Nov 15 2013

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – Review and Self-Reflection

Published by at 3:52 pm
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When learning something new, self-reflection is a key aspect of absorbing that information and integrating lessons learned. Whenever I self-reflect I often write about it, either in my blog or other means because while self-reflection is powerful, recording it allows you to look back and remember the lessons learned. Furthermore, sharing your lessons learned with others is a way of committing to integrating that into your life. The book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John C. Maxwell is certainly one of those books which it is almost impossible not to relate to your own life as it changes your perspectives on leadership.

The book discusses and gives many examples of the various irrefutable laws and while some of the minor points I disagree, the major points I most definitely agree. There were a few key laws which, upon reflecting on my own career, allowed me to see a different perspective on what I might be doing wrong on my leadership journey. Those laws which I found more impactful were law #2. The Law of Influence, law #6. The Law of Solid Ground, and #10 The Law of Connection. While there were plenty of other laws which I must continue to keep in mind these have the most impact on my career right now.

The “Law of Influence” states simply that leadership is influence. Oddly enough, this law makes the most sense of all of the laws outlined by Maxwell. I’m classified as an Inspirational pattern using the DiSC profile, “People with the DiSC Classic Profile Inspirational Pattern tend to influence the thoughts and actions of others.”  I lead through example and other specific tools, but in the end the purpose is to influence others. The key thing there is influence is not the same as manipulation. Manipulation has a very negative connotation and something that I want no part of. But Maxwell does break down characteristics of someone who is influential of others and one of the first characteristics is Character. Character is the difference between a manipulator and an influencer. A person who is truly influencing others is strong in character, builds relationships, has strong knowledge (because to lead in ignorance can result in failure), has a strong intuition, the wisdom that comes with experience, and proven ability. One final thought he mentions with influence is practicing leadership skills through influence when volunteering in organizations. Funny thing is my largest experiences in leadership was just that, leading a volunteer organization. I need to continue the work I do with the various volunteer organizations I’m a contributing member of and allow those to be avenues to practice my skills as an influencer.

The “Law of Solid Ground” states simply that trust is the foundation of leadership. This is a law that often I forgot. Not that I forget that trust is important, in fact I know it is crucial. My problem is that many times I expect too highly of most people and expect a certain degree of shared trust when new relationships are formed. The problem is that my baseline bar of trust is high and I assume everyones is just as high. This is not saying my baseline is better than others, it is just a simple fact that is neither good nor bad that I must accept. So it is important when I am trying to gain influence over a new group of individuals that I gain their trust and only try to really influence change when trust has been gained. Many times I try, with the best of intentions, to lead before trust is gained and end up hurting my ability to lead before that foundation is built properly.

The “Law of Connection” states that leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand. This is not a new law to me, one of my favorite books is John Kotter’s the Heart of Change. While the concept is not new Maxwell does remind me of some key things I often forget. I might be good at connecting with myself, communicating with openness and sincerity, and living my message, what I am poor at is really knowing my audience and knowing where they are at. It is not that these ideas escape my mind, but I don’t focus on them nearly enough. I don’t focus on really coming to grips with where they are before jumping to figuring out how I can influence them to come to my vision. If anything this tells me I need to focus more on appreciating people’s current mindset and building on that mindset instead of trying to change it. Like Maxwell says, “believe in them”, and through that belief take their current perspective and improve upon that perspective, not necessarily replace it. If anything that perspective helps improve the vision, to think otherwise would be assuming you have all the information when in many times you need the opinions, wisdom, and experience of all to come to the proper end vision.

In the end, I see the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership as a another tool that will allow me to make gut checks on how I’m leading. Many times in the past, when I have lead larger organizations, I have relied on others to help with those gut checks. When leading smaller organizations or teams, I must rely on my own influence and focus on building a strong foundation of trust while touching people’s hearts before I can influence their actions. There are many more of Maxwell’s Laws that I still have yet to fully reflect upon, but that is a subject for another day. I would recommend this book to anyone who has the soul of a leader. Parts of the book will make you want to roll your eyes, but if you stick with it the majority of what he has to say is genuinely helpful to a leader of any level of experience.

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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 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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Jul 24 2009

Been a crazy quarter

Published by at 7:55 am
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So I don’t think I can begin to write everything that’s happened in the last two months so I’ll keep it short to a bullited list. To sum things up, we did a lot, many things were accomplished, we got very tired, we are just now catching up to a semi-normal (for us anyways) way of life.

