Enterprise Social Scared Straight – The Conference Circuit Recap 2013

Steve and I have been on the road a few different times now presenting a story that we believe in.


We have visited technology conferences, internal Microsoft conferences as well as industry conferences. Participated in Tweet Chats, webinars, panels and lunches to get to know the community who wants to do something with the next generation of communication and collaboration.




Something that we feel like the world needs to hear. Something that is at that cusp of a paradigm shift of communication and innovations within the walls of the corporations.

Every time we actually deliver the presentation its actually a varying message. But its similar to the ones that follow but because of the differing audience, we change it up. We try and figure out a key message that we want to stress to the group of listeners who become a captive audience. And this isn’t because we are great speakers, its because we have struck a chord. We are talking about something they care about, something that matters.


Steve and I encourage the audience not to settle for the status quo. We tell them change is on the horizon if its hasn’t already burst through their walls. And we tell them that we know what it feels like to fail and things go not according to plan. Our talks really come from our stories with customer and our own Yammer journey before we joined the Yammer team.  Stories of hope  that others are doing this and being successful. And stories of when it hadn’t gone well and the customer who is still trying to figure it out.

This picture below was taken at DevLearn in Las Vegas with a new friend from MSFT. We actually had a story about the work that he did for MSFT in our presentation and it was great to meet him in real life. Serendipitous connection made in real life!


The key points to our message was around how can organizations actually use social to change the way they work and service customers, whether they produce a good or provide a service. We also provided some areas to avoid as common pitfalls for thinking about enterprise social and collaboration – like getting more than one executive sponsor, build experiments with different teams and projects to see how to work out loud and move faster, and the objectives that we hear and how to combat them by providing business value. ( Engagement Tips for leaders blog post) .

What I learned most on many of these trips is that the audiences vary on level of social literacy and use. That this message needs spreading and that its only just the beginning… the movement is moving…  are you in?


The conference season is picking back up again and Steve and I are on the road for the upcoming SharePoint 2014 Conference. Our session going to do a similar feel with some fresh perspectives.  I’ll be speaking at the AZ TechCouncil during a Lunch and Learn Feb 6th. We will also be at ASTD National Conference in May and others are in the works and we will keep you updated!

Faith has a way…

The thing that you are most worried about or have the most fear about usually is the thing that surprises you the most. When you actually encounter the reality its silly that you even worried about it in the first place. But you do. You try not to let it consume you, but it does. It’s like the cherry on top of an ice cream sundae – wouldn’t be one without it. But the way that things work together and are so intentionally placed in a sequence of events makes me wonder why worry at all? Why are we so fearful of a particular thing when the whole of it seems good enough.

We moved to Arizona because of a job opportunity that my husband pursued. After about a year and a half, it wasn’t going anywhere and I could tell he was so unengaged (<<87% of workers are disengaged, he was one of them). He really wasn’t part of a team or part of a bigger cause, he was over going thru the motions and wanting something more. Surely the grass was greener anywhere else. So he got an another offer, quickly in fact. It was like an end of an era since we both had worked for the company, and a bittersweet goodbye. It’s odd how the people you work with become such good friends that you can’t imagine life without them. Regardless when he started his new job he had a feeling from day 1 (or maybe day 2) that it wasn’t a good fit. How could you even tell that from the second day on the job? Stick it out, I told him, give it 3 months then figure out what to do next.

After spending about two weeks there it was clearly not a good fit. And it wasn’t that they are a bad company or doing horrible things, my husband wasn’t about the rat race and wanted more. So we pulled out our budget, thanks to Dave Ramsey, and shifted some things, committed to some things and he quit the next day. It was a somber experience. Humbling to say the least. Had he failed? Or had he just not done enough leg work before making the commitment? Had they failed for not sharing the expectations prior in a more clear manner. It was weird. My husband has worked since he was a teenager. And this was his first time not working. Of course I made a list the same length of the Mississippi river of all the things he could tackle while he was home, including selling everything we don’t use (we should do this anyways!).

Two long weeks went by (Did you see I only said weeks?). He submitted his resume to dozens of companies around. We wrestled if we really needed to stay in Arizona , what was keeping us here? I challenged him to try something different or new, something not related to what he was doing prior as it might be a good opportunity to spread his wings. He felt like it wasn’t time to give up on his career just yet, he was just getting started and really did enjoy what he did.

