NielsenData Blog by Jared Nielsen

How Inspiration Can Eliminate The Need For Management - a Tale of Two Shepherds

Inspiration is a critical component of any workforce development initiative.  As a leader, you are often faced with the issue of how to get your employees to drive themselves rather than "being driven."  Much like pushing a rope, it's far simpler if each person pulls their own weight.

What is a Shepherd?

In the old days a shepherd was a pastoral figure who carried a staff who would leave the fence yard and walk directly out into the countryside.  The entire herd of sheep were following close behind of their own volition as they marched out to pasture.  There is some question about how they were motivated to follow the shepherd and what did they stand to gain?  Logic dictates that somehow they learned to trust this human that walked before them as it couldn't be instinct.  They also had developed a trained response because each and every time they followed the shepherd, they would find lush green grass and ample water.  The secret to this method of motivation is the reward confirmed their faith in their leader, so the leader no longer needed to drive the sheep... he simply needed to lead them to pasture.

Have You Seen a Modern Shepherd?

In modern times, the colloquial image of a shepherd no longer exists.  In our advanced society we have shed the humble robes and the utilitarian staff and have traded up.  The modern shepherd is more like a wi-fi enabled cowboy, astride a Jeep Cherokee SUV, powering behind the herd with a pack of twenty dogs who are nipping at the heels of the sheep.  In this scenario the motivation is fear, without a sense of objective or direction.  In this case the sheep only run when driven and even when they run, they have no idea where they are going.  They simply know that there are teeth at the other end and while the shepherd can relax in his jeep while charging his USB smartphone, he is not leading... he is simply harvesting.

What Type of Leader Are You?

This level of distinction is important to examine as you look to your own leadership skills and patterns.  Are you the heel-biter that chases your employees from task to task?  That's working really hard for your money but you will see short-term successes.  

Are you the leader who sets the example and walks before your employees, demonstrating the path and ensuring that you are leading them in safety to the end goal?  There are longer term benefits to this but it requires investing in your team and walking the talk as you set a good example.

How you lead will drift into how you live your life so choose carefully.

Driving Successful Employees Improves Job Satisfaction - Employee Archaeology

I have been revamping IT departments and groups of software developers for quite some time including for companies like Fanatics, Inc., Wickes Lumber, The Riverside Group, TBC Corp, and Universal Weather and Aviation.  Software developers are a truly unique breed of employee because they tend to crystalize into fixed roles, some of which are productive and some more challenging.  I think the secret to "waking up" an IT department is to engage with it like an archaeologist.  You need to go to the site, investigate the landscape, take measurements, research the anthropology and then start digging.  

Each employee may have been caked into a fixed position due to time, culture, tradition, and often a lack of management.  They are often buried under laziness, complacency, a lack of interest, lack of motivation, or a jaded sense that nothing will change so there's no reason to continue the struggle.  Many times they are simply aiming to "get by", retire, "punch a timecard" or just "keep a low profile" when the department has become dysfunctional.  This requires some disruptive first engagements that can have an unsettling effect on them, but they have been stationary for so long, it's at times painful to get moving again, but it's so liberating when they do.

Take Complete Control... Then Release

Generally the first step is to take complete ownership of the technical resource, by taking over their compensation and bonus structure in a way that is fair and meaningful to them.  Now they know that your mentoring will have a financial impact on their lives and an effective outcome can have a meaningful reward.  This is a critical difference that an outside consultant simply can't accomplish by advising from the sidelines.  The direct manager must take the reins, or the resource needs to be "adopted" and retrofitted by someone who can manage the person.

Sincerely Invest in Them

The second step is to start getting their skill levels up, through team coding, training, investment, and self confidence building.  This is critical because the developer needs to know that you care about them sincerely, enough to invest in them to get their skills modernized.  I find it generally takes about three people to round out one person's skills... sometimes more if they are less current in their technology stack.  By embedding them with a team, they now can develop a fraternal family where they will learn to feel safe and start to develop a pride in success.

Create a Winnable Scenario

The third step is to begin to give them opportunities to sacrifice and to excel.  Proper incentives and opportunities are critical here and it must be done in a consistent and trustworthy fashion.  Do not promise incentives and not deliver.... similarly, do not provide incentives for half-hearted attempts, or compensate them as a group where they can coast along with the efforts of others.  Making incentives targeted, sincere, and meaningful is key.  Remember, you just dug them out of the crusty limitations that they had been caked in for a long time.  It's not reasonable to make them sprint at the outset.  Give them small, reachable goals, and slowly ramp them up as their muscles get stronger.

