J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Sources of Insight is New and Improved


    imageSources of Insight is ready for action.  It's my blog focused on proven practices for personal effectiveness for work and life.  I started it a while back to help you sharpen your skills and to grow your personal capabilities.

    The big idea is to help people "stand on the shoulders of giants", drawing from great books, great people, and great quotes.

    The big change is the user experience.  I upgraded the theme to a modern and responsive design, so now you should be able to read it more easily, even from your phone.  The other big change is that it's easier to explore the knowledge base more easily.  With the new menu, I got the chance to better surface key topics for you, such as Emotional Intelligence, Personal Effectiveness, Leadership, Personal Development, and Productivity.  It's also easier to dive right into the articles or browse by key topics.  It's also easier to explore key resources like Checklists or How Tos.

    A Garden of Greatness for YOU …

    Great Books, Great People, and Great Quotes are also front and center.  With Great Books, you can easily browse the best business books, the best leadership books, or the best time management books.  With Great People, you can browse lessons learned from Tony Robbins, John Wooden, Stephen Covey, and more.  With Great Quotes, you can browse timeless wisdom from folks like Confucius, Buddha, Gandhi, and more. 

    It’s life wisdom at your fingertips.

    Sources of Insight is meant to be a "Garden of Greatness" where you can find specific tools and techniques to help you get the edge in work and life.   It also features guest posts from best-selling authors and experts from around the world, who share what they do best.

    It’s a work in progress.  Your feedback is always welcome to help shape it to something more useful, relevant, insightful, and actionable.  I’ll be focusing on sharing a lot more principles, patterns, and practices for key topics in the near future.

    Subscribe to Sources of Insight

    The simplest way to get the updates from Sources of Insight is to subscribe -- either subscribe by RSS or subscribe by email.  

    I’ll add more social features in the future, meanwhile, I’m still exploring the best ways to create an effective platform that’s simple and scales.  It’s up to 210,000 monthly readers now, so I’m trying to focus on slow growth, with a strong platform.

    While the overall site is focused on personal effectiveness, and especially topics like emotional intelligence, personal development, leadership, and productivity, be sure to let me know if there are scenarios or topics, you’d like me to address.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Satya Nadella on Everyone Has to Be a Leader


    Satya Nadella, the new CEO for Microsoft, is all about employee engagement and employee empowerment.

    Here is how Satya reminded us that we all need to be a leader:

    “We express that core identity, being the company that allows every individual to be more empowered and get more out of every moment of their lives as things get more digital.
    I want each of us to give ourselves permission to be able to move things forward.
    Each of us sometimes overestimate the power others have to do things vs. our own ability to make things happen.
    Everyone in the company has to be a leader.”

    Here is a great video that a colleague sent me on how to embed the capacity for greatness in the people and practices of an organization.

    Video:  Greatness, by David Marquet

    If you see a problem, fix it. 

    If you see an opportunity take it.

    Don’t wait for somebody else to do it.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Startup Thinking


    “Startups don't win by attacking. They win by transcending.  There are exceptions of course, but usually the way to win is to race ahead, not to stop and fight.” -- Paul Graham

    A startup is the largest group of people you can convince to build a different future.

    Whether you launch a startup inside a big company or launch a startup as a new entity, there are a few things that determine the strength of the startup: a sense of mission, space to think, new thinking, and the ability to do work.

    The more clarity you have around Startup Thinking, the more effective you can be whether you are starting startups inside our outside of a big company.

    In the book, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, Peter Thiel shares his thoughts about Startup Thinking.

    Startups are Bound Together by a Sense of Mission

    It’s the mission.  A startup has an advantage when there is a sense of mission that everybody lives and breathes.  The mission shapes the attitudes and the actions that drive towards meaningful outcomes.

    Via Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future:

    “New technology tends to come from new ventures--startups.  From the Founding Fathers in politics to the Royal Society in science to Fairchild Semiconductor's ‘traitorous eight’ in business, small groups of people bound together by a sense of mission have changed the world for the better.  The easiest explanation for this is negative: it's hard to develop new things in big organizations, and it's even harder to do it by yourself.  Bureaucratic hierarchies move slowly, and entrenched interests shy away from risk.” 

    Signaling Work is Not the Same as Doing Work

    One strength of a startup is the ability to actually do work.  With other people.  Rather than just talk about it, plan for it, and signal about it, a startup can actually make things happen.

    Via Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future:

    “In the most dysfunctional organizations, signaling that work is being done becomes a better strategy for career advancement than actually doing work (if this describes your company, you should quit now).  At the other extreme, a lone genius might create a classic work of art or literature, but he could never create an entire industry.  Startups operate on the principle that you need to work with other people to get stuff done, but you also need to stay small enough so that you actually can.”

    New Thinking is a Startup’s Strength

    The strength of a startup is new thinking.  New thinking is even more valuable than agility.  Startups provide the space to think.

    Via Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future:

    “Positively defined, a startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future.  A new company's most important strength is new thinking: even more important than nimbleness, small size affords space to think.  This book is about the questions you must ask and answer to succeed in the business of doing new things: what follows is not a manual or a record of knowledge but an exercise in thinking.  Because that is what a startup has to do: question received ideas and rethink business from scratch.”

    Do you have stinking thinking or do you beautiful mind?

    New thinking will take you places.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Never Be Defeated


    “Fall seven times, stand up eight.” -- Japanese Proverb

    What does it take to build an indestructible mind?   In a world of setbacks, defeats, and failures, how do you stand up that eighth time?   Sure, you could watch Rocky, and other inspirational moves from the 25 Inspiration Movies list … but what if you could get science on your side?

    Well, you can.  Dr. Alex Lickerman wrote the book on it.  The book is, The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self.  

    I wrote a book review of The Undefeated Mind, but it gets better.  I was lucky in that Dr. Lickerman was kind enough to write a great guest post for me.  It’s titled Never Be Defeated.  It’s actually the story of Dr. Lickerman’s journey in writing his book, his personal transformation, and how he learned the true meaning of what it means to never be defeated.

