communication

On The Right To Write

I recently finished reading The Right to Write – An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life – by Julia Cameron. As best summarized by the author: ” What this book will do, if I have done it well enough, is t talk to you about writing for the sake of writing, for the sheer unadulterated joy of putting words to the page. In other words, this is less a ” “how to” book than a “why” book. Why should we write? We should write because it is human nature to write. Writing claims our world. It makes it directly and specifically our own. We should write because humans are spiritual beings and writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance as well. We should write because writing brings clarity and passion to the act of living. Writing is sensual, experiential, grounding. We should write because writing is good for the soul. We should write because writing yields us a body of work, a felt path through the world we live in.”

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

As a result, most of us try to write too carefully. We try to do it “right.” We try to sound smart. We try, period. Writing goes much better when we don’t work at it so much. When we give ourselves permission to just hang out on the page. For me, writing is like a good pair of pajamas—comfortable. In our culture, writing is more often costumed up in a military outfit. We want our sentences to march in neat little rows, like well-behaved boarding-school children.

If we eliminate the word “writer,” if we just go back to writing as an act of listening and naming what we hear, some of the rules disappear. There is an organic shape, a form-coming-into-form that is inherent in the thing we are observing, listening to, and trying to put on the page. It has rules of its own that it will reveal to us if we listen with attention. Shape does not need to be imposed. Shape is part of with attention. Shape does not need to be imposed. Shape is part of what we are listening to. When we just let ourselves write, we get it “right.”

Not writing is the lonely thing. Not writing creates self-obsession. Self-obsession blocks connection with others. Self-obsession blocks connection with the self Writing is like looking at an inner compass. We check in and we get our bearings. Ah-ha! I am feeling, thinking. remembering. . . . When we know accurately what it is that we are doing, we tend to be more open, accurate, and affectionate in our dealings: I can miss David, but I can’t blame David anymore. I am the one who didn’t write enough yesterday.

People who write out of “discipline” are taking a substantial risk. They are setting up a situation against which they may one day strongly rebel. Writing from discipline invites extremism: “I have to do this or I’m a failure.” Writing from discipline creates a potential for emotional blackmail: “If I don’t write I’ve got no character.” People who write from discipline also take the risk of trying to write from the least open and imaginative part of themselves, the part of them that punches a time clock instead of taking flights of fancy. “Commitment” is a word I prefer to the word “discipline.” It is more proactive, more heart-centered, and ultimately more festive and productive. This is not mere semantics. If we are to be involved with writing for the long haul, we want to be comfortable in relationship to it. If we are relating to our writing as a “should” instead of as a desired good, we run the jeopardy of experiencing our writing connection like a thankless marriage: we’re there, but we don’t want to be. We’re thinking of what we’re missing.

We are all works in progress. We are all rough drafts. None of us is finished, final, “done.” How much healthier and happier if we ignore that mafioso’s advice to me and we put “it”—all of “it”—in writing: the flaws, foibles, frills, fantasies, and frailties that make us human. When we connect these dots, we connect.

I like writing to be more portable and flexible. I like writing to be something that fits into cracks and crannies. I don’t like it to dominate my life. I like it to fill my life. There is a big difference. When writing dominates a life, relationships suffer—and, not coincidentally, so does the writing. When writing is about being shut off” from the world in a room sequestered with our own important thoughts, we lose the flow of life, the flow of new ideas and input that can shape. improve, and inform that thought. It is a matter of balance. Yes, we need time and space to write, but we do not perhaps need as much time and as much space as we might think. Rather than being a private affair cordoned off” from life as the rest of the world lives it, writing might profitably be seen as an activity best embedded in life, not divorced from it—of course such a view of writing smacks of heresy.

The root of the word “integration” is the smaller word “integer,” which means “whole.” Too often, racing through life, we become the “hole,” not the “whole.” We become an unexamined maw into which our encounters and experiences rush unassimilated, leaving us both full and unsatisfied because nothing has been digested and taken in. In order to “integrate” our experiences, we must take them into account against the broader canvas of our life. We must slow down and recognize when currents of change, like movements in a symphony, are moving through us.

In those, and most professions, we assume that an interest in pursuing the career implies a probable proclivity for it and a reasonable chance for success. Not so with writing. The truth is, when you want a writing career and are willing to do the work to get it, the odds work with you, not against you. This is simple metaphysical law. As Goethe advised us, “Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it—for action has magic grace and power in it.”

“Scrutinize second,” I laid down a rule for myself “Write first and freely.”

1. Write daily, even if only Morning Pages. 2. Use tools like Media Deprivation and Blasting Through Blocks to give you a jump-start 3. Watch your telephone consumption. 4. Watch your note production. 5. Set a clock for one half hour’s writing time. Pray for the willingness to write—and then write.

“Thou art truly human.” To be truly human, we all have the right to make art. We all have the right to write.

A highly recommended read in the areas of communication and writing.

On Emotions Revealed

I recently finished read Emotions Revealed – Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life – by Paul Ekman. This book was recommended by best-selling author Daniel Pink as one of the top 6 books on the Art and Science of Sales. This book’s aim, as best summarized by the author: “My goal in writing Emotions Revealed was to help people improve four essential skills, and thus I have included suggestions and exercises in the book that I hope you will find both helpful and provocative. Those four skills are: First, becoming more i consciously aware of when you are becoming emotional, even before you speak or act…Second, choosing how you behave when you are emotional, so you achieve your goals without damaging other people…Third, becoming more sensitive to how others are feeling…Fourth, carefully using the information you acquire about how others are feeling.”

Below are key excerpts from this book:

Emotions determine the quality of our lives. They occur in every relationship we care about—in the workplace, in our friendships, in dealings with family members, and in our most intimate relationships. They can save our lives, but they can also cause real damage. They may lead us to act in ways that we think are realistic and appropriate, but our emotions can also lead us to act in ways we regret terribly afterward.

I reconciled our findings that expressions are universal with Birdwhistell’s observation of how they differ from one culture to another by coming up with the idea of display rules. These, I proposed, are socially learned, often culturally different, rules about the management of expression, about who can show which emotion to whom and when they can do so. It is why in most public sporting contests the loser doesn’t show the sadness and disappointment he or she reels. Display rules are embodied in the parent’s admonition—”Get that smirk off your face.” These rules may dictate that we diminish. exaggerate, hide completely, or mask the expression of emotion we are feeling.

Nearly everyone who does research on emotion today agrees with what I have described so far: first, that emotions are reactions to matters that seem to be very important to our welfare, and second, that emotions often begin so quickly that we are not aware of the processes in our mind that set them off Research on the brain is consistent with what I have so far suggested. We can make very complex evaluations very quickly, in milliseconds, without being aware of the evaluative process.

