Business Success: Don’t die, dummy

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learn or die

Today, the only way to develop and sustain a competitive advantage is to create a “learning organization.” This week “Learn or Die” author and business professor Edward D. Hess shares four key ideas for transitioning your company into one that succeeds by getting smarter.

The Learning Curve

You know your business’ survival and success depend on maintaining a competitive advantage, so you’re constantly focused on reaching more of your target market, making your product that much better, and expanding your services…

Those are great strategies to drive your goals — if you have a time machine and are doing business in the previous century.

But today? Technology has reduced the capital needed to start and build businesses, reducing an historical barrier to entering the marketplace. And new competitors can reach your customers from thousands of miles away. Technology has also given customers tremendous power in comparison shopping, and telling the world how happy or unhappy they are with your product or service.

That doesn’t bode well for the staying power of the better mousetrap you’ve just built (or for the lifespan of your company, or for your job security). Standing still is a losing strategy in many cases.

To stay relevant, companies can no longer rely on traditional competitive advantages like location, capital, lack of choices for customers, and lack of market transparency; instead, they must transform themselves into “learning organizations.” Today’s technological and marketplace developments necessitate faster adaptation, and adaptation requires institutional learning processes such as critical and innovative thinking, critical conversations, and experimentation.

In other words, the only way to sustain a competitive advantage is to make sure your people have the tools, motivation, and support to learn better and faster than your competitors.

In my book Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization, I share my complete formula — and here, I spotlight four key points to keep in mind when building a learning culture.

1. Leadership must shift toward “coaching-ship.”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that command-and-control structures — with leaders who think management’s job is to use rewards and punishment to direct, motivate, control, and even modify employees’ behavior in order to get organizational results — are on their way out. If we want adaptable learning organizations, we need to humanize our management models, and that requires many leaders and companies to fundamentally change their attitudes and behaviors toward employees.

Personal and intellectual humility, empathy, emotional intelligence, and self-management are now required leadership capabilities, because these qualities nurture the very human capabilities that are at the root of adaptation and innovation: the ability to ideate, create, emotionally engage, and learn — all while in conditions of uncertainty, ambiguity, and rapid change.

Instead of “knowing and telling,” which can cause progress-limiting dependence, leaders should work with employees as coaches, or even allow them to experiment on their own. I recommend following Intuit’s example by consciously choosing to bury the “modern-day Caesar”—the kind of boss who gives thumbs up or down on all decisions. In India, this policy allowed young Intuit innovators to conduct an experiment on helping farmers get the best price for their products, even though management initially wasn’t interested in the idea. The result: 1.6 million Indian farmers now use the successful program these innovators developed.

2. Your work environment must be an emotionally positive one.

Positive emotional work environments are no longer negotiable. They’re a requirement.

Positive emotions are associated with openness to new ideas, better problem solving, openness to disconfirming information, less rigid thinking, resilience, creativity, collaboration, better recall of neutral or positive stimuli, and mitigation of ego defenses.

Negative emotions inhibit all of these things. A positive emotional state is essential to developing employees who are motivated, productive learners.

If you feel building a positive workplace environment is too “soft” to suck up your organization’s limited time and energy, consider that none other than the U.S. Army has recently begun an initiative to promote positive psychology. The training includes learning about emotions and their effects on the body and mind, learning how to manage emotions, reducing the frequency of negative emotions, and increasing the frequency of positive emotions. It’s directed toward producing soldiers and leaders who can adapt to new and challenging situations and uncertainty — that is, learn. Your people may not be tested on a literal battlefield, but these skills will still be crucial in helping you maintain a competitive advantage as your organization navigates the cutthroat landscape of the global marketplace.

3. High employee emotional engagement is a necessity.

It stands to reason that if employees don’t have an emotional investment in your company and their future in it, they won’t be motivated to learn. But how do you transform “engagement” from a meaningless buzzword to a reality? The research of Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan and their Self-Determination Theory shows us it comes down to meeting employees’ needs for autonomy, effectiveness, and relatedness. And these needs are most likely to be met when individuals feel respected, trusted, and cared for, and feel that they can trust the organization and its leaders.

These concepts are easiest to understand when you look at them in action, and UPS is one of the best examples out there for operationalizing emotional engagement. Founder Jim Casey viewed employees as partners, and maintaining his values over the decades has led to policies that are employee-centric and hold management mutually accountable to employees: an egalitarian “open door” policy for employee input, an employee “free agent” program that allows any UPS employee to move anywhere in the company and advance, mentorship and training programs, and more. As a result, UPS has maintained a high retention rate and built a deep bench of long-tenured, adaptive employees.

