Monthly Archives: June 2014

Forming, storming, norming, storming, norming….

Courtesy John Fowler CCLately, I’ve been thinking about Bruce Tuckman’s model of how groups develop:


The idea is that first groups form.   Forming is when everyone gets to know each other and starts to understand the capabilities, goals, and gaps.

Then they storm.  Storming is the natural friction that arises as a team is coming together and people bring all their previous preferences, skills, and styles into the group and drop them in a big, messy pile.

After that, teams norm.  That is, the members figure out how they will work together to get things done, and learn how to communicate.

Only after those stages can a team perform.

It’s a cool model, and one that I think holds up pretty well even 50+ years later.  I definitely saw it in practice at Dell.  Once when I built a team from scratch, hiring quickly, and again when I returned from maternity leave to a team that had doubled in size.

What’s funny about it at a startup, though, is that it can feel like we’re in the “Storming” and “Norming” stages repeatedly.  It’s not that we’re not performing – we are! – but the team composition changes so quickly that we need to keep evolving how we work together.

When I joined Infinio, it was about the same time as a Director of Demand Generation joined.  We’ve all been focused together in Marketing to get a working model of how we do things.

  • Fast forward two months, and Scott Davis joins as our CTO.  Not an official member of Marketing, but a huge influence on the company and the messaging.  OK, so we figure that out.
  • Fast forward a few more weeks, and Matt joins my team.  Here we go again

At a startup it’s just all happening too fast to ever really “norm” – “norming” just has to include adjusting for new members and configurations on a constant basis, rather than having that trigger the entire process all over again.

Cornucopia of social media

Over at I Tech Therefore I Am, Matt talks about how he decides where to post what kind of content.  It’s an interesting analysis of how to manage a single human being through the lens of different audiences.

On a micro(blogging) scale, I’ve been thinking about the same things – when do I post something on Twitter, when Facebook, and when LinkedIn.

Originally, it was simple.  I put things related to work on Twitter and things related to my personal life on Facebook.  I didn’t post anything to LinkedIn, save an ill-conceived week when I copied my Twitter feed to LinkedIn.

Then I started sharing more of my personality on Twitter – articles I thought were interesting, pictures of babyDiva, other items that rounded out @storageDiva to be more personal.

When I started to look for a job, I wanted to be more active on LinkedIn, so many of the items I posted on Twitter I also posted on LinkedIn.  I didn’t post totally personal things on LinkedIn – like photos – but I did post articles of technical interest.

(And I’ll pause here for a second to say that if it weren’t for Buffer none of this would work. They make it so easy to manage all of this!!  In fact, in their live #bufferchat I shared my favorite productivity apps:


Every morning, I get my news from Feedly, I syndicate things I think are interesting through Buffer, and I save longer reads for later with Pocket.)

Anyway, back to my strategy.  When I was at Dell, I was maniacal about keeping Facebook private – I didn’t friend my friends at work, and I didn’t post much about Dell.  Now I feel a little different about that, and I syndicate this blog on all three platforms.  Plus, I’m tiring a little of Facebook – too many ads, and too much curation of my News Feed.

All of this is to say, it feels good to have a system and a strategy.  And I think I am figuring out what the right stuff is to put where.  I hit the Buffer button, and for each article, picture, etc., choose which social networks it belongs on.  This blog, however, has been challenging for exactly this reason.  I do send it to all three channels, although the people I know through each channel are very different audiences.

  • Facebook is everyone from high school acquaintances and camp friends I barely remember to cousins and my mother.
  • LinkedIn is people I know professionally.
  • Twitter is a weird mix of those two, plus people I meet randomly in the twittersphere, and the only place where I know some people online before I know them in real life.  It’s where I post most Infinio stuff, too.

So “know your audience” is not helpful – I do know it, and it’s too broad to find a lot of what I post relevant.  I feel good about the tweets and articles I put through these three channels, but I know it’s not working as well for this blog.


Girl on a Bus

Last week I was on the #43 bus headed home and a friendly woman sat down next to me.

“Oh, that’s a great book. Are you liking it?”

None of that is remarkable, except that I was reading The Lean Startup and she worked in sales for a software startup. So we had a lot in common.

“I do like it,” I said. “Coming from a big company, I’m finding it really helpful to understand why we sometimes make certain decisions.”

She started to rattle off several other books she really liked, all of which I need to add to my business reading list.

Decisive (which she described as a book that helped you learn how to make good long-term decisions)


Great by Choice

She shared a concept from the last book that I really liked – that Jim Collins explains that before shooting a cannonball, gunners would shoot a bullet. It’s less expensive than a cannonball but tells you you are looking in the right direction. You can do that in business too, release a limited version of your product, or release to a limited audience, so you can calibrate if you are in the right place.

I’m almost done with Lean Startup (which I’ll review here soon) and that cannonball concept seemed like a cool extension of the ideas from that book.

This woman’s stop came up before mine, and we didn’t exchange cards, but maybe we’ll have a chance to talk again on the #43 bus.

Figuring it out myself in my head in a dark room alone.