  • End of April / beginning of May made offers on the Pasadena house we were renting
  • May 15th, found out that it was a no-deal with our x-landlord, started searching on our own for a new house
  • May 16th, got a realtor (Lynn Cumberland, refered from Brad Hansleman who was refered by Mark Nortman), did drive-bys on the first huge set of houses
  • May 17th, did walk throughs of the first set of houses
  • May 18th, made a deal on Derry Lane house
  • May 20th, no-deal on Derry Lane, went on to search for more
  • May 21st, through drive by’s and other things shortened 3 lists of 50+ houses down to 12
  • May 23rd, saw all new houses and fell in love with Cougar Place, made an offer
  • May 24th, we had an accepted offer
  • May 27th, home inspection
  • June 3rd, had appraisal
  • June 6th, we got boxes and the packing begins!
  • June 11th, FHA docs to sign
  • June 15th, notice to Pasadena landlord
  • June 22nd, my 30th birthday
  • June 23rd, conditional approval
  • June 26th, final approval
  • June 29th, signing
  • June 30th, closing and got our keys at 7:30 PM PST
  • June 30th – July 4th, move-in of delicate items
  • July 3rd, our fridge arrived
  • July 4th, rewired / upgraded our ethernet in the house
  • July 5th, the big move in thans to UHaul and A+ Student Movers
  • July 6th, our washer/dryer arrived and comcast got us setup
  • July 6th, my final term of my Bachelor’s degree begins
  • July 7th – July 11th, move of final items including plants
  • July 11th, final cleaning
  • July 13th, move out inspection
  • July 16th, saw Dave Bixel, a tax professional that works with Mark Nortman (our financial advisor)
  • July 18th, went fishing
  • July 19th, painting in Kerrie’s office is compelte
  • July 20th, life returns to a semi-state of normal

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Jun 18 2009

Perception in 360 degree Feedback

Published by at 7:44 pm
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One of the purpose of 360 degree feedback is to help coach people on their perception problems. If you sit back and think about top performers, high potentials, or whatever you want to call them, these individuals are generally the model citizen or at least they try to be. Sometimes people have concrete problems like personality flaws, technical or skill gaps, or in most cases in technical people, communication problems (communication is not an engineer’s strong suit).

I feel that I time manage reasonably well, multi-task reasonably well, do have some skill gaps that I’m always improving, and while I do need to continue to hone my personal style and communication skills (as we all need to), in general I don’t have a lot of concrete personality flaws. I have a few minor personality flaws, but they all stem from a concrete “flaw” if you could say it is one is my natural tendency to get hyper focused on something and be OVERLY enthusiastic and sometimes off putting to some people. One’s greatest strength inevitably is their greatest weakness.

But my real problem I continue to struggle with I think is perception. Perception problems are a tricky thing because reality is in the eye of the beholder. I can’t change people’s point of view, but if I understand their point of view I can help influence it, yes? Of course step one is understanding who’s having the perception problem and their point of view. Once I understand people’s point of view, then I can find the source of the perception problem and change something usually indirect that changes how people are perceiving things.

People perceive my intentions, my motives, my actions, my communications, my gestures, etc incorrectly. I’ve been accused of looking “angry” before by a simple eyebrow gesture. I’ve been accused of being intimidating when I was being curious. I’ve been accused of being cocky when I’m simply confident. I’ve been accused of “needing to win” in an argument when I’ve been trying to educate. I’ve been accused of being pontificating when I’m trying to energize people about something. I’ve been accused of being distracted when in reality I’m focused. People who really know me well and those who know me even reasonably well know that I don’t ever intend to come across that way, but rather that I give the perception of such. Perception is not something you can touch or feel, it’s something you have to look at yourself from the outside to figure out.

All of these perception issues stem from the over use of my strongest natural trait, my enthusiasm. I try to temper it as best I can, but I’m an emotional person and when I get excited and passionate about something (which I always do), then my enthusiasm kicks in to high gear. I also tend to lose it when I’m being challenged or pushed into a corner and I’m trying to passionately defend something I feel strongly about.

