Relationship

My Soapbox: Trust, Accountability, Empowerment: All that matters

Building relationships based on respect

People who have worked with me before have heard me on this particular soapbox quite a bit and for those I will suggest maybe they don’t need to read this particular blog. There will be nothing new here. That said, it is perhaps because I continue to hear stories from great talent I have met around the world that are working with people that still do not get it.

It is for these people that I write this blog.

Executives get busy and they get stressed. Markets start to squeeze and pressure mounts, causing many to revert to the old command and control techniques they used in prior decades. When the kitchen heats up, they forget the basics. I believe some need to be reminded of a basic principle that should be obvious to all: Organizations are successful when there is a strong relationship of respect among leaders at all levels.

Now, before I go further, let me be absolutely clear: effective leadership requires adapting your style from time to time to appropriately handle a given challenge. There are times for diplomacy, inclusion, and democracy (e.g., complex problem), and there are times for command and control (e.g., during an urgent crisis). However, underlying your leadership style, and regardless of the type of problem, the relationship of respect must prevail.

A relationship of respect requires three key elements: trust, accountability, and empowerment.

Every team that has worked with me over the past decade will have heard me speak explicitly of the three simple things that I feel are the most important elements of effective, increasingly global, teams. I sincerely hope that those that worked with me before that will see in this blog some of the elements of our team work that worked best even if we never put it to words.

Trust. Accountability. Empowerment.

You will notice that none of them involve bureaucracy, centralization, or added layers without added value! It also does not require being “nice”.


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Trust: We must build and maintain levels of trust across borders and business units, recognizing the unique strengths and backgrounds of each individual. In companies that are complex, especially with multiple business units and geographies, the absence of trust can cause money, time, and valuable resources to be wasted on duplicated efforts.

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Accountability: We must be a respectful organization and a collegiate one, but all of us must be held accountable as well. Accountability goes hand in hand with trust. When we all understand each other’s respective areas of responsibility and accountability, we create a culture of trust, and we can focus on the services and solutions we deliver and the goals we want to achieve without distraction.

It is important to note that accountability is as much about what is accomplished as it is about how it is accomplished. If you’re an a-hole, regardless of your delivery skills, people will find it hard to trust you and the relationship of respect will be difficult.

Empowerment-Zone.jpg.728x520_q85Empowerment: People must be allowed to make decisions and drive change without being micromanaged and without needing to get multiple approvals; they must be allowed to be leaders. Just as importantly, we must enable those whom we empower. Power without training is not a formula for success. Empowerment is about giving a person the ability to manage something tangible that adds value, but also about working with that individual to help him or her succeed.

Leadership is not easy, and successful teams are elusive to many people. But, with some basic focus on respect and these key principles, you will at minimum have the right foundation for success.

Be Well. Lead On.

Adam

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Ready. Aim. Do it.

A New Beginning

Every day is a new beginning. All of life provides opportunities for new beginnings. Whatever has gone wrong, or right, in your life, you can begin again.
Jonathan L. Huie

New beginnings can be nerve wrecking. You spend years building a team, finding the people you can trust to get things done and do so in a values based manner. You drive strategy and create value for shareholders. And you check off so many boxes, proudly getting to a point where you can finally rest and look at the great things you and the team created …. and then you move on to the next challenge.

YIKES!! So much for resting.

“Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time” Arnold H. Glasgow

If I’m honest with myself, I will admit that I will likely never get to truly resting until retirement (target TBD). The fact is, I love gnarly, complex, global challenges and am thankful I have found that in my new role.

Leaders at All Levels

Top 12 Quotes on LeadershipI am incredibly excited about this new adventure and will enjoy getting to meet the new teams around the world. One concept I have constantly addressed that I expect will be highly relevant here is the fact that everyone in today’s technology organizations must be leaders. From time to time, everyone will be called on to make decisions, act independantly, and respond to crises without time to go up the chain for days.

You can’t always wait for the guys at the top. Every manager at every level in the organization has an opportunity, big or small, to do something. Every manager’s got some sphere of autonomy. Don’t pass the buck up the line.
Bob Anderson

I blogged about this a while back with “Leaders at All Levels”

Chicago

Chicago

I LOVE Chicago, the place I have called home for so many years. And I love having the opportunity to give back to the community in which I love. Living in London over the past two years was an amazing adventure, the opportunity to more deeply explore another great city, and to work with colleagues in other European cities. While my prior role required that I moved to London for a while, I am confident that the relationships I built in Chicago will continue to grow. And, of course, I hope to see many of my friends from London throughout the year. Visit!!

As Marilyn Monroe said, “A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.” So I expect my friends to trek on over to see me from time to time, share a lager or a cup of coffee, and warm my heart with their presence!

Let’s Go

Two great quotes come to mind as I contemplate the week ahead and my new adventure:

“If your work is becoming uninteresting, so are you. Work is an inanimate thing and can be made lively and interesting only by injecting yourself into it. Your job is only as big as you are.” George C. Hubbs

“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.” Henry Ford

I’ve enjoyed my time to reflect on the good and bad aspects of my prior leadership role, and the opportunity to give back via non-profit and civic consulting. But it’s time to go back to corporate, tackle this new and exciting challenge, and meet a new batch of great people with whom I hope to build something great.

Be Well. Lead On.

Adam

Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections
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Adam at Sunset

This blog is a revision of a prior post.

