Talking to Our Technology

Siri, Cortana, and OK Google: The newest cast of next generation assistants.

Each of the above are digital technologies designed to allow us humans to interact with our devices by speaking to them.

talking head

On first blush, this may seem like a strange way to get things done since we’ve been keyboard bound to our technology since the days of the typewriter (it’s like a computer with no screen, no need to have power and prints directly on paper…Google it if you’re younger than 40).

I’m finding, however, that talking to my technology is an efficient way to get data in and out at a moment’s notice.

It’s not perfect yet, but amazingly accurate.

My current talking tool is OK Google since I’m Android based for now. I’ve used Siri and Cortana with similar results.

Spend a half hour or so researching what your tools can do and give it a try. You may find that you’re much more efficient in just a short time.

Here are a few links to get you started:

Siri: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204389
Cortana: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-10/getstarted-what-is-cortana
OK Google: https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/2940021?hl=en

If you’re feeling really frisky, just launch your assistant and ask it for help.

New Adventures!

After a successful 20 plus years in the environmental consulting field, I have chosen to start a new adventure!

adventure

Coupled with a downturn in business at my previous employer, and my desire to expand and continue learning and growing, I have accepted a role in the Heavy Civil Construction industry.

My new role will allow me to bring my decision making, leadership skills and growth orientation to a company that’s expanding rapidly and places an emphasis on coaching, leadership development and construction excellence.

It’s a dream career change for me.

It’s also been over 5 years in the making…

I felt that I had plateaued in my old role, needing a challenge to grow and expand my knowledge and contribute to a company with similar values.

During those 5 years, I met with and researched many options for my transition. None seemed a perfect fit.

At times, I wondered if there was any possibility for a change that was truly win/win. I almost settled a few times, but kept on pushing.

Thankfully, perseverance and not settling really do pay off.

If you are considering a change in life, spend a lot of time getting crystal clear on what you want, why you want it and how it will impact your life in the future and then be ruthless in chasing that dream.

Accept nothing less than a win/win in your career.

It’s BOTH What You Do AND Who You Know

For years we’ve all heard (or maybe griped) that it’s not what you know, but who you know.

In the past, before the advent of the internet, global economy and the 24 hour news cycle, this may have been true.

Today, accountability is just one tweet or email blast away.

both and

We can be a subject matter expert and get crosswise in a business relationship and our business is in danger of going under.

Alternatively, we can be best buddies with an owner and if we lack the skills to do our job, word will leak out through any number of digital and verbal ways. The end result is the same: our business is in danger of going under.

In a world of information exchange at the touch of a digital device we need to be BOTH growing our skills AND keeping our relationships healthy.

Both/And…not either/or!

To do any less is a recipe for disaster.

Savor the Seasons

I’m fortunate enough to live in the midwest where we have four full seasons each year. Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall.

Some years a spring or fall season may seem to last only a few days, but we have them nonetheless.

Most years, winter and especially summer, seem to stretch on forever.

heat wave

The extremes of the season drive us crazy and tend to make us focus on the downside of life…another 100 degree, 100% humidity sweatbox of a day, how can I get anything done in this weather.

Our lives follow a seasonal flow too and many times we don’t take the time to notice what season we’re in, and more importantly, recognize that these times will pass.

As you bask in the summer heat, take a few minutes to review the past few months in your personal life.

What season are you in?

What season is coming up and what are you excited about?

Words Mean Less Than the Intent Behind Them

I was recently dealing with a less than optimal situation.  A reservation that I had made was cancelled and I wasn’t notified of the cancellation.  As I spoke with the immediate employee, and then the next level up, I was hearing all the right words being spoken…”We’re sorry”, “It shouldn’t have happened”, “We hope this doesn’t affect future patronage”.

However, one thing that was also spoken without these exact words was that another opportunity had caused this cancellation.  In that moment it was clear was was actually being said…my patronage was less valuable than that of the other party.

In that moment, all the other words took a back seat.

words and intention

As you deal with setbacks and rough issues, always remember that the words said have less meaning than the intent behind them.  Also, remember that people are innately very good at hearing intention over words.

In this day and age of covering liability and quick apology to troubles, use your listening skills to hear the intention behind the words.

