Monday, December 29, 2014

Relationships are all there is

This weeks sparkenation.

People are the solution to the problems that confront us. Technology is not the solution, although it can help. We are the solution -- we as generous, open-hearted people who want to use our creativity and caring on behalf of other human beings and all life.

Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals who can go it alone.

We humans want to be together. We only isolate ourselves when we're hurt by others, but alone is not our natural state. Today, we live in an unnatural state -- separating ourselves rather than being together.

We become hopeful when somebody tells the truth. I don't know why this is, but I experience it often. Truly connecting with another human gives us joy. The circumstances that create this connection don't matter. Even those who work side by side in the worst natural disaster or crisis recall that experience as memorable. They are surprised to feel joy in the midst of tragedy, but they always do.

We have to slow down. Nothing will change for the better until we do. We need time to think, to learn, to get to know each other. We are losing these great human capacities in the speed-up of modern life, and it is killing us.

The cure for despair is not hope. It is discovering what we want to do about something we care about.

From the book ‘Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future’ by Margaret Wheatley.

Be remarkable.

More sparkenations here where you can also download all 52 of this years sparkenations in the one ebook.

Monday, December 22, 2014

It's what we give every day that really matters

This weeks sparkenation.

The following words in Paul McGee's latest newsletter got me thinking

"Whatever your reason for the season it's worth remembering this:

True fulfilment in life comes from experiencing the most joys, not acquiring the most toys."

I admit to not being all that fond of Christmas. This stems in part from being born on Christmas Eve. The only thing worse would be being born on Christmas Day! Us Christmas children get over it of course when we get that it's not about us!

My annoyance is more about the focus on giving (or is it the focus on receiving) once a year.

To me it's what we give every day that really matters.

Whatever your reason for the season I wish you well. More I wish you the joy that comes from giving every day. 

And I wish that you will give to others every day in 2015 your greatest gift, that of living the best one-of-a-kind life that you can live.

Be remarkable.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Hedonist’s Guide To Getting Things Done: Goal Setting Made Easy

Most goal-setting programs are hard. The system might sound easy, but achieving the goals is difficult. It usually takes discipline, willpower, a strong mindset, hard work, sacrifice and struggle.

No wonder most people fail at their goals or New Year's Resolutions!

I've got a different approach to goal setting: This year, choose, plan and achieve goals that bring you joy, ease and happiness - not only when you achieve them, but along the way as well.

Now I know this flies in the face of many (most?) goal-setting programs! So be warned that what I'm going to share here might be controversial, confronting or conflicting with other advice you've seen. But hey - if you do embrace my advice, you will enjoy the next twelve months. So what have you got to lose?

The title of this article is tongue in cheek. A hedonist is purely motivated by pleasure, perhaps even selfish pleasure. I'm not suggesting that's appropriate as a way of life. But I do think we spend way too much time in our life doing things we don't want, that we're not good at, with people we don't like, and without getting any reward. Why not do something different this year?

Heck, there'll be plenty of times when life isn't perfect. Sure, you might get stuck in traffic, fight with your partner, struggle getting the kids to sleep, do work that you don't want to do just because it's in your job description, or force yourself to be more disciplined at work. But those things are going to happen anyway. Why would you deliberately schedule more of those things in your goal setting as well?

So do yourself a favour when you're setting your goals for the year: Don't create goals and activities that involve struggle, complication, hardship and sacrifice. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, especially if you've done other goal-setting programs. But hang in there - I'll explain ...

I've got ten guidelines here, broken down into three areas: Choosing the right goals (4 guidelines), planning (3) and taking action (3).


1. Do what you love

It's surprising how many people set a goal because they think they “should” do it, or they “need” to do it, or somebody else wants it for them. Those goals are the first to go when life gets in the way.

So only choose goals that you want to achieve. In fact, I'll go a step further and say you should only choose goals that you will love to achieve. This isn't about being selfish; it's about choosing wisely.

2. Love who you'll be

Think carefully: Are you going to be happy - truly happy - with the person you're going to become if you do achieve your goals?

If you get that big promotion, will you be OK spending more time away from your spouse and kids? If you go on that carrot juice diet and lose 20 kilos, can you tolerate having to gaze longingly and wistfully at chocolate cake from now until the end of your life? If you get all those business travel opportunities, can you cope with spending wasted hours in airports, taxi queues and hotel rooms?

Be sure you're willing to accept all the consequences of achieving your goal.

3. Think big

Most people don't fail because their goals are too big; they fail because their goals are too small. Those goals are easily forgotten or tossed aside when something bigger comes along. So make sure you set big - but achievable - goals.

As Jonathon Kozol says, “Pick battles big enough to matter; small enough to win”.

4. Know the reason why

It's not the “what” and “how” of a goal that motivates you; it's the “why”. Sometimes you'll end up with something that wasn't exactly what you imagined, but it still achieves the same result.


5. Love what you do

Plan to enjoy the journey. If it takes willpower, discipline or sacrifice to achieve your goal, it's harder to do and easier to slip up. Instead, make it fun!

It's no fun to crawling out of bed an hour early to exercise, but perhaps you can make it fun by exercising with a friend, so you make it a social event as well.

It's no fun to set aside 10% of your income for wealth creation, but what if you also set aside another 10% as “play money”, to be spent on fun and frivolity?

It's no fun to call past customers to bring them back into your fold, but what if you invited them to a cocktail party instead?

6. Hang out with people you like

Life's too short to spend with people you don't like, love, inspire or are inspired by.

Decide who you want to spend more time with this year, and make sure they're part of your journey. They don't have to be actively involved in helping you achieve your goals - although that's a bonus. But make sure they're around. And be especially sure you don't neglect them while achieving your goals.

7. Get help

Whatever your goals, there's a good chance somebody else has already achieved them. So find the right mentors and ask for their help. You might have to pay, or you might not. Either way, it's the best way to fast-track your success.


8. Start before you're ready

You won't have all your preparation complete. You won't know exactly what path to follow. There's always a reason not to start today. But if you're waiting for the perfect moment to get started, you'll be waiting a long time. The perfect moment is now.

9. Take a big step first

A rocket uses most of its fuel in escaping the Earth's atmosphere. After that, it takes very little energy to keep going.

Many of your goals - especially the biggest and most important goals - are similar. Don't start with baby steps; start with massive strides. The good news is that often just a few strides can make a big difference, and then everything else is easy.