4. Employees need permission to TRY and FAIL.

Abraham Maslow aptly stated that an individual would engage in learning only “to the extent he is not crippled by fear, and to the extent he feels safe enough to dare.”

Building that type of environment requires many companies to adopt different mindsets about “mistakes” and about what “being smart” means. Learning is not an efficient 99 percent defect-free process — far from it. So mistakes have to be valued as learning opportunities. Employees must be given conditional permission to fail within proscribed financial tolerances, with the knowledge that they won’t be punished for their mistakes so long as they learn.

Some companies are already on this journey. Bridgewater Associates, the biggest and one of the most successful hedge funds in the world, is passionate about the power of mistakes. Bridgewater actually encourages employees to get excited about their mistakes because each error that employees learn from will save them time, energy, and stress (and the company money) in the future. Employees are instructed not to feel bad about their mistakes or failed experiments, or those of others. Acknowledging mistakes, confronting weaknesses, and testing assumptions, the company believes, is a reliable strategy for long-term success.

Another company that puts the permission-to-try-and-fail principle into action is W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc., which is known for manufacturing innovative products like GORE-TEX fabric. All associates are encouraged to experiment using the “Waterline Principle.” There’s an understanding among the associates that if they see a need, and failure isn’t going to sink the entire ship, they should just go do something about it. If it does look to be risky, however, consultation with other associates is required before taking action.

Transformation at the Top

One final point to keep in mind: Transforming an existing organization into a learning organization requires the change starts at the top.

If you’re a leader or manager and you want to change your organization, the best advice I can give you is to change yourself first. Good intentions are not enough. Behaviors are what count.

So role model how to think and communicate better. Admit your ignorance and your mistakes. Be authentic. Act with caring humility. Engage people so they feel like they have some control over their destinies. Be honest, have high standards, and hold everyone, including you, to those standards.

Only then will you earn the enthusiastic buy-in of your learners, and set the stage to build and sustain a competitive advantage.

EdHess• Edward D. Hess is a professor of business administration and Batten Executive-in-Residence at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He is the author of 11 books, including Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization — Columbia University Press (September 2014).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second place is for losers

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In today’s touchy-feely world, some say that everyone is a winner. You can get trophies just for participating, and wall-mounted certificates simply for showing up.
But those won’t pay your mortgage.
Consultant Leslie G. Ungar is adamant that hey, the true leader sometimes has to go all-out and win the game — and many second-in-commands lack that knack.

Leslie G Ungar

There is a Difference Between First Place and the Rest of the Field
Second best is not even close to the Brass Ring.
Vice Presidents rarely become president, and back-up quarterbacks rarely rise to permanent status as starting QB.

Did you ever think about why that is?
What are the skills of a back-up — and what are the skills of a starting QB?

“Manziel Mania” in C-town is struggling with this issue in Manziel’s first season. Now announced as backup quarterback, Hall of Famer Chris Carter is said to give him back up duties like errands: things that clearly define “back up.”
While he might be second on the charts, he is a world away from starter.

In the 2013 season, the Cleveland Browns skipped over the back-up quarterback and anointed the third-stringer as the new starting QB. With a brief announcement, Brian Hoyer went from the cellar to the penthouse, from third-string to starter. The sports world seemed surprised.

If you could see what I see, you would not be so surprised.
It is a different skill set to be second-in-command than it takes to be the guy in charge.
Both skill sets are important, but they are different. The problem is when decision-makers don’t recognize this. To be the back-up requires a mindset that shies from the spotlight. To be THE GUY requires a mindset that gravitates to the spotlight.

When a commentator on ESPN was asked why the Browns catapulted over the second stringer, the answer spoke more to leadership than to sports: The commentator said that sometimes, a second-stringer develops the mindset of a back-up — and that can’t be changed. When you see yourself as #2, the team will see you as #2 also.

Whether you want to catapult your own career, or to boost your company by selecting the right leader, you have to identify the qualities of the second-in-command as contrasted to those of the leader.

To increase your chances of finding a leader who will serve long and well, companies must do three things:

1. Have available a deep pool of internal candidates and keep the pool well stocked. The “big fish” in this pond need to be fed by a leadership development process that reaches from the bottom to the top.

2. Create, then continually update and refine, a succession plan.

3. Have in place a thoughtful process for making decisions about candidates. Keep in mind that outside candidates are not necessarily better than internal candidates.

Make sure you don’t assume your second in command should move to starting quarterback. Too long in the role of back-up, might keep anyone a back-up.

