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Nov
27
2013
Duck Theory Debbie Vaught

I have always tried to look at every situation with a resolution, rather than a problem. It is the “Duck Theory” that I adopted long ago from my sister, who has always been my best mentor.

The premise is that when you see a gaggle of ducks swimming, you see this beautiful motion of them gliding through the water effortlessly. But, if you were to turn the picture upside down, then you would see that the legs are quickly rotating and maneuvering to keep up, slow down, turn, trying to keep up with the group or get ahead. The mechanics to create the movement are two entirely different pictures.

It is the same in business, customers should only see above the water, the smooth action of a forward glide. They do not need (and normally do not want to know) the mechanics behind it. They just need to know that you understand they have a problem, and yo’ you’ll solve it.

So what if all problems do not have a solution? Some needs just can’t be met. I admire those that go above and beyond. The "Heroes" that we remember. Olympic competitors don’t just work out, they focus on what workout is best to enhance their skills and stay focused for four years to compete against the best. They don’t say the word "can’t" for 4 years or even longer. Survivors don’t quit, they are the ones with the remarkable stories about how their resilience got them through a tough situation. My answer is never say "never".

When the duck theory is applied, you supply the effort so customers are effortlessly rewarded.

Nov
25
2013
Sweet Success: 12 Proven Habits of Winning Leaders Maranda Gibson

When you start a company and find yourself in a position of being a leader, you might wonder how you are going to accomplish the task of suddenly managing a handful (or a huge company full) of employees.

Here are twelve great habits of a winning leader.

Encourage Communication.
While you need to be speaking regularly to your team, you also need to encourage them to speak to each other. The sharing of ideas and thoughts among co-workers can shed light on where to improve, new approaches, or even changing them all.
Be Passionate.
Truly successful leaders aren't just present every day, but they believe in the value of their company and the products and services being offered. You have to love what you do, and feel connected on some level to what you're doing. It's not always as simple as "well, it was a small business I started on my own" - sometimes you have to work to find the passion.

Brainstorm.
Gather your team every few months to talk about how you can change or improve things. If you’re following habit number one, this should be easy because everyone will come to the table with ideas.

Embrace the Little Failures.
Don't be afraid to make small mistakes. You can learn a lot from the things you didn't do correctly, the ideas that weren't executed in the best way. Failures teach you how to succeed.

Ask for Help.
We like to think that we can do everything, but really, we don’t have super powers. We will never be in two places at once, we will never be able to do it all. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Remember That You Lay the Foundation.
Everyone else will build around you. Build something strong and sturdy that your team and rely on. You don’t want them to end up standing on something that will just crumble.

Read Everything.
Things change constantly, no matter what field you’re in. Stay up on blogs and changes in your industry. Read business books, speaking blogs, or informative articles that might even inspire conversation between you and your team.

Delegate. (Not abandon)
I think there are too many people who think that "delegating" a task means "passing it off". Delegation is key in showing trust in someone to complete a task, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't check in and make sure that they don’t need any clarification.

Create a Productive (yet enjoyable) Environment.
Happy employees are more productive employees. There is something to be said about "corporate culture" and its effect on your employee. Carry the fine balance between "work" and "fun".

Take Educated Risks.
If you never step outside of the comfort zone, you could miss huge opportunities to be on top of the "next big thing". Be smart about your risks and only take chances when you can assure that they can be "undone" if they fail.

Say "Thank you".
Send hand written notes to your clients. Occasionally treat your office to a coffee. Send out a company wide email thanking them all for working extra hours during a busy holiday rush. It doesn't matter how you do it - just show you’re appreciative of their hard work.

Develop Trust and Gain Respect.
I think that on some level we are all ingrained to "respect" the boss, but it’s completely different to be able to "trust" your boss. Cultivate the trust and watch an even higher level of respect appear.

Nov
22
2013
What We Are Reading Maranda Gibson

Life and the Zapruder Film
by Life, Life Magazine
How Life Brought the Zapruder Film to Light.

 
Why Johnny Can't Write, and Why Employers Are Mad
by Kelley Holland,CNBC
Writing skills of college graduates and MBAs are coming up short, and employers aren't happy.

