Nasty but Necessary

I'm a huge proponent of strengths based leadership.

Let me explain.

Strengths are not necessarily what you are good at, but doing activities that engage your strengths bring fire to your belly, a sparkle in your eye, and time flies by so quickly it seems like you just started.

For example, based on a StrengthsFinder assessment, one of my top strengths is "Analytical".  I love gathering data, then seeing the patterns that form.  I love solving problems and puzzles.  On a day that has challenges, I am truly happy.

But I'm not talking about the things that bring you energy. I'm talking about the activities that you find soul sucking, uncomfortable, or perhaps just boring.

Kinda like the stack of dirty dishes after a big meal.

Now the interesting thing is that the list of soul sucking activities is different for every person.

Some people hate budgets while others love "the story the numbers tell you". (I am not making this up, I actually heard someone say this.)

Some hate interacting with people, others love it to the point of not getting any work done.

Some hate persuading others to see their point of view (otherwise known as sales, politics, or executive leadership) while others thrive in this area.

Some people thrive on change, while others love consistency.

But that doesn't mean you get to choose to do only the things that energize you.


The Last Bastion: Changing our Schools

I was a terrible high school student.

Not terrible in the sense that I got bad marks, but terrible in the sense that I hated school and couldn't wait to get out of the system.

I was disengaged in most of my classes.

I didn't see the relevance in what I was being taught.

I was in a place where quiet, compliant, memorizers of information did well.

Original thought was not encouraged.

High school was something to be tolerated until I graduated.

So it's a surprise to many that I now have a career in education.


A "Perfect" Disruptive Storm

I'm in Orlando this week at Gartner's Symposium/ITxpo.  It is one of those long day, drink-from-a-firehose events where I'm together with over 10,000 people like me.

Scary thought.

But there's an even scarier thought brought out by Peter Sondergaard, SVP of Research at Gartner Inc.

Peter Sondergaard Photo: C/Net
There's a perfect storm of disruption coming, and since IT supports so much of the business of the world, the storm is coming to IT.

We can't do things the same way anymore. CIOs need to be out front, leading the change.

We need to re-Imagine IT.


Think like a Tugboat

Image: Wikipedia
Almost twenty years ago, my family and I lived in paradise.

Imagine a place where you could go skiing, sailing and golfing... all in the same day.

Imagine a place of friendly people, stellar mountains, blue oceans, and lush green forests... where it rained 300 days a year, but when the sun shone, everything could seem right in the world.

Of course I'm talking about Vancouver British Columbia.

There were things you could see in Vancouver you would never see in other parts of the country (including 6 inch long crawling slugs but I digress... You can tell I don't work for BC tourism).  

Vancouver is a port city, and as such the never ending business of a port provides a delightful cacophony of activity.

If you've been to Vancouver, you will be familiar with Lions Gate bridge - which looks a lot like San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge. It is a Canadian historic site, but is also a major traffic artery between the cities of Vancouver and North Vancouver.

On occasion, the US Navy would bring one of their aircraft carriers into the port.  This was a big deal for the locals since we didn't often get a chance to see a craft that big (the Canadian Navy IS jealous) and secondly, the highest part of the ship's antennas were just a few metres lower than the maximum clearance afforded by the Lions Gate bridge.  It had to happen at the lowest tide, with favourable conditions (you notice my spelling is very Canadian today), with the bridge cleared of traffic and was much like threading a needle with an incredibly large object.


Drawing vs driving. Why you can't lead like Steve Jobs

There has been much written and said recently about the life and contribution of Steve Jobs.

There is no doubt that he was a remarkable person and that he led the charge to redefine how everyday people interact with technology. He saw things that didn't exist and drove them to reality.

He was a great example of how intense fervor, focus and attention to detail can achieve phenomenal results.

There is a lot to admire about the man.

But should we seek to emulate him?

Resistant to change? Or saturated?

Years ago, my bright, brilliant, beautiful wife looked me in the eye and said "Do you know what's wrong with you?"

If you have been married any length of time you know I had just encountered the mother of all questions that there is no right answer for.

If I start my response by denying there is anything wrong with me, I am sunk.

Image: MS Office Imagebank
 If I start listing the things I know ("I sneak chocolate bars at work") then I am probably sunk, since there's a good possibility that she isn't talking about my chocolate bar habit and then I've just given her more ammunition for a future discussion.

So I do the smart thing and say "Really? What might that be?" then get ready to settle in for a long discussion. 

The kind you don't dare act as if they are not important.

Even if they are at midnight.

So here I was, ready to be enlightened, and she says:  "Your problem is that you thrive on change!"

There it was.

It didn't seem like a such a big thing, and my chocolate bar secret was safe.

But the way she said it made it sound like it wasn't a particularly good thing.


Lessons from the Links - The Most Important Part of Failure

Image: MS Office Imagebank
If you golf, you may want to invite me along.

While I am good enough to keep up with most golfers, you certainly don't have to worry about me beating you.

The thing is, I know what one of my major problems is... but it's been difficult to fix.

I address the ball with all the finesse of a pro.

I have a nice, smooth back swing.

I connect solidly with the ball. (Don't you just love the sound?)

Then the damn thing goes madly off in all directions.

I know that it usually is sometimes difficult to get advice... especially on a golf course, but one day a brave soul watched my swing and told me he thought he saw what my problem was.

"You are not following through."

It turns out he was right.  If I summoned every bit of concentration I had to focus on remembering to continue the arc of the club, the ball went off in the intended direction more often than not.

But the problem for me was that without focussing on it, I quickly reverted back to my old style of play.

Which leads me to the topic of today's post.


Lights! Camera! Axiom!

If they ever did a movie about my life (not that my life is that exciting, but bear with me here), I would look at formative moments that had a profound influence on how I've turned out.

Just in case they ever run out of an audience for teenage vampires, unrequited love stories, car chases, terrorist plots, superheroes, talking animals (am I missing any here?) and are desperate enough to ever want to make a movie about leading a high performing IT organization... I'll keep all of the plot spoilers under wraps for now.

But there is one moment that I would really want to be in the movie that I will share.

It has influenced my approach to life in so many ways.

I don't even remember where or when I heard it, or who said it... but it has become part of me.

It was a simple sentence, originally meant to be funny, but incredibly profound thing, almost proverbial in nature.

It really is an axiom - a self-evident truth that requires no proof.