Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Emotionally Engaged Managers
In a blog entry I read tonight, a good friend asks some questions that I'm guessing (hoping) most engaged, and emotionally-intelligent managers face sooner or later:
"How much integrity do I really have with regard to leading my employees? How responsible am I for their engagement? How well do we know the people who depend on us for vision and leadership? How aware are we with the daily interactions that build perception? How much power do we really give them?"
In addition to being impressed with her insight, it really gave me something to think about. I think I take it for granted that everyone that works in my group is super smart and is capable of doing great things. While I try hard to be involved enough to set the direction, and practice good "situational leadership," I think I fall short in my answers to these questions. Do I balance the fact that these guys know what they're doing with the fact that I have a leadership position in their careers? Do I take it even further and realize that my decisions, my own engagement with my management team affects their lives, their families, their careers? Do I think too much about the "business" and the fact that they're "human resources?"
I think I need to be more aware of what they're doing, what they're going through, what their talents are, and what their goals are. What I realize is that the perceptions of their work might be shaped by me more than I know. And with that there is some responsiblity. Maybe not in a purely pragmatic, "annual review" kind of way, but in a human kind of way. I'm just beginning to get that. I'm so glad to have someone I work with who is helping me learn about not only being a better customer advocate, and better manager, but being a better person. Thanks, D.
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
For Whatever It's Worth
My Blogger Code: B1 d+ t- k+ s- u f+ i o+ x- e+ l+ c--
Why Do I Blog?
I just saw this post from John Udell, I was impressed with the discussion.
As the blogging community begins to grow, many (including almost everyone I work with I've spoken to about blogging) asks this question. Is it just an egocentric trip for me to post my seemingly brilliant insights, or my chance to rant against those that cause me frustration, or my attempt to contribute to my ecosystem (sorry, Frank), or just a therapeutic way of putting my thoughts into writing in a public setting? Dunno. Probably all of the above.
For me, the biggest benefit is that an admitted introvert (officially a Myers-Briggs INFP) can connect with like-minded folks. Truth is, I've never met Don or Chris or Robert, but I've found a sense of connection with a community that inspires me to better understand our customers, to more fully develop my thoughts, and to become more engaged with our company's mission. So even if nobody reads this blog, it doesn't matter. Because I'm better because of it. And one or two others mightsee the human side of the Microsoft machine.
Monday, April 28, 2003
A Kindred Spirit at Microsoft
A kindred spirit! Welcome, Diane!
For those of you non-Microsoft readers (all two of you, hi mom!), Diane is someone you're going to want to watch. She has a fresh perspective, and has a "clue." She's one of the "faces" that will be famous a year from now.
Infant Care Leave
One of the awesome benefits Microsoft offers is four weeks paid leave for Infant Care Leave (in addition, pregnant women get eight weeks paid medical leave, which I--regretfully--don't qualify for :) ). I've seen a marked shift in the culture of our company in the past several years to being more family-oriented, with a better focus on work-life balance (I've been with Microsoft 13 years).
We adopted our son about a year ago, and to celebrate and spend some quality time with the family, I'm taking the next four weeks off.
Strangely, I'm at a point in my career where I'm more personally engaged in my work than I've ever been, and I think I'm going to miss working closely with my team. I enjoy the creativity and energy that I get from working with Frank, James, Cesar, Lori, Diane, Mike, Louise, Gerrit, Shannon, Anne-Marie, Lance, Troy, Kellini, Mark, Lara, Travis, Joe, and lately John, Beth, and Joy. I think I'll sneak away from home a few times a week to stay involved in what's going on.
Great goal, I think, for managers to have for their employees--to get to a point of engagement where teammembers want to come to work, to contribute, to accomplish goals, to leverage the assets of the company to accomplish big, hairy, audacious goals. I love that concept.
To celebrate my leave, and to give the team something to chew on while I'm gone, I've invited Ben McConnell to speak to our group today. He's the author of Creating Customer Evangelists (see this post for more). I'm excited to have our team meet him, and see if they have the same reaction I did to his message.
