Although technical skills made the list, it came in dead last. The first? Be a good coach!
What employees valued most were even-keeled bosses.
Manager’s who helped people puzzle through problems were more effective.
Top-performing managers took an interest in employees’ lives and careers.
So as much emphasis as we seem to place on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills these days, it is still the soft skills that make a top-notch leader and manager. Go figure. Isn’t it nice when the data supports common sense (i.e, what I thought most of us knew already). 😀
When will the human race truly understand, feel, and appreciate this profound, yet basic sentiment that Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and many others have known and stated so many times? My son was 5 miles from the senseless shootings in Dallas (Barack Obama in a White House update) last night.
I haven’t posted in a long while for a few reasons, but mostly because I was not strongly motivated to do so until right now.
Peace has to come from inside each of us. We must “be the change we wish to see in the world!” – Mahatma Gandhi
Wow, it took me until February 20 to actually write a New Years post. Happy 2016!
After joining a WordPress hosting company, I thought I might have a bit more time to blog, but getting ramped up takes time. So far so good and so far very busy! There are lots of things going on at work and in my life, but most of you probably wouldn’t be too interested in hearing all about that stuff, so here are some fun & interesting articles that people have sent me or I’ve randomly discovered:
Several managers where I work just completed some Arbinger leadership training, and I really enjoyed it! Our senior execs will be going through the training in the next couple of weeks as well, so I’m looking forward to having a common language to share as we help grow the business to the next level.
Below are links on Amazon to two books that are published by the Arbinger Institute. I read the first one a few years ago and am in the middle of the second one. They are written in story/fable format which I very much prefer when reading business books because it makes it much easier to read and seem less “preachy.”
Thanks For Dreaming Mr. King was the post I wrote last year on MLK day. I posted it verbatim below. Many of our dreams have come true because of the risks he took. Why are people so scared of some people’s dreams that they feel the need to kill them? Many of us are still dreaming and our dreams don’t always come true in our lifetimes. Maybe one day all of us will dream of good things happening to everyone instead of dreaming of killing others based on their beliefs, ignorance, or desire to change the world to something slightly different. I’m glad my light brown kids are growing up hardly thinking about the color of their skin. How much more they should be able to feel and do without someone judging them based on something they were born with.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had a big dream. He had more courage and vision in his pinky than most of us have in our whole bodies. Here is an except from his speech “I Have A Dream.” (Go listen to the recording of his speech at this link).
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
Thank you for dreaming Mr. King. You helped changed the world with your courage and the risks you took to make life better for all of our children. Today I will remind the kids what dreaming big can mean.
This weekend I went to the Blanton Museum of Art exhibit that showcased Tibetan monks building a sand mandala. After spending days and hours creating this mandala out of fine, colored sand, they “dismantle the mandala, sweeping up the colored sands to symbolize the impermanence of all that exists.”
I wonder if entrepreneurs who achieve the most success, not only in dollars but also impact on the world, truly understand that everything is impermanent which results in a shift in how they perceive risk. Steve Jobs could have floundered in his business in the early days, as most entrepreneurs do, instead of becoming a household name for founding Apple and Pixar. I’m sure he and his team threw away many designs or product ideas that they spent countless hours on, but they kept on painstakingly placing the grains of sand on each next iteration. If a few grains of sand shifted in some of the most popular designs he had envisioned in his head, we may never have known he existed. And now even he is gone but his company lives on…for now.
They (i.e., Harvard Business Review) say that great leaders read all the time. That is certainly true of many great leaders (e.g., founder/CEO of WholeFoods) but there are great leaders who probably don’t have the time to read especially with family and work responsibilities, and I think they get some of their information in other ways (i.e., short bursts of knowledge that they have to assimilate over time). There are tons of not-so-great leaders out there and admittedly they aren’t avid readers. They have a hard time empathizing with others because they haven’t broadened their knowledge base by relating to other people’s stories from different parts of the world.
When I was working on the series of articles on success, I noticed that most of the leaders I interviewed were very well read and a handful had liberal arts, psychology, or humanities degrees. You can certainly tell when someone is well read, not just in the latest business trends but also in works of fiction and other great classic literature by the way they interact with people. I wish I had time to read more novels. I can’t even seem to make it to my neighborhood mom’s monthly book club!
