Failure is an Option.

Every journey has unexpected twists and turns. This year for me (both personally and professionally) has been riddled with them. I’m pretty good at planning to work and working my plan, but at times this year even the best plans were waylaid by situations beyond my control. That’s reality, folks.

Some of those situations were really devastating. At times, I felt ready to throw in the towel and at times my convictions were tested. On the whole, 2010 was a tough year for me, I’ll tell you. And I’m a pretty tough cookie. I called upon my mentors, my friends, my family, and my dad (he of the dial-a-pep-talk fame). Even with such tremendous support, I recognized a different level of challenging. I found myself thinking about “making it through this” quite a bit. And “this” kept being redefined.

So, when life comes at you harder than you expected, what do you do? I think a lot about winning.

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  –  Thomas Edison

Honestly, It’s about continuing the journey. Success is reading the map, the conditions, and adjusting your course. the one-two punch of unforeseen situations can be exhausting. Was and is exhausting. I can share with you that there were times this year I found myself thinking, “What else could possibly go wrong?” and then steeling myself superstitiously as if simply asking the question would bring more bad. In fact, just writing that last sentence scares the hell out of me on some level.

But here’s the thing: something will go wrong  if wrong means “not the exact way you planned it”. I also know – with absolute conviction – that those things that went “wrong” in my life this year have also been the very same things that taught me a great deal about how to handle tough situations with grace. How to put things in perspective. How to remember the little things. How to love people while they’re still here. How to let crazy people be crazy and stay out of their drama. How to find the funny in anything. How to stay creative even when tired. How to keep. getting. up.

I’m reflecting on this now in mental preparation for the new year. I won’t miss 2010 for its challenge and heartache, but I will remember 2010 as a year of tremendous personal and professional growth. I’d love to tell you I’ve been energized by my successes this year but since they were in the “well, I got through that one” camp, I’d be lying to you. I’m still tired, but I’m happy to report I’m certain of my success. I’m planning on my success.

Now, you may not care about my success but what I’m getting at here is this: keep going. I can promise you that failure is only one of your options, not your foregone conclusion. Keep going. You never know, your success may be just around the corner.

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Now Departing: Lessons from Alcatraz

While catching up with some of my favorite folks at Salesforce.com’s annual AMAZING Dreamforce 2010 global gathering, I kept running into people who were feeling a bit stuck. Some reported that they were excited for the future, but just not sure about “What’s Next” might mean for them. Others knew they had a problem with their NOW situation and were overwhelmed with what, how, when to do about it.

All of them had jobs. That’s the first thing that struck me. My take on this – even in my own NOW – is that we’re uber-smart or uber-lucky to have been delivered to a profession that is in demand now and will be in even greater demand in the future. But this blog isn’t only for people like us. I’m just pointing out that if you’re employed at all today, you’re one of the lucky ones. Don’t forget it and BBlook for ways to give back.  In the U.S., walk into a room with 10 people and one of them will be out of work. Another one will most likely be under-employed. If you’re working at all you’re fortunate. Network your colleagues less fortunate on your social feeds. Offer time or resources to helping get people back on their feet. A couple of things will happen as a result: you’ll appreciate your current reality in a new light and good things will happen for other people. It’s a win-win.

About the “What’s Next” dilemma…

Talented people want to be recognized, challenged, and compensated. We want to be a bit famous in our own stratosphere. This means recognized for our contributions and challenged to bring more to the table. These folks need to feel their moral compass is aligned with their employers’ or clients’. If not, it’s a deal breaker. These are people working from a place of passion, and passion ignites innovation when nurtured. So that “What’s Next” feeling is natural for passionate folks.

If you’re one of the people wondering what is just beyond the horizon for you, I want to share what I learned while visiting Alcatraz Island yesterday. While on the penitentiary audio tour, I found myself standing in front of the solitary confinement cells. The Hole. A former inmate incarcerated at Alcatraz explained that while he lived for 23 hours a day in complete darkness and isolation for months at a stretch, his mind was free to travel. He closed his eyes and envisioned light. He left his isolation even if only in his mind and traveled freely where he chose. This was his mechanism to cope with his current reality.

