Wrapping up the Quarter with Advice from Air Jordan

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michael_jordan_trophy_ringsAs I put a wrap on this quarter’s performance planning in Sonar 6, I am excited about the 4-week session ahead (yes my friends, DAXKO’s time warp has us planning our performance again end of June, so think of this as a performance sprint!) 

Q1 hit us with three big setbacks, but now the Association Team has found the court, got the ball, and put a few points on the board.  We’ve encountered some foul play from the “opposing team,” but hey…we’re back together now and moving in the right direction.  In the next four weeks, the “Big Five” for each one of us is a like a sprint:  it’s designed to increase our capacity on all fronts to prepare us to do twice as much with the same team in Q3 and Q4.  From what I see, the team is ready for the challenge. 

Michael Jordan once said:

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

We have some talent, true, but I have been particularly happy with the teamwork and intelligence I see.  There are a few characteristics that seem to really contribute to the fly-wheel spinning.  I want to take a second to call them out:

  • Resourcefulness – we are moving quickly and can’t afford to “wait” for better answers or more money. The team is coming up with creative ways to get exposure, leads, deals, integrations, and solutions. 
  • Respect – there is a great deal of respect between team members for the roles and responsibilities we have.  With that respect comes trust and being “ok” with holding each other accountable.
  • Curiosity – just about everyone on the team is naturally an inquisitive spirit…which actually circles back to resourcefulness.
  • Persistence – this team won’t take “no” for an answer.  If they hit a roadblock, next step is to find the fastest way around it. 

Michael Jordan also said there is no “I” in team, but there is one in “win.”  We intend to have both. 

In May we had our best month ever with 4 wins and almost $70K in ARR.  That’s almost four times the results from our average. We are raising the bar in June, and every month thereafter. 

No doubt we’ll see other challenges that come our way, but as the late John Wooden said:

“Things turn out best for people who make the best of how things turn out.”

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Wanna Take a Ride with Me?

By | Culture, Free Career Advice, Talent, Technology | No Comments

quality_imgCertifications are great. Don’t get me wrong. There are cases where they add real value to the person possessing them. Plumbers, electricians, divers, teachers, welders, etc…  However, those certifications not only require written tests but also training programs, skills assessments, and some even require apprenticeships. Conversely, there are times when their real value comes into question.

For example, according to my driver’s license, I am certified to operate a car, boat, and motorcycle. However, I have only driven a car. I am not even sure how the motorcycle endorsement got on there, but it’s there. So, without ever having driven one, do you think that “certification” qualifies me to hop on my husband’s brand new shiny Yamaha V-Star and hit the open road? Absolutely not! I wouldn’t make it out of our driveway. On the flip side, my stepson has been riding dirt bikes almost his entire life and has the experience to do it but isn’t “certified” to do so. Which one of us will be more successful at operating my husband’s bike properly? The answer is simple… not the certified person! 

The same is true with certifications for software testers. There are programs out there that are great at teaching you the basic concepts, tools, and ideologies for testing. The real problem with some of the top certifications is that they do not even require you to have any formal training on the testing process. Without experience, you can simply take a test, pass, and **TA-DA** you are a “certified tester”– no real world application necessary to ensure you really can do the work.

Interestingly, most top testing experts do not have these so-called “certifications.” According to a recent MSDN article that I read, most testers at Microsoft do not even have testing certifications. Does that mean they are not qualified to do their jobs? Are the leading testing experts not qualified to mentor the rest of us? I think not! Anyone can study and pass a test. It takes a special type of person to actually decide to follow the career path of testing.

I will leave you with a few things to ponder… if the world’s largest software company obviously does not see value in hiring testers with these testing certifications, what value do you see in them? If you want to take the certification test, that’s great. It looks really good on a resume. However, would you prefer to hire a certified person with no previous testing experience or a seasoned tester with 13 years of proven, real world testing experience but no certification? Luckily, for me, DAXKO chose the latter!

Want to read more about software testing certifications? Visit these blogs from 2 leading testing experts:

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Team T’s

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You thought I was going to write about DAXKO’s Kick-Off T-shirt design, but…that’s not it.

The Team T’s I’m talking about here came from an excerpt from “The Game Changer” that Dave G. left on my desk.   The article is about building an innovation team.  I like it.

One of the things that hit home is the importance of intellectual diversity on the team.  In short, to innovate a great product that will succeed in the marketplace takes a few key people with diverse “thinking styles.”  Intellectual diversity means people approach problems and opportunities in very different ways.  There are idea people, project managers, executioners (not as bad as it sounds!), and leaders.  A successful innovation team needs them all, and sometimes more than one from each person.

Different people are going to get to the goal in different ways.  Example:  Market people will look at a market problem and attempt to solve it for a profit (looking out for the business).  Product people, like artists and engineers, fall in love with design, novelty, or functionality (enamored with the killer product/service).  Successful innovation takes both, and will only work when both types recognize the value of the other in reaching the end goal.

Tim Brown of IDEO uses the term “T-shaped” disposition to describe the intellectual profile of innovative teams.  IDEO looks for people with depth in one subject (the down-stroke of the T).   They must also have a breadth of curiosity and willingness to consider other people’s skills (the top part of the T).  These “Type T” people are not easy to find. With drive and passion often comes ego and self-righteousness.  Building a trusting team of T-Players is critical to getting our Association business on a success track.  I am Thankful—with a capital T—that the players on the team already show great signs of being T-Players.

Square Peg, Round Hole – Can The Traditional Organization Afford to Focus on Strengths?

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Is performance management upside down in Corporate America?  Here are a couple of quick observations:

1.  Jobs are structured for the company, not the employee.  I’m not saying that’s wrong, just outlining the facts.

2.  90% of the time we spend talking about performance is about how to manage negative variance.

3.  We don’t spend a lot of the time evaluating how we can continue to maximize a person’s strengths.  We’ll tell them they are doing great, give them an “exceeds”, then move on to how they can improve their “areas of opportunity”.

4.  The combination of those competencies, that create “jobs”, are pretty inflexible in corporate America.

With that in mind, it should come as no shock that while we love to read books like “Now Discover Your Strengths” and nod accordingly when discussing, we pretty much go back to the coal mine and expect people to fit in the traditional spaces we’ve defined.

Scott McArthur talked awhile back about the power of positive, strength-based psychology in the workplace.  From the sweet rundown at McArthur’s Rant:

“Positive psychology suggests that by focusing on people’s strengths rather than on their development needs we can transform wellness at work and as a consequence improve organizational performance.

The notion behind the work that is being done under the banner of Positive Psychology is to enhance our experiences of love, work and play and by doing so encourage wellbeing. This is in contrast to the traditional ways of thinking in both psychology and business where the focus is on finding what isn’t working and trying to fix it.

Techniques such as Appreciative Enquiry and Strength Finders as well as writers such as Csikszentmihalyi in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience have been extolling the value of adopting this approach for some time. In Gallup’s case they have produced some strong statistical evidence that it works..”

Scott acknowledges in his post that while focusing on employee strengths is a powerful tool, it’s problematic for the traditional organization to figure out how to do it.

Here’s my take.  The power of focusing on strengths in corporate America is probably best used in a combination of performance management and engagement.  The smart managers know that they can’t adjust a role to fit the employee’s strengths with a 100% match.  But with the right amount of praise, coaching and organizational flexibility, they can create an environment where the employee understands that the more efficient they are in their formal job, the more they can chase what they really love to do, and maybe even innovate and create stuff on the way.

And that would be a pretty cool thing…