Category Archives: CONTRIBUTORS

BUSINESS, CONTRIBUTORS, MARKETING

10 Steps To Make Your Marketing Dollars Work Smarter

As marketers in the B2B space, the challenge is in allocating marketing budgets strategically to ensure the highest potential return. Moreover, marketing should be considered the effort of creating awareness for your business. It’s how prospective clients are exposed to your business and ultimately evolve into buying clients.

According to Forrester’s “Focus B2B Marketing Budget Gains on Business Outcomes to Succeed in 2014” report, B2B product and service marketing budgets range between 13% and 6% respectively. Interestingly, B2B companies with less than $25 million in revenues represented the higher end of the scale with 13.9% marketing spend.

Regardless of where you lie within this scale, the important thing to note is allocating a marketing investment budget is absolutely essential to create awareness and relevancy. Current marketing investment trends continue to evolve but within those executional tactics the tried and true remain which include the following: content marketing, mobile marketing, social media marketing and allocations to upgrading websites.

Here are 10 Ways to Make Your Marketing Dollars Work Smarter:

1. Upgrade your website:
Your website should be considered your marketing homebase. It is essential that it is “viewable” on all digital platforms like mobile, desktop, laptop, etc. What used to be recommended is now required. In fact, companies are not guaranteed to have a presence in search results, done via mobile, if their website is not mobile friendly. An investment in an adapative and responsive design for your website will ensure that your website will show up in the search results when someone is looking for your solution.

2. Invest in cohesive branding
Think of how we easily we recongize major brands by their logo: The swoosh? Nike. Golden arches? McDonald’s. We even connect colors with particular brands, such as green and gold with John Deere tractors. Regardless of your love or hate relationship with these brands, they show up cohesively across all customer touch points in a professional manner. Remember that a professional appearance not only builds recognition online and offline, but also builds trust. An additional benefit to having cohesive branding is the ability to build brand equity overtime, one that could be monetized in multiples of your revenue.

3. Content marketing strategy
According to Smart Insights, who polled more than 600 marketers, the lionshare of focus for marketers in 2016 is on content marketing (53%). Providing quality content online to build apparent authority and expert insights is the objective of content marketing. The name of the game is adding value, which builds subject matter expertise; something your customers and prospects love.

4. Community Management / Social listening
An often overlooked component of marketing is community management and social listening. Monitoring what is being said online is critical to not only protect your brand but also to create engagement with your customers. Additionally, by closely monitoring you can mitigate the compound effect of bad press. Instead you can turn that into an opportunity for client recovery, a very powerful strategy to help gain visibility that you are a brand that cares. But the most important reason for managing your reputation online is because many people take their customer service issues directly to social media.

5. Video Marketing
2015 was the tipping point for video marketing as the go-to medium for engagement. Daily video playbacks on Facebook totaled 4 billions videos per day in early 2015. By the end of that same year, views had doubled. There is no doubt that incorporating video into your marketing outreach is an effective way to create engagement.

6. Strategic Partner Marketing
A strategic partner plan offers the ability to cross promote and potentially accelerate market penetration. Partnerships come in a variety of ways whether it’s financial, marketing focused, supplier relationships, etc., The optimal scenario is where you complement your strategic partner to the extent that you gain a competitive advantage with your aggregated offering.

7. Guest Blog Posting
Blogging is still a relevant way to find your audience. Guest blogging is a great way to drive traffic back to your website, increase sales, and grow your brand. The important thing to remember is that your guest blogging outreach should be carefully targeted towards blogs that your perfect customer is likely to read, and that are credible.

8. Podcasting
One of the newer outreach methods is podcasting. There is a very low barrier to entry if you are interested in starting a podcast about your niche. You can create a platform where you offer expert advice. By including a social syndication backend to your podcasting you can ensure that your content will circulate through the web on a consistent basis. Don’t want to take on another marketing task like podcasting? Go on a podcasting tour, researching the top 10 podcasts in your field. It’s a great way to connect to influencers in your space.

9. Google AdWords
Google AdWords can be a great complement to your social media strategy. By leveraging keywords, specific to your industry, you can be the solution to your perfect customer’s problems. One of the big benefits, is that unlike direct mail or print, Google Adwords results can be closely monitored and measured.

10. App Marketing such as Quora
Resource apps like Quora are a great way to establish credibility. There you can do searches for keywords in your industry and provide answers to your prospect’s most challenging situations. It is also a good source for market research as a way to test a potential idea or marketing campaign.

Tapping into the power of Digital Marketing, a B2B company can gain relevancy that is not only cost effective but can also leave a blueprint online to further build brand equity.

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Best selling author Pamela Herrmann & Patty Dominguez are the Co-Founders of CREATE Buzz, committed to helping small businesses get customers and keep customers by taking the overwhelm out of technology and online marketing. Pamela is the author of, “The Customer Manifesto – How Business Has Failed Customers & What It Takes To Earn Lasting Loyalty”. They co-host The Morning Would Show bringing the latest in marketing tips and strategies.

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BUSINESS, CONTRIBUTORS, LEADERSHIP, PERSONAL GROWTH

Activity rules success

When I began in sales, I sought my own form of certainty as I entered the very uncertain prospects of the world of business – a world that was foreign to me. Sales was an uncharted, vast, and unknown territory. I didn’t have a compass, but I did have a direction. The “North Star” of my future map appeared from the belief that “Activity Rules Success”. No matter the talent level of the artist, actor, or sales agent, the more purposeful, directed activity generated, the more opportunity we can bring to successful fruition.

