Monday, December 31, 2007

New URL for GottaGettaBLOG!

Please note that GottaGettaBLOG! posts from the years 2003 through 2007 will be permanently archived, here, at www.ggci.com/blog, under the heading of "GottaGettaBlog! 2003-2007". But, starting January 2008, blog posts will be posted at: www.ggci.com/blog2.

Furthermore, starting January 2010, new posts will be at:
http://www.ggci-blog.com/.

Please update your bookmarks and automated feeds accordingly.

Thanks!

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Vulnerability, Teamwork, and Personal Growth

Last week I had the opportunity to spend two days on a rustic team building retreat at Joy Outdoor Education Center in Clarksville, Ohio, courtesy of a corporate client, Hill-Rom, where the group learned about their Insights® colors (courtesy of Scott Schwefel), did a high ropes course and related activities, endured gusts up to 34 mph and wind chills down to the teens (brrr!), shared emotionally-moving and personal stories deep into the night by light (and warmth) of a bonfire, slept in cabins, ate camp food, and stretched and grew in ways that were truly amazing. And that was Day One!

Day Two included a morning of coaching and facilitation, courtesy of yours truly, and an afternoon of detailed departmental planning and goal-setting, led by Phillip Saxton, president of MiTowne.

Initially, I perceived, and prepared for, my role as that of catalyst: "an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action," as Merriam Webster might say. But as I settled into my bunk that first night it struck me that the 'change' I was there to provoke had actually already happened. Every single person, in their own special way, had already become so much more open, courageous, real - and vulnerable - with each other. The team knew it, liked it, and matched it, with a collective support, respect, regard, knowing, and appreciation.

That was the good news. The not-so-good news was that pretty much everything I had prepared for the following morning was now unnecessary and wrong! I no longer needed to help them change; my job was to help them solidify their changes.

It's one thing to watch others being vulnerable; it's something entirely different to be vulnerable oneself. Yet to be truly in service of the group I was there to coach, facilitate, and support, I knew I needed to honor and respect where the group now 'was' - and be completely present to, and enabling of, whatever needed to unfold from that point forward.

So, pre-dawn, and in keeping with the "Pushing the Limits" theme of the retreat, I decided to take what was to be the 'end' of my facilitation - an article called "Life is a ten-speed Bicycle," - and use it to start a conversational unfolding, if you will, where I would rely on my coaching instincts and the collective wisdom of the group to reach for something essential, but as of yet, unknown.

And so, for the next 3½ hours, quite powerfully at times, we explored, realized, agreed, and fine-tuned, what else was needed for this group of smart, capable, and caring professionals to truly coalesce into a single, unified, and unshakable, whole.

The ultimate outcome? Well that remains to be seen. To be sure, they're off to a very good start, but the team must consistently apply the Lessons Learned, aha's realized, and courageousness experienced for the ongoing magic to happen.

Will it be easy? Probably not. Is it doable? Definitely so. Is it likely? I actually believe it is.

As for me, I know that like everyone else, my comfort zone was significantly stretched these last few days - and in a number of different ways! (As I reflect on what that means, I feel a contented little smile coming to my face.) So for that, I thank each and every one of you who helped make that my new reality.

Now if I can just get that campfire smoke smell out of my clothing, I'll be all set!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Top/Down Hubris: Bottom/Up Winfrey

According to a Business Week survey of 2,000 executives ...

1. Are you one of the top 10% of performers in your company?

2. Which person would you most like to be your direct boss?


These answers are just too much! And with 97% of all executives surveyed believing that they're in the top 10% of performers in their company, no wonder why so many people would rather work for Oprah - as least she admits her show has commercial breaks!

