Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Taming, Utilizing IT

Bill Gate’s best seller on business (see below) deals with the Chairman of a company and his or her Information Technology (IT) department, especially at large corporations. Make the company’s Information organization relevant to the company builds a power base and helps to sustain the company’s competitive edge with customers.

Robert Dilenschneider, in his book “Power and Influence - -The Rules Have Changed,” terms this the requirement to “accept, adapt and accelerate - - or atrophy” within an organization. His reference here seems intertwined with most things “IT” within an organization. Ignore them or refuse to go alone with IT’s changes to the business can mean the end of a rising career. Not all IT change is positive, obviously, or timed correctly, or budgeted for well, but the power/influence player quickly learns the when’s, why’s and how’s to succeed. First, one has to become aware of the big picture. IT matters.

Neither Mr. Gates nor Mr. Dilenschneider believes it is necessary for an employee, manager or company leader to “master” any of this technology. In fact, Mr. Gates notes that if one knows too many of IT’s acronyms, you probably know too much to manage IT projects in strategic ways. You can easily become too close to technology, in a very real sense.

IT data collection and distribution to an organization’s leaders of newer, more up-to-date and customer-focused data can become powerful tools for managing and “evolving” the business positively. The opportunity for today’s leaders is leading the development of a company’s IT technologies, in new ways, for increasing productivity and profits.

Mr. Gates notes that knowledge of Information Technology areas varies WILDLY across the senior ranks of a business. For example, we all remember how many companies got their employees to start using e-mail. The President or Chairman started using email, personally. Suddenly, EVERY employee started opening their emails and using those computers that had been collecting dust in the corner of their offices. Ditto for laptops used offsite, and today’s dreaded Blackberries and smart phones with Internet capabilities. One is never free of the boss or one’s office. Power players recognize and understand the new playing board.

Mr. Gates puts it bluntly: “…the CEO must recognize the strategic importance of technology as he or she does with other important business initiatives and lead the way.” This, from the world’s richest guy.

Start with a baseline understanding of computers. Get your IT involved in committee meetings involved with core business operations. As a power play, you need to chair and manage these meetings through your contemporary knowledge of the business, your competitors and technology, Mr. Dilenschneider might say.

IT mistakes are possible, but the responsibility stays with the CEO for not properly spearheading the focus for technological applications. Standing up for and against one’s one company’s IT and Operations departments can prove both difficult and career killing (or result in huge increases in power and influence).

Mr. Dilenschneider sums it all up: “If your profession or industry has not been turned upside down yet, you can bet it’s dying or soon will be. Denial of technological realities or failure to adapt to everyday technology may mean losing your job.”

We ignore technology at our peril. Mr. Gates agrees, wholeheartedly. We’re all on the same page, here. It’s the realities of daily IMPLEMENTATION of these power and influence building skills that can elude the average bear.

Company vs. Personal Power, Influence

“If the 1980s were about quality and the 1990s about reengineering, then the 2000s will be about velocity,” wrote Bill Gates, unarguably the richest and most powerful man in the country, maybe the globe. (“Business @ The Speed of Thought, Using a Digital Nervous System” Bill Gates, Warner Press.)

He visualized, even a few years ago, how quickly the nature of business would change and that information access would alter our lifestyles…and consumers’ expectations of a business. In this sense, Mr. Deilenschneider seems to have gotten his message absolutely correct about the powerful being the ones who understand and use the speed of change . . . to their advantage.

Gates noted that what used to take 50 years, we do in 10, because of the flow of digital information. Every industry has been touched, affected dramatically, from real estate (Main Street) to Wall St. Numerous jobs are no longer needed. New ones go wanting. Old ones change, shrink and expand together. The influential and powerful see this large picture in their own office, on their own street and in their own family. Change. Power. Influence. They’re all tied together.

Gates terms this the Web Workstyle. The rest of us might call it digital or technological knowledge to survive and thrive at the office, while maintaining and growing one’s power base. He uses the example of the human biological nervous system, reacting automatically to stresses and strains, to a company’s nervous system that hasn’t quite figured out how to react as quickly and instinctively as it might. Management of the company’s systems takes courage and foresight.

He notes, strongly, that from the CEO on down, employees need to become comfortable with these rapid changes and new digital technologies in order to understand how they are, or could, change business processes. He divides HIS 12 key steps as ones involving “knowledge work,” “business operations,” and “commerce,” which is defines as interaction with suppliers and customers.

Mr. Gates focuses on leaders who use new technologies to streamline and modernize their business’ processes, making strategic thought an ongoing process. Mr. Dilenschneider seemingly captures these messages and translates them into ways for employees to become PERSONALLY more powerful and influential. The business should also succeed.

