Saturday, March 17, 2012

App Review: Any.Do

Any.Do is one of the top task management apps available on Android. If you haven't followed the new app buzz over the past 6 or so months, you might have missed Any.Do. It's relatively new to the scene, and if you've been using an older task app, this review is for you.

Grade: A

Quick Pitch: Any.Do does just what you'd expect any task management app to do - it allows you to enter tasks and reminders, then check them off when you've completed them. It's the way Any.Do does it that makes it one of the best apps for the job. It runs on a simplistic, clean UI that is so eye-appealing you'll spend time on the app just to look at it. It comes complete with 4 different widgets so you can keep you to-do list in front of you with ease. And it syncs with your Google Tasks so that you can manage and view your tasks online. When it comes to sharing and organization Any.Do makes collaborating on tasks easy. Whether a contact uses Any.Do or not, you can share any task with them directly from the app. Perhaps the best part of this app is the task entry. When typing a task into the app it predicts common tasks with the accuracy of the best text-prediction keyboards - "Pick up..." becomes a list of Pick up drycleaning - prescription - milk - check - etc. If you are entering contact information such as "call Mark" the app automatically queues up a list of Marks from your address book, lets you pick one, and places a phone shortcut in the task so you can simply call from the app when you're ready to complete that task. Finally, one of the newest features to this app launches a pop-up box after each missed call and allows you to add that call to your tasks for later.

Full Story: If you've read my previous reviews, you can probably tell I'm smitten with this app - I use probably 95% of its capabilities on a regular basis. I feel that using a task management app like this is a great compliment to using one of the great note-taking apps I previously reviewed because it keeps your tasks closer to your fingertips. Any.Do is still a relatively new app, it's not without its bugs, but the team behind the app is great with updates and more functionality is always coming. Before using Any.Do, I wasn't a regular user of any task management app, but tested out such apps as Taskos and Astrid before deciding that Any.Do was the one to go with. For me, it was about the simple UI.


  • Simple UI, easy to use - I'll admit it, I'm a guy, I don't like needing a task list to remind me to do anything (as much as I need it). So being able to get in and out of the list in a hurry is essential.
  • Task Prediction - Any.Do can let you enter your tasks in half the time, simply because it knows all about common tasks.
  • Missed Call Reminders - Add missed calls to your list and never forget to call someone back again.
  • Widgets - If you're as bad as I can be at keeping your list in front of you, a widget will take care of that.
  • Syncing - While the app syncs with Google Tasks, I've had issues with that working from my tablet. The Any.Do team collected a bunch of feedback so I'm confident they'll find a fix, but in the meantime, my tablet only keeps tasks that I enter from my tablet.
  • Organization - It's getting better, but for the most part you enter a task, then go back and choose a priority (today, tomorrow, this week, or later), whether to put it into a folder (personal, work, etc), whom to share it with, when to remind you, etc. A recent app update allows you to jump directly to share or remind - which are by far the best two options - but I still wonder how it might look if you could fully customize your task before submitting it.
Overall, this is a fantastic app and worth your time to give it a try. You can download it from the market here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Cerebral Professional

I am posting a day late this week, because I spent yesterday landing a new job. I am really excited to be returning to the financial services industry. After spending a year outside of the industry I really learned how passionate I am about helping consumers and small businesses with their financial needs.

That said, I want to talk about a skill (theory?) I used for job hunting that has always been effective for both me and those I have advised with job searches. That skill is getting inside the head of who you need to be for the proposed job.

I feel that a lot of people who are looking for a promotion or new job display their understanding for that position as they understand it from their current position. That's wrong. It is said that you have to dress for the job you want, not the job you have - it's even more important to think like the job you want rather than the job you have.

To use an example that is familiar to most of us, let's look at a bank teller looking to transition her/his career to a personal banker position. The core skill set for a teller involves, money handling, customer service, detail orientation, and referrals. Those skills are all transferable to a personal banker position, but transferable is the key word. 

For example, let's use customer service. A teller provides customer service via a strong greeting, in-transaction conversation, and a strong closing. Their mentality needs to be around answering the customer's primary need and good communication. These are all very reactive actions. A banker, on the other hand, needs to be much more proactive. While addressing the customer's initial need/request the banker also needs use their service skills to deepen the relationship for the future. 

These are subtle differences, but the step of using customer service skills to build a relationship rather than a more "one-and-done" mentality is important. If you are the teller, applying for promotion, it's important to understand how you would approach customer service differently to be successful at that next level.

