Fuel Others

TYnoteJane2Yesterday, I received two unexpected notes of thanks. Simple things, really. Probably took less than a minute to compose.

Also, I was given the gift of some words of encouragement over breakfast from a friend.

These things fueled me with strength and hope all day long. And they’re still with me as today dawns.

Appreciation and encouragement expressed is people fuel. You may not be the most brilliant person on the planet, but you have a boundless tank of the most important energy source known to man, and people pull up to the pumps every day needing fuel.

Your few, simple words of gratitude or appreciation can fill someone’s tank. Maybe for far longer than one day.

Use your mouth or your pen (or keyboard!). Fuel others. Is there any more important work, really?

Go With Door #2

There are two ways of looking at the world.

Behind Door #1 is everything that has been pre-built, pre-defined, and pre-established by others in the past. You are invited to fit in.

Most people fall into the trap of planning their career using Door #1. Why is this a trap?

Because it was built by someone else, not by you. It was built for someone else’s purposes, not for yours. It was built to meet past needs, not necessarily future opportunities.

It’s not always the best deal.

Behind Door #2 is a blank screen, waiting for you to project yourself upon it.

Your skills. Your direction. Your goals. The opportunities you see.

Door #1 is the default choice. Door #2 is for the courageous.

Go with Door #2.

You Have the Goods

I spent a couple hours recently going in-depth with someone about an impending major career change – a BIG jump from one type of endeavor to another.

Without giving away too much about his/her background, I’d say that about the last thing you’d expect from this individual is the hesitancy and uncertainty that stems from fear.

But there it was.

“I don’t believe I have the goods.”

I think one of the best gifts we can give one another is an assessment of what we’re really good at, and a huge pat on the back to go forth and conquer.

If you believe someone has the goods, tell him or her. That little word of encouragement – that expression of faith – may well be the needed push to get someone over the barrier of fear.

Even the most seemingly-successful folks have the “you don’t have the goods, you big jerk!” minor-key soundtrack playing in the background sometimes.

Many times what we need is someone from the outside, someone both objective and encouraging, to say out loud, with a smile and little shove forward, “You have the goods!”

Celebrating Supporters

Today, I’m grateful for steadfast supporters.

You know, those people that are always ready to come alongside and encourage? Long-standing collaborators like Mack Collier. Lisa Petrilli. Terry Starbucker. Ann Handley. Drew McLellan. Mike Capaldi. And this list could go on for a long time.

It’s about character, not transactions. And it’s good to pause once in a while and celebrate faithful friends.

Who are your top 3 or 5 supporters? Give them a pat on the back in the comments!

The En-visioners

Two books that I’ve read lately have renewed my appreciation for an amazing gift possessed by a relatively few number of people.

Of all the abilities we might see in our children and colleagues and friends, this one, if present, ought to be steadfastly fanned into flame.

Steve Jobs (I highly recommend his biography) had it. He could en-vision how things could/should/will be. He had a grasp of ideals, overlaid on the current reality, and the indisputable gift of “seeing” a solution to move from point A to point B.

He was a dreamer-doer.

The amazing geniuses who created our earliest computers (new book: Turing’s Cathedral. Very techie, and very interesting!) understood, conceptually, how such a machine would work. There were massive calculation challenges facing them – many brought on by the need to win a war – and the most remarkable thing for me, reading the account of their efforts, was how firmly they envisioned what the computer would do – and how it would work – before the technology parts and pieces were available. They foresaw it, planned it, invented it – took their vision and theories in hand and brought it to life.

This gift does not require an IQ of 222 (though that certainly won’t hurt!). It’s a way of seeing, and a compulsion to “make it so.”

The en-visioners are our world changers. They may not fit easily into our school-factories, because they are driven by creativity, not conformity. And they don’t just invent objects – we need to encourage our young en-visioneers to create business models, networks, social structures, charitable approaches. We need to give them permission – no, encouragement – to step outside of the status quo. The next Apple, Avon, or Amazon will be the result.

Who are some of the en-visioners you see that are in the process of changing the world? List them in the comments. And, more importantly – who are the 8- and 12- and 15- and 20-year old’s who are right now seeing the future? Let’s nurture these kids and set them loose to make a better and richer future for everyone!

