Showing posts from July, 2011

Some Unsolicited PR Advice For Any Politician Involved In The Debt Crisis Now

Seriously... 1. Go away from the cameras until you make a deal. 2. Make a deal. 3. If you must go on camera, appear with your sleeves rolled up, with a roomful of colleagues, from both sides of the aisle. Sweating. Have papers stacked in front of you. Or get to a podium with this mixed group and speechify together. 4. Make a deal. 5. Take the pledge: A deal by Sunday talkshow time or donate a year's worth of salary to pay down the national debt. 6. Make a deal. 7. Get in a recording studio with a whole buncha diverse colleagues and re-record "We Are The World." Sell on iTunes to pay down the debt. 8. Make a deal. 9. Tweet that some of the smartest, nicest people around are (people from the other side). No more messages beginning "No way in hell..." 10. Make a deal. "Can't we all just get along?" Maybe not. But we sure as hell better look like we can, or the whole D.C's gonna be in trouble. Have a good day, & good luck!
Image s…

Angry About The Debt Crisis? Blame Yourself.

"I am Generation X and nothing can shock me." Yeah, right.Every time I turn on the TV and see that we're still stuck in "debt crisis" mode, with the clock ticking away on August 2nd, I get shockable again. How did we get to this ridiculous place? I thought we had a lot of people in charge of the money stuff. Why are we seeing this constant fighting, finger-pointing, bravado talk when failure to reach compromise means we all go down the tank?
It is so very fashionable to fan the flames with...yet more blame! Here is a radical suggestion: Let's solve the crisis ourselves.  Deepak Chopra suggests, "You have the ability to solve problems and resolve conflict not simply by thinking creatively but by becoming creativity itself." We, each individually and together, must become creativity itself in order to face and overcome this crisis. Only when we accept responsibility for the situation and take it on ourselves to fix it, even in the smallest way, then and…

The Coming Flight Of The Managers

What are we going to do when all the managers get tossed from the coop because Gary Hamel said we don’t need them?Yesterday in a Harvard Business Review webinar sponsored by Dell, he talked about his research on W.L. Gore, where managers are nonexistent. To Hamel, Gore is the company of the future.Gore doesn’t need managers, says Hamel. Employees are motivated to perform on their own because at the end of the year a panel of 20 people rates them on how much value they’ve contributed to the company that year.The underlying assumption is that managers are there to make the workers work. If workers are self-disciplined, then who needs managers?In fact, Hamel believes, managers actually get in the way. They’re so busy imposing rules that employees can’t navigate the maze they’ve created and do their work efficiently.Hamel’s justification for eliminating the manager and replacing that person with a self-disciplined worker is impressive. Workers innovate. And companies have to change radica…

Real Love Is Tough & Ugly

I am a huge Anne Bancroft fan and was surprised this weekend that I had never seen her performance in The Miracle Worker (1962). This of course is the famous story of Anne Sullivan Macy (known as "Annie Sullivan," who in the late nineteenth century helped Helen Keller, a deaf and blind girl, learn to communicate.It's sort of about Helen Keller, true, but the most fascinating part is the character of her educator. A human being of incomparable will who seems tough and mean but is truly full of selfless love for the child.The breakfast scene is horribly painful to watch. And yet I am transfixed by it. I can watch it again and again.I love that Annie was completely unselfish.I love that Annie didn't give a damn about getting an award for her work.I love that Annie physically threw herself into the task.I love that Annie didn't know what she was doing, but let the child be her guide.I love that Annie didn't care about how she looked.I love that Annie knew how to …

Empty Words & Hidden Agendas

I watched Jeffrey Toobin analyze on CNN the disgusting, abhorrent attack on Nafissatou Diallo, an economically disadvantaged hotel maid of color, by a powerful, rich Caucasian who to her had all the power in the world.Toobin absolutely no trouble mouthing the pros and cons of the accuser’s case in the coldest of legal-strategy terms. It was almost as though he were a sports analyst predicting who would win a major football game. “...may be a smart move on the part of her legal team, considering…”In my mind I contrasted these cold, uncaring words with the straightforward words the victim used to tell her story:
Excerpt from interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts:
DIALLO: I was watching the news and then they say he's going to be the next president of France. Then I say, oh, my God. And I was crying. I said they're going to kill me. I said they're going to kill me. I'm going to die. ROBERTS: Why did you think that, Nafi? DIALLO: Because I know if I was in my country, …

