Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Employment Social Arena vs. The Leadership Social Action - Level 1

I have lectured and spoken about the social space for quite some time now. I have deliberated on consumer profiles, buying patterns and behaviours, engagement strategies and communication mediums galore, but the social space has brought about a new revolution in employment.

Web sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. are being harvested to seek out information about recruits or employees everyday. These spaces are crawled through to locate information about IP that is being talked about, organizationally sensitive matters that are being discussed or patterns of behaviours that are being documented by what is now termed as big brother organizations overseeing social activities of those under their employ.

There are organizations that also have policies around social network use, both in its functional capacity, as well those surrounding its content as well as the contextual framework as it applies to the organizational setting.

We have evidence of contrasting opinions across the board that tells us of the relevance of the social space and what impact it will have on our lives. To begin, let's start with Eric Schmidt who spoke at Bloomberg a few years ago (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rD_x9LW5QRg) and toyed with the idea that the President of the future could be uploading something completely inappropriate, per our current social norms and standards today. The question he poses however is, will it be a concern when s/he is ready to take that step into that political arena or not? As a society we are getting more digitally socialized each day, so does it matter or would all the candidates be on equal standing with their peers, of videos they may have uploaded in their youth, that would then be considered acceptable forms of behaviour?

A recent article spoke of How Facebook was making us miserable (http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/12/facebook_is_making_us_miserabl.html?cm_mmc=email-_-newsletter-_-technology-_-technology122011&referral=00208&utm_source=newsletter_technology&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=technology122011) and the whole phenomenon was getting to a point of constant one-upness, with no real end in sight.

The Crest edition of the Times of India further added (http://www.timescrest.com/society/losing-friends-6917) to the previous article by noting feature sets that are turning people away from popular social spaces, with recent losses due to the Privacy Commissioner's precedent setting moves in Canada.

Let's turn our attention back to the corporate setting - we know now that there are technology disruptor's that are going to enhance who/how/what we as a people are. Some of them start out quite simply as us being followed by the shopping carts we use (http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/12/shopping_carts_will_track_cons.html?cm_mmc=email-_-newsletter-_-technology-_-technology122011&referral=00208&utm_source=newsletter_technology&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=technology122011). But let's take this further, what happens if we digitize the entire experience as we know it is; how information is out there of a singular individual and how much do we use of that within the corporate sector?

Now, we are all not naive enough to believe that a thorough study of high security clearance individuals, military contractors, etc. are not run through the ringer of profile development, but what do we really know about people we work with, for or that work for us?

The Leadership "Social" Action I am proposing is the notion that we need to know our people. The social space and what it represents has existed in many forms, from the stone to the concrete ages, and I would venture a guess, will exist in whatever age we will find ourselves in, in the future. Social technologies have leveraged only a larger social dialogue, arguably one that is being organized a bit better over time.

I am asking however, how many of formal leaders take the time to ensure they are not unreachable, and inaccessible due to the multi-layered, geographically diverse and matrix mayhem we traditionally are presented with? How many take the time to know who they are leading and who they are not? This is not an exercise in knowing about the family pet's illnesses but it is an exercise in knowing whether leadership truly exists in the environment you are fostering. I am proposing that there are multiple levels of the Leadership Social Action, the first of which is:

Level 1 - Who are you Leading?
Knowing who you are truly leading goes beyond an organizational chart. It goes well beyond gut feelings or performance appraisals, it is a true & honest indicator of knowing who it is that you lead.

Have you ever looked around a table of people that you formally lead or put in a position to do so? Have you ever had the feeling that there may not be a wide acceptance around the room of your opinion? Have you lost even one individual?

If you were to truthfully write out a list of who you current lead, do you believe they would in a similar fashion identify who they follow to match up with your list?

The Paradox: Would you? Are you led? Do you follow? Will your response match those of your formal leader?

This is a continuing discussion in The Leadership Social Action, that will present all the levels, following with techniques and tips on how each level can be identified, explored and worked on to progress through in as successful a path as you see fit.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Organic Creativity

Organic creativity requires stimulation, motivation and mentorship. A learning experience can certainly create this atmosphere, but more importantly the learner needs to take their own accountability for this process to take form. I have been fortunate a few times now in my academic pursuits as an educator & a researcher, wherein a few learners have managed to present thoughts not expected in a form of this nature.

Hadi & Haitham present their pitch to Kijiji for their next international foray. They took their presentation to Prezi for a non-powerpoint display for a change.

Trevor, Amal & Natalia took the MS Kinect, modified the SDK available and created the sensory interface to present their point of the "connect" of Kinect in Healthcare. This group hopes to take this to the commercial arena in some form - watch out for them.

Organic creativity exists in these spaces and the drive shown by some of these folks is clearly lacking in traditional organizations. My thesis would be that perhaps an organization should stop their own creative processes and do what they do best - produce, manufacture, sell & support, while leaving the creativity to the more economical, creative & organic playground of a learner space.

