Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Captain Dangerous

The other day at the next marina, there was a 32-foot cabin cruiser attempting to tie up to the dock. The captain was having a difficult time bringing the boat near the dock – very entertaining for the observers in our marina.

First, the boat was aiming at the dock on an angle instead being parallel to it – and it was coming too fast stop before running into the dock. The captain reversed the props and shoved the throttle to full power, jerking the boat in the opposite direction (toward our marina's dock). The captain then jammed the transmission into forward and again pushed the throttle to the max – the boat came to a sudden stop, then jumped forward quickly gaining speed, so the captain jerked the wheel which took the boat out into the channel.

The two marinas were temporarily safe, but boat traffic in the channel was now in peril. Captain Dangerous spun the wheel, reversed the transmission yet again, and went to full throttle again. Now he was traveling backwards in a U toward boats in the channel that had stopped to give him room to maneuver. He did another spin, shift, full power cycle and was now going 180 degrees from the original direction, heading toward moored boats in the marina.

For the next 20 minutes he continued these maneuvers with no better results, stopped traffic in the channel, and threatened several marinas in the area. Finally got close enough that a dock hand could toss a line to boat and he pulled the boat into the dock (first mate was almost pulled out of the boat before the captain thought to cut the engines).

It takes skill and planning to 'drive' a boat – and plenty of practice to do it well. Moves are deliberate, changing paths are anticipated well in advance and made gradually.

As I was watching Captain D from one of the boats at risk in the channel, I realized how similar captaining a boat is to leading an organization.

A leader should have a vision of the outcome, steadily move toward the goal, make deliberate changes when appropriate, and learn from experience (good or bad) to become a better leader.

Failing to do this may entertain outsiders, while putting the organization and others at risk.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Posthumous Goal

A commercial on TV: the young boy walked up to home plate on an empty ball field with his bat, a ball, and a smile as he was prattling on about the world's best hitter.

He settles in at the plate and, with one more verse of world's best hitter, tosses the ball into the air. After the swish of a haymaker swing and no thunk of the bat, he looks down to see the ball lying quietly at his feet.

Undaunted, still smiling, the boy again settles at the plate, recites world's best hitter again, tosses up the ball, takes his swing. When he looked down, there's the ball at his feet once again. His smile fading with each attempt, he tries several more times - unsuccessfully - to hit the ball, his world's best hitter becoming less enthusiastic with each miss.

With a 0 for many tries record, the boy's face is set in a frown, clearly disappointed, and his head is hung – then it snaps up, the smile is back, and he steps back up to the plate to take his stance. With a megawatt smile, he tosses the ball up while saying the world's greatest pitcher.

A posthumous goal offers some feel-good for the boy, but it creates a detrimental result in other situations.

A manager says just do your best for the project output but adds 10% more to 'goal' when critiquing the disappointing project results.

Or, a project is due by the end of the week, but at noon on Thursday, the supervisor says he wants it by the end of the day.

A goal communicates intent. What does a posthumous goal accomplish?

The Doer- A Key To Lasting Achievement

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Twenty, Two, and One

We are experiencing a time of change - big change, fast change – in business, employment, markets, government. No new news here.

The nature of a job has changed as well...what do you do each day now?

How about this for a model:

20 sits (meetings) per month – to learn, share, sell, or get;

2 blog posts per week – writing aids learning – publishing increases visibility;

1 anchor event per month – a place to learn, show what you know, get connected, be visible (and available)and hand out nametags, recruit membership, or present.

By the end of each day, make progress on achieving your goals.

Rainmaker – 300 seconds of new possibilities

Friday, November 8, 2013

Self Reliance

The trend toward self reliance is growing in velocity and scope. This post is highlights of the shift that is becoming increasingly clear.

As I recall, we were taught at a young age to rely on others instead of ourselves – back in the old days:
  • parents set our limits and standards
  • teachers enforced the rules – insisted that we color within the lines
  • professors picked what we read, how we interpret it, and what to apply – to get our grade
  • employers specify the 'one right way' – thank you Frederick Taylor
  • community and peers guide how we conduct ourselves, even what we do for leisure activities.

We were indoctrinated to seek 'experts' for many things:
  • web designers for our public face
  • programmers to recreate the paper version in bits and bites
  • mechanic to decode and fix the car
  • doctors to 'fix' our health and ailments.

The paradox is while relying (depending?) on all these external elements, when doing leisure-time projects we benefited so much from hands-on learning and how to do it better from the mistakes.