I am convinced that one of the most distinctive features of emotion is that the events that trigger emotions are influenced not just by our individual experience, but also by our ancestral past. Emotions, in the felicitous phrase of Richard Lazarus, reflect the “wisdom of the ages,” both in the emotion themes and the emotion responses. The autoappraisers are scanning for what has been important to survival not just in our own individual lives, but also in the lives of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

In another study focusing just on smiles, Richard Davidson, a psychologist who studies the brain and emotion, and I found that making a smile produced many of the changes in the brain that occur with enjoyment. It wasn’t just any kind of smile; only the smile that I had earlier found truly signified enjoyment (see chapter 9).

I have described nine paths for accessing or turning on our emotions. The most common one is through the operation of the autoappraisers, the automatic-appraising mechanisms. A second path begins in reflective appraisal that then clicks on the autoappraisers. Memory of a past emotional experience is a third path, and imagination is a fourth path. Talking about a past emotional event is a fifth path. Empathy is the sixth path. Others instructing us about what to be emotional about is the seventh path. Violation of social norms is an eighth path. Last is voluntarily assuming the appearance of emotion.

Controlling emotional behavior will not always work. When the emotion aroused is very strong, when we are in a mood that predisposes us toward the emotion, when the event resonates very closely with one of the evolved emotional themes or with an early learned emotion trigger, my suggestions will be more difficult to use. And, depending on the emotion, some people’s affective style—those who characteristically become emotional very quickly and very intensely—will make it harder to control some emotions. The fact that we will not always succeed does not mean that we cannot improve. The key is to understand ourselves better. By analyzing our emotional episodes afterward, we can begin to develop the habit of attentiveness. By learning to focus more on what it is we are feeling, by learning some of the internal clues that signal to us what emotions we are feeling, we are more likely to be able to monitor our feelings. Increasing our ability to spot the signs of how others are responding to us emotionally can alert us to be attentive to what it is we are doing and feeling—and help us respond to others’ emotions in an appropriate way. And, learning about the common triggers for each emotion, those we share with others and those that are especially important or unique for us, can help us prepare for emotional encounters.

These examples are meant to show that having information about how someone feels doesn’t itself tell vou what to do about it. It doesn’t confer the right or obligation to tell that person you know how he or she feels. There are alternatives, depending on who that person is and what your relationship to that person is, the circumstances at the moment, and what you yourself are comfortable with. But spotting sadness when it is subtle does tell you that something important is happening or has happened, that it involves loss, and that this person needs comforting. The expression itself doesn’t tell you whether you are the right person to give that comforting, or if this is the right time to offer it.

We often think we know why someone has become angry with us, but our version of the grievance may not match the other person’s version. While avoiding what makes someone angry leads to resentments, building a backlog of trouble, rarely should the matter be dealt with when one or both people are in the heat of their anger. If it is so urgent that the matter must be dealt with at once, and it cannot be postponed until a cooler moment, then it is important that both people try to be certain that they are past the refractory period. Otherwise, the discussion is bound only to fuel the anger. not focus on what the problem is and how it can be solved.

Neither empathy nor compassion is an emotion; they refer to our reactions to another person’s emotions. In cognitive empathy we recognize what another person is feeling. In emotional empathy we actually feel what that person is feeling, and in compassionate empathy we want to help the other person deal with his situation and his emotions. We must have cognitive empathy, in order to achieve either of the other forms of empathy, but we need not have emotional empathy in order to have compassionate empathy.

While all four of these contextual issues must be considered when evaluating a normal facial expression, or macro expression, of an emotion, they can be especially revelatory when studying a micro expression. They must also be considered when evaluating signs of emotion in the voice, in posture, and in other cognitively based clues to deceit. Most people do not notice micro expressions when they occur during a conversation, when a micro is competing for attention with words, the tone of the voice, and gestures. They are ; also missed because we are often distracted by thinking about what to say next rather than closely watching for a person’s micro expressions.

As I mention in chapter 9, the great French neurologist Duchenne du Boulogne was the first to suggest that the absence of emotion-based muscle movements that most people cannot perform voluntarily “unmasks the false friend.”‘ The absence of such involuntary movements suggests that the expression may be fabricated rather than genuine.

More generally, we have not found any behavioral change that always occurs in every person who is lying; that is why lie catchers must learn to be alert to every aspect of demeanor, tor it is never possible to know ahead of time how important information will appear. This news always disheartens television interviewers and print media writers, who are disappointed I can’t tell them the one surefire behavioral clue to deceit. It doesn’t exist. Anyone who says there is an absolutely reliable signal that someone is lying is either misguided or a charlatan.

A very perceptive and recommended read.

On The Future Of Work

I recently finished reading The Future of Work – Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization – by Jacob Morgan. As the author summarizes in his opening: “Many organizations around the world today are in trouble. The world of work is changing around them while they remain stagnant. The larger the gap grows the greater the chance becomes that these organizations will not survive. However, organizations shouldn’t just want to survive they must want to thrive and be competitive in a new rapidly changing world. To do this requires pioneering change, not waiting for tragedy or for a crisis to force change. The future workforce is bringing new attitudes and ways of work to which managers must adapt. This means that organizations must adapt to both employees and managers and, as of now, this is happening at a snail’s pace, if at all. This is a book about adapting to that change.”

On the five trends shaping the future of work:

1. New behaviors 2. Technology 3. Millennials 4. Mobility 5. Globalization

On the seven principles of the future employee:

• Have a flexible work environment where they can work anytime and anywhere. • Be able to shape and define their own career paths instead of having them predefined for them. • Share information internally in an open and transparent way in real-time. • Have the opportunity to become leaders without having to be managers. • Collaborate and communicate in new ways. • Shift from being knowledge workers to learning workers. • Learn and teach at-will.

From knowledge worker to learner worker:

The world is changing so quickly that by the time new college students graduate, much of what they have learned is far less relevant and in many cases just obsolete. This means knowledge and experience are no longer the primary commodity. Instead, what is far more valuable is to have the ability to learn and to apply those learnings into new and unique scenarios. It’s no longer about what you know, it’s about how you can learn and adapt.

On vital qualities for future employees:

Self-Direction and Autonomy, Filter and Focus, Embrace Change, Amazing Communication Skills, Learning to Learn

On the Ten Principles of the future manager:

Must be a leader. Follow from the front. Understand technology. Lead by example. Embrace vulnerability. Believe in sharing and collective intelligence. Challenge convention and be a fire starter. Practice real-time recognition and feedback. Be conscious of personal boundaries. Adapt to the future employee.

On many people still want structure:

An article published by Susan H. Greenberg on the Stanford Graduate School of Businessblog on August 1, 2012 called, “Building Organizations That Work”2 summarized the findings of the report: Hierarchies are easier for people to grasp than egalitarian relationships because their asymmetries create “end points’ that facilitate memorization; they are predictable; and they are familiar, beginning with our very first social interaction—the parent-child relationship.

