The Triangle

I bought a TRIANGLE for the office. You know, the musical kind. The type you play (ding) in an orchestra. It’s a percussion instrument. This one’s more like a “dinner call Triangle,” but I think you get the picture. Its got that bright sound.

In the office we “ring it” every time we win a new project, or a new phase is added to an existing project. Tami does it at the front desk. Everyone can hear it.

Sure people can check the joblist if they want, and it gives a live report of everything that’s active. But it’s boring. There’s something tangible about the triangle. It’s audible evidence that something good just happened. It reminds people who don’t always get to see the big picture, that cool things are happening; that new business is coming in. Now I’m looking for a GONG to ring. It’ll be for really big projects over a certain dollar value, or for new work with new clients. That’ll get people talking.
The reaction is fun and it creates a festive atmosphere. It gets people talking. It reminds me of being called for dinner when I was a kid.

 Isn’t that what new work is like anyway? Like dinner time for the business?

Leadership thoughts

Leadership is many different things. Leadership is exhilarating and excruciating at the same time, because leadership is in the middle of the ebb and flow of life. 

One aspect of leadership that isn’t typically discussed is vulnerability. Leadership by its very nature is vulnerable. It’s exposed for everyone to see. The results are visible across a spectrum broader than the leader, good or bad.

Leaders may as well be honest with their struggles or at least with their results. They certainly aren’t hidden from anyone. In fact if shared in an appropriate manner, everyone will benefit. There’s a stronger connection, and shared responsibility.

Technology, Remoteness and Connection

Technological tools allow us to work remotely while still remaining in sync and in touch with our organizations. It can be terrific. Technology  also allows us to generate work rapidly and productively. Working remotely is a gift of the modern age which is facilitated by multiple platforms. It’s a blessing, but it also can disconnect us from our tribe, our people, our work comnunity, the people that we need to connect with the most.

Remote work adds flexibility and permits us to have an outside perspective that we couldn’t have had in the past. It spawns perspective, freedom and creativity for those who need changes of pace and environment.

But we also need to connect in person with the people in our physical offices or locations. Remote work and Technology should enable and facilitate more of that not less. I find myself often spending less time with people and more time serving technology platforms. This is not the correct application and use of tech.

By all means, we should work remotely to gain perspective and be flexible. We should use technology and it’s platforms to work as rapidly and productively as possible. Generate as much value as possible in those spaces.

But then connect with people on a deep level to tie things together and to build a culture that is solid. Technology should serve us, not the opposite.

This is a daily struggle of maintaining balance in our highly digital world.

Working in a Box 

Our customer has articulated a goal to us. The mission and problem is clearly defined. So we run off in search of a solution. We work like crazy to make it happen. We can feel it coming together. We’re getting excited to share the solution with the client. Then, indeed, the moment comes. We’ve got it. It’s time to share the victory with our client. Our victory. We can’t wait for the moment. The unveiling. We come back with a presentation showing them that we achieved what they wanted….or so we thought…

But it wasn’t their solution. There’s a fail. What’s the fail? We forsake context and parameters. We never really engaged them in the process. We run with what we THOUGHT  we heard. Its like we’re working in a box without communicating. What the solution lacks is context. Maybe they didn’t want those boundary conditions. Maybe they couldn’t install it that way. Maybe they didn’t want those items listed as collateral. Whatever the case may be, if we don’t engage our customer to come up with a solution within a proper context, we have not delivered. It’s like we’re working in a box. This happens way too often. And we’d think with modern communication tools it would be better, but that doesn’t make it a guarantee. 

Good Solutions require integration and communication. They require collaboration. Keep the lid off the box while you’re working.

Hong Kong, Ohio, Twitter 

Noah lives in Hong Kong. I live in Ohio. Noah is an architect. I am an engineer. Noah graduated from Kent State. I graduated from the University of Akron. Noah Works in Professional Services. I work in Professional Services. Noah is a facade professional. I’m a facade professional. Noah and I met on Twitter a couple of years ago. This week we had lunch together. 

A digital connection formed a relationship across continents and time zones. Both of us enjoy each other’s Twitter feeds. We’ve communicated by direct message but never met face-to-face. Noah was traveling to the United States and was going to be in town so he asked me if we could do lunch. Of course I said yes. Meeting him face-to-face was fantastic. I would have never known him, met him or been aware of him had it not been for the connection over social media. We enjoyed lunch and sharing experiences common to the industry. He’s on his way back to Hong Kong and I’m still in Ohio, but our bond is stronger. I look forward to more interactions digitally, and face to face in the future. This is one of the values of social media.


