Archive for February, 2007

Colin Powell’s 12 Lessons in Leadership

Colin Powell is one of my heroes.

Smart Lemming posted a summary of his lessons in leadership, and some of these really hit a chord with me.

I learned that #1 (Never be afraid to make people mad) is crucial. Most of my life I’ve been what’s know as an individual contributor or a “Worker Bee.” I’ve never led people before. I’ve seen evidence of Powell’s caution about “Trying to be nice to everybody will only invite mediocrity and compromise your goals as a leader.” But on the other hand I’ve seen the consequence of the opposite extreme of consistently being ‘not-so-nice.’ These consequences include:

  • Lack of willingness in others to partner with you or even ‘trust’ you
  • Borgia-like internal relations amongst your team members or within your entire organization if leaders with this tendency become the norm

I believe that perhaps leaders should temper #1 and develop the intuition and skill of knowing when to use that “Not-so-nice” card. Though I would agree that it may be necessary to be “not-so-nice” regularly on a temporary basis, as long as your people know why and there’s a really good reason for doing so.

# 2 – The [day] soldiers stop bring their problems to you is the day when you have stopped leading them. In some groups that this might be the case. It’s often seen as a weakness to bring up problems. Or bearers of bad news, usually are chastised for not bringing up-beat news. In some dysfunctional groups there is also the unspoken law that if you bring up a problem, then you own it. It’s easier to do this than have the leader guiding his team to prioritize the problems and then work together to solve them as a team.

# 7 – Keep looking below surface appearances: “Don’t assume that today’s realities will continue tomorrow in a tidy, linear, and predictable fashion.” In order to achieve order in business we often assume that we need to develop crisply organized schedules and procedures and goose-step to them as precisely as possible. I’ve been a part of too many projects that always assumed the best-case scenario and not planned for likely contingencies. What’s up with that? Maybe it ties into that whole idea of always having to paint a rosy picture for management. I do notice in the corporate world, that sometimes the guys who talk like weathermen forecasting great weather usually get the ear of management and upper management. Refer to image of the guy in suspenders from Creating Passionate User’s post (When only the glib win, we all loose). He looks like he talks like a weatherman.

Are you ‘weatherman’ or ‘reflective Asian guy?’

It’s easy to read this top 10 lists and think… okay now I know what it takes to be a ‘great’ leader, but it takes courage and ‘chops’ to really live this way. I have to ask myself sometimes… am I just happier being a worker bee? Do I have what it takes to be a decent leader let alone a great one. In some societies (maybe Lion prides) I’d be instant prey for saying (writing) this aloud, but I do think that it’s a question any leader should ask themselves every now and then to take account of what they’re good at and what they need to work on.

Just a thought from the peanut gallery.

Captivate 2.0

We were slow to get this new version of the tool, which is too bad because I could have used it three months ago.

Check out this rough draft of a modularized simulation I created this weekend. The user can choose to view the entire simulation or just parts. Note: I created this rather quickly using the freeware CMAP tools as my subject matter. There are a few kinks I need to work out in the sim, but still I’m very pleased with some of the time-saving features in Captivate 2.0’s arsenal.

Click on the image to view the simulation (Adobe Flashplayer v. 8.0 is required)


I am really digging some of the new features

  • The branching feature – you can create decision paths in tasks and scenario based simulations far more easily
  • Resizing feature – you can shoot in one resolution and then compress the shot simulation as needed. No more having to shrink your desktop resolution to get window size needed. CAUTIONS: Resizing does not resize the fonts in your captions. You have to apply new font sizes in the caption properties or reposition your captions so they point to the right area. Also the compression of the images may render them slightly fuzzy.
  • Property application – you can apply property changes to all objects in the simulation of the same type. Personally, I love having this freedom because when I create simulations I use two types of captions: 1.) Info captions which inform what’s happening or provide background information and knowledge needed to complete the simulation task 2.) Action captions which tell the user how to act during the simulation. In the past it’s been difficult to do a universal formatting change to captions because it would apply my changes to all and wipe out formatting at times.

Medieval Help Desk

Nice parody of a help desk for medieval monks.