Leslie G. Ungar is a coach, speaker, and speechwriter at Electric Impulse Communications. Her blog is at leadersneedtospeak.com

Business Success: Grit and Bear it

paul stoltz GRIT

When I was a kid, “Grit” was an advertisement in my comic books for some kind of newsletter with which I could earn big bucks from door-to-door sales. While I somehow resisted that temptation, today we learn from author Paul Stoltz that real Grit can be beneficial to your career and business. – Paul Worthington

What Is GRIT And Why Is It Essential To Your Success?

by Paul G. Stoltz, Ph.D.

paul stoltz GRITToday, “grit” is a hot topic in leadership, education, performance, and personal success. However, the conversation often focuses only on appreciating and understanding basic grit, or what I call “grit 1.0.” Grit 1.0 is about degree or quantity of perseverance or persistence, as in “How persistent are you?” or “How much grit does she have?”

The time has come to advance the conversation and upgrade GRIT.

The research my team and I embarked on in the development of my new book reveals that quality may actually trump quantity. Enter Grit 2.0: comprised of four dimensions. Growth, Resilience, Instinct, and Tenacity.

When it comes to upgrading from grit 1.0 to GRIT 2.0, the key is to focus on not just how much, but how. Relentlessly going after your goals in ways that are even unintentionally harmful to others, or beating your head to a bloody pulp rather than re-assessing or re-routing your approach, may score high on quantity, not so much on quality. It turns out that growing both quality and quantity —holistic improvement of GRIT—creates the biggest upside. Here are five simple starter tips.

Growth—Growth is a mindset. But, when it comes to GRIT, research reveals it is about more than having a “growth” or “fixed” mindset. In the world of GRIT, Growth encompasses your propensity to rise above the immediate situation to seek fresh, alternative perspectives, ideas, and insights as a way to improve your approach, expertise, and chances of success.

“Gritify” any goal or plan by asking, “What additional, new, fresh insight/information/input should I/we seek to enhance our current plan and long-term chances of success?”

Resilience—It’s hard to imagine but, when I began my research 35 years ago, I literally had to explain (and often spell!) the term “resilience” with any client or firm with whom I was exploring methods for measuring or enhancing this core element of human endeavor. To this day, when I ask a group of hundreds of people, “If someone is resilient they…?” The room-wide response is, “Bounce back!”

But resilience is about much more than bouncing back. In our collaborative efforts with Harvard Business School and MIT, we arrived at this definition: Resilience is your capacity to be strengthened and improved by adversity. So, the ultimate quest is to become more “Response Able.” Response Ability is, your ability to respond optimally to whatever happens the moment it strikes.

Every time you face any adversity, simply ask, “How can I/we respond more optimally—better and faster—to this adversity?” Or, “How can we harness this adversity, so we look back and say, ‘Thank goodness this happened, we’d never be where we are now if it hadn’t!’”

Instinct—Think about that person who consistently pursues the wrong goals, or goes after their dreams in less than effective ways. Over time, that pattern can lead to a tragic life.  That’s why Instinct, your gut level propensity to pursue the right goals in the best possible ways, is so critical to true GRIT.

Relentlessness is powerful. Refined relentlessness is unbeatable. That’s why knowing when to step back, re-assess, and if necessary re-route is key to long-term effort, energy, and success.

“Gritify” any effort by simply asking these questions: “Is this still the right goal? Is this the best possible version of the goal? If not, how would we refine the goal to make it even more compelling and true? Is our current plan the best way to get there? If not, how can we refine and improve our approach to at least increase our chances of success?”

Tenacity—Persistent, unrelenting effort defines what most of us think of when we hear the word, “grit.” Our research shows that most people who accomplish something truly noteworthy go through a period of perceived zealotry, meaning the people closest to them begin to question their judgment. Yet it is that one additional, beyond-any-reasonable-expectation effort that creates the breakthroughs the rest of us get to admire and enjoy.

GRIT-up your pursuits by asking, “If we were to give this one more wholehearted effort, where and how should I/we go for it to most dramatically enhance progress and success?”

G-R-I-T. This is what True GRIT is all about. But none of it means a thing, without that thing deep inside you that makes you want to take it on in the first place. That’s where Tip #5 comes into play.

“WhyTry”Amp Up, then Align Your Why and Your Try

If GRIT is your capacity to dig deep and do whatever it takes—ever sacrifice, struggle, and suffer—to achieve your most difficult and worthy goals, then your reason, your why, must be massively compelling. One simple tool my team and I use with people is called the WhyTry™. Here’s how it works. Ask yourself (or others):

How strong is our Why? (1-10)
How strong is our Try? (1-10)
What do we need to do to maximize and align them both?

How many people have you known slaving away at a job, an assignment, or anything where their Try is maybe a 9, and their Why has dimmed to a 2? Not only is that imbalance unsustainable, it is extremely draining.

