Board Update

January 11, 2007

Well, its been almost a month since my last round of meetings with my Board of Advisors. I did accomplish all of the goals that were expected of me. And I have scheduled another round of meetings for this month. These should take place early next week.

I was pleasantly surprised today when I logged on Yahoo.com. One of the stories posted was titled “8-Ways to Enhance your Career“. The article was from the Wall Street Journal and the first way believe it or not was to “Create a Board of Advisors”. The article went on to say “Find two or three people you admire, and take each one to lunch a few times this year, says Dale Winston, chief executive of recruiting firm Battalia Winston International. Look to your advisers for counsel, feedback on your career progress and introductions to new people or ideas. The ideal board will include someone at work who understands your company better than you do, someone within your industry who has a broad sense of what’s happening in the field, and a third person who understands what you want from life.”

Well I guess there goes that patent idea. But its nice to see some indirect approval of the method I laid out for myself. It would appear I’ve started off on the right path, (at least according to Mr. Winston). I am sure you’ve been wondering who my Board of Advisors are? Well they all agreed to be put on my blog, so click on Board of Advisors above. It would also appear from reading the article that I owe my advisors lunch, something I will gladly rectify the next time I see each one.

Here were my goals to complete before the next meeting:

  1. Sign up for a class that I will demonstrate quantative skill
  2. Sign up for Toast Masters
  3. Begin volunteering
  4. Research into a comedy or improv class

I’ll post more on each goal after meeting with my advisors.


Hard Work

January 8, 2007

 

At HDS there is a leadership book club that discusses a new leadership book once per month. A brief list of past titles includes “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John C. Maxwell, “Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life” by Spencer Johnson and The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness by Stephen R. Covey.

This month the book was You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader: How Anyone, Anywhere, Can Make a Positive Difference by Mark Sanborn. Its a quick read at 102 pages, but with most business / leadership books, implementing or executing all of the ideas or even those you most relate too, takes time. The title pretty much sums up the theme of the book. That there are ways to demonstrate and practice leadership everywhere (not just at work, in fact its most often NOT at work). This is a recurring theme in most leadership books, and I hope its because the theme is true, and not because its an easy way to sells leadership books to those in non-managerial positions. “You don’t need to be a leader” and other books like it stress that Leadership takes many different forms in many different forums and that success is not guaranteed because of where you are on the corporate ladder. Leadership is defined in the book as influence, the ability to provide a vision, communicate it and persuade others to help you make it succeed. It has more to do with your effectiveness and I dare say ‘luck’ (although, there is no ‘luck’; I define luck as those people who work hard to put themselves in wining positions, to be at the right time and place and thus only seem lucky. All their hard work is mostly invisible to outside observers).

Overall I would recommend the book for anyone looking to improve their Leadership IQ as its a minimal investment in time spent reading and instead you can focus your time an efforts on planning and executing, two far more important things, that will require hard work.

In fact it seems that any project be it implementing a new Knowledge Management initiative at a company, improving your skills, learning a new language or other worthwhile activity will require hard work. Which is good news and bad. Bad is that it takes lots and lots of effort. Good in that it is possible even if you don’t have the immediate skills. This article from Fortune talks about the Secret to Greatness.

The article’s summary says it all “The critical reality is that we are not hostage to some naturally granted level of talent. We can make ourselves what we will. Strangely, that idea is not popular. People hate abandoning the notion that they would coast to fame and riches if they found their talent. But that view is tragically constraining, because when they hit life’s inevitable bumps in the road, they conclude that they just aren’t gifted and give up. Maybe we can’t expect most people to achieve greatness. It’s just too demanding. But the striking, liberating news is that greatness isn’t reserved for a preordained few. It is available to you and to everyone.”

So maybe the business improvement books aren’t just selling snake oil to make us feel better. There may be some truth to what they are telling us after-all. Its just that my goals may require a lot more hard work than they (or I) realize. What is it they say, ignorance is bliss?


Board of Advisors

December 19, 2006

I started up my Board of Advisors this week. Of the 5 people whom I looked at as potential candidates I talked to all five this week and four agreed to be on my board. Which was a great response rate. I had talked to the 4 prior to my meetings this week so they knew what to expect. The 5th declined on account of begin to busy to be able to help.

