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Archive for November, 2013

A Thanksgiving Reminder

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

FB Turkey


Just a note to say that I’m taking tomorrow off. Have a fabulous Thanksgiving and I’ll see you Monday

10 Lessons to Learn

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013


Every now and then an anonymous Internet goody is sent to me, often by KG Charles-Harris.

Here’s the latest.

Everything I need to know, I learned from Noah’s Ark

ONE:  Don’t miss the boat.

TWO:  Remember that we are all in the same boat! 

THREE:  Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.

FOUR:  Stay fit. When you’re 60 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big. 

FIVE:  Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.

SIX:  Build your future on high ground. 

SEVEN:  For safety’s sake, travel in pairs. 

EIGHT:  Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.

NINE:  When you’re stressed, float awhile. 

TEN:  Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.

Flickr image credit: Ken’s Oven

Ducks in a Row: Hurricanes at Work and Home

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013


I just read an article about hurricane employees; referring to employees who “destroy the social fabric of the organization by creating friction, drama, tension and hostility among other employees.”

It’s an excellent article, but what struck me is how often good team players turn toxic during the holidays.

I’ve always said that people aren’t water faucets, i.e., there is no way they can spend 8-12 hours daily in a toxic culture or with an abusive boss and not have it affect their relationships and non-work actions.

By the same token, what happens outside of work affects attitudes and actions at work and what happens during the holidays is quite different from the rest of the year.

The holidays, starting at Thanksgiving, often include exposure to hurricane family members and excessive and/or unrealistic expectations that overwhelm normal coping capability.

That greater stress can disrupt mental equilibrium and negatively impact attitude.

The take-away here, whether you are the boss or not, is that if a team member becomes disruptive or has a sudden personality change talk with them and see what you can do to help.

Flickr image credit: Ducklover Bonnie

Are You what You Tweet/Say/Write?

Monday, November 25th, 2013


Whether you like it or not, agree or not or just consider it unfair, what you say/write/tweet and pin is who you are to the world.

Based on what comes out of his mouth, Mel Gibson is a not only a bigot/raciest/anti-Semite, but a thoroughly rotten human being.  

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo claimed there are no qualified women for his Board, but it didn’t take much for outside experts to identify 25 women who are more than qualified. Of course, Costolo has a lot of company in that mindset.

In a blog post, AdRants Steve Hall self-proclaimed that for “salaciously selfish, purely prurient, Neanderthal-ish reasons” he wanted to work at ad firm Young & Laramore, because of the hot staffers; he also identified several other women he considered hot, then informed everyone via Twitter that he didn’t mean to be insulting and was, in fact, a “nice guy.”

Celery founder Peter Shih of wrote a post citing everything he thinks is wrong with San Francisco that was a cornucopia of “misogyny, homophobia and a general disregard for socioeconomic inequality” that, in the subsequent storm, he tried to pass it off as “humorous satire.”

The thing that all these have in common is that the protagonists were all innocent.

None of them meant anything bad, and some, like Gibson, even denied that they actually believed what they ranted.

They blamed booze, misguided humor, lack of context, ignorance, third-party misunderstanding and a myriad of other reasons why their words shouldn’t define them.

But your words reflect your thoughts and, thanks to the Internet, they will be around forever.

Flickr image credit: Steven Cateris

If the Shoe Fits: is it Age or Attitude?

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

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


Everyone is talking about Steve Ballmer’s words in a WSJ interview, “Maybe I’m an emblem of an old era, and I have to move on,” and the agreement it drew from Salesforce.com’s CEO Marc Benioff.

Benioff doesn’t care about age, born in 1964 he’s no spring chicken, but he does care about attitude.

“The world has changed. The companies that are struggling in the market today have not gone cloud. They have not gone social. They have not gone mobile. They are still trying to sell the same old stuff.”

Consider all the folks you didn’t hire because they “didn’t fit in,” which was a nice way of saying they were older than you/your friends.

Now consider that in 2009 80% of “total entrepreneurial activity” was over 35 and that hasn’t changed.

No one accuses Salesforce.com of lagging behind or slacking on innovation.

Larry Page turned 40 this year, but Google isn’t exactly sitting back on its laurels or ignoring whatever part of the changing landscape they aren’t changing themselves.

If someone said they knew a great 46 year old design guy how interested would you be?

Is 46 a turnoff?

Oops; you just missed out on Jony Ive.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: are Elegant Solutions Best?

Thursday, November 21st, 2013


Globally, 2.5 billion people don’t have access to a toilet.

1 in 6 people don’t have running water.

Problems like these cry out for innovative solutions, but innovative doesn’t necessarily mean technically sophisticated.

A few years ago Cynthia Koenig saw the water problem first hand in South Africa.

Koenig launched a nonprofit organization to help distribute a locally available water transportation tool. In order to address the issues of poor quality control, corruption, and limited geographic distribution, she soon found herself at the helm of Wello. The social venture manufactures and distributes the WaterWheel, a 20-gallon drum that moves four to five times the amount of water possible using traditional methods of collection and carrying.

Simple, inexpensive and can even become a micro-business for an owner.

In contrast, five years ago the Gates Foundation issued a toilet challenge, with daunting parameters.

