The Naked Truth

Let’s get naked!

OK, so the title is a shameless way for me to get more hits on the blog now that I’ve decided I have some free time to write again.  While I feel guilty for not having more regular articles here, I also don’t want to become one of those people who use their blogs as therapy or for some reason think that most of the people out there really care what they had for dinner (oh wait, that’s twitter).  So let’s bust into a new topic related to getting naked in more of a business sense.

You’ve probably heard the term “the naked truth” or “the unvarnished truth”.  Basically when someone is using terms like that they are saying that you’re hearing only the truth and it’s not covered by varnish or other things to make it look prettier than it is.  Said another way it can also be called transparency.

Imagine you were out buying a used car and you found one that looked great (clean, nice paint, no dents) but when you asked to pop the hood to look at the engine the seller refused.  Would you buy the car?  I mean why not?  It ‘looks great’ doesn’t it?  Of course you wouldn’t buy it because you can’t know what’s under the hood and there may be some serious mechanical problems they are obviously trying to hide.  The car has a job.  It’s likely to include transporting you reliably to places and not just looking pretty in your driveway.  But how can you trust that the car is going to get the job done and you’re not getting cheated?  Well, by looking under the hood for starters.  Also perhaps putting it on a lift as well and looking underneath.  What about checking the brakes, taking a test drive/etc?  While it’s not likely to be perfect, you can make an informed decision about the risks you are taking if you know the naked truth about the car (its history, maintenance, and issues/etc.).

What it really boils down to is trust.  If you worked with a dealer on purchasing one of their cars and they provided a car fax, let you take it for a drive, opened the hood, put it on a lift and walked through all the good, and not so good about the car and overall it was a nice car, you’d feel great about buying it because you could trust that you knew what you were getting.  People are good with making informed decisions.  It’s when you hide some of the truth (purposeful omission is pretty much like a lie) that you are seeking to fool the buyer into making a bad decision (buying the wrong car for them or paying too much).  This will eventually catch up with you as a seller and you won’t see repeat business.

In your professional/work life you and your team are there, like the car, to do a job.  While we all may want to be perfect, most rational people would realize we are not.  Yet fear of looking less than perfect or fear of exposing your faults and weaknesses (or those of your team) can cause you to be less than truthful or transparent about the performance you are putting forth.  When this occurs, people typically either avoid the naked truth or mask it with other objects.  You can mask shortcomings of a project or team by blocking the view of the poor performing areas with less meaningful stats instead of the ones that matter, or by drawing attention to only the good parts.  While I think it is fine to put your best foot forward when showing the performance of a team or project, if you are trying to avoid telling the whole story then you are not being transparent.  Your customer or your boss (or both) and your peers will likely sense this even if they can’t quite see the problem.  You may get away with it (perhaps the issue you were hoping to avoid was addressed and fixed before you went to market), you may not.  And later when the truth comes out people will wonder how much you knew but didn’t share.  This will erode their trust in you or your team.  Without that trust, people will be less likely to turn to you to help them solve critical business problems because they can’t be sure that they know what they are getting or how well you will deliver.

So how do you earn that trust?  It’s easy!  Get naked!  Start by learning what’s important to the customer of the product or project or service that you provide.  Ask them if they were running it, what would they measure to determine that it was working as intended?  What values should the measurements take or in other words, ‘what does good look like’?  Ask your manager and any other key stakeholders the same types of questions.  Also find out what their concerns are for such a project or service.

Once you understand what good looks like (or great for that matter), here’s where getting naked comes in.  Report on all of it and publish it.  The good, the bad, and the indifferent.  If your job (or the job of your team) is to improve performance on a service or product, then by putting it all out there you are giving all the stakeholders the honest truth.  It won’t be perfect, but they will know what they are getting.  Also, it puts you into a situation where you can’t skate by.  If something isn’t working right, it’s right there in everyone’s face.  It will force you to face it and deal with the challenge of correcting the problem.  You will also get more input from others on ideas for correction as well as what you can let slide in order to focus additional resources on more of the larger/key issues facing the team.

As you continue to manage the product or project or service, report publically at regular intervals showing performance.  As things improve you will earn additional trust.  As you earn more trust, people will turn naturally to you and/or your team to solve problems because they are comfortable that with you or your team they will know exactly where they stand and count on things improving or being fixed.  This is what drives success.  You just have to be willing to put it all out there.  Get over the fear of not looking as good as you like and take the energy you would have put into hiding the blemishes and put it into making a product or service that looks good, even when naked.


