Allison J. Taylor

Leadership inspiration for professionals who appreciate life-long learning infused with sarcasm and wit. Silicon Valley consultant Allison J. Taylor curates intelligent conversations that illuminate fresh points of view across business, technology, communications, and management. Time-pressed execs can get informed and inspired in under 60 minutes.

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In Part II of our fourth episode, we continue a fascinating executive conversation with Andrew Chrostowski, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of RealWear, a company engineering industrial wearable headsets for connected workers. He shares real-life lessons from his experience managing complex systems and data-led teams. In this second half of our conversation (check out Part I ), we consider how engineering, science and technical teams are like any other in their need for superb people management. We evaluate the role of values in company culture and models Andrew has used in his extensive leadership experiences. Human leadership includes staying present to bring your best to your team, as Andrew and Allison also discuss. Today’s repeat guest is Andrew Chrostowski, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of RealWear, to continue our Part 1  conversation. He shares lessons learned through managing complex systems and teams, both in the military and private sector. Our conversation begins with instilling values in a team, some which come from the leader while others come from the team. From there, we dive into Andrew’s pyramid approach to scale, involving team, systems, and discipline. Some important takeaways from our discussion include hiring “fire prevention specialists,” not “firefighters,” how the game of golf mirrors the problem-solving and rewards of real life, and how presence of mind factors into problem-solving, performance, and people management. Tune in for all this from today’s interesting conversation.

May 25

27 min 39 sec

Welcome to the fourth episode of our LIFT podcast! Allison identifies how skilled leaders approach systems complexity and the fundamental role people play solving problems successfully. She is joined by Andrew Chrostowski, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of RealWear, a tech company making hands-free industrial head-mounted wearable headsets for safe connected workers. He discusses how he applies systems thinking from his background in leadership and problem-solving both in the military and private sector. RealWear is the industry leader for powerful, voice-operated headset computers, their flagship product being the HMT-1, an industrial hands-free knowledge transfer platform for frontline workers. With experience in the Air Force, as a research physicist, and as a business leader, too, Andrew has an extensive understanding about the relationship between complex systems and the role of people within them. Our conversation starts with a sketch of Andrew’s career and education, where he shares different scenarios that helped him gain the perspectives on systems thinking he shares today. From there, we dive into some important takeaways about the importance of humans in increasingly automated systems, why complex problems cannot be solved with simple solutions, how to build systems that tolerate failure, how to include your team in the development of company culture, and navigating employees with different strengths to align them to a common goal. Other golden nuggets describe the importance of the presence of mind in leadership, applying the “rule of five” to building resilient systems, and how to use the “pyramid of trust” to scale an organization. Tune in for all this and a whole lot more from today’s enlightening conversation. Key Points from This Episode: A brief introduction to Andrew’s company, RealWear, and its HMT-1, a wearable tablet for remote frontline workers. A window into Andrew’s background in the Air Force, as a physicist, and as a CEO. How Andrew has applied systems thinking from his background to leadership and problem-solving. Why complex problems cannot be solved using simple solutions. How to apply systems thinking to product portfolio management by starting with the initial goal. The rise of automation and the importance of the human element in delivering outstanding systems. Systems diagnostics techniques to solve complex problems. Managing risk tolerance and how it relates to failure tolerance in the context of organizations. Defining resilient ways of failing by setting up a structured experimental framework. Using the “rule of five” to solve problems and build more resilient organizations. Using the “trust triangle” that promotes a team-based, solution-oriented, and data-driven culture. Drilling down on values like ethics and authenticity. Instilling values in a team, some which come from the leader while others come from the team. Leading Amidst Complexity – Andrew Chrostowski Guest Biography: Andrew Chrostowski is a senior executive with deep experience in developing teams and strategies that enable innovation, growth, and profitability improvements. As an NACD Certified Director, Qualified Technology Executive and a founding executive member of the Digital Directors Network, he strives to improve board performance and digital governance excellence. Andrew has a passion for the art and science of value creation and embraces demanding business challenges to deliver results across the spectrum from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies. He is recognized for using world-class techniques to overcome complex technical, marketing, and customer-driven challenges, bringing the proof to the bottom line. Tweetables: “Everyone sees the simple result and wants to flip a switch and fix it, but in reality, there's a whole bunch of things that have to be looked at in totality in order to give that system resilience to operate in whatever condition we're trying to design it for.” — @AndrewChros [0:07:55] “My epiphany, if you will, of leadership really came down to the idea that all technical problems begin with the human element. How well people are working together.” — @AndrewChros [0:10:16] “A 70% solution today is better than a 100-% solution six months from now.” — @AndrewChros [0:21:00] “Risk management is where it all begins and ends. People don't realize that risk is not always bad. Risk gets you reward.” — @allisonthought [00:15:47] “A lot of times I’m brought into teams to work on communication skills just as a side effect of trying to achieve a project. We can see the communications is what is holding up the project. I think so many people do not realize that a huge part of communication is listening.”— @allisonthought [0:24:22] “A CEO is a steward with a ‘do the right thing’ mentality.” — @allisonthought [0:25:04] Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode: Thought Marketing — Thought Marketing email — Andrew Chrostowski on LinkedIn Andrew Chrostowski on Twitter RealWear    

