Online Training Opportunities

Dan Harley, Todd Weiland, and I had a discussion tonight about the online training space. Thought you might enjoy watching this discussion. Dan and I co-host Technology Tuesday every Tuesday at 7:00 CST and I would love for you to join us. If interested, let me know.

If interested in joining us for a Hangout on Air, send me a friend invite on Google +


How to Communicate Clearly and Concisely

Few have the courage to communicate a message succinctly

Few have the courage to communicate a message succinctly

Today I was coaching someone who wanted to improve his communication style. He wanted to communicate more succinctly. I decided to write this blog post to offer some helpful suggestions.

First, let me make a case for succinct communications.

Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain something simply, you probably don’t understand it well.”

According to the Associated Press, the average attention span of people in 2012 was 12 seconds.

We have fast food and drive through churches. My God!

As Stephen Wright the comedian once said, “I put instant coffee in the microwave….I almost went back in time.”

Most people today get more information in one day than a 16th century peasant got in an entire lifetime. It’s information overload! So when you speak, be clear and concise.

Edward Everett orated for two hours at Gettysburg; Lincoln talked for two minutes. Hopefully by now you are convinced. Now let’s examine the skills of an effective succinct communicator.

1. Think about what you are going to say before you say it.

2. Practice saying things with fewer words.

3. Look for ways to make your message memorable.

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Instead of, ”Don’t misunderstand the role of being an American citizen. You can’t sit back while your government works to make you secure. You have to step up to the plate, be proactive and support the whole. We’re counting on you, and we’re in this together….or else.”

Examine the book, Made to Stick.

The characteristics of stickiness include: simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and full of stories.

4. Imagine 4 bullet points on a slide that fall into categories such as issue/challenge, recommendation, and what I need.

5. Always know Three Basic Principles:

Know what you want.
Know who can give it to you.
Know how to get it.

These 3 principles came from a book called How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less.

6. Before your begin talking, ask a question which eliminates half of what you need to talk about.

7. Don’t be afraid to pause.

8. Listen well.

There is no credibility in your prescription unless there is credibility in the diagnosis.

9. Ensure understanding.

But, don’t say…..”Do you understand what I’m saying?” The number one answer to that is a “Yes.” They are bluffing….they haven’t even heard your long boring oration! Instead say, “Sometimes I realize that I’m not as clear as I’d like to be…..What is your understanding of our agreements?”

10. Focus on the things that you can change.

Never allow the things that you can do nothing about to distract you from the things that you can do a great deal about. A lot of wasted communication targets things that we can’t change. Don’t be that guy!

There you have it. My top 10 list of ways to communicate clearly and concisely.

What ideas do you have? Please include them in the comments.

If you would like coaching on your development needs, contact me.

How to Become More Strategic


I have recently begun coaching a manager who has taken on a job which increased her responsibility and challenges. As she rushed from one meeting to the next, “How do I become more strategic?”.

I thought I would think about that and summarize some suggestions about becoming more strategic.

The first question that comes to mind is, “What do you mean by strategic?” Do you mean keeping the big picture in mind? Do you mean solving the root cause of the problem? Do you mean connecting your goals with the goals of the organization? Do you mean accomplishing bigger results despite the whirlwind of your day job? Do you want all of the above?

An article from Forbes suggests that strategists constantly ask the following questions.

What does my organization bring to the world? Does that difference matter? Is something about it scarce and difficult to imitate? Are we doing today what we need to do in order to matter tomorrow?

So it seems that a strategic person has a clarity of purpose. Steven Covey in his book, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People suggests weekly planning over daily planning. So clarify your most important priorities and develop them into a mission statement. Then identify your most important weekly priorities (big rocks) and schedule those priorities in your calendar before the week begins. Fill in around the big rocks with the smaller rocks. You can only say No and smile when there’s a bigger yes burning inside you.

successful managers handbook 2

I consulted the Successful Manager’s Handbook which I always suggest that nobody read. 🙂 On the other hand, it can be a great resource guide. I looked up the word strategic thinking in the index and it refers me to the following.

