Thursday, September 18, 2014


By Dewitt Jones

A wave breaking on a Molokai beach. Dewitt Jones was singularly focused on getting this image. As the light changed and shooting conditions deteriorated, his mind was freed to take in the entirety of the scene to give him both an experience and a great photo.

What is love?" someone asked the Dalai Lama. His reply? "Love is the absence of judgment."

Well, that sounds quite lovely, but seriously, without judgment, I wouldn't be much of a photographer. I make a huge number of judgments every time I take a shot—what's the right lens, the best angle, the proper exposure, the correct color balance, the perfect moment to push the shutter? Without all those judgments, would I ever get an image?

No, I wouldn't, at least not a good one, but I've wandered around in nature enough to know that the times I'm happiest are the times when I'm feeling connected to everything around me. And, if I look carefully, those times are indeed without judgment. One leaf isn't better than another; the sky isn't more perfect than the grass; there's no "best" angle to view it all from. I feel both in and of the landscape. I observe that things are different from each other, but there's no judgment. I'm in "love" with it.

Darn, I want both. I want to fuse with the universe and I want to take photos. I want to have a great experience and capture a great image.

It's a fascinating and rather delicate dance.

The other day, I went to the beach to shoot waves. The surf report was good, my confidence was high. I arrived and found the ocean flat-calm. Then, way down the beach, I saw waves breaking in one very small area. Immediately, I was locked in like a cheetah after a gazelle. I forgot about the folks who were with me (never thought to even ask them if they wanted to make the long trek down the beach). No, I just set off on my own little death march, with no intention of stopping until I had reached those waves.

Have you ever left your house to go to the grocery store or your office and found when you arrived there that you had absolutely no memory of the drive? That's what my hike was like. I was so locked in on my goal, so certain of my judgment, that the place I was going to was far, far better than the place I was, that I stopped noticing or experiencing anything around me till I reached my destination.

Would it have been possible to enjoy the journey and still reach my goal? Certainly, if I had just been a little more conscious of how my judgments were blinding me, I could have enjoyed every step of my journey and still arrived at the same time. I could have allowed myself to delight in the wind against my face and savored the warmth of the sun on my shoulders. As I walked, I could have reveled in the feeling of the sand beneath my feet and between my toes. I could have done all this, with love, without judgment, and still have arrived at my goal at the same time. I could have, but I didn't.

That realization brought me up short, and I decided I would try and do a better job when I started shooting. But that was even harder. Obviously, I wanted to capture the most colossal wave just as it broke. I'd wait, pick what I thought was the best one, and shoot like crazy, then look to the next incoming wave and find myself disappointed if it wasn't bigger than the one I had just shot. Judgment again. Big waves were good. Other waves, not so much. It became long stretches of disappointment punctuated by moments of glee and frantic shooting. If I tried to break the cycle and just enjoy each wave for what it was, I found I wasn't as ready for the big ones when they arrived. My judgments were definitely helping me get the shot, but just as definitely messing with the experience. Okay, let the experience go for the moment and get the shot. I did. Many of them. I shot until I was exhausted and the best light was gone.

Now, Dewitt, sit down. Sit down and just enjoy. No judgment. Just discernment and observation. Just mindfulness. Just love. Aaah, delightful.

The walk back was the same way. I let myself do everything I had neglected to do on the hike out. In the end, I felt I had met my real goal for the day—great photos and a great experience.

To some of you, this might all seem like one big "duh." Of course, there are times when we need our judgments and times when we need to let them go. We all know that. But there are many things we all know. They're simple. Simple, but not easy. It takes mindfulness and practice to recognize which state you're in and then be able to move easily from one to the other.

Our judgments help us to learn the elementary lesson of photography: getting the beautiful shot. The letting go of judgments helps to experience the advanced lesson of photography—that it's all beautiful and there for us to enjoy.

Dewitt Jones is one of America's top professional photographers with a career stretching over twenty years. As a motion picture director, he had two films nominated for Academy Awards before he was thirty. Twenty years as a freelance photographer for National Geographic earned Dewitt Jones a reputation as a world class photojournalist.  To learn more about Dewitt or to book his for your next event, follow this link to Dewitt Jones' bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Handle With Care: Avoiding the Dangers of Social Media

By Laura Stack

Every hiring manager has a story about someone who has botched a job interview or torpedoed a career due to thoughtless comments on social media sites. I know someone whose close friend, a technical writer, lost his job after making negative comments about his company’s investment prospects on MySpace (remember them?).