And, as a father, I get the chance to engage at a deeper level with my kids. I plan to spend more time with my family over the next four weeks (and beyond), to really connect at an even deeper level. I have a great family, who are fun, interesting, creative, intelligent, and curious (and, maybe a little frustrating and willful at times--four kids under six!).
I hope you'll see these posts reveal a bit more about me as a father, and now that I might have a bit more personal time, I hope to develop some of the ideas I have about management and marketing. Let's see...
Sunday, April 27, 2003
The World as a Blog
Now this is pretty cool. By putting a Geo Tag (from what I'm told, these coordinates could send an ICBM missile right into my living room) on my site, whenever I ping Weblogs, my RSS feed gets sent to the "World as a Blog" site and a thumbnail of that post is shown on a world map. I talk about how easy XML is making it to aggrigate and display real-time data (my job involves several B2E and B2B websites)--this is a great way to describe how simple data feeds can do fairly remarkable things. You can check out what blogs are being written near me.
Friday, April 25, 2003
The Honda Ad is Buzzing
It's buzzing! I just got email from a co-worker with a link to the Honda ad I wrote about last week. I can't remember something that's buzzed so well over email. There's a great article talking about the making of the ad here, as captured by an interesting blog from a creativity consultant company called Play.
Cross-Group Collaboration Starts with Trust
One of the areas we're really trying to focus on as a management team is cross-group collaboration. To me, it all comes down to trusting each other. I think when your employees (or co-workers for that matter) believe you really know them, and that you really care about them, they begin to trust you. They know you'll do what's best for them. It all comes down to trust, and I think as a company we have a lot to learn about developing it.
I loved the overall message in the book "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" (and no, that isn't the five members on my team!). Really building a strong team starts with Trust. Without trust, you can't show your weaknesses (so others can make up for them with their strengths), and if others don't show you their weaknesses, you can do the same. Without trust, you don't engage in positive conflict, you won't commit to things you don't agree with, you will avoid accountability, and you'll focus not on team results, but personal results.
As a company, we've built a culture around personal passion, being action-oriented, and being smart. All those are good, but we are so competitive we can be pretty bad at working collaboratively. I'm confident that as we break down the walls of distrust, as we get to know each other personally, and as we build on each others strengths (see Follow This Path), we'll build amazing teams that can make unstoppable progress.
Marcus Buckingham, co-author of "First Break All the Rules", said this in a Fast Company article:
"Weakness fixing might prevent failure, but strength building leads to excellence. Focus on strength, and manage around weaknesses."
Managing By Blog
Just got this in my inbox, from Business 2.0 (probably my favorite biz mag, better than Fast Company): Managing By Blog.
I'm a firm believer in the power of community, and personal connections can be facilitated in a powerful way through the medium of the Internet. In fact, since publishing this blog, I've had two or three co-workers comment that they shared my passion for our customers, and it made them feel more passionate knowing their beliefs (and frustrations) are shared by others in the company.
A co-worker of mine (Beth) is a real customer evangelist (and one of my biz-heros), and I share a lot of her passion. She mentioned her blog, and so about a month ago, I started this blog, just to see what all the fuss is about. I've found it quite, uh, liberating and maybe even therapeutic. And just a bit addictive.
Not that I think anyone (other than my wife and maybe my mom occasionally) will ever actually read it, but it allows me to publish my somewhat-rambling thoughts. Just by writing them down and putting them out there, it's forcing me to take a stand, and solidify what I believe.
As I dive further into the community (I'm somewhat already a cluetrain-believer), I'm just starting to get it. From my viewpoint, at least in the business world, blogging seems to be used most by developers (at least here at Microsoft). In fact, I'm still on the lookout for a few good marketing sites (though I really love reading Seth Godin's blog, probably the only marketing-type blog that actually adds to my body of knowledge, and then it's even sketchy).
I'm not a developer, and my HTML skills kind of suck, but it's me.
