October 23, 2014

Myth Squashing Time! There’s No Need To Vote If You Can’t Seek The Truth

2012-ABC-New-Hampshire-GOP-DebateSo, here we are again…in the middle of one of the most highly contested Republican primary seasons I can remember, and I have had the right to vote now for 34 years.

Over the last few days, a few things have been taken out of context, and it’s time to give the media, the candidates and the voters a wake up call, and here it is:

1.  To the media and the candidates:  If you claim to be fair, why do you report things out of context?  Yesterday, Governor Mitt Romney delivered a speech about “firing people or companies who don’t provide great service”.  He was discussing the state of affairs with health insurance companies and that as consumers, we should have the right to “fire” an insurance company that is not providing us what we need and hire a new insurance company who can provide the services we seek” (paraphrase).  But, as always, Romney’s opponents and the media simply clipped out the section when Romney said “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me” and then started flying down the tracks with that statement in their hands claiming that during one of the worst economic eras since the great depression, Romney wants to fire people.  If that is what you are going to listen to and buy into, then don’t vote.  I am 100% for voting, unless you are a voter who does not take the time to get the full story.  Just watch this video of Romney speaking yesterday and pay close attention to how the phrase was actually used:

While he may now regret his phrasing…he is absolutely right!  If you have an employee, vendor or board member who is not doing his or her job and are hurting your business or life, then they should be asked to move on and find other work or other customers.  Every day I work with leaders in the business and non-profit sector who KNOW they have a bad apple on their team or a vendor who is slack, but they are soooooo afraid to fire anyone.  Maybe we need someone with the guts to say “Hey…you are not doing your job for the American people.  Move on!”

I am not writing this to back Mitt Romney.  I am writing it, because as a leadership coach, I cannot take things out of context and then use them, and as a leader, you cannot take things out of context or take a thin slice of a full statement and then slam a person with it.  So, I urge you to look at the full picture.

2.  To the media, candidates and the American people:  Stop calling our visionary leaders crazy, cranks and odd.  That is just again not fair.  Dr. Ron Paul has been called crazy, a crank and odd.  In 2002, he was really called crazy when he delivered this speech to congress in 2012:

So, was he crazy?  I don’t think so.  This speech is very sobering indeed.

Walt Disney was called crazy, and look at the joy and happiness his “craziness” has brought into our lives.   Steve Jobs was called “crazy” when he introduced the iPod, and our world has been forever changed because of his vision.   Dr. Paul has been trying to warn Congress and the American people since the late 1990s that we were headed for some big trouble on both foreign and domestic fronts, but everyone just said “Oh…crazy Ron…there he goes again, saying that we are going to pour money into the Gaza and Afghanastan and that we are headed for an economic meltdown.”  Paul was not crazy…he was right.  He is a smart man who closely follows and studies foreign relations and economics, and he understands that history repeats itself, moves in repeating patterns and cycles around and around the same issues:  money, religion and resources.  He has always been looking into the future, and some people just don’t have the vision to be able to really see down the road.  So, the only response is “Well…that person is crazy”…that again is just not fair, and it is not accurate.  It is hurtful.

So, I encourage you today to embrace our visionary leaders and to seek the truth…not just a sliver of truth but the full truth.  If you listen to the media and to the bits and pieces being slung around like wet mud enough, you will never get the full story.  Do your own research, get the facts straight and become fully informed before heading to the polls in November.

 

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What Leaders Really Do by Jeannette Paladino

Jeannette Paladino is a Business Communications Expert and the Author of http://WriteSpeallSell.com.

I want to thank guest blogger, Jeannette Paladino, for her thought provoking post about What Leaders Really Do. She hit the nail on the head!

I have my ideas about leadership, having worked for good and bad leaders. I’ll open with what I consider a leader’s primary duty – to communicate his or her vision for the company. Some experts would say this is the second step in being a leader; first comes the vision. But without communications across, up and down organizations, the leader’s vision will never be realized.

John Kotter is perhaps the most articulate and brilliant theorist on what makes for leadership in an organization.  He says it better than I can, so I’m going to reference his words of wisdom here.  Then, we’ll see how his theories apply to three leaders, or visionaries, of today — Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, and Reed Hastings, the chief executive and co-founder of Netflix.