Conversely, what happens when the Why is a 10, and the collective Try is a 3? Answer: Not much. Some of the resulting poisons worth listing include disappointment, delays, frustrations, compromises of integrity that come from overpromising and under-delivering, guilt from not doing what you know you should be doing, etc.

Amp up, then align your why and your try, regularly, and you’ve gritified your effort, while enhancing your chances of success.

*   *   *   *   *

Obviously, these simple tips serve as a basic, but meaningful start—a pocket Swiss army knife you can whip out and employ—to grow your GRIT.

Ultimately, the path to greater GRIT never ends, nor can its potential to fuel a “gritifying” life be overstated. As my team and I coach people and see them make real strides, the ultimate quest for them, and for all of us, becomes something I call “Optimal GRIT,” demonstrating the Smartest, “Goodest”, Strongest G-R-I-T, in all that you do.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul G. Stoltz, Ph.D. is the founder and CEO of Peak Learning, Inc. as well as the originator of Adversity Quotient® and GRIT™ theories and methods, used at Harvard Business School, MIT, and leading companies worldwide. Stoltz is the author of five international bestsellers, based on his pioneering research and applications, published in 15 languages, including GRIT: The New Science of What it Takes to Persevere · Flourish · Succeed.

 

Business Success: Observe your OCD

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Business Success LogoNo one wants to be ignorant — but on our quest to be knowledgeable we can instead obsess over the wrong petty details. In this week’s Business Success column, consultant Leslie Unger advises on how to avoid OCD.

Be Observant . . . Not Obsessed

Leslie G Ungar

Recently an FBI agent was asked, “What makes someone an effective profiler?”
The answer was surprisingly simple:  to be an effective profiler is simply to be an observant person.

In business, as a leader or owner, the challenge I have found is to be observant — and not obsessed.

On the continuum of observance, there is obsessed with the details on one end, and clueless to details on the other. In your daily professional life, your goal is to be healthily observant.

In order to protect your value, it is incumbent upon you to be observant to what those around you do, and what those around you do not do when opportunity knocks. If you pay attention to the little messages, then a big message (such as whether you are hired or fired!) will not come as a surprise.

Two examples:
Paul was on senior staff on his way to a C-level position when Al was hired in a position slightly above him on the organizational chart. Al brought with him several members from his former company. Once a rising star, Paul wondered what this meant to his future at this company.
“Be observant but not obsessed,” I counseled him. In communication there is a saying that when what one says contradicts with what one does, go with what one does.  You have to observe what goes on around you so you have the pieces to construct the big picture. Then you need to hold up each piece as you do with a jigsaw puzzle, and see where it fits and what it means to whole scenario.

Tim is a school superintendent. He was waiting for a second contract to be offered by his school board when the Board president forgot their appointment. Was it simply a missed appointment? Or was there more to a second contract than the current superintendent was aware?
“Be observant but not obsessed,” I counseled him. As in other aspects of communication the answer is simple. Simple though not easy. As appealing as it may be to live in a bubble, none of us can afford the price of isolation. We need to be observant without becoming obsessive.

How to Observe

First, be observant of the verbal, vocal and visual signs of those around you — and be observant in the moment.

Second, embrace uncertainty.  You do not have to know why your observation is important or what it means to the big picture. You want to look at observations like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. By themselves, most pieces will not finish the puzzle. When you put the pieces together, at some point you have an ah-ha moment and see the bigger picture.

Third, be as non-judgmental as possible in collecting information. Observations are not good or bad. Observations are not quality or poor. It is not possible to know the value of most observations at the time you make the observation. The challenge is to make them and keep them — and not be obsessed with them!

The experts say that moderation is key . . . to chocolate, exercise and life. The same maxim is true of observations. To not read the tea leaves could be detrimental to your forward movement. To be obsessed with every observation will surely stall you and your forward progress. The answer to chocolate and life is to be observant without being obsessed.

Leslie G. Ungar of Electric Impulse Communications is a coach, speaker, and speechwriter. Her blog is leadersneedtospeak.com; email is Leslie@electricimpulse.com.

Business Success: “They are lying to you”

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Good press can be worth more than a great advertisement — but unlike a great ad, you can’t necessarily pay for press coverage — can you? PR expert Rodger Roeser advises avoiding “pay for play” promises from press agencies, and explains what you do get for your money.

So, How Many Articles Do I Get for $2,000?

Rodger Roeser, APR

Rodger Roeser, APR

My career started off a journalist. I had the pleasure (and in looking back in hindsight, the dumb luck) to have worked at a TV station, radio station, and a large daily and small weekly paper in the foundation of my future career as Lois Lane. I know very well how newsrooms work. I enterprised most of my own stories, worked a specific beat, and had good relationships with local leaders — and those pesky PR people. I would get press releases and pitches each day.

