Archives For Education

Gifts: Taking Time To Reflect

December 20, 2012 — 1 Comment


Knowledge and experience are gifts.

Have you ever stopped to think about what you have been given and how you can make the best use of it?  We acquire knowledge and experience on a daily basis as we go through life, but I have met very few people (and I have a very large network on a worldwide basis) that actually leverage what they know. Whether it’s a natural talent or acquired knowledge, very few of us actually take the time to stop and consider how we can best use the “Gifts” we have been given.

Organizations realize how important it is to “know what they know” and consistently try to maximize their collective intelligence – shouldn’t you? In a world where the only certainty is uncertainty, your only real source of sustainable competitive advantage is your own knowledge and experience – and how you leverage them. Your success in this increasingly competitive world depends wholly on how you qualitatively and effectively manage those gifts.

You probably don’t consistently think about all the knowledge you have gained through the years, but as the holidays are upon us, perhaps it is a good time to pause and reflect on what you do actually know…

You have knowledge and experience that is very specific and unique to you. Despite the vast amount of information you carry around in your head,  you most likely don’t stop to actually think back over what you have done in the past and consider how you can convert it into useful knowledge for today. Reflecting back over all you have accomplished over the years will prepare you for that which you are not even yet aware of.

This holiday season, I would like to challenge you to…

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 This week, I would like to take the opportunity to ask for your help. I always love the lively discussions and insightful questions that emerge from the different leadership challenges we cover, but this week I would especially appreciate your insights and opinions.

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Human Resource policies have a critical impact on virtual team success. They need to support geographically dispersed teams by integrating and aligning them to recognize, support and reward the people who lead and work in virtual environments. Here are a few ideas to think about when preparing to shift your organizational culture to support virtual teams:

Securing Systems Support

When a virtual team is formed, you, as a virtual leader, and HR (along with IT) need to partner to consider the technologies teams will need to be successful. Options must be assessed, justified, approved by HR and made available to all virtual team members. Coordinate with Human Resources to ensure training on how and when to use these communication technologies is provided to every team member.

One of the most important things you can do for your virtual teams is to ensure that they have the technical support they need for working remotely.  Never forget that IT should be supporting the business – not the other way around. HR policies should dictate that every team member has equal and immediate access to systems, technologies, training and support. As the leader of geographically dispersed teams, you need to partner with HR and IT to make sure formal standards are set for technology, ensuring everyone has the same access to hardware and software applications, as well as intranet and internet connections. If there are tools and technologies that your teams need to be successful, but HR policy doesn’t support what you need, inquire into the business justification for the omission. Build your business case and/or identify alternatives. Do the research to find out how to alter HR policies and initiate meetings with HR and IT to discuss how to get your teams what they need.

Once you have established what you need and have developed the formal standards and budgets necessary, make sure you negotiate the full support of your Information Systems Group. It is essential that they are fully prepared and equipped to support your teams as they work across boundaries and borders.

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If you want to succeed, you need to set goals. Without goals, you lack focus and direction. Goal setting not only allows you to take control of your life’s direction; it also provides a benchmark to determine if you are actually succeeding. After all, having money in the bank is only proof of success if  your goal is to create wealth and all that comes with it. However, if your real goal is make a difference in this world, the money may only be a milestone on the way to your final destination – or may not play into your life goals at all.

As mentioned earlier in the week, goal setting is a process.  While it is both necessary and critical to set SMART goals, it is particularly useless if you cannot operationalize the process and incorporate it into something you will leverage for your own success. Having established the meaning and specifics behind SMART goals, let’s look at a way to operationalize the process:

1.  Take the most efficient route: State each goal in one sentence – make it SMART.

The single sentence guideline forces you to be focused – stating clearly and plainly what you intend to accomplish. This clarity, right at the beginning of the goal setting process, makes it incredibly powerful. It also makes it straight-forward to check that you are meeting ALL SMART criteria within the context of the guideline.

