Keep Your Ear to the Ground

Ear to the ground

I’m always trying to find new ways to use technology to keep track of what’s being said out there.  Be it websites, RSS, mailing lists, twitter, etc. I try to know what’s going on for myself, my clients, and my colleagues.  As with most other things in life though, I always find someone who is doing it better than I am.

I created a twitter account using my name and not more than 24 hours later, Jason Calacanis followed me.  While this is not huge news (Jason has 62k+ people he follows), it was to me.  It means that Jason or a script is parsing his mailing list subscribers and finding them at places like twitter.  He can hear the train coming from miles away.  Can you?

Fear is Sand Under the Foundation

I’ve spent a good chunk of my life building houses with my family and also Habitat for Humanity.  Most people know the cliche that having a strong foundation is key to building a house.  That doesn’t make it any less important.  Today, Seth talks about the five pillars of success.

The five pillars of success

1. See (really see) what’s possible

2. Know specifically what you want to achieve

3. Make good decisions

4. Understand the tactics to get things done and to change minds

5. Earn the trust and respect of the people around you

It sure seems like we spend all our time on #4.

Seth doesn’t answer the question of why we spend so much time on #4.  The same reason we spend so much time on #4 and so little time on the others is fear.  Fear that we’re not good enough, fear that our dreams are too small, fear that we’ll make the wrong decisions, fear, fear, and more fear.  That fear brings all of the pillars crashing down.

For people who have never felt they could lead, I say take the first step.  Spend your time on something you find worthwhile and just start doing it.  Here’s the secret: you’ll make mistakes.  Probably a lot of them at first, but that’s often the best way to learn.  Learning to be alright with and recover from failure will help you get over your fear.  It will certainly help you with #5.

via Seth’s Blog: The five pillars of success.

Set The Mood

I had a conversation with a colleague about doing consulting and that there’s really no such thing as an “organization.”  There really is just a bunch of people who need their minds changed.  The CxO’s I work with usually only need a minimum of technical help, mostly they need an outside change agent to help get their people in the mood to do their best work, so they hire me.

You already know how to deliver excellent service that blows people away. You just don’t feel like it. Your organization has the resources to buy that machine or enter that market or change that policy. They’re just not in the mood.

If I accomplish anything on a good day, it’s helping you change attitudes. I’m working hard at getting you in the mood to do the things you already know how to do. I think that’s what your boss/the market wants you to do as well.

via Seth’s Blog: In the mood.

Stimulate The Economy: Start A Business

As we begin our latest downward slide in the economy, people are starting to lose their jobs at an alarming rate.

Instead of looking for some other job, why not create one for yourself? It is easier than most people think if they simply choose what’s right for them.

“What is the right company to start?” I can hear you asking. Something you know and that can be tested easily with minimal costs. I don’t know what that is for you, but you do.

It’s old advice, but worth repeating. Look for something that comes easily or happily to you. Something you are an expert in that you can turn into something to sell to others. If it is hard to replicate, even better.

Once you know what it is, start small and test out the results, but start today. That is the key. Your business model is only going to be perfect by accident. Be willing and able to change.

How does this help the economy? By creating jobs, tax revenue, etc.

If you’ve gotten this far, let me know. There are so many people out there that are willing and able to get you even further.

A Story About Me Written By My Grandmother

Joey at 7 Years By Ruth

Last night, as I sat with my grandsons reviewing their five and seven year old accomplishments, I was drawn again to memories of my own childhood experiences. Joey, my seven year old, proudly displayed his ability to write in handwriting, which had mostly been learned through self teaching, some of his capital letters. This, despite the fact that his mother was repeatedly requesting that they say goodnight and get ready for bed. “Let me show you a capital T, Gramma”, he said, laboriously outlining his project. “Oops!” I remarked, “You shouldn’t have crossed the T, honey, that makes it an F.” There was a stricken look on his face, and with an “Oh no!” he left the room. He returned shortly with his specially wrapped gift for his parents which had a large beautifully made capital F in “Fo Mom & Pop.” I whispered to get an eraser and we would fix it and he went and desperately began searching the drawer where such things were kept. Mom, by this time, and not knowing what was going in, demanded that bed time was now! And she forcefully directed him toward the stairs. The enormity, to him, of his predicament, started a totally frustrated cry, but he went upstairs. When she returned I briefly told her what was happening and went to call the sobbing child for just one minute. I explained to him that if he added a small “r” to the “Fo” it would change the word. With brimming eyes, and a moment’s thought, he realized it would say “For” which was perfectly acceptable. Tears stopped, the correction was made, and a true weight had been lifted in his young mind.

