Wednesday, December 30, 2009

When communicating...

INFORM me with useful knowledge infused with wisdom.

ENTERTAIN me to help me pay attention.

PERSUADE me to think or feel something different, because why else should I listen.

INSPIRE me to DO something different!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Can you be replaced by a logic tree?

If you can, it's time to do something different.

Recently, I made a call to a customer service center and was put in contact with a woman in Mumbai, India. She was friendly and helpful as she made her way through a scripted logic tree designed to help me with my product problem. As a former computer service technician, I was intrigued.

Her script had her repeating two phrases over and over.

Each time I described my problem or responded to her questions she said, "I understand."

Her next words were always, "Let me ask you this:..." and then ask me the next question in the logic tree.

This led to an efficient and oddly personable customer service experience. Even though her responses were rote, canned, I really did feel understood. After all, she told me many times that she understood what I said and followed up with a question that demonstrated she DID, in fact, understand.

This woman in Mumbai gave a human touch (and human intuition if needed) to a process that could have been (and probably one day will be) done entirely by a computer. Well, except for that human intuition part. I hope. The woman in Mumbai could have decided at any point that the logic tree wasn't working and tried something else. She was a human safety valve.

Now if you have a job that COULD be handled by a logic tree but is instead handled less efficiently, here is a six step suggestion for you:

1. Design such a tree.
2. Set up an LLC.
3. Contract with a group in Mumbai, India.
4. Sell your new service to your current employer. (Thereby firing yourself and, regrettably, your co-workers.)
5. If your employer won't buy, sell your service to their competitor.
6. Rinse and repeat.

Actually, do steps 2 through 5 first then contract someone in Mumbai to do step 1. Do it fast, before someone in Mumbai or China, or in the cubicle next to you does it first.

Your new job as CEO of Phone Customer Service, LLC should be one that can't, for the moment, be replaced by a logic tree.

OK. I'm joking... sort of.

My point is to do something that isn't routine. Something you love. Something human. Something complex enough to keep you interested. And interesting. Do this something as a career or a sideline or your retirement project.

As Daniel Pink points out in his book, A Whole New Mind, anything that is routine can be outsourced or automated.

Avoid routines. Do Something Different!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Be like Ellen Rohr!

Ellen Rohr did the accounting for her husband's plumbing business. She admits she almost sunk the family business, even though she had a degree in Business Administration.

She found a mentor who taught her how to read and use financial reports. Ellen learned a lot and she and her husband turned the company around. It seems she learned more practical lessons in the school of hard knocks than in college.

After they sold the family business Ellen decided to share all she had learned. As she says, "After all, if a smart, highly educated person like me didn’t know how to read a balance sheet, I figured business illiteracy must be rampant."

Ellen discovered she was right.

Ever since then, Ellen Rohr has been doing her part in keeping our economy strong by teaching entrepreneurs, well, how to make and keep money. Go to her web site and sign up to download her e-book "Where Did the Money Go?"

Ellen is a great source of information and inspiration. Her goal: Worldwide business literacy! She wants you to make more money and have more fun. Couldn't have said it better myself, Ellen. Do something different!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Really Scurvy Story About Change

Great ideas always spread rapidly, right? People see the obvious merits of a really good idea and change, don't they?

Let's look back in history at the treatment of scurvy in Britain's Royal Navy.

Oooo exciting.

On long sea voyages many years ago, scurvy killed more sailors than all other causes, including warfare and accidents. For example, 160 men sailed around the Cape of Good Hope with Vasco de Gama in 1497. 100 died of scurvy.

Captain James Lancaster conducted an experiment in 1601 to see if lemon juice could prevent scurvy. Captain Lancaster commanded 4 ships. He gave 3 teaspoons of lemon juice to the sailors on one ship. Most stayed healthy. The men on the other three ships, his control group in modern parlance, did not get the lemon juice. 110 of the 278 men on the ships that did not get the juice, died of scurvy.

Clear cut evidence, right?

So the British Navy immediately started to give lemon juice to its sailors, right?

