Showing posts with label Confidence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Confidence. Show all posts

July 6, 2019

Arrogance And A Messy Head

While sometimes children behave like "know-it-alls"...

Often an attempt to showcase what they've learned or to build their self-confidence. Sometimes, it's also to bully others.  

More unusual though is to find an adult that thinks and actually says they know it all. 

But sure enough, I ran into someone who told me (about technology):
"I know everything!"

And they said it with a straight face. 

Literally, they told me how they came up through the ranks and knew EVERYTHING with emphasis!

Moreover, they told me that if I didn't know something, I should go ahead and ask them because they would most definitely know it.

So I respect all people and certainly admire those who are knowledgable and talented in their fields. 

But something felt very wrong about an adult who feels that they have to go around bragging about the depth of their knowledge--and that their knowledge is apparently infinite (at least that's what they espoused). 

I wondered to myself--is the person arrogant and a big mouth or the opposite--lacking in self confidence and therefore needing to boast and show off to compensate for their inadequacies?

When they were talking, it seemed like their head was getting so big and full of themself that it would just explode!

Most adults with emotional intelligence realize how little they know, and the older they get the more they realize that they don't know in life. 

Especially, people of faith recognize that G-d is all-knowing and all-powerful, and we are but mere "flesh and blood" and truly just a speck of dust in the universe.

So truly smart people are humble and they look to learn from others, rather than preach and teach in a monologue of hubris.

Like many people that get too big for the britches, G-d usually brings them back down to Earth and their head to size.  ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

March 24, 2018

Got Skills?

I thought this was a very telling sign right off the highway in Washington, D.C. 

"Does your child have life skills?"

And then it lists things like:
"Cooking, budgets, sewing, ironing, time managment, communication, and fun"

The classes are offered by ActualLifeSkills.com.

I took a look online at what a typical 6-week class offered on Sundays for 3-hours at a time and at a cost of $345. 

It even covered things like:
"Handshakes, eye contact, and conversation starters
Voice projection and confidence
Party/guest etiquette, gifts and thank you notes"

And of course, aside from the cooking and budgeting already mentioned, there were more of the foundations such as laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping.

I would suggest adding things like computer basics, child rearing, human relations, home maintenance, car mechanics, hunting, fishing, gardening, first-aid, fitness, and even self-defense. 

Since, we spend so much time teaching book skills, I have often thought why we don't spend more time teaching these fundamental life skills. 

We are raising a generation of kids that can score 1500+ on the SATs, but they don't know sh*t about real life and couldn't survive a week without electricity, Internet, or mom and dad taking care of them. 

Back to basics. 

Back to life skills. 

Back to survival. 

Back to being self-sufficient. 

There is no reason that we can't add these items to our broken school curriculums. 

You shouldn't have to go to special classes to learn to live life. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

February 25, 2018

Improv, Let's Do it

What an incredible experience today. 

We went to the Atlas Theater in Washington, D.C. and did Improv (no script). 

For a Jewish kid from the Bronx, this was not something I was used to, but I loved it. 

- Say your name and an animal with the same first letter and act it out.

- Say something you love or hate and everyone gravitates on the stage towards or from it based on whether they agree.

- Repeat a word and action from someone else and pass it on.

- Act out an action that someone else calls out after yelling "Let's do it!" 

- As a group, answer a question from the audience, by each person adding a word to the aggregated answer. 

- Give your neighbor a pretend object and after they identify what they think it is and thank you for it, you explain why you gave it to them.

- Stand on an emotion (happy, sad, angry, scared) and act out a scene with someone else rotating through the feelings.

- Pretend you're a hitchhiker and infest the emotion with everyone else in the car.

I was really amazed at how good so many people were with doing these exercises. 

And I felt it was so freeing to be doing it too. 

I feel like I really learned a lot about being comfortable with yourself and just letting your inhibitions go and even though it was scary and hard, I would like to do this again. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

November 17, 2017

A Future Beyond Fear

This is my spin on a Jack Canfield saying, but I like it this way:
"The future is on the other side of fear."
Sometimes we feel hemmed in or torn down by life.