And since my professional journalist days were in the dark ages before email, most releases were excellent for scrap paper, as most news outlets were light on budgets, so that helped save a few bucks. Once in a great while, a release was helpful in at least catching my attention enough to do a follow up to set up and create an actual story. I had good professional relationships with a number of sources in my beat, which I also strived hard to continue to expand. I wasn’t shy about reaching out to businesses or groups if I wanted a story – which usually meant the PR person, if they had one at all, was in the way instead of working to foster my story.

When the PR person would send me a release that was unicorns and rainbows, I increasingly ignored those because no attempt was made to create a relationship and help me to get an actual story that would be of benefit to my readers.
See, because most of them have never set foot in, let alone worked in an actual news setting, most PR people fail to understand that there has to actually be a story that is of value to the reader (listener, watcher).

Which is why I was so disturbed at the activity of some so-called PR firms out there, that are literally preying on unsuspecting business executives that don’t take the time to hire a firm for just such occasions. You’re falling victim to a variety of unscrupulous P.T. Barnum’s. Why? Because you so want the story of unicorns and rainbows in the media, and you don’t understand how it really works — so when someone shares a magic voodoo potion that gets those false stories placed, you unsuspectingly say “sign me up!”

If any so-called firm promises placement for an article or press release, they are lying. Period. If they say they’ll get your five articles placed for $2,000/month, or for just a few thousand more they’ll get you 10 — they are lying. Not only should you not hire them, you should blackball them. It’s impossible to guarantee legitimate placement in any exact number. It just doesn’t work that way.

Anyone in the industry knows this is wrong, but unfortunately, too many clients don’t take the time (or bring the common sense or have a reputable PR advisor) to understand the reality that there are some unscrupulous clowns out there ready to part  your business with your hard earned dollars so they can have it. They’re not worried about long term gains, they’re worried about selling you a product – and they don’t care if it works, they only care if it does what they said it would do, like Rumpelstiltskin and the fine print. “Hey, we got you five hits” — no matter if it’s only from a blogger in China. And they don’t care: they got their money, and there’s hundreds of other businesses out there looking to get rainbows and unicorns placed.

If you’re in charge of PR (either as the business owner or the internal PR person), it is your responsibility to protect yourself. You can’t buy legitimate articles and news placements, and if anyone tells you otherwise, they are lying to you. You can buy advertising and at some news outlets (particularly trades) that may afford you some editorial space.

When you hire a reputable firm you are buying time from experts. You are not buying a “placement” like an advertisement. PR firms are people, not the tools or tactics they may employ, so understand that hiring a PR firm is not like “buying” an ad, where you can indeed guarantee placement and impressions.

Also, it matters little how good the “relationship” they have with any media outlet – what matters is crafting a good story, getting it into the hands of the right media professionals, cordially following up and doing this with consistency and constancy. Good PR firms know how to contact virtually any media professional (we have tools).

So, unless you cured cancer (then yes, I’d be happy to guarantee placement) understand that that’s just not how it works. And, as reputable PR firms, we must work hard to call out these clowns that do a long term disservice to our entire profession. My best advice, regardless of whether you have a professional firm on retainer or just someone you know that is legitimately an expert: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Here’s some warning signs and things to watch out for:
1. Yes, for $2,000 we’ll get you five placements and for $4,000 we’ll get you 15.
2. All you have to do is pay for the video crew.
3. And when we run this story, we’d like the names and addresses of 20 of your clients so we can share it with them, too.
4. You don’t need to call a firm, we’ll handle everything.
5. Yep, we’ll get that in USA Today (or insert other major news outlet)
6. Eh, we know people at the New York Times. They’ll run what we tell them.
7. We believe in paying for performance, so you only pay us when we get your article placed. We charge $25,000 for a placement.

And there are, sadly, many more. It’s a jungle out there, so be careful and remember, a good reputable firm or professional is working hard to do legitimate things that help businesses be more successful. Media relations are and should be only part of an overall successful marketing mix that is consistent, constant, and measurable, and with a realistic budget.

About the Author
Rodger Roeser is the CEO of The Eisen Agency, a marketing and PR firm in Cincinnati. He is also the national chairman of The Public Relations Agency Owner’s Association and works with other PR firms across the country to assist in their operations and profitability.
Reach him at RRoeser@TheEisenAgency.com.

 

 

Holiday Marketing: Say It With a Picture

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Business Success Logo“Focusing on image-based platforms like Instagram and Pinterest can take your marketing efforts to the next level,” writes Business News Daily. “Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar store or an online retailer, the next few weeks are critical for driving those important year-end sales.”

