Note Taking

I must confess that during my years in High School and later in College, I did not take notes. I am a listener, I would go to class and listen. There were plenty of people who took notes, and some were my study buddies. Their notes would refresh my memories and together we could really understand the lectures. Now, 15 years after my college days, I am a note taker.

IMG_2894I wanted to explore how I transitioned from not taking any notes, to a place where I find pleasure in taking notes. I can’t remember the exact date, but do remember the job. I was a manager for a company that published Market Studies for the Pharmaceutical Industry, and every client I met used a notebook, either an agenda or a moleskin notebook. I also mas managing multiple projects and making commitments to different parties; I couldn’t keep everything in my head.

My first attempt was to use a digital organizer. I signed up with Evernote to write my tasks and notes. I liked the perpetuity of my notes on Evernote, and being able to search for emails or documents; but the complete solution was not Evernote.

I saw my assistant using an inexpensive notebook as a work journal and thought that something like that could help me. I made several attempts to find what I liked until I got in a good rhythm, and from there I have a notebook.

This week I was reading an article on taking notes, and saw these amazing notebooks from a soccer commentator. (Full Article)

I am not as organized or as artistic as this commentator, but I do like to keep things organized. I carry 1 notebook that holds goals for the week, tasks for the day, and commitments or things I want to follow up on. I also carry with me a legal pad with a line across the center to make it 2 columns (2 columns make for more tidy notes), and a small pad as scratch paper. Every Friday before the end of the day I move the things that are not yet completed to the next week. Every Monday morning I plan for the week, blocking times in my Outlook calendar for specific work and putting tasks to a particular day on the week as a to-do. Every day I write my to-do for that day.

I still use Evernote a lot, and I will spend a whole post on how I use Evernote. Every week I take a picture of all my notes for the week and add it to a note on Evernote title Week Of XX along with any other paper notes I took.

I would love to know who else still take notes on paper and your overall process.

*headline image courtesy of unsplash and Tim Gouw

A Grade is Not Enough

I’ve been reading a lot on scores and measuring systems this week.  I’m trying to come up with some KPIs for a new process in the area of Innovation.

Look at this scoring system when trying to rank things based on Up / Down votes.

Wilson’s Algorithm Via EvanMiller.org

It’s called Wilson’s Algorithm, read more here.  It is actually pretty good and providing a Score based on limited knowledge.  A Score is just a Score, it does not provide any context.

Looking at some of the scores in the NCAA Men’s Basketball bracket, does not tell you much on how the game was, and few things on the individual teams.  Look at the following comic:

A score needs to be a way to explain a set of attributes and their relationship on each other.  It is easy to explain a score on an exam, % of questions answered correctly.  This becomes tricky with behaviours, a score needs to correlate with particular attributes.

We get lost in the Score, while failing to understand it’s meaning.

25 Years of the Ram – Cummins Co-Brand

Can you believe that it has been 25 years since Cummins joined forces with Chrysler on the Ram brand.

I recently attended MATS in Louiseville, KY and saw the history of the Cummins – Ram co-branding, but also many other co-branding partnerships.

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This is a Western Star truck using the Transformers brand to drive traffic to their booth.

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This is a Freightliner truck with a Cummins Natural Gas engine. This truck uses CNG, notice the big CNG tanks in the back. Each one of those cilinders cost about $40,000. Again an example of a co-branding, using the expertise of Cummins for the engine, and the Freightliner brand for the truck.

What do you want to do next?

Recently I was in the midst of a redeployment effort as the project I was working on was put on hold.  My manager and other leaders would ask me, “what do you want to do next?”  I had some vague concepts of the things I wanted to do, but it was very difficult to articulate them.  In the back of my mind I kept saying: “I just want to still be employed.”  That was not an issue, thankfully, but it seemed everyone was allowing me to think of what I wanted to do, and I had no thoughts.

I met with my mentor and with other managers to learn how they though about transitions, and I was able to learn some very interesting bits.  I don’t think that any of this is revolutionary, but it created an easy way for me to answer the question: “What do you want to do next?”

Big Dreams

The first thing that I learned was to set my mind free and say: What are my big dreams?  This includes retirement and spending long days in the beach with my family.  This is everything, all your dreams onto a piece of paper.  Then do a second paper, more structure and this will be just your professional Big Dreams. (I’ve included a simplified version of mine)

Your Big Career Dreams
Your Big Career Dreams

As you see I’ve put age just to have some context and some titles, but mainly it will give you some context.  It provides just jumping points, but if someone asked me what do you want to do next I would just be able to answer: “Eventually I want to be a Director, maybe internationally, in either Marketing or Strategy or some combination of all of that.”  It does not answer what I want to do next, but it does give you a good next milestone.

What should I do next in 5 steps

Step 1 – What kind of work do you want to do?

There are infinite permutation of work that you could do and you would enjoy doing.  Think broadly, things like “exciting work” or “working close to customers” or “working close to the product” or “thinking about long term strategy” or all of the above.  This could change on your next leap, but shouldn’t vary too much.

I want my work to be exciting, important to the company, and strategic and forward looking.

Step 2 – What is your history?

Think about the past 3 or 4 roles you’ve done and list them out.  For me they would be: I was a developer, then a general manager, then in market research, then a program manager.  This gives you context; do I want to do more of software development with a twist or a project manager over something bigger? Or I want to use my MBA degree into something more like marketing.  Start thinking about skills that you have acquired and what you want to develop

Step 3 – What skills do you want to develop in the next 5 years?