Thursday, April 24, 2003
An Extraordinary Team (and the Purple Cow)
I just got a pre-release copy of Seth Godin's upcoming book, Purple Cow. The book is about being remarkable. The premise is pretty simple. As Seth's family was driving through France, they were impressed with the picturesque farms and their perfect cows. As they passed farm after farm, the cows quickly became ordinary. What would have been extraordinary? A purple cow! Read an excerpt from Fast Company here. When you're done reading that, check out Seth's Blog. Good stuff.
At work, what can my team and I do to really be extraordinary? How can we build buzz for our projects? How can we go from being simply great at our jobs to being outstanding? What can we do to really make a difference with our customers, enough that they can't help but be engaged and excited, and become evangelists for our products, or our company?
It starts with finding out what the customer wants. It comes from knowing them, and solving real-world problems for them. It comes from being real, and human, and genuinely caring about what they need. And in really building this connection, I'm finding that my job is really gratifying.
I'm still struggling with finding my team's place in Microsoft's vision of helping customers realize their potential. How can I continue to connect the dots, so that what my team does actually inspires our customers to become great? How does our Intranet site, or our Online Training site, or our B2B sites really make it easier for our customers to do their jobs? Or to help their customers? Or to build excitement in their own lives?
I think there are ways. And I remain resolute in finding them. If you have ideas that have worked for you, please let me know!
The Human Face of Microsoft
From John Udell's Weblog:
A week ago Robert Scoble posted an item to his weblog that began: "Microsoft is jealous (and scared) of Slash Dot and Scripting News." His posting, which sparked a lively cross-blog conversation, continued:
One thing I've noticed is that Microsoft does not have a human face other than Gates and Ballmer. Everything you see about Microsoft has been "approved" by PR/marketing professionals. That's the way it was supposed to have been done in the old days, but today, one little jerk like me can post something on his weblog and, within hours, have several thousand very important readers. Today, we need human stories to tell about Microsoft, and we need human connections so we know who to start a conversation with. [The Scobleizer Weblog]
I couldn't agree more. All that talent and passion and brainpower, but so few faces seen, and so few voices heard. One of the few public faces, David Stutz, left the company this week, with parting advice about openness.
Max McEwean brought the same thing up a few weeks ago, and I completely agree. I love that this company is full of vibrant, intelligent, creative people. I have some that work for me. And I have some I work with. And with my passion around making a personal connection with our customers, I'd love to see more of this happening. Max brought up the new "ThreeDegrees" software. Folks should know Tammy Savage and CJ Saretto and Erika and Kate and the rest of the team. Why not? I love what these guys have done. I love that they hear the voice of the customer. I love that they feel proud enough to put their names out there.
And speaking of the human face, I'm glad we got this one (finally!). Welcome Chris.
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
I love the practical, real-world aspect of the Barenaked Ladies blog (let's see that show up in our HR database, I'm sure all "words" I send over our firewall are being closely watched...).
Bands can be measured by popularity, and while the music has a part in that (hopefully most), the community the band creates can be just as important. I like that BNL is keeping us up-to-date on what they're doing. It makes me more "engaged" in the process of the music they're making, and it makes me more of a participant than a consumer.
Was it in Cluetrain I read that the future of the music industry might hinge on bands making money from participants rather than just the "license" from the song? I love that concept.
Tuesday, April 22, 2003
What Can You Be Best At?
Just responded to an email my brother-in-law sent. I sent over a copy of one of my favorite biz books, "Love is the Killer App," by Tim Sanders. My bro-in-law commented that he's known for being a "nice guy" at work. I know what he means. I was there.
The book was profound for me in other ways. For me, the biggest impact was the credibility that comes with having knowledge that management values.
It's one thing to know about your field of expertise (in fact, you should always find ways to be best of breed in your expert area, and find ways to expand it). For example, one person I work with does online training, and she's becoming the best in all of Microsoft in e-learning. She's finding others that know about it, learning from them, going to industry conferences, building a small community of practice with others, until she's the go to person in the company in this area.