Experience with my first soapbox derby racer showed me what to do differently next time (and next year's version was better and faster):
  • grease the wheels
  • boxy front is slower (air resistance), raked front cuts through the resistance better
  • adding weight equals slower speed – a steering wheel is cool, but a couple of ropes does the job at a third of the weight.

The experience taught me a process I've relied on since then:
concept > design > build > test > refine > deliver. I also learned to think beyond the specific goal to see how the external elements affect the project.

Individuals have found that large organizations, private and public, are not the safe fortresses we once thought them to be – missions are outdated, size is costly, jobs are replaced by technology, short-term management vision cause long-term negative effects, and many are dying, a shadow of past greatness, or gone – e.g., General Motors and Hostess Brands (twinkies).
If we cannot rely on the stalwarts of the past, what now? Many people have a fragile hope that they can exist in this situation, or could locate a similar role in a different organization. Following this dream is like the watering hole on the plains of Africa during a drought – each day the opportunity shrinks and there's no rain in sight.

More and more individuals are changing their approach, investing greater reliance on themselves instead of external entities. Indicators of the trend and the growing availability of powerful creative tools for individuals to use include:
  • greater involvement in DIY (do it yourself) activities
  • an explosion of entrepreneurs and kitchen-table ventures
  • more individuals working for themselves or collaborating with others
  • greater participation in your healthcare and being responsible for own health
  • chips became more powerful, so doing sophisticated things with your computer, tablet, smartphone became easier (not expert needed) – even 3D printing from your home computer
  • access to knowledge is virtually unlimited from the internet – now we are mastering filtering of information (rather than where to find it) and reading multiple authors with varying viewpoints for validation
  • blogging is personal publishing and has expanded into a living resume for professional individuals
  • Google Plus is a powerful acquisition and communications tool to connect to the world

Not everyone will be a Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), or Sergey Brin and Larry Page (Google), but a significant number of people have taken off on their own. The interesting thing is, these self reliant trailblazers have better odds of success than the buyer of a PowerBall ticket has of winning the jackpot.

Want more about the new trend? Read Wikipedia - To Tell The Truth

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Bartender's Lesson In Finance

One of my favorite projects was 3½ months as the general manager of a country club while a search was under way for a new GM.

My goal was to improve the performance of the dining and grill rooms, increase diner volume, and grow revenue from this area of the club.

To record sales, each area had a terminal for the central a point of sale (POS) system. Each night after the club closed, the POS was closed out and reconciled. My first night, the bartender, who typically did the close out, helped me learn the process and printed the tape with details of the close, including the gross receipts for the day.

When we were done, I took the tape and asked his estimate of the gross receipts amount – he said he had no idea. I asked for his best guess – I showed him the amount...he was way off. The next night he was closer and after about a week he was within a few hundred dollars of the actual amount.

The next night, as I was locking up the club, the bartender did the close out and was waiting for me with a Cheshire cat smile – when I went to start the close, he was standing there holding the tape, with a hand over the gross receipts figure. His smile got bigger when he ASKED ME for an estimate of the receipts for the day! After a quick mental review, I told him the figure – it was within $75 of the actual amount.

I told the bartender that having an accurate feel for the receipts is important – the same is true for general costs as well. I gave him an estimate of the daily combined labor cost for servers, cooks, bartenders, and other dining staff – he immediately said – on Tuesday we don't even take in that much.

My turn to have a huge smile as he says that knowing costs and receipts gives him some tools to manage our operations better. How I ask? The bartender, standing a little taller, says we can have fewer staff on hand for the lighter days, or send them home early based on the diner volume – servers, cooks, and others. Also we could do some specials or deals to promote more activity on the light days.

He got it – make adjustments in the cost and revenue sides of the ledger to better balance operating results. By knowing how the receipts and costs relate, and honing his ability to accurately estimate the key figures, he became more valuable to the club.

With his new outlook, the bartender was making a greater impact on the club's bottom line and in a short time was promoted to a more responsible role (and more $$).

A lesson well learned and applied to get positive results.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Power of Appreciation

The other day I realized it is unusual for people to be told they are appreciated.

The revelation came about from my offering a compliment to the person responsible for the logistics of my meetings and events.

The comment was: people do not appreciate the effort required to have a perfect meeting – if it is done well no one notices; however if there's a glitch, it is glaringly obvious – and I thank you for creating perfection.

