Category Archives: Leadership

Remembering Steve Jobs

My first direct experience with a computer was in using an Apple IIC plus in my dad’s den.

I was not even 10 years old, but playing games on that computer would occupy entire weekends! When my neighbor got an Apple IIGS with a color monitor I was really in heaven – wasting even more time  in his basement playing games such as Bard’s Tale:).

It was these PCs that made me interested in technology at young age – and really opened up my imagination to a whole new world of possibilities for what I could be when I grew up.

Fast forward 20+ years and I’ve been working at Microsoft for over a decade, but have also continued to use and enjoy Apple products over the years and have incredible respect for Steve Jobs, and how he was able to make his visions real and bring so many remarkable to products to market.

He will truly be missed.

Category: Leadership, Technology

Don’t Be Busy

The most successful people I know don’t act like they are busy.

They actually are incredibly busy by most people’s standards, they just don’t come off that way.

When you talk with them you have their full attention. They listen to you. They walk in a quick but not hurried fashion. They speak clearly and briefly. They don’t talk about the things they have to do or how stressed they are. They get things done. They don’t waste time doing things that don’t matter. You never will hear them talk about how they don’t have enough time or have too much going on.

On the flip side, I know a lot of people, who achieved far less success, that always talk about how busy they are. How they don’t have time to exercise, plan a much needed vacation or take care of errands around the house. These people always seem to have a tough break and come up short of their big goals. They seem to be too busy to focus on what it important. They are a whirling tornado of activity but the results don’t match the hurried pace.

Which camp do you fit in?

Try not using “being busy” as an excuse for a good 30 days. Just pretend that you have all the time and energy in the world to do what you need to do. All you need to do is commit. Then, see what happens.

Powerful Words

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It doesn’t a lot of words to make a big impact.

A few powerful words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s final speech.

Category: Leadership | Tags:

Trust and leadership

If you want to lead and wonder what it takes for people to trust you and be willing to follow your direction, demonstrate that you trust them. You’ll be amazed at what people will do to live up to your absolute trust in their capabilities.

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Step Out of the Box

A green Lamborghini parked outside my house. Note to self, if I ever decide to get a crazy expensive car, DO NOT get this color!

Update: A well-informed reader – Mike –  let me know that the car in the photo above is highly unqiue – one of the only ones in the country at this time – and it does not have a govenor in it. Also, the use of govenors are primarily for environmental and other reasons, as opposed to simply keep the cars from outrunning police. They probably could outrun the authorities anyway which is why police use helicopters and other methods to keep our roads safe. I’m leaving the post below un-edited, but thanks to Mike for these added insights! 

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Really fast cars have these things called governors. They are devices that control (and in some cases limit) the maximum speed of a vehicle. It’s what keeps a Lambo from outrunning the police. Our bodies have internal governors too. They keep us from taking ridiculous risks. From pushing ourselves too far. From taking actions we might later regret. From doing things that could sacrifice our lives, friendships, livelihood, etc.  

The problem with our internal governors, is that they quickly and frequently get out of alignment. If you were a car, you could wheel yourself into a shop for a tune-up. Unfortunately, resetting your internal governors is not that easy.  

As we go through life we end up hearing other people saying we can’t or shouldn’t do certain things. Or we try things and fail. Or we see others try things and fail. Or we see people not even trying and therefore assume that things are impossible.  

This kind of reality causes us to set our own governors at ridiculously low levels. We think we can never get out bodies in shape. Never do 50 push ups. Never get that better job. Never get that better relationship. Never make it through six “wheels” (Urdhva Dhanurasana) in yoga class! The longer we let these lies persist, the more they sink in.  

Every now and then it is imperative that we give ourselves a tune-up and see that the boundaries we set are fake and often just plain ridiculous. Try something new. Push your physical body. Try something again (for the second, third, fourth time if need be). Set a crazy goal (or a BHAG in Lululemon terms).  

Do whatever it takes to step out of the prison of your self-imposed comfort zone, aka “the box.” Bust out the box and see what you are really capable of.

Create a Movement

Creating a movement is not easy. It requires that you do things that others seem as unnatural and maybe even weird. People will say you should stop doing whatever it is. They may think you are crazy and even laugh a little. Most living things feel safer as a member of a crowd, not out on their own. We are no different.

How are we supposed to create any positive change if we always remain part of a crowd? The answer is simple but definitely not easy to put into practice. This  short video by Derek Sivers breaks it down very well, with a story about a shirt-less dancing guy.

The lessons:

  1. A leader needs the guts to stand-alone and look ridiculous.
  2. A movement must be simple and easy to follow.
  3. A leader embraces followers as an equal, it’s about the movement not the leader.
  4. Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership.
  5. New followers emulate followers and not the leader. Movements must be public and transparent.

The best way to create a movement doesn’t require that you create one on your own. If all everyone did was create their own movements, there would be no movements! Instead, be an early follower. Find something you believe in, and have the courage to support a movement that is already underway, no matter how obscure it may seem at first.

Category: Leadership, People | Tags:

Leadership in Everyday Life

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"Snow Dancer" - me in Natarajasana aka "Dancer Pose" during a hike to a snow-covered alpine lake in the Cascade Mountains near Seattle, WA (May 2010)

Leadership is one of the most misunderstood and puzzling things. Last week I was with a group of team leaders at work discussing leadership. I felt that this is something we should challenge people do more of. Someone made the comment that “Ravi…you know that we can’t have everyone lead. We don’t have enough stuff for people to lead. If everyone was leading, we wouldn’t get work done and people would be fighting over projects to lead.” It was as if the world only has so much room for leaders. I find this notion silly. The world needs more leaders. The world DESPERATELY needs more leaders. The reason we have the problems we see in the world (e.g. rampant disease, poverty, war) is that too few people choose to step up, speak out and act in a way that helps others and inspires others to do the same.

In most situations I’d say that a small fraction of people have the desire to step into leadership roles and fewer still take the steps needed to rise to the occasion. I’ll take a wild guess and say that even in a hyper-competitive environment like a top-tier university or leading corporate environment…fewer than 10% of people (and even this is an upper bound) take advantage of regular opportunities to display leadership. Most just coast by and assume someone else will lead them or make the decision for them.

The problem starts with the reality that most people are actually confused with what leadership is to begin with. Leadership is not about managing people or being in a position of authority – like a CEO or some corporate managing director. In fact, leadership is most powerfully displayed when one acts without authority and leads people who DO NOT HAVE TO work for them. The most effective and memorable leaders in history did not actually have people who worked for them (e.g. Gandhi, Dr. King, Rosa Parks, etc.). They displayed leadership in their thoughts, words and actions and this congruence created the spark that rose others to act in kind.

Another problem is that people get tricked up with how to display leadership. They think it is about picking the right project or schmoozing with the right people. In reality, leadership often happens with seemingly small actions and decisions. Leadership happens when you break a deadlock over where to go for dinner with your friends. Leadership happens when you make the decision to take the right fork in the trail (instead of going straight) while out on a hike with friends or family. Leadership happens when you take the initiative to drive your family or friends to a new restaurant, park or museum. Leadership happens when you choose to try busting out a handstand in the middle of a yoga class – even if it means you might fall over – instead of just hanging out in a standing split or some other “safe” pose. Leadership is when you speak up during a meeting to voice your opinion on an important issue. Leadership is also listening actively to others and showing that you respect their insights as much as your own.

The world needs more leaders, not less. This isn’t a game of musical chairs with limited opportunities to lead. I would love to have the amazing problem of seeing too many people stepping out of their comfort zone, leading their families – friends – co-workers – loved ones into the future.

If you want to start leading, right now take a few minutes and brainstorm a dozen little things you can do to show leadership in your everyday life this week. Here are a few examples:

  • Offer to drive co-workers to lunch
  • Try a new pose in yoga class (or go further than you ever have before)
  • Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while
  • Hold the door open for someone, and smile while you do it
  • Give a sincere compliment to someone you don’t know
  • Speak up in class or during meeting to voice your opinion
  • Take advantage of an opportunity to present your ideas to co-workers or classmates
  • Arrange fun weekend plans for you and your friends/family

Circle three things on the list that really speak to you, and do them RIGHT AWAY.

Start leading in seemingly small ways. Do this on a daily basis and as often as your can. It is critically important. It develops your internal leadership muscle so that when larger and more meaningful opportunities to lead appear, you’ll immediately step out of your comfort zone and take them on. Start small and watch some major change happening over the longer term. Also remember that leadership is a transferable action – that is to say, by taking action you’ll inspire other to do the same. By choosing to speak up in class, you’ll inspire other students to do the same. By taking on a more challenging yoga pose, you’ll inspire others by showing them what is possible. Don’t hesitate, do it now.

Actions Speak Loudly

One of my favorites sayings (not sure who to attribute it to):

“Who you are speaks so loudly, I can hardly hear a word you are saying”

When you have nothing to prove and are acting out of sheer joy, interest, kindness and support – you end up making a far bigger impact than you could ever try to make. Think about that the next time you are trying to create a change at your place of work, home or in a relationship.

(note: I edited the quote after I published this….had the first part wrong)

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

What you (or a customer, or a partner, etc.) do is far more powerful than what you say. We know in marketing that the best form of marketing is a referral from someone who has actually used and can vouch for a product. In family situations, kids learn best not by being told what to do, but by watching their parents and siblings. I witnessed this first-hand by observing my niece (who is almost 2) learn new words and skills just by watching others!

In whatever you do, if you want to be at cause – that is to say, if you want to create a change in any part of your workplace or you personal life – take action and let those actions speak for themselves. People will also be more receptive to a new idea if they aren’t sold on it. Best let them learn from your example.

Category: Leadership | Tags: ,

How To Win Friends And Influence People (Part III)

Listening to the audio book for How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Read Part 1 and Part 2 for insights from the earlier portions of the book. Here are some insights from this evening’s listening:

  • See things always from another person’s point of view – always, try as hard as you can to do this
  • Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires
  • Appeal to people’s nobler motives
  • Use showmanship to get attention – movies do it, TV does it, window displays do it – and it works
  • You can dramatize ideas in business or any other part of life – works great when dealing with adults and kids! Dramatize facts to make a point in a business setting. Use props if necessary to get your point across
  • The way to get things done is to stimulate competition – in a healthy and productive way, throw down a challenge and see what happens!
  • Work is the most motivating force for any worker, not money, benefits or anything else – quality and interesting work is the single biggest tool to keep people interested in their job
  • Let other people do a great deal of the talking in any conversation
  • It’s always easier to listen to criticism after you have given someone some praise – never just criticize, always see the positive aspects and comment on them first – them provide your thoughtful critique
  • Providing criticism after praise is a technique used by many world leaders past and present (Lincoln, Coolidge, McKinley, etc.) in motivating staff an leading without making people feel bad
  • Beginning with praise is like a dentist that begins with Novocaine!
  • There is a way to redirect/correct/criticism without upsetting people – make others feel important (praise) while correcting
  • People judge us by our “letters” – small errors, like spelling errors, make a big impression
  • Humbling oneself and praising another can turn a staunch adversary into a close friend
  • Admitting one’s own mistakes can motivate others to change their behavior for the better. For example, by quitting smoking – parents will set a positive example that children and friends will notice (and potentially follow)
  • A good leader talks about their own mistakes before criticizing others
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