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Be a Regifter

Is it poor tast to give a gift given to you by someone else?

It might be if you didn’t want it in the first place. However, it might be something altogether different if you offer to give something you received to a friend or loved one with a heartfelt recommendation!

While Tim regifted the label maker Elaine gave him (because he had no use for it), most of us forget the the joy of recommending something or someone we like. LinkedIn thrives on this concept of sharing our affinity for another’s actions or character.

But do we do this willingly with something we value, something that made a difference in our own lives?

Why would you let a book gather dust on your shelf (or electronic dust on your harddrive)? Yes, information is precious, but the application of that information is invaluable — especially when applied in another’s life.


Change starts here, with you! Throw aside assumptions and begin your journey to success today in the ChangeForge, a website, focusing on how to deliver results in the collision of business, technology and relationships. As the owner of ChangeForge, Ken Stewart is passionate about helping you solve business problems by helping to craft solutions which achieve business objectives through applying technology smartly, change management considerately, and motivational techniques genuinely.

Download his new free ebook, 7 Secrets to Destroy Your Daily Distractions: A Field Guide to Staying Focused Today!


Lead or Follow: Two Sides of the Same Coin

At the root of it all, most of us suffer from forgetting one key thing in life, we are here to serve others. Well not Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, you might say. Not Brett Favre or Jerry Rice, you might offer. However, each of these offers a resounding example of service. You might even think to yourself, certainly not me as I am too important or too busy to be bothered with such things (c’mon be honest).

Helpdesk Shows Heart

Today, I had the pleasure of calling technical support for my home laptop, because the touchpad had quit working. It began as a typical technical support call goes, even adding in the brief confusion over what type of contract I had purchased and whether I was even eligible to be calling in for assistance. Once that minor irritation was put aside, the call commenced with a quick remote session, some cursory updates of drivers and eventually resulted in the dispatch of a technician to my home to complete repairs. Normal, right?

Not so normal was the conversation in between the normalized chitchat of IT helpdesk, which elevated this call in my mind, above so many others. While many might disparage offshoring helpdesk, I generally find it fairly pleasurable. It’s an opportunity to talk to someone clear across the world, and in this case it was indeed in India. However, the location doesn’t matter, because it could’ve just as easily been someone sitting right next to me.

At some point in the attempt to make a connection, Kajendra and I stumbled into a conversation about my military service. He kindly observed that I must be a very brave person, equating my service with action and character. I simply stated that I was fortunate not to have to see a tour of duty in wartime. After a bit of back and forth, I learned that Kajendra had served in Africa helping those infected with HIV. Sadly, in his country, he was looked down upon for what was considered a lower station and subsequently forced to return to his country after three years.

I was floored, and quickly told Kajendra it was he who had demonstrated bravery – showed heart! He stood in the face of centuries of cultural bias and immediate familial distaste to help those in need whom had never done a single thing for him or his people.

Service With Excuses

While Kajendra was half a world away, Sally lived right here in my own part of the world. As my family and I ate our lunch meal, we noticed my Mother-in-Law had only her empty salad bowl. I pulled our waitress aside and asked if she happened to know where my Mother-in-Law’s meal might be. I was literally showered with unsolicited excuses as to how she was not our original waitress, she hadn’t looked at the ticket and didn’t know what might be going on. Sad for all of the wrong reasons, many might have responded with anger. However, I simply nodded and asked her to check. What had brought Sally to the point where excuses cost her less effort and injury than simply acting?

Lead or Follow: Service Has Two Faces

So many find refuge in dodging the responsibility of service, or even fooling themselves into the belief they are delivering all of the service they can deliver, because… well, you list the excuses you’ve heard here.

When you look around, what areas in your life, in your business or in your community can you offer your service? If you already are, ask if you are doing so in the most impactful way; if you are you too busy, ask if your priorities are in the right order to serve.

Plain and simple, we don’t challenge ourselves enough, often enough – ME included! Being human has the unfortunate downside of being imperfect, selfish and sometimes just plain ignorant. But being human also has the upside of heart, honor and humbleness. As leaders we must encourage and challenge ourselves, as well as those we lead, relentlessly; as followers we must do the same, and do not lay down our own responsibility for others to pickup. You see, leading and following are simply two sides of the same coin; all too often, we forget that service is required in both.