The recipient immediately sent an urgent response asking what had gone wrong and with assurance that any problem would be corrected immediately and it would not happen again.

Recognition for doing a great job of the logistics was so unusual that she heard the comment as a preamble to a complaint. I quickly said there's no complaint – just the opposite - I appreciated the work your team does to make everything ready before we walk through the door.

The response was memorable - oh, yes it does take a lot of work and care to create an experience that people take for granted, and you make such a good point about folks not taking the time to acknowledge when things go well. We appreciate that you are always complementary and appreciative of our efforts to support your events!

Have you noticed the reaction when you thank someone for their help – a smile; they stand a bit taller; they will replicate that action over and over again. The one I like a lot is the look of surprise followed by a big grin and a wave when I thank the crossing guard near the subway – a painless way to make someone's day.

The same principles apply to the people you work with (or for) and volunteer with as well. Ever tell your boss or your partner you appreciate him/her for _________ (fill in the blank as appropriate) – the reaction is priceless.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs (NCIS) is a master at expressing deserved appreciation – he acknowledges a good job to the individual but does so within earshot of their co-workers. The recipient almost floats off the floor with pride and satisfaction, and gets another good jolt when seeing the reaction of the coworkers. Do you think they are motivated to to do more good work – you bet they are!

Share your appreciation – catching someone doing good is effective mentoring when you shine a spotlight on it.

Give it a try – share what you find.

Rainmaker– 300 seconds of new possibilities

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Contingent Commitment

During the course of a month I go to several meeting and events which require advance registration (RSVP). I usually work the registration desk and find that between 20% to 40% are no shows – registered to come but do not make it.

Several people have shared their disappointment in the number of people who had indicated they were coming to their wedding, but did not show and did not even send a note of apology/explanation for their absence.

In recent post on a blog I follow, a fellow was gnashing his teeth about having taken a new job - he was starting on Monday - but late Friday he got an invitation for a second interview for his 'dream job' – what should I do, he whined.

When I ran the human resource function in my organizations, there was a small but growing trend of individuals who accepted our job offer and agreed to a start date, but did not show up – no call, no explanation – nothing except they did not make it – ever.

What is common in these four stories is that people committed to an action but a notable portion did not follow through on their commitment.

Why does this happen?

Of course there are unforeseen things that pop up last minute – boss calls an instant meeting, car overheats, kid emergency, spouse late to come home - the list goes on... This can certainly account for some of the no shows, but it does not account for the 'radio silence' in not contacting the host – even a “sorry I could not make it, something came up” shows more character than blowing off the failure to attend.

But what's the explanation for the rest to the group who did not have a personal crisis and still did not make it?

Is the idea that 'a person's word is their bond' not as valid or important today - don't make a promise you can't keep and always deliver on your promises is about personal integrity.

There now seems to be the 'contingent commitment' – it looks like a commitment but acts like a maybe. A pledge with an unstated 'except' – yes, I'll attend the event (except if I don't feel like it or something better comes along).

If someone consistently commits but does not follow through, how does that speak about their character? Would you trust them to be a key player on the team working on a high profile or critical project?

My comment back to the guy with a conflict between starting a new job and going to a second 'dream job' interview – “you committed to your new employer – show up to the job unless the employer has unilaterally changed the offer.”

Am I being too idealistic, expecting individuals to honor their word – or revise their commitment - for something as trivial as just another event? Have we gotten so busy and over-scheduled that it is acceptable to be casual about showing up?

Google + - Center of the Internet

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Changing Social Paradigm

The Web provided the pathways. The software provided the user with sophisticated tools and utilities. Social media – like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Twitter – provided the community and forum. All of which has contributed to far reaching change in the way we interact, conduct business, pursue careers, and entertain ourselves.

bitod (back in the old days) we were mostly a private people – we were limited by desire and opportunity in what information we shared with others – even the braggards and attention seekers had limited range on spreading their exploits. The notables and infamous receive greater exposure when the news media ignite their 15-minutes of fame.

bitod social interaction was predominately face-to-face, by telephone conversation, and through written letters.

bitod information about individuals was costly to collect and therefore was not freely shared – although bulk information about people was a salable commodity.

Along comes the ability to easily share information – among friends and family or in the business community – and the information about individuals exploded, becoming widely available, intentionally and inadvertantly.

Many found an advantage in creating a personal legend using LinkedIn to chronicle professional activities and accomplishments; or Facebook to develop an on-line personality mixing social and professional interest and exploits. This information is available for others to discover or the individual can point interested parties to it.