Leadership

Life Lessons (Guest Blog by Robert Acton)

Guest Blog

Connections Life Lessons: Leaders Share Their Stories

One of the greatest aspects of my career, education, and life in general has been meeting people. I love meeting people and getting to know their stories, what makes them tick and how they handle life challenges. I have met several leaders over the years and I want to give voice to their stories. Thus, I have asked a few of them to share their stories as part of my Connections blog. I will not set a schedule but will share these when I receive them. I hope that by sharing their stories, you get to know a great leader but also perhaps see a bit of your story in theirs. Perhaps we can learn from each other in this manner.

This guest blog is from someone I have become friends with personally after years of working together professionally. Rob Acton was Executive Director of Cabrini Green Legal Aid when he recruited me to join their Board of Directors. While he has moved on to other great things, I continue to serve on the Board. More importantly, we have become good friends. Rob is smart, passionate, and a true leader already. Yet, he is willing to learn from others, as well as from his personal successes and failures. With all the great things behind him, I expect even gather things ahead and am honored to share his thoughts on good leaders.

If you would like to guest blog as part of this series, please contact me via twitter, LinkedIn, or by posting a comment on this blog.

Be Well. Lead On. 

Adam

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leadership-definition

In the Presence of Great Leaders
Robert B. Acton
Executive Director – Taproot Foundation New York

I am inspired by great leaders. They are rare. There is no objective measure for great leadership, no certificate or title, but when you’re in the presence of one, you know it.

The handful of great leaders I’ve interacted with have a set of characteristics in common:

1. They are obsessively passionate about the mission they are leading. Their commitment to its success is unwavering.

2. They inspire people by telling great stories. Their scope of knowledge is both deep and wide, but they really connect when they tell stories.

3. They are both confident and humble. Their confidence engenders loyalty to their cause. Their humility engenders loyalty to them.

4. They are wise. They have experienced a lot of learning over the years and know how to synthesize and apply it to new and changing circumstances and environments. They make good judgment calls.

5. They invest heavily in others. Without anything to gain, they carve out quality time for high potential people who can learn from them.

6. They experience life with unfettered enthusiasm, even joy. Each day is an adventure. A day without a hill to take is a day wasted. They live life with the accelerator pressed to the floor, every day.

7. They are easily moved. They laugh and they cry.

8. They are guided by deep-seeded values. They know they can’t fake it and wouldn’t want to anyhow. Their core is firmly in tact.

9. They love people. Actually, they are obsessed with people. They are usually the last to leave a room if there are interesting people to meet and conversations to be had. They always make time that they don’t have for people.

10. They have a masterful base of knowledge. They know their area of expertise, of course, but that’s the easy part. More impressively, they know three important things about your area of expertise, as well.

A few such leaders I’ve been privileged to know well: Charles Middleton. Tony Campolo. Sylvia Reynolds. Laura Truax.

Some I’ve observed briefly, or from afar: Tim King. Sterling Speirn. Bill Clinton. Ken Chanault. Cathy Trower.

My aspiration is less about reaching a particular job and more about “becoming” — learning more and more how to be reflective of these truly great leaders.

That’s what year 45 will be about.
Leadership

About the Author:

 

Rob Acton

Rob Acton

As New York City’s Executive Director, Rob Acton sets the strategic direction for Taproot Foundation and the pro bono movement in America’s most populous city. He is known for belting out Broadway show tunes at the photocopier and trying to measure everything. Prior to joining Taproot, Rob spent over 20 years leading nonprofits, working in direct services and engaging in policy efforts designed to bring opportunity, justice, fair-treatment and second chances to residents of Brooklyn, Harlem, Chicago and Jackson, Mich. Most recently, Rob served for seven years as Executive Director of Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA), overseeing the delivery of free legal representation to more than 22,000 low-income clients. During his tenure, CGLA expanded ten fold the number of clients served and tripled the agency’s annual budget. In May 2008, CGLA received the prestigious Alford-Axelson Award for Nonprofit Managerial Excellence. Rob’s roots in NYC run deep having worked at a number of nonprofits including Legal Outreach, Inc. and the Brooklyn Juvenile Rights Division of Legal Aid Society. He has served on a number of nonprofit boards and has taught graduate level nonprofit leadership at DePaul Law School and North Park University. He earned his J.D. from Brooklyn Law School and B.A. in Philosophy and Religion from Spring Arbor University. Rob calls New York City home and his favorite root vegetable is the sweet potato, especially in the form of pie.

Life Lessons (Guest Blog by Marquis Parker)

Guest Blog

Connections Life Lessons: Leaders Share Their Stories

One of the greatest aspects of my career, education, and life in general has been meeting people. I love meeting people and getting to know their stories, what makes them tick and how they handle life challenges. I have met several leaders over the years and I want to give voice to their stories. Thus, I have asked a few of them to share their stories as part of my Connections blog. I will not set a schedule but will share these when I receive them. I hope that by sharing their stories, you get to know a great leader but also perhaps see a bit of your story in theirs. Perhaps we can learn from each other in this manner.

This guest blog is from someone who has already made tremendous strides in his professional career, having a successful stint at McKinsey and Company and years of Aon experience under his belt. Marquis Parker, an energetic, ambitious, and confident young leader, also has degrees from prestigious universities including Princeton and Stanford. With all the great things behind him, i expect even gather things ahead and am honored to post an excerpt from his blog “Amazing what one can learn in 10 years”. Since this is just an excerpt of a very well written blog, I encourage you to read and comment on the entire blog here.

