Mar 01 2010

Cirticism

Published by at 7:40 pm
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One of the things I’ve never been good at is giving people tough love. I’ve always been good at coaching people, but when coaching doesn’t work and their performance does not increase, I have a hard time delivering bad news. This is an important topic, not only because it’s one of my areas of improvement as a manager, but for our guild it’s important that I toughen up when necessary. We have quite a few under performers in the guild and they need to step up to the plate. I made “player improvement” the #1 goal for HILYMI for the month of March with a close second goal of “managing the stress of wiping” which for those who aren’t MMO players reading my blog, basically it’s about managing the stress of failure.

In regards to player improvement, I need to remind myself about a course I took a while ago at IHS titled “Feedback for Accountability”. I think it will give me the tools necessary to help further coach people who are under performers and if necessary, prepare them, not necessarily for removal from the guild, but at least removal from progression raids.

In regards to stress management, I need to work on reminding people that:
1. Rarely does someone win at progression the first, second, or even 6th time encountering something.
2. It’s not failure, but rather a learning process.
3. Learn something from every attempt, improve, and conquer.
4. Focus and congratulate people on what things are working well.
5. Reward people with breaks after downing a boss that we’ve struggled on

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Feb 18 2010

Leadership

Every once and a while I like to reflect on what I enjoy most about what I do. It’s kind of interesting to look through all of my experiences, previous self reflections, and currently where I am in my life, career, etc. Most of all I think about my experiences and which of those experiences I get the most fulfillment from, whether they are technical, managerial, or leadership oriented. Of all of my experiences in both personal and professional, I think that I enjoy any kind of managerial / leadership position where I’m helping a team build and perform. Mostly, I love supporting others.

Leading a strike team of developers on CPWeb over a 6 month process to resolve security flaws in a decade old web product. My time as an alpha medic, representing the players of Tabula Rasa, communicating to the developers on how they could improve the class. My experiences as a Admin / Developer / GM of Obsidian, helping shape a world for other players to enjoy. The ongoing saga of and all that guild has meant to me, leading a community of players who have like minded, respectful, play style. My attempts to start a leadership resource website for MMO leaders, giving them resources to learn how to be better leaders and write articles on leadership styles and techniques and my conversation with John Kotter about the idea and his support of the concept. All the volunteer work I’ve done to help small business, organizing volunteer efforts for work, and helping provide feedback to how we can improve our respect for remote colleges in a globalized corporation. My time as a manager of software development, both improving my product, managing a small team of developers, and all while making vast improvements to the product and customer delight. My attempts at leading an independent game studio to develop an XBox 360 title with a team of people spanning the globe from the UK, to the east and west coast of the US. If you really want to boil it down, my role as a healer in an MMO is because I enjoy being in that supportive role, helping others succeed.

All of these accomplishments I’m deeply proud of. All of these accomplishments have a central theme: they involve leadership and supporting others.

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Jan 20 2010

Geocaching, HILYMI, painting, and getting caught up

Published by at 10:18 am
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Been a long time since I blogged and I think that I will start doing so again more often. It’s a great way for me to get things off my mind and recently I’ve been very stressed out. Fortunately I’ve had a good avenue for channeling my stress… WoW. Of course WoW has it’s own stresses, especially since I’m managing HILYMI again (thanks to my guildies who pulled me back), but overall I think I’m taking a more stress free approach this time and enjoying the game.

The holidays were good and my niece, Ms. Rachiepants, has been growing sooooo much. The little tike is already running around and being a trouble maker. I love seeing here every week when I go over to Rays. It seems like every week she’s doing something or saying something new.

Kerrie and I have been doing quite well. Thanks to some assistance with a counselor, we’ve been more focused on quality time with each other and balancing “me time” with “us time”. We’ve also been exploring more and more things to do together including painting, more and more cooking together, and our latest new activity: geocaching. Expect a lot of blogs soon about geocaching, painting, and of course HILYMI. We also have several camping and other trips scheduled in 2010 so it’s going to be a very eventful, thankfully in a good way, relaxing year for us. 2009 was very stressful and it will be nice to enjoy 2010.

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Dec 04 2009

Jeere Stead on Bloomberg

Published by at 10:53 am
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Jeere Stead, Chairman and CEO of IHS, just the other day was on Bloomberg talking about the economy, why IHS is doing well even in this economy, the effectiveness of diversifying out business globally, and most importantly he commented on the biggest part of our business that is growing: The Environment Domain. I always love an opportunity to hear Jeere speak and this interview especially was great. I love how he corrected the guy and pointed out that we don’t sell “data”, but rather information and insight. We collect data, add meaning to it, and then sell that value added information. I think especially with what is going on in Copenhagen next week, it will be interesting to see the new opportunities that we’re going to jump all over. We have the people, smarts, and vision to be able to provide solutions to tackle whatever the new things come out of the discussions and our domain will grow as a result.