An alternative to traditional interaction is asynchronous written communication: instant message (IM) or text messaging. Using the phone keyboard one person can send a text message to another phone and the recipient can receive it immediately. Even though the message is a one-way send-receive process, the parties often carry on a 'conversation' of text messages going back and forth.

With the variety of communication alternatives now available, ranging from personal to impersonal, active to passive, engaging to transactional, the social paradigm – how we interact has been shaken up while being broadened dramatically.

People can share their most intimate thoughts and actions delivered in an impersonal way – by posting on-line.

Messaging is so handy and people are quite skilled in its special language as well as the speed of writing and sending, that they may be texting the person sitting next to them. Text rather than talk – indirect rather than direct is part of the shifting paradigm.

Others try with limited success to restrict personal information on-line and in social media sites, only to find it is elsewhere on the Net. A friend was shocked to learn that her name, age, address, and others in the household were readily available on-line from several sources, although she has been judicious about protecting such information.

During a presentation at Verisign earlier this year, Vint Cerf made the point that there is no privacy on the internet - it is a vast copy machine with no delete key. Any information about you can be found eventually.

How does this affect the new social paradigm? The common assumption is detailed information about the individual is available through social media and on the Web. The unspoken assumption is what is not readily available did not happen.

How does all this come together and how does it affect you?

You are profiled on the internet – your legend is a combination of what you have contributed directly – like your content on Google Plus, LinkedIn, and Facebook – and passive content that search engines and information aggregators discover.

Today a person interested in your background, accomplishments, and activities will research it on-line and use their own legend on the internet as a metric of the accuracy and completeness of your information.

For those of us in business – whether selling products/services, working in a role within an organization, or in a transition between roles – our collective profile is an important tool to increase our visibility and aid in our success. A strong showing aids in a winning contract, a promotion, or landing a new job; a weak showing can make it harder to reach your objective.

Personally I use LinkedIn as my address book and research tool for a person's career and accomplishments. I glance at Facebook content to get a broader sense of the individual. Google Plus is a running faucet of activities, thoughts, and alerts from people I find worth listening to about near and future innovation and change.

We each have a collective profile on the internet; it is important that you contribute and shape your content where able. That means working on your presence in the social media sites and publicizing your activities to be visible for search and information aggregators.

Writing a good profile (and updating it every 3-6 months) is an investment of your time and energy – but worth the results. Adding other content routinely to the site shows you are engaged and paints a vivid picture of your capabilities and interests. If not posting your own blog, commenting on others' posts increases your visibility, especially among your tribes – the people you know and others who may be interested in you.

Today's social paradigm is built on ready access to information about people and their activities and an array of methods to make contact, carry on conversations, and develop relationships.

Time has past to sit in wonder about how to engage social media for your benefit – your absence or 'in-name only' participation is not an answer.

Sales Lab Video Channel - Entertaining experience

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ideas in Action

When I was a lad, sodas were 10 cents from a vending machine. Not being fond of sweet carbonated drinks, I told friends that it would be great to have these machines dispense ice cold spring water in bottles. Of course they laughed at such a goofy idea.

My bottled water idea was a lark – just a dream – because there was no action or plan to develop it further.

Ideas without action are not a unique occurrence – this is the fate of most creative thought. Even if an idea is written down but introduced by “they should...” - it merely entertains your mind and does not create value unless you take action.

Think about it – how does innovation and knowledge create value? It comes from taking action on an idea, not just the idea alone, and applying it to get results.

Health care is changing radically due to the new law and supporting technology is evolving rapidly in response to its needs. The Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health and Google Glass Meetup got together this week to start a conversation about how to use the emerging technology of wearable information devices as a tool for providing better health care delivery.

Keith Montgomery, Executive Director of Center for Total Health, describes his organization's role as a place for conversations which lead to new ideas for improving health care. What I noticed is they are not looking for new science, they are looking to get patients to be healthier by doing what we know works.

Antonio Lugaldia, an organizer of the Google Glass Meetup group, demonstrated the glasses (which are equipped with a computer, camera, heads-up display, and internet access), and was just released to the developer community. The user can transmit what she sees and receive data and graphics on Google Glass heads-up display.

Center for Total Health and Google Glass Meetup brought together health care practitioners, consumers, and app developers to talk about needs and potential solutions using this technology. By the end of the evening, several possibilities had been identified – like the emergency room doctor who thought having the patient's information and vital signs available through while he was working could improve triage diagnosis and care delivery.