If you would like to guest blog as part of this series, please contact me via twitter, LinkedIn, or by posting a comment on this blog.

Be Well. Lead On. 

Adam

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——————–

Amazing what one can learn in 10 years

Marquis Parker (excerpts selected by Adam L. Stanley)
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I originally started this blog to share my story as an MBA applicant, but, over the years, it morphed into something totally different. For the past few years, I’ve used this blog as a forum to answer questions from my readers as a way to share the learnings that I’ve acquired from stumbling through my education and career without having been taught the “right way” to do it all; I figure that I’ve already endured the bumps and bruises, so I should use that to keep others from having to do the same.

Below, I’ve provided my top 10 life lessons learned from my last 10 years of educational, professional, and real life experiences. Many of these items are somewhat basic in nature, but all of them were true revelations for me when they hit me and have helped me become the man that I am today.

1. Be thankful for what you’ve got

My advice here is that, no matter how dissatisfied you may be with your current situation (e.g., job, career path, financial standing), just remember that someone else could have it worse. If you hate your job, think about all of the folks who would kill to have any job at all. If you’d say that you’re not advancing quickly enough in your career, make sure to appreciate that you have a career at all…many recent grads would give anything to trade places with you and have a chance to start their careers. Lots of people complain about their homes, cars, clothes, possessions, etc., but I’d bet that they don’t think others who have lost everything or are barely hanging on in the aftermath of the economic crisis. It’s real out in these streets.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work hard and fight for what you really want…We all deserve the right to do that. That said, I would strongly encourage you to be thankful for what you have in the present when trying to build for the future. Keeping the proper perspective will be very helpful in truly appreciating advancements once you get them.

2. “Be ruthless with your time”

This is a holdover from my 2006 list of lessons after graduating from Stanford GSB. I took the quote from one of my favorite GSB professors, Jim Ellis, from a list of tips that he gave in our final ‘Managing Growing Enterprises’ session.

You’d be surprised at how quickly your time can be taken up by others and, next thing you know, you won’t be left with any for things that YOU need to prioritize, like getting your work done, spending time with the people who matter to you, and, most importantly, sleep/health. It took me a while before I realized that this had happened to me again, but, when I did, I made changes to follow Prof. Ellis’s advice and start being ruthless with my time. I started budgeting in time to hit the gym, spend more time with my peoples, run around out in the streets, and sometimes simply do nothing productive at all (which was a major change for me). It was GREAT and had a huge impact on my overall stress level.

If you take only one thing away from this list, I hope it is this point… It’s great to want to give of yourself to help everyone, do everything, and have impact everywhere, but, sometimes, you just need to focus on you and what you need. Time is a resource that is non-renewable. Make sure that you focus on being ruthless when it comes to yours.

3. Find an anchor for your confidence

I’m a firm believer that honing in on a few things that make a person distinctive/interesting/great is a bulletproof way to not only develop one’s confidence, but also to maintain it, even in the face of struggles or failure.

4. Optimize on building meaningful relationships, both personal and professional

Some may think that ‘connections‘ and ‘relationships‘ are the same, but I see them as separate ideas, with the latter being much more valuable.

Here’s how I think about it:
Connection: Being linked to a person in some manner, but not necessarily in a “deep” way; Similar to “having met” someone versus “knowing” that person; Can be established without having actually met or even spoken to a person; Connections can be established for any number of reasons, including being alumni of the same (or peer) academic institution, having worked for the same company, similar industry/functional/career interest, and mutual connections

Relationship: [Instead of defining this myself, I’ll rely on the one from Wikipedia] Strong, deep, or close association/acquaintance between two or more people that may range in duration from brief to enduring. This association may be based on inference, love, solidarity, regular business interactions, or some other type of social commitment; The distinction here is that the parties involved have put in work to move past simply being connected and toward really getting to know each other; Relationships provide a foundation for ongoing engagement and mutual benefit for both people

5. Treat your network like it has value…because it does!!!

This item ties directly into the previous one. Once one has developed a set of meaningful relationships, he/she will have the foundation for a diverse and potentially productive network, which would include friends, colleagues, associates, and acquaintances. These connections could lead to job opportunities, introductions to notable people, help/support in some kind of initiative, or any other of a long list of benefits. Due to what’s at stake, It is crucial to be thoughtful about how you manage and leverage your network because destroying/damaging it is much easier than developing it in the first place.

I’ve either experienced or heard of many instances where people have been unwise in interactions with folks in their networks, often resulting in permanent changes in how they are seen by those connections. Actions like flaking on scheduled phone calls, showing up late to meetings, not being prepared to have a meaningful discussion, being overly informal, taking a long time to respond to communications, and not following through on commitments can end up having lasting effects. In many of these cases, the person may not even realize that he/she did something improper, but, once the damage is done, it likely can’t be undone.

6. “Know when to hold ‘em…know when to fold ‘em”

Life is basically a series of gambles on a bunch of factors, like education, relationships, career, and health. Winning at the game of life requires getting enough wins in these individual gambles, whether it’s by being dealt a strong hand, using the right strategy, or blind luck. In other words, you should aim to handle those “gambles” in the best way possible in order to end up with the best overall result.

