Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Leatherbound 8a: Success: it's a mind game

This speaks for itself, but it came from October 1996. A great thing that came from this was that as I was doing highfalootin' ideas of success it was Darren Uffindel - recently appointed drystore manage at Chapman's meat plant - who unprompted had told me that getting on top of the job was all a mind game. And Darren was my measure of a success - no panic on the production floor because Darren did his job. I thanked the Lord for Darren.

Perhaps we need more court jesters

Rather than be paralysed by a fear of failure or a blind acceptance of convention. The great achievements rarely come from being agreeable but perhaps the way of the court jester is a less unpleasant way to be disagreeable.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

The Woolies app will probably win me back

This app seriously promises to make my life easier. I have run a third party shopping list app for about nine months and it's pretty good, but the one provided by my grocer is shaping up to be fantastic.

The story started about four years ago when I got an "everyday rewards" card that one swipes each time one shops, it tracks the purchases and allow for fuel vouchers.

I knew I was giving away valuable data (my PhD data came from such a source) but I never expected that'd be the beneficiary. And the I loaded up theWoolworths app last night.

Well that's ok, Woolies are telling me their weekly specials based on my previous purchases. I've already posted how I like my premium coffee but don't like to pay list price and here's the solution - just make sure I pick up Moccona Mocha Kenya on this week's top-up shop.

It worked with google maps to help me choose my favourite store

Which I can change for when I do my top-up in the city this week. So I can get products onto my list just by searching for it, or I can scan the barcode off of the empty pack:

All this helps me get products onto my shopping list. Woolies then sets the order of the list according to the layout of the store that I've nominated as my favourite.

And once I've checked through it keeps a record of how my fuel vouchers are going.

So all up this app will make me even more hopelessly dependent on the systems around me. But it will make my life easier, and it will cause me to choose Woolworths a little more often. Yes it is a bit of "they win I win" and a great competitive move by Woolies.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Leatherbound 8: Keep people at ease

My father in law has always told me that in dealings with other people to "always put the other person up". I have noticed that the times where my life has gone wrong is when I've signed onto approaches that don't adhere to this basic principle. Apparently I believed in the principle 15 years ago when I was writing tips and hints for my - as then - unborn children about getting on in life:

So for a little while a year ago I was running the line that "I'd rather have people fear me than love me". I wish I could shake the "then me" and say "wtf are you doing! Have you forgotten everything that's important to you?"

The Thompson case: Engage a lawyer to scare them off

At the moment we have a member of parliament who appears to have been misbehaving. In a previous job his credit card was used, many times to purchase the services of brothels, and some other dodgy transactions. Lots of union members' fees.

It's under investigation, but looking increasingly hard to call him a cleanskin.

What I found interesting was Thompson's attempts to kill the issue. It blew up in the press in 2009. Thompson spent a heap of money - in his case someone else's - to sue the paper that broke the story. At the time it scared everyone off.

But in Thompson's case the chickens have come home to roost. Perhaps Thompson actually believes he had no case to answer, that he was being defamed, and that the lawyers were fighting for the good guys.

Or perhaps Thompson thought that engaging a lawyer would scare his detractors off and allow him to sweep his past under the carpet.

I started writing this post a week ago and it all pretty much holds. But it has all got very yucky now - as Laura Tingle just said. A part of me feels sorry for Thompson because it's death by a thousand cuts. I'm sure he feels like he wants to resign, which is the decent thing. But his party won't let him, they can't afford to lose him.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Coles' vouchers for schools: Supermarket wars show jockeying for position

Prof John Rossiter at the Uni of Wollongong has a chapter in Mark Uncles "Perspectives on Brand Management" text that speaks really well about positioning.

The chapter keys in really nicely to the multiattribute model (ie Fishbein) or the compensatory decision rule that you'll see in most consumer behaviour texts.

In short the argument goes that when you're competing, you have three things to think about:

The range of benefits you provide
The importance that the target customer places on each of those benefits
How well you perform on each of the benefits relative to your competitor.

