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Deborah was interviewed by John Benzick, of Venture Superfly.
She was interviewed along with these other notable individuals and entrepreneurs:
To watch the interview, along with all of the interviews listed above, subscribe to John Benzick’s newsletter and obtain free access to watch these videos.
The first time that I heard the term “flat organization,” I was sitting across from a C-Level acquaintance and couldn’t help but picture everyone in the company lined up across a table. Or, I would picture the traditional organizational chart being smashed down from a three-dimensional structure, to a two-dimensional view. Hmmm, it would seem that I would rather be on the outskirts of that smash, so I wouldn’t be the squashed! I was actually thankful that I was not a part of the organization.
Wikipedia describes a flat organization in a pretty straight-forward manner. I know, it is Wikipedia, but hey, I wanted to give it to you in an easy-to-understand format. No insults intended!
The concept, as this gentleman explained it, was that no one was more important than any other person. Ok, sounds good, but, in reality, does it work that way? I mean, the part that he seemed to miss was that it sounded good in his office, but when we walked out of his office, it was evident that everyone seemed to be so afraid of losing their jobs that they would respect his role because of the very title that showed up on his business card, regardless of what his views on management were. So, that squashed flat organization may have the underlings creeping to hide and respect those above them until the whole two-dimensional process became an organization chart again, and everyone bowed down to the authority figures at the top.
At that point I thought the concept of a flat organization sounded good, but, in reality, it may not be possible, certainly not if the “team” were hiding in fear.
I met with Mark Maxwell, currently the President of Prairie Bible College, in Alberta, Canada, a few weeks back. While visiting in his office, the topic of “flat organization” came up and my ears were piqued. I was ready to hear whatever it was he had to say, because it my mind, the concept seemed to be theory only and an impracticality in the real world.
Unlike the academic environment that he finds himself in, now, Mr. Maxwell came from a corporate background in the fast-paced financial industry in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He was very successful, having been the CEO and then the founder of a firm that did very well, quantified, among other things, by the company’s AUM (assets under management).
Mr. Maxwell seems to have taken the skills he learned in his corporate experience and applied them to the management of the Bible College. Interesting concept, if I do say so, myself!
As I sat in his office, I listened as he described a flat organization and I was very impressed. He described the concept of a team in a way that seemed functional, and his description of management and leadership was not that it was non-existent in some sort of communal-thinking-team-concept, but rather that the person with the expertise for that particular area would step forward for the “on demand” aspect of the leadership. This assumes and presumes that the team understands their own skill set, as well as the skill set and expertise of each of the others. It also assumes that there is respect for each other in the manner that they treat each other.
It finally made sense. It finally seemed like this type of on-demand, pop-up-as-needed management style could and would work. I pondered it as I listened and wondered why it hadn’t worked as well in the previous environment.
Then it hit me. It is really simple. Are you ready for it? The flat organization only works if it comes down from the “top,” from a spot that doesn’t exist, in theory, because it is flat. Ok, before you ask me what is in my glass and if I realize that sounds like circular logic, stay with me, ok? If the CEO or President is not willing to get in and “get the job done,” then that two-dimensional process starts to become the three-dimensional organization again and the underlings start to fear and bow down to their superiors, no matter what the cost (in some cases). What happens to the organization? Well, it depends on its leadership… Plain and simple, folks.
I don’t personally believe that a flat organizational approach is the right approach for all companies. It works better in the smaller companies and organizations. However, it doesn’t work at all if you have a CEO or President who has a god-complex. And, fortunately for Prairie Bible College, there is no such President, but rather, one who has the right concept of a “flat organization.”
I’m going to be honest. I’m going to share a bit of reality with you. I’ll be transparent, to a point. The cost of being a person of integrity is a high cost. To say anything else would not be the most honest thing to share with you.
Now, being transparent doesn’t mean I can necessarily give you all of the juice details. I’m saving that for the book 🙂 Seriously, though, the details are the type of details that you have to run by an attorney to make sure one is not divulging too much information that would get the sharer in trouble legally. What I could share with you is 100% truth, but I want to ensure that my family is safe before I share that with you.
Ok, so what is the point of this article? You may be wondering what it is that I am sharing with you if I keep saying I’m sharing, but I’m not sharing?
The reality is that I served as the Chief Technology Officer in a company that I thought, at the time, was an honest company. I found things that we will call “oversights” (whatever reality may be there). However, my correction and following S.E.C. compliance was not something that was desired. Ok, enough said on the background … for now … Stay tuned for the book on that “Cracks in the Foundation.”
