Tag Archives: communication

A “Selfie” Of Your Time Management

Today’s guest blog features Jones Loflin, an internationally recognized speaker, author and trainer, and the co-author of the award-winning book Juggling Elephants.

Selfie

Selfies are everywhere! These self made photos of people doing everything from standing with a best friend to kayaking down a river blindfolded (just wait) are appearing at the rate of one million per day… and that’s the ones we know about. According to an infographic at stylecaster.com, here are some other interesting facts about these portraits:

  • They make up 30% of the photos taken by people 18-24 years of age
  • Selfies are more popular in Australia than any country in the world. Second is Canada and third is the United States
  • 34% of males state that they retouch their selfies while only 14% of females make changes to their selfies before posting

Even world leaders, including President Obama and Pope Francis have snapped pictures of themselves! The picture at the top of this post is one of my favorite selfies, taken with my younger daughter.

All this interest in selfies makes me wonder what a quick and spontaneous “snapshot” of how we are managing our time would look. Would yours:

  • Show you spending time working on our highest priorities, or just switching from one task to another to get through the day?
  • Be more likely to be taken with a friend or loved one… or alone because you keep rationalizing you will have time for them later?
  • Be a generally fuzzy picture because you aren’t sharpening our focus on 3-4 key tasks each day?
  • Reflect a celebration because you stayed focused on that complex assignment and finally finished it?
  • Have you looking exhausted and anxious because you keep denying yourself much needed rest?
  • Be snapped in a spot where you are taking some time for solitude and reflection instead of always trying to cram more and more into each day?
  • Show your children or significant other looking longingly out a door or window or be a snap of them running toward you with a HUGE smile and outstretched arms?
  • Include your phone, tablet, or computer screen showing your 30th post to social media today?

What would your selfie reveal about how you are managing your time?

Learn more about personal productivity at Jones Loflin’s SoundviewPro course The Five Keys to Experiencing Extreme Personal Productivity.

Reinforce your social media brand with visual elements

A guest blog with Cyndee Woolley, APR, an author and public relations consultant. Email questions to cydnee@c2-com.com or visit www.BuildingBrandYou.com.

The power of a strong visual element
Consumers are 80% more likely to interact with a Twitter post that has a photo attached than straight text. Often times, the social Facebook photo albums that I share for clients receive a much higher interaction rate than straight text posts. These visual elements are so appealing because they engage our brain and start to tell the story of your brand before you say a word.

Ideally, the elements of your visual storytelling should include five key messages:

1. Your Vision
Photos and videos should share the big picture of your ideal vision, not the tools that are going to get you there. Working with a client who wanted to appeal to families and children with fun activities, we did an inventory of their marketing photos. Most of the photos were of their activity stations – no kids, just the activity stations.

The average person likely didn’t understand what was in the photo and had no reason to engage. However, we switched the photos to happy children engaging with the activity stations and saw an immediate improvement in their engagement.

2. Establish Credibility
With the increased transparency and record keeping of the digital age, it is easier for watchdog groups to sort through your past and call you out for decisions that they disagree with like former Mozilla CEO, Brendan Eich’s, who was ousted in 2014 for a campaign contribution that he made in 2008.

While watchdog groups will take the time to sort through your past, the average consumer who is overwhelmed with content and short on time won’t. In seconds, your visual aids have to establish credibility in your brand.

For example, do you have a vision of health? Your photo stream should include plenty of healthy, active people making smart choice. If your photo albums have people smoking, drinking sodas, or sloppily sitting around desks, you are giving a contradictory message.

While your marketing materials must demonstrate your vision, the truest test of credibility is in the culture of your company – that is creating this brand message. We are seeing more and more companies take decisive action such as healthcare facilities going smoke-free; CVS is ceasing to sell tobacco products this year; and companies like David Lawrence Center are installing vending machines with healthy alternatives on their campuses.

3. Relevance and “What’s in it for me?” (Wiifm)
If you have ever taken a class in sales, you have likely heard the phrase “What’s in it for me?” The concept of Wiifm is that customers don’t buy features, they buy benefits because of how the benefits will make them feel.

In 2013, a study was released on millennials and their preference of microbreweries over larger brands like Budweiser. Initially, marketers thought that this generation was shunning the idea of being associated with brands. But, they were shocked to find that millennials were choosing specific microbrew beers because the brand label became a symbol of how they felt at that time.

As you are sharing videos and photos on your social media accounts, think about the unique emotional benefits that you bring to your customers. How might they wear your brand as a status symbol?

4. Brand Value
Before setting a price structure on any product or service, I encourage small business owners to look at the value of what they provide. Your business model can succeed as a low-price leader, best value, or as a luxury product.

