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States Battle FCC over States Rights to build Boadband networks after Preemption November 20, 2015

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in CLEC catagory.
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Add the governors of Tennessee and South Carolina and attorneys general from Alabama and Tennessee to the list of those siding with state legislators (and cable operators) in opposing the FCC’s preemption of laws limiting municipal broadband buildouts, which has become a battle over states’ rights.

That came in letters to the House Communications Subcommittee Republican and Democratic leadership in advance of an FCC oversight hearing scheduled for Dec. 17.

The FCC earlier this year preempted state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina, prompting lawsuits from those states in the Sixth Circuit court of Appeals. A majority of attorneys general had asked the FCC not to preempt.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley told the legislators she strongly opposed the FCC’s “federal overreach” into her state’s business; ditto Tennessee governor Bill Haslam, who asked the Congress to step in to Protect states rights; Tennessee AG Herbert Slattery added that the FCC did not have the authority to “circumvent” stat law; and Alabama AG Luther Strange, whose office joined a brief to the Sixth Circuit opposing preemption, sent a copy of the brief in his letter to committee leaders.

The FCC majority said in preempting the state laws that the agency had the power and the duty to step in when states were limiting broadband buildouts. The commission confirmed it did not have the power to overturn state laws preventing municipal broadband buildouts, but if those states allows such networks, the FCC can pre-empt laws that would limit them.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has tabbed those laws as the handiwork of incumbent Internet service providers trying to prevent competition.

The FCC is justifying the move under its Sec. 706 authority to regulate if it concludes that advanced telecommunications is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely manner, which it has concluded in its recent reports to Congress on the state of high-speed broadband. “We read section 706 to permit the commission to preempt state laws that primarily serve to regulate competition in the broadband market,” the order states.

The order points out that the FCC has taken other pre-emption actions to further competition, including state laws on deployment of wireless facilities or restrictions on competitive cable franchises.

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Mistakes to Avoid When Taking Over a Team November 19, 2015

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in Job Opportunities.
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Taking over as the leader of a team is daunting. Your team members are used to how their previous leader liked to do things, and adjusting their habits can be a challenge. The team’s response to your new processes or style can make you feel a little like the evil stepmother who’s stepped into their formerly happy lives. Your team was once someone else’s team. They’ve developed habits in response to the preferences of the previous leader. But it’s important to avoid the most common mistakes that new leaders make when trying to ease the transition:

  • Being a friend rather than a leader. Investing too much energy in befriending the team can confuse the power relationship. Most teams want clear, confident leadership.
  • Expressing frustration with the quality of the team. What team members are good at is a reflection of what the previous leader expected of them. If your expectations are different, you need to help the team make that shift.
  • Attempting to force trust too quickly. Until team members have had time to see how you handle uncomfortable topics too much candor will do more harm than good. Let trust build over time.
  • Share your story and your owner’s manual. Team members will appreciate you sharing your backstory and helping them understand the evolution of your preferences and idiosyncrasies.

What makes it so easy to follow a great leader… May 19, 2015

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in Job Opportunities.
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I would follow him anywhere. That was the response from a friend when we were talking about how much they enjoyed their job. They have worked with this person for several years and have a great rapport. We talked about how their boss is easy to work with, which is a primary reason for their success and job satisfaction.

So how easy are you to follow? As a leader I’d like to think I am, but of course, the only real opinion that matters is that of my team members. So what makes a person a good leader or easy to follow? I think the answers are pretty straight forward and common sense, but often not common practice because our own personality quirks and baggage get in the way.

Here is a recognized list of common sense leadership practices considered characteristics of leaders who are easy to follow:

Be nice – It’s kind of sad this has to be called out but it does. Too many leaders are jerks. They let power go to their heads. Don’t do that,  just be nice. Smile every once in a while. Say please and thank you. Ask people how their day is going. It doesn’t cost you a dime to be nice and you’ll be amazed at how much more engaged and productive your team will be if you treat them nicely.

