change

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.

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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My Soapbox: Take talent personally

Talent should be on the agenda and objectives of every leader at every level, every day, and in every organisation

Talent Matters.

I recently went on the soapbox when a conversation was started about forming a committee to work on ways to identify and develop strong talent. It’s clearly not because I do not find the goal relevant. In fact, I think Talent should be on the agenda and objectives of every leader at every level, every day, and in every organisation. That is the only way to be successful. Committees formed formally to focus on talent, regardless of intent, simply do not work without concerted action and interest from leaders with true desire to manage and grow talent. And, worse, the experience for those on such committess can be downright disheartening if they feel they are part of an academic exercise that in the end does not matter. Talent matters!

I want each of my leaders to feel excited thinking about what they are doing for their teams. What opportunities are we finding for them to stretch and be rewarded? To train them and coach them? To sell them for career enhancing roles with peers and other teams (or even other firms) even if it means losing a critical resource in our world? Talent matters!

I view every top performer in my team as a future CIO, CTO, or executive. I LOVE being able to share stories of individuals who worked with me at some point and rose through the ranks to take on major leadership roles around the world. Love it! And I firmly believe that the only reason I have been successful (or recovered quickly from failures) is because I try desperately to hire strong, develop well, and appreciate greatly. Talent matters!!

Anyone that knows me recognises that I tend to hate governance and I disdain committees. I frown on talking and planning talent development “initiatives” unless I see the signs of true interest and passion. Because a committee or initiative without passion is …. sadly, like many many many leadership teams in the corporate world … just bureaucracy.

Just my soapbox for the week. Thanks for listening. And, one more time, as I hope you’ll agree … Talent Matters!!

Be Well. Lead On.

Adam

I pledge to listen harder.
Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

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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

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Top Traits: Pride in Work Product

Pride

Defining the perfect employees

I had a whole home audio system installed in my Chicago home a few years ago. I spent more than I have ever spent on audio equipment and hired a team of twenty somethings to install it for me. I remember when they came for the install and opened all the boxes. You honestly would have thought they were installing for themselves. They were so excited about the install, and kept telling me how I really got the coolest equipment out there. Their excitement was contagious. I truly felt like I was “the man” and could not wait until my first party. When done with the install, they beamed with pride and showed me the system, how to use it and some of the fun stuff. They also discussed potential upgrades coming down the road and ways I might consider expanding.

… Trait # 2 – Pride in Work Product

How often do employees show this kind of pride in the work they do? When you shop at a mall, or work with your local telephone company, do you get the sense that the people working with you are actually proud of the services they are providing? I’m doubting it! Definitely not the case with BT given my recent experiences with them, but I digress …. Shouldn’t you be proud of what you do? Pleased with your work and the value you bring? Nurses comfort people. Teachers change lives and prepare our futures. Your particular job may not be as obviously impactful but you’re driving value by helping clients either directly or indirectly. And if you have chosen to work at a particular place, you should have pride in what you do. My maternal grandfather was a garbage truck operator for almost 30 years. My paternal grandfather worked at the US Post Office for 25 years after serving his first five adult years in the army. Neither of them ever made very much money. But each had a pride in their work that was inspirational.

What I like

Steve Jobs - pride of productI want employees to show a sense of pride in what they do. In what they create. The best recent example of a leader that exuded pride in the products he offered was Steve Jobs. You just knew he thought that every product he allowed out the door was AWESOME! In my current role, I have a principle that I call “pretty red bow” that is based on pride of product and service. In short, I demand that my teams think about the entire package when building a new service. Not just the technology, which may be cool as ever, but the service, the support, the way it is sold and the training provided for users. You can build the very best mousetrap but if everyone thinks it is an appetiser with crackers and cheese …. Well, you get the picture. I want them to build a service, package it well and tie it up with a pretty red bow. Get it?

My favorite employees are the ones that call or email me to tell me when a client is really pleased, or even better, when no client has said anything but they know the service they have built will excite clients. The emails that show progress on solving a complex problem, the random drop by to my office to show me a prototype of a new collaboration tool, or the demo of a new “awesome” iOS application, this is what excites me.

If you do not feel pride in the work you do, why would your boss, your team, or your client?! If you don’t feel you can be proud of your work, perhaps you aren’t in the right field. Or perhaps you are simply not working hard enough to deliver something with which you can be proud.

What I need to do as a manager to enable

Provide. Praise. Promote.

