2018 – 52 Books in 52 Weeks

Alright, so it came to my attention that this past December marked my 15th year of not owning a television. When I moved away from Detroit and began a new chapter in my life, I purged a lot of my belongings. TV, stereo equipment, furniture, clothes, a couple of businesses, real estate, 401k, and… a cat to name a few. I wanted to go into the next phase with as little as possible. Of course, I hung onto some childhood items, pictures, most of my books, CDs, and such.

Fast forward about 5-6 years and I’ll tell you what did it for me: the news. I spent some time with friends and their families who would usually have at least one TV on, be it background noise or for a game or something. I began realizing that I was continuously walking around life based on a lot of this background noise. Why? What does the next ‘news report’ really have to do with me? Will/Does it really improve my quality of life? Does all the overzealous commercial propaganda really need to be blasting me with its 30 seconds of magical ‘Buy Me Now’ strongarm? Nope.

During this same time, I myself going through a self-inflicted reinvention phase for about 12-18 months. I worked hard on resetting a lot of what I’ve ‘learned’ from mass media and it’s pop-culture child. Leadership Development and Team Building/Collaboration were on the top of my list for some reason… perhaps because of the current global economic state, political bantering, and some book series idea that I had outlined for a scholarship project I was working on.

While I did not own a TV, please don’t think I was some ultra weirdo and walked around shunning people who watched it. I still got together with friends on the weekends to catch a college football game somewhere or would find myself every now and then find myself catching highlights from the week’s sport’s recap.

So here were are in 2018 and I’ve realized that owning a TV does not obligate me to such noise. I’ve been streaming Netflix, Gaia, Amazon Primm, and such on my laptop for the past 4-5 years; and with so many a la carte streaming apps available now, being able to pay for an abundance of blackout hockey games hasn’t been easier!

52 in 52: To hold myself accountable and to make it as productive as I could think of, I decided that this would be the year I’d go ahead and replace the blank space my 32″ Sony Trinitron 1,815lb CRT TV once had in my life. But before I can, I need to read 52 books during the 52 weeks of this year. This post is a couple of months behind, but I’ve fortunately regained full access to my web domains and servers (that will be an entirely separate post) and decided to document the journey. If you want to check out what I’m reading, you can find this year’s recent reads over on my Instagram account; and I will be posting a review of each as I finish them. Just bear with me as I get caught up on the past 14 books or so!

3 Things I’m Doing to Improve My Platform

improved platformToday’s busy social space sometimes creates quite a challenge to filter out a lot of the noise. With so many “new” social media tools and app integrations, it would seem impossible for anybody new to the arena to gain ground.

Very recently, I was asked “Geoff, what are you doing to improve your platform?” This made me stop and think. Here is what I came up with:

Stay Proactive With Inquiries
Nobody like’s talking to a wall. When we reach out to somebody with a question or comment on one’s blog or Facebook page, we usually think others will respond. At the least, the person whose thread we area commenting in. I make it an effort to reply to every e-mail, blog comment, Facebook comment, tweet… etc. I’ve worked hard to position myself within focused marketplaces and still allow for my personal life to have its responsible presence. Because let’s face it… all business really is personal. The friendships accumulated along the journey.

Expanding Mediums
Anything I’ve signed up for in the years past, I’ve looked at closely to see how I can leverage it to help my position/brand. I also wanted to learn how it can help others accomplish what they want. If I can share with others what I’ve learned, and it helps them… my efforts have been worth it.

Maybe it’s because I work in tech that a lot of these things come easy to me. But I cannot express how many times I’ve seen others just start buying domains, hosting, themes, plugins, software, apps… etc, based on… nothing. Earlier this year, I was involved with someone very intelligent who bought up all kinds of stuff for their launch idea and clearly had no idea what they were doing. When it was brought up in conversation, their response was just that, “Well, I don’t know. I don’t know anything about this. I spent a bunch of money on all this. How was I supposed to know?” I was appalled when I heard this coming from someone who strongly advocates “Use Your Resources!” So, take your time and ask people who you know who have been down the road before. Otherwise, you’re just creating unnecessary work for yourself and others involved.

