professional


“Our depth of adaptability is a condition of time and not one borne from education or sensitivity.” – J. Durant

I recently watching a TV program about a transgender married couple (The Kings) who had formed a lasting relationship from tradition to non-tradition.  What made it work and how did appear to have flourished?   Was it simply a matter of willingness or was there something more hidden?   As I carefully listened to the testimonies from family and friends, watched the seamless change in the relationship it started to become apparent that there were things about the maturity developed through a common bond that emerged.

First of all in this simple yet complex example there was an element of common purpose.  In life we repeatedly become distracted thinking that the ’cause’ is the purpose when it fact it’s simply an element of a common purpose.  We fight wars, loose friendships and fail as teams (and as members of those teams) based on the ’cause’ and failing to objectively understand and commit to a common purpose.

Secondly disruption can occur in a variety of ways.  If it was our desire everything would be known, anticipated and even given some advanced level of notification.  Yet there are those things that come out of ‘nearly’ the clear blue.  I stress ‘nearly’ because there are always telltale hints of what possible may come.  Denial and obstance contribute to realities, and these can also lead to subsequent blind resistance.

For these two reasons that disruption the factor of age can contribute positively but it can also be hindered.

Age as a Factor in Disruption

What is age?  In the simplistic of ways it’s our time clock of physical existence.  It starts as an empty cup and over the course of time it is filled with various exposures.  Education, experiences and environmentally driven opinions.  For the more mature audiences the cup is full enough to drive our abilities to accept disruptive change.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that we accept or even embrace the change, but it can be tolerated and even adapted to when we remained focused on common purpose.  Now there are some who can’t accept or even tolerate and this is the result of suppression of free will.  Many times this is the result of cultural and environmental stigmas that have been cast solid over time.  A lack of diversity exposure creates these factors but also the factor of age.  Unlike mature individuals who have a full cup, emerging youth has only a small amount of content and this lends itself to acceptance based on a smaller content model.  The matter of rightness is therefore inhibited by scope of criteria.

Some would argue that age brings inflexibility and this is partially true.  But it’s not as matter of resistance change as it is about a broader set of conditions under which change is measured.  By way of example let’s take the matter of smart phones vs. a simplistic cell phone.  While younger members look for functional versatility for such things as videos, photography, music and internet access the elder members are more comfortable with the basic foundations of need… calling and possibly email.  It’s not resistant to change, its more about practicality of use for each audience’s specific needs.

One last element that is age/maturity specific is the influence of disruption.  While some would deduce that elders would be more reluctant to change it is a matter of note that they are more apt to embrace change.  Why?  The first reason is that while one might enjoy consistency, it also brings with it a certain amount of acceptance (good AND bad).  Secondly, the test of time has forced by way of survival the ability to adapt to change that can be both unexpected as well as expected.  Therefore the model is much more durable than for those without the benefit of time.  This is not to say that youth is inept, on the contrary, it’s more a matter of not having sufficient exposure to change that may run counter to their ideologies of life and technologies.  You see this in software sectors that face rapid evolving disruption in processes and emerging solution options.  It is severely disruptive on implementors that complain about decisions being made by senior members.

The Mix

I once shared with a group that it would be my hope that we would all exist without personas.  In other words no titles, seniority or even roles.  I pronounce this position because there was far too much contention being generated that served noting but to disrupt success.  This same disruption occurs in change and we know that change is an inevitable reality of existence.   It isn’t about the occurrence of change but its about the disruption caused by the lack of a process to address change itself.  Even planned change meets resistance and most often less than complete adoption.  This relates to a reliance on transitioning to occur as a result of free will and without resistance.  Enablers such as training or details task base plans seem to further alienate staff and not facilitate achievement because they become laws and not guides.

A sound mix in the management of disruption is to;

  1. Have an intake process that guides evaluation and disposition rather than becoming a reactionary exercise,
  2. Operate with a fluid approach to change that permits synchronization that embraces exploration and moderation in deployment,
  3. Commitment to exit points without reprisal,
  4. Staff dynamics that permit committed involvement, not treatment as an extra-credit exercise, and
  5. Keep a watchful eye for impending trends (not necessarily as an action item but as elements for considering their impact).

In the mix should also be the dynamics of young and old, without prejudice to age but with prejudice to contribution.  A contribution that is keenly and intently focused on a common purpose.  Far to much attention is given to the what and how, and not enough is given to credible valued investing.  The disruption is simply the situation and not the means to an end.  There are much more important reasons why and even more significant reasons to do great things despite the flows and counter-flows that may exist.

“The lofty halls are lonely and cold.  With each advancing step we lose those cherished traits that brought you to this level of responsible esteem.” – J. Durant

While the prefix C- denotes the highest level of command it also reflects a rare condition.  Few will achieve it even though they may possess all of the characteristics for being a magnificent leader.  A C-level is a statement in trust by the company, investors, public and other members of the management team.  Trust however may be a fair day condition that is in your favor today and places you on the outside looking in tomorrow.  It is important to recognize that much of what a C-level may do is not on par with the supreme role as CEO.  Each company defines this roles differently but definitively two areas of separation involve the working relationship with the Board and Shareholders, and the other serving as the face before the general public.

Over the course of my career I have worked for, served as and have provided advised to C-Level executives.  Each has a distinctive persona which makes it challenging for lateral C-Level movement.

