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What Part of "NO" Don't You Understand?

It's been an interesting few months... that's an understatement. A lot of things culminated last week, giving me some much anticipated (and highly needed) down time to catch my breath and catch up on life.

No-yes-480And I've been taking advantage of it. Bill paying, paperwork, taxes, laundry (yes, Chief Accomplishment Officers do their own laundry), and some house cleaning have been my task list this week. Oh, and blogging.

One of my favorite quotes is "The Quality of our YESes is determined by the Quantity of our NOs." I'll admit I've had hard time finding the origin of this quote and web searches have yielded little. I originally thought it belonged to the late Stephen R. Covey, but now I'm not so sure. Maybe I picked it up from a random speaker or sermon from years ago. Regardless, it's stuck with me. And the past several months, blogging has fallen into my "NO" category.

But I started realizing how much I missed it. There have been so many things that have happened in the past year that have warranted a passing "Oh, I should blog about that," but then my other pressing YESes took over. And you want to know what? I'm good with it. Sure, I probably need to start over building a readership, but I think I can figure out how to do it.

So bear with me. I have a lot to say. About current events (and past events and future events). About accomplishment and leadership. About project management and people. About branding and behavior. About me. About you.

We have a lot of catching up to do as I move from "no" back to "yes."

Through

I'm done.

It's been a good ride over the last four years of social media.  At first, it was cute and fuzzy.  "Look everybody! I have a blog!"  Then it grew to integral.  I made contacts.  I landed some gigs.  My books got attention.  Then it became arduous.  "Sheesh - another blog post?  What else can I possibly say?"

Now it's just annoying.

Because I live out the philosophy of "If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right" it's time for me to practice what I preach.

So I'm ending it.

Thanks for your support and readership over the past four years.

And for those of you gasping with your eyes bulging and your jaw dropping over this news, you'll get over it.  Tomorrow is another day.  Namely, it's no longer April Fools' Day.

Gotcha.

Ten-Yeared Professor

Ten years.  I'm sitting here finding it hard to believe ten years have paTim_lauren_abbyssed since I heard phrases like "Honey, I think my water broke" or "It's a girl" and "Do you want to cut the cord?"

Since then, so many other phrases have crossed my path.  Barbies, Disney princesses, and all things pink have been introduced to my world.  A second daughter five years later only intensified everything.

So what have I learned in the past decade of daddy-ness?  Oh, a whole lot of things:

  • Priorities - things like "time management" and "what's worth fighting for" have been completely redefined.  I've learned to say "no" to a lot because saying "yes" to my daughters is more critical.  The issues which once made me hyper seem to have little effect on me now.
  • Management - ill-behaving executives and nasty managers are no contest any more.  I'm not afraid to face them down or just walk away from bad behavior. Parenting teaches you how to herd the cats in the right direction.  The "eat your spinach" message has taken on new meaning.
  • Attention - being in the moment has become more critical than ever. There's little room for mind-wandering when a kid wants your attention.  Same goes for clients.
  • Multi-tasking - contrary to the prior bullet, I've also figured out how to juggle multiple things at once and not drop a single ball (most of the time).
  • Diversity - imagine that... each kid is different.  They are motivated by different things.  They process things differently.  They react differently to the world around them.  And I have to be sensitive to those differences.
  • Fun - if you're not having fun, you're not doing it right.  Hearing my kids rip off one-liners in a way that would have a professional comedian in tears is fun.  My best laughs of the past 10 years have been caused by my offspring.

I'd like to think that my kids have taught this old dog a trick or two in the past 10 years.  They've made wonderful professors for this ever-eager student.  But we haven't even hit the teenage years yet (about to enroll in "Advanced Parenthood").  The next ten should be even more interesting.

There, There... All Better!

As the above video points out, not all proofreading efforts lead to success.  As a college professor, I have to laugh at some of my students' bloopers... sometimes I mercifully correct them... sometimes I shrug it off as a lost cause.

One Christmas, when my sister's girls were much younger, they excitedly came to our house to see the Christmas tree I had put up in the basement.  I really enjoy Hallmark ornaments, and they loved seeing some of the different decorations.  My younger niece burst into the room first, yelling "I seed it!  I seed it!" at the top of her lungs.  Her older sister, always in the spirit of watching out for her, corrected her grammar, "No, Trisha, it's 'I SAWED it.'"

During one vacation my wife and I shared at a brand spankin' new resort on the north shore of Lake Superior, I happened to look down while showering and noticed water seeping up under the fresh pine baseboards.  Later that morning, I went to the front desk to inform the clerk that they may want to avoid water damage by caulking the baseboards.  She thanked me as I watched her write the note to her maintenance staff, "Shower in 103 needs cock."  Um, yeah... let's just not go there.  (Although I've always been curious what went through the mind of the maintenance staffer who was on the receiving end of that note.)

In our world of six-sigma-lean-TQM-continuous-improvement, are we REALLY making things better?  I've seen more than once where the cost-cutting efficiency efforts actually hurt the organization.  It seems that often, efficiency runs counter to effectiveness.

We may have saved a few bucks, but did we really make the overall process and the final end result BETTER?  Are our customers any happier?  Are the people doing the jobs any more satisfied?  Have we sped things up?  Are decisions more streamlined or better informed?

Or have we "proofread" one thing just to mess up something else?

Where have YOU seen one thing fixed, which in turn broke five other things?

Hope Floats

Hope_ministries "When you learn from the experiences of others, you compress time." -David J. Burrier, Chief Development and Community Relations Officer, Hope Ministries

I really enjoy my project management MBA class at Drake.  It's not just because we learn all of the standard project management life cycle phases (which we do).  It's not just because we get a grip on the different roles involved in a project or that we cover some interesting real life project experiences (which we also do.

No, I think the reason I really like this class is that I get to feel like a not-for-profit Santa Claus.  Those who have read this blog for a while know the final project:  work with a local charitable organization within the community.  In the past, my classes have worked with United Way of Central Iowa, Blank Park Zoo, and many other worthwhile organizations.

This fall is no different.  We have the pleasure of working with the Thrift Store from Hope Ministries, a great organization serving the homeless in Central Iowa.  They operate completely without any government funding (and therefore without any government interference).  They are passionate and compassionate, caring and sharing.  They have some very cool business challenges for my students, and the next twelve weeks will be an eye-opening education in the world of project management... and community.

Stay tuned!

I Brake for Breaks

Brake-pedal I admit it.  I'm a blogospheric slacker.

This is the longest break I've ever taken from blogging.  To be honest with you, my readers, I just haven't had it in me the past couple of weeks.  The reality is that I've had a couple of family issues to attend to, and my priorities shifted for a bit.

But in my mind (and hopefully in yours), it's OK to walk away and take a breather.  It's just important to come back.

In my creativity class, we talk about the importance of 'think time" - just building in time to contemplate.

In my leadership class, I cover the importance of priorities and flexible focus.

With my project management clients, I emphasize contingency time for those "what if" scenarios.

So I guess I have just been practicing what I preach.

And I found out that an bit of a break can be one darn fine accomplishment.

Thanks for your patience.  I'm back in the saddle.

Aw... Nothin' Much

Bear_hammock I just came from the Central Iowa Bloggers' gathering at Panera, and I had a few people ask me what I've been up to recently and how my summer looks.  My standard answer was that I wasn't up to much, which I suppose (in my world) is accurate.

But since people are asking, here is a smattering of things happening:

  • Got a great write-up from marketing guru Chris Abraham on my third book (SWAT).  We finally have a release date: January 10, 2010.  Now that life is calming down on many other fronts, can complete all of the editing and formatting and advance praise collection and final cover design stuff, so we can obtain printed copies by next month.  Chris was very kind with his praise, and I appreciated his taking the time to read it.

  • Wrote an article for Modern Analyst (awesome website on business analysis stuff) on how business analysts can deal with office politics.  Adrian Marchis runs an amazing site with all kinds of useful information for the business analyst crowd.

  • Was a contributing author for Franke James' new book on office politics, Dear Office Politics:  the game everyone plays.  If you've not checked out her site before, you really should.  There are new office politics situations being posted from every industry from all over the globe.  Chances are good you will see a familiar experience there.  The cool thing about the book is you get both a book and a game, so you can discuss office politics with your colleagues and learn how each other deals with various situations.

