Silence Is Not Agreement

10 09 2009

I Want My Money Back

Have you ever bought something from an infomercial and found out a month later that, you not only bought the item, but that you also bought a $39.99 membership that you never wanted? Well, these folks are using the awful tatic of opt out which enables them to sign you up as long as you don’t speak up and say no. It’s a terrible pratice and getting out is not an easy feat. Many times you are bounced around from person to person or told you need to put it in writing. What! Put it in writing, I didn’t have to put it in writing to get in, why do you need to put it in writing to get out. “That’s our policy sir”, says the rep on the other end of the phone.

So Quiet In Here

Now, have you ever called for a decision and drew silence from your audience? Of course you have. The question is what did you do with that response. Your action at a time like this is important. You are the decision maker and you have the power and you have voiced your opinion and know what you want to do, so you could pull the “silence is agreement” card, which essentially signs the team up for whatever decision you make without really having their input and buy-in. Sounds like the opt out tactic, does it not. At first it doesn’t seem like a big deal, because no one spoke up, You hold the decision card and are simply exercising your right, right? Well, just like when we receive that extra package attached to the infomerciap item we bought and we are upset and raising cain to get our money back, your team members will come calling sometime in the future when the decision takes a bad turn. They will let you know they want off the ride that they never signed up for in the first place. You will find yourself giving back the trust and influence currency you used when you opted them in to your decision.

Silence is a Clue

Silence is not agreement, it is a clue that somethings not right. If no one is speaking up, they may not agree or may be missing information. Many times your audience is silent because you haven’t exposed the team to the information far enough in advance to give them time to think it through. To set the stage for quick decisions, have a briefing with key stakeholders before the decision and get a feel for their potential response. If you can, get their commit before the group session. After the briefings, you will have a feel for the direction the team wants to take and will have significantly reduced the likelihood of drawing silence in decision meetings.

Advertisements




Lead With Style

2 09 2009

Inspiration

So I found quite the interesting site through a Chris Brogan tweet. JadenCraven.com and she reviewed a wonderful FREE little ebook by Steve Charzin called Marketing Apple. It so resonated with me, that I had to talk about it. You can find it at MarketingApple.com. It inspired the name of this post.

I’m A Fan

I’ve been a fan of all things Apple since my freshman year in high school. And I’ve always recognized the style leadership of Apple products. iPhone, iMac, Mac Book, Mac Air all impress me. These are the machines I play with when I’m at Best Buy. Steve confirms that Apple’s edge is Apple’s attention to style in his ebook and

Steve Knows

Steve knows what he is talking about. Just read his ebook and you’ll see what I mean. I’m such a believer that style can give a product an edge that I’m working on a product now that plays off the sleek styles of Apple products. I admittedly only own one Apple product at the time of this post which is the iPhone that I’m using to type this post. If I had my way, I would own at least one of all the Apple products, but that is quite an expensive undertaking. For me it came down to the fact that I was an engineer working for Intel Corporation and was more loyal to the brands with Intel Inside than my love for Apple. Now that Apple has Intel inside, I’m looking hard at the products again. Style creates visual stimulation which makes people want to interact with you and your product. Style makes people want to bring a product into their personal space and interact with it. This does not just pertain to products, but to anything that you want to present to an auidience.

Spotless

Ever been looking to buy a car online…how many did you look past because the picture didn’t show a shiny exterior and a spotless interior? Those owners who spent those hundreds of dollars to spruce it up no doubt got more calls and got the price they were asking for. They had what we call pride of ownership and these folks know that if the package is well polished that it is makes customer feel good about receiving the product into their lives. When a company, business, or individual leads with style, they create an emotional connection with their customers or audience. It’s a feeling, not a feature, an experience, not a solution, a community, not a product or project. Steve’s ebook is packed with excellent information, and it is also packed with style. It is a awesome combination and one that I strive to recreate in everything I do.

Connect with @chrisbrogan
@jadencraven and
@stevecharzin





Lead by Collaboration

28 08 2009

Lately, I’m hearing more and more that teams are stuck in the waterfall way of doing things when it comes to software development. Why, I say, why?

We Can Do Better

Today’s technology makes it possible to work closer with our customers so that we deliver exactly what they need instead of something that we think they are asking for. In the old model, we had to draw up a set of requirements that included every feature that could be conceived. With the technology available during that time waterfall Model made sense because we were mostly disconected from our customers with very slow Internet speeds when we were connected. The model of the Internet also was not yet one of collaboration, but more of a information display model. There were a number of computer limitations like the floppy disc with low storage capacity, database technology was in its infancy, and email was brand new. We can’t imagine the internet with such limitations today, but it had to start somewhere.

No More Limits

The most limiting factor was the fact that the network infrastructure was slow, sporadic, and costly. The fact that a business can acquire reliable high speed internet connectivity all the time is one of the biggest potential productivity boosters for business. It is especially important to the small business owner because it levels the playing field. I say that it is a potential productivity booster because a business has to recognize the power of what it has in its hand. If the methods aren’t updated to take advantage of the latest technology, then the business can no longer compete. Technology is changing at a rapid rate, but old mindsets are a little harder to change and so we make little progress compared to what we could accomplish. I work continuously with highly skilled engineers implementing the most technologically advanced systems in the world. We make the things that move the world forward by quantum leaps and yet try to hold on to large requirement docs in favor of smaller requirements with tight feedback loops. The large documents fits in a clunky disconnected computer world, but the smaller documents with frequent adjustments and constant feedback fits in todays world of thin light connected computers. We no longer need documentation that is 100 pages long upfront, but we need to start with say 10 pages and add to that over time as the project progresses. We can collaborate with customers real time using internet collaboration tools creating documentation on the fly for the next phase or feature of the project. The key to delivering exactly what the customer wants is feedback early and often.

I do think a project needs a high level view of each feature or phase from the point of conception through product delivery, but detailing every aspect is not necessary. Better to detail in windows of 2 to 3 quarters out and leaving anything past that at a high level.





Are You Listening?

7 08 2009

Listening is a vital discipline for any manager or leader. This is especially true for influence leaders.  In the beginning of a thing, whether it be a project, a social event or something else, leaders who weave active listening into their repetoire will always get a better result and come much closer in the end to what the customer, bride, manager is asking for.  And all involved with a team where the lead is a good listener will have a better disposition.  Team morale will  be higher because the influence leader knows how to consult and take the information and transform it into something tangible that will have meaniful and measureable impacts.  For instance, over my 13 years as a  lead/program manager there have been times when I’ve had to listen to team member issues “off the record” in confidence.  That meant that I  could not use the information in a way that would reveal who told me because I agreed to listen in confidence, I had to honor the request  to maintain or build further trust from that team member.  This is a very important concept because without trust you have nothing.   Revealing that team members name sometimes is tempting because it seems like the easiest way to get the job done, but it would a mistake. It violates the principle of active listening because I would only be choosing to hear what I want to hear and ignoring the fact that I was asked to keep it in confidence.  I’m not talking about anything illegal or immoral here, since of course that would be a different situation and would need to be handled differently.  I was able to take the information and influence managers to make adjustments that resulted in more efficient processes which saved time and money without ever naming anyone.  That is what influence leaders do, we actively listen, which builds a bridge of trust, which opens the lines of communication, which equips us to make positive and impactful change.





You Don’t Need a Title to Have Influence

2 08 2009

We can make a difference in this world, changing it for the better without any delegated authority whatsoever.    I want to show you that people with titles are not the only ones that can get things done.  Actually, there are folks behind the scenes with no titles at all making the world go ’round.  These are the folks who are unafraid to challenge the status quo despite their rank and file.  For these folks attitude is everything.  Take for example, President Obama when he was a community organizer on the street.  “Community Organizer”…that’s not a title, that’s a description.  He wasn’t a boss, or manager, but a leader, an “influence leader”.  He used his art of persuasion to work with the city and the people to improve the conditions.  He couldn’t call for the money needed for improvement  just by demanding that it happen as one with delegated authority, but he had to facilitate town meetings, understand motivations, fears and craft persuasive arguments to affect change a little at a time.  That type of leadership reveals a quality in influence leaders that is paramount and that is patience.

Patience is a big virtue in influence leaders because influence leaders have to first negotiate with all parties involved to bring them to the same page without the safety net of making an autocratic call.  Negotiating requires time, give and take, back and forth.   Without the patience to work through negotiations, the leader will become frustrated, annoyed, disconnected and either give up or deliver a lose/lose or win/lose resolution instead of the win/win outcome that everyone desires.  Once  a leader is in that state of mind, he is no longer an effective influence leader which brings me to another important quality found in influence leaders, listening.

Listening is a common quality among influence leaders.  People want to work with other people who will listen to them.  They want folks in their lives who will hear their side of the story.  I’m a husband and father and I understand very well how important it is to just sit and listen.  I’ve dealt with many situations at home just by hearing it out.  I didn’t have to provide a particular solution or share my brilliant insight, I just had to listen.  That is all that was required.   It is no different outside the home, because when people know that they can trust you with what they say they will tell you things that they will not tell others.   It is a safe place for them and people would rather be safe than vulnerable.  This gives the influence leader inside knowledge to make better decisions to impact the change necessary be successful.

Leaders who pratice patience and good listening skills will find themselves ahead of the game with co-workers, managers, friends, family and others.  Leaders that practice these will find that they have what is needed to influence, changing hearts and minds,  without  the traditional authoritative role.