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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Confrontive Diplomacy - Not Fighting

Continuing with my New Year's resolution tradition, I've been struggling with what to commit to for 2007. Some years the idea comes easy, some years it just appears. This year was definitely the latter. While surfing blogs this morning I came across a post that struck a chord with what I should commit to.

Some background first. My personality is to be a diplomat. I avoid conflict and continually seek conflict resolution. This is a good trait to have most of the time, but sometimes it becomes necessary to risk conflict by confronting and since confrontation is often times a precursor to conflict, I usually never confront.

Today, when reading Barry Moltz's blog my 2007 resolution jumped off the monitor at me and screamed "THIS IS IT!"

Barry makes the comment "One of the lost skills in our business world even with email and voice mail is our ability to tell another person, "no". We mostly either tell them not now and put them off or we just do not answer them, still giving them hope that someday it may be yes."

To me, this is conflict avoidance and is exactly what I do in both business and personal life. My resolution for 2007 is to not just tell people no, but to be more straight forward and confronting in everything I do. I'm looking to make a major shift in communication style, but it is one that if I can master and control at the same time I know will make a huge difference in my effectiveness both as a businessman and a person.

One thing I've always struggled with is letting my yes be yes when what you want to hear is no or vice versa. That ends in 2007. So, fair warning to all. I have a concern that I'm letting a monster off its leash and from time I will over compensate with confronting conversation that will be viewed as rude. I'm not saying I'm going to "drop the gloves" and fight with everyone like a goon, but I am worried it will come across that way, so forgive me in advance as I work hard at mastering the balancing act of "confrontive diplomacy".

What are your resolutions, or do you avoid making them?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Best Cup of Coffee I've Ever Had

Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to sit down with the owner of Colorado Coffee Merchants, located here in Colorado Springs, drink a cup of his coffee and chat about coffee for a while.

My education about coffee is extensively limited to Folgers, Starbucks and whatever anyone else serves. I can't even make a good cup myself. I always rely on others for that. I don't know the first thing about what goes into a light and dark roasted bean and why they taste different. I just drink the stuff for two reasons. It's social and it keeps me awake when I'm tired.

The highest quality cup of coffee I've ever had is at Starbucks, though I'm told by "experts" that Starbucks, while popular, isn't really that high of quality. So, while I'd heard there is such a difference in fresh roasted and 2 week old beans, I had no idea what could make all this difference until I sat down and sipped my first sip of coffee that had just been roasted. There really is a difference. The flavor was strong, but not bitter and while I normally drink about half a cup, I drank most of this cup and enjoyed it all. Truly the best cup I've ever had!

While I sat and talked to Eric, the owner of Colorado Coffee Merchants we talked over the sound of the roaster in the corner, the espresso machine hissing beside us and the other people in the room conversing and I had a feeling that I was drinking coffee with what could be the next Howard Schultz. Eric has a great product, a commitment for quality and excellence and a passion for what he does. But, what I admired the most was his obvious care of his customer. He shook hands with them, greeted them by name and truly cared about their lives. I think I could have taken a picture of him in action and used him as the poster boy for entrepreneurial customer care.

If you want to experience what I did, stop in for a cup. If you just want the flavor, Eric ships internationally so order away.

Friday, December 22, 2006

All I Want For Christmas Is To Sleep In

Times have changed for me. I'm growing older and am becoming separated from my youth. Though these differences are prevalent on a daily basis, they come to the forefront around Christmas.

When I was younger all I wanted for Christmas was everything in the JC Penney's catalog.
Now I can't come up with enough things I want to give each family member one suggestion.

When I was younger all I wanted was to get up and catch Santa climbing up the chimney.
Now I want to sleep until around 9:30, shower, shave and eat breakfast before I think about gifts.

When I was younger, I could have cared less about the big meal and just wanted to play with my toys.
Now that I'm older all I think about is how many calories are in those candied yams.

When I was younger I loved playing video games on my Atari 2600 or Commodore 64. I would pack my games up and take them to grandma's house and play until my eyes were bloodshot.
Now that I'm older... wait, I still want to play video games. In fact I'm going downstairs to finish my game of Frogger on PS2.

At least somethings will never change.
Please tell me I'm not alone in this, or does everyone else still act like a kid on Christmas morning?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

It's another beautifully, snowy day in Colorado with near white out conditions. Santa is rubbing polish on Rudolph's nose because unless it lets up, he's going to need the high beams this year to make his rounds.

Businesses are closing early, they shut the university down, I-70 is closed from Limon to Kansas and I just heard that they shut the Federal offices down too. Get your fleece blanket out, I'm going home to watch It's a Wonderful Life and drink hot chocolate with marshmallows in it.

