Thursday, September 27, 2012

Only A Few Are Champions

Rick 'Doc' Walker was the keynote speaker at a recent Comcast event I attended at Redskins' FedEx Field. Fans may remember Walker as one the HOGS, or more recently as a champion for research and cure of Muscular Dystrophy, Cystic Fibrosis, Alzheimer’s, and Arthritis (he does an ESPN 980 radio show “2-4 weekdays” as he will cheerfully tell you).

Doc is a loud, practical, 'from-the-heart' insightful speaker – he ask the room of 100+ people at the event to raise a hand if they ever won acknowledgment as a champion (while not so subtlety flashing his Superbowl ring) – a couple of people put a hand up.
He asked the room to look around at how many raised a hand.

Next he asked for a hand by anyone winning first place – the group saw a few more hands go up. Walker then ask for a hand by anyone who won second place – more hands. He had everyone put their hands down.

Doc's last question was for everyone in the room to raise a hand if they had NOT won as champion, first or second place – I estimate at least 90% of the room now had their hand in the air.

He ask us to look around the room and recognize that, even for a group of successful and accomplished people (Doc said “ I know you are successful and accomplished – otherwise you Comcast would not have invited you to attend today!”) only a small few of very talented people win champion, first, or second place. As with the response in our room, most of us do NOT achieve top honors.

Those folks are special and it requires hard work, drive, commitment, and constantly developing and improving skills – just to get into the competition. To be recognized as a winner requires being even better than the others you are competing against and getting the results sought.

The profound – but simple – point Doc Walker offered is this:
Being the best is not a right, nor is it a common, ordinary, or casual occurrence – this is very special, requires hard work, and deserves celebration when achieved.

Do you remember to celebrate success? Superbowl, Nobel Prize, landing the sale, Doers' innovation – all are significant and worth of acknowledgment and celebration.

Something new to celebrate - Check out Sales Lab Video! Tell us what you like!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Legend of Bagger Vance

I'm reading The Legend of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield (in the movie Will Smith plays Bagger and Matt Damon plays the golfer) which is about a mystic caddy and has-been golf champion. The story is told and retold over time and has become a legend. Within the community everyone knows about Bagger, his odd training exercises and far-ranging discussions to get golfer Junuh back into a champion's frame of mind.

What makes the story compelling is the novel approach by Bagger and the overcoming of adversity by Junuh to again become a champion. Legends are constructed from accomplishments.

We spend much time and effort to increase our knowledge, skills, and experience – our accomplishments – but are we doing anything to update our legend which chronicles these results?

As in the book, our legend grows by word-of-mouth in the community by people who know us and what we've achieved. Like asking a neighbor about which company to use for lawn service or to paint the house, a person's knowledge of your good points is conveyed by conversation but typically the story does not travel very far.

Today we have many tools to develop and disseminate our legend and increase visibility for our accomplishments, thoughts, and ideas. Social and professional media networks offer vehicles to create a personal and business profile in text, pictures, and video. Blogs and forums offer a platform for sharing your thoughts and ideas with others. The internet and search creates a permanent accessible repository of items related to you and your activities.

Writing a profile on networks like LinkedIn, Google Plus, Blogger, Twitter, GovLoop, and Facebook, gives you a public presence – routinely updating the profile gives you a public personality.

Does this seem like it would take a lot of your time, or that you are self-absorbed and just bragging about yourself? Neither is accurate – done right. You can easily keep your profile current with a consistent investment of about 10 minutes per week. You will be sharing information about capabilities, knowledge, and skills, not bragging about going to the mall or the symphony.

What is the worst comment to hear when vying for a project or a job? “I didn't know that you had experience in that area”

How do you feel about creating and updating your profile as a competitive edge?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Jobs of the Future

When speaking with a current job-seeker, she said “while I was working, the working world changed!” This seasoned individual is finding her specific experience is not of interest to employers in today's job market. With a dozen years in responsible internal analyst roles, what arcane experience and skills are being ignored by potential employers?

She was one of an army of analysts who collect data from a variety of sources, do basic analytics, and create reports of the results to send on to another section for further processing and analysis – the role might be viewed as an interim consolidator and analytic reporter.

I also spoke with a guy working on a maturing grant, his role is 'critical checker' – data comes from four unrelated databases, is consolidated on a spreadsheet, with three think-tank analysis units manually transferring the data to word processing or statical software, reports and attachments from the units are returned in a similarly uncoordinated format. The critical checker verifies the data to assure it is error-free after being moved to a different platform. Imagine, a manual check of massive data multiple times because of work-arounds in using the technology. He does this data check at every stage out and back!

Jobs that consist of simply moving paper, or checking the computer's addition are evaporating – they are being replaced by technology. Systems and software handle more of the intake, data consolidation, basic analytics, report generation, and distribution. New approaches, like Big Data and Splunk, permit consolidation of data from multiple sources and formats, and related tools make even complex analysis manageable for us mere mortals. Long ago, sponge divers experienced a similar realization as the technology of the cellulose sponge replaced the natural sponge.

The Doers' Theorem says a person must update their experience portfolio and technical knowledge every three years to keep up with the job market – things are changing that fast!

What does the job of the future look like?

  • It can not (yet) be done economically by computer or automation
  • It requires a physical presence to accomplish results
  • It adds value to the product or service produced
  • It requires judgment, knowledge, and interpretation as critical inputs
  • It embraces technology (not the equipment but how it is used) to achieve outcomes
  • It is eternally assessing improvement for faster, better, more accurate results requiring less resources
  • It directly satisfies the need or want of the customer/client, or is in direct support of the satisfaction thereof
  • It is dynamic, not static – if you are not improving, you are slipping behind.