___________

Hire Steve Woodruff as your Brand Therapist

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> We Do This (and this, and this, and this…)

>> Fearing Obsolescence? Four Questions for your Future

Just Bring Great People Together

I was having a lively phone conversation yesterday with Alli Worthington, the force-of-nature behind Blissdom and too many other things to list.

Her philosophy behind the Blissdom conference? To paraphrase: We just bring great people together and see what happens. Not that there isn’t structure and clear direction – there is – but there’s also an existential element of anticipated goodness that can’t be predefined.

Huh. In fact, it’s a business model I seek to practice, but I never quite heard it put that way before. It doesn’t sound like a business model, does it? But what it is is creating an opportunity-generating and entrepreneur-encouraging environment. And there’s a lot of potential business in that!

Then, for LeadershipChat last night, we enjoyed having Carrie Wilkerson (The Barefoot Executive) as our guest host (<—book review at link). Carrie, who encourages people to start their own businesses (the best job security we’ll know!), was giving a lot of helpful advice to the people who gather at the Tuesday night LeadershipChat – which gathering, it struck me afresh, has a very similar philosophy. We just bring great people together and see what happens.

So, as you think about your own business, and your opportunities, I have a fresh line of thought for you. Can you be a tribe-builder? Can you bring great people together and help create a fertile environment for business growth? Can you look past the idea of some company providing a growth vector for you, and begin to till your own land in order to make new things happen for you and others?

I sure plan to live that way!

——————

Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Who Are Your Influencers?

>> Not All Business is Good Business

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Business Love

Who ever created the dividing love between the business and the personal?

I get it, of course – the two realms aren’t the same – but I’m not sure we can completely maintain hard and fast distinctions on every level.

Because in our families, our communities, our companies, and everywhere else in the world, we’re rubbing shoulders with…people.

If people in the business realm exist to be used – if they are a means to profitable ends – then, of course, we can limit our caring. And, let’s face it – we work and do business to make money. When I network and present and consult and write and connect others, long-term and short-term business goals and strategies are woven throughout all of it. I’m not in the least embarrassed to admit it. Ultimately, whatever else I may earn in the business realm, I have to earn revenue primarily.

Or, to put it another way, it’s not about the Klout – it’s about the Ka-ching.

But this other, more personal drive keeps weaving itself in, dis-allowing me to treat people as business objects. And I see this drive in many others as well. When we interact face-to-face, there is a caring that goes beyond some anticipated short-term revenue gain.

It’s that pesky, inconvenient, hard-to-suppress, human, real, and amazing thing called love. You know – caring about others on a personal level that goes beyond today’s subscriber numbers and tomorrow’s paycheck.

I’m not talking about the whirl of romantic emotions or the carnal pleasure-seeking of one-night stands, or mere emotional sentimentalism. Love is an instinct to care about others – never fully pure, of course, but there nonetheless. Something we’re taught to suppress in that realm called “work”.

In the midst of our transition from a nation of farms and smaller businesses to the depersonalized landscape of huge companies where people are cogs in a great machine, we have tended to lose the connection of love and business. We’ve drawn a line between the realms, perhaps because it is so easy to be hurt in the world where getting ahead and winning are Job 1.

But now we are re-entering an era of entrepreneurship, where, as Mike Henry, Sr. put it in a phone call yesterday with Lisa Petrilli and me, we each have a factory on our desks. And lo and behold, love seems to be sneaking back into business.

Because we are what we always were – people. Maybe the machine robbed us of something important in our work. Maybe some of this dehumanization was a defense mechanism that we can and should outgrow.

Maybe – just maybe – love and business can be woven together.

I don’t fully understand how it all works, but I’m determined to explore it. Who’s with me?

————-

Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Breaking Free of Powerpoint

>> Trend Currents in Social Media

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

Random Act of Beauty

It’s been a rough few weeks of loss and grieving.

Floods in the Northeast have taken a terrible toll. Fires in Texas have devastated communities. We lost Trey Pennington. We remembered 9/11.

I guess some people have a very high capacity for bearing sorrow – I, for one, do not. It’s been tough.

