Tuesday, November 25, 2008

'If You Didn't Want My Newsletter, Why'd You Give Me Your Biz Card?"


As I mentioned in my tweets, I was a speaker on a panel at Purdue. Wonderful program that connected minority and women-owned businesses with purchasing managers from Central and West-Central Indiana. Sure enough, after having dozens of business cards pressed into my hands (and passing out my share to people I'd like to stay in contact with), it's started: The unsolicited subscriptions to email newsletters.

In the old economy (pre-AOL/Compuserve/Netscape of the early 1990's), it wasn't inconceivable to get a paper and ink newsletter when someone got your business card. Back then in the pre-Can SPAM Act days, all one had to get was an address (which they could find in the phone book) and they were off to the races. Now, Can SPAM Act or no, people assume that if you give up that email address, you're asking--begging--to be added to their email list. Better yet, the really industrious ones think that selling their email mailing lists is what Martha Stewart would call "a good thing."

It isn't. If I get one of these, I get 10 and they don't just magically disappear by force of will.

I've maintained that networking (more aptly discussed as "prospecting with people who are uninterested in buying") as we've come to know it is such a bad idea. I routinely remove myself from those mailing lists...and toss the card of the offending biz person.

Better would be to ask how the person who gave out the card wants to be interacted with and then writing that on the back of the card. The chances of deepeming a relationshipo through relationship-appropriate communication is enhanced.

'If You Didn't Want My Newsletter, Why'd You Give Me Your Biz Card?"

Glad you asked. I thought you could keep it on file in case you met someone who could benefit from my services (or your associates, mine), that we could consider getting together to learn more about each others' businesses, that we might get together for tea to strategize ways in which we could both win (like a joint venture or other collaborative opportunity), that you might be interested in the free items on my website, that you might want to listen to my podcast and possibly appear on one, that you might use the biz card as a book mark...

Being added to your SPAM list was the last thing on my mind.

(See? That wasn't too bad, was it?)

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Kindle Mentor--Found!

Now, before any of you smart alecs go off mumbling that I've got a Kindle habit, let me be the first to say it: Hi. My name's Lalita and I'm a Kind-a-holic. Garland's found me slumped on the couch in front of the fireplace, glasses askew, clutching my reader like a just-returned foundling.

It's a cautionary tale.

Though, I will say that I've met some very interesting people hereabouts. Kindle owners, all. Today, it was Patrick, the man who started my Kindle crush. Like any self-respecting crack dealer, he let me have a free taste. He handed his Kindle over to me--a stranger--at SBX and let me play with it for the better part of an hour while he checked his email. Seeing him today, we was beaming when he saw me walking back to my table with my Kindle, which I've named (in the Amazon system), Gizmo (food and water--bad!).

He was with two friends, non-believers, to be sure, and leaned into me to tell me about all of the Kindle loot he'd gotten and still coveted. When he got to the subject of Kindle covers (he's got 3 or 4), he remarked to me, a fellow conspirator, that he "could see how women can get that way about purses.

And the bridges of understanding get stronger.

Friends have asked me to post a little about what I'm reading on my Kindle. Here's the short list: 


...and there was peace on Earth.

Monday Morning Melodies

I'm hanging at SBX, getting some writing done while I wait for the afternoon meetings to commence. It's a glorious day--misty and fit for fireplaces, chili and pots of tea (can you tell I'm feeling a little peckish). Keeping me company--my trusty Sirius radio. Listening to Alex Bennett (Sirius Left) and an otherworldly discussion on the merits of Michelle Obama's badonka donk, they redeemed themselves by playing some acoustic Amy Winehouse.

In spite of--or sadly, because of--her much-storied personal struggles, she still ranks up there as one of the singular talents of her day. My fear is that, like Billy Holiday, she'll be gone too soon. Still, when I listen to her sing, I think about my mother, who, though still at the beginnings of her life as a woman, loved Billy's ageless voice. Here's a sample:

Beneath their personal dramas that played/are playing out in the tabloids, these women suggest a vital link to my business life: Each in her own way, they crafted their own, singular sound...and sang it. Looking forward to next year and the current climate of fear and scarcity that abounds, I'm struck by the opportunity to, like them, further explore my singular sound--really find it--and sing it to those people whose ears are attuned to listen.

