Friday, May 22, 2015

Is Your Business Using Viral Marketing?

Seth Godin was probably one of, if not the first person to come up with the idea of viral marketing.

In his title, Unleashing the Idea Virus, Godin suggests numerous ways in which information about your business can spread like a virus without costing a fortune.

As there are numerous ways in which a biological virus spreads in the animal world, so there are numbers of ways in which marketing viruses can be spread.

One of the most common ways to spread a virus online is using an e-book or report. It's here that the concept really works as many of us can testify.

It's a simple idea. You produce an e-book or report that is highly useful, sought after and that has links to your products or services. You give it away free and the people to whom you give it pass it to others ... like a virus. Some of the readers click and visit your links which hopefully, leads to purchases.

And it does. I have several viral e-books still floating around in cyberspace and occasionally a sale results from them. However, there is one thing you really must do regarding your links if you are linking to affiliate sites or other sites for which you have no control.


In the e-book or report place links that go to your site and are then redirected to the other sites. This allows you to update the links should the affiliate links be changed, cancelled, or otherwise no longer valid. Otherwise, you may have an excellent viral tool that is no longer of use to you because the links don't work.

So, when will you expand your business interests by setting up a viral marketing program?


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What's wrong with role confusion?

Are you one of those unfortunates who doesn't have a clear idea of your job boundaries? Where your job responsibilities start and end?

If so, I feel sorry for you. It's terrible!

There's nothing more annoying than role confusion.

As a human resources specialist, I was often called to sort out issues that occurred within my organisation that came down to role confusion.

Marion Cook (HREF-1) identified the following six symptoms of role confusion:

  1. Lack of clarity regarding who has the authority to make decisions
  2. A lack of decision "stickiness," or revisiting decisions once they are made
  3. Over or under inclusion of the right people in the right meetings
  4. Over or under communication of project information
  5. People in a "wait state" being unproductive or working on unimportant tasks
  6. Uneven workloads across the team 
To her points, I would add poor morale, interference to productivity (other than people 'watching and waiting'), and unnecessary duplication of tasks.  

Role confusion can lead to petty bickering between employees about responsibilities. This creates morale issues and also diverts resources from the organisation's key objectives, whatever they are.

The Solution?

The solution should be obvious; it's to clearly define who does what and when.

Larger organisations have organisation charts that divide their organisation, usually along functional lines. If you are in the accounting department, you don't expect to carry out engineering roles and vice versa.

Next step down is to have a work plan (business plan) for each department that sets out its aims, objectives and key performance indicators. This plan helps keep the department focused and also informs people within the department of their roles.

Once the specific tasks within a department have been identified, they are assigned to a duty statement associated with a specific job. These should serve to cover the vast majority of tasks and clearly delineate individual responsibilities.

When new tasks arise, or tasks are identified that have not previously been assigned to a job, managers should take the initiative to assign them at the earliest to prevent confusion.


Role confusion can destroy an organisation if left to do so. Good managers must ensure that everyone within their chain of command understands what their roles are, their boundaries and how their role interfaces with the roles of other employees.

Does your organisation suffer role confusion? If so, what are you doing about it?


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Why mentoring pays off

In my very first job as a boilermaker-welding apprentice, I learnt the tricks of the trade from a variety of different people. One tradesman, Rob, was an exemplar of best practice, so I attached myself to him to make sure I learned from the very best.

When Rob did a job, nothing but perfect was acceptable.

Our first job together was to build a circular ore bin 20 feet in diameter and about eight feet high. We had to put 8' by 4' sheets of mild steel through a roller to get the right curvature to fit the circle, bevel the edges that were to be welded, lift them into place using a crane and then tack them (with small welding runs) so that we could begin welding them completely.

I was impressed when everything fitted nicely with an absolute minimum of hammering or bending. Rob certainly knew how to make products from metal. Everywhere you measured the diameter of the ore bin, it was exactly 20 feet.