Apr 6

31 min 9 sec

Succeeding in a World of Risk with Bob Zukis Podcast Episode 03: Show Notes Welcome to the third episode of our LIFT podcast! Allison discusses problem-solving our way through this pressing global situation, as systems have failed us and we need to reinvent at scale. She is joined by Bob Zukis, co-author of The Great Reboot and a former PwC Advisory Partner, who shares pragmatic models for this important work ahead of us. We’re all born into a world that already has many systems in place but, frankly, they could all use an overhaul. The year 2020 offers that reinvention moment, but how? In this episode, we face head-on the simultaneous global change at scale and speak with co-author of a book that is aptly titled THE GREAT REBOOT: Succeeding in a World of Catastrophic Risk and Opportunity.  We discuss the optimistic focus on a typically negative topic like risk, systems, and digital transformation during COVID, as well as cybersecurity, and practical frameworks to serve as digitally savvy board members. Bob shares his perspective on diversity, shaping the digital agenda in the corporate boardroom, and the role that CIOs and CISOs play in preserving and protecting value. Tune in today!  Key Points From This Episode: Bob shares a quick summary of his background. What led Bob and his co-authors to write THE GREAT REBOOTduring the pandemic. Allison’s views that we can have an optimistic focus on opportunity within a typically negative topic like risk. How Bob views systems and the need to understand the complexity within those systems. The DIRECTOR model, how it relates to understanding the complex digital business system. A universal model for how a company uses their IT environment to create and protect value. How COVID is driving digital transformation, and technology as operational excellence. The long-overdue appreciation for digital systems and IT professionals during the pandemic. RISCX fits within the DIRECTOR framework as the identifiers of risk within that framework. Advice for those looking to rebuild their companies with systems in mind – be a systems thinker, understand the risk, and capitalize on systemic change. The importance of embedding a systems thinking mindset at the leadership level. Cybersecurity from the perspective of systems thinkers and board members. What skill sets boards need to understand the complexity of the digital world they oversee. How the Digital Directors Network is training CIOs and CISOs to take board seats, because companies need digitally savvy directors. The need for more women technology leaders in the corporate boardroom. Bob’s recommendation for executives running a technology company – be actively involved in shaping the digital agenda in the corporate boardroom. CIOs and CISOs need to talk about value and understand their board’s view on value. Succeeding in a World of Risk – Bob Zukis Guest Biography: Bob Zukis is the CEO of Digital Directors Network and a leading advocate for digital diversity in the corporate boardroom. Bob is also passionate about strategic thinking, cybersecurity and managing risk with diverse board advisors. In addition, Bob is an Adjunct Professor at the USC Marshall School of Business, where he teaches strategy, structured problem-solving, as well as corporate governance.  Tweetables: “The system, the world has become very complex, and we've made it complex because it needs to serve a very diverse collection of needs and wants. That complexity isn't necessarily bad, but we haven't done a good enough job to understand the complexity within the system that we've built.” — @BobZukis [0:07:28]   “Great systems thinkers naturally see the world as a collection of component parts that they have to manage, and understand, and optimize to create a value proposition.” — @BobZukis [0:22:51]   “If we want to change the world, we need to get more women technology leaders, specifically more women who are technology leaders, into the corporate boardroom. If you want to reboot the world, that’s how we’re going to do it.” — @BobZukis [0:34:24]   No matter your circumstance, there’s always something you can do with the right mindset. — @allisonthought [0:5:58]   There’s been so much conversation around the term digital transformation, which is unfortunate, because it is a thing. It is real. It does drive value. It’s just that it’s been over-marketed. — @allisonthought [0:14:25]   At the end of the day, you need a process and organizational change to adapt technology. — @allisonthought [0:18:19] Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode: Thought Marketing — Thought Marketing email — Santa Clara University Women’s Corporate Board Readiness Program Digital Directors Network THE GREAT REBOOT The Great Reboot Blue Ocean Strategy How Women Will Save The Future, One Corporate Board at a Time    

