I actually tend to agree. I've been thinking, for quite awhile now, that when the job market bounces back and people start to feel a bit more secure in looking around, there's going to be a mass exodus, especially from the legal industry. You can't go a week or two without reading about law firms cutting staff, cutting associates, limiting pay, and cutting all sorts of expenses, and legal is hardly the only industry getting hit with cuts like this.
So the question is, in the midst of all these "cuts", what are you doing to keep your best people engaged and on board? If nothing, do you really expect they won't be looking to leave at the first sign of openings?
You might recall over a month ago that I wrote about non-lawyer staff and the marketing of a firm, and the importance of bringing more to the table than just doing your job, because any good employee can do your job, a great employee becomes a resource for the firm in many more ways than just doing the assigned work.
That could explain why I see much to like in this idea of coming in to a job and bringing your own identity, using the tools you choose, etc. You don't stop being you between the hours of 8-5, and you don't stop being an employee of the firm at 5. That's not the way the world works any more. Certainly there is much to be said for work/life balance, and I am a big believer in having a healthy balance between work and fun, but at the same time the best source of customers for any enterprise are the people your employees are talking to and interacting with. I know my impression of many companies has been based on what the people who work there have said about it, or experienced while working there, but it's something I don't think many companies think about, and dare I say, it's something very few law firms have stopped to consider. Oh, many will take great pains to not get a negative reputation among lawyers, but don't stop to think about all of the potential clients their support staff is also connected with. The wild world of Web 2.0 is starting to change that perspective, but slowly. It's now easy enough to see how connected many of the people who work for you are, and not just the potential damage that can be caused by disgruntled employees, but also the opportunity that having truly engaged employees brings.
Staff members who are proud of the firm they work for are, generally, more than happy to tell the people they know about it. That can't be a bad thing, can it? Unfortunately, too many places will never know, because they live in abject fear of what their employees might say if they were given the freedom to do so. That's too bad, and just might be an indictment of how they treat these non-attorney staff members. Not so much as people, with rich, full lives, relationships, and many things to offer, but as cogs in the machine, there to do your bidding for 8 hours per day and nothing more.
I know which kind of environment I enjoy working in more. I'd bet I'm not alone.
Well, it's been an interesting year, that's for sure! Like most years, 2009 didn't turn out the way I expected. Last year at this time, I really had no idea what was headed my way. The biggest surprise, obviously, was being promoted to management. Not only did I not expect that to happen, but I also really had no idea what that would mean for my every day life.
I've mentioned before, management is different. It's no longer about going to the office, doing the work, and going home. I spend so much time planning strategy, evaluating ideas, brainstorming, preparing training materials, reaching out to other areas of the firm, etc. that it can be very difficult to turn that off at the end of the work day. That's not always a bad thing, sometimes I can accomplish much more of that stuff away from the distractions of the workplace, but it has caused some other things to suffer. I find myself with less time to write very meaningful posts here or on the child abuse blog, and I've not managed to blog at all over at Friends in Tech. I simply don't have as much spare mental energy as I used to! :)
On top of that, it's been more difficult to go home and do the social, personal things I'm used to doing. Oh, I may still spend the evening with Angela doing things we've always done, but I may not be 100% mentally there when we are. I may be mulling over an idea I had earlier, or fleshing out details of a plan while also watching The Office or eating dinner. That's not good.
That being said, I suspect that much of the problem lies not so much with a lack of time as much as an undisciplined approach to time. Not that I'm unorganized, I probably have more lists than any three people you know, but when I sit down to write, or brainstorm an idea, it doesn't always keep my focus, and winds up taking much longer than it should. My mind goes in tangents instead of opening up an Evernote page and outlining an idea right then and there while I'm thinking about it.
So that's the plan for 2009. I'm going to be trying to figure out ways to be more disciplined with my time, and learn how to focus on getting all the way through a plan, or activity, then focus on the next one, instead of starting, writing a few ideas, then remembering that I need to email someone about another task, or check the hockey score real quick, etc. Any tips you've gleaned from your own lives are always appreciated!
I know I said that I loved the entire post I pointed you to earlier from Stop Blocking, but there's one line that really resonates outside of this particular issue.
Who died and put CIOs in charge of worker productivity anyway? I’m not sure when supervisors and HR abdicated this responsibility to IT, but IT is simply not qualified to address employee productivity.
It immediately reminded me of something that I hear often from the Manager Tools guys, that there are so few people in management who really understand and work at being a good manager. This task of addressing productivity fell to IT because no one else has any idea of how to address productivity. Actually taking the time to set the expectations to the people who work for you, figuring out how to measure their performance and holding them accountable for meeting the goals you set out for them is quite a bit of work. I know, as a new manager I'm still struggling with figuring out how to do it! So, it's awfully tempting as management to start blocking things that would cause distraction, as if you could block every potential distraction!
"Then how do you know if your associates are working?"
I lean in, like I'm going to let them in on my secret formula.
"By managing them."
As I look down the list of reasons not to block social media, I'm struck by how many of them fit this very point. If you are effectively managing the people who work for you, they understand the consequences of failing to meet expectations and not being productive, they understand the appropriate ways to interact online, and what sorts of things are frowned upon by the organization. They know better than to disclose confidential information, and they know with certainty what will happen if they do. They understand that being careless with malware will hurt their productivity because they'll be without their PC while it's getting cleaned.
As I look back on 20 plus years of working myself, and all of the conversations I have had with others, there's something that really runs true here. There really aren't very many good managers. I find that many, not all, managers are in management just because they were the last one standing when others moved on (ed.- he says fully self-aware).
Most people are thrust into management because they've been good at a job, and a manager left, so they got the promotion. Not because they showed managerial skills, and they probably weren't given any managerial training either, they just happened to be good at one thing, so they got the spot. Is it any wonder then, that they surrender responsibilities to the IT Department? They don't know any other way to deal with the risks of something like social networking. They don't dare rock the boat by trying to be innovative, because being innovative requires confidence, and people who have never been groomed to be managers, yet find themselves in that position, lack the confidence to do things differently!
Seems to me that, instead of constantly worrying about what your people might do, with any tool, organizations might be better off training their managers to be effective, and innovative. That innovation will trickle down and take care of many of these issues. Right now, we're not seeing a lot of turnover in many industries, and it may be harder to spot bad management, but I guarantee you, when the economy shows signs of turning around, and people start to feel more confident in their job prospects, you'll see scores of unhappy, and very talented, people moving elsewhere. Finding quality and innovative management might keep a few of them around.
Why 54 percent of companies should stop blocking social media
I've made many of these same points myself, and made passionate arguments against blocking access to social media sites in the office, but I think this may be the most clear and concise list of reasons that I've ever seen.
As they say, go read the whole thing. I couldn't possibly pick out any one passage that would do it justice, but I will say that there is one passage that does merit some further thoughts. That is for a later post.
I saw this post over at Kevin O'Keefe's this morning and realized that there was one sentence that really jumped out at me about social networking, because it's something I don't think a lot of people realize.
Social media is not something to do 'when you have some time' - make time for it or you won't see the benefits.
This is something I see time and time again with people who are new to social networking. They sign up for a Twitter account, or a Facebook account, post a status along the lines of "Just checking this out", and connect to maybe a handful of people they already know. Then they forget about it. A couple of weeks, or a month later, they come back and post another update, something along the lines of "Still trying to see if this works for me", and go back to ignoring it again. Then, maybe they give it a third try a couple of months later. Eventually, they give up and declare the whole thing a waste of time.
It takes more than that. Just like in-person networking, it involves much more than simply showing up at a networking event, saying hello to two people, leaving, and awaiting all that great follow up you heard about. Good networking requires you to spend some time conversing with people, interacting with people, and following up with them. Online networking is no different. Making good connections requires interaction, it requires listening and it requires time and effort. Anything short of that will not lead to the best results.
The great thing about online networking tools, is that the time requirement is actually much less. I can pass along an interesting news item, blog post, or event to hundreds of people at the same time. I can skim through my Twitter stream or Facebook newsfeed and keep up to date on the happenings, and interesting things my connections are sharing, learning more about them and how I might be able to help them in the process, in very little time each day. It's remarkably efficient, and effective, when you take the time to figure out how to work with the tools, and how to really interact with the people you want to connect to.
Building relationships takes time. If you don't have the time to interact with me, why should I want to connect, let alone do business with, you?
Guy Kawasaki calls it Going on the Offensive with Facebook, and lays out some specific examples of how you could do it, but to me, more important than the specifics, is the overall idea.