Few people think twice about posting embarrassing party pictures on their Facebook pages or casual trash-talk on Twitter. However, your prospective employer or current company also has an online presence, so you are the face of the company. Accordingly, they may keep an eye on you, which is not tough when you voluntarily post content for the world to see. As your mother always taught you: don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Moreover, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

As painful as harpooning yourself can be, time waste represents the true danger here. Yes, I use social media, and you may use social media at work for valid reasons: you are in marketing; you are in HR trying to recruit people to your company; you are an entrepreneur reaching out to prospects to gain more business; you are networking for a new job; or you are staying in touch with customers.

However, many uses of social media aren’t work-related and represent wasted time. The traditional work-year clocks in at 2080 hours, or 260 work days annually. Suppose you spend 10 minutes each workday Tweeting or checking Facebook when you should be working. That comes to 2,600 minutes a year—over 43 work-hours, down the drain. If your manager decided to deduct that at the end of the year, you’d have over a week less PTO.

Unless social media provides part of your income or your job requires you to monitor it, then it has a lousy Return on Investment. Even if you do use it sensibly at work, it may still have a poor ROI. Do you know the time you spend on it yields correspondingly high results?

You’d kick anything else with a bad ROI to the curb, so if it isn’t providing proven results, tune out, drop out, and refocus on what matters. Save Facebook, Twitter, and the Pinterest for your non-work time. Even then, take care what you post—because everyone’s on the Internet nowadays.

Does social media provide a high ROI for you? How do you keep your social media usage in check?

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, has consulted with Fortune 500 corporations for nearly 20 years in the field of personal productivity. She helps leaders create high-performance cultures in their teams and organizations and achieve maximum results in minimum time. She is the president of a time management training firm specializing in productivity improvement in high-stress organizations. To learn more about Laura or to book him for your next event, follow this link to Laura Stack's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau

Increase Productivity and Profitability Through Continued Learning

By Jonathan Wygant

Once you have recruited, hired, and trained team members that are now well-established within your organization, does professional development stop?

In many organizations, that’s precisely what happens. You may assume that your team is getting the experience they need to carry out their job functions, so further training is not needed. However, continued investment in training and professional development will pay big dividends for your organization, resulting in increased productivity and profitability. Following are some points to consider.

Continued Education Reduces Turnover

As a leader, you need to encourage learning and professional growth by offering your team members training and mentoring opportunities, as this will increase your team’s loyalty and reduce turnover. Team members who receive invested learning are more likely to feel that your organization values their role. Additionally, improving team member retention rates saves your organization the time and money required to recruit and train new employees.

Team Members Adapt Better to New Technologies

Even the most qualified new hires will fall behind without learning opportunities to stay up-to-date and competitive in their respective fields. Well-planned seminars, webinars, in-house training and professional development programs, and other types of continuing education programs will keep your team current and ensure your organization’s place as an industry leader. Team members will learn new technologies and skill sets, and gain the confidence they need to become better acquainted—and even proficient—in new software, equipment, and protocols as needed.

Ongoing Training Produces Better Leadership

Some leaders are born and others are made. In either case, leadership training will improve their skills. There are different forms of leadership skills that can be cultivated with training.
  • Better communication skills are essential for top management when providing feedback and guidance to their teams and during annual reviews.
  • Project management skills for all employees ensures that proper steps are taken to guarantee projects are brought to completion within time frame goals. This includes managing human resources, time management, as well as other resources ranging from financial to sales.
  • Taking initiative improves your organization’s efficiency and growth in obtaining new clients and learning new business methods and technologies.
  • Feeling and exhibiting confidence is crucial for contributing meaningful ideas during brainstorming sessions.
While initial training increases productivity of team members by 22 percent compared to letting them start work with no training, ongoing coaching, mentoring, and learning increases it by 88 percent. Missing out on this straightforward approach to increase productivity makes no business sense.

Ways to Offer Continued Learning to Employees

Professional development opportunities that engage your team members increase productivity and profitability while decreasing employee turnover. There are a plethora of approaches for continued learning and professional development within a business. Here are a few options to consider.