That's just one example, but it is true of almost every job change out there. Just like the clothes, you have to think like the new job.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

App Review: totenotes

Here's a very new app that many people probably haven't heard about yet. I have only been using it this week, but it's already shown me that it will get more than just a quick trial for review.

Grade A

Quick Pitch: totenotes is an app that launches after each call you complete and offers a chance for you to make voice notes regarding the call. It transcribes your note, attaches the mp3, and sends the whole shebang over to your preferred email (which you've smartly filtered for the expected message). totenotes goes a step further than some other "after-call" apps and allows you to set both All hours and Business (8-6) hours for the app to activate AND to set a timeframe for the pop up to disappear without you having to press anything.

Full Story: I expected to rate this app about a B-. I don't like apps that ask me to take an extra step after every call. It's just another obtrusive step with which I'd rather not deal. When I do need to make a note following a business call, I'm OK with heading over to my preferred note-taking app and doing it myself. totenotes however, is as automated and as unobtrusive as I've seen for this type of app. The additional benefit of being able to set business hours (even though I only get to choose totenotes' 8-6) is another great feature. If you use your phone for business use this is a fantastic app to try. If you are like me and taking notes is something you need to do more of, this is perfect.

Bonus idea -- If you want all of your notes in one place you could use your note-app's email account rather than your regular email.


  • Automated and Unobtrusive - this app does what you need it to, then gets the heck out of the way.
  • Customization - there are a number of preference settings to help this app work for you.
  • Contact Recognition - I organize my Google contacts into groups like a boss, and I'd be totally OK giving totenotes permissions to see which contacts I'd leave notes for and which I won't.
  • Notification Bar - I know this is really Android's problem, but I do have a threshold for the number of apps that I allow to occupy my notification bar all the time.
I only tested the free version of this app, but if you're looking for power-user options you can upgrade for $3.99 to be able to leave longer notes and add a CC email address. 

You can download the free version of the app here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Plug for Personal Branding

I write a lot about professional relationships here on Like-em. I feel they're critical to the success of our careers. It's cliche to say "it's who you know," but there is and always will be a ton of truth to that statement. I know plenty of talented, brilliant people who have gotten nearly every job they've ever had based on who they knew and not being a blind candidate for a position that they are well-qualified for.

Given that, I feel that many of us miss the boat on opportunities to really brand ourselves professionally. We go through our professional lives, working hard and being brutally modest about the results. There's nothing wrong with modesty - until it restrains us from well-deserved growth.

A huge opportunity that we have in today's world is digital social networking. It doesn't really matter which digital platform you spend your time on, - Google +, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc - there are people to be met everywhere. An interesting thing about how we use those social platforms however, is something we need to keep off the back burner.

I'll use Facebook as an example. It's a wonderful platform for a lot of reasons. At the heart of the platform are a number of core features that allow us to easily remain connected to friends and family that we otherwise might lose track of from time to time in our busy lives. I can personally say that I have grown a number of relationships with extended family and friends from past cities, jobs, and schools because of Facebook. The ability to share the simplest of events with a large group of people encourages deeper relationships. 

In the past, I've compared Facebook to a Friday night out (you can choose if it's for food or drink) where you connect with someone you haven't seen for a while. You share a few things about what's happening at work, your family, your kids (we tend to be redundant when we're catching up don't we?), and any other various personal interest topics. This is a great component to a relationship, sharing these things builds trust and familiarity.

It's also missing something. You know that project at work that you think is headed the wrong direction - the one you can rant about at a moment's notice? Chances are you didn't mention that in your status update tonight. Remember that industry-related article that really got your mind spinning about how changes are on the horizon for your customers? You left that bottled up inside too. And those questions that are burning a hole in your head about how to overcome a new challenge in your industry? You didn't have one meaningful conversation with someone who understood the topic as well as you do.

Enter a new perspective on digital social networking. It can be more than just a diversion for your weeknights on the couch. There are any number of like-minded professionals around the globe tackling the same goals and challenges as you are. They aren't millionaire business moguls, high-priced consultants, or well-meaning best friends. Actually, they're just like you, hard-working professionals making an average salary and trying to do the best they can. And there's a way that you can find them - because digital social platforms have made the world a whole lot smaller.

When you use a digital social platform as a way to promote your personal brand - one as a professional with an understanding of your industry, working to gain more knowledge, and willing to network to do it - you'll find these people coming out of the World Wide Web's woodwork (that's wwww for those keeping score at home).

Now I can promote any digital platform - some are better than others at creating an open environment for this - but ultimately any one can work. Here are few tips that I've found helpful for helping me to be a better professional and to help build a reputation (personal brand) for being a person who is focused on growth within my profession.

