23 November, 2009

It Doesn't Go Without Saying: Susan Scott's Fierce Leadership

The last time I mentioned books with the word “Leadership” in the title I said that leadership books should come equipped with an exploding paint bomb to warn everybody who’s trying to learn how to be a leader, but because this is Scott’s sequel to Fierce Conversations, it’s not just another book on leadership, it’s really a book about something there’s far too little of in the workplace: conversations conducted in the right way, about the right things, between the right people. Job interviews. Project post-mortems. Discussions about accountability. Discussions with customers. How to really give employees the right kind of feedback about their performance.

Scott’s first book, Fierce Conversations, was almost a like a pre-consult description of what she was going to find wrong with your company and how she was going to fix it when you hired her. Her latest book, Fierce Leadership, is like the post-consult book she leaves behind for leaders so they won’t let their companies get in such bad shape again. It really is the perfect follow-up or sequel to Fierce Conversations because it shows company leaders how to apply the principles Scott introduced years ago in her first book. The conversation is the relationship. To name a problem is to solve it. Business is a long, extended conversation. It’s not the real conversations that should scare us, it’s the unreal ones.

Those of you who read Fierce Conversations will notice a difference in style. Fierce Leadership is much more conversational and better organized than was Fierce Conversations which, as great as it was, could have benefited from some aggressive editing and organizing.

And here’s a bonus: While most business writers write as if they have no staff and work their magic all alone, Susan Scott “introduces” us to some of her staff and shares the credit. Chris Douglas. Jim Sorensen. Cam Tripp. I’m leaving someone out, I just know it, but I like how Scott shares credit with the people who help her help clients.

20 November, 2009

Charleston Chapter of Drinking Liberally Looking For A Permanent Venue

The Charleston chapter of Drinking Liberally needs to settle on a permanent meeting place so we can get our chapter listed on the Drinking Liberally website where we can be found by fellow liberals who may be passing through or relocating to Charleston.

We'll be meeting every 2 weeks on Thursday evenings at 5:30-ish. Once selected, the permanent meeting place will be mentioned as part of the chapter listing so we're hoping that somewhere in the Charleston area there's a liberal restaurant or bar owner who would be proud for his establishment's brand to be associated with the liberal-progressive politics of our members.

And, of course, we'd like to settle on a place that stays open until at least 7:30 or 8PM on Thursdays, has ample parking and comfortable seating.

Oh, and perhaps just as important as the seating and parking and the hours, we need a place that doesn't blast music so loud that we can't hear each other talk. Drinking Liberally is about liberals getting together to talk about the issues that matter to us so if we can't have a conversation, we may as well all go home and watch Hardball, Rachel Maddow and Keith Olberman on TV.

By the way, I'd love to find a bar or tavern whose TVs are spot-welded to MSNBC.

I think it goes without saying that we aren't looking for the kind of place that caters to a "regular" crowd of Fox watchers.

Last night's meeting was briefly disrupted by a Corona-fired, self-described, Republican coal miner who proudly "blows up mountains for a living". I wonder if our mountain top removing coal apologist would have been drinking Coronas at our meeting place if he knew the owner is liberal. It would suit me fine if we could find a meeting place where there are no Corona-swilling, meeting disrupting, Republican coal miners.

Last year, before I moved back to West Virginia, my Lexington, KY, DL group met on a presidential debate night with assurances from the owner of the establishment that we could watch the debate, but when we arrived we found that several other groups were also meeting there and didn't want to hear the debate so many of us retired to our homes and watched the debate alone instead of in the company of our liberal friends.

I know that a restaurant or a bar is a business and needs to be run like a business but it's hard for me to believe that, somewhere in the Charleston area, there's not a bar, tavern or restaurant that would proud to be the home of MSNBC-watching, liberal-talking, patrons.

Oh, and there's a small group of liberals in St. Albans who can't meet in Charleston on Thursday evenings so, if there's enough interest and a friendly place to meet, I'm hoping to organize a St. Albans Drinking Liberally, too.

Incidentally, there are also opportunities for movie theaters to host Screening Liberally chapters, for restaurants to host Eating Liberally chapters, for bookstores to host Reading Liberally chapters and for comedy clubs to host Laughing Liberally chapters.

Living Liberally is about "progressive action through social interaction". Good things happen when people meet, tell each other their ideas, exchange business cards and then find a way to collaborate.

