Break-Fix After Breakfast

So I learned something new about being Mr. Fix It.

First of all, depending on how you look at things, you are either the guy who miraculously arrived on the scene and fixed what was so horribly broken and dysfunctional for way too long.

Or

You are the one who broke what was working so well before you came along and messed things up.

Second, just because you want to fix things, doesn’t mean that the system or actors want it fixed.  

Often, they are used to it that way and are comfortable in their managed chaos.  Objectively better is not necessarily better to those who like to fly below the radar and aren’t looking for change or perceived trouble.

Dealing with what’s wrong means not only admitting something is broken, but also committing to putting in the substantial effort to fix it. To some people, why even go there? 

You may be getting up after breakfast energized to take on the dysfunction, but the organization is frozen in it’s own sickness and the fever isn’t going down or away.

Be careful what you try to fix, because rather than kudos for a job well done, you may be walking into the blame game where after all, pretending that there is no problem to begin with is the greatest shenanigan to hide behind of them all. 

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

What YOU Need To Land That Next Job

What YOU Need To Land That Job

Mashable (17 August 2013) has some good advice for job seekers–show you mean business and here’s how to do it:

1) Integrity–This is the #1 fundamental. If you are not trustworthy, reliable, honest…you are more trouble than you’re worth. Integrity underscores your character as a person and professional. If you cheat, lie, steal, and are self-serving, why would anyone want to associate with you, let alone have you work for them?

2) Adaptability–Change is constant and happening faster and faster. If you are status quo, “old school”, and can’t innovate your way off a typewriter, how in G-d’s name are you going to help a business grow and adapt to changing market conditions? Go-getters, trend-setters, and change-agents, desired and welcome.

3) Problem-solvers-Anyone can complain and see problems, but it takes special folks to solve those large and complex ones. You need to be able to come up with a strategy, articulate it, and execute on it. If you see the bad in everything, but can’t solve anything–you are part of the problem and not part of the solution. If you have technical skills and can apply them, you are valuable to the organization.

4) Self-Starters–No time to babysit snoozers, slackers, or the constantly tardy–organizations are looking for professionals. You need to hit the ground running. If you don’t know what to do, how to do it, or can’t pick up on it pretty quickly, this is going to be a painful experience. Those with initiative, enthusiasm, team players, and hard workers make it relatively easy,

5) Loyalty–Backstabbers, users, and serial job-hoppers, you’re wasting precious time. If you’re loyal to the organization and leadership, you deserve the same in return. Your value increases as you learn the organization, mission, and people and can apply your unique training and experiences over time. The organization wants you to grow with them.

You’re a fork, a spoon, and a knife and you are just what the organization is looking for. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>Fire In The Belly

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Recently I read a classic article in Harvard Business Review (March-April 1992) called “Managers and Leaders,” by Abraham Zaleznik, in which he differentiates between these two frequently confused types of people.

Some highlights:

Leaders

Managers

Personality

Shape the goals

Solve the problems

Decision-making

Open up new options

“Limit choices” to execute

Relationships

Emotion-driven

Process-oriented

Risks

Prudent risk-takers

Conservative risk-avoidance

Sense of self

Strong and separate

Based on the organization

In my experience, Zaleznik was correct in observing that leaders and managers are very different. In particular, I have seen the following.

· Discipline: Leadership is more of an art, and management is more of a science.

· Orientation: Leaders focus on “the what,” (i.e. effectiveness) and managers on “the how” (i.e. efficiency).

· Aptitude: Leaders are visionaries and motivators, and managers are skilled at execution and organization.

· Ambitions: Leaders seek to be transformational catalysts for change, and managers (as Zaleznik points out) seek perpetuation of the institution.

Given that leaders and managers are inherently dissimilar, advancement from management to leadership is not an absolute, nor is it necessarily a good thing. However, many managers aspire to be leaders, and with training, coaching, and mentoring, some can make this leap. Those who can make their mark as leaders are incredibly valuable to organizations because they know how to transform, shape, and illuminate the way forward. Of course, the role that managers play is incredibly valuable as well (probably undervalued), but nevertheless, they support and execute on the vision of the leader and as such a leader commands a premium.

What I think we can take away from Zaleznik’s work, then, is that a leader should never be thought of as just a manager “on steroids.” Instead, leaders and managers are distinct, and the synergy between them is healthy, as they each fulfill a different set of needs. In this vein, when organizations seek to recruit from within the ranks for leadership positions, it would be wise for them to look at candidates more discriminatingly than just looking at their managerial experience. (In fact, counter to the conventional wisdom, the best leader may never have been a manager at all, or may have been a mediocre or even a horrible one!) We cannot just expect that good managers will necessarily make good leaders (although to some extent success may breed success), but must look for what fundamentally makes a leader and ensure that we are getting what is needed and unique.

So what can a person do if they want to be a leader? In my view, it starts with believing in yourself, then genuinely wanting to achieve a leadership position, and after that being willing to do what it takes to get there. Baseline efforts include advancing your education, hard work, building relationships and credibility, and so forth, but this is only part of the equation.

