Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why I Enjoy Hosting Thanksgiving

Two weeks ago, my mother called me during lunch. Same time everyday. She's asks where I am, even though she knows and she asks when I'm coming home... Even though she knows. But this conversation did have a new topic: Thanksgiving. 

Given that I was preparing for a trip to Minneapolis and November had just begun, Turkey day seemed too far away to discuss. And it has arrived. Since I didn't want to think about it, she mentioned how the neighbors were doing a huge dinner and we were to bring only our famous side dish, Samboosik (Ground beef wrapped in Filo dough and fried.) 

I have to admit, it was a relief not to worry about Thanksgiving dinner this year. As my holiday week started, I occupied myself with writing and spending time with my mom.  Now being less than two days away, I'm starting to sense a void. 

The Control 

Every year, I own the day. The grocery shopping, the prepping, the cooking and even the cleaning. My alarm is set for five and before the sun comes out, you see me standing in the kitchen bonding with my Turkey. Only the necessary lights are on, as the rest of my family are still in deep sleep. 

I control the order in which I prep the dishes and how I prep the dishes. Every one knows this is my territory and my day and they only converse with me to try the mash potatoes or to compliment the smells. And through this reflection I was reminded of a comment that was said to me a few weeks ago. 

"Admit it- you like to be in control." At first I tried to deny it, but who doesn't like to be in control? 

The Norm 

For the last eight years, I have prepared and hosted Thanksgiving for all but two occasions. It has become the norm that everyone expects. There's a taste in my Turkey that everyone craves and there is a traditional setting of side dishes that is familiar. Breaking the norm can be difficult. Of course it is good to celebrate with new people and try new foods, but that's for other days in the year- Not Thanksgiving. 

Not only are those around me used to the norm, I've developed a routine where I wake up early and take a break once the Turkey is in the oven to watch the Macy's parade. Everything is timed perfectly. No matter if I add a dish or two, the meal is always ready no later than three in the afternoon.  

The Feeling 

Ultimately, I love providing for people. The joy in cooking has always been fulfilling. Whether I'm feeding my immediate family or extended relatives and friends, I get a sense of pride for being the one who cooked. I could have stood on my feet for 12 hours but the smiles and compliments are worth it. 

Too often I question my contribution- to my family, to my work mission or even to my society. When it comes to cooking, I can easily map what I'm contributing and how it's benefiting. And yes I get a little egocentric when I receive a mass wave of compliments, but it's the whipped cream on top of the entire experience. 

So as I sit back and reflect on Thanksgiving Eve, these three points hold truth in other elements in my leadership role. The sense of control is the manager in me seeking to own rather than let others flourish. The consistency is the standard work that is set to help leaders guide their team and see deviations when they occur. And above all the feelings is the core why. 

Although I can't be a leader of the day, there is more than prepping and cooking. I could go to a soup kitchen to feed the needy. I could enjoy a nice hike in the beautiful Valley of the Sun. Or I can just sit back and be grateful for another year passing, still surrounded by those I love. Leadership is about balance. If I can't demonstrate it in one area, there are always other elements to stay whole. 

Cooking Thanksgiving is no longer about about making lots of food, eating it and then falling asleep from the tryptophan... Well sort of. But, to me it has been about bringing people together, providing joy and getting a sense of fulfillment from it all. I guess all this time my leadership traits live in the kitchen as well. 

Thanksgiving Dinner 2014 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Never Celebrate Someone's Failure

How do you know when to celebrate someone else's failure?

Let's take the Cardinals game on Nov 22. Great defense on both sides leading to a tie and 40 seconds to go. 

Cardinals QB was taking a unique approach to his offense, just trying to get in field goal range. He does a weird move at the second down and takes a knee. Everyone on the sidelines, stands, tv and radio (myself) starts to wonder what just happened. 

As he geared up his team for the next play, now 10 seconds on the play clock, a Bengals defense player 'mocked' the Cardinals QB. Next thing you know, a flag was called for "unsportsmanlike conduct" allocating the Cardinals 15 yards and an automatic first down. What does Palmer do now? Field Goal and the cardinals win the game: 34-31.

I'm sure the Bengals player got an earful after the game but the lesson is when they lose, everyone loses. And to answer the opening question: it is never a good time. Too often do we celebrate other people's failures, especially when we've been hurt. And most of the time we make up excuses to enable the behavior. 

