The Shade of the Decade

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The Shade of the Decade

You can tell when a photo or video is from the 1970’s.  Like the leather goods of the period, the photos have a sepia tint.  Earthy, brown tones rule.  Due to the aging of the film development materials or the state of video capture science of the time, these pages particularly don’t age well and have a distinctive look.

It makes me wonder what the shade of this decade will be when we reflect on it 40 years from now.

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On Customer Input

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On Customer Input

Customer input results not only in insights into functionality, price, and features, but in empathy. Empathy is much more valuable.

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Patience Equals Mastery

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Patience Equals Mastery

Singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles, in her book “Sounds Like Me,” talked about the music making process.

“I have learned over the years that ‘not knowing’ is part of the beauty of making music, and that vocabulary is important, but not crucial in communication.  Only patience is crucial in communication.  Recording is exploration.  You take a piece of music and excavate, searching for the shape of the song wants to take in the moment.  You use wonderful musicians, producers, and engineers who help you navigate those waters and hopefully also help you remember that it doesn’t have to feel precious or scary.  You try things that don’t work as you hunt for what does.  And sometimes you even find it.”

Life is a bit like that.  Learning anything is an act of faith and mastery is an act of patience.
 

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The Rate of Change

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The Rate of Change


I remember talking to my grandpa about the amount of change he had seen in his life, which spanned the center of the 1900’s.  He would tell me about the novelty of plastic bags (where you could see what was inside without opening the bag – crazy!) and freeways (they overlapped each other just like a Buck Rogers’ cartoon).  Fast forward to 2017 and the pace of change is just that: fast forwarding.  Futurist Maurice Conti predicts that in the next 20 years, there will be more change to our work than in the last 2,000 years.
 

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How Leaders Can Promote Privacy, Safety and Truth

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How Leaders Can Promote Privacy, Safety and Truth

We are in a transition of truthfulness. Technology has changed the way we think about what’s real and what’s been modified – creating blurry lines between perceptions and reality.

For example, credit card “safety” no longer includes a traditional pillar of safety – privacy. Credit card safety is now achieved through predictive analytics and constant monitoring of purchases; quite the opposite of privacy.

Technology has modified how we perceive safety with car services – for many of us, a navigation and tracking system like the ones found in popular ride-sharing services makes us feel safer than a taxi driver who has passed a background safety check. It is hard to determine which is the more authentic version of safety.

Another example of how technology has modified the truth is photo filters. With the touch of a button, a photo can easily be manipulated and shared with millions of people. While a flower crown or a puppy face is a fun addition for social media pictures, what happens when filtered photos are presented as real and passed around social media channels, gaining legitimacy with every click, like and share? Combined with our ever-decreasing attention spans and memories that are increasingly dependent on the content we share via social media, and photo filters become a variation on reality, an inch further from an authenticity.

As we move away from privacy and authenticity and become easily modifiable, we lose the honesty and benefits of being honest – trust, reliability, loyalty. Without honesty, companies lose their personal connection to buyers, their internal teams are not efficient, and their business partnerships don’t last. Loyalty becomes obsolete. As business leaders, it is our responsibility to encourage truth so that honesty is a core value to our internal team and our customers.

How can we encourage honesty within our organization? By removing the pitfalls that distort reality and creating opportunities for genuineness.

Create a safe place

I don’t mean an office that meets required occupational safety standards, I mean an environment that is a safe place for people to learn and grow in their roles. Encourage colleagues to share their mistakes, how they overcame the mistake and the lessons they learned. Help teammates teach each other by encouraging them to provide constructive feedback in a productive way. Focus on problem solving, and not blaming individuals, to help the team develop integrity. As the leader, it is also important for you to disclose your own mistakes and lessons learned to help the team recognize that mistakes as learning opportunities and not punishments.

Empower employees

People feel more empowered when they are trusted. Give your team assignments and deadlines, time to work and the ability to ask questions, then give them space to do their job. Eliminating micromanagement practices help employees feel  respected and motivated to complete their work while building pride and integrity.

Do not make promises that can be broken

Your words have tremendous value, so don’t sacrifice them. As a business leader, you have the knowledge and experience to anticipate potential problems. Review business plans with a watchful eye on timing and pricing, guarantees and other promises customers will count on. Set realistic expectations with your internal team about promotions, raises and bonuses. Do not give lip service to the executive team. Breaking promises, resetting expectations and over committing leads to disappointment, which deteriorates trust and your words lose their value and your reputation as reliable.