Again… take time to use your resources. You’ll find that the hidden community involved with content management, personal branding and positioning, and social media is filled with all kinds of great people!

Separating Personal and Professional Branding
This is somewhat of a new avenue for me. Several years ago when I decided to create my online presence by jumping from the “I’m a fly” approach, to the “I am the honey” direction, I learned that people wanted to know about me. They wanted to know a little about what makes me get up in the morning, opposed to just what I’ve done and what I’m doing during my day. Professionally. We want to learn about each other. I think this is just human nature. I always enjoy connecting with somebody and then learn what I can about them through their social media streams. And then when it comes time for me to meet them, the level of accuracy (or lack there of) is always rewarding. It helps me realize that my perception and interpretation skills are honed well.

So, creating a personal and professional avenue for both entities helps allow marketability. I believe if it’s done right, they can both help each other and greater results will occur. I’m sure I’ll be following up with this later. So, that’s it for now. I’ll leave this post by asking you this simple question:

What are you currently doing to enhance your online presence and how is it helping you daily?

Write Your Own Prescription For Health And Happiness

prescription for happinessHave you ever said to yourself “I wish THEY made a pill for that?” If so, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re on board with about 95% of the population. But, the fact of the matter is that “the pill” has always been there, right in front of you the entire time.

I am convinced that 95% of all health problems and “need” for medication stem from lack of nutritional upkeep via healthy diet, proper sleeping habits, and exercise. But here is the kicker… each one of these depends on the other. You can eat like the biggest health nut on the planet, but if you’re not getting enough exercise and/or sleep, it’s not going to have the same effect as if it was balanced by the others.

“You are the sum of what you consume. Be careful what you feed yourself with; physically and mentally.”

I’m amazed at the number of people who are convinced that what they hear on the radio and see on their TVs is 100% accurate. I haven’t owned a TV for over 10 years and since I’ve moved to Phoenix, which was almost two years ago, I’ve yet to turn my radio on.

The amount of “noise” is sickening. I think it was Donald Trump who said: “I’d rather not be informed at all than to be misinformed.” Think of all the people you know who base their life on “other’s” lifestyle. Or worse yet, watching them to continuously watch Hollywood fed fairy tales and expect for their friends and family to follow suit. Sure, it’s an industry and a business but it’s not a healthy one. We all have the same amount of time, so consider how much of it you spend reading or watching about “bath salts” and “child abductions” or “political spin doctors.” Consider allotting that time reading a good book about world history, or the amazing wonders of insulin and how our bodies function properly. Or perhaps spend some time at a local community center or church. Better yet, spend the time with the people that you love, whether it’s in person, on the phone, or via video conference.

When you find yourself being unhappy with yourself, that’s the perfect time to love those who mean the most to you even more.

How Is Trust Built?

how trust is built“Trust is a peculiar resource; it is built rather than depleted by use.” ~ Unknown

To build trust, we must use our self-awareness and self-management skills which we’ve acquired over time. Determining the level of trust we need to cultivate depends on the connection which we identify with others. For example, the barista who makes my coffee drink gets a different level of commitment to trust with me that the woman I share my life with. The project manager or resource coordinator of a business account gets a different level of commitment than a field engineer does. Now, none of these holds more or less value, simply some don’t require as much attention as others. It really comes down to focus and priority.

By using social awareness skills, we need to ask others what needs to happen to increase the current level of trust. Being sure to actually listen to the answer. This helps build trust, and overall deepens the relationship.

Here are few key points I’ve found that aid in building trust:

1. Open Communication – The willingness to share ourselves and what is important to us with others often helps establish a common understanding. If done honestly and wholeheartedly, the driving force of positive actions will allow for a foundation to be created, one in which can be used for continued growth.

