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For those who love to teach

Energy and persistence conquer all things.” -Benjamin Franklin 

Let’s get excited.   

Do you remember when you were in your early twenties looking for a job? What were you thinking about at that time…? What’s my future going to be… will I be successful, fall in love, buy a house, have children, be rich… You had lots of unknowns during that time and a lot of big decisions ahead of you. Now that I am a little older, I want to remind you, that at that age, you also had a lot of energy. Exciting and heady times for everyone.  
A really big question looming in your life at that time probably was what your job/career is going to be. You sort of know what you like, and you have ambition, although how much ambition isn’t always clear. So, you go job hunting in your field, talk to your friends and try to find a cool place to work. I remember Gabi’s (VP, Business Operations) story about when she was considering joining the company that she spent time looking at the Tahzoo’s Flickr page (I assume this was mostly because our website was only 1 page and didn’t actually tell you anything about what we did- but that’s another story) seeing our first Christmas party where we were giving away iPads at a cool whiskey bar in DC called Jack Rose. She thinks to herself “well that would be a cool place to work”. At that stage in life, you were also probably looking for a place to work that’s cool and where you can learn a lot.  
Most of you may not know this about me but I was on staff at a Presbyterian church as a youth director. I did not have the job for a long time, but it had a lasting impact on me. I was responsible for the middle schoolers’ 6th grade to 9th grades. All I’ve got to say about that job is that it is a really tough age, with lots of changes and confusion about everything. I also really loved middle schoolers because working with kids that early meant that it was not too late to keep them off bad paths in life. The moral compass may be unsteady for children at that age and sometimes they just need someone to talk too to keep them from getting in with the wrong crowd, doing drugs, committing crimes or worse. They are just trying to figure out how to grow up.   
I think it’s where I first learned about how much I loved teaching and helping people. For me, it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my career. More than all of the other successes I’ve had and by some measure. Helping people grow and mature in their career is my life’s calling, it’s why I started Tahzoo. Here is what I was thinking “If we could bring together a group of smart and happy people, we could make a hugely positive impact on the world as marketing technology evolved”. We’d learn together, focus on something noble, like great customer experiences and try to make millions of people a little bit happier every day.  
As all of us know, it’s been a long road to get here, Tahzoo will be 10 years old next year! Shout out to Piti, Dara, Matt, John K, Gabi, Emil, and Chris W you are a part of the foundation of this company. We are finally doing really exciting work these days. 
It’s just awesome! And folks, I am super excited, but I have to be super honest, it’s time to go hire some people and do it quickly. The reason bringing this up today is that I want all of us to get on the bus about hiring fresh out of college young professionals, with no more than two jobs on their resumes into our business.  
We are only going to hire people who are interested in consulting and we will have two types of consultants; business and technical. There is no need for specialization in your first job. We want folks who are eager to learn and work hard, over time they’ll settle into the career trajectory. They need to be smart and happy and willing to work really hard because as we all know consulting is not an easy gig. We have more than enough work for them to help with client projects and the many initiatives we have going within the company.   

In the meantime, what a great opportunity for someone to come work at Tahzoo, learn the ropes from all of you and be part of something pretty cool. Let’s ramp our social presence – start sending them content! Examples would be; where are you in the world? What cool thing is happening at Tahzoo, did we just have an international virtual happy hour from the US to Africa to Asia? Are you thrilled about a great presentation? Or dead tired flying back from Taiwan? Let’s build some buzz about our company and the cool things we do.  
Each of you has so much to offer to a relatively inexperienced person fresh out of college. Think about all the experiences you have and all the perspectives you have about how to be successful at a successful company. So, help me and the rest of the company hire some great folks.  
Please get the word out, let’s go get some great people. We will mentor them, steer them in a good direction and create some Tahzoo superstars!  
Let’s go be great! 

Personalization in a B2B World

“Hire character. Train skill.” – Peter Schutz 

Personalization in a B2B World  

In a real-world setting, a good salesperson would size-up a new prospect walking in the door and within seconds begin to tailor the conversation to that person’s needs. In the digital world of eCommerce and automated marketing, the union of data and content management technologies is allowing companies to replicate that salesperson’s ability to tailor the conversation to the prospect at hand, delivering different content to each digital customer based on data insights. 