The C-Level seeking advice is most often cautiously reserved.  It was often driven by fear that caused by a lack of trust.  Don’t get me wrong C-Levels can be some the hardest shells that you will ever come in contact with but one thing is certain they seldom reveal themselves.  In fact some have even expressed that its almost impossible to find a bit of honest and confidential counsel.  It for this reason that many who reach this stature live in the present because the future is often a quagmire.  Whether it be market conditions, global shifts in competition, operational matters, disruptions caused by a number of factors can shift success to ouster overnight.  Those that hold these offices realize this and logically expect to go from engagement to engagement for the remainder of their careers and command unprecedented salaries befitting of tenure expectations. The C-Levels I worked with ranged from demanding to quite personable.  Some of this had to do with  the business climate (geographic and industry type) while the more personable relationships grew out of my core values.  This isn’t a boastful statement but in the case of two companies it was because I gave comfort, honesty, unwavering commitment and make it happen attitude (trust building).  All the while creating an atmosphere in which they could focus on strategic issues which had previously been diverted by attention to tactical firefighting issues.  In retrospect I was very lucky to not only be a comfort but also to build a durable personal relationship (without expectations because of the character traits that I outlined previously).  I also suspect, somewhat reluctantly, that the remained a bit of reserved mistrust that still held them not fully committed to the relationship.  The renegade of the group was the C-Level ‘self’.  It is in this state that we get distracted by the need for self-examination and rely heavily on knowing it all, which is not always the case.  In fact the self C-level is often a founder or first C-level conscript that is filling some very large shoes at a point in time when even the simplest mistakes can be catastrophic.  There is also a tendency to get a bit too immersed in the day-to-day operations which detracts from creating forward progress and may create a dependency that erodes the respect from the operational elements.  It also reflects in an abject personality traits that may endear a few but set off others as abrasive, curt, aloof and even anti social.

Playbook #1 – Truth and Trust

Every C-level needs a trusted partner that will deliver truth.  History can greatly effect how quickly this can be established.  Even assurance are not enough until it is seen and felt first hand.   When I was at AT&T and working as a division director my C-Level and I had a very unique relationship.  We would talk about serious confidential and highly proprietary matters.  There were times when I would have to stop him and get clarification because it seemed at the time to be beyond my level of comprehension.  Like a loving father he would clarify and often smile and say “its good you had me explain these things because I haven’t revisited the reasons for a very long time”.  It was also with great sadness that his passing revealed to me that he not only viewed me as his son (aka protege) but one of the few people he could trust with honest simplistic truth.  While it filled me with pride it also was bitter sweet to think a person could spend a lifetime in a business and at best could only expect guarded half truths.

As a C-Level the lack of trust and truth makes work difficult.  It requires multiple data points to substantiate and often we must revert truth/trust based decisions deeper in the organization in order to distance ourselves from the possible fallout caused by these shortcomings.  This is often the reason when an organization has some sort of newsworthy mishap that the blame rests with a member of staff and not directly attributable to the C-suite.  In a dynamically radical and disruptive world the concept of urgency is paramount.  Having to go through extra efforts to get to decisive information creates at perceived atmosphere of procrastination which is in fact the result of trust and truth reaching the C-Level.

Playbook #2 – Use of Peer Network

As we professional progress our peer network changes.  Some remain loyal friends/confidants and others fade away as a result of dissimilar interests.  Even though it sounds a bit stiff the relationship moves from collaborator to resource.  As a resource it can be as casual as having a chance social meeting to chit-chat to a more formal raiding of them as a employee.  Both the C-level and the peer need to recognize that with the tenuous C-level reality that nothing is long term.  If its casual it may be sporadic even unplanned  meetings and for the resource a life after a C-level departure is a hint to start self-relocation.  Now there are exceptions such as those with specialized abilities but this is becoming less a factor and may even be viewed as a liability.  It also means that despite introvert tendencies that one must force themselves to be a part.  Slow decisive attention to character transformation may be required.   It’s much like the ‘wall flower’ syndrome where you go through stages of observation, reserved interaction, participation and involvement.  Likewise the extrovert C-Levels need to regulate themselves.  Don’t show your cards or alienate before you examine, size-up and inject yourself into a foreign peer network (and never assume that what once was is still).

Playbook #3 – Self Management

When I think of failed C-level situations and even some that failed to offer acceptable adoption advice it all came down to self attitude.   You can easily list an unacceptable behavioral trait and somewhere within the C-suite you will find it in all it’s glory.  There is after all the to fit the role but the question that creates doubt is whether it needs to be manifested in such a fashion?  Is this atmosphere the result of their experience, the climate they operate in or events taking place at this moment?  One of my biggest peeves isn’t always about the C-level but about the arm chair critics that sit there leveling their view on what the C-level should be like.  Yet they have never sat in the chair let alone observed and interacted with the C-level on a routine basis.  These comments, opinions and in some cases revolts, threaten the existence of the C-level.  So what makes the difference?

  • Logical and visionary thinking.
  • Ability to quickly process complex situations.
  • Willingness, by necessity, to delegate downward.
  • Building a trusted and responsible team that is committed and communicative.
  • Frequent revisiting your personal operating model.
  • Remain focused on achievement and avoid social distractions that generate little or no value (and potentially increase risks).

Strong leadership acknowledges the existence of opposition.  It prepares for it, sees it and has adopted a respectable level of response as may/may not be required.  The short fuse and the spontaneity aren’t appropriate regardless of position, confidence or desire to act.  Take a breath and choose you actions with a clear mind and forward looking examination.

Playbook #4 – Personal Persona

In present day social media setting more and more C-Levels are expressing their inner self to the general public.  While mentally releasing and ego boosting there is another edge to the sword.  As a C-level your personal life should be guarded for the benefit of the company and shareholders.  One moment of spontaneity can result in catastrophe.  Be it a political stand, a naive response to a technical or market condition, jokes (which aren’t always received as they are intended) or family matters which pose a security risk care and attention must be always on point.  Those C-Levels that I have advise who have this desire to be in the social media limelight I requested one simple thing, “put your desires in the hands of a medium for social networks”.  This not only includes electronic social media but also with the press and public involved engagement.  It serves as a gate of control,  suitable framing and most effective deployment possible.  In doing so you don’t loose the ability/desire and at the same time the goal remains in keeping you in a light that isn’t damaging.

Playbook #5 – Health

Newly appointed C-Levels are apt to face a level of stress and demand that has never been imagined.  Trading operational stress driven by tactical goals is a world apart from stress guided strategic matters.  Time and attention is seldom the work day, and in the course of staying on top of things the C-Level will be interrupted by routine operational issues that remain important.  Demands become the driving force and in fact many proclaim that they have lost control of themselves to a large extent.  For this reason you must allocate time for your well being.