While this conversation might currently be similar to a boy telling his friends about vending bottled water, Center for Total Health, Google Glass Meetup and Google are committed to caring it forward to action – results – value.

The incentive for continuing to talk is the consumers and developers are sharing their needs and solutions – asking stakeholders what they need speeds up the development of useful solutions.

The larger conversation is how to change behavior of health care consumers and providers to improve patient outcomes. For example, technology can permit a patient to monitor their health and improvements from modifying their behavior.

Ideas are plentiful and worthless – action creates payoff.

Open Source Leadership – the new paradigm

Rainmaker 20 – The New Business Models

Traditional business models emphasized massive size or focused specialization.

The new business models use technology and global reach to create a smaller, efficient footprint.

Users now have access to events like Google I/O and to utilities that easily complete complex tasks.

Elements of the new business models:

  • Businesses are smaller – we don't need the throw weight of the past
  • Resources are not limited to local or regional access
  • Business structure changing from hierarchy to network
  • New projects now spend less time counting and more time building – collaborative resources reduce or eliminate the hire/train cycle
  • Architecture and security instead of command and control process.
  • Outsourced functions – e.g., delivery and warehousing – eliminate using internal resources for these functions
  • Not classroom training – open access groups share knowledge via forums, events, and blogs
  • Changes are more agile – in process and software – updates are launched as needed, instead of the next revision
  • Nanoscale changed the proof of concept phase of development – faster, cheaper

Keep the scope of projects to what can be done now and what is affordable now – add additional features and enhancements when you have customers and cash flow.

Google + - Center of the Internet

Why Blog?

Why blog?

When we asked folks at Blah, Blah, Blog and Blog Lab why they blog, here's a few of their answers:
  • The boss told me to
  • Recruiters will see me
  • I may make money by blogging
  • I am a writer, and therefore I blog
  • I have something to say and want to share it.

Whatever the reason, to get into blogging, the first step is reading a variety of blogs to see what others write about and how they say it. How would you have said the same thing? Could you make it better?

Ready to do it? Make a commitment to writing the blog – it's a discipline, not a whim.

How do I start? There are a variety of ways to begin: write a comment to a post in a blog you read; write a guest post on a blog; or just jump in and launch your own blog.

What's the format and style?
  • Short posts are more readable than writing a novel
  • Focus – a single thought for a post – if you have several thoughts to express, write several posts
  • Give it a great title – make people want to read the post
  • Size of the post is about 10 sentences/ 5 paragraphs
  • Make every sentence relevant to your point
  • Use your own voice to write the post – what's natural and best conveys your meaning...simple is better than flowery.

Where do I find topics? Everywhere – when you write a blog you are always looking for interesting items as topics – meetings, books, events, conversations... there's plenty of stimulus available for material.

How often should I post? Dick says a mature blog is six posts – write and post, don't save them up and dump them all at once. Writing once a week is fine – but be consistent in posting weekly. Want to do more? Twice per week is good. More is overkill – if you're on a roll, write the additional posts and hold them in draft until ready to release.

Final thought – how many blogs have you visited only to find the last post was six months back...post consistently.


Write and post a blog today!

Something of Value

Let's look at two situations:

A presenter, when asked if said she would make the program slides available to the meeting attendees said no offering this reason – this is my professional work and I will not give away my thoughts and insight.

Eric Raymond, wrote about the open source software model (he was instrumental in its development and expansion) and a confederation of volunteers wrote Apache – the program backbone of the internet – and he published it and distributed the book for free via the internet. (ten years later, ESR published it as a traditional book for sale).

Before the internet, information was metered out in dribs and drabs – a great sales technique - and it was considered a valuable 'gift' from the company contact. In contrast today, there is an incredible collection of articles, slides, white papers, videos, and other original materials available without restriction on the internet.

Something interesting has evolved from this 'free' availability of information.

The concern that if I give away the process or problem solutions, no one will buy help from me – and for some, reading a process on the internet is sufficient and they will use the information to craft their solution – no help needed, thanks!

Others will review the process but will seek out the originator for help to effect a solution to their situation – the resources may not be available internally or lack depth to be effective in developing modifications. Often, after implementing the original solution, a different problem is revealed which needs attention – who do you think will come to mind to address the new problem?

Chris Andersen decodes this internet model of providing value for free in the book Free: How Today's Smartest Businesses Profit by Giving Something for Nothing - give away something of value to win long-term customers.

