Do you know someone who is technically brilliant but not an effective collaborator or leader? Someone who really knows his stuff, but likes to talk much more than listen to anyone else’s point of view? Someone who has all the answers and doesn’t appreciate it when others challenge his ideas or suggest another option?
Chances are you do. Technical professionals are trained to solve problems, challenge the status quo, and have the right answer. This works very well when we are working independently on scientific and technical problems. It does not work as well when we are working interdependently on strategic, operational and organizational “dilemmas” for which there is no single “right” answer.
Once we move beyond our first or second role at the bench or in the lab, we typically find ourselves spending a significant amount of time working interdependently in project teams, task forces, cross-functional process improvement teams, etc. At this stage of our careers technical expertise is still very important, but the game changes from invention to innovation—translating technical ideas into customer solutions that generate economic value. True innovation requires cross-functional collaboration and the ability to optimize the whole value delivery system. This is where we are faced with a world of strategic, operational and organizational dilemmas often characterized by competing priorities and perspectives as well as no single “right” answers.
My 27 years in global tech companies and a growing body of research show that in jobs of moderate to high complexity IQ is necessary but not sufficient for success. In these roles, the key differentiator of top performers becomes emotional intelligence or EQ—the ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others in order to more effectively manage your behavior and relationships. In fact, the research shows that nearly 2/3 of star performance is accounted for by EQ versus IQ.
The reason EQ makes the difference is that, as much as we hate to admit it, emotions trump logic. Advances in neuroscience demonstrate that this is how our brains are hardwired. When we FEEL angry, upset, frustrated, unappreciated, etc. we can’t THINK clearly. And these negative emotions are highly contagious and distracting, reducing the productivity of others around us as they try to avoid us, guess what we really want, or in extreme cases, work to sabotage rather than support our efforts. Conversely, when we FEEL excited, valued and challenged to do great work, we become emotionally engaged and contribute up to 57% more discretionary effort! This is the holy grail of high performance. As leaders, how can we develop the personal and social competence to tap the power of full engagement and inspire others to contribute their best work?
The good news is that EQ can be developed throughout our lives. And because it is such a powerful lever of success, it is the area I encourage leaders to make the foundation of their development journey. Here are a few simple steps each of us can take to enhance our EQ and become more effective, engaging leaders.
1. Practice the platinum rule. As children many of us learned the “golden rule”—treat others as we would like to be treated. While this is helpful when working with others like us, the reality is that we live and work in a diverse world characterized by differences in background on many levels–functions, cultures, ages, genders, ethnicities, etc. In order to fully engage a diverse set of team members, the “platinum rule” becomes much more powerful: treat others as they would like to be treated. Living the platinum rule requires taking genuine interest in others. Getting to know who they are, what they value, and how they like to work—not by guessing, but by observing and asking them—gives us insight into how we can collaborate in a way that helps them do their best work. Here are two simple questions we can ask to gain this valuable insight:
As we begin this project, what is most important to you personally?
What can I continue, start, or stop doing to better support you?
2. “Check in” as often as you “check on”. As team members and leaders we tend to be good at “checking on” task and project status. “Did you get the problem solved? What did you find out from the test results? When will you have the results to send me?” However, we generally are not as good at “checking in” with our colleagues to see how THEY are doing. “How are you feeling about our progress? What is most exciting and most frustrating about the project for you? What can I do differently to be more helpful?” These types of questions demonstrate that you care about the other person and give you insight into what someone else is feeling as well as thinking about their work experience. Simply taking the time to care goes a long way. Learning how you can adapt your own behavior to support a colleague gives you vital insight for improving results—yours as well as the team’s.
As leadership guru John C. Maxwell has noted: “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
3. Make vulnerability a strength. Each and every one of us has a handful of natural talents—areas of strength in which we excel and have fun. Conversely, we all have “gaps”—areas where we may be weak, inexperienced, or good but not great. Rather than feeling you need to be the “hero” who is good at everything, focus your time and effort on your signature strengths and engage others to partner with you to close your gaps. The operative words here are “engage” and “partner.” By noticing who is great at things you are not, inviting them to help you in a win-win way, and demonstrating genuine appreciation for their help and contributions, you inspire others to join you in a partnership of success. This is much more powerful than either attempting to “go it alone” or “dumping” what you don’t like on others.
