December 15, 2005

final summation

Rhetoric 3266 had seemed like a boring business class at the outset of signing up for it. Going into the class I got the feel that it would not be boring. I am glad we did introductions the way we did as it gave everyone at least one chance to speak up at the onset. That one test of communication courage likely helped make the conversations. Though I was eventually given a 3 talk limit by my compatriots in the left back corner of the class room, I often found the topics too engaging to stay to that limit.

The texts were useful discussion and learning tools I think I liked the Tipping Point the most. It was the more engaging for me as I have read an earlier edition of Emotional Intelligence and taken other classes along those lines. I liked Tipping point because it made me think about how the larger picture of communication takes place with an idea as its starting point. I think it will be useful to me to develop a more intuitive approach to these events as I would like to move into corporate communications and government relations. In that field I think that knowing what begins a tipping and what makes ideas sticky will be infinitely helpful

It should be obvious that I have not made complete use of the blog as a tool. I do like the idea of using blog’s as learning and discussion tools. One suggestion I might have in this area is to use an extra credit point or two for reading and responding to at least three different blogs. It never ceases to amaze me how people will respond to an extra credit assignment with more enthusiasm than with a “regular one? thus everyone will be more likely to post and read.

Finally I really enjoyed the experience of this class as a whole. I will miss several of the people I got to know during this class and that indicates that there was a sense of community. That is a good indicator that the ideas and objectives were accomplished. This is after all a team building and group process class. One of the best indicators of that is how a sense of community and purpose develop.

Posted by at at 10:33 AM

in a rut?

Like Bob and a few of the other posters in their blog’s I have often feel like I’m in a rut when life and everything becomes daunting and overwhelming. However, I really don’t think this is the rut were talking about here. The more destructive rut for me is when I slip into apathy and just start feeling like I’m just going through the motions (though I will relish some of that soon) and not going anywhere. This is the rut were depressive thinking kicks in and I feel like I’m stuck. That kind of rut hasn’t existed for a few years for me as life has just kept pounding away at me with new challenges and opportunities.

In the past to get out of a rut I usually have looked for a new thing to be involved in (usually volunteer) and that I feel passionately about. I have often been “on the couch? for a few weeks and just going through the motions of life feeling slightly depressed and wondering if this will be the sum total of my life. This is an awful feeling, but it usually takes some kind of wake up call to get out of it. Something like my kids will say “what’s wrong?? or I notice the dishes are piled up and the house is falling apart (not literally but it’s a mess and I don’t like it) or a friend says “man you seem like your somewhere else.? These are the cue words that there is a problem.

Once I recognize it I can do something about it. Sometimes its just a matter of catching up on the basics (housework, homework, socializing –I really isolate when I’m in a rut—stuff like that) and then I start to feel better. It is at that point that I hopefully find something to get excited about again. A sense of purpose is perhaps the greatest defense against being in a rut. It’s hard to feel like your in a rut when you feel every day like you have a purpose. Some people get this from religion, some from their work, and still others find it in their families. I find my sense of purpose in just participating in life. I hate to keep rehashing the same thing but it really is a miracle I’m even here (as in alive never mind how big a miracle it is that I’m at the U) and anytime I remember that I am excited about my life.

I sometimes get down but life has constantly (especially in these last 5 or 6 years) offered me challenges and results. The benefits of staying a participant in life far outweigh the work it takes to do so. I truly hope I never stop taking on the next big thing, though I will need a rest after these last 6 years.

Posted by at at 10:28 AM

iPod tipped

The iPod is a prime example of something that has tipped. In the first releases of the iPod they went out to bands like U2 and got them to collaborate from the start. The marketers also used college campuses like training grounds for the connectors. Once they had a feel for what design would be “sticky? they had to find the connectors to spread the word outside of the traditional advertising campaign that would follow. In order to do this Apple did what it does best, finds popular people to “hint? at the next thing. They knew that the college campuses would be their starting point. If you can get the connectors on campus to adapt your idea, product, or service you will also have a huge cadre of the other trait filled people carrying on that idea.

In other words if you showed up on campus the first day with the first (or second) release of the iPod and were a connector people would naturally attract to you and feel comfortable asking “what’s that?? Mavens would then go about telling everyone who would listen “did you see that thing that Xxxx had? How cool is that?? and your off to the races. Of course there is the risk factor of the first crowd rejecting your idea.

