Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

Is Your Business Dead?

Even twelve years ago, when I started my business, it was significantly easier to survive than it is today. Big companies acted like big companies, only going after the giant targets, leaving a lot of smaller targets for small companies. If you could provide a unique value proposition, with great customer service, you could survive. However, making it big was harder, because it took a long time and a LOT of money to extend the reach of your products/services and build the necessary infrastructure. Neither of those things is true anymore.

Today you can look big fast because of the internet. You can get big-company infrastructure for cheap…again, because of the internet. You can reach the entire world, 24 x 7…because of the internet. However, big companies are now offering amazing levels of service, flexibility, and customized products… all because of the internet. The “long tail” theory is giving niche products a much bigger marketplace, but big companies are now able to justify competing in those niches.

So, if you can leverage the internet, your new business can get ahead like never before. If you ignore the internet, you’re dead before you know it. Here are ten signs you are in the dead category:

  1. You think the internet is a coming revolution. Sorry to break it to you, but the revolution already happened. How often do you use the yellow pages compared to five years ago?
  2. You still don’t have a website. Unless your business is less than one month old or you are intentionally trying to make this hard, you have a major problem.
  3. You have a website, but you don’t know how to change it. A website that doesn’t change frequently is dead. And a dead website is a dead business.
  4. You acquire less than 1/2 of your customers via the internet. Over 1/2 of your customers are looking for you online, so who is getting your share?
  5. You think your website is just for acquiring new customers. Most businesses earn over 50% of their revenue from repeat customers. Is 50% of your website dedicated to driving repeat business?
  6. You think your business is local. Flower shops, travel agents, tax preparers, bookstores, all thought they were local businesses. Guess who dominates those categories now? ‘Nuff said.
  7. You think your website is just for the “front office.” More and more “back office” services are being offered on the web: payroll, voice services, accounting, marketing, etc. all can save you time and money and help you compete.
  8. You think your website is your internet strategy. Without connections to lead sources, comparison shopping engines, online communities, search engines, mobile services, other websites or blogs, etc. you are living in a Field of Dreams. Trust me, if you just build it, they will NOT come.
  9. You try to hide that you are a small business. Don’t hide it, small is beautiful. The internet can help you provide big company value, but customers still want small company service.
  10. You take all of my advice (or anybody else’s). No two businesses are the same, so you have to figure out for yourself exactly how the internet can help your business. Test, learn, improve.

Written by Justin Kitch at

My Work Stories – My job is to give away Microsoft stuff

During my freshman year in college, I joined and eventually chaired our school’s ACM Windows programming student group. One day, one of my friends, who is now at Microsoft Research, mentioned that Microsoft was looking for a new Student Consultant for next year His friend was the current SC and his only job seemed to be giving away xboxes and software, so I thought, hey I want to do that. We set up a dinner for the three of us where Microsoft picked up the tab, and the SC said “Hey, I’ll refer you to my boss. You’ll do some interviews, okay?”For more articles from Tasty Research please visit his blog at

That segued into me being Microsoft representative at our campus the following year. The job gave me unlimited freedom to do whatever I wanted to promote Microsoft on campus, and great money to top it off. This included giving away xboxes, pocket pcs, software, and other toys to students and professors for their projects. It was like having Microsoft groupies. I frequently fielded emails like this:

Hi, this is [student], i was in your cs173 last year and we meet again on the day that you were bring the x-box to the bang give away. I am the vice-president of the new RO called Student Enjoying X-box. Our aim is to unify students through the use of X-box. … We are in desperate need of more X-boxes. We would like to know if Microsoft could be kind enough to donate X-boxes, games, and/or controllers.

I organized xbox tournaments, install fests (bring your computer and get Windows or Visual Studio installed for free), and programming competitions. We could expense meals and took student leaders out to nice italian restaurants. Lastly, we had retreats to Seattle and Brazil. A week in Brazil was the perfect climax, where we partied and enjoyed caipirinhas. We crashed in nice hotels and ordered room service at four in the morning. The cherry on top was taking a private jet to see the Foz do Iguaçu waterfalls. Unfortunately, good things never last forever and they replaced the Student Consultant program (did we spend too much money?) with the fairly limited Student Ambassador program. I will always think back to this as the best job a 17 year old could get.

