Thursday, August 30, 2007

No "A's For Effort"

Kids are headed back to school----it's caused me to reflect on comments we hear from teachers, parents, and friend---"A for Effort." That term has slipped into our vocabularies and we apply it to all sorts of business and personal situations. I suppose it's an attempt to justify failure to achieve results.

It seems much of what is done, even rewarded today focuses on effort, not results or accountability. People are very busy, work incredibly long hours, load their agendas up with meetings, lots of activity, and overlay that with constant interruptions of Blackberry's, mobile phones and emails. Somehow "busyness" has become the end--its become what is recognized, rewarded, promoted.

All this "busyness" diverts us from focusing on effectiveness, accountability, personal responsibility, and achieving the outcomes or results we want. "Busyness" seems to be something that we can hide behind so that we don't have to do the tough work of figuring out what's wrong and why we aren't producing results. It's easier to schedule more meetings, work longer hours, send more emails. Perhaps what is really needed is time to reflect on the question Michael Hyatt poses: "What is it about my leadership that is producing these results?" We all have to accept personal responsibility for making a difference and achieving results. Many of us blame others or external factors. We fall back on focusing on the effort and the valiant try. We fool ourselves.

Ultimately, it's about personal responsibility or accountability. Each of us is responsible for and are in control of everything we do. If what we are doing is not, producing the desired result, it's up to us to figure out what we have to do to fix it. We can't blame it on others. It's about knowing that each of us has an impact and is responsible for what happens in our lives and business. It's owning this that enables each of us to achieve our goals and have an impact.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Social Networking, Form Triumphs Over Substance

I've been curious about the phenomenon of adding friends, passing on introductions, etc. The two networks I actively participate in are LinkedIn and Facebook.

Recently, though LinkedIn, I have received invitations from several old, long lost colleagues. I have anxiously responded, accepting their invitations. With every response, I send an email, expressing my delight at re-connecting and suggesting a personal dialog--email, voice to voice or otherwise. In most cases, I am disappointed. These contacts don't respond, I'm added to their list, but never hear from them. What's the purpose? I guess they are shooting for quantity over quality.

My physical world networks are very precious to me. I have started to pare my virtual world networks to mirror-in principle-my physical world networks. I want meaningful relationships with people who I trust, whose views I value and who, I hope, value mine. I don't want to be a part of a list to see who has the most.

I'm confused also by those people who "accept any invitation" in their virtual networks. I know they don't in their physical networks, why the change. Maybe it is only for self promotion, rather than valuing the relationship.

When form triumphs over substance, the network loses value. I think the value of networking is to establish relationships, to invest in those relationships. Without this, what's the point?

Any thoughts, reactions?

Multi-tasking Is Dead

Just a quick post, I was reading Michael Hyatt's Blog: From Where I Sit, and saw this great quote from Tmothy Ferriss. It expresses what I have been clumsy at expressing in past blogs. It does it in one sentence.

“Multi-tasking is dead. It never worked and it never will. Intelligent people love to sing its praises because it gives them permission to avoid the much more challenging alternative: focusing on one thing.”

I'm reading his Tim's book right now, The 4 Hour Work Week. I've just started it, appears to be well written, but I am a little skeptical. Will write later, but had to post this quote because it is so on target.

Monday, August 13, 2007

When I Want Your Opinion, I'll Tell You What Your Opinion Is, And You Will Like It!!!

I usually try not to rant against specific companies in this blog, but I just bought a new car--a Lexus. I had used Lexus in the past as the benchmark for outstanding sales experiences, but it's changed. It now is aligned with every other car shopping experience I have had. It is among the worst and most distasteful buying experiences I have seen. (When will the auto manufacturers get it?!).

My rant is not about this terrible experience, but about the end. I was given a survey by the sales person. It was already completed, indicating that I was completely satisfied with the shopping experience. The salesperson explained to me, "If I don't get a top ranking, I will be fired, so I appreciate it if you would say that you are completely satisfied with everything, so I get to keep my job."

Lexus is just one more company that demonstrates they really don't care about their customers. They have such disdain for honest feedback from their customers that they have the audacity to tell us what our opinions are.

