Bet you thought this was going to be about something other than leadership, didn’t you? Sorry to disappoint!

I awoke this morning to one of nature’s most beautiful landscapes. After a freshbusiness, leadership, connectivity, technology, marketing snowfall, the Mud Creek valley was a winter wonderland. At first glance it is a world of black and white. However if you look closely it is a palette of dozens of shades of black:  charcoal, ebony, midnight blue, onyx, noir, and jet; dozens of shades of white: snow, ivory, cornsilk, powder, cream, and antique; and yes, dozens (though I didn’t count to 50) shades of grey: light grey, silver, Davy’s grey, ash, slate and Xanadu. There are even shades of greens and browns.

It struck me as I drove my morning commute through the Mud Creek and Fall Creek Valleys that leadership is a lot like a winter landscape. At first glance, many of decisions, opportunities and challenges appear to be black and white, but as we grow as leaders we realize we are really operating in a world of shades of grey. The successful leader slows down to appreciate the landscape and makes thoughtful decisions based on the nuances of a very complex palette.

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

Bet you thought this was going to be about something other than leadership, didn’t you? Sorry to disappoint!

I awoke this morning to one of nature’s most beautiful landscapes. After a freshbusiness, leadership, connectivity, technology, marketing snowfall, the Mud Creek valley was a winter wonderland. At first glance it is a world of black and white. However if you look closely it is a palette of dozens of shades of black:  charcoal, ebony, midnight blue, onyx, noir, and jet; dozens of shades of white: snow, ivory, cornsilk, powder, cream, and antique; and yes, dozens (though I didn’t count to 50) shades of grey: light grey, silver, Davy’s grey, ash, slate and Xanadu. There are even shades of greens and browns.

It struck me as I drove my morning commute through the Mud Creek and Fall Creek Valleys that leadership is a lot like a winter landscape. At first glance, many of decisions, opportunities and challenges appear to be black and white, but as we grow as leaders we realize we are really operating in a world of shades of grey. The successful leader slows down to appreciate the landscape and makes thoughtful decisions based on the nuances of a very complex palette.

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

Part 5 of the series on Corporate Connectivity, other posts include: N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – The PilotN.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 1: NetworksN.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 2: Communication (and Collaboration), N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 3: Information, and N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 4: Systems

So, are you asking yourself, “Why are we doing this?” or “What’s in it for me?” The answer will differ depending on your view of the organization.

If you are one of those we serve, you will benefit from a much more holistic approach to assisting you with the barriers and roadblocks you may face.

As a customer, shopper or donor, we will be able interact with you on a much more personal level, understanding what you want and need from your experience with us.

Our partners will have a much more cohesive view of our relationship with them.

We will be able to communicate to the central Indiana community the economic impact of our programs and services.

And last, but certainly not least, our employees will experience an organization in which information flows throughout the organization, where ideas for innovation can come from anybody, and where collaboration enables us to achieve more together than we ever could apart.

In their book, “The Social Organization,” authors Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald raise the questions: “What if you couldHorizon_Sun_rise__Wallpaper_jjwbl tap into the full talent, creativity, experience and passion of your employees, customers, and suppliers? What if you could minimize the constraints imposed by specialization and compartmentalization? What if you could retain or recapture some of the benefits, human and organizational, of that collaborative start-up without losing the glue that currently holds the organization together?”

This is the promise of N.C.I.S.: To leverage the work of Marketing, Technology Solutions and our cross functional teams — the Corporate Connectivity Committee and Goodwill Connections Team — to transform Goodwill Indy into a social organization; an organization that “strategically applies mass collaboration to address significant business challenges and opportunities” and further offers opportunities, provides services, and leverages its resources with those of others to improve the education, skills, employability and economic self-sufficiency of adults and the future employability of young people.

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

Part 5 of the series on Corporate Connectivity, other posts include: N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – The PilotN.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 1: NetworksN.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 2: Communication (and Collaboration), and N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 3: Information

Information-Systems-and-Computer-Applications-CLEPThe underlying systems that tie all of this together are evolving at a lightning pace. Driven by the continuing consumerization and “appification” of IT, we have seen an explosion of technology, including smart phones and tablets. In 2012, for example, the number of smartphones in the market exceeds 1 billion, and it is estimated that by 2015, tablet sales will exceed that of traditional PCs.

This technology explosion has help to drive the skyrocketing growth of social media platforms. Facebook users have exceeded 1/7th of the world’s population, and during the 2012 presidential debates, people tweeted over 10.5 million times in a two-hour period.

Add to this the growth of software-as-a-service and other types of cloud-based applications, which are expected to triple in the next three years, and you have a pace of change that is mind-boggling. IT departments the world over are trying to keep up.