In this scenario, you'll keep your job in layoffs, you'll build your career, you'll try new things, and you'll have a lot more freedom than others because you don't wait for your boss or management to decide what you should work on.
However, it's equally important especially if you aspire to management to have expertise in things your management cares about. Balancing resources to obtain business objectives, understanding customer need, thinking strategically, driving the business forward, creative thinking, employee development, cutting costs, etc. etc., etc. This requires that you 1) learn about this stuff, and 2) that you know as much or more than your management. This is where keeping current with business books comes in. Chances are, your management isn't keeping current, but wants to. Nobody takes time to actually read the books everyone is talking about (Good to Great, Jack Welch, Lou Gerstner, etc.). If you do it, and actively share it, and find ways to interject what you know in team meetings, hallway conversations, etc., you'll be amazed at how your credibility grows. You'll be seen as part of the in-team with other managers, and they'll think of you first when it comes to building the team (or not laying off team members). Of course, there's a hidden benefit, because by continually learning, your job becomes more fun, decisions get easier, and you see the connection with the rest of the company. It's very rewarding.
Being nice is a small part of what the book is about. That's why I don't like the title, but I love the concept. It's important to share and network, but it can be equally important to be objective while you're seen as being nice. In fact, I think being nice may have hurt my career early on (mainly because I relied too heavily on it).
Monday, April 21, 2003
What's On The Nightstand?
Purple Cow: Seth Godin
Creating Customer Evangelists: Ben McConnell
Leadership: Rudy Guiliani
My Top Ten for 2002-2003:
(In no particular order)
Good to Great: Jim Collins
Execution: Larry Bossidy, Ram Cheran
Jack: Straight From The Gut: Jack Welch
Primal Leadership: Daniel Goleman
Follow This Path: Curt Coffman
Tipping Point: Malcom Gladwell
Leading Change: John Kotter
Permission Marketing: Seth Godin
Love is the Killer App: Tim Sanders
Cluetrain Manifesto: Doc Searles, Chris Locke, Rick Levine, David Weinberger
To see what other bloggers are reading, check out the All Consuming website.
Too funny! Live Radio through your iPAQ, played Live through your Radio!
And they think technology is getting too complicated!
Sunday, April 20, 2003
On the social and cultural impact of the remote control.
Saturday, April 19, 2003
Just finished reading QBQ: Practicing Personal Accountability by John G. Miller. Easy read, and quite profound. The premise is that often people can take on the role of victim, and wonder why others don't change, or think differently, or do the right things.
My favorite Incorrect Questions are: When are we going to be more competitive? Why can't manufacturing make what we sell? Why aren't they motivated? Who dropped the ball? When will they clarify roles and responsibilities? When will my child learn to listen? When will they learn to clean their rooms?
The right questions, or the Questions Behind the Questions start with How or What, contain the word I, and have an action word. They would be: How can I serve my customers? What can I do to add value for our customers? How can I be a better coach? How can I be a better leader? What can I do to be more productive? How can I improve my parenting skills?
Accountability begins with me. I can't change my company without first changing me. I can start with me, and help bring along one person at a time. I can understand our customers better. I can understand my co-workers better. And I can be more proactive about setting a better example.
Friday, April 18, 2003
Check out Doonsbury's take on blogs, beginning on Oct. 21.
Thursday, April 17, 2003
How Buzz is Built
Wow. You just have to see this ad for Honda. Very innovative. And it clearly makes the point that even though (cars) are very complicated, Honda's "just work."
I got this from a co-worker who thought it was interesting enough to send it. One way to build buzz is to create something so interesting that people want to share the message. It's just a car. Though the branding itself is strong, the way the brand message is being delivered is viral. I wouldn't have seen this ad (or considered a Honda), if this person hadn't been impressed enough to spend a few minutes sending me the ad. And now I've spent a few minutes talking about it here. Viral Marketing is powerful stuff.
