Sunday, October 26, 2008

Generosity to Change

My time management has been to not post this week. I have been traveling and busy of course. As a matter of fact, I woke up to snow earlier this week in Banff. I was there speaking at a Technoplanet event. They run events well.

I was at Directors College this weekend. One of the speakers - John Della Costa spoke on the Ethics of Governance. One phrase he used that really resonated was people need to have "the generosity to change". Interesting concept. It is generous to change. To not change is stubborn and selfish. Interesting.

Key to change for me is to study what is changing in the world and try to figure out what I need to do to adapt. Partly it goes back to my "Fail Often, Fail Fast, Fail Cheap". Partly it speaks to looking forward and trying to figure out the future (and how I can shape it).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Change is Opportunity - Be Adaptable

I am at Blue Mountain at a SYNNEX sales retreat. It has been an awesome high energy event. I really like the quality of the people we have. Our results so far this year have been outstanding so it is too bad the economy has taken such a dive as that adds a somber note to it all.

I am taking time off the morning activity to get caught up on email and get a few things done. Travel tends to put me behind.

I am thinking a lot about the turbulence in markets and the impact it will have on business. There are major opportunities for strong companies like SYNNEX. At the same time, it is always tougher to hit sales goals in softer economies.

In my opinion, this downturn is unlike any other that has occurred in the past 50 years. It will be deeper and involve more change than any previous recession.

One thing that is certain is there will be major change. Change is opportunity.

In change, it is not always the strong who thrive, it is the adaptable. Smaller companies tend to be more adaptable and can change more easily than large ones. The key has always been for SYNNEX, which is fairly large, to act smaller than we are. To keep our velocity and fight the paralysis that often accompanies turbulent times.

I believe adaptability can be learned. I believe people and companies can consciously decide to adapt. Part of that is accepting that it is necessary. Part of that is fighting fear and stepping up to change. For me, a large part of that will include study (one of my ways of figuring things out is always to study).

It will be interesting times for the next few years. Times like these are when great leaders can shine.

Quote for the day:

Fortune does not change people, it unmasks them.

Susan Necker 1739-1794

Friday, October 17, 2008

Time Management and Priorities

Priorities - the Quest for Effectiveness

The key to effectiveness is working on the right priority items.

Every time management book I have read (including my own) suggests that you have a To Do List and one of the reasons is so you can prioritize what is most important to do.

The key with priorities is:

1. They change, what might be a top priority today might be a low priority tomorrow and visa versa. I know the current state of the financial markets certainly caused me to shift a lot of my priorities fast.

2. Most people tend to spend their time on the urgent and not necessarily the important. The key with priorities is to think about what are the important things. It seems like shorter deadline things tend to take priority but when you look at truly successful people, they tend to focus on long term, keeping priorities straight, and working on long term priorities and that tends to be where success is had.

3. Perfection kills: one thing that stops people from working on priority tasks is perfectionism. I am not saying that it is never right to do something perfectly; however, often good enough is fine.

4. The 15 minute rule: one trick I use is to work on a priority task for 15 minutes. Even spending just 15 minutes on it tends to move me forward.

5. One trick on To Do Lists is to add the first task to do to get the to do list moved forward on the list. Often simply putting it on the list makes me start doing it. And it makes me think about what needs to be done.

6. Life is about making choices but life has fewer limits than you might think. Often I have many priorities to deal with at the same time. Although sometimes it makes me feel stressed, I realize it is who I am.

7. A change is as good as a rest. Often switching from one priority task to another priority task can help you be more effective.

8. Ask for input. One of the tricks that I use is to list my priorities and then circulate them to a few people and ask if they seem like appropriate priorities. From that I get feedback and I am able to change the list so I work on the appropriate items.

9. Share priorities and you will get help. By letting people know what my priorities are, I am often able to get other people to help me.

10. Important priorities are often not the easy path, but successful people do tough things and that is one of the things that I say to motivate myself to do some of those difficult things.

Now I have to think of my priorities. I am sitting in the airport lounge in Hong Kong (spent a week at the Electronics show). About to board a 15 hour flight. I need to switch my time zone by 12 hours. When I get back, I need to be "on" because we have a sales conference this weekend.

I am mindful of the need for rest as well as the need for productivity. It is a balance.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Engagement is Not Enough

On a recent flight I read "Engagement Is Not Enough You Need Passionate Employees to Achieve Your Dream" by Keith E. Ayers.

This truly is an outstanding book. I must admit for the first section, it took me a while to get into it, almost to the point of discontinuing it. Much of the first section dwells on how having employees that are not engaged are not good for a company -- duh!

It cited many statistical studies of how few employees are engaged and the damage it does for a company. Scary stuff.

