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Ira Koretsky
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Duane Bailey
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

‘Tis the Season for Giving Back

The holidays are upon us and this season of goodwill is a wonderful opportunity for organizations of all types to make a difference in the communities they serve.

One of the best ways we can make a difference in the lives of others is to volunteer.  Volunteering with others in community service is a great way to build relationships, help the less fortunate and improve your reputation. It's an opportunity for organizations who say they care about a cause or group of people to put their words into actions. Giving back is not only a way to make a difference, it's a way to differentiate your brand. 

In her poem, "Life’s Mirror," Madeline Bridges speaks eloquently of this relationship between giving back and receiving when she writes, “Then give to the world the best you have, and the best will come back to you.”

Make this the holiday season where you give your very best.

For more thoughts on how organizations can serve others, please see:
• Reputation Management: Six Things Brands Can Learn from George Bailey
• Your Brand and the Community It Serves
• What the Boy Scouts Can Teach Your Business About Serving Others

Hope you can attend a great event next week -- "A panel of distinguished business leaders discuss doing business internationally and cultural competency as a strategic advantage."

Here's the text from the event:

Leverage Cultural Differences for Competitive Advantage!  Recognizing and leveraging cultural differences allows a company to be more successful and to gain a competitive advantage over those who do not.  To be successful a company must develop competencies that enable its workforce to move between various cultures and tailor their communications and problem solving skills in a way that is comfortable for each culture. 

How will your company win in markets that may be foreign to your business today but vital to its success tomorrow?  

Learn strategies to leverage cultural differences for competitive advantage from a distinguished roundtable of six business leaders.

Juanita Hardy of Tiger Management Consulting collaborated with The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to bring you a stellar morning event, "Winning in The Global Market: Six Leaders Discuss Bridging Cultural Gaps."

I met Juanita a while back and we became fast friends. I am sincerely looking forward to this event. As someone who has conducted business internationally, the panel will surely share ideas gleaned from years of working nationally and abroad.  The panel includes:

- Andrew Sherman, Partner, Jones Day International (Panel Moderator)
- Dr. Douglas Guthrie, Dean of the Business School for George Washington University and Professor of International Business and Management, Washington, DC
- Roger Lawrence, Corporate Vice President, McCormick & Company
- Ted Dean, Chair, AmCham China (American Chamber of Commerce in China), Beijing
- Desmond Fraser, President, American Certification Body Inc (ACB Inc)
- William Burrell, Director, US Commercial Services, US Department of Commerce

Email me if you are planning on attending and we can meet for coffee before/after.

When it comes to customer experience, sometimes the most unforgettable moments come from chance encounters. How your employees respond in that instant is often the difference between magic and mediocre.

Earlier this month, I was volunteering as a course marshal at the Girls on the Run® (GOTR®) 5K race in my community. GOTR® is an international organization whose “mission is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.” The program runs for several weeks and concludes with a celebratory 5K running event for each participant and their buddy runner.

As one of several volunteer course marshals, I was positioned at an intersection approximately one mile from the finish. My job was to help ensure the safety of the thousands of runners who would run by me that day, keeping them on course and cheering them on. All of that changed in an instant when one participant’s buddy runner, who was her mom, emerged from the sea of runners before me to tell me she was unable to finish the race. She asked if I could find another buddy runner who could finish the race with her young daughter, whose eyes began to tear up as I called for medical assistance.

Instantly, I knew what I had to do. I asked the runner and her mom if I could be her daughter’s buddy for the remainder of the race.  They both smiled. When we got to the finish line, her mom was there waiting for us. It was an emotional moment for them – her young daughter had just finished her first 5K race, after weeks of preparation and against what surely seemed an insurmountable obstacle moments earlier. It was, as she told me, an unforgettable moment.

To them and at that moment, even as a volunteer course marshal, I was the GOTR® brand. The experience I provided to them in their time of need – which was to go the extra mile on their behalf, literally – helped to turn a chance encounter into a magic moment.

Are your employees going the extra mile for your customers? Is your customer experience filled with magic moments?

Hope you can attend a great event next week -- "A panel of distinguished business leaders discuss doing business internationally and cultural competency as a strategic advantage."

Juanita Hardy of Tiger Management Consulting collaborated with The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to bring you a stellar morning event, "Winning in The Global Market: Six Leaders Discuss Bridging Cultural Gaps."

I met Juanita a while back and we became fast friends. I am sincerely looking forward to this event. As someone who has conducted business internationally, the panel will surely share ideas gleaned from years of working nationally and abroad.  The panel includes:

- Andrew Sherman, Partner, Jones Day International (Panel Moderator)
- Dr. Douglas Guthrie, Dean of the Business School for George Washington University and Professor of International Business and Management, Washington, DC
- Roger Lawrence, Corporate Vice President, McCormick & Company
- Ted Dean, Chair, AmCham China (American Chamber of Commerce in China), Beijing
- Desmond Fraser, President, American Certification Body Inc (ACB Inc)
- William Burrell, Director, US Commercial Services, US Department of Commerce

There is a discount for the first 15 people good through Nov 24.