I recently read a book that discusses this much better than I can, it's the Ultimate Question, by Fred Reichheld. I encourage anyone really interested in learning from customers to read this and apply his process.
In the mean time, I hope companies learn to respect their customers and listen to them better.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Real Business People Multitask

Ever wonder why we don't get things accomplished in meetings these days? There are lots of reasons, but my pet topic right now is multitasking. The scenario is always the same.....

A critical meeting is finally scheduled, it took weeks to do, but everyone is scheduled to attend The Meeting.......
.......people drift into the conference room......12 minutes late.....

Everyone spends the first 5 minutes jockeying for power outlets, network connections, etc.

You finally start, it's now 17 minutes into the hour....

Fortunately, you're organized, you have an agenda, you're focused, you persevere. Things get going, in the background you hear the sound of fingers on keyboards.....

...No it's not people taking notes, it's people responding to emails.....

With one ear, people are listening to the meeting, but part of their mind is distracted by the latest critical email......

"Can you repeat what you said, I missed it." Fantastic, you caught some one's attention, they have stopped doing emails for a moment. You begin to answer, then the inevitable sound......

....The deadly Nokia ringtone....

or, Hello Moto.......

Politely, someone gets up, desperately putting their mobile phone to their ear and walking out of the room......

You're 30 minutes into the meeting......

....You try to regain control of the meeting... present the agenda again, start over....

A couple of people are sitting quietly at the end of the table, eyes demurely downcast, hands seem to be neatly folded in their laps below the table......., they have the "blackberry pose"....blackberry held below the table, both thumbs fully engaged in dealing with email.

Time to get assertive---or maybe a desperate plea, "Would everyone please turn off emails, cell phones and blackberry's so we can get on with the meeting?"

You're now 40 minutes into the meeting....present the agenda again, things start going well, people are paying attention, you are finally accomplishing something....

....10 minutes later you start seeing it, fidgeting and restlessness, suddenly one person's eyes are again demurely downcast......

55 minutes into the meeting, activity you haven't caught their attention, they are starting to close their computers, pack up their things, after all there is the next meeting to go to.......

....well maybe we can continue by scheduling another meeting........

We all know the story. Today, we protest our busy lives and the number of worthless meetings we participate in, yet we have met the enemy and it is our own obsessive behavior. Too often, it seems we measure our worth by how busy we are......or at least how busy we can appear to be. It used to be back to back meetings and a full daily calendar was a test of one's business worth. Now, multitasking has added another layer on top of it. We can sit in a meeting, do email, blackberry's, and listen on mobile phone calls all at the same time.

In the end, we accomplish nothing. One blog I read says that multitasking adversely impacts productivity by 30%---I think that is understated. Another described the computer phenomenon of thrashing--I think that's a good description.

Everyone today is genuinely busy, each of us has a lot going on. But then I look more deeply at things, aren't many of us just thrashing. We're doing a lot, but not accomplishing a thing. This blog is about making a difference---it's about producing results.

Multitasking hurts us, we actually accomplish much less. As an advisor to many organizations, I preach the importance of focus. The principle is as important for our own personal behavior. We are more effective and more efficient when we focus.
Technology is wonderful, it has provided us tools and capabilities to do a lot, but let's use it appropriately. When we are in meetings, let's dedicate our attention to the will both shorten the meeting and reduce the numbers. When we are on a phone call, don't do email. When we are doing email, do email.
My mother was visiting and I asked her to read a draft of this blog. She's old school, she finished, looking at me confused saying: "Isn't it just good manners to demonstrate your respect by paying attention to the people you are meeting with?"
Hmmmmm........... Mom's really smart.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Passion, Hard Work, and Building Businesses

I've been thinking about this a lot recently. There have been many discussions in various media about passion, work, money and building businesses.

What's your view about what it takes to start, build, and grow a business?

Some things I am reacting to:

At the recent Dow Jones D conference, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were asked if making money was what drove them in building their businesses (In both cases, a LOT of Money!). Steve had a very interesting response. He stated that starting a business required a certain amount of insanity. He suggested that sane people would be driven to more reasonable means of making money. The commitment, sacrifices, and desire to overcome any obstacle in building a business had to be fueled by PASSION. He suggested that without this, success, consequenlty money, would be difficult to achieve.

Bill Gate's response was also good. He said, the thought of the money wan't in the forefront of his mind. Seeing new thingss, doing what he wanted to do, working with people who are fun, and being at the forefront is what drove him.

