Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Living the Symbolic Life: Metaphors from Yosemite [Elizabeth Agnew]

One consistent way to improve your leadership is to find symbolic meaning in areas of your life where you might not be looking. Take something that’s happening to you, make an abstract summary of it, and see where else the metaphor applies in your life.

Five of my good friends and I went on a backpacking trip to Yosemite National Park over the July fourth holiday. There were many good lessons buried in the three days we spent roughing it in the wilderness. Here are three powerful metaphors I took from the trip that I think you will find helpful, too.

1. When you can no longer see the path ahead, stop, take a load off, and look around in a new way.

On day 1 of our hike, the snow cover was still so deep in some areas that we’d be walking along and then the person in the front would realize they lost track of where the trail went. Conversations would pause and we’d all stop and look around. Sometimes we even had to set our packs down and send one or two people off to scout out the trail. We were looking for clues – large cut logs were a very good sign because it means that the park service had cut a trail through a fallen tree.

Sometimes when you’re already in motion, going along not really paying attention to where you’re headed, you’re realize you’ve lost your way. Release yourself of the weight you’re carrying, take your time, and the path will become clear again.

2. If you push through at the end, you might just end up farther than you thought you would.

On day two, we hiked a large elevation change and several miles. It was late and everyone was ready to be at camp, but we still had two miles to go. The pace was fast so that we could make it to camp by dark. People were silent, managing their own fatigue and pain levels. When we got to our camp, we realize we’d estimated incorrectly where it was, and had hiked a mile more than we had planned!

The element of focus that comes at the end of a project, just when you want to quit, is so essential to a strong finish. Your “second wind” at this point in your progress can give you more momentum than you realize. Power through your finishes!

3. There are greater forces at work beyond our control.

On the drive home, we were headed west on a country highway, almost at the interstate. We slowed down because we saw a car slam on its breaks in the eastbound lane. Two cars behind it, a car was trying to avoid the car that stopped, and pulled out into oncoming traffic – right in front of us. We swerved to avoid it, but the driver was in reaction mode and had turned left into us. We collided hard. Luckily everyone was ok and walked away, but the experience shook us up, especially when we thought about how there was nothing we could have done to avoid it.
I was surprised at the sense of calm surrender I felt when I saw we were about to hit the other car. If, like me, you often feel the most afraid when you feel out of control, take note. This acute instance of knowing I was out of control led to a divine feeling of surrender and calm. The trick now, is for us to learn to apply that same feeling to other areas of our life and work where we are also out of control.

The symbolic life is one where we take meaning in moments that we would otherwise simply log in the memory bank. Leverage all of your experiences so that your future ones may be even richer.

Elizabeth Agnew works with individuals and organizations in technical fields needing tailored leadership development that speaks their language. Liz has logged hundreds of hours coaching individuals from companies such as Jet Propulsion Laboratories, Google, HP, SETI, Lockheed Martin, VNUS and Sun Microsystems. Her background includes experience in adult education, team facilitation, and public speaking. She offers complimentary coaching consultations – call or email today to schedule yours.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Announcing the Next EL SIG Meeting, August 18 [Robert Lasater]

The next meeting of the Engineering Leadership SIG will be held on August 18 in the SAP Cafeteria (3410 Hillview Avenue, Palo Alto, CA), starting at 7:00 PM. Doors open at 6:30 PM. Notice the location is different, on the same street, Hillview, but in the neighboring SAP building. Title of the main presentation is "Rapid Rapport: Creating Influence On Demand", by Bernie Maloney.

TOPIC: Rapid Rapport: Creating Influence On Demand

SPEAKER: Bernie Maloney, PE http://www.linkedin.com/in/berniemaloney

More info: http://www.SVForum.org/elsig

LOCATION: SAP CAFETERIA (not our normal location)

(DIFFERENT THIS TIME because we're combining with another SIG this month)

SAP Labs Cafeteria
3410 Hillview Ave
Palo Alto, California 94304
United States


Description: SAP Labs Palo Alto

From 280: exit Page Mill, go east, downhill. Turn right at Coyote Hill, turn right on Hillview and then right again up the hill into the SAP campus.

From 101: exit Oregon Expressway west, uphill. Follow Oregon, Page Mill until you hit Coyote Hill. turn right on Hillview and then right again up the hill into the SAP campus.

