Heed the Evidence You See

Heed the Evidence You See

“Observation opens the windows of knowledge around us.”
— Sukant Ratnakar

While walking across a bridge in a local park, I noticed a bunch of mysterious items hanging on wires strung parallel to the bridge across the inlet’s waters. It took me a moment to recognize that fishing lures were dangling from the wires – many, many fishing lures.

There are quite a few very nice spots to fish along the inlet, and they are actually straightforward to get to. However, none are quite as convenient as standing on that bridge. The ample visible evidence of lost lines and lures is apparently not enough to dissuade many fishers.

It seems that too often, businesses, and many of us individually, are tempted by the convenient bridge where it looks like it is so easy to get quick benefits.

I have seen many teams skip the difficult design phase to see if they can quickly catch a fish. Likewise, I have seen many people skip inspections because they are boring, and it is another 200 paces to the fishing spots around the corner.

Then repeatedly, I see them have to spend hours and even weeks in rework. This is because their fishing line got caught on the same wires that caught so many fishing lines before them.

The warning signs are clear if you keep your eyes open and watch for them.

I encourage you to learn from those who came before. Walk the extra paces to the bank up river a little way. If you want to catch some big fish, invest in a boat to take you out farther.

Catching the big one is worth it.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Are you ready to do exceptional leadership in technology development?  Learn about the Exceptional Difference programs here.

Contact [email protected] to learn more.

The lost fishing lures perhaps should have been a warning.
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

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

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...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

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.

How Much Conviction Do You Have?

How Much Conviction Do You Have?

“Those who don’t jump will never fly.”— Leena Ahmad Almashat

The manager said, “I am sorry. I can’t support you going to that training at this time.”

Respond to this situation by showing your conviction.

This post continues the focus on ensuring your organization is making investments that return great value. In my first post, Why to Invest $ in Training, Coaching, & Making Leaders Better?, I proposed five key steps. This post is an elaboration on step #5, have conviction.

In my experience, if the first four steps I outlined are done well, the outcome is most likely a yes.  If you understood the needs of the executive, and if you focused on value based on their needs, and if you researched to ensure that others had greatly benefited, and if you made a plan that showed your commitment, then it is likely they will say yes.

You still must be prepared for a “no.”  Here are four possible responses that demonstrate your conviction.  

  1. Ask, “What is the main barrier? If the main barrier is budget, you may find budget items in your personal control that can be sacrificed. You may have the ability to attract new clients to ease the budget concern. Having these discussions keeps the possibility open.
  2. Ask, “What can I do to make this possible now?”  This shows that you are ready to do more to make this investment a reality.
  3. Make an offer.  If you really believe that you want this to happen, be prepared to make an offer.  The offer could be unpaid overtime. The offer could be taking on an additional special project. 
  4. Pay for what you want yourself. This sounds extreme to some people, and I suppose it is. However, doing this shows you are convinced that this investment will benefit you and the organization.

I have had to use option 4 a couple of times.  Each time, management was quite startled but was quickly convinced of my conviction. I went to the training I believed in. I received the world-class coaching I wanted.  Each of these experiences was greatly beneficial to my organization and me.

The question is, how convinced are you of the value?  Show your conviction.  Today’s quote is correct. If you don’t jump, it’s hard to fly!

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Are you ready to do exceptional leadership in technology development?  Learn about the Exceptional Difference programs here.

Contact [email protected] to learn more.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

You may also like:

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.

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.

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.

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...

Is It Time To Add Another Point?

I was using a phone app to measure an awkward shape. The app chided me to add a point. It needed new data to be able to better understand the task it was being asked to do.

Make a Plan to Ensure Investments are Useful and Used

Make a Plan to Ensure Investments are Useful and Used

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”— Dale Carnegie

Have you ever purchased something and never used it?  

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t done that. One of the key reasons people hesitate to invest in training, coaching, tools, etc., is that they have often seen the opportunity squandered. Even if they can’t articulate exactly why they are hesitating, this is often the hidden barrier to signing the check.

This post continues the focus on ensuring your organization is making investments that return great value. In my first post, Why to Invest $ in Training, Coaching, & Making Leaders Better?, I proposed five key steps. This post is an elaboration on step #4, show your commitment.

