Working Out Loud: Speak to the Heart and Mind (Part 4 of 5)

Show up whenever possible. (Part 1)
Ask to speak with senior leaders; chances are they will see you. (Part 2)
Advocate for yourself and others. (Part 3)
Speak to the heart and mind. (Part 4 You are here)
Have faith and courage.

Living a Life of Legacy

We are living on a spinning rock full of magma destined to be consumed by a ball of fire in the form of an extinguished star. It is pretty easy to question the purpose of our existence.  Some look to religion, others to philosophy.  Either way, there is some form of rationalization on why we are here. When I turn on the news I mostly find a cold world full of consistent tragedy. It is 2015, and as a child I dreamed of a world with flying cars, robots, and peace.

I thought my generation was so intermixed and informed that we would simply starve out racism, sexism, and challenge all that was wrong with the world.  I was looking for something big but I have come to believe that I should be looking for something small.  This post is about speaking to the heart and mind because you can speak to one or the other; however, we can communicate our message best if we seek to address both with purpose and passion.  

A lot of people believe that they have to wait to be great.  They spend years building wealth and working hard to achieve this ultimate dream of having success and security.   Born from this sense of security and wealth, they can now live a “life of legacy” where they can go and do good things and be charitable.  They can find the kindness in their hearts that they had to set aside to be good at being tough.  Being tough and strong is a characteristic associated with good leadership.   Rarely do you hear of leaders being weak and wimpy.   It is always said that the “strong survive” and that is how our world works.   In business or war ironically, we see and hear similar practices around strength.  I believe there are forces that are underestimated in our world.  There are both strong and weak forces and to focus on strength and toughness holistically would be missing the benefits of these other factors.  People can be made to do something by force and people can be led to do something by inspiration.  It is part of our nature, but either way the same rules don’t always apply.   

With this in mind, these new philanthropists believe they can be what they want with no person to control them as they did their time and generated the income needed to find security and success.   As I am speaking generally, I recognize that a lot of people “do good things” but more often than not in my experience it doesn’t seem to be enough for them to recognize how good their daily acts really are.  The point is that if you want to live a life of legacy, there is no reason to wait to do something that your heart is calling for.  Right now is a good time and it starts with behavior over events.

Speaking to the Heart

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.  If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. (Nelson Mandela)  

The intent of this quote was to address people in their mother tongue as a sign of respect and understanding.   This quote can go much further than intended in that language is complicated.  Even when I speak or write in English, it is when I find common connections and words that that seem to touch something inside that goes beyond logic is when I am most compelling.

Watch this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeWks6cgJ-k  it is only two minutes. The first time I saw this it came from  Dr. Madelyn Blair on storytelling.  

It is the experience or feeling of something great and compelling that inspires thought or action.  It touches on a memory or something inside of us that helps us “get it.”  We don’t need to stand on a pulpit or talk from a mountain to find this voice. More often it comes from something simple like a Post It note, a whisper, a kind word or simply diverting attention from a computer screen or phone to look up at someone and listen.  

In order to live a life of legacy everyday, it seems that we should practice working out loud. As life inspires us, we have an opportunity to take our thoughts and snippets of wisdom and do something with it to help others.    One personal example comes from my very good friend and mentor, Mr. Ron Batdorf.    Ron exemplifies working out loud and speaking to the heart and mind.   He works hard and faces adversity and he never quits.   He is soft spoken and thoughtful, and he shows up when called and he practices leading through small kind acts.   I have seen the impact of his good work in many forms, but I also benefit from his friendship and wisdom almost every day.  I hope he doesn’t mind that I share a note here from him.

“Howie, I have found that Rabbi Heschel has the same understanding of dialectic patterns as St. Paul (Sal) had.  See below a excerpt from the website: https://theshalomcenter.org/node/88   Interesting that this is foundational to both the Christian and Jewish Faiths.  Just wondered if you know of Rabbi Heschel’s Theology?  Hope all is well and that the new owners understand your value to them.  It seems that unless we are directly into the processes of an organization our purpose is diminished.  I guess it gets back to concepts that if not effecting processes are not part of the value to an organization.  Integration of knowledge can be seen this way.  I have started looking at Multi-agent systems and the processes of developing a “Learning agent”.  I think there is insight in that design that can be developed into a KM format for any organization.  Just a thought.

