Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

An Ode to Mentors

September 1, 2019

BusinessMentoringMentors come in many shapes and sizes, from many backgrounds, with different interests. But in my experience, the best mentors have some key qualities.

  1. All great mentors have the type of broad and deep experience, preferably in a range of products/services/industries/markets. This doesn’t mean that every experience that a mentor had was successful, just that there are learnings from every experience. Indeed a mentor can’t effectively share their suggestions and insights with wisdom. 
  2. Successful mentors generally have their own successes in business and in life. ‘Success’ is loosely defined, but suffice to say that the mentee must respect the mentor as ‘successful’ in ways which are important to him or her. Indeed, it would be difficult to respect a mentor unless the mentee respects the successful experience of that mentor.
  3. Mentors are viewed as ‘influential‘ in specific ways, as defined by the mentee. The mentor might be influential for specific niches of people, or across broad groups of people, depending on the needs and interests of the mentee. 
  4. Although there have been good mentors who are less than humble, I find that those who are humble are more modest, more unassuming, more clear about their contributions and abilities, while also being more open to helping others also succeed.
  5. Most successful people, including successful mentors, are focused and goal-oriented. A great mentor knows how to make the mentee more focused and goal-oriented, while helping her or him keep an eye on the longer-term objectives, and helping him or her feel supported and balanced. 
  6. Great leaders have displayed perseverance and commitment, often overcoming extraordinary circumstances to achieve outrageous goals.  Great mentors help their mentees to do the same.
  7. Great mentors are principled, honorable and respectful leaders who teach others how to conduct themselves in the same manner.
  8. Great mentors are Self-Aware – they know their weaknesses and strengths and appreciate the strengths and weaknesses in others. They encourage and support others in being increasingly more self-aware.
  9. Great mentors make a point of including others in projects, successes and challenges. They know that added new and different perspectives will better benefit all participants.
  10. Great mentors are Life-time Learners who relish the opportunity to keep learning, and help mentees and others around them to embrace those learning opportunities as well.

Thank you to all great mentors who have touched me directly and indirectly. You helped me to better understand myself, and raised the bar so that I can be a better version of myself.

 

Energized by the opportunities life has to offer; never settling 

The Why, The What, The Who, The How

August 1, 2019

WhyWhetherWhat

I’m a world-changer… always have been. Now I’m ‘seasoned’ enough to embrace the label, not caring who thinks I’m ‘sappy’.  This post is for other world-changers out there.

Below are my thoughts about changing the world, based on my experience.

  1. If you want to change the world in a specific way, ask yourself the ‘why’ question. This ‘why’ question includes many sub-questions, including:
    • Why do you want to do it? What’s in it for you and others?
    • Who will it benefit?
    • What happens if you *don’t* do it?
    • What are the consequences for doing it?
  2. Do the market research to decide Whether you should adopt this problem.
    • Is solving the problem worth the time and energy?
    • Is solving the problem a top priority, given current needs and circumstances?
    • Who/what is solving the problem now and in what specific ways are they lacking?
    • How could an existing alternate solution support your requirements?
  3. Once you’ve satisfactorily answered the why and whether questions, and the sub-questions related to them, vet your responses to your trusted network.
    • Find or grow a broad, diverse, trusted network.
    • Know who will mentor and support you in which ways.
    • Recruit those with expertise in your areas of weakness.
    • Know the motivations of the participating parties.
  4. With the input and approval of trusted others, socialize for funding and resources for the project.
    • Ask your trusted network for their input on who would care most about the problem, who would most likely approve the solution, who feels the most pain, who would have the greatest opportunity if a solution should arise, etc.
    • Think outside the box. Who would be interested in supporting the project, but has not yet been approached?
    • How would the solution be in alignment with short-term and long-term goals for your product, for your team, for your company, for your industry?
  5. What will you do specifically to address the problem?
    • How will this new approach better address the problem than current alternatives?
    • What are the costs in money and resources?
    • What are the milestones and timelines?
    • What happens if it doesn’t work?
  6. Gather the input from a broad range of stakeholders on how to resolve the problem. From the network, select WHO will do WHAT to solve the problem, and why he/she/they are the best alternative.
    • What are the motivations of each potential partner?
    • How will each entity collaborate to deliver results?
    • Who will keep everyone on track?
  7. Work with all partners to decide HOW a solution will be implemented.
    • What does success look like?
    • How will success be measured?
    • In what specific ways will the new solution be improved over the old? Will it solve the pain-point?
    • How will results be gathered and reported?
  8. Assume that there WILL be problems and obstacles and hiccups. Persevere. But only if it still makes sense.
    • Adopt the mindset that what you get is what you wanted in the first place, even if it wasn’t.
    • Manage, lead, communicate, motivate . . . keep leading the way.
    • Proactively change your plans based on the problems you’re experiencing. Release your attachment to plans, people, processes, vision…
  9. Regardless of whether problems and obstacles occur, continually review and revise your plans to improve the likelihood of success.
    • How will successes (and challenges) impact your vision? your projections? your plan? your timeline? your stakeholders?
    • Leverage your trusted network to stay motivated, centered and unbiased.
  10. Rinse and repeat. Keep saving the world.

