Posted on December 4, 2013 | 1 Comment
Categories: Communications, Guest Blogger
Today’s post is by Dr. Liz Alexander, author of #Thought Leadership Tweet: 140 Prompts for Designing and Executing an Effective Thought Leadership Campaign (CLICK HERE to get your copy). Here’s Liz…
Last week I sent an email to a leading international shipping company, having discovered to my horror that the family heirlooms I’d entrusted to them had been smashed to smithereens during their journey from the UK to my home in Texas.
My missive began with:
“For sixty years my mother has carefully kept many treasured items, including the fine china she received as a wedding present from her favorite aunt. As her eldest child and only daughter they were recently entrusted to me as Mum (now 84 and suffering from Parkinson’s) has moved permanently into a care home. Too heavy and delicate to pack in my checked luggage I chose to ship these family heirlooms with your company, believing they would arrive safe and sound. How wrong I was.”
Given the number of complaints such companies likely receive, I wanted mine to stand out. Meaning I had to move beyond mere communication to inspire a greater level of emotional engagement. As a professional writer, the best way I know to do this is to tell a story, featuring a compelling character (my ailing octogenarian mother) and the beginnings of a dramatic plot. Plus, as you’ll learn shortly, I had a very specific “leading” role in mind for my target audience—one that many corporate storytellers in PR and marketing overlook to their cost.
Much is written about the value of storytelling for business. With articles regularly appearing in well-respected forums like the Harvard Business Review and Copyblogger, we are surely past the stage of debating the value of techniques that authors and journalists like myself have long used to capture readers’ imaginations. Sadly, many businesses fail to move the needle when it comes to differentiating themselves, let alone engaging the hearts and minds of their target audience. The following three steps can help overcome that impasse:
Posted on December 2, 2013 | No Comments
We all have our comfort zones in terms of our leadership styles and the techniques we like to use. Some of us are direct (or, in my case, extremely direct), some are quiet, some are creative, others like motivational speakers. Our styles work for us. They’ve been honed over the years based on experiences we’ve had – both good and bad. Those experiences have told us what works and what doesn’t and we’ve often incorporated those learnings into our leadership styles.
But what happens when we’re put in a new situation where our comfortable leadership style isn’t effective?
In those situations, do you act like an 8-year-old boy?
This past weekend I spent some time in California with my parents, my sister, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s 8-year-old son. He’s a great kid. Polite and well-mannered. Tons of energy (I watched him do about a bazillion laps in the pool). Incredibly technology savvy (the things he could do with a tablet were pretty amazing).
One of the big goals with the little guy was getting him to expand his food palate. Like any typical young boy, his palate is stubbornly undeveloped and comfortable. His food groups consist of mac n’ cheese, nuggets, pizza, and pasta. Not exactly a rainbow of flavors. But the thing, is he’s missing out. He’s staying in his comfort zone. Our explicit challenge was to get him to try a bunch of new things and expand outside of that zone. What he learned from this experience can help you be a better leader. Here are the lessons:
Posted on November 27, 2013 | 1 Comment
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Guest Blogger
There is no such thing as a stressful job, stressful company or stressful life. Thirty years of research on stress and resilience has found that all of your stress is created in your head, period.
The researchers from York University found that stress was driven by one key factor – Rumination. Rumination is the process of thinking over and over about events from the past (guilt, regret) or events in the future (fear, anxiety) and attaching negative emotion to them. When you ruminate the hormones adrenaline and cortisol flush through your system sending you into fight or flight. The result for people who ruminate a lot is that they are stressed all the time.
This is problematic on a number of levels beginning with your health. Continuously elevated levels of adrenaline and cortisol lead to increased chances of a heart attack coupled with suppressed immune functioning. Secondly people who ruminate a lot spend most of their life in an unhappy mental and emotional state. Finally, people who ruminate are not good at achieving things because the one thing they are not doing is work. In summary, all that rumination gets you is a short, miserable, unproductive life. Other than that, there is nothing wrong with it!
The first key to reducing your rumination is realizing that there is a difference between pressure and stress. Pressure is simply demand in your environment e.g. deadlines, bosses. Stress is what you do with that pressure inside your head. People who have high pressure jobs but don’t ruminate aren’t stressed. People who have low pressure jobs, but do ruminate are. Think of someone you know who ruminates a lot – how stressed are they?
So what can you do about it?
Posted on November 25, 2013 | 6 Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Books
Today’s post focuses on how you can do a better job of achieving work-life balance. It’s an excerpt from One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership (get your copy here). Given my recent heart attack, I’ve gone back and tried to take some of my own medicine by rereading the Leading a Balanced Life section of my book. This excerpt hits home on that point.
We live in a stressful world. Business moves at an unprecedented pace and seems to speed up every day. Globalization and technology have introduced new challenges and opportunities into our lives. Retirement looms ahead of us. Commitments to family and friends suffer at the hands of our to-do list. We are in a constant state of high alert, ready to react to the next crisis looming right around the corner. All these dynamics conspire to stress us out.
Stress and fatigue break you down. They add to your waistline, clog your arteries, sap your energy, ruin your complexion, and generally run you into the ground. They can also derail your life and career. If you are burned out, you are worthless. You are worthless to your team, your family, your friends, and yourself. No one wants to work with or be around a tired, frazzled husk of a person whose once vibrant self has succumbed to the pressures of the world.
In an effort to reduce the stress we feel, we wave our arms and declare we want a balanced life. The problem is, we never define what that balance means. Also, we fail to achieve balance because we are driven. We enjoy our work. We believe the world will fall apart if we are not there to hold it together. The biggest reason we do not achieve balance is because we do not focus on it. Although balance is not on our work progress reviews, we must remember how important it is to our lives, both at work and outside of work.
The first step toward living a balanced life is realizing that both your life and your work need to be in balance. Read More…
Posted on November 20, 2013 | 2 Comments
Categories: Books, Guest Blogger, Sales
“Try not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” — Albert Einstein
Webster’s definition for the word value is, “A fair return or equivalent in goods, services, or money for something exchanged; relative worth, utility, or importance.” Without value, your product, project, or purpose will live a very short life. value is the proverbial glue for the ideas, people and profits you seek to create.
The Emperor Has No Clothes
There’s an old Danish fairy tale by Hans Christen Anderson that tells of an emperor who cared for nothing more than his wonderful clothes. One day, a pair of swindlers came to town and boasted of a special cloth that was invisible to those who lacked wisdom. Concerned over whether or not he could see the clothes himself, the emperor instructed two of his servants to view the cloth. The servants were too worried to admit that they could not see the clothes, and they pronounced their brilliance.
The emperor then clothed himself in the imaginary garments and proceeded to parade himself through the town. The townspeople, also hearing of the fallacy surrounding the cloth did not want to appear unwise, and they too praised the emperors garb. Finally, a child near the end of the precession shouted, “But he has nothing on.” The people began to whisper until everyone watching the emperor began to shout, “The Emperor has no clothes!”
The fairy tale was crafted to illustrate the truth that is often found behind the eyes of a child. Children often see through the pomp and circumstance, the proverbial noise of a situation, and can clearly expose its true identity. Despite the power of the emperor and the Brand of the office he held, he ultimately became a laughing stock. Everyone realized that his greatness was no more than a facade. When true value is present, it’s not hard to see. It is pure, and it is real.
Posted on November 18, 2013 | 19 Comments
Categories: Balanced Lifestyle, Leadership
No. Literally. And I’m using the word “literally” correctly here.
I was just sitting there when out of nowhere I had a sharp pain in the right side of my chest (weird, right?). That pain started radiating out my back, down the backs of my arms and legs, and over the back of my skull. Breathing became a little difficult. This wasn’t just heartburn – trust me – I know heartburn because I get it after every trip I make to Taco Bell for their delicious Grilled Stuffed Beef Burrito XXL Extreme. Wait… causality? Hmmm…
I drove over to the ER at Dublin Methodist Hospital – an OhioHealth facility (yes, I know… I’ve already been chewed out for the decision to drive versus calling 911 but I’m approaching the limit on my cell phone minutes for this month and I didn’t want to go over by making another call). Before I knew it, a wheelchair was under my butt speeding me back to a room. Incidentally, I decided to use my client’s services for this – OhioHealth is a major client of mine where I teach and coach many of their executives. It was only natural to choose an OhioHealth facility for this “event.”
They poked, prodded, and measured. One of the nurses asked “Hey, aren’t you (OhioHealth senior executive’s) coach?” “Yep. That’s me.” “Wow.” Awkward.
After a bit, the doc told me “You have a blockage. You’re going to be fine but we’re sending you to Riverside Methodist Hospital (another OhioHealth facility) and you’re going straight to the cardiac cath lab. You’re probably getting a stent or two.”
This was one of the handful of freak-out moments I’ve ever had. The doc quickly reassured me “You’re going to be fine. You’re in the best hands possible at Riverside and your prognosis is great. Don’t worry.” I could see in his eyes that he meant it. I immediately settled down as evidenced by the selfie accompanying this post which was taken about 5 minutes after that conversation with him. You can’t take a selfie like that if you’re freaking out. By the way – I’m not as fat as I look in the selfie. It’s the angle of the pic causing the Jabba the Hutt chin. Like they say – the gurney adds 10 pounds…
Zoom! Whoosh! Ambulance ride! Lights and sirens and everything. I’d like to thank Ford (another client) for building a great ambulance that got me to Riverside safely, quickly, and smoothly.
Posted on November 13, 2013 | No Comments
Categories: Business Toolkit, Communications, Guest Blogger, Leadership
Technology continues to transform virtually every aspect of the workplace. With an abundance of high performance laptops, tablets, smartphones, VoIP, and with applications such as WebEx and Skype employees can virtually work from anywhere and be as productive as working within an office. Many will argue that the benefits of virtual work abound, and that it is indeed the trend of the future. There is no question that there are many cost savings and environmental benefits to working virtual including reduced overheads, cheaper fuel and lower green gas emissions along with greater employee autonomy. Besides that, who really wants to put up with rush hour?
Realistically however, employers need to fully explore the issues that arise from virtual work and strike a balance that engages and connects the mobile workforce for maximum returns.
Culture – Workplace culture is the heartbeat of any company. It helps define company brands, and attract and retain top performers. What happens when employers allow a large segment of their workforce to go virtual? At what point or threshold does a “virtual workplace” start to affect culture and how do employers protect company culture from deteriorating? While the actual threshold may vary depending on the size of the company, a good rule of thumb is to start asking these types of questions as your virtual workforce climbs to the 15-20% level. Retaining a cultural essence with a large percentage of virtual workers becomes more challenging. Steps can be taken to ensure that scheduled in-office face time occurs at regular intervals for staff meetings, informal get together and other work type events.
Posted on November 11, 2013 | 5 Comments
Categories: Career, Entrepreneur
I recently found myself struggling with the toughest career decision of my life (you can read about that here). I was trying to choose between two very different options. One was to stay in my current job, which provided lots of reliable income and benefits as well as long-term financial security. But it wasn’t work I was unusually excited about doing. The other option I was truly passionate about, and through it I could make a tangible impact on people’s lives. But it provided no long-term financial security, and no steady paycheck.
I figure you’re never too old to benefit from someone older and wiser. So I wrote my 80-year-old father a letter and asked him what I should do. But instead of just giving me advice, he shared a story about himself as a young boy that I’d never heard before. His letter said,
“Son, when I was 5 or 6 years old I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted to be a singer—yeah a singer—like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, or Tony Bennett. My mother always had the radio on listening to all the popular music of the day, and I listened. And I just knew that’s what I wanted to do.
By the time I started 1st grade I knew all the popular songs—words and music by heart. About the 2nd or 3rd week of school the teacher asked if anyone in the class had some talent like dancing or singing or doing magic tricks—things like that. Well, I put up my hand and said I could sing popular songs. So she asked if I would sing one for the class. Despite the fact that I’d never sung in front of anyone except my mother, I said yes. I picked my favorite song, and I did it. I sang the whole song—all the right words and melody. I still remember the song. It was I Don’t Want To Set The World on Fire by the Ink Spots.
When I was done, the teacher and students applauded. And that’s when I was certain, that’s what I was destined to do with my life.
Well, that turned out to not only be the first time, but also the last time I ever sang in front of an audience. Life got in the way. But it really remained my dream for the rest of my life. I just never had the courage to pursue it. One day, son, you’ll wake up and be 80 years old like me, and it will be too late.”
And as if that story by itself wasn’t enough to motivate me, my father closed the letter with three sentences that literally took my breath away, and changed my life. He said,