Podium Finish: Top 3 Office Productivity Apps

For the millions (billions?) of us who spend our working hours in front of a computer screen, there seem to be millions of choices for plug-ins, apps, and software programs designed to make knowledge work more productive. Below are my current top 3, based on how often I use them and the total positive gain in utility I have experienced (don’t ask me for the underlying data for that metric!).

What have I missed? Which ones are better? Leave a comment and let me know.

  1. pmg-Logo-Lync-28x25-bluehangouts logoVideo-enabled Instant Messaging: Google Hangouts / Microsoft Lync. Ok, I’m taking the easy way out by not picking a clear winner in this category, but I use them both daily (on my Microsoft-obliged corporate laptop and my private LLC Googled-up laptop) and I’m equally satisfied. Both have on-demand screen sharing and group video/audio capabilities, and both are tightly integrated to their respective email and file management applications.trello-logo-b-300x175
  2. Plan, track, and organize anything: Trello. With clean, intuitive, and infinitely customizable interfaces for a browser or mobile device, Trello has been my go-to organization and collaboration tool for projects ranging from software product development to recruiting to home improvement to job searching. I could go on … or you could just go start using it yourself.
  3. logo_thinkcellFast, high-quality, complex charts for presentations: Think-cell. I really wish I could have all the hours of my life back that I spent building Gantt charts, bubble charts, marimekkos, and waterfall charts with rectangles and convoluted Excel macros before I discovered think-cell.

Podium Finish: Top 3 Ways to Go Wireless at Work

Wires. So last century. Here are three great gadgets to de-clutter your stand-up workstation, while you earn some gear cred from your co-workers.

  1. sony wireless headsetSony wireless headphones. Listen to music through your computer with these lightweight, comfortable and long range headphones (not Bluetooth, USB). If you use a VOIP “soft-phone” on your computer, you will love these even more (the mic works well either stowed or extended). Sony also makes another model that looks less like futuristic military gear, although I cannot personally vouch for the quality. You will have to provide a mini-USB cable to charge it.
  2. Microsoft Arc Touch MouseMicrosoft Arc Touch Mouse. A repeat from my Podium Finish for road warrior gearFolds flat with a magnet underneath to keep the USB receiver stowed. Works on every surface I’ve tried except a glass conference table. if you’re sick of the little red nub on your laptop, this mouse will cure you.
  3. 41M9WbK3MDL._SL75_Jabra SPEAK 510. High quality speakerphone for your softphone or mobile. USB connection as well as Bluetooth. The main downside of this product is the increased difficulty of ditching a conference call in order to fetch more donuts because of “a nasty echo.”

Leave a comment if you’ve got a contender for a wireless gadget that should grab a spot on the podium!

Podium Finish: Top 3 “Lessons from a Leader” Books

One valuable way to learn leadership lessons is through the experiences of others who have faced similar challenges. It helps when those leaders’ experiences can be abstracted easily to your own situation, and when their reputations have stood the test of time (i.e., not Eliot Spitzer).

While not all of us will need to lead our nation into war or run one of the largest corporations in history, the books below are my Podium Finishers for this category.

  1. s-WELCH-largeJack Welch – Winning
  2. uewb_07_img0461Marcus Aurelius – Emperor’s Handbook
  3. terry-leahy_reuter_2372549bTerry Leahy – Management in Ten Words

So who else deserves a spot on the podium? In a flash of self-awareness I just realized this is a list of old white guys…can anyone help me expand the diversity of my list?

images: huffingtonpost, Telegraph, notablebiographies

Don’t be “that guy” at the gym this winter

bush_doing_it_wrong_1The essence of getting constructive feedback is finding out that you’re doing it wrong. If you read my recent post on soliciting feedback, you’ve probably got a bunch of great ideas about what to do differently around the office. A handful of folks have asked me for ideas on how to work off a few extra holiday pounds, so I’m switching gears with this post and sharing some of my accumulated fitness insights. The main message is that for winter workouts, find something that burns a high number of calories per hour, keeps you mentally engaged, and most importantly learn the right form so you don’t get hurt and end up being “that guy” who has to explain his gym injury at the office.

