May 17, 2010
It’s been super busy for me and I’ve neglected my blog….
It’s the usual cause for inattention, too much to do, unexpected loss of time (a mild bout with food poisoning!), amongst other causes. However, on Friday, my schedule was flipped upside down to accommodate another’s schedule, giving me an opportunity to regain a little perspective.
I usually swim in the early morning or late afternoon (a few days a week), but am rarely at the pool in the early afternoon. What I learned on Friday afternoon is that the some of the early afternoon swimmers differ from they typical crowd. In the locker room, I noticed one woman in my peripheral vision mostly because of the sound of her walk – I thought that she was wearing flippers in the locker room! When I turned to verify, I found that she did not have flippers, but had a challenging gait that caused the odd sound when she walked. Nevertheless, she managed very well. Not two minutes later, another woman walked past, muttering “Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, not Palin, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah.” When I turned to see her, her one-piece swimsuit was inside out and she clearly had challenges of her own.
I was most impressed that both of these women were at the pool getting some exercise given their personal challenges. Their courage made the inconveniences and slights in my own life seem so very small and insignificant. How lucky I am to have full faculties and physical abilities! My long view learning:
- Be grateful for healthy vigor and intellectual breadth.
- Maintain perspective because others’ challenges are often far more significant.
Friday’s mixed up schedule actually allowed me to regain some balance.
Are you maintaining perspective?
January 11, 2010
First, I have been married a LONG time (in a few more months, a wonderful 20 years LONG) so this will not be all gushy…
The setting was post-breakfast. Everyone at the house was moving toward jobs and school (two teens, two parents). I mention to my wonderful husband that I just got off the phone about a quote for some insurance that I thought we should consider. His immediate response was to tell me that it was unnecessary and I shouldn’t spend any time on it. I became upset because I thought I was doing something good for us and he was not being duly appreciative.
Even though we both hate to part mad at each other, there was no time to get everything back to better before we all had to depart (he was leaving for three days).
When I was done being upset, I wrote him a quick email with the following long view advice: Support first, then Criticize.
- I know that we both hate parting mad, so I apologize for not being able to get past my upset this morning. I know that you mean well when you criticize my efforts. I even value the criticisms, but not when I don’t feel supported.
- I need from you: Support first, then criticism. Okay?!
- You beat me to the punch. I was chomping at the bit all morning to get a moment to write you and say “sorry” for the bad parting this morning. Yes, you are right. I meant to say and do exactly as you suggest – “good idea to investigate, let’s make sure we understand if it is really needed.” Please accept my apology.
- Apology accepted.
All better! 🙂
Are you supporting first and then criticizing (when needed)?
P.S. Support first then criticize (if needed) applies to business too….
August 20, 2009
Although she had been struggling with allergies and pancreatitis weakening her body with constant digestive upset, no one anticipated that additional congestion and lack of sleep from a bad cold would render her lifeless when she finally fell asleep reading a book while my father tended to ranch chores.
My parents’ lives were so entwined it is hard to imagine one without the other. I am grateful that they were able to celebrate their 50th anniversary this past June. Befitting their life journey, they prepared a photomontage capturing their life essence together: joy of young love, stunning scenery across enduring love, and amazing accomplishment as partners in life. As I watched the collection again and again this past week, it reinforced for me just how beautiful, accomplished, brilliant, and quietly adventurous my mother was.
My earliest memories of her were of her books and music. She loved to read and her breadth of knowledge was extensive as a result. She read to us when we were little, cultivating more avid readers. By her own admission, “…I did stretch the rules a bit – reading you the Chinese history that I was currently reading rather than a child’s book…” In addition, she practiced the piano and organ regularly. When I had fallen in love with the music from Man from La Mancha (Impossible Dream), she granted me private mini-concerts when she arrived home from work – she played the selected pieces on the piano for me. Whenever I hear that music, I still hear in my own head the way she played it on the piano.
She taught me the basics of life: be proficient (not extraordinary) domestically and master how to be selective in which tasks you actually commit to doing – work on high leverage projects. I learned to sew, cook, and be selective. It took me a while to realize how unique she really was. I remember when a new girl in the middle school needed a choir dress made, but her mother did not sew. She asked me if my mother could help, so I volunteered her. My mother explained that she didn’t really have the time, but if I would do most of the work, she would do the trickiest steps. Together we made the dress quickly and efficiently. When the other girl’s mother came by with a bouquet of flowers to give to my mother for the help, she was surprised that my mother was at work. The other girl’s mother was so surprised that it was at that moment that I realized how different (and special) my own mother truly was.
