Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Can't We All Just Get Along

I remember a few years back initiating a conversation in a LinkedIn group. What I thought was a topic that would inspire thought leadership turned into a war of opinions. I remember thinking to myself, "I'll never do that again". Not many things remain consistent in the ever-evolving world of social media, but my apprehension to participate in LinkedIn group discussions has.

Here are 3 trends that put a sword through the heart of the intended purpose of LinkedIn Groups:
1. "Vendors" use a "buyers" search for a solution
as an invitation to showboat
2. Personal indiscretions derail healthy debate
3. A discussion is created to bait competition

Why Decision Makers Only Passively Use LinkedIn
I remember being in an interview just out of college. I was nervous. I met a hiring manager at a run down motel to talk to him about his business. I think they supplied roofing materials to various hardware stores....? After being berated with questions, the "roofing guy" asked me if I had any questions for him. I asked him one in reply of which he went into (another) 10 minute diatribe that ended at something worlds away from the question I had asked. I didn't get the job but I learned an early professional lesson: Being a self-important jerk is no way to succeed.

...which leads us to a fundamental failure in LinkedIn groups. In order to aid an educational seminar I was conducting, I asked a question in a LinkedIn group. A person replied in terms that related completely to the company I worked for and his perception of us. He did not answer the question because he saw my request for collaboration as an attempt to sell something. Though my intentions were genuine, I can't say that I blame him.

You Suck (and other contextual abuses)!
I'm not sure I have heard the above noted 2 word salute in any given LinkedIn group but I can tell you it's come close!

Here's how it works:
1. A well-intended late adopter of social media builds up the courage to ask a question of the group
2. The sharks smell blood in the water
3. An argument over which vendor's solution is better ensues
4. Personal indiscretions arise from the thread

The aforementioned 4 step process emphasizes why decision makers shy away from social media. Like the "roofing guy" some see a request for information as a right to advertise.
Social Media is not a place for salesmanship! If you think that you are going to close a deal by touting your solution, website, and cell phone number in a LinkedIn group you are high as a mofo!

There are a slew of people (and you know who you are) who get a pay check from a "vendor" but pretend to be independent consultants. They bait the competition, the sharks bite, and they use their political science degree to dispel the over-aggressive sentimentality. I can't say I blame them either.
Influence is not for Sale!

I think it is really important to consider this when participating in LinkedIn groups:
1. Direct selling in social media is a one way ticket to hackville.
2. Until "vendors" start acting like adults in social forums, your buyers are not going to play in your sandbox.
3. The internet is written in ink.

I petitioned several times to be a speaker at a variety of conferences. I was consistently denied because I framed my intent so as to downgrade my competitor’s solution and promote why my widget was better. Over time I learned that people spend time away from their families at conferences because they want an outside source to tell them why their job is important. That is what differentiates a partner from a vendor.

So I took on the practice of sitting in on conference sessions and gauging the presumed buyer’s reaction.

Here's what they hate:
1. Product dumping
2. Promotion of the products of the company who paid for your flight and hotel room
3. Death by PowerPoint
4. The speakers abuse of the attendees time by thinking he/she knows more than they do

And then the doors opened...

* I learned to stop talking and to start listening.
* I learned people hate so-called experts.
* I learned that people who buy things and people who sell things share the same passion.
....and that most sales people have a knack for destroying this commonality within 5 minutes!

We are all in this together. The reason why it seems otherwise is because your bravado caused your audience to instantly distrust you!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Sunday, June 24, 2012


With the NBA season coming to a conclusion we revisit the legands of the past:
  • The great Larry Bird said he had only cried twice in his life, once when he lost the NCAA championship and once when losing an NBA championship...both times he lost to Ervin Johnson.
  • Michael Jordan said that he loved the thrill of winning a championship so much that he dedicated himself to winning as many as he could.
  • Billy Beane (Oakland A's GM) admitted that he hated losing even more than he enjoyed winning.
  • ...and now Lebron James has finally fulfilled expectations. 
Of the above mentioned only one of them had it right. Let's explore why:

Great Expectations
The Great Cathy Berky recently shared an act of vulnerability in our LinkedIn group. She noted that her expectations of herself had always been exceedingly high (which is what makes her great).
She followed up by saying that she had found peace by allowing curosity to lead.