Bring cross-functional and cross-business knowledge to bear on issues p. 54-55
Competitors value propositions, strengths and weaknesses p. 48-50
Consider strategic issues in decision making p. 20-21
Convey thorough understanding of your area’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats p. 59-61
Create measures that reflect success of strategies. p. 71
Create strategies to balance short-term and long-term business plans p. 73
Current and future customer needs 44-46
Develop vision/strategy for your group consistent with its role in success of organization. p. 61-62

This list is not exhaustive, but it gives you an idea.

I do think that as managers move up the organization, strategic thinking becomes increasingly important. How can you become more strategic? What is your strategic development plan?

The Damaging Effects of Coercive Leadership

Coercive leadership has a negative impact on culture. Coercive leadership tends to be command and control. It’s my way or the highway. Perhaps that style worked when it was possible to hold people down and keep them uneducated.

Henry Ford

Henry Ford had great vision when he envisioned a car in every driveway. Herbert Hoover has been credited with the “Car in every driveway and a chicken in every pot” quote. Ford said, “I will build a car for the great multitude”. Ford accomplished many great things including the assembly line which revolutionized manufacturing. He also raised employee pay to $5.00/day which was unheard of in 1914.

Many times leaders also have a dark side. Henry Ford also required workers who signed up for this 5.00/day agreement to subject themselves to intrusive inspections. He established a sociological department to encourage thrift, concern for family, a clean house, and a healthy lifestyle. Everything comes with a price doesn’t it? I’d hate to have an inspector looking over my shoulder and questioning my home cleanliness or whether I should eat those tasty nachos!

Ford also wrote an anti Semitic book called The International Jew. Hitler seemed to admire Ford so much that he had a picture of him on the wall behind his desk in the Brown House. Perhaps Ford’s leadership style was justified by his connection with other totalitarian leaders.

Ford created an inner circle which was hard to penetrate. Perhaps this factor contributed to his rather dictatorial style. He refused any kind of innovation with the Model T. In fact, he said, “the customer can go to hell, he can have any color as long as its black.” He also employed spies and company police to prevent employees from unionization.

So with many leaders, there comes a dark side. The difference between music and noise is the volume to which it gets played. So understand the strengths of your leadership style and learn to turn down the volume when the music has become noisy.

If you need help with establishing a healthy work culture at your company, let’s talk!


Creative Culture Architect and Builder

Build a CREATIVE PSI just spent the last several months completing the online course The Leader as CREATIVE culture architect and
builder with Dr. Jerry Newman. This course is designed for start up
entrepreneurs, or Research and Development types who
desire to bring products to market faster and more effectively. The
course will be hosted at I
have learned a lot about the use of Camtasia, audio settings using
my new Blue Yeti microphone, and editing. I
continue to learn about lighting, sound, background, and other
aspects of video production. I am still a newbie in this area;
however, it’s always fun to learn new things. I have read about
building your own teleprompter, but not sure about embarking upon
that adventure. I have also priced some lighting kits on Amazon.
Let me know if you would like me to introduce you to some of the
folks at Udemy also seems to have a nice affiliate
marketing program which would allow course promoters to make 50%
commissions. Also let me know if you would like to partner on any
course creations.

Course Preview

The Leader as Creative Culture Architect and
course is now live at You can click on
the course title to see the course. Let me know if you would like
to preview the course.

Creative Telecommuting

Ultimate home office

Ultimate home office

Written by Jerry Newman –

Jerry is a creative R&D business leader, entrepreneur and author. He has developed over 60 commercial products including medical products, chemical specialties and mobile apps. He is the originator of the CREATIVE culture model –

Yahoo’s CEO has created quite a stir over the issue of working from home in high tech companies. Many Silicon Valley companies have liberal policies allowing workers freedom to work wherever they choose. This gives us a great opportunity to review the pros and cons of the issue in the context of creativity.

It appears to me that there are a number of potential barriers to creative collaboration in the business environment. None of these factors are bad in and of themselves but may require consideration to encourage effective collaboration. These factors include:
1) The myth of lone inventors (the perception that innovation comes mainly from Eureka moments and from individuals). 2) Protection of the company’s Intellectual Property. 3) Bad meetings. 4) Isolation from team members (including those who work from home). We want individuals to have freedom to work from home at times but with creative work (and what is not creative work today) we need to have effective face-to-face collaboration. We need tools to overcome the potential negatives of working from home.