Let Them Go... and Grow

The fourth step is to let them "graduate."  Once they have demonstrated mastery, it's most important that they fly out of the nest in an environment where they can continue and grow, outside of the mentoring tutelage.  This final test is the best way to verify that your remediation of their job function has truly cemented in their minds and motivation.  A truly motivated employee doesn't need a manager any longer.  Move on to those that need managing and let the ones that are now self-motivated and driven take off and grow into their own master of their destiny.  You will leave a legacy of people that are grateful to you and inspired to help others as you have helped them.  Then loyalty and motivation "goes viral" and there's nothing that can stop that.

Providing Opportunities to Sacrifice Increases Loyalty

It seems counter-intuitive but the more you ask of an employee, the more they will tend to respond.  This is a motivator that goes far beyond compensation and cash.  Religious councils have studied the impact of "asking more" of their congregations and how that impacted attendance and they found that when you ask more of people in a meaningful way, they actually appreciate their church family more, even when asked to sacrifice financially and donate their time.  At its core, there is an underlying inverse theory that you can ONLY love those things that you sacrifice for.

As a manager, try to take time, empathize with your team, and put yourself in their shoes.  Then ask more of them in a sincere way where they have a clear path to succeed given their current talents and resources.  Be sure to give them time and resources to win and succeed, first in bite-sized ways, and then in larger and deeper challenges where they learn to trust you (first!) and then learn to have confidence not only in themselves, but in the fact that the office culture and resource environment is fertile ground for them to excel and succeed.

You will love the results, and they will love their jobs.

Provide the Proper Political Shield

Part of being a manager / employee archaeologist, is to become the umbrella that shields them from the vagaries of office politics.  This requires taking a very different demeanor "above" and "below."  To your employees, you must be the authority, but a caring steward, who drives the agenda of the company in parallel to each person's personal needs and goals.  To your superiors, however, you need to be the strong, impenetrable barrier where they feel confident that your team will deliver, but they need to expose only you to the whims of the board and the C-Suite.  By becoming the entry point of all political challenges to your team, you will be able to filter what enters your group and you will be able to preserve your team's internal culture and environment.

Rage against "tiger teams" and other "short circuits" that try to link your team members to external groups in a way that is disruptive of the internal environment that you have established.  This doesn't mean a stand-off attitude, it simply means that you need to establish a level of control over the internal thermostat of your group and protect that stability from the winds and breezes from the outside.

Take the blame.  When someone in your team fails, you have failed.  Your team has failed.  Any recrimination from above generally involves heat and education.  Absorb the heat and let the education flow down to your team.  This doesn't mean that you conceal the consequences of failure... it simply means that you absorb the blame, and let the consequences of the learning moments through to your group.  Your upper management will reward you, and your employees will learn to respect you.  

My son shared a story with me that his running team at high school would take shortcuts once they were outside the view of the school.  My son chose instead to not take a shortcut and he would arrive, winded, behind the rest of the runners every day.  The coach would bark at him for being the last one back and my son simply took the heat and resumed the same method the following day.  Soon, the other kids began to respect his hard work and they stopped taking the shortcut.  First, they recognized his leadership - not through a job title or appointment - but through his actions.  Second, they felt a tad guilty that he was getting in trouble due to their actions.  Third, they respected him for "taking the heat".  Fourth, they started to recognize that my son was getting the actual benefit of the extra work and he was getting more and more powerful as a runner.  In other words, he was starting to accomplish the team's goal of being able to run faster than the competition, instead of trying to game the system. 

Once your organization realizes that the enemy is the competition to your entire firm... on the outside, rather than some other internal department, their loyalty will increase through mutual respect and sacrifice with the real goal in mind... beating the competition.

No Employee can Serve Two Masters

This concept has a Biblical basis, but it's a true and effective principle that will help you as you start your employee archaeological process.  By becoming their "only" boss, they now can focus and strive to one victory condition.  Much like divorced parents, attempting to divide up one person between multiple resources is almost always catastrophically bad.  The employee never knows who to cater to, and has a very unclear structure and vision of the victory condition.  There are times when an employee's expertise is needed for another project, but the best way to deal with that "sharing" is to not share them, rather transfer them to the other manager 100% for the duration of the other project.  Only when they complete that project can they come back.  This is particularly effective when your team is highly sought after, as people will strive to do well so they can return to the safety of the political umbrella that you provide them.  Alternatively, they will carry the message of success to the other team and they will become influenced by the steady training that the transferred employee has received. Wholesale Distributor of Electrical and Plumbing Products

I had the privilege of working with Barnett Brass and Copper as they were progressing beyond a dialup bulletin board system (BBS) for processing electronic orders for their network of 65 warehouse locations and tens of thousand plumbers and electricians.  It was a great leap of faith on their part to partner with my nascent startup Innovative Hardware, Inc. which focused on helping companies upgrade mainframe or JD Edwards database systems into more modern SQL Server based systems that could scale to meet their volume requirements.  

