The Way I Lead

This photo says it all:

Photo by Tony Drumm @Tony_Drumm

I music directed Rock Of Ages at Rochester Civic Theatre from July-October 2016 (vocal director, music director, led the band during the run). The lead-off song had a ripping guitar solo. This is a picture of the two of us down stage sharing the spotlight, and that exact moment, it was Remi’s turn to shine.

What I love about this is my look of joy and delight (with a hint of “Damn, he’s good!”) watching him in the spotlight. Certainly I could have taken all the “fun solos”, but I love to see those I’m leading SHINE…do what they’re great at and watch…and smile.

I love that smile in the photo. To me it says…

…we are better as a team contributing all our expert skills complimenting each other rather than fighting for the spotlight. I mean, I could have just been focused on my next part, ignoring his contribution…but (at least the photo suggests) I was thoroughly enjoying what this team member was doing and put the spotlight appropriately on him.

…the best team starts with preparation. I started in January practicing myself, getting organized, and spent most of the time building the best team possible…members with skills that outshine my own…that compliment each other…where the players are also nice…fun to be around.

…a great team truly listens to each other. In this show, there were times we acted as a single organism…completely in synch, and when a glitch happened (vocalist or my miscue) the band didn’t miss a beat…we adjusted and locked in without the audience even noticing….most of the time without even looking at each other…just sensing through a guitar lick, a hand wave, or a drum fill, what the next note should be.

…this great team’s suggestions were valued and many times taken.

…I know we spent endless hours rehearsing and preparing but LOOK AT YOU!! You are killing it!!

…when it came to the performance, they followed my lead. My hope was to gain their trust through rehearsal so that by communicating my vision early, taking and executing their suggestions, that by showtime there was zero hesitation or argument about the real-time directions I gave. The result was hard-hitting, locked-in rock-n-roll that showed not only our individual skills, but showed the elevated “one-ness” of the band in the “this sounds amazing and much more than the sum of its parts” kind of band.

Finally, to me, it says, “you are at your best when you focus on helping others succeed, not when you are striving for your own success”. I know, not very ‘career-driven’, but maybe that’s why in IBM-world I am happiest leading a project where the team has a common vision, where the designers and developers looked to me for direction, but (hopefully) know my main purpose is, through delivering an experience customers love, that each designer and developer have a deep ownership that results in a rich sense of satisfaction when their designs and code are the reason that outstanding experience exists in the first place.

With that kind of success…a product they can feel proud of, I think the teams, like the Rock of Ages band, can forever point to that period in their life and instead of remembering the long hours and demands of a selfish leader, instead think, “Remember that experience we delivered!?! They LOVED IT! I was an important part of that team. What a great time of my life and I’d be a part of that team again in a heartbeat”

Inventions I’ll Give To The World – #5

I hate to admit it but I’m a fan of glow-in-the-dark things. I used to imagine all the cool things I would invent with glow in the dark technology:

  • A guitar shirt that would show a classical player, but when in the dark, show a rockin guitar hero
  • Guitar strings that would glow in the dark
  • A guitar strap that glows “There’s A Lick For That”

Obviously I tend to focus on certain themes, but lately serious scientists have been focusing on glow-in-the-dark animals. Inspired by that, and always trying to be serious, I started thinking what I would like to invent related to our family animals.

I’m here to offer up a truly needed invention: This I give freely as a service to the Internet and will offer any assistance possible to bring it to market…I give you…

Glow-in-the-dark dog poo.

Lets face it: How many of us have wandered around the yard trying to pick up these little presents only to later step right in it while enjoying a campfire or evening activity.

I’ve heard that some algae is toxic to dogs, but the phosphorescent algae might not be…and even if the wet stuff is, I wonder if it could be combined into dog food so that when it ‘arrives’, it can glow as bright as the ocean is deep. Besides, I keep hearing about all this ‘good bacteria’ that is inside our bellies. We can inject the glow-in-the-dark DNA into dogs belly bacteria, and, after a hearty meal…POOF, glow-in-the-dark poo.

You can even keep all the profits…just gimme a lifetime supply.

You’re welcome.

How about it? Who wants to join me in the “Light up the Poo” kickstarter campaign?!?!

Flip Your Focus: Serve Customers Through Social Media

Recently I was asked “Can you explain the professional benefits for a corporate employee engaging in social media?”

My response surprised me, and I thought you might find it interesting as well…

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Engaging in social media professionally does benefit you directly, but as I think through my experience, I find it becomes especially rewarding when you flip the focus from how it benefits you to how it benefits our customers.

Why flip focus?

Because our customers deserve our very best, and if we are involved in social media for  our own benefit, then our conversations, content, and perspective will always have an ulterior motive. We may make more sales or become more well-known in the industry in the short term, but the relationship with our customers will remain shallow with no lasting impact nor loyalty.

The social web is filled with “Look at me!” blogs and sites and tweets. It’s quite self-serving and it can take our users some time to tease out useful and unbiased information that they can use. However, if we start with “How can I serve you?” then their interest rises at the potential of rich, unbiased, relevant content.

When we focus on serving our customers through social media, their benefits include:

Customer Benefits:

  • Customers will gain better insight from your expertise in how to do their job better
  • Customers will trust that the conversation, tip, recommendation has their best interest in mind
  • Customer loyalty will increase as they realize they have real human relationships with experts that create our products/services.
  • Customers will share your expertise with their peers
  • Customers will feel relevant because you asked them to give honest feedback about your product/service

Notice that while our customers benefit, at the same time you benefit in even greater ways:

Your Benefits:

  • Trusted Industry Expert: You will become known in the industry as an expert, but even more importantly, a trusted expert
  • Real-World Impact: You will have real customer quotes to show your impact you’ve had over the year
  • Greater Purpose:  Because you help real humans in their work with your expertise, you will feel a greater purpose in your work. Instead of feeling like a small cog in a large machine, to a group of customers you are the expert in your area that helps them succeed
  • Improved Product: You will get unbiased feedback about your product/service that you can fold into your next release, thereby improving it for all customers

Like most things in your professional life, the more you put into your social media presence the more you get out of it. And at least in my experience, the more you focus on how to help others succeed through social media, the more personal reward you end up with.

Question: How do you serve customers through social media?

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