Will Blogs Make a Comeback?

August 22, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Posted in Professional Development, Technology Trends | Leave a comment

When I think about all the ways we have to communicate, I’m reminded of several studies I’ve read over the years on the effects of too much choice in our world.  It’s amazing how we make the choices we do, which is a field of study all unto itself.  That said, I read an interesting post today about a couple of guys going back to their “old fashioned” macro-blogs as opposed to their micro-blogging social media sites.  It was really interesting to note the regret they experienced.  I can relate.

I was working with a fellow at a start-up and exploring my company taking an equity position.  He had done his homework on me, as I did on him.  When we met he said, “I read your blog” and it hit me how many things I have NOT taken the time to put in there!  My primary use of facebook is picture sharing with friends and family.  I love seeing their kids’ adventures and vice versa.  I really don’t like it as a micro-blog tool.  I get downright annoyed when I read things like, “Some people just make me so angry.”  Then 20 mindless comments appear like, “I’m so sorry… who made you mad?”  or an equally cryptic response of “he is feeling bad too.”  What a waste of time and it always strikes me as narcissistic beyond measure — like an overt cry for attention.  Oh well… it is what it is.  But all of this did remind me that good-ole blogging still has merit.

Getting credit without TAKING credit

September 30, 2009 at 9:00 pm | Posted in Professional Development | 1 Comment

Recently I was helping someone at work with a dilemma.  He had done something really innovative and wanted to share the information with a wider audience, mostly executives above him on the org chart, who genuinely want to know about this kind of thing.  But, I wanted it to come from him instead of me sending it on his behalf.  He wrote a nice email, but still thought that he was too self-serving.  I re-wrote the intro paragraph for him and will paste it below (with names changed), then I will make a few observations.

Got some great community feedback that may be of interest to you and your teams as we continue to find low-cost ways to connect with our audience.  I’ve been working with John Smith and Mary Jones on a lot of community stuff, and we’ll continue to share all of this info to make sure we’re executing best of breed practices across the domains.  Together, I feel like we are making huge progress.  In the note below, you’ll see the results of doing something called syndicated blogging, where we basically stream other people’s blogs.  Turning out to be more successful than we or the bloggers thought it would be.  See some guy’s comments below as an example.  Will run this by the other PMM’s, and Joel, we’ll start looping in your group too.  Feel free to pass this along to whomever you think would be interested in learning more and send them my way.

Here are a few closing points…

  1. Even though he didn’t work with anyone else on this particular thing, you are immediately given the impression that it is a team effort just by mentioning other colleagues’ names.  And, it’s not a lie at all.  He really does work with them on a regular basis and they share all kinds of info.
  2. It makes the point that this is an innovative thing that’s worth taking a look, but reiterates the fact that it will be immediately shared to make the whole team better.
  3. The last sentence answers the “why am I getting this?” email and avoids any possibility that it is just a self-serving attempt at taking credit for something.

Thinking about small things like this can make a very big difference in a career over the long haul.

sorry, the gate is locked

September 23, 2009 at 9:26 pm | Posted in Professional Development | 1 Comment

Where I live in Texas, fences are mandatory.  Not just little fences either.  I’m talking about those big six-and-a-half foot planks. I guess somewhere along the line that became standard, so they’re everywhere.  (I hate them, but that’s another story.)

We have a company that treats our yard every month or so.   One day I forgot to unlock the gate.  I’m sitting there working in my home office and hear the guy outside working.   Later I check the bill that he had hung on the door and it says “Sorry we couldn’t do your back yard, the gate was locked.”  OK, so the gate was locked.  Just how much effort would it have taken for the guy to knock on the door to see if anyone was home?  And they charge you if they have to come back.

Now let’s look at another story.  Because the lawnmower gods hate me, I have broken yet another mower this year.  There’s a great family down the street with some high school boys.  Good kids, so I’ve been paying them to cut the grass.  I got an email today from the mom saying, “I hope you’re not mad, but the boys couldn’t get the gate unlocked so they decided to lift themselves and the mower over the gate.”  Mad?!?!  I was freakin’ ecstatic!

We’re going to encounter lots of locked gates in business and life.  Slack-jawed indifference walks way.  Ingenuity and work ethic finds a way.

why I like facebook

September 15, 2009 at 9:51 pm | Posted in Technology Trends, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Two years ago I couldn’t get my cousin (who was in college) to answer my emails. I sent her a txt msg and she responded in about 48 seconds. When we finally hooked up over that antiquated device called a “phone”, she explained that she only used email for school and she started urging me to try facebook.