Don’t expect everyone to be like you – This can be challenging, particularly for leaders who have personalities that favor perfectionism. It’s great to have high expectations for yourself, that’s probably what helped you rise to a leadership position. It’s good to have high expectations for your staff as well, but remember, they may not do things exactly the way you would. Give people the freedom to be who they are and leverage their strengths to help them achieve their goals and those of the team.

Show a sense of humor & make work fun – Making work fun and showing a sense of humor is a hallmark of leaders who are easy to follow. Create a sense of camaraderie within the team and keep the mood light when times get tough. Showing a sense of humor and laughing at yourself once in a while shows your vulnerability and authenticity. That’s what draws people to you, not away from you.

Treat people with respect and create an environment of trust and safety – It’s the leader’s job to foster an environment of trust and safety that allow team members to unleash their power and potential for the good of themselves and the organization.

Give people your time – The greatest gift you can give your people is a few minutes of your time. Leaders like to say they have an open door policy, but is that really the case with you? Does everyone on your team know without a doubt that they can meet with you regarding any topic?

Solicit and incorporate people’s ideas – Many leaders are great at asking for ideas but only a few actually do anything with them. One of the quickest ways to alienate your team members is to tell them you want to hear their ideas and are open to feedback, but not actually do anything with it when it’s shared with you.

Empower people – Good leaders establish the boundaries of the playing field for their team members, make sure everyone is clear on the rules and objectives, and then let them play the game. They don’t micromanage and dictate how the work should be done.

Recognize and reward good performance – Leaders who are easy to follow are experts at finding people doing something right. They take the time to acknowledge the good performance of their team members and to celebrate their (and the team’s) success. People crave hearing positive feedback about their hard work.

Maintain perspective on the most important priorities in life – Work is important but life is more important. Easy to follow leaders maintain the proper perspective about what’s most important in life. These kind of leaders understand they have to lead the whole person, not just the worker who shows up to do a job every day. Kids get sick, employees have personal challenges, life happens….good leaders understand this and are sensitive to the needs of their team members.

Leadership doesn’t have to complicated. A little common sense principles will help us be successful leaders, if only we can get out of our own way.

Sharing Financials Helps Employees Make Smarter Decisions December 31, 2014

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in Social Media.
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Frontline employees are responsible for keeping customers happy. But when people focus on delivering great customer service, they can forget that the business has to make money too.

Should I schedule yet another service visit? Should I forgive this bounced-check fee? Should I honor that expired warranty?

If you’re going to ask frontline workers to make these difficult decisions, teach them about key financial indicators so they’ll know the costs. Think about creating a daily or weekly dashboard showing relevant customer-feedback scores and comments, along with key financial numbers – variance to budget, cost per customer, etc. Employees will learn to track the short-term tradeoffs and will naturally try to keep costs under control. This can also help in the long term. If they schedule extra service visits, for example, or regularly honor those expired warrantees, the costs of service may rise. But there will be a payoff in greater customer loyalty.

Top 10 ways to lose a Great Employee November 13, 2014

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in Job Opportunities.
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I recently read an article on this subject and it compelled me to add my own twists. If you’re a good manager or leader then you probably already know most of this, but it is worthwhile to remind ourselves of them from time to time. Here are my top 10 ten ways to lose great employees;

1. Be dishonest.

Integrity matters. Most good employees and all great ones have integrity. So, lying to them, to their coworkers, to customers or vendors is sure to turn them off. Over-billing a customer, not paying a vendor, having different rules for different people, not following thru on your agreements, and even just “little white lies” are all sure to catch the private ire of those employees who can best help you and your organization succeed. Don’t think they don’t notice; they DO.

2. Micromanage.

Sadly, we have all experienced way too much of it. Micromanagement screams of trust and security issues. And exactly why would your top performers want to work for someone with trust and security issues?