Goodwill Technology Solutions has embraced all of these changes with the motto of “any time, any place, any device.” Our internal server architecture is about 90% virtualized. Server virtualization was the first step in our strategy to become more agile and reduce the time spent “keeping the lights on.”

The next step was to move away from dictating which smartphone an employee must use to a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach that enables our employees to pick the smartphone that works best for them. We were also one of the first companies to embrace tablet technology, using iPads throughout the organization, including issuing one to each of our IT Service Technicians to enable them to stay on top of their support tickets.

We took a significant step in the “cloud” by migrating from Microsoft Exchange and Outloook to Google Apps for email, contacts and calendaring. Most recently, we launched cloud-based HRIS (Human Resources Information System) and payroll systems using Workday as Goodwill’s Employee Management System.

Next Up: Series Finale: The Results

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

Fourth in a series of posts exploring corporate connectivity: N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – The PilotN.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 1: Networks, N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 2: Communication and Collaboration

“Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.”

business, technology, marketing, connectivity, collaborationThe same could be said for data. “Data, data everywhere, but no information to use.”  In 2012, approximately 2.5 quintillion (2.5 x 1018) bytes of data were created every day! The industry has tagged this with the name “Big Data.” Making sense of all that big data and turning it into actionable information has given rise to a new type of position in many companies, that of “data scientist.”

For decades, companies have been trying to turn data into information through technologies such as data warehouses and business intelligence applications. Most of this effort was focused on their own internal data. However, with the growth of internet technologies, mobile technologies and the computerization of just about everything, more of the focus is shifting to data that is not only created outside the corporation, it’s stored outside the company, too.

Transforming this data and managing this information is vital to effectively running a business today. These changes are having a significant impact on traditional marketing. In an interview with Bruce Rogers of Forbes magazine, Rory Findlay of Egon Zehnder’s Global Consumer Products Practice stated, “…the game has been transformed. Consumers used to be anonymous. Businesses marketed to large demographic groups, differentiated by lifestyle attributes. But increasingly, marketing now targets individual consumers whose behaviors and preferences can be known and predicted with remarkably nuanced precision. At the same time, Digital Marketing is vastly increasing the number of consumer touch points.” [1]

Facebook is one of the top dogs of harvesting online data to customize the user experience. Ads are tailored to you from the pages you visit, the posts you “Like” and other online habits. As an example, a Facebook user I know remarked, “When I log on, the ads that appear on the side bar are for Chicago Bulls, IU and Michigan Wolverines products. I get ads for Jay-Z and Eminem concerts.” (Thanks, B!)

The data at Goodwill Indy is approaching 15 terabytes. It’s not a lot in comparison to some companies, but it’s equivalent to about 3,750,000 song downloads, to put it in consumer terms.

In 2012, we processed more than 5,000,000 sales transactions and another 1,900,000 donation transactions. Until the launch of our loyalty card program, Goodwill Rewards, we knew little about our shoppers and donors except in aggregate or anecdotally. Today, with almost 300,000 members, we know much more about who is shopping and donating, where are they shopping and donating, and what are they are buying and donating. We can use this information to more effectively manage our retail operations. More importantly, however, we can combine this information with social media and other digital marketing to connect with and engage with our shoppers and donors. In short, we can improve the customer experience.


[1] “Seeking CMOs: Must Know Big Data and Digital Marketing,” Forbes.Com, January 15, 2013.

Next Up: Systems

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

Third in a series of post on Corporate Connectivity: the Confluence of Networks, Communication (and Collaboration), Information, and Systems. N.C.I.S Indianapolis – Pilot and N.C.I.S Indianapolis – Episode 1

“A true revolution in corporate communications is unfolding with regard to how corporate relationships are affected in all areas: press and public relations, investors, partners and clients, employees, etc. Understanding and using this change presents one of the great challenges of our time,” states Paul A. Argenti in his book, “Digital Strategies for Powerful Corporate Communications.”Business people standing with hands together

The catalyst for this revolution is the dramatic decline in the cost of communication brought about by the Internet and the ease of collaboration enabled by social media. The impact of this revolution has lead the authors of “Wikinomics,” Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, to believe that companies that do not change their structures will become irrelevant, while those that leverage the lowering cost of communication and social media to create mass collaboration will survive and dominate.

This revolution means that more and more of a company’s communications are through digital media of all kinds: web (Internet), social media and mobile. This leads to the marriage of marketing and technology. Many industry pundits predict that Marketing’s slice of the technology budget will exceed that of traditional IT’s in the next three to five years.

