Business success: Beware the oxymoron

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Business Success LogoIf you’ve forgotten from your grammar lessons a few(!) years ago, an oxymoron is two words used together that, separately, mean the opposite of each other, like jumbo shrimp, cruel kindness, same difference, deafening silence… a word geek like myself could go on and on. But instead, I suggest we consider a phrase not typically included in a list of oxymorons: “strategic planning.” Do these two words really contradict each other? Mark Faust, founder of www.EchelonManagement.com and author of Growth or Bust! Proven Turnaround Strategies To Grow Your Business, says they do.

“Strategic Planning’ is an Oxymoron

mark-faust-gobTo say, “strategic planning” is a call of management and board, is to ply an oxymoron, or at least refer to a practice for the moronic.

There is strategic thinking and there is planning and implementation. Strategy is the framework within which decisions are made which set the nature and direction of an organization. Planning has to do with implementation and tactics and tactics are what it takes to implement the strategy.

People claiming to be consultants who facilitate “strategic planning” probably don’t know many of the rudimentary aspects of strategy nor management. Beware of the “Strategic Planning” expert.

Rather than “strateegery” and the latest management fad mumbo jumbo, board members must hold leadership accountable to making sound decisions around the strategy to compete and position in the marketplace but this process is more about assessing your potential and position in the marketplace from the perspective of the customer than “strategic planning.”

The more apt term for the process an organization needs is that of self-assessment and it begins with your marketing and market-related objectives, which can be determined by questions like these:

  • What is your decision on concentration? What is your competitive advantage, and in what areas of the market can you be most successful? What differentiates you from the competition, how do you prove it and how clear is this to your best customers and non-customers? What are the different activities we’re performing that our competition is not? What are the similar activities we’re performing in a way that differs from our competition?

Answering these questions accurately helps to ensure that your market focus and positioning strategies are most effective and thus helps you to win what to your company will be the lowest hanging fruits.

  • What is your decision on your ideal market standing?

There can be great dangers to having an 85 percent market share, just as having too small a market share could be proof of gross ineffectiveness and lead to great vulnerability. It is better for you to have 50 percent of 250 than 85 percent of 100. Companies that are near monopoly face significant growth pressures and usually cannot effectively innovate. Choosing the most market share is not the objective; choosing the optimal market share is your objective. Boards must ensure leadership is determining the optimal.

Only after answering the above can leadership most effectively set Innovation objectives which can be determined by asking questions like these:

  • What is your business, and what should it be? What is the result that customers buy from you, or what is the job they want accomplished?

These questions can be an opportunity of great innovation and repositioning for you in the marketplace. GE Aircraft Engines made a significant leap in the marketplace and in profits when they realized that rather than selling engines, parts and services that what the customer would value more would be “power by the hour.” This all in one offering at a unified price empowered airlines to better align costs and gain a new advantage.

  • What areas might you not be adequately serving?
  • What businesses, products, or practices, if you weren’t in them today, would you still choose to get into? Which ones would you not enter, and thus, what markets might you need to exit, or what practices might you need to abandon?
  • How do you prioritize potential new markets, and what are the triggers that signal that you should enter them?
  • What are all of the potential distribution channels you could employ? What are the advantages of each, and where might you consider changing your distributive organization?
  • What is your customers’ perception of your service, and how do you compare to their alternatives? What is the optimal service standard and performance you need
 to aim for, and how do you best leverage this strategic choice in the marketplace?

Ensure your leadership begins a process of ongoing self-assessment and refinement of the above and other questions behind the process and you can transform the opportunities and growth of your organization…but whatever you do, don’t fall for strategic planning!

Discover “20 Awesome Productivity Tricks Anyone Can Use”

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Business Success LogoThis morning I came across an article by Inc. Magazine‘s Jeff Haden titled “20 Awesome Productivity Tricks Anyone Can Use.” Well, there’s a headline I’m certainly not going to ignore! Scrolling through the tips (which you do by clicking on each picture in the article), I decided there are lots of ideas here I will use, and I wanted to share them with you.

“Even though we all want to be more productive, it’s hard to make major changes. Small changes are easy – and can be incredibly powerful. That’s why the following 20 tips are simple enough you can immediately incorporate them into your daily routine,” Haden writes. “Some tips will help you better use your time. Others will help you harness your energy. Others will help you stay more focused. No matter what, they all work. So try a few – or try them all!”

Read the article here.

Business success: Oh, my ears and whiskers!

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Business Success LogoDo you ever feel like that rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland”: always running a bit behind, trying to catch up, feeling like you have more to do than can be done? Yeah, me too.

But read on… this week’s Business Success contributor — Andy Core, author of Change Your Day, Not Your Life: A Realistic Guide to Sustained Motivation, More Productivity, and the Art of Working Well — has some great, easy tactics for getting a grip on your too-busy days. 

13 Tips for Thriving in a To-Do List-Dominated World

As hard as I work every day, shouldn’t I have “arrived” by now? It’s a question that nags at you as you slog

Andy Core

Andy Core

through each day, bound to the tyranny of your to-do list, one eye constantly on the clock. It seems all you do is work, but you have only mediocre results to show for it. Once, you had big goals and the confidence to achieve them, but now all you feel is tired, stressed, and overburdened. It seems the dreams you once had—of leading your department, being the top salesperson, joining the C-suite—have disappeared into the quicksand that has become your daily life.

If this scenario describes you, you’re not a loser. Like so many others, you’re an unwitting victim of today’s demanding work culture, not to mention bad habits that are sabotaging your best efforts.

As you go through life, you develop habits and routines that you think will help you succeed. Problem is, many of those patterns probably don’t work for you personally. What’s productive for your coworker may not work well for you, for example. Or a strategy that was effective five years ago may no longer work.

Even your instincts can lead you astray. But you can change habits and patterns that don’t serve you. You can refocus your attention, redirect your thoughts, and generate greater motivation, energy, optimism, and creativity, as well as more rewarding relationships.