In my case, I was one of a very few that took the step to stand their ground, as far as integrity. It does not come without cost. I was living happily ever after with my family in Southern California. I was attending the high society cocktail parties (including interacting with the Celebrities), the swimming pool in the backyard (not just “a pool,” but the luxury pool), the hot tub, the entertainment-ready backyard, being a part of the art society, the music scene (including singing and being invited to sing on Sunset Strip, also including #1 Los Angeles Jazz Singer for a year)… the list could go on… My kids were able to get their “toys,” and so were Mom and Dad and trips and cruises were no issue.
Now, that life seems like another world. The particular situation that we found ourselves in was such that finding a safe place, away from those who may not find my “stand” appealing was more important than maintaining a high society role. Paying bills became an issue without that six figure income (plus six figure bonus accumulation). In fact, I even turned down a severance payment because my honesty was not for sale. It was more important to maintain my integrity than any amount of money. But, that can bite you in the butt!
It is tough. Really tough. You go from the top of your world to the bottom in one fell swoop. You realize that had you decided to be dishonest, you would not have fallen. At first, the attitude, when people would hear the story, was, “Yeah, right.” It was a case of “That only happens on television.” Fortunately, the story of the company (and its demise) came about a year later and that was vindicating. People now respond with, “Really? You worked for THAT company?” Yes, I did. I coined it, for conversation, the “West Coast Madoff.”
Psychologically, it is tough on a person to chose integrity. Oh, it’s true. People pat you on the back and say, “Wow, we need more people like you! That is great!” Oh, I get a lot of compliments and kudos, but the reality is that this experience dead stopped my career as CTO. People wonder if I had anything to do with the dishonesty (which I did NOT) and when they find out that you were part of the solution, they make comments like, “How could you work for such a company?!” It is so much easier for people to judge. That also allows them to not feel bad because, hey, it is consequences, right.
Wrong. For any of you facing a similar situation, let me tell you this. You WILL experience consequences to standing your ground and standing for what is right and ethical. There is doubt. However, the reason that I say, “Wrong,” is how it relates to blame. Realize this. You will pay the price of being honest (a high, disturbing, uncomfortable price), but it isn’t your fault! You have been given an opportunity to do the right thing. If you find yourself having to ask for food stamps, as a result of your decision, that is not your fault. It is a consequence, but you are still that person of integrity and your value is not related to how much money you make. It is about the truth.
The key takeaway from being honest and a person of integrity is being able to look in the mirror and know that you are ethical. I realize that this is not for everybody. Not everybody will get that “feel good” feeling. But, for those who value integrity and want to be known for being a person of integrity, this will be something that you can hold onto, realizing that that integrity actually cost you, in a real way. It is one thing to say that you are honest, it is another thing to go through the trenches, with all of the cuts and bruises and broken limbs, and know that you proved to yourself that you are that person that you thought that you were. Many times, we think we are something, but it is after we hold strong, in the face of that temptation to be something else, that we find out what we are made of and who we are. This “feel good” feeling may not get you through every day. It still is a requirement that you work to be positive and positive self-talk in the face of adversity, but this “feel good” feeling helps you to gain confidence that you may not have had before this time. It gives you an opportunity to share that confidence with others and encourage them on your path.
You see, a difficult situation is just an opportunity for your personal growth. It is not the end, but rather, the beginning of a path that was laid out for you to follow. Embrace your opportunity to be someone that others will respect, and more importantly, fulfilling who you already know that you are… the character of YOU.
In my technology career, I often had (even still “have”) people ask me about the differences between a fresh install (what would be considered a “normal” software/application installation) and what has been called a “clean install.”
Actually, the term “clean install” is not one that is hear in the normal population that often. Why would you need it? If your installation when wanky (love that word!), or if you are upgrading and something didn’t seem to work quite right. In other words, if there seems to be something wrong with the “fresh install” or an upgrade (or any install for that matter), it is time for the “Clean Install.” I have included basic steps for the “clean install” in the step-by-step example, below. The “fresh install” is pretty much the norm and included in your instructions with your software. However, vendors do not often cover the clean install that is needed if things go wrong.
He walked into my office and said, “You hurt her feelings last week!”
I looked up from my work with a question mark clearly on my face. Hurt her feelings?