So when trying to position yourself, you can aim to do a few things. You might try to increase the importance the customer places on the things you're good at. You might improve the perception of how well you deliver on important benefits, relative to your competitor. Or you might add a benefit that competitors haven't yet got. The last is sort of what Dick Smith's Foods did with "Australian" and here we have vouchers for school sports.

This poster is in the window of my boy's school. Enough to get a few customers over the line when they decide whether to turn left or right out of their driveway on shopping day.

There is a huge range of permutations of this framework but Rossiter's approach is the most tangible view of positioning that I've seen.

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- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Steve Jobs quits

Well isn't that life?

Jobs has left Apple, effective immediately. As I reflect on my "thoughts for complex times" blog that remembers how he had once been sacked this all just seems like life.

He had some lows, some highs, and is now going on to do other things, and the world keeps turning.

I just hope Apple will keep making great products.

Elvis Costello's grandmother and nourishing your soul

I heard this song this morning. I remember when it was a hit in the 1980s by Elvis Costello, bit only just learnt this morning that he wrote it (I think) for his grandmother. I've currently got a post running that talks about the history of Judell's when my grandmother Kathleen made a mark, but might never equal the brilliance of this song.

A lovely, really fun song with a very sad picture - one of disempowerment of a woman in a nursing home. But a message of hope, where the woman shows that you can take anything from her but she still has what's most important, what's inside. Shades of my "leatherbound" post about "nourish your soul"

Have a listen to the song first and mentally sing it as you read the lyrics.

It certainly is a powerful song to me.

Is it all in that pretty little head of yours?
What goes on in that place in the dark?
Well I used to know a girl and I would have
sworn that her name was Veronica
Well she used to have a carefree mind of her
own and a delicate look in her eye
These days I'm afraid she's not even sure if her
name is Veronica

Do you suppose, that waiting hands on eyes,
Veronica has gone to hide?
And all the time she laughs at those who shout
her name and steal her clothes

Did the days drag by? Did the favours wane?
Did he roam down the town all the time?
Will you wake from your dream, with a wolf at
the door, reaching out for Veronica
Well it was all of sixty-five years ago
When the world was the street where she lived
And a young man sailed on a ship in the sea
With a picture of Veronica

On the "Empress of India"
And as she closed her eyes upon the world and
picked upon the bones of last week's news
She spoke his name outloud again


Veronica sits in her favourite chair and she sits
very quiet and still
And they call her a name that they never get
right and if they don't then nobody else will
But she used to have a carefree mind of her
own, with devilish look in her eye
Saying "You can call me anything you like, but my name is Veronica"

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Judell's Fashions. More history than most of us know

So another store looks like it has folded. I was "site hunting" with a PhD student and noticed that the Myer Centre store has closed. That's a little sad but my wife tells me the brand's not dead, that there are a couple of stores still around.

So I will post a little more later but this is at least a 55 year old company. My much beloved late grandmother Kathleen Crout was the store manager for their Rundle Mall store in the 1970s and was a true marketing success, before we really spoke much about marketing was.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Leatherbound 7: Don't look down on those who look up to you

About 13 years ago I was reflecting on the words of Muhammed Ali:
Full of spelling errors and intemperate reflections that I would like to think I've grown out of. Although the older I get, the more I feel I have to learn.

Whiteboard Lecture: Calculating brand performance measures

From (say) a months worth of purchases in a market with five consumers and four brands.

Market share, penetration, purchase frequency. Competition, coverage, and purchasing weight measures.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Whiteboard: Consumer Complaining Behaviour

Passives, Voices, Irates, Activists.

We also thought of "disempowereds", where the decision is not theirs, "habituals" and "anarchists". It was worth a thought.

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Many thanks for a good month

With the month only two thirds through, my pageviews are about to exceed last month. I know I'm not playing in Grog or Bolt's territory as far as views goes but I like to play, still. I hope to meet June's views which got a real kick along because I was putting up heaps of cool content as I was in France with some really cool people.
So friendlies and unfriendlies alike, many thanks for clicking around. The reason I post - now - is to stay close in some way to the people I need to live and work with. The chart above is a bit of a measure of how well I'm doing that.

