February 19, 2010

Both Sides

Posted in Business tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 11:48 am by lindaslongview

Now that I am fully self-employed, I have achieved new levels of reality about interactions and negotiations.

When I used to contract for services or products on behalf of an organization, I always appreciated that over the long view both sides need to accrue value in order for a deal to be positive. Today, I am appreciating the details in new and acute ways.

I am learning quickly how to discern which clients want to take advantage of my integrity, work ethic, and desire to over-deliver and which ones are grateful and willing to fairly compensate me for my service, skill, and ability to add value to their organization.  It is truly a pleasure to work with the latter.  🙂

Even in these times of extreme austerity for business and individuals, the world is bigger than any of our personal or business interactions.  So, what is true immediately will not be true forever.  Thus, actions taken today (in immediacy) that could be considered opportunistic, manipulative, or exploitive, will live on indefinitely.

Real value is created when there is synergy from collaboration.  In an environment of opportunism, manipulativeness, and exploitation, synergy is extinguished and replaced by minimalism – what is required is delivered rather than what is needed.

My long view advice to clients:

  • Leave enough on the table to ensure that the interaction is valuable to both sides. (If you squeeze the turnip hard enough, you might get what you wanted in the short-term, but not over the long-term).
  • Recognize the bounds of your agreements and/or contracts. (Don’t scope weeks of work while contracting for a few hours of service.)
  • Be gracious to those that provide you service, say “thank you” and provide constructive feedback when accepting deliverables. (You would be surprised how far a little graciousness goes in creating extra value.)
  • Foster collaboration with external providers worthy of internal rapport. (Ultimately, if you can create real synergy, you can achieve much greater value.)

Before I finished my post, I read Seth’s post: more, More, MORE! – apparently we are channeling the same subject today!  🙂

In your interactions, are you considering both sides?

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August 9, 2009

Extreme Sportsmanship

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , , at 11:57 pm by lindaslongview

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.
SANY1703
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.

SANY1759

Can you encourage extreme positivity in your environment?

July 9, 2009

I Can Do Better

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 10:26 pm by lindaslongview

My blog post of yesterday, Pace and Priority, did not meet my own standards.  It changed direction, ended abruptly, and did not provide a clear sense of navigating short view vs. long view.  Today I hope to improve…

In Pace and Priority, I describe a disconnect between “say” and “do” in the context of  “action items” for a guidance document in a community organization.  There is no doubt that all of the participating volunteers mean well in agreeing to perform certain tasks (action items), yet we have struggled to achieve traction.

I started yesterday’s post on the topic of lack of priority for the work, but the more I explored the idea, the more I realized that my thinking was too narrow.  First, I realized that there was no way for anyone to establish priority without knowing the full range of obligations and expectations each participant was juggling – only each participant can do that for him/herself.  As such, I changed direction and ended abruptly with the suggestion that people must be responsible for their own consistency with respect to “say” vs. “do.” Yet there was more to it, I just could not put my finger on it immediately…

Leadership plays an important role in defining priorities and motivating others. This is true in both market and social norms (for more detail, see Finishing School).  Specifically, in the context of market norms (PAID to do work), there is obligation to make progress against the priorities of the organization. Conversely, in the context of social norms (volunteers gain RECIPROCITY), there is no obligation.

Leadership expectations in a mixed market and social group, thus, have complex dynamics.  Add shared leadership and complexity increases.  Thus, setting priority and motivating participants in these environments requires long view thinking.

TruthTableANDI compare the shared leadership situation to the mathematical logical (Boolean) AND function, which operates on two logical propositions (true or false) and produces a value of true if and only if both of its operands are true.  If one leader demonstrates priority (true condition) and the other does not (false condition), then participants can conclude the efforts are not a priority (true AND false = false) and will not likely establish priority for their own.

The only condition when participants conclude that efforts are a priority is when both leaders demonstrate priority. In the case of paid and volunteer participants sharing leadership, the engagement of the paid leader is likely to create a higher level of influence on the participants than the volunteer.  I assert this based upon the observation that if it is a priority to the person that it impacts most (the paid leader), it is important.  Thus, my long view advice is to ensure that paid leadership be actively engaged, demonstrating by example that the effort is important.

Although yesterday’s advice was useful (create consistency between personal “say” and “do”), it was not sufficient.  Complex leadership situations require thoughtful understanding.  For the specific case of shared leadership within a mixed market and social group, leadership alignment and active participation by the paid leader is critical to achieving a consistent message of priority for participants. Once achieved, then personal consistency becomes important.

Whew!  I hope that made sense and was helpful.

June 19, 2009

Asking Discomfort

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , , , , at 8:59 pm by lindaslongview

I was raised to be very self-sufficient and to (mostly) avoid debt, so it is difficult for me to ask.