Email me if you are planning on attending and we can meet for coffee before/after.

 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Time to Give Thanks

This is the time of year when Americans typically gather with families and friends to give thanks – for each other, for successes achieved and for challenges overcome. More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving is a time for reflecting on how the efforts of others have enriched our lives.

It’s a fitting time of year, then, to remind our employees just how much we appreciate and respect them – for making the commitment to be a part of our organization, the experience they bring to the table, the ideas they share and the efforts they make in support of our success.

When I was growing up, my dad would bring a turkey home from work every year. It was a simple and thoughtful gesture from his employer – a small factory in Connecticut – that acknowledged employees and their families for the sacrifices they had made in support of the company. And, yet, the impact of this gesture extended well beyond the dinner table on Thanksgiving day...to the factory floor on the following Monday and beyond, where it was rewarded with continuing company loyalty, higher productivity and an unwavering commitment to quality.

As your employees leave your workplace for the Thanksgiving holiday this week, remember to thank them. You don’t need a turkey to give thanks; all you need are two simple words spoken from the heart – “thank you.”   

Today I delivered my "Presenting with Confidence" workshop to a lively and engaging audience.

At the end of the presentation, Judith (name changed) came up to me and we chatted about a variety of subjects. Then she politely asked if she could make a suggestion. "Of course" I responded. She suggested moving the "Story of a Sign" video from the middle to the beginning. "It's very moving and powerful" (or something similar).

Internally I cringed. She was right. I whispered to her, "Can I tell you a secret? I needed a change. It's one of my all time favorites...I have been using that video as the start to more than 50 presentations...I wanted to do something different...for me."

Then she dropped the hammer on my toes. She smiled and said something to the effect, "isn't one of your messages, it's all about the audience?" I laughed out loud. Again, I knew she was right.

My learning lesson for today...listen to the audience.

Friday's presentation on the Capabilities Clinic WILL start with Story of a Sign! Thank you Judith for the much-needed and gentle kick in the ...

Join NBPCI and The Chief Storyteller for the Nov16th Compelling Capabilities Statement Clinic.

It is *Free* for registered attendees of the NBPCI Executive Breakfast Event with Teresa Lewis.

Please visit our other website page with all of the details. www.thechiefstoryteller.com/services/compelling-capability-statement

I'm a big fan of Dan Pink...While his article is about politics...it's really about words and messaging.

Here's the beginning:

This year’s presidential race has now come down to ten days and two people. But like many exercises in persuading, influencing, and otherwise moving others, it has also come down to two words – one for President Barack Obama, another for Governor Mitt Romney.

Which word prevails may determine which man takes the oath of office three months from now – and therein lies a lesson for your own work.

A few years ago, British advertising pioneer Maurice Saatchi conceived the idea of “one-word equity.” His notion was that today -- when all of us feel blasted by a daily fire hose of text, images, and ideas from our computers, phones, and social networks -- the only way to be heard is to push succinctness to it limit.

“What I am describing here is a new business model for marketing, appropriate to the digital age,” Saatchi wrote. “In this model, companies compete for global ownership of one word in the public mind.”

And what goes for companies goes equally for political candidates.

Dan continue discussing President Obama's word of "Forward" and Governor Romney's words of "Believe in America."

If you are a fan of words, content, meaning, and messaging, you'll enjoy Dan's musings.

 

Yahoo recently published an article, "Body Language Signs to Watch During the Debates." 

This particular paragraph sums it all up nicely:

"The mistakes the presidential candidates have made over the years are numerous. Poor body language has been a common blunder. As much as candidates focus on perfecting the substance of what they say before the cameras, a large number of Americans are really most interested to see how they say it," CNN contributor and history professor Julian Zelizer wrote for CNN.

The article goes in depth on various body language tendencies of both candidates. And the article ends with a brief discussion of six non verbal cues:

1. An itchy nose

2. Hands in pockets

3. Crossed arms

4. Touching the neck

5. Finger pointing

6. Frequent eye blinking

I downloaded the new Twitter app for iPad (and iPhone) last week.

As a brand manager, one of the newest features I am most excited about is the header photo users can now add to their profile. While allowing me to keep the profile image I’ve been using to brand myself across all of my social media platforms, Twitter has expanded the branding experience by providing me with the ability to display another image that appears consistently above my Tweets on Apple devices, mobile apps and twitter.com. In a word, this is awesome!

alt

Now, when you encounter me on Twitter, the branding experience I provide is richer, more colorful and more memorable. Everything I do, say, write and show stems from my personal brand’s elevator statement – which is my Twitter bio.