Before investing, you must have a realistic plan to ensure the investment will be useful to you and the organization. We discussed that in the previous newsletter on value. Before you write the check, ensure that the investment will be useful and used.

Before I make any significant investment, I do the following steps.

  1. Gut check on value. Am I confident in the value that this investment will provide?  If that is true, I need to make a plan to ensure I get the value.
  2. Start your project notebook now. A significant investment in training, coaching, or tools is akin to a project.  You expect value from a project. You expect a project will take time.  You expect a project will provide results. You expect a project to have a plan. Start the plan and the associated notes now before the check is written.
  3. Identify what is needed for success.  Any investment like this implies that there will be a change that has to be made to ensure the value is used and the value is realized.  Change implies that there will be barriers and enablers. Know what they are!   Note, once you get started, identifying the barriers and enablers will become even clearer. However, start with eyes open wide to the fact that the required change might not be easy.
  4. Plan how to be successful.  One of the key barriers is always habits or current practice. When people are under pressure, they will revert to whatever they have done previously. Have a plan to ensure that this new “thing” is actually used.  For example, with the previous example of training in Python, how will you make sure what is learned is used?  I encourage clients to do more than the training. They must also make some changes to how Python code is reviewed before being added to the system. When people take Exceptional Difference programs, they have expert guidance in immediately applying the learning from their assignments to their work environment.
  5. Make a plan to check on results.  When investing, positive results are expected. In previous newsletters, I strongly suggested that clear measures of success be identified. In this step, it is imperative you make a plan for when to check on the results and who will measure them.

When you are being challenged on whether to invest, the biggest barrier is fear that the investment will not be worthwhile.

Show your commitment by making a plan to ensure the investment is both useful and used. 

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Are you ready to do exceptional leadership in technology development?  Learn about the Exceptional Difference programs here.

Contact [email protected] to learn more.

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

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

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...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

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.

Investments are Leaps of Faith

Investments are Leaps of Faith

It always feels too soon to leap. But you have to. Because that’s the moment between you and remarkable.”— Seth Godin

Are you ready for a leap of faith?

That is the question any leader is answering when they choose to invest in something new. This question applies to training, coaching, new tools, or anything that costs time and money.

Do they trust that this investment will be worth it?

This newsletter continues the focus on ensuring your organization is making investments that return great value.  In the first newsletter, I proposed five key steps. This newsletter is an elaboration on step # 3, Ensure the investment is highly recommended.

The question almost always comes down to “How do I know the expert I am hiring is worth the investment?”   Even if you are buying new tools, you are putting your faith in the people who will train and support your use of those tools.

The number one way to discover this is to research the people who came before and found great value working with those experts.

When I say this out loud, everyone knows this. However, it is interesting how few people do the proper research. Here are three suggestions to get the information you need to make the leap of faith.

  1. Read the reviews. This one sounds easy, and most people do it.  However, bring your critical thinking skills to this step. Dig deeper to see what’s behind those reviews.
  2. Talk to those who are recommending this solution.  What value did they find?  How did they ensure that they received the best outcomes from their investment?
  3. Judge the quality of the expert and their solutions from the quality of their students.   When I see people being greatly successful, I often find a mentor in the shadows smiling at their success. 

I have followed these steps whenever I make a large investment. The third step has given me the greatest confidence to make the leap of faith and invest the money and time.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Are you ready to do exceptional leadership in technology development?  Learn about the Exceptional Difference programs here.

Here is a quote from one of the heroes from the program.

“One of the mantras we discussed in depth in the Leadership Experience is that design rules. I couldn’t agree more. I now have much more influence on my teams and organization to ensure that great design powers our speed.”

—Dylan Greiner, Chief Product Architect, Team Leader

Contact [email protected] to learn more.

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

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

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...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

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.

Focus On Improvement to Value

Focus On Improvement to Value

“I am building a fire, and every day I train, I add more fuel.”— Mia Hamm

When preparing a proposal for an investment, such as coaching, training, or new tools, there are some critical questions that must be asked:

  • How will the investment help the organization in the short term and the long term
  • What tangible improvements will the investment bring?

Ask these questions when making a proposal to the person with the checkbook. Get these questions answered even if the idea is yours and you have control of the checkbook.