I love the fact that Guy is willing to look at all of the scare stories about what you shouldn't put on Facebook, and how much that personal info is going to get you in trouble professionally, and counter that with the fact that you can use the tool just as effectively to promote yourself positively as you can negatively!
As I mentioned recently, Facebook and other social networking tools are incredibly effective means of personal communication. That has plusses and minuses, but if you want to promote the positive things about yourself, you've never had a greater opportunity to do so. Don't sanitize your profile, or worse yet, delete your profile out of fear. Rather use all of the aspects of your life to show off the unique characteristics that make you, you, and let your strengths and ambitions come to the forefront of your profile. Show us what you're made of, and why you're worth paying attention to, or working with.
Social Networking does expose the worst about people when they don't think about what they're saying, but it can also be a great tool to expose the good about yourself. Use it to do just that!
This actually goes double for you if you are, in fact, a douchebag. Go ahead and make that easier for me to find out ahead of time, m'kay? ;-)
As many of you know, I've been in DC this week, swamped with the ILTA09 conference, not just as an attendee, but also as a speaker. I was asked, many months ago, to be part of a presentation on social networking.
I've already mentioned that I thought the session went well, but wanted to write up a brief post about the basic point I tried to make there.
Social Networking is not something brand new to be scared of, it is the same behavior we've always engaged in, communicating, connecting, sharing, etc. It is, however, light years more effective than any way in which we engaged in that behavior before, and that has ramifications, both positive and negative.
On the positive side, it's never been easier to connect to people. The barriers to entry online have never been lower, it takes very little technical knowledge to create a Facebook account, for example, and that has fueled an explosion in the number of people using the internet to network with each other. There are thousands of social networks that exist online, all it really takes is finding out where the folks you want to connect are spending their time, and then getting involved!
Of course, that efficiency also means that it's never been easier to make a jackass of yourself, and have the whole world know about it. It also means that it's never been easier for other people to do things that impact how others may see you. The example I gave, you might not be stupid enough to drunk tweet, but the people you're drinking with might be that stupid and they might talk about you! Same damage done.
So, as you folks go back from the ILTA conference and try to talk to your firms about social networking, try to focus on the fact that it's not some brand new scary thing. It's networking, in a much more efficient manner, with all the benefits and risk that any networking holds!
Seems we've had a few cases of workers being asked to carry blackberry's, or use VPN to log in to work during their off hours to answer questions, (share their "knowledge" with their employers), and not getting paid for it.
First of all, how stupid do you have to be to have people "on call" who are paid hourly, and not reimburse them for time they spend responding? I know the economy makes it a bit easier to push the limits with employees who are afraid of not having a job, but you still can't ignore employment law, assuming that is what was happening in those cases.
More importantly, though, do you not recognize the blaring contradiction? I'll put it to you this way, we want you to carry a blackberry, or laptop, and be available whenever we might need to access your expertise, but we're going to pay you as if you were a factory/production worker and treat you as if you were for the 8 hours you have to be in the office.
It's the kind of situation that made Techdirt ask if it even makes sense to have hourly workers any more. I certainly understand the sentiment, but I know there are plenty of jobs where that does make some sense, but that number is dwindling. How many people do you know who go to work, produce some sort of work product for 8 hours, go home and don't have to do any sort of planning, thinking, researching, etc. when physically away from the workplace? Oh there are some, but it's fast becoming a minority. Wouldn't it make more sense to stop thinking of productivity in strict 8 hour shift terms?
Note that I am not advocating that businesses stop measuring productivity, there are myriad perfectly good reasons to measure how much work people are getting done, and how long it takes them when it comes to resource strategy. Rather, what I do advocate is to move the measurements away from "per 8 hours". That leads to all of those headlines about how social networking, email or personal phone calls cost "X" number of hours per day to business. Not really, if I spend some time on Twitter during my work day, but also login from home to accomplish some tasks that simply work better at night when the network is a little less congested, isn't that sort of a wash? If I can email my wife and make plans for an event while I'm at work, so that I have more time to read Ralph Losey's latest blog "treatise" (He does write some lengthy stuff!) in the evening, where is the business harmed? My workload isn't measured in widgets per hour, it's measured by whether I can meet all of the deadlines given to me for the work that I need to do. If I'm doing that, and more, most days, who really cares how much I tweet, or during what hours I accomplish it?
If nothing else, allowing me to decide how to prioritze my own work gives me plenty of incentive to get it done. As a salaried employee I don't make more money for taking longer, but I get rewarded by having more of my free time to myself if I get it done. That's plenty of incentive!
I have to say, there's a lot to like about this Computerworld article, Schmoozing 101: Tips for shy techies, but I really enjoyed the fact that one of the tips was to use social networking tools. I've been saying this for a long time now, as an introvert who is unlikely and just plain uncomfortable trying to track someone down on the phone or start up conversations with people I don't know at all, social networking helps bridge a lot of those gaps when it comes to networking. For example, I'm going to the ILTA09 conference, and this will be my first year there. I'll go knowing a couple of folks from my firm, and a handful of folks from the local Columbus ILTA chapter. I'll also go knowing that there's another bunch of folks I interact with on Twitter or Facebook on a regular basis too. That means I'm not going to try and talk to people I don't know, I'm going to meetup with folks I already know quite a bit about. That makes conversation so much easier!
So, the next time you're going to a networking event, start writing about your plans on Twitter or your blog, and see if you can't connect with folks ahead of time. That should make it easier on everyone once you get there!
Fourth Rule of Knowledge Workers - Blocking is Somewhat Pointless
It's been a little while since I wrote anything in this series, Part 3 was way back on June 21st, which just goes to show how time can really get away fro you! So, here's the next topic for discussion, why blocking social networking sites may just be pointless.
First, let's examine the reasons, as I see them, that many management and IT types give for blocking.
1. It's not productive, it leads to people wasting time instead of working. 2. It's dangerous, employees might leak confidential information or just say something that makes us look bad. 3. We're worried about virus and malware exploits coming from social networks, or bandwidth being unavailable for other uses.
Of these, I can see maybe half a real reason to not allow social networking sites, but even that reason is somewhat disingenuous in many cases. Let's take them one at a time.
1. People have been wasting time long before the internet, in more ways than I could possible recite in a blog post. Some people waste just a few minutes at work each day, but always manage to get their work done as needed, and some don't. If you really think the people who work for you who are not getting their work done suddenly will because they can't use Twitter, you are obviously too naive to work in management. Go do something else. Besides, as I like to say, if you have employees not doing their job, why on earth are you talking to the IT Department about that instead of HR? You have a personnel issue, not a technical one.
2. Yup, they might do something or say something they shouldn't online, just like they might do the same thing every time they pick up a phone, send an email, chat at lunch in a crowded restaurant, talk about work to friends at the ball game, etc. You have policies covering confidential information and employee conduct, those still apply in the online world, it's not any different. Instead of blocking, just remind them of existing policy, and that they apply on Facebook too.
Also, if you're blocking because you don't want employees sharing confidential information, what do you do when they go home? They're probably already using social networks, and probably have 1, 2, maybe 15 profiles, all done on their own time with their own internet access, and you have to go home to see what they might be saying. That makes no sense.
Besides, if you're going with reasons 1 and/or 2 as to why you block social networking sites, any employee with an iPhone or any other sort of mobile phone with internet access gets around you in a heartbeat. So much for being protected from the evils of social networks!
Finally, number 3. I do actually see some rational thought going on here. Social networks do come with certain types of malware dangers, mostly due to their social nature. It's maybe a bit easier to trust a link from a Facebook friend, for example, and the malware guys seem to be catching on to that. At the same time, though, you have very similar dangers in email, and in many, many other websites. For example, I once witnessed a nice little piece of drive-by malware trying to load on my machine from a banner ad on a Major League Baseball site. Not a site that many people bother blocking, but also not really one that was related to my work. So, while you might eliminate a risk or two by blocking social networks, it won't make you safe by any means. You'd be far, far better off investing your resources in solutions that will help eliminate all risks of malware coming in to the PC, and being passed on to the network, regardless of source. There's always a new source, eventually you end up blocking everything. :)
Also, a note about bandwidth, also something I think there is some reason to be concerned about. Again, blocking social networking might free up some minor bandwidth, but singling out social networks as a source of bandwidth "waste" might also be a bit off base. We've already talked about the fact that there are many professional and career benefits in connecting with people in your industry, online or off. So, if you are blocking it for fear of bandwidth shortages, you'd better make sure social networking is less valuable than every other thing you allow to use bandwidth. That goes double for all you bosses that like to stream some music while you work.
