Monthly Archives: May 2005

Some Great Questions for (and from) Managers

Jeffrey Phillips writes about change in his Thinking Faster Blog and suggests a great question we all should be asking ourselves:

What would happen if in your yearly or quarterly review the “boss” asked you the following question – “What changes have you made to the way you work, and the way the organization works, to make it and you more productive?”  If change is no longer thrust upon the individual but becomes an expected action and is compensated appropriately, the pace of change will increase dramatically. 

Each of us needs to identify the areas of our work life where real change is possible and begin working everyday to make the incremental improvements which will help ourselves – and our companies – become more productive.  If you manage people, be sure to ask them – what are you doing differently today to become more productive?  If you work with business partners or vendors, ask them – what can you do to help us become more efficient and productive. 

Law Students, Don’t Hold Your Breath

Thanks to Rob at BusinessPundit for a pointer to this BusinessWeek article on Rensselaer’s new MBA program:

For starters, the degree is broken down into five “streams of knowledge,” rather than traditional majors or concentrations. Each stream delves into a different aspect of business, such as Creating & Managing an Enterprise, and Networks, Innovation & Value Creation. It’s not that students don’t learn economics, marketing, or strategy. Instead, each of those basics is blended into the larger concepts. A typical class might involve a discussion, led by a finance professor, of a company’s change in value after a corporate merger, followed by a look at the case by a management prof from an operations point of view. Because the teaching is rooted in events in the contemporary marketplace, there are no textbooks per se. “Our textbooks are newspaper and magazine articles,” says Phillip H. Phan, professor of strategic management and entrepreneurship.

Coming soon to a law school near you?  Get serious.

A quick quality of life quiz.

Anita Sharpe has this quote (which I’ve edited just a bit) from a book she just read:

Of course, everyone spoke ill of his profession, but, basically, it was all a question of selling his time, like everyone else. Doing things he didn’t want to do, like everyone else. Putting up with horrible people, like everyone else. Handing over [ ] his precious soul in the name of a future that never arrived, like everyone else. Saying that he still didn’t have enough, like everyone else. Waiting just a bit longer, like everyone else. Waiting so that he could earn just a little bit more, postponing the realization of his dreams; he was too busy right now, he had great opportunities ahead of him, loyal clients who were waiting for him. . .

What profession?  Take a look here to find out.  Or read the book.

Stop Trying on New Technology!

As an avid user of new technology, this post from 43 Folders hit a bit too close to home:

No tool can save you from your own crap behavior, so as you approach these great new apps—and I hope you’ll at least check them out if you haven’t—please try to do it with a bit of perspective about how or why the old tools were not working for you. Consider the patterns that you can observe about how you do your best work and which tasks have benefited from a certain tool or approach in the past.

And, finally, as you start to choose one new, dedicated tool to improve your productivity, be circumspect about the amount of pure “dicking around” time that you spend. Yes: learn the tool well and understand its functions and limitations, but avoid the temptation to blow a week moving “your system” into the Next Shiny Product until you really understand how you’ll be better off having used it. Don’t fiddle endlessly, just because it’s fun. That’s not running; that’s just playing with your shoes.

I’ve been working on my personal productivity solution for several weeks now, and I think I’ve gotten it down enough to share it with you (in a post later this week) — so long as I quit looking at amazing apps like Backpack, Sproutliner, Tasktoy, GTDTiddliWiki, etc.  The tools I have now are enough.  And I’m making the resolution now (a la this great advice from Steve Pavlina) to stick with what I’ve got for the next 30 days to make sure it works, before looking for the next best thing.

Law review is the path to the dark side.

Jeremy Blachman has Yoda’s Twenty Pieces of Law School Advice.  Really funny stuff. 

On a more serious note, my LexThink partner Scheherazade Fowler has this great list of Legal Lies.

A Brilliant Idea to Make Meetings Better

Jeffrey Phillips, writing in his Thinking Faster Blog, has a great idea to make meetings better.  He calls it Just in Time Meeting Attendance:

Rather than show up for a meeting and sit through the entire thing, demand that the meeting have an agenda and that the facilitator or leader of the meeting stick as closely to the agenda as possible.  When the parts of the meeting you need or want to attend are complete, get up and leave.  I know this may sound a bit rude, but is it really worth your time and your sanity to simply continue to sit in meetings where stuff is being discussed that a) is not relevant for you b) you don’t have anything to add to or c) you could care less about? 

