Resolving Your Inbox Nightmares

How many of you are sick of hearing your company’s IT department sound like a broken record: “Clean up your e-mails!” “Don’t forget to empty your deleted items!” “While you’re at it, remember to go through your sent items.”

On top of all of those “hidden” e-mails, you also have the thousands that inhabit your inbox. What to do? Head these tips from Inc.com.

Help! My Outlook inbox is haunting me – even in my sleep! This is the cry for help I receive from all too many business owners who have lost the battle of the bulging inbox. Alas, the dreaded message appears in their sleep: “downloading 1 of 1238 email messages” flashes through their dreams throughout the restless nights.

via Inc.com.

5 things that aren’t on my Christmas list

  1. charlie brown tree Red Ryder BB Gun – I hear you can shoot your eye out with this thing.
  2. Leg Lamp (Award) – My wife said she would break it, and I’m going green this year.
  3. Charlie Brown Tree – Love the Peanuts, but don’t give me a sad tree.
  4. ScottEvest Travel Boxers – TSA would have a blast with this one.
  5. Christmas E-Cards – Nothing says tacky more than virus ridden e-cards.

The bonus item: A 7 ft pink Christmas tree my wife just happened to bring home tonight. Guess sometimes you get what you don’t ask for.

Holding Crucial Conversations

crusical conversations I’ve never been much for structure. I’m not exactly sure why but it’s most likely some strange event that happened in my childhood. As I get older I find myself even less interested in rules and hierarchy, especially in my professional life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of giving and getting respect, but I’m just not into management terms like “direction” and “coaching.”

Maybe it’s because I deal with teens at home, maybe it’s a lack of patience, or maybe I just have high expectations, but I expect people who work with me to get work done. I don’t mind prioritizing or discussing issues, but if you need specific direction to complete the tasks I’ve hired you for, maybe I made a bad hire. 

I mention this for a couple of reasons; it’s a personal rant against structure and authority and I’m so tired of hearing people complain about how hard it is managing people. Just as your employees aren’t chained to their desks, you aren’t married to them either. Perhaps if you’re that unhappy with performance you might consider replacing them. Another solution might be simply talking to them. I know in today’s technology-driven world it’s a strange concept, but stick with me here.

A simple conversation might just be the end of your frustrations. I was at the receiving end of one of these conversations a few years back. To be honest, the discussion was well over due and it saved not only my job but my career as a whole. Soon after this conversation I realized the power of honesty and started looking to build a similar skill set. What I found was a book and program called Crucial Conversations.

While the book alone was powerful, the workshop gave me the courage to actually apply the tools I’d need to communicate effectively. I soon found that honesty, humility, and empathy would be keys to my personal and professional lives. Having the comfort to leave my bubble and hold an honest conversation without an emotional response made communication easy. Communicating regularly rather than reviewing annually helped my staff adjust behaviors before I became frustrated, and encouraged them to speak openly when they disagreed with me. Strangely enough this lack of fear that is sometimes considered disrespect is what I feel is my greatest strength.

Rather than coach my staff on changing behavior I can simply state the behavior and my feelings about its impact. They have the opportunity to openly state why the behavior is present and what can be done. I’m not attempting to change them, rather I make them aware and they choose to change themselves. I employ the same strategy at home with my wife and children, and they’ve learned to employ it with me.

Granted nothing is perfect, but this has made life far easier for me. The simple art of knowing when to push technology aside and have a walk-up meeting has made a huge difference in my performance as a manager. My staff are happier, I’m happier, and even those I’ve had causal working relationships with have been happier.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to read Crucial Conversations I’d recommend you pick it up. It might be helpful as the holiday’s approach and co-workers get stressed and grumpy. Perhaps it will give you the tools you need to deal with your overbearing mother-in-law, and at the very least you can always re-gift it if you decide it’s a dud.
Have you read Crucial Conversations? If so, what are you thoughts? Do you have a management style you really like or dislike?

5 tips for a successful Cyber Monday experience

cybermonday Cyber Monday is less than a week away, and deal-seeking consumers will be bogging down bandwidth at work on Nov. 29 looking for the hottest gifts this season. Online shopping is fast and easy, but just how safe is it? Here are a few simple tips to help you stay safe when shopping this holiday season.

