Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat Leadership

This... is... classic. A Halloween leadership bonus.

If you didn't see or hear Mike Singletary's post-game conference last week: it's must-see TV.
Mike is the new coach of the San Francisco 49ers. In his first game as coach, he sent one of his own players to the showers.

Some of my favorite quotes from the press conference.
  • "It will change"
  • "We hit people in the mouth, number one."
  • "Number two: We cannot give them the game"
  • "Number three: We execute"
  • "I will not tolerate players that think it's about them when it's about the team"
  • "Cannot play with them. Cannot win with them. Cannot coach with them... Can't do it."

As a leader, is this 'trick'? Or 'treat'?
He's positive. He's got clear values.
He's got a mission and vision.

And he scares everyone in the room...

So, what do you think? Trick or Treat?
Personally, I'd love to play for this guy...

Great Books at Bargain Prices

I get nothing for this...

But, I'm filling in my Peter Drucker collection at, and found that a number of my most frequently recommended business (and related) books are available at great prices.
So, I'm passing along the news:

How to build Relationships in a Virtual Team? Table Topics

I found this in Sonoma, in a gift shop at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa. I bought it immediately.

One of the challenges with distributed teams is that you never have the 'little' conversations that build rapport.

Conversations like:
"Is golf a sport?"
"A burger cannot be made of tofu."
Or "How would I look with a beard?"

A recommendation I often make to virtual teams is to ask a 'get to know you' question at the start of every staff meeting. This sounds good in practice, but eventually you run out of questions.

Well, that's no longer a problem.
TableTopics sells box sets with 135 questions for US$25.
Buy a box. My suggestion is to get the 'original version' for your team, expense it, and start using it.

I did this exercise with my peers and learned about the strangest weather that Henry, our learning partner in Taiwan, ever saw.
He went into a factory in China on a cloudy day and worked all day. When he left, something was different, but he couldn't put his finger on it. Suddenly, he noticed that everything was white and realized that this was snow! He'd never seen it before.

I've known Henry for years, but had never heard this story.
You learn just as much from how someone tells a story as from the story itself.

Get to know your teammates (you might learn something).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

No Shortcuts in Life?

My colleague Ken and I led a presentation workshop over the past two days. Anytime I participate in this class, one thing becomes obvious to me:

Whoever coined the oft-repeated phrase, "there are no shortcuts in life" was either stupid or lying.

For better or worse, there can be no question that presentation skills are one shortcut in life.

We've all known people who are really smart but can't present their ideas. Chances are they didn't get very far.
We also know people who aren't so smart, but can make a great presentation. Bet they got pretty far, huh?
The goal, of course, is to achieve both.

If you watch videos by famous scientists and researchers, you'll be surprised how many of them can give a good speech. Even the biggest geeks in the group can tell a good story and get his or her message across. 
Watch Richard Feynman, Francis Collins, or Buckminster Fuller to see what I mean.

I don't think that this is an accident.
They had to get funding. They had to get their ideas heard.
That wouldn't have happened if they couldn't communicate.

Here's Richard Feynman, a great storyteller (and Nobel Prize winner)

Next time you think that presenting is a pain in the butt, think again.
It may be just the shortcut you're looking for.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Almost Useless Learning #1: Crab Hunting


I've never shaken the desire to catch animals and examine them.
As a kid, we used to climb into the swamps and marshes of upstate New York to catch insects for my friend Bob's terrarium.

I don't climb into swamps anymore, but I still like catching small critters.
Snakes are one of my favorites to catch and hold. They are amazing creatures.

Snake, Pt. Reyes National Seashore, California

Snakes are cool, but Angie will tell you how much I love catching geckos, lizards, and salamanders.
Whenever I see one, something primal in me is triggered.
Angie gets embarrassed when we're in a nice restaurant in Hawaii, Bali or Thailand and I spot a gecko.
"No," she says. "Stay seated."
I do, but barely...

Catch of the Day - Bintan Island, Indonesia

I don't know any secrets for catching snakes or geckos.
I mean, sure, you can use a net, or one of those handled thingys that Jeff Corwin uses to catch snakes.
But I'm not a pro, so I don't have those tools on hand.
I just run, chase, crawl, grab and catch.

In January, we were in India at Fisherman's Cove, south of Chennai.
The beach there is crawling with crabs, day and night.

In the day it's red crabs, at night it's ghost crabs.
I went out one night to get a closer view of the ghost crabs, but they're just too damn fast.
Sprinting, reaching, grabbing - they were always a step and half in front of me.

At one point, I reached for a crab and got a handful of sand. Frustrated, I threw it at the crab.
As the sand covered the crab, he just sat down. I guess he thought he was now underground and safe. Surprised, I just walked over and picked him up.

