Tag Archives: leadership

How You Can Soar

soaring

For the past couple of months I have struggled. I often get this way from the greyness brought on by the months of January and February. Lack of Vitamin D naturally produced by the body from the sun.

This seasonal effect has been punctuated by true disdain for the political environment in the US at the moment. Can you really build a strong brand that Americans favorably respond to without any substance?

My biorhythms have also been unbalanced due a tragic event in my community that had no direct bearing on me, but has profoundly shaken me.

Yes. As humans we get down. Even the spirited “life coaches,” motivators, and spiritual leaders have their periods of lows.

But I have found there are three attributes that pick us up and provide positive substance and in our life.

1. Gratitude – far too many people have the perception that when they are happy, they will be grateful. In actuality, it is really the opposite. In order to be happy you need to start by being grateful for what you have. If my sister could find gratitude as she was dying of cancer, so can you. Independent of your situation. We all have strong challenges in our life. We must force ourselves to focus on the beauty and not the negatives in our life and find gratitude.

2. Hope – there can be no positive evolution in one’s life without hope. While I am not a religious person, I do find that hope is definitely a spiritual element. Hope is not something physical that you can hold in your hand. Crazy as it seems, it is something you rely on. But at the same time, hope is not something that you can just wait to enter your life. You have to have both gratitude and desire in your life to allow hope to be present in your consciousness.

3. Passion – I had a weird dream last night that inspired this article. (Please understand that I often have bizarre scenarios in my dreams as you read.) In the dream, I was a director at a performance arts camp or something of that nature. In the dream, I had the power to kind of float and fly through the grounds. Picture an angel with wings if you will. At one point, things were not progressing as well as I had hoped. My ability to float about was being jeopardized. I was just hovering. Then, I sang out with complete conviction and passion and I soared. I mean I literally soared with swoops and glides as I sung with total, total passion. I put everything into singing – all my heart; all my soul. And as a result I soared throughout the grounds at great heights. This dream is in fact a metaphor for reality. If you want to soar, you must have unadulterated passion in what you do.

Deep down, I think we all want to soar. It takes hard work to soar whether our objective is capturing happiness, and/or personal or professional success. We need to evolve and transfix our mentality, perspective and point-of-view. It starts with gratitude. Work on that first. Once you can honestly say you have gratitude in your life, then work on hope. Hope gets to be very personal. Whether it is religious, spiritual, or simply a sense and strong belief in something you cannot actually control, you need to let hope be a strong manifest within your life. Lastly, once you have gratitude and hope, go after your objectives with an unrelentless passion.

I shared with you that this article was inspired by a dream I had last night. In reality, very few people get to capture their dreams. Some do. But I can unequivocally state this – If you chase your dreams with passion, you might not follow the exact path you set out to achieve. But if you have gratitude, hope, and passion chasing your dreams, you serendipitously will be taken on a path of happiness and success.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

PS – If you are looking for a great novella about chasing your dreams and path, I highly recommend reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho.

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The Changing Style of Successful Leaders

In my career, I have seen significant change in successful leadership styles. (I’ll get to that in a bit.) The first thing I do when wanting to address “leaders” and “leadership” is to establish a base line. What is a leader? What is leadership?

Naturally, I Googled “leader” to get a definition. The first definition that came up in the search is very poor. It states, “the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.” That’s great, but want does in mean to lead? What is leadership?

The second source, Wikipedia, does a much better job with the definition … “Leadership has been described as a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. For example, some understand a leader simply as somebody whom people follow, or as somebody who guides or directs others, while others define leadership as motivating and organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal.“ This definition pretty much covers the crux of “The Changing Style of Successful Leaders.”

Leader

About 15 years ago, I was part of an elite group of professionals that were groomed as the future executives of a large corporation. The company provided special getaways and training for some select company directors. I remember a particular session where the CEO came in to do a talk on leaders. He started the session off by asking everyone in attendance for the definition of a leader. Finally he said, “A leader is someone that everyone wants to follow.” … An answer no one provided. We then talked about different leadership styles throughout history ranging from fear-induced motivation to charismatic leaders and everything in between.

Today, a successful leader does not simply have followers. They deliver successful results. Let’s name a few continuously (for the most part) successful businesses – Apple. Coca-Cola. Google. Amazon. Starbucks. Disney. Nike. Procter and Gamble. And the list can go on. There is a common thread among these companies … they have all stayed innovative in some manner throughout the years. So to deliver successful results, a leader must keep his/her company innovative.

If we go back to the Wikipedia definition for leader it says that a leader is “somebody who guides or directs others, while others define leadership as motivating and organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal.” Now I will categorically say that innovation comes from motivating and organizing people to achieve a common goal as opposed to simply guiding and directing others.

