Monday Oct 10, 2011

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. 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:

  1. 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
  2. How much autonomy do you have over your tasks at work – your main responsibilities and what you do in a given day?
  3. 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
  4. 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.

Monday Sep 12, 2011

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!

Friday Aug 12, 2011

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. If your company has an internal conference (user groups, engineering conference, etc), apply to present at that.  Actually present if accepted.

  4. 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.

  5. If you want to “dip your toes” into virtual learning, Google free online course <insert topic> to see if anything is offered.

  6. Finish your undergraduate or Master’s degree.

  7. Write an article for a professional publication or organization.  Be sure to check the submission requirements for the publication!

  8. Join a professional organization and attend a local chapter meeting or seminar. If possible, serve in a leadership position at the local level.

  9. 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.”

  10. Teach a TOI (transfer of information), Lunch & Learn or something similar for your team or another team in your organization.

  11. 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)

  12. 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).

  13. Read Harvard Business Review or California Management Review to understand business trends.  Both of these can be accessed through EBSCO Host as well.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. Select a technical book to review.  Discuss it with your team, your manager, or your mentor.

  17. Mentor another person.

  18. Ask someone to be your mentor.

  19. Volunteer on the board or a committee of a professional organization

  20. 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.

  21. Start a blog to share your thoughts with others.

  22. Participate in an online community - respond to a blog, start a group on LinkedIn or Facebook, etc.

  23. For Oracle employees, participate in a Social Chat. This is a great tool for hearing grassroots ideas and sharing possibilities.

  24. Attend an instructor led class offered through your company.

  25. Attend a web-based class offered through your company.

  26. Engage with local colleges to be a guest speaker or host a workshop on campus.

  27. 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.

  28. Plan a technology fair, science fair or something similar for your company.  Recruit people to present and share ideas.

  29. Join an open source project and get involved in the product development, forums, or aliases.

  30. 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).

  31. Volunteer to teach computer skills (or your area of expertise) at a Senior Citizens Center.

  32. Ask your local school districts if they offer any kind of special event around kids and technology.  Volunteer at that event.

  33. 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.

  34. Volunteer to teach a class at a local Recreation Center or Community Center.

  35. 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.

  36. 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! 

Wednesday Apr 27, 2011

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:

  1. My boss gives me the information I need.
  2. My boss is good at pushing through and carrying out changes.
  3. My boss explains goals for our work so that I understand what they mean for my particular part of the task.
  4. I have sufficient power in relation to my responsibilities.
  5. 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?

Friday Apr 01, 2011

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:

  1. Be a good coach
  2. Empower your team and don’t micromanage
  3. Express interest in team members’ success and personal well-being
  4. Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented
  5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team
  6. Help your employees with career development
  7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team
  8. 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!

Monday Apr 05, 2010

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!


Monday Feb 08, 2010

"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.

Wednesday Feb 03, 2010

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 to 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.

Wednesday Jan 20, 2010

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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).

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. If you write a blog, export your blog and email that file to yourself or post it to Google Docs for backup.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.”

Thursday Dec 10, 2009

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  1. 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.

  2. 100 Ivy-League Learning Tools Anyone Can Access – a collection of courses, lectures, resource centers, and other tools from Ivy League universities.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.”

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  1. 100 Awesome iPhone Apps for Culture Snobs – fun and interesting links, but a definite time-sink. You've been warned. :)

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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)

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 100 Terrific Tips & Tools for Blogging Librariansdon't be put off by the “for Librarians” part – the tips will make anyone a better blogger, regardless of your topic!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  1. 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.

  2. 99 Essential Twitter Tools and Applications – If you tweet, these tools and apps may make you more effective.

  3. 47 Awesome Twitter Tools You Should be Using – more Twitter effectiveness coming your way

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 50 Best Firefox extensions for Powerful Browsing – Get the most from Firefox when you're surfing the web – try some of these extensions.

  10. 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.

  11. Top 10 Must-Have Firefox Extensions, 2009 Edition – Lifehacker.com provides this list of the “ultimate” Firefox extensions for 2009.




Thursday Aug 06, 2009

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:

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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!).

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

Friday May 29, 2009

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.

  1. Delight in the Little Things. Most people see a weed; my daughter points out each dandelion that has morphed into a "wishing flower."

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. 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.

  6. 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."

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

Thursday May 28, 2009

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 PlanKnow 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:

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!



Friday Sep 19, 2008

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!

Friday Sep 12, 2008

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?

About

Sandy's ideas about learning, organizational & personal improvement and other stuff.

I work on Oracle's Leadership Development team, but all thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely my own!

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