The All-Knowing (Not)

Knowing.jpeg

Check out this guy’s shirt:

“Those who think they know EVERYthing
annoy those of us who do.”


What would make this grown man put this handwritten sign on his shirt like this?  


It’s funny some people really do think they know everything. 


And they are the hardest and most annoying people to listen to, because their pompous arrogance blinds them to what others think, feel, and have to say. 


The only way to really know many different things is to learn from others and then incorporate that into your brain matter. 


Progress (societal and self), including thinking, is incremental–that’s why education is so important!


No one (except G-d, of course) knows everything, but everyone knows something. 


So we can learn from everyone!


Don’t fear other’s people knowledge, skills, and abilities–we are a community and we really only work well when we function together. 


It’s like on most of the survival shows I’ve seen–one or two people (even those highly trained) fail miserably at long- (or short-) term surviving, because “it takes a village!”


Overall, I like my father’s humble version on life much better:

“I know nothing and I can prove it.” 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

Getting Zinged

Bee

So there is the work at work. 


And then there is the behind the scenes people stuff that goes on.


And anyone who has been around the block long enough in organizations know that the people stuff is where all the “craziness” happens. 


A friend told me a story about their colleague.


The colleague sends a trash-talking email about the person at work, but instead of sending it to the presumed audience they instead send to the person himself….oops. 


So the veneer of “how your doing today?” and “hope you have a nice weekend!” is revealed by something else. 


Awkward, no?


Email is generally a positive method of communication, but also can be treacherous and revealing.


No matter at work, the main thing is stay focused on the mission and not to get sidetracked by the zinger of the day. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

CIO, Social Butterfly Or Tyrant

Friends
So I’ve seen it both ways…



There are those who “lead” by friendship, as if the workplace is one big playpen; and the notion is that those who have the most office buddies wins; to them it’s not the mission or work that is important but rather it’s a popularity contest, plain and simple–they are immature and still stuck in the preschool mode of thinking about what leadership is and how to work productively with others. 



Then there are others who “lead” by tyranny–it is a one person show and they are it; no one else has an viewpoint or idea that matters; anyone else who is good to great is a threat to them–they are insecure and narcissistic and the scariest thing in the world to them is to surround themselves with people smarter than themselves or give credit, respect, and honor to others.



Now there is nothing wrong with doing a coffee, lunch, or happy hour, networking, and building relationships with good people…in fact, interpersonal skills is a critical part of the job and of success.



However, those who flutter around smoozing it up with anyone and everyone, and unlike normal working discussions that have a congenial, “how you doing?” aspect and a serious, let’s get down to business part, these social butterflies never get past the game on last night, their trip to Paris, or their one night stand…it’s all personal, conferences, speeches, but no real work getting done (maybe some smoke and mirrors). 



Similarly, there are times, when decisions need to be made and the debate must end, and not everything in the office can be a vote where majority wins–sometimes tough decisions and trade-offs need to be made, authority exercised, and responsibility taken.



Nevertheless, it’s when moderation and good judgement is lost and a person’s emotional issues, personality disorders, and social anxieties take over that they act the fool–and they either rule by shaking hands and kissing babies (or the office equivalent of favors, favortism, and coffee or drinks, I’m buying!) or they are hard-a*sed, prickly jerks who cannot work with anyone that can pull their own weight and instead we see a flurry people make a dash for the exits. 



How do either of these types of people become leaders of anything? Don’t the executives they report see or hear the chaos in the ranks below and the projects going bottom-up, kaput?



We’ve got to get along and nothing wrong with work friends, but we are here to do a job and do it well and for that we need to come together as decent human beings who treat each other with respect, dignity, and where everyone can make a valuable contribution–CIO social butterflies and inglorious tyrants begone! 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Open Doors, Closed Minds

Door_closed

This was a funny photo at the local Pot Belly eatery. 

Their side door (right off their main entrance) is wide open, yet they have these two large signs that say “Keep Closed” and “For your safety back door must be locked at all times.”

And inside this guy with a clipboard is schmoozing away–seemingly ignoring everything.

No delivery in sight either–maybe just the morning checkup on things.

So much for safety, following the rules, and probably good common sense.

It reminded me of a couple of things:

One is sort of the opposite of this scenario, where in the office, virtually every manager/leader purports to have an “open door” policy, yet really while their door may be open, their minds are closed.

They don’t really listen to what people are telling them–issues, solutions, new ideas–they have their own ideas about things, how they are and how they ought to be. The others don’t really matter to them, because they are in charge.

In this case emotional intelligence, social/interpersonal skills, communication abilities, and teamwork are all pretty low. Surprisingly or not, this is quite a lot of managers out there, I think.

The other thing this scene brought to mind is a related issue of access. Sometimes, we may try to get a briefing or presentation, or even just a discussion with superiors, but they always seem too busy.

Without acccess, we are limited in pushing new ideas and innovations up and out–it stops with the gatekeepers. With access, we can work together to make great ideas and solutions even better.

It’s interesting that access–such a simple thing you would imagine, is such a big deal. But it is common too that rather than dealing with new ideas or difficult issues, managers may simply find it easier to simply not deal with “the noise.”

