Smart People + Smart Leadership = Happy Customers? by Lucy Freedman

Interpersonal Intelligence for Technical Organizations

By Lucy Freedman, developer of the SYNTAX of Influence, co-author of Smart Work (the second edition of Smart Work: The Syntax Guide to Influence, is available at HappyAbout.com or Amazon. ).

Originally published at http://svforumelsig.blogspot.jp/

When I first started my business, a mentor quizzed me about what it meant to have a business. Does coming up with a great idea make it a business? Clearly no. Does having a product make it a business? What about an office, employees, marketing? No, no, and no, he said. You have a business when you have a customer.  Aha.

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In the world of technology, we can get so focused on the product or process that the relationship part of the business receives a minimal amount of mindshare. Sure, when we need to make a funding pitch, attract a key executive, or give a customer presentation, we put attention into those relationships. Even then, it’s typical of technologists to be mostly content-oriented and not so focused on tuning into the interests of their audience.  There’s room for growth.

While the ability to relate well with funders, talent, and customers is important for business success, the internal communication in a company is equally important. What customers and VC’s really want is for the product to work and meet their needs in a timely and cost-effective way.  For that to happen, managers and teams need to be able to get on the same page and come up with solutions and answers. Knowledge needs to be mobilized. Deadlines need to be met. Problems need to be solved. All this takes communication that is both focused and flexible.

The Challenge

The kinds of interpersonal intelligence that allow people and teams to collaborate well tend to be underdeveloped in engineering organizations for three main reasons.

  • Engineers are generally not drawn to learning “soft skills”
  • Engineering leadership is mostly made up of engineers
  • Most interpersonal skills training is oriented more toward personal growth than practical business interactions.

As a result, efficiency, accurate and relevant sharing of knowledge, and delivery to the customer are often hampered by turf battles, planning disconnects, and just plain miscommunication.

Is this just a depressing downer, condemning engineering organizations and their customers to clunky communication, relieved only by those special high-tech + high-touch individuals who can navigate well both technically and interpersonally? Although many are resigned to this state of affairs, there are lights flickering here and there.

Bright Lights and Good Books

In fact, at a past Silicon Valley Engineering Leadership Community meeting, Ron Lichty presented a “Crash Course” based on his new book with co-author Mickey W. Mantle, Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams  (Addison-Wesley, www.ManagingTheUnmanageable.net ). They address important considerations for people who move up the technical ladder from writing code to managing people.

Another new and highly recommended book on this subject is Team Geek: A Software Developer’s Guide to Working Well with Others by Brian W. Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman (O’Reilly Media, 2012). It’s very entertaining reading and addresses expanding circles of influence, from your own team to the organization to the user community.

A few years back,  Michael Lopp wrote the insightful and humorous book, Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager (Apress, 2007). Michael gives practical advice for many of the situations that recur in software development. He names some of the types of people you’ll run across – such as Mr. Irrelevant, Laptop Larry, Curveball Kurt, the Snake, and Free Electrons. Cleverly written, full of useful homilies.

What all of these books have in common is the practical experience of the authors, who have lived what they are writing about.  They share illustrative stories that those who follow in their footsteps will easily relate to.

De-coding How People Work

As an outsider who can’t code my way out of a paper bag, I have been taking a different approach for the past few decades of working as a consultant, coach, and facilitator for high tech companies.  Programmers understand the structure, or syntax, that is required for code to work. I have studied the structure, or syntax, that is required for human communication to work.

What I have discovered is that the smart people who know how to code have an easier time learning interpersonal skills when they have access to the proper syntax for communicating. Hundreds of engineers have experienced and applied the SYNTAX model to their workplaces. People who considered themselves non-people-oriented have shown that with several relatively small changes in their communication, they can achieve great improvements in their working relationships.

This is not about sentence structure or grammar. If you consider that people are pretty systematic in how we organize our perceptions and our behavior, it makes sense that you can detect each person’s syntax, and hence, get more predictable results with them. There’s also a structure, a syntax derived from studying outstanding performers, that makes communication work better. Our model, SYNTAX, represents that architecture so that people can easily learn it.