At Tahzoo, we call this personalization. We are mirroring the human-to-human sales interaction in an online sphere to turn what was once a one-way and one-size-fits-all approach to digital content and digital marketing into a true, two-way conversation between brands and their customers. We are giving our clients—many of whom are in the FORTUNE 500—the agility to adapt their marketing messages on the fly to reach deeper more meaningful relationships with their customers. 
In the digital customer experience (CX) world, personalization is defined as the ability to provide content (words, images, video, and audio) to a specific customer based on real-time data about that customer, including their age, location, search history, and other “data insights” that can drive a richer and more personally targeted customer experience. 

The impact of personalization will be particularly significant in the relationship-based business-to-business (B2B) space. The technologies for delivering highly nuanced personalized content and the data needed to pinpoint customer preferences are well established and proven to deliver business results through greater contextual relevancy, conversion rates, and long-term customer loyalty.  
The technical infrastructure necessary to support the goals of personalization across all digital channels are available and will be imperative to market leadership and commercial viability in the industry for the foreseeable future.  
While personalization technology has advanced, the growing gap between truly relevant customer experiences—what Tahzoo refers to as “Responsive Experiences,” which adapt content to the user, based on data gathered about the user—and the standard one-size-fits-all content model, common in business-to-business sales is revealing a fundamental weakness in the ability of some firms to sell their products in the digital realm. 

Tahzoo likes to frame the disparity by asking a single, provocative question: what would happen if a human sales representative were as bad at selling office equipment, laptops, or even copy paper as the majority of today’s B2B websites? The answer is simple: they would be fired. 
For far too long, marketers have gotten away with being terrible salespeople online because they are insulated by the law of large numbers—if they churn through enough people, eventually some portion of them (usually a minute portion) will convert to customers. Volume is the name of the game, but volume is also tremendously expensive, inefficient, and ineffective for company and customer alike.  
While our ability to know the customer through data insights is better and more powerful than ever, and the technology is now sophisticated enough to make the dream of true personalization a reality, there is more to the arithmetic of marketing than mere data and technology. 

Tahzoo believes that much of the fault for the sorry state of online selling falls at the feet of companies’ poor understanding of how their customers become educated about their products and services. What more is selling than education, after all? And who better to learn about education than educators?  
For inspiration in transforming the digital customer experience into something truly revolutionary, we turned to a trusted principle of education theory known as Learning Models, a theory first developed by the academic Robert Gagné in the 1980s. 
In this white paper, Tahzoo marries Gagne’s “Learning Models” principles and digital personalization to unite these disparate pieces into a comprehensive digital customer experience model that describes:  

  1. How customers think about their own business problems and potential solutions.  
  2. The step-by-step process—the learning model—for educating a prospect through digital channels.  
  3. How to gather insightful and accurate data about those customers. 
  4. The technology to deliver relevant customer experience to sell better in the online setting. 

To remain relevant to today’s digitally driven B2B customers, the industry must move toward greater personalization. If today’s industry leaders don’t take up the charge, another service will surely find a better way to meet the needs of these customers. The B2B space is ripe for disruption. 

Is there a new and disruptive competitor awaiting the B2B space? That remains to be seen. But, if there is, such a competitor will surely emerge from the shadows of data-driven, technology-enabled, customer-centric personalization. 

To effectively communicate relevant and personalized content—not merely to present it—to drive consumer decision-making means that the floodgate to personalized content must be opened, but firms must first invite consumers to explore all their options through a process of self-education. In this paradigm, the mere presentation of information must progress from mere fact-finding to a real and lasting conversation between customers and companies.  
When this happens—when Learning Models and digital personalization are truly aligned—then and only then will B2B customers be both engaged and educated. And that’s when great things can happen. 
Let’s go be great! 