  1. Read and Share - Everyone tells you to read more. It's true, by reading industry/job related content you can improve yourself in a number of ways - not the least of which is deepening your understanding of what you do. By sharing what you read to a social network you are letting others know what you are reading (so they can see how smart you are getting) and allow them to engage in a conversation with you about the topic at hand (allowing you to battle-test your new knowledge).
  2. Create some content, share that too - Reading is for growth, writing is for proof. You don't have to be a regular blogger, but by posting your personal ideas and observations to your social account you can really show what's important to you and where your mind is at. This can generate awesome conversations as well allowing you to really get to the bottom of a topic of interest.
  3. Seek and connect with like-minded individuals - Our society still feels a little funny about connecting with our peers around the globe. We seem to be more comfortable being a silent follower of some "expert," but by connecting with people just like yourself, you will find some of the best conversations.
Additional Encouragements:
  1. Open up a little bit - Building relationships is about getting to know people a little bit. If you just swing by a platform to post a professional tidbit and move on you're not doing much beyond personal marketing. Move past your narrow, professional interests once in a while and share content related to your personal interests and hobbies. You don't have to share pictures of your kids, just a good article about your favorite restaurant or sports team.
  2. Add value to conversations - This isn't all about you. In fact there are going to be a lot of people involved and win-win is one of the best relationship tactics I know. Share some of the good content you see from others and make comments that add value. Joining a conversation takes some of the weight off of your creative juices too.
Bonus plug for a platform

Over the past seven months, I have really enjoyed the growing community over at Google +. The platform still has plenty of growing to do, but it's one of the most engaging communities I have ever been a part of. You can't really compare it to Facebook, because you'll find a whole other group of people to connect with at Google +. 

I've dedicated a lot of time and energy to building my own network there since it's launch, but it is and will continue to be worth the work. I know that most of you reading this are from that network and I thank you. For those of you who either aren't using it or are minimally using it and want to find ways to make it more impactful, feel free to connect with me there and I can try to point you in the direction of some interesting and engaging professionals.

A big reason that I've made Google + a core component of my personal branding efforts is that the design of the platform highly encourages both connections with like-minded individuals (rather than existing friends) and quality engagement. These are things that can happen on other platforms, but are the foundation of the Google + design.

Friday, March 2, 2012

App Review: CallTrack

Today I take a look at one of my favorite productivity apps, CallTrack.

Grade: A-

Quick Pitch: CallTrack is a simple application that does exactly what you may have already guessed. It tracks all of the phone calls that you make. The real beauty of this app is that it doesn't require you to go to the app after initial setup. Instead, it posts all of your phone calls to a Google calendar. The app is incredibly simple, giving you options for which calendar you want to share it to and which combination of incoming, outgoing, and missed calls you would like to track. Oh, and it's free!

Full Story: For anyone who uses their phone for business this is a fantastic app. The ability to go back to your calendar to check out your phone activity is priceless. I created a separate Google calendar for my calls (this way I can toggle it off when looking for personal events) and I frequently go back it to check volume, verify when I last called a client, or to make notes. The only thing this app is missing is a way to specify contact groups or some other method to sort out personal and business phone activity.


  • Simple - Once you complete initial setup, all you have left to do is review your history. There's no on-going maintenance.
  • Dependable - I've used many simple, unheralded Android apps and have survived my share of bugs. CallTrack always works.
  • Organization - Keeping personal and business calls separate would make for a better experience
You can download the app from the market here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Professional Relationships 101: Win-Win

My post about maintaining an open door to potential professional relationships last week created some good conversation. I'd like to extend that conversation this week into another key component to professional relationships: win-win.

I feel that win-win is the foundation to maintaining any relationship. I believe that no matter what the opportunities are for either party, each party much gain. Those gains are not always equal, but when there is a loser, the relationship begins to fail.

A Story

In meeting with a prospect this week, I got a great reminder of how powerful win-win can be. I was meeting with him to discuss some consulting services that I could offer his business based on marketing opportunities I had identified. Last week, I ran across the business name, did a little digging, and found a real need, so I knew there a genuine need for what I was selling. It would have been easy for me to head into the meeting with my sales hat on, tell him about my research, why my services were better, and brought out my closing lyrics. I probably could have sold him that way too, he had an obvious need.

Instead, the first thing I did was tell him that I wanted to get to know each other. As I had called for the meeting I went first, telling him about my background in finance and banking, why I had made the move to the marketing industry, and how much I enjoyed helping small businesses get their story out. I set the tone for that conversation with a very deliberate statement, "I want to let you know before we start that the most important part of my business is the relationships, I believe that when we understand each other best we can both win."