This week was especially difficult for me. Trust at work broken. Trust in myself being jeopardized. Trust in my family- I guess I take this one for granted. 

How do you recover from broken trust? It's all in your attitude. 

Some people use the opportunity to take a negative approach since they were "hurt." But that's how you stay within that cycle. 

If you let things go, you'll recover quite rapidly. Yes, you'll still be in pain but you know your worth and you can set the boundaries of what pain to let in and when. 

The emotional investment takes a toll on me and no one else. And there's a slight ounce of hope that my actions will be contagious and people will learn from their behaviors. 

Conversing about recent trust issues with a friend, he brought up a comment about why the nice people finish last. I've always known that there was some truth to this but it was different to hear it out loud.

"It's the nice ones that get labeled as 'stupid' and are easily taken advantage of."

As he continued to share his stories, I contemplated my stance but realized that I didn't want to stoop to the level of those who take advantage. I will still be nice and be who I am and you're at a loss for not appreciating it. 

The main reason why I don't change is because every now and then, you might just encounter someone from the nice team. It is easy to get caught up in the negativity and let the pain change your world view. But that is when you lose. You lose the will to take a chance, the opportunity to learn new things or the time wasted agonizing on the past. 

The next time your trust is broken, you can choose to walk away from the person and situation. Celebrating their pain will only cause you to be sucked into their failures. 

Just when you think the other team is losing, they get an automatic first down and score the winning field goal. 

Take a deep breath and be grateful for the positive moments you had with them. I'm sure there were some. Then be grateful that you got out of their deceitful circle when you did. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Demonstrating Leadership

Many times this week I've been asked what my opinion of leaders versus managers was.

Managers manage tasks and tell people to execute them. 

Leaders lead teams to execute on visions. 

See the difference? Some people don't and wanting to be a great leader one day, I constantly seek out people to chat with on the matter. 

I took advantage of my trip to Minneapolis and met with a program director for Micra. I sat down and said I want to understand your world. He took a deep breath and then smiled. I am notorious for loaded questions. 

When he leaned in and was ready for the talk, he started with a contradicting statement I'll never forget. 

"You need to learn not to worry if you ever want to sleep... But you have to worry (when it means patient safety)." He followed by sharing one of his most memorable moments in his career and how he didn't sleep the night before.

As a leader, you need to sleep so you can be supportive and make decisions quickly when necessary. But it is okay to worry, when it means patients could be impacted. 

Trust your team 

Worry about the things you're getting paid to worry about. As a program director, you are overseeing big buckets of systems trying to meet a common goal. Of course it's important to understand all of the systems so you know how to help. But you can't worry about the system pieces. 

Managers tend to get involved and want to create the solution. Leaders remind the team of the goal and help assess the impact when necessary. But leaders also know that people are already thinking of the impact. 

"You need to know when to talk about the impact. The team is already stressed trying to figure out the issue, the last thing they need is the program director in their face talking about the issue." 

This comment was an eye opener. When I reflected on past experiences, too often was on top of the team trying to get the issue fixed. Micro-managing? Probably. 

If you trust your team, you trust them enough to know the issue and to resolve it. You don't need to oversee everything they're doing but know when to support when the time between now and the impact is short.

Balance your life

Most of our conversation was work-based, especially since I never had a one on one setting with him to know how comfortable he was to talk about anything else. 

But on numerous occasions throughout our talk, there were subtle references to family and time with them. So I asked, with all due respect, how he did it. 

Communication was key. Both for his significant other and his kids. And he set his boundaries and reminded me to be conscience of my own.

"You need to establish that line since no one will for you." 

An example of putting his family first was not attending work events when he was town, unless of course it was a major milestone dinner where the Vice President expected him to attend. 

Something as simple as leaving the office at 5PM to be home in time for dinner goes a long way. 

Throughout the conversation, there were subtle and more direct examples of leadership. It is important to be a consistent leader as a program director but even more important as a spouse and parent. 

The next time you want to assess how much of a leader you are, it may be as simple as asking the following questions- 

Can my family rely on me? 

Have my team recovered from an issue without me intruding? 

Did I worry about the big stuff recently? 

If you answered YES to all those questions, you're probably closer to a leader now than you ever have been. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

From Babar Cinematographer: Steve jobs’ Last Words

Note: I came across this on Facebook and wanted to share. I cannot speak for its credibility but the words have so much truth to it. 

