Ramblings of a Creative Mind

Thoughts on Work and the World from an Executive Mom


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Fighting the Chompys

Teamwork...

Teamwork…

If you have kids, I’m pretty sure you know who the “Chompys” are.  For those of you who are fortunate enough not to know, they are the baddies from the massively popular video game, Skylanders.  Disclaimer here: I am neither a Skylanders fan nor a video game fan, but I’m outnumbered by the men in the house who think games are pretty cool.  Deciding to choose my battles wisely, I caved on this one and allowed games into the house… but with rules attached. You can play on the weekends only, for no more than an hour and only if you behave nicely while you do it.The rules have been working pretty well, until this past weekend.  The boys found themselves exploring a new section of Skylanders and found a “chompy pit.”  Think Gladiator-lite: you battle these cartoon thingys and do it as a team.  Well, Boy #1 charged into the chompy pit using his super belch (not kidding) to drive the chompys away.  Boy #2 had another idea.  He was not up for the grand battle, but instead wanted to find jewels, move rocks and do other smaller tasks… earning more life force and strengthening his player.  But Skylanders is clever.  The game warns you when you are too far from the other player, and eventually if you don’t head in the same direction, you just get stuck: pulling against each other and going nowhere.  The volume in the house went up, and everything descended into madness.  General Mom declares the game is over, and now both boys are wailing over the lost opportunity.

Watching them face the chompys reminded me of teams in the work place.  Like many of you, I’ve been fortunate to work with passionate, goal driven people who want to make a difference in the world.  We have our eyes on the same goal.  We just have different ideas about what path to take to get there.

So everyone knows the corporate goal.  They’re fired up and onboard.  But what’s the best way to get there?  When you have a lot of talent in the room, finding consensus on the tactics or the path can be tough.  There are a lot of great tried and true ideas that are proven.  You know that they work, that they generate results and the team knows how to execute them.  Just like Boy # 1 who charged straight into the fray using the moves (ye olde super belch) he knew worked, the team can achieve its goal.

There are also new ways to get to your goal, new technology, new metrics.  Perhaps they’re unexplored or undefined.  They’ve worked elsewhere and may work for you, and you want to understand and test them, taking your time to plan, prepare and then execute.  So you do A/B testing, focus groups and research.  You’re finding more jewels, earning more life force and strengthening the plan, preparing yourself and then getting to the goal.

Now, your smart, passionate team is struggling internally.  Some head one way, wanting to stick with what’s known.  Others want to prepare.  And the entire team gets stuck, pulling against each other and not marching towards the goal.  So what’s the better way?  Rely on the way we’ve always done it?  Or go Blue Ocean, monitor, measure and then move forward?

Neither.  Both plans work.  It’s not about how you get there, but instead it’s about building consensus and doing it as a team.  As leaders, it’s our job to bring people together, to foster collaboration and open communication, to paint a compelling vision and then find a win-win solution that everyone buys into and commits wholeheartedly to.  Great ideas will come from a great group of people.  A leader demonstrates how the great ideas fit into the goal, and then helps the team focus and prioritize so they make the right decision each time.

So back to the Skylanders.  After my “Command and Control” leadership debacle, we decided to try again the next weekend.  Boys 1 & 2 came to battle again.  We paused the game, talked about what came next with me guiding the discussion, and they agreed on the way to win that was right for them.  Score 1 for the boys.

How will you help your team fight the Chompys?

P.S.  Major respect to any of you that can tell me which character in the picture has the Super Belch.  It is pretty effective!


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A Birthday Card to Mom

MomToday is my Mom’s birthday.  I’m on the road right now, so I sent flowers and called, but I still did not feel like I did enough.  And as I sat here in the hotel tonight, I started to think about how I viewed my Mom way back when and how I see her today.

Way back when – aka in my foolish teenage years – I loved my Mom and was absolutely certain that I was smarter than she was and knew more than she did.  Kind of a given for a teenager.  I thought Mom was beautiful.  Picture Mia Farrow, and you’re seeing my Mom.  She has always been one of a kind too: a little kooky.  Our house was filled with strays of the canine and human persuasion.  Mom couldn’t sing, but she sure did blast those Broadway records at full tilt boogie.  And with as many siblings as I’ve got, our house was raucous to say the least – balancing right on the edge of joy and madness.  I remember Mom standing in the middle of it all, always full of folksy sayings: trying to teach us – sometimes hollering over us – the things we may need to know as we grew.  We colored on the walls, ate dessert for breakfast and generally figured we ignored her advice.  And now I am grown with a family of my own.  I see my Mother when I look in the mirror.  I hear her voice come out of my mouth.  And I’ve realized how much she taught me when I didn’t think I was learning.  To celebrate her today, here are a few of my favorite Mom moments.

1.   Were you born in a barn?  (Also, known at dinnertime by the variant “Close your mouth. You look like a cow chewing its cud.”)  My Mom was raised on a farm, so we got a lot of country references when Mom talked about manners.  Manners were big for her.  She taught us to say please and thank you, of course.  And she also taught us that the world may judge you by your manners as well.  Being polite and considerate, thanking people, being gracious – they are points of entry into business today, and while they may not be directly acknowledged, they are noticed and appreciated.

2.   Just put ice cream on your cereal instead.  OK, so Mom usually resorted to this when we ran out of milk, but to a kid, ice cream on cereal is paradise so we were happy.  We ate ice cream for breakfast more than once.  Mom was resourceful.  Mom was creative.  She encouraged that in us kids too.  When she ran into a challenge, she found a solution, turned a tough time into something fun and moved right along.  Times will be tough for all of us at one point or another.  What matters is how we respond to problems and find creative answers.

3.   Time to get dewormed.  Now, that sounds icky, especially when you know that no one in the family (canine or human) ever actually needed to get dewormed.   But Mom was all about preventative measures.  Sometimes, even if everything seems fine, it’s still worth digging a little deeper to make sure things really are as good as they seem.  They well may be.  Or, you could find something that needs tending to.

4.   Don’t forget where you came from.  Mom has regaled me with stories of how my ancestors fought in the American Revolution and others worked on the Underground Railroad; how Dad ran secrets for the Filipino Guerrillas and Resistance forces during the Japanese occupation in WWII; how my Aunties had the most beautiful hands and made the best longanisa (which is very, very true).  In fact, I’m still hearing new stories today.  Mom taught me to be proud of my heritage – that my ancestors stood up for what they believed in and I should too.  She taught me that I am part of something so much more than just “me” and that Family, both gone and yet to come, is your true legacy.

5.   Patience is a virtue.  In this world of instant gratification, it’s easy to forget that some things are worth the wait.  This is a hard one for me, but it is true.  I found my career late, my husband late… found myself late.  They were worth the wait.  Today, I find that I say this same thing often to my children and to myself.  Day to day goals and pressures can make you crazy.  Set a long term goal.  Know what you stand for.  Then slow down, enjoy the ride and keep your eye on the finish line.  It’s a good one, after all.  Now, Mom: I know you are probably mortified that I wrote this tonight (especially # 3), and I hope you know I wrote this with love.  I treasure you.  I treasure what you taught me. You are more beautiful today than you were all those years ago, and I am so darn grateful for you and all that I’ve learned.  I succeed at business and life because of the sturdy foundation you and Dad built.

Happy Birthday, Mom.