We will

WeWillDriving to work I listen to the radio. When it comes to ads I usually switch the channel. However, sometimes you can’t escape them and some you seem to catch every time. One of these was for me the Crusaders ad “We will”. I found the original ones not to my liking. It didn’t make me want to go and see the game.

Until this week. The tone changed and finally the “We will” hit a nerve.

We will for the jersey. 
We will for each other.
We will for the fans.
WE WILL

The Crusaders are a very successful sports team. And you can read this up on Wikipedia or the Rugby sites on web. Many teams have their ebbs and highs, some are one time wonders, and some never make it.

Germany, for example, is a very successful football nation. However at this years worldcup in Russia they did not perform to their aspired and expected level. A whole nation asked why? The South Korean coach (South Korea beat Germany 2-0 and kicked them effectively out) hit the nail on the head “The Germans weren’t hungry anymore.”

This is where “We will” is so important,

  • it talks about pride (we will for the jersey),
  • it talks about trust (we will for each other), and
  • it talks about customers (we will for the fans).

The psychology of having a significant intrinsic motivation is the keystone of a successful culture. “We will” does that. Germany’s motivation of defending the worldcup and having a pot of gold at the end wasn’t good enough for already successful individuals. The additional controversy with a split loyalty drove a dagger into the team spirit. “Die Mannschaft” wasn’t a team, it was just a collection of exceptional footballers.

For me it is a lesson in leadership. It is not important to have the best engineer, project manager, or business analyst in the team. It is much more important that the people you have

  • know what they need to do and
  • are willing to put the hard work in to make it happen.

That includes everybody and includes trusting each other and helping each other out. I’m thinking the doing, the learning, the planning, the supporting, and good measure of pragmatism.

Acknowledgement:
header image copyright Crusaders.co.nz
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The hard work begins

John Wooden Pyramid Of SuccessClose to 2 weeks into the new role things begin to take shape. There is certainly a lot of “stuff” to do ranging from re-forming the team, providing direction, to setting a few guidelines in place. While I was going through the environmental parameters, the change patterns, and the strategic objectives I came across John Wooden’s pyramid of success. I found it fascinating and so applicable to my thinking and the process I’m working through that I decided to share it.

Please note the image has been published by Theresa Kimm in 2014.

John’s Pyramid of success was based on the following creed he received from his father at his graduation:

  1. Be true to yourself.
  2. Make each day your masterpiece.
  3. Help others.
  4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
  5. Make friendship a fine art.
  6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
  7. Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

which he translated to a 12 point list of leadership lessons

  1. Good values attract good people
  2. Love is the most powerful four-letter word
  3. Call yourself a teacher
  4. Emotion is your enemy
  5. It takes 10 hands to make a basket
  6. Little things make big things happen
  7. Make each day your masterpiece
  8. The carrot is mightier than the stick
  9. Make greatness attainable by all
  10. Seek significant change
  11. Don’t look at the scoreboard
  12. Adversity is your asset

A damn powerful list! Most I agree without thinking about, some I would have worded probably different, a few I might not have thought of straight away and one (highlighted) I wouldn’t have included.

Don’t look at the scoreboard.

Our culture is build around “what is measured gets done / is managed / ..”. Quality control and lean management can’t exist without metrics and measures. So, how can a very successful NBA coach have a principle of ignoring the scoreboard? Doesn’t he need to re-act when his team isn’t performing at their best?

The answer to that conundrum is hidden in the pyramid of success and a strong belief that when you do the right things and do them well success is the natural outcome.

The cornerstones of the pyramid are hard work (industriousness) and a strong belief in what you are trying to achieve (enthusiasm). The foundation is nothing else then respect of your teams strengths and abilities coupled with enduring willingness to work together (friendship, loyalty, cooperation).

The second layer is aimed at the individual concerning their sincerity and ambition. Determination, Decision making, and Active Listening are 3 of these 4 elements. The 4th one “self control” or “emotion is your enemy” reminds me of my time in the German Army. The sergeant who was leading parts of training said to us, “When something goes wrong and it goes to your head, don’t act straight away. There is usually time to sleep it over. Review the situation with fresh eyes and make a much more rational decision about it.” I feel good to recall that advise and find it on the pyramid of success.

The middle layer centres around skill. Although it makes clear that your attitude and the team spirit are essential to make success enduring. That level is key to next: Poise and Integrity. I think, I rambled about posture in an earlier post citing Isabel Allende. That is exactly the essence of this layer.

Which leave the capstone “competitive greatness”:

Be at your best when your best is needed. Your best is needed every day.

And if you do all that and your team is doing that, too there is no need to look at the scoreboard because success will come. Quality assurance is not neglected, on the contrary, it is built into each step on the way.

A new Beginning

Change AheadMy adventures at a local government agency are coming to an end this Friday. Since my last post I carved a position of trust, knowledge and influencing leadership.

