On Being a Fraud

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus - you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

I’ve had several discussions of the past week about Impostor Syndrome – which, by the way, I always manage to misspell the first time (imposter) until spell-check reminds me of my transgression.

In short, Impostor Syndrome (let’s just call it IS) is experienced by people who have difficulty internalizing their accomplishments. Folks who are afflicted with it regularly feel like frauds, with a fear that it’s just a matter of time before they are exposed for being something far less than others think they are.

Competent people feeling perpetually incompetent – that’s Impostor Syndrome<–(click to tweet this)

I think IS can often be a psychological/emotional issue, especially experienced by those who are insecure (hand raised) and perfectionistic (both hands raised). Those who struggle with accepting basic human realities of step-by-step growth and evolution will tend to feel grossly inadequate for every role they step into – no matter how they perform. I can look back at my professional timeline and see many places where I experienced this cognitive dissonance. Although, I must say, the most profound place where I feel it is in my role as a parent.

But, I’d like to suggest another angle on this. I wonder if some of our experience of IS comes down to working in a mis-matched role. In other words, we really are outside the primary zone of our competencies, and we can’t measure up to what we know we should because – well, we can’t.

For instance, I labored for many years in a sales role. I actually succeeded in growing business and helping customers. But I am really not wired for sales – I’m not hyper-competitive, driven by numbers and short-term goals, schmoozey, quickly empathetic, hungry to “close” – I just want to figure stuff out and help people. Turns out you can actually do sales that way, but in one company where I was VP of Biz Dev, we hired a natural and skilled salesperson, and as I watched her operate, I finally came to the realization – that’s a salesperson in her sweet spot. I’m a consultant – not (natively) a salesperson. All that time I tried to force myself into a role that wasn’t a great “fit” for me.

And all that time I felt like an impostor. Not because I was insincere, or even ineffective – but I was outside my sweet spot.

Looking back at many of the roles I’ve sought to fulfill, here’s how it sorts out in my case:

Imposter Zone

As the old saying goes, you can’t put in what God left out. Working in the red zone generally means we’re going to feel like failures.

For 18 months, Lisa Petrilli and I co-hosted a weekly Twitter gathering called LeadershipChat. By all accounts, it was a big success. But many people will be surprised to hear my confession that I felt somewhat like an impostor the entire time. Not because of the community management and social media aspects of it – Lisa and I were both strong there. Nor because of the vision and effort we put into it. But the fact is, leadership “stuff” is not in my core. I’m quite interested in it, I can write about it and discuss it – but the topic was much more in Lisa’s wheelhouse than mine. Plus, I’d never worked/led in a larger corporate environment. Therefore, I often felt somewhat out of my primary competency zone.

Here’s the thing - We all want to look in the mirror and feel competent and authoritative there first and foremost. Then Impostor Syndrome has much less room to take root.

So, to sum up – could it be that much of what we experience with Impostor Syndrome may actually stem from working outside of our sweet spot? I know that the more I concentrate on my unique areas of ability, the less like a fraud I feel. What’s your experience?

BONUS: Dr. Valerie Smith has a blog (and a book) on this subject – also this quick video. Thanks to Craig DeLarge for pointing it out!

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Yes, I Time some Tweets – Here’s Why

There are apps that allow you to space out your tweets over time (I use Hootsuite for this). Some people protest the use of timed tweets – and while I understand the sentiment behind that stance, I don’t agree with it.

Here’s why.

I use Twitter for several purposes:

  • Back-and-forth interaction with people (banter, brainstorming, encouraging, etc.)
  • Sharing interesting news and other resources
  • Connecting people with each other
  • Sharing my own blog posts and pictures
  • Sharing other people’s blog posts (especially those with whom I have a closer connection)
  • Making ironic comments and bad puns
  • Giving good morning greetings

Some of these purposes are more real-time – for instance, back-and-forth chatting with folks is not something that can be automated. But I do automate a fair bit of one-way sharing of “stuff,” for the simple reason that the audience on Twitter is constantly shifting. People are looking at their tweetstreams intermittently throughout the day, which means that something tweeted at 7:22 am might not be seen by a person who first logs in at 9:57 am.

While it makes sense that you might then tweet your own blog posts at a few different times during the day (I do), the really creative and helpful part of this isn’t the self-promotion aspect. The less-discussed secret is the way you can benefit your network of readers and writers.

Why use timed tweets? To gain wider exposure for others’ work!  <<–(click to tweet this).

Let’s say that I read an interesting post from Shelly Kramer‘s blog that, in the (very real) example below, actually touches on a similar theme (the timing of posts getting read on Facebook). If she posts it at, say, 7 am, and a number of her followers retweet it over the next half hour, then most of the exposure for her post may occur in a pretty narrow window.

TimeTweet

But if a reader makes the simple choice to “time” a tweet with a link to occur at, say, 10 am, then that reader’s audience gets the benefit of seeing something they might have missed at 7 am, AND Shelly gets wider exposure in a new time slot as well.

You know how most people get retweets immediately after they tweet something? Why not do everyone a favor and time-delay your tweet for a few hours – or even a day (I’ve seen some of my friends do this. It can give the tweeted link a whole new life).