Of course not.

In 1747, almost 150 years later, another experiment was conducted by James Lind a British Navy doctor. He found when sailors, stricken with scurvy, were given citrus fruits, the treatment cured them.

Wow! Surely the British Navy was overjoyed at this news and started supplying citrus fruits and juice to sailors on all its ships.

It did, in 1795... 48 years later!

And in 1865, a mere 70 more years, the British extended the policy to its merchant marines. Yay!

Why so long?

No one really knows. Maybe because even though Captain Lancaster was a captain, he wasn't as famous a Captain as Captain Cook, whose journals did not support a link between citrus and a reduction in scurvy. And maybe the the good Dr. Lind simply wasn't a prominent doctor who might have had the ear of some naval bigwig (and in those days bigwigs literally had...big wigs).

Whatever the reason, here's what you need to know:

Just because you have a good idea, just because it's proven to work does NOT mean your idea will be adopted.

You will have to work to get even the best idea accepted, let alone implemented. Knowing how to talk to those who can help, knowing how to rally people to your cause, these skills are as important as your idea.

Persistence and perseverance often trump brilliance.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Training Doesn't Work! Take two.

Training doesn't work in organizations either!

Did I just say that?

In organizations the problems aren't just with the motivation of person trained but with peers, managers, systems, procedures, processes, tools... Shall I go on?

Many problems need to be addressed before training can work in an organization. Most have to do with support after the training. Will there be anyone to encourage and coach you after you are trained?

Imagine a high school marching band trained like most organizational employees or volunteers are trained. There would be the training session, say, 1/2 or full day. Much of that day would be an overview of bands. In the interest of producing well rounded band members, each musician would get information on all the instruments. Near the end there would be a brief, usually hurried, role-play of a musical piece. Then everyone would be left on their own with no further practice as a group, rehearsal or coaching.

Imagine the result.

Every training session an organization schedules is an attempt to change that enterprise. Organizations need to get real and provide the support each learner will need after the training session is over.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Training Doesn't Work!

Yes, you heard right... I said, "Training Doesn't Work!"

Not even my training sessions...which are, of course, excellent. ;-)


You do something AFTER the training session. You will not improve, you will not succeed, you will not do something different, unless you do what you need to do after the training session ends.

You must follow up with the next steps (and then the steps beyond), you must make different connections to find those role models, that coach, those heroes of change. You must discover those new stories that will support your change and help you do something different.

Training can help you with all that. And whoever is doing or sponsoring the training should provide you with the opportunity for support after your training. But, let's get real, nothing will happen unless...YOU take action.

Training is just the start. Training gives you some of the new tools you need. Good training may even give you the inspiration that triggers your motivation to change. But when the training ends it's up to you.

It's up to you to do the deep practice that makes real change, real improvement, real success (however you define that) possible.

After the training it's time for you to get real to make it real.

Training can give you ignition. Lift-off is up to you.

Friday, October 30, 2009

It's a Wonderful Life

These days I'm in rehearsals for a musical version of "It's a Wonderful Life".

The story of George Bailey touches many people and has a great deal to say for those interested in personal improvement and development, and for those who wish to make changes in their lives.

Too much focus is given to the rich and famous. George's story is about an ordinary person. He wishes to travel and is never able to. He sees friends like Sam Wainwright grow rich and move away. His own brother is a celebrated war hero. Yet, George is still in Bedford Falls running his family's Savings and Loan.

A crises dispirits George but then an epiphany helps him see he actually has a rich and wonderful life.

One must appreciate what one has even if striving for something more, something different. Use the gifts you have and work toward what you desire.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Creativity

Halloween brings out the creativity in people. Amazing is the only word to describe what some people come up with for costumes and decorations.

Do you suppose the organizations these folks work for, or volunteer for, tap into their creativity?

Most of the time the answer would be no.

People are motivated to work most successfully and intensely on undertakings they choose themselves. How many organizations authorize that?

The answer? The very best and most creative organizations.

It isn't just big-C creativity that suffers. Getting better at anything involves a certain amount of creativity. Let's call it little-c creativity.

