Friday, December 02, 2005

SG - What to do with Truth

Despite my best efforts, I was not able to tape Survivor - Guatemala this week. Even after making some compromises in solving some odd complexities in our setup, all the effort was for naught because while I was out, there was apparently a brief power outage just before the show started, stopping the taping process before it really began. Oh well. The truth is, despite the fact that I've remained interested in some of the characters and the dynamics this season, there hasn't seemed to be enough that's new to warrant writing each week. I'd get started and then realize I was saying the same thing over and over again... and put it away thinking I'd get back to it, only to have another week slip by.

Here's what I can say about this past week's episode - I am reminded over and over again that it's important to find ways to remain true to our own individual set of values. And, it's equally important to come up with a strategy that allows us to live those values in a world that may seem to demand the opposite. Part of that involves really connecting with others in a way that allows us to see and respond to what's important to them without allowing that to drive us away from whatever is center for us.

So far, my sense is that Gary has done the best of that out of anyone. Of course, we can see now with him having been bounced recently that it's no guarantee either, but that's part of the game - taking a risk that you won't win. Winning might be more important than those who lose would have us believe, but we have to live with how we get there too.

So, here's another truth I'm settling into. I really dislike talking about my rates. I used to worry that it was because I wasn't sure I'm worth what I charge. To the extent that may have been true in the past, I don't believe any longer that this is what's blocking me. The truth is, I simply have better things to do. I'd rather spend my time talking with a potential client straight away about what I can do to help, knowing that they're prepared to make the same commitment to the process that I am. The discussion about rates seems to me to get in the way of that. And I'm not big on enrollment either - you either know you want my services or you don't.

Lots of coaches and other folks offering some kind of professional services don't publish their rates because they want the opportunity to talk with you first about what you want or need before you get scared off by the number. Let me just tell you up front and get it out of the way - you'll probably gasp at my numbers the first time; just over half of my clients do, so I figure that's a pretty good bet. Besides, it's at least partly on purpose for reasons that have nothing at all to do with me. In my mind, the number simply must have some meaning for you or it puts the whole coaching relationship at risk.

If we're really a good fit to work together, the number won't be so scary anyway because no matter what it means to you financially, you'll already be ready to do what I always instruct my clients to do early on during coaching - that being to say yes, no, or to renegotiate.

What it comes down to is that if you aren't prepared to ask for what you want and assume that we'll find a way to work it out, chances are good you'd be better served by finding somebody different. Of course I'm delighted to help with that too, if it's warranted; I really have no attachment to whether it's me you work with or somebody else, so long as you are making progress toward whatever it is that's important to you. I guess anyone considering hiring me as a coach (or consultant too, for that matter) could view this as a good first test.

The good news is that I've found ways to make lots of things work. I want to ensure that my rates will never be a deterrant for anyone who truly wants to work with me so if that's an issue for you, be sure to ask about reduced rate (scholarship) slots and group rates. And my clients are always welcome to propose new solutions too - who knows, maybe we'll come up with an idea that will help out other people too while we're at it.

In any case, I find that our combined level of commitment to making this part work out is a good indicator of our level of commitment to the coaching process and that in turn is a good predictor of success. Since your success is my primary goal, that's a good measurement to track.

With all that out in the open now, I expect to be publishing my rates on my website very soon. If what you see doesn't fit your definition of 'soon' and you want me to get going on it, then feel free to pester me on that account. And in case you're really missing the Survivor bit, here is a capsule view of some of the lessons I took away from past episodes - in generic form, of course, since I was so sure at the time I'd be writing that I didn't even put down dates!

  • Watch out for self-fulfilling prophecies. Jamie fell victim to this but he was certainly not the first and probably won't be the last either.
  • Every time you shift your direction, it makes it tougher to predict where you'll head next, making you seem less trustworthy. This one is an important lesson for managers and staff-level employees alike.
  • Expect the unexpected; don't be surprised when something new comes along that you didn't anticipate. This is one of those 'oldy but goodies'.
  • Knowledge is power and sometimes a power that is better held in reserve until the right time.
  • You're only as good as your most recent actions; justifiably or not, both managers and co-workers typically have short-term memories when it comes to past performance and are more likely to focus on 'what have you done for me lately' than anything else. Make sure to keep your good reputation current.
  • Negativity never helps and it doesn't play well with others, even when they agree.
  • Arrogance is rarely a trait that is viewed in a positive light.
  • Expect loyalties to shift based on need.
  • Survivor producers pick teams based on how they can best mix things up. Good managers create teams with as much diversity as they can get and still achieve good harmony.
  • Know when to keep your mouth shut. Back to Gary for a moment. Margaret and Judd followed a distinguished line of Survivor players who have all had trouble holding their tongues; both of them lashed out in ways that ultimately hurt them in the game. Contrast that with Gary - the one time he let loose with an 'outburst', it was on purpose and carefully calculated to have a specific effect. He wanted the others to see Judd is not as trustworthy as he seemed and while it did not save his own neck in time, his strategy did work.

If you have a prediction about who's likely to win Survivor - Guatemala or you've noticed other lessons I missed (especially having missed the show last week altogether), send them to me at and maybe we can get some discussion going about whatever truths come up for us there.

What important truths are waiting to be recognized in your life and how will you turn that recognition into an advantage?

Kimm Viebrock is a Certified Professional Coach who helps technology professionals and service-oriented technology groups develop and use their skills more effectively and increase their value within the larger organizaion, allowing them to do more, do it better and have more fun doing it. Kimm is devoted to finding the connectedness in life.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

It's a Process...

I still have my notes from the past two eposides of Survivor - Guatemala. I promise I'll get to them. In the meantime, there's something interesting going on with regard to my coaching that I thought would be worth sharing... The International Coach Federation recently announced a change to their credentialing process, a shift that I wholeheartedly support because I anticipate this will help professionalize the industry. Hiring a credentialed coach means a greater certainty of high quality service and as the market demand for this level of quantified quality increases, the value of coaches who are credentialed will also increase. It is the sort of scenario for which the term "Win-Win" situation was invented.

As such, it only makes sense that I increase my own value and support the process at the same time by applying for my own credential. I've always actively worked toward my credential and now it's time to actually get to work on the application process.

In order to edify my clients and potential clients as to what's involved and what a credential actually means and also share my experience with other coaches considering this move themselves, I thought it might be nice to catch you up on where I've been to date and share with you the steps I take between now and January, when I intend to submit my application.

First a bit of background - As a technical support manager, I was fortunate enough to start out reporting to a person with highly developed coaching skills. Although he was not certified or credentialed in the field as I've come to understand it, he clearly had some background and a natural talent and much of what I learned about coaching that didn't come from sheer trial and error in fact came from him. I made every effort to live up to his standards during the years I spent managing, incorporating what I learned from him along with other previous experiences.

In early fall of 2002, I enrolled in a coach-specific training program and immediately began practicing the important skills I began learning in a formal training setting. I'd already been working with a coach of my own for quite some time so by this time I was seriously grounded in where I was headed and also had a great role model to follow.

By winter of 2003, I had completed my training at the Academy for Coach Training and had by this time also shifted my focus from work as an employee in the corporate world to my consulting and coaching practice. Somewhere in there, I also purchased a copy of Client Compass for tracking my coaching time and immediately started logging all relevant coaching hours.

Since then, I have devoted considerable time to the Puget Sound Coaches Association (where I am currently President) and family needs as well as my business, which includes offering workshops and consulting services in addition to coaching. I happen to like the mix and it also means I've not been in blind pursuit of the almighty credential-worthy coaching hours. I'm glad it's taken me some time to get to this point - I feel like I appreciate it better as a result and the hours I've collected have been well-seasoned ones.

A couple of days ago, the ICF website was updated with the new requirements. It took me until today to actually be able to access the version appropriate for me and looking it over this afternoon has seemed a bit like unwrapping a gift. Okay, so it's one I have to put together before I can use, but hey, it's no less special for it!

Whether you are thinking of hiring a coach or are considering applying for a credential of your own, you owe it to yourself to have an idea of what's involved in the process. My own first step was to print out two copies of the application. I know I'll have trouble getting a clean copy first time out so am planning ahead in that respect.