  • Was a contributing author for How Business Gets Done:  Words of Wisdom by Central Iowa Experts.  I authored the project management chapter.  The book was compiled by the Business Innovation Zone and should be released soon.

  • Will be offering a webinar through The Project Management Bookstore on office politics on June 24.  This crowd has been great, and I look forward to working with them on this.  There are 1,000 seats available, and they assure me they almost always fill up every seat for their Author series webinars.

So those are just a few things keeping me occupied and out of trouble this summer... since you asked.  For a guy whose mantra is to "seize the accomplishment" it's a pretty light schedule.

Pull Out Those Old Recipes, Folks

Younkers Recently, I posted on Facebook that my wife was making chicken salad for supper.  Not just any chicken salad, mind you.  This was the famous recipe from Younkers' Tea Room.  I realize I have a lot of readers outside the Des Moines area.  For those of you over the age of 40, you probably had a similar place in a nearby metropolis.  Back in the day, Younkers Tea Room was the swankiest place in town.  My high school prom was held there... ok, so back loooong before I was in high school, it was really upscale.  This was the place where the social elite would be seen dining.  It was also the source of many great recipes, among which was the chicken salad.

The memory of Younkers Tea Room evokes nostalgic images of a bygone era, of dressing up for dinner, of old-fashioned high-end department stores, of live entertainment.  But no matter how far removed we get from it, there's a recipe that holds a special place in our hearts (and our stomachs).  And every once in a while, we have to pull it out and make it (no matter what it might do to our cholesterol levels).  It's that old tried and true that always seems to work, that never fails to make us feel better.

We have those in work and in life, too.  It might be a book, a poem, a friend, or a painting.  It may be a building, a park bench, a road less traveled.  It's OK to pull them out, dust them off, and revisit them for a while.  Life isn't all about change.  Sometimes life is about remembering.  And through remembering, it may give you inspiration for the future.  So pull out those old recipes.  Call that old friend.  Read that poem.  It's OK... really.

And for those of you who are curious, I will share with you the absolute best chicken salad recipe on the planet (with the discoveries my wife has made along the way):

  • 3 cups diced, cooked chicken thighs (it's OK to buy the roasted chicken at the supermarket and use the whole chicken, if you'd prefer, over the thighs)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup ranch dressing (we've found the T. Marzetti's light ranch gives the right taste and texture)
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste (optional)

In a large bowl combine chicken, celery, onion, and sunflower seeds.  In a smaller bowl, stir together salad dressing, celery salt, garlic, salt and black pepper.  Pour dressing over chicken mixture; toss to mix well.  Cover and chill for one hour.  Makes six servings.  (My opinion:  best served with crisp Romaine lettuce on a croissant.)

For Good

Recently, my wife was asked to write a recommendation for a long-time friend and colleague.  In her closing comments, she used a line from my favorite song in my favorite musical, Wicked.  The song occurs when Glinda (the "good" witch) and Elphaba (the "wicked" witch) are saying their final good-byes to each other:

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led to those who help us most to grow
If we let them, and we help them in return

The song goes on to talk about how each of them have been changed for good.  So as we were preparing for bed that night, my wife asked me who my "for good" people are (outside of family members).  Who are those people who rocked my world and left me a better person for it?  It didn't take a lot of thinking to come up with my list and why they were on it:

  • Brian - a long time friend, introduced me to the career of consulting and pulled me away from cubicle-dwelling big box employment.  Even moreso, he saw in me talents that I didn't even see, and he gave me a boost of self-confidence that was lacking at a time in my life when I needed it.

  • Delaney Kirk - she is the one who raised the bar on my teaching career, who emulated the classroom behaviors I wanted to follow, who championed me within the halls at Drake and guided me to where I am today.  I owe her a lot in my teaching success.  Recently, a student sent me a message telling me how much I had impacted her life.  I forwarded the note to Delaney, thanking her for guiding me on my journey so I could in turn guide others.

  • Mike Wagner - what an infusion of passion!  This guy gets branding, and he's the one who helped me discover my own brand story of Carpe Factum.  He jokes with me, challenges me, and is a tried and true sounding board.  When it comes to delivering a keynote or speech, my personal challenge is to "be like Mike" in helping my audiences understand the importance of a topic.

  • MBA254 Spring 2008 - An entire class of 38 students?  Am I kidding?  Not really.  I've been teaching almost 15 years, and I've never had a whole class affect me like this group did.  I've never been as moved by a collection of stories and personalities and thought leaders.  While they would be surprised to hear this, I learned more about who I am as an educator that semester than they learned about leadership and human capital development.  I've had many of them as students in other classes hence, and each as individuals continue to inspire me.  Together, they made me fall head-over-heels, passionately in love with the art and craft of teaching, and I haven't been the same professor since then.

  • Travis - another friend, who serves on the SWAT team I've been researching.  He's pretty modest and is going to be irked with that he's on this list, but the friendship I've forged with him over the past two years has taught me much about leadership, integrity, effort, and accomplishment.  Our schedules don't mesh often, but when they do, I always come away a much better person for having had the exchange.

There have been others who have impacted my life, some in lesser roles, many family members who continue to support me, some anti-heroes whose negative behaviors convinced me to move in a different direction, but I've been shaped as a person, as a professional, by some outstanding people, and as I sit here in the pre-dawn hours (when I should be sleeping), I think about those who have changed me... for good.

It's Dirty, Loud, and Dangerous... and I Love It!

INola-fq 'm visiting New Orleans for the third time in my speaking career.  It's great to keep coming back and rekindling the wonderful friendships I've made.  And they keep challenging me to come up with new material.

Another cool part about visiting this city is seeing the French Quarter.  It almost has a Jekyll-Hyde quality about it.  During the day it's quiet and charming and historically seductive (I'll let you interpret what I mean by that).  By night, it's boisterous and raucous and raunchy and obnoxious.  And really, no two excursions to the French Quarter, by day or by night, are the same.

So why is this relatively unassuming small-town Iowa boy constantly drawn to the modern equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah?  That's easy.  Mystery.  I just don't know which French Quarter is going to show up.  She keeps me guessing all the time, and there's a part of this overly-structured type A hard-driver that likes to be kept guessing.  It keeps me humble and reminds me I don't have all the answers and don't always know what to expect.  In a way, the French Quarter forces me to be off-balance when I'm in her territory.

So what about you?  Are you allowing yourself to be off-balance?  To be kept guessing?  Who are those people in your life who throw you curve balls?  Who keep you out of control?  Do you embrace them or run from them?  Granted, life is not meant to be a constant surfing contest, but the occasion experience outside your normal comfort zone is healthy.  What can you do to expand yourself into unknown territory?

Transgressories Posters: Twitter

Successories Spoof Twitter

A Crash Davis Christmas

DSC_0006 The movie, Bull Durham, started it.  The chief character, played by Kevin Costner, delivers a minute-long monologue about his beliefs with such conviction that he leaves his co-star's character absolutely speechless.

Then Starbucker introduced it to the blogosphere:  his personal belief statement.  He even shortened it for the Twitter age.

In this season, I thought it might be fun to share a Christmas belief statement, telling what I think about the holidays.  I believe:

  • there is no Iowa winter which cannot be warmed by flannel jammies and one of my mom's quilts.
  • "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" is the most perfectly constructed essay ever
  • the secret to really good hot cocoa is two shakes of fresh cinammon
  • the best gifts are still a smile, a hug, and a good deed
  • "Black Friday" is a better descriptor of shopper behavior than retailer balance sheets
  • Santa caps should be manadatory wardrobe in December for everybody
  • there is no such thing as too much whipped cream on pumpkin pie
  • a Charlie Brown Christmas has more lessons to teach than it will ever receive credit for
  • the ideal holiday playlist has to include the Blenders and Karen Carpenter
  • there are still magic and miracles... we just have to look for them
  • I still get a lump in my throat when I watch White Christmas
  • my children are the angels which make the holiday bright
  • a new year always represents new promise and hope

What about you?  What do you believe about Christmas?

Dear Mr. President-Elect

Sealpresidentialcolor(Originally posted on Iowabiz.com yesterday)

As of writing this, I do not know if I'm addressing John McCain or Barack Obama.  My message is the same, regardless of which one of you wins.

