People of The Year

Every year, I am impacted (generally for good!) by countless people. Some stand out in particular, however; and as I reflect back on 2010, my year-end post will be about a few of those very real people in my network who have inspired, connected, helped, and collaborated in remarkable ways this year.

This spring, I was contacted out of the blue by Lisa Petrilli, a marketer from Chicago just getting immersed in social media. She simply reached out, and wanted to meet when I came to town…which we did. Not only has it been a privilege to be alongside as she launched her blog, but later in the year she came up with the idea of co-hosting LeadershipChat, which has been a real highlight of the last few months. Lisa has also proven to be wise adviser, a stalwart friend, and great connector with others. And, I constantly learn from her, whether she realizes it or not, especially in how she relates to people on-line.

As I’ve contemplated (and even attempted, without success) a move back to Connecticut, I’ve enjoyed building up a growing network of Nutmeg State people via social networks, none more important than my friend Joe Cascio. Joe understands what real people-networking is all about – whenever I’m going to be nearby (he lives near my mother-in-law’s town), he invites me to get together for coffee, and we brainstorm. And brainstorm. He’s a realistic revolutionary, a practical idealist, so we’re often on the same wavelength as we dream of new business ideas. He also put us in touch with a fabulous realtor in the area, and along with Betsy Raymond Stevenson, we hope to spend lots more time in the future growing a network in the SE corner of CT!

SOBCon – OK, that’s an event, not a person, but the SOBCon gathering is all about individuals – an intimate hands-on conference with high-quality people, designed to build networks and boost entrepreneurial business ventures. Here was my summary blog post from the spring where I discuss the many fine folks I rubbed shoulders with there. I’ve been to a bajillion conferences large and small over the years, and SOBCon was, for me, the most impactful ever. This is my kind of gathering – open-hearted, hype-free, practical, and deliberately small to ensure quality interaction. Terry Starbucker and Liz Strauss (the 2 main organizers) rock. I’ll be back (in case you’re wondering, that’s Julie Roads on the chair, who makes up in fire what she may lack in height. And she eats sushi for breakfast. Finally meeting Julie was one of my SOBCon highlights!)

Amy Fitch is a full-time Mom, full-time businesswoman, full-time networker, full-time visionary, who currently resides with her adorable tribe of redheads in northern Vermont. After years of exchanging 140-character messages via Twitter, I had the chance to finally meet Amy and her family this year, as my wife and one of my sons were traveling through and had an invite to spend a day and night at the Full-Time House. During that lovely day in Burlington, I also got to spend more time with Rich Nadworny, who subsequently sent some unexpected business my way (thanks, Rich!) Amy is one of those energetic and savvy younger gals who, like Kirsten Wright and Sarah Evans and many others, give me hope for the future.

Manny Hernandez and Kerri Sparling have been my two sherpas into the world of people with diabetes. These two very active blogger/networkers have allowed me to gain insights into the world of people dealing with long-standing disease by befriending me and opening up their lives and welcoming me in. They are two of my favorite ePatients and, along with Dave deBronkart (get his book: Laugh, Sing, and Eat Like a Pig!) have given me unique perspectives into the “other side” of the healthcare world – regular people/patients. All three of these folks are also incredibly bright and funny. And Kerri’s daughter is a doll!

I was unexpectedly drawn into an unfolding on-line drama when Leigh Fazzina tweeted for help after a bicycle accident in the woods. The awesome power of a Twitter network was brought front-and-center as an ad-hoc, global, virtual support group formed within minutes to help get the seriously injured Leigh found and rescued by local emergency personnel. It actually didn’t seem like that big a deal until it was over; the event got picked up by local and national media and even made Twitter’s list of Top 10 tweets of 2010. Irony – although we’re just a few hours apart, Leigh and I STILL haven’t met face-to-face after years of being acquainted on-line. Maybe 2011, Leigh?

For years, I watched Peter Shankman‘s star rise (he built HARO – Help A Reporter Out – and sold it to Vocus) – we’d exchange occasional messages but didn’t have a natural intersection of common ground. Nonetheless, one day he asked me to meet him when I’d be in the city (that’s NYC for folks who don’t live in a 2-hour radius) just so we could meet and talk. So we did, and became friends. He even sent a speaking opportunity my way later in the year. I will note here that of all the people I’m connected to, Peter is THE MOST rapid-response person on Twitter ever. I think that’s because he has a double dose of ADHD…

The LeadershipChat crew. This lively bunch, gathering on Tuesday nights to discuss leadership topics, was a totally unexpected bonus of 2010. It even led to a spur-of-the-moment lunch meeting with chat participant Lou Imbriano, who saw via Twitter that I was heading on the train up to Boston and invited me to a wonderful time feasting and gabbing over a real Italian lunch. Since I can’t list out all the quality folks that I’m getting to know at LC, I simply invite you to join us (8 PM ET Tuesday nights) and have a seat at the table with the fun little community that’s forming.

