relationships

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)
20131019-172650.jpg

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.

#TechNotes: Adventures with LinkedIn

Alternative Title: How a phone “user error” resulted in great conversations

LinkedIn on AndroidScreenshot_2013-07-23-12-13-07

As you may have read, I purchased and now love my new Samsung Galaxy S4. I cannot see returning to the iPhone at this point and only really use my iPad for playing Clash of Clans (I admit it.) As with many men, when I first setup my new toy, I had to try everything. I went app by app and installed every app that had been on my iPhone, noting key differences between the iOS and Android versions.

After I installed LinkedIn, I was presented with all kinds of screens and options for easy setup. Two of them are shown above. One allows you to sync your contacts with LinkedIn so that all of your LinkedIn contacts can easily be communicated with through your mobile phone. Great. I did that on my iPhone as well so no worries. The other option, however, was an “Add Contacts” tool. This setup step, as I learned only after pulling the trigger too quickly, sent the 512 people in my address book with whom I was not connected on LinkedIn an invitation to connect. Indiscriminately!

Let me repeat that. EVERYONE in my address book not previously connected to me on LinkedIn received the same generic “please add me to your LinkedIn network” email.

Pause. Open your address book and scroll down. If you are like most people, by the 15th entry MAX you will reach someone that might be a fantastic person but clearly was never meant to be a LinkedIn connection. Here are a few examples which may or may not have been in my address book:

  • Doctor or dentist
  • Roadside assistance AAA
  • Caterers and servers from prior events
  • An ex partner!
  • The home security company
  • Massage therapist
  • Housekeeper
  • and so on ….

Needless to say, I was horrified when I began to receive dozens of invitation acceptance notifications. Within a week, I had added 80 new connections, and after two weeks I was up to over 200 new adds. But, I must admit, despite the fact that it was a mistake, I am glad I did it. Because, I ended up reconnecting with lots of really cool people.

Among the throng that received the email were a few amazing people I had met on flights and exchanged cards. You know the ones: you sit next to each other for hours en route to somewhere or another and talk about everything. The conversation is so enjoyable you know you must stay in touch and thus exchange cards before rushing off for your next connecting flight or meeting. And, of course, you never actually get in touch. My accident allowed me to reconnect with a couple of those types.

Old friends that had lost touch were pleasantly surprised I reached out (they may now learn that it was an accident, but the ends justify the means?) and have now scheduled lunches and coffee catch-ups. A former server I hired for a party has now started an organisation and is quite the online activist these days. Vendors that worked with me years and years ago have now moved on to new companies and are doing fascinating things. And my MOM joined LinkedIn! Who knew??

Another amazing thing I discovered is how many of my new contacts were connected to each other, yet had no idea they shared a relationship with me. The world truly is a small place.

All in all, whilst my error resulted in a bit more spam than I feel comfortable sending out, the result was that I reconnected with cool people, found out more about my “network”, and got a few big smiles when an old familiar face popped up in my notifications.

Would I recommend you do the automatic send thing? Not at all! But I would encourage you to scroll down through your address book from time to time. Don’t just look for someone interested in potentially buying your services or products. Look for the first name that makes you struggle a bit to remember how you met. Send THAT person a request to connect on LinkedIn. Find an old friend that may have fallen out of contact for good or bad reasons. Send THAT person a request to connect on LinkedIn. The ex-partner? Maybe skip that one for now. But pick a few random people.

Life is about connections; some that come by planning and strategy, some through work or family links, and some that come because you happened to go to the car wash at a particular time of day. All have meaning of some sort and all have the possibility of changing your life in ways you may just never know.

Be Well. Lead On. 

Adam

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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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Lessons from Henry V … Leadership Inspiration

Looking for inspiration in history (and movies …)

In a recent leadership course sponsored by my employer, we used The story of Henry V and the battle at Agincourt as a metaphor for leadership. I have watched this video of his speech to the troops every day since then and wanted to share it with you. It provides me with inspiration and hopefully some potential tools I can use to take my troops into battle every day: humility, decisive leadership, participative decision making, scenario planning, and clear articulation of vision and objectives are but a few reasons Henry V prevailed against overwhelming odds.

For a great synopsis on leadership lessons from this battle, read the article found on Knowledge@Wharton, from my alma mater. Enjoy the video clip and let me know what lessons you think are learned from his speech or the battle itself.

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.

But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,

But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day.

Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

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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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

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

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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Connect with me on Linked In http://www.linkedin.com/in/adamstanley
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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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