  • in the shared fleet a car got named after me
  • people in my team ask me for advise on how to deal with complex situations, act on it, and get the job done and out of an uncomfortable position
  • people not in my team use me for mentoring
  • senior managers across the agency appreciate how I resolve challenges in various projects
  • when I manage the team while the usual manager is on secondment the service levels and team sentiment stay on the already top level
  • my architecture change leadership is recognised as thoughtful and practical
  • a sincere trust relationship exists between my manager and myself

So, why the change?

An opportunity arose which a friend advised me off. Joining an organisation where I could bring in my previous skills in managing technology operations and also be part in leading a change process looked to me as a challenge that I love to take on. Early days it is, although I already met with the people I’m working with a few times and the feeling is we are on the same wave length.

  • a re-active environment needs to be boosted to be a leading one
  • service delivery methods and practices need to be transformed away from high demand for low value tasks to requests for business value services
  • changing the team spirit to being proud of Technology Operations

That’s not happening over night and is still first impressions. Expect from now on regular posts again!

Work – Life – Balance

Hi there,

thank you for staying with me for a while.

Some 3 years ago my previous employer restructured and I moved to work for a local government agency. After more than 20 years in a commercial environment this hit me like a smash in the tummy!

Many things changed and not in a way you might expect – me included. People and Technology stayed fairly much the same. Good people, who work to make a difference, and some, who simply do their job. Technology, some leading edge and some that survived long after the vendor ceased support. Teams that push boundaries and teams that are grounded in the way things are done around here.

But the latter is a synonym of the real difference: processes and politics. I don’t mean the processes like how you apply for leave, how a customer requests something, or how a supplier is paid. No, these processes are fairly universal and some a well defined and technology supported while others are much more adhoc or manual. The processes, I found inherently different, are related to and about change.

These processes make the difference in culture between the organisations I’ve worked with. To start with there is an inherent organisational resistance to change. The way things are done here are proven over decades. Is there a legislation or regulation that requires a change? There is for sure one that is supporting what and how we do it.

Then we have frameworks on how we change things, why we would, could, or should not change. There are business unit interests, information technology aspects, strategic and annual plans, project and change management, and surely an overall business calendar of events to consider.

Clearly I had to learn navigating this new jungle that has nothing to do with what I still believe is a good thing:

 Trust people to do the right thing.

Because there surely is a regulation or framework, that I haven’t considered and don’t yet know about. And that’s not all, managing upwards and sidewards and downwards is an even more essential part of this new brave world. I needed friends and people who believe in what I wanted to propose. Now I’m spending more time in talking with people about that than actually doing it.

As a result I’m changing. My approach is changing. To achieve something needs time here. Like a seed that may become a tree.

And funnily enough the most positive aspect about the whole thing is I have a better work life balance. I’m much less worrying about tomorrow and things that need doing. Work needs a rest and ideas need to settle. Tomorrow is another day of sunshine or rain.

Today is a day for living. Be in the presence.

Enjoy your weekend, your evening, or whatever rocks your boat. Simply enjoy today. I won’t get it back.

cheers

Frank

The Happy Employee

Happiness in 3 facesEarlier this week a friend posted an article about “Is it your fault when you are unhappy?” The original blog post is actually from James Adonis, one of Australia’s best-known people-management thinkers.

James presented two opposite opinions:

  • “Your employer is not responsible for your happiness. You are.”
  • “It’s not difficult at all for leaders to create happy employees. The only reason it doesn’t happen is if you work for a tool.”

“So, who’s right? Are employees ultimately responsible for the joy they feel at work? Or do their bosses have a moral obligation to make it a priority?

That leaders have a financial obligation is already clear. There are many credible studies demonstrating the benefits associated with happy employees or, more significantly, engaged employees. These reports, for example, outline some of the empirical findings that indicate the positive outcomes include better customer service, higher productivity, enhanced sales and fewer safety accidents.”

James favours the first opinion and continues outlining 4 traits that distinguishes happy employees:

  • A desire to work for the simple joy that arises from doing a good job.
  • A positive attitude comprising enthusiasm and cheerfulness.
  • A conscientious work ethic of hard work and resourcefulness.
  • A proactive approach that seeks opportunities to make a contribution.

He further discusses Unhappiness as a result of “waiting” and concludes:

“So, cheers to the leaders who make it a personal mission to create a happy and engaging workplace. But an even more emphatic cheer is in order for the employees who do it themselves.”

My Opinion

I agree happiness is not something leaders can give to people. That is inherently impossible. It is up to you personally what and how you live your life. That’s why I start every day with a smile and enjoy a beautiful Monday.