My Inner Circle. You know who you are. Your counsel and feedback and encouragement are priceless.

Now, for the best part – I’m guessing this list will be quite a bit longer for 2011. Looking forward to a great year connecting and chatting and scheming and brainstorming and pushing the boundaries with more of you in the coming year!

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First Look: Skype Video on iPhone

This morning, I just finished a post on when things don’t “just work”.

Then I downloaded the new version of Skype for the iPhone, which includes the ability to do video calls with other Skype users. Jim Long (@newmediajim on Twitter) wanted to test it out also, so we had our first real-time conversation via iPhone-to-iPhone Skype video. Jim on a 3G network, and me from my home Wi-Fi.

In a word: Awesome!

It. Just. Worked. As with Skype on the computer, this was a totally intuitive process, and we connected right up and started chatting without a flaw or hiccup. Call me impressed. This may very well catalyze a changeover for me from casual (but happy) Skype user to a paid, heavy-use account.

If you haven’t tried it, give it a whirl. The future keeps arriving in the palm of our hands.

Photo credit: Jim Long

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When it Doesn’t Just Work

We came back home after a few days away to a rather amusing note from the gal who house-sat out home (and dog) while we visited family over the holidays.

She noted a few “issues” with our digitally-controlled stuff, summarized thusly:

  1. The radio in the kitchen does not work like a radio,
  2. The TV in the family room does not work like a TV,
  3. The TV in the master bedroom does not work like a TV,
  4. The atomic-interfaced alarm clock is now into 2017.

Anyone who, like us, has more modern digital video/sound systems knows the problem with the proliferation of remote controls and the occasional complexity of doing simple tasks, like, say, turning the thing on and changing channels. What if the prior input was for the Tivo, and now I want to watch a broadcast channel, or a DVD, or skate on over to Netflix-on-demand? Eventually, you get used to which buttons to press and in what order, but when someone else comes into the house, you now have…utter confusion.

Back in the day, when you walked into someone else’s house, every TV pretty much worked the same. And radios had on-off buttons and simple station selectors. It wasn’t HD, but it was simple. It worked.

We’ve come a long way in making great technology. I was reflecting with Joe Cascio over coffee a few days back how we old-timers were trained, by Microsoft primarily, to expect disaster and hardship and trouble with every new version, every peripheral, every update (the “Microsoft Flinch”). I still get angst-y whenever I install something or bring up a new device – except now, stuff mostly just works (OK, so I am now mostly working with Apple products, but the PC stuff is WAY better as well!)

But we’re not there yet. When a house-sitter can’t even get a TV to work, we have a user-interface problem. When I STILL need my kids to occasionally remind me that I have to press button Q on remote #3 in order to actually reach the proper menu to do X, this is not good design. We’ve crossed the threshold of easy on a lot of products and systems, but we still have a ways to go to make everything just work. I guess that’ll keep some of our talented people permanently employed!

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Five Reasons Why You’ll Love LeadershipChat

A growing group of thinkers/doers has been gathering on Tuesday evenings (8 pm ET) for a weekly event called #LeadershipChat.

We gather around a virtual table on Twitter and discuss various topics around leadership in business. And in a relatively short 2 months, quite an energized group of attendees have chosen to spend that hour together – an hour that flies by faster than any other in the week.

So why will you love #LeadershipChat when you join in? Here are 5 simple reasons.

  1. LeadershipChat is warm. One of the first things you’ll notice is the friendly and welcoming climate. LC is designed to be like a Tuscan dinner table, and you can’t help but enjoy the banter and feel the love (yes, I said love).
  2. Smart people congregate there. I’ve tuned into other chats, with plenty of smart folks as well, but you’ll find a concentration of sharp thinkers at LeadershipChat who challenge our ideas quite regularly, in 140 characters.
  3. You will find lots of new people to follow. Already, in a few weeks, we’ve seen a growing network of people discovering each other through LeadershipChat, some of whom are already communicating and collaborating outside of the weekly event.
  4. While the topics are both practical and sometimes even edgy, we have an awful lot of fun each week – before, during, and after LeadershipChat.
  5. Lisa Petrilli is one of the co-moderators. Enough said.

