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9 posts tagged with "business"

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· 3 min read
Adam Kecskes

User Experience: Discovering and meeting the needs of the user so that they have an improved, effective, and delightful experience when using software. Customer Experience: Improving how a customer engages with a brand, product, or services to engender a sense of loyalty. Developer Experience: Creating tools and systems that make developing software applications and features easier, faster, and in a more productive fashion.

All of these *Xs are efforts to improve how humans engage with our modern world. The benefits are real, and the joy of using a system without fretting, stressing, or hitting speed bumps is a worthwhile endeavor in its own right.

These *Xs cover a lot of ground but one thing I've noticed that is that ironically enough, are often not applied to the very people that are designing and implementing these experiences. That is, it is quite often to see that a UX team may not apply their own UX principles to themselves! CX folks may be their own worst customers and DevX people will often have the worst tooling for themselves compared to what they are offering.

There's a sort of "meta-experience" that gets lost in the shuffle of doing work for a company.

I've been mulling over this concept recently, having joined a new company recently that is still going through some growing pains. There are many departments, each with its own needs but not necessarily skilled in the art of Experience Design. As with any company, there are plenty of creative people, but not everyone is a Design Thinker.:w

· 3 min read
Adam Kecskes

Richard Branson is quoted:

Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.

— Richard Branson

I like this people-centric point of view. You can argue which is more important, clients, customers, vendors, employees, shareholders, management, the sales team (which in some companies I've worked for, the sales team seemed like they were treated as most important!), but the overall gist of Branson's quote is that company leadership needs to take care of employees, and from there, a positive cascade effect will occur for the clients and company alike.

I'd add, you can best take care of employees if you take care of the systems they use.

· 2 min read
Adam Kecskes

Sometimes, you're not alone on stage.

"Great! The other person can do all of the work," you think. Not so fast, Slick. You've gotta shoulder some of that responsibility. If you want your pitch, your presentation, your partner to be successful, you have to participate as well.

While being alone on stage imparts focus and attention from the audience more so than multiple would, having a pair of people on stage can be highly effective in getting your point across. But it only works well if you back each other up. Having another person on stage doing essentially nothing is a distraction. Don't be the distraction!

One key to success in business is collaboration. This is especially true on the stage, when you and a partner are working together to present. Presenting as a pair is not much different than presenting alone; all of the same components apply:

  • Write, Rehearse and Repeat. Together. Practicing together is essential.
  • You still need Logos, Pathos, and Ethos to make the speech work. Having two people on stage doesn't make you more credible; it just means you have twice the opportunity to prove yourselves
  • Body language and timing become more important than ever before; you have to be able to hand off topics in way that is clear to the audience. An improper segue can lose you audience's attention very easily.

Partnering with someone on a presentation can be very gratifying. You get to share your ideas with another person who is aligned with you and you also can get a different take on your shared topic. It can make getting on stage a little less anxiety inducing for many people, but that does not mean you can simply delegate all the effort onto to the other person.

Partnerships take practice, but double the potential.


· 2 min read
Adam Kecskes

In a conversation with a successful entrepreneur buddy of mine, he offered an interesting (to me) perspective to take with regards to making forward motion your life. His premise is that most people tend to look for work that "suits their current needs or personalities." This is wrong, according to my friend. Rather, a person should adapt his or her ideas looking for a job that will suit their future needs.

This isn't a particularly new idea; Dan Gilbert talks about it in his book "Stumbling on Happiness" (which I have not read, but have seen his TED talk that has similar content). What I think I like about my friend's perspective is that it's just skewed enough away from my current thinking that it got me thinking more.

If we stick with the "looking for a job based on current personality," what we're really doing is anchoring ourselves to our past personality — you know, the one that would rather binge watch TV than writing the next great screenplay? — and in doing so, we're limiting ourselves. What we should do instead is project our personality from the present into the future, and ask something like, "What would my personality need to be like in order to succeed at this particular job?" and "How do I adapt from where I am to where I would like to be?"

I think what really stands out about my friend's perspective is much more basic than the philosophy and psychology of happiness. Rather, it's a reminder that simply talking to other people with an open mind and an ear towards listening can offer new, even if tiny insights. And each insight is a stepping stone into the future, rather than reflection of the past.