The reference was to a situation where I had actually helped the employee in another department, at least in my view. I served as director of project management and had identified an area where one particularly well-meaning employee was paying the price for the delayed work of other departments. She was absorbing the time crunch all by herself. She was nobly trying to “save the world” for the entire company and becoming visibly stressed. Being a manager, my goal was to alleviate her stress and to help her to know that she has a support system in place, especially in light of the fact that her direct manager was not in the office for the week. Besides that, part of my role as director of project management is to ensure that the project goes along smoothly, not destroying staff in its path.
How on earth could she interpret this as anything but encouragement?
I sat and thought about it at length, after explaining to her manager that I did not see where his employee had done anything wrong and so there would not have been any point for correction. Obviously, there was a misunderstanding somewhere.
On my end, I took this personally, like somehow I had done something wrong. Here I was, a graduate student in psychology, on my way to my doctorate, with a focus on organizational psychology. My mission in life was to embrace the strengths in each and every human and to encourage their personal growth, while still keeping an eye on the best interest of the company or companies.
Then it hit me. While I was viewing that she was taking my “encouragement chat” too personal and somehow “corrupting” the message into something that it was not, I was also being too personal by expecting that somehow I mattered enough to be the sole focus of the equation and that I should always be understood because my motives were so pure.
In reality, we do have responsibility, as managers. We have a responsibility to understand our audience. In other words, even though we have used every psychological tactic in the world and practiced our eloquent communication skills, that does not mean that the audience is going to understand the message.
In this case, I had used logic and time management verbiage to explain how I was there to help this particular employee. In hindsight I could see that she got lost in the verbiage of logic and since she did not have a built-in translation program, she assumed that it was a reprimand, when it was not (in fact, polar opposite!). Now, in light of that, what should I expect? I had actually erred on the side of expecting her to understand more than she was capable of understanding. So, she translated what I said by attributing it to the closest translation she could find.
It would be like having a dictionary. If your dictionary only has 10 words in it and you are presented with an 11th word, you are going to find the closest translation, even if it doesn’t apply at all. Well, I should say, there are those who will do that. There are also those who will find out what the meaning is, but just because I may be that type of person, I cannot expect that the entire population of the world is also that type. That would be an unrealistic expectation on my part.
So, out of confusion, she translated what I meant for encouragement, as a reprimand.
I should have realized that I needed to be less academic. I needed to remove the “higher thinking” portion of my response and kept it simple. Simple would be, “Hey, I’ll take care of it for you.” She may not have grown in her capacity, but I cannot force that growth. It has to be something she personally desires for herself and if she does not, there is no point in encouraging growth that is not desired.
In my efforts to implement transformational leadership, I drew her in, to be empowered when it came to her own time management. I offered her tools to help her fly, to soar over the landscape of her life and grow in self-validation. But, since she did not understand, she thought it was an indicator that somehow she was *not* succeeding.
Who are we to reprimand others because they choose not to soar? It is them who have chosen to remain grounded and complain, rather than rising above and reaching for the stars.. and their dreams.
So, before taking it personally, step back and realize that much of life is a reaction. It may not be YOUR reaction, but you are likely to be affected by a reaction somewhere. And, be sure to study your audience. Understand that just because it is kind-hearted on your end, the audience may not have the capacity to receive that kindheartedness. Even sugar can become too much and cause a dispelling from the body, when consumed in levels that the body cannot handle.
I am a big believer in respecting people and treating people with equality, and sometimes (especially in the marketing field) there is so much hype and teaching about how to persuade someone they need something that they do not need. It is refreshing to read about building trust instead of manipulating people’s emotions. And, that is what I did this week, while reading “Flawless Consulting” by Peter Block.
Maister, Green, and Galford, in their Consulting to Management journal article called, “What is a trusted advisor?” remind us that we do not start out as trusted experts in our field, but many times, that is our goal in life (their related book is shown toward the end of this article). I have seen this in myself, as well as my peers, and those who have succeeded in reaching that goal.
So, from that awareness of the journey comes three key principles that I would glean, especially from Peter Block’s book, Flawless Consulting:
AeroLife uses the technology of air, in a safe air-based (no gases, etc.) system to provide you with nutrients that include vitamins, supplements, and tasty flavors. It works safely, cleanly, and very fast (I can attest to that!).