I don’t care what business we are in, we are all in the business of value generation and value creation. Whether we’re baking scones, litigating, engineering, cleaning toilets or whatever it is, it’s all about generating and creating value. What we “do” is to be a given; everyone assumes we know our craft (if you can’t do your craft you’re not even in the conversation.) That craft, our skills and our capabilities, that’s what we practice. But that doesn’t guarantee or define where value lies. Value lies in how the dots are connected in the empty spaces. Value lies were ‘bridges’ are built. Value lies in generating more time, more income, more order, more of something of value to the receiver. If anyone else in the world does what we do that makes us a commodity at some level. So we need to take what we do and figure out how to apply it in a way that will bring meaning and improvement to other people’s lives and businesses. When people start requesting more of us, our service, our enterprise, that’s when we know we may be on the right track.

LinkedIn, LA, Coffee

He sent me a LinkedIn request the week before I was heading to Los Angeles. I didn’t know him, but he was a “second” on my LinkedIn network, and connected to the glazing industry. I was happy to connect and accept his request. I thanked him for the connection through the message feature. I told him that I was heading to Los Angeles the next week. What a “coincidence.” I suggested that perhaps we could get together. The product he helped develop and represents was somewhat new to me, but I was curious. I wanted to know more about the company and the product. I was also traveling with my son that week as he had some interviews in LA. If he was available I wanted him to attend some meetings with me just to get more experience.

My new contact’s response was immediate; “You need to connect with two of my colleagues. I’m not available but I’d like them to get together with you. You guys can arrange whatever time that works.”

So we connected. We set up a meeting. It would be over coffee at a location  we could both reach within an hour. I hesitated and second-guessed myself thinking that LA traffic would make it a mess, but decided that I’d just “play it by ear.”

The day prior, I had a meeting with another new client prospect. A large meeting was set with the CEO, Marketing VP, Director of Operations, Engineering Manager, and others. We met in the conference room. During that meeting the question came to me, “So do you have any other meetings this week?”

“Yes, I have them daily, including one tomorrow with some folks I met through LinkedIn.  They have a specialty product I’d like to hear more about.”

“Oh we know them. In fact, we’ve used their product, says the CEO. Let us know if you find out anything pertinent that might be helpful to us as well.” (World gets smaller…)

The day came. My son was available. Traffic showed a clear, 1 hr, LA drive. We loaded up Google Maps and headed to the meeting. We arrived right on time. After navigating through the parking lot, then the coffee shop, we found our LinkedIn friends. They were sitting outside. It was warm. The air smelled fresh. A light breeze was blowing. The atmosphere was inviting. My new friends were very welcoming and engaging. The discussion started. It moved quickly to common points of reference and insights. Shortly into the discussion, it became obvious to me that there was a potential opportunity to leverage our friend’s product with people and companies that I knew (dots to connect as I say.) To connect them to people and products that had influence and application. Discussion became deeper. I asked questions. My son asked questions. We were all deeply engaged. We were looking at  product samples. I asked them to tell me more about their story. I asked them about their goals and plans within the space that I was familiar. They stated them within A Five-Year Plan.

” 5-years, I asked? You don’t have 5 years. What about two to three years?”

“What do you have in mind, they asked?”

“I tell you what I have in mind related to speed to Market. There’s no reason for you to wait 5 years. There’s front-end application for this now if the value proposition is clear. Buyers downstream need to understand the economics. This is an investment to facilitate a reduced life cycle cost downstream. There are events and groups where you need to connect. There’s Sales managers, business developers and marketers that you need to meet. You need to get in front of the right people. How about if I provide you with a proposal. I’ll help you evaluate the market channels and client prospects.”

“I think we would be very interested, they said. We’ll talk to the CEO and COO and ask them what they think.”

Much more transpired. We adjourned on time, shared business cards, created follow-up plans, and then headed our separate ways (My way was to the nearest In-and-Out Burger for lunch.)

The next week I got a message from my contact saying that the CEO and COO wanted a proposal. They were interested in what I had to offer. I asked for email addresses. They were provided. I set up a new job number. I started a proposal in draft form. It’ll be in their hands soon. There is an opportunity to help them get deeper into one of their market segments, to potentially increase their market share, their top-line revenue, and profitability. All from one simple LinkedIn connection request. From intention and interest. From a simple 1-hour connection point with people who care about their product and who want to improve their lives. All around a cup of coffee, at a table outside, on a sunny day in Southern California.

Related to LinkedIn as an example of a social media platform for business; we can simply accept connections and be done, or we can respond, be invitational, and start a conversation. When we create conversation, we may drive to a deeper level. If someone doesn’t want to engage back, they simply won’t respond. But if they do want to engage, it can quickly lead to more; and we don’t know what “more” may be. This is just one instance for me where a simple social media connection request turned into an opportunity to create and express value for both parties.

How are you doing in social media and relationship-building? Are you disregarding the potential value and connections with people, and with building relationships? Are you simply requesting and accepting connections without taking it any further?Are you posting things about yourself and your company without ever attempting to create value to others?

