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    Entries in career (160)


    A Pocketful of Zen Lessons

    Many years ago a former colleague gave me the book you see in the picture on the right, it is called 'Zen Lessons: The Art of Leadership', a small (so small fits in your pocket), book of Zen stories and tales meant to be a guide to 'enlightened conduct for people in positions of authority, based on the teachings of several great Zen masters of China.' It is kind of an interesting little book, and while I don't claim to understand all that much about Zen, seeing as my entire education in Zen has been this pocket book and close and repeated examinations of the 'putting lesson' scene in Caddyshack, I have managed to keep this book with me through several moves, jobs, and life changes.

    To get an idea of the kinds of Leadership Lessons encompassed in the tiny book, check out some of the wise sayings from the Zen lessons:

    On not ignoring small problems in hopes they will just disappear or remedy themselves: 'Even dripping water, if it does not stop, can turn an orchard into a lake'.

    On selecting a mentor : 'You should always follow a leader that is a little better than you, to be alerted to what you have not yet reached.'

    And lastly, on seeking and accepting feedback from peer and from followers: 'Only the foolish dislike to hear how they are wrong and only expect unquestioning obedience from their communities.'

    I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. Actually I couldn't go on and on very long, it is only a pocket book of Zen Leadership Lessons after all, certainly not meant to serve as anything more than reminders or examples of more universal kinds of truths that I imagine would take years and years to master. Which takes us to another question entirely - how much of something do you need to know in order to know enough of what you need to know?

    But regardless for some reason this little pocket book has stuck with me though the years, and while I can't necessarily point to any specific occasions where I have applied the lessons in business or leadership situations, I can be sure the lessons have served me well. Simply having the book around is kind of comforting in a way. I suppose it is the equivalent of a good luck charm or even my version of the 'red stapler' from Office Space. No matter what jobs, projects, challenges that have come the Zen Lessons have always been there, available to assist if needed.

    What about you guys? Do you have your own version of the pocket book of Zen? What little guides or good luck charms do you make sure travel with you as you move through your careers? 

    I can't be the only weird one.




    Protecting the Boss - A Shaving Cream Tale

    The News Corporation 'hackgate' scandal is a mess, both figuratively and by virtue of a classic 'shaving cream in the face' gimmick, literally as well. In case you need a little refresher course, ('It's all ball bearings these days'), during Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch's appearance at a British parliament inquiry into the various alleged improprieties at the now defunct News of the World newspaper, a wacky protester rushed the Murdoch's table, and attempted to give 'ol Rupert an old-fashioned shaving cream face wash.

    Check the below video to see what transpired - (email and RSS subscribers click through)

    Pretty wild and interesting to me for two points. One, after the shaving cream incident you can hear the chairperson of the hearing announce a 10-minute break in the proceedings. Ten whole minutes? Only seconds after an apparently deranged man attempts some kind of assault in a parliamentary hearing, and there is no way anyone could have totally processed the situation and ongoing threat level, the chairperson announces a 10-minute recess? Gutsy. If that kind of incident happened in the US Congress, we'd be at a standstill for days, maybe weeks while a new inquiry led by a blue-ribbon 'Commission on Shaving Cream Incidents' is formed and begins an investigation.

    The second point of interest in the clip - check out Rupert Murdoch's wife Wendi Deng leap into action and toss a right hand haymaker in the direction of the assailant. Quick, decisive, powerful - and from the sounds on the video, it seems like she did make contact and swatted the guy. Sure, it would be natural and correct to interpret Ms. Deng's actions as the reflex of someone instinctively protecting a loved one, and while extremely commendable, it doesn't seem all that unusual. I think most of us would react similarly if we sensed a spouse, child, or anyone else close to us was in imminent physical danger.

    But if we spin this just a little differently, and indulge a bit of extension outside of the familial bonds here and think about the organizational ones, a slightly different take emerges. In the entirety of this ongoing News Corporation hacking scandal it is pretty much impossible to find any actor that will emerge from this looking good. The Murdochs themselves appear at worst complicit, and at best, ineffectual and out of touch with what their managers and executives were doing. Variously the police and politicians that are caught up in this might find themselves out on the street, their reputations and long-term career prospects significantly diminished.

    But you know who looks good in all this? At least to someone from outside the UK that might not be as intimately aware of the full details of the story? That's right - Wendi Deng.

