Tag Archives: management

What Steve Taught Me

March 20, 2012

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The following is a guest post from some of the people who worked the closest with Steve over the past 4+ years at Booz Allen. His impact on the firm and individual people within the firm will be realized for many years to come. We’ve captured a few of the top lessons learned from Steve that we will carry with us in our work and life forever.

Steve taught me…
·         …that fortune favors the bold and fearless. Specifically, he taught me that creative, thoughtful ideas that have the potential to transform and disrupt should never be held back.  —Michael Dumlao
·         …that you don’t have to wear a suit jacket to play with the big boys!!! —Mike Robert
·         …how to navigate in a large consulting firm after spending my whole life in the education & research world –Don Jones
·         …the power of empowering others to build something new by boldly leading –Don Jones
·         …that great ideas can change powerful institutions, even when their tendency is to remain in stasis –Don Jones
·         …that be willing to speak up and shake the status quo can pay off –Don Jones
·         …that you can take the boy out of Pittsburgh, but you can't take Pittsburgh out of the boy –Don Jones
·         …that people come first. Time spent developing your "second team" is the most strategic investment you can make in your career. — Jacque Myers

  …to lead by example. Don't tell people what they should do–show them, and then empower them to take the lead. –Jacque Myers

  …to take risks, but choose your battles. Sometimes you have to ruffle feathers to get things done, but make sure it's truly necessary. Don't be a rebel for the sake of rebelling. Work within the system, and if it's something worthwhile that can't be accomplished the traditional way, blaze trails. –Jacque Myers

  …to network, network, network. I can't even count the number of times Steve would say to me, "You know (so and so) right?" He has a way of identifying people that matter and then building – and sustaining – relationships with them. Fortunately, he freely shared that network with me. One of my biggest challenges (and opportunities) moving forward will be to expand my own network in his absence. –Jacque Myers

  …If you believe in something, don't stop until you make it happen. Steve had a vision for transparency and collaboration in government long before the Open Government Directive and the #gov20 hash tag, and he would talk about it to anyone who would listen. He found people who shared his vision, and he worked with us to challenge our clients and transform the way they do business. His vision has been realized, and now it's time to move on to new opportunities and new challenges. Steve – Best of luck to you as you begin this new chapter! –Jacque Myers

·         …how to say yes enough to earn the right to say no.  –Tracy Johnson
·         …that getting your hands dirty almost always pays off. –Tracy Johnson
·         …that being a great leader has nothing to do with a title.  –Tracy Johnson
·         …how important it is to be a champion and mentor for other colleagues. I can’t thank you enough for being my champion over the past 3 years. Your support and encouragement has changed my career and life for the better. –Tracy Johnson
What has Steve taught you? How did it change your career or life? Please share your thoughts and well-wishes for Steve’s new adventures in the comments section!
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Disagreements and Debates Are Good Things

February 3, 2010

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Image Courtesy of Flickr User pboyd04

Have you had a disagreement with your boss about the direction of a project? Did you actually voice your difference of opinion with him, or did you grumble about it silently but do what he told you anyway? If you answered the latter, then you’re not doing your job as effectively as you could be. Sure, you might be getting good performance reviews and winning awards, or maybe you’re flying totally under the radar, putting in your eight hours and doing exactly what’s expected of you. Or, you’ve dutifully accomplished every task your boss has asked of you. That’s great – I’m happy for you. I just wouldn’t want you on my team.

You see, here’s the thing – if you can’t think back to the last time someone at work, be it a boss, manager, junior employee, intern, etc. has yelled at you, debated something with you, or flat out argued with you about something that you did, how do you know how much more you could have done? How do you know if that briefing really should have included your slides if you didn’t make your case to include them? Can you remember the last time you asked someone on your staff to do something and they pushed back and said, “how about we try it this way instead?” How about the last time you felt strongly enough about a project you were working on that you didn’t take “no” for an answer? Can you remember a time you argued for or against something you truly believed in?

You see, the people I want to work with are the ones who are naturally inquisitive, who will put their neck on the line for something they believe in, who aren’t afraid to send me an email and tell me that I’m flat out wrong and here’s why. I want to work with people like that because that’s how I am. Every problem is an opportunity to fix it. Ask for forgiveness, not for permission. If there isn’t a policy stating you can’t do something, then that probably means it’s allowed, right?

For us social media and Government 2.0 champions, we pretty much make our living taking our colleagues, clients, and bosses out of their comfort zones, showing them new ways of working and new ways of thinking. We’re the innovators, change agents, and in some cases, instigators. We have our battle scars, our stories of almost getting fired, and our half-completed resignation letters, you know, just in case 😉  On the other hand, many of the most innovative and groundbreaking social media initiatives began with an argument or a debate.

And I’m here to tell you that that’s OK. You know why? It shows me you’ve got some passion. I’ll take a passionate, enthusiastic worker who sometimes takes things too far over a conservative worker who does exactly what I tell him every time every single time.

Booz Allen has ten core values – professionalism, fairness, integrity, respect, trust, client service, diversity, excellence, entrepreneurship, and teamwork. Interestingly, no where on that list do I find the words “agreeable,” or “passive,” or “obedience.” While I try to live by these core values every day, I also know that I can have professional and respectful differences of opinion, arguments, and lively discussions. It’s this ability to give honest feedback and to engage in honest dialogue that is common of most social media and Gov 2.0 evangelists. We probably don’t have any special degrees or titles, but we aren’t afraid to take a risk and try a new way of doing things. Reprimands, arguments, and nasty emails are sometimes just part of the job.