Congratulations to the Bazaarvoice team! They are the latest Austin technology company to go public. It happened yesterday. I have friends who work there and I’m very happy for them. It takes a lot to go from zero to public and for Austin’s sake, I hope they continue their growth trend and create value. As I commented on the Austin Startup post on the topic, Bazaarvoice’s going public creates value not only for those who work there but also value in terms of dollars invested in future start-ups and experienced people to advise/mentor them.
The founding team also emphasized building a positive culture and showed that policies like having no set vacation days can work when you trust your people. It will be nice to have people in the community who have experienced that kind of culture go seed other companies.
I saw Paul Simon in concert last night at the Cedar Park Center. He’s 70. He was amazing! He is one of the top singer/songwriters of our time. Such talent. Simon & Garfunkel (even though they had apparently broken up by then) helped get me through my teenage years because many of their songs helped me process some of the things I was dealing with at the time. When he sang “Sound of Silence” during his second encore, most of the audience had their phones up recording him.
Why is it some people can discover their passion/talent, be good at and succeed at it until they are 70? While others, like many of us, seem to fumble around trying to figure it out? C’est la vie!
I recently got back from a fabulous trip to China. I signed up for a 9 day tour coordinated by the Austin Chamber of Commerce. We had an aggressive itinerary and hit most of the major highlights in Beijing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, and Shanghai. While I was there Steve Jobs passed away and pretty much everyone in China was talking about it too. I’m not sure why I was a little surprised, but there were iPhones and iPads in China despite access to Google and facebook not being allowed. What a profound affect Mr. Jobs had on the entire world, but in the end we still cannot avoid death. In his life, he accomplished more and touched more lives than probably any before him.
His death with the background of ancient China was sort of appropriate in some ways. The people who built The Great Wall, one of the 7 man made wonders of the world and visible from the moon, are not remembered but the Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who directed it’s construction is remembered. Although 99.99% of us won’t be remembered much past our life times, hopefully we will have a positive impact on those around us so they continue to spread our wisdom to future generations.
It’s taken me quite some time to write about this because of a crazy busy schedule and I wasn’t really sure how to write about it. In addition to my day job, I’ve also taken on a side consulting job in order to learn about a different industry and to bring in some additional income. The last 20+ months seem like a blur to me with all the changes I’ve had to absorb and process in my life personally and professionally. A few months ago my partner at Babble Soft, Nicole Johnson, who has been running the company for over a year, told me she needed to put the company on hiatus so she could better manage her life.
Nicole also has a day job as well as another side job (baby sleep advice), and as I and a few others on the panel I coordinated called Building A Web Business After Hours at SXSW Interactive (starting here in Austin later this week) a couple of years ago have subsequently realized: it’s very hard to do. We had to pass the baton to someone else who could spend more time on our respective companies. Since I had been in her shoes juggling kids, family, day job, oh and just a handful of personal transitions not too long ago, I told her to do what she felt was best for her and her family.
They say timing is everything and it is so true and especially with businesses. So many things have to go right for an endeavor to be successful. There has to be the right balance of personal situation, market acceptance, technology working, right people, etc. that sometimes it’s a wonder any businesses survive!
So it was a bitter sweet transition that happened a few months ago and maybe someone will be interested in buying our intellectual property, the domain name, or Nicole will be able to reduce hours at one of her other jobs to re-launch fresh in a year or so! A few months ago, we moved everything (including my blog) off of a dedicated Rackspace server to a much lower cost alternative.
So goes life. If things aren’t working out, it’s better to recognize that something is about to break (whether it’s you or your business) to make changes earlier rather than later. Sometimes things don’t work out as planned, and I’m so glad I live in the US where we can learn from every business success or failure and still be respected and get another job. As an example, check out the interview by Fareed Zakaria, CNN news/TIME editor, did of the Foursquare founders.
I interviewed Sandi Aitken (pdf) for The University of Texas at Austin’s alumni magazine, The Alcalde, for an article that was published in the Sep/Oct 2006 issue. My writing partner, Pam Losefksy, and I pulled these articles together a while back and you can see them on the Success Profiles page of this blog. You can see the full article on Sandi by clicking HERE (pdf). I haven’t connected with Sandi since the interview so I’m not even sure if she’s still at Freescale, but here’s an overview:
Sandi was/is a benefits manager for Freescale Semiconductor, Inc. in Austin. Previously she was Director of Wellness and work/life programs for Motorola and health and fitness coordinator for Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp. She was also health and fitness program coordinator, director of nursing, critical care instructor, and director of the cardiac rehab and pulmonary education center for St. David’s Community Hospital. She was awarded Texas Nurse of the Year and held a Chair position for the Seton Cove board of directors. She received her MS from UT Austin in Nursing.