All life is forward process or it is in decline. Life demands we risk – initiate change or adapt to it when necessary. Change is scary for some, but it is the way forward, through the fields of fear and uncertainty, into the new light of expression.

Business is a living organism comprised, directed and engaged from the minds and hearts of people. The following, from Always Forward! Discover the 7 Secrets of Sales Success, will shorten the distance and lessen the pain from where you are now and where you are determined to go in the future. It is the way through fear, and a “North Star” for increase in life:

1. Think and Do – the shorter the distance between a deliberate thought and a decisive action, the greater the chance of success in the endeavor – the opposite is also true. Some think too long and don’t do, opportunity vanishes, someone else does the taking. Some do without thinking, rush in, and fail. The victory goes to those who think and then do with decisiveness, conviction, and alacrity.

2. Time waits for no one – it is inelastic – we can’t retrieve the minutes, the hours, the days, or years we squander. Stay engaged in the present, don’t live in the past, learn from it and influence your future by applying the lessons from the experience.

3. Find a way or make a way! Resilience is the stuff that overcomes the impediments and obstacles that will appear as a challenge to our forward motion. Think creatively, act decisively, don’t quit, think and apply a new strategy, approach from another plane of the thought, and always move forward!

4. 33-1/3% of people won’t buy us, our persuasive portfolio, our sterling personality, or our product. It’s a rough-hewn law of mine that hedges against the inevitable occurrence of rejection. Rejection is a part of the game – it’s part of the bargain to move forward, but if 33-1/3% of people will never buy from us, for their reasons, that leaves 66-2/3% ripe for the approach, and perhaps open to the message. If 66-2/3% will entertain the messenger, they will listen to the message – the more activity we generate, the bigger our base of 66-2/3%…

5. Walk Away Power – don’t push a bad position, learn to walk away from a negotiation. A bad position is anything that would make you lose your self-respect. Money is often recoupable, it can be bargained away from a bad position, or risked from a bold undertaking. But, giving up your self-respect is a choice only you can make.

6. YCDGBSOYA – You Can’t Do Good Business Sitting On Your A** – you have to get out and engage with people, push away from the plastic keyboard; don’t send an email when an in person visit will tip the balance in your favor. Go with your gut feel! If it feels like you should meet with someone, then “Find a way or make a way” to get in front of them.

Remember, try not to take rejection personally. It’s a numbers game! It’s like politics: Some people will always vote with the Blue States, some with the Red – you need to win the middle and your preferred Blue or Red states. If you generate planned, directed activity consistently, turn thought to action, and find a way or make a way to move your value proposition forward, you can begin to build a forum for success. Learn when to walk away from a bad position and know when to meet with people and create the interpersonal dynamic that makes all the difference from those who win the deal and those who take home the silver or bronze medal.

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Game ChangerBill Wooditch is a keynote speaker and peak-performance business training coach. He is a mentor and advocate for those who actively seek and are determined to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.

He began his career with $200 to his name, a suitcase, one corduroy suit and two ties. Retreat wasn’t an option; there was only one way – Always Forward! His purpose, energy and conviction fueled his meteoric sales success. In two years, he “found a way and made a way” to become the top salesperson at Liberty Mutual – a company employing over 19,000 people at the time. Ready for the “next challenge”, he was recruited by and joined the 6th largest broker in the world, Corroon & Black (currently the Willis Group), where, for two consecutive years, he earned the distinction as the top producer in the company.

Today, he is the founder, CEO, and president of The Wooditch Group, a privately held risk management and insurance services firm. The Wooditch Group provides client-centric solutions and comprehensive risk management programs for domestic and international clients whose revenues range from $10 million to over $3 billion. He is also the founder of Think Next, Act Now!, a company that trains and mentors tomorrow’s entrepreneur today.

He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at Purdue University and his Master’s degree in Public Administration at Penn State.

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CONTRIBUTORS, LIFESTYLE, PERSONAL GROWTH, SIMPLE LIVING

The Simple Rule For Decluttering

There is one simple rule for decluttering your home, office, and life:

Get rid of one thing. Every day.

I don’t care how trivial. Heck, I am cool with you discarding one pair of socks. That counts, in my opinion.

Now, it goes without saying, that the key for this rule to work? You HAVE TO rid yourself of ONE THING PER DAY. No matter what.

Removing one pair of socks over the course of a whole week isn’t going to have an impact. You need to do this EVERY DAY. One thing. Just one thing.

Here’s what you’re going to find: This will feel tremendously freeing. You will IMMEDIATELY feel the weight lifting off of your shoulders.

Even if you remove just one pair of socks per day.

And you’ll also find that you’ll build momentum too.

Removing the excess clutter from your life will be important, but what you are really striving for here is achieving that feeling of freedom.

Trust me, it is a glorious thing…

So, where did this little rant come from? My wife and I moved to Chicago earlier this year, and live in a simple, two bedroom, two bath apartment. Lots of people I communicate with (especially at our age) simply cannot imagine living in an 1,100 square foot space.

