Monday, November 28, 2011

Still Thankful?

Well Friends - Thanksgiving has come and gone. Football played, turkey devoured, adult beverages consumed. A week's preparation for a week's clean up. This year I had the pleasure of uniting three generations of Kovacovich's in the beautiful ocean side location of Carmel by the Sea (in California). Between trips to the beach with 11 of the worlds greatest people, I fired up the Twitter back-channel. It was run amok with glad tidings from one cyber friend to another. There were blog posts, hashtags and charitable splash pages....all messages of thanks from one human to another for a year well served.

...on Friday, it was gone!

#thankful was replaced by #blackfriday. Stories of families breaking bread were replaced with pepper spray melees at the local Walmart. Thanks had given way to disagreements again. The spirit of the holiday faded quickly. Today, people are boarding their cars with furrowed brows hesitant to open their over-crowded inboxes. Have we reduced ourselves to one day a year to say Thank You?

We will spend the next few months rushing through stores buying things for people. A way to express our gratitude. "I spent money on you, so I must care"! Office desks will be crowded with wine we won't drink and chocolates that will weigh us down. We spend, consume, and pretend to care; in hopes that it might serve our personal gain.

My friend Pete shared a story of his need for brain surgery this last weekend. My friend Ralph lost his battle to cancer just a week before Thanksgiving. These are real stories that are happening to us every day. I am not willing to believe that we have lost our ability to make human connections at work. We cannot
ignore vulnerability in our co-workers for fear it will create more work.

Are you creating memorable experiences? Are you fostering meaningful relationships? Do you possess the ability to make others feel special?

Yes! You Do!

People need help....and YOU are going to help them. Here's how:
Lead by example
Be a good listener
Put dedicated thought into your Thank You's

If not you, then who?
Sometimes our advice to others is met with reluctance. We feel that we will offer words of encouragement and they will be rejected. What's the use?

People are more willing to accept advising from those who practice what they preach.
Take care of yourself....exercise, eat right and disengage in harmful habits.
Work up early, work late and be responsive.
Have a plan....short and long term planning allows for clarity of purpose and a fall back plan.

Two ears and one mouth
No one has an answer for everything. If they do, they are simply playing semantics. No one enjoys talking to someone who has a retort to every word spoken. We need to learn to listen more than we talk. We need to be able to take in information and give relevant feedback. Sometimes people just need to get things off their chest. Sometimes people need to be told in direct terms that their actions are inelegant.

Put away the cookie cutters
Now that Thanksgiving is over, you can put away the cookie cutters. It is the time of year when holiday cards come pouring in: Do you have better appreciation for a hand written note or a mass produced stock message? Cookie cutter thank you's serve the direct opposite purpose of their intended gratitude.

The greatest moments you will experience at work will have one thing in common: a lot of thought was put in to creating a meaningful experience. The best gifts you have received have been profoundly meaningful to you because someone took time to know you, researched, and made extra effort to give you something that was irreplaceable. This needs to be part of our every day!

We need to put thought into the experiences we create for our co-workers. Our co-workers need to become our friends.

It Can Happen!

If you put thought and extra effort into everything you do for others you will be looked upon favorably. When people respect you they will always listen to your advice. We will all grow together!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Enterprise 2.0 - Part 2.0

Earlier this week, I wrote of the mind meld that is Enterprise 2.0. The Santa Clara Convention Center and the Twitter back channel was filled with awesomeness this week. Consultants, Entrepreneurs and Community Advocates from Major Corporations gathered to contribute their Thought Leadership in development of a strategic approach to Social Media.

As a Social Media Evangelist, I can say this conference was equal parts inspiring and alarming. We are always trying to use technology to support our companies and customers in the best way possible. We want to keep up with trends while protecting our public reputation. It's tricky!

I pointed out the superstars of the convention earlier this week. Today I have a few take aways to challenge those who believe in the power of social media.

