Tag Archives: teamwork

The Ringo Principle: A measuring stick for business and life

John, Paul, George and Ringo hit America

Been listening to a lot of Beatles lately (as happens) and this morning while enjoying “Octopus’ Garden,” yet another brilliant facet of the Fab Four hit me — and how it provides a lesson for business and life. Let’s call it the Ringo Principle.

The drummer born Richard Starkey was a full-on member of The Beatles, but it wouldn’t be controversial to say he was its fourth-best singer and composer. This is no slight on Ringo; the fourth-best hitter in the 1927 New York Yankees’ famed Murderers’ Row is in the Hall of Fame. Ringo is in any and all applicable halls of fame and regarded as a legend in the business, and rightfully so.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney are two of rock’s most iconic voices who penned much of the soundtrack for a generation. George Harrison may have been the Quiet Beatle, but “Here Comes the Sun,” “Something” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” were hit songs judged by many critics to be among the group’s top masterpieces.

But despite the profusion of talent among the three-headed monsters of pop rock fronting the band, Ringo was no slouch. His affable self-effacing humor and the giants in front of him have obscured that he was a very talented and innovative drummer; listen to some of today’s top percussionists or just appreciate his amazing rhythm lines on “Come Together” or “Ticket to Ride” (just for starters) if you need education.

The Beatles could have just stuck to their recipe of writing many of the biggest hits of the 1960s, but they didn’t mind giving Ringo the spotlight, vocally and otherwise. He wrote and sang the beloved “Octopus’ Garden” as well as the dark circus-y romp “Don’t Pass Me By,” but The Beatles willingly let him sing at least a song on many an album to let his distinctive voice provide a rounder soundscape. His vocal contributions include the timeless anthem “A Little Help from My Friends,” and “Yellow Submarine,” the title track to their terrifically trippy animated movie. While composing the latter, McCartney explained, “I was thinking of it as a song for Ringo.” One of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century actively thought about crafting tunes to fit his drummer’s voice.

The real lesson here is one of inclusion and opportunity — ideals that improve business and our lives. At work, do you let members of your team stretch their creative and problem-solving muscles or do you put them in projects that give them just enough room to function? Do you provide opportunities to shine through presentations or as the public face of a project, or do you keep them shunted behind their computer? Do you actively give them praise, whether to their face, in front of others or even when they’re not around?

Or, if you work in higher education, do you recruit students to be stars or merely to be helpers? Do you let them write blogs? Do you give them social media takeovers that infuse their personality into your accounts? Do you allow them to be talent — not just script-readers but creative contributors — in your videos?

Many people learn they are good at one particular thing and get pigeonholed. They become the drummer, the dependable hand buried at the back of the stage. It’s our jobs as leaders and as humans to make sure they all get some spotlight, some shine, some stardom. Teams only excel when we are more than willing to show that success is only possible with a little help from our friends.


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Teamwork does make the dream work


teamworkIt’s important in business. It’s important in life (even if just sharing popcorn). And it’s important in hockey and other sports.

Hockey is very demanding in its teamwork, as you only have six players (or less, if you anybody’s in the penalty box) working together in a very fast-moving sport to either score or prevent goals, where one goal can be make or break. Maybe that’s why hockey teams are so close and the bonds of friendship so precious.

Oswego lost to Hamilton 3-1 in a hard-hitting fast-moving game full of lots of great teamwork on both sides over the weekend. This wraps the 2016-17 campaign for the Lakers and our winter sports. But the final score is only part of the story.

And the end of the game, I saw rugged men who played through injuries that would have me curled in a fetal position giving each other meaningful hugs, goodbyes to their hockey days together, sharing of emotion. Much like the women’s hockey team after their loss to Utica — they come together, they embrace, they show they’re a team.

In 5, 10 or 20 years, who knows how many plays they’ll even remember from this game, from any game. But they won’t forget the people they played with. The good times, the bad times, the silly times, and the faces they shared those times with.

Because after that final buzzer, after the score gets recorded and perhaps even forgotten, that’s what hockey — and life — eventually means to those friendships.


