Every year in the spring, Amy B., a buyer for a large retail chain store, hosts an Easter egg decorating teambuilding party, where she and a bunch of her suppliers spend an entire afternoon coloring and bedazzling hard-boiled eggs. None of them bring their kids—they do this for the sheer pleasure of out-of-the office bonding, creating interesting and attractive objects. The group is always amazed at the creativity of the resulting eggs. (And in case you’re wondering, no, none of them are artists.)
So why, as adults, don’t people exercise their inner child-like creativity more often? And what is it about the Easter egg party that allows them to so freely generate and express such range and diversity of ideas? There are several factors—all of which also apply to innovation.
Each egg represents a very low commitment. It is cheap in both time and materials to try any idea they think of, so they try lots of ideas. If one doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter—it’s just one egg. Similarly, in your innovation work, you need to consider and try out many ideas, to ensure that only the best ones move forward. As innovation projects proceed through a company, they get more expensive—in money, time, and labor—at each successive phase. Developing Fail Fast, Fail Cheap methodologies allows you to try out lots of ideas early on, while it’s still cheap.
They leverage not only individual creativity, but also use the power of the group. Someone will think of an idea to try, and then toss it out to the group. Then everyone contributes ideas for how best to accomplish it. No one ever says, “Yes, but that won’t work.” Everyone just thinks of ways to help make it better. The resulting final solutions are nearly always significantly better than what the person would have tried originally. In many companies, the “Yes, But” phenomenon is all too common, and can be very damaging to creativity and innovation. Most ideas aren’t perfect when they’re first conceived, but teams act like they should be. They point out all the problems in an emerging idea before they ever attempt to find out if there’s anything good about it. For innovation and creative problem solving to thrive, it’s critical to create an environment that nurtures ideas rather than stifles them, so you get the benefit of the best thinking of the entire team.
They are willing to start over when something clearly isn’t working. One woman brought eggs that were not naturally white; instead, they were brown. It wasn’t clear that dyeing them would work very well, if at all. And, in fact, the first few attempts didn’t work. So, she scraped off all the color on her unsuccessful eggs several times. But when she chose red, yellow, and orange colors and left them in the dye bath long enough, she got some of the most uniquely rich and vividly colored eggs anyone had ever seen. Unfortunately, in large organizations, too many innovation projects that aren’t quite hitting the mark proceed too far. It’s important to recognize when an idea isn’t working, and then be willing to start again when you need to.
Reframing the goal results in more divergent ideas. The woman with the brown eggs also tried other methods of decorating the eggs, not just coloring them with dye. Once she reframed the problem from coloring eggs to decorating eggs, everyone else also began creating the most innovative and unusual eggs of all. This reframing of the problem is a critical step in effective problem-solving and innovation. This is because the way a problem is stated affects the potential solutions you will think of. So when addressing any obstacle, it’s a good idea to question the way the challenge or problem is worded, to see if you can reframe it to get to different and better solutions.
So the next time you find yourself with eggs to decorate—or a challenge to meet—keep these tips in mind to help you think more creatively and come up with more innovative solutions…
- Fail fast, fail cheap. Test many possible ideas.
- Leverage individual and group creativity; “Yes, and” instead of “Yes, but”.
- Be willing to start over when the idea isn’t working.
- Reframe the opportunity to expand your thinking.
About the Author:
Susan Robertson empowers individuals, teams, and organizations to more nimbly adapt to change, by transforming thinking from “why we can’t” to “how might we?” She is a creative thinking expert with over 20 years of experience speaking and coaching in Fortune 500 companies. As an instructor on applied creativity at Harvard, Susan brings a scientific foundation to enhancing human creativity. To learn more, please go to:https://susanrobertson.co/
With the shift to our new virtual world, you have probably found it more difficult to build and sustain professional relationships. Yet, the virtual technologies we are all using have actually expanded our opportunities to network and build connections. We are no longer limited to connecting with those in our local community as we now have expanded opportunities to connect with people from around the world. It is possible to build relationships by using virtual experiences. The challenge is, how do you do it?
