Dr. Mark Goulston on Over-commitment

I’ve written before about the challenges of being incredibly busy. I will readily admit to being chronically — perhaps even pathologically — over-committed.

One of those many commitments is our monthly Fast Company column. Fast Company is getting ready to make some big changes in their site, expanding on the social media and social networking functionality. And our editor sent out a call to those of us who are FC columnists and bloggers to beta test the new site. Needless to say, I couldn’t resist.

So maybe you’ll understand why I laughed so hard I spewed my drink when I read the following reply to the same request from Dr. Mark Goulston (who has a great blog, by the way):

Count me in. When you’re overextended like I am one of the best things to do is shift into denial with a twist of manic grandiosity and take on more. God forbid I should leave any synapse or receptor site unused. Best to all, Mark

Funny, funny stuff. I look forward to reading more… and thanks, Dr. Mark — you made my day yesterday.

How to Manage Virtual Employees

In our latest FastCompany column, we summarized best practices in managing virtual employees:

…Daigle observed that the virtual structure eliminates many political issues: “Not only do we not have much of the water cooler, idle time type of communication, and resulting issues — we don’t have time for it. I think there is some truth that the four of us [of the EVS management team] have got by without serious conflicts over 6 full years because we’re somewhat forced (by geographic non-proximity) to stay out of one another’s way, trusting each other to execute. Despite being geographically dispersed, all four senior managers are actively involved in both sales and operations, in touch via email, instant messaging, and phone daily. However, because we are distant we are forced to act independently and to focus on execution.”

Free Speech and Censorship in Online Communities

Earlier this year, I blogged about some of the ongoing debates I’ve seen regarding online communities and free speech. Some users seem to think that the right of free speech applies everywhere, when in reality, it doesn’t. In fact, the very same right of free speech that allows people to say whatever they want also allows discussion list organizers and online community owners to choose not to carry certain kinds of speech. In fact, read the user agreements of most online communities and you’ll find a whole host of prohibited speech that you might be able to say in other venues.

David helped me flesh out my original blog post into our latest column over at FastCompany.com:

Free Speech and Censorship in Online Communities

Use Online Networks to Find Your Star Employee

From our latest FastCompany column:

Your dream employee is lurking out there. How do you find him or her? To track down those stars, recruiters are aggressively using online tools such as blogs, virtual communities, social-networking sites, and biography-analysis software. Here are some best practices in those areas, drawn from Accolo, Nitron Advisors (my firm), and Microsoft.

(Disclosure: I’m on Accolo’s Advisory Board).

full column

Choosing the Right Tool for Selling and Building Relationships Online

One of the questions David and I are frequently asked, and that comes up as a recurring topic of debate, is, “Which online tool is best for me to meet and sell to the right people?” In our latest Fast Company column, Of Hammers, Wrenches, and Screwdrivers, we take a side-by-side look at online networking communities, blogging, and LinkedIn, and compare and contrast them based upon the Seven Keys framework we introduced in The Virtual Handshake.

While the boundaries between the application of these tools is somewhat fuzzy and they tend to cross over each other, this is a handy, concise overview of the predominant models and how they relate to each other and to your activities.

David Teten notes that Professor Constance Porter wrote more on this topic at Centrality Journal. See Blogs, Social Networking Sites or Virtual Communities: Alternative Paths to Building Relational Equity with Customers (Part 2)

How to design and run online networks for senior executives

From our latest FastCompany column, Online Golf Courses: How to design and run online networks for senior executives:

Let us say that you are a senior executive — now, or hopefully in the future. You may be wary of participating in many of the online networks. Why? Online networks are typically much more accessible than face-to-face networks — you don’t have to fly all the way to Aspen to meet people at the ski lodge there.

As a result, they tend to attract a lot of the “have-nots.” With no disrespect, the “have-nots” are the job-seekers, the recent college graduates, the pre-revenue startups seeking funding, and all the other people who are trying to get something, but have a small power base. The “haves” are people like you: the senior executives at prominent companies, the venture capitalists, and all the other people who are deluged with people trying to access them.