To me you really have two choices. You can block all this social networking junk, and just hope that all of your employees who are using it anyway don't do anything stupid. That's a tad ostrich-like for me, personally. Or, you can engage in social networking right alongside your employees, encouraging them to connect with professional and educational resources, reminding them that the online world is just an extension of the world in which we all live and work, and therefore the same rules apply, and showing them that not only are you the boss, but you're also a real live human being with a real family, hobbies, and maybe even a sense of humor.
Of course, that might come as quite the shock to many of them, so do be careful!
Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend some time with a small group of folks from my office explaining and demonstrating social networking tools. As part of the demonstration, I went live to my Twitter and Facebook profiles, which was actually a little nerve-wracking. I follow a lot of people on Twitter, some of whom don't always come across as very professional in their interactions. :)
As it turns out though, there wasn't much that the folks I follow were saying that was worth worrying about, but it was interesting when I had the screen up and the following conversation took place:
Coworker: "You know that person?" Me: "I know him online, don't think we've ever met, but we travel in some of the same Columbus area tech circles" Coworker: "I was at his wedding" Me: " You know him much better than I do then." :)
That made me think, one, it's obviously a small world, but also, isn't that the power of networking, whether offline or online? You never know who you're going to connect with, and you never know who they're already connected to!
Third Rule of Knowledge Workers: It's your Career!
Last week, in the second rule, I talked about how, when management is pushing for you to account for every minute of those 40 hours a week, it's tempting to give them exactly that, and nothing more. The third rule could also be called, why you shouldn't do that!
No matter what your employer does, and the end of the day, it's your career, not theirs. There may have been a day, though I kind of doubt it, when you could work somewhere and expect that they would give you whatever training you need, or look out for new opportunities for you, and make the right connections for you, but if you're waiting around for management to do that for you now, you're going to be severely disappointed!
Don't wait for your boss to come tell you when you can go to training, who you should be mentored by, or what opportunities might be available to you. Use whatever tools you have at your disposal to do it for yourself! Get connected to people in your field whenever possible, sign up for free webinars, follow them on twitter, go to local events whenever possible, get involved on LinkedIn, get involved with the people you already know, find out who they know, ask about people who might be able to help you, etc. Heck, read some books for that matter!
Yes, it's true that you'll be spending some of your non-work time working on your career. Boo freakin hoo! It's your career, if you can't be bothered to spend some time working on it, and getting the career you want, and deserve, then you'll end up with the career your employer wants you to have. What they want you to have is completely based on what benefits them, not your plans. (Though a good employer will try and consider both what benefits them, and what will keep you there, not all employers are that good. Most, I would guess, are not.)
A good knowledge worker doesn't check out at 5PM and quit working on bettering themselves and their career. They know that learning and networking are valuable enough tools for their career that they'll make time for it, even if their boss doesn't recognize it as "work".
When I read the post What if the Apple Store billed by the hour, I thought to myself, not only is this a good example of the problem with billable hour requirements, but to a lesser extent it's also a good example of how tracking employees every second and using that to measure productivity can be detrimental, the stuff I talked about earlier this week.
Jay describes his experience of going to the Apple store to get a new screen protector for his iPhone, having one sales guy notice that he was picking up the incorrect protector, then take him to someone who could check him out, who happened to know that someone else in the store was very good at getting those little buggers placed down on the screen correctly, who did, in fact get his placed down much better than he probably could have. He then goes on to describe how, if these folks had billable hour requirements, they never would have spent that much time helping him on such a small purchase.
The same could be said for people working in a tight "productivity" environment. Even if you would give them credit for all the time spent helping a customer as part of their "productivity", I can't help but wonder if, for example, anyone would know about the last person's skill with screen protectors. Doesn't knowing other teams members skills and applying that to the work at hand require your team to interact with one another socially? They have to know one another, they have to be available to help out a coworker on a project that might not be theirs, and they have to pay attention to the customer, which means listening, instead of hurrying up the transaction in order to speed along to the next transaction in the interest of keeping the numbers up! I've worked in places where it would have been all too easy for the first person to move along to the next customer when Jay said he didn't need help, letting him walk out with the incorrect part, and it would have been all too easy for the second to check him out and move on, never thinking about the fact that he might need help getting that protector placed properly. Maybe the effort didn't show in their sales or productivity reports, (After all it took 3 of them to sell a lousy screen protector!) but they served the customer well. Wouldn't you rather have employees capable of that instead of employees who can make reports look good?
There are some good recommendations in this article about privacy settings you can use to keep your less than professional friends from messing up your more professional appearance in this article. For myself, a few of them go a little too far, and might raise the suspicion that you have something to hide to those who would have such limited access to your profile, but then again, I don't tend to have hundreds of contacts who would do the sorts of things I would want to hide from view in such a public space. You might. :)
Personally, since I know I'm dealing with a smaller group of people, and people I generally trust, I depend more on the ability to remove things others add to my Wall, or photos they might tag of me. It's relatively easy for me to keep up with, there's not a lot. If I were a younger person with lots of college friends, for example, I might take more of the advice in the article. Still, it's good to be aware of what privacy steps you can take, if you feel the need to!
Second Rule of Knowledge Workers: The 40 Hour Illusion
In the first post in this series, we talked about how the line between our professional lives, and our personal lives, have really been forever blurred. Today, I want to expound on that to talk to employers about why it might be less efficient to hold employees to the 40 hour demand.
Now, when I say that, I do not mean you don't expect them to work a 40 hour work week, nor am I advocating any radical change in the work schedule of knowledge workers. There may be a case to be made for that in many industries, but I am not smart enough to make it, and it's not the purpose of this post.
No, what I'm talking about is what I came very close to titling the post, if you have a strict 40 hour enforcement, that may be exactly what you get, 40 hours, and nothing more.
One of the most common complaints about social networking from management types, and from all of those "studies" that purport to tell us how much money we're stealing from our employers when we are online, is that any time not spent "producing" is a loss to the business. What an absolute crock. Yet, I've noticed an increase in the number of salaried workers I know who are clocking in and out electronically. Someone in HR, or further up the chain, got the bright idea that they could keep track of employee's productivity by making them "check-in" at the start of each day, and "check-out" at the end, as if a knowledge worker simply stopped thinking about their work the second they hit that out button.
Let's go with a very simple example from my own life. I use Google Reader currently, and subscribe to about 250 feeds. Most are of the tech and e-discovery variety, but some that are about photography, or the news, even a few sports ones. When I open up Google Reader at work, I don't really make any effort to distinguish between which ones are considered work, and which one's aren't. The same holds true when I open Google Reader at home in the evening, or on weekends. Am I wasting my employers time by reading non-work feeds at work? Probably, but you could also make the case then that I'm giving them free time when I read an article on e-discovery when I'm home.
Now, let's say I'm a typical employee who's being asked to check-in and check-out to track my work time down to the minute each and every day, and let's face it, those of you who work in law firms probably get this more than most, with billable hour requirements and all. When I'm outside the office, and "off the clock", I'm not getting any credit for anything I read at home. I'm not getting any credit for outlining a work article I'm going to write in my head while driving or showering, and I might just start to resent that. Eventually, I'm going to stop doing those things completely. (In a future post I will go in to why you shouldn't, no matter how much you resent it, but let's all agree that the temptation would certainly be there.) Is that any way to motivate good employees? Don't you want people who are willing to read a book or article, listen to a podcast, connect with experts on social networking sites, etc. in an effort to improve themselves, even if they do it on their time? Or do you want to protect your precious 40 hours of work each week and make sure that if they are using social networks, it's only for personal use and not related to their careers at all?
Which brings us to another point about the supposed lost productivity. Is it really lost? Do you have people who are not getting work done, and it just never gets done? Really? Is it more likely that the same people who are getting their work done more efficiently and in less time than others, are the same people who are honing their skills and improving themselves in their off hours? So not only does learning some techniques that increase my productivity by reading some good material at home not get me any work credit, but then I'm also dinged on the other end of the equation as well, by having the audacity to want to read something personal while I'm sitting at my desk with all my work caught up. That's a great way to measure how good someone is at their job, purely by the hours spent doing it. The employees you have who struggle to get anything done, and take twice as long to complete a task, are doing great according to this theory, since they aren't stealing any of your 40 hours with other things, are they? Nope, they give you the full 40 hours of work, and that's all you ever get out of them. Those other folks, the ones who managed to improve themselves? They've moved on to a place that knows how to appreciate people who take their careers seriously.