Making Virtual Networking Connections
Some social media efforts seem to be a complete waste of time. But social media now provides new opportunities to make connections with others. The key is how you use social media to build and sustain your relationships with others in your network.
Finding people to connect with by searching the social media sites using keywords and company names is one way to identify new connections. An even better way is to take advantage of the various virtual meetings and events that you are already participating in and connect with those who are also participating in them.
If you have two monitors on your computer, use one monitor to participate in the meeting and your other monitor as your search engine. If you don’t have two monitors, use your smartphone or tablet. Pay attention to the people you are resonating with or those who are making thought-provoking comments in your virtual meetings.
On your other monitor or device, go to LinkedIn and see if you can find this person while you can still see their face in the meeting. You might be surprised at how difficult that can be, especially if they have a common name or have changed their appearance. By doing it while you’re still participating in the virtual meeting, you can double check that you have the right person before you send them a LinkedIn invitation.
When you send the invitation, be sure to personalize the connection message. Say something like, “Joe, I enjoyed your comments in the XYZ meeting today. I’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn to get to know you better.”
The goal here is to establish an initial connection, not to make a sale or have them do something for you. You have to earn that right. Do not immediately reach out and try to sell them something once they accept your connection.
Successful Approaches to Networking Virtually
Once you’ve established a connection with someone, begin to explore the opportunities available to you to get to know that individual better. It is easier to do than you might think.
The most effective way to stand out to a new contact is to engage with them on the social media platform. Start to regularly post comments on their social media post and when appropriate, share their post on your own social media profiles. Don’t just “like” something that they’ve posted. Likes, hearts, thumbs up and other reaction acknowledgments don’t make you stand out. These are just passive engagement reactions and do not get much notice.
Active engagement that gets your name in front of your connection will make you stand out and connect in deeper ways.
If your connection has shared something on social media that you find interesting, do your own post and tag them in it. Take a picture of you holding their book with a testimonial. Then post your testimonial on their book page on Amazon. The idea here is to stand out, especially if they are someone who has a very large social media following.
Engagement is vital to building relationships. It requires energy and effort just as it does in the physical world. It is important to take this slowly. Nothing freaks someone out more on social media than the appearance of having a stalker or someone who is only connected to sell to them. Look for opportunities that are appropriate, but not every day, especially in the beginning.
Taking Your Virtual Networking to The Next Level
If the person you’re connecting with is someone that you would like to know better and the feeling is mutual, suggest setting up a telephone call or virtual meeting. That will allow for deeper communication beyond the written word.
Explore opportunities that might be mutually beneficial or ask them if there is something specific that they need right now that you might be able to provide. For an author, it would be a testimonial. Or it might be making some endorsements on LinkedIn once you get a deeper understanding of their skills and strengths.
Leverage the combination of interacting with them on social media platforms, phone calls, virtual conversations and email as a way to stay connected. This needs to be organic and it cannot be forced. Too many people today make an initial connection on social media or in a virtual meeting and then begin to bombard their contact with too many emails or too many asks. That is not building a relationship. That is pushing for a sale.
Those who are successful at networking virtually are looking to expand their connections with those with whom they share mutual interests. Those mutual interests turn into opportunities. In the best of all worlds those opportunities are mutual, not one-sided.
One thing is certain, virtual interactions are here to stay. Those who are most effective at networking in this “new normal” will bridge the gap between connections and relationships by strategically looking for opportunities to connect. Remember, networking is about building relationships, not making sales. It is vital to keep this key difference in mind as you begin to take steps to use virtual opportunities to make new connections. Sales or jobs may eventually flow from these relationships, but the primary goal in networking is to make a casual connection and build it into to a deeper relationship. Then, you take advantage of the virtual world to help you sustain and deepen that connection over a longer period of time.
About the Author:
Jill J. Johnson, MBA, is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the bestselling book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted more than $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill J. Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.