First of all, congratulations on winning one of the most epic and historic elections ever.  As one who loves the art and science of office politics, I've been riveted to the dramatic twists and turns the past 10 months have provided.

Now, however, it's time to get down to business.  And I have but one request for your performance as "Leader of the Free World":  it's time to quit acting like a politician and start acting like a project manager.  Since you're a Washington Insider, I'll explain in simple terms and try to use small words:

  1. Prioritize - As a project manager, it's impossible to do everything to make everybody happy.  Our profession is blocked in by the triple constraint.  You'd better learn this principle quickly.  You have a few things that are the top of everybody's minds:  Economy, environment, education and enforcement being among them.  Special interests and party politics will need to take a back seat.
  2. Define - once you've established your priorities, you will need to figure out what your project solution will look like.  You're going to get battered around quite a bit, but you're the leader we elected, so we'll expect you to have the diplomatic backbone to sell your solutions across party lines and also make all of the Joe-The-Plumbers and Joe-Six-Packs content.  Along with this, don't forget to create some metrics so you can prove to your nay-sayers you were successful.
  3. Plan - create a timeline for the tasks needed to make your solution.  Get the right resources in place to make them a reality.  Make a budget.  Identify and strategize your risks.  Set the expectations of your stakeholders.  Don't get distracted by all of the special interests who will want to add to your plans.  It's called "pork" and we're sick of it.  (In project terms, we call it "scope creep."  Either way, it's bad.)
  4. Lead - protect the project priorities, stay focused on the key things, execute your plans, remove obstacles for your project resources and keep us informed.  Work with us... ALL of us... Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Federal employees, State employees, Local employees and regular citizens who know how to think and solve and articulate and get things done.

Regardless of which of you wins the election, my wish, my hope and my prayers are the same, Mr. President-Elect: Act more like a project manager than a politician and figure out how to Carpe Factum.

Trick, Treat, Or Complete and Utter Annihilation

Super_maul_laaaaazer_300I'm always amused by the things that come across my inbox and/or browser on Halloween.  For example Techrepublic is running a special article on their blog about how to build lethal weapons with basic office supplies.  I suppose that would kill boredom, as well as a few annoying co-workers.  I'd be curious how it would be "sold" during performance review objectives time.

Personally, I love the "prank" aspect of this holiday.  I led my students on a discussion of office practical jokes one time (yes, it had academic relevance; we were discussing the elements of corporate culture).  The all-time best practical joke a student shared made me laugh so hard I was almost crying.  He said that a co-worker "tinkered with" the auto-correct feature in Microsoft Word on the computer of a technologically illiterate colleague.  Every time this colleague would type the word "the" Microsoft would automatically change the text to "BITE ME!"  Try sharing this problem with tech support.

Really, your only goal for office trickery is to keep it off your performance appraisal and under the radar of HR.  Otherwise, loosen up and have a little fun today.

I'd Like To Thank The Academy...

Bloggers_choice_awards_iconMy friend, Adam, likes to be right.  And for good reason.  He's a very sharp executive who knows the IT arena inside and out.  Plus he has a gregarious personality that would put almost anybody at ease.  And he's a very critical analytical thinker who can easily sum up both sides of an argument before making his decision.

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, Adam has nominated this blog in two categories for the Bloggers Choice Awards '09.  And since he likes to be right (and he generally is, from the short time I've known him), I think we should all just cut to the chase and take his side of the argument and cast your votes for my blog.  When you get to the site, just enter "carpefactum.typepad.com" in the search field, log in, and cast your votes.

Then Adam can be right.  And we'll all sleep better.

And for my friends in Chicago, vote early and often.  I accept votes from deceased bloggers as well.

Wordless Wednesday: Love this time of year

Autumn_tree

Don't Just Read... Dialogue

Conference_phoneIt's been another powerful weekend of teaching at Drake University.  One of my goals as an intructor and facilitator is to assign meaningful reading to my students.  (Textbook salespeople hate me.)  Besides, most of my students are busy professionals who don't have time to trudge through deep academic journal articles which takes three readings to absorb 10,000 words which could have been effectively communicated in 1,000.  They want real, honest, take-back-to-their-desk application.

For a class in executive leadership, we covered a lot of ground.  But the highlight of the weekend were two "virtual guest speakers" who conferenced into my class via telephone (not an easy task to address an audience blind).  But I have to say, Joshua Seldman and Kevin Eikenberry were both amazing!  They shared their knowledge and experience and beliefs from the heart, and each allowed my students to bombard him with really tough questions for 90 minutes solid.  It was an amazing dialogue.  I highly recommend their respective books, Remarkable Leadership and Executive Stamina.  My students described their books as relevant, life-changing, and impactful.  They had even kinder words for both Joshua and Kevin.  I feel very fortunate that this "whole blogging thing" has led to relationships that stretch me.

What about you?  When you read a book, do you just set it down when you're done?  Or do you ever try to reach out to the author?  It's one thing to process a page, but it's quite another to have a give-and-take conversation with the author, to ask, "What did you mean by what you wrote on page 47?"  I've been honored and humbled when my readers have reached out to me.  And I love the ability to reach out to the authors who have changed my life.  I'm even more rewarded by introducing these same authors to my students.  It can only get better.

Thanks, Kevin and Joshua!  You guys rock!!!

Looking Back On An Active Week

Fall_foliageAmazing... the transition from September to October brought with it many different events and activities.  Besides my birthday the other day, I spoke at a great conference in New Orleans this week, meeting many wonderful people, renewing some friendships, and making one really great new friend (Lisa DiTullio, whom I wrote about in my Iowabiz post).

In addition, I was interviewed for an article in the Leadership Guide Magazine.  Thanks to Linda Hatcher and her crew for an outstanding experience there.

Now it's back to preparing for some upcoming workshops and doing some editing on my next book.  But I'm definitely taking away some fond memories from this past week.

Have a great week, everybody!  Carpe Factum!

Why Don't We Cut Me In Half And Count My Rings?

Bday_cakeAs most of my blogospheric audience knows by now, October 1st is a very special date in our home.  We have, not one, but two birthdays today.  My daughter, Abby, turned four today.  My birthday had a four embedded in it somewhere.

I'd like to think of myself as a "young 42" but in looking at my students, I do feel old sometimes.  Like this past summer during the Office Politics class, one young woman was presenting on how email communication can trigger office politics situations.  She paused in the middle of her presentation (mid-sentence, actually) to ask me, "So, Professor Johnson, what was the work place like before we had email?"  I didn't miss a beat and responded, "Well, we would unscroll our papyrus, and if that system was down, we would access the back-ups we'd chiseled in stone."  (The Law/MBA student sitting beside me almost passed out from laughing so hard.)  So, OK, I'm maybe not as young as I'd like to believe I am.

Still, as I look at the opportunities I've enjoyed over the past two decades of post-college life, I wouldn't trade off a single experience.  Life really is what you make it... whether you're 24 or 42.

So, every once in a while, get out there and say something stupid, do something silly, think something irreverent, and be something different.  When you get to be really old (like triple digits), you'll be glad you did.

Purpose-Driven Fun

200809_police_fire_flag_football_97The other night, I had the honor of photographing the annual Red Vs. Blue Bowl.  Simply put, the Urbandale Police Department challenges the Urbandale Fire Department every year at a rousing game of flag football.  This year, they raised over $13,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  (And for those who care about these fiercely fought contests, Police beat Fire 18-14 to win back the trophy after last year's defeat.)

While everybody had a great time, and a very deserving charity received a boost to their budget, I found myself thinking about the concepts of "doing good" and "having fun" while photographing the game.  At our jobs, do we think about serving the customers AND making it a blast for ourselves (and for them)?  Helping the community is an obligation we all have as citizens.  Having fun is a choice each of us must make internally.  I always think about the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market, who capitalized on the idea of infusing fun into otherwise hard and somewhat disgusting work.

I've found one fundamental truth as I've developed my speaking career:  people love to laugh.  Allow them to laugh at themselves, at their jobs, at their bosses and coworkers, at (with) their customers, at the absurdity of the world around them.  If you can harness the laughter into making someone else's life a little better and their load a little lighter, then you have achieved one of the biggest win-win accomplishments ever.