So you’re on LinkedIn. Now what?

OK, so let’s just humor me and say that my prior posts have made you think seriously about expanding your professional network .  You’ve created a LinkedIn account or finally logged into the one you created 5 years ago that you didn’t do anything with.  Now what?

Well first things first.  Before we talk about what you can do to import address books in order to quickly build up your network of contacts one of the more powerful ways for you to find people (and for people to find you) is for you to create a history of positions that have your title, dates worked, and most importantly Your employer.   Even if you are not yet sure how you want to fill in the details of what you did for each of those rolls, it’s important to identify the role and show it in your history.

The reason why is that LinkedIn has search features and these are the beginnings of the keywords that people will use to search for you as well as the way you can find others.  So look to the left side of the screen, find the profile section and then click on “edit profile”.  Then use the “add position” button that is across from the header for Experience.  Add in all the places/positions you have had even if there’s no detail yet as to what you have done.  You can (and should) put detail in later but lets just start with identifying positions.

If you’re like me, some companies you have worked at have changed names or were purchased/etc.  You can add a company name to one role and then a different name to another role at the same company.  For example I worked at BBN which became BBN Planet which then became GTE Internetworking which then became Genuity (whew).  So I used those company names at least once each for the jobs I progressed through during my time there.  Why?  Because if someone searched for former colleagues at BBN they would not find me if I left it off.

Once you have all your prior positions listed, along with all the company names, here’s where the fun starts for building your network.  Go back to the LinkedIn home page.  Along the left side you will see the menu and at the bottom is a green button labeled “Add Connections”.  Click it.  Go ahead, you know you want to.  🙂

This brings you to a screen that has four tabs along the top.  Click on the one that says “Colleagues” and you will come to a screen that lists all those companies you put in when you were filling out your positions.  You can then either use the “View All” feature to get a list of all past and present employees of that company, or “Find New”.  If you’re just starting, use the “View All” and this will help you catch up quickly.  Once you have looked through each of the companies and selected people you have worked with that you want to add to your network the system will send them an invite and you will see your network start to grow!  Also, you will see another tab labeled “Classmates”.  If you put your education experience in your profile, then this tab will list the colleges you have attended and you can find old classmates as well even if you did not work with them after graduation. 

Remember the “Find New” button I mentioned above?  This is how you dig the well a foot a week.  Once you have settled into LinkedIn and your profile is up to date (more on what to add into that later), if you come back every week or two, select “Add Connections”, “Colleagues” and “Find New” it will find any new people who joined LinkedIn since you last looked from each of those companies.  I’ve added more than 500 connections by just checking every few weeks over the last 6 years.  That’s one of the ways to build a deep network of contacts without having to be intimidated by it all.

Next post I’ll cover address book imports which is another way to quickly discover contacts and add them to your network.  And remember, you are only doing this so you can then use this network to be able to find and keep track of all your colleagues.  So if all you’re doing is adding to your network but never reaching out to contact some of these folks, then you’re not really doing much to stay connected.  Just remember, if you are looking for work, they can’t help you if you aren’t communicating to them. 

– Yeti.

Using the right tool for the job.

When I was young I learned 2 things from my Dad who was very handy with tools. 

  1. Use the right tool for the job.  It makes things so much easier. 
  2. If you don’t have the correct (or specific) tool, improvise. 

I’d only get schooled by my Dad when he saw me using the wrong tool if he knew the right one was available and nearby.  The job always came out better when you used a tool designed for the job.  You don’t have to stress out if you don’t have all the tools but if you have the right tool why wouldn’t you use it?

So what kind of tools do you use when you are networking?

  • Email
  • Address books (Outlook, Gmail, ACT, etc.)
  • The phone (Yes, I know many of us don’t like using it, but we just have to get over that).
  • Social sites on the web (MySpace, Facebook, Multiply, LinkedIn, Spock, and too many countless others to mention).

If you are going to be effective at networking then you should realize quickly that it’s difficult to reach out and contact folks when you don’t have an up to date email or phone number for them.  That stack of business cards you’re stashing off to the side or the ones you put in your address book are going to be out of date quickly.  You will find tools on the network that are intended to help you like Plaxo or CardScan’s “at your service”. However, these tools can fall short because they put the burden of updating your contacts on the contacts themselves and this is for your convenience, not theirs.  In other words, there’s no incentive in it for them to update their contact info for your benefit.