A few weeks ago we went to the Harvest Festival at our church. We volunteers in the games area. As we were figuring out who was doing the ring toss and who was going to run the bean bag game, I was pulled aside by a lady who I’ve worked together at the church with prior (specifically  for this event REMIX). She mentioned that an IT position had opened up at the church. I looked at her with my jaw to the floor, did she know that Ed was out of work? That he left a good job and quit another? She didn’t know anything of the job and if it was the right type of IT for him or even if the job was real, but she said to keep our ears peeled. An hour later, Ed was introduced to the chief of staff at the church in-between ring toss throws from the dressed up children. Friday evening we were driving home from a friend’s house and he gives me his phone to read the email with the job description. At this point, IT can mean anything. I pull it up and it says “Network Engineer”, as I read it aloud (because Ed is driving) I get goose bumps everywhere. Every bullet was something he was passionate about in a geeky IT kind of way. The next day he sent over his resume and Monday he had an interview with the Business Manager of the church.

We had so many questions. What did the work look like? Was there a team or was he the only one? What opportunities did a church have for a Network Engineer, what were they even engineering? The questions outnumbered the answers. After the interview and many questions were answered. The big one remained. What do you make when you work at a church? As a man, many of the self-worth comes from what you can provide for your family, and what was the contribution going to look like. He knew it would be crumbs to what he was making before and what he could make in the corporate world. We didn’t even want to think about it, about how disappointed we would be, Ed included had a fear about this. But we knew we had to at least see what the offer was and maybe he would keep looking to see if somewhere else offered anything better. When the offer came, we were blown away about the generosity. As I mentioned in the first paragraph the thing you worried about most, is the thing that surprises you the most? This was it. We had been surprised that the thing we were worried about didn’t need any worry at all.

He starts Monday. And just because it’s a church, it’s not going to be perfect. But we know it’s a perfect timing orchestrated by someone on purpose. He mentions that he would have coffered at the idea if someone came up to him while he was at his previous companies with this opportunity, not even willing to give a look. But because of being humbled and experiencing that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side he had an open mind about the opportunity. He will have the opportunity to lead, to design, to learn and to build in ways that he probably wouldn’t have at either of his previous companies. He couldn’t be more thrilled and I can’t wait for him to get out of the house!

So long story short. We are staying in Arizona. We didn’t know if we would, but now we know… We had to have faith.


I wouldn’t want to miss these sunsets.


Beautiful Things Out of Dust

Have you ever had an idea, which was just once a mere thought. Almost like dust. Something that comes across your mind and you don’t give it too much thought. Or it encompasses you and you can’t stop thinking about it. 

And now you look back and can remember how it ever began and when you were just dreaming of it and how fast the idea took off to become a reality. 

On my morning run I heard You Make Beautiful Things by Gungor. The one phrase that kept sticking out was

“You make beautiful things

you make beautiful things out of dust. 

You make beautiful things

you make beautiful things out of us.” 

Today I look back and take a moment to reflect (something I don’t do enough of) and think about the accomplishments of the ideas and things that were made from just that – mere ideas. A dusting of dreams and reality. Misplaced thoughts and conversations of hope.

What I am thankful for is the opportunity to execute and the opportunity to correct. My ideas are not perfect the first time around. Or the second. Or maybe the third. But with feedback, context and understanding of the needs that this beautiful thing has become a reality and improves every time its executed. 

Two ideas that were merely just “dust” that I was reflecting on – one for work (Yammer Certification Programs) and one for my personal life (REMIX). These were ideas not really that long ago and now  they are programs, with many people involved from the front end to the backstage and so many details in between. I think about the people that have helped to make these ideas a reality and a success. 

And if your ideas feel stale and need a breath of new life – take a moment to reflect about how far you have actually come. Look deep into the needs that you are trying to fill. Think inside and outside the box. Color outside the lines. You might be surprised by how you can orchestrate and adjust the idea to become an even better reality.  

When was the last time you reflected on the ideas that you once had that are now your reality? What ideas are just merely dusting your mind that need to become more of a reality? I’d love to know if you have had beautiful things made from just a dusting of an idea. 