Next, I started looking it over and filling out blanks - my name and contact information, etc and also re-read the Code of Ethics I'd agreed to years ago. Then on to the array of attachments I'm to provide...

Attachment 1 - selected the appropriate Accredited Coach Training Program I'd completed and dug out the certificate I'd received and made a copy to submit with the application.

Attachment 2 - started working on creating a coaching log from Client Compass that looks like the sample coaching log the ICF Application Review Committee wants to see. Fortunately, the application I use does a pretty good job pulling all the information needed; mostly it's just going to be about formatting though it will still take some effort - thank goodness I'm getting this started now!

One of the first things I notice is that I'll need consent from all of my clients to release their names to the Applications Review Committee. Even though they will still maintain confidentiality, finding and reaching everyone could take a while, so I'm really glad I'm getting started now.

More on this as I make further headway on this thing. And more comments on Survivor Guatemala soon too!

If you have questions or comments of your own, be sure to send them to me at and I'll be sure to do something important with them, like respond.

What's the next step that will take you closer to somewhere you want to be?

Kimm Viebrock is a Certified Professional Coach who helps technology professionals and service-oriented technology groups develop and use their skills more effectively and increase their value within the larger organizaion, allowing them to do more, do it better and have more fun doing it. Kimm is devoted to finding the connectedness in life.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

SG – When the Going Gets Tough…

The most recent Survivor Guatemala episode shone a spotlight on a handful of concepts voted amongst family and friends as “most likely to prompt a 45-minute discussion with Kimm.” Some might justifiably argue that the discussion is just as likely to turn into a monologue but really, that only occurs if a person shows significant interest in the topic and then doesn’t hold up their end of the conversation.

Second runner up in this category – no one seems to have understood or cared what Brianna found important (“…she never once looked me in the eye”) nor did she herself seem to understand the premium the rest of her team placed on athleticism which of course was largely responsible for her subsequent dismissal from the game.

Now that she’s gone, we’ll never know for sure if a better understanding in that regard might have improved team performance. My argument is that it certainly couldn’t have hurt anyway, and may have actually held the key to winning. If past history is any indicator, when the Survivors later get to the point of voting people off the team and onto the jury determining who will ultimately win the million dollar purse, such an oversight can become critical. Every bit as critical as thinking you’re rid of a nuisance co-worker only to have that person turn out to be your new boss at a different company and all they remember about you is how badly you treated them.

First runner up was the Yaxha single-minded emphasis on athletic ability – an understandable priority given the fact that they’ve been beat in that department a number of times now. Survivor is no more about just sheer physical strength than is the rest of life though. It counts for a lot, just like high productivity numbers count for a lot but it’s not the whole story. Qualities such as ingenuity, understanding people, practical application of skills, and sense of history also matter.

My contention is that well-rounded individuals and well-balanced teams will always be more adaptable and therefore more successful in the long run than those who emphasize a single talent to the exclusion of all others. My guess is that with Jeff’s proclamation to beware of focusing just on athleticism, we’ll see more of that principle playing itself out during the rest of the season.

That said, I probably would have voted out Brianna myself even though she is one of two Washingtonians from towns not far from my own. I’m thinking that where Gary and Stephenie focused on her lack of athletic ability, I would suggest that what they really noticed was a lack of toughness that’s needed to continue to give it your all, even when you don’t feel up to that task – a refusal to give up; take Bobby Jon's determination to keep going, even when he really couldn't even move his legs, as an example of the kind of gumption I'm talking about. He may have been overdoing it but at least he wasn't wimping out (other's opinions about that aside, of course).

While such toughness (or lack of it) is particularly noticeable in physical challenges, I’ve seen it play an important role in emotional and other non-physical challenges as well. That’s perhaps the single most important quality in my book and I found more missing in Brianna than anyone else on that team. It’s just as important in figuring out puzzles and dealing with difficult people as it is in trying to play the Mayan equivalent of football so I think of it as a necessary element in almost every situation.

This is, of course, a bias of mine that others may not share. What qualities do you believe are pre-requisites for success? Send them to and we’ll compile a list.

What do you do to broaden your experiences and your skills so that you’re less likely to be seen as a “one-trick pony”?

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Value of Practice

Back in my aviation years, I found one of my biggest challenges to be the spin recovery training required for my instructor certification. Unlike some of the others, I didn’t find the maneuver at all disconcerting, nor did it cause the kind of stomach-turning spatial disorientation I’d somewhat anticipated. For me, the trouble was more that I had difficulty at first keeping track of the number of times we’d gone around so that I’d know when it was time to pull out.

The theory behind teaching instructors-in-training how to recover from spins is that sooner or later you’re likely to have a student inadvertently put you into one. When that happens, it’d be a good idea to know not only how that tends to happen (so you can try to prevent it) but also how to get out of it if that proves necessary. There are lots of other interesting ways that flight students try to kill themselves and their instructors and I’ve been taught or taught myself on the job how to deal with quite a few of them. The spin training still sticks in my mind as the one most worthy of the time I spent practicing it even though I’ve yet to actually use the knowledge outside of a training environment.

Here’s the thing – at first, the ground just seemed to go by so fast. How in the world are you supposed to count to two turns when that’s happening? So – we practiced. My instructor put us into a spin, counted a half, one, one and a half, two, and recovered. I had to take his word for it on the counting; it seemed rhythmical enough to be accurate but I couldn’t have said one way or the other. Then he had me put us into a spin while he counted and he walked me through the recovery. The next few times, I tried counting myself and while I could do the entry and the recovery just fine, I still needed help with the counting part.

Finally, after practicing the maneuver several more times over the course of a couple of different flights, the ground miraculously seemed to slow and I could actually see the landmarks go by that I was using to mark the turns and half-turns. Counting to two became easier and it all clicked.

As much as I enjoy playing the fighter pilot video games (the ‘realer’ the better – my favorites are the ones that actually feel like sim’s), I rarely do well at them the first couple of times. Okay, let’s make it the first ten times. There’s simply too much information. My current strategy is to focus on one form of input that makes sense and try to stay alive long enough to figure out how to use it. Then I invest in a few more games, paying attention to more and more of the game each time until I’m finally able to comprehend a large enough chunk of what’s going on to begin to do well.

Needless to say, the arcade definitely makes money on me when I decide to sit down with one of the flying games. If I’m not prepared to spend that many quarters, I don’t bother because it’s simply too frustrating. Time and time again, however, I find that where things had been nothing but a confusing mass of too much going on, I suddenly am able to make sense of it as a whole. It takes repeated exposure and repeated practice to make use of the information but eventually it all comes together.

I’ve flown 747 and other “heavy jet” simulators a handful of times. Only once was it for a job interview. Applicants were expected to make three approaches in a DC-10 sim and on the third one, they wanted to see how you did with all the alarms going. The first two times were all I needed to get comfortable with it so that by the time they had the horns blaring and lights flashing, I was able to deal with the added distractions just fine.

Fast forward to last week with the Airbus landing at LAX with its sideways-jammed nose gear. I’m not at all surprised the landing went as well as it did. As with the spin training, this particular kind of incident tracks well with what we were always taught about gear-up landings – “There are two kinds of pilots, those that have and those who will.”

These pilots were trained for this kind of landing with the full expectation that one day they’d have to use that expertise. The fact that some never do is irrelevant; the fact that this is not just a hypothetical scenario – not an empty exercise – remains true and everyone knows it. This is rather one of those things that simply happens sometimes, despite everyone’s best efforts, and so you’d better know how to handle it.

It should be no surprise, then, when that repeated practice of a skill you know you’ll one day have to use pays off – for the pilots of Flight 292, the landing probably felt in many ways rather run-of-the-mill if perhaps a bit more ‘interesting’ than most.

What's worth practicing in your life?

Friday, September 23, 2005

SG – Brains vs. Brawn Part 2

Buzz phrases like “Work smarter, not harder” tend to make people nervous because they’re too often euphemisms for “Figure out a way to get the same amount of work done, just with fewer people because we’re letting some of you go (or aren’t replacing the ones who just left).” Just because it's used badly so much doesn’t make it worthless advice. Plus, I find it interesting that this notion came up again so soon on Survivor so let’s run with that one. The examples I saw of smart & not-so-smart behavior are every bit as valid for the business world as they are in Guatemala.