You won't even miss them, and their time-wasting, until they're gone.
There was a time when everyone put in an honest days labor, and earned an honest days wage. In most cases this meant spending the day in the factory, in the fields, or involved in some other physical labor, and it made sense. The longer you could harvest crops, or weld steel, the more physical work you accomplished and the more you should get paid for that work.
As we moved away from that sort of industrial economy an toward a more service economy, however, those same valuations may or may not make very much sense. Sure, these same ideas make perfect sense in a production environment, but for knowledge workers, I'm not sure they do.
In this series of blog posts, I want to look at a number of areas where labor management practices, by refusing to view the resource of labor as having fundamentally changed, are mishandling their employees. At the same time, I want to recognize that individuals, by misreading these sea changes, are mishandling their own careers, waiting for someone to tell them what to do, instead of taking charge for themselves.
As I do this, I do want you to note that I'm hardly an HR or labor expert. Rather, I'm just one guy who happens to work in a knowledge industry, and who has been trying to keep himself on the cutting edge of technology and see where the world is headed. Over the years, it's become clear to me that while things are changing in the work world, not everyone is adapting well.
Also, before we get started in this discussion, many of the examples I will give are composite examples of stories I've experienced or heard from others. Any similarities to people, or employers, is pure coincidence.
As I post different ideas in this series, I will come back and update this post with links, so that this will become the "home" post in this series. With that said, let's get right into the rules!
The article itself really doesn't shed much light on why, it just throws out some numbers about the number of IT departments that block them, etc. The comments, on the other hand, are a treasure trove of why people hate their IT departments.
A sampling (with my comments in bold):
Social networking needs to be banned in the business environment. -Because connecting with other people serves no business purpose, right?
I am always amazed how many supposedly employed people have so much time to spend on these distractions. - And IT's role in that situation is.....?Again, if people (stress PEOPLE) are wasting time and not getting their job done, that is not a technology problem!And that's assuming they are wasting time, maybe they're discussing a great idea and how it was implemented at another organization, or following an expert in their field and learning how to be more efficent. Do your server logs tell you this?
Facebook and Twitter and the likes should be banned at work. You are paid to work not play.- And interacting with peers in your field couldn't possibly be work if it's happening online, right?
And my favorite, when someone pointed out the irony of people commenting on a blog about other people wasting time with social networking:
Well played. I justify my participation as professional interaction, at least when I'm responding to the professional topics.That said, I don't see a use for social apps outside those departments that work directly with the public or customers - Marketing, customer and shareholder relations, HR. - His wording implies that it's not always just professional topics that he replies to, but even so, he works in IT, his interactions online are professional even though they aren't with customers, yours are not, period! The high holy IT Director has spoken!
I'm contemplating putting together a series of posts over the next few days/weeks fully exploring the ideas of social networking, personal and professional time, productivity, etc. I've hinted at a number of my own ideas, and I think maybe it's time to put them in a manifesto, so to speak, about how I view the knowledge workers role in a wired business world, and how I think management should view it. I realize that my comments in this and other recent posts hint at a worldview that I may not have ever fully explained, or even thought out completely to myself. Now that I am a manager, albeit a very low level one, I want to do that. You'll get to be the sounding board. :)
On the e-discovery 2.0 blog yesterday at least, he gets what I've been saying about social media in regards to legal risks, there's not much that's new here:
There’s talk of intellectual property being cast out, irrevocably, onto the Internet for all to see. Or slanderous things being uttered for which your company may be held liable. But, hold on a second: is there really anything new here? Anyone heard of e-mail? Web pages? Peer-to-peer? Google? Instant messaging?
I'd actually go further, anyone heard of the telephone, or face to face conversations in public places? (Not to mention cell phone conversations on a commuter train, *cough*)
Any time one of the people who work for your organization is talking to someone outside of the organization, there's a risk they'll say something they shouldn't about their workplace, and yet we still actually let them do it! Shocking!
I don't know how business has survived this long, surely it's time to start requiring your workforce to live in company camps and only interact with coworkers, isn't it? I mean if you let them go out to dinner, or to a ball game, you have no idea who they might be sitting next to and who they might strike up a conversation with. Surely you can't risk them complaining about their job, or leaking confidential information, can you? These communications must be blocked! Or at the very least we should have strongly worded and specific policies regarding any and all such possibilities. Just giving employees general guidelines that apply to all such situations can't possibly be enough. We need a new policy for every new possibility!
Why Most Speeches Suck, and Why It's not Hard to Stand Out
Chris Elliott talks about the reason most speeches suck on his Toastmasters blog. It's because most people go in with the wrong intentions:
As you are speaking, you are not there to make money, sell a product, or make a name for yourself. You are there to improve the lives of the audience. Making money, making a name for yourself, and winning contests is an outcome of improving the lives of the people you speak to. When people see how you change the lives of others, they will gladly pay you for your time.
It reminded me very much of the Ignite presentation I did about networking for introverts. (You can see the admittedly low-quality video of that here.) My point there, of course, was that all it really takes to stand out among the people in your network is being willing to listen, and help, because so few people actually bother to do that. You don't even have to be all that great at it, just by putting in effort you'll be better than most people, because they won't.
Speaking is the same way. So many speakers go in trying to sell something, or make themselves look good, when the best way to influence an audience is to show them how the information you're giving them is going to make their lives better. I've seen far too many speakers who are there to do the dog and pony show, but don't really think about what their audience wants. If you can go in and show an interest in actually helping the people listening to you, you'll stand out!
One of the interesting things that struck me was how much the current state of the economy, especially in the legal sector, seems to be having the same effect on people as an angry boss does, namely, that it pushes otherwise brilliant people into making rash decisions about their careers. One of the biggest warnings about deal with an angry boss that Mike and Mark give is to not let yourself make career decisions because of your current boss. Not that you won't still decide to leave your current position, but that you don't rush into it just to escape the bad boss and wind up hurting your career long term.
I see the same thing going on with the economy right now. All the stories of law firm layoffs have people scared, and people who are scared don't make good decisions. They stay at safe jobs rather than moving forward and taking advantage of opportunities, they don't take on new assignments at work for fear of failing, they try to "lay low" and keep out of the spotlight so the layoffs will pass over them, etc.
I've got news for you, you can't lay low enough, and you can't really control if your firm is going to be going through layoffs. The only thing you can do, is excel and keep moving forward. As Douglas Welch recently wrote, it's "Time to turn off the news, and get something done". Stop spending all your time and energy worrying about the economy. The economy is going to do what the economy does, whether you worry about it or not, how much better spent could that time and energy be? Wouldn't you be better off spending less time worrying, and more time working with new people, creating new things, finding ways to be a benefit to your organization?
The economy is bad, I'm not going to lie, but it won't always be. When it's roaring along again, will you look back on this time of your life as wasted, or as the time you sought out and took advantage of the opportunities that are always brought about by change? Is your organization now finding itself short staffed in some key areas where you could reach outside of your normal silo and get things done in new, innovative, ways? Are there folks around you with ideas that need a little help to get off the ground that you can provide? Can you take on new leadership roles where there is suddenly a leadership vacuum?
This moment that you are living as you read this, will never come again. This day, week, and year will only come once. Will they be wasted while you lay low and hope for the best, or will you continue to do the best things for yourself, and your career?
Douglas Welch is planning an online version of the UnConference, calling it CareerCamp:
What is CareerCamp Online?
CareerCamp Online is an unconference in the style of BarCamp, PodCamp and other “camp-like” unconferences. All attendees are highly encouraged to also give a presentation and, at the very least, participate in the conversation.
CareerCamp Online seeks to provide the best and most current career information possible , especially in light of the economic downturn and the large number of layoffs.
Since career problems effect everyone regardless of geographic boundaries, I decided to opt for an online version of CareerCamp so that as many people as possible could participate. When is CareerCamp Online?
CareerCamp Online is tentatively scheduled for February 21-March1.
I decided on a week-long camp to give everyone a possibility to participate, although I hope the conversation will continue long after the official end of the camp.
Sounds like an interesting concept, and should have some useful information if I know Douglas at all!
I recently finished reading Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and it has been sparking a few thoughts that I want to turn into blog posts. The first one I've already written elsewhere, but this one is a perfect fit for this blog, because I've often talked about burnout as it relates to helpdesk work, and some of Gladwell's ideas and study have challenged my ideas.