People, Processes, and Technology

“I believe in these guys and they believe in each other. The biggest thing for us is never quit.” -Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez 

People, Processes, and Technology  

All of our engagements are about three distinct areas of organizations; people, processes, and technology. Our clients hire us to work through all of those dimensions to achieve a business objective.  
In that context, I want to start a conversation about “how” we execute on those three dimensions. One of our core values is we hire interesting people who are interested in change and I’ve written often about how as individuals and as a company we are agents of change. 

I’d like to stipulate that we do work in these three domains with every client. What I am concerned about is that we are not consistent in the way that we approach our client relationships recognizing that all three domains need a strategy and an execution plan. I think on the technical side of our business we are extraordinarily well documented, consistent and virtually every consultant within Tahzoo operates within a common and consistent framework. However, when it comes to people and process, we need more well-developed methodologies and execution plans.  
I’ve always been proud of how good we are at building relationships with our clients. Over the years we’ve become quite good at mirroring the corporate culture of our clients. These “connections” have enabled the change management processes but we should not be deluded into thinking that building strong personal relationships is our change management process. We need to be way more thoughtful and structured about how we are going to drive organizational change and assist our clients with designing, leading, and implementing change. 

On the process side, we have excellent Business Analysts and Functional Consultants who work very well with our designers and engineers to design and build a state of the art systems. We document the “as is” and the “to be” state quite well. But that isn’t sufficient when we are driving large scale organizational change. Not only do we need to design the “as is” state but we also need tools for rationalizing the ROI of the change and then a plan to drive wide-scale adoption of the new methods and procedures.  
As a company, we do many things very well and we need to continue to evolve our thinking and methodologies. I am raising this with each of you today to begin a companywide conversation about change management and how are we going to evolve the people process and technology aspects of our engagements. The combination of Sites and Docs coupled with the DAM/Aprimo workflow tools is leading us down this path regardless. We can’t just be good at implementing systems against business goals, we need to be good at leading change in all three dimensions. 

 Remember, rarely is the technology that is the impediment to success… it is the people, process, and change management issues. I believe we can be the agents of change that our clients need to push through and make the most of their investments.  
Let’s go be great! 

Ways to Improve Communication

“I urge you to please notice when you’re happy … and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” – Kurt Vonnegut 

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen.  

We chose happiness, we chose a positive frame of mind, we chose to see the best in one another… we have a choice. Sometimes those choices are hard. As intended or as perceived … it’s a central question in all human interactions. Which is the dominant frame of reference for you? When we perceive that a colleague has communicated or done something that is negative, do you react with vengeance or do you ask them what did you mean by that? Or why did you do that? 

How many times have you spoken with a colleague and they took what you said all wrong, not as you intended but quite the opposite? Think about that for a second, you made a well-intentioned comment, but the other person’s frame of reference caused them to hear your comment very differently… Happened to you before? It’s the basis of a lot of human conflict and comedy. Watching two people speaking past each other is the basis for many great dramas and comedy skits….’ Who’s on first?” 
I have a few tips to share about how to improve the quality of your communication and hopefully reduce the number of times you find yourself in an unintended miscommunication.  
1. Assume the best in your colleagues, we are a company full of smart and happy people. If you start with this frame of reference the likelihood of miscommunication declines dramatically. 

2. “Seek first to understand before seeking to be understood” – Steven Covey. Ask why and listen, really listen to what your colleague intended to communicate. Often, conversations are really two people waiting for each other to finish so they can make their point. That’s not listening and rarely leads to resolution.  
3. Emails don’t convey tone very well. If you receive an email from one of your colleagues that triggers you, remember that it’s probably better to pick up the phone and apply tips 1 and 2. Sorting out miscommunications over email or worse yet exchanging hostile emails almost never has a good outcome.  
4. My mom always used to say if you respect someone, it means that you frequently re-look at your underlying assumptions about the person. For example, a colleague could be working hard to reply to emails quickly or be more attentive in meetings but because your underlying assumption is that they are always late, you won’t recognize they are working hard on making a change. Your frame of reference about your colleague is the lens that you’ll use to interpret their communication, make sure you’re up to date.   