Fair enough I might not always be perfectly approachable but in a perfect world being "Cullen of Adelaide" is all I would do.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tabulated savings on your Coles docket: IT comes to the aid of marketing

Nice. We know the Coles positioning is currently a value one. Well I just got smacked by a docket that said I saved about $30 last week.

In my "how can they say that?" response I looked at the items further up.

So it appears that whenever Coles manage to extract a discount from the manufacturer (like two for one or ten for $10 sales promotions) they tabulate it on the docket and call it a "saving" for you.

Not illegal, perhaps a little tricky, but not a bad move. It certainly fits with their current strategy, and a sign of a good business that it can make disparate divisions such as IT and marketing work together to achieve an integrated execution.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

"own label" having a crack at premium positioning

So buying coffee. I'm up for premium product and Moccona is good. But on a "top up" buy last night I didn't want to spend the list price. So the "Columbian Gold" brand covered all the points of parity of the Moccona product - large grains, fancy jar, gold lid, the word "gold" on the label. And it had a price tag of $10.

Reflecting on my assessment, I was satisfied that the product was playing in the premium product category and this time the "point of difference" was a price difference. Or probably it was just a "me too" product.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Night windows and Perspex shopfronts

Well, Australia, we resisted it for as long as we could. I'll tell you a story of when I went to Washington in about 2004 for a conference. We were driving into D.C. through their outer suburbs at about 11am. I'm told it's pretty tough country. First I wanted to get a diet Coke and went into a convenience store. Into a Perspex cage with all the stock normally stacked/displayed, just behind the plastic. We exchanged money and goods through a little rotating window.

Then we went on to get fuel a little later. As I pulled up to the pump and removed the nozzle, nothing happened. It wouldn't enable the bowser. I sort of looked over at the main store, which was the similar "made up but locked" with a little night window to the side. Out of embarrassment by not knowing how the system worked, I scurried away with no fuel.

Apparently the system was to go to the night window, pay your money, then fill your tank. Very sensible for the company and of course, safe for the console operator (which truly is the most important thing).

And so, at BP On The Run on the Parade at Kensington, I saw a night window in Australia for the first time.

A little saddening. And there's the whole argument that the more you go down thus path the more you create a gated community around yourself and the greater division there is, perpetuating a circle of crime.

But it's easy for me to say, having never really been at risk of an armed robbery. We can't make the night console workers the front line of our ideological battle to keep things "nice". It's a shame though, that we might be on that path to "night windows and Perspex shops"

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Content creates its own value

I'm still learning this stuff but isn't that half the fun? I learnt around February that "cynical and complaining doesn't get you followers" - my Klout score dropped from 48 to 39 when I got all whiny. I am also constantly reminded about how creating interesting, connected content creates its own value, and has its own rewards.

I was on a course last month at the University of Sydney. A little post I put together showing the "The Agent Based Modeling presenters at USyd" was simply a chance to show who was there - to be honest I was proud of my new friends and share it with my existing ones.

I looked at my blog analytics this morning and saw a spike in pageviews at 3.30am, as well as a traffic source from a Google search on "prof Ian Wilkinson". Someobody (apparently in the US) searched on Ian, saw my blog, and spent a fair while looking around.
So I'm taking this as a way to make these things work. Be authentic with the content you create, they don't always have to shake the world, and stay positive. The law of attraction seems to work in social media too.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Grateful for people who thought of me

I am swimming in jobs to do. It'll be good, by the end of the year I will've taught six courses, done five pieces of good enough writing, supervised five research degree students. I should get a letter saying I've had an A publication accepted - for what that's worth - pretty soon.

But a couple of things converged this weekend. A couple of colleagues asked me to work on a paper with them for submission to an A journal. I'd been involved in some earlier work on the job but hadn't really thought it was going anywhere for me, but I was wrong. So I am humbled that the team thought of me. And an MBA student I supervised on a minor thesis two years ago worked it up into a B submission and asked me to get involved.

So in a time where I simply cannot drive a publication project I'm very lucky I have been asked onto ones that others have been driving. That's very good.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Managerialism versus Leadership: Two tales

"but I had to eat"

It appears that in the deadly bushfires of 2009 in the state of Victoria, police commissioner Christine Nixon had a morning hair appointment, a meeting with her biographer, and a counter meal in a hotel with her phone switched off. It's not a smear, it's on the public record.