· 2 min read
Adam Kecskes

Overheard at a coffee shop, regarding a final presentation for a college communications class:

"Three of us were accountants, but the fourth was a geo-engineer. We all wore business casual, but he wore sneakers and a t-shirt and a backwards baseball cap that he refused to take off [emphasis from speaker]."

Wow. It's not so much that they disagreed on the mode of dress; what makes this a bad situation is that the forth fellow refused to even accommodate for the situation. Granted, this was a college class (and it sounds like they passed), but what would have happened if the presentation was "for real?"

It'd go badly, I think you can image. Again, not so much the style of dress is the problem, but rather the inconsistency between the entrepreneurs. If they can't manage to act like a team during a pitch, how much of a team will they be when the business ramps up to full speed?

Take a moment to reflect on past team experiences — heck, even personal experiences. Have you let your attitude get in the way? Have you let a minor stubborn tick lead you to go against the grain of the moment? Yes, going against the grain is the way to go when you're committed and have a fantastic idea to pitch to the world, but refusing to remove your hat to support the rest of the team's pitch? That's just unreasonable.

Suit up, hat off — if that's what is going to win the pitch.



· One min read
Adam Kecskes

Less about about public speaking, more about being connected with your fellow human being — which, really you should be shooting for when you're giving a presentation or speech anyway. But more specifically, when it comes to the work environment:

Connectedness is Effectiveness

My thoughts are in this article on LinkedIn:

· 3 min read
Adam Kecskes

Oh, man.

Did I take things way too seriously when I first started getting into management and leadership roles. Way too seriously.

Humor goes a long way towards creating powerful relationships and rapport. Don't underestimate it. And seriously, don't take yourself too seriously.

The first meetings I had with external vendors was nerve-wracking. Whether it be in person or over the phone, I wanted to impress, to not slip up, and to look good.

Humor was out of the question, right? For me, yes.

When I eventually took on a technical training/sales engineer role, I had to go out and speak to anywhere from twenty to a hundred people at a time. Sweaty palms all day, every day. But the effort taught me something. Humor is okay. In fact, humor in business is awesome.

I've always been one of those people (not uncommon) who tries to break up tense situations with a joke or a funny aside here and there. It took awhile, but during my trainings I realized two things: 1) Being humorous relaxed me (if only a tiny bit) and 2) the audience seemed to be more engaged and retain more information (if my end-of-training polls were to be believed). So I kept it up. Those first few years of being in the "corporate public," as it were, did a lot to improve my confidence.

But a place that took me much longer to gain confidence in was meetings. Face-to-face, we've-got-business-to-discuss type meetings. Large accounts, small accounts, vendors, clients, customers, internal, external. Nerve-f'n'-wracking.

It's not like I didn't know my stuff. I was just fearful and confident that my confidence would show through. Ground zero of imposter syndrome.

But I watched. I listened. I recalled how humor helped me in presentations. I started to apply it here and there. And I started to mimic, a little, with my own style, people who I respected who seemed to be able to inject humor at anytime, even when the situation was dark.

Take Ben, a sysadmin who I admired greatly. Gregarious, smart, open-minded and caring. We'd often be on phone meetings together, and he'd slip in the funniest little things. A self deprecating joke here. A ironic observation there. He'd ask about people's family (which isn't funny, per se, but he'd often open up a meeting with a funny story about his own family, then crack a joke about his wife painted his toenails for him so she could relax). Over time, what I came to realize was that being open and humorous was okay.

Business is business, but humans are humans, and good rapport trumps all challenges. Rapport created through openness, listening, and humor.

It took more formal training and research into public speaking to move beyond the silly jokes and ad libs I'd put into my earliest training presentations. It took listening to people like Ben and how folks responded to me to be okay with experimenting to move beyond my massive shyness and overly serious nature (in the business world). The combination of the two, public speaking training and observation, for me learn how to be more comfortable in my own skin, more comfortable with other people (even in serious situations) and to express myself in a positive way that created connectedness, and through connectedness, effectiveness.

The moral of this story is clear: Humor has a place in meetings. Humor is a human activity. Humor is fun, even when business is serious.



· 2 min read
Adam Kecskes

Have you been asked to setup a meeting? How do you arrange the invite and who do you include? How do you prepare and execute? Are you giving the presentation?

Look, we've all been there — the meeting that never seems to end, all the speakers tend to ramble, where the next scheduled group is impatiently knocking on the little glass window in the door, and worst of all, you have no idea what was supposed to happen. When you exit such a meeting, what runs through your mind? I'll bet it's something like, "next time Bob sends me a meeting a request, I'm going to ignore it."

Yeah, probably a good idea.

I've always been flabbergasted by seemingly pointless meetings, having been invited to a voluminous number of them. As far as I tell, historically speaking, most corporate meetings just stem form bad habits. Meetings are trope, a tradition, that has been handed down from when the industrial revolution was in full swing and people wanted to look important to their bosses.

They wanted to demonstrate credibility.

That was then. This is now. We're busier than ever trying to get our jobs done, and the last thing we need is someone sending requests that needlessly fill up our calendars. "Bob," wants to make an impression. Or maybe he literally doesn't know what to do next, and he's looking for input. He'll invite everyone! Hopefully, someone will show up to say something profound, letting Bob know what path to take.

Sorry, Bob. That's not a way to build credibility. It's not the 19th or 20th century anymore. You can impress your boss in far better ways — like by holding fewer meetings. And of those that you do out on the calendar, Bob, make sure you have an agenda, an expected outcome, and give a heads up in advance to each and every attendee why they are needed in this particular meeting.

You'll be more productive, your co-workers will be more productive, and your credibility will skyrocket.

Especially if you bring donuts 🍩*.


· 4 min read
Adam Kecskes

It doesn't take much effort to find examples of truly deplorable leadership in the present (and it's a slam dunk if you take the historical route). Today, I encountered a LinkedIn article and an NPR radio program that centered around the idea of toxic leadership, so it seemed like an obvious choice for a topic, especially considering how many toxic leaders I've encountered in my own career.

My mother, of all people, use to always say "Screw up, move up." I remember her saying that about politicians when I was a kid and she still says it today. Why is that?

Part it is what is known as the Peter Principle.

Dr. Laurence Peter, for whom the principle is named put it this way:

In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.

However, that's only part of the problem. Yes, employees rise to fill bigger and bigger positions that they eventually can't handle, but there are two other factors (among many) I'd highlight:

  • People don't know how to hire other people.
  • Over-confidence in an interview does not competence make.

On the first point, hiring manager often want someone that is either like them or fulfills some arbitrary standards (from HR, from their own experience, from where ever). I've been involved in the (horrific) practice of group interviews, and I've stood aghast at some of the reasons my fellow interviewers would [not] hire someone. "I was a better coder at his age!" (said an older gentleman), or "I still don't like that he doesn't have a degree" (despite the fact that the candidate demonstrated phenomenal skills in the interview.)

Hiring managers/teams often forget why they are hiring someone, as well: To fulfill a particular role. But is that role even well defined? I had one boss who insisted I hire someone because he thought my team needed the help. I resisted, because I didn't see a pressing need for anyone in the next several months.

On the second point, just because someone seems to be well-qualified and has a great personality in the interview doesn't mean he or she is actually competent. In one company, my team met with a recently-hired fellow from another department; he'd been hired as a manager. He had an impressive interview — mostly in finance and Wall Street, which set off warning bells in my head, considering that wasn't related to our business domain.

Turns out, along with the very nice interview skills and well-heeled resume, he had a nasty, nasty temper, and over-engineered certain systems so that using said systems was labyrinthian. Eventually, his team mutinied against him and the company was forced to let him go.

So what does a hiring manager do? More due diligence, for one. Call the person's past employers (or at least have HR do it!). Set up concrete credentials to be met for the role — and I'm not talking "must have 2 years of experience in such-and-such esoteric systems." Rather, codify your department's own culture. What type of person would fit best? Remember, people have different personalities in the work environment than at home. Just because a person is shy and you're group is outgoing, generally, doesn't mean that person won't fit. Consider also, what's tangentially missing from the group and what would be nice to have.

During the interview sessions, have a consistent set of questions that don't have pre-determined answers (well, mostly not), that way you can compare oranges to oranges. Make sure to ask interested questions, rather than interesting questions ("What do you like to see in management?" vs "What can you do for me?") It helps to through in the biggie questions — set up a tough (and hopefully real from the past) scenario and see how they might manage their way through it.

It takes some fine tuning of other people's tonality, body language and micro-expressions, as well as a bit of experience to hire good folks while remaining relatively unbiased. It takes a lot more work to get rid of those toxic employees (and especially) leaders that you let slip through the cracks just because they were personable in a handful of discussions.