Archive for 2012

December 4, 2012 @ 11:28 AM
posted by JeffreyB

A great friend of mine, SVP of Marketing at Rodale Press (Bicycle Magazine, Men’s Health, Prevention Magazine, etc), likes to point out when there’s Activity mistaken for Achievement.  Nothing epitomizes this more than long-winded emails to show how well we can tap on a keyboard… and often say nothing at all!  We all get plenty of email and I’ve noticed a terrifying trend of long-winded emails, unsummarized ‘fwds’ and instances where we should have the communication in a phone call or hold a short meeting.


The LifeHacker article below sums a great reminder for the week.  #4 & #7 are great.  #8 is something I’m watching out for in any email sent to me.  And please act upon #7 – it will help you help your audience.

If you read it and follow it, I think we can all sometime avoid the blunder of Activity mistaken for Achievement in some of those long emails.

 Your Emails Are Too Long: Here’s How to Fix Them

Your Emails Are Too Long: Here's How to Fix Them

I recently received an email asking me a simple request. However, the email was three pages long. The whole message could have been three lines, but instead the author decided to write a short novella. Needless to say, I didn’t read the whole thing. Nor did I respond. Are your emails going unread because they are too long?

Long Emails Don’t Get Read

You may take email for granted. However, effective email communication is as much a skill as anything else. When used effectively, email can be a powerful tool. However, one of the top email inefficiencies is message length. One of the top reasons your email isn’t getting read is because it is too long. Writing long emails doesn’t mean you are getting more work done. As people are fighting to get their inbox to empty, the last thing they want to do is read a multi-page rambling email.

Keep Those Emails Short

Resist the urge to write long and drawn out messages. If you find yourself writing long responses, you probably should be having a conversation, not an email writing contest. The shorter and tighter your email messages, the better chance that they will be read, understood and acted upon.

Here are 10 Reasons That Your Emails Are Too Long

  1. You don’t know what you are trying to say. It’s like when someone calls you and says, “What’s up?” Um, I don’t know… you called me. Hold that email until you have something specific to say or ask.
  2. You don’t know what you are talking about. This is similar to when people endlessly talk in meetings to cover up their lack of information. Writing more isn’t going to cover up the fact that you are lacking knowledge. This practice occurs in many companies when individuals send emails to “appear” busy.
  3. Your signature is unnecessary. Your half-page signature doesn’t need to be on all of your emails. Do you send emails with a 1 word response and then half of a page of signature? As well, please lose the attached graphic and cute quote.
  4. You are writing a book. Emails are not books. If there is additional information, attach supporting documents. If you are putting a large table in your email, you should stop and consider whether it should be in an attachment.
  5. You are spamming. This happens often in larger corporations. Employees feel the need to send each other lengthy updates of what they have been doing. And it’s not just the remote employees. I used to get multi-page updates from a guy down the hall on his daily activities. Not needed.
  6. You are rambling. Don’t write a 2-page email to ask a 1-line question. Be direct. Thanks.
  7. You are forwarding a mess. Instead of taking the time explain, you just forward your email stream. Ever get one of those, “See below..!” messages. Um, I don’t want to read the 45 page back-and-forth that you participated in.
  8. It shouldn’t be an email. Don’t send an email when it should be a meeting. Or a phone call. Sometimes email isn’t the right medium for your message. If it is taking more than a few lines to explain, then go talk to the person you need to communicate with.
  9. It should be multiple emails. Here is a good one. One boss combines all of the team items into one email. You may think this is an attempt at efficiency, however combining multiple emails into one doesn’t work for everyone involved. And it creates great aftermath when people “Reply All.”
  10. You don’t edit your emails. After you write an email, you should edit it before sending. Besides the obvious spelling and grammatical errors, you should be editing for content, meaning, and conciseness. Another good thumb-rule: the number of times you should re-read an email before sending is equal to the number of people you are sending it to. (And yes, this rule scales.)

Make Sure Your Email Gets to the Point

In today’s high-speed communication, no one wants to read overly long email messages. If your emails are brief and to the point, your recipients will be more likely to get the point. Remember that short and sweet will beat the 3-page email every time.


