The Path to Leadership

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Too often people conflate leadership and management. The common misunderstanding is that in order to lead you need a title and authority. The opposite is true of leadership. Leaders don’t need a title to make an impact. Leadership is organic and it happens over time. Once you recognize that you have power without needing permission from anyone, you are on your way to becoming a leader.

When people realize they have the power to become a leader, they often seek out resources to tell them how. They’ll read books about leadership and listen to podcasts that outline traits and characteristics of great leaders. All of these resources are very helpful, but they often don’t answer the “how” question. “How do I become a leader?” A simple question deserves a simple answer, focus your efforts on selflessly helping others and be willing to help solve problems.  

Another answer to the “how” question is courage. You must have the courage to fail, step outside of your comfort zones and act with integrity, even if it is unpopular. It’s okay if you find yourself in situations where your heart will be racing and your stomach will be in knots. The thing to remember is that leaders will find a way to overcome that fear and tackle the obstacle. Seeing this courage is what makes people want to follow your lead. (Read more about courage here).

Once you realize your individual power, focus on helping others and solving problems, and build up our courage, the rest falls into place. If people see you as someone that cares about their well-being and someone that can resolve an issue or move things forward, you will gain their trust. And once you develop trust, you’re well on your way to becoming a great leader.

What steps did you take to become a leader? Share your story in the comment section.

The Exit Strategy

How Leaders Should Handle an Employee Leaving

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When we hire new people, we take them under our wing, enfold them into our circle of trust, and work hard to ensure their future success. Yet when they resign, many managers become distant and isolate their once beloved employee. Losing people can feel deeply personal and it is easy to let our emotions over take our mind. But good leaders must resist the temptation to shun the outgoing employee and instead make their last days as memorable as their first.

This is an unconventional approach, but what we should be doing is spending their last days with us acknowledging the great work they did, sharing what will be missed about them, letting them know that they will be always be supported, and gaining as much knowledge from them as possible. This is not only the right thing to do, but it will also keep the employee motivated to pass on critical information to help the team continue to succeed. And it leaves the door open for the possibility to return to the company one day. Even more important, by treating the employee well, they’ll become an ambassador for your company.  

“What if we created companies that were great places to be from, and everyone who leaves you becomes an ambassador for not only your product, but for who you are and how you operate,” said Patty McCord, former chief talent officer at Netflix, during The Way We Work segment by TED. “When you spread that kind of excitement throughout the world, then we make all of our companies better.”

If all leaders embraced this philosophy, imagine the network we would build that is built on encouragement and empowerment. We shouldn’t question their loyalty or doubt ourselves as leaders if they decide to leave to better themselves. If they go on to do something that helps them progress in their career and if it makes them happy, we should be supportive. The purpose of leadership is to serve others and by leading the way, you are modeling the behavior of someone that truly cares about your people.

According to Kathryn Minshew, co-founder and CEO of the Muse, research has revealed that 58 percent of the next gen workforce plan to change jobs in coming year. While it is true that some people leave companies due to their relationship with their boss, the other main reasons include the ability to learn and grow and work-life balance. The truth is sometimes people out grow the job and the company doesn’t have opportunities at the right time to provide the next step in their career. As leaders, we shouldn’t fault others for wanting to improve and progress in their career. If you treated the person well, gave him/her stretch projects, allowed for autonomy, challenged him/her to take risks, provided useful feedback, then you likely played a role in this new opportunity and you too should feel proud.

As McCord said, “careers are journeys,” and the best journeys require us to step outside of our comfort zone by trying new things. As leaders it is okay for us to feel sad and disappointed when you lose a great employee, but just remember you should feel proud, knowing that you contributed to their journey and help set them up for the next step in their career. Don’t burn a bridge due to ego, instead work hard to rise above the negative feelings. Show them the respect they desire by continuing the relationship, keeping lines of communication open, and genuinely wishing them well.

Author’s Note: It is completely acceptable and understandable to cut off ties quickly if the employee is going to work for a competitor. However, leaders should still act with grace and wish the former employee well. If you remain focused and committed to your people and your core values, you will continue to succeed, and hopefully your former employee will too.

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

A Guide to Writing Effective Talking Points


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Marketing and communications professionals are responsible for creating talking points for media interviews, speeches, product launches, creative briefs, and much more. The talking points document is a foundational communications tool, used to help effectively shape and share messages with your audience (to read more about messaging, read my blog about delivering news to your stakeholders). While it may seem complex, when you break it down, you’ll find that the best talking points are the result of curiosity, attention to detail, a positive attitude, thinking from different perspectives and the willingness to put in the time.

When you begin developing your talking points, it is essential to think through every aspect of what you are trying to communicate. You should be thinking about your loyal customers and your biggest critics reaction to each talking point. When you create your message based on several different points of view, you are ensuring the points won’t leave room for ambiguity and you will likely be able to silence a majority of your detractors.