The picture above I shot at the intersection by our house on the way into work this morning. Wind was gusting up to 50mph. Denver reported getting 2 inches of snow an hour.

The picture below I shot on the hill coming up to my office. Traffic was at a dead standstill for 15 minutes. Look closely, just over the white SUV - Notice the Fed Ex truck in traffic? Why is it whenever there is bad road conditions, one of these guys is in the middle of it. I think I've posted something about this before. It's a conspiracy! They're taunting me!

Monday, December 18, 2006

In the Christmas Spirit

I took today off from work (except the quick interview with the news paper I did for an upcoming article) and went shopping.

I've learned that I am way behind in the modern marvel of Christmas shopping. I've discovered that "sensible" people have it all done by the 18th of December. Why? Because there aren't any good sales this time of year. But, I'm not in it for the sales. I'm in it for the holiday spirit and reviving the memories of being a kid and walking in the shopping mall with my mom and dad surrounded by people carrying shopping bags and listening to Christmas music being piped in every store you walk into.

This morning we knocked out the last of the things my wife saved for me to go get for the boys. Now we are heading out to have the boys shop for each other and then for us guys to go shop for our one and only girl in the family. Would it be innapropriate to walk an 8 and a 4 year old into Victoria Secrets and ask, "Now boys, don't you think your mom would look hot in this?" Hmmm - I'll have to think about that. Perhaps I'm better to go with something more conservative and fuzzy from Sears.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Busting Bureaucracy

bu·reauc·ra·cy - An administrative system in which the need or inclination to follow rigid or complex procedures impedes effective action: innovative ideas that get bogged down in red tape and bureaucracy.

I hate bureaucracy with a devout passion. It truly aggrivates me at every turn. Yet, I spend much of my time, and it seems more than usual lately, trying to break through it. I love streamlined efficiencies where people are allowed to be free to accomplish the task at hand. This is what entrepreneurialism is and will continue to hold at the center of it's strength.

Why did the small country of Vietnam defeat the giant mega power of the United States? They had no bureacracy to contend with.

Why were Dell and Gateway allowed to chip away at IBM's market share? They had no bureacracy.

I'd like to propose a national "Cut through the bureacracy day". On this sacred day, people across the country intentionally
buck their respective system and get things done aside from the system restraints.

Join with me and buck the system. Fight the bureacracy.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Forget the Fancy Fads

When Jake, our oldest son, was younger he loved watching PB&J Otter. There was one particular episode I remember where the poodles, who were these rich kids who got everything they wanted, got these cool new shoes that looked like airplanes. Peanut, the oldes otter kid had to have them, so he saved all his money and bought a pair only to find out that he couldn't walk in them because of the goofy design. The rest of the episode was spent talking about why trendy fads aren't always the best thing.

They say art imitates life, and it is true. Jake got Heelys for an early Christmas present. They are those shoes you see kids wearing with the wheels in the sole of them. He was so excited to wear them and rushed to put them on and run outside and slide around on the driveway. Only he looked like Peanut Otter because he could hardly walk in them.

Fads are so interesting to me because for the manufacturer of the fad they make a quick flash of money until the fad dies and then they are left to discover another fad to sustain their company. For the buyer, they are often times incredibly impractical and not very functional. But despite this, the manufacturer keeps making them and people keep buying them.

Personally, I like trends, which sustain their life a little longer and are a little more practical, but I don't give much attention to fads. I just hope that Jake learns to walk / roll in them before he out grows them, or they go out of style.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Accomplish More By Not Checking Things Off Your Task List

Recently I've been trying to account for why I am seeing such positive results in my work. What I've come up with so far is anything but definitive, but it's my first stab at noting my actions that coorelate with results.

Last week in Sacramento, I went into my meetings with an idea of what I wanted to accomplish and how I felt our two organizations could partner together. Though it wasn't a sales meeting, I was indeed trying to sell the idea of what I wanted. The result was I walked out with a much bigger project than I ever dreamed of.

Today I met with a local credit union and their marketing department on how our two organizations could partner. What resulted wasn't exactly what I planned, but it will definately work to start with and they offered several things I'm excited about, but had never thought of before.

Whether it's a sales call, a negotiation or a brainstorming session, I think the key to walking out with more than you dreamed of is to walk in with an open mind, present yourself as someone who is there to help meet their needs first and think solution from the beginning.

Let me explain. Many times people make the mistake of walking into a meeting with the purpose of checking three things off their task list and moving on to the next task. "Get them to buy this.... CHECK! Get them to sponsor that... CHECK! Schedule a follow up meeting... CHECK!"