Obviously I'm not suggesting you do dangerous things, like suddenly taking up squash if you're unfit. But if it's OK to start walking for 30 minutes a day, start walking. Don't “build up to it” with unnecessary little steps - e.g. buying new sneakers, starting a journal to record your progress, telling all your Facebook friends, shopping for a new T-shirt to celebrate the start of the journey, and plotting the optimal walking route for different weather conditions. Sure, these small steps are easy, but it's the first big step (literally in this case) that matters.

10. Do something every day

Do something towards at least one of your goals every day. After all, why wouldn't you? These activities are fun, not a burden or a chore. So, in addition to working towards your goals, you're adding some fun and enjoyment to every day of your life!

More importantly, at the end of the year, you will have taken 365 steps - enjoyable steps - towards achieving your goals. That's 365 more than the average person.

So that's it. Those are my ten guidelines for easy goal setting.

Good luck, and I wish you all the best for making 2012 the best year of your life.

Monday, December 15, 2014

What are you doing that's better, different, or more unique than anybody else?

This weeks sparkenation.

Remarkable is the new normal. Great is no longer good enough. Ordinary is your enemy.

In modern business in order to boom and never bust you must be remarkable in 7 areas:

Disrupting yourself.
Differentiation: what your people do that others do, just better, differently or more uniquely.
Discovery: ensuring your people know their gifts/talents and how you are helping them to enhance them.
Drive: helping your people achieve what is important to them and meeting their intrinsic motivators.
Delivery: how you create, capture and deliver value to all your stakeholders that they demand, desire, and feel that they deserve.
Distinction: the ways the experience of your customers/clients online and in-person makes you stand out from the rest.
Differencemaking: the human problems your business solves.

Often it's the little things that turn ordinary into remarkable.

This week I went for a coffee with a client of mine in Warrnambool in Western Victoria, Australia. We walked past several coffee shops to get to his favourite one.

No-one carries a card to be clipped and eventually get a free coffee here. All the customers know where their card is on the walls, point them out, and the Barista ticks them off. I actually felt the sense of belonging regular customers have. This is the significance of small, a little thing making a big difference. And the coffee and the service were exceptional too.

What are you doing that's better, different, or more unique than anybody else?

Differentiation is just one area you need to be remarkable in.
How remarkable are you in the seven areas?

Go to my website here and scroll down to the bottom of the page and you'll see the diagnostic below.

Follow the instructions on my web page and I'll be in touch with you to arrange a complimentary high value briefing. It's my gift to you to help you to ensure that 2015 is your best year yet.

Be remarkable.

More sparkenations here.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

To be or not to be? really is the question

This Sunday's sparkenation and also the seventh and final in a series this week on my personal blog. You can check out the previous six here.

My wife's passion for and involvement over many years in the theatre meant a pilgrimage some years back to the birthplace of William Shakespeare.

On our pilgrimage I bought a fridge magnet that holds pride of place on my office whiteboard.

“To be or not to be” really is the question.

And “This above all. To thine own self be true.” really is the answer.

Being there with you as you discover and decide what these profound statements mean for you and how you will act on them in your life and work is the reason I get up every morning.

I'm not for everyone of course. My candidness scares lots of people. Others find it like a burst of refreshing cold air on a muggy summers night. My best friend, who with his partner was with us when we bought the magnet above, died on the 25th May 2011. I promised him that I would never die wondering what might be.

Until midnight tonight Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time December 7th, I'm offering here a very special offer for individual membership of my Maverick Thinkers Studio.

To check out what's inside my studio join me for the final group tour of my studio for this year. It's on at 6.30 pm Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time today December 7th. Please email to get the link.

Be remarkable.

More sparkenations here.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

How To Write the About Page For Your Web Site

How To Write the About Page For Your Web SiteThe "About Us" (or "About Me", or "Biography", or "The Team", or whatever you choose to call it) page of your Web site is important, because people want to know they are dealing with real people - not just a cold, unfriendly online presence. But many Web site owners struggle with this page, so it tends to end up as a bland list of qualifications or an uninteresting history of the team members.

If you're finding it a challenge to write this page, use my "Four E's" formula to help get your ideas in order.

(Note: If you have a team, you'll have to decide whether you should do this for each of your team members or for the team as a whole. Either option can work, and one will be better than the other for your organisation.)


You don’t choose an expert on price (If you require a heart transplant, you don’t say “Get me the cheapest heart surgeon”). Promoting yourself as an expert allows you to charge higher fees; focus on clients’ problems, not your services; and positions you as a trusted adviser, not a slick salesperson.

So don’t be shy about positioning yourself as an expert, and describing your expertise – right at the top of your profile.


Expertise is about what you know; experience is about numbers that add to your expertise. For example, you might talk about the number of years you've been in business, the number of clients you've worked with, the number of countries where you have clients, the number of projects you've done over the years, the number of audience members who have heard your presentations, and so on.

Focus on experience that's relevant to your site visitors. If you're a professional speaker, for example, the number of audience members you've reached might be significant, but the number of words in your book is not!


Describe your educational qualifications - both formal education and professional qualifications. Again, only include it if it’s relevant for clients.

A long list of qualifications doesn't automatically add credibility. So again, be careful to only include what's relevant.

Also be careful not too appear too qualified, because that can sometimes be a disadvantage. For example, saying you have a Ph.D. can sometimes work against you because you might be perceived (wrongly, of course!) as too formal and academic.


Finally, if you have some high-profile endorsements from respected authorities, industry or general publications, or other places, include them here. For example, when Forbes magazine listed me as its #5 social media influencer in the world in my area of expertise, I used that endorsement everywhere!

Use the Four E'S as a starting point.

I hope you'll find this formula useful for starting your About page. You don't necessarily have to follow this formula exactly, of course. But if you're stuck or struggling to get started, it's an easy way to write something first, and then you can work on refining it later.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Why candid conversations and eye contact matter more than ever

This weeks sparkenation.

I love social media for all sorts of reasons.

I love having candid conversations and making eye contact with people in person a whole lot more.

Next time you post, tweet, like, share, or whatever keep it in perspective. Nothing matters more than having candid conversations and making eye contact with another human being.

Be remarkable.

More sparkenations here.

My thanks to Mari Smith for the picture below which I took a screenshot of during her wonderful presentation for the Global Impact Summit. And I hope Sir Richard, one of my heroes, doesn't mind.

Monday, November 24, 2014

3 barriers you may need to eliminate so that you can do what you love

This weeks sparkenation.