Everything has a context. Social media itself doesn’t build a personal relationship. It provides a connection point through a platform. Don’t simply accept a connection and sit idly without any further conversation. There’s a person on the other end, not a digital entity. There’s a person that works for a company who wants to continue improving their life, and the lives of those around them. Look for common interests or common spaces and places to connect. You’ll be surprised at the dots that can be connected over time. And even if nothing transpires from it related to business, the time invested in a relationship is worth it. People have value. People are looking to connect and build community. People have a story to tell. It’s enough to simply meet someone and share coffee together.

Here are a few follow-up thoughts and applications. These things are good to remember.

  1. Never take anything for granted. We don’t know where a connection will lead. I could write many more stories about my experiences.
  2. Initiate a conversation. A real one, not an auto-response. Make it relevant
  3. Remember, there is a real person on the other end
  4. If you are not generating potential leads through LinkedIn conversations, then you’re not getting the full impact. Dare I say, you’re not using it to the fullest?
  5. Share your email address directly in the message. Include your website link, even though it is already on your profile. It’s much easier to carry forward when you can reach each person via Outlook and set a Calendar meeting.
  6. Some of these connections and touches should lead to new relationships, new proposal opportunities, and new business. I’ve done it and experienced it 1st hand. The same is true for Twitter.
  7. Never say never, except to say “Never assume you know anything.” I’ve fallen prey to getting dry, lacking creativity, and being complacent. We know nothing about our connection’s real needs, their companies, and their desires, until we listen and engage
  8. It’s not about the number of connections. It’s about the depth of connections. Size matters, but only to the extent that the connections are relevant to your domain, interest, background, capability, values.

The next time you request or receive a connection, initiate a conversation. Make it relevant. Be interesting. Keep it succinct. As I stated in my blog post, “Inclusive or Exclusive,” you might be surprised at what happens.

The Extraction Scenario

 The extraction scenario is about understanding that as owners, you and I will not always be present at our place of business. At some point we will be gone either by choice or necessity. Have we worked through that scenario? Have we envisioned the office or business with us no longer present? The extraction scenario should drive our decisions day after day. Is this work repeatable? Is this work sustainable? Can someone do this instead of me? Can someone else do it better? Do these clients  have a person that they’re connected with here? Everyone is extracted at some point. The extraction scenario needs to be part of our strategic plan.



… about the smallest one in the joint. When we built our current office about nine years ago, my partner and I wanted our people to have the highest ceilings and the most square footage that we could afford in order to facilitate creativity; facilitate “room to breathe.”

We push hard. We work in a high-stress field; its deadline-driven; time-sensitive. Margins can be tight and decisions are critical. As owners we have a lot of responsibility, but we also have opportunity and options that others can not experience. As an owner, why take the biggest office? What kind of culture does that facilitate? Do we really believe in valuing our people? Do we really care? Are we willing to put our money where our mouth is? Are we willing to build a space and an environment that represents and manifests that we care?

Not to mention that the bigger my office, the more paper I accumulate. I wanted to be forced to delegate; to get stuff off of my desk! I wanted to be able to keep as little in my physical office space as possible. The smaller my space, the less time I need to spend in it.

That means more time being mobile and less paper on my desk. It means more work being put in the hands of others for them to take ownership, and to build a name for themselves within the organization. It means more electronic work and digital files. It forces disciplines in the right areas for me.

I don’t have a parking space with my name on it either. I’ve never been a fan of that scenario. I think its pompous. If anyone should have a parking spot with a name attached, it should be for the “servant of the month,” or maybe the person that has to put up with me the most. I’ve also got a hand-me-down chair for visitors. I have an Ikea wrap-around desk that works just fine. I’ve got a backpack rather than a briefcase, and it’s my mobile office. I do have a triple monitor system and a docking station that I use in order to make things super efficient. It allows me to work as productively at my desk as possible. I prefer to invest in tools and people, not needless perks. Ownership, when done right, has enough built-in perks. Ownership has other privileges. I’ll pass on the bigger offices and parking spaces. How about you?

Inclusive or Exclusive

So are you inclusive or exclusive?

Most of us like to think we’re inclusive. Our opinion, however, doesn’t really matter in this regard. What matters is the opinion of those who are on the other end of the experience with or around us.

Most of us are far less inclusive than we think, and that’s stating it kindly.

Do you know who’s responsible for being inclusive? Everyone. But it needs to be, as a minimum, the person who is, or is becoming, a leader. It’s easy to take the simple route by excluding people. It takes effort and intention to be invitational. Leadership is intentional. Leadership is inclusive.

We’ve all felt the pain of being excluded. When we take that experience and become inclusive with the folks that may not crack into our group, our perceived social structure, our meeting, or our inner circle, we are reversing the pattern.

When we share with other people for their benefit, information we’ve learned at work, that’s being inclusive. When we invite into any space a person that we don’t always understand, don’t know well, or that is different from us, we are being inclusive.

Are you and I being more inclusive or exclusive? Try going outside the comfort zone and extend an invitation. Broaden the circle. When circles get larger, they capture a broader area. Sometimes they overlap with other circles. The overlapping space can lead to something special. We might be surprised at what happens.