Beautiful Oops..Creating Better Outcomes

My 6 year old daughter was drawing last night and she kept messing up the picture from what she thought the outcome should be.  She was getting very upset with herself because she couldn’t draw what she wanted. This was a great teaching moment to go over what I love to call “Beautiful Oops”. This is when you take the drawing (a euphemism for life) and turn what you have into something else completely wonderful. You end up in a place that you would have never dreamed of had the envisioned project  gone according to plan.This is just what my daughter did, she took what was suppose to be a dog and turned it into a beautiful scene of our family. It is when the outcome of Plan B or C or D is better than Plan A. This has happened several times for me whether it is losing a valuable team member and finding out that her leaving allowed a new organization structure that is better for growth, a miscommunication about a feature to be developed within a software application that lead to the creation of a new product,  or losing the budget for a new application when we were about to sign the contract only to be able to sign it six months later at a significantly reduced price. It is when Plan B or C or D is better than Plan A.  A beautiful oops is finding the value of going down a unexpected path and discovering the possibilities rather than mourning what did not happen.

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Has your board propelled a digital strategy?

Today, the digital revolution is shaping how you do business. It is difficult to have a conversation about your business that does not include a discussion around technology and a digital strategy.  It is imperative for companies to have a strategic plan that harnesses the power of digital to create innovate and differentiated products that engages and excites your client base. These plans require the company’s board to be technology savvy  advisors in order to assist the CEO on continual product innovation strategies that strengthens revenue and allows the company to remain relevant to its customers.

Digital revolution is a key priority for CEO and boards

Businesses at the forefront of the digital revolution are seeing higher engagement from their customers and they are also receiving higher rates of return from investors based on research conducted by OpenMatters with input from Deloitte & Touche LLP . Traditional businesses, those that make, market and sell physical products and traditional services  are still struggling to find a way to embrace technology and as a result are encountering lower market valuations. Digitally focused enterprises are receiving between 5x and 8x price to earning ratio where traditional businesses are receiving 2x to 3x price to earnings ratios. The disruptive power of digital technologies will produce new business models, product and services. Gartner’s 2014 CEO survey  found that “CEOs rank digital marketing as the No. 1 most important tech-enabled capability for investment over the next five years.” Do you have the right board in place to for a company that needs to be constantly innovating and disrupting?

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Skating Lessons: Learning to Fall

I recently took my girls ice skating. Both of them have been skating before and have had a few lessons. After making it around the rink one time, my oldest daughter falls. As I reach down to help her up,  she states “ Mom, I know how to get up, that is the first thing they teach you- is to how to fall and how to get up”.   What an enlightened statement!

Everything we are taught from day one is how to be perfect. Get an 100% on a test, get an A in the subject, be the first in your class, be a star performer. We have school systems that teach to the test, rather than teach to the objective. Nowhere does our systems teach and reward learning to try. We are never taught to fail, much less how to get back up again. 

This creates mindsets  that we need to get it right the first time, every time, which creates conservative and cautious  behaviors. This seems counterintuitive to the skills and attributes of the team members we want on our team. We want individuals to take risks, try something new, and move our companies forward. But this isn’t possible if our reward systems only value the right answer every time. 

I failed in my first attempt to be CFO. It was a miserable place to be – knowing that I tried and I didn’t get it right. And then, after a bit, I brushed myself off and went on to apply the lessons I learned to my next CFO role. It was the most valuable lesson of my career. I learned that I could stretch outside my comfort zone, try something new, fail and still be successful. That lesson allowed me to take smart risks freely going forward because I realized that failing wasn’t such a bad thing – it was just a learning experience.

To help everyone get more comfortable with failing consider this sport analagy – probably the one and only one you will ever see in my blogs.  Every sport player gets cheered when they  hit the objective only a certain percentage of the time: hole in one, home runs, ice skating scores etc,.  These achievements  don’t happen every day even for athletes who practice doing them  every day. Why do we expect our team members to do it right  the first time? Everyone needs some practice, some tries and the comfort zone to know they will be rewarded for the try. Then, and only then, will the odds work in their favor and  the company’s favor.

Consider your reward systems, do you have any that give kudos to someone who tried but maybe did not succeed? How about do you create a safety zone, give air cover to your team members who stretch outside their comfortable zone?  What are you doing to create an environment of learning for individuals to take a smart risk?

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Having it All

Many working parents are trying to figure out how to manage their work/life balance. Everyone is trying to figure out how to have it all. I remember after working a hard day at the office, prior to having kids, collapsing into bed and stating to my husband “I don’t know how people with kids can do, we don’t have kids and this is hard”.  After having kids, I thought I figured it out. You smash more into a day by sleeping less. After a few years of pure exhaustion, I realized that wasn’t the way to a happy life. I started to see the light when a friend told me, “You can have it all, you just have to define what all means to you”. It took awhile for the meaning of this statement to sink in but once I realized that I have the power and the right to define what I wanted, life got a lot easier.

Permission to Say “No”

I discovered I could give myself permission to say “no” to things. That those evenings out with acquaintances that I felt I had to accept because I might upset someone, when sleep was so much more important, I had the ability not to accept the invitation. That saying “yes” every time someone asked me to contribute to a committee, to donate time to this objective or to help out at the kid’s school, was not a requirement. I had the power to choose. I could choose the things that were important to me and fit into my schedule. I could say, this is important to me but not this year. I could say, I would love to but I just don’t feel like I could give it my all because I would be overextended. I had a choice. I could prioritize what was most important and I could define what “all” looked like to me. We have choices, some choices have consequences that are difficult, but we all have choices. We need to empower ourselves to make those choices, accept them as our choices and create the life that makes us happy.

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