The news site spoke with Curalate CEO Apu Gupta, who says “There are so many things competing for our attention today, and you need shortcuts to process it. Images allow us to do that.”

He provides three tips for social media: Use eye-catching images; Make use of user-generated images; and pay attention to your analytics.

You can read the full details on these tips here.

 

Business Success: How to blog when you’ve no idea what to say

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Having a blog on your business’ website can be a great way to attract, inform, and interact with customers. However, a blog either has consistent new content — or it is among the living dead, and despite the popularity of a certain TV show, will repel, not attract, your customers. So how do you keep it fresh? Mark Satterfield offers 17 evergreen ideas.

“But What Will I Blog About?”
17 Evergreen Posts That Pull Readers In (And Turn Them into Clients)

Mark Satterfield

Mark Satterfield

As any experienced business blogger will tell you, one of the toughest parts of the job is thinking of a steady stream of interesting topics. Whether you’re on your 5th or 55th post, it’s equally important to offer value (and to some degree, entertainment) to your readers.

Whenever you can write about current events or trends, do so—connecting to what’s going on in the world will help you establish your business’s relevancy and credentials. But for those times when you’re fresh out of newsy ideas yet you still need to publish something that piques readers’ interest, you need a good list of evergreen topics.

Here, I share 17 blog post ideas that will help you to attract new clients (and strengthen your relationship with existing ones!) by establishing yourself as a thought leader in your field. (The blog post titles I suggest are purposefully generic; feel free to adapt them and jazz them up wherever possible!) 

• Things You Should Be Doing Now
This post showcases three to five items everyone should be doing on a regular basis, whether they’re a client or not. Ideally, you want this to be something that isn’t commonly known. If you’re a dentist, you can write, “You already know to brush and floss twice a day, but here are some things that you might not know.” Then tell readers something like, “Instead of using toothpaste, you’re much better off brushing with a mixture that’s half hydrogen peroxide and half mouthwash.” Let readers know what benefits this strategy will give them and briefly mention the fuller benefits they would get if they came to see you.

• Mistakes (or Bad Habits) to Avoid
This idea is the opposite of the previous post. Again, try to think of mistakes that would surprise most people, explain why they’re detrimental, and close with an explanation of how you and your company can help.

• My Mistake! Where I Went Wrong and What I Learned
Let your readers know how you got through it and how it’s influenced you today. Demonstrating that you have personally experienced the pain your prospective clients are facing shows that your knowledge is more than theoretical. My wife has said to me, “It would be great if you got it right the first time, just once,” but the fact that I’m willing to share mistakes makes my recommended solution all the more credible.

• Survey Says…and the Results Are…
Conduct a survey and then report the results. This will give you two pieces, one in which you conduct the survey and one in which you report on the results. SurveyMonkey.com is a great resource. You can also make it super-simple and ask people to send their replies to your email address.

• How to Solve [Insert Common Problem]
Five ways to cheer yourself up when you’re depressed or sad. Three great questions to ask in a job interview. Seven places to go to hire the best copywriters. People love resource lists and find them incredibly helpful. It’s an easy blog post to write if you know what your readers’ “point of pain” is.

• Making a List (and Checking It Twice)
Can you put together a convenient list that people in your niche will find relevant or useful? It could be books and articles to read, things to do, or things to avoid. And don’t forget social media. Maybe you could make a list of groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ that your audience should be members of. Or perhaps you can make a list of people they should follow. A client of mine put together a list of Twitter handles for literary agents, which was retweeted heavily.

• How I Became a [Insert Whatever You Do]
This is a great way to showcase your credentials and experience. You’ll get SEO benefit when people search for the job title that the post references, and there is usually a high degree of curiosity about these types of articles. Plus, you’re the ultimate expert on the path you took to get where you are today. Just make sure your post doesn’t read like a résumé in sentence form—be sure to infuse your story with interesting personal details, like the mentor who changed your focus in school or obstacles you had to overcome.

• Frequently Asked Questions
Most of us who have some type of expertise get asked certain questions about ourselves, our jobs, our products, and/or our companies repeatedly. It’s old hat to us, but for those who don’t have our level of expertise, having answers to FAQ in one place is very helpful. Think about the typical questions you get asked a lot once people find out what you do, or the questions someone asks you when they’re sitting next to you on a plane.

• Case Study: Overcoming [Insert a Problem]
Tell the tale of a real or hypothetical company in your industry that’s facing a problem, then describe what they can do to make it better. (Ideally, highlight how your company is planning to avoid this problem altogether.)

• You Asked; I Answered
Again, this can address a legitimate question from a reader—or you can use questions you think your readers are asking themselves. Make this post a bit more scenario-specific than your general FAQ post.