Snacks and Beverage Sponsor: PMI SV - Julie Godon http://www.pmisv.org/ The Silicon Valley Chapter is a regional component of PMI and a resource for all aspects of project management leadership and information in California's Silicon Valley (southern end of San Francisco Bay). The chapter’s 2,000 plus members enjoy over 200+ yearly local activities supported by an all volunteer staff. In addition, Project Management Professional (PMP) certification has been achieved by over 60% of its members. The Chapter’s mission is to support the interests and needs of its members by providing the leadership and forums for expanding and sharing the knowledge of Project Management.

. . . next month it could be YOU for $100! Please contact Sue Shreve: msshreve 'at' sbcglobal.net

Management Resources Sponsor: ProjectConnections.com supports EL SIG members with a wide range of resources for managing organizations, projects, and people. Members can access links to templates, checklists, articles, and more from the ProjectConnections.com Premium library. All this is available to ELSIG members at no charge, at the ELSIG page on ProjectConnetions.com (Open Enrollment is offered twice a year for this benefit. It's that time of year! We'll be sending a notice shortly and you can sign up if you haven't already.)

BOOK SWAP - Every month! Bring books to share.

JOB SWAP - Check out our Yahoo! Group here:

PEER-to-PEER Roundtable - Every month! Join us to share insights and advice with peers each month prior to the 7 PM event.

BLOG Write or read EL SIG blog posts here: http://sdforumelsig.blogspot.com/

Cost: $20 at the door for non-SVForum members, No charge for SVForum members

For more information, go here.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

July 21 Meeting Notes - Kimberly Wiefling on Leadership [Robert Lasater]

On July 21, Kimberly Wiefling gave a presentation on leadership - "Why Would Anyone Follow You?" - in her usual energetic and inimitable style. Here is a summary.

Kimberly started by reminding the audience how low retention rates are usually after a presentation or talk. Within a few days the typical participant has forgotten 50%; this rises to 80% after two months. She worked to counter this trend by having the audience participate in several exercises. The first was done in pairs: describe to your partner what you had for lunch today - with enthusiasm.

A leader needs to infect the organization with this kind of great enthusiasm.

You need to be willing to be uncomfortable to accomplish your goal. [Getting people out of their comfort zone was another goal of her exercises.]

Kimberly Wiefling works with mid-level management in Japan. "I use a lot of shock tactics" to get her clients out of their comfort zone.

The next exercise had people get into small groups - two or three people - to list and discuss the characteristics and languages of the worst leaders in the world. Afterword, she polled the audience for their responses:

· Know-it-all
· Lack of focus
· Not able to apologize
· Jeopardizing the team for personal reasons.
· Micromanagement
· Taking credit for others
· Lack of integrity
· Unethical
· Abdication of responsibility
· Fear

Now leaders have only three tools:

· Action
· Communication
· Thinking

-but the last tool is not visible.

And leadership is not on the org chart. Some missing items are:

· Vendors
· Customers
· Venture capitalists
· Competitors
· Government and other regulatory authorities

Five characteristics of people in power:

· Receive more positive feedback
· Have less control over their impulses
· Think about their own needs more
· Have less empathy
· Thinks the rules don't apply to them

Question: do people become more unpleasant when they achieve power over other people, or is it their unpleasantness that causes them to achieve power? Which leads to another exercise: discuss how to avoid the trap of unpleasantness if you have power over people. One strategy to achieve that goal is to lead with questions - listening is the lost leadership skill.

Another exercise (again for pairs): plan an EL SIG holiday party, with your partner responding with "yes, but". (Tip: "yes, but" actually means No.) Next, try with your partner responding with "yes, and".

The final discussion topic was to provide examples of language of an admired and influential leader.

· "Thank you"
· nothing - let the followers take charge of discussions
· "Job well done" - but more detail about why it was well done is always appreciated.
· "What obstacles do you have?"
· "I love that idea."
· "What do you think?"
· "The real credit goes to ..."
· "What do you think it will take to make it happen?"
· "I'm sorry."
· "I don't know."
· "I need help."

Kimberly Wiefling is the author of Scrappy Project Management, one of the top-ranked project management books on Amazon in the US, published in Japanese, and growing in popularity around the world. She splits her work time between the US and Japan.