I recommended related pre-reading to this post:

Doing what you love in the service of people who love what you do.

I observe 3 common interconnected barriers that are in the way of leadership effectiveness and that are often stopping leaders from doing what they love in the service of people who love what they do:

Being time poor
Decision-making chaos and in-decision

1) A lingering part of the hangover from the industrial revolution and associated management that tried to make human beings act like cogs in a machine, is the fact the we continue to have unrealistic expectations of what people can and can't achieve. One consequence is that most people are time poor.

I don't believe in time-management. I do believe in investing wisely in the 168 hours each of us has every week. Could you be a better investor in your time? Is at least 20% of your diary for this week empty meaning you are allowing for the unexpected? Do your people have the same flexibility?

2) Micro-management is often a key factor in being time poor. Help your people to clarify their roles, agree on rules of engagement including boundaries, have your employees create a 90 day personal and business performance plan that you can focus your conversations with them on. Otherwise get out of the way. Redefine your own role so that you're doing what you love in the service of people who love what you do.

3) Is there a clear process for making the big decisions in your workplace? Is it transparent and is everyone affected by decisions involved in the process?

Are people on your frontline truly able to make every day decisions without reference to anyone else?

If you answered no to either of the above questions you've got work to do.

Be remarkable.

PS I believe that remarkable is the new normal. Great is no longer good enough. Ordinary is your enemy. Eliminating barriers such as the 3 above are paramount to being remarkable.

To be remarkable in your businesses starts with your self-leadership and then leading by example. In order for other people to be remarkable, by definition consistently bringing their best to their work, some rules will need to be broken, boundaries redefined, and barriers eliminated. I work with leaders to achieve these ends.

I then provide No BS Mentoring on demand, and 24/7 access to resources that work when you use them in your own way. You'll be able to guarantee you succeed in the change/s you lead as a consequence.

I will be conducting group tours to show you what’s inside my studio every day 1st - 7th December, so that you can get a feel for the precious resources for humans inside. Find out more and how to join a tour here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Beta Forever

Beta ForeverGoogle and Apple are both famous for their tech products and services, and constantly compete for market share. Their approach to product development is radically different from each other.

When Apple releases a product, it’s beautiful. Apple obsesses over design, thinks carefully about the user experience, and makes every effort to release something that’s “perfect”. Of course, some people also accuse Apple of deliberately holding back features so it can sell upgrades later. But, even taking this into account, what Apple does release is beautifully designed.

Google, on the other hand, often releases half-finished products that do the job, but are a bit rough around the edges. It makes no secret of this, and openly announces a “beta” release, which means it’s not so bad as to be completely unusable (that would be an “alpha” release, and that would only be released internally within Google), but is a bit rough around the edges.

An example is Google’s e-mail product, Gmail, which was released in beta in 2004. In fact, at the time of its release, it was available by invitation only, which was not a marketing stunt, but an acknowledgement that Google wanted it tested by a small group before making it available to everybody.

Which approach do you use with your people?

I don’t want to argue about the relative merits of the two approaches to product development because both Apple and Google are wildly successful. But I do want to ask you how you see your people. Do you think of them as complete, perfect packages, beautifully crafted and finished? Or do you see them as smart, talented and competent – but a bit rough around the edges?

If you look it from a spiritual viewpoint, then you might lean towards the former (“We are all perfect in every way!”). But from a practical leadership viewpoint, I suggest you take the latter approach. In other words, treat them as imperfect and beta.

In fact, think of them as beta forever.

This doesn’t mean you constantly focus on their flaws. On the contrary, it means you focus on their strengths, but acknowledge they have flaws. This is a much more respectful way to treat them, and it gives you the practical foundation to tap into those strengths.

For example ...

  • You put them in situations slightly beyond their skills, but give them support.
  • You tolerate them making mistakes 20% of the time, knowing the 80% they do right is exceptional work
  • You look for opportunities to magnify, amplify and grow their strengths - both in formal and informal ways
  • You don’t waste time trying to prevent every possible mistake
  • You make it easier for people to talk about their mistakes, so you can work together to do it better next time

So ... Have you been holding your people, your team and your organisation back (not to mention yourself!) by waiting until your people have all their problems sorted out? If so, it’s time to treat them as beta releases. And they will be beta forever.

(Photo credit: Simon Cunningham)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Are you the 1 in 100?

This weeks sparkenation.

"Yesterday I was clever
So I wanted to change the world.

Today I am wise
So I am changing myself."

The 99 when they talk about change, what they really mean is everyone else changing and not them.

Are you the 1 in 100?

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

More sparkenations here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What are the human problems your business solves?

There are 7 keys to thriving on the challenges of change in your life and work. One I call differencemaking - the human problem/s your business solves.

I love the insights in this recent McKinsey article ‘Redefining capitalism’ that is in part about this. In the article the authors state “Every business is based on an idea about how to solve a problem. The process of converting great ideas into products and services that effectively fulfill fast-changing human needs is what defines most businesses. Thus, the crucial contribution business makes to society is transforming ideas into products and services that solve problems.”

What are the human problems your business solves?

Differencemaking is the purpose (the why, the intent, the reason) for our businesses. Fulfilling our purpose is all about our performance in the areas pictured below.

The above diagnostic is part of a paper I have produced about these 7 areas called The Delightful Design of a Distinguished 21st century business.

To download my paper please go here and scroll down to the bottom of the page. When you complete, scan, and email the diagnostic to me I’ll provide you with complimentary high value briefing.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

Monday, November 10, 2014

What are you creating that will live forever?

This weeks sparkenation.

What are you creating that will live forever?

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

PS The Global Impact Summit began today. Already more than 200,000 impacts.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Help Your Team Become More Agile

Help Your Team Become More AgileA large organisation offers a more stable day-to-day work life. There's a buffer between teams and the outside world, so people work in a stable, predictable environment, with less stress and more confidence they can cope with the work. Even when external pressures occur, the organisation can absorb, delay or counter them so they don’t affect normal operations.

When you work in this sort of environment, it's easier for you to plan, project, budget and allocate resources. It's easier for you to motivate your team members with clear and predictable goals, milestones, bonuses and other performance rewards. You can also promise a more secure, reliable, predictable workplace – so it's easier to get, engage and keep key people.

But big ships get hit by icebergs!