But this is a new week, and it’s time to look at what is beautiful and hopeful and good. To that end, I’m just going to post a random act of beauty on my blog today. As a pledge, that it’s going to get better. For all of us.

Aiming High. Really High.

A lot of business is ordinary. And a lot of businesses are pretty…well, ordinary.

That’s because a lot of people learn to be ordinary. They learn to aim low, because they are surrounded by people who keep their heads down and their visions small.

And then there’s Steve Jobs and Apple. There’s Tony Hsieh and Zappos. There’s Jeff Bezos and Amazon. All transcendent game-changers, in user experience, customer service, and commerce. And there are a whole lot of lesser-known lights who are aiming high and changing the game in less public, but no less important ways.

They aim for transcendence. Going beyond the ordinary, surpassing expected limits. Transcendence is often used in a spiritual or mystic sense, but in a business sense, it is all about seeing planes fly 200 mph at 10,000 feet, and understanding that they can and should (and will) fly 600 mph at 30,000 feet. And higher and faster still.

Then initiating something to make that happen.

A lot of people in the social media space criticize Chris Brogan. I’m sure he’d be the first to tell you he doesn’t get it right every time. But he’s looking to transcend the normal and expected ways to build networks and do business. Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin are other examples. Or Gary Vanynerchuk. Breaking new ground can be messy. Trying new things can put a target on your back. Even if they get it wrong sometimes, they get it. The status quo never inspires.

Surround yourself with these people. I do – because there’s an awful lot of ordinary out there. And I want to aim high. What’s the ROI of keeping company with proven transcenders like Lou Imbriano, Anthony Iannarino, Ann Handley, Sean McGinnis, Tom Martin, Lisa Petrilli, Angela Maiers, Jon Swanson – and young entrepreneurs aiming high like Bradley Gauthier, Sarah Evans, Kirsten Wright, and Greg Hartle?

Here’s the ROI – Replacing Ordinary Influences.

Who are your transcendent figures (past or present?) I’ve listed a few of mine – share yours in the comments!

————-

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Turning the Corner

At a tweetup in NYC this week, I had the joy of talking to a fellow entrepreneur about how her business had finally turned the corner and begun to really take off. She and I had talked late last year and she was right on that borderline at the 3-year mark – “will this make it? Or do I need to get another job?” I knew she both needed and wanted to make it on her own.

Five years into my business adventure, I’ve been right on the edge of that bubble, too – more than once. Really wondering if this Impactiviti/Connection Agent business was going to fly. Now, as more and more business comes through the accumulated time and effort of network-building, it’s amazing to look at that corner – in the rear-view mirror!

My mission is to help entrepreneurs. And one of the biggest difficulties we all face is getting to, and around, that corner of steady work and profitability. Have you gotten there? Can you give hope to others by sharing your success, and perhaps a vital lesson or two you learned getting there? You could do so in the comments; but even better, perhaps – write it up on your blog, send me the link, and I’ll post it here.

It can be a lonely path. Let’s help kindle the hope and confidence of our fellow entrepreneurs, in the best way we can. There’s nothing better than a success story!

UPDATE: Here is a great video story from Carrie Wilkerson, The Barefoot Executive

Great perspective here from Anthony Iannarino, on the role of client acquisition in turning the corner.

————-

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Epiphanies

I see my development as a person and a professional as a timeline filled with two elements – the slow, steady accumulation of wisdom that comes from experience, and the intrusion of epiphanies.

(from Dictionary.comEpiphany: a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something)

For instance, I clearly remember the ground-shaking impact of the central message contained in the books First, Break All the Rules/Now, Discover Your Strengths. The insight that people can only perform at their best when working in alignment with their core strengths radically changed my world view and has profoundly shaped my thinking to this day.

What about you? What have been some of your epiphanies (people, books, talks, even tweets)? Please share in the comments!

————-

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Believe

While talking about career transitions and social networking this week, one individual asked me (and here I’m paraphrasing) what was the one thing to do above all others in building an opportunity network.

The answer that came out surprised even me at first. It has nothing to do with tactics, or specific social platforms.

I said to Sara that you have to believe. You need a gut-level conviction that building a network is the most important professional endeavor you can undertake.

