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Tuesday, July 31, 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?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Perfection...Or Excellence?

A client had just completed managing a thousand person global technology gathering and we were conducting the post-learning.

Before the event, her strongest team had been the planners. Granular she called them. Material was ordered and inventoried, prepackaged and pre-staged.

As the event started, the plan blew up, and another team came to the front. I call it the maitre d’ function, “How can I help?” and ‘Here’s what you can do...” A dizzying flow of problems and requests, not relying on planning or inventory to fix the problems.

In hindsight, the plan took care of most of the transactions, the maitre d’s took over when the plan was not enough.

The feedback was that the attendees had a best ever five day party, the customer had a blowout success.

Our planning team had major complaints about the maitre ‘d team ignoring their plan. They wanted to know, what was appropriate punishment?

The maitre d’ team didn’t bother coming to the meeting. Their job was done.

Later I complimented the client on keeping a sunny disposition through the event and through an emotional review meeting.

She said, “I learned a long time ago not to be concerned about attaining perfection. I am very concerned about maintaining excellence, and I did that when I was recruiting the teams for the event. When things get tense, I remind myself that now is not the time to be the leader.”

How do you make the most of whatever you’ve got?

Tuesday, July 24, 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, July 23, 2012

Traffic Optimization

Most of what I read about SEO, metatags, website tuning, is aimed at attracting citizens of a global web. That certainly sounds impressive, but I haven’t had much use for it.

Most of my web promotion is targeted to a specific community, for a limited time, a specific event. The web destination delivers the experience, or the information, or enables admission to a next level.

How do you create traffic for that?

Not everyone lives their life on the internet. Most of the people I want to attract are full up with other responsibilities. There is always more work left over at the end of the day.

Clay Shirky writes, It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure. And successful people adjust every day, honing in on the important, the strategic.

Before I go to a search box, I need a concept, a desire. Still I look to find a reason to believe.

If I can create that initial impetus, an initial value, my audience will respond.

Jack wrote a wonderful post explaining our Hot Sheets. That’s somewhere in the middle of the process. First they see us doing something additive, then they can get a piece of paper that offers some good information. This is the Information Age. Information is a store of value.

The impetus for Jack’s post was being approached at a recent meeting by an executive who said he already knew Jack, but couldn’t place him. Jack gave him a current hot sheet, and the man realized how he knew his, and accused, “But this handout is different!”

Did you ever ask ask a four-year old, “What’s new?” The answer, “EVERYTHING!”

What new with you?

Saturday, July 21, 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?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What Happened To The Management Pyramid?

The traditional management pyramid became popular after WWII, showing one guy at the top and a majority of people at the bottom. There were successive layers of fewer people going up, and business types thought their career was moving up the pyramid.

American Pyramid
I don’t think I got the memo that said that the likelihood of getting to the top was less than one percent. Fifty years of expansion makes that easy to overlook.

Those people in the middle were adding value by messaging up and down, and to salve their pride, they were also supposed to know more than the people below them. A lot of comedy has been written about that particular misconception.

I was involved in a Seagull Management exercise last week. She came in to help with the busiest day. I turned to the former leader (who was pretty good) and said, “That’s your boss right?”

She observed my observation was correct.

I said, “Why don’t you take her out for coffee and ask her how we should do this and keep her talking until we get done?”

And so it came to pass.

Two years ago I read a piece (I can’t find) that the management pyramid had bloated to a management pentagon, with more people watching the people on the bottom doing the work, than were doing the work. Last week I read that the Department of Homeland Security has over 85 Congressional Oversight Committees keeping tabs on the proceedings.
Management Pentagon

One possible reason for a pentagonal management structure is a desire to keep people, when they have a desire to stop doing the work. Most people who go to a staff role attach increasing value to their work over time. I also find mid-levels staffers have often developed a mission that is quite different from the doers.

I measure three criteria for defining value of an activity: Does your work product change physically? Did you get it right the first time? And does the customer care?

You have to achieve all three to be providing value. And no fair defining a new customer no one else is serving.

Over the past three years we have seen a severe loss of middle management in the private sector. These were the people with clipboards, the checkers. When I was a union carpenter, older guys wanted to “stop working with the tools.” Those were exactly the positions that have been axed more recently.
Skinny Pyramid

We’ve changed our business processes to take advantage of computerized communication. One computer can communicate effectively with thousands of workers, and monitor results for management. This result is a skinny pyramid, the opposite of the organizational pentagon.