I'm in Cleveland visiting one of our retail partners. Very interesting discussions today about building a community with their in-store reps. We got to have a long coversation with "Virgil" and "Joe," two reps who really had a passion for working with their customers, and learning about technology. Very invigorating.
Tim O'Reilly said something that I love:
I had occasion today to quote once again Edwin Schlossberg's memorable line, "the skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think." I read that line in a Parade Magazine article in the mid-80's, and it's been "creating a context" in which I think ever since.
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Innovation is Putting Creative Ideas to Work
I really love reading Fast Company. They send a daily newsletter with thoughts, and this one struck me:
"Innovation isn't just being creative. It is about putting creative ideas to work."
Blair Sheppard, President & CEO, Duke Corporate Education, Inc.
Read the Article
I love the idea, I'm just not sure how to implement it... (a little joke...)
Monday, April 14, 2003
One of the newsletters I read is ClickZ. Recently, Debbie Wiel commented that "a few businesspeople are beginning to use Web logs as an online -- and interactive -- marketing tool. A good example is SherpaBlog, just launched by MarketingSherpa publisher Anne Holland."
Sunday, April 13, 2003
SmartMobs reports that IBM is building a bunch of homes in Virginia. I want a Smart Home! Oh, wait. That's what I have kids for! Steven, go grab the remote. Alyssa, turn down that light over there...
I found a couple of interesting Marketing blogs: WebSense, MarketingFix, NetMarketing, and SherpaBlog.
At least I have a job! The New York Times tells a story of a former Executive VP of Marketing from an Internet startup who is currently working at the Gap for $10 an hour...
Dave Barry posts Fight, Kikkoman! in his most excellent official Dave Barry Blog.
And another of my favorites, where Dave comments that he loves the Internet, and he can't believe how much time this site has saved him...
Friday, April 11, 2003
In my effort to advance my career, I occasionally have "informational interviews" if there's a job that sounds interesting, and matches my experience and talents. Informational Interviews are short (30 minutes or less) meetings where managers with open positions chat with prospective applicants to mutually understand the fit for both. This particular meeting was probably the most intense 20 minutes I've spent in an "informational," but I think I learned a lot about what I'm looking for in a job (clearly not this one).
Anyway, there's probably a ton of stuff that I could go on and on about, maybe this weekend will give me a chance to write some of my thoughts down...
On about Chapter Four of The Fountainhead. I want to be Howard O'Rourke.
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
People of Earth. A Powerful Global Conversation Has Begun
Wow, just got a nod from kind of a hero of mine (Thanks, Doc). Cluetrain set me on a path of, well, something!
If you haven't read the manifesto, you owe it to your readers (or all four of mine, hi mom!) to do it...
"people of earth...
A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter and getting smarter faster than most companies.
These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked."
i love that beth is back... i don't know why i care, but i do.
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
I just got my first "MSN Instant Messenger spam! Chantal is 21, and would like to Show off on her WebCam!
Later, I found an article from Tim O'Reilly about getting spam Instant Messages. They're a bit annoying...
Monday, April 07, 2003
So after I started this blog thing, and I was up til 1:00 am reading other MSFTees blogs. I'm a bit torn about saying what I want to say, and letting people know it's me, but I think that if I really have an opinion, it doesn't matter.
One marketing person had a blog about a year ago, and a magazine got hold of it and kind of berated her for her chatter. I hope my stuff doesn't end up in the Wall Street Journal, but that may be the price of having an opinion?
The Register story
Other MSFT blogs (mostly dev stuff anyway)
Someone who shares my concern
Friday, April 04, 2003
The Human Side of the Internet
As I watch 24 on my Ultimate TV, I'm reminded of how little what we do in our jobs really matters. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do. But it's not fighting terrorists or saving the world. It's selling software. Pretty good software (well, some of it anyway), but software none-the-less.
And as I use the "skip" button to jump past the commercials (even the catchy "our software, your potential" commercials done by my friends in our CMO (central marketing org), I'm reminded of how much marketing as a science (okay, maybe more of an art, if even that...) has changed. I love the way Seth Godin puts it in Permission Marketing, that the message is getting more and more cluttered.
