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Showing posts from September, 2013

Productivity Smoothie, No Sugar

Photo by NessaLand via Flickr
Normally I would not post a literal recipe. Making an exception.

1 can V8 1 can chicken soup ready to drink 2-3 handfuls greens (spinach, kale)
Blend. Heat in mug. Drink.

Other People's Games

Photo by Matthew Peoples via Flickr
"Who do you like better, Dossy?"

That was my Zayde, may he rest in peace and he asked the same question every time I visited.

"I don't like anyone better, Zayde, I love you and Grandma and Grandpa the same."

And he would argue with me.

"Come on, you must like one better than the other."

"Really. I love you and them the same."

A few months later we'd be in the Catskills and I would sit on the comfy sofa in the living room watching my Grandpa give it to my dad, a Hasid.

"I never understood those Hasidim. Maybe you can explain it to me."

It's thirty years later and the toxic conversations around possible government shutdown are the same.

Because Dysfunctional Donnas and Negative Neds simply cannot rest until they draw you into it:
"It's all their fault, don't you agree?""This country has gone completely crazy, don't you think?""It will never be any better. Sad, isn&…

Document Everything & Do Nothing

Photo by Dan Zelazo via Flickr
A long-time colleague had this idea for saving paper: increase the margins on printouts. Management would regularly ignore this and her other ideas. So she would save them in an Outlook folder.
Three years would pass, or four, or five. And Management would come to her one day with a "brainstorm." What do you know? It was invariably the same concept. And she would produce it, and Management got the credit of course, and everybody knew where the brains were in the shop.
Sometimes Management would contact her with a "gotcha." A complaint, accusation, mixup or miscommunication. And again, voila out of her Outlook would come a response. Nip it in the bud she would say. Always be ready for war.
She and I worked together on a Tweet one time. Yes, it was a Tweet. A single Tweet and we had to submit it for approval. 
Hours we waited and still no word. No approval, no response and of course the window of good social media time had passed.
How had she…

The Unbearable Helplessness Of Managing

Photo by Robert McGoldrick via Flickr
I wanted to write about super-strategic leadership today. So proud of my little diagram, wherein I organize all work around one of four things, and eliminate the rest:
Purpose, or strategyProcess, or all things efficiency and organizationPeople, or the employee or engagement or human capitalCommunication -- the center of it all, the part that makes everything else work - and yes it lacks a "P" word.
Can't do it.
We've been going to the nursing home once a week. My husband goes more often, because we're visiting his mother. But even the once a week is difficult.
When we go there I notice these...things. All of them have to do with helplessness. I see the old people, what they go through. It's almost as if I am them, wearing their slippers with the little rubber-grooved soles and it shoots my smug little attitude right down.
They play 80's music in the dining room. On an old-fashioned little black boom box. Mom absolutely ha…

That Moment When You Realize Social Media Has Totally Changed, Again, And Everything Else Along With It

Photo by PhotoAtelier via Flickr
So yesterday my sister asked me what it is I do. Because my job changed. Now I run a business. Supporting a Chief Innovation Officer in building an engine we can sustain.

Offices of Innovation are new. In government they're almost unheard of.

So I got the new work plan more or less done, finally. And her question plus the work plan reminded me -- time to update the LinkedIn profile again. That is my resume - that's it. My entire career is held, suspended, cared for in the trust of an anonymous social media provider.

Everything has totally changed, again.

We have Jive at work. We use it to collaborate as well as to communicate and express our opinions.

Remember those conversations way back when (not so long ago) about what would happen if employees started speaking their minds? And we couldn't stop them?

We had so many conversations...and here it is. The sky hasn't fallen in, at least not quite yet. People grumble and gripe, but they also say t…

When To Remember & When To Forget

Photo by myrr ahn via Flickr
The other day I saw a video online that caught my attention. It showed an eagle flying over the land, as if from the perspective of the eagle. The motion was so real I felt a little seasick.

And a little disturbed. I have had this dream. And I did not want to see it while awake.

Dream-state to waking-state is really a transition from one “total reality” to another. The word “total” means that you’re fully immersed in a situation, physically, psychologically, socially, economically and so on.

For many people, a kind of amnesia kicks in during such a transition:

· From Child to Partner: You bring your fiancĂ©e or significant other home to your parents and have to give them the “I’m not a kid anymore” speech when they act like, yep, you’re their kid.