I’m a Microsoft Intern (Twice)
Being the SC connected me to our campus Microsoft recruiter, and I was flown to Microsoft headquarters in Redmond for a day of interviews. I met with the Web Platform team and people working on the next next next version of Visual Studio. I had been booked for a full day of interviews, walking from office to office. Most of the day, I had thought I did well, but the last interviewer stumped me with a question about malloc() and free(). How do you store the information about which memory locations were available and which were not? I gave what I thought was an acceptable solution but it seems like the interviewer always has a better answer in mind. Luckily, I still ended up with an offer to be a software engineer intern for Microsoft Project which I accepted. Let me backtrack for a moment and mention that this is not the first time I interviewed for a Microsoft internship. I did one screening interview as a freshman on campus where I was rejected without mercy. Apparently the answer to “Can you tell me what was the most difficult bug you faced while programming and what you did to resolve it?” isn’t “My programs don’t have bugs.”

Back to the summer of 2004, where I accepted a Microsoft internship instead of doing another Motorola internship. I arrived at the beautiful Redmond Microsoft campus full of excitement. Microsoft EntranceIt was the first time I had been so far from home and I lived in some very nice subsidized corporate apartments. Everyone I met was really friendly and my mentor was a developer with a PhD. I worked on a core feature of the product that was on a slide during a large conference. There were parties going on every day and I was in Building 16, right next to the field where giant tents hosted other teams’ celebrations. With so many products, it felt like there was something launching every day at Microsoft. Along with some other interns and intern-wannabe-fulltimers, we would often crash the parties on the field to take a break from work.

Being an intern here was a blast and I was among good company with around 500 interns in Redmond. One memorable intern event was a barbeque at Bill Gate’s mansion by the bay. It was quite a palace and I couldn’t even see the entire house because it was 90% covered in trees. We munched on h’orderves and chatted with VPs while waiting for the BillG to come out. He finally made an entrance near the end of the evening and was immediately surrounded by interns shaking his hand and asking press questions like “How does Microsoft plan to position itself in the future?” During his informal talk, I was about 2 feet behind him and I wasn’t paying much attention to the speech but only noticed his shoes — they were actually slightly worn out normal looking shoes. I had always wondered what the richest man in the world wore and did not expect that.

What was really cool was we interns (or internz, was the mailing list) organized activities like white water rafting, ultimate frisbee, halo tournaments on the conference room projectors, Texas Hold’em, and Mafia every weekend. All the fulltime employees had their own offices, which was a nice change from cubicle-land. Looking back, I have to say that Microsoft has one of the most organized, amazing internship programs. The work was challenging and sometimes I would stay late to try out my changes in the latest build. I met many smart and interesting people there, including the internet famous Windows developer Raymond Chen, who gave me his collection of spamfor a research project I was doing. If you ever become a Microsoft intern, I would recommend you participate in as many activities as you can! Your one work goal should be to get the “good checkbox” when you leave, so don’t feel like you need to work much harder than that. I saw some interns who were diligently working late at night and on weekends while I was playing ping-pong.

A Google-y Good Summer
I got a call next April from Google asking if I wanted to do some phone interviews for a summer internship. There were two 30-minute phone interviews with one engineer who would turn out to be my mentor, and one who would be a co-worker. I was pretty nervous during the phone interview, but was asked great questions rather than riddles or short programming problems. The memorable ones were:

  1. Describe what happens when someone clicks on an ad?
    • I named all the steps from the browser request to the server connection and so forth
  2. How would you detect click fraud?
    • I described a bunch of ways I would catch bad guys trying to cheat the system

I worked in the [confidential name] team and our job was to detect invalid clicks, namely click fraud. People were always amused when I told them what we our job was. I’m not sure how much more I can talk about this subject so I will just end it right here.

Most interns stayed at the NASA Ames Exchange Lodge, which I would describe as “sketchy but interesting”. Frequently sighted inhabitants at the NASA Ames base included armed military units, skunks, bored interns, and cockroaches. There were probably about a hundred Google interns there, and maybe two hundred NASA interns. It had a coed college dorm feel to it, except we were in the middle of nowhere with guards at each gate asking you where you were going. I tried to get to know them all in the beginning by walking around and knocking on everyone’s door to say hi-wanna-come-to-my-bbq-or-hangout? but after a few weeks there were just too many interns to know them all. Often, there were interns idling around with nothing to do; one night we even decided on a whim to drive off to Las Vegas for a weekend.