So, if you haven’t yet taken a seat at the table, please join us. Tonight, Tuesday December 21 is an “Open Mic” night, so any topic of interest to you can be placed on the table (hint: one very easy way to participate is by using a client like Tweetchat. Just log in, read the stream of thoughts that are being shared, and feel free to chime in with your reactions and questions.).

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10 Can’t-Miss Predictions for 2011

I don’t usually do year-end prediction posts, but after reading so many enlightening missives from brilliant thinkers, I was hit by a sudden flash of inspiration – a massive and luminous outpouring of the blindingly obvious. So, here goes – my can’t miss social media marketing predictions for 2011.

  1. More people will search for stuff on-line in 2011. It’s been growing every year for quite a while now, and the big surprise is, that this behavior will continue to occur.
  2. Mobile is going to be big. Really big.
  3. E-commerce will explode onto the scene. As people discover that they can buy things on-line, they will do more of it. Books, music, toys, pet food – you name it. Disintermediation is the key word here. Big for 2011.
  4. Apple will introduce flashy new versions of its hardware and software products. And people will buy them. In fact, some people will wait in long lines to buy them – and others won’t.
  5. A lot of people will do a lot of stuff on Facebook, which will have more users in 2011 than it has now in 2010.
  6. Very important people will be profoundly embarrassed by revelations made about them via the Internet.
  7. Market valuations for software vendors will go up and down while fluctuating during the year.
  8. Companies will try to sell stuff using social media, and social media purists will be so upset about it, they’ll whine on Twitter and blogs.
  9. Everyone will hate SxSW’s method of choosing panels by popularity contest, but a million bloggers will beg for votes on Twitter anyway, while saying how much they despise doing so.
  10. People will discover that if you join smartphones with location apps with coupons you can cause a lot of people to make a lot of noise on-line about it, and generate stoopid company valuations.
  11. (Bonus) Content will rule. There may even be a book about it (hey – had to get a plug in there for CC and Ann!)

What about you? What are your profoundly insightful predictions for the exciting year ahead?

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See prior spoofs :>}

Where’s Your Following?

Maybe there’s an interview question we’re missing…

We get so used to the list of roles/titles/accomplishments/awards on a resume, that it can blind us to what really matters, at least when it comes to those being entrusted with leadership.

Let’s start asking this: Where’s your following?

For this week’s #LeadershipChat on Twitter, we’re going to talk about the engaged and connected leader, based on thoughts springing from this excellent article by Howard Behar and Michael Lee Stallard called, Overcoming Leadership Myopia (be sure to read that post, and the creative blog post written by my Leadership Chat co-moderator Lisa Petrilli, before the chat on Tuesday night at 8 pm ET)

Here is a juicy quote from the Behar/Stallard article:

Gradually over time, America has become overly obsessed about managing tasks. In our quest to produce results, we have lost sight of the importance of engaging people. As human beings we have emotions. We have hopes and dreams. We have a conscience. We want to be respected, to be recognized for our talents, to belong, to have autonomy or control over our work and our lives, to experience personal growth, and to do work that we believe is worthwhile and in a way that we feel is ethical. It’s how we are wired. When we work in an environment that recognizes these realities of our human nature, we thrive. We feel more energetic, more optimistic, and more fully alive. When we work in an environment that fails to recognize these realities, it affects our ability to become engaged and deliver sustainable results. It’s also damaging to our mental and physical health. All the Six-Sigma, Lean, benchmarking and metrics in the world won’t help us lead people if we fail to recognize these realities. Leadership is all about the human experience.

So, if someone is a true leader, it should be evident in multiple spheres of life. Where are your followers? And – very important – how are they doing?

The measure of a good doctor isn’t the number of degrees posted on the wall, or the rich appointments of the office. It’s the health of his patients.

Maybe the new job posting should be: WANTED – Great Leader. Key Qualification – Thriving Followers.

While “past performance is no guarantee of future results,” when it comes to leadership, it’s probably a pretty darn good indicator!

Join us on Twitter at 8 pm ET Tuesday (hashtag: #LeadershipChat) and let’s talk about leader engagement! (hint: one very easy way to participate is by using a client like Tweetchat. Just log in, read the stream of thoughts that are being shared, and feel free to chime in with your reactions and questions.)

(Image credit – solo tree)

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Leadership Squelch

It’s an (unfortunately) common and disheartening reality for many talented and driven professionals.