· From Parent to Chauffeur: You take your kid to the mall to meet friends and they give you the “don’t embarrass me by acting like you know me” look as soon as their friends arrive.

· From Vacation to Real…

New Slideshare Presentation: What If We Ran The Government Like A Top 100 Brand?

A Completely New Way To Maximize Your Personal Brand

Image of Arthur Ashe quote via BrainyQuote
Today I was inspired by an audio lecture, "Defining One's Role In Life," by Rabbi Akiva Tatz. 
Essentially Tatz offers a simple methodology for managing the classic dilemma, "What am I supposed to do with my life?
Or:
"What is my personal brand?"

Ask any college student or midlifer in transition. What should be a wonderful journey of exploration can quickly start to feel like a miserable muddle. On the one side options and ambitions, on the other pressures and constraints.
A lot is riding on how you define yourself.
Success brings connection to your life's work, a sense of meaning and general fulfillment.Failure costs time, money, disruption, frustration, not to mention fractured relationships.
So here's the thing that's new.
Most self-help advice opines that you can constantly and eternally change I'm the hope of "finding yourself."
Yet continually starting from scratch is exhausting and unnecessa…

5 Characteristics Of The Mature Leader

So now I'm watching Season 2 of Homelandon Amazon Instant Video (well worth the investment). Briefly, the show demonstrates how one genius-like, incredibly dedicated CIA agent (Carrie) supported by her mentor (Saul) and an establishment leader (Estes) team up to stop a devastating terrorist attack on the United States.

By Episode 5 I realized that the most interesting character from a leadership perspective is not Carrie, the one who saves the day, everyone's favorite. ("Hey, she breaks the rules!" "Hey, she's brilliant.")

It's Saul.

People tend to focus on Carrie the way they focused on Jack Bauer in the similar TV series 24. Where the bureaucracy failed, the heroine or hero steps in. Instead of dialing 911, so to speak, they smash the glass and save the victim's life.

In the real world we cannot depend on Superman or Superwoman, but need mature leaders instead. Here are 5 things they do as represented by the character Saul. All of them have to do …

"Braveheart," A Leadership Guide

Remember this fighting scene from Braveheart? (via Oscarblogger)
Just Another Medieval War? NOT!
Just mention the word "Braveheart" and you'll probably hear "I love that movie!" Nearly 20 years after its original release in 1995, it remains an incredibly popular film with about $210 million worldwide gross, numerous awards including 5 Oscars, and a user popularity ranking of #83 out of 250 at IMDB.com.
"Braveheart" endures because the plot and the acting have meaning far beyond the actual time, place and conflict. On the surface it's "just another" medieval war, but the broader appeal has to do with the movie's messages about leadership, motivation, resilience, treachery, integrity and of course love. It's the leadership lessons that hold particular interest for me.
Quick Recap
Mel Gibson plays Sir William Wallace, who leads a guerrilla war against England's invasion in 1280. Early in the movie the conflict gets brutal and persona…

Crowdsourcing For Results: Why & How

Over the years I've learned that "normal" management is slow and full of bureaucratic drag. Crowdsourcing works much better, for four reasons:

Urgency: It has to get done. It works better if the pressure is real rather than invented.Meaning: The people doing the work are emotionally invested in the result.Empowerment: Members can take the lead on getting results because there is no time for mystifying, depressing and even demeaning bureaucratic red tape.Temporary Nature of the Work: Knowing the project is time-limited means you can push yourself through the adrenaline rush to get it done, and then relax when it's over.Trevor Owens, of the Library of Congress, recently wrote a paper on four essential elements of crowdsourcing for cultural heritage institutions and presented it to us at the National Archives. Some parts of the below reflect my own translation of his framework, but the concepts are essentially from Owens' paper:
Participant Motivation: Some leaders ye…

Rebranding Open Data: The "Verified" Feed

The Good Housekeeping seal of approval (no endorsement expressed or implied)
The dream is open data. The nightmare is that open data has little or no credibility. Consider this: The stated goal of government is to release as much data as possible to the public: "Government should be transparent...participatory...collaborative." - President Barack Obama, "Transparency and Open Government," Executive MemorandumJanuary 21, 2009The data is supposed to be maximally accessable and usable for the citizenry. - "Government information shall be managed...to ensure that data are released to the public in ways that make the data easy to find, accessible, and usable."- President Barack Obama, "Making Open and Machine Readable, the New Default for Government Information," Executive OrderMay 9, 2013Yet the polls tell us that people overwhelmingly do not trust their government. "Our Jan. 2013 survey found only 26% saying they can trust government always …

Look For The Things That Make No Sense

Photo by Rickard Fallqvist via Flickr
Usually I write my blog posts pretty quickly. But today I've written and scrapped at least two. And I know why that is -- my focus has clearly changed, and it's hard to know what fits.

