Friday, November 30, 2012

Jo Miller and Total Brand Awareness

 At a conference earlier this year I picked up some branding tips from presenter, Jo Miller, CEO of Women's Leadership Coaching Inc. Jo some great pointers on how to find, develop and make our brand visible.

Step One: What's your ideal career niche?
So how do you identify your ideal career niche?  It's at the intersection of what you're passionate about, what your skills and talents are and what Cisco or the industry needs or values.

Step Two: Create your brand
Some people do this super-creatively already but some of the rest of us may not yet have researched this as far. Jo gave us some labels to help start us.  .
  • Entry level brands: Valuable contributor, team player, subject matter expert
  • Mid level brands: Strategist, innovator, change agent, people motivator, fixer, project leader
  • Senior level brands: Visionary, thought leader, leader who develops other leaders, quiet leaders, (must deliver bottom line business results)
Step Three: Scale your brand over time
There are 2 key questions to help us do this.
  •  What brand or where do you want to have in 2 to 5 years? 
  •  What brand do you need to be know for now to get there? 
Step Four: Make your current brand visible
How do we do this?
  • Work less! And spend that time communicating your brand.
  • Communicate your brand by preparing a 30 second commercial (name, job title, I'm known for x, y, and z.  Come directly to me whenever you need x, y, and z.)
Step Five: Promote your accomplishments!
  • present in meetings
  • send out a newsletter
  • blog
  • submit article
  • ask to be nominated
  • ask a colleague to toot your horn and reciprocate
  • speak on panels
  • forward any kudos to manager
These may seem like unusual behaviors but really they are activities around what you do.  It's not so much about changing who you are as it is identifying what that is and letting others know about it.  This quote from the afternoon does the best job of encapsulating that:
  • "Be authentic about your own leadership style.  Don't try to change it.  Own it.  Put a value on it. Put a brand on it."  ~ Dr. Rohini Anand

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Vision and Voice at e.g. Conference

The next e.g. Conference will be April 18 to 20th, 2013.  At the 2012 e.g. Conference earlier this year, the very first block of speakers addressed the topic of Vision and Voice. Successful strategic planning at work (and in life I might add) requires

  • identifying a clear destination (let's say, a vision)
  • defining the challenges to getting there and
  • coming up with intelligent options
(from 6 Strategy Insights RIMs New CEO Can Use, an HBR blog post by Stephen Wunker)
Almost to a one, each of the e.g. speakers talked about how they developed a clear vision.
  • Singer & Songwriter Kina Grannis talked about Greg Jardin's vision that led to creating a video made with over 288,000 jelly beans.  Watch the behind the scenes video for a sense of how the vision coalesced, the challenges they faced in execution and the joy of the final result. 
  • Jonathan Harris, designer and story architect, talked about how his dismay with 4 challenging forces of our era of  compression, disposability, curation and self-promotion  helped him identify the criteria for his counter-vision as deepening, timelessness, creation and self-reflection which resulted in, a new story telling architecture and platform.
  • Jim Meskimen, actor and impressionist, demonstrated an impressive repertoire of distinctive voices. You can watch him do Shakespeare in celebrity voices to get a sense of his skill.   Marion Ross from the tv series Happy Days was his mom so he grew up in a household where imitating other people's voices was standard fare.  Why wouldn't you?
  • Soprano Charity Tilleman-Dick, soprano, shared how her vision for organ donation grew out of her experience of having a double lung transplant.....twice.
The list goes on but these personal, vocal and physical ways of expression and developing a vision can give us story architectures and examples of what vision is and how we might arrive at there, either personally, collaboratively)  or as part of an organization.

Now is a great time to ask, "What's the story? What's the vision?"

Monday, November 26, 2012

Benchmark Organizational Effectiveness

 It’s amazing how close to philosophy business can be.  The idea of benchmarking an organization’s effectiveness sounds like a fairly simple exercise but it is anything but. It reminds me of a poem by William Carlos Williams from 1923 often referred to as The Red Wheelbarrow but called XXII:

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white

So much depends on how we define the words “benchmark”, “organizational” and “effectiveness” in this exercise.  Let’s start in Part 1 with just the word “benchmark”.  What kind of philosophical questions does this raise?

Against whom? Specifying high tech companies is not fine enough grain because it includes contract manufacturers as well as consumer goods companies. Instead, we need to compare ourselves to the direct competitors in each of the markets we serve.