And I do believe that. I think I gave it lip service for much of my career, because networking equaled schmoozing in my mind, and frankly, I am not a schmoozer. But it was the early days of LinkedIn that opened my eyes to the potential power of networks – and the massive advantage of a hybrid approach marrying digital technology to personal relationships.

Each step along the way – blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. – has grown that belief. But it has been getting past the pre-meeting stage which digital tools facilitate, and getting eye-to-eye, mind-to-mind, and heart-to-heart with people that has utterly convinced me. When friends are made, and opportunities opened up, and lives changed through these connections – well, it’s awfully hard not to believe.

You’ll read a thousand blog posts about the tactics, or the higher-level strategies, of using social networks. There’s a ton of noise about specific tools. I’m going to point you to the one thing that is foundational and drives the rest.

Believe. And if your faith is a little shaky right now, feel free to borrow some of mine. I have a lot of stories to tell – and so do a bunch of other people I can point you to.

————-

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

A Lake Placid Mugging

I was bummed.

Pulling my coffee out of the microwave, I managed to bang my favorite mug against the edge and shatter it, not only spilling coffee everywhere, but losing a symbol one of my fond memories.

Lake Placid, NY.

You see, I met my wife-to-be in Lake Placid during the summer of 1979, just before the “Miracle on Ice” Winter Olympics (still my favorite sports memory of all time!). We spent part of our honeymoon there, and have visited numerous times over the years, always happy to re-live the memories, and to introduce our kids to the sights and pleasures of that little Adirondack getaway.

Last summer, we had the pleasure of enjoying lunch at the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, and there I spotted a mug similar in shape and size to one I’d purchased in LP way back in ’79. So, I bought it.

Then, a few weeks back, broke it.

Because I have fun sharing life events on Twitter, I posted a picture of me mugging with my remaining half-mug, and got some funny messages of sympathy. But then, lo and behold, a unexpected note from Kimberly Rielly at the Lake Placid Twitter account:

I loved the fact that LP has someone in charge of monitoring tweets that mention the destination. But I loved even more that Kim reached out via e-mail and really did offer to fix one of these tragedies. And, she did (together with the fine folks at the Brewery)!  A few days, later, I get this box in the mail, and sure enough, it put a whole new expression on my previously-saddened mug–>

And that, my friends, is how to use social media to delight customers. Happily, our local libation store now carries Lake Placid Brewery Ubu Ale, so I’ll be enjoying some of it this weekend.

This spring will be our 30th anniversary, and this summer the 32nd anniversary of our meeting in LP. It’ll be a little bit sweeter knowing that Lake Placid is not just a far-away memory, but an up-to-date source of gladness!

Now, for some more coffee…

————-

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

The Passionate Leader

Confession: I don’t much care for cheerleaders.

I mean, nothing against any particular cheerleaders personally, but the whole idea of some formulaic whipping up of crowd enthusiasm really leaves me cold. As does anything that smacks of manipulation and insincerity.

Faux enthusiasm is not genuine passion.

So if passion isn’t some fly-by-night outward expression of manufactured emotion, what is it?

It’s the coach who so deeply believes in the abilities of his team, and in the value of working together to win, that his eyes and voice inspire his players to do better than they think they can.

It’s the Army captain who believes so much that the cause of his nation is right, and that evil people must be stopped, that he inspires his troops to sacrificially charge ahead with him through danger and hardship.

It’s the lonely pastor of an obscure little flock in middle America, who believes that God and eternity and sin and redemption are absolutely real, and who inspires his handful of fellow travelers to press on through each day’s trials.

It’s the business leader who believes that there’s a better way, who seeks to create that better way, and who inspires investors and employees and customers to buy in to that vision and make it come to life.

Passion grows out of believing. It grows into inspiration. It has the distinct feeling of compulsion about it – it doesn’t bother with could be, but proceeds directly to must be without passing GO and collecting $200.

Many can be paid to pick up the pom-poms and give a few cheers for the team. A truly passionate leader is not a hireling, however, auctioning off abilities and some manufactured enthusiasm to the highest bidder. He or she is a believer. Who inspires, not employees, but followers.

