Wednesday Apr 16, 2014

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!

Monday Mar 10, 2014

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.

Tuesday Nov 12, 2013

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 I 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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.

Thursday Aug 08, 2013

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!

Monday Feb 18, 2013

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

Tuesday Jan 15, 2013

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!

Thursday Jun 07, 2012

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.

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! 

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.”


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!

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 ( 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 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 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 – 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 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.

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 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?


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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