Remember my statement: “Eventually I want to be a Director, maybe internationally, in either Marketing or Strategy or some combination of all of that.” To get that I need to develop a few skills.  I know that where I work to be promoted to director I have to be 6 Sigma Green belt certified; I need that skill.  After talking to a few people that are in those roles, I saw that I need to learn more about the products and customers.  Think about the skills that you will need for that next milestone

Step 4 – Convert that milestone into possibilities

Look for positions that would be possibilities for the milestone.  I looked in my organization and there were a few positions that I would say, yes that is what I want to do.  One of them was Director of Competitor Intelligence, another was Director of Market Strategy and Planning, and another Director of Market Segment in Mexico.  These were places that would fit my milestone, I want to get there, so finally, which role/s would take me there.

Step 5 – List the roles that will take you to your next milestone

It has become evident that I might have to be in 2 more roles before I get to be a Director, but that is fine, as long as I can identify a few roles that:

  1. Take advantage of my past skills
  2. Give or strength my desired skills
  3. Are congruent with my overall type of work I want to do

That is the last step, find 2 or 3 roles that would lead you to that milestone.  I talked to the directors that hold the positions I want and learned about their path.  Some took a longer path because they had to gain more experience or education.  Others had similar roles than those I want to pursue, so I could relate easily.  We discussed the skills and which roles provided particular skills that I have to master.

Putting it all together

Slide2A mentor shared a similar slide that puts all those steps into one visual image.  As you see each part has a number, but you can fill it out in any way you want, as you are putting things together.  You will probably have to do a few passes before you can say that you are satisfied.  In the end I had  3 jobs I thought would be good next steps and looked for open positions.  One spot I interviewed and discussed the skills I wanted to gain and those that I was bringing; the manager agreed that I would make a good fit.

I don’t think I will update my slide until next year, when I will start again thinking about next steps.  In the meantime, I have a lot of material to read to catch up to the rest of the team.

Here is a template that you can use:  Template

NTEA Truck Show

Recently I went to the NTEA Truck Show in Indianapolis, and I was reminded of why I love the work that I do.  Seeing these huge trucks, and all the things that they accomplish I am humbled to be part of a company that powers these work horses.

I love the work that I do.

My path to giving feedback

Giving feedback has never been something that I can do easily.  It is not that I don’t have an opinion on subjects, more than likely I feel that it is not important for the other person to receive it.  When things get so big that I believe that there is benefit on expressing my opinions more than likely I will try to either schedule a meeting or write an email.  By that point I have stung together so many things that the message probably feels like I go bonkers over petty things.  It is hard to express that the accumulation of it all is the cause, and most meeting end with: “You should have told me sooner that those things were bothering you.”

Over the past 4 months I’ve been meeting with consultants that are helping my team develop stronger relationships as we deploy a new business process in our business unit.  One of the traits I chose to improve was the way I give feedback.  Although this journey was hard for me, I’m sure that it is incredibly easy for others; but if you are in my camp they you understand.

Thinking about feedback I started remembering a trip I took with my family to Sea World.  Looking at the magnificence of the whales and their interaction with their trainers I started remembering the cues and feedback these animals receive as they do what they are told to do.  I think I always thought that was the only feedback needed, encouragement on the things we do well, but we are no animals and as humans we want to improve on the things we are lacking.

I didn’t have a way to effectively give feedback, I thought that I should meet and have this laundry list of things and we could all just mark each of the items off.  I’ve learned a few ways to give feedback that allow both parties to come out of it  positively.

XYZ-Sandwich1First is the XYZ Sandwich, which I learned is an easy way to express behaviors.  Read the link, it explains what it is, for me what it meat was that I had now a structure, a script that I could use to express my ideas.  For someone who didn’t even know which words to pick, this was a great help.  I was still uncomfortable with just saying this phrase to a coworker as things happened, but I could connect with them after I had written down what I wanted to say and  just express my ideas.  What happened was that people would improve or I would find out more information about their motivations and perspective.

Martlage Mischief ModelAnother tool that I’ve learned comes from Ken Martlage from the group Phoenix Images.  From this I was able to understand that before giving feedback I needed to separate reality (facts) from my perception.  When my perception is incorrect I can attribute the wrong intentions for why people were doing things.  Having understood this I now could talk to someone and discuss each angle separatly: (1) what are the facts? (2) how did these actions impact me? (3) what drove the facts? (4) what am I requesting? what am I offering?

The final piece in this journey is doing it.  You have the tools, now pick something that you feel someone needs to improve and take a stab at their intentions.  Words like: “you probably wanted X…” or “I guess your intention was Y…” and finally propose an alternative.  Write these things down on a piece of paper, also do an assessment on yourself and offer possible alternatives on behaviors you should improve.

The first time I did this I was really scared, I couldn’t believe I was asking a colleague if they wanted my input on their performance.  This colleague had been struggling in a few meetings and I felt that I needed to help them out, but we weren’t as close that I could just say: “hey, they really put you through the ringer; next time you should do this…” I was also being assigned tasks my boss thought I could tackle better than them.  So I sent them a note that just said: “How are you feeling about all this pressure? I have a few suggestions that could help you improve.  Do you have time on Friday to go over them?”  My colleague agreed and we met.  I had my notes in front of me and we just had a conversation.  For some intentions I had them wrong, others were on point.  At the end we ended the meeting on a high note, higher than what I would have anticipated.  We had a higher level of trust and a deeper respect one for the other.

I had read an article in the HBR Blog about negative feedback.  The authors show that employees want that negative feedback, even more than the positive praise.  I guess in my n=1 this was also true, and it felt good.