I simply ask that you remind yourself of this – and while you’re at it remind me too.


Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. As a senior consultant with the Photizo Group, he comes from and works directly with channel providers in the managed services space, developing educational tools and resources to promote lasting business transformation.

Get the latest industry news, and follow ChangeForge on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook. You might also be interested in reading more from Ken in his weekly column on MPS Insights every Tuesday.


Is The Problem Sales Versus Support?

962315433_1cdbb31cbe Why is it that sales and support seem to have this stereotypical rift?

I’ve typically been categorized as an IT guy. I’m OK with that label, because I know people believe labels and categories offer some sense of increased optimization in knowledge management, decision making, and even maintaining relationships. I’ve figured that much out in my short time here on this earth.

However, I also know that I am anything but typical, and always work to understand all sides to situation – both intellectually and emotionally. In so doing, I’ve found it helps me bring quantitative and qualitative data in balance and offer a fair solution to the problem at hand.

Solving Problems:

The word problem often has a negative connotation. Interestingly enough, the etymology of problem has its roots in the Latin word proballein, which literally means to throw forward. So, one could literally see a problem as a chance to move ahead – an opportunity to advance.

What is so wonderful about perceiving a problem as an opportunity is that it creates opportunity for so many and helps each of us stay employed, educate ourselves, and ultimately strengthen relationships through the process or derived wisdom in either successfully solving or failing to solve the problem.

So how is it that the typical rift between those who seek to create new opportunities and those who seek to maintain the fabric of our daily lives continues? How is it that sales and support organizations have been so stereotypically divided?

The Start of the Communication Breakdown:

I can remember several instances over my career where one sales person or another either directly or indirectly pointed out that if it were not for them I or [insert job title] would not even have a job if it weren’t for them!

Let me ask this, for those of you who are married, do you remember the last time either you mentioned you made the money, or had your spouse point out they made the money? I know the last time I had that conversation, years ago, I found a resume on the table the next day listing job responsibilities and a new salary requirement. My wife wasn’t happy when I told her our management team had to go another way, and we would have to terminate her contract due to cost reduction initiatives and were looking to H-B1 immigrants because labor rates were cheaper.

I can also recall several other instances where service technicians, IT specialists, and helpdesk specialists alike would make a grandiose proclamation that “sales” should quit doing this or that.

The Solution?

It’s not really as mystical as you might think. You really don’t even need to hire any fancy consultants either (but I am available to deliver this presentation in person for a very fair price plus travel expenses). All kidding aside, it begins by bridging the understanding between the divided parties.

You see, sales must understand they don’t sell a product or service. Your customer buys a perception – that yours is better, they need it, whatever. Your support organization helps to deliver this and reinforce the decision at every touch. While you may want to debate semantics of how you define sales, service, administrative, support, engineering, education, or whatever – you are cheapening the concept.

Sales seeks to create new opportunities by realizing a gap in a customer’s want or need existence.

Support does everything else to maintain and fulfill what was sold – essentially reselling what the customer purchased with every single touch, word, and whim.

Problem Solved:

Both sales and support coexist in a wonderful, symbiotic relationship. Those who recognize this simple relationship will not only survive, but thrive, while those who do not will simply slip into relegated ignorance.

Image courtesy of Hamed Saber


Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. Ken serves on the board of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA), an international industry organization seeking worldwide best practices for the managed print services industry, and writes a weekly column for MPS Insights. He is also the founder of Seeking the Son, and is always interested in connecting with you to see how he might help you.


The Cruelty of, “I Wish …”

2622352874_9759ebeba4 I wish I was funnier, or better looking. I wish I was more stylish or GQ. I wish I was richer, smarter, funnier!

I wish, I wish, I wish.

I grew up always looking for something else, something outside of me. I lived to find acceptance in the eyes of others, but you know what I always found?

A hollow place of wanting, and empty space with a sign marked vacant.

