“Everything I Know About Business (and Life) I Learned From…Poker? Or Maybe Slaying Dragons…?

Quick! Think of a subject; any subject. Now think of any kind of game/pastime/hobby. Got it? You’ve just completed a Mad Lib:

Everything I know about   [subject]

I learned from  [game/etc.] .

You just might have a new best-selling book (or at least a blog post) topic now!

Ever since Robert Fulghum wrote that ‘everything he needed to know he learned in kindergarten,’ it seems like there is a lot of writing out there with a similar “Everything I know about…” theme – lots of it parody, but many clever writings, too.

In the clever category is “Everything I Know About Business I Learned from Poker,” written by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, an idea appearing in the What Matters Now e-book (compiled by Seth Godin), which I just wrote about here. Tony Hsieh provides a clever explanation how poker has taught him about financials, strategy, education and culture, excerpted from Tony Hsieh’s excellent blog.  (As I have mentioned before, any company whose CEO is writing an informative, thought-provoking blog has a competitive advantage in leadership).

Still, it’s easy to take the idea too far: unlike business, poker has a much higher level of luck that can’t be reduced through proactive strategic planning and creativity (think effective product marketing and management, etc.). Even after correctly speculating an opponent has an inferior hand, a bad final “river” card can do you in anyway. In poker, it’s often better to be “lucky” than “good”!

Today poker is very widely regarded as very “cool”, with televised poker champions playing their personas to the hilt.

That said, I have a great deal of respect for someone willing to share an “Everything I know…” insight using a game, pastime, hobby, etc. that is…well, let’s say definitely not perceived as “cool” by popular culture.

For that I wish to honor Chad Henderson of Oklahoma City: Everything he needs to know about life he learned from…Dungeons and Dragons. (Thanks to BoingBoing for their original posting on this.)     Continue reading

What Matters Now: “Glittering Paragraphs” of Bright Ideas

Anybody can have ideas – the difficulty is to express them without squandering a (stack) of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph. – Mark Twain

Photo by: cayusa (Flickr CC)

Thanks to Bruna Martinuzzi, author of The Leader as a Mench, for sending me just before the holiday break a copy of What Matters Now, a free e-book compiled by marketing author and visionary Seth Godin.

Over 70 authors, executives, and entrepreneurs each share an idea, using no more than a couple of “glittering paragraphs,” for you to think about and act upon in 2010 and beyond.

Among my personal favorites that are food for thought related to marketing and personal branding:

As much as I am an advocate for blogging, being networked on LinkedIn, etc., author and entrepreneur Howard Mann shares his idea on being too Connected:

There are tens of thousands of businesses making many millions a year that still haven’t heard of twitter, blogs or facebook…Have they missed out or is the joke on us?…More megaphones don’t equal a better dialogue…

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Poor Communication can Scuttle Effective BI, Your Reputation, and a Simple Bus Ride

Several years ago I flew to and from a trade show via TF Green Airport in Providence, RI instead of Boston Logan Airport as usual.  This small airport has (or at least had at the time) one large economy parking lot with shuttle buses.

Remember Ralph Kramden? The bus driver I dealt with was the Anti-Kramden.

You were supposed to give the bus driver the number of your bus stop near your car.  Running late, I rushed to catch my departing flight and didn’t make note of the number, but I knew I had parked near a certain corner of the lot.

“Excuse me,” I said to the bus driver, “but I don’t have my bus stop number. Can you just drop me off at whatever stop is nearest to the far right corner of the lot?”

“What’s the number?” grunted the bus driver.

“I don’t have the number.  But I know my car is near the far right corner of the lot from where we are right now.”

“What’s the number?” the driver again grunted, a little louder this time.

(What…?!) “I said I don’t have the number. I’m near that corner of the lot over to your right.”

“What’s the number?”

(Is this guy for real?!) “Look, can you just stop anywhere near the far corner of the lot?”