So – when we understand that part of Twitter is for sharing things that may not be designed for real-time interaction, automating certain tweets makes perfect sense. Especially with this small tweet-tweak – give the people who feed you great content the gift of a fresh audience.

Have you been doing this? And here’s a question that’s been on my mind – I have done very little with scheduling tweets for overnight/overseas reach. If you’re doing this, how’s it working out? Any tips to share?

ALSO: See some interesting stats and perspectives about tweeting blog posts from Mack Collier.

Planting Seeds of Leadership

Growing up, I was fascinated by the self-propagation design of the milkweed plant.

A pod full of parachute-equipped seeds matures and swells. At the right time, it bursts open and the seeds take to the winds, creating new plants wherever they may end up.

As with so much that surrounds us. Oaks begin their career as acorns – perhaps a seed buried and forgotten by a busy squirrel, now growing into a mighty presence in the forest.

Leadership Chat was never meant to be an oak. It was destined only to be a means to spread seeds of leadership.

I look out the window here in my office and see our lovely red maple shading our deck. There are still a few helicopter-shaped seeds hanging on today, but mostly, that time has passed. Seed-time is short, then it’s on to watering, fertilizing, pruning, and (eventually) harvesting and propagating.

There is very little that you can build in 140-character bursts once a week on Twitter. What you can do, however, is spread seeds of thought, and challenge old ideas, and kick off new friendships. Ideas and inspiration can take wing on digital networks and land on waiting soil. That’s what on-line chats are best for.

After a year-and-a-half of hosting Leadership Chat, Lisa Petrilli (the best co-host a person could ever ask for!) and I have decided that our time for planting seeds in this format is done. We each have new opportunities and ongoing responsibilities that demand time and attention. Yet we look back with tremendous gratitude for the friendships, the community, the new initiatives that have grown out of this modest little experiment.

We’ve had the privilege of welcoming many guests to share their wisdom and experiences: from well-known public figures like Carrie Wilkerson, Guy Kawasaki, Brian Solis, and John Jantsch to other insightful authors such as Les McKeown, Keni Thomas, Angela Maiers, and Becky Carroll. We discussed and debated Male/Female Roles, Hubris, Loyalty, Decision Fatigue, Vision, On-boarding, Emotions, and many other topics covering quite a range of human experience.

But, above all, we’ve enjoyed each others’ company and support. Hopefully we’ve all learned a few things along the way, things that we’re putting into practice right now (and will continue so to do).

Of all those who have supported the Leadership Chat community, I want to especially thank the quiet man over in the corner, Mack Collier, who has been a pillar of encouragement throughout this entire time, even when lurking on Tuesday nights with his Dr. Pepper. And the privilege of not only collaborating with Lisa Petrilli, but building an enduring friendship, has been for me the greatest result of participating in Leadership Chat.

This Tuesday, May 29th, is Graduation Day. Let’s spend the time discussing what we’ve learned in the past 18 months or so – not merely head knowledge, but real-life hands-on leadership lessons. How have you changed and become more effective? In what practical ways? We look forward to being with you during our final edition of LeadershipChat (8 pm ET on Twitter – hashtag #LeadershipChat).

Image credit: Wikipedia

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

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Open Doors

When you start talking about social media in the business world, you quickly begin to bump into the ROI question (and if you do, get the insight you’ll need from Olivier Blanchard and buy his book, Social Media ROI).

ROI matters. But for many individuals, consultants, entrepreneurs, small businesses – and yes, even larger businesses – that’s not the only measure of value. There’s another factor to weigh in the balance.

Is this activity likely to produce new opportunities? Potential referrals? Broader awareness? Open doors?

Much of what I – and many others – do via social networking is driven by this long-term view, which is based, not on immediate hard returns of dollars-tied-to-specific-efforts, but by what we might call natural human and marketing principles.

Building deeper human bonds with quality people will, in ways both direct and indirect, lead to increased business opportunities. Do you believe this? I do. And I think it’s true for the solopreneur as well as the biggest brand. That means networking – whether the digital/social variety, or good old-fashioned pressing the flesh (note: I believe in both, together).

An example from my own experience: #LeadershipChat on Twitter. Very little direct revenue has come to the co-hosts (Lisa Petrilli and me) for all the time and effort we’ve put in. HOWEVER – the expansion of our networks, the quality contacts with some very influential people, the collaborations that have occurred, not only for us, but among others in the community – these are worthwhile returns, and the future opportunities yet to come as a result of this initiative will, I’m quite convinced, impact business on multiple levels.

I will trade immediate resources of time and effort for open doors tomorrow and next year. Not only for me, but for others.

Speaking of LeadershipChat, this coming Tuesday (April 10), we’ll welcome John Jantsch, Mr. Duct Tape Marketing himself, talking about referrals and small-business marketing in a networked world. Join us for some new thinking, new network contacts – and, who knows?, maybe some new open doors!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

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Going Viral in Perspective (A 2011 Reflection)

This year, I had a blog post (quite unexpectedly) go viral. For a couple of days, it was a crazy ride, as people around the world reacted to LinkedIn’s quietly implemented policy of attaching names and pictures to third party advertising on the platform. The original post was no work of art – it was quickly written without any intention of being a big deal – but because of the sensitivity of the privacy issues involved, it became a big deal nonetheless.