My later memories were of her many professional accomplishments and what lessons that she taught me from her own experience. She was mathematically gifted, having received two degrees in Mathematics. She worked professionally as a computer programmer in the early years of programming (I remember her carrying home huge stacks of computer cards and sorting them on the kitchen table in the evenings!). Later, she received her MBA and worked professionally in Operations and Project Management. Although it seemed dicey to me at the time, I benefited from our shared University time. My last year of engineering school was her first MBA year. During that time, she wrote essays on the challenges of being a professional woman in a male-dominated workforce and shared them with me (I still have them). She quietly provided unsolicited advice, suggestions, and observations. One of the most important lessons that she taught me is that “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” As such, she taught me to cultivate positivity, kindness, respectfulness, and to always have a good strategy – think before you act.
In some ways, it was hard having a Mom who was so accomplished and successful, but it definitely made it easier to believe that I could do it too. Even though we share many traits, we differed drastically in one domain: she was a musician and I am an athlete. This difference strengthened us because I admired her musical ability as much as she took pride in my athleticism. I never felt that I had to be accomplished in music and she accepted that athleticism was not her strength. Mom skied, canoed, fished, hiked, and tolerated the family adventures knowing that the stunning scenery of mountains, streams, lakes, and valleys visited were worth the effort, but many were often a challenge for her. I was always glad to be able to help her – take a little extra weight in my pack to lighten her load. It helped me to build the confidence that I too could someday be as accomplished as her, but with my own strengths. This experience helped me to truly value diversity and observe and channel the strengths of others.
In later years, I continued to admire her ability to be organized, to be thorough, and to take on new ventures (run a farm/ranch) without prior experience.
Finally, as I rifled through her files and her Quicken entries this past week on my Dad’s behalf, I realized just how lucky my Dad was to have had someone so amazing with which to share his life. It didn’t take a ton of effort to figure out the finances (which she took care of for their 50 years together) and get Dad moving forward without her. Her systems were clear, effective, and well documented. I only hope to leave a long view legacy like hers…
Your memory is a blessing to me. I love and miss you Mom, rest in peace.
August 9, 2009
This past week, I was involved in a youth sports competition that fielded both domestic and international teams: soccer, swimming, tennis, table tennis, dance, and much more. Although my family lives in an outlying area to the main venue, we were eligible to host five (5) teenage boys for the week long games.
I drove our SUV 840 miles and averaged 100 miles/gallon/person (50 gallons of gas with 6 of us in the car) for my two soccer players and three tennis players. Altogether, we collected one injury (already healing), one gold medal, and many, many smiles! It was a total blast!
It was an amazing and inspiring experience because the long view tenets: build reciprocity assets (goodwill) and create consistent positivity were incorporated everywhere. The games emphasized sportsmanship, camaraderie, and kindness – everyone was encouraged to do more than what was expected.
There were so many examples….
- Every day driving the SUV in the “big city” was an adventure – wrong turns, missed turns, and intersection errors. The boys cut me a great deal of slack and were always kind. (We were never late or in danger. ☺)
- Daily breakfasts were greatly appreciated, as were cookies and milk each evening. One of the things that struck me was that there was not a single complaint. No whining, no negativity, just expressed gratefulness for all that I was doing. There was a constant refrain of “thank you.”
- The injured boy played only five (5) minutes of his first soccer match against Mexico and did not net any goals during the tournament due to his injury, yet his teammates rallied around him. They carried his things, waited for him as he made his way on crutches with his knee immobilized, and ensured that he stayed integrated at the parties/festivities. Reciprocally, even though he could not play he stayed involved and cheered heartily for his team.
Can it get any better than that? Amazingly, yes!
- At the gold medal match in tennis, my guest’s opponent arrived unprepared – he had not eaten lunch. After the match had started, at one of the breaks, the opponent shared that he was hungry. My guest immediately asked his own coach if any of their team’s turkey sandwiches were left. Finding none available, he dug around his tennis bag for a nutrition bar that the opponent accepted. The linesman went to the clubhouse for some fruit and everyone waited for the boy to ingest some calories before the game restarted. In my book, that was extreme sportsmanship. My other guest tennis players informed me that although they knew their friend wanted to win, he wanted more to play a good match.
Can you encourage extreme positivity in your environment?
July 29, 2009
A few years ago, I found Purple Cow by Seth Godin when I was browsing the local bookstore. Purple Cow started me on a journey of reading other Seth books and then becoming a daily reader of Seth’s blog, I was immediately addicted to Seth’s daily pithy, yet succinct observations, advice, insights, and admonitions. His blog posts start my day.
