Nurture Your Uniqueness!

 

 

 

 

 

Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else. Margaret Mead

The mythical Eierlegendewollmilchsau was first introduced to me by a German friend.   As you can see, this is a strange-looking but fascinating creature. The EggWoM (my acronym for Egg laying, Wool bearing, Milk giving) now symbolizes for me many things. These range from an over featured product to someone who claims to have every talent or skill imaginable.   Now you might ask why I decided to share this weird creature with you.  It’s because I think we can all use a new word in our vocabulary.

I have even found multiple occasions to use this recently. During a project scope review, I asked if we were trying to build an EggWoM. I thought that this was a great way to nicely ask if we were going overboard on the feature set. Why were we going to build a mansion when our customers were just asking for a cabin in the woods?   The second time I was able to bring out my EggWoM was while reviewing a Vice-President position that had been posted.  There were so many varied and opposing skills listed that it seemed as if only an EggWoM could apply.

Now that I reflect on this a bit more, I realize that I may be an EggWoM.  Well not in this mythical creature sense, but when I look at my many varied skills, talents and experiences I realize that I too may be a bit of an odd creature.   How often do you find someone who has a degree in Accounting but really has an inner geek love for building software?  And how often do you find a self-avowed extreme introvert who loves to get up in front of a group and share agile software development experiences or sing a tune?  Or when was the last time you met someone who has butchered meat for a living and led a software development team?  Oh and not to forget, someone who has completed eight marathons, three triathlon, and swam with sharks? Now that should make for a real EggWoM!

EggWoM’s aside, we are all a combination of many and varied skills and experiences. I guess that is what makes each of us unique and special.  I will continue to nurture my inner EggWoM and encourage you to do so as well. Get out there and add to your uniqueness, build a skill, learn something new, do something exciting!

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Leading By Example

 

 

 

 

 

 

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing. – Albert Schweitzer

Life would be so easy if we never had to deal with any difficult situations. How many of us can say that we never have had a challenge in our work lives? If you can respond in the positive to this question, then you are either oblivious to the world around you or living in Nirvana.  Over the years I have had many of these opportunities to flex my leadership muscles.  I put it this way because until you have faced a daunting challenge I don’t think you can really judge your strength as a leader. Most of us in leadership positions do a pretty good job when things go as planned. But how we react and interact during difficult times is what really tempers our leadership skills.

I had an opportunity recently to observe one of our senior leaders reacting to a difficult situation. I believe what this leader said was they knew they were not treating some individuals very nicely, but that was just the way it was going to be due to the stress of a situation that was taking their focus away from the day-to-day to concentrate on resolving more pressing issues.  I am usually never at a loss for words, but I was struck speechless when I heard that this leader thought it was okay to treat people poorly due to stress at work. Now the moment has passed and I am still looking for the right way to bring the topic back up so that I can do a bit of “upward mentoring.”

This incident got me thinking about how I behave when I am under a lot of stress. As you may know from my earlier posts, I am a self-avowed Tasmanian Devil when the doer in me kicks in, but how do I behave when there are challenges here at work?  I love the quote by Schweitzer and think that it speaks volumes. If I keep this in mind when I feel the urge to “Tas out,” it restrains me. The most impact I can have on a daily basis is to set a good example for those I work with especially when under stress.  As long as I remember the examples that I set by my actions become the behavior of those around me it keeps my inner Tas under control. I have only to envision an office full of Tasmanian Devils whirling around and the lowering of productivity with missed deadlines that results to restrain my doer Devil mode.

Now how do I approach the topic of setting a good example with the leader I mentioned above?  Fortunately I am not the one being treated badly, but if I were it would almost make this crucial conversation easier.  I know I need to pick the time and my approach carefully so that my comments will be heard and received. This is not the type of conversation I like to have over lunch, nor is it effective at the end of another difficult day. Perhaps I’ll take the donut approach and invite them for a Starbucks walk across the street?  I find that walking improves the atmosphere for talking. Maybe I’ll share a “story” about one of my Tas experiences and how I handled it effectively? Or maybe I’ll just wimp out and see if they read this post?  Whatever I choose to do I need to do it this week because the more time that passes the more difficult this conversation will be.