Make sure it takes in the bodily waste of an entire family and outputs drinkable water and condiments, like salt. And while you’re at it, make sure that the toilet is microprocessor-supervised and converts feces into energy. And all this has to cost just pennies per person per day.

That description is akin to a silver bullet, not a toilet.

The results, to date, are sophisticated, costly and unsustainable ideas, with prices north of $1000 per toilet.

How different from an available solution that, while it doesn’t do everything, does solves the basic problem and is amazingly cheap.

The Peepoo bag, which inexpensively (less than 2 cents per bag) sanitizes waste before turning it into fertilizer, are huge improvements. They can also be critical in saving lives after natural disasters.

Just think what a few thousand cases of these would mean right now in the Philippines—or in Illinois, for that matter.

Too often, sexy and elegant ends up being complex and expensive, whereas plebian and boring equates to simple and affordable.

Flickr image credit: bjornmeansbear

Miki’s Rules to Live by: Who is Your Real BFF?

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ksavo/3995615036/In this age of hyper connectivity it is easy to forget that when all is said and done the only person who will always be there for you is you.

Rather than fearing this truth, embrace it.

Doing so will give you the courage to follow Mark Twain’s wise words—instead of chasing the approval of others.

Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.

Flickr image credit: Kyra Savolainen

Ducks in a Row: Snapchat Values Culture

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013


Everyone has an opinion on Snapchat turning down a $3 billion offer from Facebook (here’s the thinking of others who have been there), but the comments that caught my eye were from Gary Burnison, Korn/Ferry’s CEO, who focused on the cultural aspect.

Burnison said that based on his company’s experience, “…people are hired for what they know, they are fired for who they are.”

Very true, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise, as I said five years ago when I wrote Culture Trumps whether Hiring or Acquiring.

The problem is that managers often ignore culture, because they believe they that theirs is ‘right’ and the other will change. It’s not a case of you/your company being right and ‘her/them’ being wrong, it’s a case of the pieces don’t fit—and 98% of the time you should see it coming.

The power of culture has been at the forefront of many discussions, with top CEOs focusing on culture above everything, including strategy. When his investors wanted to cash out, Tony Hsieh knew going public would destroy the culture, so he sold Zappos to Amazon instead.

Burnison also said, “I never thought I would see culture trump money with $3 billion on the table.”

I did, but I thought it would take a lot longer before a CEO, let alone a founder, had the insight to understand that a successful culture is priceless.

Flickr image credit: Neil T

Pity for a Generation

Monday, November 18th, 2013


I feel sorry for the current generation and all those who’ve bought into their ethos.

Everywhere I go I see them; eyes locked on a tiny screen desperately seeking the latest indication that they fit in; that they are accepted; that they are liked.

But what they find on that screen is an illusion; one that leads them away from the real connections all humans crave.

Studies show that American college students spend, on average, three hours texting and an hour and 40 minutes on Facebook every day. One of the more recent studies centers on the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale: Norwegian researchers have observed that excessive Facebook use leads to higher rates of anxiety and social insecurity.

The proof is in what happens when they’re in public and you take that screen away.

“I gathered my things and bolted out the door,” one student wrote about her reaction once she finished her meal. “I was glad that I could feel like I belong somewhere again. . . . What I hated most was being alone and feeling like I was being judged for it.” Another student echoed this experience. “By not having my phone or laptop to hide behind, it was amazing how self-conscious I felt.”

How sad is that?

In short, no screen equals no confidence

“I realized something disturbing after doing this. If I don’t feel connected with others, I automatically feel alone, unpopular, less confident.”

The feedback of online connections may provide instant gratification, but that’s cold comfort when what you’re longing for is warmth, intimacy and a hug.

Flickr image credit: nicubunu.photo

If the Shoe Fits: Can Six Words Change Your Company?

Friday, November 15th, 2013

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

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIntelligently sharing information, commenting or arguing in 140 characters or less is challenging, but can you sum up your life, career, mood or tell a story in just six (real) words?

When challenged to tell a story in six words, Ernest Hemingway came up with “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”

Since 2006, Smith Magazine has challenged readers to write their memoirs in six words and the effort is still going strong. Here are three examples from the Smith site,

Ecstatic, elastic, eccentric, electric, ever-changing existence!

Dreams diverted; life proceeds. Embracing detours.

Lesser people would’ve given up already.

A while back I wrote Birth, death, fun and happiness in-between, because that’s what I’ve always wanted and got from life—including obstacles and detours.

The great advantage six words have is to focus deeper thought, creativity and clarity upon the subject.

It’s fun to read through the Smith website and share your own thoughts, but much better to create your own version of it for your company.

Whether you do it digitally, on whiteboards or create a scrawl wall, it’s easy to set up a place for people to post their six-word thoughts.

In six words your people can

  • describe your culture;
  • spark creativity and innovation;
  • facilitate bonding;
  • clarify projects and goals;
  • strengthen the team; and
  • much more.

Analyzing the differing descriptions can go a long way to making sure everybody is on the same page.

It’s also a great tool to provide you with insights and a heads-up, so you can address molehills before they become mountains.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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