Below are 12 tips to help you create effective talking points. The guide below should be used as an outline. It’s important to note, you won’t end up using everything that you write throughout this process. The point of going through each step is to help you think through your talking points and ensure thoroughness. Once you complete the process, you’ll review the work and then select the most important points. By putting in the time, you’ll hone in on the message that will resonate with all types of audiences.

1. Outline the Five W’s
Start with the basics. Think through the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Don’t just gloss over this point as it is the foundation to your talking points. This is your time to get in the weeds and think through what is most important. You might be surprised what will reveal itself when you take the time to think through things.

2. Tell the Truth, and Stick to the Facts
You should always be truthful when creating your talking points. The best way to do this is to stick to the facts. In today’s world, people can tell when you aren’t authentic or if you are trying to spin the message.  

3. Make It Exciting and Focus on the Positive
It is always best to focus on the positive. This is your chance to share the great news about the benefits, features, differentiators, progress, etc. Look for all the positive aspects and use stories. Then find a way to weave the personal stories and highlights into your talking points.  

4. If There Are Negative Topics to Address, Tackle Them Head On
It is inevitable that you will have to create talking points to address a crisis or negative attention. Don’t hide from your mistake. Instead, acknowledge the error and focus on what you are doing to fix the issue. People appreciate those that take ownership and come to the table with a solution. When determining your talking point about the unfortunate issue, don’t forget about tip number two.

5. Make It About the Consumer
As with all things related to marketing and communications, you must consider your audience. Be sure what you write will resonate with the people that will be receiving your message.

6. Think About How the Skeptics Might Respond and Incorporate Counter-Arguments
It is likely that there will be people that will try to poke holes in your talking points. Beat them to it by thinking like a skeptic. What will their arguments be for why you are wrong or why your product won’t do the things you say it will. If you need a source of inspiration, look at the comments in your product reviews and on your social media channels.

7. Be Aware of Your Biases and Heuristics
When we work for companies and people that need talking points, we likely care deeply about its/their success. It is easy to let our emotions overrun our logic. Resist the desire to get caught up in only how you see the company. Remember you have inside knowledge that your audience doesn’t have, and that can cloud your ability to think logically about what information to share. Instead, think like an outsider and question everything.

8. Think About Who Will Be Delivering the Talking Points
Sometimes talking points are used in written format and other times they are delivered verbally. Either way, you must make sure the talking points are in the same voice and tone as the person delivering them to ensure they come off as authentic.  

9. Look for gaps in Your Talking Points
Now that you have made it this far, review your work and look for any holes in the messaging. What is missing? What bullet point could use more detail? How can you position the message differently? A great way to identify gaps is to test the talking points on someone that isn’t as familiar with the topic or isn’t as invested. Having a fresh perspective will help you refine and maximize your message.

10. Could a Fifth Grader Understand What You Are Talking About
Make sure you don’t include any company or industry jargon or acronyms. If your message is meant for the general population, don’t use fancy vocabulary that won’t translate properly to your audience. Finally, don’t include too many figures (remember tip three, you don’t want to bore people with too many statistics and numbers – unless your talking points are meant for a finance/accounting/shareholder audience).

11. Keep Them Short and Simple
You shouldn’t include more than three to five bullets because talking points are meant to be high level. Don’t get bogged down in the details. Share the highlights and leave the minutia for your internal meetings. People have a short attention span and the media just takes short clips for their articles or broadcasts, so keep it brief.  

12. Organize Your Points by Priority
Now that you have worked your way through all the detail, it is time to get your red pen out. Identifying a select few key points and focus on making them as impactful and informative as possible. Now that you’ve created effective talking points, don’t forget the call to action.

By putting in the effort, you are ensuring positive results with your talking points. It is also entirely possible that your diligent work may have identified a potential issue and the team now has time to fix it before sharing the big news. Your company and the spokesperson will thank you for helping them prepare. Odds are you won’t use the talking points just once, so after the first time, review the outcome and make adjustments. As you gain experience, following these tips will become second nature.

If you are still struggling to write relevant and engaging talking points, read Struggling to Write Good Talking Points? Here’s Why. by Rachel Hart.

What tips do you have to create flawless talking points? Leave a comment below.

You Learn As Much From the Bad, As You Do From the Good

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Throughout our lives we make a series of career decisions, some good and some bad. There are times when we think the grass is greener on the other side only to find out the unfortunate truth that it isn’t. Everyone, at some point in their career, has had a job (or jobs) they dread. The likely causes range from not being passionate about the work to a difficult work environment. How we handle these situations shines a light on our character and our ability to persevere.  

