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Leading with Music presents: Soul

renewing Clever

renewing Clever

Having poured a good portion of my life into the “Circus” project over the last 6 years, I was not going to simply sit back. It may or may not have been renewing, but I stayed up all night polishing our “appeal” of the Division edict demanding the use of older hardware, and turned it into a Clever and compelling approach. The net was that we had a very cost-competitive bid because of the savings on ground systems, the easy access to commercial off-the-shelf tools, and the general market appeal of the PC. I walked our exec through it, but I couldn’t go with him. Imagine what that must have felt like to him – once again taking a Clever and risky approach into a President’s office…

Clever execution

Clever execution

The code name for the series of PC’s that were the centerpiece of our Space Station Demonstration Lab was appropriately:  “Circus”. All the Clever code names were things having to do with “circus” – like the network was “Ringmaster”, which is what I had now become. Our proposal would incorporate all of the elements simulating execution of the whole computing infrastructure. We had Fiber Optic Networks, Color Displays, real-time test equipment, all coordinated with a simulation environment that leveraged IBM’s PC’s in every element. Sadly, we had just been told, our proposal was mandated to bid the Division Standard 1750 chipset – or don’t bid…

The wonder of Clever

The wonder of Clever

One of my constant refrains was “how can we compete with our cost structure so out of line??” As we had finished our prototype to great accolades, we were now in the process of putting together a real proposal to get this system sold and installed into the Shuttle. I priced out an “empty” box – that is NOTHING in it, and NO actual design work. In 1983, that was $250,000 for each piece of equipment, and a Non-recurring cost of over $4 million. Finally, someone pointed out what I was missing… and no wonder. “This is a cost-plus based business – your profit was 6% of your costs… “

Clever observation

Clever observation

August 18, 1981 would change the world – the day the IBM PC was announced. Built by a small, Clever team at their Lab in Boca Raton where Dad had worked when I was in junior high, the impact on all of us is still profound. For me specifically, I had grown up around microcomputers, having built one around the previous version of the Intel processor, and had been observing since then what would be coming. As I came home excited and talked about the new computer that we would get at home, my wife observed, “Does this mean we are getting a raised floor?”

partners in Clever

partners in Clever

They had been in a conference room for nearly 2 days now, reviewing problems with our Division’s largest program. These partners had been collected to recommend changes to get it back on track. It was to be a state-of-the-art new approach to computing on a new state-of-the-art submarine. All eyes had turned to the senior architect of the systems that were used on the Space Shuttle who had been flown in. He paused … and after a very uncomfortable silence said “It’s a Bar problem”. Unclear someone asked… and he clarified. “We can fix this …we might as well go drink.”

Clever management

Clever management

Our design danced to life “right on schedule”, a Clever way of saying we made it just in time. After struggling for weeks, our 2nd Line manager had “offered” that if we didn’t have it running soon, they would fly in some “real” engineers from our main site to “help” us. As you might expect, it was not music to our ears … and that type of management triggered exactly the response he wanted. Maybe not the TONE he expected, but it had gotten our system running, and mostly on schedule. A good thing, as I was now the Project Manager…

engaging Clever

engaging Clever

It was another late night in the lab, and by now we had been slugging away at our project for over 18 months. It was just me and my office mate/partner, everyone else had long gone home. We KNEW our design would work but it just was not coming to life. Each reset, it would make it a bit further than before… then, nothing. Finally, I looked at the pattern coming up, and realized that 6 of the signals never changed. “I think those memory chips are bad”. Replacing them, we hit the reset button… and up came the greatest 7 characters I have ever seen: MACSBUG.

renewing Belief

renewing Belief

My early church experience includes another basic Belief that many find somewhat hard to believe: Fun. For example, on New Year Eve we would always have a party – at the Church. We would have dinner together late as Church family, watch a cheesy family movie (16 mm projected…), and then at Midnight, an old man would walk through the door one way, and another man+ would come back – dressed up as a baby 😉 A bad visual, but characteristic of that group of people that formed my Belief that Fun is needed to renew us…

executing with Belief

executing with Belief

Before your day gets off to a roaring start of execution, let me say Merry Christmas!! Filled with lots of traditions that come from Beliefs modeled around you, hopefully, yours are as fun as mine are. Our home had a completely separate living room that was divided from the house with a solid sliding door. Thus access was “limited” until we had gotten completely dressed, had a full breakfast, and then Dad would go in and prepare for our entry – with his light bar of Four Thousand watts…

wonder of Beliefs

wonder of Beliefs

“You are really odd!”. That was the greeting from a fellow coach standing outside of the conference room at Darden Business School. You might think that was a bit harsh, but the wonder is that is a compliment to me. Literally raised to be “different” for as long as I can remember, it is ironic that now I am known as a great connector of people and friends. And the real wonder is that without the early Church’s most radical stance, you wouldn’t be reading this…