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what can we do about #fbgate2016 … and beyond?

What started Thanksgiving Week when Lougan Bishop of Belmont University and I found messages on our official Class of 2015 groups telling members to join different groups, run by private company RoomSurf, became a whirlwind of community action among colleagues, then a media splash in the New York Times. Other stories followed (including one hilariously mistranslated piece). Several higher ed professionals teamed up in a myriad of ways, including blogging and other methods to spread the word, and by the end of Wednesday the RoomSurf groups were putting up disclaimers and their founder disappeared from Facebook.

But will #fbgate2015 mark the end of this kind of activity? I doubt it, and so does Lougan, who wrote a great guest post in Brad J. Ward’s SquaredPeg blog (which outed the original #fbgate2013 fake groups two years ago).

Many bloggers have weighed in with great advice. But even the best suggestions come with caveats. For example:

1) Make your own Class of 201x Facebook Groups/Pages. This has become self-evident. But, as Lougan and I discovered, nefarious intruders can swoop in at any time to try to steal members. We’re not in a part in the admission cycle where students are joining in large numbers yet. Those other groups had more members, research found, because apparently some were converted 2014 groups with existing students. And JD Ross of Hamilton College said, last year, company reps blocked him so he couldn’t see things they posted on a Class of 2014 page he administered. So the playing field, for the ethical, is still a minefield.

2) Make your groups/pages distinctive and better. When I realized we may be in for another battle for members — before colleges rallied together and the New York Times got involved — I decided to create an Official Class of 2015 Community page. And, unlike the 2015 group which I didn’t do nearly enough with, our social media intern and I filled the new page with photos, slideshows, videos, blog entries, news, the works. And asked current students to join and help. Of course, this all takes time — something we never have enough of. But, especially when establishing the groups, it makes them more worth joining. Think about holiday window shopping: You’re more likely to go into stores that look cool and have more to offer.

3) Promote the official group/pages to incoming students. In an often-decentralized campus landscape, not as easy as it sounds. I have no direct communication with prospective students (other than the web or social media) as student affairs offices handle these contacts. This means any success in social media involves coalition building and educating staffers to its benefits as well as the need for resources. On the bright side, something like #fbgate2015 — or anything that could divert our students from getting the help and advice they deserve — provides an example of why different areas of the college need to work together for a well-done, timely, useful social media presence.

4) Be vigilant. Sad but true, we can’t take for granted that all 500 million members of Facebook are ethical, logical beings. You have to constantly see if someone is portraying themselves as your college or brand … which is complicated by all the community pages (mostly ghost ships) Facebook decided to clutter the waters. And if you’re a group administrator, have many sets of eyes watching the page, knowing spammers can block you.

Because Facebook fraud will continue to appear, despite our best efforts, all we can do is keep our eyes open, have a plan and provide the best Facebook experiences possible.

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the joy (?) of using ustream/watershed for live video.

With the increasing popularity of live video streams for colleges, corporations and citizens alike, more and more people will look to offerings like UStream and/or its partner Watershed to share events with the world (wide Web). Since we recently survived our first project using Watershed, I thought I’d share some observations, pros and cons.

The project was our President’s Breakfast, which featured special guest speaker Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president emeritus of George Washington University and author of Big Man on Campus. He’s an awesome speaker. But getting from concept to execution wasn’t always awe-inspiring … sometimes more like aww-@#$%-inspiring.

The technology behind the live stream.

The technology behind the live stream.

Setup: If you’re just broadcasting something simple and low-tech from your laptop, UStream is pretty good. When it’s a major production involving a camera, audio and embedding into your own branded page, more difficult. We went with Watershed, UStream’s option if you don’t want ads and prefer to embed in your own site.  I worked with some outstanding video and audio technicians on the front end, involving a lot of trial and error and non-cooperation from Watershed’s interface. We also have a superb Web specialist who designed the page, embedded the code and — when it looked like the laborious code-intensive chat-moderation feature exceeded our personnel available — added a Twitter feed through Tweetizen where people could participate via a #sunyoswego tag.