Goodwill Indy is no exception. Rarely am I involved in discussions with our mission partners that do not involve some sort of marketing and communication. Likewise, many meetings and projects spearheaded by Marketing involve some sort of technology. Ensuring each is involved is a monumental task of teamwork and collaboration.

In IT circles, we used to have (and in some cases still have) tension between infrastructure (hardware) and applications (software) as to which technology was more important: “Hey, your hardware is just a paperweight without my software” or “Hey, your software is just a bunch of 1’s and 0’s without my hardware.” It always reminded me of the Reese’s commercial: “You got peanut butter in my chocolate. You got chocolate in my peanut butter.” Now it’s “technology” and “content.” IT can deliver a portal, digital sign or even a new website, but without content, they are pretty much expensive doorstops.

Our Corporate Connectivity Committee has wrestled with the question of internal communication for months. We are trying to answer four very important questions:

“What do you want to say?”

“How do you want to say it?”

“What do you want to hear?” and

“How do you want to hear it?”

The answers are as many as our employees.

When it comes to communicating with our customers, other external stakeholders and partners, and the community, the answers grow exponentially. But more and more, they involve web, social media and mobile technologies.

Next Up: Information

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

In the pilot post N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Pilot, Connectivity was defined as the confluence of Networks, Communication (and Collaboration), Information, and Systems: N.C.I.S.. Today, we explore Networks and their impact on Connectivity. 

I don’t mean networks in the technology sense; I mean those internal and external, formal and informal networks that connect people together within a company and connect the same people to others outside the company.

060807.networks-2In his book, “The Future of Work,” Thomas Malone compares the transformation occurring in business today to the evolution societies have experienced. In antiquity, societies were made up of bands of people. They were very decentralized and unconnected. During the Middle Ages, kingdoms brought these bands under centralized control, but they were still largely unconnected from the central power. Democracies enabled society to decentralize and still remain connected.

In the early 1900’s, businesses were small, local shops — again, decentralized and unconnected. By the middle of the century, large centralized corporations began to form. However, like kingdoms, the cost and difficulty of communication meant that many parts of these mega-corporations remained virtually unconnected. Today, with the birth of the Internet, communication costs continue to plummet and many of the barriers are eliminated, leading to organizations made up of complex networks of employees, partners and customers.

Authors Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, in their book “The Spider and the Starfish,” postulate that the difference between a rigid, hierarchical organization and a more fluid, networked organization is analogous to a spider (hierarchical) and a starfish (network). When you cut off a spider’s head, it dies. A starfish does not have a head, so when you cut off one of its legs, it grows a new one (and, sometimes, forms a new starfish from the severed leg). Starfish organizations are more flexible, adaptable and resilient. There are incredible examples of starfish organizations: from the Apaches, to the modern-day Craigslist, Wikipedia and even Alcoholics Anonymous.

On the surface, Goodwill Indy appears to be made up of four very disparate business units: retail, commercial services, education and community initiatives. But when you dig a little deeper into the holistic services we provide to employees, students, mothers and their families, you can see how connected they truly are.

There may be a student in one of our schools that learns they are pregnant and in need of the type of support we provide through Nurse-Family Partnership. Or we may have a woman already being supported by NFP who needs a job to support her new family. With 51 retail locations and multiple commercial services sites, we can provide that employment opportunity. Or there may be a retail or commercial services employee who lacks a high school diploma and could benefit from the educational programs in our schools. Connections… linkages…

When you enlarge the circle to students’, employees’ and mothers’ families, friends and acquaintances, the impact of these holistic services expands exponentially.

Looking beyond our own services, we partner with many other individuals and organizations in central Indiana to provide a pathway out of poverty for those we serve. These connections strengthen our knowledge, abilities and services. They enable us to scale and be sustainable.

Next Up: Communication & Collaboration

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

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I have a confession.

I am a groupie. I am sure many of you remember the 70’s and the “Dead Heads”, that group of hippies that followed the Grateful Dead all over the country. No, I haven’t been following my favorite rock band but I really AM a dead head because I’ve been following two dead guys all over the country for years!

Over those miles traveled, I have learned about history, our country, and, yes, I have learned about leadership. How these two men were able to lead their men (along with a woman, Sacagawea) across the un-explored continent and bring them home safely  can give us insights today into how to grow leaders, how to create effective teams, and how to create an environment of truth, transparency and candor. In my eBook, which you can download for free at the link at the end of this post, I explore ten traits of a leader using one of the greatest leadership books ever written, Lewis and Clark’s own journals.

