Sunday, March 02, 2008

4 Hour Work Week - Quick Post

OK, this really intrigues me... and I know this book is really lighting up the blog-o-sphere... so here are my two cents (from a 1/2 read through in the bookstore - more for my own notes than anything else. I still don't know if I like it or just think he's really really arrogant).

But anyway, so the crux of the entire book is on the word DEAL (or DELA) if you are like some people (me) and work for someone else for a living. This is an acrostic for:
  • Define - What is the heck is all the stuff you are doing?
  • Eliminate - What are the core things that you really really have to do? Use the Pareto principle (80/20 rule) to concentrate on your maximum value adding activities. "Outsource" the rest.
  • Automate - Automate your income... I didn't really get a chance to digest this part
  • Liberate - Liberate yourself from the 9-5.
He then goes on to explain tips such as only checking your email once a week, never reading or watching the news, and "begging for forgiveness rather than asking for permission".

Hrm... I will hold judgment until I can take a deeper look at the book and think about it further... but I guess this is it for tonight.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Leadership Realities (Part III)

OK, last one of the night. Leadership Realities (Part III) - Too Much Inertia. (I don't really have much insight into Mr. Peter's first point about executives being rubber stamps).

Inertia is the resistance to change (you might remember this from your high school physics classes).

In the context of organizations, it's exactly the same thing. As organizations grow the typically institute best practices, standard operating procedures, and other "Our way of doing things". These are usually good. They make life more stable and dependable. Change is scary and takes away people's sense of security. People don't like change. (OKOK I know this is debatable and there is this whole thing called 'Change Management' but you get the point of the picture I am trying to paint).

But sometimes an organization needs change. Sometimes the people change. Sometimes the environment changes. Improvements are change. The problem with inertia is that sometimes it kills a necessary change at the expense of the life of the organization.

History is littered with the stories of organizations, groups, companies, and even governments that died because they didn't change with the times.

So what can you do as a Youngleader to resist inertia? A lot of things:
  • Learn to listen - This is an obvious one and I've talked about listening numerous times...
  • Check your ego at the door - I talked about this in the post above. You can't shoot the messenger, and you need to proactively seek out areas for improvement. Everyone can improve themselves somewhere.
  • "Challenge the Reigning Paradigm" - I totally didn't want to say "Think outside of the box" because well... that has been done to death and we need to be thinking about what's next. No but seriously... you always need to be thinking "Why?". Why are we doing things this way? Why can't this work better? Why don't we look at things from this perspective?
If this all is sounding like a re-hash of the Toyota success story. Maybe it is. They beat corporate inertia through the practice of continual change and improvement. Yes they are a tough act to follow, but the rewards are worth the effort especially when the current environment is "Change or die".

Anyway, lots more to come in the near future. As always comments are requested and appreciated!


Leadership Realities (Part II)

So I'm on a roll... onwards to Leadership Realities (Part II) - Bad News is Hidden.

You can't blame them. When things go wrong... nobody want to have to tell the boss...

So the vendor missed a deadline, we can make the time somewhere else anyway.... or there is a potential issue with one of your system designs, but if the boss doesn't see it, we should be OK for now...

Yes everyone has an excuse for not telling bad news to the boss. It's even easier to make excuses when the boss shoots the messenger. Unfortunately we still live in an age where the majority of bosses (and the successors they have been grooming) manage with a bullwhip and a chair.

And maybe that is the reason why so few companies "Confront the brutal facts" and make the transformation from Good to Great.

So what can a Youngleader do to change this?

Well the first thing would be to have courage. Not too long ago I spoke to one of my supervisors about her style of dealing with people. It was quite obvious that she looked down upon the more technically skilled members of our team because many of them had a language and cultural barrier to overcome. Because of her outlook and the existing communication barriers she created the potential for miscommunication, errors in work, and project delays.

I confronted her about this, for the good of the project that we were working on. It was scary... and well she shot the messenger... which was even scarier for me... but I did what I thought was right.