People on sites like LinkedIn or even Facebook and Multiply update their information without being asked.  If you are linked to them, or “friended” then you get the latest on their personal or professional situations (depending on the site) and it will be easier to stay in touch. 

So if we’re talking about professional networking, what’s the best tool for the job?  How about a tool that is designed to allow users to:

  • Update their professional experiences
  • Search for contacts according to where they work or have worked
  • Discuss industry trends for their line of work
  • Search for job openings or post jobs targeted at industry specific professionals

While you can improvise with other tools and you should still consider them as part of your arsenal in your quest to create an effective professional network, the best and most widely adopted tool for professional networking is LinkedIn. 

LinkedIn is geared specifically towards professional networking and currently has nearly 40 million users and is growing at about a user a second.  While Facebook has 5 times that membership, it is not geared towards managing your professional network.  

So if you want to create a deep well of professional contacts that you can use to find good talent or be found as good talent in someone else’s network, join LinkedIn.

For those of you who did not “dig that well” before you found yourself looking for water, I will post later on how you can quickly get your profile in shape and build up your network. 

– Yeti

Dig the well.

There is an old Chinese proverb that states: “Dig the well before you are thirsty”.  I can’t think of a better way to remind folks of the importance of putting some energy into being prepared for some of the inevitability that life will throw at you.   If you are surrounded by a lot of water and it is abundant, it may seem like a waste of effort to dig a well.  However, when a dry season comes along that well could save your life.  The deeper it goes, the more you are able to draw from it.

Think about it.  The time to save money is when you are making money.  That way, when something unexpected strikes, you have reserves to draw from.  The same thing can be said about your network of professional contacts.  When you are working and find yourself surrounded by other professionals you may not be thinking about building your network.  However, many will come and go and you will have lost the opportunity to stay in touch with all those people who were at one point part of your professional life.  Most of us get so busy with work that we neglect to stay in touch with professionals outside of those in our immediate circle.  We think there will always be time for that later but if suddenly we find ourselves needing those contacts (like from a job loss) then wouldn’t it be a shame to suddenly realize you have little or no reserves to drink from.

So if you find yourself wrapped up in work and life and wonder about how you could ever make time to dig a well, allow me to provide a little advice.  Don’t try and dig the well all at once.  That’s not only intimidating but also not very effective.  Simply dig the well a foot deeper every week.  In other words, for the investment of 15-30 minutes of your time every 1-2 weeks you can slowly develop a wide range of professional contacts that over a course of a year or two will become fairly extensive.  Then if you ever find yourself “thirsty” you will find that you have a deep wellspring of people from which you can network and discover opportunities.

If you haven’t figured this out yet, I’m writing this note for people who are still employed.  It would be a shame that during this time of downsizing and economic uncertainty that you suddenly find yourself wishing you had put a network of contacts together.  Stop putting it off and start reaching back out to folks you have worked with and build up your Rolodex.  If you already find yourself out of work but are short on contacts, I will try and cover networking and building up your contacts quickly in another post.

In the mean time, the best tool for you to use in order to “dig a well” would be LinkedIn.  I can’t stress enough how great a tool this is for building up and maintaining a list of professionals you have worked with.  If you don’t have an account, set one up.  If you have one but it has been largely neglected, then you need to update your profile with your various companies and positions.  Not just so that you can advertise yourself, but also because this is what will help you locate others on this tool who have worked with you in the past. 

I had a “near death” experience back in 2002 as the tech bubble burst and the company I worked for went through a bankruptcy.  Over the last 6 years I have logged into LinkedIn every 2-3 weeks (again not a lot of time at once) and looked up new people who joined that worked at companies that I have also been at.  If I knew them, I invited them to my network.  Over time this has grown tremendously and recently has been a blessing for me as I search for my next opportunity.

I will write more later on LinkedIn and provide some suggestions on how to best use it as well as point you to some of the other blogs where you can get great tips on how to get the most from this tool.  In the mean time, start digging!  It only takes a little time once a week or every other week to pay off big later.

– Yeti.


Water really is essential and life giving.  You can change the lives of others by helping put wells into villages that do not currently have access to clean water.  See Living Water International or Living Waters for the world for great charities that change the lives of others dramatically through the building of deep freshwater wells.  They could use your support!