After all, it’s one thing for the business to do better, and an entirely different thing for an INDIVIDUAL to do better. Many a naïve employee has got the two mixed, driving the business ahead while nixing one’s own chances of success. Mr. Dilenschneider shows how to avoid this death spiral. This alone should drive readers to inspect, closely, the ideas put forth on these few pages.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

To the Humble Goes the Prize

“In the final analysis, only one’s family really matters,” writes Robert Dilenschneider. The contrast here is one’s ego or wall of fame (that proverbial wall of plaques and honors many accomplished professionals have on display, either in their offices or in their homes. It’s not necessary, he says. One’s self confidence should stand on its own, pictures of you with the President notwithstanding!

HUMILITY and ACCESSIBILTY - - that’s what important, from the kid shining your shoes to the loftiest Chairman of the Board. All individuals deserve the respect and humility the power-player can extend fully. Courtesy to all and being able to LISTEN as well, no matter how powerful or influential you become.

Put another way, believing one’s own news releases can be dangerous!!!!!

Your Blogster: Believing one’s own college references can be most difficult to entering Freshman at Ivy League colleges. Their high school teachers, parents friends and associates have bent over backwards to be kind in their accolades. It’s you, the student, who now has to perform at the college level, from scratch and without help, reference letters or not!

He points out that the more powerful one becomes, the more important it is to be restrained in dealing with those surrounding you that hold extreme views and opinions. Another way of saying this is the powerful need to maintain a balance in their lives - - business and home lives in synch, avoiding extreme focus on one or the other. And, team players never let another down. Never. In doing do, it can be amazing what is RECEIVED in return.

Extending that helping hand to others, regardless of thanks or a returned favor, also sets the power player apart from peers. People rarely forget this help. Inoffensive questioning until one get to the inner core of other’s beliefs also can pay big dividends to the powerful and influential. In doing so, you give back to the organization and the institution in meaningful, essential ways.

Pro bono work (extended at no cost with no expectation of return) also separates the leader from the powerful and influential. Similarly, remembering one’s friends and, occasionally, asking them for help can be very useful to gaining and wielding power.

This network building also differentiates the powerful from the others. They maintain contacts and nurture these relationships to the betterment of both. Finally, their vigilant to opportunities around them and seize the moments, for sure, for action.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Power Players Gather Consensus, Sacrifice Ego

Mr. Dilenschneider claims that a number of the real power players heading some of America’s largest companies know the importance of active listening and taking notes as subordinates share their opinions and strategic thinking. Skipping these steps along the way can spell D I S A S T E R for many a Chief Executive Officer, he writes.

Reaching the top spot also requires utilization of all the communications tools on one’s desk: Email, search engines on the web, and similar communications tools. In the end, the beneficiaries of these power-layers include shareholders, employees, customers and one’s top company officers.

Grasp the nuances of what people are reporting. Synthesize the issues and produce solutions to problems at hand. Generally, these activities play to one’s strengths. How seemingly effortless this advise seems to be!

First, one has to figure out who one really is. You can’t listen with empathy and understanding unless you know yourself well - - well enough to keep your mouth shut, while demonstrating a passion for understanding and other people’s feelings and skills, one of which may NOT be oral communications.

Next, smart people have this intuitive sense about smart decision making. They’re born with it or, perhaps, can learn some of it (your Blogster hopes). When the critical moment of decision comes, they’re ready with answers. People follow this powerful and influential tactic.

Sometimes there’s a “eureka moment.” Usually this is preceded by carefully planned and executive research about one’s business, customers and competitors. A clear focus on the business, minus distractions, equals a success of your own making. Be inquisitive and focused…determined. Single-minded at times. Timely research and patience on communications reward the power player. Know what works and what doesn’t; what’s been tried and what can be tried. Take nothing for granted. When the moment arrives, you’re ready to lead the way.

Understanding one’s environment appears most critical as a success factor. Power players draw a unique perspective and apply it at the right moment to build a power and influence base. Sounds "do-able" if one follows this roadmap.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Power & Influence: The Indian Connection

One of the interesting things about this book is the breadth of illustrations, that is, “power examples” for discussion and practical lessons learned. Buried deep in the middle of the book, Mr. Dilenschneider delves into the recent history of India’s Mahatma Gandhi and his protégé Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister after independence from Great Britain.

While one doesn’t normally associate Gandhi with “power,” one can easily picture him as INFLUENCING MILLIONS of people in his country and abroad. The author points out that Gandhi cleverly utilized the tools of power and influence to his advantage, while seizing the opportunities he spotted early on. They both ended up wielding power before much of today’s technological breakthroughs in communications, using stubbornness, sticking to principles and understanding the political scene.

To serve his cause, Gandhi utilized the telegraph and radio to get out his messages. In doing so, he managed to overthrow British colonial rule with a velvet glove, to the advantage of both. Nehru’s son carried on the tradition using many of today’s communications tools overlaying sound principles and knowledge of the political scene.

The analysis is most interesting and not one read about in any detail in most books. Of course, today, you can’t buy an electronic product without finding an Indian on the other end of your technology calls for support.

