Teamwork and Leadership are great…and how are they Rewarded?

 Linda Finkle’s newsletter from the Incedo Group is the exception to my general practice of hardly ever reading every newsletter I receive. Her November 8 “Generate the Power” about corporate team-building landed in my inbox just about the same time as a lead from NIMBLE did. In a strange quirk of coincidence, I’ve been in an online discussion about teamwork and leadership.  And recently I’ve been working with two small and delightful Toastmasters teams.

One of Finkle’s key points about corporate team-building is that “teams can’t function well if everyone is the same personality type or of like mind on everything. You need a mix of the right technical skills and the right interpersonal skills for a team to jell and work together successfully. ”  She’s absolutely right. Furthermore, she points out that “”When individuals on a team enjoy working together, corporate team-building is the natural outcome. It isn’t something you have to create. As in all relationships, the members will have little spats, disagreements and challenges, and that’s healthy. They will also most often work through these problems without intervention on the part of management. That’s what makes a strong team.” And she’s right about that, too.

What does that have to do with NIMBLE, the simple, affordable Social Relationship manager? One of NIMBLE’s core values relates directly to working with teams. Last month, an iconic note to partners opened with the sentence “Nimble is a lot more fun and productive when you invite more team members to nurture and grow business relationships as a team. ”  There is a congenial shared LinkedIn Nimble Partners group to which even the founders of Nimble contribute answers to questions posed by partners.

My favorite global life-time learning organization Toastmasters International encourages teamwork by promoting annual change of local leadership roles. A lively official LinkedIn Toastmasters Members group with 28,500 politely discusses virtually every aspect of our organization and its programming. That includes building teams.

Yet in the paid day-job world, how is teamwork rewarded? When is the last time you and your team evaluated yourselves *as a team* ? To what extent is your compensation based on how effectively your team works together? Rather scary, wouldn’t you say? The simple truth is most of us succeed at doing those things for which we are rewarded, and it makes sense to reward teams that work well together.  That’s my thought for the day and I’m sticking with it.

Cheers!

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Who Really Needs Training? Part 3 of 3

Susan EllsworthSeveral years ago, I was on a Federal technical services contract which was managed on the Federal side by someone whose professional expertise appeared to be in an arena  outside of high technology.  Many of us on the contractor side had great difficulty in communicating why certain technical solutions were necessary to implement. The problem? We were using “Geek Speak” and had become so accustomed to using it among ourselves that we did not even realize that not everyone knows Geek Speak.

Fortunately, one of the techs on the contract realized quickly what the problem was and privately explained it to us. By general agreement, he became the translator—and often the spokesperson—for the group when we met with our customer. He often used ordinary, non-computer language and stories to illustrate quite nicely the issues we were working on.

One takeaway from that experience became my  favorite explanation of eMail as it moves from your desktop to my desktop. I have often had to explain to others how eMail moves from my computer to someone else’s computer and how eMail actually goes through several computers before arriving at its destination. The analogy I use is  how a letter or package moves from my hands to a post office or other vendor, where it is sorted and shipped to yet another facility which optionally put on an airplane. It is off-loaded from the plane, transferred to a truck and moved to another facility. Finally, a delivery person brings the letter or package to you. Or you pick it up at a local delivery point. These are events that many of us have seen, and the analogy works quite nicely, with no Geek Speak on my part.

So who really needs training? We do. Even today, with many different ways we communicate with each other and using many different devices, we will be far more effective when communicating with top management when we listen to ourselves and recognize the price that speaking only Geek Speak exacts.

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Where are YOUR Red Barons?


The late Charles M. Schultz’s PEANUTS characters went viral with an audience of 355 million in 75 countries before he ever passed away over twelve years ago. Yet one of his characters—his version of the Red Baron—never showed up in person. Instead, Snoopy—the beloved beagle who fantisized himself as a World War I ace flying his  Sopwith Camel (actually his doghouse)—would curse his invisible enemy as his plane went down in flames.