As a thought leader on increasing employee engagement, I can help you become what I call a “Thriver”: someone who works hard, meets or exceeds expectations, and enjoys high levels of personal and professional success, accompanied by (and this is the best part) lower stress levels.

My new book, Change Your Day, Not Your Life: A Realistic Guide to Sustained Motivation, More Productivity, and the Art of Working Well, gives readers the tools to create precisely that type of life. It also includes a curriculum to help companies reengage employees, improve communication, retain talent, and boost innovation—all of which catapult overall profitability.

To start reclaiming the goals that once inspired and excited you, you’ll have to change the way you approach your day. Instead of a worker whose actions are dictated by supervisors and to-do lists, you’ll need to begin acting like the CEO of your own life.

Read on for a few CEO-worthy tactics that will help you start thriving immediately:

Figure out what’s doable in a day. In Change Your Day, I write about a woman named Janet. She came to me hoping that I could help her find some semblance of balance. She was overworked, overstressed, and overweight. She had no time to exercise or to spend with friends and family. She was constantly on the go and fueled by caffeine, with no chance to recuperate between projects. Not surprisingly, Janet wanted to change her life.

Initially, Janet was disappointed when I told her that changing her life was just too hard. But I explained that turning your whole life around is too big a goal. You can’t sustain that many major changes at once. Instead, I told Janet, I simply wanted her to change her day. I wanted her to reengineer her routine a little bit at a time, one day at a time, cutting out a small stressor here, and adding in a more productive habit there. Our whole strategy was to make small, doable changes that would, over time, create an unstoppable momentum.

You must do the same. You must set realistic boundaries. You must create goals that can be accomplished in the space of a day. Remember, nearly all problems, challenges, and needs are best faced if they are brought down to the scale of “what can be done right now” by taking on “one small piece” of a difficult situation.

Get big things done before 9:00 a.m. (instead of snoozing, procrastinating, and lurking at the water cooler). Ever notice how your morning sets the tone for your whole day? As Sir Isaac Newton famously said, “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.” So if an object (you) gets a groggy, frustrating start, you’ll probably feel sluggish and behind the eight-ball all day long. However, if you start your day with positive and productive ideas, actions, thoughts, and feelings, you’re likely to gain momentum throughout the day.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. I know a top salesman named Barry whose daily pattern involves getting up early, exercising, eating breakfast, spending time with family, and accomplishing several meetings or other work activities before 9:00 a.m. By the time his colleagues are settling into the starting blocks, Barry has already blown through several important tasks on his to-do list, and he’s geared to continue that pace for the next several hours.

The point here isn’t how early Barry’s alarm rings—it’s that he makes the most of the first several hours of his day instead of snoozing and procrastinating, as so many of us do. The truth is this: What you do first matters.

DO first, then KNOW (not the other way around). Most people believe that the knowledge that something is important should make you want to do it. But in reality, that’s not the case. So, why don’t we do what we know we should do? If we know spending less time on Facebook will make us more productive, why won’t we just commit to spending an hour less on the site each day? If we know setting aside 30 minutes to walk or jog each day will make us healthier, why aren’t we jumping up off the couch right now?

Study after study shows that knowledge alone usually isn’t enough to impact our desires. In fact, the opposite is true. First, you must do something—like bite the bullet and put on your workout clothes! If you experience positive feelings, attitudes, and results because of your action, you will learn that whatever you just did is good, and you’ll want to do it again, and again, and again. Over time, you’ll develop a new habit, and you’ll become an evolved person.

In other words, you must DO in order to KNOW in order to BE different. Remember, nothing in your life gets better until your daily patterns get better.

Own up to your junk hours. “Junk hours” are a little like junk food: While they provide short-term pleasure, they contribute to long-term imbalance and exhaustion. For instance, junk hours might include chasing rabbit trails on the Internet, shooting the breeze with colleagues at the water cooler, checking email in order to avoid doing other work, or even attending an unnecessary meeting.

In order to maximize each day, you need to own up to your junk hours. You need to identify when you’re going through the motions of work, versus when real work is being done. Don’t be ashamed that your junk hours exist, because everybody needs to take breaks and shift gears. Your task now is to exchange your low-value “junk” activities for ones that build greater health and value into your workday.

For instance, I know one woman who, instead of taking an endless string of coffee breaks, sets aside 20 minutes each afternoon to knit. I know another man who decided to spend his lunch hours either with friends or going to the gym, instead of trying to squeeze in more work around bites of a burger. In both instances, these scheduled breaks increased my friends’ energy levels and sense of well-being. They felt less of a need to take low-value breaks and began to experience more productivity.

Instead of adding to your to-do list, build a new pattern. Maybe you’re thinking, Sure, I’d like to change my day, but the thought of adding a boatload of items to my already out-of-control to-do list makes me want to crawl back into bed. I can’t handle any more tasks and responsibilities! If that sounds familiar, take a deep breath. The changes that build momentum are rooted in decisions, not additional tasks.

To build a productive new pattern into your life, you usually won’t have to add new tasks to your day. Instead, you’ll simply do what you are already doing, or want to do, in a way that becomes habitual. For instance, if you want to wake up an hour earlier so that you can jump-start the day, you simply have to change the time your alarm rings and the time you go to bed. If you want to be more productive at work, you might have to replace aimless procrastination with scheduled breaks. In both cases, you’re changing the way you perform existing tasks, not adding new ones.

Remember, though, it isn’t sufficient to simply trigger the start of a new behavior. You need to make sure that you have a motivating reason to make this change, as well as the confidence and energy to sustain it so that it becomes a pattern.

Start with one thing. Then add another. Then another. Losing weight is one of the most commonly made New Year’s resolutions. It’s also one of the most commonly abandoned. That’s because people think of losing weight as a singular change. It’s not. To lose weight, a person will need to eat healthier, eat smaller quantities, and become more physically active. That’s three changes. And each of those sub-changes has many smaller components; for instance, eating healthier might involve drinking more water and less soda, eating more fruits and veggies, reducing refined sugars, etc. That’s a lot of changes to keep track of!