 
It's a Wonderful life sequel in works after 60 years
by Ben Child, The Guardian
Follow-up planned to Christmas classic starring James Stewart, with sequel drawing on Dickens' A Christmas Carol

 
29 Satellites into Space At Once
by Brad Lendon, CNN
Air Force sending 29 satellites into space at once.
 

9 Accidental Inventions
by Fox NewsFoxnews.com
Thankfully, not all science experiments go according to plan. Some of the world's best inventions were created by accident.

 

The Decline of Book Reviewing
by Elizabeth Hardwick, Harper's Magazine
The fates of authors and publishers — not to mention the reading public — depend on book reviews — but who reviews the reviewers? Miss Hardwich undertakes one of the few thorough critiques of the leading popular reviews to appear in recent years and explains why “a Sunday morning with the book reviews is often a dismal experience.”


A lot of us here spend hours reading each week. Whether it’s blogs, news articles, eBooks, or physical books, we like to indulge ourselves in the written word. Sometimes we want to share some of the things we've read. Here are some of our recent favorite reads, things we thought that were interesting, or that we just couldn’t keep to ourselves.

Nov
21
2013
The Assassination of JFK in a Digital Age Maranda Gibson

One of the things I really love about the Internet as an adult is the access to information. I spoke about it last week, how I’ve used the Internet to learn about weather. YouTube gets a lot of credit for funny animal videos but I want to take a moment to remind everyone that YouTube has become a historical video archive while we were all busy figuring out what the fox says.

I was always a geeky kid - interested in things like the weather and history. How many kids think Santa is the greatest because he brought you Encyclopedia Britannica on CD-ROM? What a lot of people don’t know about me is that I got a minor in history in college, almost enough credits to double major.

As a child and I was learning things, it was the “big events” that fascinated me. None so much like the assassination of JFK. I often asked my dad to tell me about it. He doesn’t remember much, but he remembers sitting in his 3rd grade class, when one teacher came in crying. She whispered to my dad’s teacher, and then they both left the room crying. The same goes for his mother - he remembers going home from school and seeing her crying too. After September 11th, 2001, I came to this strange realization that my children would one day ask me to tell the story of “where I was” over and over again. As I started to compare the two events in terms of importance, I started to look at the reporting between the two events and noticed interesting differences about the journalism.

(Mostly) Zero Sensationalism

Listen to any of the live coverage you can find on YouTube for “as it happened” and the thing that lacks versus a “national” event of today is the sensationalism. A lot of that is due to the time it took for information to travel. If you’ve ever been to the Texas Book Depository Museum (do it!) you’ll see the AP wire that came across, announcing the death of JFK. With time between reports, there was time that these details could be confirmed, vetted. Today, social media is used to find “breaking” and “real time” reports and they are often reported as true.

It Was a Pioneering Day of Live Journalism

When the reports first broke into soap operas and commercials for laundry detergent, most “big” affiliates reported the the President has been shot and would return to regular programming. At WFAA here in Dallas, Texas they went live, read a bulletin, and never left the air. The WFAA broadcast offices are just a few blocks south of where the assassination happened. Jay Watson ran back to the studio and interrupted the regular program - still out of breath from his sprint as he delivered the news. (Watch the landmark footage - it’s absolute chaos in the most amazing and professional way.)

If you ever visit Dallas, I highly recommend the visitation to the Texas Book Depository. The infamous floor where Lee Harvey Oswald took the shot is a a museum now, with lots of Kennedy artifacts. You can also go up to the top floor and look down to the street, giving you an almost exact view of what Oslwald would have seen. Just wandering around Dealey Plaza leaves a heavy feeling in your heart though, no matter how old you are.

Have you ever stopped to wonder what the reporting would have been like on that day if social media had played a part? Do you think reporting would have been different or the same?

Nov
20
2013
Why We Are Afraid to Try New Things David Byrd

This is part three of our series on learning new things. This post talks about why we are afraid to try new things. Follow the links after the post to read the other parts of our series.

Learning something new can be daunting. There are reasons why we avoid trying new things. One is that we fear what others will think of us if they see us try something and we fail at it. Or we fear being outside our comfort zone, especially if it might make our minds look less sharp than we think they are.

We fear what others will think of us if they see us try something and we fail at it. People who make fun of others for looking goofy when trying something new are jerks. These jerks just keep others from trying new things. When anyone tries something new, they are going to look goofy. Or they won't know the answer. Or they will give the wrong answer.

