Reintroductions

When I first joined my current company I spent a lot of time introducing myself. I’ve been here now a year, and there are new folks, new relationships and most important we are getting ready to change our way of working by introducing hybrid work.

As a leader it’s important to be honest in who you are and how you work. The best technique I’ve seen for this is a user manual, a quick way to express what works and what does not work for interacting with me.

Mine looks like this:

My User Manual

I’ll be updating this as part of my team establishing a new team governance charter.

Bring Playfulness to Your Work

Playfulness can soften difficult decisions, conversations and actions that require courage. Having the ability to bring a level of lightheartedness to even the most difficult situations can take the edge of circumstances that might otherwise scare you. Playfulness has the incredible power to disarm even the darkest of circumstances.

It invites courage to play.

Play is a fundamental part of the human experience. We should never forget to bring it to our work. A playful attitude keeps your mind curious. It makes us better problem-solvers.

Play involves an enthusiastic and in-the-moment attitude. When we play, we detach from outside stressors and become completely absorbed in the activity. Play is the ultimate mindfulness.

Do not let play be the first thing that gets lost when stress overrides our lives.

Playfulness is a subtle art. It is bordered by silliness on one side and rudeness on the other side. Be careful to ensure you never are in either of those territories. Men, this is especially critical to us as our culture lets too many sexist, racist and homophobic attitudes slide as humor. Always remember that playfulness is not the same as being funny. I’m not a very funny person, I try to avoid making people laugh. what I strive to do is make people feel included in my curiosity and exploration.

Good playfulness should always connect, never divide.

Take your play seriously! But don’t take yourself too seriously. Point out your own flaws and imperfections in a humorous, confident way. Sincere self-deprecation can be powerful.

People will strive for your success when you show up with playful energy. Make the other person genuinely feel special and watch the magic happen. Playfulness is a gentle invitation for others to follow you if they want to.

Playfulness will reflect in your body language. This is very inviting, and a whole lot of what folks mean as charisma stems from this spark.

By practicing playfulness you will develop an attitude of irreverence where you are in touch with yourself and avoid negativity and drama.

So reflect and ask yourself these questions:

  • How can you approach life with more playfulness? What would happen if you were more playful in your daily life?
  • Where are you lacking playfulness?
  • Who is someone playful you admire? What makes them playful?
  • If you approached life in a more playful way, what brave decisions would you make?
  • How would you show up differently if you were to embrace playfulness?
  • How can you invite more play into your life?

Determining Influence

Many of the influencing tactics require you to have informal power. It is a good idea to understand what your major forms of informal power are, so here’s an evaluation tool.

  • Step 1: List your top 10 contacts that enable you to get work done. These contacts can be either internal or external to your organization.
  • Step 2: For each contact, assign a score from 1 to 10 indicating how much you depend on them. If a contact provides a lot of value and is also difficult to replace, assign a high score. Think broadly about the value your contacts offer. This includes career advice, emotional backing, support with daily activities, information, and access to resources or stakeholders.
  • Step 3: Do the same in reverse. Assign a score to yourself from others’ perspectives. Approximate how much value you offer your contacts and how difficult it would be to replace you. Be honest.

Next, look for red flags which could indicate that you lack informal power.

  • Do all of your contacts work in one team, function, product unit, or office building? This could indicate a limited ability to generate value beyond the basic requirements of your job description.
  • Do your contacts provide you with more value than you return? Such relationships are difficult to sustain in the long run. Asymmetries in dependence indicate others hold the power in a relationship.   
  • Is all of the value you give or receive concentrated in a couple of contacts? You could be vulnerable if you lose these contacts or your relationship changes.

Once you understand where your informal power lies, figure out how you can improve.

To address the unfavorable power scores, earn relationships by delivering value to your contacts. Ask yourself: what value can you deliver to them? One way is to develop and continuously improve upon a skill set that leads others to value your contributions. Then proactively use your skills to help others, well beyond the demands of your formal role. You don’t want to be the expert whom nobody knows.

Let your job help you. Manage your job description so that you can contribute to the workflows of multiple functions inside the organization as well as customers, outside partners, or regulators. Volunteer for cross-functional initiatives. View lateral transfers as a move up. By positioning yourself at the intersection of workflows, you position yourself to meet, learn from, and deliver value to a variety of diverse groups in the organization.

Get to know your stakeholders and collaborators better as individuals. You may be surprised how something that is rather easy for you to do carries significant value for them. Sometimes we freeze because we believe that we have to offer really significant contributions or do massive favors for others. Knowing others well can present us with helpful alternatives.

Outside of work, join social and professional ones. Shared activities have an underestimated impact on expanding our networks.

