cultivate to ensure this doesn’t happen again? Thinking about a particular approach to a problem? Write about the opposing view to your approach. It might open up new ideas. As a leader, what risks have you taken lately? How did they turn out?  What did you learn about yourself by taking the risk? What are the specific gifts and talents that you bring to a leadership role? How do you show or share those gifts and talents with your team and/or colleagues? If you were the hero in your own action movie, what would happen in your movie? Do you the skills and/or knowledge to make that happen? Where might you improve? What have you learned in the past 48 hours that you can apply to your leadership role? Why would it be important to do so? What will your leadership role look like in 10 years? Why do you think this? What leadership advice would your future self give to your current self? What leadership advice would your current self give your past self? Try drawing out your problem. Create a visual representation to see if there are pieces of the problem that you’re not really seeing. Read what you wrote. You don’t have to share what you wrote with anyone, but you should periodically review what you wrote. Look for any new ideas, overarching themes or consistent issues. This will give you additional ideas to explore in future reflections. Remember that this is purely for you and your development. Try to commit to a three-month trial, and I guarantee that you’ll be smarter at the end of those three months. How can I be sure? Because at the end of three months, you’ll have three months of accumulated intelligence in the form of your insights, connections and ideas – things that you wouldn’t have without reflecting and writing. Socrates boldly said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Take the time for examination…reflect on your leadership…make those mental models that provide clearer thinking…gain perspective. Doing so might lower your stress level and blood pressure; it will likely let you better handle those 34 gigabytes of information that you intake each day; and it will definitely make you a better leader.

Information is flying at us throughout the day. A few years back, a report from University of California, San Diego estimated that an individual consumes 34 gigabytes of information each day. Further,...

Leadership & Management

Boredom, Stupidity and Planning Your Journey

One summer when I was grade school age, I told my mom I was bored. “Oh, really?” she said with an incredulity that I was too young to recognize as dripping sarcasm. “Then you must be stupid.” “What?” For a kid who was used to straight A’s in school, my mom had just hurled the ultimate insult at me. “You have games to play, books to read, [school] workbooks to work on and a brain that God planted in your head. If you can’t find something to do, then you must just be stupid.” Needless to say, I never again told my mom I was bored. Her lesson stuck with me, and I became a planner. I started planning what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it, and what I was going to do differently if my first plan didn’t work. When I started working in corporate education and leadership development, I found that not everyone had learned my mom’s lesson. Some leaders were ‘bored’ and just plodding along each day. Too often, they hadn’t even given a thought to what they wanted to achieve or what they wanted to learn. Enter the concept of a leadership learning journey. An exercise commonly used in leadership development is to figure out what your legacy will be – that is, when you’re promoted into your next job, how will people talk about your accomplishments and the way that you worked with others? Or when you retire, what will people say about the kind of leader you were? Jot down a few ideas about how you want to be known or remembered as a leader. Got it? Now, how will you get there? In his book The Pathfinder, Nicholas Lore provides a great exercise called Lifeline. In it, you draw a concentric circle and mark The Beginning (your birth), NOW and The End (your death). Then you tick off 10 year increments and document the highlights of each decade up to NOW and then document what you want to accomplish in each decade before The End. (Notice my optimism with my lifeline ending at 100!) If you buy into the fact that ‘Leadership’ is not an event but, instead, a journey, you can apply this same concept to your leadership journey. Instead of focusing on your life events as in the Lifeline exercise, focus on your leadership events. That is – what do you want to be recognized for as you go through your leadership life? What do you want to accomplish as a leader?  For those things in the future, identify what you need to do to achieve that goal - identify the knowledge gaps that need to be filled; identify sub-goals; identify topics areas in which you need more expertise; identify people that you need to know. As you document this, you are creating the skeleton of your leadership learning journey. You can flesh out each of these to come up with a complete leadership learning journey that will help you achieve your end goals. A word of caution – don’t do this and file it away. Look at it every week or every month to see if you’re doing the things you need to be doing. At a bare minimum, re-evaluate your documented journey each year to ensure that your goals are still valid and modify accordingly. As Seneca said “If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.” If you take the time to map out your learning journey, you’ll identify the ports into which you want to sail, and you’ll become the leader that you want to be.

One summer when I was grade school age, I told my mom I was bored. “Oh, really?” she said with an incredulity that I was too young to recognize as dripping sarcasm. “Then you must be stupid.” “What?”...

Individual_Improvement

What Have You Done For Your Company Today?

Some time ago, my office was located in the same section of the building as an entire management team. Whenever I asked one of them – I’ll call him Paul – how he was doing, his answer was always the same: “Glad to be here, proud to serve.” I chalked it up to his military service until I got to know Paul and found out that he was just that type of person. As we got to know each other, I realized that Paul was kind of the ‘dad’ of the office. And one day, at the end of a really long day, he asked one of those dad types of questions: What have you done for your company today? What? That simple question made me stop and think. What DID I do for my company that day? Did I contribute anything to the bottom line? Increase customer satisfaction? Improve process efficiency? Help someone improve? Since this was the first time in my career that I wasn’t billable to a client, answering what I did for my company that day required some thought on my part. This simple question also made me realize that every one of us should be able to answer this question on a daily basis. Too often, we gripe and moan about how our company doesn’t do _____ (fill in the blank) for us. I’m betting very few of us consider the reverse. If we all approached work with the attitude of “what am I going to do for my company today,” my guess is that we might remain a bit more positive throughout the day – even on those grueling days when nothing seems to be going right. Paul passed away a few years ago in an accident, so I can’t tell him what this question meant to me. But, I can share his question with you and ask that, at the end of each day, you answer for yourself “What have you done for your company today?”

Some time ago, my office was located in the same section of the building as an entire management team. Whenever I asked one of them – I’ll call him Paul – how he was doing, his answer was always the...

Leadership & Management

Coachable Employees Require a Good Coach

Quite a few years ago, I experienced one of those stand-out moments of my life – I sat next to Nadia Comaneci for almost three hours as we flew from Cincinnati to Los Angeles. I competed in, coached, and judged gymnastics, and Nadia’s picture was in my locker all through high school to serve as inspiration for my endless hours in the gym. To say that I was thrilled is a complete understatement. On a USA gymnastics tour, Nadia had visited the gym I worked at, so I re-introduced myself, and we started talking. She had just talked to Bela (Karolyi) that morning about the upcoming Olympic Trials, so we talked about who we thought would make the team, how gymnastics had changed since we both competed, and  all those things that older gymnasts talk about. When I asked about what it took to earn perfect 10s, Nadia simply explained that she did what Bela told her to do. Quite simply, Nadia was coachable. Interestingly, both Webster and Dictionary.com provide a definition for ‘Coach’ but no definition for ‘Coachable.’ I’m going to change that. I would define coachable as having the capacity to receive constructive feedback, trust in what a coach is telling you, and modify performance based upon that feedback. It is mandatory in the sports world, and I believe it is mandatory in the business world as well. So, how do you build coachable employees? I’m not sure you can. If you look at my definition, ‘coachable’ is a mindset that is actually the responsibility of the individual, not of the coach. However, I think there are four pillars of a coaching relationship that can impact your ability as a coach and your employee’s ability to be coachable. These four pillars are outlined in the table below: You’ll notice that the first pillar I identified is Infer Positive Intent. I think this is quite possibly the most important pillar. As a coach, I need to trust that my employee really wants to improve, and I need to provide advice that will make him or her a stronger member of the team. If I want to be coachable, I need to believe that my coach has my best interests at heart and will ask me to do things that will have a positive impact on me and my career. Positive Intent forms the basis for trust in the coaching relationship and helps all the other pillars fall into place. If you’re still reading, it’s obvious that you want to help employees be coachable. But why should they be interested? You might want to fill them in on the benefits of being coachable, including: Increased responsibility. If you prove that you can willingly take advice, learn from others and apply what you are learning, you will build the trust of your manager and likely receive larger assignments with more responsibility. This, in turn, builds your capabilities even further. Accelerated development. Nobody likes to be stagnant. If you willingly accept feedback, you are more likely to receive feedback. The only thing this can do is give you more, broader ideas and increase your potential for professional development. Internal well-being. If you’re coachable, constructive criticism becomes information for change rather than a personal attack. This viewpoint allows you to have a more positive view of yourself and your work. Better relationships. If you are willing to accept and thoughtfully consider feedback, you will be able to build a trusting relationships with your coach and stronger relationships with your team members as they see your willingness to improve. A willingness to be coached is a critical skill for the success of any individual, and coachable employees contribute to the success of a company. If you want coachable employees, start by modeling coachable behavior yourself, and share with employees why you think being coachable is important. If you’re struggling with where to start, simply ask “Can you tell me more?” the next time you receive feedback and then really listen so that you can better understand that feedback and how you might apply it. You might not end up on the inside of my locker like Nadia did, but your ability to be coachable or to be a good coach will definitely be admired by others and make it easier for you to succeed at being your best.

Quite a few years ago, I experienced one of those stand-out moments of my life – I sat next to Nadia Comaneci for almost three hours as we flew from Cincinnati to Los Angeles. I competed in, coached,...

Leadership & Management

Yes, You Can Use My Light Bulb Moments

I’ve talked with quite a few managers in the last couple of weeks, and one of the questions that has come up in every conversations is “How do I go about sharing some of the interesting things I’m learning?” Sharing can be difficult sometimes because you’re excited about the new stuff you’re learning, but the rest of your staff…well..they’re not that excited about it. Enter the light bulb moment. In a previous job, I was in a director role for a very diverse team (everything from learning to black ops), and most of the team was not that engaged because they had been through a number of directors and managers due to acquisitions, team member changes and so on. Being in a team meeting with me was not high on their list of things to do. At one of our first meetings, I shared something I had read about that week that made stop and think about the work we were doing. I told my team that it was “an a-ha moment” for me – the light bulb went on in my head. I saw heads nodding, and I asked if they had ever come across information that made the light bulb turn on for them. Every person nodded their head yes. So I challenged them. At our next meeting, I want each of you to come to the meeting with a light bulb moment. That is, something you came across during the week that made you say “a-ha” and made you want to share it with the team. I had 12 direct reports, and every one of them came into the next meeting talking about their light bulb moment. A few weeks after I took over the director role, I had one person tell me that he was leaving. He explained that he had applied for a new job before I became his director, and he was really sad to be leaving because none of his prior managers really cared about anything he was learning. And then he asked me if he could borrow my light bulb moments to share with his new team. Of course, I said yes. When managers ask me how they can share something they’re learning, I share the light bulb story. In turn, I’m always asked “Would it be okay if I use that?” And my answer is always “Yes, you can use my light bulb moments.” Hope it works for you, also!

I’ve talked with quite a few managers in the last couple of weeks, and one of the questions that has come up in every conversations is “How do I go about sharing some of the interesting things I’m...

Individual_Improvement

45 Ways to Check the Development Plan Box

It's that time of year again...when employees cringe at the thought of creating a development plan, and managers can't wait to check it off the list until next year.  But think about this - I read a blog this week that stated employers have no obligation to be concerned about your development.  You're hired to do a job, and as long as your employer provides the tools and resources to perform that job, they've met their obligation. Rather than think of the development plan as a box to check off a list, perhaps we should look at the opportunity to create a development plan as a...well, a gift.  If your company is asking you to create a development plan, it's giving you time to think about your career and encouraging your ongoing learning and growth so that you can move your career forward. I've written two past blogs on ideas for development plans that are not "attend a class" - the last being in 2011 - and I've taken the liberty of updating the list again for 2014 based upon additional inputs, ideas and changes in learning technologies.  Check out the list below and see if there's something in which you might be interested: Attend a local, regional or national conference. Be sure to bring your findings back to your team. Managers: Make sure you provide the opportunity for your employee to share with the team. Present at a local, regional or national conference. Ask your manager, peers or mentor about opportunities that exist. Don’t forget about the possibility of presenting at virtual conferences. Submit ideas to be a guest blogger on a blog that you read and like. Interview key stakeholders or customers to find out what they like or don't like about your product or service.  Understand their business goals and brainstorm with your team how you can help and how you can build the relationships. If your company has an internal conference (user groups, engineering conference, etc), apply to present at that.  Actually present if accepted. Complete a course at your local university or at an online university. Make sure the university is accredited if you’re planning to use your company’s tuition reimbursement program. If you want to “dip your toes” into virtual learning, Google free online course <insert topic> to see if anything is offered. Explore Khan Academy to see if there’s an online course that will work for your goals. Check out iTunes U for a course or podcast that you can listen to while you’re commuting, working out, etc.  You can see a preview of Business topics here. Finish your undergraduate or Master’s degree. Write an article for a professional publication or organization.  Be sure to check the submission requirements for the publication! Join a professional organization and attend a local chapter meeting or seminar. If possible, serve in a leadership position at the local level. Attend a seminar or workshop offered outside of your company. These are often advertised through professional organizations. Oracle sponsors the Professional Business Womens Conference, and their webinars are free to Oracle employees as advertised in “In the Know.” Teach a TOI (transfer of information), Lunch & Learn or something similar for your team or another team in your organization. Create a video on a topic of your expertise and post it to your internal platform (Oracle employees can use OTube). Review 2-3 journals or magazines every month to monitor industry trends.  You can access many journals through EBSCOHost - commonly available in public libraries with your library card. (Oracle employees can access EBSCOHost here). Read Harvard Business Review or California Management Review to understand business trends.  Both of these can be accessed through EBSCOHost as well. Pick out a top business book - read it and discuss it with your manager.  This would be a great opportunity to take your manager out for a cup of coffee to get his or her undivided attention. Managers: Provide a copy of your favorite business book to each member of your team. Use 15 minutes of your staff meeting to discuss a chapter, idea or something else about the book. Select a technical book to review.  Discuss it with your team, your manager, or your mentor. Mentor another person. Ask someone to be your mentor.  Know what you want to get out a mentoring relationship before asking someone.  You may also want to talk with your manager about possible mentors. Pair up with an Accountability Partner. Different from a mentor, this is a person that you meet with to provide each other with suggestions, feedback and encouragement about your goals and objectives. Conduct Informational Interviews (about 30 minutes in length) to learn more about different people and lines of business in the company. Volunteer on the board or on a committee of a professional organization. Google free webinar <insert topic> and see if there's a free webinar that interests you.  Attend and share what you learned with your team. Start a blog to share your thoughts with others. Participate in an online community - respond to a blog, start a group on LinkedIn or Facebook, etc. Join a TwitterChat for a topic area of interest…and participate. You can view the Twitter Chat schedule to see what’s out there. Some topics of interest include Blogging, Business, Career, Communications, Customer Service, Human Resources, Information Technology, Marketing, Social Media, and Technology For Oracle employees, search for learning inspiration in Oracle Learning Paths. Attend a web-based class offered through your company. Engage with local colleges to be a guest speaker or host a workshop on campus. Look for volunteer opportunities with state and local government agencies to provide IT help (if you’re an IT type of person). Many agencies need help in all sorts of areas outside of IT, so if you’re interested, ask if they need help in your area. Plan a technology fair, science fair or something similar for your company. Recruit people to present and share ideas. Join an open source project and get involved in the product development, forums, or aliases. Lead a group of volunteers for community or charity work to build your leadership skills. Join the board of a non-profit.  This will give you the ability to assess an entire organization and work on cross-business initiatives, all while doing something good. If you have a Masters degree, check with a local university or college about becoming an adjunct professor (sometimes called a contract or network instructor). Volunteer to teach computer skills (or your area of expertise) at a Senior Citizens Center. Ask your local school districts if they offer any kind of special event around kids and technology.  Volunteer at that event. Coordinate an internal conference where best practices can be shared for a team within your company - a sales conference for sales people; an IT conference for your technical team, etc. Volunteer to teach a class at a local Recreation Center or Community Center. Apply to teach classes for a continuing education program (typically offered through local universities or community colleges). These programs sometimes don’t have the same instructor requirements as becoming an adjunct professor. Start keeping a reflective journal. Simply record your thoughts about what is happening in your development process and use those reflective thoughts in career conversations with your manager. Attend a MOOC (massive, open, online courseware).  MOOCs provide access to world-class content on a variety of topics for free.  You just need to have the desire to attend.  Current providers include edX, Coursera and Udacity. A word of warning about this list: this is just a list. It requires human input to determine how to effectively incorporate one of these ideas into a personal development plan. If one of these options looks intriguing, a manager and employee should work together to determine what, exactly, is expected from the activity and how, exactly, an employee will grow as a result of an activity. Any of the ideas on this list should be used simply as a seed to start a manager/employee discussion. As you can see, there are many more options for "development" than just attending a class.  If you have other ideas that should be added to this list, please leave a comment in order to share with everyone else.  Hey, then you can add #25 to your plan! Happy planning!