And, in fact, two days later, LinkedIn announced a change in policy, due to the volume of the outcry. That was also unexpected – and quite gratifying, to be perfectly honest.

But what can we learn from a viral incident like this? Here are a few perspectives:

1. Viral happens. Slamming out this blog post early one morning was not some carefully-crafted effort at setting off a firestorm. It just happened to touch a nerve. This was personal – it was about US and OUR privacy. And the whole incident had storyline-drama built in – perceived betrayal, David vs. Goliath, LinkedIn stepping in the same pile Facebook did, etc. Even if the blog post itself was fast-food, the table was set.

2. Viral happens more readily in a pre-existing network. Five years of building a high-quality network meant that I had an engaged audience who spread this thing at light speed. And the global aspect of the reach was breathtaking.

3. Viral posts take on their own momentum. You can do some things to fan the flames (and, yes, I did) when you recognize that you have a tiger by the tail, but most of the spread of the LinkedIn fiasco happened organically.

4. Viral doesn’t necessarily mean business. What impact did all this kerfuffle have on my core revenue-generating business? Probably about zero. For some folks whose business model depends on eyeballs and clicks, the story may be different – but 15 minutes of fame on the Internet may have little to do with the success that pays the bills.

And that’s the main perspective I want to reinforce. The blogger’s dream is to put out posts that garner tons of views and comments. But one happy customer is worth far more than hundreds of comments and thousands of RTs. A close-knit, supportive inner circle of like-minded souls will be far more important in the long run than the passing applause of the crowd.

Be the best person you can be. Do the best work you can. Viral happens. And even if it doesn’t – just keeping adding value to your existing network. We can all do that.

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

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The Unglamorous Need for….Semantics!

Communication – whether on social media or not – is all about exchanging ideas. What we often don’t think about, however, is that there is a “currency” involved – the currency of agreed-upon meanings attached to words.

Let’s say you walk into a convenience store. You pick up a bottle of Diet Coke and a donut. You pull out a green piece of paper that has a number on it – you insist that the number means 10 dollars, while the clerk says it means 5 dollars. Now what do we have? A stymied transaction. Both parties lose when the currency is non-standardized.

Semantics. Without definitions, we’re just wasting time and words, talking past each other. And that means we’re not communicating at all.

This came to mind today as I read this thought-provoking post by the duct-tape marketing guy, John Jantsch (It’s Time to Purge the Word Entrepreneur). Reading through the posts and comments, it’s clear that there are so many perceptions of what the term means or doesn’t mean, that it’s impossible to arrive at any resolution.

My entrepreneur is your small business owner is her tech start-up is his solopreneur is their…you get the picture. I don’t agree about purging the term, but I understand the frustration – when meanings are diluted or changed, it becomes difficult to exchange any ideas.

On Twitter, where context has to be sacrificed for 140 characters, the problem is compounded further. One of the biggest challenges I have discovered in moderating a Twitter chat is how much time and energy is expended with issues of semantics. There’s an awful lot of tweeting past one another as we “chat” starting with different understandings of terms.

This is one reason why political discourse can be so frustrating. What does “progressive” or “liberal” actually mean? How does one define “Tea Party”? These terms have such wildly divergent meanings depending on the standpoint of the speaker, that it seems impossible to carry on an intelligent and reasoned conversation. We are left with tossing pejorative grenades that may inflame, but cannot enlighten, without a shared agreement on meaning. And, yes, I’ve been guilty of that as well. Because I just assume that people carry around the same definitions in their head as I do. You’d think I would have learned something by now about that…(how do YOU define dense? :>)

Perhaps the person on the other end of the conversation is not in need of a hearing aid. Maybe we just need a dictionary on the table between us.

In order to disagree, we first have to agree – on what our words mean. I don’t have a good answer to this widespread dilemma, but perhaps as bloggers, we can be more careful up front to define the terms we’re going to use. Otherwise, our posts may become like so many trees falling in the forest, with no-one around to hear them. Because we’re all on different frequencies.

(Can’t resist linking to this post from Kevin Dugan – because the graphic says it all!)

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

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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

Can You Stop Me From Becoming a Pimp?

Yes – yes, you can. I want to ask you a favor, and make a deal.

It’s that awful, horrible, Twitter-polluting time of the year again – South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) has opened up the public voting for panels, and we’re all about to be inundated with requests.

“Vote for my panel! PLEASE!” Every. Other. Tweet. Sigh…

Friends, I don’t want to be “that speaker.” So here’s the deal. I put in a proposal for a talk. It’s a good one – you can trust me on that. And there are a bazillion other good proposed speakers/talks also. But I have a unique angle, and I’m going to be a troublemaker.

Here’s my proposed session:

So, if you think I’m a halfway-decent fellow, worthy of stirring up some trouble in Austin talking about whether pharma and social media REALLY get along, please vote for my panel. I’m asking right here, right now. No endless pimping. Now.

The directions are simple:

1. Go to this link.

2. See that nice green circle on the graphic up there?  Click right there (the site may ask you to register if you’ve not been there. It only takes a moment. Keep repeating to yourself: “Steve’s worth it!”)