Since I’m on a self-reflective honesty streak, yes, I get defensive. This is not news to anyone who has read my blog, especially for a long time. It is another bad side effect of being passionate about something you believe in. In some ways I also have some control issues, probably still stemming from … well just read some of my blog posts with the Health tag. I don’t know maybe I’m over that, maybe not.

I need to come up with some techniques to not necessarily CHANGE my nature because one cannot change their nature when it is so extreme as mine. The best I can do is channel my natural tendencies in a more… mutually agreeable fashion. One of the ways I can do that is make sure that whatever cause I’m fighting for, whatever goal I’m passionately pursuing, whatever objective I’m pushing myself to complete, that it’s something that everyone has full buy-in for.

I think my biggest mistake in recent time is getting overly passionate about a cause that not everyone was truly bought in on. Some people said they were bought in on it, but apparently they weren’t and now I’m getting myself into trouble. Makes me wonder if some of the other causes I continue to fight for are really supported by everyone or if I’m fighting other battles that are a lost cause.

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Jun 11 2009

Performance Management & Leniency

Published by at 1:19 pm
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Keep in mind that I admit I’m wet behind the ears. On the other hand I do feel I’ve been around the block and am at least well studied on management techniques, HR methodologies, and leadership techniques. I would say I have the most personal experience in leadership and it comes very naturally to me and I while I understand management and HR techniques, it’s not so natural so I tend to stumble. One thing I AM capable of doing most of the time is recognizing the different mechanisms in the system and processes in the organization and realize how they are designed and why they are designed that way.

It’s mid-year review time so I’ve been noodling about a specific technique in performance management that I’ve gone quite a bit into detail on in multiple classes during my time achieving my bachelor’s degree. There are many strategic reasons for a two pronged performance management system such as the one at IHS, one part which has a positive leniency error and one with a negative leniency error. What I mean by that is that every person has a certain amount of leniency or strictness. People are really lenient, really strict, or somewhere in between. Depending on the performance management process, it will either work well for people who are lenient or people who are strict. If you use a two pronged system, it will balance out based on whether the person is super strict or super lenient.

  • Strict people are generally focused on RESULTS. So an objective based system is agreeable to managers who are strict. They will grade people really harshly or really well as appropriate based on their results. On the other hand, lenient managers will struggle with an objective based system because they don’t want to give “good” people a “bad” grade. So lenient people will generally put “meets expectations” across the board for all people unless there’s something REALLY out of place.
  • Lenient people are generally focused on EFFORT and SOFT SKILLS. So a core competency is agreeable to managers who are lenient. They will grade people really harshly or really well as appropriate based on their efforts and soft skills. On the other hand, strict managers will struggle an effort based system because they are so results oriented. So strict people will generally put “meets expectations” across the board for all people unless there’s something REALLY out of place.

So if you use a two-pronged system it should balance out. The problem occurs when either A. the systems aren’t appropriately balanced or B. managers forcefully “monkey” with the system to make the outcome what they wish. When either of these things occur the checks and balances of leniency is destroyed and people who have leniency short comings are not caught. Now I will step back for a moment and suggest that the two systems might not actually have to be perfectly balanced. For example, if the company was TRULEY results oriented, they would put a heavier weight on the object based side of the system vs the competency side.

What is important is that people not “monkey” with the system. In a two-pronged system, everyone will be uncomfortable with either one side or the other side of the system, but at the end of the day that’s what makes the system work. You need to stick to the rules of the system, grade people the way the system tells you to grade, and the human factor will be counter balanced by the system. I don’t know maybe I’m arguing my own point in circles. Maybe the system is designed so that even if people monkey with it, in the end it ends up being balanced. Who knows…

May 20 2009

It’s been a crazy month

Published by at 9:08 am
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It has been a really busy this month, insanely busy even for my standards. Everything from fishing trips, trying to recover the guild, getting setup for my final term of college while still making A’s and staying focused on the classes I’m taking now, making an offer on the house we’ve been renting, getting turned down by the home owner (she’s crazy I tell you), and now we’ve made an offer on a different house after looking at several with a realtor. All this while trying to stay focused at work, delivering a product release on time, feature complete, with over 100 bug fixes. Everything is moving at the speed of light although to be honest, there’s nothing like shining in the face of a daunting task.

I don’t normally blog while at work, but taking the time to just quickly compose in written form the level of insanity my life is right now.

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