How to Minimize a Big Problem

Yesterday I was an unwilling participant in a security blunder made by a service provider that I use at both work and home.

The cool thing was that the response to the issue was a great lesson in excellent leadership.



I’ve been utilizing a firm to provide both DNS and content filtering for the internet since they opened their doors to the public years ago. The service has been stellar, and the content filter has survived the attempts of both bored corporate workers and mischievous teenagers to access content that you wouldn’t want to watch with your Grandmother.

Yesterday an overzealous (and probably new) sales rep sent out an email making statements that my account was being used improperly and that I’d be locked out of features unless I upgraded to their higher level platform.  It was an example in the worst kind of sales marketing: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

To make matters worse, the sales rep sent the email out to a huge list of people and included everyone’s address in the TO: field! This means that he exposed the user list to everyone and opened up a huge potential for spam and other unsavory practices.  Keep in mind that this is a company that provides internet security services…

To say that I was less than thrilled would be an understatement.  However, within 45 minutes I received an email from the CEO of the company.  The CEO apologized for the error, re-affirmed his desire to keep his customer base happy and promised follow-up from the head of sales detailing how they would rectify the issue.

The CEO defused a potentially huge PR gaff with an excellent leadership response.  While he’s going to take heat from people, and I’m sure that this made his day significantly less pleasant, his response is textbook in how to minimize a big problem:

  • React swiftly: Waiting will only magnify problems.  Suck it up and dive into the unpleasantness.
  • Be forthright and honest: Take ownership of the problem. Don’t try to hide behind marketing speak or legalese. Admit, move on.
  • Avoid deflection: Don’t try to justify or deflect the problem onto someone else.  If a staff/team member messed up, the leader takes one on the chin.  That’s what leaders are paid to do.
  • Apologize: Say you’re sorry… It’s. Just. That. Simple.
  • Affirm the offended party:  Let them know that you appreciate them (if you do: don’t lie – and if you don’t, get out of business)
  • Provide details on how to mitigate future problems:  You don’t have to have the whole plan, but give as much detail as you need to show that you’re taking the issue seriously and will have systems/processes in place to avoid the issue in the future.
  • Be receptive to feedback: Listen to the feedback that you are provided.  The future best idea of the month may come in from a user as a result of the problem. Keep your ears open.

While I’m not pleased about the issue, the response was wonderful and textbook of what I’d expect of a excellent leader.  Many companies maximize a problem by their response.  This firm handled it as best they could and because of that minimized the problem.

I’ll keep doing business with them.  We all make mistakes, and handling it well is a trust builder.

Remember these 7 simple items next time you’re on the hot seat for a mistake made by either yourself or a team member.

Have you ever experienced a response to a bad problem that left you feeling better about the company?

Fancy words about how to really get in shape: Gamification and the Quantified Self

Example of Gamification and Quantified Self

Example of Gamification and Quantified Self

The vast majority of office workers struggle with either controlling weight or getting out and exercising. Many are wrestling with both and losing the battle. Change is Hard!

For years I was in the latter category: too much sitting, not enough moving and eating fast food as the majority of my diet.  I’d tried dieting and some exercise programs, but never got past the “have to do it” mentality.

Here’s the “secret” that not many folks are being told about weight loss and exercise:  It’s 90% emotional/mental!

You can find a valid weight loss diet and exercise program on the internet in a matter of minutes, but if you can’t get your mindset right, you’ll fail over and over again.  Just like me.

The good news is that using some really fun tools and a rudimentary understanding of psychology, we can accelerate our health results and have them stick.  We can solve the “have to” problem!

If you want a concise understanding of how emotions trump logic (how I feel gets the better of me, despite what I know I should do), read the great book by Chip and Dan Heath called SWITCH How to change when change is hard.  Here’s the distilled essence that we need to know to get our body going where we need (and want to be).

  • Find the feeling: Knowing is not enough. You have to have an emotional driver.  Take a picture of yourself in your underwear. Do you like what you see? Does it make you fell angry, sick, sad, disappointed? Good! Now you’ve got the feeling. Post that picture somewhere you’ll see it everyday and keep your emotions running high.  Take another picture in a month and see how much better you’re doing.
  • Shrink the Change: Losing 100lbs and running a marathon can cause you to fall off the wagon in a hurry.  Shoot for 1 pound and 1 mile of walking.  Do that for a week or two then up the goal by no more than 20%.  This we can do.  This is all we shoot for: the next week or two. Don’t stare at the bright light of your goal, it’ll burn you in the end.
  • Grow Your People: We’ve got to have a feeling of community and support for change to happen. Getting a group of like minded people will help you succeed. Though this may seem hard, it’s time to bring out the big words and make this easier.

Gamification and the Quantified Self  (click on the underlined link text for full definitions) will help you win because they enable the areas above. The end result is strengthening our emotional resolve to win!

  • Gamification strives to leverage people’s natural desires for competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism, and closure (Find the Feeling and Grow Your People).
  • Quantified Self is data collection, followed by visualization, cross-referencing and the discovery of correlations (Shrinking the Change).

Using my smartphone, apps and some hardware, I can track my sleep, walking/running/exercise, food that I eat, and have feedback from an online community of friends to keep me motivated and cheer me on (or commiserate with me when I have a bad day). We can create a whole system to help us succeed that only takes a few minutes a day to maintain and check!

