What Matters to Me Now

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what’s best in one’s career:  To stride or to stretch? I define striding as someone who does their job with relative ease but is still able to deliver a meaningful impact. Stretching is someone who is unafraid to be uncomfortable and challenge “their” norm and discover new capabilities, skills in the process.  But to stride or to stretch — is this the right question I should be asking?

Being Uncomfortable

Looking back at my career, I have always held a high regard for those who took on opportunities and projects that boldly stretched themselves.  But I naively thought that this was the requisite to be “perceived” successful and ultimately become a success in one’s profession. As I look back at this notion, I now know that that this is not entirely correct.

Years ago, a mentor told me that “as long as I feel stretched then I can be content that I’m pushing myself to the max.” I admired that and tried to embrace that mentality early on in my own career. This was one of the reasons why I went to Asia to live and work.  A decision that has turned out to be a game-changer for me both professionally and personally. But, is this philosophy still salient for me years later mid-career?

Being Stretched Does Not Always Equal Success

As I reexamine this philosophy that being stretched equls success, I realize now that this mindset may no longer serve me well in my career as it did earlier on. Quite frankly, being stretched does not matter as one can be challenged in their job and consequently be incompetent at doing it effectively. On the flip side, someone who may be doing the same job for years and has hit a stride that makes her “almost” irreplaceable in her role. Perhaps this may be an extreme case but the point here is that we should be looking elsewhere to see how someone is doing in their role. Simply put, the question we should all be asking is are we performing well? And, if so, are we performing at the the highest level possible?

This is All that Matters to Me Now

At this stage, I try to focus on performing at a high level no matter if I’m an individual contributor or a people manager. This is not easy to do but at this stage in my career, I believe it is a requisite for me to function effectively and feel like I am creating value.

Questions that I ask myself include:

  • Am I doing work that matters?
  • Am I doing things that are meaningful to my job, my team, and/or my organization?
  • Am I contributing to the growth of others?
  • Am I thoughtfully driving results and outcomes in an efficient way?
  • Am I driving things forward with a cause that people can rally behind?
  • Am I challenging the norm in a constructive way?

From my perspective, these are are all examples of ways one can facilitate and nurture a high performance mindset in their day-to-day. It is not easy but with the right psychology, tactics, diet, and energy,  achieving high performance can be attainable for anyone. And one does not have to be pushed to the brim to get there. Of course, when starting a new role there will be a learning curve that will necessitate you to be uncomfortable. This is inevitable when starting a new position but once you hit your stride, focus on maintaining a high performance mindset and I’m confident that it will benefit your career and the organization.

Collaboration: Do You Do This Well?

A year ago i wrote about a quality that I believed to be the most overlooked quality in leadership. The response was humbling as many of you shared the same sentiments. It got me thinking recently about other attributes that serve well in establishing one’s true leadership. One quality that may be talked a lot about is collaboration. There is an art to effective collaboration and when mastered I believe it can be quite defining in establishing one as a great leader, colleague, and steward in an organization.

But what type of collaboration am I referring to?  Naturally, paying attention to someone in a meeting by putting your cell phone away is a requisite to collaborate. Or asking questions to show you are genuinely interested in a conversation with a colleague. These may seem common place but are not always followed-through in today’s world of never ending distractions.  But the collaboration that I reference here goes beyond this and addresses how we genuinely help, support, cooperate, and / or mentor others in our daily jobs.

Some of the reasons why collaboration is so important in business are common sensical but some may not be as transparent.  Such things as enhancing an organization’s efficiency or increasing internal awareness of what people are doing are some examples of why collaboration is important in today’s modern working environment. But these are just the beginning; here are some other reasons why I believe collaboration is a building-block to practicing effective leadership:

  • Helps Challenges the Status Quo
  • Helps A Business Grow Faster
  • Helps to Establishes a “One Company” Culture
  • Nurtures a “Can Do” Environment
  • Helps to Fosters Innovation

The benefits of collaboration are substantial and because of this it is covered extensively in many books as well as thought leadership platforms. Despite this, collaboration is not always easy to do when the rubber hits the road. When was the last time you deeply collaborated with someone who was not part of your P&L or group? When was the last time we genuinely helped someone who is a peer and who may — and rightfully — be vying for a promotion? Collaboration can be hard to do for these and many other reasons but it is these hard things that great leaders find a way to thrive in through and through.

