Category Archives: corporate culture

Freelancing – From Fear To Freedom

As someone who has worked on a full-time basis for the past 25 way too many years, the idea of moving into a “full-time freelancer” mindset brought on a full-blown case of the FUDs (otherwise known as Fear / Uncertainty / Doubt for the uninitiated).

While I have worked on some small part-time freelance projects over the years (mostly in-between “permanent” positions) I never really considered going down this route on a full-time basis until recently. Working for companies both large and small offered me benefits, perks, and platinum statuses that (at the time) I couldn’t ever imagined going without. (To be honest, there was, once upon a time, something to be said for receiving that “extra” level of priority treatment from hotel, airline, and car-rental chains.)

At the same time, I also found myself stuck in a seemingly never-ending cycle of drafting & delivering multiple status reports, attending multiple (and IMHO, redundant) staff & team meetings that cut into a large portion of my working hours, and soul-crushing commuting cycles (both daily and weekly) that put a lot of strain & stress on my personal and family life.

After spending a couple of decades at corporate powerhouses, I decided to reposition myself as a freelance consultant, specializing in digital & content management, process management, & social collaboration. This took place at the same time that my wife and I relocated from the northern Virginia suburbs, to the Judean hills outside Jerusalem. Working as a freelancer, I no longer waste time worry about the daily drudge that came from commuting, meetings, and redundant reporting. I now have the opportunity to control my schedule, my projects, and my career.

Do I miss my above-mentioned corporate perks? Not really; the truth is, you can ask for (and usually get) the same level of treatment even without the latest platinum upgrade, etc. The trade-off is, of course, that I now find myself a much happier (and productive) individual thanks to my new status. Working in most corporate frameworks (with cultures ranging from traditionally stodgy to cutting-edge start-up), share at the very least one thing in common: Your boss / team lead / manager will take you for granted, expect you to comply with their directives, and will treat your input & opinion (assuming they even ask for it) as just so much white noise to be ignored. However, as a freelance consultant I am seen as the go-to guy, the subject matter advisor whose experience and advice are truly valued by my clients. Addressing (and fulfilling) their needs on time, on (or under) budget, and with quality results has been fulfilling, in both personal & financial terms.

My favorite scenarios generally involve working with my clients to identify and address their content & information needs, from planning how to bring their strategic initiatives from Powerpoint slides to functional and technical designs that will result in fully usable solutions. I also enjoy being able to help assist my clients in terms of selecting & assembling the best fits in terms of technology, applications, and architecture. With the right level of investigation, discovery, and scoping, I can present my clients with designs that address both their short and long-term needs. In these scenarios, experience and seniority really pays off; two decades of experience in the field, planning & deploying these kinds of leading-edge solutions across multiple projects for a wide variety of clients, allow me the ability to speak with well-earned expertise.

Does this all mean that freelancing is the perfect solution for everyone? Absolutely not. There are way too many stories out there about people whose experiences included encountering the negatives associated with this approach. The fact is, quite simply, that there is no approach out there which will ever fully address all contingencies, issues, and potential pitfalls. Working on a freelance basis means that you need to exert quite a bit of effort in terms of planning, in order to keep your “pipeline” of incoming work properly flowing. You need to accept that, even with this kind of planning in place, you may still find yourself in a “feast or famine” scenario. It’s just the nature of the business.

 

 

To Tell The Truth…

My wife loves sharing the story of how she told her daughter, when she was a toddler, that a black spot would appear on her forehead any time she told a lie.  It wasn’t long before she would find herself facing a precocious four year-old, with one hand plastered across her brow, telling her that she did pick up her books and games, all while standing in the midst of a pile covering the playroom floor.

How to spot a liar (source: WSJ)

Too bad adults don’t have that easy a time discerning when people are being less than truthful in face-to-face situations, but there are still “tells” or other clues which are apparent enough to the trained observer.  However, what about when your only contact with another person is via email or social media?   How do you know then the difference between fact and fiction?  This article from today’s WSJ makes for some interesting reading, and shares some key insights:

“In the office and elsewhere, many relationships begin on email and remain that way for years. So it’s critical to have tools to help evaluate whether the person on the other end of a digital communication might be lying.”

“Research shows people tend to be suspicious of information they receive online but override their suspicions and trust the information anyway. Experts call this our ‘truth bias.'”

Full article can be found here.

Dandelions and Lessons Learned

Robert D. Austin, Dean of the Faculty of Business at the University of New Brunswick, explains in this video how Danish software tester Specialisterne maintains a diverse and productive workforce. The “dandelion metaphor” he shares is a great way to explain the “lessons learned” in a context that can be easily understood.

Back in the late 90’s, Steve Jobs redefined Apple via “Think Different”:

In the documentary “One Last Thing” (2011) Jobs stated that people needed to “shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it…”

In my humble opinion, we need to make recognizing this a priority; “Being Different” no longer needs to be seen as an automatic impediment to succeeding in both life and career. Rather, we need to treat different perceptions as a positive value that, if anything, offers additional rewards and opportunities for all.

Empowering Employees, via Social Collaboration

Social collaboration among colleagues, when embraced across all levels and functions, brings with it the opportunity to positively transform corporate culture, with the impacts being felt from boardroom to break room and everywhere in-between. That said, like any corporate initiative, this type of engagement requires leadership to overcome any institutional disconnects and truly “walk the walk”… not just “talk the talk.”  Via HR Bartender:

social media, infographic, employee, The Social Employee, engagement, corporate culture, McGraw Hill“Employees understand the power of social and expect it to be a part of their personal and professional lives. The infographic (click to enlarge) is based upon research in the book, “The Social Employee” by Cheryl Burgess and Mark Burgess. It offers best practices from companies like IBM, Dell, and Cisco on creating a social organizational culture.”

Read more of the original article here.