As providers or consumers we are wrestling with a new value model – and are finding there are a number of new dimensions to the model. One thing seems plain, however; restricting access to knowledge is like swimming against the current – a lot of work and very little progress.
A definition – value is something that costs me little, but you can't buy it for any price – this really helps to put the topic into clear perspective.


There's a descriptive term which could result in more accurate communications: fixin'.

You are fixin' when you are not yet doing, are not yet planning to do, are not yet getting ready to do...you are almost ready to get ready to do something.

A classic example is when a family gathering is winding down. Departing family members are fixin' to leave when they get up and huddle by the front door but continue to talk. They are not leaving, not gathering coats, not corralling the kids – but they are almost ready to get ready to do so.

It's application to business, social, and volunteer situations are almost endless. Like: fixin' to write a blog; fixin' to get season tickets to the local playhouse; fixin' to get new members.

Greater use of the term would significantly increase understanding of the true status of activities or projects.

I've been fixin' to write about this topic for a while now. What are you fixin' to do?

Google + - Center of the Internet

Three Rings or the County Fair

  • The circus is all about activity and show.

  • The county fair is about mastery and creating...roll up the sleeves, do it better, excel – pies, pumpkins, sheep, and prize-winning cattle.

Which has the lasting impact on everyone involved?

Monday, June 10, 2013

It's All About the People

With the evolving efficiency of technology...

With the reliance on email...

With buying from submitted offers and proposals...

With the voicemail 'barrier' to talking directly...

It is easy to lose sight of:

It's the people, not the paper. A face-to-face visit beats a pile of paper to get the right result.

Getting the News

The New America Foundation hosted Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen to speak about the New Digital Age, sharing their views about the growing effect of the internet on individuals, nations, and the global community. One interesting topic was a forward look at where we will get news in the future.

When I was growing up, most of my friends' parents read two newspapers each day to get the news – this was before television; radio spotlighted Edward R. Morrow and Walter Cronkite, but mostly was 5-minutes of highlights on the hour.

Television entered the scene as 'moving picture newspapers', evolving to at least two broadcasts per evening – dinnertime and bedtime - with the news anchor reporting facts and offering a commentary view of the story. After a while, families dropped one newspaper, relying more on the broadcasts from ABC, CBS, NBC, and some local newscasts.

Cable added explosive growth in news programming with an emphasis on being 'first on the street' and digesting the story into soundbites. Quick and easy access to the distilled news was readily available all the time – an enticing alternative to spending time reading and watching the news.

Blogs have expanded the field even more – individuals share news, comments, and opinions on a wide variety of topics of current importance and have replaced paper and television sources for the connected community.

Recent events demonstrate the significance of individuals in the news process - phone camera images, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media updates are scooping other sources in 'getting to air' first.

Schmidt and Cohen prognosticated the changes will continue to morph, with individuals (amateur and professional) as the source of the 'on-the-scenes' instant coverage and the traditional news organizations offering verification and fact-checking of initial reporting.

Like deja vu, readers are again seeking multiple sources and drawing their own conclusions about what information to retain and discard. Traditional news sources are simply data points instead of the definitive source of news.

As in education, the developing skill is effective filtering of a growing volume of inputs; the result is knowledge and a goal is it's practical application (let's make something useful).

Save the Date

Nowdays there's a tool for this – an app for that – and web platforms for doing tasks that had required several people many hours to accomplish.

Meetup.com is a web-based system which takes the drudge out of holding an event. Load in a contact list and it takes just minutes to distribute an announcement of the event, send reminders, print check-in lists, and name tags. Attendees can register on-line and click to load the event info on their calendar.

Peter Corbett manages the monthly meetings of DC Tech Meetup with this platform for about 1,000 attendees. For this group, the Meetup site serves as a website with information about the group, events, pictures, and member profiles.

Corbett sets up meetings on Meetup 6-months or more in advance – at times some details are TBD (to be determined) – the regulars register and load the date on their calendar as a placeholder for the event (easy to update later when plans are final).

This method is handy for the event organizer – the date and known info is distributed to all, and the recipients can respond and click to update their calendar – simple and easy – fewer cracks for things to fall through in finalizing the event.

Isn't this more effective than an email asking you to save the date?

How to become wise in 5 minute increments –Rainmakers.

Brainstorming or A Scavenger Hunt

Michael Starobin – 1AU Global Media, LLC gave a brilliant presentation about creativity in leadership at the Leadership Breakfast of Maryland recently.