2.  Appreciate the journey: Understand WHY you have chosen specific goals

Goals, as important as they are, need to have a deeper why or they are not sustainable. There must be an engine that drives them – a commitment to something that matters. Failure to address this challenge will almost certainly result in lack of motivation and failure to attain the milestones necessary to achieve your goals.  Answer this question thoroughly in your own mind and you will be motivated to follow the route to your ultimate destination.

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As those of you who read my posts frequently know, I travel internationally a lot and I truly love experiencing other cultures and different ways of life! This past summer I had the opportunity to return to Turkey to speak at a conference and meet with clients in Istanbul. I returned to a city with an ever-evolving modern character that is still, at its core, bound by tradition. As I was observing the frenzy of activity going on around me in the only city in the world that resides on two continents,  I began to think (once again) about how there are unique leadership lessons inherent in every environment. If  we pay close attention, there is also learning inherent in each of these environments. It is easy to overlook the reminders that abound and think to yourself, “what can I learn from a country that has been riddled with unrest, struggles with human rights issues and is in a constant state of flux?” Yes, these things are true… but it does not negate the fact that there are some important reminders (lessons) that impact how we interact with people as leaders and how our views, as leaders, affect those around us. I have found that often, a change in scenery offers a valuable change in perspective.  Here are just a few of the things that came to my mind as I experienced, once again, one of the most amazing cities in the world:

  1. Business and personal relationships do not have to be mutually exclusive…

Living and visiting countries all over the world on a regular basis throughout most of my life, I remain very aware of how unique one location is from another. However, it also reminds me that despite the differences, there are some core foundations that we should all observe and deploy. In our western culture, we tend to believe that work and life are separate. However in Istanbul, where East meets West, business and personal relationships are heavily intertwined.  The diversity and complexity of individuals is shaped not only by their culture, but through relationships that are consistently valued and continually evolve throughout a lifetime. As I attended client meetings that were focused solely on getting know one another better, I was reminded how Turkish people usually only do business with people they know, like and respect.  In Turkey, business will only materialize if effective personal relationships are built. This is not only important in the moment, but throughout a lifetime. Later, as I made a visit to the world famous Spice Bazaar, I was reminded once again how relationships can thread through our lives –  both as people and leaders – as I stopped to chat with a shopkeeper and was invited in… not just for a sale, but to build a relationship. We chatted for twenty minutes, shared some delicious apple tea (a hospitality must in Turkey), and exchanged contact information. On my next visit will I stop in and purchase from Iskandar? Of course, but I will also recommend this particular shopkeeper to anyone I know visiting Istanbul!  As leaders, it seems to me that we could be infinitely more effective if we slowed down (both in our personal and professional lives), borrowed a page from the Turkish playbook, and took the time to get to know our colleagues on a more personal level – facilitating an extensive and priceless network of not only colleagues, but friends, that will benefit us for a lifetime.

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Is there someone at work who seems intent on drawing others into a state of constant confrontation? Does he belittle, embarrass or even disrespect people on a regular basis in order to goad them into engaging him?  Maybe he is overly critical or micromanaging, attempting to intimidate or control everyone in his path? If this behavior is blatant and habitual, this person is likely afflicted with a dangerous and difficult to cure disease – Chronic Confrontationitis.

An individual with Chronic Confrontationitis is persistent in his attempts to force others to comply with his will. His methods are subtle – disguised with all the right behaviors. People respect and trust him, and he quietly betrays their trust whenever necessary to fuel his addiction. He must always be right, using confrontation to prove his point because, to him, the end always justifies the means.  And if he is particularly good at this, no one except his targets notice the betrayals. In some lethal workplaces, he may survive for years, or even become a high-level executive.

To make matters worse, our chronic confrontationitis victim usually has the dedication, focus and business acumen to create success, or at least the appearance of success. He is held up as an example of a company-centric leader, despite his underhanded tactics and inability to lead. He is rewarded, while the frustration builds among the targets of his bullying, intimidating, backstabbing and manipulating behavior.

A skilled, clever victim of the disease displays an elaborate, complex set of behaviors to exploit people around him and draw them into open confrontation. Habitual patterns of intentional, socially inappropriate behavior are indicative of the disease, including the subtle tactics of deceit, distortion, misrepresentation and misdirection.

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