    Whether you’re trying to get your code to compile, or pay your mortgage, or recover from a not so great performance review, or just get back up on your feet again, there is power in persistence, and power in resilience.  We can all benefit from building an indestructible self.

    I know a lot of people struggling with many challenges, from finding a job, to keeping their job, to fixing their health, to dealing with loss, and, recently, dealing with the after math of hurricane Sandy.

    I hope that Dr. Lickerman’s story helps remind you of the power of resilience, and what it means to fall seven times, and stand up eight.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Quitting and Sticking More Effectively


    Are you the best at what you do?   Could you be the best at something else?  How do you know when to hold'em?  How do you know when to fold'em?

    The Gambler teaches us:

    "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.
    Know when to walk away, and know when to run."

    ... But where's the prescriptive guidance?  Luckily, there's Seth Godin and The Dip.  In the book, the Dip, Seth teaches us:

    "Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt -- until they commit to beating the right Dip for the right reasons.  In fact, winners seek out the Dip.  They realize that the bigger the barrier, the bigger the reward for getting past it.  If you can become number one in your niche, you'll get more than your fair share of profits, glory, and long-term security.  Losers, on the other hand, fall into two basic traps.  Either they fail to stick out the Dip - they get to the moment of truth and then give up - or they never even find the right Dip to conquer."

    I wrote up my Lessons Learned from the Dip on Sources of Insight.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Satya Nadella on a Mobile-First, Cloud-First World


    You hear Mobile-First, Cloud-First all the time.

    But do you ever hear it really explained?

    I was listening to Satya Nadella’s keynote at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, and I like how he walked through how he thinks about a Mobile-First, Cloud-First world.

    Here’s what Satya had to say:

    “There are a couple of attributes.

    When we talk about Mobile-First, we are talking about the mobility of the experience.

    What do we mean by that?

    As we look out, the computing that we are going to interface with, in our lives, at home and at work, is going to be ubiquitous.

    We are going to have sensors that recognize us.

    We are going to have computers that we are going to wear on us.

    We are going to have computers that we touch, computers that we talk to, the computers that we interact with as holograms.

    There is going to be computing everywhere.

    But what we need across all of this computing, is our experiences, our applications, our data.

    And what enables that is in fact the cloud acting as a control plane that allows us to have that capability to move from device to device, on any given day, at any given meeting.

    So that core attribute of thinking of mobility, not by being bound to a particular device, but it's about human mobility, is very core to our vision.

    Second, when we think about our cloud, we think distributed computing will remain distributed.

    In fact, we think of our servers as the edge of our cloud.

    And this is important, because there are going to be many legitimate reasons where people will want digital sovereignty, people will want data residency, there is going to be regulation that we can't anticipate today.

    And so we have to think about a distributed cloud infrastructure.

    We are definitely going to be one of the key hyper-scale providers.

    But we are also going to think about how do we get computing infrastructure, the core compute, storage, network, to be distributed throughout the world.

    These may seem like technical attributes, but they are key to how we drive business success for our customers, business transformation for our customers, because all of what we do, collectively, is centered on this core goal of ours, which is to help our customers transform.”

    That’s a lot of insight, and very well framed for creating our future and empowering the world.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Leadership Quotes


    I’ve put together a comprehensive collection of leadership quotes.  It took me a bit longer than I expected, but I wanted a lot of things to be right.  I wanted to choose the best quotes.   I wanted to organize them in useful and meaningful categories.   I wanted this particular collection to really say something on the art of leadership from a variety of perspective and people, drawing from the wisdom of the ages and modern sages.

    There’s always room for improvement, but I think you enjoy the richness, breadth, and depth of the collection.   To bring you the best insights, I draw from a number of folks that have something to say about leadership, including Gandhi, John Maxwell, George Patton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Sun Tzu.   It puts a lot of wisdom right at your fingertips with a wealth of perspective and depth on the art of leadership.

    To make the collection fast and easy to skim or to read in depth, I've organized the leadership quotes collection across a variety of categories, including boldness, challenges, communication, connection, conviction, credibility, encouragement, fear, heart, influence, inspiration, learning, self-leadership, servant-leadership, teamwork, and vision.

    To give you a taste of the collection, here are the top ten leadership quotes from the leadership quotes collection …

    Top 10 Leadership Quotes

    1. “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” –  John C. Maxwell
    2. “A real leader faces the music, even when he doesn’t like the tune.” – Anonymous
    3. “All Leadership is influence.” — John C. Maxwell
    4. “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
    5. “Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.” — General George Patton
    6. “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” — Warren Bennis
    7. “Managers help people see themselves as they are; Leaders help people to see themselves better than they are.” — Jim Rohn
    8. “The art of leadership is saying no, not yes.  It is very easy to say yes.” — Tony Blair
    9. “The price of greatness is responsibility.” — Winston Churchill
    10. “When the effective leader is finished with his work, the people say it happened naturally.” — Lao Tzu

    For more words of wisdom on the art of leadership, check out the full collection of leadership quotes.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Carve Out Time for What’s Important


    This is one of the rules that has served me well, as a Program Manager at Microsoft:  Carve out time for what’s important.

    You don’t have time, you make time. If you don’t make time for what’s important, it doesn’t happen. This is where The Rule of Three helps. Are you spending the right amount of time today on those three results you want to accomplish? The default pattern is to try and fit them in with all your existing routines. A more powerful approach is to make time for your three results today and optimize around that. This might mean disrupting other habits and routines you have, but this is a good thing. The more you get in the habit of making time for what’s important, the more you’ll get great results. If you’re not getting the results you want, you can start asking better questions. For example, are you investing enough time? Are you investing the right energy? Are you using the right approach? Or, maybe a different thing happens. Maybe you start accomplishing your results but don’t like what you get. You can step back and ask whether you’re choosing the right outcomes for The Rule of Three.