Even when there are few critics (which is never the case, right?), you will always find plenty to improve, change, or be harsh towards. To those of us that are scared of looking like a fool, I encourage you to press on and remember that it’s ok because when you strike out, you learn. And when you learn, the next time will be better.

When I am learning a new dance routine, I have to expect myself to wreck the train several times. On my first attempt, I don't lead well enough. Trying a second time, I lead way too strongly and throw everything off balance. Finally, I sometimes lead just right. It takes repetition to find the right way to do things.

If I don't try it the first time because I'm scared of what I'll look like, then I will never get to the "just right" part.

The same goes with learning something mental. I know when I am facing something new I want to get it right the first time. Whether it's a test, or a project, or task. Whatever. However, I usually have to mess up and get the wrong answer first. And sometimes I have an audience. The audience can be one or several people.

If you are having trouble getting to the right answer, focus instead on looking for what is wrong. Be a critic of the problem and identify the ways it won't work. Make mistakes and figure out how to correct the errors. If you are writing, put something down on paper that is awful. Then go back and make it better. Don't try to hit a home run on the first draft. Get the words down on the page, then go back and edit. The hardest part of writing is first getting words on paper.

Critics can be demoralizing and can paralyze us into inaction. The worst critic of all is yourself. Seth Godin writes a lot on this subject and calls this part of our brain the lizard brain. The lizard brain dislikes change, challenges, and moving forward. What the lizard brain likes is status quo, not rocking the boat, and boredom.

If you want some more reading on using mistakes to get better, check out The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward Burger and Michael Starbird. There is a whole section that deals with failing to make yourself more effective.

Brene Brown spoke about being vulnerable and dealing with critics. It's a twenty minute video but worth the time. (Link to the Roosevelt speech Brene mentions in her talk http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsorbonnespeech.html )

And remember,

"A man's errors are his portals to discovery." - James Joyce

What are some other ways you like to fail in order to grow?


You can find the other parts of our learning new things series by following the links below:

Part One: Three Different Ways We Can Teach Ourselves - By Mary Williams.

Part Two: How to Learn From the Internet - By Maranda Gibson.

Nov
20
2013
Secure Conference Calls Maranda Gibson

Finding secure conference calls is an important part of planning your meeting.  You want to make sure that you can have your conference and not have to worry about people interrupting your business or overlapping conference calls.

We have a number of built in options that can help you manage the security (and billing) of your conference calls. Depending on how tight you want the security of your conferences, you can choose some or all of these features.

Conference Codes: There are several ways you can increase security with your conference codes.

First, we recommend assigning a unique conference code to each participant. It functions as your ID badge to track attendance and see who is on your conference. Set each of these codes to "one-use-at-a-time". It works like a concert ticket on a first come, first serve basis. Once the ticket is scanned, no one else can get in. With this code setting the first participant to join the call is the one allowed in.

Limit the use of these conference codes by setting a total number. For example, if you have a series of conferences, and you want to make sure a code is used for the first two, but not for the third conference, you can set the code to be used twice. One that second instance is used, the code expires and won't be valid for future conferences.

Registration pages can be set up so you can control who gets an invitation to the conference, and approve or deny any of the registrants. (Bonus: All of the above options can be automatically set for each code with registrations.)

Conferences: You can use the conference lines to set a security precedence by scheduling each conference. You get a new moderator and participant code each time you need to have a meeting. This way, participant codes cannot be used to join in on a confidential or unrelated meeting. Conferences will expire once it is complete.

Set up a conference room for each employee. If everyone has their own room the conferences will never overlap, so you don’t have to worry about someone coming in on the tail end of a call.

See who is on the conference by viewing your live call screen during the call. If you see someone you don’t recognize, you can remove them by clicking 'hang up' on the screen. You can also lock the conference to prevent anyone else from joining.

Permission based users allow you to give selective access to your account. For instance, each employee can be given their own set of conference codes and access to log in. Each person is responsible for their own conference lines and the telecom or IT manager no longer has to manage the account with a log book or a sign out page.

Security on your conference calls is important, but not impossible. Try some of these features for your next conference call.

Find more information about conference security, features, and options by checking out some of the other blogs here at .

