I rarely run across a song and a group that I have never heard. And not bragging… just when you make it your business to notice and know music, it is a shock. Recently people have given me the tagline “… and his encyclopedic knowledge of music” It is why I love listening to Sirius XM Deep tracks… and Wikipedia 😉 Between them, I can still occasionally reward my brain with something that it has to process for the first time… and, wonder is something that only gets better when you use it… often…
Leadership topic - engage
in clear communication throughout their organizations. Leads with questions, with an open personal presence and outstanding communications skills. Communicates a compelling and inspired shared vision or sense of core purpose; Creates a climate in which people want to do their best; Is effective in a variety of formal presentation settings; one-on-one, small, and large groups;
Roadblock – Always thinks they have the right and only answer; focuses on the answer, always the smartest person in the room
renewing and ReLaunching leadingWithMusic
The days of summer are waning, and I hope you have had a chance to renew a bit. We have had the great fortune to gather with our extended family a number of times, which helped me reflect a bit on what the last few years have taught us.
A warm handshake and “Thank You” from my exec was worth the long hours it took to win the Space Station contract. What he said next, was not “… and I would like you to work for ____ now to help integrate the teams.” A few of my peers had had the “opportunity” to work for him already, and we had heard about his use of Power in not complimentary terms over weekend beers. Luckily, my own network had offered me a path forward that would give me a front-row seat to what Power really is … and isn’t…
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.
Effecting Right renewal
We were wrapping up one of our last tests at Berkeley, up the hill further, into the Bevatron – a device that is a football field in diameter – such that it can generate Billions of electron Volts per particle. As such, you don’t need a vacuum, and simply set up your target in an open room. Surrounded by thick concrete, we were just taking down our computer when an ambulance arrived. A young 14-year-old was wheeled into the same spot, and a large metal mask put over most of his head – a small hole where the beam would go into his brain…
Effectively executing Right
Sitting in the conference room waiting, I was nervous about what was about to happen. The experiment had been a success, and we should be celebrating as a group, an Effective use of all of the talents of the team. Sadly, I had jumped the gun and helped get attention through my friends in communications, and now they wanted to feature the team in an upcoming publication. Sadly, it was not the Right thing to do, and the rest of the team was furious with me, particularly the group that was supposed to be “in charge”. And, my boss had accompanied me up to be confronted and what I thought would be an execution by the other members of the team…
The wonder of Effectively Right
The sun wasn’t up as we rose for the 3 am bus ride. We were up early because the time of the launch was 7 am, and with traffic near the Cape, we didn’t want to be late. I had been invited to come down for the launch of our experiment which, through no small set of wonders, we had Effectively completed on time and within the Right budget. It was now stowed in the back of the Space Shuttle and was about to blast off with STS Mission 41-G, the 17th flight.
observing Right Effectively
As we were chatting before dinner in the large ballroom, I was surrounded by the “royalty” of the Radiation Effect community. Admittedly a little off the main road of the IEEE, it was nonetheless THE place to meet, greet, and talk with everyone who knew anything about Radiation effects. The decor had some eggs on the buffet bar as a garnish – and you would assume they would be hard-boiled. Our Principal Investigator, a jokester, picked one up and cracked it on the man standing next to me… where it exploded all over his bald head…
Effectively partnering Right
As I watched the fog roll across the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge was the first to disappear. Then San Francisco became just a soft glow. Now the fog was over Berkeley and coming up the hills where it was 3 am. Completely covered now, the moon was just a glow, and I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I stepped back inside just in time to help my partners change out the current device for the next one in our testing. I was standing inside of one of the world’s most powerful devices – yes – inside…
managing Right Effectively
“Don’t be ridiculous. I have just invested $15 Million dollars in your development. Now get back to work”. With that, the young executive exited the CEO’s office with his letter of resignation torn in half and handed to him. He had gone from one of the top executives in the company to losing the current equivalent of $200 Million dollars. Thankfully not me, but that investment Rightly paid off as he was our Executive… and an outstanding and Effective manager 25 years later when I joined his team in Houston.
Do you engage Right or Effective?
While we didn’t realize it, we were all engaged in an over 10-year plan to keep IBM as the provider for the onboard computers and software for the Space Station. The Shuttle was designed and built in the ’70s as a “Space Truck” – you could fit a School Bus in the Payload Bay. Its mission was to build the Space Station – the next element in a chain that started with the first space experiment Explorer in the 1950s. My work would be pulling those pieces together – using the truck to put up a basic science experiment that could allow modern computers to be used. Would I be Right, or Effective, or neither??
This evening, as I was working my way through the records, I stumbled across a double album of Jazz. It was my daily visit to Peaches – a huge grocery store remodeled to house huge stacks of records, including those that had been sentenced to the trash heap of music. “Cutouts” were just that – albums that had the corner clipped, along with their price. To keep me engaged in my major goal of graduating in only 12 weeks, I would buy 5 records, come home, listen for 3 hours until they were finished, and hopefully, I had finished enough homework to repeat it the next day…
Knowledge to engage
As I was slowly awakening, I noticed that my feet were really hurting. And, that it was really cold. Both made sense when I realized I was halfway to my 8 am Statics class, running so I wouldn’t be late for the exam… with no shoes and barely a shirt on with early morning temps in the ’30s – cold for Texas. I am sure I made quite the sight running in at the last minute. I had studied, but now I realized why the 8 am MWF class was still open during registration 😉
What Vision engaged MLK?