It hit me in a profound way. Not only because this man was expressing so beautifully the human reality of perserverance. but also that his solution is so powerful for all of us.

Even in those moments where we aren’t ready or aren’t able to make a move, our minds are free to wander.

Creative, passionate people: Is your mind free to wander? Or is your mind tied up with circular thinking on unhappiness? Solutions are born when you’re open to conceiving them. Quit ruminating on what you’ve already defined as unacceptable. You’re clear on that, now move on. Seth Grodin has a great blog on using your current reality as a platform for change. Then remember: you don’t have to be able to see every twist and turn and end state clearly to begin the “What’s Next” phase of your journey. Just be open to the journey and the adventure of it all.

“What’s Next” is the adventure you create. Close your eyes and Dream Big.

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On the road to ….

Recovery?

Well, all things being cyclical, it’s bound to happen. But as the spring of a new economic fertility begins to awaken, I find myself wondering: how will my organization retain market share? Actually, the real question is:  how will we continue to dominate as our competitors begin to become stronger?

We spent more than two full years paying (so much more than) close attention to efficiencies. Really working to talk to our prospects and customers in a targeted and meaningful way. And we’ve made headway and learned a lot. Now, as the US economy starts to shimmy and shake, we’ve got to somehow stay lean and mean and GREAT and focused.

I just realized I’m posting another Eye of the Tiger entry.

Generally, as my group supports APAC as well as domestic efforts, I’m really aware of the shift of the financial tectonic plates. That which we relied on heavily in APAC to thankfully sustain us through the dark days is no longer really doing the trick. We’re going to enter the APAC version of “trim the fat, watch your costs and stay clear of weak links”. I don’t know what that’ll look like for the region, but this whole process is fascinating to be sure.

So, now what? We’re still coming together and Henry Ford said it PERFECTLY:

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.

 Our arsenal is terrific, our beleaguered team talented, and our offerings are really, really fabulous. My personal challenge is to start at the beginning (again). I have work to do on building relationships and improving  communications with my key colleagues. Most likely, this is the single most important effort I can make to improve my team’s contributions to the company. I’m dedicated to building (very wide-span) bridges as a priority.

Those are the bridges that will bring us closer together, keep us in touch, and add dramatically to our success.

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Goodbye, Good Riddance, and Thank You!

Well, the numbers are in and we did it! We made great things happen – seemingly IMPOSSIBLE things happen –  in 2009. When I say we, I mean all the phenomenal teams my team supports. This spans a pretty wide swath of geography, so it’s no fluke. From Hawaii to Japan to Mainland (Main STREET) USA, we just blew the doors off. How did we do it?

Well, we had to, I suppose.

I’m lucky to work for great leadership that set a pretty clear direction right at the beginning of 2009. We were told to be more efficient, and we did it. We were told not to cut corners, but to keep our eyes peeled for opportunities and jump in with both feet if we found them.

And we found so many opportunities: to do things smarter, to be more direct, to work in closer coordination, to focus on our message and whether or not our customer gained from hearing it. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t, either. So at times we shelved projects and plans that (even though we loved them in theory) just didn’t make sense.

So, when we began to really open our eyes to how to be better, we found so many opportunities for change and refinement that my team literally can’t get to all of them. We’re prioritizing (and re-prioritizing) the most beneficial and moving as quickly as we can. We’re not sacrificing quality (I’m so happy to report) but we are – ahem – sleek…so we sometimes move quickly to implement a less than elegant solution that delivers while knowing we’ll come back “later” to make it as pretty as we’d like it to be in a perfect world (which this one ain’t).

In spite of the drama, we hit some remarkable new heights and one of the pinnacles is simply: We made it.

Big time.

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It’s Good To Be The King (so I’ve been told) Dreamforce 2009 Edition

Well, Marc Benioff is the KING of CRM. I mean, we knew that. CRM Magazine this month is essentially devoted to Salesforce.com, Marc B, and the Cloud. So I know that the world is into this stuff.