    Here are some things to think about when you’re carving out your time:

    • How much time minimum should you spend today for each of your three outcomes?
    • How much time maximum should you spend today for each of your three outcomes?
    • Are you spending too much energy in below the line activities? (This is where you’re just treading water and making it through each day, but not actually getting ahead.)
    • Are you spending enough time in above the line activities? (This is where you feel you’re on top of your day and investing your time where you get the most impact.)
    • Are you investing time in the most important Hot Spots in your life: mind, body, emotions, career, financial, relationships, fun?

    This is a tip from my book, Getting Results the Agile Way (now on a Kindle), a time management system for achievers.  You can test drive the system by taking the 30 Day Boot Camp for Getting Results, a free time management training course.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Countdown Deal for Getting Results the Agile Way on Kindle


    image“In life you need either inspiration or desperation.” – Tony Robbins

    Is 2014 going to be YOUR year?

    Let’s make it so.

    My best-selling book on time management and productivity is on sale for a limited time offer, through a Countdown Deal:

    Getting Results the Agile Way on Kindle

    What is Getting Results the Agile Way all about?  It’s a simple system for meaningful results in work and life.   It’s the best synthesis of what I know for mastering time management, motivation, and personal productivity. (And, it’s designed to be “better together” – use it with your favorite existing tools of choice, whether that’s Franklin-Covey, the Pomodoro Technique, Getting Things Done, etc.)

    The way this Countdown Deal works is that the price goes from lower to higher during the course of 7 days.

    As I currently understand it, here’s the price breakdown:

    • Dec 26, 27th – .99 Cents
    • Dec 28, 29th – $2.99
    • Dec 30, 31st, and Jan 1st – $4.99

    In other words, the sooner you get it, the cheaper it is.

    Here are the key benefits of the book:

    • Triple your productivity.  (When you combine a strengths based approach + Power Hours, you’ll ignite your productivity.)
    • Set yourself up for success on a daily basis
    • Embrace change and get better results in any situation
    • Focus and direct your attention with skill
    • Use your strengths to create a powerful edge for getting results
    • How to change a habit and make it stick
    • Achieve better work-life balance with a system that works
    • Spend more time doing the things you love

    Here’s what others are saying about the book:

    "Agile Results delivers know-what, know-why and know-how for anyone who understands the value of momentum in making your moments count."– Dr. Rick Kirschner, bestselling author

    "JD’s ability to understand and cut to the real issues and then apply techniques that have proven to be successful in other situations is legendary at Microsoft. Over the years I have learnt that he will not recommend something or someone unless he believe it the entire value chain, making the advice you get even more potent. It’s a little like a whirlwind and you have to be prepared for a ride but if you want results and you want them fast, you talk to JD."– Mark Curphey, CEO & Founder, SourceClear

    JD is the go-to-guy for getting results, and Agile Results demonstrates his distinct purpose – he shows how anyone can do anything, better. This book has simple, effective, powerful tools and ideas that are easy enough for everyone to apply in their work and lives, so that they get the results they’d like, even the impossible and the unexpected.”– Janine de Nysschen, Changemaker and Purpose Strategist, Whytelligence

    Getting results and being YOUR best is a personal thing, which is why I designed it as a personal results system.

    If you already are using Agile Results, tell me a story.   Tell me the good, the bad, and the ugly.   I always want to know what’s working or not working for you.  Each week, I receive emails from people around the world with their stories of personal victories.  For some, it’s fast, as if it was the missing link they needed to help them connect the dots.  For others, it’s more like a slow crescendo.  And, for others, it’s more like a game of slow and steady that wins the race.

    But what everybody seems to have in common is that they feel like they got back on path and are instantly getting better at spending the right time, on the right things, the right way, with the right energy.  

    This is where breakthroughs happen.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Presenting Numbers with Skill


    At Microsoft, we get a lot of chances to present numbers.   Whether it’s making a project pitch, or writing our reviews and quantifying our impact, numbers are everywhere.   And when we aren’t the one presenting, we are often reviewing the numbers that other people are presenting.

    It’s one thing to know the numbers.  It’s another to share the numbers in a meaningful way.

    As a Program Manager for several years, I’ve had to manage, show, and report on budgets.  I’ve had to quantify impact.  I’ve had to report status on key metrics.    I’ve had to figure out velocity and burn down.   I’ve had to show schedules and variance.   I’ve had to present estimates and calculate risk.   It comes with the turf.   Part of making impact, is knowing how to show it.

    The problem is, we don’t always get the best mentors or the best examples.   We don’t really learn how to present numbers in school, at least not with the same focus we get on learning how to read, write, and speak.   The more I see complicated charts and confusing figures that obfuscate key points, the more I appreciate the value of simplicity and elegance in presenting numbers.

    I found the perfect compliment to Edward Tufte’s, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.  It’s Painting with Numbers, by Randall Bolten.    It’s the best book I’ve seen on how to present numbers with skill.   Randall was a CFO for twenty years in Silicon Valley, so he’s got the benefit of seeing all the various ways, shapes, and sizes that people throw numbers around.  He’s exactly the right person to learn from when it comes to seeing through the numbers, knowing what they mean, and knowing how to present them more effectively to speak the truth, and to make better decisions … in work and in life.

    I wrote a post to elaborate on the book and get specific on the problems it addresses.   You can read more at Quantation: How to Present Numbers with Skill.  

    It’s a book I’m going to recommend to the people I mentor to help them advance their careers and take their game to the next level.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Weekly Reminders for Changing Your Habits and Adopting New Practices


    “Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.”  -- Jim Ryun

    One of the best moves I use to change habits and adopt new practices is very simple, but very effective:

    I schedule a recurring Friday appointment on my calendar.  On that appointment, I list reminders, habits, and practices that I want to work on.   It’s the art of applied reflection.

    I tend to use bulleted questions, because they make a great checklist and I find that questions work better than statements for reflection.  Here are a couple of examples to show what I mean:

    • Am I leading by example and setting a personal example of what to expect?
    • Am I describing a compelling image of the future?
    • Am I bringing out the best in everybody and leveraging their strengths?