 

Keeping in Front of Change

July 1, 2019

Change

Change. It’s a part of life. And it can take your life apart.

If we accept that Change will happen, and probably not in the way you were expecting, we would be better positioned to navigate that change.  I hope this post helps build that Acceptance Mindset.

Clarity – Be clear on what the change is, and how it can, might, will impact you.

1.What is the problem:

  • at the world/global level? Where is it trending? What is the underlying cause?
  • at the industry level? How is it impacting other industries? Where are there inter-connects?
  • at the company level? How is the problem specific to 4. your company as compared to others? What caused this difference? What can be done about it?
  • at the team level? How is your team’s response different than that of other teams? Why is that so? Who can do something about it?
  • at the individual level? How can you manage yourself so that you can see clearly this and all of the above?

2. Be clear on the problem in detail, but also consider the following:

  • What’s the data that proves your position?
  • What data is relevant?
  • How could you verify that data?
  • What does that data mean?

Strategy – Once you’re clear on the change, you can begin strategizing on what to do about it, who is involved in solving that problem, how to make it happen, and what success looks like.

3. Enlist the right stakeholders to drive the strategy around managing the change. Start with *both* the executives in charge *and* the people at all levels who are critical for the project.

4. Working together, describe the problem you’re facing in detail, and its impact on others, the proposed solution with roles, responsibilities of participating stakeholders, timelines and milestones for tasks and projects; resources, information and funding necessary for success; and time-lined, quantifiable results.

5. Strategize on how to overcome objections and obstacles and how to build further ongoing engagement and collaboration.

Execution – Seamlessly, continuously, collaboratively drive execution and momentum.

6. Get ongoing buy-in from all internal and external stakeholders, as expressed by engagement, energy, commitment, results.

7. Proactively manage the egos. Plan for a collaborative, win-win, but expect that many will object to the change, and many may not be able to work with others to manage through the change.

8. Measure and communicate on progress to date.

9. Revisit the problem, strategy and execution.

Acceptance – Don’t fight it, roll with it. 

10. Change is inevitable. Change is personal. The trick is to make it *not* personal, even when it affects you so personally.

Park the emotional impact. Work on understanding the problem well, strategizing on how to manage everyone’s emotional and practical impact through that change, and executing on the plan.

You’re not alone. Helping others navigate through the changes will also help you stay ahead of change.

 

The ‘Yes-And’ People

June 7, 2019

WhatTheySay

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a translator sometimes? If we ask a direct question, sometimes a ‘yes’ response means ‘no’, a ‘no’ means ‘perhaps’, a ‘but’ could be good and could be not-so-good! Here’s my attempt at translating.

  1. If someone says ‘yes’, sometimes they mean ‘yes’, no problem. That’s easy.
  2. But if someone says ‘yes’, and it doesn’t feel good, maybe it means that they said ‘yes’ only to be polite and nice. If this is the case, and you can confirm it, take their ‘yes’ to actually mean ‘no’.
  3. If someone says ‘yes’, and adds a ‘but’ to it, that means that there are conditions involved. It’s often more important to look at the conditions behind the agreement, and the motivation for the other party to ask for those conditions. Often, it’s not worthwhile to accept those conditions.
  4. If someone says ‘yes’ and adds ‘not now’, it generally means that they are would be happy to do it, but at a different time.
  5. If someone says ‘no’ and means ‘H*CK NO’, it means don’t ask them for something similar in the future, unless something changes. Consider whether you’d like to have this person to be in your network, and also at what recent (or OLD) acts might make them have this mindset.
  6. If someone says ‘no’ and adds a ‘but’, it generally means that they would like to do it, but need a specific condition to be met in order to do it. I’m generally more inclined to make this agreement work than it they say yes with conditions).
  7. If someone says ‘no’ and adds ‘not now’, it means that they can’t now, but they can at a different time. I treat this much like a ‘yes but not now’ response.
  8. If someone says ‘no’ and adds an ‘and’, it generally means that they don’t want to do this, AND there are other things they don’t want to do, or want to be part of. Look closely at what recently has happened, especially if this is a new response. Perhaps a fence can be mended, an ego soothed?
  9. The best case is when someone says ‘yes’, knowing full well the breadth of the agreement and the bigger picture of the project. Moreover, that person has the vision to see a picture beyond what you can see yourself, the drive, energy and skills to make it happen, and the willingness to include you in the ride.
  10. I’ll end by asking you some questions:
    1. How can you get more people with #9 responses in your network?
    2. Who in your current network are giving you the direct and supportive responses to help you grow?
    3. Who else can you include in your network?