2. Consistency in Words, Actions, and Behavior – Following through with what we say we are going to do is a huge part of building trust. When we commit to something, regardless of size, it’s still a commitment and must be followed through in order for it to have any value. Whether it be following through with a return phone call, arriving on time for dinner plans, meeting a school/work related deadline, or planning long term family goals. Any of these can “make or break” a friendship/relationship. No matter what size the commitment, no matter what level of importance, what we say to others as to what we’re going to do, it’s up to us to follow through. Otherwise, we can’t be taken seriously. We eventually establish a characteristic with others that we are “true to our word(s)” and display respect and integrity, or allow for ourselves to be seen as one who cannot be trusted, and often at times considered a liar. This is a very difficult place to be in and most often requires a deep look in the mirror. Otherwise, we’ll never be able to repair what we’ve damaged.

3. Avoid Giving Mixed Signals – How we communicate, whether it be via the written word, spoken word– consisting of the tone of voice, and/or body language – determine the level of accuracy which others will perceive us. The signals we send to the people in our relationships are made through proactive conversation and feedback. When we express feelings, we express the truth. More often than not, these expressions are raised to a heightened level through our reactions and body language, regardless of the words we choose. In a world that is saturated by text messaging, which is usually limited to 140 characters or less, our “on the fly” lifestyles that we’ve adapted in the fast paced and fairly disconnected society, it seems that we rarely establish an accurate means of dialogue. I’ve seen some of the world’s best authors and speakers completely misconceived due to a single letter typo, improper punctuation, or quick witted answer.

Something to consider: People will always trust what they see over what they hear. Actions speak louder than words… so focus on following through with everything you commit to. Otherwise, why bother?

Emerging Approaches To Leadership

emerging leadershipAfter beginning a two year research to propose some leadership theories which focus on a particular characteristic of a leader, leaving out the followers and situations from the equation, I’ve been able to break down leadership into the following four categories: Charismatic Leadership, Attribution Leadership, Transactional Leadership, and Transformational Leadership.

Charismatic Leadership

The theory behind Charismatic Leadership emphasizes the ability of a leader to communicate new visions of an organization to its followers and to raise follower awareness of the importance and core value of goals, often getting people to exceed their own interests.

Charismatic Leaders are dominant, able to express their vision, are exceptionally self-confident, have a high need for power, and have a strong conviction in the moral “righteousness” of their beliefs. They strive to project a magnetic personality which emanates success and competence, and they convey high expectation for and confidence in followers. Leader who possess and exhibit these characteristics inspire trust, confidence, affection, admiration, emotional involvement, obedience, and high performance in their followers. The Charismatic Leader often appears under conditions of uncertainty or in times of crisis which are stressful and make more cognitively and emotionally receptive to the ideas and actions of someone perceived as a so-called savior.

Attribution Theory

Attribution Theory deals with trying to make sense out of Cause and Effect Relationships. When an event takes place, people want to attribute it with a specific cause. This theory states that leadership is simply an attribution that people make about other individuals. The fundamental flaw is a bias in the perception process because people tend to attribute the behavior of other people to their own motivation and ability rather that the situation. Research has found that people tend to characterize leaders as having traits such as personality, understanding, intelligence, strong verbal skills, aggressiveness, and often at time display industriousness.

At the organizational level, attribution theory explains why people are prone to attribute either the extremely negative or the extremely positive performance of an organization to its leadership. This theory fails to take in consideration influences or forces from the external environment. Therefore, people have a “built-in” tendency to give too much credit to other people or to place too much blame on them.

Transactional Leadership

Transactional Leadership takes place when leaders and their followers are in some type of exchange relationship which satisfies needs for one or both parties. The exchange can be economic, psychological, or political in nature; and examples might include exchanging money for work, loyalty for consideration, and political favors. Transactional Leaders help organizations reach their current goals and objectives more efficiently by connecting job performance to valued rewards or by ensuring that employees have the needed resources to get the job done. Transactional Leadership is very common but tends to be transitory, in that there may be no lasting purpose to hold parties together once a transaction takes place.

James MacGregor Burns noted that while this type of leadership could be quite effective, it did not result in organizational or even societal change and, instead tended to perpetuate and legitimize the status quo. In conclusion, Transactional Leaders view management as a series of transactions in which they use their legitimate, reward, and coercive powers to give commands and exchange rewards for services rendered.