It is the tendency of busy adults to forget the importance of the little tragedies that are as monumental to a small store of experiences in children as larger ones are to adults. Showing them how to deal with and minimize error is one of the best and kindest tools to give them. The humiliation and lack of self esteem that comes from not doing what is acceptably correct can leave a scar no different than the scar an adult gets from the same type of things. The child has within him the adult he will be. Treat him with the respect you would afford, and the kindness you should use, in your dealings with all people.

The enormity of unresolved calamities of my own childhood, though they are small by adult standards, still come back to haunt me. Not that adults were uncaring, but there was an opinion that because children were small, their feelings were relative to their size. Not so! The adult is wrapped in a small confining package, straining to find answers to enormous complexities in the child’s body.

I miss you Grandma.

Sugarcoating Is Harmful

When you have to evaluate someone, it is easy to err on the side of being nice. When you really like the person outside of work or they are your friend, it becomes doubly hard. It is still important to be honest with feedback for someone so that they can improve and important for future teams so that they can make sure the person is the right fit.

I tend to use a lesson learned long ago to escalate problems I’m having with people.

First, talking to the person is often the earliest and easiest way to give someone feedback. Often people will not know something is wrong and are more than willing to fix it.

Second, if the person doesn’t respond, let them know you will take your feedback to their boss if needed. Give them a timeframe to improve and tell them what you will do if they don’t.

Third, evaluate how the person is doing and possibly even get a second opinion.

Finally, putting honest feedback into a review will help teams evaluate the person’s strengths and weaknesses for the future. Even bad feedback with a good outcome can help someone’s review for the future. Who doesn’t like to see someone improve?

When you sugarcoat a review, you hurt the person by not letting them improve and future teams they will work with by not letting them see where they need to cover or help someone.

PSA: Tab Between All Controls On Mac

I normally love the Mac’s design decisions, but one thing that’s always maddened me is that by default you can’t tab between all controls on webpages, etc. I finally got that fixed today with an article from lifehacker.

Click the “All Controls” radio button at the bottom of the Keyboard & Mouse pane in System Preferences to right this wrong.



Smile and Dial – The World Can Hear Your Smile

Science Daily is reporting today on new research from scientists at the University of Portsmouth says that says smiling affects how we speak, to the point that listeners can identify the type of smile based on sound alone. Here is the abstract for the paper:

The present study investigated the vocal communication of naturally occurring smiles. Verbal variation was controlled in the speech of 8 speakers by asking them to repeat the same sentence in response to a set sequence of 17 questions, intended to provoke reactions such as amusement, mild embarrassment, or just a neutral response. After coding for facial expressions, a sample of 64 utterances was chosen to represent Duchenne smiles, non-Duchenne smiles, suppressed smiles and non-smiles. These audio clips were used to test the discrimination skills of 11 listeners, who had to rely on vocal indicators to identify different types of smiles in speech. The study established that listeners can discriminate different smile types and further indicated that listeners utilize prototypical ideals to discern whether a person is smiling. Some acoustical cues appear to be taken by listeners as strong indicators of a smile, regardless of whether the speaker is actually smiling. Further investigations into listeners’ prototypical ideals of vocal expressivity could prove worthwhile for voice synthesizing technology endeavoring to make computer-simulations more naturalistic.

This is real science folks. Remember all those times you had to cold call and you heard “smile and dial” from your biz dev manager? Well, it turns out she was right. Your customer sub-consciously heard, not only that you weren’t smiling, but that you were gritting your teeth in anger.