What Do You Have Against Stories, Anyway?

Story_timeIt's been an interesting experience as I start preparing for the release of my next book.  As with the past two, it's a business narrative (or business fable, if you will), a short novel with a business principle.  I've been actively seeking those to write advance praise for it from a variety of sources.  What amazes me is the number of people who are not only averse to the genre, they absolutely hate it.  (I'm glad they are in the minority... I'd hate to think of a world where this mindset prevails.)

Now to be fair to these people, I've endured the Who Moved My Cheese? crap, which proves people like Spencer Johnson need only sneeze on paper and it becomes a best seller.  Ironically, my reason for choosing to write business fables in the first place was after reading Ken Blanchard's Raving Fans, and being so disgusted by the intelligence-insulting bunk that these so-called experts were passing off as business literature that I challenged myself to try to beat them.  So, granted, the genre has received its fair share of black eyes in the marketplace.

But should you judge a book by its genre?  Those who have actually read both of my prior books have provided excellent feedback fairly consistently across the board.  My own writing skill aside, don't stories serve a critical role in today's business landscape?  After all, Jesus' parables are still quoted regularly both in and out of churches (ask anybody what the term "prodigal son" means and they'll tell you), and Aesop's Fables are timeless pieces.  Homer, Plato, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen... hmmm, I guess they didn't get the memo that stories were ineffective and condescending.  Telling a story can get a point across like no droning ever could.  And realistically, whether we know it or not, we're all story-tellers.  Every time we put together a PowerPoint presentation, we're telling a story.  So why not learn to do it well?  Would you rather hear your manager talk about quarterly figures or tell you a story?

Case in point:  My next book is about systems thinking.  See?!?!  Your eyes are glazing over already just at the mention of such a topic.  But... if somebody told you that the author spent a year with a SWAT team to tell a story about how to drive more effective business results using police tactics, wouldn't you be a little more intrigued and curious?

Could it be we're afraid of stories BECAUSE of what they might tell us?  Could it be stories are so truthfully permeating that we can't help but take something away from it which might CHANGE us?  A quote on the Random Juxtapositions blog said it best:

Story telling is one of those great art forms, which not only entertains but also has the ability to render different perceptions of this world to us. But when it comes to oneself, most of us don't have a very fertile imagination. Reality is pretty mundane isn't it? Why is finding a story for your life elusive?

Who knows?  You might be the next best selling business fable author.

Of The People, For The People, By The People

Originally Published In Iowabiz.com on July 2007

GettysburgPresident Abraham Lincoln had to be emotional about this speech.  This was more than a vested interest; he was leader and lives were lost under his leadership.  And here he was... standing on the very ground where a fierce battle had been fought.

I've always been fascinated by the Gettysburg Address.  Lincoln was reminding his audience that a mere "four score and seven years ago" they were fighting to become a nation.  Now they were a nation divided.  It was a nation that, in under a century, had lost sight of the goals and ambitions they had fought so hard to gain.  The sense of a unified vision was diminished.

In our projects, we don't lose lives.  We do, occasionally, lose livelihood.  We don't communicate our goals.  We lose sight of our vision.  We fight among ourselves.  We "turn over resources."  Projects are more than just line items on budgets.  Projects are more than the creation of a cool software driven plan.  Projects are more than a weekly meeting followed by a status report that nobody reads.  Projects are about people.  The dreams are the product OF THE PEOPLE.  The tasks for completed BY THE PEOPLE.  The benefits of the project are FOR THE PEOPLE.

When we lose sight of that fundamental truth... well... then the project probably isn't worth fighting for, is it?

On this Independence Day, have a safe and fun celebration with your friends and family... and remember those who have sacrificed for our freedom.

Happy 4th of July and Carpe Factum!

Wordless Wednesday: Floods of 2008

Fleur_flooded

Whew!

Runner_windedIt's finals week at Drake, which means one thing:  grades are due.  I just submitted the last set of grades today online, and handed back materials to the undergrads who bothered to come to class tonight.

Thursday morning bright and early, I leave for New England.  I'm going to be doing a little executive retreat facilitation, balanced with a whole lot of resting and relaxing and taking in all that I can in Massachusetts, New Hampshire (and possibly Maine and Vermont).

I hope you all don't mind, but I'm not going to think about blogging the next few days.  I've set up a few of my former Iowabiz posts to pop up each day for your reading pleasure.  For those of you who have followed Iowabiz faithfully, I apologize for the repeats.  For some of you, this will be new material, so enjoy it.

Next week, I will be speaking at the final Iowa Biz breakfast on Wednesday, May 21 at 7:30 at the NCMIC/PSIS building in Clive.  I'll be sharing some insights about project communication.  Admission is free, so please feel free to come and attend.

Have a great weekend everybody!  I know I will!

Frankenstein's Cubicle

Cubicle_dwellersDo you know who Bob Probst was?

Any guesses?

You may not like the answer.  Bob Probst is a "reluctant serial killer" of sorts.  Everyday, his creation sucks the souls and life out of countless professionals.  He was the Director of Research for Herman Miller, and (according to a research paper from my students) the man credited with creating the cubicle.  One of the ironies was that he originally called the prototype of the cubicle the "action office."  (OK, you in the 15th cubicle from the window, quit laughing so loudly.  You're disturbing the other 3,957 cubicle-dwellers on your floor.)  The other irony is that Bob spent the rest of his life regretting his creation, stating that he had never wanted the work environment to become hostile because of his creation.

As somebody who strives to seize the accomplishment, I just found this story interesting and had to share it.  For those of you sitting in cubicles right now, please try to find it in your hearts to forgive Bob.  He didn't mean it.  Really.

Y'all Come Back Now, Ya Hear?

Beverly_hillbilliesTwo blogs down, two to go.  OK, nothing like that, but two of the four blogs for whom I write either have ended or will end soon.  A while back, I mentioned I was going to be writing for processgeek.com for Troy Worman.  I exchanged emails with Troy last week about that website's demise.  It appears as though Iowabiz.com is coming to an end as well (change in strategy of our corporate sponsor).  Again, not surprising.  For Iowabiz, I'm actually going to be "recycling" many of my posts over here.  The readership on Iowabiz never really attained the same level as my readership, and (quite frankly) I wrote some pretty good stuff on project management over there, and I'd like to ensure it lives on somewhere.

In the process of "harvesting" my posts and migrating them from Iowabiz over to draft form in Carpe Factum for future publication, I started thinking about some of my own older work here on this site.  Posts I wrote months ago that were also "pretty good stuff" but never seemed to get much traction.  So I'm proposing a blogospheric recycling meme (besides, it's been a while since somebody did one of those annoying meme posts).

The question is this:  If I could select my top 5-10 posts which received little to no attention, what would they be?  So here are my top 10 never-been-commented-on-but-should-have blog posts (in no particular order):

  1. Naming Conventions Gone Awry
  2. Who Wrote That Autobiography Anyway?
  3. Some Assembly Required... Or Else!
  4. Is Your Rule Breaker Like Herbie or Christine?
  5. What's Your Happy Fun Ball?
  6. Multi-taskers: Take a Licking
  7. Sure, It's a Pile
  8. Friends, Romans, Countrymen:  Lend Me Your Rears
  9. Racing Against Phantoms
  10. Project Hokey-Pokey

So, I now tag Tammy Lenski, Chris Brown, Liz Strauss, Scot Herrick, and Phil Gerbyshak... what are your most under-appreciated posts?

Carpe Factum Can Dig It

Badge_041 I just received a very welcomed and wonderful email from GL Hoffman.  He has awarded Carpe Factum with the Dig Your Job award, for writing about positive issues that help other people dig their jobs.  This is a guy who understands workplace issues very well, since he deals with them on a regular basis.  And he's seen his share of negative issues, which is why he is spending his time rewarding the positive.

So thanks for the award and the badge, GL.  I promise to continue to help people seize the accomplishment!