Passion is fueled by vision, by a sense of right-ness, by a restless dissatisfaction with the status quo. Passion can be as loud as an opinionated talk show host, or as quiet as an unknown researcher laboring for years at her bench to find new ways to treat diabetes. Passion can be found at at a Silicon Valley startup or in a Virginia Beach nursery, each patiently building and shaping and investing in the future.

Passionate leaders aren’t leading cheers. They’re leading disciples.

Agree? Disagree? This Tuesday night (8 pm ET), we’ll be discussing passion and leadership for our weekly #LeadershipChat on Twitter. Before the magic hour, be sure you also read Lisa Petrilli’s post on passionate leadership.

(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.)

————-

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Passion

The lovely Angela Maiers asked me to write a blog post about the topic of passion, as part of her series on Passion-Driven Conversations.

Below is an excerpt; the full post is here on Angela’s blog.

Where you find passion, you find PURPOSE – an attachment to a goal or ideal much bigger than oneself.

Where you find passion, you find PRINCIPLE – a commitment to what is right and good beyond just what is expedient.

Where you find passion, you find PRESSING NEED – an insatiable discontent with the status quo.

And where you find passion, you find PEOPLE – because we cannot resist warming our hearts with the passions of others.

more…

————-

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

The 90-Minute e-book

This was one of those mornings where I issued myself a weird creative challenge.

“Take the primary business lessons you’ve learned and turn them into a brief e-book. You have 90 minutes.”

Ninety minutes to distill years of experience and thought.

As you might expect, it’s rough around the edges. But hopefully these seven lessons learned (painfully) may be guideposts to spare you some wasted effort and professional discouragement.

Or not. You’ve undoubtedly learned a few nuggets along the way – what would you add?

It’ll only take you a few minutes to read. Maybe a bit longer to digest and apply!

Seven Profound Business Lessons (that you want to know sooner rather than later!)

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Surround Yourself with Smart People

You’re probably quite smart in a number of ways.

That number, however, is limited. Which is why you want to surround yourself with people who are savvy in lots of other ways.

It’s not a bad thing to build a large network of people (on-line and off-line). Just be sure that, in the process, you’re also building a smart network.

There are tons of very bright people out in the social sphere, and it’s really not that hard to find them, connect with them, start getting to know them. But the real value isn’t having their name on a list. It’s having their ear and brain and experience and connections when you need them (and them having access to yours).

Behind the scenes, I’m often brainstorming, and refining ideas, with all sorts of people (many of whom I met via social networking). They have whole realms of experience and perspective that I can’t possibly draw up from my own limited well. They have riches of insight and depths of knowledge that I’ll never attain in this little noggin.

A smart network is not a whole lot different than applying the Golden Rule. Being a good neighbor. Sharing resources. If you offer me a glass of Cabernet when I need it, should I go out and plant a vineyard – especially when I was quite happy to give you some bacon when you ran out last week? What’s the alternative – you go out and buy a pig?

So how do you go about building a smart network? Here are 3 astoundingly simple steps – we’re talking duh-level – that you already know. Just do them.

    1. Reach out. Say hi on Twitter. Reply to something they’ve written. Believe it or not, other smart people will enjoy your initiative and interaction, just as you do.
    2. Share your own expertise. Generously. Consistently. Without any baked-in quid pro quo.
    3. Ask. The 4 words, “Can you help me?” are very hard to resist when you have gained even a baseline amount of familiarity and credibility.

When you provide value, well-mixed with kindness and sincerity, you will be well on your way to a smart network. No PhD required. Now, about that Cabernet…

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Recipe for Success

Add value. Add value. Add value. Add value. Add value.  Know your limits. Add value. Add value. Add value. Add value. Add value. Demonstrate love. Add value. Add value. Add value. Add value. Add value. Ask for what you need. Add value……

Repeat.

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Letting Go

We grow up and live surrounded by “stuff” that becomes familiar. People, things, methods, media – they enter into our comfort zone of default assumptions and, at times, we don’t really want to let them go.

They’re comfortable. They’re known. And, they’re potentially deadly to business growth.

It was certainly hard for some people to let go the notion of riding horses to get from Point A to Point B – but you couldn’t tweak horses into performance that matched the newfangled automobiles. It was time to let go.