    You get the idea.

    This works extremely well for baking in new practices, especially after taking a new course or training.  It helps turn the training into action, because it forces you to turn the insights you learned into simple test cases (For example, the questions above.)   It also works well, simply because it’s making you mindful of your choices, and it’s reminding you to check your thinking, feeling, or doing against your goals.

    I’ve been using this practice for several years, and it’s worked like a champ.  It’s part of the Friday Reflection pattern in Getting Results the Agile Way.

    If there is a new pattern or practice you want to adopt, simply add a Friday reminder and see how easily you can adopt a new habit.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    You Against Your Lists


    As a PM (Program Manager) at Microsoft, one of the things I end up doing a lot is making lists.  Lists of priorities, lists of features, lists of scenarios, lists of open issues, lists of ideas, etc.

    I know a lot of people makes lists.  But what's the difference that makes the difference?

    I think it's three things:

    1. priorities
    2. precision
    3. action

    As the joke goes, a plan is a lists of things you'll never do.  That's what happens when you fall into analysis-paralysis or don't take action. (BTW - action and timeboxing are the cure for analysis-paralysis)

    A "laundry list" is not an actionable list because it's just a random dump of things.  The laundry list becomes actionable when you rank and prioritize the items, turning it into an "ordered list."

    Precision is an important attribute.  Precision simply means filtering out everything that's not directly relevant.  I find the most valuable lists are precise.  I’d rather have two precise lists, than one mixed up list.  A precise list of actions, or a precise list of ideas, or a precise list of issues is a thing of beauty.  It’s the elegance before the action.

    There are list makers and there are list doers.  Having a list is a start, but action is what really makes any list valuable.  An effective list is a springboard for the right actions.

    If you're an avid list maker, challenge yourself to be a skilled list doer.  It's a key to making things happen, and action is the difference that makes the difference.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Program Management Tip - Save Time by Working on What Actually Counts


    One of the most valuable lessons I learned early on in Program Management at Microsoft, is that value is in the eye of the beholder.

    One common pitfall is throwing a lot of time and effort at things, only to find that when you’re done, nobody cares. If you keep feeling a lack of appreciation, then ask yourself, “Who was I doing it for?” If it was for yourself, was it what you most cared about, or could you have invested the same time in something else and felt like you made a more important impact. If you were doing it for somebody else, ask them whether what you’re working on is really the most important thing to them. If you’re working on a lot of low-priority items, don’t expect to get the rewards. In fact, a pattern is that the more you work on low-priority items, the more you become a dumping ground. The more you become a dumping ground, the busier you get; the busier you get, the more overloaded you will feel. Now the worst happens—you’re overworked, underappreciated, and no fun to be around. By failing to work on what’s valuable and by failing to understand and reset expectations, you’ve worked yourself into an unrewarding, high-stress scenario.

    On the flip side, working on the things that you value, inspires your passion, keeps you engaged, and builds momentum.  Balance that with things that are valued by others, and be deliberate.  Sometimes you have to choose you.  Sometimes you have to flex and bend.  Sometimes it’s “meet me in the middle.”  Sometimes it’s simply reframing what you’re doing in a way that speaks to others, or vice-versa.  Simply making mindful choices can help you dial up your passion where it counts.  It’s a force multiplier.

    To be a more effective Program Manager, start asking the question, “Who’s it for?” or “Who’s asking for that?” or “How important is that?” (and everything is always a trade-off.)

    Note -- This tip is from my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, a simple time management system,  and you can find more free time management tips in the Getting Results Knowledge Base.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    .NET Rocks Interview on Getting Results the Agile Way


    I don’t do a lot of interviews, but I like what Carl and Richard do for the .NET developer community at large, so I agreed to shoot the breeze … Check out the .NET Rocks Interview on Getting Results the Agile Way.

    Carl and Richard were curious to learn more about the system and what it’s all about.  I warned them up front that it’s not about agile development, and that it’s actually a system that anybody can use to get better, faster, simpler results. 

    That said, if you are a developer, you can appreciate the full extent of the system and how it’s based on Evergreen principles, patterns, and practices for  time management, productivity, energy management, and meaningful results.  (Note – it’s the same approach I used to be on time, on budget for more than ten years, leading distributed teams around the world, so it’s industrial strengths, but I designed it to be simple enough that my Mom can use it.)

    Some users of the system like to think of it as “Agile for Life” or “Scrum for Life.”

    My ultimate goal was to give as many people possible, an extreme advantage in achieving results, but bringing together proven practices from positive psychology, sports psychology, project management, software development, and other disciplines into an integrated, simple system.  To bottom line it, it’s a simple system for meaningful results. 

    It’s the playbook I wish somebody gave me when I started out in life, and I’m hoping that it saves many people a lot of painful lessons and helps them leapfrog and make the most of what they’ve got.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    How To Have Your Best Year Ever


    There’s a little trick I learned about how to have your best year ever:

    Commit to Your Best Year Ever

    That’s it.

    And, it actually works.

    When you decide to have your best year ever, and you make it a mission, you find a way to make it happen.

    You embrace the challenges and the changes that come you way. 

    You make better choices throughout the year, in a way that moves you towards your best year ever.

    A while back, our team, did exactly that.   We decided we wanted to make the coming year our best year ever.  We wanted a year we could look back on, and know that we gave it our best shot.  We wanted a year that mattered.  And we were willing to work for it.

    And, it worked like a champ.

    In fast, most of us go our best reviews at Microsoft.  Ever.

    It’s not like it’s magic.  It works because it sets the stage.  It sets the stage for great expectations.  And, when you expect more, from yourself, or from the world, you start to look for and leverage more opportunities to make that come true.

    It also helps you role with the punches.   You find ways to turnaround negative situations into more positive ones.  You find ways to take setbacks as learning opportunities to experience your greatest growth.  You look for ways to turn ordinary events into extraordinary adventures.