One section of the book deals with the cultural differences between Western agricultural traditions, and rice paddy agriculture traditions, and how those traditions have been carried over into the educational theories. In typical corn/wheat agriculture, of course, you don't grow on the soil every year. you allow, every few years, the soil to rest and recover it's minerals. That's how it stays fertile. In the rice paddies, however, the soil actually become more fertile the more you grow on it.
Late 19th and early 20th century American educators wrote at great length about similar concepts when it came to teaching children. You wanted to make sure they got a break from the work, so that their minds could rest and be more fertile for learning when they came back from their breaks. (Hence the reason we have such a long Summer vacation compared to other countries.) Asian education has no such accommodations. You learn, and continue to learn as much as you possibly can. You work at things continuously because, like rice farming, the more work you put into it, the more rice you get out of it.
That got me thinking about the idea of job burn out. It's pretty commonly accepted knowledge that we all need a break every now and then, to do something different, to "blow off steam", or risk getting burned out, like soil that has been over farmed. I still stand by my theory that 95%, if not more, of the people who work in help desk environments will show significant signs of burn out within 3-5 years. It's the nature of the work, because it never ends, and it never changes a whole lot.
So, the question is, does burn out happen because we've been culturally trained that there is such a thing as burnout if you work too hard for too long at a task? And if so, can it be overcome by unlearning that tradition?
Or is it the case, which I tend to think is more likely, that Americans suffer burn out at their jobs more often because their jobs aren't meaningful? It's relatively easy to work harder at rice farming, because working harder increases the yield of your rice and increases your wealth. You don't suffer from burn out when there's a direct connection between working hard, and being successful. Does your job have that sort of connection and meaning?
More to the point, does working at a help desk provide meaningful work for most people who do it? I'd guess not. For most, it's a stepping stone to something else, and after 3-5 years, if you've not "stepped" up to something else, or if there's nothing else to step into, it loses it's meaning. Work without meaning leads to burn out.
Over the years I've worked with technology, I've listened to many, many complaints about the technological tools that folks are using in their work. Everything from poor interfaces, slow response times, and various limitations of the tools.
One of the more interesting ones I've seen though, are the folks who get bad data from a tool, and blame the tool. I.e., your firm's contact database lists the wrong information for someone, and after you tried to use that information and found the error, you blame the contact management system, as opposed to the user who entered the wrong information.
I used to work for a membership organization, so maybe I've become a little more sensitive to it than most, but I really don't know why users turn against a tool, when it's the user's entering bad information that causes the problems. (Garbage in, garbage out, anyone?) I've had to listen to users complain about outdated information not being updated, information not being in a database because no one ever actually collected it, or errors in their own searches, and in each of those cases, their suggested "fix" was to get a new database system. As if that would somehow magically make everyone collect, track, and update correct information when they never have before?
That being said, if you work in IT supporting one of these tools, your life is going to be so much better if the information in it isn't actually garbage. If it is, your users will turn on the technology, and possibly even you. If the information is good, they will like the tool, and by extension, be very happy with you.
Obviously, the more people entering data, the less control you have over it, but what can you be doing to help make sure your tool is still full of useful information? What training can you do to help users pay closer attention to what they're entering? What information might you want them to collect that is going to be helpful to various departments? What kinds of random "checks" can you put in place to find trends that may cause a problem down the road?
You may not feel like that's your job, and you'd be right. It is the responsibility of each user inputting data to make sure it's complete and correct, but when everyone in the organization quits using the tool that you're paid to develop and support, where's that going to leave you? Get out in front of problems before your tool turns into an albatross around your IT department's neck.
Now, to be fair, I've seen this sort of thing play out at places outside of law firms as well. You have someone who's very good at their job, getting that job done properly is very important to you, so you want to do everything you can to keep them in that job. Unfortunately, that sometimes includes blocking their ability to advance, possibly into other areas that they are more interested in. Certainly, there are plenty of legal secretaries who would rather work in IT, or legal marketing, etc. but are good secretaries with partners who depend on them. That may mean the only way to advance their career is to leave the firm, which hurts the firm at the end of the day.
In another organization where I worked in the distant past, we actually had something similar, but every so slightly different. We called it being promoted to the level of your incompetence. Typically, if you were good at a specific job, they wanted you to stay there. But if you weren't very good, you'd be more likely to get promoted, and pushed out of the way of people actually getting the work done. Naturally, the more incompetent you were, the higher up the org chart you had to move in order to be out of the way of the day-to-day operations.
Obviously, this is somewhat exaggerated, but it's easy to imagine this sort of thing going on when you are constantly told how good you are at your job, but find every attempt to advance out of that job to be fruitless, especially when, as the article says, someone half-jokingly refers to blocking your attempts to leave because you are good at it!
This is really one area that shows how short-sighted people are. How much good does it do your law firm, or other organization, to try and keep someone in a job they are very good at, but ultimately not happy staying in? If you've got people looking for new challenges and different career paths, they are going to leave if they don't find them within their current place of employment. So, while blocking them may keep them in that job you depend on them to do for a little while, they'll be completely gone soon enough, and you'll be the one looking to bring in new people, and hoping they are as competent as the person you just lost.
Maybe you'd do well to have enough of a relationship with the people who work for you to know where they want to go with their careers, and help them get there?
I had a random thought today while I was processing some e-discovery documents. I stumbled upon a resume, and noticed that the author name didn't match the name on the resume. That got me thinking.
Now, certainly there are plenty of reasons why the author name would not match the name on the resume, things like borrowing a computer, having a shared computer at home, or simply having someone else type it up for you. But still, I wondered if any hiring managers out there have ever looked at the metadata of a resume, and whether that influenced how they felt about that resume.
As the hiring manager, how would you feel about a resume with an author that's a resume writing service? Would that make you question how much you're reading the thoughts of the candidate or the words of someone else?
Or, what else could the metadata tell you? What if the author is listed as the company they currently work for? What if the edit/save information showed they were working on this document on that work PC during work hours? How would that change your thinking on a candidate, or should it? Heck for that matter, how would you feel about someone sending you a resume from their work email address during work?
Of course, speaking of email, just like you shouldn't have a questionable email address, like hotmama98@hotmail, you probably don't want to write your resume signed on as Weedsmoker, or something similar. That just might show up in the author field, and well, what are people going to think of you?
Then again, maybe most managers and HR people never even take any of this into consideration. I think I would if it was me. If Googling people is part of due diligence now days, why wouldn't something like checking out the metadata of an electronic document? Never know what it will tell you. (Especially if someone was silly enough to use track changes...)
So, anyone want to start sending resumes as PDF's? :)
This holiday weekend has been a little eye-opening for me in terms of how networking works. As I mentioned when I presented at Ignite a few weeks ago, you want to grow a network because asking people you don't really know to help you can be awkward, at best. Far better to have a network of folks who you know well, and have given of yourself to, before you have to ask for help.
Over the past few days, though, simply getting out, meeting people, and having a group of people you are connected with through various means has paid benefits that I really didn't expect. My wife hooked me up with a ticket to the Ohio State hockey game, where I ran into an old friend who was using his company's luxury suite, and had me up there to hang out and eat and drink.I even got to meet a few new people while I was up there, bonus!
On top of that, I was able to get a great deal on a Nikon D70 through an on-line friend who was looking to sell his, and now my wife and I can both have a Nikon model to use that we're both more comfortable using. :)
Like I said, none of this was expected, none of this was planned, but it all came about simply because I know people, and through these connections, opportunities came about.
If you're not connecting with people, who knows what opportunities, professional or personal, you're missing out on?
So, after working onsite at a day long seminar, and watching numerous people give presentations, I have some thoughts naturally. :)
If you are presenting using a lapel microphone, let's try and put that sucker in the middle of your jacket, or even on your tie guys, ok? If you put it on the outside part of your lapel, the side furthest from the center of the jacket, and then turn your head in the opposite direction to speak to that side of the room, the microphone doesn't pick up much. Of course, when you turn your head back to speak to this side of the room, it picks up REAL well!
Speaking of lapel mics, don't drop your head and speak directly into the microphone when doing a sound check. Speak with your head the same way you will when you're presenting. If you speak directly into it, the levels will be set for that, not for how you actually speak to the audience.
If you are speaking and the screen(s) are in the opposite direction as the audience, know your presentation well enough to not have to turn around and look at it too often. (Especially if you have a lapel mic to one side of your jacket, and the slides are projected on the opposite side!)
Lastly, if the slides are being projected on two screens, one on each side of the room, walking over to one of them and using a laser pointer to highlight something on your slides works great, for half the room.