Go Dogs Go

DrakebulldogsbasketballGo Dogs Go!  Handle the ball
Go Dogs Go, you will not fall
Go by post, by zone, from line
Go Dogs Go, you're doing fine

Go Dogs Go, 3-pointers reign
Emmenecker, Houston in the lane
The Valley will not be the same
When they taste Drake Bulldog fame

Go Dogs Go, Drake Bulldog rocks
Driven by Korver and Cox
Go Dogs Go, make Keno proud
Go Dogs Go, Des Moines cheers LOUD

Go Dogs Go, you're doing great
Final Four or Elite Eight
N-C-A-A, the "big dance"
Go Dogs Go, NOW is your chance!

Congratulations to the Drake Men's Basketball team on a stellar season, winning both the regular conference and the Missouri Valley Tournament.  Go Bulldogs!!

(Apologies to PD Eastman)

Consulting Anthropology

Noentry"No prophet is accepted in his own village." -Jesus (Luke 4:24)

I had an interesting discussion today with a friend of mine who is a whiz at software sales.  We were talking about our "home court" of Des Moines, Iowa.  When I first became an independent consultant, I marketed myself quite heavily here in the Des Moines area.  To no avail.  The market is saturated with cubicle-dwellers who call themselves consultants.  Alas, most of what is termed a local consultant around here is merely resource extender, a sort of "consulting Hamburger Helper" meant to make their existing resource budget go a little farther.  For true consulting, local companies bring in people from other cities.  (NOTE:  this assessment comes from many of the other consultants themselves; I just happen to concur with their observation.  So, no, I'm not labeling my colleagues.)

We all know the definition of a consultant:  anybody carrying a briefcase who comes from more than 100 miles away.  My one active consulting client right now is out of state, and I like it that way.  A lot of other service providers (software, marketing, financial services) have noticed the same thing.  When local companies did want my services, they wanted them for (ahem) free... and well, I'm not that cheap.  When one of the major "big box" employers in town was putting on a professional development day for their internal project managers, not only did they want me to come and speak (without a fee), but also they asked if I'd give away books.  I politely declined.  There was no follow-on business for a "deal" like that.  Plus, I'd consulted for this company enough to know what their bottom line looked like... they could have afforded my normal speaker fees.

But a really weird phenomenon has been happening since I've been acting like I'm no longer interested in pursuing consulting (or speaking or training) business here in Des Moines.  Local companies have suddenly been contacting me.  Inviting me to train.  To speak.  To consult.  Am I now considered the outsider?  Or is this relationship something like college dating?  Since I'm acting disinterested, have I suddenly becomeo irresistably desirable (at least as a consultant)?

My lunch comrade and I discussed others who had experienced similar situations.  We sat over our dessert and coffee, dissecting the local market like two anthropologists stumbling upon the ruins of an odd little tribe in the wilderness.

What do you think causes these kinds of relationships?  Is it just weird office politics gone awry?  Is it some kind of twisted mental game that companies play on consultants and service providers?  What do you think?

Cabin Fever... Ugh

This post is for all of my readers in the northern half of the US, where winter seems to have a death-grip on everybody's spirits with no sign of letting up.

(Those of you in the warmer climates can go and sunburn something.)

OK, I think we can all agree that cabin fever is setting in.  We're all trying to be nice, but even those with whom I've chatted have agreed that spirits are running low and tempers are running high.  Even my police buddies have mentioned that domestic calls have been on the increase recently.

Well, I've decided to focus on what I can do about my mindset rather than what is outside my control (although my proposal to The Almighty to see if He wants to outsource weather to a project manager has not received a denial yet, so there may be hope).  En lieu of being given the keys to the climate, I jumped on i-Tunes and downloaded some songs that make me think warm thoughts.

Here's my "heat my spirits" playlist:

Caliente

What would you add?

A New Semester

DrakelogoTonight begins a new semester at Drake.  While there are a few familiar faces from other classes I've taught, there will be many new students.  For all of the students, most of what I'm covering will be new content, even though I've trekked through it many times before.  So, before class starts, I'll be reminding myself to rekindle the same wide-eyed wonder I experienced the first time I encountered this material.  If I'm bored, my students most definitely will be bored.  Then nobody would have fun.  We can't have that, can we?

Besides the Leadership Class I taught last semester, I'm also teaching a class on Creativity for Business (one of my favorites), and an undergrad class on organizational behavior.  It sounds like an interesting mix.

Speaking of Drake, how about that Men's Basketball Team?  They're going sixteen wins straight, and just cracked the AP Top 25 Basketball Poll for the first time in over 30 years!

Today is a great day to be a Bulldog.  WOOF!

Just Add One

IZtimes_square_ballt's pretty simple.  Instead of writing 2007, you write 2008.  That's all there really is to transitioning to a new year, right?

Well, I can't think about moving forward with the new year until I look back and thank all the people whose comments helped make 2007 a "Carpe Factum" year to remember:

Liz Strauss, Bob Donaldson, Phil Gerbyshak, Robert Hruzek, Matt Owen, Brett Rogers, Delaney Kirk, Sandy Renshaw, Roger von Oech, Mike Wagner, Valeria Maltoni, Brett Trout, Terry Starbucker, Scot Herrick, Jake Parillo, Andy Brudtkuhl, Jack Rogers, Bob McIlree, Shaula Evans, Tim Putnam, Josh Nankivel, Tom Haskins, Dean Fuhrman, Sherry Borzo, Blaine Collins, Jane Greer, Beth Peck, Penelope Trunk, Troy Worman, Adam Steen, Lucia Mancuso, Ann Michael, Mike Sansone, Peter Stinson, Randy Ross, Drew McLellan, Dana Dennis, Joanna Young, Hunter Arnold, Lisa Gates, Jodee Bock, Claire Celsi, Mitch Matthews, Bob Ravenscroft, Dean Stantin, Rush Nigut, Rick Cockrum, Connie Reece, Tom Clifford, Wendy Piersall, Tony D. Clark, Chris Brown, Chris Cree, Kammie Kobyleski, SueAnn Denny, Shelley Davison, Dawud Miracle, G.L. Hoffman, Franke James, Sheila Scarborough, Janet Green, EM Sky, Dan Schwabel, Charlene Polansky, Don Hensley, April Groves, Derrick Sorles, Erik Potter, Crysta Wille, Kevin Brady, Art Dinkin, Ron McDaniel, Penina Finger, Lewis Green, Barbra Sundquist, Bob Glaza, Gavin Heaton, Rebecca Thorman, Linda Zdanowicz, Erika Andersen, Steven Davies, Michael Krigsman, Eric Peterson, Jeff Hutton, Meikah Delid, Rosa Say, Angela Maiers, Jen Chan, Mark Eversmall, Raven Young, Steve Farber, Bob Loch, Marti Lawrence, David Graves, Mik Watson, Kare Anderson, Jeff Wignall, Chris Bailey, Mike Rohde, Paul Williams, Erin Blaskie, Kevin Eikenberry, Jerimi Kopsa, Michael Adhi, Jeanne Dinnini, C.B. Whittemore, Anita Danger, Laurence-Helene, Pawel Brodzinski, Priscilla Palmer, Toby Bloomberg, Mike Dewitt, Anna Farmery, and Ricardo Bueno.

I can't thank each of you enough for stopping by, reading, and engaging me in conversation.  You've encouraged me, challenged me, and made me grow as a person and as a blogger.

(If I forgot anybody, my sincerest apologies.)

To all of the above, and to those who just stop by to read but have not engaged me in conversation yet, I thank you and wish you all the best in 2008.  My goal for this year is to "just add one":  there's always one more reader, one more comment, one more trackback, one more link that is just at the tipping point of blogging excellence.  My plan, therefore, is to "just add one."

Carpe Factum in 2008!

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One Bright Star

Kings_starHappy Holidays from your friends at Carpe Factum, Inc.

May your holiday accomplishments include friends, family, peace, tranquility, love, laughter, and hugs.

May your new year be guided by a star, leading you to your significant accomplishments yet to come.

Merry Christmas!

O! Blog

I know I just did a "blog list" post, but I wanted to thank Troy Worman for recognizing Carpe Factum as an Outstanding Blog (O! Blog).  He's compiled a nice sized list of amazing and relevant reading.  There are some repeats from my post the other day, but there are many, many new ones also.

We're getting an ice storm here in Central Iowa, so my local readers will have more than enough reading, as long as the power holds up.

Troy - big Carpe Factum Thank You coming at ya, buddy!