  • Mentally a moment of meditation and reflection are essential at least twice per day.
  • Physically a routine of exercise is strongly recommended.  Maybe its a simple stretching regiment or a full blown high impact workout the choice remains yours.
  • Nutritional control on both intake, types of intake and the amount of indulgences you permit yourself to take.
  • Recreational wellness.  Taking those moments to take a breath and enjoy the fruits of life.  It might be a simple matter of some recreational reading or writing but a moment invested yields a positive return.

Playbook #6 – Commit Fully

It’s not just a job, it’s not just a role and it’s certainly not just a title it’s a dedicated responsibility.  For many the euphoria creates self-indulged sense of importance which ultimately leads to a shortened career.   In many ways its like an mountain turned upside down.  All that hard work to reach the summit has given way to a stewardship to serve.  To serve customers, investors, general public, communities and the enablers called employees.  Without winning and leading those contingents your career will be short lived.   Some have told me that if they don’t love and promote themselves that no one will.  Yet the way you promote yourselves isn’t about yelling the loudest but showing the value of self.  It is this trait that is most important and yet is woefully under-supported.  Some will require an extensive makeover (most do) and others need to amplify virtues hidden underneath a rough persona.   This is about succeeding and being recognized for abilities, talents and leadership regardless of race, color, creed or national origin.  It also means in a diverse and globally connected world that different skins must be carefully woven to appeal to this condition.

Conclusion

A C-level leader, by title or by role, is a position of responsibility.  It’s lonely, often exhausting and a bit of a gamble in terms of tenure.  But it is the result of success and on top of this more success remains in your hands and no one else.  Do good things for you, your supports, advocates and even your challengers.  Bring to the C-Level position dignity, respect, decisive leadership and a vision towards the future.

“We live in a time where reality and fantasy exist with blurred lines.” – J. Durant

In context of transitional sciences we consider and debate the question as to the adaptability of people to morph from the present state to some aspired to condition.  The journey is often rough as the result of many condition.  Theriantrhropy is the mythological ability of human beings to metamorphose into other animals by means of shapeshifting.  The present day the concept of theriantrhropy can be considered as our ability to change ourselves into different forms, not necessarily in the physical sense but in behavioral/intellectual ways.   Some of this will occur as a bi-product of experience, exposure and learning.  Other changes result from external influences.   During the last decade our ability to transform has been challenged with the rapid changes in our world be it occurring in society, technology, business or the tightened connections within the global community.   We simply cannot curl up into a ball, in the corner of a room and expect to be safe.

First State Condition (Now/Present)

Before we even get started one must give consideration to what state the person(s) are in.  Are they struggling, unmotivated, overachieving, opinionated, persuasive, empowered, bewildered, etc.?   We must never overlook where we are, what is causing these conditions to exists (both good and bad), and what corrections might need to be employed before embarking on a state of transition.  I refrain from relating this to specific genders, age groups or cultures to avoid generalization, but these two can play a hidden but decisive contribution as to what occurs and how these matters must be attended two.

Second State Condition (Compelling Drive)

We must assume that we have taken steps to acknowledge, re-mediate and to address the know conditions that exist in the first state.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that it has been resolved, but it is expected that it becomes an element of attention during the course of transitioning in order to facilitate expedient achievement of planned objectives.  In the second state is when we look to elements to facilitate transitioning.  The most common tactic is to engage ownership.  In today’s business climate it less about assignment and more about taking voluntary ownership.   Some companies have created this climatic condition that can be viewed as customary.  However for others, especially in industries and cultures that are have a strong ‘command and control’ mentality, this will be something very new.  In order to achieve this we must,

  • introduce the concept and all of the beneficial reasons for this change in approach,
  • put forth the elements needing ownership and permitting guided signup for each. Note: it is critical that we guide this in order to avoid over-subscription or taking on roles that  are a mismatch, and
  • go forth, monitor, coach/counsel, reassign if necessary (but with dignity) and update as appropriate.

Third State Condition (Steady State)

Our conditioned ability to reach a steady state in transitioning is not for a single occurrence but one that will survive the potential every changing events that are apt to occur.  It was difficult to suggest that that a steady state would ever be achieve and would most likely be assaulted with new transitional challenges.  Whether these occur as a result of new principals and constraints or whether embodied inside of an element of disruptive change is unknown.  Experience has shown that changes occur, that some of these are apt to fail and then repair sometime later, and others will take the world by storm (duration to be either sustained or momentary).  It’s for these reasons that transitional aptitude and mindset must be keen and responsive.  Reliance on resilience based on the person or intuition are simply added benefits, not a reliable means to achieve positive and lasting flexibility.

The third state has one element that is key, toning.  Like a body builder who achieve a desired stature in order to maintain that they need regular toning physically, mentally and nutritionally.  Toning to achieve a steady state in transitioning (addressing the regular assaults of solicited and unsolicited change) involves toning.

  • Physical transitional toning – Regular involvement, refinement and development of transitional aptitude.
  • Mental transitional toning – Intense topical immersion through educational means.  It is important to utilize a geographically diverse variety that  (formal, informal, reading, classes, mentoring discussions, observation…) fits your learning style.
  • Nutritional transitional toning – Understanding you physiology…. what your application index is, the type of person you are (Myers-Briggs, Colored Brain…) and how to provide a suitable intellectual nutritional balance to maintain proficiency.

As management we are always worried about time and cost.  How much time will need to be dedicated to or how much cost will be involved.  This is not only a very legitimate question but also one that must drive much of what we do.  Instinct is not a sound means to achieve real and last results.

In terms of time, this relates to the three states as previously described.   Lots of issues will require attention even though these are matters that should have been corrected earlier.   Slow progress caused by environment and events will extend time.  However, the payback is found downstream as we start to pace the organization with present day state of changes.  No drag race goes from a standing stop to full speed immediately, and neither should we expect organizations to transition that way.

