Category Archives: Personal/Professional Development

Favorite Business Authors

As an avid reader, I was recently inspired to share a few of my fav’s after reading an LA2M post by friend Charlie Wollborg of Curve Detroit.  While I share Charlie’s sentiment  of his favorite authors (below) I’ll tack on a few of my own..

Authors both Charlie & I would recommend without reservation:

In addition to those great authors, a few others I’ve found hugely influential and hope you might like as well:

That should keep you busy for a while.. Keep in mind, many of these books are available on the Kindle and increasingly on the iPad/iBooks.  If you struggle to find time to read, you might also want to check out Audible.com.

Lastly, while I’m not much of a sales guy, I have come across the work of Bob Burg (notably Go-Giver)  on more than a few occasions – so if sales is your thing, you’ll be happy to know he’ll be in Detroit on June 30th thanks to the guys at Motor City Connect & I’d highly encourage you to check him out: http://motorcityconnect.com/endlessreferrals.html

Happy Reading!

The surprising truth about what motivates us

Money can be a powerful motivator, but as studies performed by universities around the country (and this video) explain, rewarding people financially only works to a point. Beyond that, you need autonomy and purpose.

This lively RSA Animate, adapted from Dan Pink’s talk at the RSA, illustrates the hidden truths behind what really motivates us at home and in the workplace.  www.theRSA.org

2010 New Year’s Resolutions for Software Developers

@jeffblankenburg wrote a good post for MSDN about opportunities for Software Developers in 2010.  The full article can be found here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/ee913537.aspx, highlights include:

  • Learn a new programming language
  • Attend [monthly] local user group meetings – (or support local community events, check out: iDetroit)
  • Attend a regional developer conference – gotta luv codeMash
  • Become an agent of change (within your organization)
  • Use your skills to change the world (for the better) – giveCamp
  • Give Twitter a real try!
  • Create an online presence
  • Added: Stay current with technology via pod/video casts – visit Twit.TV, Tech PodCasts or iTunes for more..

Troy Toastmasters Club

I’ve seen statistics that show people fear speaking in public more than they do death.  I used to be one of these people.  I learned this lesson first hand several years ago, when I was the best man and had to give a few words and toast at a wedding in front of a few hundred people.  This was the first time I was ever in front of that large of an audience, with the attention solely on me (even if it were for only a few moments.)

While preparing I felt pretty confident, I knew the material, most of the audience and wasn’t really too nervous about it, that is until 30 seconds before I was handed the microphone.  My heart sunk, my hands trembled and I eecked out a horrible display of public speaking, full of filler words and disorganized thoughts.  In hindsight, there was a clear lack of appreciation for true “preparation.”  That was a valuable lesson for me, as I sat down and tried to calm my nerves, trembling, trying to drink some water, I vowed to never embarrass myself like that again.

From there, I went on to read several books about public speaking, I even took a class at a community college in the evenings to learn about the discipline of public speaking, preparation, research, outlines, etc. Needless to say, I’ve improved.  My confidence in speaking publicly has also improved.  That’s not to say I’m a polished speaker, by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve overcome the first of many barriers – I no longer fear it more than death.

Speaking, communication, negotiation, whatever you want to call it is a fundamental skill in today’s society.  Being an effective communicator is crucial to your own success, credibility and influence you have with your peers, friends and even family.  In my role, (and active community involvement) I get asked from time to time to do talks on various subjects, inside and out of my organization – each of which I draw from my experience; sure I still get nervous, but after each I gain in experience and confidence making each future talk more manageable and in some cases I even look forward to them.  One day, I may even hope to give a talk at a TED conference!  Shoot for the stars – right!?

I, like you, have probably heard of Toastmasters, but until recently didn’t know all that much about them.  A good friend of mine, Danielle (@ddelonge) of Davenport University – helped to motivate me to check out a local Toastmasters here in Troy, MI.  The Troy Toastmasters, Club #2357 (Area 23, Division E, District 28) – meets weekly at 11:45 each Thursday at Dupont Automotive (950 Stephenson Hwy, Troy, MI, 48083.)  This group (to me) was the exact venue to help keep me engaged, further developing my speaking skills, as large gaps (and busy schedules) can prevent me from practicing and the TM group (along with Danielle) provides a positive support system – much like a workout friend.

Not having had exposure to other Toastmaster clubs, I can only assume they all as well run as the Troy group is.  If you’re looking for an outlet to increase your confidence speaking publicly, increasing your verbal (and non-verbal) communication skills, confidence and all the benefits that come along with it, I HIGHLY recommend you check them out.  The group has well balanced experience, with very polished, experienced speakers, as well as total beginners, starting at step 1.  The group is highly organized, with distinct roles & responsibilities to ensure each and every meeting is good use of your time, getting everyone involved, and most importantly introducing you to the benefits of becoming a good speaker – both through positive reinforcement as well as constructive criticism.

The Troy group also has access to excellent facilities, from a large auditorium stage with stadium-style seating (for large, formal speaking engagements) to conference rooms (where most presentations occur.)  Formats include several timed, structured speeches, to one-minute intros and table topics, as well as debates – getting you full exposure to all different types of communication formats and environments – which will surely help you increase your confidence while preparing for you next big presentation – hopefully I’ll see you there!