Kotter, a retired professor of organizational behavior at Harvard, has written countless books and articles.  I still have an article that he wrote in the May/June 1990 issue of the Harvard Business Review entitled “What Leaders Really Do.”  I hadn’t read it in a while, but just did, and was blown away by how his vision of a leader could have been written yesterday, even though in 1990 most companies were just dipping their toes into email (my own agency had one computer that could send and receive emails and it usually didn’t work).

No Internet, no Twitter, no Facebook, no internal networks, hardly any electronic connectivity, in other words.  Yet leaders today face the same challenges as those back in ancient times (ca. 1990).

The Difference Between Management and Leadership

Kotter clearly delineated the difference between management and leadership, which are both crucial roles in the success of a company.  Let me cut to the chase with his definitions:

Leadership is about coping with change

Management is about coping with complexity

To quote from that article, “These different functions – coping with complexity and coping with change – shape the characteristic activities of management and leadership.  Each system of action involves deciding what needs to be done, creating networks of people and relationships that can accomplish an agenda, (my bold face) and then trying to ensure those people actually do the job.”  Isn’t that what social networking is all about today?  Forming networks and communities that share common interests and goals?

Kotter says that leaders seek relationships and linkages that help explain things.  Leaders need to be visionaries. Most discussions of vision have a tendency to generate into the mystical, “but people who articulate such visions aren’t magicians but broad-based strategic thinkers who are willing to take risks,” he says.

Visions With Mundane Qualities

Kotter makes the point that many visions and strategies are not brilliantly innovative.  Many are mundane, but “what’s crucial about a vision is not its originality but how well it serves the interests of important constituencies – customers, stockholders, employees – and how easily it can be translated into a realistic competitive strategy.”

So that explains why so many people think that Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are geniuses.  They were visionaries who changed the world, when you think about it.  Zuckerberg took a simple idea:  college students wanting to bond with each other.  Getting together in the local hangout wasn’t enough.  They wanted a common meeting ground where they could interact 24/7.  Zuckerberg saw the possibilities and took the college circuit by storm.  He understood how to make the linkages to help people create networks of friends.  So in 2004, as a Harvard undergraduate, he launched Facebook in what amounted to a revolution in communication – it all comes back to communication – and his followers grew to be 500 million strong.

Steve Jobs capitalized on a simple idea.  Bring the Internet to your cell phone.  Not very imaginary.  The technology was already there but he had the vision to harness the pieces and figure out how to make it work.  He encouraged thousands of people to create iPhone apps that users can download that meet their particular needs. Now his competitors are rushing to catch up with smart phones of their own.

Transforming a Business With Snail Mail

Reed Hastings, the chief executive and co-founder of Netflix had a simple idea to offer a subscription service for customers to rent movies by mail.  Hardly an earth-shattering idea, but nobody else was doing it. As my former agency’s creative director used to say, “there are no big ideas, or small ideas, only powerful ideas.”  The service took off – remember Kotter saying not originality but serving consumer interests was key — and now Netflix has moved beyond snail mail to become the biggest source of streaming web traffic in North America during peak evening hours, according to an article in the New York Times “Netflix’s Move into the Web Stirs Rivalries.”

Tim Wu, a Columbia University law professor, was quoted in the article, “Netflix used an open-source network, the U.S. Postal Service, to launch an alternate distribution business without asking anyone for permission…now they are using another open-source network, the Internet, to transform the business.”

Here’s the thing – nothing has really changed in the definition of leadership in the past 20, or 30 or more years.  Ideas about how to make something bigger, stronger, better, faster so it serves your community is still the currency of leadership.

So, are you a leader or a manager?  Most people think it’s cooler to be known as a leader, but it’s the managers who turn the leader’s vision into a profitable product or service.

For an excerpt of the HBR article by John Kotter go this link What Leaders Really Do.

Author:   Jeannette Paladino

Jeannette Paladino is a business writer helping companies to be more profitable using social media as a strategic communications tool to engage with employees and customers, to educate, and sell their products and services.  Her blog Write Speak Sell offers her points of view on social media, employee engagement and branding.  She has held senior marketing and communications posts with major companies and public relations agencies.