One question he asked: 'brainstorming' – is this a creative exercise?

And offered an observation: “it stinks.”

WOW! This is popular exercise for organizations – business and otherwise – all you need is a flip chart to record what the group is saying. The facilitator writes what's been said, sometimes asking for clarification.

Unfortunately, the initial results resemble a marching band that has no leader and no practice, so each member does their own thing. Chaos!

IF the group gets to problem solving, it is likely to be rushed in the final 30 minutes of the session and may not be addressing the real problems at all.

Years ago I was meeting with key managers about upgrading our network and computers and trying to figure how to get the biggest bang for the buck. Money was an issue (of course) but productivity was waning due to network/hardware failure. My brainstorming group was moving steadily to a three year phase-in of complete replacement, funded from cash flow, when another manager stuck her head in the door to see what we were up to. Hearing we were working on the problem of updating the network without sufficient funds, she asked if we had considered leasing the software/hardware.

BOING!!! We were solving how to stretch cash, but she saw the problem as investing in productivity and effectiveness. Switching gears, we got all the equipment and solved the right problem as a result of that change in focus.

Isn't it more useful to charge the stakeholders with defining the problem – getting a panoramic view of it from the group. This output is not just a 30,000 foot overview, it includes specifics about how the issues affect different parts of the organization and its processes. That established, a solution to the problem can evolve from the discussion.

Seems logical that defining the problem and seeking a solution is the better path...so why not travel this route?

Problem definition is not fun stuff – it's hard work. And it's risky for the leader or manager to be candid, since solving problems is at the top of their job description – will they be blamed for not doing their job?.

On the other hand, the facilitator and participants enjoy the BS of brainstorming – shouting out first thoughts, coming up with would-be solutions (“what's your first thought – no bad contribution here”), having huge pages of notes taped all over the wall – it's a day of thinking fast, responding verbally, and being agile in direction and movement of the discussion – sounds like that marching band.

Personally, we get better results when we focus on an issue, and ignore the other 'noise' around us. The same applies when a group collaborates to identify and solve problems.

Entertaining experience – watch the Sales Lab Video Channel

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Phone and Work

Back in the old days – the receptionist would tell a visitor: Oh, he's not busy – he's on the phone!

'Doing business' then was meeting with others, writing correspondence, or compiling proposals and reports. Early on the phone was more novelty than tool – it was seen by many as personal entertainment with a tenuous connection to the business process – similar to Facebook today.

Some traditions die hard – as evidenced by that co-worker who begins a conversation from your office door while you are on the phone – no class and no appreciation of the value of the phone as a significant business tool.

Seth Godin has blogged often about the imperfection of communication – written, pictured (i.e., video), and verbal – but notes that phone calls are the least imperfect, since a cycle of clarity is built in.

'Huh?' is a great way to get the other person to clarify in realtime.

A business toolbox without the phone as a versatile tool is like an auto mechanic without a hammer – sometimes it's just what is needed for getting results efficiently!

On a daily basis Dick Davies and I have a structured phone call for updates on projects, planning, and sharing interesting new information. We also have an 'As I See It' discussion which is wide ranging and open – which result in deeper knowledge of the topic and often new strategic insights as well.

This process is an effective substitute for those stimulating, informal 'office' chats when we were all in a single location. But can it scale for a collaborative project team with members located around the U.S. (or world) in many locations.

General Stanley McChrystal when Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) held an 'As We See It' session with 70 nodes around the region for 90 minutes everyday – he said this was the most effective way to tap local knowledge of enemy activities and keep all units up to date on current information and plans.

Email, Hangouts, Cloud-based document collaboration, and other technology applications enable asynchronous team performance, but sometimes the old technology of clear, realtime, interactive, verbal communication is the best and most efficient. Pick up the phone and join the call for immediate results.
Oh, he's busy right now...he's on the phone!

Sales Lab Video Channel - Entertaining experience

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Activities or Analytics?

If you don't measure it, you can't improve it.” Like a mantra, it's chanted over and over - but you must be measuring the right IT or you are just burning time.

For an artist, which is more important – the tack hammer or the paint brush? The brush is used to create the masterpiece; the tack hammer is used to stretch the canvas in preparation.

Does canvas stretching contribute directly to the quality or success of the artwork? It is true that a taut canvas permits more precision in creating fine detail in the painting – so there is definitely some value added by proper stretching. Would knowing that short sides of a canvas have an average of five tacks and long sides have eight, add anything to masterpiece? Counting tacks all day long would have no impact on creating better paintings.