“The mission of a Toastmasters Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every member has the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.  We have fun in the process.”

Detroit – While I was away..

TEDxDetroit bootleg.

Poetry Slam champion and award winning singer/songwriter D Blair brought the house to its feet in a standing ovation. His poem ‘Detroit (While I Was Away)’ was awe-inspiring.

TEDxDetroit Invitation

Just received confirmation for attendance to TEDxDetroit – the area’s leading creators, catalysts, entrepreneurs, artists, technologists, designers, scientists, thinkers and doers which will gather on Wednesday, October 21st to share what they are most passionate about — positive ideas for the world from Detroit.

If you haven’t applied, better hurry up – this invitation only event is filling up fast!  More details can be found:

Much thanks the @Charlie, Curve Detroit and the whole crew for helping to bring this awesome event to Detroit!

Detroit CIO Executive Summit Recap

Whew!  Where to begin?  I spent the day out in Dearborn, MI attending a CIO Executive Summit  organized by Evanta and the CIO Leadership Network and I must admit, I was very impressed.  As the CIO of Billhighway.com I tend to participate in a number of local and national events, conferences, workshops, you name it – but the quality of content today was just superb.

The opening keynote by Ed Ruggero, Former U.S. Army Office, Author and Military Historian re: A Winning Culture: Leadership as Competitive Advantage set the stage for a very productive day.  Mr. Ruggero is a great story teller and excellent speaker – making countless comparisons between the military and IT leadership.  The CIO Leadership Network will be publishing videos of each presentation soon, and I’ll be sure to post a link once its available.

After a short break, Phillip Bertolini, Deputy County Executive & CIO of Oakland County along with L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County Executive had a unique presentation about the “marriage” between the CEO and CIO, which was very well done.  They touched on the typical stages leading up to and into a successful marriage; courting, building trust, communication and partnership.  A couple noteworthy highlights:

  • CEO Vision + CIO Tools = ROI
  • CEO must have some understanding of Technology
  • CIO must have some understanding of Business
  • To gain the trust of the CEO, the CIO must build and delivery dependable, predictable, repeatable strategic technology solutions

At 11am there were several break out sessions, in which I attended “Achieving Higher Performance in your Current Role and How to Successfully Transition into Your Next Role.”  A couple of the takeways I found here were:

  • Have executive/leadership presence (this is something I’ve been hearing alot lately)
  • Be inspirational, captivate, motivate and lead by example
  • Handle touch situations with confidence
  • Build Relationships
  • Enhance Collaboration
  • Integration your Personal Values

Lastly, a couple book recommendations: Why CEOs Fail & What got you here, won’t get you there.

At lunch, Andre Mendes, SVP, Strategic Planning & Global CIO of the Special Olympics International gave a talk on Crisis-Driven Innovation: The Ultimate Change Agent, which I found very uplifting.  Not only is Mr Mendes extremely intelligent, but a great speaker – very TED esq. touching on a broad spectrum of topics, where we’ve been, where we’re going and the speed of change, often unrealized by industry that’s so closely engaged in the day-to-day business affairs.  This will be another great talk to catch online, once it’s available.  A few takeaways here, for a CIO’s to-do list:

  • Build abstraction layers
  • Consolidate – streamline line of business applications, investigate SaaS
  • Virtualize – reduce hardware footprint, increase manageability
  • Co-locate – ping, power, pipe are commodities, leave this to the pro’s
  • Cloud IT – have the applications you want, without any of the headaches

Lastly, Mr. Mendes challenged CIOs to get out of your comfort zone, expose yourself to the unknown and take [managed] risks.  Abstract technology, focus on the business.  Scalability, availability and security all have their place – in the abstraction layer; don’t let them choke innovation.  To me, this means if you’re spending any respectable amount of time here, GET OUT OF THE WEEDS – you, as the CIO are not allowing your business to realize the value of your role.  Oh yea, and don’t be a “NO” man, as we get older and more experienced, it’s natural to become complacent – not embracing “change”, however if/when opportunities get presented to improve X, you might be better served by giving it a try.

The day closed out for me with a session about eight simple rules for Survival, by Greg Schwem, president of Comedy with a Byte who was very entertaining, keeping things on the lighter side and some pointing out some (often overlooked) examples of Do’s & Don’ts.  Closing keynote was by Kevin Summers, Corporate VP & Global CIO of Whirlpool Corporation who shared some rare insight into the operational aspects of overhauling a nearly 100 year old, multinational organization.  His 10 Transformational best-practices were:

  1. Create a strategic roadmap
  2. Implement a formal change management program (and team)
  3. Adopt (and standardize) an Enterprise Architecture early
  4. Invest time/energy into Value Chain Integration (it works)
  5. Align vision/strategy with business partners
  6. Leverage strategic partners (reduce key vendors where possible)
  7. Manage IT like a business
  8. Talent management is key (yet more about Top-Grading, if you’re not familiar with it, take time to read up!)
  9. Ensure stable operational practices exist
  10. Markets (and opportunities) will return – so be ready!

That about summarizes it, overall GREAT day, packed with invaluable content, excellent speakers and thought-provoking subjects.  I literally took pages of notes, but this should suffice for those that couldn’t make it.  If you get the opportunity to attend this event next year, or in another city, I highly recommend it!  For more information visit: http://www.bycios.com/