It's that time of year again...when employees cringe at the thought of creating a development plan, and managers can't wait to check it off the list until next year.  But think about this - I read a...

Individual_Improvement

What Does Your Personal Learning Environment Look Like?

As we were finishing a conversation this week about blogging and communicating, my colleague asked, “What’s your motivation for writing?” After thinking for a minute, I realized that I write because it allows me to synthesize all the information that I’m receiving about a particular topic. As I write, I can recognize common threads, define questions for myself, come up with possible answers and make sense of all the content that comes my way. Blogging is, quite simply, one tool that I use to learn about and organize information. This realization made me think about the concept of personal learning environments (PLEs). I first heard of PLEs last summer when we were at my neighbor’s house for a backyard fire. My neighbors are teachers, as were a large number of other guests, and they were all talking about their PLEs. As a learning person, my ears perked up. I found out that a PLE is basically a flexible structure – identifying digital and non-digital resources that help people organize the influx of information that is a part of their learning. All of the applications, tools and resources in a PLE are selected by the user, thereby the ‘personal’ part of the equation. The “E” is a visual representation of everything. Because it seemed like a fun thing to do, I mapped out my own PLE, and it looks like this:   My PLE shows my ‘gathering’ activities on the left and my ‘action’ stuff on the right. I’m a big gatherer of information – I love to read, search and explore, and I do this with a wide variety of tools and resources. Once I have this information, I move to the right side of the page – I need to act on it. For me, ‘action’ might mean aggregating like ideas, writing a blog or tweet to share some kind of insight, sharing the information with my colleagues, or putting something out on Beehive  for later use. Yesterday, I felt like my brain is just always busy. Today, my PLE gives structure to how I gather and process information. Educators argue that mapping this PLE and understanding how we deal with the huge influx of information gives us the opportunity to reflect and build our capabilities around any given topic. This is a key feature in what educators call Information Fluency – a triad of domain knowledge, critical thinking and presentation & participation – a state of competency in any subject. The University of Alaska, Fairbanks has mapped out some common activities that occur as part of the Information Fluency triad: Although this concept is used in the education world, I think it has a great deal of significance in the business world as well. Think about it like this: You have a person supporting a new product (I’m going to use ‘his’ just for ease of writing). That person needs to increase his knowledge about the product and does so by talking with others, reading user guides, observing other support people (domain knowledge). As knowledge increases, he can start analyzing issues, explaining problems, etc. (critical thinking). As he becomes an expert, he might blog about the product, speak at OpenWorld, or serve as a mentor to new people (presentation & participation). The Information Fluency triad provides the model for defining competency; the Personal Learning Environment identifies the tools and resources used to achieve that competency. Understanding these two components might make us better at helping our people learn the things they need to be successful in their roles. Overall, I think mapping your Personal Learning Environment is an interesting exercise as it gives you the opportunity to: See how you access information and what you do with that information Identify areas of strengths Identify areas for improving knowledge and/or productivity Use it as a discussion point with your manager Use it to define opportunities for your development plan Reflect on how you learn and how you are motivated So, my challenge to you is this: map out your personal learning environment. If you’re concerned about what it should look like, don’t be. Google ‘personal learning environment’ and click “Images.” You will see that a PLE is as unique as any one individual. Start small and take your time – PLEs are meant to be dynamic and will change and adapt to your learning needs and goals. Those teachers talked about a lot of other things around the fire that night, but I’ll save those for another post!

As we were finishing a conversation this week about blogging and communicating, my colleague asked, “What’s your motivation for writing?” After thinking for a minute, I realized that I write because it...

Leadership & Management

If You Were Your Boss

I heard an interesting question this week – it was “If you were your boss, would you like coming to work?” Wow - that’s an interesting question to ponder! Industry research tells us that people leave managers – not positions. Basically, the relationship you build with your employees will largely determine whether or not those employees will be engaged with their company and job and whether or not they will willingly give their best effort (that’s the essence of employee engagement). I’ve had bosses who left a body count in their wake; and I’ve had bosses that I loved working for even though the work was demanding, markets weren’t great, and bonuses and raises were non-existent. The reasons I loved working for them are the same reasons that I think most people like their boss: They are fair in how they dealt with everyone – everyone on the team was a “favorite” because we all brought different strengths to the table. They recognize efforts – even a simple “great job” in a team meeting can be effective if done earnestly. They have your back – work problems were “opportunities to succeed,” but the boss fully supported us and wouldn’t “throw us to the wolves” to make himself look good. They care about their team members – simply by involving your team members in things like team decisions and long-term planning (for the team) and being open and honest in your communications tells team members that you are interested in their well-being and sense of fulfillment at work. (This also goes a long way toward building respect and trust). So there you have it! Respect, Fairness, Recognition and Support: what I would consider four hallmarks of a great boss. There are countless articles on how to engage your employees and how to be a great boss (over 1B when I googled it), but these four characteristics immediately come to mind when I think about my best bosses.  What would you add? Consider the characteristics of your best bosses, and then ask yourself “If I were my boss, would I like coming to work?” If you hesitate on the answer, consider what change you might make so you would want to be on your team!

I heard an interesting question this week – it was “If you were your boss, would you like coming to work?” Wow - that’s an interesting question to ponder! Industry research tells us that people leave...

Leadership & Management

Start-Stop-Continue in Transitions

What do Sigma, a Leadership class and a webcast have in common? They’ve all created ideas that are swirling around in my head! Let me start from the beginning. I was sitting in on a leadership class for midlevel leaders, listening to a conversation about competing priorities and how to address them. Last week I listened to a web-cast that suggested leaders should create a “Do Not Do” list. I’m also exploring some ideas around transitioning to a leadership role and what an individual needs to do differently. I struggled a bit with a “Do Not Do” list because it just seems a bit negative, and then my Sigma training kicked in and I thought of a great exercise we used to do…and I think it might work for new leaders, or really anyone who’s taking on a new role. It’s a simple Start-Stop-Continue exercise to identify behaviors and actions that you need to address. Here’s how you do it. Take a piece of paper and draw three columns on it. At the top of one column, write Start; in the next column write Stop and in the last column write Continue. Then, close your eyes and really think about your new role - imagine what it will look like if done very successfully. If you’re a first time leader, you’ll want to think about how your leadership role is going to be different from your individual contributor role. If you’re a midlevel leader, you’ll want to consider the  difference between managing people and managing managers. And if you’re an individual contributor, you might want to review your development plan and think about what your goals are for the future. Now, open your eyes and write down those behaviors or actions that you need to Start doing in your new role.  Continue to write down behaviors and actions that you need to Stop doing and then Continue doing. Now, take a good look at your list. Will your role or development be negatively impacted if you stop anything on the Stop list? Will your role or development be positively impacted by those things on the Start or Continue list? If you have so many things on each list that you feel overwhelmed, try prioritizing the list. This may require a conversation with your manager!! You might ask questions like: When choosing to continue a behavior/activity, what can I do to be more effective in that behavior/activity? What behaviors or activities do the best leaders I know exhibit? Are those on my list? What have I said I would never do as a leader? Are those on my Stop list? This list could end up being your friend – it can feed into your development plans; it can help you prioritize your work; it can help clarify your role. If you choose to do this, I would make two suggestions. First, share your list with your manager to get his or her input. He or she might have some ideas that could provide a clearer focus for you. Second, keep your list and pull it out every quarter to review. This is a great way to determine if you’re modifying your actions and behaviors the way you want or intended. Hopefully something like this can help keep you on track when changing roles!

What do Sigma, a Leadership class and a webcast have in common? They’ve all created ideas that are swirling around in my head! Let me start from the beginning. I was sitting in on a leadership class...

Individual_Improvement

Why Leadership Development Programs Fail...and What a Leader Can Do About It

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been seeing headlines about leadership development programs – unfortunately, the headlines are not that great: The #1 Reason Leadership Development Fails 10 Reasons Leadership Development Programs Fail Why Leadership Development Programs Fail 5 Reasons Leadership Development Programs Fail Why So Many Leadership Programs Fail Why Leadership Development Efforts Fail I’m sure you get the picture (fail). Leadership development is hard (fail). It’s tough being a leader (fail). My favorite was an article that gave me the #1 reason why leadership development fails and then gave me 20 things to focus on to ensure success. I kind of thought if I focused on the #1 reason I might be okay. I have to admit, these articles made me frustrated. I felt like there was a lot of blame being placed on the fact that development was just plain hard, but also a lot of blame placed at the feet of people like myself who create different kinds of development programs. As I looked through the list of reasons for failure, however, I realized something. If a leadership development program fails, it might have something to do with the participants as well! WHAT?? Let me explain. We could build the best leadership development program in the world – the exact skills needed as discovered through a needs analysis; skills tied to business objectives; a perfect implementation plan; metrics that truly measure the bottom line impact of the program – you get the picture. BUT, there is still something missing in this perfect program. You…and maybe your manager. I believe that you have to take ownership of any development opportunity in which you partake. What does it mean to take ownership? Glad you asked! To me, ownership looks like this: You take responsibility for your development. Remember making a Christmas list when you were a kid. Santa didn’t know what you wanted unless you wrote it down and mailed it to the North Pole. Your manager is Santa – you have to write down what you want and let your manager know. They can help provide the toys tools, but it’s up to you to determine which tools you need and what you will do with them. You ‘personalize’ your development. Your development plan is uniquely yours, and any program you attend should align with that plan. When attending a development program, you should spend some time prior to the program thinking about your expectations and what you want to learn. During the program, compare what you're learning to your expectations to make sure they align. Work with your manage before and after a program to reinforce what you learned. By focusing on your plan, you can make sure that your needs are met. You have to be humble. You sign up for a development program because you want to learn something. That means there is something you don’t already know. Everyone in the room is in the same position, so there’s no need to prove that you’re the smartest person there. You have to have a “right” mindset. A development program is not a five-day, expense-paid vacation away from the office – it is your company’s investment in you and the skills you bring to the company and your team. Your job is to be present at the program by turning off your devices and concentrating on your investment. Use your breaks to check email or take calls. You should expect the support you ask for. Have a conversation with your manager to discuss the support that you might need before, during and after a program. Maybe you want to discuss expectations about a development opportunity. Maybe you need your manager to not call you or email you ten times in an hour while you’re in class. Maybe you want an opinion of how you’re changing your behavior three weeks after the program. All of these are valid needs, and, if you’re willing to have that conversation with your manager, you should be able to expect that support. After all, improving your leadership skills also helps your manager. So there you have it – five things you can do to make a leadership development program (or any development program) more successful. As a leadership development consultant, my job is to create the best possible program that gives you the core knowledge and skills you need to do your job; as a program participant, your job is to spend the time and energy needed to plan your development and apply the knowledge and skills of any program to your individual plan. As Humphrey Bogart said in Casablanca, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been seeing headlines about leadership development programs – unfortunately, the headlines are not that great: The #1 Reason Leadership Development Fails 10 Reasons...

Leadership & Management

No More Micromanaging!

Micromanaging drives me nuts!! You know what I mean – you are hired for your expertise, and then your new manager watches over you like you’re the newborn babe, and they are first-time parents. Further, they actually want to “work with” you on your projects. It actually makes me a bit twitchy just thinking about it. (As a disclaimer, I do have to say that I haven’t had a micro-manager in many, many years). As a parent, I can totally understand the need desire to watch over a new person – you want to be sure they’re on the right track, that nothing messes them up, that you’ve helped them be a success. As a manager, you want to do those same things, but most people in the workplace don’t want or need another parent. So, manager, what do you do? You.  Let.  Go. Period. I’ve had two experiences this winter that have taught me that letting go is one of the best ways to help someone succeed. The first experience was watching my 9-year old daughter spar at a karate tournament. She had sparred three opponents back-to-back and was in her fourth match. In the middle of the round, she took a kick to her gut, and I saw her fold in half. I wanted to run across the mat and make sure that she was okay, but her sensei picked her up like a rag doll, focused her attention away from being hurt, and she finished the match…with me on the sidelines. My second experience was taking my 6-year old son skiing for his first time. I put him in ski school, wondering if he was going to like skiing, if it would be too cold or windy, if he would spend most of the day laying on the ground after a fall, if he would miss me, and so on. When I checked on him at the end of the day, he was grinning, having fun and showing off his successful runs down the bunny slope. His instructor (the feedback loop in his world) even said that he had great coordination, lots of strength and needs to move up a level the next time he skis. But I wasn’t even there! In both of these situations, my instinct was to micromanage – to get right in the middle of things and make sure that everything was going to be okay. But guess what? I didn’t, and everything was still okay. As a matter of fact, not micromanaging allowed my kids to learn to rely on themselves, work through the pain, gain confidence and achieve things they’ve never done. All by themselves. And my guess is that they are going to take those lessons forward into everything they do. So the next time you want to get right in the thick of things with your employees, force yourself to step back. Make sure they have the right resources to get the job done, but then let them do their job. Maybe the only thing they need from you is your faith in them that they will achieve the goal. And then your employees will be the one who grow and gain confidence in their abilities. And isn’t helping your employee to do just that what being a manager is all about?

Micromanaging drives me nuts!! You know what I mean – you are hired for your expertise, and then your new manager watches over you like you’re the newborn babe, and they are first-time parents....

Individual_Improvement

Do Great Work

Have you ever attended an online conference and actually had a desire to attend all of it?? Yesterday I attended the first day of the Great Work MBA program, sponsored by Box of Crayons and hosted by Michael Bungay Stanier. The topic of the day was “Grounding Yourself,” and the day featured five speakers on five different topics. I have to admit that I started the first session with kind of a “blech” feeling that I didn’t really want to participate, but for some reason did. So I listened to the first session, and I was hooked. I ended up listening to all of the sessions for the day, and I had some great take-aways from the sessions – my highlights included: The opposite of bravery isn’t fear, it’s settling. In essence, you need to be brave in order to accomplish anything. If you’re settling, you’re not being brave, and your accomplishments will likely be lackluster. Bravery requires confidence and permission. You need to work at being brave by taking small wins, build them up and then take slightly larger risks. Additionally, you need to “claim your own crown.” Nobody in the business world is going to give you permission to be a guru in X – you need to give yourself permission to become a guru in X and then do it. Fall in love with obstacles. Everyone is going to face some form of failure. One way to deal with this is to fall in love with solving the puzzle of obstacles. You don’t have to hit it if you can go around it. Understanding purpose brings out the best in people and the best people. As a leader, drawing in people who are passionate and highly motivated about their work creates velocity for your organization. Being clear about purpose is the first step in doing this. You must own your own story. Everything about you creates a “unique you” that is distinct from everyone else. As you take ownership of this, it becomes part of your strength. It’s not a strength if you’re running away from it. Focus on what’s right. Be aware of your tendency to interpret a situation a certain way and differentiate between helpful and unhelpful interpretations. Three questions for how to think differently: 1) Why? 2) Who says so? 3) What would happen if? These three questions can help you build alternative perspectives and options that can increase resiliency. Even though this first day was focused on “Grounding Yourself,” I see plenty of application in the corporate environment for both individuals and leaders of teams. To apply these highlights to my work environment, I would do the following: Understand the purpose – of my company, of my team and of my role on the team. If I know the purpose, I know what I need to bring to the table to make me, my team and my company successful. Declare your goals…your BEHAGS (big, hairy, audacious goals).Have the confidence to declare what you and/or your team is going to accomplish.Sure, you might have to re-state those goals down the line, but you can learn from that as well. Get creative about achieving your goals.Break down your obstacles by asking yourself what is going to stop you from achieving your goals and then, for each obstacles, ask those three questions: Why? Who says so? What would happen if? Focus on what’s right.I had a manager who asked us to write status reports every week.“Status” consisted of 1) What did I accomplish; 2) What will I accomplish next week; 3) How can my manager help me.The focus on our status report was always “what’s right” (“what’s wrong” was always a conversation at the point in time it was needed). I’m normally a skeptic of online webcasts/conferences, and I normally expect to take away maybe one or two ideas. I’m really glad, however, that I took the   time to listen to all of the sessions yesterday, and I hope that my take-aways inspire you to think about how you might do great work also.