Belief in observing

Belief in observing

Looking back, it is no wonder I have such different Beliefs. Having moved to Tyler in my teen years, we again found a Church home that had a lot of things going on. The big “downtown” church had a gym/roller rink, a large almost Cathedral building, and a very active Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) group. Mirroring The College Kids we have been discussing, Sunday evenings were started with Vespers, and then dinner and fellowship, with some light lessons to think about. And in the mid 70’s they decided to offer Sex Education – at church…

managing Beliefs

managing Beliefs

Integral to forming and managing my Beliefs was sailing together with The College Kids. Dad’s engineering background, of course, brought him to sailing – one of the most technically challenging sports around, and yet, also the most simple. Can you as a Team organize yourselves and the boat to take advantage of the wind and events to be first across the line. Simple – not easy, as with most discussions of Beliefs. The model we use to talk about it is also from sailing – an Iceberg…

Belief management

Belief management

Born only a few years after the Staple Singers started, my home was a constant hub of activity from our Church. I have never asked why, but my parents managed the College Kids group at First United Methodist Church of Richardson, Texas. So many of my basic Beliefs came from this season, it is hard to even remember where things started. Certainly, I have always thought of Church as a fun place – we had big parties both at the house and at Church, and as my Dad would always add, without the need of alcohol to have fun 😉

engage your Beliefs

engage your Beliefs

“What do you Believe?” It was a very direct question, from a very direct woman. My wife’s “great aunt” asked me … just as we were leaving from her small apartment. I had been helping her write her memoirs, which turned out to be much more coaching than either of us had anticipated. As she would tell her stories, I would simply listen and try to write as fast I could to record these stories that were amazing, raw, and very engaging. And a question that you should always be ready to engage – actually, what DO you Believe?

renewing Together

renewing Together

Faith, fundamentally, is belief in something you can’t see, but you know is there. As the results of Project One spiraled out over the last year I was there, I knew that it was time to take a leap of faith into something that I had never really contemplated. The dream of owning my own business was never a thing, and yet, that was what was on the horizon. If I really believed in what I was seeing both as a need and my talent, I had to act. On Faith, or In Faith but either way, how?

executing Together

executing Together

Through daily iterations of a spreadsheet of 1765 engineers around the globe, we were as ready as we could be to launch Project One on January 1. If someone ever suggests you do a massive corporate reorg at the first of the year, just say the sentence that I work with leaders on the most. A complete sentence that, as they say in Charades: 1 word, 2 letters. “No”. I would love to tell you we were confident this would be executed well, but honestly, we were really never sure what the real objective was in the first place, so we would hit something…

Together… wondering..

Together… wondering..

Arriving on a late afternoon flight to Mountain View, we had to save our energy for the return flight… in only 5 hours.  The Red Eye home was required to keep a meeting with a key customer that could not be moved.  And we wondered and worried about this meeting, mysteriously called with only 24 hours’ notice, mandatory, and with an attendee list that was not clear.  Luckily the business leader I was scheduled to meet in that customer meeting was on the flight out and back… so we would be in whatever this was together.  And that made all the difference…

observing Together

observing Together

Engineers LOVE problems. Nothing can bring us more joy than a big, complicated problem, with lots of loose ends. And, soon you observe that business people do not like problems. Not in the least – not big ones, not small ones, nothing that resembles them. They like things to run smoothly, with smiles all around. And having just come from a season of EVERYTHING was a problem, which even the business people were in agreement with, I was stepping into a completely different world and observed…

partners Together

partners Together

What is your intention?” It is such an obvious question once asked, but not one I considered often. In my previous role, our leader’s “intention” to get us a partner Executive Coach to hone our leadership skills was met with shock and disbelief. Really – now? When we can’t find time to go to the bathroom? My wife was observing the stress changing even with what detergent she had to use to get my clothes clean. Now – when we were not sure this business would even survive?