  • PROVIDE. If you hire an employee and ask them to build a Bentley, then only give them a thousand bucks, a Bentley you will not get. Set guidelines that are achievable and provide your teams with the resources needed to be successful. The greatest morale killer in most technology shops today is the constant badgering on costs. We must provide opportunities for employees to shine. A great example of this within Aviva is our mobile apps competition. We’re encouraging people around the world to create prototypes of great new app concepts in friendly competition. We encourage all of the contributors and it is FANTASTIC seeing the pride of ownership among the teams that is evident in their submissions.
  • PRAISE. Give credit. Give credit. Give credit. Employees, especially those in service industries, operations functions, and technology, get PLENTY of complaints and abuse. When someone creates something amazing, you MUST acknowledge it. I have seen so many managers take credit for their team members work without adequately praising them. It is shameful. As I said with respect to all hard working and talented employees (prior blog), ensure those who show pride in their work and deliver excellence get the recognition they deserve.
  • PROMOTE. This should be easy for those of you with children as well as for those who remember when you were a child. Think about how proud a kid is when their artwork is displayed on the refrigerator or on the school bulletin board. Create THAT environment. Showcase the amazing products and services your teams have created. If they have pride, and it is deserved, their leaders should also be proud. And showcasing their products will encourage others to create great things as well. Be a “proud mama” or “proud papa”. You will encourage more people to take pride in their work. And when you take pride in your work, you do better work. Simple, right?

I’m proud of the folks working with me now and proud of the things we accomplished while I was in my prior roles. I will continue to seek out, provide for, praise and promote those around me who take pride in what they do. It takes all kinds to make a great team but the perfect employees demonstrate pride in work product. And I want the perfect employees along on the journey with me.

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

Follow me on twitter http://www.twitter.com/alswharton

Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections

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Service Desk and Support teams everywhere … YOU MATTER!

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This week, I had a very unique opportunity to be “on-boarded” twice. My new role is based in the UK however I have a base in Chicago and, at the end of the day, a US contract. Thus, my first day was in Chicago and my second day was here in London. As I reflected on my first two days, something struck me that I thought was worthy of mentioning here. Both days, my first significant contact was with Technology team members. Not the strategy or planning sessions, or beginning the challenging work with which I have been tasked. Those start tomorrow. Specifically, I am referring to the service desk and support guys that actually helped get me setup with my “kit”.

Think about it: the last job you started likely involved use of some end user technology, be it a phone, laptop, iPad, or otherwise. Before you began to work your first deal, draft your first work plan, or respond to your first company email, you were likely setup by someone in Technology at your company. And that experience may very well have established your impression of technology at your firm overall. Regardless of how small a portion of the technology budget is actually spent on end user support, this is sometimes the only part of IT to which the majority of your teams are exposed. And I have seen AWFUL on-boarding and support processes, including from large outsourcing vendors that claim to have expertise.

And as I reflected on this fact, I also considered the age old question of whether business and technology have an effective relationship and whether technology can actually drive and influence decision making. And I say “absolutely”. And, frankly, it starts Day 1. And thus, service desk and support teams everywhere must take note: you matter much more than you may ever think. Yes, you deal with some of THOSE clients whose major problem is that shortly after they learned to pose their thumbs they were given a computer with a plug and no instructions. But you also deal with the closet techies that yearned to be the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs before becoming actuaries. The one that built a program in DOS years ago before she decided to go back to law school. She was so proud of that program! The HR leader who admits to not knowing much about technology that simply begs for it to be as easy and user friendly as possible so she can help her clients recruit, train and retain talent so critical for the success of the firm. And yes, also that Finance major and banking strategist that spent 10 years in consulting before taking technology leadership roles and finding out how much he loved working with tech teams. For all of these users, you have the opportunity to frame their experience from day 1. And what a difference you can make!

Every five minutes you have with a CFO, you have the opportunity to represent your technology organization to an extent few others will ever have with that leader. You can listen to complaints and offer solutions. You can share their excitement talking about a new technology then work with the rest of the Tech org in finding ways to leverage that excitement for new solutions and services. You can make executives “happy” enough that perhaps the day we have a major sev 1 outage, they are stressed and concerned but not on the warpath. Because they know we care and that we realize the roll technology plays in generating revenue and sustaining profitability. You might just get them smiling right before they go to that special funding review meeting!