On fourteen principles of the future organization:

• Have employees work in globally distributed yet smaller teams. • Become intrapreneurial. • Create a connected workforce. • Operate like a smaller company. • Focus on creating a place of “want” instead of a place of “need.’ • Adapt to change faster. • Innovate anywhere, all the time. • Build ecosystems. • Run in the cloud. • See more women in senior management roles. • Be “flatter.’ • Tell stories. • Democratize learning. • Shift from profit to prosperity. • Adapt to the future employee and the future manager. • Become globally distributed with smaller teams.

On competitor-driven innovation:

The extent of knowledge and innovation used to depend on the organization itself, or more specifically, a few people within the organization. This is no longer enough to maintain a competitive advantage. The future organization must build knowledge ecosystems in the five groups mentioned earlier in order to thrive. Each group can bring a unique perspective and value proposition.

On the 12 habits of highly collaborative organizations:

1. Focus on individual value before corporate value. 2. Strategy always comes before technology. 3. Learn to get out of the way. 4. Lead by example. 5. Listen to the voice of the employee. 6. Integrate into the flow of work. 7. Create a supportive environment. 8. Measure what matters. 9. Be persistent. 10. Adapt and evolve. 11. Understand that employee collaboration also benefits the customer. 12. Accept that collaboration makes the world a better place.

On the six-step process for adapting to the future of work:

1. Challenge assumptions. 2. Create a team to help lead the effort. 3. Define your “future of work.’ 4. Communicate your “future of work. 5. Experiment and empower employees to take action. 6. Implement broad-based change.

A recommended read in the area of organizational management.

On Now, Discover Your Strengths

I just finished reading the book Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and the late Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D.

The main premise of this book:

We wrote this book to start a revolution, the strengths revolution. At the heart of this revolution is a simple decree: The great organization must not only accommodate the fact that each employee is different, it must capitalize on these differences. It must watch for clues to each employee’s natural talents and then position and develops each employee so that his or her talents are transformed into bona fide strengths. By changing the way it selects, measures, develops, and channels the careers of its people, this revolutionary organization must build its entire enterprise around the strengths of each person. And as it does, this revolutionary organization will be positioned to dramatically outperform its peers…To break out of this weakness spiral and to launch the strengths revolution in your own organization, you must change your assumptions about people. Start with the right assumptions, and everything else that follows from them—how you select, measure, train, and develop your people—will be right. These are the two assumptions that guide the world’s best managers: 1. Each person’s talents are enduring and unique. 2. Each person’s greatest room for growth is in the areas of his or her greatest strength.

The foundational assumptions that this book, and strength-based management is based on:

These two assumptions are the foundation for everything they do with and for their people. These two assumptions explain why great managers are careful to look for talent in every role, why they focus people’s performances on outcomes rather than forcing them into a stylistic mold, why they disobey the Golden Rule and treat each employee differently, and why they spend the most time with their best people. In short, these two assumptions explain why the world’s best managers break all the rules of conventional management wisdom. Now, following the great managers’ lead, it is time to change the rules. These two revolutionary assumptions must serve as the central tenets for a new way of working. They are the tenets for a new organization, a stronger organization, an organization designed to reveal and stretch the strengths of each employee.

On Strengths:

For the sake of clarity let’s be more precise about what we mean by a “strength.” The definition of a strength that we will use throughout this book is quite specific: consistent near perfect performance in an activity. By this definition Pam’s accurate decision-making and ability to rally people around her organization’s common purpose are strengths. Sherie’s love of diagnosing and treating skin diseases is a strength. Paula’s ability to generate and then refine article ideas that fit her magazine’s identity is a strength.

On Skills:

Skills bring structure to experiential knowledge. What does this mean? It means that, whatever the activity, at some point a smart person will sit back and formalize all the accumulated knowledge into a sequence of steps that, if followed, will lead to performance—not necessarily great performance but acceptable performance nonetheless…The bottom fine on skills is this: A skill is designed to make the secrets of the best easily transferable. If you learn a skill, it will help you get a little better, but it will not cover for a lack of talent. Instead, as you build your strengths, skills will actually prove most valuable when they are combined with genuine talent.

On Talent:

What is talent? Talent is often described as “a special natural ability or aptitude,” but for the purposes of strength building we suggest a more precise and comprehensive definition, which is derived from our studies of great managers. Talent is any recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied. Thus, if you are instinctively inquisitive, this is a talent. If you are competitive, this is a talent. If you are charming, this is a talent. If you are persistent, this is a talent. If you are responsible, this is a talent. Any recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior is a talent if this pattern can be productively applied…Spontaneous reactions, yearnings, rapid learning, and satisfactions will all help you detect the traces of your talents. As you rush through your busy life, try to step back, quiet the wind whipping past your ears, and listen for these clues. They will help you zero in on your talents.

To recap:

Talents are your naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior. Your various themes of talent are what the StrengthsFinder Profile actually measures. Knowledge consists of the facts and lessons learned. Skills are the steps of an activity.

On obstacles to building strengths:

 

However, despite the range, this general conclusion holds true: The majority of the world’s population doesn’t think that the secret to improvement lies in a deep understanding of their strengths. (Interestingly, in every culture the group least fixated on their weaknesses was the oldest group, those fifty-five years old and above. A little older, a little wiser, this group has probably acquired a measure of self-acceptance and realized the futility of trying to paper over the persistent cracks in their personality.)

On whether you can develop new themes if you don’t like the ones revealed?

You may not be able to rewire your brain, but by acquiring new knowledge and skills you can redirect your life. You can’t develop new themes, but you can develop new strengths.

On what to do about weaknesses?

To begin with, you need to know what a weakness is. Our definition of a weakness is anything that gets in the way of excellent performance. To some this may seem to be an obvious definition, but before skipping past it, bear in mind that it is not the definition of weakness that most of us would use. Most of us would probably side with Webster’s and the Oxford English Dictionary and define a weakness as “an area where we lack proficiency.” As you strive to build your life around your strengths, we advise you to steer clear of this definition for one very practical reason: Like all of us, you have countless areas where you lack proficiency, but most of them are simply not worth bothering about. Why? Because they don’t get in the way of excellent performance. They are irrelevant. They don’t need to be managed at all, just ignored…So once you know you have a genuine weakness on your hands, a deficiency that actually gets in the way of excellent performance, how can you best deal with it? The first thing you have to do is identify whether the weakness is a skills weakness, a knowledge weakness, or a talent weakness.

On whether the themes revealed will indicate whether you are in the right career?

Our research into human strengths does not support the extreme, and extremely misleading, assertion that “you can play any role you set your mind to,” but it does lead us to this truth: Whatever you set your mind to, you will he most successful when you craft your role to play to your signature talents most of the time. We hope that by highlighting your signature themes we can help you craft such a role.