Many of us stay in meetings where there’s little left for us to do simply out of fear that leaving will be interpreted as lack of interest  or for fear we’ll get assigned stuff if we are not there to defend our turf.  But that’s not the best use of your time, now is it?

Imagine holding a meeting where the agenda was tight and you could enter or leave as you were needed.  Imagine being confident that you could enter a meeting 30 minutes after it started, show up just in time to deliver news or listen to the part of the meeting you needed to, and then leave when there was no real reason to remain.  That would be true just in time meeting attendance.

I absolutely love it!

Another Quote of the Week

This one comes from Keith Ferrazzi, on his Never Eat Alone Blog:

Too many people see relationships as pies — where if you take a piece, there won’t be as much left over. Relationships and networks are more like muscles. The more you work them, the bigger and stronger they get.   

The [non]billable hour is looking for an office.

I miss my office.  While I’m in California (where my wife has taken a year-long job assignment), I’ve been working from our apartment.  While I knew I’d miss the social interaction, I never thought I’d miss having a “place” to go to work. 

Well, after two months, I realize that working in the corner of our small apartment’s living room isn’t cutting it.  I need an office — if just for three to four hours per day.  So, if you have a bit of extra office space (or know someone who does), and are located in the Burbank area, let me know.

Be Prepared for Clients Who Love You

Here is another great client-relationship tip from John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing:

… when a client reaches out and tells you that you did a good job for them, they are asking you to take the relationship up a notch. Don’t let the opportunity slip on by. You’ve got to get straight in your head that this is the perfect time to ask for and receive a testimonial, a lead, new business or a referral. You don’t have to fall all over yourself acknowledging how smart you are. You can seize the day tastefully by simply being prepared to suggest that your client might know someone else who would like these kinds of results.

Quote of the Week

Can you imagine a managing partner at a big firm saying this as he or she moves the firm to value billing?

I’m sure mistakes will be made along the way. I’m sure that there will be surprises. I’m sure we will have to do quite a bit of adjusting to make the program a win win for all involved.  So what ?  If it works, everyone, particularly consumers benefit.  If it doesn’t, everyone calls me a dumbass, and we go back to doing it the way it was always done.  I can handle that.  Mark Cuban, talking about shaking up the movie business.

A Quick Conference Tip

I was talking to Matthew Buchanan of Promote the Progress and Rethink(IP) fame about a really cool thing he’s working on with the other Rethink(IP) guys (I’m sworn to secrecy, but the project’s code-name is “Merman”).  Matt told me he was going to a conference and I gave him a tip that makes more sense to me the longer I think about it:

If you write a blog and attend a conference, make sure the name of your blog is prominently displayed on your name badge.

I know more people know me by my blog then by my firm name.  Given the wonderful people you can meet through blogging, isn’t it better to give them an easier way to meet you, and vice versa? 

It is an honor just to be nominated! Really.

I just received an e-mail from June Holaday telling me this blog was nominated for Marketing Sherpa’s 2nd Annual Reader’s Choice Blog Awards in the “niche marketing” category.  The coolest thing about the nomination (and about blogs in general) is that I already know two of my co-nominees personally:  Michele Miller of Wonderbranding and Yvonne DiVita of Lipsticking.  Both are amazingly cool women who were among the first contributors to my Five by Five series.  After reading the other nominated blog — Anastasia Goodstein’s Ypulse — if I finish anywhere above fourth in this survey, something is seriously wrong in this universe.


UPDATE:  My friend (and chief Technolawyer) Neil Squillante reminded me that the [non]billable hour is up for “best legal blog” in this year’s Technolawyer awards.  The ballot is here, and you must be a Technolawyer member to vote.

It is all about the customer…

CustomersSteve Nipper sent me to this site that has a bunch of redone romance novel covers.  Even though most are semi-work safe, close your door anyway because they are so funny, everyone will want to see why you are laughing so hard.





(Steve saw it first on BoingBoing.)

Legalmatch and Me

Of all of the amazing things that have happened to me because of this blog, perhaps the most interesting (and hardest to explain) is my relationship with LegalMatch. 

Back in April 2004 I wrote a short post titled Why I’ll Never Use LegalMatch, in which I took the company to task for its sales tactics.  I’d been writing this blog for a few months and thought nothing of the post or the title.  The post attracted (and continues to attract) dozens of comments about LegalMatch — some positive, but most negative.  I followed up the original post with several more, including some interesting give-and-take with LegalMatch executives.  Ultimately, I received an offer from LegalMatch CEO Randy Wells to meet him in New York.  The result of that meeting was this Apology from LegalMatch posted on my blog. 