I tried it again on a different crab. Same result. Toss a handful of sand on them and they just sit down and let you pick them up (not that they're happy about it - they will try to pinch you!).

It's almost embarrassing how proud I was (and am) of this discovery.
I had to bring Angie out and show her.

I don't know if this method works on other types of crabs.
I haven't had a chance to test the method elsewhere, but it works on Chennai ghost crabs!

I'm sure there are a couple of practical business lessons here,

  • the value of perseverance
  • being open to accidental successes
  • necessity as the mother of invention
  • that the point of frustration is often the point of innovation

but I just wanted to tell you how to catch crabs!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What Are My Strengths?

The Strengths Grid

For the past few years, Marcus Buckingham has been trying to change the definitions of 'strength' and 'weakness'.
The old definition of a strength was 'something you're good at'. Marcus says it's 'something that strengthens you'.
The old definition of a weakness was 'something you're not good at'. Marcus says it's 'something that weakens you'.

I side with Marcus. I think his definitions are great, and useful. 
But I'm also a realist... It's not likely that we'll be able to throw out the old definition, particularly in the business environment. So, I think we need both definitions. 
Above, I've created a 2x2 matrix, with the traditional definition of strengths and weaknesses on the left and Marcus' definitions on the bottom.

It's pretty simple:
  • If you're not good at something and it weakens you - run!
    Don't do it. Only an idiot would ask you to.
  • If you're not good at something and it strengthens you - it's either a hobby or something you're in training for.
    If it's a hobby, no one will pay you to do it, but do it anyway... it's fun and you'll grow.
    If it's a training situation, keep working at it.
  • If you're good at it, and it strengthens you - Wow! That's perfect.
    You should seek those opportunities. And your company should want you to be here.
  • If you're good at it, and it weakens you - that's a 'leverage skill'.
    You can trade this for 'Wow' or 'Hobby/Training' tasks, just like a Hollywood actor who makes a crappy romantic comedy in exchange for a green light on his independent film.

Exercise: Take your work activities and plot them on this grid.
How does your grid look? Like most 2x2's, you want to be 'high and to the right'.

Your company should be motivated to keep you in the 'good at it'  boxes.
You should be motivated to stay in the '
strengthens me'  boxes.
Hopefully you can work with your manager to satisfy both, and stay in the Wow box...

Links of Interest:

Monday, October 27, 2008

What Leadership is Not...

(thoughts triggered by watching TV)

Crying 'fire' is not leadership.
Pointing fingers is not leadership.
Invoking the boogieman is not leadership.
Color-coding danger is not leadership.
Screaming about the perils of everyday life on the 11 o'clock news is not leadership.

You can run away from danger for a short time. That's good sense.
But it's not leadership. It's evacuation.

Eventually, you have to stopping running away... and start running towards... something.
Without a vision or destination, when you stop running, you're lost.

That's what leadership is - defining the destination.
Fear sells, but leadership isn't salesmanship. Don't confuse the two.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What Can You Tell From Peoples' Stuff?

I love looking at people's stuff...

First, I go look at their bookshelf. Second, the CD and DVD collections. Then, I look at art and collectibles.
And, of course, I make guesses about people and their personalities, based on what they have and don't have.
Who doesn't?

Earlier today, I reviewed Sam Gosling's "Snoop: What your stuff says about you".
While the book struck me as a bit of a lost opportunity, Gosling's framework for investigating peoples' stuff is useful.
  1. identity claims - objects that identify who we are, or want to think we are. These could include the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, music we listen to, or posters on our walls. These can also be outward-facing, so others can identify us; or inward-facing, so we can maintain our identity.
  2. feeling regulators - objects that help us maintain a mood . These could be photos of loved ones, inspirational posters, artwork, or incense.
  3. behavioral residue - the 'things between the things' - like teapots that are never used, as opposed to teapots that are never cleaned.

I decided to 'snoop' on myself, as an example.
Here's a photo of one bookshelf in my room. Click on the photo, study it, and see what you can guess about me.

First let's identify the items (left to right):
  • Top Shelf: Japanese Fine Art Kokeshi (wooden doll), Frank Lloyd Wright quote paperweight, Thai brass musician figures on a bamboo mat.
  • Second Shelf: Bronze Korean Buddhist gong, South American rattles, South African thumb piano.
  • Third Shelf: African percussion gourd, Hawaiian ukulele, Gourd thumb piano, plastic recorder
  • Bottom Shelf: A lot of books, most of which are business books, with training and coaching books in the mix.
  • A Trumpet also appears to the left of the bookcase.