Nov
18
2013
How to Learn From the Internet Maranda Gibson

This is part two of our series on learning new things. This post talks about how you can use internet resources to learn about most anything. Follow the links after the post to read the other parts of our series.

My interest in weather goes way back to the early 90s when our Carolina home was nearly hit by a tornado. We went down to the basement to take shelter and when we came out, the green storage shed behind our house was gone. We never saw it again. As a kid, it’s hard to understand how something that was there just wasn’t anymore and my dad explained it to me in a very grown up way. He explained to me how he had seen the tornado in the woods just outside the back door while we were in the basement, and how it ‘took’ the shed.

Having my dad explain it to me the way he would any other grown up was great, but it woke up extra fear inside of me. I understood the importance of going to the basement and taking cover, because things can change in an instant with storms. What if the tornado had been just six feet to the left? Would our house still be there? Would our things still be there?

Before the Internet, the research that you could do on your own only went so far. What’s been amazing is information that twenty years ago I could have only seen in a classroom setting is now at the tips of my fingers.

So you want to learn something from the internet? There are a ton of resources out there to teach you pretty much anything. I wanted to learn about the weather, so that’s what I’ve shown you here, but you can mimic these tricks for anything from basket weaving to computer programming.

Reading

The free flow of information lends itself to the ability to let the internet serve as a historical archive. You type something into Google or your search engine of choice and you’re suddenly flooded with news articles, photos, and even historical archives. Go to your search engine of choice and type in “weather history 1998” or “tornado data 2012”. If your interest isn’t weather, you can type in whatever you want and find some truly legitimate information. Here’s a list of some of my favorite weather related reading sites:

Watching

Severe weather events happen so quickly that a meteorologist must warn you at the same time that they try to educate you about the dangers of the incoming weather. When you watch coverage live, it’s like getting the most elementary crash course of your life. I highly encourage anyone who is interested in learning about the weather to watch live coverage, or go to YouTube and find recorded coverage of an old event. To find live streaming of a current weather event, do what I do: search for “major city + live TV” and go to each of the local affiliates to see live events.

Some of the more informative live events are archived below. These large outbreaks allow you to learn a lot very quickly.

Online Classes and Podcasts

If you’re trying to use the internet as an educational tool, then you need to know the opportunities that exist online. I’ve found that weather is one of the easiest subjects to research and learn about, and that there are a lot of “enthusiasts” out there, putting together great educational tools, but for most subjects of interest you can find what you’re looking for. For weather, I’ve found some great classes and online resources that not only define terms or give historical data, but help you get an insider’s view on what you should learn about.

I think no matter what you want to learn about there are a number of reputable places online where you can go and find the information you want. I taught myself everything I know about the weather from these resources, and if you have a subject of interest, I strongly believe you can find what you’re looking for.


You can find the other parts of our learning new things series by following the links below:

Part One: Three Different Ways We Can Teach Ourselves - By Mary Williams.

Part Three: Why We Are Afraid to Try New Things - By David Byrd.

Nov
15
2013
What We Are Reading Maranda Gibson

8 Bestsellers Started During NaNoWriMo
by Joel Cunningham, Barnes and Noble Book Blog
If you're brave enough to traverse NaNoWrimo, here are some best selling books that were born during November.


The Past in Color
by Feifei Sun, Time Magazine
Sanna Dullaway digitally colorized archival images of America's 16th president in hopes of bringing history to life. Here's a look back on the iconic images she's revisited.


Timelapse Transformation of Homeless Veteran
by Lacey Donohue, Gawker
Watch this amazing timelapse transformation of a homeless veteran.


Delivering Amazon on Sunday
by Tom Cheredar VentureBeat
Amazon forges new deal with USPS to deliver packages on Sundays


The Science Behind Why Breakups Suck
by Adam Dachis LifeHacker
The Science Behind Why Breakups Suck (and What You Can Do About It)


Angela Lansbury calls Murder She Wrote reboot a "mistake".

by AP Staff Writer The Guardian
Angela Lansbury speaks out against a reboot of the popular TV show.


Audy Kaufman is Alive, Says His Brother

by Mallika Rao Huffington Post
According to reports, Kaufman's brother, Michael Kaufman, brought down the house at last weeks Andy Kaufman Awards show with a winding tale involving a letter, a favorite restaurant, and this conclusion: Kaufman is alive.