LegalMatch next asked me to come to San Francisco to visit their offices and meet with their people.  I got a peek inside LegalMatch’s technology, met some of the company’s people, and extended an invitation to Randy Wells to come to LexThink. 

After LexThink, Randy asked if we (my LexThink partners Dennis Kennedy, Sherry Fowler and I) would do a “private” LexThink event for LegalMatch in lieu of their traditional management retreat.  We agreed, and I facilitated their management retreat last weekend.  LexThink, Inc. charged LM $5,000.00 for the event.

At the retreat, I saw forty LegalMatch managers brainstorming about how to make their company better.  I also engaged many of them in (sometimes heated) discussions about how their methods had alienated folks like me and countless other potential customers.

Gullibility Break:  Look, I know my post and the resulting comments have cost LegalMatch hundreds of thousands of dollars (this figure comes from someone outside of LM).  Just Google LegalMatch, and you’ll understand why, though I’m a bit concerned because at least once a week, someone Googles “LegalMatch” over and over and follows each link back to my blog posts — perhaps to keep my year-old post high up on Google’s first page?

I’ve also learned that many of the internal policies (and people) that led to the things I complained about have changed.  If my experiences with LegalMatch are part of some sort of “grand plan” to sucker me in to coming over to the LM “dark side,” I’ve got to admit that it has been masterfully planned, acted, and executed.

Starting today, I’m changing the title of my original post to “Don’t Sell Like This.”  The comments will remain active, and the content won’t change.  The titles of the rest of my LM posts will stay the same, and I’ll keep the LegalMatch category alive.

Full Disclosure Break:  While a part of me thinks I’m an idiot for not demanding that LegalMatch pay me $XXX,000.00 for removing all of the LM posts from my blog, I’ve not gotten anything personally from LegalMatch for writing this post or doing what I’m doing.  The only compensation I’ve received from the company is the value of two airplane flights, a few nights in a hotel room, a couple of lunches and two dinners for the meetings in NYC and SF.  I’ve received no promises and have no expectations. 

I’m ultimately doing what I’m doing because I think it is right, and because I’ve gotten to like a lot of folks at LegalMatch.  Will I work with LegalMatch in the future?  Possibly.  Will LegalMatch be involved with LexThink in some way?  Maybe.  Is this some horrible violation of blogger ethics?  I’m sure you’ll tell me so.  Thanks for your time, and now back to regular blogging.


Build your business backwards.

As we work to turn LexThink into a sustainable business enterprise, I’ve been thinking a lot about the lessons that came from our first event.  One of the best discussions centered around the idea that to build your perfect firm, you must first identify your perfect client.  Sean D’Souza must have been a fly on the wall in that conversation, because he hits the nail on the head with this post, which I’m liberally excerpting below:

Which way, you ask?  Why not reach out into the mind of someone you know. What is that person’s name? What do they do in their business? What problem do they have? Can you ask them what problem they have? Can you narrow down what’s stopping their profit? What would take that person (whoever that person is) to the next level?

Think of a fictional Natalie. Or a fictional Bruce.  What is he doing right now? What is she frustrated with? Where does he want his business to go? Why is she unable to take weekends off? All of these issues are gaps.

Find out where you can fix the gaps. Bruce and Natalie have loads of issues. And you can be a specialist in fixing just a few of those issues. What can you fix?

Think backwards. Start with a target audience. Think about them, sitting at their desk at 7pm on Saturday night. What would change their life? How can you change their life?

You’re a specialist. What do you do best? 
Think intently. What we have here is more than just an audio logo or a communication issue. What we need to have is a deep understanding. When we think in specifics, the specifics reveal themselves.

Have your receptionist read this.

I really like Bert Webb’s suggestion (from his Open Loops blog) to identify hidden messages in your communication.  He has a great example in his post How to Say What You Really Mean:

“Good afternoon, Mr. Webb’s office, may I help you?”

“Yes, This is Bob Smith.  I need an appointment with Mr. Webb as soon as possible to discuss the situation involving the AYP project at his site.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Webb, cannot meet with you until late next week.  His calendar is quite full, I’m afraid.”

