Life is somewhat like a puzzle, and being able to see the picture with the fewest number of pieces can be extremely powerful. Patterns are everywhere! Taking risks, helping others, being helped by others, success and failure, and above all – trying to have a positive impact have shaped who I am and what I believe.
My background started out technical (software developer, systems analyst, database administrator, technical consultant) and grew into management and management consulting, and then transitioned to sales. It has been an interesting journey. Over time I became the go-to person to handle a crisis situation, which created visibility and enhanced my reputation. While I was an expert on a few technologies and processes, what really drove my career forward was the ability to translate understanding from an area I knew well to a new area that I needed to learn quickly.
My personal focus is on continuous improvement, analysis, experimentation, and using lessons learned to get repeatable and scalable results. I like learning new things and often find that lessons learned in one area transfer to other unrelated areas. While some posts and topics may seem tangential there is usually a relevant connection to a larger concept.
Back in early 2011 myself and 15 other members of the Executive Team at Ingres (later became Actian) were meeting regarding the future of the company. I was the first “Geo Lead” selected to present on the financial performance and projections of my region. My presentation contained an unexpected extra slide discussing the barriers to our success, which created quite a stir. The next day and a half were spent looking at a better path forward, which led to a shift to creating an Analytics Platform and the relaunch of our company.
We knew that we needed to do something big and bold, and decided to build what we thought would be the standard data platform in 5-7 years. It was an experience that I am proud to have been a part of. The next few years exposed me larger scale strategy and execution activities, including M&A and integrating different and sometimes competing business units.
Prior to that, I owned a consulting company (Comprehensive Solutions) that provided innovative, high-visibility, and mission-critical service offerings to several F1000 organizations. We had an amazing team that was always focused on raising the bar while lifting each other up. In the early 2000s, the power of the Internet helped a small company appear to be larger than it really was. That perception opened the door to some incredible opportunities and experiences, and my team and I did many amazing things.
Our success funded several medical research projects. Those projects helped launch a couple of Physician’s careers as well as create new medical protocols that continue to help people today. I had the privilege of meeting and working with some of the most brilliant people in medicine, and participating in activities that would normally exclude someone like me who lacked a medical background.
It is easy to take ownership of something, but there is a certain detachment required in order to really understand it and then honestly evaluate the success of your efforts. That level of detachment lets you make the best decisions while being focused on the best interests and outcomes for whatever that something is. It also requires trust that your team is focused on the right goals and doing the right things.
I have referred to this as Egoless Ownership. It doesn’t mean that you do not care about something, but rather:
- It implies that you care enough to see what is happening even when it does not align with the intended outcome.
- You can acknowledge problems or faults without becoming defensive. This is key to making corrections on the fly and ultimately achieving your goal.
No matter what I am doing or whatever role I am performing, I still view life from the perspective of a Consultant. A little bit of detachment and looking at things from different perspectives can lead to useful insights. The trick is helping others understand as well – something that goes beyond communication and explanation. That is often the biggest challenge.
It helps when everyone is focused on the same goal and the same vision of success. That makes the desired outcome tangible at an emotional level, which is needed to create the change required to do great things.
Compare and contrast with what you know, and research what you don’t know. Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions*. And, don’t be tricked by an arrogant bully posing as a confident expert. All valuable lessons learned.
* I once asked a team of people, “So what’s the big deal with having to shut down a nuclear reactor?” when I was brought in to find and fix a software bug that needed to be identified and fixed within the next 12 hours, or else an East Coast Nuclear Power Plant would have been required to shut down one of their nuclear reactors. It turns out this is roughly a 30-day process and while that is occurring there is the potential to overload the entire power grid system in the U.S. The situation was more precarious than I would have anticipated walking into the facility that morning.
I’m sure they had the feeling of impending doom based on my naive (to them) question, but once I really understood the criticality of the problem I was able to organize very focused activities for the entire team. We found and fixed the problem within a few hours, tested the fix, filled out a ton of forms, and the emergency patch went in that evening. Problem averted and lesson learned.
Consulting really helped me understand the importance of simple concepts, such as how to identify, prioritize, and focus on the things that matter the most. Simplification of complex problems and issues tends to be a good way to filter out the noise and understand root causes as well as identify the “switches and levers” to move to create an immediate impact. Execution matters.
To learn more about my background please see my LinkedIn Profile.
“Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.” – Terry Pratchett
Thank you for visiting, and I look forward to your comments and feedback!
And now for the obligatory disclaimer: My statements, opinions, and beliefs are mine and mine alone, and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else. Please note that all original works are Copyright (c) 2013-2020 Chip Nickolett.