And there is plenty of fear of failure and not being able to do what we need to do. 

But the only way to get there is to get past the fear!

You need to look straight ahead into the future of what you want. 

And you need to overcome your worst fear...that you're not good enough, you're not smart enough, you're not strong enough, and you're not beautiful enough.

...and the gnawing feeling inside that you can't do it.

This is precisely when you need to center yourself, strengthen yourself, and pray for G-d's help.

Whether to get over it, under it, or through it. 

The future--your future--is on the other side of that fear--that fear that is holding you back.

No, you're not stupid, ugly, weak, or unworthy.

Yes, you're a child of the G-d on the most high. 

So you can reach deep and reach high to accomplish your mission in life. 

You can truly leap over mountains and even reach for the stars. 

No, it's not beyond you.

It's right in front of you.

Take that deep breath, clench your fist, gird you sword, and ready yourself in every way.

The fear holding you back is yours to conquer. 

And the future is yours to be had. ;-)

(Inspired by my wife, Dannielle Blumenthal)

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

August 21, 2016

Why Are We So Unconfident?

So I took this photo today at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. 


"We are strong!
We are positive!
We will survive!" 

Does someone who says these things sound like they really believe it or far more likely, it is that they need to tell themselves these things, because they are really not feeling so confident after all?

What's the unfortunate message behind these words?  

- We spend $610 billion on defense--more than the next 8 super nations combined--yet somehow we feel vulnerable and weak, especially with terrorism and a resurgent Russia and China

- We are so fortunate to live in freedom, democracy, seeming prosperity, and have everything to be positive and thankful about--yet 80% are dissatisfied and think we are heading in the wrong direction. 

- We are the world's superpower of nations--with wealth, armaments, a seat on the UN security council, and more than 800 bases around 80 countries in the world--"more than any other people, nation, or empire in history," yet most Americans think we're faring poorly and that their children will be worse off than themselves!

How can so much security result in so much insecurity?  

The answer should be obvious.

When people don't believe in the wisdom of their leaders, then no matter what they have or spend or where they are coming from, they are at risk of losing it all.

Poor leadership means corruption, fraud, waste, abuse, and absolute bad decision-making for this nation. 

We don't believe we are strong, because we see other nations spending less on their defense, yet getting more in terms of security for the people.

People don't feel positive, because they don't see good decisions being made, progress toward a better future, and confidence in the future being shaped. 

Questions about our very survival are surfacing because:

- We have seen millions of jobs disappear to our competitors overseas

- Our national debt balloon to near catastrophic levels (and with no tangible benefit to average Joe citizen as everything from our education system to our roads and bridges are falling apart)

- Bankruptcy to the critical entitlement pillars of Social Security and Medicare are being regularly forewarned. 

- Corrupt politicians who are supposed to be looking after us and effectively governing us are instead doing terrible wrongs, yet they are endlessly allowed to be above the law. 

- There is non-stop global terrorism and a reluctance to even call it what it is let alone truly fight to win. 

- We face out of control proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and yet remove sanction and release hundreds of billions of dollar to the largest state sponsor of terrorism and human rights abuses. 

- Open hostility to the U.S. is present as nations are doing what they want whether it terms of nuclear and ballistic missile development and testing in Iran and North Korea, using chemical weapons on civilians in Syria, annexing Crimea, buzzing U.S. planes and ships and conducting cyber war by Russia, and orchestrating a vast military build up in the South China Sea--and all without meaningful consequences.

So everyone repeat after me: 


"We are strong!
We are positive!
We will survive!" 

If you say it enough, you may actually start to believe it. 

Then again, if you start listening to your true inner feelings, you may start to see the vast political gimmickry being played out on you. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

April 7, 2016

It's Not Easy

So I went for a haircut yesterday evening.

And when I walked into the Hair Cuttery, there were a number of mentally disabled people waiting there. 

3 had already gotten their haircuts, and 1 was still in the barber's chair. 

One of the 3 said hello to me and started conversing with me even though he  had obvious difficulty getting the words out. 