For more information, go to www.livingliberally.org.

17 November, 2009

And No Republicans Were Harmed In The Writing Of This Post

"A company that would discriminate on the basis of facial hair would probably also discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views - and I don't want to work for that kind of company."

I said this to a guy who offered me a job on the condition that I shave my beard. He claimed his company had a policy against facial hair. I declined. I had to decline.

I bring up this incident because I'm hearing a lot of discussion about how social media is changing the world of job search and recruitment. In the age of social media, injustice happens more swiftly and anonymously than it did when I had to turn down a job because the company didn't like facial hair. Today, they might just look candidates up on Facebook and rule out those with facial hair or any other characteristic they don't like.

"Is it ethical for me, an HR manager, to look up people on Facebook and LinkedIn before I decide to interview them?" someone asked rhetorically to nobody in particular the other day.

Whether or not it's ethical, we have to assume she and other HR people are doing it.

By now, you probably think you know where this is going. You probably think I'm about to tell you what I told a crowd of University of Kentucky grads about the dangers of posting your radical religious or political views or your drunken Spring Break photos on Facebook. Yeah, I told them they should Google themselves and see what employers are going to see and then clean up what they can.

But in the limited time we had available I didn't tell them what I'm about to tell my blog readers. I didn't tell them that they shouldn't be ashamed of what they haven't done wrong. I didn't tell them that if they have to pretend to be someone they aren't in order to get that dream job, then maybe it's not really a dream job.

That's why I proudly and unapologetically fly my liberal flag knowing full well that doing so may cost me consulting gigs or job offers.

But someone who would discriminate against me because I am a liberal Democrat would probably also discriminate against a lesbian or a black or a Rastafarian.

And I don't want to work for a company that would do that.

And, oh, while I'm flying my liberal flag, let me invite all my liberal, Charleston, WV readers to the second meeting of the re-launched, re-loaded Charleston chapter of Drinking Liberally. We meet this Thursday, 19 November, at Tricky Fish, 1611 Washington Street East at about 5:30-ish. We welcome gays, minorities, animal rights activists, vegans, vegetarians, people with facial hair, people without facial hair and people who have the courage of their liberal convictions to turn down job offers from bad guys.

No knuckle-dragging conservatives or sentient beings were harmed in the formation of the Drinking Liberally chapter but we're not above making conservatives squirm.

15 November, 2009

How To Get More From Meetings

Last week I attended a lunch meeting where people signed in at the door, filled their plates with food at the buffet, then either sat down at tables with people they already knew and probably sat with at the last meeting and the one before that, or found a table where nobody was seated then failed to greet the others who eventually joined them as the room filled and people grabbed a seat wherever they could find it. Even though the people at this meeting shared a common profession and could have easily made polite "shop talk" with their tablemates, few did.

With the exception of the officer who checked me in at the door, nobody knew who I was so it had to be obvious to all of the regulars that I was a first time visitor yet only the President Elect welcomed me.

I happen to know that many of the professionals who attended this meeting paid several hundred dollars in local and national membership fees and then paid $10 for lunch. At $10 per meal, a member who attends every monthly meeting could easily spend, say, $400 a year on meals and membership fees alone. Then there's the drive across town, the parking, the gas, and the rush to get back to the office.

To me, this seems like a lot of time, effort and expense not to meet anybody new, not to get better acquainted with anybody and to return to the office with not so much somebody's business card to show for the money and effort. I don't know about you, but to a guy like me whose livelihood is 100% referral-based, $400 a year is too much money not to make new friends and meet new people.

Yeah, I know, somebody reading this is thinking, "Ah, you must be an extravert, an outgoing, never-met-a-stranger kind of guy." Nope. I'm an off-the-charts introvert. INTP on the Myers-Briggs. So even if the people I watched squander the opportunity to deepen and extend their networks are all introverts, they are without excuse. If a hardcore introvert like me can learn to smile, say my name, extend a handshake and produce a business card, anybody can. "Grip and grin". It's easy. And it leads to good things. Job offers. Consulting gigs. Friendship.

"Maybe the people at your meeting are all misanthropes,” you may say. OK, maybe they are. That would certainly explain their unsociable behavior but, remember, these people are paying a lot of money to this organization for the privilege of being in the same room once a month with these humans they don't like so, if for no other reason than self interest, shouldn't they learn to meet and greet so they can get the most professional networking bang for their buck?