The Art of Presenting
I've been to a thousand conferences.....Human Resources, Training, Coaching, Sales, Music Industry....whatever. The thing that differentiates tech conferences like Dreamforce, Tech Crunch and E 2.0 from the others is the matter in which people present.

Two Things to Consider:
1. It seems a lot of the population in the tech industry are young entrepreneurs who are programmers by nature.
2. The Tech Crunch Ethos has created a very narrow window for presenting.

The aforementioned pre-qualifiers make for presentations that are either really good or really bad. The Great Aaron Levie of Box gave a super-charged keynote that included a plethora of information at rapid fire pace. He was focused, fluid, and passionate about the topic he presented. The Twitter back channel seemed lost in his pace of verbosity.....but I thought it was the perfect way to present.

A few things Presenters should be aware of:
1. Don't Product Dump!
2. Don't Tell Us About YOUR company exclusively
3. Act like you are actually interested in your topic
4. Deliver your message with passion

I would consider presenting at Enterprise 2.0 to be a pretty big deal. I was surprised how many people were unprepared. Just kind of reading slides. I understand that not everyone is comfortable presenting in front of people. All you need is a little humor, some energy, and a message that your audience can relate to.

At Dreamforce I saw an Executive from a Fortune 20 get in front of the audience and talk about her company...on and on and on.....The fact that this person is a Millionaire is disconcerting. If I am in the audience to improve my organizational strategy, I don't need a case study on YOUR company's success. I need you to tell me how your strategy can enhance my company. Show me the WHY not the WHAT.

The most heated back channel discussion at E 2.0 involved Gamification. There are emerging companies that are using game theory to engage their employees. The crowd of ferociously competitive young professionals seemed put off by the idea that "work" would be a "game". Gen Y stereotype dispelled!

Gamification is a slippery slope. I have no issue with adding a creative way of bringing employees into a forum to showcase their degree of engagement. We got a peek at VMware's Niko Niko, a single-touch daily employee feedback function. There are other concepts of Avatar driven virtual rewards that employees seem to view as a waste of time. As long as the metrics of the "game" attach business critical behaviors to organizational directives a little creative design never hurts.

You Are Welcome   
As evolved as Social Media has become, it can still be a good old boys/girls club. In participating in Social Media people also submit themselves to criticism. The attendees at E 2.0 seem to be aware of this and were thus massively supportive. In a Twitter back channel of thousands of posts, I saw very little negativity. People were also willing to have in-person discussions. The mood was profoundly upbeat. There was not a feeling of competition but a Community of Collaboration. It feels great to walk into a conference with the willingness to share without being judged. Thanks to everyone who made me feel at home in Santa Clara.

Parting Message:
Adoption is Social Media's greatest challenge. People are apprehensive to participate in social media for fear they will have their message misinterpreted, will be judged, and will ultimately have their reputation (and the reputation of their company) damaged.

For those who participate in social media forums.
* Judge Not!
* Try to see all sides
* Be Positive

For those on the I stated earlier this week, Social Media is no longer the elephant in the room ~ it is a Fire Breathing Dragon! It is not a fad, it is not going away, and it will be a pre-qualifier for your next job! It is very important to put your predisposition aside and get your feet wet.

Know this, your reputation will not be damaged if your intentions are good:
a. Share in the interest of everyone
b. Don't assume people think a certain way by researching their profile/company
c. Don't be an asshole!


Don't Forget to Remember!

- Dave Kovacovich

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Observations from Enterprise 2.0

Every year people gather in various cities to discuss the next phase of the inter-webs....also know as Enterprise 2.0. This conference is a thought leadership explosion uniting the directives and intangibles that guide the next day of the ever-evolving world of social media and the like. The degree of collaborative thinking is encouraging to say the least. New platforms are introduced and strategies are discussed. We learn how to measure the ROI of social media, how to sell it our executives and what trends to adopt/ignore.