Managerialism. To me it's when the correct action is to roll up one's sleeves and wade in, but one goes missing. The idea that "it's my job to manage not to do the work." Well sometimes it needs to be all hands on deck.

The best managers I've had are the ones who unflinchingly enter the fray (screaming customers, threatening seniors managers, crushing production schedules) to do what they can, no excuses. Even if afterwards they say to their people "I'd rather not have to do that too often". Geoff Hampel, legendary meat man, was known as the "stockinette kid" because once on a boning room floor, with a cut that should have sent him home he pushed on. A wrap of meat grade stockinette stemmed the blood flow until the whistle blew.

When a union strike left a chiller full of hanging meat, threatening to go off, the senior managers and their wives flew into a Metro Meat plant at (I think Katanning) in WA and worked all weekend to get the 400 bodies processed. They could barely walk afterwards.

But too often it seems that managers see their job as a sophisticated game of "pass the parcel", unwrap the job a little bit and pass it on. So when the police commissioner should have been in the command tents, or making sandwiches, or calling a state of emergency, or on the phone to the pm (or ******* anything) the police commissioner was dictating her memoirs and looking out the window for signs of smoke.

And in contrast earlier this year, the Queensland premier Anna Bligh delievered her "Queenslander" speech of 123 words (someone said) and won me:

“As we weep for what we have lost, and as we grieve for family and friends and we confront the challenge that is before us, I want us to remember who we are. We are Queenslanders. We’re the people that they breed tough, north of the border. We’re the ones that they knock down, and we get up again.”

A great review here and the video of the presser here. She allowed herself to show vulnerability, and freely admit she didn't know what the hell the future held.

So a tale of two leaders - similar conditions. I don't know how stage managed the Bligh stuff was - it didn't seem to be to me. And Christine Nixon might be getting unfairly roasted by the media too - reality can be elusive. But there are two ways to react when the shit's going down, and it's where circumstances hold a mirror up to the boss and ask "how good are you?".

As they once said about Keating "we'd all be up to our armpits in shit sandwiches and munching furiously". There's a time when the leader just has to turn up, even when they might not have the answers. And munch furiously.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

"The Boxer": Garfunkel's ode to stoicism and tribute to Paul Simon

And a formative song for me. My dad would play "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "Solitary Man" when entertaining in the 1970s. As a kid I'd crack out his record collection on Sunday morning when everyone was asleep, and spend some time with it.

In 1992 I rediscovered the Simon and Garfunkel stuff. In particular "The Boxer", although "Keep the Customer Satisfied" became particularly relevant too. A song about a kid trying to make it in New York, with nothing to eat and no friends, forever tempted by the thought of giving up.

Just look at the guys. Young dudes just hitting out in New York in the 1960s, an illustration of what was written in "The Boxer". I read somewhere that Art Garfunkel wrote it about Paul Simon, who he thought was a fighter who would never give up. Although Simon wouldn't have known it at the time -he's not that conceited.

And their telling finale of how it tends to end for that type of person, beaten but unbroken:

In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade
and he carries the reminder of every glove that laid him down
or cut him till he cried out, in his anger and his shame
"I am leaving, I am leaving but the fighter still remains..."

I urge you, get onto iTunes, pay your $1.69 to drag "The Boxer" out. I defy you to sit there immobile as it thumps out its message.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Leatherbound 6: A 29 year old's take on why maturity make you valuable

So yes, I probably didn't know what I was talking about. But please remember that the leatherbound series is my advice to my (as then) unborn kids - my honest, heartfelt advice to somebody I care about.
On re-reading, maybe the piece has a point.

Self check on quality of life

Little things that might be the markers of a good life.

Being able to wake up on one's birthday to a family that cares, and being surrounded by people that respect the fact that you value it.

A life partner who approaches the role of raising a healthy happy family with the same dogged determination as you do, and with a great deal more compassion. And thank goodness for the fact that she won't give up on you.