Leadership Coaching Lesson: Shake Things Up!

Lady Gaga in Meat dress

I wonder if this dress smelled bad.

If you have not read the recent article in Fast Company about Nike’s CEO John Parker shook up the shoe industry, I think it’s something we all need to start considering….shaking things up.  Many criticize Parker for being eccentric and irreverent.  I just think he wants to be the best and to be the best you can’s keep doing the things you always have done them.  As a matter of fact, my daughter bought a pair of dress pumps recently with the nike air cushion built in…ahhh…felt great!

Do you think Steve Jobs is boring?  Mediocre?  Doesn’t shake things up?  Look at how he has changed our world.  Many of you will feel that he has made things worth with our addiction to the iPhone, iPod, iPad and all of the apps that keep flying out of Apple, but at the end of the day, Steve Jobs has revolutionized the digital industry.

And, I just can’t end this post without talking about Lady Gaga’s meat dress.  I know PETA is all in a tizzy, but I am not quite sure that this stunt was to show us she is a meat eater or animal killer.  Mabye just the opposite…how disgusting it looks.  I don’t know…just wondering about her motive.  I am just wondering if it smelled bad.  She is the oddest human on the planet right now, but she is a business woman who is building a brand and followers.  I just hope she can keep her clothes on and her middle finger where it belongs so that she can mature a bit into being a true leader.  But right now…she is certainly shakin’ things up.  If she were not, she wouldn’t be on every channel 24/7.

And, if you want one more example of someone shaking things up to change an industry, go back and read my post:

Michael Jackson: The King of Pop But Also A Global Leader

What do you think?  Are folks going too far?  Please weigh in?

9 Steps to Convincing Your Customers “Be the Brand”

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at the fifth D: All ...

Image via Wikipedia: Bill Gates and Steve Jobs at the All Things Digital Conference

If you want your customers to “be your brand”, spend some time reading this post about how Apple has created a brand that has been built by raving fans.

In marketing and leadership, we all constantly preach the “You are the brand” sermon.

Something struck me today that maybe this statement may not be an absolute (this hit me today as I was on a run, using my Couch to 10K App for the iPhone and wondering if Steve Jobs owns a PC and if Bill Gates owns a Mac…I have no idea if they do, but something tells me they do…even if just to “check out” the competition a bit).  I started wondering…”Maybe the owner and employees are not the brand…maybe the customer is the brand”.  I am sure I am not the first or only person who has thought this, because you always hear of “walking billboards for your business” and “brand ambassadors” for your company.

If you take a look at the Apple commercials featuring the PC and the Mac guy, you can certainly see the resemblance in their creators (Gates and Jobs).  But, at the end of the day, how many Apple or Windows customers actually KNOW the 2 founders OR people who work for the company?   I know I don’t have any close friends that work for either company and according to Linked in, I am 3 levels away from Bill Gates, and I cannot find Steve Jobs on the site.

You see, I was sold on the iPhone without even going into a store.  I was sold based on watching Generation Y navigate the sleek yet simple device and once apps started coming out, I was hooked…no going back for me now!  And, many of the people using iPhones at the time of my purchase looked a bit like the Apple guy…cool… like they just stepped out of Urban Outfitters.  And, once the PC and Apple guy started doing their thing on television, I wanted to be more like the Apple guy…life seemed to be much easier, more hip and more laid back… living out there on the edge of new media.  The PC guy looked a bit like his neck tie was choking him or that maybe he needed a tablespoon of Milk of Magnesia.   So, at the end of the day, if you follow the 2 brands, you will see how Apple users literally live and breathe the brand.

So…the question is…how do you get customers to “be the brand”?

Here are 9 steps that I believe Apple is using to allow its customers to “be the brand”.  These are simply from the standpoint of being a consumer and talking to other Apple consumers.

1.  Give your customers something they don’t even know they need it before they buy it.  I did not know I  wanted or needed 10,000 songs on a mobile device until I had it…I did not know I needed my 10 favorite iPhone apps…now that I have them, I get crazy when I can’t use them!