With my blogger pass proudly displayed around my neck (pictured). I braved the halls of the Santa Clara Convention Center. Here's what I learned on days 1 and 2:

Community Evangelism
We often think about social media as it applies to the organization that employs us: our employees and how they can use it to boost revenue, our executives and their degree of adoption. This year's focus has been firmly on product end-users, program administrators, and customers. It has become abundantly clear in 2011 that company reputations are rooted in social media. Product reviews, staff responsiveness and leadership accessibility are always on trial in the social media world. It's not just an awareness of poor Yelp reviews anymore. Great companies are embracing transparency and are showcasing their customer service practices on Twitter, Facebook and the like. Fan pages have become a community for those who love certain products to evangelize. The question at E 2.0 - how do we incent our community of customers?

Erica Kuhl of lead a great break out session on Monday. She introduced the Salesforce MVP program. This program recognizes the world's best Administrators. This is not a passive customer loyalty program. MVP's are granted access to product managers, invited into exclusive community forums, and empowered to drive the success of their companies by improving product development at SFDC. The concept was fresh and inviting to me. Show us you love our products/services and we will give you not a gift card, but more work to do....the difference: the people who work as salesforce admins love their work. They are willing to do more to make product administration more streamlined to their companies.

Throughout the sessions presenters have differentiated customer satisfaction from Community Evangelism. Lessons learned that social media is no longer an option, it is a necessity that drives your organizational reputation. Ignore social media and your customers will ignore you.

Organizational Contortionists
At Dreamforce 2011, the great Gary Vee was asked by an audience member how she could evangelize social media to her reluctant organization. Gary commented that you don't need a title to sell the merits of social media internally. Along this line of thinking, Daniel Zucker offered the description of Social Media Leads at Autodesk as Organizational Contortionists. (he wanted me to be very clear that this phrase was coined by his manager, Maura Ginty)

Gary's advice and Autodesk's qualifications are the essence of the existence of social advocacy. Great organizations have the ability to find their catalyst. That person who represents well...sometimes its a Sales Professional to speak at a conference, sometimes its a programmer to share her vision with a client. At present, the social media realm is not completely defined - an opportunity for advocacy.

I find it a great luxury to work for a company that has empowered me to drive organizational social media strategy (albeit as a volunteer). I also see it as a massive opportunity for anyone who has the willingness to lead the charge.

The standout Keynote of the Enterprise 2.0 event was presented by Tim Young, VP of Social Enterprise at VMware. Tim introduced the concept of About.Me as the template for future of social media. In short, simplicity rules. No one can argue that adoption of social media will require executive approval. Bring a CMO a list of 28 sites you wish to integrate into a congruent strategy and she will slap you across the face. Tim's message was perfectly appropriate, if you are asking people to do something new make sure it is a simple transition. Words to live by.

As we move forward....
I love being in the presence of people who have something to share. The feeling that there is something new that will change the way we work is massively empowering.

A resounding message from Enterprise 2.0:
Social Media is no longer the Elephant in the is a Fire Breathing Dragon!

It is no longer an option to ignore social media. Your customers, competitors and your girlfriend are in the community.....if you pretend it doesn't exist, neither will they!

Don't Forget to Remember!

Dave Kovacovich

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Time To Live

I remember hearing that people die in 3's. Death seems to come in greater numbers in recent days. The loss of Steve Jobs, Al Davis, and Joe Frazier upset me. As people pass through this world we hear recollections of their time here: all lives well-served, legacies intact. That is the wish any of us strive to fulfill - time well served and a few people to carry on our legacy.

In reading the eulogy to Steve Jobs, I renewed my mission on earth: to never be distracted by detail, to Love and let those I Love know as much, to be loyal, to be honorable, to be accountable, to be humble...and to lift up those around me.

