Leadership Lessons from a Heart-wrenching Tragedy

Originally published on ProjectConnections.com April 2011.

Pardon me if I’m not my normally humorous self. I’m obsessing on disaster these days after the recent quake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant tragedies in Japan. While there have been plenty of tragedies in the past that could have consumed my emotional bandwidth (see the complete list on Wikipedia if you don’t already feel like self-medicating with tequila), this is much more personal. Just about every month for the last five years I’ve flown to Japan to work for a couple of weeks. From my home in the Silicon Valley, Japan seemed a long way off. Until now, that is.

On March 11 at 4:00 AM the iPhone on my bed table rang. It was my dad calling from my parents’ home in Florida. “Get up! Your friends are in trouble,” he said. I don’t know what he thought I could do about a natural disaster occurring over 5,000 miles away, but that’s my dad—no matter how dire the circumstances, he always thinks there’s something a person can do to make a positive difference.Continue reading

Avoiding Stone Age Practices in the Age of the Internet

Originally published on ProjectConnections.com January 2011.

Albert Einstein once said “There are two things that are infinite, the universe, and human stupidity — and I’m not sure about the universe.” Like most people, I usually write this off as an amusing, sarcastic quip he made on a bad day. I mean, it can’t possibly be taken literally, right? Then I wander across a news item or business situation that make me wonder if maybe he was on to something. In spite of common sense, again and again I encounter companies repeating tragically avoidable mistakes, hamstringing themselves with the same ludicrous errors their competitors (fortunately) are also making.

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here

Although Steven McConnell clearly mapped out a step-by-step recipe for successful software product development projects over a decade ago in his Software Project Survival Guide, a surprising level of ignorance seems to prevail in some software development organizations. Here are a few real-world examples that I have encountered in the past year:Continue reading

Give Thanks If You’re Not Miserable at Work… Most People Are!

Originally published on ProjectConnections.com Nov. 2010.

This time of year in the US we celebrate something called “Thanksgiving.” According to Wikipedia, it’s one of the busiest travel times annually, and the night before Thanksgiving is one of the most crowded times for bars and pubs due to college students returning home for the holiday. Traditionally, it’s a time to be thankful for our good fortune . . . a time when sometimes-whiney, often-ungrateful cynics (like me) pause to reflect on what we’re grateful for in our lives. This year I sincerely hope it’s a break from moaning about the economy, condemning the evils of outsourcing, and endlessly ragging on one political party or another’s ineptness. After all, in the United States of America we continue consume 30% of the world’s resources and produce 30% of the world’s waste in spite of making up only 4% of the world’s population. And most of us shower in water clean enough to drink while nearly a billion people (1 in 9) around the world don’t have access to clean drinking water. So when people ask me how I’m doing, I say something like, “Well, no one’s shooting at me, or blocking my access to YouTube, and the gas main under my home hasn’t blown up!” My life is truly blessed!Continue reading

Feedback – Painful, but Essential to Growth

Initially published on http://careershorts.com/startalk-blog/

Do you work with a global team? Have you ever wondered how your colleagues from around the world perceive you? If not, you should. We’re often unaware of how we are perceived, even misperceived, by others. You might be surprised if you took the time to inquire. Getting co-workers to share their impressions honestly may be a bit challenging, especially with a language barrier. (After six months of absolutely no feedback from his boss, one colleague from Eastern Europe asked his Japanese manager “How am I doing?”. The manager stopped checking his email momentarily, looked up and grunted “Hmm.  Good.” . . . and promptly returned to typing.) If you can tease out a bit more than this fellow was able to extract from his manager you’ll gain enormous insights into how effective you are as a global professional, and what’s getting in the way of improved relationships and results.Continue reading

Changing the Cultural Cement in Which Your Company Swims

Originally posted on ProjectConnections.com

I was recently told by another smarty-pants consultant that, “As long as the team makes a logical proposal to the executives, they will support their recommendation.” My retort: “Then why do people smoke?” I mean, it’s not logical to smoke. There’s plenty of data to suggest it’s bad for your health. If logic alone were sufficient to change behavior we wouldn’t find ourselves staring at the hauntingly familiar “lessons not learned” at the end of every project. What keeps us locked into behaviors that don’t make sense, at least to other people?Continue reading