For a short period of time, I worked for a boss that micromanaged everyone, lacked moral character, pivoted daily, and frequently demoralized his employees. Naturally, it created an unproductive and hostile work environment. Each Monday morning, I knew that the first 30 minutes to an hour of my day would be spent being yelled at and berated. Then the verbal attacks transitioned to the next undeserving employee. By 10 a.m. all the motivation that came with the fresh start of the week had disappeared. Sheer panic and chaos set in as we began tackling the latest fire drill. The effect of this weekly tirade had debilitated the team and generally, took us until Wednesday before we finally rebounded and were able to start producing work again.

There are countless stories similar to mine and thousands of other horror stories about inept managers and toxic companies (read more here). Instead of dwelling on the bad, flip your mentality. The first step is to recognize all that you learned from the experience and work to do the exact opposite when you are in a leadership position. Below are the key takeaways I learned from poor work environments.

  • Create Trust and Foster Teamwork
  • Know What Motivates Your Employees
  • Take the High Road
  • Be Available to Your Employees
  • Actively Listen
  • Be Aware of Your Biases and Heuristics
  • Allow Your Team to Do the Work You Hired Them To Do
  • Learn to Let Go of What You Can’t Control and Focus on What You Can
  • Make Notes About What You Wouldn’t Do as a Manager
  • Develop and Empower Others
  • Observe the Behavior of Others
  • Look for the Good in Others
  • Be Compassionate
  • Practice the Golden Rule

I am grateful for each and every bad experience I have encountered. These situations reinforced who I am, allowed me to exercise my leadership skills, taught me how not behave, and now helps me recognize positive situations and practice gratitude for the good.

Share what you’ve learned from a bad work experience in the comments below. If you are just coming out of a bad work environment or are still processing the experience, read these tips to help you get your confidence back.  


Why Marketing Professionals Should Work at an Agency

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Early in my career a mentor recommended that I work at a marketing agency. She told me that it would be great experience and something that would look good on my resume, especially if I ever aspire to hold a management or chief marketing officer role. After working with an agency on several TV and photography shoots, the account director actually recruited me to join the agency as an account executive. At the onset, I enjoyed the fast pace environment, learning about different industries, collaborating with the creative team, partnering with the public relations (PR) gurus, and working on projects that impacted the community. While at the marketing agency, I worked with approximately 20 different clients in various industries, managed a $1,000,000 budget, dabbled in PR, managed an intern, worked with vendors, launched a brand, and learned an extraordinary amount about marketing and advertising.

After nearly two years of hard, but rewarding work, I decided to take what I had learned and apply it to the corporate world. Even to this day, I am so very grateful for the experience I gained by working for a marketing agency. Being in my mid-twenties I didn’t understand fully grasp the wisdom my mentor imparted on me, but looking back, I now realize it was the best career advice I have received. Every job I have had since then, the hiring manager has always acknowledge that my agency experience played a role in the hiring decision. The reason being is the working in an agency cultivates work ethic, adaptability, problem solving and customer service skills, and so much more. All important factors to a marketing professional’s success.  

After nearly two years of hard, but rewarding work, I decided to take what I had learned and apply it to the corporate world. Even to this day, I am so very grateful for the experience I gained by working for a marketing agency. Being in my mid-twenties I didn’t  fully grasp the wisdom my mentor imparted on me, but looking back, I now realize it was the best career advice I have received. Every job I have had since then, the hiring manager has always acknowledged that my agency experience played a role in the hiring decision. The reason being is that working in an agency cultivates work ethic, adaptability, problem solving and customer service skills, and so much more. All important factors to a marketing professional’s success.  

Below are 20 reasons why every marketing professional should work for a marketing agency at some point in their career.