Transformational Leadership

The Transformational Leadership process is currently the most popular leadership perspective, and it moves way beyond the more “traditional” transactional approach to leadership. Transformational Leadership is related to charisma in that these leaders motivate people to exceed their personal interests for the sake of the larger community. It also produces levels of dependent efforts and performance that go beyond what would occur with a Transactional Leadership approach alone. In addition, Transformational Leadership is much more than just charisma. While the purely charismatic leader may want followers to adopt his or her “world view” and go no further, the Transactional Leader will attempt to instill in followers the ability to question not only the established views but eventually those established by the leader.

Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus have defined four skills of leadership, which are required for the Transformational Leader to be successful: First, is a strategic vision or goal that evokes people’s attention. Second, is the ability to successfully communicate that vision through words, manners, or symbolism. The third skill set is to have the capacity to build trust by being consistent, dependable, and persistent. And lastly, the fourth skill required for a Transformational Leader to be successful is the capability of positive self-regard–by striving for success. The use of these four skills builds follower commitment and pumps them up to adopt the leader’s vision as their own. They also perform their jobs better, engage in more organizational citizenship behaviors, and make better or more creative decisions.

To close, Transformational Leadership is closer to the prototype of leadership that people have in mind when the describe their ideal leader and is more likely to provide a role model in which dependents want to identify.

This wraps up an 24 month long journey down the leadership road. One in which I’m very grateful to have traveled and will continue to do so. Thank you to everybody who supported me along the way. If you have any insight or wish to share your experiences – please consider leaving a comment to my closing questions.

Of the four categories of leadership I described above, which one do you feel fits best into your daily life? Is there anything that you disagree with? If so, what is it and why?

Take One Step Back, and Two Steps Forward

one step back two steps forwardHave you ever taken a step back to look where you are in your career? Do you have yourself positioned to move forward if you so choose to? Sometimes advancing is easier than you think.

Just the other day, I reconnected with an old friend. Currently working at a Help Desk she expressed an interest in both Project Management and Business Analysis, IT related.

Here is what I told her I saw based on previous experience:

The ITIL (glorified glossary but some staffers love seeing the cert) seems to be gaining more and more weight within the IT industry. When it was first introduced, it was a joke. Nothing more than a test of one’s understanding of terms… no focus on fundamental platforms, understanding of code, or overall logic. But, it now actually contains some good placement. You probably already see the ridiculous amount of certifications that are available. Most are in place to appease employers, but I’ve found experience outweighs any certification I’ve ever obtained, and I stopped counting after 20. It just got out of control past that.

While consulting, I found that both areas (project management and business analysis) of interest that you have can blend together very well. A project manager for IT based rollouts don’t need to be much of a techie, just the ability to have a basic understanding of what is going on and how to efficiently and effectively communicate with the buyer, the vendor(s) and his or her internal workforce. Some of my best paying jobs were when I would oversee and new rollout or system integration. If you’re easy to get along with and can communicate well with others, it’s a piece of cake.

Unfortunately, true “business analysts” are in a tough position right now. Due to the current upswing in the marketplace, companies are not looking at cutting costs (surprisingly) as they are looking at preparing for the next 10 to 15 years of growth and revenue generation. Expect to see a lot more small businesses pop up and loyalty based cultures get put in place amongst them. The ‘big box’ corporate strongarms are going to get gobbled up by larger/merging markets and will flounder as (cough) “standards” – for the masses.

What are you doing now… is it scalable? Is it helping you? Or is it hindering your opportunity for advancement in the workforce?

“Abs at Jabz” – Why Switching It Up Helps

jabz health naples floridaThe other day I walked into the gym to find that once again… the machines and workstations have been moved! Here is a little something I learned from this…

So I’ve been a member of the gym I go to for over a year now and I’m glad I made the switch when I did. Before joining Jabz Health and Fitness, I worked out at a Lifestyle Fitness, also for about a year. Both gyms are good, but are very different in many ways.