And they were amazed to hear that we recently moved from one apartment to another in four days. And I don’t mean moved all of our stuff out of the old apartment and moved all the boxes into the new, and then spent days or weeks reorganizing all the stuff.

I am talking about four days to get everything put back into its place. Four days.

How did we do it?

Simple. Over the years, we’ve decluttered. And now own only what we need and treasure.

In my view, most people are stuck in a large space because they simply can’t bear the burden of dealing with all the crap they’ve accumulated over all those years.

You know who you are. The garage is a storage unit, not a place to keep your vehicles. Attic? Full. Basement? Full of unpacked boxes from the last move. Storage units? So full of stuff you don’t even know what’s in there.

The ticket to freedom is removing one thing a day.

I don’t care if you throw the item into a trash bin. I don’t care if you load up the car with a pile of stuff to donate to GoodWill. I don’t care if you give it away. And I don’t care if you sell it.

When my wife Stephanie decides she no longer needs or wants an item, she’ll often sell it to an online boutique community. She’s sold a bunch of clothes, shoes, purses, and jewelry over the years.

Where do you start?

How about the junk drawer (you know the one I mean)? Clothes and shoes you never wear? All the junk in basements, attics, and storage units (if the item was important, would it really be in your basement, attic, or storage unit…packed into a dusty box)? And what about the kitchen? Do you really need three bottle openers?

And how to handle the family heirloom you secretly don’t want, but don’t have the guts to discard? Take a photo of it, and then donate it to someone who might actually value and use it. Why a photo? Because if you are honest with yourself, it’s the memory of the thing, not that actual physical object, that gives you good feelings.

And don’t forget to discard life events that clutter up your life. Those count too!

Like what you ask: That meeting over coffee that you don’t really want to do; A networking event where you won’t really meet any people important to your business; that “friend” who only takes and never gives back; or that work colleague who asks for your help, not because they need your insight, but because they secretly want you to do most of the work.

Discard that stuff too. REMEMBER: mental clutter is as big of a problem as the physical stuff…

Here’s a final piece of advice: You will never be perfect. So stop worrying about it. Day by day. One thing at a time. An item that’s important to you today might not be in six months.

Long ago when I started to simplify my life, I tried the typical “Let me spend the weekend getting rid of everything” process.

I failed. Big time overwhelm.

But when I started to remove one thing per day, it began to happen. And you will feel just as free when you discard one thing as you will discarding an entire closet.

So get started. Slowly. You’ll find that you will look forward to opening the garbage can lid to mercilessly toss away that pair of old socks…

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BUSINESS, CONTRIBUTORS, LEADERSHIP, LIFESTYLE, PERSONAL GROWTH

Work With Your Nature – Not Against It!

Game-changers break the rules that others fear to bend. The ultimate challenge for the inspired sales person is to become a “game-changer” – a challenge which delivers rewards equal to its requirements. Game-changers make the rules. They use their instinct to govern, their head to drive as they convince, compel and attract from both their person and their product. They create a standard of care for another that often is not in compliance with the limitations of rules.

People are often turned-off by an approach that is “run-of-the-mill”, predictable and void of the creativity that bears the brand of originality. Here’s a novel approach – engage a person as a person, not a concept! Your customer or prospective customer will thank you for exhibiting behavior that is authentic and often disarming because of its honest approach. “You can’t be all things to all people,” some sage purportedly uttered… Learn your value and don’t surrender it on the altar of “I have to please everyone” – you’ll end up pleasing no one and gravely disappointing the most important person in the equation: you! (See “Always Forward!” secret # 5 – “The Rule of 33-1/3 Percent”)

Make it a personal challenge to do that which provides a relief from boredom. Boredom is that unfocused haze of distraction that casts its cloud over the average business person’s day. You may work with or for average; these people show up physically but not mentally. They do just enough to get through the day, expanding four hours of work into eight. They pick up a paycheck, go home to the blank void of fabricated distraction until the alarm goes-off signaling the start of the next day’s “walk through”.

The fun, for me and it may be for you, is found in the game – get in play; risk making those mistakes that generate growth through intelligent risk. Risk creates opportunity. Opportunity is that which we make available. Make opportunity available and seize the initiative. Forward movement, directed and managed with purpose and conviction will make you distinctive. Look around you – most people look like outcasts from a Walking Dead casting call. Now, you are going to get bumped and bruised, you’ll miss the mark at times, you may offend and the meek and mild aren’t going to “like you”. They will fear you – embrace it! People are change averse. Mention the word, and watch their knees get weak. They don’t know what the change is or what it means, but their instinct sends a signal, “Not good – not good – saber-tooth tiger – not good!” We’re hardwired to fear loss and avoid change. We deviate from this internal wiring by degree – each of us are unique, bearing our individual stamp of DNA imprint. My suggestion is to work with your nature, not against it. You either have the “stuff” to change the game, or you may want to partner with those people who do and can.

Speaking of “those who can and do” – remember this: ego with talent is confidence, ego without talent is arrogance. Be humble, be hungry, be confident. Treat people with respect, but follow your inner-rebel, the one that is imbued with ethics, integrity, manifesting the character that defines your nature.

