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Archive for February, 2012

How to “Turn Off”

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

1034031447_edea115848_mYesterday I said I would offer some ideas for helping people on your team disconnect, since not all companies are willing to shut down email at night in order to force the issue.

Even the ones that do might not accomplish what they intend given that there are plenty of ways to continue working without corporate email.

So what can one manager do to change attitudes within her own group?

As usual, much of the answer is found within MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™), both yours and your team’s.

For your team, one of the most important is recognizing that digital addiction is more about its effect on ego than a love of gadgets.

“Being a successful member of middle class society is showing our dedication to professional work and being available at all hours of the day.” –Carolyn Marvin, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication

Changing that perception requires more than a statement or directive from you.

I’ve said over and over “to change what they do change how you think.”

You need to change your beliefs and your actions.

There is no way you can tell your team to take a digital break if you don’t take one.

Why would anyone do what you say when they see you doing the opposite?

If they can always reach you nights, weekends and vacation by email or phone do you really believe that they will disconnect?

Worse, if you actively contact them during those times they wouldn’t dare not to be available.

To make disconnecting truly productive from both your/company’s point of view and the individuals’ requires an open conversation.

Use the article Wharton article as the basis for a “say anything” discussion and together create a holistic digital framework that provides the downtime needed to have a life and recharge without cost to organizational accomplishment, personal perceptions or ego.

I guarantee that if you make the time and commit to doing the work your group’s productivity and creativity will skyrocket while turnover drops like a stone.

Join me tomorrow for a look at how disconnecting plays in a startup.

PS Happy Leap Day!

Flickr image credit: Mike Licht

Ducks in a Row: A Serious Downside to Always On

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

“Employers are recognizing that it is helpful for employees to have boundaries. … People can learn to shut things off. It’s not easy, and it requires dedicated effort.” –Stewart Friedman, Wharton practice professor of management

There was a time when people bragged about always being available; how no matter where they were or what they were doing they were reachable.

Some still do, but many more are (or have) quietly burned out and are just going through the motions.

The spark is gone and that has put a major damper on innovation, creativity, productivity and caring, or engagement if you prefer.

While many companies still encourage that mindset others are moving to change it.

Companies from Atos, the French information technology services giant, to Deutsche Telekom to Google have recently adopted measures that force workers toward a better work-life balance, with scheduled breaks from the Internet and constant connectivity.

In a bid to combat employee burnout, staff at Volkswagen will be limited to only receiving emails on their devices from half an hour before they start work until half an hour after they leave for the day, and will be in blackout mode the rest of the time.

As opposed to warm and fuzzy work-life balance attitudes, these efforts are grounded in hard-headed, pragmatic, selfish business sense.

If people burn out, become less innovative and productive or have to deal with upheaval in their 6151927255_e89b46b444_mpersonal lives as a result of being always on it costs the company cold, hard cash.

Less innovation and lower productivity makes the company less competitive.

Replacing people is not only very expensive, but irreplaceable institutional knowledge is also lost.

Smart companies take care of their assets and these days that means both controlling connectivity and changing the culture, so that turning off is no longer a mortal sin.

Join me tomorrow for a look at what you, at any management level, can do.

Flickr image: Mr Fogey


Content Clarity Pays Off

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Why are so many blogs and biz books overwritten; saying the same thing over and over as if repeating the message for an extra hundred or more pages will make it more powerful?

Even fiction often follows the same pattern.

Why is so much content garbage?

Why do people insist that more is better?

Why do they assume that using a word with multiple syllables will make them sound more intelligent and impress the reader?

Websites are worse, both B2B and especially B2C.

Way overwritten and in long dense paragraphs with the vital information buried.
Has it gone completely unnoticed that almost nobody reads anymore?

The majority scan and in a hurry, spending 5-10 seconds to decide if they want to spend the average of 30 seconds on that page.

And those of us who do read are easily annoyed by bad design and the garbage that passes for content.

The problem, of course, is that a healthy ‘data-ink ratio’, which means saying a lot clearly in as few words as possible, is hard work.

I probably shouldn’t complain since I offer a service called Clarity REwriting that contributes significantly to my revenues, but still.

It’s easy to avoid dense, opaque, overwritten books and blogs, but when I need information from a website I am stuck.

So do yourself (and me) a favor.

Think about the data-ink ratio when you develop your content; doing so will improve your business.

DISCLAIMER: What follows is an ad.

If that’s too much work call or write me (the contact info is in the right hand column); you’ll find I’m fast and more affordable than you might imagine.

Flickr image credit: Beck Tench

Quotable Quotes: Left Brain Inspiration

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

You know the old saying ‘different strokes for different folks’? It’s the same with inspiration; the words have to resonate inside for them to have any effect. When reading the quotes I offer to inspire you keep in mind that they are the ones that work for me, which usually means they have left-brain appeal.

I find this one from Christopher Columbus to be amusing; nothing like being famous for restating the obvious, “By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.” I wonder if that would work for me?

