Friday, April 26, 2013

Focus on Your Strengths and Delegate Your Weaknesses

The rules in the Gates-Grottveit household are simple: last one out of the bed makes it; keep non-food things off the kitchen counters where food is prepared; feed Blade (the younger puppy) at 5:30 pm, and feed Vader (the adult dog) and Bella (the elderly cat) at 6:30 pm; and he/she who is better at something is the one who does that thing. What that means, practically speaking, is that Ann handles the finances and I handle the laundry. Ann cleans inside the house, I clean outside the house.  Ann handles our family social activities, I handle the maintenance and upkeep of our cars. You get the drift.
(Vader - larger and Blade - smaller)
Simple, right? Ann would fade and shrink and discolor our clothing, and she can’t iron at all. I would quickly, stylishly, bankrupt the Gates-Grottveit conglomerate by buying everything and anything that suited my fancy at the time. We’ve learned that it’s best and things run the most efficiently and smoothly if we each stay in our respective lanes.  There are some caveats to this, however. We reserve the right to delegate these tasks to our 13 year-old boy-child, and our almost 11 year-old girl-child for the sake of their development. Face it, they’ll both need to learn to cook, manage their own finances, and clean, etc. What better learning laboratory for those domestic tasks is there than the home, right?  

Now don’t get me wrong… We don’t totally abdicate these tasks to the other. We have a system of checks and balances that keep each other “honest” and informed.  Absolute power does corrupt absolutely, and all that. There’s also the “in case you’re hit by a bus” contingency as well. We have regular briefings to keep each other updated on the goings-on of the other’s area of expertise.  I call that oversight.

Ultimately, we are each responsible to the other for the conduct of the business that is our marriage and our household. Yes, I said it... Marriage IS a business.

The same holds for more conventional business. If there’s an area of your business, be you an owner, a senior-level executive, a director or manager, or a staff member or associate, if there’s something you’re not good at, DELEGATE it to someone who is. The caveat to that is, especially applicable to those at the staff-associate level, you may well have to get training and acquire that expertise yourself. Otherwise, you’ve been hired, selected, appointed, or otherwise chose to embark on that path because of your qualifications and potential, so if there’s a specific aspect you’re not good at, get help and get someone in there to manage that for you.

As with the example for my home-life, that delegation does NOT mean abdication. You remain responsible for everything your enterprise does and everything it fails to do. You’ve got to check, follow-up, insure, question, and all the other common-sense things that go along with delegation. 

You’ll find that doing this makes you a better, more effective leader, business-owner, staff-member, associate (not to mention partner or husband/wife). You’ll have more time to think, to plan, to expand and to execute your vision.

That’s the point!

  - Tony

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Just Shut Up and Get It Done

I saw a post someone “put” (spelled s-p-a-m-m-e-d) onto my Facebook wall last week. It was encouraging me to click on a link and see how some doctor would show me how to take the “Law of Attraction” even farther by showing me techniques to actually implement it.  Just for funsies, I clicked on it. As I figured, it was a really general description replete with the compulsory big words and jargon, but no specifics. No… for the specifics, you’d certainly have to plop down your hard-earned money and buy the CD, DVD, book, and/or fly to Florida or somewhere warm to attend the in-person training. 

Typical, right? 

I actually commented with my thoughts on this type of scam. Don’t worry, I didn’t spend a lot of time on the response because I really didn’t think anyone human would see it anyway. I felt a little bit better, though! Cathartic, y’know?

I hold what may be a really controversial stance on people like this. I won’t call out any names, but you’ve seen them, the motivational gurus who claim to help you make tons of money, good-looking, big smiles,
secrets of life, get rich by listening to me, just follow my system and everything else will take care of itself, blah, blah, blah. Well, I’m not buying it (or anything they sell, for that manner). I’ll admit, part of my disdain may be jealousy that I’m “missing out” by not jumping in with my own “system” (honestly, ANY halfway competent salesperson can do it). Good PR, good marketing, good timing, a good look, you really can do it.