There was an open chair between them, and he even offered me to sit down with them, which I did. 

I asked about him and he told me the others we're his roommates.

I asked how he liked his roommates and he gave a big smile, nodded, said how nice they were, and while pointing to them started to introduce them and encouraged them to speak with me as well. 

I could see as they interacted and later got up how they shared some challenges, but also how each clearly had their own unique difficulties to deal with--for example, one was stooped and went along with a limp, while another was more reticent and seemed openly annoyed by the others trying to get his attention. 

When it was my turn for the haircut, they were heading out and a couple of them waved goodbye to me. 

I said goodbye back and was sad seeing how difficult people's lives are. 

It strikes me that even for those in the healthiest states, life can be very difficult at times.

So I imagine how much more so for those with physical and developmental disabilities--the things we take for granted can be extremely difficult for others to navigate around, reach, manipulate, read, hear, understand, speak, and do.

Life seems unforgiving at times. 

My daughter said to me that while it's natural for people to look out for their own self-interests, really we all need each other to survive and make it. 

Our self confidence in our stand-alone capacities is really just an illusion. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

April 4, 2016

Hate Ties, But Love These

I hate neck ties in general, but love these specifically.  

If you have to wear a tie, these strong gorgeous silk ones called Quindici by Ermenegildo Zegna are absolutely beautiful. 

At a retail price of $285 each at Nordstrom's, they are not cheap, but what a powerful and confident accent for any formal outfit. 

These are all for me! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

September 13, 2015

The Hottest New Jewish Site


Just in time for the New Year you can shop at Jewish fashion site Hot Chani

"Sexy things for heimish girls."


Hot Chanis are modest and proper Jewish women who are still unbelievably sexy. 


You can truly be a "good Jewish girl" and feel and be gorgeous inside and out. 


Find your confidence, feel sexy, be beautiful, find love and romance...shop at Hot Chani.


Spice up your New Year and your life.


Be a Hot Chani! ;-)


(Source Photo: HotChani.com)

Share/Save/Bookmark

September 20, 2014

Like A Rock Star

It's funny that people derive so much of their self esteem from others. 

If someone says something nice to/about them, then they feel on top of the world--full of worth, productive, successful, confident.

And when someone says something negative, then they get down in the dumps--depreciated, questioning, can't do anything right, like a failure.

Yet, it the same person inside--the same heart, the same soul.

Of course, we are impacted by our behavior (when we do good and not) and people's reactions to it--and we should be--it's a helpful feedback mechanism to let us know when we are messing up or as reinforcement to continue doing good things. 

But at the same time, people's feedback is not always correct or well-intentioned and certainly it doesn't necessarily represent holistically who we are...it's just a snapshot in time. 

So we need to take what people say and reflect back to us with a grain of salt--listen, try to understand, but also look at the bigger picture of you. 

You know yourself better than anyone else, so incorporate the feedback and use it to improve, but don't get bogged down by any person, event, or cheap talk.  

Yes, you can be a rock star, by reflecting from what others tell you, but more importantly by listening to that voice inside that guides you. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

August 23, 2013

Posture Matters

So the military got it right when they teach their cadets to stand tall "at attention."

"Chin up, chest out, shoulders back, stomach in."

The Wall Street Journal (21 August 2013) says that "posture can determine who's a hero, [and] who's a wimp."

Research has shown that striking a power pose raises testosterone levels that is associated with feelings of strength, superiority, social dominance, (and even aggression at elevated levels) and lowers cortisol levels and stress. 

Power poses or even just practicing these have been linked with better performance, including interviewing and SAT scores.

Body language or non-verbal communication such as standing erect, leaning forward, placing hands firmly on the table, can project power, presence,  confidence, and calmness. 

It all ties together where saying the right thing is augmented and synergized by looking the right way, and doing the right thing. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Official U.S. Navy Imagery)
Share/Save/Bookmark

July 10, 2013

Emergency Alert Or R U Kidding?

BBC News Technology (9 July 2013) reports on how the U.S. Emergency Alert System (EAS) was hacked. 