A boy named James:

When I was much younger, I was friends with a boy named James. James was not very popular, but neither was I. I had befriended James in 4th grade not because I needed a friend, but because he was the loneliest kid in the class. He sat alone, almost cowering under a dark shadow.

We became quick friends, and had great adventures together. As we grew older, James and I made much mischief. We had long and thoughtful discussions about many important things such as whether chunky barf was more disgusting that stringy boogers or which Garbage Pail Kid was the grossest.

And I never wondered if our friendship was in question.

But as the summer ended after sixth grade, I suddenly realized there was another world out there. To fit in, I realized that James could not come with me into the seventh grade. I was entering a time in my life where I needed to look a certain way, act a certain way, and be with a certain group of people.

He wasn’t cool enough.

How incredibly cruel we can be — I can be.

I chose those vacuous things to replace a friend that was not fit in the world’s eyes. I had left myself, a jar of clay, empty and wanting for meaning to fill me up, and I chose the wrong things!

Sacrifice, search, and surrender:

How many times have you sacrificed who you are for a boss, a job, a co-worker, or client? How many times have you sold a piece of your soul to find that elusive thing you were in search of — sure its acquisition would quench your thirst or provide a lofty throne from which to enjoy your conquest?

While it may seem wonderful to surround yourself with all of those things that fill your senses, I would humbly share with you that in these times of uncertainty (and all times are indeed uncertain) that you should be no more and no less than who you are; I would share with you my decision so many years ago that I carry with me.

Even though I may think I have discovered my heart of service, I find that I rediscover it each and every day. My long road to seek fulfillment has taught me it comes not from within the world, but from something greater than yourself – outside of you. However, the decision to seek it must first come from within you.

Image courtesy of Julianne Hide

The Numbers Don’t Lie, Do They?

Many businesses boast about their stats, proving this, that or the other. Some boast of customer retention, profitability or annualized growth. Others choose to showcase statistics of response time, number of staff, or even customer satisfaction ratings.

Perspective:

We want to believe statistics. Numbers don’t lie, do they?

The answer is, sadly, it depends. Depends on what? Aren’t mathematics binary? Either they are or are not. After all, if we can’t trust “the numbers” what can we trust in this crazy world?

It depends on perspective. It depends on population, sample size and even mood in situations of subjective surveys about such things as satisfaction.

Relation:

Another often forgotten facet of statistics is that of relation. We live in a three-dimensional world, don’t we? When we are purchasing something, do we only consider one aspect of it? Of course not. We weight many different aspects of it, consider the impact and then buy it.

Much like buying something based only on a single factor, using only one statistic, or number, to justify a position, direction or decision is usually rather foolish. We need context.

A great example is that of response time, which is thrown around in just about any service-based industry. Well, what completion time and whether the problem reoccurs? If you have to take your car back to the mechanic to have the brakes checked more than once, wouldn’t you begin to have concern about the effectiveness of your mechanic? I mean, we are only talking about your life here.

The truth is out there:

Some truths are absolute. However, some truths are relative to where you stand. The numbers themselves are true, but how we massage and maneuver them can lead an unwary observer down a very dangerous path.

Agreeing upon clear definitions and best practices can greatly help, but there are those who wish to create mystery to preserve advantage. Just be careful of announcing your pride in the recent shareholder’s report, service rankings, or customer satisfaction results. Unless you fully understand the context of what you are looking at, chances are the numbers might be lulling you into a false sense of security.

Image courtesy of lrargerich.


Ken Stewart’s website, ChangeForge, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology in an information-centric world. Ken serves on the board of the new Managed Print Services Association, an international industry organization seeking worldwide best practices for the managed print services industry. He is also the founder of Seeking the Son. He is always interested in connecting with you.


I Get Paid To Know What I’m Not… What Do You Get Paid For?

2607423283_5bd77fd672

What do you get paid for? To know a lot about a little or a little about a lot?

The age-old question of whether to be a master of a few skills or diversify your knowledge at the sacrifice of deep understanding has rattled around in this steel trap of a brain of mine for as long as I can remember. I have often wondered if a preference relates to personality or environment – or maybe even both.