An acquaintance of mine recently took a position as a Programmer at a major software company. He was excited at first because he would have the freedom to work from home. After being there for a while I noticed he wasn’t often taking advantage of the opportunity. I asked him about it and he said that he couldn’t work from home as effectively as at the office. So much of his work depended on collaboration and communication – he didn’t want to miss the opportunity to work with team members who could make his projects move faster.

This need for interaction is a truth that most high tech companies have grasped. They give flexibility to those who need be at home from time to time but encourage creative workers to work at the office by providing amenities at the workplace. The amenities may include services, food varieties and free drinks, including Starbucks coffee and the official drink of programmers everywhere – Mountain Dew. These are tools companies have found to encourage collaboration with a balance to freedom.

Communication tools are great but written communication has a high potential for misinterpretation. As we know many technical folks are not the best communicators. Even if the person at home is a good communicator, his/her coworkers may not be. Misinterpretation can lead to a considerable loss in productivity. Technology tools such as video conferencing are helpful but sometimes there’s no good substitute for face-to-face communication.

Another factor full time home workers come to realize is that it takes considerable self-discipline to work from home. Dogs, kids and other distractions such as home remodeling projects can be very distracting and reduce productivity.

Other acquaintances of mine have full-time work at home positions due to the nature of their positions. They have found tools to compensate for reduced opportunities for collaboration. But such positions do not suit everyone’s disposition or need for collaboration in their position.

The point is that while technology has given us considerable freedom to work from almost anywhere, the utopian concept of everyone working on a computer from home is probably not realistic – rather, the creative age will require ways to balance freedom to work from anywhere with effective collaboration. While it may not matter where the work is done, it may be considerably more effective in an environment that encourages collaboration and productivity.

The picture was taken from the Vitaver & Associates Blog about Present Trends in Telecommuting.

Using MindMeister to Document Learning


I was doing some preparation to teach my Project Management class at the SMU Guildhall School of Video Game Production.

Mondays session focuses on planning tools. I read the information that was assigned to the students and used the MindMeister App that is on my iPad. I only used the free version and sent a couple of formats to myself. I like Mind Maps as a way of visually organizing information.

This first Mind Map are my thoughts about how I’m using social media as a knowledge management tool.

Knowledge Management

This next picture is a mind map that I did summarizing the reading information.

Using Planning  Decision Aids (4)

Here’s a short demonstration of MindMeister.

Favorite Strategic Planning

Planning Process

Planning Process

Habit 2 in Steven Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is Begin with the End in Mind. Leaders must set clear direction for their organizations. If I asked you to close your eyes and point north….where would you be pointing? If I stopped a few employees in the hallway and asked about the most important priorities, would they all be pointing in the same direction or would they be all over the board?

This blog post describes strategic planning and goal setting within organizations. As you can see from the diagram, the mission and vision is at the top of the funnel. The mission defines the box or business that we are in. The vision describes the noble aspiration of the organization or “what the organization wants to be”.

How would you answer the following questions?

Do you have a written vision for your organization?
Do all employees share a similar vision of the organization’s future?
Does your vision statement motivate all employees to do their very best?
Does everyone know what role they play (or can play) in helping your organization achieve its’ vision?
Does the vision statement promote a sense of “oh wow?” every time someone reads it?
Can everyone visualize how their personal life will be different as the organization comes closer to reaching its vision?

Strategic planning requires an environmental scan which may involve

1. Markets (customers)
2. Competition
3. Technology
4. Supplier markets
5. Labor markets
6. The economy
7. The regulatory environment

A SWOT analysis examines the organizations strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. We must capitalize on our strengths, compensate for our weaknesses, take advantage of our opportunities, and minimize our threats.

A balanced scorecard is like a company report card that examines how we will measure ourselves.

Departmental objectives are created which set direction. Finally MBO’s or management by objectives create individual direction and help determine compensation rewards. The greatest management principle is That which gets rewarded gets done. Here is a link to a description of strategic planning in Wikipedia.

Here are several YouTube videos by Erica Olsen. She does a really good job describing several aspects of strategic planning. I’ve created a playlist. Here’s a list of the videos in the playlist with times. The total time is around 33 minutes. Enjoy!