When I was in grad school (nearly 10 years ago now), one of my courses was called “Learning to Lead.”  It was a practical course on leadership and management that spanned throughout the entire 18-month program alongside more traditional courses on product development, finance, and engineering methodologies.

In Learning to Lead I and II, students learn the basic concepts about leadership, management and teamwork. The uniqueness of this course is within the teaching methodology, which has been developed to accelerate the advancement of self-awareness and interpersonal competencies. Specific topics covered in Learning to Lead 1 include: personality types (Myers-Briggs type indicator assessment), best practices in forming and maintaining team performance, giving and receiving feedback, individual and team creativity, communicating to inspire and influencing without authority. Topics in Learning to Lead II include systems thinking, team decision making, communication across cultures, shared visions and organizational change.

We often took assessments to determine our styles and preferences, because that self-awareness is central to leading well.  One of the assessments we took was about learning styles, through the Center for Creative Leadership.  This assessment evaluated what tactics I used when I was learning something new.

  • Accessing other people
  • Taking Action
  • Thinking
Center for Creative Leadership model of Learning Tactics.  Taken from Amazon book preview.

Center for Creative Leadership model of Learning Tactics. Taken from Amazon book preview.

I thought of these as: Asking for help, Figuring it out hands-on, Figuring it out myself in my head in a dark room alone.

And as it turned out, I never, ever, asked for help.  I occasionally tried to figure it out out hands-on, and I nearly always tried to figure it out myself in my head in a dark room alone.  In retrospect, it wasn’t super-surprising: being trained as a mathematician, it’s often about just sitting in a room and figuring it out.

But when I learned this, the moment I had was “OMG, everyone else is working together and asking each other for help, and here I am trying to whack through everything alone.  I’m missing out!”  In fact, I remember thinking that everyone else had this advantage toward their succeeding that I was ignoring: relying on each other.  Mathematician or not, how did I miss this in school?

And thus began a change in how I tried to approach problems and learning.  I started asking people at work for help, for their opinion, to explain things to me.  And it was great!  My colleagues didn’t even seem to notice that I was any different, and I was getting more help.  But it was always deliberate.  I had to think hard about reaching out to collaborate with people.

Fast forward to my start at Infinio.  New environment, new tasks, lots to learn.  In some areas, it’s felt very natural to ask for help.  In other areas, specifically content creation, it’s been harder to access others.  There’ve been a few projects where I’ve shown Alan some of my work, and just 20 minutes with him has made it twice as good as when I started. I don’t know why that’s so hard to do every time.

It’s not that I don’t want the feedback.  Part of it may be that I have the idea that having the level of experience I have means that my work should be pretty complete when I do it on my own.  Which of course is ridiculous – even the greatest authors have great editors.

I think it boils down to the fact that I’m neither inclined nor trained to access others and I will always need to work to ensure that I’m doing it.

Heading right out of my comfort zone

Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone is in my head today, except the words are changed:

Heading right out of my comfort zone

Heading right out of my comfort zone

A few weeks ago I was at a party explaining to people how I knew the host, a professional singer.  One of the things I explained was that when she was studying for her masters in vocal pedagogy, I was her “sample student.”  I went into her class and demonstrated techniques and a vocal piece she had taught me.

“Weren’t you nervous?”

“Not really, I don’t really get nervous.”

And I don’t.  Not usually.  I sang a cappella in college which is pretty much the best way to develop a thick skin around public speaking.  Since then my career has often involved speaking at conferences and webinars, so I’m pretty used to it.

I’m also pretty used to demoing things.  When I sold EqualLogic, I’d drive around with one in my trunk, and the sales process involved hauling it out onto a conference table at customer sites and demonstrating how quick and easy it was to initialize and configure.  Over time, I also demoed different software packages that came with EqualLogic.

Three months into my time at Infinio I am starting to demo our product, Accelerator.  Twice last week I demoed the interface, and today I did a multi-customer demo of the installation too.

And yikes.  I was nervous.  I think it’s the tools that trip me up.  To do this demo I needed:

  • VDI Client
  • VPN Client (to practice at home)
  • Remote Desktop
  • VMware vCenter
  • Workload Generator
  • GoToMeeting
  • Already-running version of Infinio

I don’t use these every day.  For the life of me I couldn’t even figure out how to delete a virtual machine, which is a basic operation.  (For the record, it’s more hidden in the Web Client, which I was using.)

I wasn’t nervous about the demo itself, or speaking on the demo/webcast, but I was really nervous about getting everything else to work together, including switching between applications on my Mac when all my muscle memory is for Windows.

This is me out of my comfort zone.  Messaging docs, sales enablement, market research, herding cats, pitch decks, whitepapers, webinars, seminars.  That’s my comfort zone.  This stuff, not so much.

And you know what happened on the live demo?  A major technical glitch that totally messed me up!  Something that made me have to re-unzip a file live and swizzle the order of the webinar to accommodate how long that took.  The sky didn’t fall down, customers didn’t hang up on me, and I made it through to the other side.

“Do one thing every day that scares you,” said Eleanor Roosevelt.  Check.