Adometry Acquired by Google

This has been a big week!  The company we founded as Click Forensics back in 2006, was acquired by Google.  Click Forensics became Adometry in 2011 and has grown to become the leader in online advertising attribution.  I am proud of our team and am excited for our investors. We began with a mission to ensure advertisers "get what they pay for".  Our founding team and leadership worked hard to grow the company to where it is today.  I'm grateful for the opportunity and appreciative to our investors, partners and employees that have worked hard over the years to build something great.  More about our history here.

From the Wall St. Journal May 6th, 2014

Google to Acquire Online Attribution Firm Adometry

Google wants to help advertisers get a better sense of how their online ad campaigns work collectively. So the company is acquiring Google wants to help advertisers get a better sense of how their online ad campaigns work collectively. So the company is acquiring Adometry, an Austin-Tx.-based firm that specializes in online ad attribution–i.e. the science of crediting various online ads for influencing a person to take an action, such as clicking on an ad or buying something.

Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but Google officials said the acquisition did not have to pass through any regulatory hurdles. Adometry raised $8 million in funding in early 2013. The firm will continue to operate independently, as least for the near future, Google said.

The deal  is an ironic one for Google, given that for years, Web publishers have complained that Google search ads get too much credit. The common complaint among companies that sell online ads is that Google ads perform well because people only encounter them after searching for something specific. The argument is that a person may have encountered lots of other ads prior to deciding to search for something like “blue blazer” and then clicking on an a Target ad.

Several years ago in fact, Microsoft made a big push into solving the attribution issue, launching a business that was directly aimed at challenging what Microsoft saw as Google’s disproportionate credit for the success of online advertising at large.

Thus, you might wonder why Google would want to rock the boat. Well, for one thing, the company manages a huge display ad network, as well as an ad exchange. Google wants to capture a larger share of online advertising overall, and needs to convince brands that tactics outside of search ads can work. The company has also made better analytics a priority of late, including the Google Analytics Premium business, which helps website owners better manage their data, traffic, and ad reporting. Adometry’s tools and technology will be used to help bolster that business, Google said in a blog post.

There’s a possible side benefit to the Adometry deal that Google executives didn’t mention. Adometry has roots in online ad fraud prevention. In fact, in 2011, the online ad fraud detection firm Click Forensics acquired Adometry and assumed its name. Google has made a point of being a leader in rooting out bogus traffic, fake sites, bots and the like.

A few months ago, Google acquired Spider.io, another anti-fraud specialist. With Adometry and Spider in the fold, Google can make a claim to be making a serious investment toward protecting its advertisers.


100 Days of Being Paperless and More Productive

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Last year, I decided I needed to focus on becoming more productive and effective.  Time is a resource that is finite and cannot be recovered.  My focus was to track and manage my time becoming as productive as possible.  I wanted to make an impact with every hour I worked and leverage technology and techniques to save time.  I reinvest that time into my family, my friends, non-profits and myself.

I just passed 100 days of being paperless.  As 2013 came to a close, I spent time planning my transition.  Not everyone will be able to do this depending on the type of work you do.  For me, it fit perfectly and I thought I would share my approach.

There are great numbers of benefits to being paperless.  First of all you always have access to the information you need.  Secondly, you travel light.  All I carry is an iPad and my iPhone.  Third you will recover time that you can reinvest.

If you choose to do this, it takes planning and comes at a cost.  Prepare yourself and expect to take baby steps.  The goal is not being paperless… the goal is to become more productive and be able to take control of your time.

Here is my approach.  I welcome your feedback and ideas in comments below.

PAPERLESS

Buy an iPad - I know you’ll be tempted to get something else.  Don’t, all can I say is don’t.  The Apple eco-system works well and it is all you need.  I have an iPad Air and use a Belkin Keyboard for protection and ease of use.

Hide the pens! – I’m serious.  Think of this in same way you would hide chocolate.  If it’s available, you will use it.  Hiding them causes you to stop and think about how you could go paperless and solve the problem at hand.

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Get Evernote Evernote is the central place where your information and ideas will reside.  Evernote is free and extremely functional.  Learn how to send in information via email, pictures, scanning and files.  It uses text recognition and everything can be tagged.  I use the premium version for the various features including business card scanning.  You take a picture of the card and it drops right in to your contacts.  Then, you hand the card back to the person with a smile!  Evernote Premium is $45 per year and well worth it.

Sign up for DropboxDropbox is a giant, virtual filing cabinet.  I use the free version and so far, it is adequate for me.  Dropbox allows me to store files and presentations I need to access or share.  Sharing is as simple as sending a link to someone.  I keep forms, active presentations, documents and other information there to be accessed when and where I need it.

Scan Everything – The main scanner I recommend is the Fujitsu Snapscan ($350).  It is portable, scans duplex directly into Evernote and is quite fast.  I often take it with me to meetings and drop things right into it.  You can add tags, send it on it’s way to the digital world and throw away the paper.  For on the go, get GeniusScan for your iPhone and iPad.  It is $5 and does a good job of capturing documents and sending them to Evernote of Dropbox.  When I say scan everything, I mean EVERYTHING!  I went through my files and started scanning old files and documents.  Marriage license, insurance cards, receipts, speaker handouts… everything!

Apps – You will want to have Apple’s Keynote, Pages and Numbers.  You can also now get Micorsoft’s Powerpoint, Excel and Word.  Other Apps I recommend include Penultimate (for free hand drawing), Skype/ GotoMeeting/ Webex (for communication) and Flipboard (for reading).

PRODUCTIVITY

Calendar everything– I use Google calendar.  It is free, fully functionally and is available on all my devices.  If it’s not on my calendar, it won’t get done.  I include my workout schedule, my kids events, travel time, reading and even dates with my wife.  I use Tripit to easily get my travel itineraries onto my calendar.

Share your calendar – I share my calendar with my work associates and my family.  I use Doodle to share it publicly (see mine HERE).  Doodle allows me to take requests for a brief call or meeting without having to go back and forth on scheduling.  I block off nights, weekends and holidays so my Doodle calendar only shows my true availability.  I also subscribe to my favorite sports team calendars, weather and other events.  Everything in my life runs through my calendar.

Get control of your Email – Email is an enormous time waster!  I am a believer in “InboxZero”.  I start and end everyday with my inbox empty and act on messages three times during the day.  When I look at a message I do one of three things:

1) Reply / act on it
2) Delete it / archive it
3) Forward it to a time when I can act

Boxer is the product I use on my iPhone and iPad to manage email.  It is a well-designed app that allows me to create and assign tasks from an email.  I can also swipe to archive or delete.  Boxer has quick responses that save time in responding and it is fully integrated with Evernote.  One swipe and I can send an email and its attachments straight into Evernote.

If I come across and email I don’t need to act on immediately, I use FollowUpThen.com.  FollowUpThen allows me to “send” the email to the future.  For example, if it is something to read, I send it to saturday@followupthen.com.  I can send an email to someone requesting information and copy tuesday@followupthen.com and we will bot receive a reminder.  It is my favorite time saving tool! 

Track your time – This was a big one for me.  I analyzed my time and realized I was giving a lot of it away.  While it is good to give time away in service, for a non-profit or helping a friend or family member, that was not my issue.  My time was out of control and I found myself unproductive.  To remedy this, I started tracking everything I did and measured that against the value of that time.  I created my own Key Performance Indicators (KPI) using the free tool at MyKPIDashboard.com.  I measure income against hours and factor in time I donate to charity.  I create time to spend with my family, my friends and for myself (i.e gym).  I work to improve my KPI’s each month.

Find help – Last year, I found myself spending hours trying to create an Excel formula for a spreadsheet I was working on.  After 6 hours of my time I went to eLance.com and posted the job.  Within hours I had 12 bids to complete the work.  I selected an expert, sent her the files and 12 hours later had exactly what I needed.  The cost was $12.47!  The lesson to me is find someone to do what I cannot, should not or don’t want to do.  To accomplish this I use eLance.  There you will find expert freelancers who can solve almost any problem saving you time.

Social media – The iPad and iPhone are great tools for enhancing productivity.  Find the apps you need to leverage your time.  For social media management and posting I use Buffer.  I read using Flipboard and drop articles to read later into Pocket.  There are tons of time saving apps that help you stay engaged in social media without wasting time.

Create “Digital Downtime” – Your iPhone and iPad are tools for work.  They can also be enormous distractions and eat into your ability to control your time.  I suggest setting aside digital downtime.  Turn your phone off, teach yourself to stop looking at it and most importantly… stop the alerts!  Alerts are a HUGE distraction.  For more on managing distractions click HERE.  

If you believe that what gets measured gets done then you had better start tracking your most important resource, your time.  Good luck in your quest to get control of your time.

Here are a few books I can recommend to help:

The Time Trap by Alec McKenzie

Personal Productivity Secrets by Maura Thomas

Getting Things Done by David Allen

And a few blogs:

Going Paperless by Jamie Todd Rubin

Evernote blog by Evernote

Follow me at TomCuthbert.com for tips on productivity

How To Fix 3 Bad Marketing Habits

by Danny Wong

We marketers sometimes don't always get it right.