Have you ever attended an online conference and actually had a desire to attend all of it?? Yesterday I attended the first day of the Great Work MBAprogram, sponsored by Box of Crayons and hosted by...

Individual_Improvement

Scenario Planning for Your Career

Why would you “scenario plan” your career? Scenario Planning is used to chart uncertain futures and possibilities. And let’s face it – careers seem to be on an ever-changing path of uncertainty, so why not plan for those possibilities? I’ve been intrigued with the concept of scenario planning since about 1995 when I was asked to participate on a small team to create scenarios for our business and help define our "move-forward" strategy. Shell Oil has been creating scenarios since the 1970s and is probably one of the best known companies in this area.  Using these scenarios have helped Shell predict future possibilities and move nimbly to address them.  Shell believes so much in scenario planning, that they've even published "Scenarios: An Explorer's Guide" for people who want to expand their scenario-thinking capabilities. If you’re unfamiliar with scenario planning, the gist of it is this: you identify a problem and two major forces likely to bear on that problem. Lay these two forces on a grid (x and y axis) and come up with “stories” for each quadrant of the grid. The stories outline what the future looks like and how you got there. Then devise a strategy for surviving each of the scenarios. Wired magazine wrote a “Guide to Personal Scenario Planning” using the example of an aero-space engineer and possible career scenarios. This is a great step-by-step guide to get you thinking about different possibilities for your career. My career is in corporate education, specifically leadership and professional development. When I apply scenario planning to this, two major factors that might impact me are “free agent” employment where people bid on jobs they want and the need for “just-in-time” (JIT) content. My grid, then, looked like this: Once I had this grid, I was able to create the “stories” for each quadrant:  And from there, I was able to create the implications of each scenario and possible actions I should take to prepare for each possibility:   Scenario planning takes some thinking - especially when you're first creating your list of uncertainties that will become your x and y axis.  I also found that while extracting the implications from the stories wasn't that difficult, defining possible actions to take required some more thought.  I tended to view actions from the "corporate organization" perspective rather than from the "me" perspective - possibly due to the fact that I've used this process in organizations, and that's what I'm used to. Scenario planning isn't going to solve every career problem for you, but as you think about a career conversation with your manager, it might provide some ideas and possibilities that you've never considered.  Yes, it's a powerful tool for business strategy, but it can be just as powerful for your career strategy!  

Why would you “scenario plan” your career? Scenario Planning is used to chart uncertain futures and possibilities. And let’s face it – careers seem to be on an ever-changing path of uncertainty, so...

Leadership & Management

Innovation, Leadership and a 5-Year Old Boy

There is a lot of talk in the learning industry right now around creativity, innovation and leadership.  I even attended a conference last month where the focus was on leadership and innovation - that is, what can leaders do to foster innovation and build a culture of innovation? A couple of weeks ago, my family drove to the mountains to pick up my daughter from church camp.  On the way there, we got an earful from my five year old son: "What if we made a gun that would bring our pets back to life?" he asked. "Do you think we could build a parachute that would take you up so you could see everything and then go down to the exact spot you wanted?" "Maybe we could try..." "Mommy, did you know that if you do..." "Perhaps we could..."  (yes, he's five and uses the word "perhaps") "Why can't we..." "They should make a spy dog that never dies." You get the picture.  And if you listen to a group of five-year-olds, you'll hear them build on each other:  "Yea, and then we can..."  "And if you move this, we can do..."  "Ohh...check out what happens when..." simply followed by huge eyes one one reverently whispered "AWESOME!!" During my son's chatter, it struck me - innovation is a lot like 5-year-olds, and leadership is a lot like parenting.  Let me explain. If we want to have creativity and innovation in the workspace, we need to foster creativity in our teams like we do in our five-year-olds.  We want people on our teams who are going to start their conversations with "What if," "Why can't," and "Let's try."  You also want those people who add on "oh yea, but what if we also did..."  These are the people who are willing to take a risk, fail, learn, and then take another risk.  In five-year-old talk, they "play good." As a leader, you need to support this creativity differently than you do other work.  Let me give you an parent example.  My kids have math homework, and if they get something wrong, we tell them it's wrong, have them review the work to figure out where they made a mistake and then fix it.  In the work world, this is our standard approach to managing performance - assign work, make sure it's done correctly and correct as needed. However, when my kids are playing "what if," I typically come back with "oh yea, well what about ____?"  We actually have a lot of fun doing this, and then I start thinking about how we could monetize any of these ideas and retire to a beach where a young man brings me umbrella drinks...but I digress.  Think about the people on your team who start their conversations with "what if' and "why not" - is the typical response (from either you or other team members) "that never works...we already tried that before..." or is the response.  "Hmmm.  Well what about...?"  As the leader of your team, your conversations with these people need to be different than a typical "business" conversation.  You might come back with:  "Tell me more."  "How can we expand on that?"  "What could make it different/better?"  "What could create a "wow" factor?" Sometimes, innovation and creativity simply comes from having the right group of people having the right conversation...and, just maybe, looking at things with the curiosity of a five-year-old.  As a leader, maybe your role is just coming up with the questions you could ask that end with your team whispering "AWESOME!!"

There is a lot of talk in the learning industry right now around creativity, innovation and leadership.  I even attended a conference last month where the focus was on leadership and innovation - that...

Leadership & Management

Be Mindful of...Well, Everything

When I was about five or six years old, I spent a lot of time in the summer practicing cartwheels in our yard. When I was seven, I entered a gymnastics gym for the first time, and it was love at first tumble. More than 20 years of my life have been spent with the sport of gymnastics, and I’m finding out that the sport has served me well – even in the area of business. As I started to compete, we used a technique called “visualization.” With over 48M hits on Google today, “visualization” was new back then. The concept is simple – use mental imagery to “see” yourself going through your routine  perfectly. You’re called…you present to the judge…you mount the balance beam…your toes are pointed…you do you first tumbling element…perfect stick… full turn…perfect stop at the end…getting ready for your dismount…deep breath…relaxed…push off the beam…great height…twist…turn…land…stay tight…no steps…perfect...present to judges…smile…walk off the floor with shoulders squared. The concept of visualization is so powerful because during the process, your brain directs your muscles to work in a desired manner, creating neural patterns in your brain that are identical to the actual physical performance of the movements. This mental rehearsal allows you to train your mind and body to actually perform the skills. Visualization allows an athlete to improve self-awareness, increase concentration, focus on purpose, reduce pressures, and manage his response to a situation. The same concepts are a growing trend in many business related fields, but it has morphed into the term “mindfulness.” Mindfulness originates from Buddhist teachings and is now commonly incorporated into aspects of western psychology. At its core, mindfulness can be described as a state of non-judgmental, present-centered awareness – basically, “being in the moment.” Mindfulness is huge in the leadership field – a Google search will return over 6 million hits! Mindful leadership simply means giving your full attention to the moment without. According to Harvard professor Bill George, mindful leaders “tend to be more effective in understanding and relating to others, and motivating them toward shared goals. Hence, they become more effective in leadership roles.” Mindfulness can be an invaluable tool for leaders, engaging the part of the brain responsible for building and sustaining relationships, defining purpose, improving self-awareness and managing stressful situations. Let’s say that you buy into the concept of mindfulness and think it can be helpful – how can you practice mindfulness? WikiHow provides five steps to get you started:  1) Learn more about mindfulness. Being aware of what mindfulness is can help you understand how you might incorporate it into your daily activities. With a big thanks to my colleagues, here are some resources that you might want to check out:  HBR Blog: Mindfulness Helps You Become a Better Leader  HBR Blog: A Call for Mindful Leadership  Book: Awareness: Exploring, Experimenting, Experiencing  Book: The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment  Book: The Mindful Leader: Awakening Your Natural Management Skills Through Mindful Meditation  Conference videos from wisdom2.0  Mindful.org, especially the “at Work” link  Institute for Mindful Leadership – check out the Media and Articles links  Mindfulnet.org – follow the links on the right for Mindful Leadership  T&D article: Practicing Mindful Leadership  Work from David Rock, including his HBR blog post Three Ways to Think Deeply at Work and his book Your Brain at Work  2) Start practicing mindful meditation. No, you don’t need to sit in a dark room and chant “ummm.” Instead, find a quiet spot each day and spend five minutes focusing on clearing your mind. Pretend all your thoughts are on a blackboard, and your job is to clean the blackboard so you can start fresh.  3) Practice mindfulness outside of meditation. Be aware of yourself and your emotions, but practice removing distractions so you can focus on the moment at hand.   4) Have gratitude. Recognize those things that you might have taken for granted. Acknowledge the foundations that have been established that you can build upon.   5) Analyze. When faced with any situation, take into account those things that can color your judgments – consider your physical body, your feelings, and your state of mind. Try to remove these things from the situation so you can make better (i.e. non-biased) decisions.   For me, it started with visualization to be more aware of my body and my reaction to stressful situations (e.g. a gymnastics meet). Mindfulness extends this practice to be fully aware of my environment, including myself and those around me. General Mills has introduced mindfulness into their organization, and, as a result, 80% of participating leaders say that they are able to make better decisions with more clarity; 89% say that they have become better listeners. Genentech based a training program on the principles of mindfulness and experienced a 50% increase in employee collaboration, conflict management and communication and went from “rock bottom” employee satisfaction scores to one of the best places to work in the IT world. Is mindfulness the newest “magic bullet?” Highly doubtful, but practicing mindfulness does offer the opportunity to think with clarity, engage in the moment, make better decisions and improve your performance. And if you’re a leader, those are not bad traits to model to your team.

When I was about five or six years old, I spent a lot of time in the summer practicing cartwheels in our yard. When I was seven, I entered a gymnastics gym for the first time, and it was love at first...

Individual_Improvement

What is the Return on You?

In the corporate learning industry, there’s a lot of talk about who is responsible for employee development. If you’ve read any of my posts, I’m pretty sure that you can tell I think each individual is responsible for his or her development. The resources offered in one’s work environment (managers, classes, mentors, etc.) are simply tools to help you achieve your goals. With that in mind, I’d like to challenge whoever is reading this to think about the Return on You (ROY). I was first introduced to ROY about eight years ago when I read Fred Nickols’ article “Forget the ROI of Training: What’s the Return on You (ROY)?” ROY started me thinking about how I approach work. Is work just a job where I’m entitled to certain things, or is work my contract with my employer about what we will provide to one another? Your answer to this question, I think, determines your approach to work and your satisfaction with what you do. So, what is ROY? ROY is defined as “the return on your company’s investment in you.” Simply put, ROY is the benefit you provide your company after subtracting your wages and benefits. What is your economic value to your company? Are you a good investment for your company? Do you provide a net worth, or are you an expense? Kind of scary to think about, isn’t it? In my last post, I questioned who your CEO was. I’ll give you a hint, your CEO is reading this right now. So, if you are the CEO of yourself, what does that make you when you’re at work? I think that it makes you an independent consultant.  Whoa!! An independent consultant, you say? But that means I have to be really serious about my work. Umm…yea. You do. Think about it. We grumble because our manger/VP/company (you pick) doesn’t provide us the opportunities that we think we need. What if, instead, we approached our work like a consultant and our employer like our customer? You still need to work, but now you need to figure out what your end goal is. You now need to figure out how your work meets the goals of your client and the goals you’ve set for yourself. You need to figure out where your skills are lacking and how you’re going to meet those gaps in order to meet your client’s needs. If you’re not scared yet, take a look at Nickols’ work on ROY – at the end of the paper, you’ll find a worksheet on calculating the Return on You. Take out your learning notebook, because here’s your assignment: after reviewing the ROY worksheet, identify the value(s) that you bring to your company. Step two: think about your current job role and document the benefits that you think your company expects from you and the benefits/growth you would like to receive from this job role. No relationship should be one-sided. Hopefully by thinking about the benefits you and your company provide to each other, you feel that you have a little more ownership in the relationship between you and your company.

In the corporate learning industry, there’s a lot of talk about who is responsible for employee development. If you’ve read any of my posts, I’m pretty sure that you can tell I think each individual...

Individual_Improvement

Who's Your CEO?

I love the start of a new year simply because it offers a clean slate. Most often, I have this feeling in September when school starts, but I’ll take it in January as well. Because the start of the year is a great time to start something new, I’m going to start something new with my blog. Besides writing more regularly (that’s on my list of resolutions), I want to write about topics that will provide you an opportunity to hopefully grow in your role, regardless of where you are on the org chart. A while back, I wrote a blog called Developing You 2.0 where I outlined the top ten competencies that I think you’ll need to survive in a 2.0 world. I think those competencies still apply, and I’m planning to expand on those in future posts. Today, though, I want to focus on something else – your CEO. I’m not talking about Larry Ellison (for any Oracle employee) – I’m talking about the CEO of you. If you were your own CEO, what would you tell yourself? Some time ago, I read a blog post by Kent Healy titled Why you should run your life like a start-up company. In this post, Kent talks about the concepts of business – asset management, capital, resourcefulness – and how they relate to managing one’s own life. I’m going to take this a step further. I read and hear a lot of talk about people’s managers not letting them do certain things; or executive management at a company keeping people oppressed and unhappy in their jobs; or managers being responsible for <fill in the blank>. What I don’t hear a lot of is “I’m responsible for me.” Your manager doesn’t know that you want to do a particular job or have a particular skill or want to learn a new skill if you don’t speak up. If you are your own CEO, you need to promote your company, and the only way to do that is to speak up about yourself. That is your responsibility. Laying the mantle of “professional development” at your manager’s feet does absolutely no good if you’re not willing to have conversations about what you’re good at and what you’d like to learn. In case it wasn’t clear…YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE for your professional growth, your development at work, yourself. Your manager is only a tool that can help you achieve what YOU want to achieve, but you need to have development conversations with your manager so he or she knows what it is you want to achieve. If you’re willing to jump into a learning adventure, grab a notebook and answer these questions: If you are the CEO of you, what would you identify as your top 3-5 assets? What are 2 or 3 things you do to nurture those assets? What are 1 or 2 things that you currently do that do not benefit your company? And finally, what is your biggest corporate goal this year? Remember, when answering these questions, you are the company. I’m not sure where all of this will lead this year, but I’ve got a ton of ideas about personal learning environments, learning networks, you as a consultant, ROY (return on you), motivation and engagement, creating your brand, and building You 2.0. I can’t promise an assignment every time I post something, but keep that notebook handy!

I love the start of a new year simply because it offers a clean slate. Most often, I have this feeling in September when school starts, but I’ll take it in January as well. Because the start of the...

Leadership & Management

Remote Workers...We're Not That Bad!