Personally, this is one area that I hope to get better at in 2019. It will not be easy but with some small wins I am sure that it will become a more natural way for me to do business. Please share your thoughts in the comments section about your own experience.

The thoughts expressed within are my own. Thanks for reading.

5 Reasons to Get Out of Town

Last month I was invited to speak at the Product School about my experience doing #product marketing and product management roles #overseas. I talked about a variety of reasons but perhaps one of the biggest ones is that it enhances one’s ability to practice _20180725_184446empathy.  A skillset that I believe is critical to being a customer centric product manager. The other reasons why I would recommend a stint overseas I explain in the below article that I wrote a couple years ago.  Many thanks to the product school for the invitation and also to the students that attended.

 

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Have you ever been in a headquarter based meeting when someone says, “This marketing campaign will be impossible to localize in China?” Or when a product manager says to her engineering team, “This product schedule will miss Diwali in South Asia.” One may presume that these comments are from people who originally came from those respective regions but that is not always the case. Rather they are coming from individuals who have worked abroad for an extended period of time and returned to their home country with an incremental impact to the company’s performance and bottom-line.

In today’s international economy, having global awareness at headquarters is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have for survival. A TRULY global firm must operate with a deep and sensitive awareness to stay relevant with consumers in order to ultimately have profitability at home and abroad. In most cases, this has to start at the top to cultivate a global DNA across the organization.

Nissan comes to mind as a perfect example who understood the benefits of having a global DNA at the top when Mr. Carlos Ghosn was appointed CEO of the automaker in 2001 and ultimately Chairman in 2008. Before Mr. Ghosn executed his “Nissan Revival Plan” in 2001 and his “Nissan 180 Plan” in 2002, the Yokohama based automaker was losing relevance outside of Japan. But under his unprecedented leadership, Nissan relinquished the status-quo (e.g., keiretsu) and asked employees to act globally (e.g., English is now the official language). As a result, Nissan has grown to a respectable position worldwide and has significantly increased sales worldwide, most notably China.

Some may believe that having overseas experience combined with solid performance may help accelerate one’s career. While this is not always the case it is well-known that many executives in Fortune 500 companies have done extended assignments overseas before acquiring their stripes at home. Indeed, this alone is not the only reason to take the leap abroad but for many aspiring executives it could be a compelling one.

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

–Muhammad Ali

Despite the potential for career advancement, many still refrain from seeking opportunities overseas or are not aware that the opportunity — including local hire — could be available to them. This certainly cannot be over simplified but I truly believe that exporting one’s services is a matter of timing and willingness. Timing can be out of our control but obviously the latter is not. Having the willingness to go and live abroad – regardless of location — is a combination of curiosity, desire, and courage.

Everybody’s situation is unique but if you (or your spouse) need a little help to muster the courage to go abroad, I would like to suggest some obvious and not so obvious reasons you might want to know. On the other hand, if you have no plans to go but are curious about the working-professional’s experience overseas, perhaps the below thoughts will change your mind.

New relationships that could last a lifetime: By living abroad you will be able to cement new relationships with people you normally would not meet in-person both inside and outside the office. It is my humble opinion that the connections you will make with colleagues and locals will likely enrich your experience exponentially. Many people will be intrigued by your courage to start a new chapter overseas and will want to hear your story the first time they meet you.

Enhance your resume: Showing that you have worked in a different environment and produced results demonstrates a tested business acumen and your ability to adapt to a unique environment. This is not easy to do as doing business differently or adhering to business culture can be challenging. This works to your advantage and could help you in the long-run.

