His Other Voice

There’s nothing like the loss of a family member to get one thinking about life and personal authenticity.  I was in that frame of mind when I became conscious of a change in timber from the television droning in the background.  Robert Osborne and his guest were seated in a theatre introducing a classic movie.  The guest was speaking through a voice synthesizer.  Not in the Stephen Hawking type of electronic voice – it was actually quite pleasant – yet noticeably not human.  It was Roger Ebert, the man who popularized the thumbs up-thumbs down voting program with then co-host Gene Siskel.  Roger’s appearance had changed since the last time I saw him on television but the words were clearly his.  After listening to his insightful introduction to a Barbara Stanwyck film I looked him up on the web to see what had happened to him.

I found the most beautifully written article about him in Esquire.  He has survived multiple surgeries, radiation, cancer resurgences, a near fatal vascular accident, cannot eat or speak and yet he says he is happy.  He’s writing.  His topic is no longer movies, he writes of life.  “You are the readers I have dreamed of” he writes.  He talks about what is important.  He reveals himself.  He is no longer able to speak in the traditional sense but he has fully found his voice.  His other voice.

For meaningful weight loss I recommend surgery and a liquid diet.

Treat yourself by reading the Esquire story.  It is inspirational and provides perspective.  And then read Roger Ebert’s reaction to the story.  It completes the picture nicely.


Discipline: The One Quality You Can’t Succeed Without

Instant gratification. 

Play before you pay. 

Wanting everything and wanting it now.

These are the anthems of North Americans in the twenty-first century.  It has led to a generation of impatient workers and a per capita debt load never before seen.  I think there is another price that is not often discussed: the lack of commitment to stretch goals.

Most of us plan our weeks in advance – inserting meetings and project work carefully.  But how many of us stick to our schedule?  It’s so easy to let appointments with one’s self slide when more interesting or more urgent work beckons.  That’s how stretch goals begin to fade into the distance.

Stick to your calendar this week.  Ask yourself on Friday if you moved closer toward the achievement of what is most important.

Living Your Brand

There’s a lot of negative hype about personal branding these days.  It makes me sad because it obscures what could be the most thought provoking aspect of career and self management: knowing oneself deeply and living a life of alignment.

A personal brand isn’t something you put on and take off.  It’s who you are and how others experience you.

Take the time to become self aware, clarify what you stand for, congratulate yourself on the behaviors that are in alignment with your values, and discard the ones that don’t fit.

Your brand is you.  Live it fully.

Are you a social media lurker?

If you are a social networking lurker you already know who you are, but just in case there is any doubt here are the symptoms.

– You have a LinkedIn profile but your name is hidden.

– You ignore connection requests – or worse yet – you have a LinkedIn profile but never sign in to manage your profile.

– You have a Twitter account but your tweets are private. Requests to follow you produce a shudder and immediate blocking of the dastardly would-be connection.

– You check your Facebook privacy settings weekly to ensure no one can find you.

Lurkers do all of the above as if to negate their online presence yet they spend time reviewing others’ profiles and watching networking activities.  I can think of a couple of reasons why this behavior is not in your best interests.

1)  In today’s connected world it’s tough to attain trusted advisor status if your legitimacy cannot be corroborated by a public persona.  I don’t have any hard data to support that claim but I can tell you that business prospects have returned my phone calls and told me that they checked me out on LinkedIn first before they decided whether to call.

2)  You may be missing an opportunity to connect with someone who can provide good advice or a service that you need.

3)  The most important reason not to lurk is this: Lurkers don’t give back to the community — and sharing is what social networking is all about.

Consider this an invitation to decloak and join the community.

Margin Squeeze – Are You in a Race to the Bottom?

margin profit commoditization value businessThe problem with commoditization is it leaves little room for differentiation or innovation.  Some businesses used the recession as a strategic tool to reduce vendor costs by pushing suppliers to renegotiate pricing.  It was definitely a buyer’s market for savvy procurement types tasked with making up for revenue shortfalls by realizing cost reductions.  Even seasoned business people confident in the value of their offerings fell victim to margin squeeze.