Why should we "do the kabuki" (as Arnold would say)... hide the bad news only to waste months of work and thousands of dollars... just to save one person's ego? We shouldn't right?
(And in any case I still have my job... so at least for now I'm OK).

What else can a Youngleader do? Well, you might have the opportunity for a leadership role in a student or community organization. Why not be the kind of leader who can accept the brutal facts without shooting the messenger? Why not be the kind of leader who actively looks for (constructive) criticisms in order to continually improve?

Yes, it will be hard... and yes you will have to sometimes swallow your pride. But what's more important to you... your pride or your goals and your mission?

The answer should be obvious.


Leadership Realities (Part I)

The next 3 or 4 posts will all be related to the previous one about "Sad Facts and Silver Linings" inspired by an article I read a while ago written by Tom Peters (whom many consider to be one of the Godfathers of effective management).

I want to start out with a post on firefighting. Especially for those Youngleaders still in school, this concept might be a little foreign. And no, it does not mean literally breaking out the axes and fire extinguishers. Firefighting is working on a task or problem that has suddenly become urgent and important. Examples might include having to create a Powerpoint for a presentation at 3 o'clock, scrambling to recover from a server crash in a key system, or literally trying to recover manufacturing production after a fire in the electrical room. The thing is... you never know what you are going to get.

Nobody enjoys firefighting. It's stressful. It's unexpected. There are more people asking 'Why did this happen?' than 'We need to do this to put things right'.

But [stuff] happens, right?

Well, yes and no. Yes, there will always be things that will come totally out of left field that you could never have expected, but a little planning can go a long way in preventing many of the other fires.

Thinking about the Powerpoint that needs to be finished for 3pm... and it's already past noon. If this were for a brand new client that just yesterday made this appointment just this morning... well that happens. But if this is a presentation to management on the status of a project that has been ongoing for the past 6 months... well someone should have know that this was coming up and even if the key stakeholder made the last minute schedule change, this should have been expected and the appropriate materials should have been collected as the project progressed.

And yes, maybe a power outage caused by an electrical storm may cause a server to crash. But if this were a critical system, why didn't we have back-up's and disaster recover plans in place?

Worse yet, why hadn't the hazardous conditions in the electrical room been found during routine inspections... or why hadn't the proper maintenance been made to repair damaged wires and etc...

OK, so you get the picture... what am I getting at? Well we all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure... aka we must Be Proactive. But the simple fact is that we would like to be... but we're to busy fighting these fires to take the time to prevent the next ones from creeping up.

Maybe that's why people hire outside consultants to do this for them. The outside consultants can work on being proactive and solving this longer term solutions why the full-time people work to put out the fires at hand.

Though, I probably should say this (since I work in consulting), but I would say this is a pretty inefficient way of running an organization. (And maybe that's why Tom Peters calls this a "sad fact").

So what can a Youngleader do about this? Well the easiest answer is also the one that requires the most discipline. You have to be proactive and put in those extra hours to prevent the fires, especially if you are not in a position to tell those in charge to ease up on your other responsibilities.

But maybe you are running a community organization or group. Then the strategy would be to go for controlled growth. So there's no point in shooting for many new and ambitious programs and projects, if there isn't the manpower to support them all properly. Yes we all know you can stretch and if 'all goes well' achieve larger goals. But, what if your luck doesn't hold out and you all of a suddenly need people to label, stuff, and mail-out 5000 flyers... will you be able to handle that?

And finally... what is the silver lining when it comes to fire-fighting? Well for one thing people are definitely focused and motivated when they are fighting fires. Perhaps you could direct that energy and emotion towards
making the appropriate changes and improvements to prevent the same things from occurring next time.

What are your thoughts on this? I really want to make this blog more of a two-way conversation and I hope that more people will post comments so that we can all enhance our learning together!

Thanks again for reading!