The truth of the matter is, you can go to an Ivy League school and leadership boot camp for twenty years, but if you don’t have passion, determination, and a sense of mission or cause that comes from deep inside, then you are not yet a leader. These things cannot be taught or handed over to a person like a baton in a relay race. Rather, they are fundamental to who you are as a person, what drives you, and what you have to give to others and to the organization.

Regardless of what role we play, each of us has a unique gift to share with the world. We need only to find the courage to look inside, discover what it is, value its inherent worth (no matter what the dollar value placed on it), and pursue it.

>It Pays To Think Big

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As a kid, I remember being encouraged by my role models, who taught me to “reach for the stars”. They said things like: don’t be afraid to think big, work hard, put your best foot forward, and so on.

And I learned that in American society, it is a fundamental tenet that if you work hard, you can achieve your dreams. This is “the American dream.”

Sometimes as adults we feel that our dreams don’t matter. We work hard, but our hard work doesn’t guarantee success. We see that many factors determine success, including: talent, whether technical or leadership; a willingness to take risks; personal connections and networking, and sometimes even “just plain dumb luck.”

Nevertheless, our ability to envision success ultimately does affect our achievements. As Sheila Murray Bethel puts it in the national bestseller, Making A Difference: “Big thinking always precedes big achievement.”

It all goes back to: Think big, try hard, put yourself out there, and you can achieve great things.

Wired Magazine (December 2009), in an article titled, “Hiding In Plain Sight,” states that “Today’s tech giants all have one thing in common: They tried to change the world.” For example, look at the mission of the following organizations:

· Google—“to organize the world’s information.”

· Microsoft—“a computer on every desk and in every home.”

· Facebook—“the social graph of the planet.”

· eBay—“to create an entirely new global marketplace.”

Of course, while we know that there are real life constraints and that not every child who wants to President can be and not every company that wants to be Microsoft will be, it is still thought—imagination, big thinking and vision—that creates the foundation for greatness.

We should not only teach our children to dream big, but allow ourselves to do so as well.

>Challenges of a Change Agent

>I have always been fascinated by leadership and how to grow an organization in spite of a broad variety of obstacles to change and maturity.

Indeed, as I have studied, read, watched, and practiced leadership and change initiatives for over two decades, I am always intrigued at the role of the change agent.

Certainly, it is hard to be a change agent for so many reasons. It is hard to change yourself let alone to get others to change. It is hard to exist in an environment where you see new and different possibilities, but others see only their way or the highway. It is hard to see others jockey for power and revel in the humiliation and shame of their peers. Change is only for the strong-hearted.

It’s interesting to me that change agents are often alone in the enterprise. They are specifically brought in fix highly ingrained problems that very often culturally rooted and that are damaging to the continuing maturation and success of the enterprise. But the change agent is coming in with “fresh eyes” and accompanying toolkit of best practices from outside the insular dynamics of the dysfunctional organization.

But the change agent is alone, or relatively so as they may be others who are “bucking the trend,” to try to bring a new openness and flexibility to the stagnant corporate culture and decaying ways of doing business that descend like death over complacent or arrogant organizations that think that once on top of the world, always on top.

Applause to the organizational leaders who are aware of processes, products, and ways of thinking that are broken and recognize the need for change and attract the agents of change and agility.

But the change agents run against the tide. They are new and are viewed as not knowing anything about the organization. Moreover, they are perceived as a danger to the comfortable long-standing held beliefs and ways of doing things. And moreover, they are seen as a threat to the incumbents. So from the incumbents perch, the change agents need to be shamed, humiliated, thwarted at almost any cost. And the change resisters in the established hierarchy “revel” in every obstacle they throw up.

There is an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, 21-22 March 2009 about a website where people “revel in each other’s humiliation.”

The French site http://www.viedemerde.fr has 70,000 readers and it has “become a phenomenon in France…it receives a thousand or so new stories a day from which three young men who run it pick a dozen or so to post…the site now has 7,200 vignettes picked from nearly 400,000 sent in.”

It started a couple of years ago by the founder who “started posting stories online about the frustrations of modern life.”

The stories of life difficulty that are shared and read by others is closely aligned with Schadenfreude, a German word which means “One’s person’s misfortune is another’s happiness.” Or another version for the popularity of the site is that “one person’s misfortunes reassure another.”

Whichever explanation you adhere to for the popularity of people posting and reading about other people’s misfortunes and shame, points to people’s need to open up and release thoughts and feeling that are shameful and painful; people have a need to share, commiserate, and gain acceptance and to know that they are not alone.

Now there is an English language version of the popular website www.fmylife.com and “stories are flooding in. But the content is often similar. ‘It’s like there is a kind of solidarity among all countries when it comes to misfortune. We are all in a big, international pile of crap—but we’re in it together.”

The enterprise, its diehard stalwarts, and the change agents are also in it together. And they will either sink or swim. Hopefully, they decide on the latter.