Watch his interview here.

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Oct 25 2009

Graduation

Published by at 8:32 pm
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Placeholder:

Friday drive in the storming rain
Friday ceremony
“Always Ready”
Saturday, Hurricane Ridge and the drive there
Sunday, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Packwood (jo jo’s), Hood River, Mt. Hood, Timberline Lodge, homeward bound

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Oct 19 2009

Reflections on Training

Published by at 9:55 am
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I think it’s always good to sit back and reflect on Lessons Learned after going through a training, especially training focused on soft-skills. Last week I took 4 different courses on “Leading the IHS Way” and while nothing was particularly mind-blowing, there were a lot of little things that added up to some profound processes, new ways of thinking, or even some things I learned about myself.

Personal Strategies for Navigating Change
This was a very interesting class because it was a mix of managers and individual contributors all sharing their own personal ways they cope with change. Probably the biggest take away from this course was the recognition of the four different types of ways people deal with change, how I personally deal with most change, and how I can help others navigate change when I’m either in the driver’s seat, co-pilot, or just early adopter of change (aka a “Navigator). Most of the time I’m the Navigator but often times I don’t take the time to properly assist Victims, Critics, and Bystanders on their way to accepting and embracing change. Recognizing that sometimes I need to put on the breaks and slowly help people catch up to my mindset is important or else I’ll sometimes I’m sure just make things worse.

It was also nice to be able to recognize how I’ve been personally dealing with the recent changes in my role. I’ve been bouncing around between the Victim, Critic, and Bystander a lot recently. There’s a lot of fear, doubt, doubt in others, doubt in the objective, and may other things which has been making me bounce around, stress me out to the point of complete and total physical shut down (my recent neck troubles), and it’s just not healthy. I NATURALLY want to be on board with change. I NATURALLY want to be an influential member driving change. When I’m not, it’s uncomfortable and I want to be in that zone. I think the most important thing is that when I’m being a Victim, Critic, or even a Bystander, I need to focus on the positive and trying to channel all my energy into positive action. It will make me the most happy and before I know it all my critical questions will be answered, I won’t feel like a victim because I’m delivering positive results, and in the end things will work out.

I’m so positive all the time that when I’m not positive, it’s hard to come out of that shell. It’s not something I’m used to doing. So this book has really helped me personally deal with change when I am in that mode. It has also helped me lead others even more effectively.

Behavioral Interviewing
This was a great course without a lot of spin. Simply put it REALLY for the first time brought to home for me some of the concrete ways on how to conduct a behavioral interview. I think before I was a decent interviewer, but I focused too much on hypothetical questions. I quickly saw the power in how to ask behavioral questions properly and what to gain out of it. I also liked the quick reference guide on avoiding illegal and unethical questions. Overall, great book that I’ll dust the cobwebs off of next time I have to interview someone.

Feedback for Accountability
I was most excited about this course because I had hoped it would be the answer to all my problems. Unfortunately I think I over inflated it a bit too much so I was expecting… more or something, but I think in the end this course combined with the two others on change and leadership really turned into a total package of tools I can use to properly lead change in a more concrete way. See the thing is that I understand good leadership philosophy. I also understand good leading change processes as taught by John Kotter, but even Kotter is a bit too high level sometimes so you get lost in philosophy and not action. This and the other two courses focused on real concrete things you can do.

This course in particular focused on how to REALLY drive candid conversations and make agreements that were open, honest, and binding for which you could if necessary follow up on for proper re-commitment, confrontation, coaching, or if necessarily take other steps to follow through on the accountability of that agreement. It also gave me further opportunity to really focus on how to control my own emotions in a conflict by focusing on the other person’s emotions. I know I’m an emotional person and I feel the other person’s emotions as well, but I don’t always do a good job of validating those emotions. Sometimes I’ll even get upset because someone’s expressing their feelings “like I don’t know that or something”. I need to be more reflective and not immediately jump to tell them that I know and here’s the solution.

Overall I think that the biggest take away from this course was how to not bruise and not bail. I want to really stay in the “candor mindset”, middle zone where I can be upfront and honest, but not be blunt about it. I think that many times I use my natural charismatic leadership style as a crutch. 80% of the time I’m really successful in my ability to motivate and lead people, but it’s the 20% of the time I don’t have a framework on how to deal with. I get frustrated and either bruise my way to get my point across (if I think I can “win”), or I bail and then send someone a gigantic email later that day or the next. In the end, I honestly do want a collaborative “win win” solution to the agreement, but it’s my passion that gets the best of me and either I bottle things up or explode (or both). This course really taught me a structured way on how to stay objective and come to an objective, win-win agreement without getting overly emotional on either side.