I’ve heard (and really believe) that the only way to make money from a motivational, get-rich, self-help book is to write one. The industry (yes, industry) and people involved prey on the helpless and desperate and use the money gained from them to propel themselves upward and give the impression of even more success, which, in turn, draws more desperate people.

Why not just do it all yourself? Like the ubiquitous Nike tagline… “Just Do It.” Really! Say what you will, but big business does a lot of things right. The techniques and lessons learned really can be made applicable to the small business and entrepreneur. These are tried and true and are written and used by successful people  
to help successful people, or people who aspire to be successful. They don’t involve the wishing and hoping and hocus-pocus aspect a lot of these other books and systems tend to have, There are no baits and switches, no training sessions in warm locations, no bells, or whistles that do nothing more than enrich the “guru.”

The preeminent book, in my opinion, you should get, read, digest, and implement is Execution – The Discipline of Getting Things Done. 
See? Even the title is no-nonsense, let’s get to work. It’s written by Larry Bossidy, former Chairman and CEO of Honeywell International, Ram Charan, who also wrote What the CEO Wants You To Know, with Charles Burck. I got it as a District Manager at Pfizer and have used its tenets to make me an even better manager and leader. Apparently, I’m not the only one. It’s been reviewed and praised by the CEOs of various and sundry Fortune 500 companies, world-renowned business publications, and a bevy of others, including Jack Welch.

Where this book, and thus, this philosophy, goes is far away from the “forces of nature,” “fate,” karma,” and “spiritual forces” thing of which I see way too much.  What I like to call “the discipline of getting things done” is just that – a focus on discipline, accountability, metrics, and success versus failure, all aimed at getting what needs to be done, done. You don’t see that with the standard self-help fare.  That very discipline is one of the two main things that separate the successful from the unsuccessful. The other is decision-making. Timing runs a close third. Look for future thoughts on those two factors from me.

As I intimated in “The Price of Words,” it’s not what you say, much less hope or wish for, it’s what you DO that counts. Let’s get away from spending and wasting valuable resources on someone else to get you up, motivated, at it, and successful… The only person to do that is YOU!

That’s the point!

  - Tony  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Drive-By Friending, and other Facebook Crimes and Misdemeanors

Social systems have structure. They all do. From the golf course, to the race track, to the dinner table, to all manner of  things where people interact, structure, both written and unwritten must exist for things to move along and progress to be made. This is actually true for things in nature as well.

As is true in the offline world, so, too, is this true in the online, virtual world. We even have derisive names for those unfortunates who break these rules. Spammers, trolls, and noobs immediately come to mind.  This has really made itself seen in the world of social media. While there are several different social media platforms on which to look at and observe this social structure, I want to focus on Facebook. Facebook, almost ubiquitous with now over a billion users, is the logical choice.

There are several rules, again, written (as in Facebook’s Terms of Service and the now-infamous “Big 5” for Business Pages: 1. no images that are more than 20% text; 2. no purchase information, such as “40% off, or “download it on…”; 3. no contact information like a website address, email, mailing address, or information that should go in the Page’s “About” section; 4. no references to Facebook features or actions, such as “Like” or “Share” or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features; or, 5. no calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends”), but even more intriguing and interesting, the unwritten, “everybody should just know” types of guidelines.  Note though, if you’re a business and you have someone managing your  Business Page and it has any of these “no-no’s,” get someone else in there, FAST, before Facebook shuts down your page.  If you’re a social media “pro” and are doing this stuff to your clients, first, you’re really no “pro” in the first place, and, secondly, imagine how THEY’LL react when Facebook takes action.  Yep… it won’t be pretty!

I’ll use that as a jumping off point to point out some other “high crimes and misdemeanors” I see way too often while traveling the highways and byways of Facebook. 

