Seth Gets It

Seth Godin talks about the The new standard for meetings and conferences.  Energy prices are rising and the cost of travel is climbing higher with wait times, canceled flights and more.

Now that the technology has arrived to replace almost every aspect of the face-to-face meeting, isn't it time to rethink "Do I really have to travel?"

As Seth says, "I flew all the way here for this?"

Another place for savings (time, energy and money) is working from home.  One of our previous posts mentions the enormous savings that could be realized if employees worked from home one day a week.

As a collaboration company, all we can say to Seth is, "Amen!"

Out of Sight, Out of Touch?

Once the favorite alternative work option for many large companies, telecommuting was purported to be the savior of the burnt-out cubicle worker. Over the past year or so, telecommuting has received a critical eye. A series of articles from eWeek discusses the rise and fall of telecommuting.

"Only a few years since it was heralded as a newer, better way to work, studies began to emerge that put chinks in the armor of telecommuting.
Sixty-one percent of executives surveyed in January 2007 by Korn/Ferry International, a Los Angeles-based recruiting firm, said they saw career stagnancy among telecommuting workers.

Nearly half of CIOs felt that remote employees' quality of work suffered due to reduced in-person contact with colleagues, and one-third said that these employees were less productive due to a lack of supervision, in a study released last July by Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing firm in Menlo Park, Calif." 

But is telecommuting really all bad?

San Francisco’s Chronicle espouses the concept of telecommuting as a cure for conserving energy and reducing gasoline usage.

"An estimated 1.35 billion gallons of gasoline could be conserved annually if every U.S. worker with the ability to telecommute did so 1.6 days per week, according to a report released today by the American Electronics Association.

‘Fewer commuters on the roads means reduced fuel consumption, traffic congestion and air pollution,’ said Christopher Hansen, president of the association, the nation's largest high-tech trade group.

And, he said, 'It is a win for workers, who can reduce long commute times and strike a better life-work balance.'"

And this article from CNN points out that for a better life-work balance, 43% of working moms would jump at the chance to telecommute.

"‘More than 25 percent of working moms are dissatisfied with their work/life balance," said Mary Delaney, chief sales officer at CareerBuilder.com and mother of three. ‘As companies continue to experience a tighter labor market, the importance of retaining star employees is requiring them to implement benefits that actually encourage workers to improve the balance between their professional and family lives. From flexible work schedules to job sharing to telecommuting, company-wide work/life initiatives are becoming much more universal.’"

As gas prices increase this year, perhaps companies should endeavor to make telecommuting more effective: encouraging in-house workers to coordinate more fully with telecommuting staff, pursuing online collaboration that encourages teamwork, and rewarding loyal and productive clients with a flexible work schedule.

The Lost Art of Thank You

Lost Art of Thank YouFew things are as powerful or as simple as saying thank you. Looking someone in the eye, a genuine smile, a firm handshake; each has meaning beyond words. They touch people. They communicate sincerity and integrity. They earn trust and respect. These are powerful tools and are opportunities easily missed.

Letter writing is a dying art. The need to write letters is fading quickly, overtaken by the speed and efficiency of email, cell phones, and the fast-paced lifestyle. There just isn't time in the day to sit down and compose a long, detailed essay like long ago.  We used to tell the details of our lives, our innermost thoughts and experiences, in our letters. Now it just takes too long. There just isn't time. 

It isn't necessary to write these long letters anymore. We should, however, make the time for quick notes. Keeping a stock of blank cards on hand is a great way to "knock off" a quick thank you when dealing with a customer or a business acquaintance.  Do you remember the last time you received a thank you card or note from anyone? If you've gotten one, I'll bet you remember it. If not, then you know how rare it is. It's a powerful moment when somebody opens their mail to see you took the time to sit down, right a note, stamp it, and drop it in the mail. Your contact with that person just became so much more than average. Your ability to be remembered has increased dramatically. You touched them and made them feel appreciated. This quiet gesture is powerful.

The greatest communicators know the effect of letter writing, especially of the thank you. Former President Ronald Reagan was a great believer in the letter. He spent many of his quiet moments composing thoughtful letters to friends, loved ones, and politicians from both sides of the aisle. He knew the letter could accomplish great things and do it in a personal and one -on-one way.  All you need is a thank you note and you can accomplish the same thing with great results. So little effort. So much reward. 