Although that doesn’t mean leaders can sit back and relax, knowing it’s not their fault if employees are being unhappy. They do have a responsibility to provide 5 things:

  • make sure employees do meaningful work
  • communicate open, honestly and share information
  • ensure employees have autonomy within their responsibilities
  • foster innovation, teamwork, and be the chief road block remover
  • provide fair compensation and possibilities to grow

If they don’t, people who take responsibility for their happiness will leave and those who wait for happiness to come to them will stay.

To your question, Greg, I don’t think leaders have a moral obligation to create happiness. They work in the same organisation as their team. So, it comes down in my opinion to

  1. What does the organisation stand for, what’s the purpose? Can I identify with that as an individual.
  2. What are the values of the organisation and are they demonstarted by the senior managers? Do those match to a large degree with my personal values.
  3. Do I feel I can make a difference and add value?

If those three questions line up, I can see happiness and meaningful work coming up 🙂

Succeeding on Purpose

I didn’t go to TechEd in Auckland last week, but a friend of mine did. He pointed me to the recording of one of the keynotes, saying if you watch one, make it this one.

Succeeding on Purpose

Succeeding on Purpose

It’s a 1 hour recording and if you have the time, it is well spend. If not, here’s my 5 minute summary:

In this talk James A. Whitaker tells his personal 7 traits that everybody can use to succeed in life. The talk is limited to outline 4 of those and James makes sure he advertises his book about it.

(1) Ambition

This is the only trait that is not optional. Having an aspirational goal is a must. Set your goals higher. Even if you miss it you still end up higher than the mediocre goal you were sure to achieve.

(2) Specialisation

Specialising on something gives you an identity. It is an opportunity to master the topic. Although, make sure you choose something that matters. Be passionate about it. Then comes the important part: Make an elevator pitch in 2 forms, one to tell others “that’s what I do” and the other for yourself, “that’s why I do it”. And don’t forget – specialisation does only work for a limited time. You may need to change 2 or 3 times along the way.

(3) Story telling

James tells us 3 stories that matter. The first is about your role and your speciality (see above), the second is about your project and why it matters (this tells other what you do is interesting), and the third talks about you and what makes you special. The latter is probably the hardest part for me, there are plenty of folks who do similar stuff – how do I compare?

(4) Learning

“We are who we learn from” – The sentence didn’t first make too much sense to me. However, when James continues talking about mentors, yes many mentors, it starts to resonate. Having access to an expert in the field makes learning so much more fun. The trick is to find the right one for you.

(5) Mimic / Imitation

He is an advocate of imitating the chosen expert in that field. The advantage, you learn more – you learn the little things, the things people do unconsciously. Although beware, don’t become a carbon copy. Mimic multiple mentors and become the blend that is you.

(6) Innovation’s long nose >>> Derivation

Re-invent the wheel is the credo! But make it better so that it matters. He talks about clairvoyance and creativity in this context. Clairvoyance is about the knowledge you have about your industry and your ability to predict what’s happening next. This goes back to specialisation. Don’t specialise in ‘dead’ things, specialise in things that are going to matter. Some tips about a creativity are added, where he briefly talks about rituals (or habits) that stimulate creativity, distractions that gives your brain a rest, and being centered – a place or places where you feel comfortable and have the greatest ideas.

(7) Leadership

He left that hanging. I have to read the book!

How a junior staff member can review the work of his senior

Jedi Master and ApprenticeA story

There is a small team of 4 developers. These guys are very different from each other.

John is experienced and worked for more than 15 years with the company in different roles. His mantra is “never change a working approach”. He preservers the status quo.

William has the same level of experience in the company but has developed a love for the latest “best practices”. He is always on the look out how to improve things.

Mary is with the company just for a few years and then fresh from University. Some of the “old stuff” she is dealing with is hurting her sense of “doing it right” albeit she acknowledges it works. Refactoring would make maintenance and support easier but would have no visible benefit for the end user.

Alan joins the team and it is his first job. He likes the solid and calm approach from John, the energy from William who always seem to find a way to make stuff better for the customer, and the quick thinking Mary who knows tech stuff in and out.

The team leader struggles at times to get them working together effectively. 2 pairs emerge initially, William and Mary driving change with John and Alan asking, isn’t it working fine? Both have very valid points and the team leader would love to get more synergy going and not risking confrontation between the pairs.

Several approaches come to his mind and he settles on breaking the pairs up by switching the 2 younger members around. To get the learning going he asks the pairs to review their work. One of the older guys, John, has a problem with that as he feels Mary being “too cocky” about the old and well proven way he does things.

The team leader remembers a story he heard once how an airline handled a similar challenge. He takes John and William for a walk and explains to them the idea. He asks them to purposely insert some mistakes in their code. That way there is no loss of face, even if the younger guys find things that were made accidentally. He also tells the younger guys so they know there is no conflict between reviewing code and not making friends with team mates.

This approach can be refined to address the different ways of coding, create appreciation of a new way of doing things as well as proven methods.