I work from home a lot – my team is located in different cities and countries, my manager is in a different city, and most of our work is done via conference calls, email and collaboration through Oracle Social Network. We’ve figured out how to be effective and involve team members, regardless of where we are all located. When I mention that I work from home, a lot of my friends will laugh, roll their eyes or use their fingers to make quotation marks around “work from home.” Their belief is that I’m sitting at home, eating bon-bons and watching television. The attempts at humor only multiply when they know that my husband also mostly works from home. So, it was with great joy that I read the Lifehacker article Why Remote Workers Are More (Yes, More) Engaged. I’m not going to re-write the article for you, but four highlights from the article include: Proximity breeds complacency –because communicating with employees sitting next to you is so easy, you may not do it well. Absence makes people try harder to connect – because you have to make an effort to connect to your team, you tend to pay better attention when you do connect Leaders of virtual team make better use of tools – when working remotely, you will use technology (many different forms of it) to connect with your team. This daily use of the tools makes you more proficient with those tools Leaders of far-flung teams maximize the time spent together – getting together takes effort, time and money, so leaders tend to filter out distractions when teams do get together. These points made me happy because I’ve seen the same things play out in my team located around the world. And I’m not saying that a virtual team is more effective than a co-located team – but my virtual team doesn’t have the option of filing into a conference room for a face-to-face meeting whenever we want. Instead, we have to figure out how to work effectively without meeting face-to-face. Am I more engaged as a remote worker? I’d like to think that I am. I’ve been on calls with colleagues at 3am – this would never happen if my only option was to be in the office. I can leave my “office” to pick up my kids from school…and I’m willingly back online after kids are in bed to finish up anything I need to. Oracle Social Network lets me use my iPad to engage with my teammates when I’m waiting at music lessons, the doctor’s office or any place else with  a network connection. I feel like I’m more connected with my team, and I feel like I’m more connected with my family life. So yes, I am a remote worker, and I am engaged. If you lead a virtual team, I challenge you to increase the ways that you communicate to effectively engage your team. If you are on a virtual team, I challenge you to think about how you might interact with team members to keep both them and yourself engaged in your work. And if you have some great ideas on how to make virtual teams (and workers) effective and engaged, please share those ideas in the comments! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go get a bon-bon...   :)

I work from home a lot – my team is located in different cities and countries, my manager is in a different city, and most of our work is done via conference calls, email and collaboration through Orac...

Individual_Improvement

Go Big or Go Home

For those who don’t know, Oracle sponsors a group called “OWL” – Oracle Women’s Leadership - and the purpose of the group is to create local and global opportunities that support, educate and empower current and future women leaders at Oracle. This week, I had the opportunity to attend the Denver OWL roadshow, and I was really impressed with the quality of speakers and interactions that I experienced. One theme that arose throughout the day was that of “Lean In.” In a nutshell, “Lean In” requires you to take advantage of the opportunities that you’re given. One of my personal mantras is “Go big or go home."  That is, if you’re not willing to give it your all, don’t do it at all. Regardless of how you phrase it, it’s a life lesson that I believe needs to be tossed in our face every so often simply, if for no other reason, to get our attention. You are given a finite amount of time in your life; in your job role; in your interactions with others. Do you make the most of the opportunities given to you every day? Or do you believe that life just happens, and you have to deal with whatever is handed to you? I have a challenge for you. Set aside any concerns or fears you have about something and Lean In. Make the most of an opportunity presented to you…or make your own opportunity! If you start with just one thing, you’ll start building a mindset to make the most of additional opportunities. Not only will you be better for leaning in, but I’m betting that those around you will be better for it as well.

For those who don’t know, Oracle sponsors a group called “OWL” – Oracle Women’s Leadership - and the purpose of the group is to create local and global opportunities that support, educate and empower...

Leadership & Management

Will Employees Go Above and Beyond? Depends on You!

Sometimes, the stars align and point you in a direction that you just can’t avoid - and so it is with me and employee engagement. What made me think it was time to write about employee engagement? I was asked to review Employee Engagement 2.0 by Kevin Kruse. This is a great little eBook that addresses  engagement in easy-to-understand terminology and even provides a six step action plan to start integrating employee engagement into your thinking I received another fortune cookie (see my last post) that read “Nothing motivates a man more than to see his boss put in an honest day’s work.” To me, that simply means that if you, as a leader, are not willing to engage in your work, your people won’t either. And with regard to the fortune cookie, yes, I probably do go out for Chinese food too often. I watched an episode of Undercover Boss in which a CEO of a fast food company visited a store, disguised as a potential employee. The manager of the store was condescending to employees, and one employee was crying as he admitted it made him “feel worthless.” The CEO broke his disguise and shut down the store until all employees could be trained and the store could meet the principles and values that the CEO had for the company. When I entered “employee engagement” in Amazon’s search engine, I found that 119 books on the topic have been published in the last 90 days. A Google search on “employee engagement articles” returns over 8 million hits. Restricting this to just blog entries still gives a person over 800,000 reading opportunities. Employee engagement is huge, obviously, but you may be asking yourself why all the fuss? Probably because recent reports are bringing to light some (kind of scary) facts: Only 31% of the world-wide workforce is engaged. Nearly 17% are actually disengaged to the point where they are effectively working against their company. (BlessingWhite) The lost productivity of actively disengaged employees costs the U.S. economy $370 Billion annually. (Gallup) 1in 4 employees are actively looking for a new job – including employees considered high performers. This could impact company performance and create retention challenge as we move through 2012. (Corporate Executive Board) Trust in executives can have more than twice the impact on engagement levels than trust in an immediate manager. Employees are more likely, however, to trust their managers than their executives. This places a huge burden of proof on the executive levels of a company. (BlessingWhite) Highly engaged organizations had a shareholder return 19% higher than average (in 2009); low engaged organizations had a shareholder return 44% below average. (Hewitt Associates) If you’re still reading, maybe I’ve convinced you that employee engagement is important. But what IS it, and what can you do about it? From the readings that I’ve done, I’ll define employee engagement as the degree to which someone is committed to their company and willing to put in discretionary effort to help the company meet its goals. We all know the people who put in minimal effort (they’re not engaged); but an engaged employee will go above and beyond what is expected. As a leader, there are some simple steps you can take toward engaging your team members. Make the Connection Between Work and Organization Strategy. According to a Corporate Leadership Council report, this is the number one driver of employee engagement. Take time to communicate the business strategy to your team and explain how the work your team accomplishes impacts that strategy. If you’re complimenting someone on a job well done, be sure to tie it back to the strategy. For example, someone does a great job satisfying the customer – you might say “Brenda, the customer was really pleased with how you handled their fire drill yesterday. Work like that will definitely help us realize our customer retention goal. Thank you.” Be mindful; Walk the Walk. The fortune cookie said it – your employees are watching you. Employee Engagement 2.0 says “First and foremost we need you to be engaged.” Many different surveys of employees show that employees don’t leave companies – they leave managers. Engagement needs to be a priority. If you can make choices every day that show you are interested in communicating, growing and recognizing your team members, your team will put their trust in you. Provide Opportunities to Grow. In the BlessingWhite report, only 52% of employees surveyed felt they had opportunities to grow or advance in their careers. We all know that money is tight in today’s economy, but have conversations with your people about what they would like to do – you might be surprised that many of your people are not interested in a standard “career” that moves up the management ladder. Once you know this information, it’s easier to see unique career possibilities that come up – lateral moves, special assignments, “in place” development, presenting at a conference, etc. Have a Stay Interview. Unlike an exist interview, a “stay interview” is conducted when your employee is still your employee. The goal of a “stay interview” is to find out what motivates a person to stay with a company, what they value in their job, what they might need to learn to be better at their job, what you can do to make their job easier. There are a variety of resources on the internet listing “stay interview” questions – I liked this one. Give it a try – take an employee to coffee and have a conversation around what motivates that employee. I’m pretty certain that you’ve got nothing to lose. For me, employee engagement can be boiled down to one simple rule – the golden rule – treat others the way you would like to be treated. You probably want to be valued for the work you do; you probably want to do work that is intellectually stimulating; you probably want to be in a position that uses the best of your skills. Not surprisingly, your team members probably want these same things. Have those conversations with your employees, and chances are pretty good that if they know you genuinely care about them, they’ll go the extra mile for you.

Sometimes, the stars align and point you in a direction that you just can’t avoid - and so it is with me and employee engagement. What made me think it was time to write about employee engagement? I...

Leadership & Management

The Lesson of the Cookie

My family went out for Chinese food the other night, and the end of the dinner brought fortune cookies (my kids’ favorite part). When I opened my fortune cookie, the fortune said:  It is never a shame to learn from others. Wow! Given that my background is in learning, my job focuses on learning, and I’m an avid believer in lifelong learning, this was a great fortune to receive. It also made me wonder why someone might feel shame in learning. Delving back into my past jobs, I thought about two vastly different managers. The first manager was one who came into our department knowing nothing about the work that was being done – he was brought in for “his managerial skills.” Instead of taking time to learn what worked and what didn’t, he proceeded to tell all of us how things were going to be done. I was asked to do some research, and when I gave this manager the research results, he became angry that I spent time doing the research. I know – it confused me also! The second manager that I thought about was in a situation where multiple companies had been purchased in a short timeframe, and we needed to integrate those companies as quickly and as efficiently as possible. This manager, when asked about specific topics in meetings, would turn to a staff member and say “I hired you for your expertise in this area. What are your suggestions?” Let me repeat – in meetings that staff and executives attended, this manager would admit he didn’t know the answer and ask the “expert” for his or her opinion. Both of these managers were considered leaders on the corporate org chart, but which one was considered a leader by the employees? (This is a rhetorical question, by the way). As a consultant, I had plenty of customer questions that I couldn’t answer. Using some great advice from my mom, my response was always, “I don’t know, but I'll get an answer for you by tomorrow.” Before the next day, I was online trying to learn from my fellow consultant so I could have an answer for my client. Surprisingly, I had many clients who told me that I was the only consultant they ever hired who admitted they didn’t know an answer – and those clients were all impressed that I was willing to learn. Sometimes as leaders (whether of teams or projects), we think that we have to have an answer for everything lest we be perceived as lacking knowledge. We can’t graciously accept “teaching” from people because we’re “the boss.” In reality, we make a better leader if we’re able to admit that we don’t have all the answers and learn from those people who might be smarter than we are. In the words of the cookie…it is never a shame to learn from others.

My family went out for Chinese food the other night, and the end of the dinner brought fortune cookies (my kids’ favorite part). When I opened my fortune cookie, the fortune said:  It is never a shame...

Leadership & Management

7 Ways to be a Better Leader in 2012

The past couple of weeks, I’ve received a lot of newsletter emails about resolutions – I guess the beginning of the year is a good time for that! Most of these newsletters have an article or two about improving your leadership skills in 2012. Rather than send you to all the web site to sift through loads of content, I thought I might summarize for you some of the tips on being a better leader in 2012. 1. Take time to reflect. By being reflective, you give yourself time to think about what is going well and what needs to be changed – this time gives you a chance to learn from your experiences. Some questions you might ask (both for yourself and for your team) are: What are you most proud of in 2011? What are you most looking forward to in 2012? What are the goals/steps that you are dedicated to moving toward in 2012? 2. Re-focus your team. Everyone is more excited about the job that they’re doing when they understand how their work ties into business goals. Take time in a team meeting to ask questions like: Where are we going? What do we believe in? Why do we exist? Don’t have those team meetings? Start scheduling them. 3. Ban “To Do” lists. Yes, getting things done is important, but I also have things on a “to-do” list that don’t really matter if they get done or not. Instead, start tracking an “Accomplishments” list to differentiate between the mundane (checking Facebook) and the truly important. 4. Paint Your Legacy. What do you want to look like in 10 or 20 years? What do you want your team members to say about you when they talk about the manager they had in 2012? Imagine what you want this future to look like and make the choices today that will get you there tomorrow. 5. Be social. “Social” is here to stay. Learn how you can use social media/activity to your advantage. You can use it to build your brand, engage team members, interact with peers, etc. The old advice was to “manage by walking around” – social activity is how you do this in the digital age. 6. Work your network. This does not mean “use people to your advantage;” this means being conscientious of your relationships. Work at building relationships and making them better. Don’t forget that part of networking is giving back to the other person – make sure that when you’re requesting help, you can offer help in return. 7. Engage your people. Engagement doesn’t equate to money (don’t get me wrong, money is nice, too). Engagement is your ability to get your team excited about the work they’re doing; it’s the level of motivation one has for his or her job; it’s the team’s ability to solve problems with you removing roadblocks. If your team is engaged, chances are pretty good that you’re excited about going to work as well. Probably most important in these seven tips is how you’re going to change. Instead of saying “I want to develop my network,” decide the specific actions or behaviors that you are going to start or stop this year to mark your accomplishment. If you want to “develop your network,” maybe you’ll join a professional organization and attend meetings, or maybe you’ll start tweeting. Maybe you’ll stop working 18 hours on Thursdays so you can attend those meetings. By outlining those things to stop and start, you’re likely to see actual changes throughout the year Here's to a great start in 2012!

The past couple of weeks, I’ve received a lot of newsletter emails about resolutions – I guess the beginning of the year is a good time for that! Most of these newsletters have an article or two about...

Leadership & Management

Leadership Lessons From Santa Claus

As we finish out 2011 and look forward to 2012, I thought I’d take an opportunity to reflect on the leadership lessons we can learn from Santa Claus. Here are the top ones that I came up with: Engage with a Vision. The elves aren’t being paid a bonus to get all those presents done. Instead, Santa relies on the vision of fulfilling dreams to children around the world. Elves aren’t simply employees – they’re dream makers. Your employees aren’t simply employees either – what are they? Have Audacious Goals. Let’s face it – having a simple goal that’s easily achieved is really no better than having no goal. Flying around the world and dropping presents at every house in a single night is an audacious goal that requires a detailed plan. What’s your goal? Build a Strong Team. Santa has nine reindeer (eight + Rudolph), and he’s responsible for making sure the team is in top shape before that audacious goal can be achieved. Make sure that your team is in top shape – knowledge and skills are in alignment – before you ask them to strive toward the goal. Know Your Strengths. Santa’s strength is employing Christmas magic – how else can he shimmy down chimneys? Rudolph’s strength is lighting the way. The elves are great at building toys. Everyone has their own strengths. Make sure you know what the strengths are of your people. Build Your Network. Santa can’t be everywhere at the same time. That’s why he has all those helpers sitting in malls listening to kids’ wishes. Make sure you build your network so you can learn what the wishes are of your employees and colleagues. Be Sensitive to Others. Santa is aware of customs and cultures around the world and makes sure that he addresses those cultures and customs. Do you do the same thing? Never Forget Your Impact. Santa has the ability to change peoples’ lives. I’ve never forgotten the wonder at coming home from church as a seven year old and seeing presents from Santa under our tree. I’ve never forgotten the VP who took time from her schedule to mentor me. Know that you have the ability to impact others – positively or negatively – it’s your choice. Santa may not be real to everyone, but his leadership lessons certainly are. Best wishes for an engaging 2012!

As we finish out 2011 and look forward to 2012, I thought I’d take an opportunity to reflect on the leadership lessons we can learn from Santa Claus. Here are the top ones that I came up with: Engage...