What tips do you have for presenters? Please share....
Let me just say, up front, that I'm not a marketing guy. I don't work in marketing, and I don't particularly like the way many places go about marketing.
That being said, I know quite a few people who do work in marketing, and I'm always interested in how people in the legal industry market themselves, so I do occasionally come upon some legal marketing stuff online and take a look. Today was one of those times. A post by Steve Matthews over at Stem's Law Firm Web Strategy.
Now Steve was responding to Matt Homann's 10 New Rules for Legal Marketing and one of Matt's "rules" caught my eye, not so much because of the law firm marketing aspect, but because it applies to many other areas, including marketing your own career.
9. Your future clients have been living their entire lives online and will expect the same from you. If you’re invisible on the web, you won’t exist to them.
This idea struck me, as i said, because it applies to some areas of our careers now, and will continue to become more and more true in the future. As more and more hiring managers and HR people are comfortable living their lives online, they'll be looking for information about you online and will be making assumptions about you based on what they find, or don't find as may be the case. If you work in a cutting edge field, or especially if you want to work in PR, communications, marketing, etc., you'd better be using the available resources to market yourself, not only to the HR people who may Google you after getting your resume, but also as a way to connect to the people who know those HR people!
Now, outside of Silicon Valley, I have my doubts that the majority of hiring decisions include much searching online, but a significant amount of them do, and that number is only going to go up as the generation that has always used Facebook, Twitter, etc. grows into the business world and simply expects to be able to find out what they want to know about you online.
That also points out how important it is to remember that the Web is a public medium, and that you need to present yourself in the best way possible. In short, you need to use the tools we have that enable us to communicate to the world, to sell yourself. It's true for social networking, dating sites, blogging, and it's true for professional networking as well.
Simply put, the headline of this post from Gabe's Guide to the E-Discovery Universe describes exactly what you should expect if you are party to a lawsuit at work, and use your home PC to access work information. News Flash: Yes, your home computer may not be safe from your job’s legal issues
This is yet another area where the line between work-life and home-life is a blurry mess. This crosses over in to all sorts of different areas, business risks, work-life balance, employee expectations, etc. Technology has really changed the way we work, and eliminated the idea for many of us, that we go home at 5 and that's it.
Interestingly enough, on the flight to Kansas City for my wife's cousin's wedding this past weekend, I was reading an article in the online magazine for Northwest Airlines about Best Buy's corporate headquarters ROWE approach. ROWE stands for Results Only Work Environment and is based on the book Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It. The basic idea is that there are no schedules. If you want to go to a movie or grocery shopping in the middle of the day, or don't want to start your work day until 2PM, then so be it. So long as the work you're assigned gets done, you get your results, no one cares how you get it done.
Now, obviously, this wouldn't work everywhere. If you have customers that expect you to be available during certain hours, you kind of have to be, but how many of us work in places that expect us to be in our seats "working" for certain hours during each day regardless of how much work there actually is to do at that point, and then expect overtime during the "rush" times?
In other words, how much less would your Litigation Support staff suffer burn out if they had the freedom to schedule their lives around the workload, as opposed to having to be in the office, sitting at a desk, twiddling their thumbs until 5 every day, only to then have to put in 12-16 hour days when there is a ridiculous workload and deadlines? How much better could their quality of life be if they could leave the office for a few hours in the middle of a slower day and get some errands done?
To look at it a different way, why does your IT staff invest in technology that allows people to access network resources from anywhere, and then you expect them to make sure they spend their 40 hours in the office? Because you want them to be able to work after hours, right? What do you offer in return? That may be why your workplace sucks.
The guys over at Manager Tools Podcast sent out an email today, and I wanted to share the details with everyone. Given the current turmoil in the economy, these guys are coming up with an interesting, and generous, way to help out:
In light of the recent market turmoil, we want to share our Layoff Immunization and Getting Fired shownotes and slides with everyone. While this is premium content, this is one of those times where generosity is called for.
We’ve included notes and slides from two shows: The Layoff Immunization show, and Getting Laid Off - Part 1 - Finances Rule. (Lest you think we’re holding back parts 2+, they’re not published yet).
Please find the files below.
If you’re not affected, great. If you know someone who is worried about their future, share these documents with them freely, with our complements and best wishes.
Being a manager means caring for others. It’s a privilege to serve you all.
Not only is Manager Tools a great podcast, but Mike and Mark are great guys all the way around. Can't say enough about the information they are giving out for free on their podcast, and this is just a small part of it.
On an E-Discovery webinar today, Browning Marean of DLA Piper was talking about the duty of attorneys to be competent to some degree with the technology they were dealing with, when he said the following:
"One way to get competent is to associate yourself with people who are competent."
Now he was referring to vendors, technologists and other experts in the field that they could learn from, or lean on when they need some form of expertise, and I couldn't agree more.
More than that, I'd say this little bit of advice works for just about any professional field or interest you may have! If you need to get competent with something, anything, find someone who already is and learn from them. On-line social networking simply allows us to do that sort of thing on a much wider scale. Now, if I have a question about something, instead of making a couple of phone calls, or asking someone I work with if they might know someone, etc. I can post my query to Twitter, which shows up on my blog, and on my Facebook, and a number of places that I don't even keep track of anymore.
That's a few hundred people, in my case, who I can ask a question of with just a little bit of typing.
I haven't even talked about the benefits of interacting with all these folks and seeing their expertise at work, learning as I go just by reading the things they post about, or being connected to people in locations, and professions, that I might need some information about, etc.
Again, take all that stuff you learned about networking from business school, or law school etc. All that information about the benefits of having an active network, of the sharing of information and contacts. Now realize that social networking tools allow anyone to do that sort of thing, with a much larger reach, even if they are somewhat shy or otherwise socially awkward.
Imagine all the things you can "get competent" at with these tools? Why aren't you?
Jenn Steele, who writes a blog dedicated to discussing how to manage the IT department called Leading Geeks, has an interesting post today, On Attitude.
I find that geeks easily fall into sub-optimal attitudes, which usually fall into two categories. The first is what I call the "stupid user" category, where they develop the attitude that anyone who doesn't work in their department or on computers is too stupid to function. The other I call the "end of the world" category, where they develop a Chicken Little attitude about anything that goes wrong.
I know every one of you reading this has seen both of these, and probably suffered from them at times.
She goes one later in the post:
In my work environments, I watch for these attitudes and actively discourage them for several reasons. First, I really want to create a service organization inside my law firm. Second, it's just more fun to work around positive people. Finally, I want better work product from my geeks, and, since they're not attorneys, a positive attitude leads to better working results.
I find myself in agreement with what Jenn says, in theory. In practice, I wonder how many IT Departments don't have issues with bad attitudes?
Look, the Nick Burns SNL skits were funny because everyone who watched the show knew someone just like that. Yes, it's an exaggeration for comedy's sake, but it's funny because there's an inkling of truth to it. Not only that, but I'd hazard a guess that most people not only knew someone like that, they also expected to be treated like that by their IT support people. That's why people hate to call tech support! (I know, I'm one of those people who hates calling tech support!)
On the other hand, sometimes users actually do stupid things, and as a geek, you have to deal with those occurrences, every single day, one after the other. That's mind-numbing, and after a few years of this, it is really, really difficult to not fall into that attitude. It's especially difficult when that attitude is already present within the department when you get there. That, to me, is a large reason you have to stay diligent and look out for this attitude, because I don't think, once it's taken hold and been allowed to fester, you can ever get rid of it. (Barring a complete departmental overhaul, which is never good.)
So the question is, we know this attitude leads to poorer performance from your IT folks, we know it leads to disintegrating relationships between It and the rest of the organization, and we know that negative attitudes about the workplace lead to high turnover, so what do you do to prevent it? How do you recognize, and root out, poor attitudes BEFORE they become engrained to the job? On the flip side, what do you give your tech support staff to keep them happy, productive and on good terms with their users?
Personally, I'm not a manager, so I don't have answers. I'm betting some of you, who do manage IT people, have some ideas though. :)
And I'll be keeping an eye on Jenn's blog for more information on how she does it as well.
Adrian Lurssen was "kind" enough to tag me for the Five Blogs and Five Blawgers meme. The basic idea is that you suggested five non-legal blogs, and then tag five blawgers to do the same.
