Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In the clear absence of leadership

Ok, just a warning here folks - /rant=on

I'm amazed.  Amazed at how some people manage to climb the corporate ladder without any real ability in the discipline they are supposed to be leading and without sound foundations in the concepts and core principles of leadership.  The latter half of this statement is what I am going to focus on in this rant post today.  And I know, maybe some of this is a bit naive in my thinking.  It is a big, bad world out there where people beg, borrow and steal to make it to the top.  But honestly some people need to stop keeping their jobs and actually start doing their jobs.  If they aren't qualified, move aside please.  Yes, very naive indeed.

Oh, and in an act of shameless promotion and to tie in something I submitted to Metatalks, here is a nice background for this piece that summarizes my state of mind.http://parxyr.tumblr.com/post/1525147066/call-to-arms

So anyway, back to the rant...

I crave real leadership in those charged with providing me direction.  It is something that I feel I have been laboring on without in my career across my various engagements with different companies.  And when our appointed leaders are deficient of core leadership fundamentals they tend to cover up for that lack of ability with just about any excuse in the book that usually equates to nothing more than busy work and spinning your resources in circles without a clear sense of direction or purpose.  Now bear in mind, I do not profess to be some maven on management style or consider myself a Level 5 leader (read Good to Great by Jim Collins for the reference, superb book on leadership and the enduring qualities of a great company - link below).  But even without having the qualities of a L5 leader, I think I can understand what those qualities look like and how they can be manifest in the daily workplace.  And I can tell you without hesitation that there is a glorious absence of it in the workplace today.

Now you may ask for examples I might draw?  I point you back to your workplace and our current economic situation or even the housing market deterioration.  Do you sell a house for three times its actual value and convince some poor soul that a variable interest rate will give them long-term stability?  The counter-argument is obvious, but why allow someone to thrive to someone else's detriment with something so fundamental as a home - the building block for a family?  Ok, so yes the buyer should have known better and done their homework.  But I think the point is valid.  Don't allow your coffers to fill if you don't think about sustainability in the long run.

The get rich quick schemes are just that, schemes.  Create rather than being a parasite.  There is such a notion as mutual benefit where everyone wins and yes it usually is harder and involves more work but is ultimately more rewarding.  I get this isn't a perfect world and that power breeds corruption, but bear with me.  Good leadership includes a socio-economic conscience as well as fiscal and stakeholder responsibility.  Vision is the indelible ability to look beyond the short term gain to have lasting and enduring results.  And vision is a core tenet of strong leadership.

From the examples of good leadership that I feel I have observed, I have noticed that not every leader has strengths in each of the key disciplines we associate with good leadership - vision, drive, dedication, charisma, strategy, planning and communicating to name a few.  That notion is entirely realistic.  It takes a true superhero to be an expert in all areas of leadership.  But the good leader, or L5 leader if I can tip my hat back to Collins for a bit, understands where they are strong and where they are weak.  They focus on their core disciplines and strengths and then manage around their weaknesses by bringing people in who have those strengths.  The concepts of command and control in just about any company exemplify this.  Just look at the typical C-level positions that exist in large organizations and think about what they are good at and how they focus on core disciplines.  It is why finance people run finance, legal people run legal, etc.  This is why we have a division of labor.  Let those that excel in areas do the work they were put on this earth to do.  After all, they are the best candidates to deliver strong and consistent results.

This notion was really well covered in the book "Now, Discover Your Strengths" by Buckingham and Clifton (also a link below to Goodreads).  The irony of this fact is that we always tend to believe, and the traditional thought behind this is, to focus on strengthening our weaknesses.  But in actuality, this is counterintuitive in many cases.  If there are areas within which we are weak, there is likely a reason for it other than a practiced hand.  Natural ability and pure talent have a way of making themselves clear when you sit down and really think about the type of work you do.  How many times do you realize that you can whip through a certain type of task?  Is it because of repetition that beat the concepts into you or true, innate talent?  If it is a skilled task, I'm willing to bet on the latter.

With that rationale and to bring this long winded rant back to topic, if you appoint someone to a position of responsibility with decision making capabilities and approval limits, and that person proves themselves worthy of such mantle, why would you need to second guess it all the time?  That is what I see in modern leadership.  Maybe it is an innate lack of trust.  Perhaps if said leader is incapable of sound leadership fundamentals, it is bread of mistrust resultant from a fear of being discovered for what you really are.  Perhaps this is even further complicated by the compiling of a need to do far more with even less resources in a strained economy that our senior-most ranks are too distracted to notice.  And to me, this is sad and extravagantly unfortunate.