2.  Build mystery around your brand.  Steve Jobs makes the announcing of a new product seem like Christmas is coming, and you want to peek inside the box while your parents are away from the house…you can’t wait to see what is inside the boxcovered in foiled wrapping and mounds of green and red ribbon.  We all know there is a “next Christmas” coming with Apple…we just can’t wait to see what they will come up with next.

3.  Make your brand relevant. As soon as the iPad came out, apps started flying out of every corner and closet to make people crave an iPad, because the apps are relevant today…not yesterday…Just check out the top apps for the iPad on Gizmodo and you will see what I mean.

4.  Keep innovating. As of the last week, I feel like my iPhone is suddenly outdated…it is only a year old, but now I want the 4G…Apple is telling me that I can “multi-task the right way” and create HD video with the phone.  As a multi-tasker who loves to shoot quick video…you’ve got me!

5. Place people in your retail stores and in the public eye that look like they belong there.  If you have ever visited an Apple store, you will notice the folks at the genius bar look like they selected for both their brains and their looks!  I have been to the store in Durham, NC multiple times, and these guys are great.  They know what they are doing and trust me…they look like they are perfect for Apple!

When it comes to branding, you want your front line folks who are interacting with your customers to drip of your brand.  As I look at this photograph, there are just certain people I could never see working behind this counter.  I know that this sounds like a “skin deep” judgment, but it is true…when you are building a brand you are going to want people who look like they can eat, sleep and live your brand interacting with your customers.  As humans, we are going to connect more quickly with people who “look like us” so that, as customers, we can go out and sell the brand more easily to our friends.

6.  Find out what your customers like and don’t like. This is critical, and Apple does this so well…this is why (I think) the Verizon conversation is floating around out there…the Verizon customers want their coverage and they want an iPhone do the work.  I just find it ironic that Jobs could not connect to his iPhone during his unveiling of the new iPhone and as the awkward moment was unfolding, fabs in the crowd shouted “VERIZON!”  (Awkward but a message sent loud and clear to Jobs, who I know is listening).

7. Dedicate yourself to reinvention. People think that Apple set out to compete with Windows and Bill Gates…maybe…maybe not.  Something tells me that Steve Jobs is dedicated to competition but more importantly… to reinventing the entire computer industry.  I believe he is leading us all to being able to live with a simple system that we can hold in the palm of our hands.  This will certainly allow us to be more mobile (I know I have been much less tied to my laptop since the iPhone came into my life…and I also have to give kudos to Jeff Simpkins for introducing me to Google Apps, as all connects seamlessly to the iPhone…so, I can perform most tasks from my iPhone).

8.  Connect with the emotions of your customers. We hear this all of the time, but what does this really mean in tangible steps?  Apple has tapped into our emotions by giving us music that takes us back in time, by providing easy tools to make our day less stressful (high marks to the multiple apps for the Where To? app for GPS and to the Get It Done app for time management) and for giving us the ability to video chat and record both voice and video to send to relatives and friends who are far away.

9. Keep it simple and consistent. I can spot an Apple product from a distance.  The look is sleep, simple and just look so great…I have to touch it!  If your brand is complex, clunky and always changes looks, the public will get confused.  So…know who you are and the look you want to present, and you will attract the customers who will “become your brand”.

If you or your team is interested in learning more about convincing your customers to “be the brand”, contact me today for a leadership coaching consultation.

H Stands for How To…

As 2010 approaches, many leaders are asking new questions.  Faced with a slumped economy, less manpower and growing concerns about what the next year will hold, the questions are becoming more complex and more fear-filled.

So, today, I want to just share with you 3 very simple “How To’s” to consider for 2010…just take a step back and consider a few of the basics.

lightbulb1.  HOW TO INNOVATE: Innovation is such a big buzzword today, so when something is a big buzzword, it means that it is important to the business landscape.  Many people believe that people are just born as innovators.  This may be somewhat true, but real innovation takes place through learning.  If I have any advice on this topic it would be this:

  1. Get out there and talk to the 3 most innovative companies you know to find out how they come up with bright ideas that actually make it to the market and thrive in the marketplace.
  2. Study and read everything you can about an innovator you admire (Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs would be two I would start with).
  3. Talk to at least 12 people from different industries about one idea you are rolling around in your head (talk to an artist, scientist, physician, dancer, gardener, plumber, attorney, financial planner, nanny, stay at home mom…innovation does not happen in a vacuum, and it is critical to get out there and talk to a variety of people about your ideas to get your finger on the pulse of what is really bugging people/keeping them awake at night).
  4. Take a trip to a place like the Sharper Image or even Best Buy to test out the most current technology in their stores.  Ask yourself “Why this?”  and “Why didn’t they do this?”
  5. Spend time in an area/field that you know nothing about. Take up a new hobby like fishing, quilting, kickboxing, painting…anything that is new…new hobbies stimulate thinking and creativity.

Business confrontation.2. HOW TO PICK YOUR BATTLES. Many people just don’t like conflict, and for some reason, they think that debate causes problems.  Yet the leaders who really know how to use debate to their advantage are some of the most innovative, successful leaders in our world.  The key is this…knowing what to fight for.

I would love to just tell you what is in this article, but rather than spell out the details, I would like to encourage everyone reading this post to buy a copy of the article How to Pick a Good Fight by HBR.   I will just give you two suggestions from the article.

1.  If the idea will save your company 15% or more of your resources over one year, the battle is worth fighting.

2.  If the idea will grow your sales or acquire new customers faster than the market, the battle is worth fighting.

Believe me…this article is worth purchasing for anyone!  The article includes another 20 ideas and an assessment for your company.

rookie3.  HOW TO GET YOUR ROOKIES TO LEAD. Your new employees are shining stars…fresh out of college, ready to set the world on fire, and what do most leaders do?  They throw a big bucket of water on the fire and say “Hey…new kid…here’s how we do things around here!”  Oh…that’s a smart idea (NOT!)  It is time for everyone to understand that leadership development for your new employees is what will differentiate your company from your competitors in 2010.  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Find out what truly motivates your rookies. This is going to be different for each person (time off with family, basketball tickets, public acknowledgement, and so forth).  Your job as a leader is to find out what really motivates your rookies and begin using that to get them on board.
  2. Begin implementing a state of the art leadership development program for your rookies. Many companies shy away from this, because they feel something like this “Why waste my development dollars on someone who is going to leave me in two years?”  The answer:  Because you want your rookies to be the best they can be and to sing your praises as they dance out the door.  Your goal as a leader should be to train your rookies so well that other companies do try to recruit them away…but…if you are smart and you develop a great training and coaching program for them, they will think twice before leaving you.  And…if they do, there is a good chance that once they experience the greener pastures they thought they wanted, they will come back to you in a few years.
  3. Open yourself up to learning AND to actually using the technology that your rookies are using to communicate (including text, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and so forth).  In order to get your rookies to lead others, you have to be willing to communicate with them using the tools they are comfortable with and then pull them into the higher level leadership communication skills (face to face discussions, public presentations and face to face negotiations).
  4. Drop the talk about paying dues and climbing the corporate ladder…is a top turn-off for this rising generation.
  5. Ask your rookies for their ideas…invite them into the private meeting room to get their ideas on the table…this will be music to their ears and will inspire them to lead others in a way that is open and curious.

So, as 2010 rolls around, start looking closely at what you can do for the people of your organization…there is no better time than the present to start developing stronger relationships, better ways of communicating and of course…rock solid approaches to leadership and business development.

I Stands for Innovation: 6 Skills Today’s Leaders Need to Turn Ideas into New Products and Services

INNOVATION! You see the word everywhere today, in every business journal and even on billboards.  Everyone is talking innovation these days, because we are all competing to find the next big idea…a way to make our next million!

But what does it take to truly be innovative?  See, innovation to me is a bit different than creativity.  From my perspective, creativity is thinking of new ideas.  The majority of people say that they have creative ideas all day long, but they never do anything with them…they don’t speak about them, write about them or do anything to try to get them into the marketplace.

Innovation is a bit different…it is a process which may or may not start with creative thinking.  From my observations, innovation is much more related to a creative thinker being out in the world, noticing something odd or something new and asking the question “WHY?” and then “HOW?” She then goes and answers the question “WHY?” by coming up with the HOW and then creating something brand new that never existed.  So, the creativity is sparked most often by a question or an observation in life.

