MonthFebruary 2014

Embrace your tools

It’s exciting to work with people who see technology as a tool to do great work. It’s exciting to see them embrace a new tool for what it can do. For what they can do that before was impossible. It’s exhilarating to be a part of that excitement.

So often I see people nitpicking software for what it can’t do. You didn’t use the right tool. That’s a bad solution. This and this and these are all better.

You know what? Having a tool for the job and using that tool to do a great job is all you need. Use the tools you have. Stop pining for a slightly better version of what you have.

Stop criticizing the tool for what it can’t do. Do great work with the tools you have. They can be bent and molded in surprising ways.

Your meeting platform can be turned u to a video teleconference system. A previously inaccessible event can be made available to the public. No longer would it require air travel and interrupting your life.

We can bring the events of an auditorium in Washington DC to people around the country. And that is magical.

It is so easy to get caught up in the debate about tools. But that’s a losing play. It doesn’t matter what tools you have. It matters what you do with the tools you have. And if you can make something great then do it!

Smile and a Hello

I say hello to people and give them a smile as I pass them on the street. I try to bring a little friendliness to everyone around me. If I’m having a bad day, it can help lift my spirits. My hope is that if they’re having a bad day I can lift their spirits.

I may be the only smile they see all day.

When I lived alone, I would take Metro to work, work all day and take Metro home. Besides the people I had to talk to at work I may not speak to another living soul all day. It alternated between lovely and lonely. So I did something small.

I started smiling and saying hello. Some people I saw needed a friendly face. Others needed a smile. Many days it was Me who needed a friendly face. And when you smile at someone, they often smile back.

I got my smiles by giving them away.

Smiles are free and the worst response I ever got was no getting a smile in return. It hasn’t cost me anything to say Hello. Smiles are priceless. Give more of them away and what you get back is more precious.

Opinions

There are tons of things going on in the world. There are uprisings in the Ukraine. There are human rights violations in Russia and North Korea. There are celebrities screaming for attention to their latest hi-jinx. There are sports teams playing well and doing poorly. There are movies. There is music. There is art. There are books and magazines, blogs and forums. There are millions of things to care about.

Often, people ask what is your opinion about…? But rarely is it worth having an opinion on everything. It’s perfectly OK to just not care about things. You can’t have an opinion. You can say I Don’t Care.

I have opinions on things I care about. I have opinions on things I know enough about to understand. I have opinions on things I’ve taken the time to think about. If I haven’t, then it’s not my opinion.

It’s my parent’s opinion. It’s my friend’s opinion. It’s my news channel’s opinion. It’s everyone’s opinion but mine.

So next time someone asks you for your opinion on something. It’s fine to tell them, “I don’t have one.”

You are not the intended audience

You are not the intended audience.

Now that the world is universal, we are becoming unintended audiences for everything. We see all sorts of messages and posts on our social mediums. It exposes us to things we’d never dreamt of before. There are vast differences of opinion on the international communication medium.

And we are not always the intended audiences.

This is a good point that’s worth repeating. I’m a straight white man. The strength and acceptance are not for me. I don’t need them. They are for those who need the support.

It could be someone telling others he or she is gay. It could be someone coming to grips with depression or anxiety. It could be someone joining or leaving a church. These are personal choices. These are personal experiences. We share because it’s liberating to share a truth. But also because of the best thing the Internet ever did for us.

Remind us we are not alone.

No matter how alienated I felt growing up, I knew there were other people out there who were like me. No matter how much I feel alienated, I know I am not alone. That’s a powerful message. And an even more powerful feeling.

You Are Not Alone.

So next time you see someone coming out they’re not doing it for you. They’re doing it for them. And if that helps you, great. But if not, then ignore it and go on about your day. You are not the intended audience.

Single Point of Failure

I am the single point of failure for my organization.

There is no one else in the organization that can do my job. There is no one else who can step up and take up the slack or fill my absence.

What happens when I get sick?
What happens when I go on vacation?
What happens when I leave the organization?

What is the backup plan for any of these scenarios? There isn’t a backup plan. If I am not in the office, manning the phone and email inbox, those emails and calls go unanswered. Or fall to people who cannot help.

A good friend recently told me,

“All you can do is all you can do, and all you can do is enough.”

We often talk about backups for data. I preach that if it doesn’t exist in three places, it doesn’t exist. But what about people? Where are the backups for people?

It’s great that you work hard job and have a set of specialized knowledge. Who else has that knowledge? It’s wonderful that I’m an expert on a certain application? Who else can I share this knowledge with? Who else can I teach? Where can I write what I know so my knowledge becomes institutional knowledge.

When I call out sick or when I move on to another job, what happens to my expertise? Where does what I know go?

If it’s lost, that’s a terrible blow to the organization where I worked. If I’m out sick and no one else can pick up the slack that’s a terrible blow.

People need backups just like data. Where are the single points of failure in your support network?

How can you tell where those spots are? Listen to what people say. Do you hear things like this?
“We can’t do that, we need Bob here for it.”
Tim is the only know who knows how this machine works.
Make a note of that. Those are the people you need to back up.

Encourage Bob and Tim share their knowledge. They need to train others on the machinery or in the systems Bob and Tim know. They don’t need to become experts overnight, but they need to start.

Even better than training someone, write things down. Start a wiki. Write document. Share it. Put it somewhere safe. Also be sure to back that up.

You know what’s worse than not having any documentation? Having documentation locked away on someone’s computer. Make sure the documentation lives somewhere accessible within the organization. If Bob leaves then IT wiped his computer and all his notes were there, it’s just as bad as never writing any of it down.