Troubled Times

Troubled Times

I don’t need to tell ya – times are tough.  All over.

Every day, I talk to friends who have been with their current employer for ten years or more, either on the hunt for a new job or fearful that their job is in jeopardy.

Friends with a wealth of experience – smart, loyal, dedicated to their professions.

All fearful of the uncertainty the future holds and what this will mean for them, and for their families.

It’s been said – a recession is when someone you know loses their job; a depression is when YOU lose YOURS.

I think it’s fair to say, that for most of my contemporaries – that is, folks who came onto the job market in the early 1980s – this is by far the toughest job and economic environment we’ve faced in our professional lives.

And no one really knows where the bottom is, or where the next shoe will drop.

I’ve been doing what I do now for about 25 years or so.  And doing so as the head of my own company for the past almost thirteen years.

Even in good times, the fear of failure has been a tremendous motivator for me.  In one sense, it has been my traveling companion for many years.  I say that like it’s a bad thing; it’s not, really.  It’s simply the way it is.

I’m just used to the fact that unless I’m out there selling every day, that unless I am constantly marketing, if I don’t show up consistently, if I don’t grow continually, if I don’t execute each and every time…  I’m toast.

But for a lot of my friends, friends who have been with maybe one or two employers their entire professional career (don’t laugh – it USED to be normal), this is probably the most stressed that they have ever been.  Ever.

I really struggle for words of comfort to share with them.  Words with meaning and solace.

And I guess, my only useful advice, is that every day you gotta get up, and DO.  Do something constructive.  Network with friends.  Use slack time to learn a new skill.  Go out on a limb and take on a project WAY outside your comfort level.  Build something on spec.  Mentor someone.  Talk to a counselor.

DOSOMETHING.

No one is immune to this market.  And I honestly gotta tell you, not a day goes by that I’m not worried that things can totally go to Hell.

But it doesn’t rule my business approach, and it doesn’t rule my reason, and it doesn’t rule my judgment.

It simply makes me aware that every day I need to be generating the maximum amount of value in everything that I do, so that I can keep doing what I do, the way I want to do it.

Or else.

And that is motivation enough.

“Traditional” Meat-Space Networking Models and the “New World”

“Traditional” Meat-Space Networking Models and the “New World”

If you stick around long enough, you wind up being a “joiner.”

You know – you join the Rotary Club, the Kiwanis, the Lions Club, the local Football Boosters, become a Brownie Leader, a Den Mom, a Pack leader, a Baseball Coach, a member of the local Chamber of Commerce.

Some things you join by dint of merely “being.” Your family, for example – the “ur” social network.

Other groups you join because you want something: better access to potential clients, being around people who are like minded, hopping on the proverbial band wagon of a popular sports team (you Detroit Red Wings fans – I’m talkin’ to you).

In all “traditional” groups in the meat-space (the “real” world) you are encouraged or incentivized to participate through a series of rewards and punishments: the perfect attendance certificate at the end of a course, the fines incurred if you miss too many civic club meetings, the five bucks you owe to the Sargent-At-Arms if you don’t wear your group pin.

It seems to me that a significant component missing in most existing Social Networks (the “new” world as it were) is the idea of concrete rewards and punishment for participating (or NOT participating).

When I find myself speaking with a social media neophyte or outsider, I can almost see the words “what’s in it for me” rolling up in their eyeballs. Sure – wasting time on Facebook and Twitter can be fun – but what GOOD is it to me from a business standpoint? Not everyone is a blogger or an affiliate marketer or a knowledge worker.

In short, what is the payoff for participating in social networks, and as a corollary, what are the consequences of NOT participating?

For so much lip service paid online to “engagement”, I find in practice that very little actual engagement ever occurs online. I don’t consider trading quippy barbs with online “friends” as being engaging, though it is very pleasant to do so – at least for me.

What I’m talking about is developing those relationships online that turn into ENGAGEMENTS – the virtual equivalent of the friend who will help you move for a six -pack of beer and a pizza, the friend who will take you to the airport on their day off, or take you to task when you’ve made an ass of yourself, at the risk of losing financially. THAT kind of engagement.

As I see it, as a group, members of online communities need to translate thought and words into action: ask for the order, commit to perform, get out of your chair and DO.

It is my belief that until online social networking can provably demonstrate concrete benefits for participation that in the long run they will fail.

As a practical experiment today, go out and find someone who is not actively online and try to convince them of the benefits of joining an online community – in a way that translates into more business for them and in a way that convinces them that by doing so it is a force multiplier and not a time waster.

Would love to hear how this goes.