12 Best (FREE!) Techno Tools to Kickstart the NewYear

The following tips are compiled from a colleague, Ken MacLeod of  TheMacGroup:
  1. Teamly.com is a great new website for managing your TOP 5 priorities, and those of your team as well.  It sends you great reminders & forces the habit of setting TOP 5 goals daily.
  2. Outsourcing Things Done This company hires and manages executive assistants based in Manila for people like me.  My assistant Melanel is based in Manila and managed by people I’ve never met.  In fact, they interviewed and trained her for me.  I assign tasks to her weekly, and she cranks through them like a normal assistant would.  We communicate via their company Wiki & Task software as well as Skype Video & email.  Sure beats paying someone $40,000 a year who lives in North America when I can get the same work done for $1,200 a month by her.  She’s got her business degree from one of the top schools over there too.
  3. Time Scroller – great free App for iPhone & Widget for MACs that allows you to see multiple cities time zones at the same time.  You just scroll over with the mouse and it shows you when meetings can be set up at times that make sense for people in different time zones, countries etc.  I find this super helpful when setting up conference calls with CEOs that I mentor in Europe, Asia & Australia.
  4. Tungle.com  Free online application that seamlessly uploads your calendars.  Others wanting to book time for meetings or calls with you simply look at your Free/Busy slots.  All they can see is if you are free, they can’t see any details of the busy appointments at all.
  5. Dragon Dictation – allows you to leave a voice message which comes back to you transcribed for you to tweet, send as an email, copy & paste etc.  Works awesome.  It’s free.  And works great in noisy environments too.
  6. eLanceGuruMechanical Turk – All three are great services for getting miscellaneous admin and technical tasks done by remote casual workers around the world.  If eBay is a place where you sell stuff and people bid on what they pay to purchase your stuff, these services work the same way.  You simply post your project that you need done, when you need it done, and people bid on what they are willing to do the work for.  You’ll get references & samples of prior work and you can often get work done for 1/10th of what you’d pay a full time employee to do it in America.
  7. Google Docs  – There is no need to keep purchasing software applications like Word & Excel for your employees.  Google Docs gives you these applications for free and IF you need to have something specific you can have one version of the real thing running on a shared computer in the lunchroom.  Why pay for software licences year-after-year when you can get the same tools for free in the cloud.
  8. Basecamp – Fantastic project management software.  Simple to use.  Easy to access.  And way less cumbersome than any of the big project management tools companies waste time using.
  9. Crowdspring & 99 Designs – These are both great services that many companies could utilize when getting random things designed..  You post your project up and what you’re willing to pay and people from around the world submit designs to you hoping to be chosen.  If you chose them, they get paid.  It’s a great way to use Crowdsourcing to get marketing work done cheaply and quickly.  It’s often as good as anything a normal designer would do for you.
  10. HARO – This free service which is called Help A Reporter Out sends you emails daily with writers around North America who are looking for experts to include in stories they are writing.  Its an easy way to grow your brand.
  11. RSS Readers – Don’t waste time going to each individual persons blog that you read.  Set up an RSS Feeder that downloads all the blog posts for you to one place – and has them synchronized both on your laptop & iPhone..  That way you can read them when you have spare time to kill versus reading them while you’re at your desk and could be focusing on project work.
  12. Ambiance – Simple App for your desktop or iPhone which plays background sounds at night when you’re on the road, trying to fall asleep in a strange hotel room.  I used it recently while staying at The Driskill Hotel in Austin which is supposedly haunted.  Falling asleep while listening to waves rolling up on shore made sleep easier than worrying about ghosts, or listening to traffic 10 streets below

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My Best Career Advancement Advice

The above sign hangs above my office doorway as a daily reminder.  It is a gift from one of my favorite base managers, who is also one of our organization’s most highly regarded leaders.

The sign, “No Excuses”, is a theme we have often discussed — when things go wrong in our business, it’s always easy to blame another employee (“he did it”), another department (“they did it”), another manager (“he told me to do it”) or even a customer (“they insisted”).   It’s human nature to rationalize our actions or find reasons to shift blame.

What does a CEO think of these kind of excuses?  Not much!  Most CEOs I talk to consider making excuses a career limiting move.  As one CEO says: “Bring me an employee who will identify the problem, admit the mistake and find a solution to fix the situation next time.  I’m sick and tired of hearing ‘Somebody, Nobody or Anybody did it!’ ”   

Customers, too, want to have upfront and honest treatment.  Next time a problem occurs with a customer, consider this response:  “We are terribly sorry and can offer no excuses – we have made a mistake and we will fix it immediately.  What else can we do to make this right with you, because you are a valued Customer!”

You will likely be perceived as honest, forthright, accountable and responsible – not whining, evasive, negative or blaming.

Remember: “No Excuses”  — step up and be accountable  to your peers, bosses and customers. 

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Tired of Upper Management? Try this for results!

This is a guest blog post from Achieved Strategies, by Shawn Murphy (used with permission)

How many times have you heard, “If upper management would get it’s act together, we could actually make some progress?”

I’m asking you, though, to stop saying it. Put up your pinky and pinky swear it. I’ll say it with you.  Really? Really. Why?

In these times where so much uncertainty whirls about weaving itself into decisions and water cooler conversations, paralysis has come over entire companies. Logic and informed decisions have been replaced with frantic actions and shaky decisions.

So, going back to that pinky swear, here’s what I’m asking of you:

Stop waiting for upper management. You have complete control over how you respond to the circumstances around you. You have influence over the environment. You can cause optimism.

You can mobilize people in your team by adding meaning to their work.
You can make time to connect with your people as people.
Keep or start having one-on-one sessions to help employees better apply their talents to their work.

You can lead from where you are and make a difference in the professional lives of those who report to you or work alongside you.

Show your crazy, beautiful leadership. We need it more than ever today. Tomorrow. Always.

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Customer Service – a United Airlines nightmare

The following video tells the story of a Canadian, Dave Carroll, who watched in horror as baggage handlers smashed his guitar on the tarmac while he sat on a United Airlines flight.  Dave decided to write a song and post it on YouTube.   The response?  Dave’s video went viral with over 10 million hits on YouTube.

The story doesn’t end there……  after Dave’s complaint aired, United offered a paltry settlement, which prompted Dave to write a second song about his customer service treatment.    A third song was also written, detailing the crazy customer service nightmare that Dave experienced.  Follow the story on YouTube or Dave’s own website, www.UnitedBreaksGuitars.com

Makes us all think,

“Am I giving my customers a great experience?”  

or, as Dave says,

“One customer is not statistically insignificant!”

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