Instead, go in with only a roughly outlined agenda in terms of something like "develop a closer relationship with them" or "explain everything I can do to help them and explore ways we can partner". A task driven meeting leaves little room for creativity and inspiration and it's the creativity and inspiration that generates new and unique ways of accomplishing what is truly on your task list.

The proof of this for me is in what happened in my meeting in Sacramento. Instead of walking out with "Partner to provide services in my little two-county area... CHECK!" I walked out with "Partner to provide services in the entire state and create a cooperative agreement that will potentially become a nation wide model... Uhhh - Holy Check!"

So to accomplishing more, avoid the urge to check things off your task list. Task lists are things you should check off at the privacy of your desk and not in the momentum of a meeting.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Good Meetings, Great Ice Cream

In Sacramento business has been great. My meeting was fabulous. I'll explain that more next week, but first I'll tell you the best part of the trip... The Food!

I was a little disappointed in Chinatown. It was a neat experience, but the food was average I thought. Perhaps I'm a litte to comfortable with Panda Express and not a true conissuer of fine Chineese cuisine.

Last night we wanted ice cream so we went Leatherby's Creamery and WOW! Unbelievable amounts and flavors of ice cream.

The Black and White Sundae

In all seriousness, this was the small sundae.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fish n' Flush

I came across this today, realized it's been a while since I've shared silly products or stories, and had to share.

For $299.00 you can incorporate fish into your bathroom routine. I'm not sure who dreamt this up, but one word comes to mind - Genius. I mean, who wouldn't want to tinkle with a whole school of fish swimming behing you? I know I would!

You can check them out and buy one for yourself here.

Side Note:
I'm on my way to San Francisco and Sacramento for a few days of business... and pleasure.
Tomorrow's agenda includes lunch in Chinatown and some time getting ready for my meeting on Thursday. The meeting is more important, but I'm more excited about Chinatown.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Cingular 8125 Review

My assistant and I are out of the office a fair portion of the day. For a small staff, this of course means there is no one available to return phone calls or tend to urgent emails. We solved part of the problem with additional staff, but looked to technology to resolve the rest. My initial choices were between the Treo and the Blackberry. I began researching and found that based on our server capabilities and limitations, the Cingular 8125 was the best way to go. So I bought 2 (I love company credit cards)

After playing with it like a kid on Christmas morning, here's my review.

A little larger than a deck of cards, it is bigger than the Blackberry and Treo, but the keypad that slides out from underneath more than makes up for the size difference. I've toyed with both types of keypads and the size of Cingular's is very nice. It allows for quicker and more accurate typing. And while I'm famous for it, I actually don't like typo's.

The function buttons on the front let you quickly access email, internet and phone. In addition, when I receive a new email my phone vibrates and with the phone locked, I can view the notification and read the email or ignore an incoming phone call with a quick press of the button.

The phone is... well it's a phone, and your satisfaction is going to be relevant to how well Cingular covers your area. I've had pretty good coverage, in fact I would say it's a little better than Verizon's coverage in Colorado Springs. Using the phone functions is a little trickier than I expected. Everything is touch screen, so to dial, I have to press the screen. Maybe I haven't been through the learning curve yet, but I'm not a huge fan yet. For one, I don't like getting fingerprints all over my screen, and two, though I think my dexterity is pretty good, I don't seem to be able to type the numbers too well. Especially when driving, dialing becomes more difficult because there is not feel of which button you are pressing because the screen is flat.

What I love about the phone in every aspect is summed up by saying "bells and whistles". I took Acid Pro and created my own custom ring tones. No more downloading ring tones for $2.00 a piece. I grab my favorite song and cut the best 20 seconds and presto - instant ringtone. I went so far as to create one specifically for my wife when she calls me.
You can listen to it here.

My email account was very easy to set up. I had gmail dropping messages into my inbox within a few minutes. It took a little longer to resolve some issues with my MS Exchange account, but that had more to do with our IT than it did the phone.

Again - bells and whistles. One doesn't really need to be able to sit in church on Sunday morning and check the status of one's fantasy football team, but it is kind of fun anyway.

More Bells and Whistles
The phone runs Windows Mobile, which is a smaller version of Windows. It runs nice, provides access to Word, Excel and Powerpoint. I slipped a 1GB memory stick into it and am now able to store loads of mp3's to listen to via Windows Media Player. To use headphones I found out you have ot buy an adaptor for most headphones. The jack is smaller than the typical headphone jack. Radio Shack had one for around $4.00 and while it degrades from sleek and trendy, the ugly, black adaptor works fine.

Special thanks to my sister's husband, Brian, for letting me stick my file on his site.