With that, my secretary has just told my caller that I am so busy that he is considered unimportant, that his project is not a priority with me, and that, no matter what the topic is, I’m too inflexible to make adjustments in my calendar for priorities that arise unexpectedly.  Get in line, suck it up, and deal with it, Buddy.

Bert then suggests a better alternative:

How should my secretary have have handled the caller mentioned at the beginning of this post?  Let’s listen in:

“Good afternoon, Mr. Webb’s office, may I help you?”

“Yes, this is Bob Smith.  I need an appointment with Mr. Webb as soon as possible to discuss the situation involving the AYP project at his site.”

“I’ll be very happy to make you an appointment; let me look at his calendar.  I see that he has two openings next week, one on Wednesday at 9 AM and the other on Thursday at 2 PM.  Which one would fit your schedule better?”

And with that simple turn of a phrase, 90% of my callers are happy to accept the appointment next week and feel positively about it.  She has said we welcome your appointment, that I am busy but have time for his concerns, and that I recognize his schedule is important, too.  Should the caller still feel that he needs to see me sooner, it would continue like this:

“But that’s too late, our deadline is this Friday.”

“Mr. Smith, may I have a number where you can be reached in the next couple of hours?  I’ll personally speak with Mr. Webb to see if there is a way to work you in more quickly.  I’ll call you back as soon as I speak with him.”

I may or may not be able to accommodate Mr. Smith, but we have added the message that I am flexible and am willing to work with his deadlines as much as I possibly can.  

The final bit of advice:

Begin to look at your word and phrase choices.  Consciously choose the hidden messages in your words and phrases to convey what you want them to.  Even more, train your staff so they, as the front line of your organization, broadcast the same positive hidden messages to your clients and customers.

I’ve been reading Open Loops for a while.  Take a look.  I’m sure it will become a regular read.

Another Great Client Question

Found this interesting idea at life(over IP):

Once I [asked a realtor] … “What’s one sign I can look for to get you leads – besides someone saying “I want to buy or sell my home”?” He told me that 83% of For Sale By Owner listings end up listing with a broker, so those were good leads for him.

The reason I mention this is that in the last 3 weeks, I’ve supplied my friend Fred, whom I knew from my old job, and who sold our house here, 3 leads from For Sale By Owner signs.

So, what hidden signals can people look out for that have good chances of generating business for you? If you can tell your network about them, you may be able to get a leg up on your competition.


Does LexThink Strike Again?

Jeremy Blachman, a LexThink attendee, wants to improve big firm life:

I just feel like there’s some room for thinking here, there’s some room for brainstorming about institutional change, and putting some smart people together to solve this puzzle of why so many people working at these places don’t seem all that happy about it and what some better models might be, or way to fix these models, or maybe even just explain why the current model is actually working quite well. And to get the fresh perspectives of people who are first going into this, and the perspectives of people already there, people who love it, people who don’t, I don’t know — I feel like maybe something good and interesting and fun could emerge.

Suck Less

Brad Feld says he’s not using the term “World Class” anymore, and tells this story about his first software company, where “We Suck Less” became its mission statement:

When we told our clients something like “we are better than the last guys”, they either groaned or laughed maniacally since they had already heard that a few times from the people that came before us. But when we told them “the thing we are doing is really hard, the guys before us sucked, but we are going to suck less and try our hardest to be successful for you” our clients usually related (at least when they laughed, it was with a smile on their face.)

We delivered more often then not. So – while we never achieved that elusive “world class” status, we definitely sucked less most of the time. And – when I wandered down the hallways saying “guys – focus on sucking less – that’s the key to our success”, people rallied a lot more than if I had shouted “we are going to be world class” from the rooftops.

 Great advice. 

How did you get to where you are?

Jason Womack has a question that every lawyer should ask their client early on in the client relationship, “How did you get to where you are?

I’ve heard from musicians, writers, company presidents, artists, parents, and more…What the question brings up is much more than a description of what they do; I get a glimpse into their background and their character. And, I’m reminded that it’s the journey, not the destination, that engages me every day.

In a comment to Jason’s post, reader Dwayne Melancon suggests his favorite question that should also be in every lawyer’s arsenal:

 If you could wave a magic wand right now, what would I be doing for you?

The World is Flat?