I appreciated hearing of the true devotion Steve Jobs had to his family despite his fierce pursuit of professional perfection. I know Al Davis helped a lot of people despite his reputation. Joe Frazier remained a loyal friend to Muhammad Ali despite the public embarrassment "the champ" caused him. All men of great achievement with the self-awareness that they were not bigger than the least of their counter-parts. A trait to be mindful of.

In 1998, Mark Oliver Everett wrote an album in tribute to his father, sister and mother...all of whom had departed the world. The album concluded, with the phrase:
"I was thinking about how everyone is dying, and maybe it's time to live"

In my moments of most profound reflection, tears come to me without being released. I think of my sweetie and how every day I work to earn her love...I will never be worthy. I think of my son and how profoundly proud I am to have him carry my name long after I am gone. I think of my daughter sitting in the tree house of my heart. I conclude to live every day as if it were my last.

Precious moments with the ones we love never pan out as we might propose in our time of profound reflection. We hurt the people we love. We neglect our energy to do the extra things, say things we do not mean, and make selfish choices. But, when the final curtain comes down I doubt we will remember our selfish moments. I would like to think that we will ascend into light surrounded by those we love. And proclaim our amazement with it all, as Steve Jobs did. Until then, it's a good idea to maximize every second for everything that it is worth. Better to realize that now than to wait for the final curtain.

Celebrate your imperfection. Be good to one another. Treasure Everything!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Smile Priority

The year of 2011 will be concluded sooner than we know it. This means it's time to reflect: To be thankful for the people who care for us, to celebrate our achievements, and to assess potential areas of improvement. Perhaps the most valuable year end evaluation is the recognition of what we desire...and if its worth our energy?

We are motivated by that which we feel we need but do we really need it. Each year my wife and I rush to malls to fill the wish list of our extended families. We stand in line to grab to kids the hot new toy. We use SPIN selling techniques to uncover our unmet gifting needs.
Far more important than these grandiose, over-promoted, milestone family events are the moments in-between. If you think about the best times in your life, I would bet your memory may turn to a Tuesday afternoon in the park (not the events that took a year to plan). While we will never cancel Christmas it is important to reflect on what is truly important. Ask yourself the following and dedicate your energy accordingly:
What do I really need to be happy?
Why do I care about the things that suck the energy from me?
Is my goal setting in line with my pursuit of happiness?

I have really enjoyed being part of the Delivering Happiness Movement. This group gathers, reflects, and sets priorities based on one thing: Happiness. People thought Tony Hsieh was nuts for founding a company that used happiness as it's core purpose.....Tony's critics were wrong. What the critics didn't know is that Tony had studied the psychology of motivation. He affirmed that people just want to be happy. He also knew from his time at Harvard, Oracle and as an entrepreneur that people mask their true intent.

We put on professional attire, speak with strategic business language, and align ourselves with those climbing the ladder. We neglect to display our true feelings. This is because the release of professional trappings generally leads to vigilante behavior. Tony Hsieh set out to dispel professional bravado and inspire......not by giving employees a forum to complain but by allowing employees to be happy.

Most great organizations have that one person who is a spark plug. He/she is always upbeat, driven, looking for solutions to problems no one else wants to touch. That person creates a ripple effect and the organization embraces his/her energy. You don't think that person has moments when they want to give up? The trick is to be uncompromising in your ability to achieve. If you allow detail to derail you, you will never be happy.

You too, can be that person of unlimited energy. All you have to do is to let possibility drive instead of being hung up on what sucks! YOU control two things: your perception and your attitude. You have to be light on your feet to consistently transcend the hurdles before you!

The Marriage of Effort & Happiness
Are you motivated by a task list or a grand purpose? If every day you strive to complete everything on your 'to do' list, success is impossible. You need to stop worrying about the 'what' and get down to the 'why'.

If you know what is genuinely important to you and you act accordingly, success is inevitable. All you have to do is assess every task to your grander purpose and prioritize accordingly. You might be amazed when you find out that others value the same things you do....and could care less about the mundane detail that stresses you out!