It’s explained in detail in the book Smart Work, which I co-authored with Lisa Marshall. If you are interested in getting a look at it, or even writing a review, please contact me at syntaxoffice@syntx.com and I will gladly share it with you.

Smart Leadership

When leaders in an organization start practicing SYNTAX principles, or some of the other excellent suggestions in the books listed above, they create a climate where it is much more natural for others to collaborate productively as well. It’s a matter of good design of human systems – whether writing effective, clean code for applications that will benefit people, or holding effective, clean meetings where work gets done and agreements are solid, it’s about designing intelligent human systems.

Whether through the stories and rules of the road derived from experience, or through applying a systematic, structured approach to interpersonal behavior, everyone benefits when a technical organization develops its conscious competence at communicating.

Engineering is about solving real-world problems and creating innovations that make a difference.  It takes smart people working well together to do this successfully. With smart people, smart leadership, and outstanding communication, you get happy customers. That, plus your satisfaction at meeting your own high standards, makes it worthwhile to master the softer skills.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lucy Freedman is Founder and CEO of Syntax for Change, working with change leaders in technology companies to spread collaborative leadership throughout their organizations and to their strategic partners. Lucy has trained and certified both internal and external facilitators who have implemented Syntax programs in companies such as Agilent, HP, Sun, Oracle, EDS, Tokyo Electron, Intel, National Semiconductor, and Cisco Systems. Visit SyntaxforChange.com for an explanatory video and to request a complimentary sample chapter of Smart Work: The Syntax Guide to Influence. Direct email is lucy@syntaxforchange.com.

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Sharing Is Caring: How Coworking Is Changing How We Work by Chrissy Gomez

Originally Published on http://www.mbacentral.org/coworking/

As traditional office settings become less and less common, shared office spaces — also known as coworking — are becoming more popular. Startups in particular are turning to coworking arrangements to save on some of the initial cost of doing business.

What Is Coworking?

What is it? A style of work that involves a common working environment, typically an office, but where activity is independent. Unlike a traditional office, those in a coworking environment aren’t usually employed by the same company.
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Are You Ready? by Amy Walker

(First Published at http://amywalkerconsulting.com/blog/ on April 27, 2015)
Amy Walker Pic

Want to know what almost stopped me from starting my company?

I am not a fan of the solo-preneur business model.  Gasp!!! Did I just say that?  To thousands of small business owners?  Many of whom are solo-preneurs?

Absolutely!  There is one major flaw in the solo-preneur model and it’s YOU!  Your time and availability limits your income potential.  Your knowledge and skill set limits your income potential.  Your mental and emotional capacity limits your income potential.  Your scarcity thinking limits your income potential.  YOU limit your income potential.  Not because you are a flawed human being, but because you are a human being.  You are not perfect.  You get overwhelmed. You run out of time.  And you have strengths in certain areas of your business while you are deficient in others.

I’m not being mean, I’m being honest. I know it because the same is true in my business, and in the hundreds of other business owners I coach.

To get past the solo-preneur hump, you have to hire!  Hiring scares a lot of people.  And I understand why.  It is time consuming and expensive.  No one you hire will do it just like you do it.  No one will care as much about your business as you do.  And when they mess up, it effects your business.  It can be scary.  In fact so scary, that I almost sabotaged my company before it even started.

2.5 years ago, I was an independent contractor working for an amazing training and personal development company.  I had a great job.  I had great paychecks and I loved the people I worked with.  BUT, I was getting ready to have my 5th son and I knew it was time for me to have more time freedom and to stop hiding behind someone else’s brand.  But I did not, under any circumstances want to run a team of people.  I wanted to do it all myself.  In fact, I remember consulting with a friend, who is also a genius in business, and asking, “Can I do this and really be successful if I never hire more than 3 people?”  His answer was “Sure, why not!”

He lied.  We’ve talked about it since and he lied on purpose.  Thank Heavens he did or I might never have started my company. He knew I was limiting myself and my companies potential.