So there you have it.  I'll turn off the rant engine now.  But I do wonder what we could accomplish if those who are charged to lead us, be they business leaders, government leaders, educational leaders, social leaders, cause leaders or any other type, actually lead us.

Thanks for reading this post.  /rant=off

Link to "Good to Great" on Goodreads.com
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/76865.Good_to_Great

Link to "Now, Discovery Your Strengths" on Goodreads.com
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56452.Now_Discover_Your_Strengths

Monday, December 20, 2010

An official goodbye to November

I'd like to officially say goodbye to November.  I do realize this post is hitting my blog in late December, and your first instinct should rightfully be to question the timing of this post.  But I'll let it lie for what it is, an indication of just how busy and crazy things have been.

Now on to the official goodbye.  November, you were really damn hard.  I was trapped in a perfect storm.  Things at work were in sheer chaos with a number of my colleagues losing their jobs.  The home front was also in turmoil as my mother lost her home and moved in to my home (just think about having your mother around 24x7, need I further qualify the remark?).  Then in closing to top off the cake, and I certainly do not trivialize or underscore this in any way, my good friends lost their 13-year-old daughter the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  That was November, in a nutshell.  That was the November I'd so like to put far behind me.  That is the November that made my life a living hell.  And to it I say goodbye, possibly even good riddens.

With each successive blow, I found myself wondering how could things get worse.  Without fail November managed to deliver time and again.  I don't think I've ever been as stressed, saddened and mortified all in a single month.  The range of emotions ran the gamut, all on the negative side of the scale.

Goodbye November, may I not see you ever again in such form.

There is only one problem.  I can't help but look at the silver lining.

What silver lining?  Oh, I'll tell you...

Even with everything that took place and everything that tried to drag me down, I can't help but realize the benefit that arose from the horrible situations.  For you see in that month of 30 days I found myself questioning the security of my employment, the security of my financial position, the security of the sanctity of my family and even the security of my faith for the concept of tremendous loss and suffering my friends have gone through left me deeply shaken.  And even after all of that I realized that a Thanksgiving that should have been wrought with a pure lack of things to be thankful for, was in fact a thankful holiday.

I was thankful that I had my family, safe and sound.
Thankful for my faith.
Thankful for my health.
Thankful for my job.
Thankful for the love of a good woman.
Thankful for the love of three fantastic children.
Thankful that my mother could have a good home even with the loss of her own.
Thankful that my friends had a community respond to help them in such an outpouring of love, caring and support.
Thankful that despite as hard as things were, they could have been a lot harder and were not.
Thankful that I have a breath in my lungs, and shoes on my feet.

I was, and still am, thankful.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Into every life a little rain must fall...

Warning!  /rant=on

I've hit a rough spot recently, and I've really been struggling with keeping up with, well just about everything.  I've ranted before about not having enough time.  This seems to transcend that notion and take it to a whole new level.  I just feel like I'm constantly scrambling and never caught up.  So much so that I actually feel buried and too heavily fragmented to actually put real thought behind a single concept long enough to form coherent thought.

I'm sure we've all hit that point in life where things are so busy that we stop planning for a lack of available resource and just start to react.  The problem I have with that is that the reacting has become the norm and planning is out the window.  So much so that it has actually gone to shit.

I feel like I'm drowning in it...

So to complicate things, a few of the key pillars in my life that I take for granted as being somewhat safe and stalwart are now crumbling like bread that has sat out too long on the counter.  My family life, not my nuclear family at home but extensions thereof, is falling apart and I feel powerless to help it.  My mother has lost her home as so many other people have in this economy.  My work life is in such tumult that all I can really be thankful for is the fact that I actually have a job to go to every day.  Three months ago if you had asked me I'd have said that things at work are fine and dandy.  But not today.  Couple a standard 12+ hour work day with 3+ hours of commute time and what does that leave me?  A notion of work-life balance?  Forget it, that is just a falsehood of HR departments to make us feel good so we work harder.  I barely have time to gobble down a quick breakfast and dinner when I'm at home before my head wants to explode.

It feels like everything is spiraling out of control and quite frankly I don't know what to do, and I don't really have anyone to turn to.  There is no simple answer, there is no quick fix.  There is no silver bullet (don't read any more into that than necessary).

I think that if everything wasn't happening all at once it might be easier to tackle.  But the wave feels like it has built itself to such an insurmountable level that when it crashes look out.  Survivability is only possible if you aren't in its path.  I'm used to the changes in the tide, but even this storm seems to be too much.

In all honesty, all I want to do is just close the door and scream at the top of my lungs "fuck this" because I'm getting really tired of this shit.