The rumors about Google were mostly true: free gourmet food (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and kitchens with cereal and snacks nearby. The chefs would chat with you while you were filling your plate and answer any questions about the ingredients or cooking methods. Googlers are picky — I remember a > 100 email thread on the Mountain View misc mailing list discussing conspiracy theories about why our biodegradable recycled take-away food containers were replaced by cardboard ones. The variety of drinks was my favorite thing: you could get fresh squeezed juices of allGoogle Cafeteria Entrance kinds or whatever soft drink or tea you preferred. My chosen desk drink was Naked Juice at first, but eventually switched to Honest Tea

for a lighter beverage. Before I worked there, photos of Googlers riding Segways in the hallways made me think that I would be doing the same. Unfortunately, there were no working Segways the whole summer I was there; we had scooters, but it was nearly impossible to take one out during the day. The 3 in the building would already have their keys taken by the time I got to work. Apparently “Don’t be evil” doesn’t apply to scooters. Other cool things included famous people/authors coming in to give talks and giving us movie tickets or books they authored. There were so many great talks every day that I could have spent my whole day listening to interesting presentations by geek (and sometimes non-geek) celebrities.

There was a t-shirt cabinet that would be stocked at random times. When it did get stocked, an intern would email the mailing list, and you could literally see swarms of interns coming in from each building to grab a couple of t-shirts (2 max). Lucky for me, I was just down the hall from the cabinet so I usually got a pair, until they wouldn’t fit in my suitcases anymore. Sometimes, I would bring my friends to just hang out at Google, eat some free food, play pool or asteroids, sit in a massage chair or lovesac, or just walk around and look at the cool toys everywhere. One night we accidentally went into Larry and Sergei’s hangout space and played with his bop-it toy, thinking the section was just a lounge.

There were blue shirted security guards everywhere at almost every door of every building. They were like an army, and it would be funny to see recruiters sometimes ordering around a dozen or so blue shirts to prevent visitors from exploring. It always made me wary, and I was quite friendly with one of the security guards and she told us they would watch us at night when there was no one else in the building. Everything at Google was confidential and there were always cameras watching.

My Future is Yahoo
I chose to work at Yahoo when I finally graduated. A few months ago, Yahoo was almost the last of the 3 search engine companies I thought I would be working at. I started out on my path to working at Yahoo at the college career fair. After the quick and painless pre-screening at the booth, I was invited to an interview at our computer science building in the afternoon the next day. I arrived with my pen and extra copy of Resume and sat in the conference room for about half an hour. Unfortunately, my interviewer, Kevin didn’t show up. I got stood up for an interview! Granted, this was the first time Yahoo has come to our school to recruit, but it was still frustrating. Even more frustrating was that my numerous emails to the college recruiter went unanswered. I also had a few friends at Yahoo that I contacted but no luck. A few weeks later, I had been asked to fly out for a few days of interviews in the Bay Area / Silicon Valley with a bunch of other companies and had a free day. It just so happened that one of my friends who interned with me at Microsoft, won the Yahoo Hackday competition and met a Yahoo employee that got me in touch with a few hiring managers. I went to the Yahoo offices in Sunnyvale and did a full day and a half of interviews, and ended up where I am now — a software engineer in SDS, the data mining group in the company.

I have to admit I have only worked here for a month so far, but it’s a pretty good place to work. I use my knowledge of operating systems, algorithms, and data structures to work with the massive amounts of data Yahoo gets. My favorite perk is an espresso bar downstairs where baristas serve your choice of caffeinated drinks as well as chai and chocolate milk. I miss the less bureaucracy at Google though: at Yahoo I have a manager, his manager, THREE directors above that manager, and then THREE VPs before the CEO. That’s right — I have 9 promotions to go before I’m at the top. And I have to confess that I still use Google for my internet-based needs.

My group at Yahoo is SDS, which is basically the Data group. We take all the data from all our websites, store it in lots and lots of servers, and process the heck out of it. The other day, I wrote a tool that grabbed the list of the popular search terms on Yahoo Japan and the #1 term [an english “word”] was not something I had ever heard of before. SDS is actually a cool group (and we’re hiring!) and fits me just right since I become a bit of a data geek when I was doing my Masters. I kind of like having my own space in a cubicle as opposed to a fishbowlshared lab, where everyone can turn and look at what you are doing all the time. I just like a little privacy. My pet peeve is that everyone has weird email address which is not easy to tell someone over loud music. However, I think I made the right choice to join Yahoo.