I'm going to cheat a little though. After a quick review of Steve Matthews roundup of people who have already responded, I don't know if I can come up with 5 Blawgers to tag who haven't already done this, so I'm skipping that. ;)
Of course, my relative lack of experience in the legal blogging community hinders me there, but it's those years of working in IT, and being part of the tech blogosphere that inspires me to share some of what I know of non-legal blogs. So, without further blathering, here you go.
In no specific order:
1. Career Opportunities - Douglas Welch has taken his weekly column about "High Tech Career Advice" and turned it into one of the best blogs, and podcasts, about managing your career that you will find anywhere. He brings a wealth of experience as a free-lance IT consultant and shares his insights into your career.
2. Download Squad - More information about available utilities and other software that will make your computing life easier than you can shake a stick at.
4. Security Monkey - The content may be a little on the tech/geek side for some of you, but the fascinating stories will keep you coming back, and in the process you'll find yourself picking up little bits and pieces and maybe just understanding computer forensics a little bit, which isn't a bad thing for someone in the legal industry, is it?
5. MS Outlook for Business - You work in the legal field, you use Outlook all day, every day, you should learn more about it. This is a good place to start!
There are plenty more good ones that I could list, but the meme called for 5, so I'll stick to that. On the other hand, maybe I should do something like this on a regular basis? After all, I didn't even get into Photography, Sports, or Child Abuse awareness and advocacy, and I follow a few blogs in those areas too. ;)
A couple of interesting links that came to me from newsletters today.
first, in one of the Technolawyer newsletters, sample E-Discovery Documents from Applied Discovery. There are a handful of samples available, with a few extra available if you register with the site. If you are just starting out with e-discovery and want an idea of what questions to ask about backup tapes, or a good chain of custody log, this wouldn't be a bad place to start.
Secondly, from the September ALSP newsletter, Career Building Through Effective Networking, which if you've been reading here for very long, you know I how important I think this idea is. I like Don's ideas, including being involved not just in person, but on-line with social networking, blogs, and user groups. Some excellent advice.
Just goes to show, even with blogs and RSS feeds dominating my information flow, there's still some good stuff floating around in email newsletters too!
My lunch hour today wasn't anything overly special. I met up with a peer from another firm, to chat and share some information. I had emailed her last week after my unexpected trip forced me to miss the most recent ILTA Litigation Technology Peer Group meeting, because the topic, Trial Technology, was one I had some interest in, and I wondered if she picked up anything useful.
Like I said, nothing really earth-shattering there, but it made me think about how many people approach groups like this one. Seems like there's a small core group, myself included, that is generally there each month, is involved in doing things like the RSS presentation I did a while back, and just know each other pretty well. Then there's a larger group, folks who show up occasionally, depending on the discussion topic. Folks who see the meeting invitation and make their decision to go based on what they might learn from the speaker alone.
There's nothing really wrong with that per se, certainly we're all busy and need to try to use our time wisely. On the other hand, if I was approaching the meetings like that, I wouldn't have developed relationships that allowed me to learn about things that I missed, and I wouldn't have the contacts that I do know. I would have to just accept that I missed an opportunity to learn something last week and done nothing about it, but because I had invested the time in this group, I had another option.
If you have the opportunity to be involved in a group like this, I highly encourage you invest the time. You never know when a contact will help you out the way CB (Not using her name, since she doesn't even know I'm writing this!) helped me out today. Thanks!
That's the question being asked in the latest Vista News newsletter. After recounting some of the horror stories of people losing their job because they, apparently, didn't understand the public nature of social networking sites, Deb Shinder does explain how having a professional profile and connecting with smart people in your field can be very helpful to your career.
On the other hand, I do disagree with this statement:
First, then, you should be careful about which sites you join. MySpace and FaceBook are seen by many employers as the equivalent of online singles bars or at best, somewhat juvenile past times. Please don't write to tell me how wrong this perception is, because when it comes to the impact on your job, it really doesn't matter whether the perception is accurate or not if your boss (or your boss's bosses) see it that way. If you want to be seen as a professional, you're probably better off joining more business-oriented networking sites such as LinkedIn, and/or those that are specific to your occupation or industry.
Wrong. You should have a professional presence anywhere you are likely to encounter people who can be helpful to your career. If that happens to be a Facebook group for Litigation Support professionals, then so be it. Just because a site has a reputation for being "somewhat juvenile" doesn't mean that everyone on it is, and it certainly doesn't mean you can't have your own, professional, presence there. As a blogger, and a professional, I keep Facebook and MySpace profiles so that people there can keep updated on my writing and on me on whatever social networking site they choose to be involved with. I don't spend very much time interacting with either site (none during work, as they're blocked anyway), but it never hurts to put yourself out in a professional manner in a variety of places. You never know where a good contact is going to come from, why limit your opportunities just because you don't want to be seen as using a juvenile networking site?
That being said, it's about time we started taking back the reputation of social networking in general, and Deb's article can help. Surely your organization wouldn't discourage you from attending networking events and building relationships with other folks in your industry, whether they be peers or potential customers. Why should on-line networking be seen as any different? If you treat your on-line identity as an extension of your professional identity, it can bring a world of knowledge and expertise right to your fingertips.
I don't get asked this often, but it's happened more than once, and it's something I want to talk about. Occasionally when someone discovers my blog, and sees how involved I am in on-line communities, they'll ask "why do you spend so much of your personal time blogging, and reading other blogs about your job? "
My answer is usually pretty simple. I do it because I want to be the best that I can at my job. That means being a sponge and gathering as much information, advice, and knowledge from as many sources as I can. Being involved in an on-line community enables me to do that on my own time.
I usually add something along the lines of "It's my career, I'm not going to sit and wait for my boss to tell me what training and knowledge to go get, and I'm certainly not going to wait for someone to approve a budget request before I start learning about a tool or technology". If I have access to mailing lists, bloggers, Google, and personal relationships (on-line or off) where I can learn more now, why wouldn't I?
Unfortunately, I find for many that either they don't look at their career that way, or the reputation of blogging and other social media tools as a "time waster" hinders their ability to access this knowledge. Either they don't know how to leverage the web tools, or increasingly, their own employer is blocking their ability to use these tools to interact and learn. That's a shame, but none of these things should stop you from taking control of your own knowledge and bettering yourself as a professional.
Look at it this way, right now there may be no need for anyone in your office to know much about graphic design. A year from now, there may be, and the organization may be looking to choose one person to pay for some additional training. If there are 2 of you under consideration, which one will they send, the guy who sat around, did his job, went home and did other things, and waited for someone to suggest he look at getting some design skills, or the woman who decided she liked the idea of design and even though it wasn't her job right now, started reading up about it, and meeting graphic designers that were willing to share information with her, and was ready to hit the ground running when the opportunity arose?
Yeah, it's an obvious choice. ;)
It's your career, are you doing something to help yourself, or waiting for someone else to do it for you?
I have a random question for the audience today. Do you have a LinkedIn profile? Do you list your blog/podcast/other on-line entity as a position in your profile? Why, or why not?
Personally, I do list this blog on my profile, because it's part of my professional persona. This is the place where I can highlight what I know, and a little bit of how I work, and find solutions. This is the place you can get much more insight into me as a professional than any one or two page resume could give you, so I want it to be part of my profile when I'm doing professional networking.
On the other hand, I use other social networking services, like Facebook and Myspace mostly just as a conduit for the RSS feeds generated by writing here, or Twitter, because I want people who know me there to be able to see what I'm up to, but I don't really want to get bogged down in trying to spend a lot of time there updating my profiles. (I spend time looking at other's profiles to see what my friends are up to who only use those services, and on certain groups I belong to, so I get value even without a lot of upkeep!)
So far, that system seems to work for me, but I can't help but wonder how many people consider their blogs/podcasts to be part of their professional life, or how many try to keep them separate?
While listening to a recent Typical Mac User Podcast episode, Victor's wife made a comment about her iPhone that struck me as very interesting. Paraphrasing, she suggested that the iPhone's internet access was very important to her, because when she's at work the network has many of the things she needs to use to take care of her personal business blocked.
Gee, wonder how much money is spent by companies blocking social media sites in order to ensure that their employees don't waste any company time. Wonder how many of those employees still manage to find ways to work around that because there are things they simply need to take care of, information they need to look up, messages they need to send, etc., just like Mary.
Once again, I'm going to point out how much of a waste of time and resources most web-blocking is. How about, instead of spending all the money on hardware, software, and monitoring, you spent more time recruiting and retaining good, trustworthy people, and then actually trusted them to do their job? The bright ones are going to figure out how to work around you anyway, because there's simply too much useful stuff on the web for them. What are you going to do ban cell phones? Restrict their ability to leave their desks so they don't socialize?
