Monday, August 31, 2009

The truth about balance in life

Guest blog post by Mohd Firdaus Bin Mohd Johari:

It was a normal morning, stuck in a traffic jam. Rude drivers cutting through traffic and I let them pass. A friend of mine who was carpooling to work with me asked, "Why do you let that happen?" I replied, "Are we in a hurry? We always leave for work at this time and we reach the office with time to spare." "But you cannot let people walk over you," he answered.

"I'm not." And I explained further. The Taipei 101 skyscraper was built to withstand earthquakes and storms. How? By being flexible where it can afford to, and being tough and stern where is must be. It also applies to our lives. In the case of my argument with my car pooling friend, I know I can afford to let some cars go by, because I have spare time to reach the office. But if it was a matter of life and death, then I wouldn't react in the same way. In a conflict you must know when to compromise and when to stand your ground. Sounds obvious right?

A lot of people talk about 'balance' as far as how they navigate conflict but it is these same people are the ones not being able to uphold this balance. More often than not, they themselves are the ones who get mistreated in conflicts. There is no perfect 'balance', it is not practical.

The 'balance' can be attempted, which ultimately brings us to an acceptable range. However, people fail to do this for three reasons:
• Lack of objective
• Lack of defining their thresholds
• Lack of self-awareness

When you do not know what you want in life, then you will not know what you need to achieve it. If you do not know that, you will not know which aspects of your life that you should prioritize and what you cannot compromise on. You would know your boundaries. All this wouldn't be a problem if you are honest and sincere with yourself, having a better understanding of who you are and what you want to be.

How do you balance your life?

Mohd Firdaus Bin Mohd Johari is from Malaysia, hosts the Beyond Uni blog and a member of the LiaV community.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It’s not a technology play

It’s a geographically dispersed team that thinks and acts like they are in one place. The assumption is the individuals know how to use the communication tools. If you are lucky enough for this to be true but your virtual team is still struggling, think again.

The challenge for leadership to excel leading geographically dispersed teams is more difficult than most people accept. Virtual teams have many of their own peculiar traits that, if left unmanaged, destroy the potential effectiveness of the team. The book “Virtual Teams: Reaching Across Space, Time and Organizations With Technology” by Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps, and their related website, hits the point that many leaders miss. “Success is 90% the people and 10% technology.” Knowing how to use the tools is a basic element of the virtual game. All your leadership efforts must be exaggerated. You have to try twice as hard.

What are some of your best “people-oriented” virtual leadership techniques?


Sunday, August 23, 2009

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”

A strategy can be written in short order and communicated to the team by using multiple mediums in a matter of weeks. The best part is that if you get it wrong, the strategy can be adjusted and changed as needed. Culture, on the other hand, is a big deal. Every company or organization gets the culture it deserves. To make matters worse, when you end up with the wrong one, it can take a generation to fix it.

In the January 23, 2006 Wall Street Journal, Debbie Holton wrote an article regarding a quote made by Ford that "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." She commented that this quote comes from the war room of the new Ford makeover. The article sums it up in one paragraph. "Mr. Fields says he is now trying to rouse and create a sense of urgency in a corporate culture that has withstood repeated efforts at overhauls, ranging from former CEO Alex Troutman's sweeping Ford 2000 globalization effort, to former CEO Jacques Nasser's dot-com era campaign to remake Ford into a diversified consumer-products company with a strong internet component."

Have you seen a world-class strategy crushed under the weight of miscalculated culture? What could have been done differently?


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Don’t cave!

It is always fun to meet someone from a different industry and culture who is experiencing the new company and culture I am learning. This happened again this past week when I had the opportunity to meet an ex-dot-com leader gone aerospace. He had a great background with plenty to offer (multiple languages, industries, functions and cultures).

