This is How I Work

Mobile device:

Moto G

Current Computer:

PC Dell XPS 8500 64 bit Windows; 12GB RAM

One word that best describes how you work:

Working Smart: When I first started a class for Computer Aided Design (CAD), I became easily frustrated because I had to start over if a mistake was made or had to keep drawing the same line until it was correct.  After a week, learned shortcuts and was able to work smartly.

What apps/software tools can’t you live without?

Evernote: I’ve been with Evernote since 2009. Evernote is my digital brain. I can save emails, web clippings, and maps. My newest use is saving highlighted text on a kindle.

IFTTT is another tool. All Lumber Dealers Association of Connecticut (LDAC) blogs posts can be saved in Evernote or tweet them. There are so many channels and recipes IFTTT has.

Feedly is as important as  Evernote. All my RSS feeds are displayed in a newspaper type format. This is how I keep up with my google alerts and news for the day.

What is your workspace like?

I use organized piles. In my next office, I would like to have a desk that can be switched between standing and sitting.

What do you listen to while you work?

Focus@will or Alternative: when I listen to Focus@will, I’m very productive. The music beat works well for me.

What is your best time-saving shortcut or hack?

I setup categories or folders for my emails. For example, I use follow-up folders and separate folders for each of the different organizations I’m involved with.

Also, I use rules to color code my emails by who they are from, like work vs organizational emails.

Another hack is using CTRL-Enter on websites names. For example, type the address name then hit [CTRL-ENTER]. This will add the prefix and .com to the address.  Also, you can scroll down pages in your web browser simply by hitting the SPACEBAR.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

Pen & Paper and ToDoist: Pen & Paper is my favorite. However, I like ToDoist because I can use IFTTT with  Evernote and other apps to plan projects.

Besides your phone/computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

My ten-year-old IPOD. I’ve been listening to podcasts since I received it. I’m able to continually learn while driving. Two podcasts I’ve been listening to for ten years are Manager Tools and Grammar Girl.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?


What’s your sleep routine like?

I’m a morning person. I’m in bed by 10:00 pm and up between 5 and 6 am

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I received is how to institute change at work by introducing new processes in small increments which will make the change less intimidating for others.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Coolidge by Amity Shlaes. I read 20-24 books a year. You can follow me on GoodReads. There, I post books I want to read and have read.

How do you recharge?

I recharged by being with my wife and family.

JMM: 3 Myths About Optimists

Below is a blog post from John Michael Morgan.

3 Myths About Optimists

What is optimism exactly? It’s a mental habit that can impact your life in incredible ways. You can practice and master it. Use it to help you achieve your goals. Or, you can ignore it and live a life of pessimism which lead to a life of failure and misery.

Optimism is one of the most important traits of high achievers. It’s also the most consistent trait among them. How many successful pessimists do you know? Exactly.

History is full of successful people and great leaders who mastered the habit of optimism. Presidents Lincoln and Roosevelt both maintained optimism during dark times. I’m referring to the Civil War and Great Depression of course. Despite the challenges they faced each day, they maintained hope for tomorrow.

This being said, optimists are greatly misunderstood. I’ve found three common misconceptions about them I wanted to shatter…

MYTH 1. Optimists are always happy and never in a bad mood.

I wish this was the case! No one is happy all the time. Bad things happen. Sad things happen. It’s okay for you to have bad days. Optimists have their down moments, but they don’t live there. They bounce back and move forward.

MYTH 2. Optimists are lonely because most of the world are pessimists.

While it’s seemingly true that most people are pessimistic in nature, optimists are not lonely. Because likes attract likes and success attracts success. Optimists are easy to find. We aren’t hiding. Although it may seem like at times because we do avoid pessimists as they breed anxiety and worry.

MYTH 3: Optimists don’t deal with reality

Optimists don’t throw judgement to the wind and hope for the best. That’s a foolish way to live. Optimists use sound judgement to find the opportunity in a bad situation. Then they decide on a plan of action based on their judgement. Pessimists lack the courage to find victory in defeat. That’s what draws the line between the two.

Don’t focus on all the bad things that might happen or are currently happening. Instead, make a list of everything good happening now and the opportunities you have for tomorrow. At the start of each day, make a list of 3 things you’re grateful for. It’s wonderful if you have a longer list than 3 (and you do) but just get in the habit of listing out 3. Then list 3 opportunities you have right now.

