Executive Encounters of the Geek Kind

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.

The Big Chair
The Big Chair

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.

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