Although this stability is a benefit in normal operations, it also makes us less flexible and resilient when things go badly wrong. Like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead (“When she was good she was very, very good; when she was bad she was horrid”), or an ocean liner that can handle big waves but not an iceberg, we react badly when big things happen. Decisions take longer, everybody's protecting their turf, we're under the public microscope so even small decisions get scrutinised in detail, and so on. Most of all, most people are simply caught unaware when the boat hits the iceberg.

Even if you see the dangers and risks ahead, you're a small fish in a big pond, so you might not be able to do anything about them. In an increasingly fast-paced world, big organisations are less agile, less flexible, more vulnerable and less prepared for big external pressures.

When a crisis occurs, you might lose staff, projects, and even your job – through no fault of your own, and without any recourse. It's bad enough when a lone sailor loses his life; it's a tragedy of a whole other magnitude when it happens to a large ship.

Even if there are no crises, you (and the organisation) might not see the opportunities either – opportunities that a smaller, more exposed organisation would recognise and take. Even within your team, a predictable workplace can be boring and unmotivating! And if everything is predictable, you're not allowing your team members to thrive.

Take a leaf from a small, agile business ...

Small organisations deal with crises (some imagined, some real) regularly. Because they are more exposed, these workplaces can be more uncertain, frantic and frightening. However, they can also be more dynamic, more exciting and more inspiring.

Give your team the best of both worlds, by showing them the excitement of a dynamic work life while still enjoying the relative security of a stable workplace. You can do this in three ways:

  1. Lift them up: Expose your team members to higher roles, so they can see over the metaphorical walls (or physical cubicle partitions!) in their regular work.
  2. Bring the outside in: Subscribe to industry magazines and journals – both in print (which you can leave lying around in common areas, or circulate among the team) and electronic form.
  3. Take the inside out: Encourage your team members to step outside the workplace and participate in business networking events (and yes, in real life, not just online!)

By giving them opportunities "above their pay grade", you help them avoid the false sense of security they might otherwise feel.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ensuring the great management myths and morons aren’t messing with your mind

I have been in a few workplaces this year where I have witnessed 20th century and even earlier management practices. 

In one where I was asked to do a review of their remarkability, which involves finding out the unbiased answers to these 96 questions, the CEO asked me for a one sentence summary of my findings. I replied “A lot of the great management myths and morons are messing with a lot of people’s minds.” An interesting conversation followed to say the least. 

The main myths we discussed were; people can be managed, there’s a need for a war on talent, people are resources, assets or capital. And the main oxymorons; change management, strategic planning, and performance management.

Below are my key thoughts on each one and links to more detail for you to explore and take action.

“People can be managed.” 
They can’t. We lead for people. We manage processes, policies, procedures, practices, processes and systems (PPPPS’s).

Explore more Management is dead

“There is a need for a war on talent.” 
There isn’t. Many organisations are focused on so-called top talent when the greatest opportunity is in the middle where people are neither engaged or disengaged, yet open to persuasion.

“People are resources, assets or capital.” 

“Change Management, Strategic Planning, and Performance Management”

Change like people can’t be managed. We lead change and manage the things around it.

A key to doing this successfully is simplification of strategy and focusing on execution.

Your strategy and your execution plan are completely different. See them together at your peril. Strategy in simple terms is how you’re going to get where you’re going. It’s a reference point for all decisions you make. If you can’t describe your strategy in a sentence it is very difficult to gain employee buy-in. 

Strategy is like a compass. Execution is a map. Every employee needs their unique piece of your execution map otherwise the chances of your strategy getting executed are zilch.

When each employee has their piece of the map and candid conversations integral to daily work are held around their piece of the map, you can throw out performance reviews and all the crap associated with performance management.

Explore more Moving on the morons

Some great insights (despite the title!) in the Strategy+business article 10 Principles of Leading Change Management. 

My new personal and business development program - 7 ways to thrive on the challenges of change

Over the past few months, and with the involvement of a few clients to ensure it’s tried, tested, and proven, I have developed a program that puts these myths and morons in their place, consigned to history.

The program is short and sharp and designed with time poor leaders in mind. It explores what I believe are the 7 keys to a thriving 21st century business:

Disrupting ourselves.
Differentiation: what our people do that others do, just better, differently or more uniquely.
Discovery: ensuring our people know their gifts/talents and how we are helping them to enhance them.
Drive: helping our people achieve what is important to them and meeting their intrinsic motivators.
Delivery: how we create, capture and deliver value to our stakeholders that they demand, desire, and feel that they deserve.
Distinction: the ways the experience of our customers/clients online and in-person makes us stand out from the rest.
Differencemaking: the human problems our business solves and/or impacts.

The program is available as a tailored for you in-house program or through my peer group initiative Maverick Thinkers Farm which can be undertaken online or in person. 

Although this program is short in duration, long term results are firmly in mind. To ensure you gain in the long term 1 years membership of Maverick Thinkers Studio, including a license to use my flagship The Enhancing Their Gifts System, is included in the package.

At both the above links there is a simple diagnostic you can complete to see how your traveling in these 7 areas of a distinguished 21st century business. The diagnostic is inside a special paper I wrote about these 7 keys to thriving on the challenges of change.

Very special offer

Complete, scan and email the diagnostic to me and I will give you a complimentary 1 hour high value briefing on what you can do to be remarkable in the 7 areas.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

Monday, November 3, 2014

What stories have you shared lately?

This weeks sparkenation.

There's a lot of talk on social media that content is king and a whole content marketing industry has emerged.

The key in my view is not so much about content rather it's all about stories and story sharing.

What's your story?
What stories have you shared lately?
Who is sharing your story?

“We don’t need a list of rights and wrongs, tables of dos and don’ts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.”
Philip Pullman

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

More sparkenations here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

How are you helping others to change?

This Sunday's sparkenation.

Unfortunately old management still has a hold on many people. It's about control and the functions of planning, organizing, directing, controlling. Most people have had enough of this.

See here for what management in the 21st century is really about.

Modern leadership is about inspiring, influencing and impacting people. It's about helping people to change, never telling them or directing them to change. As Peter Senge says “People don't resist change. They resist being changed.”

One way to help people is to give them tools for change. I provide many such tools for my clients.
The key though is not my tools, rather it's people using them in their own way.

"You can’t change the way people think, all you can do is give them a tool, the use of which will change their thinking."
Buckminster Fuller

How are you helping others to change?

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

More sparkenations here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Please join me online at the Global Impact Summit

I’m thrilled to be speaking at a very unique online event in November as one of 30 thought leaders.