Aug 2020

41 min 18 sec

Welcome to the second episode of LIFT podcast!  On today’s episode, Allison is joined by global researcher Cheri Anderson of the Values and Lifestyles Program (VALS) from Menlo Park, California, to unravel motives and their impact on everything from building a business to positioning a product. Based on her 25-year experience applying research findings to a variety of sectors from Nigeria to Japan, Cheri reveals the connection between self-image and VALs personality types to explain why some technologies are readily accepted and others miss the mark. Allison and Cheri contrast longstanding academic theories with today’s business realities to consider novel approaches to marketing, sales, and product design. Learn common mistakes to avoid when trying to analyze customer needs, and what it means to be a rebel, trendy or an achiever and how that impacts motivations and buying decisions. Dig deeper into understanding your customers and gain the rewards of meeting their “invisible” needs. For all these incredibly rich insights, join us today!      Key Points From This Episode: Why viewing customers from a psychological standpoint is important for business leaders. How motives affect customers and business leaders alike. The difference between motives and psychographics. The role that motives play in decision making. How tech executives are different from executives in other industry sectors. How trendy and traditional are two sides of the same coin. Some insights into the dynamic computer buying group. Where differentiation can be found when looking at people types. How motives and self-image are linked. Some of the common mistakes when thinking about motives in the business world. Why it’s not enough to ask direct questions to uncover motives. How to identify different groups of people according to their motives. What competitive substitution is and why it is important.   Digging Deep on Motives to Meet Your Customer’s “Invisible” Needs - Cheri Anderson  Guest Biography: Cheri Anderson helps organizations worldwide to make decisions that depend on how populations will respond to new products, services, and policy initiatives. Whether the decision relates to a new consumer-electronics gadget, a service, or even efforts to encourage green lifestyles or responsible citizenship, Cheri brings big-data-based insights about different types of people and the attitudes and behaviors they exhibit, and how they are likely to respond. In her role as Global Director of Research for Strategic Business Insights' VALS service, she's aided advertisers, broadcasters and TV makers; nonprofits and governments; automotive industries, real-estate developers and many more. Her findings are backed by surveys she conducts of populations of multiple countries, using algorithms that segment a population into groups that have distinct psychologies. Strategic Business Insights (SBI) is an employee-owned SRI International spin-off. VALS is a practice group of SBI.       Tweetables: “There are two aspects to conforming; you can conform by being traditional, or you can conform by being trendy.” — Cheri Anderson [0:06:30] “The computer buyer is like a moving target. Who is this person?” — Cheri Anderson [0:11:36] “The reason you're looking at motives and these forces is because that's where the rich rewards lie, and you need that context.” — Allison J Taylor [0:30:28] “You can't know what the competitive substitute is unless you really know what's driving the behavior.” — Cheri Anderson [0:18:50] “Where is the crack in the egg? Where do I see the differentiation that I need to follow up for my next product design?” — Cheri Anderson [0:14:41.9] “We are all pretty fractured. You've got the part of yourself who you think you are. You have the part of yourself who other people expect you to be.” — Cheri Anderson [0:16:49.4] “You’ll find risk-taking in unexpected pockets.” — Cheri Anderson [0:17:50]  “To be trendy is essentially an imitative position.”— Cheri Anderson [0:08:13.2] “People tend to think that trendy and traditional are opposites in terms of the core force. They actually cohere and come together. Both are forces of belonging.” Cheri Anderson [0:06:16.2] “When you're doing whatever marketing you're doing, you really have to think about what's moving and what's not moving.” Cheri Anderson [0:11:39.3] “Self-image is how someone sees themselves and conversely, a mirror, how other people see them.” Cheri Anderson [0:15:38.9] “Some motives might be wanting to be safe and secure in a decision they make.” — Allison J. Taylor [0:05:07] “All of us are doing PhDs on a daily basis, in terms of keeping up with the technology trends and the business trends simultaneously, and having to go deep into that and come back up.” Allison J. Taylor [0:12:02.1] “In the personality type, you want to look for the things that don't change.” Allison J. Taylor [0:13:37.7]   Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode: VALS - Thought Marketing — Thought Marketing email —   Additional Information: To contact Cheri Anderson, contact us at: VALS Survey (including ability to take the survey): Case Studies from a VALS Perspective:  