Practical implications of strengths-based management:

Since each person’s talents are enduring, you should spend a great deal of time and money selecting people properly in the first place…Since each person’s talents are unique, you should focus performance by legislating outcomes rather than forcing each person into a stylistic mold…Since the greatest room for each person’s growth is in the areas of his greatest strength, you should focus your training time and money on educating him about his strengths and figuring out ways to build on these strengths rather than on remedially trying to plug his “skill gaps.”…Lastly, since the greatest room for each person’s growth lies in his areas of greatest strength, you should devise ways to help each person grow his career without necessarily promoting him up the corporate ladder and out of his areas of strength.

Managers will continue to play a key role in the development of employees within a strengths-based organization:

Needless to say the individual manager will always be a critical catalyst in transforming each employee’s talents into bona fide strengths; consequently, much of the responsibility will lie with the manager to develop each employee’s career.

A reminder on how to keep high potential employees engaged:

If you want to keep a talented employee, show him not just that you care about him, not just that you will help him grow, but, more important, that you know him, that in the truest sense of the word you recognize him (or, at the very least, that you are trying to). In today’s increasingly anonymous and transient working world, your organization’s inquisitiveness about the strengths of its employees will set your organization apart.

On a concluding note:

With the knowledge economy gathering pace, global competition increasing, new technologies quickly commoditized, and the workforce aging, the right employees are becoming more precious with each passing year. Those of us who lead great organizations must become more sophisticated and more efficient when it comes to capitalizing on our people. We must find the best fit possible of people’s strengths and the roles we are asking them to play at work. Only then will we be as strong as we should be. Only then will we win.

This book includes access for you to take the online StrengthsFinder assessment and discover your top five themes. The material in the book will help you further develop your talents and strengths as well as how to best enable others on your team based on their strengths.

A recommended read, development and engagement tool both from a personal and management perspective.

 

The Advantage

A few years ago, I read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and it remains to be, for me, one of the most practical and applicable management books. Patrick Lencioni, the author of that book, has published a number of other books which have received high reviews as well, and I decided to read one of his more recent ones The Advantage – Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business.

The main premise of this book is that:

The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simply free, and available to anyone who wants it.

Sounds simple, so why is it that difficult?

But before leaders can tap into the power of organizational health, they must humble themselves enough to overcome the three biases that prevent them from embracing it. The Sophistication Bias: Organizational health is so simple and accessible that many leaders have a hard time seeing it as a real opportunity for meaningful advantage…The Adrenaline Bias: Becoming a healthy organization takes a little time. Unfortunately, many of the leaders I’ve worked with suffer from a chronic case of adrenaline addiction, seemingly hooked on the daily rush of activity and firefighting within their organizations…The Quantification Bias: The benefits of becoming a healthy organization, as powerful as they are, are difficult to accurately quantify.

What exactly is organizational health and how do I recognize it?

A good way to recognize health is to look for the signs that indicate an organization has it. These include minimal politics and confusion, high degrees of morale and productivity, and very low turnover among good employees…And so a good way to look at organizational health -and one that executives seem to respond to readily— is to see it as the multiplier of intelligence. The healthier an organization is, the more of its intelligence it is able to tap into and use. Most organizations exploit only a fraction of the knowledge. experience, and intellectual capital that is available to them. But the healthy ones tap into almost all of it. That, as much as anything else, is why they have such an advantage over their unhealthy competitors.

How do we create it, or get there?

An organization doesn’t become healthy in a linear, tidy fashion. Like building a strong marriage or family, it’s a messy process that involves doing a few things at once, and it must be maintained on an ongoing basis in order to be preserved. Still, that messy process can be broken down into four simple disciplines: Discipline 1: Build a cohesive leadership team…Discipline 2: Create Clarity…Discipline 3…Overcommunicate Clarity…Discipline 4: Reinforce Clarity.

On the first discipline – building a leadership team, let us start with the fundamentals, with the definition:

A leadership team is a small group of people who are collectively responsible for achieving a common objective for their organization…This is perhaps the most important distinction between a working group and a real leadership team. Collective responsibility implies, more than anything else, selflessness and shared sacrifices from team members.

What are the key behaviors of a leadership team:

On building trust:

Members of a truly cohesive team must trust one another. I realize that sounds like the most patently obvious statement ever made, something that every organization understands and values. As a result, you’d think that most leadership teams would be pretty good at building trust. As it turns out, they aren’t, and I think a big part of it is that they have the wrong idea about what trust is…The kind of trust that is necessary to build a great team is what I call vulnerability-based trust. This is what happens when members get to a point where they are completely comfortable being transparent. honest, and naked with one another, where they say and genuinely mean things like “I screwed up,” “I need help,” “Your idea is better than mine,” ‘T wish I could learn to do that as well as you do,” and even, “I’m sorry”…Trust is just one of five behaviors that cohesive teams must establish to build a healthy organization. However, it is by far the most important of the five because it is the foundation for the others. Simply stated, it makes teamwork possible. Only when teams build vulnerability-based trust do they put themselves in a position to embrace the other four behaviors, the next of which is the mastery of conflict.

On mastering conflict:

Contrary to popular wisdom and behavior, conflict is not a bad thing for a team. In fact, the fear of conflict is almost always a sign of problems. Of course, the kind of conflict I’m referring to here is not the nasty kind that centers around people or personalities. Rather, it is what I call productive ideological conflict, the willingness to disagree, even passionately when necessary, around important issues and decisions that must be made. But this can only happen when there is trust…When leadership team members fail to disagree around issues, not only are they increasing the likelihood of losing respect for one another and encountering destructive conflict later when people start griping in the hallways, they’re also making bad decisions and letting down the people they’re supposed to be serving. And they do this all in the name of being “nice.”

On achieving commitment:

The reason that conflict is so important is that a team cannot achieve commitment without it. People will not actively commit to a decision if they have not had the opportunity to provide input, ask questions, and understand the rationale behind it. Another way to say this is, “If people don’t weigh in, they can’t buy in.”

On embracing accountability:

Even well-intentioned members of a team need to be held accountable if a team is going to stick to its decisions and accomplish its goals. In some cases, people will deviate from a plan or a decision knowingly, tempted to do something that is in their individual best interest but not that of the team. In other cases, people will stray without realizing it, getting distracted or caught up in the pushes and pulls of daily work. In either case, it’s the job of the team to call those people out and keep them in line…At its core, accountability is about having the courage to confront someone about their deficiencies and then to stand in the moment and deal with their reaction, which may not be pleasant. It is a selfless act, one rooted in a word that I don’t use lightly in a business book: love. To hold someone accountable is to care about them enough to risk having them blame you for pointing out their deficiencies.