Lately, I have been thinking about the Red Barons in my life, and what I have learned to do to outmanuever them.  The Red Barons in my corporate life include the government agencies that periodically send us notices of pending contracts that in less than 24 hours are corrected, withdrawn or updated.  We know those are wired for someone else, and we will never get our arms around the government system that requires an agency to solicit openly for business but that quietly has already decided upon a vendor it wants.  Curse you, Red Baron! Then there are software manufacturers that put the business buck so far ahead of service to customers that those customers become former customers.  Curse you, Red Baron! Is there any way for a Sopwith Camel to emerge victorious?
Curse You Red Baron

There is.

I am reminded of the recent story told by Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America and others.  In his May 29 piece on Office Ties and the Company Dress Code , Branson talked about the almost identical school ties worn by a group of erstwhile orderly kids. About half the kids had ties so short that only a few inches hung below the knot. Evidently the kids hated wearing the school-mandated ties. When they realized that the rules did not specify how long the ties had to be, SNIP! and the ties were cut short. Rather than cursing their Red Baron, they found and took advantage of their his vulnerable point.  I love that ingenuity and determination not to be shot down.  These kids really became Joe Cool.
Snoopy as Joe Cool

Where are the Red Barons in your life? Lack of organizational support for a change in marketing? A change in your business model? Fear of revealing a deep secret you have held onto for ever and ever? What would happen if you realized that “the rules” might be equally shot down by a lack of some sort or another?

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The Second Most-feared Experience (after Giving a Speech in Public)

  As many of our readers know, I belong to a world-wide organization which appeals to those who would prefer having a root canal to giving a speech in public. Recent dialog with a fellow Toastmaster in technical support from New Zealand—and personal experience— leads me to believe that even today there are those who would rather have a root canal than try out a new computer application.

Why is that true?

Many people who entered the workforce in the 1960’s and 1970’s and were forced to use computers they did not understand. Not only did they not receive one on one training but they self-taught themselves the bare minimum keystrokes needed to perform only the functions required to do the job they were hired to do. Supervisors punished employees for exploring alternative ways to learn how to use computers. Technical support staff who were far more interested in shiny new toys than they were in answering the same technical question several times over contributed to growing computer-fearing and computer-hating employees.

There is a fix for this problem—and it has to come from an enlightened technical support community that receives as much praise for learning end-user mentoring as a tool as it does for passing technical exams. Stop reinforcing the geek stereotype that regards users as “stupid people.” They are simply people who don’t push the buttons in just the right order, even though they haven’t been told what that order is. They are afraid of having to admit they don’t instantly know the answer.

Interestingly enough, the Toastmasters International organization is full of people who enjoy mentoring others. I myself benefitted greatly by being mentored in technical services by a Toastmaster who happened to be in technical services. And as my friend from New Zealand said recently, “Simply show they can do it, that they can enjoy doing it – and that if they break it they can get help without judgement. The last is crucial and often needs the personal touch (which way too many in IT are AFRAID to give) – but it is the key to building their confidence. Often you are dealing with adults who are “technical children” – and mentoring is NEVER doing your children’s homework for them, right? But you DO celebrate their successes.”

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Our (almost) FREE Managed Services Offer

Susan Ellsworth

Here is an offer you can’t refuse. We are offering a two-month free trial of our bronze entry-level Pequod ProActive Managed Services Suites.

This offer is good only through June 30.

We normally charge $199.00 per month for this service. However, if you act now, you will receive a free system inventory and  two free Monthly Reports.

The Pequod ProActive Managed Services Suites are designed to identify, track and report issues affecting the security, performance and reliability of your IT investment. Our Suites inventory the software and hardware on your network.

Why should you care about this?

Is your company really ready for a natural disaster? Flood from a broken dam upstream? It happened to a landscaping firm I know about. Fire caused by a spark from a nearby building? It’s in the news. Vandalism ? An oops resulting in significant staff downtime and replacement of critical parts of your network? Think it can’t happen to you? Stuff happens! You can’t afford the service? When is the last time you calculated how much you earn in an hour? Now calculate how much each employee whose productive work can come to a halt in the case of a downed server. It just happened to a company we know well.