I wonder if Larry Bird loved basketball as much as we all think he did? He was a pure shooter and a fierce competitior, equal parts artist and warrior. The questions lies in why he cared so much? Did he want to win more than anything in the world or was he terrified of losing?

That's what losing sounds like...
The Great Billy Beane was quoted as saying that he hated losing more than he enjoyed winning. That sense of motivation built a fire in him that put him in a position to become the best paid in his profession. The true joy comes in winning and if you win only to keep from losing, you neglect your ability to celebrate.

To prepare and best an opponent seemingly stronger and more qualified than you is the ulitmate feeling of success. You don't prepare and try hard because you want to see the Giant cry. You win to prove to yourself that you can do anything and that nothing is impossible in this sad and beautiful world.

It's about freaking time!
Lebron James, the greatest basketball player of our time, has finally won a championship. Always big for his age and blessed with extraordinary athletic ability, Lebron James became a fan favorite by the time he finished high school.

Then something happened....

The expectation of greatness bestowed upon Lebron James did not manifest itself quickly enough. In this quick fix society, we want results....right away. So Lebron's love for Basketball turned into a job. He stopped running around with joy in his heart and started over-thinking the process of winning. He lost the joy and laced up the shoes with an assumed obligation to fulfill public expectations. When he hoisted the championship trophy on Thursday night, the thrill of being the best was replaced by the relief of achieving what everyone knew he was capable of.

...the real answer
My Dad once told me never to make a decision based on money. I replied that he had money. To which he retorted, "that's because I never made a decision based on money". My Dad knew what Tony Hsieh later explained:
If you lead with a purpose for which you have a passion, the profits will come naturally.

Think of it this way...
would you rather win a championship with your truest friends by your side or move across town just to play on a better team with a bunch of strangers?

Our motivation cannot be defined by what we think to be the right way, but by what we believe we were put on this earth to do.

Do you remember the show The Wonder Years? Kevin's dad would come home angry every day and proclaim "work is work". Do you ever feel like Kevin's dad? That the work you do is lacking purpose? That the passion is gone? That you are just in it for a paycheck?

It's not 1950 anymore! You are now more empowered as an employee than Kevin's dad ever was. In fact, you don't have to put up with losing anymore!

You are in control!

To put effort into something so as to avoid losing defeats the purpose of living. To win your way, by your rules, is the most empowering thing in life. If you allow others to make the rules, your chances of losing increase. To play another person's game and to win serves to validate your worth. Love is created by flipping the rules on their ear, finding a better way, and proving that it works better.

Your greatness is defined by the JOY you find in winning, not the relief of doing enough to keep from losing!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Start Today!

Think about something you deem to be impossible.

Now ask yourself a couple of questions and see if you get any closer to believing it can be done.

This is our conundrum. We have forced ourselves to believe that the past determines the future. When determining the viability of any given opportunity our first inclination is to ask if it had been done before. This frame of thought helps us determine our fate by the actions of others.

Only you control your destiny.

I hearken back to the story of MoneyBall. Billy Beane as the Oakland A's General Manager recognized that his team had plateaued. If he was going to succeed he needed to change the game.

Do you think Steve Jobs considered the actions of his predecessors before releasing the I-pad? At the time bringing a tablet to market seemed unconventional.

For every Billy Beane and Steve Jobs, there are a billion people who have done nothing. We determine an opportunity, measure it against what has been achieved by others, and go back to being normal.

What is the real price of taking chances? If you really boiled it down, do you think all of the things you are afraid of will actually manifest themselves. If the worst happened could you recover?

If you work hard your company appreciates you. I doubt you would lose your job over an idea you designed and supported with best intentions in mind.

If you wife loves you, she won't divorce you if you dream big and try something that you genuinely believe in.

Let's start simple:
Ask Questions
Try Something New
Find Someone to Help

What if....?
How many times have you abandoned an idea because you didn't want to rock the boat? I bet if you would have asked a few questions to disrupt dismissive thinking you could have gained a little ground. Those who stick to convention want to do new things, they just have to know it will work. If you believe in something, you can prove it.

It's time to rock the boat!

12 Minutes
In this day and age you can find information on anything in a matter of minutes. If you neglect to hit the snooze button can open a door.

