Seize the Day!

 

 

 

 

Seize the moment.  Remember all those women on the Titanic  who  waved off the dessert cart. ~Erma Bombeck

Whew, new week fresh start. Last week was a whirl wind with a four-day business trip to start and then Friday in the office catching up. The highlight of my week other than having the privilege of meeting with some of the most technical and intelligent people at Sage was getting to spend an hour on Friday with one of our senior leaders. At this meeting we discussed my current projects and the role I play in them.  The meetings all went well and I am excited to play a small part in what I consider to be a ground breaking project. There was only one down note for the week. This was finding out that the wife of a friend has had a second recurrence of cancer. She is now going through some aggressive chemotherapy treatments, but maintains her positive outlook and optimistic attitude. I am able to stay up to date with her progress via her CaringBridge journal.

All of this has caused me to have a bit of reflection. I have concluded that while what we do every day at work is very important to our careers and our corporate health, it is just as important to focus energy on our personal lives. Keeping this in balance is important to our relationships and our physical health. I would like to think I learned this lesson a few years ago, but it is good to always be reminded how precious each day is and to not take any of them for granted. No one can predict what will happen tomorrow. We can only do our best each and every day, both on a professional as well as a personal level.

When I am at work, I am energized by listening to the excitement of the project team as they come up with solutions for the most challenging aspects of their project. What a great opportunity I have to work with a cross-section of the most talented individuals here at Sage.  When I am at home, I am energized by starting to focus on getting back in shape. This week I will be adding swimming to my fitness regime and hopefully this will allow me to increase my physical energy and mental focus.

In summary, I would say that this post is just a reflective reminder that while we never know what a day will bring we can make each one count. I will close with a challenge to you. Find what energizes and excites you with your career and put a daily focus on that aspect of your work and at the same time reflect on your personal life and find the thing that will make you happy every day and put some effort and energy to that as well. What makes you want to jump out of bed and greet each day with a smile? Go for it! Do it! Make every day special — remember “Life is short. Eat dessert first”. – Ernestine Ulmer

Patience As A Skill

 

 

 

 

Genius is eternal patience.  Michelangelo

Patience is the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. Patience is the level of endurance one can take before negativity. It is also used to refer to the character trait of being steadfast.

Let me start by confessing that anyone who really knows me would say that I am the “antithesis of patience.” Even with that said, I do see patience as a valuable skill that I continue to strive to master. I consider my lack of patience to be one of my few (I would like to think there are only a very few) character flaws. When I reflect on the business leaders whom I admire, they all seem to have this skill mastered. Some may call it a virtue, but I prefer to think of it as a skill.

In cases where patience is really required, I am able to at least recognize the need and retain a modicum of patience as the circumstance requires. Probably the worst case where I lack patience is with myself. When attempting to learn something new or use a new tool, I am one of those individuals who jumps right in and will never read the instructions or the manual or even press F1 for Help unless I find myself in such dire straits that I must do so to have any forward motion. You would think that I would have learned by now that if I would exercise a bit of patience to begin with, I would invest less time by making fewer mistakes. To counter this, I usually tell myself that I learn more by making these mistakes along the way. Didn’t someone say that we learn the best lessons from the mistakes we make? Well if they didn’t, they should have, because I certainly have learned a lot from all of my mistakes. I guess you can translate this into I make a lot of mistakes at first, but the only lesson I have not learned is to RTFM (read the funky manual).

It’s not that patience was totally missed in my family. It’s just  that it all got passed down from my mother to my sister and skipped me entirely. When on a recent trip with my sister and her granddaughter, I listened in awe as my sister was so extremely (and annoyingly to me) patient with my niece. I even asked her if she ever got frustrated and yelled at the grandkids and did she ever yell at her own children? This gave her a bit of pause and she replied that she could only remember one time yelling at her daughter and that she also probably was more patient with the grandkids. Wow! How many of us can say that? And worst of all, I believe her. I would like to think that I am a pretty good mother, but I know I spent a lot of time yelling. Once my daughter bought me a gift, it was a bright yellow apron that said down the front in gradually increasing size font “picky, picky, picky, picky…” you get the picture.