The rest of the conversation went wonderfully. We had honest conversation about his needs, current marketing plan, budget, and so forth. I'm confident in saying that we started a relationship that should easily last as long as we both stay in business.


The important observation though, is that it started with the vision that we both could win. This is key to any relationship. You need communicate it both by your words and actions - that you aren't just looking for what you can get from this before moving on.

For you fellow salespeople, I believe the best way to add this component to your meetings is by taking a deep breath and starting this conversation the way I did above. You don't need to detract from the rest of your sales process, just to let the prospect know that you aren't another salesperson dropping in off the street hoping to get them to write a check. Rather you are a professional that both cares about them and has a product that may meet their needs.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

App Showdown: Evernote-Catch-Springpad

There are a number of note taking apps available for Android. Over the past few weeks I have reviewed three of the most common ones and today I'm bringing it all together for a head to head comparison.

This is my first attempt at an infographic (as it were). So bear with me a little bit, but I think it turned out well.

As you can see, these apps match up pretty well against one another with the only major notes going to Evernote's lack of QR scanning for notes and the absence of rich text formatting via the Catch and Springpad apps. Depending on how you plan to take notes, either of those items could become important to you, but for the majority of users, these apps are all even.


Evernote: For me, Evernote paced this group with the quality feel of the app. The crisp and flexible UI, and sharp colors (mostly green) were appealing every time I opened the app. 

Catch: The app and sync settings were king of the hill for Catch. That might not seem like a lot, since it's about app taking, but behind-the-scenes features often make the best experiences.

Springpad: The customizable widget offered by Springpad is sweet. You can set up the widget to make the app perfectly functional for you. 

So how do you choose?

The feel of each app is quite different, and I didn't share that in the graphic as it really isn't a tangible thing. The best advice I can give you is to download all three. Take some notes, organize them, refer back to them, repeat that for a week or so and go with the one that is most intuitive to you.

I had been using Evernote for more than a year prior to starting these reviews. So while I tried to be unbiased in my reviews, I also didn't find any compelling reasons to switch. I will say that if I was starting from scratch, Springpad is hard to ignore, I use my widget all the time with Evernote and Springpad's is great.

Download the apps from the Market links below and try them out for yourself:

Let me know if these reviews help you to choose an app or ways that I could make them more useful. I'll probably be staying away from apps that I'm not already using for a while. I worked hard to use Catch and Springpad enough to write a solid review, but feel that I can be much more thorough if I take my time. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Professional Relationships 101

I apologize for missing last week's post, other duties were calling loudly.

My thought of the week involves what I feel is the most basic component to professional relationships - an open door. I'm thinking of this mostly in the context of salesperson/customer relationships.

I'm not sure what it is about our society today, we seem to be either too busy or too cautious when it comes to meeting with people. I've seen it everywhere from consultant/client meetings to sales rep/prospect appointments. Many people simply avoid meeting with salespeople whenever possible.

I don't advocate giving up your time just to be nice to the salesperson, but rather approaching relationship opportunities from the perspective of what do you have to gain.

When you dumb it down, a salesperson's job is to identify prospective customers for a product, introduce them to the product, and justify purchasing the product. They only sell products that are designed carefully with eventual customer benefit in mind, so what do you have to lose?

Certainly, you can't afford to buy everything. Whether you're a business trying to budget equipment, wages, inventory, advertising, etc, or a consumer balancing cell phone, cable, internet, banking, and utility services, you have choices that you need to make.

In making those choices, however, why do we avoid conversations with the very people we who have the training to fully explain the benefits of each product?

I think the load is shared by both parties. Consumers need to step out of their shells and be willing to engage in exploratory conversations about products that may be beneficial to them. Likewise, salespeople need to cut back on aggressive sales approaches and realize that by educating everyone about what they can offer, they can find the ones who truly need them.

I'm painting two extremes here, but there's plenty more ground between those sides than there is behind either one of them.

Here's to spending time this week making yourself a better partner in the sales process, whichever side you are on.

Friday, February 17, 2012

App Review: Springpad

This week I am reviewing my third note taking application, Springpad.

Grade: A

Quick Pitch: Like other note taking applications, Springpad is a full-service application that makes taking diverse types of notes a breeze. It comes complete with ways to add text, pics, audio, and even locations to notes. Springpad also has a built in advertising feature that pushes discounts to your app based on content - an example they give is you adding a recipe for a calzone and receiving a discount offer for $1 off a Pillsbury product. It also has all the usual organizational features with multiple notebooks, a variety of theme options, and a customizable widget.

