Entries Tagged 'Life' ↓

Let others help you

I recently sat through a meeting and got a little riled up.  I may come across as pretty low key, but I take some things seriously, and every once in a while my idealistic self threatens to take over.

I was in the middle of writing up a charged email on the subject — in fact, I had edited it four times to make it seem as calm as possible while still getting my point across — when a colleague came by for a chat.  I mentioned in passing that I was thinking of sending this email, and he just shook his head.  “Not a good time,” he said.  I was frustrated, but nodded, and saved the draft and picked up something else to work on.

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Lessons from the 2016 election

Wherever you sit on the political spectrum, the increasing amount of publishing and scrutiny of (previously) private communications (from both major candidates and their parties) should be interesting. It’s not isolated to politics either; we’ve seen similar situations unfold with celebrities and movie studios. And there are lessons here for managers and for tech-savvy individuals in general which are worth examining.

There’s been significant analysis and condemnation about the wording of the emails between various DNC officials, whether it relates to bad-mouthing Bernie Sanders or unflattering characterizations of vast numbers of the voting public. The same held true during the aftermath of the Sony Pictures hack. There’s been remarkably little condemnation of the repurposing of these private communications for public analysis, though. Everyone seems to believe that the greater good (or just the greater curiosity) outweighs respecting the privacy of these communications.

This is a valuable insight into the reality of 21st century communication.

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Stephen Covey

I learned yesterday that Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, had died.  It impacted more than I thought it would.

I am not here to speak about Covey’s personal life, his religion, and so on.  But I do want to speak about what Covey meant to me and how he influenced me at a young age.

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Fifteen years!

My first day at work, according to the EMC HR department, was January 7, 1996.  Fifteen years ago today.  I think the date is wrong, since that day is a Sunday.  But the week is certainly right.

I remember the day very well … because it was my first day of “real work,” and it was a snow day.

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Personal update: putting new hats on

A while back I made kind of a big deal about getting back into the technical arena and putting away my manager hat.

Fortunately, I didn’t toss it too far aside.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in almost 15 years at EMC it’s that change isn’t disruptive to the status quo, it is the status quo.

Everything I said I was doing before, I’m still doing.  I’m wearing a lot of hats right now.  My small development team has grown as it takes on more responsibility, and I find myself playing the roles of Scrum Master, Technical Lead, and Development Manager.  Somewhere in all that I’m trying to individually contribute technically as well, but that is at the bottom of the list.

The other thing that keeps falling off the list is contributing to “the conversation” (both internally at EMC and externally on twitter and in people’s blogs).  I’m afraid that is going to be an uncomfortable reality while I try to wrap my arms around all these roles and make sure my own commitments aren’t being missed. Try not to do too much without me :).

It’s a great place to be, in the thick of the action, surrounded by good people.  I’m never bored, I’ll say that much!

How do you feel at the end of the day?

I’ve been busy lately, here on the SRM team within Ionix.  My calendar fills up fast, and I’ve been logging in nights and weekends to sneak in work on my day job, never mind my blog (which explains the real gap in activity here!).

Why the sudden burst in activity?  Why am I letting my day job run away with my life?

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The web at #20years old

When I saw the emails start floating by about EMC’s ON Magazine’s special issue about 20 years of the web, I flagged them for later attention and promptly moved on.  That may have been a mistake.  Recently, I cracked open the PDF and paged through it.  Something on every page caught my attention.  Except for a few times, I forgot I was reading something written by people at EMC.  I guiltily asked myself, “are we really this cool?”

So here, as requested by Natalie, is my version of the web at 20…

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It’s that time of year

As we enter the week of Thanksgiving, and head into the core US holiday season, we’re supposed to be thinking about giving thanks and being generous.  Of course, we’re also entering the final stretch of the quarter and the year, so we’re over-committed at work and trying to balance our obligations at home as well.  It’s a tricky time to be an effective employee.

It’s worth noting, however, that managers are also soon going to be working on annual performance reviews.  And while we all know reviews should cover the entire year’s work, often times a high-impact event at the close of the year gets some extra mental attention during this busy time.  So what can you do at work to bring a little bit of what the holidays are supposed to be about into your routine?

Be thankful

A simple “thank you” goes a long way.  A more complex “thank you” goes a little further.  “Thanks, Bill, I wouldn’t have thought of looking there, you made my day a lot easier.”  It takes 15 seconds to type that, and whoever you are thanking probably saved you more than 15 seconds.  So send the email.  Better yet, drop by their cubicle, or say something when you spot them in the hallway.

Be generous

Sitting in your inbox is that simple request.  It’ll take you a couple minutes to process it, and you have so much else going on, but it’ll really make a difference in that person’s day.  So ttop putting it off.  Set aside 5 minutes this morning to be helpful, and then go on to your “real” work.

You can also be generous with your praise.  Saying “thank you” is great, but copying the boss is generous as well.  It wins on so many levels it’s hard to even list them.  I’m not suggesting every single “thanks” needs a cc: line, but once in a while it’s a powerful tool.

It doesn’t need to be a “thanks” either.  Sometimes you can just directly tell someone about great performance by a team member.  I recently sent an email to a senior director letting him know about a great moment with someone in his organization.  His response was that he rarely receives that kind of direct feedback.  Flood your management with emails and you’ll get ignored.  Target a couple moments of high performance, though, and you’re playing with powerful tools.

Balance your life

It’s crucial now to remember your work-life balance, and that of your teammates.  Tensions may be high, and small things leap into significance. Don’t forget that for some people, the holidays are a time of joy and pleasure … while others are on an emotional rollercoaster.

As for yourself, be present at your family dinner; put down the Blackberry and enjoy the blackberry pie instead.  That email will still be there after the kids are in bed.

The great thing about gestures like this is that they multiply. You are essentially increasing the positive climate, and as a colleague of mine recently put it, when the tide rises all ships rise with it.

The most important communication skill

So much has changed about the workplace, so many of our social interactions take place in new ways. Clearly our old communication skills are going to be less important, and we’ve got to learn new ones, right? What’s the most important communication skill you can develop these days?

What if I told you it’s the same one it was a hundred years ago?


Hearing (or reading) comes naturally, but listening requires active investment.  Active listening, empathic listening, listening with intent … these do not come naturally.

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What’s the worst that could happen?

I often joke with my wife that you shouldn’t ask anyone with an engineering background “what’s the worst that could happen?”  We get paid fairly well to come up with really scary answers to that question.  She’ll often come up with something bad, only to have me top it in terrible ways.  “The worst that happens is we go to the party, don’t have fun, and go home.”  “No, the worst that happens is we’re in a car accident on our way home, which can’t happen if we don’t leave the house.”


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