5. A quote from Ruth Bader Ginsburg – “it helps sometimes to be a little deaf”. When being interviewed about her long and successful marriage, she said, “On the day I was married, my mother-in-law, took me aside and said she wanted to tell me what was the secret of a happy marriage.” Not every slight needs to be prosecuted or understood, oftentimes it’s better to let things slide and just choose to hear the best in what your colleague said to you.  
Remember all communication is a choice. A choice about what you communicate and a choice about how you interpret the communication. Chose happiness and to see the best in each other.  
Let’s go be great! 

Be Your Own Boss

There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist or accept the responsibility for changing them.”  —Denis Waitley 

You’re not the boss of me.  
In the 21st century, companies will thrive because they are agile. We are warping through a period where computational power is doubling, and the rate of technology adoption is moving at an exponential clip. For the most part, it’s why we are going to grow by 65, almost 70 percent this year. There is a very high demand in the market for a company like us to help our Fortune 500 clients take advantage of all of this change and opportunity.  
That brings me to each of you. 
In the 20th Century typical business setting you had a boss and you followed instructions. If you were competent and showed some initiative, you’d move up the ranks. You could pick a discipline, become an expert, and enjoy the requisite level of seniority. If your heart was in management and leadership, you could add that to your competencies and again move up the ranks, but you always had a boss. Someone you could depend on to tell you what to do. 

Well, that is soooo 20th Century. At Tahzoo you are your own boss, you don’t have a boss. You have a small group of people who are here to support you and help you achieve success and your career objectives. You don’t have to be on a specific track or have a singular focus on a discipline… you have agility, you have mobility and you have options. Now back to my original statement, 21st-century employees need to be agile. When I meet some of you, the technical skill you were hired for doesn’t even exist anymore… are there any former flash developers in the house (ahem Dara Keo, VP of Technology)?   
We do complexly bespoke consulting to Fortune 500 companies with very difficult, expensive, and unique business problems. Where you started, where you are and where you finish will most assuredly be different. 
Considering all of this, in September I implemented “the choose your own career coach” management model. I did this because you don’t need a boss, you need a small group of people, for now; your career coach, your account executive, and your practice lead to support you in reaching your goals and assist you in servicing our clients with acumen and aplomb. 

Guess what- it’s hard, it means that you need to develop and manage at least three relationships within the company and as many or more on the client-side. That requires emotional agility, it requires that you have a plan and you work the plan. If you think that you’ll have a boss who will tell you what to do and you can merrily tune out, you’ve missed the point. Each one of you is your own boss, you decide how you’d like your career to progress, the skills you are going to develop, and frankly, you are only limited by your ambition.  
Everyone will be receiving feedback from their career coach within the next week or so. Please take the time to talk about your career and your ambitions, develop a plan. Tom Wanat called it a personal learning journey. I like the ring of that… 
It’s almost 2020, computing power and the solutions that are a derivative of that are going to double in productivity and effect within 18 months, are you ready for that level of change? Have you thought about what skills you need to be developing to take advantage of the change? Are you learning to be agile in your approach to work and who you manage your career path?  
Invest in yourself, leverage your three core relationships, and have a plan. You are your own boss.  
Let’s go be great! 

Wave of Technology Advancement

“Time is non-refundable, use it with intention.” -Unknown

Big waves only come around once in a while… 

 I’ve been doing some reflecting and planning on our business for 2020. So things are coming together very nicely on the business development front … our deal flow, software partnerships, and sales messaging are all very strong. Maybe the strongest I’ve ever seen. SDL has something special that we can sell, Docs plus Sites and DXD is a game-changer. It solves a very large and expensive enterprise business problem, which is actually managing content. Adobe, Sitecore, Drupal… (whatever pick your favorite Portal/CMS), manage websites or, more accurately, the presentation of the content, not the content itself.  
This gives all of those software products a fatal market flaw. Which is that most of the R&D investment for these software companies aren’t going to pay off. The number of device types and channels; desktop, cell phone, watch, tablet, TV screens, etc. have basically settled down and most of our experiences happen inside the context of an application. Even TV is moving to Netflix or Hulu, it’s all application-driven. The complexity is in the variations of the content not the variations in the presentation layer. When you’re running a software company you have to be smart about choosing which problem you solve and that problem for enterprise software has to be expensive. 