3. Done! (or, almost done – if you add a glowing comment on the page that would be a cherry on top!)

Of course, if you then pimp out this post for me, that means I can look like the most popular kid in school instead of a social media pimp-in-training. And here’s the kicker – if I go to Austin to speak at SXSWi, I’ll be forwarding the most luscious photos of BBQ that you’ve ever seen. That’s gotta be worth something.

Thank you in advance for voting for me so that we can initiate the #SXSWSanity club. One post. No pimping.

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

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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

LinkedIn, Privacy, and Notification – Let’s Discuss!

[See UPDATE below!]

Quite an unanticipated firestorm has swelled up after I published this blog post (A Box You Want to Uncheck on LinkedIn) Wednesday, which describes LinkedIn’s force-users-to-opt-out-of-social-advertising policy (and shows you how to opt out).

Most of the comments on the blog and via social networks have expressed gratitude over finding out about it – even though LinkedIn quietly (via their blog) introduced changes  in their Privacy Policy back in June. I say quietly because – well, no-one seemed to notice anything!

Technically, it could be argued that LinkedIn did cover its bases in a way that a grinning lawyer might defend – they did give public notification of some form. The fact that virtually no-one knew what the ramifications were indicates that it was a technical notification only – that is, they clearly weren’t intent on making very clear to users what was about to transpire. I just happened, on August 10th, to be the first one to say “Hey!” – and only because I was copied on a private thread of LinkedIn messages by one of my contacts. Smarter-than-me news outlets like ZDNet, and many bloggers, were obviously not informed about the change by LI – one wonders why? It couldn’t be about the potential advertising revenue, could it?? :>}

And that opens up an interesting debate, which I will leave for the comments. How much notification should a social platform company like this give, in advance of a significant change such as including you in third-party advertising? Is technical notification sufficient, or should there be more forthright and comprehensive disclosure? If the latter, in what form(s)?

And how has this incident shaped your perception of LinkedIn as a company?

The comments are yours!

UPDATE: In the midst of negative user reaction and a growing media firestorm, LinkedIn has decided to make a change in the policy. That’s a step in the right direction!

UPDATE: LinkedIn Listens, Reconsiders

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

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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

Purpose-built Networks

The initial social media gold rush is about over.

Remember the exuberant early days of the e-commerce and portal bubble, and the huge paydays attained by some first movers? Then it all shook out, and we settled down to business.

Now, with social media, we have these big, broad, public networks (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.) sprawled all over the web, enabling people to make connections and share stuff – which is great. I’m all in, and have been for five years. However…

…as with any shiny new toy, the first-movers have made their big bucks. The new platform-creators, the evangelists, the top bloggers, the book authors – those in the vanguard have broken the fresh ground and social media is now moving into mainstream adoption. As it should.

These big, unfocused networks have some major limitations for serious business use, however. So, I’m thinking that the next high-impact evolution will be purpose-built, purpose-driven networks. Especially for business.

While we love the idea of the public social web, a whole lot of business communication goes on in smaller rooms. Controlled environments. And large swaths of business networking/communications have to be regulated (particularly in pharma, where I do a lot of my work). In fact, while I do a lot of public networking in the pharma space through my company Impactiviti, most of the significant business happens through private communications in a purpose-built trust network. That’s not really going to change for me, or for many other businesses. The wide-open social web is not a panacea – because often, the real business need is for targeted communications that have some business rules around them.

Social-media-style digital networked communications is great for individuals, and has huge potential for some kinds of more retail business. But it’s not optimal for everything. Much of the potential of social technologies will reside behind firewalls and in digital networks that are purposefully designed with business purposes in mind. Think about it – was Facebook, or Twitter, specifically designed for business? Um – no. We’re just trying to adapt them. And, truth be told, it’s often a bit of a mismatch.

The company that’s in the best position to deliver on this is Google. They have all the tools, many of which are growing up into enterprise level. Google Plus gives us a glimpse of private, multi-media selective communications with Circles and Hangouts. What we need is a platform that allows companies to naturally build their (multiple) networks with (multiple) different purposes according to the business rules and goals that apply to those groups. A platform that truly integrates voice, text, video, search, filtered layers of intimacy, real-time and asynchronous comms – and Google has all the pieces. With the cloud-based infrastructure to back it.

Apple will give them a run for their money. Because they have started with the user experience and nice integration, and thus built a lot of momentum. But they need to make the leap into business-focused networking. Microsoft – sigh. All the infrastructure, but so much legacy baggage – I don’t know.

These Lego blocks that we’re playing with now are cool. They are great for the individual experience, and for public exposure. But whoever cracks the purpose-built networking nut will find the real gold. Who do you think will win this race?

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Social Platform Fatigue

In the summer, as we try to get a tan without burning, we think about SPF ratings for sunscreen.

Right now, after the introduction of Google+, I’m thinking that the SPF (Social Platform Fatigue) rating has just gone up considerably.

Uber-geeks may be able to keep up with sharing and interacting on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, a favorite music or photo sharing service, and whatever else, but me? -I’m feeling tired.