Leadership: Sad Facts and Silver Linings

OK, so I'm back! Time for some quick insights courtesy of Tom Peters.

Anyway, so looking through my notes I have this.

Realities of the workplace:
  • Executives = Rubber Stamps NOT "Decision Makers"
  • People are always engaged in short-term 'firefighting' and don't have time for long term strategic thinking
  • Bad news is hidden from those who need to hear it the most
  • There is too much inertia
From my brief experience in the workworld... I would have to agree 100% with Mr. Peters. I will be going into greater detail about my thoughts on these in the following posts.

Thank you all for continuing to read the Youngleader blog!


Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I know I've been a little MIA lately, but work has been keeping me busy. Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 11, 2007


I find it a little bit odd blogging about this topic... I sort of was under the impression that parents should be instilling into their children what respect is and how all individuals deserve a level of respect (the same that you would want for yourself). [This would be the Golden Rule "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".]

However, the more I read in books on leadership, to topics on diversity, and even to business news in the Wall Street Journal... I think many people are missing (or deficient) in respecting others. (I can tell that this will be a rambling post so bear with me).

So what am I talking about... well first of all I have been reading The No Asshole Rule, and it seems to me that many of the problems that people face in the workplace are caused by what he calls "assholes". To break this down even further... I would say workplace politics and strife (which lead to reduced productivity and employee dissatisfaction) have their root cause in lack of respect by people of one another.

Sutton cites statistics of how the average CEO makes upwards of 500 times more than the average worker in his or her company. Because of this, many CEO's (and others in higher levels of management) will see themselves as being "superior" to the people working for them. This leads to a mindset of "I am more important than yours... Your ideas are less valid than mine... Your feelings matter less than mine..."

We've already seen how Toyota, through their constant sharpening of the saw (what they call kai-zen) took input from the bottom layers of their production lines in order to become (for a few months) the #1 car maker in the world. Do you think this could have happened of the CEO in Japan said something like "I don't care what you think... just do it like I've told you" to the factory workers actually building their cars and trucks in Texas? Obviously not!

OK, so respect we know it's important... but I thought the professional world would be full of strict rules of respect and propriety... that this should be a non-issue, right???

Well, unfortunately not. See this... Diversity Inc Noose Watch... You may or may not have been following this in the news (diversity activism is another one of my passions), but has been tracking reported incidents of nooses being hung threateningly at workplaces across the country. What's more shocking is that within a few months scores of incidents have reported. Furthermore, regardless of the specific reasons behind these incidents, using such a powerful symbol, is a blatant disrespect for other people's rights to feel safe and secure at the workplace.

So what can we do as Young Leaders to help inject respect back into the workplace. Here are a few tips... and be sure that more will come in the future:
  • Listen - Yes I probably talked about this before... not that half-assed listening that most people do when they are thinking about what to say next... but really listen, because almost always will have something of value to say.
  • Realize that people are people - Yeah, Jason here we go again with the Zen riddles... Let me explain. We often hide our emotions putting up a front to protect ourselves from the outside. You know that deep down you want to be understood, you want to be appreciated, you want to be respected... realize that others are exactly the same way. Once you realize this, you can move beyond the masks that we hide behind and create those true and personal connections with others. You'll be more productive (and much happier) because of it.
  • Stand up for what's right - Yes, easier said than done, but how about the next time you see someone being taken advantage of or unfairly berated... why not be the bigger person, step in, and tell the offender what they are doing is wrong? It's hard, yes! It might get that other person pissed at you. But you know what? 9 times out of 10, you will gain that other person's respect, and maybe just maybe get them to change their ways.
Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend, and as always comments are requested and appreciated.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Flash of Enlightenment Think "Why" before "What"

So I've talked about SMART Goal setting and also on the importance of WHY also in terms of Goals. But now I've think I've come to an epiphany type of realization.

In every action that you do as a Young Leader your first question to yourself needs to be "Why am I doing this?"... "For what purpose am I doing this?"...