It’s called the Global Impact Summit and it gets underway on the 10th of November and is LIVE online for 15 days.

All the Summit delivers is impact. And ONLY Impact. No selling of stuff. Just impact, pure and simple.

Since registration opened a week ago there's already been 59,069 giving impacts including…

•    360 days of education support were provided to children in Botswana.

•    58,400 days of access to life-saving water were given to people in Ethiopia.

•    68 coaching sessions were given to Social Entrepreneurs in India.

•    240 children received improved learning environment for a year.

Please click here to find out more, to register, and make your own impact.

Even if you can’t get to every one of the sessions live, register now. They are being recorded so you can watch the replays. It’s a wealth of inspirational business insights for you to keep!

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

5 Tips to Revamp Your LinkedIn Strategy

5 Tips to Revamp Your LinkedIn StrategyLinkedIn has added so many features recently that it's easy to get confused about how it works and what to do with it. But if you focus on the things it does best, you can get a lot of value from it.

LinkedIn is one of the oldest social networks. It's often not even mentioned when people talk about social media, but it is a social media platform.

It started life to help you get a new job. You would promote yourself as an employee to future employers and recruiters. You could also broaden your network by asking for referrals through people you know. It's still a powerful job/career network, but that's not important to us as business leaders and business owners. But some of the other things about LinkedIn's past are still relevant:

  1. You can show yourself in your best professional light.
  2. It's a great network for professional networking
  3. You can say nice things about others in your network
  4. You can ask people you know to introduce you to others in their network
  5. It's a network of peers and colleagues, not necessarily customers and suppliers

Let's look at each of these in turn.

1. Profile

Use LinkedIn to post your "CV" or "resume", so people who do want to know more about you can find something. This is not a traditional CV you would write when seeking a job. Rather, it's a promotional profile piece that positions you as an expert and authority. It's more marketing-oriented than a traditional CV, but isn't full of hype.

2. Networking

Think about going to a business networking function. The people you hate there are those that are too self-promoting and just interested in taking without giving. The people you love are those who take an interest in you and genuinely look for ways to help you - even without an immediate benefit to them. They do win in the long term, though, because people like them and genuinely want to help them in turn.

LinkedIn is the same. Don't promote yourself too much. Instead, use it to connect with people, answer questions, solve problems, and in general be helpful rather than pushy. Position yourself as a trusted advisor, not a pushy salesperson.

3. Testimonials

If somebody does a good job for you, you naturally want to tell other people - especially friends and other people in your network. In the physical world, you might write a testimonial (which they use in their promotional material), or bring it up in conversation with your friend. But what if you don't know your friend is looking for that service? And what if the supplier hasn't promoted your testimonial well?

LinkedIn solves both these problems by letting you put testimonials (LinkedIn calls them "Recommendations") right there on the supplier's profile. It also encourages the supplier to reciprocate by writing a testimonial for you as well.

4. Introductions

The world works on recommendations, referrals and introductions. If I introduce you to somebody I know, that person already trusts you (to some extent). In fact, wouldn't it be great if the only people we worked with were people who had been referred or introduced by somebody else?

LinkedIn works the same way in the online world. Use it to reach out to people you would like to reach, not just by contacting them out of the blue, but through somebody who knows you both. Because that person in the middle is trusted by you and the other person, the initial connection is far warmer than just a cold contact.

5. Peers and colleagues

Finally, keep in mind that most of your LinkedIn connections are not your prospects. They are peers and colleagues who are connected to you for mutual gain. Think professional association, not marketplace.

That doesn't mean you won't get any business from LinkedIn. On the contrary, LinkedIn can be one of your best sources of businesses. But think of it as getting business through your connections, not from them. In other words, they are more likely to refer you than to buy from you. But that referral - to a key person in their network - might be worth much more to you than selling directly to the referrer.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The challenge of leadership

This weeks sparkenation.

The late Jim Rohn was a hero of mine. His words below sum up for me the challenge of leadership.

The challenge of leadership is 
to be strong, but not rude;
be kind, but not weak;
be bold, but not bully;
be thoughtful, but not lazy;
be humble, but not timid;
be proud, but not arrogant;
have humour, but without folly.

How well are you meeting the challenge? Could you be better?

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

More sparkenations here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

What you don’t know that you must do

This weeks sparkenation.

Over the past 25 years I have had the honour and privilege to be a mentor to more than 1000 business leaders in over 40 countries. Without exception their journey has been one of doing what they know that they should do that they were not.

In this doing each person (at unique turning points for them) has discovered critical actions that they didn’t know that they must do. Herein lies the key to optimum performance.

Are you doing what you know you should do?

If not I can help you.

My promise to you is that through working together you’ll do what you know you should and discover what you don’t know that you must do. Imagine that.

From now until the 1st February 2015 there’s a window of opportunity for you to join a Maverick Thinkers Farm for a very special fee. 

As well as doing what you know you should, and discovering what you don’t know that you must do, you’ll increase the number of your employees bringing their best to their work. 

Imagine that too.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Would You Give Up Two Days Of Your Life For This?

Would You Give Up Two Days Of Your Life For This?A few years ago, when I switched from Outlook to Gmail, it took me about two days effort (spread out over a week or so) to get back to my old level of productivity.

When I recently switched from MYOB to Xero for my accounting software, again it took me about two days effort overall.

When I ran my "Build Your Web Site In Two Days" workshop, the participants built their Web site from scratch in (surprise!) two days.

Two days sounds like a lot of time, especially in today's busy world. How can you afford to find two days in your schedule to learn a new e-mail system, use a new accounting package, or build a Web site???

But the real question is: If it has a long-term benefit, how can you NOT afford the time?

Will you bite the bullet and find two days?

According to NASA, the Space Shuttle uses up most of its fuel in the first 8 minutes of its flight. After that, it escapes the Earth's atmosphere and sails along with very little effort.

You might have been putting off something because you know it takes some effort to get started. It's definitely not easy to make the time - especially when you think of all the other things you could do with that time (most of which you're not doing!). But weigh up the short-term pain with the long-term gain.

The two days I invested in Gmail and Xero have repaid me many times over - and usually within the first few weeks.

Two days is a long time!

The good news is that if you do set aside the time, you can get a lot done. Two solid days of work is a long time! You don't have to lock yourself in a room for two days and do nothing else. It's OK to spread out that two days work over a week, and you'll still be amazed at what you can achieve.

