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In the Wilds of the Amazon

Final_Cover Another one of those great milestones as an author... I know it probably shouldn't excite me as much as it does, but OK, I'm still a kid at heart:  SWAT - Seize the Accomplishment is now available for pre-order on Amazon.  True, the release date is still 6 weeks away... but nothing like ordering dozens hundreds thousands of copies for your friends and neighbors.

Getting close to the finish line on this one, folks!

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Salahis?

Salahi Party crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi have everybody up in arms at the White House.  Our reality-tv-fame-seeking society appears to have prompted this pair to crash the Obamas' first State Dinner, honoring the Singhs of India.

We'll see if the ensuing publicity battle bares out whether the camera-hungry couple actually had a valid invitation for the party.  (My guess is they did not, but I'm always surprised by the depths to which Washington can sink.)  Assuming they truly are just a couple of paparazzi chasers, this leads to some fun lessons in systems thinking:  mainly, what do you do when you have uninvited inputs into your system?

In my work with the SWAT team, I learned a lot about the role of the flash-bang device (otherwise called the noise and light distraction device or NLDD).  Having experienced it firsthand, I can see why tactical law enforcement use this explosive.  Its "flash" and/or "bang" is uninvited by the bad guys and gets their attention.  The distraction allows the good guys to do their job and apprehend the bad guys more effectively.  Good guy and bad guy labels aside, it would appear as though this party crash has served as a flash-bang to the White House.

These uninvited inputs of the Salahis will lead to some serious questions at the White House:

  • How did they get in? What lapse in security allowed it to occur? Who was accountable for the failure (i.e., who will be adding to the unemployment statistics by Monday)?
  • What impacts will this breach in security have in future White House events? How will processes change to ensure safety and security?
  • How will the Obama Administration respond to the Salahis?  Will they press charges or will there be a mere slap on the wrist?  What will the feedback loop look like?
  • How will this make things more difficult for future desired inputs (i.e., invited guests)?

You may wonder how this affects you and your organization.  Have you ever wound up with an undesired input on your team?  your department?  your company?  How hard was it to get rid of them?  Or are they still crashing your party?  How many "policies and procedures" were put in place because of your Salahis?  How many additional hoops must you now jump through because somebody crashed your party?  Are you in a position to relax security

Don't Try This At Home

Turkey_bake_how_to My younger daughter was asked to share with her daycare class how to bake a turkey.  Her response is listed in the picture.  Um... I think we need some lessons on systems thinking.  There's a really simple lesson here:  If you're not sure of your inputs OR your processes, the end result could be a real turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving from Carpe Factum!

Um.... Um.... Um.... NOT!

Book_presentation_secrets_Steve_Jobs I'm currently wrapping up the semester at Drake, which means I'm listening to a plethora of student presentations.  I have to say, most of my students do an admirable job of presenting their thoughts, but there are always those one or two who are just not comfortable in front of an audience.  That's a shame, too, given how critical public speaking skills are.  At the beginning of the semester in almost every class, I ask my students how many of them are in sales.  I get the obligatory one or two whose job title includes "sales" who raise their hands.  After explaining to them all semester how they are constantly being assessed by those around them, and how their ideas are being weighed for acceptance, by the end of the semester they all raise their hand when asked how many of them are in sales.

That's why I was so excited when I received a copy of Carmine Gallo's new book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs:  How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience (McGraw Hill).  There's one caveat I must share before going on.  I receive an avalanche of requests to review books on my blog (which I find flattering).  Because of this, I have to be pretty selective before I agree to review anything, and I use the title test as my first hurdle for deciding what to review.  After all, if the name by which the book is branded doesn't get my attention, the promises for the content itself do not bode well.

I have to thank Gallo and his publicist for their patience on this review.  When a book makes that kind of promise, I decided I didn't just want to read it and review it; I wanted to kick the tires and take it out for a test spin.  And that I did, as I've been preparing to deliver the material around my own next book, Gallo helped me channel my own inner Steve Jobs.  Obviously, Gallo's research was solid.  As a writer for businessweek.com, he's had the opportunity to see Jobs firsthand at numerous keynotes, press conferences, and product launches.  He leverages all of that, as well as countless hours of Youtube videos to provide relevant and practical examples of the charismatic master at his best.

There were times this past weekend when I longed to introduce students to this book (and when I say introduce, I mean strap them to a table and through a process of brainwashing osmosis, indoctrinate them through force to the ways of meaningful presentations... but I digress).  While one student was meandering aimlessly through countless points, I thought of Jobs' rule of doing everything in three's (and why Goldilocks did not meet four bears).  While another student struggled to find a central theme, I inwardly smiled about Gallo's admonition to find a Twitter-worthy focus for your presentations (and why it's important to sum up your thoughts in 140 characters or less).

Overall, the book is organized brilliantly, supported by practical tips that anybody from a seasoned professional to an elementary school student could use to wow their respective audiences.  Gallo uses relevant examples and tools of today (with numerous references to Youtube and Twitter).  He actually lays out the entire book like a stage performance in three acts, inviting you into Jobs' world, mind, and skill.  You're on your own for the black turtleneck.

As for me, I have completely retooled my upcoming presentations on SWAT - Seize the Accomplishment, and I'm looking forward to delivering the first formal keynotes on the topic early next year.  There are a lot of books out there on how to be a better speaker.  If you decide to invest in only one to help you in this arena, you can't go wrong by learning from the master.  (And I'm passing along this review to the professor who teaches presentation skills and personal branding at Drake.  Hint!  Hint!)

Remarkable for an Hour

Remarkable I get to be remarkable for an hour... 60 minutes... that's it.

Why "remarkable for an hour"?  Because I get to spend 60 minutes in the virtual presence of Mr. Remarkable himself... Kevin Eikenberry.

Kevin is one of my favorite people, and ever since I reviewed his book, Remarkable Leadership, I knew Kevin was... well... remarkable.

I'm looking forward to just shooting the breeze with Kevin... and who knows?  Maybe he'll let me stay remarkable after the call.

By the way, you have to register to listen in on our conversation.  You can do so by following the link here.

So tune in... call in... and be remarkable with us.

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?

Birthday Drawing Results

With the help of the lovely and talented Vanna (OK, so my wife subbed), we had the drawing this weekend for all of the really cool gifts in my birthday give-away.  Congratulations to all who entered... obviously, your accomplishments ARE the big prize:

Retail Superstars - Elizabeth

Greater Than Yourself - Melissa Labus (signed by Steve Farber himself)

I Hate People - Jana Brem and "Ms. Admin"

Remarkable Leadership - Carlos Urreta

99.3 Random Acts of Marketing - Pete Jones

Accomplishment 3-Pack (Race Through the Forest, GUST, and SWAT) - Linda Zdanowicz (signed by yours truly)

Congratulations, one and all!  Thanks for playing!

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