We buy ad space on sites that look pretty. We giggle with glee when someone tweets about our product. We let out a victory cry when we are mentioned in the news. But often, marketers forget to ask the question: What will this do for our business?

Unfortunately, this is a frighteningly common problem. We forget that everything we do should somehow impact our business’ bottom line, and, instead, point to the number of page views our site received -- despite having miserable conversion rates and web sales.  

As a result, some marketers hit a plateau. They are married to a certain way of doing things and slip into a few bad habits:

1. The premium-press trap. “Look at how much success we’ve had. The Wall Street Journaland Oprah love our product. This week alone, 16 premium-press outlets mentioned us.”

But how many sales resulted from those enviable PR hits? For some, exposure in The New York Times can dramatically change their business. In the early stages of one of my startups, that was actually the case. Yet, Michael Ellsberg shares his example of how coveted features in theTimes and CNN led to underwhelming book sales. Instead, he attributes much of his book’s success to a guest post he “published on the blog of one lone dude in SF obsessed with fat loss, female orgasms and lifting Russian kettle bells.”

2. The no-metric loop. “This campaign works. I can’t give you exact numbers, it just does.”

If you’re not obsessed with analyzing the effectiveness of each of your marketing activities, you’re doing it wrong. Without measurable results, you are unable to know whether or not your efforts are getting better or worse.

3. The bandwagon mistake. “This is something everyone is doing; therefore, this is somethingwe should be doing.”

This is a completely invalid argument. Years ago, when social media was popularized, marketers by the swarms joined Twitter and Facebook. They created branded accounts only because so-called industry experts proclaimed social was the key to success and because all of their peers blindly followed the trend. Today, some of those marketers still have no clue what they’re doing in social media and still waste their time managing company profiles.

If you want to be a better marketer, don’t let bad habits dictate the pace of your professional growth. Resolve to stop making the same mistakes and to discover and cultivate new skills whilst honing existing ones.

Here is a simple guide to help you become a better marketer:

Identify critical business goals and metrics. Essentially, know your key performance indicators, or KPIs. Begin with a quantified understanding of how many new sales or users it will take for you to be successful and always keeping that end goal in mind.

List the things you do on a weekly basis. Understanding what you do is critical to self-improvement.

Estimate the time it takes to complete each task. Knowing how long things take provides valuable insight for the upcoming steps. 

Measure the relative impact of each task and weigh it against time spent. Consider these two scenarios: your weekly email newsletter brings in $1,500 in new sales and takes two hours to craft, deliver and manage and in a week, your pay-per-click campaign drives $3,000 worth of sales, costs $2,000 in ad spend, and requires five hours of weekly optimization and maintenance. Now, a question: Which marketing activity delivers greater profit-per-hour? Keep these metrics in mind when making future decisions. Commit to doing more things that are high-yield and low-investment.

Trim the fat. With the analysis from step four, you’re ready to make smarter decisions about your overall strategy. Stop doing things that are outrageously time-consuming and fail to drive results. (Hint: Remember your KPIs)

Spend 80 percent of your time on proven strategies and 20 percent experimenting with new tactics. Devote the bulk of your time towards efforts that are proven to work (so you’re productive), then budget a small chunk of time each week for “experimental projects” (so you’re always learning).

Go bold. Test your courage and grit with daring campaigns. Invest in your first native ad, pilot a web series or perform a public stunt. Effectively, you drive business metrics forward when you spend most of your time on “guaranteed hits” and use the remainder of your time to try new strategies that may be pivotal for your business’s growth.

Rinse and repeat. You do yourself a disservice when you do not quantify the impact of your work. You also fail as a marketer when you do not change up your rigid routine by introducing new methods and techniques to your marketing playbook. Do not repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Instead, make new ones.

Through constant experimentation and testing, you’ll fail often, but, in due time, you’ll identify a handful of wildly successful and scalable tactics that may grow your business quickly in a matter of months. 

Stop Trying to Control People or Make Them Happy

by Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman

Whether you’ve heard of them or not, two gurus from the early 20th century still dominate management thinking and practice — to our detriment.  It has been more than 100 years since Frederick Taylor, an American engineer working in the steel business, published his seminal work on the principles of scientific management.  And it has been more than 80 years ago since Elton Mayo, an Australian-born Harvard academic, produced his pioneering studies on human relations in the workplace.  Yet managers continue to follow Taylor’s “hard” approach — creating new structures, processes, and systems — when they need to address a management challenge.  Hence, the introduction of, say, a risk management team or a compliance unit or an innovation czar. And when managers need to boost morale and get people to work better together, they still follow Mayo’s “soft” approach — launching people initiatives such as off-site retreats, affiliation events or even lunchtime yoga classes.  If these approaches made sense in the first half of the twentieth century (and that’s open to question), they make no sense today. Indeed, if anything, their continued use is making things worse.

We are living in an age of mounting complexity. By our calculation, companies are operating in a competitive environment that is six times more complex than it was in 1955, when the Fortune 500 was launched.  For the best companies, this complex world is an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals. But, for too many companies saddled with approaches to management that are outdated and ineffectual, it presents a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

As they have responded to each new challenge, managers (as Taylor recommended) have introduced new structures, processes and systems. When this happens year after year, there is a damaging accretion of structural fixes — we estimate that the number of these has grown by a factor of thirty-five over the past 55 years. The consequence is what we call “complicatedness,” which spells trouble for a company’s productivity and leads employees to feel frustrated and to disengage. In the most complicated 20% of companies, employees spend large chunks of time on aimless activities that do not add value: For instance, writing reports or participating in internal meetings that have no impact.

There is, however, an alternative, a third way — one we call “Smart Simplicity.” We’ve developed this approach over the past 30 years of working with 500 companies in more than 40 countries around the world, and we introduce it in a new book called Six Simple Rules.  With “Smart Simplicity,” we put the cooperating individual at the heart of the modern organization. Where the Taylor school implicitly distrusts the individual worker and designs structural fixes for controlling their actions in a top-down, rigid, micro-managing way — albeit ameliorated by the softening effects of the people initiatives propounded by the Mayo school — we promote a radically different approach.

Simply put, companies are most productive when they harness — not hobble — the intelligence of their employees.  Six simple rules help managers get beyond the shackles of  the “hard” and “soft” management approaches we’ve inherited from our forefathers:

  1. Understand what your people do:  Start with a true understanding of what your people do and why they do it.
  2. Reinforce integrators: Foster cooperation by giving people the power and interest to do so.
  3. Increase the total quantity of power: Create new power, don’t just shift existing power.
  4. Increase reciprocity: Ensure people use their autonomy.
  5. Extend the shadow of the future: Create direct feedback loops.
  6. Reward those who cooperate:  Make transparency, innovation, and aspiration the best choices for individuals and teams.

No amount of structures, processes, and systems are ever enough to anticipate the kinds of problems employees face everyday on the front line of the business. So, instead, companies need to give their employees more autonomy and, at the same time, encourage them — impel them, even — to cooperate with each other. Only then, when they are liberated in this way, will employees be able to make critical judgments, balance complex trade-offs, and come up with creative solutions to new problems.

 

Build An Outstanding Team With Flawed People

by Jeff Haden
Great people make a great team—as long as you define “great” correctly. That’s a definition many CEOs, and bosses in general, often get wrong.

I worked in a manufacturing plant where productivity was everything. We spent significant time and effort working to improve efficiency, reduce waste, reduce downtime…typical improvement initiatives. As supervisors and managers we also spent a lot of time competing with each other. (You are what you measure.)

One manager decided team performance could be predicted and improved by quantifying the attributes of a great machine operator. He felt that if you could determine the key attributes, and measure potential team members against those attributes, that he could select and create a great team. So he tried to identify the “key attributes,” filling a dozen easel sheets with key skills and attributes.

The problem was, though, great operators possess a dizzying array of qualities. Many attributes were hard to quantify, like “self starter” and “team player.” So he narrowed his list to quantifiable attributes. One quantifiable attribute was mechanical aptitude.

Plenty of tests evaluate and measure mechanical knowledge. And intuitively it made sense: machine operators run machines, so mechanical knowledge must be important. And off he went, in short order creating a team filled with mechanical aptitude superstars.Yet my team—most of us with limited mechanical aptitude (based on testing my mechanical aptitude was the worst)—consistently outran his team by a wide margin.

Where did he go wrong? Faced with too many variables, many of them intangible and hard to quantify, he picked an attribute he could put a number on: mechanical aptitude. Never mind our plant’s equipment failed less than 4% of the time. Never mind we had skilled machinists who were seconds away if we needed help. Mechanical aptitude could be measured in a way hustle, teamwork, drive, and work ethic could not, even though those qualities were much more important. So he went with mechanical aptitude because it was something he could “know,” instead of focusing on other qualities that were more difficult to assess.

That’s a simple, and all too common, mistake.

Here’s how you can avoid it. The key is to recognize that every employee brings different skills and attitudes so your goal isn’t to ensure every employee is great; your goal is to ensure that as a team those employees can collectively be great. To build a great team:

Decide the key attribute every employee must have.