The bad news is that if you don't make the time, you might never get around to doing it. And if it's a worthwhile goal, it will cost you a lot more than two days in the long term.

So bite the bullet and do it! Your Future You will thank you for making the effort!

Monday, October 6, 2014

The meaning of life

This weeks sparkenation.

I reckon this talk by Tim Minchin is brilliant. You?

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

More sparkenations here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Your fans matter much more than your followers

This Sunday's sparkenation.

I am blessed in my business that I have a few fans of my work who take me to meet with people who like, know and trust them, whom they feel would benefit from working with me. My fans also arrange boardroom briefings and seminars for their clients/customers where I add value using my "speakership" and mentoring skills. I obtain 90% of my business through these methods.

My fans matter to me much more than my followers. You?

In your business, particularly with your online presence, is your focus to gain more followers or is it to give value in advance that your fans can use to attract the people you'd like to do business with?

I have an online presence for two reasons 1) to give value in advance of in person relationships and 2) to add value to existing relationships. You?

I use technology such as Skype, Google+, Slideshare, LinkedIn, Twitter,, Pinterest to give and add value. It's a long game. My short game is to meet with people in person because I have an in person business. You?

We must play the long and short game in our businesses. The short game is the key though. Some call it the path of least resistance. As they say about the long ands short games in golf "Driving is for show. Putting is for dough."

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Is Your Customer Experience Management Causing Complaints?

Is your customer experience causing complaints?Online review sites give customers the chance to have their say about their experiences - good or bad - with businesses. Many businesses hate those sites and complain that they paint a false picture of their customer experience. Are they right, or should they see this as a wake-up call?

Autralia's consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently threw its hat into the ring. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the ACCC is calling for regulation of hospitality review sites such as Urbanspoon, Eatability, and TripAdvisor, following complaints from restaurants that these sites unfairly damage their reputation.

Their main complaint is that some of the online reviews are fake or exaggerated, and might be posted by disgruntled past employees or customers seeking revenge for something trivial.

They do have a point, but is that the best response?

Trying to control online conversations is a game you can't win. It might have worked years ago, when information was tightly controlled. But now that anybody has the power to say whatever they like, it's difficult to stop them.

Sure, there are some inaccurate reviews, but they aren't the vast majority. By the hospitality industry's own admission, only about half of the reviews were considered malicious or vexatious. And that was from a self-reported survey of the industry, which is obviously biased. So the real number will be much lower.

People buying faulty products have the chance to return them. But people buying "faulty" accommodation, dining or travel services rarely get their money back. So they turn to review sites to vent their frustration.

What if those hospitality providers looked at those reviews as an opportunity rather than a threat?

Could it be that many people are reporting a bad experience because, err ... they had a bad experience?

Experience is the key word here.

In our increasingly competitive world, businesses can't expect to get and keep customers and clients just based on their products and services. They need to deliver great experiences. That's what your customer is buying from you.

For example, one of the people quoted in the SMH article is Warren Turnbull, the chef at Chur Burger in Surry Hills. He says:

"People love to have a whinge or a rant. If I did the most amazing dish in the world and sold it for two dollars, there would still be people complaining."

Sorry, Mr. Turnbull, but you're missing the point! Your customers aren't paying just for the burger - they are paying for the experience of dining out.

To confirm this, I looked at Chur Burger's reviews on Urbanspoon. As Warren Turnbull says, some of the negative reviews do complain about the quality of the food. But when you position yourself with the tag line "Voted the best burgers in Sydney", you're setting very high expectations.

But, even leaving this aside, there are also many reviews about long wait times, rude and inconsiderate staff, the noisy venue, and over-priced drinks.

Of course, this isn't just about $10 burgers!

What are you doing to give your customers and clients a superior experience?

They have so many more options now, so yes, they do have higher expectations. And the Internet makes it so much easier for them to find other options.

If the product you sell can be built in China, and the service you offer can be outsourced to India, what makes you different? Only the experience you offer. So make it a good one!

How Do You lead Yourself?

The way to Total Leadership is through Leading Your Self. Remember, the reality of life starts with 'You'. If You exist, everything has a meaning. If you Know yourself, you start understanding your position and power in this universe.  If you realise your true potential, you understand why you are here and what is your purpose. If you Lead Yourself, you will be able to lead others.

The picture opposite perfectly explains the 3 Circle Philosophy of Transformation when applied to Leadership.

The 3 Circle Philosophy, a unique tool for development, is based on insights from the research on Fractal Universe, the Composition of all Matter and how Human Life can be interpreted. The 'Core' denotes self, the 'Inner Circle denotes 'Relationships' and the 'Outer Circle' denotes 'linkages' for offering your value to the world.

The journey to Leading yourself however starts from Introspection. Just as a person has to first climb a mountain before he can have a larger view of the world surrounding it, every one has to have an inner journey to climb atop his own self and see how everything else looks from there.

The 3 Step Formula to Leading Yourself

Using the simple formula 'Being, Knowing, Doing', you can initiate the leadership process within you.
It is a continuous cycle that exists through our lifetime, only that we do not realize its presence and hence are not able to capitalize fully on its worth. Once we understand this cycle, its value can be harnessed very easily and effectively.

1. Being - A child starts his life by simply being. He/she knows instinctively to cry for his/her mother and seek nourishment. Similarly, you have to start by being who you are, by responding instinctively and intuitively by virtue of being gifted those abilities through your genes or 'the stars that you were born with'.  Similarly, in each phase of life, viz. Teenage, adulthood, career, marriage, children, you have to initially accept and feel comfortable with the way you 'ARE'! Reflect upon it, and you will feel like smiling, I promise!

2. Knowing -  True Knowledge of Self happen when you look inwards and analyse your 'Being'.  You become aware strengths, weaknesses, skills, intelligence, likes and dislikes. All this gives you a sense of where you stand, in comparison with what exists outside of you. Remember, this is only a knowledge stage and not a realization stage. Whenever you are in the state of knowing, your mind is at rest, and your mindfulness is at work. You are never tense or perplexed, there is an air of calmness and self-awareness, not allowing yourself to slip into a state of 'ego', 'worthlessness' or 'self-pity'. Knowing also includes analyzing in terms of coming to terms with what will work for you and what will not work for you. In other words, finding your 'magnetic compass' or 'True North'.