"I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world.
In others’ eyes, my life is an epitome of success.

However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to.

At this moment, lying on the sick bed and recalling my whole life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in, have paled and become meaningless in the face of impending death.

In the darkness, I look at the green lights from the life supporting machines and hear the humming mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of god of death drawing closer…

Now I know, when we have accumulated sufficient wealth to last our lifetime, we should pursue other matters that are unrelated to wealth…

Should be something that is more important:
Perhaps relationships, perhaps art, perhaps a dream from younger days ...
Non-stop pursuing of wealth will only turn a person into a twisted being, just like me.

God gave us the senses to let us feel the love in everyone’s heart, not the illusions brought about by wealth.

The wealth I have won in my life I cannot bring with me.
What I can bring is only the memories precipitated by love.
That’s the true riches which will follow you, accompany you, giving you strength and light to go on.

Love can travel a thousand miles. Life has no limit. Go where you want to go. Reach the height you want to reach. It is all in your heart and in your hands.

What is the most expensive bed in the world? - "Sick bed" …
You can employ someone to drive the car for you, make money for you but you cannot have someone to bear the sickness for you.

Material things lost can be found. But there is one thing that can never be found when it is lost – "Life".

When a person goes into the operating room, he will realize that there is one book that he has yet to finish reading – "Book of Healthy Life".

Whichever stage in life we are at right now, with time, we will face the day when the curtain comes down.

Treasure Love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends...

Treat yourself well. Cherish others.

Material possessions cant be taken to your death bed but memories will last forever in your mind

Have a great week"

True Systems Engineering

“What field are you in?”

“Systems Engineering.”

“Oh, like computers?”

“No – like an infrastructure of processes-” insert confused look here.

Government and military organizations have been using Systems Engineering for over six decades now, yet some people don’t grasp the concept. To be honest, when I first started my journey in Systems Engineering, I didn’t quite know, either.  I can confidently say I had a decent engineering program that reviewed enough case studies in industry that I was able to adapt it along the way and enter the industry the concept under my belt.

But until you are involved in a physical application, you don’t truly understand.

Infrastructure of Processes

Let’s take a simple project – business trip to Minneapolis. There are different elements that make up the trip. You need to know when you need to fly and when you plan on returning. There’s a weather check involved to help you pack. You may want to go eat some locally caught Walleye fish and find the best restaurant to do so. And finally, you establish the main purpose of this trip.

At its simplest form – you have a system for your trip. Why? Each of these above categories, have elements or steps within them. When they are sequential steps or actions, this is typically how project or program managers depict their work breakdown structure. When they are nouns, this is how a system can be depicted.

The processes are linked in some way or another, with either two processes linking or all four processes linking. And in this example, it just so happens that every element links to the other.

For planning, I need to know what I’m doing for business and leisure to book my travel arrangements. For Packing, I need to know how long I’m traveling for, what my business activities are and what my leisure activities. And so forth.

Where we fail in not knowing the System

Reflecting over the last few years, some of my early mistakes stemmed from not knowing where I was in the system or worse, not knowing the system existed! Being a lead on past product launches, I was in charge of making sure the highest quality product got out the door when the customer needed it. I knew there were objectives such as “get it out by Friday in order to meet clinical implant schedule.”

But earlier in my career, I didn’t truly know all the pieces to get from my part to the clinical implant. And after seeing the bigger system picture, it made sense as to why two hours made a difference. 
Other faults are not knowing the interfaces well enough and seeing how something I did, affected the downstream processes. Risk assessments, when done correctly, are the best applications of Systems Thinking.

Continuing with my business trip example, let’s say I’m booking my ticket for my flight back to Phoenix. I pick the evening flight so that I can return to Phoenix at a reasonable time. The risks? If I don’t know what my business objectives are, I may end up missing an important meeting or miss my flight (if the meeting took precedence). Or if I decided to go to the restaurant in downtown, not realizing there was a playoff’s game in the area, I may detour towards the airport without getting my Walleye or worse miss my flight.

System Family

The processes create the infrastructure of the system. But most of the time, the most important part of the system are the team members that operate within it. Too often, we discount this notion and that’s where issues occur.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – in my career, the hardest problem I face is never technical. It’s personal and that is why relationship building is important.

