Archive for category Authenticity

Back to School for a Lesson in Failure

I recently completed a 3 year project which – according to client requirements – should have been done 2 years ago. Hey, I’d like to say that good things take time! But the truth is that sometimes life – and IT project execution – is just unpredictable. And painful. But – ever the optimist – throughout the three years, I tried to find the sunny spot in the gloom of our basement project room. And today I’m asking myself “what did I learn?”

You cannot deliver on something you do not know.
Seek out experts, get training for yourself and your team. Classroom training is not enough. For me, I learned the most from my network of connections I had built over the years through my engagement in a professional community – the Americas SAP Users Group (ASUG). Collaboration with others outside of my own usual comfort zone – across companies and within my own company – helps me to shift paradigms, and, in this case, helped me to question my own design and to rethink the possibilities.

Expectations are sneaky.
Expectation – noun – a belief that someone will or should achieve something. We IT people like things that are concrete – you know, “If x, then y, else z…”. As Project Managers and Business Analysts, we follow plans and processes, carefully sequenced and timed. We define scope and lock it down. What is impossible to manage are the expectations of a variety of stakeholders – each with different concerns. In my case, Legal wanted the solution delivered fast. Business areas didn’t want productivity disrupted. Administration wanted something that would require little manual intervention (add time to the project plan here!). Human Resources wanted a solution that employees would like (add more time to the project plan). IT, of course, wanted us to stay on time and within budget. I understood all these expectations. What we missed was how difficult it would be to keep those expectations from creeping back into the project even after we had all agreed some things would simply not be done within the parameters of this project. There’s only one way (in my humble opinion) to prevent being sidetracked by expectations: that is, have one single person as the ultimate decision maker.

“Failure is delay, not defeat.” – Denis Waitley.
Despite your best laid plans and past successes, sometimes you simply fail to meet everyone’s expectations, the timeline or the budget. But I refused to admit defeat.  We missed the two scheduled release dates. We went over our original budget by a significant number. Despite the pressure from management on those two points, our team persevered in finding the right solutions. With my sense of integrity intact, I suggested a redesign of the solution – thereby removing many of the hurdles that were getting in the way of expectations — some of which were pretty important expectations. No one applauded or sent bonuses my way when we were done. But I have the satisfaction of knowing I did the very best I could and that what I delivered really did remove potential issues for our buisness.

Denis Waitly said “Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” I don’t think I can be accused of any of that. The entrepreneurial spirit in me still prefers to challenge the status quo, longs to innovate, and is okay with taking a calculated risk. I have raised two daughters who were at times scared to fail. And everyday, with every new decision they faced, I would say, “What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen if you try that?” I have never received an answer to that question from either one of them. And so now I am going to take a page from my daughter’s playbook at Blondes Have More Run  and leave us all with the following.

Excuse me now, but i have to keep going!

fearspartan

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“Why I am leaving the best job I ever had”

The best job I have ever had — that is, the one in which I have felt most rewarded — was in being a mom. But I want my life to be insightful and impactful and intellectually stimulating outside of my home. The difficulty has always been finding balance between the two “M” words – Mom and Manager.

The expectation that a corporate work week is routinely more than 40 hours is challenging for any parent. Yet, I willingly give those hours because I feel passion and a sense of commitment to my colleagues and to the successful completion of work that enables a better workforce via technology.

I am not leaving the best job I ever had. But for MongoDB CEO Max Schireson, stepping down to do LESS and allow someone else to step up to do more was crucial. There is no shame in this – and I am personally applauding his choice — and his integrity and passion for life and family.

The question for each of us is how we will make personal balance work for each of us. And the realization we must all achieve is that the question is not just for women.

It is my hope that Max Schireson’s choice will not only inspire more dad’s to chose worklife balance, but more, that it will make it increasingly acceptable for women to be able to shift temporarily into a lower gear in order to achieve Mom-Manager happiness. Can we all “lean in” to that idea?

