The “real” vacation

We are about midway through our family trip – it’s like every family road trip you’ve seen on TV and in the movies. Wild kids, exasperated adults, “Are we there yet?” when we’ve been driving for 30 minutes and have 3 hours left to go, crazy hot days tempered by swimming and more swimming in pools and at the lake, the too-many car stops along the way to look at and snap photos of the too-many uninteresting things just to get out of the stifling car where we are all getting on each other’s nerves, and cousins annoying each other and being best of friends in turns, while the adults yell pointlessly at them to settle down or don’t do that in between sips of beer or cocktails.

And it’s fantastic.

Lake Michigan sunset

Patience when on the road with inexperienced travelers

I travel for business. I have my TSA pre-check, my second set of toiletries that I just throw into a bag and go, my favored car service to and from the airport, etc. It is a beautiful thing, being prepared and having this travel thing down to a science.

And tomorrow, I will be traveling with a husband who only travels occasionally for vacation, and a 3-year-old. I’m already feeling my impatience pulsing through my veins, and we’re not even packed yet!

I’m trying to internalize the fact that a business trip is fundamentally different than a family trip, even the getting-there and coming-back parts.

No: priding myself on how closely in time I can make it to the gate before actual boarding occurs.
Yes: leaving enough time for the toddler to walk slowly and explore all the parts of the airport she will inevitably like to see.

No: throwing some travel-friendly stuff into a bag, and voila! Done.
Yes: thinking about kid gear, and helping my husband remember some things that infrequent travelers might be prone to forget.

No: zipping through the priority security lane.
Yes: going through the regular lane as a family.

That last one is a heartbreaker, but it’s important to my husband. I get it.

Patience, patience, patience!

“Just checking in on your sanity level.”

My coworker dropped by my office. He thought I was supposed to be on vacation.

I clarified with him that today is actually my last day in the office for 2 weeks, and I leave on vacation tomorrow. He said he wasn’t expecting me in, and he dropped by to check “on my sanity level.”

Translation: is work so burdensome that you must sacrifice some of your planned vacation?

What a fantastic coworker.

It prompted me to reflect that I felt like I started to be better at my job when I began to care more about the people than the firm. My first attempts at personnel management and professional development of others was, sad to say, a bungled attempt at times. It was because I tried to follow the party line, whatever my interpretation of that was.

As soon as I started to trust my instincts about what people needed, and listened to what people wanted, I felt I was able to find those ways in which both the individual and the firm could find common ground and be healthy. (Or, in the few occurrences in which that common ground could not be found, we were able to recognize it early, call a spade a spade, and move on with no hard feelings.)

My coworker reminded me that we can all look out for each other, even if we have goals for the firm that need to be met.

 

How my business thinking (and talking) changed between ages 30 and 40

30: I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I agree.
40: I don’t agree with you.

30: I should change what I’m doing because of their feedback.
40: I considered the feedback and will change only the parts I need to.

30: I should do it his way.
40: I’m going to do it my way because I think it will be more effective. If he doesn’t like it, T.S. I guess we’ll see how it turns out.

30: If I make the wrong decision, I’m done for.
40: If I make the wrong decision, I have a plan to course-correct.

30: I’ve got to figure all of this out on my own to prove I’ve got the chops.
40: I’ve mastered what I know, and I’m aware of my blind spots. I’m going to stop wasting time and instead talk to people more informed.

30: I have to dress very formally and conservatively to be taken seriously.
40: I can combine professionalism and style and feel great.

30: I’m in competition with so-and-so.
40: My work will speak for itself.

30: I wonder what my boss will think of me.
40: I wonder what my daughter will think of me.

Have any to add? Share in comments!

Originations at a professional services firm

Consulting, law, and other professional services firms often use the concept of originations at the leadership/partner level, originations being somewhat crudely defined as who gets credit for bringing in new business.

Because it has ties to compensation, originations have been the source of turf wars and decaying professional relationships among colleagues in an environment that so desperately needs open collaboration and information-sharing for firms to be truly successful and client-focused.