What can we tell?
  1. identity claims - Well, this stuff says that I'm a musician, or want to be. It also says that that I travel and have an affinity for Asia. And that I 'm involved with business, training, and coaching.
  2. feeling regulators - It appears that I want to be reminded of the places I've traveled.
  3. behavioral residue - There are two things you cannot see here: First, there's dust on the instruments, indicating that they aren't often played. Second, the ukulele is in tune, which indicates that it is played by someone, making it more likely that it is not just decorative. A number of the books have bookmarks in them, indicating that the books get read, but not completely. Is it a reference library?

Did you find any other clues?

Sam Gosling uses this information to determine a person's personality.
Using the "Big 5" personality traits:
  • Openness: Close-minded to Open to New Experiences
  • Conscientiousness: Disorganized to Conscientious
  • Extroversion: Introverted to Extroverted
  • Agreeableness: Disagreeable to Agreeable
  • Neuroticism: Calm/Relaxed to Nervous/High-Strung

Where do you think I place on each continuum, based on the above photo?
After you make your guesses, look at my results on the 'Big 5' scale for comparison.

How did you do?
Now, go forward and Snoop!!

Book Review: Snoop

When I saw this book at Borders, it immediately got my attention.

I often refer to myself as an 'amateur anthropologist'. Living overseas for ten years forces you to watch people closely, since language often fails.

Besides, who doesn't like to snoop?
We all make judgements about people based on what's in their office, apartment, or car.
But we don't know how accurate or inaccurate those judgements are, until we get to know them better.

This book offers to help us make better assessments.

Title: "Snoop: What your stuff says about you"
Author: Sam Gosling
Genre: Psychology
Summary: "what we would find if we look at your belongings."

Favorite Quote: Instead of quotes, I'll share Gosling's three broad 'mechanisms of space'. These are the clues we should be looking at:
  1. identity claims - objects that identify who we are, or want to think we are. These could include the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, music we listen to, or posters on our walls.
  2. feeling regulators - objects that help us maintain a mood . These could be photos of loved ones, inspirational posters, artwork, or incense.
  3. behavioral residue - the 'things between the things' - like teapots that are never used, as opposed to teapots that are never cleaned.

- These three distinctions were very interesting to me. There were some excellent examples and quite a bit of additional information.
Weaknesses - I was excited by the first chapter, but all the distinctions were declared in the first 11 pages. I kept waiting for some kind of 'procedure' for looking at an office or a bedroom, but it never came.

Conclusion: I'd recommend browsing this in your local library. The subject is interesting, but it didn't deliver the depth I expected. Gosling delivered the 'what?' and the 'so what?', but we never got the 'now what?'.

Post-it Flags: 15 flags
* Each time I find an interesting quote, model, image, or idea in a book, I mark it with a Post-it flag. The more flags, the more value I found in the book.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Learning Culture Through Music: the brilliant green

One of my favorite ways to learn a culture is through its music.
In California, where all of my classes are multi-cultural, it's a great ice-breaker to have Hindi-pop or Okinawan folk music pop up during a break.

There's a lot of disposable pop made in Japan, but there is also some very good music.
The Boom, Cocco, Chara, and Nagabuchi all rank high on my list, but the brilliant green is right there as well.
Time magazine named them one of the best bands in the world a few years ago.

the brilliant green answers the musical question, "What would happen if you combined a Japanese girl raised on The Bangles with two Japanese guys raised on Seattle Grunge?"

So, you might ask, how does watching this video help to learn culture?
Here are some reflection questions... feel free to post your responses!
  1. Would the title "Ash Like Snow" have resonance with a Japanese audience? Explain why or why not in 500-750 words.
  2. Read this previous post on Japan's culture of 'kawaii'. Identify at least three 'kawaii' aspects of this video. 
  3. Can you identify a band or artist in the US that would offer parallels to the brilliant green?Compare /contrast the brilliant green with US performers in 750 - 1000 words.
  4. the brilliant green are also known to their fans as 'buri-guri'. Discuss the brilliant green's use of English, using their band name as one discussion point.
  5. Extra credit for question 4 - Discuss the phrase, "I'm feeling myself again" from the video "Tsumetai Hana".

Friday, October 24, 2008

Weird isn't Good.... Weird isn't Great... Weird is Mandatory!

In his speech that's captured on the DVD "Tom Peters Live: Re-imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age", Tom is adamant that we need to surround ourselves with the lunatic fringe. 

Everything important comes from the edge... not the middle.

His comments reminded me... a couple months ago, in Pt. Reyes Station, I bought a book. The cover caught my eye - like seeing a familiar face in an airport. Not quite a friend, just something confusingly familiar. 