It’s not just classical micromanagement either. We have all seen truly exceptional people who excelled in their role end up with their jobs “dumbed-down” to cater to the lowest common denominator, and to the point they were no longer challenged or motivated. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before they were looking for an opportunity somewhere else.

3. Under-pay them & take them for granted.

Yes, taking advantage of your situation or position with an emplouee will usually get a good person out of your organization as fast as they can possibly find an opportunity elsewhere. I’ve seen organizations under-pay very good people. One executive even said to me, in private, “Well, just what are they going to, do? Leave?  They have no place to go. The (job) market is poor.” This was his way of rationalizing those so many years of reduced bonuses for a dedicated staff of employees who really had earned them – and who were contractually entitled. It wasn’t long before people actually did have someplace else to go, and go they did. As a manager stay tuned to what industry standards are for your employees positions and compensate them fairly if you want to keep them.

4. Don’t take time to communicate (listen to their concerns).

Good people almost always actually want what is best for the organization. They may have differing opinions on what that is, but they can be passionate, even fiery about it. If you’re dismissive of their concerns, when raised, you’re headed down the road to losing top performing people. Above all, communicate with them. Do not leave them in the dark about company policy or directive changes. These sort of issues directly affect your top performers and yes, they take it personal.

5. Don’t say “Thank you.”

It’s a small thing, but it really does make a difference. Even small gestures of appreciation, complements on good work, acknowledging that someone stayed late / came in early / went the extra mile help keep talented people motivated and engaged. A small gift card, permission to leave early for the day or work from home the day before a holiday (if work is getting completed), a kind word, an email, all of these things cost very little but go a long way. People care if someone notices when they are doing a good job.

6. Be cold and uncaring (to them and to their coworkers).

People are human. Why do we seem to forget this so often? They have personal struggles, ambitions, families, crises, etc. One of my favorite bosses from the past was a gentleman who knew my wife’s name, my son’s name, my dog’s name, and more. I met both of his kids and I had met his wife before started working for him. He didn’t go beyond appropriate boundaries, but I really knew he cared about me as an employee and as a person. He was personable and when I needed a friend, a true mentor, someone I could go to with a problem, a “dad” type figure. I knew I could talk to him and he’d help me out however he could. He got a lot of loyalty from me in return. I should also point out that talented people watch how you treat other people, not just themselves, and they take note of it.

7. Forget the values that made your organization a success.

I’ve been part of organizations that truly lived their core values (and even years later can recite them by heart, because they were so prominent). We all knew what they were.We all agreed they were important, or at least accepted them as such. The leadership talked about them, and everything we did as a company HAD to align to them. I left an organization once after it forgot its values and stopped talking about them because it wasn’t long before the entity had lost its way. I have also been in companies that barely even mention their values – and really, what that says is, “Our core value is to make more money for our owners, whatever it takes.”

Not exactly compelling, but that’s what is being conveyed.If that’s what you’re really all about, you may as well admit it, there is nothing wrong with making money. When I build a team, I am very explicit about my expectations.

8. Ignore their personal and professional development.

Note that there are two dimensions to this – professional development (technical skills, industry knowledge, expertise, professional certifications, formal training, etc.) and personal development. Leaders only follow stronger leaders, so if you want to keep current or future leaders, be sure you are mentoring them. Let them learn from your own life experience; telling good stories from your experience can be a great way to do this. Help them become better professionals – and better people. They will appreciate this beyond measure. Additionally, don’t delude yourself into thinking that their career growth is their problem. It is your problem so make a point of investing in it and top notch people will likely repay you for this with good work.

9. Don’t be selective who you hire in the first place.

We all know that hiring people who really fit and are highly talented is tough. We know that the repercussions of a bad hire are awful for everyone. Make sure people really will fit into your organization. I have found that the recruiting process is often commensurate with the organization and role. The better (and more prestigious) the entity and higher profile the role, the tougher the recruiting process often seems – and it should be. Let’s face it, a half hour “get to know you”, or even an hour isn’t really enough to get to know a prospective employee well enough to make a truly informed decision. Talented people often don’t mind a tough (within reason) selection process because they are usually competitive people who thrive on challenge. Invest the time needed to really explore what makes a person tick before you hire them. remember, talented people want to be around other talented people.

