Sunday, November 25, 2007

Strategy vs. Tactics

I set up my home office better this weekend. Should add to my productivity which adds to my enjoyment. Although I am quite organized, getting organized is not an activity I enjoy doing. Interestingly, I like spending time setting and reviewing my goals. Perhaps this comes down to Strategy vs Tactics.

I enjoy strategy and could spend hours on it. I recognize the need for good tactics (implementation) so I do it (or surround myself with good people and make sure it is well done) but I do not enjoy it as much.

I also like preparing which for me means studying. I really enjoy reading business books, making notes, studying my challenge of the day and preparing for potential future challenges. For that matter learning from others about business, sales, negotiations, goal setting, etc. Nothing better for me than reading a book, listening to a business CD or attending a seminar.

The key is for me to find the right balance of Strategy vs Tactics vs Preparation.

Winter has arrived so running into the office to work is not as appealing as staying home in a nice warm house. Perhaps that is why I organized my den today - to save me the trip to the office. On the other hand, I need to quickly learn to dress warmly and get out because it is healthy. It only takes me 45 minutes to walk to work or 25 to run or 15 to cycle and 10 to drive. My challenge is to take the initiative to walk or run. Too easy to let the change of seasons keep me inside.

How do I know winter is truly here apart from the snow and ice? My brother got his Prius stuck in my driveway after dinner tonight. He recently upgraded to a Prius after driving his Honda Insight hybrid 300,000 KM. Who says hybrids do not last.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Go Put Your Strengths to Work

Winter is coming. I noticed on my morning walk that the Speed River is frozen today.

On my flight back from Montréal yesterday I read a Marcus Buckingham book called "Go Put Your Strengths to Work - 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outsanding Performance". I love the general thesis :

1 - Our greatest value comes from using our greatest strengths

2 - Work on strengths to become truly excellent.

Because it is a book about work, it speak to tailoring ones job around ones strengths. It offered some good examples of how to do this.

One interesting comment is that the study of strengths is disconnected from the study of weaknesses. If you study how someone fails, you do not learn how they could have succeeded (and I notice many people tend to look at the world that way - "they failed because they did not do X"). Only by studying success can you learn about success.

It cited polls that say most people are more interested in their weaknesses than strengths. Interesting...

It addresses who is best suited to judge strengths and argued that we each are best to pick our own. I am not as sure on this point. I think sometimes we have difficulty seeing the real us and choose a persona. It did make a valid point though that strengths should be those activities that give (not take) power and energy. And it would be true that only we could know that.

One thing I did not like, is it is tied closely to using a web page to do tests, watch a video etc. Partly this just seems like a money grab because you need a unique password (and as a heavy library user - not sure how that would work) and partly because for me reading a book is different that using a computer so this kills the book experience (not that there is anything wrong with computers). And of course I was on a plane so could not even try to connect if I wanted to.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Tragically Hip and Van Halen

I lead a charmed life. I believe in leading a life with an attitude of gratitude. I have much to be grateful for. More on my charmed life...

Thursday morning I spoke at the Guelph Chamber of Commerce about Blogging. I enjoy speaking and find the network of people I have continues to grow.

By now, most people know about the huge RIM concert on Thursday night. Tragically Hip opened for Van Halen. Quite a Christmas party. It certainly was memorable. Their amplifiers certainly worked well. I was concerned when I got the tickets since they came with ear plugs.

Friday night I was a guest speaker at a UCFP strategic meeting. I presented my Time Leadership seminar.

I am sitting in the Air Canada lounge in Toronto. Going to Montreal for the SYNNEX Christmas party tonight. I am sure it will be great. For me, it will be better than the RIM party even. Not because of the notoriety of the musical group but because I get to see and talk to many of my Montreal staff.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Never Eat Alone

Busy day today. I did not even keep up on my email which is unusual for me. I spoke at a Melcrum Conference on Building a Culture of Employee Engagement. My topic was blogging. Although I felt competent to handle the blogging comment, I felt somewhat inadequate or daunted at speaking at a conference called "Building a Culture of Employee Engagement". Not sure I yet have that formula perfected.