These opportunities could be a business relationship that is strengthening, or a new idea that would increase customer service in your business. It doesn’t matter if the opportunity is big or small. Just write it down.

Do this daily and you start forming the habit of optimism.

Optimism may be misunderstood by some, but don’t overlook its effectiveness. There’s more to it than just “thinking positive”. If you believe that’s all there is to it, then you have some work to do.

When optimism becomes a strong habit you need not fear the future. Meet it head on. Even when a challenge arrises, you’ll be ready to overcome it.

IOP: Understanding your customers, or failing to

Below is a blog post from Innovate On Purpose. You’re most important strategic decision and you “failed” at helping customers understand the change or understanding if and when the decision was necessary?
Understanding your customers, or failing to      

What constantly surprises me is how little large companies invest in understanding their customers, and how often large companies are shocked to discover that their customers are unhappy or angry about new products or new shifts in strategy.  I write today about JC Penney, once an icon and anchor for many shopping malls, and now a retailer adrift in the “in betweens”.

JC Penney is struggling.  Like Sears, another broad range retailer, Penney has seen its market share erode, due to a wide range of factors.  Some of those factors include shopping patterns (fewer people going to malls), shifts in fashion and foot traffic, the length and depth of the recession, online versus retail shopping, and many more.  Sears and Penney’s, along with some other venerated retailers who in many ways founded the way Americans shop, seem increasingly out of touch and irrelevant.

What is most telling is that Penneys has, or should have, a wealth of data about their loyal customers, but they’ve managed to anger them by eliminating coupons and promotions.  The new CEO’s strategy is to shift to everyday low prices, but that has confused and angered the existing Penney’s shopper.  Here’s how Forbes puts it:  Johnson admitted he misjudged how customers would react to the change. “We failed at that,” he says.  What?  Your most important strategic decision and you “failed” at helping customers understand the change, or understanding if and when the decision was necessary?

Penney’s management either decided that existing customers weren’t valuable, or decided that they wanted new customers who weren’t shopping at Penneys.  The problem with their strategy is that they shut off the spigit of current cash flow from existing customers, who are confused by the lack of promotions and coupons, but haven’t ramped up a new segment of customers who want everyday low prices.  Or, do these second customers exist?  It’s not clear that Penney’s understand their existing customers needs and wants, or what their potential customers needs and wants are.

This scenario is what blocks innovation in many organizations.  Management is terrified that a new innovation will kill the golden goose of current earnings, without attracting enough new business to create new earning streams.  The worst possible outcome is to confuse or distract existing customers and simultaneously fail to win significant numbers of profitable new customers.

I wasn’t present at the conception of the one low price strategy at Penney’s, but I have to believe it was driven from the top down, and the inside out.  New products, services and business models are successful when they meet real needs, whether those needs are clearly identified or still unarticulated.  I think the Penney’s executive team believes people want one low price, but it’s clear that they failed to investigate what their existing customers want and need, and whether they believed that the promotions were more work than otherwise.  Also, its not clear that Penney’s has identified prospective customers and their wants and needs.  So existing customers are angry and confused, and potential customers are uncertain what Penney’s offer.  A Twofer!

There’s a lesson here for innovators.  You may love your idea.  You may think it offers better value, better benefits for your customers than what exists.  Your opinion does not matter.  You need to solve a need that customers have, a need that is relevant and valuable to them.  And, you need to understand how wedded they are to current solutions, benefits and characteristics.  Change is difficult and inertia is strong.  Yes, Jobs argued that customers didn’t know what they wanted, but he often gave them things that didn’t exist.  When comparable alternatives exist, and customers have longevity with usage, understanding their needs, the relevancy and urgency of their needs matters.  It’s inexcusable that Penney’s doesn’t understand that and “failed” to do so.  The same is true with any innovator who assumes his or her solution meets the needs or offers important value to customers.

Get out of your office.  Meet your potential customers.  Find out how valuable the existing solution is, what’s wrong with it and how valuable new solutions would be.  As Woody Allen once said, 80% of success is just showing up.  In innovation, much of success is in finding a valuable and important need and filling it.  Just show up where your customers are, listen with an open mind. Don’t impose a solution.

The 5 A’s to Dealing With Problems

Originally posted on Why Lead Now:

As a millennial, I’ve grown into a world where people expect things to be dealt with quickly, and they want as much information as they can get in the process. Just look at Domino’s pizza tracker. Why just wait for your pizza, when you can check when it’s being prepped, in the oven, and out for delivery?