The Principles and Qualities of Genuine Leadership
As previously stated, I recognize and try to embody the principles and qualities of genuine leadership. To be honest with you, I initially thought this course was going to be the biggest waste of time but attended initially for the “fun” of it. I was dead wrong. This course was fantastic because again, it gave a good framework on how to “respond” to a challenge using leadership principles so in a way your ACTIONS show the principles and qualities of leadership.

I thought the exercise with the “Response Cards” was so good that I took them because I thought that they WERE The big take away from the training. It’s great to take a scenario you are dealing with and just use the cards as brainstorming on how you’re going to effectively lead your change, help people navigate change, create a change vision, or even how to properly form agreements with large groups of people. I think it’s great to line up the individual actions with steps in John Kotter’s framework on leading change.

Overall what is so powerful about the cards especially was they took something as big as the problems I’m facing in leading some kind of common whatever we want to call it, and it allowed me and others to objectively come up with a strategy for leading that change.

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Oct 02 2009

It’s great to be coding again

Published by at 12:04 pm
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Between diving back into ecoAsset Manager 11 and development work for my senior project, I don’t know… I feel like I can take on the world right now.  I feel like I haven’t felt in a long time, just being able to dive in and develop code. Good, clean, functional, fast code.

I’m especially enjoying doing more and more with LINQ and Entity Framework.  It’s so fast to be able to bang out querries which you MIGHT be able to write in as little time in pure SQL, but the beauty of how LINQ handles the queries for you is awesome. Plus, you know that due to the strongly typed nature of the Entity Framework, that your query will WORK as you write it. There’s no ambiguousness that your query won’t work. Maybe sometimes you might still inject some business logic wrong in the query, but basic run of the mill queries are a compile time validation activity. I just hope that in .Net 4.0, they resolve some of the minor annoying things when dealing with the Entity Framework like how to manage related data.

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Sep 28 2009

2009 User Conference and the Architecture team

Published by at 7:03 am
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2009 user conference was an absolute hit. They really liked the training on Tuesday, they loved the road map through the end of 2010 and into 2011, they liked what they heard from what was coming in 10.3, they liked the new user interface of version 11, dashboard discussion went very well, and most of all in the end they were very appreciative of the 180 we’ve done on the product in the last year. Most of all the biggest good news came from Minh who gave us a shining review at dinner on the Wednesday night of the user conference. Tim sent Minh’s kind comments to Dave C., Dave P., Jeff T., Jerre S., and many others. Got replies from the four aforementioned folks giving their thanks in drastically improving customer delight in 2009.

After conference was over the real fun began for me. I got to spend an evening with Mike K., Mary Ann C., and Katy G. I even kicked Mike’s butt in a game of air hockey. Good getting to know Mary Ann especially since I hadn’t had any interactions with her previously. Spent the majority of the evening with Katy talking about everything under the sun and brainstorming about how she and I could further interact in the future and bounced ideas off each other. The next day got a tour of the Englewood office thanks to Mike M. and then spent the rest of the day hanging out with the rest of the architecture gang. It was kinda funny when Mike introduced me to the rest of the guys by stating I was on the “Environment Domain Shadow Architecture Team” and something about one of the perks of being on that team was “ninja pants”. Then there was some conversation about Kerrie knitting me ninja pants. Anyhow… was a very good time and we talked a lot about opsInfo while I caught up on a week’s worth of emails and banged out the Facilities management of ecoAsset 11. I also got the chance to meet Dave P. and Keith W., Dave just briefly and spent two lunch hours with Keith.

All and all it was a very tiring week, but very exciting. I think the biggest personal take away for me for the week was that I don’t have any more doubts about my own knowledge, expertise, and skills. After spending a day and a half with the architecture team, I feel like we’re on the same level. I feel like I speak their language and that while I don’t have the same specialties as some of them, I have unique specialties and domain knowledge that others on the team don’t have. Most of all, it seems like the architecture team respects my opinion and if I was chosen to be a satellite member of the team, that they would certainly make me feel at home.

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Sep 15 2009

What DO I want?

I was asked to day by someone today, who I highly respect:

What do you want to be doing?

I didn’t really have an answer for him. Partially because I don’t even know how the cards will fall and what the reporting structure and new career paths will be when things are done. Right now the best I can tell anyone is what I DON’T want to be doing.