Moderator, I'm Ready

Lecture mode has to be one of the best and most influential features modern conference calls have. How else can you easily manage a call with fifty, one hundred, a thousand, or more people breathing and coughing and opening bags of potato chips?

With lecture mode on, your participants - no matter how many - can rest at ease to concentrate on your message without worrying if they are contributing to the background noise of the call. You, the host, can rest easy too, as no one can accidentally un-mute themselves, or worse, never mute to begin with.

As a participant, there is one thing you are responsible for: be ready when it's your turn. In lecture mode, you can signal the moderator that you have a question by pressing star 1 on your telephone keypad and you get put into a queue. Occasionally it will take a while to get to you, but you should make sure to be ready. Once you signal, you could be un-muted at any time, so stay on your toes!

Tips To Be A Better Manager Today

In a blog post that is now nearly three years old, Penelope Trunk writes succinct advice about how to not be "that manager" that everyone hates.

Trunk had four items on her list:

1. Focusing on tasks instead of people
2. Being slow to transition
3. Forgetting to manage up
4. Talking more than listening

And they're good. Right on the money. But we have a few more.

5. Failing to moderate two opposing forces

This could fall under any of the above four easily, but I wanted to make a distinction. There is nothing worse than being an employee and in a dispute with a colleague and willing to work out differences and the colleague wants to continue the dispute. And it happens a lot out in the business world.

A good manager refuses to take sides, but acts as moderator, soothing both sides with equal aplomb. And when that doesn't work, a good manager puts an end to behavior that only perpetuates the problem.

For example, two people on the same project are offended by each other. The one person demands the other be taken off the project, because "she just won't work with anyone."The other person retorts that perhaps it would be easier to work if "he would just quit running everyone around like a herd of cattle."

You need the two to work together and so you mediate a conversation. Help them let it all out. The one agrees that he has been rather bossy and agrees to change his attitude. The other, however, continues to push her point. And so, a good manager nips that in the bud. Enough is enough. The same would happen if the cattle herder had refused to change his ways. Don't play sides.

6. Agreeing to a complaint and making no action

If one of your team has complained to you about an issue, it does no one any good to simply push the paper around on the top of your desk for a week or so. It only lets the employee simmer a bit too long. See if you can't make at least one call about the matter, if only to let your employee know that you do consider it important and are willing to take at least one bit of action on it. It may take a week to solve, but your immediate action speaks volumes.

7. Forgetting everyone else's point of view but your own

Managers didn't get to their position by being as neutral as Switzerland on certain topics. However, the key to management is making sure you know more about your team's thoughts on a topic than your own. That is the power of a manager. A manager that can see the full scope of opinions on a team is a decision maker with many counselors and destined to make good decisions.

Do's and Don'ts For Participants At Your Next Conference Call

A conference call is very much like a regular meeting in many ways, but it also differs tremendously. Here are a few do's and don'ts to help you be a better teleconference participant.

Do's for participants:

  • Arrive early online or on the phone
  • Clearly state your name when you log in or arrive
  • Mute your phone to prevent background noise from disturbing others
  • Stay focused, don't drift off mentally by doing your email while attending a teleconference you may miss something important
  • Participate and ask questions when appropriate

Don'ts for participants:

  • Don't put your phone on hold if you step away everyone may hear your hold music
  • Don't eat while you are listening in, the smacking and chewing is considered rude behavior
  • Don't talk to others while you are on a teleconference - unless you are sure your phone is muted
  • Don't multi-task while you are on the call turn off your cell phone and PDA
  • Don't interrupt the speaker, wait until the question and answer period unless your teleconference has a more give and take format. Remember to unmute your phone to ask your question

Telehealth – Health Care The Teleconferencing Way

The state of Missouri is in the process of reviewing legislation to regulate the telehealth industry.

"Senator Tom Dempsey of St. Peters wants the state health department to establish guidelines for use of telehealth and for the doctors who will use it. Dempsey says the system is especially useful in rural areas where specialists might be a long distance from the patient."

Right now some health care insurance providers will not pay for telehealth consultations for diagnosis or treatment and Missouri Senator Top Dempsey wants to change that by introducing legislation that will allow for the regulation of telehealth in an effort to provide low cost health care alternatives to rural residents.

With the bill being stuck in the House of Representative for the last 11 days as of May 5, 2008, telehealth program plans may be stymied in Missouri until the House comes back into session and schedules a committee meeting on this very important topic that is sure to benefit Missouri residents.