I know I had talked about this before, but before the why to me was more of an afterthought.... something to keep me motivated. But it's not. It should actually be the first thing!

OK, so I'll give two examples. One narrow in scope and one huge:
  1. Meetings - Previous posts about meetings stuck to technical details without peeling one layer below. But I feel even if you follow those hints, tips, and tricks to a T... things will still be hit or miss. After all if I'm coming up with the agenda... and I say to myself "So what do we need to talk about talk about at this meeting?"Then I might come up with a list of things and I would like to talk about.

    But what if I really needed a decision to be made (not the topic just talked about). Or what if half of the attendees don't necessarily need to listen or participate in the conversation? Then, I haven't run an effective meeting, because I accomplish what needed to be done and I have wasted people's time.

    However, what if I went one step deeper and had thought about "Why do I want to have this meeting?"... "Why would my team members want to attend and participate in the meeting?" This way, now I am focused and will have an effective agenda and meeting... not just run an efficient meeting.

  2. Goals - So we can extend the above to goals and goal setting. I would say the SMART Goals and strong Time Management would be very efficient. No doubt about that.

    However, to truly have effective goals.. you need to answer the "Why?" questions. "Why do I want an action?"... "Why do I do I want to do this specific action?"... "Why would anyone want to follow me in my vision?" (See Tony Robbins for further explanation on how the emotional connection to 'things' tangible and intangible are so important.)

    So lets narrow this down... Lets say you want to Write a Book. A SMART Goal might be to go to the library and check out 100 books on the topics that you might want to talk about in your book and outline your main ideas with a specific detail level that you can accomplish by next year.... (At little daunting, but reasonable).

    However, what if we ask the Why questions... "Why do I want to write a book?"... Maybe it's because, "I want to share my ideas to help people all over the world." "Why do I have to write a book instead of using any other media?" "I might not have to, because the internet allows people to share ideas throughout the world in all sorts of different ways". "Why couldn't I create a web Blog about my ideas and along with continuing research refine my ideas while still being able to share my ideas and help people all over the world?"... "Why not?!"
And that's it! Ask the Why questions.... go deeper.... be more effective!

As always comments are requested and appreciated!


Thursday, October 04, 2007

More Icebreakers

I just heard of another icebreaker, and I really like it.

Essentially it's Icebreaker Bingo. So this is how it works:
  1. Make a grid.... it might be easiest to use a few boxes 4 or 9 max.
  2. Put in each box a question like "Has the same last initial as you", "Born in the same month as you", or "Has the same favorite food/movie/color... as you". Go on be creative.
  3. Now make as many copies of your grid as there will be people at the meeting that you want to have an icebreaker for.
  4. So the point of the game is for the participants to go around... trying meeting new people and finding out interesting facts about other each other.
  5. Every time them find someone who fits the description in the box they can check it off. First to check off all of the boxes wins!!!! :-)
So yeah thats it, I liked it. For more icebreakers see my previous posts. Icebreakers and Icebreakers II.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Building Teamwork

One last quick post on making Teamwork work. (#7 Principles)
  1. The team must have a leader - Yes this sound very Zen and all, but seriously without a leader all you'll have is chaos.
  2. The must have unanimous focus on a quantifiable goal - So this is two things. Both are addressed in SMART Goals.
  3. The team must have clearly defined roles - Without clearly assigned roles, people won't know what to do.
  4. The team must be willing to share resources - OK, so this goes on that poster about "All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten", but seriously if you've ever seen a team where members won't share... you know that it's a recipe for disaster.
  5. The team must have frequent, effective communication - Without this what's the point of having a team... you might as well be working alone. Synergize!
  6. The team must have consistent, united, and enthusiastic effort - Same thing. When everyone puts in... 1 + 1 can equal 3 or more!
  7. Team members must periodically suppress their own egos - Think for the better of the team... for the better for just yourself.
Alright that's it for today. I promise to write on a more consistent basis. Until next time...