Friday, August 31, 2007

Outstanding New Innovation Blog

I like the leadership that Troy Worman at Orbit Now has taken. He has created an award for outstanding new bloggers with a badge they can proudly display on their blogs. Troy leveraged his credibility with his community to have fellow bloggers like me give out the initial round of awards. Troy's leadership builds cohesion in his blogging circle, and gives encouragement (and some additional traffic) to burgeoning bloggers when they need it the most. Well done Troy.

I'm giving an award to Jim Todhunter at Innovating to Win. Jim is a long-time friend and recent blogging colleague. I appreciate that Jim creates meaningful new content in each post, adding to the discussion instead of simply reframing it. Jim, you can display the badge of Outstanding New Blogger:

Monday, August 20, 2007

Speaking Confidently in a Meeting

I was in a meeting today where the leader asked everyone to give a few words of introduction. Even this simplest public speaking effort strikes fear into people, and you can see the fear in the way each person speaks. One person went from sitting up straight to hunched over, looking at notes, and spoke in muted tones.

When you speak in public, even in these simple situations, you need to project confidence. You don't have to be confident, but you do have to look confident. Most successful speakers will say they are no less anxious than anyone else; they just know how to fake it.

When you find yourself speaking in a meeting, set yourself apart with the following approaches:

  • Take 10 seconds to prepare a short outline so you don't ramble
  • Sit up straight and square your shoulders
  • Use you best radio announcer voice and project
  • Smile - It changes your tone
  • Use hand gestures to animate you speaking
  • Make eye contact with multiple people to engage the whole room

These simple approaches show you as a confident leader. They make a surprising difference in how people listen to you and how effective your message is.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Juggling the Three Balls of Technical Leadership

What makes juggling interesting is that you have three balls but only two hands. So one ball is "out of control" all the time. Technical leaders also keep three balls in motion: What the customer wants, what engineering can deliver, and what will make money for the company.

There is a relationship between these three balls that makes technical leadership interesting. If engineering overbuilds, the customer is thrilled but the business isn't as profitable. If engineering under-builds, the customer will pay less for the product, or not buy it at all. The business puts pressure on engineering both to deliver more and deliver efficiently. The customers and the market put pressure on the business to give them every feature they want at the lowest price.

Good technical leaders listen to all three constituents and throw ideas for how to satisfy everyone. They act as a translator between what the customer wants and what engineering can deliver, with an eye on the business impact.

All three balls are important. As with juggling, if one ball falls it stops being interesting. As a practical leader, you need to keep an eye on all three areas, in a balance that keeps the customers happy, engineering excited about the product, and the business profitable. And, when you drop a ball, pick it up fast and get back to juggling.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Is Your Workplace Too Nice?

Lisa Haneberg at Management Craft wrote an excellent article about workplaces that are too inclusive and nice. I've seen this myself. In an effort to make everyone feel included, progress slows to a crawl. Nothing gets done unless everyone agrees.

Yes, people do want to feel included. Effective leaders make sure that this need is met. But, people also want to see their team make progress. And they want their leaders to take on the burden of deciding when there is enough information to make a decision and end the discussion.

Part of the hard job of being a leader is taking the heat for making a decision. That usually includes deciding not to follow the preferred direction of some of the team members. And, that comes with consequences the leader needs to take, normally the disappointment of the team member and possibly outright anger. Leaders need to have the courage to accept those consequences for the team and deal with bruised team members.

Monday, August 06, 2007

No Room for Bad Days

We all have bad days, get in bad moods, or simply don't feel up to leading. Practical leadership usually doesn't give us this option. Sometimes we just need to brace ourselves, put on a good face and get to the job at hand. Fortunately, as hard as it may be to start, after about fifteen minutes of forcing yourself to lead, your outlook can turn positive again.