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

In Lieu of Email Abandonment

More and more, people are wanting to literally abandon their email inboxes. And increasingly, messages like this are wanting to be sent:
"Sorry, but in my effort to catch up on my unread emails, I've "accidentally" deleted most everything in my inbox. If you've been patiently waiting for me to reply to something you sent - or waiting not-so-patiently, for that matter - please resend it at this time."
If this feels like a breath of fresh air for you, maybe you need to start training your associates how to send better emails. Here are some suggestions:
  • Inform others that each new topic within a given email is to be numbered and bolded to make identifying their segues not only possible, but easy.
  • Inform others that email subject lines are to be used more meaningfully and to indicate more precisely what is to follow and what is expected from you - Approval Needed, Vacation Request, Policy Issue, Project Status, Critical Update, Some Good News, Yikes!, etc.
  • Inform others that their FYI-type updates and emails providing answers to your questions are to be obviously marked as such.
  • Inform others that you're now scheduling your email inbox 'work' (not unlike how the USPS schedules their suburban mailbox pickups) so that the onus is on them to send emails needing your attention on a more timely basis.
  • Inform others that time-sensitive queries are better made in person or by phone, and NOT by email, unless you prefer otherwise.
  • Inform others that 'reply all' responses are to be used judiciously and cc's selectively.
  • Inform others that you will, unabashedly, and as a matter of courtesy, return to sender any email messages that do not comply with these simple criteria. (After all, they'd probably appreciate knowing that you're ignoring whatever it is that they wrote because you don't have the time or interest to try and decipher whatever it is that they intended for you to glean from the obfuscated email they just sent you, right?!)

Sound harsh? Maybe, but the July/August edition of Fast Company (page 46) indicates that improved email sending practices is saving Capital One approximately 11 workdays - that's more than TWO WEEKS - per employee per year, and that Union Bank is saving in excess of $750,000 (based on employees spending just 30-minutes less per week reading emails) per annum.

If none of this works for you, don't worry - there's always Email Abandonment!

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Monday, June 25, 2007

When the cat's away...

What's it like when you return back from a conference or seminar or vacation? Are things running smoothly or are they coming apart at the seams. Which do you prefer? Regardless, each scenario says things about you as a leader - quite different things, actually:
  1. Things are a mess upon your return and you don't like it one, single, bit - Welcome back! And if every fiber in your being is trying to prevent yourself from screaming "Did you do anything right?" at your direct reports, the problem has probably a whole lot less to do with your team than you realize. Chances are that much of the angst can be traced back to you doing a very poor job in preparing them for your absence, or dealing with some long-standing performance issues. Grade: -10.
  2. Things are running smoothly and you don't like it - Welcome back! Your staff did a great job! Every thing's fine, except ... you're suddenly feeling like you're not as needed as you used to be. An extra cog in the wheel? Better off not even being there? Oh my. Is my job at risk? Oh, dear, my job is at risk. Rather than being happy for all that went well in your absence, you're acting small and disrespectful to the people who really worked hard to keep things going. Grade: -5.
  3. Things are a mess and you kinda like it like that - Welcome back! Clearly, you were missed and it's good you're back because you're needed, hero. And yet, if this is the case, it's likely that your ego is getting in the way of you properly challenging and developing your staff. Grade: -15.
  4. Things are running smoothly and you like it - Welcome back! Some good stuff happened while you were away and they're glad you're back. It isn't easy filling in for you when you're gone, but they did a really nice job of it. And now, they're ready to turn the reigns back to you. It's not easy doing what you do. They have a much better understanding of that now. And they're that much more appreciative of just how good of a boss you really are. Bingo! Grade: +10.
The ultimate litmus: If your staff works harder when you're out of the office than when you're in - and you're properly appreciative of the fact - you're probably a pretty good leader.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Look Ma, No Hands!

You've seen the Lexus commercials where the car parks itself - as in literally? Well here's something even cooler: cars that drive themselves!

According to monstersandcritics.com, "DaimlerChrysler says it has conducted successful field testing of a car to car communication system with vehicles warning each other of a dangerous situation or obstacle on the road."

Forbes Magazine has also reported (Car Talk, January 29, 2007, page 52) several intriguing possibilities, including these:
  • if you approach a car to quickly, your car will automatically brake
  • if a car is in your blind spot, an indicator will light on your dashboard or mirror, and your seat will start to vibrate if you turn on your blinker anyway
  • if your car breaks down, it will 'notify' other cars fast-approaching whether or not they are in line-sight of you

And with your car's on-board technology and wireless capabilities:

  • the local gas station could send movies to your car's DVD player as you fill-up
  • you could synchronize your car's music system with your home computer ... or your buddy's ... while driving
  • local weather forcasters could really know the weather by monitoring the number of cars with their windshield wipers on high

"The catch," says Forbes, "is that the authorities would also know if a driver were doing 90mph - the car would be broadcasting that information" and raises the intriguing question: "Can a police department get sued for not stopping a speeding driver it knew about who later killed someone?"

