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 in print.

3. Trainers like Edward Tufte, who teaches how to effectively present data in presentations. Angela Sinickas who teaches simply and effectively how to incorporate metrics into communications. Corporate educators like Steve Crescenzo and Shel Holtz, at one time the co-teachers of "Corporate Communicator's Boot Camp," for Ragan Communications, who know what they are talking about and can get the average person to be not only good, but pretty excellent at communicating effectively.

4. Researchers who take success stories and distill them into lessons we can copy - a great example is Bill Eggers and John O'Leary's work in "If We Can Put A Man On The Moon."

5. Business leaders who have taken the time to share their experience in book, video, and seminar form. Most recently, I read a very honest book by Donny Deutsch. I don't care if he wrote it for the money; it taught me a hell of a lot.

From all of these people I learned one simple thing:

Leadership is not a single event in one's life. It is a series of small moments that add up over time. Until there is a tipping point, and the new way is accepted as mainstream.

Leadership is like playing a game of Pac-Man. You are the Pac-Man (or Pac-Woman!)

Gobble up the dots. Get stronger. Then eat the monsters. When you have so much energy that you're supercharged.

Here is a story about such a leader. Who would never ever think of himself that way, guaranteed.

On a Friday afternoon we had a request to do something quickly. From an important source. It was either get it done fast, or worry about it Monday morning when new jobs start to come flowing in. Chaos and confusion could easily ensue.

This thing would normally take at least a day. We had maybe 3 hours.

My colleague and I thus went directly to the basement of the building to find the person who would do this job. Instead of submitting a form upstairs and then waiting for the mysterious process of work-getting-done to unfold.

This person, on a Friday afternoon, with no reward in sight, went out of his way to make it happen.

Introduced himself formally.

Gave us a sample form, already filled out, so we would know what to ask for.

Told us how to ensure maximum quality.

Wished us a nice day.

This person was not a designated leader. He was not agitating for Gov 2.0. I doubt he even would know or care what that was. But he exemplified the future of government. He acted as though he were running a business, we were the customers, and he would do what it took to make our lives easier.

His entire attitude was: "No problem."

It was 3 p.m. by the time we got down there. The job was done in 10 minutes. Expedited by another employee unrelated to the process who stopped what he was doing, got up, and stamped the form so we could get out of there. And also by another one who got up to sign the damn form even though he had no idea what he was signing. (My thank-you: "Good. Now I can go buy that BMW I've been wanting.")

All of these people completely understand what has to happen in government now.

Stop fussing. Get it done. And do it with a big freaking smile on your face.

If you want to be a leader, it is not necessary to wait for some magical event to happen in the future. There is no superhero who is going to gallop to the rescue on a big white horse.

The leader is you. The time is now. The things that need to be done are all around you. Gobble up a dot by solving a problem. Don't stop and don't worry about what happens next.

Everyone can make a difference. You already are a leader in more ways than you know. Step up to the plate.

It doesn't matter how old you are or how many years you have served in government. Change has nothing to do with being fresh out of school. It has to do with how you think, how astute you are, your ability to adjust and accept to a new reality. It has nothing to do with whether someone gave you "permission."

The future is here. We are all collectively making it. In every action and interaction.

Government leaders at every job, every rank, inside and outside the system too--

Wake up. It's a new day. Do you see it?

Your time - our time - is NOW.

Let's seize the day.


Image source here

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 be sending.


Casual isn’t always bad. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg made a positive brand out of wearing casual, even shleppy T-shirts in that vomit color.


When I see someone who wears a T-shirt and a blazer to work, I get the sense that they are more focused on results than on appearance.


Flip-flop wearers don’t seem to want to be there.


And since the flip-flop-wearers are 100% female, in my experience – I have never once seen a man wear flip-flops to work, nor sandals, for that matter – is it really a good idea to be dressing so casually?


Is sexism really so over that we can act like we don’t care?


