To Pursue Personal Excellence, Start with a Focus on Value

To Pursue Personal Excellence, Start with a Focus on Value

“To stand out from the crowd requires you to stand up and stand for what you believe in.”— Gift Gugu Mona

Steve Jobs once said, “We are here to put a dent in the universe.”  When I think about that quite literally, I do laugh out loud.  I don’t think we could even put a scratch in the paint of the universe. But I do appreciate the idea! Exceptional leaders differentiate themselves from the rest when they demonstrate a passion for making a positive, remarkable difference in their parts of the universe, or perhaps better put, their part of the world. 

Here are three keys to creating the “make a dent” mindset.

Focus on value.
To make a difference, we must think beyond tools and methodologies.  The projects we create must have a positive benefit to our customers and end-users.  Before we undertake any project, our thinking must begin with “What is the value to all who will be using or impacted by these ideas?”

Inspire the best in those around you.
Exceptional leaders see every project as an opportunity to do more than creating something. They also view it as an opportunity to build people’s skills, talent, and experience.  This is almost as important as the project itself.  Leaders should use projects to inspire people to bring forth their best selves and their full talent.

Pursue personal excellence. 
Exceptional leaders must know themselves well.  They must know their strengths. They must know their own weaknesses.  They should work to improve. They should bring in others to help.  To make that positive difference, that dent in our part of the world, we must constantly engage in the calm pursuit of excellence.

  1. List item number one goes here
  2. List item number two or the second can go right here just after list item number one
  3. I guess this one must be the third item because here it is just after the second one
  4. And so on with items in this ordered list!
  • List item number one goes here
  • List item number two or the second can go right here just after list item number one
  • I guess this one must be the third item because here it is just after the second one
  • And so on with items in this ordered list!
They find it hard to believe that is possible to deliver defect-free software to customers.  And I am telling them our goal is to deliver near defect-free software to test. I am also working to help them understand that doing work in this was does not sacrifice speed. It is actually faster.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

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When Is It Most Important to Plan?

When Is It Most Important to Plan?

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
— A quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, amongst others.

Last year a client was telling me that a project was so critically important that it had to start immediately. It was going to be a complex project with a tight deadline. It just had to get done.  

He further added, “There is not enough time nor reason to make an estimate.”

“Perhaps,” I said, “an estimate is not so important, but making a plan is vitally important.”

Our discussion resulted in agreement on these five points that explain why, when the result is critically important, it is equally important to plan.

  1. Weigh the importance of the project.
    Consider it against the other projects in the portfolio.  Know that if the project is critical, it will be important to reassign the right skills and leadership to be in place with full focus on this project.
  2. Plan the approach for speed.
    Take the time to figure out the core value the team must achieve.  Determine the first steps that must be done. Consider design alternatives.  Brainstorm ideas for additional resources or approaches that can get you to the core value faster.
  3. Plan for the base camp and supplies needed.
    If you want the team to go fast, make sure they have the path cleared. Remove any other obligations that are in their way. Ensure they will have the people they need when they need them.
  4. Estimate the work the team understands well and guess-estimate the rest.
    Even on the most ambiguous projects I have coached, the team has known 80% of the work well. It is easy to plan what you know. Guess at the rest.  When you have this information you know what is possible and not.
  5. Make the hard decisions.  

    Doing all the above steps means you will know what choices you have to make to achieve your goals. It often means making decisions about priority trade-offs. Sometimes not planning is easier because you don’t want to see reality. Now that you see it, accept it, and deal with it.

Planning should never be analysis paralysis. Make the best decisions you can with the information you have. Then go!

Sure the exact details of the plan never survive contact with reality.  However, reality will bow before a team that has committed to making the path they have forged work to their success.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

You may also like:

Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

The Reader’s Edge

The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.

ANNIVERSARIES ARE IMPORTANT MARKERS

"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...

LEADERSHIP ON FATHER’S DAY

"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...

SUDS MAY SPILL, BEER SHOULD NOT

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"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...

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Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

Start Exceptionally. Finish With STYLE!

Start Exceptionally. Finish With STYLE!

Start Exceptionally. Finish With STYLE!

Part of the LEAD with SPEED Workshop Series


Projects are not remembered for how they start.

They are remembered for how they finish, or worse, fail to finish.

Are you ready to start in the way your projects deserve to finish?

This day tackles the challenge of making sure that projects finish successfully and with style.

The best way to ensure they finish well is to start projects exceptionally.

Finishing with style ensures that all notice the value of the project and the work that went into it.

 

Key Learning Outcomes:

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Why Most Projects Start So Badly (and Why It Matters, A Lot!)

Most projects start badly.

And this means that they are constantly playing catch up.

Too many of these projects stagger across the finish line with considerable problems.

We will explore why this is true.