It’s hard for marketers to give up the notion of one-way communication – but in an interconnected world where people can now selectively listen, and freely publish and interact, it’s time to let go.

Many of us work in structures called corporations. It’s familiar, and these structures evolved to fill a purpose. But does that structure allow us to optimize our abilities, maximize our time investment, and earn what we’re worth? Should we think of company structures as some kind of inescapable default – or can we let go of the familiar and create new business approaches?

The creative architects will win. Those who can look back and resurrect what worked better. Those who can look around and replace what doesn’t work well with something superior. And especially, those who can look forward and not only let go of the current defaults, but create whole new ways to unleash their talents, and those of their teams and tribes.

Restless, questioning energy will blaze new trails. If we’re prepared to let go of the old ones.

I want to spend the rest of my days letting go. And creating. And unleashing. How about you?

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Are You a Kool-Aid Drinker?

I am. Let me explain.

We tend to talk about “true believers” as those who have drunk the Kool-Aid, with the obvious tie-in to Jim Jones and his followers. It’s an apt analogy, however unfortunate the original incident – one who has drunk the Kool-Aid actually, in this sense, is so convinced of something, that they move forward with conviction where others would hold back.

Now there are people who abandon all common sense and do ridiculous and harmful things because of “true belief.” No matter how much Kool-Aid you drink and how sincere your belief that gravity is suspended in your particular case, you’ll still be picked up with a spatula if you jump off a skyscraper. That’s the dumb Kool-Aider.

But, there are also those who feign enthusiasm and commitment, for as long as it seems to be prudent and fashionable to do so. Think of the car salesman who vigorously sells the marvelous virtues of Subaru, then loses his job, is picked up by the Toyota dealer down the street, and appears to have Camry-Aid in his veins the next week. That’s not a true believer – that’s the faux Kool-Aider.

An intelligent Kool-Aid drinker takes a reasonable look at what seems right and true and good, and out of a deep sense of conviction, puts all the chips in. It’s not Kool-Aid in this case – it’s vintage Bordeaux, and the commitment is not one born out of convenience or happenstance, but genuine belief.

My enthusiasm for Social Networking is Bordeaux-ish, and I am quite convinced that in many of my valued friends found through blogging and tweeting and meetups, I see the same thing. With realistic understanding, we embrace the new world of networked communications, not because it’s a panacea and the provider of whiter teeth and longer life, but because it’s powerful and transformative. We believe in (as Chris Brogan might put it) “human business” and are seeking to practice it.

And that’s why we tend to have such a visceral reaction against the Dumb or the Faux. There’s no need to be unrealistic, and we certainly abominate the attempts to corrupt these approaches with cheap sales pitches and scams. We’re not into cheap perfume or streetwalker dress. We just want to know each other, learn together, and change the world. That’s not so bad.

So, for all that, let’s enjoy the Kool-Aid together. Better still, let’s hoist a glass of Bordeaux today. It’s a great time to be alive!

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Time. Talent. And Magic.

After 10 years in one job (sales and marketing in medical devices), and 10 years in another (sales/marketing/biz dev/consulting with a software provider for pharma), I ventured out on my own. That was over three years ago; Chris Brogan hadn’t yet co-written Trust Agents, but in fact, the business model was a “make your own game” approach as a client/vendor matchmaker, built on networking.

So what was I doing for the 20 years before that? Setting the table.

I wasn’t ready to be an entrepreneur out of the gate. There was raw talent there, but it needed a long period of refining through experience. Most everybody has an area or two of serious talent – but for many of us, it takes years of exercising and honing those abilities before you are ready for new levels of influence and opportunities, including going out on your own as an entrepreneur.

In the meantime, you have to look at your current jobs as setting the table for better things ahead.

Now I absolutely rejoice when young people work their talents and their opportunities quickly and skillfully, moving through a much shorter preparation curve and rapidly launching entrepreneurial endeavors. People like Scott Bradley, Sarah Evans, Kirsten Wright. I love seeing that because these folks will shape the future. But for many, the trajectory upward is going to be slower, and sometimes less direct.

magic_dustJust be sure you’re setting your table. Specifically:

    1. Only move into and stay in positions that will challenge and grow your skills. Stagnation for a paycheck is not a luxury you can afford.
    2. Do such a good job that your employer and co-workers hate to see you go, and can only say good things about you. Leave a very sweet reputation aroma in your wake.
    3. Network. Constantly. On-line and off-line. It is very likely that your next opportunity will come from that extended “family” of supporters.