The EAS is a program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and was set up "to allow the president to talk to the entire country within 10 minutes of a disaster." It also provides the public with alerts on local weather emergencies, such as tornados and flash floods. 


EAS replaced the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS) in 1997 and with it came security weaknesses.


Earlier this year, those vulnerabilities were tested and exploited when the Montana Television Network was hacked with an alert of a zombie attack.


And it provided advice on how to survive--"Do not approach or apprehend these bodies as they are considered extremely dangerous."


This is reminiscent of the hoax in 1938 when over the radio came a warning that a meteorite had smashed into New Jersey and aliens were attacking New York--an adaptation of H.G. Wells "War of the Worlds."


Well yesterday it was aliens, today it's zombies, and tomorrow it could be an phony announcement of an invasion by country XYZ or perhaps a imminent detonation of a thermonuclear warhead somewhere over the continental U.S. 


Imagine the panic, confusion, and potential loss of life and property from the ensuing chaos. 


It goes without saying that this is not a way to inspire confidence by the citizens in case of a true national emergency. 


If we cannot count on the systems meant to survive an emergency then how can we be expected to survive the emergency itself? 


The EAS may interrupt your regularly scheduled programming with those loud and annoying tests, but what can really ruin you day is a cyber attack on the system that broadcasts something much nastier and more ominous--and you don't really know whether it's the real thing or just another hack. ;-)


(Source Photo: here with attribution to UWW ResNet)

Share/Save/Bookmark

April 5, 2013

Don't Underestimate The Stress of Change

Regularly in IT, we field new technologies and systems.

Often, we don't pay enough attention to the details of change management and what that means to our users. 

A great article in Government Executive Magazine by Dr. Victoria Grady really hits this right on. 

Grady points out something that is often overlooked: people have an instinctual predisposition to attach to/lean on objects and intangibles--including things like office spaces, systems, business processes, organizational structures, leaderships styles, and so on. 

If you take that away--excuse the simile, but it is like taking candy away from a baby--you are going to get a lot of (often understandable) whining, crying, and resistance.

The key is understand that people in a sense really all have a kid inside them, and they need to be listened to, understood, empathized with, and cared for. 

Changing out IT systems, restructuring the office, or doing a reorganization (as much as they may be needed) can cause people huge amounts of stress and the organization productivity losses, if not done right. 

Remember, you are changing up people's status quo, what they know, their security blanket, and you need to be mindful of and implement a robust communication and change management strategy. 

What I have found is that one thing that raises the stress tempo is when people don't have enough information on the change that is coming, how that impacts them, and how "everything will be okay."

The more unknowns, the more stress. 

While you cannot share information you don't yet have or perhaps that is not yet baked, you can be honest and tell people what you do know, what you are still investigating, perhaps what some of the options are, timeframes, and of course, solicit their input. 

To the extent that people are kept in the loop and can influence the process--the more control they have--the better they can cope and adjust. 

Not that adults are children, but the analogy still holds, when you take away a bottle from a infant, you better have a pacifier to keep them happy--in this case, the pacifier is the replacement thing that people need to attach to/lean on to feel secure in their jobs. 

If you are changing out systems, make sure the new system is well vetted, tested, and trained with the end-users, so they know and feel comfortable with the change--and they have the confidence in you and your team, the new system, and in themselves to handle it. 

Same goes for other changes in the organization--you can mitigate stress through communication, collaboration, testing, training, and other confidence building measures. 

Adults and babies are a lot happier and better able to deal with change, when they are taken care of properly.

We are all somewhat change adverse and that is a basic survival instinct, so we sometimes need to take baby steps, walk before we run, and work together to change as a group and ensure that the "new" is indeed better than the "old."  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


Share/Save/Bookmark

April 13, 2012

Be Who You Are

I watched an interesting TED video presented by Brene Brown, who has a doctorate in social work and is a author many times over--she talked about one book in particular called The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who We Think We Should Be and Embracing Who We Are (2010).

She said that from all her studies and research, what she learned is that purpose and meaning in life comes from the connections we make and maintain.