April 24, 2012 @ 11:00 PM
posted by admin

Leadership style?  I don’t like the article title, but apply this situationally (where you are known and accepted vs where you’re unknown or unproven), and you have a great blueprint for success.  This is the limited access (public, short) version of the article from the May  2012 Harvard Business Review.



Why Bossy Is Better for Rookie Managers

Why Bossy Is Better for Rookie Managers
by Stephen J. Sauer
Nobody likes to be bossed around. Numerous studies, including my own, have shown that a collaborative management style is usually best.

But there’s an important exception. New leaders who are perceived as having low status—because of their age, education, experience, or other factors—face different rules. They get better ratings and results from their teams when they take charge, set the course, and tell subordinates what to do. For those bosses, it pays to be bossy.

This conclusion is based on two experiments. In the first, 68 current and former business school students watched video clips of people portraying team leaders and rated their effectiveness on a scale from one to seven. An inexperienced leader who was just 32 years old and had graduated from a second-tier school got an average rating of 4.25 when he told team members what to do, compared with only 3.55 when he solicited their opinions.

In the second experiment, 216 people, most of them undergraduates, were placed on four-person teams working on a complex computer-based task and were instructed to solve problems with the fewest possible clicks of the mouse. Team leaders played either high- or low-status roles and used either directive or participative styles. Low-status leaders who took a directive approach received higher ratings from their teams in terms of both confidence and effectiveness (their scores on these measures averaged 4.76 and 4.52, respectively) than low-status leaders who took a participative approach (their scores averaged 4.01 and 4.19). And teams with low-status directive leaders performed better (108 clicks to solve a problem) than those with low-status participative leaders (126 clicks).

If these results seem counterintuitive, imagine this: You’re on an experienced team that gets an unfamiliar leader. You look for clues about his status—How old is he? How does he dress? Where did he train?—and form an assessment accordingly. If he seems to be a lightweight, you’ll probably resist his attempts to influence you. And if he asks for your input, chances are even greater that you’ll view him as lacking in competence. But if he’s directive and assertive, you’ll take that as confidence, and you’ll come to see him as more able than you first thought. His perceived capabilities will rise.

It should come as no surprise that the leaders who were viewed as the most confident and effective—and whose teams performed the best—were the high-status participative leaders. That finding is in line with everything we’ve heard for decades about collaborative management. As long as a leader is viewed as experienced and knowledgeable, team members prefer and perform better under a participative style. High-status leaders who give orders are viewed as less confident and less effective, and the performance of their teams suffers.

New managers should gauge team members’ perceptions. If you sense that you’re viewed as experienced and competent, it’s best to give subordinates a say. But if you sense that you’re seen as a low-status boss, you’re better off setting the agenda, establishing a clear direction, and putting people to work on what you think needs to be done. Only after your status has risen should you introduce a more collaborative style.

April 3, 2012 @ 5:17 PM
posted by JeffreyB

Here’s a great one.  Use the power of Google and the profiles of LinkedIn to find just about anybody.  Basically, the article says that you can write a nice query in Google to examine the LinkedIn site for specific information in specific fields.  Instead of having a paid account, you can get most of the information you need by doing this.  Want the CIO… Gooogle on LinkedIN.  Want the CIO’s admin?  Google on LinkedIn.  Here’s a quick how-to, and of course, check out Skip Freeman’s article on his site listed below.

  • Go to Google or Bing
  • Search on this: intitle:linkedin (“CEO” and “Best Buy” AND “University of Wisconsin” AND “MBA”) -intitle:profile -intitle:updated -intitle:blog -intitle:directory -intitle:jobs -intitle:groups -intitle:events -intitle:answers

The above query holds some constraints that force the search engine to only look at people’s profiles and specifically excludes discussions, questions, answers to questions, job postings, polls and all of the other information available on LinkedIn.

Also, use this person-finder trick, in conjunction with Skip’s article writing a super cover letter to that person (

Great article, Skip!



The LinkedIn “Hack”




Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.