Oh, yeah... I remember you, I thought. It was the art of Lynda Barry. I remembered her art from 'underground' newspapers in the late 80's, early 90's - before I moved to Asia.

She was in the same papers that carried pre-Simpsons Matt Groening's strip "Life in Hell". I loved Life in Hell. Lynda's work however, freaked me out a little. Still, I found myself compelled to read it every week - like looking at a traffic accident.

Anyway, I bought the book. And guess what? It's incredible.
Did she change? Or did I change?
Maybe my years in Japan opened me to her approach?
Does it matter? I wonder...

Here are five lines from the book that particularly grabbed me:
  • "The thing I call 'my mind' seems to be kind of like a landlord that doesn't really know its tenants"
  • "What year is it in your imagination?"
  • "Something can only become an illusion after disillusionment. Before that, it is something real."
  • "What do drawing, singing, dancing, music making, handwriting, playing, story writing, acting, remembering, and even dreaming all have in common? They come about when a certain person in a certain place in a certain time arranges certain uncertainties into certain form."
  • "I believe this happens to most of us. We are still singing, but secretly and all alone."

Buy this book for the art. Buy this book for the writing. 
Buy this book to free your mind. Buy this book because it frightens you. 
Frankly, I don't care why you buy this book.
But... buy this book...

Wisdom from the Tao Teh Ching

I occasionally like to wander through Lao Tzu's "Tao Te Ching".

Two passages always stand out to me.
By not exalting the talented you will cause the people to cease from rivalry and contention.
By not prizing goods hard to get, you will cause the people to cease from robbing and stealing.
By not displaying what is desirable, you will cause the people's hearts to remain undisturbed
When I read this, I always think of Japan.
I see Japan as one of the least status-conscious of countries.
Though they like to buy designer names, it's in an effort to fit in with a fad; rather than to stand apart from the crowds.

And it does seem to leave them with 'undisturbed hearts'.

As for the second passage -

Wherever armies are stationed, thorny bushes grow.
After a great war, bad years invariably follow.

What you want is to protect efficiently your own state, but not to aim at self-aggrandisement.

After you have attained your purpose, you must not parade your success, you must not boast of your ability, you must not feel proud.
You must rather regret that you had not been able to prevent the war.

You must never think of conquering others by force. For to be
over-developed is to hasten decay,
And this is against Tao,

And what is against Tao will soon cease to be.

Written more than 2000 years ago...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Trying to Keep Up with Tom Peters

Today, we started a new 'lunch and learn' program in our cafeteria.

Tom Peters, 65 years young, has more energy than three 20 year-olds. And more anarchy, too! At $29.99, there is absolutely no reason for you to not experience Tom Peters. 

The ultimate management provocateur, Tom cannot go ten minutes without challenging the status quo. Whether he's refuting Jim Collins, ripping on MBA programs, or mocking Old White Male Syndrome - Tom certainly doesn't mince words.

We had 25 or so attendees, a lot of laughter, and even more nodding heads.

Here are three great take-aways from the presentation (Tom likes to quote others).
  • Reward excellent failures. Punish mediocre successes.” - Phil Daniels, Sydney Exec
  • The ‘surplus society’ has a surplus of similar companies, employing similar people, with similar educational backgrounds, coming up with similar ideas, producing similar things, with similar prices and similar quality.” - Kjell Nordstrom and Jonas Ridderstrale, Funky Business
  • Michelangelo: “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

2009 Visual Thinking Conference in San Jose

Here's the ad for VizThink 09 in San Jose.

Besides being a good advertisement, it creates a useful graphic vocabulary for the disciplines of Visual Thinking.

VizThink takes place in February and I will certainly be there.
I missed last year's event, as I was in India, but this year I'm scheduling around it.

Hopefully, I'll see you there!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Build Better Slides with Nancy Duarte's slide:ology

That's me stealing valuable camera space from Nancy

Author Nancy Duarte facilitated most of the session, and injected it with obvious passion.

Using "An Inconvenient Truth" and the TED conferences as examples, Nancy believes that Power Point and Keynote can change the world. By the end of the session, she'll have you believing as well!

This 'one-day degree' in design is destined to become a 'must-see' in corporate training, so get ahead of the curve and ahead of your competition.

Whose Learning Is This Anyway?

Improvisation seems to be cropping up everywhere lately.

In my Masters program last week, my learning team delivered a presentation on "Improvisational Theater Games in Corporate Training".

Then, Angie and I spent an evening watching "Three-Headed Broadway Star" clips on YouTube, from "Whose Line is it Anyway".

Finally, we were brainstorming at work for a low cost team building event and agreed upon an improv workshop. I been wanted to facilitate such a session for quite a while. I'm looking forward to it.

