Good Can (And Will) Overcome Evil

Beautiful video showing that good can overcome evil. 



Next video is where the woman (empowered) takes down the would be attackers herself–with a big time, well-deserved smackdown!



Where on the right track. 😉

Radiate Possibilities

Music_for_tuition

Today, I had the opportunity to see one of the best leadership videos I have ever seen, called “Leadership: An Art of Possibility.”

It features Ben Zander, an Orchestra Conductor who is not just a leader of making music, but of driving people to excellence.

Zander’s passion and energy bring out the best in people–and you can literally see them transformed as their playing comes alive, their faces shine, and they glow under coaching of this conductor extraordinaire.

His leadership principles are:

Speak possibility–create a shift in being (transformation) by seeing the possibility in everyone, and lead people by empowering, not commanding; help people get in touch with their inner passion, so they remember why they love what they do and why it is ultimately important.

Quiet the inner voices–communicate that everyone can get an A and everyone has value; assume the best of everyone, eliminate the fear of judgement, barriers, and mindset of “I can’t do it,” so people can genuinely perform.

Enroll every voice in the vision–make every person feel and realize that they can contribute and make a difference on our journey together; shift from a mindset of pure individuals to that of living in a connected world; like in a symphony– we create a “sounding together.”

Look for shining eyes and radiating faces–you know you are positively reaching people and impacting them when their eyes and face light up; and you need to ask yourself what you are missing, when you aren’t getting this guttural reaction.

Rule #6 (“the only rule”)–Don’t take yourself so %@&$! seriously; mistakes happen and life goes on; really feel the joy, relief, ease, spontaneity, and community around what we do.

The art of possibility is a paradigm shift where we move from having an external standard to live up to, and instead move to fulfilling the possibility we can live into.

In essence, Zander’s leadership philosophy is about removing the barriers that inhibit us and releasing our deep inner talents, so we can achieve our marvelous potentials–and self-actualize.

As Zander states: the conductor actually does not make a sound, yet by empowering people, he leads them to make the most beautiful music together.

If you get a chance to watch this video, I believe it is extremely valuable because the passion, love, and energy that Zander demonstrates turns every face into a presence radiating their own joy and excellence–it is truly leadership unleashed.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Big and Small–Who’s Who?

Father_and_son

Yesterday, I go into a store with my daughter to shop for a new iPhone case.

A clean-cut kid–maybe 13 years old–comes out from behind the counter and asks me what I’m looking for.

I chat with the boy for a few minutes about their products and the prices of the various items–and I was genuinely impressed with this kid’s “business savvy.”

Sort of suddenly, a larger man emerges, whom I assume to be the boy’s father.

Making conversation and being friendly, I say to the man, “Your son is a very good salesman.”

The father responds surprisingly, and says, “Not really, he hasn’t sold you anything yet!”

Almost as abruptly, he turns and stumps away back behind the counter.

I look back over at the kid now, and he is clearly embarrassed, but more than that his spirit seems broken, and he too disappears behind the counter.

My daughter and I look at each other–shocked and upset by the whole scene–this was a lesson not only in parenting gone wrong, but also in really poor human relations and emotional intelligence.

As a parents, teachers, and supervisors, we are are in unique positions to coach, mentor, encourage, and motivate others to succeed.

Alternatively, we can criticize, humiliate, and discourage others, so that they feel small and perhaps as if they can never do anything right.

Yes, there is a time and place for everything including constructive criticism–and yes, it’s important to be genuine and let people know when they are doing well and when we believe they can do better.

I think the key is both what our motivations are and how we approach the situation–do we listen to others, try and understand their perspectives, and offer up constructive suggestions in a way that they can heard or are we just trying to make a point–that we are the bosses, we are right, and it’ll be our way or the highway.

I remember a kid’s movie my daughters used to watch called Matilda and the mean adult says to Matilda in this scary way: “I’m big and your small. I’m smart and your dumb”–clearly, this is intimidating, harmful, and not well-meaning.

Later in the day, in going over the events with my daughter, she half-jokingly says, “Well maybe the kid could’ve actually sold something, if they lowered the prices” 🙂

We both laughed knowing that neither the prices nor the products themselves can make up for the way people are treated–when they are torn down, rather than built up–the results are bad for business, but more important they are damaging to people.

We didn’t end up buying anything that day, but we both came away with a valuable life lesson about valuing human beings and encouraging and helping them to be more–not think of themselves as losers or failures–even a small boy knows this.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Allen Ang, and these are not the people in the blog story.)