  1. Think Outside the Box: In the corporate world you work within a corporate structure. While in an agency you are taught to think outside the box and constantly try new things. As a result, you are on the cutting edge of marketing trends.
  2. Exposure to Different Industries: If you work in a small to mid-sized agency you will likely have clients in several different industries. Having this exposure to a variety of businesses allows you to learn about your interests that could lead to a future job. You get to know just enough to be dangerous.
  3. Teamwork:In the agency, most projects are touched by the creative director, graphic designer, social media manager, and public relations, vendors, and accounting. Managing projects that are touched by so many different people requires teamwork. In addition, you have to learn how to share the resources available as all the account representatives are advocating for their projects to take priority since everyone is under tight deadlines.
  4. The Power of Relationships: People like working with people they like. Client longevity is dependent on solid relationships and results. This creates trust and soon the client sees you as someone they can rely on. With time, you not be seen as an outsider, but a valued member of the team.
  5. Patience: Despite your best efforts to make plans and communicate the plan, things inevitably change and often times they change a lot due to various factors. You might work on the same ad for weeks, making one change at a time, while you are constantly up against deadlines. Managing the changes with grace requires patience, but when you remind yourself of the goal (to make the best product possible and keep your client happy), it is easier to work through the changes.  
  6. Learn How to Have Challenging Conversations: Scope creep and missed deadlines are an issue all agencies face at some point. Clients come to you with a plan and along the way things change, then deadlines are missed. As a result, you have to go back to the client to explain how the new request is out of scope, provide a revised estimate, and update the timeline. These conversations can be challenging as your client is also facing the pressure of staying on budget and on time. But when you have good relationships, it makes this conversation much easier (see tip 4).  
  7. You Learn to Make the Impossible Possible: Often times a client or someone on the team comes up with an idea that seems impossible to execute, whether that is due to lack of time, budget, or resources. Yet the best agencies find a way to make anything happen. Great account executives are always searching for solutions to make things happen for their clients and without damaging their internal relationships with team members.
  8. Juggling: In small to mid-sized agencies, you will have several accounts in many different industries. Each client has its own deadlines and new emergencies appear almost daily. You are constantly bouncing between projects, meeting with clients, consulting with creative, reviewing artwork, discussing budget, managing the vendors, and so much more. While you might go into each day with a plan, it is generally derailed by 10 a.m., but you learn prioritize, adjust and get back on track to meet your deadlines.
  9. Learn to Work with All Types of Personalities: Each client you work with is different and each department within the agency is different. The account team tends to be logical thinkers, strategically minded, with an eye for customer service. Whereas the creative team are the dreamers and the conceptualizer. Learning to work with all personality types is a key to your success within the agency and throughout your career.
  10. Learn to Budget: Each job should have an estimate. As an account manager, it is your responsibility to mange the budget and ensure your internal team and vendors do not exceed the allotted amount. This requires you to keep an eye on the agency hours and hard costs. As time goes on, you may have to adjust the budget or have one of those challenging conversations with the client (see tip 6).
  11. Learn to Manage Time in a Fast-Paced Environment:Agencies bill for their time and there are a limited number of hours to complete each project for several different clients. Therefore, you learn to be a master at time management. You also learn that when your lack of planning or poor time management suddenly becomes someone else’s emergency. Considerate account managers learn how to plan in advance and manage their time to preserve their relationships and save favors for true emergencies that come up.  
  12. Develop a Higher Standard of Excellence: Often times agencies have skill sets for specific work, which allows each member of the team to become an expert in their craft. You start to see and value excellence.
  13. Learn to be Flexible, Nimble and Adaptable: Accounts, people, deadlines, budgets, creative change constantly. You have to learn to embrace change and help the team move forward to accomplish the goal.
  14. Understand the Inner Workings: When you join a corporate marketing team, odds are you will likely hire an agency at some point. As someone that worked for an agency, you will be better equipped to manage the agency as you know the value of a comprehensive creative brief, status calls, creative process, hourly billing, and the lingo. This inside knowledge is valuable to all companies.
  15. Communications: You learn to develop strong communication skills, which requires you to actively listen to your client’s goals and then translate the information to the creative team for execution. Along the way you must keep all stakeholders in the loop to ensure the project runs smoothly. When issues arise, you have to work through the challenge to ensure a successful outcome is met.
  16. Learn to Be Curious and Ask the Questions: Since your full-time job isn’t in just one industry, you likely aren’t an expert. Therefore, you have to take the time to research, seek clarity (even if it seems obvious to the client), ask the right questions to help your client see a different perspective, and provide recommendations. The key is to learn quickly and always have your client’s best interest in mind.
  17. Grow Thick Skin: Competition is fierce for marketing agencies and companies tend to mix things up over time. Losing clients is tough. In addition, due to the high stress, fast paced nature of the business, things can go wrong from time to time and clients may take their frustrations out on you. You quickly learn not to take things personally.
  18. Grow Your Network:When working with so many different clients, you continually meet new people and see new faces with every meeting you attend. These constant contacts add pages and pages to your rolodex, giving you a wealth of knowledge about the who’s who within the community in which you work. And as they say, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that really matters.
  19. You Are Constantly Learning: Agencies are often the trend setters and envelop pushers. Early adopters and change agents surround you, allowing you to be exposed to the latest movement and to take risks by trying new things that you learned.  
  20. It’s Fun!Working with a group of individuals that have the same pressures, high standards, excitement and experiences, allows you to build a strong bond and comradery with your team mates. The creative types that think outside the box bring their eclectic and relaxed attitude to meetings, and it spreads through the culture of agencies. The work quickly begins to feel like play, and you can make life-long friends in the process. Before you know you it, you’ll find yourself posing and posting with your teammates about the great times working in #AgencyLife.

All of these skills you’ll learn at the agency between very valuable to corporate marketing departments. Managers love hiring professionals with an agency background as they know they have a unique skill set. As you think about your next move, strongly consider working for an agency, it could very likely be the best thing to happen to your career, now and in the future.  

Have you ever worked for a marketing, advertising, or public relations agency? If so, leave a comment about what you gained from the experience.

For more career advice, click here and here.

