9 posts categorized "February 2009"

February 26, 2009

Just skip the scramble

Today I made the decision to hunker down and have a conference call in a closet. Why?  Fighting traffic is dangerous, unnerving and bad for the soul.  

It's better to conduct business in an unconventional place than to kill yourself trying to get to one. Last night I got back from a speaking gig/vacation in Mexico.  Late.  I struggled out of bed around 6:30am, cracked open the laptop and started catching up over coffee.  I turned off during the vacation, so there was a sea of emails to attend to.

At 9:14am I loaded into my car with my briefcase, guitar, CDs and coffee -- off to my writing studio in Burbank for a day of conference calls and catch up.  As I turned on the ignition, I did the travel-math and realized that I'd need to drive like Ricky Racer to get parked and on the phone for my 9:30am call. If every light was kind to me, I'd screech into the parking lot at around 9:29:30. 

"That's really tight," I said to myself.  I realized that It's too late to push it off a few minutes and unacceptable to be late.  Several other people would be dialing in for an important planning call for an upcoming keynote talk. 

So I turned off the car and loaded myself into the basement (one part of the house not currently under construction) to setup for a conference call.  I reviewed my notes, visualized the call and settled into a makeshift chair with pen and paper ready.  It was uncomfortable and barely quiet enough for the call. But I was relaxed and focused on the call -- and it went really well.  It was over by 9:55am.  

My next call was at 10:30am, so I casually made my way to Burbank, taking in the scenery and listening to Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde on the car stereo. The 10:30am call went as well as the first because I was relaxed and calm.  It was a better morning all around.  I vowed to avoid the rush-to-work scene again by having better time management OR getting used to working in my basement!

Your takeaway:  Never fight traffic to get to a "better location" if you have something important to do when you get there.  Do it from somewhere else, or if possible, reschedule by a few minutes.  

February 23, 2009

Needed: A psychic stimulus package

What this country needs is a psychic stimulus package.The current focus is only part of the solution. The “system” that the government is trying to fix is comprised of a set of rules, regulations and transactions that comprise the banking system and central economy. The government’s stimulus package pours adrenalin into the system, along with a few sparks, and waits for a beating heart. Meanwhile, the individuals crumble as they conduct their in-house run on the piggy bank. They break open 401ks, and then stuff the cash into a mattress. They turn in their car and buy a bus pass. They cancel the family vacations, new fall clothes and their church tithe.

Each act of prudence on their part reinforces the gravity of the situation. The shopkeepers that served them see the till getting skinnier every day. They start to layoff the newbie’s and non-relatives. The newly unemployed turn in their cars, put off any new things like clothes and the downward spiral deepens by a factor of one family.

Eventually, all of our creativity is poured into shrinking the flow of pennies out the door. If things are really as bad as the news-folk are telling you, this is only going to stave off your bankruptcy by weeks. You think you are rearranging your finances to survive the storm. I think you are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

The politics of scarcity haven’t served us well, and the nonstop fear-sell has worn us down to a spiritual nub. For the first time in our lives, we truly have to have faith to do anything: spend, lend, invest or replenish. With each passing day, the dread inside us drains energy until, at some point, we just glaze over and adopt a new
mantra: whatever.

Meanwhile, scarcity spreads from stuff to success. Jazz idols (Etta James) and blockbuster writers (Stephen King) lash out at young successful competitors in the new
world of “there’s not enough to go around.” While this example comes from the entertainment pages, you likely see this at work as the employee of the month is slagged at the break room table by forlorn office mates who’ve lost their ability to share a little success. Eventually, scarcity will spread to our concept of time as we are asked to do twice as much with half the help. We’ll go from hustling to frantic scrambling as we feel like we are sinking in the sands-of-no time. We’ll cancel meetings, special dinners, Saturdays with the kids and the summer getaway. Checking email at the dinner table, we’ll resent our employers (who put food on the dinner table) and sink further down into the spiral of helpless self-doubt.

At some point, this psychosis will snake its way into every company, city and church—until the entire nation is embroiled in personal competitions for all remaining scraps: Jobs, profits, friends, awards, lover and time. It will be dog-eat-dog.

I get that our evolution is more environmental than genetic as I again point to the need for a psychic solution to our crisis of scarcity think.

Person by person, or family by family, we need an injection of confidence and daring-do back into the collective consciousness of this nation.