On focusing on results:

The ultimate point of building greater trust, conflict, commitment, and accountability is one thing: the achievement of results. That certainly seems obvious, but as it turns out, one of the greatest challenges to team success is the inattention to results. What would members of an executive team be focused on if not the results of their organization? Well, for one, the results of their department. Too many leaders seem to have a greater affinity for and loyalty to the department they lead rather than the team they’re a member of and the organization they are supposed to be collectively serving. Other distractions include a concern for individual career development, budget allocations, status, and ego, all of them common distractions that prevent teams from being obsessed with achieving results…The only way for a team to really be a team and to maximize its output is to ensure that everyone is focused on the same priorities— rowing in the same direction, if you will.

The second discipline is about Creating Clarity:

The second requirement for building a healthy organization—creating clarity—is all about achieving alignment. This is a word that is used incessantly by leaders, consultants, and organizational theorists, and yet for all the attention it gets, real alignment remains frustratingly rare. Most executives who run organizations—and certainly the employees who work for them—will readily this.

This is done by answering six fundamental questions:

1. Why do we exist? 2. How do we behave? 3. What do we do? 4. How will we succeed? 5. What is most important, right now? 6. Who must do what?

On what do we do:

If an organization’s reason for existence answers the Question, Why?, then its business definition answers the question. What? It’s critical that it be clear and straightforward. It should not be crafted so that it also be used in marketing material. The point is just to make sure that the leadership team is crystal clear about, and can accurately describe, the nature of the organization’s business so that they don’t create confusion within the rest of the company or, for that matter, in the market. It’s as simple as that.

On how we will succeed:

We came to realize that the best way for an organization to make strategy practical is to boil it down to three strategic anchors that will be used to inform every decision the organization makes and provide the filter or lens through which decisions must be evaluated to ensure consistency. Strategic anchors provide the context for all decision making and help companies avoid the temptation to make purely pragmatic and opportunistic decisions that so often end up diminishing a company’s plan for success.

On who must do that:

There is not a great deal to be said about this particular question, aside from warning leadership teams not to take it for granted. Although there is often clarity among executives in most organizations about who does what on the team, making assumptions about that clarity can lead to surprising and unnecessary problems.

The third discipline is Overcommunicating Clarity:

What those leaders fail to realize is that employees understand the need for repetition. They know that messaging is not so much an Intellectual process as an emotional one. Employees are not analyzing what leaders are saying based solely on whether it is intellectually novel or compelling, but more than anything else on whether they believe the leaders are serious, authentic, and committed to what they are saying. Again, that means repetition is a must.

The fourth and last discipline is Reinforcing Clarity:

As important as overcommunication is, leaders of a healthy organization cannot always be around to remind employees about the company’s reason for existing, its values, and so on. In order to ensure that the answers to the six critical questions become embedded in the fabric of the organization, leaders must do everything they can to reinforce them structurally as well. The way to do that is to make sure that every human system every process that involves people—from hiring and people management to training and compensation, is designed to reinforce the answers to those questions. The challenge is to do this without adding too much structure.

A concluding reminder that success in creating healthy organization rests on the leaders of the organization:

There is just no escaping the fact that the single biggest factor determining whether an organization is going to get healthier—or not—is the genuine commitment and active involvement of the person in charge. For a company, that’s the CEO. For a small business, it’s the owner. For a school, it’s the principal. For a church, it’s the pastor. For a department within a company, it’s the department head. At every step in the process, the leader must be out front, not as a cheerleader or a figurehead, but as an active, tenacious driver.

While there is a considerable effort involved, there is also a substantial reward:

At the end of the day, at the end of our careers, when we look back at the many initiatives that we poured ourselves into, few other activities will seem more worthy of our effort and more impactful on the lives of others, than making our organizations healthy.

A recommended read in the area of organizational leadership and management. If you have not read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, I highly recommend you read that one first.

 

On Confessions Of A Public Speaker

I just finished reading Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun. This book was recommended to me by one of my mentors.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1) “Most people listening to presentations around the world right now are hoping their speakers will end soon. That’s all they want. They’re not judging as much ass you link, because they don’t care as much as you think. Knowing this helps enormously. If some disaster happens, something explodes or I trip and fall, I’ll have more attention from the audience than I probably had 30 seconds before. And if I don’t care that much about my disaster, I can use the attention I’ve earned and do letting good with it—whatever I say next, they are sure to remember. And if nothing else, my tragedy will give everyone in the audience a funny story to share. The laughter from that story will do more good for the world than anything my presentation,or any other that day, probably would have done anyway.”

2) “If you’d like to be good at something, the first thing to go out the window is the notion of perfection. Every time I get up to the front of the room, 1 know I will make mistakes. And this is OK. If you examine how we talk to one another every day, including people giving presentations, you’ll find that even the best speakers make tons of mistakes…If you listen to Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or Winston Churchill, and then read the unedited transcripts of those same speeches, you’ll find mistakes. However, they’re mistakes we commonly ignore because we’re incredibly forgiving of spoken language.”

3) “If anything, making some mistakes or stumbling in a couple of places reminds everyone of how hard it is to stand up at the front of the room in the first place. Mistakes will happen—what matters more is how you frame your mistakes, and there are two ways to do this: I. Avoid the mistake of trying to make no mistakes. You should work hard to know your material, but also know you won’t be perfect. This way, you won’t be devastated when small things go wrong. 2. Know that your response to a mistake defines the audience’s response. If I respond to spilling water on my pants as if it were the sinking of the Titanic, the audience will see it, and me, as a tragedy. But if I’m cool, or better yet, find it funny, the audience will do the same.”

4) “And it’s often the case that the things speakers obsess about are the opposite of what the audience cares about. They want to be entertained. They want to learn. And most of all, they want you to do well. Many mistakes you can make while performing do not prevent those things from happening. It’s the mistakes you make before you even say a word that matter more. These include the mistakes of not having an interesting opinion, of not thinking clearly about your points, and of not planning ways to make those points relevant to your audience. Those are the ones that make the difference. If you can figure out how to get those right, not much else will matter.”

5) “f you pretend to have no fears of public speaking, you deny yourself the natural energy your body is giving you. Anxiety creates a kind of energy you can use, just as excitement does. Ian Tyson, a stand-up comedian and motivational speaker, offered this gem of advice: “The body’s reaction to fear and excitement is the same…so it becomes a mental decision: am I afraid or am I excited.^” If the body can’t tell the difference, it’s up to you to use your instincts to help rather than hurt you. The best way to do this is to plan before you speak. When you are actually giving a presentation, there are many variables out of your control—it’s OK and normal to have some fear of them. But in the days or hours beforehand, you can do many things to prepare yourself and take control of the factors you can do something about.”

6) “When I practice, especially with a draft of new material, I run into many issues. And when I stumble or get confused, I stop and make a choice: Can I make this work if I try it again? Does this slide or the previous one need to change? Can a photograph and a story replace all this text? Is there a better lead-in to this point from the previous point? Will things improve if I just rip this point/slide/idea out completely?”