Shalom to you and your family Howie.

Ron

PARADOX AND POLARITY

A necessary condition affecting human beliefs in philosophy and religion is the paradox. The source of their paradoxical character has its origin in the essential polarity of human being.

To ignore the paradox is to miss the truth.

Jewish thinking and living can only be adequately understood in terms of a dialectic pattern, containing opposite or contrasted properties. As in a magnet, the ends of which have opposite magnetic qualities, these terms are opposite to one another and exemplify a polarity which lies at the very heart of Judaism, the polarity of ideas and events, of mitzvah and sin, of kavvanah and deed, of regularity and spontaneity, of uniformity and individuality, of halakhah and agadah, of law and inwardness, of love and fear, of understanding and obedience, of joy and discipline, of the good and the evil drive, of time and eternity, of this world and the world to come, of revelation and response, of insight and information, of empathy and self-expression, of creed and faith, of the word and that which is beyond words, of man’s quest for God and God in search of man. Even God’s relation to the world is characterized by the polarity of justice and mercy, providence and concealment, the promise of reward and the demand to serve Him for His sake. Taken abstractedly, all these terms seem to be mutually exclusive, yet in actual rising they involve each other; the separation of the two is fatal to both.

Since each of the two principles moves in the opposite direction, equilibrium can only be maintained if both are of equal force. But such a condition is rarely attained. Polarity is an essential trait of all things. Tension, contrast, and contradiction characterize all of reality.

However, there is a polarity in everything, except God. For all tension ends in God. He is beyond all dichotomies.”

Failure comes easy

It is easy to fail.  It is easy to quit and say that you can’t do something.  It is easy to allow someone else to impact your thinking.   Everyone has a boss and everyone is influenced by someone.   Very few people in the world are an island to themselves.  I would be willing to bet that even those who live alone are troubled by their own duality.

People will tell you that you can’t do something and if you let them, they will hold you back.  Dreams could be shattered easily.   Again, this is a tough world and we all face adversity. There isn’t a person on this planet that isn’t faced with challenges.   The question is when given the choice, what will you choose to do?   We are all destined for an ending and that is part of life, we are born and we live and we die.   Sometimes, I think we forget about the dying part or on the other end of the spectrum we focus too much on dying.   Regardless, we still have choices and opportunities.  We can choose to get up when we fail and we can choose to share our failures along with our success.  In fact, if we shared more of our failures we might give others an opportunity to learn from these and they could achieve their dreams or desired outcome that much faster.  (See blog on learning from failures)

Speaking to the Mind

Our humanity often gets in the way of logic.   There are multiple types of intelligence, speaking to the mind or logical aspect of ourselves limits our ability.  That being said, logic is important and needed as if we were running around simply making emotional decisions all the time, what would the world look like?  War, famine, divorce, disease, power hungry people, I apologize as I digress.  We need to use math, analytics, and science to address universal truth.   Things make sense often because there is logic behind them not because they “feel good” and this is the part of the story of working out loud.  

In Practice

As I have written, I like to consider if I were reading these words, how would I use them?   How could I find benefit in my daily life?  How could I find benefit at work?  We spend a lot of our time at work or working, or so it seems, at least in the US.  I would hope that it is for something beyond simply punching a card and getting a paycheck to be a cog in the great corporate machine.   Here are a few things I do to work out loud while speaking to the heart and mind:

  1. Write a narrative:  For everything I do, there is a story,  I spend some time with my team writing a short narrative of what we are doing and why.  I also look to identify the outcome of the work and measure it.    It is normally no more than 2 pages and it is accessible to everyone in the organization.
  2. Meetup: I meet with people often and I listen to their stories.  I look to find common bonds and/or opportunities to share something I know or learn from them.  
  3. Advocate:  As I have written in past blogs, I advocate for others and myself, but this comes in the form of both written and oral history.
  4. I write: I try to write at least once a week for myself and I look at this as an opportunity to learn and share.
  5. Consider my purpose:  I don’t know why people get to stay or go.  I don’t know why we wind up where we are and why fate has us here.   I believe that I have purpose and when I don’t know what it is in the big design, I consider the small things.    When I was a baby I came down with the flu.  We were scheduled to fly to Miami to see our family in Florida.  My parents chose to cancel our flight and I can tell you that my father is a person who would take high consideration to make this choice.   The plane crashed and everyone on board died.   Maybe in another universe I was on that plane but in this one, I am here and I have things to do.   I consider my purpose often and work hard to remind myself that today is a gift and not a promise.  