The work of working and living "Like Nobody's Business" isn't as easy as it might seem.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

How Obama tapped into social networks’ power

Like a lot of Web innovators, the Obama campaign did not invent
anything completely new. Instead, by bolting together social networking
applications under the banner of a movement, they created an unforeseen
force to raise money, organize locally, fight smear campaigns and get
out the vote that helped them topple the Clinton machine and then John McCain and the Republicans.

a result, when he arrives at 1600 Pennsylvania, Mr. Obama will have not
just a political base, but a database, millions of names of supporters
who can be engaged almost instantly. And there’s every reason to
believe that he will use the network not just to campaign, but to
govern. ...

Monday, November 17, 2008

First the Smokes and Now His Blackberry: Obama to Go Cold Turkey

I shifted to a smart-enough phone from my Kyocera Palm-based smart phone a year or two ago and almost experienced projectile vomiting, shuddering and sweating--and that was just in walking into my local Wireless Toyz store to talk with them about the possibility of a switch.

President-Elect Obama, for security and other reasons, will more than likely need to let the Blackberry go. I wish him luck.. Oh, and a mop and bucket.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Miriam Makeba, Mama Afrika (a tribute)

I was very small when I first heard Miriam Makeba. I'd come downstairs early one morning to see my mother putting on some music to jam to while cooking, cleaning and doing laundry. Momma danced through the house all day and when I asked her what the songs meant, she said she'd gotten the records from Sophia, a South African student who was studying at Purdue, just across the river. We'd ask her next time we saw her.

Sophia was like nothing and no one I'd ever seen--she was tall (or so she seemed to me at 8), mahogany, had a melodious accent, wore thread and beads in her long hair and was a refugee. Since the 1960's the South African government had been rescinding the visas of traveling students and others. Effectively, she and the others in her little contingent, were exiles.

Sophia brought us Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba. Momma brought Sophia Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis. What an exchange.

Our little house in that newly-integrated neighborhood (that would be us) was filled with people, music and foods from around the world.

Though it was that day I spent with Sophie--she was teaching Momma how to do my hair South-African style (in little semi-rural Lafayette, Indiana!) that I found out what Ms. Makeba was singing about. Her songs were about rural life there. They were about the evils of apartheid. They were about a deep love of Africa...about Zulu life. Sophia would say "here, she's saying 'Momma hurry. Don't let the Afrikaner police catch you!'' and "here she's singing a wedding song. Can you say the letter ! (the symbol for the click)." And my mother would pass her more beads and thread.

Ms. Makeba has suffered greatly before and during her exile. Before leaving South Africa, she and her band mates had been in a terrible accident with another car. The emergency medical personnel only helped the whites. Ms. Makeba's Black South African friends were left to die on the side of the road.

Human road kill.

Years later, she would return to South Africa a heroine. Nelson Mandela persuaded her to return after his release. He wrote this, in part, of her passing.

Her haunting melodies gave voice to the pain of exile and dislocation which she felt for 31 long years.

At the same time, her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us. (read the rest)

So, when I heard that Ms. Makeba died on Monday while singing in Italy, I pushed back my desk chair and listened quietly to the retrospective on her life. And remembered...dancing through Momma's kitchen, singing songs a far away woman had taught me to sing, with beads clicking in my hair.

Kindle Tweets

...and no, I'm not talking about stale Halloween candy.

But here's a nifty new Kindle trick: Tweeting. I've figured out how to post tweets using my Amazon Kindle (which is relieving the premature curvature of my spine for all the biz books, magazines and HR, OD and brain/behavior journals I was lugging around like a Sherpa). Using the experimental functions, I created a bookmark for twitter and sign in. Then, I just posted as usual.

Circuit City Short-Circuits

As many of you know, I love technology--the smaller the better. Oh, and pens (mmm, pens...), but I digress. So it should come as no surprise that some of my early dates with Garland, my fabu-hubs, were to Best Buy, Comp USA, Office Depot and the like.

Better than dinner and the movies. Yeah, Garland got off cheap.

