Month: April 2023

Can you act like a Child in a Meeting?

One of my favorite movies (ok top 100 somewhere) is ‘Big’ with Tom Hanks. Tom is a 12-year-old boy that based on a wish turns into an adult, and well must ‘adult.’ It is another one of those “put a person in situation they don’t understand movie” – and yes everyone could guess the plot. But is a scene that as an adult I realize had a message all its own. 

Big – I don’t get it.

In this scene Tom Hanks is sitting in a meeting and while a marketing person makes their pitch on something that is obviously stupid no one is responding. Everyone is nodding like sheep as they understand the pitch, not willing to be the one person who questions it. Hanks puts his hand up, and just says “I don’t get it.” And in the following parts, you can see most of the people in the room did not get it. The scary thing, it was technically a 12-year-old who is willing to raise their hand. 

In large corporate meetings I see this all the time. People nod, and since we are on zoom you can see them message someone “do you have any idea what they are talking about.” Somehow the fear is beating out of us to question things. Funny little kids will ask thousands of questions, as they are curious. Somehow by the end of school and entering the real world we do not lose the curiosity but lose the willingness to stand out. 

What is your record for consecutive questions…

In the above scene this should be acceptable. Asking all the questions until everyone understands or all the information is out. Unbelievably, I have often asked the questions when someone has sent me a team message, they do not get it. Believe me, if you do not get it, I guarantee more people in the meeting also do not get it. This is one time we should act like a child; this is one example where adulting is not better.  

I am not going to go into how or why this notion of being able to question in a large group is beaten out of us, but more trying to beat into you that it is a habit that we should re-learn. Even if you understand what a presenter is talking about, and you think someone does not, step up. You will help others. To me there is no harm in being ignorant, there is a harm in not trying to educate to remove ignorance. 

As a speaker, sometimes you need to read your audience. Silence does not mean understanding or acceptance. Silence often means dissent or confusion. Just like a band/DJ needs to read a audience to get people dancing etc. as a presenter you need to read your audience. Sometimes it could include saying, “I don’t think I explained that perfectly, let me try another way.” And restart, or even better instead of asking “Any questions?” pick someone in the group and say, “can you explain it back to me?” This accomplishes two things, making sure they get it, and making sure they understood what you said. (That may need to be another blog post) 

So act Big…. well not really act like a child.

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.  

The Next Digital Divide…

I was in my early teens and my dad drove me up to some electronic store in Fairfield NJ. We came home with a Franklin Ace 1000. It was an Apple clone, how my dad even knew about it, or knew what this purchase would lead to is beyond me. Not only did he get me the 1000, but somehow, we ended up getting a modem (hard to remember I think it was a micromodem ][ or something.) I was one of the few people in the early 80s (Think it was 1983) to have a computer.  

I was 15 or 16 at the time and had no idea what the digital divide was. I knew I was one of the few people in my town that had a computer, and in those days your town was the world. Communicating with people across town, let alone across the country or in other countries was not the norm. It didn’t take long for me to figure out how to use the modem and connect to BBS’s. Yeah, for you youngsters there was something before the internet. I won’t go into GENIE, Prodigy and other internet services that are for others to chat about. 

What I didn’t know was I was splitting away from those who didn’t have access to one. That my career was right in front of me. What I thought was cool was that a few of us had started what would be the first digital divide. As I got older and had kids of my own, my kids got laptops at a young age continuing to add to the advantage. I knew it was an advantage and being a good parent, I wanted my kids to have one.  

During my adulthood I was involved in the second digital divide; high speed internet (or even internet at all.) For those who had it got access to information that others struggled to get. Free internet at libraries does not equate to those who had it at home. Even during 2019-202x during Covid – that families that had high speed internet at home got access to schools and materials at home that others didn’t. Some were even fortunate they could work from home.  

But now I see one coming. Learning how to use Generative AI tools. From what appears to be a parlor trick and something to write cool wrap songs in Shakespeare format G-AI tools seem to be the in thing. Some people seem afraid of what it is going to do and want a pause, others saying we need to “understand” it before we let it out, G-AI will take our jobs and even more fear mongering.  

But what I see is how I interact with it. If you ask simple questions, you get nonsense, but if you learn to ask the right questions with enough detail the answers get better. If you play with other tools like Codeium or github Copilot start to see that it increases productivity. To the point I may not be a developer, but assembler of code snippets that the tools suggest. This is the new divide (well it is in two parts.) 

First you need to know how to ask questions. For Chat-GPT (or any other G-AI Tool) the better you ask your question the better the response. If you learn the right way to put data together and ask for the analysis or response you will get one that is better than someone asking a simple question. For developers it is how you phrase a comment, or name something and Codeium/CoPilot takes over. Developers who know the business can ask the right questions do not have to be the best coders. It almost becomes who asks the right questions, who can direct the tools will be the most productive. Those who don’t have command of the language or see G-AI as a parlor trick or as something going to take their job will be left behind. 

Second, companies that do not look at ways to get these tools in. Oh, I know there are risks of sending data out and code leaks hence the ‘look at ways’ to get these tools in well they may get left behind. Companies need to look at ways to use their data, their information, or information they can ingest to gain an advantage. Things like a G-AI wont replace a Dr. Companies can’t be like Samsung and issues like this one. Companies that don’t figure it out may be left behind. Just like those less fortunate to learn how to interact with it, the 3rd Divide is upon us.  

The Skillset of the future is knowing how to interact with G-AI as well as how to get to the right data set in the G-AI that you are using. If not, others will. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog. 