Your value is never solely defined by your ability to perform a formal organizational role. By creating value for diverse stakeholders and making yourself irreplaceable, you open possibilities for yourself within the organization and beyond. And, by doing so, you add value to your company.

Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

2019 State of the Blog

I started this blog as an exercise in deliberate practice, as well as reflective. In order to grow it is important to engage in critical reflection, which requires a process of mutual learning, a consciously organised process of deliberative and distributed reflection. Which is what I strive to do in my blog posts.

At the end of last year, I evaluated my blog goals through an ACORN exercise, as well as updating a SWOT. These stand up pretty well, even in a year of changes where I took on member leader responsibilities as the chair of the ASQ’s Team and Workplace Excellence Forum and took a new job.

I met my posting goal, which was 1.5 posts a week, with 81 posts and 33.5k words.

The top 5 posts of 2019 are:

  1. FDA signals – no such thing as a planned deviation: Written in 2018 this post directs a lot of traffic to the blog from search engines, and has the largest geographic spread. Key message here continues to be all temporary changes, all planned departures, need to go through a change control system of appropriate rigor based on the risk involved.
  2. Risk Based Data Integrity Assessment: Data Integrity and Risk Management are two of my favorite topics and in this post I combine the two and provide a fairly usable tool. I wrote this post while at the ASQ’s Audit Conference, where I presented on data integrity.
  3. Lessons Learned as a Developing Leader: I am very gratified that this piece of introspection was viewed as many times as it was. Three months into my current job and this post, and the followup, are a good roadmap.
  4. Decision Quality: How we make decisions, deal with subjectivity and uncertainty and problem-solve are all big concerns for our organizations. This post serves as a good anchor for my thought and practice, as well as the direction of future endeavors.
  5. Driving for Mature Quality Organizations – FDA recent perspective: Building a quality culture, driving maturity in our organizations are critical. The FDA is spot-on, and companies really need to be coming to grips and dealing with this systematically.

Looking ahead to 2020 for the blog, I am going to take a bit of direction from Luigi Sille who set the following goals for himself:

  1. Build up my expertise
  2. Grow my network
  3. Continuously improve every single day

For building expertise, I want to continue to focus on building tools and methods to: deal with subjectivity and uncertainty around decision making and risk management; proactively build a culture of quality and excellence, especially dealing with aspects of data integrity; and, find connections between the larger organizational/leadership/operational bodies of work and adapt them to the quality profession.

This blog is a large part of growing my network and I want to get to 2 blog posts a week consistently. I’ll continue to work with the ASQ as chair of the Team and Workplace Excellence Forum, including holding at least 2 events (including an unconference!). I am also trying to pull together a group of speakers to bring data integrity and quality culture as a stream to ASQ BosCon. I’ll speak at least 2 ASQ Conferences. I’ll also deepen some ties with the PDA, including speaking at one conference.

As I continuously work to improve, I will bring the topics I’m learning and implementing back to this blog.

Lessons Learned as a Developing Leader

My six years at Sanofi were really the transition from manager to leader. It wasn’t always easy, but this is where I started to truly apply self-awareness to my tasks and expanded my perspectives to move beyond the day-to-day and focus on the strategic needs of building a quality organization.

I came into the organization really focused on the immediate needs of building a serious change management and change control. This was a site under a consent decree and I felt pressured to have results fast.

Over time, as the consent decree moved to later stages I shifted focus to being less day-to-day and more about implementing continuous improvements and driving a vision of what quality and excellence really could be.

I made mistakes. I had successes. I’m leaving quite proud of what I’ve done and the relationships I’ve built. Relationships I am confident will continue.

I often joke with folks that I started this blog as a public form of journaling. That remains true, and will continue in the future. As I move into my next position, here are my key things to remember:

  1. Focus on outcomes not deliverables with the long term goal of building a quality culture through innovative digital solutions and thus helping shape not only my organization but others beyond it.
  2. Don’t just instruct but inspire. Strive toinspire, to motivate, and to communicate the overall quality philosophy at every opportunity. If my coworkers are truly inspired by and proud of the ideals and values that I help communicate, then they will drive even more improvements.
  3. Communicate Big Quality Ideas. In addition to setting a digital agenda, utilize the platform to create wider strategies for quality, and defining the tone for quality culture by crafting effective, clear, transparent, and consistent messaging that inspires the best.
  4. Slow down. Be humble. Understand that I do not need to prove myself as the smartest person in every room. Encourage people to speak up, respect differences of opinion and champion the best ideas. Breathe.

Finally, remember the relationships I have and lean into them.

Not sure if these two posts looking forward and back are useful to anyone else, but they certainly position me for starting my new position on Monday.