The cost relate mostly to the cost of time but the offset to the time is a higher degree of control and responsiveness to change.  We can easily dispatch an event to an appropriate level of attention, with a proper support collective in an expedient fashion and do so without be reacting but orderly responsiveness.

In conclusion, what we see happening and what some of you may envision is a lasting change in behavior.  A change that brings pragmatic protocol to embrace habit conditioned to the realities of transitioning, change and expediency.

 

 

“Life is not a cookbook where you find a recipe and suddenly your are a chef.  Mastering balance, flavor and presentations are key to award winning results.” – J. Durant

We are on an eternal quest for answers.  Seeking out the story of people who have experience success often relates to what we perceive is wisdom.   We seek with intent to replicate and overlook the importance of mastery.

If you look back over articles and books on such topics as start-ups, innovation, disruptive technologies and the many things that whirl about us there is a natural abundance of ‘how to’ or ‘guidance’ sources.  Why?   Simply put these things sell, people want quick and decisive real life examples.  But in opting for speed and outcomes there is also a natural tendency to acquire intellectual command of the topics, and the pursuit of further immersion.

I recently read an article that described the pursuit of venture capital and the frustrations experience with not only the process but the deployment of resources once financing was acquired.  The real crux of the matter was an over attention on need and less of an attention to having formed a financial and operational structure to accept revenue inflows (regardless of source).  Why is it important?  From personal experience the importance lies in the value produced from having routine operational elements, including finance, to be carried out in an almost automatic fashion.  This permits us to be attentive to pressing and often disruptive events without having to be immersed in routine care and maintenance of critical business elements.   In the case of startups the failures are routinely caused by an over attention to critical elements that have not achieved steady state reliability, caused in large part to care as  you go.  As the title suggests we think too much, and we own too little in terms of intellectual ownership.  In the context of start-up organizations there is an abundance of attention given to product/service promotion but all in the wrong way.  We really don’t need to know what a car is made of or what the material specifications are, we do however need to understand the market and how it can be convinced to make a commitment (aka market conversion).

Leap of Faith

Life is not easy and while our vision is to win, our most daunting challenge is to survive.  Survival of the fitness epitomizes the struggles and the acclaims achieved during the course of life’s ventures.  Maybe this is reflected in marriages that last, our is lifetime commitment but the struggle is everyday life with another person.  In the case of business its surviving the daily on-slot not just from market or competition but societies as a whole.  Rigidity has its place but in terms of staying the course of survival we must be prepared and capable to transition at a moments notice.  Talk is cheap when trying to characterize ourselves as flexible or are we?  Are we simply saying we are because our world of flexibility is dependent upon a rigid framework for addressing change?

To leap forward means that we need to change our behavior (aka transition).  We need to view knowledge as the fuel for adopting personal knowledge, not as an instruction to follow.  Think beyond the norm, looking for big questions that possibly don’t have answers (because they haven’t been asked before or thought about in a particular way), and a search of wisdom from places that are on your hostile radar will open your mind in ways that you might not expect.  At the same time we must be resistant to pessimism, refrain from dooming anything to unacceptable before you have taken it in, pondered, prodded, experimented and adapted to characteristics (personal and professional).

I’m not a name you would see on a billboard list of successful entrepreneurs because I haven’t achieved multi-billion dollar levels.  But is the achievement of a level a sign of commanding understanding and abilities?  Maybe so, by your scorecard, and thus the reason why the words of wisdom reach a level of respectable acceptance.  But you also may remember cases in which the wisdom was inappropriate for your needs.  Why is that given that it resulted in success?  Was it that we didn’t dig deep enough to understand the conditions by which success was achieved, or was it a matter of conditions taking place at the time of the success story?  Maybe it was first to market, or maybe it was simply something as simple as selling an interest that was in fact the source of the success.   This is somewhat like a book on Success that creates a revenue stream of success or a methodology that sells you on discovering who you are (when we would hope that you already some idea of that already).

Recently I experienced an opportunity to question a person who contrived a model.  The model was interesting, although more confirming than discovery.  What was more concerning from my perspective was the lack of credentials (thus personal opinion and packaging) and the forward thinking as to where to go beyond the model to affect organizations.  In retrospect, and without malice, it was an example of marketing creativity over material substance.  Many of you have heard the term, “we can sell ice cream to Eskimos”, but is this a condition we are apt to subject our livelihood to or for that matter wish to be associated with?

Honor and integrity in business have been cheapened by clever wordsmithing to legitimize our mission to produce growth and revenue.  I think of this a bit like a petty thief who steals to feed his family and uses this to justify the illegal behavior.  The decision rests in your hands whether need over rides principals.  What hinders us, once again, is fear.   Whether it be the fear of failure or the fear of the unknown we shackle ourselves to opportunities in which we marginalize ourselves.

As stated earlier I’m not a named commodity except to a few long time followers who have come to realize the virtues that I possess at a personal and professional level.  These has resulted in loyalty but also a life journey stewardship.  I am also a strong believer in survival and as a result believe that aside from traits we must be capable to exist in disruption.  Disruption that has valued purpose and not leaning towards it being a ‘Distraction’.   The separation in meaning is quite clear to me, it’s the difference between a plausible occurrence and one that is of little to no value.  But be careful because what may be of little to no value today, may be essential tomorrow.  Sometimes we need to give a bit of pondering thought and other cases we simply need to file it away for periodic examination.  Often what may fade has the probability of re-occurrence later on, almost like the idea that is ahead of its time.  This is an example how failures can and often are more valuable than the sagas of acclaimed success.