A friend of mine reminded me. That is to say, she reads my posts and it took her about five seconds to tell me what my "blog-brand" now is:

"How to survive this crazy @##$% government system."
Alright. I'll take that. What do you call a combination of leadership, management, project management, knowledge management, communication, marketing, branding, PR, social media, technology, organizational development, psychology, pop culture together with abstracted stories about my memories, friends, peers, bosses and general life?
All I really want to know is how to do things better. And I'd rather spend this writing time learning than sharing 101 stuff you can get from Branding for Dummies.
So here's a leadership/management lesson I learne…

The Dangerous Paradox of the Muddled Mission

Rubik's Cube via Wikimedia
What is it that you do, exactly? What's your mission, priority, reason for being?
"World-class goods and services.""To become the premier provider of ___.""We are #1, of course."Who do you serve? Oh, "we give them what they want," you say:
"It's all about customer service for us." "To provide customer-focused goods and services." "Serving the customer in all that we do."World-class, premier, second-to-none, throw it in the vision or the mission or the values and make up the mythical customer. At the end of the day there is only one question, and its corollary:

Who cares? And why does it matter to them enough to pay for it?

You need answers to the following:

Who, in a very specific way, cares about the work you are doing enough to fund it? Why?If there are different audiences, which one contributes the most money or the most influence over that money?If the audiences' interests co…

When Strategy Is Missing From The Technology Equation

Image via Wikimedia
Tech is supposed to make life easier but too often our strategy amounts to "Ready, Fire, Aim!"

The capacity to think and act strategically is not difficult. But many organizations lack it, because they allow things like:
1) organizational politics 2) conflict aversion 3) anecdotal evidence 4) a false sense of urgency 5) actual disaster
to drive long-term decision-making generally. 
You may not be able to see the result of poor strategy immediately when it comes to technology but eventually it will show up, with symptoms like this:
1) When you ask about the cost of a program the response is an aversion to providing a cost breakdown, but rather defensive or condescending talk and jargon. 2) Users dislike the technology and continually get told things like "you just need better training." 3) Technologies are acquired individually rather than in coordination with one another and the default is to add rather than integrate as many functionalities as possible int…

Managers & Employees Should Not Be "Friends"

Photo by Dominic Campbell via FlickrWork situations are often stressful. According to a study mentioned in the Huffington Post, the genders tend to handle stress differently:Men - "fight or flight": It's a physical thing, according to research by Australian scientistsDr Joohyung Lee and Professor Vincent Harley. Only men have the SRY gene, which they link to various biological processes associated with aggression.Women - "tend and befriend": The scientists argue that two factors "prevent aggressive responses" in women - the presence of estrogen and "the (stress-triggered) activation of internal opiates, which the body uses to control pain."In other words, according to this theory, biology drives behavior. Stress is painful and depending on your body chemicals, you will respond differently in order to seek relief:"While men favor punching or running away, women are more likely to try to diffuse a situation and seek out social support.&qu…

The Dark Side of "31 Flavors" Leadership

Screenshot via Replicator Inc., an interesting blog "about the companies and products that combine the connectivity of the internet with the physicality of products" - customized manufacturing, mass customization," etc.
When I was a kid I loved to go to Baskin-Robbins with my mom and try the new flavors. Invariably I always wanted peanut butter and chocolate or chocolate chip cookie dough, but it was all about the idea. Infinite choices, infinite freedom, infinite flavors, exploration -- give me that spoon!

Unfortunately with the constant inflow of newer-better-faster technologies, leaders tend to take the "out" of trying new flavors rather than solving old problems. One almost wants to say, "The task is to pass the SAT, not to find 15 apps that will help you study for it."

In the grownup world, attention-deficit-disorder-style management carried to the extreme lacks sensitivity to people. And yet, whoever you ask on the totem pole can recognize the fol…