In todays' turbulent times, employees are likely to be more engaged. They fear for their companies and know they need to go the extra mile. Fear is a very strong motivator. This is also a great time for companies to Topgrade - replace B players with A players (and usually the difference is just engagement between A and B players). And there will be a lot of very good people who need jobs because many larger companies reduce headcount based on only one dimension of what the person does or how they are. They lose the other golden attributes of their people.

The book calls heavily on some existing psychological theories like DiSC and different personality types.

It was not until Chapter 7 -- "Values -- The Missing Link" that I became truly inspired. I know for my own motivation if my values are aligned with my goals, I am unstoppable, so it should come at no surprise that the same is true of organizations. If people work for a company whose values are aligned with their own then clearly they will be highly engaged and unstoppable.

I am adding this to my list of "Must Read Books" for any business person.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Era of the Short Book - Talk Ain't Cheap...It's Priceless

I recently dropped a book on one of my friend's desk to which he said, "Oh, No". This was surprising because I know this person is a reader and the topic was of interest to him.

That got me thinking that if even he thinks big books are too long, should we look at writing books that are shorter. There is something in us that makes us think that we should write something longer rather than shorter. Goes back to my succinct is best.

I know there has been a trend for the New York Times best seller to decrease in length. Or just go in any bookstore and you can see this trend.

Speaking of short books, I read, "Talk Ain't Cheap... It's Priceless! Connecting in a Disconnect World" by Eileen McDargh.

This is one of those short books (51 pages) that is meant to be bought in quantity for a company or for a seminar.

The gist of the book is so simple and obvious that it is worth saying. Sometimes we get caught up in electronic communications like email that we don't actually talk to people.

Communication is key and often things are communicated more fully in person. It is tough to read body language in an email.

One line in the book hit me and that was, "How will they feel?" How the person feels when they are talked to is critical. And the only way to get closer to reading that is to be in person.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Now is the Time for Great Leadership

Turbulent times call for great leaders.

Fear is the challenge that many leaders face in tough times. That can cause paralysis and overreaction. Our challenge is to recognize this and adapt and not overreact.

Part of adapting will involve creativity. Old plans need to be revisited. Constructive creativity is key. Part of adapting will involve change. In every change is opportunity. Good vision comes from looking at the changes and figuring out how to capitalize on them. Embrace change now more than ever.

We grow the most when we are challenged.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Myth of Multitasking

On my flight home today, I read a book called, "The Myth of Multitasking - How "Doing it all" gets nothing done" by David Crenshaw.

The book is a small page size and only 125 pages. Perhaps he is trying to cater to those people who don't have enough time.

The writer's style is storybook format which some people prefer (but I am not one of them).

The title says it all -- multitasking is a myth and I am a big believer in this. We don't actually multitask; we switch quickly from one task to another and often when we multitask we don't get the higher priority things done. I wrote an article on 6 times to effectively multitask. Might sound like a conflict with this book but not really.

The book tells a story of an office worker as she works through his challenges with trying to get everything done and points out how multitasking has been alienating others in the office.

The story is told of Helen who is a chronic multitasker whose multitasking is causing stress for her as well as her co-workers. The story tells of her being mentored by Phil who explains all of the costs of multitasking and the ways of reducing multitasking.

Although the title says it all, it is never bad to have a good refresher.

Quotes of the day:

"Eleven, the average number of minutes an employee can devote to a project before it being interrupted."

A study conducted by Irvine, Department of Information of Computer Science, University of California, Irvine.

"Multitasking? I can't even do two things at once. I can't even do one things at once."

by Helena Bonham Carter.

"Multitasking is worse than a lie"
Another Book Title by David Crenshaw

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Teamwork - Nascar Style

I am at the SYNNEX National Sales conference in beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina. It is a great event. Good attendence, high energy and well orchestrated.

This morning, one of the speakers was Larry McReynolds, a famous Nascar pitt crew leader. He is now a commentator on Nascar and wrote a book "How to Become a Winning Crew Chief".

I liked him. He spoke of having goals for his speech. To give us just one or two gems we can use. I like people who set goals before they do things.

He spoke about teamwork. Interesting that the winning Nascar team is named by the driver - like Jimmie Johnston unlike most sports teams that are called by a team name. Nascar is clearly about a closely orchestrated team - pit crew, mechanics, driver etc - very much a team sport.

Larrys' 3 rules about the constant pursuit of excellence are:

1 - never be 100% content. Yes, celebrate your wins but move on.

2 - Always try to make the next one better. This would be my "if you do what you alway did, the world will change and you will lose" or "what got you here won't get you there".

3 - Always evaluate. It is a good way to learn.

Good simple advice.