This post continues the focus on ensuring your organization is making investments that return great value. In my previous post, Why Invest $ in Training, Coaching, & Making Leaders Better?, I proposed five key steps.

This post is an elaboration on step #2, A Focus On Value. In it, I gave an example of a team leader justifying the investing in computer language training with this phrase:

“The python training will show us how to use advanced methods for better data dictionaries.” 

The training was denied.

Consider this alternative approach which more clearly states why the investment is important to the person with the checkbook.

If management cares about speed to market, and most do, this is a much more compelling argument and almost certainly funded. Here are three critical items to examine when considering coaching, training, and other investments.

“The python language training will improve our speed to delivering content to our customers by between 30 and 50%.

The majority of our applications are using more complex databases than ever before.

This training by a leading expert will provide us with the skills to move our products faster to the marketplace.”

If management cares about speed to market, and most do, this is a much more compelling argument and almost certainly funded. Here are three critical items to examine when considering coaching, training, and other investments.

  • Objectives?
  • How broad of an impact will this investment have on the value we are delivering to our customers?  How many people and teams does this investment help?
  • How will this improvement yield benefits year over year?

When I learned to base all my investments on answers to these questions, something very exciting happened.  When I knew why I made the investment and what I expected from it, I ensured that I got those results.  For example, I went into the training or coaching with a clear vision, and I held the experts I hired accountable to get the results I needed.

To paraphrase Mia Hamm, I am building a fire of value for my customers. Every investment must add a log to the flames.

Next week I explore the next step, “ensure it is highly recommended”.  I will answer the question, “How do I know the expert I am hiring is worth it?”

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Are you ready to do exceptional leadership in technology development?  Learn about the Exceptional Difference programs here.

Exceptional Difference graduates have improved their speed to value in the following ways:

  • Improved team productivity by 5x.
  • Improved the quality of delivery to customers by 4x.
  • Improved the speed of onboarding new team members to be productive by 6x.

Contact [email protected] to learn more.

Photo by Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash

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

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

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...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

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.

Speak Their Language to Be Heard

Speak Their Language to Be Heard

“In many ways, effective communication begins with mutual respect.”
— Zig Zigler

The executive was angry. The team leader presenting a request for investment in training and coaching for the team kept going. When the executive wasn’t responding well, the team leader began talking much louder. At that point, the executive stopped the team leader and said “no” and added that they didn’t want to see this request again.

It is true the team leader wasn’t reading the anger cues and should have stopped much earlier. More importantly, they completely missed the preparation that should have taken place. The team leader was not prepared to speak the language of the executive.

Last week’s newsletter focused on ensuring your organization is making the investments you believe in. I was asked to elaborate on the five key steps I provided. This week I am providing more details on “speaking the language of executives.”

When requesting investments from executives, it is critical to understand that the executives you are speaking to must trust that the investment will provide a great return. People make two mistakes which show they are not speaking the language of executives.

First, people often miss that the executive is not just worried about the money to be invested; they are perhaps even more worried about the time required and the expense of what people are not doing while at training or being coached. Any person with experience has taken training that was a waste of time and money. The more this has happened to the executive in question, the more likely they will be skeptical of the investment requests.

The second mistake people make is to talk exclusively about how the training or coaching is great for them as individuals or for their team. They might say something like, “Python training will show us how to use advanced methods for better data dictionaries.” I have seen exactly that kind of language in requests. The executive is not likely to know why they should care about this request.

So before making a request, it is important to know what is important to the executives you are requesting funding from.

  • Do not guess, ask.  Ask the executives you will be requesting funds from what their biggest objectives are – both in the short term and in the long term.   Executives will often talk about the need for speed to profit. They may talk about the revenue stream. They may talk about the need to attract and retain top talent.

  • Clarify.  Ask them questions about those goals.  Have them help you connect their concerns to your job area. Make sure you understand their objectives well by repeating back your understanding.

  • Add in longer-term goals.  If you feel some things are missing that you believe belong there, bring them up. For example, one of my clients was very concerned about speed.  When I coached the executive and the team leader on how speed and technical debt were connected, they quickly decided how to make the right investments to move forward.  Before that connection, neither one listened to the other, and both were stuck in the slow lane.