A Leader’s Guide to Onboarding a New Employee

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Adding a new employee to the team is an exciting time. It can also be stressful for the manager/leader since onboarding takes time away from the daily tasks at hand. At the same time, it is stressful for the new employee as he/she isn’t always sure what to expect. Great leaders find the time to set the tone for the new team member by spending time training him/her. Taking the time to onboard a new employee immediately demonstrates that the new employee is valued. It is critical that leaders go out of their way to ensure the new employee understands the business, brand, values and culture. Below are some leadership tips to help you properly onboarding a new team member.

Check in With Your Other Teammates
Anytime you hire a new employee, it is a great time to check in with your other employees to see if they are enjoying their assigned projects and clients. If they have are getting bored or have developed an interest in another area, consider shifting things around and assigning those tasks to the new employee or other team members. This will ensure you keep your employees engaged and motivated.

Determine His/Her Roles, Responsibilities and KPIs
Prior to the employee’s first day, it is imperative that you outline his/her role and responsibilities. Once the employee starts, it is important to review the roles, responsibilities and key performance indicators (KPIs) with the new employee.
As a leader you are creating a clear road map for the employee and ensuring the employee understands what success looks like and what is expected. Your other team mates should also be aware of the new employee’s roles and responsibilities as well.  

Make His/Her First Day Special
Joining a new team/company is a career milestone and these milestones are meant to be celebrated. On the first day, employees should receive a warm welcome by having the manager take the employee to lunch, introducing team members to the new employee (don’t send them around by themselves), sending a kind welcome email, provide items with the company logo, and much more. For additional inspiration read the The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath. Make it a day to remember!

Prepare an Agenda for the Day
You wouldn’t wing a client meeting and you shouldn’t wing your new employee’s first day. Instead, create an agenda for the day and review it with the employee at the beginning of the day. This will ease any potential anxiety for the new employee as the expectations for the day are clearly set. Nothing is worse than having an employee sitting around on the first day with nothing to do as it sets a bad first impression. In addition, it will allow you to build time into the agenda to step away and check in on your other responsibilities for a short period of time.

Introduce the New Employee to His/Her Key Stakeholders
Take time to personally introduce the new employee to each team member. By conducting the introductions you are helping the new employee create relationships and you can provide valuable background information about each persons’ roles and responsibilities and how they will interact together.

Tools for the Job
Ensure the employee has a clean desk, business cards, a computer with the applicable software, email, pen and paper, provide access to the shared drive, company roster, and anything else the new employee may need. All of these items should be awaiting the new employee when he/she walks through the door. By taking the time to prepare, the employee will be able to hit the ground running.

Ask About His/Her Career Goals and Favorite Parts of the Job
When you hire a new employee, you likely have a set idea about what clients they will serve and/or the projects he/she will be assigned. In order to keep people excited about the job, they have to have some projects they are truly excited about. The best thing a leader can do is to ask them a series of questions to help keep them motivated:

  • What type of career growth do you hope to have at the company?
  • What are your favorite projects or tasks from past jobs?
  • What are the things that drain your motivation?

When you ask these questions, you are showing you genuinely care about the new employee. The next step is to act on the knowledge you have by incorporating what you learned into the new employee’s workload. If possible remove or minimize the draining tasks. It is important to remember that even employment relationships are a two-way street and it is vital for your employees to be happy in their jobs.

Empower Team Members to Help Train the New Employee
As the leader you should not be the sole trainer. Instead, empower your team members to train the new employee on their areas of expertise. By delegating out the training responsibilities, it provides an opportunity for each team member to bond with the new employee and it allows the seasoned team members to share their knowledge and grow their leadership skills. Further, it demonstrates how you value your employees’ contributions to the team.

Discuss Leadership Style and Preferred Modes of Communication
Each person has a preferred method of communication and leadership style. For example, you may prefer face-to-face interactions, while the new employee may prefer email communication. Take the time to discuss each of your preferred modes of communication and then find a common ground to ensure open lines of communication at all times. Additionally, it is important to set expectations about what you want to be looped in on and when. By outlining your expectations in the beginning, the new employee will be able to successfully navigate how you and the team operates.

Reinforce the Company’s Values, Culture, and Share the Strategy
In order for the employee to be successful, he/she must understand the company’s values, the culture and the strategy. While the new employee likely read about these things in the company handbook or learned about it in orientation, it is important for the leader to discuss these important items with the employee. Further, the leader should explain how the values, culture and strategy relates to the team and how the employee can make an impact.

Explain the Business
It is important for the new employee to understand how the business operates. This includes learning the lingo (provide an acronym document), departments, and work flow processes.

Publicly Acknowledge A Job Well Done by the New Employee
In the beginning new employees are working hard to establish relationships and build credibility with his/her stakeholders. You can help him/her by publicly acknowledging a job well done. By doing so, you are demonstrating you value the work that was done and you are lending your credibility to elevate him/her within the company. Good leaders hire great people. When they win, you win!

