Monthly Archives: July 2010


“Don’t shoot the messenger” by Albana Vrioni

Albana Vrioni brings to an end this summer’s season of guest bloggers, next week Harley is back at his post.

Albana’s blog is fortunate timing as this weekend the personal engineer of formula one racing driver, Felipe Massa, was asked to pass on a ‘bad news’ message.  He was told to order Felipe to give way and let his team mate overtake and win the race.  The only ‘mistake’ the messenger seems to have made was to say ‘sorry’ rather faintly at the end of his message.  This one word apparently gave the game away that his coded message was a fix.  I wonder what the engineer’s boss said to him after the race when Ferrari received a 100,000$ fine for breaking the F1 rules?  Hopefully it was “not to worry, these things happen, in fact it was my decision, I should have relayed the message myself”

Albana's Blog:

Although the expression comes from distant times, when the messenger of the bad news rather then the author was often punished, it reflects a deep-rooted truth still valid even today: People do not like to hear bad news!

Not only we do not like to hear bad news, but we also have the tendency to still “punish” the messenger, who in the organizational context of today, is often in some way accountable for the bad news.   Nowadays such “punishments” are mostly encountered in forms of intimidation, such as bursts of ironic laughter, explosions of anger, or degrading the messenger, sometimes even firing them.

A management culture where “bad news” is handled in this way doesn’t help encourage failure free operations.   

The fear of being shot for telling your message induces the fear of telling the bare truth and present the status for what it is.  Therefore research and analysis based decision-making become redundant and open the door for flawed business strategies and operational plans.

You can recognize the presence of  “intolerance to bad news” management culture when you hear someone:
  • Present the results of their own work or the status of his/her department or group in the third person or a passive voice, (e.g. “the launch of product x was not successful” as compared to “we were not successful with the launch of product x”)
  • Present the status in generalized way so as to cover up for the areas leading/ contributing to the failure
  • Present failure in an implicit rather then explicit way (“we still have a lot of work to do” rather then “we are very likely going to over run the deadline”)

We are by human nature selective in what we want to hear.  As managers, however, we owe it to ourselves to question how we handle bad news.  “Shooting the messenger” will more likely than not result in us hearing what we want to hear until we end up caught out in fault.

Albana's Biography:

Associate of The Bayard Partnership and owner of Vrioni Consulting.
In my personal and professional life I have gone through radical changes sometimes forced, sometimes by choice…. but at all times I have used circumstance as an opportunity to grow as a person and as a professional.
I have experienced success and failure all the like and became stronger through the perplexities of finding my way to a bigger purpose.
Managing change has been a constant in my life; my ambition is to lead it!

2016-11-17T08:25:12+00:000 Comments

Synergy between email and social media by Tamara Gielen

Today, we present you Tamara Gielen, who will talk about her passion for email marketing. She shares some lessons learned and talks about the synergybetween email and social media.

Back in 1999, when Harley interviewed me for the role of sales coordinator at Eonic Systems, he immediately figured out that I was a marketer, not a sales person. And hired me as a marketing assistant.  Eleven years later, I am now recognized as an authority in the field of email marketing, speaking at conferences across the world.

Email marketing is my passion, and it has been since 2001 when I sent out my very first email campaign inviting customers and prospects to an event.

With social media being all the hype these days, I'm often asked if email marketing is still working. And I can tell you with confidence, yes, it is. Companies are not likely to drop email in favor of social media, first of all because not everyone uses social media, but also because everyone has different communication preferences.
As a marketer you have to provide your content wherever your audience is consuming content: in the inbox, on your blog or in an RSS feed, on Twitter, on Facebook etc.

Email and social media are really a match made in heaven. Twitter, Facebook and blogs are excellent places to build relationships with people and get them to sign up to your newsletter. Email is a great channel to help move prospects through the sales funnel, to get people to buy from you or to increase customer loyalty.

Social media are also excellent channels to drive people to from your emails to continue the conversation. One company that does this extremely well is Hubspot ( Read their blog, sign up to their newsletter and take notes.

When it comes down to it, both email and social media are about content and relationship building. If you don't provide value in your tweets, your Facebook updates, your blog posts and your email messages, you'll lose followers, fans, readers and subscribers.

A short story:  re the early days of e-mail marketing and the mistakes that people still make today.

Back in the early days (2001), like everyone else at that time, we used Outlook to send out the message to 500 names at the time (because that was the maximum number of addresses I was allowed to enter in the bcc field).

I'll spare you the details, but we very soon got blocked by the mail server at one of our biggest customers. Even messages from our sales and support teams couldn't get through anymore. They had blocked our entire domain. And it took quite a while for them to allow our emails again. Needless to say that sales was a little upset with us. Yes, that's an understatement.