As you view my Twitter profile, I hope you will perceive me as someone who is:
• A recognized leader in marketing and sales
• On the leading edge of social media and mobile communications technology
• Fit and active
• Passionate about the outdoors and who enjoys nature
• Not afraid to make a decision, take risks and explore new things

What kind of personal branding experience does your Twitter profile offer? Have you added a header photo to your profile yet?

For more insights on branding and social media, please see:
• Why Social Media Should Be Part of Your Marketing Communications
• 5 Insights on Marketing Your Brand in Social Media
• Is Your Brand Social?

How would you characterize the culture of your organization? Is it consistent with how you want your customers, members and other stakeholders to perceive your brand?

To help you consider these questions, let’s consider these conversation starters:
• How well can your employees articulate your core message (i.e., their succinct answer to “What do you do?”).
• Are your employees passionate about your business? Do they like coming to work each day?
• Is your organization one where you celebrate your employees? Do you recognize, value and appreciate them?
• Do you encourage your employees to take risks, innovate and try new things?
• Do your employees treat one another with courtesy, integrity and respect? Are your suppliers treated the same way?

Your answers to these questions help to describe your organizational culture. More importantly, they provide customers, members and other stakeholders with a window in which to preview their experience with your organization.

If I were to look through that window, what story is your organizational culture telling me? Is it one I would like to be a part of?

For other insights on organizational culture, please see:
• Employee Retention: People Leave Managers, Not Companies
• What Makes Your Company a “Best Place to Work?”
• Accelerate Growth and Innovation - Encourage a Culture of Risk-Taking

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Brand Reasons to Believe…Or Leave

Last week, I wrote about the brand promise of a summer swim school, where the brand promise, or positioning statement, was “Teaching the confidence that inspires moments of triumph.” I also mentioned how important it was for the brand promise to be believable (i.e., the evidence you provide to your customers that you can deliver on your promise).

Before you make a brand promise, be sure you can identify at least 3 true and credible reasons to believe. Also called brand proof points, these reasons to believe should be based on fact and are a key element of the brand positioning statement.

Your reasons to believe can include a statement of quantifiable and verifiable results (e.g., "75% of our students go on to swim competitively in summer leagues"), effective images (e.g., photos of actual students competing in or winning events), evidence of past success (e.g., a display of trophies and awards earned by your instructors, as well as current and former students) or testimonials (e.g., “…gave me the confidence I needed to improve my time enough for a first place finish!”).  

Brands that do this well provide their customers with true and credible reasons to believe.  The proof points they provide are the basis for customer decisions regarding initial purchases and continued loyalty to a brand. On the other hand, brands who fail to provide such proof points are effectively providing their customers with…you guessed it…reasons to leave.

When it comes to marketing, there are many things our political leaders do well that can be applied to business. One of the best examples is how some of our political leaders establish a personal connection with their constituents.

My son and I were recently invited to have coffee with one of the U.S. Senators from our state.  Up until the moment we met, our impressions of him and the institution he was a part of were formed largely on the basis of what we heard, saw or read in print, online or on television/radio. Our perception, although favorable, was largely based on others’ opinions and potentially subject to future influence.

It was only after we had met and heard him speak were we able to develop a true sense of who he was and what he stood for. He told us about his background, why he had entered politics and what he hoped to accomplish. He asked us about our backgrounds and the things that brought us together. He introduced us to his staff and invited us to tour the place where he worked – the U.S. Capitol. It was an unscripted moment, a conversation between a politician and his constituents.

We left our meeting with a connection that was deeper and more personal than any we could have gained from reading a press release, watching an ad or listening to a debate or interview.  It’s a connection strong enough to ensure our continued loyalty, even in the next election.

Now think about your business and the way in which your CEO, CMO and other executives interact with their customers. Are they making an effort to build personal connections with their constituents or are they relying on customers to form their own perceptions of your brand by what they hear, see or read in print, online or on television/radio?

I've known Frans Johansson (author of The Medici Effect) for a number of years. His book is an excellent read in innovation and creativity (read my review here). I saw his Tweet and read it with great interest.

Frans idea of connecting with his readers, fans, clients, etc. is brilliant. I'm trying to figure out a way to do it myself and make it seem like it was my idea (smile). Here's Frans' blog post in its entirety.

------

Over the past few years I’ve received many emails, tweets, and Facebook messages about the impact of The Medici Effect on people’s lives. I read each email, and I am truly touched by all of them. Now I want to be able to connect with you on a more regular basis.

Starting this week, I am kicking off what I’m calling “Intersections with Frans” — that is, you can schedule 20 minutes, first come first serve, to chat with me — via phone, Skype, or if you’re in New York City, in person at our office. Given my travel schedule, I’ll send out a note every Monday morning about my availability for the week.

The purpose of these calls is to simply connect. As you know, I strongly believe that the best ideas happen when people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives intersect. So, let’s “intersection hunt” together! We can talk about anything:

- A burning idea of yours
- Writing-
- Lord of the Rings
- The Medici Effect
- My upcoming book The Click Moment
- Why Twin Peaks is one of the greatest television shows of all time
- Intersectional Thinking
- Entrepreneurship
- Anything else you can really think of

I’ve been invited to participate in an Eagle Scout Court of Honor this weekend to help honor three young men from the Boy Scout Troop I used to serve.  I was told by one of the dads that, as one of their adult leaders, I had a significant influence on their Scouting careers.