Check In Daily and Setup a Weekly One-On-One Meeting
It is important to set aside time to meet with the new employee on a regular basis. During these meetings you can provide him/her with feedback about their performance. Additionally, take this time to ask the employee how they are doing and ask him/her what you can do to help him/her succeed. Taking the time to listen to his/her questions, concerns, and wins is the key to leadership. It is essential that you take the time to be there for your employees and find ways to help them develop.

For more onboarding tips, read Steps for Creating a Positive Onboarding Experience for New Employees by Brian Platz. What other tips do you have for onboarding a new employee? Leave a comment.

Effective Leaders Leverage Personality Tests for Their People

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Each year a new personality test enters the market and becomes the go-to tactic deployed by companies to increase productivity. Managers dutifully get their employees to complete the test by the set due date. Weeks later the team gathers to listen to the facilitator explain how to read the report, or the results are just emailed to each individual with little explanation. As the meeting concludes or the email goes unread, people go back to their work, giving little thought to the valuable information about themselves and their teams. I’m sure you are picturing the scene unfold as you draw from your own experiences. Undoubtedly, the company was driven by good intentions, but the desired results often don’t meet expectations.  

Allow People Time to Process the Results
Before the team meeting, provide the results to each individual, along with the applicable result explanation. As a leader, it is important to be aware of how each person responds to feedback. Be sure to share these results in the format that will be best received by the individual. Allowing people time to process the information is essential and demonstrates to the employee that you care about him/her as an individual. Encourage people to come with questions to the facilitated results workshop. Providing the results in advance will help reduce potential humiliation and let people lean into their vulnerabilities.

Share the Results with the Team
Make time to have the team come together to share individual results in a fun and open environment. Additionally, make time to plan meaningful ice breakers. This will help create a positive environment and allow people to be vulnerable among our peers.

Often people enjoy sharing their results with the team. This exercise allows people to learn about each other. By having an entire meeting that focuses on the results, you are showing the team that you value their individual personalities and how to use the information to function as a high-performance team. 

Setup Individual Meetings to Discuss the Results
Having individual meetings is helpful for several reasons:

  1. Keep it positive by taking time to acknowledge the person’s strengths. You should also use this time to review the results with the individual and discuss which projects or responsibilities are utilizing their strengths and which tasks are draining their energy because they are constantly confronted with their weaknesses.
  2. Upsetting Results:
    1. Sometimes individuals feel that their results are incorrect. This is a valid concern as many factors can impact the results. It is essential to listen to their feedback and make a note of the possible discrepancies.
    2. Other times the results can be upsetting to people because it doesn’t validate the biases about themselves. Help redirect this energy into focusing on the positive. Additionally, help the individual come up with a plan to address perceived/actual weaknesses.
  3. As a leader, discuss your results too and gain feedback from your team on an individual basis.

Realign People Based on Their Strengths and Desires
After the one-on-one meetings, take time to digest the information. Do your best to realign projects, work spaces based on each team member’s personality. By taking action you are demonstrating that you recognize their strengths, listen to their feedback, and take action by investing time and resources into the individual. 

Use the Results to Help Build Teams and Defuse Conflict
Great teams have complementary strengths and weaknesses. Use the information when assigning group projects. Additionally, if there is a conflict among employees, point out their differences and similarities. When people understand their differences and accept others personality, it allows better relationships.

Accessibility to Results and Explanations
Ensure people have access to the test explanation and the teams’ results. This will allow the team to become aware of what motivates people and what deflates their spirit and can help individuals work together. 

Personality tests are just a tool to help you lead the team. Don’t put too much or too little weight into the results. The test has its purpose, but not everything should be centered around the results. At the same time, the company invested a great deal of time and money into the test, make sure you leverage this investment for the good of your people.

Myers Briggs, iMap,Strength Finder, and Emergenitics are a few of my favorite personality tests. Leave a comment about your favorite.

Marketing Is Not a Luxury, It’s a Necessity

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Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work for companies that fundamentally understood the power of marketing and communications. These businesses not only show their support by allocating money to the marketing/communications department, but they also gave the marketing team a seat at the leadership table and a voice to make an impact. I’ve also experienced companies that thought of marketing and communications as a luxury, too fluffy, not a priority, and at times an unnecessary part of the business. In these companies, I often worked with little to no budget, and I had to prove my value to earn respect.

I don’t fault those business leaders that understand the value marketing can bring to their businesses, since tracking the ROI on a marketing initiative isn’t as clear cut as a financial statement. If you are weary about the power of marketing, read below to learn how marketing can help your business.

Can You Sell This?
You’ve come up with a great product or service, now what? This is where marketing comes in. A skilled marketer will assess the product, research your competitors, segment your target audience(s), design the brand, create the personas and applicable messaging, execute the go to market strategy, manage public perceptions, and much more. A strategic marketing plan will enhance the customer journey and create brand loyalty.      