Innovation isn’t easy. It involves risk-taking, debates, differences of opinion, and often, some good old-fashioned arguments. That’s ok. That’s part of what makes it innovative. Truly transformative initiatives aren’t the result of achieving consensus at senior committee meetings or from a memo from the Director. They’re achieved every day, step by step, argument by argument, by the people who see an opportunity and who don’t just take no for an answer.

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I Started a Blog But No One Cared

January 8, 2010

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Image Courtesy of Flickr user cogdogblog

As many of you know, here at Booz Allen, we’ve got an internal suite of social media tools available on our Intranet – hello.bah.com. While it’s garnered a lot of publicity, won awards, and really changed the way we think about virtual collaboration here, I get asked this question and others like it (e.g., why isn’t anyone asking questions? How do I get people to read the blog? Why isn’t anyone editing the wiki pages?) at least once a week.

These aren’t trivial questions – people take the time to create a blog post or add content to a wiki because of the promise of emergent collaboration. They hear stories about people getting entire white papers written by people they don’t even know because it was posted to an open wiki; they see blog posts with dozens of comments that lead to new initiatives; they read forum threads dozens of pages long with input from people across the organization and they want to realize those benefits too. Against everything they’ve learned over the years, they post some content to this open and transparent platform with the hopes that people will flock to it, adding comments, having discussions, linking to additional resources, and interacting with their information. When that collaboration and interaction doesn’t happen, they quickly get turned off and will either A) assume they did something wrong and not go back or B) believe that they’ve been sold a lot of snake oil and this social media stuff isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

As you might imagine, neither of these conclusions bode well for the long-term health of a virtual community behind the firewall. So, what do I tell these folks when they ask me why no one is reading their forum posts, commenting on their blogs, or editing their wiki pages?  I start by sending them these eight bullets –

  • Write interesting content. You’d be surprised at some of the mind-numbingly boring stuff government consultants blog about. Realistically, out of the 20,000+ people at the firm, how many of them are really going to be interested in your jargon and acronym-filled blog post about the latest developments in IT Service Management? Write something that more than the 20 people on your team will be interested in if you’re looking to get greater engagement.
  • Email is still king. Despite all its successes to date, hello.bah.com isn’t a daily, in the workflow destination for most of our staff. They see the potential of it, and use it occasionally, but visiting the hello homepage to check out the latest blog posts and wiki changes isn’t exactly at the top of mind for most people yet. Post your blog entry, wiki content, forum thread, etc. and then send out an email with a link to it.
  • Cross-promote. Include the link to your content in your team newsletters, meeting agendas/minutes, email signatures, briefings, Yammer messages, and any other communications vehicles you use. Just because you’re the boss/team lead/project manager doesn’t mean people have automatically subscribed to everything you do and are waiting with bated breath for your next post. When our senior VP started blogging internally, we sent out a mass email with each post that included a link to the post, a short blurb on what it was about, and directions for how to subscribe for future posts. We did this for the first five posts or so until people were aware that the blog was out there.
  • The world doesn’t revolve around you. Don’t just post and then whine about people not commenting on your content. Ask yourself if you’ve gone out and commented on anyone else’s blogs. No? Then why are you surprised that no one is commenting on yours. Go find other posts and wiki pages related to your topic and engage there. Include links back to your content as “additional information you might find useful.”
  • Give people an action. Why are you posting in the first place? Do you want to get people’s opinions on some new initiative? Do you want cross-team collaboration on a white paper? Are you asking your team if they have questions about the new reorganization? Be clear about what you want from your readers.
  • Tell them what’s in it for them. Tell me what benefit I get from taking time out of my day to click over to your blog/wiki page/forum and read it. Will I get an opportunity to influence future policy? Will this be the new location where all of our meeting agendas and minutes will be kept? Is creating my profile required for my performance assessment? Will I get to get answers directly from a VP instead of some anonymous email address? Don’t just tell me that it’s there and to click the link because that’s not enough. Entice me. Whet my appetite for what I’m going to get for my time.
  • Do some internal “pitching.” I’ve had colleagues reach out to me and ask me if I’d blog about their programs on my blog. People have asked me to go out to Yammer and link back to their wiki pages. I’ve received internal emails from people pitching me on their project and asking me to “get my team to engage with their content.” This isn’t because I’m some subject matter expert, it’s because I happen to have a popular internal blog and my readers and friends tend to read what I write and click over to things I link to. Find people like me and make them aware of your content and ask them to get involved. No one wants to be the first person to respond – they want to see that other people have read it and commented on it too.  Aren’t you more likely to read a blog post that has 20 comments than one that has none?
  • Lastly, be a community manager.  When the comments on our VP’s blog all started to skew toward the “thanks for posting – great job” variety, the value of those comments went way down (our VPs don’t need any more self-esteem:).  That’s when I started to post some more contradictory/controversial comments and posts.  I wanted to model the behavior that people could/should take when participating in that online community. Other people needed to see how to interact in this new environment.
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