Four Roundtrips in one week?
Yep. And I came away with at least on travel tale to tell.
Most of the time I want my flights to be uneventful, but this was a good kinda flying event. I got onto a puddle jumper from Portland to Seattle (my third round trip of the week) and the flight attendant mentioned to someone that it was just her second day on the job. Her trainer got on next and started to help her get organized. After that another guy got on that I recognized from somewhere – but I could not place him. It looked like he was going to get into the jump seat in the cockpit. I realized that the was the CEO and President of the airline (Horizon Air) and was taking this flight back to his home in Seattle. Can you imagine being on your second day on the job and having the CEO show up on your flight? He was very gracious though, and in fact I overheard him tell a story of how he had dumped a salad all over a businessman in first class early on in his career.

This got me to thinking about the power that a CEO has whenever he/she at work. I think of it like this: if you were to run into a celebrity on the street, say Tom Cruise, you might be star struck, perhaps asking for an autograph or something. But you would not really worry about your actions in front of the celebrity – it’s not like they could fire you or ruin your life. If you ran into your CEO while on the job though, it is like that celebrity magnified. You would probably not want to appear stupid in front of him/her at a minimum, and might even do your best to ingratiate yourself to the CEO. This is the constant environment for most CEO’s while on the job (except when they are facing the press and their board when the tables are turned). It is no wonder so many CEO’s have huge egos. In fact, it is amazing that there are some that manage to act like normal human beings. Imagine walking through the doors to your office/workplace and having everyone try to cater to your needs, please you in some way, or compliment you on your work. Hard to have that not go to your head.

Not that it would be an easy job- it just must be difficult to keep any sort of rational perspective.

Personal Record for Demos
Okay, perhaps today was my personal record for customer contacts. I had two presentations at one customer today – one was a survey (asking them questions) and the other was a demonstration (to a separate group). While on site I had to step out to do a survey with another company by phone. When I got home at 1PM I did another customer call (followup and demo). So that is four in one day. Kinda crazy. But I didn’t have to get on an airplane, and had dinner with the gang.

Slowing down for Thanksgiving
Finally got back from my travels this week – went all over the place in Northern California. My trip included a stop in Davis where I went to UC. I decided to see a friend from High School, Dion W. along with her Husband Curt and three kids. It was a nice break from work – fun to catch up with old friends. We talked about life with kids, relationships and the future.

This week should be slower – I shouldn’t have to get on a plane next week at all! The following week will be crazy though – Seattle, Portland, Nor Cal, Portland and finally back to Seattle.

Flying to California
On the way to California for a series of demos in Northern California. I have started a new thing for my internal blog at PeopleSoft (there is a guy at corp who has set up a few blogs for some of the geeks) called “David’s Hero of the Week”. It is where I give recognition to those people who help me do my job better, and there are a ton of them. I am enjoying putting the positive energy into recognizing others efforts on my behalf. It helps me remember that there are people on the other side of those emails/IM’s/postings that I see every day in my work.

Another Busy Week…
Another busy week coming up – fly out tonight and return on Thursday PM. Travel wears me a little thin this time of year. I am looking forward to a few days off during Thanksgiving. We will spend the Holidays here in Portland with Meta’s family.

Crazy busy

This time of year is exceptionally busy for me – the end of the fiscal year means lots of deals coming to a head at the same time. I typically am travelling 3-4 days a week, often in a different state every day. It kinda reminds me of the harvest in my last career as a winemaker. In reality I was never an actual winemaker although I hold a degree in Enology from UCDavis. I was always a “Cellar Rat” working the equipment in the cellar. The harvest was known as “Crush” in the wineries and it was phenonmenally busy. I would typically work 10-14 hours per day (or night) and 6-7 days a week. It only lasted around 2 months (one month of really long hours and one month of fairly high), but those experiences taught me how to make the push through a busy time. So in some ways the Sales cycle seems pretty tame in comparison.

Virtual Meetings

Yesterday I had a meeting with a customer and we were video networked with participants in Vancouver Canada and London, England from Redwood Shores California. It took a good 30 minutes to work out all the kinks in the system, but we did get it all up and running. Compared with the futuristic visions of “Virtual Meetings” it really did not feel like the remote participants were fully included. They had a computer projection of what was displayed on my laptop, along with a video and audio feed of what was going on in the room, but I have a feeling the experience on the other end was entirely different than being in the room.

I have often wondered what it will be like to have virtual meetings in the future. Ray Kurzweil’s book “The Age of Spiritual Machines” has lots of visions of what the technology will enable, but I am not convinced yet that a virtual meeting can ever match a face to face. I realize that eventually our 5 senses will be hard pressed to tell the difference between real and virtual people, but I wonder if those senses alone are all that are touched in meeting with another person. In many ways, I think that the development of virtual reality that match reality in every aspect (touch, taste, smell, sound and visual senses) will show us that there is more to the world than our 5 senses can perceive. What will be missing? Only time will tell.

Latest Readings Continued.

One of the best books I have read recently is “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. Collins and a research team put together a set of companies that went from merely “Good” (at or below market performance for over 15 years) to “Great” (at least 3x market performance over 15 years) and analyzed what caused the transition. Many of their findings are surprising and give indications of how to make similar changes in other Good companies.

The biggest piece is around leadership, but the type of leadership required is not the kind so popular with the media. It is not huge egos and charismatic leaders that really make a company Great, but rather leaders who are humble and incredibly focused on the success of the company, not just themselves. These leaders are defined as “Level 5” leaders, which sounds like a silly term, but makes sense in the context of the book. These leaders look beyond thier personal goals to the larger goals of the company. They take blame for things that go wrong and they give credit for a majority of their successes to other people in the company. They often believe that they are just plain “lucky”. This certainly goes against the type of leadership that gets press today.

I particularly liked the concept of the humble leader. It fits well with my quasi-Buddhist beliefs that it is our intentions that matter most. A leader that holds the goals of the company as the most important thing and sees him/herself as subservient to that goal can be very successful.

Now of course, this begs the question of whether one should put the goals of any company (even if you are CEO/Founder) ahead of your personal goals. Where do family and friends fally in this equation? Can building a great capitalist icon really satisfy the soul? Even so, I find the idea of a humble leader very compelling.