Category Archives: passion

Thinking about improving the connective tissue of organizations

Even though I’m a recent hire, people often come to me to find other people in the organization. It’s a powerful way to create value. I’m not the expert they’re looking for, but I can point them in the right direction.

I want to not only to improve my networking capabilities, but to build this knowledge into the organization so that it transcends me. This reduces my direct influence, but strengthens the organization and makes more things possible. Improving the connective tissue in organizations increases efficiency, effectiveness, and happiness. A fully-connected organization allows people to bring together the best talent and the best resources no matter where they are, and it enables people everywhere to develop their full potential.

Little steps matter. Relentless improvement matters. How can I help make that happen?

  • I can teach the processes I use to find experts and resources. This enables more people to do what I do, and provides a platform that people can build on.
  • I can map the different communities, groups, and people for the subjects people often ask me about. Making the map visible brings people together.
  • I can cultivate communities and make them the go-to point for requests. Communities can reach a lot more people, bring in fresh talent, and form more connections. Vibrant communities also mean that individuals aren’t points of failure in the network.
  • I can provide feedback to our toolmakers and cultural influencers. Again, the more things we build into the framework, the easier it will be for more people to make things happen.

It may seem counter-intuitive to spread valued skills, especially if the organizational model is that knowledge is power and scarcity creates job security, but I need to create exponential value. Instead of accumulating and holding skills close, I want to push as much value as I can into the structure and into other people. I want to braindump everything I’ve learned and am learning, opening it all up so that other people can take the next step.

I want to see this smarter, truly globally-integrated workplace become reality. I need to help lots of people know more than what I know and do more than what I do.

I can help make that happen from where I stand and with the levers I have (and build). I’ll get even better as I learn more about different parts of the organization, respond to more requests, and find ways to align my work even better with the organization’s strategies. What we learn here can help other organizations and networks, too.

It’s a worthwhile goal. I’m looking forward to seeing how the adventure will unfold!

A toolbox of questions

Darius Bashar asked Gary Vaynerchuk an interesting question at last night’s DemoCamp24: What questions did Gary ask himself? (Not quite answered, but it might’ve been hard to get the gist across.)

After the event, Darius posted some of the questions he uses to figure out more about passion.

I was thinking about the questions in my toolbox, and I realized that I approach things very differently from the way that many bloggers I’ve read (particularly those who push personal branding) approach this discovery process.

I do ask people about their passions when starting a conversation, but that’s an opener that’s there so that I can see if they light up. It gets them away from the name-occupation spiel. If people stumble and don’t have a clear passion, that’s okay.

Looking at the questions I see on these personal development blogs, I often feel that questions assume you need to have a clearly definable passion that you can easily differentiate from other things you think about. While many people respond to that challenge, others might feel even more discouraged.

Me, I like discovering my passions through small steps. I’m not looking for a huge flame I had been previously unaware of. I’m just looking for a spark I can cultivate. That often emerges when I focus on relentless improvement and on sharing, two of the categories I’ve listed here. Other questions help me clarify, develop, and expand that interest. Passion isn’t something I expect to spring full-formed (Athena from Zeus’ forehead?). It’s something I grow into.

Discovery is shaped by the questions you ask. Some questions are sheer rock faces that are hard to get a grip on. Some questions are paths already marked by others so you know where to go. Some questions give you a lot of holds so that you can work your way around tough parts. Some questions are the shortcut walking trail a sherpa points out to you. ;)

Maybe some of these big-picture questions might help you think about your interests and passions, and maybe some of the more tactical ones will help you think about other things you do. Here’s a Swiss Army toolkit of small questions I use to think about things, and I hope to add more as I learn!

  • Questions

    • Improvement

      • What worked well?
      • How can I make this even better?
    • Vision

      • What difference do I want to make, and why does it matter?
      • What can I do?
      • What can I help other people do?
    • Planning – dreams

      • What do my ideal days look like? How can I get closer to that?
      • What doesn’t matter to me? What can I say no to?
      • What do I want to build, experience, or share?
      • What are the different ways I can make that happen?
    • Planning – Career

      • What kind of value do I want to create?
      • What does wild success look like?
      • What skills can I develop?
      • What do I need to take the next step and scale this up?
      • Who can I touch, reach out to, influence, or help?
    • Planning – long term

      • What’s the best case scenario?
      • What are the curveballs that I might deal with? Probabilities?
      • How can I make a safety net?
      • How can I increase my chances of a favourable outcome?
    • Planning – short term

      • What are my priority items?
      • How much time do I have? Will it fit?
      • What important things should I plan for?
      • How can I have fun, learn, and create value?
      • How can I make this easier, more efficient, more effective, or more fun for myself and others?
      • How can I share what I’ve learned?
    • Sharing

      • How much can I share with the world?
      • Who might find this useful?
      • How can I make this easy to find, especially for me?
    • Conversation