In July of 2008, Seth invited his blog readers (me) to buy Tribes (a terrific leadership book by Seth) and to join an online tribe called Triiibes. I joined! Today is the anniversary of Triiibes and we are celebrating it with an interconnected blog ring.
The community of similar-minded professionals that emerged in Triiibes, with whom I converse, learn, and occasionally teach, is amazing. What I love most is that Triiibes is interactive and asynchronous – I can participate day or night and spend as little or as much time as I have available. Simply perfect! I have made many enriching friendships.
Most importantly, over this past year as I participated in Triiibes, I achieved a new perspective, gained confidence, and realized that I was in a cul-de-sac. Although I had achieved significant professional success over many years, I finally realized that I had already achieved my personal goals where I was and that my efforts were no longer leading to important gains – it was time to do something different and/or set out on a new adventure. So…
I initiated a rebuild of my personal long view:
- I resigned from my full-time professional position and am now achieving proficiency (mastery?) in the non-technical art of nurture.
- I am nurturing myself, my family, and my community through care-taking, volunteering, and just helping where I can. By doing this, I have met many interesting and amazing people that I would not have had time for previously.
- I created this blog to share – here I coalesce my long view insights and publish them.
- I am defining my next adventure. I have steadfast confidence that an opportunity to nurture technical innovation will emerge from this investment in nurturing. ☺
Happy Anniversary Triiibes! Thanks for everything, I look forward to many more insightful years!
Next on the Anniversary Blog Ring: Being Tribal
May 31, 2009
I had a rocking customer service experience yesterday with H20 Audio that reinforces why I am a raving fan for them…
Even though swimming is a second-string pursuit (I’d rather be rock climbing, running, biking, etc.), I swim regularly because it “rehabs” everything I injure in my other athletic pursuits. The downside of swimming is the boredom. So, about six (6) years ago, I started a down and up affair with music while I swim…
I started with waterproof earphones coupled to a waterproof “bag” that held a 1st generation iPod. I stuffed the bag in my swimsuit and swam happily to tunes for a few weeks. Unfortunately, the “bag” sprung a leak and that iPod is now a doorstop (husband was very unhappy).
A year or so later, I found and purchased a SwiMP3. The sound quality of the bone conduction speakers was awesome, but it was terminally painful to update my music because it was iTunes incompatible. As I became more and more iTunes exclusive, it became more and more obsolete.
When I found the iSH2 from H2O Audio, which holds an iPod Shuffle, I was delighted. Unfortunately, those early waterproof earphones had inconsistent performance and I still pined for the sound quality of my SwiMP3, but with the ease of iTunes. I began sending notes (to both companies) asking for sound quality AND iTunes compatibility. I was elated when H20 Audio told me that they were about to come out with the iSH3 (aka Interval) incorporating their Surge headphones to the iPod Shuffle casing. I was so delighted that I ordered two as soon as they were available in Feburary 2009 (one for me and one for my friend’s birthday in May). I was so early in my purchase that I had to work with customer service to register – the warranty website had yet to list the iSH3! That’s how I met Richard at customer service.
I have been rocking my splashes very happily ever since. I love my iSH3 and whenever anyone at the pool asks me about it, I encourage him or her to purchase an iPod Shuffle ($50) and the iSH3 ($80) – great deal! I provide the H2O Audio website info and tell them that they will not regret it.
Imagine how distressed I was when I found out that my friend’s gift had a broken latch! Considering that I had purchased it in February and I desired to make it right when I saw her next weekend, I was glad to have a relationship with Richard. I typed up an email to Richard, explained situation and he made it right! I have a new iSH3 on the way so that I can swap with my friend when I see her next weekend and then I’ll send the broken one back. With this gesture, H2O Audio amplified my raving fandom. ☺ Their customer service exemplifies my three favorite (long view) customer service mantras:
- Build relationships with your users. Get to know each other – exchange full names and try to know something about the other person that allows you to connect. For a customer, nothing is more frustrating than either not knowing whom to call or not having comfort to call when a problem arises. Creating connection encourages honest, timely communication.
- If your customer calls you to complain or seek advice, THANK them, encourage narratives, and listen for information in the details. No matter how hard it is to say “Thank you” to someone who is complaining, be sincere. The provided information is a gift that will help you to make products better – you will learn how the product is actually being used.
- Fix what isn’t right without excuse and be grateful for the opportunity.