I really believe that to get beyond 6 figures you have to hire help. In fact for some businesses, you will have to hire help to even get to 6 figures.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you see if you need help now, and where you need it!

  1. Is my time maxed out? If your time is maxed out, you don’t have room to increase your income.
  2. Could I handle the workload if I doubled my income this month? If the answer is no, you will not be able to hit those types of numbers. Even if you got there, you would not be able to maintain those clients.
  3. What areas of my business are not getting done because I either don’t know how to do it, or don’t have time to do it? Notice I did not ask what is not getting done because you are scared of it or avoiding it.  If that is your reason, I say get over it and just do it!  But if you really don’t know how or don’t have time, you need help in those areas.
  4. If you could free up 10 hours a week for more income producing activities, how much more income could you bring in? If that number is more than you would pay someone to take 10 hours off of your plate, it makes sense to hire.

I’ve definitely had challenges in working with my team.  But the challenges are small compared to the rewards.  If I was trying to do everything myself, I think I would have maxed out at $50,000-75,000 a year.  I have 5 kids.  My time is limited, and if I had stayed a solo-preneur, I guarantee my vision for the company would have remained limited.  My team is what inspired me to see my company on a bigger scale.  My team is what helped me to hit 6 figures my first year.  My team is what drove my sales to an over 400% increase our second year in business.  My team is what makes it so I never give up, even on the hard days.  And my team is who supports me and makes me feel like I am never alone in this journey.

Are you ready to retire the many hats you wear in business and start hiring?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Walker is an International Executive Business Coach and CEO/Founder of Amy Walker Consulting.  As a Featured Professional Speaker she has shared the stage with some of the top names in the industry including Willie Jolley and Delatorro L. McNeal II.  Amy is a Master of Sales and has written sales scripts for billion dollar companies and organizations.  She has been regularly featured on television, radio, and print.  Amy is passionate about Women in Business, Making Businesses Thrive, and Balancing Business and Family.  She is the happily married mother of 5 boys.
Website: www.amywalkerconsulting.com
Facebook:  Amy Walker Consulting  – https://www.facebook.com/AmyWalkerConsulting
Twitter: @amywalkercoach – https://twitter.com/AmyWalkerCoach
Instagram: amywalkercoach – https://instagram.com/amywalkercoach/
Youtube:  Amy Walker Consulting – https://www.youtube.com/user/awalker2911
Linkedin: Amy Walker – www.linkedin.com/in/amywalkerconsulting

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Dr. Diane Pennica – 2014 DAA President’s Award Recipient

“Few people have such impressive careers as Dr. Diane Pennica! But what really impresses me about Diane is her humanity and her compassion for others. She is an inspiring world-changer whom I am proud to call a close personal friend.” – Kimberly Wiefling

Dr. Diane Pennica received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the State University of New York at Fredonia, her Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island, and did a post-doctoral fellowship at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology.

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Valerie’s Magical Success Tool by Jacky Hood

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Jacky Hood

At the 10-year college class reunion, everyone is gathered around Valerie: happily married with children in school, a highly successful realtor, published author, recently elected to the city council, invited to join a prestigious social club, fit, healthy, and relaxed. Plagued by the green-eyed jealousy monster, a classmate blurts out: “What is the magical tool that makes you so successful?” After assuring everyone that they are also successful, Valerie answers: “I have had and still have great mentors”.

Mentors are magical! They provide a golden thread to the future. Throughout a career – and a lifetime – it is critical to seek out mentors and to be a mentor to others.

Sometimes we ask why two people with apparently similar knowledge, skill, and talent fare much differently in their careers and in their communities and beyond. Often the more successful person has great mentors.

Mentors provide advice and feedback. They can also open doors by making introductions and providing references for education admissions, employment, professional associations, and social organizations.