About what? What are the key performance indicators?  A measure like Cash to Cash conversion cycle may be more relevant for a cash strapped company or during times when alternative investments for that cash are very lucrative.

Available where? Many of the things you’d love to know like how much Supply Chain Overhead costs Juniper are simply not publicly reported.  You may be able to find proxies through a consulting firm but what categories of cost that are included may differ. If you don’t have the whole provenance and contents list, it’s not going to be apples to apples.

Calculated how? Forecast accuracy is commonly defined as MAPE (Mean Absolute Percent Error) and you’d think it’s a standard mathematical calculation but the lag period that it is calculated with can vary from 1 month for example to 6 months.  For a direct comparison of forecast accuracy between companies, you’d like to calculate it the same but you may not have access to the root data to do so.

If it’s red, is that really bad? Sometimes, you have the perfect metric using externally available data that is calculated the same way such as Days Payable.  And you discover that your company’s performance is in the deep dark red end of the scale.  Is that bad?  It may not be if it’s a policy decision that was made in order to gain some other measurable advantage that still exists.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Embrace of Soft Skills

 Recently I wrote about the embrace of soft skills in a post called Top 5 to 7 Skills for Next 10 Years.  Within soft skills, I focused especially on the most important emotional intelligence competencies according to Daniel Goleman:
  1. Internal Standards of performance and excellence
  2. The ability to influence and persuade
  3. The ability to recognize patterns in human interaction.
That seemed like a reasonable start at WHAT we need to be good at.

Since then, I’ve been noodling on the question of HOW do you increase these skills. Recently, I  realized that any tool used to assess “types”, whether HBDI or MBTI or Kolbe, not only helps us understand our own uniqueness but also helps us recognize patterns in human interaction..... giving us more ability to influence and persuade.

HBDI asserts that everyone has a whole brain that includes rational, experimental, relational and practical thinking style quadrants and that each person has preferences about which thinking style to use when.  These preferences show up in patterns of speech, body language and what types of language a person is most receptive to.  HBDI has a complete overview.

For our purposes, one example will do.  If the pattern you observe in a person is a matter of fact tone of voice, use of facts to illustrate points and erect posture, you can try out an assumption that the person prefers the practical brain quadrant and prefers facts.  As a result, to stay in rapport with that person and have the best chance of influence, you (and I) will need to at least start your conversation with facts.

So now, if someone were to ask me, “How do I improve my ability to recognize patterns in human interaction?” I can at least tell them a start would be to know your own preferences according to some framework (HBDI, MBTI, Kolbe or other) and be able to guess and assess what other’s might be and approach them in that channel.

What’s your channel?

What’s the most fun you’ve had working generatively with another person through matching their channel?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Blue Like Jazz by Don Miller

Blue Like Jazz: Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality is written a bit like Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler.  Inside there are essays with seeming diversions that end up not being diversions but critical elements in the whole tied together at the end. 

I bought this book on a recent visit to Watermark Books, an independent and well-curated bookstore. A kind saleswoman named Ann who told me she doesn’t read spirituality books presented it to me as something “many people buy.”

Despite clear chapter titles like “Church: How I Go Without Getting Angry”, and fantastic stories started in one place and continued in another, after finishing the book, no roman numeral outline comes to mind. But I am left with some impressions from Don:

*Jazz and poetry and faith and matters of the soul are not like math and charts and grids. There is an architecture but it’s not the architecture of reason, rather an expression and of a God who moves beyond our reason. Some things you believe even though they are beyond explaining. (see chapter on Penguins). 

What God is doing in our lives is beyond math and reason, charts and grids. This is a good reminder for when I want things in life to make logical sense. It reminds me to take a firm grip on a God beyond my understanding and open myself to new things, to not be afraid but to trust.

*Don owned in his own voice and life the accusations against himself (self addicted, me as the center of the universe), against the church (for persecution, intolerance, for not helping the poor, for not caring with love) and is in the midst of the struggle to be different. What would happen if in our own lives we owned our part of the mess, confessed them to those affected, and asked forgiveness?

*This doesn’t mean trashing yourself for your mistakes in Dan’s view. Jesus command to “love your neighbor as yourself” also means don’t talk worse to yourself than you would to your neighbor. We need to be able to accept God’s love even though we may not feel worth it or conversely too proud to receive free grace from God.

*When the conversation of our mouths matches the conversation of our heart (liking for someone who is very different from us)- then our walk and words are effective, otherwise they are just a clanging gong. 