Today I was given a golden opportunity to build on the skill of patience. At our company meeting some organizational changes were announced. With my “doer” style I like to jump right in and start driving forward, but as is normally the case when reporting structures change, no one has all of the answers and some things have to play out in their own time. For a person who likes to have all of the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed, this can be a source of frustration and angst. However, I am going to see this as a personal challenge and an opportunity for professional growth. I have decided to be a model of patient understanding as we work through all of these positive organizational changes.  I can just hear my daughter as she reads this. “Yeah mom, I’ll believe that when I see it.”

I really think I can accomplish this. I’ll just remember my sister and her patient voice speaking to her granddaughter. Well maybe I’ll also take a deep breath and hum a little mantra. Something like, change is good, change is good, change is good, I know this change is good.  Wish me luck and hum along with me….

Presentation Paranoia

“It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”
Mark Twain

I confess, I have presentation paranoia.  I know I am in good company.  Along with many others I too am stricken with an unreasonable fear when I have to get up in front of a room full of people. The fear is there no matter who is in the audience. Well, perhaps it is a bit better when I know the audience – oh forget I said that I get a case of the cold sweats whenever I am presenting it’s just a matter of whether or not my Secret will hold out. With this in mind, I am starting to prepare early for a presentation I volunteered to do (yes you got that right, I volunteered) for the Southern California Quality Assurance Association (SCQAA) in October.  It did make it somewhat better that one of my esteemed colleagues presented to the SCQAA in June and the audience loved him. Now I just have to live up to the standard that he has set. Whew, tall order!

What I have found that helps me a lot is to know my subject. My SCQAA topic is on our Agile journey here at Sage. The audience is eager to learn more real life experiences with taking a team from the structured Waterfall methodology of software development to the much touted Agile methods. While the June presentation covered this journey and was well received, I plan to build on that presentation and take a bit of a different approach.  I just need to determine what that approach will entail. I am very fortunate to work with a great group of managers who are willing to share and my colleague has sent me his slides. You can be sure that I will “borrow” from his presentation.

Another presentation technique that has helped me in the past is to get the audience involved. Fortunately I have been attending the SCQAA meetings so I think I have at least a bit of an understanding of my audience. I plan to think ahead and insert some questions into the presentation that will allow me to interact with them and get them to tell some of their own stories and experiences.  I like to pride myself with being able to think on my feet so I will take a cue from their responses and try to tailor my presentation to their interests.

Those are things that have helped me, but there are a  few tips that others gave me which I found to be less than useful. For instance, it just did not work to imagine that my audience wore no clothes. I do have a vivid imagination and this just caused me to blush and titter so I will not be using this again any time soon.  Another tip was to pick someone in the audience and maintain eye contact with them. Establishing this “friend”  to direct my focus only worked if they really were a friend and didn’t grimace, pick their teeth, or fidget as that just makes me more nervous. I have several other “unhelpful” hints, but won’t bother to go over them here.  Let’s just say a lot of things I have tried didn’t work.

My style is not very formal and I think that will work well with this audience. I believe in injecting humor and really enjoy telling stories to illustrate my points. Poking some fun at myself is always a favorite and I am lucky that I have made so many mistakes along the way that it won’t be difficult to come up with a few good stories.

With all of this thought and approach figured out now I just need to brush up on my PowerPoint skills. I do have some on-line training available to me, thank you Sage, but learning from others is what best fits my style.  A while ago I subscribed to slideshare so when I received this feed today it came at the perfect time.

http://blog.slideshare.net/2012/07/09/interview-tara-hunt/comment-page-1/#comment-499375  

Make sure you view Tara’s slideshare presentation “How to Rock an Audience.”

It seems like I am all set. I just need to mark my calendar and reserve some time next week to work on this presentation. Let’s see next week is still July and my presentation is in October, that’s hmmm August, September, yes two full months that should be enough time. I intend to take some tips from Tara’s slides and plan to practice my presentation skills a bit on some unsuspecting souls around the office. Wish me luck and feel free to volunteer to review my slides as long as you promise to be kind and constructive with your criticism.