For me, when I got back into a dedicated workout routine, Lifestyle Fitness was fine. It was a fairly large fitness center and offered quite a few amenities (pool, tanning, spin classes, day care, and a great locker room with a private entry sauna). It was a gym where all levels of members walked the floors, each with their own set of goals, both long and short term. There was a certain social aspect that I imagine appeals to most, but I am the type of person who likes to go in, get my swol on, and leave. After 8 months or so, a certain social level started to develop there and I began to notice members weren’t so focused with their workouts, but were more focused on chit chatting and gawking at any new guy or girl that walked in the door. The motivation I had started to drop off a little bit and a change of scenery was in need. My workout partner mentioned that he had stopped by his old gym, which was once a Gold’s Gym, and suggested to go check it out.

Upon walking in, I sensed a level of intensity that was very appealing. There was a certain smell the gym had, the lighting seemed to be just right, the machines looked used but not busted up…rugged if you will. The free weights were more than adequate, and to top it off…there were several dedicated spots for boxing, cage fighting, and MMA training. This is exactly what I was looking for, without even knowing it!

Recognizing The Comfort Zone

After a few months of solid results, the gym decided to move some stations around. At first, this was an annoyance because I just got familiar with where everything was at. I then began to realize this was a good thing, as for it allowed me to find machines that I’d normally wouldn’t use. This was a good thing because, after a year or so of the same routine, I began to notice I was overtraining and not switching it up enough.

Sometimes when we hit plateaus and things become stagnant, we need to switch things up a bit. I’m a firm believer that if we don’t do it ourselves, God will do it for us. When we stay inside our comfort zones too long, we begin to become oblivious to our surroundings and often lose sight of what we’ve been keeping our eye on the entire time. I feel that the “workstation relocation” was a good thing and it made me realize that I needed to change things up a bit, both inside the gym and out.

When you realize that you are in need of change, what works good for you and how do you go about doing it?

Verbal And Non-Verbal Communication

verbal nonverbal communicationBelieve it or not, all of us speak to the world without having to say a word through non-verbal communication. Almost every facet of our personality is revealed through our appearance, our body language, our gestures, our facials expressions, our overall demeanor, and our posture and movements.

In our professional and personal lives, we’d like to think we could make friends and influence people if we verbally articulate our message with optimism, enthusiasm, charisma, poise, and charm. However, did you know that the verbal impact of communication only accounts for 7% of your overall message? The bulk of our communication comes across in our appearance and body language, comprising 55%. Tone, speed, and inflection of our voice make up the remaining 38%.

Since non-verbal communication encompasses 93% of our overall message, here is a closer look at what that entails.

It can include your attire, tone of voice, clearing your throat, rubbing your eyes, crossing your arms, tapping your toes, scratching your nose. Eye contact, or lack thereof, gestures, crossed legs, open arms, and the scent we transmit are all forms of non-verbal communication. Through your choice of clothing, hairstyle, glasses, accessories, and makeup if applicable, your appearance also communicates a strong message. The way you dress plays a vital part in how listeners receive you and how others respond to you.

According to author John T. Molloy, who is responsible for Dress for Success, clothes are used as a tool to control how others react to you and treat you.

In an interview situation or during a business meeting, it is very important that you send out the right signals. Always look attentive and interested in the opportunity or conversation – do not slouch in your chair. If you fib, your body language, the tone of voice or choice of words will probably give you away. Classic body language giveaways include looking everywhere other than the person you are speaking to and concealing your mouth behind your hands while speaking.

Not only is it important for us to be aware of our own body language, but it is as important to understand what body language means so we can effectively assess and react to others. For example, we may pass a negative judgment on someone because they slouch, fidget, or pout. If we are aware of why we made the judgment, we can filter out our biases and understand what their body language means and what it is telling us about that individual.

The most significant fact you should remember is that non-verbal signals have five times the impact of verbal signals. When the verbal and the non-verbal parts of the message are congruent, the listener believes your message. If they are not congruent, usually your words are saying yes, but your body language is saying no.

Always remember, actions speak louder than words.

What kind of experiences have you had with comparing verbal and non-verbal communication?