Success has a lot to do with being true to your life’s purpose, vision, and goals. Often, that means running counter to what our culture’s definition of success is, because so often in our society, success is defined by your material worth or the initials behind your name. Making money is important on a certain level, but what’s really important is to know your heart, to find your passion. Shakespeare wrote, “To thine own self be true.” Like so many things in life, it seems so simple, but there’s probably nothing harder to do.
She goes on to say:
Finding that alignment between your head and your heart, while at the same time not getting caught up in external pressures, is critical.
Oh, if everyone could be true to themselves, what a world this would be. But as Sandi noted it is so hard to do because being true to ourselves doesn’t always go over well with other people in our lives. Aligning head and heart is something I struggle with as do many others because what your heart/passion wants you to do in your career and life doesn’t always mesh up with what is practical given life’s responsibilities and other people’s expectations.
I’m working on trying to mesh some of my passion/heart’s desires with life’s practicalities. Today I scheduled a make-up voice lesson with my voice instructor, Gene Raymond, who I really enjoy working with, and brought the kids with me. I’ve brought them to a lesson once before. I bring them coloring books and they color without fussing at all. I think they think it is funny to hear mommy sing scales and do vocal exercises. Some of the vocal exercises are quite funny. 🙂
A few of the songs I’m working on right now are Killing Me Softly With His Song (Roberta Flack), Play Me (Neil Diamond – changing the ‘she’s’ to ‘he’s’), and The Rose (Bette Midler). I have the opportunity to take a lesson with a teacher at a level higher than Gene in this particular style of coaching called Speech Level Singing in a couple of weeks. This teacher has sung with Bette Midler and trained several American Idol singers. I’m looking forward to it and hoping I don’t choke!
Jack Baum was one of my favorite investors and board members at the first company I founded. He was outspoken, introduced us to key customers and other key investors, and was a real supporter of us founders. He isn’t afraid to say what was on his mind even if it was not politically correct. He also took time to listen to our perspectives and since he is an entrepreneur himself, he could relate to us.
I interviewed Jack (pdf) for The University of Texas at Austin’s alumni magazine, The Alcalde, for an article that was published in the November/December 2005 issue. My writing partner, Pam Losefksy, and I pulled these articles together a while back and you can see them on the Success Profiles page of this blog. You can see the full article on Jack by clicking HERE (pdf).
Jack is the President/CEO of Food, Friends & Company, which owns Cozymel’s Mexican Grill and is now creating an upscale seafood restaurant called Red Sails, as well as a Pan-Latin concept called Tango. He founded Canyon Café, Sam’s Café, and Newport’s in Texas as well as Sagebrook Technology Partners, an investment firm that provides capital to early-stage technology companies. (Sagebrook subsequently merged with 2M Capital.) Has competed in five Ironman triathlons and finished in the top tier in the amateur division.
The main point he wanted to share was:
When I look at the traits of successful people, I think of a triangle or a stool with three legs. First, successful people have meaningful relationships with their family and friends. Second, they take the selfishness and the ego out of making money and elevate
what they do to make money to a point where it’s good for society. And third, successful people know how to recharge their batteries.
He also shared the following advice:
When I talk to young people, I often use the metaphor of training for a marathon, which is something I know a lot about, to illustrate how to be successful. I know I can increase my training by 5 percent a week without injuring myself. If my goal is to run a marathon, and the longest run I’m capable of today is three miles, I then calculate how long it’s going to take me to be ready and I can enter a marathon after that date.
I think the same thing happens in life. A lot of young people coming out of college are rushing to get their careers started, but I think they need to look at it more as a marathon than as a sprint. I believe they need to say to themselves, “Here are the tools that I need to put in my toolbox to be successful. I’ve got plenty of time to do it. I don’t have to do everything today.” If they can have that perspective, they are more likely to stay balanced and to keep each leg of the stool on the ground.
I have a lot of respect for Jack. He seems to have found ways to keep his three legged stool balanced for the most part from what I’ve seen. He flew in to speak to my entrepreneurship class a couple of times and was always a great hit with the students.