Team Building Part 8.. Extra Credit

Alas, this is going to be the last of my team building posts. Not because of lack of other ideas, but more as I think digesting and acting on the first 8 will take time. I will revisit this topic later, but if you made it this far ask one question of yourself, have I actioned the first 7 parts? As Bruce Lee once said, “Knowing is not enough, we must apply.” So I ask as you read the last part, you think about applying. 

Why did I call this extra credit? I guess you need to read it. A few years back there was a NHL commercial, about ‘we.’ Everything in a team (well sports team) is about ‘We’ and not the individual. In the 2003 Stanley Cup Martin Brodeur did not win the Conn Smyth Trophy (MVP of the Playoffs) it went to someone on the losing team. When asked about it (and many people content he should have won it) he is quoted is saying “That is the one I want (pointing to the Stanley Cup.)” 

That may sound good in a commercial, and often may drive athletic teams to success, but in the business world it cannot be all about ‘We.’ People have Ego’s, people have feelings, thoughts etc. And in the business world there is no true Stanley Cup each year (or every 4 years) there is this ongoing struggle for daily success. As a manager you do not huddle up your team on Jan 2nd and say this year, we are going to win at building software and hope on December 30th the team is at the top of the world.  

So, if that does not exist what does? In an earlier personal blog, I wrote about climbing a mountain, and having to look down. What I neglected to say is that most likely there are a series of mountains, and you are going up and down constantly. As a manager, looking down means two things: 1. Celebrating Team Success and 2. Recognition of individual contributions. 

Celebrating team success is the easy part. Everyone in the team, no matter how large or small their contributions can revel in the moment. A team lunch, a launch party, or even emails from Managing Directors of the firm all go a long way in boosting morale and allowing someone on their ride home to feel they were a part of something.  

Recognizing an individual or individual(s) is harder. Every year at my company there is ‘promo’ day where you hear about all the new people who get promoted. The chatter that ensues is always ‘WTF why did he get it and not me (or someone else I know)’. The exact same thing happens in any recognition. But without recognizing someone who went beyond, that person could feel that his or her efforts were not recognized.  

To resolve this first, make sure either you or the direct manager has one-on-one meetings and hold that meeting after milestone. The first thing should be “Thanks for doing X” (be specific about something they did.). Show the team member that you notice something and thought enough about it to point it out. Just saying “Thanks for your work on project Y” is not enough. Be thoughtful, mindful and sincere.  

Second, any recognition given to individuals that larger groups would see (the whole team, people outside the team etc.) needs to be so obvious to everyone on the team. If a vote was taken about what the MVP of that milestone would be, the team would easily vote there. In fact, creating a survey after a milestone, and asking that one question of not only your team, but anyone involved to pick an MVP often is better. As it is not coming from ‘the boss.’ The boss already gave his direct thanks, this is just something fun and extra.  

Now, re-read the above three paragraphs and where I put the word recognition, replace with credit. It sounds very different, but it is the same. I manager should never take credit away from any individual, and in all conversations, emails, talks with senior managers the credit should be directed to the individual who did the work. Including in the one on one telling the individual you noted the contribution to your manager. The team should get credit for succeeding, the manager gets only credit for guidance, the individuals on the team get credit for their contributions.  

Recognition is not the same as credit, recognizing someone for contributions is giving someone the credit they deserve. As a manager, there should be no greater reward than having the individuals you manage getting “Extra Credit.” What you get credit for is guiding them to get it. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog. 

Team Building Part 7.. Starters and Finishers

Hockey fans (or Football – not American but the soccer one) how many times have you say hey ‘He is a play maker, not a scorer…’ or the reverse ‘He can score from anywhere…’ The metaphor can be used in most team sports, I remember watching Magic Johnson who seemed to have eyes behind his head to make passes, and Michael Jordan who hit impossible shots in final seconds. Well, what does this have to do with team building? Yeah, you guessed it, this post is about that. 

Have you ever been on a team where everyone has great ideas, but nothing gets finished? Or a team who can accomplish anything, but lacks direction and vision? I have, and yes, I fit in one of the two buckets of a starter or finisher, and I would think most people do also. The challenge of anyone creating a team or organizing a team is getting the right mix of both.  

Take Apple, as great of a visionary that Steve Jobs was, it took the genius of Steve Wozniak to realize the vision. From the Apple 1 to the Apple ][ and more Jobs had great ideas. Woz though got it to work. Everyone knows about the stories of Jobs vision etc. but how about one about Woz. Woz created the first Apple Computer, the motherboard, the operating system, everything before working with Jobs. Woz tried to sell it to HP five times but was rejected. Jobs convinced them they could start a company and sell it themselves. It was Jobs vision that saw the Apple ][ (and more after) something people would want to buy. Woz who the one built it.  

What are starters good at? They are good at coming up with ideas, thinking creatively and getting those ideas off the ground and running. Starters also can get people on board with their ideas, get them excited to work on the project. Finishers have the dedication to details, the focus and the willpower to see things through completion. If there were only starters, nothing would make it to market. The finisher’s role is just as important (though we very rarely see it that way). As a team leader, you need to make the finisher feel just as important and key as the starter.  

Your team needs a Jobs, and a Woz. And if your team has other types of roles your job is to identify those roles and find the right mix. More complex than identifying the people you need, is back to one of previous posts that each team member needs to feel like they will be heard. Your team needs someone who can pass, someone who can score, someone who can save and one who can stick up for team members. It is a team, and for all the tasks you have, you need people who are not only willing to do them but excel at doing it. 

Oh yes, there are a few people who can do both, consider yourself lucky. Your goal, look at your team, find the starters and finishers, then see what is missing (or where you are overweight) and make the adjustments. Now treat the finishers like rock stars, because they will take your ideas to completion. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free. I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book. With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path. I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content. I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip. I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog. 

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