What I am saying is that innovation must be directly tied to leaders and leadership. Leaders need to produce innovation in the name of increased sales, increased profits, increased market share, introduction of a new product or service, or any other company objective. I dare say that innovation needs to be the source of every successful objective and outcome.

This past week, I read an exceptional column titled, “Nine Behaviors That Drive Innovation” by Jack Zenger. I highly recommend reading the entire article, but to summarize Jack suggests that successful leaders drive innovation as follows:

1. Leaders jointly create a vision with their colleagues.
2. They build trust.
3. Innovation champions were characterized by a willingness to constantly challenge the status quo.
4. Leaders who fostered innovation were noted for their deep expertise.
5. They set high goals.
6. Innovative leaders gravitate toward speed.
7. They crave information.
8. They excel at teamwork.
9. They value diversity and inclusion.

Thus successful leaders are not simply followed. They are collaborative team builders that leverage diversity within a group and use empirical data to make keen decisions. When I think back to a number of executives I have worked for I stop to ask myself, “How did they ever get here?” I also remember a handful that were true leaders that always challenge the status quo. They are successful because of their own desire to make positive change (innovation) and not intimidated by others. Now I am sure there will be a number of company leaders that land where they land due to politics and other obscure reasons, but true leaders are distinguished by success via the innovation they bring to fruition yielding strong business results. Thus you can be a leader no matter where you sit in the company organization chart. Work in a collaborative nature and capture the expertise and views throughout your organization. Grab different information and make decisions based upon subject matter experts in your organization. Move quickly and be prepared to deviate based upon measured results.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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5 Lessons I Learned at High School That Every Executive Leader Should Exercise

Fall is upon us, and brings new seasonal rituals. The start of the school year marks a time for greater regiment in family activities. Certainly this is the case for The Goldner family. The complexity of managing a tight schedule of sports, orchestra, and dance, rehearsals, and of course academics.

But this year started with a dark cloud hanging over our school district. One of the female teachers at the high school was arrested for engaging in sexual acts with five different 15-year-old students while on school property. Yes, you hear these stories all the time, but you never think it would occur in your town.

Last week was back to school night where parents get to meet the children’s teachers and briefly hear about the year’s curriculum and each teacher’s philosophy and approach. The evening started with a gathering in the auditorium with a brief speech by the principal. This was her first back to school night as principal. And while she appears as a petite mother next-door type, she has the power of a football linemen, the motivation of Steve Jobs, and the grace of a Lady Di.

leadership

After a few introductions, she immediately addressed the thousand pound gorilla in the room. She stated, “I have the pleasure of the most stress-inducing Back to School Night ever – that is, my first as principal. Under ‘normal’ circumstances, of course, such a night would be a milestone. But tonight, is more complicated for us as parents, teachers, and school leaders, as it comes at a challenging time for our school and larger community. The past two weeks at Columbia have been, as you know, not easy. We are saddened by the news from our building, and many of us – students, teachers, and families –have struggled with the loss of the happy anticipation that we started the school year with just three weeks ago. That sadness has been complicated by news coverage, by an ongoing law enforcement investigation, by social media, and by the struggles that we are experiencing personally and professionally as members of our school community around the arrest of a staff member.”

Lesson 1 – do not try to elude controversy that your entire target audience wants to be addressed.

She went on to state, “I assure you that we meet these challenges by committing to remain focused on teaching and learning and supporting all of our students. You have reason to doubt us – to doubt me – tonight. I recognize that. But I promise to you and our children – and our community – of which I have been a proud resident for 17 years – that the existence of that doubt only deepens my resolve to make Columbia the nation’s best performing high school – and I believe that is possible. We are already on that path. My belief that that is so is the reason I choose to work here.”

Lesson 2 – Not only make a challenge strengthen you and grow from it, but drive to make the end result even better for your audience that cares.

The principal continued, “The measurements of our students’ success – whether through GPAs, AP exam results, athletic, artistic, literary, and mathematical and scientific achievements, admission to top-tier universities and colleges – are the results of their, their teachers’, and your (the parents) hard work, and the conditions we create together to support their achievement. As you know, parenting is not for the faint of heart. Neither is teaching. We thank you for the work that you do to support your learners. When these impressive results are not being attained by all of our students – whether due to their family circumstances, academic conditions, disparities in our application of procedures or policies, experiences our students may weather outside of school that shape their daily lives inside the walls of Columbia – then it is incumbent upon each and every one of us, everyday, to assure that those outcomes are achievable and to eliminate any academic achievement gaps that exist. This is the work we are committed to at CHS.”

Later the principal asked for participation to make her audience part of the positive solution … “So I ask tonight for your commitment to me and to those who teach and work here to continue to work on building a culture at CHS that is collaborative and sustained by the education, skills, talent, and professionalism of our staff members, and the support and guidance that you give us. I ask that you work with us to show our students and your children by example that we are all part of the same team, with the same goals. We must work together, and not against each other. Though we may not always agree about decisions to make or steps to take, our mutual goals must be the success of all of our students. And our conduct, conversation, and communication with each other should always reflect these ideals.”

