I’ve just installed CommentLuv here. So post a comment and people will see a link to your latest blog post right next to your comment. I posted a comment @DogearNation and was immediately surprised by the outcome. Try it! You’ll like it!
One of the nice things about working for the company I work for, is the access to world class executives. The other day I had a chance to have some really good one on one time with such an exec. He’s been with the company for years and years, and knows so many aspects of the business.
Although the purpose of the meeting was for me to help him with some web 2.0 stuff, I was really limited in what I could teach him because he is just so ahead of the curve. He’s just the kind of person who engages in everything that’s interesting. He didn’t present the typical mind set of looking up and across the report tree to see who could impress whom. Instead, he was much more interested in the collaborative process that was enabled by the tools we were exploring. He was fascinated by the roles we each represented in our discussion. Ha! He was even on the edge of his chair as my laptop crashed, wondering what was causing it.
Would you believe it? We were even digging into HTML syntax, going through the origins of an “a href” tag. I love being a geek at times!
By the end of the time, I had offered him a review of 3 different email reduction tools (a la, put your files and your collaboration on the web). He had carefully considered each one, the functions that supported his use case scenario, and the impact that his decision would have on the “greater good.”
I walked out of the meeting with my head full of things to consider during my dirve back home.
6 Main Lessons an Executive Close Encounter Can Teach You
Read Wired Cover to Cover – We were laughing it up about the bit in the latest episode where Wired says to pull that bluetooth attachment out of your ear “If Brad Pitt can’t pull it off, neither can you!” Yes, I had caught that one, because I typically scan Wired. But this guy had thoroughly read it and was able to reference and dig into the articles much better than I. I can’t accept that. I don’t mind learning something new from someone else’s perspective. However, when I can’t even be on the same page with someone because I hadn’t read well enough the same rag we had both read… well… that’s just… oh! Mrs. Weiss back in Alton, IL (high school literature teacher) would have made folly of me for such.
Read his Blog – He’s already a blogger, both inside and outside of the company. On his external blog he gives career advice (which gave me a couple of valuable insights and a couple confirmations that I had been coaching myself well.) However, his internal blog (inside our company) contains business-specific challenges. I don’t share the same marketing and business analytics background. But I’m going to be talking to him again in the future. This creates an opportunity to expore and study these concepts through his blog (especially those about which he cares most), and bring them up in future discussions to learn more. Don’t under estimate the blog.
Study our Competitor’s Product – Get to know it well. Be able to compare and contrast our tool’s abilities to support specific collaborative patterns compared to the competition. We already know that our tools are vastly superior. But that’s no excuse for becoming blissful in the shadow of this abundance. Instead, it would help to thoroughly understand the challenges that all companies face, even when they’re stuck with other tools. I’m not a professional consultant (well, at least that’s not my title ;-). But situations occur when I’m shoulder to shouder, over lunch or a coffee (or a podcast 😉 with our clients and the discussion needs a solid frame of reference.
Be an Energizer! – This guy’s energy and passion for learning was contageous! I like to think I’m the same way too. However, I do recognize the scinical spirit. It has entered my life, seductively, incidiously draging my optimism down over the years. Of course it’s imporant to be bridled and realistic. But don’t give up your intuition and your soul! He is living proof that the geek factor and learning spirit is alive and well in executive ranks.
Think About the Greater Good – When you make a decision, don’t just think about the impact it will have on you and your work. Think about the impact on the team around you. Among the 3 tools we revealed, he actually chose the tool that was least convenient because he thought it would be easier for the team to adopt it, given that they were already used to a different tool. He didn’t mind waiting a couple of months to get access to the extra utility that would make it all easy. He was thinking of his team.
Execs are Just People Too – Okay, I already knew this one. In fact, I kinda had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t just talking to one of my buds. But, it’s important to respect that they are very popular, live in a bit of a fish bowl, and don’t have the time to be your new best friend. Nevertheless, be genuine. Don’t get in their way. Respect their boundaries by keeping good boundaries yourself. And, if you like the person, and you want to offer more of your time, just be available. In other words, don’t get all freaky over their rank.
This was the experience that made my week. It actually motivated me to get back on my blog and start writing more. It pays to be an energizer.
In my practice, I see many people who are tackling challenges within the collaborative process. Frequently people want to work with communities, yet are struggling with one aspect or another.
I had a meeting today with a manager who thought he could create a community. He was troubled that the community didn’t really work well. It really made him angry.
Now, you might ask yourself, how in the world can a man create a community? Aren’t communities made of people? Aren’t they voluntary? Don’t they form when people gather together and interact with one another voluntarily based on something they have in common and actually recognize themselves as members of a persistent group? Yes, of course.
So, I asked the man, how did he do it? He showed me.