So how are professional services firms supposed to reconcile these two seemingly disparate concepts? Is it possible to maximize your personal originations and still optimize collaboration and client service?

Firms can start to reconcile by creating a clear set of ground rules for open communication about originations to occur on a client-by-client or project-by-project basis. Here are some:

  1. Originations don’t necessarily equate to revenue to your department. Let’s not compare apples and oranges. You can bring in business for any part of the firm and have that be recognized as your origination and comp. That is a separate issue from the revenue you manage in your department, which may be fed by you or other partners.
  2. Originations don’t have to be defined by who brings the client through the door. In fact, feeding clients to the firm doesn’t necessarily produce revenue. After all, those potentials might need to be vetted further, and there is something to be said for collaboration to land the client, rather than cold hand-offs that can leave the client feeling disjointed. If it’s a collaborative effort to get the client to sign on the dotted line, you can split the origination.
  3. At our firm, departments tend to service clients at different stages of product development and maturity. This creates a nice evolution of service to our clients from one department to another over time. The department head for the downstream service has incentive to help land a client for an upstream department, in order to promote client retention and realize ongoing revenue for the firm (and get a piece of the pie later!).

I actually prefer that departments heads work out their originations among themselves. I would never say that people shouldn’t stick to their guns to protect their originations, but evolving the conversation to a larger context of what the client needs over time, and how a split can be negotiated may help reinforce the concept that “a rising tide lifts all boats,” and the firm may be healthier for it.

Lesson learned: agreeing that there is a problem to be solved

At my weekly one on one meeting with my boss, the President and CEO of the firm I’ve worked at for the last 15 years, I ran a problem by him that I was wavering on how to address well.

In pitching to a potential client, I found two of our department heads speaking very expertly on issues in their particular domains, but talking past each other where those domains intersected. There was insufficient coordination between them in how their domains overlapped for this client.

After explaining the problem to the boss, brainstorming the various ways I could help them solve this problem both for this client and future clients, and asking for his opinion, he asked me a very simple question in response.

If you take a possible solution to them, do you think they’ll have any idea what you’re talking about?

He must have taken my slightly stunned silence for a negative. He proceeded to remind me that:

1. Individuals need to recognize that there’s a problem.

2. Individuals need to agree on what the problem is.

3. Individuals need to agree to collaboratively work on a solution.

Only then we can determine what to do, whether I have a role, and what that role  might be.

Afterwards, I tested the water by asking one of my colleagues involved how she thought the call went. She thought it was fantastic.

Huh.

It occurred to me that perhaps what I believe (department heads shouldn’t talk past each other and should reconcile their respective services for potential clients) might not necessarily be what others believe (perhaps part of a department head’s job is to advocate for their services to a client and they are not responsible for other department’s service lines).

The aha! moment I had with the boss will definitely lead me down a different path in terms of a next step with these folks.

Still learning!

Go ahead and stir the pot! Being provocative and disagreeing to move the conversation forward

This morning, I was on a panel at BIO International Convention in San Francisco to discuss what digital health technologies can learn from the experience of personalized medicine. I was invited to participate with esteemed colleagues (all female, by the way!) representing various aspects of the health care technology sector: physician, investor, data and evidence analyst, and payer strategist (yours truly).

We were well prepared going into the panel session, with multiple conference calls to coordinate on who will share what, and which case studies were relevant and insightful. I was excited to participate in this collaborative session, and I was looking forward to engaging audience members.

In fact, the content was so engaging that I admit I totally went off-script. When you are passionate about ensuring people take away important lessons from the panel, sometimes you just have to move off the softball content into provocative territory.

If it means I get pegged as the Debbie Downer, so be it.

If it means I provide the perspective of unpopular stakeholders, those who are often used as scapegoats, so be it.

If it means telling people what they don’t want to hear, so be it.

I’ve done my job.

The session was fantastic, and my fellow panelists were gracious and inclusive. But I admit that I am most proud of challenging assumptions, exposing inherent flaws in the system, and moving us away from what others should do to what we can do.