You will grow daily as a person from the self-challenge of risk and the demands of authenticity. When you bring constructive contribution to your company’s system, you can animate that system – you will make it vibrant, it will come alive from the pulse of your personality. Your personality can bring the vibrancy of color and feel to the staid, non-descript conformity of the system. You can follow in lock-step and be the soldier in the rank and file, but we need those who push the boundaries of possibility and create new standards, fresh tracks in the snow, the path of achievement that now can be followed by others.

We need the panache and the originality of the game-changer. Game-changers spearhead innovation. They are on that bleeding edge that cuts and enables. They take the cuts, bleed, learn, adapt and grow.  They grow their personal platform and further our strategic vision. They are the ones that create those opportunities that we cash when we make payroll, pay debt, provide benefits and provide contributions, rewards and bonuses. We all flourish from the risk, the sacrifice and the results of their efforts.

Our companies need people on the support lines. We also need people on the front lines – those are the ones that feed our support teams as our support teams provide stewardship and care that feeds credibility and residual income to the front lines. Look in the mirror. Be realistic – are you willing to pay the price that each position requires? Within each position in the company, be it sales or service, YOU have the opportunity, every day to change the game for yourself, your family, your team and your company. You can be a game-changer in sales just as you can be a game-changer in service. Find a way to yes, find a way to anticipate and address a client’s wishes and needs.

It takes courage to change the game. There is risk, there is reward, there is disappointment, loss, success and gain. I think Churchill sums it up best, “Success is going from failure to Failure Without Losing Your Enthusiasm.”

Locate your inner Churchill – find the energy, the enthusiasm, marry it with self-belief and the product of the union will change the game!

Create or follow a path, make a choice, but whatever the choice may be, go “Always Forward!”

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Game ChangerBill Wooditch is a keynote speaker and peak-performance business training coach. He is a mentor and advocate for those who actively seek and are determined to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.

He began his career with $200 to his name, a suitcase, one corduroy suit and two ties. Retreat wasn’t an option; there was only one way – Always Forward! His purpose, energy and conviction fueled his meteoric sales success. In two years, he “found a way and made a way” to become the top salesperson at Liberty Mutual – a company employing over 19,000 people at the time. Ready for the “next challenge”, he was recruited by and joined the 6th largest broker in the world, Corroon & Black (currently the Willis Group), where, for two consecutive years, he earned the distinction as the top producer in the company.

Today, he is the founder, CEO, and president of The Wooditch Group, a privately held risk management and insurance services firm. The Wooditch Group provides client-centric solutions and comprehensive risk management programs for domestic and international clients whose revenues range from $10 million to over $3 billion. He is also the founder of Think Next, Act Now!, a company that trains and mentors tomorrow’s entrepreneur today.

He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at Purdue University and his Master’s degree in Public Administration at Penn State.

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BUSINESS, CONTRIBUTORS, MARKETING, SALES

5 Skills That Create A Front Line Dream Team

Front line employees are the lynch pin to sales growth for any organization. It’s most typically the first person your customer sees when they arrive, and the last they see when they leave. They are your most powerful employees because they can influence a customer’s decision to come back, buy more and tell others.

The only difference between you and your competition is the experience your team delivers. Fortunately, the customer experience is one of the most difficult things for your competitors to copy. Why? Because experiences are wholly dependant on the individuals delivering them. The conundrum is that most often these individuals are your lowest paid employees who are only with you for a short amount of time.

If you want your customers to have an exceptional experience every time, that is consistently delivered upon by 100% of your staff, then it begins with a powerful question your front line employees may be thinking, and you must be prepared to answer:

“What’s in it for me?”

WIIFM — You may be familiar with this commonly used marketing acronym to determine what would compel someone to take a desired action. When you understand the answer to WIIFM as it relates to your employee, you’ll unlock the secret to their motivations and help drive their actions to perform for your business at their highest.

What all employees want is to earn more money. How they earn more income throughout their career is by developing skill, knowledge and experience that adds greater value to an organization.

The Life Skills Toolbox Concept

If you want your employees, regardless of their pay scale, to be exceptional, then The Life Skills Toolbox Concept is one that you will want to share with them during the hiring process. It is a mutually agreed upon set of expectations that 1) You will teach them skills that will increase their value and can be added to their toolbox to be used throughout their career, and 2) In exchange, they agree to perform their duties as your brand ambassador using these skills consistently.

The following are 5 critical skills that belong in every toolbox for success that will ensure your employees are taking exceptional care of your customers:

1. Honor the hospitality zone. This is all about making the customer feel welcome and acknowledged. Smile at 10 ft. and greet at 5 ft. Speak first and speak last. Acknowledge those customers standing in line even when assisting others.

2. Personalize and enhance the experience. Individualize the experience by using the customer’s last name whenever possible, add friendly comments, offer products and services based on need. Anticipate their needs and offer upsells.

3. Communicate professionally. Take a cue from the hospitality industry and replace, “No problem” with “My pleasure”. Body language says a lot, train your employees to make theirs positive and open. Keep side conversations out of customer earshot.

4. Take ownership. If you want customers to feel like they are a priority to you then offer assistance, don’t wait to be asked. Find a way to offer options without saying “no”. The customer’s problem is your problem until you can find a resolution.

5. Protect the brand. Your employees are a direct reflection of your company’s brand. While individuality should be encouraged, set guidelines for your employees to follow so that they are proudly representing the brand. Your employees should demonstrate pride of ownership, and your store should be an environment that proudly hosts customers as your guest.

