What Comes After Zoom? Video everywhere and Then What?

I’m on a bit of work break right now and that means i’ve not had an online meeting in over 10 days. So, no Zoom, Hangouts, MSFT Teams, Slack video, WebEx, Skype, UberConference, GoToMeeting or Facetime (all of which i used in the two weeks leading up to my break for work).

You won’t be surprised to know I haven’t missed the meetings at all. At least, not the work part. I miss the social interaction of course. But, i don’t miss the small task of figuring out which tool to use for each of my meetings or fiddling with the equipment to make sure it worked and i could hear and be heard.

Zoom seems to have emerging as the leader because it’s easy, relatively simple, and reliable. It just works. But my time away has me wondering what’s going to come after Zoom?

I tend to agree with Benedict Evans, that video eventually just be a feature that every app has as part of it’s core offerings. Your project mgmt app will enable video interactions, your commerce apps will have video for customer support, etc.

But, in the meantime, there will be really interesting innovation ahead as, Evans says, “There’s lots of bundling and unbundling coming, as always.” Until, “Everything will be ‘video’ and then it will disappear inside.”

I’m curious about the way video is going to reshape the way we design our apps, once we make it a core feature. See, for instance, the vision of the Makespace team, where video is the interface for collaboration in realtime and more. I’m also curious how video gets used to support formal networks at work (think: Business unit conversations, meetings, projects, etc.) and informal networks (i.e. – peer groups, networking groups, etc.). I hope we see more than updated takes on House-party for work.

Radical Centrism Needs A Rebrand 

I’m fatigued beyond words with the two political parties we’ve got to choose from in the US. There has to be another way, another way to think through all the problems we’ve got in the States. And, while there are literally billions of opinions, there’s only two viable parties. So, i’ve been intrigued by the idea of the Third Way and  Radical Centrism.

 

There is a premium on civility among Radical Centrists that, while we all believe it is essential for Radical Centrist purposes, is intrinsic to who we are as people with a wide variety of interests. For most of us this is an effect of religious faith, including something similar among good-intentioned people who may be classified as humanists –in the sense that the word is used historically to denote someone who seeks wisdom from many different sources, not limited to religion.

Source: A. Radical Centrist Principles and Values | Radical Centrism

But, given where we are, the concept of “Radical Centrist” won’t really fly and while “Third Way” suggests a clear positioning as an alternative, it’s just pointing a direction.

What we really need is a rebrand. Who wants to write the brief?

Why is This Good: Ranier Beer

Ranier Beer is a good exemplar for “classic” brands searching for a way to resonate with consumers who are flooded with faux authenticity.

They recently redesigned the brand with the help of the amazing crew at Parliament in Portland.

Here’s what I love:

  • Retro, but not kitschy – They’re reverent about their past and give a nod to their previous brand expression, but its a little cleaner.
  • Tone – They’ve adopted a closer-in, more friendly and welcoming tone, but they’re not trying too hard to be clever or cool or be your best friend. You know there are real humans behind the scenes, but they aren’t being annoying about it.
  • Authentic, but Authentically Authentic – No fake backstory, here. But, they’re also not working overtime to tell you how much cooler they are (or were in the ’50s) than your new favorite hipster beer.
  • Community – They are – quite literally – working off the PBR playbook and are actively engaged in supporting the local (Pacific Northwest) sports, culture and environmental organizations.
  • Imagery – If you want to connect yourself to the beauty of nature, you better have really beautiful shots of nature. They did that. It’s almost as though this is a nature brand that also sells beer.
  • Timely / Relevant – They’re doing smart, mostly useful things like providing Zoom backgrounds, but keeping the branding relatively light.

Better Interview Tip #46

I was talking with Chip House (Linkedin | Twitter) about a variety of topics, including interviewing and building a great team around yourself.  When I asked him how he spotted leadership potential  he said he tried to ask questions that indicated how well the candidate knew themselves. What a wonderful insight!  I wish I would have had that heuristic years ago.