At the right time, the “magic” will occur (by magic, I actually mean providence, but some prefer to believe in luck or chance, so we’ll Harry Potter it for now and just say “magic” as a catch-all!). You’ll be restless in your current position, ready for something new, and a confluence of events and people will occur such that a new challenge is opened up. Sometimes you’ve strategically pulled levers to help make it happen, but often it’s the wonderful serendipity of being a networked person who is well-regarded and worthy of the next step.

It’s very common, in your late 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s to feel restless in your professional development. Keep honing your talent. Keep putting in productive time. Keep setting the table. And keep your eyes open for the magic!

Update: And, as Brogan would say here and here, there’s no overnight success!

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Plodding

One of the appeals of social networking is the “instantness” (is that a word? should it be??) of it all. You can create a blog in minutes, open a Twitter account painlessly, set up a profile on Facebook or Linked in and start connecting – all free, and all (pretty much) immediate.

So why do so many people start with a burst of energy, and fall by the wayside?

ploddingBecause like so many other ventures in life, real success comes through plodding.

Those who truly succeed in building strong networks and positive reputations do so, not by quick-fix schemes, but by the steady, day-to-day drip of plodding forward. Adding value with regular posts. Exchanging messages over time with quality people. Encouraging and helping people getting started, with no expectation of return. Being there and showing up.

Yes, these platforms are tools, and yes, there can be business strategy behind it all. But what else is behind it? Dare I say love for others?

The love of couples with strong marriages, and the love of parents for kids, also contains a major element of plodding. Day-to-day displays of warmth, kindness, and selflessness. Noticing the little things. Making the small and important gestures. Showing up.

Social networking is really not all that different from so many other ways that we create and maintain relationships. Yes, it’s easier to get started. But at the end of the day, it’s plodding that makes things happen. Just like in business. Just like our physical neighborhoods. Just like everything.

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Connect with Steve Woodruff

The No Drone Zone at Netflix

Drone1I’d heard good things over the months about Netflix’s unique corporate culture, so my curiosity was piqued when someone linked to a Slideshare about it. I clicked on over.

Seeing that it was 128 slides, my interest in delving further wavered. I have a philosophical bias against mega-slide presentations! However, I started anyway, and soon found myself going through the entire thing. The idealist in me was astonished – here was a company actually adhering to (not just mouthing) many tremendous business principles that are the ingredients for long-term success. Count me impressed.

Here’s the bottom line: Netflix is determined to have only dedicated and talented employees. No drones.

Many companies tolerate sub-par performers as long as they don’t mess up too badly. In this way, companies end up with lots of deadwood – drones who muddle their way onward and upward, and serve as a source of discouragement and irritation for hard-working and creative employees who really want to make a difference.

Read it for yourself – yes, it’ll take a few minutes, but it’s well worth it for the inspiration given and example set: Freedom and Responsibility Culture

Is your company a No Drone Zone? Can it become one?

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Ask the Right Questions

Quick – think of businesses that have imploded in recent years. What names come to mind?

A lot, unfortunately. Enron. AIG. GM. And loads of others.

All of it could have been avoided if these businesses were founded on the right answers to three simple questions. Questions that, if rightly asked and answered, will save any company from a world of hurt:

    1. What are the real needs of our customers?
    2. How can we add value, immediately and in the long-term?
    3. How would our practices look on the front page of the newspaper?

Instead, many companies are founded on and driven by other concerns, which override any fine-sounding sentiments in their mission statements:

    1. What do we want?
    2. How can we maximize “the numbers”?
    3. What can we get away with?

Selfish, shady, short-term business practices are the bane of our economy, leading to lost money, cynical markets, and increased regulation. But – it opens up a wide vista of opportunity for honest, truly customer-centric business people. People who have a conscience and a heart.

Ask the right questions. Then give the right answers. Over the long haul, you’ll be rewarded.

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 153 other followers