Rarely does a single mentor suffice throughout a lifetime. An older sibling, cousin, or neighbor may be an excellent mentor for a middle school student. Near the end of high school, a college student or new college grad provides much-needed assistance in making the agonizing post-high school choices: college, employment, military, travel, volunteer work. If college is the route, the mentor can assist in deciding where and how to apply for admission, choosing between local schools or incurring greater debt at a remote residential institution, choosing a major, joining a Greek society or remaining independent, selecting extra-curricular activities, living on or off campus, and whether or not to work part-time during college.

Education today is seldom the traditional four years at a single institution. Most students transfer at least once. Many take time off and require many years to acquire a degree. Some pick up credits from online classes. An education mentor not associated with any particular school is needed.

After college, mentors assist in the critical first years of a career and far beyond. One very successful Silicon Valley firm assigns executive mentors to managers in their 50’s!

How Possible Mentors are Identified

A few employers assign mentors to new-hires, at least those considered to be on a fast-track to advancement. Usually, however, the mentee must ask someone for mentoring. Choosing a mentor and making the request require homework and skill. The would-be mentee needs to identify a few possible paths to success or visions of success. Then she should look for people in positions along the route to that successful goal.

For example, if a graduate student would like to eventually be a Nobel prize-winning scientist, he is unlikely to find a Nobel laureate as a mentor. Instead a successful researcher who has received grants and published papers would be a good choice.

Similarly, a new-graduate aspiring to the executive suite in a corporation, might choose a mid-level manager as a mentor. The mentor and mentee may move up the organization together, or the mentee may reach the same level as the mentor and need to seek out a new, higher-level mentor.

How Mentees Convince Someone to Become Their Mentor

Many mentor-mentee relationships evolve and are never formalized. The future mentor offers some advice, then the mentee shows gratitude and follows up with the results. The second encounter may be a request for advice. Later the mentor spots an opportunity and calls it to the attention of the mentee. The relationship lasts for years without ever using the word ‘mentor’.

Some mentoring relationships start as manager/employee relationships. Law clerks typically become mentees of the attorney or judge for whom they clerk. Graduate students become mentees of their thesis advisors.

Success-seekers who are not assigned to a mentor or in a natural mentoring relationship need to ask for a mentoring relationship. Two ways to ask: (1) through an intermediary who knows both the requestor and the possible mentor, and (2) directly. There should be no fear in taking the direct approach; being sought out as a mentor is a confirmation of success. Also, mentors derive many benefits from the relationship.

The possible mentor may hesitate only out of modesty and/or because of concerns about the time commitment. The mentee should request a monthly or quarterly face-to-face or telephone meeting of about 40 minutes, occasional questions between meetings, and for the mentor to be on the outlook for opportunities. Most possible mentors will say yes; the first meeting should be set up immediately. Usually the mentor provides far more time than the mentee has requested. If the possible mentor refuses, the mentee should show gratitude for considering the request and ask the person to recommend someone else.

In today’s electronically connected world, mentors may be geographically separate from their mentees. Also, online mentor-mentee matching services have emerged. Open Doors Group operates a mentor matching service. Because of a generous donation by MentorCloud, Inc., there is no cost for mentors or mentees and contact information for an invitation appears on the portal page. This post provides more information about the service.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jacky Hood, is FieldDay Solutions, Inc. CEO, Open Doors Group Director of Alliances and Sponsorships, and an Account Manager at RightWave, Inc. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering and patents on parallel processors. Jacky has published several books including Happy About Working to Stay Young: Expanded Careers for Boomers and Seniors. She and her husband Dave enjoy listening to chamber music and large vocal works, reading, hiking, and travelling.

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Helping “Scrappy Women” Achieve Their Dreams by Kimberly Wiefling

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As a woman studying chemistry and physics at Wright State University in the early 1980s, gender bias was somewhat of an unknown to Kimberly Wiefling.

“I was treated with so much dignity and respect and included equally and fairly, I never even perceived that there was a gender issue,” she said.

Wiefling would face a completely different reality following her 1984 graduation from Wright State.

In graduate school and the high-tech world of Silicon Valley, Wiefling quickly realized that women were not always welcome at the table. It’s a blemish on corporate America she still sees today.