The point is, don’t take on more than you can handle. Break each goal down to its smallest components, then pick one of them to tackle. Pursue this change until it becomes a habit, then move on to the next one. Start with one thing and don’t add another until you’re ready. Positive motion creates positive emotion.

Make a big-box checklist. It’s a given that you have a to-do list. Maybe it’s on paper, on your smartphone, or just in your head…but you have one. It’s also highly likely that your list isn’t as useful as it could be. Too often, you get stuck doing the urgent instead of the important. I have a solution: Make an actual, on-paper checklist each afternoon for the following day or each morning. Put a box by each task—the more important that task is for you to complete that day, the bigger its box should be.

I focus first on my big-box tasks. At the end of the day, if most of them have checkmarks, it’s generally been a good day! Yes, prioritizing my daily list by the size of the boxes on it may sound simplistic, but it has made me feel much more accomplished and satisfied with my day. It also has helped me relax in the evenings because it is easier to remember the big boxes I’ve checked off, thereby making it easier to leave work at work. I’m no longer distracted by each shiny ball that rolls by—I’m able to ignore them and train my focus on what’s really important.

Think about it so you don’t have to think about it. We all have “those” tasks and obligations that eat up a lot of our time, that we find difficult and frustrating, or both. For instance, when you come home at the end of each day, maybe you find yourself standing in the middle of your kitchen with no clue what to cook for dinner. As a hunt-and-peck typist, I was once slowed down and aggravated by the need to produce papers and reports.

Figure out where these areas are for you and commit to learning a new pattern. For me, that meant buying a book and relearning how to type using a two-hand method. In the cooking example above, that might mean getting into the habit of planning meals and shopping for their ingredients each weekend. Yes, learning new patterns can initially be tedious and laborious. But once they’ve taken hold—often in three weeks or less—they’ll speed up your performance, streamline your effort, and lower your stress. By putting in some thought about “problem areas” now, you’ll save yourself from having to think about them later. Eventually, this method changes once-tedious tasks into automatic, “I don’t have to think about it” behaviors.

Infuse meaning into your work. First, let’s get one thing straight: Doing meaningful work does not mean that you will “love” every second of it. “Meaning” can simply be a recognition of what you enjoy about your work. With that understanding, though, you’ll be more motivated, productive, and satisfied. I recommend completing the following exercise:

• Focus on what gives you the greatest joy and meaning at work—be able to define it.

• Reflect on how you are making a difference at work and through your work—be able to give examples.

• Reflect on the meaning of your work as it relates to your core values.

• And then…seek to increase what you enjoy!

You’ll come to find that the “administrivia,” the mundane and routine chores required of you, and the not-so-exciting aspects of your work become easier to do and get completed more quickly if you have a strong focus on what you do find exciting, rewarding, or fulfilling. Personally, thinking about how I hope to help people with my next speech, presentation, or coaching session helps me to get through the parts of my workday that I don’t enjoy as much, like paperwork, scheduling, and staff issues.

Seek to serve, not shine. To some extent, it’s human nature to look out for Number One. We all want to rack up accomplishments, receive accolades, and garner recognition. But in many situations, the desire to shine can cause you to get in your own way. Just think of the overeager salesman whose desire to exceed his quota makes him come off as pushy. Instead of convincing you to buy his product, his self-serving attitude just makes you want to cut the meeting short.

Ironically, the key to shining is putting others first. People who channel their efforts toward making others’ lives easier are nearly always respected, included, and considered valuable. When you help others reach their goals and become their best, you’ll usually find that the same things happen to you.

Fill up your energy bank account so you can make withdrawals when you need them. Throughout life, circumstances arise that are beyond our control. You may experience a major illness, lose a loved one, or be forced to relocate. You may have to occasionally work long days and go without sleep. The list goes on. It’s because of these out-of-our-hands circumstances that we must all focus on controlling what we can.

What I mean is, know your needs and capacities and try not to exceed them on a regular basis. In other words, get enough sleep. Eat nutritiously. Exercise when time permits. That way, when you do find yourself needing to push the limits, you’ll have a healthy margin of energy, motivation, or whatever to draw on. Manage what you can manage as often as possible in order to compensate for what you cannot manage.

Forget the future. (Really!) The future can be an inspiring thing…but it can also be a scary and misleading one. Awfulizing, what-ifs, and doomsday thinking can plunge you into paralyzing anxiety. And making incorrect assumptions can send you down the wrong path. That’s why, aside from setting goals for yourself, you should try not to let your mind wander into future outcomes.

Thrivers trust in an execution mindset and focus their attention and efforts on the here and now. That’s because nobody can predict when or under what conditions the future is going to unfold. The only thing a person truly can do is to focus on the processes of today—and live them out to the max. That’s not only going to produce personal peace in the present tense, it’s going to be the best possible preparation for whatever the future holds. Enjoy the process and take great joy in the rewards!

Forgive yesterday so you can work on today. Most successful, hardworking people are often hard on themselves to an unproductive level. They are their own worst critics and spend valuable time lingering on mistakes and slip-ups. Long after the event—whatever it was—is over, they beat themselves up relentlessly instead of spending their time in a more productive state.

Treat yourself with the same compassion and generosity you’d extend to another person who’d messed up or fallen short of a goal. If it helps, follow the two-hour rule I learned from one of my past coaches: When you have a bad performance or make a mistake, you have two hours to pout, scream, cry, wallow, or do whatever you think will help you deal with the disappointment. But when 120 minutes have passed, it’s time to start moving forward again.

Remember, nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. What sets Thrivers apart is the fact that after a fall, they forgive themselves faster, get back up, and continue the journey forward.

By making small changes in how you approach your day, you can begin to take back your to-do list and accomplish the big goals that will really help you thrive. It’s time to stop allowing your quest for success to leave you feeling tired, stressed, and disillusioned. So, how will your tomorrow look different from your today? What is one small change you can make right now to start rewiring the patterns that define your life?