Creativity is one component of improvement. You need coaching, support, and deep practice as well. How well does you organization support these practices? How well do you do them yourself?

Channel the spirit of Halloween. It's not so scary.

Do Something Different!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What Happens to You When Everything Changes

This is a time of transition.

Just look around.

In my area newspapers are only delivered three days a week now and are maybe one-third their previous size.

Will your employer continue to provide health insurance?

Will you even have an employer?

It seems everything today is subject to change. Previous results are no guarantee of future results. Do you play it safe? Well, in a changing world what is safe? Somehow I don't think doing what worked yesterday will get you better results, or even the same results, the day after tomorrow.

Now is a great time to explore. Now is a great time to start to do something different.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What I learned from Lana May's beaded jewelry class.

Monday we hosted a class in beaded jewelry weaving at our home.

My wife Sharon announced how the class would work. When Lana May teaches she doesn't start with a big overview of her projects. She simply asks, "Who is ready to start?" and goes to each table or individual as needed. The entire day was self-paced with expert, personal guidance whenever you needed it. An advantage of this system is if people come late it simply doesn't matter. Lana just gets them started and moves to someone who needs help at a different place in the pattern. She taught 3 different projects to 15 people all progressing at different speeds. Impressive.

I was amazed to see our living room transformed into a classroom accommodating 15 students and our kitchen transformed into a product showcase for 2 jewelry designers, Lana May ( ) and my wife ( ). Many patterns and kits (products) were sold.

This shows that if you start small (but think big) you can start an information enterprise right where you live for fun or profit.

Do Something Different! Get more out of life.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Searching for Speech Topics?

Just don't do it!

Instead, of wondering what should I talk about, ask what do they need.

It's a better approach and immediately starts helping you relax. With this approach you are not the focus, your audience is.

Don't hunt for a topic. Decide what you want your audience to do. Your audience may be a client, a prospect, a group of fellow employees, your club, the city council whoever you talk to. What do you want them to do differently after your talk?

Gather the information they will need, then design, deliver and interpret that information in a way that will lead your audience to action. This way your focus is on the audience.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Attend the University of YOU.

So you want to do something different?

But you don't have a degree for that professional job?

Well, you'd be surprised at what you can do and how far you can go WITHOUT that degree.

You see, I want you to start using your gifts right now, to do something today not wait until tomorrow. Even people who have a degree are often working in fields that have nothing to do with their schooling. These days it is easier than ever to learn to do something different.

Stop dreaming and start doing.

Google it.

Start with google. Find what you can on the subject of interest. Then use Amazon and find books on that topic and get them from your library. Even if your library doesn't have the book they can probably get it through an interlibrary loan. Use your library to find out more by searching academic journals and other research tools and databases.

Apply your learning.

Let's say you want to try landscaping. Try with your own home. Ask if you can do free projects for a friend or perhaps a non-profit organization. Build a portfolio of projects.

This can work in many fields: Web design, career coaching, social media, theater, writing, use your own imagination.

Use your gifts. Do something different!

Monday, June 15, 2009

What have they done to my TV?

Digital TV transmission is here. Analog is over.

Change has come.

This is what change is like. Love digital TV or hate it, that is the new reality.

The process was much like change within an organization.

I know that today there are those who will tell you that no one ever told them about the change to digital TV. They will tell you this despite the almost incessant public service announcements that aired for months before the change.

There are those who will tell you this change is good for everybody and point to increased programming on multiple channels and to the use of the now freed up bandwidth for other uses. Change is good! (And we've been telling you for months, years even. Pay attention! It's been postponed a gazillion times. Oy!)

No wonder people get frustrated by change. Both changers and -um- changees.

Why do we think everything will be, indeed must be, smooth. Some people will understand, receive the message of change, get on board, and thrive. Others will not. More often then not change widens gaps rather than closing them. Some gain, others lose or, at least, don't gain.

You wonder why there is resistance to change? Well,one reason is that some people lose out when change hits. Even something like digital TV. No amount of communication can erase that fact.