Conversely, SDL invested in structured documentation, Dita, and abstracting the presentation layer with DXD and Graph QL. Yes, it’s still a work in process, I’ll admit the software isn’t fully baked, I’m hoping that SDL is not more than a version or two away. It turns out that managing the complexity of content variation is a very important and very expensive business problem within the Fortune 500. Just consider the entire content supply chain, not only does it need to be accurate for compliance reasons, the number of variations is exploding. You have to worry about language, localization, segmentation, content sequencing, not to mention all of the workflows, compliance, and other regulatory or bureaucratic requirements. Content lives within various temporal states and is modified or enhanced along the way. I could spend the next few hours talking about content creation, modification, approvals, publishing, and curation and still not capture all the complexity. It looks like SDL spent their R&D dollars on solving a very expensive problem.  
Let me give you three examples to consider: 

  • You’re in a regulated industry; financial services, health care, etc. Since the economic crisis in 2008 or since the passage of the affordable care act, large companies have been inundated with significant regulatory requirements. A whole series of disclosures, forms, and certainty about the customer experience that must be adhered too, the same thing is true about HIPPA and privacy requirements on the healthcare side. Violations of these regulatory requirements come with huge fines and bad publicity. Look at the mortgage crisis, if you were not given the proper disclosure forms or you went to a site and were provided misleading information, you can sue your lender and have your loan forgiven. Then to top it off, the business will be fined for not complying with the regulations. The penalty for violating privacy rights or publishing unapproved content against FDA guidance, can not only cost you huge fines but can shut down a company. So how do you think compliance is worth to a large company … a lot of money.  So you’re Bank XYZ, you sell on a national level but you’re regulated at a state level, that’s how banks operate. You’ve decided to change your loan application disclosure forms. You now have to update the overarching standard disclosure and change a few paragraphs that differ from state to state based on the laws. You don’t have a creative based presentation problem. You have an entire content life cycle to manage and you need to ensure that at every single customer touchpoint the proper disclosure form is published. Oh, and if you make one mistake in just one state, the Attorney General from that State is going to open an inquiry on your deceitful practices.    
  • Or let’s consider the Knowledge portal problem. You run a large retail organization or a consulting company with 100K employees. Most of your costs and most of your profits are based on the efficiencies of the workforce. Do your people know what to do and are the instructions and manuals readily available? On average your workforce costs about $60 dollars per hour with benefits etc. This is a low number but you’ll get the point. If people can find accurate information faster, let’s say they’ll gain an additional 2 hours per week to spend on higher-value productive work rather than surfing the internal systems for the answer. The company will save somewhere north of $300MM per year in operational costs. So let’s say that our project costs $20MM including software and services. You’re the CEO, and the proposal is that you modernize your infrastructure and processes, which will cost $20MM plus “Tahzoo change orders”  and you save $300MM in a year in productivity… would you take that deal? 
  • Lastly and more briefly, let’s quickly look at Consumer Package goods products. So you sell computers on a global basis. Retaining customers is your best marketing solution, however, achieving this goal is based on the quality of the product and the customer service. Imagine that you can repurpose all of your technical documentation to enhance customer experience and then provide feedback to the product groups? What is that worth in terms of customer retention or creating great new products?  

What we are seeing is SDL solves this fundamental content management problem. That “below the line” result is worth millions of dollars in savings and “above the line” is worth millions in increased revenue and customer loyalty. That is worth millions of dollars in cost savings and millions in profit. Technology advancements come in waves, some bigger than others. I am here to tell you this is a big wave, a really big wave, buckle your chin straps we are just getting started.  
Let’s go be great! 


The Power of a Smile

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”  Mother Teresa 

The Power of a Smile… 
Have you ever noticed that a smile from someone can just make your day? 