Your Blogster might add that a similar case might be made for the leadership of Singapore, in recent years, with their quantum leap into a computerized city environment and leveraging today’s software technologies to leap infrastructure shortcoming. In this case, the leadership maintained and grow their powers by creating an environment for computer training, learning and applications the world had never seen in such a short period of time, again, raising all boats proportionally.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Change: Who to blame?

A major difference between this book and say the book The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene, is how each addresses CHANGE.

Mr. Dilenschneider notes time and time again that one should embrace new technologies in order to survive and grow in power and influence within an organization.

Mr. Greene, in contrast, preaches that one should talk about the NEED for change but not to change or reform too much at once. He says that while everyone understands the need for change, in the abstract, day-to-day change of any magnitude can be traumatic to an organization, even spark a revolt. In both cases the power-player is doomed.

In this “power” book, he notes that the true power grabber should make a “show” of respecting the old way of doing things, before tossing them out the window. Not everyone agrees with this concept, for sure.

By becoming identified with change, even leading its execution, one can become the “execution-ee” as well, especially if the changes only partially succeed. Exposing oneself to the “absolute embrace” of specific changes can eliminate promising careers, it seems, in many organizations, as one becomes the scapegoat for failed ideas.

This author says to never underestimate the “conservatism” of those around you in an organization.

Mr. Dilenschneider prefers to use new, disruptive technologies to effect change and communicate its results, rather than becoming the target of the changes themselves. Let everyone participate in these new technologies you have mastered and embraced. One wonders…..

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Power's Evolution

In one of Stephen R. Covey’s books, he relegates to the appendix a most interesting exercise in quantifying the different leadership theories, from the Great Man theory, to Spiritual Leadership. Between the lines it seems obvious that these leadership, and indirectly power and influence as well, MAY evolve over time, even over centuries, if one watches, charts them and keeps a bibliography.

While Mr. Dilenschneider delves, not at all, into the history of powerul and influential techniques (other book, perhaps), the Covey book makes one pause for a few minutes. Is there no historial literature about effectively seizing power and influence? Are these new concepts - - the concept that one can get BETTER and BETTER at these elusive tools until one becomes successful?

Maybe so.

Let’s try it.

In the 18h century, farmer Americans led by the few educated political minds, seized the ultimate power and influenced a rag-tag group of disinterred city-states into throwing off the yokes of so-called Colonial Tyranny. Federalist papers decried in so many words what should be done. The classics inspired worldly declarations and constitutional ideasl. The most powerful man of the day, humble George Washington, citizen-soldier and plantation owner, carried the day and took the ultimate “power” seat - - the Presidency. He filled the "power and influence" vacuum of the moment, as one might in any company at any given moment if ready and aggressive.

Emerging political parties recognized the powers of the new government as a double-edged sword, both helping and hurting their self interests.

During the 19h century, Americans turned inward on their fellow citizens holding field laborers in the tyranny of slave bondage. It was one thing to get the crops in on time, inexpensively, and quite another to “own” an individual, his family and all his waking moments - - slavery: the sort of ultimate power trip for the slave-owner. They fought a terrible, bloody war over this, with Lincoln the humble leader forcing change and enforcing federal powers.

Turning to this past century, a single power-player in Germany, and another in Italy, and one in Japan, all conspired to force their political and social agendas on their own countrymen and one’s adjacent to them . . .with disastrous results. Power, apparently, has it limits, even when enforced with might.

Then came the rise in what might be called the linguistic power players. They invented new power- and managment-speak language that merged scientific and mathematical principles into a new leadership mumbo-jumbo of this sort: “Theories and Models of Interactive Processes, Multiple-Linkages Model, Multiple-Screen Model, Vertical-Dyad Linkages, Exchange Theories, Behavior Theories, and Communications Theories.” Whatever, as the kids say oh-so-freqently. This morphed into Integrative Transformational, Value-Based theories to further boggle the minds of the unsuspecting. Consults thrived on both explaining and inventing new nonsensical company-speak.

This century most people have NO TIME for SUCH UTTER NONSENSE, your Blogster opines. Get it to me punchy-quick; there’s no time. Time is still money. I’m multi-tasking and losing. Lay it on me and get out of the way. I'm doing my email from Hong Kong and my text-messaging from my parents in Canada.

(Your Blogster reports: On a recent visit to Hong Kong, he saw a young many listening to an MP3 player, while playing an on-line video game and texting his parents in The Philippines, all at a public kiosk in an indoor shopping mall, while sipping decaf. coffee.)

This is pretty much to opposite what Robert Dilenschneider has been writing all along. Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS), though he has the good sense not to actually write this cliché. Examine yourself, trust in your horse sense, built a moral center, serve your clients by staying in tune with the world's changing and emerging electronics, add value. What better prescription for power, influence . . . and just being a better person!!!!!

Of course, it’s pretty easy to get trampled on, so keep your mentoring relationship strong and protective of your best interests. You’re gonna need it!