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.

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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
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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.

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.

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.

man it’s dark out there

December 3, 2008 at 10:49 pm | Posted in Business, Professional Development | Leave a comment

Coaches love catchy little sayings. I mean, we are full of ’em. I still remember these from various locker rooms over the years:

“You can measure a thoroughbreds speed with a stop watch, but it takes a race to measure his heart”

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

“Character is what you do when nobody is watching.”

And there were countless others. So the other day I was giving an interview and was asked about the economy. I tend to be overly blunt sometimes, so I apparently gave an answer that seemed a bit depressing. My coworker who was there said, “That’s a great downer to end on!” And immediately, one of those slogans from coaching days past sprung to mind, and I added, “But you know, the darker it is around you, the brighter you can shine.”

I do believe that. I have blogged in the past about measuring your worth. I’ve talked about getting honest feedback and knowing where you stand. I’ve talked about differentiation and why it’s important that you know where you stand, whether your company is telling you they buy into differentiation or not. Why? Because right now, you’re being differentiated. We all are. More than ever. You can…

1) Panic.

2) Be grateful and sit around happy that you still have a job.

3) Make a name for yourself.

#1 is unproductive and unhealthy for some obvious reasons I won’t get into. I think you should ALWAYS do #2, but by itself, it leads to complacency. So there is no better time than right now to execute #3 with a passion. Your company needs you now more than ever. They need bright, passionate, dedicated, people who can find solutions to really difficult problems. This is a great challenge for all of us to find out what we’re made of. We will emerge from these tough times. But we can’t miss the chance to GROW through them. If we do, we — and our companies — will be so much stronger on the other end. One more sign than hung in our weight room:

“Without great challenge, there cannot be great accomplishment.”

Sometimes those corny signs make a lot of sense.

much to be thankful for

November 27, 2008 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Professional Development | Leave a comment

the title says it all.

Should we have done that?

November 25, 2008 at 11:22 pm | Posted in Professional Development | 4 Comments

A colleague and I were discussing some of the challenges we now face because we chose to take the high road on some things.  Turns out that in the end, it’s created way more work and headache for us than had we just done the “wrong” thing from the start.  He was feeling a little bummed about it.

I reminded him that we never — ever — should feel bummed about trying to do the right thing.  It’s often hard, and Lord knows I’ve got my moments of weakness.  But one thing we should never regret is doing things the right way.

There was a sign that hung in our locker room in college that said, “Character is determined by what you do when nobody is watching.”  That’s true.  In an imploding economy full of those getting away with absolute criminal behavior, it’s tough to remember that.  In the end, money comes and goes but character seems to stick around a long time and it’s a lot harder to make it back once you’ve lost it.

when bad is good

October 31, 2008 at 7:42 am | Posted in Business, Professional Development | Leave a comment
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Pop Quiz.  You’re the manager over the following situation:

  • Objective: Maintain maximum number of product downloads.
  • History: Product downloads have increased 10% each month for the past year.
  • Action: Change methodology that has been in place for the past year and measure for 6 months.
  • Result: Downloads have decreased by 5% each month for the past six months.

Easy one, right?  Fire the person who ran that campaign!  But in the words of Lee Corso on College Gameday: “Not so fast, my friend.” The answer should be: “I don’t have near enough information.”

What if the result of continuing the current plan would have resulted in a 20% drop instead of 5%?  If that were the case, then although things got “worse” they were actually “better” than what could have been.  Ah, but now you’re dealing with “hypotheticals” as our presidential candidates have become fond of saying. But business is often about hypothetical situations and trying to maximize or mitigate them.

Before you make a risky change, you should do all you can to build consensus from folks after you explain the risks of doing nothing, and of making the change.  Even then, you’re likely to get some (or most) people pointing at the raw data and calling it a failure.  But part of your job should be to do everything you can to ensure that doesn’t happen.  It takes a lot of guts to do that because it’s easier to just do nothing, play it safe, and hope for the best.  But as it’s been said many times, “hope is not a plan.”  So be aggressive, but do it in a way that mitigates surprise reactions to raw data that you know may seem unflattering at first glance.

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