When Disruption Meets Laughter & Fun

I was so honored to be a guest on DisrupTV with my good friend Vala Afshar of Salesforce and Ray Wang, founder of Constellation Research.  As to be expected, we had a great time talking blue lobsters, innovation, virtues, strategy and women in tech.  Take a look!


Savory Tales of Connection


 Fried Twitter Tales is a collection of stories on the WHY of twitter by some amazing people and I got to be included! Honored! The story that Vala Afshar and I love about twitter, the network and making amazing things happen (like CCChampions & the Celtics) is the first story.  So please download this free e-book, read it, share it and build relationships with amazing people. 


Some Stories Need Retelling

With Thanksgiving coming up, I thought this was a story worth retelling - Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah and a new year ahead.  I am continually overwhelmed with the blessings in my life and this remains one of the most powerful in my entire career - thanks to Vala Afshar & Sidney Kushner

What Gives You Hope?

Summer is ending, leaves are changing and we know what is coming, and I'm so filled with Hope!  Yup! InBIF10 Top Row L-R Marlea Brown, Andrew Kaplan, Nicha Ratana; Bottom Row L-R: Faisal Khurshid, Isby Lubin, Fiora MacPherson, Sarah Kandath, Me  what, in Whom do you Hope? Hope is a powerful force in life.  It is based in what is both possible and probable, not in hallucination. That's why September is Hope Month for me...because of BIF10 

BIF is the most amazing gathering of humans from all over the world sharing stories about perseverance, innovation, impact…and Hope! Every year we wonder how can the next be better and it always is.  Because of HopeHope in what the human spirit is capable of achieving:

I urge you to look at the videos, photos, and posts…. And sign up for next year!!

The Power of Your Network is the "Ask"

Originally published in Harvard Business Review, this post needs to be reread since my friend Vala Afshar will be a storyteller at BIF10 and Sidney Kushner will be attending - in just two weeks!  

One of the biggest assets in anyone’s life is a generous network. It is a gift that grows simply by sharing it. Think of it as the Law of Accelerating Returns — the more you share your network, the more people share it in return and the more the rate of sharing accelerates. For me, my network has literally and figuratively been a source of survival. For most of us, networks have played a critical role in our lives, whether we realize it or not.

I asked executive and super-networker Vala Afshar if he thought there were any common traits or patterns that could be ‘taught’ or encouraged for networking.  We came up with a few unsubstantiated traits based on the people we know who are great connectors: 1) hard working (it does take work to network); 2) humble (now that’s pretty arrogant of me to say!); 3) quietly confident that connecting the people they introduce will result in something great even if it’s not yet clear; and, perhaps most importantly 4) who understand the power of the ask. For instance, Vala remembers arriving in America at age 10, escaping the 1979 Iranian Revolution not knowing any English, not blond and blue-eyed, and not stylishly clad. He also remembers the very few kids who overcame their shyness to ask him to play kickball — and how happy he was to be asked.

Too many of us worry that asking will appear self-serving, even if it’s not. We fear rejection. We fear looking stupid. Perhaps some of us actually fear hearing a “yes” — what would we do then? It’s tempting to say that asking takes courage. But really, think about it — what’s the worst that can happen? You’ll hear a “no.” No one’s going to throw you in jail. Let me share a brief story about a couple of normal (well, in their eyes) people and a kid to illustrate the Power of the Ask.

I first met Vala, CMO and CXO at New Hampshire-based Enterasys, now Extreme Networks, on twitter and reached out to him, since his tweets seemed so spot-on to me. We conversed over email and twitter, sharing stories of our jobs and of eating lobster, which we both love. We met last September on my way up to Maine for my annual vacation. I was greeted at Enterasys’s headquarters like a long-lost relative — even including an epicurean delight of lobster salad*. Needless to say, we really hit it off. I also learned that Enterasys provides network services to companies like the New England Patriots and the Boston Celtics.

Meanwhile, one of my mentees, Sidney Kushner**, has been creating CCChampions, an organization that creates connections between professional athletes and children with cancer to provide a source of inspiration and excitement during a very trying time in children’s lives. To date, CCChampions is working with over 6,000 professional athletes plus health care professionals, child psychologists, local students and community partners. Sidney’s compassion, drive and entrepreneurial savvy are contagious.

But let’s face it — Providence, RI, where Sidney lives, is not exactly a professional sports powerhouse. Yet Boston is nearby! So, sucking up courage, I ask Vala if he’d talk to Sidney and, if willing, then introduce Sidney to the Celtics. What’s the worst Vala could say? No. And I’d perhaps look like a fool… but I’m very used to that. But Vala said that after about 5 minutes of talking to Sidney, he wanted help. Still, since the Celtics were a fairly new client, Vala was a bit nervous about making the ask. Nevertheless, he did, and a 30-minute discussion ensued in which the Celtics offered to honor Sidney as part of their Heroes Among Us program at their January 9th game in a special in-game presentation. Vala said he had goosebumps and when he told me, I certainly did. When the Celtics called Sidney, he was speechless — all he could do was text me, not even talk.