Business success: Don’t spit back

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Business Success LogoMy dad always used to say, when someone was really, really enraged, that they were “spitting bullets.” We’ve all seen or experienced situations like this, when someone is so angry that they’re spraying rage, and even insults, like buckshot. Anybody who gets in their way, targeted or not, might take a hit. This is never a pleasant position to be in, but it can be particularly challenging in a customer service situation — especially when other customers are within earshot.

Here, John Tschohl, President of Service Quality Institute, explains how to not just handle a furious customer, but even keep their business.

Deal With an Irate Customer, Don’t Lose Them

John Tschohl

John Tschohl

Facing off with a screaming, unreasonable, irrational customer represents the ultimate test of any employee’s service skills.  It can take you to your breaking point if you’re not careful.  Staying grounded and above the fray requires you to find inner strength, and persevere beyond the initial difficulties.

Dealing with irate customers is one of the most pressure-packed experiences you will ever encounter on any job.  During every confrontation it is important to remember:

  • Every customer is a different person with a unique set of circumstances and personality traits.
  • Irate customer encounters can emerge out of nowhere—the key is to be ready.
  • You represent an opportunity to set things right.
  • Compassion is essential.
  • Despite your best efforts, sometimes there is nothing that can save a situation.

Ditch the “I’m Sorry” Script.  Sorry, just doesn’t cut it sometimes.  Saying “”I’m Sorry” is so overused it sounds insincere.  Be specific by saying “I apologize for this issue…”  Make sure your apology directly makes reference to the actual issue, and ALWAYS try to use the customer’s name when addressing them.  It adds a personal connection to them.

Get on the customer’s side of the counter.  Visualize for a moment an upset customer walking in your door and approaching you.  The first thing an angry customer does is attack you.  It’s very important to remember that you are not personally being attacked but are listening to someone who is in an attacking mode.

Partner with your customer.  Let the customer know that your job is to go to bat for them.  This tells them that you are their emissary and you want to resolve it together.

The 4 C’s of Handling Irate Customers and Difficult Situations

It’s all about:

• Compassion – Listen carefully and react to their words, not just their

behavior.  Examine the facts.

Calm – Remain calm and don’t lose your cool.

Confidence – Handle the situation knowing you are following company guidelines—and serve the customer.

Competence – Save the customer with your competent handling of the situation so he or she continues to be a customer.

Regardless of how a problem is solved, getting it done now is the best way to stop the venting and to bring an irate customer around.  You need to show your customer than, as an employee and as the face of your organization you are invested in solving the problem.

6 Steps to Handle Irate Customers

  1.  Listen carefully and with interest. Put yourself in your customer’s place
  2. Ask questions and actively listen to the answers
  3. Suggest alternatives that address their concerns
  4. Apologize without laying blame
  5. Solve the problem quickly and efficiently.

Remember, it costs at least five times as much to gain a new customer than keep an existing one and with social media it’s even more costly.  The average number of friends on Facebook is 130.  Keeping a complaining customer, according to Tschohl, should be the top priority, and at these cost ratios you can afford to be generous in your time and effort.  Successful companies set themselves apart with the service they provide to their clients and customers even at the most difficult times.

Handling irate customers can be difficult and take an extraordinary amount of patience and time, but in the end it benefits everyone in your organization, and your customers as well.

Take Care Of Yourself.  Dealing with irate customers will drain you physically and emotionally and put your skills to the test.  You must find ways to take care of yourself.  As part of your “recovery time”, know that dealing with irate customers is allowing yourself to relax, recharge and assess your role.  Recovery separates you from the situation and gives you a chance to breathe.

Learn from every complaint.  Do something!  Fix the process; train staff in the issue; eliminate the fault.  Wherever possible let the complaining customer know that they have helped you resolve a problem – they’ll feel great and come back again and again (and will probably tell their friends!).

Business success: Talk like The Gipper

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Business Success LogoWe all know being an effective communicator is an essential skill in business — but knowing it, and actually accomplishing it, are two very different things. This week, we get some tips on improving communication skills from none other than the Great Communicator himself, Ronald Reagan… as told by Dan Quiggle, author of the new book, Lead Like Reagan: Strategies to Motivate, Communicate, and Inspire.

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Dan Quiggle

In studying the highest levels of leadership, impact, and influence, several common aspects of effective communication become clear. The 10th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s passing was Thursday, June 5, but even 10 years later and 25 years after his presidency, he is still known as the “Great Communicator.” He masterfully demonstrated effective communication throughout his presidency, a perfect and historical example being his speech at the Brandenburg Gate, when he implored Gorbachev to “tear down this wall!” You can become a “Great Communicator” by carefully planning and creating your own messaging.

Powerful communication skills are critical to positively affect the overall direction and impact of your vision and its fulfillment. Time and time again, Ronald Reagan not only spoke words with resonant meaning and impact but prompted action from the American people and the world.

Whether it’s a keynote speech or a casual conversation with a family member, the true meaning and value of effective communication can be realized through focusing on the listener and tailoring your message accordingly, rather than prioritizing the words you want to say or the points you want to make. If you want to really improve the way you communicate and the impact your messages have on others, regularly evaluate what you say, how you say it, and how your words are being heard by others. If you truly want to communicate like the “Great Communicator,” you need to challenge yourself to embrace communication excellence.

Here are 15 essential ways you can increase your communication success:

1. Significance. Realize the significance, power, and the importance of clear, concise communication and the effect it can have on others and on the fulfillment—or the failure—of your vision.

2. Substance. Have substance—something meaningful and important to say. There are many leaders today who talk more and more and yet say less and less. Know what you want to say before you start talking. Plan your communication with great intention.

3. Sincerity. Communicate with honesty and authenticity—with sincerity. The more sincere your message is, the more impact it will have on others. As such, you need to choose your vision carefully and make sure it is one that you wholeheartedly embrace and can communicate genuinely.

4. Sell it. Believe in your vision and in your message. You need to have more enthusiasm for your vision than you expect others to have. Your passion and energy, or lack thereof, will be evident to your listeners.