Years ago, as a result of a promotion, I received a detailed analytic report to senior management twice each month which was a quarter inch thick. I eagerly read the entire first copy and discovered only two items in it were useful to me and both were incorrect. I instructed the department to compile the report but stop publishing it and not notify any recipients. After two months without any comment about the absence of this report, I canceled it.

A new devotee to website analytics ran the analysis on her site and the Leadership Breakfast of Maryland's site She showed me a chart and offered her interpretation that the LBMD website needed CPR. Our website has visitors from a restricted group who read the page about the meeting and then register to indicate they plan to attend – the activity is triggered by a monthly announcement of the coming meeting. Her site is an eCommerce site for internet sales and traffic is driven to it continuously by numerous sources.

The results merely show that sites with different purposes do not generate the same traffic pattern or flow. These comparative analytics are meaningless, since the goals of the sites are so different.

Analytics help us measure performance and other factors by direct, indirect, and comparative means. Comparative analytics compare statistics from your organization with those of other organizations, or view your statistics over time.

Metrics and analytics can be useful to set a baseline or measure progress – as long as they are chosen appropriately and recognized for the value they offer.

When all is said and done, analytics are like observing the wake of a boat underway – they provide feedback on how smooth the course has been, but say nothing about the progress toward the goal or destination. Planning and execution get us there.

Using a thermometer to take our temperature is useful in diagnosis, but does little toward the cure; having appropriate analytics is useful in tweaking a plan, but to apply our resources to achieve results – focus them on doing rather than curating.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Leadership and Empathy

George Mason University and Arlington Economic Development presented a panel discussion on Empathy in Business. It focused on empathy as an asset and whether this is an element of what makes a leader great.

The panel composition: Jonathan Aberman, of Amplifier Ventures as moderator; Carly Florina, former CEO of HP; Dr. Angel Cabrera, president of George Mason University; Julie Rogers, president & CEO of Meyer Foundation; and Bill Drayton, CEO and Founder of Ashoka.

Empathy to an individual is like great art...they may know it when they see it, but it is hard to put describe in a clear and concise statement. The panel's treatment of empathy as a leadership asset was not woo-woo, feel-good fluff; it was seen as a powerful tool for change and engagement both inside and outside of the organization.

Key points offered by the panel:

  • Everyone has capacity for empathy, except for schizophrenics, narcissists, and psychopaths – most of us can be empathetic
  • True leaders will discipline themselves to listen first and declare later
  • Example: a situation gone bad and the leader is poised to righteously 'instruct' the errant person chapter and verse about how they screwed up (no empathy); instead the leader pauses to hear the person's view of what happened – then takes appropriate action (empathy)...this can result in better understanding by all parties, but even if no new information is garnered, the person's views were heard and is more receptive to learning from the error
  • Empathy is a diminishing trait in segments of today's youth – as a society we must 'teach' and developed it in the children or face virtually unsolvable problems as the kids age into adults.

So, we can be it, can use it, and teach it...on an applied basis – but what is it?

For a leader, empathy is an ability to understand others - a willingness to listen and consider what the other person has to offer. It is not giving insincere feedback to make the person right in a 'wrong' situation, nor is it to puff up their self esteem just to win a smile or a brief sunny outlook.

Can a leader be both empathetic and strategic in running the organization to meet the mission and yield results and 'profit'? Carly Fiorina repurposed a concept from the 1700's – enlightened self interest – to explain how individual input and financial results can coexist for superior outcome. This captures both aspects of the spectrum.

Being open to understanding others, hearing their ideas and offers, and responding with consistency empowers employees and managers to contribute ideas and be innovative, while truly engaging them in the success of the organization. The path is doing the right things and developing internal resources to produce better results.

In an open source environment, a person is invited to improve on what's been created by someone and share the new version with them and the community. Leading with empathy is about modeling permission for employees to find and share innovation and improvement in your organization.

As business structures change, organizations rely more on task teams formed internally (probably not at the same location) and entrepreneurs collaborate with one another to create teams with needed skills and experience for the project. For both, the old silos which restricted sharing are replaced with creative approaches derived from varied backgrounds and experience.

Being open, listening, and adopting the best ideas truly supports an open and collaborative environment Eric Schmidt of Google summed this up nicely: No one is as smart as all of us.