Then it happened! I asked him a question about why some group was not involved in a particular meeting and he said, “To reduce travel costs.” This was an ex-dot-com leader that had, for the briefest of moments, forgotten that people do not have to travel to take part in a meeting. Phones, web-meetings and VTC’s are meetings too. When I pointed this out to my new colleague, he immediately knew what had happened and thanked me for reminding him. At the close of our time together, he coached me to continue to probe and move forward.

Driving back that evening, the question that kept bothering me was, how do I even know when I’m starting to cave? How do I catch myself when it starts to happen?

What tools have you used to remind yourself to never accept the status quo and challenge the way things are done?


Monday, August 17, 2009

But I’m not a manager

We had a blast this past weekend. NYC was hosting its Summer Streets on Saturday. They closed Park Avenue from the Brooklyn Bridge (south) to Central Park (north) to only pedestrians, runners, skaters and bicyclists. We hosted my sister and her husband, and we all pedaled bikes the full length of the course a couple of times.

So what the heck does this have to do with leadership? Sometime during the weekend, my sister commented and complimented the postings and comments on LiaV. While she did add a comment to the blog on one occasion, she said the blog was more for “management people.” She enjoyed the context but did not want to insert comments. I understood her opinion, but it made me think. I learn so much from the most unsuspecting places. There is so much more to be learned about leadership from those being led day-in and day-out! I work hard to get this feedback from the people I work with, but it has not been a priority on this blog.

How can we encourage LiaV readers that are not in management positions to coment more often and teach us from their perspective?


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Do you have a lesson to share?

“Leadership is a Verb” is a community of us helping each other. As the host, it is my role to observe events and prepare them for a robust discussion. I have found the raconteur style to work well (story telling).

I am confident you have many more lessons, stories and experiences than I could possibly imagine. I would like to extend to you the opportunity to publish your thoughts and test the reactions of our community. Our topics are leadership, diversity, career development and the virtual workplace. Readers tend to prefer postings that are between 150 and 250 words with a question to ponder at the end.

If this interests you, please let me know.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Darn that wisdom thing

The other evening I was collaborating with an esteemed professor of systems engineering on some virtual team course material. We were making great progress, working remotely, using content-sharing software and low-cost web-link technology. One could say we were cutting edge collaborators in the moment.

It became clear to us that the course module needed more team introduction content, and we needed to do some research into basic teaming definitions and skills. This would require going old-school to get the information. Then my colleague made an interesting observation and said, “The older I get the more I respect that which came before me.” The dichotomy of working in the mist of all that technology and then being dependent on research before our reign was interesting.

Do you have examples of times when you gained a renewed respect for old-school knowledge?


Thursday, August 6, 2009

One letter can change the culture

Many of you know that I recently made a transition from CA to CT. All I really changed was one letter (from an “A” to a “T”). Sure, some things would be different, but we were still in the same country, sort of.

As I now know, there were more cultural differences in the singe letter change than anyone could guess. For example:

Most popular vehicle....Suburban....................Subaru
Baseball debate............Dodgers or Angels........Yankees or Red Sox
Daily 4 mile run..........Open beach strand........Privately owned streets

If you are wondering what this has to do with being a good leader, it is about understanding and appreciating individual differences. Certain people characteristics are geographically driven, and the leader who is sensitive to this will be more successful.

Where have you discovered cultural differences and adjusted your leadership approach?


Tuesday, August 4, 2009


What if someone told you that one of your responsibilities as a leader was to seek and recruit talent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year? Not just when you had an opening, but all the time. Even to the extent that you may recruit an individual even when no position exists because you understand a person of this capability and experience does not become available often.

In today’s business environment, this is almost hard to believe, but I had the pleasure to experience such an organization a short while back. It reminded of the time in 1996 when I was refinancing to a lower interest rate and was so impressed with the loan agent that I recruited her to become a pricing analyst in the supply chain management organization.

If you limit your recruiting to the time when you have an opening or in the mood, there are many people you will never notice. Talent is not confined to the Human Resources search process. Some great people have been found in unconventional places.

Do you recruit 24-7-52? Where was the most unconventional place you found a great talent?


Add to Technorati Favorites