Following Your Wellbeing North Star

Originally posted on http://wholelifewellbeing.com/ Desiring wellbeing is one thing – attaining it is quite another. I’ve spent my entire career helping people achieve what seems impossible, but is only difficult, and lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to help people achieve wellbeing. It seems to me that my own sense of wellbeing is created by two main factors: 1) My circumstances, and 2) my expectations.  When circumstances exceed my expectations, wellbeing increases. When they fall short of my expectations, wellbeing suffers. So one obvious way to improve wellbeing could be to lower expectations. While that might not sound like an appealing solution to everyone, let’s give it a little thought.Continue reading

Whose English is it Anyway?

Originally published on CareerShorts.com where Kimberly has been invited to contribute blogs periodically on global leadership and project management.

My work takes me from my home in the San Francisco Bay Area, where more than 50% of the people living here don’t speak English at home, to Japan and elsewhere around the world nearly every month. I have the distinct honor and pleasure of working with people from all over the world, and recently had an incredible adventure with 37 people from 12 different countries who all came together as a global team to propose the future direction of their company. It’s an incredible experience to work with such a diverse group, and a heck of a challenge due to the most basic of reasons – we all speak different languages.

Even though  all members usually speak some version of “English”, it might as well be Klingon. Continue reading

Common Sense Produces Uncommon Results

Originally published on CareerShorts.com where Kimberly has been invited to contribute blogs periodically on global leadership and project management.

Did you know that there are 192 countries recognized by the United Nations and a total of 233 listed on Wikipedia?  You may not even have heard of the smallest ones, some of which have less than 1000 people.  I’ve been fortunate enough to work with human beings from over 50 countries during my career.  Although I’ve discovered many fascinating differences among them, and many delightful common human traits worth celebrating, I’ve also unfortunately found that we share a couple of fundamental tendencies that get in the way of our ability to achieve our goals:

Unclear Goals

Unclear Communication

Unclear Priorities

Continue reading

Wellbeing is Often an Interpretation

Reposted from http://wholelifewellbeing.com/ where Kimberly has been invited to be a founding blogger for this new site led by Dr. Jerry Wagner, Presidents Office, Director Institute for Wellbeing, Bellevue University, Bellevue, Nebraska.

Over the years I’ve noticed that my sense of wellbeing has more to do with my attitude and interpretation of my circumstances than my circumstances. Certainly some circumstances have made it easier for me to feel a sense of wellbeing, and there have been other circumstances that made a sense of wellbeing more elusive. But lately I’ve come to realize that I could turn any “average” day into either a good day or a bad day just through the stories I tell myself about the day. For example, I’m showering in water clean enough to drink. Should I feel overwhelming gratitude for my good fortune, or should I despair because over 1 billion people don’t even have clean water to drink? I have to admit I often feel both, but what matters is what I do with these interpretations of my circumstances.Continue reading

Still Resisting Social Media as “just for teenagers”?

This week I had lunch with a friend of mine who is in his early 30s.  I couldn’t believe it when he told me he wasn’t on Facebook and he wasn’t twittering!  Yup, that’s right, there is still at least one cool, hip, successful high-tech business person in Silicon Valley who is NOT hip-deep in these social networks.  He asked me what benefit they produced, which is kind of like asking which advertising results in sales.  Who knows!  I just know that I have to be swimming in this ocean if I want to catch any fish.  Watching from the beach just doesn’t cut it.

If you’re just playing, join whatever you fancy.  But if you’re in business, here’s my opinion on the bare minimum social media marketing you have to be experimenting with while the whole SMM craze shakes out into what it will become:

1.  Facebook – It’s not just for teenagers, and just because people use it for social reasons doesn’t mean businesses can ignore it.  One of my highest quality contacts in the business world responds promptly to Facebook requests, but never responds when I contact him via email.  You gotta transmit on the frequency people are willing to receive on.  Check out Kimberly Wiefling and Scrappy Women in Business if you want a glimpse into my Facebook world.Continue reading