    Think about her actions in the video in the broader context of career and organizational advice you have probably heard for ages - protect the boss, think about how you can make the boss' life easier, how you can get ahead by understanding your boss' objectives and how you can best help him/her achieve them.

    If you look at it that way, wouldn't you want to have someone like Ms. Deng sitting next to you at the next big board meeting?


    Welcome Back - News from Steve

    Requesting your kind indulgence today, as I have some personal news to report today on the blog.

    Recently I accepted a position with Oracle Corporation, working in the Fusion HCM Product Strategy team, and I will start in my new role next week. I am excited by the opportunity to work with such a fantastic team of Human Resources technology professionals, and with a set of new technologies in Fusion HCM that are driving innovation, capability, efficiency, and business insight for organizational leaders and managers. The Oracle Fusion HCM team has spent several years designing and building an incredible set of applications, and I am thrilled at the chance to help continue the momentum, and help customers with their critical Human Resources and Talent Management initiatives.

    Some of you might know that I have a long history of working with Oracle Applications, from my earliest days with AT&T implementing what now seems like a quaint 'green screen' Oracle Apps version 10.4 in the dusty desert city of Riyadh in the 90s. That project was simultaneously my first real experience with a true enterprise-class set of technologies, and my first taste of seeing up close how the implementation of the right technologies, by the right people having a shared commitment to the desired outcomes could truly transform an organization. It was the perfect project to get introduced to the world of enterprise software, large enough to have significance in the organization, but with just enough self-governance and individual accountability to keep the engagement levels high, and the spirit of teamwork alive.

    Eventually I moved back home from Riyadh, and continued to work with Oracle Applications for most of the ensuing stops in my career, (including working for Oracle Consulting directly), in roles ranging from client implementations, project management, enterprise HRIS management, and more.  But even as the geographies, industries, and responsibilities changed for me, I consistently stayed close, (some might say loyal), to the set of Oracle technologies that I first encountered many years before on a 115 degree day in Riyadh. Consistently, I derived the most satisfaction by learning new technologies, working with clients to assess their needs and goals, and finding and delivering solutions that could help them to meet these goals. And sure, getting the chance to 'play' with cool new tools is always fun.

    So for me, to return to Oracle, and to work with Oracle Fusion HCM Applications at this point in my career is, I think, a natural fit. As I said, the Fusion HCM team is the best in the space, (sure I am biased), and the Fusion HCM Applications that have been delivered, and the ones that are on the way, are on the absolute cutting edge of our industry. I am looking forward to the chance to contribute to the team, and most importantly to be back helping customers achieve their goals.

    Some other notes, (continuing the navel-gazing theme of this post), I do plan on keeping this blog active here, contributing to Fistful of Talent, and continuing to produce and host the HR Happy Hour Show, (although I am taking tomorrow night off).  In time there may be some changes to one or both of these projects, we will just have to see how that develops. Going forward, I will have to manage and determine my participation in other events and projects that I have been associated with in the past and balance the needs and objectives of my employer and our objectives. But I do plan on remaining active and visible in the HCM community, and look forward to continued engagement and dialogue with the many, many fantastic and intelligent people it has been my great pleasure to come to know in the last few years.

    Lastly, I wanted to say thanks to all the fantastic friends, colleagues, blog readers, show listeners for the assistance, kind words, advice and counsel over the last several weeks. One thing I have learned for sure is the value and power of community, and I am humbled and appreciative for all the generosity directed to me. I only hope that I can find a way to repay at least some of the good Karma in the future.

    That's it for now - tomorrow we are back to our regularly scheduled program of technology, innovative ideas, basketball, and barbecue.

    Have a great day!


    Kid Business Cards and the Permission to Dream

    The most popular post on this blog over the last couple of months was a take on a job application cover letter written by a 6 year-old boy.  I liked the post, (or I would not have published it), but I was really shocked how popular it was. So in the grand tradition of pandering, grasping, and shamelessly playing the 'kid' card again, once I came across this piece, about a Brazilian Ad Agency's project to design and print business cards for the 'dream jobs' of a bunch of schoolkids, I figured, why not share?

    Here is the backstory - Red Balloon, an English School for kids in Brazil, asked the students at the school what they wanted to be when they grow up. Certainly a question we have been asking kids since well, there was potentially a different answer than 'chase saber-toothed tigers and try to kill them with stones in order to survive'.