(By the way, their interview in the June 2007 Dow Jones D conference was very interesting, worth watching. Download from Itunes or go to

Separately, yesterday on Guy Kawasaki's blog, Glenn Kelman offered an interesting view called "The Flip Side of Entrepreneurship." He starts by stating he has been "thinking about how hard, not how easy, it is to build a new company." He goes on to talk about the realities and insanities required to build a start up. His views echo and amplify those that Steve and Bill cited.

Finally, I think about a conversation I recently had with a colleague that was escaping the "Fortune 10," to start a consulting company. He sought my experience in building a successful consulting company. I asked him what he wanted to accomplish with his business, and he replied, "make lots and lots of money." I thought about it and responded that he probably would fail to achieve his goal and never be happy. I reflected on our success and priorities. I said there were 4 key objectives that we had in our business:

  1. Make a difference in the business and personal lives of our clients. We want to have an impact on improving their businesses. We want to impact their careers and lives to help them better achieve their personal goals.

  2. Learn something new. We hope our clients learn from us, but also we learn from our clients. This keep us fresh, it gives us new ideas. It enables us to bring greater value to each of our clients in growing their businesses.

  3. Have fun! We work hard and we play hard. We want to work with people we enjoy and who enjoy us.

  4. and the distant 4th is making money.

In reflecting on our success, I said that if we did the first three things really well, the fourth always followed. As I have watched other organizations, driven purely by money and personal reward, I find they many some success, but it is usually short lived. Making decisions based purely on what you get financially, leads to all sorts of errors that threaten the longevity of the business.

I'm don't mean to sound naive or not motivated by money, but I tend to view it more as a scorecard than an end.

Perhaps this is a chicken and egg question--I'm not sure.

What are your views. what does it take to build and sustain a growing business?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Social Networking, Quantity or Quality

I've been tracking, participating and experimenting in a number of social networking and other community building tools.

What are your views about building your "social" or "business" networks, Quantity versus Quality?

As an early invitee to LinkedIn (, I think I fell into the same trap that I saw many people doing: Going for quantity in networks versus quality. In other blogs and posts, there is lots of discussion about this, with arguments for both. I actually tend to fall on the side of a quality network rather than quantity. In LinkedIn, I have been offended by people I do not know, trying to link themselves or their friends though me. If I don't know them, why do I feel confident in introducing them to my friends and leveraging my network?

My current network, at LinkedIn, about 30 percent of the people, I actually don't know. Many of them have been unresponsive to my queries---I write saying "we're linked to each other, why don't we try to get to know each other?" Why are we networked, what's the point other than bragging rights?

My real world or physical world network is very important to me, it's one I treasure and protect. Why should I, or anyone for that matter, do otherwise for our virtual or digital networks?

I'm starting to pare the list of contacts to represent a smaller but more functional network and a better replication of what I use my physical world networks for.

I have recently started using Facebook (, partly at Jeff Pulver's recommendation. It is an interesting application, I like the real world and dynamic feel to it. At the same time, having learned from my experience at LinkedIn, I am being much more careful and slow in expanding my friends and network on Facebook.

I'm also excited about the application and community building aspect of Facebook. I'm looking to learn a lot from it.

Join me if you want. If you are part of LinkedIn, my email is Send me an invitation. At Facebook, search for me and send me an invitation. I do want to "meet you" and learn about you and how we can help each other, so when you send an invitation, know that is expected.

Learning To Blog

I have a fear of writing to no one but myself. At the same time, I am eager to explore the world of blogging. It's a bit a of a funny feeling, being definitely a late adopter.

I actually started this a two years ago, as a complement to my company's website. For a few months, I actually posted articles and thoughts. However, it was really a struggle, it didn't feel right. To some degree it felt too preachy and arrogant. I also wondered, how did the blog fit with the business oriented website at So I dropped it.

Lately, I have been struggling with how to restart. Probably thinking about it too much and not actually trying and learning by my mistakes. So, borrowing from Nike's old tag line, I decided it was time to "Just Do It."

I apologize for my mistakes, I welcome your comments, advice and help. It is important to start building a community that we can learn from each other and contribute. Thanks for joining in, the adventure begins........