10. Set the bar low.

Great people will get discouraged and either leave or adapt to mediocrity if that is what they perceive is deemed acceptable. I’ve seen mediocrity accepted, rewarded, applauded, and even promoted!  The impact of this on team morale (and on the highest performing team members) was palpable. Set the bar high and then become a cheerleader – even if people don’t make it over the high bar, point out how high the bar was set and how high people did get, and celebrate the success they did have at the right level. They may just make it over that high bar the next time.

Cities band together to form New Century Cities venture to ensure broadband to their constituents October 23, 2014

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in Social Media.
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Next Century Cities, an initiative billing itself as a bipartisan effort “dedicated to ensuring the availability of next-generation broadband Internet for all communities,” launched Monday with 32 cities on board.

The coalition is banding together after two cities – Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilson, N.C., issued requests to the FCC to preempt state laws restricting their ability to provide broadband service. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has signaled that he wants to use the FCC’s power to prempt what he believes are efforts by incumbent ISPs to block municipal broadband via advocating for those restrictive state laws. In response, a group of dozen Republican senators expressed concerns about Wheeler’s plan, holding that it’s a state’s rights issue.

Next Century Cities, launched Monday at an event in Santa Monica that included a video message from Wheeler, said its partnership cities and their elected leaders are coming together to “recognize the importance of leveraging gigabit-level Internet to attract new businesses and create jobs, improve health care and education, and connect residents to new opportunities.”

Next Century Cities said it will engage with and assist communities in developing and deploying next-generation broadband Internet, with participating cities agreeing to share information on what works and what does not.

Next Century Cities, set up as a project of New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity, notes on its Web site that it is supported by a group of donors that includes the Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, and Google.

Next Century Cities on Monday announced the following 32 cities as inaugural partners: -Ammon, Idaho -Auburn, Ind. -Austin, Texas -Boston, Mass. -Centennial, Colo. -Champaign, Ill. -Chattanooga, Tenn. -Clarksville, Tenn. – Jackson, Tenn. -Kansas City, Kan. -Kansas City, Mo. -Lafayette, La. -Lexington, Ky. -Leverett, Mass. -Louisville, Ky. -Montrose, Colo. -Morristown, Tenn. -Mount Vernon, Wash. -Palo Alto, Calif. -Ponca City, Okla. -Portland, Ore. -Raleigh, N.C. -Rockport, Maine -San Antonio, Texas -Sandy, Ore. -Santa Cruz County, Calif. -Santa Monica, Calif. -South Portland, Maine -Urbana, Ill. -Westminster, Md. -Wilson, N.C. -Winthrop, Minn. –

This approach looks like not just a logical next step but almost a necessity, with many incumbent’s recognizing the increased bandwidth usage of their customers and seizing the opportunity to raise rates and lower usage limits. I believe this initiative has the best interests of the cities and the voters at heart, republican’s had best listen to their constituents.

 

Joe Buck, NCE

Three Questions Management Should Avoid October 21, 2014

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in Job Opportunities.
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Questions can engage and motivate people, but they can also discourage them by seeming confrontational. To engage employees (not scare them), reframe these questions:

  • What’s the problem?
    • Rather than fixating on problems and weaknesses, use positive questions geared toward leveraging strengths and opportunities and achieving goals: What are we doing well, and how might we build upon that?
  • Whose fault is it?
    • This focuses on finding a scapegoat when there is likely plenty of blame to go around. To identify weak links without focusing too much on blame, ask: How can we work together to shore up any weaknesses?
  • Haven’t we tried this already?
    • This is important to ask, but the wrong tone makes it sound condescending and defeatist. It doesn’t recognize that failure could have been due to bad timing, not the idea itself. Ask: If we tried this now, what would be different – and how might it change the results?