When I was a phone operator at Nordstrom (I’ve had almost every job at Nordstrom), we used to talk about having a smile in your voice when you answered the phone. Have you ever noticed how much more approachable a friendly voice is rather than a grumpy tone? I personally want to talk to a happy person, don’t you?  
When I was a young manager at Nordstrom, I would walk the floor every morning and consider how to reorganize the floor to increase sales, merchandising based on the day, the weather or hot products, etc. One day my store manager walked up to me and said, “what’s wrong?” I was surprised… and she said, “you look angry.” I was not angry, just focused. I realized when I concentrate, when I’m focused, I don’t always smile because I’m thinking about things. It was a lesson learned for me and a reminder of the importance of smiling.  
In our business, as a consultant, our clients are looking to us to give them the ideas and the energy to change. To preserve through difficult transitions, to be open-minded about new approaches and new opportunities. No matter how compelling your argument, no matter how sound your reasons, absolutely nothing starts a conversation off better than a smile. So even when you’re busy, even when you’re concentrating and especially when you’re with a client, remember to smile.  
Have a smile on your face, a smile in your voice and use your smile to brighten someone’s day.  
Let’s go be great! 

Be Like Mike

“When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, 
that means they’ve given up on you.” ― Randy Pausch (The Last Lecture) 

In loving memory of someone who made me try harder… 

We continue to enjoy good fortune in the marketplace. As I wrote yesterday, happy clients and perfect quality work create a virtuous cycle that needs attention and care. I wanted to take a moment and remind all of you about the priorities for the business we discussed at the all-hands meeting.  
•    Great customer service – no balls dropped, no phones left unreturned, no emails unanswered. We are always either building or tearing down our client relationships. 
•    Perfect quality work – Every deliverable is reviewed for excellence before it sees a customer. We systematically review the work of our teams and our teammates, so we KNOW the work is good. We are all the avenging angels and teachers of perfect work.  
•    Focused on profitability – Eliminate unnecessary expenses, be mindful of T&E spend, review your expense reports, ensure everyone has billable work, hire accurately and don’t give away hours by spreading people across the project. Maximize our margins. 
•    Resolve differences quickly – Get real with one another, don’t leave things left unsaid, agree on priorities and adjudicate or resolve issues expeditiously. Make decisions quickly quickly quickly. 
Everyone needs a coach; everyone needs a mentor, and everyone needs to be focused on perfect quality work. Not close, not good, not even great but perfect. Perfect happens when teams collaborate and review one another’s work. When you’ve done your best and you take the time to put it before others for critique, you have a shot at perfect quality work. It’s the only way anyone of us can get better. 

As some of you know, I swam competitively for many years. In a very big swim meet, I lost a race by one one hundredth of a second. That is less time than it takes you to blink and less time than it takes to say faster. I was devastated, to say the least, I hate losing! I went to talk with my coach, a gentleman named Mike Troy. He was an Olympic goal medalist and a world record holder and a decorated Navy Seal. I thought he would comfort me and tell me that I did a good job because I tried hard. Quite the opposite, he laid into me … calling out the mistake I made at during the start, how I handled my turn and not the least which was not stretching my fingertips out to touch the wall … it just went on and on. He was mad at me because he knew I should have won that race, he knew I could do better, and he was right.  
I was a young boy at the time, it took me a couple of weeks to recover emotionally from the loss, it would have been longer, but Mike was unrelenting. We practiced starts, turns and finishes for what seemed like weeks. You know someone cares for you when they expect the best of you and won’t let you get away with anything but your best work.  
So, go out and be a Mike Troy in someone’s life, push your teammates and be open to criticism, it’s the only way to get better. We are a company that wins first place not second with a “nice try”.  
Mike recently passed away, but not before imprinting himself on my life, and this DOB is dedicated in loving memory to a man who loved me enough to never accept anything but the best from me. It would honor me for you to read more about this amazing man who helped shaped my life here. 

Let’s go be great, and I love each of you enough to never accept anything but the best from you. 