To sum up some points:

Comparison Chart for Microsoft Yahoo and Google

A Prestigious Internship Circle
The best thing about working at such a variety of large software companies is the people you meet. 90% of the interns from these places are really smart guys and girls — the best of MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Cornell, CMU, and UIUC. One of my friends coined the term “prestigious internship circle” to define internships at software giants like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple, Yahoo, and IBM (especially Extreme Blue, which unfortunately I had to turn down for Google). The rationale for this is that once you have worked at one, it’s a lot easier to get into another. Pre-screenings and interviews basically just involve them asking what you did at the other companies since making it somewhere else probably means you’re not a complete idiot. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve asked a familiar face “Hey, didn’t you intern at Microsoft with me a few years ago?”, I would be able to buy a nice pen.

Getting In
My best advice to getting a job at one of these companies is to know your algorithms. Know how to reverse a string or how to sort a linked list. Heck, you probably want to know everything about sorting. I’ve probably written string reversal code in front of an interviewer half a dozen times, and I have never gone through a set of interviews without some question involving linked lists.

I have been lucky to have the opportunity to work at these companies and I would highly encourage any college students out there to try for an internship — you won’t regret it. You will work on challenging problems, be surrounded by really smart people, work in a casual environment with flexible work hours (engineer hours are usually 10 to 6 or 7), and make good money. [Did that sound too much like recruiter talk?] You can expect to work 8-10 hours a day but time goes by fast. While it may sometimes seem these rival companies are battling over products like search, email, photos, and maps from the outside, on the inside we’re just a bunch of clever developers writing code to build cool stuff.

What they didn’t tell you about blogging – A few more items

Not only is blogging addictive, blogging stats are addictive too… Blogging can be addictive. Checking blogging stats can be addictive too. Imagine you were fascinated with a video game. At first, it is hard to clear level one. Once you clear level one, you want to go to the next level. After that, to another level. Then to another level. Blogging game is similar but except there is no clear top level. You can keep on going for a long time – fascinated by the growth (or no growth) of the traffic on your blog. There are many things to be fascinated about blog traffic * where are the visitors coming from * what are they reading
This blog posts provides a sneak preview of what will be covered in the book. Of course, as you all know, the book will take a life of its own. I have a dream team of friends who have offered to help with all aspects of publishing the book. So I am quite excited. I would love to hear your ideas, thoughts, inputs related to the blog posts or the book. You can click on the email link on my blog and send me an email. Please mention whether you want to be notified about the progress of the book or when the book is published or both.

The links to the earlier posts in the same series are here

Here are ten more:

31. Not only is blogging addictive, blogging stats are addictive too…

Blogging can be addictive. Checking blogging stats can be addictive too.

Imagine you were fascinated with a video game. At first, it is hard to clear level one. Once you clear level one, you want to go to the next level. After that, to another level. Then to another level.

Blogging game is similar but except there is no clear top level. You can keep on going for a long time – fascinated by the growth (or no growth) of the traffic on your blog. There are many things to be fascinated about blog traffic

* where are the visitors coming from
* what are they reading
* where are they clicking through (as they go out)
* how are they finding your blog (search terms)

One clear reason you can be carried away with blogging stats is the “surprise” factor associated with it. Think about it –

* Which of your posts get popular?
* Which posts get linked most?
* Which posts get the most number of comments?

There is no way to predict the above or a dozen other questions. You can be pleasantly surprised or disappointed. Nothing is certain. The only way to find out is to keep watching the traffic 🙂

32. Barring exceptions, older posts are considered dead

Posts in a news site have a short shelf-life for obvious reasons.

I have been a big proponent of creating “timeless” content – meaning content that stays relevant for quite some time. That is only the first step. Just as you won’t go past a few pages of search results when you are searching something, don’t expect your audience to keep browsing back to the day you wrote the first blog post. Posts go dead faster than you think.

There is hope though. Think about what you can do creatively to ensure that some of your best posts stay alive. Here are a few ideas:

1. Create a section for the most popular posts and highlight them

2. Create categories to organize your posts

3. Create a series of posts and number them. If some posts in the series create an interest, chances are that readers will seek out other posts in the series.

4. Create lenses with a topic where you are an expert and link to all relevant posts on your blog.

5. Publish a manifesto on with excerpts from your favorite posts for a topic.

Invent your own ways to keep the posts alive.