3. Doing. Once you have done an internal scan, you are now better placed to make your choices. These choices basically stem from the Vision of what you want to be. Once you are clear of that, you start making a mental pathway of how you want to or how you can reach there. That becomes a springboard for your Actions. One thing that separates 'Doing' from 'Knowing' is the Intent. After 'knowing' yourself, the nature of your intent can push you to make a good choice or a bad choice. If the intent is born out of desire to be of better use to the world 'outside of you', it will result in a good choice, but if the intent is borne out of negative thoughts and feelings like 'scoring over others', 'putting others down', 'seeking revenge' then it will result into making bad choices. Once an action is committed and begun, there is no turning back to the point that you originally were. Because now you have become someone else, based on your Vision  and Intent.

How Does the Cycle of Being - Knowing - Doing Continue?

Once you complete a cycle of Being, Knowing and Doing, you are transported to a different level of consciousness where a different 'you' exists. You reach a different state of Being, which you must experience all over again to realise the change within you and again 'Know' yourself. This is an inbuilt process of realignment in your inner self that drives you towards self actualization.

The process of 'Being - knowing - Doing' does not necessarily happen in compartments, but flows freely such that you are able to 'be' in a particular domain, 'know' yourself in relation to a different domain and 'take actions' in a yet another domain. This complexity builds different layers to your personality, which allows you to build on your strengths or competencies and work on your limitations.

How Does Winning Happen?

By following the process of Being - Knowing - Doing, you get freed from the stress of trying to win, because winning then becomes a byproduct. By aligning your actions to your internal compass, you are automatically driven towards the path that will bring you personal glory, how small or insignificant it may be for the world outside. In the end, it is all about reaching where you want to, right?

Are you following your own cycle of Being- Knowing - Doing?

PS: You may also like to read the post 'Why Must You Lead?

Monday, September 22, 2014

What's worth celebrating? What can be better?

This Sundays sparkenation.

In my Enhancing Their Gifts System celebrating is a key component.  People using the system celebrate every time they achieve a milestone or goal in their performance possibility plan and continually have appreciation conversations with their colleagues when they achieve and accountability conversations when they don’t.

Every 90 days system users and their performance partners formally ask what’s worth celebrating and what could be better and then upgrade their plans for the next 90 days.  These are wonderfully candid, positive and productive conversations because many informal exchanges have taken place in the 89 days preceding.

What’s worth celebrating in your life and work?

What’s worth celebrating about the life and work of your colleagues?

Share your answers with people you work with.  Doing so, providing you then take action, will improve your relationships.

What could be better in your life and work?

What could be better in your business relationships with others?

Share your answers with people you work with.  Doing so, providing you then take action, will improve your relationships.

Create a performance possibility plan for the next 90 days that begins on the 1st of next month. Type/Write down how you will keep doing what’s worth celebrating and what you will do to change what could be better. You can do this on one page, personal on one side and business on the other.

You just might be staggered at the profound results of taking this simple action, providing you do what you type/write down of course!

If I can help you with this sing out. I'm a pioneer in the creation of one-page execution plans. I'll even email you mine.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

More sparkenations here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

“It’s not about proving anything, it’s about sharing something.”

This weeks sparkenation.

This is a great interview with renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Enjoy and then contemplate on

“It’s not about proving anything, it’s about sharing something.”
Yo-Yo Ma

and What is your music between your notes?

You might also enjoy this short piece of music from Yo - Yo Ma that I often play when I need to restore harmony in my life. Some find it sad. I find it stirring.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

More sparkenations here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

How Easy Is It For People to Contact You?

We now have a plethora of ways to get in touch with each other. That's a double-edged sword, though, because it can sometimes make it harder - not easier - for people to get through to you, as this comic from shows:

How easy is it for them to contact you?

Here are some guidelines to consider when deciding how to be contactable:

  • Give them immediate and deferred options: Immediate communication is where you both absolutely must be there at the same time - e.g. phone, meeting, video conference. Deferred communication happens at each other's convenience - e.g. e-mail, SMS, Facebook/LinkedIn message. Give people both types of communication, and let them decide what they need each time.
  • Set their expectations: Even though e-mail and SMS should be treated as deferred communication, some people expect you to reply immediately. So be clear about what they can expect.
  • Meet their expectations: If you say you'll get back to them in 24 hours, do so. Otherwise, it forces them to keep checking constantly because they're not sure of your reliability.
  • Be careful about the signals you send: For example, if you reply to e-mail too fast, people will come to expect that, and it sets a standard you don't necessarily want for yourself.
  • Different rules for different people: Not everybody in your network is equal. High-value clients might get a faster response. Your partner and kids might get immediate access (e.g. a special ringtone on your phone that works even when it's on silent for everybody else).

My key message is: Think about what you want. There's no standard formula that works for everybody. But if you don't think about what you need, you'll forever be interrupted by other people's priorities.

It's your life, so set your rules.

Monday, September 8, 2014

How to maintain your attitude of gratitude

This weeks sparkenation.

When suffering from a life-threatening illness 37 years ago my doctor advised me to have "an attitude of gratitude."

Every day since I have stood in front of the mirror and said out loud "I have an attitude of gratitude."
I say it out loud at least 3 times a day!

My stance helped me to not die from my illness. Every day it has helped me, even in my darkness moments, deep disappointments, and digression from my path, to live a life that matters to me and the people I encounter.

I have learned one of life's most valuable lessons - "when we're grateful for what we've got, we can have more of what we want."

Here's 12 ways to maintain your attitude of gratitude.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

"It's a sign of mediocrity when you demonstrate gratitude with moderation."
-Roberto Benigni

More sparkenations here.

Monday, September 1, 2014

“People don’t want a better knife, they want the butter on their bread.”

This weeks sparkenation.

The title of this sparkenation is from an excellent post by Bernadette Jiwa titled 

'How Great Products Are Born, Not Made'. You can read it here. And check out they want the butter on their bread link. It’s a great Kickstarter story.

Here’s the thing. People aren’t buying your products/services rather what they perceive that your products/services do for them.

Ask people what they do and 99% will rave on about themselves or their products/services and not what it means for the human being who asked the question.

Be the 1%.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Advanced Guide to Email Marketing for Property Management Companies

In the age of Smart-phones, social media and information overload, email is not only alive, but it's the number one channel that consumers use most and it's the number one channel they prefer to receive marketing communications from companies.