I’ve done a lot of interviews in my life but I never thought of using that screen: “How well do you know yourself?” And, the implied corollary, “How are you using that knowledge to better yourself and, ultimately, be a better leader? “

I’ve always asked questions that get at related topics: 

• What have you taught yourself lately (to see if they’re able to turn curiosity into knowledge)

• What’s a hard problem you’ve solved lately (to see if they can drive to solution)

• What’s the next leadership skill you want to add to your toolbox? (To see if they’ve actually got a development plan for themselves)

Those questions have been really useful, but I’ve never gone at interviews to understand the essential thing: Does this person have a good enough sense of themselves – their skills, their gaps, their blindspots – to be a good leader of people? 

Obviously, you can’t really know if people truly have good self awareness or not in a 45-60 minute interview, but if you go into the discussion trying to discern whether your interview participants understand themselves – a little bit, a lot, at all – it will only help you to make decisions on who could be a good leader for your team. 

Maybe the Most Useful Podcast Episode Ever (For Leaders)

I’ve listened to this episode of The Knowledge Project 3 times now and I’m pretty sure I’ll listen to it once a quarter going forward.

This is probably the most useful work-related podcast I’ve listened to (and I’ve listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts). This is highly relevant for you if:

  • You’re leading in a highly complex (even chaotic) environment
  • You’re leading a team that is growing
  • If you’re responsible for hiring great talent
  • If you’re committed to building a great culture in your company
  • If you’re trying to get better as a leader

The key insight is really kind of obvious, but comes across clearly here: We’re not actually rationale beings, that what we’re experiencing may be driven more by what we *feel* vs what is actually happening. Our own brains make up stories about what’s happening and why and these stories – the narratives we fit our experiences into so they make sense to us – get in the way of true clarity about what’s really occurring and how we interpret the experience.

Jeff Hunter (of Talentism) is a guy that’s been talking to, hiring and coaching top leaders for years. He’s got deep experience making hard choices and he, in a way, unloads a lot of it in this talk. I’m specifically interested in his experiences at Bridgewater, Ray Dalio’s investment firm.

Hunter makes a persuasive case that we should embrace the confusion we feel when things get don’t go as planned and we should see confusion as a sign that we’re in a position to learn. We should be examining the gap between what we expected to happen vs what actually happened and seek to understand our assumptions and our knowledge gaps.

Finally, this whole podcast is worth it for three things:

  • How to avoid telling yourself the wrong story about performance (beyond avoiding negative self talk)
  • How to give better constructive feedback
  • How to get smarter about the hires you make

Background: Shane Parish has been inspiring me via his Farnham Street platform where he focuses on tools that help you make decisions, better. I love the mission, and for years he’s been providing a ton of great resources for leaders. His curiosity is on display in every interview and he might be the perfect guy for this interview.

Don’t Blame the McKinsey Messenger

What Problem Were You Trying to Solve When You Hired The Consultants?

(warning: this is a hot take).

I want to stand up and cheer for this series of posts from Zeus Jones, but i kind of also want to call BS. I agree with 90% but think they’re setting up the wrong strawman.

Who wants to be the one defending the classic management consulting firms? Not me, but to a certain degree, any professional service provider who’s talking to a client about “digital” or innovation (or the related work) is a management consultant. Including my firm and Zeus Jones. 

I don’t think management consulting is going away. We get hired to provide external perspective, experience-informed recommendations, and to shine the light on the right problems to solve. We provide short term support to get our clients through complex issues where a different perspective can actually create clarity.

I completely agree that the problem is cultural, that there’s something glitched in the DNA of most companies, and they won’t accept the injections from great consulting firms like Zeus Jones.

I also believe that every organization will need to be more adaptable, open, creative, empathetic, collaborative, etc. Whatever, but yes to working differently.

I love the framework of Imagination and Ingenuity. it works on a lot of really smart levels, and every company would benefit from both. It’s the really smart, swaggery, controversy-baiting thought leadership that great firms like Zeus are known for. It’s not dissimilar to the kind of thought leadership that gets companies like Ideo, Redscout, Frog Design hired. To consult with leaders. To solve problems and change their businesses. You know: Consultants to management.