The thing I like most is Don not only acknowledges the accusations leveled against the church, but also agrees with and in a great chapter titled “Confession: Coming Out of the Closet”, he actually engages in apologizing for to non-Christians. There’s something tremendously freeing as well as empowering about this.

I think it will take me some time to mull over Dan’s book and work out in jazz-like fashion the implications and changes for my own life. If you’re looking for a non-religious way of looking at spirituality and faith based topics, this might be a very good orthogonal way in.

Monday, November 19, 2012

10 Types of Innovation

 Doblin innovation consulting group ( – founders Jay Doblin and Larry Keeley) divides types of innovation into 10 types of innovation (4 major categories with 10 subcategories):
  • Finance including Business Model and Networking
  • Process including enabling and core processes
  • Offering including product performance, product system, service
  • Deliver including channel, brand and customer experience
Companies tend to spend most of their money and effort on product performance innovation.  Historically, however, most of the value creation has come from Business Model and Networking innovation according to Larry Keeley. Doblin members Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff in HBR May 2012 further add an assessment of 3 levels of innovation ambition:
  • Core – optimizing existing products for existing customers
  • Adjacent – expanding from existing business into the “new to the company” business
  • Transformational – developing breakthroughs and things for markets that don’t exist yet
The interesting thing is to note how using this model to perform an innovation landscape assessment can tell you where the remaining innovation opportunities are.  For example, in an industry where most of the innovation focus is around the offering (product performance, product system, service), there are many other innovation opportunities left unexplored where you can make inroads, flank the competition and create a sustainable competitive advantage.

Friday, November 16, 2012

6 Principles of Influence a la Cialdini

Robert Cialdini, Regent’s Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University,  wrote a fantastic book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion about 6 strategies used to influence people.  It’s a fantastic book because he outlines 6 principles of influence that you can use on offense, or, more importantly, recognize on defense.  One of the reasons Cialdini did this research was to figure out why he was vulnerable to influence.  What he found was that knowing the tools doesn’t make one 100% immune, but it sure does help to know what you’re looking for.

So what are you looking for?

  1. Reciprocity – if you do something good for me, I’m more likely to do something good for you.  Think anything given to you for free.
  2. Commitment and Consistency – if I make a commitment (to buy something) I’m more likely to honor it (even if conditions change) than if I didn’t make a commitment
  3. Social Proof – if I see other people do it, I’m more likely to do it
  4. Authority – if the person is an authority figure, I am more likely to do what they say
  5. Liking – if you like the person, you are more likely to buy from them
  6. Scarcity – if you think this is the last one, you’re more likely to want it. (Limited time, limited number, special price only for you)
So next time you’re sitting in a meeting, going shopping or becoming part of a new social group, keep an ear out for these things, take a pause when you recognize them, and then decide what you want to do.

What influence patterns have you seen? How did you decide what to do?                    

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Daring Greatly

“Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose”. Brene Brown

I don’t know if you’ve had this experience but I’ve been running into myself lately, into my own limitations both personally and professionally.  I’ve seen other people who’ve had the same experience and yet been unable to change and that scares me.  What if I’m also not able to change?

 But I shake myself, once and even twice if needed. And I search out, often without great aim, but certainly persistence, in a of pinball-like fashion, born of movement,  I get closer to on track. For example, Daring Greatly by Brené Brown is a book I stumbled upon through Twitter.  I read about the new book, then I forwarded the link to a friend, she wrote me back having engaged with the material, and I doubled down and watched Brené’s TED talk.

What I read and watched as a result has helped me understand why some of my approaches fall flat. I’ve been trying to show up bulletproof and perfect, as if that were even possible (lol), but as near there as humanly possible.  However, even if I could bring my perfect bullet proof self to a meeting, that’s not what people want according to Brown:

Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be – a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation – with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.

Of all of these things, "daring to show up and let ourselves be seen" speaks most to me. Brené redefines the question “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” to a different angle: “What’s worth doing even if you fail?” She writes that "Our willingness to won and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose." I don't have answers yet but these are great questions. I hope you'll take a moment to explore this work as well and join me in understanding how we can dare greatly.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Top 5 to 7 Skills for Next 10 Years

 Recently, while thinking about how specifically to develop, I reached out to a few smart people with whom I feel an “empathic embrace” (more on these folks soon) to ask:
  • What 5 to 7 skills do you think are critical to staying gainfully, creatively, proactively and interestingly employed over the next 10 years?
The summary below is a creation of the main clusters from our conversation and other sources including the recent "e.g. Conference".