The marathon analogy works well for start-ups and life. There are many times in an entrepreneurial endeavor you feel like just giving up because it’s just too hard and all your muscles ache and your brain is fried. But you get up and keep going until you make it over the hump or you hit the wall. Some companies make it across the finish line, some make it but fall apart afterwards, some make it in record time and are the darlings of the race, and some people’s mind/body just have to call it quits because that’s just how it has to be at that point. They pick themselves up and try again later with another company. And such is life.
Randi Shade is a friend of mine and she is currently a member of the Austin City Council. She and I were both doing our first high-tech start-ups around the same time many moons ago. I interviewed Randi for The University of Texas at Austin’s alumni magazine, The Alcalde, for an article that was published in the November/December 2005 issue. My writing partner, Pam Losefksy, and I pulled these articles together and you can see them on the Success Profiles page of this blog. You can see the full article on Randi by clicking HERE (pdf).
Randi received her BA from UT in 1988 and her MBA from Harvard. She is currently an Austin City Council member and mother to two young kids. She founded Charitygift, a company that allows people to make donations to charities via the Internet. She was then the VP of gift cards for the company that acquired Charitygift. Previously she was the director of the Entrepreneur’s Foundation and founding executive director of the Texas Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service (now called the OneStar National Service Commission). Shade was responsible for launching AmeriCorps in Texas.
We started the article with this quote by Randi:
Success to me is living a life that matters. I’ve tried to do that, combining my experiences in government, business, and philanthropy to do meaningful work, but I feel that you never really “achieve” success. You never get to do the touchdown dance, or cross the finish line, because success is a moving target.
She then went on to say.
When I went to business school, there were many people who said, “It’s important to spend the first third of your life learning, the second third earning, and the last third serving,” as if you can cap your career off with service, and it’s something you do in retirement. I completely disagree with that. I think you need to be doing all three throughout your life, simultaneously, and I believe that is a big part of success.
I think it’s true that ‘success is a moving target.’ Once you accomplish something you can savor it for a little bit but then it’s on to the next thing. Here in the Western world we also define success in more material terms than in other cultures although the Western influence is strong and has permeated throughout the globe. Other cultures sometimes measure success when one achieves nirvana or a state of being free from suffering and wanting. It seems to me that both measures of success are fleeting unless you happen to be able to sit under a tree day & night and if you don’t have kids. 🙂
It is important to mix learning, earning, and serving, but I think the definitions of what those mean to different people are as varied as the colors in a rainbow. I am always trying to learn from my observation of people. People are fascinating to me so watching them, reading about them, and connecting with them helps me serve them. I also think serving can be defined not only in the typical community service point of view but also being the best parent you can be to your children. Ensuring your children are educated and taught to respect others is a huge service to the community and humanity. I’m sure there are many of us who have seen the results of bad parenting on our society and even if you are not earning dollars while you are a stay at home parent, you are earning huge social capital, in my opinion, by contributing good, productive human beings into society.
Now for the next highlight of one of the people I interviewed for The University of Texas at Austin’s alumni magazine, The Alcalde, on Liz Carpenter that was published in the March/April 2005 issue. You can check out the post I did on Mort Meyerson, former CEO of both EDS and Perot Systems, for some background information.
My writing partner, Pam Losefksy, and I pulled these articles together. You can see them on the Success Profiles page of this blog. The series started as Success To Me and during the middle of last year we changed it to Self Starter to focus more on entrepreneurs. When we told them we weren’t able to continue due to our other commitments, they brought the series in house. You can see the full article on Liz Carpenter by clicking HERE (pdf).
Liz received her BA from UT in 1942. She was the White House press secretary to Ladybird Johnson. She is the author of several books and uses humor extensively not only in her writing but also in her speeches and day to day conversations. One of her first books was called “Start with a Laugh,” which was a first hand account of writing speeches during her white house years. She would be about 88 years old right now and was an active supporter of the women’s movement.
We started the article with this quote by Liz:
To me, being able to use your time, hopefully profitably, doing what you want to do, and finding happiness in it, is success. I think the keys to success are sharing and having a generous heart and a sense of humor. Another trait of successful people is that they are aware — they have inquiring minds. And finally, people who are successful are committed to taking risks and to walking through open doors. If you don’t trust yourself to take a risk, you’re likely to be left out of greater success.
She then went on to say.
There’s an old quote from the women’s movement: “Men are made anxious by failure. Women are made anxious by success.” I think women have gotten much braver since the start of the women’s movement in this country, and it thrills me that now we are not so anxious with success. We now help each other achieve it.