Blake, for instance, is being as smart as he can be right now, pushing as hard as he can without overdoing it too much given his run-in with the spiny tree (what was in those spines anyway?). What’s not so smart is whining like Judd & Brandon about whether other people are pushing hard enough – how could they possibly know what’s possible for someone else and do they really think the whining endears them to anyone else?

And while I don’t mean to pick on Judd, I find it curious that he thinks it’s a bad thing that Blake was sufficiently rested to do well on the challenges when he’s in the hurt locker the rest of the time. Later on when it’s for individual rewards and immunity, that would be a valid complaint but hey, this early in the game, that’s good for everyone, right?

During the immunity challenge, Nakum was clearly the stronger physically, a real opportunity for Yaxha to get ahead by working smarter. In the end however, the few strategic moves of the challenge were made by Nakum and that was what barely edged them into the winner’s circle. Maybe Yaxha will learn from that. Or maybe they'll implode.

Here’s one I’m still trying to work out myself – just how smart is it that Gary is keeping his past such a secret? It seems like a reasonable strategy and yet, taken too far, it has the potential to cause him more trouble than if he’d just be open about it. Thinking of analogous situations in the corporate world (such as illness or pregnancy perhaps), I can see that it’s important to identify the conditions under which full or partial disclosure might become more important than discretion and to leave myself a graceful out so that it doesn’t come off as duplicitous when the truth does come out. I don't get the idea that Gary is really thinking that far in advance.

And I have similar questions around Danni’s strategy to use her knowledge of Gary’s past to try to undermine the other team. Sure, it worked – at least twice. But making ourselves or our teams better by tearing down somebody else often has negative consequences down the road and I wonder if that’s a risk that she’s taking intentionally or whether it could end up working against her.

Not surprisingly there’s also the question once more of which contributions are the most valuable. Possible candidates on Survivor include food gathering, working around camp, teamwork, being able to be in close quarters together, and winning challenges. I'm sure they're at least somewhat analagous to activities at work, right? There is a combination of work ethic and physical and mental strengths needed in most of these. Tribal council is a lot like trying to re-hire all the best people for a team at each stage.

The smart ones will figure out that the needs change as the game goes along and adapt to that. The smartest ones will figure out that despite whatever it is that logic might dictate regarding which contributions are most valuable, what’s more important is whatever it is that the decision-makers believe to be the most valuable at that point in time. And yeah, we see that every day in the work environment too, don’t we?

In the end, Morgan may have had other good qualities but what stuck out were her liabilities. To top it off, she didn’t have enough allies cultivated (read - social capital) to help her out of a jam when she needed it so that’s what sank her. That too is a worthwhile lesson to take into the workplace.

I'm interested how you see any of this applying to your own life. Send your thoughts to me at if you feel like sharing.

How can you help others understand and value the contributions you make?

Friday, September 16, 2005

SG – Pacing Is For Wimps – Riiighhht!

Fall is here and I find myself more interested in watching television than I care to admit. I doubt that TV will ever be the “highlight of my whole day” as one of my workshop clients once mentioned. There is, however, a certain mind candy quality about it that seems attractive this time of year. As a result, I discovered an amazing story about Rafe Esquith and his Hobart Shakespeareans. But that was after I indulged in Survivor – Guatemala. Of course, both hooked into a pent-up desire to get back into writing after having had some time off over the summer so today is a rare two-fer.

Just for the record, I would like to make clear that I am not the one in the household who typically generates the most interest in watching Survivor. I was not the person who turned it on the first time mid-way through the first season, though I suppose I am at least partly responsible for watching the rest of that season. After that, though, I step back from any responsibility in the matter. That said, when I do watch, I find it to be a fascinating lab experiment.

Like any good lab, Survivor takes place in a highly controlled environment. We are still able to make useful observations on individual and group dynamics anyway that can often be applied to real life – both of the personal and the business variety. This is what keeps me coming back.

So we have a new season and this time I again was not the person to have turned it on. I did decide, though that it would be worth following this time and commenting about what I see. The first episode of Guatemala did not disappoint in that regard.

So far, I have to say that I’m most impressed with Margaret, the nurse who looked after the guys who all pushed themselves too hard. She’s compassionate AND she’s thinking about team success and strategy. Way to go!

Perhaps not surprisingly, I find this combination of compassion and long view of success to be an important skill in both life and in business. As individuals, we can improve our chances of success for ourselves if we also take into account the others around us.

Blake and Bobby Jon proved to be particularly good examples of why it’s so important to pace ourselves. It may be one thing if you’re dealing with a situation of limited duration – a sprint, in effect – but it’s something else entirely when you’re dealing with an endurance event – a marathon. Life and business are usually about the endurance rather than the sprint and, as Probst said near the end of this first episode – “You have to figure out how to give it your all without destroying yourself in the process.” Face it, must be present to win…

It is great to see Stephenie back for another round and embodying another pair of important lessons. The early evidence is that she’s shaking off the past and is content to start with a new baseline. Once we learn from past mistakes, it’s time to move on. The other one is, of course, the value of simply not giving up. Persistence usually pays off.

So – whatever your goal, stay with it but do it with brains rather than brute force and pace yourself along the way. If you do that and take into account in your decision-making what else is happening around you and who you’re with, then you’ll greatly improve your chances of success.

If you have other thoughts about how what you see, hear or read influences your everyday life, I’m interested. I can be reached at if you feel like sharing. In the meantime, I plan to use the track what happens with this group a little more closely and see what writing falls out of that. Hopefully we'll all find some value in that.

What strategies do you use to keep yourself in the game?

Readiness Is All

Shakespeare had an uncanny ability to sum up larger life lessons within the context of scenarios designed primarily to entertain. Certainly this quality has much to do with the abiding popularity of his work. I found myself so touched last night – and fascinated too – to see how well one teacher is able to reach at-risk grade-schoolers and help them develop life skills that prepare them for greater success than they typically see on a day-to-day basis.

And the impact on these kids is huge – I mean really, how many boys are that might otherwise be considering getting involved in a gang are able or willing to cry openly as the class reads about Huck Finn finding within himself the courage to reject societal norms and do what he believes to be the right thing? Heck, the whole class was sobbing after their final performance of Hamlet on their last day of school. You can’t buy or force that kind of compassion and closeness nor the sort of personal convictions that arise from that.

Rafe instills in his Hobart Shakespearean students two priorities – Be Nice to one another and Work Hard. The rest follows from this and it’s a good start; simply put, there are no shortcuts to these words of wisdom. Rafe also understands that what it is they do with his gifts when they leave him is entirely up to them. Fortunately, it sounds like many of them take the foundation provided them and really run with it. Their implementation must be good for these students to end up places like Harvard, Stanford & Yale especially when they’re literally pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. That’s not the kind of success that can be pushed upon a kid.

This is heartening to see in a time when so recently we have seen the devastating impact of both insufficient readiness and problematic implementation of an entirely different sort.

Quite frankly, I believe that it would have been impossible to fully anticipate and effectively deal with a storm as horrific as Katrina. Where I gag is in knowing that those things for which we could not prepare did not have to be nearly as devastating had there been sufficient preparedness for that which was predictable and had those plans been carried out more effectively. And by all means, if you see a storm that effectively fills the entire Gulf of Mexico, take seriously that it’s likely to be very bad!

Now is a good time for all of us to take stock. While it is reasonable to expect the government e involved in emergencies and that it be the federal government when the disasters are large-scale and regional in nature, it’s also important to consider the role of individuals too.

In the US, most of us are in danger of one kind of natural disaster or another – if it’s not hurricanes, it’s tornadoes, or earthquakes… or river flooding or flash flooding… or volcanoes… or blizzards, or… well, you get the idea. Those who know me are probably not surprised I’m harping on this topic yet again.

What is likely where you are? Start with what preparations are reasonable for your situation to ensure that you as an individual (and your family) are ready to be self-sufficient for a minimum of 48-72 hours. The notion that being on our own for an extended period of time truly is a possibility even in our industrialized society is perhaps the biggest wake-up call for us recently because clearly this is not something we’ve necessarily understood well in the past.

I am one of those who can be easily overwhelmed by a task that seems too large. The good news is that there are monthly/weekly To-Do lists available that can help make the task of preparedness more manageable and at least one that I’ve seen even includes suggestions such as completing some first aid training – making it much more than just a kit list. If you don’t like what you find, make your own master list and then post it together with your shopping list so that you can buy one item at a time along with your normal purchases.

The other clear lesson both from Rafe’s classroom and from Katrina is that good communication is critical to any long-term success.

For that matter, get kids interested in ham radio and use that as an opportunity to get involved yourself if you’re so inclined. Not only is it fun and interesting, it’s clear that ham radio works and that there’s still a need for amateur radio operators even in this age of cell phones and trunked radio systems. While I highly value the Elmers in my own life, I know there are some things I can do now that I won’t be able to do in my later years. Even if I could, we need to keep younger generations involved just to keep up the tradition.

Once you’re able to start working on your individual disaster preparedness, take a look at your work family and your business operations. Even if it seems like something somebody else should be paying attention to, there are people you care about and skills that you have that make you uniquely qualified to come up with questions and solutions others will not have without your input. Undoubtedly there is also something about your work that you know better than anyone else and so they’ll all be relying on you to help figure out how to keep operations as normal as possible in the event of a disaster.

Start today. Start small if you must, but start – Work Hard. And coordinate with the other people you interact with both at work and in your personal life – in other words, Be Nice. If that readiness is necessary, the results will be far better than if you put off the effort.

It’s also likely that we’ll be better off for having engaged in these efforts even if they’re not needed. Work Hard and Be Nice is just good advice no matter what the circumstances. We’ll know more about our business operations and the people we work with, we’ll know better how to deal with sports injuries should they occur, and we’ll be closer to our neighbors. How can any of that be a bad thing?

What is one thing you are willing to do this week toward being better prepared?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Shifting Gears

After spending most of my early mornings (and a substantial number of evenings too) during the past three weeks watching Lance Armstrong prove yet again what a phenomenal Tour de France rider he is, it's time for me once more to move onto the rest of my summer.

Fortunately, I don't think I'll have much trouble figuring out what to do with all that recovered time. I hope Lance is as fortunate in his retirement from professional cycling: shifting gears of that magnitude can be very unnerving for many folks. My sense, however, is that this is something he'll do every bit as well as he's done the cycling.

All around me, people are going through various kinds of changes. Some are starting new jobs and even new careers. Others are faced with having been forced out of what they had been doing. Still others, like Lance, are retiring and trying to figure out what's next for them or looking to make some kind of voluntary change in their lives.

Given that I'm working this summer with a number of people going through individual and group facilitation of the "Now What?" program I conduct now (along with other trained facilitators) based on the popular book by Laura Berman Fortgang, I'm getting to see all different kinds of permutations of this process up close and personal. As exhilarating as it can be to be helping people find success, it's also fascinating - and humbling - to be witness to the process.

I also feel fortunate to be able to collect even more stories about the process from a greater distance as it's a topic I find covered in the media on a fairly regular basis too. Just this morning, for instance, I read in the New York Times about Chris Jordan, a Seattle man who has successfully traded in a ten-year law career to become a photographer. That shift had to have been wrenching and scary at times. At yet, clearly it was one that he felt compelled to make. Feeling that level of conviction helps make the rest of it easier.

I remember thinking once that I could handle just about any other fear or concern if I could only feel such deep knowing and passion about a thing that I'd have that level of conviction. Like hey, even in Field of Dreams when everyone is calling Ray Kinsella a nutcase, he's got this voice telling him what it is that he has to do. All I ever wanted was my voice in the cornfield.

What I realize now is that all too often we become disconnected from ourselves to the point where we have to dig very deeply sometimes to uncover our true passions. The technique that I've learned from Laura Berman Fortgang is something she calls "hobby by crisis" and it's worked very effectively for me and many of my clients. Do something physical or tactile that we enjoy (or used to enjoy) and we find that the body begins to remember for us what it is that we love enough to pursue with passion. Horseback riding, painting, knitting, playing drums, dancing, etc., all count.

Even if you don't know how, even if you don't have time to "do it right" and even if it's not directly related to whatever it is you think you might be heading toward, it doesn't matter; it only matters that you re-engage your senses by re-engaging your body at least a little bit on a regular basis.

Additional tips to help make shifting gears easier include...

  • Use what you have - you already have knowledge and expertise you have gained from past experiences. Figure out how to use that doing something you love.
  • Feed your passion - figure out what you're passionate about and continue to feed it; harnessed passion can make great things happen.
  • See setbacks as learning experiences or minor detours instead of obstacles - this one is hopefully mostly self-explanatory.
  • Get support - find people and situations that will support your change in direction and will help you achieve what you want; anything else is an unwanted distraction.
  • Get started - success breeds success; every moment spent not getting started, whatever the reasons, just breeds more inertia. Once you start giving it a try, you'll see where your successes and challenges are; even if what you start ultimately leads you an entirely different direction, it's the getting started that puts you on the path to your future.
  • Establish a goal and keep it clearly in mind - just as with anything else, if you are completely clear about what it is that you want and why you want it, then making it happen will be much easier. Keep a visual handy as a reminder. It helps feed your passion, boost your confidence, and program your brain to look for appropriate opportunities.
  • Listen to the voice that tells you how to get what you want, not the one that tells you that you shouldn't be wanting it - that latter voice wants only to maintain status quo and is therefore not helpful; not that it is always wrong, just that the approach is not at all helpful. Do yourself a favor and pay more attention to the helpful voices in your life.

There is, of course, more. I go through these steps and many more with my clients every week and in turn, they teach me more than I feel I could possibly give them in return. Perhaps you have additional ideas yourself for helpful tips you'd be willing to share with others. Or questions about how to apply the ideas presented here.

I'm always interested and always happy to help so please send your thoughts to me at and perhaps we can continue to help each other grow.

In the meantime, Lance will presumably take some time to celebrate and bask in the glory of what he's accomplished. Then he (like so many of us) will begin to ponder "What's next?"

As for me, I will (among other things) continue with my client work, and taking on the presidency of my local ICF chapter, and hopefully also will make my first QSO on my old Yaesu FT-101E rig with my new General class amateur radio ticket. See, I told you I had plenty to do with my time!

What would you do if you had enough time, money, and the attention of the world?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Scouting New Territory

I am no trendsetter, that is for sure. According to Moore's Chasm Model, I am more likely an "Early Adopter" (compared with the rest of the world anyway - among true techies, I may be more of an "Early Majority" instead), not an Innovator.

As such, it's probably no surprise that I missed out on the big release of Google Earth that's captured the attention of so many right now. In fact, it it weren't for CNN's use of Keyhole technology covering the London terrorist attack today, I might have missed it for quite some time despite the fact my somewhat luddite spousal unit had even mentioned this satellite stuff just last night. And yet, not so many days after the fact, as I play with it and start seeing all the fun and practical possibilities of this cool new application, I recognize that there are plenty others out there who still know even less about it than I do.

I suppose to be fair, I should be checking out MSN Virtual World and NASA's WorldWind too. I'll be honest though - in this sense, I'm closer to that "Early Majority" mode. Once I find something that does what I want, I don't feel a giant rush to go out and try something new. Not until something that captures my imagination comes along again anyway or I start imagining new things I could be doing if I just had the right tools.

What I find interesting is that I do not have any trouble at all understanding the Innovators group; where others see their behavior as decidedly risky, I see play and experimentation. And while I am more than willing to put up with a certain amount of glitches and bugs myself to be playing with new technology with promise, for me there is always the consideration of practical use in the back of my mind - what it might be and what's necessary for the average person to be able to use it - that makes it easier for me to relate to the Early Majority too. The Late Majority - or Laggards, as Moore calls them in his book, Crossing the Chasm - are the only ones I truly struggle with. What's this "not till hell freezes over" B.S. anyway?

There is one part of my own personality as it fits into this model that I find a bit confusing. I certainly don't become an Early Adopter just to be a pioneer all by myself. In fact, sometimes I find it darned lonely so far out front - so lonely that it seems unlikely I'd ever play seriously in the Innovator space that really does require a pioneering spirit. And yet, at the same time, I do find myself getting a bit claustrophobic when everyone else starts hitting the "me too" phase. For instance, I happen to really like blogging. And I'm glad that I'm not the only one doing it. I think everyone else should be doing it (well, almost everyone, I guess). I'd just like some more room to breathe in the process too. If you've got an explanation for this apparent contradiction, I'd be curious to hear it.

Obviously, anyone starting or running a business would benefit from understanding the implications this adoption model has for entrepreneurial success. And there are other models worth understanding too. What may be less clear is that this information can be useful even for those who aren't running the whole show (or the marketing department either) given that this same premise dictates the technologies we adopt within the workplace and other aspects of corporate life as well.

Where do you fit within the adoption model and how about the others around you at work and in your life? If you have thoughts or observations on the impact those similarities and difference have on your interactions, it might be interesting to share them by sending them to me at and maybe we can compare notes.

How might an improved understanding of how people adopt new technologies and other changes be useful to me?

Saturday, June 18, 2005

What's in it for Me?

It's funny, but often it's possible to succeed without focusing solely on the bottom line or "what's in it for me". This seems counterintuitive, perhaps, but I have several examples at hand where serving a greater good and staying focused on a larger vision have reaped far greater rewards as a side benefit than they ever could have gained by making the rewards themselves the end goal.

For instance, as I sit and write this, I am listening to KOTO radio in Telluride, Colorado, where I've had the good fortune to spend a fair amount of time over the years. For a couple of months, I even had a weekly radio show of my own, there, called Weather or Not. And I was on the air with them again later as part of The Long and the Short of It team the year that tall person and I and the small person we had with us at the time got lucky enough to be asked one New Year's Eve (out of desperation, but who's complaining!) to take the 8-midnight shift. But I digress...

From 1200 miles away, I am listening to a great bluegrass show on KOTO - live, no less - that I'd probably have a tough time getting tickets for, were I to be fortunate enough to actually be in Telluride. And there is no charge for this. Why does the station do this? Mightn't it eat into ticket sales, if people have only to listen to the radio or a streamed broadcast on the internet? And what's this... if I was there, I'd even have access to free wireless for internet surfing? What are they thinking?!

There may be a few people taking advantage of these free opportunities without contributing financially in any way (what a waste of a revenue opportunity!). I bet, though, that there are enough of us (I gave to KOTO, for instance), who willingly send money to support a worthy cause. And there are others who may be listening to the show streamed over the internet this year and next year, may consider heading to Telluride to hear the show in person instead. This is a very big show. The producers and the radio station are not hurting themselves at all by focusing on a bigger picture. If they'd been focusing on how to ensure revenue for every last effort and activity, they'd be stepping over dollars to grasp for nickels.

I've also become acquainted with a couple of companies that make teleconference bridge lines available for free. This seems odd until I stop to realize that this is a loss leader. They are literally banking on the fact that a significant percentage of those who take advantage of this free service will stick around and pay for some of their premium services. Blogger does the same thing. And of course, they're right. I do plan to pay for the premium services when I'm ready for them.

I learned this concept best from a local fishmonger that has since become a well-known tourist destination at the Pike Place Market. Their larger vision? It's to become world famous. This vision has dictated their decisions far more than "how can I make money today" and it's been a very successful strategy. In fact, it's been so successful that they are now (from what I hear, anyway) making far more money than they ever were before they made the shift and are even in the process of embracing an even bigger vision. At least part of their fame (have you seen the Fish! videos and books?) comes from having made that shift in focus. In all respects, they are now truly world-famous. And get this... the money, the very good money that that they make comes strictly as a side benefit of achieving a vision that is larger than that money so many people pursue as a goal unto itself.

These are real life examples of the "keep your eye on the hoop and the baskets will take care of themselves" philosophy. It takes a long view of costs vs. benefits, it takes some patience and some persistence, and in the business world it takes having a good business model and checking regularly to see where you are against that model so that you're not giving away free stuff forever. In the corporate and personal worlds of individuals, it takes understanding that there may be long term benefits that matter more than short term gains and an ability and willingness to assess which you really want and need at this moment. The parallels may not seem obvious but they are most certainly there. Take a moment to think what this might mean for you and how it might affect some of your decisions.

If you have thoughts or questions about how this might apply for you, I hope you'll send them to me at so that we can expand the conversation further. Feel free to share your thoughts about Gillian Welch too - I happen to love listening to her, especially when she's got Emmylou Harris and Alison Krause with her too. It might seem that I am sitting at a computer in Bellevue but tonight my heart is sitting in a field in Telluride, listening to beautiful bluegrass sounds.

What would you do if you didn't have to worry about whether you'd benefit?

Monday, June 13, 2005

More on Networking

I think I might now (after a scant 24 hours) be addicted to LinkedIn. I keep checking now to see who has accepted invitations to be connected and what old friends I'm now able to find using the connections I've already made. It's fun to watch the network grow. Too fun, actually, hence the concern over the addiction.

As I've mentioned before, I don't do groups well. I do, however, tend to make rather close relationships when I do interact with people on some kind of regular basis. It's how I'm wired, I guess. And, for whatever reason, I like electronic communication. Plus I'm a bit of a packrat... so all this together means that I have collected a rather sizeable Contacts file in Outlook & it's all people I basically like, or they wouldn't be there.

In the early stages of the Sproqit technology, this did cause some issues ("You have how many entries?!") - the engineers apparently didn't have that many, I guess, so they hadn't thought to plan for folders that size. We got it worked out though and I haven't had any trouble with the size of my Contacts folder since then even though it continues to grow. It seems very stable now, thank you very much.

Although social networking isn't the only way to do business, get a job, find a mate, meet new people with whom you might share interests, and so forth, it certainly seems to be a very effective method. In fact, social networking was one of the primary findings leading to the popular book, How to Be a Star at Work - findings based on what appear to have been rather decent research. Not only that, but it really bore out what I've seen myself over the years. It's still one of my favorites.

If I've learned one thing recently about social networking, it's to not underestimate the power of chance meetings too. About a month ago, I discovered that a person with whom I'm doing some volunteer work is very good friends with a good friend of mine. I find this interesting and also recognize that this is the stuff of which social networks are made.

Then, last Friday, I happened to meet on the bus an exceptionally lovely young woman from Nepal who is studying here in the States. Since she's been blind a long time, perhaps since birth, she may not realize how beautiful she is and yet that is most certainly not the most amazing thing about her. She is so intelligent and so articulate and has such great passion that I am quite certain she will do great things. Who knows if this meeting will ever mean anything to me... and yet, who's to say that it might not?

Such randomness also led me to discover the blog. It was a curious find resulting from a typo on my part. Too bad it seems to have ended as quickly as it started. It might have been fun to read.

My brain doing the odd connection thing that it does, immediately leaped from this to the news that we've apparently discovered an earthlike planet just 15 lightyears away and came up with the odd thought that our social networks could get really big if going off-planet were a possibility. I suppose that's a while out though...

In the meantime, if you've observed anything interesting about social networking, LinkedIn aliens or random encounters, send your thoughts to me at and perhaps we'll find a connection!

What difference would it make to you if you were to find the events in our lives are not random?

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Being Prepared at Work and Home

Imagine going to the bank and not being able to withdraw funds because the teller could not confirm the balance on your account. This was the very real scenario presented to me once when I was working as a support analyst. What turned out to be interesting about this incident had nothing at all to do with the solution for this particular problem.

Actually, I’m sure the solution was exactly what mattered most to the bank people and ultimately we did get that squared away. For me, though, what was interesting was the side comment that had been made when the customer was sharing with me how grave a matter this was. It turns out, that during this period of time there were still some banks working through paper processes but the computerized processes worked so much better and so much more quickly that the paper processes had been abandoned completely… so completely, in fact, that no one knew anymore how to manage the process other than by computer even though this was still technically possible at that time. This was fine, of course, until the network communications went down, or power in general was lost, taking down computer access to the ifnormation they needed. Then it wasn’t so fine because no one knew how to deal with such situations.

Fast forward to my years as a manager… Although my own experiences with power outages in the workplace have been a rarity, they have occurred. Funny thing about power outages in a contact center – the phone usually still rings! Of course, there are many things one cannot do when there is no computer access: changes cannot be made to accounts, software patches cannot be sent, and knowledge management solutions cannot be researched, to name but a few. We can, however, still talk to customers and often we can provide them with at least some answers. Moreover, if we take down all of the appropriate information, we can even handle their requests later, once power is restored. The trick, of course, is to know what information is needed and to capture it in a way that can be used later.

