Posts Tagged ‘Communication’

AloneA few weeks ago I saw a Facebook post from someone I follow that read: “Whoever apologizes first is bravest. Whoever forgives first is strongest. Whoever forgets first is happiest.” A Web search will reveal other slight variations of the quote. I’m not sure to whom the quote should be attributed, but it’s wise regardless of its origin.

Relationships can be tricky. Obstacles arise and barriers get erected over time that can easily become permanent if we aren’t careful. We can become satisfied with the new normal of broken relationships, allowing them to continue because in one sense that is easier than trying to mend what is broken.

There is a cost that comes with broken relationships, however. The distrust, the ill will, the emotional toll of failing to forgive, and the distraction of living in the past rather than working together for a better future are just some of the costs of failing to be reconciled with others. It’s hard to imagine many (if any) scenarios where the cost is worth it.

I saw the above quote about the same time last month I finished reading again the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. After being sold into slavery by his older brothers, Joseph eventually revealed himself to his surprised and frightened brothers years later when Joseph was the #2 man in all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh in power. The brothers were immediately terrified that Joseph might take revenge for their awful action from years earlier, but instead he forgave them, saw the good that God had worked in the midst of a bad situation, and was reconciled to his brothers.

You and I probably don’t have dramatic stories like Joseph to tell, but chances are good that we have some relationships in need of reconciliation. The damage may be due to the action of the other person. We may be perfectly justified in the eyes of the world for not having anything to do with others who have knowingly wronged or harmed us. The broken relationship may be between you and a (previous) friend, family member, coworker, neighbor, etc. But because continuing to reinforce barriers between yourself and others consumes time and energy best spent on other more positive endeavors, isn’t it better to put an end to such negative chapters and then move forward in a fresh way – if not for the benefit of the other person, at least for your own mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical health? Isn’t that the more mature response, even if it requires you to swallow a little pride along the way? It may not be easy to do, but most worthwhile endeavors aren’t easy.

“Whoever apologizes first is bravest. Whoever forgives first is strongest. Whoever forgets first is happiest.”

Jeff HairIn early August I wrote a blog post about the fact that I cut all my hair off and the consequent reactions (mostly unwanted and all unsolicited) from others. That was over two months ago and I have to admit that I’m still surprised at the frequency of times weekly when someone criticizes me for it. At one point yesterday I was just glad to be going home where I knew that neither my wife nor my dog would say anything about it the rest of the day.

Tonight I posted the following on Facebook:

“Wonder why so many people think it’s OK to tell me how much they don’t like my hair all cut off. Last time I checked, that was my call to make. I really don’t recall these folks seeking my advice on how they cut their hair. Give it a rest, folks. I was tired of messing with it. I like it super short. I’m not undergoing chemo. I’m not sick or dying or undergoing treatments. I worked hard at intentionally losing 25 pounds to get to my current weight. Sheesh…”

A friend and colleague subsequently sent me a private message that read, “‘Sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt you’ was the biggest lie I’ve ever been told.” I agree.

I’m a big boy and I can handle a little criticism about how I look. I can understand the concern of those who suddenly see me with no hair and thinner than I’ve been in a couple of years. I don’t begrudge genuine queries of concern to make sure I’m OK. The point of this post, though, is to note how utterly unnecessary, inconsiderate and useless the “I don’t like your hair” conversations are.

It’s time for some folks to re-learn a lesson most of us learned around kindergarten age – “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything” – or just live by the Golden Rule and we’ll all be fine.

Please take a moment to consider how your words might affect others. Consider the possibility that it may well be better to remain silent than to voice every opinion you have, especially if those opinions are openly critical of others’ benign choices about how they appear. There are enough life and physical changes coming to pass for folks my age without adding to the list having to deal with criticism from others about simple choices related to how we look.

PieSome of the best days of my life – past and present – are days spent with my parents on their farm in Winchester, Kentucky. We moved there when I was in sixth grade. I live about 90 miles away, so at best I get there once a month to spend a day. It is always a good day when I’m there. I should be there far more often than I am.

I’m writing this at the end of the day September 30th – my dad’s 79th birthday. I wish you could know my dad. He’s a great, great man which is only fitting since he’s been married for 60 years to a wonderful woman, my mom. They are kind, generous, funny, active, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people. If you are a guest in their home, you will be treated right. You will definitely be fed until you just have to refuse any more.

A couple of weeks ago I spent a day of my vacation there. As expected, the food was plenteous, but I knew that would be the case. I was somewhat prepared by eating light the day before the trip. The first meal came within a couple hours of arriving. Various snacks and bottomless Ale-8s to drink were readily available between meals. Evening saw another full meal with bigger portions than anyone ever really needs.

At the end of the evening meal, Dad cut me a piece of pie. Well, it was more like 2-3 pieces of pie – a Dad-sized portion. When he put it in front of me, I remarked, “That’s crazy!” I won’t forget his response as he walked away: “That’s not crazy. That’s love.” And he’s right.