Regardless of what date the calendar shows, business is blooming – and the season for sowing success is officially here. The ways businesses can promote themselves is blooming, too – blogs, podcasts, social media, website search engine optimization, television, magazines! How can business owners, subject matter experts, and thought leaders weed out what will land on the rocks and what will bear fruit when it comes to publicity?
You see, a targeted publicity campaign is much like gardening. It requires an innate understanding of the medium where your expertise best fits, properly nurturing the attention that you generate, and reaping the rewards of increased awareness of your unique space in the business market.
So where to start? The soil, of course!
The Soil – Your Market
A successful publicity campaign starts with deep knowledge of where your knowledge works. Whether you excel at providing management solutions or the art of making the most of the clock, you don’t simply want to blast out your content like a defective garden hose. Just like different substrates, different avenues exist for your expertise – and you need to choose the one that’s best for your expressed goals.
Whether that means pitching your content out to a specific geographic area or DMA that pertains to a coming event, or providing comment on a national news story, you have to possess a keen awareness of where your knowledge best fits and the outcome that you’re hoping to elicit.
Sowing – Targeted Pitching
Just like you shouldn’t take a scattershot approach to planting seeds you hope will eventually produce fruit, you shouldn’t assume you can just cover each and every aspect of the media with a publicity campaign. It’s about targeted pitching of content to editors, writers, and producers.
Plant your expertise seeds where you have the strongest opportunity for success. That means having a firm grasp on your target market where you know you have a strong shot of developing enduring roots – not just a momentary glimpse of sunlight.
Nurturing – Building Relationships
Anyone who has ever seen that first seedling sprout in their garden or field knows that immediate feeling of elation. Things are happening! I wasn’t just tilling and watering this soil for no reason! It’s a burst of excitement in knowing that your work had paid off. But those same folks will can also identify with watching their work wilt on the vine and the inescapable thought that more could have been done.
Once you have started the process of pitching out your expertise – be it to daily newspapers in the form of interview availability, or articles to trade, industry, and association publications, it’s imperative that you nurture those leads by properly tracking and following up with the editors who have requested your comment or content.
One of the biggest mistakes that is made during a publicity campaign is fostering a one-sided relationship. Each one of those columnists and editors is looking to fill space with intriguing content on a consistent basis. Just like you wouldn’t prune your leaves or fertilize all at once when it’s convenient, you need to maintain a dialogue with those who are looking to you for answers.
That doesn’t mean to bombard them with emails or phone calls—it simply entails having a firm process in place to touch base on the status of your article or interview, and be ready to reach out when a mutually beneficial opportunity arises.
The Harvest – Frequency and Repetition
The pinnacle of sowing season is the harvest—where you can reap the rewards of your time, efforts, energy, and dedication. After months of tending to your crops, it’s finally time to take out your bushels and account for your yield.
In a PR campaign, the sowing season runs year-round as a well-targeted campaign means you’ll receive a bounty of coverage on a consistent basis – regardless of the date on the calendar.
To the Market – Benefiting from Publicity
Off to the market with your haul! This is where the hard work really pays off and you can assign a definitive, tangible value to the time investment to planting, tending, and harvesting your crop.
With publicity, post-placement marketing is a key, critical component in a campaign’s life cycle. Without effective marketing to the associations and industries who utilized your expertise in their publication you cannot truly capitalize on the commitment you made to growing your business or enhancing your audience at the outset.
Effectively marketing the publication that you receive involves outreach to the industries who found direct value in your content—be it your perspective in an interview or your unique selling propositions in articles. Without leveraging these placements and marketing to those industries, you’ll be left with a bounty without a buyer.
With business back in full bloom, events are currently being planned and organizations are seeking experts to enrich their audiences with their point-of-view. To enjoy the full range of benefits of a publicity campaign you must think like a farmer or gardener—determine the fertile soil for your content, sow the seeds of your expertise with targeted pitching, with a green thumb frame-of-mind (in a monetary context, of course), nurture the relationships built, and then leverage your placements to begin marketing your content.