For example, today this could include people working with their hands – carpenters, plumbers; with their presence – care givers, clinical specialists and doctors; with their creativity – programmers and artists; with their vision and decision-making – leaders, department heads; with their commitment – the inventor, entrepreneur; to name several.

In a role where you are adding value - from areas such as your knowledge, insight, creativity, relevant experience, ability to translate the theoretical into the executable, your persistence in pursuing results – you are in a stronger situation as jobs evolve.

But – nothing is stagnant – no longer can you graduate from school and stop learning, or just attend a workshop every couple of years – the New Normal is about the evolution of technology and working's about applying new tools to reduce resources and improve accuracy and acceptable quality. It's about collaboration and working independently as an individual (like the two characters in Makers).

If you trade your car for a newer model with style changes and improvements in performance every few years, why wouldn't you upgrade yourself as often – new skills, new experiences, new knowledge.

And, if you are doing all this work on improvement, don't overlook the opportunity to showcase the 'new you' – update your LinkedIn, GovLoop, and Google Plus profiles to let the world know!

Lead the change – don't be caught by it.

What's your take on 'jobs of the future'? Care to add to the list?

Monday, September 10, 2012

What Do Zig Ziglar, Harvey Mackay, and Dale Carnegie Have In Common – And How Can It Help YOU?

Zig , Harvey, and Dale contributed significantly to my professional development. How?

By telling stories to show the benefit of doing something a certain way.

Ziglar would talk about 'the Redhead' and 'Yazoo', Mississippi while weaving his lessons about listening and giving value.

Mackay would wrap his storytelling around applying the laws of human nature and making it easier to have a deep relationship with others.

Carnegie was the geek of the group and told 'why' stories – why, based on observation and research, doing it this way gets your desired result to happen smoothly.

These three gentlemen had a common theme: communication is about 80% listening, 10% talking, and 10% just being there quietly while the prospect connects the dots.

On the surface, their topic was about sales and the message was to learn and satisfy the buyer's needs. To see the true scope and range of their teachings, simply substitute 'relationship' for sales and 'friend' (or 'redhead') for buyer – these lessons work with people you care about at every level.

They each said it best in a quote captured for the ages:

  • Zig Ziglar: You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.
  • Harvey Mackay: A mediocre person tells. A good person explains. A superior person demonstrates. A great person inspires others to see for themselves.
  • Dale Carnegie: You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in the other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.

I'm all done with the 10% talking – now it's time for the 80% listening part – please share your thoughts.

How will this point of view help you?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Way to Go, Amazon!

I am an Amazon.Com customer - have been since Jeff Bezos launched it in 1995. It's still evolving as an innovative on-line commerce platform. They have initiated a socially responsible program worth noting.

Today my visit to the site opened with a letter from Jeff – about an investment in the future. He announced a focused scholarship program for their employees who want to change fields.

Scholarship programs are not new – many organizations and agencies have had them for years - but Amazon's is targeted to professions which are in critical demand in the country. Jeff describes the program:

We're announcing the Amazon Career Choice Program. Many of our fulfillment center employees will choose to build their careers at Amazon. For others, we're offering to pre-pay 95% of the cost of courses such as aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies, nursing, and many other fields - exclusively funding education only in areas that are well-paying and in high demand according to sources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and we fund those areas regardless of whether those skills are relevant to a career at Amazon.

Amazon's initiative contributes in a positive way to retraining individuals for needed roles in the country, and invests in their employees, even if the firm doesn't benefit directly.

Way to go, Jeff!

What other ways could organizations make a positive difference in the national or local economy?

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Connector – A Precious Resource

When I grew up, Gaithersburg was the last outpost before entering the Maryland farm belt; and boasted the county fair as well as a State Roads Equipment Depot. It was a close community where people knew each other (if I got into minor mischief, my mother knew about it and would be waiting when I got home to interrogate me about the particulars).

Although terms like 'connector' and 'matchmaker' (business, not love) were not used then, the storekeeper at Southern States (similar to a general store) or the barber could tell you who to see to get various projects done – or who may have a need for such projects. The response would be along the lines “if I needed that done, I'd go see Jack, and if he's busy then I'd ask Dick.”

It wasn't from a directory or the yellow pages (this was long before Angie's List and on-line vender sites) – the referral was from personal knowledge and conveyed a recommendation by the individual. As the community and business environment has changed over time, we have almost lost those knowledgeable and trusted personal referrals / recommendations. Almost.

Dick and I met just such an individual this week - Jacob Shoval. He knows the Rockville and Montgomery County, MD communities intimately – we think of him as the unofficial mayor of Rockville – as well as what's happening in the close-in region of MD-DC-VA.

During our meeting with Jacob, he offered a half dozen referrals of individuals wrestling with business issues, discussed new innovative ways to use social media and the internet to inform and educate, and spoke about the emergence of local professional development presentations taking place in national technology retail stores. Wow – it's like he builds a hillside while we watch, and now invites us to hop on the skateboard to enjoy it!

He is a matchmaker reminiscent of the old storekeeper tradition – all the more impressive because of its uniqueness today.

An interesting thing about connectors – they invest time to meet and get to know others, they give their knowledge freely, and they are superstars in their 'day job' – they are successful personally, but are a valuable resource contributing to the success of the community as well. A connector personifies Zig Zigular's famous quote: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
Do you know any connectors in your community or agency? If not, how would you find this precious resource?