It’s getting too complicated. I deeply value what social technology has brought about as far as business potential and personal interaction, but this fragmentation is becoming wearisome. Too many platforms, not enough time. I’m getting attention-burn.

The next big killer app is going to restore simplicity – or , I should say, bring about a whole new level of simple efficiency. It can’t come soon enough.

UPDATE: Ha! Right after publishing, I saw a tweet about Tom Fishburne‘s post: Social Fatigue. Funny!

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5 Reasons Why Twitter Might Soon Be Dispensable

I love Twitter. I use it heavily. Very heavily!

However, given how networking technology is moving forward, I have to wonder if Twitter is going to reach an early expiration date.

Here’s why I’m thinking this way:

1. Twitter’s main function is a commodity. Exchanging text messages is not rocket science. The younger generation does it all the time, but with smartphones and (generally) not with Twitter. And messages (including multimedia files) can be shared more intuitively on other platforms. Facebook replicates real-life sharing much more normally than Twitter, which requires a learning curve, a critical mass of contacts, and an awkward method of composing messages (140 characters).

2. Twitter still doesn’t have a stable and scalable business model. For all of its potential, Twitter is not truly a business tool with a clear value proposition. It’s a communication tool looking for a business model. That’s called “vulnerable” in any language. Also, while Twitter has had a high share level of cultural noise, its true adoption rate and demographic penetration are still quite small.

3. People are reaching platform overload. Even the tech-savvy have a hard time keeping up networks and profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, now Google+, and a myriad of other sites. As these other platforms become more diversified (Facebook’s new Skype-calling integration, Google+’s Circles and Hangouts), Twitter is going to increasingly seem…well, quaint. Training wheels. Expendable.

4. The real network is the people, not the platform. I’ve met a ton of great people on Twitter and continue to do so. It’s been a great tool for a few years. However, those people are also now quite findable elsewhere. We’re going to increasingly build our networks around specific people and purposes, not platforms. Will we absolutely NEED Twitter in future years? Perhaps not.

5. Twitter is basically dumb. Yes, I said it. Lots of our early tools are quite limited. Read my initial thoughts on Google+ to get my drift.

Many have predicted the demise of Twitter in the past. I’m just looking at certain big-picture trends and wondering: is Twitter like a tricycle? Great for getting us going, but now we’re moving on to more adult modes of communication? Is Twitter (as a stand-alone platform) moving toward expend-ability?

What do you think? Am I seeing clearly, or being myopic? Put your thoughts in the comments!

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Introvert Networking: Start Here

My good friend and LeadershipChat co-host Lisa Petrilli has a valuable series going on her blog about Introverts Guide to Business and Leadership – she and I share a common bond over this topic since we are both professionals who seek to both leverage, and transcend, our native tendency toward introversion in our professional efforts.

Her post this morning (The Introvert’s Guide to Getting Noticed in Business) sparked a thought about how introverts can successfully build a deep and strong network.

Here’s your starting point: Make Your Own Rules. Specifically, use social networking tools and approaches to change the game to your favor.

You know the standard “rules” that come to mind when you see the word “networking,” right?

  • Walking into a crowded room and wondering how to fit in, and who to talk to…
  • Trying to join in to or strike up a conversation with people you’re not sure about…
  • Exchanging business cards without really knowing why…
  • Lather, rinse, repeat.

There are crowded social parties, artificial networking meetings, noisy industry conventions; and you, as an introvert, look at each of these with some level of trepidation. Because the networking “rules” you’ve operated under – the outgoing are the winners, casual chatter is how bridges are built, the more contacts you make the better – none of that fits you. No wonder it doesn’t feel natural.

So – change the rules. Here’s how:

Use digital social networks to “pre-meet” people. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other networks give you the opportunity to build bridges and engage in one-on-one small talk without those crowded environments so that the beginnings of a relationship are already put in place. Then, find a format to meet that person one-on-one – either over coffee, or during a larger gathering.

How did an initial core group driving pharma social media – who have since, with many others, become great friends – find each other? Twitter and blogs, opening the door to live meetings and collaborations. —>

(hey, Brad, we’re overdue for lunch…)

Introverts tend to prefer a more intimate, in-depth, “safe” environment to get to know people. As Lisa states in her post, we prefer to go deep with a smaller number of people. Using social networks, you can meet new people, AND build deeper ongoing relationships, through the relatively safe and controlled environment of exchanged on-line messages. And, you can be far more targeted and strategic than walking into a big room and hoping you find someone with whom you have common ground.

Digital social networks allow you to find common ground right now, without uncomfortable events, and to start to build a relationship that can later blossom in an ongoing way. Everything you need to find the right people in a targeted way is available through these amazing digital platforms.

And here’s the not-so-secret secret – most people really want to have someone who knows them as an individual. People respond to the introvert way – deeper communication, one-on-one caring, thoughtful planning. Plus, if you take the time and trouble to “feed” the people in your network (something many introverts do quite naturally) with information and connections you discover – you’re golden.

The fact is – introverts have a tremendous advantage. Just toss out the old rules and make your own. Take it from me, the naturally-introverted Connection Agent. If you network your way, you win!

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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…

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Free Books – Tonight Only!

