Archive - March, 2011

Do you know this guy?

Chances are you have been asked this question: Do you know this person? A friend has been contacted through a social network and a connection request has been made. Your friend has determined somehow that you know the person and are thus asking you who the person is. Every social network has its nuances and rules of engagement both stated and inferred. For example Linkedin plainly defines who you should and should not send a connection request to. Right before you click send it reminds you to make sure you know the person. Now “know” can have many meanings here. On twitter, friending someone you know is pretty open. LinkedIn though has established these guidelines:

Connecting to someone on LinkedIn implies that you know them well:

They’ll have access to people you know
Others may ask you about them and vice versa
You’ll get updates on their activity
LinkedIn lets you invite colleagues, classmates, friends and business partners without entering their email addresses.

However, recipients can indicate that they don’t know you. If they do, you’ll be asked to enter an email address with each future invitation.

On other networks and community sites these guidelines vary. Being familiar with the standard is both helpful and will ensure you keep as well as grow your standing within a tribe. If you don’t know someone ask a friend to introduce you. It will make a much better first impression.

Influence Overload

Since the invention of the printing press we have become overloaded with influence. Now just as we have control over the books we read, we also have control over what information we choose to digest, even in the age of constant Twitter streams and Facebook updates. A few years ago I chose to cease my daily ritual of reading multiple newspapers. I was finding that I was becoming stressed after reading all the mayhem editors were sending my way. Like those papers, we can easily be inundated by a fire-hose of information through the constant updates of social media accounts. There are millions of blogs that beckon our reading. So again the question, who in influencing us?
One way of keeping our influence to a manageable state is to limit our consumption to what our tribe is saying. By tribe, I mean the smaller group of people within your sphere of influence. I create lists on twitter, I keep my Facebook community small, and I am constantly trimming the blog and site lists I keep up with. By doing this I benefit from not only from my tribes information but that of it’s greater community.
Other than simply keeping things manageable there is scientific proof that too many inputs can stifle our effective decision making. Len Sweet shared an article this week from Newsweek describing the decision crisis we find ourselves in. With multiple sources of information streaming in at us, our brains are finding it harder to be decisive.

I am constantly trimming, refining, changing and discerning who I listen to via my channels of influence. Over time my channels have become valuable to me. Just as I am discerning regarding the books I read, I don’t pay attention to every message that crosses my radar, even in the refined lists. I do pay attention to those who have over time proven consistently valuable, which brings me to another subject; being a valuable contributor to your tribe. But that is another blog topic. How are you keeping your information stream from crippling your decisions?

Here is one of my favorite quotes regarding this subject and how we will overcome it:

E. O. Wilson
“We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.”

Fill out your profile

Here is a question. If you are invited to someones house for a party would you ever lie about your identity or blurt profanities when asked what you do? Would you walk around the house with a paper bag on your head? Most of you would answer no, I hope. Then why would you ever do that on a community website. This is a simple request. Please fill out your profile. Add a picture and some useful information. For the most part people seem to get this. A few don’t. They either fill out the minimum or go the snarky route and liter the site with false information or in a weak attempt at humor, leave nasty comments. Really, we would rather you not show up at all.
Sites like this are built to create community where collaborations are forged, expertise is digested and connections made deeper. In order for this to happen we need to trust you. I don’t know about you but I trust someone if I can see their eyes and learn who they are. You may have plenty of reasons for not sharing your information and that is ok with me. Just don’t show up then. To those that do fill out their profiles, nice to meet you. Sincerely, from a community manager

Headed to SXSW?: How I plan for a trip

How do you get ready for a conference trip? I get asked this question a lot, not just for SXSW. I am not attending this year but if I was this is how I would plan my trip, or any conference trip.

First I plan my meals. Meals are the most important part of any trip since they allow us to break bread with our friends. Sitting down to dinner or a casual lunch with someone makes all the difference when it comes to building a relationship. And when I say dinner I don’t mean a chain restaurant or any old dive. You have at your disposal the tools to find out the best places to eat. Search Yelp or ask your network via an all call. Taking this extra effort makes such a difference. It gives us a taste of the local culture and allows you to create an experience for those you are dinning with. Dinners are probably the most significant but don’t rule out breakfast or lunch. I like to have at least two or three of my dinner plans set before I leave on a trip. I also leave a few slots open for impromptu meetings and wiggle room. I have met some of the coolest people by just sitting down at a conference lunchroom and striking up a conversation. Also watch location-based services for friend updates. You will be surprised at what you find.

Once I have the meals down, I like to look over the session schedule. I see two categories here. I like to learn as well as be inspired. Businesses and clients are paying for you to attend. Make it worth their investment. Bring back something that will make a difference. Be ready to be surprised too. Others might upstage the talks you thought would knock it out of the park. Be ready to shift your plans accordingly. Make sure you walk the expo floor before you leave. This often is the hardest thing to do. While it can be cluttered and confusing, it does allow an overall look at industry trends.

Last are the after parties. I am not a huge fan of parties but if I am invited I go with the chance to learn about new people. For more on parties and networking read “And the cards were flying“. Make it about others. Be a good guest. A last note on parties, don’t be a sleestack (this applies to conferences in general but I see this happening in regards to parties a lot). If you know someone of influence, please don’t treat him or her as your ticket in. They want to connect and learn about you but they don’t want to be used. If you are a good friend and you continually show that you are trustworthy, you will have access to people. And by all means attend as many meetups as you can.