  • Build your request so that it is focused on the value of achieving its goals. After you understand the goals and needs of the business, you can execute the next steps of the process. You can focus on the value your investment request will bring to the executive and the organization. You will be better able to speak their language. They won’t be angry. They are much more likely to say “yes!” when you speak about their business and their needs.

It doesn’t matter how loud you are if you don’t speak the language.

Next week, I will go into more detail on how to focus on the value you can bring to meet the executive’s needs.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

You may also like:

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...

Is It Time To Add Another Point?

I was using a phone app to measure an awkward shape. The app chided me to add a point. It needed new data to be able to better understand the task it was being asked to do.

Why Invest $ in Training, Coaching, & Making Leaders Better?

Why Invest $ in Training, Coaching, & Making Leaders Better?

You Must Have Conviction. The First Sale Is To Yourself.

“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”— Henry Ford

Leadership is the number one factor in organizational and team productivity.

In one of my Masters of Science courses, I learned an important truth. In his course, “Software Engineering Economics,” Barry Boehm explained he had learned (from his analysis of hundreds of system development organizations), that the factor of leadership was greater than all others. Greater than factors such as experience in programming languages, choices of development methodologies, and even knowledge of the customer domain.

Boehm determined that the factor of leadership was 4.18 times more powerful than all the other factors. (Yes, he was that precise with his data.)

I found the same thing true with my research and work with hundreds of more organizations. In my own book, I wrote that the first immutable law of speed for leaders is:  You own the accelerator for the speed of your own work and the work of those that you lead.

No one argues with me on that truth. Yet, many leaders find it very hard to get the training or coaching they desire and need.

Here are some compelling ways to get your executives to invest in your leadership skills and abilities.

  1. Speak the language of the executives. You will need to present your case to an executive who owns the budget.  What are the executive’s concerns for the business? How will this investment help you solve their problems?
  2. Focus on value. When you ask for something like this, you are making a personal commitment to provide a return on investment to your organization.  What will the benefits to the organization be? Can you show how this will increase your contributions to speed and profit?  
  3. Ensure it is highly recommended.  Do research.  Have others experienced a high return from the experience you want to invest in?  Consider asking past “graduates” about the value they received.  Their words will be compelling.
  4. Show your commitment. Be prepared to explain your commitment by detailing in the time you will put in and how you will pursue getting maximum value from the investment.  Further, you should promise a final report showing what you learned and how you are enacting those learnings in the organization. 
  5. Have conviction. The biggest factor in your ability to “seal the deal” on your organization investing in you is your conviction.  I always got the investments I needed in training, coaching, technology.  I had the conviction that it was right for the organization. The first sale is always to yourself.

Do these steps. If you have sold yourself on how important it is, you will find that making the case to your executives is much easier.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Are you ready to do exceptional leadership in technology development?  Learn about the Exceptional Difference programs here.
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

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

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...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

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.

Manage Your Capacity To Provide the Greatest Value (or Don’t Spill the Beer!)

Manage Your Capacity To Provide the Greatest Value (or Don’t Spill the Beer!)

“As we all know, it’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent.”— John Cleese

While I was in Ireland, one of the stops we made was at the Guinness brewery. One of the delights of the stop was being professionally trained on how to pour the perfect beer from the tap.

One of the key tricks was that you could let the suds run over the edge of the glass. In fact, letting the suds run over was encouraged to make more room for the Guinness. There was an essential caveat to this process. One must never let the liquid beer spill over the edge.

Too many people miss this in their personal planning process. They take on many more projects and commitments than it is possible to complete in the time they have available. Imagine for a minute that the tasks people are taking on are a combination of figurative suds and beer. The beer is the most important value. The suds are the noise or the less valuable projects. The suds may seem urgent at the time, but they are just foam at the end of the year.

The problem for these overcommitted people is that their level of overcommitment doesn’t allow time to sort out the suds from the beer. Beer is constantly spilling onto their floors as they miss what the important projects really are.

The following are three critical steps to help you overcome your overcommitment habits.