But communication and taking steps to reduce the pain for those who will not gain will help.

This even plays out for personal change. There are aspects of yourself that lose when you change...even if it is a good change...a change you want to happen.

When we moved to our "new" house nine years ago we were happy. We still are. I can't imagine moving back, but...

I have a video taken of our old home after everything had been removed. I went from room to room silently documenting the place. Every time I see it I am choked with emotion. Why?

These are the bedrooms we decorated for the kids. This is the stairway the kids would roll their slinkys down. This is the dining room were we had great meals, fought, made up, laughed, discussed our move to the new house. Every nook and cranny of that place was filled with memories...and we left it to embrace something new.

Change is great. But it always comes with a price. If you want to change or want your organization to change, you must understand and pay that price.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

People don't want to be changed but they love to change.

Jeffery Gitomer says, "People don't want to be sold but they love to buy."

I say, "People don't want to be changed but they love to change." Variety is the spice of life.

But, I hear many people say that people HATE change.

But they don't hate change.

They don't.

I don't.

You don't.

Never change?

It would be like waiting for a light that never turns green.

I love that I changed to an iPod and don't have to buy CD's with songs I don't want. (And before that I was happy to change from vinyl records that popped and hissed and had to play songs in certain order.) Even better, I get to carry most of my music collection with me when I'm out for a walk. Try THAT with vinyl!

Of course maybe you still prefer records. Some do. But there are other changes you do like.

The problem with change comes when you feel forced. Strangely even when you are the one doing the forcing sometimes. But if you understand the reasons, you get a say in the process, you get to try it on for size, well then, usually change is OK. Maybe it's even great.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

You Are Self-employed!

Yes you are!

Even if you have one of those things called "a job" you are self-employed. This was the central insight that turned my work life around in the 1990s. As Pam Slim said in her Declaration of Independence, "I am self employed regardless of who pays me." (See her slideshow here.)

What happens when you see yourself as self-employed is, you begin to see the work world as a market...including your employer. Look, no one is using all of your many talents and abilities. I'm guessing your job only uses a narrow sliver of what you are capable of doing. So find other markets and pitch your services to them. Yes, outside and INSIDE your employer's enterprise.

Hey check out Pam Slim's new book Escape from Cubicle Nation too. (And her blog.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

You should read these 5+ books!

Here are 5 resources that will help you make sense about change management.

The Diffusion of Innovations by Everett M. Rogers.
This is the granddaddy of change resources and one of the best business books of all time. Don't take just my word for it, that's what Inc magazine said too. This book is the bible of the field covering the innovation-decision process, adopter categories, opinion leadership, the change agent, the consequences of change, the list goes on. A must have for change managers.
Jump out idea: Too many to count!

Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want by Barbara Sher with Annie Gottlieb.
Still the best resource for people who want to make changes in their life but either don't know what they want or don't know how to proceed. This has great suggestions on how to discover your desires that you may be hiding from your self, how to deal with your own resistance, and a wonderful section on project management that is free of project management jargon. Sher doesn't even use the label project management.
Jump out idea: You don't have to have steely determination or grinning positive attitude to achieve success and get what you really want. You can have any old attitude you happen to have and any coping mechanisms you can use.

Communicating Change by TJ and Sandar Larkin
Turns many ideas about managing change in organizations on their heads. The authors advise communicating through supervisors (which makes sense...that's one reason there are supervisors). They also say to concentrate on local work areas and eschew all rah-rah and hyperbolic slogans. A readable, down-to-earth book.
Jump out idea: Keep communication simple and emphasize performance of local work areas.

Making a Living Without a Job by Barbara J. Winter
For those specifically looking to, as Pam Slim says, escape cubicle nation. Practical and inspirational ideas for striking out on your own without a job.
Jump out idea: The $100 idea. Make your idea make some money...$100.00. That will tell you more than most of your planning and introspection.