Forget about the stereotypically well-rounded employee for a moment. If you could only pick one attribute, what would you choose as the most important skill or quality a great employee needs to have to succeed in the position? Maybe it’s attitude, or interpersonal skills, or teamwork, or a specific skill set… whatever it is, that attribute is the foundation for individual employees and for your team. Training can fill in the gaps, but this is the attribute almost every employee must possess.

Decide the attribute every employee can’t have.

This one’s easy. Just complete this sentence: “I don’t care how great he is, I don’t want him on my team because he…” Typically your answer won’t be skills-based; it will be something like terrible interpersonal skills, a horrible work ethic, or a larger than life ego. Just identify the attribute you can’t live with and make sure it stays off your team.

Determine your threshold point.

You may not be able to build a team where every member possesses your most important attribute. In our case a crew was made up of six operators. We had room for one operator who wasn’t quite as fast on job changeovers but was a great leader. (In fact, he could serve as the poster boy for my definition of a remarkable employee.) The rest of us bridged his speed gap and we all benefitted from his leadership skills. Could we have afforded two operators on the team like him? No, probably not. Decide how many individuals who possess your most important attribute will be enough to make things work. If you can find more, that’s great. If not you’re still okay.

Put together the rest of your puzzle.

Knowing your threshold point frees you up to build a team with complementary skills. You can take on a great team player who is technically weaker, or a loner who is an outstanding problem solver, or a person with limited experience that possesses incredible hustle and drive. Never assume the only individual attributes that matter are attributes that can be measured. In some cases, when individual contributors work alone and largely outside the scope of a team, quantifiable skills may be all-important. But where teams are concerned, success is almost always the result of intangible qualities. Focus only on numbers—especially on the wrong numbers—and you build teams that on paper should perform well… but in practice never do.

Stop Pretending That You Can’t Give Candid Feedback

We’ve all heard the famous bromide that “honesty is the best policy.” But when it comes to performance feedback, honesty often falls by the wayside. Many managers hide behind performance management checklists or water down their feedback with generalizations. And on the other side of the equation, employees tend to position themselves in the most favorable light possible in their self-assessments, and avoid giving constructive feedback to the boss, even when it’s requested. The result is a lack of candid dialogue between boss and subordinate — which not only prevents the organization from improving, but also stymies individual development.

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The odd thing about this phenomenon is that everyone knows that performance feedback should be more candid. There are hundreds of articles about the value of candid assessments and most supervisory and management courses include some variation on how to have “courageous” conversations (corporate-speak for “honest”). There also are some organizations, such as GE and (the new) Ford under Alan Mulally, that insist upon it.

Research also shows that employees are far more engaged when they receive honest feedback; and that leaders who rate highest in managerial effectiveness are those who most actively seek feedback from others. Yet performance feedback continues to look like the Emperor’s New Clothes, where everyone pretends that it’s different than it is.

The reality is that candid, two-way dialogues are intensely uncomfortable and cause anxiety on both sides of the table. The boss, for example, often worries that too much candor might be hurtful or damaging. As one senior manager said to me, “If I tell this person what I really think, it could destabilize her and make it difficult for her to do her job.” At the same time, the boss may also want to be liked by the subordinate and doesn’t want the relationship to deteriorate, especially if they have to work side-by-side. So it’s easier to pull punches than to say something that might damage the relationship.

On the other side of the ledger, subordinates worry that negative feedback will adversely affect their job continuation, career prospects, or earning power — so they may appear defensive or anxious, which makes it even harder to have an honest conversation. And if the manager asks for feedback, many subordinates will try to say nice things as a way of currying favor, or signaling a quid-pro-quo arrangement of “I’ll give you positive feedback if you give me the same.”

The net result of all this angst and (largely unconscious) anxiety is a stilted, pro-forma, ritualistic, and not very productive pattern of dialogue about performance. It’s a pattern that adds little value to the organization or to managers and employees.

Unfortunately, given the powerful nature of the underlying psychological forces, it is difficult to break this pattern. Most people believe Jack Nicholson’s line from the movie, “A Few Good Men,” when he shouted: “You can’t handle the truth!” That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do. On the contrary, given the enormous value that more honest feedback can produce, here are three suggestions that might be worth exploring:

Acknowledge and discuss the difficulty of honest performance feedback. Whether you are the boss or subordinate, initiate conversation about the issue, the underlying psychology, and the value of getting it right. Use this blog post or other articles like it as a way to get the discussion started. The more you can build awareness of the dynamic, the better your chances of dealing with it.
Separate developmental feedback from job-security issues such as compensation and promotion. The easiest way to do this is to conduct these discussions at different times (even if your corporate process wants you to do them together). Doing this allows you to focus the conversation on how you and your subordinate can better accomplish key goals and projects — so the discussion is more work-related than “personal.” Making this explicit division removes some of the emotion from performance assessment and might free you up to be more candid.
Like any good skill, you need to practice. So don’t wait until the formal process kicks in and you’re under the gun to fill out forms and have a high-anxiety performance review. Instead, engage your people (or your boss) in a series of mini-discussions about how things are going and what can be done differently. The more frequently you have these conversations, the more comfortable they will become. Honest performance feedback is not easy. But learning how to do it well can make a huge difference both for you and for your organization.

Reprinted From HBR.org

MASTERING THE FINE ART OF GETTING TO THE POINT

by LYDIA DISHMAN

Joe McCormack thinks everything would be better if people could just get to the point. As the author of Brief and founder of the Sheffield Company, a marketing firm that focuses on helping clients craft concise messaging, he’s observed first hand how endless meetings, data dumps, and wordy emails are becoming the bane of business.

McCormack tells Fast Company this pain point comes from “the Four Is” a layered mix of irritants and impatience that add up to one permanent pain point:

  • Information Inundation: Every day the average American consumes 34GB of contentand checks their phone up to 150 times. Worker bees can get over 300 emails a week.
  • Inattention: We only truly focus for six hours per week. That’s because attention spans are shrinking. We’re down from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds today.
  • Impatience: McCormack’s Brief Lab discovered that nearly three quarters of professionals tune out of presentations within the first minute, stop reading an email after 30 seconds, and stop listening to colleagues after 15 seconds --all because they didn’t get to the point quickly.
  • Interruption: The average worker is interrupted around 60 times per day and doesn’t get back on task 40% of the time.
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With all this in play says McCormack, “Brevity is not a nice to have, it’s a need to have.” He believes it’s just bad manners to go long, just like it’s rude to be late.

Joe McCormack

“I could talk about being brief all day long,” McCormack deadpans. Instead, he boils it down to “the elusive 600.” People have a natural mental capacity to process 750 words a minute, McCormack explains, but we only speak at a rate of 150 words per minute. “If you do the math, brevity is about managing people's attention” as the spare 600 words rattle their focus.

Here are McCormack’s pointers on the fine art of getting to the point.

 

1. DON'T OVER-EXPLAIN

 

Everyone could use more preparation and self-editing. “Put yourself in the shoes of the person you are communicating with. Ask yourself: is there too much information they don’t need to know?” he says.

Whether sharing bad news or negative feedback, or simply sharing a new idea that you’ve fallen in love with, McCormack says take yourself out of it. “Out of empathy and respect for the other person, don’t over-explain.”

 

2. USE THE 5 WS

 

McCormack’s a fan of the journalistic approach to narrative. Keeping the who, what, where, when, and why top of mind can convert even the most complex ideas into an intriguing story for an audience.

 

3. REPLACE WORDS WITH IMAGES

 

You don’t need to be Picasso to use pictures to make a compelling point. McCormack says he recently saw an executive team describe a five-year vision by drawing stick figure pictures. “There’s a sense of vulnerability because you want people to understand,” he says, which makes a presentation more memorable. Videos and photographs work, too. “Do a little research on representative images online. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just interesting and connected to the topic.”

 

4. HARNESS THE POWER OF THE PAUSE

 

Especially in interviews or annual reviews, McCormack calls on the power of the pause. “They are strong weapon for brevity because it shows discipline, and doesn’t allow you to leak your nervousness and say things you didn’t intend.” Feel uncomfortable with silence? McCormack suggests looking at it this way: “It gives the person a chance to process what you just said.”

 

5. MAP YOUR COMMUNICATION

 

Speak in headlines and use a mind map, he advises. Before you press send, make a visual outline of your communication. Have the main point in the middle and concentric circles with a couple of other supporting facts around it. “People will thank you for it.”

Enough said.

10 Reasons to Stop Working So Hard

BY MINDA ZETLIN

It's time to add up all the ways in which working ridiculous hours hurts you and the people around you--and put a stop to the madness.

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"30 hours of working and still going strooong," 24-year-old copywriter Mita Dira tweeted from Indonesia on December 14. Only she wasn't. A few hours later she collapsed in a coma and died the following day, a victim of exhaustion, overwork, and an energy drink called Krating Daeng, also known as "Thai Red Bull."

Sadly, young people dying of overwork is not unheard-of in some parts of Asia, but this particular death quickly went viral. Partly it was because she worked for the American ad agency Young & Rubicam. Mostly it was that tweet, one of a series in which she recounted her ridiculously work-laden life. In one tweet earlier that year she contemplated moving her bed to the office.  In another she was delighted to arrive home before midnight.