Full Story: Springpad is compelling application for anyone looking to organize different thoughts and notes into a cloud-based application for access across all devices (read everyone). The app is both simplistic and powerful. The delivery of the options will help novice note-takers find ways to instantly integrate the app into their daily lives. I haven't had the opportunity to experience the content-driven ads as of yet. I'm not sure if this would be an annoyance or convenient, but given the fact that none of my business-minded notes have incurred an ad yet, it doesn't seem to be a major component either way. I can tell after a short time with Springpad that there is a lot to this app I wouldn't be able to review without a much longer test period. That's not to say that it's confusing, just that it's very feature rich and allows you deeper and deeper organization tools as you add content.


  • Customizable Widget - The widget is packed with a "wow" factor. There are 5 buttons on the widget, the first is to open the app, but the other five can be customized to the app features that you use most. This is a delivery that more developers should take note of.
  • Note Organization - Springpad takes organization to another level. There are built in features for everything from recipes, to wines, to TV shows, and products. There are built in search features to match your notes with items from the web. 
  • Clean interface - This is always important to me with apps because you want something that you can get in and get out with relative ease.
  • Rich Text - Springpad lacks rich text features that might otherwise allow convenient things like bold or italics. It also lacks numbering and bullets.
You can download the app from the market here.

Note 1 - This is a review that I wrote after giving Springpad some extensive use for a short period of time, unlike my Evernote review I haven't tested the app outside of the Android application as I tested it for purposes of review.
Note 2 - I intentionally didn't compare the app to previous Catch or Evernote reviews in this post. I'll be putting together a comparison of the three apps for next week.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

When the Leader Isn't the Star

I read an excellent article this past weekend about the late Angelo Dundee. I'll be honest, I had never heard the name before. But when I read the intro caption on, "Angelo Dundee's influence and motivation was the perfect buffer to Muhammad Ali's flamboyant demeanor, writes Richard Hoffer, and without it, Ali might not have been the "greatest." I had to read it. You should read it here too, it's a great piece.

The reason it caught my attention is because, as a leader, I've always been keenly interested in the lives of mentors to great people. Ali certainly has a permanent place as a great person. So what was it like to manage a person like that? What was it like to corral the endless motivation, work ethic, and talent?

Most of us will never be on quite that stage. That doesn't mean that we don't, from time to time, manage someone who does their job better than we could. That's a unique thing about managing that I feel we often miss the boat on - managing is about understanding the process, motivating, and tracking progress.

Managers of great performers excel at this. They take their deep understanding of the process and relay that to an individual with the talents and tools to complete it. They push their students, challenge them, sharpen them. They take raw talent and polish it to a shining diamond.

What things can we do in our everyday management of our top performers to help them reign in their talent and focus their strengths on the task at hand? How can we motivate them to be the best they can be at every turn? How can we elevate them to being all time greats?

Good thoughts for the week ahead.

Friday, February 3, 2012

App Review: Catch

This week I am sticking with note taking and organizing apps and reviewing Catch.

Grade A

Quick Pitch: Catch is a note taking application that allows you to create notes based on text, photo, and audio. It also has features that allow you create a reminder note for task or calendar use. Catch allows you 70 MB of storage for free, sharing options, and up to three "streams" to organize different categories of notes into.

Full Story: Catch is a great application. It offers extreme control over things like syncing, privacy, views, and tags - the options and ease-of-use of the settings are seldom matched in Android apps. Sometimes options like these can feel overwhelming, but Catch has the Settings Menu laid out in a way that even novice smartphone users will find logical.

Like it's competitors, Catch is built to cater to many parts of our diverse lives. As a professional note taking app, it's solidly built. Via the widget or the app itself, users can quickly jump to note creation options like text, photo, and voice. There is even a QR scanner built in to quickly add URLs to notes. One missing link was the options for text formatting with no bullets, numbered lists, or bold/italics/underlining here.


  • Settings - As mentioned, these are slick, you have great control over how the app acts.
  • Widget - A solid 4x1 widget for your home screen that allows you to quickly start notes, great for getting an idea down and not taking up a chunk of time.
  • Simplicity - The entire app is well designed to make sense the first time you use it, you won't find yourself hunting for a feature or menu you saw earlier, or a way to access a note.
  • Free - The 70 MB of free storage is great for notetakers. Like it's competitors, this number sounds "light", but in reality isn't much of a restriction for most users.
  • Text editing - This won't bother you for jotting down quick ideas, but if you're into writing more detailed notes with formatted text you'll find this app lacking.
  • Limited Streams - Catch limits free users to three streams to organize their notes into. If your brain typically organizes notes into more categories than that you'll find yourself having to convert over to tags - which Catch does well enough to make up the difference.
  • Aesthetics - While the simplicity is to be praised, the app might be a bit too clean. The basic graphics and simple colors leave you with an impression that the app is cheap. While the features prove that impression wrong, it's still a hit.