But what gets in the way is shame and fear--shame that we are not good enough and fear that we cannot make real connections with others.
To move beyond shame and fear, we need to feel worthy as human beings--true self acceptance--and say "I am enough."
 
However, she points out that as a society there is a lot of numbing going on (i.e. plenty of shame and fear) and that is why we are the most in debt, obese, addicted, and medicated society in history.  I liked this presentation and thought about how hard we are on ourselves--we are never good enough.

  • All our lives we pursue signs of advancement from that gold star in grade school to collections of degrees, awards, promotions, material goods, and even relationships.
  • We constantly push ourselves further and faster on the treadmill of life--in part to learn, grow and be better, but also to try to achieve our sense of self-worth and -acceptance.
Yet, as Brown points out those that are successful with relationships and have a strong sense of love and belonging are those that feel they are inherently worthy. They have self-esteem without having to achieve any of these things.

That sense of self-worth and confidence, Brown says, enables you to achieve three key things in life:

  1. Courage--This is the courage to be yourself and to tell others who you are with a whole heart (i.e. they don't hide in shame).
  2. Compassion--That is compassion for others, but also for yourself first--you accept yourself.
  3. Connection--Getting to solid relationships in life is a result of our own capacity to be authentic.

When you have that self-worth and confidence then you can embrace your vulnerabilities and make them beautiful, rather than numb yourself to constantly try to cover the disdain you feel for your frailties and weaknesses. 

From my perspective, our growth and contributions to the world are good things--leave the world better than you found it!

However, the proving ourselves and amassing "things," while milestones in life, are not a measure of a person's true worth. 

Sometimes it is fine to get over it all--accept yourself, be yourself, and stop worrying that your never good enough.

In the Torah (bible), when Moshe asked G-d his name--G-d replies in Exodus 3:14: "I am that I am."  


To me, this is really the lesson here--if we but try to emulate G-d, then "we are what we are."

That is not defeat or giving up on bettering ourselves, but acceptance of who we are, where we came from, and where we want to go in our lives.

We don't have to beat ourselves up for being those things or for making good faith mistakes along the way. 



 (Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

August 27, 2011

Social Media, Fulfilling Our Every Need?

One of my daughters sent me this article for my blog and said "you''ll like this," and she was right.

The article is called 10 Things You Don't Know About Teens And Social Networking--it was eye opening.

I read about kids' (ages 13-15) experiences with going online and their utter fascination and addiction to social media.

As I started to analyze and categorize these, I realized the power of social media is anchored in every layer of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: from physiological to self-actualization - not only for kids but also adults, as follows:

1) Physiological Needs--Foster social networks online, which is a powerful factor in developing productive and profitable life opportunities--as the old adage goes "It's not what you know, but who you know." As Hannah, age 13, states: "There is more life happening online than offline."

2) Safety Needs--Despite all the fears about people preying on others online and cyber bullying, people tend to feel safer behind their computer than not. Call it the anonymity factor or the distance of not being within range of a punch in a the nose. As Sadie, age 14, states: "I feel safer online, than I do offline."

3) Social Needs--They don't call it "social media" for nothing. Yes, it's all about reaching out to others from email to chat and from blogs to wikis, we're connecting with each other all virtually all the time. As Jasmine, age 13, states: "My friendships are really affected by social networking."

4) Esteem Needs--Your online image or brand matters a lot to people where they either get ego-boosted or deflated. People desperately want to be "liked," "friended," "mentioned," and "commented" about. As Samantha, age 14, states: "It affects our image and self-confidence."
5) Self-Actualization Needs--At the end of the day, we all want to realize our full potential and social media provide powerful tools to engage, be heard, influence, and ultimately make a difference.
As many of the kids self-report, the compulsion to be online is so strong for two reasons:
1) Personal Addiction--The satisfaction of our needs by doing social media creates an addiction that must be fulfilled or else like a drug addict, you experience the dire pain of withdrawal--as one girl, Nina, age 15 reported, "I feel like I'm losing control. I want my parents to tell me to get off the computer. Actually, they would need to literally take the computer away because I can't stop myself."