Connie Crosby has some great quotes from an interview with Thomas L. Friedman, author of the book The World is Flat:  Where Were You When You Realized the World Is Flat? (Or Have You?).  Some really interesting food for thought:

We are led by lawyers who do not understand either technology or balance sheets. I am hoping, though, that many of them have kids, who, when they have a moment to take a break from their iPods, Internet, or Google, will explain to their parents running the country just how the world is being flattened.

Go to Connie’s post for a bunch more quotes, and if you are interested, buy the book.  It just made it on to my reading list.

Chickens in your backyard, and other cool trends.

I really love my Trendspotting newsletter.  This table of contents for  this month’s edition includes:

Urban farming
Cruises for the MASS CLASS
Design or die!
Pleasure Cards
Three innovative t-shirt concepts
TRYVERTISING intermediairies

Check it out by subscribing here.

Take Five and be a Better Boss

Rosa Say has another great tip in her post titled The Daily Five Minutes.  She suggests that each day, managers give five minutes of “no-agenda time” to at least one employee.  Here are some benefits to the managers:

In the process of developing this habit, they greatly improved their own approachability. They had nurtured a circle of comfort for their employees to step into and talk to them——whenever time presented itself. The Daily Five Minutes itself soon became a more personal thing. Employees started to share their lives with them——what they did over the weekend, how their kids were doing in school, how they felt about a local news story. Managers began to know their employees very well, and their employees began to relate to them more as people and not just as managers. They were practicing the art of ‘Ike loa together. 

Managers ceased to judge employee situations prematurely, for they had built up a relationship that demanded all be allowed to speak first——and they wanted to speak with their employees, sure they’d receive more clarity. The Daily Five Minutes became a “safe zone” where employees felt they could talk story with their manager “off the record,” and managers learned to ask, “Are you venting, or asking for help? Do I keep this in confidence, or do you expect me to take action?” It became clearer who was responsible for following up on things.  Managers had less and less of those “if only I had known about this sooner” surprises.

Think about doing a Daily Five Minutes with all of your employees.  Then extend it to your clients and see what happens!

Welcome Technolawyer!

I had a chance to meet Technolawyer’s Neil Squillante in NYC earlier this year, and we had a great evening together talking legal tech, blogs, and marketing.  Technolawyer has now started a blog, and though Neil is still keeping some of his Technolawyer goodies inside his fabulous e-mail newsletters, there is enough great stuff on the blog to make it worth a regular visit (or an addition to your aggregator).

Billable Hour Calculator

Joshua at JD Bliss alerted me to their new “Attorney Work Life Balance Calculator” that will (according to the site) help you determine:

  • how many hours you must spend in your office during the week (Monday through Friday) in order to meet the billable hour requirements of your firm (taking into account vacation, personal and other “days off”), and
  • the amount of time you’ll need to spend working at home after work or on weekends if you can’t meet your firm’s billable hour requirements solely from your time in the office during the week.

Pretty cool little application, in a kind of fun/scary sort of way.  I did an interview for a profile in JD Bliss that should be coming up in a few weeks.  I’ll alert you when it is posted on the site.

Do you have Super Clients?

Over at Brand Autopsy, John Moore published excerpts  of a Wall Street Journal interview with Greg Brenneman, CEO of Burger King.  Here was the quote from Brenneman that caught my eye:

WSJ: Speaking of indulgent, you call your best repeat customers “Super Fans” — the 18-to-34-year-old males who come in three to four times a week. How are you strengthening efforts to appeal to them?

Brenneman: If you think about what drives our business, “Super Fans” are something like 25% of our customer base, but 50% of spending. If we just get one more visit out of the Super Fan, it’s like a 10% increase in comparable sales. It’s about understanding who the core consumers are and getting the kind of indulgent products they want. You can’t be everything to everybody. If you look at the Enormous Omelet Sandwich, we didn’t beat around the bush with the name. It’s an indulgent breakfast sandwich, and it’s absolutely geared at the Super Fan.

Who are your Super Clients?  What percentage of your revenues do they contribute?  Do you even know?

See if your attorney gets it.

Richard A. Hall has a really good client tip  in his Managing the Business of Law blog:

Early in their engagement on a new matter, require outside counsel provide you a written strategy for achieving your business purpose. This will be your first, best opportunity to see if they “get it”.

If their strategy is “legal focused” e.g. “Draft documents necessary to…” you know you’re in trouble. Their strategy must be oriented to your business purpose e.g. “Conclude the XYZ transaction in the shortest time with the least cost by performing….

