Why I Write Every Day

In the past I told myself that the writing was only for the sake of building a living breathing resume. A brand.

That's not really true. You can do a lot to build a personal brand that's easier and faster than a blog.

Plus the blog is often not connected to a professional lesson. I'm never sure where it comes from. Like a rock bouncing down a mountain the words sort of hit me in the head first, then are filtered through my heart. Boom, boom, boom. It hits the page.

Why take the time out of everything else in life that is fun, and potentially useful? It's not like there are millions of comments, or a big book deal waiting at the end of the line.

One answer, I think, comes down to control. Often it's like you're just walking down the street and life just gets you. Like a mugger who hits you in the head and takes your purse - you're simply helpless. Gasping for a breath.

Powerlessness is the moment of sitting there on the sidewalk, stunned.

Empowerment is shifting from the posture of defeat to to the mode of observation, then action.

You step outside your heaving body and take a good long look. Why were you hit in the first place? Were you distracted by the iPhone and the mugger caught you unawares? Did you take a bad turn at night down an isolated street?

This is not to suggest that blogging is an exercise in self-blame or a way to gain a false sense of control. It is to say that once you observe and document an experience, you give yourself a chance to learn.

In learning mode, mistakes become part of a bigger picture. The context is your journey in life from being less enlightened to more. The pain you experience at any moment in time is not only unavoidable. It's critical to growing as a human being.

So you write your life, or document it in pictures or music or any method you choose. What happens to all that?

Some people are more reserved - they put those lessons in a box in the drawer.

Others, like me and a lot of people - choose to post online, or publish a book. For a lot of reasons.
  • It keeps me honest. Self-deception is very obvious in a blog.
  • It helps to turn difficult experiences into a story with a meaningful lesson.
  • I gain strength from seeing that effort is worth the result in the long-term.
  • I feel like I'm helping other people and more broadly the community to accomplish positive change.
  • Though a little laborious, it does build a consistent personal brand - which is important professionally.
But the most important thing of all is really none of these. Writing helps me to convince myself, more than anyone else, that there is some sort of master plan. The insights that seem to come from nowhere - I believe that they are a gift from G-d and I've been blessed enough to share them.

If you have the impulse to express yourself, I hope that you take it that way too.

Trust in the Universe, trust in your gift, go forth and share it.

5 Misperceptions About Internal Communications In The Federal Government

1. That executives don't care - yes, they do, it is a top priority, so much so that there is perhaps too much fear of getting it wrong. When a method works executives are very consistent with it.

2. That executives won't talk - they will, but official communication is closely coordinated internally and externally and at all levels, for accuracy and consistency. They are very focused on getting it right.

3. That writers are devalued - the opposite is true, very good writers are highly valued and kept close.

4. That there is fear of negative feedback - it's not a fear, it's more like a desire for positivity and a solution orientation amid all the sniping, griping or silence.

5. That metrics are ignored in favor of subjective judgment - close attention is paid to whatever metrics are rigorous and available.

* All opinions my own.

Dealing w/ Workplace Ghosts, Skeletons and Emotional Baggage

If people are really just souls walking around encased in human bodies then perhaps we deal with them wrongly.

Instead of taking what we see at face value - what they look like, what they say, what their resumes offer as narrative - it might be more useful to go a step beyond.

What if we looked at people (and groups, and institutions) as collections of experience, repositories of intention, higher beings with a mission in life?

What if we took in their energy, their histories, the memories they hold and the cultures that have shaped them?

What if we knew the families and relationships that our colleagues hold dear - or have hated?

I have never for once in my life believed that work is impersonal. Or that it can be divorced from your self. Your soul.

The truth is we are who we are all the time. And to deal with people well at work, you must understand the inner factors that drive them.

You may not have time, energy or inclination to pay attention to all this. But that sad reality makes it no less important to do so.

At the very least you can recognize - when you interact with anyone - that there is a wealth of background on their part, shaping their perceptions of you.

To find out who they are all you have to do is focus. Take the time to listen, question and observe. Try to find out what makes the clock tick -- the history in all its seen and unseen drama.

If you really take the time to work with others as human beings, they will likely give you the same privilege. And when you screw up, as everybody does, your character -- as exhibited through steady interaction over time -- will bear witness.

Slow down, pay attention, and pull up a chair. Sometimes the best thing you can communicate is nothing. Preferring instead to let others share a bit of themselves with you.

The I and the Me - Building a Corporate Brand (Slide Download)

This is an overview of my process for building a corporate brand. The way I work is framed by one school of sociological theory, "symbolic interactionism" (SI).
More on that in a minute.
The main difference between corporate branding and product branding is the development institutional capacity. In product branding your focus is outward, whereas on the organization side it's holistic. Internal and external stakeholders are equally important, and you get your message across in three ways:
1) What you say (content)
2) How you act (culture)
3) Doing things the same way repeatedly (consistency)
The reason you need sociological theory, specifically SI, is that more often than not there is a disconnect between the message the organization sends out (or the messages, which are frequently discordant) and the perceptions that key audiences have of it.
SI attacks that problem by putting your self-perception (the "I") into a dialogue with the perceptions that others have of you (the "me.")
When you have a good flow of dialogue, that is organizational mental health and the communication decisions that get made are more likely to move the brand forward (increase its value over and above a commodity).
There is a more advanced level of SI that addresses the interaction between self and perception - if you're interested you may want to read the work of Georg Simmel. I wrote a paper about this a while back, and you can download it here (fee).

Call It B******t

There are old fashioned rules about polite and not polite, job saving and job killing behavior.

One of these is staying quiet when you have a valid point to make.

In battle situations this rule makes sense. War is not brainstorming. The leader makes the call.

But winning in the modern, knowledge-based and collaboration-based business world has different metrics. It's impossible to know or control all. So leaders have to take good advice. More than that. They will fail, utterly, without it.

Many people are afraid they don't have good advice to share. For whatever reason - they don't feel adequate. They censor themselves before one word comes out.

What's sad, and wasteful is that usually honest feedback makes some sense. We do not like to hear it, often, but its absence sends us spinning off into mistake-ville. The house of mirrors. Where we hear and see only ourselves. (Agreeing with every last word.)

We ought not punish people who give feedback. But the fact that we do is not a great excuse for its avoidance.

Instead, what's helpful is to learn better tools for sharing what we think. Emotional intelligence. Judgment. Creativity. Timing.

It is very very hard to say tough things. It can be dangerous if you swing that blade the wrong way.

But at the end of the day I think most recipients of that feedback know your true intentions.

If you say it sincerely, appropriately and you mean it for the good, most of the time you should be OK.

Even if it happens that you get misunderstood - and it will because no communication is perfect - you can persist and use the moment to start dialogue.

Life is a relay race, not a marathon or a sprint. You owe it to the team to pass that baton with best effort.

How To Ask Colleagues For Data - 10 Tips

Is it your job, or a part of your job, to ask people for information for a living?
If you are a knowledge worker chances are the answer is yes. And it's not always easy, because people are busy.
  • The bad news is that hunting down answers always involves some form of challenge.
  • The good news is that you can turn it into an art.
Here are some things I've learned over time that help me to be more effective in less time. 
  1. Short but doable deadlines: Pressure makes for action. But if there's no chance of meeting the deadline people won't bother.
  2. Be Specific: Phrase the request in terms of the concrete rather than the abstract. If there is a constraint associated with the information, include that (e.g. fiscal year) but if not, be clear that any information is useful.
  3. Get The Source: Ask for a link to the original information or the original document. Along the way, find out if the data is a matter of public record or not, and treat it accordingly.
  4. Clarify Your Authority: Unless they're especially kind, most people will not give much weight to your request unless they feel they must respond. Explain explicitly or implicitly why you have the right to ask.
  5. Be Polite: Really, you're not G-d. Be nice. 
  6. Restrict The Hours: Unless it's an emergency, bother people during a defined timeframe if possible. People can be trained to expect your interruptions, but if you are constantly and unpredictably intruding on their work, they will start to ignore you.
  7. Minimize Email Attachments: Store primary documents in the cloud and refer people to the link. Don't get stuck in the mini-mass email drama where someone has the latest version and it's impossible to track down.
  8. Use a POC: While it's convenient in theory to reach out directly to subject matter experts, a designated point of contact for inquiries is preferable. This person will be closer to the experts and will know when it's OK to ping them, and when to leave them alone. They will also be more likely to distribute your question to the right people.
  9. Check The Process: While it's important to deal with the matter at hand, it's even more important to make things better for next time. If you see that things tend to get stuck at a certain point in the process, apply Drano and then think like a plumber. How can you and the team get rid of the clog?
  10. Don't Overuse The Panic Button: There are always quick-response data calls. But if you're constantly asking for things as though the need were dire, then your words become not believable.
How do you get the answers you need? If you have any tips or suggestions, please share.

Gaming Authenticity

There is really no way to communicate well other than to say things that matter.

The truth.

But that doesn't stop people from trying.

The way to tell truly authentic people from gamers is that relevant honesty stings.

When you ask someone, "How did I do?" and they say "Actually, not so well, and here's why" and it's accurate - that is valuable feedback. But it hurts, too.

People who step up to leadership roles - be they formal or in the community - are required to say uncomfortable things.

That is the essence of leadership: corrective vision, phrased as an actionable path.

People in leadership roles who talk, but say nothing, are just fakers. The market does not have much room for them, and even that gap is shrinking.

Say something of value, that is true - even true for you. Or don't say anything at all.

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