In practice, it is the small acts that matter. Consider that working out loud is part of this practice and it is just like exercise.   We know that it is healthy to do all the time, and we have no need to wait until the day that we have more time to do it.

Working Out Loud: Advocate (Part 3 of 5)

Howie Advocate

Show up whenever possible. (Part 1)
Ask to speak with senior leaders; chances are they will see you. (Part 2)
Advocate for yourself and others. (YOU ARE HERE PART 3)
Speak to the heart and mind.
Have faith and courage.

Part 3 “Advocate”

Politicians are often heard touting about themselves in order to prove their value. In recent times, we have seen an interest in people like Donald Trump and he is sure making a case for himself. If anything, you know his name and you are aware that he has made a lot of money in business. Consider that he has made a career of raising awareness of his brand. In our world, a person that is perceived as a “nobody” has to become a “somebody” or wind up as “anybody.”

A lot of us aren’t politicians or branding experts and when I walk into a room, people generally don’t know who I am. I really don’t like to write about myself and if someone asked me to do it a few years ago, it would have felt that it was more like a chore than a pleasurable event. What I have learned is that when I started thinking about and writing about people that I appreciate, there was a positive impact on me. It was much easier for me to see what others have done. I was able to learn more about myself in the process and as a result of my writing about them, people learned something about me. It has become part of my life at home and in business to advocate for others given the opportunity. I have had the benefit and honor of others advocating for me as well. It feels good to have someone help you but as you may know, it feels great to help others and learn through the process.

Working Out Loud and Raising Awareness

What is that story of you? In order to help others and advocate for yourself, it is important to start practicing. There are many ways to start and I am sharing, some of the things I do that have consistently worked for me.

  1. One of the first things you can do that is fairly easy and productive is to write three types of resumes. I will have a follow up blog about writing resumes and more details on what each type looks like, but for this blog, what you need to understand is that going through the process of thinking about your history is helpful and knowing your own accomplishments is important.
    1. Super type – This is the short history of nearly everything about me.
    2. Referral – This is used for customization when someone asks, “Did you ever…?”
    3. General – This is what the public sees on LinkedIn or other places that have information about me.
  2. Make a presentation about yourself and share it with people who know you. If you want some examples, let me know and I will share or send them to you.
  3. Start a blog or write for someone else. You can use many services http://topsitesblog.com/blog-websites/ or you can write on a friend’s blog as a guest writer. You can also write on LinkedIn.
  4. Write recommendations for others both inside and outside your organization. When someone does something for me at work, I will write his or her leadership about it. I write constructive thank you notes to people outside of work as well. It is important to recognize and reflect how people have a positive impact on your life. I have written about people who are living and people who have passed away as well “Remember Arden
  5. I also work to practice what I would call “respectful connections” where I ask people if it ok to advocate for them. There are people for one reason or another who don’t want anyone to know too much about them. I know a few Intel guys who don’t go on any social media or use email or phones (just kidding on the phones). They like to keep a low profile and I respect that.

If you have any questions or comments, post them. If you would like some examples of anything I brought up here, let me know and I will be happy to send them.

Part 4.. Speak to the heart and mind

Nelson Mandela said, “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

Working Out Loud: Speaking to Leadership (Part 2 of 5)

anchoredSpeaking with Leadership and Working Out Loud

Part 2 “Speak Up”

  1. Show up whenever possible (Part 1)
  2. Ask to speak with senior leaders; chances are they will see you. 
  3. Advocate for yourself and others. (Part 3)
  4. Speak to the heart and mind. (Part 4)
  5. Have faith and courage. (Part 5)

“Senior leadership isn’t interested in what I have to say.”
“They (leaders) don’t care what we think.”
“We are just the hired help here.”
“I don’t have time and I am not really motivated”
“I have tried before and it didn’t work.”