Leadership & Management

Leadership, Motivation and Performance

Last week I attended a webcast on the science of motivation, led by Dan Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. The webinar was really interesting in that Pink addresses motivation as an intrinsic need, comprised of autonomy, mastery and purpose. What really caught my attention was the comment that disengagement in the workplaces costs about $300 Billion per year. In talking about autonomy, Pink claims that “management” is an 1850’s technique and that engagement occurs through self-direction rather than by being managed. An example of autonomy in the business world include “Fed Ex Days” at Atlassian where employees are given a day to be creative and then present to a “board” the next day – called “Fed Ex Days” because they have to deliver something overnight. At Google, “20% Time” is where employees are given 20% of their time to work on things outside of their area of responsibility. In both cases, the deliverables from these activities often become parts of the corporate portfolio. As part of the webinar, we took an “Autonomy Audit” that consisted of four questions, rated from 1 (low) to 10 (high). Pink suggests that managers try the Autonomy Audit with their teams and predict the average score. The four questions are: How much autonomy do you have over your time at work – for instance, when you leave, when you arrive, and how you allocate your hours each day How much autonomy do you have over your tasks at work – your main responsibilities and what you do in a given day? How much autonomy do you have over your team at work – that is, to what extent are you able to choose the people with whom you typically collaborate How much autonomy do you have over your technique at work – how you actually perform the main responsibilities of your job. Greater than 34, you’re probably in the right spot; fewer than 27 or so could indicate a problem. Pink did make the point that the distribution of the points may matter more than the actual total. The second component of motivation was described as mastery – the desire to get better at stuff and make progress in one’s work. And the only way to know if you’re getting better at something is to solicit feedback. Whether it’s asked for or not, it’s always a good idea to set out your own learning and performance goals – specify what you want to achieve, and check in with yourself once a month. Determine where you’re achieving, where you’re falling behind, any tools you need to achieve goals, etc. Pink shared an interesting tool called “iDoneThis.” It’s basically an email-based productivity log. Each night you receive an email asking what you accomplished for the day. Your response to the email creates a calendar entry for your accomplishments. In our email-based world, this might be a great way to track your accomplishments for performance review time, your monthly check-in on progress, etc. I’ve only used it for a short time, but I find I don’t like to disappoint my calendar by not having anything to enter. The third component of motivation was purpose. Not surprisingly, when people are reminded of the purpose of their job (or even that their job has purpose), they are more likely to engage in doing that job well. Most often, people think that leading is about the how – that is, getting the job done. As a leader, however, it’s more important to focus on the why - people do better when they know why they’re doing something. So, what did I get out of the webinar that I think is worth passing on to you? Two things – one from a leadership perspective; the other from an individual perspective. First - as a leader, if you feel that your team could be performing better, take a look at autonomy, mastery and purpose, and determine if those needs are being met for all your team members. If not, determine what steps you can take to improve each area. Maybe it’s as simple as explaining the “why” of a particular project; maybe you need to provide more latitude in how a deliverable gets accomplished. Second, as an individual, do your own self-audit with regard to autonomy, mastery and purpose. If you feel like you’re lacking in autonomy, have a conversation with your manager to see what might change. If you’re lacking in motivation, do self-reviews each week to give yourself a sense of accomplishment within your job. If purpose is lacking, spend some time contemplating “why” you’re doing your job and if that fits with your intrinsic needs. Overall, I think the webinar provided attendees with the opportunity to think outside of the “financial rewards box” when looking at ways to improve performance and motivation amongst team members. If you’d like to hear more about motivation from Daniel Pink, check out the TED talk that he gave at TEDGlobal 2009.

Last week I attended a webcast on the science of motivation, led by Dan Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. The webinar was really interesting in that Pink...

Leadership & Management

You're a Manager...Now What?

You shone as an individual contributor.  You completed assignments that were thought impossible.  Your reward?  You were given a team and told "Congratulations.  You're a manager."  Gulp!  Now what do you do? You refer to this blog for resources that can help you shine as a manager, too!  Plenty of resources exist to help you in your transition to management, but I think the resources below are some really good ones for people new to a management role: www.12manage.com  - when you're in a meeting and someone mentions the Theory of Reasoned Action or a PEST analysis and acts like everyone should know what it is, head to this site.  12manage defines over 2000 management theories across 12 disciplines, including areas like strategy, decision-making, leadership and communications. www.managementhelp.org  - also called the Free Management Library, this site provides overview and in-depth information on over 650 topics managers deal with, including coaching, crisis management, social networking and finances. www.businessballs.com  - started as a "free ethical learning and development resource," the site has over 200 topics across 10 categories, all designed to help you be a better employee ad leader. iTunes University has some great channels and podcasts on improving your management skills.  What Great Bosses Knowincludes titles like " Tips for New Managers," "The Power of Questions," "The Myth of the Open Door" and "Secrets of Great Coaching."  The HBR Idea Cast channel has titles like "Can Introverts Lead?," "What's Holding You Back?" and "Learn from Failure."  Another channel that looks interesting (but I haven't had time to explore) is The Look and Sound of Leadership. www.mindtools.com  - MindTools (TM) provides a variety of resources to help you become exceptionally effective at management and leadership skills.  Although parts of the site are fee-based, the content offered for free is worth checking out. YouTube has a variety of interesting channels to which you can subscribe.  When you subscribe, new videos for that channel are added to your YouTube home page, and you can elect to receive an email for new postings as well.  Harvard Business Review is a great channel, and a list of educational channels can be found here - click the "Most Subscribed" tab to see the most popular education channels. EBSCHost - provides articles from a large database of magazines, journals and other resources, including Fast Company, Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management review.  EBSCO also provides Business Book Summaries - short overviews of current business books.  Oracle employees can access EBSCO here.  Outside of Oracle, you can likely access EBSCO through you public library. So, how can you actually use this information?  Let's say that you are a new manager, and you have a development conversation with your manager.  Yes, I used the term "development conversation" because those are important, and you should have them if you want to improve you capabilities!  Anyway, you determine that you need to improve your decision-making skills.  Here's what I would recommend: Review "decision-making" at the Free Management Library and at businessballs.com.  Use the information you find there to further define the aspects of decision-making that you need to improve. Take the quiz "How Good is Your Decision-Making?"at MindTools (TM).  Use this information to further refine your goals for improvement and to brainstorm some specific examples of things you might do. Browse YouTube and iTunes to see if there are any videos or podcasts that you can watch about decision-making (put the term in the search box).  As you watch, take notes on things that you might or might not do and determine what you might discuss with your manager or present to your teammates.  Some videos that might be of interest include: The Future of Decision Making - presented by John Rymer, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester, addressing business' need to make smarter, faster decisions to reduce risk and stay profitable. How Companies Can Make Better Decisions - a Harvard Business Review interview with Marcia Blenko, leader of Bain & Company's Global Organization Practice, on integrating effective decision making into your business. Search EBSCOHost to find relevant articles or book summaries on decision-making.  Remember, if your company doesn't subscribe to EBSCHost, you can probably access the database through your public library. From your research, determine one or two things about your decision-making skills that you want to change.  On your development plan, record those things with specific expectations.  Review this with your manager. Check in with yourself, your manager, your direct reports, or your peers on a regular basis to determine if your skills are improving.  You may decide to check in with a few people on a monthly basis, your staff on a quarterly basis, etc.  If you need a tool to track your progress, consider the Stop-Keep-Start concept.  Basically, define your role and area for improvement and then ask what behaviors your should stop, keep and start.  An example might look like this: Role: Manager Intended Change: Improve Decision Making Skills Behaviors to Stop Behaviors to Keep Behaviors to Start · Making decisions without team input · Make decisions quickly · Balance pros/cons of decisions · Gain input from team on product release decisions If you have others complete a Stop-Keep-Start analysis for you, ask them to be specific in their feedback, and you'll have a great mechanism for deciding specific actions you can take to improve your skills. At your goal point, discuss with your manager your awareness of new decision-making skills, your implementation of those skills, and your next steps for improvement. Remember, being a manager is different from being an individual contributor - you have more than one person to look out for, and your work in now focused on a bigger picture.  Transitioning into this role is a process, and, as such, it will take both time and effort on your part.  Your best approach is to work with your manager, be open to suggestions for improvement, and remember that you got to this position because you are successful. If you have additional transition tips or helpful resources, please feel free to leave a comment so that others might learn from your experiences. Happy managing!

You shone as an individual contributor.  You completed assignments that were thought impossible.  Your reward?  You were given a team and told "Congratulations.  You're a manager."  Gulp!  Now what do...

Individual_Improvement

Dancing Around Development Plans

It’s no surprise that for most employees, creating a development plan ranks right up there with getting a root canal. Did you ever think about it from a manager’s perspective, though? A manager not only has to create their own development plan, but they have to help create meaningful plans for everyone working for them as well. So, if you’re a manager, how can you come up with meaningful development options for all of your employees? Maybe take a look at the ideas below! Last year I wrote a blog entry called “30 Ways to Foil Development Plan Dread.” This year, I’m updating it with some different ideas and some hints for moving forward with these ideas. Employee development isn’t just attending a class and checking that box at the end of the year. Employee development is a continual process in which a manager and employee both need to be actively involved. The list below provides some ideas for development opportunities beyond the “attend a class” option. Attend a local, regional or national conference. Be sure to bring your findings back to your team. MANAGERS: Make sure you provide the opportunity for your employee to share with the team. Present at a local, regional or national conference. Ask your manager, peers or mentor about opportunities that exist. Don’t forget about the possibility of presenting at virtual conferences. If your company has an internal conference (user groups, engineering conference, etc), apply to present at that.  Actually present if accepted. Complete a course at your local university or at an online university. Make sure the university is accredited if you’re planning to use your company’s tuition reimbursement program. If you want to “dip your toes” into virtual learning, Google free online course <insert topic> to see if anything is offered. Finish your undergraduate or Master’s degree. Write an article for a professional publication or organization.  Be sure to check the submission requirements for the publication! Join a professional organization and attend a local chapter meeting or seminar. If possible, serve in a leadership position at the local level. Attend a seminar or workshop offered outside of your company. These are often advertised through professional organizations. Oracle sponsors the Professional Business Womens Conference, and their webinars are free to Oracle employees as advertised in “In the Know.” Teach a TOI (transfer of information), Lunch & Learn or something similar for your team or another team in your organization. Create a video on a topic of your expertise and post it to your internal platform (Oracle employees can use OTube, create podcast or a webcast) Review 2-3 journals or magazines every month to monitor industry trends.  You can access many journals through EBSCOHost - commonly available in public libraries with your library card. Oracle employees can access EBSCOHost here). Read Harvard Business Review or California Management Review to understand business trends.  Both of these can be accessed through EBSCO Host as well. Pick out a top business book - read it and discuss it with your manager.  This would be a great opportunity to take your manager out for a cup of coffee to get his or her undivided attention. MANAGERS: Provide a copy of your favorite business book to each member of your team. Use 15 minutes of your staff meeting to discuss a chapter, idea or something else about the book. Select a technical book to review.  Discuss it with your team, your manager, or your mentor. Mentor another person. Ask someone to be your mentor. Volunteer on the board or a committee of a professional organization Googlefree webinar <insert topic> and see if there's a free webinar that interests you.  Attend and share what you learned with your team. Start a blog to share your thoughts with others. Participate in an online community - respond to a blog, start a group on LinkedIn or Facebook, etc. For Oracle employees, participate in a Social Chat. This is a great tool for hearing grassroots ideas and sharing possibilities. Attend an instructor led class offered through your company. Attend a web-based class offered through your company. Engage with local colleges to be a guest speaker or host a workshop on campus. Look for volunteer opportunities with state and local government agencies to provide IT help (if you’re an IT type of person). Many agencies need help in all sorts of areas outside of IT, so if you’re interested, ask if they need help in your area. Plan a technology fair, science fair or something similar for your company.  Recruit people to present and share ideas. Join an open source project and get involved in the product development, forums, or aliases. If you have a Masters degree, check with a local university or college about becoming an adjunct professor (sometimes called a contract or network instructor). Volunteer to teach computer skills (or your area of expertise) at a Senior Citizens Center. Ask your local school districts if they offer any kind of special event around kids and technology.  Volunteer at that event. Coordinate an internal conference where best practices can be shared for a team within your company - a sales conference for sales people; an IT conference for your technical team, etc. Volunteer to teach a class at a local Recreation Center or Community Center. Apply to teach classes for a continuing education program (typically offered through local universities or community colleges). These programs sometimes don’t have the same instructor requirements as becoming an adjunct professor. For Oracle employees, use Oracle Alchemy to present a problem or idea and collaborate with others around the globe. A word of warning about this list: this is just a list. It requires human input to determine how to effectively incorporate one of these ideas into a personal development plan. If one of these options looks intriguing, a manager and employee should work together to determine what, exactly, is expected from the activity and how, exactly, an employee will grow as a result of an activity. Any of the ideas on this list should be used simply as a seed to start a manager/employee discussion. As you can see, there are many more options for "development" than just attending a class.  If you have other ideas that should be added to this list, please leave a comment in order to share with everyone else.  Hey, then you can add #22 to your plan! Happy planning! 

It’s no surprise that for most employees, creating a development plan ranks right up there with getting a root canal. Did you ever think about it from a manager’s perspective, though? A manager not...

Leadership & Management

Is Your Leadership Style Killing Your Employees?

I attended a webinar yesterday by Kevin Kruse, author of We: How to Increase Performance and Profits through Full Engagement. I typically try to find at least one or two nuggets of information in the webinars that I attend, and when I registered, I figured that any webinar on employee engagement would give me at least one good nugget. Boy was I wrong – the whole webinar was engaging! Let’s start with some statistics (I’ll get to the killing part later). According to polls done by BlessingWhite, Conference Board and Gallup, fewer than 1 in 3 employees are engaged in their work; only 45% are “satisfied” with their work; and employee disengagement costs companies around $300 billion annually. Additionally, higher performing organizations tend to have more engaged employees (56%) than low performing organizations (27%); and companies ranked high in employee engagement had better shareholder return (17.9%) than companies ranked low in employee engagement (-4.9%). Now, about that killing part. The engagement surveys also showed that dissatisfied employees weighed about 5 pounds more than their colleagues and were more susceptible to cardiovascular events. Even more surprising, a person’s job satisfaction has a direct correlation on their marital happiness and on the likeliness their kids will misbehave in school (this is called the “spillover effect”). And much of one’s engagement and job satisfaction comes from a person’s interaction with his or her boss. In fact, five questions can determine the quality of boss/employee interaction: My boss gives me the information I need. My boss is good at pushing through and carrying out changes. My boss explains goals for our work so that I understand what they mean for my particular part of the task. I have sufficient power in relation to my responsibilities. I am praised by my boss if I have done something good. If you’d like, you can even take a short quiz to see if you are suffering from boss-related health issues. In the webinar, Kevin provided a “GReaT” model of leadership. The capitalization is a reminder for Growth, Recognition and Trust, which are three high-impact drivers of engagement. Leaders can take certain step to drive GReaT leadership, including: To drive Growth & Development To drive Recognition & Appreciation To drive Trust & Confidence Hold 1:1 meetings to talk about 3-5 year career goals Identify knowledge, skills, experience and relationships needed to reach those goals Identify ways to close the gaps Meet quarterly to track progress Show appreciation regularly, but make sure it’s deserved Hand-written notes are valued. Write them. Offer recognition publicly When thanking someone, explain how their actions impact the company Ask for opinions and let people be involved Match your words to your actions Be transparent – share good and bad news Acknowledge your mistakes Never say anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face Focus on the BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals) As a leader, you may want to think about the five questions and how you drive GReaT leadership. The culture that you create with your team members has an impact beyond just your team – it impacts every team member and every person in his or her family. Simply changing how you interact with your employees could lead to higher levels of engagement, fewer health related issues, and better family relationships for your employees…and wouldn’t that be a great impact to have on your universe?

I attended a webinar yesterday by Kevin Kruse, author of We: How to Increase Performance and Profits through Full Engagement. I typically try to find at least one or two nuggets of information in the...

Leadership & Management

Google's Best Managers - How do You Stack Up?

