Skate Where The Puck Is Going

Skate Where The Puck Is Going

Unless you are just starting our in your business and have a completely clean slate you carry some baggage into each decision in the form of the outcomes of your previous decisions.  That baggage sets the foundation for your future decisions and can take the form of organizational structure, staffing decisions, technology investments, brand image and positioning, and many others.  This baggage is very real and does create very real constraints on the decision process, but if you allow it to control the decision making process you are doomed to mediocre decisions and moderate growth at best over the long haul. Let's consider the baggage of technology investments, something that I have the most experience dealing with.  There is a concept called "technology debt" which is made up of all of the gaps between the tactical or not quite strategic investment or architecture decisions you have made to the ideal solution, added over time.  In many older organizations this debt level...
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New Year Goal Setting

New Year Goal Setting

While I don't necessarily subscribe to the concept of New Years resolutions, I do believe that the New Year provides us with a good annual marker to check in on how we are doing against our personal roadmap and validate that our goals are still relevant and aligned to where we want to go. It's an exercise that actually should be done more frequently (quarterly for example), but as we get into the year and the business of life takes hold again I recognize that many of us forget to check back in with our goals as regularly as we should. Maybe that should be goal #1 on all of our lists this year. So what should our annual goal setting and check in session look like? First, if you have done this exercise before you should pull out the previous version of your personal plan and spend some time reviewing it. Reflect on your 5, 10, and 20 year targets to validate...
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These Truths We Hold Self Evident

At one time or another we all suffer from a form of blindness. We are not blind in a physical visual way, but rather in our ability to step back and see the bigger picture. We are comfortable and confident in our own perception of things based on what we have experienced or heard that we struggle to believe that there could be another way to look at a situation or problem. There is an old fable that originated in India of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant. There are numerous versions of this parable, but I think my favourite is the poem version by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) below: It was six men of Indostan To learning much inclined, Who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind), That each by observation Might satisfy his mind. The First approached the Elephant, And happening to fall Against his broad and sturdy side, At once began to bawl: "God bless me! but the Elephant Is very like a WALL!" The Second,...
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Who Are The Leaders?

Who Are The Leaders?

More and more often we are seeing organizations distance themselves from traditional title-based (VP, Director, etc) positions within their organizational structure and instead moving to a role-based structure.  Companies are looking carefully at each layer of the organization in order to create consistency in the activities performed at each level and drive efficiency and productivity from the management layers. This change has a couple of distinct impacts: Titles Don't Matter If you're a person who is attached to the traditional view of career growth and put a lot of weight in your title or the "rung" of the organization you fit into it's time to rethink your priorities.  It is now very common to see a single organizational layer that has VP, Director, and Manager titles all working together as peers.  If you're hung up on your title in that mix then you'll be a less effective team member and likely will severely limit your future career growth. Leadership Can Come From Anyone There is...
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Never Turn Your Back On The Ocean

Never Turn Your Back On The Ocean

There is an old Hawaiian proverb that says "Never Turn Your Back On The Ocean".  The people of Hawaii have a tremendous respect for the Ocean and it's beauty, but also for it's tremendous power.   One minute you may be relaxing in the sun enjoying the sun and surf, and in the next moment you can find yourself swept out to sea.  The calm of the Ocean is hypnotic, lulling you into a sense of security and safety beside this enormous body of water, but when you least expect it the Ocean can turn and delivery a powerful blow with an unexpected wave that has the power of significant destruction. I was reminded yesterday of the concept of "pre-acting" in a post by Daniel Burris on LinkedIn (3 Keys Leaders Can Use to See the Future).  Burris is the author of a fantastic book called Flash Foresight which provides a terrific framework for looking into the future and leading forward...
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The Offshoring Leadership Dilemma

The Offshoring Leadership Dilemma

In a world that has gone mad for productivity in service-based industries, we are seeing more and more repeatable operations jobs either automated or sent to low cost service centres like India.  Now, as those low cost centres continue to grow and develop the capabilities of their workforce we are seeing more and more movement up the knowledge chain of these "low-cost" resources. In the software industry the trend to oursourcing of junior development and QA tasks started several years ago.  Initially the trend was to write some specifications, ship them off to India, and then expect to receive back a solid working product on schedule and at a fraction of the cost that you would have paid had you done the work domestically. Most companies quickly discovered that there was a gap in leadership and quality with the work that was done overseas and brought back the leadership and design tasks, leaving the somewhat repeatable tasks of coding and testing in...
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Is Your Culture Conscious?

Is Your Culture Conscious?

During this cold and flu season (and having already been stricken with the seasonal bug), something about the concept of a virus struck me as a great lesson for leadership.  (OK, maybe it's the cold medication talking, but stick with me for a minute and we might get somewhere). In the wild viruses strike fear in the heart of the public every winter as the seasonal cold and flu season picks up. Reports of viruses sourced from animals like the bird flu and swine flu increase our fear of infection.  But viral behaviour can be managed through science and every year the new flu shot concoction is made available to the public to help fend off the effects of what we think will be the seasonal strain of flu.  To develop these flu vaccinations, scientists use a biological culture called Agar to grow the virus that threatens all of humanity in a controlled environment in order to develop and test methods...
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Throw Strikes With Your Pitches

Throw Strikes With Your Pitches

Nothing strikes panic in the heart of many people in the same way as an opportunity to speak to a large crowd or to present to a Senior Executive.  Glossophobia is the formal name given to the fear of public speaking (or speaking in general for that matter). While it is an extremely common fear, your ability to conquer it and craft and present a compelling story to an audience is a critical skill for any aspiring leader or Entrepreneur.  If you can't effectively make a pitch or communicate an idea to an intimidating audience, then you are limiting your career or business success.  The great news is that conquering this fear is actually quite simple. If you want to hit a home run with your presentation there are a few simple preparatory steps to follow that make it significantly easier: Know Your Audience While it might seem obvious it is extremely common for people to get caught up in the detail of...
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What’s the Why?

What’s the Why?

Many of us who started our professional lives in a problem solving role have become experts at diving in and developing (and delivering) elegant solutions when we think we see a problem brewing.  Unfortunately too often our tendency to "problem solve" prevents us from successfully defining the problem in the first place.  Our comfort zone is in the solution, but as a leader our key value is in asking the questions necessary to understand the problem. “Good questions outrank easy answers.” -Paul Samuelson For many leaders the idea of stopping to ask questions before solving a problem is akin to watching your house burn down trying to figure out what started the fire rather than just using the fire hose that's lying in front of you.  Unfortunately the reality is that very few problems are as urgent as a burning house. The primary problem with solution driven leaders is Abraham Maslow's Law of the Instrument: If all you have is a hammer, everything looks...
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How Tired Is Your Metaphor?

How Tired Is Your Metaphor?

Stop me if you've heard this one before... Many great joke tellers know to preface their jokes with this old saying, to prevent themselves from losing their audience with a joke or anecdote that their audience has heard before.  So why is it so rare for corporate storytellers to give their audience that same common courtesy? The power of storytelling and metaphors as a way of communicating to our teams is indisputable.  People connect personally to the stories and can identify patterns quickly from metaphors.  When one is trying to communicate a new idea a metaphor can be an incredibly powerful storytelling technique, connecting a familiar idea or pattern to something new and foreign to the audience. But what too often happens once a leader has found a metaphor that resonates with their audience is that the metaphor becomes a "standard" in their repertoire, becoming the go-to story to communicate new ideas. Unfortunately this reuse has exactly the opposite effect that the speaker...
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