Moneyball by Michael Lewis
Ok, this one may be coming out of left field. (Please excuse the lame joke.) But really this book about the Oakland A's and Billy Beane demonstrates how change was managed by one baseball team. These changes then spread to other teams in major league baseball (MLB). Basically the world changed (salaries grew astronomically) and MLB ignored that fundamental shift for many years. Then Oakland started winning without overspending on talent. Shows how an outside force leads to change within organizations and industries. Oh, and it's a fun book.
Jump out idea: Even an organization with deeply held traditions and culture can change...but it ain't easy.

The +: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Everything you wanted to know about your resistance to personal development but were terrified to ask.
Jump out idea: It's War!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Do the obvious!

A recent news report on a diet study made a blinding flash of the obvious. If you want to lose weight - get this - eat less and move more.


The report stated it didn't matter which diet you used. Just consume fewer calories. Do even better by getting more exercise. Oh, and to sustain your efforts, have a support system with other people.

We also know, to get better at something - anything - we need to practice. Not just practice, but practice those aspects of what we wish to improve that are difficult, if not impossible for us. It is important in those improvement efforts to have some expert guidance and the support of others.

Hey, that sounds like the dieting study.

But few people actually DO the obvious. Most people look for shortcuts. Most people do what's comfortable. Most people do the same thing over and over and expect different results. It has been pointed out that this is a form of insanity.

So because most people don't DO the obvious, few people get really, really good at anything. Most people ignore the obvious and do what's comfortable but ineffective.

Do something different! Do the obvious!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Deliberate Practice, Expert Coaching, and Enthusiastic Support

Have you ever met a STAR?

I have. Of course he wasn’t exactly a STAR when I met him.

Oh, he was well enough known at the time to young rock fans in Michigan, but not the biggest STAR even in that little niche.

The STAR was Bob Seger. This was the late 1960’s, long before the Silver Bullet Band. Long before his massive hits in soundtracks of movies like Beverly Hills Cop. Long before Risky Business when Tom Cruise took one of Seger’s old records off the shelf and danced in his tighty-whities.

I was in charge of securing acts for our dances and concerts. I was also the guy who paid those bands.

Before one of those concerts I was talking to Bob. I mentioned to him how we had to cancel a dance in the Union a week earlier when a local band canceled. Bob said, “You should have called me.”

Even then the Bob Seger System (that was his band’s name at that time) cost way more than we would make at a “sock-hop”. So I said, “Bob, you would have cost too much.”

At that Bob Seger wrote down his home phone number on a flyer and told me, “If that happens again call me at home. DO NOT CALL MY BOOKING AGENT! If I have the date open I’ll play the gig if you give me enough to pay my band and my gas to get here.” He then quoted me a price that was about the same as a local band and WAY less then his usual fee.

Stupidly, I then asked him why. “Bob, why would you do that?”

I'll never forget his answer. He said, “Look, I love to work. Doing gigs like that let’s me try out new stuff. I'd play my music for people all day and all night everyday if I could.”

Remember he only asked for enough to pay his band and for gas for his van. Bob Seger was willing to play for FREE just for the opportunity to play for an audience.

No wonder I had seen The Seger System at concert after concert and dance after dance. Bob Seger played (not just practiced) every night he could get himself in front of an audience.

In a couple of years after that Seger moved out to California and in about 5 or 6 years –BOOM - he became an overnight success.

Bob Seger knew the key to getting better, the key to success. Deliberate practice.

Practice with a goal of getting better in specific ways each time you practice.

Some other keys to success include expert coaching, to help you design and evaluate your practices. Enthusiastic support, and motivation, what Bob Seger might call the fire down below.

To find out more check out the book Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. Also, Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers.

Also search for the work of Dr. Anders Ericsson online, especially The Making of an Expert and The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. These are outstanding articles.

Remember, use deliberate practice, seek expert coaching, find people who will give you enthusiastic support, and get motivated.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Gina Schreck and

I've just found a site called It is a wonderful place to upload little videos or watch them. Check it out.

I found it because of an article about Gina Schreck and her gettingeeky series on that I saw in NSA Speaker magazine.

Have a great day and Do Something Different!