Great example of company blogging in action

Excellent rationale for using blogs within your company:

One company is using blogging to expose its mindset to its customers.  People can read how employees are working out solutions. It could be great PR and a customer relationship building tool. Though I do think you have to set up at least a rough set of explanations to employee bloggers.

Also, a group or company has to understand that this may not be the method of choice of working out ideas for some employees. I’m Verbal Vera… so I happily blog away. Someone else who is more visually oriented might prefer to work things out in a flow or a diagram. Another person who like to interact with others might throw their ideas off of a person or group of people who act as a springboard.

Just as employees have different learning/working/creating styles, customers have differing styles for pulling in information as well. Consider, what kind of customer are you attracting by using a blog? Not all would be interested, but some might be so interested that you have a loyal customer for quite some time.  I’m sure someone out there is hurriedly developing a market audience analysis for this.

Dovetail Software Main Blog:

Employee Blogs:

Shameless Plug


Click to view a larger image

For my husband’s blog and work.

Plus I’m uber proud 🙂

Cup of Coffee and the Morning Wii


I’ve developed this habit lately of drinking my coffee and surfing the news on the Wii.  I do wonder how the news is getting sorted into my player, but it’s nice – just like reading the morning paper (Yes, I’m old enough to remember what a real newspaper is like and how people actually read it at breakfast time in the morning)

Yesterday I brought the Wii in for lunch-time fun.  Those legendary stories of people becoming instant Wii fans aren’t really legends. People really like the Wii, and it has those ‘charmingly’ user-friendly qualities that just make it even more attractive. Plus it makes you exercise and brings joy and stress-relief.

One co-worker immediately went to purchase a Wii after we finished playing at lunch.

Imagine that …. now that’s truly a “Kick-Ass” product.

Wii Nuggets:

Excellent summary of Learning 2.0 offerings

Haza has provided a terrific summary of what Web 2.0. offerings (blogs, wikis, podcasting, rss feeds, etc.) can bring to an informal and more democratic learning solutions.

It occurs to me often that within a learning environment that cherishes and values the ‘formal’ training experience, it’s very difficult to get people to understand or embrace these concepts and how they apply to learning:  democratic and informal.

I believe that the difficulty comes from a number of assumptions and values that have been built around the way “learning should happen.” Some of these assumptions aren’t just corporate learning environment related, their origins link back into the world of academia.  Part of my training in college was to determine what the causes of argument against a position were and then attempt to correct or reverse them. For now I only have the time to list a few here so I will start with two. Also, I’d like to save my counter argument against these for another post.

  • Democracy in learning –  assumption that countersThe teacher/instructor or expert is the center of the learning environment – not the Student or end user.
    • The teacher is the boss and must run the show
    • The learner/student must be passive and just soak information in rather than learn it actively
    • Only experts can provide this information not peers
  • Informal learning- assumption that counters- You cannot measure or track informal learning. In corporate training much of our focus has been on evaluation, we must be able to measure that we’re doing our job and that learning is happening. 
    • This is why we do Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, etc. evaluations
    • This is why we count butts in seats or how many courses/learning interventions we do*
    • Informal learning maybe be harder to evaluate for performance success (except if you are attributing all performance behaviors to the informal learning environment that you’ve set  up – i.e. performance behaviors are happening…. period)

I also have a hunch that the very nature of corporate life implies ‘the formal.’  Naturally, saying things are informal or even organic may go counter to the corporate grain.  Jay Cross notes that his message about “informal learning” found either a hot or cold reception from the audience at the ASTD TechKnowledge conference.

I believe that its worth exploring the application of the “informal” and “democratic” to learning environments. However, I think we need to understand why these same concepts may not be adopted by members “the Body.”   Jay Cross draws the analogy of application of “informal learning” as being similar to landscaping a garden.   I’m going to draw out this analogy a little further and suggest that some of the counter-assumptions against the informal/democratic development of learning environments are rocks or items in the garden.  As a gardener you can do one of two things:

  1. Pull the rocks out
  2. If the rocks are too big, build your landscape around them (or overcome the rocks)


* Which by the way can be part of the problem if we are creating training just to create training.  This is often not an intentional move, but sometimes an unintended consequence if your system rewards you for accomplishing things by the number rather than by the actual effect or effect on quality


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