When you approach your insurance carrier for replacements, how current will your inventory be?

While it used to be a daunting, expensive task to collect documentation about every laptop, every workstation, printer, scanner and  hard drive, every version of—and patch for—each software solution, that is no longer the case. Our Pequod ProActive Managed Services Suites do that for you.

The Fine Print

To deliver our service to you, we install a piece of software known as our onsite management reporting software. Therefore,

  • your company must have a true windows server operating system. This includes Windows Server 2003 (any edition), Windows Server 2008 (any edition), or Windows Home Server (not used in Domains).
  • you must have SQL Server 2005 (express, standard, or enterprise edition), or be willing to allow us to install SQL Express 2005 on your server as well as our onsite management reporting software.
  • your server must have a 2.5 Mhz or better processor, 1.8 Gigabytes of  RAM,   10 Gigabytes for our onsite manager software and SQL files
  • your Internet access must have  open outbound ports 9222, 443 and 80.
  • your LAN network requirement is for open ports on managed/monitored devices 22, 23, 80,  (3389 and/or 5900), and others, depending of devices

The only cost to you is one-half our usual setup fee.

NOTE: This offer is good only through June 30.

If any of the above Fine Print makes no sense to you whatsoever,  drop us a note on our contact page.

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The Fine Art of Back-Pedaling on a GoldMine Offer

Susan Ellsworth

On very rare occasions, I have to back pedal on something I said or did. Or did not do. Today is one of those days. In my March 25 blog, some of the data I posted about the latest GoldMine Premium Edition offers were just plain wrong.

Here is what I should have said.

First: All the promotions below expire on April 30, 2010. To take advantage of these offers, please contact Pequod Systems before April 26.

Welcome Back to GoldMine is an offer for GoldMine Corporate Edition Customers who have been off of maintenance for more than six (6) months and who now want to upgrade to GoldMine Premium Edition with a minimum of five (5) seats. All existing seats of GoldMine must be upgraded. Please contact Pequod Systems before April 26 to take advantage of this offer.

The bottom line from Front Range for such a customer with five seats of GoldMine is $2,940. Here are figures showing a sample breakout for five (5) licenses.

The Upgrade from Corporate Edition to GoldMine Premium Edition is for customers who are currently on maintenance, and who will upgrade with a minimum of five GMPE seats. All seats must be upgraded.   This FrontRange offer for five seats at $488.00 per seat includes a required $139.00 annual maintenance.

Then there is the Director’s Special for Standard Edition users. The FrontRange offering is an upgrade at $544 per seat, including $139 per seat required maintainance.  A minimum of six (6) seats is required.  Standard Edition users please note:  GoldMine Premium Edition with multiple users requires a server and workstations.

Once again, the fine print
There is no return for any reason. Clients will be invoiced for renewal at the then current rates. The sale is final and non-returnable.  That includes the End User License Agreement.

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GoldMine Premium Edition Spring Bundles!

Susan Ellsworth

FrontRange has recently announced the following GoldMine Premium Edition offers, which are good only through April 30th, 2010.

Small Business  Bundle Offer : For the small business who want to purchase three (3) user licenses of GoldMine Premium Edition.

A user can buy 3 licenses of GoldMine Premium Edition for $1,995 including new product upgrades for a period of one year.  This offer includes MS SQL 2008 Workgroup, but does not include Crystal Reports®. Renewals after the 1st year will be $695.  No FrontRange telephone support is included in this package. Telephone support will be the responsibility of the partner.

Starter Pack Promotional Bundle: For Company wishing to purchase 5 user licenses of GoldMine Premium Edition

Five (5) licenses of GoldMine Premium Edition for $2,995 including maintenance for one year.  This offer includes MS SQL 2008 Workgroup.

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Got GoldMine? Bad Old News, Good News and the “Catches” —- Part 2

Back on November 7, I announced that “Until December 18th 2009, GoldMine Standard  Edition users can upgrade to GoldMine Premium Edition at $355 per seat.  Additional seats for the same price are available if the additional seats are included on the same order.”