Pricing pressures are not limited to B2B or commercial relationships.  Consumers impacted by employment instability are making a mark as they seek new ways to stretch discretionary dollars.  The Hotel giant Marriott is feeling the pain from cash-strapped vacationers looking for better deals.  Even Walmart is feeling the pinch from the formidable growth of dollar stores.

It seems those of us who live in western Canada have become adept at ferreting out a deal according to Shoppers Drug Mart.  The company runs 160 stores in the four western Canadian provinces and is the top drug store player in Canada.  Says Shoppers West President Dave McDonald: “This is probably the most competitive market in all of Canada…”

It’s tough to regain lost ground.  Here are two questions that merit consideration:

  • Are your pricing strategies well understood by the teams who defend them?
  • How firm is the team’s belief in your value proposition?

When “Making It” Is a Moving Target

If your future feels like it was just put on perpetual hold, these tips may help you reframe things, find fresh motivation, and start moving forward.

1. Stay positive.  Change is always right around the corner.  A positive attitude will help you see new opportunities.

2. Remember what’s important.  Perspective is a powerful ally.

3. Don’t take yourself too seriously.  If necessary get a little YouTube therapy courtesy of the Flintstones theme song.

4. Gratitude will keep you grounded.  Volunteer at a local shelter or food bank.  You’ll feel better and so will the people you help.

Skilled trades – Who knew?

Did you know…

  • Skilled trades workers earn 3.1% more than the average of all workers (this includes professionals like doctors and lawyers).  Skilled trades is a smart career choice.
  • Skilled trades is named as the #1 most difficult to fill sector in the United States and Canada.  There are jobs available right now – especially for mobile workers.
  • The average age of skilled trades people is between 55 and 59 — this means the shortage will continue and will get worse.
  • The work performed by skilled trades people cannot be offshored — so it offers career longevity

For more information on skilled trades as a career, see www.mikeroweworks.com.  If you are in Canada, click this link.

Recombobulation Area

A touch of kindness at Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee

Considering the degree to which air travellers must disrobe at airport security it’s a wonder we ever make it to our destinations as intact as we do.  I know I’m not the only one who finds it somewhat unnerving to be in the company of two dozen strangers in various stages of undress surrounded by the sounds of buckling, zipping and closing things.  There we stand,  clutching boarding passes, hawkishly scanning items as they exit the xray machine to ensure we leave nothing vital behind.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this announcement:

“Will the passenger who left a brown belt at security please return to collect it.” 

It gives me an instant mental picture of some poor soul – suitcase in one hand, holding up drooping pants with the other.

One airport is seeking to give its patrons a bit of relief by providing a recombobulation area.  The photo above is from the General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.  We still have to disrobe, but now we have a calm spot in which to put it all back together.  I love it.  You have to appreciate the humor and humanity in this gesture.  Thanks MKE.

By the way — to show how community focused they are…  I tweeted this last night and they tweeted right back.  Impressive.  We should all listen and engage with our customers as well as this airport does.

For the next few months, I entered airport security with renewed curiosity and a sense of fun. As I made my way through each one I would look for a recombobulation area. Of course, none of the other airports had one, so I would then send a tweet to Mitchell Airport announcing that they are still the friendliest airport in all the land. I never would have believed that I’d develop a relationship with an airport, but there it is. And don’t you know if I have a choice of airports to make a connection, I’m going to choose this one over others. That’s a fine example of corporate social networking.

My Twitter experiment

Have you noticed how experts can distill a complex idea into a short, succinct description we can all understand?  Someone who really owns their topic can deconstruct it into its simplest elements and put it back together in a way that is relevant to the immediate audience.

That’s my attraction to Twitter.  I consider it a leadership development tool in that it forces me to pick just one main point and get to it quickly.  Last week I decided to try speaking in this way — I call it Twitterish.

All great lessons contain surprises and this was no exception.  What I learned is that I need to listen more.  Attempting to repackage my rambling thoughts into fewer words created unnatural pauses.  I found the other person often took that as a sign that I needed more information, and sometimes that additional information took the conversation in a totally different direction — into something more useful to my conversation partner.

So I’ve learned that less is better and sometimes remaining silent helps the real conversation show up.