This speed, and thirst for information, is transposed onto complaints and problems. According to a Lithium-commissioned study by Millward Brown Digital, survey, 72 percent of people expect a response to a Twitter complaint to a company in less than an hour.

To make sure I’m always ready with a response when someone complains, I like to remind myself of “The Five A’s to Dealing With Problems”. They provide a simple process that I can follow to connect with the disgruntled person in front of me, make them feel better…

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Weaving Influence: Are You A Thought Leader?

Below is a blog post from Weaving Influence. How do you nurture your own sense of leadership?

Are You A Thought Leader?

A popular term in today’s digital world of content creation, “thought leadership” is not really a new concept at all. In fact, The Oxford English Dictionary gives its first citation for the phrase in 1887 by describing Henry Ward Beecher as “one of the great thought-leaders in America.” It was revived or reinvented by marketers in the 1980s, and in 1990 was used in a Wall Street Journal marketing article by Patrick Reilly.

When defined, a thought leader is an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded. But in a world where people find desired information in thousands of locations – their favorite online publications, blogs, social platforms or served up in email newsletters and podcasts – becoming a thought leader is a much more common thing.  Therefore, competition is plentiful.

During my first month at Weaving Influence, I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of amazingly talented thought leaders and authors. I’m learning more about them and their contributions to our world through their books and the original content they create. Working smarter, being more fulfilled in life, becoming the leader you aspire to become – it’s much like attending an insightful, personal development seminar every day! These individuals are truly talented thought leaders who are sharing their insights into our world to benefit those who are willing to open their minds and become a better person.

Are you a thought leader? Being known as one seems like a fairly hefty mantle to wear. But the truth is, many of us are thought leaders on a smaller scale, we just don’t realize it.

You may be a thought leader among your peers and circle of friends, regularly offering insight to your area of expertise: Where should we have dinner for our anniversary? When visiting Chicago, what should we plan to see? Do you know how to plant a raised vegetable garden? That’s how thought leadership begins, with expertise that blossoms into widely-respected knowledge in your specialized field of expertise.

What will you do with your knowledge? How will you nurture it and grow it to become larger than life?

You can learn how by emulating the leaders that you aspire to be like, and using your own knowledge to help your peers, the next generation and potentially generations to come.

To become recognized as a thought leader takes diligence and hard work while you are gaining experience in your craft, and while spreading your insights. But it’s never too late to start. Large or small scale, the world becomes a better place when we share insights and lessons learned from each other.

Be a coach, a student mentor, or an admired leader. Create thought leadership in your own world and nurture it. Don’t be overwhelmed by the concept, just feed it. Watch it grow and many will reap the benefits.

Tell me something! How do you nurture your own sense of leadership?

HBR: The Dirty Secret of Effective Sales Coaching

Below is a blog post by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. How does coaching work in your sales organization?

The Dirty Secret of Effective Sales Coaching

Most sales and service organization have invested more time and effort in the past five years in improving managers’ coaching of reps than they did in the previous 50. This makes perfect sense: research by the Sales Executive Council shows that no other productivity investment comes close to coaching in improving reps’ performance.

But not all reps who get coached, even by good coaches, do better. In fact, our research shows that coaching is almost worthless when it targets the wrong reps. And our work suggests that management targets the wrong reps all the time.

Left to their own devices, sales managers often skew their coaching efforts dramatically toward the “tails” — the very best and the very worst reps on their team. They engage with poor reps because they feel they must in order to meet territory goals, and they work with their best reps because, well, it’s fun. Few managers can resist the lure of reliving their glory days by passing along their wisdom to the one or two reps who remind them most of their younger selves. To combat managers’ tendency to coach just laggards and leaders, companies implement elaborate systems to allocate coaching equally across the sales force. They imagine that “all boats will rise” as a result.

Unfortunately, our data show that both managers’ coaching tendencies, and companies’ response, are misguided. In research involving thousands of reps, we found that coaching — even world-class coaching — has a marginal impact on either the weakest or the strongest performers in the sales organization. You’d think that coaching the lowest performers would pay off because they have nowhere to go but up. Actually, that’s often not true, particularly for the bottom 10%. These reps, we’ve found, are less likely to be underperformers who can improve, and more likely to be a bad fit for the role altogether. That’s not a really something coaching can fix. It’s likely a different kind of conversation altogether (often involving HR).