Anyone who plays poker knows that, in some games, you can end up with cards so good that you want to immediately raise your bet. In other games, your cards might be so iffy that the best move is to fold and get out of the hand. In the series of “gambles” that make up life, it is sometimes best to “lay down your cards” and exit a given situation.

7. Be open to accepting feedback AND be willing to give it

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, feedback is defined as “helpful information or criticism that is given to someone to say what can be done to improve a performance, product, etc.“…in other words, feedback is supposed to be seen as a good thing. If asked, most people would probably describe themselves as feedback-seeking and then go on list the many benefits associated with it. But, in reality, when comments that aren’t necessarily glowing come their way, a lot of people are quick change their tunes. Having lived and worked in a few feedback-heavy environments, I have quite a few thoughts on the topic.

8. Recognize that it’s OK to have a chip on your shoulder as long as it serves as motivation to achieve more

I’ll start by acknowledging that many people will disagree with this item and may see me as spreading a negative message, likely due to the negative connotation of having a chip on one’s shoulder. Some assume that it is an indicator of a person being quick to argue or to see someone else as doing him/her wrong (whether justified or not). I choose to view it differently.

I understand that some people with chips on their shoulders end up bringing negativity with them wherever they go, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. What about the instances where a person uses it as a push to aim higher than he/she would have otherwise? Or, what about it being a way for someone to motivate him-/herself to overcome perceived roadblocks on the road to success? I’d argue that this can be a win if done productively.

9. Don’t be afraid to go for the “Hail Mary“

Some you may have heard of the term Big Hairy Audacious Goal, which is a similar concept, but what I’m referring to here is different. If something is a goal, the implication is that one has thought about it thoroughly beforehand and *hopefully* develops a methodical plan to achieve it. With the Hail Mary, I’m talking about making an attempt to do something that seems so far away from being possible that it wouldn’t even qualify as a valid goal. It’s like taking the idea of a “stretch goal” and stretching it so far that it sort of doesn’t even make sense. Feel me?

10. Remember that everyone deserves a chance to win

From what I’ve seen, one of the biggest factors in achieving success is simply having a legitimate chance to do so. There is a school of thought that says anyone can find an opportunity if he/she is willing to work hard, sacrifice, be flexible, etc. in order to make it happen. For many in our society, that school of thought is just plain wrong and, sadly, that’s just the way of the world. I believe that it is up to those of us who have found some measure of success to recognize this fact and do what we can to help these folks get their shot.

Looking back over the above list, I can’t help but be amazed at how much life experience can teach a person over time. It isn’t always easy to see those lessons as positives instead of setbacks, but time has a way of providing the right kind of perspective.

Of course, many items in my list seem basic to many of you, but, for a guy who didn’t really get these things until his late 20s and the first half of his 30s, they were literally life-changing. Also, folks tend to assume that it’s been an easy road for me because of what I’ve accomplished, but that couldn’t be further from reality. So, it’s refreshing to think back and realize what hard work, sacrifice, and the hustle has made possible for a scraggly little dude from the country (VA represent!).

About the Author:
Marquis Parker is a business leader, coach, advisor, mentor, and award-winning blogger on topics of MBA student life and admissions, careers, and business concepts. He has experience in formulating strategies and analyzing mission critical issues for companies ranging from government and public sector entities to global private sector organizations. Throughout his career, he has acquired a broad set of educational and career experiences grounded in Business Operations, Strategy, Technology, Private Equity, and Education. In addition, Marquis has served as an advisor and/or Board member to several small businesses and non-profit organizations, including InstaSafe, McRae’s Foods, The Friends of Sinai Children’s Hospital, and Higher Praise Ministries.

Currently, Marquis is a Vice President of Strategic Projects for the U.S. division of Aon Affinity, which specializes in developing, marketing, and administering customized insurance programs and specialty market solutions for affinity organizations and their members or affiliates. Also, for the remainder of 2013, he is serving a secondary role as a Vice President of Global Operations for Aon Broking, which integrates the insurance broking infrastructure of Aon Risk Solutions across its retail, wholesale, and specialty businesses in 120 countries. Since joining Aon plc, a $12B provider of risk management, reinsurance, and human capital advisory services, in 2010, he has held leadership roles in strategy and business operations in 3 of its 4 operating business units, including a stint as a Vice President on the “special projects” team for Aon’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

My soapbox: Aim for life connections instead of networking

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Networking or making life connectionsI met someone this afternoon with whom I truly felt an immediate connection. It was scheduled to be a “career conversation” but instead was an open introduction, over tea, and very casual. The conversation reminded me of a question someone asked me recently: “How can I get better at networking like you?” Those who truly know me realize just how much this question disturbs me. But to many, this would be considered flattery. I do not consider it so at all.

The fact is, I am not a networker. In fact, I detest networking.

Networking is to me a very clinical term, and reminds me of the technology of networking. I know that like various applications in a bank, I am connected to various people. Some linkages were planned and chosen carefully, others stepped in to a role that was by default in my network. Within a network, we depend on each other to work and do our part, and if one portion of the network is significantly damaged, the rest of the network is damaged. I know that to some extent, my success depends on others in the network being able to carry something from me and me in exchange carrying something back. Networking is a fact of corporate (and community) life. However …

I am not a circuit or a router. I am a human being.