I read an article the other day titled “Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss.” The article was interesting in that it described Google’s “Project Oxygen” – an in-depth study of Google’s management to determine what makes the best managers at Google the best. Interestingly, the list of behaviors that make managers great at Google reads like a Harvard Business Review “Best of” list. The eight behaviors – in order of importance in Google’s environment – are: Be a good coach Empower your team and don’t micromanage Express interest in team members’ success and personal well-being Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented Be a good communicator and listen to your team Help your employees with career development Have a clear vision and strategy for the team Have key technical skills so you can help advise the team Even more interestingly, having technical skills on par with the team that you’re leading came in dead last. This can serve as a reminder that when you move from an individual contributor position into a manager position, you begin employing a different skill set. Yes, your technical skills count, but they become less important than your ability to connect. In addition, Google camp up with three pitfalls that negatively impact the success of a manager: Having trouble making a transition to the team Lacking a consistent approach to performance management and team development Spending too little time on managing and communicating As a result of this study, Google’s People Analytics team determined that the most important thing a manager can do is connect with their people and be accessible to their people. Although the Google project doesn’t provide any new “secret” to managerial success, it does provide a reminder of what’s important if you’re a leader of people, a manager of people, or a mentor of people. Spend some time reviewing the list and reviewing you behaviors to see how you stack up against Google’s best!

I read an article the other day titled “Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss.” The article was interesting in that it described Google’s “Project Oxygen” – an in-depth study of Google’s management to...

Individual_Improvement

An Easy Way to Change Your Life

I just read a Harvard Business School article HBS Cases: iPads, Kindles and the Close of a Chapter in Book Publishing that talked about the distribution battle between electronic books and paper versions of those books. While the conversation didn't differ from things I've already read, one piece of information absolutely amazed me. The article states that “Less than half of all American adults ever read a book after leaving school. Most of the remainder read, at most, only one or two books a year. Industry estimates indicate that somewhere between 15 and 25 percent of the population purchase books on a somewhat regular basis.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? I find this absolutely frightening. Personally, I have 3-4 books going at any time, and I probably finish 3-5 books per month.  To me, choosing to not read is on par with saying that Orwell's 1984 is a great world. Choosing not to read is like telling the world that you are okay with someone else making your decisions; that you are okay with someone else telling you what to think; that you are okay with intellectual challenges not existing in the world; and that you are okay with your brain being nothing more than mush. In America, we gripe about the state of our education system. We tend to forget, however, that we live in a knowledge-based world. Our future success depends on our ability to gain, understand and apply knowledge. Reading, in my opinion, is paramount to building the skills necessary for this world. If we are not reading, we are are not learning new information...we are not challenging our current ways of thinking...we are not growing as individuals and as a culture. Here's a challenge for you – pick up a book and read it. Even better, read a book each month. Better yet, become part of (and increase) the 15-25% of the population that regularly purchases books. Who knows – you just might learn something!  

I just read a Harvard Business School article HBS Cases: iPads, Kindles and the Close of a Chapter in Book Publishingthat talked about the distribution battle between electronic books and paper...

Organizational_Improvement

"Getting It" and Making It Better

I watched the premier of Undercover Boss last night. The program is based upon a CEO/President going undercover in his or her own company to see what it's really like on the front line. Lemme say – I LOVED the show. The first show was about Larry O'Donnell, the President/COO of Waste Management. Larry took on a variety of jobs and was drawn in, not only to the demands of the jobs, but also to the lives of the people doing those jobs. Further, Larry spent time asking questions about what made the job tough and what could make the job better. In one of his undercover jobs, Larry came across an individual who was doing the work of four or five people and, personally, was faced with the reality of caring for multiple family members and possibly losing her home. Larry talked with the site manager and said he'd like to see what could be done to really further her career. The site manager said he'd have some ideas on Larry's desk the following week. In another undercover job, Larry saw first-hand how corporate productivity goals were being wrongly implemented at a site. At the end of the program, Larry invited that site manager to corporate headquarters and explained that corporate goals for productivity should not have the negative impact they were having. Again, the site manager went away and developed the improvements to implement. Two of the most entertaining segments were when Larry got fired from one of his jobs; and, in another job, his supervisor said he had the potential to go far in the company. When Larry revealed his true self to the employees with whom he worked, he explained his reasons for going undercover, described the issues that he saw as wrong, and took the blame where appropriate. He managed to do all this in a way that was respectful and invited employees to partner with corporate. WOW! Imagine if we all took the time to actually know the people with whom we work – to understand where they're coming from and the challenges they face. Further, imagine what the work environment would be like if managers took the time to understand the front-line impact of decisions and address those situations that just don't make sense. At some point in their career, everyone has probably said “Management just doesn't get it.” This show is all about management “getting it” and provides some lessons for all of us on improving our work culture. Now we just need to take those lessons to heart.

I watched the premier of Undercover Boss last night. The program is based upon a CEO/President going undercover in his or her own company to see what it's really like on the front line. Lemme say –...

Individual_Improvement

Weasel Words or Stone Soup?

A while back, I was reading Stone Soup to my daughter, and I realized that the story applies to very adult situations as well.  Stone Soup is an old story with many variations. At it's most basic, it's about someone – typically a traveler foreign to the village - making a soup by boiling stones. As the water boils, the villagers – who have shunned both the traveler and each other – become curious. The traveler talks about how wonderful the soup is and recalls varieties he has had with different vegetables, meats, etc. The villagers all end up contributing something to the soup, and everyone shares a tasty, filling meal. The story highlights the success of teamwork and collaboration. I think the story also shows a great way to deal with change. Think about the reactions to changes you've experienced. I bet a lot of those reactions are voiced in the following manner: We already tried something like that, and it didn't work. But we can try again. Who are they to tell me how to do my job. I'll do it, but I'm not going to like it.. I'll agree with what they're saying, but I'll do it the way I want. I just don't like it. These reactions to change are very common, but they are also set us up to fail. I tell my daughter that she can't use the phrase “I'll try” because it allows room for not doing. Instead, we're working on using the phrase “I'll do it” because it's setting her up o believe she will be successful. I've heard phrases like “I'll try it; I'll support; I think I can; Maybe I can” described as weasel words because they allow a person to back out – that is, there's no commitment associated with the words. Change is like that as well – you can weasel your way through, or you can put some skin in the game – that is, commit. When we commit to a change, something “automagically” happens.  We engage...we explore...we share ideas...we create a community. Our talents, our knowledge and our experiences are used to make something better.  Ultimately, we are energized by the challenges, the processes used to achieve those challenges, and the people with whom we make that journey. As Sun (or any era in your life) comes to a close, I think we all have a choice as well – we can try, or we can do.  We can decide to gripe about changes and isolate ourselves like the villagers; or we can put some skin in the game, give the benefit of the doubt, and quite possibly make our own, potentially wonderful, Stone Soup.

A while back, I was reading Stone Soup to my daughter, and I realized that the story applies to very adult situations as well.  Stone Soup is an old story with many variations. At it's most basic, it's...

Individual_Improvement

Be Prepared When the Sun Goes Down

Undoubtedly, all of us at Sun are feeling a little tense, on edge...pick whatever adjective fits.  We're looking at the end of our company, the end of teams that we really like, and the end of, quite possibly, our jobs – and that may mean just our livelihood or even our whole identity. On the flip side, we're also looking at the beginning of a new chapter possibly working at a great company (having worked at Oracle, I think I can define it as “great”); possibly branching out to create our own company; possibly trying something completely different, scary and exhilarating. Regardless of what the future holds, it makes sense to be prepared and make sure that you are completely prepared for whatever the future brings you. Katy Dickinson posted a great entry entitled “After the RIF notice, before you leave” that outlines many different activities you should complete before walking out the door on your final day at Sun. I think that, in addition to Katy's list, there are even more things you can do to be sure that you're prepared for whatever the final days at Sun bring. I hope the list below helps you feel more prepared in facing your professional future. Update your resume and upload it to any professional sites. Just a note – ideally, you should be updating your resume every quarter or, at a minimum, twice a year.  This is a great habit to get into so you always have a recent resume on hand. Additionally, keep a list of the sites to which you've uploaded, and be sure that you update those sites when you update your resume. There are plenty of web sites that provide resume help. One of my favorites is “How to Write a Masterpiece of a Resume” at the Rockport Institute. This web site really makes you re-think the story that your resume tells. Update StarOffice on your home computer before turning in your token card. Remember, Microsoft cannot read StarOffice files! ☺  Alternatively, download OpenOffice so you can still read your StarOffice files. After you print out a record of your training activities, review it. Add any webinars, conferences, mentoring activities, or other learning activities that are not on your training record. All of these things point to your willingness to continually learn – something most companies and hiring managers appreciate. Create your Personal Work Portfolio. These are all the deliverables you've completed that speak to your unique abilities. Maybe this is a great project plan; maybe it's a leading-edge program you've developed; maybe it's an application you've written for a unique problem within your group. Whatever the deliverable, try to keep a soft copy and a hard copy – one can always back up the other. (On a side note, make sure that you don't violate any proprietary or confidentiality restrictions when aggregating your portfolio). Create a list of those things that you still want to accomplish in your role. Although this seems trivial, the exercise might open your eyes to new opportunities you want to explore. Take advantage of Google Docs (http://docs.google.com) to store any of your larger files that you'd like to keep. Google Docs has recently been updated to allow many different file formats and to allow you to upload without converting to Google Docs format. Forward any emails that you might want to keep to a personal email account. Keep in mind the proprietary/confidentiality requirements when deciding what to forward. If you write a blog, export your blog and email that file to yourself or post it to Google Docs for backup.  Create a list of your contacts you want to keep and their information. Many of the people you want to keep in touch with will be on LinkedIn. However, you may work with vendors or other people outside Sun whose information you want to keep in written format. These contacts may be useful when you land a new job. Export your bookmarks and either send the file to yourself; upload to Delicious; or upload to another site like NetVibes. Having your bookmarks immediately available can jump start your transition to a new job. Join local professional organizations or alumni associations. Many local professional organization memberships are less expensive than their national counterparts and provide opportunities for professional development and networking. If you're really struggling with the idea of “where do I go; what do I do?” I'd suggest picking up a copy of Nicolas Lore's The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success. One of the best exercises in the book has you look at each decade of your life; determine what you want to accomplish in that decade; and define options for achieving those accomplishments. I believe that to succeed in the future, you need to be adaptable; you need to be change-able; you need to re-invent yourself without losing sight of who you are and what you believe in. Scary? You bet. Doable? Undoubtedly. Whether or not you transition to Oracle, you owe it to yourself to be prepared. Martin Luther King nailed it more than 40 years ago when he said, “But today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”

Undoubtedly, all of us at Sun are feeling a little tense, on edge...pick whatever adjective fits.  We're looking at the end of our company, the end of teams that we really like, and the end of, quite...

Individual_Improvement

A List of Lists for Your Learning

I love lists.  I thought it started with Casey Kasem and his American Top 40 Countdown that I listened to every Sunday afternoon as a teenager; but, in reality, my love for lists started way before that.  In grade school, I made lists - my Christmas list, my Birthday list, the list of friends, the list of books I wanted to read, the list of things I wanted to do, the list of traits that my one-day husband would have (as a side note, the husband met every item on the list except the "likes to dance" one, and I can live with that!)   Why do I love lists?  Because they're so darned orderly.  You can put as much detail as you want on a list.  You can number the list; you can put a little box in front of each item.  And then...you can check that item off the list once it's done.  What a great sense of accomplishment.   So, where am I going with this?  Well, I did a presentation yesterday on managing your own learning.  In pulling the presentation together, I came across a number of lists that were the "top 100," "top 50," etc.  For a list person, I was in heaven.  And then I thought - WOW - everyone should have these lists.  So this is my list of lists.  I haven't gone through every one of the 3000+ sites from each of the lists (it's on my list of things to do), but I'm hoping you find something that you like! A List of Lists for Your Learning For Yourself 100 Powerful Blogs for Your Self-Improvement – Achieve your goals, find balance, be more efficient in your daily life. This list has blogs that are dedicated to helping you do that and more. 50+ Open Courseware Classes on Fitness and Nutrition – most of us are in the category of “corporate athlete.” However, to perform your best at work, you need to be your best physically as well. These courses provide a variety of information on health, nutrition and fitness. 100 Terrific Time-Management Tools to Get Your Degree in 3 Years – even if you aren't getting your degree, you might find some tools that will help you manage your time more effectively and bring a small amount of sanity to your day. 100 Free eBooks for Your Personal and Professional Growth – Make yourself better; make your career better; manage your finances better; be a better leader. This site offers plenty of resource to help you grow. For Your Brain 101 Lectures for Your Open Source Education – need to know more about open source? Check out some of these lectures to learn about open source and how it fits into the business world. 100 Ivy-League Learning Tools Anyone Can Access – a collection of courses, lectures, resource centers, and other tools from Ivy League universities. 100 Free Online Books Everyone Should Read – it's not just your dreaded English classics; the list also includes books in Philosophy, Politics, Economics, Business, Technology and Finances. 50 Awesome Ivy League Lectures All About the Future – Wondering what the future will hold? Want to develop your “forward thinking” capabilities? Check out these lectures from Brown, Harvard, Columbia and other universities that are dedicated to the future. 101 Tools to Learn ANY Foreign Language for Free – does your development plan include working in another country? Do you know the language? You can learn it with the links found here. 100 Incredible Open Lecture for Math Geeks – need a number fix? This site's for you! The “open lecture” part refers to universities around the world that are making their lectures available to anyone. And yes, they are known universities – places like MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, etc. 100 Best Professor Who Blog – Check out these professors' blogs to learn more about current research and thoughts in areas like Business, Technology, Math & Science and Economics. 100 Incredibly Inspiring Videos for Leaders – Whether you're a leader who needs a boost of inspiration or someone who is just realizing his or her leadership potential, these videos will give you a push toward being a better leader. MIT Open Courseware – MIT has opened 1900 courses to anyone with a browser. Check out the MIT OCW site to learn more about this opportunity and find a course that you might want to “attend.” 100 Incredible Lectures From the World's Top Scientists – New theories, project that are changing the world...you don't have to attend top university to learn more. You can access the lectures from this list instead. 45 Free Online Computer Science Courses – programming, robotics, NLP, C++, Multi-Core Programming, Artificial Intelligence, Information Theory – these are just a few of the courses available from Stanford, MIT, UK Open University, Carnegie Mellon and a variety of other schools. 100 Free Tools to Create Your Own Personal MBA Program – provides a variety of links to education and business social networks, MBA blogs, free online courses, finance calculators, business references and business news and information – all to increase your business knowledge. 100 Free and Useful Open Courseware Classes for Web Workers – Work with the web? Improve your skills with courses about web design skills, media arts, photography, video, writing, technology and more. For Your Spare Time 100 Awesome iPhone Apps for Culture Snobs – fun and interesting links, but a definite time-sink. You've been warned. :) 100 Awesome Social Sites for Bookworms – are you a bookworm? There are others who share your passion. Check out some of these sites to become a “social” bookworm. 100 Delicious, Dirt-Cheap Recipes for the Starving Student – It's not just college students watching their pennies. You may find some new family favorites here as well. 100 Useful College-Planning Tools for Conscientious Parents – I'm throwing this one in because it's wise to think about development of your students (and there are also financial aid and tax tips for parents) 100 Terrific Productivity Tools for the Bored or Unemployed – Whether organizing your life, looking for a job, setting goals or browsing the web, this site has something for you. ResearchChannel – Provides over 3,500 videos in areas like Business & Economics and Computer Science & Engineering. The intent of ResearchChannel is to share the work of leading research and academic institutions with the public. e-learing Reloaded: Top 50 Web 2.0 Tools for Info Junkies, Researchers & Students – learn how to stay organized, search effectively, cite sources correctly, etc. For Your Career 100 Best RSS Feeds for Recent College Grads – let's face it – college grads aren't the only ones trying to find new jobs. These RSS feeds may be titled “for Recent College Grads,” but you may find them useful as well. 100 Places to Pan and Research Your Next Career Move – thinking of changing careers? Check out this list for a variety of resources to help you find your next job. 100 Free and Essential Web Tools for the College Bound – forget the kids! If you're heading back to college after being out for <uhmmm> years, check out this list of helpful tools. 100 Terrific Tips & Tools for Blogging Librarians – don't be put off by the “for Librarians” part – the tips will make anyone a better blogger, regardless of your topic! 100 Twitter Tips and Tools to Stay on Top of Your Field – Want to be tuned in to your professional field? Check out these Twitter tips that can help you stay in the loop. Tools for a Tough Market: 100 Resources for College Grads – this list will help you find and prepare for that perfect job – whether you're a recent college grad or simply slogging through the current economy. 15 Ways to Set Yourself Apart in a Recession – learn how to stand out from the crowd or simply further your career in today's economy. 69 Free or Open Source Tools for Students – It's not just students who need a boost in their productivity. Find tools that you might be able to use in your business life as well. 50 Awesome Search Engines Every Librarian Should Know About – My guess is that you're not a librarian and you do research also. These search engines may help you be more effective in that research. 50 Firefox 3 Add-ons That Will Transform Your Academic Research – this could also be titled “50 Firefox 3 Add-ons That You Might Find Really Cool.” For Your Techie Side 25 Free Mac Apps That Will Boost Your Productivity – Although this list is targeted toward web designers, all Mac users may be able to find something useful. 99 Essential Twitter Tools and Applications – If you tweet, these tools and apps may make you more effective. 47 Awesome Twitter Tools You Should be Using – more Twitter effectiveness coming your way 100 Twitter Tools to Help You Achieve All Your Goals – some of these are repeats, but, come on, it's a list of 100 – I had to add it! 26 Essential Firefox Add-ons for Web Designers – If you are into web design, your probably need one or more of these Firefox add-ons. 10 Best Firefox Extensions to Manage Tabs – Feel like your tabs are overtaking your life? Check out some of these extension that can help you get a handle on tabs. 7 Best Firefox Add-ons for Twitter Users – Seven best Firefox extensions which give the convenience of tweeting from within your Firefox, without the need of any desktop Twitter client. Top Firefox Extensions – a list of Firefox extentions from someone who actually tries out all the extensions before adding them to his list of favorites. 50 Best Firefox extensions for Powerful Browsing – Get the most from Firefox when you're surfing the web – try some of these extensions. Top 10 Firefox Extensions to Improve Your Productivity – Feel like you need to get more accomplished. Check out these extensions to see if they can help you. Top 10 Must-Have Firefox Extensions, 2009 Edition – Lifehacker.com provides this list of the “ultimate” Firefox extensions for 2009.        