“I know from research that companies that have higher participation rates of women in their leadership and senior executive ranks make more money. There’s really a financial benefit to companies that do include more women, and yet, there’s still a bias,” Wiefling explained. “My intention is to help eliminate that bias. Let’s have women participating and contributing equally.”

After spending 10 years at Hewlett Packard followed by a few turns at several startup companies, Wiefling founded her own company, Wiefling Consulting, in 2001. Today, business is booming, with much of it coming from Japan, where Wiefling travels almost monthly to advise Japanese companies on global leadership and management.

In addition to her consulting business, Wiefling is the author of two out of the five guides in her Scrappy About series of books, including Scrappy Project Management and Scrappy Women in Business: Living Proof that Bending the Rules Isn’t Breaking the Law.

Wiefling co-wrote Scrappy Women in Business with 11 of her “scrappy gal pals” to describe their real-life experiences as women in the world of business. It also inspired the name for a scholarship Wiefling has established at Wright State the Scrappy Women Scholarship Fund.

The granddaughter of a coalminer and daughter of a welder, Wiefling was determined to achieve a college degree despite her lack of financial means. Following her high school graduation, Wiefling entered the military so she could attend college on the GI Bill. Scholarships also helped pay for her education.

Wiefling hopes the Scrappy Women Scholarship Fund will help women from similar backgrounds who may think a college education is out of their reach.

“I’d like to make that possible for some woman who comes from that kind of scrappy, hardworking family,” she said.

The scholarship is also a means for Wiefling to give back.

“None of us made it to where we are today without help,” she said. “We got here through the help and generosity of many other people. It’s our responsibility to continue that flow of generosity.”

Wiefling was initially surprised to find out that it only takes a small financial commitment to establish a scholarship. To fully fund the scholarship, she has made a bequest in her will where a percentage of her estate will come to the university. Wiefling, however, has already endowed the fund with current gifts so she can provide one scholarship a year to a worthy student.

“No matter how much you have, you can always share something with people who don’t have as much,” Wiefling explained. “What brings real happiness is not the money or the wealth itself, but the ability to share it with other people.”

ABOUT the AUTHOR:
Kimberly Wiefling is the founder of Wiefling Consulting, LLC, a scrappy enterprise enabling individuals, teams and organizations to achieve results that seem out of reach or nearly impossible through leadership and project management excellence. Vigorously scrappy, she reemerged, consulting on leadership and project management worldwide – from Armenia, to Tokyo, to the Silicon Valley. Kimberly is the executive editor of The Scrappy Guides®, a regular contributor to the “Project Connections” newsletter, (70,000+ subscribers weekly), and her radio show, “The Scrappy Dialogues®”, airs occasionally on www.wiefling.com, and she is the lead blogger at www.SVProjectManagement.net.

 

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LOST IN TRANSLATION – WORKING WITH GLOBAL TEAMS

At a recent panel discussion I moderated on the topic, A Business Case for Diversity, the panel discussed the importance of the strategic value that global teams offer, and the challenges that business leaders face as they strive to leverage technology and communication platforms to conduct business globally. Clearly, we can acknowledge the upside of working in global teams – as our local U.S. team sleeps at night, there could be a global team working diligently elsewhere in their normal business hours, maximizing productivity literally round the clock. However, managing and working with global teams present geographic, logistical, linguistic, as well as cultural and diversity considerations. Within the diversity aspect, the role that women play in global teams can vary from culture to culture; as a business leader, you have an opportunity to draw participation from women on your global team. Being unaware of communication, cultural and other nuances could challenge team relationships and project execution. It is essential to have in place a strategy that builds cultural and other diversity awareness, builds understanding and collaboration through team building, and builds communication and active listening methods to avoid confusion and conflict.

Consider the following best practices:

1. Make global teams on both sides aware of the overall objectives, the scope of the project and deliverables. Make all sides aware of the process and the desired results. Further, why is working globally essential to the project’s success, and is this purpose clear to your local and global teams? How will your global team positively impact the organization’s success and how will you communicate this benefit to all teams?