What does it take to lead?

May 1, 2019

Screen Shot 2019-04-12 at 4.47.24 PM

I am not the typical ‘leader’ – the distinguished, white, male, ivy-school graduate with the privileged background and

exclusive network. And yet I’ve been asked to speak on leadership and innovation for the past two decades. This week, I’m speaking on the topic of – What does it take to lead? I’m profiling an early experience, an early memory, to help everyone think deeply about what it takes to lead, how they are leading well, and what else they can do to fearlessly lead.

When I was five, I lived in Hong Kong and we were assigned so much homework it took me four hours to complete it. So I charmed my uncle into doing it for me. When my teacher asked who did my homework and why, I responded that my uncle did my homework because I thought that four hours of homework was excessive. I got sent back to my seat without a comment. We got much less homework. Everyone looked at me differently after that.

From this example, what does it take to lead?

  1. Self-Awareness.
    • It starts with knowing and understanding yourself and your fit with the circumstances of other people and things around you.
      • Be introspective enough to know yourself well – complete with motivations, strengths and weaknesses. Be curious enough to know others well, complete with motivations, strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Independence.
    • Leaders can think like everyone else does, and act like everyone else does, but they also have their own independent way of thinking and acting.
      • See the possibilities beyond following the status quo.
  3. Idealism.
    • Leaders don’t settle and accept circumstances which they feel are unjust. They are more likely to make a stand for a better world.
      • Which injustices do you face day-to-day? What are you doing about it in big and small thoughts, words and actions?
  4. Empowerment.
    • Leaders are empowered enough to believe that their thoughts, words and actions make a difference – one conversation, one leader, one organization at a time.
      • Change is never a given, but feeling empowered to make a change provides hope for a better world.
  5. Courage.
    • Leaders make a courageous stand for change, and are willing to accept the consequences for their role in fostering change.
      • Courage is not always in-your-face. It’s a subtle charm, a persuasive dialogue, an emotional appeal. Courage may or may not mean overcoming fear – but it does mean thinking, speaking and acting despite any fear you might have.
  6. Engagement.
    • Leaders care about others. They are engaged in the community, passionate for the greater good. If they weren’t they would not act on behalf of everyone else.
      • Be engaged – really care about what you do and who you do it with, regardless of what your leadership responsibilities are.
  7. Collaboration Mindset.
    • Leaders know they can’t do it themselves. They enlist allies, supporters, partners and seek win-for-all solutions.
      • Everyone has a piece of the puzzle. Welcome perspectives that stretch your own view of the problem set.
  8. Resourcefulness.
    • Leaders think outside the box to get ideas, resources and support necessary to foster change.
      • Invite people to complement the resources, plans, technologies you have in place.
  9. Commitment.
    • Leaders are committed to their community, to their cause… in their thinking, in their speaking and in their actions.
      • When you make a decision, be All-In. Don’t waffle and second-guess yourself. Be committed to the cause, unless it no longer makes sense to do so.
  10. Strategic Thinking.
    • Leaders think strategically about the problem, the people, and the solutions. They collaboratively work with players across the ecosystem to resolve the issue.
      • It takes an ethical leader who thinks broadly about problems and empowers a wide range of others to address that same problem from different fronts. There are so many moving pieces and so many players and resources involved. The leader *has* to think strategically on their feet.

What are *your* thoughts on what it takes to lead?

How will you push your *own* leadership potential?

How will you empower *others* to do the same?

Embrace Your Creativity

April 1, 2019

EmbraceCreative

This month’s post is a follow-up to last month’s post on Awaken the Creative in YOU – Part One, Why? and talks about the HOW. I’ve always been a bit of an original… a little bit ‘edgy’. But I’ve been trained and conditioned to streamline my thinking so that I can better communicate and understand what others mean.

This thinking inside-the-box is very efficient and useful – a standard to which most of us conform. But there are times when we need to embrace that creativity within us – times when breaking out of that box actually helps yourself and others think, speak and do things differently, in a way which would be embraced by all. Below are some tips for Embracing the Creative in YOU – Part Two, How?

