Working Out Loud: Relationships and Legacy

Last week was celebrated as International Working Out Loud Week.

For those of you who are new to this, Working Out Loud is a practice of sharing your work/work in progress with a relevant community to enable learning and collaboration.

It is about being vulnerable and putting yourself, your lessons out there in communities for others to contribute and consume. It is a great way to leverage wisdom of community to improve your own work, contribute to a community that shares your purpose and build relationships based on ideas.

I started this blog in April 2006 to simply document my lessons in leading people, projects and improvement initiatives. Along the journey, I learned that if I want people to read and share their comments, I will have to do the same. And that’s how this cycle of creation, curation and contribution started. My practice of sharing what I learn along the way for last 11 years has served me (and hopefully others) well.

This journey has allowed me to live some of the five elements of working out loud: being visible, connected, generous, curious and purposeful. And all the amazing folks I interact with, communities that feed my thinking and opportunities that come my way are only happy by-products of this journey.

When introducing November 2017 #WOLWeek, Simon Terry wrote a post about how working out loud is a way to deepen relationships and create a legacy. Here is a quick sketch note version with key ideas from his post.

I encourage you to visit wolweek.com for amazing insights and resources to inspire you to work out loud.

BONUS:

Here’s a sketchnote on five elements of working out loud with insights by John Stepper:

The 9 Rules of Innovation by Greg Satell

Innovation is perhaps the most used word in corporate boardrooms today. Start ups are organized around a brand new idea but they often stumble when it comes to execution. Big companies have all the required resources, but also a lot of red-tape and resistance to change.

Add to this, the challenges of hyper-competitive landscape, organization cultures, shortage of talent and agility to move swiftly and the challenge of innovation compounds.

Moreover, innovation is not as simple as having fresh ideas and executing them well. It actually stems from having a deep and wide understanding of problem and domain at hand and it takes years to get to that understanding. Also, innovation doesn’t always mean a flashy new idea. Innovation can take many forms from operational innovation to business models and creating platforms.

In 2016, I had read an excellent article by Greg Satell that outlined “The 9 Rules of Innovation”. The post provides a rich context to the topic of how to innovate.

Here is a snippet from the post that underlines the fact that innovation requires us to pursue width of understanding and not just depth:

Darwin’s theory of natural selection borrowed ideas from Thomas Malthus, an economist and Charles Lyell, a geologist. Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA was not achieved by simply plowing away at the lab, but by incorporating discoveries in biology, chemistry and x-ray diffraction to inform their model building.

Great innovation almost never occurs within one field of expertise, but is almost invariably the product of synthesis across domains.

Greg cites example of Google to outline the 70/20/10 rule which I so agree with. He says,

The premise of the rule is simple. Focus 70% of your resources in improving existing technology (i.e. search), 20% toward adjacent markets (i.e. Gmail, Google Drive, etc.) and 10% on completely new markets (i.e. self-driving cars).

And finally, a nugget of wisdom that outlines the path to success in a networked world:

In a networked world, the surest path to success is not acquiring and controlling assets, but widening and deepening connections.

I encourage you to read Greg’s post and here is my sketch note synthesis of key ideas from the post. The post also has a wonderful sketchnote drawn my Mauro Toselli, who has been an inspiration in my own sketchnote journey:

Also Read at QAspire.com

5 Elements of Working Out Loud by @JohnStepper

When I started this blog in 2006, I only thought of it as a repository of my own lessons as a new manager. Little did I know that this space will become one of the most important learning and sharing tools for me over years.

The benefits of putting myself out there in a way that it helps others has been immense both intrinsically and extrinsically. I have evolved as a professional and human being writing this blog, sharing my work and getting plenty of constructive feedback and validation in return.

Along the way, the topics I covered on this blog also became starting point of many enriching conversations offline and enabled deep relationships with others based on ideas.

John Stepper defines this as working out loud:

Working out loud is an approach to building relationships that can help you in some way. It’s a practice that combines conventional wisdom about relationships with modern ways to reach and engage people. When you work out loud, you feel good and empowered at the same time.

Learning is a social act and sharing our work, building relationships and feeding our communities are at the heart of how we should learn. Technology and social media only accelerates the process of sharing beyond boundaries and amplifies our reach.

John Stepper outlines five elements of working out loud that addresses the “why” of working out loud and here is a quick sketch note outlining these five elements. Please read the original post for more elaboration from John Stepper.

 

To add to this conversation, here is a sketch note on “How to Work out Loud” with insights from John Stepper. I am so grateful to John for having included this sketch in his recent TEDx Navesink talk.

 

Related Reading at QAspire:

5 C’s for Great Talent

What do you look for when you look for talent?

