Emotional Intelligence – A Required Skill for Successful Teams

April 19, 2011

http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_45.htm#

I am thankfully humble believing I possess a high amount of Emotional Intelligence (EI).  This critical leadership and management trait was instilled in me whilst a Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corp (JROTC) cadet in high school, a college cadet in The Citadel, an US Air Force officer, and via my varied business experiences. Importantly, this in NO WAY means I am an expert.  I believe one should be a lifetime student with a structured hunger to learn and experience new things. It is most important to break-out of one’s comfort zone, especially in a world experiencing innovative change at mind numbing speeds. Either one adapts, or one withers away.

Being able to understand how your emotions affect you, your organization and/or your team is an ability that leads to success.  Not understanding this skill, or learning how to use it effectively, will certainly destroy your career and/or project. Disappointingly, I have seen too many cases in organizations and projects I have led where both leaders and/or team members allow their emotions to control them.  It is the person who controls their emotions. On one project, I walked into an office area where the supervisor was having an intense and heated “conversation” with a subordinate.  I could see the subordinate’s eyes were wide with surprise, fear and disgust.  Not wishing to be an eavesdropper, I walked to another part of the floor because I had to discuss some points with the supervisor.  The supervisor finished her “conversation”, then saw me standing in the hallway after abruptly leaving the subordinate’s office. I saw the look and body language of a busy executive quickly moving in my direction. The first words from her were, “I have to tell YOU something that I really don’t like being told what to do and when I should do it!” This statement heavily echoed throughout the cavernous hallway and into the surrounding offices. I decided to not allow myself to be treated in an unprofessional manner, nor allow the situation to escalate into something unmanageable.  I decided to use EI. My response to her was, “I understand you are having a bad day, I can hear it in your voice and see it throughout your tense body language. Shall we go into your office to discuss our issues in a constructive manner?”  I gently and professionally gestured my open hand toward her office. She stormed in.  I followed, but the door remained open at her suggestion.  I pointed-out to her that, as a contractor, I am simply performing duties assigned to me by her supervisor.  I further, politely reminded her this issue was discussed, agreed to by all in a previous staff meeting that I would remind you of the tasks needing to be accomplished.  I kept a professional, calm voice during this exchange.  She, in turn, calmed down, too.  We finished the conversation smiling with one another and agreed to meet at a time more convenient for her and the project.

Sadly, many people would not be able, or know how, to rise above low-level events by using higher-ordered thinking in such situations.  I choose to approach my projects and people pretty much the same way I try to approach life:  We all are here for a purpose, we are all equal and need to treat one another with respect, and “LIFE IS TOO SHORT”.  I hope you gain insight and a new tool to lead you to success.

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Fear and Ego Curtail Innovation

November 11, 2010

http://www.bnet.com/blog/grow-business/why-your-company-is-at-risk-if-your-employees-won-8217t-take-risks/309?promo=857&tag=nl.e857

 

Upon reading this short, but quite informative story in the link provided above (“Why Your Company is at Risk if Your Employees Won’t Take Risks”) I was struck by past memories of my career.  As an US Air Force officer (Captain), I remembered how shocked and nerve-racked my superiors were when I conducted emergency response exercises without a checklist, using grenade simulators or having ACTUAL emergency vehicles respond to an exercise drill inside of a weapons storage area.  I looked back at past careers outside of the Air Force as those supervisors cringed and sought numerous pounds of flesh when a mistake occurred in the name of innovation or being competitive.  This article is an enlightening breath of fresh air!

An organization, team, company, entity, etc., I feel, is predisposed to failure when it uses arcane and egocentric management practices of the industrial age.  Organizational success is achieved upon the foundation of respect, innovation, communication and calculated risk-taking.  Gone are the days when one could live upon the laurels of title and position simply because it is on an organizational chart.  The 21st Century organization and workers value risk takers who fail, as well as those who succeed.  Lessons are learned, documented as alternative approaches are examined and implemented when that ONE idea is a success.  Leading an organization by fear, as well as allowing one’s myopic ego to overshadow innovation, is an  assured guarantee of failure.