10 Personal Branding Tips for Gender Balance (Personal Observation)

The following is based on my own personal observation, and I know that
everyone is different. If you think this doesn't apply to you,
obviously you can ignore it or comment. I hope that it is helpful. For women-- 1. Remember that work is inherently competitive - don't take it personally. 2. Develop a comfort level with authority - assertive, not passive or
aggressive. 3. If you define yourself strongly as a "relationship person," engage
in linear decision-making sometimes. 4. Demonstrate physical confidence: Walk fast and tall; shake hands
firmly; look people in the eye. 5. Dress more formally than you think you have to, and not overly
"girly." The message should be: I'm smart and focused on my work.
For men-- 1. Look beyond the visual cues and listen for the things that are not said. 2. Seek to influence and inspire rather than to "lead." 3. Convert enemies into friends, or neutral parties, rather than go
head-to-head. 4. Develop a …

Bureaucracy's Drive To Survive Keeps The Debt Crisis Alive

It's pretty obvious to me, looking at the collapse of the debt talks, that something is deeply wrong with our society. It's like everybody knows this, everybody wants to do something about it, but nobody can seem to figure out exactly what to do. Interestingly, if you ask people on the individual level to describe the status quo, what's wrong, and how to fix it - you will usually get a pretty intelligent response. But when you assemble those individuals together and ask them to run large social institutions as a group - more often than not they fail. Doesn't matter if we're talking business, government, education, healthcare, correctional facilities, you name it. The reality is that groups tend toward dysfunction. Because it is a law of groups that they develop a collective consciousness that literally turns the system into a separate, distinct entity. One that perpetuates its own survival - even at the cost of its members. On a micro level, you see this very often wi…

Your Brand Is Failing. Here's Why.

Like a lot of other people, I spend a lot of time thinking about branding and I admire when organizations do it well. However, at the same time I notice that much discussion around brands and branding remains at the kindergarten level. For example, we're still asking "what is a brand?" And we can't agree on the answer! Even among professionals! For example, a recent discussion among brand-ers on LinkedIn, where we were asked to define the word, yielded almost 500 (!) comments. And we have other conversations of a similar nature. My favorites are "what is branding vs. marketing?" and "what is brand vs. reputation?" You can say what you want about marketers - that we're lying, greedy bastards - and I'll give you that some of us are. You can also say that we're stupid. Also, sometimes, granted. But there is enough mental firepower at work in the profession that it makes no sense that we cannot even define our basic terms of art. Every scien…

"Horrible Bosses" and the Fallacy of Productivity

I have to tell you that the trailer for this movie does not do it justice.The entire theater was laughing so hard I think you could have heard us in the street. All of the actors were good but the "bosses" themselves - Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Aniston - really took the cake. They were perfect caricatures of the power-hungry, irrational, harassing boss who lives to drive their workers crazy. Which is why the whole lot of us at the matinee were in stitches. One has to ask:  If everybody recognizes the grain of truth in the narrative, why do we put up with abusive bosses at all? The answer, I think, lies in two other stories. I once had a friend who told me her boss was abusive. Seriously bad. The kind that leaves you shaking in your boots with fear. The friend told another friend about the situation. Both of them were in the same workplace. Listener responded, "Oh, I know ___. He does get a lot done though." My friend was completely dumbfounded. It was as tho…

Social media is a culture—not a technology

If you ever have a few minutes to spare, find a job description for “social media” or “new media” and see the required qualifications. Universally they call for someone with technical skills.Never – not once – are social skills, emotional intelligence, or personal qualities ever mentioned. Think about it: From a job description point of view you can be a so-called “social media expert” but have absolutely no personal integrity, no commitment to transparency, and no belief in the importance of collaboration or information-sharing.Wow.Imagine if somebody were to put an ad on “” seeking a husband or a wife with “qualifications” like these:·Must be good-looking.·Must have high-paying job or be rich.·Must have spacious home in fancy neighborhood·Must be able to produce children.…and so on.Wouldn’t that be ridiculous? A relationship ad, we expect, will mention things like caring, compassion, personal interests, religious beliefs, and so on. The things that are eternal. The things t…

10 Ways To Get More From 24 Hours

I read so many of these kinds of articles and they're all great. Throwing my two cents in: 1. Make TV a reward for exercise. TV has a way of totally numbing your brain. Exercise is mind-numbingly boring without TV. They go together and you need both. Combine. 2. Sleep. Or you won't be able to concentrate. 3. Work in bursts. Focus your mind intensely on one task at a time, do it for a short time, then do something else. As opposed to not working on it all day long. 4. Overschedule. Ask more of yourself. You will find that you get more done in general, even if you fail to do it all. 5. Write down your tasks. Go through the list once a day. Mark things "open," "hold," or "closed." Your goal is to have almost nothing in the "open" column by the end of the day. 6. Buy healthy food that is prepackaged. Let's be honest, there is usually no time to cook. But don't eat crappy food either. Giant has a healthier food section and it…