The quality of your customer experience will never exceed the quality of the people delivering it.

The Life Skills Toolbox is a value exchange that every employee should get behind, and if they can’t or worse, won’t, then they’ve just self sorted out. You don’t want that person on your team. The enormous benefit of this agreement to you is that it affords you a system to train against, a way to measure and monitor their performance along the way and your customers will immediately recognize the difference between you and your competitor.

The best way to improve the economy of your business and the economy of our country is to move low wage workers up the income ladder. Regardless of whether they are a part time employee over the summer or with you for the long haul, what employees require is skill development so that as they advance through their career, they have collected skill, knowledge and experience that gives them opportunities to add increasing value to their employers. Investment in your employees’ toolbox creates happier customers, higher profits and employees who are highly engaged, loyal and demonstrate attributes of true brand ambassadorship.

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Pam-250-x-250Pamela Herrmann & Patty Dominguez are the Co-Founders of CREATE Buzz, committed to helping small businesses get customers and keep customers by taking the overwhelm out of technology, thus creating sustainable thriving businesses that are relevant. They co-host The Morning Would Show bringing the latest in marketing tips and strategies.

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BUSINESS, CONTRIBUTORS, LEADERSHIP, LIFESTYLE, PERSONAL GROWTH

Get used to being uncomfortable

I have a good friend going through a tough time right now. He’s just recently suffered a big loss, and despite putting out a strong front to the world, I know he is struggling mightily.

“I suck at this,” he says. Followed by “I feel so broken.”

I get it. We’ve all been there.

And then today, as I write this, I had a big business setback myself. A project I was counting on fell through at the very last minute.

“How could this have happened to me,” I yelled out loud earlier today, within earshot of my poor wife who had no choice but to listen to my frustrated rant.

I’m feeling pretty blue as a result. This despite the fact that at this very moment in my life, I’ve never been happier, I’ve never felt more optimistic, and the growth track with my business remains overwhelmingly positive.

But setbacks and losses still suck. They still hurt. A lot. And it’s easy to fall into a tailspin as a result.

Here is what I am learning: Setbacks are a regular part of life. As much as you don’t want them to happen, they do. YOU HAVE NO CHOICE IN THIS MATTER.

And instead of curling up in the fetal position, or venting through loud vocal obscenities and rage like I do, foolishly, you have to suck it up and move on.

As a new friend of mine says, you have go forward, “Always Forward.”

Business and life is uncomfortable. It just is. If you expect it to be smooth and easy, you’ll be disappointed.

But it is moving forward, picking yourself back up, taking one step forward at a time = THE ONLY WAY TO KEEP GOING.

You know this, even if you are unwilling to admit it.

All the great ones do this. You can too. I can too. And I have to, for people are counting on me.

Life is uncomfortable. And it always will be. You have no choice but to accept that, and take that on as a personal challenge, and embrace it.

The Sun will come up tomorrow, the clock will keep ticking, dust will keep going through the hourglass, and you’ll still be there…

The question is will you be wallowing in it and sucking on your thumb? Or will you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move forward…Always Forward?

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CONTRIBUTORS, LIFESTYLE

I am not wishing you Happy Birthday on Facebook. Deal with it.

My birthday is coming up soon, and frankly, I am dreading it. Why?

Not because I am getting older (but that sucks too).

It’s because of Facebook and their infernal mother-farking birthday function. It’s ruined birthdays for me, and has taken the fun out of my celebrating the birthdays of people I care about.

For the record, I no longer wish people “Happy Birthday” on Facebook, or any other social network for that matter.

I really don’t want my greeting buried under hundreds of others.

So, if you’ve been offended that I haven’t said anything to you on your BIG day well, sorry, but I am not losing any sleep over it.

Why?

Because most of what I see and hear isn’t genuine, and stems from one simple fact:

From half of my Facebook friends, I hear from them one day per year. And yeah, you guessed it: it’s on my birthday when I get the perfunctory “Happy Birthday [insert name here]!”

And it doesn’t help when you attach one of those motion-GIFS. Frankly, that’s your attempt to make it “more” personal. Despite the fact that I will receive 100s of those on the big day. All they really do is clog up Facebook’s servers.

These particular Facebook friends who pass along greetings once a year NEVER like anything else of mine. They never engage with me on my content. Never comment on stuff I share, whether it is on music, photos of my activities, food I eat, issues of the day, etc.

Now, it’s a VERY FAIR question to ask why am I connected to someone who only contacts me ONCE A YEAR? Yes, #truth. And the subject of another essay for another day. And I bear my share of responsibility in this too.

Frankly, when I observe others on their actual birthday, I am quite saddened when they are spending time ON THEIR ACTUAL BIRTHDAY responding to birthday wishes on Facebook. Do you not have other things to do on this special day? Really? You have to get out a little more friend…

I also hate the standard “Thanks for all the birthday wishes, I am very blessed, and I have the bestest friends” notes that people post, you know, so they don’t have to acknowledge all of these greetings. Probably from people they also only hear from once per year.

So yeah, at the end of the day, I’ve stopped doing it because I don’t want people to think of me the way I think of others who do it to me.