As you can see, a lot of thought and reflection has been going on this week.  When I observe less than stellar leadership behavior, it does help me to become a better leader. It reinforces for me how it is much more difficult to be an effective leader under pressure. These times are the true test of leadership skills. All I have to do is see the reaction of others to this leader to know how I do not want to behave.

We are all a work in progress. Leadership in my mind is first setting a good example for those around us and second being a servant leader. Wish me luck with my crucial conversation. I welcome your thoughts on how I can approach this effectively.

Breaking The Glass Ceiling

 

 

 

 

 “Work is either fun or drudgery. It depends on your attitude. I like fun” – Colleen Barrett.

I was challenged the other day by someone to explain why there were so few women in leadership positions at our company. After a bit of thought I ran through a list of the leaders here at Sage who share the same gender as my friend and I. These include our Corporate Council, Melody Williams-Dapp, the EVP of SBS, Connie Certusi, and a stellar group of ladies who hold the title of VP, Lisa Codispoti, Nancy Harris, Jennifer Warawa, Sophie Leguillette, Donna Armstrong, Leslie Hart, Danielle Cote, and the list continues to grow.

After some reflection on the traits that all of these leaders share, I thought of someone else who also displays these traits day in and day out, Colleen Barrett. Some of you may have heard of Ms. Barrett. She was a long time employee of Southwest Airlines and currently holds the title at Southwest Airlines of President Emerita. I did a bit of research on her career and found that she rose from the ranks of Administrative Assistant to emerge as a leader within Southwest Airlines.

Now I was really intrigued about how she could have risen so far in this organization. She did not have a technical background nor did she come from the ranks of an airline pilot. What she did have going for her was a great working relationship with another Southwest founder and leader, Herb Kelleher, who also shared her view of the importance of empowering your employees and making your customers and employees satisfaction your highest priority.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TgR95vnM0c&feature=related

In this video, Colleen C. Barrett speaks at Wharton School of Business on Servant Leadership. She discusses her experiences in the airline industry and offers the following advice: “follow the golden rule, learn from your mistakes, take the initiative, and listen to your heart.” She goes on and explains the success of Southwest Airlines in simple terms: “a customer focus that is not just a program or policy, but a way of life. In an industry that must constantly balance cost against people,” Barrett believes that not focusing on the people values will make dollars irrelevant. She explains that “employee satisfaction is the starting point for customer satisfaction, and describes a hiring process that selects on individual attitudes, sets expectations, and empowers employees from the beginning to do the right thing and make day-to-day decisions that connect with customers.”

While I have not read her new book that she co-authored with Ken Blanchard, Leading with LUV, I found the two short videos below an insightful view into her leadership at Southwest.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlTBWtS8HXM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTYzgt2VzeM&feature=fvwrel

You won’t see me put my clothes on backward to conduct an interview, but it does serve as an interesting way to find out if a candidate has the requisite sense of humor to be a successful employee at Southwest Airlines. Getting back to the topic of “Servant Leadership,” I’d like to share a link to a great presentation by Ken Blanchard at the Drucker Centennial Week Celebration. A lot of what he says rings so true to me and I think it can help all of us view how we should behave as leaders in our own businesses.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hNYu4cdU2k&feature=related

Now that I’ve got you “videoed out,” I’ll bring this back to the opening reason for this blog, that challenging question from my friend. Upon some further discussion, I found that the real reason I was asked the question was a lament that promotions for us seemed to be non-existent.  After some candid discussion around our mutual aspirations, the driving need was not just for greater organizational responsibility, but was instead more around the compensation that would go along with the elevated role. Sometimes the facts are that in order to get the position and compensation we desire we all need to make a choice – irrespective of our gender – on whether or not we can achieve what we need by remaining at a company where our skills are valued, where we enjoy the work we are doing, where we like the people we work with, and where we feel that we are making a meaningful difference for our customers. In the end, the decision is ours. Do we stay or do we go?  I have opted to stay, but that does not mean that I will not continue to bring my hammer to the office with me every day and keep working away at gaining the leadership muscles required to break the glass.