A leader:

is Transparent

Many books today that discuss transparency focus on the outward flow of information to the marketplace. Some books will also encourage leaders to be open and honest with their employees. Still fewer books will talk about encouraging those employees to be open and honest with management. I believe leaders must first be transparent with themselves. They must look at themselves without any of the guises of self-deception. I believe the transparency that had been established between Thomas Jefferson and Meriwether Lewis laid a solid foundation for the planning of the Expedition. It was this foundation that led to William Clark being enlisted as co-captain with Lewis.

is Honest and Truthful

During the time that the captains were recruiting the members of the expedition they could of painted a rosy picture of a trip of adventure and romance across the country. Instead they were honest about the risks, the hardships, and the dangers of the journey. Today, whether we are recruiting new employees, or launching a new project, or discussing issues, we must be honest and truthful with our teams, our customers, and all of our stakeholders.

is Accountable

Accountability is one of the most difficult traits of a leader. For accountability to work, however, it must be combined with consequences. It is one thing to tell Joe he is accountable for a deliverable. It is quite another thing to hold him accountable by having consequences when he doesn’t deliver. Throughout their journals, especially in the early days of the expedition, there are many examples of the captains holding the men (and themselves) accountable. While I don’t suggest we use running the gauntlet, court martial, or even loss of whiskey privileges (seriously, I would never go to the extreme of denying someone their grog!) today, I do think we can learn lessons about laying down expectations and holding our teams accountable with fair and consistent consequences.

is Patient

With accountability and consequences, comes the fourth trait. A leader is also patient. The youngest member of the Corp was Private George Shannon. Shannon had a propensity for getting lost, not a good thing on a trek through the wilderness. Once while he was lost, he was able to feed himself by shooting a stick out of his rifle and killing a rabbit (resourceful might have to be added to this list). However, the captains were patient with Shannon and trained him. After the expedition, Shannon became a lawyer in Lexington Kentucky. I think, more than any other trait, we are called upon to be patient when others might “get lost” along the way. We train, we teach, we mentor, we do not adjust our expectations, or the consequences of accountability.

Seeks Input

Decision Point is one of my favorite spots along the 8,000 mile Lewis and Clark Trail. It is there, at the confluence of two rivers, the captains halted the expedition to explore both channels to ensure they selected the right channel before proceeding on. They examined all the evidence and made their decision. How many of us have experienced managers that make decisions without gathering all the facts or seeking input from those around them? It can be devastating to morale and team energy, in the best case. Great leaders use the knowledge and expertise of those around them to make their decisions. They also take the time to explain their decisions. Why can be just as important as what.

is Committed

To be successful leaders must be committed to the mission. Our response to challenges will serve as positive and negative examples to those around us. If we explode in anger or frustration, or if we give up completely our teams will lose confidence in us and they too will give up. The journey of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery has countless examples of being committed to the mission. In fact, they used the phrase “we proceeded on” so many times in their journals I am unable to count them.

has Integrity and Character

Admits Mistakes

One story in the journals provides us with two lessons in leadership. Our captains were not perfect. While faced with the long trip back to St. Louis, the Corps needed canoes. Unable to barter for one, Lewis ordered some of the men to steal one. In my opinion and in reading between the lines of the journals, Lewis had to fall several notches in the eyes of his men. Not only did he order them to steal one, we have no record of Lewis ever admitting his lapse in judgement. It is interesting to note, he doesn’t even retell the story in his journal. Leaders must manage themselves with high integrity and solid character. A great leader will do this in their personal as well as professional lives (those photos on Facebook, may NOT be a good idea!). When we do stumble, or make a mistake, we have to own up to the mistake, take responsibility for the mistake and learn from the mistake.

is Flexible

Throughout the three and half year odyssey, the Corps only retreated one time. When faced with snow “deeper than the trees were tall” while crossing the mountains, despite being anxious to return home, the captains called a retreat. The Corps returned to the base of the pass and waited with the Nez Perce tribe for the snow to melt. They waited almost two months. This showed flexibility (and perhaps wisdom!). Strong leaders must know when to “proceed on” and when to retreat, regroup, re-evaluate and adjust the strategy.

Takes Risks

Leaders must not only be willing to take risks, but we have to create an environment in which our co-workers are willing to take risks. If our teams are afraid of harsh consequences or an explosive boss, we may be leaving significant discoveries on the table. The entire Lewis and Clark adventure was a lesson in risk taking. However, there are several examples, where because the captains knew and understood the mission, they made decisions to accept even more risk. One such time was on the return journey when they divided the Corps into four smaller parties to help accomplish the mission.

Upon their return, Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery were celebrated all across our young nation. The knowledge of our country, the native peoples, the plants and animals was expanded dramatically almost over night. Not only were these sciences advanced, but, as I hope you have seen, so to was our knowledge of the traits of leadership.

Download Everything I Learned About Leadership

If you would like to read the entire eBook, you can download by clicking on the cover.

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.