When I am in my final minutes of life, perhaps I will think to myself, “If only I had made that one additional link that would have opened up my network to another dimension!” Of course not! I like people. (Of all types! Really! Click here for a blog I wrote on the topic, noting that yes, I even love jerks and *€$holes. I just don’t necessarily want to work with them.) In any corporate network, there must be someone that is necessary but not wanted. God, I never want to be that person.

I prefer to make life connections.

Life connections are not always about business. Some examples:

– Getting to know all of the bartenders at the Artesian Bar at the Langham Hotel in London. Learning how each came from their home countries of Italy, Russia, and elsewhere, to London and why they are so passionate about cocktails. Enjoying a laugh or two whilst enjoying a cocktail or three. Side bonus: I have been introduced to a popular chef/mixologist in my hometown of Chicago for when I return. Plus, the Artesian has become a great place I can bring clients, colleagues, and other connections.

– Building a relationship of trust with my vendor partners and colleagues whereby they share personal details of their lives with me and allow me into their world. Sharing a good meal and a great bottle of wine with no talk of contracts or issues. Side bonus: we find connections we did not know existed and ways in which we can help each other out in so many more ways that traditional sourcing relationships. And, as we move to different roles in different organizations, we can call on each other for advice and support.

– Introducing two people, not because I think they can help each other, but because I just think they are both just really really cool people. Watching them get to know each other and become friends. Side bonus: people have done the same to me, bringing some of the most wonderful people I currently know into my life.

– Having a cocktail party at my house with a mixture of people I have met through work, the neighborhood coffee shop, and other connection points. Looking around and seeing there are people from five different countries with incomes and careers as diverse as chalk and cheese. Witnessing how they all learn from each other: new recipes, fashion styles, tax policy changes, technologies, dating schemes, relationship tips…. Side bonus: Learning myself about all of the above!

Many people will classify the above as examples of networking, and perhaps they are. And, to be clear, I’m not necessarily against networking entirely. I just think it is critical people start with the right perspective. And be honest! If you really just want to meet me for what I can do for you, or who I can introduce, just come out and say it. At least you will save some time! But, I encourage you to take some time to get to know yourself better, enjoy meeting people just because, and see the amazing things that will come out of your connections forged by respect, trust, and integrity. It is amazing how much more one can get from a relationship when he leads from the heart and the mind.

Enough! Off the soapbox, here is some reading …

For those of you who REALLY want to get good at Networking, especially the shy ones, here is a decent CIO magazine article on the topic.

For those of you who like me want to learn how to be a better person and know that success that comes from good just feels better inside, there are a couple of good links for you. Yes, they are a bit kooky. And there will be some who succeed despite being downright bad people (I can name a few.) But, I choose to succeed, or fail, with my values intact. Here are a few links for you:
24 ways to be a better person
How to be a good person in 5 steps

And for those few out there (certainly not a regular reader of my rants) that are downright sinister and yet deep down feel they want to be good, there is even some help for you. I found this one both intriguing and humorous.

Thanks for reading another soapbox rant. I would love to hear what you think about networking and making life connections.

Be Well. Lead On.

Adam

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Change Ahead

Yet another blog about Change!

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Building Airplanes in the Air

EDS (now part of HP of course) ran a fantastic ad campaign years ago that highlighted how they help businesses manage through periods of major transformation. My favorite was called “Airplane” and showed a team of employees working on building a new airplane in the air. Yep, I wrote that right. In the commercial, filmed reality show style, there are several people who are discussing their pride in what they do. What do they do? Build airplanes while the planes are actually flying. Despite being a bit awkward in post September 11 times, the ad has always been such a great metaphor for what so many of us in Technology leadership roles have to do.

Transformation is never easy to begin with, and is made even harder by the mere fact that business does not stop and wait for you to finish with your initiative. While building the future, you must still keep the present up and running. Like building an airplane that is still flying!

The only way you can be successful in an environment like this is by remembering these principles:

1) Surround yourself with good people.
I can’t believe I am quoting Oprah Winfrey in one of my blogs but one must admit she clearly knows how to lead and drive change. One of her popular statements was “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” I completely agree this is essential. People who surround themselves with positive people naturally become more positive. Likewise, surrounding yourself with depressing, negative people leads to adopting their attitude.

But your team members can’t simply be positive thinkers. You need talent! I worked with a manager once who truly seemed intent on only hiring people who were not as smart as he was. Perhaps it was ego, perhaps insecurity, but it seemed that he was always needed to make decisions, solve problems, and break impasses. His people were neither empowered nor enabled to drive effective change. If you hire down, your organization dies. Period. I strive to always surround myself with people who are complimentary. I know my strengths and weaknesses, so why would I hire someone with the same strengths and weaknesses?

Find people that are intelligent but flexible, driven but not mercenary, loyal but not naive. Your change will be more successful. In the airplane example, a pilot only needs one co-pilot. The rest of the crew know more about customer service, cabin safety, in-flight entertainment and dining. They speak with clients more regularly and can get a sense of satisfaction. The team is made better because there are lots of good people doing their part to make the whole better. That should always be our goal!

2) Think like the successful automakers do. When I recently tried to explain how I think Technology shops should run with respect to relationship between Service (run) and Change components I thought of Mercedes Benz, my beloved car company. The change teams at Mercedes, those designing new cars and features, get a lot of glory when the next big thing is announced. Yet most people buy Mercedes both because of the design and styling of the car AND the fantastic service experience of owners.