Competence is the key to solving problems but competence alone is not sufficient for success. In current context, I would define talent as a combination of competence, commitment, learning agility, attitude/character, communication skills, ability to collaborate across different cultures, critical thinking and creative problem solving.

Back in 2010, I interviewed John Spence on this blog when he released his new book titled Awesomely Simple – Essential Business Strategies For Turning Ideas Into Action. The book offers great ideas to simplify work life which I often refer.

In the same year 2010, American Management Association released result of their Critical skill survey which outlined Creativity, Communication, Collaboration and Critical Thinking as key skills for future success.

In the book, John defines business success as a combination of culture and great talent, and further offers 5 C’s of Great Talent, which I found very useful. 

Here is a quick sketch note version of 5 C’s of Great Talent.

Related Reading at QAspire: Skills For Future Success in a Disruptive World of Work

Six Rules to Simplify Work

Most re-organization efforts either focus on hard stuff (processes, strategy, structure, KPI’s) or on soft stuff (culture, values, relationships, feelings). I have seen very few reorganization efforts in my career that are focused on the most important aspect of how value is delivered to customers: Simplicity

Simplicity stems from decentralization of power. “New Power” as they call it, is all about empowering people, creating conducive ecosystems for performance, learning collectively and encouraging collaboration. Most complexity in organization is introduced in an attempt to centralize power. The focus then is on adding more checks, processes, structures, metrics, KPI’s, incentives, coordinating offices and such.

Yesterday, I saw a very interesting TED talk by Yves Morieux (Boston Consulting Group) where he says,

Complicatedness: This is your battle, business leaders. The real battle is not against competitors. This is rubbish, very abstract. When do we meet competitors to fight them? The real battle is against ourselves, against our bureaucracy, our complicatedness. Only you can fight, can do it.

The talk sets the context on how organizations increase complexity and offers useful ideas on how work can be simplified. Here are my notes from the talk and I recommend you watch this insightful and provocative talk to gain a more well rounded view.

More Posts on Simplicity at QAspire

Indispensable Traits of a Collaborative Leader: Part 3


“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” — Ryunosuke Satoro

Generally, traits such as vision, charisma, thinking, intellect, decisiveness, clarity, confidence and action-orientation characterize leadership. All of these are important and necessary, but not sufficient. The biggest challenge for a collaborative leader is to drive results from a diverse set of people across geographies who may or may not have a direct reporting relationship with the leader. Leading in such a distributed and diverse environment demands one key skill which, in a way, binds everything else. That leadership skill is “self-awareness”.

(Revisit the series so far)

Collaborative leaders are self-aware and know themselves. Self awareness is a continuous and growing understanding of one’s strengths, weaknesses, emotions, moods, values, attitudes and personality traits. On one hand, higher awareness of the self lends leader, the much required confidence and power through their strengths. On the other, it also keeps them reminded them of their own vulnerabilities and blind spots. Self awareness plays a central role in a leader’s ability to articulate vision, form strategies, drive motivation and energize the team. In a cut-throat business environment where leaders are expected to work round the clock, taking quality time out for self-reflection is so crucial to build self-awareness.

“Every human has four endowments – self-awareness, conscience, independent will  and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom…The power to choose, to respond, to change” – Stephen Covey

They are aware about others. Understanding of others is as important for a collaborative leader as understanding of the self. It is when a leader understands and plays by the strengths of people while complementing their weaknesses that they deliver exceptional results. Equipped with this understanding of others, they can allocate talent better to ensure that strengths complement weaknesses. With an open mind and acceptance of diversity, collaborative leaders constantly tune their leadership style to ensure that collective strengths outweigh weaknesses by a margin. Understanding of others also enables them to be empathetic in their approach when dealing with others.

They seek feedback. One of the most powerful ways for collaborative leaders to understand how they are perceived is to seek feedback. Collaborative leaders establish formal and informal forums to get the feedback from team members at all levels within the team through open ended questioning and careful listening. One of the ways to also get feedback is to ‘feel’ the behavior of team members with the leader and with each other.

They are culturally sensitive. The arena for leadership today is global and demands a very high degree of cultural awareness, sensitivity and emotional intelligence. While living in a different country or speaking a foreign language may not be always possible, it is always possible to understand the key cultural drivers, communication specifics and ways to build meaningful connections with others.

In the next post, we will look at a set of collaborative leadership traits that enable readers in fostering true collaboration. Stay tuned!

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In the series so far:

The Foundation of Collaborative Leadership

Indispensable Traits of a Collaborative Leader: Part 1

Indispensable Traits of a Collaborative Leader: Part 2

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Photograph by: Tanmay Vora

Indispensable Traits of a Collaborative Leader: Part 1

Being in a band is always a compromise. Provided that the balance is good, what you lose in compromise, you gain by collaboration. —Mike Rutherford

At the core of being an effective leader is ability to analyze the situation and then lead in the most appropriate manner which is best suited for that situation. A leader knows that there is no single optimal style to lead everything. Experts have defined this as “situational leadership.”

