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.
We all could use a deep breath.
Most teams and companies are still figuring out how to help support their people and engage with them remotely, in hybrid settings, and in-person gatherings. With all that businesspeople have been navigating: differing modes of communication, the expansion of remote workers, global health, issues of racism, social injustice and equity, political and economic uncertainty, they are also expected to maximize the experience, product or service that you are delivering to the marketplace. Deep breaths are needed.
The process of breathing for the human body is “the process of moving air into and out of the lungs to facilitate gas exchange with the internal environment, mostly to bring oxygen and flush out carbon dioxide.” The leaders role in teams and organizations is to breathe oxygen into their people with mindsets and actions that fuel energy, possibility, connection and progress while flushing out negativity, blame and toxins.
The best leaders and teams on the planet understand their role is to help breathe oxygen into their people that helps give energy, hope and life so that all are able to thrive in a complex environment. These leaders and cultures are intentionally inhaling and exhaling with their people. The air they breathe and the mindsets they bring to stimulate action is everything.
6 Mindsets To Breathe Oxygen Into Your People and Culture
- Clarity — Vision + Direction is air that all need to breathe. Is your Mission clear? Is your Vision clear? Are you Values for how your team is committed to travel clear? Is your Strategy for the next priorities clear? If not, your team may be gasping for air. Every time you breathe oxygen into to these mindsets and concepts as a team, the air is easier for all to breathe. The path forward becomes clearer. Your team may not have all the answers, but they’ll have energy and clear direction on how to take the next step.
- Inclusivity — Leaders in the world play an enormous role in widening the circle so that more diverse backgrounds, ideas, perspectives, and experiences have a seat at the table. Teams and organizations will lead the way forward in society by modeling how to have civil, respectful dialogue and educate people on the strengths of diversity, equity and inclusion. When our teams are inclusive and welcoming, it breathes life and energy into all. We’re stronger together.
- Agility — Possibility + Adaptability is the name of the game in a changing world. Leaders have to practice breathing oxygen that allows their mind to find new ways of doing things and the courage to adapt to opportunities that emerge. If leaders return to the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mindset then they will sit back and watch the oxygen leave the room (and their people).
- Grit — Resolve + Toughness is critical to help people navigate their way through obstacles, challenges, negativity, finger pointing, and division. Leaders help their people breathe oxygen that stays focused on the present moment and the actions that are needed in order to take the next step. Toughness isn’t about being physically stronger than others, it is about being able to be vulnerable with your people and still have the resolve to find solutions, together.
- Rest — Teams and organizations have an unhealthy association with the concept of rest. Americans last year left 768 million days of vacation on the table with their employers. That equates to nearly $66 billion of lost benefits. We’ve forgotten that the research actually shows that deliberate rest is essential to elite performance. When we allow our bodies, minds and hearts to deliberately rest, we breathe more efficiently and are better at everything else.
- Ownership — Accountability + Action are mindsets and oxygen that the best leaders and team cultures on the planet breathe. They connect the things they say they will do with positive accountability and action. Accountability isn’t a negative word, it’s a positive mantra that all take ownership of. In a world where people are quick to gossip, point fingers, and be critics about what isn’t working, the best leaders breathe oxygen into their people and shift conversations from blame to solutions-focused.
The best cultures proactively help their people breathe and navigate through obstacles, together. They intentionally choose to inhale positivity and the 6 mindsets above and exhale negativity, blame, gossip and division. The air they breathe dictates the quality of air for all. The ecosystem of their culture is grown, developed, cultivated and led with intentionality, one breath at a time.
The process for developing high-performing and engaged teams never stops and the best leaders, teams and organizations are committed to breathing oxygen in how they hire, onboard, do performance evaluations, develop emerging leaders, and recognize excellence. The best leaders invest in their teams and the air they breathe, together.
If you’re experiencing a lack of energy, passion or hope for the road ahead, it may be the air you’re breathing.