As well as an on-the-job trainer, Rob was also a mentor. If I ran into problems with staff, equipment, and even personal issues, he was there to advise,

Later, while undergoing military service, I had another mentor. It was he who convinced me to improve my education which I did, later completing high school and a Master's degree, two Bachelors degrees, and several other tertiary qualifications.

Without this mentor, I may have left the Air Force and spent the rest of my working life as a boilermaker-welder instead of an adult educator and human resources specialist.

Later, as a middle and senior manager, I mentored less experienced staff whom I thought had the capacity for development.

Mentoring paid off for me because:

  1. Developing rapport with junior staff helped increase morale
  2. I could identify systemic and other issues within the organisations that were impeding progress
  3. The people whom I mentored felt wanted, important to the organisation and contributed better than some others for whom it was just a job to fill in eight hours per day
  4. While sharing ideas with mentorees, I learnt things too, which meant that we all developed
  5. Most of those whom I mentored became long-term friends
While some organisations have formal mentoring programs, many don't. If your organisation doesn't have a formal program, there is no reason why it cannot be done informally.

The benefits of mentoring for everyone are well worth making the effort.

What do you think?


Monday, April 27, 2015

Do Education and Learning Ever End?

I was talking with a senior nursing manager recently who made the comment that when she moved from clinical practice to management, all of a sudden she was expected to know about budgeting, performance management and leadership.

Although exceptionally well qualified in several areas of nursing and midwifery, she has no business or management training and limited skills in those areas.

This is a common challenge for professionals who are expert and hopefully exemplars in their fields who are promoted to management positions.

More organised and better funded organisations have a management develop program or at least provide ad hoc training in a variety of topics to help new managers perform better.

Others simply hope that new managers will learn through some kind of osmosis ... or perhaps through trial and error.

What this means for all of us is that we have to take charge of our own learning and development. Be proactive. Learning these days is a womb to tomb activity. You don't finish university with a nice shiny degree parchment and that's the end of it.

I have always taken charge of my own learning and enrolled in courses I felt would help me do a better job.

If you are fortunate enough to know what new skills you will need in future, you can train before you need it - just in time training. If not and you are in a job where you find your skills are lacking, don't sit around waiting for someone to help you, get off your chair and go do something for yourself.

Australia is a land of opportunity when it comes to training and development. There are thousands of Registered Training Organisations, universities and Vocational, Educational and Training colleges to choose from.

If you can't afford to enrol, there are also dozens of "how to" books and computer aided instructional programs that will help.

Find either a course, a book or a program of instruction and commit to learning what you need. Everyone will benefit from it.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Computer Rage: Don't Kill Your Computer

Apple IIC Computer and Peripherals
When I read this article about a guy who "executed" his desktop, it brought back memories of the many times I've been annoyed by malfunctioning computers.

The first computers I ever used were Apple IICs when I was at university. I taught myself to use them because they had a software program called Zardax with which I could produce my assignments quickly and easily.

As a touch typist typing at 60 words per minute, I could churn out an assignment in no time. Zardax carried out such things as footnoting automatically resulting in quality production on what was then fan fold A4 paper.

Others had to pay someone to produce their assignments usually on an old mechanical typewriter.

Since then, I have spent decades using a range of computers and teaching computing to adult students. And I've had my share of hang-ups, blue screens, unexpected power-downs, disk failures, and more. Bugger!

Although these occasions have been inconvenient, especially once when I had typed a 20 page document only to have it "disappear" who-knows-where, I've never suffered computer rage. I've never mistreated a computer and I certainly haven't shot one, although it must have been fun.

Everyone knows that computers, like everything else, have a shelf life. The working components inside computers have an MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure).

The best thing you can do is maintain them from day one, treat them well, and have some knowledge of how long they will last based on the MTBF. For example, if you don't think your hard disk or motherboard will fail, you will be surprised when they do.

If you have a firm with a lot of computers, develop a regular maintenance and replacement program based on advice from computer professionals (not necessarily salespersons) and replace them before they begin to fail.

If your computer stock begins to have failures, address it early rather than leave it to the point of no return. Take some sensible actions to maintain and replace and you'll never have to execute your computer.