Archive | September, 2012

Roots

22 Sep

“The roots of my raising run deep.” – Merle Haggard

I confess that I am a middle-class white kid from a small town with two parents that are still married and love me very much. This isn’t a great start for an “up by your own bootstraps” kind of life story. I am not my own sculptor. There were – and are – many people heavily invested in shaping the person that I am.

All of this was brought into focus yesterday as we kicked off the fall edition of the Housley Principled Leadership Program. I learn so much from teaching. The first class attempts to increase self-awareness by exploring the familial sources of the most marked characteristics of our personalities. Here are mine.

Extreme Work Ethic – My paternal grandfather was a welder that built many of the buildings that make up the Houston skyline and later in life ran his own shop until he was physically unable. My other grandfather ran the dairy farm where I grew up. Up at 4:00am seven days a week, he set a very visible example of what it means to truly toil. From drilling rigs in high school and full-time graveyard work in college to managing hotels and management consulting, 70 to 80 hour, six-day work weeks have been normal for me for thirty years. A 60-hour week feels like a vacation. If you are not comfortable with that pace, you can thank my grandfathers.

Academic Excellence – At report card time, a “B” has always been completely unacceptable. I received the gift of high academic expectations from my grandmothers. In a highly unusual coincidence for young women in the 1920s and 1930s, both of them went to college and one of them went on to teach alongside my mother for close to thirty years. I know that the fact that I did not follow her to the Rice Institute broke her heart. This probably compels me to study even more. So when my kids accuse me of going all “crazy Asian mom” on them about their grades, they can blame my grandmothers.

Responsibility & Reliability – My father has three boys. As the oldest, I watched him work to provide for us kids very early in his career. He taught me that any job worth doing is worth doing well. He is a stickler and a perfectionist when it comes to follow through. He used the word “half-assed” to describe the results of most of my chores and then invited me to do them over and over until his standards were met. I soon learned to do it right the first time. Accepting responsibility and then reliably delivering on commitments with excellence is a lesson I learned from my dad.

Fun & Adventurous Spirit – With fifteen or so siblings in my grandparent’s generation all centered in the same small town, the family tree had exploded by the time my many cousins and I were coming of age. Family get-togethers often had over 100 people. My mother was a force of love and fun in these events. As a teacher she also had the habit of throwing us all in the station wagon and traveling across the country every summer. The explorer and adventurer in me comes from my mother. The desire to have fun and create meaningful relationships while working hard is the result of the “work hard, play hard” ethos that permeated my early life. Thanks Mom!

We are all products of our raising. Mine included tremendous advantages. There is no such thing as a “self-made man.” The roots of my raising run deep. These examples give me the strength that I need.

Kalypsonian of the Year

10 Sep

I get a lot of email. On rare occasions, I get an email that has a meaningful impact on my life.

Seven years ago a former colleague of mine sent me such an email. It was a short note referring his younger cousin as a potential candidate for our new and growing innovation consulting firm. She didn’t have much to offer in the way of relevant business experience, but my friend assured me that she had a strong character and was willing to work hard to make a difference. We needed help, and she didn’t make much money, so we took a chance and offered her a job.

We’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years. Hiring Pamela Soin is not one of them. She joined the team as a smart, inexperienced young lady a couple of years out of college and quickly made herself indispensable. In the intervening years we have traveled the world together, serving clients in exciting cities like Seoul, Sydney, San Diego, Amsterdam and even Appleton, Wisconsin. We have shared a lot of laughs, a lot of love, and more than a few tears.

Watching her grow into an accomplished professional advisor with personal eminence and business stature has been one the great privileges of my career. Some moments in life create indelible memories. My repertoire of stories from a twenty-year career in consulting is pretty large. Pam is the principal actor in many of the best and funniest stories I have in my collection. She is one of the original Kalypso “characters with character”.

The Kalypsonian of the Year award is reserved each year for the team member that embodies the ideals of the Kalypso consultant; that leader behind the leader that demonstrates a healthy lack of respect for hierarchy and positional authority. Pamela Soin believes that innovation combined with action can change the world for the better. She is passionate about what she does and knows how to have fun at work – and after. Most importantly, she genuinely cares about the success of her colleagues and goes to extraordinary lengths to help them. Pam is a true professional and a personal role model for us all.

After seven years I am honored to call her a colleague, a friend, and our 2012 Kalypsonian of the Year.

KARMA

8 Sep

In late August of 2005 a small band of characters gathered in Austin, Texas to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the founding of their innovation consulting firm. Kalypso had just completed its first year and we were still alive. We were an ambitious bunch with dreams of changing the world and the consulting industry. In reality, we had no idea what we were doing. We weren’t making much money, but we were certainly having fun.

This weekend we are celebrating our eighth year of craziness at Kalypso’s KARMA 2012 in Washington, DC. We have moved from the capital of Texas to the capital of the United States. (Some would say that is a step down.) There are 130 people here from countries all over the world and the energy and enthusiasm is infectious. The Kalypso Difference is on display as our work hard, play hard mantra is put to the test. The two major political party conventions have nothing on this event. I’d vote for us.

What is KARMA? Well, karma is what you make it. For me, Kalypso’s KARMA is a celebration of our shared values, a recommitment to our mission of delivering on the promise of innovation, and an opportunity to spend some quality time with our colleagues and closest friends. I love every minute of it.

The story of Kalypso is the story of its people. The annual human histogram at KARMA highlights the dynamic growth of the firm and is a source of tremendous pride in the accomplishments and development of our team. We celebrate promotions, recognize success, and announce the recipient of the coveted “Kalypsonian of the Year” award. Who will it be this year?

KARMA is still what you make it. This year we are making it bigger and better than ever. We continue our quest to change the world and the industry is taking note. Let your voice be heard. Vote Kalypso!

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