Yammer Edition: Enterprise Social skills leaders need to have

I am on this kick right now of educating leaders and managers about how social can amplify their leadership ability using social tools. I feel like I have written about this before, if not I am sure I wrote myself a note to write that. Recently McKinsey Quarterly came out with a study about the Six Social-media Skills every leader needs (Deiser, Newton). As I was reading this article, and I was highlighting it, scribbling all over it (I know I still print articles that I was to dissect later).

The article speaks about leaders on a personal level to be authentic and to navigate in their own comfort and the information overload. And at the organizational level to think through how to be a role model and stay ahead of the shifts. “Leaders need to excel at co-creation and collaboration – the currencies of the social media world.” Charlene Li in her book Open Leadership, she talks about how leaders are expected to be Open, Social and Transparent – which is probably how they got to where they are today. I see this every day. And mostly I see fear in executives eyes of “What if I say the wrong thing?” Or “What if I spell something wrong” to them I say, it shows that you are human too. And people want to see that. And more importantly, what if you DON’T say anything. I think that’s worse.

So I’d like to dig into these 6 skills and show a bit of tactical and give the nuts and bolts advice for leaders who are using enterprise social tools, like Yammer.

1. The Leader as a producer: Creating Compelling Content

- Its all about short stories. Its about what you are learning from your customer visits. Its about recognition. Video is pretty hot right now and easy to and upload to Yammer for people to watch, like and comment. Its like you are welcoming your teams to come and have a cup of coffee with you as you tell them about your day. Your day, which may seem hectic, and unimportant to the minions below you, they actually do want to hear what you have to say, in a non-scripted way. Video not your thing? No worries, create a Yammer Group – like the CEO Corner or The Leaders Lounge – where you can share detailed updates about what you are learning on the road when you visited your customer. Share what you can. Even the unimportant details are giving the rest of the organization a glimpse of what’s important to you helping them focus on whats important to the business as a whole. Finally within social tools like Yammer its easy to recognize someone for a job well done. And its pretty much free. See this blog post about social recognition (but secret tip — millennials would much rather have a shout out from their leader in a public setting versus some corporate branded Tchotchke.

2. The leader as a distributer: Leveraging dissemination dynamics.

Disrabution competence – the ability to influence the way message move through the organizations – becomes as important as the ability to create compelling content.” So if you, as a leader find a nugget worth gold on your Yammer network, share it with other leaders. This will allow you to start to figure out the different ways the informations literally flies through your organization. I was speaking with a customer, and she mentioned that at a Gartner conference she attended and her big light bulb moment was when she figure out that “the speed at which information and knowledge transfers happen within their organization will be their competitive advantage for the future.” So the speed at which things are shared and transferred can become your biggest threat or opportunity depending on the systems you have in place. It also becomes apparent very quickly who are the infleuncers within your organization. These are the movers and shakers – they might not have the fancy titles that call them influencers – but these are the people who pick where to go for lunch and everyone follows. More importantly these are the people that will start to tip the needle in getting the content pushed to through the right channels – social tools or not.

3. The leader as recipient: managing communication overflow.

This is a huge skill. Something that I think everyone, not just leaders struggle with. What I tell them is give it up – you aren’t going to read every message or every post. And nor should you. Most people can barely keep up with the amount of email they receive not counting the tweets and yams that could cross their computers. What I coach leaders is to focus on the groups that directly impact their jobs and leave the rest. They learn how to tap eachother on the shoulder to bring people and other leaders in when necessary, and to understand how to divde the network so that if there is a message or conversation that their team should see or be a part of the leadership team will be notified. Its also about figuring out what Yammer “feed” setting works for you. One lady I was working with had it set to ALL conversations – no wonder she couldn’t keep up with the messages in her network, she felt overwhelmed but its also because she was seeing non relevant conversations and felt the need to read every single post. Helping decipher these feeds and conversations is similar in real life, I am not sure why people think social should be any different. As a leader, you aren’t involved in every meeting or every conversation or every email sent (thank gosh or you might never get anything done!). Same thing goes for social.

4. The Leader as adviser and orchestrator: Driving strategic social-media utilization.

Its one thing for a leader to start to figure out “social” its another to back up the other social efforts that are going on within your organization to get the rest of your team members up to snuff. Its about figuring how to tap into people who “get it” and help them help others to have that aha moment. Working closely with a customer now who is focusing on reverse mentoring. I have seen it done and talked about in variety of forms but what it comes down to is regardless of age, rank or stature people are helping people up their “social literacy” and building their networks on and offline. So ask someone to help you if you don’t know or offer your help to someone. My guess is that they would gladly take some advice, plus I am sure you have a lot to share as well.