Reading about her felt like a wake-up call. In addition to being a full-time freelance writer and president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, I've completed and am now selling a memoir, and I curate a popular reading series here in Woodstock, New York. Add many weeks of travel over the past few months and the pressures of Christmas shopping and family visits and somewhere along the way I had tipped over the edge. I was constantly at my desk, or else rushing, late for an appointment. I was nearly always short of sleep.

It was no good--not for me, or my family, or the publications I write for, or the organizations I serve. So I've taken Diran's story as an opportunity to stop, think about what's really important, and create a more rational work schedule. Yes, there are still long hours, but I'm making sure to have time for rest too, and even a whole day off every week or two. And yes, there have been some missed deadlines but not so many as I feared. I discovered that a well-rested person works much more efficiently than an exhausted one.

That's one good reason to stop working ridiculous hours. Here are 10 more:

1. Quantity kills quality.

You want to be excellent at what you do. But the more tasks you take on, the smaller your chance of doing an excellent job at any of them. Cutting as many items off your task list as you can ups the odds that you'll do a killer job on the things that matter most.

2. Sleep matters.

"The way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep," Arianna Huffington said in a 2011 TED talk. She would know. She fainted from exhaustion and broke her cheekbone and is now something of a sleep evangelist. "I was recently having dinner with a guy who bragged that he'd gotten only four hours' sleep the night before," she continued. She considered retorting: "If you had gotten five, this dinner would have been a lot more interesting."

3. You suck when it counts.

I can tell you from experience that going into a meeting tired and distracted means you will suck in that meeting. You'll be bad at generating new ideas, finding creative solutions to problems, and worst of all you'll suck at listening attentively to the people around you. That disrespects them and wastes their time as well as yours.

4. Your mood is a buzzkill.

The kind of irritability and impatience that goes with being overworked and behind schedule will cast a black cloud over the people around you both at work and at home. If you're an employee, it will damage your career. If you're a small business owner, it will harm your business.

5. Your judgment is impaired.

The research is conclusive: sleep deprivation impairs decision-making. As a leader, poor judgment is something you can't afford. Crossing some tasks off your to-do list, handing them to someone else, or finishing some things late is well worth it if it means you bring your full concentration and intelligence to the tough decisions your job requires.

6. You're setting a bad example.

The work schedule and tone you set for yourself will likely be mirrored by the smartest and most ambitious of your employees. What kind of leaders and bosses do you want them to be? Do you want the benefit of their brightest ideas and best judgment? Then don't create an environment where everyone vies to see how many hours they can work without falling over.

7. There will always be more work.

If you run your own business, there's always a new project to start, a new customer to pursue, or a new technology to try out. You'll never be out of new work to do. And if you work for someone else, getting a lot done will lead to being given more tasks. That can be a good thing, but only if you have the time and energy to do them with excellence.

8. You're hurting your relationships.

Somewhere along the way my husband sat me down and insisted that I make some time to talk with him every day. I'm blessed not only with a strong marriage but an unusually outspoken spouse. There may be people in your life feeling as shut out as he was who haven't come out and said so. Don't wait until it's too late.

9. You're screwing up your health.

Did Mita Diran know she was risking her life by working so hard? It seems clear from her tweets that she didn't, and if she had, she'd have made a different choice. I'm sure you're smart enough not to work 30 hours straight, but do you let your work schedule interfere with things like healthy eating and regular exercise, not to mention sleep? If so, then it's possible you're shortening your life by overwork. Is it worth it?

10. Most of the work is less important than you think.

A few years ago, hospice worker Bronnie Ware famously published the top five regrets she heard from her dying patients. Those who'd had careers all regretted the number of hours they spent at work. But many of her patients also spoke of dreams they wished they'd fulfilled.

Put those two items together and there's a lesson: If something will help you fulfill a lifelong dream, it's worth spending long hours. If not, then it isn't. So ask yourself: In 10 years, will I care about this? If the answer is no, then it's probably time to quit and go get some rest.

The 9 Traits That Define Great Leadership

BY PETER ECONOMY

To motivate your team to achieve the highest levels of performance (and create an extraordinary organization in the process) here are the qualities you should model every day.

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Many leaders are competent but few qualify as remarkable. If you want to join the ranks of the best of the best, make sure you embody all these qualities all the time. It isn't easy, but the rewards can be truly phenomenal.

1. Awareness  There is a difference between management and employees, bosses and workers. Leaders understand the nature of this difference and accept it; it informs their image, their actions, and their communication. They conduct themselves in a way that sets them apart from their employees--not in a manner that suggests they are better than others, but in a way that permits them to retain an objective perspective on everything that's going on in their organization.

2. Decisiveness All leaders must make tough decisions It goes with the job. They understand that in certain situations, difficult and timely decisions must be made in the best interests of the entire organization, decisions that require a firmness, authority, and finality that will not please everyone. Extraordinary leaders don't hesitate in such situations. They also know when not to act unilaterally but instead foster collaborative decision-making.

3. Empathy Extraordinary leaders praise in public and address problems in private. a genuine concern The best leaders guide employees through challenges, always on the lookout for solutions to foster the long-term success of the organization. Rather than making things personal when they encounter problems, or assigning blame to individuals, leaders look for constructive solutions and focus on moving forward.

4. Accountability Extraordinary leaders take responsibility for everyone's performance, including their own. They follow up on all outstanding issues, check in on employees, and monitor the effectiveness of company policies and procedures. When things are going well, they praise. When problems arise, they identify them quickly, seek solutions, and get things back on track.

5. Confidence Not only are the best leaders confident, but their confidence is contagious. Employees are naturally drawn to them, seek their advice, and feel more confident as a result. When challenged, they don’t give in too easily, because they know their ideas, opinions and strategies are well-informed and the result of much hard work. But when proven wrong they take responsibility and quickly act to improve the situations within their authority.

6. Optimism The very best leaders are source of positive energy. They communicate easily. They are intrinsically helpful and genuinely concerned for other people’s welfare. They always seem to have a solution and always know what to say to inspire and reassure. They avoid personal criticism and pessimistic thinking, and look for ways to gain consensus and get people to work together efficiently and effectively as a team.

7. Honesty Strong leaders treat people how they want to be treated. They are extremely ethical and believe that honesty, effort, and reliability form the foundation of success. They embody these values so overtly that no employee doubts their integrity for a minute. They share information openly and avoid spin control.

8. Focus Extraordinary leaders plan ahead and they are supremely organized. They think through multiple scenarios and the possible impacts of their decisions, while considering viable alternatives and making plans and strategies--all targeted toward success. Once prepared, they establish strategies, processes, and routines so that high performance is tangible, easily defined, and monitored. They communicate their plans to key players and have contingency plans in the event last-minute changes require a new direction (which they often do).

9. Inspiration Put it all together and what emerges is a picture of the truly inspiring leader: someone who communicates clearly, concisely, and often, and by doing so motivates everyone to give their best all the time. They challenge their people by setting high but attainable standards and expectations, and then giving them the support, tools, training, and latitude to pursue those goals and become the best employees they can possibly be. 

8 Qualities That Make Leaders Memorable

By Glenn Llopis

Leaders that strive to be significant seek to create the greatest impact and influence.   These are the types of leaders that we value the most; inspired by their courage and resiliency, we seek to emulate them. They are the most respected.  Leaders that are self-aware, are clear about their identity and expectations, have the backs of others and can be trusted – they are the ones we instinctively gravitate towards.  These are the leaders that are rare to find and will not soon be forgotten by their colleagues and the organizations they serve.   These are the leaders that can get the most out of very little, are grateful for the opportunity to lead, and always treat others like family.

Great leaders are the most memorable.  They go about their day leveraging their distinction   by leading in ways that come most naturally to them.  They are remembered and admired because they have their own unique style and approach that supports innovation and initiative and  are known  for making the workplace culture stronger, more  unified and collaborative.  The most memorable leaders always set the right tone.  Their presence and charisma are in service to others and they go out of their way to make their employees feel secure.  They embrace two-way communication and are active listeners.  They observe the dynamics around them and take pride in staying ahead of the game.   They are game changers and are constantly looking for ways to challenge the status quo; they identify and help course correct those who might bring the organization down and are quick to solve problems.

The most memorable leaders are change agents – never afraid to confront complacency and make the required changes to get the organization back on track.   My boss during my early corporate years was the most memorable leader I have ever worked for.   Mark quickly and respectfully evaluated the organization, its talent, shortfalls and the opportunities for growth.  He recognized that the culture needed a refresh and renewed energy.  He is the boss that helped shaped me into the leader I am today.  He injected a renewed sense of professionalism in the organization and made others feel more relevant and important.  He single-handedly used his unique leadership skills and capabilities to revive an organization that was growing complacent and needed some real leadership.   I was grateful to have experienced the transformational impact of great leadership at an early age. It made me realize that people just want to be led the right way – where they feel valued and can contribute in meaningful and purposeful ways.