The other thing Apple had to do immediately was separate form from function. They knew that there would almost certainly be cheaper boxes that would do much the same thing (and there are) so they had to really create a tipping point on the basis of design. It had to be cool not just functional. They accomplished this by carefully crafting an image using music industry stars that connected with the widest variety of people and forming an image that would make mavens want to go about saying who had and did not have an iPod.

Currently the iPod owns 70% or more of the MP3 player market.

Posted by at at 9:40 AM

tipping point

Tipping Point was a particularly interesting book. I am always fascinated by what makes people tick. When we began this book I remembered what one of my early prof’s said “if you can figure out what the next craze will be ahead of time you can be an over-night success? he then went on to temper that statement with how difficult this is and how often the person who had the great idea in the first place doesn’t become the one who gets all the success. This is where Tipping Point comes into play, while the idea of get rich quick is a dangerous one, being able to see and participate in the next thing can be beneficial to any career.

In looking at a practical application of the Tipping Point if you have a sense of what type each member of your team is (connector, maven, etc.) you will have a better chance to use those traits to your business or organization’s advantage. It also makes each individual more motivated to perform for the team if they can capture some of their more innate skills and put them to good use. In a general sense anyone wants to use their natural skills to the best possible effectiveness and feels more effective and comfortable in those roles.

I think the thing that inspired me most was really defining how I am useful as a connector and Tipping Point really made me think about how some of the ideas I have put out there are today working projects and bearing fruit. As most of these were all volunteer projects I hope those same skills pay off dividends in the business world as well.

Posted by at at 9:08 AM

Teach the class

In the teach the class (first project) I learned how I like to integrate what I know about how people work together and use that to keep a project moving along. I also recognized that even though I wasn’t the leader at any time I was always contributing as a foundation builder. I can see how this is helpful but also how it might (in this environment) deny the leader the opportunity to really learn to lead. I am always wondering in those situations if I am not just really a fully participating team member and not taking over.

In this project I did not take over I became the information hub collecting the commentary and organizing the information. I overcame one of my primary weaknesses in this role I didn’t fall into procrastination when I was doing this. Things came in and I released them back out to the team as quickly as I could. There often wasn’t time to critique each other work in a face to face meeting so we would observe the comments going back and forth when we would use reply to all to keep a discussion and we all did a good job of keeping up with each others ideas.

Personally, my strengths were my ability to communicate an idea, help the group in forming consensus, and leading without being the leader. I think my weaknesses were not putting enough pure input into how our presentation would unfold for the team as a whole. I think that might have been the weak link for us. But I also believe we had a great team and everything went well in the end.

Posted by at at 8:50 AM

virtual teams

I did not have a chance to attend the Breeze team meeting but I can certainly comment on what it’s like to work in a virtual team. I work with a team that is (as I mentioned in an earlier post) comprised of people from many different parts of the country, and occasionally the world. I am amazed at how technology can make things possible, and yet there is sometimes still a real lacking in working without being able to see the people you work with.

The idea of a virtual team actually begins with teleconferencing and that worked good (1980s-early 90’s) for exchanging ideas and meeting virtually but it involved having to coordinate hand outs that were mailed or faxed. Today we can meet in a moments notice using (for my team) a tool similar to breeze called sametime meeting and combining that with a teleconference. While this makes the team meeting go well from an information exchange point it lacks much in connecting people.

It is still possible for the meeting to end up focusing on one site or another and then your left with 12 people in one of the conference rooms looking at each other wondering “when will they realize were here?? and that is not good for the team. Though those incidences are low I think they mostly related to the fact that the manager is in Austin TX.

Finally working with a largely virtual team gets really interesting when it comes to the one on one interaction. So much of my time is spent in e-mail or instant messaging (IM). Let me comment here how amazingly useful instant messaging is for me if I need to ask a quick question to someone. No matter where they are in the world I can just check if they are online and start a conversation. Some still always ask me to call but most are quite adept with using IM.

Working within a virtual team also allows me to attend school because I can get into the system and work from practically anywhere that I can get a high speed connection. So for me the virtual team is an integral part of my work life.

Posted by at at 8:16 AM

Goleman thoughts

I enjoyed Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence and thought some of the ideas he presents were useful. I especially enjoyed the tying in every concept to an accounting of how those skills or ideas were or were not used in the real world by someone. In the first set of chapters, it was most useful to define the skills by telling stories of their use or their lack.

One of the less enticing things about Goleman’s work is that if you have read, studied, or participated in a few team building or other exercises some of them begin to sound redundant and Goleman is no exception to this. Many of the ideas he presents are just a retelling of good communication theory and basic leadership ideas. It is not that there is nothing new, but rather that the basic concepts are there in so many other works.