Beyond the Status Quo’s Grasp

October 1, 2010

Attached, below, is an insightful video interview from The Economist’s “Tea with The Economist” series.  The gentleman featured in this interview, Vijay Govindarajan, struck many resonating cords with me concerning two topics: Innovation Implementation and The Economy of Smalls.

First, implementation is usually the catalyst that causes many organizational innovations to not succeed.  Creating a new idea or “cool tool” is relatively easy.  There are many cost-effective, efficient or cutting-edge ideas born out of concept meetings, think-tanks and the like.  However, executing or getting that concept in place for full operation – implementation – is where  the difficult work, diligent commitment and organizational mettle are tested.  I feel the primary factors that stifle implementation, which directly and negatively impact innovation, are fear and lack of senior executive support.  Complacency is a corollary to stifled innovation as, I feel, personnel who become comfortable in their basic tasks believe they have contributed enough to the organization.  This happens because of a lack of direct supervisory leadership coupled with fear of disturbing the status quo – the fear of change.

Next, the Economy of Smalls.  Basically, this is a business concept that states more good, increased market penetration and increased profits are realized when larger populations of less affluent groups, or economies of scale, are the business focus.  A primary example is the growing market of micro loans.  A mirco-lender can reach more borrowers by offering smaller loans (from $500 to $2000) at low-interest rates than the traditional lender who markets to the affluent few who apply for loans ten-times – or more – larger.  The smaller loan default rate is relatively low, more businesses are created, more products are sold, more wealth is incurred, more people apply for loans, and then the cycle repeats itself.  The speaker in this video offers cogent examples how this concept has been successful.

Global, cultural, organizational and societal benefits are numerous when traditional, antiquated concepts – along with fear – are dispensed.  Strength, viability and growth are achieved when one strives to reach beyond the status quo’s grasp.

http://economist.feedroom.com/?fr_story=22c08c8a42d17bfcbd578ecd47422cbeab337d64&rf=podcast

Problem Solving via 21st Century Thinking

June 15, 2010

 http://www.bnet.com/2403-13502_23-389551.html?tag=PayScale_startModule;startModule_stateDropDown_dropDown

I stumbled across this great article via bnet.com called Using Knowledge Brokering to Improve Business Processes.  In essence, this article speaks to how open-source communication works not only for software developers, but also to resolve management and/or product issues within the 21st Century.  I am very passionate about using the phrase “21st Century” because, I feel, the more I emphasize it the more my colleagues and friends will believe they are no longer in the industrial age.  Therefore, my subliminal motivation is to prod them to think and live innovatively, in addition to creatively.

This article closely aligns itself with my training and experience in Lean Six Sigma.  There is a concept of “TRIZ” (pronounced – ‘treez) where every business problem has its solution within another business process currently, or previously was, in effect.  Lean Six Sigma uses a systematic methodology to identify such resources and lead a strategic team to a solution.  I hope you find this article as interesting and applicable to business innovation as I did.

Is the U. S. economy stronger than you think?

February 18, 2010

**This post is my response to a thought-provoking question originated by “Marc” in LinkedIn. Unfortunately, I lost where I saw Marc’s question posted.  Marc presented quantitative information that supports a thinking the economy is stronger than one believes it is.  “Marc” deserves credit for this primer.  Following is my response:**

Personally and professionally, Marc, I feel the US economy is in a steady, albeit comparative and laboriously slow improvement.  Without creating a political debate as to if 2009’s Stimulus Legislation “saved” or “created” my sense of optimism, a practical person can see the proverbial “light at the end of the Great Recession tunnel”.  Further, I am fervently optimistic this light is not a freight train towing a load of continued despair speeding toward us.

I concur the numbers, reports and by my own professionally developed sense of business cycles that the US economy is getting stronger.  One example my research reveals is a noticeable up-tick in the number of employment opportunities seeking resources such as Sales Manager, Business Development Director, Sales Director, Market Manager, and the like.  In my opinion, these postings reveal businesses, and many of them are small-businesses of less than 500 personnel, are carefully and methodically positioning themselves to take advantage of anticipated growth that will emerge via 21st Century innovative practices.  Many business professionals understand they need capital in order to grow.  Increased hiring and training a strategically fine-tuned phalanx of motivated Sales Managers will generate resources needed to grow and prosper.