Is your leader memorable for the right reasons – or are you stuck with a leader that is disrupting your career momentum?

Your leader impacts your career advancement and influences how you think, act and innovate more than you might imagine.  As you manage your career, be on the lookout for the following eight  qualities that make your leader extraordinarily memorable  and positively enrich your experiences along the way.

1.  Authenticity

The most authentic leaders are the most memorable.   These are the leaders that don’t play games nor exercise power plays.  They wear their intentions on their sleeves and make their expectations clear.  Authentic leaders are consistent, embrace diversity and encourage their people to share their ideas and ideals.  They know how to convert a melting pot into a mosaic.  They encourage an entrepreneurial attitude.

Authentic leaders are experts at identifying the unique skill sets that lie within every person – because they place an emphasis on individuality, one’s unique strengths, and they allow employees to have a voice that matters and is heard.   They allow their employees to discover their own identity and assign them roles and responsibilities where their contributions will enable them to flourish.

2.  Shares Their Wisdom

Memorable leaders are those who enjoy sharing their wisdom and secrets of success.   These types of leaders are great teachers and are the best mentors.   Their storytelling abilities alone make them memorable — but it’s the leadership lessons they share that you will come to appreciate later in your career because they carry the most weight and impact.

In fact, I will never advise people about something that I’ve never experienced (firsthand) myself because of my own experiences with great leaders who have shared their wisdom with me.  When you advise someone of something that you don’t know enough about (because you never experienced it), you are potentially putting that person into a position of great risk.    What is the point?  When leaders act as if they know the answers when they don’t, they are not doing you any favors.

Every year, I send a handwritten letter to those leaders and mentors who were most memorable to me and positively influenced my life.

3.  Does What Others Don’t

You know that you’ve worked with a lot of different types of leaders in your career when the personalities, styles and attitudes of leaders begin to recycle.   As such, over time leaders become predictable.   The most memorable leaders are truly unique and have an identity and presence about them that helps them stand out from the crowd.  They are the ones that support you in ways that others don’t.   They have your back and will stand-up for you when times get tough.   They sponsor you at work and help give you a platform to get discovered   and advance your career.

You know that your leader is unique when they consistently go out of their way to make you feel that you matter and/or attempt to leverage a skill or competency that other leaders neglected.  These leaders–are self-aware and trust themselves enough to appreciate the differences in others.

How many times have you felt that your talent was never fully appreciated or discovered by your leader?

4.  Embraces the Lessons of Failure

Leaders that allow you to learn from failure are those that are eager for you to grow and prosper.   They  view risk as their best friend.   I am not suggesting that leaders want you to fail – but if you should fail or experience any level of significant hardship, the most memorable leaders make sure that you learn valuable lessons.  These types of leaders know that failure is not fatal, but rather a time to teach you how to overcome adversity and avoid the same occurrence from repeating itself.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had great leaders that guided me rightly during some of the worst experiences of failure in my career.   For example, in my first senior role in my early 20s, one of my leaders flew cross-country with me to meet the client that I had experienced a shortcoming with.   She taught me that business was something that should never be taken personally.  If I did, I would have a long, unfulfilling career.  She also taught me   to avoid a repeat of this incident with better communication and fewer assumptions.  Without strong communication, things can get lost in translation and thus lead to poor decision making.      Needless to say, this leader of mine will never be forgotten.

5.  Gives You Their Valuable Time

Time is a leader’s most precious asset.  Everyone wants more time with them than they have available.  The most memorable leaders give you the time that they don’t always have.  They recognize that their employees need attention and will find a way to make the time to listen to their concerns and provide insights to the situation at hand.

You know the leaders that are simply going through the motions and growing complacent along the way.    They are not the ones giving their employees their valuable time and making them feel valued and recognized.  Many times an employee just wants to know that their leaders are paying attention to their work and acknowledging their efforts.

6.  Creates Special Moments

Memorable leaders create special moments.   They are extremely well tuned to their employee’s needs, the culture and the tone of the organization.   These types of leaders can quickly connect the dots and are aware of the internal and external politics and tension points that are being dealt with by employees each day.    Without notice, they will create a special moment to inspire and inform the organization that they are aware of the circumstances at hand and will attempt to lighten the mood with spontaneous acts of kindness – and an action plan of support.

These types of leaders make you feel that you are never alone and that they are willing to fight the fight with you at all times.    Employees that are led by leaders like this are the most valued and fulfilled in their jobs – because they feel a layer of security that looms over their tireless efforts.

7.  Makes You Feel Valued

The leaders that are most grateful for your hard work and efforts will be the most memorable.   When you feel genuinely appreciated – that you are not taken for granted – these are the times you feel that the 60+ hour work weeks are worth it.

Not enough leaders appreciate the work of their employees – especially in today’s unemployment world – where many employers remind their employees that they are fortunate just to have a job.     When a leader is self-absorbed, they tend to forget about the efforts of others.   This is when top-talent is lost and the efforts of others begin to wane.   When leaders value and respect their employees, retention will remain strong and people will work harder, with a greater sense of purpose, and with a passionate pursuit of excellence.

Leadership is all about people and leaders who forget this will be forgotten quickly.

8.  Leads to Leave a Legacy

Leaders that lead to leave a legacy are leading for the right reasons.  They know that success comes most to those who are surrounded by people that want their success to continue.   Leaders that are in it for the betterment of a healthier whole are rarely forgotten.    People enjoy teamwork in collaborative, group-think environments.

There is a difference between making a mark  and leaving a legacy.   When you make a mark, it means that you may have done something great, but not necessarily something that is of everlasting significance.  Legacy building is when the mark you created continues to grow and foster; where the people respect the legacy enough to sustain it.  Legacy becomes an embedded part of the organization, its culture, brand and history.

If you were to leave your organization today, what would be the legacy that you would be leaving behind?   What would be the legacy of your current leader?

When you lead to leave a legacy, your leadership is focused on significance and not just success; respect over recognition.

Ultimately, it is the leader who strives to have an impact that is bigger than just themselves who will be the most memorable – and for all the right reasons.   They will always leave an unforgettable impression and have long-lasting influence on you, your career, and the organization they serve.

4 Common Business Beliefs You Can Prove Wrong

By Stephan Aarstol 

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Even if they’ve never visited, most people consider Colombia a highly dangerous place fraught with crime. But every year, people flock there to paddle down the Amazon, trek through the jungle, tour ancient cities and relax on the Caribbean.

On a recent visit, I learned for myself that popular beliefs about Colombia have been wildly exaggerated. I’m not saying it’s 100 percent safe — certainly, it has its fair share of crime — but if I had avoided it due to this widely accepted belief, I would not have the fantastic memories I do today.

In life and in business, too many people cling to misconceptions that hold them back and ruin their chances for success and happiness. They think that by playing it safe and clinging to so-called “best practices,” they’re bound to succeed. But that’s not how business works.

Success Comes to Those Who Think Differently

Consider the words of Steve Jobs in Apple’s “Think Different” commercial:

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes — the ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.”

This isn’t just an advertisement — it’s the backbone of the Apple business model. And no one can argue that it hasn’t worked.

So how do you think differently? Let’s start off by identifying four of the most common business beliefs you should reject.

1.     We should do what our competitors are doing.

Leaders cling to this maxim — especially when the competitor has a higher profile or is well-established. The truth is that if a competitor is established, it means the operators have more money to burn, and they will inevitably find extraordinarily ineffective ways to burn it. Yet people still feel the need to follow their lead.

Forget the competition. The key is to assess your core assets and consider how you can leverage them to seize an advantage. When you do study the competition, you should be looking at what they’re doing so you can do something entirely different.

2.     The best dressed is the most successful.

Putting up a fancy front has an undeniable attraction. How can a business be taken seriously unless it has a cool office, slick marketing collateral and a presence at all the major events and tradeshows? The truth is that focusing on fluff can pull your mind away from the more important matters at hand, namely the cost structure of your business. I would venture to guess that this misguided diversion of focus is the cause of many business failures.

The reality is that the best dressed is just the best dressed. Period. Success in business is about identifying opportunities, continually innovating, creating compelling value propositions, executing effectively and efficiently, and developing long-term strategic competitive advantages. Don’t confuse the façade for the reality.

3.     People are primarily motivated by money.

All too often, business leaders think that the chief concern of their customers and employees is money: how much they’re paying or how much they’re paid. This is probably because money is a central concern in business, so leaders get wrapped up in its importance.

Humans are emotional creatures, and we crave purpose and value. Employees want to be paid fairly, but they also want to feel as though they’re part of a team. Customers take price into consideration, but they also pay attention to quality and convenience. By thinking that money is the most important motivator, business leaders lose the opportunity to build a more talented team and connect with customers on a deeper level.

4.     Don’t enter a market where there is competition.

This is like being the skier who insists on hitting only the slopes with virgin powder or veering off-piste. These are always the first skiers to shoot over cliffs or find themselves buried by avalanches.

Going into uncharted markets can involve a lot of expense and risk. You’ll end up spending a lot of time and money “educating the customer,” or perhaps you’ll find that your idea was a bad one from the get-go.

