Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Pause Principle

Lots of gardening after a busy travel week last week.  Leeks, squash, basil, tomatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, beans all abound.  You know the harvest is plentiful when you think it takes too long to harvest tomatoes.

I included the shoe in the photo to give perspective to the squash.  Not positive I should become a professional photographer.   And not sure how big the market is for vegetable photographers.

I read a great book - The Pause Principle - Step Forward to Lead Forward by Kevin Cashman.   I love the principle and have for a long time.  Basically - step back and pause to gain efficiency and for true clarity.

As a time management guy, I have spent much time studying and honing my efficiency systems.  Much of this efficiency is based on "never waste a minute".  So I deliberately think of how I can reduce the gaps and fill them with productive tasks.

The Pause Principle challenges that constant motion and activity.  Some of our greatest creativity and problem solving (which is often our highest value) can happen by Pausing.  Stop and relax, deliberate and solutions will flow.

I think subconsciously I knew I needed this pause for productivity so I built in a few activities that involve pause.  For me, exercise and gardening are two pause activities.  True pause would be to break without having to do anything.

The book is simply a reminder with the research to back it up and the ideas on how to implement the Pause.

I now need to think of the pause as a productivity tool.  I do not think of myself as old but do notice my energy is less than when I was younger.  My sense is over time, I will need to evolve a different pace and work style.

Good book - good reminder to me.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Synergist

I was emailed a challenging video on the weekend.  A TED talk by Louise Fresco about agriculture and the need to science, mechanization etc.   It was particularly interesting since I spent most of this weekend gardening and cooking/canning/freezing what was harvested. 

One output from the weekend was vegetable soup made from squash, tomatoes, basil, jalapeno pepper (just one), green beans, dried beans (the protein in the soup and the ones I dry need to be used early in the year), dandelion, beet and beet tops, carrot and carrot tops (but not too many) and a leek.  Just put through a blender and simmered for hours.  Delicious and 100% from organic home grown produce.
The green tomatoes were simply the ones from the too prolific volunteers that I pulled while weeding and will be made into chutney or baked with mustard.  And yes, the eggplants are small but still perfect.

I did take a break and read a few books.  All great.

One of the books was "The Synergist - how to Lead Your team to Predictable Success" by Les McKeown.   I loved it and will share it with my team.

This is a book one how companies succeed.   It explains some of the dysfunctions and also how to overcome them.  It uses a framework of "work styles" to do this.  There are only 3 styles (which makes it easy to follow):

The Visionary.  Visionaries detest detail.  They love to just paint the picture and assume it is or will get done.  They tend to move in fits and spurts from high productivity/creativity to idleness.  I am mostly visionary (although somehow I missed much of the idleness part of the personality).

The Processor.  Needs all the details.  Brings order out of chaos.  Tends to have high risk aversion. 

The Operator.  These are the doers.  Do it now - ask for forgiveness later.  Can be the bottleneck if they do not learn to delegate.  I am also high on this scale.

These 3 personalities can reach gridlock.  They can also be high conflict.

Then comes the role of the Synergist.  They look out for what is best for the enterprise.  They smooth personalities.  They are the time management person that keeps the focus on the right tasks.

My view is we all have some of each characteristic within us.  The more dominant we are in one, the more awareness we need to have to make sure we do not destroy the team.

The final chapter is the best.  It pulls it all together into how to implement.

The book has a number of QR codes throughout that take you to web pages with other examples.  Cute idea.

Great book.  Worth reading if you are a leader.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Triple Crown Leadership

Surprise.  I read another book.

This one was Triple Crown Leadership - Building Excellent, Ethical and Enduring Organizations by Bob and Gregg Vanourek (a father and son team).

I guess I should not have been surprised that the triple crown was a reference to horse racing (but I was).  And ironic part of me could not connect ethics and horse racing (perhaps because my puritan parents would be mortified by any form of gambling and it did not seem in line with high integrity).  So I did not really like the horse racing examples they used. 

But still, I enjoyed the book immensely.   It was all about great leadership and many things I believe in.  The gist of the message is leadership is a stewardship responsibility.  Leadership is long term.  Leadership requires ultra dedication.

It is a book about ethics and values and what place they have in leadership and business (clearly they have a huge place and successful people and organizations have them)

One of my favourite sections was one on alignment.  Alignment is much harder and more important that vision.  99% of the time is spent on alignment so figuring that part out is the key.

The points are illustrated with real world examples of businesses in various situations (like J and J and the Tylenol recall).  This helps readability and brings points across better.

I loved the many quotes scattered throughout the book - it gave me lots of material for my twitter feed and Facebook updates.  I had previously blogged a review on the Tao of Twitter bemoaning the 140 character limit.  One quote above that limit:

"I look for three things in hiring people.  First is personal integrity, second is intelligence and the third is energy level.  If you don't have the first, the other two will kill you."