2) Peer Pressure--There is a social addiction that results in peer pressure to be online and participate or else. As Jasmine, age 13, states: "So you have to be online all the time, just to keep track, so you don't upset anyone."

While clearly much good comes from social media (in terms of human need fulfillment), anything that becomes an addiction--personal and societal--can be dangerous and a cause for concern.

As with all tools to satisfy human needs, we need to control the tools, rather than be controlled by them.

With social media, people should use it if and when it meets their needs and balance that with other important tools for fulfilling those needs, such as school, work, in-person relationships, real activities and so on.

We should never become so consumed by social media that we neglect other vital life activities, but rather we need to exert self-control and teach our children the same--to become well-rounded, functional people online and off.

Share/Save/Bookmark

May 1, 2010

Managing with Integrity

Most professionals know instinctively that they should act with integrity, if only to avoid getting caught. Yet, of course, not everyone does.

Whether it’s Bernie Madoff ripping off investors to the tune of $50 billion or the store cashier helping themselves to $5 from the register, many people make poor ethical decisions.

Given human nature being the way it is, it’s not surprising when people are tempted to do bad things. What is a little harder to understand is when managers, who may have to answer for the conduct of others, look away when they see it happening.

This is the subject of an article in Harvard Business Review (March 2010) called “Keeping Your Colleagues Honest.” According to the article, here are the four “classic rationalizations” that keep managers silent in the face of wrongdoing:

  • “It’s standard practice”—or everyone was doing it and so that makes it okay.
  • “It’s not a big deal”—some people state it this way, “no harm, no foul.”
  • “It’s not my responsibility”—or as the Bible put it, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
  • “I want to be loyal”—or don’t be a Benedict Arnold.

HBR gives some suggestions for handling ethical dilemmas in the organization:

  1. Recognize that this is part of your job”—“people tend to view ethical conflict as aberrations…[but] that’s just not true….[it’s] a regular part of professional life.”
  2. “Make long-term risks more concrete”—all too often people get caught up in the moment and want or feel they need to take the easy way out. So a good strategy for helping people to behave more ethically involves pointing out the risks and possible long-term consequences of the behavior.
  3. “Challenge the rationalizations”—For example: “if this is standard practice, why is there a policy against it? Or if it is expected, are we comfortable being public about it?”
  4. Present an alternative”—Some mistakenly believe that ethical choices are not rewarded and are simply “na├»ve idealism,” and that we “have no choice” sometimes in doing the wrong thing. However, great managers recognize that there is always a choice.

There is no doubt that it is hard for managers to have to stand up for what’s right. There is always organizational pressure to get along, go along, and make things happen.

But in the end, we are accountable for our choices, whether we feel comfortable about it or not and whether they involve action or passivity.

In my experience, most people have a conscience and will try to do what is right. However, it is only a very few who have the self-confidence, the character, and the fortitude to stand up and follow their conscience even when it’s not easy, not convenient, not cheap, not fun, not popular, not beneficial in the short-term or even the long. (And there is not a clear playbook for every situation.)

I believe that making tough choices is our test and our trust in life, to do what we believe is right and ethical. It’s not only our greatest professional challenge but also our greatest personal one, and we cannot rationalize it away.


Share/Save/Bookmark

March 19, 2010

Overvaluing the Outsider

Harvard Business Review (HBR), April 2010, has an article entitled “Envy At Work” by Menon and Thompson that describes research that shows that “people want to learn more about ideas that come from other companies than about ideas that originate in their own organizations.”

The reason that we value outside opinions over inside ones is that we fear elevating the person whose opinion we espouse. In other words, if we endorse an idea of a person in the organization, then we risk being seen as not only supporting the idea, but the person, and then having our power potentially being subsumed by that person.

The HBR article states: “When we copy an idea from an outsider, we’re seen as enterprising; when we borrow an idea from a colleague, we mark that person as an intellectual leader.”

This kind of thinking harms the organization. For rather than seeing our colleagues as teammates, we see them as competitors. We work against each other, rather than with each other. We spend our time and energy fighting each other for power, influence, resources, and rewards, instead of teaming to build a bigger pie where everyone benefits.