There are two ways to design an online network to attract the “haves”. One is to design it so requests to members must pass through social filters. That’s the LinkedIn approach; I can only send a request to Bill Gates if one of our intermediary connections is willing to say my request is reasonable. The other approach is to make it hard to enter the network in the first place. For example, to join the International Executives Resource Group, you must pass a telephone interview, have a salary of over $150,000, and have at least five years of international executive experience.


Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Are you interested in sex? Would you say that publicly? There are at least a few Silicon Valley executives who readily admit this in their profiles on Tribe.net, or demonstrate it by the tribes of which they are members.

While some people are comfortable with a seamless blend of their business and personal lives, most people have some kind of boundaries between these aspects of their lives, a sort of faceted identity, as danah boyd calls it.

In our latest FastCompany.com column, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places, we take a look at three dominant behavior modes in networks: social networks, knowledge networks, and business networks. While these rarely exist in isolation, any given community tends to have one dominant mode. Recognizing and respecting the dominant mode within a given group will make the group more receptive to your participation, and ultimately make you more effective in your interaction with the group. Read more…

What Can We Learn from Network Marketing?

From our latest FastCompany.com column,What Can We Learn from Network Marketing?:

Network marketing, or multi-level marketing, is one of the fastest-growing business models of the past few decades. Between 1993 and 2003, total direct selling revenues grew by 7.1% annually, dramatically above the rate of growth of the economy — and of total retail sales (according to the Direct Selling Association)….Any business model that has achieved this kind of success probably has lessons that all business people can learn from. (….even those who really dislike network marketing and network marketers.)

The Next Generation of Contact Management Software

David had a chance to have a conversation with Greg Head, ACT!’s former General Manager, about the need for increased privacy, interoperability, and personal responsibility as contact management and social networking software converge:

Contact management software will always be centered around a database of contact information that tracks basic name, addresses, and other data — combined with powerful methods of managing countless commitments and a history of all relationships. That said, we will be doing more contact management activities using an Internet browser or PDA phone, as opposed to just Windows applications. These new methods will allow more integration to the phone and to Web services that can integrate into contact managers — to scrub addresses, to integrate with accounting applications, or to share your relationship data with others.

Head also had some thoughts about Microsoft’s role in the social networking space, as well as centralized directory services like Plaxo:

I may be a little biased in this regard, but I think that Microsoft will have to make some fundamental changes to develop the level of trust that is required for people to track, share, and leverage social network information in a Microsoft-hosted world. In fact, even centralized public directory services such as Plaxo might not be able to meet every users’ needs because of concerns with privacy and inconvenience. These services might be useful for the user — but are not so useful for the recipient of the “update your contact information” request. As the centralized nature of some of these become known, people will be even more reluctant to send their contact data off across the Internet.

Ultimately, though, Head says it’s more about personal responsibility and process as the tools themselves:

The majority of salespeople and businesspeople are still fighting the first phase of this battle: just tracking all of their follow-up and project commitments in a reliable system. Contact managers provide the tools, but the habit of tracking all commitments and managing them effectively can be different for each person.

Crossing the Social Networking Chasm

David Teten and I just debuted our first monthly column for Fast Company, entitled Crossing the Social Networking Chasm, about how this technology is moving into the mainstream. In it, we look at some of the objections people are raising about social networking sites and re-assess “realistic” expectations of them:

Business networking sites are not living up to the expectations of many people. They don’t effectively represent electronically the complexities of interpersonal relationships. They create awkward social situations that don’t exist face to face — such as how to deal with an explicit request to be someone’s friend, something most of us haven’t had to deal with since third grade. And they don’t prevent spam.

But the fact that they’re not yet living up to their potential shouldn’t blind us from the real immediate benefits to be gained.

We then look at five key benefits of online social networks that you can realize immediately:

  1. Searchable directory
  2. High visibility at low cost
  3. Receptive audience
  4. Easy group-forming
  5. Get visibility into the networks of your connections

Read the full article at Fast Company, and we look forward to your comments.