1. Overview of the Strategic Planning Process 4:47
2. How to Write a Vision Statement 5:36
3. What is Strategic Planning Really? 3:59
4. Strategic Planning Retreat 3:51
5. SWOT 5:22
6. Balanced Scorecard 4:39
7. Action Plans 4:33

Here is an strategic planning Apple case study. Applecasestudy

Here is some more up to date information on Apple.

Take a look at it. Apple releases earnings tomorrow. Will they meet, beat, or miss earnings? What do you think?

Ok, it’s now 1/24/2013 and Apple met their earnings but Wallstreet didn’t like their forecast for next quarters earnings. Apple is down another 10% at the open.

Here is a SWOT analysis that was done on Apple.

apple swot

So is Apple still a good investment? Here’s what they are saying at Motley Fool.

History of Video Games

Are you a gamer? I was first exposed to my first computer sometime around 1976. One of my friends, Michael Stanfill’s father worked for IBM and brought one home. It looked something like this.

IBM computer in 1976

IBM computer in 1976

I was mesmerized and loved playing some simple football game on it. I had only played electric football prior to that. Electric football was invented in 1948… I’m not that old, but it was around when I was a kid. I was born in 1963.

Electric football

Electric football

Occasionally, my school would visit some university and I was exposed to better and faster computers. I was intrigued by them.

Then around 1978-1980, I played on my first Atari 2600. It started out with Pong, and then more sophisticated (at the time games).

Atari 2600

Atari 2600

Then I splurged in about 1982 and purchased an Atari 5200. I purchased it myself for about the same price that people are paying for game consoles in 2013. I think I paid somewhere around 248.00 and the suggested list price was 270.00.

Atari 5200

Atari 5200

I graduated from H.S. in 1981 and when I went to College, I think there was one dude on my dormitory floor with a computer at Oklahoma State University. They were the king of the geeks.

Punch cards were just going out of style as a programming tool.

IBM computer punchcard

IBM computer punchcard

I started out majoring in Engineering and I had a Fortran project requiring punch cards. I think the professors wanted us to see what we were missing. I don’t know why they didn’t ask us to communicate with a telegraph so we could see how Morse Code works. 🙂

I graduated with my B.S. in 1985 and then my M.A. in 1987. Some time in 1987 or so, I purchased my first computer which was an 8088, then a 286, then a 386. This year, I purchased a laptop for under 400.00 because I spilled a drink on my other one. It’s almost more expensive to repair one than to buy a new one.

In 2001, I purchased my first X box system in order to play the first version of Halo.

My first X Box

My first X Box

In 2008, I purchased a Nintendo Wii with the intent to use boxing, Wii Fit, and Wii Active to get in shape. I was 45 and it was time to get rid of that belly! I actually did the Yoga moves and stuck with it for some 100 plus days. I considered it a success. Even though I no longer use the Wii.

Nintendo Wii

Nintendo Wii

I considered buying a new X box 360 this year, but I didn’t think I needed something else to encourage any more time wasting. Maybe, I’m finally growing up. I turn 50 in 3 days. I certainly hope that I’m not growing up!


Financial Leadership

Alan Ellman sent me an email about my blog post Double Your Money Every 2-3 Years. He offered some very good suggestions to build upon these ideas. It turns out that he has written several books on the topic of options. We continued talking and one thing led to another. He agreed to write a guest blog post. Let’s give Alan a round of applause (cue applause track)

Retiring with a Monthly Cash Flow Using Stocks and Options

One of the critical components of leadership is the ability to take control of your financial future. One of the strategies that I use in this regard happens to be one that Dale has written about on this site called Double Your Money Every 2-3 Years. It is an investment approach that combines two strategies: Buying stock and selling options. Our government considers this strategy safe enough to allow us to use it in our self-directed IRA accounts. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview as to how this strategy works with two preview examples.

In general, the concept of selling options works like this: You purchase an asset like a house or a stock and then sell some unknown person (trading is done online) the right, but not the obligation to purchase that asset from you at a specific price (that YOU determine), by a specific date (that YOU determine). In return for undertaking this obligation, you are paid a premium (that the MARKET determines). The cash is generated into your brokerage account instantly and available for immediate investment or whatever you choose to do with it. First I will demonstrate with a real estate example and then bring it into the world of the stock market.