Standing in front of my 4th-grade class, I was wearing what we now would romantically call a Toga. It was more like a big white sheet wrapped around my small body which was not much to look at. And, I was stammering as I tried my best to engage in showing how a similarly clad frail man changed the world with his demonstration of non-violence in a far-off country – India. Now both are common knowledge, but in Dallas, in the 1960s it was very different than others had dressed up as their “role model”.
Pausing to engage PERFECT
“What you are reading is PERFECT!” You know that is Looney Tunes – and if I could get you to read that in my favorite character, Foghorn Leghorn, “It’s a joke son! You missed it!” it would be perfect. Early in life, I ran across many characters like this, and eventually came to be a student of them, adopting some of their best (and worst) mannerisms, including what people say about me all the time: “Often wrong, never in doubt”.
Goals to engage
… and we’re off on the New Year. And if you are following the normal course, you have made some resolutions … and some Goals for this fresh start after Cleaning Up. And normally those are in the trash heap by the time we reach MLK Day, and certainly by Presidents Day. So what are Goals really… and what could sustain us as we engage… practices that are Simple? And of course, the music needs to be a gentle reminder to slow down after the starting gun…
engage Cleaning Up
Happy Boxing Day! Sorta Christmas Lite for the poor and the working-class across the British Empire, it is now a holiday that has turned into something much more American – a huge post-Christmas Sale 😉 So In both contexts, it is bringing home “boxes” of goodies that you may not have gotten last week. One year this week between Christmas and New Year’s, our hot water heater went out, requiring us to Clean Up the whole back basement area … and sparked another way to think about Boxing…
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?
“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?
A well-orchestrated job search, as 100’s of leaders I have worked with over many years say, ends with 2 outside offers, and one inside offer. It then takes Courage to choose between them, and also a lot of faith that you have done the best you can, and look forward with that same Courage. It all sounds very clean and tidy, which might lead you to wonder why I was in the building on a Saturday morning early, loading up most of my “stuff” with my wife … and slinking out of the garage…
I landed the role I am writing about this week late in 2002 with some luck during the opposite of what we are seeing now. An economic downturn after 2001 had frozen hiring, depressed salaries, and I felt fortunate to get anything, even this now meat-grinder role. The Courage to think about doing something else was tied up in one of the hardest issues to confront – money. Do we have enough, will we have enough, particularly with kids just heading into College. And yet, I knew that this was going to slowly kill me if I stayed…
“I know that we have the right team to pull this off!” said our VP from the front of the packed room. Giving us encouragement was one of the wonders of this particular leader’s talents, and what had got us all together. And, the wonder now was that this speech was exactly the same we had heard about a year before… and wasn’t working. Now it sounded more like pleading… and the feeling in the room was different – more desperation, and less belief we could actually do this…
It was 5 pm, and we were all lining up to go into the everyday “Evening Status Meeting” on the top floor of Pho IV, the newest building in our complex, and the heart of all of our work. I rarely left the building during the day, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner catered in so we didn’t take time away from the “work”. These meetings were twice a day – morning and evening – but the evenings are always brutal. As the “service” organization, the IT team was brought in nightly to be drawn and quartered by the SVP’s of the business, on “why haven’t you”…
The Courage to partner
If anyone tells you there is only one way to do something, they are lying or very misinformed. And it is particularly true in IT systems – both being told there is only one way, and that not being true. Our current predicament was caused by an IT person who was disgruntled with the way systems were being built, and left the org to build systems “in the business” – otherwise known as “without oversight”. And because he built them quicker and also knew more about the underlying business, the business used his group more and more. Now – those systems had to be replaced and completely re-implemented by “our” official IT group… and I had to be his partner…
Courage to manage
The Bermuda Triangle of my corporate experiences are: Pain, Change, and Courage. You might wonder why I chose Lovin, Touchin, Squeezin as the soundtrack of this post, and to be very clear, unlike others managers in the corporate world, those were never done by me 😉 But leveraging the principles of understanding what people really need and want from their workplace helped me manage and navigate between all of these elements. So what best practices have I experienced?
engaging with Courage
“Don’t be a Fred”. By now we are used to the different Southern Virginia dialect, so when our minister was reading one of the most prominent phrases in the Bible, we knew what he meant. Sorta. “Fear NOT” is one of those phrases that is like everything I do now – Simple, but not Easy. In the face of Continuous Change, most of which may NOT be of our own making, how do we engage Courage over Fear? I can’t solve this, but I believe it is something worth engaging in…
engaging with Continuous Change?
Change is exhausting. Continuous Change would then be constant exhaustion. So why would anyone actively choose to engage this as a stance for their life – work or personal? If we have learned something from the last 2 years it is that Change is in fact always happening, and either we get good at it, or we are constantly the victim of it
Can we engage The Middle?
This was posted on September 21, 2020… the Fall Equinox – the day that we move from summer to fall officially (at least in Astronomy). The sun will be right over the equator at 9:30 am Tuesday EDT, and thus within some tolerance, everyone on the planet has exactly the same amount of light and dark. So at least for one day, we all have about the same – The Middle – 12 hours of each….