 • A Look at Current and/or Future Trends
Talk about current trends in your industry, or be really brave and talk about what those trends could lead to in the near future—or even 10 years from now.

• My Take: Commentary on [Insert Title of Article or Presentation]
Report on articles you’ve read in trade publications or items you’ve learned at conventions you’ve attended.

• Mythbusters: Revealing the Truth Behind a Common Misconception
Isn’t it time to set the record straight? The truth, whether it’s good, bad, or ugly, starts with you.

• Dear Diary: A Day in My Life
This may surprise you, but many readers will follow your posts simply because they become interested in you as a person. I did one of these types of posts on a dare, never thinking it would be of interest, and received a surprisingly large amount of positive response.

• Welcome to My World: A Look at Where I Work
What’s it look like where you work? Take photos and write about them, or better still, make a video. Remember, people will hire you not simply because you can do what needs to be done. (Frankly, there are always a lot of people who can jump that bar.) They’ll hire you because of your technical capabilities and because they feel connected to you. This is a great way to facilitate that process.

• Meet My Mentor
Write about a mentor (or someone you admire in your industry). I was initially reticent to mention others in my blog since I thought it would take away from my own credibility. I was wrong. Talking about the role that others have played in your life makes you more real in the eyes of your subscribers. It demonstrates that you’re always learning and growing. People want to hire those who display those characteristics.

• Coming Attractions: What You Can Expect from Me (or from My Company) Soon
There’s a reason why so many of us love the previews at movie theaters almost as much as the feature attraction: People love to know what’s coming next. Give them an inside peek at what’s on its way in your business. Internet marketer Ryan Deiss posts a blog every Friday about what he’s reading that weekend. Even if my personal reading list is packed, I still find that I can’t resist taking a peek at the blog.

— Mark Satterfield is the author of The One Week Marketing Plan: The Set It & Forget It Approach for Quickly Growing Your Business. He is the founder and CEO of Gentle Rain Marketing, Inc. For 20 years, he’s advised entrepreneurs, consultants, advisors, and business owners on how to attract consistent streams of brand new prospects and turn large percentages of them into paying clients. He is the author of eight books, including Unique Sales Stories: How to Get More Referrals, Differentiate Yourself from the Competition & Close More Sales through the Power of Stories. To learn more or to receive weekly email tips for growing your business,  visit www.gentlerainmarketing.com.

 

Hiring the right employees

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Business Success LogoHaving the right staff is vital to the success of any business, writes executive coach Jay Katz. He provides four tips for “to help small businesses reduce the uncertainty inherent in the hiring process.”

1. Idealize the fit. An ideal candidate will need to have certain abilities and qualifications. That person also needs to work well with you and your other staff.

2. Starting the employment with a three or six month probationary period.

3. Ask some non-standard, open-ended questions that will really identify the work style and fit that you want.

4. Understand your Gen Y applicants. Millennials are quickly changing the way we interact with each other and conduct business.

For the full details on each tip, read the story here.

Business Success: Stallone-like Stamina

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So maybe you don’t have to run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but facing adversity like Stallone’s pugilist character can still be a necessary quality in business today, says a coach at Electric Impulse Communications.

Six Things You Need to Know to Be Great in Business Today 
by Leslie G. Unger

Leslie G Ungar

The Rocky movie franchise first came into our lives in 1976. Detroit and Motown both were still churning out hits. Rocky gave the world this quote that remains as true today for business as when these words were mumbled by the prizefighter 37 years ago. “It’s about how hard you get hit . .  . How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”

Yet leadership in the 21st century is very different in some core ways than it was just a few years ago. Six Things You Need to Know to Be Great in Business Today:

 

1.    Emotional Stamina
The simple truth is you will have many ups and downs as a leader, in starts and stops. You have to be prepared: mentally.  You are relentlessly chasing a never-ending, always- moving target, especially if you look to being the best. That takes mental stamina. What you need to do to acquire and maintain that stamina may be different for each of you. The end result needs to be the same: to acquire mental toughness.

2.    Align Your Goals with Employee Goals
Notice I said align your goals. I did not say employee’s need to align themselves with your goals. In the 1960’s and 1970’s a CEO could dictate hours, job descriptions and even dictate transfers.  In our 21st century world, it’s the leader’s job to be aligned with every employee. It is not the employee’s job to be aligned with leadership.

3.    Communicate a Big Vision
And turn the vision into small tasks. To lead you need to see the vision, the bigger picture. Then you need to communicate it in a way that gets buy-in from your troops.

To implement your vision will require small tasks. You need to either be willing to do them or find those who are gifted at those small pieces. The challenge for you is to value both: the people who see the bigger picture and those that can implement it.

