Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Takeaways From 2016 Election

This election season has been rough. Whatever position you stand for, it has been frustrating and even embarrassing to watch. But there are lessons in every experience and there are (surprisingly enough) lessons to be learned from this election. 

Women's Rights- is it the early 1900s again? 

It's time I start taking the time to talk about being a woman.    A woman engineer. A woman leader. A woman. Growing up with four older brothers, I have always tried to fit in as "one of the guys." 

I would get upset at my fellow female peers in college for standing up for their rights. Why? They did it by putting down men and trying to be better than them. That wasn't the way up. But now as I look to climb the corporate ladder, it's apparent there are differences. How we handle those differences is what counts. 

With a women senator running for president and a top businessman of our nation accused of not respecting woman as our primary candidates, the topic comes up: directly and indirectly. 

There are issues that we ignore all too often. Women (in general) are submissive. A recent Ted Talk spoke about how women created the gender gap. It's controversial to say but if an offer is set in front of you, what's the percentage of women who counter? 

Women need to stand strong. Confident. Again, there are differences in our tone, our body language and even our ability to bear children. 

It's okay to be direct about the issues. We may need to talk over others or put double the time in something, but our results will carry us to the top. 

Otherwise, we'll continue to fall behind. 

Just Listen

I've had a couple of older posts on communication. What this election taught me is that you gain nothing if you don't listen.  Candidates cut each other off. They respond to one or two words of their opponents rather than listening to the whole statement. And because they're listening to stories in their head, while trying to squeeze in a word or two, perceptions get created. 

In the business world, it's critical to listen to your peers and stakeholders. It is a better judgement of character to have a pause in your words, rather than speak inappropriately. It is quite - Powerful. 

Of course it's hard to listen to someone you don't trust. Someone who doesn't carry any weight. But by trying goes a long way to the people watching. Usually, in a room of eight people, two dominate the conversation. So what are the other six thinking? 

It's similar to the last three debates. Millions of people sat and watched the two candidates go at it. For me, it was their body language and how they responded. (Yes, the content was important for the issues that mattered most to me.)

In the end though, I'll respect any leader who can communicate well. You're being watched. What impression do you want to leave? 

The World Is Bigger Than Your Backyard 

I've applied for a few manager positions in the last couple of years. My resume and cover letter screamed "overconfident." I knew I had this. I knew what I wanted. What I was going into. I nailed it. 

But I didn't. I stepped back and asked myself why? I got great feedback in most cases and no feedback in others. So I approached a manager who was going to seek out a director position. 

He thought he was ready. That he had all the credentials. Someone sat him down and said, great I'm sure you do. In this case, it'll be easy for you to write out what you know and what you don't know. 

Humbling enough, the gap was bigger than he imagined. 

Watching the candidates bash each other's credentials, I thought of one example of what do you know and what don't you know.

Yes, we outsource. But what are the reasons? Cost of course. Well, it's really about profit. Foreign regulations vary from country to country. There are some regions you can't sell in because it's not manufactured in a specific country. And there are some regions you can't work in because you're not a citizen. 

My message: it's critical to understand the total system. Why do things occur the way they do? Don't get caught up in the symptom but dig for the root cause. 

As a growing leader, I'm often seeking out opportunities to learn and adapt. Watching two presidential candidates is supposed to be inspiring. One day, one of these candidates will walk into a room and people will stand as "Hail To The Chief" is played. 

Right now, it's difficult to see such an anthem played. As much as I want to be CEO tomorrow, I think I'll prevent the eye rolling and scoffs behind my back. 

Leadership is about service. About presence. About credibility. 

Demonstrate all three with flying colors and you'll be a natural born leader. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Our Journey: A Collection of Experiences

We go through life collecting experiences that we may or may not share. At least not vocally. Our experiences shape us and make us unique. It's how we grow. 

Yet there are only a few story tellers in the world who can sit freely and share. Their good memories. Along with their not so good memories. 

I'm sure I could write a novel one day from all that I've heard over the last six years from one of my dear story tellers, but for now I'll provide you with this. 

Don't use dynamite 

We live in a fast paced world. Our attention spans are limited. Our patience is limited. But what differentiates us from others across valleys or even generations is how we handle tough situations. 

In leadership, you develop patience (whether you like it or not). You learn to take breaths and watch a culture change slowly even though you want the change to have been implemented yesterday. 

It's also important to set plans and stick to them no matter how tedious or timely it may take to carry out. There are shortcuts but they don't get you very far and could cost you more in the long run.

For instance, after chopping down a tree to a stub two feet in diameter and four feet tall, there are quick ways to pull it from the ground and then, there's the right way. Digging a trench and using a force may take time and effort. But it's safe and predictable. 

If your patience runs low and yearn to make it to supper in time, dynamite could be a more appealing solution. But is it? You'll have pieces of tree bark scattered all over your farm, with risk to starting a fire or debris could've whacked your young son slowly drifting back to the house. 

If your solution is predictable and creates less of a mess, then carry on. 

Trophy of Humbleness 

I can be competitive at times. If my confidence is on overload, it's easy for me to keep going and staying ahead. But what's special about being humble is knowing when it is critical to be humble. 

My dear storyteller was a pretty good bowler, until the aches and pains from all his life experiences kicked in. At a charity event, he was asked to play with one of the higher leaders, guaranteeing the team to win of course. He tried and tried to get out of it but said 'what the heck' in the end. 

To him, the game meant nothing. Some money going to charity as colleagues knocked down a few pins. But as the game progressed, his score of course was getting higher and higher. 

Then from six lanes down, an enthusiastic young player, driven to win (at life too), interrupts his game to flaunt his winnings. His excitement made it to the east coast and back. This game was everything. It would make his team rise in so many ways. 

Yet so quickly, his shoulders shrugged down, as his eyes glanced at the scores above. Head down, he walked away defeated, as if this was the super bowl that would make or break his career. 

So as the trophy was handed out, it serves only as a symbolism of humility. What really matters here? Knowing how to answer this question and whether or not winning matters. And sometimes it helps to have a physical object remind you of that. 

Know your limits 

As I end this blog sharing just a couple of my takeaways, I'm reminded how all of us just want to be superheroes. We have a drive to be the best and keep going, so that people rely on us. We have a way to show the world that nothing can take us down. 

Unfortunately, our body can sometimes be stronger than our minds. Recently, his health took a wrong turn at Albuquerque. He was off from work for some time but returned as if nothing was the matter. 

But that's not the case. We need to know what our limits are. It's not easy to identify them and it usually takes extreme conditions to find out. But when we know our limits, we can always meet our word. If we say yes blindly, we could fail to deliver. I agree pushing yourself never goes to waste but it can definitely do harm if not carefully monitored. 

Our ability to be humble decreases. Our thoughts are not as easily formulated. Our temper could raise with lower patience. And the need to use dynamite may cross your mind. 

So the next time you reminisce on an experience, remember what it taught you. You may not have a knack to share it with others but at least take in the lesson for yourself. As much as we want to be superheroes, at the end of the day, our capes come off and we are human. 

Embrace what makes us human and use it for good. It turns our experiences into truly fulfilling journeys.