Most of all, those really talented, trustworthy folks who work for you now, might not be willing to continue to do that when you start treating them with suspicion. They might work for your competitor instead.
Ultimately, it’s the small acts wherein you put your employer before yourself that make one loyal.
Employers: reward that. And if that happens to line up with someone who has been with your company for five, ten or twenty years, even better. But be careful about simply rewarding longevity — there’s nothing really difficult or impressive about sticking with a mid-level position, working in auto-pilot, for decades. And if Gen Y sees that that’s all you really value, you’re not giving them much of an incentive to show you any real loyalty.
It's an interesting observation. I've worked in enough places that don't act this way, promoting from within based simply on who had been there the longest, without realizing that in some cases, those people weren't so much loyal as they were unsuited to looking for and succeeding at another position. Is that really something to reward?
I think you'd be much better off recognizing and rewarding the truly loyal people, who do everything they can to get the job done, regardless how long they've been there.
We let employees talk to customers daily - answering email, answering phone call, answering questions at exhibits, and answering letters at the office. We trust what they write on behalf of our company. We once worried in the same way about the telephone and email. Still today any of those customer conversations could be shared internationally or in a court of law.
It comes down to hiring and training employees who make good decisions.
If we trust our ability to choose the right employees and to let them know the values that we hold for our company and our customers, the question of whether we should let them blog falls away as an issue.
I couldn't agree more, and once more, this extends into the dreaded "time wasting" on the Internet as well. All employees are given a certain level of trust, to do their jobs properly, to interact with coworkers appropriately, to handle sensitive information about the organization, or it's customers ethically, all of those things require people who can make good, and proper, decisions. Yet when it comes to the Internet, apparently, all that goes right out the window.
It would be like protecting against possible sexual harassment claims by locking all employees in separate rooms and only letting members of the same sex interact with each other. At some point you have to just lay out the expectations, and trust that you've hired good people who will do the right thing, and get rid of those who cannot.
I'm somewhat lucky, I was already blogging about technology long before I started working for my current employer, and I made it a point to include links to it in my resume. I didn't want anyone to be caught by surprise about me being a blogger. It's a package deal. On the other hand, it's only been very recently that this site, and the firm I work for, have been connected in a few places. I managed to go 6 years without ever having that, until I went to the ABA Techshow as part of my job, complete with my full firm contact information, and blogged from there.
I don't begrudge that happening, it was bound to happen sooner or later, and I knew going in there was a good chance it would happen if I tried to be involved in the legal blogosphere instead of staying over on the tech side of things. It's no biggie, the domain is still under my name, I still make it pretty clear that this is my site, unrelated to the firm I happen to work for, and when I do talk about the work I do, I'm careful to make good decisions about what details I include, and which I leave out. Like I said, I've been doing this for almost 7 years now without incident when it comes to workplace problems, I'm pretty good at it.
That being said, I suppose the day will come at one future employer or another, when I have to write a formal disclaimer (or more likely, have one written for me) so that nothing I say here can be misinterpreted as representing my employer. Frankly, I think the fact that you're reading this from mikemcbrideonline.com makes it pretty clear that this is my site without a disclaimer, but you know how that goes. And when that happens, I'll wonder why it is that I can be trusted to do some very sensitive work and follow all of the legal ethics rules, but not write a few thoughts on a blog.
Seems like I've been having similar conversations with folks in my network of friends, be it offline or online. Mostly they go like this:
"I just feel like I need to make a change, what I'm doing now just isn't doing it for me. I'd like to move into "X""
X of course being a new career, new location, new organization, etc.
In other words, I know a whole bunch of people, across a few industries and a few different locations, who are asking me to keep my ears to the market for jobs that might be better than what they're doing now.
Now, I don't exactly know why, all of the sudden, this is true. Perhaps some of it can be explained by the Spring-time desire for renewal and change, but certainly not all of them. Maybe it's just a coincidence.
Anyway you slice it, I'm keeping an eye out on the job market for some folks, which may lead to some blog-worthy observations. We shall see. Naturally, any observations you guys have, not to mention open positions, are always welcome!
Some interesting thoughts from Sharon Nelson regarding the use of blackberries/smartphones and remote access and how the use of these tools might affect hourly employees.
This is an interesting subject for me, I carry a blackberry, and occasionally log in from remote locations, and am an hourly employee. I try to be fair about using it, and charging overtime for what I do. For example a 2 minute email reply that I sent the other day from the National Mall, I'm not going to worry about. Yes, I'm on vacation, and yes I don't have to answer emails, but here was a peer who needed a quick bit of tech advice and I could help them without too much difficulty. I don't mind using 2 minutes of my time for that. On the other hand, if the firm starts expecting me t be available to answer emails any time I'm on vacation, or just at home in the evening, we're going to have to be fair to me, and my home life as well.
Any of you in the same situation? How do you and your employer handle it?
Just a few thoughts, now that I've had some time to think about it rather than live-blogging it:
1. I've never been a big fan of live bogging, but I felt like I needed to really give it a shot. Doing it over the 3 days of Techshow helped me see where the value is, but I'm still not the biggest fan. Simply put, while it allowed to me to share what I was hearing and learning immediately with folks back in our office or all over the world, (And that has tremendous value, don't get me wrong), I still think my writing sucked because I was trying to keep up. :)
2. Live-blogging and Twitter gave this conference a different feel for me personally. I'm not normally very good in social situations, but having the handful of other folks who were blogging and twittering actually follow what I was doing and want to chat with me helped me feel a bit more comfortable, even when it came time to interact with the far larger number of people who were simply attending and not reading blogs or Twitter.
3. As much as I learned in the sessions, and with the vendor booths, the most important benefit I saw from Techshow was the people. Getting the chance to chat with other folks doing what I do, the speakers, the other bloggers, etc, and share ideas and experiences will make me a better Litigation Support professional, and a better blogger.
4. I met a bunch of great people at this conference that I hope to stay in touch with. I have read some blog entries of folks who were there or speakers who I heard who I didn't get a chance to meet, not to mention all the other attendees I couldn't possibly have had time to met. Whether we met or not, feel free to drop me an email and say hello! (Email link over on the right column of the blog, or connect with me on Facebook or LinkedIn.) Being relatively new to the Lit Support world, I'd love to build upon the network of folks, and their knowledge, that I have access to!
5. Now I have to go back through all these blog posts and pull out the best ideas and bits of knowledge that I think apply to our firm and how we're doing things. I didn't stop to think about just how much I was blogging over those 3 days, but now that I look back, it's A LOT! Hopefully anyone who actually followed along with all that drivel found some value as well.
I've written about this a number of times in terms of working in tech support, but a conversation the other day reminded me why it's important in every aspect of IT work. I was talking with Douglas Welch, in an interview for his podcast that'll be released in Feb. sometime, and he asked about what reasons our CIO approached me when it came time to create this additional Litigation Support position. I answered that, well for one, obviously, I had done pretty well in my time working at the help desk, and had the opportunity to display the technical chops, and creative solutions, but also because I managed to "keep my head about me when confronted with angry attorneys".
It was a quick one-off sort of comment during that conversation, but later, I harkened back to my repeated advice for tech support workers, and realized that it was those interpersonal skills that allowed our CIO and my current supervisor to feel comfortable moving me into Lit Support. After all, if I couldn't keep my head, and couldn't interact with our internal attorneys, there's no way they could trust me to interact with our clients!
Since I'm not answering help desk calls all day long, I sort of put interpersonal skills out of my immediate thought processes, but after thinking about the conversation with Douglas, I realized that they are still a very important part of what I do. Whether meeting with a client and their IT person to handle e-Discovery preservation issues, to getting instructions from paralegals about how they want cases set up in Summation, to working directly with an attorney to put together a presentation for trial, and a thousand other small interactions, my job is really all about helping our clients and attorneys navigate technology. That, obviously, takes technical know-how, but that know-how is pointless if I can't communicate it!
Today I had mine, even though I switched jobs only 5 months ago. It really seemed a little silly. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the feedback on how I'm catching on to the job compared to the expectations, in terms of knowing where I should be, but it's not really fair for someone to evaluate me based on 5 months of work, when I'm still really learning the job.
That being said, it was a good review, so at least I can take away that I'm picking things up as well, or better, than folks expected me too, so I guess I should just continue to do that.
Still, it's hard to take much away from an evaluation for a job I'm really still learning. It could have maybe waited, but that's the policy, so that's the way it goes. :)