It takes knowledgeable people to respond intelligently to requests for help – this is largely true even when the knowledgebase is accessible and is particularly true when it’s not. And good customer service is good customer service, no matter what else is happening. That part is simple. When we prepare for emergencies, however, how often do we think in terms of what capabilities and responsibilities remain and how we will conduct ourselves under diminished capacity? Do you have paper data entry forms that can substitute for the real thing under mildly difficult conditions that diminish your capabilities as a contact center (or whatever it is that you do) but don't completely inhibit your ability to work? Will your agents have light to work with? What else can you do and not do if you lose power or lose phone service? What is the best way to respond to your customers and let them know what is happening and that you are still available – and to what extent?

Disaster preparedness is important at home too. Have you thought about the sorts of emergencies, large and small that are predictable enough to prepare for and how you would meet those challenges? One realization that has dawned on me recently is how important communication will be. The one serious earthquake I’ve experienced made it quite clear to me that ensuring each other’s safety is one of the first things on anyone’s mind. First there was my staff – in my case, there were thirteen at the time and having been their manager for just shy of a week, I didn’t even know all their names yet so the effort of tracking everyone down and ensuring they were all okay kept me occupied for a bit.

Once I was reasonably assured of their safety, my next thoughts went to my family. This was when reality truly struck – everyone else in the region had the exact same thoughts as mine and while cell phone towers may have been mostly intact, the many calls for service had completely jammed the network. For all practical purposes, no one was reaching anyone by cell phone. As one person put it to me recently, there are only so many dial tones to go around.

All of which brings me to present day – communication is how work gets done, it’s how communities and cultures are formed and preserved and it’s how service is provided, whether that service is business related, or health and safety related. It occurs to me that whether we’re talking business or neighbor-to-neighbor, the ability to communicate with one another is one of the most important capabilities worth preserving. To that end, I was glad to see that my city recently sent out an all-call to licensed ham radio operators to come participate as volunteers assisting in communications support. Feeling as I do about communication and disaster preparedness, I enthusiastically responded even though I have yet to actually go on the air with my own license. In fact, I’m starting to get rather excited about participating to some extent in the upcoming Field Day. Maybe the small person in my life would even be interested in joining me. It seems to me that anything we can do to spark and preserve an interest in Amateur Radio with the newer generations is a good thing.

During my first meeting with my mentor, I also found out about his efforts to organize his neighborhood to help look out after each other using the handheld radios so many of us use for camping trips, amusement parks, and skiing. His theory is that if they can all talk to each other, they can help each other out where needed and if they can talk to him, he can coordinate any necessary communications outside the immediate area with his ham radio gear.

I would need to get my own gear set up to take it that far but my family does have a pair of the FRS radios we could start using and I’ve decided to start forming a neighborhood NET in my area. Small person has most definitely been enjoying learning to use the radios and I like the idea that he’ll know how to use them responsibly as well as having fun.

Quite frankly, I’d never thought before of how important these handheld two-way radios could be in an emergency. And in not thinking of them as a resource, it also never occurred to me what preparation might be necessary to maximize their usefulness in such situations. Fortunately, there are a few resources out there on the internet.

Some best practices I’ve gleaned so far with regard to emergency communications:

  • Agree on a channel with your family to use in the event of an emergency – it has been recommended that we all set aside FRS channel 1 for emergency use only; a secondary channel to move to for extended conversations would probably be a good idea as well to keep channel 1 as open as possible.
  • Keep your rechargeable batteries recharged and fresh non-rechargeable batteries on hand in the event your radios are needed for extended periods of time.
  • Know how you will reach emergency services should you need them and know how you will ‘make do’ until they are available.
  • Know how you will use your radio in an emergency situation.
  • Include your neighbors in your emergency planning so that you can all help look after each other should the need arise.
  • Keep your radio with you (even in the car) in the event disaster strikes when you are somewhere other than at home.
  • Test your plans periodically.

Of course it’s also important to be prepared in other respects beyond communications. I favor building up supplies a bit at a time. If the effort is so scary and overwhelming that we never even begin, it won't serve its purpose. I encourage everyone to do one thing today to be more prepared for whatever emergencies concern you most; even if it’s a small thing, it means you’ll be better off should some emergency situation arise than you were yesterday. And if you keep building on that, your chances (of surviving, thriving, etc.) will be that much better.

If you have emergency preparedness tips for home or business, it would be nice to share these around. Send them to me at and I'll post what's useful for everyone.

What can I do that increases my likelihood of success?

Friday, May 20, 2005

KFS - Plain As the Nose on Your Face... NOT!

It is possible, through good navigation, to know you are directly over an airport... and still not be able to see it.

-- Kimm Viebrock
Soaring Mountains: Piloting tips applicable to everyday living

This was one of the earlier entries in the original Kimm's Flying School (you didn't think I was going to mention heading off this direction and not deliver, did you? Consider it a bonus, two-for-one day to make up for some of the delayed postings!). A lot of the entries come from the old sayings we used to toss around on the flight line back when I was a student and again later when I was an instructor. Pilots do a lot of hangar flying. I always understood that it was one way to learn and to pass on knowledge. Re-hash a flight - your own or somebody else's - often enough with enough heads on the matter and everyone will probably come out of the conversations with ideas for how to better handle similar situations in the future.

There's another component to hangar flying too that I may not have properly understood back then - by sorting out and categorizing all the "what if"'s, by identifying mistakes that somebody else made that we'd never make, by generally pulling it all to pieces and putting them back together again to find some other result than a bad landing, near-miss, or worse... we find in all of that some source of solace in dealing with the sometimes unpredictable nature and inherent riskiness of aviation. It is a way of dealing with ambiguity, something that geeks by nature tend to know a bit about too. We all have a need to feel in control of the sometimes uncontrollable.

This particular KFS entry comes from something along those lines - trying to understand my own experience. In flight school, navigation was one of the things I was good at. I still am flabbergasted that anyone could be in professional flight training, make a straight out departure from a runway and not be able to say (five minutes & no turns later) that the airport was directly behind them. I wouldn't believe it today if I hadn't been in the plane at the time.

I'm the complete opposite (for those navigationally impaired, that's a 180, not a 360!). One of the few people I know with a better sense of direction than mine - my father (two of the others are my spousal unit and my son; I'm getting the impression it could be genetic) - can be spun around blindfolded in a basement and still tell you which way is north. I'm not that good... but I am good enough that on one flight, I far exceeded any expectations in figuring out where I was after being blindfolded and flown around the countryside for a while.

Within five seconds of removing the blindfold, I was able to tell the instructor where we were. I picked it up so quickly because he had managed to fly me directly over my grandfather's ranch by mistake. That in itself was quite a feat given that it was a good 80 miles or so from where we'd started but I figured maybe it wasn't a fair test.

He said he was impressed anyway with my ability to figure out where I was given that I'd never seen that area from the air before. Although it did look a bit different from what I see when I'm on the ground there, what I think made it so much easier for me than it would have been for most people is that my sense of a place (even when I'm on the ground) is more than two dimensional. I actually do have at least some sense of what a place would look like from the air so that when I am up above it for real, it's still recognizable to me.

Having seen me do this made the instructor all the more amused the time we went looking for a small strip I hadn't yet been to. I navigated straight to it, told him (correctly) that we were right over it... but for some reason could not see the darned thing. He made me keep circling until I could point it out to him - how embarrassing!

I'm still not exactly certain why I couldn't find the airport. There were trees, yes, and a road nearby that kept drawing my eye. But the unmistakable strip of pavement with a windsock, a hangar and a plane or two... somehow I couldn't spot it. After many years in puzzlement over the matter I've decided that it's more useful to understand that this phenomenon occurs than it is to work out why that is. I've learned to expect it and that's been what's been helpful to me and more than once.

There are times when I do all the right things, take all the right steps and then sometimes I have to trust the process and the fact that the answer is right there in front of me, even if I don't see it. When I find myself there, I take a deep breath and resolve to spend some time shifting my perspective before I rush off to scrap the work that's already been done & start from scratch.

Trust the process, and the results will take care of themselves - providing of course that you carry enough fuel to keep you going while you work out that result part!