Improv is a powerful tool for many reasons:
  1. It teaches "yes... and" thinking - you cannot reject an idea in improv
  2. It encourages teamwork and collaboration
  3. It encourages one to be present with all senses
  4. It builds the creative muscles
  5. It allows people to experience a 'safe' risk-taking environment
  6. Finally, laughter is a power emotion

What workgroup couldn't use a little of all the above?

Links of Interest:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Book Review: slide:ology

"slide:ology" is a recent release by Nancy Duarte of Duarte Designs - one of the worlds leading presentation design firms. Her team put together the presentation for Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth".
It's a beautifully designed book, as one might expect.

Title: "slide:ology"

Author: Nancy Duarte
Genre: Business, Communication, Design, Presentation
Summary: The book is subtitled "The art and science of creating great presentations". I would be more comfortable summarizing it as "the art of creating great presentation graphics".

Favorite Quotes:
  • "Data slides are not really about the data. They are about the meaning of the data."
  • "To succeed as a presenter, you must think like a designer."
  • "Help them see what you're saying."

  • I love the mindmapped 'Acknowledgments' page!
  • There's a great section on conceptual diagrams.
  • Plenty of case studies and 'before and after' examples.
  • Some fantastic suggestions for creating powerful movement in your slides.


  • Audience Analysis again gets the short end of the stick (4 pages out of 275). I haven't found a book yet that really addressed audience analysis properly.
  • There is quite a bit of information that would be considered esoteric by most business presenters (color wheels are one example)

Conclusion: Easily the best book available on slide design. Be aware that this book focuses more on visual presentation skills than on personal presentation skills. If that's what you're looking for (and trust me, you should be - I've seen your presentations or ones like them) then this book will definitely help you.

I'll be attending a seminar at Duarte Design tomorrow to practice these principles. I'll let you know how it goes!

Post-it Flags: 10 flags
* Each time I find an interesting quote, model, image, or idea in a book, I mark it with a Post-it flag. The more flags, the more value I found in the book.

Masters Update - Is it worth it?

Since July, I've been working on my Masters Degree in Adult Education and Training from the University of Phoenix. It's an online degree, which was important to me, given my travel and work schedules.

Three months and three classes have passed, so here's a status report.

I'm going to use Edward de Bono's PMI tool (Plus, Minus, and Interesting) for this report.

  • Convenience - I don't have to drive to school. All participation is online. The schedule is extremely flexible. I can attend anywhere, anytime.
  • Learning becomes a habit. You know the '21 days theory'? Do anything for 21 straight days and it will become a habit. I find online learning to be like that. Participation is required four days a week, but it's easier to log in for about 30 minutes everyday. It then becomes a habit.
  • Course Content - The content has been extremely interesting. I'm reading books I would never read (Action Learning), learning concepts I would never learn (ontological humility) and having discussions (text messaging in the classroom) thatI would never have.
  • Diversity - I'm getting to interface with a diverse audience of school teachers from all over the US. It's been very interesting to hear their challenges and passions.
  • Virtual Teams - I'm learning how to work on a virtual team - a critical skill.
  • Forums - I love answering questions in a forum. You have time to think, everyone participates, and you can go back to reread interesting questions and answers.
  • Access - to the University online library.


  • Not Business Focused - While I enjoy the presence of so many school teachers, there are not enough corporate students for my taste. The discussions often end up focusing on school issues.
  • Virtual Teams - It can be hard to work on the teams remotely. There have been a couple of frustrating moments when classmates dropped out or didn't do their work. But hey... that's just like 'real life'.

  • The Teaching Portfolio - We haven't used it yet, so I'm looking forward to seeing how it is applied.
  • Adaptation -Seeing how I've adapted to an online environment.
  • Presentations? Doing Power Points in an online environment. I'm very close to listing this as a negative, but I'll wait. It seems to be reinforcing the idea that Power Point is a suitable vehicle for emailing communication (hint: It's not!!).
    That idea isn't just wrong... it's dangerous... to business, anyway.

So, do I believe that spending time on this degree is worth it? So far... you bet!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Management to Leadership Continuum

One question comes up in every workshop I've done around management or leadership.
Is there a difference between management and leadership?
And if so, what is the difference?