No, on rare occasion, I will send someone a birthday message via Facebook, but I’ll make it a point to personalize it and make it legitimate. Or, I will take advantage of Facebook reminding me, and send them greetings through another, more personal, medium.

And for the record, I am grateful when someone I know and interact with year round sends me a real, human, personal note.

Social media has changed the world. It connects us in ways that most never dreamed possible, and its wonders continue to marvel and hint and what’s still possible down the road.

But the downsides are its automation and lack of a personal touch.

I’ve been binging the AMC series TURN, about George Washington’s spies. Seeing them write meticulous letters on parchment with a quill pen and ink, that correspondence seems so real and genuine…

…verses the automatron scanning today’s list of birthdays on his Facebook page, and BANG-BANG-BANG-Done.

Ok, good. Moving on to the next task…

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BUSINESS, CONTRIBUTORS, LEADERSHIP

The Language of Leadership: Let’s Start at the very beginning

peitlerErica Peitler is a leadership performance coach and advisor to C-Suite executives, as well as a keynote speaker and the author of the international best selling book, Leadership Rigor!

Erica has co-hosted our Leadership on the Ground Series: Season 1Season 2Season 3

For more information, visit: www.ericapeitler.com

How to Speak the Language of Leadership and Influence Skillfully

As a leadership performance coach, I am regularly reminding my clients that leadership is a “skilled-profession.” It has a language, models and frameworks that provide practitioners with tools that when used skillfully can create a positive impact on people, teams and organizations.

The challenge is in taking the time to learn this language and how to use it with what I call “conscious competency.” This involves knowing what you are doing, how to do it and why you are doing it!

The ability to speak any language requires learning some fundamental vocabulary.
As leaders we need “conversational leadership” language that is contemporary and that we can use ….right now!

Let’s get started with three important leadership concepts:

They are:

  • Awareness
  • Alignment
  • Accountability

We Can Only Change What We Can See — So We Need Awareness!

In the world of leadership, as in life, we can only affect and change things when we have awareness of them. The concept of awareness involves understanding:

  • how you show up,
  • what it is like to be with you and
  • how your behavior impacts others.

It sounds simple and straight forward, yet most leaders have low levels of self-awareness, despite their confident self-proclamations to the contrary. Why?

First of all, we all have blind spots. We don’t know what we don’t know, and if we do not get open and honest feedback, we have little opportunity or motivation to consider a change. With feedback comes an important entry point to consider making both a belief and a behavioral shift because something we are doing is either not working or perhaps it is working well and we can be doing more of it and achieving even better performance!

Second, we often disregard feedback from those whom we don’t respect, don’t like or who have a message we don’t want or are not ready to hear. We humans usually like our story, self image and may even proudly proclaim “This is who I am and it works for me.” After all, you may be a successful senior leader already in a prominent role. The problem here is that leadership today, first and foremost, is all about others and not about ourselves, so this story–if you choose to stick with it, has an unhappy ending for you as a leader. (Either directly or through the longer-term consequences of others choosing to opt out of working with or following you!). The “old school” days of command and control, hierarchical power and leaders as kings are over! It is now a world of collaboration, mutual respect and personal power over position power, if you want the best talent.

Third, without self-awareness most of the other tools in your leadership toolbox will just not work for you! It is the cost of entry to begin the process. Without it, you will not have the personal credibility to influence and inspire others.

So if your leadership mojo is just not working the way you want it to, check in with your current understanding around your own self-awareness as a way to jump-start your stalled leadership batteries! Start by getting feedback from those you trust.

Self-awareness is also the one of the critical components involved in building your emotional intelligence. Now fully accepted as that which separates today’s most successful and influential leaders from those who merely hold a title, emotional intelligence is a set of learnable skills and behaviors that everyone can improve with time, discipline and conscious practice.

Their stated curiosity to uncover blind spots, their vulnerability to openly seek feedback to improve performance and understand who they are and who they are not (yet) provides emotionally intelligent leaders with enormous leverage in getting others to follow them.

As a leadership performance coach, much of my work with executives and teams centers on skill building in the emotional intelligence area. What was historically dismissed as unimportant, “soft stuff” has now been validated in multiple research studies are the “really important and no longer underestimated stuff.” Not only has it become clear how work really gets done collaboratively today in teams and organizations, but also importantly, this “soft stuff” (or leadership skills as I like to refer to them) is really hard to learn and apply without practice and discipline. Those with a natural aptitude or appetite for emotional intelligence are often the graceful climbers of the executive ranks. The good news is, for those with the desire and ambition to become leaders at the highest levels, there is nothing that cannot be learned here with a little “RIGOR”!

For more learning on emotional intelligence and its practical business applications, check out the work of Daniel Goleman and Travis Bradberry.
How Leaders Achieve and Communicate ALIGNMENT

The ability to “execute with excellence” in any organization is dependent upon its leaders abilities to make good decisions and appropriately cascade the communication of those decisions across their organization.

Unfortunately, many companies fail to have transparent and effective decision-making and communication processes. Consequently, most leaders struggle with these skills and as a result, they often create more dysfunction and misunderstanding than clarity and closure. The resulting lack of alignment may inhibit organizational productivity and performance!

The word “alignment” in the context of leadership means having a team or organization all clearly on the same page, moving forward with focus and energy in the same direction.

Fundamentally, alignment is an output based on an input and throughput.