We need to spread the message of abundance: that we can find enough to go around. To really stimulate the economy, we need to restore their ability to trust and dream. We must help people find a better perch or perspective, one that gives them the confidence to declare “there’s enough to go around”, even when the manna has not fallen on their yards (yet). We need to promote a new way of thinking. Currently the gurus of personal finance promote a new way of acting. But that’s not addressing the root of the issue. We’ve got to react to the outside world from a different starting point: “If we are willing to work, adapt and trust each together, I believe that there’s enough to go around.”

Over the course of the next few months, I’m going to talk about the “how”. Please join this conversation with your thoughts on how we can promote this paradigm shift
in everyone we know. I’m especially interested in your personal stories of how scarcity has impacted your life, or the life of someone you know. I’m really interested in your stories of how people are rising up like a Phoenix from the ashes, and inspiring you to believe in abundance.

This is an important conversation for the times.


February 18, 2009

Saints & Sinners: Why your company shouldn't give up on good

In the next few years, we are going to see two kinds of companies emerge from this mess:  Saints and Sinners. 

A very recent survey indicates that CEOs are less popular than politicians -- a sign of things to come.  In my book, Saving The World At Work, I predicted that the Responsibility Revolution would reshape branding as we know it. 

My research indicated that the 2002 scandals, such as Enron and WorldCom, gave rise to the corporate social responsibility movement.  Consumers began to gravitate to companies that offered a social value proposition:  Green, community focused or good to employees.  This is a natural psychological reaction to scandals and the resulting landscape. 

This will only get bigger.  

This is why a recent article (Surprising Survivors: Corporate Do-Gooders) indicates that leading companies with sagging stock prices are holding firm to their commitments to the Triple Bottom Line.  

Expect to see labels on products tell a compelling story in the future.  Pepsi just put R&D dollars into seeing how green their orange juice product was -- and planning to make this a labeling issue in the future.  Analysts say this is a good strategy because in this climate, beyond price, we need to give consumers a reason to buy from us ... and today!  (Check out: How Green Is My Orange)

So don't give up on your commitments to connect your company with a cause bigger than surviving.  Your future brand depends on it.  Also, many companies will cement a social reputation over the next year or two, based on their ability to continue to 'do the right thing', when media pundits are suggesting they jump the shark instead. 


February 17, 2009

One extra hour of revenue creating (sales) activity per day

This is targeted to sales, small business owners and entrepreneurs:

The best way to counter the economy's funk is to create your own oasis of good news: with a sale.  This week, you need to add five hours of "money-seeking" time to your schedule.  If you sell a service, go back to some old clients and talk about new value-oriented products you've just launched.  If you have a product with some recent improvements, suck it up and make five cold calls a day this week.  

I'm not talking about marketing or PR, either.  I'm talking about phone or face-to-face "can I write you up for a sale" pitch and close.  For many, it's a bit of a shock to the system -- especially if you've been more reactive in nature over the last few years.  

In my case, I'm reconnecting with meeting planners or bureau agents from years gone by, sharing my new speaking topic (Creating Great Relationships During Tough Times) with them.  I'm also listening to them, understanding what they are going through, and seeing if there's anything I can do to help.   This strategy works, too.  In each week I've invested five incremental hours in sales, a 2009 revenue opportunity was created.  Sure, most people are tight with money right now.  But if you've created a recession-friendly product or service, you can find someone with cash to spend and a need to solve.  

Welcome to the new sales driven world of small business success!  (PS - What else were you going to do with that five hours, graze around the net or office?)


February 16, 2009

Just ask the Internet

Until a few years ago, working out a technical issue for your computer, program or gadget was a real hassle.

You needed to find the support page on the manufacturer's website and then pour through an extensive knowledge base to find answers.  If you got desperate enough, you lobbed a call into the support center -- only to spend large blocks of time trying to resolve the situation.

Thanks to the largest searchable database in the world, the Internet, those days are over.  If your printer, iPhone or new fangled application doesn't work as advertised, just ask the Internet and the answer will likely show up on the first page.  It's a matter of asking the right question.

For example, I recently bought a new MacBook Pro laptop.  My wireless AT&T broadband card is the Sierra Watcher.  When I transferred my data from my old Mac to my new one, the Sierra Watcher stopped working.  Every time I tried to launch it, it had a fatal error.  So, I asked the Internet.  I went to Yahoo's search engine and typed in "Sierra Watcher" and "new MacBook Pro" and "fatal error".  In the first ten results, the answer appeared (uninstall the old software, download the newest update, reinstall).  It worked!  

This has worked for me dozens of times in the last six months.  A few quick tips:  1. Use exact queries, with phrases in " " marks.  This eliminates useless results.  2.  Describe the issue simple terms, as you'd say it to a support person.  3.  Be patient.  In many cases, the best answer did not come from a manufacturer's website.  In the case of Sierra Watcher, it was actually a Mac user website for new owners.

