Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Follow Virginia

A very nice old woman in our building invited Barb and I to her art gallery a while back. We put it on our list and this past Saturday rode the motorcycle there. It was a nice, but odd, selection of art. But Virginia was extremely knowledgeable and nice as can be. The more we talked and listened, the more it became clear that Virginia was fairly famous in the NYC art and modeling world. She shared old news clippings of herself with famous artists of the times, and she was a beautiful young woman. She had that Marilyn Monroe look all dressed up.

As we talked more, she shared that her father was one of the first WWI Naval Air pilots flying amphibious planes out of Long Island, NY and then Pensacola, FL. POW. There it was! There were very few WWI pilots and most knew each other. Having just assembled a museum nomination for my grandfather (Fitzwilliam Dalrymple), I had a lot of information on this topic. We were both so excited to explore this topic more.

It makes me wonder how many people would have skipped the gallery invitation and never met such a fascinating lady and then made a family connection! Would you have?


Monday, September 28, 2009

Culture versus Climate

A recent LiaV post entitled “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” resulted in over one hundred community comments. It was a record. They went in many directions, but one particular comment by Gail Johnson Morris made me think. Gail asked us to think about the difference between culture and climate.

This concept really caught my attention because in my last position, we took the results of employee surveys seriously. The team I led worked hard taking into account the real time “environmental factors” that would have an impact on our scores that were often outside the control of the team. Complex topics like the economy, company employment status, stock price, news articles and customer feedback on products fell into this category. Gail’s insight now provided me the ability to clearly rationalize the difference.

When you work on improving your workplace culture, do you consider climate? Have you confused good climate as good culture in the past?


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Titans of leadership?

It was a simple family home. A mere seventy-five rooms, walls gilded in gold and platinum, an entry way larger than many places of employment, enough exotic marble to be a place of worship, and fresh and salt running water to the bath tubs. While this was the biggest home in the neighborhood, it is among others of similar peers.

The mansion is called “The Breakers” and was the family summer “cottage” of the William Vanderbilt family in Newport, Rhode Island. We visited this fantastic location this past weekend and learned more of the accomplishments of the Vanderbilt family. William was the grandson of founder Cornelius Vanderbilt who created the shipping and railroad empire.

After the tour, I thought to myself, “what a great leaders the Vanderbilt’s must have been.” As I thought and walked around, it occurred to me that they were great businessmen, family patriarchs and community influences. But leaders, I wondered. If critical roles of leadership is building ongoing compelling visions and developing people, then the Vanderbilt’s do not measure up. If their initial vision of controlling the shipping and railroad lines had true life, it would not have faded once monopoly laws and alternative modes of transportation evolved. I looked more and was unable to find clear examples of great achievers that developed under the Vanderbilt system.

While paying respect to their achievements, do you feel vision and developing people are compelling enough reasons to keep the Vanderbilt’s out of the Leadership Hall of Fame?


Monday, September 21, 2009

137 MPH

It started with the 9:12 AM train to Grand Central. Then the 9:56 to Long Island. Exit at Flushing Meadows. The net had the distinctive 6-inch center slope, there were six official line judges, six ball chasers stood at attention when not darting to recover wild balls, seventeen cameras focused from all angles and high-powered microphones picked up every whisper (yes, if they wanted us to know what Venus Williams actually said; we could know).

I’m not a serious tennis fan, but I was given the opportunity to attend the US Open last Sunday at Flushing Meadows, Long Island. It was a stark reminder that we should all take opportunities to try new things. The crowd was into tennis. They were polite and knew the competitors. It seemed like many of them had been there multiple times in the past. I even got to see Juan Martin del Potro crush a 137 MPH serve a few times.

I have blogged often about “staying out of the white aisles” and trying new things. Whether it is new work projects, making new friends or trying a new sporting event, all of us need to continuously expand our environment. Going to the US Open reminded me to follow my own advice.

What things are you doing to continuously expand your world?


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Passion or money?

“Take exit 29 off I95 North, turn right on Stratford, travel about a mile and turn left on Freeman, go a block and cross Connecticut Ave into the parking lot. Don’t mind the neighborhood, it looks more intimidating than is actually is. I’m on the 4th floor of the old brick building. I’ll have to come down and get you in the parking lot.”

From the parking lot, we walked up an old staircase, by many art, yoga, music and small business studios. We waited for the freight elevator a moment and decided to walk up the remaining stairs to Debbie’s fourth floor studio operation (Art Bags). It was not the cleanest I’ve ever seen but produced a quality product. The product was not something I totally understood, but one that has raving fans. The building’s tenants each did their own thing and lived special lives.