5. Say it. Tell your listeners what you are going to tell them, then tell it to them, then tell them what you told them. Make sure they leave knowing exactly what you want them to know and remember.

6. Say it again and again. Constantly refer to your vision. Have a consistency in your message every time you communicate. Make it clear to others what you stand for, what you believe in, and what your vision is. Repeat it. Retell it. Restate it. Repeat it.

7. Symbolize it. Personify your vision and symbolize it. When you think of Ronald Reagan, you think of freedom. Make sure those around you know exactly what your vision is—and then personify it with consistency.

8. Stance. Be aware of your stance: 55 percent of face-to-face communication comes from body language, 38 percent comes from tone of voice, and only 7 percent of communication actually comes from the words used. Your nonverbal cues speak much more loudly than your words, so learn to control and manage your body language and facial expressions, making sure they match your spoken message.

9. Specialize. Even though you may be articulating your vision over and over again, it will be more meaningful and memorable if the message is customized for those hearing it—specialize. You should talk to people, not over their heads or beneath them. Talk to them, specifically.

10. Study. Be prepared, study, be informed and well read, and have compelling, convicting arguments supporting your vision. You should know more about your subject matter, your industry, your plan, and your vision than anyone else. Research related topics and fields so that you have an expansive base of knowledge. Gather relevant facts and information and develop creative ways to share them.

11. Style. There are many effective methods of speaking, so find your unique style. Infuse your personality, your background, and your vocabulary into a personal cadence and rhythm of speaking that uniquely suits you. Practice articulating your vision. Ask for candid feedback and continue to hone your most effective style.

12. Simplify. Use small, short words that everyone can understand and remember. A simple message clearly articulated is much more effective than one that seeks to impress others with your knowledge but is not able to transfer any of that knowledge to others.

13. Solicit. Invite commitment and support. When you communicate, it should be clear what is being asked. Articulate your vision and outline the role you want others to play in fulfilling it. Do not assume they know what you are asking of them. You have to tell them—and then persuasively invite their support and their best efforts.

14. Stories. Combine your content with original stories and personal examples that are meaningful to you and relevant to your vision. Stories can create far greater impact than just a conveyance of facts, ideas, or opinions. Chosen carefully, stories can affect others in powerful ways.

15. Smile. Nothing is more effective in engaging others than a genuine smile when appropriate. It brings a transparency to your message and conveys a warmth and kindness that has the potential to disarm even the harshest critic. Open the lines of communication by smiling—it is contagious!

Although there is no magic formula for becoming the Great Communicator, in your own way you can formulate, articulate, and communicate your vision with greater success, effectiveness, and confidence. As we see from Reagan, making memorable remarks is one thing, but those who are able to spur others to action, invite active participation, or cause a positive change in thinking or behavior truly understand the value and importance of communication. Words without action are without impact.

Whether you are communicating a vision to your company or speaking to your family, my challenge to you is to incorporate the example of Ronald Reagan to achieve greater impact. Choose your words carefully to not only inspire action, but to create a positive environment in which you can change your world and the world of those around you.

Dan Quiggle, author of “Lead Like Reagan: Strategies to Motivate, Communicate, and Inspire,” is the founder of The Quiggle Group, president and CEO of America’s Choice Title Co., and dean of faculty for the Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C. He began his professional career in the office of Ronald Reagan and learned leadership directly from the “Great Communicator” himself.

Business success: Get your groove back

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Business Success LogoIf you sometimes feel like your “get up and go” got up and went, this week’s Business Success column is for you! Geoffrey James, an author and columnist for Inc.com, offers some simple tips to get yourself motivated to succeed.

23 Best Ways to Get and Keep Motivated

No matter what you do for a living, the key to success is motivating yourself, each and every day.

Most people don’t realize that motivation mostly emerges from minor changes in your own behavior.

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Geoffrey James

Here’s how to remain a go-getter, even when the going gets rough:

  1. Realize that YOU are in control. You cannot control the outside world, but you can control your emotional reaction to it.
  2. Accept where you are. Life is like those signs that read “You Are Here.” You can get somewhere else only if you know where you are now.
  3. Adopt a positive vocabulary. Use strong adjectives (e.g., “fantastic”) to describe what’s good and weak words (e.g., “annoying”) to describe what’s not.
  4. Condition your mind. Train yourself to think positive thoughts while avoiding negative thoughts.
  5. Condition your body. It takes physical energy to take action. Get your food and exercise budget in place and follow it like a business plan.
  6. Avoid negative people. They drain your energy and waste your time, so hanging with them is like shooting yourself in the foot.
  7. Seek out the similarly motivated. Their positive energy will rub off on you, and you can imitate their success strategies.
  8. Have goals—but remain flexible. No plan should be cast in concrete, lest it become more important than achieving the goal.
  9. Act with a higher purpose. Any activity or action that doesn’t serve your higher goal is wasted effort—and should be avoided.
  10. Take responsibility. If you blame (or credit) luck, fate, or divine intervention, you’ll always have an excuse.
  11. Stretch past your limits. Walking the old, familiar paths is how you grow old. Stretching makes you grow and evolve.
  12. Don’t expect perfection. Perfectionists are the losers in the game of life. Strive for excellence rather than the unachievable.
  13. Celebrate your failures. Your most important lessons in life will come from what you don’t achieve. Take time to understand where you fell short.
  14. Don’t take success too seriously. Success can breed tomorrow’s failure if you use it as an excuse to become complacent.
  15. Avoid weak goals. Goals are the soul of achievement, so never begin them with “I’ll try…” Always start with “I will” or “I must.”
  16. Treat inaction as the only real failure. If you don’t take action, you fail by default and can’t even learn from the experience.
  17. Welcome obstacles. You can’t grow stronger if you’re not lifting something heavy, so savor your problems.
  18. Get perspective. Take the time and effort to step back, reexamine your assumptions, and find truths that you missed before.
  19. Appreciate being alive. Never neglect to marvel at the miracle of conscious existence, which is all too soon over.
  20. Relax more often. Spend at least one hour every day doing something that’s just because you enjoy doing it.
  21. Experience wonder. Take pleasure in the unexpected and unusual because without them life would be tedious and boring.
  22. Be playful. The joy of a child still lives inside you; let that child out at least once each day.
  23. Give thanks. Experience deep gratitude for all the wonderful things in your life: family, friends, work, and play.