Real estate example:

You do your due-diligence and purchase a property for $100k. You feel comfortable that the property will increase in value and would have no problem owning the property for the long term. However, if you were offered $120k for this property at any time over the next six months, you would accept it for a quick $20k profit. Now along comes investor OB (the option buyer). He loves your property and feels that it could appreciate in value up to $150k during the next six months. However, Mr. OB has many other investments and doesn’t want to risk $120k at this time but he sure would like to control this property. He offers you $10k for the right, but not the obligation, to purchase your property for $120k at any time over the next six months. This 10k option premium is yours to keep whether OB exercises the option and buys your property or not (in many real estate deals the premium IS applied to the purchase price but this is NOT how it works in the stock market so for this example, you keep the premium under all circumstances). After the six month period, there are two possible outcomes:

Scenario I:

The option is not exercised and you keep both the premium and the property. This would occur when the value of the property never surpasses the agreed upon $120k sales price. After all, why would OB buy your property for $120 when he could buy a similar property for less money? In this case, you garner a $10k profit on an investment of $100k which is a 10%, 6-month return or 20% annualized. You are now free to sell another option on the same property.

Scenario II:

The option is exercised and the property is sold for $120k as per your obligation. Let’s say that OB was correct and the value of the property appreciated to $150k. He can buy the property from you at $120k and sell it at market for $150k, making a nice profit. We, however, are the option sellers, so let’s see how we made out in this second possible outcome. We have the $10k option premium PLUS an additional $20k profit on the sale of the property for a total profit of $30k. On an investment of $100k, that represents a six month profit of 30% or 60% annualized.

From the description of the two possible outcomes, it almost looks like you can’t lose. Unfortunately and realistically, that’s not the case. If the value of the property declines in value by more than the option premium received, you start to lose money. The cost of the asset minus the option premium received is known as the breakeven. In this example, if the property value depreciates under $90K, you will be in a losing situation. However, you will have lost less money than the investor who purchased a similar property and didn’t sell an option. The risk is in the underlying asset, not in the sale of the option.

Stock market example:

In this case, the underlying asset is stock instead of property. You purchase 100 shares of company XYZ @ $48 per share. Your investment or cost basis is therefore $4800. Once again, you now sell the option. You are selling the right, but not the obligation, for some unknown person (Mr. OB) to buy your shares for (in this hypothetical) $50 per share at any time over the next (in this hypothetical) one month. A fair premium for this would be $1.50 per share or $150 for the 100 shares. This cash is generated into your account immediately and yours to keep whether the option is exercised or not. Let’s examine the two possible outcomes.

Scenario I:

The stock value does not supersede the $50 agreed upon sales price and the shares are not sold. You have profited $150 on a $4800 investment or a 3.1%, 1-month return, 38% annualized. You are now eligible to sell another option on those same shares.

Scenario II:

The stock value does surpass the $50 agreed upon sales price and the option is exercised as the stock is sold for $50 per share. You have now generated $150 from the option sale plus $200 profit from the sale of the stock for a total of $350. This represents a 7.3%, 1-month return, or 87% annualized.

Once again, bear in mind that there is some risk in this strategy. The risk is in the stock. If the stock depreciates in value by more than the $1.50 per share generated from the option sale, you will start to lose money. Your loss will be less than an investor who bought the stock and didn’t sell the corresponding option.

Another important aspect of financial leadership is having the ability to address the risks of any investment approach. Becoming a master covered call writer should be your goal if you decide that this is the right strategy for you and your family as I have. I will be happy to provide more information in this regard in future articles on this site.

Alan Ellman

Alan Ellman

Dr. Alan Ellman, President of The Blue Collar Investor Corp.


• Authored three best-selling books on the subject of covered call writing.

• Produced a 4-part DVD and CD Series based on the seminars presented
on the same subject.

• Presented over 50 seminars during the past two years on the subject of stock options.

• Authored over 300 journal articles published on The Blue Collar Investor website.

• Speaker for The Learning Annex.

• National speaker for The Money Show.

• National speaker for the American Association of Individual Investors

• Series 65- successful completion

• Guest speaker on Danielle Hampson’s Mind Your Bizness radio program

• Guest speaker on Jordan Kimmel’s VoiceAmerica Business Radio Program

loves options trading so much he has written three top selling books on the topic of selling covered calls alone. He is a dentist by day, a personal trainer, successful real estate investor, but he is known mostly for his profound stock option strategies