2. Understand labor and employment laws in your global team’s country. Your company’s Human Resources and Legal departments may be able to assist in building this awareness. By educating yourself on any labor and employment factors, you can identify potential legal risks.

3. Wherever possible, bring the teams physically together. If this is not feasible, at least ensure that your local U.S. project leader visits your global team. Learning about the offshore work environment can help transition global team interaction as well as identify any potential project limitations. Conversely, if members of your global team are able to visit, be sensitive to any logistical, cultural and dietary concerns.

4. Be flexible to working with your global team’s time zone. Your willingness to meet the other team half-way on logistical grounds helps establish your good faith. However, be aware that a subordinate contractual relationship between global teams can sometimes establish who accommodates whose time zone.

5. Begin the project by building cultural awareness. Educate each side about respective cultures, traditions and holidays. Kickoff with a global team building activity using video conferencing or a Skype call. Find ways to discover and exchange fun facts about each person through virtual games. Talk about hobbies, holidays and other personal interests to find common ground. Encourage women team members to share as women from some cultures may tend to be quieter, particularly in mixed gender settings. Team members with shared common interests can be encouraged to follow up to further strengthen their relationships. Consider having women from the local U.S. team proactively reach out to their women peers in the global team; or, if there are no women on the local U.S. team, leverage your position as business or project leader to reach out.

6. Get to know your teams’ behavioral styles. Using personality tests such as Myers Briggs can identify any possible conflicting behavioral styles. Consider having a communication workshop to help your teams be better equipped at handling any differences. When necessary, remind women team members that you seek participation from all members.

7. Foster good multicultural communication best practices.

(a) Educate yourself and local U.S. team members in basic greetings in the global team’s native language. Most can easily learn common phrases such as “Please”, “Thank You”, “You’re welcome”, and “Goodbye”. Cultural differences may be diffused simply by showing people from other cultures that you are willing to understand them and communicate in their language. In fact, your willingness to stumble over foreign phrases may help lift any language or cultural barriers from non-native English speakers as they communicate in English as a foreign language.

(b) Speak English slowly as non-native English speakers may have difficulty following fast English speech. Use standard, grammatically correct English – avoid idiomatic or colloquial phrases that have origins in local U.S. popular culture. This is of utmost importance as people from other countries may be unaware of idiomatic expressions that have no cultural reference elsewhere. Avoid using phrases such as: “meeting minutes”, “wild goose chase”, “stay tuned”, “hold on”, “foot in the mouth”, “knee jerk reaction” and the like.

8. Use meeting facilitation best practices. Email detailed meeting agendas and important points prior to a meeting as this provides an opportunity for your global team members to digest the discussion topics in written form. Most non-native English speakers are stronger in written rather than oral communication so a written preface presents an advance opportunity to prepare for a meeting. After a meeting, send out detailed meeting notes to summarize the discussion and indicate action items, deliverables and persons responsible for deliverables. Additionally, consider providing follow up opportunities such as using online discussion boards to make communication and interaction easier for your teams.

9. A final women-oriented best practice: when conducting meetings, call on your women team members to elicit their participation. Some women may not speak up unless called upon, so use your empowerment as a business or project leader to build open communication across genders.

Global teams, when managed effectively, can prove to be a significant competitive advantage. Following global communication and other remote project management best practices ensures your success in working with global teams, and enables these interactions to become profitable business opportunities for your company.

ABOUT the AUTHOR: Radhika Emens is CEO and Founder of Tanjah Partners, a global marketing consultancy focused on helping companies bridge global markets. Radhika is a global marketing strategist who enjoys working on and solving business problems. She has worked in companies of various sizes and industries, and as an entrepreneur. She has a diverse background in developing marketing programs, and looks for ways to cross-pollinate ideas, systems and critical thinking processes across industries. She has an MBA from Chapman University, CA and an B.A. from Bryn Mawr College, PA. Born in India and raised in Morocco, she speaks 8 languages, and is passionate about all things global.

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