As the gardeners and farmers among you know, it doesn’t happen overnight. But with time, care, and dedication you’ll enjoy the rewards of a fruitful publicity endeavor.
About the Author:
Russell Trahan is the Owner/President of PR/PR Public Relations and the Author of Sell Yourself Without Saying A Word. PR/PR/ Public Relations is a boutique agency specializing in thought-leaders and subject-matter experts. He positions his clients’ expertise in front of their target market. PR/PR Public Relations has a 20+ year history of getting 100% of their clients results. For more information, please visit: www.PRPR.net.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. Kate and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised.
Zombies in the workplace are soul-sucking, money-draining, productivity-killing entities that chip away at an organization’s spirit and its engagement levels one convert at a time. These creatures often look like the rest of us, but deep down they’re cancerous beasts that can potentially drive a business to ruin.So what’s a manager to do? Recognize the problem, know its source, understand why action is essential, and then do the work required to create a zombie-free workplace.
KNOWING YOUR ZOMBIES
Although zombies come in many varieties, most resemble one or more of the following:
- Negative zombies – Often the easiest to spot, they complain, moan, and express their dissatisfaction regularly. Some will use humor to disguise their disgust, but they are nevertheless contagious and a threat to the uninfected.
- Minimum-contributor zombies – They do the basics but nothing more. You will never see them looking for work or volunteering for projects. Furthermore, many act as if they are doing you a favor when you ask them to perform a task they get paid for doing.
- Status-quo zombies – These change-averse creatures dig in their heels and fight the future. They are happy with everything the way it is and take no initiative to implement new ideas. The most dangerous of this variety will even resort to sabotage if they feel threatened.
- Shortcut zombies – They find ways to cut corners and circumvent processes. Their choices frequently expose the organization to unneeded risk. Worse still, when these zombies are in charge of training others, they pass on bad habits and poor practices.
IDENTIFYING THE SOURCE
To rid an organization of zombies, you must understand how you got them. Each zombie has a creation story. These are the most common:
- The ready-made zombie story: People who were really zombies when someone interviewed them, and they got the job anyway.
- The we-did-it-here zombie story: Unlike the ready-made zombies, these zombies were created after they joined the organization. They were discouraged, taught to fear, or worse.
- The retired-on-the-job zombie story: These zombies should be long retired, but because of a need to complete a certain number of years of employment before receiving some financial reward or other benefit, they’re still in the workplace and just going through the motions.
- The abandoned zombie: Abandoned zombies are employees who could perform well if they didn’t feel as if they were the only ones who cared. After struggling alone, these poor creatures eventually succumbed and now just try to survive.
MAKING THE CHOICE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE
When left unchecked, zombies can take over a department, division, or even an entire organization with relative ease. For that reason, it is essential that organizations are focused and vigilant in their approach to zombie management. Organizations that fail to take the problem seriously may find that it’s too late. To escape havoc when zombies gain a foothold, good employees will often leave for safer territory. Then, by the time management recognizes its predicament, a lot of talent has walked out the door, and what remains is not sufficient to do great work.
Implementing an anti-zombie initiative is no easy task, but it can be done and done well if you take the process seriously and stay dedicated to invigorating your workforce.
Be candid about your numbers. High turnover is a strong sign that there is a zombie problem. High absenteeism, poor output, and substandard financial performance are other clues. Think about what you would see if your organization were-zombie free and what numbers would be associated with that vision. Next, compare those statistics to the current reality and set some performance goals.
Once you understand your global numbers, you should measure employee engagement. You can run a formal survey with a company that specializes in engagement or create one on your own. As with step one, the goal here is to get a sense of what’s working, what isn’t, and the breadth of your zombie problem.
Next, ask yourself what are you seeing and hearing that you don’t want to see, and what are you not seeing and hearing that you do? After you know where the gaps are, think about solutions to address those shortcomings. If your zombies belong to the status-quo category, for example, consider putting in a process whereby everyone is tasked with finding two ways to improve his or her work processes or outputs. No matter what you choose, be sure you have the stamina to stick with the zombie-eradication tactics you implement. Fewer activities done well will beat a lot of mediocre ones every time.
