Can you ooVoo?


We are fast becoming a nation of visual communicators. According to Cisco (owners of the Flip), video communications will increase ten-fold from 2008 – 2013.

Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo, in a recent interview, said that she believes Yahoo needs to offer its users more video. And, of course, providers such as ooVoo and Skype are helping us to participate in real-time interactive video conversations more and more. Not to mention YouTube, Vimeo, et al.

The experts are saying that we will be communicating a lot more one to one, one to many, and many to many visually. So instead of just reading (text messages) or listening (teleconferences), we will be watching. I am not all that happy about this. For one thing, I will be forced to continually own up to what I really look and sound like. Ouch. And, I can no longer do conference calls in my pajamas.

Seriously, a whole new world of opportunity is emerging around our increasing ability to see one other. Some consumer brands are already using the two-way video conversations to conduct market research with their target consumer. Think, they can talk with young people at a party who will actually show them how they are mixing their beverage products.

On a personal level, all this video communications takes personal branding and personal presence to a new level. I ran across a saying years ago that I often quote in my speeches (although I cannot find the author): “you are judged by the quality of your speaking, your writing, and your ideas, and in that order.” Note: this quote was from pre-internet days, maybe even pre-television. Now, with all of us soon expected to communicate via video, the “speaking” takes on more importance than ever. Is your personal brand ready?


Un-social media


So, you are calling a client and you have what you will say all laid out.  You expect to get voicemail.  She never answers her phone.  Oh no!   She answers.  You were planning a monologue – no back talk.  Now you have to deal with a dialogue.

Ever do this?  Ever have this happen to you?  I have been on both sides of this scenario.  You can always tell when someone did not expect you to answer.  They stumble.  They fumble.  I know I do.

Now we have Facebook, blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn and much more to help us connect with people without talking to them.  According to Microsoft’s Social Media book for small businesses,  Twitter grew by more than 600% in 2009, while Facebook grew by 210% and LinkedIn by 85%.  We are told that these social media behemoths draw their power from creating communities, stimulating dialogue, conversations and sharing.  Well, sometimes they do.  Some big brands have figured out how to make this work.

Can the rest of us really maintain a meaningful dialogue with dozens, hundreds, thousands of friends, followers and fans?  Social media for most of us is monologue.  More like a personal infomercial than a personal conversation.  And, online socializing removes our ability to take the measure of a person by their tone, their demeanor.  Yes, YouTube is visual but it is more like a performance than an interaction with the audience.

Let me stop here and say that I love social media.  I encourage my clients to embrace it, to make it work for their goals.  Social media enables us to reach a lot more people.  To give voice to our passions and to find people who share them.  Through social media, I have found brilliant people I would never have found, reconnected with people I somehow lost.  

But social media also enables us to be more unsociable than ever.   We can stay in front of our computers, feel connected, without ever really engaging with anyone.   We can click from site to site, turning e-relationships on and off.   Unsociable?  Heck , we can be anti-social.  The other day I asked a website developer if I could hire him to speak with me over the phone to go through some changes to a template of his I had purchased.  He informed me that he would do it but only online.  No dialogue.  OK.  I guess.

I think social media is in its glorious infancy.  I am looking forward to participating in its growth.

For me it’s fun to pay attention to the new words that the major dictionaries decide to add each year.  It’s a peephole into the culture and into technology in particular, since so many new words come from new technology.

For 2009, locavore and frenemy  were two of the non-techie words among the almost 100 new words added to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.  A locavore is a person who is committed to eating locally grown foods.  A frenemy is a person who pretends to be a friend but is actually an enemy.

Way back in the year 2000, the word “” was a new word added to the dictionary.  The definiton was a company that was web-based.  It recalls those days when we all knew people who were leaving their jobs at regular companies to go to work for dot.coms.   Very cool and meant lots of money to follow.  Do we still refer to any companies as dot.coms?  

Technology is integrated into all businesses today – into both the business model and the business culture.   Technology is not a department or a capability but is inherent in work.  You cannot carve it out.

And if the futurists are right,  technology will increasingly become more integrated into people.  Technology will allow us to become more than human.  When can I download the upgrade?

Today, change is relentless – the future is hurtling toward us – it is good to know the skills that will allow us to grab it.


When I headed a global Business Transformation consulting practice (way back in the 90’s), change management was one of our core competencies.  Transforming an organization takes people who know how to change effectively. 

As part of our research on change in organizations, we surveyed more than 100,000 people and asked the question, “would you be willing to change in order to help your organization?’  The response was almost 90% positive.  People were indeed willing to change.  However, in trying to effect major change as consultants, we discovered that people needed to know more about  “from what….to what?”  