I recently co-authored a book, "The Advanced Guide to Email Marketing for Property Management Companies", with Josh Cobb of Real Estate Dynamics, where we look at many aspects of e-mail marketing - including:

  • How to generate better quality leads using inbound marketing
  • Why inbound marketing is cheaper and more effective than traditional 'push' advertising
  • Why email is critical to your inbound marketing plan
  • Strategies, content examples and ideas for generating, nurturing and converting leads
  • Technology and tools to help you manage your inbound marketing via email

Although this has been written specifically for property managers in the real estate industry, the ideas apply to all business owners.

Watch me and Josh in this conversation about the book and its ideas:

The book is now available - and it's free!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Accepting accountability for your choices is the key to your good fortune

I have watched with interest the two BBC TV shows ‘The men who made us spend’ and ‘The men who made us fat’. Good watching and yet the premise for me is wrong.

This weeks sparkenation.

Nobody can make us spend or eat or anything else. You choose. Accepting accountability for your choices is the key to your good fortune in all aspects of your life.

Be the difference you want to see in the world

Monday, August 18, 2014

How do you know what you feel and think?

This weeks sparkenation.

For about 20 years I have been writing a minimum of 500 words every day. Some of my work appears in places like this. Most of it I discard. A great outcome of maintaining the discipline to write every day is that I get really clear about what I feel and think which is a key to all aspects of my life.

How do you know what you feel and think?

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

“I write so I know what I think”
Larry Gelbart, creator and producer of the record-breaking hit TV show M*A*S*H.

More sparkenations here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How Out of Office Workers Can Become Great Managers

Why Great Managers Are So RareOut of Office workers who aspire to management roles must work harder than their in-office colleagues to convince management they're suitable for such roles. In this episode, we look at five skills the Gallup organisation identified for great managers, and show you how to demonstrate them as an Out of Office worker.

Listen to the episode here:

Download the MP3 file here

Subscribe to the podcast

Buy the book here

Read the Gallup article, Why Great Managers Are So Rare, which we mention in this episode. These are the five skills the article identifies for great managers:

  • They motivate every single employee to take action and engage employees with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They create a culture of clear accountability.
  • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
  • They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Be Your future today

This Sunday's sparkenation.

In a note to members of Linchpin Academy recently CEO and my friend Kwai Yu said

“We human beings are endowed with a unique gift of being able to visualise the future and then create it. WHO ARE YOU IN THE FUTURE? Be the future you. NOW!  (I'm not saying this is easy to do). It's a huge challenge to bring the future you to the present.  But that's what you need to do."

Be your future you today.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”
Goethe or perhaps Scottish mountaineer W.H. Murray

Monday, August 4, 2014

Does what your counting add up to who you are?

This weeks sparkenation.

Every week I observe people counting and counting on things that are incongruent with who they are.

Does what your counting add up to who you are?

"The real work," Brain Pickings founder Maria Popova says, "is how not to hang your self-worth, your sense of success and merits, the fullness of your heart, and the stability of your soul on numbers."

Maria's 7 learnings well worth your reflection too

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
Albert Einstein

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

More sparkenations here.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

How To Future-Proof Your Technology Choices

Future Proof Your Technology ChoicesWe all know that technology is improving faster than ever before. That's usually a good thing, because it means we can do more with our tools for much less effort and cost. But how do you choose the right technology now that will serve you well in the future? If you don't choose well, you might be constantly having to change to something better, or being stuck with something that keeps falling behind.

If you're constantly frustrated by the need to keep changing your technology because there's always something new around the corner, use these three guidelines to future-proof your business.

You've probably heard me say that the Internet has made our world "fast, flat and free" (and, in fact, that's the title of my book). This is a big topic, but if we narrow our focus to look just at future-proofing your technology, it boils down to three things: Cloud, Open and Subscription.

This is what I mean:

  • "Fast" means instant access to everything we want, and that means our technology should be in the Cloud.
  • "Flat" means we've broken down barriers between stuff and people, and that means choosing technology that's Open, so it can be extended and expanded by anybody (not just the original supplier).
  • "Free" means we pay less for more, and that means choosing technology that's either free or available via Subscription.

Let's look at these things in more detail, and I'll give you some specific examples ...

1. Cloud

Having your stuff in the Cloud means you have instant access to it whenever you need it. This is much better than the olden days, when you either had less flexibility or had to copy important files to a disk or USB drive if you wanted to use them in different places.

For example, if you use Microsoft Outlook for e-mail, the "master copy" of your e-mail is on your PC, not in the Cloud. So you can only work effectively when you're at your PC.

On the other hand, if you use Cloud-based e-mail like Gmail or Apple Mail, the "master copy" is on the Internet, so you can access it from anywhere and whenever you have an Internet connection.

Another example: If you use MYOB for your bookkeeping, the master MYOB file is on your PC, which makes it impossible to use when you're away from your PC, and inconvenient to share with your bookkeeper or accountant. But if you use a Cloud-based system like Xero, you can access it from anywhere, and selectively give access to others as needed.

(Yes, I know MYOB now has a Cloud-based option as well)

2. Open

Having your stuff in the Cloud is a good first step, but the real power comes when it can be shared and accessed easily by others. Some technology makes this easy - and in fact encourages it - and other technology doesn't.

For example, if you use Gmail, you can increase its power by adding a whole bunch of extensions that make it work nicely with GoToMeeting, Salesforce, Twitter, Facebook, MailChimp, and many other tools. Google didn't have to build all of this into Gmail; it simply provided the ability for motivated developers to do so.

Similarly, when choosing a Web browser, use Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, because they are designed with an "open" philosophy, so they have a lot of extensions and plug-ins. That's a far better choice than Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Apple's Safari, which weren't designed with openness in mind.

3. Subscription

This is the old "rent vs buy" argument that's been around for a long time. When you're talking about assets that appreciate in value - like residential property - it can make sense to buy outright. But that's rare, and it usually makes far more sense to "rent" - in other words, to pay a subscription rather than an upfront fee. This means you never own it, but ownership is overrated.

You already pay a subscription for your mobile phone access, Web hosting, electricity, magazines, and cable TV. And you might be doing it for your phone handset, your office, and your laptop. Now consider whether you can move even more of your stuff to a subscription.

This means you not only pay less initially, but you often get automatic upgrades and support. So set aside a monthly budget for your subscriptions, and use it to finance the many subscription options now available for software, hardware and associated services.

Is your technology Cloud, Open and Subscription?

I should caution you that these aren't hard-and-fast rules! Sometimes you'll look at your technology and decide that Cloud, Open or Subscription isn't right for you for some reason. That's OK - just make sure it's a conscious decision.