When you communicate with others, always be sure to convey your intentions clearly. If you choose to focus on the words and not the intention, the other parties will wonder what is really going on.

 

Beware the Shortcut

Leadership blogs and tech websites abound with shortcuts that promise us an easy fix to our problems. In only 5 steps or 7 bullets you can overcome any problem facing you.

The diet pill containing FDA approved ingredients will boost our energy and help us lose weight.

Not enough cash for that purchase? Just put it on the credit card.

Want to change jobs? Just pay for my class and use my simple system and you’ll become rich like Scrooge McDuck.

shortcut

Here’s the brutal truth…

If you want to see big life changes, you have to put in big work. PERIOD.

There is no shortcut to becoming a person of good character. It takes years of work to stick to your values and priorities.

Building a company that treats both customers and employees as valued human beings takes intentional focus and rejecting get rich quick schemes that de-value someone.

The work ethic of the 30’s and 40’s is made to seem antiquated when you can take a shortcut to easy wealth/health/relationships according to the media and “gurus” of the interwebs.

But it’s not true.

The best things in life require work.

Beware the shortcut….

Where do you need to put in some work?

Are Your Systems Helping or Hurting Your Business

Systems in your business (processes that you put in place to ensure a consistent experience for the customer/client) are absolutely critical to your success as a leader.  However, we also have to make sure that, as leaders, we review and revise our systems periodically.  It’s easy to get tied up in the day to day grind and forget what hoops our customer/clients are having to jump through because of our systems.

As with all things, there are pluses and minus to systems.plusminus

Case in point:

I’m in the middle of transitioning the phone and internet at job from not only one vendor, but to a whole new technology.  We’re leaving the old world of copper pair PBX and jumping into hosted VOIP for our phones. We’re also changing vendors for the internet from ancient bonded T1’s to fancy 18Mb broadband.

As you might expect, the process is fraught with potential gotcha’s.  With all things technology, the process is a house of cards with many potential points of failure that will cascade throughout the whole operation.

I’m working with a great Business Account Manager with the new vendor.  She’s responsive, courteous, and has in depth knowledge of the offerings available to me.

However, she’s getting hamstrung badly by outdated business ordering systems.  For example: to get an answer to a question, I have to talk to her, then she talks to an in house person, who checks a database, who then has a tech come out to the site.

As you might expect, the process has gone sideways and the product that was supposed to be available to us, is not.  Even though the database said it was, and the in house person said it was, the tech said everything was working, and the Business Account Manager gets to deal with my calls of “Why aren’t we getting the program we were quoted”.

Leaders, my challenge to you today is to follow up with a customer and get feedback on the process of getting your service or product into their hands.  Review your systems internally and talk with the folks who have day to day, hands on experience with the systems and ask for their input on how to improve the systems.

Not only does this invest in your people, but you might just get the best idea to improve your system that you’ve never thought of.

What systems can you improve in the next two weeks?

If you want to stay productive skip the smart watches; or follow this advice.

The tech world is atwitter (and on Twitter) about the forthcoming release of the Apple Watch.  A connected smart watch that promises to provide you with apps galore, keep track of your location, pulse count and give you notifications from your iPhone right on your wrist in an instant.

Yesterday I saw a tweet from Michael Hyatt (whom I respect as a leader and tech user – get connected with him online with stat!), referencing an article by a tech writer about his Apple Watch Nightmare.

It’s not the first smart watch to the market.  Pebble, Android Wear and numerous other devices all promise to take the notifications from our smartphones and place them right at our wrists, without even having to check our phones.

Pebble Steel Watch

Heres the problem though…we’re already a distracted people and these kinds of devices have huge potential to worsen the problem.

In my coaching practice, I work with high level people to help take them to the next level.  Right now, many of my clients state that distraction and time management are the top issues holding them back.

For example: One Executive at the top of his organization is dealing with the massive influx of email, phone calls and his direct reports dropping by his office during business hours. Notifications that he has email, text, or phone calls going right to his wrist is going to reduce his attention span to next to nothing.