What I found to be most important in Goleman’s work is that so many people have no sense of these things or their importance. I have in my career worked with many people who could use at least a rudimentary knowledge of the skills you can learn from Goleman.

Posted by at at 7:55 AM

December 13, 2005

Fujishin dysfunctional roles

I would have to say that I have stronger “The Pleaser? traits than any other. I do have a nasty tendency to want to be the diplomat, the peacemaker, and I often go far beyond my own responsibilities so that people think well of me or to avoid controversy. While it may be true that occasionally this is beneficial, even a gift, it is equally damaging. The difference is when I exceed my own responsibilities and abilities to either please another or save someone else (especially the latter). I have learned (painfully) that not only does this not help me it hurts the team as a whole and creates lines of expectations and dependencies that can become long term problems if not addressed.

People are funny beasts, they tend to want to do well, to perform at the level expected of them, but if enabled to perform at a lower level with no consequence they often will become accustomed to that level and become angry when the new balance is upset. Beyond creating false expectations the pleaser is often really underneath the manipulator. The pleaser behavior along with a distorted set of “tit for tat? expectations create a real harmful team member, because they not only reset the teams expectations, discourage debate and innovation, and quell issues that will ultimately just fester, they also expect that those they have pleased will “owe me one? which. This, in turn, creates a vicious circle of sick communication behavior that can hobble a team for months unless a strong leader recognizes it and stops it.

To avoid the role of the pleaser I look at how I am accepting extra work, and how I distribute work to others. I try to be acutely aware of the “you owe me one? syndrome (which is a close relative of “that’s not my job?) and make sure I allow a debate to surface and live out its natural life. These are the basic ideas. Some real world actions I take are.

1. I sometimes wear a shirt that says “no let me drop everything and work on your problem? to remind me that I am responsible for my work not everyone’s.

2. I look over my database entries and check my other notes before accepting extra work (this is the one I fail the most on. I’m constantly overbooking myself)

3. I listen to how I am talking with others for key words that denote caretaking or sympathy (empathy is great sympathy is generally not)

These are the top three ways I deal with it. I have some ways to go but my new job as manager is teaching me tons about this particular trait.

Posted by at at 7:32 PM

Dan's mission

My personal mission:

I will always be a work in motion, never fearing to challenge myself, living with respect to others and myself, loving without reserve, participating completely in living, and striving to always do the next right thing.

My professional mission:

To never stop growing, accepting opportunity where and whenever it presents itself, learning endlessly, becoming a better communicator, and constantly challenging myself to reach for new goals.

Dans Mission

My mission statement was not hard to develop other than how difficult it can be to put into a sentence one single statement that sums up my desires, values, and vision. This is why companies have a “mission statement? and most have “vision? and “values? statements to follow. However, the mission statement should offer the primary ideal direction to the reader. My personal mission statement guides me as a person in all my interactions with others; it is the compass morally, personally, and spiritually that guides me. It supercedes the professional mission in times of a moral or ethical dilemma.

The Professional mission is what I use to motivate me and guide me in my career choices. If I have a question before me of more money or a development opportunity I can turn to this basic idea to guide me. Of course its imperfect, I have mouths to feed, bills to pay, and a life to live but in general I have not yet had to make a choice outside its boundaries.

Posted by at at 7:00 PM

Fujishin inventory

Fujishin’s inventory exercise taught me that I would value my family above all else in the last 6 months of my life. This was not surprising though after I thought about it a bit more I would want to travel and see some of those places on my ‘yet’ list. I do some form of inventory system pretty regularly but I think I’ll be integrating many of these questions into my next complete inventory.

Some of the things I particularly liked were forcing you to make a statement about what you believe. It seems like today were far too often lead to believe in x y or z and don’t have the time and/or are not forced to really state “This is what I believe.? Some of mine were:
I believe that in every person lies a great good and a great evil which one comes out is determined by our choices.

I believe that government can be good can do good when its effectively lead (partial credit to the West Wing for the wording).

I believe that when we teach a child we ensure the future.

I believe my life is my responsibility.

Well you get the idea. It is one of the things that a politically correct dialog sometimes prevents to openly state what one believes. Vigorous debate is not a comfortable thing, it’s not supposed to be…. But now I’m off topic.

All in all I learned that I have some skills in communication, personal relations, and goals. However I need work on self discipline, self esteem, and consistency.

Posted by at at 6:54 PM