They needed specifics so that they could internalize or personalize what changes they needed to make.  They needed to know the starting point and how it differed from the desired destination.  So they could take ownership of getting there.

Unfortunately, the organizations often were not very helpful in answering this question.  Examples of commons answers included “be more open to change”,” be more adaptable”, and the phrase that deserves to be in the Cliche Hall of Fame, “think outside the box”. 

People differ significantly when it comes to what they need in order to change and in order to lead others to change.  But everyone needs at least some idea of  “from what…to what.”  One good way to express the answer is to express it in terms of new skills.  

George Washington University, through its  Institute for Knowledge and Innovation, has released the results of a study they conducted on the most valuable future skills.  We have been told for 30 years now that the world is changing faster than ever.  That our skills become outdated faster than you can say “powerpoint”.  The list of  skills identified by GWU makes for a nice tool you can use  to ask yourself how you and your organization compare to the study’s findings.

jan2010Resolutions can be daunting.   They are usually very tactical – lose weight, stop smoking, read more, write THE book, and so forth.  Before you set about to tackle a major issue, you may want to be a little more strategic.  Examine what has been holding you back – or what will allow you to really do it this time. 

I found  the exercise below many years ago and often use it in team building sessions to help teams better understand each other as individuals. 

Try it yourself before you abandon your resolutions – it may change how you approach the New Year.

What I need right now

  1. Choose (mark) 5 things from the list below that you need more of.   Add your own things if they are not on the list.  But, select no more than 5.
  2. Put the 5 choices in order of importance.
  3. Whom should you share your five things with? 

 I need more……

Vitality Self-esteem Direction
Tenderness Composure Security
Recognition Generosity Balance
Activity Confidence Caring
Awareness Health Motivation
Sharing Solitude Devotion
Contemplation Serenity Trust
Insight Joy Commitment
Forgiveness Purpose Music
Laughter Support Self-expression
Companionship Harmony Romance
Intimacy Patience Sensitivity
Self-awareness Skill Structure
Opportunity Challenges Variety
Accomplishments Imagination Control
Responsibility Education Experience
Freedom Strength Energy
Fitness Relaxation Comfort
Nutrition Sleep Childlikeness
Coordination Flexibility Exercise
Self-control Celebration Play

 Source: Ice-breakers and Heart-warmers, by Steve Sheely


Your business anniversary is a not-to-be-passed up opportunity.  

Whether it is your 1st or 21st, the year does not matter.  What matters is that you take the opportunity to celebrate your anniversary by emailing your clients and thanking them.  And share information with them that is important to them – that they can use. 

The anniversary communication will remind them (indirectly) of why they do business with you and are happy to continue to do so. Or, if they are former clients, they are reminded of why they should do business with you again. 

What if you don’t have clients?  Take the opportunity to thank the person who hired you or the people who make you successful….your co-workers, your boss, even HR!.  They will be surprised and impressed and appreciative.

It’s your anniversary but be sure it is about them.

Every February, Billboard announces the top music moneymakers from the previous year.   Madonna took the honors for 2008, raking in more than $242 million.  Bon Jovi was a distant second at $157 million.

This flies in the face of logic.  Isn’t pop music supposed to be dominated by the young and the hot?  Madonna is 50+.  She had no hit records in 2008.   She released an album, which finished in 50th place.  Her music downloads were 14th.  So, did her album and downloads just cost more?  No.  What put her at the top was her 2008 tour.

Whether you are a fan or not, Madonna offers us a great example of a powerful personal brand.    She knows her audience.   She doesn’t worry about appealing to everyone.  She focuses on delivering what her fans want. Again and again.  And they reward her with exceptional loyalty.  Which obviously translates into exceptional income.

It does not escape notice that baby boomers are 78 million strong and any rock star they embrace has a natural advantage in terms of sheer fan numbers.  As noted above, Bob Jovi was #2.   Bruce Springsteen was #3.  You have to go all the way down to #9, the Jonas Brothers, to find a young person.  The brothers earned 25% of what Madonna hauled in. 

My favorite on the list?  Neil Diamond.  He came in at #7.  Did I mention he is 68 years old?  The old man rang up $82 million.

OK, so old rock stars have a fan advantage.  But there are plenty of famous baby boomer stars that never make the top 10 moneymaker list.  Their identities are not as clear.  Their energy and commitment to give their fans what they want is not as solid.  In short, their brands are not as strong.  

We can all learn from these graying giants who may not be topping the hit singles charts, but are rocking the money charts.

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