I created a quick exercise I do at the start of each management/leadership  workshop I lead, or any time the question comes up in a group setting. Here are the steps:

  1. Draw a continuum from Management to Leadership across the top of a big whiteboard.
  2. Label the left side with the words ' job', 'tasks', 'characteristics', 'attributes', 'objectives'.
  3. Give all the participants Post-it Notes - about 5-7 per person is good.
  4. Ask them to list the tasks, attributes, and objectives of managers and leaders on the Post-it Notes. One idea per note. Give them 5 minutes or so. When the energy in the room dissipates, move to the next step.
  5. Ask the participants to place their Post-its on the continuum. If a task or attribute is purely management (in their view) put it to the left. Purely leadership goes to the right. If it's in-between, place it in-between. No right or wrong here.
  6. Bring the whole group to the board and look at the words. Allow 5-10 minutes for discussion. Why did some tasks get put at different spots across the continuum? Share perspectives. Any Post-its we don't understand? Clarify. What trends do we see? Is anything missing?
  7. This discussion is usually rich. Allow it time to develop.
  8. I now ask the participants to think about where they need to be, in their current role, on this continuum. I start at the left side and put my marker on the board (the red marker in the picture above). I ask the participants to raise their hands when i reach the point that they need to be. As I walk across the board, I draw the profile of the team.
  9. Then I ask them where there are today and walk across the board. Sometimes I draw the profile in another color. In this case, the participants agreed on the point where the red vertical line appears.
  10. Discuss the gap.

The picture above was taken at a 2-day management workshop I led in Yokohama, Japan in May.

Words like 'planning', 'scheduling', and 'time-management' show up to the left.
'Attracting talent' and 'mentoring' show up at the half-way point.
'Innovation', 'vision', and 'modeling' are to the right.

You can see from the red profile curve that this group of front-line and middle managers believes they need to be demonstrating the skills and characteristics that are between 25% and 75% on the continuum.
The red vertical line shows that they are currently at the 25% point.

A few observations:

  • As a facilitator, this exercise shows me how to calibrate the material for each audience. I know where they need me to focus and I can tie the subsequent topics back to this visual.
  • This curve changes by country, department, culture - even by time of year or business cycle.
  • A few years ago, most Japanese managers - even higher level ones - would have said that they needed to demonstrate manager skills and attributes. The history of Japanese business has been to follow process. That's changing. Managers are now expected to act more as 'leaders'. They have to (and want to) close the gap.

For broader audiences, you can extend this continuum to include Individual Contributor, Lead, and Supervisor and look at how skills and attributes change over a career.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What is Change?

Everything changes. It's just the way of things.

If you don't like the way it is now... wait... it'll be different soon.
Not better or worse - just different.

For example, now it's fall.
The parks are emptier.
The days are shorter.
And the squirrels are squirrelier.

In July, no squirrel at Alum Rock Park would come within 10 feet of us. I guess there were plenty of nuts around. They didn't need us.

This weekend, the squirrels were all around us.
This guy hoped I'd be sharing my jerky. He was wrong.

Woodpeckers were everywhere it seemed, chasing the Steller's Jays.
We enjoyed the noise and the action.
Because soon, it'll change.

The Truth About You

I'm an unrepentant pimp for Marcus Buckingham, his books, and his videos.

With "The Truth About You" Marcus continues what he calls the 'strengths revolution'.

This product combines messages from "Go Put Your Strengths to Work" with his videos from "Trombone Player Wanted" and updates both.

"The Truth About You" contains a book with Marcus' findings on strengths, a DVD with a newly edited version of the "Trombone Player" video, a notepad for tracking your strength-finding journey, and links to additional videos and support documents.

It's a nice package that would make an outstanding gift for anyone you know who is wondering, "What do I want to be when/if I grow up?"

Book Review: "Hard Optimism" by Price Pritchett

I’m a passionate advocate for the optimistic view of life.
In fact, I was 22 when I made the conscious decision to cut negative people out of my life.

So, if you haven’t heard from me since then, you now know why...

This book about optimism caught my eye at Stanford Bookstore, so I read it on a cross-country trip.

Title: "Hard Optimism"
Author: Price Pritchett
Genre(s): Business, Self-help
Summary: “How to Succeed in a World Where Positive Wins”

Favorite Quote:
  • “No sense being pessimistic. Wouldn’t work anyway." – Seen on a bumper sticker

Strengths: It’s a good looking book. Nice graphics. Feels good. The tone is conversational. I don't disagree with any of the content. 
Weaknesses: Rare is the book that I don’t learn something from. So this is, technically, a rare book.
Seriously, there isn't much here that isn't better read elsewhere.
Instead of the chapter titled "Go for Flow", read "Finding Flow".
Instead of the chapter titled "Play to Your Signature Strengths", read any of the Gallup or Marcus Buckingham books. The only heft to this book comes from the high quality paper.

Conclusion: Pass on it.