I’ve not only lost 10lbs (and kept if off for over 4 months), but I’m much stronger, faster and more nimble than ever and my body proportions are much better as I lose fat and pack on muscle.

Yes, it costs money: that’s important because it’s a motivator to keep going so we don’t waste the money.  You have to have skin in the game!  Change is Hard!

Here’s what I’m using:

  • Jawbone Up!: This bracelet style band tracks your movement and an app that shows you how far you’ve walked/run. It also can track your sleep to help you see how much (or little) sleep you’re getting.  A killer feature for us cubicle dwellers is an “inactivity alarm” that vibrates after a user defined period to remind us to get up and move (mine is set for 30 minutes, I got buzzed twice while writing this and got up to grab some more water).  The app has social features allowing you to create an UP! team that others can see your activity and give you props for. 
  • Nike+ Fuelband: Similar, but different from the Up, the Fuelband tracks motion in 3D. You can get credit for boxing, or other physical activity.  The band has a display and a light graph that shows your Nike Fuel (a standard Nike measurement of movement), steps, calories and time.  I like to see the lights go from red to green…it’s just that simple for me..  The App includes social sharing if you desire.  I use it as a watch and to track my boxing efforts.
  • app: Daily habits you define are tracked.  The habits can be shared and others can join your habits.  I’m tracking my slow-carb diet each day with 4,244 other people. I also track: Reading, Flossing, Boxing, Taking Multivitamin, and Banjo Practice among others. Members of the habit can give each other props and you get a nice graph that shows you how many times a week you do the habits.
  • LoseIt app:  Food tracking with an exercise and weight tracker. Huge database of foods and a bar code scanner to help you zap in your food.  It’s amazing how much less I eat when I know the caloric intake each day from fast food…Woof!

I’d encourage you to get started today in getting healthy (or healthier)!  You’ve only got one body and taking care of it is more important as we get older.

Are you having success in gamifying and quantifying your life?

What are you using?

Getting off the digital treadmill.


Last week I took a bit of a digital sabbatical.

I took 5 days of vacation time and volunteered at a youth camp that I used to work at back in the early 1990’s.

The camp is situated on close to 1,000 acres of gorgeous southern Illinois glaciated sandstone. It’s an outdoor adventure program camp with activities like horseback riding, archery, riflery, swimming (of course), nature hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking…you get the picture.

Luckily for me, AT&T has absolutely zero cell phone coverage at the property (although Verizon does, go figure). I had a free week from calls, texts, etc.  The feeling of freedom was incredible!

Based on this article from the NY Times, I’m not the only one who’s really enjoying getting away from the internet enabled world.

Although some of the activities are a little too far afield for even me, the concept is sound and I’d recommend you take a few minutes to read and ponder how you can free up some time to get away from it all.

The Choices Are Killing Us

Grocery stores that carry 50 kinds of cookies, hundreds of possible cell phones, 25 fast food joints on the way home, 15 Cine with couches and stadium seating, 185 channels on cable/Satellite and Netflix/Hulu/Amazon for streaming entertainment.

The choices are infinite! And most times it’s not for our benefit, but for the seller of those goods.

In fact, studies have shown that too many choices lead to unhappiness!

In this world of hyper-choice, it’s become critical to intentionally limit your choices in order to live a content life.

In this post, I’ll help you start to limit yourself into a happier state.


I’m a digital hunter gatherer. Left to my own devices, I’ll slowly but surely churn through the latest tech advances, evaluating and then choosing or discarding each tool.

One thing I’ve noticed though, is that a full day of this kind of “research” will leave me truly drained, slightly irritable, and almost paralyzed by what to do next.

These side effects are not limited to tech, but to the process of having to make choices.

Turns out that humans have a finite capacity for choices each day (some more than others), and that every choice we make lessens our ability to make future decisions.

A great book on this topic is “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” by Chip and Dan Heath. Click the link if you’re interested in further study.

The end result is that your ability to limit your choices, to in essence, make habits of things that used to require choices, will increase your contentment, happiness, and well being.

Author and crazy human Tim Ferris advocates a lifestyle of eating the same few meals on a rotating basis. The predictability makes meal planning and execution easier, shopping quicker, and helps to focus your attention not on the food, but on the people you enjoy it with. It hearkens back to what is now a cliche: Meatloaf Tuesday. Our parents and grandparents had the same meals in rotation.

A little change like this will pay huge dividends: I’m eating the same thing for breakfast each day, have the same lunch with three different meats each day, and have 4 dinners that we rotate each week. The stress of mealtime is gone! No more choices need to be made, it’s “the way it is” and I’m on autopilot in this area.

The same concept can be applied to other areas of your life:
– TV watching (cut down to just your favorite 4 shows and DVR them. Watch only 1 hour a day. Skip the commercials).
– Clothes (how many outfits do we really need anyway? Do you think people care? Read this post and then create yourself a “uniform” of maybe 5 outfits…maybe less.
– How long you keep paper / digital articles? Read it in 5 days or pitch it…the world will go on!

There are numerous ways to make your life “less choice” filled!

Which area can you simplify today and start to live a more contented life?