In preparing The Direct Economy, I discovered I have gone post-pyramid. I figured out I was working with 15 people in 9 distinct ventures, some paid, some under development.

It’s not a management pyramid structure, it’s a hub and spoke system, some projects I am leading, others I play a supporting role. At the time I noticed this, I was just reporting my experience.

A year later, I found this great video from Clay Shirky at TED, about  Institution vs Collaboration. It's 20 minutes and makes a powerful case.

I don’t have a “best” model or even one that I favor. I have seen where each of these models has delivered. What I am seeing is that organizations are changing due to many pressures, and that adopting a better model is often a key to continuing.

What organizational models are you observing?

Monday, July 16, 2012

10 Keys To Brilliant Presentations

Let's face it – many business presentations are as stimulating as a freshman accounting class lecture without the incentive of seeing the material on a test. Or it sounds like a late-night infomercial.

I've spent lots of time in the audience, in front of the room, and behind the scenes prepping presenters for events; I find these 10 key elements are common to outstanding bright-star presentations. They are:

  1. 4Ps – Plan what you want to accomplish; Prep based on that goal; Practice content, flow, and timing; Present Brilliantly – be there and fully engaged
  2. Integrity – Descriptions and teasers about the program and what you present must match; promoting one thing and presenting something different lacks integrity
  3. Me – Your bio, profile, Google+ Page, and the MC's introduction tells all about you – only talk about you IF the point makes you more memorable
  4. Visuals – If you have to say “you probably can't read this...” you are in the weeds! Less is better; cartoons & caricatures create more impact than facts – numbers – charts. Anything complex or useful as a resource is best given as a reference or URL in an handout – with only a concise abstract of pertinent items shown on the screen
  5. Talk – Presenting is a form of conversation – talk with the audience; try not to read to them or from the screen; after all, if you read them your book from the stage, they won't buy it
  6. Interactive – If possible, make the session interactive to get thoughts and experiences from the audience – have them be an active part of the program instead of just observers
  7. Lily Pads – Robin Williams used an analogy about frogs jumping between lily pads to describe comic delivery – same applies presentations: don't spoon feed the audience; give the audience the concepts that require a mental leap to follow, but don't have the gap so wide they miss the next lily pad
  8. Stories – Reference your experts sparingly – people came to hear your thoughts; share them through your stories of experiences and results
  9. End Promptly - End on time – not when your material runs out – an hour session is about 40 minutes of presenter time; the balance is for questions and the unexpected
  10. Continue the Conversation – Give your audience a place to offer comments about the presentation - “the best thing they learned.” Sharing extends the reach of the program and your visibility (also adds to legend of the event – Meet-up, an event managing social media tool, uses a comment board system to let attendees rate the event and give highlights & comments – which helps validate the better programs).

A live event is always unique and often a bit unpredictable. These elements help manage the unexpected and are a key to giving a shining-star, memorable performance.

Any others you want to add?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

When Efficiency Is NOT the Chosen Path

The mixed messages commenting on the state of the economy are confusing at best, and offer little of use for planning and forecasting in the business or government sectors. Conflicting variables affecting budget, scope, and demand add to the complexity. The uncertainty and inertia leads to delays in new initiatives by the decision-makers in organizations.

I find that an individual example on a small scale gives clear focus on the larger situation that decision-makers face in their organizations.

A service tech told my friend that his A/C was working below standard levels and some components could fail without warning (meanwhile it was keeping the house temperature cool). A new heat-A/C system costing $6,000 would eliminate the risk and save about $1800/yr on heating oil and $500 on summer electricity. Back-of-the-envelope savings would pay for the new system in under 3 years, whereas repair costs for the existing system would be about $2,000 when it broke down.

The friend said he decided to keep the old system and reserve the cost of repair instead of buying the new system. His reasoning – cost of operating the existing system is a known and the repair does not diminish resources as greatly in the short-term – during this period of uncertainty – even though investing in the new system offers greater savings for the long-term. The decision came down to the comfort of having the $4,000 cost difference in hand versus reducing operating expense over future years.

On a much greater scale, the decisions for organizations are a choice, in the face of uncertainty, between resources at hand now versus investment in improvements benefiting future years. Deja vu of the business temperament following the Great Depression of the 1930's.

