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AOL CEO publicly fires staffer for photographing him

After the CEO of AOL fires a staffer for whipping out his camera, he apologizes but the offender is still fired. Because of how it was handled, the leader is taking a bit of heat.

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Actions speak louder than memos

CEO of AOL, Tim Armstrong’s handling of the firing of an employee during a conference call with hundreds of other employees reveals as antiquated a philosophy of corporate communication as the floppy disks with which AOL used to try to entice us all.

AOL owns a local news network called Patch. On a call with employees of Patch discussing the flailing subsidiary’s shaky future, an employee in Armstrong’s presence, Abel Lenz, tried to take a photo of Armstrong. The CEO’s reaction was to fire Lenz immediately during the call; the audio of which someone recorded.

The impression left by this act

In your own company, you should assume that anything you say to your employees is being recorded these days; particularly if you are giving employees hard news about the future of the company. Armstrong’s act of losing his temper during the call, particularly for something that is difficult to define as an offense, just makes him appear to be a weak leader who has so little control in the company that he cannot even control his own actions.

And here is some breaking news: An apology is not a magic bullet that will make all of your problems go away or have any impact whatsoever in many situations.

Sorry, but you’re still fired

The day following the call, Armstrong issued a memo to AOL employees saying that he had reacted too quickly during the call and had apologized to Lenz for the form of the firing. But Lenz is still out of a job. Even considering that Armstrong had previously directed employees not to record confidential, internal communications, Lenz’s act of attempting to take a photo does not seem like an act for which he should be so publicly humiliated and relieved of a job.

Before this story became public, I could not even have told you who the AOL CEO is today. Now I know and I am not terribly impressed by his ability to lead the company. His actions certainly did not make me think more fondly of AOL.

Remember this scenario as you communicate in your own business. When you do mess up, as we all do, your best bet is to fix or compensate for the problem with your actions rather than relatively meaningless words that only potentially open you to more criticism.

David Holmes, owner of Intrepid Solutions, has over 20 years experience planning for, avoiding, and solving crises in the public policy, political, and private sectors. David is also a professional mediator and has worked in the Texas music scene.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Whole Media Concepts

    August 16, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Great piece, David. You address some very meaningful points about leadership and technology in the workplace.

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Business News

ClickUp team productivity app is gorgeous and wildly efficient

(BUSINESS NEWS) Seeking to improve your productivity and speed up your team, ClickUp is an inexpensive option for those obsessed with efficiency.

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Back again to obsess over productivity apps – ClickUp, is a project management tool seeking to knock the frustration out of PM. It’s getting some good reviews, so I gave it a try for a week by setting up my current job search as a project and getting a feel for the app. And as you’ve read in my other reviews, we will address features and design.

On the feature front, ClickUp offers a pretty standard set up of tools for a productivity app. What stands out first and foremost are the status options. In general, most productivity statuses are simple: not started, started, in progress, done, etc.

But ClickUp lets you set up custom statuses that match your workflow.

For example, if you’re doing instructional design projects, you may assign projects based on where they are flowing in an ADDIE model, or if you are a Realtor, you may have things cataloged by sold, in negotiation, etc.

Customization is king and custom status is the closest you get to building your own app. And if you like it simple, you don’t have to customize it. The assigned comments feature lets you follow up on specific comments that originate action items – which is useful in team collaborations.

You can also assign changes to multiple tasks at once, including changing statuses (I would bulk assign completion tasks when I finished applications that I did in batches). There a lot of features here, but the best feature is how the app allows you to toggle on and off features that you will or won’t use – once again, customization is front and center for this platform.

In terms of design and intuive use, ClickUp nailed it.

It’s super easy to use, and the concept of space is pretty standard in design thinking. If your organization uses Agile methodology, this app is ready for you.

In terms of view, you can declutter the features, but the three viewing modes (list, box, and board) can help you filter the information and make decisions quickly depending on what role you have on a board or project. There is also a “Me” board that removes all the clutter and focuses on your tasks – a great way to do focused productivity bursts. ClickUp describes itself as beautifully intuitive, and I can’t disagree – both the web app and mobile app are insanely easy to use.

No complaints here.

And the horizon looks good for ClickUp – with new features like image markup, Gannt charts (!!!!!! #nerdalert), and threaded comments for starts.

This application is great, and it’s got a lot of growth coming up to an already rich feature base. It’s free with 100MB of storage, but the $5 fee for team member per month that includes team onboarding and set up (say you’re switching from another platform) and Dropbox/Google Docs integration? That’s a bargain, Charlie.

ClickUp is on the way up and it’s got it all – features, a beautifully accessible UI, relentless customization, and lot of new and upcoming features. If you’re into the productivity platform and you’re looking for a new solution for your team, go check it out.

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Business News

Should you alter your business travel due to the Coronavirus?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Got a business trip coming up? Worried about the coronavirus spoiling those plans? Stay up to date and safe with this cool site!