This advice applies equally to technology development (internal customers) as to consumer products (external customers).
Are you building relationships with your users? Thanking them? Fixing what isn’t right? Staying grateful for the opportunity?
Are you rocking your splashes with an iSH3?
April 23, 2009
On certain topics or regarding certain people, I can be a bit narrow-minded. Through encouragement over many years, I can usually find one thing positive to say about just about anything or anyone, no matter how grudgingly I do so.
This started out as a “game.” When I was being judgmental, negative, or otherwise intolerant of something or someone, my husband (before he was my husband) made me say one positive thing. Sometimes it took quite awhile, now I am a bit faster.
This is great long view advice and I continue to practice. One thing to make it easier is to listen to the kids tune (by none other than “The Happy Crowd” – I can still hear it in my head from years of overplay): Say Something Nice About Someone.
My husband and son like to watch WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) – I think it is plain silly. I definitely do not get the attraction to “he-man” ballet, but accept that it is entertainment from which they derive joy. I have been dared (taunted?) to publicly say something nice about WWE. So….The WWE “pinned to the math” game uses algebra (which is always a positive) in addition to WWE knowledge to play. There I did it – I said something nice about WWE on my blog!
Can you say something nice about about WWE?
March 25, 2009
Wyo was a regal dark chocolate (almost black) Morgan horse. He had a massive neck, a muscular stature, and the sweetest disposition that a horse could have. Today Wyo was laid to rest after two years of suffering from equine COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
When I was a little girl, I desperately wanted a horse, but even though dad was an experienced and able horseman it just was not to be. As time passed, I became more urban, less rural, and I did not think much about horses after college. Imagine my surprise when my parents retired to a ranch and (finally) bought me a horse!
I met Wyo when he was a gangly 2-year-old still in training. It was love at first sight! I immediately hired a trainer to teach me to ride, to tack, to muck, to groom, and be safe around horses. Although I could only see Wyo occasionally, my trips to visit him were always joyful learning experiences.
There is an old proverb that says, “When you are ready, your teacher will come.” It might be surprising, but Wyo was one of my best teachers. He taught technology leadership from a horses’ point-of-view. His lessons were few, but important:
- Build a relationship before you ask to lead. He led me to develop a deep and lasting bond that enabled me to confidently give commands and him to accept them.
- Be present. He taught me the importance of paying attention to the trail, to the beauty of the mountains that we traveled, to the possible dangers (rattlesnakes), and to the unexpected (a flock of startled pheasant).
- Overcommunicate. He taught me the importance of making sure that we understood each other when working together. We learned to open a gate without dismount and could easily move cattle between pastures. Although I spoke and he did not, the position of his ears and his breathing told me everything.
- Take the lead when others cannot. He demonstrated confidence to other horses when they shied from crossing streams. He stepped confidently into the water and escorted other horses to the other side, crossing as many times as was needed.
I miss his powerful stride under my saddle and the wind in my face, but I can still feel the reins in my hands. Rest in peace my friend and teacher. Your memory lives with me. You were loved.
March 10, 2009
The process of attribution is effectively taught in engineering school and in the technology workplace – we see acknowledgements in presentations, references in papers, and funding thanks in reports. However, attribution alone is insufficient to be successful over the long term. The long view requires us to nurture and build relationships with colleagues over the full spectrum on our road to success. To that end, it is the dark side that is often unappreciated – how to say you are sorry and make amends for slights which take the form of omission, overvaluation of one’s own work above others’ points-of-view, and unintended consequences of expediency.
An honest awareness of daily actions and inactions will likely uncover a host of things for which our need to be right got in the way of being collegial. When we recognize these situations, it is imperative that corrective action be taken. We must offer a sincere apology and accept the discomfort of doing so knowing that it will help us to do better next time.
Delivering a sincere and meaningful apology falls into the realm of things technologists need to know to be successful. What is needed is a sincere acknowledgement of the error, acceptance of blame, and no further explanation. This strategy meets most primal needs for satisfaction. Although there are entire treatises on an apology, the “on defense” advice in How to Be Useful: A Beginner’s Guide to Not Hating Work (Hustad) is very appropriate and helpful (how I wish I read this book when I first started my career!). She warns of the non-apology like “I’m sorry that you’re upset” or some variation, which will backfire and not effectively gain long-term collegial appreciation.
Even though apologies should routinely be timely, I learned in kindergarten (or thereabouts) that “It’s never too late to say you are sorry.” This adage is just a special case of the quintessential long view adage “better late than never.”