Be prepared to let go of those you can’t save. Despite best efforts, some zombies simply can’t be cured. If you’ve done all you can, and they’re still the walking dead or worse, it’s time to say goodbye. If the termination process in your organization is cumbersome and lengthy, at a minimum, you must protect the uninfected and recently cured from the zombie holdouts.
Recognize success and coach for deficiencies. Saving zombies happens one employee at a time. People who are clear about expectations, receive proper training, get coaching when they miss the mark, and feel appreciated when they get it right or go above and beyond, are highly unlikely to enter or venture back into zombie territory.
- Do managers “walk the talk” and model anti-zombie behavior?
- Do employees understand how their work is connected to the organization’s goals? Can they explain that connection in a sentence or less?
- Are employees held accountable for following established processes and procedures?
- Do managers confront negativity?
- Do managers encourage and reward initiative?
- Do they meet one-on-one with their direct reports on a regular basis?
- Does a strong zombie pre-employment screening interview process exist?
- When good people leave, does someone conduct an exit interview to see if zombies are the reason for the departure?
The answers to those questions should serve as a starting point for encouraging engagement and avoiding everything from a small zombie outbreak to a full-blown apocalypse. You can never be too prepared.
Have you ever said something at work you wish you hadn’t? Sometimes the wrong words just blurt out to employees or with the client. The first step in fixing common communication blunders on the job is to know what those blunders are. Then you can say something the smart way and not the dumb way. Verbal communication expert, Greg Alcorn, CEO of Global Contact Services (GCS) of Salisbury, NC, is the author of 7 Dumb Things We All Say and speaks to thousands of people each year on improving verbal communication at work.
BELOW, GREG HAS LISTED THE SEVEN BIGGEST BLUNDERS YOU MAY NOT HAVE USED, BUT HAVE DEFINITELY COME ACROSS!
ONE: Using Bad Bookends. The biggest blunder is starting and ending what you say with the wrong phrasing. Conversation bookends are the small comments or questions just before or right after a full statement or request for action. Be better with your starting and ending bookends. Pre-sentence bookends as a tool can be engaging, demeaning, or distracting. Names are great bookends. Starting a sentence with the name of the person you are talking to warms that person up. “Mary, may I put you on hold?” Saying your name last in your introduction makes it easy for the person you are talking with remember your name. “This is the help line; my name is Jack.”
TWO: Starting with Wrong First Words. Are you familiar with the adage, “Getting off on the wrong foot”? Conversations have first impressions, and they begin with your first three words. Hint: one of the words should be the other person’s name. Using names is important when speaking on the phone, especially conference calls. Conference call principle number one is if you’re going to call on somebody, start with the name. Instead of saying, “What were the metrics on our operations yesterday, Frank?” ask the right way: “Frank, what were the metrics on our operation yesterday?” If you don’t start with the name, you might catch the person by surprise. It certainly catches people’s attention when you say their name first.
THREE: Not Choosing Your Words Well. The words you choose paint a picture for the listener. Your words express your attitude and your personality. Keep it positive. Don’t start a sentence with the word “no.” Even in introductions, you can’t go wrong with saying the person’s name first. A person’s name followed by the four words “I need your help” is a winner. “Rachel, I need your help.” This is especially powerful when it’s in a situation in which you might be the boss and the other person might be a manager, or you might be in a perceived superior position.
FOUR: Poor Questions and Bad Listening. Meaningful questions always stay on subject, keep a conversation moving forward, and ensure the other person feels heard and understood. Becoming a better listener is easier than you might think. It starts by committing to be a great listener and making an active choice to listen. Ask good questions and really listen. This is the “You have two ears and one mouth” principle.