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The Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at John Hopkins University has created a website that tracks one of the biggest trends of 2020: the coronavirus. Also known as 2019-nCoV, this disease has already spread to over 40,000 confirmed cases worldwide, with over 900 deaths (as of when this article was published, anyway.)

Not to mention, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that we still don’t know exactly how the virus spreads from person-to-person. In fact, there’s quite a bit we don’t know about this disease and although some people are reported as recovered, it’s only a small fraction compared to how many are sick.

So, what’s so great about this tracker? Well, first of all, it updates in real time, making it easy to keep track of everything we know about confirmed cases of the coronavirus. It’s chock full of statistics and visuals, making the information easy to digest. Plus, with a map front and center, it lets you know exactly where there have been reported outbreaks – and how many people have been diagnosed.

Because the site sticks to cold hard facts like statistics and maps, it also means you can avoid the racism and general panic that’s accompanied news of this outbreak.

This is a great tool for staying informed, but it’s also extremely helpful if you’re going to be traveling for work. As the virus continues to progress, you’ll be able to see just how many cases of coronavirus there are in the areas you’re planning to visit, which will allow you to plan accordingly. Even if you don’t feel the effects, you can still risk passing it to other people.

(In fact, the CDC recommends those traveling from certain areas in China practice “social distancing” when they return to the US, avoiding public spaces like grocery stores, malls and movie theaters.)

Of course, if you have something planned several months from now, don’t cancel your conference plans just yet. A lot can happen in that amount of time, so avoid the urge to check the website every couple hours. It’s supposed to be a tool for staying informed, not staying stressed out.

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New startup curates resources to simplify any remote job search

(BUSINESS NEWS) Finding a remote job that supports travel has never been so easy with this new remote friendly job-finding website, Remote Planet.

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Have you ever wanted to travel the world only to have your boss completely reject your request to work remotely? Or maybe you’re not working right now and you’re having a hard time finding a job that will allow you travel? Well, let me tell you, you’re not alone!

As 2020 begins, it’s pretty clear that remote working is not only an option; it can be a way of life that can not only empower an employee, but also increase efficiency and production for their company.

15 years ago, finding a remote job was almost like spotting a unicorn. It was an extremely rare opportunity – one that very few had the pleasure of experiencing. But with technology growing so quickly, and with the benefits being so clear (for both employer and employee) companies are quickly making changes that allow their employees to live and work almost anywhere they’d like – as long as there’s a good Internet connection.

Because of this, working while traveling has never been so easy, and with a massive uptick in dedicated remote workforces (we’re up to 18% of the U.S. workforce being remote), it only makes sense why websites like RemotePlanet.io are becoming so popular.

Remote Planet is an online platform that allows you to search for a job that is 100% remote. Their goal is not only to help find you a job that meets you needs, but also to provide “Curated Data for Remote, Digital Nomads & Travellers”.

J.P. Aulet is the freelance web developer who created Remote Planet. In an interview with him, where I asked him about the website, he said “RemotePlanet.io helps digital nomads (DN), remote workers, travelers and others to find the best resources in different categories, like remote companies, articles, insurances, housing and co-workings, among other things.”

When asked why he created his website, he said “Since I quit my job 2 years ago, I’ve been traveling and working as a [digital nomad], and since then, I curated a lot of interesting and helpful websites that help me with my travels, and I wanted to share with others to make it easier to start their remote journey.”

The website takes a Pinterest-like approach to helping its users find jobs, too, making it a very visual experience. What I mean by this is, the platform appears to aggregate data from 3rd party sites, like Remote.co and Remote.com and filters through their data for remote jobs. Whether it’s automatic or manual is unknown, but the important thing is that Aulet then publishes this data to his site in a sort of board that allows you to click the link, share it on Facebook or Twitter, or “like” it.

In addition, it looks to pulls in data that remote workers should stay on top of, like various tools, and companies that fully endorse the “work from anywhere” lifestyle.

remote job tools

But the coolest thing about this site is that it takes a lot of the searching work away for people who already otherwise have busy lives. After all, given the nature of the lifestyle and the level of importance travel is to those who seek this type of work, looking for a remote job and traveling at the same time can keep one pretty occupied.

So, whether you’ve been looking for a remote job for a while, or you’re just getting started, we highly suggest checking out Remote Planet for, at the very least, their tools and resources.

Now, with all of that said, their website won’t be any help to those who still have difficult bosses or work for companies who are adamantly against work from home situations, so if this scenario sounds familiar, we suggest checking out this guide on how to convince your boss to let you work remotely. We wish you the best of luck in convincing your boss to loosen the reigns.

On the chance the meeting doesn’t go so well (hey, let’s face it, it happens), and you’re considering another job that has much more flex, we also recommend reading this recent story on “How to crush your next remote job interview.”

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