While I may never know exactly how or to what degree I was able to influence these young men, I do know this kind of impact occurs only when an organization’s leaders make themselves accessible to those they serve – their “customers.” Leaders who engage their customers tend to know and understand them. This leads to closer relationships and, in turn, a higher customer retention rate and greater customer loyalty.

For me, it’s an honor to be called back to share in what is surely going to be a special day in the lives of my former “customers.” How well do your customers know you? Is it well enough to invite you back into their lives some day, even when your customer relationship with them is over? 

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”
 ~ George Burns

 

I’m always fascinated by how people around me react when the unexpected happens, particularly when the outcome is less than desired. At home, in the community or on the job, the degree to which we assume responsibility for our actions and the resulting outcomes is often a sign of how strong a leader we are.

Consider these scenarios:
• You’ve borrowed a friend’s car and one of your passengers accidentally damages one of the seats.
• You commit to volunteering at an event and, because of heavy traffic, you show up late.
• You’re managing a project and one of your team members misses an important deadline.

Would you accept responsibility for any of these outcomes? Or would you blame the outcome on your passenger, the traffic or your team member?

Strong leaders take responsibility for their own actions and those of others under their supervision.  They accept responsibility for taking actions to mitigate the impact of outside events, like heavy traffic, on their outcomes. And they avoid deflecting blame on someone else.

Are you a strong leader? Or a snowflake in an avalanche?

I just returned from a week-long WorkCamp, where I served as a contractor supporting high school students and their adult crew leaders who had volunteered their time to serve the needy in our community. WorkCamp is held each year by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia where teen volunteers help others by performing needed home repair and improvement services, like replacing weathered siding, painting homes, fixing roofs and replacing gutters, building wheelchair ramps, replacing drywall and flooring, installing new bathrooms and building play sets.

With the exception of the contractors, the teens and their adult crew leaders arrive at WorkCamp unaware of their project or the tasks that await them. They are assigned to a crew consisting of five to six people they have never met. The team training they attend on their first day at camp allows them to build the relationships and learn the skills they will need to work with their residents and contractor in completing their project.

This is no ordinary camp experience. This camp is about something much deeper than completing the task at hand – it’s about the relationships they form with each other, with the residents they serve, with their crew leader and with their contractor. It’s also an opportunity for them to strengthen and enrich their faith. It’s an organization where others are served not because of who they are; they are served because of who we are.

The story of my crew, like those of the other ninety or so other crews at WorkCamp last week, began with a belief that by working together in the service of others we could accomplish the extraordinary.  To the residents we served, the work we completed was much more than the needed home repairs and improvements they requested – it was protection from harsh weather conditions, a safe and secure home, hope for the future, a restored faith in America’s youth, a warm and caring friendship, the freedom to leave their homes, or the chance for a little boy or girl to be a kid again.

Now think of your not-for-profit organization, government agency or corporate entity. How well are your volunteers and employees working together to accomplish the extraordinary? Does how you serve your constituents say more about who they are or who you are?

For more on the impact volunteering can have on your community or brand, please see:
• How Volunteers and Community Managers Serve Brands, Too
• Your Brand and the Community It Serves
• What the Boy Scouts Can Teach Your Business About Serving Others

  

I read recently the factor with the greatest impact on employee retention is the employee’s relationship with his or her boss. This conclusion is documented in the book, “First, Break All the Rules – What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently.” The authors of this book based their finding on in-depth interviews of over 80,000 managers in over 400 companies. And yes, they concluded, “people leave managers, not companies.”

If this is so obvious, why then do some organizations seem oblivious to the impact their managers might be having on employee retention? Some might argue it’s easier to turn a blind eye. Others might suggest that there are no bad bosses, only employees who are difficult to manage.  I’m going to suggest another reason – a lack of management training and possibly awareness.

Here are four signs your managers may be having an adverse impact on your organization’s employee retention rate, along with some ideas for improving their leadership behaviors:
• Managers who fail to interact with their employees.
     At the most basic level, your managers should be going out of their way to greet their people at the start and end of each day.  When it comes to leadership, these simple acts of courtesy are table stakes.
• Managers who manage work, not people.
     Less experienced managers are often overwhlemed by their own tasks as individual contributors, especially those who have a tendency toward  micromanaging the work of others. Managers achieve greater gains in employee productivity and morale by investing more time interacting with and otherwise engaging their teams. Encourage your managers to view their work as a team effort.
• Managers who fail to delegate responsibilities.
     Managers who mentor their employees to accept more challenging responsibilities almost always find it easier to delegate, mainly because they’ve allowed themselves to trust in the abilities of their employees. Employees, in turn, work harder to maintain that trust and find their work more satisfying.
• Managers who are openly critical of others in the organization.
     Conversations about ideas on how to improve the organization and its results are more inspiring to your employees than criticisms of others in the organization. Employees want a work environment they can feel good about. Encourage your managers to set a positive tone and example.

Join NBPCI and The Chief Storyteller for a roll-up-your-sleeves workshop to make your three most important documents unforgettable to prospective government clients. They are your elevator speech, capability statement, and capability presentation. Turn your Big 3 into memorable, powerful packages inspiring prospects to say, “We need you.” 

The event is Tue, June 12, 7:30 - 10:30, The Tower Club, 8000 Towers Crescent Drive, #1700, Vienna, VA 22182.

Detailed information is below...

The Big 3:  How to Grow Your Revenue with a Compelling Elevator Speech, Capabilities Statement, and Capabilities Presentation

Learn how to develop high impact messages with supporting talking points, content, and win themes through easy-to-follow processes. Your program is rich with practical ideas and thought-provoking exercises you can implement immediately.

Bring hardcopies of your Big 3 documents and your laptop, as you’ll be making changes to your documents during the program.

* Special Offer:  For 30 days following the workshop, you are eligible for a free review of one of your Big 3 documents. Each review includes personalized suggestions.

Benefits of Attending
- Learn a powerful, internationally-taught process for developing compelling and engaging sales messages
- Make changes in real-time to each of your core sales tools
- Be inspired with proven, fresh ideas to convert prospects into clients

Your Program Includes:
- 30-page workbook filled with exercises, examples, how-to’s, processes, and templates
- Three, multi-page tip guides
- Free access to over 700 thought-provoking articles, ideas, and tips
- Copy of the presentation in PDF
- A 3-hour hands-on workshop, along with a specific action plan for improving your Big 3

We have secured a special rate just for friends of the The Chief Storyteller. Register today.

About Your Presenter, Ira Koretsky, The Chief Storyteller ®
Ira has been helping companies like yours develop strategic messaging and content management frameworks for over 23 years. He knows how to help you turn your Big 3 into documents getting prospects to say, “We need you.” Ira has delighted audiences around the world turning business stories into revenue. He is a sought-after speaker, consultant, columnist, and trainer. Be inspired with his mantra, “Think deliberately and differently.” Stay engaged with insightful exercises and actionable ideas you can implement immediately.
The Chief Storyteller helped IntelliDyne win a $94 million contract with the Federal government, TCIG quadruple its contracting revenue in six months, professionals at the EPA develop clear and compelling mission statements, and the CDC develop a complete outreach program for an important community health initiative.

Complete biography chiefstoryteller_pdf

John's first blog post, "From Front Line to Bottom Line - A Soldier's View of the Business Battlefield," was an enjoyable read with some great customer service messages. Enjoy his newest article...

As part of my everyday marketing obligation, I do a fair share of social media posting on various outlets for our company. Not only do I help generate Facebook, Twitter, and forum content for new products and promotions, I have also started to branch out into blog writing. Blog posts are beneficial for data distribution because it helps fill a niche that other social media outlets cannot satisfy. Especially when it pertains to sharing information heavy material, blog posting is one of the best options out there.

Recently, I wrote an article for our company's blog called "Our Company Mindset, Airsplat's Team and Crew." I shared with our readers a few intimate tidbits about our company's culture that they may not acknowledge, nor do they encounter on a daily basis. The blog post generated a great amount of positive support from our followers through our Facebook page. The positive outcome inspired us to share with everyone our experience with writing a company culture article. Here are a few reasons and tips on why you should share your company's culture.

Faces of a Company
Customers often visualize companies to be a computerized structure. Though technology has blessed us with systems that can operate with minimal supervision, there are certain things that are not so cut and dry, and require a bit of human interaction. How many times have you called a large corporation seeking assistance, only to find yourself going in circles, arguing with an automated message system? This scenario be frustrating and it can be counterproductive. 

Sharing with your customers how your company operates (and who operates it) help to create an amiable persona for your business. It doesn't necessarily mean shining the spotlight on individual employees. Instead, it means for others to acknowledge that there are people working hard to keep the business going (instead of a company being run by robots). 

Behind the Scenes Operations
Consumers either have confidence in a company, or they don't. Uncertainty almost counts as a "no." Providing affordable and quality products is only half the battle. Returning customers typically instill trust in a company beyond reliable product stock. Even though there are hundreds of other companies selling the same product, they return because they have confidence that the company cares about their customers.

In our company culture article, we shared with our readers how we operate interdepartmentally. Our company mainly deals with online retail, and a collaborative effort is required to thrive in this business. When we receive an order, every department is working together to make sure it is processed and shipped out correctly. When customers acknowledge the work and dedication that is put into every order, their trust in the company is reinforced.