4 Big Priorities

“One truth I have discovered for sure: When you believe that all things are possible and you are willing to work hard to accomplish your goals, you can achieve the next ‘impossible’ dream. No dream is too high!” 
– Buzz Aldrin 

We have a lot of work going on within the company these days and I wanted to share my four core priorities. I met with the leadership team early this week to discuss these, but it is imperative that the entire company participate in achieving our goals.  
•  Great Customer Service – no dropped balls, no phone calls left unreturned, no emails unanswered. We are always either building up or tearing down our client relationships. 
•  Perfect Quality Work – Every deliverable needs to be reviewed for excellence before it goes to a customer. We systematically review all the work, so we KNOW the quality is there. We have lots of new people in the company, each of you is an avenging angel and teacher of perfect work.  
•  Focus on Profitability – Eliminate unnecessary expenses, be mindful of T&E spend (we are closely reviewing expense reports), ensure everyone has billable work, hire accurately, and don’t give away hours by spreading resources across a project. Maximize our margins. 
•  Resolve Differences Quickly – Get real with one another, don’t leave things left unsaid, agree on priorities, and come to me or your manager to adjudicate or resolve issues. Make decisions quickly quickly quickly! 
We should grow north of 60% this year. The only way to achieve that is to maintain our quality and satisfy our clients’ expectations is to improve the way we work. We need more sustainable and foundational ways of working, better systems and processes. Remember that we are not a large company, each of you plays an important role in our overall success, each of you should be making a difference and contributing to the improvement of the company. I am looking forward to all of your business case submissions!  
Let’s go be great! 

Lessons Learned

I was chatting with John Kottcamp the other day about leading and coaching people. I was reminded of a mentor of mine named Mike Winn. Like they say, “the difference between people is the books they’ve read and the people they’ve met”. Over the course of my life, many people have given me good advice, at times I embraced it vigorously, other times it was challenging for me to understand the relevance.  
The nice thing about having mentors is that they influence the rest of your life. In particular with Mike, some 40 years later his advice is still having a big impact on me.  
When I was 14 years old, I decided I’d visit the local church. I had never been there before, and I was by myself. Being new to church, when the pastor asked us to read out loud a specific verse from the bible, I was completely lost. I was fumbling through the book trying to find the chapter he had referenced, feeling a bit awkward, to say the least. Mike happened to be sitting next to me with his family. Realizing that I was struggling, he helped me get to the right book and verse so I could follow along.  
Mike and I struck up a relationship. Turned out he was an elder in the church and an English Literature professor. He had recently returned to the States after running large refugee camps in Cambodia and Laos. After the Vietnam war, there was a refugee crisis and he took a sabbatical from teaching to helping organize and run these camps. I spent a lot of time with Mike over the next couple of years until he moved to take a tenured teaching position at a UC school in Northern California.  
Mike was always feeding me books to read, mostly science and fantasy fiction novels. Those types of books turned out to be a great forum for he and I to talk about life lessons, including leadership lessons. Mike had a lot of stories about his time running refugee camps and did his best to impart his wisdom to me. We had a Socratic relationship. 
One day, I asked Mike “What is the hardest thing about leadership”? He said, “letting people fail”. Of course, I wanted to dive into this subject, and he explained that people learn more from their failures than from their successes and sometimes you have to step back and let them work things through. Even when, as the leader, it’s easier to just do it yourself, Mike counseled that you need to give people the opportunity to grow and learn. His point was a great leader “knows just the right time to step in and help verse step back and allow people to struggle”.  
When I received this advice, I was probably 16 years old and it was inconceivable to me that you could responsibly let someone fail. We discussed the subject for a while and then moved on. It sat with me as an important lesson but just one that didn’t quite make sense at the time.  
As I moved into my career and took increasingly larger leadership roles, the wisdom of Mike’s perspective became clearer to me. As a manager of a small or medium size team, you can kill yourself, micromanage every detail and generally be successful. As you run larger teams or lead people who lead teams this becomes an impossible task. Ultimately people need to be coached and they want to learn, the balance is finding the right blend of attention to detail, so you can protect the business and give your people space and time to fail. In retrospect, Mike was absolutely right … to know when to stand by and allow someone to fail but is engaged enough so that you can coach them is the secret to great leadership. So, if you find yourself wanting to jump into the orchestra pit and start playing someone else’s instrument, consider taking a moment of pause and consider if there is an opportunity for leadership and coaching.  
Let’s go be great!