On January 9, 2013, because Sidney will be honored on the famous parquet floor of TD Garden, more kids suffering with cancer will have an opportunity for joy, inspiration and valuable distraction from their pain. As parents, both Vala and I can only imagine what this would mean to our children.

And let’s face it, Vala and I have gotten great great joy from bringing Sidney and the Celtics together — beyondSidney and KJ (an 11 kid with cancer) are high-fiving on center court as CCChampions got honored as a "Hero Among Us" by the Boston Celtics! expression, so perhaps it’s very selfish of us. And in the end, despite feeling awkward at certain moments, we really risked very little to help make this happen.

When we don’t use the “Power of the Ask” we are in essence saying “no” before the question has even been asked — saying no to opportunities that change our businesses, our organizations, ourselves…and actual lives. So even if it feels uncomfortable, look for even just a small way can you use the “Power of the Ask” in your network — for someone you work for, with or manage. Make this your year of the Law of Accelerating Returns.

*This feast has become an annual tradition and on Sept. 15, we will be celebrating our third year dining upon the epicurian delights of Chef Brian Townsend (aka Director of Global Technology Services & Operations at Extreme Networks)

**Sidney graduated from Brown in 2013 and CCChampions is having an impact beyond his dreams. I am also very honored to be on his board. 

Intangible Benefit of Networking

So honored to co-author a post in Switch and Shift with my friend Vala Afshar - What is the benefit of networking? It may surprise you

"We are both pretty passionate about networking.  Being insatiably curious, we love meeting new people from different backgrounds with different experiences, viewpoints, and stories.  Throughout our individual careers, we’ve seen how networking is a means of learning and growing, both personally and professionally."  Continue reading....

100 Must Follow On Twitter 2014

Wow! I can't believe I'm on the same list as John Hagel and so many other famous, wise people!! Thank you, Vala Afshar, for this honor of being on your Huffington Post list of 100 Must Follows... but moreso thank you for your friendship!  


7 Ways to Remain Relevant & Deliver Value

So many incredible thanks to Vala Afshar for a great Huffington Post piece about my guest appearance last Friday, November 8th, for CXO Talk! As usual, it's so much fun to 'hang' with Vala and Mike mixing profound insights with laughter. Here's Vala's view of our episode.


True Leadership is Social

Every once in a while, you are privileged to witness the embodiment of what has become a buzzword, Servant Leadership - someone who is innately wired as a servant leader – authentic, genuine and sincere.  I’m privileged to have met a few of these people in my career – in fact, five “someones” recently at a warm, welcoming, generous visit to Enterasys’s headquarters in Andover, MA.  Two of the five, Vala Afshar and Brad Martin, have just written a 2012 & 2013’s Must Read book, The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence.  To understand the power of this book, I need to tell you a story…of how I met them.

Last spring, I started noticing Vala’s insightful, kind, wise, and very human tweets.  I reached out and he invited me to visit him on my way up to Maine this past September.  I arrived and was greeted like a queen! To my incredible surprise, because Vala remembered our tweets about lobster, Brian Townsend, Director of Global Services and Ops, had prepared a feast of lobster tails with a risotto and an unimaginable dessert.  How did Vala remember that I loved lobster? Because that’s how Vala, and Brad, and the rest of the team, are wired (no pun intended) – to be social, to care, to make sure others matter.

Brad and Vala don’t preach about why businesses must be social – they live it, everyday.  Theirs is a real, living, breathing, continuous narrative about how a mid-market company refocused their culture to delight their customers by respecting and trusting their employees to focus on providing meaningful outcomes for their customers.  They detail the why, how, when, and what in transforming the culture and flattening the organization.  Vala and Brad share the culture’s benefits to their top line, bottom line and most importantly, human line.  If you’ve read Steve Denning’s book, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management, you’d think he was writing about Enterasys – and he was!

When you read this book, as you should, don’t start making excuses as to why it doesn’t “really” apply to.  You’d be lying to yourself and closing the door to creating an excellent company.  The pursuit of social business excellence applies to any company making any thing that touches any one in any form, not just technology companies. The fundamental building block of Enterasys’ success is not technology – they make that loud and clear – it’s people.  Technology can make being a social business easier, but it can’t make it happen.  People do.

Please read The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence.  Think about how you can adapt some of these ideas for your own organization.  It may seem scary – you may lose the perception of the control you never really had; you may realize you’ve made some bad hires and constrained some great ones; your customers may see behind the curtain.  Yet, overcome the fears, because the rewards are so great, on so many levels.