The answers will surprise you.  (And this is not clickbait!)

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The Ways to Start Exceptionally (And Pragmatically)

It is possible to start projects with a strong foundation.

We will explore the key ways to do so in spite of all the obstacle important project starts face.

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Create Ownership of the Outcome By The People That Must Deliver

If you give the the team (or team of teams) the dates and required outcome, it is your project.

You need it to be there project, where they care more, know more, and do more about it than you possibly could.

Here is how to achieve that high bar of commitment by your teams.

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Exceptional Restarts: How to get projects back on track

Exceptional leaders are realistic.

Projects will get off track.

Here is how to know early.

Here is how to restart the projects to get them quickly back on track to success.

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Bringing Others With You - Dealing with Real World Politics and Barriers

The most important projects will face lions, tigers and bears.
Or if you prefer The Lord Of The Rings, ogres, trolls, and giant spiders.

Many of these problems will come from the many competing projects and priorities in the organization.

Here is how to deal with them with style.

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Finish with Style and Celebration

I used to practice winning races.  It paid off.

Plan ahead for how your project will finish with style.

Plan ahead for the celebration.

Plan ahead to how the success will be marketed.

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Start Exceptionally Right Now

The workshop learning will be best learned when immediately used.

Each participant will leave the workshop with a personal plan of how to improve their current and upcoming projects right now.

Your projects should finish exceptionally and with style!

Workshops in this Series:

Master Your Leadership “Force”

Force in physics is Mass times Acceleration. 

This is also true for leadership.

The key to greatly enhancing your value as a leader is your ability to accelerate the whole of an organization.

Leadership force never comes from a title or a formal position.

It comes from the mindset within you.

It comes from the skills to be able to bring others with you on the journey of exceptional.

read more

The Leadership Acceleration Engine

The keys to growing and thriving as a business hinges on great leadership.
Being a great leader hinges on the ability to constantly, learn and implement new skills, to continuously improve as a leader.
This workshop focuses on putting into place for every individual, and as a team, the key skills for learning and improving faster.
At constant acceleration, one can reach light speed leadership.

read more

Make the Exceptional Leadership Choice

Fantastic. Amazing. Wow. Exceptional.
People can always tell the difference between the good and the exceptional.
The first thing to know about exceptional leadership is that it is a choice.
How to make that choice is a challenge.
Learn how to do make the exceptional choice in this intensive experiential workshop.

read more

“When confronted with a difficult business problem, Alan can find the best bits to anchor onto and grow into team ownership. His eye for the hidden detail is second to none.  Alan is the master chef.”

Steve Watkin

Engineering Director, ASM Pacific Technology

“Intelligent, chopping complexity into small bites in sophisticated ways, and always hopeful, Alan is the essence of a perfect consultant. Sue Unger

Lead Analyst, Xerox Corporation

Pre- and Post-Workshop Added Value:

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Pre Workshops Mindset Preparation

Alan will provide a right-sized package of pre-read items and questions to consider.
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Post-Workshop Booster Engine

Too often the “real-world” overwhelms workshop learnings. Alan provides a post-workshop booster engine at just the right time in the month following the workshop.

Exceptional leaders understand the power of saying yes to exceptional starts and finishes.

This often means they have the skill to say “no” and have the people hearing this say “thank you” with a smile and understanding.

find the right fit
Pricing Options
This option includes the following values.

  • The workshop will be held for a minimum of 5 participants and up to 20 participants.
  • The workshop will be held for 2 days.
  • Pre Workshops Mindset Preparation
    • Detailed, useful guidance will be provided to workshop preparation for preparation.
    • Participants get the best results when they properly prepare to be able to immediately use what they learn.
    • The preparation materials will include a small amount of reading and a small number of questions for consideration.
  • Post-Workshop Booster Engines
    • Too often the “real-world” overwhelms workshop learnings. We shall not let that happen!
    • Alan provides a post-workshop booster engine at just the right time in the month following the workshop.

Continental USA Fee for this option is $15,000 USD.   

  • Note: The cost of Alan’s travel and lodging is additional to this fee.
  • International clients please inquire about how we can make this workshop work for you!

Option 2 has all the value of option 1, with some additional sizzle just for you.

In addition to the features of option 1, this option is expanded such that:

  • Alan will tailor the workshop to your unique needs.
    • Alan will interview workshop sponsors and selected to participants to understand your unique needs.
    • Alan will tailor the workshop to your needs.
  • Pre-workshop Sizzle.
    • The preparation materials provided to participants will be tailored to organizational needs.
    • Alan will hold a teleconference with workshop participants to fully prepare them for the workshop experience.
  • Post-workshop Sizzle.
    • Alan will hold a teleconference six weeks following the workshop.
    • Alan will interview a selection of participants to understand the challenges being faced.
    • The teleconference will be focused on ensuring the key challenges are addressed and overcome.
  • Alan will be holding your goals high and providing you with the guidance required to reach them.