I agree that many women (myself included) don’t really feel comfortable with success outside the home environment. I know that sounds strange, but I’m still on the cusp of the generation of women who grew up with mothers (who may or may not have worked outside of the home) who were still ‘programmed’ to think about life, womanhood, wife hood, and motherhood in a certain way.
There have been many changes in society since we were children and as women we have many more opportunities than our mothers had (without having to worry as much about the glass ceiling and with having no help from our spouses), but many of us still struggle with defining our roles. I imagine the same is true for men who now find themselves much more involved in child care than our fathers were. With many more women working (by choice sometime during their children’s lives) than ever before, men have to be more involved in the day to day business of house management and child care because we often don’t have the nearby family support system that used to exist. Our mother’s who had to work or chose to work in many cases had to do everything without much support from their spouse.
So it’s no wonder we sometimes still feel residual anxiety about success because with success comes worry about how we will manage the rest of our lives with kids…because I think it’s already been proven that although we can have it all, we can’t have it all at the same time!
Tomorrow is the inauguration of the next president of the United States of America, Barack Obama. The post I did called A Vote for Brown, Brains, and Change after he was elected was one of the most commented-on posts I’ve written on this little’ ole blog. It’s a historic event for America because as pretty much everyone in the world knows, it is the first time we will ever have a brown person, who also happens to be extremely smart and qualified, at the head of what is still the most powerful nation in the world.
There is much hope pinned on him to keep the US a strong world power and save us from the descent we are now experiencing. I believe that if he continues to openly communicate with the American people that he will set the realistic expectations that it could take as long to get out of the world wide economic quagmire we find ourselves in as it took us to get into it. He has a lot of challenges ahead of him and it comes down to each and every one of us contributing by continuing to work hard and helping others, as good Samaritans do, to help them get back on their emotional or financial feet one family at a time.
I was watching Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech (August 28, 1963) earlier today on CNN and was moved, as I usually am, at his words. Just over 45 years ago, colored people could not drink from the same water fountain as White people. They could not stay in the same hotels or hotel rooms as White people. They could not sit in the same place on the bus. They could not get access to the same education. They could not play on the same football teams.
MLK and all of the people (White, Black, Brown, and blonde, red, hair-dyed, and dark haired people) who believed in his dream, knew that one day the children of the slaves and the slave owners would be able to sit down together for dinner as equals. They would be able to go to the same restaurants and stay at the same hotels. His dream took time to achieve but now almost half a century later most of his dream has become real. If he had not been killed for voicing his dream out loud, he would be 80 years old today enjoying his 4 children and granchildren. If he had not taken a stand, the world might have been a different place.
Not only colored people but also women have been able to achieve amazing things because of the barriers broken down by men and women who came before us. I am so grateful for the strong women I have met along my path who have helped me and instead of pushing me down, they offered their hands and their hearts to pull me up! These people fought hard to make our lives easier, and as I start to cross mid-life, I not only look ahead of me but also behind me to offer my hand in help to others.
The Obama experiment is a new one not only for the US but also the modern world. For any experiment to work, we as a nation need to be fully on board. Be skeptical, but push ahead with gusto. Put cynicism aside for a while and have faith that with our words and actions we can make a difference for the world!
A friend of mine, who I know is wrestling with his dreams although he won’t admit it out loud, recently told me that some philosopher said something like “we can change the world by changing the songs (narratives) we pass on to our kids.” The stories we tell our children about someone’s beliefs, someone’s skin color, someone’s gender are the stories they carry with them the rest of their lives. The stories have changed in the US with regards to brown people even from when I was a child, yet I still struggle to change those internal narratives even now. The stories have changed also with regards to women/girls. We still need to continue to change them for the positive. My grandfather once told me that one day the people of this world will all be a nice tan color so in some small way it became OK for me to marry a White man and have tan colored kids. He told me a bunch of other stories that were hilarious but not appropriate to blog about! 🙂
But the world still seems to have trouble changing the stories about people’s religious beliefs as we continue to see in Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The children are taught to hate and mistrust others based on their religion because that is what they see and hear on a daily basis. I wonder how we can help change the stories and dreams for those children?
In my mind, getting an education is the single most important way to continue to enhance the lives of each and every one of us, our children, and the world’s children. Tolerance and understanding come from open minds, open hearts, and trying new things.
As you think about how we can help change those children’s stories, I leave you with a YouTube video of Martin Luther King’s speech given in 1963 (see below). Isn’t technology amazing sometimes?!