You can download the app from the market here

Note 1 - This is a review that I wrote after giving Catch some extensive use for a short period of time, unlike my Evernote review I haven't tested the app outside of the Android application as I tested it for purposes of review.
Note 2 - I intentionally didn't compare the app to last week's Evernote in this post. I'll be covering another note-taking app next week and then putting together a comparison of the three after that.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sales Train Like an Athlete

An interesting observation that I've made about sales training and goal setting is that we're always trying to set goals as a percentage of what we did before. We take a look at how many units we did last month or quarter and decide we're going to do 10% more this time. Athletes take a much more aggregate approach, they still want an improvement of the final result, but they're not as concerned with the steps to get there.

Here are some things I can guarantee you are not said during athlete training sessions:

  • "Jim, this report says you hit 34 home runs last year. I crunched some numbers and I'm going to need you to hit 37 this year."
  • "Greg, you are still taking 7,398 steps on average during your races. If we don't cut that down below 7,200 I'm going to have to write you up."
  • "Lisa, your clubhead speed is up 5% from last season, great work, I think you could get another 5% out of it yet."
And lastly

  • "Carson, you've got a great arm, we have the best wide receivers in the league, but this week we're blitzing field goals, so every time you get down in the Red Zone, I'm pulling you for the Field Goal Unit."
I understand that there are fundamental differences between the way sports and business is scored, but sometimes I wonder if we really need to think all that differently.

Take the home run statement for example. Many managers have said the same thing to a salesperson about units sold. That's where the similarities stop though, because the baseball manager then turns to the hitters swing. They work on strength in the gym, hand speed, take batting practice, and so on. In sales, managers often just suggest making more phone calls. That's akin to telling a hitter to get more at-bats.

We need to help sales people focus on their fundamentals. We need to turn to role playing, observations, and coaching. Through these types of "practice" we can help our players tweak their sales fundamentals and produce more results. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

App Review: Evernote

I'll start with a softball. I hope everyone knows about Evernote.

Grade: A

Quick Pitch: Evernote is a note taking application that allows you to take notes in the form of text, photo, or audio (or all three) and organize those notes into Notebooks. It comes with 60 MB of free storage space and is possibly the most consistent experience across devices available. Notes can be shared for collaboration.

Full Story: I certainly don't use Evernote for everything it can do, which is more a testament to it's full power than anything else. If you wanted to go all in with Evernote you really could manage most parts of your life with it. From a business sense, the best part about Evernote for me is being able to take quick notes on the go. Most of the time that means snapping a quick picture of a document or leaving an audio note to myself, but I frequently make text notes as well. I have set up several folders for different business needs and when making a note it's easy to choose which notebook I want to place it in, or just drop into my default folder for later.

  • Widget - I use the 4x1 widget on my phone which allows me to jump straight to text, camera, or microphone to start a note. It also opens the app or a search. The larger widget will show snippets of recent notes, I use this on my tablet.
  • Multi-device - I take most of my notes during the work day on my phone, but I often access them at night via my tablet or desktop. The syncing is seamless and unlike other apps I've tried I never worry about any workarounds to make accessing my data the same.
  • Free - Hard to beat that right? You can upgrade to premium storage, and eventually I will probably have to do that. However, if you're mostly using it for business purposes, many of your notes have a short shelf-life so you shouldn't have to worry about that 60 MB limit for a while.
  • Frequent updates - Evernote is still innovating and making this product even better.
  • Google Docs integration - admittedly they overlap a little so I understand the separation, but I'll also admit that Google Docs is better for professional documents. It would be nice to integrate my notes into my favorite cloud document platform.
  • Space limit - I can understand why they have one, but 60 MB seems quite small for a society where gigabytes are the norm. While I haven't hit the threshold yet two things are true, I'm stingy about the photo/audio notes I leave there, and I won't like the day I suddenly hit my cap and have to decide to either clear stuff out or pay up. I'm happy to pay for premium features, but size is always an awkward one.
You can download it from the market here.

Expanding Like-em

It's only week three and we're already expanding. Well, I'm expanding... the number of posts I write... and the topics I'm covering.

I'm having fun spending more time writing already this year (I've done more than you've seen), and I'm going to expand into another area of interest for me. I haven't picked a regular day yet... might be Fridays... but I will be writing reviews of Android apps for business use. I've spent a lot of time over the last twelve months searching for a good source of reviews for these apps and having found none, I decided to do it myself.

I'll be posting my first review right behind this, but here's a little bit about just how geeky I am.

I switched from Blackberry to Android almost a year ago. My main reasons for switching was a desire for an OS that provided me with better integration with the plethora of Google services I use, integration across the apps themselves, and a larger app market. I found all of those with Android. I know the highly customizeable style and unpolished apps aren't for everyone, but I'm someone who gets excited by trying things early, even if that means I have to have a little patience for any bugs.

Today, I have 135 apps on my phone. I wish I had kept track of all the apps I decided not to keep, but I'll wager that I've downloaded more than 200. I use my phone for many parts of my life from social media, fitness, and gaming, to organizing, music, and business. That's not to say that you'll never see my without my phone against my palm though, part of the grade that I give an app is for it's ability to help automate my busy life.

What I'm looking for is to build the perfect set of apps for business - the set that automates schedules, tasks, contacts, calls, notes, and everything else. I hope that we can start conversations here about these apps and find that perfect mix. It may not be the same for everyone, but the core likely can be.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Flat Hierarchy Pt 2

Last week I introduced the idea of a flat hierarchy. I talked about a few of the main reasons why I feel it's important to keep a team as flat as possible. Today, I want to talk about a few tactics that I feel management and staff can utilize to help create that environment.


Perhaps the biggest thing a manager can do is show they are a part of the team rather than apart from the team. As a leader, you are saddled with a truckload of responsibilities, they take up your time and stress you out. They are also important, after all, they're your responsibilities. When you become consumed by them however, you appear to be detached from your team. You give off the, "I can't help you today" vibe. Build time into your day, every day, to spend time helping your team with their tasks. That might not mean doing the tasks for them, it might mean entertaining customers while staff catches up on the volume, answering a few phone calls on the main line, making copies of a log or fax cover sheet when you notice the supply is low, handling a task that you already delegated to them but they haven't yet completed, or a host of other things. When you show your staff that you are willing to help pick up the slack in the most basic of team tasks you show that you hold yourself accountable to the completion of those tasks the same way you hold them accountable.

Another big opportunity for leaders is to show your human side. No, you don't have to cross the professional-personal barrier. Simply talking about a project you are working on, or some light venting about a deadline you have to meet for a report shows them that you're part of the system too (I'm not meaning only corporations, but all systems where a team is working towards a goal). I feel a lot of leaders fear they will appear weak in front of employees when they do this, but sharing your feelings helps employees identify the fact that you have a job to do too. When they make that realization, they'll cut you a little more slack when you spend time doing it.


I'm not going to find the right way to word this, but I'm open to any discussion that leads to better understanding of viewpoints. The most important thing that a staff member can do is to accept that management is part of the system. Again, not related only to corporations, but to the process of completing the tasks. Management may progressively have more power and authority the higher up the hierarchy you get, but they relationship can still be flat. This begins by holding managers accountable to their responsibilities and involvement with the team. I am not condoning documented coaching of your manager, but rather keeping your expectations in focus in a professional manner.

When teams enact more of these attitudes within their daily activities they'll begin to work more closely together. This can open up better communication which helps teams work towards their vision.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Flat Hierarchy

Since I'm still getting this idea off the ground I want to stick with more personal theory/fundamental posts to help establish my point of view.

This week I'm writing about my ideas for the need of flat hierarchy in the workplace. My definition for a flat hierarchy is a workplace where there is minimal difference in the way management and staff are viewed. Each "side" maintained defined roles they fill on the team, but importance of those roles is brought to equality.

This is an idea that came to me naturally before I actually identified it. My core values for team involve not valuing any one part of the team over another. While it's true that some parts of a team might require more experience and knowledge, it's also true that the team cannot function with any piece missing. The key is understanding that management tasks are simply a set of tasks completed by the team member assigned to them. Certainly, some of those tasks are "power" tasks like decision making, hiring, and firing, but they are still tasks that are essential to the team and assigned to a team member.

I believe that the best teams understand this. They operate with the understanding that everyone has a defined role that integral to the success of the team and they hold team members accountable throughout the chain of command. When separated into management and staff, both sides need to accept this.

Management needs to stay personable. They need to be visible in showing their hard work to staff and connecting those efforts to the success of the team. Some of the most dysfunctional teams have a significant disconnect wherein staff members feel that management doesn't contribute enough to the daily activities of the team. Managers can dispel these feelings by better communicating their activities, challenges, and successes with staff. By viewing management activity as a part of the team's job and not an omniscient position, management can stay a part of the team.