However, William Adams hit the nail on the head when he said, “Most of us are just about as happy as we make up our minds to be.”

Rita Golden Gelman offers a wonderful recipe for joy and details the reasons it works, “Risk-taking, trust, and serendipity are key ingredients of joy. Without risk, nothing new ever happens. Without trust, fear creeps in. Without serendipity, there are no surprises.”

Tom Bodett does a wonderful job of explaining the difference between school and life—remember that work is part of life, “The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”

Aaron Burr follows a very smart path and you could do worse than follow him, “The rule of my life is to make business a pleasure, and pleasure my business.”

Good communication is the only sustainable way to bridge the differences between you and the people you meet in all parts of your life, but it’s not always easy. Donella Meadows explains why clearly and succinctly, “Your paradigm is so intrinsic to your mental process that you are hardly aware of its existence, until you try to communicate with someone with a different paradigm.”

And Beca Lewis provides a great approach to recognizing thoes differences and overcoming them, “Yearn to understand first and to be understood second.”

These are some of the thoughts that inspire me, what thoughts inspire you?

Special thanks to Adrian for creating the image.

Expand Your Mind: Using Innovation

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

So much of Twitter use in the US is banal, but the rest of the world is finding serious use for those 134 characters, like fighting crime. An administrative chief in a Kenyan village does just that using it to find stolen cows or sheep and even thwart a home invasion.

When the administrative chief of this western Kenyan village received an urgent 4 a.m. call that thieves were invading a school teacher’s home, he sent a message on Twitter. Within minutes residents in this village of stone houses gathered outside the home, and the thugs fled.

It’s fortunate that I’m extremely healthy, because I’m not a lover of the medical world. Individuals do great things, but I don’t trust the profession as a whole and those feelings have been reinforced by the secrecy surrounding the connections between doctors and pharmaceutical companies, but that’s about to change.

Under the new standards, if a company has just one product covered by Medicare or Medicaid, it will have to disclose all its payments to doctors other than its own employees. The federal government will post the payment data on a Web site where it will be available to the public.

Household vinegar has long been the go-to ingredient for a host of household cleaners and solutions to everyday problems (just ask Heloise). Now humble, cheap vinegar is saving lives (not in the US, of course).

…a remarkably simple, brief and inexpensive procedure, one with the potential to do for poor countries what the Pap smear did for rich ones: end cervical cancer’s reign as the No. 1 cancer killer of women. The magic ingredient? Household vinegar.

Crowdsourcing is making waves in many areas, from funding startups to improving government processes to jump-starting medical innovation. Who knew?

“Offering a $100,000 prize has yielded ideas in six months that would have taken four to five years to develop at ten times the cost,” said Sanofi’s Dennis Urbaniak, VP US diabetes.

If you read nothing else today I hope you read this final link and consider registering. After all, can’t hurt and could save a life.

Q: What do you get when you combine a driving entrepreneur with a mission and an algorithm?
A: The National Kidney Register and the longest domino set of transplant surgeries to date; 64 to be exact!

Chain 124, as it was labeled by the nonprofit National Kidney Registry, required lockstep coordination over four months among 17 hospitals in 11 states. It was born of innovations in computer matching, surgical technique and organ shipping, as well as the determination of a Long Island businessman named Garet Hil, who was inspired by his own daughter’s illness to supercharge the notion of “paying it forward.”

Flickr image credit: pedroelcarvalho

If the Shoe Fits: What Do You Think?

Friday, February 24th, 2012

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mI rarely get comments, but I do receive emails; usually with questions that are too sensitive to ask publicly.

Very occasionally over the years they are commentary on what I wrote; I guess the writers assume the language used would relegate them to spam, so they email me directly.

I don’t mind, because it’s kind of cool to know my ideas can generate such explosive reactions, although sometimes I wonder why the person even reads MAPping Company Success.

I received such a response to yesterday’s post.

“James” made no bones that he doesn’t think much of my MAP concept, but his main disagreement was with the final sentence, which he said was garbage, especially in a startup.

Because just as their suggestions won’t directly change your MAP, your suggestions won’t directly change theirs [customers, employees and vendors].

James told me that

  • his people followed his lead and his vision;
  • running a startup was already an 80 hour-a-week job without spending additional time coddling misfits;
  • he paid his vendors on time and if they didn’t cooperate he would find new ones; and
  • customers wanted a quality product that did what they needed done at a price they were willing to pay and anything else was marketing hype.

I wrote back saying that everybody was entitled to their own opinion and I appreciated his taking time to share his with me.

So tell me, do you agree with James? With me? Or are you somewhere in-between?

Option Sanity™ acts as a screening tool.

Come visit Option Sanity for an easy-to-understand, simple-to-implement stock allocation process.  So easy a CEO can do it.

Warning.

Do not attempt to use Option Sanity™ without a strong commitment to business planning, financial controls, honesty, ethics, and “doing the right thing.” Use only as directed.
Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Flickr image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: Who are You?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

As the theme from CSI keeps asking, who are you?