  • The Design team constantly thinks of service while designing: periodic service alerts, inboard monitors, quality control, etc. They do not sit in an ivory tower in Stuutgart making stuff up! They talk to Service, Sales, and others to seek out ideas for what comes next.
  • The Service team, while striving to deliver quality service when you visit for service, also continuously feeds back to the design team things that need to be improved. And sometimes they advise the customers on how features in newer models go even further to address certain issues. Service is frequently the best source for add-on sales and upgrades!

Think about it! What if everyone in Technology worked in this mutually beneficial relationship structure? Applications would be designed for performance, infrastructures would be built to last, and customers would have a better overall experience “driving” the best solutions for their unique needs.

If we never forget the important relationship between change and run, we can effectively manage “building planes in the air”.

3) Communicate with your customers
Think about the last time you were on an airplane, or perhaps even in a taxi. Often the pilot or driver will inform passengers at the very start of the journey of pending problems. Turbulence ahead! A lot of traffic in one particular area may delay arrival! The light above your seat does not work! But on United Airlines in particular, you are also greeted at the beginning of the flight with a video from the CEO. In his intro, he highlights changes being made, explains any temporary issues that may frustrate clients, and thanks them for their loyalty and patience.

How many of our internal clients would be shocked to hear such messages?
Dear Clients: 1) We are going through a period of change that will bring enhanced stability, service, and innovation to better enable your success. 2) We know there will be some times of disruption and instability in the current environment and of course we will do all we can to minimize impact. 3) Thank you so much for your patience and support. Please know that everything we do is to add value for you.

Don’t surprise your clients with change, or downplay the risk so significantly you lose credibility. Be honest. Be open. Be consistent. And, of course, if the change is not something that adds value, rethink doing it at all!!

Let me know what you think. How do you effectively handle major changes while still managing to keeps things going? How do you build airplanes in the air?

Be Well. Lead On.

Adam

This blog was originally posted Feb 2012. Reblogged Sept 2012.

Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswhartonAdam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

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Top Traits: Fun to Work With

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Defining the perfect employees

Let’s face it, for most people work is a means to an end. You work so that you can eat, keep your brain active, connect with other people, learn, or reach some apex in your ambitious plan to take over the world…. Whatever the reason, for very few people work is about finding intense joy and personal satisfaction every hour of every day. That is simply not reality. But, like any other required part of our lives, we can choose how we want to handle work. We can come in every day, do what is required, talk to nobody, and leave. Or we can bring a smile into the office, do our jobs and encourage others to do theirs, and try to bring fun into what can be otherwise mundane or stressful.

I worked with someone for years that was by far the very best at a particular function. This individual was 1)Both talented and hard working, and 2)showed a true pride in the products he created…..good so far, right? If you’ve read my two preceding “Top Traits” blogs, you’d say he is a perfect employee. But wait! This person was so depressing, so negative, and so, well, just not fun! There were days where despite the value I could get out of a conversation, I could simply not do it. It would drag me down into a depression instead of inspiring me to be better. Like the Dementor guards of the Azkaban prison in the Harry Potter movies, this kind of person can simply suck the soul out of a team, an office, or a company. Which brings me to my third top trait ….

… Trait # 3 – Fun to Work WithFun People

If you’ve done interviews, you’ve perhaps been asked to assess “fit” with the culture of your particular company. When I started my career, I thought those interviews were inappropriate. Fit translated into Golf Club network, family connections, and politics. But as I advanced, I realised more and more that fit can make or break a leader. A leader whose style is perfect at one place will bomb elsewhere. So, to be clear, being fun isn’t always going to make you successful. You still must deliver. This is my personal opinion and what I personally look for. I want employees that are fun to work with. Period.

What I like

There are some people that simply bring joy to the office. They bring smiles, jokes, the occasional cupcake or brownie …. They bring personality and just enough of themselves to break down barriers and create a culture of openness that makes work more rewarding.

I’m not talking about class clown, chronic joking, or distraction. I’m talking about balancing the “what” with the “how”. Say you have a complex team challenge that must get done in 24 hours. You have to work pretty hard to get it done and, especially as a leader, you can be a humourless tyrant and slave driver. Or you can be an inspirational and personable motivator. I’m choosing to be the latter.

I recently spent time with some of our colleagues managing technology in Europe. During the evening, we had a team dinner and drinks and I had the opportunity to get to know the Poland, Spain and Italy leaders. We laughed, joked, and had a really great time but occasionally someone would bring up a problem facing our firm and I would ask for a recommended solution. What amazed me is how smart the team was at coming up with ideas but at the same time they were having fun and enjoying being together. That’s the kind of team I want!

In short:

Don’t be a dud.

What I need to do as a manager to enable

Smile.

When I’m having a funk of a day, I either stay home or avoid meetings. Smiles are contagious, I truly believe that. So if I can’t bring a genuine smile to the office, I try desperately to avoid contact with people! We can’t expect everyone to be happy all the time, but as a manager I need to both set an example and reward those that also bring fun to the office.