Can’t Live With Them, Can’t Live Without Them

Project-success
I remember years ago, my father used to joke about my mother (who occasionally got on his nerves :-): “you can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them.”Following the frequently dismal state of IT project performance generally, I’m beginning to think that way about technology projects.On one hand, technology represents innovation, automation, and the latest advances in engineering and science–and we cannot live without it–it is our future!On the other hand, the continuing poor track record of IT project delivery is such that we cannot live with it–they are often highly risky and costly:

  • In 2009, the Standish Group reported that 68% of IT projects were failing or seriously challenged–over schedule, behind budget, and not meeting customer requirements.
  • Most recently, according to Harvard Business Review (September 2011), IT projects are again highlighted as “riskier than you think.” Despite efforts to rein in IT projects, “New research showssurprisingly high numbers of out-of-control tech projects–ones that can sink entire companies and careers.”
  • Numerous high profile companies with such deeply problematic IT projects are mentioned, including: Levi Strauss, Hershey’s, Kmart, Airbus, and more.
  • The study found that “Fully one in six of the projects we studied [1,471 were examined] was a black swan, with a cost overrun of 200% on average, and a schedule overrun of almost 70%.”
  • In other words there is a “fat tail” to IT project failure. “It’s not that they’re particularly prone to high cost overruns on average…[rather]anunusually large proportion of them incur massive overages–that is, there are a disproportionate number of black swans.”
  • Unfortunately, as the authors state: “these numbers seems comfortably improbable, but…they apply with uncomfortable frequency.”

In recent years, the discipline of project management and the technique of earned value management have been in vogue to better manage and control runaway IT projects.

At the federal government level, implementation of such tools as the Federal IT Dashboard for transparency and TechStats for ensuring accountability have course-corrected or terminated more than $3 billion in underperforming IT projects.

Technology projects, as R&D endeavors, come with inherent risk. Yet even if the technical aspect is successful, the human factors are likely to get in the way. In fact, they may be the ultimate IT “project killers”–organizational politics, technology adoption, change management, knowledge management, etc.

Going forward, I see the solution as two-pronged:

  • On the one hand we must focus on enhancing pure project management, performance measurement, architecture and governance, and so on.
  • At the same time, we also need to add more emphasis on people (our human capital)ensuring that everyone is fully trained, motivated, empowered and has ownership. This is challenging considering that our people are very much at a breaking point with all the work-related stress they are facing.

These days organizations face numerous challenges that can be daunting. These range from the rapid pace of change, the cutthroat global competition at our doorsteps, a failing education system, spiraling high unemployment, and mounting deficits. All can be helped through technology, but for this to happen we must have the project management infrastructure and the human factors in place to make it work.If our technology is to bring us the next great breakthrough, we must help our people to deliver it collaboratively.The pressure is on–we can’t live with it and we cannot live without it. IT project failures are a people problem as much as a technology problem. However, once we confront it as such, I believe that we can expect the metrics on failed IT projects to change significantly to success.(Source Photo: here)

What’s Relationships Got To Do With It

Professional_networking

It is said that one of the key differences between leaders and staff is that leaders are supposed to spend significantly more time on relationships, while staff tend to concentrate on the task at hand. 

A number of professors from the University of Virginia indicated that leaders who didn’t spend at least 50% of their time and effort on relationship building, tended to be much less successful professionally. 
According to them, there are 3 areas of professional competence–i.e. necessary skill-sets:
1) Technical–what you need to know in terms of subject matter expertise to do your job (e.g. finance, engineering, sales, etc.)
2) Cognitive–these are the information-processing abilities to reason and problem-solve (e.g. perception, learning, judging, insight, etc.)
3) Relationship–this is interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence (e.g. teaming, motivating, resolving-conflict, influencing, etc.)
As you role changes from staff to supervisor and to manager, so does your time spent:
Staff:  Technical 60%, Cognitive 20%, Relationships 20%
Supervisors: Technical 40%, Cognitive 25%, Relationships 35%
Manager: Technical 15%, Cognitive 35%, Relationships 50%
In others words, as you advance from staff to management, you job changes from being the “technical expert” to spending more time solving specific problems and building relationships. 
Additionally, managers who delegated, supported, trusted, and empowered, and didn’t micromanage the tasks–we’re the kinds of managers/leaders that people wanted to work for and would give more of themselves to.  
So leaders who excel at building meaningful professional relationships, benefit not only from developing important and trusting networks of people around them, but also from actually developing a more satisfied and productive workforce. 
Relationship building is much more than the proverbial “3-martini lunch,”–although 1 or 2 don’t hurt :-)–rather it means:
1) Identifying and surrounding yourself with people that are smarter than yourself–relationships are most fruitful and enjoyable with someone that can challenge you.
2) Reaching outside your “normal” boundaries (organizational, functional, industry, geography) to diversify the sphere of influence–new ideas and best practices are not limited to any one domain. 
3) Ensuring that integrity and trust are cornerstones of any any relationship–there is no compromising values and principles for any relationship!
4) Giving of yourself in terms of self-disclosure, assistance to others, and our most precious resource of time–relationships are not built on thin air, but involve work by both parties; it’s an investment. 
Finally, while relationship-building is critical to leadership success, it is important to surround ourselves with the “right” people as Harvard Business Review (July-August 2011) states this month: Bring people with positive energy into your inner circle. If those around you are enthusiastic, authentic, and generous, you will be too.”  
So choose your professional network as carefully as you would choose your friends.
(Source Photo: here)

Soft Skills Complement Hard Work

Soft_skills

Having professionally been around the block a couple of times now over a 25 year career, I can say with some conviction that soft skills are some of the hardest and most important things that you learn and which you need to succeed both personally and professionally.