I love lists.  I thought it started with Casey Kasem and his American Top 40 Countdown that I listened to every Sunday afternoon as a teenager; but, in reality, my love for lists started way before...

Individual_Improvement

Developing You 2.0

A couple of weeks ago, I was entranced by events of 40 years ago (Moon landing, anyone) as they were replayed on www.wechoosethemoon.org. The people involved with sending a manned mission to the moon chose to reinvent themselves, their beliefs and their capabilities in order to achieve a HUGE goal and become players in the future to which they were directed. Likewise, we have a choice now. Everywhere you look, you see references to 2.0 – web 2.0, eLearning 2.0, technology 2.0, business strategy 2.0. Yes, it's a 2.0 world with a great, big future in front of us. How many of you, however, have given any thought to You 2.0? That is, what specific things do you need to change to be as successful in the 2.0 world as those previous pioneers were in 1969? Google only returned 24,600 hits when I queried “You 2.0,” indicating to me that it is a relatively unexplored concept. Most sites talked about reinventing yourself so you can achieve your passions in life. My version of You 2.0 is a bit different – I'm simply talking about the “things” (skills, competencies, vision – pick whatever noun you'd like) you need to be – and remain – relevant in a 2.0 world. So, what are they? Glad you asked. Here's my top ten competencies I think you need to survive: A Personal Brand.  (Uniquely You) Anybody remember Davy Crockett? He wasn't just a trapper. He was the “King of the Wild Frontier.” Hell, he was so cool he even had his own theme song. Even today, he gets 969,000 hits on Google. What's your theme song? Core Values.  There's a song that says “You've got to believe in something, or you'll fall for anything.” What is it that you believe in? Know what things are wildly important to you, because those are the things that will guide you through anything you face. Be a Systems Thinker. Sure you have decisions to make, but take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Does your decision still make sense? Are you inadvertently impacting something else? The ability to manage details while maintaining a broad perspective will make you invaluable to an organization (and to yourself!). Be Change Able. Shit happens. Sometimes you can control it happening; sometimes you can't. Your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to understand how you and others react to change and know what you can do to make yourself (and others) cope, or even thrive, during those times of change. Things change; those who adapt survive. Develop Learning Agility. Learning agility is the ability to adapt and react to new situations extremely quickly. How do you develop this skill? Become a lifelong learner –  continually acquire new competencies, seek new experiences, and solicit feedback in order to integrate knowledge, skills and abilities. Not surprisingly, studies have shown that learning agility is a great predictor of future success. “Employer as Customer” Attitude. A friend of mine once told me to remember that my company is renting me for 40 hours a week – they didn't purchase me lock, stock and barrel. If you view your employer as your customer, and you're focused on customer services, think about the change in attitude and productivity that can inspire. If your company is paying you for your services, what is their return on you? Leadership Skills. I firmly believe that you don't need a manager title to be a leader. Regardless of your title, you're always the manager of you. If you work on cultivating your leadership skills, chances are good that you'll be noticed when it's time to lead a project, team, division or something else. At the very least, you've developed an employee that companies desire. Social Media Savvy. Wikipedia – twitter – youtube – facebook - second life - rss feeds – flickr – digg – technorati – scribd – feedburner – ning – meetup. If you aren't familiar with any of these words, get familiar. Social media will dictate how we communicate in the future. Not only should you be aware of it, you should be engaged in it. If you're completely lost, check out the slideshare presentation “What the F\*\*K is Social Media?” Yea, the title is a bit crass, but it's a really good overview. Critical Thinking Skills. The amount of information we're faced with grows exponentially year after year. The ability to analytically evaluate things observed, expressed, or experienced and determining an appropriate conclusion uses the higher level thinking skills deemed “critical thinking.” Given that IDC predicts within five years a tenfold growth of digital information that is created, captured and replicated world-wide, the ability to quickly and efficiently analyze this information will be indispensable. Collaboration. If you didn't get this from the Social Media section, the world is shrinking. It's very unlikely that people will exist in their cubes and never have to interact with others. The more able you are to interface with other people, regardless of title,country, age, etc., the more likely you'll be able to maneuver the 2.0 world. So there you have it. These are the ten skills that I think are paramount to creating You 2.0. I'm hoping to expand on each of these in future posts and maybe provide some ways that you can start to develop, or continue to develop, each skill. Until then, map out where you are in the 2.0 world and determine what skills you need to brush up on. By the way, if there are other skills you think are important, let me know.

A couple of weeks ago, I was entranced by events of 40 years ago (Moon landing, anyone) as they were replayed on www.wechoosethemoon.org. The people involved with sending a manned mission to the...

My Life

I Am an Adolescent :)

My husband has claimed (on more than one occasion) that he married an adolescent. The first time he mentioned that, I was begging him for a dollar so I could buy one of the L-O-N-G Pixie Stix that I hadn't seen since I was about twleve. And then there was the time that I stomped in the rain puddles with our two year old. Let's not forget about making snow angels this past winter. And be honest, Captain Crunch makes a mean cereal! Most recently, I heard the comment when I wanted to get in line at a fair so I could participate in the trampoline jump where you're connected to a safety belt and are tossed about 25 feet in the air (how cool is that!) - the only problem was the huge line of under-12 in which I'd have to wait. Yes, I am a forty-year-old adolescent. Which, really, isn't a bad thing... I actually started feeling a bit guilty about my skill at being a kid...until I read "The Escape Adulthood Manifesto" by Jason Kotecki. Jason identified a disease that too many people suffer from - ADULTITIS (it even sounds bad, doesn't it?): ADULTITIS: A common condition occurring in people between the ages of 21–121, marked by chronic dullness, mild depression, moderate to extremely high stress levels, a general fear of change, and, in some extreme cases, the inability to smile. Patients can appear aimless, discontent, and anxious about many things. Onset can be accelerated by an excess burden of bills, overwhelming responsibilities, or a boring work life. Generally, individuals in this condition are not fun to be around. Geez, who wants to suffer from that??? Fortunately, Jason outlines 8 little traits you can employ to escape from ADULTITIS. I'll give you a quick run-down here, but you may want to check out the manifesto for yourself. Delight in the Little Things. Most people see a weed; my daughter points out each dandelion that has morphed into a "wishing flower." Dream Big. My daughter told me that she doesn't want to be a mommy; she wants to be an astronaut. I told her maybe she could be an astronaut and then a mommy. She decided that maybe her kids could just ride in the spaceship in their car-seats like she and her brother do now. Who am I to say it isn't possible? Get Curious. I have two kids. The most common questions I get are "Why?" and "What dat?" Give it a try. Ask yourself "Why?" or "Why not?” or "What if?” and see what the possibilities are. Live Passionately. A couple of weeks ago, we were at an outdoor fair and bought cotton candy. My daughter loves cotton candy. She smiled when I handed it to her and then, as she was eating it, she closed her eyes, and I watched her whole face say "mmmmm." When was the last time you experienced that feeling about something you were doing? Play. He was scrunched down very low to the floor, carefully stepping over things that I couldn't see.  “What are you doing?” I asked. I'm pretending I'm in The Matrix."  His look said “what else could I possibly be doing?"  I belly laughed because this was a conversation with my boss!  Okay, playing like you're a kid (or with your kids) relieves a lot of stress.  Having a boss (or co-workers) who can play makes work a lot more enjoyable. Be Honest. We've told our kids (and practice it, too) to tell us if they mess up. They won't get in trouble for messing up; but they'll get in a lot of trouble if they lie about it. As Mark Twain said "Always tell the truth. That way you don't have to remember what you said." Have Faith. The first time my son got an owie, I asked him if he needed a kiss. He nodded his little head and then kissed his hand. (Yes, I was laughing because he kissed his own hand). The next time he whacked his head with a toy, he kissed his hand and put it on his head. Both times, he quit crying. He's not too worried about getting hurt; he has faith that a little kiss can make things better. Maintain Perspective. We have two kids, a mortgage, and my husband and I are both concerned about whether or not we'll have a job when/if the Oracle acquisition goes through. We have friends whose three year old is fighting an invasive form of cancer and is finishing 40 weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. Our kids are healthy; everything else is immaterial. Perspective. Adultitis. Ugh - what a horrible thing to suffer! Sure, you can be responsible, but try wiping the rust from one or two of these traits and incorporate them into your daily life. Admittedly, acting like a child may not be a good thing; approaching life with with the "bring it on" attitude that children tend to have, however, can make the difference between having a really crappy day at the office that negatively impacts everyone around you or having the ability to marvel at what a great day you've had the opportunity to experience.

My husband has claimed (on more than one occasion) that he married an adolescent. The first time he mentioned that, I was begging him for a dollar so I could buy one of the L-O-N-G Pixie Stix that I...

Individual_Improvement

Develop Your Career Resiliency for Free

In my job, I manage professional development programs for US employees.  Given current market conditions, I'm frequently asked about career development opportunities, and, as I was responding to the latest request, I decided to share with a wider audience some of my thoughts. Most of the links in this post will be Sun internal links, so if you're reading this and you're not a Sun employee, I apologize up front for the inaccessibility of the links.  I hope you'll still get something out of the content though. First thing's first - what do you mean by "career development" or "career resiliency?"  Dawn Mular posted about ITIL and Career Resiliency, and she outlined her strategy around career resiliency.  You need to do the same thing - defining career resiliency will help you decide what endeavors are most appropriate for your situation.  If you need help doing that, check out the HR Career Services site - although the resource centers are no longer on campus (at least at Broomfield), the web site still has a great deal of information and usable worksheets.  Of particular value are the worksheets under Know Yourself, the PDF files under Know Your Environment, and the section called Create a Career Action Plan.  Know Yourself and Know Your Environment can help you determine your priorities and identify your growth opportunities (some people call these your "weaknesses"). Once you know what career resiliency means, look for opportunities to grow your skills.  You're probably thinking "that's pretty obvious - can you help me out a little more than that?"  Sure!  There's a myriad of free learning opportunities if you look around.  Here are some that I found: Women@Sun held a leadership series that covered a variety of topics around changes, career management and professional development.  MP3 and Presentation material are available for each presentation on the Women@Sun collab site: Life in Interesting Times - with Karie Willyerd Creating Your Personal Brand - with Karen Rohde What a Personal Board of Director Can Do For You - with Christine Bucklin Presenting Yourself in Various Cultures - with Lin Lee and Cindy Reese Sun Learning Services provides free access to web-based courses, all available through Sun's Learning Management System. Although these classes are not specifically career management topics, they do provide skills that are both necessary for any career and transferable regardless of where someone is working or what he or she is doing: Thinking Strategically Preparing for Change Defining Emotional Intelligence Emotional Intelligence at Work The Fundamentals of Effective Thinking Views on Organizational Change Another resource that I absolutely love (and I don't think enough people know about it) is Books 24x7 - accessible through Sun's Digital Libraries.  If you're okay with saving lots of money by accessing books for free and reading them online, you may find the following books interesting: Resilience at Work: How to Succeed No Matter What Life Throws at You - by Salvatore R. Maddi and Deborah M. Khoshaba Managing Your Career for Dummies - by Max Messmer (although some people may find the For Dummies series insulting, it provides a no-nonsense approach to career management) Career Development - by Tricia Jackson Business Book Reviews is also available through Sun's Digital Libraries (free for Sun employees) and contains short (8 pages) reviews of top business books.  Some reviews of interest are: The Change Cycle - by Ann Salerno and Lillie Brock The Connect Effect: Building Strong Personal, Professional and Virtual Networks - by Michael Dulworth How to Sell Yourself: Using Leadership, Likability and Luck to Succeed - by Arch Lustberg Outside of Sun, there are a even more opportunities to learn about career resiliency and develop career-long skills.  Googling "career resilience" and "career management" turned up some of the items below.  I also like to check out things like YouTube and other blogs to see what free stuff people are offering to promote their current work - sometimes it pays off! American Management Association offers free webcasts and records them for later playback.  Some of their webcasts do have a registration cost, so just be sure of which one you're selecting.  Some free ones include:  Network Your Way to Success: Tips and Techniques Emotional Intelligence: A Powerful Tool for Effective Management Agility and Resilience in the Face of Continuous Change Who's Got Your Back: Building Deep, Trusting Relationships that Create Success AMA Edgewise provides podcasts on various topics.  You can view their site for a complete list of podcasts. Free Management Library is an awesome resource for just about any job-related topic.  The Career Development section is located at http://www.managementhelp.org/career/career.htm but be sure to check out the home page as well. An interesting article turned up on How  to Fireproof Your Career: Five Strategies for Worklife Survival And YouTube didn't disappoint!  Brian Moffit provides a video on Good Work NOW! #8: Career Resilience - focusing on the concepts of career resilience and providing ten tips for career resilience. Obviously, if you have some money to work with, there are a ton of workshops, seminars, webinars, etc. that you might attend.  Free is good, though, and there are plenty of free resources out there.  So what other resources are out there?  What are you using to manage your career?  There's a whole list on this page that you can take advantage of, too!  

In my job, I manage professional development programs for US employees.  Given current market conditions, I'm frequently asked about career development opportunities, and, as I was responding to the...