So, I hate it when a tech retailer struggles. I also hate it when that bad feeling I have about a business turns out to be right. Circuit City, never a personal fave (and, people get this: I'm pretty catholic in my tech retail tastes...just give me stuff to covet) announced last Wednesday that “it will immediately close and liquidate 155 stores and lay off thousands of employees as it struggles to survive an increasingly dreary holiday shopping season” (read the rest of the WSJ story here).

Circuit City, the nations second-largest electronics retailer assured investors that it won't be closing, but that it “planned to reduce about 17 percent of its domestic work force, and slash operating, payroll and marketing expenses. Circuit City currently operates 721 stores and outlets in the U.S. as well as 770 mostly smaller locations in Canada, and employs roughly 55,000 workers including holiday help.”

I'll say it: Yipes! CC’s PR plate twirlers have got their work cut out for themselves in spinning this as one of those Martha Stewart "good things" in advance of the lucrative holiday shopping season. Second thought, with K-Mart ramping up a "buy lay-away" campaign (Lay-away is something I remember from my childhood...when we were poor) and Wal-Mart expecting banner sales, they may have seen the writing on the wall in choosing to weigh anchor and run.

In a (begin snark) brilliant move (end snark) to cut costs, CEO Philip J. Schoonover, thinking that floor sales in his company was something a trained chimp could do, decided to cut jobs--starting with his most senior, most experienced (read: most expensive) workers, leaving the stores to be operated by demoralized, dispirited, underpaid workers who were waiting for the next axe to fall (they didn't have to wait all that long).

Dumb. No, shortsighted and dumb.

The market's immediate response to the 3,400 employee restructuring? Customer defections due to poor customer service (that was me) with falling earnings for dessert. Here's my question: while Schoonover was making HR policy willy-nilly, where the sweet hell was his Chief HR Officer? This from the Circuit City website:

Mr. Jonas joined the company in 1998 as director of associate relations. He was promoted to assistant vice president of corporate human resources services in 2000, was elected vice president in 2003 and was elected senior vice president in 2004. Prior to joining the company, he was employed by Toys "R" Us, a worldwide retailer of toys, baby products and children's apparel, from 1985 until 1998, including serving in the position of director of human resources for the Babies "R" Us division from 1996 to 1998.

Seems like a skilled enough kind of guy, but what in the name of the Great Pumpkin would have had Schoonover make such a sweeping HR decision, seemingly, without consultation with (and, well, the cooperation of) his top HR pick. This seems to be the issue.

After the early successes of Jack Welch at GE with his Pareto Principle-based rank and yank mandate (the top 10% get raises, the bottom 20% get pink slips and the 70% in the middle get a continued paycheck), CEO's who had never spend so much as a week in the HR trenches began making sweeping HR decisions--decisions based on corporate earnings and not based on human capital management (got to find another term for that). Curiously, no one said a word when, at GE, the people in the middle began leaving in droves taking their knowledge assets with them, worried that the bottom of the barrel was rising fast, and the remaining staffers, fearful of collaborations with team members who could supplant then, began hoarding information and sabotaging one another. Morale is strangely low there and it’s only the high prestige and perks that keep people in the saddle.

HR leaders like the strangely silent Mr. Jonas could do well to smack their Chief Execs on the side of the noggin, yelling "wake up, stupid!" until they get their attention. Then they should point to the business plan and demand how the hairy hell the company is expected to reach those heights when CEO expectations for the HR function are so low. But, aw shucks, you can't be a champion of solid, far-reaching, business-focused people strategy if you're cravenly trying to protect your job.

Here's a home truth: Business plan minus well-trained, confident contributors equals an interesting idea. CEO’s with said interesting ideas should be shortlisted for re-deployment… maybe on the shop floor at Circuit City.

But, I have to say that we, in the HR field, have done this to ourselves. We’ve settled for MBA programs that don’t teach the value of a solid HR function (which includes guardianship, visionary, strategic, operational and tactical elements–not just the tactical), MRHM programs that don’t teach future leaders to scrap for a seat at the table (and one where they aren’t taking notes or arranging the coffee service) and a professional organization, SHRM, that is more worried about building its brand and stuffing its membership coffers than in building the profession in the minds of CEO’s and HR leaders alike.

But, sadly, what’s predictable and almost certain is that around the corner will come another CEO with his six shooter (ammunition: cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, cut) backed by a simple minded CHRO who will cower to keep his gig.