 

 

Define Roles on Your Next Project October 20, 2014

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So you’ve  pulled together a winning team, and you’ve set timely and manageable team project goals. Now you need to establish the roles that each member will play. Not having this conversation can lead to confusion, multiple people trying to jump on the same task, turf battles, etc. Avoid this headache by explicitly laying out who will do what – and define what it means to succeed in each role. You need:

  • A project manager to set a timeline and hold members accountable.
  • Subject matter specialists to organize and lead larger portions of the project, like doing research or analysis.
  • The PM should record all key decisions and document team progress.
  • The PM should inform stakeholders (clients, boss, customers) about team activities – and share stakeholder thoughts with the team.

 

I feel certain I have left out a few other highlights however following the above guideline will ensure a successful on-time project implementation.

 

Joe Buck, NCE

Don’t let mismanaged priorities take you off track August 18, 2014

Posted by TelUS Consulting Services in Job Opportunities.
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Running an organization requires keeping priorities straight. whenever you see leaders mis-prioritize their private time, productive effort, and personal relationships, they risk a crash.

The 3 “Ps” of Priorities:

Private Time

When speaking of private time,we are not referring to leisure time. Rather, we are talking about the time a leader sets aside for thinking, reflecting, and strategic planning. As leaders, we have a bias for action; we want to make things happen. Since private time feels unproductive, we tend to skip it. As a result, our leadership suffers from a thought-deficit. Prioritizing private time replenishes our storehouse of creative ideas and clarifies our vision, better positioning us to lead well.

 

Production Time

Production time is the time we set aside to do things that bring about desired results and enhance our value to the organization. Routinely ask yourself the following questions to ramp up your productivity:

1) What Are My Strengths? – The percentage of time you spend at the intersection of your aptitudes (where you excel) and affinities (where you find enjoyment) will determine your level of success.

2) What Are My Opportunities? – The best opportunities match your strengths. If your ability in an area does not put you in the top 10% of the population, then search for something else to do. People don’t pay for average.

3) Finally, realize that most opportunities don’t immediately bring results. Often, they only lead to additional opportunities. People who think that the first opportunity they encounter will take them to the top usually aren’t very successful. Those who go farthest in leadership are those who work the hardest to seek out and seize opportunities.

 

People Time

While entire books could be written about how to prioritize time with people, let’s focus on the biggest time-eater on a leader’s schedule: meetings. Most meetings are not critically important, and the majority of them are useless. If you’re in a position of leadership, practice the following to avoid getting stuck in meetings or yet worse, conducting useless meetings:

1) Don’t go. – Have someone on the team represent you. Typically, the significant content of an hour-long meeting can be summarized in five minutes.

2) Don’t go alone. – If you must attend, have a teammate accompany you who can take notes, identify action items, and carry the load of responsibility after the meeting.

3) Don’t go to important meetings without having met unofficially with your top influencers beforehand. –  In truth, most decisions get made in informal settings and then merely made official at formal gatherings.

 

A Final Thought to Ponder

A leader’s time follows their priorities. If our priorities are disordered you will most likely mismanage your schedule, your life, your company.

Open-book management July 21, 2014

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The phrase “open-book management” was coined by the writer John Case in a 1989 story for Inc. But the most visible advocate for the concept—sometimes known as the godfather of open-book—is a man named Jack Stack. Stack bought a troubled engine remanufacturing plant in Missouri in 1983 and soon realized it would fail if he didn’t make some radical changes. Case describes the transformation in his book, Open-Book Management:

The only way to survive, Stack decided, was to make sure everyone in the whole plant, all 119 employees, knew exactly how iffy things were. He began distributing the income statements, along with the various operational and budget numbers that made the income move one way or the other. He taught the managers and supervisors how to read the financials. They, in turn, gave an abbreviated course to hourly employees.