You want to try new things. Make work better. Show some initiative and leadership. And often, the response is something like this:

So, what do you do when it seems that corporate control and fragile management egos trump your ability to develop into a leader? Do you stay and work for change? Hold out sullenly until something better comes along? Or just leave?

At Leadership Chat this Tuesday night, we’ll be talking about what happens when initiative meets squelch. Join us on Twitter at 8 pm ET (hashtag: #LeadershipChat) and let’s discuss this all-too-common dilemma! And before you pull up a seat at the table, be sure to read the perspectives of my lovely and talented co-host, Lisa Petrilli, which will be published on her blog Tuesday morning!

(hint: one very easy way to participate is by using a client like Tweetchat. Just log in, read the stream of thoughts that are being shared, and feel free to chime in with your reactions and questions.)

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This Week’s Networking Boomerang

What is the value of investing in building a great network of people? I think it was Chris Brogan that recently pointed out the distinction between thinking of ROI (which, in my opinion, is a fine metric for a specific tactical business approaches) vs thinking of the overall value of social networking.

One huge value of social networking is that, when you add value to others and build bridges with them, good people will add value back. It’s the boomerang effect.

Sounds nice in theory, right? But here’s the value in practice, just this week:

Example 1: We had an oven that died. While my wife attempted to find a source in the traditional way, I tossed it out on Twitter, which is now my default Help Desk.

Result? Immediate response by a friend, pointing a semi-local dealer he knew of on Twitter – which company responded immediately by Twitter and phone, and got the business in minutes.

How cool is that?

Example 2: This week, I confirmed a speaking engagement as a panelist discussing social media for automobile dealers. How did I get approached for this? Peter Shankman (who became an Ironman last week – good going, man!). Peter and I got together a few months back just to chat and get to know one another. He recommended me for this opportunity. Then, in order to help with my preparation, I put out a blog post and linked it on Twitter, asking people for links and resources on social media and automotive dealers. Within a few hours, I had everything I needed via crowdsourcing for a post-event list of resources and case studies.

Example 3: I met this week with someone from a healthcare agency interested in having workshops for social media and project management (two of my sweet spots). I didn’t know these folks from Adam and Eve, but they approached me because someone else in my pharma network passed my name along and recommended me. This is the second time in the past 6 weeks I’ve had an agency approach me this way via a third-party recommendation (thanks, Rich and Jon!)

Example 4: We’re about six weeks into our weekly #LeadershipChat on Twitter, and this past week’s on Passion was wonderfully helpful and lively. How did LeadershipChat come about? Lisa Petrilli reached out to me via social networking this spring, we met at SOBCon Chicago, and have been collaborating since. Also, via networking, Lisa got to know Tom Martin, and together with Lisa Diomede, they put together this week’s CocktailsforCauses event in Chicago.

Now, that actually isn’t everything that happened this week. And I’m not even listing the boomerangs that went out for others, which will bear fruit in their lives and businesses. Or the important, sometimes life-saving things that happen via social networks totally outside of “business value.”

When people obsess over the “ROI of Social Media,” I’m forced to smile somewhat. Who can trace the actual ROI of all the hours and effort that have gone into building an opportunity network? But, is there value? – oh, yes! The boomerangs have only just begun to fly…!

Build your network. Feed your network. Be ready for the boomerang.

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Don’t Be That (Social Media) Guy

Just. Don’t.

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Auto Dealers and Social Media

Since I’ll be speaking this week on a panel about social media and car dealerships, here is a collection of interesting links I’ve collected with the help of friends in my network (& Google!) – how automobile marketing can be enhanced (or damaged!) via the power of social media:

Still wondering if social media is a growth opportunity. Just spend a minute watching this real-time chart update itself. And here are a bunch of infographics showing growth and usage – stunning.

I will say that my experience thus far with automobile dealers has been mostly negative. I’m still waiting to work with a dealer that is:

- more interested in the long-term relationship than the immediate deal,

- pro-actively helpful and friendly even if a sale is not immediate, and

- transparent and up-front about pricing.

None of the above is rocket science, but all of it would earn major points in a socially-networked world. So, how can an auto dealer effectively use social networking to grow business?

1. You have to be good - so customers freely and gladly recommend you (first and foremost in importance!).

2. You need to be “find-able” on-line, with a helpful website and a social presence that makes people feel welcome.

3. You need to be astonishingly responsive.

4. You need to follow through with a positive experience at every level.

Note that the most important factors are those things that have always been most vital in establishing a reputable business. Social media only magnifies – for better or for worse – who you already are.

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