Getting and keeping motivated puts you in control of your actions and your career, thereby lessening stress. Even implementing a handful of these changes can have a major effect on your health and your attitude. 

Business Success: Follow my lead

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Business Success LogoMath has never been my strong suit — but even so, until today I was pretty sure that 1 + 1 = 2. When it comes to generating new leads for your business, however, a little phenomenon known as “the halo effect” can make the sum of your marketing efforts greater than its parts. In this week’s Business Success column, David T. Scott, founder and former CEO of Marketfish Inc. and author of The New Rules of Lead Generation, explains how.

The Halo Effect: Creating Lift Through Integrated Lead Generation Marketing Campaigns

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David T. Scott

An integrated lead-generation marketing campaign is a campaign that uses two or more lead-generation tactics at one time. I recommend that you use seven lead-generation tactics – email, search engine, and social media marketing, banner advertising, direct mail, cold-calling, and trade shows – or as many as you can. If all seven tactics will work for your type of business, try to use them all. If only four or five tactics are appropriate, use those four or five (assuming you have the budget and resources to do so).

What I love about integrated marketing campaigns is the halo effect.  This occurs when the positive effect of one marketing tactic provides a performance boost for other marketing tactics.

Time and again, marketers have proven that when it comes to marketing tactics, 1 + 1 = 3, not 2. The more you target your customers through different marketing mediums, the more you create an impression of your brand and company in the target customers’ minds. And the more inclined they are to seriously consider your products or services as a solution to their needs.

You can, of course, use lead-generation tactics individually, and create separate marketing campaigns for each tactic you use. But your lead-generation efforts will be so much more effective if you take an integrated approach, using several tactics in conjunction with each other.

The Benefits of Integration

Using your lead-generation tactics in an integrated campaign allows you to plan and coordinate your lead-generation efforts around common themes and goals. To begin with, you can do all your up-front planning for the campaign in a single stroke. Once you determine your target audience and their demographics, you can coordinate a series of tactics toward gaining leads from that audience.

If you do an integrated campaign of multiple tactics, you can create a common message, call-to-action, etc., and build your creative elements for each tactic around those themes. You can create one creative brief that your marketing team can work from in developing collateral for each tactic. Or you can share this creative brief with agencies, consultants, and other participants, who can then do the work for you.

Also, if you use a series of tactics, you don’t necessarily have to spend equal budget, time, and energy on each of them. You can spend the bulk of your time and money on a primary tactic that you know will work well for you, while devoting a little less time and money to secondary tactics. You can even test one or two test tactics against a baseline primary tactic to see how well the test tactics work.

For example, say target customers read an article about one of your company’s successful clients in a newspaper or trade magazine. A few days later, they see a display ad for your company on a website. A couple of weeks go by, and they get a call from one of your salespeople. They remember seeing your company name in the article they read, and in the display ad they saw online. So they listen to the salesperson and sign up as a lead.

In this example, your use of several integrated tactics created a halo effect that added value to your lead-generation marketing campaign. At first glance, you might think your display ads didn’t work because the cold call captured the lead. But the display ads and the article about your client caught the target customers’ attention, and helped to create an initial impression of your brand and company in their minds. When your salesperson called, this initial impression was enough to spark interest in their minds.

This is how an integrated campaign gives momentum to your brand and company, and how it can help to make your lead-generation efforts more successful. If customers had not seen your display ads, they might have dismissed an out-of-the-blue sales call from you with a “Thanks, but I’m not interested.” But because they had heard of your company and seen your brand, the customer was more inclined to listen to the salesperson’s offer. The first or second touch you make with the customer—in this case, a display ad—may reap benefits in future touches, such as the cold call.

When I combine multiple lead-generation tactics, I often see a quantitative, measurable lift in overall performance. For instance, an SEM (Search Engine Marketing) campaign may be humming along at a 2% CTR (Click Through Rate). Then I do an e-mail marketing push, sending out 50,000 marketing e-mails. In addition to the traffic generated from the e-mail campaign, I’ll also see at least a 50% increase in my SEM performance. People who received the e-mail may not have clicked on it. But some of those people will search for the company on Google and Bing to find out more about it. A percentage of those people will click on the search engine ad.

You can also build momentum for your brand using nurturing campaigns. Using a “drip bucket” strategy, you keep sending e-mails to qualified leads over time, keeping them informed about special offers and company events. Again, the more they see of your brand, the more they will take you seriously. Using a variety of lead-generation tactics in an integrated marketing campaign helps to accomplish this same goal, and integrated lead-generation marketing works as well, if not better, than nurture marketing.

Business Success: Who’s the future you?

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Business Success LogoGo back two decades in your mind. Twenty years into the future seemed a far way off, didn’t it? But here it is. The next twenty years will pass at least as quickly. You will still be you — but what will be different about your life? What can you do now, to make the future you want to have become a reality? In this week’s Business Success column, Bruce Rosenstein, managing editor of Leader to Leader and author of Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way and Living in More Than One World, explains why it’s important for business leaders to think about their future selves.

Leaders Must Meet Their Future Selves

Bruce Rosenstein

Bruce Rosenstein

Recently, social psychologists discovered a problem most of us have in preparing for the future: we think of our future selves as strangers—as different people altogether.

Valuable insight into this problem is provided in research by two university educators — Hal Hershfield, an assistant professor in the marketing department of New York University’s Stern School of Business, and Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University and author of The Willpower Instinct.

In experiments with undergraduates, Hershfield discovered that students who were shown a digitally aged image of themselves allocated twice as much to their retirement accounts as those who didn’t see themselves as they aged. Hershfield says that “looking ahead in time and feeling a sense of connection to one’s future self can impact long-term financial decision-making, converting a consumer into a saver.” People with this “future self-continuity” also accumulate more assets than others, including owning their own homes and having bigger bank accounts.