As I watched over his shoulder, he did the most amazing thing. He opened his laptop, sat down at the keyboard, launched his browser, and went to a web site. At the web site, he clicked a button, which launched a form. After filling out the form and submitting it, the web page showed the name he had chosen for the community at the top of blank page. He then clicked some more buttons and uploaded a file to the web site. When I asked him what was in the file, he explained that it was a list of internet IDs.
After the internet IDs were processed my this web application, he sat back, pointed at the screen, smiled, and proclaimed that he had just created a community, just like he had previously. “Is this all you did?” I asked. Of course, not, he explained. He had also assigned someone to manage the community. His major frustration was that the assigned community manager hadn’t taken his role seriously.
So, we talked a bit about the concept of communities… about voluntary membership and participation… about the self-selecting nature of the membership itself… about the need for leaders to self-select from within the membership and identify their own topics. This is a typical flow of discussion, which, when given enough time and insight, eventually changes a person’s entire outlook… from manager to gardener. Communities form and emerge naturally. They can be encouraged and facilitated; But they can’t be engineered and determined.
A man can no more create a community by filling out a form on a webpage than he can make a fruit tree by taping fruit to twigs and twigs to a stump.
I fixed the ability to Subscribe to Sweettt.com using iTunes.
For quite some time, iTunes was working just fine. And then, for some strange reason, it all went kerfloowee. Everyone’s subscription was broken. And the ability to resubscribe via the iTunes Store died. After numberous attempts to fix the problem, my faith in the iTunes Store was shattered.
Today, you can subscribe via iTunes easily. Just click the link, Subscribe via iTunes.
How did we fix it? We abandoned the iTunes store. It just doesn’t work. It’s too complicated, fragile, unreliable, and time intensive. It sucks up all the time that could better be spent creating content. So… Apple iTunes Store, I’m sorry, but I have to sunset our use of your service. Don’t worry though. We’re still promoting the iTunes product at the top of my list.
– Matt Simpson
Step 1 – YOU DON’T HAVE TO – feel like this anymore.
I’m a big fan of West Wing. I really am. The level of discourse in that show is simply wonderful. The images… the characters… Anyway, there is a nice little exchange I just had with a colleague, who was sharing with me that he was resisting change…
… he wasn’t comfortable with a change that was about to happen. And immediately, a scene within West Wing came to mind.
The story goes like this…
The President, Jed Bartlet was plagued with a 5 point drop in approval ratings. Concurrently, a position paper on how to bring down the Bartlet Presidency was being surfaced by the press. Because the paper was highly critical of the administration, Bartet and his senior staff had to read the paper. In the paper was a key message, that…
Leo (Chief of Staff) drives Bartlet to the middle, and Bartlet lets him take him there.
After Bartlet & Leo read the paper, up comes the time for them to talk about it. Now they are confronted with their partnership in mediocrity. Bartlet brings up the suggestion from the paper, that Leo is the one driving them to the middle. Leo struggles with the message and then rejects it with a strong retort, that Bartlet is the one to drive them to the middle.
The two principles go back an forth in the dialog, and wrestle with whose to blame for their position. After some negotiation around the topic, it’s recognized that Bartlet is a big thinker, the one with vision, the one who ultimately gives direction. Faced with that notion, he justifies his political inaction with all the constraints on his office… These incessant compromises weigh him down and keep his true leadership from coming out.
He sighs, “I don’t want to feel like this anymore.”
And then Leo urges him, “You don’t have to.”
This insight hits Bartlet squarely between eyes. He and Leo feel the weight lift as they confirm together that they are going to start doing things differently. They are going to disregard their fear of losing a second term in the Whitehouse. Instead, they are going to follow some of the vision of the President and tackle some of the issues that they’ve always wanted to.
Leo’s strategy… LET BARTLET BE BARTLET.
Step 2 – LOOK FOR A BOLD ACTION – to commit to that change.
No… I’m not through talking about West Wing. The very next episode begins with Jed Bartlet making a speach in which he is about to to make a bold unprecidented announcement which is certain to enrage Congress, and trigger the parties to launching into a series of political attacks on the Adminsitration. The speach needs a parable to build up to that announcement.
And so, Jed Bartlet spoke about a story that his grandfather used to tell, about 2 Irish lads who while walking through the countryside came upon a wall that they thought they could not climb. Instead, of trying to climb or even backing away, they first threw their caps over the wall so that they were dedicated to either get over the wall or lose their caps.
Making a bold statement can be fun, enlightening, and invigorating. It can liberate you to act freely, without prior burdens. It can open up new territory so that you can set the direction for yourself and your endeavors.
But don’t be reckless. Be thoughtful. Look before you leap. And get ready for consequences.
A bold move can also disturb and surprise those around you. They may become shocked and react. They may wish that there was more of an opportunity for them to persuade you to keep things they way they were.
Keep in mind that, there is a reason to make the move bold. Certain changes don’t come easily.
Keep in mind that, as long as you are being fair to others and fulfilling your promises, it is your perfect right to be bold… to catch others by surprise… to be independent… and to act unilaterally.