A network of acquaintances and colleagues that think enough of you to hit the "wall post" button on Facebook, or click through off of Twitter - often enough - to read some of your stuff. And sometimes engage - thank goodness for the Nathan Grays.

Current work that allows me to mix with good, intelligent people and tomorrow's leaders.

And I feel blessed that for every detractor I have about 50 people who either don't care or don't mind me. And for every person who viscerally hates me I might have a few thousand.

One thing's for sure, I will continue to make mistakes and that'll give me the odd enemy. I might even make a few enemies without making mistakes. A little too old to kid myself that everyone will like me, and sometimes I make liking me difficult.

But as the Facebook "happy birthdays" continue to roll in, I feel quietly thankful.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Some Consumer Behaviour Tutorial

How evoked set theory can apply to habitual purchasing:

and the nature of evaluative criteria in deterministic decision making.

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"Buggy": a new use for the word and a sign of the times

The word "buggy" seems to have taken a new meaning in the last five years. "Tweetdeck for iPad is a bit buggy", "the blogger editor is a bit buggy on safari mobile", my personal video recorder is a bit buggy.

Many things that should work, sort of don't. Things crash, or screens don't link up. Our messages go into the wrong box.

It seems to be about two things. The pace of new product development and automatic upgrades. When Microsoft realized they could send out their patches over the Internet, they began to launch their products well before they were finished. And - of course - they were doing that because they wanted to roll out new standards as quickly as they could. In the rest of the world, companies do that because the pressure to innovate is so high. And not only software. ABC News 24, digital 24 hour news channel burst into their regular #insiders programming with a special feed of the prime minister from Tasmania, lost the satellite link and then just played their pedestrian news service for the next 35 minutes.

There is an intense new product development cycle and the pressure to innovate is forcing mistakes.

So companies are releasing products before they're really finished and the early adopters are becoming beta testers. And the word "buggy" has taken on a new meaning.

And Blogium just crashed as I left it to read this blog before tweeting it.

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

The hurly burly of August 2010

Coming up to twelve months. I spent my 43rd birthday in a Singapore airport. I had been working a little in Singapore and had two visits a month apart. The work was great but coincidence had it that I was away from my family that first time on my birthday and the second time (early Sep) was fathers day.

I refused to allow myself to get too whiny about it, but the trips were not without their costs. I love Singapore, and I sort of miss the work I was doing there at the time. But the job, now, is working fine too.

I've got some neat research going into social media and some into wine, heaps of teaching (about six courses this year) and a few trips to Singapore. Relationships with the social media crowd are great, and co-supervising five PhDs and in the popular press every four weeks. All I need is that A journal acceptance letter from JBR and I'll be a little less

I enjoy the work I do and don't have altogether bad memories of August 2010 but it was a lifetime ago.

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Cool Research into Facebook: You can get involved and get a look at our findings!

Ervin, my really cool honours student is in that scary time of collecing data for his thesis. Its going OK, but you can help. Everyone's welcome and we REALLY welcome people over 25. We're interested in how people get around their Facebook pages and what they are interested in. We'd love you to be involved. If we get enough people we'll be able to generate some really cool findings that might look a little like this:
So why not do a quick survey and we can keep in touch with you to show you findings.

To do the survey, just click on:

The Greens are part of the machine

Shades of the Australian Democrats back at the introduction of the goods and services tax. When it came time for them to "grow up" - offered to them by getting some real power - they ran into a whole new set of problems. Politics - the art of compromise - threw Meg Lees into troubles as she had to grapple with the practical realities of getting something done. The dissent of this within her party eventually tore it apart.

I see a similar thing with the greens. As I watch Sarah Hanson-Young wringing her hands over kids being stuck on a boat to Malaysia it feels like Groundhog day. Greens, you are part of the machine that is performing these actions. A party of dissent is only of value until it gets the chance to actually do something, and I'm not sure how you'll manage that transition. But the time for being Monday's expert is over.

My Uncle John, with a keen insight and elephant like memory once said a similar thing of Labor. That the 1960s was a golden era and he lamented the "whatever it takes to stay in power so we can at least do some good" approach that became popular in the early '80s.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Apple much? But not a "lovemark"

Wow. I put the iPad in to charge and shocked myself.