According to Menon and Thompson, “The dislike of learning from inside rivals has a high organizational price. Employees instead pursue external ideas that cost more both in time (which is often spent reinventing the wheel) and in money (if they hire consultants).”

I’m reminded of the saying, “You can’t be a prophet in your land,” which essentially translates to the idea that no matter how smart you are, people inside your own organization will generally not value your advice. Rather they will prefer to go outside and pay others to tell them the same thing that it cannot bear to hear from its own people.

Funny enough, I remember some consultants telling me a few years ago, “That’s what we get paid for, to tell you what you already know.”

Remember the famous line by Woody Allen, “I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member”? The flip side of this is that as soon as the organization brings you into their club, they have contempt for you because you are now one of them.

How do we understand the capability of some people to overcome their natural tendency toward envy and be open to learning from others inside the organization? More specifically, how do we as leaders create a culture where such learning is facilitated and becomes a normal part of life in the workplace?

One way to start is by benchmarking against other organizations that have been successful at this—“Most Admired Companies” like Goldman Sachs, Apple, Nike, and UPS. When one starts to do this, one sees that it comes down to a combination of self-confidence, lack of ego, putting the employees first, and deep commitment to a set of core values. It may not feel natural to do this at first – in a “dog-eat-dog” world, it is natural to fear losing one’s slice of the pie – but leaders who commit to this model can delegate, recognize, and reward their people without concern that they personally will lose something in the process.

The leader sets the tone, and when the tenor is “all for one and one for all,”— the organization and its people benefit and grow. This is something to be not only admired, but emulated.


Share/Save/Bookmark

September 26, 2009

The Doomsday Machine is Real

There is a fascinating article in Wired (Oct. 2009) on a Doomsday Machine called “the Perimeter System” created by the Soviets. If anyone tries to attack them with a debilitating first strike, the doomsday machine will take over and make sure that the adversary is decimated in return.

“Even if the US crippled the USSR with a surprise attack, the Soviets could still hit back. It wouldn’t matter if the US blew up the Kremlin, took out the defense ministry, severed the communications network, and killed everyone with stars on their shoulders. Ground-based sensors would detect that a devastating blow had been struck and a counterattack would be launched.”

The Doomsday machine has supposedly been online since 1985, shortly after President Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI or “Star Wars”) in 1983. SDI was to shield the US from nuclear attack with space lasers (missile defense). “Star Wars would nullify the long-standing doctrine of mutually assured destruction.”

The logic of the Soviet’s Doomsday Machine was “you either launch first or convince the enemy that you can strike back even if you’re dead.”

The Soviet’s system “is designed to lie dormant until switched on by a high official in a crisis. Then it would begin monitoring a network of seismic, radiation, and air pressure sensors for signs of nuclear explosion.”

Perimeter had checks and balances to hopefully prevent a mistaken launch. There were four if/then propositions that had to be meet before a launch.

Is it turned on?

Yes then…

Had a nuclear weapon hit Soviet soil?

Yes, then…

Was there still communications links to the Soviet General Staff?

No, then launch authority is transfered to whoever is left in protected bunkers

Will they press the button?

Yes, then devastating nuclear retaliation!

The Perimeter System is the realization of the long-dreaded reality of machines taking over war.

The US never implemented this type of system for fear of “accidents and the one mistake that could end it all.”

“Instead, airborne American crews with the capacity and authority to launch retaliatory strikes were kept aloft throughout the Cold War.” This system relied more on people than on autonomous decision-making by machines.

To me, the Doomsday Machine brings the question of automation and computerization to the ultimate precipice of how far we are willing to go with technology. How much confidence do we have in computers to do what they are supposed to do, and also how much confidence do we have in people to program the computers correctly and with enough failsafe abilities not to make a mistake?