I recently asked this question on FriendFeed, where I spend a good bit of time lately. I received some wonderful responses, and it surprised me the angle with which some replied. Perhaps one of the most profound statements I think I saw was from Ramkarthik:

A little about a lot is always better. You can start a conversation with almost everyone if you know a little about a lot and you can learn from them. When you know a lot about little, you can only start conversation with few people.

These thoughts had always echoed my own personal feelings, but to hear someone else actually openly verbalize them really seemed to strike a chord – almost like a memory that was suddenly snapped into focus.

Show Me The Money…

… as the saying goes. What do you get paid for?

As I started my career in the late 90’s, I was very focused on learning a specific skill set – computers. What did that mean? What does that mean, today?

As time went on, I refined my goals to information technologies – but just what is that? IT has become a catch all that means everything and nothing.

In my previous position I handled or touched just about everything that had electrons flowing through it. I managed the teams that took care of the internal technology assets, external customer calls, worked on our EDM strategy, operationalized MPS tools, managed website launches and marketing initiatives to include SEO strategy, provisioned VoIP phone systems and mobile phones, rolled out business programs, and supported sales initiatives and managed projects in a customer facing capacity.

But I got paid to be a thought-leader… I made my mark by positioning myself as a bridge, between upper management and those who were the subject matter experts. I got paid to know how to talk with customers and explain the details to every one on our company teams. I got paid to know a little about a lot.

Am I marketable? Just as much as anyone else – DEPENDING upon the environment I might work in. I would be a horrible programmer, and a mediocre sales person at best. But I work really well at orchestrating complex projects, assembling teams, gathering buy-in, and have to still work on my follow-up skills.

In a nutshell, I know what I’m not!

I get paid to know a little about a lot – and to know what I don’t know. This doesn’t mean I run away from learning new things… but I constantly refine and check what I’m doing to make sure I didn’t run down some rabbit hole – to make sure I’m not spending the time for which I’m being paid doing something for which someone else is better suited.

I get paid now to make decisions – to not bother my boss unless he needs to be bothered. I get paid to not bother my team unless they need to be bothered. I get paid to knock down walls and hold up shields to protect the people that make me look good day-in-and-day-out.

… and I will keep getting paid as long as I:

  1. Keep learning about what’s relevant
  2. Keep focused on what’s important
  3. Keep serving others – humbly

Those are the 3 simple rules I try to live by…

What about you? What do you get paid for?

image courtesy of booleansplit


Ken Stewart’s blog, ChangeForge.com, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology. To learn more about Ken, visit his about page. You may also find Ken on FriendFeed, Twitter, and LinkedIn.


The Heart Of A Technologist

The heart of a technologist is in serving – service without need of reciprocation.

Do you subscribe to this belief? After all, that is a tough, thankless life to live. I see so many who seem to be on a quest for self-glory or the latest discovery, much like Ponce de Leon’s search for the infamous Fountain of Youth.

Some may serve through discovery or creation, while some offer their service in the form of repair or maintenance. When at our best, we operate behind the scenes, unnoticed and under cover of dark, weaving our magic webs of security and five-nine’s availability.

All too often, the insecure turn to scoff at those less intellectual or computer-savvy as themselves lording their minutia of power in order to over-compensate for a failed childhood social life  like Superman’s arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor.

Or perhaps it is something less sinister; perhaps we have forgotten how it feels not to be the domain admin or root level admin?

Do we seek to minimize another’s anguish over loosing that spreadsheet they worked all weekend on? Do we so quickly seek to belittle someone’s lack of understanding at just why they cannot login to the corporate VPN?

Micah (Learn to Duck), offers this advice:

Every day, I try to do something where I give something (time, money, expertise, humor, whatever) with no expectation of something in return. The reactions are interesting. Some people don’t believe it. Others don’t trust it. Most people appreciate what I have to give. But, for me, its somewhat of a selfish act. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel good.

Did we check this at the door somewhere along our career path, or did Corporate America’s bylaws drill this fanciful notion out of our brain like some Chinese water torture?

In either case, we stand in the shadows on this one, folks. Empathy is at the heart of success and maintaining a heart of service is the call to which we should rally.

Image credit to Vincent van Wylick