April 1, 2012 @ 7:03 AM
posted by JeffreyB


6 Habits of True Strategic Thinkers

Mar 20, 2012  |  Paul J. H. Schoemaker


You’re the boss, but you still spend too much time on the day-to-day. Here’s how to become the strategic leader your company needs.


In the beginning, there was just you and your partners. You did every job. You coded, you met with investors, you emptied the trash and phoned in the midnight pizza. Now you have others to do all that and it’s time for you to “be strategic.”

Whatever that means.

If you find yourself resisting “being strategic,” because it sounds like a fast track to irrelevance, or vaguely like an excuse to slack off, you’re not alone. Every leader’s temptation is to deal with what’s directly in front, because it always seems more urgent and concrete. Unfortunately, if you do that, you put your company at risk. While you concentrate on steering around potholes, you’ll miss windfall opportunities, not to mention any signals that the road you’re on is leading off a cliff.

This is a tough job, make no mistake. “We need strategic leaders!” is a pretty constant refrain at every company, large and small. One reason the job is so tough: no one really understands what it entails. It’s hard to be a strategic leader if you don’t know what strategic leaders are supposed to do.

After two decades of advising organizations large and small, my colleagues and I have formed a clear idea of what’s required of you in this role. Adaptive strategic leaders — the kind who thrive in today’s uncertain environment – do six things well:


Most of the focus at most companies is on what’s directly ahead. The leaders lack “peripheral vision.” This can leave your company vulnerable to rivals who detect and act on ambiguous signals. To anticipate well, you must:

  • Look for game-changing information at the periphery of your industry
  • Search beyond the current boundaries of your business
  • Build wide external networks to help you scan the horizon better

Think Critically

“Conventional wisdom” opens you to fewer raised eyebrows and second guessing. But if you swallow every management fad, herdlike belief, and safe opinion at face value, your company loses all competitive advantage. Critical thinkers question everything. To master this skill you must force yourself to:

  • Reframe problems to get to the bottom of things, in terms of root causes
  • Challenge current beliefs and mindsets, including your own
  • Uncover hypocrisy, manipulation, and bias in organizational decisions


Ambiguity is unsettling. Faced with it, the temptation is to reach for a fast (and potentially wrongheaded) solution. A good strategic leader holds steady, synthesizing information from many sources before developing a viewpoint. To get good at this, you have to:

  • Seek patterns in multiple sources of data
  • Encourage others to do the same
  • Question prevailing assumptions and test multiple hypotheses simultaneously


Many leaders fall prey to “analysis paralysis.” You have to develop processes and enforce them, so that you arrive at a “good enough” position. To do that well, you have to:

  • Carefully frame the decision to get to the crux of the matter
  • Balance speed, rigor, quality and agility. Leave perfection to higher powers
  • Take a stand even with incomplete information and amid diverse views


Total consensus is rare. A strategic leader must foster open dialogue, build trust and engage key stakeholders, especially when views diverge. To pull that off, you need to:

  • Understand what drives other people’s agendas, including what remains hidden
  • Bring tough issues to the surface, even when it’s uncomfortable
  • Assess risk tolerance and follow through to build the necessary support


As your company grows, honest feedback is harder and harder to come by. You have to do what you can to keep it coming. This is crucial because success and failure–especially failure–are valuable sources of organizational learning. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Encourage and exemplify honest, rigorous debriefs to extract lessons
  • Shift course quickly if you realize you’re off track
  • Celebrate both success and (well-intentioned) failures that provide insight

Do you have what it takes?

Obviously, this is a daunting list of tasks, and frankly, no one is born a black belt in all these different skills. But they can be taught and whatever gaps exist in your skill set can be filled in. I’ll cover each of the aspects of strategic leadership in more detail in future columns. But for now, test your own strategic aptitude (or your company’s) with the survey at In the comments below, let me know what you learned from it.

March 28, 2012 @ 8:38 PM
posted by admin

Freewater Solutions is in the “business of technology.” Many think IT is just about taps on a keyboard and techie talk, but without a strong liaison between IT and the Business, failure is certain. Freewater understands the business side of IT, from budgets to strategy to domain knowledge.

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