A lot of us here spend hours reading each week. Whether it’s blogs, news articles, eBooks, or physical books, we like to indulge ourselves in the written word. Sometimes we want to share some of the things we've read. Here are some of our recent favorite reads, things we thought that were interesting, or that we just couldn’t keep to ourselves.

Nov
13
2013
Turn It Up Debbie Vaught

I have a mirror on my desk with the saying, “Smile! They can hear it in your voice.” I keep it near my phone as a reminder of my duty to try and make the person on the other end of the line feel just a little better.

Your environment and the people you interact with plays a large part in how you look back and say it was a “Happay, Happay” Jack day or a “Hey, I ‘m Like Aretha Franklin, I don’t get no R-S-P-E-C-T” Si day (This is a Duck Dynasty reference, for those of you that are not part of the 11 plus million viewers). The reality is that you are the one in control. Smiling can change your mood and the whole day for you, your colleagues and your customers.

When a smile is not enough then music helps me. If I have a tedious job, turning on a little Josh Weathers and with a few raised eyebrows and some twirls with my pointer finger, a project is turned into a concert. Or, if I need to clean my house, then a turning up the volume with some Rolling Stones gets me bopping through the house, making it feel more like a dance rather than a chore. If I need to paint (as in a room not a Picasso) then Andrea Bocelli helps my one hand maestro my way through the project. Whatever your genre, try it.

Turn it up and smile.

Nov
11
2013
Three Different Ways We Can Teach Ourselves Mary Williams

This is part one of our series on learning new things. This post talks about how we can teach ourselves anything with a little trial and error. Follow the links after the post to read the other parts of our series.

Learning something new isn’t always easy, but there are times we have to do it. And we may not have the time or money to sit in a classroom to be lectured. In these situations, we resort to the self-teaching method. The ways we go about teaching ourselves something can vary depending on our learning abilities and the subject. According to LearningRX.com, there are three different learning styles: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic (hands-on). After a discussion I had with my office colleagues, we found three different ways we can teach ourselves, and these techniques can relate to our learning abilities.

Copy Other People's Work

I'm not saying to steal someone else's work and call it your own. However, if you are a visual or hands-on learner, this technique might help. When I had worked for a security company eight years ago, I had received a promotion that required me to learn the fundamentals of SQL (Structured Query Language). SQL is the typical way analysts and report managers gather data for reports that companies need to help them function. I didn't have any background with SQL, but I was willing to learn to expand my professional background. How did I do it? I used queries that others had written and experimented with them. I broke them up in pieces to see what each part did. Then, I tried to write my own using the same syntax (linguistic SQL rules) to see if my queries would produce the same results. Once I was familiar with the basic SQL concept, I was able to efficiently write several queries on my own. Of course, when I was learning SQL, I would only test my queries in a development environment to avoid any potential catastrophic database issues. Learning this way allowed me to see how a query worked and I applied the visual experience with a hands-on tactic.

Take a Dive and Jump In

This technique is best for hands-on learners. People who learn kinesthetically are most likely to succeed when they can engage with the learning material. For example, a hands-on learner who wants to be a mechanic would want to jump in and start pulling out and disassembling a motor to learn how to put it back together. An article on Utah Valley University's website acknowledges that movement and activity helps kinesthetic learners remember their material. It can be an activity as small as swinging a leg to a more interactive activity like drawing a picture. The article states, "The more skin and muscles you use, the better you remember."

Learn with a Specific Goal

Sometimes we learn best if we know what the goal is. Auditory learners use this method by being told how to reach their goal. A musician is a great example. Someone who is learning music already knows how the piece should sound. They then break the music apart and learn when to play which notes and for how many beats. Their overall goal is to make their instrument sound like the original piece. The Bepko Learning Center gives some helpful tips on how auditory learning can improve their learning habits; one of them is to listen to instrumental music while studying.

Once we are able to see what our learning style is, we can apply these concepts to our study habits. Even being out of the school atmosphere, we still learn at our jobs and hobbies. If you would like to learn more about finding out what your learning style is, check out the links below.


You can find the other parts of our learning new things series by following the links below:

Part Two: How To Learn From the Internet - By Maranda Gibson.

Part Three: Why We Are Afraid to Try New Things - By David Byrd.

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