First experience: “This is stupid.” Tenth experience: “This is still stupid.” Then, eventually, I got hooked. I gave a lot of thought to why, and beyond technical reasons, there’s one fundamental thing that came to mind. I miss my hometown.

I grew up in a small steel town. We saw folks — the same folks — a lot. School, stores, games, bowling alley, wherever. And you’d always get the scoop on little things that you just really didn’t think you’d ever care about. When I moved away, I missed that. I found over time that facebook was filling that social void that was left when I moved away.  Now it’s like I’m standing in line at the grocery store catching a 30-second conversation with a friend on how his kid did in his baseball game.  Haven’t decided if this is good or bad.  But was just interesting thinking through why it “clicked” with me.

second-mover negotiation

September 13, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Posted in Professional Development | Leave a comment

Got a resume from a friend’s husband the other day.  He’s been in sales for over 20 years, but in only one industry (not technology).  Right on the cover letter of his resume he had published some numbers around salary expectations.  Something to the effect of “I’ve worked for as little as $X in the past, and have made as much as $Y in good years” but “X” and “Y” were actual salary amounts.  I thought this was really odd and not a particularly good idea.   When I asked him about it, he said he put it there because many had asked him for that information in the past.  Wow.

What really surprised me is that this is a seasoned sales professional.  It reminded me that negotiations are so uncomfortable for the vast majority of the people out there.  Yet, it’s something we do nearly every day of our lives in some form or fashion.  I was left with two takeaways from helping him with his resume.  (1) Ask.  Many people will grant your request even if you think they won’t.  (2) Negotiation skills are invaluable.

Blogging is tough

September 13, 2009 at 2:28 pm | Posted in Professional Development | 2 Comments

A couple of weeks ago, a coworker of mine asked me why I quit blogging.  Honestly, I hadn’t thought a lot about it until he asked.  It’s weird with me… for a guy who loves the spotlight as much as I do, there are certain things about which I remain very self-conscious.  One of them is coming across as a know-it-all and I got to thinking, “who the heck really cares what I think about this stuff?”  Not wanting to come across as some guru on the mountain with the scratchy white beard, I just quit blogging.

Literally one day after the conversation with my coworker I received an email from an industry leading CEO whom I really respect.  It was just a couple sentence note asking what happened to the blog entries.  Weird timing.

I thought about it and realized that unless you’re in a VERY small minority of people in the world, it’s very little about the Thinker and more about the Thought.  Meaning, I don’t think anyone really cares about something I say because I say it.  But they may care very much about what I say because the topic and perspective is of interest to them for one reason or another.  Onward we go.

do rabbits eat birds?

January 14, 2009 at 10:57 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

I worked for a guy once who was very slow to enact change. This was one of the VERY few traits of his that bothered me, as in almost every other way, I saw him as a bit of a business guru. The more I’m in the business world, the more I see the value of waiting and studying and not rushing into things.

I was reminded of this while reading a story today about an attempt to save an island’s native bird population. They got rid of cats so the birds could thrive. But then came the rabbit problem. Rabbit’s don’t eat birds, but they do eat vegetation. So? Birds don’t eat vegetation. Well, turns out they do use it for cover. And in addition to that, the rabbits have utterly ravaged the island causing other issues as well. Maybe they should add a few cats.

Ecosystems are complicated, delicate, and full of hidden interdependencies. So are businesses.

It is a good reminder that I need to get better at discerning when to wait, and when to act quickly. Both can have huge benefits, and dire consequences. My gut feel is that the smaller you are, the more you need to err on the side of acting quickly. Conversely, the bigger you are, it seems most of the time there is far more risk in acting too quickly. Either way, there is no black-and-white answer. But the birds, cats, and rabbits got me thinking how important evaluation of each decision really is.

Following a legend is hard — at apple or anywhere else

December 18, 2008 at 2:25 pm | Posted in Business | 1 Comment
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There’s a lot of talk lately about Steve Jobs. Here’s a representative post of many that I have seen lately. However Apple handles this, I think it’s nearly a no-win situation for the next person who is going to take over.

This is a huge problem in sports. Following a legendary coach is tough for several reasons:

1) If you succeed, it wasn’t really you… it was you just riding the coat tails of the guy before you.

2) If you don’t advance the organization, it’s all because of you and the guy before you would have certainly done better than what you produced.