      • What are you passionate about?
      • What does wild success look like?
      • What could make you even happier?
      • What do you need to get there?
    • Delegation

      • What part of this can I delegate?
      • What do people need to do this?
      • What does good output look like?
      • What limits are there?
    • Presentation

      • Why does this matter?
      • What should people do or feel?
      • What do they come in with?
      • What’s my key message?
      • What stories and examples can I share?
      • How can I organize this?
      • What interaction can I build in? What questions should I expect?
      • How can I make this even shorter and clearer?
      • What do I want to learn from this?
    • Evaluating a presentation opportunity

      • Why does this matter to the audience? To the organizer? To me?
      • What can I say that is new, will make people think, and will make people act?
      • How can I scale this up before and after the event?
      • What’s the context?
    • Writing

      • What do I want to say? Why does it matter?
      • How can I illustrate it?
      • Can I make it clearer?
      • What am I missing?
      • What’s related to this?
    • Free time

      • How can I be present and enjoy life?
      • How can I express love?
      • How can I move my goals forward?
    • Figuring things out

      • What’s the end point?

        • What has to happen before that? (and so on)
      • Where are we now?

        • What can we do right now to move toward the goal?
      • Why? (at least five times)
    • Social media adoption

      • What’s the immediate personal benefit?
      • What’s the long-term personal benefit?
      • What’s the social benefit?
      • How can we enable the social benefit with minimum
        effort?
      • What are the challenges? How do we address them?
      • Who are out there?
    • Finding people

      • What are the details of the request?
      • What communities are relevant?
      • What keywords can I search for?
      • Who else do I know?

Superpowers and vision security

What kind of superpower would you like to have?

When I answered this ice-breaker at a women’s leadership session last week, I said that I wanted to be in multiple places at the same time so that I could explore all sorts of great opportunities and learn all sorts of great things. Most people mentioned time-based powers: having more time in the day, freezing time, and being able to instantly teleport. Me, I wanted to scale.

On reflection, though, I realized that the superpower I really wanted was different. So when the facilitator used the same question with a different group (I was there because they were going to discuss my Remote Presentations That Rock video), I was ready.

I want to have the superpower of being able to effectively teach everything I’m learning to people, to be able to package whatever I had learned and to share that with others.

I realized that what I really cared about isn’t filling the world with clones of myself so that we could explore different things, it’s building foundations so that I can learn from whatever else people create on top of it.

I’m going to figure out how to gain that superpower. And as I figure more of it out, I enable other people to figure it out even faster and go even further than I can.

My passion is helping people connect and collaborate. My vision is a world that’s truly flat, where people can work together and lead from anywhere, where we can fully tap the talent of people from different backgrounds, lifestyles, and geographies. To make any real progress towards this, I have to create exponential change. I can’t do that alone. I need an army, and I need to build things so that they transcend me.

People used to think that job security was about keeping knowledge to yourself. Me, I think that vision security is about sharing as much as you can with as many people as you can, so that the momentum transcends you. The more I learn and the more I can help others learn, the more likely it is that the vision will happen, whether or not I’m in the picture.

Fortunately, I don’t have to wait until I’m an expert in order to do this. I can move towards that vision as a beginner and a learner. I have a lever and a place to stand on. I can move my world. As we get better at this, we can move bigger things.

What superpower are you working on?

Of storytellers and pattern-makers; Book: Solitude: A Return to the Self

Of the three phrases in my e-mail signature and business card, storyteller draws the most smiles. People visibly relax. They ask me questions. They talk to me in a way they might not talk to an IT specialist or a consultant. Geek gets grins from people in the know, but storyteller is the one that crosses boundaries.

I added storyteller to my self-descriptors when I noticed technology evangelist needed a lot of explanation. The idea was simple: you can’t get people to explore social media by just showing it to them. You have to show them real people using it to create real value, and stories are a great way to do that. I collected examples from different industries and business units, and I used anecdotes to help people understand.

I was reading Solitude: A Return to the Self (a psychoanalytic exploration of introversion and creativity, drawing on historical examples), and I came across an interesting distinction between dramatists and patterns: people who retell stories and relieve experiences, and people who focus on patterns and regularities.

I stopped, reflected on it, and recognized more of myself in the patterner than the dramatist. At the family table, my father and my sister were always the ones telling stories with accents and sound effects. I spent more of my time thinking and reading, drawing connections among the dozens of books I read on a topic, teasing out common topics and threads.

I didn’t fully recognize that part of myself until I had the words to describe it.

I am more of a pattern-maker than a storyteller. Yes, I sprinkle anecdotes through talks to make them more alive, and I share stories through my blog. But the real value I find myself creating at work is in documenting and improving the way people do things. I build Drupal systems, and more than that, I build people’s ability to build Drupal systems. I use social software, and I train people how to do so. I facilitate workshops, and I improve the way we organize and facilitate those engagements.