Marketers Are Often the Moral Compass
Marketers are generally very perceptive to customers’ needs and desires and believe in the power of transparency and authenticity. When included in challenging situations, marketing will help ensure the company is living up to its brand, mission statement and values, and will guide the business to make decisions that balance the needs of the business, employees, and customers.

We are your voice
Marketers can take your vision by translating it into a format that connects with consumers. When done well, marketing can influence consumer behaviors. During crisis situations, marketing will find a way to communicate the issue to the customer without lasting damage.

We are the Pragmatist
Great marketers have the ability to recognize the blind spots, see things from many different points of view, and understand the big picture. As a result, we often ask the tough questions that help you see the various potential outcomes and ensure that the customer remains at the center of business decisions. 

Valuing Your Marketing Team

If you are a leader that isn’t yet sold on the importance of marketing, give these things a try before eliminating marketing from your business functions.

A Marketing Budget Maximizes Effectiveness
While it is true that there are free marketing tactics, relying solely upon the freebies won’t maximize your business’ potential. Just like any other department within your business, marketers need a budget to be effective. As the old saying goes, “you have to spend money to make money.” Marketing helps you make money, so give marketing a budget to spend.

Loop in Your Marketing Person at the Beginning of Major Decisions
The easiest way to do this is by creating a spot for your marketing lead on the leadership team and respecting their input. By elevating the marketing leader, you will give him/her credibility, which will lead to more well-rounded decisions, synergy within your team, and ultimately better results.

Be open to our questions
Marketers tend to ask a lot of questions as they care about the details and they are processing the information from many different lenses. When they ask questions, be patient and forthcoming with your answers. They are helping you think through your decision and ensuring the plan will translate to your customers.

The largest and more revered companies in the world follow the steps above. Follow their lead and start showing marketing some love. To learn more about why you should utilize a marketing profession, read these articles 7 Reasons to Hire Marketing Experts Rather Than Doing It Yourself and Unleashing the Power of Marketing.

Did you find this blog post helpful? Let me know in the comments section.

Embrace the Beginner’s Mind

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In recent years, people of all walks of life have embraced mindfulness, and slowly businesses are starting to see its potential value. During the past three years, I have worked hard to integrate the beginner’s mind into the way I approach life. By adopting this mindset, I have gained new perspectives and worked hard not to allow my past experiences to overwhelm future opportunities. Below I share two unique perspectives so you can think about how to about how to incorporate this mindset into your daily life, regardless of your stage in life.   

Employee Perspective
When you start a new job, it can be exciting and terrifying all at the same time. On the one hand, you have the opportunity to find new ways to drive value, expand your knowledge, and meet new people. On the other hand, it is a very humbling experience as there is often a steep learning curve. Whenever exploring something new, those that adopt the beginner’s mindset are open to endless possibilities.

By immersing yourself into the business, asking questions, doing research, and not being afraid to try new things, you are cultivating a beginner’s mindset. You’re also building a solid foundation for future success. Good leaders appreciate this approach as they recognize your eagerness to learn and your humility for acknowledging what you don’t know. Your co-workers will appreciate you too as no one likes working with a know it all.

When new to an organization, my go-to question is, “I am new, and I know I have so much to learn, can you explain X, Y, and Z to me?” I’ve found that people love sharing their knowledge with others. The next time something comes up, they will likely think to share it with you without solicitation. This gives you the knowledge you need to drive value. By taking the time to learn from others, you are also developing relationships, which is equally important.

The key to keeping this beginner’s mindset is to never stop learning, ask questions, leave preconceived notions at the door, and think about things from the perspective of those that have limited knowledge about your company. When you stay curious, you can avoid falling into a rut and becoming blind to your biases. It can be a challenging task but with self-awareness something you can accomplish.       

To learn more about the Beginner’s Mind, watch this video from Jon Kabat-Zinn, an expert in mindfulness.

Leader Perspective
As a leader of a company or organization, odds are you are an expert in your industry and have a great depth of experience. Undoubtedly, your expertise and experience is very helpful and provides you and your company with value. On the opposite end, is your new employee. He/she is likely a novice when it comes to your company’s inner workings. Some leaders dread onboarding someone new, while the best leaders look forward to gaining new perspectives and ideas.

Your new employee provides you the easiest access to the beginner’s mind. As leaders, it is important that we actively listen to the questions our newest employees are asking us, instead of just answering them and moving on. Having a new employee is like getting to talk to a consumer or customers due to their limited knowledge about the company. Their questions can provide great insights into the gaps the company may have that are causing a disconnect or confusion. Additionally, your new employee may be able to help fill those voids with their fresh insights.