There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community. M. Scott Peck
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” Brené Brown
4. Lean into discomfort. How often do we say—or hear someone else say—“Oh, that’s the elephant in the room!”? And how often to we spend time and energy talking about the elephant OUTSIDE the room without addressing it INSIDE the room where it lives? Elephants can appear in 1:1 or team dynamics. Wherever they appear, they distract us and reduce our productivity or performance. Yet we seldom address them. Rather than continually paying the price, we can choose to address them by (1) noticing them out loud in a nonjudgmental manner, (2) asking the other(s) if they see a need or opportunity to change something, and (3) offering and/or soliciting ideas for a different approach.
Here’s an example: Your team has weekly project meetings for 60 minutes. For several weeks you have started 5-10 minutes late because people aren’t arriving on time—including the project leader. Everyone talks about their frustration with the late start—which usually results in a late finish—but no one wants to address it because the leader himself is usually late. Rather than ignore it in the room and get distracted by it outside, you should address it. At the beginning of your next meeting simply point out, “We’ve typically been starting our meetings 5-10 minutes late. Is there something we should do to make it possible for everyone to arrive on time?” By simply putting the elephant on the table, you are empowering the group to make a conscious choice to do something, or nothing. This act of conscious choice tends to diffuse the emotion and often catalyzes a positive change in behavior.
Ultimately, each of us has the choice to “go along” to get along or “dare to care” and lead. If you choose to lead, developing your EQ and developing a few simple habits can make the difference between good and GREAT performance. I’ll close with several examples of little things that can help us become more effective leaders who deliver better results.
At our latest Technically Speaking event Women in Technology Leadership: Trials, Tribulations and Lessons Learned, TLI brought together four women at the top of their fields in technology leadership:
Becky Bergman – VP of Research & Technology, CRDM at Medtronic
Amanda Downs – Account Executive at EMC
Betty Gladfelter – Business & Technical Intelligence/Analysis Consulting at Elizabeth Gladfelter Consulting
Kimberly Lees – Marketing Director, Infection Prevention at Ecolab
They shared stories of their challenges and successes, including how to get girls and women excited about and involved in math and science, how to choose a mentor, and how they used their collaboration skills to excel in leadership roles.
These are women who have often been the first (and only) females in their departments and over the years worked twice as hard to stand out in male dominated fields. They have gracefully stood their ground and made their voices heard, here are some of their words of wisdom for others seeking leadership roles:
Be true to yourself, find your passion and seek a balance that is good for you.
Define for yourself what is your personal success.
You are the manager of your career and you decide where you want to go. Don’t wait for someone to take care of it for you.
Know your value and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need/want.
Have “Humbition” – one part humility and one part ambition.
Value your relationships. They can be key in the workplace.
Identify mentors (men and women) whom you can count on for honest feedback.
Have a support system (be it a mentor, coach, champion, or a pet!).
The Advanced Power & Energy Cluster (APC) recently completed its first year of operation for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The APC is engaged in connecting the innovation of small businesses to technology needs for the nation’s defense, and for commercial applications. The initiative has helped to create more than 250 jobs and achieve $10.3 million in Department of Defense (DoD) and private business contract awards in the past year, while acting as a catalyst for technology-based economic development. The APC currently has 95 member companies and organizations in 21 states.
Operated by the Twin Cities-based Defense Alliance and funded by the SBA, the APC is one of 10 Regional Innovation Clusters (RICs), three of which are intended to promote “advanced defense technologies.” The Defense Alliance selected the power and energy sector for its Cluster because of this region’s strong manufacturing, R&D and entrepreneurial focus on related technologies.
DoD has finally realized that energy solutions can provide savings and mission effectiveness at the same time. As a result there are a lot of new policy mandates that set out ambitious goals for DoD energy savings. The Defense Alliance believes that the best way to obtain those is to have small businesses just jump in the game and start contributing, rather than waiting for the DoD to come to them – or waiting for requirements to be perfectly defined. The APC operates together with its “Partners,” who bring highly focused and effective business mentoring to the membership. The Partners include Paradigm Positioning, the Dakota Defense Alliance, TechLink and MilTech. The APC also leverages key existing collaborative relationships held by the Defense Alliance, including with economic development organizations, government entities, academic institutions and large defense contractors.