What is in front of you now that you're missing?

Use What's Good

In all our twists and turns throughout our lives and our work, sometimes it takes going back to your roots to rediscover a branch worth nurturing again. Long before blogging was made easy and in fact, back when it was more common to write all your own html code in putting together a web page, I started writing what I called Kimm's Flying School. I was rather surprised at how popular it became but there you are - the mystique of aviation is a pull for a lot of people. I know I'm still drawn to it even if the manner of that draw has shifted over the years.

Anyway, the idea at the time was to come up with aviation-related truisms, tales, jokes, or general knowledge that could also be applied to everyday life. Hey, sounds a lot like the theme I still use today, doesn't it?

Back then, I did pull my punches a bit, not always spelling out for people how or why I thought whatever I'd written was applicable to anything besides a good laugh. I was afraid I'd sound too preachy. Okay, so I do sometimes even now seem to preach a bit. I hope you'll chalk it up to bad writing more than any kind of 'better than you' arrogance... of course, if it was the latter, I'd fit right in, wouldn't I?

Given that I do keep striving to find non-preachy ways to share my thoughts and learning and that others don't seem to be complaining too much about it, I'm learning to deal with the old concerns. I'm thinking now is a good time to bring back the KFS on occasion and see if it's still as interesting to people as it was 'back in the day'.

Send your favorite aviation jokes to me at and let me know if you want to be mentioned if I use one of them. My collection is pretty substantial by now & of course I can always use more!

What have you done in the past that brought you and others joy that warrants resurrecting?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

It Was SO Worth It

We're still not any of us caught up on rest, I'm sure - at least not at our house - and there are a few tight muscles from all the work on and off the stage... but even before we calculate net receipts (heck, I'm not sure if we know gross receipts yet!), Lawyerpalooza 3 was definitely a success and all the hard work was most certainly worthwhile.

People had fun. I made a fool of myself dancing (I take my job as professional groupie rather seriously). The music was great. Spike O'Neill, Anne Bremner, Gene Stout, and Alan White were all tremendously helpful, gracious and engaging as MC and judges. The Premier Club worked out really well as a venue. I'm certain that we raised some decent money again (even though we don't yet know how much that is) for music education in Seattle schools. And people seemed to be having fun. Oh - I said that already.

Even better, the concept of what we're doing seems to be gathering momentum. People are building off of each other's energies and ideas. As much as the buzzword 'synergy' has become such a cliche, this is the sort of thing it was meant to express - when the whole really does become bigger than the sum of the parts. When great things begin happening because of a clarity of vision and the involvement of people committed to holding that clarity and seeing it to fruition. More than one person came up afterword to share ideas or to let us know that they were interested in being further involved. It was great to see and it's something we want to harness and keep building upon.

Never mind that I wanted to be a rock star myself when I was a teenager. Well, maybe not a 'star' - but I did really want to have my own band. Moving to rural southwestern Washington sort of made that part more difficult. Not that it stopped Kurt Cobain at the time but then he probably wanted it even more than I did and didn't have the added challenge of being a chick. It was tough enough to convince anyone that I was capable of driving a tractor. Fortunately for me, my parents were the only ones who really had to be convinced and they never had a doubt.

Never mind too that as a spouse, rather than a formal volunteer, there is a lot I have no involvement in whatsoever. I try to be careful to be helpful but not push my way in - it's not my gig and I really do want to leave it to those whose it is. I am able to provide some level of technical assistance with regard to the aspects that require computers and that seems to be good enough. There are other people who do way more than I do and as a result, there's nothing I do that warrants any particular recognition for it. Just as when I was a manager though and doing my best to ensure the team members who did all the real work got the recognition, I find myself not at all concerned about what I get out of it myself. That actually surprises me in some ways and yet it's true all the same. I just loved that I have even a small part in making something that's bigger than me a success.

How many of us are missing that kind of feeling throughout most of our lives and our work? What's it take to find it and what are we willing to do or give up for it? Me, I was happy to give up most of a night's rest. It didn't feel at all strange to take a bit of a nap in my car just to try to catch up. And I mind not one small bit that my calves would really rather not be trying to walk today from all the pogo-sticking I did Thursday. Laugh at my antics all you want - I had fun & I felt (however misguided I may have been!) that I was helping out in some small way anyway. Fun was had. Money was raised. That's all that really matters to me. Not any of the other stuff I might be giving up.

And what about you - what's truly worthwhile to you? If someone handed you a whole bunch of money and said, "Here, go accomplish something worthwhile" - what would you choose? It might be cool to share your ideas with me here at and see what sort of networking we could build around it. Face it, there are plenty of things we don't even attempt because we assume that it would take far more of whatever it is we feel we don't have to make it happen. That can be changed if we feel like it's something really "worth it".

What action could you take that would get you at least one step closer to feeling fully engaged in something?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Lawyerpalooza 3

For those of you wondering - yes, it is Lawyerpalooza time again. It's May 5th this year at the Premier Club just south of Safeco Field (thankfully a non-Mariners night) and tickets are now on sale.

Attorneys rockin' out to help kids - wow, what a concept.

See you there!

What would be possible if you step fully into your passion?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Factoring in Founders

The more I think about it, the more I realize that The Founder Factor™ ought to be interesting reading to more than just the founders and their venture capitalists. Just as most people don’t wake up in the morning saying, “I think I’ll be a jerk today,” I'm guessing that most do not begin working for a startup wanting for it to fail.

Now that I’ve read the book, I can say with all confidence that it’s very worthwhile even for people who have no intention of starting a company of their own. With a clear understanding of the Founder Factor, we can more appropriately assess the leaders of the organizations with which we intend to align ourselves. We can also better plan for the transitions that will inevitably take place if the business is to succeed. And if we’re fortunate enough to have the ear of our founder, we can help coach that person to be more successful in their role, which will help us be more successful ourselves. In short, it gives us greater control over our own destinies, even if that control is limited to having a better understanding of when the ship is sinking and knowing that it’s time to get out.

The understanding helps from the moment we find out about an attractive-sounding position within a startup. It helps, for instance, to understand that founders, by nature, tend to be arrogant and difficult to work for – if you want something different, it might be better to find a company that’s already crossed the chasm. Nancy Truitt Pierce describes in her book the paradoxical relationship between the "founder factor" and this business of crossing the chasm - how they are defined and influenced by one another.

Understanding that relationship also helps explain that while we may be very connected with the founder in the early stages, it’s not helpful later in a company’s maturation process. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve had to counsel to give up trying to talk directly with the founder to get problems solved – that goes for customers as well as employees. Sure it works, sort of – for a while. The trouble is that it’s destructive to the long-term health of the organization to go at it that way and so that behavior really should not be rewarded.

The reason it doesn’t make good business sense is because it’s not scalable. Believe it or not, there are reasons why bureaucracies are part of the evolutionary process. The trick is not to eliminate them entirely but to embrace them in a healthy way, in a way that helps the business scale up.

Not everyone will get that. Those that do have a big job ahead of them trying to help everyone else understand. Their reward usually comes in the form of getting to stick around longer and often it means they get to increase their level of responsibility within the organization too. Fortunately, this is usually a good thing.

Those who don’t understand have a limited shelf life. Even if no one understands exactly why that is, their managers usually have some instinct that this is true. People who whine about how things are no longer the way they used to be come to mind as the sort of people who don't last as long as they might if they weren't whining. Things rarely stay the same, so it seems pointless to spend too much time mourning the past. Instead, it’s far better to use that energy to help create a viable and worthwhile future or go find someplace else that suits you.

If you can't help yourself, it may be useful to know that whining in this situation is the same as painting a bulls-eye on your chest and carrying a big red flag identifying you as "incapable of adapting" at a time when adapting to big changes is critical.

Whether you prefer the relative stability of a larger organization or the relative intimacy of a smaller one or are looking for some suitable compromise between the two, you’ll make more informed choices if you understand what Nancy’s talking about with regard to founders and emerging companies. Nancy herself does a great job helping the founders keep their wits about them. For everyone else, if you need help understanding where you fit in or how to manage in the midst of the kinds of changes she describes, I suppose I’m pretty good at that part of it these days, having been through many stages and permutations of the evolutionary process of an emerging company.