In just 12 minutes time you can look up an alternate solution and send an email to someone. That's all it takes.

Seize your opportunity to present something new!

Recognize Hidden Talent
There are unconventional thinkers everywhere. The "industry experts" only possess the answers you have paid them to validate. Sometimes you need to look outside your industry to find someone who thinks differently.

Bounce your big idea off someone who is untethered from your cause!

The answers are all there. You just have to stop being afraid.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, June 15, 2012


Dear Readers,
My favorite day is upon us: Father's Day! It is the one day of the year that we Dads can crack several beers while watching the US Open and the NBA Finals in peace! It is our day to provide work/life balance to the toughest job there is: being a Dad!

I remember the 9 months leading up to me being a Father. I was scared shitless! I cannot say before my son was born that I was fully capable of taking care of myself (I would venture to guess that my wife had accepted that going in). With the ultimate responsibility looming, I got tons of advice....all of it discouraging. Everyone told me how my life was going to drastically change and that I was in for a major wake up call. None of that advising made the forth-coming "second job" any easier to accept.

Then, my friend Matt Clizbee called me. He told me that being a Dad was easy and not to worry about it. We didn't get into a long drawn out conversation, I trusted his words, and I ran with them. He may have been over-optimistic in his encouragement but it meant more to me than anything anyone had told me in the previous year! I was ready!

Fatherhood is a privilege not a responsibility, and the sooner you accept that, the easier it gets.

All of the anxiety was shattered when my son emerged from my sweetheart's body with a full head of hair. The doctor handed him to me! What a privilege, to be the first person in the world to have my hands hug the future President of the United States.

Just last night, I had a similar privilege to take in the film, "The Other F Word". This movie documented the lives of Punk Rock Dads (a few of which I can call friends). It is an extraordinary shared journey of men who made a life out of youthful revolt becoming part of the system, by becoming Dads. A truth revealed: the best way to help your children accept people for who they are is to be yourself.

I am fortunate enough to have a Dad who provided an example for me that lead me to be the man I am today...not through my effort but by hereditary default. I know many people who are not so fortunate.

The greatest love story between a father and a son was told by the Great Artie Lange. He conveyed that his father's love for baseball and its place in their life made their union invincible. I think about my Dad and Artie Lange every Father's Day!

Just a few days ago my son and I were walking in the park. I was immersed in of those moments where you lose time because your thinking process is so intense. A voice called to me...

My son raised a question that seemed to be lingering for a while, "oh hey Dad, I forgot to ask you, how is your working going?" I will admit it seemed like it had understandably been a while since anyone had taken time to ask ME how I was doing. I told the 6 year old Gentleman that my work was going great and I thanked him for asking.

"I knew it", he said with all the confidence in the world, and we kept walking....

I can tell every Father reading this blog one thing with great certainty:
Your best work is behind you and they will carry your legacy long after you are gone!

Happy Father's Day, Gentlemen!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, June 11, 2012

Meet The Ables

The Ables are not just a family from Oklahoma. They are the functions of what empowers talent in your organization. I was conducting a thorough organizational assessment for a large company recently. One of the organization's leaders explained to me that she did not have the luxury of examining every area of her organization. There is no luxury in Leadership! We have to find time for the things that matter and minimize the priority of those that do not. Every great organization has an engaged culture. Creating and developing an engaged culture is not a turnkey transaction. It takes investigative commitment!

At the very least, every organization needs to meet The Ables:
Are your action items, actionable?
Are your core values, valuable?
Is your culture, engagable?
Are your program initiatives, measurable?

A Meaningful Path to Success
Very often an organization creates an employee recognition program from the top down. A CEO voices his/her opinion of how people want to be rewarded and a program is announced. Employee eye brows might raise when you are telling them how you are going to incent them without gathering their input.

The key to producing successful individuals (and thus furthering organizational success) is creating organizational initiatives applicable to employee preference. Programs designed for employees by employees produce enhanced adoption, engagement, and collective success. Top down programs often only produce lapel pins in desk drawers.

Words on a Wall
Integrity is a word used as a core value of many companies. Decision making rooted in integrity is vital to the success of any individual (and the organization they represent). But, what does integrity really mean? If I tell someone they acted with integrity today, their chest will swell. Teaching someone to qualify decisions at every project milestone develops a tactical skill set.

