Thursday, September 21, 2006

Leadership resources you can watch again and again

I've been watching Band of Brothers again, having never seen it in its entirety when it came on TV. It's compelling drama, and chock full of leadership lessons.

It's worth viewing again and again, if only to figure out who all the characters are! And when you do start to recognise distinct characters, you'll see how cleverly the whole series is put together.

Each episode focuses on one character's journey - my favourite is Crossroads, which shows Capt. Winters (above, played by Damian Lewis) dealing with his face-to-face confrontation with a young German soldier. As you get to know the characters, you see the foreshadowing of their journey in earlier episodes, such as Lynn "Buck" Compton's (played by Neal McDonough) slow but definite slide into post traumatic stress disorder.

Band of Brothers has obviously inspired many people since its release in 2001, as evidenced by the tributes and leadership resources around the place.

Just one word of warning, though. Watching three episodes in a row just before going to sleep is a bad idea, unless you want to be dreaming about death. The realism in this mini-series is superbly done. Because of that, it doesn't glorify war. It does glorify courage, and in the process makes us ask: how can I be courageous today?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Who says women aren't powerful?

Whether you're a well-adjusted consumer, a brand slave or a foaming-at-the-mouth anti-corporate type, you can't deny the power of marketing and PR in today's world. Every day we're influenced by carefully-crafted messages from governments, major consumer brands, lobby groups and "the media".

So it's interesting to find that roles in those areas are largely made up of women. The latest survey from PRINZ (Public Relations Institute of New Zealand) shows 73% of PR professionals are women, and that's set to grow. A recent survey of New Zealand journalists shows a similar, if not so extreme, female skew. As for marketing, I don't know statistically, but I do know anecdotally, there are a lot of women out there.

Of course, it brings up the question, are these women really that influential, or are they merely doing the bidding of higher executives who are more often men?

Comment on civilisation from a dream guy

"A civilisation based on comfort and convenience won't survive hard times. It will become brutal. A civilisation based on something deeper will produce people who are able to teach the survivors."

That's a paraphrase of an interesting comment by Rev. Jeremy Taylor, a specialist in dream projective work interviewed on Shrink Rap Radio. He was saying that our dreams can help us get in touch with the answers we need to very real problems in life, especially forming meaning out of suffering.

It's interesting listening, not just for the subject matter but to hear someone who really loves their job. Dr. Dave also shares some very valuable insights on staying fresh when you have to teach, present or deliver the same message over and over.

Hear the MP3 here.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What's better than feedback? Good feedback!

Okay, so negative feedback can open the door to improvement. Sure. But sometimes it is such a buzz to get some positive feedback, and it inspires you to do better.

Marie and I have had a nice couple of weeks of positive feedback.
  1. In a competition at Marie's work to garner good ideas, she won two MP3 players for the two ideas she submitted! (Her sister is very happy about the spare MP3 player)
  2. Marie's second university assignment, an essay, got an A+!
  3. I filed some stories late (a bad habit I'm working on!) and heard from two separate editors, "Thanks Simon, that story was worth the wait!"
  4. One editor who hadn't liked my first filed story said, "Thanks for the way you turned that story around!"
  5. I did a presentation at the Marketing Association's Practical Email Marketing yesterday, and afterwards one of the co-presenters of the day complimented me on my quiet, calm presentation style.
Great stuff, huh?

But I'm not just posting this stuff to brag. My point is to gather up as much positive feedback as you can and use it as propellant. There are plenty of challenges ahead if you're going to do something worthwhile. We need constructive criticism, yes, but we also need positive feedback that lets us know what we do well.

While I'm on the subject, I recently joined Trustcite, and if I've worked with you in the past, I'd welcome your feedback, positive or negative.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Company brand or personal brand?

I just heard on the Duct Tape Marketing podcast that Robert Scoble, Microsoft's famous tech evangelist, has left Microsoft. The question for Microsoft now is, who can replace Scoble?