O Blog White O Blog Black

  1. 100 Bloggers
  2. 37 Days
  3. 3i
  4. 43 Folders
  5. A Clear Eye
  6. A Daily Dose of Architecture
  7. The Agonist
  8. All Things Workplace
  9. All This Chittah Chattah
  10. Angela Maiers
  11. Antonella Pavese
  12. Arizona High Tech
  13. A Writer’s Words, An Editor’s Eye
  14. Badger Blogger
  15. Bailey WorkPlay
  16. Being Peter Kim
  17. Brett Trout
  18. Best of Mother Earth
  19. Beyond Madison Avenue
  20. Biz and Buzz
  21. Bizhack
  22. BizSolutions Plus
  23. Blog Business World
  24. Bloggers Showroom
  25. Blogging for Business
  26. Blogher
  27. Blog Till You Drop!
  28. Bob Sutton
  29. Brain Based Business
  30. Brains on Fire
  31. Brand Autopsy
  32. The Brand Builder Blog
  33. Branding and Marketing
  34. Branding Strategy
  35. Brand is Language
  36. BrandSizzle
  37. Brandsoul
  38. Bren Blog
  39. Business Evolutionist
  40. Business Management Life
  41. Business Pundit
  42. Business Services, Etc.
  43. Busy Mom
  44. Buzz Canuck
  45. Buzz Customer
  46. Buzzoodle
  47. Career Intensity
  48. Carpe Factum
  49. Casual Fridays
  50. Change Your Thoughts
  51. Chaos Scenario
  52. Cheezhead
  53. Chief Happiness Officer
  54. Chris Brogan
  55. Christine Kane
  56. Church of the Customer
  57. Circaspecting
  58. CK’s Blog
  59. Come Gather Round
  60. Community Guy
  61. Confident Writing
  62. Conversation Agent
  63. Converstations
  64. Cooking for Engineers
  65. Cool Hunting
  66. Core77
  67. Corporate Presenter
  68. Crayon Writer
  69. Creating a Better Life
  70. Creating Passionate Users
  71. Creative Think
  72. CRM Mastery
  73. Crossroads Dispatches
  74. Cube Rules
  75. Culture Kitchen
  76. Customers Are Always
  77. Customer Service Experience
  78. Customer Service Reader
  79. Customers Rock!
  80. Custserv
  81. Craig Harper
  82. Daily Fix
  83. Dawud Miracle
  84. Dave Olson
  85. David Airey
  86. David Maister
  87. David S Finch
  88. Design Your Writing Life
  89. Digital Common Sense
  90. Director Tom
  91. Diva Marketing
  92. Do You Q
  93. Duct Tape Marketing
  94. Empowerment 4 Life
  95. The Engaging Brand
  96. Essential Keystrokes
  97. Every Dot Connects
  98. Experience Architect
  99. Experience Curve
  100. Experience Matters
  101. Extreme Leadership
  102. Eyes on Living
  103. Feld Thoughts
  104. Flooring the Customer
  105. Fouroboros
  106. FutureLab
  107. Genuine Curiosity
  108. Glass Half Full
  109. The Good Life
  110. Great Circle
  111. Greg Verdino’s Marketing Blog
  112. Hee-Haw Marketing
  113. Hello, My Name is BLOG
  114. Holly’s Corner
  115. Homeless Family
  116. The Idea Dude
  117. I’d Rather be Blogging
  118. Influential Marketing
  119. Innovating to Win
  120. Inspiring & Empowering Lives
  121. Instigator Blog
  122. Jaffe Juice
  123. Jibber Jobber
  124. Joyful Jubilant Learning
  125. Joy of Six
  126. Kent Blumberg
  127. Kevin Eikenberry
  128. Learned on Women
  129. Life Beyond Code
  130. Lip-sticking
  131. Listics
  132. The Lives and Times
  133. Live Your Best Life
  134. Live Your Inspiration
  135. Living Light Bulbs
  136. Logical Emotions
  137. Logic + Emotion
  138. Make It Great!
  139. Making Life Work for You
  140. Management Craft
  141. Managing with Aloha
  142. The M.A.P. Maker
  143. The Marketing Excellence Blog
  144. Marketing Headhunter
  145. Marketing Hipster
  146. The Marketing Minute
  147. Marketing Nirvana
  148. Marketing Roadmaps
  149. Marketing Through the Clutter
  150. Mary Schmidt
  151. Masey
  152. The Media Age
  153. Micropersuasion
  154. Middle Zone Musings
  155. Miss604
  156. Moment on Money
  157. Monk at Work
  158. Monkey Bites
  159. Movie Marketing Madness
  160. Motivation on the Run
  161. My 2 Cents
  162. My Beautiful Chaos
  163. Naked Conversations
  164. Neat & Simple Living
  165. New Age 2020
  166. New Charm School
  167. Next Up
  168. No Man’s Blog
  169. The [Non] Billable Hour
  170. Note to CMO
  171. Office Politics
  172. Optimist Lab
  173. The Origin of Brands
  174. Own Your Brand
  175. Pardon My French
  176. Passion Meets Purpose
  177. Pause
  178. Peerless Professionals
  179. Perfectly Petersen
  180. Personal Branding
  181. The Podcast Network
  182. The Power of Choice
  183. Practical Leadership
  184. Presentation Zen
  185. Priscilla Palmer
  186. Productivity Goal
  187. Pro Hip-Hop
  188. Prosperity for You
  189. Purple Wren
  190. QAQnA
  191. Qlog
  192. Reveries
  193. Rex Blog
  194. Ririan Project
  195. Rohdesign
  196. Rothacker Reviews
  197. Scott H Young
  198. Search Engine Guide
  199. Servant of Chaos
  200. Service Untitled
  201. Seth’s Blog
  202. Shards of Consciousness
  203. Shotgun Marketing
  204. Simplenomics
  205. Simplicity
  206. Slacker Manager
  207. Slow Leadership
  208. Socially Adept
  209. Social Media Marketing Blog
  210. Spare Change
  211. Spirit in Gear
  212. Spooky Action
  213. Steve’s 2 Cents
  214. Strategic Design
  215. Strength-based Leadership
  216. StickyFigure
  217. Studentlinc
  218. Success Begins Today
  219. Success Creeations
  220. Success From the Nest
  221. Successful Blog
  222. Success Jolt
  223. Talk to Strangers
  224. Tammy Lenski
  225. Tell Ten Friends
  226. That Girl from Marketing
  227. Think Positive!
  228. This Girl’s Weblog
  229. Thoughts & Philosophies
  230. Tom Peters
  231. Trust Matters
  232. Verve Coaching
  233. Viral Garden
  234. Waiter Bell
  235. Wealth Building Guy
  236. What’s Next
  237. Writers Notes
  238. You Already Know this Stuff
  239. Zen Chill

Blog Fog

MegaphoneI love the blogosphere.  Anybody who's been reading these posts for a while should understand the passion with which I've approached these relationships, the writing, and the reading.  What's even more enjoyable is watching the relationships evolve and grow.  For example, after over a year of commenting back and forth and sending occasional emails, Bob McIlree and I finally were able to talk on the phone over the Thanksgiving weekend.  We have an alarming amount in common.  A funny thing happened in the middle of our conversation, though.  Bob tells this story really well, so I'll let you read it on his blog.  Suffice it to say, we were both laughing about unwittingly quoting another blogger back to himself.

In addition to my conversation with Bob, my buddy Phil posted 125 amazing blogs that help him make it great.  I bet they could help you make it great as well.  I've added some commentary behind some of the bloggers I've been able to get to know personally... but I'm looking forward to checking out all of them:

Yeah, I'm Thankful

It's the week of Thanksgiving, and this has been an amazing year.  There have been so many blessings and opportunities and trips and new relationships that I could not even list all of the wonderful things that have happened this year (besides, you've read most of them on my blog).  Sure, there have been bumps and detours, but they've wound up more adventure than annoyance.

20071101_mike_delaney_timWhat I'm so excited about this year are all of the friendships and relationships that have developed and fortified.  This month alone, I've been reminded of how lucky I am to know so many great people... but not just know them... to call them friends.  Some people say that social media will replace traditional relationships... to which I say, "PHOOEY!"

I'm thankful that I can meet Mike and Delaney for coffee whenever Delaney makes it back to town from Florida, and that our conversations seem to take off very naturally... and if left to our own devices, we could talk for hours.