You get what you pay for

This is probably the golden rule of any deal: If it seems to good to be true from an online retailer, it most likely is. You run the chance of not only losing your money, but possibly your identity.

Don’t use real money

When possible use prepaid Visa, MasterCard or gift cards to order online. This has multiple benefits; places like Giant Eagle and Kroger reward you with fuel perks for gift card purchases and you have a finite amount that can be stolen if your card number is captured.

E-mail is not safe

Don’t respond to e-mails regarding a problem with shipping your order, or a problem with your account balance. These e-mails are most likely a way for someone to collect personal information. If you think a problem exists, look up the company’s number from their website and call them directly. Don’t click on any links in the e-mail or trust any phone numbers listed.

Look for https://

The beginning portion of a secure URL will always begin with https://. If this is not present, anything you type of the page can be viewed by others. Needless to say, if it doesn’t have https:// in the URL don’t enter your payment information.

Avoid Crapware

I know Elf Bowling looks fun but avoid the festive crapware floating about. At the very least it’s a waste of space and slows down your PC, it could also be far worse and contain a virus or spyware.

Do you have an online shopping nightmare? Have a dream site to find all the best Christmas Deals? I’ll take that too. Let me know! I love a good story.

FYI: Shameless self-promotion will be deleted, all comments are moderated. Please don’t waste my time. :)

Net Generation is Changing Your World | From CPA Success

Bill Sheridan is one of those guys whose work you just like to read. His latest blog posts discuss his recent visit to Zappos and the Accounting Today Growth and Profitability Conference. It seems both experiences had an impact, and Bill was happy to share what he has learned about the net generation work force.

This is just a quick snapshot, but I’d suggest heading over to CPA Success for the full story.

In my earlier session, The CPA Firm Today: How to Succeed in the New Normal, I talked about the importance of purpose (why), values, and what the net generation wants in the workforce. Both Zappos and these next-gen CPAs really do embrace the eight norms of the next-gen workplace that Don Tapscott talks bout in his book, Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World. Here they are:

1. Freedom: The freedom to work when and where you want.

2. Customization: My job, my life.

3. Scrutiny: I know what you did last night.

4. Integrity: Be a good company to work for.

5. Collaboration: Teamwork.

6. Entertainment: Work should be fun.

7. Speed: Let’s make things happen now!

8. Innovation: Let me invent.

via CPA Success.

Time for a tune-up: Basic computer maintenance and troubleshooting « Techiebytes

It’s that time of year again. If you’re looking for a way to speed up your old machine before Cyber Monday, or simply want to keep a new machine running like new, this old post has some timeless tips.

“Murphy was an optimist” is posted on Adam Mahle’s cubical wall. Adam is our “Nick Burns” at The Society and has the joy of fixing all those wonderful workstation issues that arise from day to day. After watching trouble tickets, user frustrations, and being in this business for over 15 years, I’d almost agree with Adam and his sign.

I say “almost” because the majority of computer problems can be avoided through simple maintenance and troubleshooting. You wouldn’t drive your car for four years without an oil change, but it’s acceptable to continually run a computer without general maintenance. Computer maintenance is key to keeping your computer healthy and in turn keeping you happy.

via Time for a tune-up.: Basic computer maintenance and troubleshooting « Techiebytes.

I’m a PC, running a Mac

macvspcIn the distance I heard the faint chant of magical. Over the horizon the dim glow brightens as a heard of iPhones moved toward me. Then it happened, here I sit surrounded by Apple products and I sip the cider, indoctrinated into the Apple cult. Yes, I’ll admit my Apple hate quickly turned to love and I’m the new Apple fan boy. Still with my new Apple pride I simply can’t recommend that everyone switch to Mac.

For my Windows friends you simply can’t cut ties. I know they claim it’s possible, but if you work with others you will eventually need Windows. The good news is the Mac runs Windows like a dream, the bad news is it will cost you close to $250.00. To be honest, if I worked for Microsoft I’d want everybody to buy a Mac. Heck when is the last time anybody paid retail for Windows? Another item to remember is that if you plan to run Windows you need enough RAM to do it. The Mac is built for OSX and as such, needs more memory to run Windows with speed. Make sure that your Mac has at least 4GB of RAM, and I suggest 8GB if you’re a heavy user.