This is something that I've puzzled over - not Scoble specifically, but the increasing crossover between company and personal brands that happens with the current shift in marketing.

What current shift in marketing? (Which one?) I mean a general move towards high-touch, human-to-human contact. For example, Tom Peters' recent rant about tearing up scripts and letting individuals be individuals.

After all, people relate to people, not brands. For example:
  • A company spokesperson or character used in advertising (for example Goldstein for New Zealand's ASB Bank)
  • An editor of the company newsletter
  • A retail shop assistant
  • A travelling sales rep
The question becomes, who do people have the relationship with? The company or the individual?

In most cases I'd guess it's the individual. Which is great for the individuals, but what should companies do?

It's somewhat of a conundrum, and I can only think of one answer that's not really that helpful in the short term: hire really, really good people. People who like people.

Create an organisation that these people are excited about, glad to be part of, and then just let them be themselves. If you've got the environment and the people right, customer satisfaction should look after itself!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Leaders know contemporary culture

This Blog Sits at the: Advent of an era? Corporate America finally gets contemporary culture?

Have you read this guy's blog? Witty, intelligent writing. It's a joy. Even when he has nothing to say he says it with panache.

Anyway, an interesting critique in the link above about why Tom Freston, former CEO of Viacom, is the former CEO of Viacom: he's out of touch with contemporary culture.

Reminds me why I started this blog: to garner the lessons in leadership, business and otherwise, from the everyday examples of pop culture around us. Primarily movies, because I watch a lot of them and want to make them some day. But yes, there's leadership in music as well, if you look.

I'd better start looking and listening! This is a call back to the roots of this blog.

Yes, another post about Steve Irwin

I was going to, tongue-in-cheek, call this post "This Post Is Not About Steve Irwin". Then I was going to write the whole post basically about how Steve Irwin's death has been covered in the media all over the world, and how I wasn't going to be adding to the cacophony. It was going to be all very ironic.

But that's the trouble when someone who makes people laugh and feel great dies. You can only think of them in terms of fun, when this man's loss is so tragic to his family, friends and community.

But even though he's gone, he still encourages us. Tonight Marie and I talked as we often do about dreams and the future, about leaving the merely good in favour of the best. If there was ever anyone who truly let you know he was living his dream, 100%, it was that crocodile man, Steve Irwin. Rest in Peace.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I am officially amazed

Maybe you will be too: The Future of Computing.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Can you figure out youth?

I can't. I only just discovered I wasn't one any more (at least, I don't think so, although they say 40 is the new 30, so what does that make 31?)

Anyway, while I don't understand youth, I interviewed a whole bunch of people about youth marketing and wrote this month's cover story for NZ Marketing Magazine. You'll have to buy a dead-tree copy to read the article, but you can be teased a little by my teaser copy here.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Other people

Some great links about working with others in this morning's email from Unlimited's Best Places to Work.

First, a Fast Company story about how having a best friend at work makes work more engaging.
When people leave an organization after a short time, they often talk about how they weren't able to connect with someone. On the flip side, there is something about those relationships that keeps people in jobs, too. We talked to a woman who was an executive at a nonprofit. She decided she was going to quit. That Sunday, her best friend from work called and talked about how much he valued her friendship. She ended up staying there several more years.
We crave connection; that's why MySpace, YouTube and Blogger exist.

The other story, from the Sydney Morning Herald, quotes research that shows we lose two hours of productive time each day because of technological and people annoyances.
Once your attention span is disrupted, it takes time to recouple yourself to your previous train of thought. If you are interrupted while trying to remember what it was you were meant to be doing, you might as well call it quits. The University of California study found that more than 20 per cent of interrupted tasks were not resumed the same day.
Holy crap. That's terrible.

While the first story makes me maybe wish I had a "normal" job, the second story gives me hope that - if I can stop distracting myself! - I'll be much more productive working here from home.