Ladies and Gentlemen, fasten your seat belts - it seems we're in for a very interesting ride!

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Consumer Trends for 2007

The January 2007 Trend Brief over at www.trendwatching.com/briefing has identified what they consider to be the Top 5 Consumer Trends for 2007. Here they are:
  1. Status Lifestyles - Rather than amassing additional possessions, consumers will be more interested in (and value more) brands that offer new and varied experiences, direct participation, opportunities to connect with other people, and eco-friendliness.
  2. Transparency Tyranny - Consumers have opinions and aren't afraid to post them on the web for all to read, listen to, and watch. Non-performing brands will surely feel their wrath; top-performing ones will surge.
  3. Web N+1 - First came the Internet. Now mobile-web is really hot. What next? Who knows, but count on the fact that it will be something!
  4. Trysumers - There are loads of new products and services to try out. And so people will, without much regard to brand loyalty.
  5. The Global Brain - "This year, expect many corporations, small and big, to aggressively court the 1% of most creative and experienced individuals roaming the globe."

It will be interesting to see how well GottaGettaCoach! - and your company for that matter - is prepared for these coming trends.

Say, does anyone out there know how to write programs for SmartPhones and Pocket PCs?!

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Monday, August 22, 2005

"The Marketing Gods Must be Crazy"

(... from an article of the same name by Paul Lukas in the September 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine, page 34 ...)

For a long time, the reason to drink Diet Coke was "Just for the Taste of It." Things are a lot more complex these days as Coke marketers parse demographic segmentsa nd createdrinks for each niche. There's now a new Diet Coke sweetened with Splenda and Coca-Cola Zero, which, as its name implies, has zero calories - as opposed to the regular and Splenda versions of Diet Coke, both of which have, um, zero calories. And then there's still Coke's original no-cal cola, Tab. All of which leads to some very creating marketing-speak.

Diet Coke - Diet Coke
  • Launched - 1982
  • Brand message as found on Coke.com website - "Diet Coke is your style, it's your sass. It's doing what makes you happy ... So flirt, laugh, dance, prance, giggle, wiggle - do what feels good."
  • Brand message as reported by SVP of Coca-Cola Brands - "The adult cola taste that uplifts with style - it's a very stylish brand. It's upscale. It's sophistication, but an invitational sophistication."
  • Flavor Profile per Coca-Cola's spokesman - "According to lore - I've never heard this internally disputed or confirmed - it resembles what used to be New Coke."

Diet Coke with SplendaDiet Coke with Splenda -

  • Launched - May 2005
  • Brand message as found on Coke.com website - "For those who love the wweet and intense taste of Splenda Brand Sweetener, now there's one more way to enjoy Diet Coke."
  • Brand message as reported by SVP of Coca-Cola Brands - "An adult cola taste, it uplifts with style, and it's sweetened with Splenda, which is a sweetener people say they want. It's that simple."
  • Flavor Profile per Coca-Cola's spokesman - "It's meant to mimic Diet Coke. But with Splenda, you will taste a difference, and the Splenda lover loves his new flavor note."

Coca-Cola ZeroCoca-Cola Zero -

  • Launched - June 2005
  • Brand message as found on Coke.com website - "A new kind of beverage that features real Coca-Cola taste and nothing else. Nothing that could potentially get in the way of your chill."
  • Brand message as reported by SVP of Coca-Cola Brands - "It's really the pause that lets them re-center in this fast-paced, time-warped world, and keep going. That's the 'just chill' part of the positioning."
  • Flavor Profile per Coca-Cola's spokesman - "It's formulated to match regular Coca-Cola."

TaBTaB -

  • Launched - 1963
  • Brand message as found on Coke.com website - "Tab has achieved a retro pop-culture status and has the reputation of being somewhat hard to find."
  • Brand message as reported by SVP of Coca-Cola Brands - "It's continuing to meet the needs of the small but unbelievably passionate group of people who continue to love Tab, but it isn't actively marketed."
  • Flavor Profile per Coca-Cola's spokesman - "It has a strong cola flavor, with that distinctive saccharine sweetness."

I knew I wasn't understanding what Coke was up to, but after reading all of this, the choice is clear ...