Brick and Mortar distribution companies need the benefits of solid e-Commerce technologies and Barnett was a visionary at a very early time in the late nineties.  They selected me to develop five online storefronts including their Plumbing, Gas Supply, Electrical, Maintenance Products and a Spanish language website to help them service their Puerto Rico operations.

I had the distinct privilege to work directly with Donna Barrow in their data management team who similarly was an astonishingly great mentor and leader as I brought some advanced technologies and she blended that with key business goals and objectives.  I learned so much from her as she taught me the inner workings of large scale distribution companies and the home construction product segment.

When we started, their initial location was a relatively old warehouse with burglar bars and chipped paint on Lenox Avenue on the north side of Jacksonville.  With around $600mm in revenue, they were a solid player in the home construction and professional contractor supply area.  They had recently gone public as BNTT:NASDAQ and were prepared for growth.

As we began however, they didn't have the budget allocated to finance such a significant project at that particular time of the fiscal year.  I was eager to demonstrate what we could accomplish in a short period of time so I took a leap and proposed that our company could help them self-fund the project.  We began work immediately by working with their Manufacturing suppliers to present a very compelling partnership with 10 of their top suppliers.  By launching brand new websites without having to wait for the fiscal year to come around, we were able to offer top placements to each sponsoring manufacturer with the top five listings in each product category.  

This negotiation with the manufacturers paid off as 12 additional manufacturer sponsors came online, each for $50,000 apiece.  This helped us raise $1.2mm in cash capital to finance the project on behalf of Barnett.  They were ecstatic at the speed of ramping up the budget and we were able to deploy.   We continued with them for two years until they decided to go private and were subsequently rolled up in a reverse merger with Wilmar.   Now they belong to an extremely large conglomerate called Interline Brands and are worth over $2 billion dollars.

I was humbled and pleased to have been part of such a large and successful project.

Aviation Technology #2 - Great Circle Routes using Geospatial Data

It turns out that planets aren't flat and there are no dragons beyond the margin of the page.  This means that you can't simply "connect the dots" on a globe that is warped into a two dimensional (2D) projection.  Mapping technologies have may projection types but for our purposes we are going to base our conversation on the EPSG Projection 4326 which is commonly used to create a nice rectangular shape for a map (highly popular with GPS navigation systems).  Setting the projection type is critical to your code because you will get strange "offsets" in your data if you keep them all on the same drawing surface size and shape.  In our previous example for Aviation Technology - #1 we used this projection type in the following conversion from textual data to a projection based geography point object:

DECLARE @StartPoint geography
SELECT @StartPoint = geography::
STPointFromText('POINT(148.47539133747426 -20.031355678341452)', 4326)
Now we are going to use our knowledge of great circle routes to extend our point above to a connected "Route" as an aircraft would fly.  

DECLARE @StartPoint geography, @EndPoint geography, @Route geography
SELECT @StartPoint = geography::STPointFromText('POINT(148.47539133747426 -20.031355678341452)', 4326)
SELECT @EndPoint = geography::STPointFromText('POINT(115.45019875220305 -21.382500474560892)', 4326)
SELECT @Route = geography::Parse(geometry::Parse(@StartPoint.STUnion(@EndPoint).ToString()).STConvexHull().ToString())
SELECT @route

The ability to create a Great Circle Route is necessary to begin true geospatial calculations for Aviation using Microsoft SQL Server and the Geography datatype.  Next we are going to explore the use of the geography datatype to identify FIR Boundary Intersections.

Aviation Technology - #1 - Microsoft Geography Coordinates Use Long/Lat

Microsoft SQL Server, Postgres and Oracle are all database platforms that support the Geography datatype and enable developers with the benefits of spatial database systems.  This article will explore the use of spatial database query leveraging geography objects which are constructed from samples of latitude and longitude coordinate pairs.