When gently drawing in the air, using the dispenser, the nutrients are drawn into the system and immediately start to help you feel refreshed (AeroLife Entergy); relaxed (AeroLife Sleep); or prepares you to fight off the nasty cold and flus that sometimes creep up on us during this season (AeroLife Immune).
This product is clean and safe, with particles that do not travel to the lungs, but rather, gently enter your system through a process as easy as sipping a straw, and yet, give you that refreshed feeling, while providing smart nutrition.
Even those of you who are skeptical will want to see if, by chance, it works, right? I was curious and I'm glad I tried it!
Ok, first, I have to admit. I'm not one for reading the instructions. I mean, in that way, I'm more like a "stereotypical guy" than a woman, putting the bicycle together and then wondering what all of the extra pieces were for, while staring at them on the curb. So, I pulled out all these fun, colorful packs, and the very creative and intriguing book, and I went to start right away. I think my overly complex brain got confused because it was almost "too simple" to use. Instead of extra parts, I kept trying to put parts together to use it. Ok, note to self and to all of you out there who are technically-minded like me. It isn't as complex as you are thinking. In fact, the following video demonstrates the process in a way that we geeks need to see it –>
I have been pretty tired lately and before delving into the AeroLife pack, I took a nap. One of those really deep naps. I was awakened suddenly and even though I was up moving, I was very groggy and not awake at all. This seemed like the perfect time to try the AeroLife Energy. I did and I told myself not to think anything psychosomatic, attributing what I thought should happen and making it happen. But, really, I felt so energized! It was better than any triple-shot coffee! It was better than any energy drink. Not only was I energized mentally, but I was ready to go for a walk. I never go from 0 to 60 quite like that after one of those deep naps! And, I didn't feel all artificially energized. I felt very natural, as if I hadn't napped and had already had all of the sleep my body needed.
Confessions of a Diet-Coke-a-Holic
I am often seen, even in pictures, with my bottle of Diet Coke in hand. While I am not ready to go cold turkey, I have to say that when it comes to energy, the AeroLife Energy nutrients do a quicker job than my beloved Diet Coke. There is no sugar high and no "drugged feeling," just refreshed and ready to face the day. I no longer require the heavy-duty strong coffee (the kind that puts hair on the chest) to get me going. All I need is the compact, clean, nutrient-delivery AeroLife unit, with my favorite flavor of the day. And, it is so easy to carry with me that I can have one at the office for a mid-day pick-me-up.
Try AeroLife for yourself and see how well you do. Don't take my word for it and don't feel like you have to flush the coffee beans down the garbage disposal. Simply Start your free trial now and see if this natural, scientifically designed combination of vitamins and supplements helps you to fee more refreshed when you need to be alert and more relaxed when you need to wind down.
I remember, years ago, before it was "cool" (or necessary) to have a fully functional home office, shopping for "just the right phone" to cover all of our business needs. At the time, we were running a domain registration and hosting site and were quite popular with our "high quality, affordable services" rates. However, this motto required that we use the phone to be available to our customers 24/7 and, in our own home, with what would work like a commercial phone. It was nearly an impossible feat to find one that had ALL of the features we needed, without changing our motto to "high quality, NON-affordable services."
Fortunately, AT&T has come to the rescue these days and not just "getting by" but hitting it out of the ball field.
The quality of the sound is better than digital clear. Gone are the warm fuzzy analog sound quality with raspy undertones, and here are the techno-clear digital age sound that would put Star Trek to shame. In the past, I recall having issues with the phone company (during "dial-up" days) because the sound was so bad that it wouldn't keep an internet connection. This sound quality is so clear you could record a podcast off of it. In fact, I might just do that!
This lovely phone has all of the features my heart could desire, for my office, as well as home. These features include:
So, you gave up your landline and upped your cell minutes to unlimited to cut costs? Well, the CLP99383 is still the phone for you! I love my iPhone, but, sometimes the audio is just a bit muffled. When I used headphones, the sound is clear as can be, but who has time to grab the headphones every time the cell phone rings? Well, here is the answer to both – use the CLP99383! This beautiful piece of technology can be hooked up to act as the cell phone, so you don't have to use your cell phone when you are in the office or at home. This is also very handy if the cell phone is on one floor of the house and not the floor that you are on … no worries… with 3 handsets, you are sure to have a phone handy to answer that cell call.