Creating a Culture of Belief

 

Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results. Andrew Carnegie

As I was passing by a colleague’s office the other day I saw a book on her desk with the title, All In, by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. Since our company president and CEO, launched a recent campaign called “All In” I was intrigued. What this means here at my company is that we each pledged to be all in with building the company we want to work for. We are engaged and support creation of an extraordinary customer experience. With this in mind, I just had to download the book. And to answer your first question, no, the president hadn’t read the book, but he certainly could have written it himself.

For those of us who have managed people, the book illustrates how we each can create a culture that works. A culture of engaged employees who understand the “why” behind what they do each and every day. The authors cite research studies and case studies that illustrate the importance of building a culture like this and that it is the manager who makes this happen.  This culture of “belief” is one that is engaged, enabled, and energized. The authors also show evidence that companies who have this type of culture are at least three times more profitable than those who do not.

After reading the book, I believe that the most important key to building this type of culture is to always be able to explain the “why” behind what you are asking your employees to accomplish. This why needs to be built around and be in alignment with the overall corporate strategy. In order to do this, every manager must understand how their work fits in to the strategy and what success looks like for their team. They must then be able to communicate this effectively.

That might seem simple on the surface, but how many times have we asked ourselves these questions. “Why am I being asked to do this? How is this important to the business? What does success look like?” We as managers owe it to our employees to be able to give them the answers to these questions. The ability to do this will build a culture of belief. In this culture the employees are engaged, they understand how their work benefits the organization. They are enabled, the company provides them with the right tools and training and their leaders give them the coaching they need. And lastly, they are energized, they have high levels of energy due to a balanced work and home life and recognition for their individual contributions.

The book was very interesting and reinforced the “why” behind a lot of what we are doing at my company. I commend our CEO for starting this initiative as well as our senior HR leadership for supporting and driving the success of this program through training for all of our managers and staff.

Not to spoil the book for you, but to give you some of the highlights that I found particularly interesting, I have included some excerpts below. I’d love to get your feedback on the book and what you found of particular interest.

On Embracing Change:

“All In” transformation occurs when a leader anticipates change and helps us embrace it. New worlds are discovered, governments are built, laws are written, religious and civic organizations grown, communities bond, and corporate cultures thrive when our leaders see potential on the horizon and help us adapt…. It’s about how some managers are able to help their people feel confident about facing the future and facing a shared fear

On Agility:

Agility is arising as one of the top skills of leaders in high-performance organizations…. “change masters” reported three-year revenue growth a whopping three times higher than their high-performance peers. What was different? First, change started with managers who were considered “authentic” by their people. That meant leaders at all levels provided a clear sense of direction and made decisions promptly, they treated employees respectfully and took action on issues their people raised, and finally they behaved in alignment with company values. They “walked the talk.” Second on an organizational level companies faced market pressures through innovative product development, a customer-focused culture, and social responsibility and integrity in dealing with their customers.  Third, managers used sophisticated talent-management practices to attract, develop, promote and retain the best people; they ensured employees had regular, clear, and objective performance evaluations; and they fairly recognized efforts through non monetary measures.

The study shows that agility is more important in sustaining above-average business results than clever strategy, compelling products, or the other typical focusses of leaders.  Today, employees feel a heightened need for their leaders to help them adapt.

From a study by Lehigh University researchers on the subject of organizational agility:

Enrichment – an agile company enriches the lives of its customers.

Cooperation – an agile culture employees the “core competence” approach.

Organization – The most agile companies are not afraid to allow different interesting organizational structures to exist. These organizations can change and redeploy people and assets to meet the rapidly changing market shifts.

Leverage – Finally, according to the study, the most agile organizations leverage the impact of people and information, with an emphasis on putting their talent and intelligence up against the most value-added products.

On Listening:

Leadership from the top is important but just as important is “360 listening.” The most effective managers were found to spend more than 80 percent of their time interacting with others. Instead of hunkering down “getting their work done, “ by investing this time with employees, peers, and customers they were better able to perceive issues as they were arising and to gain the knowledge necessary to tackle those problems and formulate changes in strategy.

The key to successful leadership is to stop worrying about yourself and lose yourself in helping those in your care. This means that we need to see ourselves as  “gardeners” for our employees – helping our people grow and evolve.