One of my colleagues from the trade show, a TF Green regular and just as annoyed with the driver as I was, shouted out a stop number he happened to know was close to my car. The bus driver, now given “The Number,” did silently agree to stop there, his eyes forward as I walked off the bus. Note that there was no language, cultural or hearing-ability issue with the driver. He was simply locked into his own way of thinking to a ridiculous degree: no stop number, no stop.

The way a person communicates is a major component of their reputation and personal brand.  And I believe the vast majority of communication problems are caused by the personal baggage we bring to the table when communicating, known in psychological terms as confirmation bias.   Continue reading

“Balloon Boy” Fiasco Teaches a Personal Branding Lesson

Remix from Flickr photo (CC) by Salim Virji: http://flickr.com/photos/salim/

Remix of Flickr photo (CC) by Salim Virji: http://flickr.com/photos/salim/

Without bothering with further commentary on the theatre-of-the-absurd “Balloon Boy” fiasco that also left the media bamboozled and humiliated over its national coverage of the hoax, there is a worthwhile lesson here for personal branders.

In this instant media age, it is more possible than ever to gain immediate attention. The question is, what are we going to do with that attention? Gaining attention for the mere sake of gaining attention is, in effect, the spectacle-seeker’s oddball way to merely say, “I’ve got nothing.”

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A Tale of Two Polar Opposite Managerial Styles

UMBC President Dr. Freeman Hrabowski (photo: Bb World)

In 2010, I was remote director of marketing for iStrategy (now Blackboard Analytics) based in Maryland. The company hosted its first-ever iStrategy User Conference that year, hosted at Loyola University. It was a pleasure to meet so many smart, enthusiastic data warehousing customers I had been collaborating with on case studies and webinars, highlighted by a fantastic keynote presentation by UMBC President Dr. Freeman Hrabowski.

Flying into BWI that September and back home in October on AirTran (a nice airline that I miss, btw). I had happened to read the September and October issues of Go, AirTran’s surprisingly good in-flight magazine. I found it interesting that the business author profiled in each issue so thoroughly and diametrically opposed the other.

George Cloutier, the founder of American Management Services, with a long record of successful business turnarounds to his credit, is the author Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing, profiled in the Go September issue. Meanwhile, the October issue of Go profiles the book ESPN the Company: The Story and Lessons Behind the Most Fanatical Brand in Sports by longtime consultant to ESPN Anthony F. Smith (scroll about halfway down each of these links to read each book and author profile).

How is this for disagreement, not to mention two very different personal brands, as summarized by Go magazine:

On Leadership:

George Cloutier: I am Your Work God! You want your employees to do what you say, not what they think.

Anthony F. Smith: Avoid the myth of single-person leadership. “Leadership is really a shared phenomenon…(Each ESPN executive) needed to surround themselves with other effective people who could fill in areas where they were not as skilled.”

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Want Business Success and Avoid Depression? Be Willing to “Wear the White Belt”

Photo: Mirandala (Flickr CC)

Photo: Mirandala (Flickr CC)

The VentureFizz website lets you “see what’s buzzing in Boston’s tech community.” The site includes links to a wide gamut of blogs by Boston entrepreneurs. One of the better blogs is Seeing Both Sides by Boston venture capitalist and former entrepreneur Jeff Bussgang, including his post, Should Entrepreneurs Be More Like Teenage Girls? As my wife and I are extremely proud of our two teenage daughters, this post easily caught my attention.

Jeff Bussgang’s post refers to an article from The Economist which suggests that the more willing a person is to give up on “unreachable” goals, the less likely they are to be depressed. Dr. Randolph Nesse of the University of Michigan suggests that just as pain is a warning you should stop you doing a damaging physical activity, so too low mood is a mental warning that you should stop doing a damaging mental activity – in particular, pursuing an “unreachable” goal.

The article goes on to quote a Canadian university study that may support Nesse’s hypothesis. The study measured depression and “the goal adjustment capacities” of 97 girls aged 15-19. It was concluded that the girls who experienced mild depressive symptoms could more readily disengage from “unattainable” goals and were also less likely to experience severe depression in the long run.