In Conclusion

There is no conclusion, only a continuum.   The river doesn’t dry up because we can’t make it upstream, it expects us to understand the ebb and flow, the rapids and the flat waters of our journey.  We command the river when we understand our role and the conditions by which we chart a path to the headwaters.  The same holds true in our journey in life and in business.  We are driven not by answers but by wisdom, and that is further embellished with our rendition uniquely crafted to fit our needs to produce a valued outcome.  Mastery however involves an intuitive reflect in the application of knowledge.  Not a quick reference or a set of notes but a humble and childlike inquisitiveness that is never satisfied.  As parents we know the stage of ‘Why?’ that occurs.  Unfortunately it gives way to answers and principals that stems the question of ‘Why’.  This creates a sad state, but it is not without redemption.  While we can postulate on what causes this, it’s really not important because the cause isn’t what needs correction.  What needs correct is us, today, at this very moment, to act upon a need to redeem our desires to own the ‘Why?’.

The way we act may not be an indication of who we are.” – J. Durant

Throughout the course of our lifetime we will struggle with our identity.  While we may profess that our search has been reached it becomes more of a defensive response than one of deep and committed reflection.

For the last decade the world has rapidly slipped into a contentious state.  The blame cannot rest upon the social media vehicles that carry the message but in the acts of those who feel compelled to express their beliefs.   So who are you anyways?

Retrospective

A healthy part of life is to reflect on who we are.  It isn’t about what we have accomplished, since these are simply momentary acclaims that will carry us forward for a brief bit of time.  If sustained it must be done so in a very purposeful and responsible fashion.  This is where ego can easily take over and responsibility becomes a view of obligation and not one of respectful conduct.  All too many people have fallen out of favor because the legion of minions have moved forward leaving you standing alone on the battlefield that you have played a major role in creating.   Sustained success must remain true to those early ideals set as the reason for making a difference and not get caught up the frey created around us.

I think back in time when engineering was honestly pragmatic and devoid of superficial engagement in debates which diminished our credibility.  It was also a time where pragmatism was constantly assaulted by business decisions that were contextually intuitive and lacked structure.  With the advent of agility we created a framework that offered flexibility, but at the same time this power of capability gave way to some very strong opinions.  At first it was all about the level of agile purity that should be exercised.  Those early days created hard fought turf and as a result we unknowing lost flexibility and created evangelists.

When I look back at myself one of my hardened character traits involves the pursuit of purity and rightness, and this came from my early years as a technology auditor.  Things were looked as right or wrong, compliant or not, and when to the contrary working with the affected parties to gain agreement and create a suitable solution.  Unfortunately, if left unattended this vocation driven trait easily became one that endangered my personal life.   During a recent conversation a person shared with me the unfortunate bullying that some businesses owners were experiencing from customers using their social media clout.   Our emotions take over, professional stature builds momentum and we become irresponsible by acting through our readily available social platforms without considering some degree of professional decorum.   We overlook the need for respect and responsible behavior.  Don’t think for one moment that I have not been out of control and have throw caution to the wind.  Despite that momentary loss of sanity and the momentary euphoria it was soon followed by remorse.  The remorse wasn’t just about the loss of control but the possible damage it may have caused (directly and indirectly).

Change The World

For more than a century we have been ingrained with the ability to change the world.  We subconsciously believe that we will make a difference.  What we don’t realize is that a difference isn’t always a positive one but can be damaging and counteracted by others responses to their drive to make change.  These points of contention can be as simple as a difference of opinion on approach, a twist of outcome based on perspective, cultural vantage point or simply a discord relating directly to you sole based on you.  The later is the most difficult to overcome but consideration to the use of both ‘blind’ and ‘surrogate’ alternatives when the goal is something of significance.

It goes without saying that we will have have a contribution to the world simply by existing.  The next level is when we contribute as a part of a private closed framework, such as the case with organizations, as a member, or working as an employee for a business.  This is the juncture when we have to start tempering our personal beliefs with those of others.  Tempering is not conceding but adapting to conditions.  We face the challenge of authenticating our belief systems while processing what other beliefs we become expose to.  Baring in mind that these beliefs may be just as fragile as the ones we have been closely guarding during the course of our lifetime.  Its at this point we need to shape our personalities and our behaviors in such a way that it reflects who we are.  It becomes a contradiction of sorts when we say we are our own person when we chose to lead, follow, meld or decent into the pact.   Going back to our school days there was always a person or two that we would consider to be the bully.  In those formative years it was usually based on size, age or some urban myth of their bullying abilities.  Later on we discover that these things, while risk factors, had a fairly low probability of reliability or occurrence potential.

But have we advance from being in the shadows of fear of the bully on the playground to now the bully in life (or in business or in the profession we are associated with)?

Professional Bullies

There is a saying that “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing (A. Pope)”.  It isn’t just about the knowledge we have or the moment of notoriety we have achieved, but its the way we responsibly use it.  If you look back on contacts that you have made you may hold certain people in high adoration because of this trait.  You may also feel a bit misused by being a minion to that ‘one hit wonder’ who is loud and self righteous, but has absolutely no respect for anyone.   It is also likely they don’t have self-respect because they have not taken the time to look within, hear around, consider the obvious and ignore the potential of their harmful and destructive patterns.

Today disrespectful contention (aka bullying) abounds.  Contention between generational groups, social and leadership debates and the ongoing riff over religion.  Where has it taken us?  To wars with no winners, the loss of cooperation and the abundance of hate.   So if we want to make a change we need to start with understanding the difference we are making that is possibly not a constructive one that can also be self damaging.

A client had a problem with one of their teams.  They felt that the team was not functioning as a team and that there were certain members that we in fact not contributing in a positive fashion.   While the customer felt that training was the best opinion there were open to suggestion.   After careful observation and bit of stealth listening there were several discoveries.

  1. The chief compliant about non-team minded members proved to be the case that it was those complaining were the problem.  Further examination revealed that they were under performing and needed the support of the others who they were complaining about.
  2. Much of the work that was being done did not require a ‘team’ approach.  A simple blueprint for connectivity was all that was needed.
  3. The concept of self-empowered created an atmosphere of righteous indignation towards their fellow teammate.
  4. The team was undersized and over managed.  While we can’t always get the resources we need the solution became more managing our of fear of failing.  Re-scoping what could be delivered and to what extent became a more durable and mutually agreed to decision.
  5. Management viewed the turmoil within the team as a failure of the team.  Thus confidence was lost even though it was recovered with a few simple adjustments.