About the Author:
Jason V. Barger is the globally-celebrated author of Thermostat Cultures, ReMember and Step Back from the Baggage Claim as well as the host of The Thermostat podcast. His latest book Breathing Oxygen is set to be released in the Fall of 2021. As Founder of Step Back Leadership Consulting, he is a coveted keynote speaker, leadership coach and organizational consultant who is committed to engaging the minds and hearts of people and growing compelling cultures. Learn more at JasonVBarger.com
The COVID-19 crisis has affected people in every way imaginable, including the way they view their life. For some, the pandemic has made them stop taking good things and people in their life for granted; for others, the silver linings are harder to find.
Having and showing gratitude in the midst of a crisis can be difficult, but research shows that it improves one’s health and overall quality of life. And in business, leaders and employees will strengthen the company if they prioritize gratitude during difficult times, says Michele Bailey (www.michelebailey.com), ForbesBooks author of The Currency of Gratitude: Turning Small Gestures into Powerful Business Results.
“Times of true crisis may challenge our ability to experience and express gratitude, but such difficult times also demand that we work on enhancing our capacity for doing both,” says Bailey, who is also founder/CEO of The Blazing Group, a brand and culture agency.
“Gratitude is seated at the heart of any truly great company culture, and it results in employees who live and breathe your brand. Employees who practice gratitude across personal and professional relationships will not only drive their personal happiness, they will drive business growth. Gratitude is a currency in the sense that it accumulates as a result of being shared.”
Bailey offers ways to incorporate gratitude into your life and business during a crisis and the benefits of doing so.
- Lose the scarcity mindset. Bailey says a crisis often encourages people to fall back on scarcity thinking – what they don’t have – as pressures prompt some to react with fear and anxiety. What’s needed instead, she says, is an appreciation for each other that leads to people finding ways to help each other. “I cannot stress enough that a crisis is not the time to retreat to a scarcity mindset,” she says. “Instead, it’s precisely the time to think of others, deepen our relationships and recognize the importance of support networks. It’s time to show renewed commitment to customers and communities as well as sensitivities to the challenges they are facing.”
- Think of all you can do, and for whom. Learning to show gratitude on a wider scale starts with these questions, Bailey says: Who has gone above and beyond to help me professionally, and why? How will I show my gratitude to these people? How can I give back to others? How can I make a difference in the lives of those around me and in the lives of others in need? Who have I taken for granted?” ”I believe in my heart that gratefulness is a social disposition or an attitude,” Bailey says, “and as such, it requires that we express it – and exchange it – with others. This is how we connect with one another in a way that lasts.”
- Embrace the strength of your team. Bailey says the resilience that’s honed by steady leaders and unified teams becomes stronger in times of trouble. People feeling isolated and vulnerable need to be thankful for good teammates, approach them for support and reciprocate. “When times are tough,” Bailey says “we can embrace and feel gratitude for what we still have, and we can use that strength of team – of ‘we’re all in this together’ – to fuel our individual and collective forward motion. Identify the people who give you a sense of value and purpose and examine what you value most about your relationships. In times of struggle, it’s our relationships that pull us through.”
“The world may change in surprising and challenging ways,” Bailey says, “but that only makes gratitude more important than ever.”
About the Author, Michele Bailey
Michele Bailey (www.michelebailey.com) is the ForbesBooks author of The Currency Of Gratitude: Turning Small Gestures Into Powerful Business Results and founder/CEO of The Blazing Group, a brand and culture agency born of her strategy-first approach to business and desire to enhance employee wellness in pursuit of business goals. She is also the founder of My Big Idea™, a mentoring program designed to propel individuals toward their personal and professional goals. Bailey has been recognized for contributions to women and entrepreneurship with honors such as the Bank of Montreal Expansion & Growth in Small Business Award and the Women’s Business Enterprise Leader Award in 2020. Bailey is a popular speaker and is also the author of a previous book, It’s NOT All About You, It’s About the Company You Keep.