So I guess the first lesson is that if you ask someone to be on your board they may say no. Hopefully that person will be able to say ‘no’ in a dignified manner that does not make it look like you were dumb to ask. Incidentally if you are asked to be on a Board, or informal advisor to an Associate and do not have the time please don’t bite the Associate’s head off. It takes some courage on the part of the Associate to ask and a negative reaction from a potential Advisor may sour them on the whole process.

As preparation for each meeting I prepared a set of slides that:

  • Described the expectations of the Advisor
  • Outlined the goals I set for myself for the next 3 years
  • Who the Board members were
  • Strengths and Weaknesses as they related to my job and area(s) to improve

Each meeting was conducted one-on-one with each Advisor and the slides helped to provoke discussion and areas to focus the Advisor and me over the next 6 months. Each meeting lasted between 30-60 minutes.

The 2nd lesson I learned, was that the perspective that others have on what you perceive as a weaknesses was the most interesting part of the first meeting. Sometimes what you think is a weakness can be a hidden strength and listening to others describe why can be invigorating. The goal in addressing a weakness is not to make you into a rock star in that area but to at least be competent or improve your self confidence in that specific area so you can focus on improving in other areas where you can excel and differentiate yourself.

The results of the meetings generated some tasks for me to help address areas that the Advisor and myself could work on. This included some research into classes available as well as looking for specific measurable goals for the Advisor and myself to track.

Also, the 3rd lesson I learned, is that the Advisors will want to know about each other, I did not elect to have a group meeting to start since between myself and the Advisors we live in 5 different states and work for 3 different companies so finding a mutual time would have delayed things. However at the end of all my meetings I did send out a summary email to all of the Advisors that summarized the meetings and gave some background on each Advisor. They agreed to be mentioned on this blog so they may check here for additional info.


Mentoring

December 9, 2006

Recently I took a look at mentoring opportunites available to me and found there were none easily available. I didn’t know who would make a good mentor, what I should look for, how I should approach a possible mentor. Working in a company were employees are already working as hard as they can, do they really have time to mentor their fellow employees like me?

My wife is working on her PhD and as part of the process she has regular meetings with a group of advisors who help to steer, challenge and advise her along the way to completing her PhD. So I wondered if the same process could work in a corporate setting. Instead of a single mentor, the employee could look to a Board of Advisors who would provide guidance and advice for the employee. So I discussed it with others and came up with the following guidelines for the Board of Advisors. The mentoree/employee is called an Associate.

  • 6 Month Term for each Advisor
  • Meeting (phone) with each member once per month
  • 30 Minutes during first week of month
  • Face to face with each Advisor at least once per term
  • 3-5 Advisors on the Board
  • Each Advisor to create a goal for the Associate
  • Advisor tracks and reviews with Associate regularly
  • Goal to be completed within Advisor’s Term
  • Goals must track to Associate’s defined goals
  • Each Advisor to state reason(s) for agreeing to be on Board
  • Associate to state reason(s) for asking Advisor to be on Board

So I approached 4 potential Advisors for my Board, 2 outside the company, 2 within the company. Not that I planned that, it just worked out that way. I am supposed to setup one-on-one sessions with my Board to set the plan in motion to start in 2007. As the experiment continues I will make note of any interesting results, both expected and unexpected.

Speaking on unexpected, life is funny sometimes, by shear chance, I attended a recent HDS event for companies in the Social Networking space. Jeremiah has blogged about the event here. At the event was Ann Tardy of LifeMoxie, a company that provides a methodology, training and a web based application to match mentors with individuals seeking mentors. Initially, she has focused on getting companies to setup the service as part of their HR offerings so that employees within a company can sign up to be mentors, or to find mentors. She described it as Match.com for mentoring. Each employee has a profile that allows you to check their potential as a mentor. The application acts as a coach to both the mentor and the individual to walk them thru the mentoring process. While I haven’t seen the application, it sounds very intriguing. You should know, that Ann has more moxie and energy than 99% of the people in the world, if nothing else seek her out and pick her brain, you won’t be disapointed.