I've neglected and withdrawn from most of my friends.  I've thrown my hobbies out the window.  Heck, look at the date of my last post.  As soon as I got back from my trip I've been stuck in this mud.  The only thing that gets my undivided attention these days outside of the office is my nuclear family at this point.

This isn't a cry for help.  This is just a cry.  I needed a proverbial shoulder and my normal outlets have proven insufficient.  I'm hoping this helps some.  Thank you for reading this far through my rant.

/rant=off

Friday, July 23, 2010

Enough time...

Spending a significant amount of time on vacation, as I have learned, has a serious drawback that does not appear in any brochure, nor do they advertise it in the "fly-away" type magazines on the airlines.  Since coming home, I seem to be behind on everything and cant seem to muster up the time to get things done.

I just don't understand it. I was keeping afloat just fine before I left.  I've "caught up" on my work and am current on everything that absolutely needs to get done.  I'm missing out on the things I want to do.  But I also can't shake this feeling of being behind.  It is as if the day has shrunk even though we are now in the height of summer and the amount of daylight is at its peak.  I get up, I go to work, I come home and before I know it, bedtime so I can get up in the morning and do it all over again.

For heavens sake I still haven't even gone through and edited 1/3 of the pictures I took on my vacation.  But at least I applied metadata ... but I digress.

I've always felt as though I have a shortage of time to do the things I want to do.  And this isn't an naive post of not knowing that you never have time for everything you want to do.  This is much more about the simpler things.

It is manifested in the finding 10 minutes to shine the work shoes on the weekend.

It is manifested in reading another 30-40 pages in any of the 4 books within which I am actively reading.

It is manifested in picking up the watch battery for my pedometer.

It is manifested in taking the 20 minutes to get caught up with this friend or that whom I have not seen in some time.

It is manifested in having a half hour to go explore some interesting detail or location with the camera.

It is manifested in having the time for a good workout.

It is manifested in every little thing.  And it is frustrating.

But there really isn't a silver bullet to this issue.  It is an age-old dilemma for most.  But I know, that from somewhere deep down, I just have to make the time and make these items a priority.  Eventually they will get done.  The frustration may never be shaken.  The feeling may never depart.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why Cloudtouched?

So how did I come up with the name of cloudtouched?  It stems from my career actually.  I'm in an IT management position with a fairly large company.  And I'm used to hearing a number of our senior-most leadership talk about the cloud as a platform for everything without having taken the time to describe or define how the cloud is to be leveraged or what are the boundaries of the cloud as they pertain to operations.  And as an IT professional, without requirements, I can't give you a solution.  :)

But when sitting down to come up with a name for this blog, I looked at my career and thought about how I always illustrated the internet, the meta, the cloud in any of my diagrams.  And for those of you who use Microsoft Visio for diagramming technical solutions I'm sure you've just connected A to B.  You always depict the internet as a cloud.

Elegant?  Deep?  Fulfilling?  No, not really.  But I found it appropriate given my experiences.  So I hope you enjoy it.  :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

How to share, instead of what

I've often found myself struggling with the what part of sharing when it comes to the meta.  Lets face it, acceptance is a very strange thing in this medium as it challenges our traditional perceptions of interaction and communications.  But I was recently cracking open a @ChrisBrogan book on Social Media (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7555218-social-media-101) and one of the early chapters challenged me on something I hadn't considered.

You see I always had the perception of a blogger as being an authoritative resource in whatever subject they might be sharing.  Perhaps this is naive, but regardless I took it somewhat for granted and applied that concept to myself.  I figured that if I am going to share something via a blog, I had better have the answers.  Why else would someone want to read what I am sharing if I just left things open-ended?

Well I have to admit, I find greater enjoyment in what I read when it challenges me to think about things.  The author doesn't have to know the answer.  And even if they do, are authors more effective when they allow the reader to draw their own conclusions?  Wasn't that what Alfred Hitchcock was more successful in terrifying you with, what you didn't see?  The imagination is powerful.  After all, the mentoring process is about dropping clues and allowing your staff to find their way.

If I am to be successful in this medium, I have to be willing to share those things that I don't know the answer to. And just maybe I need to leave my opinions with me.  Maybe I should wait until you engage me to supply them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The useful camera

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about something I had read a while back.  The concept of the ready or useful camera.  I have my DSLR, I have a P&S.  But both of those cameras require me to remember to bring them with.  They are a little bulky (or in the case of the DSLR very bulky) to simply carry on me.

However there is a camera that is by my side no matter where I go.  It is the 3 MP camera that is integrated into my smart phone.  I'm making myself a promise to use it more and more.  Seeing a great shot present itself is nothing if you don't have a useful or ready camera at your side.  And with my Blackberry, there is always one there waiting to be used.