I hear phrases like this often. I have heard people say what they can’t do and what leaders aren’t willing to do for most of my career. What I have found is that people make assumptions about leaders based on their personal perspective. The reality may be very far from a personal truth. In fact, there are many reasons why leaders want to hear from their staff. It is important to take into consideration that everyone is different and that organizational cultures are different. We have to be mindful of the approach in every organization but in my experience there are good people who are willing to spend time learning from their peers and staff.

**Note: When you are Working Out Loud, there should be a clear purpose articulated. It helps filter noise to signal as people try to gain clarity on your message.

Working Out Loud and Senior Leadership

A few years ago, my team was working on a project that would help grow business for our company. We were beyond excited and ready to get started. We had a client, a plan and support from our immediate leadership. Our team worked in a very specific business area; we were specialized to an extent. Our client / customer base was part of a specific practice in our company. When we discovered and developed this new opportunity, we thought that our company would jump all over it. We also thought that they had a process that we could follow or learn. We were wrong.

There wasn’t a process or practice we could follow and what followed was a series of rejection and overall negativity that could have stopped us in our tracks but that didn’t happen. Here is what we did.

  1. Read, Study, Learn, Write: Our team started working the 42nd hour in other words; we spent a lot of time working after hours. I don’t think we went Elon Musk but we met up, read books on the subject of interest, and we met with other industry experts and worked hard to write multiple aspects of a business case. On Sunday mornings I would blog about some of the things I learned but I would keep my writing generic to an extent. Our team figured that anything we were learning along the way could benefit others as well as ourselves. Writing also helped sharpen our understanding of the work and presented an opportunity for experts to help us.
  2. Shaping the Story: Who you are and what you do are important. Your company hired you for reasons beyond your knowledge, skills and abilities. You found a way to fit in and you are part of an organizational ecosystem. What does that mean? What is the story of you? We started by rewriting our resumes and we created multiple versions. We also wrote short biographies and created some high level presentations around our thinking.
  3. Learning Leadership: The corporate intranet is treasure trove of information. Every large organization I have worked with has a lot of information about their leadership in org charts but they also may have articles and biographies. The first thing I do is research both internal and external inter and intranet resources to learn about senior leaders. It is also general practice for me to know the people I work for directly. **note: Sometimes even leadership needs leadership.
  4. Schedule Interviews: Starting with my direct supervisor, we scheduled 10 minute phone calls or quick meet ups to discuss our ideas. In our case our supervisor was pretty excited about what we were doing. It was the next level up where we started to run into challenges but we scheduled meetings there too. When they didn’t want to meet, we scheduled meetings with their peers and folks above them. On one occasion, we scheduled a meeting with the most senior partner of our firm. When our peers and leaders told us that it would be impossible to reach him, we reached out to his Executive Admin and asked for help. We had an in person meeting scheduled almost immediately.
  5. Leverage the Network: We used our internal social network to build community connections. Our organization had over 22,000 people including a multinational presence. We used our understanding of community management and social networking to discuss our ideas. We asked for help in our communities and we were active contributors. We used the concept of “batching” work.

Nothing is Easy

Our team turned an opportunity into a great deal of money.  It wasn’t easy; it took hard work and a lot of writing. We also had a lot of rejection. Many folks in middle management rejected us even when we offered our work as part of a partnership. For every few that rejected us, we found friends and champions.

The most compelling aspect of this story is when we traveled to visit the senior partner. In hand we had a few slides talking to our thinking. We had sent some read ahead material that he didn’t have a chance to look at. We had a few discussions with his EA to learn about the best way to communicate with him. We sat down in his office and he asked, “How can I help you?” We were ready to answer that question. He listened intently, gave us direction and proceeded to help us. He also mentioned in our discussion that he had wished others would reach out to him. Most often, it is lonely place at the top with a lot of information prepared and filtered. We didn’t have a problem sharing our perspective and he used that perspective to help shape some of his strategic initiatives.

Part 3.. Advocate for yourself and others..

What is that story of you?

What can you do to advocate for yourself and others?

Why is it important to advocate for others at times over yourself?

What are tools that you can use?

How can this be applied to your business or organization?

Working Out Loud: Show Up (Part 1 of 5)

This is a five part series about working out loud and engaging people across multiple organizations in order to tackle tough problems in knowledge management.