Warren Buffet  (I like Buffet - not because of his wealth but because of his common sense and long term approach)


A river cuts through the rock not because of its power but because of its persistence.  James Watkins

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Tao of Twitter

I have been hugely busy (all my own doing so cannot complain).  It seems for most things there is good and bad.

The weather has been gorgeous.  Hayfever has also been bad. 

The garden is flourishing.  Harvesting beans, beets, carrots, tomatoes, basil and leeks.  Weeds also are flourishing.  I cannot believe how fast they grow.

Not sure how the orange got in the picture.  I did not grow that.  The herb is fennel seed.


I read an easy to read short book called "The Tao of Twitter - Changing Your Life and Business 140 Characters at a Time" by Mark W. Schaefer (author of Return on Influence).

The thesis of the book is that Twitter is a great way to make new connections, network and solve problems.

I liked that Schaefer speaks of the need for good content.  One downside I have seen with Twitter (even more than Blogs) is the number of meaningless Tweets.  It is tough to get followers and I unfollow if the the person Tweets irrelevant things so the lesson is clear - tweet good things.

He gives an example of a tech support issue he has.  He tweets and problem is solved in short order.  I can see how that would work.

I do use Twitter for "point in time" searches.  For example, last week when Godaddy had the huge outage (originally thought to be the work of hackers but later released that it was internal issues),  many of our sites were down and Twitter was the fastest way to check.  The problem with Google is searches do not yield the most recent result but Twitter does.

I also use Twitter as a news filter.  I follow interesting people that I respect and they often Tweet things like "Good article on ...".  This makes my news consumption broader than it might have been.

The title might be a bit strong - "Changing your Life".  Perhaps if you have no life, it would change it.

Twitter is blogging - just succinct blogging.  You would think a time management guy like me would be more into that than blogging.  The problem is 140 characters is just not enough to really say anything.  And everyone knows that so they do not just tweet once, they tweet dozens of time so in the end, likely more than a blog entry. 

As with many things, Twitter can be a time sink.  The value needs to be balanced with the time. 

The Tao of Twitter did provoke thought and I am more likely to get value from Twitter as a result of reading it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Resurrecting the Street

I read a gripping book on the weekend - Resurrecting the Street - Overcoming the Greatest Operational Crisis in History by Jeff Ingber.  It is the story of what happened to the bond and stock markets during Sept 11.  Even this many years later, it is difficult to read about.  9/11 is one of those days in history that I remember clearly where I was (my EMJ office) and what I was doing (a marketing plan).

Ingber is a Wall Street veteran who lived through the crisis first hand.  He was a mile away when the planes hit.

It starts with personal experiences of the massive tragedy.  The stories were horrific. 

The people and firms responsible for trading in the markets were hugely impacted.  Many of the key people and computers were killed in the Twin Towers.  The people left had to deal with the fear and grief of the situation and at the same time, try to rebuild.  Their ability to focus and put aside feelings to make things work is incredible.

I had not thought much about the actual workings of the markets but when you think about it, it is understandable that there would be lots of reconciliation to do.  Transactions needed to be matched, funds transferred, securities exchanged etc.  Without computers and many of the key firms crippled, the task was monumental.

Since 9/11, the financial world has spread out.  There has also been much more thought put into backup and disaster recovery.  Of course my hope would be for peace so that redundancy is never needed.

Resurrecting the Street combines the morbidly gripping tales of live people with the technical story of how things were handled.  Great book.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Social Marketology

I read a great book - Social Marketology - Improve Your Social Media Processes and Get Customers to Stay Forever.  I liked the book even if I do not think we need more words in the English language.  I also think great marketers should be great writers so should know how to use the words we have.

I have a high interest in marketing and branding and think social media is one of the most economical ways to market.  Social media also changes the way brands interact and are created, built up or destroyed.  The power is now in the hands of the masses.  So brands beware. 

Social Marketology talks about 3 parts of social media strategy - Claiming Real Estate, Creating Policy and Monitoring. 

There is a section on influence.  And it correctly notes that it is tremendously complex.  Influencers for one product may have no impact on another.  The holy grail in social media marketing is trying to find the people with the influence over the topics that influence the brand.  Klout is trying to measure this.  I previously wrote about how to improve Klout.  There is still a long way to go.

Marketology emphasizes that it is important not to just focus on the super influencers (like Oprah or Obama) and the power of the "medium" and "small" influencers can add up.

There is a section on discovering the intersection of what products people are interested in.  EG - people who buy a certain type of high end shoes like expensive cupcakes.

Canrock Ventures has an investment in a company - General Sentiment that monitors and interprets consumer reaction to brand.   General Sentiment does the linking - people who watch Mad Men talk about BMWs etc. 

Interesting book.