Don’t sacrifice values

Honesty is perhaps best tested in crisis. Leading with honesty and truthfulness to do the right thing, even if it’s extra work or the outcome is intimating. If the crisis is handled with honesty, the virtue of honesty will be stronger than ever when its resolved. If you try to cover up the crisis, a downward spiral of dishonesty and lies will begin.

Be transparent

This doesn’t mean disclose classified or time-sensitive information, but be upfront in a timely, open manner. If the product is delayed, be truthful about when it will be delivered. If a service is cancelled, offer a reliable alternative. If expectations for a product or service can’t be met, don’t try to conceal the situation. Challenges will be overcome, but an untrustworthy reputation is nearly impossible to overcome. Being transparent creates a culture of honesty where rumors cannot thrive and truthfulness raises to the top.

Be consistent

One of the most obvious indicators of untruthfulness is inconsistency. As Mark Twain said “if you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” While important aspects can be tailored to each audience/group, putting truthfulness at the forefront of every conversation will leave no room for doubt. Consistency is a key aspect of building and maintaining trust.

Be authentic

When you think about mentors and leaders that have resonated with you the most, you will likely notice a common theme – the most aspirational people we encounter have shown us their true selves. Be that relatable person for your team; transparent and filter-free without pretense or ulterior motives.

In our pursuit of honesty, we can help create more defined lines between perceptions and reality. We develop into a more trust-worthy company, which helps build customer loyalty and in turn, helps our products and services succeed.

This article was originally posted on Leaders In Heels: Career Lessons.

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Recipe for a Career: is it a main dish or side vegetable?

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Recipe for a Career: is it a main dish or side vegetable?

As a student and practitioner of career planning, I am always in search of the definition of a successful career.  What enables success and how is it defined?

I was reading Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please, recently and stumbled across her brilliant definition. 

"Career is the stringing together of opportunities and jobs.  Mix in public opinion and past regrets.  Add a dash of future panic and a whole lot of financial uncertainty.  Career is something that fools you into thinking you are in control and then takes pleasure in reminding you that you aren't.  Career is the think that will not fill you up and never make you truly whole.  Depending on your career is like eating cake for breakfast and wondering why you start crying an hour later." 

I think she touches on something that each one of us has to wrestle with in our careers: is it going to be our life’s main dish (something that defines you) or is it a nutritious vegetable (something you do because you need to)?  Or, for the lucky ones, is it dessert?  Something you choose to do because it is sweet and makes the whole meal better?
 

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What Customers Have Taught Me About Being a Leader

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What Customers Have Taught Me About Being a Leader

Life is an amazing teacher and in business, I have learned more richly from our customers than any other single group.  Here are some of the lessons I have learned.

  • “If something is hard for you to explain, it will be hard for others to understand.”  
  • “Understand how the customer makes money and how you help them make money and then the sale is yours.”
  • “Leadership is as leadership does in front of a customer.”
  • “Leadership is about making and keeping promises.”
  • “Success in life and in business is about managing expectations.”
  • “The customer is always right, according to their perspective.  You won’t be successful convincing a customer they are wrong.  You will only be successful changing their perspective…or having yours changed.”
  • “Customer empathy is the start of any great innovation.”
  • “No one cares about your program, product, or policy.  They just want their problems solved.”

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Motion Sickness: 3 Ways to Survive Change (without losing your head)

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Motion Sickness: 3 Ways to Survive Change (without losing your head)

All of us have experienced it. The dizziness and disorientation that comes from motion sickness. Either in the backseat of a station wagon, on a boat, or spinning around the yard, there is that familiar and strange sensation of your brain swirling around in your head. Something similar happens in times of change in our professional lives as well. Whether navigating new waters, riding along on a bumpy road, or having circumstances change suddenly, some motion sickness can be hard to avoid.

So, how do you survive change, avoid light-headedness, and emerge on the other side stronger, wiser, and more capable than you began? Here are three principles to apply.

1.     Find your Focus

When I would go out boating as a kid with family friends and started to feel a little wheezy, they would encourage me to set my eyes on a fixed point like the horizon or the nearby shoreline. It helped provide perspective and settle my stomach. The same is true in our work life. In times when the business results or changing processes are like choppy seas, it is good to fix your eyes on the constants of your business: your commitment to customers, your loyalty to the mission, or your cool products. Not everything in the environment is changing and some of what is steady is extremely positive and can keep you grounded even if things are changing.

2.     Hydrate Your Interests

One of the common causes of dizziness is dehydration. To avoid dizziness, they recommend drinking enough water, eating regularly and sleeping soundly. In other words, you can’t neglect your health and expect your body to perform at its peak. Most of us have multiple interests in and beyond work. In times of change it is important to nourish your curiosities. At work, look for ways to learn new skills or expand your contributions. And in your personal life, don’t neglect the things that feed you like hobbies, time with friends, family, or time in reflection or in nature.