“Persistence is part of the American way of life,” (Dr. Randolph Nesse) says. “People here are often driven to pursue overly ambitious goals, which then can lead to depression.” He admits that this is still an unproven hypothesis, but it is one worth considering.

What concerns me is how one defines an “unattainable” goal. Is the goal in question really unreachable, or is it unreachable without a long period of new learning and practice?  Is it a really a ridiculously futile goal, or is it what I called in a recent post a “Grit Goal”?

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Job Seekers Getting Attention: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Source: evo_terra (Flickr)

Source: evo_terra (Flickr)

I recently came across CornOnTheJob.com, a blog by Philadelphia-based headhunter Rich DeMatteo. Helping job seekers with good advice is important to Rich, as it is to me, and I enjoyed visiting Rich’s blog. Rich just posted on a topic that was on my on-deck circle: job candidates “thinking outside the box” to gain attention. There are definitely many job seekers acting “outside the box”…but I’m not so sure these folks were “thinking.”

The Boston Globe did a very good piece on “outside the box” (more like “beyond the pale,” unfortunately) job seekers making spectacles of themselves, including, among others, Pasha Stocking of Connecticut who blew $2,500 for her “HIRE ME!” billboard that earned the “odd news” type of national media attention…but no job opportunities.

Since that Globe article, others have joined this group of job hunters gaining attention, but not the “good” kind of attention that will land them a job. Chances are you have heard of one Trina Thompson, who has sued the college she graduated from seven short months ago because she remains unemployed. Now we can all agree this is the worst public spectacle attention a job candidate can get. Rich gives Thompson a well deserved dressing-down along with some good common-sense advice that Trina Thompson should have done already (join LinkedIn, look into a resume writing professional, etc.). The Onion sums up Thompson’s hapless lawsuit with suitable irreverence. Litigious mediocrity is not a good personal brand to embrace, Trina…

But Rich DeMatteo and I have agreed to disagree on the virtue of an “outside the box” tactic by Sean Christman, a recent La Salle graduate.

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Buy this Book and Read it Now: The Leader as a Mensch (Book Review)

I have referred to business author Bruna Martinuzzi’s article Optimism: The Hidden Asset previously on this blog (here and also here) as a wise and pragmatic exploration of a positive character trait that tends to come in handy for anyone looking to succeed in marketing, anywhere in business… or at life itself. Optimism is just one of a wide array of highly desirable character traits, including humility, empathy and generosity, to name just a few.

Hopefully you have worked for a person who demonstrates these traits routinely; who communicates with openness and dignity, and leads by example with honor and integrity. If you have worked for such a person, as I luckily have, you have had the unique pleasure and personal enrichment that can only come from working for a mensch.

mensch (měnsh)  n.  Informal. A person having admirable characteristics, such as fortitude and firmness of purpose: “He radiates the kind of fundamental decency that has a name in Yiddish; he’s a mensch” (James Atlas).

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mensch (accessed: July 21, 2009).

Take this quick survey: What one word best describes your boss…

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Introverts: Not Networking is Not an Option! (A Brief Interview with Holland-Mark CEO Chris Colbert)

I am happy to report that I successfully bounced back from a surprise April 2009 layoff from a former employer and landed a great new job two months later.  Networking made all the difference in the world.  In fact, in terms of what really worked in my job search, networking was the world.

Just to be clear, this is NOT effective networking! (Source: University of Melbourne, Australia)

Just to be clear, this is NOT effective networking! (Source: University of Melbourne, Australia)

Without networking, I never would have found this job, or for that matter, another good offer for an appealing extended consulting opportunity. I was not one of hundreds of resumes in someone’s email inbox. Neither opportunity was advertised anywhere. In fact, the opportunities were not even fully defined yet when I first explored them.

If I did not have my network which I initiated before I was laid off, if I had not cultivated my network with new contacts after I was laid off, I would still be unemployed.  It’s that critical.

