Need your help achieving my dream

ted_logo Sure this dream is not really on a par with Martin Luther King Jr. or anything, but it’s still a dream.

I really want to get to a TED Conference in person.  I mentioned this here and here.

Yes, I know this is totally out of my league, and yet I also know that this is something that will be life changing for me and overall a good idea.

Here is the why something like TED is a uniquely good idea for me

  • I love looking at things in a new way — most things I’ve seen recently that have really gotten me thinking have been from TED
  • I love the energy and thinking I do at conferences.  There is something in the process that really works for me.  I get most all my big ideas at conferences and it’s almost always the sum of a lot of little inputs vs. just one talk or presentation or person
  • I love learning new stuff — I really thrive on gathering new ideas, facts, etc
  • I use what I learn in action-oriented, creative ways.  I make connections others don’t and use those connections to do something specific, concrete and useful.
  • I share what I learn.  I blog it, I talk about it I send emails that simultaneously blow peoples minds and bore them to tears.

Sure, all the above bullets probably cement my brand as a geek but I’m no longer in middle school and I think being a geek is cool.

Here’s what I’m not

Particularly well connected in a way that would get me to TED and I’m also not the best essay writer.

Here’s what I’ve done.

  1. Joined the Online Community
  2. Started following the TED twitter accounts here and here
  3. Subscribed to the blog
  4. Printed out the application and freaked out
  5. Targeted the TedActive conference since a) it’s still open for 2010 registration and b) I suspect it’s a little more open to “unknowns”

Here’s what I need

  1. Some good suggestions on how to best “stand out” with the questions below
  2. Ideas on things I could do in addition to the list above
  3. Someone(s) to review my profile and give me ideas to make it better, especially looking for things I’ve left off
  4. An idea on how to pick references (I need two).   What kind of references would appeal to the people deciding Ted attendance?

Here is the application questions (remember I want suggestions that are true about me, I’m not looking for textbook perfect answers or anything just better ways to describe me)

  1. If a friend were to describe your accomplishments in up to three sentences what would s/he say?
  2. What other achievements would you like to share?
  3. What are you passionate about (work, creative output, issues, communities…)
  4. What do we need to know about you that we didn’t ask?
  5. (Optional) Can you share a memorable anecdote from your life that will give us a further sense of what makes you tick?

Thanks in advance for helping with Team Meg!  Direct email responses are also welcome.

Fixing flaws might require help

99668067_49953b19e2Amy’s post suggested that we cannot actually ignore our flaws, if they are holding us back, we have to fix them.   I’m sure we all know that is hard.

I have recently decided that one of the reasons it’s hard, is that we keep trying to fix the problem the same way, decide it doesn’t work, and get into a frustration loop.

To illustrate my point, I have another great “Meg can be clueless sometimes” story.  What can I say?  As the heroine in my own novel, I’m a walking wealth of material.

One of the problems with blogging,  is that people might expect you to have decent grasp of grammar.  In my case, I have two fundamental issues with grammar, well, other than never actually “getting it”.

First, I am a bad speller.  This isn’t too big of a problem since there is spellcheck.  This catches the majority of the issues for me and the rest I blame on typos.

Second, I forget things like commas.  This I [mostly] solve by adding a lot of them randomly prior to publish,  hoping no one will notice those that are misplaced and/or missing. [Seriously, the edit process for me typically involves inserting a handful of commas and hoping for the best].

I am also on the lookout for rationalization opportunities, so god bless Penelope Trunk, who told me it’s not important.

Here is the problem, sometimes flaws  sneak out even when we try to mask them.   One of my grammar problems was kindly pointed out to me by my buddy Marcie.  The problem was, my seeming lack of comprehension of a difference between then and than.  Well more accurately, I didn’t seem to realize there were two different words, I only seemed to acknowledge the existence of then [since all coders know it could never be if/than (!)].    Marcie was even nice enough to give me dictionary links to both words, attempting to help me fix this problem.

OK, so now I knew of a problem and was intent to fix it, but I soon realized that the definitions didn’t help me.

In an attempt do something,  I first tried getting comfortable with the word than.  Since it had been under served in the past, I promoted it to prime time and used it instead.  Interestingly, more people noticed that mistake (I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has this problem) and now I was getting more frequent you keep using that word notes.

As I do, I started to ask for more people to help me figure this out (and fix it) and my buddy Louise, made an interesting observation that: Americans pronunciation of then and than are almost identical.

As an auditory learner, I have actually managed to merge the two words into one in my own head.  In fact, the majority of my spelling problems are not really phonics problems as I had always thought, they are pronunciation problems.

When I started hearing Louise’s voice saying then vs. than in my head (yes there are a LOT of voices in my head, don’t judge!) I was on my way to being fixed.  I now read the word correctly, and therefore have context understanding that I can use to my benefit.

The point of this post, is not to bore you with the inner workings of the voices in my head, but to suggest that sorting out the root of the problem, for you, can be very helpful in finding a fix that actually works.

Odds are, the only way you can get to that is getting observations from others, since you are probably not aware of what you are doing in the first place.  Just more evidence that you really do need a team you to help you succeed.

Oh, and now that I’m on to this pronounciation thing, I’m going to take another swing at affect vs. effect (which both sound like uh-fect in my world).  I’m going to give them a long “a” and a long “e” sound and see if I can’t suss out a way to ever use the word affect correctly.    Can’t hurt to try.

Feminist serendipity

Snap1Believe it or not I try to shy away from a feminist agenda with my blogging.  Typically I only resort to it when I’m completely lost for material.    This week, I couldn’t help but wonder what the world was up to when I found myself stumbling upon several items covering the topic.

So I put my dilemma out to my friends and everyone said I should give it a go.  So here you are, what I’ve learned this week about Women and leadership.

First from our friends at they cover the top 10 unwritten rules for working women.  My take away from this one is that the speak up more advice should go double for women.

Next, thanks to @LexyMartin for pointing to the Shriver Report that shows that today women are more than 50% of the workforce (up from 1/3 in 1967) and that in 2/3 of the families women are primary or co-breadwinners, in other words, we are not just working in larger numbers, we need to be working to make ends meet.  The recession is making it more pronounced when 3/4 of the jobs lost since Dec 2007 have been by men.  In addition women are getting equal (or better) opportunities when it comes to education.

Women receive 52 percent of high school diplomas, 62 percent of associate’s degrees, 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 50 percent of doctoral degrees and professional degrees.

Next, I read the McKinsey report on Centered Leadership where they had some excellent advice for professional women in leadership. I really loved the charter of this study

Women start careers in business and other professions with the same level of intelligence, education, and commitment as men. Yet comparatively few reach the top echelons.

This gap matters not only because the familiar glass ceiling is unfair, but also because the world has an increasingly urgent need for more leaders. All men and women with the brains, the desire, and the perseverance to lead should be encouraged to fulfill their potential and leave their mark.

The five broad dimensions they cover include

And finally the October version of the Talent Management magazine has it’s cover article titled “It’s a man’s world” where they make the assertion that a “female friendly company” is more gender balanced, having, on average 52% women employees vs. 38% in a male dominated firm.  It also suggests that you must deliberately fill the pipeline with women.

So where do I find myself as a result of all this reading?

Probably back where I started actually.  I am inclined to tell my girls how lucky they are to be young now.  That the opportunities for girls are greater today than ever before.  I also think that it is up to those of us in the workforce today, to continue to re-define the stereotype of what it means to be a working woman, mother, etc.

I believe that those strong women who have made the leap from worker-bee to leader, from doer to thinker have done all women a service.  I think that each of us have a responsibility to use our talents to the fullest, to continue to make progress for all women and to set new examples for the next generation about women in leadership.

Anything else is just complaining.

What do you think?

Good management is not about being fair

Book.itsnotfair I must first confess that fairness is not a core value of mine.  I know people for which being fair is important, but I’ve never experienced or expected fairness, so I do not empathize that need.  If fairness is an important core value of yours, it might be best to just skip this post and come back another day.

That’s not to say that people were especially mean to me or anything, it’s just that I’m the youngest, and in that role you learn rather quickly that life is not fair.  You are slower, you are not old enough, you are not invited, etc. etc.  Now, as a parent of two, I realize that fair is the least common denominator solution (and one I confess I resort to a lot more in parenting than I do in management but that is a different blog!).

As a manager, I do not believe that fairness is the goal.  I believe job fit and outstanding performance are.  To that end, I look to find what works with each person, and attempt to give them what they need to be their best.

Since management is about working with people and not robots, it is logical that what each person needs is not going to be the same.

When you come to terms with the fact that you are not attempting to be fair, you are let loose of a lot of unnecessary baggage with management.  You start focusing on doing the right thing and recognize that what is right, can be different for different people.

Is it easier to be fair.  Sure it is, but it is often much less effective.

Making more Top Talent with better job fit

TRAs a Maximizer theme the concept of Top Talent is an especially personal one.   In fact, I have managed to get a team of directs that are all Achievers, which was something I knew about them, before I even knew there was such a theme.

When I think about using a Talent solution to get business value, I have to know what business leaders want.  What keeps a business leader up at night? Is it wondering if their team will meet their Performance bell curve?  Or if they will be using a 3 or 5 point rating scale?  I’m guessing not.  In fact the entire performance process is a means to an end, to a business person (or conversely a PITA but I’d rather not cover that part in this blog).

What a business leader wants is to be successful.  Successful in their business, seen as capable to their leadership and exceeding on their objectives.  For business leaders to scale they need teams who are able to deliver for them.  Here is where we get back to top talent and job fit.

When people are doing the job that is best suited to their strengths, they become top talent.  Making that connection between individual motivation and job role is not just a touchy-feely ideal, it’s smart business.

The better I can position people to do what they do best, the more they do for me. The more they do for me, the more I can do for my boss and my organization.  So, to me as a business leader, the more top talent I have the more successful I am.

So what I want from a talent solution, is to help me get people aligned into job roles based upon their strengths.  When I can do this, I get all the goodness from the rest of the talent strategies.  Goal alignment and attainment become easy,  engagement improves and overall output  is optimized.

To make all this work for me, I need more data.  I need data that I have never captured before.  Not just your competencies but your strengths.  Not just your career plan, but your motivations.  The more rich data I have, the better job I can do getting people to become top talent.

So now we are back to systems and scale.  Systems today have a better ability to gather and make use of data.  With the rise of social software, and a heightened awareness of the importance of a personal brand, people are volunteering more data than ever before.

These are exciting times for those of us who are allowed to find unique opportunities between technology and business. For awhile now I’ve been anticipating a shift in what defines a talent solution.  Initially I thought it was just my own personal boredom with having done this for so long, but now I realize that what I have really been doing is a lot of thin slicing to get to the most obvious of “a ha” conclusions.

The job of a talent solution is not really to measure talent.  The goal of a talent solution is to use the measurement of talent to drive better business results.  If you are just doing the former and not getting the latter you are missing out.  It’s time to think bigger about what can and should be possible with technology.

Are you doing that today?  Is that your talent strategy?  If not why not?  What is your plan?  Hit me with the comments and give me your ideas, I promise to use them for your benefit.

Global in a flat world

images.jpegI was very impressed reading the discussion on SystematicHR about how a “Global perspective” is just that, a perspective.

What I find so interesting about the topic, is that it points out a bit of an existential question, how absolute are your absolutes? [and as a geek I love these kinds of things].

For those doing business in the US, things like EEO classifications are non-negotiable and collecting information about religion is forbidden.  While in other countries the exact opposite is true.

When designing solutions to account for these kinds of complexities, you need not only understand the rules, and how they vary from location to location, you need to empathize with the reasons behind those rules.  Why are those legislative requirements put into place?  What does that mean for the people using the system and how they see the world?

To be able to use this information in a productive way, you need to invest, this does not happen by accident.

It is for this reason that I’m so grateful that we have a global customers and a global team.  Having a global perspective is not only a competitive advantage, it is an opportunity for me to challenge what I know and learn what I do not.

Our world is changing, business is changing and what we know to be absolute must change with it or we will find ourselves on the wrong side of the Darwinian conclusion.

What’s in it for Me?

2683321458_12f0164cf8 We spend a lot of time at TalentedApps trying to think about what will make Talent Solutions actually work in real life.  We’ve come to believe that one of the biggest contributors to making a talent solution work, is to make them practical and easy.

Another important aspect, is aligning self-interest with your strategy.  There is no better motivator than self-interest, it’s self-maintaining and often free.

So the question should really be what do Employees want?  We recently heard that in the case of knowledge workers it is autonomy, mastery and purpose.

This means that it is quite important to make sure your talent strategy has a clear sense of how it will deliver these elements to every member of your workforce.

When you have aligned the need of individuals to feel good about what they do with their day, you will find the rest of your initiatives will be much easier to achieve.

How much time have you spent aligning the goals of the individual with the goals of the business? Did you really think that this would be better done by the individuals themselves?  You could leave that up to chance, but I would guess that your results might be dramatically better if you answer the question for your employees, “what’s in this for me“.

Just a suggestion.