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May 16, 2008

Tech Community ISO Leadership. Must Be Glutton For Punishment.

Have fun working with the community. You won't be able to sit down for a year.

Everyone in New Orleans last weekend who was in the final session about the community prolly heard me talk about the very real side that most people don’t want to hear about.

All most people ever hear about is how great, grand, and wonderful the community is.

And you know what? That can be true. It really can.

But in most cases, the wonderfulness occurs on a one-to-one basis. Direct interactions between 2 folks who have discovered, through some connection they have in common, that they can help each other out.

That is how business is done, folks. That’s exactly how you and your customers interact successfully. That’s how ANY successful business interacts with its customers.

Unfortunately, that is NOT how the community works. Or at least, not how it thinks it should be working.

Which, in my opinion, is where it stumbles, badly.

A whole lot of folks are spending a WHOLE lot of time, money, energy, and hair follicles figuring out how to get EVERYONE in lockstep.


That’s a crock.

The secret to leadership? it’s so freaking simple people.

You decide what, generally, you want to happen. A goal.

You put together a kickass and diverse team with the skills to make that happen.

You give them the tools/funding/support they need to make things happen.

Then you get the H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICK out of their way. You stand back and see how they are doing. If someone’s kicking ass, YOU TELL THEM THAT, AND OTHERS TOO!

If someone is struggling, you find out why. Get them the help they need, remove an obstacle, whatever.

And you do your primary job. Which is both super simple, and difficult beyond belief

Tell the story. Get the word out. Get NEW BLOOD excited and fired up about what you are doing! Doggedly. Persistently. Continually.

No matter who ridicules you or tries to tear you down. Because it will happen. Especially in our community, if you are in the US.

Despite whatever jealousy or spite or elitism you will encounter. Even to the point of people trying to steal or take over what your team is trying to accomplish. Because it will happen. I can tell you that from personal experience, ESPECIALLY in our community.

I can tell you…

Looking around our little biosphere that so many folks think is so all-mighty and all-important (which is also a crock) for some real leadership?

I’m not seeing any worth having.

None at all.

Despite that, during that session I pledged to resurrect Alabama SMB, which died a slow, horrible death thanks completely to my missteps at the helm.

I plan to keep that promise, but not steering the ship myself.

So this is also a call to IT Professionals in the state of Alabama. If you want to try to create something that will help you, and that you can be proud of, then you need to ping me within the next 2 weeks.

If no one shows up, ready to either lead or help, there will be no second chance.

And Alabama SMB will be fully dead and buried.

|| posted by chris under clueless, community, rant, rx || comments (16) || ||


  1. I can agree with you on these points. At the end of the day there can be only one leader for any of us and that is ourselves. Of course we all like to be praised and told what a wonderful thing we’re doing, but if that becomes the primary focus then something important is lost. I personally am learning to try and focus on the postives because there are always bad things to focus on. I’ve had my disagreements with people and had others say I was completely wrong. In all these things, I’ve been comfortable in myself and what I’m doing, part selfish and part giving. One thing I will say that being a part of SBSC has been one of the best periods of my life and that is for one reason and that is the people.

    comment by Vijay Singh Riyait — May 16, 2008 @ 11:21 am

  2. Chris:

    There is a place where some of us are doing exactly what you describe, on a national and international level.

    It’s HTG.


    comment by Dave Sobel — May 16, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

  3. Hit me via the cell 205-yes-john. I would love to help out with Alabama SMB. I have tried to reach you a couple times but my e-mails seem to be hitting a blackhole or your just really busy. I feel like we can work together to make something work.

    comment by John Scott — May 16, 2008 @ 4:05 pm

  4. @ Vijay…

    I totally understand what you mean. But flaming egos are the problem.

    When “leaders” the lack of courage to truly listen to other people because to do so puts them at risk of being proven wrong…

    That’s not leadership.

    That’s dictatorship.

    comment by chris — May 16, 2008 @ 4:52 pm

  5. @ Dave…

    I respectfully disagree, for 2 reasons.

    1.) The ASTOUNDING lack of disclosure about HTS/HTG involvement in SMB Summit. Before, during, and after. Makes me wonder why something is so closely hidden. Kinda like Scientology.

    2.) Different fishbowl, but still swimming with the same sort of fish. And their offal, to boot.

    3.) I would rather sell Amway. I’d get to meet more kinds of different people. And sleep better at night.

    Ok, that was three. Doesn’t change the fact it’s the truth.

    comment by chris — May 16, 2008 @ 4:56 pm

  6. Chris:

    What do you think needed to be disclosed? I don’t follow the problem, honestly.


    comment by Dave Sobel — May 19, 2008 @ 10:20 am

  7. @ Dave…

    Other than speaker bios, there was little to no mention of HTS/HTG in the conference materials, nor any mention in any announcements about SMB Summit anywhere else. I found that very strange, particularly given the final makeup of the speaker slate.

    Which kinda points to the bigger issue I have with our community, such as it is, which is the astounding lack of variety among the people and the ideas floating around.

    Altho I wasn’t at SMB Summit, if you had exploded a WMD that vaporized white guys between the age of 25-65, who would have been left? Damn few folks, I’d bet.

    The conference suffered from the same hermeticism, IMNSHO. And weakness to white guy WMDs.

    comment by chris — May 19, 2008 @ 10:55 am

  8. Chris:

    I don’t disagree necessarily with the fact that it wasn’t profiled… but I ask why does it matter? it wasn’t an HTG conference, but many “HTGers” are leaders in the industry.

    I don’t disagree with your comments about diversity, but you’re presenting this like it’s some conspiracy. I don’t think it is.


    comment by Dave Sobel — May 19, 2008 @ 3:06 pm

  9. @ Dave…

    I think that there might be some disagreement about whether SMB Summit was an HTG conference or not.