    And when you get knocked down.  You try again.  Because you’re on a mission.

    When you make it a mission to have your best year ever, you stretch yourself a little more.  You try new things.  You take old things to new heights.

    But there’s a very important distinction here.   You have to own the decision. 

    It has to be your choice.   YOU have to choose it so that you internalize it, and actually believe it, so that you actually act on it.

    Otherwise, it’s just a neat idea, but you won’t live it.

    And if you don’t live it, it won’t happen.

    But, as soon as you decide that no matter what, this will be YOUR best year ever, you unleash your most resourceful self.

    If you’ve forgotten what it’s like to go for the epic win, then watch this TED talk and my notes:

    Go For the Epic Win

    Best wishes for your best year.


  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Why So Many Ideas Die or Don't Get Adopted


    I didn’t know whether to call this why adoption fails, or why ideas die, but regardless, they are deeply related. After all, one of the main reasons ideas die is that they don’t get adopted, so they fizzle out. It’s usage that gives an idea enough legs to blossom and bloom.

    I see the same recurring patterns again and again around why ideas don’t get adopted, so I thought I’d share some.

    You Didn’t Share It

    One of the most common patterns is somebody thinks up an idea. That’s as far as they get.

    You Didn’t Test It

    This is related to the first pattern. You thought up a potentially neat idea, but you didn’t try it out or test it to find out where, or if, the rubber actually meets the road. This is where some Agile approaches have had an advantage in bridging the reality gap. I’m a fan of “spiking” and exploration. Why “spiking”? Because, you can focus on the high-risk, and test it end-to-end with a thin slice (and thin slices reveal a lot.)

    You Threw it Over the Wall

    The pattern I see here is somebody or some team comes up with a great idea. Then somebody decides that it’s another person or team’s job to implement it. So the idea gets “thrown over the wall.” Sure, people might write up a bunch of specs or a bunch of docs about how somebody is supposed to adopt it, but that just about never works in the early stages of an idea. It’s the startup stage. That only works when you’ve matured an idea to the point where it’s a “transaction.” In the early stages, the idea usually requires a “relationship” play, because you have to transfer a lot of tribal knowledge. You have to get the kinks out. You have to learn what you didn’t know, and you have to build some empathy around the adoption pains. This is how ideas flourish.

    Not Invented Here

    There is a surprise here. Usually what I see is somebody or some team comes up with the best thing since sliced bread. Then they want others to adopt it. Others don’t adopt it. So the person or team with the idea, concludes, oh, they won’t use it because, it’s “not invented here.” What I see behind the scenes though is that other people or teams would love to adopt the idea, but they don’t know how. The person or team with the idea threw it over the wall. They expect the other people or teams to figure it out, because it’s such a good idea, that it speaks for itself. The devil is in the details, and the friction or barriers to adoption wear most people out. People don’t have all the time in the world to keep playing with other people’s ideas until they figure them out.

    It’s sad, but that’s how so many ideas idea.

    The lesson I learned long ago is that if you want somebody to adopt your ideas is that you have to do it for them or with them. It’s a small price to pay for getting over the humps of adoption. It’s not an ongoing thing either. Once people “get it” they run with it, but only if you’ve helped them get that far to begin with.

    And that’s how ideas flourish and bloom.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Emotional Intelligence is a Key Leadership Skill


    You probably already know that emotional intelligence, or “EQ”, is a key to success in work and life.

    Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of yourself, others, and groups.

    It’s the key to helping you respond vs. react.  When we react, it’s our lizard brain in action.  When we respond, we are aware of our emotions, but they are input, and they don’t rule our actions.  Instead, emotions inform our actions.

    Emotional intelligence is how you avoid letting other people push your buttons.  And, at the same time, you can push your own buttons, because of your self-awareness.  

    Emotional intelligence takes empathy.  Empathy, simply put, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. 

    When somebody is intelligent, and has a high IQ, you would think that they would be successful.

    But, if there is a lack of EQ (emotional intelligence), then their relationships suffer.

    As a result, their effectiveness, their influence, and their impact are marginalized.

    That’s what makes emotional intelligence such an important and powerful leadership skill.

    And, it’s emotional intelligence that often sets leaders apart.

    Truly exceptional leaders, not only demonstrate emotional intelligence, but within emotional intelligence, they stand out.

    Outstanding leaders shine in the following 7 emotional intelligence competencies: Self-reliance, Assertiveness, Optimism, Self-Actualization, Self-Confidence, Relationship Skills, and Empathy.

    I’ve summarized 10 Big Ideas from Emotional Capitalists: The Ultimate Guide to Developing Emotional Intelligence for Leaders.  It’s an insightful book by Martyn Newman, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read on the art and science of emotional intelligence.   What sets this book apart is that Newman focused on turning emotional intelligence into a skill you can practice, with measurable results (he has a scoring system.)

    If there’s one take away, it’s really this.  The leaders that get the best results know how to get employees and customers emotionally invested in the business.  

    Without emotional investment, people don’t bring out their best and you end up with a brand that’s blah.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Time Management Tips #5 - Reduce the Friction in Your Day



    Little things that get in our way, wear us down.  By creating a few glide paths in our day, we can jumpstart and maintain our momentum.  Daily momentum is a key ingredient to making things happen.

    Time management tips #5 is -- reduce the friction in your day.  Friction is the resistance we feel, when we go to do something.  It might be extra steps in our process.  It might be clutter that gets in our way.  It might be the inconvenience of where we put things.  All these little friction points add up.

    The goal is to reduce the bottlenecks in your day, and give yourself a handful of friction-free experiences.  For example, paths in your house should not be an obstacle course over laundry or toys.  Your computer desktop should have fast access to your most common apps.  You shouldn't have to do awkward moves whether it's reaching for shampoo, or getting a glass, or throwing out the garbage (and finding the garbage should not be a game of hide and go seek.)