Now, instead of being asked by a client for a written strategy, imagine providing one to the client at the beginning of a new matter.  Start the letter as Richard suggests, and start building a strong relationship with your new client.

Law Firm Branding

Check out Andy Havens’ post answering the question, “How do you brand a law firm?”

LexThink in a nutshell

 From Fast Company’s Blog:

“I don’t know who discovered water, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a fish.” — Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) Media critic & writer

Something to consider:  Just like a fish can’t see the water it’s swimming in, you can’t see the world immediately in front of you. It takes someone with a different perspective to point it out. These people can see opportunities that you can’t see. They can see pitfalls that you can’ t see. They can see them, ironically, because they aren’t staring at them every day.

Some great tips after the jump.

Some Great Guerilla Tips

Mike McLaughlin has begun posting 25 ways to get closer to your clients on his Guerilla Consulting blog.  His first tip:  Send a Lumpy Package:

In the professional services business, small gestures have a big impact. When you land a new client, send a welcome package to your sponsor. Include a personalized letter in the package, along with other items such as firm contact information, a list of upcoming events, relevant articles, or an appropriate book.

Use the opportunity to express your gratitude to the client for engaging you, and to let her know how important the project is to you and your firm.

Send welcome packages by postal mail, not e-mail. You’ll be amazed at the strong and positive impression you’ll make with this one simple gesture.

Keep checking back for more great tips.  I’ve read Mike’s great book, and hope to connect with him next week when I’m in San Francisco.

Hugh knows lawyers.

Is Hugh MacLeod describing your law firm?  Or your firm’s recruiting strategy?

Keep ’em happy every day.

In this post in her Creating Passionate Users blog, Kathy Sierra suggests that we’re “better off thinking about ways to delight our users and customers (and employees and family members!) with a steady stream of Good Things rather than, say, giving them one big reward.”  She then hits on a concept I’ve blogged about before:

Too many companies seem to give all the cool toys and treats to prospective customers–like trade show attendees, for example–but completely ignore you once you actually BUY the thing! That’s just 180 degrees wrong. If they’re pouring all this effort into enticing new customers, I can’t help but think that if they channeled more of that budget to their existing customers (through both having a great product and continuing to surprise and delight them after the sale), then they’d increase their sales and marketing force by an order of magnitude as those customers go out and evangelize with way more credibility than the company reps or ads will ever have.

What is your cost to acquire a new client?  Do you even know?  Are you spending at least that same amount on keeping each existing one?

The virus is the software.

Harnish Newlands, blogging aboard his Cardboard Spaceship has this gem outlining a frustrating experience with McAffee.  The post would be funny, if it weren’t so true, and I’ve had the exact same experience.  My favorite part is the last two lines:

It really takes a lot of  ingenuity to loose free cash, and that’s what McAfee managed to do.  If anyone from McAfee reads this, you need to go and kick your on-line sales head up the arse, and a good hard one.

Start your letters with “You” for better client relations

I drove down to Newport Beach today and had lunch with the incomparable J. Craig Williams, one of my Blog Network cohorts.  Craig was an amazing host and our meeting is just further proof that every blogger I’ve ever admired virtually has been even cooler/smarter/nicer/greater in person than I hoped.  (Sadly, people meeting me generally have a different experience.)

At lunch, Craig shared with me this amazing tip, and gave me permission to steal it for my blog:

Every letter his firm sends starts with “You.”  Not metaphorically or theoretically, but in actual practice.  He told me that it really keeps the attorneys in his office, including himself, focused on the fact that all client correspondence is for the client about something they care about deeply.  It is never about the lawyer.  Beginning each letter with “you” instead of “I” reinforces his firm’s commitment to its clients.

Give it a try in your practice for a month or two, and let me know if you see any difference. 

Next Stop, Law Review!

Saw this story from the Boston Globe (via Fight the Bull):

THREE MIT graduate students invented a computer program that can spit out randomly selected words to create grammatically correct research reports that make absolutely no sense. Now they have had one of those papers accepted for presentation at a July scientific conference. . . . Jeremy Stribling, Max Krohn, and Dan Aguayo call their paper ”Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy” — which might have been seen as a tip-off that scientific beaks were being tweaked. After all, why would anyone want to unify redundancy?

But the four-page send-up, laced with confounding graphs, was accepted by an international conference that itself sounds like a spoof: ”The Ninth World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics.”

If only I’d had their program in law school.  I may have actually made law review.