  • Bring in expert keynote speakers, such as motivational speakers or proven business leaders with specific programs.
  • Provide ongoing coaching that is customized to the specific developmental needs of your top performers.
  • Hire a consultant to conduct an evaluation and design a program based on your budget and goals to “lock in the learning” after the big event.
  • Provide tuition reimbursement for certification programs or degree programs. This can be costly in the short-term, but will result in greater profitability as employees perform better and develop loyalty to your organization.
The fact is that you are missing out if your organization doesn’t support continued learning. You may be tempted to skimp on these types of programs to save money, but in the long run, this backfires. Continued learning and professional development not only boosts profits by increasing your team’s productivity and retention, but it also makes the best use of your organization’s resources—that’s a beneficial win-win growth strategy for both the organization and team members.

Jonathan Wygant is CEO and founder of BigSpeak, Inc. one of the largest business-oriented speakers bureaus in North America focused on serving the Fortune 1000 and multinational companies worldwide. BigSpeak addresses the needs of corporations, associations, non-profits and government agencies by providing motivational speakers, thought leaders and subject matter experts as well as facilitating strategic change initiatives and executive development programs through BigSpeak Consulting.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The 5 Things Every CEO Needs To Know About The Cloud

By Mike Walsh,

The Cloud is not a trend or a fad. Nor is it simply Silicon Valley’s flavour of the month. It has become, in fact, a fundamental part of the engineering that drives the world. Our entertainment, our social networks or our communication systems would simply not work without Cloud technology. Unfortunately the strategic importance of the Cloud today also means that it is no longer a subject purely for your technology teams. Whether it be
transforming how you engage your customers, how your teams work or how quickly you can bring to market new services - the Cloud is a business revolution that no CEO can ignore.

Here is your cheat sheet on the top 5 strategic opportunities that you need to consider:

A client of mine wanted to transform their staid bank headquarters into an office of the future. Most offices are designed to a simple formula - 70% desks and 30% communal spaces. The bank, to their credit - flipped the equation, replacing traditional cubicles with cafe style public spaces and meeting areas. Even better, in lieu of desks every employee was given a locker for their personal possessions and a Macbook Air to do their work. Staff loved the new offices - but there was just one problem. IT had installed old school productivity software on all the new Macbooks which ran unbearably slowly and at times, failed to work properly at all.

As part of your evaluation of the Cloud, take a closer look at the the tools people use to work. Ask more questions. How might the planned Cloud migration support a new culture of collaboration? Is there a better way for your people to share great ideas and innovative practices? How might your teams identify other projects in the organisation relevant to them? Can you make it easier for freelancers and partner organisations to work inside your building? Creating an office of the future requires more than just re-imagining your physical spaces. You have to re-imagine work as well.

Until very recently, IT believed that their primary mission was to play defence. Keep the trouble out - hackers, viruses and malware - while keeping your sensitive information secure within. Things have changed. Security is still important, but it has to be balanced with new realities. Your people want to select their own mobile devices. Your customers want to access your services quickly and easily. And your partners want to be able to leverage your platforms and data without long delays, legal approvals and custom IT development. In other words - everyone wants a new model of IT. In truth, so does most of your IT team.

Behind the discussion of Cloud is a deeper debate about the future of the IT profession. The next generation of IT leaders already know they should be spending less resources on installing servers, deploying patches and fixing computers - and more time negotiating vendor relationships, managing integrations and collaborating with line of business managers. Technology is no longer a barrier to achieving those aims, but your organisational design and legacy IT management teams might be.

You will need good IT leadership, because the Cloud introduces new risks that you and the board need to be fully briefed on. Security in a Cloud environment is more complex and nuanced, and there are constantly shifting consumer and regulatory expectations of how you manage privacy. There are also perils in the Cloud’s new pricing models. Aggressive enterprise IT vendors will try and sell you on a total stack of cloud applications - whether you need them or not. What starts as a cheap variable cost proposition for 50 people, suddenly becomes cripplingly expensive at 5,000. If your IT teams are not giving you the advice you need to be a 21st century leader, then you better quickly find some that do.