5. The leader as architect: Creating a enabling organizational infrastructure.

This is the age old org chart. Instead of going up the chains of command, which is still needed in some cases, you need to find the person with the right answer fastest, regardless of title or where they sit in the organization or sit physically. By posting and finding experts and answering questions on your Yammer network, this starts to happen without much effort. And leaders should celebrate when something is found, saved or discovered outside of traditional chain of command through tools like Yammer. The report mentions “The leaders tasks is to marry vertical accountability with networked horizontal collaboration in a way that is not mutually destructive”. Helping involve middle management is key at this stage.

6. Leader as analyst: Staying ahead of the curve

I feel like this is a great one for leaders and so hard to do with all of their other priorties. I recently had a C-level complete one of our Yammer Certification programs. She mentioned that she never would have had the chance to learn everything she did in that short time about Yammer and now she can speak more intelligently and work on getting her peers up to speed as well. Its highly unlikely that you , as execs have time for an all day classroom or training sessions, but I do encourage you to get educated and not just believe in the vision, but to roll up your sleeves and get to figuring out how YOU as a leader could be active on social tools. Normally my teams spends about 60-90 minutes with executives from all sorts of organizations. Sometimes we focus big picture and other times we make sure that they have Yammer on their phones and tablets. Sometimes we dig into the wins they are already seeing and other times we go over how to “tap” each other and search for what you are looking for. I think you need a bit of both context in order to help make some of this “social” stuff start to stick in your workflow as a leader.

The report concludes that “It takes guts to innovate radically” and I would add it takes courage a few people to be a bit brave to start to try something new. Regardless if its social or not. But right now, its not a fad. Its not going away. And if I were you – I would figure out where it fits in my toolbox of leadership skills and how to amplify my self as a good leader using the social technologies that we have at our fingertips.

So what about you? Do these skills resonate with the leaders you are or the leaders you have in your organization? Where is the biggest opportunity for growth?

Andy Stanley – Creating High Performing Teams

When I was at cataylyst I still have these voices ringing in my head from what was being said. There isn’t many times I can say that that has happened before. I think that when you are at the right spot at the right time you actually listen to whats being said and its like for the first time, you heard. That’s what happened to me or maybe I didn’t realize what happened to me.