I made a conscious effort many years ago to pursue a role in some kind of leadership or management position. I enjoy it. I was given the opportunity. I think I shined in my role I’ve been taking in the last year. Overall, there are very few things I think I would have done differently. Anyone who REALLY knows me, it gives me a lot of personal pleasure helping guide a team, large or small, to an inevitable victory. I get the most pleasure from assisting others than doing individual things myself. While individual accomplishments are great and all, I’d rather see the whole team succeed (of course that includes my success too, I’m no martyr). I think in some level once you’ve reached a certain point in your career, you need to have ownership of something bigger, something visionary. I’m well past that point today. I mean, look at why I keep getting guild leadership on my lap so quickly. I’m hedging bets right now on how long I’ll be in Heretic before I’m approached about becoming an officer.

On top of my personal level of enjoyment in leadership and management, I also personally believe that I’m not all that great of a developer. I know I keep bringing this up. I know that many people SAY that I’m an amazing developer who does wondrous things, has a grand mind for architecture, and has an amazing combination of skill sets… I don’t know I don’t believe it. I think I’m a mediocre developer with lots of crazy ideas and some of those pan out to be good ones and that makes people notice me. As a “skillful” developer, again I think that I struggle keeping up with all the new moving parts and changes to technology. I know enough to be able to come up with vision and product prototypes, but I’m not really great at producing something… well I guess I am. Yeah OK, I am what everyone says, but I think I’m much better at other stuff. I have more POTENTIAL in pursuing a position with some kind of leadership component to it.

Most of all, I don’t want to be an individual contributor on a team that simply writes common components. That’s not fun to me. I don’t think that would have ever been fun for me, even in my early career. I’ve always enjoyed owning a single product or core piece of a product, than writing behind the scenes common components?!? I’d rather be an individual contributor on a single product that I can have some shared personal ownership of something that’s being given to a customer. I’d rather be the leader of a common components team. I’d rather be an individual contributor on an architecture team, due to the fact that even individual contributors on a team like that help guide other teams, assisting them improve how they do things. I don’t know. Maybe I’m overly thinking things, but I’ve never been on a team that built common components for consumption in other products. I really don’t think I’d enjoy doing that work. Maybe leading it, but not being an individual contributor.

Sigh. What’s worse is that as part of my final 2 courses for school, completing in 5 weeks now, I’ve been HAVING to update my resume and talk with career advisers. It’s bad enough that I’m pissed off about how horribly my pay has been handled at work, it’s worse that I have people at my school reminding me of the fact that with my degree, grades, and experience I shouldn’t have to take this crap. The problem is that at the end of the day, I LOVE the company I work for and I think they will do me right eventually. I’m just not sure how much longer myself or my wife can stomach “eventually”.

Right now I’m trying to focus on our yearly user conference next week. I’ve been preparing screen mock-ups of the next release for presentations and working on concept screens of the new development we’re planning for 2010. Hopefully the cards will fall sometime in the next week or two. Maybe once the OTHER stuff is set in stone, things will be easier to see how I fit and where I want to be. Right now, being a nomad in no-man’s land is not fun.

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Sep 03 2009

Limits of Sacrifice

Published by at 5:35 pm
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As soon as I thought life was going back to normal, well it wasn’t quite normal anymore.

I’m in my final classes finishing my degree finally. Career development and my Senior Project. School stress is coming to an end and less than 7 weeks now and I’ll have my degree. Most likely I will be graduating with a 4.0 gpa with highest honors.  I’m done moving into my new house and pretty soon I’ll have 2 wonderful kitties. I’ve given up on guild leadership and joined a well established guild (http://www.pakcafan.org) so there’s no more stress  in my gaming life anymore. In theory I should be at probably one of the lowest stress points in the last 3 years right now, but I feel like I’m at the peak of it.

My role at work is also changing and it’s probably one of the most stressful career changes in my life. I’m not quite sure how to put it in words what I’m going through. Whenever I’m confused and stressed, particularly at work, I look to HBR and John Kotter.

Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there. – John P. Kotter

Sacrifice is something that I’m familiar with. But right now I’m starting to wonder if I’m sacrificing too much. I’ve been challenged with a pretty tough new role in the company, but I feel like while I’m putting in a lot into this role people aren’t giving me the support I need. My role isn’t being well defined and on top of that, there’s no real promotion I’m getting with this role change even though it’s more responsibility and stress. I mean I could deal with an ambiguous job description with the right pay or I could deal with continuing to be screwed on pay if there was a concrete job description and level of empowerment / responsibility. I also feel like there is a bunch of stuff people… one person in particular… isn’t telling me. I don’t like being treated like a mushroom. I continue to press forward in my new role, trying to establish vision, coordinate with others, and make myself and the entire domain successful, but I dunno… something is missing. Maybe I should be patient. Maybe things will just work themselves out. I just… don’t know what to think right now.

My general mood is rather manic right now. I swing from overly enthusiastic, ready to face the challenge head on to really self doubting, depressed, stressed out, and pissed off. It’s a very odd feeling. I want to stay positive, but meh. We’ll see. We’ll see…

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