How easy is it for your customers to do business with you? How many pieces of paper, forms, approvals and other impediments to getting deals done has ‘usual business practice' put in the way of winning on customer experience? One of the advantages of migrating to the Cloud is that it offers companies a chance to fundamentally transform how they engage, serve and ultimately delight their customers.

In the past - innovating around the customer experience was more complex. Designing some nice looking interfaces was not enough - you also had to fundamentally re-engineer whole parts of your back end operations as well. In the Cloud centric enterprise, you can start to think of your data and services as modular components that you can combine in intuitive ways. Discuss with your team how might leverage your new technology infrastructure in the future. What kinds of mobile applications might you deploy that you were not able to a few years ago? Can you partner with other companies and platforms and create compelling new services through inter-connected Clouds?

If you could create a new product or service, at a fraction of the normal price but with a better service proposition for your customers - would you do it? Or would you wait for one of your competitors to disrupt your industry first?

One of my clients was the CEO of an accounting software company. For many years they had enjoyed a comfortable business selling practice management software to accounting firms. However in recent years, new Cloud based platforms had made life difficult - not just for them, but for many of their clients. When I asked the CEO to explain - he said that the problem was not that their competitor was giving away partner editions of their software away for free but rather new Cloud platforms like Xero had led to thousands of cut price accountants, working out of cafes - who were now challenging the economics of small business audit.

Here’s your challenge - how might technology impact your plans for re-writing the rules of your industry? Front office business functions are not the only opportunity. Sometimes the most interesting ideas come from when you make services like business analytics more available to your front line people, or you start to integrate realtime information from back office functions. How might you change the way you run manufacturing, logistics, or your supply chain - and in doing so, disrupt your product or service offering to the market?

The final, and perhaps most important thing you need to know about the Cloud is how it changes the way you think about costs. In a traditional IT based organisation, costs are a step function. Launching a new division, adding more people or planning a new product or service will in the short term dramatically shift your cost base to a new level, amortised with time over new revenue growth.

The Cloud offers leaders a very different calculus. Even the smallest of companies or startups can access world class applications, storage or computation services on a per user basis, allowing them to ramp up very quickly as demand increases. Think about it. Could Instagram have scaled to millions of users and sold for a billion dollars in twelve months on a traditional technology development model? And even if you can't imagine how your organisation could innovate as nimbly as an Internet startup - what would happen if one of your competitors did?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I’ve asked you to consider lots of new questions, but hopefully one idea is very clear. The Cloud is a strategic discussion that belongs in the boardroom, not in the basement.

Here's my advice - plan an executive team meeting in the near future to brainstorm the issues raised by these five points, and while you are at it - put the most important question of all on the agenda. How can new technology not only change, but help you re-imagine the way you do business?

Mike Walsh has been helping some of the world's leading companies and brands embrace new ideas, trends and technologies for the past decade, including: the rise of the Internet, mobile devices, social networking, audience networks, user generated content, ubiquitous networks and the “adaptive web.” To learn more about Mike or to book his for your next event, follow this link to Mike Walsh's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.

Magic Johnson in the BigSpeak Office

NBA Hall of Famer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Earvin "Magic" Johnson was in Santa Barbara yesterday and stopped by the BigSpeak office to speak on leadership and the importance of being the best. Magic Johnson's key takeaways from his talk were to strive to be the best in class, over deliver on your promises, and always remember that reputation is everything. In any industry, as well as in personal life, these three elements can ensure you continued and lasting success.

As always, it was great to have Magic Johnson share his wisdom with us.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

5 Tips for Giving Fearless Feedback

By Libby Gill

Are you still using the old "praise sandwich" model of giving feedback? That is, sandwiching your criticism between two slices of praise. If so, it's time to ditch the sandwich in favor of Fearless Feedback.

You may think you're taking some of the sting out of your complaint by adding some encouraging commentary. But it's more likely that you're actually watering down your criticism to the point that the recipient can hardly recognize it for what it is: an opportunity to improve.

Resist the urge to sugarcoat. Your job is not to make people feel better (though you'll have other opportunities for that), your job is make them do better. Here are five ways you can start giving Fearless Feedback today.