However, the visual story that you present must match up to the brand value and expectations that you expect. If you chose to be a low-price leader, that isn’t an excuse to use sloppy, fuzzy photos. It just means that your photos and videos should incorporate models that are very approachable in generic clothing.

There was a copywriter who was selling a course on how to write sales letters at a very discounted rate. His initial advertisement incorporated beautifully scripted fonts and shades of green – which didn’t elicit any response. After reviewing the ad, he realized that it was a mixed message. He made the new advertisement look “cheap” in comparison by incorporating different fonts and a bright canary yellow color. The “cheap” advertisement sold thousands of copies of his course.

5. Close the Deal
Unless you are a sales person, “closing the deal” can be one of the hardest things about business. People have an inherent fear of rejection and often forget to end the conversations with something like “That is great, how many books would you like to buy?”

Even though websites and social media take some of the face-to-face rejection out of the equation, there is still a fear of being that jerk who is always selling. Ideally, you are creating a mix of content on your social media accounts, which means you are not the jerk.

There are several ways that you can help close the deal in your visual storytelling:
• Always include your website address your original artwork. You can’t claim other people’s photographs, but you can lead people back to your website by incorporating a simple watermark on your images. Similarly, every video should have a logo, website address and phone number included.
• Embed more emotional calls to action as watermarks. Instead of the generic “for more information…” you can include something more specific like “help us support young entrepreneurs in Junior Achievement of SWFL by…”
• Use hashtags (#) to spark conversation and virality. If you’ve watched Fox and Friends in the morning, the opening intro has a sign where the anchors display #BetterWithFriends. It is a visual cue for people to Tweet about their show.
• Visually show customers how they can engage with your brand by including pictures of customers using your mobile optimized website through a smart phone, logging onto a computer, or leaving feedback on Google+.

Important clarification… Just because we discussed five key messages, doesn’t mean that you should include all five in every visual element that you share. It is more important to get one message across correctly than to create confusion with multiple directions.

Remember, your customers have an overwhelming amount of data streaming at them from multiple sources. If you want to be successful in capturing their attention, you have to cut through the clutter faster than ever to show your relevance. With the ability to clearly demonstrate who you are, what you have to offer, and why people should care, you can build a life-long customer.

You can learn more about building your brand in Cyndee Woolley’s SoundviewPro course Building Brand [You].

Do You Really Want to Take the Plunge (Tell the Truth)?

A guest blog with John Stoker, the Founder and President of Light Storm Consulting, Inc. and DialogueWORKS, Inc.

We all have “undiscussables”—things we think and feel but usually don’t say. Whether or not we decide to share those issues, however, is a different matter. Chris Argyris, American business theorist, believed that if organizations would talk safely and openly about their issues and concerns, then immense learning would take place that would allow individuals, teams, and organizations to solve problems, improve decision making, and increase their overall effectiveness. No one will argue with that, but the operative word is “safely.”

Years ago, when I was training at an electric generating station in the Midwest, someone in class said, “We’ve got major undiscussables here!” Naturally, I pressed for an example. The participants in the class told me that the company procedure for obtaining materials and resources to fix things at the plant was a major obstacle to getting the work done and keeping the

turbines online and generating electricity. “So,” I asked, “what do you do when things break down?”

They all laughed and said, “Oh, we have the ‘Rat Hole!’”

“What’s that?”

“We’ll tell you, but if you ever tell anyone, we’ll lock you up there forever!” I promised I wouldn’t say anything.

My class members said that the Rat Hole was a secret room deep in the recesses of the plant stocked with equipment, tools, and resources that they had easy access to. There were welding rods, asbestos clean-up suits, gloves, cleaning fluid, mops, buckets–you name it, they had it all stocked away. When I pointed out to them the costs involved in maintaining a “duplicate” storeroom, their only response was, “That’s what we have to do to get the job done and keep things working.”

When I asked them if they had ever brought up this problem with their managers, they responded in the negative, “There are consequences for doing that around here!” I was told.  Obviously, the inability to bring up concerns safely had large financial ramifications for this company. Failing to speak up always comes at a cost.

Please note: I am not recommending that whatever you hold to be “undiscussables” should always be shared. (Those of us with significant others have learned this the hard way!) Nevertheless, it is wise to stop and think about what might be appropriate to share, or what is better left unsaid.

Has the person I need to speak with reacted negatively or emotionally in the past?

One of the most frequent justifications people offer for not speaking up in a business setting is the fear of negative consequences such as making your manager angry–which shows up as yelling, name calling or some form of belittlement. And there is also the fear of retaliation, such as missing out on a promotion, being fired, being given difficult assignments, or not receiving a raise. If these are your thoughts, you need to consider whether the relationship or the situation would be improved by speaking up, rather than just leaving things how they are presently.

If this person has never reacted negatively to feedback in the past, then you will have to admit to yourself that you don’t really know if they will react negatively in this situation. You might also ask yourself why you are assuming they might react negatively. Rumor? Past experience? Other people’s experiences? Objectively examine the source of your negative assumptions and the negative feelings that accompany those thoughts. If you lack evidence that negative consequences will occur, then perhaps it is worth the effort to speak up.

I’m sure that you can generate other questions that will help you to objectively assess your situations more objectively. The fact is, we all have issues that we judge to be undiscussable, some of which really are better left unspoken. Other concerns–if they negatively impact our results, our relationships, or the level of respect we are currently experiencing–may be worth talking about. Behaviors and work processes will never improve unless concerns can be identified and discussed. If an issue really matters, most people want to know about it. That, after all, is how things get better.  If you had broccoli in your teeth, wouldn’t you want to know about it? Only you can determine if taking the plunge will be worth the reward that follows.

You can learn more about real conversations at John Stoker’s course REAL Talk – Creating Real Conversations for Results.

Leadership Is a Contact Sport: Ask

A guest blog with Marshall Goldsmith, the top-ranked executive coach in the world.

“Soliciting feedback” is just what the words imply. It is when we solicit opinions from people about what we are doing wrong. As simple as it sounds, it is not always so simple. Most people have two problems dealing with negative feedback. This may not sound like many, but they are big problems. The first is we don’t want to hear it and the second is we don’t want to give it.

The reason we don’t want to hear it is because negative feedback is inconsistent with our self-image and so we reject it. Did you know that of all the classes I’ve taught 95 percent of members believe they are in the top half of their group? While this is statistically impossible, it is psychologically real. Proving to successful people that they are “wrong” works just about as well as making them change.

The reason we don’t want to give it is because our leaders and managers have power over us, our paychecks, advancement, and job security. The more successful a person is the more power they have. Combine that power with the fairly predictable “kill the messenger” response to negative feedback and you can see why people don’t want to give feedback.

There are some other difficulties with traditional face-to-face negative feedback. Most of them boil down to the fact that it focuses on failures of the past not positive actions for the future. Feedback can reinforce our feelings of failure, and our reactions to this are rarely positive. More than anything, negative feedback shuts us down. We need honest, helpful feedback, which is hard to find.

That’s enough about what’s wrong with feedback. Let’s talk about the good stuff. Feedback is very useful for telling us “where we are.” Without it, I couldn’t work with my clients. I wouldn’t know what the people around my client think about what he or she needs to change. Likewise, without feedback, we wouldn’t know if were getting better or worse. We all need feedback to see where we are, where we need to go, and to measure our progress along the way. And I have a foolproof method for securing it.

When I work with coaching clients I always get confidential feedback from their coworkers at the beginning of the process. I enlist each person to help me out. I want them to assist not sabotage the change process. I do this by saying to them, “I’m going to be working with my client for the next year. I don’t get paid if she doesn’t get better. Better is not defined by me; it is not defined by her. It is defined by you and the other coworkers involved in the process.” I then present them with four requests. I ask them to commit to:

1. Let go of the past.
2. Tell the truth.
3. Be supportive and helpful—not cynical or negative.
4. Pick something to improve themselves, so everyone is focused on more “improving” than “judging.”

As you contemplate changing your behavior yourself, without my personal assistance, you will need to do this same thing with your colleagues. Pick about a dozen people with whom you’ve had professional contact—work friends, peers, colleagues—and ask them to agree to these four commitments. When they do, which they nearly always will, you are ready to begin soliciting feedback from them about yourself.

In my experience, there are a hundred wrong ways to ask for feedback and one right way. Most of us know the wrong ways. We ask people, “What do you think of me?” “How do you feel about me?” “What do you hate about me?” or “What do you like about me?” Think about your colleagues. How many of them are your friends? How many of them really want to express to you their “true” feelings about you, to you?

A better question (and in my opinion the only question that works) is, “How can I do better?” Variations based on circumstances are okay, such as “What can I do to be a better partner at home?” or “What can I do to be a better leader of the group?” You get the idea. Pure issue-free feedback that makes change possible has to 1) solicit advice rather than criticism, b) be directed towards the future, and c) be couched in a way that suggests you are in fact going to try to do better.

Finally, when you get the answer, when someone gives you the gift of what you can do to be better, don’t respond with your opinion of their advice. It will just sound like denial, rationalization, and objection. Treat every piece of advice as a gift, a compliment, and simply say, “Thank you.” No one expects you to act on every piece of advice. Just act on advice that makes sense to you. The people around you will be thrilled!

You can learn more about improving your leadership skills at Marshall Goldsmith’s course Helping Successful Leaders Get Even Better.

Cultivating Winning Relationships – How to network successfully

A guest post with Morag Barrett, founder of Skye Team and author of Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships.

In an article, the Harvard Business Review found that social bonds were the major predictor of team success. The other two were “initiatives to strengthen relationships” and “leaders who invest the time to build strong relationships with their teams.”
If team success (and individual success) is dependent upon social bonds, on being connected, then it would follow that spending time getting to know the team members, and articulating the rules of engagement for the team would be a good investment of time, right?
You’ve heard the phrase “six degrees of separation” I have come to appreciate that in today’s world, it is more like “six degrees of connection”.

Here is a personal story to illustrate how closely we are connected. I was sitting at Anchorage airport having facilitated leadership programs at the North Slope, Alaska. It was my first trip to Alaska, and I knew no one in Anchorage. The royal wedding was being broadcast on the screens in the terminal, and the lady next to me started to chat. It was early, and I wanted to see the dress before boarding, so we talked. Eventually the conversation turned to current things. I shared that I lived in Colorado. She knew someone in Colorado… it turned out that her friend was someone I know well. We immediately went from strangers with nothing in common to acquaintances with someone in common.

Whether you find it easy to strike up a conversation with a stranger or someone who has a hard time meeting and talking to new people, networking and cultivating winning relationships is a necessary skill if you’re looking to get ahead.

With that in mind, here are six tips to help prepare you for your next networking opportunity.

Build Your Network
1. Start before you arrive. Review the agenda and speaker bios, check your social media connections to see who is attending and who you might like to meet. Then contact them via email, LinkedIn or twitter.
2. Practice your “hello”. You need to think about how to say “hello” and introduce who you are and a little context as to why you are at the event. 30-seconds or less, make it genuine and remember the intent is to open up a conversation not simply toot your own horn!
3. Get out of your comfort zone. Talk to “strangers” you may be surprised at just how connected you are. Remember relationships are not just for today… maybe this new contact could be your boss, colleague or new client next month, next year.

Maintain Your Network
4. Connect. I use LinkedIn to keep in touch with my contacts. Send a personal invitation (not the standard wording) to the people you would like to remain in contact with.
5. Stay in touch. There is a new tool on LinkedIn that allows you to set reminders to get in touch with people (open a profile, click on ‘relationships’ and then reminders). Look for opportunities to send a quick congratulations message, or an article and “thinking of you”. Ask for help and input from your network, you may just receive a suggestion you hadn’t considered!
6. Share your network. In Cultivate, The Power of Winning Relationships I talk about the concepts of Generosity and Abundance. The most successful people are the ones who share their network and expertise; they give more than they take. Make introductions, share your wisdom and build a reputation for being the go-to person.

Don’t simply attend events, participate, get involved, speak to those around you and cultivate a strong and powerful network that helps ensure your success, and theirs.

How do you cultivate and maintain your network?

You can learn more about cultivating relationships through our SoundviewPro course with Morag titled Business Relationships – Moving from “Me” to “We”.

Turn Your Mobile Device into a Classroom

 

It’s been five months since we launched SoundviewPro, to provide free video business courses for people looking for efficient ways to improve their business skills.

During the past several months, we’ve added many courses on leadership, management, personal development, professional development, computer skills and more. Courses are being added weekly as we continue to build a strong base of content to match the needs of our business customers.

Every course is free of charge and consists of a group of classes broken up into short video segments. The short videos allow for easy display on mobile devices and tablets. Each trainer is an expert in their field and Soundview brings that expertise to bear in these concise skills courses.

When a customer signs up to take a course, an account will be established for them which includes their personal information and also tracks their courses and stage of completion. They can view a course one class at a time, viewing videos as they progress. While customers can view courses for free, supplemental learning materials including tests, additional readings and a certificate of completion are available for purchase.

Here is just a sampling from the subjects now available at SoundviewPro.

Leadership:

Leading Successfully Through Challenges and Obstacles with Paul White

Helping Successful Leaders Get Even Better with Marshall Goldsmith

Management:

Solving Today’s Employee Engagement Challenges with Les Landes

Installing an Accountability-Based Culture for Success with Julie Miller & Brian Bedford

Communication:

Becoming a Powerful Business Presenter with Stanley Ridgley

REAL Talk – Creating Real Conversations for Results with John Stoker

Personal Development:

Building Brand [You] with Cyndee Woolley

The Five Keys to Experiencing Extreme Personal Productivity with Jones Joflin

Technology Skills:

Microsoft Excel 2010: Introduction with Robert Devine

Microsoft PowerPoint 2010: Fundamentals with Donna Zarbatany

Please check out the courses and let your colleagues know about this free resource. Our goal is to transform the way business people learn the skills they need to move forward in their business and career.