What The Heck Is Strategy?
Jul 31 2012

I think about strategy often.  It may not be apparent from my random, non-strategic blog posts, but I think about it in corporate and sometimes personal terms.  Most of my roles since grad school have required strategic thinking.  It’s an art and a science and sometimes I find that I make decisions without having full detailed analysis to support them and the result is good and sometimes I do tons of analysis and they don’t turn out the way I’d hoped.  The best is where I’m able to get a lot of good black & white data and combine it with observation of the situation along with referencing my past experiences.  I believe strategy is a lot about pattern recognition.  The best way to recognize patterns is from living life and facing many challenges.  The next best way is to do a ton of reading and case analysis.  The ideal is to have experience in both.

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We are working on some strategic initiatives at work (yes, I have a new job and it’s awesome) and my boss sent me a link to How strategists lead, by Cynthia Montgomery (Harvard professor), in the McKinsey Quarterly.  You have to register to get access, but it’s well worth it. Key takeaways for me from the article are: “The only way a company will deliver on its promises, in short, is if its strategists can think like operators.” And “It is the leader—the strategist as meaning maker—who must make the vital choices that determine a company’s very identity…

I’ll be blogging more about my new role in the near future.

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

7 Signs of Dysfunction
Jun 14 2012

Chinese Dragon

I recently read an article called Workplace conflict is a management problem via either my University of Texas at Austin Business School or the LinkedIn email newsletters.  That article linked to a couple of others called 7 signs of a dysfunctional company and 7 signs of a dysfunctional boss.  Check out also 7 Signs You May Be a Bad Manager.  If only there were just 7 dysfunctions!

We are all dysfunctional in some way (not sure if I’ve ever met a “normal” person) but when parents, companies, and bosses are exceptionally dysfunctional (i.e., abusive, extremely disorganized, inconsistent, non-responsive, abandon their kids/employees, have an untreated medical/psychological condition, have zero empathy, etc.), it has a negative ripple effect on everything around them.

Anyone who has managed people has probably had times in their careers where they were exceedingly dysfunctional for professional, personal, or medical reasons.  The best people I’ve worked with have done a lot of self examination/exploration, took time to learn from their mistakes, and can extrapolate how their behaviors effect those around them as well as the achievement of the goals of the organization.  This is why there are very few great leaders and managers and tons of books and articles on the topic written mostly by people who aren’t currently managing or leading an organization (or never have managed but are good academic observers and researchers) because they finally have the time to write about their experiences!

 

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Management Teams, MBA Monday’s, The Crucible
Feb 20 2012

Fred Wilson has been doing a very interesting series on Management Teams for the last several weeks on his blog.  It is part of his MBA Monday series and this section was on building and maintaining the management team. They just did a wrap up post called The Management Team – Guest Post By Jerry Colonna – The Crucible of Leadership.  It’s well written and gets to the heart of the matter of what makes the difference between good and great leaders and managers.  So much easier to say than do.  I feel like I’ve been through a Crucible and I hope that I’ll get an opportunity to see what I’ve learned about the topic and practice my leadership skills.  Empowering people and getting things done are near and dear to my heart and apparently seem to align to my strengths according to Strength’s Finder 2.0.

Bottom line is that we are all different.  We aren’t Steve Jobs or Bill Gates and we shouldn’t strive to be.  We need to find that place where our passions, skills, and opportunity come together. constantly look inward and then work on it until something happens.  We need to accept and stare our demons down as we can’t fight them because the more we do, the more they stick around to haunt us.  Surrender to the demons and they will surrender to you or leave you be is what Colonna mentions in his post.

Time Is The Undeniable Constraint and if you find that rare person who has put so much into looking inward then as I said in my recent post on Leadership, Management and Unicorns, try to get a front row seat to see how they do it.

Author: | Filed under: bill gates, entrepreneurship, steve jobs, venture capital | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Leadership, Management and Unicorns
Jan 20 2012

The older I get more experience I gain working for different organizations, the more I realize that good leadership is rare and good management is even rarer.  I think we all see this played out on TV with the incompetence demonstrated by our business and political leaders.  I don’t really know why this happens and it’s sometimes a miracle that companies get built and keep going.  It’s somewhat of an enigma to me….might be a bunch of great workers covering up for the incompetence of their leaders & managers.