3) Your comparisons to the legend will only get worse because his image will grow in lore over time.

4) In some cases, the legend hangs around in the shadows just enough to never quite let you step out of his shadow.

So what is Apple to do? It will be interesting to watch, but my bet is that they will go through a lull of sorts when Jobs decides to step down. For me, following a legend is a tough situation with very little upside. I’d rather step into a disaster and build it up or start afresh somewhere. But that is a personality thing. Someone will definitely be ready and willing to take over for Jobs. Will be interesting to watch when it happens.

if it sounds too good to be true — dig!

December 16, 2008 at 10:14 am | Posted in Business | Leave a comment

The enormity of the Madoff scandal and the simplicity of how a Ponzi scheme works just amazes me.  Of course, everyone is asking “How!?”  However, before the “how” question, lies a more fundamental one: “why?”

The reason we’ve all been taught the adage: “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” is because the democracy of history shows that greed and pride pave the way to countless schemes of deceit.  Something certainly can’t just be done for the sake of being “good” can it?  Actually, yes, I believe it can.  BUT — and that’s a big but — we are right to question it when we see it and dig a little deeper to find the motivation behind it.  There’s ALWAYS a motivating factor, whether altruistic or nefarious — it’s there.  Our job is to find out what it is before we allow ourselves to dive in.

Now lets flip that around.  What if YOU are the one doing the altruistic act?  Such was the case recently when my company launched a site called SQLServerPedia.  When we rolled the concept out to our contributors last year, they loved it — and then they were skeptical.  When we rolled it out to our customer advisory board, they loved it — and then they were skeptical.  You could see the reaction over and over “This is great…  hmmm…. too great, in fact.  Wait a minute… what’s the catch?  What’s in it for you?”  In each case, after detailed explanation of our motivations, you could see they “got it” and were comfortable and excited again.

Those were good lessons for us about the value of transparency, which led to this page on the site that proactively explains exactly why we built it, what’s in it for us (or said less cynically, what motivated us), and why believe it is a good and beneficial thing for everyone.  It was a great reminder that even when your motives are altruistic, the world around you rarely knows or believes that.  ESPECIALLY these days.  Take the time to show folks why you’re doing what you’re doing.  Of course, one could still be lying.  But I think the more open you are, the better chance you have at dialog, the more they get to know you, the better the opportunity to build a relationship.  More work?  Yes.  More benefit?  Off the charts.

pulling together

December 15, 2008 at 8:01 pm | Posted in Professional Development | Leave a comment

In the movie “Miracle” about the 1980 US Hockey Team’s unlikely winning of the gold medal, a scene takes place where head coach Herb Brooks is picking his players during tryouts.  Assistant coach Craig Patrick is watching with some confusion based on the picks.  The scene’s dialog is as follows:

Craig Patrick: You’re missing the best players.

Herb Brooks: I’m not looking for the best players, Craig, I’m lookin’ for the right ones.

I recalled this scene as I’ve been thinking a lot about teams in the face of this economy.  Good ones, bad ones, the kind of people we need on them, etc.  And I was reminded of something I did many years ago in my first “real” job as a co-op (intern) student.  I needed the co-op to complete my degree and I was bound and determine to make a good impression.  Technically, I did.  In spades.  But then I still vividly can recall a day I’d love to take back.  It was 1992.  Times were tough and cuts were on the horizon.  Our team huddled around our manager as he gently prepared folks for what was coming.  Never one to miss an iconoclastic moment back then, I said something to the effect of: “what’s the big deal?  If you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough.  The company’s gotta take someone so step up and get it done, or you get cut.”

I was 22-years-old and fresh out of five years of college football that bred (by design) the exact attitude I just conveyed.  Yet this group of husbands, fathers, mothers, and wives looked at me with disdain and shock.  Several were visibly angry but nobody said anything directly to me about it. (Likely because they thought I was just so ignorant that I wasn’t worth their time.)  I wish someone would have.

As we pull together as teams through this economic crisis, we need to be there for each other.  What a chance to grow!  If we’re more on the conservative side and always hoping for status-quo, this is our time to be pushed out of our comfort zone.  If we’re more on the aggressive, damn the torpedoes side, this is our time to learn some empathy and compassion towards those that aren’t.  Never was there a better time to celebrate the diversity of talents all around us and find out what people have to contribute.  I believe those that push, encourage, and help each other in the true spirit of teamwork will emerge from this incredibly strong and ready to build the future.

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