4.    Stay Relevant
21st century leaders need to know how important and how much energy is involved in successful and on-going goal to be relevant. An employee’s skills are not relevant when you as the leader say they are updated. They are not current when they say they are current. They are relevant when they demonstrate they are relevant.

Training to stay relevant is not just an event. Not a Lean Sigma or a Six Sigma event. Training is a process. An on-going process and it needs to go on and on and on . . . even if you are the CEO.

5.    Be Consistent
Consistency is a huge value. The invisible fence only works for your dog because it is consistent. As soon as it stops working or works intermittently it ceases to be an effective tool. McDonald’s is not the best food or the cheapest. It is consistent whether you purchase it in Paris, France or Paris, Texas.

6.    Flexibility is Huge
In the 21st century you have to be fluid. It is a value to know when to adapt your goals and when to hold fast to them. To be light and flexible is a skill you need to identify and implement.

Detroit was on top and then it was not. The railroad was king and then it was not. Newspapers led their market and then they did not. When I grew up in in Akron Ohio we were tire capital of the world, and then we were not. The traits of leadership evolve with the sands of time. Follow these 6 tips to make sure that you are a 21st century leader conducting business in a 21st century manner.

At Electric Impulse Communications, We Catapult Leaders to Their Next Level of Success. Reach out to me at Leslie@electricimpulse.com Leslie G. Unger, Coach, Speaker, and Speechwriter. blog: leadersneedtospeak.com

 

Business Success: Stay out of their shorts!

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Yeah, “less is more” has become kinda a cliche in everything from decorating to dining to… business advice. But this week consultant Jim Grew tells us how you can better apply some simple principles to your planning and management.

Less Is More: 3D + 3T Management

jim grew

The number-one problem I see with my senior executive clients is a level of conscientiousness that slips into compulsion. Even when these executives delegate, they’re in the shorts of their people. (It’s a clumsy way to do things — just picture it).

Everyone benefits when we stop believing we’re so important and start believing in our employees and their importance. One practical way to implement this thinking is to better manage the barrage of communication in daily business life.

In the late sixties and early seventies, I worked with Verne Smith at a large chain of grocery stores in the Chicago area. Verne’s management technique was to ignore paper and go see what his people did. Back in the day when meat was cut in the store, Verne led about 1,200 meat cutters in 125 supermarkets, spread over 300 square miles. He managed supervisors while pleasing executives in the billion-dollar organization where he was a senior officer.
Verne’s philosophy on memos and management was this:  “All memos go in this top drawer. Tomorrow they’ll go in the middle drawer. The third day they go in the bottom drawer. The next day I throw them out.” He never read them: “If they need me, they’ll call me.” His division’s morale and numbers were tops in the company.

The endless tide of corporate communications can threaten to drown anyone, and it can keep senior executives tied to a compulsive conscientiousness. Tame the tide by riding the wave instead of swimming in it. For each communication you receive, choose one:

1. DELETE: Toss it. Trust me on this: Most of what you receive goes here.

2. DELAY: Unless it’s really urgent, hit the pause button. You are the decider, not the sender. You have goals and priorities. Use them. Often, if you hit pause, others will solve it.

3. DELEGATE: Reward one of your people with this task. They’ll appreciate the chance to do well and impress others, so let them have the satisfaction. If they need a bit of help, it will take less of you than doing the whole thing, and it will help others grow into expanding competence.

I call that 3D management, and it’s an effective method for dealing with written communication and will free you to focus on what matters. Anyone can be subject to distraction, and as a senior executive, you don’t have time for that nonsense.

While we’re at it, here’s 3T management: Cut out stray chatter by helping your folks know when to talk with you. Let everyone know that there are three rules for communication with a supervisor:

1. TELL ME BEFORE YOU DO IT:
Risk drives this one. If the risk is high, you want to review their plan before they pull the trigger, even though it’s their plan and their trigger.

2. DO IT AND TELL ME AFTER:
When their action impacts others inside or outside the organization, awareness is all you need. Resist meddling in their solution; it will help them grow.

3. DO IT AND DON’T TELL ME:
This applies more and more, as your confidence in your team and their skills develop. When in doubt, do this. Really. If you audit your conversations for a week, you’ll be stunned at the waste. Go sit in the sun, or play. Everyone will thrive.

Your job requires you to do less than you think.  When employees are free to do their jobs, then you are free to do yours. Focus on growth and profitability, and leave the excess of communication to others.

Jim Grew is an expert in CEO-level strategy and executive leadership whose clients refer to him as the Business Transition Defogger.
For more information, visit, www.winning-ceo.com