I'm thankful that Drew and Janet will drop everything and come to my Drake class at the last second and share all of the joys of social media, and how the Age of Conversation affects all of our lives.

I'm thankful that Steve - while traveling to the opposite corner of the country and facing a tight publisher deadline - will conference call with the same Drake class and share his thoughts about changing the world.

HockeydudesI'm thankful that a guy like Adam would invite Brett, Art, Tom, Doug and me to a hockey game.  It was blogospheric male bonding at its best (even though the Iowa Stars got hammered 6-0).

I'm thankful that I have a great wife and two fun and beautiful daughters who put up with all of my ideas and dreams and let me follow my journey, even when I leave them scratching their heads.

I'm thankful that Office-Politics.com and Iowabiz.com let me come and play in their sandbox from time to time.

I'm thankful and Liz and Terry and Phil and Mike would create an opportunity for dozens of bloggers to forge new relationships and build on existing ones.

I'm thankful for all of you readers, who enjoy reading my ramblings and rantings day after day, month after month.

And you?  What/Whom are you thankful for?

Have a great Thanksgiving week!  Safe travels!

Nature Sure Can Carpe Factum

Dsc_0073

A Question Of Ethics and Morality?

HouseflyPowerofniceSo, last night I'm busily preparing for my Drake leadership class this week... finalizing all of the exercises and slides and content.  And I was reviewing one more time the book we'll be discussing this week:  The Power of Nice by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval.

Then it occurred.

Minutes of very loud buzzing from a fly... one single solitary winged insect intent on barnstorming my best efforts to stay focused and productive.  I swatted aimlessly at him with my hand on occasion, hoping to shoo him away.  He persisted.  Continually getting louder.

Finally... frustration... and then CRACK... dead aim.  Spot on.  Fly dead.  Killed by The Power of Nice.  My apologies to Robin and Linda; I'm sure that wasn't the intent of their book.

Somehow the phrase "kill 'em with kindness" most likely does not apply in this case.

Does this make me a bad person?

Top Ten Revised

It's about time.

It had been over 10 months since I had updated my top ten favorite posts.  It was almost as if I had been saying that none of my 2007 writing on this blog was worthwhile.  So, after some gentle persuasion from a few key stakeholders, the Favorite Posts list was revamped.

Keep in mind, these are my favorite posts.  If there is one that I ignored, let me know.  This list is dynamic.  It's always helpful to have a few "tried and  true" favorites in my back pocket to share with others.  However, having this list does not prevent me from creating and trying new things in my writing.  Who knows?  I may just create something for the next top 10 list.  Happy reading.

  1. Why Carpe Factum?  (This will probably always be the number 1 post... for obvious reasons)
  2. Case File 060805 (This one generated more traffic than any other single post)
  3. God's Little Chew Toy
  4. Satan's Chihuahua
  5. Accomplishment Apnea
  6. Conversion on the Road to "Damn!  Ask us!" (New addition to the top 10... sucker for word play)
  7. Milestones in Project Life
  8. My Blogging Metaphore (New... really encapsulates my perceptions about the blogosphere)
  9. Authorities Baffled by Conversation Serial Killer (New... I had fun with the photography on this)
  10. Things That Make You Go Boom (New... the experience to write this was totally worth it)

Of course, there are others that I like, and I'm sure there are some that you like as well (both of mine and of yours).  Enjoy the list... and I look forward to continuing to provide new material.

Most Post: How-To Books

How_to_books It's been a while since I've done my last MOST post.  I decided when I started these that I would only post one that I thought would be interesting and engaging.

Recently, I've been thinking about "How To" books... no, not writing one myself, mind you.  But I am curious about your opinions,,,

So answer one of the following questions:

  1. What has been the most helpful "how to" book you've ever read (include amazon or other web link)?
  2. What is your most coveted "how to" book that has yet to be written?

This could be fun... have a great weekend.

No Old Curmudgeons Here, Thank You

Tim_child"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me."  -Apostle Paul

Seems hard to believe another year has come and gone.  My daughter and I turn another year old today.  She turns three; I turn something-greater-than-three.  I really couldn't ask for a better birthday buddy, since we have similar personality traits and enjoy many of the same things in life.  And it was great to have almost our entire family around last night to help us celebrate our joint birthdays.  Although...

How do I put this without sounding ungrateful?  Something is bothering me.  She received a lot of cool toys.  I got an iPod.  She scored a make-believe doctor's kit (and insisted that we call her "Dr. Abby" the rest of the night).  I made off with some excellent gift certificates to Barnes & Noble and such.  Don't get me wrong... I think our family was very generous to both of us, and we're both very happy with what we received.  I think my question is... when did I grow up... and why did I let it happen?

The more I think about it, the more I believe that childhood should be a lifelong state.  There should always be wonder, imagination, and curiosity around every turn... even if we think we know the answers.  We should continue to get skinned knees and wear them like trophies.  We should check out that little forest at the end of the block because... well... you just never know....  We should revel in reading a swashbuckling adventure book under a tree on a lazy afternoon because every boy should know the finer art of swashbuckling.  We should ask why... again... and again... and again.  Maybe the answers the "adults" are giving are not complete enough for us to put our minds around.  We should eat ice cream at our own pace, and if it drips... that's what the dog is for.

So my birthday wish is this (for me and for you):  don't fall into the numbers trap.  Whether you're three or ... um... forty-one... laugh more, question more, trick and tease, romp and run, play dress-up for no reason other than to let your imagination soar, hug more, sing, get grass stains on your new pants, and find a swing set just begging for attention.  We'll leave the growing up for the adults.  We have better things to occupy our time.

What's On Their Minds?

CloudsMy classes at Drake have a high percentage of students who have been in the workplace less than 10 years.  Last night, I asked them what survival skills they wished they possessed now and/or what they wished they had known how to do better when they started their careers.  Here is the list in no particular order:

  • Communication (creating and delivering)
  • Being approachable/Playing well with others/Diplomacy/Compromise
  • Better decision-making skills
  • Resourcefulness/creativity
  • Practicing tough love/accountability
  • Prioritizing/time management
  • Having better negotiation skills
  • Being more resilient and adaptable to change
  • Stress management
  • Staying abreast of technology
  • Effective delegation
  • Problem solving and contingency planning
  • Giving and receiving constructive criticism
  • Gaining respect/Perception management
  • Critical analysis and learning

We talk a lot about the Y Generation that's coming into the workplace.  For various reasons, HR professionals say they are challenging to work with.  But it sounds like they have some of the same things on their minds as professionals of other ages.  Instead of criticizing the newest members to the workforce, how can you help them succeed at some of their big concerns?

This Project Is a Bear... um, Lion... Er, Giraffe

Blank_zooAs you may recall from last fall, my Drake Project Management MBA class usually gets more than they bargain for when they sign up.  To make the concepts real (rather than just dwelling on academic theory), I team my students up with a local not-for-profit organization, and they get to develop a business case and project plan for projects of the organization's choosing.  This year's not-for-profit?  The Blank Park Zoo.

We met with a representative from the Zoo's management team yesterday, and the positive challenge has been set.  I have an AWESOME group of students this semester (including two brave souls who have me as instructor for both of their classes).  It's going to be a blast!

No Way, Dude!

SkateboardexecutiveIt seemed like an ordinary letter.  A guy was having workplace issues and wrote to Office-Politics.com for assistance and resolution.  He had worked for a creative team, who now told him that his services were no longer needed because he was over 40 and they were seeking the 20-something skateboarder type.  Outside of the obvious HR violations, I provided him with some suggestions, and wished him well.

It seems, though, that it is not the end of the story.  Then Executive Skateboarder, Mark Conahan (pictured above, photo by Rich Burton) commented on it.  Then the folks at Silver Fish Longboarding picked up the story.  Now it would appear, I'm getting a small following of skateboarder dudes zooming in on my office politics advice.

Tim_skateboard Of course, it is true that I've been working on my own skateboarding skills.  In my leadership class tonight, we were discussing Steve Farber's book, The Radical Leap.  I wanted to drive home the point of "posers" (those who look nice in a suit but couldn't lead their way out of a paper bag), so using the skater/surfer culture and the idea of posers in this context seemed to work.  Of course, when dealing with MBA students, one needs to provide tangible examples to drive it home... like a professor who is a klutz on a skateboard (see second picture, taken by one of my students).  I survived class uninjured.  My students, however, will probably be scarred for life.