Last week, I woke to yet another rainy London day and, frankly, I was disgusted. I was so sick of rainy weather that I knew I would be in a bad mood. I went back into my kitchen, made a huge breakfast with a large strong cup of java and read a low intelligence required novel. Then, I went to the office. I was later than intended but by the time I got to the office I was refreshed and able to deal with another grey day.

Solicit feedback from team.

Talk to your teams on a regular basis to determine what makes them happy. What motivates them and when they smile, ask them why they are happy. Find something that brings them joy and do that.

Support and understand that some people just have bad days.

Recognise that some people will have bad days. Support them. Make sure they feel comfortable detaching if necessary. Make them leave if you must. If they need help, try to get it for them. And reward those that bring joy to the office and perform with a positive attitude.

In short:

Don’t be a dud.

Let me know what you think. What do you view as top employee traits? How do you build the best teams around different types of team members? Are you working hard on something worth doing?

Be Well. Lead On.

Adam

Be sure to view all of the Top Traits:
Trait 1: Hard working AND talented

Trait 2: Pride in work product

Trait 3: Fun to work with

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Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton
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http://blog.alswharton.com/2012/01/23/who-do-you-love/

Revisiting “Who Do You Love?

“There is within each one of us a potential for goodness beyond our imagining; for giving which seeks no reward; for listening without judgment; for loving unconditionally.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

I recently wrote a blog on loving people of all types, just because. I asked the question: If we assume that everyone is flawed in someway, don’t we all at least equally deserve love?So I created a list of all kinds of ways people are described everyday and urged folks to just go ahead and love all of them!

A former colleague of mine, Gary, introduced me to , a cool online tool and I had to try it out. So I used their online tool to turn my blog laundry list into a graphic. Thanks for the introduction Gary and, to my readers, thanks for humouring me!

Here it is:

http://blog.alswharton.com/2012/01/23/who-do-you-love/

And here is the link to the original blog post.

Be Well. Lead On.
Adam

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My soapbox: Who do you Love?

“Each relationship between two persons is absolutely unique. That is why you cannot love two people the same. It simply is not possible. You love each person differently because of who they are and the uniqueness that they draw out of you.” ― William P. Young, The Shack

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Do you have friends that seem great at tearing you down but never seem to build you up? Even worse, are you such a friend? I will admit there are a couple of people in my life that I am convinced accept me solely because of my corporate success or other temporal aspects of being. I sometimes get the sense that if I were homeless, had children out of wedlock, were exceptionally unattractive based on their criteria, or otherwise against their standards for who to love and appreciate, I would be a side thought. So, I spent the weekend thinking about who I love and who deserves to be loved. The answer is: EVERYONE AND NOONE. If we used the standard of truly deserving to be loved, perfectly living God-fearing saints, there would be ZERO people that should be loved. However, if we assume that everyone is flawed, don’t we all at least equally deserve love?

So, who do you love? Here is my list.

unresponsive, overdramatic
Predictable, blond
Grumpy,
determined
Passionate, judgmental, introverted
angry, short
restless
distracted
Hindu
Bald, chubby
complicated, idealistic, dissatisfied, anxious
Brunette, nosy, knowledgeable
trustworthy
polite, picky
cheerful, beautiful
observant
Fit
insecure, doubtful, tall
cheeky, single
grateful
Nervous, handsome
Fashionable
encouraging
simple, Buddhist
dependent, rude
awkward, Christian
naïve, divorced
Obese, plain, scruffy
self-conscious
pessimistic, Latino,
hot!
incompetent, conservative
inflexible, straight, Chinese
cowardly
Unkempt
Stupid, bitchy, liberal
Widowed, vulgar
selfish, unhappy
cynical, gay, married
needy, feminine
Kind, frumpy
Hairy, suave, healthy
Irrational
Sexy
childish, passive
calculating
Lesbian
fussy, camp
quixotic, Caucasian
Irritating, nice, sweet, helpful
understanding
sympathetic
smart, black
friendly
Vegan
indecisive, redhead
anal, diplomatic, sentimental
Addicted
Organized
Fat
dependable, long hair
Masculine, tolerant
modest, short
romantic
reflective, clean
Meat and potatoes only
confident
TOTAL ASSHOLE
Bipolar
logical
Australian, British, Kiwi
sensible
engaging
cute, aware
Self-righteous
dedicated
loving, queeny
impatient, stubborn, critical
talkative
reciprocating, meticulous, short hair
Tall, naughty
patient
loyal, compassionate
forgiving
admiring, silly, faithful, caring
considerate, skinny
apologetic
Dirty
Flawed

I’m sure I’ve missed some traits or groups but I think you get the picture. Imagine if everyone person to whom you showed love resulted in another person loving you? The person you dismiss because of their speaking style, their clothing, their job or lack thereof, their race or religion …. May just be the person that changes your life one day. And perhaps, by showing love to that one stranger, you just might change theirs.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7 (TNIV)

“The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” Mitch Albom

“Selfish persons are incapable of loving others, but they are not capable of loving themselves either.” Erich Fromm

Love BIG. Lead on.
Best,
Adam

Adam L. Stanley

Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton
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“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

— Winston Churchill

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Finding Balance in Life

Decide what truly matters to you and LIVE

Do YOU have balance? Do you live to work or work so that you may LIVE? That’s an interesting question for many, and several people that THINK they have balance may be surprised by what they hear when close friends and family members are asked. I was such a neglectful friend and still am sometimes. I now commit to and strive to find balance between all of the things that should matter to me. Not simply work. Perhaps the best quote on balance came from James Patterson in his book “Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas”.