Obviously, December 18 is gone.

If you place your order after December 18 but by January 29th 2010 you can upgrade from GoldMine Standard Edition to GoldMine Premium Edition for $405. That’s still a savings over the standard price for GoldMine Premium Edition.

The Catches remain the same:  You must order a minumum of five (5) GMPE licenses with maintenance required on all seats. Orders—which go through a GoldMine partner such as Pequod Systems—must be received by the FrontRange GoldMine partner in time to reach FrontRange by the deadline.

We have a few client tasks to complete over the holiday but are looking forward to spending time with family and friends.  I’m taking some time out to catch up and rest up to be ready for 2010.  Be warm, be safe and remember not to put your cell phone in one hand and your steering wheel in the other as you’re tooling down an InterState at 60 MPH.

Happy Holidays, all!

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Got GoldMine? Bad Old News, Good News and the “Catches”

copy-of-susan_headshot4 If you are still using GoldMine Standard Edition, this blog definitely is for you.

Front Range, the manufacturer of all  GoldMine in its various versions, stopped distributing GoldMine Standard Edition some years back.  Users of GoldMine Standard Edition cannot receive technical support for that version directly from FrontRange.

It’s not the GoldMine you started out with on your laptop years ago.  The only officially-supported GoldMine now lives on a corporate server.  Sorry, a local workstation does not count as a GoldMine server.

That’s the bad old—very old—news.

Now the good news—and the catches.

Until December 18th 2009, GoldMine Standard  Edition users can upgrade to GoldMine Premium Edition at $355 per seat.  Additional seats for the same price are available if the additional seats are included on the same order.

If you place your order after December 18 but by January 29th 2010 you can upgrade from GoldMine Standard Edition to GoldMine Premium Edition for $405.

Longtime loyalists from Standard Edition days, GoldMine Premium Edition has a very different “look and feel” from what you are accustomed to working with.  And there are many more new features.  I recommend going to the test drive to check it out.  The Pequod Systems order desk is at 301.445-6206.

The Catches: You must order a minumum of five (5) GMPE licenses with maintenance required on all seats. Orders—which go through a GoldMine partner such as Pequod Systems—must be received by the FrontRange GoldMine partner in time to reach FrontRange by the deadline.

P.S. Not sure which version of GoldMine you are using right now? Launch GoldMine and look at the splash screen. It’s written right there.  If you are already in GoldMine, click on HELP. Then click on ABOUT.

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“If It Ain’t Broke, don’t Fix It.” Here’s a BETTER idea for Business IT

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Unless yours is a one or two person business and you conduct most—if not all—business on a personally-owned laptop and/or your cell phone, managed IT services should be a standard part of your present and future business plans. Why? What’s wrong with “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

On average, companies lose thousands of dollars a year to network downtime—in the incremental minutes and hours of lost productivity and lost opportunities as people wait for problems to be resolved. Furthermore, on average, 70% of IT management budgets are spent on systems maintenance, leaving only 30% to invest in new technologies

Consider  IT support that significantly reduces your downtime by identifying and solving issues before you and your staff have identifiable problems—and solving the problems took minutes instead of hours to resolve the remaining issues that were not anticipated.

Now consider  shifting funding from administrative tasks to more strategic infrastructure investments that would keep your network more secure and save money in the long run.

Managed IT services generally include

  • Remote support for rapid problem resolution
  • Detailed site inventories of hardware and software
  • 24 x 7 x 365 proactive network and security monitoring
  • Scheduled maintenance and upgrades in consultation with the customer

Those who offer these services successfully generally

  • hold  standard industry certifications
  • are experienced partners of major,  leading hardware and/or software solutions
  • are experienced partners of major hardware and software vendors
  • regularly receive product updates and notices about special offers from those vendors

Transparency Tip #2 Hardware today comes with internal code that identifies its manufacturer, its version number, and its serial number. Reading that information and knowing how long that hardware has been in service and paying attention to special offers not advertised to end users can give the managed services provider some insights as to cost-savings for upgrades.

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