Like police officers in many urban centers, you don’t always get the glory. You are typically understaffed and insufficiently empowered. You get yelled at more than you get praised, and sometimes it may just seem that you have the most thankless job in Technology. But, goodness, YOU MATTER! And for me personally, you mattered this week. To Carey, Neel and Tom, a hearty thanks. You made my two days of on boarding easy and I can be productive from day 1 thanks to your help. You may never know just what that added productivity enabled for me, or for others. But you should know that it made a difference. You made a difference. And every call you take, every desk you visit, whether your clients say it or not, you continue to make a difference. And for those who do not, I say thanks.

Be Well. Lead On.

Adam

Adam L. Stanley | ALSWharton Connections
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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
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

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When life gives you lemons ...

When Life Gives You Lemons

Guest Blog

Connections Life Lessons: Future 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 young 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 young leader but also perhaps see a bit of your story in theirs. Perhaps we can learn from each other in this manner.

The first Story comes from Sunny Joshi. I met Sunny when he reached out to me at Aon. Interested in business and technology, he wanted to introduce himself to the CTO and offer any help he could provide with regard to our many ongoing initiatives. Over the months since that introduction, he has connected with me for lunch a few times, actively follows me on twitter and has connected with others in the network. I am excited about his future and honored to be a part of his present.

I hope you enjoy reading his story and encourage you to also follow this young leader as he charts his future toward success.

Be well! Lead On.
Adam

Adam L. Stanley

When Life Gives You Lemons

Guest Blog by Sunny K. Joshi

I think it’s safe to assume that many (if not all) of us, are who we are today because of the experiences we’re faced with in life, be they negative or positive. When life gives us lemons, we make a choice to become sour or make lemonade.

When life gives you lemons ...

When life gives you lemons ...

I remember the time when I was young and got sick; my mom would force me to take medicine whether I liked it or not, because it was good for me. I’m now an adult and things haven’t changed much, except the context. When I’m faced with a challenging situation, I have to make a choice and act. Either I can throw a fit or I can do what’s required with the right attitude. Either way I’ll overcome that challenge, but it’s the attitude that dictates whether I’ll do it with a smile or a frown on my face. On occasion, we all regret the choices we make and want to turn back the clock, but that’s not possible. If not managed properly, these traits can continue to haunt us in our lives and as a result, we may miss great opportunities that may otherwise be presented to us. For those of us that achieve results with a smile on our face, we tend to look beyond the natural constraints and begin to have a buoyant outlook on life, regardless of the situation.

Developing this kind of attitude doesn’t come easy, especially if our surrounding environment holds us back. Nevertheless, this is something I personally continuously strive to enforce as I interact with my peers, colleagues, and family on a daily basis. I may even have come up with a simple formula to having a positive attitude.

​Positive Attitude = (Hope + Vision) x Influence

I like to think of my attitude as a sum of many years of hope and vision, multiplied by surrounding influences. I constantly take steps to ensure I am not losing track of my vision and constantly surround myself with people that support me. I believe that having the right support that motivates and encourages you at all times is the key to having a positive attitude, which then ultimately leads to success. I can have unlimited hope and vision, however if my surrounding environment is not influential or negative, I will fall short of my vision and ultimately lose hope.

Growing up, I came very close to losing that hope and taking a different path than the one I am on today. Had it not been for the positive influences in my life, I would have been another man.

About 15 years ago, my parents left everything they had in India and migrated to Chicago so that I could have a quality education. When I was ten, life threw a few curve balls at me. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I was separated from my parents a few days after landing in the U.S. and was forced to move to Canada with my relatives. My parents struggled holding jobs in Chicago, each working 16-20 hour shifts daily to make ends meet. After a few months of savings and getting their own apartment, my parents called me back and I brought 50 more pounds with me, just in time for school. They say when you’re worried, turning to food is the greatest comfort, and right they were. Talk about an awful time to gain weight ….

​A rough Junior High experience almost made me give up.

For those of you that have gone through the educational system in the United States, junior high is an extremely critical time. It will either make you or break you. Everyone is part of a clique or a special group. (Forgive my stereotyping, but imagine this from the perspective of an awkward youth…) You have your athletes, some of whom are “jocks” that are the arrogant types and tend to rank highest in popularity. Then there are the preps, the rich types who care less about what anyone thinks of them. And, alas, you have the nerds that have no fashion sense, are typically deemed unattractive, often have braces, and are notoriously teacher’s pets. You can look at the picture of me as a youngster and may just put me in one of the three categories. Hint: I remember not smiling in the picture so that I could hide my braces.