Core Values are only valuable when we dispel their ominous grandiosity. Organizations need to design initiatives that develop employee skill not just pat them on the back. If strategic organizational harmony is at the core of all employee actions, collaborative success is inevitable.

Too Cool for School
Our employees don't care to be recognized. I have heard those very words from a Vice President. A couple of thoughts:
EVERY employee wants their effort recognized and rewarded ....
ESPECIALLY those who say they don't want to be recognized!

The above mentioned point does reveal that organizational standards created by Abraham Lincoln may not be applicable in today's workforce. Leadership does not have to be a one way street. Directives for success don't have to be created and promoted in top down fashion. Employees want to be part of something bigger than themselves...a collective they helped create. The best recognition company leaders can give their employees is to listen and take action accordingly.

The Danger in Quantifying Human Effort
Show me the ROI...we hear it every day. Executives want to know that if they invest in a program they are going to get their money back. As if to say, I don't care how much you like it, it needs to produce revenue. I want you to take people's lives, make them numbers, and put them in a proposal for me. This request creates a hurricane of salesmanship mired in inconclusive evidence.

Let's simplify the process....

My mom used to want me to eat broccoli and I consistently left it on my plate. Occasionally she would shove it down my throat (not literally) and my night would be ruined. Then one night my mom put the broccoli on the plate and pulled up a bowl of Bearnaise sauce. She told me to dip the broccoli in the sauce. I did, I ate it all, and we enjoyed the rest of the night as a family. Would it have been better to leave the broccoli on the plate and to watch TV in separate rooms as life passed us by?

Your employees can grow to love broccoli. You just have to allow them to choose some sauce to dip it in.

Don't Forget to Remember!



Friday, June 8, 2012

Moving Out of Silos

I consider myself an enthusiast of people improvement. Motivational speeches, blogging, coaching, mentoring, and Employee Engagement consulting are my thing. It is a massively fulfilling cross-over of personal ambition and professional drive....a purpose driven passion. Life is good!

In my advocacy for people empowerment there is a prominent obstacle:
People are still working in silos

In my work with Human Resources groups, I have found consistent requests for:
  • Feedback
  • Better Management
  • A Clearly Defined Path to Success
Let's do a survey...
It seems to be popular opinion that the way to gather employee feedback is by issuing a survey. There are a few reasons why these surveys might fail:
- They do not ask the right questions 
- They do not produce actionable data
- They come from a place of mistrust

Asking an employee for their feedback in private may only produce selective data. If an employee invests in the process of stating their mind, leadership action is necessary. Otherwise, a survey will work as a demotivator.

Protecting the flock
It has been said that people leave bosses, not companies. This is not always the fault of the boss! If transparency is a fear factor in your organizational, your culture will be broken!

Everyone loves social media....we facebook our faces off, we use twitter, and LinkedIn is our professional bible. So, if we know that our employees love social interaction, why are our processes for management still anti-social.

Performance reviews suck, one-on-one calls do not produce action planning for career development, and top down direction does not create a holistic approach to organizational development. There has to be a better way!

To the former point, your employees can use social media to build their personal brand. OR your company can utilize the social enterprise to enhance your employee's career path within your organizational culture.

If my career goals are confined to a talk with my manager, only he/she can guide (or discourage) my success. If my goals are not clearly defined, documented and/or actionable...all I can do is assume my effort will fulfill the company's expectations. Hardly motivating!

Let's Break Down The Silos

Why are we still protecting employee feedback?
Why is only our manager in control of our career development?
Why are we still coaching with the office door closed?

Too many organizations have employees who are fearful to interact. They believe anything they say can, and will be, held against them. There are employees who believe that if they ask for feedback, they are only inviting criticism. Managers are forced to micro-manage to keep employees on track instead of inspiring them to grow. All silos in a field with no crop circles of interaction.

Motivation 2.0
I have 3 simple suggestions in conclusion to the pain this post has revealed:
1. Discontinue performance!
2. Promote socialized goal setting!
3. Solicit feedback from all angles as a means to career empowerment!

Lack of transparency only leads to mass exodus of talent!

Don't Forget to Remember!