FIVE: Focus-on-Me Attitude. Making it all about you is a turn off for them. This is not a technique; this is an attitude. The best way to describe a benefit is to describe the feeling received. “I came by as soon as I heard you lost the sale; I’m sad.” The fellow employee can recognize the extra effort and surely appreciates the sentiment. It’s a powerful sentence. A special visit, a sense of urgency, and a sincere feeling (sad). Empathy shows feelings.
SIX: Wrong Tone. People feel more comfortable with pleasant, variable tone quality. Voice tone is made up of rate, pitch, and volume. Think tone and don’t drone. The tone of our voice helps others to hear our empathy. The rate, pitch, and volume of our statements of empathy helps express feelings. Usually, but not always, we hear implied empathy when somebody slows down speech and lowers the pitch and volume. Say, “I am sad to hear that you lost the supermarket account,” and I’ll bet you will automatically say it slow and low. The same with excitement at the opposite end of the spectrum. Say “Team, we won the hotel account!” You can’t help but say it fast, high, and loud. Tone expresses empathy.
SEVEN: Not Diffusing Difficult Drama. Stressful conversations, or drama, can be avoided by mastering word selection, listening, and questioning skills. Drama can be inevitable, however. Most stressful situations can be defused when you apply the three Rs: recognize, restate, and reassure. Ask others: “What would you like to see happen?” Those are seven magic words that can defuse difficult drama: Words are just a tool, like electricity is a tool. And like any tool, they can be used for helping or for harming. Electricity can cook a person’s dinner, or it can burn a person’s dinner. Words can turn people on or turn people off.
Here is the bottom line: Nobody wants to say dumb things. But we all do. The first step towards reducing the number of dumb things you say is to know what the dumb things are. Then don’t say that, say something smarter.
Written by Executive Leadership Coach, Denise Louise Jeffrey
Whether pushing for promotion, bargaining for extra budget or trying to convince a client to get on board, negotiation is a necessary part of business life. Most of us aren’t born with this skill, but it’s well worth taking the time to conquer for the benefits that it can bring – from forging better business relationships to reaping great rewards… whatever they may look like for you. With insight from Executive and Leadership Coach Denise Louise Jeffrey, here’s how to influence your way to great negotiations and seal the deal:
One of the most important things to do when negotiating, is to put in the groundwork before anything begins. A common combination, and a vain one at that, is to be overconfident but under-prepared. Always take time to put the research in, and make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. If you know who you’re meeting, carry out some background research, perhaps familiarizing yourself with their role and career trajectory. Also educate yourself on the project at hand, so that you’re well positioned to address any questions that may arise, and provide answers backed up by cold, hard facts.
Being attentive takes on many types of meaning in negotiations. No matter who you’re up against, always take the time to listen and show that you’re taking on board what they say. This is a two-way street, and there needs to be a mutual respect and understanding for what one another wants from the meeting. But being attentive also means being observant of their behavior, and as Denise suggests, you should use this to negotiate “with an outlook of achieving different outcomes that could be acceptable for all, depending on the style of bargaining your counterpart pursues.” Being able to pay attention to and, recognize their tactics, is key. This leads us onto the final step
As Denise tells us, negotiation isn’t a one-solution situation, and what works for one person may not work for the next. Being able to adapt based on your negotiator’s behavior is a key part in increasing your likelihood of success in the transaction. According to Denise, you can do this through noting their negotiation traits, which have been broken down into four archetypal types: The ‘My Way or the Highway’ type, the ‘Sweet Talker’ type, and the ‘Devil’s in the Details’ type and the ‘Let’s Not Rock the Boat’ type. The key is to then meet them on their level, unless – and this is one exception to the rule – they are being inappropriate or aggressive, in which case, call them out for their unprofessionalism and part ways. Denise’s recommended negotiation approaches are tailored to each category.
Ultimately, the most valuable skill a negotiator can possess is “being able to adapt and negotiate in all styles – not just the one you are most comfortable with.” Being prepared, attentive, altering your behavior based on theirs, and adapting accordingly on the day, is what will give you the highest chance of the best possible outcome.