Managers should Manage

 Rosa Say, in her Talking Story Blog,  has a really great explanation of what I believe is the biggest mistake managers make.  In Work World Myth #8: Managers Should Know How To Do Everything, she says:

This is one of those old fallacies about what it takes to be a “good manager.” You often hear it voiced something like this: “Don’t ask an employee to do anything you can’t do yourself.”

There is so much evidence surrounding this to the contrary, that it astounds me this myth is still around. Even worse, mediocre managers are hiding behind it. They are not working ON business health, innovation, and vibrancy because they are “safely” ensconced IN business tasks that should be delegated and assigned to someone else.

If you want to be needed, be needed as a productivity maximizer: an inspiration, visionary, and compelling leader, not as another worker bee. And please, I mean no disrespect whatsoever to the worker bees you manage and lead; I’m just asking you to better understand what your own role is if you are their manager and a leader.

I’ve just started to regularly read Rosa’s blog, and it is really great.  Check out the rest of her Work World Myths.  Well worth your time.

And if they are from St. Louis, Don’t forget to ask where they went to High School.

 John Jantsch has this great advice in his Duct Tape Marketing Blog:

Let’s say you have a Top 25 prospect list. One of the ways to get a leg up on everyone else in who also has this same list is to find out two simple pieces of information and then use those to unlock the door to marketing success.

The two things you should try to discover about each of your prospects is:

    1. Where they grew up
    2. Where they went to college

Now that you have this information you need to see if it can pay dividends. If you prospects are from a small community your job on that one is easier, but no matter where they are from – subscribe to or at least visit the web site for their home town paper. It is amazing what you can pick up from even a couple casual reads. But, you might even hit paydirt if something big happens back home or your prospect gets some ink in the hometown news and you, little old marketing pro that you are, fire off a copy to your prospect! Think that might help your chances of getting an appointment?

As for the title of this post, if you are from St. Louis, you understand.

What Would Vader Do?

Well, Darth Vader has a blog.  Here are some great management tips from the guru himself:

Vader on Managing Difficult Employees …You try to be an effective manager, you weed out the bad apples like the late Admiral Ozzel — only to find that an insidious culture of incompetence has somehow transformed your deadly pan-galactic armada into a fleet of spaceballs.

And this response to a comment:   While you may feel at first this approach to be overly broad-handed, have you considered killing people who don’t do your bidding or sing your praises?  Try it. It’s cathartic, and it doesn’t take long for others to really get with the programme.  Good luck! 


Vader on Innovation:  Admiral Ozzol took the fleet out of hyperspace too close to Hoth, and the Rebel Alliance were — you guessed it — alerted to our approach. The cornerstone of Ozzel’s arrogance is his insistence that rebel technology is so vastly inferior to Imperial technology that we need broker no caution.

This attitude is typical of a man who could not rephase his own fusion orb if his life depended on it. He cannot fathom what rebel engineers may accomplish out of desperation. People who are good with things, people like me, can appreciate the infinite diversity of possible tools buried in artful combinations of even the humblest technologies. Give me an hour to reconfigure an industrial grade repulsolift and I will give you an ion cannon and enough parts left over to build a droid to run it.

Ozzel just isn’t the creative type.


Vader on Negotiation Strategy:   What crystallized the situation for me was something the Duke of Foulbash said, bringing his brown fist down on the table: “Lord Vader, what is at stake here is a millennium of tradition! That is the heart of this matter.”

The Duke was right. I told him so. Then I assassinated the entire royal family, down to the last forgotten bastard.

And do you know what? The Trime System is a leading commercial concern in the sector today. They grieved but they got over it. Once liberated from the yoke of an insoluble, deeply emotional dilemma the people of the Trimean worlds were free to build new bonds, to establish vibrant new institutions, and to create new traditions.


Vader on Client Transparency:   “You may ask,” I told him, turning away to the glass. “As an ant may ask the sun why it shines. It is beyond you, Admiral. See to your duty.”


Vader on Dealing with Technology:   It can be challenging to maintain your dignity as a dark tyrannical overlord when the circuitry in your left leg constantly misfires, threatening to send you off on a mad pirouette without notice.

Next time you are faced with a management conundrum, just ask Vader!  Leave a comment to his latest post.  You might just get a response from the Dark Lord himself.  Just don’t be a smart ass, in his bio, Darth says he “enjoys fixing things, listening to music, and crushing people’s treacheas with his mind.”