In that context, not all situations demand collaborative leadership. There are situations when directive leadership is required and the ones where focus is on coaching and supporting. Collaborative leadership style works best in almost all situations but in following scenarios, it becomes very essential.

  1. When there are team members/stakeholders with diverse interests.
  2. When team members/stakeholders are cross-functional and geographically distributed.
  3. When the problem at hand requires effort from diverse groups/communities to solve.
  4. When a leader does not have formal authority over the people involved in the team.
  5. When complex problems require everyone’s creativity and insights.

However, one thing is clear – pure command and control leadership where people are simply expected to follow the instructions does not work anymore. Even when other leadership styles are adopted, the collaborative elements of leadership are still a vital source of competitive advantage as a leader, as a team and as a business.

What makes a leader collaborative? What are the absolutely essential traits of a collaborative leader? Let’s dive into what I call “indispensable traits of a collaborative leader”. In a series of posts, we will cover traits that make leaders truly collaborative.

1. They are passionate about the cause: Without passion for the intended outcome, no amount of collaboration will yield desired results. Before even initiating, a collaborative leader gets absolutely convinced about the desired outcomes and value they will add to the business. This clarity is important because vision, outcomes and benefits have to be re-iterated (read sold through influence) constantly through the execution. This clarity is the glue that keeps team focused on the results.

2. They lead their own selves before leading others. Unless a leader knows the self better, understanding others is very difficult. Collaboration with others requires prompt responses, focus on objectives, relationship building, creativity and perceptive abilities. The only way to lead others is to lead self – explore the self constantly and keep learning.

3. They look at “power” differently. For a collaborative leader, definition of power is to empower others. A collaborative team is the one where power is decentralized and everyone owns the final outcome. This also requires a collaborative leader to give up on their ego and need to be “in control”. They understand that “power with people” > “power over people”

4. They listen. Really. If a leader does not know how to listen, collaboration fails. Everyone wants to express themselves and be understood. A collaborative leader fulfills this essential human need by listening – what is being said and what is left unsaid. What is said through words and what is said between those words. All that is said through the body-language and tone of language.

5. They are generous in sharing credits. This also goes back to power. This is also perhaps the most difficult part. When team achieves great feats, it is easy for a leader to fall into a temptation to take credits when they should be generously sharing them. They recognize performance, remain thankful of others contributions and let the team be proud about themselves.

6. They know how to balance tasks and relationships. The objective of leading others is to generate results and get the tasks done without adversely affecting the relationships. Relationships are important, but not at the cost of progress. Excessive focus on relationships means that a leader becomes weak and tries to avoid conflict. The key is to remain objective in communication and constantly align others to the vision, mission and values.

In the next post, we will outline 6 more traits that make a collaborative leader successful. Stay tuned!

Tell us what you think about the 6 traits outlined above. What would you like to add?

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In the series so far:

The Foundation of Collaborative Leadership

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Stay Tuned! Subscribe via RSS, Connect via Facebook or Follow us on Twitter. You can also subscribe to updates via email using the section at the bottom of the page

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Photograph by: Tanmay Vora, Seagulls

Collaborative Leadership at AIMA Blog

I was invited to write a series of articles on the topic “Indispensable Traits of a Collaborative Leader” for the blog of All India Management Association (AIMA). Since 1957, All India Management Association (AIMA) is functioning as an apex body of management with over 30,000 individual members, 3000 institutional members and 62 Local Management Association across India and overseas.

My first post in the series outlines the foundation of collaborative leadership. While you can check out the complete post at AIMA’s blog, here is a short excerpt:

“If trust is the currency of a collaborative team, communication is the way to build it. It is only when a team frequently communicates, provides clarity, clarifies vision, shares ideas, extends their lessons and outlines problems clearly that they can really collaborate. Leaders in a collaborative environment need to be transparent and conscious about cultural aspects of communication. They need to offer a compelling view of the future (vision) to engage the energies of people.”

One question that comes to my mind is, “In a knowledge world, can we really lead others without being collaborative?” The first response from the gut is “No”. In this series at AIMA blog, I look forward to dig into this question and think about key traits of a collaborative leader.

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Graceful Leadership 101 – in Gujarati language

In 2012, I wrote Graceful Leadership 101 (Free PDF Download) – a running list of simple (and common-sense) ideas that can help leaders become more graceful. Mr. Ashok Vaishnav, who is a regular reader of this blog and a blogger himself translated these ideas in Gujarati language and did a fantastic job at retaining the underlying emotion of each point. The translated version was published recently on a regional portal “Aksharnaad.com”. Please check it out if you are a Gujarati. Love the way how ideas spread!

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