1. Be crystal clear. Your team probably has no idea that giving feedback can be every bit as daunting as receiving it. But don't succumb to feeling like you're the big, bad boss for telling it like it is. State your criticism clearly, give a specific example, and explain how you'd like it rectified or dealt with in the future. For example, "That wasn't the best way to handle the customer complaint. You kept them waiting for an answer for two days, and when you responded, your tone was far too brusque. In future, we respond to complaints within 24 hours and when we're wrong, as we were in this case, we always give a sincere apology."

2. Be candid, but kind. It's okay to be tough on the sub-par performance, but it's important to be kind to the person. Your goal is not to humiliate your supervisee, but to change the unwanted behavior. A recent study in The Journal of Consumer Research showed that the more expert the recipient, the more direct you can be in your feedback. Not that you need to use kid gloves with your more junior players, just be aware that they're still learning and customize your feedback with that in mind.

3. Make it timely. Your feedback should be immediate, either as soon as the infraction occurs or as soon as you learn of it. By hesitating, you send a message that it's not that big a deal or that you're too much of a wimp to criticize. Or both.

4. Give positive feedback, too. Instead of the praise model where you lump the good and bad together, diluting both in the process, use the same formula as in Point #1 above. When an employee does something great, let them know, specifically and immediately. Share the win with others. For example, "Terrific email this morning, I loved how you summed up the meeting for everyone. I'm going to let the Big Boss know how helpful it was. "

5. Feed a feedback culture. Make it clear that it's always okay for your team members to ask for feedback. Model the appropriate way to ask without seeming like an approval-seeking suck-up. That is, "Hey, let me know what you thought about how I conducted the off-site. I'd love any notes you have so I can improve the next one."

What are your favorite tips for giving Fearless Feedback? Please share!

After nearly twenty years in senior leadership roles in communications at media giants Universal, Sony and Turner Broadcasting, Libby Gill is now CEO of executive coaching and consulting at her own firm. A sought-after international speaker, Libby was also the PR/branding brain behind the launch of the Dr. Phil Show. To learn more about Libby or to book her for your next event, follow this link to Libby Gill's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Going “All-In” on Innovation

By Kate Vitasek

If you are taking a low-risk approach when it comes to innovation, you may not be doing much innovation that’s truly worthwhile.

It’s an interesting take on innovation – and one that was shared in this Industry Week article, “Innovation: The High Cost of Low Risk.”

The article takes the stance that “not all innovation is the same,” according to Adi Alon, a managing director of the Operations Innovation and Product Development Consulting Group for Accenture.

Companies can aim for the big, disruptive innovations—such as what the Apple iPhone or iPad were in their day—or take safer approaches and focus instead on incremental renovations. Alon says the latter option is risky business, expanding on this concept in a recent Accenture report, “Why ‘Low Risk’ Innovation is Costly,” which he co-wrote with Wouter Koetzier.

The report says, “Instead of the disruptive products, services, and business models that were anticipated several years ago, many initiatives have become considerably more limited in scope. Rather than offering “the next big thing,” innovations coming to market today are more typically line extensions.”

A cautious approach to innovation “is a potentially perilous strategy” because companies that restrict themselves to incremental innovation…risk unknowingly entering a vicious cycle in which they lag ever farther behind.”

The lesson? It’s much better to go for the “breakthrough” innovation whenever possible. This is what P&G did when it developed a highly strategic outsourcing relationship for real estate and facilities management with Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL). The companies created a precedent-setting and innovative commercial agreement that flipped the conventional outsourcing approach on its head by contracting for transformation instead of contracting for transactional, day-to-day work.

P&G’s and JLL’s breakthrough was a transformative innovation, but don’t take my word alone for it: earlier this year the duo received the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals’ 2014 Global Excellence in Outsourcing Award for Innovation, known as the GEO Award, for driving innovation in outsourcing.

And there’s another benefit to going “all-in” on innovation, because as Zig Ziglar said, “If you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost.”

That approach and attitude can lead to both the disruptive and incremental innovations that every company needs. I guess Apple’s CEO Tim Cook summed things up best in the Information Week article when he said “to not innovate is to die.”

Lauded by World Trade Magazine as one of the "Fabulous 50+1" most influential people impacting global commerce, author, educator and business consultant Kate Vitasek is an international authority for her award-winning research and Vested® business model for highly collaborative relationships. To learn more about Kate or to book him for your next event, follow this link to Kate Vitasek's bio page at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau