Archive for February, 2007

LignUp

This is a pretty cool company offering some pretty cool technology.? I listened to a presentation from some of their executives and engineers today.? If i had to sum it all up in a phrase it would be:? “welcome to the virtualization of your phone…”? Their technology enables programmatic access to almost every aspect of phone routing, allowing engineers to create powerful end-user applications.

In order to deliver these services, you phone number must be registered with a carrier that “plays nice” with their service (i.e. will re-route to them).? This allows them to intercept incoming and outgoing calls and then route the call according to any biz logic defined by the engineer.? Although not everyone will want to switch carriers now, it is only a matter of time before the whole phone network is overhauled and virtualized.

Definitely check them out as they will be providing the foundation for many future telephony based services in the future.? The possibilities here really are endless.? For some examples, just check out their demo apps.? They are just a sampling of the power of this technology.

Motivation and Leading Teams

As a young professional, I have some great ambitions. I, like many people in my generation, believe that the world is changing fast and we are just the people to foster that change. We see opportunity in the world and can not wait to be a leader of change.

Of course, as much as I might wish otherwise, I am not ready to be a great leader. I have a lot to learn first. I’m starting to realize that the sooner i come around to the fact that i have a lot to learn, the sooner i might be able to learn it :)

Over the last few months, I have had the opportunity to act in a pseudo-leadership role for a small team at work. When I started out, my thoughts were something along these lines: “Finally, i’ll show these people how leadership is done. We’ll be through this project in no time!”

Of course, much to my dismay, it hasn’t really turned out like that. Despite my abundant energy, solid roadmap, and clearly articulated goals, my team has not delivered in the ways that i had anticipated. There is a big huge roadblock that stands in my way…

When i started out, I really wasn’t thinking that much about Team Motivation. But now, i realize that engaging a team is a very, very difficult thing to do. I assumed that my team members would share the same energy for the project that i had. I didn’t even think about the fact that motivation varies tremendously from individual to individual. I failed to ask myself two simple questions, “What is motivating me?” and “What will motivate each individual on my team?”

In retrospect, I realize that my motivation for the project was around leadership. I wanted the opportunity to lead a team. When i got that opportunity, i was highly motivated to create a successful team. For me, the product, was, and still is secondary. My motivation stems from gaining leadership experience. Of course, i should have realized that my motivation could not possibly be shared by my team members. A lesson learned :)

As I reflect on motivation, I have taken a shot at categorizing and identifying a few different things that motivate people. Hopefully they will serve as a starting point for identifying what motivates my future teams.

Things that motivate people (take 1)

1. Money – This is blatantly obvious. However, it is often the most difficult thing to just give to someone. It is also shallow. As soon as it goes away, so might your team members’ motivation.

2. Recognition – Recognition is perhaps the most powerful motivator for a majority of people. However, that catch is that an individual must be recognized by a person he/she holds in esteem. This was/is probably my biggest problem. I can recognize people for their good work, but at the end of the day, I am a peer.

3. Learning – Most people like to learn in one way or another. Of course the things people like to learn about vary as greatly as there are people in the world. For the project i described above, learning (about leadership) was my main motivator.

What you can do to motivate people (take 1)

1. Money – Sometimes straight cash, sometimes a specific gift. This depends on the individual and whether you know them well enough to give them something that they will derive utility from

2. Recognition – If you know you are respected by the people on your team (whether it is because of your title, your knowledge, your experience,…) recognize you have an incredible power. A simple compliment, public or private, can motivate a team member for days, weeks, or months. You have nothing to lose by doing it. The more you advocate and compliment the people below you, the more they will advocate for you in return.

Of course, if you are not yet in that position of esteem (like me), find someone who is and ask them to be a surrogate. Although not ideal, your team will still respond to the positive feedback

3. Learning – Again, this varies. It simply reinforces the fact that you need to know the people on your team as individuals in addition to just workers. Find out what they like and don’t like. Ask what they like to learn about, what they read in the news, what they watch on TV. This will help guide you to the proper motivator.

Time

Time is an interesting thing.? many smart people have been thinking about time for a very long time :).? This ability is one of the things that differentiates humans from many other animals (although not all of course)

I was just reflecting on my perception of time and how it has changed over my short 24 years.? Here are some thoughts:

Childhood (0-13)
Basically no real perception or recognition that time is a finite resource.? I did things because i was supposed to do them.? Things weren’t “supposed” to take any particular amount of time, they just kinda happened.? I did something, when i was done, i did something else.? It was all pretty simple.

High School (13-18)
Time started to get crunched.? I was doing a lot more things, but all of them were things that i was supposed to be doing.? Sure i volunteered for certain activities here and there, but at the end of the day, i simply did what i was supposed.? it’s just that things took longer now.? Sometimes this meant staying up late.? But at the end of the day i had to do all the things i was doing.

College (18-23)
College was kinda like high school only way more intense.? I had WAY more stuff to do.? many times, sleep was sacrificed.? however, at the end of the day, i was supposed to be doing the things i was doing.? I had a little more control than in high school, but not much.? The bread and butter was still class and then some misc extra activities.? Its not like i could just decide not to do something all of a sudden…

Now
…which is exactly what is strange about right now.? I can just decide not to do something.? That is a pretty strange feeling when you have spent the first 23 years doing things that you were supposed to be doing.? This starts my evolution about how i think about time.? I will take you through the process from the first day at work to now.

First Day at Work – May ’06
Still in the college mindset.? I am just looking for work from my boss.? I get work, i finish work, i repeat.? I am getting a lot done at work.? I am learning quite a bit, but I am really not that engaged in what i am doing.? After work, i just chill.? Work out a bit.? play video games.? I am not really concerned about wasting time because at this point, i have an ocean of time compared to college

May ’06 – September ’06
I start to take on projects at work that are outside the “chain of command.”? I find these much more engaging and interesting.? At times, doing this requires that i work a bit at night.? This doesn’t really bother me as I like the projects and believe that what i am doing is valuable.? Here is the first realization that I can totally pick and choose what i want to focus on.? If i am passionate about something, i can do it.? no one will stop me.? If i don’t want to do something, i can speak up and say so.? Although i understand this in theory, this is still one of my biggest challenges.? I don’t really know how to say ‘no’ well.? something to work on…

September ’06 – December ’06
I start to become obsessed with productivity.? Now that i have more control over my time, i start to feel that i need to be smart about picking and choosing the tasks that will give me the best ROI.? I feel that I should only be spending time on something if i am learning.? If i am not learning or contributing to something, i feel like i am just squandering the time that is so limited.? This obsession starts to become a little too much.? I start sleeping less so i can spend more time reading or learning something.

December ’06 – Now
I have become more secure about my time.? Recognition at work has helped me realize that people value what i do.? I don’t need to go crazy learning 100 new things every week to have value.? In fact, relaxing a little more is probably helping me to be more efficient at learning.? I still have an aversion to wasting time; however, I have narrowed my definition of what wasting time actually means.? If i get value in some way, then its not really wasting time.

Summary
If i had to create a metaphor for my current thinking about how to spend time it would be the following:

I am in a room with 100 doors.? Some doors are in fact just door jams, they are see-through and easily passable.? Some doors are heavy and difficult to open.? Every day i need to choose which doors to open.? Sometimes i know what is on the other side.? sometimes i don’t.? Just because a door is heavy, doesn’t always mean its the most rewarding.? For me to be successful, i need to get good at choosing the right doors.? But at the end of day, as long as i don’t sit down in the middle of the room, I’ll be happy.