What have I left out. Share away.

Connection Check

Take a break and ask yourself one question: What is my level of connectedness? I was looking through Linkedin today and realized there are three categories: A mile deep, vacant, and thriving (I am sure we can think of more but these are the ones that stood out to me). LinkedIn is just one example. This applies to any connection tool like Facebook or Twitter.

The mile deep are those who have hundreds of connections but little to show for it. Think of the card collectors that come back from conferences with a large rubber banded stack of business cards. We probably have one of their cards buried someplace in our obsolete cell phone cord drawer. They are experts of getting you to take their card but often don’t have much influence when it comes to collaborations or knowing anyone beyond title and profession.

Next, the vacant ones have about 20-50 contacts. To clarify there are plenty of friends who have this number but are incredibly connected (see the next class). This group though has probably out of obligation created a LinkedIn account and dabbled in adding connections. In my opinion an account like this is more damaging than not having one at all. What it broadcasts to the world is a simple message: I am not really showing up.

Last is the thriving group. They continue to grow their influence through true connection. They build new relationships while strengthening the ones they already have. They see opportunity to help their network out at every new meeting or innovative discovery. Usually because they are aware, they often think of others to promote. High numbers have little power here. They continually tightened their tribe instead of bloating it by playing the number game. They use their best connections to spread some remarkableness. Not only are they true leaders, you can be confident that several people in their network have the same level of connectedness.

So again what category are you in and where do you want to be?

What is in it for me?

One of the most quoted lines in movie history is from the The Godfather, “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business”.

Do you accept it? Yesterday, for the second time in a week I overheard nearly the same statement in a business meeting. Good business has more to do with the economy of trust and relationship than “what is in it for me”. While the bottom line is important, lasting business, business that changes the world, changes people’s lives has to come from trust and relationship. If it doesn’t, at the end of the deal all we have is money in the bank. As we build those two we also widen our influence. Others come to see us as trustworthy. If I like you and I know you treat others well, then I want to do business with you. Will I look at your business record and practices? Of course I will. But after the downturn and shady business that was exposed, we can’t afford to navigate without the economy of trust and relationship. It takes time, investment, and risk but in the end we have relationship. Sorry Micheal, it is personal even in business.

And the cards were flying

Last night I arrived in San Francisco and the team at Soma Games decided to get out and meet up with friends. We are here to attend the 2011 GDC (Game Developers Conference). Our first stop was the Facebook party. At first glance it looked like it was going to be fun. Plenty of industry workers and company owners were enjoying themselves. As we settled in I soon realized that one thing after the next was going to happen. I would meet someone and they would hand me their card. Then they would ask “so what games have you done”. And that was basically it. It felt scripted. After the third time I began to get bored. Many of the people in attendance were young but it didn’t dawn on me till later that these were all either college students or recent graduates. And they were playing the classic game of networking.

I did get a chance to explain a bit about the communities I have helped build and how I they formed. A bootstrapper asked us how we find our talent as well as our for-hire gigs. From what I could tell he really had not tried to build a community yet. I was honest and told him it was all about friendship, trust and enchantment. I went on to share that ninety percent of the time I am just visiting with clients and partners. We talk about our families and our hobbies. We share our struggles and stories. Yes we talk shop but it is rarely about selling and mostly about life.

Know your short pitch about who you are and what you do and then calm down and ask the other person about their life. Find out how their trip to the conference was, where else they have travelled recently, where they went to school. Find some way to connect their world to yours. Think of who in your circle of friends they just have to meet. If there is an obvious connection, you will never need to hand someone a card because they will ask for it. Most of all don’t strive. Nothing is more unbecoming.

When I get home and all I have is your card it will usually go in the trash. If you told me a great story or I got to know a little about your family and what makes you passionate you can be sure I will look you up, check out your work. If I can’t find a way to work with you then I will make sure I find someone who can.

Most of all remember it is about people. For more on that read Surprised in Vegas.

Gun Shy

As we checked into The Beverly Hills Hotel last Friday, my wife and I both noticed how nervous but nice the front desk staff appeared. We were informed that our room was not ready yet and since they were fully booked for the weekend they did not know how soon it would be. A guest had over stayed and they were trying to get her out. Even after reassuring them that we were easygoing they continued to apologize. You see, they were gun shy.
I had assumed that the staff was accustomed to regular screaming and fit throwing by guests who did not get their way. That was confirmed today when I saw three separate interactions in the lobby where guests accosted the staff over petty details.
The hotel staff has world class customer service. Coming from a family of restaurant and resort owners I know great service when I see it. As a five star hotel you would expect that, but after visiting with security staff like Pete and the warm, friendly and kind staff of the cafe in the basement, front desk and room service I can say they truly deserve respect. I have written several drafts on the responsibility of the customer, but post by friend Mark Jones Jr. inspired me to finally post one.
The staff, server, or attendant you treat with either kindness or cruelty may very well be the person you serve one day. Why not leave them enchanted instead of gun shy?