Fair warning: Don’t try to trick your readers by linking to posts that waste their time. Link back to high-quality posts only. Otherwise, it will hurt you more than it will help you.

33. Variety helps; too much variety hurts

Imagine a speaker who speaks with a monotonous voice from beginning to end of his speech. That can be boring. That won’t work, right?

You seek some variety.

On another extreme, imagine a speaker who, in the middle of his speech starts dancing and singing that have no connection to his speech. That won’t work either

Some variety is good. Too much variety (especially if it is incoherent) hurts.

Blogging is no different. When you blog, think that you are on a stage and talking to a set of people. They need variety. But not too much.

34. Blogging is personal

Blogging is more personal than creating a book. The audience expect to discover your personality through your blog. If the content is the king, the emotions associated with every post will be the queen. A good combination is desired.

Look at the last few posts. Do they represent you – do they say who you are. If not, go back and add some emotions into them. Bring out your personality in each of you posts.

Consider the act of writing a blog post – it may take you only a few minutes from start to finish. Contrast this with the publication of a book. A decent effort with the book is at least an year-long affair. It goes through several rounds of changes and editing before the script is finalized.

Which one is more personal – you be the judge.

35. Traffic is not the only metric of success in blogging.

Actually, if you just go after traffic, you may do some things that you might regret later. Your have to define your goals for blogging based on your needs not based on what someone else has done.

Here are some reasons why people are blogging:
* get more leads for their business
* to secure speaking engagements
* to promote their books
* to park their thoughts for future books
* to extend their personal brands
* to build new relationships
* to extend their company’s reach
* to share their expertise to the world
and so on.

Think about your own life goals and see how blogging fits in it. If it does not, but you are just trying to fit it in – because everyone around you are doing it, at least know that this is what you are doing 🙂

36. Name of your blog matters

Not much if you are celebrity. Otherwise, choosing the wrong name may “box” your blog.

For example, it is hard to write about anything other than Java if the name of your blog is “Java Only” or “Java Unleashed”. It would be out of place to write about training cats on a blog titled “All about Dogs”.

You can always change the name of the blog. However, it costs to make a name change (be it a company or a person or a blog) and you should be willing to pay that price. Rather than that, think carefully before you pick the name and the associated URL for your blog.

Here are two simple steps:

1. Assume that you won’t be changing the name of your blog for the rest of your life.
2. Once you decide on a name, think about what will people think when they hear the name of your blog.

Is this what you want? If not, go and re-visit the name again

If you already have a blog name but you are not happy about it, better change it today. The longer you operate a blog with a wrong name, harder it gets to change it.

37. Create tipping points for your blog

Unless you have a huge personal brand before you started the blog, don’t expect your blog to be an instant success. Every time you hear an “instant success” story for a blog, look at who was behind that blog and how long they worked hard to create their identity before they started the blog.

For the rest of us, we got to create our own tipping points for our blogs. In simple terms, the tipping points are those circumstances that will lead to the proverbial hockey stick growth for the blog.

Personally, for the first few months, my blog would get only a few hundred page views a day – most of them from my friends and family. Here are a few things that helped me take my blog to the next level (not in any order)

1. Publication of the book “Beyond Code” (foreword by Tom Peters)
2. Reviews of my book in online and offline outlets
3. Publishing a free eBook “When you can’t earn an MBA…” (downloaded more than 80,000 times)
4. Publishing a free eBook “Personal Branding for Technology Professionals” (downloaded more than 100,000 times)
5. Publishing a manifesto on ChangeThis – 25 Ways to Distinguish Yourself (one of the top 10 manifestos at ChangeThis)
6. Publishing a free eBook “Lasting Relationships
7. Squidoo lens (especially: Blogging Starter Checklist)
8. Help from many many friends (too many to list) online and offline.

What could be the tipping points for your blog in the next few weeks or months?

38. You can get carried away sometimes

When you are just getting started, you have a ton of ideas. Ideas are easy as long as you don’t have to execute on them. Execution is the real culprit. Here are some examples:

* You might want to start a separate blog for every area of your expertise
* You might want to start a separate blog for every book of yours
* You might want a separate audio-blog
* You might want a separate video-blog

You get the point. If you don’t play the full scenario – for the next few years, you might be setting yourself up for failure. Any new initiative takes time. And, blogging – it takes more time as you go along. If you are successful, it takes you more time than ever – as you have to live up to progressively higher standards that the marketplace sets for you.

So, before you get carried away on the multitude of blogging initiatives, think again!

