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Category: Business

Communication

This is a big one, y’all. Clear and prompt communication is a hallmark of a leader. The beginning, middle, and end of a job depend upon it, and never underestimate the importance of courteous communication – especially for those dealing with client-side interactions. Ask how someone’s day is going, and be sincere about it. Make a personal connection, however brief, and that connection will be stronger. Don’t waste time, though – professionalism is a mark of good communication as well.

I can promise you this – make your points quickly and answer questions succinctly, and when you open your mouth people will listen.

Answer your emails. Join LinkedIn. Tweet. Blog. Return phone calls. Communicate.

-Josh

Accountability

When you do a job, what’s next? Where are you? Are you accessible for follow-ups? And more importantly, do you follow up? When I think of accountability, I think of someone who takes the time after a job is done to evaluate their performance and pursue a continuing dialog. I know that person is going to back up their work, and I know that I can trust them to be there when the shit hits the proverbial fan.

A task is not complete until it has been reviewed, so follow up with your work. What should change next time to make the task more streamlined and efficient? What are the processes to build or adjust that will automate aspects of the task and free more time? Ask questions about the end results and the workflow experience with your colleagues and clients.

These are important aspects of leadership. Add them to your arsenal. Only you can make the required effort to add that final luster to a job that leaves everyone feeling acknowledged and valued.

-Josh

2017 Madison Media Institute Commencement Address

I was honored recently to speak to the graduating class of 2017 at the Madison Media Institute. It was a wonderful experience, and I was inspired by all of the students who had accomplished so much already through their time at MMI. I saw a lot of hope and excitement in the faces I saw, and I know that they will meet with many successes as they travel their diverse paths. Thank you for the opportunity, and congratulations to all of the graduates.

I am inspired to expand upon the leadership aspects I covered in the speech, and will be doing so in the next series of posts to this website, so stay tuned!

-Josh

Comfort Zones

As a bit of an introvert, I am constantly coming face-to-face with the limits of my Comfort Zone. It can be a challenge to get past that brick wall, but I have found that the more I fight past it, the weaker it becomes. Whether it is introducing myself to fellow business leaders in town or cold-starting my piano show in front of a small crowd of strangers, putting on a smile and jumping in really works. Try it!

Keep pushing your limits, and you’ll find that they start melting away. The fact that our Comfort Zones exist is proof that we aren’t taking enough chances in life. Put yourself out there. You will fall flat on your face a couple times, but you’ll land on your feet a couple times, too. The more you stretch yourself, the easier it will become, and the better you’ll get at it! The Comfort Zone is on the list of our enemies. Fight it!

-Josh

Making Choices

For a long time I was hesitant while making important choices. The problem was that I wanted to have the most information in front of me as possible before choosing. Makes sense, right? Well, here’s the thing. A lot of times you don’t know what the right decision would have been until way later, and the consequences of making the wrong choice usually aren’t nearly as bad as the consequences of making no choice. You may lose your opportunity, fall behind, or (even worse) develop a reputation of indecisiveness!

When faced with a decision, of course think about it, but do so with the information you have now. Trust your gut, but don’t mistake nervousness for a red flag. You will always be nervous when making a quick decision.

Make choices when presented with them. If it’s the wrong decision, great! It’s an opportunity to learn and grow and make better choices in the future.

-Josh

Podcasts

I have turned into quite the podcast junkie as of late. Whenever I’m in my car, it’s always the podcasts instead of the radio. I’ll use this post to keep you guys up to date with what I am listening to.

My current podcast app is Player.fm – the GUI has nice big buttons corresponding to each podcast I subscribe to. I stream my programs, but the app also has automatic downloading as an option.


Current Podcast List (titles link to the corresponding RSS feed)

The Slate Political Gabfest – Featuring the insight of Emily Bazelon (New York Times Magazine), John Dickerson (Face the Nation), and David Plotz (Atlas Obscura), this is a roundtable discussion of three big topics from the week’s news. While slightly left-of-center, it is absolutely cerebral to the core, eschewing party spin for a deeper understanding of the news.

$100 MBA – Hosted by Omar Zenhom, this is a quick (usually less than 10 minute) daily podcast that focuses on one narrow aspect of entrepreneurship each episode. I wouldn’t call it a gold mine, but it gets me in a good business mindset on my drive to the office in the morning.