Thinking practically, if you enter a market that’s rife with competition, that actually validates your business model. Your goal shouldn’t be to avoid competition — it should be to outperform it.

These Misconceptions Are Actually Shortcuts

People love shortcuts, but success comes to those who are willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work. Anyone can copy competitors, but the standouts put in the effort to come up with innovative strategies.

Dressing well is effortless, while developing solid business fundamentals is difficult. Motivating people with money seems fairly easy, while figuring out creative ways to inspire them is a challenge. At first glance, entering a market with no competition sounds easier than one wrought with competition, but this is often not the truth.

Breaking away from the pack is mentally taxing. So are creativity, focus and executing effectively. To quote Thomas Edison, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Mediocrity comes to those who stay within the boundaries, and mediocrity in business is a recipe for failure. If you want to stand out from the competition, challenge every notion you have, color outside the lines, or, as Jobs said, “Think different.”

How To Make Sure Strategy Doesn’t Kill Your Business

By John R. Childress

Strategies are meant to carry companies onwards and upwards to lofty performance and competitive advantage. Sadly, in the majority of firms, big and small, strategies are rarely delivered and often die a silent death on a dusty shelf in the corner office, along with failed strategies from years gone by.

In a recent McKinsey & Co. study of 197 companies, despite 97 percent of directors believing they had the right “strategic vision,” only 33 percent reported achieving significant strategic success. Other studies confirm this wide gap between strategy and execution.

How is your company’s track record on execution? Are you long on plans and PowerPoint decks but short on results? What is the level of confidence among middle management and supervisors (where real work gets done) about being able to deliver on a major change program or aggressive set of business objectives?

So What Gets in the Way of Strategy Execution?

Recent studies have shown that besides the obvious, lack of funding and a bad strategy, there are several “invisible” yet powerful barriers to strategy execution. And most senior executives don’t know they exist.

  • Execution is usually an afterthought rather than an integral part of strategy formulation
  • Many initiatives are not directly linked to key strategic objectives. Too often we see pet projects wasting resources on disconnected initiatives.
  • Few employees have seen or understand the strategy. Without an understanding of the company strategy, employee engagement and new ideas are limited.
  • Corporate culture often acts as a barrier to the levels of teamwork. Openness and innovation are required for effective strategy delivery.
  • Disciplined governance of strategic initiatives is notoriously lacking, and day-to-day operations problems often hijack the attention of the senior team away from strategic issues.
  • Too often the strategy is developed by an outside consulting firm (after interviewing executives, of course), delivered to management in a dazzling presentation and a thick deck of slides, but with little real ownership by those left behind to implement it.
  • Poor alignment at the top and heavy silo focus leads to sub-optimization and resource conflicts, wasting valuable management time.

The Perfect Storm

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These and other barriers often combine to create the perfect storm, where an otherwise good strategy winds up being abandoned as too difficult, or in many cases, business-as-usual objectives get substituted for strategic objectives. As a result the company makes incremental progress when it really requires breakthrough performance.

How to Improve Your Strategy Execution

1. Breaking Down the Silos

Because of the traditional silo-focused structure of most organizations, the CEO is about the only individual who has a horizontal, enterprise-wide perspective. The rest of the senior team focuses on maximizing functional operations and meeting budgets. What is required is a shift by the senior team to focus on strategy alignment and execution, and delegate operational issues to managers.

2. Time is the Enemy of a Competitive Strategy

This refocusing of the role of the senior team has two key advantages. First it puts those who have the most authority at the center of the strategy delivery process, so that when a problem is discovered, the focus of the entire senior team is on fixing the problem, rather than the current scenario of endless meetings called by the program office to coordinate between groups and recommend a solution, which then must go upstairs for approval, to result in another set of meetings. All wasting precious time.

3. Downsizing Your Senior Team

The second advantage in making the senior team accountable for the strategy instead of departmental objectives is that it naturally leads to a reduction in the size of the senior team, something all CEOs struggle with. In the normal silo-focused organization, everyone wants to be on the senior team so their department will be represented, especially at budget time. Everyone is looking out for their silo and not the overall business strategy.

By shrinking the senior team to a few key decision makers whose job it is to support the delivery of the strategy horizontally across all organizational boundaries, decision making becomes faster and the ability to reposition people and corporate assets to better suit the enterprise is far easier. This realignment of the senior team also helps grow the next layer of management, who now must step up to assume a bigger role in running the day-to-day business.

Remember, Strategy is an Ongoing Process

Strategy is not static; it is not something that first gets developed and then implemented, precisely as laid out in the binders. Strategy and execution are intertwined, and understanding how they work together is the key to a successful strategy execution.

 

Bio: John R. Childress is a senior executive advisor with more than 35 years experience working with senior executive teams and global organizations on the role of culture, performance, leadership and strategy execution.An effective public speaker, Childress is the author of FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution. His writings bring best practices into a synthesis of sage advice for the CEO and business leader committed to improving culture and performance.His new book, LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture will be released on 01 December 2013.

5 Steps That Enable Bold Decisions

By Jeff Haden

Opinions. Feedback. Advice. Guidance. Counsel. Consensus!

Ugh.

Granted, it’s natural to look for input when we need to make decisions. And if asking for advice doesn’t come naturally, the business world trains us to actively solicit opinions, bounce ideas off other people, and run our ideas up proverbial flagpoles in order to harness the amazing brain power of the many to make awesomely incredible decisions.

Sometimes that approach works… but sometimes it’s the worst approach to take when you need to make a huge decision.

The main power wielded by group thinking is the power of the middle ground. Groups grind away the edges and the sharp corners. After all of the input and feedback and devil’s advocacy, what remains is safe, secure… and similar. One person making a decision enables boldness and originality — a “committee” making a decision ensures timidity and conventionality.

If you want to be different—if you want to achieve “different”—the only opinion that truly matters is yours. Group decisions give you an out. Other people can be at least partly responsible. Other people can be wrong.

When you make the decision, everything rests on you: your vision, your passion, your motivation, and your sense of responsibility. So you’ll try harder if only to prove others wrong. You’ll fight through every obstacle and roadblock, if only to prove yourself right.

You will do everything possible to make it happen.

So when you need to make a huge decision, this is how to get input and opinions—while still making sure you, and only you, make the final decision:

1. Take a “crazy” idea.

Choose something you believe in late at night but in the cold light of day hesitate to try.

Or choose an idea you’ve been told will never work.

2. Then seek data, not opinions.

Input from other people is useful, but only if you see that input as data points and not opinions.

Opinions carry extra weight, like the weight of credibility (he’s really smart, so I’m sure he’s right), the weight of guilt (if it turns out he’s right, I’ll never hear the end of it), or the weight of safety (yeah, there probably is a reason no one has tried this before).

“I think you’re crazy to try to open a store in that market,” is an opinion. It may be accurate or may not be accurate; either way, it’s still just an opinion.

If you value the person’s perspective, ask how he or she arrived at that opinion. Always look for the data behind the conclusion.

Otherwise ignore everything that isn’t data—warnings, cautionary tales, and well-intentioned but poorly founded advice—since you already know all those things anyway.

3. Evaluate the data.

Data analysis is easy when opinions and “weight” are stripped away.

Make a pros and cons list. Apply sensitivities. Be objective. Be smart. You know how.

4. Decide how strongly you believe.

Analysis will only take you so far, since critical thinking tends to steer decisions towards conventional wisdom.

An innovative product only looks like a sure thing in hindsight. The emergence of a new industry only seems inevitable after it has emerged.

At some point, someone believed when others didn’t, so then…

5. … decide if that someone is you.

If you believe when others don’t–and a major portion of your belief is based on analysis and not gut feel—then go for it. Start a new initiative. End a struggling initiative. Enter a new market. Take a chance on a new product.

Go for it, knowing you’ll go harder and faster and longer because the only person that really matters made the decision.

You.

Practical Steps for Finding a Job in a Tough Economy

Finding a job today, especially for a young person, is tough.  The world is changing and even though the millennial generation is well versed in the digital world, many lack an understanding of how to use this to their advantage. Today, resumes are scanned digitally and so paper is passé.  The days of nice stock, fancy fonts and embossed letterhead are gone forever.  The key today is to stand out from the crowd, highlight your true strengths and network, network, network.

There are four specific assets you need to land a job.  Each has their own unique benefits and each must be complimented with a sprinkling of throw back common sense and values.  Here are the assets and how I suggest they should be best utilized:

1)  Your brand – A brand is who you are as perceived by others. 

Website:  The best vehicle to do this is a personal domain name pointed to your website.  There are lots of free or inexpensive websites to choose from.  My daughter chose Wix.com and I use Squarespace, both are very good and easy to use. 

The purpose of your website is so that employers can get to know who you are.  Start with a picture of yourself.  Don’t make it formal but something possibly relating to your field.  For example my daughter is in medicine and her picture has her in a lab coat.  Add a few pictures of yourself doing activities you enjoy or serving in the community.  Employers are looking for more than applicants.  What you do outside the classroom or work environment is important.as well.