  • Estimate the work you are taking on. This is really quite easy to do, although most people complain that it is impossible. Use your previous experience to look realistically at the maximum time the task might take and with that starting point think about the most likely amount of time it will take. You don’t know all the details but you can make educated guesses.  Add up all your quesses.
  • Estimate the actual capacity you have to do that work. Look at your days, weeks, and upcoming months.  Meetings and other overhead already consume how much time in a day?  What major events are coming up that prevent you from doing your project work?  How much time is left?  It is a rare person who finds they have more than 25 hours in a week for doing focused, non-interrupted project work.
  • Learn to say “later” if you can’t say no.  Most people who are overcommitted are surrounded by people who are practicing the same habit of beer spilling. People find it difficult to be very different from those around them. Once you know your capacity, you don’t need to always say “no”, but you can be kind enough to let people know when you will really get it done. Learn to say “later.”

I am certified to pour the perfect glass of beer. I know which suds I can let spill on the floor. I treat my most important projects as sacredly as the glasses of Guinness I learned to pour. Do you?

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

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

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...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

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.

Can Programs Be Poems?

Can Programs Be Poems?

“I knew Peter was well respected by many engineers in Silicon Valley, but I had no idea he was revered!

Peter was a scholar and a gentleman and a positive role model for any engineer he ever met. We miss him.”

— Austin Lesea, in IEEE

I had actually never heard of Peter Alfke until a friend of mine showed me an ode she wrote to his “obvious” idea of “FIFO”  (First In, First Out algorithm) for data queues. When he developed this algorithm, it was not considered obvious or easy.

While reading about Peter and the ideas he made into reality, I realized how many things that were once difficult are now considered quite easy.  And that is because of people like Peter.

Peter died in 2011 after an excellent career. From the stories shared by those who wrote about him, he was not just a brilliant man, but a good person. May we all have the chance to leave such an eloquent legacy.  May we have the chance to solve things that are difficult today, so that those who come after us can tackle even more interesting challenges.

Ode to FIFO

Seems obvious, I suppose
a simple idea
to chain data into a list
like people waiting at the DMV.
But nothing is really obvious
until someone makes it so.
I picture you as a little boy
holding someone’s hand
and quietly noticing the behavior of queues.
All that time in all those lines not wasted
because it showed you how
to make those data snakes
obedient and orderly.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

An example FIFO queue image by aykapog from Pixabay 

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

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

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...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

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.

Great Processes Are For The People Who Use Them

Great Processes Are For The People Who Use Them

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” — Charles Mingus

At my last house, we decided to put in a fence between our yard and our neighbor’s.  We lived in the city where everyone had small back yards with no discernible gap between them.  We discussed it with our neighbors, and they thought it was a good idea.  

We were both concerned that it would make our already small yards smaller.  The surprise for both of us was that our respective yards got bigger! Before the fence, we were both staying clear of about four feet of either side of the property line. With the fence, we both gained that unclaimed space.

The creativity to play with our yard was unleashed.  We were able to grow many more flowers and vegetables.

I have worked with many organizations that have successfully grown organically over the years without formal processes. However, once they grew to a point where the work and the organization became more complex, productivity dipped, and successful results became less consistent.

People feared formalizing processes because they would hinder creativity. It would slow them down.  Just as we did, they thought it would make their “yards” smaller.

In complex work, a straightforward process provides benefits similar to our fence.  Here are five benefits of a good process. If you are not getting these benefits, it is not a good process.

The process is awesomely simple.  The best processes appear so simple they are immediately understandable.  It takes work to get there, and it is worth it.

Things are not forgotten. When working with many people or work involving multiple steps, it is easy for something to be missed. A good process provides clear guidance for getting things done and ways to ensure they have been done well.

New people can be productive quickly.  Newcomers often struggle when joining an organic, informal organization. A well-developed process enables new people to contribute to the organization’s creative work quickly.

Results can be measured.  A good process enables the measurement of the work. This is an excellent benefit because everyone can better understand the work and how it contributes to the business outcomes desired.

A good process will adapt and change.  Ultimately a good process is never a static process. It is practical, used, and improved. The process owners can prove that it has improved because a good process enables measurement of results and improvement over time.

One last note. We put a gate in our fence so we could easily go between our yard and our neighbor’s. Although good fences might make good neighbors, we found that shared cookouts make great neighbors. Whether you are working with fences or creating processes, the people using them are the most important part of the equation.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Image by Tim Hill from Pixabay 

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

"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...

PERSISTENCE, PREY, AND IDEAS

"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...

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...

PATIENCE, PASSION, PERSISTENCE, PROGRESS

"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

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.

Pin It on Pinterest