One of the things that I actually consider rude is “drive-by friending.” Those who have heard me speak on social media and Facebook know what I mean here. Drive-by friending (I predict “friending,” and its antonym, “unfriending,” will be designated as verbs in Webster’s Dictionary before the end of 2014, mark my words.) is the phenomenon where someone you don’t otherwise know sends you a friend request with absolutely no accompanying information. No PM (personal message) explaining why, or context for the request. Even now, most people at least call first before dropping by your house. Why not the same with your Facebook home? (I’ll use the “Facebook as home” metaphor several times in this post, so be ready.)  If you want to friend someone on Facebook (Twitter, and the other platforms where connecting doesn’t use the request-approve methodology Facebook, LinkedIn, and some others have, are exempt from this “rule.”), send them a message, most often in the form of a PM, but is also allowable in a comment thread (as long as it doesn’t violate the “hijacking” offense I’ll address next), in person at an event you’re both attending, or by some other venue. You get the drift. Something along the line of “I’m growing my network and I see we have some friends in common. Would you like to connect?”, or; “We met at the party at Paul’s house and would like to connect with you here;” or “I see that we both RSVP’d to the Young Sacramento Mixer. May we connect here?” You get the idea.    

Have you ever commented on a post from a Facebook friend, say about a new puppy they’ve brought into the family?  The subsequent posts then congratulate the friend, tell them how cute the puppy is, asks the name... you know, things that are RELEVANT to the original post. Now, imagine (you’ve seen this, I’m sure), out of the blue, someone (usually not even a connected to the original poster) comments with “Hey Beth, you need to call me. Cousin Heather’s going to Las Vegas, and we want to get as many of us as we can together to go with her.” Beth answers (still on the new puppy thread), “Las Vegas? Really? Okay. I’ll be at your house tomorrow, we can talk about it over a glass of wine.” The response, “That sounds good. I just got my carpet cleaned, so we’ll have to be careful.” THAT, ladies and gentlemen is called “hijacking a thread.” In a word: don’t. 

While these “sins” I’m addressing may seem “official,” some are no more than my personal preferences and pet peeves. But, you have to admit, these deeds of wrongdoing are universally frustrating, no?

On that particular list is the Facebook phenomenon of poking. Facebook intended it to be a way to quickly, easily let someone know you’re thinking of them, I imagine. Here’s the thing…isn’t the BEST way to let someone know you’re thinking of them to just go to their wall and post that you’re thinking of them? What ends up happening is, you poke me, I poke you… You poke me, I poke you back. An endless game of poke ensues and stunts more conventional, more adult communication. I don’t poke, but you can imagine with 5,000 Facebook friends how often I get poked by various ad sundry people. My typical response was to go onto the “poker’s” profile, look for the music they like, then post a YouTube music video in that genre. I’d let them know I got their poke and that this was my poke back. I’d then go and delete their poke notification. Poking (the Facebook kind) is infantile and juvenile. If you do it, please stop.    

Spamming is one of those things that pretty much everyone knows is offensive, wrong, and just really, really tacky and pedestrian. There’s not much more to mention in respect to that EXCEPT that there are the “innocent” spammers out there. Unfortunately, some are really savvy and know exactly what they’re doing.  Those are the people who, without your knowledge and permission, post an event THEY’RE doing onto your wall. They promote themselves or something they want people outside of their current friends list to know about - they may not think it’s spam, but it is. Anything posted on your wall meant to advertise, promote, or sell something with which you, yourself are not involved, is spam. Period. People with large friends lists tend to get targeted with this sort of spam way too often.   

There are no free lunches. That’s true in life, and especially true on Facebook. If you see a link on your wall and offers of free Southwest Airline tickets, iPads, or anything else, please do NOT click on it. If you see a link (from a friend, just as with the free stuff offer), and it mentions an embarrassing video of you or a view of Osama Bin Laden’s body, or some young sweetie exposed, please do NOT click on the link. I would go so far as to say, if there’s ANY link on your wall posted by a friend without any explanation, don’t click on it until you’ve had a discussion with that friend and he/she confirms that it’s benign. What happens when you click on the link, is that it activates a virus that instantly sends the same offer to your ENTIRE friends list. The more malicious forms actually phish info, gets passwords and locks you and your friends out of their accounts and sends their personal information to a third party where even MORE damage is done.