On the second day of the conference Andy spoke to the masses about creating high performing teams. And it was one of those talks that I couldn’t write fast enough. I wanted to savor every tweetable moment – make sure that every blank was filled in and my notes are filled with scribbles of me trying to capture his every word. I think at this time I needed to hear the wisdom of someone who has done it before. You know someone who has a team of high performance players. And their secret sauce. I remember I just wanted to be a manager so bad that I think I forgot the opportunity of leadership that I was actually given.
I remember Jim Collin’s book from Good to Great – and he talks about not only getting the right people on the bus but getting them in the right seat. Andy kicks off with a similar concept and dug in deep. Something that I was trying doing not realizing it may or may not have been the best thing.
1. Select performance-oriented people and position them for maximum impact.
 – Recruit doers – not thinkers, “its much easier to educate a doer than to activate a thinker”.
This is great advice when seeking additional team members – Jim Collins mentions “Great vision without great people is irrelevant” . I have seen this within my own team the doers vs the thinkers. Andy talks about how you can hire the thinkers on a short term basis but you really need the doers in order to start to get the work done. And boy , do we have a lot of work to get done. I don’t need people who are going to just think about doing something, I need people who are just going to do it.
Put people where they can make their greatest contribution. Put your best people on your best opportunities. Andy goes on to say “Life’s not fair, isn’t that what we tell our children. Fair ended in the garden of eden.” I think sometimes I get so caught up in being fair that I miss an opportunity for someone to give their greatest impact because I was worried about the fairness of the situation – or the process behind it.  Andy also mentions you need people to wake up thinking about solving the problem. Someone so dedicated and focused on that problem that you don’t need remind, motivate or manage to get the work done. Boy would I dream for people who woke up thinking of the problems we were trying to solve versus thinking of it as an afterthought.
2. Clarify the what and the why 
 - Performance -oriented people like to win. Andy challenges the audience to think about what a “win” is and make sure that everyone knows it. I did this immediately with two teams I was leading. I thought to myself in the audience, Does my teams know when they are winning? Are we celebrating the wins? Are we celebrating the right wins? I wasn’t sure that we were celebrating the right wins because I don’t know if we ever laid out what our wins really are — So literally I had two team meetings and each meeting I talked about the concept of a win and what it means and why its important and had the teams write down what a “win” looks like for them. For the one group the each had the opportunity to really own up to the win and how they would make sure it would be a win. For my other team they listed out wins and then someone quickly started to say what does “failure” look like — and of course. I know what failure looks like, we all do. It was an interesting observation because it ended up being all of the opposites of the wins… funny how that works.
-organize to the “what” – Andy asks “if you don’t know why its working whens its working, you won’t know how to fix it when its broke.” I stopped dead in my scribbling of that. Of course. That makes so much sense. Figure out what works and make sure that that everything revolves around that. Too much side ways energy (not focusing on the problem at hand) becomes a weakness to the organization.
3. Orchestrate and evaluate everything.
- “This is how we do it here… until further notice.
I had trouble with this concept because people within my teams have the autonomy to do what they need to do to get their work done but I understand the concept. Make sure that if its working, we know what and how its working and then when its not we are evaluating ways to make it better.
- create a feedback loop that keeps you close to critical events - I think I do this adequately now. I have surveys. I can check data and I hear stories. However I can always do better. Ive just come off a fantastic event. everything (well most everything went smooth). This is a great reminder to get reactions and feedback from the teams on how to make it better. Andy says, and I agree, Numbers don’t tell the whole story and information is often filtered as it makes its way up the org chart. This concept of evaluation is critical in making the problems we are trying to solve worth it because we know we are doing more than just solving the problem we are doing it better than before.
I think there is so much to unpack. And after almost 4 weeks of the conference rememeber and reflecting on what was so easy to do, act and try with my teams it seems as if there is still more to uncover about creating and leading high performing teams.
Do you lead teams? What was the best advice you’ve received when you were leading a team? Anything that you can share? I’d love to learn from you…

Catalyst West – Inspirational Leadership

Last week I had the opportunity to go to Catalyst West  - a faith based leadership event.

I feel like I need a whole week to process everything that I learned. I really want to unpack and figure out how each of the things that I learned apply.

Highlight of nuggets that I can’t get out of my head (some may need more context):

Andy Stanley

“Your current response to opportunity, adversity and calling is MAKING you currently.” 

“Better to make a difference than a point”

“Actions may speak louder than words and sometimes actions echo into the next generation”

Jim Collins

“Good is the enemy of great.”

“Never confused personality with leadership”

“Ask people what they think ahead of always telling them what you think”

“Don’t spend time being interesting, be interested”

“Good intentions is not a cover up for incompetence”

Tom Shadyal 

“Money doesn’t end poverty, love will”

“Without the low note in a song, you wont recognize the high note”

Chip Heath 

“We can never be perfect but we can be better. Bolder.”

“Thinking too narrowly concludes to narrow framing – focus on a different thing.”

“Take a step back from a decision. Add distance. Sleep on it. Think short term. Think long term.”

“10/10/10 Rule – When making a decision think whats the impact 10 min from now, 10 months from now 10 years from now.”

Christine Caine 

“The relay race hinges on exchange zone. We are a part of a divine relay. And its all about the baton. We are building the next generation. You are only here in your faith today, because the generation ahead of you didn’t drop the baton”

“Tolerance isn’t endorsement”

“The issue isn’t injustice. Its sin”

“Nothing can kill you faster than spotlight. It is better to be marked by God than being marketed by Man.”

I love nuggets. Not chicken nuggets (seriously, whats a chicken nugget?!?!)

Anyways, I also finished a new book, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Its a must read. It was exactly what I needed to hear about leadership, women, families and relationships. I will write about that in an upcoming post.

So last week was one of the best weeks I have had in a long time. I was inspired  I had fun. I was encouraged. My cup is full. “Spilling over” is more like it. I feel like I have the energy to tackle the world. Sometimes I just need a few days of focused growth and learning. And last week was it. I felt like a sponge looking thru a new lens of opportunity and leadership.