As a little bonus for the folks who gather at #LeadershipChat on Tuesday nights (what? you haven’t joined in yet??? 8 pm ET on Twitter – hashtag = #LeadershipChat)), I’ve got giveaway copies of five top marketing/social media books.

Still trying to figure out HOW we’re going to award them tonight (got any ideas? leave a comment!), but nonetheless, here they are:

Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

The Next Evolution of Marketing by Bob Gilbreath

The Now Revolution by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund (my review)

The New Small by Phil Simon (my review)

Content Rules by Ann Handley and CC Chapman

Extra bonus – Content Rules has been personally signed by Ann, directly to you – whoever you are!

So, join us for a lively discussion during #LeadershipChat tonight (Open Mic – any topic you wish to talk about) and see if you can win one of these brand-spanking new books for yourself, or for someone you know. Be sure to read beforehand about a Most Unusual Tweetup, from my co-moderator of LeadershipChat Lisa Petrilli.

Please note: due to postage considerations, winners need to have an address in the U.S. or Canada. When I’m as wealthy as all of these authors, maybe I can send books anywhere around the world…(OK, by then books will be holograms, but still…).

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What to Expect at LeadershipChat

During this week’s LeadershipChat (transcript) on Twitter, I noted one tweet fly past that indicated that there was not much “actionable” in the 1-hour discussion.

That observation was only partly true, but it made me think: people coming into a LeadershipChat discussion may not know what to expect, and it’s a good idea to level-set by explaining what we’re cultivating in this growing community discussion each week.

So, let’s start with the Nots. Here’s what not to expect on Tuesday nights at LeadershipChat:

1. Don’t expect a nicely packaged action plan. This is a weekly cocktail party and discussion on specific topics, with the kinds of side conversations, disagreements, and budding new friendships that you’d expect at any get-together. Nobody is there for a corporate strategy meeting.

2. Don’t expect rah-rah groupthink. We’re there to explore, and push on ideas, and break some new ground. Each week, you’ll typically see one or two tweets starting with the word, “Disagree.” When that stops, we’ve lost our way.

3. Don’t expect to keep up with everything. It’s a very free-flowing discussion area – you need to latch onto a few people and topics each week, and pick and choose your interactions. Otherwise, it’s just too much to digest.

OK, now – here’s what you can expect:

1. Expect a warm reception. This is a very friendly, warm, and inviting group. We (Lisa Petrilli and I, the co-moderators) have sought to cultivate an atmosphere that is like a Tuscan dining room. LeadershipChat is not just information exchange – it’s a virtual get-together of people who really like each other’s company. You’re welcome to lurk in the shadows for a week or two just to get used to it, but really – we’d rather you just dive in.

2. Expect to walk away with one or two jewels each week. While you may not get a 10-point action plan, you will be able to learn some important, 140-character-sized perspectives from some very smart people who are contributing.

3. Expect some banter. It’s not all “on-topic” – you’ll see jokes from our Italian contingent about cannolis; you’ll see certain members ripping on each other for being absent the week before; you’ll see all kinds of mutual greetings during the first 10 minutes, etc., etc. You know – like family.

4. Expect to be pushed out of your comfort zone. We’re trying to explore topics on LeadershipChat that can be a bit provocative. We’ve discussed male and female roles, the place of love in leadership, macho-style leadership, mentoring, jerks (yes – jerks), squelchers – and we’ll continue to fearlessly explore topics together that some may feel squeamish about discussing in a corporate leadership environment.

And, while we’re discussing this – all you LeadershipChat folks feel free to give your thoughts in the Comments – what do YOU expect at LeadershipChat on Tuesday nights?

So this, at least in part, is what you can look forward to when you join us (every Tuesday night, 8 pm ET on Twitter – use the hashtag #LeadershipChat). We look forward to setting a seat for you at the table!

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Heart Leadership

We often think and talk about leadership in terms of characteristics, skills, behaviors, and traits (both innate and cultivated). And that is a major part of leadership (want a list of 50 traits to work on? Here you go!)

But underneath all that, and actually underlying much of what is in that list, is something else. The heart of a leader.

The best leader is seeking the greater good. The best leader puts others first. That’s not a matter of mushy Hallmark sentimentalism, or unrealistic romanticism. But it is, at core, an expression of love.

Leadership – true and enduring leadership – is an act of love.

I would argue that passivity, and drifting with the tide, is an outgrowth of nothing other than selfishness or fear. Taking a situation in hand and helping others reach higher and accomplish more is a risk. It’s hard. It’s pro-active self-denial, and it sometimes requires what has come to be called “tough love.”

It’s giving of yourself, and that is the essence of love, is it not?

I love my children. It is my responsibility to lead them, however imperfectly (I’ve got a looooong way to go on that list of 50 traits!). And that has meant, at times, some very non-sentimental moments and extended periods of agony of heart. Even when the older ones were given a timeline and a blueprint for their future departure from the nest, they always knew I was heart-committed to them, and that I wanted them to become the best that they could be.

Now, a family is not equivalent to a business, and sons are not the same as employees. But leadership is leadership. A mere functionary who exercises authority from an assigned position of leadership may hope for some level of compliance. People may “follow” for a season.