We all have our ways of showing love for others. One of the precious lessons of life is to be able to recognize such love in whatever form it takes when it comes your way. We are different in how we express our feelings for others. Some are more verbal than others. Some do little acts of kindness. Some do periodic big things for those they love. Many do a combo of all the above. Whatever unique ways your loved ones have of showing love, I hope you recognize it when demonstrated, and I hope you return it in a way they recognize as well.

Some ways of showing love may not make a lot of sense to others, but that’s OK. They only have to make sense to the ones giving and receiving it.

That’s not crazy. That’s love.

CluetrainManifesto10thAnnivEditionIn April 1999, some brave souls spoke for many when they tacked 95 theses on the Internet at cluetrain.com. The basic message went like this: “A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.”

The phrase “markets are conversations” was central to the message (in fact, that’s the first of the 95 theses), and the warning to businesses is that they need to realize the potential of networked people having conversations to disrupt business as usual, dethroning the stranglehold that controlled communications and marketing efforts by businesses has had on the marketplace for way too long. The theses and subsequent book called for businesses to join the conversation in the marketplace as real people, or those in the marketplace will go elsewhere and gladly engage in doing business with other companies that are willing to have real, human relationships with them. In a sense, markets via networked communications between people have the opportunity to function more like the street bazaars of old than the industrialized, sterilized, distanced supply chains we hear more about today.

To get a good, quick feel for what Cluetrain was (and is still) about, take a few minutes to read the 95 theses on the homepage at cluetrain.com. The site is intentionally preserved to look like it did in 1999 to capture a piece of history. Read it a couple of times and be amazed that it was written that long ago. Much of it reads like it was written today. The original 95 theses do not attempt to group themselves into subtopics – at least not in a clear, easily outlined way. There are connected theses that assume placement next to each other, though, so you may benefit from the simple categorization of them on the Cluetrain Manifesto Wikipedia page.

The four ringleaders of Cluetrain were Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searles, and David Weinberger. A host of other signers gave their blessing to the ideas presented in the theses.

While I first read the 95 theses a number of years ago, I had never read the book until this week. The first book was published in January, 2001 – The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual. You can read the entirety of that book for free online here if you like. Ten years later, the book I just finished reading was written – The Cluetrain Manifesto: 10th Anniversary Edition. In addition to the full text of the original book, there is a new introduction and additional chapters by the authors including reflections on the relevance of the ideas today and updates describing what has and has not come to pass as predicted in the original text. While not everything predicted has come true (at least not yet), the book is amazingly current and, I think, still prophetic. Prophecy isn’t always about predicting the future. It is as much about proclaiming a message to those in the present about a situation and speaking to the consequences of acting or not acting properly in response. In that sense, the book is still prophetic.

Anyone involved with marketing and communications in businesses should read the book. In fact, as consumers who are doing the very things this book predicted over a decade ago, there are very few for whom the book isn’t relevant. There are far too many companies in 2013 who still haven’t learned the lessons these authors were shouting from the rooftops in 1999. There are too many companies mistakenly believing they can and do control communications about their company, products and services. There are too many refusing to acknowledge – much less participate in – the marketplace conversations. There are still company-erected barriers keeping employees from participating (at least officially) in the public conversations. Walled forts around many businesses seem to do all they can to keep the customer out of the daily workflow and at a safe distance, harming relationships rather than doing the things that would develop relationships and goodwill.

There are probably many people who would be offended in some way (possibly many ways) reading Cluetrain. Fortunately, I have enough of a rebel within me to thoroughly enjoy the ideas of the book throughout as well as the unhindered frankness with which they are presented, if not all the salty language. If you are part of a marketing or communications team in a large business, be sure to put your big girl or big boy pants on when you read it, because this is not your typical business book and it will regularly slap you around a bit. That’s probably a good thing.

There will be others who just don’t buy what Cluetrain is selling. I found it humorous to find John C. Dvorak’s 2002 PC Magazine article about Cluetrain quoted on the Wikipedia page admitting to such, and then imagining far more about the book’s devotees: “I don’t get it… the apparent faith in this odd vision of an idealistic human-oriented internetworked new world/new economy marches forward. I imagine all these folks holding hands in a large circle, rolling back and forth, with some in the middle of the circle, spinning and chanting and hugging, all naked. I’m betting that most of these folks go to Burning Man and all of them write blogs about it and how cool it was. They link to each others’ blogs and read what they say about each other—all highly complimentary.”

That’s funny stuff, John, and I can even imagine the same. Some paragraphs of the book read like the author was as high as a kite while writing it. Still, you have to get past such occasionally awkward moments and style and hone in on the point of it all which was then and still is perfectly valid and important.

Whether you agree or not with the basic premise of Cluetrain, and whether you agree or not with many of the 95 theses, this is at minimum good fodder for an important conversation many businesses still need to have.