You are, no matter what your privacy settings are, a public persona when you are partaking in the sweet nectar Facebook has become. There are advantages and disadvantages of that. Whatever they are, there is absolutely no reason to “inside statement” everyone. It’s akin to saying something out loud that is obviously an inside joke. Posting “Whew, that was close” and nothing else, with no explanation, then rebuffing the obvious, concerned questions, with “I can’t tell you yet” is plain rude! Please don’t do it.

Speaking of attention-seeking behaviors, if you’re going to take a break from Facebook for a while, for whatever reason, please do, but there is absolutely no need to make a big, public announcement. That you’re not commenting or posting is notice enough. Those who know you and who are close to you can, and will, call, email, or text you if they’re concerned. Otherwise, it really just looks like a plea for attention and the joy that comes from a myriad of people telling you to please don’t leave. Honestly? Those people are just being polite. People who feel the need to wish Facebook goodnight, are you listening?  Just get thee to bed, We’ll “see” you in the morning.

Having “post-gasms” (the act of posting multiple things is a very short period of time) usually results in people just ignoring you, “Boy Who Cried Wolf”-style.” Limit the number of consecutive posts to two or three in an hour.  If it’s a special kind of event (Superbowl, Grammys, Oscars, Emmys, etc), and you’re doing a play-by-play, please go for it. You’re providing value, something that’s always encouraged in social media. (Leave out the “Twitters-speak,” though.)  Otherwise, it just becomes “white noise” to be ignored.

As for “Twitter-speak,” that is, symbols and combinations such as RT, @tonygates44, and other signs and symbols that are from obvious tweets, when you’re on Facebook, speak Facebook. Hashtags are slowly making their way to Facebook, which, personally, I love. This is not Google +, however, were the great majority of users are social media adept. This is Facebook (over 1 billion users, remember?), the social media platform for “everyman and everywoman.” Treat it as such. If you ARE going to use hashtags, follow Twitter etiquette and keep them to three or less per post. My prediction? The hashtags for Facebook trend will fade.

If you’re on Facebook as a business, then be on Facebook as a business and get a Business Page. Businesses masquerading as “people” isn’t right, and allows the offending business to intrude on people and their lives without permission. Would you actually wish a business happy birthday? C’mon!  How would you feel if Coca Cola tried to friend you?  This also skirts Facebook’s TOS (Terms of Service).       

Another thing done that skirts the Facebook TOS (and is against the law in California) is the fake profile. If you have a profile where you purport to be someone you aren’t, you can be arrested and jailed (in good ol’ Cali), or just banned from Facebook. I’m kinda like that with multiple profiles. I know people with “alter egos” or alternate profiles that keep their lives/friends/content/family segmented.  My suggestion is to just create lists that segment these entities and post within that list. Facebook will catch this as well, especially if your alter-ego is named something obvious like “Sports Junkie” or "Ben Dover."   


I could go on, but at the risk of being sanctimonious (this post is twice as long as my typical post - a sure indicator of sanctimony), I’ll stop here. There are others, but we can save those for future posts.

Facebook is an amazing tool. But it is just that – a tool. We should use it (within the official and unofficial social guidelines and mores set forth) and not let it use us. As good and useful as it is, it is just as important to get out there and “shake hands and kiss babies.”

That’s the point!

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Price of Words

Missouri. The “Show Me State.”

Words. Better, it’s a nice, catchy state slogan like the 49 other (at least mostly) catchy state slogans. That was until I met my first “real” (meaning non-military) boss, Kevin Fowler. Even better was that Kevin Fowler is from this very same “Show Me State.” Who better, then, to actually push, cajole, kick, reward, and, really, lead me to the belief that is this state slogan as well?