So we decided we needed a dedicated platform to send out our email campaigns. Not only would that prevent the issue from happening again (because the emails would be sent from a different IP address and mail server), we would also be able to see who had opened the emails we sent and who had clicked on our links. If you've ever hit the send button on an email campaign, you know how fascinating it is to watch these numbers go up immediately after you launch a campaign.

Fast forward to 2010. I still see a lot of companies using Outlook to send their email campaigns and everytime I come across one, I cringe. Why would you risk getting blacklisted when sending out an email campaign through a dedicated email service provider costs peanuts?

Apart from that, I'm glad to see that more and more companies are starting to use email marketing but it also means that competition in the inbox is tough. You literally have 1-2 seconds to convince someone to open your email and once they've opened it, you have less than 5 seconds to get them to click. So you better make sure your message is good.  Each and every message has to provide value to the subscriber. If it doesn't, they'll unsubscribe or, even worse, they'll mark your emails as spam.  Send them 3 emails they don't find interesting, and you can be sure that they'll be quick to delete the 4th one without even opening it.

So your email campaign is only as good as the last message you send out. Sending one message to everyone isn't working anymore. In fact, it never worked. Just as you would do with postal mailings, you need to send the right message at the right time to the right person. And that's easier said than done. It requires integration of databases, it requires vision and strategy, it requires a deep understanding of who your audiences are and what their needs are at various stages of the buying cycle.

You also need their permission if you want to add them to your list. Not only is that a legal requirement in the EU, it's also good practice to only send emails to people that have given you explicit permission to do so. I don't care that the law allows you to send emails to your customers without having permission. It's a bad idea. You'll find out quick enough why that's a bad idea when you get blacklisted and you have to prove to the blacklist owner that you have permission to send emails to the people that reported your emails as spam. Always ask permission first.

I could go on and on and on about email marketing but I'm sure I'd bore you to death :) I guess I'm blessed to have found a niche that I am so passionate about and where work never feels like work.
If you're interested in reading more about email marketing, I invite you to check out my blog  (

Tamara's biography

Tamara Gielen is an independent email marketing consultant. She helps companies use email marketing to more effectively reach their goals and objectives. She is the author of "Be Relevant" (, a well-known email marketing best practices blog, and the founder of the "Email Marketer's Club" (, a community of almost 4,000 email marketers from all over the world.

2016-11-17T08:25:12+00:000 Comments

What about casting your team? by Bertrand Potier

Bertrand Potier, enterprise architect, project manager and a regular blogger presents us with some comparisons with our work environment and the film industry that are not as far apart as you might think.

Bertrand's Blog:

Great movies are the combination of several key elements: a good script, a team of talented people, some resources and a director able to successfully mix all these elements. There are usually a few things that you'll hear about this director after the movie release:

  • He chose to work on this project
  • He had a vision about what should the movie be like
  • He had the courage to say no and make choices
  • He would not compromise on what he thought is important
  • He has brought together a great team of individuals
  • He inspired and motivated his team

One would certainly recognise here qualities we would say are essential to a good interim, delivery or project manager. Still, there's one activity of making a movie that is a key element to these and that we rarely hear about: casting a team.

While there are often forces beyond our will driving how and with whom we'll have to live, work and collaborate, we do have to take responsibility for making these relationships successful. While biochemicals, fate, your mother or your boss’ mind might have been at work first, it's never too late to assess how well fitted a person is to her or his role in the relationship. Let's look at it from the casting perspective:

  • Audition: just like job interviews, auditions are either testing or giving the opportunity to show one's ability, but unlike interviews, auditions are usually listening more than questioning and requiring the audited to be more active;
  • Audition pieces: listing skills and experience might be interesting but demonstrating them is far more striking and useful to a proper assessment;
  • Casting panel: it usually takes more than one person and more than one perspective to make a good assessment of another person’s skills and personality;
  • Group performances: going beyond the audition, group performances are assessing the chemistry and capacity of a group to perform and deliver.
We don't always have the chance to pick our team members, but casting or observing them from the casting perspective is essential. It's a chance to make them actors of their own life, within the project or organisation and to get an actual and dynamic assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. Casting should provide the key information to be able to fit the right roles to the right profiles and create a team with which a good director can achieve great results.

To conclude, I'll let the well named film director Robert Wise deliver one of his quotes: "When you cast the actors, you've done much of the work. Now, you may need to guide them a little, take it up or down, have them go faster or slower, but the casting process is crucial".

The question now is: are you taking the time to cast your team or yourself into an activity, a project, a collaboration ?"

Bertrand's Biography:

Bertrand Potier is an Associate of The Bayard Parthership and a strong advocate of cross-fertilisation: applying techniques and knowledge from different fields, to create effective and pragmatic approaches to build and deliver solutions. His specialties and interests are: interim management, delivery management, enterprise architecture and productivity & efficiency improvements. He satisfies his insatiable curiosity by cultivating his interest in communication, psychology, human biology, sciences and geopolitics.