By the way, the name “Cluetrain” was spawned from a comment about a Fortune 500 business that didn’t get the message of the book: “The clue train stopped there four times a day for ten years and they never took delivery.” Here’s hoping that you, dear reader, are part of a business that takes delivery of the many clues The Cluetrain Manifesto has to offer.

Now, put on something tie-dyed, grab your favorite beverage, kick back without your shoes and go read those 95 theses. Then, if you’re willing, either read the original or 10th anniversary edition of the book. It’s worth your time. I promise.

ESNchatWhat a whirlwind of a week! The last several days have been among the most hectic, exhausting and exciting days I have had in a long time. Besides the normal activities that contributed to this nearly 70-hour work week, there were two lengthy evening software upgrades to the test and production environments of our enterprise social network (ESN) at work. I was asked on Thursday to be the featured guest Friday in a video and Twitter chat on the subject of ESNs. That started a scramble to make sure I had the right hardware and an acceptable location from which to participate in the video, as well as spending time thinking through the questions we’d discuss. But the kicker for the week was the first ever #ESNchat held on Thursday, September 12.

#ESNchat is a weekly Twitter chat I started for people like me who work with their company’s internal or enterprise social network. While there are other excellent chats, organizations and resources for those of us doing online community management (and I take part in several), most of them tend to focus more on external communities which companies establish for customers (such as those on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, other public and private communities) rather than internal ones made up solely of the employees of one company. I did my homework to make sure I wasn’t duplicating something already in existence, and when it became apparent a couple of months ago that there was a gap to fill, I started putting things in place to start #ESNchat. I could not possibly be happier with the kickoff week for it.

I am thankful to all who participated in the inaugural chat on Thursday. I loved the number of participants, their eagerness to take part in the discussion, the broad cross-section of businesses represented, the wisdom shared in response to the questions, and the further discussion spawned by those comments. One of the participants, Carrie Young, expanded on one of her popular ideas she expressed in the chat with a brilliant blog post the next day called “You Might Die Today from a Lethal Spider Bite, and Other Pressing Enterprise Concerns.” I look forward to Carrie being our featured guest on #ESNchat Sept. 26.

If you’d like to see the archive of that discussion, you’ll find a link to it on the archives page. Also check out the schedule of future chats. There is a link at the top of this blog to more info about it.

My thanks also to Tim McDonald, Director of Community at Huffington Post. Tim is also the founder of the weekly #cmgrhangout video and Twitter chat. He saw the info about #ESNchat on Thursday and invited me to be the guest on Friday’s #cmgrhangout to discuss ESNs. You’ll find that video and tweet archive here.

As I think back on the craziness of the past few days, a few thoughts come to mind that make the hectic pace, lack of sleep and food, running around and losing a couple of pounds (temporarily) worthwhile:

  • There is great satisfaction in identifying a need in a profession and taking the initiative to try to do something about it. Hosting a Twitter chat isn’t a matter of showing up a few minutes beforehand one day and tweeting a few questions spaced over the hour, hoping people will show up and participate. There was research to be done to hone in on a worthwhile topic and need that is not currently being met. There was effort in deciding on a name, reserving domain names and Twitter handles, researching which supporting tools felt like the best fit for managing the chat experience, setting up info online about the chat, talking with fellow ESN community managers and others about the idea, determining a topic schedule, detailing the questions and planned tweets down to the minute for the first chat, promoting the chat through various channels, establishing new relationships with like-minded people from other organizations to help gather a small but solid crew of initial participants who promised to be there to help get it started, spending hours afterward following up with people, archiving in a friendly manner the contents of the chat, plus more that I’m probably forgetting to mention. It is no small commitment to stay with this indefinitely into the future, but I know it will be worth it for me and for others because of the knowledge shared and relationships established.
  • None of us is smarter than all of us. It is worth the effort to cross organizational and additional barriers to connect with other professionals to share ideas, questions, insights, issues and solutions. That’s why professional organizations and communities of practice exist. That why it’s awesome when employees of competing companies can come together in a Twitter chat like #ESNchat and share ideas (without divulging any corporate secrets) to learn from one another and advance the field.
  • We always need to be thinking about next practices, not just best practices. This blog is named “Next Practices” because I want to always be pondering questions like, “Where do we need to be several years down the road?”; “What can I do today to help shape the future into what I believe it can be (whether anyone else believes it or not)?”; “What is the best solution to problems we face, regardless of perceived constraints, and how can I then eliminate those constraints one by one in order to pursue that best solution, not settling for second best?” Best practices are good to know and may help you and your company mature in many ways, but best practices from yesterday aren’t necessarily what is needed for tomorrow, next year and further down the road. What we need are next practices. It is my hope that #ESNchat helps spark creativity and excitement related to enterprise social networks in such a way that it spawns some next practices.

To all who had a hand in the beginning of #ESNchat, thank you! I hope to see many of you each Thursday on Twitter from 2-3pm Eastern.