The toughest job of management

Now that I soon will be a manager for the first time in my life I am about to face the toughest job I’ve ever faced:

Making other people stars.

This has been on my thoughts for months. What Jeff Sandquist did so well was let me be the star.

This is counterintuitive, so listen closely.

What happened when he did that? Other people wanted to join his team.

He let them be stars too. Adam Kinney and Charles Torre are two of the most talented developers I’ve ever watched. I’d hire them in a nano-second, if they were on the market (they aren’t, cause Jeff treats them right).

How did he get Laura and Tina? Cause he understood his role: let his stars be stars and make sure they have everything they need to succeed.

It’s interesting but Jeff’s leadership helped with Channel 9 too. I learned from him that it’s better to turn the spotlight away from you and onto other people. That led to my decision to rarely be on camera and always put the focus on my interview subject. What was interesting was that by doing that I got even more attention.

We’ll soon see if I’m a good manager, but a lot of what I’m writing lately is just reminders to myself as to what I want to do when I join PodTech.

I’ve learned that in between jobs is a powerful time to write. Remember my Corporate Weblog Manifesto? I wrote that to myself right before I started my Microsoft job to remind myself of what I needed to do.

Yeah, this was punctuated by Amanda Congdon’s leaving from Rocketboom. I don’t know what happened beyond the “he said, she said” stuff that’s going on on their blogs. I’d rather link to their mediator, Chuck Olsen.

What’s going on makes me remember my divorce. I remember wanting to lash out. I remember talking with Buzz Bruggeman. He told me “take the high road.” I didn’t always follow his advice, but I tried to. It paid off well for me (Maryam now gets along with Patrick’s mom, enough that all three of us spent an afternoon together recently — that was mighty weird for me, let me tell you!)

I guess what I’m trying to say is, yes, I’d love to have Amanda working for me work for Amanda, cause that’s really what a manager does. And, even more, Chuck (the world needs more mediators, not to mention a guy who is talented with a camera, even during stressful times).

It soon will be time for me to sit back and let other people become stars.

Oh, and if they do become stars and want to leave, help them negotiate the best possible deal. Although, if I’m honest, I’ll tell you to see Maryam whenever it’s time to negotiate anything. I’m very happy she’s on my side.

What do you think the toughest job of management is? Any advice as I head into PodTech?

Business card best practices

I just organized my 1,011 business cards. I realized that is my most valuable asset from my career so far. The people I’ve met. The cards really don’t matter much anymore in the age of Google, but they do serve a purpose of reminding you about memories of meeting people.

Anyway, I realized that many business cards really sucked, so here’s best practices for making your next business card.

1) A good business card starts a conversation. My last ones at Microsoft, for instance, were imprinted with my info in braille. Now, I’ve actually handed my card to one person who was blind, but I found that always started a conversation when I handed my card to someone. Why? It felt different than any other card. Out of the 1,011 cards, by the way only two were imprinted in Braille (both were from Microsoft which offers that as an option on business cards). Another way to start a conversation? Make your card feel different. One of mine were made out of a rubbery material. I remember that made so much of an impression on people that some asked for two so they could show their boss.

2) Make sure your card can be scanned. I bought a business card scanner so that I could get my computers into computer form. This is probably the most important rule, if you want geeks to get ahold of you sometime in the future.

3) Don’t make non-standard sizes or shapes. Why? They can’t fit into binders. I bought Avery’s Business Card Pages and a binder to hold them all, that makes it easier to look through them and find cards. It’s amazing how many business cards can’t fit into those pages (I folded about 100 and couldn’t use about 10 at all).

4) Make sure the basics are on there. You know, your name, title, company, address, phone and fax numbers, email, URL of both your company’s Web site and your blog. A logo.

5) Include a line about what you do. So many cards don’t have any information about what either the company or you, personally, do. Now, Google can get away with that (its cards are among the worst of the big company cards, by the way, cause many of its employees’ titles don’t tell you a thing about what that person does. At least one Google card, from Jenifer Austin, doesn’t have any title. I guess Jenifer has a really secret job that no one is supposed to figure out) but your small company can’t get away with that. If you want, think about me. How will I remember you two years after meeting you at a geek dinner? Why would I write or call you? If you tell me your business and what you do, that’ll really help.