So – no matter how hot it gets – no matter how much you want to be in South Beach or Ocean City or wherever – please think twice before you put those flip-flops on your feet.


Especially if you are going to the office.


If you absolutely must wear them, at least get a manicure.

But then everyone is going to look at your feet - and not at your head - which is where your brain is. The thing you want to get credit for at work.

Think about it.


Have a great weekend everyone – and good luck!


Image source here


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 move merchandise. Think meat stew versus sautéing versus broiling.


4. Innovation is tough to do mainly because of social pressure. You have to train yourself to suggest things that others would find shocking.


5. Marketers must be ethical and tell the truth, but consumer insights cannot be based on political correctness. Only on what the marketer observes in an objective way.


6. Consider the regulatory environment and the client’s unique situation before suggesting solutions.


7. Exercise your marketing muscle by engaging people in conversation and then guessing what kind of brands they like, products they buy, etc.


8. It is not clear whether personality fundamentally changes over time, but life experiences do shape our thinking because we’ve gone through them.


9. To play defense is to be dead.


10. Emotion sells, but you have to control it so that you remain in touch with the customer and don’t seem like an out-of-control lunatic.


11. Usually it’s the throwaway insights that yield the most fruit.


12. You don’t always want the end user to know about your existence.


13. All publicity is good publicity. Usually.


14. The time to build a brand is way before you have a problem.


15. Rebranding is another way to say “failed brand.”


16.  Ask stupid questions if you don’t know.


17. Refuse the conventional definition of the problem statement if it suits your purposes.


18. Marketing is a helmet that you can put on and take off. It’s important to become aware when you’re doing that, and do it consciously.


19. If nobody is listening then you haven’t accomplished anything. Stop thinking so much about your message and what you want to say. Think more about connecting with the customer.


20. Corporate culture is the most important aspect of the brand and the most neglected.


Finally, when in doubt, refer to Starbucks. I criticize abundantly, but it’s only out of respect. Howard Schultz & Co. more or less wrote the book on how to build an outstanding brand, market it, and sell its individual products successfully.


Have a good evening everyone. Let me know what you think. And good luck.



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 the dollar store. (Seem expensive? Compare the cost of a nutritional supplement with the cost of getting sick.)

In general I don't like to take artificial nutrients as a substitute for actual food. I've been told, and I think it's true, that the best way to support your health is by eating whole, natural, unprocessed food. (I love the 12-vegetable soup at Au Bon Pain.) At the same time, you can't always eat enough of the good things to help you get the vitamins you need.

Also, nutritional supplements are just one part of a healthy lifestyle - the rest including (of course) things like exercise, relaxation, laughter, learning, and relationships. Spirituality of some kind helps too.

I don't endorse any specific product or vendor; the links are only provided for your convenience. However, I find that you can get most things from Puritan's Pride or (if you want the convenience of online), CVS or a local health food store or Asian market (they have an unbelievably good selection of medicinal teas). I don't often buy at Whole Foods because it's so expensive, but then again their quality seems to be fairly high. 

1. Omega 3-6-9 - benefits galore, not the least of which is good mood

2. Ubiquinol - promotes heart health

3. Turmeric - reduces inflammation

4. Medicinal teas - such as "detox tea," which is what it sounds like and has a zillion variations. Also decaf green tea (various benefits) with Ginkgo (memory booster) - I know they sell this on Amazon

5. Adora chocolate calcium with D3 and magnesium - gotta get that calcium, and do you really want to drink so much milk (I am not a fan of dairy products) - they sell this at Whole Foods and we gobble it up. 

If you are interested in nutrition generally, I highly recommend signing up for Dr. Joseph Mercola's free online newsletter. You may not agree with everything he says, and he does sell products. However, I've never bought anything from this site and I feel that have learned a tremendous amount of information by reading the daily articles.

Enjoy the holiday weekend everyone, and good luck!


Photo source here

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