The answer is  easy, but not simple—you are your MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™)

Your MAP is what truly defines you; it defines you more than your ethnicity, religion, where you were raised, the schools you attended or any other external criteria.

MAP is why you act certain ways and do certain things, as I wrote about myself several years ago.

MAP is not is an excuse to act badly.

MAP makes you you.

MAP is dynamic as opposed to static—and totally within your control.

It will morph and change as you direct and not as others suggest.

Which is not to say that you shouldn’t listen to suggestions; honest feedback is the best objective mirror for viewing your MAP.

Once you thoroughly understand the role MAP plays in your life you should understand that it plays a similar role in the lives of your team, your vendors and your customers.

Because just as their suggestions won’t directly change your MAP, your suggestions won’t directly change theirs.

Flickr image credit: EPMLE

 

Facebook for Shopping?

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

This post is for all the entrepreneurs and small biz owners who constantly tell me that the best (only) way to reach a large audience and move product is via Facebook.

It hasn’t been for many companies, such as Gamestop, J.C. Penney, Nordstrom, 1-800-FLOWERS, Delta Air Lines, Diane Von Furstenberg Studio and Seven for all Mankind.

Even Gap, which, together with its Banana Republic and Old Navy divisions, has 5.6 million Facebook fans, stopped selling on Facebook.

These are companies with abundant talent and dollars to invest in selling online, but they are opting not to do it on Facebook.

For young companies and small biz there is a major lesson here.

“It was basically just another place to shop for all the stuff already available on the retailer websites. I give so-called F-commerce an ‘F.’” –Wade Gerten, chief executive officer of social media developer 8thBridge

If there is one lesson that should have come down from the dot com era it is that visitors don’t necessarily translate to buyers.

This isn’t surprising if you look at people’s actions in the real world.3281766256_9f2225331b_m

People of all ages spend time at the mall whether to eat, hang out with friends or for indoor recreation in bad weather, but that doesn’t mean they shop and even if they shop it doesn’t mean they buy.

This isn’t to say that you can’t build a store on Facebook and make it a success, but you need to think about whether that is the best use of your resources.

Before committing a large portion, let alone all, of your resources to build on the Facebook platform you should consider two inescapable facts.

  1. People do hang out with friends on Facebook, but it is to socialize, rather than shop; and
  2. you have no control on policies, such as privacy and information sharing, that garnering more and more attention from even casual users.

I’m not suggesting that you ignore Facebook and other social media sites, rather that you recognize them as great places to build your brand as opposed to selling your products.

Flickr image credit: The-Nancy-Minor-Team

Ducks in a Row: Worthless Offers

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

That’s right; multiple offers are worthless,.

It only takes one right offer.

Career experts and anybody with more than one job under their belt who can make the mental leap between cause and effect will tell you that culture is the number one reason to join a company, not to mention the number one indicator of how well a person will do.

Perhaps that’s starting to sink in to college dwellers, even those in the rarefied ultra-competitive Ivy atmosphere.

Yalies are a particularly competitive bunch, and nothing delights us more than an acceptance letter (though an open carrel at Bass is a close second). For us, life is a parade of applications, and acceptance is an indicator of self-worth.

During all the years I worked as a recruiter and since in this blog, I’ve spent a lot of effort to help people understand that getting multiple offers should not be their goal, whereas getting the right offer should be.

(In fact, interviewing everywhere just to get offers for the ego-boost can brand you as a shopper; no manager likes wasting time interviewing a candidate whose reputation/history says “shopper” and that reputation got around long before social media existed).

Being in the wrong culture is like being a duck out of water.

Most people aren’t looking for a job they are looking for a home.

They are looking for an environment in which they fit and feel challenged, appreciated and safe.

Isn’t that what you wanted growing up?

Then why is it considered strange that you would crave the same thing in the place in which you spend more than half your waking hours as an adult?

But even when you find the right culture and a job you love it’s worth noting that basing your self-worth on the success of your company is exceedingly dangerous.

Flickr image credit: David Blaikie

President’s Day

Monday, February 20th, 2012

3768271343_f2337500c8_mHappy President’s Day.

Sad to say that the quality of those in the office over the last 50 years has gone seriously downhill from the quality of the first 50.

Several years ago I wrote

We have no leaders, let alone statesmen, just ideologues, elected by like-minded ideologues, who care only about getting reelected, bringing government money back to their constituency and making lucrative connections in the event they aren’t reelected or are caught by term limits.

and have added to and reposted the full original a couple of times (be sure to check out the link to the original comments).

Based on the current political activity it’s not likely to improve any time soon (this applies to both Houses of Congress, as well as state, regional and local races).

Ideology is the primary lens through which all actions are viewed and any real value to the country and its citizenry is a distant second.

What are your thoughts? What can be done to change this?

Flickr image credit: Kurt Magoon

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