Move Like Quicksilver
One cluster of skills required for the next 10 years addresses the challenges of both rapid business change and  “career” compression from one long continuous one to a series of “quicksilver work”*.  In this dynamic situation, you need several components:
  •  Skills: Continuously refresh technical,  professional and soft skills
  • Attitudes: Remain open to new experience, new technology, new people, new opportunities such as being willing to think that computer programming is as essential to everyday worklife as English
  • Approach: the ability to identify opportunities (transitions) and the ownership, true grit and calculated risk taking of an entrepreneur  to finish what you start
*“Generation Flux”

The Embrace of Soft Skills
Another cluster of “soft” skills addresses the challenges we face of Thomas Friedman’s “flat world” where we need to create ties of loyalty or an “empathic embrace”** among more different people (languages, cultures, generations, employment type, geo, platforms) to deliver results. In this diverging view important skills include:
  • The ability to help people focus on their common bonds through diplomacy, conflict management and negotiation helps create ties.
  • Whether you call it “thick skin” or something else, the ability to not be easily offended or to “self-regulate” (i.e. – not say things that are later regretted)  is critical too enabling your own and others’ maximum performance and to creating and maintaining ties. 
  • The ability to “say it well” for a broad audience in written, verbal, interpersonal communication and presentation modes that help people understand how they fit.
Critical Soft Skills
Emotional intelligence competencies, one set of soft skills, are so critical that they are 80% to 90% percent of the predictors of success for executives. The most important emotional intelligence competencies by a ratio of 2:1 are:
  • Internal standards of performance and excellence
  • Ability to influence and persuade
  • The ability to recognize patterns in human interaction**
** Daniel Goleman Lecture at Google (1 hr):

These clusters give me a better idea where to focus my development energy as well as how I might change hiring criteria and talent development and management plans.

Now, how about you?
  • What 5 to 7 skills do you think are critical to staying gainfully, creatively, proactively and interestingly employed over the next 10 years?
I' d love to read your thoughts.  Jennifer

Friday, November 9, 2012

7 Takeaways from The Art of Nonconformity

There are more creative ways of approaching "life" than I ever imagined and Chris Guillebeau in his book The Art of Non-Conformity has introduced me to a few more possibilities!  I've boiled it down to a crowded index card of 7 key takeaways:

  1. All those good things that you've done before are nice, but the future can be even better!  Focus on that. After years in a particular school, job, function or company it can be easy to get "stuck" in the sunk costs and the glory of those days.  But if you're reading this you're not dead yet so there's more good to come!
  2. Increase the percentage of your work that leaves a legacy as opposed to busy work or even just good work. Does laundry leave a legacy?  No, but it sure does make our clothes smell nice.  Some things are just plain necessary.  But, if you're doubling down on legacy work, even sacred laundry can be outsourced to the local laundromat.  I'm not recommending this per se, just saying, take a look at where you spend your time and figure out how to scoop more of it into the legacy category even if it means a novel approach for the good work.
  3. Set up a continual metric so you know if you're on track. Having a metric helps you either make an express decision to not do or helps you figure out how to take a few precious moments to do it anyway.
  4. Take your ambitions seriously. They may not pan out and probably will end up looking different but by taking them seriously you'll learn more about yourself and what you actually need and can do. 
  5. When you start doing what you really want, not everyone will understand.  This is OK. This can be a novel thought for people-pleasers.  It's okay.
  6. Pursue radical exclusion. What can you stop doing?  What's your "Stop-Doing" list?
  7. It's not all about me.  Be sure to leave a positive impact on others. This is a great reminder to include a continuous metric that addresses your positive impact to others.  Clayton Christensen uses number of people he has helped per day.  Even a day where he helps only one person is a success because that's his goal.

I hope this summary helps you too get a little closer to making progress on what's important to you and on leaving a legacy!

Monday, November 5, 2012

New Photo Blog Announcement

One of the things about keeping an eclectic blog like this one is that it allows you to see what topics you write about the most.  I have written a fair amount about photography over the past 3 years. In fact, it was blogging that got me started photographing again so it's a close relationship.  After coming back from a recent iPhoneography workshop with all sorts of creative energy and ideas about writing about photography, I decided to put all that writing in a new place.

I have started a new blog sharing my passion for all things photographic from film to phones and back.

If you read my blog because of the photography info, come on over to my new location!

Everything else will remain here so please come back and visit periodically to see what's new or subscribe to make it easier to check.

Thanks for your support!  See you soon!