The handset of the the CLP99383 makes it easy to use, allowing you to choose between Cell 1 and Cell 2. Oh, and for those of us who are forever having trouble deciphering little universal graphics? Have no fear, AT&T has thought of us and included the TEXT, so we can figure out what the buttons are! They also had the foresight to make the numbers big enough to read but not so big that you feel like you are a senior citizen (even if you are). The display is clear as can be, and as easy to read as a piece of paper.
Since the handsets are actually utilizing the cell phone service, for each of the cell buttons on the phone, you can actually use each handset to make a call AT THE SAME TIME using each of the services (the two different programmed-in cell phones, and the land line). Did you notice, THREE handsets with this system?
That's not all. The CLP99383 also has a built-in USB dock for the cell phone. What does that mean? The CLP99383 can alert you to texts, email, voicemail.. any alerts that your cell phone would give you. Do you have one of those houses (or offices) where you continually lose the call because of a dead spot, but conveniently forget about that dead spot until it happens, repeatedly? No worries. Leave your phone in the best location for the cell signal and use the CLP99383 handset instead. This also helps when you want to have those business calls on speaker phone and they call in on your cell phone. Some cell phones just were not cut out for speaker calls. The CLP99383, on the other hand, handles those calls like a pro, turning your cell phone into a full-blown commercial speaker phone.
Now that your phone has collected calls and call information for the land line and two cell phones, and you have it in the directory, you can download that information and add it to your favorite address book system. No longer do you have to key it into the phone, one cell phone, the other cell phone, and the online/offline directories. Handle it once and it can be integrated with all of your systems.
The base is full of goodies and programmable options, but it can find its place of honor on your favorite coffee table, or large desk, or even the wall-mount option. However, for smaller places and smaller desks, the handset is sleek and has a small footprint, barely taking more space that a cell phone. It is easy on the hands, easy on the eyes, and easy to use, with the slick touch-buttons and easy-to-read panel. This phone, with its relatively small size, handles all of your business needs in a robust manner, with the headset capability, speaker phone, easy to reach directory, and functioning as three phones in one. It becomes the standard by which business communication is measured.
With a phone that boasts this many features AND serves as an essential part of my home office, I would expect to pay $399 and up. Back "in the day," that was a reasonable price tag for a comparable phone of its day. However, this CLP99383 phone is only around $100. I would go out and pick one up now. In fact, I'm thinking that I may grab a couple for Holiday gift giving.
Managing a business is a daunting task, especially when it’s a small business. Small business owners have limited resources and unlimited tasks. They need to keep the costs low if they want the business to be productive. Unlike major corporations, small business owners can’t invest in separate departments for different functions. They need to multitask to the best of their abilities. Fortunately, we live in the information age where tasks can be simplified using technology. Mobile technology is most useful because it’s available on the go. Here are a few apps that will simplify the work process of a small business.
Management is the core component of a business. You need a tool to monitor your employee’s progress on a project. This is where Asana comes in. It allows employees to collaborate on a project and the business owner to track its progress. It has a very simple interface that gives it an edge over other management apps for small business owners. Being able to track the work process like a hawk has its advantages. You’ll never again miss a deadline in the future.
The tax man is like the grim reaper for a small business owner. Every time the tax season comes around, it’s as if a dark cloud descends upon him. Tracking your company expenses can help you get tax breaks. Expensify helps you monitor these expenses and it reveals the silver lining in the dark cloud hanging over you. When your taxes are in order, it can take a huge load off your shoulders.
Wouldn’t it be helpful if you could access your company database from anywhere?It would make collaborating on projects from different locations much easier. Using cloud computing you can achieve this. Dropbox allows you to share files, pictures and videos in a group and the best part is that you can access it from any computer or mobile device on the planet. This helps you stay connected to your business even while you’re on vacation.
As a business owner you need to go through a ton of documents and spreadsheets on a daily basis. You may not always have a computer with you to view them. Google Drive is an online office suite that allows you to view and edit documents on your computer and mobile device. It sure beats paying for Microsoft Office. You can open an e-mail, view the document, edit it if required and send it back without having to download it. Nifty, isn’t it?
Reading documents on your phone is one thing, but what if you could print documents through it as well? Cloud Print allows you print documents by using your phone to give the print command. All you need to do is configure your printer and you’ll be able to print through it using your phone. You can send important print commands to your office printer even when you’re not there. You may be absent from the room, but your methods are not.
You may not have the resources of a major corporation, but using these apps you can compensate for that handicap. After all, every multinational corporation needs to start somewhere.