But a leader-from-the-heart gains a following that goes beyond external compliance. We want to follow, not simply because we see an admirable  example, but we feel a genuine commitment to us and respond to it. And I’m not sure any further words on my part can do this justice, because it’s “better felt than tell’t!”

We’re going to be talking about Leadership and Love this week during our weekly Tuesday night #LeadershipChat discussion on Twitter (8 pm ET). Please join us; and before you do, I recommend you also read the perspectives of my co-moderator Lisa Petrilli (Three Truths about Leading with Love) in preparation.

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Your Best Mentor?

For this week’s #LeadershipChat on Twitter (8 pm ET, Tuesday night), we’re going to talk about Mentoring.

If you are going to be an effective leader, you will serve as an adviser, a coach, a teacher to those “under” you. This assumes, of course, that you’re setting some kind of example to follow.

But let’s do something different this week. Instead of me jotting down my thoughts and feelings about the topic, let’s have YOU write the blog post. Who have been the best examples you’ve followed?

Go into the comments, and describe the best mentor/leader you’ve had. What made them inspiring to follow? How did they bring out the best in you? What lessons have you carried forward?

It would be most helpful to have YOUR perspectives about this, which will serve as a basis for our Tuesday night discussion.

Ready? Go to the comments and write up your thoughts for us! And while you’re add it, read co-moderator Lisa Petrilli’s thoughts on successful mentoring!

(by the way, does the word “mentee” somehow give you the shivers? Never have gotten acclimated to that term…!)

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Become a Certified Quora Ninja!

(yes, this is a spoof. Only a pixie-dusting unicorn can make you a real Quora ninja!)

Yes, you too can become a Certified Quora Ninja!

Quora is the hottest thing on the social media circuit today! All the hottest names in networking are advancing their personal brands, and beefing up their subscriber numbers, by asking and answering earth-shattering questions on the most relevant and authentic site going!

With our 15 years of experience navigating Quora, we have the chops to certify you at the Expert, Guru, or Ninja level in no time! For just $995, our 2-hour webinar can transform you into a question-fielding black belt who will be envy of the social media crowd. You’ll be a sought-after speaker at South-by, and your Klout ranking will go through the roof in just days!

Here’s what you’ll learn in this dynamic and ground-breaking course:

  1. Setting up an account in Quora (bonus: using Twitter to log in!)
  2. Creating your profile – 7 hints even the experts don’t know!
  3. How to ask a question that ends with a question mark.
  4. The art of the answer – how to obfuscate and sound intelligent doing so!
  5. Hyperlinks – your best friend on Quora. The ninja-click explained step-by-step
  6. Selling yourself based on superior knowledge you don’t possess – the 5 keys.
  7. BONUS! The ninja method of cut-and-paste research to amp up your expertise!

What will you get from this amazing course? A huge well of in-depth knowledge from the experts. Big props from social media lemmings who will turn to you for expertise and substance-abuse counseling. And, a coveted digital Quora Ninja Certificate (suitable for computer wallpaper or Twitter background graphic) that proudly proclaims your new status among the elite! Click to biggify —->

Just forward $995 by Paypal TODAY – this is a limited-time offer, and only a handful of visionary ninjas will be anointed before this course is closed forever!

(post inspired by this lunatic profile on LinkedIn—-> (click to biggify),                    discovered and shared by my friend Olivier Blanchard, Chief Social Media Ninja-Puncturer).

Disclaimer: this is a spoof. Any hope of turning you into an expert by means of a bogus course on- or off-line is strictly imaginary. The ConnectionAgency does not guarantee that, by taking this or any other course, you will be investing in anything worth more than a virtual sheet of 20-lb. paper. Title, taxes, dealer prep and options not included. Void where prohibited by common sense.

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A Better Twitter Chat Client

I saw a tweet that bummed me out today. Here was the exchange that ensued:

I remember Chris attending #LeadershipChat and it made me feel bad that he felt it is too overwhelming. And, the fact is, the full firehose of tweets during a popular chat is daunting. I have used Tweetchat (which has been very slow the last few weeks – unusable) and I try to keep up on TweetDeck, but once you get a good-sized group of people on a chat, it’s a problem.

So, here’s the idea – someone please steal the concept and make it! A chat client that allows the user to create a filtered stream with a subset of attendees, so that more quality conversations can occur. Conceptually, the interface could be roughly like this (click to biggify):

Who wants to make it? A whole bunch of people doing chats on Twitter would send you flowers and kisses!

UPDATE: My friend @JoeCascio came up with a modified concept of panes for People I Follow, People I Don’t Follow, and Mentions. Good idea!

UPDATE: Shannon Whitley and I have designed the solution. Check out ChatTagged!!

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The Biggest Challenge during a Twitter Chat

Having co-hosted #LeadershipChat for several months now (with my partner-in-crime, @LisaPetrilli), and having also participated in other chats as well, I can tell you that the biggest challenge – in my opinion – is not the technology, nor is it the speed and volume of information.

It’s semantics.

Semantics has to do with the meaning, or interpretation, of a word or phrase.