In full disclosure, I remain a wee-bit wary of what lies beyond the unforeseen ridge of this country’s return to consistent strength.  My research and strategic planning experience point to many variables for calculation within and throughout this journey.  Variables such as political confusion, potential terrorism, persistent media flowing throughout every conduit one receives information, interaction of global financial structures…the variables are numerous.  However, these obstacles can be surmounted.

First, I feel this new information age and the human animal’s access to anything –  news, ATM’s, online movies, mounds of confusing and improperly managed information – has distorted reasonable thinking.  I feel since one can have what they want, when and as fast as how they want it, leads one to believe the same occurs when repairing the deep damage of the Great Recession.  My strategic enterprise-wide management skills and experience, coupled with past military police training, has taught me that successful, methodical, practical progress creates implementable and long-term success.  A return to practicality and using lucid, planned metrics, in my opinion, is imperative.

Finally, the previously mentioned obstacles are overcome by a return to basic values.  Trust, confidence, collaboration, focus, unity, integrity and, most importantly, eliminate fear.  Fear is a motivator and a debilitation at the same time.  No personal achievement, innovation or major economic recovery, I feel, materialized because potential results are feared.  Our nation WILL return to prosperity and growth when fear is either managed or removed.  Success is achieved when a return to common sense leadership and optimistic courage permeates the American psyche.  This is how our nation recovered from the rubble of the Great Depression.  This is how WE WILL emerge from the Great Recession.

Analyst: Email will lose ground to social networks | VentureBeat

February 4, 2010

via Analyst: Email will lose ground to social networks | VentureBeat.

This timely article moves in lock-step with what many in my professional network educated me about some three (3) years ago.  For example, one contact who is an IT professional at the prestigous Emory University (Atlanta, GA) shocked me stating “…email is obsolete on the Emory campus.”  The advent and increased use of texting was one support example.  The other support example is highlighted in this article.

Social networking, in conjunction with smartphone technology, offers increase innovation and efficiency of communicating ideas/concepts via a real time, or “constant on” cloud presence.  One can only imagine what innovations yet to be uncovered as the new iPad matures.  Business is moving – as I consistently maintain – out of the 20th Century Industrial Age into the 21st Century Service and Information Age. 

My next innovation focus is researching tools that can efficiently manage voluminous amounts of information/data for effective use and application.

The Need for 21st Century Leadership

January 8, 2010

I consistently maintain and call for a new manner of organizational thinking in this 21st Century.  In order for innovation to thrive, the 20th Century mindset of only 11 years ago must be cast aside.  Add this to dismissing antiquated Industrial Age concepts, organizational leadership must accept a new mindset such as removing fear and intimidation as management tools.

With regard to fear as a leadership tool, the 21st Century worker/employee seldom accepts such behavior from leadership.  This employee, who is a “Gen-Y” or “Millennial”, has been exposed to tools such as the Internet while becoming used to being more appreciated for their talent are far removed from their parents’ and grandparents’ days of employment.  Gone is the notion of working for one organization, only in rare circumstances, for 20 or 30 years.  The “Great Recession” of 2008 substantiated how employees are viewed as a “cost” rather than a valued resource.  Thus, this type of motivation to achieve increased and competitive productivity serves only to damage an organization’s prosperity.

Organizational leadership’s fear of the unknown, or acting upon non-conventional ideas, hampers prosperity.  Sadly, many organizations, such as the some public-sector entities, fear to adopt or even consider innovative ideas because of fear.  Many of these examples point directly to the leadership’s ego or pride.  For example, leadership fears losing “organizational credibility” and a self-imposed perception of an organizational oracle should a project fail, or not perform optimally.  Leadership fear their pension, income, etc. will be removed, and not maintain the lifestyle or social stature.