The "Hive Mind" + 9 Other Ways Social Media Has Changed Us For Good

The other day my kid came back from a camping trip and said it was fun, but "a little too much" and she needed a break.
The problem was that her friends apparently don't believe in the concept of alone time. I knew this was going to happen because we are basically a quiet, creative bunch and her friends tend to be Libras who want to interact nonstop. So the strategy was to just say,  "I need to take a little space"  ...and then take it without apologies. Didn't work. As she put it, "If you don't have friends all around you every minute, you're considered a loser." So apparently it's not just a Libra thing. Kids nowadays are connected ALL THE TIME. We watched a show on ABC Family last night called "Cyberbullies," which was about online bullying but in the larger context that kids are so constantly with their friends, online and off, that it is actually odd-seeming when they are alone.  I was thinking about "alone time" this …

How Marketers View the World

This map is so revealing on so many levels.__ Image source here.

Marketing Is Not An Ego Massage

Marketing is not an easy profession. It is actually pretty freaking hard. The job of a marketer is to persuade people that they need something. Or someone. And then sell it to them. How easy is it to... Get a 4-year-old to eat carrots? Get into Harvard? Get a job? Get married? Get someone elected? Get someone to literally buy whatever it is that you sell? All of these things involve marketing. And if they were so easy, we would all be rich, happy and retired. Yet the most popular misconception about marketing - after the belief that we are all a bunch of liars - is the idea that it is "all about the message."  Meaning that if you can only find the exact right thing to say, your audience will believe you. As if people are so stupid. Believing that marketing is "messaging" is really just a form of ego massage. "I am wonderful, here are the reasons, now I've succeeded in marketing to you." A better way to think of marketing is like listening actively and then respondin…

"Giveaways" Build Buzz - "Discounts" Look Desperate

There is a 7-Eleven near D.C. that accommodates about 12 parked cars. The other day there were maybe 25 vying for spots, in the middle of the day.  This wasn't the A.M.'s commuting rush when people fight for the last sugarfree Red Bull or gratefully scoop up the last "taquito roller." We had absolutely no reason to be there. Except for one thing: The Good Witch of the Convenience Store had waved her magic wand and today was Free Slurpee Day. My kid, nauseous from a long bus ride home, reminded me. "I need something icy," she uttered sweatily. "They're giving away free Slurpees at 7-Eleven. Can we go?" We pull up to the parking lot and the scene is unbelievable. It's like a state fair. People streaming in and out as happy as can be. Inside, the Slurpee line is snaking from the machines, around the lottery counter, around the fruit and sandwich shelves, and even out the door. What are they waiting for? A FOUR OUNCE cup of sugar water. A mini-portio…

10 Signs It's Time To Slow Down (Personal Reflection)

Yesterday I did a crazy thing. I actually went for a walk with a friend. And I only checked my smartphone 3 times.

The whole thing was totally inefficient. We didn't really walk anywhere because she had her kid. And the kid kept wanting to get out of the stroller and do things like pet dogs and get big heavy rocks from the creek bed. Which my friend then had to put in the stroller basket. Making it weight about five thousand pounds.
We laughed at the bikers who complained that the stroller was getting in their way. They are so neurotic, we said. Ha ha ha. 
And then I realized that I am the biker, usually. Always rushing. Time to take a break, at least once in a blue moon.
You don't need to be a genius to know that rushing can get you into a lot of trouble. 
We think that going fast saves us time. It does - in the short term.
Long-term it leads to headaches. Not in order of priority, some examples:
1. Death or disfigurement from a car accident
2. Painful struggle with a troubled child …

10 Signs It's Time To Slow Down (Personal Reflection)

Yesterday I did a crazy thing. I actually went for a walk with a friend. And I only checked my smartphone 3 times.The whole thing was totally inefficient. We didn't really walk anywhere because she had her kid. And the kid kept wanting to get out of the stroller and do things like pet dogs and get big heavy rocks from the creek bed. Which my friend then had to put in the stroller basket. Making it weight about five thousand pounds. We laughed at the bikers who complained that the stroller was getting in their way. They are so neurotic, we said. Ha ha ha.  And then I realized that I am the biker, usually. Always rushing. Time to take a break, at least once in a blue moon. You don't need to be a genius to know that rushing can get you into a lot of trouble.  We think that going fast saves us time. It does - in the short term. Long-term it leads to headaches. Not in order of priority, some examples: 1. Death or disfigurement from a car accident 2. Painful struggle with a troubled child …