This educator will certainly heed to this and will seek out learners where they are, to mentor & support them, providing for the best of both worlds.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Leadership comes in all forms and from all sources

No matter what your personal opinions on the wars and/or your political affiliations or your thoughts on the armed forces, the following video was an enlightening view into how leadership can exist in a variety of forms. Although we have been reminded of the strategic nature of military leadership, and the dominance of autocratic hierarchies, it is not only encouraging but also amazing to see glimmers of true leadership in structured governance structures.

Take General Welsh in this video, addressing the USAFA (United States Air Force Academy), and note some of the nuances he brings to bear in his lecture. He starts out trying to acclimate to his audience but he lets them know throughout the lecture what his expectations are, quite vociferously. He finishes off, in traditional military bravado by dismissing the class, but before that, take note of some of what he shares:

- ".. politics will change, technology will change, the enemy will change ..", " .. the most sophisticated piece of technology is .." - He talks of the individual. Think of change management, and the fuss that goes over it, now if only we could simply talk about this transparently and say that business may be conducted in a different manner, but the human factor does not change. People are the key to successful changes, albeit in different capacities.

- He talks about his son John and how the development of a new set of goals may lead you to wild successes. An interesting approach to failure & change, provides for a new paradigm of dealing with continued growth, a rebirth if you will from the ashes to rise well above what could have been. Sometimes the toughest decisions lead to the best outcomes.

- One of the statements he makes in the video is, " .. My dad made a difference, so will u.", ".. these people make a difference, so will u, don't worry about that .." : A leader reaffirms the positive, by providing for his confidence in those who he leads, but at the same token, informs them of what his expectations are. Leaders have a tough time articulating, beyond the job description/posting, what the expectations are with any role; but to do so in a fashion that clearly states it and provides for confidence in those he leads by knowing that they will achieve it, presents an interesting twist to the traditional. Affirmation & accolades do not need to succeed an action, they can be preceded by the action, thereby allowing for a higher percentage of a positive outcome.

- The chat about Thomas and how he takes charge by asking if he can address the team, shows courage in a team member. If a member of the team is comfortable enough to ask for the reins, even for something small as addressing his/her issues, shows a comfort level the leader has. Leaders support the growth of his/her team and allows for constructive dialogue that will not exist with a top-down approach to management, neigh what some refer to as leadership.

- The identification of Matt having credibility, speaks not only of the team member, but also the leader in the team. Credibility needs to exist to have true leadership that is not dictated simply by hierarchical or political structures.

- "Attention to detail; is it important? You decide." - Mistakes can happen, being a perfectionist is not necessarily everyone's forte, but to pay attention to the details allows the leader to keep the goals in check. I have said previously that sometimes, leaders tend to look up so much worrying about the big picture, when they lose focus on the here and now. Sometimes, if one were to worry about fixing the smaller things, they would find that the larger ones would naturally work themselves out.

- Sometimes you need to make decisions when you can't ask for help and you need to provide for inspiration when people need it. Two thoughts that speak to the leadership's responsiveness to the pulse of the team that s/he leads.

- The story of Laurie reveals leadership qualities that are identified through self-reflection; "I never asked him" - Vulnerability, "I almost cost him his daughter" & "I almost cost her a family" - Accountability, "4 days on the job and the tech sergeant knew about her" - Recognition. This is a 4 star General and to hear him say this to an audience on video speaks to his credibility as a leader. Would a leader today be this accepting? Do we know of the Laurie's that exist in our direct/indirect circle of influence? Have we even allowed for an environment to exist where someone can approach us with this type of a story?

- Do not let people down - this remains his message as he closes the lecture and he drives this home as his key expectation. Have we ever evaluated if we have let our people down, would a leader be comfortable doing so?

One of the consistent themes in his presentation was the celebration of the people, not the job or the task. Sometimes the task or the job is what presents a mechanism for celebrating people, but this leads to an incentive based style of leadership. True leaders lead consistently & transparently, which includes the celebration of people, for more than just the task, the job or the tenure of their career.

"leadership is a gift, its given by those who follow, but you have to be worthy of it" - This is no longer a question of nature vs. nurture; it is a question of how leadership is not a top-down but a bottom-up phenomenon. Managers may continue to remain but Leaders are everlasting. My personal belief requires me to surround myself with leaders in their own right. These leaders enhance my leadership, and the collaborative path is what I believe is the true success to our mutual growth.

Without much further adieu, do enjoy (please note that there are some troubling war scenes in this video):

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Excelling vs. Growth

I read this article (http://blogs.hbr.org/haque/2011/10/america_excelling_at_mediocrit.html?referral=00563&cm_mmc=email-_-newsletter-_-daily_alert-_-alert_date&utm_source=newsletter_daily_alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=alert_date) that is specifically around the US and how mediocrity in comparison to some other countries is seemingly the order of the day. Although I do not buy that to the tee, what I do say is that there is a sense of "just getting by" in the world today that tends to be a rampant infectious disease that is creeping up at various levels.