So what about the iWork apps? They are functional and easy but they can’t hold a candle to Office. Keynote is my favorite app and has replaced PowerPoint, not for the authoring but the audience presentation is just hands down better. Pages and numbers might work for collage students, but in the office, well MS Office is simply king.

So if you’re migrating from Windows you’re going to want Microsoft Office. I had high hopes for Office 2011, and to be fair it’s far better than the previous versions of Office for Mac. Still, Outlook is crippled compared to the Windows version. The simple task of dragging an e-mail to the calendar to create an appointment isn’t available in Outlook 2011. In fact none of the drag and drop capabilities exist. These little annoyances are bearable, but at $279.00 a copy Microsoft could have done a better job.

Beyond software there is a cost of time. Let’s face it, change is hard and the little differences take some real time to adjust to. If you’re used to the Windows world of mice and menus it takes quite a while to adjust to a track pad and finder. I’m still having some minor issues from time to time. If you’re not open to spending some time bonding with your technology the cost of productivity might be too much to bear.

For me, I enjoy the challenge, and my Macbook feeds my inner geekdom. A machine that does it all is really what I wanted. I’m a growing fan of OSX, Windows runs better in Parallels than on my PC, and Ubuntu runs as well. I find something new everyday and technology seems exciting again. Of course that’s all great for me, it’s what I do.

For you it might be a different story. Let me know – could you use a Mac?

Calling The Fail Whale!

fail-whale copy Twitter how you disappoint me! Where is your loyalty to those of us who stood with you through the tough times? Instead of feeding me news you are a constant stream of useless babble and popularity contests.

Don’t believe me? This week’s twitter trends were horrible – primarily focused on the Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber. Is this what we thought Twitter would become? 

Once upon a time, Twitter had great promise as a news and information service. An endless collection of real time information that freed countries and saved imprisoned journalists. Information that could be used to gauge the pulse of news in the world. It was what was important to humanity in real time.

Well maybe it’s not all Twitter’s fault. Perhaps it’s humanity that disturbs me. Get a grip people. Boy band drama isn’t what’s important. Let’s try to focus. Then again maybe it’s just me. Perhaps we have become so shallow as a species that this stream of crap is what consumes us. If that’s the case, I’m calling on the Fail Whale to save us all!

Has Twitter jumped the shark? If you’ve abandoned Twitter for a different social news stream let me know where you’ve gone. Still a loyal Tweep? If you still think Twitter is great let me know why.

Manage e-mail attachments with file transferring services

One of the most common solutions for sharing files is via e-mail. Problem is, this type of file sharing limits file size and is inherently insecure. If you need to send large or secured files several solutions exist but two of the easiest would be YouSendIt or Leapfile.

Both offer you the ability to transfer large or confidential files with ease. The basic idea behind each is is:

  1. You craft an e-mail and attach your files
  2. Rather than sending the files within the e-mail, the files are uploaded to a secure server
  3. A link to the file on the secure server is then sent within the e-mail
  4. Access to the file can be password protected
  5. The recipient accesses the link, supplies the password and retrieves the file

Each service offers free trial periods and tiered pricing plans, but depending on your specific needs prices may vary significantly.

If you have a need to send secured or large files it’s well worth your time to check out these simplified solutions. Do you use one of these services, if so what are your opinions? Is there another service that you prefer instead?

Social Networks to Supplant Email in Business? – PCWorld

Interesting idea, will social eventually land in the enterprise or will the enterprise fragment into the user base? Regardless this shift has huge impacts on security and privacy as we know it.

Independent research company Gartner says 20 percent of workers will use social networks as their primary vehicle for business communications by 2014. According to Gartner, greater availability of social networking services, along with changing demographics and work styles, are responsible for the business move toward social networking services.

As more workers with social networking skills enter businesses, there will be a profound effect on the old business standby–email.

“The rigid distinction between email and social networks will erode,” said Monica Basso, research vice president at Gartner, “Email will take on many social attributes, such as contract brokering, while social networks will develop richer email capabilities.”

via Social Networks to Supplant Email in Business? – PCWorld.

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