Last night on LeadershipChat, we were discussing “macho-style” leadership in a business setting. Now, one thing Lisa and I do before each Tuesday night chat is we each write a blog post, giving our views on the upcoming topic and, hopefully, framing the discussion. We try to explain/define terms. But, nonetheless, we all come into a conversation with pre-baked notions, images, and experiences that attach to certain terms. Which means that, without fail, when we have a chat about concepts like macho-ness or vulnerability or vision or whatever, we often end up during the chat struggling with semantics.

A challenge made even more difficult by the 140-character limitations of each tweet, and the rapid flow of contributions!

We end up, as a group, sometimes sharing dictionary definitions, bouncing clarifications off one another (is an alpha-male the same as a macho man? Is macho-posturing gender-specific?). In certain ways, these are quite valuable exchanges, but at times I think a chat can get bogged down by spending an inordinate amount of time clarifying terms; or, as regularly happens, talking “past” each other by using the same term in different ways.

Any I don’t have an answer for this. Just putting it out there. Your perspectives? Is there a way to make this better?

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Purpose or Tech?

Looking back over the past five years or so, it seems to me that a lot of our social networking has been driven by technology.

LinkedIn is launched, and we jump in and adjust to its structure. Ning. Twitter. Facebook. YouTube. Bits and pieces of technology solutions, with people gathered around and meeting each other – well, mostly because of the tech first.

Maybe it’s time to think more seriously about purpose-built networks. Where technology is incidental, and the tie that binds is shared purpose, shared mission, shared direction. This has been happening, of course, to some extent, but it often seems that the technology precedes, even shapes, the purpose.

I don’t merely want to build a Flickr community, a Twitter network, a Facebook gathering. I have personal and business dreams to pursue, and goals to accomplish.

A nice stadium in which to gather and cheer is not the same as a single-minded, purposeful team driving downfield to score 6 points.

At least for me, it’s time to put purpose first. How about you?

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Do You See What I See?

Probably not. Because when it comes to vision, the best ones are homegrown.

This week, on #Leadership Chat (a weekly Twitter discussion group, Tuesday nights at 8 pm ET), we’re going to talk about vision. But maybe let’s not just talk about it, OK?

We all know that great leaders have vision, and if it’s a worthy vision, they rally others around it. That’s a given. But let’s assume that everyone in the growing LeadershipChat community is actually looking ahead at 2011, not just with goals and resolutions in mind, but with bigger picture visions.

What’s yours? Here’s mine: My Declaration of Independence.

Fact is, we’re not going to refine and implement our big dreams without the help of others. So let’s give our missions some thought ahead of time, band together to share, and discuss how we can put feet to vision. And, be sure to read the thought-provoking blog post by co-host Lisa Petrilli on The Secret Engine Behind Empowered Visions. <—We are of one mind in our thinking here.

Because I’m going to follow my vision, but I’d also like to see what you see. Maybe we’re heading in the same direction together!

Please join us tonight, Tuesday January 4 for our first #LeadershipChat of 2011 (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). You’ll find a warm welcome and a thoughtful community of friends who not only think different, but also seek to “do different”!

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My Declaration of Independence

I’ve been blogging for over 4 years now, and have been increasingly active in many branches of social networking – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, video-blogging, etc., etc. (although, without a doubt, the most rewarding aspect has been meeting people and developing long-standing relationships and collaborations).

However, as with any new venture, especially one where the rules are being written on the fly, it’s very easy to fall into two very common patterns:

  1. Follow the leader(s)
  2. Go big

I’m not making a blanket condemnation of either of these practices – those instincts aren’t all bad. I fully “get” emulating those who are skilled and successful, and as a marketing guy, I appreciate scale. But it can become bondage over time. To the point where you don’t follow your own instincts, your own vision.

That’s why, as we kick off 2011, I’m declaring my independence.

No, I really don’t care about maximizing my RSS subscribers and Twitter followers. No, I really don’t intend to make sure I have a singular blogging/writing focus. No, I actually don’t want a massive audience that will create inordinate demands on time and attention. And, no, I don’t care to align myself with social media “influencer camps” of either popularizers or detractors.

I’m going to do what I’m meant to do – to live out my identity as the Connection Agent.

I’m bending everything to my main goal, my primary mission – to create the highest quality network of honest, competent, pay-it-forward people who want to change the way business gets done. Who are ready to build, together, an organic tribe of folks ready and able to bring back an environment where a handshake and a recommendation are the foundations of business – and, who are fully invested in creating a platform of cooperation/collaboration that will outclass and outperform the legacy structures of corporations.

Where social networking is a means, to a far more important end.

That vision has grown continuously in my mind and heart, and I’ve made a successful test case of it in the pharma/healthcare space over the years since I started my company Impactiviti. But it’s always been my intent to take the model and expand outward, and help provide a format whereby talented entrepreneurs and people with unfulfilled talents can create their own businesses without the inefficiency and compromises that throttle so many who should be succeeding wildly.

Yes, I will remain very active in social media. I might even once in a while write an SEO-friendly headline like The Top Ten Reasons Why Twitter and Facebook Are Like Mashable Beets. But, overboard with all the standard Guidelines to SM Success. There’s something far more important to build.

And I – we – are going to build it.

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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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