EOFire – Hosted by John Lee Dumas, this is another daily business podcast, but in this one, JLD interviews an entrepreneur. The value of the episode is highly dependant on the guest. With 1100+ episodes, you can imagine how some may be flops.

The Tim Ferriss Show – Hosted by (you guessed it) Tim Ferriss (The Four-Hour Workweek), this is a long-form podcast, usually lasting around two hours, in which Tim interviews a pretty fascinating person. Some of the episodes get a little out there, and with such an eclectic group of interviewees, some episodes just aren’t as appealing to me as others. At the end of each episode, Tim always asks an assortment of “quick-fire” questions that usually elicit pretty useful stuff – I have gotten quite a few great book recommendations from it.

NPR Hourly News Summary – Updated every hour, this is a five minute review of the top headlines currently making news.


Honorable Mentions (I just don’t have enough time to listen to everything I would like to)

WTF Podcast with Marc Maron (weekly) – amazing interviews with really deep conversations.

The Gist with Mike Pesca (daily) – worth it just for his “Spiel” at the end of the show, where Mike rants about whatever random thing that has got his goat that day.


What podcasts do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments.

-Josh

Small Talk

I hate small talk. I can’t do it. I am not good at feigning interest in something I am really not interested in. If that’s selfish, then I guess I’m selfish. It does present me with a bit of a dilemma however. I am a local business owner. I have to interact with other people all the time. I was afraid that when attending networking events for instance, the small talk would crush me. Well, guess what. It didn’t. Want to know why?

I stopped making small talk.

Small talk as a phenomenon only happens when you should have already ended a conversation. We feel an obligation to adhere to some arbitrary minimum conversation length, and sometimes you run out of things to say before that time is up. Enter the small talk. It just seems to be a waste of everyone’s time.

When you meet someone at a networking event or just out in the world, talk to them, but with intention. Ask questions about what they do. Tell them what you do. Try to draw a connection between the two. Then, if you’ve got nothing, say how nice it was to meet, and pat ‘em on the back. Then you are out. They are looking to make a beneficial connection too, and if there is nothing there, they will appreciate your bowing out before that awkward lull. You know the one… … …

I can hear you right now. “Josh, that’s all well and good, but I’m at a wedding reception table with these people. I can’t just leave!” Well have I got news for you…

Tomorrow: “Small Talk II – What If You Can’t Leave”

-Josh

The Test Kitchen

I have a regular show at the Ivory Room Piano Bar in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s a solo show every Tuesday night. It’s a lot of fun, and there’s always a great crowd. I like thinking of the show at the Ivory Room as my “test kitchen” – a space where I am free to experiment. I try new bits, play new songs, goof off, and have fun. Here’s the thing to keep in mind when playing most nightclub shows – the crowd is there to have fun with you (as opposed to most corporate clients who want to be entertained by you or most wedding clients who want something high-energy to dance to).

The test kitchen is where I can make mistakes (plus, the audience usually loves the screwups!). I experiment with new tools to use at the big show, and I sharpen them. It’s my chance to get things perfect, polished, and performance-ready.

Where is your test kitchen? Musicians – is there a regular show where you can relax a bit and have fun? If not, maybe look into hosting an open mic somewhere or just regularly participate in one. The key to a test kitchen is a low-pressure environment where you can feel free to fail. Non-musicians – is there a forum (maybe a cocktail hour group or online community) where you can connect with empathetic peers to bounce new weird ideas about widgets or formulas (or whatever you people talk about!)?

The bottom line is if you have the opportunity to fail without consequences – take it! What we can learn from our failures outweighs what we can learn from our successes by a wide margin. The ROI is immense!

-Josh

Be Actively Passionate

One thing I have learned from being a business owner and performer is to be actively passionate about what I do. I love playing the piano in front of a crowd. I love the energy that crowd gives back to me. I even have a business doing what I love. But simply loving all of it is not enough. Sometimes headaches arise. Sometimes I have to deal with people whose energy wants to bring me down. That’s when I have to remind myself to be actively passionate – to let my passion boil through to the surface, swim in it, and show it. If I’m not excited about what I’m doing, how can I expect anyone else to be. Don’t be passionate. Do passionate. Let people see and feel what gets you going. Be an evangelist for your loves in life.

I know not everyone has a job they are passionate about, but find something in your life that wakes you up. Is it cooking? sports? The Walking Dead? Let people know what you are wild about. The world could do with a little more passion, so spread it around.

-Josh

What are you passionate about? Comment below!