INPUT:
The decision making process by which a team or organization discusses, weighs in and evaluates a range of possibilities for solving a business challenge.

THROUGHPUT:
The consistent communication of the go forward decision that is cascaded across the organization by its leaders.

OUTPUT:
Alignment!

In solving a business challenge or making a decision, creativity and opportunity are born our of debating a range of options and then selecting the best one for the circumstances. The team and organization win when a wide variety of ideas are considered vs. the alternatives of groupthink or leader mandated solutions.

Possibilities and choices need to be identified, debated and examined through a variety of lenses. Through one lens, perhaps a functional department view, an option may look like a slam-dunk, while through an alternative lens, it might have significant downside risk. The power of productive conflict, or debate among trusting team members allows for an examination and determination of the best path forward for the organization at this time. It is not as simple as just making the numbers look good on paper. The complexity of business today requires understanding the dynamics around business conditions, life cycles and the competitive landscape, not to mention the possibility of a game-changing disruptive risk that you may or may not want to take at a particular moment in time. This takes an engaging and open conversation with team members demonstrating both VERITAS and listening skills!

Selecting one path forward obviously means that there will be options that are not selected despite them having potential validity as a solution and the advocacy from one or more passionate supporters. This is where the challenging nuance of alignment comes in. Alignment is the ability to agree to and fully support the go-forward decision, even when you have expressed an alternative viewpoint and your position has not been selected. Sometimes this process is referred to as “weighing-in” on the issue or decision. Having your chance to weigh-in and voice your point of view is most important and it is a critical step in achieving organizational or team alignment.

Individuals, teams and organizations run into trouble when they misunderstand alignment. Not being agreed with, being overruled and/or claiming to have “lost” a debate can be hard to take for some leaders and might be even tougher to “appropriately” explain to your team who might have been counting on you as their team leader to convince the organizational leadership of their preferred choice or outcome.

Here is where “leadership skills” come into play. Some leaders mistakenly turn a healthy opportunity to debate options for a best choice for their organization into a personal “win-lose” scenario where there are disappointments and a lack of willingness to support the ultimate decision.

Coming out of a meeting and appropriately communicating the decision outcomes, most importantly the “why” behind the choice, is a critical role for leaders to play. Skilled leaders openly express that the decision was thoroughly explored, acknowledging that different perspectives were shared and debated. They credit their teams and colleagues with broadly covering and passionately providing insights and rationale for the range of considerations. Then they share the decision outcome, why it was the one that prevailed and clearly verbalize not only their support for the go forward decision, but also state the expectation that their teams and direct reports will also support it. During the discussion they may empathize with the potential disappointment their team may feel; however, the key is to not break from the alignment with their leadership team (including throwing colleagues under the proverbial bus by claiming they still don’t agree) and to use the conversation with their team as a learning opportunity around the dynamics of organization decision-making and alignment. Taking the time to coach and develop your talent bench around these healthy decision-making and cascading communication dynamics is your job as a leader.

The challenge with alignment is not only getting your Leadership team to have the right understanding of how to move forward, but additionally, how to appropriately cascade the communication across the organization.

Alignment is fundamentally giving your heart and mind to the “go-forward” plan without second-guessing or undermining the decision. Anything short of this amounts to not being a team player. Without alignment, teams and organizations waste “blue dollars” which are people time and energy being thrown away having conversations about what “shoulda, coulda, woulda” been decided under different circumstances. Imagine instead all that could be achieved if that time and energy were focused on your go-forward plan?

ACCOUNTABILITY and The Role of the Leader

There is likely to be no organization in existence that would not like to increase the accountability they believe they currently have among their community of employees. Why do we experience such a disappointment across all industries, sectors and companies? One answer: poor leadership!

But, can poor leadership be the answer to accountability as well as every other problem an organization faces? Shouldn’t people just do their jobs and with that all will fall naturally into place?

Here is the hard truth, if you are the team or organizational leader, any problem you have has your “fingerprints” on it. You have either consciously or unconsciously created this environment or you tolerate it. Either way all roads lead back to you as the leader!

That being said, the elusiveness of accountability is something that warrants exploration. Most leaders and organizations fundamentally do not understand that accountability (like alignment in the previous section) is an OUTPUT resulting from a specific INPUT and a disciplined THROUGHPUT. Without understanding this dynamic, most leaders are lost and frustrated. So what are these magical “PUTS” all about?

The INPUT: Clarifying Expectations

The reason why accountability is elusive and leaders are continuously disappointed is because they do NOT take the time to establish clear expectations. This may sound simple, but most leaders fall into a few traps or rationalizations:

  • Employees should just do their jobs
  • They should know (or guess) what I want
  • I don’t know exactly what I want; can’t you just figure it out?

Taking a moment to thoughtfully consider that what you are asking the other person to do can mean the difference between time invested in a worthwhile challenge or time wasted on a frustrating chase. With clear expectations, you and your direct report can differentiate between wants and needs to ensure delivery of what is really being asked for and eliminate what is not. This ensures that an appropriate use of time and energy is allocated to this initiative. There is also a relationship benefit here in that you both build trust and confidence in each other while securing alignment together.

An important part of expectation setting should also include ensuring appropriate support resources from other departments are in place to contribute to the work product. This may require the leader reaching out to other colleagues to ensure alignment of priorities across the team or organization.