  1. Accept that there are times to think ‘inside the box’, and times to think ‘outside the box’. Manage your creative releases accordingly.
  2. If you’ve been rewarded for thinking inside the box, it’s often hard to think outside that box. Try rewarding yourself (and others) for thinking, speaking and acting differently within specific contexts.
  3. Bring people from different backgrounds together on a common project and watch the magic unfold. How are they more similar than they thought and more different than they thought? What new idea, concept, occurrence took place when you combined them?
  4. Combine two different processes or solutions in solving a complex problem.
  5. Leverage a success from one circumstance and apply it to a completely different scenario, which might actually make sense.
  6. Combine elements of ‘wrong’ solutions might bring you closer to one that’s ‘right’.
  7. Bask in the people, processes, circumstances etc., which make you feel uncomfortable. Consider them learning opportunities – a chance to stretch and grow in new ways.
  8. Recall some early memories of judgments for those who aren’t following the rules, and how others respond to them. This ‘over-socialization‘ is likely impacting your creative edge. Choose to stretch your own boundaries if it would give you an edge.
  9. Shift your own perception about the creative people who have touched you in your life. The less you judge them for being ‘different’, the more welcome you will be to the parts of you who also want to be ‘different’ – in a good way.
  10. Embrace that creative spark in yourself. It’s not just for people who ‘live on the edge’.

Have fun with it, while you’re also solving problems with it!

Awaken the Creative in YOU – Part One, Why?

March 1, 2019

Creative-Why

After decades and decades of rewarding that left-brained, analytical thinking, the pendulum is swinging to again embrace the creative. This is part one of a two-part post which will cover the research on why the creative will benefit people, teams and companies. Next month’s follow-on post will cover how to embrace the creative.

  1. Creative leaders outperform their peers on key financial metricsCreativity’s bottom line: How winning companies turn creativity into business value and growth, McKinsey, June 2017
  2. In one survey, creative leaders scored 16 percent higher than the average consumer-facing company on an Innovation Performance Score –  Creativity’s bottom line: How winning companies turn creativity into business value and growth, McKinsey, June 2017
  3. A McKinsey study reported that, technology upgrades would lead to a decline of 375 million employees worldwide by 2030 in positions such office support, predictable labor, and other jobs, but there will be an increase in creative jobs, teachers, care-providers and technologists. What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages, McKinsey, November 2017
  4. In another study, fifty-eight percent of survey respondents reporting high creativity had 2013 revenues exceeding their 2012 revenues by 10% or more. In contrast, only 20% of less creative companies performed similarly.  The Creative Dividend: How Creativity Impacts Business Results
  5. Of those reporting market share leadership, creative companies outnumber their less creative counterparts by a factor of 1.5.  The Creative Dividend: How Creativity Impacts Business Results
  6. In the same survey, respondents who identified their firms as ‘creative’ were three times more likely to have received national attention. The Creative Dividend: How Creativity Impacts Business Results
  7. There are four types of innovation: Incremental Innovation, Disruptive Innovation (also known as stealth innovation), Architectural Innovation, and
    Radical innovation.  Creativity helps innovators to create and sustain high risk, high reward innovations. https://info.innocentive.com/open/innovation
  8. Disruptive innovations are caused by changes in market and business phenomena, not technology advancements. It takes analysis and creativity to understand these changing business model and business phenomena. Clayton Christenson, The Innovator’s Dilemma
  9. According to neuroscientists John Kounious and Mark Beeman, insight is a product of a relaxed brain. The more we concentrate and strain for inspiration, the less likely we are to get it. It follows that the more creative and relaxed we are, the more likely we are to see an insight. The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain, by John Kounios and Mark Beeman
  10. The four stages of idea generation according to Graham Wallis include Preparation, Incubation, Illumination, and Verification. Once you decide to do it and think about it, the clarity through creativity may come, as part of the idea generation process. The verification follows that step. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10400419.2015.1087277?journalCode=hcrj20

Next month’s post will brainstorm how to embrace the creative within yourself.

The Leader in YOU

February 1, 2019

intelligenceopennessindustrious

At our January 13 When She Speaks event, we talked about the importance of Communicating with, then Connecting and then Engaging people. Certainly these are all actions which leaders do well. But it had me thinking, what does it take to be a leader?