  1. concept 2 strokeMy number one winter workout is indoor rowing because it allows you to burn calories and build strength from hands to toes. It is equally impressive because >80% of people who sit down on a Concept 2 are going to hurt either themselves or the machine. Watch this video to learn the basic stroke; never set the resistance to 10 and never lift the handle over your knees. Fun personal note: I competed in the 2009 C.R.A.S.H.-B.’s as a “lightweight” and was a raging pile of adrenaline all day. I’m sorry, Suzanne.
  2. Number 2 on the list is cross-country skiing (specifically, skate-skiing). If you are lucky enough to live in a part of the world with the right conditions for XC skiing, you probably don’t own sunscreen. Skate-skiing, nonetheless, is a great cardio workout, and way more fun than nordic. Check out these videos to learn how. Fun personal note: I learned to XC ski on the Ptarmigan Ski Trails during my 4 winters in Fort McMurray, AB. And in 4 years, the number of times I skied in daylight: once.
  3. corpse poseFinally, I’m going to recommend yoga to round out your winter workout. There are many, many styles of yoga to choose from, and if all goes wrong, you can just do some deep breathing with your eyes closed in Shavasana (corpse pose). Fun personal note: Just this week during my overall favorite yoga class, the instructor (Marc St Pierre) stopped the class to call everyone over to see how terrible my shoulder posture was, and offer some remedial help. I was absolutely doing it wrong! And I will be back tomorrow for more yoga with Marc…

Podium Finish: Top Three Questions to Get Meaningful Feedback

Love it or hate it, getting feedback from our teams help us become better leaders and builds trust. Below are the top three questions I’ve come across to solicit meaningful feedback. Perhaps this goes without saying, but how you react to their comments will determine whether your team members take a risk to help you again in the future! Thank them sincerely, don’t be defensive or dispute their point of view. And most importantly, if you intend to change your behavior as a result, follow through!

  1. “What do you think I should know but might not want to hear?”
  2. “What do you wish I would stop doing?” – Vineet Nayar
  3. “If this were your exit interview, what would you say?”
“Feedback” is a surprisingly popular music title for bands I don’t like.

Feedback (Jurassic 5 album)

Feedback (Rush album)
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Podium Finish: Top 3 Speaking Tips from TED

Regardless of your opinions on the topics of TED talks, they stand as fantastic lessons on compelling public speaking. I’ve generalized a few concepts here that I hope will help you during your next leadership speaking opportunity, regardless of the size or location of the audience.

  1. Start with why: Simon Sinek
  2. Get “out of the screen” with props or interactive questions: Tristram Stuart
  3. Make it personal and live your “call to action” (tied): Tony Robbins and Tim Ferris
Images: http://www.ted.com

Podium Finish: Vacation Book Authors

Summer is here again and that means vacation for many of us. Here is my selection for the Podium Finish for best vacation book authors. Rather than picking specific books, I’ve named three authors with books of different styles–I hope some of them resonate with you. Apologies that some are a bit older…toddlers are a very effective anti-relaxation device on any vacation!

  1. Haruki Murakami: 1Q84 (his latest), Norweigian Wood (the first of his I read), What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (non-fiction), A Wild Sheep Chase (out there).
  2. Anthony Bourdain: before he sold out on TV, he wrote great books. Kitchen Confidential (expose of the food biz), A Cook’s Tour (where is the best meal in the world?), Bone in the Throat (he wrote murder mysteries first)
  3. Aldous Huxley: when your body is in a new place for vacation, send your mind to a whole new world. Island is my favorite short story, Brave New World is a classic.

If you like any of these, or think your favorite deserves a spot on the podium, leave a comment!

Podium Finish: Gear for the Road!

Whether you commute short distances or long hauls, your journey will be better with these items that grabbed podium spots for best gear for the road.

Microsoft Arc Touch mouse, Shure SE425 earphones, Contigo mug

Podium Finish: Strike!

Leaving our vacation last week, my family was fortunate to avoid the delays and inconvenience that many other travelers experienced when airport firemen went on strike. That prompted me to recall many other picket lines I’ve seen, to select the top three fixtures of any good strike. While I respect workers’ (or anyone’s) rights to assemble and exercise free speech, every picket line I’ve seen has done more harm than good to my willingness to support their positions…especially the ones with the rat!