6) Break the rules, particularly corporate ones (but don’t get fired). I had two cards that weren’t approved by the corporate branding department. They always got conversations started (one had a drawing done by Hugh Macleod — I made those specifically for speaking at Google’s Zeitgeist conference. The cards matched my slides I used at that talk. The business cards were so popular that people came and asked for them cause someone else showed them mine).

7) Be different. One of my favorite cards? Matt Mullenweg’s. It says simply “1. Go to 2. Type in “Matt.” 3. Press “I’m feeling lucky.” (It also has his phone number on it). Or, Kelly Goto’s card looks like a BART ticket (subway in San Francisco).

8) Put your picture on it. Ben McConnell has one on his and it helped me remember him. It also stood out when I was just paging through the book.

9) Put your corporate tag line on the back. Alan Cooper’s has a logo and says “product design for a digital world.” But also includes lots of space to write notes on.

10) If you do business in two countries, include both languages. Liang Lu, Vice President of Blogchina, has English on one side, Chinese on the other. Ellen K. Pao, partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, has English on one, Japanese on the other.

11) If you don’t put anything on your card other than your name, at least make sure you show up in Google/MSN and Yahoo. I got one from Thomas Michael Winningham that doesn’t have anything other than his name and a picture of a drink on it. I can’t remember anything about him. It definitely is the most interesting card, though, cause it’s so minimalist and breaks all the rules above except for “starts a conversation.”

Do you have any tips for making a great business card?

Update: John Tokash says he carries two of my cards around with him everywhere he goes. Yikes, I wonder what I’ll do for my third card. Hey, Hugh, can you do me another card?

A new marital threat?

Maryam wants me to get my hands off of the computer and go out with her and do some chores. I’ve been delaying, answering email and blogging and stuff like that. So, she got a little mad and said:

“I’m going to unboom you if you don’t get down here right now.”

OK, that worked. See ya all later.

Sad story, can we help?

One of the last messages I got as a Microsoft employee was one of the saddest. I thought all weekend about sharing it with you, but it is getting worse and thought maybe we could do something nice for the family.

Jan Nelson, a Microsoft employee, told a story about his neighbor, Tim, that’s him here, who fell off of the roof of his second story home, and was airlifted to Harborview Trauma Center in Seattle. You might not know that place, but it’s where the wife of Joe Beda works. Don’t know him? He is a tech lead on the Google Talk team up in Kirkland (his wife is a doctor in the emergency room there).

I guess that’s why I’m writing about this. We’re all connected somehow. Cross company, cross neighborhoods. Life is so uncertain. “It’s not a lock,” Jan wrote, reminding us once again to tell the people close to us what we think of them.

Well, the tragedy is he’s clinging to life, has two collapsed lungs, is on machines, and isn’t able to care for his two sons, 11 and 15. They are terrified right now and don’t know what the future holds for them.

If you can help, here’s the info.

Checks or deposits to:
Jan Nelson fbo Fredenburg Family
Washington Mutual

Any branch can accept donations. The Overlake branch address is:
Overlake Park
1955 156th Ave. NE
Bellevue, WA 98007

PayPal account for the fund is:

Why I don’t use Flash

Why don’t I use Flash for my Web sites? Here’s a good reason.

I have a brand new Windows Vista machine. Loaded Firefox on it. And visited PodShow (a podcasting competitor of PodTech’s).

This is what it looked like. Now, if a “normal” person (non geek) hit this site, what would they do? I’ll tell you what they’ll do. They’ll hit back and get out of there. Note the title tag. Be Patient? No, I click that little green back button and leave before I get hurt. Thank you very much. Have a nice day.

Lesson: always have HTML first before you get to Flash content.

The geek blog I hate to love

Mike Gunderloy finds the coolest developer stuff, albeit pretty Microsoft-centric. He’s one of those developer blogs that I love to read. Well, sorta. His layout lately makes it tougher (he has big blocky advertisements) and his RSS feed puts all items into one item, which makes them difficult to email around to my friends and coworkers, but that’s OK. I’ve gotten over those deficiencies.

Do you have a good developer-centric blog that you can recommend? Something like, which has a ton of good info on it.

Yes, I’m rebuilding my reading list now that I’m free. By the way, I pushed my start date to next Tuesday so I could relax a bit more, catch up on chores relating to selling our house and my mom’s estate, etc.