Together managing…

Together managing…

🖋 The view from the new office was great – facing east over a man-made lake, I would be rocking out to Ray and watching the sunrise most mornings. I had negotiated hard for my offer – with the encouragement of my mentor, and was now glowing in the realization that I was well-positioned. A role that was a mix of technology leadership which I knew, and people development which I wanted to focus on now, Together in one place. One morning in the first week I was there, the recruiting manager who I had negotiated with came in, closed the door, and asked “Do you have anything you would like to tell me?”

engaging Together

engaging Together

“Oh wow. That is going to really cost you”. I had just gotten a call from the recruiter for the role that would take my career to the next level. Having made it through most of the interviews, I had won her over, and it was now down to the “final” interview: dinner with my family at the home of my boss and my peer, the CTO – Together with their families. They both had smaller kids – 8 and 6. Having started early (surprising you right ?) my kids were now mostly grown… so who would I take with me? And would I be able to pass this “charm” interview?

The renewal of Harmony

The renewal of Harmony

It is appropriate that the week on Harmony ends where my first experiences were:  singing at church.  Growing up around the College Kids, in the early 60’s they would often be playing/singing Peter, Paul, and Mary songs, and watching them blend their voices “in renewal” encouraged me to learn how to do that.  I don’t know exactly what “ear training” is, but there are pictures of me sitting with my Flute-o-phone and those kids where I was playing Harmony.  Hearing the notes, and trying to get your brain/voice to match was a fun challenge, which eventually I mapped into reading music… sorta…

executing with Harmony

executing with Harmony

When teams are at their peak, there are ways of executing together that anyone outside of the team may or may not even be able to observe.  Little looks and phrases become cues for Harmony that is hard to duplicate.  While the reason for being together may be stressful, those hours of work start to build up muscles that become second nature.  In one season, I was in meetings 3 times a day with the same people – 6 days a week.  We got tight enough to really understand how to cover for each other’s faults, and build on the strengths in ways that most teams will never experience.  What causes that Harmony? 

The wonder in Harmony

The wonder in Harmony

Finally, we get to the song that triggered the week.  I have been trying to be more explicit about leadership and management tips lately, and hopefully, you have gotten a few.  Today’s story is so rich that I don’t have space (or the need) to point it out.  So wonder with me …. by this point, The Fifth Dimension is well on their way, having won multiple Grammys with multiple platinum records.  They were in New York City playing a series of concerts when Billy Davis noticed his wallet was missing – having fallen out in the cab he had just stepped out of.  “Well, that’s gone…. “ 

observing Harmony

observing Harmony

We were at the hospital for a procedure, and the nurse couldn’t get the IV started.  Without missing a beat, another one came right over, picked up the work … and the conversation … without even missing a beat.  As a keen observer of teamwork, I perked up and started to chat her up about what it is like to work here?  “It is amazing – from the people who take out the garbage, to the staff that mops the floors, to the administrators who make sure we have what we need, we all come together to provide you with the best care”.  We were then whisked off to another room, with a similar experience…. How does that type of Harmony happen? 

partners for Harmony

partners for Harmony

In watching the Food Network with my wife, there is a catch-phrase:  If You’re Looking, You’re Not Cooking.  Exactly the opposite is true with leadership, particularly now.  Before last year, at least talent was mostly limited to work they could drive to… and now, I know for a fact that people have started preparing for the annual spring job search with a NATIONAL target.  The war for talent is only going to get more intense as you can work from anywhere, and what will they be looking for?  Harmony and partnership – pure and simple.  The number one reason people stay is the relationship with their leader…. And the main reason they leave is … exactly the same. 

Is your management Harmonic?

Is your management Harmonic?

Harmony is distinguished from Unison singing – everyone singing the exact same note together. When men and women sing together, even though they are singing the same note, they are often separated by an octave or more.  But choosing a Harmony requires intensely listening to each other, and you will often see the singers lean in, cover an ear, and then either read a note or more likely, trust their well-trained ear to pick up a note that blends together with the others.  As more singers are involved, you have to be careful to not only hit your note, but stay out of the way of the others… constantly juggling your own musical path with those around you…

engaging with Harmony

engaging with Harmony

A meme popped up last fall pointing out, in February “…a whopping seven planets (the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn, plus asteroid Pallas) will all be clustered together in the sign of Aquarius, creating what’s known as a stellium in astrology.  This intense influx of Aquarius’ fixed air sign energy in February will shift our focus to humanitarian issues, technological advancements, and unconventional innovations.  And these themes will guide the framework of our society throughout all of 2021 and the years ahead.”  But didn’t we hear this already – in 1967 – the dawning of the Age of Aquarius?