Recently, I joined my son in “picking a fight against cancer.” We are both participating in the 2009 LiveStrong Challenge.  We will each fundraise and run a 5k.  LiveSTRONG2009My son is the LiveStrong veteran.  He raised >$1000 as part of his 7th grade charity project.  No matter the confidence that I have with the cause, fundraising feels to me like asking for a favor.

To overcome my discomfort with fundraising, I started slowly.  I selected ten (10) friends to solicit.  I prepared a “base email” and customized salutations appropriate to each friend.  I sent these requests out over several days, burying the requests for support amongst a brief personal update, shameless promotion of my blog, and photos of my son.  Was it the right balance?….

I did not get many quick responses.  My confidence waned!  After several days, I received a response indicating that my email had been caught in a spam folder (apparently, having several links causes susceptibility to spam filters).  After follow-up emails to the remaining nine (9), I discovered that six (6) of the messages had been caught in spam filters.  Whew!  My confidence was restored.

The asking tension is in give vs. take of reciprocal behaviors.  We give to preserve/nurture relationships (long view).  We take (make requests of others) to meet goals.  Although this is true both professionally and personally, the medium of exchange makes these transactions quite different.  Professional exchanges have market norms; PAY fulfills the transaction.  Personal/civic exchanges have social norms; RECIPROCITY fulfills the transaction. Boundaries and expectations are well defined for professional exchanges and I have tons of experience, so it is much easier to conduct those transactions. My instincts tell me that for personal/civic exchange, creating personal boundaries consistent with my principles and behaviors is the right direction.  For me, this means nurturing personal connection with each solicitation for LiveStrong.

To date, I have raised $70 out of $200 goal for LiveStrong.  Leave me a comment if you want to donate to my effort and I’ll send you the link.  ☺

In the meantime, I will continue to gain experience through practice, practice, practice (does that mean that I’ll “get to the Carnegie Hall” of fundraising?!)

Do you have advice for me to strengthen my ability to ask?

April 20, 2009

Finishing School

Posted in Business, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 12:37 am by lindaslongview

balancebookseyesonlyMy mother always said that I needed to attend “finishing school,” but early on I did not see the value. As such, I started my career with poor interaction skills.  Luckily, my undeveloped social skills were tolerated because of significant technical contribution.   However, as my career progressed, I found that the technical problems were increasingly complex and without adaptation on my social skills side, it was clear that I would perish. So even though I did not balance books on my head, my latent abilities were nurtured and I learned to collaborate, lead, and be more socially refined.

I don’t have any really great stories, just an accumulated “what were they thinking?” collection in my head that has helped me to learn the following key principles:

  • Understand motivation and human behavior.
  • Get to know your colleagues.
  • Work to the strengths of each individual.

I learned from academic (reading the work of others), experiential collaborative technical projects (doing and learning from mistakes), and more recently through service and leadership in community organizations.

I have observed that there are fundamental differences in the motivation between industry (paid for service technical effort) and civic service (volunteer community effort).  The motivation for collaborative effort in typical technology organizational culture is recognition, reputation, and PAY.  Whereas in community volunteer organizational cultures, motivation is recognition, reputation, and RECIPROCITY.   Although they both share similar features (recognition and reputation), there is quite a difference between pay and reciprocity.

Others (real experts, not just amateurs like me) have studied pay and reciprocity differences.  A particularly engaging study can be found in Predictably Irrational (Ariely, ch.4, social norms v. market norms).  Ariely points out that, although social norms are more powerful motivators than market norms, the social contract required to achieve success with social norms is very tenuous! Expediency must be abandoned and long view commitments forged, because social contracts must be maintained under all circumstances to be effective.

As usual, there are blurred lines that create tension.  Industry desires to capitalize on social leverage requiring social skills of business leaders (understand motivation, get to know people, work to strengths), but is not always willing to take the long view. Conversely, sometimes, civic leaders desire expediency, in the process forgetting the social contracts they have engaged to achieve volunteer participation.

Although, more and more, we hear about self-organizing mass collaborations building value (Wikinomics, by Tapscott & Williams), motivated in unusual ways, it is not likely that it will be the case for most technology projects in the near term.  I recently read about 100,000 gamers unraveling the secret life of proteins (Wired, 17.05, There’s Power in a Puzzle), their motivation being competitive fun!  Wouldn’t it be great if we could achieve that everywhere?!

As I continue to grow, I hope to learn more, and I look forward to a future where powerful motivators, like competitive fun, can be harnessed and retained for industrial and civic service more and more routinely.  However, in the meantime, there is still much that requires coordinated collaborative leadership and excellence in social skills.

Do you have suggestions or observations that could add to this thinking?