Are Hackers Our Future Heroes?

There is no doubt that we are facing challenging times. Within many workplaces we are losing experienced workers as they are either retrenched or retire, replacing them, if at all, with the sea of less experienced Generation Y. This is part of a structural realignment that has been underway now for some years, with many Western countries facing the situation where population is both shrinking and aging: Think of 20-somethings as a single work force, the best educated there is. In Japan, that work force will shrink by one-fifth in the next decade — a considerable loss of knowledge and skills. At the other end of the age spectrum, state pensions systems face difficulties now, when there are four people of working age to each retired person. By 2030, Japan and Italy will have only two per retiree; by 2050, the ratio will be three to two. But as I have suggested previously, leaders need to work now to prepare their businesses for a different kind of future. We need to re-think the way that we manage the business of doing business – for economic crisis or not, the landscape in which many of us work will never be the same again. This means that, as leaders, we must now begin the hard work of orienting our organizations, our processes and our business cultures toward a new way of working that is more resilient and flexible – and one that builds learning into the very DNA of our operations. For while the “war for talent” goes through a recession-driven hiatus, this is not a permanent cease-fire. As the leading...

Pay it Forward

The concept of paying it forward is one which can truly benefit many and was featured in a great movie from 2000 starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt & Haley Joel Osment. It reminds me of a commercial from the 1970s for Faberge shampoo in which they had the expression “if you tell two friends and they tell two friends, and so on, and so on…”. Well, the idea of paying it forward is really a good one. In fact, Benjamin Franklin demonstrated the idea of paying it forward in a letter to Benjamin Webb dated April 22, 1784: “I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you […] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.” In business, there are SO many ways in which this concept can take hold. But to me, the greatest impact of this wonderful approach to helping can be done at the grassroots, or individual, level. I myself have experienced both sides of paying it forward. I have had the great fortune of being helped by many people along my career path. And to be clear, these folks did not do so with the expectation that they would receive...

Making the Matrix Work For You

Increasingly, businesses are seeing the benefits of working in a matrix. But while this works for the organization, individuals can often find operating in a matrix, more than a little challenging. But there are some very simple things that you can do to make the matrix work for you. First up, polish your communication skills. When you work in a matrix, you need to be clear about your work, your direction and your deliverables. Different teams have their own internal cultures – and if you are new to that team or working across a division, you likely will miss the non-verbal communication at play. To combat this, over communicate – ask questions if you are unclear. Clarify the expectations of colleagues and learn to articulate your thoughts precisely. If you need to, take a course; but don’t overlook the importance of this communication. Secondly, remember there are only 24 hours in a day. When you work in a matrix, you are likely to have multiple deliverables from multiple teams. That means you must manage expectations of all involved. When asked to take on a new project, politely explain your level of utilization and then ask your project leader to help you prioritize your efforts. Make sure that this is clearly communicated to the people you report to, along with the expected impacts. Be sure to avoid over-committing and under delivering. These two steps can make a dramatic difference to your life. But what about leaders? How can you lead well in the matrix? Gill Corkindale suggests the following steps for leaders: Make sure the culture is robust, supportive and...

Got Questions? I’ll Offer Answers…

Following my webinar with Jo Miller, there were many questions asked about leadership, virtual teams, work-life balance, and the like. I offered answers to many of these questions and Jo posted them on her website. This exercise made me realize that there are many people who have questions about these topics but who might not have a resource to seek out the answers. As such, I’ve decided to try something new on my website. If anyone has questions related to business, leadership, management or similar topics, I’d like to offer myself as a resource to provide answers. Of course, it goes without saying that I am just one person with my own opinion. However, I have been working for many years and have held leadership positions in some of the best companies around, especially within the software industry. This all said, if you have a question and want someone else’s opinion, advice, etc., please feel free to post your questions in the comments section here. I will reply publicly so that all readers have a chance to learn from these exchanges. In fact, perhaps some of these questions will warrant full posts which I will feature on this site. I’m looking forward to hearing from...

Follow Up Questions from My Conversation with Jo Miller

Last week I had an opportunity to talk with Jo Miller, CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching, and the many listeners who attended the webinar on office politics.  Our discussion prompted many questions from the listeners and in response to these questions, Jo and I took the opportunity to reply.  These questions and answers can be seen on the Women’s Leadership Coaching site by clicking here. I strongly encourage readers to click over and to explore not just the set of questions that arose from the office politics webinar, but to delve further into the Women’s Leadership Coaching site.  The webinar series is an excellent way to hear from various industry professionals on topics that are very relevant to those in the workforce. And in case you missed my discussion with Jo, you can find it...

Pick Your Preferences

We like to think that we can have our cake and eat it too. However, in business, few leaders have such luxuries available. Instead, we must make choices regarding our preferences or priorities. A simple example might be speed versus accuracy. Obviously, we’d love to get things both fast and right. However, there are most definitely times where we must choose between the two. Even in this example, it is not always clear cut which choice must be made. As you can imagine, accuracy is highly desirable in anything we do, be it for business or personal purposes. However, sometimes getting something 100% accurate is overkill. It sort of follows the 80-20 rule. Sometimes getting to 80% is good enough because the “cost” associated with the final 20% may not be worth it. But, generally, I am of the philosophy of “I’d rather have it right than fast”. In a recent entry on the Harvard Business Blog site, Freek Vermeulen writes about this issue in a piece entitled Slow and Steady Wins the Growth Rate. His piece resonates with me as he uses his own experience of learning to play the cello as an analogy for his point about “time compression diseconomies” – a term coined by professors Dierickx and Cool from INSEAD. I studied violin and played for many years beginning when I was nine years old. His piece highlights a very important point – three hours does not always equal three hours. The point being that doing something for a half an hour 6 times is not the same as doing that same activity for one three...