Post-it Flags: 1 flag
* Each time I find an interesting quote, model, image, or idea in a book, I mark it with a Post-it flag. The more flags, the more value I found in the book.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Best Business Tools - A Facilitator's Toolbox

My Facilitation Toolbox on Index Cards

I'm a former engineer.
I carried a well-stocked toolbox when I was an engineer... and I like to have the same as a facilitator.
This is a stack of index cards that has all of my favorite models, frameworks, and notes.
When I plan a session, I sort through the cards to build an agenda with my client. There are about 50 cards in my collection.

Below is a list of my most-used tools. Tools at the top of the list are used daily.
In the middle are tools I use weekly. At the bottom are tools I use monthly (or so).
  1. DiSC Behavioral Profile (link)
  2. Situational Leadership II
  3. SMART Goals
  4. ADKAR Change Model (link)
  5. Six Thinking Hats
  6. 7-Step Problem Solving
  7. GROW Model (link)
  8. The Leadership Challenge
  9. The Facilitation Diamond
  10. Five Dysfunctions of a Team
  11. Tuckman's Team Model (link)
  12. Globesmart Webtool
  13. PREP Model
  14. Strengths - Buckingham
  15. Humility - Egonomics
  16. Counterfeits - Egonomics
  17. Flow (Optimal Experience) Model
  18. Language Processing Method
  19. Fishbone Diagram
  20. Five Finger Facilitation
  21. Storyboarding
  22. Life Balance Wheel (link)
  23. Points of Power
  24. Circle of Influence - Covey (link)
  25. The Results Pyramid - Oz (link)
  26. Above / Below the Line - Oz (link)
  27. The Conscious Competence Model
  28. Gallup Q12 (12 Questions)

Check back, as I'll continue to update this list.
And tell me what's missing. What are your favorite tools?

Friday, October 17, 2008

What About Your Audience?

and the crowd goes wild... or not...

Yesterday, I spent a couple hours coaching a colleague on his presentation style.

He's struggling, because his boss asked him to create a one-slide presentation (!) covering the material in depth, so that his boss can present the message to his boss, who can then present it to his boss.

Ummm... right... Who wouldn't struggle?

My coachee very cleverly animated his slide to deliver 10 slides worth of information on what is - technically - one slide. Combine that with 8 point font, and you've got a message that everyone in the chain is confused by. 
But... they're so locked into their ideologies: 1 slide, no backup slides, present by email or proxy; that they can't see a way out. 
That's because there isn't a way out of that mess!

In such situations, I always start at the beginning: Who is your audience?
In this case, the audience is three separate people - his boss, his bosses' boss, and his bosses' bosses' boss. Got it?

Then I asked, what is the "Call to Action"? What do you want each person to do with the information?
In this case, each audience member had a different and separate Call to Action.

Next, I asked, What is their WIIFM (what's in it for me)?
We listed 8 separate advantages of his program and asked which ones each audience member would be interested in. This time, there was some overlap, but each member had variances in what would interest them.

Finally, we draw an ADKAR table. In terms of this program, what is the Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement status of each person
The answers to this were enlightening (one wasn't aware at all,  one had high knowledge, etc).

As we added all this up, it because clear - he needed three different presentations.
To present successfully, you must say to your audience, "Here's what I want you to do. Here's why you should want to do it. And here's how you can do it."

The exercise of creating one presentation for three audiences - let alone one slide -  is an exercise in futility. This explains why global marketing presentations often do not satisfy any of their targets.

This is obvious, right?
So why do people overlook audience analysis?

To find the answer, I looked at my favorite presentation books.
Here's what I found (from worst to first):

I'm not picking on these books. They are very good books and a number of them aren't meant to address audience analysis.
Still, these are the books we turn to for presentation advice.

The best one spends 10% of the book on the audience - but there is no presentation without an audience!
No wonder we miss the mark...

What about my coachee?
Unfortunately, he's still trapped in the template of one-slide, but at least he now knew his three audiences and messages.  Here's what we did.
  1. He created a stakeholder visual that shows his three managers (and other stakeholders) in context of the problem and the environment.
  2. He wrote a narrative that tells each manager what the program does for the manager, and what is expected of the manager. If they get this in an email, they can read the part that applies to them. If it's presented, the presenter can focus on that area.

Is it a perfect solution?
No. We're still trying to change the company culture around slideware.

But, this workaround will allow my colleague to communicate successfully.
In this business, it's results that matter - so I'm marking that up as a win!

Learn How to Eat Sushi

My friend Joon Chung shared this hilariously dry video with me a few years ago.

It's a mock instructional film called "Sushi-ya"

Watch and learn how to eat sushi (and please don't take it seriously)!!
Thanks Joon!

It's a good test of your cultural savvy to see how many of the 'jokes' you get.
According to this article, there are 5 types of humor.
In this video, do you see:
  • Puns?
  • Exaggeration?
  • Surprise?
  • Silliness?
  • Put-Downs?