On one hand, automating decision-making can help prevent errors, such as a mistaken retaliatory missile launch to nothing more than a flock of geese or malfunctioning radar. On the other hand, with the Soviet’s Perimeter System, once activated, it put the entire launch sequence in the hands of a machine, up until the final push a button by a low-level duty station officer, who has a authority transferred to him/her and who is perhaps misinformed and blinded by fear, anger, and the urge to revenge the motherland in a 15 minute decision cycle—do or die.

The question of faith in technology is not going away. It is only going to get increasingly dire as we continue down the road of computerization, automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Are we safer with or without the technology?

There seems to be no going back—the technology genie is out of the bottle.

Further, desperate nations will take desperate measures to protect themselves and companies hungry for profits will continue to innovate and drive further technological advancement, including semi-autonomous and perhaps, even fully autonomous decision-making.

As we continue to advance technologically, we must do so with astute planning, sound governance, thorough quality assurance and testing, and always revisiting the technology ethics of what we are embarking on and where we are headed.

It is up to us to make sure that we take the precautions to foolproof these devices or else we will face the final consequences of our technological prowess.


Share/Save/Bookmark

October 13, 2008

Brand and The Total CIO

David F. D’Allesandro, the CEO of John Hancock insurance group has a bunch of wonderful books on building brand and career, such as “Brand Warfare”, “Career Warfare” and “Executive Warfare”.

All the books have three things in common. One, they are about the importance of brand. Two, they are about moving ahead in the corporate world. And three, they all end in “warfare.”

Brand is critical for building value. Brand is our reputation. It’s how we are known to others. It’s what people think and say about us. It’s a representation of our values and integrity.

We all know corporate brands such as those from consumer product companies and fashion designers. Those that have a “good” brand, tend to convey a higher status and cost a premium. We trust those brands and many people wear the brand labels as a status symbol.

We all carry a brand. Like a mark of “Grade A” or “Prime Beef” seared on a side of a hide of cattle, a brand is mark of distinction for us.

At work, we are branded as honest or not, fair or not, hard working or not, team players or not and so on and so forth.

As the CIO, it is imperative to have a brand that synthesizes the best of business and technology for the organization.

On one hand, many view the CIO as the technical leader for the organization; the wang-bang guru that leads the enterprise through the often confusing and fast-changing technology landscape. In this role, the CIO can make or break the future of the organization with wise or poor technical decisions that can put the enterprise on the cutting-edge, build competitive advantage, and increase revenue/profits, market share, and customer satisfaction. Or the CIO can lead the organization down a technical sinkhole with failed IT projects that jeopardize mission, alienate customers, drive out good employees out, and waste millions of dollars.

On the other hand, many like to say that the CIO is not and should not be tech-focused, but should be about the business—understanding the business strategy, operations, and requirements and then driving an IT organization that is responsive to it. Taken to an extreme, the CIO may not be required to have a technology background, an IT degree or even a technical certificate. This person may be from the business side of the house and could almost alien to the CIO organization and therefore, may not easily garner the respect of his more technical people.

The true successful CIO melds business and technology together. Their brand is one where business drives technology and where strategy is paramount, but operations is a given! This CIO is someone who can be relied on to make wise technical decisions today that will enhance the strategic success of the organization tomorrow. The CIO is a leader who manages not only upward, but who reaches across the organization to build partnership and understanding; who inspires, motivates, trains, recognizes, and rewards his people; and who conducts outreach and brings in best practices from beyond the strict organizational boundaries. This CIO is loyal, dedicated, hard-working, smart, and has the trust and confidence to get the job done!

So what with the “warfare” part in the books?

Well, unfortunately not everyone wants us to succeed. So, we must work on our brand to build it and make it shine, but at the same time, there are others inside and outside the organization who for various reasons would like to tarnish our brand: perhaps, they are jealous, competitive, nay-sayers, change resistant, oppositional, confrontational, troubled, or just plain crooked.

What D’Allesandro says is that to be successful, what sets us apart, is our ability to build relationship with others, even when it is challenging.

To be a successful CIO, we need a terrific personal brand, but more than that we need to have courage and conviction to stand by our beliefs and the vision and the ability to articulate it to guide and influence others to advance the organization’s long-term business and technical success.
Share/Save/Bookmark