This is the equivalent of grade school, where you put the fresh-mouthed student in the corner, facing the wall, with a tall pointy dunce cap on their head–until they and everyone else gets the message that this not someone of significance. See them, laugh at them, then ignore them.

Access is another word for you mean something or you don’t, in your bosses mind, at least, and in how they communicate about you to others.

Lose access and you are in the wilderness and maybe will starve to death and die. Gain access and you have an opportunity to influence things for the positive–live and let others thrive.

Are you relevant or dead–is the door open–really or is it just a show.

Your job as a leader and follower is too figure out how to open doors all around you, to bridge divides, communicate what you really think in a way that can be heard, influence the way forward, and make people feel–really feel–that they are heard, that they do have something important to say and contribute, and that everyone is valuable.

Door open or closed–your mission is the same.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Dealing With Change Resistance

In leadership class, I learned that in performance management, there are two major types of issues–conduct and performance.

In conduct issues–people willfully do not follow the rules of the workplace. Conduct issues are those of “won’t.”

However, with performance problems–people cannot meet the expectations for quantity and/or quality. Performance problems are issues of “can’t.”

On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I wonder whether these same types of performance management issues apply to our lives as human beings and as children of G-d.

– Some people just won’t do the right thing, instead willfully choosing to lie, cheat, steal, and mistreat others. They prefer the monetary or egotistical rewards of doing the wrong thing over the spiritual and relationship hardships and challenges to do the right thing.

– Other people can’t do the right thing–they are too scarred by hurt, abandonment, loneliness, being told they are not good enough and can’t compete, and so on. For these people, sometimes, no matter how hard they try, they feel that they cannot meet expectations.

Of course, willfully doing something wrong is worse than not being able to do something right.

That is why for the first type of people–those with conduct problems–there is disciplinary action.

For the second type of people–those who have performance issues–we recognize their commitment and try to help them through things like coaching, mentoring, training, and counseling.

Performance issues may be linked to change resistance to change–and there are 3 dimensions of this:

1) Cognitive–“I don’t get it”–the person doesn’t fully understand and therefore agree with the rules.

2) Emotional–“I don’t like it”–a person emotionally rejects the rules of change, because they are afraid of the loss it will cause to them, personally and/or professionally.

3) Interpersonal–“I don’t like you”–when people are not resisting an idea, but rather they are resisting you, personally.

Great leadership is the ability to sense when any of these dimensions are off and help to course-correct them:

– When people don’t get it–we can inform, create awareness, and educate.

– When they don’t like it–we can listen to them and show empathy, get them involved in the process, and maybe show them the “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM).

– And when they don’t like you (the most difficult one)–we can try to win people over by taking responsibility for the things we have done wrong, demonstrating over time that we are trustworthy, spending time together to better get to know each other and build the relationship, and maybe even give in on some issues, where appropriate.

Like on Rosh Hashanah, where we seek G-d’s mercy on us and ask that he work with us, so too, we can learn to work with others to try and help them, where possible.

(Source Photo: Minna Blumenthal)

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

>Ruminations and Enterprise Architecture

>

The Wall Street Journal, 23 October 2007 states: “at work there are countless things you should and could and would have said. But the tormenting fact is, you didn’t. So hemmed in by forces such as the fragility of reputations, your dependence on a paycheck, or even just slow-footedness, you re-enact one of the countless little workplace defeats in the confines of your head.”


Ruminations—“the process of chewing over old conversations.” This is sort of like 20-20 hindsight, again and again; thinking or saying to yourself, “If only…”


How often do you replay incidents over and over again in your mind? Probably, the more devastated, hurt, or taken aback you were by an incident, the more you hit the replay button!


Apparently, the more people ruminate, the more they let things fester, the more anger builds up in them—until they “go postal” or something crazy like that..


Perhaps they are angry at those who slighted them or possibly, they are just angry at themselves—at how ineffectually they think they handled things.

Fortunately, “cognitive tasks can distract us from ourselves.” Hence, crossword puzzles, sudoku, even needlework can take our minds off our troubles. Related to this, you can actually ruminate so much that you essentially “habituate” (or bore) yourself out of it.

In any case, you cannot just say anything you want to at work, even to respond to someone else’s provocations. At work your interpersonal relationships are critical to your being able to get your job done.

In an information economy, most of our jobs are heavily dependent on having, strong interpersonal skills. As enterprise architect practitioners, this is certainly the case. Enterprise architects work with leaders, business and technical subject matter experts, and stakeholders, up, down, and across the organization as well as outside of it (to capture information, bring in best practices and trends, conduct benchmarking, and develop policies and practices to share information and build solutions to enable mission execution).


To be a good enterprise architect, you have to have great interpersonal and communication skills. Moreover, you’ve got to have a thick skin (like an elephant or better yet, like an Abrams tank!) The point is not to let people’s slights get to you, not to ruminate about things, and certainly not to get angry or frustrated. You’ve got to take it in stride and keep focused on the mission.


In a leadership class, I remember learning an important lesson: Managers usually incorrectly hire for technical skills, and then try to train people in interpersonal skills. Instead, the experts contend, managers should hire for interpersonal skills (the harder and more important) and train for technical skills.