    Official or otherwise, when the slate of speakers is either…

    1.) Microsoft blue badges
    2.) HTG members

    I think there’s a good case to be made that it’s either…

    1.) An MS conference
    2.) An HTG conference

    And to be honest, I don’t really give a rip either way, until someone (like Mark Crall) wants to know why a certain slice of the “community” is MIA.

    comment by chris — May 19, 2008 @ 4:40 pm

  10. Everyone who attended who I spoke to thought it was a fantastic event.

    I’ll respectfully point out you didn’t attend, and so it’s at best difficult to judge the conference. I can’t speak to content at NOLA for the same reason — I wasn’t there.

    Mark’s question was legit — he wondered if some in the community turned their nose at the event. From the responses he got, it seemed they didn’t.

    comment by Dave Sobel — May 19, 2008 @ 9:34 pm

  11. @ Dave…

    Which would be why I never posted a bit I wrote titled “Where Has All The Disclosure Gone?” regarding conferences (not just SMB Summit) and other initiatives in our little fishbowl of a community that don’t seem to tell the whole story of what they’re up to.

    I’ll respectfully point out that NOWHERE did I mention SMB Summit, nor HTG in any post. Not until you brought up SMB Summit as being somehow different or above that.

    Personally, I ruled out attending SMB Summit because of the curious lack of disclosure. That was a personal decision. If I missed great content, that’s my loss. Doesn’t change the fact that I found the utter silence about the influence (or not) of HTG on SMB Summit kinda eerie.

    In the interest of full disclosure, you yourself were a speaker at SMB Summit, right? Just like I was a speaker at

    Which then brings up the inevitable question of speaker compensation, if any, and whether that means our assessments of the relative worth of attending SMB Summit or are affected or somehow colored by the fact that we were part of the respective delivery teams.

    And you are right as far as Mark’s question goes…he asked whether people turned their nose at the event, which as far I know wasn’t in play.

    Far more interesting tho to ask the inverse question…did the event turn its nose at some people?

    comment by chris — May 19, 2008 @ 10:43 pm

  12. Chris:

    Nice to have a discussion rather than a flame war. :)

    Starting with disclosure (let’s call this point one. I’ll use it again), I think everyone needs to view every event, book, or purchase with the same critical eye — someone is out to make money. Everything has to pay for itself, and so someone is getting something out of it. These events are here to MAKE MONEY.

    You asked where leadership was. I answered, and yes I did offer HTG. You then brought up the Summit. My answer to you is not flippant, but the fact that I do see a group of companies grouping together to share ideas and make each other stronger. Is it potentially a gated community? At certain levels, yes. But the “model” behind HTG is to now offer online groups for any to participate in, with levels behind it.

    And yes, see point one.

    Second, who did you ASK about the HTG “influence”? It certainly wasn’t “hidden”.

    Yes, I did speak at SMB Summit. I hope to speak at both WPC and SMB Nation, and I’ll speak generally anywhere I’m asked. Speaker compensation is entirely a different topic, but again… see my point one.

    And finally… did the event turn it’s nose to people? I think events in the SMB space are starting to stratify, and we’re seeing different events target different groups. SMB Summit was pitched as a “larger than one man shop” event. That was the target — it wasn’t the generalist, but more focused on the growth oriented business. That was also clear.

    I’m just pretty confused — honestly confused, and want to know more — about why you feel some disclosure wasn’t done? Who didn’t disclose? What should have been announced?

    I felt I knew pretty well what the event was. Yes, I was involved, but it was pretty well lined out when I was asked.

    comment by Dave Sobel — May 20, 2008 @ 5:12 am

  13. @ Dave…

    Believe it or not, you just proved nearly every one of my points.

    The issue is that until this year SMB Summit was a different sort of conference. I don’t know specifically, because I had never been to it in the past either. But it was, and for one simple reason…

    The influence of HTG, if any, was not the levels it was this year. That’s a fact. The slate of speakers was not either MS or HTG members or authors. That’s a fact.

    If you dig enough on the site, and know who is who, then it’s pretty clear once you hit the sponsorship page and the address is Harlan, IA.

    Honestly, I’d be interested to know what was lined out about the event to folks on the inside, because from the outside, it was anything but clear.

    And the only reason this has come up at all is because a few folks with an opinion that matters to me (Mark Crall would be one of them) thought the MVPs, as a group, were boycotting SMB Summit.

    Nowhere did the conference disclose that it had now become an HTG conference. I personally think that’s weird.

    First of all, if the HTG groups are so super-awesome (not saying they aren’t) then why not include it in the PR or SMB Summit?

    The thing is, you may have known what the event was. Because it was explained to you when you were asked. That’s involvement and info the general public didn’t have.

    Also, I was amazed at how many times I got a direct call or an e-mail from someone MS about SMB Summit.

    So yeah…I’m starting to think my original analogy about Scientology was closer to the mark than I originally realized.

    comment by chris — May 20, 2008 @ 8:01 am

  14. Um… Ok. I am left with the same question from the beginning, which is that I don’t see the problem you see. We are likely at a point where we won’t see eye to eye, and since its ultimately not revenue generating (nor resulting in any of my magic three motivators), I think we have reached the end of usefulness to this.

    See you at WPC.

    comment by Dave Sobel — May 20, 2008 @ 11:06 am

  15. @ Dave…

    I’m still wondering if there was ever any usefulness to it.

    Yep, see you in Houston.

    comment by chris — May 20, 2008 @ 11:35 am

  16. Well that was anti-climatic…

    comment by Mark Crall — May 20, 2008 @ 10:17 pm

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