A Lesson In Getting Organized

Someone I know recently took over a housing community board by getting organized against the old board and running an effective campaign. The strategies used to do this can apply in many areas of life. Here’s how they told me they did it.

*Know What You Want To Accomplish*
The old board was being run by 5 residents of the community and they had contracted with a management company that wasn’t doing an effective job. On top of ineffective management, the board was illegally charging landlords an extra fee for being non-residents. This was strike one for this person and was the whole reason that a group of people decided that the board needed to be replaced. This single goal united 3 people to run for the board.

*Make Sure You Are In The Right*
In cases of legal judgement, it is best to get a lawyer’s advice. The more specific the lawyer’s experience, the better. In this case, one of the landlords was a lawyer and confirmed that the fees were illegal and even sent letters to the board requesting that they discontinue the fee and refund the landlords in the form of a credit on their association dues. When the board ignored the letters, this was further cause for action. Strike two.

*Plan Your Campaign*
Now that there was no choice but to take over the board to effect change, the leader of the 3 did some research on past elections to the board and found that the largest vote count for any one member was around 90 votes. Each resident gets 5 votes, so each of the 3 needed to get around 20 people to vote for them and they would pretty much be guaranteed a seat on the board.

*Know Your Audience*
The people that were being affected by the extra fee were non-residents, so the 3 needed a strategy to communicate with them and explain what needed to be done. The 3 printed up fliers about the problem and mailed them to all of the landlords of the units in the community. They also went around to each of the units and knocked on doors telling people about the problem and to come and vote on the day of the election.

*Stand Your Ground*
On the night of the election, the ballot box was filled with a large percentage of the votes going to the 3 wanting to take over the board. The old board members had set a deadline of 6pm for all of the ballots to be in. They decided to change their minds and open the ballots to anyone who was at the meeting. The old board members went around the community and asked people to vote on the issue. This nearly doubled the amount of votes cast in the election. The 3 were still confident that they would be able to get a majority on the board. Strike three for the old board.

*Move Quickly*
Once all of the ballots were counted, the results were read and the winners announced. The 3 were on the top of the vote count and each got a seat. One of the old board members and a newcomer got the other two seats. Immediately, the management company, seeing the writing on the wall, resigned. The new board members immediately put the extra fees to a vote and the fees were immediately reversed and all past payments were credited back on the association fees.

*Plan Ahead*
Knowing that they would win, the leader of the 3 had already gotten bids several weeks before from several management companies to replace the one that had just left. In my state, you’re required to have a new management company within 30 days. Having these bids in place would speed up the process and allow the board more decision time to choose the best management company.

*Don’t Burn Bridges*
The 2 board members left on the board were upset that they no longer had a majority and couldn’t make decisions the way that they wanted anymore. Being gracious, the 3 board members included them in the process of managing the community, but made it clear that any illegal activity would not be tolerated and that they would need to decide on issues as a board. The 3 knew that it was important not to alienate the community and make sure to listen to their concerns and manage fairly.

So the lessons I took away from this are that in order to get something done, you need to have a clear goal, a flexible plan for getting there, research to back up your claims, and organization to pull it all together. Once you’ve gotten what you want, it’s important to make sure that you make good on your stated goals quickly and work with the former group to keep things running smoothly in the future.

iPhone Service Pricing And A Great Opportunity

at&t just announced the pricing for the iPhone plans.

The pricing is inflated from the normal plans.

*iPhone Pricing*
| *Price* | *Talk Time* |
|$60/mo | 450 min|
|$80/mo | 900 min|
|$100/mo | 1,350 min|

*Regular Pricing* (Cingular)
| *Price* | *Talk Time* |
|$40/mo | 450 min|
|$60/mo | 900 min|
|$80/mo | 1,350 min|

The regular pricing includes rollover, unlimited nights/weekends, and unlimited mobile-to-mobile minutes. I’m not sure if you get those with the iPhone plan. You do get unlimited data access which normally costs around $20/mo.

And that is the whole point of calling this out. The iPhone plan comes with unlimited data access. So the first company that comes up with a VOIP web app for the iPhone is going to make a killing. I’ll bet it’s already in development.