Three Words for 2013

Chris Brogan put together a post by the same title, and has apparently done so for several years; I figure, “hey, it’s worth a shot!”.

Think of three words that sum up what you want to work actionably on changing/improving in the coming year. [. . .] The idea is to look deeper than a single goal and try to give you an entire mindset to contemplate. The Heath Brothers in their book, Switch, talked about needing three elements to bring about change: a rider (your plans and intents), the elephant (what your mood will do no matter what your plans say), and the path (the environment within which you intend to implement those changes). The concept of the three words is like the path. Think of a word that gives you the HUGE picture, not the small picture.

Here’s my choices. I mostly focused on professional goals rather than personal ones in my descriptions, though these can apply equally to each:

Reinvent
Take what is well-established and elevate it to the next level. Look at what is around me and use the materials I have to turn it into something more usable and efficient. Create an environment where reinvention is the norm, and expected.

Listen
Irony is being hearing impaired, knowing the value and the necessity of truly listening to people, but not consistently putting that to practice and making a personal, conscious effort to make sure that needs are heard and understood. This could be a permanent word for me, since it will never be perfect or quite right. However, this year, I want to practice, specifically, listening to users and listening to major stakeholders.

Unreserved
This particular word selection is a bit of a battle between “Unreserved” and “Outspoken”. There was an article in Network World recently that resonated with me:

Jason Clark, Chief Security and Strategy Officer for Websense

Advice: “If you are not putting your job on the line, you are not doing your job.”

When I first started my security career, one of my early mentors stressed the importance of voicing my opinion. This especially applies in the security industry, where we have to stay ahead of the bad guys. It proved to be an important foundation for my career and has contributed to my continued success.

I was employed by a company that acquired part of another very large company. During the acquisition, I had to stand up to the other CIO when we disagreed on how to merge the two businesses from a security perspective. The other CIO wanted us to take a substantial amount of risk. I stood my ground. He said that my company needed the deal more than his company — and escalated the issue to my CEO.

Next thing I know, my CEO is talking to the other CEO, and both my CEO and CIO backed my strategy. I was initially worried that I rocked the boat. In the end, I was praised for standing my ground.

I learned that to do your job, you have to stand up for what you believe in — even if it’s an unpopular decision. Just make sure it’s always aligned with your company’s morals, needs and strategy.

— “IT pros reveal the best career advice they ever received”
Network World

This dovetails well with what I’ve been trying to do in my work life – push what can sometimes be an unpopular opinion or question because I want to be sure that the business has that question answered or that opinion registered so that it can perform its work. This is particularly true in my product management work, where I try to push the edges of the application out further in order to provide users with a more robust and data-rich environment to work in.

I will try to review this regularly; these are not necessarily fixed words, either. The word or the rationale may shift slightly over the year.