  1. There are projects where you’re not involved and your leadership is not necessary. You’re not a leader there, and shouldn’t be.
  2. There are projects where you’re not involved, but your leadership would make a huge difference. Which projects might they be? What value could you bring? Is it a priority for you to actually get involved?
  3. Some say that it’s intelligence alone which makes the leader.  But I say that if you’re intelligent, yet not open to other ideas, people and viewpoints, if you’re intelligent but not willing to work hard, you’re not a leader. You’re more a ‘Prima donna‘. I mean that in the nicest way, and I want to have compassion for people who are in this category, because I’ve been guilty of being that way before as well. It’s people who think that they are right and always right and too good, smart or superior to be open and hardworking. They are people who may not want to learn a new and better way of doing something, or people who use the data to prove that their own ideas and methodology is hands-down the best way with no exceptions. The rest of us, may not be as intelligent, but we are better leaders.
  4. It’s clear that being open and curious makes one more receptive to change and therefore better learners. But being open to all change and all learnings every time, all the time is going overboard. That’s like being a flag in the wind. It’s what my friend from Colombia calls an ‘Eggplant‘ – someone who takes on the flavor of the dish, without her/his own taste. You will need to be intelligent about what to integrate and how to implement changes. You need to work hard to make sure that the change is the right one, that the change will stick.
  5. In addition, it’s great to be hardworking, but being hard-working by itself is not sufficient, unless you also have intelligence and open. Consider the ‘Worker Bee‘. They are industrious working on someone else’s plan, without much thought, and without necessarily being open to a new way of doing something. This adds great value and has its place. There are times when what you need is mostly worker bees…
  6. Now to combine the qualities above. If you’re intelligent *and* open, but not necessarily hard-working, you’re a princess. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It feels good to be smart and open and powerful and privileged. But sometimes, you also need to be hardworking.
  7. If you’re hard-working *and* intelligent, but not open, then you’re a ‘Steward‘ – someone who has learned from many past successes and works hard to maintain these successful processes and systems. The down-side is that sometimes, these best practices no longer apply. So people must be open to new ways of doing things when change happens.
  8. If you’re open *and* hardworking, but not being intelligent, then you’re a ‘Wanna-bee‘. Again, there’s nothing wrong with being that way. You’re open to others’ ideas and plans and work hard to implement them. But sometimes you have to be intelligent and courageous enough to speak up and provide feedback and input and ideas to the current plan. Leaders reach for that bar, at the appropriate time.
  9. The Leader brings all three together – the intelligence to understand opportunities and challenges, the openness to learn and integrate new information and circumstances, and the work ethic to make something happen, despite impossible odds.
  10. Nobody is always any one thing all the time. But I hope that this post helps you understand your current mindset and the mindset of those around you. So that we can reach more strategically, more consciously to be the Leader in each of us.

Hope for a Better World

January 1, 2019

HopeBetterWorld

As the last whispers of an eventful year wind down, reflect and make plans for the new year.

  1. Find commonalities with others and seek common goals.
  2. Put the needs of others in front of your own, if the greater good is served.
  3. Strive for continuous improvement, never settling for ‘good-enough’.
  4. Be grateful for what you have, rather than pining for all you wish you had.
  5. Be more curious than instructive, more open than judgmental.
  6. Forgive others for their perceived transgressions, but forgive yourself first.
  7. Embrace the uncomfortable as opportunities, the unknown as gifts.
  8. Rise above the details and focus on the intentions and the goals.
  9. Take pride in your own skills and talents, while also learning from all others.
  10. Have faith that your own hope for a better world becomes contagious.

Best wishes for a peaceful, fruitful, successful new year.

Filled with Thanks

December 1, 2018

ThanksgivingPlacesetting

In a land at the heart of a grand tech dynasty, in an industry poised for additional astronomical growth, there was a company which offered a solution destined to succeed.

And in this company, there were Leaders with the vision to create a community of high-performing, high-integrity collaborators, who pushed their own personal abilities, and therefore the technology functionality, to help ensure access by the Multitude of others across the globe.

And working with these Leaders were high-performing Teams of developers, managers, specialists and engineers, dedicated to improving the technology and proactively serving their Customers. They were hard-working and driven, yet easy-to-please, humble yet exceptional, attentive yet independent, resourceful AND collaborative.

To celebrate this year’s Thanksgiving, the growing company barely fit into its cafeteria, in eager anticipation of their annual multi-course feast, complete with linen table service and fine China.

As a backdrop to the dinner filled with chatter and laughter, there were slides of thanks for each staff member, which brought additional smiles, laughter and the occasion misty-eyed sniffling and good-natured ribbing.

To culminate this grand affair, the Leaders stood as one, and each spoke sincerely of the gratitude they had for the people, the company, and the opportunity. And the microphones were then sent around to Others, who also voiced their thanks. The feeling of thanks permeated the room, radiating warmth and good cheer.

And the future will show that the People, the Teams, the Management will work together for many Thanks-Giving celebrations to come.