But, let’s focus on the core problem: Leadership and the courage to play the long game. Consultants get hired by good, smart people to help them make hard decisions. If those decisions don’t lead to the right outcomes that’s probably because someone made the wrong decision and/or the execution fell apart.

I think the real villain is the concept of “Maximize shareholder value on a quarter by quarter basis” and i think the evil assistant is probably private equity (which drives orgs to forsake long term investments in favor of doubling down on “now”). And, then throw in unbelievable executive compensation formulas  that front loads options and equity.

I’ll be thinking about this series of articles for a while, which is exactly what the provocative folks at Zeus wanted!

Interim Talent: “Test and Learn” Comes to Your Talent Mix

We’re building Fahren to be a leadership solutions company. We want to become a key partner for organizations that are differentiating themselves by investing in  and – yes – innovating in the ways they deploy their leadership talent.

One of the planks of our business plan is to focus on Interim roles in key leadership positions: Director/VP of Marketing, Product Leadership, Analytics, and User Experience.

We think “Interim Leader of X” is a tool that most organizations haven’t fully embraced yet. We’re advocates for the idea of using interim roles as a way to test & learn with your talent. You’re already using a test & learn approach in your marketing, your technology, and your product development efforts, why not approach your leadership team with the same model?

It Can’t Be Business as Usual

When most organizations are faced with an opening, they move quickly to refill the same seat with a standard leadership profile. It’s the “business as usual” approach, because everyone is busy and there are plans to deliver, right? So, they default to standard roles, generic job descriptions, templated profiles.

But, we believe most organizations are missing an opportunity to evolve either the “seat” (i.e. the role that’s being played in the organization) or the player profile (i.e. the mix of skills/experience/potential that the person brings to the seat). Most organizations would benefit a lot from taking the time to ask themselves: Is this still the right “seat”? And, do we still want to fill it with the same kind of player?

Why the rethink? Without a doubt, the business context will have changed in the months or years since the seat was designed. We believe organizations need to be as responsive, fluid and adaptive as their products these days, so it’s wise to rethink aspects of the role:

  • Responsibilities: What objectives are we pursuing with this role? Are we pointing the role at the right business problems? Are we being aggressive enough?
  • Level: Is it still a Director level role? Should it be a VP role? Could it be a manager?
  • Commitment: Is it really full-time?
  • Span of Control: Do we have the right teams reporting to this role? Could we expand the span of control?

And, at the same time, it’s wise to rethink the player profile:

  • Skill mix – What leadership competencies are they bringing to the role?
  • Developmental Experiences – What kinds of experiences should the player have? Startup experience? Big company? Turnaround? “Good to Great”?
  • Culture Impact – How will you use the role to add to the culture (vs merely being a “fit”)

The Interim Opportunity: Test and Learn for Talent

As the pace of business accelerates, we’re seeing a lot of organizations embrace an agile (and Agile), iterative, test/learn approach to driving better results. We’re seeing it marketing, in product development, in technology teams, etc. But, we’re not yet seeing it on the talent side.

We see “interim” roles as being the way organizations can take a test & learn approach to their organizational efforts. An interim role that last 6-12 months gives organizations a chance to explore how key roles can evolve and how teams can work differently. The cycle looks similar to a market-test:

  • Develop a hypothesis – How either the seat can evolve or the different leadership mix you need from the player
  • Define a test – Redefine the seat or the player and create the test period (usually 6-12 months)
  • Run the test – Put the new player into the role for 6-12 months
  • Analyze the results – Review in-market results and team performance. Talk with the team, the leader, the rest of the leadership team, customers, vendors, partners, etc.
  • Apply – Use the learnings to finalize the new role or the new leadership profile and then fill the role permanently

At Fahren, we expect to see more and more organizations using Interim roles as a way to test and learn their way to a more effective leadership mix. We’re setting up our business to help our partners get there via:

  • Strategy & Advisory services – We’ll help you map out a new strategy and define the roles you need to get there
  • Interim Talent – We’ll help you find and onboard the Interim leadership you need to keep driving results while learning about the talent mix that can take you to the next level
  • Executive Search – When you know what you need and you want to fill the role permanently, we can help you conduct an efficient, effective search