I have not seen Debbie in fifteen years. She was an aerospace executive colleague with the usual executive tendencies. I recently reconnected with her and visited her Bridgeport, CT studio. It was so refreshing to talk to someone with so much passion and personal fulfillment. Debbie shared that the business she was forging was not the most profitable in the world but brought her more enjoyment and personal satisfaction than any career up to this point.

Driving home that night, I could not help but feel good about Debbie and Art Bags. I also could not help but wonder how business leaders could assist their teammates find such passion in their professions and careers.

How do you help your teams feel Debbie’s passion in their work?


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Who are your Whos?

Independent of your role in life, we are all interested in gaining insights from those who have already achieved what we are trying to do. Over the last year, I have learned to stop asking people how to do things. The problem with this question is people are inherently helpful and will try to answer even if they don't always know the correct response. I have moved to asking do you know someone "who" has done something. This is one of the learnings from John Strelecky's "Big Five for Life” book.

"Dr. Sharon" is one of my whos. I originally met her in her executive coach role as she was working with a couple of my colleagues. We had mutual leadership interests, so when I starting building this blog and preparing material for a book, she was a multi-role “who.” I recently listened to her free download on discovering your purpose. I answered her five questions to determine WHO I was and WHO I was becoming. It was short, simple, fun and enlightening. I highly recommend you try it.

From the experience, I believe her “Heart's Way” Tele-workshop Program, Discover your Passionate Calling in nine weeks could be very helpful for anyone asking: 1) What am I here to do? 2) What is my next step? or 3) Why do I feel something is missing in my life? Her Tele-workshop begins September 24th - November 19th on Thursday evenings from 6:00 - 7:30 pst (all workshops are recorded in case you miss a class). It is an interactive 9-week transformative experience using an innovative telephone workshop format and and an even greater value if you use the website coupon.

So - I've shared a "who" with you. What "whos" would you like to share with others?

Note - Dr. Sharon Lamm-Hartman is the CEO, Inside Out Learning Inc., and adjunct faculty member with Columbia University. She was recently quoted in The New York Times and The Oprah Magazine. 480-502-4766.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

R U Age Blind?

Guest blog by David Armstrong:

As an older worker, I’m sensitive to hiring issues regarding people of my vintage, however, as a manager, I always thought that I totally disregarded age when I was hiring or evaluating employees.

Recently, I had two experiences that gave me a wake-up call to own perceptions regarding age as it relates to jobs.

The first was when we were introduced to a friend of my daughter, a bright, pleasant, intelligent young man who was reviewing for his annual flight simulator qualification. He is an airline pilot and daily is responsible for the safety and hopefully uneventful shepherding of hundreds of passengers across the country. He is 27. As we left the meeting, my wife and I looked at each other and said, “”He’s too young to be a pilot”.

The other occurrence was a call I received from my niece, an accomplished musician and who has been a substitute teacher in California schools. She now expects to be out of a job due to the California budget situation. She is 51. In her call, she told me she was applying for a job as a musician on a cruise ship. When I told my wife, we both said, “She’s too old”.

There is no question that each of these individuals is fully qualified and capable to pursue their respective career interests. Yet, my experience showed to me that despite by belief that I was age “blind”, I had stereotypical notions about the “proper” age for certain positions. I am now much more sensitive to my own perception and hope that with my awareness, I will not be judgmental in the future.

Have you have a perception that certain positions can only be filled by people in a certain age range? Did you act on that perception or ignore it? What was the outcome?

David Armstrong is a Principal at Inventory Curve and a member of the LiaV community.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

To the boys in the hood

Hi Guys,

The East Coast is not nearly as bad as you warned me about. Different from what you told me. There really are nice people and things east of the 405 freeway. I’m happy to report that the other hoop players did not actually punch me in the throat when going for a rebound. Everyone does not pack pistols and it only rains every other day. The hills in my four mile daily run are not the size of mountains and the mosquitoes are only large enough to carry small babies away!

You were right on a few things – it is really humid and there are far fewer convertibles and motorcycles.

While these were many of the jokes my basketball buddies razzed me about at my going away party, it does make one think about all the silly things people say and how important it is for each of us to sort out what we truly believe. If we take things too seriously we will lock ourselves into inaction and take no risks in life (or in our career).

Have you received silly advice and later found out it was not worthy of your consideration?


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