The biggest takeaway was that a plan is only achievable if one understands the transitional changes necessary to retain focus.

Responsibility

Nothing succeeds without people, not as a resource or a talent, but in attitude.  As I was told the other day that you develop an impression of a person but its not until you have social interaction that you really understand who they are.   “You can’t just a book by it’s cover” is apropos in this case.  So what kind of revealing characteristic do you want for ‘you’?   Is it a good cover with horrible content, is it a suitable cover but with sincerity and respectful guidance, or is a book with no cover and the content is still awaiting a first draft?    During the course of a lifetime we are in search of this answer.  There is no rule that prescribes that a certain trait should occur at a point of time in your life.  Lessons and change occurs based on the progression of life and it affects us based on our span of openness.  This span may simple be in a small hamlet or on the world stage.  With each span of openness our responsibilities increase.

Thinking can be a good thing but sometimes it can also create amazing gut wrenching conflict.  In preparing to write these thoughts I went through a moment of retrospective as to who I am.   A narrow path of this reflection involved the question, “am I a conservative or a liberal”.  I resorted to looking at the definitions of these two opposing ends of the belief system and came to realize that I am neither.  In fact I have become balanced (purely coincidental and not by design) having beliefs in both domain.  How did this happen since I always considered myself a conservative?  What I have discovered is that while my regional/social upbringing created the starting point that life presented to me opportunities to change.  Not always willfully, sometimes out of necessity and at other times the result of a massive exposure to different things.  These things involved people, places, technologies, viewpoints, awareness, research, self-discovery, marriage and children.  In short, life experiences.  The things I avoided were the result of restraint and respectful responsibility.  The things I didn’t avoid created lessons and also a sense of accomplishment.  But with these achievements came a massive responsibility to not be a bully but be a guide.  It’s a privilege that commands self-restraint and a willingness to avoid false pontification.   The label we carry is not one bestowed by the masses but the gift we give to ourselves.  We share this with others for the advancement of civilization and not the destruction of hard work.

 


 

“A thousand jumps without a mishap is no basis to decide to abandon your reserve parachute.” – J. Durant

There are several assumptions that I’m not going to make.  One is that there isn’t some sort of contingency plan and secondly that the plan (if it exists) is actually plausible.  The existence of a Plan B may very well exist and was thought to be durable enough to work in the event of the unexpected.   It is also quite possible that anticipated projects of markets failed to recognize that there were not only fatal flaws in service offerings but also had not considered the potential rapid acceleration of disruptive technologies.  These situations are all possible and realistic so where does this leave us in the world known as ‘outsourcing’?

The Here & Now

I should come as no surprise about certain conditions existing that leads us up to today.  Nearly 7 years ago President Obama was threatening H1b visa reform so it should become as no surprise that it would again regain visibility under President Trumps initiatives to put America back to work.  Nationalism whether in the US or India is always of utmost concern.  Employed workers reduce the possibility of civil unrest and if band-standing about the topic brings support from citizens.  But the US is not the only ones in the throws of employment concerns as you look about all of the other nations.  Some nations, such as the Philippines, who gained BPO notoriety in 2010, continues to struggle with providing sustainable employment opportunities and relies heavily on the export of human capital.

There here is that as nations of service providers we need to earn revenues in order to provide employment and foster continued growth.  What happens however is as the revenue streams shift the organization becomes challenged to remain in step.  It is possible that the size of an organization can hamper its ability to be nimble in this situation but it can also be a case that the labor force is too narrowly skilled to adapt to the rising challenges.  As a result labor falls under direct attack through downsizing.  It isn’t always about tenure but it can also be about skills and the ability to advance those skills in a reasonable time frame.

What were some of the sourcing challenge that sat in abeyance waiting for a tipping point?  As I stated back in 2011 (Frost & Sullivan/Manila), ‘The celebration of successful BPO supremacy must be short lived.  The time is NOW to transform and advance the services provided by the BPO community whether it be in Information Technology (IT) or Knowledge Processing (KPO… which we now refer to as analytics).”   The message while loud and clear went unanswered until now and the reaction has been anything other than chaotic.   In large part, the absence of a Plan B is becoming more and more apparent as a rush is being made to educate up.   Unfortunately equally concerning is that education is but an introduction and a far cry from the level of expertise that this new wave of technological disruption is causing.

Woulda-Shoulda-Coulda

What is a Plan B?   Not to sound too parochial, it a preconceived game plan that addresses anticipated and unanticipated conditions.  Often it is considered as having a Plan B when we feel amply equipped to make decisions at a moments notice.  This is not planning, this is reacting.  As with most reactions they are best serving in the moment but in the long term (and that could be as short as a couple of days).  A reaction is intended to be exercised by skilled and experience personnel who are willing to be accountable for their decisions.   The question is whether this is taking place or not?

For employees that are most apt to say NO.  This response is influenced by fear and uncertainty caused by a situation that is beyond their ability to in control of.  It may further justify or erode confidence in those making these decisions.  What is however within the control of the employee is to be aware and ready of the changing world that they are employed in.  Accepting a complacent role is not going to insulate you from the havoc caused by change and is most likely going to put you in jeopardy.

For the decision makers, the leaders, and the visionaries of the company its a profound wake-up call.   There may be a multitude of sins that has place the business in a vulnerable position,

  • too much time and effort place in self-promoting and not enough time keeping your ear to the ground for change,
  • thinking that you are a leader when in fact there is a void in the sound ability to deliver and thus creating trust issues in the market,
  • riding out the good ride as though it will never end and when it does end finding plausible but untrue reasons why it happened,
  • failure to plan, anticipate, monitor and adjust.  This is not an ancillary or optional element but one that serves as your reserve for adapting to change, and
  • viewing a plan as the end and overlooking the elements of transitioning as a part of a success formula.