Holland-Mark CEO Chris Colbert led a thought-provoking presentation at last week’s Bentley University Success Network meeting which I believe inspired attendees to build and nurture their networks.  Effective networking is made possible by your personal brand (Brand U); who you are and what makes you unique (what Chris refers to as your One Simple Thing).  Chris’ presentation was recorded and should be available on the Bentley University website soon (stay tuned).

I spoke yesterday with Chris about his presentation and dug a little deeper on how job searchers predisposed to introverted behavior might be at a disadvantage, as they might be more reticient or even shy about approaching others and developing a network to succeed in their job search.  The bottom line is clear: Not networking is not an option.  But introverts out there who bristle at the thought of getting out there and networking should take heart: Networking is not about winning a popularity contest or using phony flattery to manipulate others to help you.  At its core, networking is all about being authentic.

Read on for my chat with Chris Colbert.  I hope you find it helpful.

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Business as a World Healer: Bentley University Leadership Forum

Update – Sept. 14, 2014: I recently revisited this article, among the first I wrote for this blog back in early 2009. America and the world was still reeling from an unconscionably cratered economy; and yet, there was substantial optimism that the global economy – as well as global society and well-being at large – would recover and become stronger. That optimism has since been proven to have been on the mark.

Now more than ever, the advancement of global business and global civilization are increasingly viewed as intertwined and no longer commonly regarded as being mutually exclusive. With all that in mind, it is even more gratifying to look back and read this write-up of Bentley University’s 2009 Leadership Forum: The Business of Healing Our World.

Bentley University 2009 Leadership Forum.

As a Bentley University MBA alum, I am proud that Bentley fully understands and deeply values the importance of business leadership firmly grounded in ethics and social responsibility. It is this variety of true leadership, critical to cultivating the innovations key to solving global challenges, that Bentley advocates for – most recently with its outstanding 5th Annual Leadership Forum (2009), co-produced once again with TIME magazine.

The Bentley Annual Leadership Forum brings together innovative business professionals, NGO executives, thought leaders and more to discuss and share successes on the positive impact enlightened business can have and is having on our society, our environment, our global quality of life. The Forum is capped off by a luncheon honoring student winners of the Tomorrow 25, an international competition honoring 25 outstanding high school juniors with a series of special events on the Bentley campus.

One of the best examples of business for social good profiled at the Leadership Forum was World of Good, presented by founder and CEO Priya Haji (photo).

Priya Haji established a new global distribution system for ethically developed products by over 150 artisan cooperatives in 34 countries around the world. These products are already sold through retail partners like Whole Foods Market, with new partnerships with Hallmark and Disney in progress, as well as online via World of Good on EBay.

The Bentley brand, consisting of its longtime business pragmatism melded with a very strong sense of business ethics, integrity and responsibility is one I am pleased to claim as part of my personal brand. And I am hardly the only Bentley alum who feels that way: Fellow Bentley alum and social entrepreneur Nancy Gallant wrote a fine post in praise of the Leadership Forum on the Bentley University Alumni LinkedIn Group which she has allowed me to share here:

As a social entrepreneur, I found the speakers, their stories and their message inspiring and empowering. And, the Tomorrow 25 “kids” that were introduced, don’t even get me started!

The Leadership Summit is the perfect illustration of Bentley’s dedication to “doing well by doing good.” Given the recent (and, I believe, inevitable) upheaval in the economy, I am hopeful that, in addition to Bentley’s current student population, Bentley alums will help lead the way toward conscious capitalism, a concept with considerable merit and in need of passionate support. Given their leadership role in business ethics, among other things, it only makes sense that Bentley would be a major part of the conversation to promote positive change, socially and environmentally, while embracing and espousing the benefits of a capitalistic economy in which ethics, morality, transparency and stewardship to our future generations, those less fortunate, and our environment are all part of the equation…

I could go on (and on). If you are interested in digging deeper, your time would be well spent checking out a couple of related links:

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