Soft skills are often equated with emotional intelligence and interpersonal aptitude
They includes a broad range of abilities–everything from diplomacy to dependability, social graces to skilled communications, conflict resolution to constructive feedback, and friendliness to relationship-building.
People with soft skills are able to work well with others whether they are influencing, selling, negotiating, strategizing, or problem-solving. 
As a manager, soft skills also involve effectively delegating and empowering your people to perform and feel good about their jobs. 
While soft skills emphasize relationships, hard skills focus on the task.
One mistake many people make is that in an effort to get a task done in the short-term, they sacrifice important long-term relationships–i.e. people burn their proverbial bridges, which makes getting things done over the long-term much more difficult, if not impossible, and also not very enjoyable–since you’ve just alienated your most important asset, your team!
Essentially, the key to soft skills is to treat people with respect and goodwill, always!  
The Wall Street Journal (5 May 2011) describes how some top business school around the country are “getting it”–providing their students with soft skills business courses.  
Schools like Columbia, Stamford, and University of California at Berkeley are teaching their students not only accounting and finance, but also the “soft skills…important in molding future business leaders.
Additionally, in my experience, post-graduate leadership courses such as from Dale Carnegie Training, The Center for Creative Leadership, and others provide solid soft skills training background
However, in my opinion, the real learning takes place in the classroom of life--when dealing not only with colleagues, but also with family and friends–when you see what works and what doesn’t. 
We are all connected to one another–as children of G-d and neighbors in the global community, and the way we get along underpins our hard skill successes. 
Soft skills should never be equated with being easy, “sissy,” or unimportant–the investments you make in people are the most important investments you’ll ever make

The Internet: A Right and a Responsibility

Poverty_computer

Good Online is reporting (10 June 2011) that the “U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.”

 

According to the U.N. report, “The Internet has become a key means by which individuals exercise their right to freedom of expression.”

 

But as Good points out, this is not just a “third-world concern,” since even in America those without high-speed access cannot adequately perform certain functions “and that surely this affects their ability to get informed, educated, and employed.”

 

The U.N. is pushing for more protections for people to “assert themselves freely online,” but Good proposes that Internet access means more than just freedom of expression, but also the right to more public Wi-Fi access, better access to technology in libraries and I would assume in schools as well. 

 

Interestingly enough, just on Thursday, Mayor Bloomberg of NYC and AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson announced that as part of NYC’s “Road Map for the Digital City,” they were launching a five-year initiative for free Wi-Fi service at 20 NYC parks—this is seen as a “critical developmental tool” for children, families, and communities.

 

The Internet stands alone as a technology that is now a “human right.”  Radios, televisions, and telephones—none of these have that status.  Yes, we have freedom of speech, but the technologies that enable them are not seen as a human right. 

 

Similarly, access to the printing press (i.e. the technology for printing) itself is not a human right—rather, freedom of press (i.e. expression through print) is. 

 

Do we not communicate and express ourselves over radio, TV, telephone, and other technologies as we do over the Internet? Do we not get information from them and through them?  Do we not reach out with them to others both nationally and globally as we do over Net? 

 

The answer to all of these is of course, we do.

 

So what is distinct about the Internet that the mere access to it is declared a human right?

 

I believe it is the fact that the Internet is the first technology whose very access enables the protection of all the other human rights, since it empowers EVERYONE to hear and speak from and to the masses about what is going in—whether in the tumultuous streets of the Arab Spring to the darkest prisons silencing political dissent.   

 

While radio and television, in their time, were important in getting information and entertainment, but they were essentially unidirectional modes of communication and these can be manipulated by the powers that be. Similarly, the telephone while important to bridging communications over vast distances was for the most part constrained between two or at most a few individuals conversing.  And publishing was limited to the realm of the professionals with printing presses.

 

In contrast, the Internet enables each person to become their own TV producer (think YouTube), radio announcer (think iTunes), telephone operator (think Skype) or publisher (think websites, blogs, wikis, etc.).

 

The Internet has put tremendous power into the hands of every individual.  This is now a declared right.  With that right, there is a tremendous responsibility to share information and collaborate with others for the benefit of all.

 

Of course, as a powerful tool of expression, the Internet can also be used malevolently to express hatred, racism, bigotry, etc. and to malign other people, their thoughts or opinions.  Of course, it can also be used to steal, spy, hack, and otherwise disrupt normal civilization.

 

So we also all have the responsibility to behave appropriately, fairly, and with dignity to each other on the Internet. 

 

While I applaud the U.N. for declaring the Internet a human right, I would like to see this expanded to include both a right and responsibility—this to me would be more balanced and beneficial to building not only access, but also giving and tolerance.


(Photo Source: WorldVisionReport.org)