Working Hard to Play Hard
When a company rewards and invests in their employees, customers will recognize the deed. Discontent employees often do not execute their jobs well, which unfortunately, can lead to dissatisfied customers. Showing your customers that you care about the well being of your employees can further reinforce trust. 

A few ideas you can add to your company culture article would be share your company's reward system for good performance. For example, our employees are rewarded for reaching goals and providing assistance to others. It is great to add this tidbit to your article because customers will see and appreciate the investment that the company is willing to expend on their employees.

Another example would to be share past companywide events. Reveal to your readers the cohesiveness that your company has beyond the typical eight-hour workday. As a whole, our company has celebrated achievements, holidays, and participated in extracurricular activities together as a team. Take a moment to share the fun times with your readers, and don't forget to add corresponding pictures and videos as well.


John is an Operation Freedom War veteran and a manager for Airsplat, the nation's largest retailer of Airsoft Guns including Spring Airsoft Rifles.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lessons in Leadership

I recently bumped into a few folks from my Boy Scout Troop, where I served as Scoutmaster for a couple of years. It was good to reconnect and it got me thinking now might be a good time to reflect on some of the leadership lessons I tried to impart.  I’ll call them life lessons in leadership – because they universally apply to so many of our life experiences – family, college, career, volunteerism, etc.

Here are 7 timeless life leadership lessons:

1. Lead because you can.
     Taking on a leadership role may not always be the easiest path. So why do it? The short answer can be found among those who choose to camp outside on a cold, snowy night in the middle of January: “We do it because we can.”

2. Believe in yourself.
     You will make mistakes. Learning from your mistakes gives you the confidence you need to face new challenges.

3. Have a vision for where you want to go and stick with it.
     Know where you want to go and work the plan. Plan for the long-term, act in the short-term.

4. Surround yourself with the best people you can find.
     Even the best leaders don’t have all the answers. Surround yourself with people who will challenge you – by telling you what you need to hear, not by telling you what you want to hear.

5. Be prepared.
     You never know what crisis will erupt when you least expect it. Take the time to prepare yourself, for any emergency.  And when a crisis does erupt, lead by example – be the calm, confident and reassuring presence others need you to be.

6. Know you can never please everyone.
     Regardless of how hard you try, there is always someone out there who thinks he or she can do a better job.  Invite your critics to the leadership table and ask them to help you lead.

7. You can never say “Thank You” enough.
     Accept, embrace and appreciate the help you get from your volunteers and supporters. It’s often their belief in you that allows you to persevere... in good times and in bad times.

For more lessons on leadership, please see:
• Character Is What You Do When Nobody Is Looking
• Do a Good Turn Daily
• What the Boy Scouts Can Teach Your Business About Serving Others

“Likeability comes down to creating positive emotional experiences in others. When you make others feel good, they tend to gravitate to you.”

-Tim Sanders

How likeable are you? What words do your co-workers use to describe you? Are you approachable or condescending? Are you a team player or a “lone ranger”? Do you recognize others or sing your own praises?

I’ve interacted with people from all walks of life – political leaders (even a President!), business executives, colleagues, coaches, teachers, professors, classmates, religious and volunteers – and in almost every instance, found myself attracted to those who had the innate ability to make others feel good.

Instinctively, we want to help people who create positive emotional experiences in us. We vote for them, we buy their products and services, we share our knowledge, we practice more, we contribute in class, we participate more frequently and we give of ourselves…because we like them and we want them to succeed.

See also:
Managing for Great Performance
Why Team Sports Matter in Business
How to Make the Most of Your Network
How the Best Leaders Inspire Others
Social Media Playground Rules – Are You a Giver or a Taker?

I emailed Duane (my colleague at The Chief Storyteller) sharing that I liked his blog “Has Self-Service Finally Gone Too Far?

My email to Duane:

“Funny thing...I'm quite happy during self-service and prefer no interactions whatsoever! The interactions slow me down.

Like Sunday night when I checked into my hotel. I just drove three hours, it was 11pm. I smiled at the woman, told her it was a long drive from Washington, DC and I was glad to finally be at the hotel to get some sleep. I even told her a was a little tired and cranky. She smiled. Processed my credit card. Then as I began walking away, started to tell me about breakfast. I had to stop and look back. If it was me behind the desk, I would have asked, “Would you like some information on breakfast?”

And not five minutes after getting into my room, she called to see how everything was. Probably protocol. Now, it was a nice thing to do, unexpected, and something not even five star resort hotels do with any regularity.

Again, If it was me behind the desk, I would not have called at all.”

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Duane emails back…

In my blog, I was writing about two grocery stores, [NameA] and [NameB]. The difference between them was too large not to notice. The fact that it happened twice in one day was even more noticeable.

And the fact that [NameC], who went through a period of really good then really bad and now really good customer service, found a way to deliver a positive self-serve customer experience really made [NameA]’s problems stand out.

It was a smart move on the hotel's part to call you. By doing so, they effectively disarmed you from finding something to complain about (who knows? you could have taken your complaint/issues online for all to see?).

Brilliant move on their part. I would have done the same thing.

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And I wrote back, “This is my next blog!”

This exchange shows you the wide views on customer service. The big take-away is that Duane would have made a deliberate choice to call me in my hotel room. I would bet $1 billion Monopoly dollars the front desk person called because she was following the protocol rules…

A colleague and I had a discussion the other day on the best way to measure customer loyalty. While it is possible both measures can be effective, I believe the better way is through retention.

Of the two, attrition is the more negative term (“attrition” is a reduction or decrease in numbers, size or strength while “retention” refers to the act of keeping something).  Given my tendency to view the glass as half full instead of half empty, I believe retention speaks more to the positive results an organization has achieved, rather than its failure.  It inspires us to do more, not less. It speaks to what’s possible, not what’s lost.

Consider the other popular measure of customer loyalty – customer satisfaction. When you measure customer satisfaction, how do you measure it? Are you not measuring the percent of satisfied customers? Are not the organization’s goals communicated in terms of the percent of customers who report a specified overall satisfaction level (e.g., 85%, 90%, etc.)?

And finally, how about the ultimate measure of customer loyalty – sales? Do you measure and report the revenue from sales made…or sales lost? Which revenue number is ultimately reported on your organization’s income statement – sales made or sales lost?

The next time you gather your team to report on the organization’s progress, consider an approach that recognizes the contributions they have made. Results don’t have to be negative to be actionable.

Why would I want to work for your company?  Or, if I am already employed by you, why would I want to stay?

In a competitive market where companies compete for market share, customer loyalty, brand positioning and even employee talent, your ability to answer these questions may well determine your company's future success.  Success in retaining and acquiring customers, as well as driving brand preference, is a direct outcome of the quality of talent your company is able to attract and retain.

For ideas on how to ensure your company ranks as one of “the best places” to work among your potential applicants and employees, check out the companies who made this year’s Fortune magazine list of “The 100 Best Companies to Work For.”

By and large, the companies with the lowest turnover (e.g., 2%) and the highest rankings are those who provide an open culture and who invest regularly in their employees.

Companies with an open culture create opportunities for all of their team members to make contributions – at work and in their community.  Employees at all levels within the organization are viewed as trusted advisors. Transparency and collaboration lead to widespread support for business decisions, new initiatives and organizational change.

Fortune’s list provides many examples of how successful companies invest in their employees. Health and wellness programs, generous compensation and benefits, quality of life initiatives, and training opportunities reflect how much these companies value their employees.

If I asked you the questions I posed earlier, how would you answer? 

For more on attracting and retaining employee talent, please see:
• Fortune’s 100 Best Companies: What Words Describe You?
• Brand Loyalty Begins at Home…With Your Employees
• Managing for Great Performance

Okay, this is a big pet peeve of mine. The "mandate" that I must email someone before calling, otherwise I'm interrupting someone. Unless someone has expressly asked me to always email first, I'll use my judgment. If it's important, do you really think someone wants to wait to hear the news and be able to respond in a timely manner? Of course not.

I had to share this email from someone, who shall remain anonymous. This is what he sent this morning...

"In a meeting yesterday, it was agreed that Steve was the best person to answer the question. Since he was in another department, we would have to ask him the question afterward. I suggested to save time, we visit Steve in his office and just ask him the question. In unision, two people spoke up and said something like,  'Oh no, you can't do that. You have to email first to setup a time.'" So anonymous writes to me, (gritting my teeth) "Someone pleeasee remind me what is the point of an office again?"

Folks, an office by its very nature is designed to be collaborative. Along the same lines of importance, use your judgment. Let the "Steve" know if it is a quick question or an indepth one. And then let "Steve" indicate if he/she is available. 

As leaders of businesses, governmental agencies and associations, we encounter questions from those we lead through a variety of media – public speaking forums, face-to-face conversations, email, blog posts and even social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. In many cases, how we answer those questions says more about us and our ability to lead than our answers do.

Consider this example. A friend of mine, Carol, recently posed a simple yet thoughtful question to a speaker during a public forum. In response, the speaker smiled and said, “Carol, that’s a great question. I’m glad you asked that. Let me answer by saying….”  Before he even offered an answer to the question, the speaker framed his response in a way that made Carol feel like the most important person in the room. What effect do you think this had on Carol’s perception of the speaker as a leader?

As an alternative, what do you suppose Carol’s reaction would have been to a response that sounded something like this: “I’m not sure I understand your question. Let’s take that off line.” Or to a response similar to this: “I’ve already answered that question. Would you like for me to answer it again?”  In both of these instances, the speaker appears as if he is belittling Carol for asking the question – in the first response, by suggesting she didn’t ask her question clearly, and in the second, by making it sound as if she’s asking a question she should know the answer to.  What effect do you think either of these responses might have on Carol’s perception of him as a leader?