Benefit from the same boat effect: If you live abroad, you and your family will have countless opportunities to meet other expats and local hires just like you from your country and elsewhere. Many of these connections could likely be with C-level executives and even dignitaries. From my experience, these relationships help expatriates navigate the good, bad, and the indifferent when living abroad.

Become a champion for your region: Regardless of your craft, during your tenure abroad you will have the opportunity to become the headquarters go-to-person for your region or country. The spotlight will naturally be on and you will inevitably be able to increase your sphere of influence and establish your credibility far and wide within the organization and have a real impact.

Learn something entirely new: From harnessing new hobbies to learning a language, the cultural experiences you gain will add a new element to your journey. Naturally, this largely depends on how open you choose to be and your priorities; the more open you are, the more willing you will be to challenge your comfort zone. If you do decide to go abroad, I highly recommend taking up a new hobby that could only be learned in that country. You will never regret it!

In my case, I can say that working abroad has been extremely rewarding because of these five reasons. But I would remiss if I did not state that a stint overseas does not mean that returning back to your home country will be easy. Unless you have a guaranteed position at the home office, getting back to the mothership will require hard work and creativity. The relationships you nurtured at the home office and your effectiveness at teaching how your new developed skills can be used are two key factors that will determine your repatriation. Naturally, these factors have to intersect with business needs. Despite this reality, I strongly believe that the positives of working abroad trump the challenges immensely.

20 Years Later: Happy But Not Content

Earlier this month I attended my 20 year reunion at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. There were a few friends who could not make it so — truth be told — my excitement was slightly deflated. But as I look back at it now, without question, I’m glad I went and connected with classmates I have not seen in years.

Before driving down to campus, I had a thought-provoking chat with my Mom that Saturday morning. We were discussing whether or not I was happy and content about where I am now post college graduation. It got me thinking about all the good things that I have been able to accomplish since 1998. So my immediate answer was “yes!”

But that would not be my complete answer….

Indeed, if I knew where I was now 20 years ago I probably would be happy but would I be content? In other words, would I feel like I have arrived? Or like I have used all my God given talents and skills? My answer to that would be an emphatic, “no, I’m not content at this stage.”

Don’t get me wrong, having lived overseas, married to a beautiful and loving bride, having 2 healthy little ones, having a strong family, and having started my own business are just a few of the things I can say without any hesitation that I’m very blessed and proud about. But these are not reasons for being content. A resounding sense of appreciation and gratitude, yes, but certainly I am not in a state of bliss or utter satisfaction. And I’m OK with that because this is what I believe makes the journey of life so enjoyable.

In my heart’s of hearts, I know that my greater purpose in life is just getting started. And for me to reach contentment, I have to continue this path with humility, discipline, integrity, and hunger. And by being hungry, I mean feasting on knowledge that will keep me fired up to take thoughtful action. It is this action that I hope to achieve my utmost greatness in this gift we call life.

And to find out what that greater purpose is, well then I guess you’ll have to keep following the “FullEffect Life” to find out.

In conclusion, if you have a reunion coming up definitely go but have that internal conversation with yourself before you step foot on campus. This will ensure that you benchmark your life against YOU and nobody else.

Truer Words Have Never…

Today I came accross the below quote that I had not read in a while. I felt it was a fitting and an eloquent expression of the struggle that many entrepreneurs / business owners have to go through to reach the other side of an industrious effort.

If you’re reading this for the first time, print it out or save it. #Evernote.

It is a healthy reminder of the underlying depth of greatness.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man/woman who points out how the strong man/woman stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man / woman who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself / herself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he / she fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his / her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

So…remember these words and remind yourself that you have already achieved more than most because you chose to step into the arena. Keep believing and fighting…..eventually you’ll get to the other side. And even if the outcome is defeat, you can keep your head up high knowing that you dared greatly.

Thank you Teddy Roosevelt.