McGonigal has pointed out that connections can also be made along shorter future-oriented timelines. For instance, she suggests writing a post-dated letter from your future self to your present self about specific achievements and successes in the future.

For leaders, it’s especially important to bridge the present and future. Leaders have to define the future not only for themselves but also for their organizations. Still, with the extraordinary demands and difficulties of each present day, it’s easy to let the urgency of today cause you to squander the opportunities of tomorrow.

Odds are, the success of your organization will depend on how well you figure out the future. Here are five strategies to help crystallize the future into the present moment and draw you closer to your future self.

1. See yourself as the leader you could become. Productivity guru Jason W. Womack, author of Your Best Just Got Better, advises that to strengthen and build your professional capabilities, you should set a 15-minute timer and then write, in as much detail as possible, about a future ideal day. Apply Womack’s advice to describing your ideal future. Then ask yourself: What will it take to make this happen?

2. Create your future in the here and now. Peter Drucker, the legendary father of modern management, taught that you can deliberately and systematically build your future into the present moment with your thoughts, actions, ideas, decisions, and commitments. His work on taking the best approach to constructing your future is illuminated in my book Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way: Developing and Applying a Forward-Focused Mindset.

3. Design a better tomorrow for others. Joshua David and Robert Hammond were the driving forces behind the development of the High Line elevated park in New York City. Today, the park is a smashing success, attracting more than 4 million visitors annually and boosting real estate values in the surrounding area. It took 10 years for High Line to become a reality, however, and neither David nor Hammond had experience in urban planning or design. But they did have the vision and dedication to save an elevated rail line in danger of demolition. One way you can design a better tomorrow for others is by mentoring, volunteering, or teaching.

4. Resist going only for quick wins. Though change can be difficult, it’s an inevitable facet of the future. A crucial part of change is how we consider our relationship to time—specifically, whether we look at time from a perspective of lack or abundance. Tom Butler-Bowdon, author of Never Too Late to Be Great: The Power of Thinking Long, believes that when you have a long-term view of the future, you’re more ready, willing, and able to build things that will unfold over years and decades, rather than going only for easy, short-term results.

5. Think with beginner’s mind. Shunryu Suzuki, founder of the San Francisco Zen Center and author of the classic book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, writes: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” In her work coaching and advising business leaders, Bruna Martinuzzi, founder of Clarion Enterprises and author of Presenting with Credibility, challenges clients to adopt the beginner’s mind approach. This isn’t easy for most leaders, she says, but it can pave the way for continuous learning and development.

You may not need a digitally aged image of yourself to take action as a leader today. If you practice these five strategies, you can meet your future self.

Business Success: Speak up

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Business Success LogoI remember seeing a poster in a store once when I was a kid. It had a picture of a gorilla with its hand over its mouth. Under the picture, it had a famous quote from Abraham Lincoln: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak up and remove all doubt.”

While there is surely some sage wisdom to that advice, sometimes the fear of being thought a fool gets out of hand, and keeps people from sharing great ideas. Here, Judith E. Glaser, CEO of Benchmark Communications Inc. and author of the bestselling book Conversational Intelligence, explains how the power of conversation can influence success.

Find your voice, overcome fear

Judith Glaser

Judith E. Glaser

When my father was young he stuttered his way through elementary school and middle school. While he was outrageously smart, he was unable to speak well and was teased unmercifully. Teasing created more stuttering, and so it was hard for him to build deep friendships.

Then a miracle happened. He had a high school drama teacher who changed his life. Much like the speech tutor depicted in The King’s Speech, my father’s teacher had conversations with him in a way no one else had. She made him feel whole and, although he had a serious stutter, through her conversations with him, he found the courage to take on the lead role in the school play. Somehow, her confidence in him and her caring ways changed his life. Because of his lead role in the play, his stuttering disappeared.

Mind Matters

The research on the neuroscience of brain plasticity shows how we shape and reshape our identities, and how we can overcome speech impairments like stuttering.

As we grow and learn new things, we allocate new space in our brains to learning. The phenomenal plasticity of our brains enables us to create new personas, identities, and competencies. Because of this teacher’s special relationship with my father, and because of the powerful and transformational conversations they had together, the path his life would take was forever changed. My dad went on to become the head of the debating team in college and the valedictorian of his class. Though he was deaf in one ear, he managed to teach himself seven languages. He did fulfill his dream of bringing dentistry around the world, and when he visited each country, he gave presentations and keynotes in the native language.

My exposure at a young age to many different cultures undoubtedly influenced my own trajectory, and the power of conversation has always been of great interest to me. In college, I pursued interdisciplinary studies including biochemistry, linguistics, anthropology, archeology, psychology, and semantics. Later, I studied in programs on human behavior, organizational behavior, and corporate and political communications. No program alone could give me answers to the big questions, and my work became my experimental laboratory for figuring out how conversations transform history.

Finding Our Voice

During this critical time in our history, we are searching for new ways to engage, lead, govern, and make critical decisions. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

I help management teams build trust through Conversational Intelligence. When teams focus on building trust, they become more open, candid, and caring with one another. By focusing on relationships before they focus on tasks, they become more skillful at handling the difficult conversations and conflicts that often emerge when people launch challenging projects together. Teams that learn to use Conversational Intelligence skills before launching a team challenge discover that their level of performance is far beyond what they have experienced in the past.

“The inner conformist is stronger than the inner activist,” said Michael Morris, a psychologist at Columbia University. When we get together with others in a group or team, the power of the group’s opinion often exceeds the force of individual voices.

When people join together on teams, the need to belong becomes so powerful they’ll give up what they believe to fit in. In fact, people are willing to give up their own opinions in favor of the group’s opinion, even if it is wrong. The need to connect and belong is more powerful in team dynamics, and people will wait and see what others think before speaking their minds. When they do speak up, they will often modify their “out of the box” thoughts for fear of looking stupid or challenging a group norm.