As a Lean Business Process and Innovation professional, I experience such barriers to progressive innovation too often in many projects.  The combination of fear laced with antiquated habits, or mindset, continually curtail identifying solutions to systemic problems.  This toxic combination also prevents efficient processes and innovative products that enhance one’s manner of living, or successfully competing. 

This brings me to how President Obama and his Security team responded to the thankfully failed Christmas 2009 airline terrorist attempt.  During his press announcement on 7 January 2010, he placed his focus upon failures in the “system”.  He did not, as called for in 20th  Century practices, immediately terminate anyone’s job because of the security breach.  This is how leadership in a new age, if it cares about being successful, must act.  Identify the systemic problem to ensure a better process rather than ensuring a potentially better process via fear by having an employee’s head placed upon a platter.

Innovation is achieved via collaboration, mutual respect where peers devote tireless energy to accomplish a common goal for the good of the whole.  A perfect example can be viewed via this link: http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2010/01/06/video-dean-kamen-makes-predictions-for-the-future/  Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, points to how innovation is suppressed in an Anderson Cooper 360 interview.

President Obama’s speech can be view via this link: http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2010/01/07/obama-to-lay-out-warts-and-say-im-responsible/

Virtual Innovation with Numerous Business Efficiency Applications

December 19, 2009

http://futurity.org/top-stories/real-time-action-in-a-virtual-world/

The link above takes one to an extremely exciting innovation that can be applied to many business situations.  The article from Futurity.org speaks of “tele-immersive environment” technology that is being developed at the Univ. of Illinois.  For example, Managers, Product developers, Sales representatives, etc. can perform product demonstrations and/or training with customers in real-time within a virtual environment.  This technology can also aid in promoting an organization’s “green” or “environmentally friendly” activities with current or future customers.

I am interested learning from you how you propose this technology can be applied.

Your Social Media Online Presence as a Marketing Conduit

December 2, 2009

The social network medium’s “trust” factor is being co-opted into 21st Century marketing tools.  Products will, in future, be marketed as to how highly recommended our Facebook “Friends” view them.  Consider your purchasing habits of a product recommended by someone you do know (Friend), versus someone you do not know (an unknown face on a television commerical). 

This Futurity.org article found via the link below, provides nascent information and research as to how “trustworthy” or “trusting” we portend ourselves to be online.  Then, in my opinion, how this delicate and importantly idealistic human characteristic may be used as a profit vehicle.  Link is here: http://futurity.org/top-stories/facebook-profiles-reveal-true-self/

Six Sigma Methodology Applied to Operational Safety Innovation

November 11, 2009

http://www.portfolioweekly.com/ME2/dirmod.asp?sid=&nm=&type=MultiPublishing&mod=PublishingTitles&mid=6EECC0FE471F4CA995CE2A3E9A8E4207&tier=4&id=018E32A35BCE46E1AE8614D9A16868C1

The link above takes one to a site with web video of the horrifying, near fatal accident on a Boston, Mass. subway track/platform during the second week in November 2009.  As a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt practitioner, and a US Air Force Security Police veteran, I began thinking whether any practices could be used to avert another such tragedy occurring anywhere in the US, or the world.  Next, I thought of the concepts of TRIZ, Poka Yoke and Kaizen.  Then I developed a mental Fishbone chart which brought me to an idea with many operationally practical uses.  Finally, I submitted my ideas to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and to other major, US metropolitan transit authorities.

The TRIZ concept states, essentially, that any challenge, question, process, etc. has already been resolved via another implemented process.  I submitted to the MBTA the idea of a “Station Emergency” switch/device that, in the Boston case, someone on the platform could activate to warn the train operator.  This application has practical Homeland Security use, too.  If a terrorist attack such as a bomb or toxic gas incident occurs the switch/device is activated to warn and prevent the operator from entering the affected station.  This will prevent a casualty increase from the next rider-filled train.  Simultaneously, the switch/device will activate warnings to summon first responders such as police and other emergency personnel.

Private and public entities should develop options their personnel can use to express ideas and concepts that will save money, or lives, via their input.  Other thoughts?