2016-11-17T08:25:13+00:000 Comments

Work-life balance! by Kurt De Ruwe

Today you will be taken into a very meaningful story by Kurt De Ruwe, CIO at Bayer MaterialScience, Kurt holds a solid track record of delivery and innovation both for business process and IT technology related activities.

Kurt's Blog:

When Harley asked me to write a blog I initially thought about writing about the difference in the sales and marketing approach of two big software companies.  One has good software but has sales people that are not able to explain and sell it, the other has sales and marketing people that are capable of selling hot air but the software does not always work as they make it appear.

I read Harley’s blog almost weekly and for me a good blog needs to leave something behind.  A little teaser in your brain that in the days after you have read, pops up now and again and makes you think or makes you dream. 

A recent event reminded me of how important family is and this is why you will now get something totally different.

Since 3 years I work during the week in Germany and return to spend the weekend in Belgium.  My wife handles nearly everything but when it comes down to mathematics and helping the boys this is my task.  Some time ago my eldest son had a big test on a Wednesday and on that Monday we spent nearly 4 hours using Skype, MSN, webcams… to get him to a point where he got the concepts of what he had to learn.  The Tuesday afternoon he called me almost in panic as he still had not grasped it.  I cancelled my afternoon meetings and drove to Belgium.  We sat down and surprisingly 15 minutes later he got it.  He was embarrassed because I drove so far but for me it was worth it. 

Before you start seeing me as ‘Super Dad’, I must admit that this is one of the rare occasions where I put everything aside to help him out.

Often we sacrifice a lot of things for our career and unfortunately it always is when it is too late or nearly too late that we realize this.  The remainder of the blog is a text I received myself which I would like to share with you.  Hopefully it will trigger something.   You can stop reading here but if you continue you need to read to the end.  I do not know the author but I relate to it from time to time.  If you recognize yourself in it then know that you have the power to do something about it.  I wish that my sons, when they were 5 or 6 years old, would have asked me for 7 Euros.

A man came home late from work, tired and irritated. His five year old son sat in front of the door waiting for him:
Son: “Daddy may I ask you something?”
Father: “Yes, of course, what is it?”
Son: “Daddy, how much you earn per hour?”
Father: “That none of your business, why do you ask such things?” said the angry father.
Son: “I just want to know. Please tell me how much you earn per hour?”
Father: “If you really want to know, I make 14.00Euro per hour"
Son: “Oh” said the son with his head bowed
Son: “Daddy may I please borrow 7.00Euro?”
The father was furious. If the only reason why you ask me so you can borrow money for some stupid toy to buy then you can immediately go up to your bed. And think about it why you are so selfish. I’m not going to work hard every day for such childish silly things.
The boy quietly went to his room and shut the door.
The man sat down and was still angry about the questions of his son. "How dare he ask such things just to get money?"
After an hour or so, the man calmed down and started to think:
Maybe the child really urgently needs to buy something with the 7.00Euro, and actually the child never really asks much about money.
The man went to the boy’s room and opened the door.
"Are you asleep, son?" asked the father
"No, Daddy. I’m awake." Said the son.
"I’ve been thinking, maybe I was too hard for you. It was a long day and I have vented on you. Here is the seven Euro you asked."
The boy laughed and sat upright. "Thank you daddy!" he cried. Then he took from under his pillow some coins.
The man saw that the boy already had money and became angry again.
The boy sat quietly counting his money, and then looked to his father.
"Why ask me money if you already have money?" the father grumbled.
"Because I did not have enough." Replied the boy.
"Dad, I now have 14.00Euro. Can I buy one hours of your time? Please come home tomorrow one hour earlier. I would like to eat with you."
The father was touched. He put his arms around the boy and asked him to be forgiven.

It is a little reminder to all who work hard in life. We cannot let time slip through our fingers without spending any time with those who really count for us. It is all about finding a balance.

Kurt's Biography:

Kurt studied Economics at Antwerp University.  After early assignments at IBM and then Mobil focusing on business analytics he joined ICI in the role of Development Manager.  By the age of 33 Kurt was appointed Global IT Director, holding that position until 2007 when he became Global CIO for Bayer Material Sciences in Leverkusen, Germany. Kurt has a solid track record of delivery and driving innovation both for business process and IT technology related activities. He has built a reputation for daring to take on the seemingly impossible and driving it through to successful fruition, if there is a strategic advantage for the business to embrace technological change then Kurt is not afraid to be the first to use it.  Strategic advantage often means getting there first.

2016-11-17T08:25:13+00:005 Comments