39. Set time aside for your blog fans

When you speak in public, at the end of the talk (provided you spoke well) people will come and talk to you – ask you questions, clarify things and share their personal experiences. It is your time to interact with your fans.

Blogging is different. Some people are not comfortable writing comments on your blog. They may send you an email or two. Unless the request is unreasonable, you are expected to interact with them. If you don’t have time to respond, people will think you are a operating a broadcasting station rather than a blog.

All it requires is to add a small percentage of time that you are setting aside for your blogging activities. If you are spending 50 minutes in a week to blog, make it 60. If you are spending 300 minutes per week on your blog, make it 330.

40. You can join the discussion but you got have something original to say

One way to get attention is to join an on-going discussion related to a hot topic. Chime in and link to the other relevant blog posts. Trackbacks from those posts will bring you some traffic. However, if you don’t have something original to say to add to the ongoing discussion in a meaningful way, it will hurt you more than it will help you.

Imagine giving free tickets to a movie you know is bad. You make the person feel good for sometime but if he knows that you knew the movie was bad, he or she won’t like you anymore.

Before you invite anyone to your blog, get your house in order. That way, you not only make a good first impression, you will get them to visit again soon.

When you add some original thought to the discussion and raise the level of thinking, you will get noticed. If you just say things like – “What a great post” or “You got to read this” you are not adding much to what is happening.

Remember, when someone “discovers” your blog by some means, it is only “relevant and remarkable” content that will bring them back.

Writing with rapport: Being Real

One of the the things I’m keen to do through this blog is explore how to write with rapport. Rapport is a key element of coaching and NLP and I’m looking forward to transferring some of the ideas, principles, practices and techniques from these spheres to the business of writing. (You can read more on rapport and other terms in the glossary on my Coaching Wizardry site.)

Rapport is closely connected to trust – indeed most definitions of rapport include some reference to trust. One of the main differences between them is that rapport can be created (and lost) quickly, whereas trust needs to be built up over time. It is a relationship that we need to keep on testing – putting our weight on if you like – to be sure it will hold.

There are things that we can do, say, and in this context write that will help to build that relationship of trust. All of those things flow however from a prior state of being. (And watch out: if you are writing ‘as if’ you are in that state without actually being there – your writing will sound insincere and you’ll break rapport.) Joseph O’Connor has a list of six ‘ways of being’ that are a concise way of describing how to build trust:

  • Be real
  • Be sincere
  • Be competent
  • Be honest
  • Be congruent
  • Be there

The first one on the list, being real, includes not pretending to be someone you’re not. It’s about being open and honest. Acknowledging that you are not perfect. That’s right – you’re human, just like your reader.

There’s a great example of how to create rapport and build trust by being real at my Business Blog Angel Claire’s site. There are other things going on too of course (sincerity, honesty) but for me this post is all about being real. Yes, she says, it’s a ‘bad idea’ to admit to any business weaknesses in public (and you don’t want to take being real too far – remember being competent is also a key element of trust) – but on a blog we’re amongst friends (the subtext goes). This isn’t the ‘generally speaking’ world, this is the environment of people with a shared set of values, busy people who don’t always keep 100% on top of everything they want to do – but will always go about fixing it, explaining it, communicating the reason, pointing to a long term solution. In so doing keeping us – the readers, the clients – on board, creating rapport and building trust for the longer term. Neat isn’t it? All that from an apology!

One other thing to add – this piece of writing fits within a broader ‘conversation’ on the blog. That provides the environment, the context for her to be real (safely) while the repetition of sincerity, reality, congruence and so on is what builds up trust over the long term. Although you can work to create rapport within one piece of writing (a letter, a web-page, an e-mail) the blog, like a weekly column in a newspaper or magazine, allows you to develop a different sort of relationship with your reader and them to ‘test’ your trustworthiness as a writer (and a person) over a period of time.

Anyway I’m not meaning to over-analyse this one piece – and Claire will be blushing and furious at the attention I’ve given it – it just struck me as a good example of how to create rapport and build trust at just the point I was planning to write about it.

Do let me know as and when you come across other good examples of writing that creates rapport and builds trust – this well help us to build up a picture of the impact you can generate and how to work this into your writing.