And of course after speaking about blogging, I have to post since they will all be looking at my blog. Big pressure.

Tonight I attended a YPO event where the speaker was Keith Ferrazzi, author of "Never Eat Alone and other secrets to success, one relationship at a time". I was happy to see he is a normal sized person - I thought from all the eating he might be overweight.

The gist of his message is contained in the book title. Form relationships and nurture them to be successful. In he book fortunately he also talks about giving without expectation of return. So he is not all about networking just to "taking". My challenge is relationships take time and choosing how my time is spend is a constant struggle. So I am thinking about a pyramid approach. Some people I email occassionally, others I email and call, others I meet with etc. I used to do this in sales. I would call on certain customers every month and some every 3 months and some only once a year. Over time I learned that short periods of intense contact meant I could maintain the relationship with less contact over time. EG - make 4 sales call in 6 weeks then drop back to just email and calls etc. Good relationships are those without "contact obligations". And of course placement within the pyramid will change in time.

Although one of my strengths is my rolodex and the number people I know and who know me, I am inspired to be more disciplined in my approach.

One comment he made tied into employee engagement. 30% of the people surveyed had a close friend at work and those 30% were seven times as productive as the others. So how to make people be friends.

One of his comments tied into Blink and Hunches that I blogged about yesterday. "we tend to instantly judge people and are immediately screened by other people's prejudices". So first impressions count.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Intuition and Hunches

I read a book review in Fast Company last night on "Gut Feelings: The Inteligence of the Unconscious" by psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer. It sounds like it is similar to Blink by Malcom Gladwell (one of my favourite thought leader/authors) - aptly subtitled "The power of thinking without Thinking."

The gist of the message seems to be there can be great value in instinct and gut feelings. But "In modern society, gut thinking has a bad reputation".

My experience is every time I go against my gut feelings, I regret it. The same is not true however for always being right when I have a gut feeling to do something. Perhaps I should start tracking what my hunch is at the time big decisions are made then track the outcome (tracking decisions and outcome is a good practise in any event - a practise that Edward Deming (another favourite) preached)

My brother, Glen, is a brilliant and highly logical thinker. I worked with him for many years and learned that he needed data to back up my gut feelings and a I learned to build cases for what needed to be done. Sometimes though, I got trapped into trying to prove a case using data where no clear data existed (like what is going to happen in the future). I have sometime even found my logic sometimes would beat my intuition so I end up overriding my intuition which is where the danger lies.

My goal is to increase the validity of my intuition and I think the best way to do that is to pour in more knowledge. What leads to good decisions is having lots of information and detail (ideally without passing judgement up front). So I try to constantly feed my mind so when decisions need to be made, I can make them right. And of course one principle I practise is fast decision making since usually it is better to make a fast imperfect decision that a slow perfect one.

As I have matured (and some would argue I still have a long way to go), I have learned to trust my instincts and hunches more.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What Leaders Really Do

I have been tired this week. Likely marathon recovery and travel. I ran 10K today to get back into some working out after taking most of the week off work outs. It took me most of the weekend to catch up as seems to be the pattern I have fallen into. And another busy week coming up.

One HBR article I am inspired by is What Leaders Really Do by John P. Kotter. Summarizing the article:

"They don't make plans; they don't even organize people. What leaders really do is prepare organizations for change and help them cope as they struggle through it.

Leadership is different from management, but not for the reasons most people think. Leadership isn't mystical and mysterious. It has nothing to do with having "charisma" or other exotic personality traits. It is not the province of a chosen few. Nor is leadership necessarily better than management or a replacement for it.

Rather, leadership and management are two distinctive and complementary systems of action. Each has its own function and characteristic activities. Both are necessary for success in an increasingly complex and volatile business environment.

Most corporations today are over-managed and underled. They need to develop their capacity to exercise leadership. Successful corporations don't wait for leaders to come along. They actively seek out people with leadership potential and expose them to career experiences designed to develop that potential. Indeed, with careful selection, nurturing and encouragement, dozens of people can play important leadership roles in a business organization."

Interesting and from what I can see - true. My addition to this comment might be that leaders tend to also be managers so double duty is often in order. And what I have seen in some larger organizations is that management is more highly valued so there is a push to make leaders into better managers often to the detrement of the organization since it is the leadership that is more desperately needed.