7) “The solution to this, and to many other tough room problems, rests on the density theory of public speaking, a theory I discovered one day after repeating the Dallas experience in some other city, with some other embarrassingly small crowd in a ridiculously large room. I realized that the crowd size is irrelevant what matters is having a dense crowd. If ever you face a sparsely populated audience, do whatever you have to do to get them to move together. You want to create a packed crowd located as close as possible to the front of the room. This goes against most speakers’ instincts, which push them to just go on with the show and pretend not to notice it feels like they’re speaking at the Greyhound bus station at 3 a.m. on Christmas morning.”

8) “No matter what kind of speaking you are doing, there are only a few reasons people will be there. As you plan your talk, start with the goal of satisfying the things listed below. People come because they: Want to learn something Wish to be inspired 3- Hope to be entertained 4- Have a need they hope you will satisfy 5. Desire to meet other people interested in the subject 6. Seek a positive experience they can share with others 7- Are forced to be there by their bosses, parents, professors, or spouses 8. Have been handcuffed to their chairs and haven’t left the room for days. ”

9) “To prepare well, you must do four things: Take a strong position in the title. All talks and presentations have a point of view, and you need to know what yours is…Think carefully about your specific audience. Know why they are there, what their needs are, what background knowledge they have, the pet theories they believe in, and how they hope their world will be different after your lecture is over…3. Make your specific points as concise as possible. If it takes 10 minutes to explain what your point is, something is very wrong…4. Know the likely counterarguments from an intelligent, expert audience.”

10) “I usually present with slides. I love using images and movies to make points, but I never worry that these things won’t work. Having thought clearly through my points, even if 1 lose the specific way I had hoped to present them, 1 can still offer them to my audience. If I’m fluent in my research, I can offer those anecdotes naturally. In effect, by working hard on a clear, strong, well-reasoned outline, I’ve already built three versions of the talk: an elevator pitch (the title), a five-minute version (saying each point and a brief summary), and the full version (with slides, movies, and whatever else strengthens each point).”

11) “But there’s a solution. The answer to most attention problems is POWER…The setup for public speaking is beyond republican—in the political science sense of the word—it’s tyrannical. Only one person is on stage, only one person is given an introductory round of applause, and only one person gets the microphone. If the aliens landed during the TED Conference, they’d obviously assume the guy standing on stage holding the microphone was supreme overlord of the planet. For much of the history of civilization, the only ic speakers were chiefs, kings, and pharaohs. But few speakers use the enormous potential of this power. Most speakers are so afraid to do anything out of the ordinary that they squander the very power the audience hopes they will use.”

12) “There are three things my brother did that anyone trying to teach must do, and it’s no surprise that they’re easier to do with a smaller number of students: 1. Make it active and interesting. 2. Start with an insight that interests the student. 3. Adapt to how the student responds to #1 and #2. The bad news: applying these rules always takes more time. The good news: any time at all you spend pays off.”

13) “Finding and simplifying insights requires humility, something rarely attributed to experts and public speakers. Keep your hard-earned knowledge in mind, but simultaneously remember how it felt to be a complete novice. It’s rare to achieve this balance, but it’s what makes a teacher great. It turns out, my brother learned to drive stick the difficult, old-school way. Instead of passing on that misery to me, instead of projecting his own suffering onto me as a : of passage all drivers should endure, he chose to convert his misery into my delight. Teaching is a compassionate act. It transforms the confusing into the clear, the bad into the good. When it’s done well, and the insights are experienced not just by the teacher but by the students as well, everyone should feel good about what’s happened. It’s amazing how rare it is from many systems for the experience of learning to be a pleasurable thing.”

14) “Silence establishes a baseline of energy in the room. Sometimes when a room is silent, people pay more attention than when you are speaking (a fact many don’t know since they work so hard to prevent any silence when speaking). If y If you constantly fill the air with sounds, the audience members’ ears and minds never get a break.”

15) “Learning to stop saying “umm” requires only one thing: practice. People who sneak without saying “umm” weren’t born that way. They used to do it and have worked their way out of the habit. If you’re not sure whether or not you do it, you most likely do. And you’re probably in good company. Many famous politicians. celebrities, and executives are hard to listen to because of their annoying filler sounds. It’s an easy problem to have, since fixing it is a simple, fail-safe way to make all of your presentations better.”

16) “Medium list of little things: Umms and uhhs. Distractions and tics. Putting the audience behind you. Repetition. No eye contact. Discomfort.  Dispassionate. Referenced data. Inappropriate for this audience.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Confessions Of A Speaker

On Quiet

I recently finished reading Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. This book was referenced by one of my colleagues during a recent Toastmaster’s speech, which sparked my interest in reading it.

Below are key excerpts from the books that I found particularly insightful:

1- “It makes sense that so many introverts hide even from themselves. We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal—the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight. The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk-taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt. He favors quick decisions, even at the risk of being wrong. She works well in teams and socializes in groups. We like to think that we value individuality, but all too often we admire one type of individual—the kind who’s comfortable “putting himself out there.” Sure, we allow technologically gifted loners who launch companies in garages to have any personality they please, but they are the exceptions, not the rule, and our tolerance extends mainly to those who get fabulously wealthy or hold the promise of doing so. Introversion—along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”

2- “What exactly do I mean when I say that Laura is an introvert? When I started writing this book, the first thing I wanted to find out was precisely how researchers define introversion and extroversion. I knew that in 1921 the influential psychologist Carl Jung had published a bombshell off a book, Psychological Types, popularizing the terms introvert and extrovert as the central building blocks of personality. Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, said Jung, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the even themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.”

3- “Nor are introverts necessarily shy. Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not. One reason that people confuse the two concepts is that they sometimes overlap (though psychologists debate to what it degree). Some psychologists map the two tendencies on vertical and horizontal axes, with the introvert-extrovert spectrum on the horizontal ax and the anxious-stable spectrum on the vertical. With this model, you end up with four quadrants of personality types: calm extroverts, anxious (or impulsive) extroverts, calm introverts, and anxious introverts.”

4- “If there is only one insight you take away from this book, though. I hope it’s a new found sense of entitlement to be yourself I can vouch personally for the life-transforming effects of this outlook.”

5- “At the onset of the Culture of Personality, we were urged to develop an extroverted personality for frankly selfish reasons—as a way off outshining the crowd in a newly anonymous and competitive society. But nowadays we tend to think that becoming more extroverted not only makes us more successful, but also makes us better people. We see salesmanship as a way of sharing one’s gifts with the world.”

6- “If we assume that quiet and loud people have roughly the same number of good (and bad) ideas, then we should worry if the louder and more forceful people always carry the day. This would mean that an awful lot of bad ideas prevail while good ones get squashed. Yet studies in group dynamics suggest that this is exactly what happens. We perceive talkers as smarter than quiet types—even though grade-point averages and SAT and intelligence test scores reveal this perception to be inaccurate.”