Overcoming the Fear of Connecting

Understanding the power of fear can unlock our ability to find our voice ‘and’ co-create with others. From birth, we learn to avoid physical pain and move toward physical pleasure. Over time, we learn to protect ourselves from ego pain, building habits that keep us safe from feeling belittled, embarrassed, or devalued. Within a team, this may translate into avoiding a person who seems to compete with you when you speak up, or avoiding a leader who sends you silent signals of disappointment. Pain can also come from what you anticipate rather from what is real. These feared implications are the hidden and imagined threats that drive us to elevate cortisol levels and weaken our immune systems.

When we live in fear, we withdraw, build our own story of reality, imagine others are out to get us, and react accordingly. We stop turning to others for help and stop taking feedback from them. Universal fears include the fear of being excluded—so we create networks and exclude others first; being rejected—so we reject first; being judged unfairly—so we criticize and blame others; failing—so we avoid taking risks and making mistakes; losing power—so we intimidate others to get power; feeling stupid—so we don’t speak up or, speak too much; and looking bad in front of others—so we save face.

When we perceive the world through a lens of fear, our egos drive us to develop patterns of protection. We turn away from others when we are coming from protective behaviors, rather than turning to others for help. Teams that operate from a place of fear and a stance of protection can’t move into co-creative conversations.

How you manage fear determines the levels of productivity and success your team will achieve. As a leader, you can shape the experiences people have at work by reducing fear, shifting an inner focus to an external focus, and creating cultures that facilitate enhanced sensitivity, mutual support, and Conversational Intelligence.

Takeaways for Your Success

When you join a team, your critical knowledge makes you unique and valuable. If you share this knowledge, or give it away, you need to wonder whether you will lose your unique competitive edge. The fear hidden behind the scenes is: Do you weaken your power? Do you lose your influence? Do you minimize your authority? Or is there a way to give power away to gain more power?

As you learn how to create more space for trust to grow in relationships, teams and partnerships, you minimize fear and change the conversational landscape.

Sometimes you discover you have a bold person inside of you, and yet when you speak up, what comes out is less powerful than you’d hoped. You choose words that are not as edgy or ideas that are less profound because you think others will not accept your thoughts, or because you don’t want to give away what you believe are your vital secrets. So you close up or shrink down your communication to avoid the larger challenge of trusting and sharing. When what you have to say seems to be in conflict with others’ opinions, you may step back to protect yourself from harm. Perhaps being bold once cost you some points when you got pushback from an authority figure and you’ve been gun-shy ever since.

Yet, stepping into a conversational space that feels safe and trusting changes everything. One step bigger – learning how to shape the space for trust – and minimizing the impact of fear – is core to leadership at all levels in a company – and it is core to human beings of all ages. Learning to open the conversational space is not just a thought for a moment – it’s a profound imperative for humanity.

Business Success: A letter for you

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Business Success LogoAlexandre Wentzo is Chief Executive Officer at Casewise Ltd., which is celebrating 25 years in business. In this week’s Business Success column, he shares a letter he has written to other business leaders, detailing seven lessons he’s learned in business. If you’ve been in business less than a quarter century, this letter is for you.

 Seven Lessons You Should Learn

 

Dear young companies,

Well, we’ve made it!

This year, Casewise has joined the “25-years-in-business” club.

You’ve probably read that 9 out of 10 businesses fail, but we’ve beaten the odds. And we’re holding our heads high next to some pretty impressive, founded-in-the-80’s, organizations – Adobe Systems, Cisco, Electronic Arts and Autodesk to name a few.

Over 25 years we’ve grown into a company that’s helping over

Alexandre Wentzo

Alexandre Wentzo

3,000 clients in eight countries optimize their business operations. In fact, we’ve been in business longer than the majority of our competitors.

So, as we approach our anniversary date, we began assessing our accomplishments and experiences along the way. What have we learned over the past 25 years? And, more importantly, what pieces of advice can we offer to young companies hoping to reach the quarter-century mark?

Here’s where we netted out, and here’s to adding to this post in another 25 years!

Get Clear on Your Mission

You must be able to communicate your mission in a single sentence, and it must get heads nodding. For Casewise, it’s about helping businesses make better strategic decisions by offering a 360-degree view of your company through analyzing hard data and human behavior. It’s a mission that communicates value to our customers, but also drives our company culture: “When You Can See More, You Can Do More”

Evolve Your Execution

Your mission may stay the same over the years, but your execution must change with the times. In our case, we’ve evolved from a company that developed the first software to graphically represent business processes in the 1990s, to a collaborative enterprise architecture tool in the 2000’s, and finally, to a social, web-based communication platform that includes integrated social media tools today.

Pay Attention to the Trends

Speaking of social media, to be successful in business you must stay ahead of the trends. Read voraciously and pay attention to the tools and processes that are becoming popular in everyday life. Our latest platform (Evolve) was developed because we realized that social media and gamification tools are here to stay and that they are a great way to involve all levels of an organization in strategic planning.

The Right Product-Market Fit Takes Time

According to the American entrepreneur and investor, Marc Andreessen, product-market fit can be defined as “being in a good market, with a product that can satisfy that market.” Yet what many companies don’t realize is that finding product-market fit can take time – often between 6 to 12 months. It also takes energy and devotion to testing your idea with real people. At Casewise we continuously test new products with existing customers before launching the product to the world.

Don’t Ignore Your Biggest Asset

One of the biggest mistakes we see our clients make, is making strategic decisions solely based on data, while ignoring their biggest asset: their people. Keep in mind that there are two types of intelligence: business intelligence and emotional intelligence, and that it’s only by combining the two that you’ll make the best strategic decisions.

User Experience is Key

You may have the best tech team in the world, but your solution is only as good as the experience your customers have with it. So as soon as you can, test your products with real people, get their reactions, and use this information to improve the user experience and ultimately increase the adoption rate of your product.

And Finally, Have Fun!

Running a company can be taxing so just remember – look up once in a while, take stock of how far you have come, and make sure to reward your employees for all their hard work.