Life is a merry-go-round. Every day we have our moment of glee and our fits of frustration. If nothing else, allow the glee to take more of your attention than the frustration.

"More than anything...I want to see you take a glorious bite out of the whole world"
- Snow Patrol

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

5 Questions for Brian Garvey

Let's face it, most mentoring programs suck! We pair an upstart performer with a more Senior team member or an Executive. Two scenarios usually take shape:
1. The upstart preps for the meeting and the Executive asks to reschedule.
2. The upstart spends the mentoring sessions opposing the Executive's viewpoint and she puts him on the "people to fire" list.

There is an exception to every rule! 8 years ago my Boss asked me to spend a few minutes each week with one of our new hires. The intent was to answer questions and provide situational guidance....what happened was something completely different. Our sessions were highly productive for 2 reasons:
1. We spoke it terms of business solutions (not products and services).
2. We actually enjoyed talking to one another.

The Mentor was I and the Mentee was today's guest. Since our first mandated call nearly a decade ago, both of us have found different careers, but we have seldom missed our Friday evening call. This week's discussion involved the questions below.....which Mr. Garvey was kind enough to contribute to DFTR.

1. You are a project management professional – tell us what that means.
Technically, I am not a project management professional. That title is a professional designation known as a PMP by the Project Management Institute. I am, however, a Business Development Manager in the project management industry. Businesses rely on projects to sustain, change and improve their business performance. There is much to gain from choosing the right projects and completing them successfully. But that's easier said than done; most companies struggle with some aspect of their project portfolios. I work with a select group of companies to improve the way they manage their project portfolios, programs and individual projects.

2. You have an MBA in finance and could be a CFO by now, but you continue to endure the sales game….why?
Business exists to create customers, and I believe there are specific ways to create customers (through an organized effort on behalf of all members of a business for positive reasons that customers and employees love). I pursued my MBA because I wanted to learn more about business. I saw it as an investment in my personal learning and it has benefited me in many situations. But it's only one piece of many lessons I've learned about business. Why am I not a CFO by is interesting; accounting is not. I choose to endure the sales game because it's where customers are created. Sales is also the discipline where most organizational leaders come from.

3. People may not know that you are a culinary expert. How has your career as a chef complimented your experience in corporate America?
I do love to cook and contemplated a lifelong career as a chef. A restaurant is a business, and I've learned many lessons there as well; as many if not more than I learned in the MBA program.
Lesson 1- when everyone pulls in the same direction, a group of people can create amazing customers.
Lesson 2- don't let one bad review define your talents.
Lesson 3- I'll probably never like rice pilaf.

4. You are a guy who got married young, had kids, and have managed to stay married. What does that family foundation mean to your professional career?
Good question! I've heard thousands of managers over the years say employees need to keep personal lives away from work. I never understood that because my personal life is a huge reflection of what defines me. It's also impossible for me to keep my work life away from my personal life. My wife and I have many dinner conversations about work! One area affects the other. Admittedly, I believe the point is to keep the downside in check. If I'm having a terrible day at work then I don't go home and "kick the dog." The opposite is also true. So what does family foundation mean to my professional career? It's a very simple law of nature-- loyalty. I will do almost anything for those who have my best interests at heart.

5. There was a time when IBM was the training ground for a lot of other companies. These days, I think its Iron Mountain. What has being an Iron Mountain alumni meant to your career development?
Iron Mountain. The goose with the golden egg. I wonder if there's any other company 5 times larger than it's nearest competitor. The people I met at Iron Mountain have meant the most to my career development. They still impact my professional development today, even though it's been nearly 5 years since my resignation. It may seem unlikely, but I learn and grow every week because of the people I met at Iron Mountain.

Brian Garvey is a man who continues to win as a professional by the virtue of his tireless work ethic, solution oriented approach and his continual quest to try new things. 
Get to know Brian better @
Don't Forget to Remember!
- Dave Kovacovich