In part of the talk last night, Ben McConnell talked about how commerce was changing because of the Internet. Maybe it was the somwhat-unengaged group I was with (mostly small business owners who were looking for that nugget that would rocket them to fame, fortune, and success), but I think they all missed the truly revolutionary nature of that comment.
I think it's even more profound than just the demise of the effectiveness of broadcast marketing. It's something more human that the Internet has brought. I think maybe Chris Locke and Doc Searls and David Weinberger have it right:
"Corporate firewalls have kept smart employees in and smart markets out. It's going to cause real pain to tear those walls down. But the result will be a new kind of conversation. And it will be the most exciting conversation business has ever engaged in." (see the Cluetrain Manifesto).
The Internet is allowing us to connect in a one-on-one way we've been missing since the days of the general store: I can talk to someone inside the company I'm buying from more easily than I can someone next door. Word of mouth (or word of "mouse") is fundamentally changing how we communicate, and what we communicate about. And without a strong connection to our customers, Microsoft will be joining the ranks of Borland, Ashton-Tate, Migent (where I began my high-tech career), and WordPerfect.
Thursday, April 03, 2003
Just clicked on Linux Switcher and Mac Switcher. Ha!
Creating Customer Evangelists
I joined a few other co-workers at a two-hour seminar hosted by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, authors of creatingcustomerevangelists. Not quite sure if it was that I was seeking like-minded folks who have the same vision, or that the speakers were entertaining and engaging, or perhaps it was the sugar buzz from the Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but it was inspiring. I spoke with the authors quite a bit, and felt that the strategy we had been employing on our team, even at a small level, was on-track. I was convinced more than ever that the effort we've been making into spending time with our customers is worth it. For them. For us.
The authors of the book explain the six tenets of creating customer evangelists:
- Customer plus-delta: Continuously gather customer feedback.
- Napsterize knowledge: Make it a point to share knowledge freely.
- Build the buzz: Expertly build word-of-mouth networks.
- Create community: Encourage communities of customers to meet and share.
- Make bite-size chunks: Devise specialized, smaller offerings to get customers to bite.
- Create a cause: Focus on making the world, or your industry, better.
I'll be taking the book home and devouring it.
Strategic Thinking Starts With Hearing The Customer's Voice
Yesterday i had a meeting with a few Microsoftees that actually care as much as I do about our customers. We're toying with the idea of creating kind of a "community of practice" around the consumer and building a community. One day I feel that I'm the only one with a real passion around doing things the right way (hearing the voice of our customers, and driving to meet their needs), then I get with even a few who "get it," and a glimmer of hope shines (not that my faith is 100% restored, but maybe a percentage point or two...). These guys have a level of passion that is visible, almost tangible. It's contagious.
I had a conversation with one of the team members I work with about thinking strategically. I explained that it really comes down to one simple thing: hearing the voice of the customer. Once you really understand their needs, the rest is easy--there's very little "strategic thinking" that's required. Ya, you need to think intelligently about the business, and take into account allocating resources and gaining efficiencies, and leveraging best practices, and communicating efficiently, and managing up, but once the real "vision" is clear, that stuff is pretty easy. Seriously.
Tuesday, April 01, 2003
So I hear that we're moving our offices to Sammamish. It's a campus over near Issaquah, several long miles from here. We had an "all hands" meeting where we went over strategy and our director gave us an update on how everything's going. He then announces the fact that in three weeks we're moving across the Puget Sound to a set of buildings that aren't close to anything (but a Krispy Kreme and a Costco, so it isn't all bad).
This morning, a co-worked announced that she was pregnant. This coming from one of the nicest, kindest, Christian-est women I know. I was a bit shocked. I mean, what do you say? Can't really say "uh, is that good or bad?" I said, I think, "Wow." She said she didn't know how it happened, and that she really isn't sure what to do about it.
She went on to say "April Fools."
I went on to say "you're an idiot."
And, we're not moving to Issaquah.