And it's only about 40% of our Apple stuff. And I'm not a "Lover" of the brand. So much for "lovemarks" - as a brand manager I'd be happy with repeat purchase behaviour from my customers any day.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Leatherbound 3: Create Value - that's your security..

Remember, the leatherbound series is my journal of advice to my kids, from years ago.

From ten years ago and the principle is still the same, although confounded in situations where a person loves their job so much they'd do it for free (like skydiving for a living) or where there are precious few employers. But as my legendary father in law says - the only reason a businessperson asks you to do something for them is if they can profit from the arrangement. And I think that's fair..

<sorry, had to snip myself there. Perhaps I *do* have a sense of self preservation>

Academic journeyman on the way home

Two very good, senior friends once referred to me as an academic journeyman. I could have taken offence, but one didn't mean disrespect and the other was hard to take seriously.

That was quite a few years ago. And "journeyman" - while it has overtones of pedestrian performance, at least communicates a willingness to do an honest day's work, contributing where one can. So I cringe a little at this image, the little journeyman academic with his vid recording kit in one hand and iPhone in the other.

Still, my MBA students who were moved to an unserviced teaching room last night will still get their video and audio of the class, and the nerdy lecturer with his toolkit will have just taken care of it. With the help of a nice uni tool called MyMedia.

Working as an academic means more than just teaching, so it's the research and publications that the spotlight is always on for me. That's where the charge of "just doing enough to get by" might come about. I promise, I'm working hard to get to it.

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Self check for bad behaviour

I'd like to review this from time to time to keep myself off the wrong track

Bob Sutton's List of The Dirty Dozen Common Everyday Actions That [bad team players] Use:

1. Personal insults
2. Invading one's personal territory
3. Uninvited personal contact
4. Threats and intimidation, both verbal and non-verbal
5. Sarcastic jokes and teasing used as insult delivery systems
6. Withering email flames
7. Status slaps intended to humiliate their victims
8. Public shaming or status degradation rituals
9. Rude interruptions
10. Two-faced attacks
11. Dirty looks
12. Treating people as if they are invisible

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Leatherbound 2: Safety is just danger out of place

The second of my leatherbound posts. I think I got the line from a song Harry Connick Jr sung at a concert we had gone to, and it follows with my nourish your soul post recently:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Be the do-er

Seth Godin wrote a blog lambasting those who scream for more authority:

And quickly arrived at an assertion - all his posts seem to be short - that the key to getting what you want here is to be the one who's prepared to take responsibility.

I will be pulling out a leatherbound post in a little while that reflects on how most security is an illusion - tenure, high paying job, some friends etc. In that post (from 15 years ago) I was saying that the only security is in providing value.

The first ever person to say that to me was Neville Woodcock, my first ever employer in sales, in 1989. That didn't quite work out - largely because I probably wasn't delivering the sort of value he wanted. My first sacking - oh the pain. Another story.

But back to today. It seems there are two ways to get something done.

One way to achieve is to take responsibility and do it - and if one needs help then get that help. One can still be managing huge teams and getting great results that way, but it's a form of "servant leadership" rather than command and control.

So there's great value in being the do-er and measuring yourself by the value you create. If one recognises where the security really comes from, there's a better chance to transcend the daily tides. Alliances, enemies, employers, various slings and arrows tend to become players in the weekly pantomime.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

To take the heat out of a potential flame war...

pick up the phone or walk down the hall and have a chat.

It's not ground breaking advice, but I learnt it a good 15 years ago from one of the best people managers I ever worked for, Rod E Davis.

Seth Godin just said a similar thing

We might think we're doing the job by sending emails that put our points forcefully, but it never seems to work as well as simply connecting. And the only reason Rod suggested picking up a phone was because we were a state sales office of a Melbourne production plant.

Almost every situation in 27 years of work has been better managed face to face than with emails. It can be a little daunting but as my other (mentor I suppose) from those Cryovac days - Chris Skinner - sort of said - "do the hard stuff".

Now to remember it for myself a little more often.

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