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Monday, November 29, 2004

"Advertisers Attempt to Say a Lot Using Very Little Words" - but please don't try this yourself

You're probably aware of it, even if you haven't recognized it as a trend. More and more, advertisers are saying less and less - with their tag lines, anyway. Examples (courtesy WSJ, 29-Nov-04, p. B1):
AT&T - '&'
Citibank - 'Thank you'
IBM - 'On'
MasterCard - 'Priceless'
Nextel - 'Done'
Verizon Wireless - 'In'
Now, while less actually IS more sometimes (thank you Mies van der Rohe, Buckminster Fuller, and (actually) Robert Browning via "Andrea del Sarto") it's my view that managers are often TOO parsimonious - that is, too frugal, to the point of being stingy - with their words. Now this isn't the worse thing that could happen considering how many bosses just don't know when to be quiet already. But it takes a LOT of work to communicate succinctly AND effectively. And all too often brevity on one's part precludes understanding on everyone else's part.

I've long subscribed to the belief that Effective Communication is "insuring that the message you intend to be received is exactly the same as the message that actually is received." For anyone's whose ever tried, you know that that's no small task. And while staccato sound bites may work for television and print ads, it's NOT how leaders should talk. Not at first anyway. First, you have to be sure that people know what you're talking about - as in what you're REALLY talking about.

Not sure they're sure? Then ask them. But don't just ask if they understand, ask "What is it you hear me saying to you?" That's the better question.

Don't confuse quickly with clarity - especially in your important (read: daily) communications with others. The time you spend on the front-end insuring everyone is clear on your meaning is time you won't have to spend on the back-end cleaning up afterwards because they really weren't.

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Friday, September 24, 2004

The NEW Swiss Army "Knife"

Hats off the Victorinox and one of their latest/greatest ideas:

No knife, so there's nothing for the TSA to confiscate. But with its retractable ball point pen and LED mini light, this 64MB USB jump-drive is very much in tune with the modern day world.

Anyone who's ever owned a swiss army knife's just gotta love this thing! (And what better way to demonstrate that I now know how to post pictures on the ole blog.

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Friday, September 03, 2004

"Beer-loving bear knows his brand"

This was the headline from an article in the August 20th edition of Canada's National Post newspaper! Subtitle:
"Bruin sleeps it off after downing 36 cans of Rainier".
As reported in the paper, it seems that a certain black bear was recently found "reclining on the lawn - presumably with a splitting headache and a craving for a cheeseburger" at a Washington state campground about an hour or so northeast of Seattle. The story continues:

"The bear, estimated to be about two years old, broke into campers' coolers and, using his claws and teeth to open the cans, knocked back the beers."

Apparently, the bear tried one can of Busch beer before finding the Rainier brand more to his liking! (Busch is a mass-market, discount beer, while Rainier, owned by Pabst Brewing, is a premium ale sold only in the Pacific Northwest.)

"We think it's a testament to the quality of our brand," said Neal Stewart, senior brand manager with Rainier Beer.
The story continues,
"Assuming the bear weighed a typical 500 pounds and drank the 36 beers in about two hours, it would have had a blood alcohol level of 2.58mg/100 ml. That concentration of alcohol in the blood is more than 30 times the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle - if the bear were human. And had a car.

"Rainier appeared to make a lasting impression on the Baker Lake bear. It returned to the campsite the day after its binge and was lured into a trap that was baited with doughnuts, honey, and two cans of Rainier.

"Wildlife officers were able to capture and relocate the bear."
Too funny, don't you agree?!

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Friday, June 11, 2004

Great Inventions

I was looking at a list of Great Inventions, as determined by Encyclopedia Britannica and several of them caught my eye:
=> beer, before 6000 BC (Sumerians, Bablyonians)
=> mail-order catalog, 1872 (Aaron Montgomery Ward)
=> compact disc, 1980 (Sony Corp.)
=> ring-shaped donut, 1847 (Hanson Crockett Gregory)
=> wire coat hanger, 1903 (Albert J. Parkhouse)
=> miniature golf, circa 1930 (Garnet Carter)
=> Muzak, 1922 (George Owen Squier)
=> paper towel, 1931 (Arthur Scott)
=> television remote control, 1950 (Robert Adler)
=> postage stamps, 1840 (Sir Rowland Hill)
=> sunglasses, 1752 (James Ayscough)
=> the wheel, about 3500 BC (proto-Aryan perople or Sumerians)
=> the zipper, 1893 (Whitcomb L. Judson)
Quite a sampling, yes?