Why Google+ Is More Dangerous Than Facebook From a Privacy Perspective

In my opinion, Facebook is no more trustworthy than Google when it comes to data privacy. 
The difference is that if you are a typical Google user you've plopped a sea of data onto their servers that makes FB look tame by comparison.
Look at all the data that Google users store on Google's you really want to create a public profile for all the world to see that is linked to the following? 
* Google Docs* Gmail (imagine all the email sitting in your inbox, sent folder, the trash)* Checkout (your purchase history if you used a Google shopping cart, linked to your credit card)* Contacts (usually combine personal and professional)* Social connections ("direct" and "secondary")* Phone calls (if you use Google Voice)* Photos (Picasa web albums)* Calendar* Tasks* Blog, website, site analytics* Web search history* Chrome sync (if you use Chrome and sync your passwords)* Google reader - the stuff you read* Bookmarks* Google group membership* Music* YouTube…

New-Style Govies: Our Time Is Now (The Pac-Man Theory of Leadership)

After nearly 10 years in government I can think of five kinds of people who have helped me learn about leadership:1. Government employees themselves. Mentors, bosses, colleagues who strive for excellence. Peers who have taken web and social media out of the basement and made them mainstream by working both within their agencies and across them, in interagency efforts. Other government employees who have done the same with internal and external communications of a traditional nature. Employees who raise money for charity. Employees who organize diversity support groups, prayer groups, who listen to you and offer constructive advice. People who take the time to go to Costco and get a huge sheet cake to celebrate someone's birthday. People like that. 2. Bloggers & other contributors to the grassroots Gov 2.0 movement, who may or may not get paid for their efforts but who do care enough to share what works through social media bulletin boards, discussion groups, blogs, Twitter, and…

Ladies: about those flip-flops

Tonight on the train I counted a good number of women, let’s say 10 because I stopped counting at 9 and there were more, wearing these cheap plastic excuses for shoes.Here are 5 things I hate about them:1. They are sold in bins.2. No manicure. Bad manicure. Fading manicure.3. Black toenail polish looks like fungus. Deep orange is not a color.4. Gnarly toes, bunions, calluses. “Oh my.”5. Once you start getting unkempt with the shoes…things can deteriorate pretty badly.I understand that people want to keep cool. Did I say to wear stockings all the time? Heck no.If people were to keep the flip-flops for the beach or even Sundays I could understand. But wearing them to work? What is the deal with that?It’s not like these flip-flop wearers are impoverished. They take these beautiful outfits, these carefully done “looks,” and then they trash it with the flips.What are these workers saying?I will tell you.“I don’t really want to be here. My head is at the beach.”Not the message you want to b…

The case for non-beautiful models

Quickly: Look at these two.They are the reason I threw out the Land's End catalog that came in the mail today ("Late Summer 2011"). Do high-fashion models actually buy this brand? They could have saved a lot of money and just paid ordinary folk on the upper East Coast (Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, etc.) to submit their home photos to be in the catalogue. Not that they're not beautiful. But the pretension has got to go. Just a thought.

20 Assertions from A Marketing Conversation

Last night marked my return to the classroom. Adjunct assistant professor of marketing. A dream.I’m going to leave the classroom discussion in the classroom. Let the energy stay there. Trust builds that way.At the same time, some big ideas were shared, endorsed, chewed over. Hope these are useful to you. Or that you have a comment, or would like to add to the conversation. What are the basics? What should everybody who wants to know about marketing, know right off the bat?Here are last night’s 20:1. We market, without realizing it, all the time. 2. Understand what the term “marketing” means to you upfront. Because if you don’t, you may find yourself talking past the other people in the room.3. The key distinction to understand is between marketing and branding. (We didn’t talk about selling, but I’m throwing it in here, b/c I should have.) Branding is long-term image insurance, marketing is medium-to-short-term awareness-building, and selling is immediate term shouting designed to mov…

Profiting In A LinkedIn Economy (New Presentation)

A short argument for organizations to take internal communication seriously.
SlideShare version (PPT) here
Scribd version (PDF) here

5 Natural Supplements for Peace of Mind & Body

A holiday weekend gives you some time to relax, reflect, and take stock...of the collection of natural supplements sitting on one's shelf. Following are some products I use and find beneficial. If you are interested, I encourage you to read more online, ask your physician if they are safe for you to take, and try out if it is medically safe and might be helpful.  Personally I have found that doctors rarely will push you to take supplements, but at the same time if they're not dangerous for you, they will tell you that you can try them and see what they do for you. If you do take supplements, make sure you understand what dose you are taking so that you're not overdoing it (toxicity) or underdoing it (no impact). Also make sure that you're not unintentionally taking too much (for example if you take a multivitamin and then B-complex together).  And if you can, try to get high-quality supplements made from actual foods - more likely available at places like Whole Foods than…