Righteous, Dude!

Miscellaneous Monday

It's Labor Day... the "unofficial" end of summer... sigh.  Now we all have to brace ourselves for cubicle hybernation until next summer.  Are you feeling ready for it?

According to Bob McIlree and Phil Gerbyshak, GUST - The "Tale" Wind of Office Politics should have been on your summer reading list.  Considering it takes less than two hours to read and there are over two weeks left of summer, you can still accomplish this goal.  Troy Worman even referred to it as a "political thriller."  Ann Michael is reading it at the moment.  Thanks to all four of you for the positive reviews.  The bottom line is that that office politics will start heating up again now that vacations are over and everyone is back in the office full-time, pushing toward their year-end goals.  Are you ready to deal with it?

Also, I will be speaking at three different venues during the month of September.  If you are "in the neighborhood" I'd love to be able to meet you in person.  The three locations include:

I'm excited to be speaking at each of these events and hope to see some of you there.

If you can't make a speaking event but want to learn more about office politics, project management, or creativity, there are still some openings left in the October and November Carpe Factum workshops.  In a day (or a day-and-half), you can obtain some much needed and very applicable take-back-to-your desk skills.

Enjoy what's left of the last extended weekend before Thanksgiving, and get ready to Carpe Factum come tomorrow!

Accomplishing Relaxation

Beach

Have a great Labor Day Weekend... Carpe Factum Style!

I Think; Therefore, I Blog

Thinkingblogger April Groves, the Southern Belle of Real Estate (and one darn smart and witty lady and a true renaissance thinker if there ever was one), has bestowed upon me the honor of the The Thinking Blogger award.  In her words,

Timothy Johnson makes my brain hurt (those who know me know that I mean that as a great compliment.)  He strips away the rhetorical mumbo jumbo of management and is applicable as a result - not to mention I learn a new word almost every time I visit.

Thanks, April.  Most of the time when I'm giving people a headache, it is generally not a compliment, so this is very high praise.  One of the great things about this award is that I am allowed to award it to five other blogs that really make me think.  (I like peer-based award systems.)  I've not had time to see if these blogs have already received this award, but here are the bloggers whose writing excites my gray matter every time I log in.  Each of these bloggers is brilliant in his/her subject matter, and I'm purposely withholding specific information about them to appeal to your own curious nature.  See if you dare to have your mind expanded.

These are truly deserving people whose thoughts and whose blogospheric writings converge in the most delightful ways imaginable!!!

(And, like April, I had a hard time narrowing it to just five.  Everyone on my blog roll really triggers my thinking, challenges my thoughts, and inspires my actions.)

Thanks, April, for your kind words.  Thanks Tom, Patti, Hunter, Franke, and the Iowabiz writers for making me a better person just by being you.

The Inner View of Interviews

Back_stabA friend of mine was interviewing for a position at a well-known national company.  He thought the position was perfect for him, and he was excited about the possibilities.  He made it through his first interviews... and waited... and was finally called back for second interviews... and waited... and eventually was called back for a third round of interviews... and waited... and waited.

I asked him how much he valued decisiveness and decision-making ability within an employer, and he confirmed that it was very important to him.  I asked him why he was tolerating indecisiveness and waffling during the interviewing process.  After all, this was beyond the normal HR screening.  "If they are this slow in deciding to hire you, how fast do you think they will be in making critical project decisions?"

While he thought about that, a smaller organization who was coveting his skills offered him a job.  It was less pay than the "big box employer" but he's a lot happier than he would have been.  Statistics indicate a lot of people are considering job searches or are actively engaged in a job search.  Candidates:  pay attention to how you are treated during the recruiting process... it's probably a good indicator of how you will be treated as an employee.

I remember an interview I had when I was finishing my undergrad career.  It was with one of the elite high-end consulting firms out of Chicago, and the recruiter was caustic and rude.  Midway through the interview, my 22-year-old mind realized quickly that no job was worth this kind of abuse, so I decided to "throw the interview" by mirroring her bad behavior.  I figured that chapter was closed at the end of the disastrous exchange, and then I received a call from their home office recruiter the next week.  He was excited to bring me in for the next round of interviews, and he told me I received very high marks from my initial interview, and they KNEW I would be perfect for their culture.  Hmmmmmm.  I politely declined, and thanked him for the "positive feedback."

What are your experiences in the job interviewing arena?  How have you observed this relationship between interviewing and internal culture?

Meme And My Shadow

ShadowFor those who don't know what a "meme" is, it's sort of like playing a game of tag with bloggers.  Somebody comes up with an idea or a question and then tags a few bloggers, generally 3-7, to answer the question and tag some of their friends.  I've responded to a few memes in my almost 18 months of business blogging, and I've learned a lot about my fellow bloggers, just as they've learned a few things about me.

So I started thinking about a topic this week... something I was really curious about:  if I could shadow another blogger for a day, who would it be?  Phil Gerbyshak?  He'd be very interesting, but he'd wear me out in the first five minutes.  Starbucker?  He gets a lot of travel and is able to devour tons of books, but I think I'd miss my family too much.  Adam Steen?  The man is an uber-networking animal; I randomly run into so much that there are times it already feels like we shadow each other.  Drew McLellan might be fun... appealing to my inner-marketer.  I already know what Delaney Kirk does... all too well... and I like it anyway!  I'd love to watch Patti Digh do one of her workshops, but as a participant rather than a shadow.  Hmmm... this is tougher than I thought.  Of course, I've idolized Steve Farber for years and it's just a dream come true to get to chat with him on occasion.  I bet watching Liz Strauss in action would be a riot... kind of like being in the splash zone of a blogospheric Seaworld.  I'm sure that Derrick Sorles and Michael Snell, with their many different business directions, would be great to observe for the day.  But I suppose if I could narrow it to one blogger for one day, watching Tom Clifford in action would be awesome; corporate film-making is a fascination of mine.

So... besides the people I've mentioned (I'm going for the "cast of thousands" tag here), I'd be curious who Jane Greer, Josh Nankivel, Mike Sansone, Sandy Renshaw, and Claire Celsi would choose to shadow for a day.  (If I didn't mention your name, don't worry, I will bet you'll get tagged eventually.)  Remember to trackback and/or link back to this post so I know who's playing.  I'll attempt to do a summary post in a couple of weeks to show who wants to shadow whom.

Bonus question:  would your answer be different if you could actually trade places with that blogger for a day?

Flickr Image by Amphone_Alice

Thoreau It Out

ThoreaucabinIt's been interesting around our house this summer.  My wife, the English teacher, began her break by asking where her annotated copy of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, was located.  I didn't know and hadn't remembered seeing it in ages.

I've suspected this since we were first married, but I believe my wife to be part bloodhound.  This summer provided further evidence as she began systematically going through the house room by room hunting for her beloved and much needed book.  However, rather than simply searching, she began ridding and organizing.  Garbage bag after garbage bag was filled and disposed... boxes upon boxes of stuff were donated to charity... our neighbors are soon holding a garage sale, of which we are key donors.  And you know what?  It's felt pretty darn good to get rid of stuff.  As we were reaching for the last box on the final shelf of the store room, what should be at the bottom of the box?  That's right... the annotated copy of Walden.

The really humorous and ironic part of our summer break exercise is that Thoreau and his peer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, were both proponents of keeping things simple, of ridding unnecessary junk.  I think Thoreau must have been speaking to us from beyond the grave, and I'm not about to argue with a transcendentalist ghost.  I challenged my Iowa Biz readers to de-clutter their projects a few weeks ago.  But it's more than just streamlining your projects... or cleaning a store room... it's about simplifying your life.  It seems that we've become a society that is ruled by stuff.  Granted, there are certain objects I enjoy and I use regularly around the house, but those things tucked away in crevices and boxes that are there as some kind of security blanket... well, my wife and I have made a pact to simplify, reduce, recycle, eliminate, and downsize.

What about you?  What can you get rid of?  What can you throw out?  How would it feel if you had less "stuff" to think about?

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