Another client, a Vice President with almost 100 people in his division is already struggling with the volume of notifications that he gets on a daily basis. During a time I spent with him, he was on the phone or answering texts/email for all but a few minutes of time. Imagine his chaos of getting notifications to his wrist while he’s on the phone already…

Still yet another client, responsible for a multimillion dollar complex, has a list of projects that is literally in the multiple pages when printed.  The influx of notifications going right to his wrist would be impossible to keep up with during the day.

They are not the only ones, and I suspect that you’re dealing with this tension as well…

So what’s the solution?

I see two approaches that you can take (and I advocate for both positions depending on your personality).

1) Don’t get a smart watch. Very few things in life are important enough that you need instant notification.

2) Turn off all but a few notifications. As a matter of fact, I regularly encourage clients to turn off all notifications on their cell phone, limit their email checking to twice daily, and put their phones on do not disturb for extended periods of time.

Intentional management of your time requires focus, and distraction from daily influx of notifications can really ruin your flow.

You may think that it’s not possible to build in time to be disconnected, but I encourage you to try it.  We never used to be this connected, and by communicating with your clients, coworkers and family what your schedule is, it’s not only doable, but the secret to a successful career.

I’m not all against smart watches. As many of you know, I’m a tech oriented kind of guy.  From network administration, to Ham radio, I love my tech toys.  As a matter of fact, I’m a smart watch user myself with a beautiful Pebble Steel connected to my Android phone.  But I’ve throttled notifications to just text messages from my personal cell number and my calendar alerts.  No email, no text from the business number. I check my various notifications when I intentionally choose to, on my schedule.

The bottom line is that technology can help or dramatically hurt your productivity, and the only way to ensure you are able to succeed is to take ownership of your time and be intentional about your schedule.

How are you dealing with distractions from your devices and daily work life?

Choose You in 2015

So we’re a month into 2015 and you’ve had a few weeks to try out your goals and / or resolutions.

In past years, I’ve had grand goals and plans that would benefit my business, other’s businesses or teams.

This year, it’s the year of John.

I’m going to be focusing on my personal health: mental, physical and spiritual.

If you’re not feeling that those goals you set for 2015 are “making good” on helping you to improve, take the time to change them.

There’s nothing set in stone, and you’re worth it.

Leave Average Behind.

Wrap up 2014 well and clarify 2015 goals

So how was your 2014?

Have you ever taken time to think deeply about how your year went?  It’s something that I was encouraged to do about 4 years ago, and now it’s a vital piece of my growth and perspective each year.

Doing a yearly review and goal setting for the next is critical to me keeping focus and putting the most important things in my life in priority view.

Climb The Peak

I’d like to share my process and encourage you to give it a try this year.

  • Pick a block of time when you’re at your sharpest (early, late, over coffee, whenever you feel at your mental best).
  • Print out your calendar from 2014 and grab a copy of your journal (if you keep one).
  • Have a clean piece of paper or notebook at hand (leave the electronic tools aside, they tend to lead to distraction rather than focus).
  • Split the page down the middle vertically and write good at the top of one side and bad on the other.
  • Look at each month individually and recall what happened that month.
  • Write down what you see jumping out at your as you look at your calendar and journal. If you don’t have a journal (now’s a good time to start one), just let your mind wander through each month and remember what happened.
  • Once you’re done with the year, look back at your lists of good and bad. Be thankful for the good, grieve the bad and then close the year. Take the paper, wad or shred it up and throw it away.

Take a 5 minute break, have a stimulating drink of choice and then grab a new piece of paper.

  • If you could accomplish just three things in 2015 that you know would make a positive impact in your life, what would they be? Wildly important, life changing, dream type goals are what you’re looking for here. Give your 2015 a reason to be great!
  • Write these goals down, with spaces between each for notes later.
  • Why would accomplishing these goals make your 2015 better? Write down the why under each goal. Knowing your why will make it easier to stay on task in June when things are getting hectic (or late January depending on how busy your are).
  • Write out a list of the next little step you could take to make the goal happen. It might be a phone call, schedule a meeting, do a google search, etc.
  • When you get that one task done, write out the next action step you must take.
  • Repeat until you’re done with the goal!

I hope that you’ve had a great 2014 and are looking forward to your 2015! If you ever need an encouragement or challenge, please drop me a line. I’d love to help you move forward and leave average behind!