But at home, in my organization, we’re struggling with embracing best practice from the top down and this year my mind is reeling with the “how do I overcomes” and the “how can we prioritize when every project is vital-s”.

Sigh.

So here’s the rub: I love this stuff. You know I do. For no damn good reason other than passion I’ve devoted my brain power, sweat equity, sleep-time, and creativity to the idea of enterprise-wide CRM for oodles of years. So failure (which is anythin less than resounding success) is not an option.

I am here to win. My team is being raised up to SLAY our competition, wow our clients, and offer our current and future customers a service and sales experience that will continue to set up apart as the best at what we do.

So why are so many of our user groups not happy? This week, I’ll be mini-blogging my heart out to finally examine this question and framing up the answer – whatever it may be. This is a pre-post to a series of honest ramblings, it’s the only way I’m going to get it done and I do feel it’s gotta be said. Let the chips fall where they may and my hope is that I emerge cleansed and revitalized and creatively poised to astound our customers.

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(when) You’re a winner, I’m a winner!

My Dad Says:

  • You’re doing GREAT! Really! Keep it up!
  • Define your space – then command it.
  • Focus on the positive aspects of the current reality, rather than the negative. 
  • Backbiting and negativism is pervasive, why not tune into the rare beauty of teamwork?

First things first: my Dad is very smart. I’ve urged him to come out of retirement to offer all of you fine folks a “Dial-a-Pep-Talk” service. He didn’t bite – so you’ll have to absorb it second-hand. Suffice to say, though, that if ever I need to hear that I’m okay, that I’m doing great, that I’m gonna blow the doors off….well, I know where to look.

Which brings me to the week I’ve just had. This week, senior leadership gathered at HQ (I just like writing that!) to do what sitcom after sitcom punts around when spotlighting Corporate America.

That’s right folks, we came to SYNERGIZE!

But before you  let your mind meander too far down the path of the zen of handshakefulness, know this: it’s been a hard couple of years. For all of us. We did – are still doing – more with less. We questioned our contributions, we felt overwhelmed, underappreciated, we lost good friends and colleagues in the name of efficiency improvements. And the hits keep on coming.

It’s been quite the bumpy ride. BUT….there are glimmers on the horizon. Truth be told, we’re kicking butt and taking names with the “sleek team” I represent. We’re all frustrated because all of  us – the survivors – who remain wish we could get to it all, could do our own pet projects when some times we’re simply keeping the motor running. But ultimately, we’re making it work while in the face of adversity.

This week, though, the message is clear: We can do it. We ARE doing it. We expect to be the best. We Believe.

In other words, they may have called my Dad. But I’ll vouch for the infectious positivity of having leadership that sets the course and that shares the message of hope and positivity as a culture.

This ain’t gibberish, it’s parenting. It’s leadership. It’s setting clear boundaries and clear expectations and a culture of teamwork from the top down. I hope the message makes it back to the home office. I know I’m walking in the door on Monday with renewed passion. I love what I do and I believe in infectious, aggressive positivity.

Here are my top 5 methods to spread positivity:

Set the standard: BE posititve. Smile and say Good Morning. Resist the temptation to fall into “venting sessions”. Not as easy as it sounds, you’ll be surpirsed how much of a shift this may entail. But make the shift happen – it’s magical!

Deep down, if you don’t believe it is possible (whatever your “it” is), step down or shut up.

Seek out the people in your organization who “can do” and who are interested in teamwork, and hang with them. You’ll move mountains.

Take a few minutes before checking voicemail, email, twitter, blog comments, facebook, etc. to visualize the successful achievement of your vision – or your team’s vision – at the start of each day. Really SEE it happening. This helps me to remember that the obstacles are most times just chatter that can (if I let them) steal my time and energy.

Remember your teammates. Thank them for great work. Actively work to understand how to help them do what they do better. Expect greatness and recognize their hard work.