(Kevin Fowler)

Pfizer was my very first “real” (civilian) job after spending 11 years in the Army as an artillery officer. Oh I was hot stuff - a West Point graduate, commanded troops, worked with nuclear weapons, responsible for the actual and literal lives of every man and woman in the units under my command… I was IT! I was trained by the world’s best leaders, at the world’s foremost leadership institution. I have classmates and close friends in a graduating class that has more than its share of General officers… I also served as a young officer under a bevy of leaders, some better than others, but that’s what I did. I led. I was a leader, I got things done.

Or so I thought. Kevin was my District Manager when I was a pharmaceutical sales representative for the largest drug maker on the planet. I would, thanks to Kevin and his boss, Regional Manager Duane Putnam, learn what leadership was and would use those very lessons and techniques when I was eventually promoted to District Manager. I went in thinking that these “mere civilians” (although Duane was a former naval officer) could teach me nothing more about leading people. Boy, was I wrong! Kevin (with lots of help from Duane) LED me out of my shaky Pfizer start by demanding I stop doing something that actually worked to get me through a pretty good Army career... He made me get past my tendency to “talk a good game.” I was good at it too… I would readily and easily tell people that I had everything under control, that everything would be okay, that I was on a path to success… to “watch my smoke” when I was assigned a task or had to give a status update. I let my words speak for me.

Kevin would frequently, and to great effect, call my bluff EVERY time. I came to almost (aw, who am I kidding… I really disliked him and dreaded our field rides together) regard him as “the enemy” and treated him as such. I’m certain that he didn’t relish his time with me either, but he stuck with it, and me, as any good leader would. I like to think it was because he saw something in me.

(My Pfizer, Chicago South District)

I saw that his making me show him, not tell him was having a positive, a really amazing result on my sales performance. I started to really enjoy calling on my physicians and providers and actually making a difference in their patients' lives thanks to the accurate, well-presented clinical information I was giving them. They WANTED to see me… They, and their staffs LOOKED FORWARD to seeing me. I was getting beyond the surface, beyond the superficial, and helping. I ended up winning a multitude of sales awards, including the Representative of the Year Award for two of the four years I was a sales rep. I attribute my success to Kevin and will be eternally thankful to him. We are great friends still (this all happened in the 1992 – 1996 time-frame).

What’s more, is that as a part of the Pfizer expansion, Kevin left to St Louis (we were in the Chicago South District at the time) to manage a newly-created District, and promoted ME to come be his Institutional Sales Rep – a promoted position to help him!! Further, after a stint at Pfizer Training (a promotion I got because of Kevin’s fierce advocacy), the Regional Manager who promoted me to the coveted District Manager position was, yes, Duane Putnam!

(Me with fellow District Managers JoAnn Yeksigian, Rodney Stewart, and Regional Manager Duane Putnam)

I don’t want to discount the hard work, effort, great teammates and counterparts that made me successful at Pfizer, but that effort NEVER included my telling anyone to “watch my smoke.” I let my actions speak for me.

“Good things come in small packages,” “I’m going to do a great job for you,” “I’ve done this before, trust me,” “I’m an expert in my field,” “I’ll get it done on time,” “I love my family,” “I take care of my kids,” “I’m not a racist,” “I won’t let it happen again,” “You’re special to me,” “I’m a great leader,” and “I love you.” are ubiquitous. I’ve heard them all before, as, I’m sure you have. My answer: “Don’t tell me, show me.” I’ve also been known to say: “Don’t tell me about the labor, show me the baby.”

Kevin, a kidney transplant recipient, now works with Transplant Experience, a program that helps transplant patients get the most out of each day, and helps them get ready for what’s ahead. Their website is

On a Google + post about social media “experts,” and some ways to make sure they actually know what they’re talking about, a gentleman who I don’t really know, but now plan to find out a LOT about (I just got an alert saying he just added me), Tim Southernwood, had a great statement that really struck me. That he made it the same day I knew I was writing this, was poetic serendipity. Tim wrote: “Generally speaking, most experts don’t have to proclaim their expertise. It’s evident.” Kevin would approve and agree.

Words don’t cost much at all, making them worth very little. Actions, however, are gold.

That’s the point!

- Tony