Unbeknownst to the new employee, he/she is often shining a light on what is engrained in the company/department and your thought process. But if empowered, this new employee could encourage you to examine the “way you’ve always done things”. So often we get stuck in a rut of doing the same thing over and over, but when we let someone new into our circle, they provide a unique perspective and can infuse new ideas that breed life into an old initiative or tactic or help us overcome a problem that once seemed impossible.

The next time you are onboarding a new employee, make the time to actively listen to their questions, encourage them to ask questions of you and others, and be sure to ask them questions too. You’ll be surprised by how much you can learn from a newbie. To learn more about how you and your team can adopt the beginner’s mind, click here.

Let me know how you are working to adopt the beginner’s mind in the comments.

Your Stakeholders Actually Can Handle the Truth

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We’ve all heard the famous Jack Nicholson line from a Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth”. [If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it]. Let’s start with a little background…Nicholas’ character is being questioned by a young lawyer about the death of a fellow soldier. It is an intense exchange as Tom Cruise’s character, passionately pleads with Nicholas’ character to tell the truth. The very real and human response from Nicholson’s character was that Cruise’s character couldn’t possibly handle the truth.

This scene unfolded in a courtroom; however, it is also unfolding behind closed doors at many organizations. While these conversations aren’t about life and death as depicted in the movie, they are often about a challenging issue or a crisis situation that resulted in a cause and effect decision that impacts others. The old school mentality – that is unfortunately still prevalent today in many organizations – is to hope stakeholders go away by remaining silent and appearing to ignore the issue or only share a perfectly crafted, vague response. This is no way to lead and no way to treat your people. Not only can they handle truthful and useful information, they deserve it.

In my years of experience as a marketing and communications professional and an observer of human behavior, I believe managers or executives fail to recognize the following points when determining their communications strategy.

Your Stakeholders Are Smarter Than You Think
Often times organizations don’t share the information with their stakeholders because they think the consumers or employees won’t understand. Today’s consumers are savvy and have so many resources at their disposal, and they are actively searching for answers. Give your stakeholders the benefit of the doubt and if the message doesn’t resonate, try again.

It’s on you to communicate the complexities of the issue and share it in a way that will allow stakeholders to understand fully
As marketing/communications leaders it is our job to help people understand by thinking like a skeptic about the situation from several viewpoints and then addressing potential concerns. When you are working through your message, keep asking why and peeling back the layers. And be sure to remove any industry jargon and acronyms and keep your message as concise as possible. As you go through this process, you will be able to develop a comprehensive message that is clear and concise.

Be Proactive, Not Everything Has to be Perfect in Order to Communicate
Too many times organizations wait to share information until everything is perfect. This approach erodes trust. Instead, organizations should quickly acknowledge the problem, let the stakeholders know what steps are being taken, and then provide status updates along the way. Your people want to know that you know the issue and that you are actually doing something about it. Don’t just say, we know and we are working on it, instead, provide specifics. People will be open to your errors if you treat them with respect by being open and honest with them along the way.

Be Open to Feedback
During challenging times, it is easy to become defensive as the stress of the situation can cause you to be on edge. However, if your stakeholders are providing you with feedback, welcome it by actively listening to them and be open-minded by trying to understand their pain points and perspectives. Doing so can help you fine-tune your message to perfection.   

Most Often, the Truth Comes Out
When I was young, my grandpa would say to me, “if you don’t want anyone to know, then you better not do it.” It was true then, and in the age of social media, it is even truer today. Your stakeholders will find out the truth in time. As a leader, you can either positively contribute to the narrative and lead the conversation, or you can allow conspiracy theories to run wild and give control to others to share the message if you choose to remain silent or dubious with the information you share.

The Fear of Losing Power
As the old saying goes, “knowledge is power”. Sometimes, people keep things secret to keep their power. Yet, they are actually losing power when they choose not to communicate because they lose the confidence of those they represent or serve. In today’s environment, those that throttle information will eventually lose the ability to control the very thing they are trying to control.  

By not recognizing the importance of communicating, especially when dealing with an issue or a crisis, those in power are doing a disservice to their organization and to their people. Their desire for control and power is a blind spot that will end up hindering their ability to connect with stakeholders and lead effectively.

As marketing/communications leaders, we must advocate to our executives the importance of communicating with stakeholders, even when it comes to sharing potentially upsetting information. This includes pursuing an honest and transparent message, empowering those around us with information and having confidence in our people’s ability to understand, showing humility for the mistake, taking ownership, and putting forth thoughtful resolutions. Tackling the issue builds trust and empathy with your stakeholders. They might not like what happened, but they will come to appreciate you more if you empower them with knowledge, because your stakeholders can handle the truth if they have trust in you.  

For additional tips on how to handle challenging issues through communication, click here to read the 13 Golden Rules Of PR Crisis Management. Share your tips on how to communicate challenging or crisis situations to stakeholders in the comments.