Young Sunny

Young Sunny

My first day of junior high I was labeled as a “f.o.b” (fresh off the boat). How do you get such a prominent title you ask? Well for starters, you have to have a heavy accent in the English language. Each time I would say “Thank you” to someone, I would hear another kid yell the infamous quote from The Simpsons Quikee Mart character Apu, “Thank You Come Again!” Another requirement is that you have to eat and smell like curry 24/7 if you’re from India. I actually don’t blame the kids for calling me out on that because in all honesty, Indian cuisine does have strong smells that take some getting used to. In addition to being the new (maybe the only) “f.o.b” in my school, I was a nerd in the making. Even after attending classes for a couple of weeks, I somehow managed to have no sense of fashion. I wore dress pants with sneakers and had prescription glasses with maroon frames. I had also just gotten braces for my extreme overbite (picture Bugs Bunny).

Did I also mention I was overweight and had no friends? I had two people that I could call friends because they were in the same class with me and would try to engage in a conversation with me periodically. The computer became my best friend and I kept myself busy with piano and drawing lessons to avoid thinking about school. My home remained my only sanctuary, until a few students found my number from the student directory, called my house, and made racist comments. I remember one of them calling and saying, “Go back to India, Gandhi!” I was a victim of bullying, both physical and emotional. I’ll spare the details of the vulgarity I dealt with. I started to develop a sense of anger and rage towards those individuals but there was nothing I could do about it. Then there came a time where I almost gave up and was getting ready to go back to India.

​When I decided to make my lemonade…

My biggest turning point was when my mom told me that I should learn to face my problems rather than avoid them. At this very early age, I began to realize that prejudice is part of life. Rather than run from it, I should learn to accept it and move forward. I decided to be proud of who I was and make a difference being me rather than simply trying to fit in. Since then I’ve been making lemonade out of the lemons that life occasionally throws at me. Oh yeah, I’ve also taken care of my physique since then. Nevertheless, I can never forget my time in junior high because I constantly look back on those people that almost pushed me off the edge and thank them for ultimately making me believe in myself. Had it not been for the influence (negative and positive) and support I received early on, I can’t begin to imagine where I would be today.

​Spreading the Positive Attitude

What about you? Who has influenced you the most to have a positive attitude in life? Whether you’ve been a victim of bullying or have had a similar experience that pushed you to your limits, I hope the decision you made then is something you are proud of today. Life somehow manages to throw all of us a curve ball every now and then, so it’s best to be prepared and have the right attitude to take on anything life throws.

As I meet people that come from all walks of life, I try to give them the same support I received that made me who I am today. A common advice I give to everyone with whom I build relationships is never underestimate yourself. Your potential is more about what you believe in and not what others see in you. Having a positive attitude about life and your surroundings are a start.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” – Steve Jobs

Be proud of who you are, always be willing to accept criticism, and use it to emerge as a better individual.

Wishing you all the success in life,
Sunny

Sunny K. Joshi
Sunny K. Joshi
Follow me on twitter @joshisunny

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

Lessons on Relationships from The Help

The Help MovieLessons from The Help

I never really liked going to movies as a teenager and most of my adult life was the same. Then, two things happened: 1) Showplace ICON opened a VIP theater near my home in Chicago, offering the opportunity to see movies in a recliner with drinks and gourmet sliders (and popcorn with bacon!); and 2) I started watching the Harry Potter movies to connect with my nieces and nephews. It was the second one that kind of leads me to this blog. You see, while I started off watching for the “action” of the young wizard, I quickly realized how many leadership lessons can be found in movies. Like rap music for inner city children in some schools, perhaps we can use movies to bridge between popular culture and leadership lessons for Gen Y.

I can blog thousands of words from Harry Potter, which is in my opinion as rich as the Godfather movies with leadership lessons. However, today I will discuss “The Help”, a movie about three very different women and the relationships between them and other people in their Jackson, Mississippi town. I have watched the movie and read the book so may interchange them a bit. The movie was a very good adaptation, in my humble opinion.

Here are some simple lessons found from the book which spawned the movie:

1) Communication is more than just talking

“I don’t know what to say to her. All I know is, I ain’t saying it. And I know she ain’t saying what she want a say either and it’s a strange thing happening here cause nobody saying nothing and we still managing to have us a conversation.”

How many times have you been in a meeting that lasted an hour and accomplished absolutely nothing? Sometimes it seems that everyone has something to say and yet nothing is said. I firmly believe that people need to listen more and talk less. Think about what goals have been set for the meeting and how each participant can add value.