Monday, November 05, 2007

New York Marathon and 3 Goals

Yesterday I ran the New York Marathon. The day began early. Up before 5 to catch a special marathon bus at 5:30. They close the roads so the buses leave early. Wait a bit on the bus then arrive at the field at 6:30 or so. There are thousands of runners milling around, lying on the ground, sitting etc.

The air was cool but not cold. Perfect running weather. A bit chilling though to sit for too long. I ran for a charity - Team for Kids. They had a special tent for us. For breakfast in the tent, I had 2 bagels and some Gatorade. Team for kids does look after their sponsors well. From the start with special buses, a tent, extra portapotties (important since we all drink lots in preparation for the race) right to the end with a volunteer showing you to the special area where your bag is. Kudos to them.

It is part of the race culture to sit and talk in these pre race times. Usually about not being prepared enough (excuse #1) and comparing other races we have run. The race did not start until 10 so quite a long wait. I was with my good friend Warren Spitz. Always a fun person to be with which made the time pass quickly.

About 9:30 we walked to the start line. There are almost 40,000 runners so it is mayhem. Runners are assigned a start place but few pay attention to that. At 10, we hear the gun but the crowd does not start to move for a few minutes (too far back in the pack). Eventually we cross the start. As expected, it is impossible to pass, change position or move. Solid runners. The race starts over a bridge which means 3/4 mile hill up followed by 3/4 mile down. I run with Warren for the first 2 miles. He is faster so leaves me. My first 5 K was 27:53. Acceptable - especially considering the mass of people. Possibly too fast. Part of wht I need to do is start slow.

Great crowd support cheering most of the way. Second 5 K was 30:15 - a bit slower than the sub 30 I was planning on. Still massive crowds. Marathons are measured on the tangents and there is no way to run the tangents in the mass of runners (excuse #2). I was feeling great and the miles were melting by for the next 20K. My pace was 30:26, 30:41, 32:32 then 33:01 -I was slowing.

The run passed through different sections of New York. Interesting to see the changes in character.

I was tiring at 30K and my legs were getting sore and cramped. Water and Gatorade was served every 1 mile. Way more frequent than most marathons. I was stopping at every other one but now was stopping at all so I could walk 50 M. One cute 8 yr old was yelling "take my water, it is lower calorie and Gatorade". I should have given him my card to give him a job when he is old enough.

The next 5 K was 35:03 and I was really having to use willpower to keep going. Even this far into the race, it was a big crowd of runners. They say you should add 10 min to your time due to the number of runners (excuse # 3). 35-40 K took 37:40 - I was walking longer and running slower. Last 2.2K was 15:19 so I did pick it up a bit. Final finish was 4:32:50.

It was a great experience. Highly recommended to all.

I read once in a running book that every race should have 3 goals. I use this in non race situations also. My goals were 4:00, 4:15 and to finish. I achieved one goal.

And today I am sore. I took a brisk 15 minute walk this morning to give away my extra marathon food to the homeless people. Glad I did the walk but it was a struggle.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The power of How

We had a great sales retreat this past weekend at Blue Mountain. As Mitchell Martin, our President said, “We have a great team of people; it is one of our competitive advantages.”

In my closing address, I talked about asking the right question. Often when people are asked about something simple like sales, they give the reason why sales are what they are. I encourage people to ask the “How” question. The How question is much more powerful.

We had a hypnotist at the sales retreat. Originally we planned an outdoor event but due to the rain, wind, and cold, we had to change venue at the last minute so we called in a hypnotist that we used a few years ago.

The hypnotist was excellent and the previous time that I saw him, I almost cried from laughing so hard. This time I still laughed and found him funny.

The hypnotist really drove home the power of the sub-conscious mind. If you ask yourself why you can’t do something, your mind will come up with reasons or excuses. If you ask yourself HOW you can do something, your sub-conscious mind will also answer that question.

Focus on the HOW.

For all of those people who are asking about Kaitlan, she is well on the road to recovery. She is now home and back in school and too busy to call her Uncle Jim.