And yet, it adds to the uncertainty that some organizations and segments of the economy that are in growth mode. Why the disparity. One explanation - William Gibson says “The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed.”

Is this a glimpse of coming change or just isolated system anomalies? 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Have They Seen Your Work?

I was talking to a business owner who requested a three minute whine to express how hard life was in general, with some fairness examined for good measure.

He was worn out networking, chasing business, things had changed, and what was it going to take to have someone buy something???

Have they seen your work?

Well, who knows what they will like, it’s not like I know the market any more, that would entail a lot of work just getting ready...

Have they seen your work?

How can you do that, who will choose what to show, what if it’s the wrong stuff?

Have they seen your work?

Well, no. I guess I could...

And that marked the end of getting ready to get ready.

And so, in Comments, tell us...Have they seen your work?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Start a Relationship – Leave Something of Value

When I meet someone, I give them a large two-sided card with information about topics, my blog posts, and items of interest that the person will find useful, in addition to my contact details for Sales Lab. We call it a Hot Sheet.

During our conversation, I will circle an item on the Hot Sheet if pertinent, or can write a URL or other reference in the margin for use later by the recipient.

It is easy to update or change and I can print as many as needed for upcoming meetings. Usually, each time I see a person at a meeting or event, the Hot Sheet is newly revised.

I was at a meeting of YPLG (The Young Professional’s Leadership Group) this week and was talking with a person who knew me but was trying to place where we had met. When I gave him a Hot Sheet, he immediately remembered where and when we met – and he said he still uses his original Hot Sheet as a technical reference.

In addition to its unique size and content, the Hot Sheet is memorable to the recipient. How memorable is another business card for your pile? Which has the best chance to begin a relationship?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Couch Potato

One of the problems with the explosion in instructional video is that watchers can confuse watching with learning.

Consider the milquetoast who watches Bruce Lee movies and figures that makes him a threat, a dangerous man, legend in his own mind. Humor invariably follows when reality sets in.

Learning is not just being exposed to instruction, it’s making something with it. Doers, Makers.

And people who have a habit of making something useful out of what they observe find new applications, which are sometimes valuable.

Last week I went to the DC outlet of Google IO 2012 and heard a good quote from a doer, Larry Page, “Have a healthy disrespect for the impossible.” 

Why not remember that when you are charging out of the locker room and go make something fun in the next half?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Questions Open Source Answers

When you buy technology, do you expect it to be the latest version, up-to-date and complete, or do you expect to have access to changes and improvements? Which expectation is most realistic? When buying a software package or a GPS unit, a first step of installation is to check for updates – this suggests that there are changes since the item was boxed up for sale – and an update is needed to get current. After that first update, there is often a string of fees for updates and maintenance contracts. The open approach invalidates the static state – you can seek the latest version or fix anytime. The choice is open or complete.

Dick Davies did an excellent post in Through The Browser - the evolution of open source software culminating with recent developments. From the discussion, here's some key points that are clear to me:
  • Software is complex – errors and wanted additional features are discovered by users
  • Enterprise software is developed by a team under corporate supervision and they control the source code – minor bugs and new features are held till the next Revision (fixes are released in between for major bugs and security issues)
  • Open source software code is available to all – errors and features can be addressed by any developer and the new version is available to everyone with attribution to the original author
  • Revisions to open source are quite agile – can be published within days or weeks by other developers
  • The open source approach encourages an abundance of experienced developers and coders are available to troubleshoot problems or make changes – when needed.

In this open source environment, there are enablers like Google – which create a platform or system software and release SDKs (software developer kits) with specifics about the software to aid independent developers to expand the applications available.

The enablers also create applications with flexible instruction sets that the user can manipulate for additional functionality. A new illustration is Google Events – a powerful meeting tool designed for the user; or Google's Cloud Drive, which works just like an additional local drive (with a great sync feature).

I can recall the early days as open source was gaining popularity – I was skeptical about reliability, and concerned that my organization would not get the support it may need – so I rejected adopting anything open source.

I now rely on open source to run several organizations. Problems = 0; downtime = 0; development and modification is by us users, so wait time = 0!

Read Dick's post at: for more detail and additional material from the 25 imbedded links.

Open source software is certainly worth including in the mix when evaluating a solution – it continues to evolve and, in my view, is a strong viable choice for organizations large and small in the New Normal.