The staff needs to avoid fear of management. To some degree that environment needs to be delivered by the manager, but staff can create it by showing management that they expect them to be a part of the team, not simply the boss.

I'll stick with this topic next week and discuss some activities that teams can partake in to implement flat hierarchies.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mutual Agreement

I recently met with a friend who works in a customer service position for another industry. She was talking about a challenge that she was facing at work in which she felt like management was "feeding the team canned statements to use with customers." She said that offices in another part of the country had this idea, received higher customer service scores, and now it was being informally rolled out in her area. The problem was that her and her peers felt awkward and corny with many of the new lyrics and, as a result, the process wasn't being used in most cases.

Now, I purposely left out the specifics. They don't matter as most of us have seen this same scenario in our workplaces - one person/office/region tries something and gets results and suddenly it's the hottest thing to have a meeting about. Mostly, it makes sense. Good companies should spread the good news when a new method produces better results. Another thing that good companies should do is understand team mentality.

My friend used words like "feeding" and "canned". Those aren't very positive words to use when describing her perception of the implementation of the new lyrics. With no offense meant, I might guess they are indicative of her success with them as well. The problem isn't with the staff here though, it's with the delivery method.

A team will stand together against canned change almost without fail. It can be different when training a new employee, but experienced employees know their business. In this case, they know the customers coming into the office, they know the local culture, they "know" a lot of things about their office that they are pretty sure some colleague across the country cannot know. For this reason, a leader needs to be prepared to have a conversation that facilitates healthy conflict around the topic. The key is to understand that the person/office/region that made it work, made it work because of a shared vision and agreement to make changes to deliver a new consistent approach to the task.

If the challenge is achieving better results for customer service scores, then you start the conversation about customer service rather than success stories from a far off land. As a leader you share current results, suggest that you feel the team can do better, and share the story of the person/office/region as evidence that there are solutions to your challenges. Once the conversation starts, let it happen - let it blossom. If your team already feels comfortable speaking openly, you'll likely find that they agree that they can achieve better results.

Now you can turn the conversation back to the new method being used elsewhere. You will likely meet resistance, but don't set out to copy the lyrics of the other person/office/region, rather copy their mentality. To make a process their own, a team has to air out all of their feelings, they need to play "devil's advocate" and challenge the idea. Inevitably, someone will introduce reason back into the conversation, heads will nod, and progress will start to flow back in the direction of the original proposal. This conversation of healthy conflict is a crucial step to getting everyone to buy into the idea. When it gets skipped, challenges are unanswered and remain barriers to implementation for those individuals. By helping your team agree on a vision of what (in this case) better customer service scores should look like, you are on the road to getting participation from the team towards achieving that vision.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Opening Comments

I've started a few blogs in my time and I always feel the need to state my intentions with an initial post. Maybe it's just because I need to see it in type myself, but I'll share it with you anyway.

The reason that I chose to start this blog was to create a platform where I can share my experiences and thoughts surrounding team development and leadership. My hope is that I will open some conversation and we will all be able to tackle the many challenges that teams face together as a focused group. During the course of my career I have had the opportunity, as have all of you, to work on a number of teams. Some of these teams were great, others needed work, and they all affected the final results. Whether you're the leader or not, we all have a vested interest in keeping the team moving forward.

In leading teams, I have developed a set of activities that I try to keep in daily focus. They are:

  • Development - I believe that we should always be learning, growing, and becoming experts in our field.
  • Awesomeness - I believe in leveraging our strengths to be great at something. I'm talking about true strength here, not just "I'm good at selling XYZ Product," but "I'm good at communicating and use that to explain benefits of XYZ Product when I'm selling."
  • Vision - I believe that part of the definition of team is unified vision. Everyone involved needs to know where they want to be as a unit by X date and what they're willing (and needing) to do to get there.
  • Effort - I believe that we only control one real thing. Quarterly targets, daily challenges, frustrated customers and colleagues are all external realities that exist in every environment. When teams hone in on maximizing their effort they're meeting real potential.
These aren't exhaustive of the things that teams need to be aware of, but they are the most important to me and the ones that I fall back on when making decisions about daily activity. I'll touch back on these regularly as I cover different topics and experiences. Oh, and yes, I did chose "Awesomeness" over "Strengths" because it got me the "A" to complete my acronym - during a busy day, sometimes the only thing you can remember is your own name.

I am looking forward to creating a community here by publishing fresh content weekly. So if you like what you see please bookmark the blog, or simply follow me on Google + for regular updates.