Here at The Chief Storyteller, one of our top 50 business storytelling mantras for 2012 is to “Treat everyone like a CEO.” Answering questions in a way that makes people feel important is one good way to do that. 

Last year I shared my top 50 business storytelling mantras. As I plan for 2012, I always look to my list to light a small fire of inspiration.

As you look through this list, see what applies to your life or what you want to apply. Write your own list of mantras. Whatever you do, make a list (short or long) of your goals and aspirations. Every so often read, revise, and contemplate...

 

Here are the mantras at The Chief Storyteller. Think about this list and how it can help prompt new and fresh approaches to your business stories. We would love to hear your mantras...please leave them in the comments.

1.    It’s all about them.
2.    Business stories are the engine of relationships and relationships are the engine of continued success.
3.    Write to the 10th grade level.
4.    Be memorable.
5.    Use humor if you want to.
6.    Content is king.
7.    Relationships matter.
8.    Credibility is more important than expertise in the beginning of relationships.
9.    Know your elevator speech / elevator pitch / mission statement (core business story).
10.    Ensure your core business story is unified throughout all communication materials.
11.    Your brand story is everything.
12.    Success stories are key to differentiation.
13.    (Good) blog and article content matters the most.
14.    Strive for “interest” questions. Avoid “understanding” questions.
15.    Social communities are built on personal and business stories.
16.    Everything you write, speak, and record online is a business story.
17.    Content first. Design second.
18.    Always have a second person read your content before publishing.
19.    Design your website for your target audiences (not your employees).
20.    Everyone builds relationships through networking.
21.    Send hand-written thank you notes, especially job hunters.
22.    Audiences are hungry for original thought-provoking content.
23.    Blogs are for sharing, educating, and inspiring…not selling.
24.    Get yourself known (e.g., LinkedIn questions and answers, post to SlideShare, and Tweet good information).
25.    Generating genuine interest in your product/service is the first step in building a relationship.
26.    Active listening is key to building great relationships.
27.    Write in your authentic voice.
28.    But is the worst word in the English language (and many other languages).
29.    Words really, really matter.
30.    Treat everyone like a CEO.
31.    Stop listening to your Mother. Talk to strangers at networking events.
32.    It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.
33.    Speak in headlines.
34.    Write and speak conversationally.
35.    Treat every client like your best client.
36.    Maintain a detailed Ideal Target Profile for your key target audiences.
37.    Have positive self-talk conversations.
38.    Change is a choice.
39.    Deliver on the expected experience.
40.    Create your own success momentum.
41.    Be a student everyday.
42.    Be a deliberate networker.
43.    Be a deliberate communicator.
44.    Be a people bridge and make referrals.
45.    Be a mentor.
46.    Be a whole body communicator.
47.    Write emails as if they will be read on a smart phone.
48.    Inspire Action:  facts do not persuade and inspire, people do.
49.    First Impressions Make Lasting Impressions:  offer a warm smile, firm handshake, and good eye contact.
50.    People are at the heart of every great story.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Managing for Great Performance

Have you ever wondered what it might feel like to work for someone like you? How trusted and valued do you make your team members feel? Do they feel their work is meaningful and will help them to grow professionally?

Why does it matter how they feel, anyway?

Like many of you, I’ve both managed and been managed. Of all the management training classes and tools I’ve seen for increasing productivity and morale, none is as effective as this one simple idea from Dr. Maya Angelou, “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

When your team members feel trusted, valued and empowered, they will give you the extra effort that often results in great performance.  Simple things like going out of your way to acknowledge your team members each day, praising their good work, showing a sense of humor and delegating responsibilities instead of tasks all help to make your team members feel good about the organization they work for, the work they do and the value of their contributions.

Are you managing for great performance?

For more on managing for great performance, see these ideas:
• Rx for Healthy Leadership and Strong Results: Team Members Who Think and Act Differently
• Brand Loyalty Begins at Home…With Your Employees
• How the Best Leaders Inspire Others

A friend of mine recently shared a letter she and her fellow employees received from their CEO. It was an end of year summary, intended to help everyone reflect on the past and anticipate the future.  The letter was titled, “Quality is Limitless.”

After thanking and acknowledging his employees for a very successful year, the CEO wrote about the story behind the title because, he said, “there’s always a story.” The title of his letter came from a conversation he recently had with the maestro of a local orchestra. The maestro was telling him how far he thought the orchestra had come in the quality of its performances when the CEO asked, “How good do you think they can be?”

The maestro paused for a moment and then said, “I believe quality is limitless.” Passion drives quality, he explained, and the more passion you can ignite within the people around you, the higher the quality becomes.

This is a great story, as told by a great leader and CEO – a "maestro" whose employees are working in harmony like the talented men and women of an orchestra – passionate about their business and the community they serve.  The quality of their future performances is as limitless as the passion they will bring to their jobs in the new year. His job, as he well knows, is to ignite that passion.

How good do you think your employees can be? 

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