It should however come as no surprise that these small elements with high impact are but the tip of the iceberg in terms of critical failings in outsourcing.  Don’t view my words as too harsh but simply a reality check and the opportunity for companies to reinvent their role engagement.

Metamorphism

It is far to easy to either live life in the moment or react to the ebb-and-tide of change.  But nearly a decade ago the word in favor was ‘sustainability’ and it didn’t just pertain to startup enterprises it served equally well for established institutions.  It was however difficult to envision sustainability when you were living in that moment.  Probably for that reason alone the notion of considering a Plan B was viewed more as an opinion than as a necessity.   Looking over thousands of Plan A’s and B’s they fail on content but do exceedingly well on form.  The plans also tend to portray the world as some sort of orderly process that takes place and relies heavily on past performance, despite changing social and consumer interests that add the element of context.  These and the lack of diverse thinking, because of confidentiality trust concerns, has created a storybook saga where the element of realism was more wishful that plausible.

Not everyone has been doom and gloom on either not having or having but poorly orchestrated plans that address planned and disruptive change that has been tempered by current situations.  The few companies are surprisingly small but are riding the wave of current success and in doing so are forced by institutional investment circumstances to think ahead and anticipate.  They have also, possibly caused by having done this for a period of time, has immortalized planning and specifically a plan B mindset into their regular protocol.

Circling Back

Let’s return back to outsourcing and where we go from here.  Whether you have a plan, a Plan B, it’s not working or it is the reality is what we face and what the clock looks like.  In all cases we have a small amount of time to transform and perform.  This opportunity is fueled by the customer and their drive to embark on significant technological change.  It is a bitter pill for the customer to swallow when shifting off of legacy linear solution technology in favor of more aggressive, machine driven solutions.  Not only does risk need to be mitigated but trust needs to be earned through concept, technology and custodians.   Secondly, there is an opportunity for adaption of present intervening environments.   When dealing with such elements as machine learning, artifical intelligence, robotics (both mechanical and intellectual) and advanced analytics these do not permit a lift and drop approach.  They must be carefully crafted, deployed, adjusted and grown in order to further reduce the impact of risk that they introduce.  This provides both a service opportunity to providers but also invaluable time to grow accustom to a greatly different paradigm.   Despite what one might think humans are resistant to change.  A study by the University of North Carolina (USA/2000) illustrated that people resist change, despite unhappiness with present circumstances, based on known vs. unknown trust.  A lack of participation in change only added to the reservations that they had that change could take place and if not that they wouldn’t be held to blame for it failure.

For sourcing companies there are immediate course adjustments that will be necessary.  Obviously resource levels will require adjustment, locations modified, work modes modified and reinvestment employed with these only being a few of the many things that need to be put into play.  It will however also require a shift in thinking about the role of the business, the attitude towards labor resources and even a willingness to trust from both within and from outside.  Historically openness has been cautiously provided when it came to business relationships, but the door of local proprietary behavior has been shut on operational improvements.  If at all, it has been relegated to a simple one way providing of inward value without the opportunity for shared and mutual inclusion.

Is there hope for the future, of course there is always hope.  Is it too late to make change?  Let’s just say we need to get moving and not adopt a wait and see.  It will be too late if the need is already here and you have nothing to offer except hopes and promises that can’t be fulfilled.

 

On a daily basis we are exposed to topics of leadership.  From the aisles of government to the offices of commerce we seek leadership.  Our pursuits call upon leaders of the past who’s successes give instantaneous acclaim for their profound leadership.   However, we also see the assault on leadership from the rank-and-file that are in search of what they perceive to be leadership.

What is leadership or more specifically the instrument that we call a leader?  There are numerous definitions that exist and most point to the characteristics that a leader should have.  But is that really a definition or is it simply a personal depiction of what they perceive a leader to be.  In pondering this topic I tried to visualize the model which is comprised of two end points; a person who is followed (aka leader) and those that respond to the edicts of that person (aka the follower).   This definition is not  limited to just people but can also relate to entities such as a company, country or even market. Leadership these examples is earned and not bestowed, as might be the case when we deal with an organizational setting.   Thus we have two ways in which a leader reaches this role, by earning it through value based outcomes or though assignment.

images (2)Let’s talk a bit more about assigned leadership.  While we all assume that a leader has earned the role it can also be heavily influence by need and urgency of that need.  Each of us can easily think of cases where you wonder how a person became the leader when there appears to be a lack of leader traits.  It may be the case of earning the seat by tenure/opportunity and less about character traits.  However, as a follower (or a person sitting on the sideline as an observer) our scorecard may be much different that the one being used by the leader’s leader.  What we must come to realize that a leader’s leader may not only looking at the tactical implementation of initiatives but how those fit in with broader corporate objectives.  The leader-leader may know of about matters of urgency and thus are looking for the trait of decisiveness, technical abilities and project delivery track record as key components needed in this newly appointed leader.  All the while the contingent of followers are looking for a guide, mentor and someone who can appreciate their challenges.  In short the conflict between ‘action based decisiveness’ and ‘cooperative support’.  As we have read in the last few years there has been ample discussions about the focus of generational attitudes on the leadership model.  I’m not going to delve into each except to say that conditions will challenge each and every generation.  There may be times commanding group think, where as at other moments a more pragmatic scientific approach or even a unconfirmed decisiveness that is required.  It is mostly likely not feel right for you, it may never been fully embraced by you, but you will be expected to support the approach.  Now I’m a bit reluctant to say this but it is as important to know how to be a committed, effective, trusted and faithful follower as it is to be a responsible leader.   This is not something that is easily achieved and will require you to #transition your entire persona to fit varying conditions.

The leader who achieve acclaim through accomplishments is often lauded by others. You can’t take achievement away but at the same time we cannot assume that their style or approach is reproducible.   There is always that hint that right-place/right-time was the factor that made it happen.  It also should be noted that its easily to reverse engineer elements into an outcome as the baseline for success.  But even in those cases there are conditions, often undisclosed that contributed to it taking place.   Timing, budgets, corporate support, market readiness, human capital and the much allusive innovation often sit behind successful efforts.   So the leader sits between the two ends of success; the followers (instruments) that will be put into action whether in a day-to-day operative setting or on a initiative based venture and the leader’s-leader who is commanding the leader as a follower.