Support: With UStream/Watershed, this is almost non-existent. The FAQ page, which is almost impossible to find, isn’t terribly helpful. Their live-chat feature relies on volunteers from the community to answer user questions. Judging from the log, these volunteers appear about as often as elves riding unicorns.

Cost: UStream is free, but limited in what it can deliver. If you go with Watershed, you can incur a monthly fee if you plan to use it often, or a pay-as-you-go service ($1 per viewer hour) if you’re still uncertain. You can’t go from monthly to pay-as-you-go without an additional large expense. Since this was a fairly modest experiment, we opened up a pay-as-you-go account.

Execution: Thanks to Herculean efforts by Rick our Web guru, we created a templated oswego.edu page which pulled in the feed and with a window syndicating comments that had a #sunyoswego hashtag. Audience was nice though not overwhelming — 140 views and 76 unique visitors from 20 states — often around 20 to 25 at any given time. But we didn’t do extensive promotion, in part because of uncertainly about how it would work. A lot of hits were driven by posts on Twitter and Facebook just before or during the event. We even had a few hashtag questions, including one I shared during our audience Q-and-A period.

Output: To its credit, Watershed rocks in terms of what it lets you do with recorded content: You can copy and paste an embed code for the recording, download a Flash file or both. The embed is good to put on your own Web site, while Flash file gives portability for YouTube and the like.

Analytics: UStream/Watershed offers pretty decent, albeit flawed, analytics. For instance, all of our hits from Oswego, NY were instead listed as being from Oswego, Kansas. Which is to say, I’m not sure how much I can trust any of its geographic data.

Doing a big production via UStream/Watershed, for the first time at least, can be … well, a big production. We burned a lot of hours and brain cells making it work, which it finally did thanks to expertise, teamwork and people dropping other things to seal the deal. The stream itself went wonderfully, a good frame rate, not too jumpy, consistent, etc. Plus we had great feedback from the audience — including at least one prominent alum asking to get more involved — and ultimately user experience is an important consideration.


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colleges are from mars, vendors from venus.

Karlyn Morissette blogged earlier this week about why (and whether) consultants outside higher education seem to get more respect than knowledgeable employees. Given the complexities of any college, working with vendors or outside partners tends to unfold like some kind of international negotiation.

Tom Peters remarked way back in the ’90s that, in the business world, what would matter was not the size of your staff, but the size of your network. The trends of flexible staffing and ad hoc work teams assembled for a single project have grown as he predicted, and today the Internet means our knowledge bases — which on places like Twitter may include what we once called competitors — are available at the touch of a button.

Yet I was working with an outside vendor/partner for an event this week and couldn’t help noticing how every communication seemed an opportunity for misunderstanding. I’ve worked on this campus for nearly eight years, and there are still countless things I don’t understand. So imagine someone from the outside trying to help coordinate an event — without stepping foot on campus, this terra incognita.

Those on a campus know the landscape of people, priorities and politics that may make no sense to an outsider. The vendor didn’t always understand what I was in charge of (very little), how big an internal team I had (not enough) nor why what they found a perfectly reasonable suggestion had no chance of working within our world. Successful vendors must have the patience of a saint to wait out an institution’s labyrinthian approval processes. Long-distance partnerships provide additional strain when you have difficulty reaching people in other cities and time zones; it’s so much easier when I can walk down the hall or take a quick elevator ride.

Curiously, I had valuable project-based discussions from the campus side via social media — student participants are easier to reach via a Facebook message than email. None of the vendor partners are on (or available on) social media, and I don’t know that trying to Facebook friend someone for a one-off makes sense. That I was able to take care of many details on our end — from planning to interacting with journalists — via social media testifies to its ability to interact quickly and clearly. (And I’m getting spoiled by the ability to ask questions on Twitter and receive great answers within mere minutes.)

As long as we have institutions of higher learning, we will always have — and need — to work with outside partners. The learning curve in such arrangements is always steep, but maybe social media is one way to help flatten it. We sure need something to bring worlds together.


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