Knowledge Nuggets

Have Error Code? Find Meaning

When we talk about learning, a large piece that is sometimes overlooked (or is difficult to achieve) is the concept of performance support - that is, getting the right piece of information to the right person at the right time.  Rather than teach someone all the information he or she needs, it's sometimes better to teach people how to get the information.  Even Einstein is given credit for saying he never remembered anything he could look up in under two minutes. Enter a web site called ErrorKey.  Basically, you enter an error code or error message, hit the Search button, and you get a detailed description of the error.  As I've said in prior posts I'm not a technical person, but I've got to think this would be a cool tool for those who are.  What's even more impressive is the list of systems for which error codes are indexed: Oracle Sybase Apple Cisco 6400 Unix Solaris Cisco IOS DB2 MySQL PostgreSQL SAP DB Borland C PlayStation SQL Server SSAS SSIS SSRS Crystal Reports Nintendo Wii Python Visual Studio Symbian Mozilla Windows NT Outlook Amazon S3 HTTP Adobe Flash ColdFusion SilverLight Google Urchin C# .Net JScript .Net Visual Basic .Net Informix Give it a try.  You may be impressed enough (or be faced with enough error codes) that ErrorKey makes it to your bookmarks!

When we talk about learning, a large piece that is sometimes overlooked (or is difficult to achieve) is the concept of performance support - that is, getting the right piece of information to the...

Individual_Improvement

Just a Bunch of Engineers?

I recently finished a class on Crucial Conversations (Sun employees can view the internal class schedule) and was impressed with the content of the class.  It helps you identify conversations that are or will become sticking points in achieving success and lets you practice techniques in turning around the conversation to achieve a meaningful outcome for all people involved. During the class, one of the concepts that we talked about was labeling people - HR folks, those engineers, bean counters - you get the picture.  In a side conversation, one of the people in class made the comment that they (specifically not specifying "he" or "she") really liked these kinds of classes, but their team was a bunch of technical guys - is that a label I hear?- and wouldn't like this kind of class at all. What?  Wouldn't like to know how to recognize difficult conversations and walk into those conversations with confidence and a game plan for success? As Vizzini would say - Inconceivable!  Are technical people really so far removed from real life that they never have conversations?  With anyone?  (I'm being a little sarcastic simply because my husband is one of those "technical" people). If you read my About section, you'll notice that I manage employee learning for the United States.  So, I'm curious - all you "technical people" out there at Sun - are you really interested in only technical courses, or are you interested in other classes that add to your repertoire of business skills?  If you are interested in other business skills, which ones are most important to you?

I recently finished a class on Crucial Conversations (Sun employees can view the internal class schedule) and was impressed with the content of the class.  It helps you identify conversations that are...

Organizational_Improvement

What Can You Do With a Virtual Team?

A colleague of mine asked me about ideas for teaming activities for virtual teams – that is, ways to reproduce the water cooler in a virtual environment. What I thought would be a quick Google search ended up being a bit more frustrating. I found a lot of information on managing virtual teams. Not what I was looking for, but if you want the short version, it's: Make sure your team has a common vision and goals. If possible try to have a kick-off meeting in person to establish vision, goals and group norms. Gain commitment from team members. That in-person kick-off helps with that as everybody has a say in establishing the vision, goals and norms. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Did I mention communicate? Inclusion. A virtual team will likely create diverse viewpoints. Make sure that everyone has an opportunity to voice their opinions and provide input.  Establish clear roles and responsibilities. This prevents people in four geographic areas from working the same problem, duplicating efforts and wasting resources. Now that you have the highlights, back to my colleague's question. How do you create that “team environment” virtually? I am in no way pretending to be the expert here, but I did find some interesting ideas around tools and activities. Productivity Tools Make sure that you have good productivity tools. This is probably the number one rule for success of virtual teams. Remember that “good” is relative. What may work for one team won't necessarily work for another. Some common references to tools were: Instant Messaging: Most companies will have some form of IM tool in place. These tools allow team members to communicate in real time with one another. Kolabora has a great article called Instant Messaging Tools and Technology: A Mini-Guide that outlines a variety of tools – most of them free – including features and capabilities of each. Web Conferencing capabilities: Web Conferencing allows you to have a conference room type of meeting over your computer. Most of these offer chat, whiteboards, application sharing, etc. to make your team feel more involved in the action. The Center for Learning & Performance Technology has a great list of Screen Sharing & Web Conferencing Tools. Skype: If you need to conduct video calls between team members, Skype is the way to go. Not only is it free, but the quality of calls is pretty good as well. Just remember that people on your virtual team need to have a video camera on their computer for this to work! Facebook: Create a group on Facebook for your team. I admit, I'm a new user to Facebook, so I don't have a lot of details on what you can or can't do with Facebook. I did see quite a few references to using Facebook to keep in touch with your team, however. Internal Wiki site or web site: Depending upon your company's internal tools, you may be able to set up a web site or wiki site for your team to share things like a calendar, to-do lists, documents, discussion strings, etc. Based upon some quick browsing on my part, wiki sites tend to be more popular as team members can add and update information without dealing with HTML.   Virtual Team Activities So you've got some tools in place, but what can you actually do to ensure that your team feels a sense of camaraderie? How about some of these? Video Conference - Try to hold a video conference at least quarterly so people can “see” one another. If you have people based at home, they can use Skype (see Tools section above). People based on a corporate campus can use a video equipped conference room. Online Scavenger Hunt - Come up with a list of 15-20 things that people need to find online (related to the team's goal, a current project, or something else). Divide the team into small groups, making sure office and home based people are mixed. Have prizes for various things: fastest to complete hunt; most interesting presentation found; most interesting video found, etc. Host a Teleconference Lunch - Everyone dials in for a phone call during lunch where no “work” related talk is allowed. People could share one non-work related goal/interest. You do need to make sure that people on the phone have opportunities to talk. It sounds kind of crazy, but a group of my friends had to resort to this one for a baby shower when the mom was on bed rest in another state. It worked! Expertise Arena - On your team collaboration site (facebook, wiki, web page, etc), list each team member and his or her top 3 areas of expertise. Encourage other team members to use their co-workers' expertise when solving problems. Recipe Exchange/Holiday Report - To foster understanding of other team members' cultures, have each team member provide a recipe that their family enjoys at a particular holiday. Team members may also want to share the importance of that holiday. Idea Day - Give each team member a half day where they can explore something of interest. At your weekly team meeting (because you are having a weekly team meeting, right?), pick 2-3 people to share what they learned on their half-day. Getting to Know You - Prior to a team meeting, have everyone provide some piece of information about themselves. At the meeting, have a person read the description and allow team members to match the person to the description. Some ideas include a favorite hobby, a favorite superhero and why it's a favorite, the best book that you've ever read and why; your favorite job and why, etc. E-Cards - Send team members an e-card for reaching team milestones or personal milestones (e.g. projects completed; promotions; publications; patents granted; birthdays; anniversaries; birth of children, etc.) On-Line GeoCaching Game - Instead of using GSP positions, have each team member identify a cache location and provide clues (written or pictures). Other team members need to find the cache. Progress and results can be tracked on the team wiki (or other collaboration site). Check out the Official Geocaching Site or Wikipedia if you've never heard of geocaching. Online Gaming - Get team members together to play an online game – World of Warcraft, Fantasy Football, etc. I also found a book that I think haspotential - More Quick Team-Building Activities for Busy Managers by Brian Cole Miller. The reason I liked this book is because every activity has ideas for adapting the activity for virtual teams. I didn't read the book in its entirety, but, as I said, I think it has potential. By the way, if your company has access to Books24x7, this book may be available through that site. I know that this is not anywhere close to comprehensive, so tell me – if you work with or manage a virtual team, what do you do to make sure the water cooler exists?

A colleague of mine asked me about ideas for teaming activities for virtual teams – that is, ways to reproduce the water cooler in a virtual environment. What I thought would be a quick Google search...

Individual_Improvement

Are You Accountable for Your Learning?

“I don't care if you create the best training in the world.  If it doesn't change behavior, it doesn't do me any good.” These words were spoken to me by an executive vice president at an undisclosed company.  I wanted to argue that if the training was the "best in the world," it would actually be designed to change behavior and would undoubtedly cost more to create and evaluate than he was willing to fund (which, by the way, was $0). The comment got me thinking, though.  How many of us expect to have a learning path handed to us and be told “This is what you need to do and how you need to do it?"  If you check off the boxes, will you be successful?  I doubt it. On the other hand, how many of us spend time researching topics that interest us, engaging in communities at work or on the web around those topics, and explore options that will allow us to continually expand our knowledge.  What is it that makes this person completely different from the person who wants the checklist?  And, perhaps more importantly, how can we encourage or enable the checklist person to be more of an explorer?  Further, are there characteristics of each that should be emulated? I am convinced that learning does not have to take place in a classroom.  There are a variety of sources – free seminars (or webinars), social networking sites, interest groups at work, programs through professional organizations, blogs, etc. - that will allow us to learn and develop as individuals, co-workers and general human beings.  We as individuals, though, need to be responsible and accountable for our learning.  Yes, a classroom may be appropriate for some things.  Heck, even a checklist is appropriate at times. Challenge yourself to be responsible for your learning and accountable to yourself for expanding your knowledge.  My bet is that you'll be more engaged in what you're doing and more valuable to your employer.  Yes, we may be able to create the best training in the world, but it's up to each individual to consume and internalize what's out there.

“I don't care if you create the best training in the world.  If it doesn't change behavior, it doesn't do me any good.” These words were spoken to me by an executive vice president at an undisclosed...

Individual_Improvement

30 Ways to Foil Development Plan Dread

Yes, it's that time of year.  Again.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it (not that you have a choice) is to create your annual development plan.  Surprisingly (said with a lot of sarcasm), most people create their annual development plan about two or three days before their annual review.  Somehow, that seems a bit wrong! Unfortunately, I think this happens because most people look at a development plan as just another thing to do and just some more boxes to check off at the end of the year.  How many times have you thought "I don't have a clue what class I want to go to this year.  Heck, I don't even want to go to a class this year.  Who needs a development plan anyway?"   Here's a thought:  It doesn't have to be this way!! If you read my previous post, you read about the two questions - what do you want to do with your life, and what can you offer the world that nobody else can?  If you read the manifesto in its entirety, you may have even looked at your 1-year, 5-year and lifetime goals.  If that's the case, use your need to create a development plan to re-evaluate those goals and make sure you're on track with what you want to achieve. Employee development doesn't have to be just attending a class and checking a box at the end of the year.  Check out this list of 30 ideas for development activities.  You might just find something that is interesting to you!   Attend a local, regional or national conference. Be sure to bring your findings back to your team. MANAGERS: Make sure you provide the opportunity for sharing to occur. Present at a local, regional or national conference. If your company has an internal conference (user groups, engineering conference, etc), apply to present at that.  Actually present if accepted. Complete a course at your local university or at an online university. Finish your undergraduate or masters degree. Write an article for a professional publication or organization.  Be sure to check the submission requirements for the publication! Join a professional organization and attend a local chapter meeting or seminar. Attend a seminar or workshop offered outside of your company. Teach a TOI (transfer of information), Lunch & Learn or something similar for your team or another team in your organization. Create a video on a topic of your expertise and post it to your internal platform (Sun employees can use the Sun Learning Exchange) Review 2-3 journals or magazines every month to monitor industry trends.  You can access many journals through EBSCO Host - commonly available in public libraries with your library card. Read Harvard Business Review or California Management Review to understand business trends.  Both of these can be accessed through EBSCO Host as well. Pick out a top business book - read it and discuss it with your manager.  This would be a great opportunity to take your manager out for a cup of coffee to get his or her undivided attention. Select a technical book to review.  Discuss it with your team, your manager, or your mentor. Mentor another person. Ask someone to be your mentor. Volunteer on the board or a committee of a professional organization Google free webinar <insert topic> and see if there's a free webinar that interests you.  Attend and share what you learned with your team. Start a blog to share your thoughts with others. Participate in an online community - respond to a blog, start a group on LinkedIn or Facebook, etc. Attend an instructor led class offered through your company. Attend a web-based class offered through your company. Engage with local colleges to be a guest speaker or host a workshop on campus. Participate in Sun Technology Fairs at local campuses.  (Okay, this is really targeted toward Sun employees, but, hey, that's what I am!  You could adapt this to "participate in career fairs (or something similar) at your local colleges). Look for volunteer opportunities with state and local government agencies to provide IT help. Plan a technology fair, science fair or something similar for your company.  Recruit people to present and share ideas. Join an open source project and get involved in the product development, forums, or aliases. If you have a Masters degree, check with a local university or college about becoming an adjunct professor (sometimes called a contract or network instructor). Volunteer to teach computer skills (or your area of expertise) at a Senior Citizens Center. Ask your local school districts if they offer any kind of special event around kids and technology.  Volunteer at that event. BONUS 1: Coordinate an internal conference where best practices can be shared for a team within your company - a sales conference for sales people; an IT conference for your technical team, etc. BONUS 2: Volunteer to teach a class at a local Recreation Center or Community Center. BONUS 3: Apply to teach classes for a continuing education program (typically offered through local universities or community colleges). Okay, so I gave you a list of 33 when the title promised 30.  Sorry about that, but once I go started, I just couldn't stop.  Consider it a gift!  :) As you can see, there are many more options for "development" than just attending a class.  If you have other ideas that should be added to this list, please leave a comment in order to share with everyone else.  Hey, then you can add #20 to your plan! Happy planning!         

Yes, it's that time of year.  Again.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it (not that you have a choice) is to create your annual development plan.  Surprisingly (said with a lot of sarcasm),...

Individual_Improvement

Just Do It!

Apologies to Nike, but they were not the first to use the phrase “Just do it!” It's a phrase I heard often growing up as I had an older brother who wasn't afraid to double and triple-dog dare me. It's a phrase one of my Russian gymnastics coaches used to get me to do the tumbling pass that scared me. Although, Boris made it sound more like “DOOOOT!” It's a phrase I heard when I was standing at the end of a diving board after my swimming instructor said the diving board was just like the vault in gymnastics. Just for the record, you run a lot faster and harder for the vault than you need to for the diving board. Yea, you get the picture – the dive was pretty; the ending wasn't! And it's now a phrase I'm hearing as I contemplate jumping into that bigger pool of blogging. So why bother? I think that I might have something meaningful to contribute to the conversation around the importance of learning to improve yourself, those around around you and your organization or company.  The scary part is that you'll be the judge of that – not me. So,let's get started, shall we? ++++++ This time around, I'm hitting the topic of personal improvement.  Last week I found a manifesto with a catchy title: A Brief Guide to World Domination (and other important goals) – How to Live a Remarkable Life in a Conventional World. Who wouldn't want to read that? Chris Guillebeau, the author, believes that you can achieve remarkable personal goals, help others at the same time, and do so in a way that challenges conventional belief that mediocrity is good enough. In doing so, Chris puts forth two challenging questions: 1) What do you really want to get out of life? 2) What else can you offer the world that no one else can? I found myself nodding in agreement as Chris talked about setting 1-year, 5-year and lifetime goals and how they can help define the answer to question one. I found myself agreeing as Chris introduced examples of people who were really living a remarkable life and helping others at the same time – Randy Pausch, professor extraordinaire ; Sam Thompson, ultra marathon runner, and Matt and Jessica Flanery, founders of kiva.org. The overriding message in the manifesto is that you don't have to live your life the way other people expect you to. Other people will tell you that “it” (whatever your “it” is) can't be done, or that you need more experience, or that you need (fill in the blank). These are the gatekeepers – the people who want you to remain conventional and unremarkable. You can listen to these people, or you can listen to yourself. Chris does provide 11 tips on remaining unremarkably average. Four of my favorites are: Accept what people tell you at face value Don't question authority Don't stand out or draw attention to yourself Jump through hoops; Check off boxes  If you're still with me, you're probably intrigued by this manifesto as well. I guess that means you have an inner desire to be remarkable and a bit unconventional. Read the manifesto, answer the questions, complete the Ideal World exercise. Determine what it is you need to do to live a remarkable life. What you choose isn't the most important thing – what's important is that you pick something and then just do it.    

Apologies to Nike, but they were not the first to use the phrase “Just do it!” It's a phrase I heard often growing up as I had an older brother who wasn't afraid to double and triple-dog dare me. It's...