Likewise, star-performing reps show virtually no performance improvement due to coaching either. While our research shows that there are some important retention benefits from coaching your high performers, it would be nice to think that great coaching (especially from former high-performers) makes your stars just a little more stellar. But that’s just not the case.

Our conclusion? The real payoff from good coaching lies among the middle 60% — your core performers. For this group, the best-quality coaching can improve performance up to 19%.* In fact, even moderate improvement in coaching quality — simply from below to above average — can mean a six to eight percent increase in performance across 50% of your sales force. Often as not, that makes the difference between hitting or missing goals.

At the end of the day, who your managers coach is just as important as how they coach. The data clearly suggest that organizations should do away with coaching democratically and instead shift the majority of their coaching focus away from low and star performers and towards the core.

This may be a hard pill to swallow. Despite the evidence, we find that this recommendation doesn’t sit well with all sales leaders or sales managers. Sales leaders argue that coaching should be delivered in an egalitarian fashion and balk at the notion of targeting coaching by performance level. Managers are quick to point to their own success turning around low performers through intensive one-on-one coaching. Several years after we first unveiled it, this finding continues to be a white-hot topic of debates among sales leaders.

How does coaching work in your sales organization? Is it democratic, targeted, or just non-existent?

Harvey Mackay: The 7 Cs of Success

Below is a blog post from Harvey Mackay . Mackay’s Moral: Some people succeed because they are destined to, but most people because they are determined to.

The 7 Cs of Success

On the road to success, you may take a few detours, hit some roadblocks and arrive at a different place than you’d planned. I’m still on my journey, and I’m offering you my map for smooth sailing, traveling the Seven Cs of Success.

Clarity: 80 percent of success comes from being clear about who you are, what you believe in and what you want. But you must remain committed to what you want and make sure those around you understand what you’re hoping to accomplish.

A young mathematician was commissioned during wartime as captain of a submarine. Eager to impress his crew and to stress how important it is to strictly observe all safety procedures, the young captain called them all together for a meeting. His instructions went like this:

“I have developed a simple method that you would all do well to learn. Every day, count the number of times the submarine has dived since you boarded. Add to this the number of times it has surfaced. If the sum you arrive at is not an even number—don’t open the hatches.”

Competence: You can’t climb to the next rung on the ladder until you are excellent at what you do now.

Just remember two more things: 1) The person who knows “how” will always have a job, and 2) the person who knows “why” will always be the boss.

Constraints: 80 percent of all obstacles to success come from within. Find out what is constraining you or your company and deal with it.

The Gallup Organization conducted a survey on why quality is difficult to achieve. The greatest percentage listed: financial constraints. Often our lives and careers are shaped by kind of surroundings we place ourselves in and the challenges we give ourselves.

Consider, for example, the farmer who won a blue ribbon at the county fair. His prize entry? A huge radish the exact shape and size of a quart milk bottle. Asked how he got the radish to look just like a quart milk bottle, the farmer replied, “It was easy. I got the seed growing and then put it into the milk bottle. It had nowhere else to go.”

Concentration: The ability to focus on one thing single-mindedly and see it through until it’s done is critical to success.

Great athletes are known for their concentration and focus. As golf great Ben Hogan once stood over a crucial putt, a loud train whistle suddenly blared in the distance. After he had sunk the putt, someone asked Hogan if the train whistle had bothered him.

“What whistle?” Hogan replied.

And let’s not forget Yankee great and America’s favorite philosopher Yogi Berra, who said “You can’t think and hit the ball at the same time.

Creativity: Be open to ideas from many sources. Surround yourself with creative people. Creativity needs to be exercised like a muscle: If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

Studies indicate that, between ages 5 and 17, there is an extreme drop in the creativity level in both male and female students. As you grow older, your creativity level decreases proportionally. The good news is that this trend is reversible, as long as you keep challenging yourself. Consider Grandma Moses, who didn’t start painting until age 80 and went on to produce more than 1,500 works of art.

Courage: Most in demand and least in supply, courage is the willingness to do the things you know are right. Courage, contrary to popular belief, is not the absence of fear. Courage is having the heart to act in spite of fear. Don’t be afraid to use it.

Continuous learning: Set aside some time every day, every week and every month to improve yourself. To stay miles ahead of the competition, read trade publications or books, or listen to business CDs during your commute to and from work. Go back to school and take additional classes, or join groups or organizations… Whatever it may be, just never stop learning.