Everyone became aware of which departments and processes gained or lost money for the company and how their precise roles contributed to (or detracted from) income. They could see where waste—even small, forgettable kinds of wasteful behavior like frittering away office supplies—hurt the bottom line. Workers didn’t need to quietly speculate about how much money was going to the ownership group, since the numbers were right there.

At the same time, Stack introduced bonuses dependent on moving those numbers. There was an employee stock ownership plan, so everyone had a stake. The entire staff was motivated to work in concert to hit goals, as they would all benefit from the successes.

By 1992, annual revenues at Springfield ReManufacturing Corp. had gone from $16 million to $83 million. The company’s value had grown from $100,000 to $25 million. By 2013, the stock had risen from 10 cents a share to $348, and the original hourly workers owned, on average, stock worth more than $400,000.

The entrepreneurial Stack bottled his insight and labeled his philosophy the “Great Game of Business.” The metaphor refers to the notion that every employee can see the scoreboard (meaning the financial statements), they’re all on the same team, they all benefit from winning, and the process is fun. Stack continues to give lectures based on his story and holds regular conferences for managers and owners who hope to inject these concepts into their own workplaces. In Springfield alone, where SRC’s success was impossible for neighboring organizations to ignore, open-book techniques were adopted by a car dealership, a cleaning service, and even the local police department.

Some owners or managers might be reluctant to share numbers with employees. One concern is that workers might leak information to competitors. But if employees have been sufficiently motivated by equity stakes or bonuses that are entwined with company performance, the last thing they’ll want to do is harm the company by aiding a rival. An employee of Square, the privately held San Francisco–based payments company, tells me that over the multiple years that Square has been sharing financial numbers with its employees, there’s never been a single leak—despite operating within the incestuous, cutthroat realm that is the Bay Area technology sector.

Another worry is that sharing numbers might fuel employee resentment over how budgets are distributed. But according to Case, most low-level workers vastly overestimate how much of their company’s revenue is profit. When they learn how thin the margins truly are, they develop far more respect for attempts to limit needless expenditures. In situations where layoffs become necessary, opening the books can help workers understand why the company was forced to cut jobs. Case credits open-book management for frequently defusing adversarial relationships between labor unions and management. (Sharing information about individual salaries is still very rare, for obvious reasons. But consider: In the wake of the firing of Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times, there were reports that Abramson had battled ownership over getting fair pay in comparison to her predecessor in the job. Salary transparency could put an end to these kinds of conflicts. Still, most open-book firms choose to reveal payroll outlays in the aggregate.)

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block isn’t merely presenting the numbers, but presenting them in a way that’s understandable to all employees. “I still learn new concepts every time I look at our bookkeeping,” says my friend with the industrial plumbing parts company, “and as the president and owner, I expect to have a pretty good handle on it. For an hourly machinist, it might be a challenge. And they might be tempted to say, ‘Why can’t I just do my job?’ ”

But just “doing your job” as a hired hand, with no comprehension or motivation when it comes to how you contribute to the company’s bottom line, is exactly what open-book management seeks to eliminate. It thus becomes vital to teach employees some basic accounting and corporate finance concepts, with regular tutorials, so the numbers getting shared will have real weight and meaning. Open-book companies often end up developing their own educational modules as they figure out ways to make financial statements clear to all sorts of different workers.

Along with transparency and explication, the third leg of the open-book stool is making sure everyone has skin in the game. Knowing the numbers and what they represent only gets you so far. Workers must also be incentivized to move those numbers. But incenting  employees without giving them an idea of the impact they make financially can actually be counter-productive.

Open-book has always been a quirky management choice, rarely adopted by big, mainstream companies. As recently as October, a post in the New York Times’ You’re the Boss blog wondered why more corporations don’t open their books. But the strategy continues to find its adherents.

People say, It wouldn’t work for my business, but I’ve talked to people using it successfully at accounting firms, law firms, marketing agencies, and local governments, along with a lot of industrial companies. To me, it’s the most logical management system there is. Make your employee team a part of your corporations business solution, not just another part of the corporate problem.

 

Joe Buck, NCE

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