When’s the last time you felt really inspired? What did you learn? How did you share what you learned? Did you actually change?

TRUE LIFE: Social Onboarding

This is a guest post by my team member Paul Agustin. 

First off, I want to thank Allison for this opportunity to contribute to her blog. My name is Paul Agustin (@PSAgustin) and I am the newest member of her team. Working at Yammer, I’m constantly amazed at its many uses in the workplace. I’m using Notes to take and maintain minutes from meetings with clients as we map out how to roll out training to them. I’m sharing Files with my colleagues for feedback and discussion, utilizing their countless stories and experiences. I’ve been able to discuss and share ideas on upcoming projects with co-workers on the other side of the country, some whom I’ve never even met. Yammer is really changing the way I’ve viewed “working.”  As I’m writing this, I can’t believe I’ve only been at this job for about two months. That’s not a typo. I’ve only been at Yammer for two months. How many people can say, they’ve been able to achieve full productivity in less than a month? (I should have written this blog a month ago, but I was off being productive at Yammer.) Since Day 1 at Yammer, I’ve been able to hit the ground running and I don’t think it would have been possible, if Yammer wasn’t used as part of the onboarding process. Now, you must be thinking, Yammer for onboarding?

From the get go, I’ve been immersed in Yammer. Before my official start date, I was given access to an external network called Yammerversity. This gave me a chance to work in Yammer right away and expose myself to its different features and functionality. (I came from a company that did not use Yammer, so this was my first exposure to it).

Through this, Yammer and I were able to achieve a couple of things:

  1. I became familiar and comfortable with my new job role.
    As more and more people continue to use Yammer within a company, it becomes a knowledge repository. Conversations specific to my team and around their notes and files, are a treasure trove of information on getting up to speed. Being able to see the discussions behind every webinar and presentation, really helped me to know what was expected of me and how I could immediately contribute to the team. Part of my onboarding process was to go through the Yammer certifications. As I was going through them, I shared my feedback on things that needed to get updated and how to improve some of the quiz questions. This was then used to update our certifications.
  2. I was able to learn about company culture and get access to job related resources.
    Cynthia, who led onboarding at Yammer (@CynthiaCHanson) put a fantastic Preboarding Note together that contained links to various e-Learning modules covering Yammer basics, the history of Yammer, and the culture of the company. By the time I stepped into the office, I already had a sense of the people and the company. Once I was given full access to the home network, I was added to a group called Yammer New Hires, which had additional Notes on benefits information and company sites I should be aware of. The best resource of them all though was all of the conversations that had already happened. When I had questions about our commuter benefits, I did a quick search and found my answer. If I couldn’t find an answer on Yammer, I could post it to the company (in the appropriate group, of course), and know that someone will be able to help me out.
  3. I was able to start to build relationships and network.
    The first thing you’re supposed to do once you’re granted access to the Yammer home network, is to post a #bammerintro. (Bammer is a nickname for a baby Yammer, or a noob.) In your Bammer intro, you are to introduce yourself to the company and share a bit about yourself. Folks across the company can “Like” your message and reply with their own welcomes and greetings. This one little exercise is a great start to building relationships. When I finally visited the company headquarters, people already knew who I was and I knew who they were based on our interactions in Yammer. I already felt like part of the team, before I actually met Cynthia, Natalie, Kristin  and Louise in person.
  4. I was able to feel engaged and valued.
    “Working out loud” in Yammer creates transparency in what I’m working on and what other people are working on to. Allison has mentioned me on conversations that she thinks are relevant to me or that I can provide value to. Through this transparency, I can see my comments and suggestions are being read and used. Just the other day, I put together a deck about what do now that you’re a Yammer Certified Power User. Allison loved the idea and wanted to use it in our other certification programs.

social generationThese are just a few of the ways Yammer has eased my transition to my new job. If you’re looking for a way to jolt your onboarding program, try making it a little more “social,” you’ll be pleased with the results. I know I was.

Thanks Paul! You’ve been great addition to the team and I know these learnings will be good for others to read. So, how about you, have you tried to “socialize” your new hires? What are you learning? How can a tool like Yammer help facilitate and enable those conversations and communities?

“Paint” by Numbers but Different Results, is that how we train?