Describe yourself as you would to a new friend.  Talk about interests, hobbies, travels and life.  If you have quotes from former employers or references add those as well.  Don’t make your website about your education or work experience. Make it about you.

Domain name:  I recognize not everyone can be blessed (or cursed!) to have an uncommon name such as Tom Cuthbert.  Find a domain name that is you or close to your name.  Any hosting company can help with this and point it to your website.  I use www.GKG.net.  It is inexpensive and the phone support is very good.

Email:  Ideally get yourname@yourdomainname.com.  If you don’t associate your email with your domain then be sure your email address is not cheesy, suggestive or embarrassing..  Get your name @ gmail.com or yahoo .com.  Your brand assets need to align as best you can. 

Phone number:  Most people don’t think about this.  You will want to put your phone number on your website, your resume and your LinkedIn profile.  All of these will, of course, be all over the Internet.  Not a good idea!  The answer is Google Voice.  Get a free Google Voice number and simply forward it to your cell phone.  Be sure you use the custom greeting to sound professional.  Your voice, is the first “human” interaction that recruiters and HR people will have with you, make it count.  My daughter is moving to another city so her Google Voice number has a local area code, a nice touch.

Note:  DO NOT put your home address or your parents home address on public sites.  Mail or email them to recruiters and HR professionals but you do not want to put yourself or your family at risk.

2) Your information:  A good resume is a must and girth does not equal worth.  The Twitter generation needs to learn to communicate succinctly, highlighting the positives and value of you as a person.  The most common mistake people make is they fill in a bunch of information about what they did or facts about education and work history.  This is the wrong approach.

The two resumes above include a heat map of recruiters' eye movements. The one on the right was looked at more thoroughly than the one of the left because of its clear and concise format.

The two resumes above include a heat map of recruiters' eye movements. The one on the right was looked at more thoroughly than the one of the left because of its clear and concise format.

Put your name, phone number, email address and website address across the top.  Add a professional picture of yourself to the resume, different than the one on your website.

Spend time on your objective.  Don’t say what everyone else says.  Be specific, creative and speak with passion.  I read one recently that said, "I am seeking a position to teach children where I can use my creativity and education to enhance their lives.”  Uh, no!  

Instead try, “I have had a desire to teach children since I was a child myself.  My heart and mind easily focus on their needs and the heroes in my life are those who have committed themselves to education.  I am looking for an opportunity as an elementary teacher at a school that shares my passion, can equip me to teach and allow me to grow to become a role model for others.”

Tailor your objective to match yourself and for the specific type of job you are looking for.  A good objective should communicate three things:

1) Specifically what you are looking for

2) A trait or two you have that matches the job (meaning I will be good at this because I have a passion/ education/experience...)

3) A "commitment" or "hook" such as, "I have dedicated myself to both enhancing my own skill set while improving the effectiveness of my employers communication"

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Read this carefully… you must communicate what what you did, did for your company.  Think about how successful companies sell their products.  The value is not in what the product is or does, the value is in what the product or service does for their customers.  Writing a resume is no different than writing an ad to sell a product or service.  Focus on the outcome of the work you did.  How did it change lives, move the needle, grow a business or solve a problem.

A good resume should be one page, unless you have a great deal of relevant education or are in the medical field.  Be succinct and start with the aspect of your experience or education that is the most impressive.  In each experience, connect what you di to what it did for others.  Use a simple font size 12 or 13 and don’t get fancy.  End with “References available upon request”.  Save it as a PDF and have printed copies available as well.

Try this exercise.  Hold up your right hand and spread out all five fingers.  Now hold up your left hand with all five fingers.  Have your hands face each other.  Imagine that each finger on your right hand is an asset YOU possess.  Now imagine that each finger on your left hand is a NEED that your future employer has.  NOW... slowly touch each finger together... pinkie to pinkie, pointer to pointer and so on.

This is exactly the way employers read resumes... how does this person match the needs we have.   You can sell yourself once you get in front of them and your resume is the tool to get you in front of a potential employer.  

3)  Your networkLinkedIn is here to stay.  It is changing they way business is done and smart people understand how to leverage LinkedIn to connect.  Unlike your resume, you want your LinkedIn profile to be full and rich.

Start with your picture.  It should walk the line between the personal photo and the business photo.  Work on your headline and be engaging.  Again, your headline should not be simply what you do.  Let it represent where you are in life, something about what you do and most importantly, where you are going.

List all relevant work experience, education, service, organizations and service.  Include details, dates and description.  Fill it up and repeat words that relate to your job search.  The summary is critical.  Spend time describing you as a person, your interests, education and experience.  Think of it as an expanded version of your resume objective.  Add in specialties and areas of expertise.

LinkedIn now allows videos, which are a great way to display who you are and your ability to communicate.  Take advantage of this if possible; just be sure it is relevant and well produced.

LinkedIn has become the place to be and be seen in the business community. Start to build your network with people you know well.  Find friends and connect.  Networking is all about giving so find ways to add value to members of your network.  Leverage your friend’s relationships to request connections with those in the industries you are interested in.  Don’t overplay this, beg or sound desperate.  Have a business reason for the connection and offer to help them as well.  Get involved in groups relevant to your industry, post and comment on articles.

Be sure your news feed is active with interesting and relevant articles.  I use Buffer to keep a steady stream of information flowing to my LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ pages.  You can set frequency and time of day.  Don’t overwhelm people but you do want an active news feed. It shows you are a professional in your field.

Complete your profile with endorsements.  You need at least 10 from credible friends, references and those who know you best.  Use these references to create a reference list.  You will need this to send as a follow up or attachment with your resume.

4) Your Persona:  The goal of all of the assets described above is to get you in front of the right person to hire you.  I am amazed at the number of people I meet who “look good on paper” but fall short in person.  Don’t let this happen to you.  I recently had a young man in my office.  His father had requested my help in teaching his son how to interview.  This young man was bright, had a great background and wonderful education.  After five minutes I asked him to stand up and walk out of my office.  “Try again”, I said.  This time I coached him on proper greeting.  It makes all the difference in the world.

Start with a firm handshake.  Three shakes and you’re done.  Don’t break fingers or grip it loosely.  Stand tall.  Don’t slump or lean.  Get your hands out of your pocket (or at least one of them!).  Make eye contact often.  At this point you’ve come a long way and worked very hard to get your shot.  PRACTICE this before your meeting.  Do not overlook this step. 

Finally how people follow up (or not) says a lot about who they truly are.  Order inexpensive stationary.  I suggest VistaPrint or Overnight Prints.  Make it look clean but nice and include your name, address and website on the outside.  Take the time to send a hand written (I mean HAND written) note to the person who has taken time for you.  Send these to referral sources, references, HR mangers, executives and anyone who has taken time to help you get your shot at the right job. 

This approach is only the beginning.  You are the one that can find yourself the job you really want and can have success.  Don't skip any steps and rely on all your resources.  These resources include family, friends, your network and associates.  Don't hesitate to ask for help and always, always say thank you!

Tom Cuthbert

 

 

How to Turn Around Nearly Anything

By Rosabeth Moss Kanter via Harvard Business Review

The Boston Red Sox 2013 World Series championship will long be remembered as proof that you can turn around nearly anything. The team ended last season at the bottom of the standings (Las Vegas odds were 28 to 1 that they’d make it to the World Series), but rallied this year. With renewed solidarity and determination, the beard-wearing Sox went on to win the division, the playoffs, and the big prize.

Their game is baseball, my game is change. I’ve been involved with turnarounds for years, including observing and writing about the Red Sox 2004 World Series win that reversed many decades of being almost-rans. In turbulent times, turnarounds are increasingly a fact of life. Some companies need to be rescued from the brink of extinction (BlackBerry), but that’s not the only kind of turnaround. Others need a course correction while still  profitable (Microsoft), or a momentum shift because of disruptive new technologies (newspaper companies). Red Sox owner John Henry recently purchased one of those newspapers needing a momentum shift, the Boston Globe. For the Globe and its counterparts, the competition is not one rival or game at a time, like baseball; it is multiple digital media offerings and others-to-be-named-later. Henry, like any leader seeking strategic change, can benefit from these turnaround lessons.

Be prepared for bad news; the situation is always worse than you think. One symptom of decline is withholding information. Inconvenient facts are papered over. Decisions are made behind closed doors. Accusations and blame abound. So it is almost impossible to know the full extent of problems. When Avon Products CEO Sheri McCoy took the helm in April 2012, she acknowledged that resolving a bribery crisis in China would be a slow process, but she had no idea how slow — it’s proving to take longer and cost more, she told analysts, while also mounting multiple initiatives. Facing the facts squarely is a turnaround imperative. Open dialogue encourages everyone to see their role in the fix-up.

Identify the core assets that create value for customers, and refurbish them. For newspaper companies, that’s the news rather than the paper. For The Weather Channel Company, that’s the weather rather than the TV channel; to unlock growth opportunities, new CEO David Kenny returned science to the center and took out channel in the name — it’s now just The Weather Company. At the British Broadcasting Corporation, a turnaround leader reallocated resources from corporate staff to program producers. A bankrupt community health center repaired leaky ceilings in medical examination rooms. Forget bureaucrats, fancy lobbies, and marketing expense! They first restored the assets determining whether people use a health center.