Continental USA Fee for this option is $22,000 USD.

  • This fee includes all the value of option 1 and 2.
  • The cost of Alan’s travel and lodging is additional to this fee.
  • International clients please inquire about how we can make this workshop work for you!
The following are the booster rockets of value that are added to the value offered in option 2.

  • This option provide all workshop participants and their sponsors unlimited access to advisory coaching for four (4) months.
    • Participants set the pace.
    • You contact Alan when needed.
    • Alan will answer most questions within 2 work hours.
    • Alan will review documents and other work products and provide detailed feedback. This feedback will take place within 1 business day.
  • Alan will provide 4 teleconferences.
    • The teleconferences will provide guidance on the key common issues that came up during advisory coaching.
    • The teleconferences will take place approximately one per month.
    • The final teleconference will be focused on how to continue to accelerate your leadership force “on your own.”

Continental USA Fee for this option is $35,000 USD.

  • This fee includes all the value of option 1 and 2 and 3.
  • The cost of Alan’s travel and lodging is additional to this fee.
  • International clients please inquire about how we can make this workshop work for you!

Ready to book?

Case Studies

A Paradigm Shift in Leadership

A Paradigm Shift in Leadership

The CEO of a 500+ person high-tech development organization had recently hired a very strong CTO. He began to wonder if perhaps he was “too strong?” The CTO seemed to be doing the right things, but in doing so was upsetting many of organization’s employees.

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The Situation

The CEO of a 350 person high-tech development organization hired a very strong COO.  He was wondering if he was perhaps “too strong?”  The COO was doing the right things that needed to be done, however, in doing so he was upsetting many of the employees.
In talking with Alan, the CEO knew that he had to make a change or he would lose key engineers and they would be followed by others. In firing the COO he would lose a valuable resource and a significant amount of time and money.
The CEO and Alan worked out a mentoring plan for the COO.

What Alan Did

There were four critical things Alan did for the organization. 1. He showed the CEO and COO that there are a number of different models to work together. The CEO and COO were surprised to discover they were working with two completely different models and mindsets. Getting their models aligned helped them and the organization immensely. 2. Alan did a leadership team 360-degree feedback.  This included the COO but also added others in. This enabled the next two critical steps. 3. Alan mentored the COO on how to use his marine background in a way that worked in the world of high tech development. 4. Alan mentored other key players in how to work with the COO and how to help him achieve his objectives and keep organizational morale high.

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The Results

The COO became a beloved leader in the organization. People really respected that he held a high bar for achievement that was needed by the organization.

Recent Case Studies

The Case of Bickering Leadership Team

The CEO’s leadership team was constantly bickering. After achieving great success, they seemed to have lost their way.

The Case of the Slow Software Development Team

Management and the software team were at odds. Each blamed the other for the slowdowns and delays in their development process.

A Paradigm Shift in Leadership

The CEO of a 500+ person high-tech development organization had recently hired a very strong CTO. He began to wonder if perhaps he was “too strong?” The CTO seemed to be doing the right things, but in doing so was upsetting many of organization’s employees.

ANTICIPATE INFLECTION POINTS

ANTICIPATE INFLECTION POINTS

“A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end.” — Andrew Grover

There are a wave of changes occurring both in the competitive landscape and in the fundamentals of the technologies businesses use.

The following statements are true for many of my current and future clients.

  • Our underlying technologies will go over a cliff and crash into the rocks of the obsolete. Heed me. This is always true. The question is when, and are you preparing?
  • The technical debt we are dragging behind us will slow us down and allow competitors to leap over our sweaty efforts to stay ahead. Do you feel the weight? If not, you are one of the very few clean sheet efforts that is still shiny new. The debt is coming!
  • The marketplace is hungry for new ideas. We have ideas that the marketplace would love BUT…. the above factors are barriers to our ability to move with speed.
  • The world-wide competition is getting better.

There is a need for speed. I have been helping various clients deal with the emerging inflection points in their businesses. Here are three of the keys I have been providing.

1. Provide leaders with the mindset, methods, and skills such that they master leading with speed.

2. Put into place the organizational DNA for ruthless prioritization. This skill must be mastered at the top, the middle, and the individuals throughout the organization.

3. Put into place the leadership acceleration engine. The keys to thriving as a business hinges on great leadership. Being a great leader hinges on the ability to constantly improve.

The question to consider is are you riding the wave of change, behind the wave, or staring up at the crush of the future coming at you?

I do know this, it is much more fun to ride the wave.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,
ALAN WILLETT

 

ARE YOU RIDING THE WAVE, BEHIND THE WAVE, OR STARING UP AT THE CRUSH OF THE FUTURE COMING AT YOU?

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