A mentor of mine once told me that anyone who came to a meeting and said nothing should not have been at the meeting. However, some people are SO VOCAL that others may want to contribute but do not. Try not to be THAT person. Listen, learn, and watch for non-verbal and verbal cues.

2) Carrots work better than sticks. And they are a lot cheaper.

“…and that’s when I get to wondering, what would happen if I told her she something good, ever day?”

For many of your team members, you may be the only positive encouragement they have all day. I have had the pleasure of managing help desk technicians as part of my organization for several years. Many of them are the brightest, hardest working, and dedicated employees I have led. But talk about a thankless job. When things are good, no one calls the help desk. So they only get the irate, the frustrated, and often, the …. well, clueless.

Greet your team members, both peers and subordinates, by name and with a smile. Tell them something positive about their work, their attitude, or anything else you can find that is truly positive. Don’t make things up, but challenge yourself to find the best in everyone with whom you interact. You will be amazed what it does for that person and in turn what that person will do for your team and your clients.

3) Change begins with a whisper
There are thousands of quotes out there on change. And everyone says the right thing. Change happens. Change is good. Change is the only constant. And so on…. But the fact is CHANGE IS A PAIN IN THE …. Well, it’s hard.

In the movie and book, Aibileen is known as a solid citizen in the black community, respected for her wisdom and her prayers. Skeeter, who wishes to get several of the maids to participate in her book project, works first with Aibileen, who starts to mention it to Minnie, who then spreads it to others. Soon, the whisper spreads and several women want to speak to Skeeter.

The best way to manage change I have found is to think of every change as both necessary and positive, but to spread the word through individual conversations as much as town halls and large announcements. It is incredibly powerful for you as a leader if the day a major change is announced, you have dozens of people out there who have already been talking about it. Start small conversations with key influencers amongst your team and get them to discuss the change with others. Don’t do this for politics or scheme, you’re not just pandering to junior colleagues. Engage them because your team knows what works and can help make the change more effective. Let your key employee leaders be the whisper that starts a successful change event.

4) Some people will never change. Deal with it. Or Leave.

“It seems like at some point you’d run out of awful.”

I have been blessed to work primarily with great people. Even those that had their rough spots and mean streaks typically showed their good more than their bad sides. But there were two in particular that try as I might, I could not find within them a redeeming quality. They were mean, nasty and completely uninterested in team building and collaboration. One even went so far as to tell me I needed to be more of an [expletive] and that my team enjoyed working for me too much. The implication was that they could not possibly be working hard enough and still like me the way they did. I know, right? Crazy! And this was not in the 1980s.

My solution was to walk away. I knew it could be risky (using up some of my “marbles”, as a mentor of mine used to say) but worse still would be staying and working in a toxic environment that could make me toxic. I sacrificed the “glory” of working with this particular team and opted to find my success in other teams. To take the risk to be a respected AND liked leader and not just one that was feared.

If you have this kind of person in your team, try to address the issue head on. Do all you can to make it better, but at the end of the day, some people will never change. If you are the boss, you must fix the problem either by getting them to change or severing them from the team before they spread their negativity. If you are a member of the team and working for the “negative nestor”, you have the option to stay or go. If you can, get out of there before the negativity spreads to you.

5) Relate to and empower all employees.
One of the main characters in The Help convinced herself that building separate bathrooms for her maid was good for the maid as well as protecting her from “their diseases”. Most people watching this today feel this is so far from what anyone would do and thankfully they are correct. But how many times have you personally spoken to the most junior employee in your organization? Do you structure every meeting in layers where you meet with your directs and they meet with their directs and so on? Do your junior associates call you by your last name (Good morning, Mr. Stanley) sometimes and feel they have to ask permission to say hello when walking past your office? Watch for this and consider what you can do to create an environment where all of your team members truly feel equally engaged and empowered. And hang out with the senior and junior staff. A beer tastes the same with a CEO as it does with an analyst. Trust me.

Don’t give your employees the separate but equal treatment. Be a part of the team. As one of my favorite Aon teams used to say, “Hug it out!”

Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, we are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.

I pledge today to be a better listener and communicator, to empower my teams and treat them as equal partners, to encourage and uplift them, and to involve them in change so that their whispers can drive powerful success. Will you take this pledge? Do you have other lessons on leadership from this or other movies? I would love to hear from you. Post your comments below, on my Facebook page, or via Twitter.

Be well! Lead On.

Adam

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

See more thoughts on leadership in my other blogs, such as:
https://alswharton.wordpress.com/2011/07/08/leadership-kahlilgibran/

Let's have lunch!