First Intermission

For anybody following, this blog is going on pause. 

I have learned much from this journey. I had a question when I started this blog. If I publish without using social media to drive traffic, will this blog make a noise? 

The answer is “no”. This blog rarely receives more than one hit a day on average, and I can’t determine how much of that is bots. I can count on one hand the number of people who read this blog, based on both their feedback and a few other clues. Ten times that amount knows this blog exists (because I told them) and doesn’t care. Among those I have met in the last year (a sizable number), I remember exactly one person asking for the web address. I have no idea whether they followed up on that referral. 

The problem is not a lack of social media driven traffic. I know this because I do not live under a digital rock – although I have abandoned social media, I have observed that same handful sharing something I wrote on their own social media accounts. None of these postings resulted in a corresponding rise in traffic, not even a few more clicks. 

I could be publishing the cure for cancer and the result would be the same. 

No, the problem is a digital audience distracted by far too much information, endlessly scrolling through their feeds as they are consumed by self-interests and the news of the day. I could be publishing the cure for cancer and the result would be the same. I doubt the result would be much better if I was writing about vampires making love under the moon, or empires wrestling for control in a web of political intrigue. 

It makes me wonder: how much is lost is this deafening din we call the Internet? I suspect we were better off when the feed was controlled by the gatekeepers of legacy media. At least there was a chance of something getting noticed because it was someone’s job to notice. 

The bottom line is that it’s impossible to determine whether one should keep writing when you don’t have an audience to tell you whether you should or not. Hence, my New Year’s resolution for writing is a simple one: to take my writing on the road and see if there is an audience for it. 

I have a few leads on where to start, with this blog serving as a portfolio for any pitch. Combine this new effort with an offline opportunity to practice what I preach, and there isn’t enough time for marketing, practice, and continually writing for a blog without an audience. Something has to give. 

Will I return? That will depend on whether there is an audience to serve, along with the location of that audience. Truth is, each of us is preaching a message to others everyday, regardless of our awareness or whether we use words. If I find an audience far more interested in what I do versus what I say or write, then I’ll shift my focus on preaching through what I do. 

The goal was never to become well-known or even famous. The goal was always to make a difference in the lives of others. Writing is only one tool among many – if the tool doesn’t fit the situation, put it back in the toolbox. 

So, if you are one of those few faithful readers, click the “like” button to let me know you’re tracking. 

Likewise, if you stumble across this post and like what you read on this blog, sign up. With enough votes or sign-ups, I’ll come back to this blog.

Otherwise, my hope is that something already written here blesses you in some way. May you find whatever you are looking for. 

Whose Garden are you Growing?

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

I would like to take this opportunity to thank those previous employers who once treated me poorly. 

I’m not being facetious. I am truly grateful to them for providing environments in which I grew in patience, resilience, empathy and understanding, all while learning from both their and my mistakes. It took me a while to recognize that they were growing me for the benefit of others they would never know. Truly, I wouldn’t be who I am today without these people.  

Truth is, every employer is growing a garden. The only question is whose garden are you growing?

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How to handle a disgruntled employee (and why you should welcome the chance)

In too many places, I have seen the same pattern bear out. 

An employee lodges a complaint with leadership. Leadership thanks the employee for bringing the issue to their attention, which is the polite response. Underneath the polite response, the reaction is anything but polite. The reaction? Resentment. 

The reason is simple: nobody likes criticism. Think of the last time someone was critical of you. Even if they were right, it still hurt. Even healthy criticism can leave a bruise on our ego, make us question our competence, and/or present a (new) problem we would rather not focus upon, much less know. Resentment is our knee-jerk response to such feedback. 

Instead of acknowledging and addressing this reaction at the moment it happens, many managers allow their resentment to grow like yeast, even while denying its existence. This resentment unconsciously poisons the relationship, seen through rising criticism, questioning decisions and standards that were once acceptable, and putting the employee’s performance under a microscope. The intensity of negative attention eventually becomes unbearable, and another valuable employee is lost.  

Why are they valuable? Because an employee with the courage to speak up is the kind of employee you want.

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Why your employees don’t care about you or their job

(Estimated reading time: 3 minutes)

I liked the guy, but I could tell the feeling was not mutual.

He was my boss and we were on good terms. We saw each other mostly in passing, often greeting each other with witty banter. Occasionally we would strike up a conversation centered on random interests: sports, movies, music or past work experiences. On the surface an observer might have believed we were friends.

We weren’t and I knew it. How? He never asked me any questions about my personal life.

Everyone knows when someone is interested in them or not because they ask questions, whether about themselves, their passions, their interests, and so on. The questions are not forced or perfunctory, but represent a genuine interest and passion in knowing the person beyond their name tag or resume. When you don’t ask these questions about someone else, it sends a clear signal: I don’t care about you.

Why don’t your employees care about you or their job? It may be as simple as a failure to ask the right questions.

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Snapping Pictures for Quality Assurance

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The pictures you acquire from an ethnographic study of cultures are worth more than a thousand words. Sometimes, they’re worth millions of dollars too. 

Years ago, I was a quality-control project manager, tasked with identifying hardware and software errors for a prominent cell-phone manufacturer. The phones in this project were a cheap alternative to the flip-phones that were popular before the smartphone (iPhone would soon appear on the horizon). 

One day, a quality-control tester on my team noticed a peculiar error: the phones did not always receive multimedia messages, especially if those messages contained a picture. Although there were more pressing tests to be run, I instructed the engineer to put aside these other tests and work towards isolating the problem. When he presented the results, I felt ill. 

I immediately contacted my liaison at the parent company, informing her that we identified a catastrophic error. The liaison, who had already come to trust my insights and instincts, gave me the benefit of the doubt concerning “catastrophic” and met with me that afternoon. After I carefully laid out the threat, she also felt ill. We immediately set up a meeting with two senior developers, both of whom were much more skeptical. After a couple of hours, they had the same illness.

What was this catastrophic error? 

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