The reason I think good management is rarer than good leadership is that one can be a good leader by finding and getting out of the way of great talent.  They can also be a visionary leader with admittedly no management skills, but they are smart enough to find the good managers, support them, and let them do what they do best.  Great managers listen and then react to input in order to make the jobs/lives of their team easier, more interesting, and fun without being overbearing/micro managing.  To manage people on a daily basis and make things happen with so many personalities around the table is one of the most challenging things to do well while earning the respect & admiration of your team.

When you happen upon a great leader who is also a great manager, grab on to them…you’ve found a unicorn.

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A Mile In Her Shoes
Jul 6 2011

What is it about kids wanting to wear their parents shoes?  It’s so adorable and funny at the same time.  My 6 year old daughter likes to wear my shoes and walk around the house.  She tells me, “I only have this much more to grow to fit into them, mommy.”  I tell her that it will take some time, but she just measures the difference with her fingers and says “No, it’s only this much.”  She does not understand that inches in foot size usually take years to achieve.  Sometimes my son gets silly and joins her and puts my shoes on too…mostly my flip flops.

I love her exuberance and excitement about wearing my shoes.  I don’t mind that she wears them mostly because my shoes aren’t that expensive.  Thank goodness for DSW!  I’m not a big shopper, but I like shoes.  In the winter time, my long boots take up most of her body!

If only it were so easy to walk a mile in another person’s shoes.  In my last post I wrote a little about what I think great leadership is about and I think the ability to proverbially walk a mile in another person’s shoes and put yourself in their place for a moment is a key ability for effective leaders.  Whether someone is a CEO or the janitor, they are still a person with passions, needs, fears, desires, and emotions.  When you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes (a.k.a., being empathetic), in my opinion, you can be there for them and help guide them in a way that’s most helpful to them and ultimately to your organization.  If you don’t stop to consider what they might need from time to time and help them get it, you will get less than their top performance at work.  This seems to hold true for personal relationships as well.

So the next time you don’t understand someone’s reaction or you wonder why they aren’t behaving like they should, take a moment and imagine yourself walking a mile in her shoes…

Author: | Filed under: parent stories, parenting | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

The Difference Between Girls And Boys
Oct 8 2009

Some of you may recall that I accidentally published a version of this post a while back.  In my blurry eyed state of doing too many things I hit the little blue button that said Publish instead of the black and white button that says Save Draft inside WordPress.  So here’s my next attempt to try to have it make more sense.

Everyone knows there is a physical difference between boys and girls, but I think not many (especially in the business world) understand the mental and emotional differences.  Many studies have been done on the subject including ones done on the differences between male and female brains mentioned HERE, HERE, a psychological overview called Understanding The Difference Between Men and Women, and a 2007 one done by McKinsey & Company called Women Matter (pdf) that suggests that companies where women are strongly represented in senior management and on the board perform better than others.

McKinsey also did a report called Centered Leadership: How talented women thrive (you have to register to read the full report).  My boss at ATI, who use to work at McKinsey, gave me a copy of that report late last year and a good overview is on a post on the glass hammer blog at Factors that Sustain Successful Women Leaders.  When I first read the report I have to admit I was pretty cynical and felt like it was mostly taking a man’s perspective’s (i.e., researchers) to try to ‘explain women and their emotions.’  But a series of unexpected events happened in my life, combined with working at ATI, which was my first steady office job since having kids, that changed my mind.  I happen to think men are just as emotional as women, they just express it differently which, of course, is more acceptable among other men.