    Your key measure is how you feel, and whether you have to work too hard, to do something simple.  The more you have to do something each day, the simpler you should make it.

    Here are a few examples that have worked for me.

    1. I stuck my sneakers next to my bed, so I could waked up, throw my sneakers on, and hit my elliptical machine.
    2. I keep the path to my desk clear, so I can throw my bag down, slap my laptop into position, and hop on, in seconds.
    3. I keep a zero inbox, so when I check my mail, it's only new stuff.
    4. I keep my desktop empty, so I always have a clutter-free experience.
    5. I made space on my shelves, so I can easily add books, without having to squish them in.
    6. I keep my vitamins lined up in a simple way, so I can grab and go.
    7. I keep notepad open, so I always have a fast dumping ground for ideas, tasks, or notes.
    8. I use sticky notes in my books, so that I can put them back on the shelf and quickly find my placeholders.
    9. I keep the space in front of my whiteboards clear, so it's easy to huddle the team around the board on the fly.
    10. I double up on things if it helps to have them handy, such as a water bottle at work and home, a sticky pad at my desk, and in the car, etc.

    If you get creative, you can find a lot of ways to simplify your daily moves and experiences. Some of the main ideas are:

    1. Allow for fast and simple moves.
    2. Have a place for things, so you can put things in their place.
    3. If something bugs you, see if you can deal with it.  Don't just let it bug you every day.
    4. Keep space available on your desk, on your shelves, on your bookcases, in your laptop bag, etc.
    5. Make your worst chores, the easiest things to do.

    The mantra is … the more friction free you can be, the more momentum you can build.   Don’t let things break your stride, and don’t let things slow you down.

    In 30 Days of Getting Results, you can use the exercise and Reduce Friction and Create Glide-Paths for Your Day to get exponential results on a daily and weekly basis.

    You can also find more time management tips in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way, and on Getting Results.com

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Meaningful Work


    Meaningful outcomes are the backbone of meaningful work. Meaningful outcomes help guide and shape your meaningful work.

    If you have a vision for the end in mind, then you have something to work towards. To figure out meaningful outcomes, you ask yourself what you want to accomplish.   Another simple way to do this is to ask yourself, “What will the wins be?”

    One of the challenges is when it feels like your work has no meaning. Keep in mind that you are the ultimate filter for everything that happens in your life. You assign the meaning to your work. Make the work meaningful. One way to create meaning is to master your craft. Do so by focusing on continuous learning and improvement. Teaching your craft and being a mentor for others is another way to both amplify your learning and your impact.

    Work on stuff that’s valued, and remember that value is in the eye of the beholder. This makes work more meaningful. You should be aware whether it’s valued by you, by your employer, or by your customer. It’s fine if it’s valuable to you but nobody else, but be aware of it, and make it a mindful choice. You may be in the wrong line of work or working on the wrong thing.

    This is a tip from my book, Getting Results the Agile Way (now on a Kindle), a time management system for achievers.  You can test drive the system by taking the 30 Day Boot Camp for Getting Results, a free time management training course.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Action Guidelines


    "Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often." -- Mark Twain

    I created a consolidated set of Action Guidelines on Getting Results.com.   Taking action is one of the most important skills you can master in this lifetime.  It’s the secret sauce of making things happen at work.   It’s also the secret sauce of making things happen in all areas your life, whether it’s a personal project or personal development.  It’s also how you go from idea to done.

    If there’s one attribute that has served me well at Microsoft, it’s having a bias for action.

    Smart people with great ideas and great intentions get passed by with people that take action.  When you take action, you put your ideas to the test, you find what works, you scrap what doesn’t, and you carry the good forward.  When you take action, you produce results.  If you don’t like the results, you change the approach, and the fastest thing you can always change is you.

    Action Guidelines explains each guideline, and here is the list of guidelines at a glance:

    1. Ask Yourself, “What actions have I taken?
    2. Balance "good enough for now" with "perfection."
    3. Balance your buckets.
    4. Build a library of reference examples.
    5. Build feedback loops.
    6. Build a system of profound knowledge.
    7. Carve out time for what's important.
    8. Check your ladder.
    9. Chunk It Down.
    10. Decide and Go.
    11. Deliver incremental value.
    12. Do a Dry Run.
    13. Do It, Review It, and Improve It.
    14. Do more, think less.
    15. Don't spend $20 on a $5 problem
    16. Establish a rhythm of results.
    17. Expand your toolset.
    18. Get the Ball Out of Your Court.
    19. Have a compelling "what."
    20. Have a compelling "why."
    21. Improve your network.
    22. Just Start.
    23. Know the sum is better than the parts.
    24. Know what you're optimizing for.
    25. Make it work, then make it right.
    26. Manage energy for results.
    27. Model the best.
    28. Play to your strengths.
    29. Put in Your Hours.
    30. Reduce friction.
    31. Reduce your context switching.
    32. Schedule It.
    33. Scrimmage Against Results.
    34. Set a Quantity Limit.
    35. Set a Time Limit.
    36. Start with Something Simple.
    37. Stay flexible in your approach.
    38. Think in terms of a portfolio of results.
    39. Use checklists.
    40. Use focus as your weapon for results.
    41. Work backwards from the end in mind.
  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Success Articles for Work and Life


    "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." -- Winston Churchill

    I now have more than 300 articles on the topic of Success to help you get your game on in work and life:

    Success Articles

    That’s a whole lot of success strategies and insights right at your fingertips. (And it includes the genius from a wide variety of sources including  Scott Adams, Tony Robbins, Bruce Lee, Zig Ziglar, and more.)

    Success is a hot topic. 

    Success has always been a hot topic, but it seems to be growing in popularity.  I suspect it’s because so many people are being tested in so many new ways and competition is fierce.

    But What is Success? (I tried to answer that using Zig Ziglar’s frame for success.)

    For another perspective, see Success Defined (It includes definitions of success from Stephen Covey and John Maxwell.)

    At the end of the day, the most important definition of success, is the one that you apply to you and your life.

    People can make or break themselves based on how they define success for their life.

    Some people define success as another day above ground, but for others they have a very high, and very strict bar that only a few mere mortals can ever achieve.

    That said, everybody is looking for an edge.   And, I think our best edge is always our inner edge.

    As my one mentor put it, “the fastest thing you can change in any situation is yourself.”  And as we all know, nature favors the flexible.  Our ability to adapt and respond to our changing environment is the backbone of success.   Otherwise, success is fleeting, and it has a funny way of eluding or evading us.

    I picked a few of my favorite articles on success.  These ones are a little different by design.  Here they are:

    Scott Adam’s (Dilbert) Success Formula

    It’s the Pebble in Your Shoe

    The Wolves Within

    Personal Leadership Helps Renew You

    The Power of Personal Leadership

    Tony Robbins on the 7 Traits of Success

    The Way of Success

    The future is definitely uncertain.  I’m certain of that.   But I’m also certain that life’s better with skill and that the right success strategies under your belt can make or break you in work and life.

    And the good news for us is that success leaves clues.

    So make like a student and study.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Anatomy of a High-Potential


    Dr. Jay Conger has a must see presentation on The Anatomy of a High-Potential:

    The Anatomy of a High-Potential

    I’m always on the hunt for insights and actions that help people get the edge in work and life.   This is one of those gems.  What I like about Dr. Jay Conger’s work is that he has a mental model that’s easy to follow, as well as very specific practices that separate high-potentials from the rest of the pack.

    In a fast-paced world of extreme innovation, change, and transformation, it pays to be high-potential.

    Anything you can do to learn how to perform like a high-potential, can help you leap frog or fast track your career path.

    Here are some of my favorite highlights from Dr. Conger’s presentation …

    High-Potential Defined

    High-potentials consistently out-perform their peer groups.  Dr. Jay Conger writes:

    “High potentials consistently outperform their peer groups in a variety of settings and circumstances.  While achieving superior levels of performance, they exhibit behaviors reflecting their company's culture and values in an exemplary manner.  They show strong capacity to grow and success throughout their careers -- more quickly and effectively than their peer groups do.”

    Baseline Requirements

    According to Dr. Jay Conger, high-potentials distinguish themselves in the following ways:

    1. Deliver strong results credibly and not at other's expense
    2. Master new types of expertise
    3. Behave in ways consistent with the company's values and culture

    Moving Up the Stack – From Value Creator to Game Changer

    High-potentials are game changers.   Here is a snapshot of Dr. Jay Conger’s pyramid that illustrates how high-potentials move up the stack:



    What I like the most about the model is that it resonates with what I’ve experienced, and that it frames out a pragmatic development path for amplifying your impact as a proven game changer.

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Blessing Sibanyoni on Value Realization


    Value Realization is hot.  You can think of Value Realization as simply the value extracted from a process or project. 

    Business leaders want to understand the benefits they’ll get from their technology solutions.   They also want to see the value of their investment deliver benefits and deliver real results along the way.   And, of course, they also want to accelerate adoption so that they can speed up their value realization, as well as help avoid “value leakage".”

    But how do you actually do Value Realization in the real world? …

    This is a guest post by Blessing Sibanyoni.   Blessing delivers advisory, IT architecture, and planning services to Microsoft’s top enterprise customers within the financial services sector.  He has more than 17 years of experience in the IT field.  He is currently an Enterprise Architect and Strategy Advisor on behalf of Microsoft Corporation. 

    As an Enterprise Strategy Advisor, Blessing helps organizations achieve challenging business and organizational goals.  He does so by helping them leverage value from their current and future investments, enabled by technology.  Blessing has a solid record of delivering large and complex initiatives within organizations while always doing this in a mutually beneficial way.  You can connect with Blessing Sibanyoni on LinkedIn.

    Without further ado, here’s Blessing on Value Realization …

    Value in the Eye of the Beholder

    Often we grapple with the notion of value.  At first it seems like a very simple thing but when you really take time to consider it, you realize how complicated and multi-dimensional it becomes.  Take a simple example of a person who follows a methodology, based on best practices, who crosses all the t’s and dots the i’s but at the end of the day experiences a failed project or is unable to reach goals that his customers appreciate.  Or perhaps, what about the notion of another who is highly intelligent but working for someone far less “intelligent” from a credentials or even IQ perspective. 

    What has happened here?

    Why do these paradoxes occur and how do you ensure you are not ending up experiencing the same?

    The Notion of Value

    I would argue that at the heart of these conundrums is the notion of value.  Value is the worth of something in terms of the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged.  Often it’s not about inputs but rather outcomes and many state that you cannot achieve it without effecting a transformation.  The transformation itself can be virtual or manifested in the real world, but for true value to be derived, transformation in whatever form, must transpire. 

    For transformation to transpire a real pain must be felt.

    Fiercely Competing Alternatives

    After spending almost two decades in public and private enterprises, I’m still intrigued by why organizations decide to spend resources on some things and not others.  Often it’s the thing that seem to make the least sense which these organizations decide to put all their resources into. 


    This curiosity is one that lingers on especially realizing that resources are often limited and logically, one would naturally be better positioned by focusing on projects or initiatives that offer more returns and deserve more attention.  One could take the cynical view that common sense is not so common, or the perspective that organizations are made of people, and people are irrational and fallible beings that bring their own biases into every situation. 

    So the notion of value then or the expectation of what will bring value is often subjective and largely determined in the eye of the beholder. 

    Quantitative or Qualitative?

    I have met many stakeholders who are more interested in the qualitative rather than the quantitative.  Surprisingly, this is true, even in financial services! 

    Giving such people a quantitative, seemingly logical justification is often destined to result in failure, and the converse is also true.  So, knowing your stakeholders, what drives and resonates with them is more important that coming up with a definitive, objective, rational and quantitative hypothesis in order to convince them to take some action.

    Recently I was fortunate to have worked with a senior executive who was very financially inclined with a major focus on bottom line impact.  This stakeholder did so well in the organization that he was soon promoted.  To my surprise the person who replaced him was much more people oriented and his biggest concerns were around how the changes proposed would impact people within the organization.  The new stakeholder’s view was that people came first and happy employees result in a positive bottom line effect. 

    I believe both execs had a great view, even though it seemed that their perspectives were fundamentally different. 

    The key for me was to ensure that both qualitative and quantitative arguments were well prepared in advance so that we could tell compelling stories that drove the agenda regardless of the different concerns and viewpoints.

    Know Thy Foe

    Knowing your industry and thinking ahead about what your stakeholders may not yet know that they need or desire, is also a very valuable thing to do. 

    Think about the world of tablet computers that nobody knew they needed just a few years ago, yet these things are now taking the world by storm...

    A Few Lessons Learned in the Trenches

    At the beginning I spoke about blind implementation of a methodology being a less than great thing, I would argue that the following steps make great sense around realizing that value, in the eye of the beholder:

    1. First, seek to understand (Analyze the situation, the pains, problems being experienced and clearly identify who is being impacted – empathy is an important quality!)
    2. Take time to synthesize, communicate back the pain at its essence and color your findings with different perspectives
    3. Ensure you leave behind each interaction, always having taught something new to your customer - even if it’s a small thing. 
    4. Make your plan of action ensuring you focus on what will be high impact and high value to your stakeholder without losing sight of the bigger picture and remaining realistic  
    5. Take action, early and often whilst being nimble and adaptable as necessary
    6. Always endeavor to be mutualistic.  The power of reciprocity really goes a long way!

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  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Be the Next Microsoft Employee Finale


    Here’s a little fun …

    … Are you the next Microsoft employee?

    Here is the final episode of Be the Next Microsoft Employee, where the winner gets the grand prize -- a job at Microsoft.   It really happens too – the winner started July 30th, 2012.  Check out the finale episode of Be the Next Microsoft Employee:

    (Note – If the video doesn’t play for you, try watching directly on YouTube at Be the Next Microsoft Employee.)

    It’s a great little video.   One of the contestants even poses the question – “To Azure? … or Not to Azure?”

    If you think just being technically strong is the name of the game, that’s not so.

    I couldn’t help but think of shtick by comedian Mitch Hedberg where he complains that to be a comedian, you have to be more than a comedian to be successful. “So you're a comedian, but can you act? … It's like asking a cook, OK, so you're a chef, but can you farm?”

    I liked this comment by judge, Tim DiMarco:

    “In addition to technical skills, your ability to communicate your ideas effectively, collaborate across teams, and be able to sell your ideas is critical to long term success at Microsoft.”

    I also liked these other comments and pointers by the judges:

    • Have an explicit tie-in between WHY you do something, so people can follow WHAT you want to do.
    • Don't make big bold claims or guarantees in a technical conversation.   And watch for technical accuracies.
    • Start with the positive.  If you lead with the negative of the technology, you lose people.
    • Review and summarize what you're doing and why up front to set the stage, and keep it simple.
    • Actually show the priority in how you want to address the requirements.
    • Connect what you are doing back to what the customer wants or needs.   Make it relevant, and don’t’ make them have to make the connection.   Make the connection between your solution, and their problem, for them.

    Here are some of the folks involved in making this happen:

    • Creator/Executive Producer - Mark Protus
    • Host/Director - Fred Northup, Jr.
    • Judges:  Buck Woody, Tim DiMarco
    • Guest Judges: Karen Lopez, Pete Harris

    You can explore the Microsoft Learning team’s Be the Next Microsoft Employee Home Page where all of the episodes are available, as well as more information about the show.

  • J.D. Meier's Blog

    Creating Career Opportunities


    How do you create career opportunities?   You reinvent yourself.

    While you can always hope for things to land in your lap, there are specific patterns I see successful people do.  Among those that continuously create the best career opportunities, here are the key success patterns:

    1. They invest in themselves.  They’re always learning, and taking some sort of training, beyond their day job.
    2. They reinvent themselves.  As a result of investing in themselves, they grow new capabilities.   With their new capabilities, they expand the opportunities they can easily plug themselves into.  For example, a few of my friends started to focus on data science in anticipation of big data, as one of the key trends for 2013 and beyond.  As part of re-inventing themselves, they re-brand themselves to better showcase what they’re bringing to the table.
    3. They build connections before they need them.  It’s always been a game of who you know and what you know, but now more than ever, your network can be the difference that makes the difference when it comes to finding out about relevant opportunities.
    4. They know who’s job they want.   They have a role-model or two that already does the job they want.  The role-model exemplifies how they want to show up, how they want to spend their time, and through that role-model they learn the types of challenges they want to take on, and they get better perspective on what the life-style is actually like.  This not only helps them get clarity on the type of job they want, but it helps when they tell other people the kind of job they want, and can point to specific examples.
    5. They know the market.   They pay attention to where the action is.   They don’t just follow their passion.  They follow the money, too, to know where the growth is, and where there’s value to be captured.  As the saying goes, every market has niches, but not every niche has a market.
    6. They have a mentor, and a “board of directors.”   They use a circle of trusted advisors that can help clue them into where to grow their strengths, and how to find better opportunities, based on what they’re capable of.   It might be their “wolf pack”, but more often than not, it’s a seasoned mentor or two that has great introspection, and can see what they can’t, and they can help them to see things from a balcony view.  Most importantly, the sharp mentors, the wise and able ones, help them to know their Achilles heal, and get past glass ceilings, and avoid career limiting moves.
    7. They have a sponsor.  Like a game of Chutes and Ladders, skilled sponsors help them find the short-cuts, avoid the dead ends, and avoid sliding backwards.

    If you’re wondering where the best career opportunities are, sometimes it’s the job you’ve already got, sometimes you have to go find them, and sometimes, you have to make them.

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