Feb 2020

32 min 56 sec

Welcome to the inaugural Lift podcast! Today we chat with Matt Abrahams, a lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the founder of BoldEcho. Matt and Allison are both passionate about strategic communications, and today discuss exactly that -- what do we mean when we say someone is a "great communicator” and how can leaders use some simple guidelines to increase their emotive communications success? We outline three fundamental steps towards more action-driven interactions, whether between a group or just two individuals and add stories from our collective experiences as coaches to executive teams. Find out what karaoke-time storytelling means, how to handle suddenly short presentations, and whether messages can be iterative, as you listen to veterans in the field share their insights. Please join us on today’s episode!    Key Points From This Episode:  What does it mean to be a great communicator?  The importance of listening and audience centricity.  Understanding the fail fast model with regards to communication.  The criteria for assessing successful communication.   Altering communication according to your audience and their biases.   Leveraging stories and reaching for a higher level to bridge across audience types.  One-on-one communication and directive-driven interactions.   Clarity and definition in important messages.  Leading a conversation or using questions and imagination scenarios.  Considering time constraints in any scenario.   How further upskill if you’re already an advanced and sophisticated communicator.   And much more!    Tweetables:  “It’s about empathy, it’s really about doing the appropriate amount of reconnaissance and reflection in advance of the communication.” — Matt Abrahams  "I think communication is about listening, slowing down and listening, not just literally, but to all the kinds of subtexts that are happening." — Allison J. Taylor  “To me, it really boils down to the ability to synthesize a lot of information, make it accessible, really emotionally connect to your audience, to motivate them.” — Matt Abrahams "What makes or breaks communication is one-on-one direction and priority setting." — Allison J. Taylor  “What I found is, it’s very helpful to be crisp in an outcome you’re looking for.” — Allison J. Taylor  "In business organizations, it's important not to lose sight of why a person is in a particular role and what that role is supposed to bring, or we misconstrue what the role is supposed to be. It's coaching employees to help them understand their roles." — Allison J. Taylor  “Really, to me, the three criteria are again, information, emotion and action.” — Matt Abrahams     Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:  Matt Abrahams —    Speaking Up Without Freaking Out —  Allison J. Taylor – BoldEcho –  

Apr 2019

31 min