On my business trip to Minneapolis this week, I saw how the entire system for a product I supported last year operates. I always questioned – well why does that tiny shape matter or what happens if we had a capability lower than normal at this step? This week I learned that the most minor feature from my perspective made or broke (literally) the product’s performance.

And hearing the perspective of the individuals from the other processes, helped me better understand why things were done the way they were. The common example is holding up a dollar bill to someone – I may see a face and swear on everything holy that I do. But my peer shakes his head, knowing there is a pyramid in front of him.

Relationships are critical. We ignore them because we believe we know how the system works and are overconfident in our process to ask further questions. I had the pleasure of learning the pains my colleagues had and the sacrifices they made. I was taught how some decisions come about and why certain individuals are involved in these decisions. My worldview has shifted dramatically and it’s not just seeing the system but seeing the faces behind the system.

Another learning this week was respecting everyone’s role and responsibility. When you understand what someone owns and trust that they can perform it, you can focus on what you own and contribute to the system.

Yes, computers are systems. They’re made up of different hardware and software components that produce a great tool for business and pleasure. Systems Engineering is more than that (even though the principles are the same.)

Next time you’re working in your world, stop and ask what your work is feeding into or what work fed into your activity. Almost always, you will be operating in a system.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Reflect Now, Not Later

True leaders constantly self-reflect in order to better themselves. There are people who do this earlier in their careers and some closer to retirement. When observing my own habits and why at times I can be closed-off, it stems from not wanting to accept the harsh reality of what truly happened. 

Unfortunately, the denial stages can exponentially get worse. But even when you stop the bleeding, the cut still hurts. 

Few weeks ago, the world was struck by Adelle's new song "Hello." She moves back home and reminisces on a relationship, that she walked away from. Now, years later, she's looking to re-open what was left unsaid for many years. 

How does this relate to leadership?  "Time Heals." 

Over time, we're told that it 'gets better.' In leadership, we make tough decisions that we learn how to keep from getting under our skin. Even in my short five year career span, I have developed better insight on what battles to fight and which to walk away from. 

The experiences here help us grow enough to not repeat the events, at least not drastically. Plus, as we grow older, we tend to gain humility. Our egos start to shrink and that opens the door to "the other side" to accept what we did right and more importantly what we did wrong. 

Every day, we make choices and some of those lead to regret. In a leadership role, you need to take risks in order to go far but recognize that failure could be around the corner. 

The other day I captured three scary points about being an adult and realizing how many mistakes we've made, is one that shakes me the most. I want to live life to the fullest but not at the expense of others. 

So, how can you live a life where you don't reach a point trying to call someone 1000 times to apologize? 

First, stop and ask yourself- will this matter in 1, 5 or 10 years? What will matter? 

Second, don't be a afraid to self-reflect. It is always easier to have an conversation one day or one week later, but anything more than that holds no value. 

Lastly, be emotionally intelligent. There are a lot people investing in EQ because it works. As the industry migrated from management to leadership, self and social awareness is the foundation of that transition. 

Adelle's song was a love story gone terribly wrong. Wounds that never healed and apologies never accepted. But as you create your legacy, realize, it's only a legacy if people want to remember you. 

You don't want to be washed away in the rain. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Resume Success!

Over the last few years, I have helped many people with your resume and geared them up for successful career opportunities. Now it's time to expand the group of people I serve. 

With my resume review, I will read your resume line for line and provide feedback on how you should change your content, to attract hiring managers 

You not only receive an improved resume after my review; you receive confidence to achieve the next career endeavor of your choice! 

1) Send your resume to leadershipssuccess@gmail.com.
2) You will receive confirmation that your resume is under review.
3) Send your payment through PayPal (see pricing below) with email address above. 
4) Your resume will be sent back to you within 72hours. 

$15 for Undergraduate students 
$20 for Post-Graduate Students (i.e Masters, PhD, etc)
$35 for Professionals 

For free leadership advice, check out the posts at leadershipssuccess.blogspot.com! For specific career advice, post a comment/question below and wait for a response or post that answers your topic. Or for a faster, more personalized response, e-mail me with subject "Career Advice". Once confirmed, there will be a flat rate fee of $18 for each email.  

For other questions or concerns, please use the comment section below. 

Looking forward to serving you!