I'm curious what you've noticed regarding trends and issues as companies scale. As always, you can reach me at to send me your thoughts.

What does adaptibility mean for you?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

When It Hurts to Laugh

I admit that I am looking forward to the pilot of the new television series The Office with some mixture of trepidation and excitement. This has little to do with my sense of how good the American re-make of a fabulously successful British comedy will be. I have zero clue. I’m hoping I'll have more of a clue tonight after I have a chance to see it. For me, it’s more a matter of how painful it’s likely to be, watching a truly bad manager in action.

My question is whether anyone will ever be able to make bad management funny without making me completely cringe at the same time. The original British series after which tonight's new show is patterned was great, but frankly, it always hurt too much to watch. Wanna know why? Because I’ve wondered at times whether my own successes as a manager were simply a figment of my own imagination – whether I have been at any time as deluded as David Brent.

Watching the movie Office Space left me feeling the same. After seeing it the first time, I found myself watching my approach very carefully whenever I needed a support analyst for a weekend or a holiday. Was I in danger of becoming the kind of person who hung on a cubicle wall with a coffee cup saying, “So…” and drawing in my breath sharply before ‘casually’ mentioning I was going to ruin their plans?

It’s possible. It’s even possible that despite my best efforts not to be a Brent or a Lumbergh that at least a few people thought I was anyway. I suppose that’s why good feedback is so important. It’s also why I also take such feedback very seriously, even when it doesn’t feel good and yes, even when I disagree, whether it is from an employee, a peer, or my own manager.

David Brent never got that. Ricky Gervaise did get it – or at least got what it took to come off as a character that clueless about his own deficiencies. Steve Carell’s pretty good – I bet he gets it too. I’m hoping that he can pull it off, making his Michael Scott a good object lesson while we fall onto the floor laughing. If he can do it without making me squirm, I’ll enjoy it even more.

So let’s hear some of your bad management stories. Send them to me at – and since we’re not whiners here, consider including how you handled it and what you think a good manager would have done.

I am, of course, working with the premise that there is such a thing as a good manager and that we're willing to do what's necessary to make our own working conditions better. While we might laugh at others who hate their jobs, it’s not our preferred state.

What if you enjoyed earning a paycheck?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Wasn’t That a Party?

I had a great time last night – honestly I did, even though I’ve hardly been able to move today. I got to spend time with some wonderful friends and got to meet some fabulous new folks with whom it turns out I have quite a lot in common. Today, however, I want nothing more than to take a nap. I think I overdid the whole party thing and, while I am a lightweight, I am certain that the couple of tablespoons of champagne that I drank to toast my longtime friend and colleague who is now an author had absolutely nothing to do with it. My problem today has more to do with the fact that I overtaxed my people skills.

This “longtime friend and colleague” is Nancy Truitt Pierce. There are others who can, I’m sure, lay claim to even longer associations with Nancy. For me, it’s a matter of how much of my career I’ve had the pleasure of working with her and how much of an impact she’s had. Of course, I know dozens of individuals who feel similarly so, again, I’m not alone. Already mostly famous in the Seattle tech scene, I expect Nancy’s well on her way to becoming even more well-known. That’s as it should be; she’s developed key business insights over the years that others need to hear. I’m glad her book, The Founder Factor, is finally out there so that others can learn from her what those of us who know Nancy cherish so much.

When Nancy set the date of her book signing, I was not the least bit surprised that she chose the first day of spring. It suits her sense of seasons and her style. I figured (rightly so, as it turns out) that several others of my good friends and colleagues in the industry would be there and so it was a good opportunity to catch up with some of them. And of course I wanted to be able to congratulate Nancy in person on her accomplishment. As I keep telling her and everyone else who will listen, this information really needs to get out and I am so very glad she's the one putting it out there.

In the midst of all the catching up I did, I was so involved in conversation with a couple of people that I totally missed out on getting to take home a copy of The Founder Factor. I also missed out on getting to say hello (or any more than that) to a few of the people I'd intended to chat with more. I'll catch up with those folks through other channels though, and I’ve been promised a couple copies of the book soon enough, making it all work out just fine in the end, I'm sure. Not getting the book yet also gives me an excuse to post again about it so I’ll still write something in the way of a review when I can have something more to say about what I've read.

Back to the problem of being an introvert, for I'm certain that's the reason I have such a tough time sustaining group-oriented social interaction for any length of time. In true Mary Harwood fashion (for those of you who know her), I am reasonably certain I cannot carry on a decent conversation on a topic about which I am enthusiastic without my hands – and I get enthusiastic about so much. And I enjoy feeling connected with people. It would seem from these isolated data points that I ought to have an easy time with parties but nothing could be further from the truth; I'm just now these days getting comfortable with admitting that and it feels so much better to make that confession.

The trouble is, admitting these more gregarious-seeming traits is not the same as saying I am necessarily outgoing or that I am, by any stretch of the imagination, an extrovert. Quite the opposite. In fact, in many ways I am rather shy, though in most situations I seem to be able to overcome (or at least compensate for) those tendencies rather nicely and most people seem never to notice. My sister knows better but that's perhaps a different story. Because I do hide it so well, trying to describe myself as at all shy and have anyone really believe it is difficult.

Then someone who knows me well pointed out to me a column in the Atlantic Monthly by Jonathon Rauch. By Rauch’s definition, that introverts become tired or feel drained by the presence of other people whereas extroverts are energized by the company of others, I am indeed an introvert. Suddenly, it all makes sense. Suddenly, I have a more reasoned response for people when they ask me why I’m so serious or whether something is the matter when I’m quiet. And while I would not have traded the special time out with such wonderful people last night for anything, today I need a nap.

Note to self – in the future, be sure to plan down time around big events so that I can fully enjoy myself, fully connect with the people I am able to see, and then have the time I need to recover without adversely impacting the other things I want to accomplish. Honestly, I feel about the same this afternoon – even after having had a brief “lie-down” as they say – as I have the day after running a marathon. So now I’m doing my best to take care of myself; it’s one of the perks, I suppose, of working for and by oneself. It’s part of my business plan to make it possible to take that time for myself when I need it.

I'm not alone in finding parties and other social gatherings a stretch. Although this trait alone doesn't make me a geek, I know that it's a trait shared by plenty of techies and other intellectually-oriented people. So how do you make the most out of unwinders, reunions, parties and other social gatherings? What makes you crazy about them? Send your thoughts to me at - as we've already established (or are in the process of establishing), social relationships help make our work lives better and more successful, so it's in our best interests to figure out ways to make that easier. You can help.

What energizes you?

Monday, March 14, 2005

What Do You Know Now?

A short while ago (or so it seems), I was working with a close friend of mine of the younger persuasion (kid) on a puzzle. He was still fairly new to this business of puzzles so as we worked, we talked a bit about strategies to use in doing puzzles. They're the same strategies that work well in solving any problem and since the business world is full of problems to be solved and tech work is particularly all about solving problems, it seemed worth mentioning here.

It's probably all stuff you know and/or do already - the more you do it consciously and on purpose, the more effective the strategies are likely to be for you.

  • Categorize - putting like things together on the table (or in your head) helps reduce ambiguity and gives you some structure for thinking about the problem. Of course, with some sorts of problems, this can be a red herring, so as with most of these strategies, it doesn't pay to get too locked into one way of thinking!

  • Go from the known to the uknown - when it's a puzzle with a picture on the box of what you're trying to accomplish, work from that - it's much easier. In any kind of problem, identify what you know already and then begin exploring your possibilities out from there.

  • Identify new knowledge - for each piece you pull out of the box, there is something more that you know for having looked at it, even when you fail to place the piece. For every new piece you look at or experience you have, what can you now say that you know? Sometimes the knowledge has very limited application, so be careful not to make assumptions that are too broad... and yet, isn't it still useful to some degree to say that with one less piece of sky in the box, that means the ratio of other pieces is now higher?

  • Go back over old knowledge - sometimes we miss things the first time around because we don't yet understand enough to put what we're looking at into context. Retracing your steps every once in a while can sometimes yield real gold. Just be ready to pitch what you thought you knew in the event that later learning proves the earlier stuff is now obsolete.

What sorts of problems have you solved using these steps and what others can you suggest? I hope you'll share them to and a growing group of readers.

What would you do if you had it all figured out?