Find a meaningful unifying purpose. Teams and companies with negative momentum are characterized by fragmentation — a drift into many activities that get tacked on and stay, becoming ends in themselves. Territories get hardened, and people seem to be out for themselves. It is too easy to lose sight of the larger purpose of being together. Why does this company/team/relationship matter? What is a common definition of success? For airlines, it is on-time performance. For consumer products company Procter & Gamble, it is improving lives, translated in the baby care group into helping babies thrive.

Invest in teambuilding – a cliché but still true. Convene strategy retreats and mountain-climbing excursions, as Shinhan, a South Korean company did. This was a vital step in healing old wounds and going on to stellar performance at the top of the Korean stock market. Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino echoes this winning strategy: “I used to believe in biology, not chemistry. Give me big and strong and fast,” he said. “I’m a big believer now in team chemistry. You almost always have it when you win, and oftentimes it is team chemistry that leads to winning.” His quote stood for every other turnaround examined in my book Confidence.

Give voice to people who haven’t been heard. Every company/community/school is full of buried treasure. Find the ideas that might have been suppressed and bring them into the open or into action. Think small as well as big. Turnarounds operate on several time frames. There are big strategies and systems that take a long time to shift — think IT, which almost never works the first time, as Americans see in the hasty failed implementation of the Affordable Care Act website. Meanwhile, there are numerous small wins if everyone is engaged. While Verizon worked on shifting the momentum from landlines and voice to smartphones, FiOS (fiber-optic communication systems), and cloud services, mini-innovators created software and streamlined processes.

These lessons work in companies, communities, countries, sports teams, and even families. The key is to spot symptoms of decline before they accumulate, and then shift toward the actions that build positive momentum.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a professor at Harvard Business School and the author of Confidence and SuperCorp. Her 2011 HBR article, "How Great Companies Think Differently," won a McKinsey Award for best article. Connect with her on Facebook or atTwitter.com/RosabethKanter.

New Leaders Should Act Fast

A McKinsey study shows that new CEOs should let their vision set in quickly in order to see the best return.  

Whenever a company brings on a new CEO, the big question always concern what kinds of changes are forthcoming, and how quickly. The findings of a newly-published McKinsey study suggest that the answer to the second part of the question should be, "As soon as possible."

The study was based on 20 years of data from 1,500 public U.S. companies, and it sought to determine the effects of how newly-onboarded CEOs reallocate corporate resources.

The faster a new leader moves in this regard, the study found, the greater the return for shareholders--and the longer the CEO's tenure.

Companies saw both the best returns to the shareholders and longer 

Three quarters of CEOs who moved quickly in changing how resources were deployed lasted more than six years in the position, compared to 65 percent of "slow" CEOs. Shareholders saw more than a 2 percent return from "fast" leaders compared to their slow counterparts.

The study also found that CEOs brought from the outside of a company find it easier to shift gears while those promoted internally to the executive chair struggle to make the change. And the data show that executives who make changes in their top management teams early on also see a stronger return in the long run.

The study suggests that that new leaders should take the reins and give their vision prudence. Stephen Hill and Conor Kehoe, the report's authors, suggest four keys to making it happen.

1. Explain the reallocation strategy clearly. 
Be upfront with stakeholders, the authors instruct, that reallocation may lead to short-term hits, but let them know the long-term benefits.

2. Be bold.
The study turned up no indications that reallocating too much would ultimately wind up hurting shareholders.

3. "Own" the careers of senior corporate talent.
"CEOs must ensure that they are free to deploy good people to manage new or expanded activities across the corporate portfolio," Hill and Kehoe write.

4. Enlist board support.
A new leader is probably going to have the backing of the board. As such, the CEO should ask their help in implementing his or her vision. 

by Adam Vaccaro

The Power of Listening

"Every employee needs to be noticed. Sure, you're busy,
but taking the time for a conversation can pay off."

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By Vanessa Merit Nornberg

As business owners, we always have too little time and too many tasks on our to-do list. As we prioritize all of those tasks, we sometimes lose sight of the very important need to notice how our employees

 are doing and the specific ways in which they are working. While this may seem to be a non-urgent issue that can get shuffled down the list in lieu of a more pressing fire to put out, it is actually very crucial to keeping the business running smoothly. Here is what I learned from conversations with my staff over the past few weeks.

Sometimes you just need to be a sounding board. I recently stopped by a salesperson’s desk because I heard her sighing in frustration as I passed by. When I asked what was happening, she began to complain about a problem she had encountered. Immediately, I began to listen as a business owner and manager. I quickly asked some questions about the solutions she had tried and started suggesting additional ways to address the issue. To my surprise, the staff member in question looked annoyed rather than receptive to my comments. Rather than be put off by her attitude, I asked why she seemed unhappy with the solutions I offered. She told me that she did not need solutions. She had just wanted me to understand what she was up against and provide her with a few words of empathy.

This reminder to listen without always trying to fix things was valuable to me. Smart people are usually able to work out their own solutions, but they still need a sounding board from time to time, so they can vent a little and perform their own self-check before re-finding the path to productivity.

A closer look is always worth the time. A new recruit seemed to be doing well at first, but overhearing one of her calls recently set off alarm bells for me. The call ended too quickly and as I stopped what I was doing and began listening to more calls, I realized she was missing some important tools in helping our customers the best she could. I made time to ask her about her calls, and in the process, discovered that she had some organizational issues that we could easily address as well as some sales questions she had been timid about asking. Together we re-organized her call calendar, created a weekly contact plan, and re-visited some of the training lessons with additional examples so she felt confident about her conversations with customers.

Then I began checking in with her for five minutes each morning to discuss her roadmap for the day. I also allocated 30 minutes during each afternoon to hear her calls and help her tweak her dialogue as it unfolded. She saw the results in her sales immediately, and because I was directly interacting with her regularly, she added extra initiatives to accelerate her progress even further. My noticing her struggle gave her the chance to voice her weaknesses without making her feel stupid and gave way to great improvements in a short period of time.

Even rock stars require encouragement. My best employees are self-motivated, require little supervision, and move the company forward much like I do, basing their decisions on a combination of intuition and analysis with a healthy dose of willpower. Because I know they are highly operational without any intervention from me, if I don’t get time to catch-up with them in a given week, I don’t worry too much. When my highest earner didn’t seem to be making some of the secondary goals we had set for her recently, I began to check in more regularly again. As I did, I realized that there was a marked difference in both her focus and work output.

Even though she can do her job smashingly without my guidance, showing her I was paying attention gave her a new drive to push the bar higher. Merchandising got even better, samples went out more frequently and her problem-solving got more creative. All of which made me understand that checking in proactively, and not just when something was amiss, was vital for the strongest as well as the weaker players on my team.

The bottom line is this: Noticing needs to happen all the time, not just when we decide we have the time.

3 Ways to Set Goals You'll Actually Achieve

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Much of 2013 has already passed. Are you happy with what you have accomplished over the last several months? What goals still have to be completed? Can you identify a new goal you have now because your business shifted since the beginning of the year? Taking time to reflect is important to move your business forward.

So, how do you set goals you will actually meet? Here are three powerful steps:

1. Identify what works for you.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. In school we are expected to get high grades in everything we do. But the fact is everyone excels at some things and is less effective at others. Take a personal inventory. Discover your strengths and structure your goals to play to those strengths. For example, perhaps you want to be healthier but hate most exercise and are too busy to find time. However, you love biking. Setting a goal to bike to the office twice a week allows you to move forward in getting healthier, is achievable and integrates an existing strength. (If biking isn't your thing, leave a comment below and I'll drop in with another idea for you!)

2. Figure out what isn't working.
Everyone has weaknesses. By acknowledging our weaknesses we can minimize them. For example, perhaps you struggle with staying on top of business trends. In the past, I spent significant time reviewing the Wall Street Journal and other papers to look for news that affected my clients. When I determined how much time I was spending reading these papers I realized there had to be a better way.

I have programmed Google Alerts to send me notices when articles about topics I care about appear online, in magazines or in the paper, or when authors I follow have published something new. I still get the news I need, but in significantly less time. By identifying what was NOT working as well as I'd like, I was able to identify other systems to get the results I wanted more effectively.

3. Begin where you are.
Have you ever ended a day and thought "Where did all my time go?" There always seems to be more to do than time to do it. Figuring out how you currently use your time is an important step to making your time use more effective.

Right now, figure out where your time goes. Get a piece of paper and write down everything you do from when you wake up until 10 in the morning. Everything. Keep this list with you over the next week and add to it.

Why is this important? When we know what is competing for our time, energy and focus, we can make informed decisions. Once you know what you are currently doing you have the opportunity to "create time." Change what you do and you change what you get.

As you look back on to the start of the year and ahead to its end, remember that by identifying your strengths and reworking your areas of weakness, you can create goals that will not only motivate you, but that you will achieve.

By Jason W. Womack, founder of The Womack Company, a productivity-training firm based in Ojai, Calif. He is author of Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More (Wiley, 2012).