It is important to realize that the question of transparency and awareness exists.  How much is needed to invoke success or how little.   This question is best considered when thinking about ability to influence and knowledge capability of the individual (or even group).   During my career I have had many occasions when the market should have known but the ability to convert was near to impossible because of fear of the unknown.  The value of transparency, even with a risk reduction roadmap, remained an obstacle.  The information ‘fell on deaf ears’, it failed to transition thinking and added one more variable to a list of other variables that still had not been resolved.  One can never, regardless of  virtues, overcome these barriers.   Leaders and followers may be called upon to engage in initiatives or support processes based solely on face value, and this command massive trust.  Anyone who has sat in this role has had more than one hair brained scheme dropped in their lap and was expected to carry it out.  It is highly possible that you were right, if that is at all important, but being right isn’t the question.  The question is about achieving a result as a leader in the face of all opposing odds and utilizing the resources at your disposal.

As a professional, leader of follower, we are obligated to mature as professionals but also as individuals.  It possibly the reason why elder leaders are called upon for their wisdom because it is expected that they have reached a level of maturity.  Life teaches us many lessons most of which cannot be repeated because of the parties involved.  But none the less they took place, the story was written and the last chapter produced.  To reach maturity the craft of following, leading, sharing and #mentoring must occur.  If your pursuit ended in college, you leadership desires ignored following development then the outcome will produce substandard leaders.  Ambition, interest and even technical skills are not enough to be a leader that is anything more than an expendable resource.  Once you have served a purpose your value is no longer worth the fallout from the elements that lacked the potential for leadership growth.

Education is important, but it’s value impact is achieved when used with the right leadership personality.   The right tools will assist in achieving goals but if the talent is not there, then don’t expect to produce a world class painting just because you have an expensive badger hair paintbrush.

GBS Instrumental Leadership

The context of the Global Business Service (GBS) is a collective of organizations that are a resource to other institutions around the world, and not solely focused on domestic market.   The GBS model involves a spearhead, participants and market.  Because of its disruptive emergence out of shared services and outsourcing paradigms the ability of GBS to achieve formation has been circumstantial and not cohesively formed.  By this, we have engaged numerous events and initiatives to hold onto the concept of GBS but have been a bit apprehensive to raise acclaim as the leader.  I’m sure its a worthy bar room discussion as to why, but at this point its more a matter of embracing the need for leadership, determining how that can be achieved and putting it into action.   Time and time again leadership contention becomes a leading barrier to achieving worthwhile results.  Organization vs. organization vying for the leadership role becomes a polarizing effect.

imagesIn the meantime however is the target consumer who operates in its own independent sphere of needs and benchmarks.  Are they the leader looking to direct or are they the follower of a supplier (or possibly even a market)?  It’s this quandary that is where confusion commences and as a result assertions of leadership are made.  Often it becomes a unsettled state in which neither party takes leadership but also neither one takes responsibility when issues arise.  The result isn’t just hampered outcomes, its creates negative emotions that may never turn positive (eg. mistrust, apprehension, disappointment, accountable failure…).   GBS awaits leadership, from the onset with those institutions that deliver value based services.  Secondly there needs to be leadership in governance by those agencies and institutions that are crafting the channels of opportunity.  A lack of leadership often results in a reflection of confusion, disarray and loss of opportunity.   But also there needs to be humble but privileged following that realize that acclaim comes to those are the backbone resource for the GBS initiative.   Looking back on past ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) initiatives the overlapping leadership of multiple organizations has caused failures to take place.  Even more pronounced is that their durability remained only for the period of time in which instrumental parties remained in place.   Leadership isn’t about reward but about building capability for durable empowerment.   In Southeast Asia agencies vie for leadership of GBS, corporate suppliers are looking for and aggressively competing for leadership visibility and employees are striving to become leaders while still in the embryonic stage.  All the while the consumers outside of the region are at a loss as to where to go or how to gauge the reliability of the organizations and services.  So what needs to be done?

The first step in leading is to understand and objectively evaluate present conditions not only on the ground but also looking beyond the present.  Without this self-directed examination what will result is gross independence of organizations that continue to run autonomously.  This will ultimately results in shallow depth of value generation and a narrow band of specialization.   Secondly we need to craft the most basic form of structure that will center on bring about GBS.  This fundamental form will ultimately result in key initiatives to build corporate and organizational leadership through educational, editorial and trade events.   The big question in most minds is who should be leading GBS?  I suggest that it does not have to relegated to one leader and that there is ample room for leadership each bring to bear an ability that another may not possess.  As is the case in government and business, while there may be one leader (such as ‘President’ or ‘Prime Minister’) there still remains a cabinet and other regulating leaders that must be consulted and to which agreement must be struck.  While the focus is often one the one, it is really a reflection of the decision of the collective of leaders.   Finally, more attention must be directed as to whether the consumer is the leader or the follower or whether they are in fact a peer leader.  A peer leader that has a span of leadership control, in this case the consumer having domain control to engage, monitory and see to delivery of service delivery outcomes.  By comparison the peer leader of the provider has domain control to engage, perform and deliver outcomes not simply because they are driven by contract but because its the right thing to do in order to sustain a productive relationship.

Yes we have leaders by title, some by role and others by relegation of duties.  But true leaders do not bask in the shade awaiting a provocation.  True leaders engage and form action based upon conditions that exist or that are anticipated.  It also should be acknowledged that followers play an essential role.  Not only do followers deliver outcomes but they are also play a role in continued sustained leadership.  All must be ripened on the vine for one day to be harvested and brought forth to the next purpose in the food chain of leadership.

SPECIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT to members of PIKOM leadership for providing the leadership discussion stimulation which provoked this article to be written.

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