“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day, you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls — family, health, friends, integrity — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.

Glass BallAnd once you truly understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have beginnings of balance in your life.”

James Patterson, Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas

Ball #1: Family

I don’t care how poor a man is; if he has family, he’s rich. ~Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford, “Identity Crisis,” M*A*S*H

I do most of my writing, reading, and remote working in my library at home. I have comfortable brown leather chairs, an HP Touchsmart PC, and am surrounding by hundreds of books I have read over the years, dozens of magazines and lots of photos of the people in my life that matter most. My family means the world to me, and I would do just about anything for them. Yet, as many corporate folks tend to do, I have found myself in utter neglect of them from time to time. Travelling for work, staying up at all hours on my PC yet not picking up the phone to call, and being only semi-present when I am actually with them are just some of the ways I have risked damaging this “ball”.

The family – that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to. ~Dodie Smith

Have you neglected those people most strongly in your corner, your family? I reaffirm today my commitment to family, and to always remind those that work for or with me that “family comes first”.

Ball #2: Health

“A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.” Spanish Proverb

And how!! It took gaining 20 pounds, seeing my blood pressure steadily rise, and waking up a few too many times with unexplained headaches, body aches, or other manner of ailments to realize I had to slow down.

“So many people spend their health gaining wealth, and then have to spend their wealth to regain their health.”A. J. Reb Materi

I worked so many hours, traveled, stared at my PC, responded to BlackBerry messages and texts, and was basically connected to work 20 hours a day at least. And I was slowly reducing my lifespan. Period. This summer, for the first time since I was 15, I took a sabbatical of sorts.

I became a Vegan. Yep. Cold turkey, I stopped eating meat, dairy, and anything that did not come from the ground. I posted tons of food photos of my daily meals (Flikr followers can see them) and enjoyed feeling better than I had for years. I became the foursquare “Mayor” of my gym, believe it or not, and targeted averaging 7-8 hours of sleep per night instead of 4-5. And I lost about 15 pounds, almost all of them “fat pounds”.

My change was somewhat drastic and I will admit, cooking three meals a day is not easy when working full-time. But, imagine if you do a little bit every day to better manage your health. Try not to get to the point where you have a medical emergency. Will you pledge to proactively write YOUR health story?

“Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.” Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.

Ball #3: Friends

A friend is one who knows us, but loves us anyway. — Fr. Jerome Cummings

I often think of all of the amazing things my parents taught me over the years. How to be a responsible man, work hard, and respect people. They taught me how to build things and fend for myself. And they taught me the types of people I should avoid because they were bad influences or trouble makers. In many ways, they helped me get better at finding friends. Strangely, what they could not really teach me, and it takes years to get good at, was actually BEING a friend. When you find someone who is good at being a friend, you’ve really been blessed.

Friends
Who finds a faithful friend, finds a treasure. — Jewish Saying

My friends know me, not just corporate me, religious me, or party me. They know all of me. My true friends know the good and the bad and they accept all of it (not necessarily liking all of it, but loving me all the same). At the end of a tough day at work, a call or text from a friend that simply says “Thinking of you and hoping you are being good to YOU” means the world.

In my blog post on Thoughts on Relationships from The Shack, I noted that life is full of relationship and the more you embrace people for both who they are and what they uniquely bring to you (and you to them), the richer you will be. THAT is what friends do for you. True friends. Each relationship is uniquely different, and like investments, the more you put into these relationships, the more you can get from them.

Do YOUR friends know how much they mean to you? Commit to calling more even though FaceBook is more convenient. Send a personal note to let someone know what they mean to you. Keep this ball strong, beautiful and intact. When at the end of the road, you may not finish everything you set out to finish career wise, but you’ll only regret the times you missed with friends.

Ball #4: Integrity

“If everyone were clothed with integrity, if every heart were just, frank, kindly, the other virtues would be well-nigh useless.” — Moliere [Jean Baptiste Poquelin] Tartuffe, V, i (1622-1673)

My reputation is incredibly important to me and whether people think me brilliant or not does not matter as much as whether they think I have integrity. I want people to trust me. And because of this, in everything I do, I strive to take the high road, opting for integrity over any element of success that might otherwise come my way. Always knowing that “Trust is like an eraser, it gets smaller and smaller after every mistake.”

“Let no pleasure tempt thee, no profit allure thee, no persuasionTrust move thee, to do anything which thou knowest to be evil; so shalt thou always live jollity; for a good conscience is a continual Christmas.” — Benjamin Franklin

At the end of the day, I love pushing hard to be successful in my career. And I am proud of my career accomplishments to date. As I continue to grow, I am learning about balance and finding that truly I can be even more successful. I am certain now that I truly understand the lesson of the five balls, now I must ensure I live and learn from the lesson.

So, I ask you, do you in fact “have beginnings of balance in your life”? Or are you still trying so hard to keep that rubber ball of work bouncing that you shatter the relationships you have while damaging your health and integrity? FIND BALANCE TODAY!

Be well! Lead On.

Adam

Originally published November 2011.

Adam L. Stanley
Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton
Connect with me on Linked In http://www.linkedin.com/in/adamstanley
Or at http://www.alswharton.com/in

“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

— Winston Churchill