Max Schireson's blog

Earlier this summer, Matt Lauer asked Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, whether she could balance the demands of being a mom and being a CEO. The Atlantic asked similar questions of PepsiCo’s female CEO Indra Nooyi. As a male CEO, I have been asked what kind of car I drive and what type of music I like, but never how I balance the demands of being both a dad and a CEO.

While the press haven’t asked me, it is a question that I often ask myself. Here is my situation:

* I have 3 wonderful kids at home, aged 14, 12 and 9, and I love spending time with them: skiing, cooking, playing backgammon, swimming, watching movies or Warriors or Giants games, talking, whatever.
* I am on pace to fly 300,000 miles this year, all the normal CEO travel plus commuting between Palo Alto and New York…

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Reputation

A marketing campaign from the 1970s is being credited today with aptly capturing the spirit of today’s social media. “You tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends and so on and so on…” I could not remember the name of the product the campaign advertised until I “Googled” it today – and that’s because it was the theme that resonated with me.

In everything we do personally or professionally, we build our reputation one brick at a time. The best university or the right degree might earn a “foot into the door.” Crowdfunding might provide the impetus to starting your own business. Having friends in the right places might kickstart a career. Credibility is what keeps you there.

Personally, I have been told “not to care so much” (about a project or other effort in which I might be engaged). Certainly, managing what you care about and when you care about it is an art. And there may be a fine line between knowing when to fan the fire and when to put it out. But I choose not to live in mediocrity.

Whatever we do should be done with passion. Passion is noticed. Passion can’t be ignored. Passion puts our own personal stamp on everything we do. Passion is memorable.

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Keeping It Real

Icy streams of water slide from my hand down my raised arm and sizzle to my bare thigh as I take a long swallow from my sweat-coated glass of iced tea. AAHHHH…refreshed. A breeze runs it’s long steamy fingers through my should-length bob. I inhale the scent of crisp, salty ocean air, mixed with coconut scented sunblock and I curl my toes into the cool depths of the sand.

I wish I were at the beach. But I’m not.

I am actually sitting in my Pennsylvania home, inside my study surrounded by sea shells and ocean themed art. A ceiling fan rustles my hair. So – aren’t you wondering about the sand?

I really do have sand in my study — a recent gift from my 24-year-old daughter — who brings her inner child to her job as a Fresh Foods Manager at Wawa every day and makes sure that I keep the same spirit alive myself. Chelea has been found singing in the deli, handing out Cowtails candy to a coworker who made her day or playing practical jokes on others.

photo sand2.

Your inner child is shorthand for your “authentic self”. The thing is, Chelsea gets up every day and brings her whole self to work. Her whole self prepares the food, makes the sandwiches, maintains the inventory, cares about her Wawa team, wants to be proud of the work she does, and wants to have fun while she’s doing it. Is there anything better than enjoying what you’re doing for 40+ hours a week?

Dress for success. First impressions count. Define your own personal “brand”. But the most important thing you can do for those with whom you work – and for whom you work – is to be authentic.

Keep it real. Stick your toes in the sand every once in a while.

sand

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Doing more than showing up

When I get ready for work in the morning – or even Sunday night before my work week starts – I do a little bit of mental preparation about the day ahead. What’s on my calendar? Who will need what from me? Should I research or read anything before a particular meeting?

The point is to show up prepared — prepared to contribute your best to whatever activity in which you will engage.

As I know from my daughter (http://www.blondeshavemorerun.com/) – but certainly not from my own experience – runners prepare fastidiously for every event – often for months in advance. Runners don’t just show up.

Recently, a Frontier Airlines pilot (GMA 7/9/2014) did way more than anyone expected in terms of showing up. He bought pizza.

In a rare demonstration of passion and commitment to one’s job, Captain Gerhard Brandner took his own initiative to call Dominos and order pizza for the 160 passengers and crew onboard a flight that was already two hours delayed and had been sitting on the runway for over an hour.

The little things are sometimes the big things. And in all things, the people you work with and for are the most important.

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