How To Get More From The Meetings You Attend

1. Put a stack of business cards in a pocket where you can easily offer one to everybody you meet.

2. Arrive early if possible so you can mix and mingle and introduce yourself to people.

Introducing yourself is easy. Just do this: Smile. Extend your hand (if you're afraid of H1N1 you can use hand sanitizer later). Say your name. Offer your business card. It's easy. Good things will happen. Like magic, most of the people you meet will mirror your actions. When you say your name, they'll say there's. When you produce a business card, they'll produce theirs. You're showing them how to behave. Do this at every meeting and eventually you will have taught a lot of people how to network at a meeting and, soon, you won't have to be the initiator all the time.

3. If this is a meeting where you're going to see some of the same people you can see elsewhere, resist the urge to hang with people you already know. Be the guy who reaches out to the stranger, the visitor, the person whose body language says they feel awkward.

4. Resist the urge to scan the room for the movers and shakers and network only with them. Get in the habit of saying to you "there are no unimportant people" and get in the habit of treating everybody the same.

5. Once a week, look up all the people who gave you a business card on LinkedIn. Invite them to join your LinkedIn network.

Remember: Always have business cards. Smile. Say your name. Extend your hand. Offer a business card. Repeat.

10 November, 2009

Why It's Conservative And Capitalistic To Air Liberal Radio In Charleston

I just mailed a letter to Lisa Nininger Hale, President of Bristol Broadcasting, suggesting that if she hasn't already made a decision about how to re-program "Z-Rock" which is playing Christmas music until Bristol is ready to unveil their plans for the former rock station, she might want to consider liberal talk radio. No matter what Ms. Hale's politics, being the first to air liberal radio in Charleston, WV, would be a very capitalistic, very conservative, very Republican thing to do for one simple reason: In Charleston, WV, the owner of a liberal talk radio station would have a monopoly on that market.

Program directors whose paychecks are signed by Clear Channel and other politically conservative radio station owners are quick to point to Air America's difficulties as proof that "liberal radio never works" or that "liberals won't support liberal talk radio."

While I'll stipulate that even the most successful liberal hosts like Thom Hartmann, Ron Reagan, Jr., Stephanie Miller, Bill Press, Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and Randi Rhodes don't have listening audiences as big as those of Rush Limbaugh, there are two reasons I think trying to compare liberal talk radio market share to conservative talk radio market share isn't comparing apples to apples.

First, since most radio station owners are conservatives who have built their radio brands for years, liberal talk radio has generally only been tried on stations nobody was listening to when those stations had a different format.

Second, conservative station owners have chased away nearly all the potential liberal radio listeners who, frankly, feel they can't turn on the radio without being aurally assaulted. If Charleston had a liberal talk radio station it would take a while for liberals who have come to associate radio with pain and insult to eject their CDs or turn off their iPods and seek information and entertainment from the radio again. I never did think it was a wise strategy for companies like Clear Channel to actually shrink the radio audience by alienating half their potential listeners without giving those alienated listeners another station to turn to. If I were an enterprising, cynical radio company I might want to own both liberal and conservative stations in the same market so that when Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity chase radio listeners and advertisers from one station, these listeners and advertisers are driven into the arms of a station that airs liberal programming.

And finally, I think one of the reasons liberals have not always supported liberal talk radio is that liberals don't like liberals who try to sound like liberal versions of Glen Beck or Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh. In other words, I'm saying that you don't communicate to liberals the same way you communicate to conservatives - and I think I'll stop right there. My fellow liberals know what I mean. Let's just say that if Michael Agnello and Rush Limbaugh experienced born again conversions to liberalism and went on the air tomorrow attacking conservatives with the same simplistic arguments and bombast with which they attack liberals now, even liberals who agree with what they say would object to how they say it and tune out in droves once the novelty of their liberal conversion wore off. You don't communicate with a liberal the same way you communicate with a conservative.

Anyway, I sent my letter to Bristol Broadcasting President, Lisa Nininger Hale, telling her that if she converts Z-Rock to liberal talk, not only will she have a monopoly on that format, I'll even help her identify liberal advertisers who might like to use radio to reach liberals.