The THROUGHPUT: Coaching for Performance

Most leaders, with coaching and encouragement, do get better at setting expectations. Unfortunately it is not enough to simply stand by and wait for the delivery of what they asked for, believing their work is done. The work of a leader continues with the throughput required to ultimately secure accountability, which requires “coaching for performance” along the way.

This is actually the hardest part for many leaders who want to delegate and simply walk away. High performance teams and organizations build capability and skills in their employees by actively coaching for performance by varying their leadership style and the level of engagement based on the confidence and competence of the colleague they are working with. While most leaders have 1 or 2 styles as their go-to selections (usually directing and delegating), the best leaders have 4-6 and perhaps even 10 different styles in their toolbox to use selectively based on the situation. These leaders know what they are looking for, how they need to flex to the needs of a particular individual and why a certain style will work better than another. This is leadership in action, on the ground and in real time! This is also what makes the difference between a high performance leader with a strong talent bench and a frustrated one with high turnover!

The OUTPUT: Shared Accountability.

Successful accountability is “shared accountability”. Setting expectations (aligning resources as well), coaching for performance and ultimately HOLDING accountability to the deliverable that was agreed upon sounds laborious to the leader who prefers to tell you what to do or delegate and dash away. To skilled leaders, it is a series of worthwhile conversations and interactive engagements that delivers quality work while also building the talent bench through trusting relationships, teamwork and community!

peitlerErica Peitler is a leadership performance coach and advisor to C-Suite executives, as well as a keynote speaker and the author of the international best selling book, Leadership Rigor!

Erica has co-hosted our Leadership on the Ground Series: Season 1Season 2Season 3

For more information, visit: www.ericapeitler.com

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CONTRIBUTORS, LIFESTYLE, PERSONAL GROWTH

You don’t need to get up at 4AM each morning to be a success

Every day, I read some article that, if true, someone far more awesome than me has already done the following by 6AM:

photo-1428954376791-d9ae785dfb2d1. They were wide awake, showered, dressed, and at their desk by 4AM…losing a half pound of weight in the process.
2. By 5AM, they had already written 2,000 words.
3. By 520AM, they had meditated for 20 minutes and achieved near enlightenment.
4. And by 6AM, with all the kids awake, bathed, and lunch boxes packed, they had also done yoga for an additional 20 minutes. Namaste my friend!

Let me boldly and proudly declare, that by 6AM, I haven’t gotten out of bed yet. But, according to the internet, I am the only person on the entire planet still sleeping at this time in the morning.

Other essays I’ve read, some of these even more amazing people have also run a 5K (or more), prepared food from scratch (that they harvested from the back yard garden), have read the entire Wall Street Journal by 617AM, and have even done a little work to lower the Earth’s core temperature by .05 degrees.

These are truly amazing people. And all doing overtly sustainable activities before the Sun even rises.

By 617AM, I have probably read one or two articles on the Red Sox. And by then I have a 5 year old Golden Retriever standing on my chest giving me the vulture look. I will usually pretend to go back to sleep to fake her out, but Shiloh usually doinks me in the eye with the cold tip of her wet dog nose to tell me I am full of it.

Around 625AM, I will have stolen a look at my lovely wife, who is forcing her eyes closed so that I am made to believe she isn’t awake yet. For she doesn’t really want to talk to me until 10AM at the earliest. Trust me, she’s awake.

Seriously, I am amazed at the amount of people who have rewritten the U.S. Constitution by sunup. Who are all of these people? Why are they so perfect? How is it that with all of these amazing people, we still have cancer, and why are geopolitical affairs still such a mess?

Are these people for real? Are they even real?

Despite my obvious failings in the wee hours of the morning, I am still happy. I am still running a growing and successful business, I have a wife that loves me (after 10AM), and I have two happy, healthy dogs.

And oh, I haven’t even told you the really bad news yet: The first two things I do in the morning:

1. Check Facebook.
2. Read my email.

Yes, since you started reading this essay, there have been about 300 new articles published condemning humans for checking email and social media before midday.

And yes, despite the fact that I DO NOT get up at 4AM each morning AND check email and Facebook whilst still in bed, here is a list of the things I happen to still accomplish:

1. I read a book a week.
2. I run at least a 5K three to four times a week.
3. I walk my dogs round Chicago the non-running days of the week.
4. I run a business.
5. I conduct a dozen radio interviews for my business.
6. I explore my city (which translates to: I eat a lot).

I do all these things when I can, and when I want to. I check email as often as I want to. I check Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram whenever I want to.

Look, I am not condemning people who have a set morning routine. I admire them for getting up early and achieving things.

It just doesn’t work for me.

For me, every day is different. My interview schedule varies each day. Some days I am on the road. Some days Stephanie and I have plans. Some days are running days. I just simply cannot follow a strict routine day in and day out.

But you do have to find out what works for you. And stick to it. Or at least know WHAT you have to do, and be disciplined to get it done over the course of the day.

Just don’t judge me when I don’t rise at 4AM. We are all different, and we are all wired in different ways. I am glad to hear you’ve figured out what works for you, and appreciate you sharing it with us. It may very well inspire someone to try something new.

Live life on your terms. Don’t be guilted into following a process that isn’t right for you, just to please some superhero that probably isn’t real…

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