Friday, July 30, 2010

Are you stuck in the ways of the past?

Since I have been a marketer for so many years, understanding the impact that social media is having on marketing fascinates me.

When I first started in marketing in the 80's, marketers controlled everything that was said about any given product. Today marketers no longer have this control. Today, consumers are the ones controlling the message.

In years past, an irate consumer would write a letter to the company and would get a letter of apology in return with a couple of coupons inside to mend the relationship. Today an irate consumer can create a ground swell so large through social media, that a product can fail right out of the gate.

This is a consumer-driven world. It has fundamentally shifted the relationship between marketer and consumer.

I see the very same shift occuring between leader and employee.

In years past, an able employee had to wait for a leader to appreciate his/her value before that employee could advance and progress forward. Today, that same able employee can create connections and have greater widespread impact and results outside of the traditional reporting hierarchies of organizations in order to advance and progress forward.

This is an employee-driven world. It has fundamentally shifted the relationship between leader and employee.

The reality of these shifts is that the old hierarchical model is being flipped. Marketing and leadership no longer can be a one-way-directed dialogue. The conversation has started and control now is a shared responsibility.

So as a marketer and a leader in today's world, have you shifted your approach or are you stuck in the ways of the past?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Are you playing the "blame game?"

The “blame game” usually starts and ends in a stand-off.

Nobody is moving, nobody is talking and yet everyone is right…in their own minds.

We see it all the time at work and at home; with bosses, colleagues, parents and with spouses. It isn’t until some time has passed, that you even know that you were participating in a blame game. However, you can save yourself some angst if you can recognize the signs of being locked in a “blame game” while it is happening.

The truth is that when you lock horns in the game, you aren’t able to get the results of what you want (unless you want conflict and angst.)

Someone once said to me “would you rather be right or get what you want?” I wanted to say “both,” but I knew that was the wrong answer.

It is hard to get what you want if you always need to be right.
When you are so fixated on being right, you forget what your broader objective really is; whether that is to get the job done, get a promotion or have a long-term, loving relationship.

So here are some tips for recognizing when you are in a blame game:

Tip #1: You see only black and white: You are right, and they are wrong.

I once had a colleague who I could not stand. Everything he did seemed to rub me the wrong way. I believed he favored people and was rude to those that weren’t useful to him. I believed he operated in a way that didn’t enhance the team, but instead created a culture based on exclusion versus inclusion. I thought he was more interested in himself above all else. Of course, the vision I had of myself was exactly the opposite. I believed I treated others equally and wanted to enhance the team and to create a culture of inclusion.

In a nutshell, I could do no wrong and he could do no right.

However, the truth was somewhere in the middle and a little bit grey. He wasn’t a perfect leader, but neither was I.

Once you see that you are doing this, one way to get out of this “blame game” is to recognize that you are not as right as you believe yourself to be and your nemesis is not as wrong as you want to believe. Redirect some of that judgment to yourself and start chipping away at your own self-imposed perfect image.

Recognizing you are both flawed is a much more powerful starting point to get the results you are seeking.

Tip #2: You look for alibis to support your black and white position; you are right, they are wrong.

Complaining husbands and wives do this all of the time. They seek out friends to corroborate with and seek out other examples to trash their spouse. Colleagues also engage in this behavior regarding their bosses. Siblings have been known to gang up against their parents with all the things they think they do wrong. Oh…and Democrats and Republicans do it to each other. It becomes a feeding frenzy with no real productive outcome.

When you find yourself doing this; STOP. It only feeds your need to be right and doesn’t get you closer to reaching your objectives.

Instead, spend your energy identifying your own shortcoming and work on improving them. Step into the shoes you are criticizing and do it better.
Becoming a great parent is the best way to forgive your own parents’ shortcomings. Becoming a leader is the best way to forget your worst boss. Becoming a loving spouse is the only way to bridge and strengthen your relationship.

Tip #3: You are not listening.

A clear cut sign of when you are participating in the “blame game” is that you know you are right and it doesn’t matter what anyone else is saying. In that moment, you are in the comic strip Charlie Brown and all you are hearing is “Wahhh, Wahhh, Wahhh.”

So, how do you make a move that helps take the stale mate out of the situation? Ask a question.

Curiosity is the one of the best antidote for the game. By asking questions, you will likely realize that this person is not on such an opposite side after all. It can allow you to start seeing the areas of agreement between you as opposed to solely focusing on those areas of disagreement.

One thing for sure about the “blame game” is that if you are frustrated while being in it, the other person is too. When you take the first step to try to get out of this game by following some of these tips, chances are you will break the standoff and start to get some movement towards achieving your objectives.

And after all, don’t you want to get what you want, even if you don’t have to be right?

Friday, July 23, 2010

What's in a name?

When people start down the path towards creating a business, they obsess about the name.

While business names are important, they certainly are not the most critical aspect of developing and maintaining an effective brand.

Just the other day, my husband Lewis was cooking some Asian dish that required shrimp. Normally we would just go to Whole Foods for the shrimp since we believe they have the highest quality of seafood and meats. But since our newly renovated neighborhood "Signature Kroger" had just been completed, we thought we would give it a try and buy our shrimp there instead.

Well, the shrimp was not the freshest and as a result, the dish suffered.

What I found interesting was Lewis' comment. He said "you can put makeup on a pig and yet, it still is a pig."

What he really meant by this was that despite the multi-million dollar renovation, this Kroger was still the same Kroger we had before with regards to its offering of seafood and meats. The fact that it now had been named "Signature" was irrelevant since its offering did not match its promise.

The lesson here is that regardless of your name, are you delivering your brand promise?

For us, it meant that a "Signature Kroger" that now looked as fresh and new as our Whole Foods should also feature excellent fresh seafood.

We were wrong.

Or rather, Kroger is wrong. It appears that they are still selling the same seafood they did before the renovation.

This hurts their brand.

How can you apply this same lesson for your business and your brand?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Don't just jump on the social media bandwagon!

Only get into social media when you have clarity and understanding of what you want to get out of it.

According to all the hoopla about social media out there, you would think that social media is the cure-all for every business. Twitter your thumbs away and your phone won't stop ringing. Right?


Grow your followers, fans and people who like you into the tens of thousands and watch your bank account grow.

Wrong again.

Like any marketing tool, social media can work for you if you know why you are using it.

Too many people will sell you on how to use it, but few will guide you on determining why it makes sense for you and your business.

Only after you have determined the why, can you move to the how. Unfortunately any marketing tool used incorrectly can work against you and your brand. Just think about the meaningless million dollar super bowl ads during the dot com craze. They were entertaining but were they business-building? I don't think so.

I see a lot of that kind of noise on the Internet today. However, it adds up to be just meaningless clutter. Don't just keep adding to it.

You are wasting your time and whittling away at your your own brand's equity.

I don't care what anyone tells you, using social media to tell your audience about enjoying your steaming cup of latte isn't going to grow your career or business. However, if you are using it for business, it can help you build a better relationship with your target market whether you are an entrepreneur or working within a corporation.

Being effective with social media takes a great deal of work and strategic thinking for your brand. Here are several tips to help guide you.

Ask yourself why?
Why would your customer be interested in finding you on social media? Why is it important to them to connect with you there? Why is social media the right tool for your business and what you are saying about your brand? Does your brand’s imagery fit on the social media site you are considering?

Understand your target
Is your target market on social networks? If they are, what are they looking for from you and your business? How can you fulfill their needs with your blog posts, or comments? What are you providing them that they can’t get elsewhere?

Engage and educate; don’t sell
Social media is a unique tool; it’s not like television advertising or a print ad. It isn’t about selling, it is about engaging and educating. Use the platform to inform and build your expertise. Think of it as a tool to build a following because you give relevant, usable and timely information that matters to your customer.

Remember business building is a long term game
Social media is a great way to build loyal followers and potential clients, however it is a long term strategy. If you are in it for short term gains, you picked the wrong vehicle. Don’t get discouraged if you have thousands of followers and are posting regularly and yet to get any business from it. As with any business building strategy, it takes time to build trust with your core customers.

Keep your objective front and center
Don’t stray from your objective. Remember why you are using social media and don’t confuse customers with friends. While customers can enjoy knowing a bit about your personal life, don’t barrage them with it. Remember why you are there in the first place, to provide relevant and timely information that is useful to them and builds your business brand. Never forget that it is all about your customers, and not about you.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Are you pig-headed?

Have you ever found yourself trying so hard to prove a point that you tip the scale at being pig-headed?

Yes, pig-headed, stubborn like a dog on a bone.

Well, I hate to admit it, but I have been known to be a bit pig-headed at times. In fact, this morning on my way back home from taking my daughter Leila to camp, I witnessed this kind of stubborness on the road. You know the kind of stubborness that says I-have-got-to-prove-to-you-that-I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong kind of pig-headedness.

Well, it takes one to know one, afterall.

So, there were two women drivers in two separate cars on the road travelling in the same direction. They were both in the left lane. The one in front was going slower than the one following her wanted her to go, so the one following was trailing her very closely. The lady in front didn't like being tailgated. So she slammed on her brakes to prove her point: don't tailgate.

The lady following her slammed on her brakes but continued to tailgate to prove her point: drive fast in the fast lane.

The amazing thing though was that they kept doing this for atleast 5 times. Neither car changed lanes or tried to get around the other. Both of them were so convinced they were right and they had to prove their point regardless of the cost.

They didn't crash, but they certainly tied up traffic and were both probably late(and frustrated) by the time they got to where ever they were going. Their pig-headedness kept them stuck.

In their quest to be right, they were both wrong. They also lost sight of their objective to have a productive day.

Stubborness has a way of getting in the way of meeting your objectives especially if you are proving you are right.

Leaders don't have to be right, they want results.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Building the success of others

Sometimes we are so focused on our own success, we don't see that one of the fastest ways to build our own success is to help build it for someone else.

This is such an important paradigm shift for good leadership.

When you shift your focus towards building others' success, you build your value and your equity. Value and equity are essential components to your ability to lead and influence.

As a result, you will build your success.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Do you feel battered, yet resilient?

If you answered "YES," you are not alone.

According to The McKinsey Quarterly Economic Snapshot, 42% of executives picked this description to describe their feelings regarding the global economy.

It is one thing to feel battered. It is an entirely
different thing to feel resilient and powerful to overcome it.

What struck me about this survey is not that top leaders in business are feeling battered, it is clear that nobody is immune to the impact of this economy. But instead, what was evident in this research is that leaders choose to manage these feelings in a productive way.

Leaders are resilient.

Resilience isn't just about "toughing it out". Resilience is about being flexible, bending and adapting to the forces beyond your control.

Rigidity is the opposite of resilience.

We often hear people speak of resilience when it comes to children. When a child confronts change or difficulty, we often say: "They'll be fine, kids are so resilient." I would agree, except to say that they will be resilient only if they have developed trust in themselves and in their environment.

Usually when children exhibit a lack of resilience or rigidity it is because they are insecure and mistrusting of the "new" experience or change.

I have experienced this dynamic with my daughter Leila who is adopted from Russia. She wasn't able to build trust early, since the first 11 months of her life contained no predictability or security, only a revolving door of caretakers. As a result, her ability to be resilient is sometimes lower than other children.

I have taken steps to help her build her resilience and with these steps, I have also built my own resilience. No one is immune to a lack of trust and in order to build resilience, we must firm up our feeling of trust in ourselves.

I think these steps can help you become a better leader at work and in your life by enabling you to become more resilient during these difficult times.

1. Build predictability into the areas which you control in your everyday routine.
2. Before you do anything, make it a conscious choice. For example: "I am choosing to work out today."
3. Know that every choice has a consequence. Get clear on what consequence you want.
4. Ask yourself throughout the day, "What will I choose to do next?" Ensure that your actions are driven by you.
5. When things happen to you outside of your control, know that you have a choice in what to do with that. You can't change or control others' actions. Every action has a reaction. Choose your reaction wisely.

I can't control what others are telling me about the economy, I can only choose how to react to it.

I don't know about you, but I sure want to do something productive with it.

Don't you?