So thanks, Dad. I am what I am today thanks to you. I’ve just heard presidents, CEOs, world-class marketing gurus share their wisdom for days, and your message remains (to me)  the most inspiring:

  • You’re doing GREAT! Really! Keep it up!
  • Define your space – then command it.
  • Focus on the positive aspects of the current reality, rather than the negative. 
  • Backbiting and negativism is pervasive, why not tune into the rare beauty of teamwork?
  • Why not, indeed! Go TEAM!

    Thanks, Dad!

     

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    Budget Season is upon us…

    CRM people, what say you? Are you finding your role is expanded in the organization? I am. In this way: in that 2009 is the year of “More with Less”. CRM process engineers have spent the year resolving poorly structured initiatives in sleek, elegant, cheap ways. These redesigns either measure our results in actionable ways or directly add to the bottom line. Read: Efficiency Builders.
    I shared the Project Triangle with the folks on my team this year. Some of them had never seen it before but all of them understoon the truth of it. You. Must. Pick. Two.

    Cheap and Fast (Never Good)
    Cheap and Good (Never Fast)
    Good and Fast (Never Cheap)

    Frustrating as ever to the Exec layer, to be sure, is the fact that to produce good stuff, you can’t escape from the truth of the Project Triangle.  Hey, I’m all for Agile development, so understand that when I say “Fast”, I mean unrealistic compression to timeline of a project to appease an executive’s “deadline”. You reap what you sow, ya’all!

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    What have you done for me lately?

    Being able to monetize or throw meaningful metrics at a deployed (or better yet) proposed project is a luxury that should be a staple in most organizations. I find myself defending technology on a daily basis and repeating the mantra of one of my favorite CRM cohorts, “You can’t automate your way out of a bad process”.  Poorly scoped inherited projects handed over with little or no documentation are the norm in the ready, FIRE, aim! workplace and I gotta lament that those inherited bottlenecks are doing wonders for my insomnia.

    Now, I love a puzzle as much as the next CRM / Process geek….but at times the “hurry up and deploy, we’ll fix it later” double-edged sword really gets me down. Doing  the right things in the right way is usually perceived as slower and more often than not actually the complete opposite with less man-hours invested, much less heartache for the client, added value for the customer (and ain’t that the whole deal,  really?), and the dev / ops team knows what was rolled out and how to support it. Well.

    Corporate America, I love you! You’re getting scrappier and hungrier as a by-product of our global crisis. But I’m offering you this unsolicited advice: think it through before you demand it done. You’ll like the results, I promise. And plus, if everyone in my team gets hit by a bus (hb2) , a new team will be able to come in and pick up where we left off without so much as a hiccup.

    Trust me, CA, it’s the only way to REALLY get where you’re trying to go.

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    I met Neil Young! Thank you, Dreamforce 2008!

    I met Neil Young at Dreamforce 2008 and told him I was married to his biggest fan. Check out the proof….

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    Hello From the Clouds…Dreamforce 2008 Kicks Off!

    Cheering Clouds
    Cheering Clouds

    Okay, so the first night of Dreamforce was fabulous!

    Cheering clouds, the Genius Zone, and creative excitement all over the place. We (finally) had the chance to meet our long suffering premier support rep in person, and have already double- and triple-booked our time for the next three days and nights.

     

    Weird Dreamforce occurrence of the night? Cheering Clouds. Fabulous takeaways from the first day? There are solutions to our puzzles, there are answers all over this place – apart from the vendors, our peers and the Salesforce.com employees are on hand everywhere you look – the vibe is helpful, enthusiastic optimism.

    After the orientation, we moved on to the GeniusZone. This is where Salesforce.com has tons of support reps and product specialists at the ready to help figure our issues out.

    Day One results? We’re engaging with the Global User Group when Dreamforce is over for ongoing community-building – with other users who have the same types of issues we do (and have been there, done that and moved on with answers in hand). I also got some fabulous NEW ideas for our merge and data quality issues.

    One of the most important lessons of Day One: We are not alone. There are people here from all over the world with lessons learned and ideas to share, and they’re as excited to share as they are to learn more.

    All in all: the mood is POSITIVELY FIRED UP!

    Are you at Dreamforce? Leave a comment…

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