Bad leaders have something over the good ones. Bad leaders have much better job security. Why? Simple. They run off anybody who is a threat to them before any damage can be done. Bad leadership is an art form. It’s not easy to make yourself into the kind of leader who nobody wants to follow anywhere. And because this underrated art form and the job security that goes with it are seemingly in great demand… here are Five Rules for Lousy Leadership!
WHAT’S RIGHT IS WHAT I SAY IS RIGHT!
A very simple way to let everybody know, right out of the gate, that there is only one person at the top, and that person is you. Your genius, your organization skills, your foresight and intelligence will take you on to new heights, despite your team’s ineptitude. From the start you simply tell them, “It’s all been carved in stone. I speak. You agree.” It’s amazing how effective a weapon this can be in your Lousy Leadership arsenal. You ever see those shows about Buckingham Palace, and how the help all stops and bow their heads whenever a royal walks by? Well, that’s how your people will be whenever you walk down the hall. Or, better yet, whenever you burst into a room and yell out, “Who’s working hard today?” Just the sort of thing to make their little hairs on the back of their insecure little necks stand on end.
KEEP THAT GREAT PLAN YOU MADE ALL TO YOURSELF
Somewhere deep in your desk drawer, although you’ve likely forgotten where, there is a copy of the master plan you drew up for the company. Well, the master plan the vice-presidents drew up under threat of loss of parking spaces if they ever deny you wrote it. It’s probably really a pretty good plan. Take the company forward, get everyone on the same page. But it involves a true terror for a Lousy Leader. To implement the plan, one department must know what another department is doing. And you can’t have that. So when you are asked about the plan you say, “Yeah, we have a plan. What great business doesn’t? But if I want you to know what’s going on in another department, I’ll tell you what’s going on in another department.” Quick about face and back to your private dining room.
IT’S NOT A LIE IF YOU BELIEVE IT
Your people know you to be a person of impeccable honor. (Right!) They must trust you because, to a large degree, you never have any interaction with them, so they must believe you are doing the top job just brilliantly. On those rare and unfortunate occasions when you find yourself forced to mingle, at a staff meeting, at the all too rare awards handouts or, god forbid, on Pizza Friday, there is a simple way to let everybody know that everything is alright. When called on to speak, just take the mic, fake that sincere look and say, “People – one thing is always true. You know I would never lie to my family!” Look out over their faces, bask in the warmth of their admiration for you. Quick about face and back to your office, door closed as always.
IT’S VERY SIMPLE REALLY
So many unknowing people think that leadership is a terribly difficult task to master. To get to that seven-figure salary level must take years of climbing the ladder, finding a mentor, and so on. However, you know the truth is that even though others helped you out (now and then) you made the climb on your own. There’s nobody to thank when they come to interview you for Forbes or Fortune. All the admiration is aimed at you because you did it your way. And now, at the top, you pass along this key piece of wisdom to your people. “I gave you your orders. Now carry them out.” Magic words that put you and your management style in sharp focus. And the great thing is, if you give them orders that are lousy, and they carry them out… then it’s their fault for doing a lousy job!
MAKE SURE EVERYBODY IS SCARED OF YOU
This last one is so obvious, it’s almost shameful to list it for you. The greatest motivator of all… fear. If you can arrange the office so that the mere sight of you makes breath catch in your people’s throats, you’re on the way to becoming a Lousy Leader. Everything else is small potatoes next to this rule. Tell them if they want a friend to get a dog. Nothing… NOTHING succeeds like FEAR.
OK, so sorry this isn’t written in the Sarcastica font. Nobody sets out to be a lousy leader. Some people can’t help it because it stems from their personalities. Some people fail because the training they got was woefully inadequate. Some can’t cut it because they are afraid of leading others. And some just think they’re naturals and they become General Patton-2.0, they want their people to feel the fear.
(SPOILER – IT DOESN’T WORK!)
About the Author:
Mark Oristano has distilled the leadership lessons he learned in 30 years as an NFL broadcaster into a concise, complete course in leadership with principle. Lessons learned from his years in the front office of the original Dallas Cowboys makes compelling, yet easy to implement, rules for solid leadership. For more information, please visit: https://markoristano.com.