What does this mean in terms of playing to my strengths? I’ll write about more processes and look for more ways to improve them. I’ll organize what I create so that it’s easy for people to learn and contribute. I’ll work on being able to see and being able to communicate. I’ll learn about lots of different kinds of patterns, so that I can bring them together.

I’ll still work on storytelling skills. Stories are essential for leadership and connection. I’ll keep blogging, and I’ll keep using lots of examples in talks.

But it’s nice to have a name for what I do.

Here’s a link to the book:

Solitude: A Return to the Self
Anthony Storr

(Disclosure: The link above is an Amazon affiliate link. That said, I recommend checking out your local library. I got this book from the Toronto Public Library, yay!)

Most of it is about Freud and Jung, and various writers and poets who’ve had solitary lives (mostly troubled solitary lives). The key message is probably that being alone isn’t as bad as people think it is. =) And you might pick up something completely different, like I did…

Visual notes – Gary Vaynerchuk and Democamp Toronto 24

Funny aside: When Jay Goldman handed Gary Vaynerchuk a bottle of water, Gary offered it for sale. Little things like that reinforce story.

Key take-aways: Passion and patience are everything. Hustle. Out-care others. Offer good stuff. Pay attention to everything. How do you scale? By trying.

image

Notes from the demos and the pub, before I broke my fountain pen:

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Explanations for scribbles upon request, or when I can make time for it! =)

Reflections on passion: Don’t let your job get in the way of your career

“We criticize senior management when they focus only on short-term issues, allowing quarterly results to interfere with longer-term developmental needs. We should be equally tough on ourselves when we allow our jobs to get in the way of our careers.”

- a consulting client quoted on p.25 of

Million Dollar Consulting
Alan Weiss, 2009 (4th ed)

(Disclosure: The book is an Amazon affiliate link. That said, I recommend checking out your local library. I got this book from the Toronto Public Library, yay!)

In my two years an at IT specialist / consultant at IBM, I’ve been lucky to have excellent engagements that helped me develop my skills and create real value. I have a great job, and I’m sure it will get even better as I learn how to consciously build a career. What kind of career do I want to grow into?

I’m passionate about helping people connect and collaborate. I want people to be able to contribute their talents from anywhere in the world, and I want to help organizations get better at finding and tapping those skills. I want to reduce the friction in collaboration and make it easier to get leverage on time and effort. I want to increase the serendipitous connections and innovative cross-pollinations that come from diverse conversations. When people can connect with others who are passionate about the work that they do, energy spreads and is reinforced, and people can make things happen faster and more effectively. People are happier, too.

The past two years at IBM have been almost a perfect curriculum for this. I started out by building systems with social components. Then I moved into providing consulting services to our clients, sharing the lessons we’ve learned about strategy and adoption. My current engagement is an even better fit for my passions. Now I’m learning even more about tapping the strength of a global organization, finding experts and resources in response to client needs. I’m not only building training communities and facilitating global conversations, I’m describing how we do this and working on training other people on how to make the most of these social networks.

In addition to that, I’m helping develop leadership training materials around virtual communication and connection. This has multiple benefits. The better we get at leading online through virtual presentations, meetings, and collaboration, the more effectively we can share help our globally distributed workforce develop skills, learn from insights, and create value. The better we understand how to do this, the more we enable people in far-flung places to step up and lead from wherever they are.

It all goes back to that passion: helping people connect and collaborate.

Looking ahead, how do I want to develop this over the next few years? What do I want to grow into once we’ve done the heavy lifting of training a thousand specialists around the world?

I want to figure out how social tools can help us transform our processes and interactions, and what those processes and interactions look like. I’m doing a little of this now, experimenting with and documenting how we use the tools. I can’t wait to see what this will be like years from now, as the tools improve and the culture adapts. I’ll get better and better at seeing patterns, suggesting improvements, documenting practices, helping people change the way they work, and measure the results. I want to create value both inside and outside the company.

I want to not only connect people, but also help other people connect people more effectively. I’m doing a little of this now by directing people to communities and sharing tips on how to reach out, but it would be amazing to help hundreds or thousands of connectors add more tools to their toolbox. It’s like working on the connective tissue of an organization. The better we get at this, the faster and more effectively we can respond to the changing environment.

I want to help people get that Aha! moment. This is why I love learning about communication. Good questions and good explanations open up new horizons of possibilities, simplify complex issues, and energize people. I can get better at this through practice and through learning new skills.

IBM is an excellent laboratory in which to learn about all these things. Even tasks that don’t seem to align with my passion end up being related to it, as I’m good at drawing connections to things I like. If I was forced to do work that drained me and I couldn’t flip it around and figure out the kernel that’s related to my passion, I can see myself exploring this passion independently. After all, you shouldn’t let your job get in the way of your career.

How does your work support your passion? If it doesn’t, what could?