What are some of your favoirte inventions? And what inventions do you wish would make to make your life/job more enjoyable?

(Hey, c'mon, it's Friday afternoon ... daydream a little!)

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Friday, April 02, 2004

GMail and Unintended Consequences of Our Communications

Now I'm a pretty big fan of Google. It's the search-engine-of-choice for visitors to the GottaGettaCoach! website (although Yahoo, MSN, and AOL provide their fair share, too, thank you very much). And I'm obviously a fan of Blogger, Google's web log service and home of GottaGettaBlog! So when Google announced their new email service, GMail, I thought that it'd be pretty good. And in a lot of ways, it is:

First, it's free.

Second, it's BIG - you get a full gigabyte of space; far more than with other free email services. Hotmail, as example, gives you 2MB; Yahoomail, 4MB. So no more worrying about your mailbox rejecting emails because you've exceeded storage capacities.

Third, it's a service of Google, which, as I said, has a reputation of being pretty good at what it does.

Yet there's this one part of GMail - something called their "contextual advertising system" - that I don't think I like. According to CNET, a great source for objective and comparative information on all things computer-based, "The Google contextual advertising system automatically scans for frequently used terms in order to serve up ads ... For instance, if you e-mail a friend to play tennis this weekend, the system would lock onto the keyword and send you a relevant advertisement from a tennis gear supplier."

Google says they won't actually READ your email; just scan it for keywords to determine what ads would be relevant for you to see. Yet, for anyone who uses metaphors or creative language to make a point about something, as many of you know I do, can you imagine the kind of 'relevant' advertisements GMail would want to send?!

I've got to say, though, that it'd sure be a great way to see how what we say can be interpreted in and out of context. And in that context, whether you use the service or not, just knowing about it can serve as a reminder for each of us to check in more regularly on any Unintended Consequences that may be coming from our communications with others. After all, effective communication is really about insuring that the message you intend to be received, is the same the same as the message that's actually received.

Thanks for the reminder, GMail.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2004

USA Today Headlines

New feature - USA Today Headlines now available by clicking on link over on the right side of the page. Check it out!

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Friday, December 12, 2003

Coupons Gone Wild and their Unintended Consequences!

So a not-so-new thing that's becoming more and more popular in the retail world is coupons. Lord & Taylor really started the trend a few years ago. I remember it because I thought it was peculiar that a high-end store like that would use the things. (I also remember feeling I was getting away with something pretty good when I used one to buy a new raincoat.)

But they must work pretty well because this year, I'm noticing more and more retailers using coupons more and more. A quick leafing through of the daily paper netted the following coupons:

> $10 off on $50 (Gaylan's sporting goods)
> 15% off (Border's)
> 10% off (American Mattress)
> 25% off (Cassim Rug Imports)
> 25% off any one item (Sportmart)
> 25% off any one item (Sports Authority)

And coupons arrive almost daily in the mail for cleaning services, closet organizers, oil changes, pizzas, etc. I haven't bought a pizza without a coupon in years!

So once you realize something it's hard to forget it. And there's this one store - Best Buy - that sends me discount coupons on a fairly regular basis. Except here's the thing: I'm finding that if I don't have the coupon with me, I don't buy anything. I mean why pay more?

Same thing with the pizza guy. If I don't have a coupon for one place, I buy from a different place. It's crazy, but this coupon frenzy is actually changing my buying patterns in the exact opposite way that the retailers are hoping for. Instead of buying more, I'm buying less.

The coaching spin on this is this: What might you be doing that results in others reacting in ways exactly opposite from how you want them to?

> If you're a manager and you want people to give you honest, accurate feedback, what might you be doing to discourage them from that?
> If you want your customers to treat you better, how might you actually be encouraging them to turn their requests into crises?
> if your boss is not sharing enough important information with you, how might you be misusing (or not using at all) important information s/he DOES give you?

It's worth thinking about. So my advice is to grab a few coupons, go get a pizza, maybe buy a nice new music CD and look at your Unintended Consequences.

-----Category: _fun

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