The industry focus area of power and energy also means that the APC is working with Members to find opportunities outside of the DoD as well. DoD, DoE or other government agency funding often leads to commercial applications – and vice versa. According to the APC’s Business Director, Patria Lawton, “Our Members range from small businesses that have worked with the DoD for years, to those who are really energized by the way in which our Partners can help explain this challenging market to them.”
The ultimate goal remains bringing value and innovation to the nation’s power and energy needs, particularly for defense applications, and to help foster regional economic growth through job creation. Learn more about the APC at www.powerfordefense.com.
When I began the ISE program in the fall of 2007 I was an inexperienced engineer with one year of experience. I was thinking about getting an advanced degree while working and thought an MBA was my only option. I ran into a friend of a friend who told me about the ISE program. After research and an information session I knew the ISE program was perfect fit.
I loved the classes and networking. Through the curriculum I found that I had a real interest in Project Management, and the Capstone project gave me an opportunity to research it. The more I learned the more I realized that Project Management was exactly what I wanted to do! I made it my new goal to become a Project Manager by 2013. This past fall, an opportunity to apply for a Project Management position at Xcel Energy became available. At the time of the interview, I was one of many applicants, but I felt I had something to offer with my technical expertise and academic background. I was able to intelligently and confidently discuss Project Management technique and strategy. As you can imagine, I was overjoyed when I received the job offer and accepted the role as Transmission Project Manager. I am 1 of 9 project managers in the NSP region of Xcel Energy and absolutely love my job.
I have to thank the ISE staff and my classmates for the opportunity to learn and perpetual encouragement. I believe the ISE program exposed me to my new passion and created an avenue for me to develop.
You would think that working weekends would be a bummer, but last Saturday I had such a great time – at work! A few of us on staff here at TLI alternate working Saturdays to cover class days for our Management of Technology Program. Last Saturday it was my turn. Shortly after class started I had a group come in for an MOT information session with Professor Polla and myself. After our presentation there was a great discussion with a 2010 alum (Michael Bell, from Thomson Reuters) who came in to share his perspective on the program.
As the info session group left, another group of prospective students arrived to sit in on a class session. Professor Beau Farmer, CTO of TSI Inc, was teaching Technology Foresight and Forecasting. After a 15 minute lecture, the prospective students were distributed into the different study groups and participated in a lively workshop and some of them assisted their group’s presentation to the class. After class, the visitors joined the MOT students for lunch, and informal Q & A.
Most of the prospective students have already started filling out their applications, and I am so grateful to Beau Farmer, Mike Bell and the excellent class of 2013 for welcoming and assimilating them into the groups and showing them how dynamic and exciting the MOT experience can be! Working Saturdays really isn’t so bad after all.
Amy Danzeisen is the Admissions Coordinator for the Technological Leadership Institute’s Management of Technology program.
Minnesota 2050 is an initiative to create awareness in private citizens, in politicians, and in public agencies about the vast infrastructure network that supports the health, safety and economic well-being of every Minnesotan. The initiative includes the importance of not only building infrastructure but of sufficiently maintaining it so that it will continue to support Minnesotans for the foreseeable future.
The initiative was started in December 2009 following a meeting coordinated by the Minnesota Chapters of APWA and ASCE. The meeting included representatives from the University of Minnesota, the engineering community, transportation lobbying organizations, the legislature and a local elected official. The educators, engineers and lobbyists generally described infrastructure issues, including the importance adequate infrastructure funding. The elected officials stressed the importance of delivering the infrastructure message directly to the public.
From this background, MN2050 was organized into five infrastructure groups and is currently creating content and seeking contributions from a confederation of infrastructure related organizations and companies. The content includes slide presentations, a web site and a video.