I read yet another article a few months ago in HBR (Harvard Business Review - forgive me, I do not have the URL for the original) that spoke of how one leader/executive could not move ahead in her organization as she was considered to be a disruptor, a pusher, a go getter and sometimes did so to her peril. Her colleagues, her staff, etc. were so disenfranchised that the solution she was provided was to tone her capabilities down. She was passed up for vertical movements within the organization as she was seen as a lone ranger. Once again, although I do not agree with the tenets of the argument, i.e. be overly successful and disconnect with your team, I do concur with the thought that leadership needs to engender a culture of creativity, innovation, dare I say drive to achieve more than the norm.

As the first around mediocrity states, there is a sense of "just enough" around us; I would suggest that the corporate culture of push push push may have gotten a bit softer in this new era. I do find that with the advent of social media and this new focus towards social collusion, both private and corporate, there is a refocus in employee priorities and the penetration of the social dynamic is an important factor in the being of people today.

I would argue that whether we call it mediocrity, whether we strive for excellence, whether we want a refocus, whatever or however we phrase it, the growth phenomenon needs to be instilled within the corporate setting. All the Google'isms aside, whether it is a 80/20 focus on efficiency or a blend of corporate and social cultures, a highly caffeinated boost to our corporate micro-economies are required if we hope to make a dent on what I suggest is perhaps the key to a succeeding failure.

Corporations have been toying with new mechanisms to reengage their employees, and one of the common themes we continue to forget is that, the monetary and non-monetary methodologies we have used for decades still have some meaning left in them. The simplest options sometimes are the quickest ones with the most results. All the buzz words and the new age paradigms aside, people fundamentally want to enter a workplace they can work in, grow and perhaps earn some recognition while doing so. Nurturing this ideology while understanding that not everyone fits this mold, will perhaps get us further quicker and easier than all the techniques, self-help books would teach us.

Leadership, some say is a burden, I say its a privilege and to earn this privilege requires strength, creativity, innovation and a blend of caffeinated zen that allows for the creation & management of incremental growth within a state of calm. The challenge in this dictum is to ensure you not only do this, but to remain sustainable, engender it within your team; not recruit it, but engender it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Speaking in a vacuum ...

Organizations tend to have a tough time speaking to their employees. We have professional coaches galore trying to provide for new techniques to doing so, which includes everything from the dawn of humanity to the current date. With the advent of technology we now speak of how social platforms can leverage some of this dialogue in a more open and honest fashion across the expanse of the organization. How does a virtual space that mimics what we have in reality from a social setting solve the problem? Is it not yet another platform?

When did it become so difficult to have a conversation with each other as human beings, as that's all we are trying to accomplish? Not to take away from the learning's to be had from different conversation mechanisms, however, how did we get to a stage where we could not keep basic tenets in mind while holding civil discourse amongst our own?

I look at where some of these conversations are geared towards, and how formal leaders are provided with tools and techniques for doing so adequately with their respective portfolios. When did it become ok to have formal leaders that cannot have the basic skills of having a dialogue with people you are to lead? When the discussion of nurture vs. nature comes up over leaders, I keep wondering if having a dialogue is not simply a nurture concept. Is it not as simple as, you either have it or you don't?

I have found myself in situations where there are discussions around how information should be phrased, perhaps even taken to the lowest common denominator, to ensure there is understanding, comprehension and at times a level of adherence. Sometimes I wonder why we don't include the groups we lead in larger discussions? Natural leadership and growth can only occur if situations are made available in a fashion that is accessible to one and all. Doing so with the lowest common denominator takes the strongest resource and their ideologies completely out of the equation.

Speaking not shouting, is probably the better approach to have your words heard & registered. Its a simple concept of ensuring there is a mutual dialogue occurring and not a one-sided conversation. This needs to occur on both fronts, i.e. with folks with positional authority and those without. Although there are all sorts of traditional and perhaps challenging roadblocks such as unionized environments, I would submit, a simple conversation that is not held in a vacuum allows for far better reception than it would otherwise.

We need to simplify this and take away from the complex methodologies that have us performing rituals rather than focusing on the intent of the conversation. Take it a step at a time and even if you convert from speaking in a vacuum to speaking in a canyon, at the very least you receive an echo of what you have said. Perhaps in the future, the canyon will be full of acknowledging echoes and it would simply not be a singular voice, but a collective one dialoguing as we as home sapiens are genetically encoded to do.

A lot of folks talk about listening being the primer for success, and although I do concur with that, I humbly suggest that listening needs to occur in an environment where speaking is encouraged, engendered and very simply "allowed". When the environment allows for speaking to be had, listening skills take over to ensure there is a true osmosis of what is being shared.

I would finish off by saying that, there is a lot of riches to be had from the populace that surrounds you. I would even venture a guess that, if we drop all the pretension, the ritualistic behaviors and go back to the basics of having a simple conversation, what we will find is worth its weight in gold.

Let them speak and ye shall find ....