Looking at how the Japanese handle humor in this clip, what can you learn?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Is Life Coaching Bullshit?

When I grow up, I want to be like Penn & Teller.

They join a short list (which includes Tom Peters, P.J. O'Rourke, Lewis Black, Edward Abbey, Kurt Vonnegut, and Bill Hicks) of provocateurs who make me laugh and think - and, yeah, sometimes cringe a little - in equal doses.

I've seen Penn & Teller perform twice and highly recommend them.
I also recommend you watch "Bullshit!", a Showtime series where Penn & Teller debunk popular beliefs about PETA, second hand smoke, religion, bottled water, and more.

Tonight, Angie and I started watching Season Three, which includes an episode on "Life Coaching".
Now, I do a fair amount of coaching at work, but I've shared my concerns about the coaching industry on this blog.
I looked forward to seeing how Penn & Teller would present the industry.

They didn't disappoint. 
Just about every bad coaching cliche shows up in this episode.
  • Pseudo-science? Check.
  • Spiritual garbage? Check.
  • 'Professionals' with no track record dispensing 'professional' advice? Check.
  • Clingy, co-dependent relationships? Check.
  • The unqualified leading the unqualified (by setting up coaching schools)? Check.
  • No sense of irony or perspective? Check and check.

Is there legitimacy in the coaching industry? 
Yes... a little.
Most of the coaches I've met are smart people who want to help others.

But, I've met others who are trying to make a quick buck in a trendy industry, or take a shortcut to success - "I want to give financial advice, but don't want to take the time to get a degree. I know, I'll be a financial coach!!" Stay away from these charlatans, please!

Even if you are lucky enough to find someone who is smart and wants to help, investigate their track record. Is she a bored housewife who took a weekend course? Is he a self-employed coach who needs to keep his schedule full?
Most importantly, are they driving for real results? 
  1. 'Real' coaches get quantifiable results for their clients.
  2. 'Real' coaches refer their clients to financial professionals, real estate professionals, and health professionals when required.
  3. 'Real' coaches 'quit' their clients after the results are achieved.
  4. 'Real' coaching builds independence, not dependence.
  5. 'Real' coaches aren't psychics, don't channel, and don't cuddle clients (I admit, that all these activities are highly entertaining... but I wouldn't look for guidance from them).

As with most things, buyer beware.
If you're in business, a business coach with a track record might be just what you need.

But, as Penn & Teller point out:
The time, money, life energy, and emotional investment you will make in a life coach would - in most cases - be much better spent on something real... a friend.

Book Review: "Oxymoronica" by Dr. Mardy Grothe

Another outstanding collection of phrases compiled by Dr. Mardy Grothe, “Oxymoronica" focuses on, of course, oxymoronic statements.

Title: "Oxymoronica"
Author: Dr. Mardy Grothe
Genre(s): Reference, Communication, Creativity
Summary: to quote the book's subtitle: "paradoxical wit and wisdom from history’s greatest wordsmiths"

Favorite Quote: I'll give you five:
  1. "The best things in life aren’t things." – Ann Landers
  2. "First I dream my painting, then I paint my dream” – Vincent Van Gogh
  3. It’s an impossible situation, but it has possibilities” – Samuel Goldwyn
  4. Their bodies were so close together that there was no room for real affection” – Stanislaw Lec
  5. You can’t make anything idiot-proof because idiots are so ingenious” – Ron Burns

Strengths: Like all of Dr. Grothe’s collections, it's funny, inspiring, and educational.
Weaknesses: It gives me an inferiority complex?

Conclusion: I’ll summarize with my own oxymoron - This book is so smart it makes me feel dumb.

Post-it Flags: 35 flags
* Each time I find an interesting quote, model, image, or idea in a book, I mark it with a Post-it flag. The more flags, the more value I found in the book.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Range of Vision - The World Through My Lens

This is a continuing series of slideshows from my travels. Enjoy!

Range of Vision 2.o - Wildlife

Here are some of my favorite wildlife photos that I've taken.

Range of Vision 1.o - Images of Asia
I meet a lot of people as I travel throughout Asia and the world, and I take a lot of photos of them. Here are 125 of my favorite people photos .

Technical/design note:
I've been struggling for years with how best to present my photos.
I don't like just hanging them up on the web where anyone can download and use them.
On the other hand, I want friends, family and colleagues to be able to see the images.

My compromises has been:
  • to post small photos, like I did at rangeofvision (too small)
  • to watermark the images, like I do at and (too distracting)
  • to use a password-protected gallery and send out invite (too restrictive)

None of these were satisfactory, so I'm trying a different option - photos presented as video, assembled using Picasa software..

Let me know what you think!