7- “”Among the most effective leaders I have encountered and worked with in half a century,” the management guru Peter Drucker has written, “some locked themselves into their office and others were ultra-gregarious. Some were quick and impulsive, while others studied the situation and took forever to come to a decision…. The one and only personality trait the effective ones I have encountered did have in common was something they did not have: they had little or no ‘charisma’ and little use either for the term or what it signifies.””

8- “It’s impossible to say. No one has ever run these studies, as far as I know—which is a shame. It’s understandable that the HBS model of leadership places such a high premium on confidence and quick decision-making. If assertive people tend to get their way, then it’s a useful skill for leaders whose work depends on influencing others. Decisiveness inspires confidence, while wavering (or even appearing to waver) can threaten morale. But one can take these truths too far; in some circumstances quiet, modest styles of leadership may be equally or more effective.”

9- “…I wonder whether students like the young safety officer would be better off if we appreciated that not everyone aspires to be a leader in the conventional sense of the word—that some people wish to fit harmoniously into the group, others to be independent of it. Often the most highly creative people are in the latter category.”

10- “A mountain of recent data on open-plan offices from many different industries corroborates the results of the games. Open-plan offices have been found to reduce productivity and impair memory. They’re associated with high staff turnover. They make people sick, hostile, unmotivated, and insecure. Open-plan workers are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and elevated stress levels and to get the flu; they argue more with their colleagues; they worry about coworkers eavesdropping on their phone calls and spying on their computer screens. They have fewer personal and confidential conversations with colleagues. They’re often subject to loud and uncontrollable noise, which raises heart rates; releases Cortisol, the body’s fight-or-flight “stress” hormone; and makes people socially distant, quick to anger, aggressive, and slow to help others.”

11- “Psychologists usually offer three explanations for the failure of group brainstorming. The first is social loafing: in a group, some individuals tend to sit back and let others do the work. The second is production blocking: only one person can talk or produce an idea at once, while the other group members are forced to sit passively. And the third is evaluation apprehension, meaning the fear of looking stupid in front of one’s peers.”

12- “The way forward, I’m suggesting, is not to stop collaborating face-to-face, but to refine the way we do it. For one thing, we should actively seek out symbiotic introvert-extrovert relationships, in which leadership and other tasks are divided according to people’s natural strengths and temperaments. The most effective teams are composed of a healthy mix of introverts and extroverts, studies show, and so are many leadership structures.”

13- “Psychologists often discuss the difference between “temperament” and “personality.” Temperament refers to inborn, biologically based behavioral and emotional patterns that are observable in infancy and early childhood; personality is the complex brew that emerges after cultural influence and personal experience are thrown into the mix. Some say that temperament is the foundation, and personality is the building. Kagan’s work helped link certain infant temperaments with adolescent personality styles like those of Tom and Ralph.”

14- “When combined with Kagan’s findings on high reactivity, this line of studies offers a very empowering lens through which to view your personality. Once you understand introversion and extroversion as preferences for certain levels of stimulation, you can begin consciously trying to situate yourself in environments favorable to your own personality—neither overstimulating nor under-stimulating, neither boring nor anxiety-making. You can organize your life in terms of what personality psychologists rail “optimal levels of arousal” and what I call “sweet spots,” and by doing so feel more energetic and alive than before.”

15- “Dom has observed that her extroverted clients are more likely to be highly reward-sensitive, while the introverts are more likely to pay attention to warning signals. They’re more successful at regulating their feelings of desire or excitement. They protect themselves better from the downside.”

16- “When I first met Mike Wei, the Stanford student who wished he was as uninhibited as his classmates, he said that there was no such thing quiet leader. “How can you let people know you have conviction if you’re quiet about it?” he asked. I reassured him that this wasn’t so, but Mike had so much quiet conviction about the inability of quiet people to convey conviction that deep down I’d wondered whether he had a point. But that was before I heard Professor Ni talk about Asian-style soft power, before I read Gandhi on satyagraha, before I contemplated Tiffany’s bright future as a journalist. Conviction is conviction, the kids from Cupertino taught me, at whatever decibel level it’s expressed.”

17- “But the most interesting part of Thorne’s experiment was how much the two types appreciated each other. Introverts talking to extroverts chose cheerier topics, reported making conversation more easily, and described conversing with extroverts as a “breath of fresh air.” In contrast, the extroverts felt that they could relax more with introvert partners and were freer to confide their problems. They didn’t feel pressure to be falsely upbeat. These are useful pieces of social information. Introverts and extroverts sometimes feel mutually put off, but Thorne’s research suggests how much each has to offer the other. Extroverts need to know that introverts—who often seem to disdain the superficial—may be only too happy to be tugged along to a more lighthearted place; and introverts. who sometimes feel as if their propensity for problem talk makes them a drag, should know that they make it safe for others to get serious.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Quiet

Value-Based Leadership

I recently read the book  “The Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing. While the story of the adventure itself is fascinating and highly recommended, the book is also filled with leadership lessons.

Here is a link to a great presentation by Dr. Michael Harris (Value-Based Leadership) that discusses leadership in general, and then focuses on the Leadership attributes displayed by Shackleton, as an illustrative example (along with brief background on the journey itself). The author of the presentation argues, and rightfully so, that the keys to Shackleton’s success relied on six key elements:

1) Planning and Calculated Risk

2) Team Building

3) Conflict Resolution

4) Communication

5) Flexibility and Agility

6) Leading by Example through Values, Courage and Optimism

These attributes were as much applicable then, during this epic adventure, as they are now for any current or aspiring leader.

What sets this book apart is that the lessons are left to the readers to extract and interpret, while captured in a thrilling story.

If you are interested in learning more about this heroic journey, please see the wiki page: , read the book and/or watch the movie .

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

Cultivating Service Excellence in Nine Steps

I recently finished reading Unleashing Excellence – The Complete Guide to Ultimate Customer Service by Dennis Snow and Teri Yanovitch.

In this book the authors outline an action plan, made up of nine elements, to “inculturate” service excellence (excerpted):

1) Create the Service Improvement Team(…) Action Steps: a) Try to select 8 to 12 members at the most. b) Ensure that the team represents a cross-section of the organization c) Have as many senior level members as possible on the first Service Improvement Team. Members need to have the authority to get things done. d) Draft the team charter.

2) Develop the organization’s Service Philosophy and Service Standards(…) The service Philosophy answers two questions: what we do? how we do it?…Guidelines for Developing your service standards: Each standard on the final list should be unique from every other standard…Each standard should be actionable…The standards must focus on customer service.

3) Develop and execute on ongoing service Communication and Awareness plan(…) Communication during the awareness stage – what employees need: information…Communication during the awkwardness stage – what employees need: reassurance…Communication during the assimilation stage – what employees need: what’s new about the service effort.