The five initial MN2050 infrastructure groups are: 1) roads/bridges; 2) water/wastewater/storm sewer (Liquid Assets); 3) airports; 4) ports/waterways; and 5) rail. Each group is creating a message how that infrastructure impacts the daily lives of Minnesotans including their safety, health and economy; what major initiatives or investments need to be addressed within each group; what is the investment trend line; and what can Minnesotans expect if adequate infrastructure investments are not made.
The current MN2050 progress is that numerous presentations have been given to public groups, the first web page has been created (‘blueprintminnesota.com’) and a one-hour Liquid Assets video has been created and shown on Twin City Public Television (TPT).
In the coming months additional presentations will be given, a MN2050 website will be opened and a MN2050 video will be created with TPT.
Author’s Note: Recently, I wrote an article for the IEEE Spectrum on the U.S. Electrical Grid. The original post can be found in the IEEE Energy Policy Department. I also spoke on this subject to NPR and TMCnet.
The U.S. electrical grid has been plagued by ever more and ever worse blackouts over the past 15 years. In an average year, outages total 92 minutes per year in the Midwest and 214 minutes in the Northeast. Japan, by contrast, averages only 4 minutes of interrupted service each year. The outage data excludes interruptions caused by extraordinary events such as fires or extreme weather.
I analyzed two sets of data, one from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the other from the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC). Generally, the EIA database contains more events, and the NERC database gives more information about the events. In both sets, each five-year period was worse than the preceding one: According to data assembled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) for most of the past decade, there were 156 outages of 100 megawatts or more during 2000-2004; such outages increased to 264 during 2005-2009. The number of U.S. power outages affecting 50,000 or more consumers increased from 149 during 2000-2004 to 349 during 2005-2009, according to EIA.
Adjusting for a two percent per year increase in load to 2000 levels, these outages reflect a trend. First, there were 147 outages of 100 megawatts or more during 2000-2004; such outages increased to 230 during 2005-2009. Second, assuming the same two percent annual demand growth, the number of U.S. power outages affecting 50,000 or more consumers increased from 140 during 2000-2004 to 303 during 2005-2009.
What happened? Starting in 1995, the amortization and depreciation rate has exceeded utility construction expenditures. In other words, for the past 15 years, utilities have harvested more than they have planted. The result is an increasingly stressed grid. Indeed, grid operators should be praised for keeping the lights on, while managing a system with diminished shock absorbers.
R&D spending for the electric power sector dropped 74 percent, from a high in 1993 of US $741 million to $193 million in 2000. R&D represented a meager 0.3 percent of revenue in the six-year period from 1995 to 2000, before declining even further to 0.17 percent from 2001 to 2006. Even the hotel industry put more into R&D.
Our first strategy for greater reliability should be to expand and strengthen the transmission backbone (at a total cost of about $82 billion), augmented with highly efficient local microgrids that combine heat, power, and storage systems. In the long run, we need a smart grid with self-healing capabilities (total cost, $165 to $170 billion).
Investing in the grid would pay for itself, to a great extent. You’d save stupendous outage costs-about $49 billion per year (and get 12 to 18 percent annual reductions in emissions). Improvement in efficiency would cut energy usage, saving an additional $20.4 billion annually.
There is little doubt in the demand for clean tech and clean energy in today’s marketplace. However, a host of barriers stand in the way of clean tech’s path to mainstream integration.
As far as clean tech clusters are concerned, the Upper Midwest is best known for wind production. One of the main challenges of mainstream wind energy production is the fact that wind is so widely dispersed amongst the five states that are producing wind energy in the Upper Midwest (Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin). In order to generate the wind power necessary for significant energy, the wind must be generated from a concentrated region. When it is spread across several states, it makes the central processing and production of the wind much more difficult.
To address these concerns and to improve transmission capabilities to consumers, the CAP-X 2020 project aims to strategically place transmission lines for increased transmission. However, this Minnesota-based initiative is not on a large enough scale to transmit wind energy to the eastern United States.
Another challenge facing the clean tech sector is the tension amongst the key industry players. The lack of communication and unwillingness to collaborate has stalled many wind projects. Some players have overloaded the system with an abundance of wind projects, and other players want to rationalize the system to eliminate these overloads. Some partners are doing nothing while others want to do more, but are limited by their roles. Overall, these players are struggling to collaborate, and in a new industry like clean tech, collaboration is essential to help players succeed.