Last week I went to a Art of Merlot to celebrate a good friend’s birthday. We were instructed to all paint a similar picture. In the end we were supposed to end up with something close to Van Goghs’ version of the red poppy…


We were all given the same materials (canvas, paint, brushes) traced the same outline of the painting (using carbon copy paper) and given the same instruction from the art teacher.


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Yet when we finished… (see below) everyone had their own interpretation of the instruction and the medium and the colors and ultimately the final product. If you look at them they all look “similar” however they are all different and not exact replicas for what Van Gogh originally created.  (mine specifically requires a two drink minimum to view).





Was it that some of us just didn’t listen to the instructor? Or some of us had had too much wine ? Or was it that we wanted to express our own perception of what was being painted?


Either way I think this is similar to how “training” is looked at. Everyone is given (or hopefully) given the same tools, instruction and we expect the same results. But the reality is that some interpretations come out a bit different than others.  Some excel and “paint” wonderful things and go above and beyond your expectations taking the materials a step further. While other some need a bit of remedial assistance (my case with the painting! I needed the teacher’s assistance every brush stroke). Is this such a bad thing ? Or is there something wrong with the expectation that everything will come out just the way we planned when we have given everyone everything without letting them choose on their own?


Have you ever had a “color by numbers” type of training session? Where you thought everything was given to your learners and it turned out they did something completely different? What happened? Would love to hear about it!

Sometimes a vacation is needed

Ed and I just returned from Maui, Hawaii.  We have never been to Hawaii before and it was fantastic. Like a dream really.

ed and me

I was invited to go by Yammer as a part of the Presidents Club. It was such an honor to celebrate, relax and enjoy the time spent with my co-workers and my husband. And the ocean wasn’t too bad either.


However, leaving my team and my customers for this amount of time – I was worried about un-plugging and not letting everything unravel so I would have a lot to clean up when I got back.

  • When your team has a certain level of trust with each other, it doesn’t matter if someone is out or has a doctors appointment or on vacation. Everyone steps in, provides, shares and gets done what’s needed. I love my team for being awesome and doing just that. They rock.
  • While my Yammer notifications were a bit insane after about 1.5 hrs I had gone thru everything. I couldn’t believe it. I love love Yammer so much, and just one more reason why I love it. The way the conversations CAN KEEP HAPPENING even if you are out of the office. my out of office currently to my internal emails:

    “Thanks for your email – Have you considered posting it to Yammer? You will probably get a faster response! Thanks, Allison Michels”

  • OOO are so silly. But seriously. Not joking. I think it has helped with the insane emails that could be posted on yammer. I haven’t turned this OOO off yet because I think its actually keeping my email messages down for the rest of the week.  If you use Yammer or another social tool – try it. Especially when you go on vacation. Instead of emails getting stuck in your inbox – get them out in the open so others can respond and take care of it.
  • It was just a nice  breath of fresh air and to travel for fun vs to travel for business (been on the road almost every week of 2013…) was a nice feeling.

When’s the last time you really unplugged and had a vacation? What did you love most ? What was it like coming back and catching up? How do you manage that?

four seasons

I have learned so much.

And I haven’t written anything down. Who am I? I used to blog all the time. I got my current job from a blog post I wrote. (more of the story here)

This past December I graduated with my Masters of Education, Technology and Leadership. I wrote about my FIRST semester in this post. (Oh my – I cant believe how fast/slow it went). I learned a lot in school. But probably not as much as I have learned this past year.

And by the last post I made it really doesn’t justify how much I have learned and been up to. Almost a year ago within a world I had no business being in I jumped in both feet. I leaned on a great coach, business adviser and consultant who became a dear friend. We tried things. Failed at things. Added new things. Took away the bad things and kept on adjusting. Like the angry birds method. “Aim. Fire. Adjust.”

So I guess thats what I will do with this blog going forward. Aim. Fire. Adjust.

I’d like to write about social enterprises because I see that every day. I’d like to write about my journey as a new manager (got lots of stories). I’d like to write about what its like being on the road all the time or how great it is to work from home (YOGA PANTS!). I’d like to write about the customers I see and the lightbulbs that go off. I’d like to write about what its like working for the largest software company in the world after working for a startup.

Is that OK with you? If that works – I will start there. 

No promises. But bug me to write more, ok?

And if you’d like to do a guest post let me know.