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos

I have never met Amazon Founder, Jeff Bezos (who changed my life!  I am an Amazon junkie!) , but the stories and interviews I have read and heard go something like this.

Bezos is of course one of these computer geniuses who in the early 1990′s noticed that internet usage was increasing by 2300 percent a year.  At this time, the internet was not really being used for commerce (a small bit but not to a great degree)  but he knew it was coming, so he immediately began looking at what type of offering he could make on the internet that would change the way we all do business.

So, Bezos went about reviewing the top 20 mail order businesses and began asking himself several questions such as “What type of business could be conducted more efficiently over the Internet than by traditional mail order Because there were no comprehensive mail order catalogs for books (they would be gigantic), he believed that the internet would be a perfect vehicle to set up an online bookstore.

Bezos began attending book conferences, publishing events and becoming masterful on how to best sell books.  This venture selling books online started in his garage (how many times have we heard this scenario about innovation?  Starting in a garage or a bathroom?), and here we are today…buying everything under the sun on Amazon.  I had to do a little time capsule display a few months ago, and I ordered a bottle of Tang on Amazon, have recently purchased a clock, furniture, and bedding on the Amazon and just saw where I can even buy a lawn mower…they have everything imaginable.

I could probably go on and on about other great innovators like Steve Jobs, whose big motive is to “Put a ding in the universe” or Bill Gates, whose vision was to see every home in the world with a computer running windows (that was going to be possible until Steve Jobs came along and said…I think we can do this better and in a way that is really hot/cool”).  But, the bottom line is that these innovators use certain skills including:

1. Breaking up the status quo. Innovators don’t accept that what is available is the best option.  They take ideas that are already in existence and make them better.

2. Questioning everything.  Innovators invest a great deal of time each day asking questions…asking “Why?” and “How?” and “What’s next?”  By sitting down and writing out some questions that are the unthinkable each day, you can exercise your innovative thinking.

3. Brainstorming. Most innovators are not sitting in their offices alone thinking up ideas.  They get out and talk to people and get ideas.  My husband, Mike and I are building a home right now, and we have a great crew helping us out.  We have hit about 100 snags, and we then go to our crew and say “Okay…we have this issue, let’s talk options…what are all of the possible solutions.”  And, as soon as the best one comes to the surface, we act…but trust me…we are relying on the bright ideas of others to make this home beautiful and truly efficient and effective.

4. Nosy-ness. Most innovators are nosy.  They get into doors and look around.  They open drawers and look at files and scope out retail shops and look around.  They take in everything, and pull it all back in and say…”Hmmm…something is missing, and it is this.”

Duct Tape Has Over 500 Uses. I Believe I Have Seen Jack Bauer Use This Approach On "24"

5. Problem Oriented Passion. The majority of people I have met who are truly innovators started their big idea because they quite frankly got ticked off about something not working in life.  The positive passion and inspiration are great, but the majority of time, something is missing in life or someone needs something to make life easier, and they go out and find a way to make it happen.  Duct Tape was invented to keep moisture out of the ammunition cases (see…a problem was here…moisture was getting into ammunition cases). Because it was waterproof, people referred to the tape as “Duck Tape.”  Of course, now, we use Duct Tape for everything…I saw a show one night on all of the uses for Duct Tape…including a house that had repaired everything in the house with Duct Tape.   You can see some of the uses for duct tape here.

6. Stick-To-Itiveness. I am not 100% sure of the accuracy of this quote, but quote masters say that Thomas  Edison said “I have not failed 1,000 times.  I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb.”  Whether or not this is an accurate quote, I have studied Edison enough to know that he was a master of sticking to a project and continuously experimenting so that he could get it right.  He did indeed finally discover the magical formula for the light bulb, yet so often, we stop our innovative processes after failing one single time.  If you are going to lead the edge in your industry, you have to be willing to stick to it until you reach your new idea comes to life.

If you are a leader or business owner who is struggling with innovation, I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you to see how I can be of assistance.  Just send an e-mail to bea@beafields.com, and we will set up a time to speak.