The author can be contacted at

Manager Tips

Tips To Train Toastmasters And The Reason Why How do you train someone to be a leader, or better yet, why should you? Here’s four tips to help you train them, and the imperative reason to do it. What is a toastmaster you ask? Well it’s exactly what it sounds like, the person making the toasts at a banquet and introduces the speakers. The first person everyone looks to when the room falls silent: the alpha dog, the leader.

Manager Tips: 4 Tips To Train Toastmasters And The Reason Why

The author of this article, Carl Moeller , is a project manager and electrical engineer that is dedicated to the study and advancement of entrepreneurship and management practices. Please visit his blog for more insight in the world of entrepreneurship and management.

What is a toastmaster you ask? Well it’s exactly what it sounds like, the person making the toasts at a banquet and introduces the speakers. The first person everyone looks to when the room falls silent: the alpha dog, the leader.

How do you train someone to be a leader, or better yet, why should you? Here’s four tips to help you train them, and the imperative reason to do it.

1. Are they running on empty?

First you must gauge whether you think someone will make a good leader. You, as the manager or team leader have the sole discretion of the advancement of a team member. Do you realize how powerful that is? You could hold someone’s career back for years if you do the wrong thing, either pushing too fast or never giving them a chance. This is a very difficult task for you as the manager or team leader. So how do you gauge the leadership potential of someone? Great leaders have at least a few of several characteristics: the ability to create and or follow a vision, the love of a challenge, someone who isn’t locked in the status quo, willingness to take responsibility, mental toughness, peer respect, command of peoples attention, and high completion factor. There are others, but I fear I could write an entire book on the qualities of leadership to look for in potential candidates.

2. Everyone Starts With Training Wheels

Especially if the capacity in which someone is placed is far beyond that which they have ever been, start them off slow. Sure, you may think throwing them into the fire to test them right away is a great idea, and if proper selection based on potential leadership is adhered to the results may be surprisingly positive, but the odds of that happening are incredibly low even for the best potential leaders. I shouldn’t have to mention the possible negative effects of this action should there be a negative outcome. Not just for the company mind you, but think of the broken psyche of the individual should they fail. Start them off slow. Don’t put someone on a bike that has never been, and start them at the top of a hill, it’s asking for a bad experience.

3. Practice Practice Practice

Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make better. After successful completion of the smaller leadership activities, work it up a bit. The same task does not always yield the same obstacles…any project manager can tell you that. You must let and indeed coerce if necessary, the practice they require to gain confidence in their leadership ability. I stress THEIR leadership ability, for at this point you most likely already have confidence in them. They have successfully accomplished several small leadership tasks, and you can most likely trust them with more complicated and critical endeavors, however at this stage they must continue to practice what repertoire you have already given them. And when they are done practicing, drill them again.

4. Let Them Lead!!!

It’s graduation day parents. I’ve written an article not to long ago about adult supervision that is management, and unfortunately it’s time to let your little ones fly. It’s hard to let go, hard to promote, hard to see them move on and up to better things. Let them lead. It’s what you’ve trained them so hard for; it’d be a shame to hold them back any further. When do you know they are ready to move on? That is a subjective question, but I plead with you to ask your peers, others at your level who have seen your pupil work as to the capacity they can aspire to. Some of their answers may startle you. If you find your peers having much higher judgments than you, you know it’s time to let them loose. Let them lead. Truly lead. Fifteen minutes of leadership is better than fifteen hours of leadership training.

Reason: Growth, and a thriving company

Ever notice most companies try to promote from within? Ever wonder why? Top companies that have leadership programs far outperform those that do not. But why not just go out and hire those with the leadership know-how already? Easy, they’re hard to find because the company that helped train them already owns their allegiance. There’s a lot more to job satisfaction these days than money; they want the training to be the toastmaster. I’m living proof of that.

Challenge Your Brain for Productivity – 5 MITA Steps

Chris Brown asked, “How do you get more productive with your creativity or stay productive and creative?”

My immediate answer’s quite simple… Challenge your brain because the brain leaps to the adventure of unraveling puzzles and problems.

When folks mine rich resources of their brain to solve problems they’ll be more productive! How so? They use more gifts and talents at work. Why then, doesn’t that happen more?

Interestingly, one barrier is bosses or CEO’s who see themselves as boosting productivity, while in reality they stifle job satisfaction. Misplaced efforts to improve worker morale tend to lessen productivity according to research at University of Michigan. The secret is to empower peoples’ gifts and talents.