Showing Up and Working Out Loud

  • Show up whenever possible. 
  • Ask to speak with senior leaders, chances are they will see you.
  • Advocate for yourself and others.
  • Speak to the heart and mind.
  • Have faith and courage.

Part 1 “Show Up” In you We Trust

If you are invisible, no one can see you.  If you are quiet, no one can hear you.  If you aren’t present, you can’t be felt.  

After 9/11 the Pentagon had a lot of work to be done beyond just rebuilding the walls.   The impact of the attack had disrupted what we held as fact and truth.   It took an emotional and psychological toll on many people and it reshaped the reality of war at home. Something interesting happened during and after this event that changed the way I understood leadership.   Some leaders that I expected strength from chose to step back and become quiet, while others gained clarity, focus and resolve and chose to step up.

Stepping up meant showing up, making yourself visible was risky and took courage.  The war on terrorism is still a hot button topic by 2005 we were still seemingly reacting and responding with a great deal of emotion.  People are very passionate around this subject and passion may not always convey to good decision making.   This being the case, any approach to help with this subject area had to be carefully examined and measured.    As my old friend Vince said “Cohen, attacking a nat with a baseball bat may not get you the desired result you seek.”

Trust is Tied to Knowledge   

When I first stepped inside the Pentagon, I could see the damage that was left over from the devastating attack on our country, our people.   I had this feeling that overwhelmed me and I was overcome by feelings that I didn’t understand or have words to describe.   As I tried to contain myself I was reminded verbally by my Chief Division Officer why I was there at the Pentagon in the first place.  He said “The men and women of this nation make critical decisions for the safety and well-being of our warfighters here in these walls; I understand how you feel and this is why I brought you.”  

Walking through the small passageways of the Pentagon, I thought about our long drive, sitting through traffic.   It could be 4 hours or more each way on a good day.   He did this drive at least a few times a week just to make sure he was physically present.

We walked into a room filled with defense leadership and supporting cast members end to end,  there was a large long rectangular wooden table with senior leaders sitting and most others standing up against the wall.    After general practice and introductions there was silence.  I was looking around at the fine grain wood, paintings and designations on the walls.   There is history in every nook and corner of this building.  It is almost like going through a museum and art gallery at the same time.  Being in the room itself makes you feel as if you are part of this history.

They introduced my senior leader to the group with natural formality and gave him the floor to speak.  I can share the spirit of what he said in that room on that day.

We understand that there are things that we don’t know and we don’t ask.  We make the same mistakes over and again with assured confidence and certainty.  We make the same mistakes over again because even when we have our lessons learned, we don’t use them to prevent us from making poor choices.    Our great service men and women deserve better. They deserve our willingness to say that we don’t know.   We have to make both informed and uninformed decisions but we have a responsibility to them, to ask the questions and gain as much knowledge as we can.   We have to work together and be a joint force to accomplish this and we have to build trust across the services.   We can do these things with enterprise architectures.  We can do these things with knowledge fed to us with and for purpose for reuse across all of the services.

In his presentation and discussion his only request was for people to use our architecture tools and approach to pull together and share content in context for operations, decision making and analysis.

We were there to build trust and build knowledge through these trusted relationships. The high level objective was to learn and share in order to raise awareness with partners. The knowledge would then be used and reused to help reduce risk, save money and increase opportunities for operational and mission success.  My Chief didn’t stop here, he traveled and spoke with hundreds of people.   His message was known by all of his team and we were all encouraged to share information and help build a coalition with partners from various domains.  

We seek to “Help those who eat the MRE’s.”   (MRE= Meals ready to eat)

Showing Up is 

Showing up is a critical first step in the knowledge management practice.   Most leaders don’t have time to read.  I know how that sounds but it is true.   Chances are they will make time to meet if they are given a good reason.  That meeting is critical to both you and leadership.  It could be an opportunity to move forward with your ideas or fail fast and move on.

Part 2..  

“Senior leadership isn’t interested in what I have to say.”

“They (leaders) don’t care what we think.”

“We are just the hired help here.”

“I don’t have time and I am not really motivated”

“I have tried before and it didn’t work.”

Sound familiar.. will talk more about this next week.