4) Create and execute a plan for ongoing service Training and Education(…) Training for the frontline employees should: 1) Ensure consistent understanding of the service improvement process. 2) Share best practices regarding service excellence. 3) Develop personal action plans for service excellence. 4) Communicate next steps.

5) Adapt the Interviewing and Selecting processes to include all elements of the service culture(…) Action Steps: a) Observe and interview your best employees in order to uncover their service talents. b) Enlist your service superstars in your recruiting efforts. c) Track how the best employees were recruited to your company. d) Model your company’s values during the interview process.

6) Create and implement a service Measurement process(…) Keys to local measurement success: a) Local measurements should be linked to the overall service improvement effort…b)The workgroup should be able to impact the factors they measure…c) The act of measuring shouldn’t negatively impact the customer experience…d) Improvement in one service factor shouldn’t negatively impact another service factor.

7) Develop appropriate Recognition/celebration processes that reinforce the service culture(…) Action steps: a) Ensure that recognition is strategically linked to the overall service improvement effort. b) Create mechanisms that encourage recognition at all levels of the organization. c) Review current recognition practices to determine if they are consistent the Service Standards and contain an emotional component. d) Provide special recognition for your stellar performers. e) Communicate and train all management and frontline employees on the importance of recognizing service excellence.”

8) Implement a Service Obstacle System for identifying and addressing barriers to service excellence(…) One of the most important jobs of a leader in a service improvement initiative is to help remove obstacles that keep employees from giving great service.

9) Build a Management Accountability system that ensures commitment to ongoing service excellence(…) The three-legged stool suggests that leaders should be accountable for three broad areas: a) The customer experience. b) The employee experience. c) Business results.”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

Unleashing Excellence

Unleashing Excellence

On CIO Wisdom

I just finished reading CIO Wisdom – Best Practices from Silicon Valley’s Leading IT expert by Dean Lane.

This book is a collection of articles on topics of concern and relevance for not only CIOs by IT leaders at large. These articles are written by various authors, which ensures varied perspectives – based on their experiences. Topics range to include the people, process and technology aspects of the profession. To mention a few: Communications, IT Organization, Governance, Architecture, Strategic Outsourcing,  IT Infrastructure Management and Execution etc.

What sets this book apart is the breadth of topics covered in terms of applicability and importance to overall success of the IT organizations. While at a first glance the articles may seem disparate, there are a number of key themes/messages that emerge. Each topic is discussed enough to give the reader a basic and clear understanding, but given the book’s breadth, once cannot expect each topic to be covered in full depth. The later would require many volumes.

CIO Wisdom is a recommended read for any IT leader seeking to gain a broader understanding of the IT organization it’s challenges and opportunities.

Below are excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- “In each business and historical phase, the position of CIO can be seen as a mirror of the broader environment.”

2- “For many years, successful CIOs have been business strategists, capable of translating the value of technology in terms that can be understood by the business leaders of the institutions. Now that skill set is being externalized…The new CIO must be an entrepreneur, a matrix manager of teams that do not report to IT and may not even belong to the company, an architect and e-business visionary, an evangelist, a relentless recruiter, a mentor, and an expert in psychology as well as the implementation of (constant) change management.”

3- “The CIO is a mirror of the institutions…The CIO is a mirror of a global economy…The CIO is at the center of our cultural crossroads…The CIO is a change agent for business processes and cultural norms…The CIO is a mentor and a leader…The CIO is the gatekeeper of the company’s intellectual assets and operational resources.”

4- “The first 90 days is the most important period in your CIO career at a new company…Focus on three major projects: a tactical plan to address time-critical issues and decisions, an IT organizational analysis with recommendations, and an IT strategic plan for the next two years…Establish a strong rapport with management during this time-frame, as you will need management support to implement your recommendations.”

5- “I believe, however, that there are five especially important fundamentals that a CIO needs to be cognizant of, regardless of the current focus. If internalized by IT staff, these fundamentals can dramatically transform a technology-centric IT organization into a business-focused one, almost without effort: passion, humility, openness, clarity, agility.”

6- “Technology by itself can never make a business more agile, but the right IT people applying the right technology at the right time can.”

7- “How to make yourself a better communicator: assess yourself, know your audience, set and manage expectations, insist on accountability, be aware of the political environment.”

8- “You can have an immediate impact in the area of training by utilizing internal resources to increase an employee’s knowledge about the processes or issues facing a company. By reserving the first half-hour of staff meetings for training…you can enable the most knowledgeable person associated with a ggiven process to provide 30 minutes of useful instruction.”

9- “More than one book has made reference to the following four elements, which must be present for communication to be possible: Message – An idea, concept, or som other form of notification. Transmitter – Someone or something that originates and sends the message. Receiver – Someone or something that gets the message. Medium – The means or vehicle by which the message is sent.”

10- “…Although published plans and strategic roadmaps are useful, planning skills and the capability for strategic thinking have the most significant value to the CIO, both personally and within the IT organization.”

11- “It is important for a CIO to have a philosophy around budgeting…Some philosophies that you may see include: Budgeting is a necessary evil…The budget is the Bible…The budget is a guide…The budget is an opportunity to influence change and support overall corporate direction…this is the most effective in our opinion.”

12- “IT marketing is the art of appropriately setting expectations between customer and service provider such that both entities enjoy a mutually beneficial economic relationship.”

13- “Jim Hackett: “The popular notions of the last decade were for companies to become customer-centered. Theories abounded that if you paid attention to what your customer wanted, you couldn’t go wrong. But the truth is that customers often ask you to do wrong things, not because they’re difficult to deal with but because they just don’t know better. The distinction is moving from customer-focused to user-centered, and the ability to understand the users of their products is a cultural shift that corporations have to make.””

14- “Once IT’s marketing advocate is identified, the lifecycle…borrowed from sound CRM best practices should be applied. In short, the plan is to engage, transact, fulfill, service, and report.”

15- “Good metrics should be used to guide the development of strategic objectives, narrow investment opportunities to minimize wasted capital, and continually evaluate status to ensure that progress is being made.”

16- “Although it may sound trite, in all of our years combined, we have learned to never fear a negative result of discovery. Such a discovery represents the opportunity you were seeking in instituting this discipline by which you will make change for the better.”

17- “Facts are the fundamental entities that an organization deals with…Data is integrated, ordered facts…Information is ordered data…Knowledge is ordered information within the context of experience in similar situations…Understanding is organized knowledge…Enabled intuition.”

18- “Project success is a function of RS^2 and VEC^3,  RS^2 is {Resource, Scope, Schedule}. VEC^3 is {VxExC1xC2xC3}, where V=Vested interest (that is, aligning the vested interests of key stakeholders), E=Ego (that is, understanding the values and culture of stakeholders), C1=Communication and alignment with executive management, C2=Communication and alignment with your peers, C3=Communication and alignment with all doers (implementers).”

Regards,

Omar Halabieh

CIO Wisdom

CIO Wisdom