Amazingly, MITA strategies worked to increase my personal productivity in ways that changed who I am. Here’s a brief overview with links to provide deeper insights for the five MITA steps that jumpstarted my brain and led to productivity in career and more satisfaction in personal life as well…

Question… Ask questions that connect you personally to problems. That process guides your brain to solutions or new opportunities. Such questions might begin “What if I…” “How might I change…” “What would happen if I tried…” You get the picture.

TargetMake a plan that initiates solutions or strategies for the outcome you have in sight. I began to work smarter and not harder by using short term benchmarks and jotting them in my weekly calendar so I kept progressing toward the overall target.

ExpectWhat do you expect anyway? Your expectations must be clear and not foggy or nothing gets done. I wrote down exact descriptions for best end results. Do you seek excellence as I do?

Move What personal resources contribute to the target you have in mind? Most people automatically dip into one or two intelligences used on the job. Some leaders compartmentalize gifts and talents used at work. For instance they use verbal and logical intelligences to tackle tasks day in and day out, so they miss seeing a project through bodily-kinesthetic or interpersonal lenses. To look at your job differently is often to draw on new talents. When you tap into new intelligences to tackle old projects, watch for rejuvenated results!

ReflectReflection leads to growth and change that steps you back to see what’s working and what isn’t. That leads to adjustment opportunities along the way. Without reflection, each new flight you take traverses the same path and engages the same components. Ellen Weber, who created the MITA model, claims if reflection is left out, stagnation results. How does reflection guide your productivity?

Many folks want research evidence to know that MITA strategies work. Recently, PhD University lecturers in Ireland, began using MITA strategies as they taught and assessed university students in medical settings. Research conducted in 2006 showed that professors using MITA strategies had 5% increase in student motivation and achievement. Similar results hold true in business settings.

Whether blogging, writing articles, having fun with grandchildren, or keynoting to university faculty, I discovered MITA strategies bring productivity in all facets of my life.

Ben Yoskovitz is the originator of The Ultimate Guide to Productivity – What’s your secret? He’s nearing the 100 posts that he hoped to receive and I hope mine makes the list!

As I read productivity posts on Ben’s web site, some of the interesting tips I took note of are:

Best Productivity Tip: Disable Your Inner-Critic by David Wahl

Ultimate guide to productivity: My tip by Julie Fleming-Brown

Choices Are Made Long Before You Decide – Productivity Tips by Jonathan

Ultimate Tip To Reach GTD Nirvana by Andrew Flusche

Productivity Hint? NO! by Annie Boccio

Chris Brown tagged me… I’m tagging





Jsbi in India

Here’s Ben’s guidelines to enter:

Write a post on your best productivity tips.

1. Challenge yourself by picking your single best productivity tip (although this isn’t a requirement; you can give us more if you want!)

2. Include links to other people that have written posts, or include their tips in your post with proper attribution. And be sure to tag me at Brain Based Biz.

Note: Ben’s not asking that you link to everyone in the group writing project meme; pick the ones you want to connect with. You certainly can link to everyone, but it’s not a requirement. Ben likes leaving more decision making power in your hands so this isn’t just a link grab, but you’re thinking about what your audience & community wants to read about.

A link back to Ben’s post is appreciated though, to help spread the word!

3. If you use Technorati Tags then tag your post “ultimate guide to productivity”.

4. Tag others in your post to spread the meme. Tag as many people as you like!

5. If you link back to Instigator Blog Ben’ll make sure to include at least 2 links back to you. But this isn’t a requirement, it just helps him keep track of what’s going on. And be sure to tag me at Brain Based Biz.

The question “What guides my productivity” was a fun challenge, Chris. Thanks! Now it will be interesting to see how the folks I’ve tagged add to Ben’s big pot! And, if you’d like this challenge, too, just jump in!

Posted by Robyn McMaster at

A Blogging Carnival Be Featured

A Blogging carnival is a world web phenomena where bloggers that are doing interesting or exceptional blogging can get free publicity within their own work sphere. It is similar to a magazine, in that it is dedicated to a particular topic, and is published on a regular schedule, often weekly or monthly. Each edition of a blog carnival is in the form of a blog article that contains permalinks links to other blog articles on a particular topic. If you would like to participate in the next Work Connexions blog carnival or synchroblog

If you would like to participate in the next Work Connexions blog carnival or synchroblog (Synchronised Blogging, or synchroblog, where a group of bloggers agree to post on their own blogs on the same broad topic on the same day.) then drop us an email or leave a comment in the blog entry of this news.