As a woman who got her MBA and was founding CEO of a venture capital backed tech company, there always seemed to be an expectation that one had to be like a man to succeed, which was mentioned in the Women Matter report.  Only 20% of my MBA class were women and I daresay less than 5% (that may be 1%) of technology company founding CEO’s are women.  Many of those women dropped out of their careers for several years to have and rear children.  I took years off from a high-paced job too but at the same time attempted to keep my knowledge up to date by teaching entrepreneurship at UT Austin and founding Babble Soft from my home office.  My first company was a business-to-business company where you sell directly to businesses.  Babble Soft is a business-to-consumer business where you sell directly to consumers.  I now know a dangerous amount of how things work (or don’t work) in those vastly different kinds of business models.

From my perspective, the more you could act like a man without being too confrontational/aggressive the easier it was to navigate the world of high tech business.  More than 90% of the time I was the only women in a room full of older, White men.  Gail Evans, former VP at CNN, and author of Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman: What Men Know About Success that Women Need to Learn mentions that many men put women into one of 4 categories: Wife, Daughter, Mistress, or Mother.  The best of these categories is, according to her is Daughter because men take on a more mentoring role.  She also says there is no such thing as work/life balance.  It’s all one life that you work and play in so trying to balance those two doesn’t really make sense!

I really enjoy working with men and women so I think that’s helped me break some barriers and fortunately 99% of the older, experienced men and women I’ve been around in business have been helpful.  I have avoided most of the horror stories.  I remember being amused at what some of the good ‘ole boys I ran across when I worked for an oil & gas company would say and do.  I could usually tell if a guy was being malicious, sexist , disrespectful, or just joking around.  It helps that I’ve had a lot of guy friends.

As I watch my two kids, an older boy and younger girl, the differences are fascinating and have been noticeable since birth.  They are both wonderful in their own ways and some of the differences I’ve noticed is how they show their affection as well as how they assimilate information, hear you, and how they want to be heard.

I’ve noticed that boys in general like to show their affection in a more physical way by running in to you, talking about their bodily functions, wrestling, and being overall less aware that sitting on you is not always comfortable.  But my son also wants his cuddle time and hopefully he’ll still want it  for a few more years.  He’ll sit close to me when he’s watching TV, give me a hug, or if he wakes up at night, he’ll want to lay in bed next to me for a little while.  He much prefers throwing a football, playing soccer, playing video games, or watching TV than engaging in long conversations.  I end up turning the TV or Wii game off when I really need him to listen to me though, which frustrates him.

My daughter shows her affection more through drawing things, sitting next to you, talking to you, hugs, saying she loves you, and generally being calmer.  I think she’s a little bit more active than she would be because she has to keep up with her older brother, who encourages her to talk about bodily functions!  But she wants you to be generally softer with her.  Certain things seem to affect her much more strongly and she’ll get a bit more emotional and require much more talking with to get her out of a funk.  But once you explain things to her and help her express her thoughts she’s usually fine.  She’s still not big into long conversations either.

I’ve always found the world of human dynamics fascinating and have enjoyed the complexities of both men and women.  Both genders have such great things to contribute to humanity and I think the best leaders take the time to understand that and play to the strengths of each gender and each person in particular.  The greatest, well known leaders (political, military, and business) of the past had teams of 99% men on their team.  The great leaders of the future should be aiming for a balance of men and women on their team, and they will hopefully take the extra time and effort to make sure each is supported to meet his/her goals.

Aren’t people wonderful? :-D

Author: | Filed under: babble soft, diversity | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Holidays Are Coming…
Dec 19 2008

Blogging will be light. Many online creatures will be stirring, even late into the night.

I have two paid weeks off from my day job, which is one of the benefits of working for a University. But true time off is still not in sight. With two kids, an existential crisis, and Babble Soft, I’ll be working some days and nights.

So until I am able to blog again, I’d like to leave you with links to two thought provoking articles on leadership and management:

  • A Harvey Mackey, founder of Mackey Envelope, column called Praise gives a psychological raise about the power of encouraging and acknowledging others in the work place especially during these tough economic times.

They are both great reads on management and leadership and you will not be disappointed if you click the links above.

So Happy Holidays everyone!  I’ll try to get a few more posts out before the New Year.  I wish you all peace, comfort and the possibility of living a fully expressed life no matter what joy, pain, happiness, sadness, or life changes that might bring…

Author: | Filed under: FYI, holiday | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »