10/21/10

Elephant Post: Name Something Transformational That You Learned From Your Boss

Thanks Boss!!
We've usually focused on the "negative" when it comes to the Elephant Posts, but this week we wanted to give our contributors a chance to "talk-up" their boss or one of their peers that had an impact on their careers.
What is one thing that you have learned from your boss that has been transformational for you?
This question brought back memories of a job interview I had once, where there was a moment when my potential boss said something to me that he doesn't remember saying, but I never forgot. Just for fun, I thought I’d do my part this week via video… and a cat… see below to see what I mean. We got a number of responses this week recalling how someone they worked with did or said something that made an impact on them.
The Library Perspective Learning To Enjoy The Ride Holly Riccio It is hard to think of one thing learned from my bosses over the course of my career as a law firm librarian, but two things stick out in my mind - one from the beginning of my career and one more recent interaction. The first thing I learned was to be a contributor to the law library community and actively engage with my professional colleagues. This was something I took to wholeheartedly and have never looked back. In fact, before I had even completed my first year of being a professional law, I was running for and then elected to the board of LLAGNY, the Law Library Association of Greater New York. I have continued to be involved in both my local chapter (now NOCALL, the Northern California Association of Law Libraries) and the national association (AALL, the American Association of Law Libraries) and take advantage of as many speaking and writing opportunities as I can find and fit into my life outside of work. It has been one of the most rewarding things about being a law librarian over the years. It has also helped me a number of times in my job, when I have called on a friend or an acquaintance for help finding something obscure or out of my usual realm. It has also provided me with opportunities to hear about other points of view on things or see how other libraries and firms do things and bring those ideas back to my job. The second thing I learned happened more recently and, in some ways, is tangentially related to the first. I was telling a work colleague that I had always had two goals from the moment I became a professional law librarian - one was to be a Library Director at a law firm and the other was to be elected to the board of AALL. I have yet to achieve either of these goals, although I have tried to get elected to the AALL board. (I ran and lost.) I am pretty sure that I will have another opportunity to run, so that one is a work in progress. As for the other goal, the comment I got back when I shared this was unexpected and quite interesting. My colleague started talking about George Clooney’s character in the movie Up In The Air. I haven’t seen the movie, so forgive me if I am not accurate in any of this, but the gist of what he was saying was that very often the thing we most want isn’t all it is chalked up to be once we achieve it, like when Clooney’s character finally reaches the 10 million mile mark for frequent-flyer miles with American Airlines. Now, I do still think that my goal of becoming a Library Director someday is one that will not disappoint me, if and when I am able to achieve it, but I did take something very important from that conversation. What I took from it was an understanding that title isn’t everything and that a lot of what one’s job consists of is what one makes of it. I have always known this, but it really hit me in this moment. What I did as a law librarian at the beginning of my career is so vastly different than what I do today and much of that is in response to how the world of law firms - and law firm libraries - has changed. I have changed as a result and grown and stretched in the process. I have had the opportunity to work on some really wonderful projects and with amazing groups and individuals that traditionally would have been outside of my “library world.” As a result of this conversation, I have resolved that I am going to make the most of any and every opportunity that either comes my way or that I can create and make sure to enjoy the ride a bit more. I am sure that this is where ultimate professional fulfillment truly lies.
Another Library Perspective
Why Do You Want To Limit Yourself To That?
video

Knowledge Management Perspective Hey Good Lookin’ Ayelette Robinson The best professional advice I’ve heard: Make the people around you look good. These words that were passed along to me encompass so much. Doing your job well is not simply about taking care of your job responsibilities or being a good team player. It’s about appreciating the 360-degree view of what you do and how it affects your colleagues, and providing exemplary (though sometimes invisible) service to those around you so that they shine to their bosses and to their colleagues. For example, doing your job is drafting the document you’re supposed to draft; exemplary service is sending it to your colleague in a mobile-device-friendly format so that she can review it between meetings while out of the office all afternoon and send her thoughts to the other stakeholders before the end of the day, without having to wait until she gets home and has access to a laptop. It’s the difference between the Motel 6 and the Ritz Carlton; you get a bed and a shower either way, but the experience is completely different. For those among us who are not completely selfless, making those around you look good has many long-term benefits: you make those colleagues feel good, which probably makes them better co-workers; they appreciate your work, which builds your relationship with them and encourages them to return the favor; and they remember your work, which is bound to enhance your reputation and open up opportunities that you wouldn’t have even imagined. So whether it’s your boss, your peer, or your supervisor, making those around you look good will make you even better lookin’.

Project Management Perspective There’s Only Two Questions You Need To Ask Toby Brown My boss was able to boil down law firm motivations to two questions.. Initially I found them a bit corny and perhaps over-simplified. However, having weighed these questions against law firm decisions over the past two years, I now hold them as gospel. He state that all firm decisions are driven by two questions. If the answer to either question is yes (or a variation of yes), a law firm will not proceed with a project, proposal or any other decision. The questions are as follows:
  1. Will this embarrass the firm?
  2. Will a partner leave the firm because of this?
Beyond the two questions, which I have found to be very useful, this thinking has fundamentally changed the way I approach ideas and proposals. Instead of over-analyzing and trying to understand all the motivations of everyone involved, I can easily weigh the prospects of a project and proceed accordingly. Simple and elegant.
Business Development / Competitive Intelligence Perspective Do… Don't Just Protect Ann Lee Gibson One of the best quotes I've ever heard was from Bill Guthner, Nossaman Managing Partner: "Do your job like you're willing to lose your job!" Meaning, do your job, don't just protect your job.
Work Environment Perspective Working With, and For Others Karen Sawatzky I had two bosses earlier in my career who made a huge difference in the way I worked. The first, Al Tupper, was a forensic engineer, and I worked as his secretary. He taught me the value of "please" and "thank you". No matter how trivial the action, he always said please and thank you. While I sometimes forget my own manners, I haven't forgotten the lesson. The second was Ian Cull. Ian hired me to start up a career resource centre. One day he said, "Hiring smart people makes you look smart." It took me a moment to realize (a) he was talking about me; and (b) he thought I was smart. He gave me the freedom to do the job as I saw fit. And it taught me what was important to me in my work environment.
Internet Marketing Perspective Sunny Side Up, Please Lisa Salazar
Smile. Smile all the time. Smile more
One of my very first bosses told me that I did a great job; she couldn't flaw me for any of my work. But I came across as too stern. I remembered being surprised by this but then realized that it was an opportunity for some real personal growth. As much as we hate to hear this, people judge us by our appearance. And it isn't just our clothes. It is our demeanor, our attitude, our--je ne sais quoi--joie de vivre. And it is something that I have to practice every day as a marketer. It has been a real lesson for me. And, speaking as a lawyer who is inclined to be extremely serious, it goes against my nature. But when I found myself moving into marketing, the ability to literally "lighten up" has become more and more important. As a project leader who often has to work across multiple departments and gain consensus on a topic that is extremely subjective (what? web site design subjective? You betcha), smiling has become an important tool in my arsenal. In fact, a Harvard Business Journal article solidified this philosophy and taught me that people would rather work with a lovable star than the incompetent jerk. So turn that frown upside-down!
Information Technology Perspective Closing the Loop - 360 Degree Customer View
Scott Preston In this context, closing the loop is a simple customerservice technique that accomplishes several things. Closing the loop gives you, the customerservice representative, an opportunity to make sure that you delivered what wasexpected. It gives you an opportunity tomake sure that no other questions or concerns have gone unanswered since youfirst took ownership of the request/task/project. It gives the customer an opportunity toverify whether he or she is indeed happy with the results and it verifies tothe customer that you understood the request, you cared about his or her needsand you saw the request through to the end. All of this is great stuff and well worth the price of admission, however,this is not the transformative part.
“The transformativepart is the idea that by closing the loop you please the customer and getcredit for the work you have done.”
Many times all the workthat goes into providing the solution goes on behind the scenes. The customer has no idea the effort taken tocomplete the task. You might havediscussed the necessary resources when the project started, but that was anestimate. When closing the loop, youhave a perfect opportunity to share the amount of effort that was given onbehalf of the customer. For even thecrankiest customers, this amount of effort is reassuring.
By closing the loop,you get confirmation from the customer that his or her needs have been met andthat you made sure it happened. Youbuild a stronger relationship and you are seen as a caring customerrepresentative that understands the business.
We are all good atgetting three quarters of the way there, but are we getting the entire 360degree experience? In IT, by the time wehave delivered the solution we were moving on to the next project. This is understandable given the number ofprojects we handle. What is notunderstandable is the lost opportunity to get credit for the work completed. This simple idea has a transformative impacton the delivery of services.

Information Technology Perspective Vision & Opportunity Mac Oparakum Over the years, I’ve come to value one very important lesson – perspective. Charles G. Koch once said “Our vision controls the way we think and, therefore, the way we act ... the vision we have of our jobs determines what we do and the opportunities we see or don't see.” During my days as a support technician, I managed computer-learning labs for several school districts. They had their own culture, technology preferences, policies and budgets. When the State Education Board sanctioned a new learning lab program, I was faced with installing a new solution and implementing the accompanying AppleTalk, EtherTalk, Ethernet or Token-Ring network. Noticing my apprehension, I remember the day when my boss reminded me the end goal was to educate students. I needed to tune the solution to help the students, teachers, and schools leverage new technology towards that goal versus focusing just on the amount of work ahead of me. She was right. As a volunteer at my local church, I lead the visual media team. I recall the day we were hosting a band touring across the United States. Near the end of rehearsal, a passing thunderstorm caused an electrical blackout. When power returned, most of our equipment lost their settings. The leaders of the event gave us “the show must go on” speech because 1000 people were heading our way. We scrambled to reconfigure equipment and the concert continued without a hitch. We made the best of the negative situation and the effort lead to an opportunity to run the control booth with professionals. Earlier this year, my CIO called a meeting to discuss the realities of the New Normal and our need to understand the impact of disruptive technologies. He asked us to read Why the New Normal Could Kill IT (hyperlink: http://bit.ly/d0tNgY) before the meeting. I was enlightened and my CIO’s insight made it clear we need to change the ways we do things. The game changed but my head was still down looking at the playing field. I now raise my head more often to confirm I’m playing the right game. When challenges cross your path, a change in perspective may transform you.
Next Week’s Elephant Post Question: We're going to have some fun with next week's Elephant Post question, so you'll need to follow along with my thinking on this. In the movie The Princess Bride, there is an exchange between Vizzini and Inigo Montoya. Vizzini keeps saying "INCONCEIVABLE!!" and Montoya calls him on it:
Vizzini: HE DIDN'T FALL? INCONCEIVABLE!! Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
We'll modify this somewhat and ask this:
"I think you need to look up the meaning of ________. I don't think it means what you think it means."
Share with us your story of someone (a vendor, a colleague, a friend… an enemy) that uses a word, phrase or concept that doesn't mean what they think it means. If you have such a story, then send me an e-mail to discuss getting it ready for the next Elephant Post.

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5 comments:

Monica Farrar said...

My boss’s advice - Walk into every meeting prepared to lead it.
My personal spin on her advice - Walk into every elevator prepared to meet.

In the law firm environment, every second counts when it comes to face time with attorneys. As a Marketing Manager, I spend a lot of time meeting (or trying to meet) with partners. Here is a typical scenario in trying to meet with Partner “Joe”: Set up time to meet with Joe. Walk to Joe’s office to meet at scheduled time. Joe not there. Ask secretary to call when Joe returns. Walk back to desk and wait. Secretary calls. Go back to Joe’s office. Joe in meeting and unavailable the rest of the week. Email Joe to reschedule. Joe sets new date and time. Repeat. Repeat again...

Each time I walk into Joe’s office, I'm fully prepared with my notes, ready to go down my list of topics and get his long awaited input or decision on X, Y and Z. After 4 or 5 rescheduled meetings and a half dozen pop-in attempts on my part, it happens. I step onto the elevator first thing in the morning…thinking about my son who I just dropped off at daycare, or the cup of coffee I'm dying to drink…and in walks Joe. There I am sidetracked, unprepared, without my notes, and about 8 seconds away from a lost opportunity.

So here’s what I’ve learned. I set aside a little time each day to go over my notes and refresh my memory on the details, status and unanswered questions for each and every project. Also, I always mentally prepare a cliffs notes version of every meeting that I want to have. Chances are…my fully structured hour-long meeting will end up being a 2-minute “sorry I’ve got to take this call”, an unexpected “no I’m not available to meet next week but I have 5 minutes right now”, or an 8 second elevator ride…

Connie Crosby said...

I am thoroughly enjoying these elephant posts, although have to go back and catch up on the reading.

Might I offer a small suggestion: why not create an icon/button on your sidebar I can click to pull together all the posts tagged elephant posts, for quick access? It would promote the column and give convenient access to those of us who want to easily catch up. And, if you made the code available, I might even drop one on my blog and send some traffic over here.

Keep up the great work!

Cheers,
Connie

Greg Lambert said...

Connie,

Excellent suggestion… I added a link to the sidebar to do just that. Thanks for the idea!

Anonymous said...

During my first evaluation on my first position as librarian, my manager asked me why I thought she had hired me from the pool of 30 some odd applicants. I replied I wasn't sure, since I didn't have any legal experience.

She said that HR had recommended that she hire someone who was the opposite of her, so our work styles would compliment each other. She was a big picture person, and some answer in my interview revealed my attention to detail.

So many years later, I can appreciate how a team of librarians with different work styles, backgrounds, and research strengths can mesh together as a grand whole.

Connie Crosby said...

I love it! Thanks, Greg. :)

 

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