(X, Y) = (Long, Lat) - not Lat/Long

One of the first demystifiers is to understand how Microsoft has implemented the typical concept of "Lat/Long" or Latitude and Longitude.
The Globe is mapped into a grid structure and while we are generally used to referring to Latitude and Longitude, Microsoft has adopted an "X/Y" approach to the order of terms.  Where we would normally use latitude before longitude, Microsoft functions take their parameters with Longitude first and Latitude second.  In the globe to the right you will see the vertical bars as longitudes or "X" coordinates and the horizontal bars as latitudes or "Y" coordinates.  As an example you can convert a text coordinate pair to a geospatial point as follows:

DECLARE @StartPoint geography
SELECT @StartPoint = geography::
STPointFromText('POINT(148.47539133747426 -20.031355678341452)', 4326)
You will see that we're plotting a point near Australia and the X value = the Longitude value.  This is important to consider as you troubleshoot your geospatial queries and discover strange bugs where your geography objects get transposed and show up near the south pole somewhere.

Steampunk Laptop - Victoriana

I've read the old Jules Verne books and those stories of how a tinker in his medieval era shop constructed a whirlygig automaton that would take him to the moon.  In my mind's eye I always believed that it was possible... or at least probable.

Here's one of my favorite takes on the concept that blends a bit of Victoriana and Silicon Wafers...  The Steampunk Laptop!


West Palm Beach .Net User Group

iNeta .Net User Group AssociationI'm please to be speaking at the .Net user group in West Palm, my old stomping ground!  Many thanks to Scott Klein, noted .Net author and coder for having me down to the beach to spend some time with the great folks down there.  I will be giving a lecture on the Atomic Data Model, the X-Y-Z method of site expansion, and an in-depth analysis of one of their website projects live while we discuss it.

The event will be held at the following address at 6:30 for pizza and 7:30 for the lecture:

1750 North Florida Mango
Suites 302 & 303
West Palm Beach, Fl 33409

Get Directions

For more information on the Atomic Data Model, please see my blog entries about that at:  Atomic Data Modeling - Part 1

Jared Nielsen and the Microsoft Tag by Michelle Chance Sangthong and the Jacksonville SEO Meetup

Michelle Chance and the great crew at the Jacksonville SEO Meetup were kind enough to film a video of my blog site homepage that features the Microsoft Tag (  The purpose of a Microsoft Tag is to allow a user that has the Microsoft Tag application installed to simply hover their camera over the multi-colored tag which automatically loads all of my contact information into their smart phone.

In this case it automatically loads the information for the FUZION Agency (my consulting firm) at

Here is the article about it:

Here is the YouTube video that you can also watch:

MindTricks for Business - #2 - Advanced Search Engine Optmization (SEO) and NOFOLLOW

Proper SEO techniques will allow humans and robots to see your site

There is always a conflict between how accessible your website data is to Humans and to Robots.  The ability to “convert” a human to finalize a purchase is paramount so keyword spammy webpages that reduce conversions are simply not worth it.  However you also can’t convert humans unless the #1 lead source to your website is being catered to as well, whether overtly or behind the scenes. 

This method of targing both the human conversion and the robotic discovery is accomplished by implementing proper SEO techniques.  Many people ask me what the “trick” to Google is.  I can summarize it very succinctly.


Google can spot a fake and if you are going to rely on black hat tricks and schemes, you’re simply going to see a short-term boost in ranking which will wither on the vine.

Humans and Robots have different needs

The example on the right demonstrates a clone avoidance technique using the NOFOLLOW rel parameter on anchor text (<a href> hyperlinks).  In a traditional website we tend to let Google see EVERYTHING which is not effective.  Think of a typical brick and mortar store.  We have a nice front entrance with customer-oriented displays that are less organized but are beautiful and pleasing.  We also have a back door that opens to highly organized inventory warehouse with bare cement floors and barcoded shelving units. 

Humans should enter our website through the front door and see things like the customer service counter and the privacy policy and featured items… and the checkout aisle.

Robots don’t need to see any of this.  They aren’t going to buy anything, they don’t need to see our investor information, and they don’t need unorganized but pretty FLASH movies or glamorous pictures.  Not only can they not see them… they simply don’t care.  The diagram above illustrates how we set NOFOLLOW on portions of our website that may be visible to humans but we want the search engines to ignore them. 

Avoid Cloning through NOFOLLOW

We also want to ensure that Google indexes our website in the proper order and we channel the “juice” as concentrated as possible to our “money pages” and the hierarchies that go with that.  Take a product where the customer can navigate there in two separate paths.  They may come to my Nike yellow tank top through /Nike/Tank-Top/Yellow or through /Tank-Top/Yellow/Nike.  This creates two separate URL signatures that land on the same, exact product… effectively a clone.

To avoid this, we set a “weight” on each parameter as to its importance.  In this case we believe that more conversions will be determined by Brand and then Type and then Color.  Any other “path” to this item is “NOFOLLOW” enabled so Google will only see the one path… however the humans will see both.

Protecting your paths will ensure SEO dominance and conversions.