In the future, I believe that search skills will be the new mad skills required to bring out the best in our gear and software.  


February 11, 2009

Check out The Element

I've just finished reading Sir Ken Robinson's fantastic new book, The Element: How finding your passion changes everything

If you liked Outliers, you'll love this even MORE.  Robinson shares touching stories about famous (and non-famous) people that found success once they found their passion.  According to Robinson, we need to do more to help our children, team mates and friends find their's too.  It will change their life and hatch the next Paul McCartney or Richard Branson.

If you haven't seen Robinson speak, you need to invest 20 minutes and see his TED talk from a few years back.  It's life changing. 
Are Schools Killing Creativity by Sir Ken Robinson


February 04, 2009

What is your Inbox handicap?

No one that I know, except Raytheon's CEO, kills their Inbox everyday. 

Try as you will, you still have several emails left in your Inbox every day. When you are traveling, it grows to more than a few. 

Over the last year, I've been trying to kill my Inbox everyday. It is important to respond in a timely fashion, and when you get a massive amount of unanswered or unfiled email in your Inbox, it leads to stress and anxiety. 

A year ago, my Inbox averaged at least 80 emails in it at any given time.  Most of the read, some responded to and none filed or deleted.  When it climbed above 100, I blocked out time to whack it back down to a manageable size. That was just crisis control, though, not a process.  

Over the last few months, I've developed a new approach: Making it an area of excellence. I now have an email handicap (ala golf) that indicates the average number of emails sitting in my Inbox. The lower the number, the better I'm doing. Currently, I'd say my email handicap is 35.  Not bad compared to last year but still I'm no Bill Swanson (his handicap is zero). By this April, I'll have it down to 20, which would be a real improvement over 2008! 

I challenge you to think about your Inbox like this. Respond in comments with your email handicap, and later as you improve it, update your score. 

If you'd like more tips on better email living, visit: EmailAtoZ

February 03, 2009

A theory about heroes

If you watched the Super Bowl, you probably witnessed the emotional moment where US Airways super-pilot Sully was recognized as a hero, then seconds later, Jennifer Hudson sang the national anthem.  

In that moment, two tear jerkers occurred: A world recognized a hero (Sully) and Hudson bounced back from her personal tragedy to rock the national anthem.  As the moment unfolded, I could feel a lump in my throat and a pain in my stomach (it wasn't the chips). What was happening?  

In other words, what emotion(s) made us weep?  

Most experts agree that there are 7 basic emotions: Sadness, Anger, Disgust, Fear, Interest, Surprise and Happiness.  So, which emotion makes us cry when a hero is recognized or overcomes?

Here's my theory: In the case of Sully, we saw a hero receive due recognition. His life was 'made' in the moment. For him, we felt a strong emotion, happiness. The tears were tears of joy, triggered by a deep sense of justice and fairness in our hearts.  

In the case of Hudson, we saw a tragic figure rise above her situation and show us her best. In this case, we shed tears of sympathetic sorrow for her loss -- and joy for her recovery. 

In both cases, the "hero-threshold" is reached, and we suspend our scarcity and forget about our problems. In that suspension of scarcity, we experience happiness for others in their success. Short of that threshold, the good but non-hero, we don't suspend our personal scarcities and might respond with jealousy, cynicism or disbelief.  

What does all this mean? Finding heroes in our life is important to overcoming our scarcity mindset (not enough credit to go around...I have the biggest problems or needs in the world). Sometimes, as in the case of this Super Bowl moment, the hero was carefully produced by the media over time.  That's not enough to sustain our suspension of scarcity.  

We've got to lower our hero-threshold and make a daily practice out of finding heros. It will help us learn to cheer for others, and solve any feelings of scarcity when it comes to respect and recognition. We need to keep our eyes open for people worse off than us, that somehow rise up like a Phoenix. If we do, I have no doubt we'll experience more happiness and eventually recondition ourself to see abundance everywhere we look.  


February 02, 2009

Best Super Bowl ads?

Super Bowl ads are a great study in effective marketing. 

If successful, they drive incremental sales or website traffic. Over time, they also feed brand power. During these tough economic time, though, driving sales NOW is the key to a good ad. 

At the grocery store last night, stopping in to get some milk, I grabbed a bag of Doritos. Now I know why. Their ad was funny, make the productive attractive and showed an intelligent sense of humor. 

In short, it had a high likeability factor -- the secret to great marketing!

Check out USA Today's Super Bowl Ad  Rankings