3.     Practice Your Flexibility

Have you ever wondered how ice skaters can perform those tight and fast spins on the ice without getting dizzy? Unlike dancers, who can fix their eyes on a single location trick their brain into thinking it is still even though their bodies are moving, ice skaters are moving too fast for that. When the spin stops, why don’t they feel overwhelmingly dizzy and fall to the ground? The answer is a little anti-climactic: they get used to it. Starting small and slow, they build their tolerance. They might still get dizzy, but not enough that the audience would know. You, too, can practice your flexibility and open-mindedness and train yourself not to get disoriented in times of change. It requires some self-awareness, perhaps some self-reflection and opportunities to practice. So, if you find yourself facing change after change, be thankful that you are getting the opportunity to practice.

The most common cause of dizziness is unintended motion. It’s something out of your control and causes your body to move when you haven’t moved it. In times of change, the first thing to go is our own sense of control and that can be disconcerting. But it need not be debilitating. Like the effects of vertigo, most times they are harmless and temporary. We just need to find our feet and proceed forward and the dizziness will pass.

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Envy

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Envy

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 

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Setting Your Sights When you Have No Sight

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Setting Your Sights When you Have No Sight

I read with interest an article in the Huffington Post that recounted the 1500 meter race at the Rio Paraolympic games.  The top four finishers in the visually impaired category would have beat the Olympic Gold metalist, a very talented Matthew Centrowitz Jr.  Abdellatif Baka, Tamiru Demisse, Henry Kirwa, and Fouad Baka all ran faster than Centrowitz.

The 1500 meter race at the Olympics was very strategic and not necessarily fast.  In fact, Centrowitz was way off his best time and in fact, there are over a dozen high school kids in the US that have ran faster than the time he posted at the Rio Games, but still the achievements of these blind or nearly-blind running is remarkable.

It leaves me with some “what if” questions.

What if these runners had been on the field at the regular Olympic games?  How would they have done?  They certainly were capable of finishing the distance in time.  But without their sight, could they have known their position in the strategic race that left people guessing until the end who would emerge victorious.

How does a blind or visually-impaired runner judge his position on the track?  How does he know if he is in the leading pack or one further back?  How does he pace himself (or herself) in the field that is running that day?  

And what does this have to teach us about the vision and insight we have today about our businesses, products, and projects?  Does having more information make us a better finisher?  Not in all cases. 

I am inclined to agree with Tim Washer speaking at ContentMarketing World who recently concluded “analysis is good, but don’t let it kill a good idea.” At least not all the time.
 

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Ensuring Diversity of Local Business Ecosystems

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Ensuring Diversity of Local Business Ecosystems

Joshua Kauffman, principle at Wisdom Capital Partners, is a well-respected global consultant who regularly talks about the confluence of global spaces, cultures and commerce. He often uses the example of the city of Buffalo, New York, which has never been the same since Bethlehem Steel pulled out, taking 100,000 jobs out of the local economy. He advises that cities, like ecosystems of other types, require diversity to survive over time. When a city is a “one tricky pony,” there is a real risk in the case of a downturn in one business or industry. Putting thousands of people directly at risk and hundreds of thousands indirectly at risk as newly unemployed people spend less on services and goods in the community.

Think about your own town or city. Look up the list of top employers. Is it diverse enough to weather a storm? In Portland, Oregon, there is a big sports and outdoor apparel segment, a growing technology sector, and a number of thriving healthcare systems. It might be more recession proof than other cities, but is not necessarily bringing new investment into the region as it tends to flux with demographics like population and age.

We know the role that governments can play in building diversity in our communities. But what about the role of the individual? Here are six ways you can build the resiliency and diversity of your city’s ecosystem:

  1. We can all shop local. Not just the day after Black Friday, but every day. I am guilty of purchasing online for its convenience and sometimes cost savings. However, I’d like to see those big online stores make it easier for consumers like me to shop local using their vast networks. I’d like to be able to filter search results for products that are produced (or even warehoused) locally. I like how UberEats is enabling local restaurants to add a service delivery element, employing local drivers. I’d like to see the same from Amazon, Etsy, and other companies who have the infrastructure and brand awareness to help us invest in our local communities.
  2. Entrepreneurs play a role in diversifying the business landscape with investments in new segments. This includes spin-outs of other business. My company, Planar, was a spin-off from Tektronix over 30 years ago and we have gone on to spin off other companies, like InFocus. We were recently acquired, bringing foreign investment to our region. Many companies that are now employing people in our area have spun out of Intel, Tek, Nike, and some of the larger employers in the region.
  3. As employees, we all can work within our own companies to add diversity across different industries and verticals to give resiliency to our own businesses. Are there new ways we can attract new customers, utilize resources and vendors in our local area, innovate for new market or product segments, or think bigger to ensure that we are bolstering our own communities?
  4. We can make personal investments in education in our communities and our homes, with a focus on the next generation of employees for our respective cities. To this end, I volunteer for and financially support Marathon Scholars, which grows talent starting with fourth graders, seeing them through their college graduation, which helps grow our local economy for the long-term. Similarly, the university systems play a key role in building the job market in the future. Helping to partner on research that fuels local corporate innovation and educating tomorrow’s business leaders, scientists, and industry disrupters.
  5. We can work with lawmakers to encourage government funding in the region. People might forget that today’s Silicon Valley was incubated in its early days with investments in aerospace by the U.S. government and universities like Stanford. What other impactful “epicenters” can be derived from government funding and local entrepreneurship?
  6. And finally, we all play a role in promoting our cities as a good place for business investment and tourism. We are all part of the chamber of commerce and the economic development commission. What makes your town a great place to live? What makes your city great for business? How can you let your circle of influence, outside your city, know about the brand of your town to ignite the ultimate word of mouth campaign? For many years the only thing people knew of Oregon was the Tanya Harding ice skating scandal. Luckily, we have transcended this reputation (helped in no small part by the popularity of TV shows like Portlandia and it’s over the top depiction of the city’s quirks). People know us for our abundant rain. They know that it is beautiful here. But do they know world-class sports companies like Nike, Adidas and Columbia Sportswear are headquartered here? Do they know that international brands Leyard and Intel have huge presences here? They know we drink a lot of coffee and are snobs about it, but do they know we are like this about all beverages ranging from tea to whiskey, natural soda and handcrafted beers, each of which have local crafters that have built a thriving business here? Do they know about the innovations happening at OHSU, OSU, UO, PSU, Warner Pacific, Concordia, and other higher education institutions in the region? Do they know why you choose to live and work here? It’s our job to tell them.

It’s true: it takes diligent focus to grow a diverse and financially stable local city ecosystem. There are a lot of variables, but I’m optimistic about the ideals in today’s consumers and businesses to “think local” for the benefit of community members and the business sector. It’s not a fleeting expression: I believe it is here to stay and will benefit us all. Shop local, encourage your company to source local vendors and materials, allow local spinoff companies in your city to thrive, engage your local government officials to bring monies to support your businesses, nurture education opportunities for the next generation of workers, and finally, spread the word about your city’s unique attributes to encourage more growth, investment and prosperity.

This article was originally published in Business2Community

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The Right to Solve

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The Right to Solve

Before proceeding with a solution, ask yourself the following:

“Do we have enough data to know if customers have a problem that we have a unique right to solve?”

You will save yourself a lot of money and time if you ask this ahead of time and use it as a strategic filter for investment.  If you don’t know why you will win, then you won’t likely win.
 

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Profit is Oxygen

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Profit is Oxygen

If you want your business to breathe and not gasp for the air required for day-to-day operations without unnatural or outside interference, what do you need?  Profit.

If you want the flame of your business is grow, to create more heat and light to attract the attention of an entire industry, what enables that growth?  Profit (or capital from other sources to invest).

If you like what you are doing and the people you are working with, what allows that to continue in a sustainable way?  Profit. 

Profit is not a bad word.  Profit isn’t above everything else, of course. But like oxygen it is necessary.  

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Do You Call it Work if You're Having Fun?

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Do You Call it Work if You're Having Fun?

Recently a team from The Muse visited our offices outside Portland, Oregon to observe the culture and interview some colleagues.  

In the screen shot above, you can see that the photographer caught us having a great time. This was taken during a lunch meeting of some women in leadership at the company in which we interviewed Lisa Gardner, the NY Times best-selling thriller author.  People working together to accomplish great things and having fun is a pretty common occurrence among my amazing colleagues! 

The video clips all over this site highlight the experiences of young professionals in our organization and give a glimpse of what makes the company successful.  Check out the company profile on The Muse to learn more.

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Blessed Unrest

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Blessed Unrest

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because it is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique.  And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and it will be lost.  The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions.  It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.  You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.  You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges the motivate you.  Keep the channel open.

No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time.  There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” 

                                                              - Martha Graham, to Agnes de Mille,
                                                              as quoted by Sara Bareilles in her book “Sounds Like Me”

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