As the industry players try to sort out their differences, they will also have to worry about a growing threat to the industry. Stories have been circulating in the media about the negative effects of these high-voltage transmission lines. Citizens are growing concerned that these projects will do more harm than good. The Citizens Energy Task Force claims that power lines interfere with bird migration, hurt tourism and damage the ecosystem. While these power lines also include coal, the main criticism is on these new CAP-X 2020 lines that are being constructed.
Finally, one of the other major barriers for clean tech is inadequate regional governance. Regional governments all have different beliefs about clean tech payoffs and strategies. These differing opinions have caused many local governments to freeze projects or not do anything at all. Clean tech infrastructure upgrades are very reliant on the help of regional governances. However, with so few of these governances agreeing, clean tech could face its greatest challenge of all.
No matter how many technical barriers the industry overcomes, it must clear the government buy-in hurdle. If these regional governments cannot agree, then they must consider allowing the industry to move forward without interfering and delaying mainstream integration.
As clean tech clusters begin to form across the country, organizations like the BioBusiness Alliance are making conscious attempts to catalyze the creation of these clusters. By establishing funding systems in these industries, these clean tech clusters will grow very rapidly. Once an industry cluster is established, the companies operating in those clusters will greatly benefit from enhanced innovation, skilled workforces and competitive success.
One of the biggest barriers in encouraging clean tech startups to create these clusters is funding. With the proper funding, knowledgeable and capable startups will receive the catalyst they need to generate significant momentum. As startups move from R&D to full-scale operations, they require several levels of funding.
In the clean tech sector, the Government has set aside large amounts of capital for companies to research the various technologies that are being created. As the research moves into the development stage, venture capitalists and private equity firms begin funding the startups. At this point, startups have enough capital to begin to scale-up their manufacturing processes and are able to receive additional funding from public equity markets. Finally, as they begin to roll out their products, these clean tech startups will be able to self-fund their operations and continue growing as the clean tech industry expands.
At every stage in the process for these startups, the diversity of the stakeholders increases. Every venture capital firm has different strategic ideas than each private equity firm, and each private equity firm has different ideas than every public equity stakeholder. There are several strategic issues that can arise from these differences:
Sustainability and availability of feedstocks
Standards for logistics and infrastructure
Scale and speed of production
Transition costs versus value
Regulatory and legislative harmony
A driving force in the development of the clean tech industry is government policy. Most recently, the Renewable Energy Standard and Carbon Reduction Goals of 2007 led to specific policies for each state. In the Midwest, Wisconsin will require that 12.9% of all energy production be of renewable energy sources by 2015 and 25% by 2025. Also, by 2015, North and South Dakota and Michigan all pledge to allocate 10% to renewables .
As these mandates require more and more clean energy, the demand for such products will only increase. It is from these policies that clean tech startups will benefit the most. Look for clean tech startups to be a driving force in the renewable energies market.
Every area of the nation is known for industrial specialties. These areas are easily recognized and new companies in those industries tend to gravitate to those geographies. Silicon Valley is known for information technology, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are home to pharmaceuticals and Boston is well known for biotechnology.
One of the newest clusters is clean tech. Minnesota is quickly becoming the center of a clean tech cluster. Southern Minnesota is one of the leading wind energy producers in the nation and a host of Fortune 500 companies that are headquarted in Minnesota are implementing clean tech initiatives.
In 1890, Alfred Marshall noted that, “Geographical concentrations of specialized industrial activities, once established, reinforce themselves by attracting complementary activities at various stages in the supply chain. In addition,” he adds, “they create a pool of specialized labor which aid the spillover of know-how between firms.”
Over a century later, the same geographical concentrations exist. Michael Porter of the Harvard Business Review stated that “Today’s economic map of the world is dominated by…clusters: critical masses – in one place – of unusual competitive success in particular fields.”
By concentrating these specialties, entire industries can increase productivity, drive innovation and stimulate new business creation.
As clean tech becomes more relevant in today’s economy, look for these clean tech clusters to emerge in other parts of the country. When they do emerge, clean tech innovation and optimization will propel the industry faster than if there were no clusters at all.