    Based on the children's answers, the ad agency Ogilvy Brazil designed personalised Kids Business Cardsa few examples you van see in the images  below. The answers, combined with a bit of information and insight about the kids, created a really amazing set of artifacts and a kind of tangible, phyiscal representation of the kids dreams. These cards say - 'your dream is not just in your mind, it can be real, here is a bit of what it might look like'.

    Below is a close up view of one of the cards - for a girl whose dream is to be 'the most pretty ballerina in the world.'

    After the project was completed reps from the ad agency gave this assessment of the outcomes  -

    Result: more kids believe in their dreams and more parents believe in the importance of English for their kids' future."

    I posted about this project mainly because I really loved the creativity and artistic qualities of some of the kids business cards - quite honestly they just look cool.

    But I do think there is a larger point to this, we do ask our kids, nieces, nephews, cousins, students, etc. all the time 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' And we know that 99% of kids won't actually pursue the 'dream job' they identified at 9 years old. While that is certainly normal and expected, I also think that we as parents/teachers/adults sometimes jump too quickly to downplay, discourage, or even fail to even consider these childhood dreams. We are old. We know better. We know that we did not become astronauts, runway models, or relief pitchers for the Mets, (that last one was mine), so it is only responsible and realistic to assume that the random 4th grader won't become any of those things either.

    But in our haste to be 'adults' I think we can forget what it was like to see the world as kids do, a world where still, mostly, anything was possible. Becoming a pop star, soccer hero, or a great inventor with a mansion - these are not at all unreasonable or unreachable dreams. Having these dreams is still 'allowed'. I thought about that when I read about these 'kid business cards'. A quick scan through them shows rock stars, sports legends, captains of industry.  

    All things that for our kids are fantastic and possible.

    Even if we did not become those things ourselves.



    Good advice at any age

    Last night I had the chance to catch my friend Lauren Berger, better known as the Intern Queen, speak to a group of students at St. John Fisher College located near Rochester, NY.
    If you are not familiar with Lauren, or her website, InternQueen.com, the basic premise is to match college students seeking internship opportunities with organizations that offer these opportunities. Hundreds or organizations across the country have signed up with InternQueen.com, and the site provides a kind of unique platform to help facilitate this niche labor market. Kind of like what TheLadders.com does at the high end of the market, InternQueen.com does for the internship space. Except of course that InternQueen.com does not charge students to use the site.

    Lauren’s talk at Fisher was not really about InternQueen.com though, it was more focused on strategies and advice for students that are just starting out on their professional journey. Some of the recommendations were pretty specific to the college internship space, but surprisingly much of what Lauren advised would hold true, perhaps in a more general sense, for job seekers at all levels, or anyone interested in furthering their careers.

    Some of the highlights of the talk:

    Know what is important to employers

    Lauren suggested that quality internships are critical to today’s students because the first question prospective employers will ask is “Where did you intern?”, not what your GPA was, what clubs you were in, and how many awards you won at school. Those other things are still important, but unless you have a good answer to question number one, you won’t get too far in the process.

    Control your image

    Lauren gave the students the expected, and solid advice about being in control of your image and projection on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Even in 2011, with stories of employee hijinks and inappropriate behavior all over the web, I still get the sense that many college students don’t fully realize the potential negative impact that wild pictures on Facebook or late-night Tweets can have on one’s image.

    Lauren also described some example of how students could turn this around and use social to their advantage - by connecting with potential employers and hiring managers online, and contributing to the dialogue in their fields of interest by participating in discussions, commenting on blogs, and even creating their own blogs.

    Networking is everything

    Probably the most compelling part of Lauren’s talk were her stories of how she was able to leverage the connections she made in her early internship positions later in her college experience, and in her new entrepreneurial venture. She advised the students that during their internships they must connect with everyone that they can, learn, volunteer for assignments and tasks, and connect some more. And just not with your boss, or the company executives - forge connections with your fellow interns, they are quite likely to be as driven, ambitious, and intelligent as you - exactly the kind of people that form the foundation of a great professional network.

    How can students (or anyone for that matter), stay connected after the internship is over? Lauren advised the students to stick to their college schedule and make sure you reach out to these contacts three times a year (Fall, Spring, and Summer), just like college semesters are typically configured.

    All in all it was an excellent talk with advice and information that while directed at students and the market for internships, had many salient and applicable points for anyone in the job market.

    If you are a college student, or an employer that is looking to source some of the brightest and most driven college interns around, I suggest you check out InternQueen.com.