Lesson 3 – Rally your audience to participate in driving results you look to achieve.

The principal’s speech had many more excellent and inspiring statements, but I will skip to her conclusion where she said – “I will conclude tonight by promising you that we believe that all students are entitled to benefit from and achieve excellence in a Columbia High School in which race, family background, socioeconomic circumstances, or any other characteristic should not and will not determine a student’s experiences in a classroom, on a playing field, in how we manage school discipline, in how policy is implemented, or in how our students experience school and life in our building every day.”

Lesson 4 – Be totally inclusive.

OK – so that is four lessons I captured from our high school principal’s speech (and actions I fully expect to be carried out by her.) The last lesson is one of omission by her.

Lesson 5 – against popular claims, a leader should not be transparent. HONEST, yes. Transparent, no. Honesty means that everything you say and do has every ounce of truth and complete lack of deception. Transparency means that you are a complete open book. The principal’s involvement and participation in the ongoing investigation and case were not divulged and need not be. The principal’s plans for weeding out other “tenured” inadequate staff need not be discuss with her target audience. Politics do exist, to a very strong level, in our town’s school system. But it is time for her to use politics to her advantage to deliver winning results her audience demands. Transparency means that everyone sees everything in your strategy and plan – including the enemies or competition.

I will end by stating the following. Executives have an obligation to be leaders. Non-executives can also be leaders, but do not have that obligation. The bottom line is that successful businesses (and all organizations) need leaders that will truly inspire and lead. If you are a leader there are many more lessons to learn, but start here.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

PS – If you would like to read the principal’s entire speech, you can find it at http://villagegreennj.com/schools-kids/great-pride-deepened-resolve-aaron-vows-chs-will-soar/ .

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Marketing would be much more effective if ….

there was greater focus on the target customer as opposed to marketing campaigns.

A few weeks ago I tweeted a nice little play on words …

marketing change

Here is the problem with the current state of affairs within marketing – way too many marketing professionals are either non-adaptive veterans or young digital natives without a foundation of business and marketing experience. Now that I have likely pissed off 100% of my readers, please let me explain…

First off, your target audience makes purchase decisions based upon the product/service you deliver and what they perceive the company is all about. At the same time, marketers focus on sizzle campaigns. If marketing executives spent the same effort and creativity focused on the target market and their motivations, marketing would likely yield stronger results given our high digital/social world. Just look how many people are literally asking for help, making suggestions, and providing crucial target market information. If we are looking to drive purchase decisions, maintain continued loyalty, and provoke word-of-mouth marketing, consider the three key elements of a brand reputation:

1) Great product/service
2) Awesome customer experience
3) Continuous proof that the brand values its customers

I would even go so far as to say that you do not need a great product or service, just one on par with the competition. Case in point … does Zappos offer any product you cannot find elsewhere? What they do offer is exceptional customer experience as every member of their team takes action to prove they value their customers.

If we use Zappos as an example, we see that marketing of the company goes way beyond the marketing department. Everyone on the team is marketing, positioning, and building brand reputation for the entire company.

And this is the change that must happen in marketing. We can no longer think of marketing as a departmental role, but rather a leadership role within the entire company. The CMO can no longer regard their role as leading a department. They must be bold enough to drive integrated communications across the entire company organization. They must be intimately engaged in the activities and behaviors of their target market. How many Chief Marketing Officers or Chief Strategy Officers are actually engaged in the interactive digital world? How many are actively engaging on social channels? How many blog to their audience reinforcing they understand the target audience and seek to deliver value to them?

And on the flip side, how many digital natives have the experience to drive company-wide initiatives?

I believe that marketing strategies, plans, and execution have not adapted to the changing market audience because a chasm exists between young marketers and veterans. Look for a leader that can bridge the two worlds and drive marketing throughout your company.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

PS – This is an important topic and current challenge. Contribute and join the conversation.

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3 Steps to Leadership with Social Media – A Perspective for Brands

This past week, a colleague asked me if I could help out her friend with some social media advice for her legal business. The first questioned that was asked was, “How should I use Facebook?”

In other instances, people ask me about social media use for brands. They want to know what they might accomplish, what they should expect, or what that they should aim for.

Let’s start out with a simple premise … use social media to establish yourself or your brand as a leader … a thought leader on a particular subject, the brand leader in a specific vertical industry, a leader for selected target audience. Would you want to accomplish anything less?

What does it mean to be a leader? I think if you research this question you will find countless answers. About ten years ago, I was part of a marketing leadership team in a big corporation. This leadership group was made up of a number of up and comers in the corporation. The group was formed as part of a succession planning for key positions within the corporation. At one of our sessions, we had our chairman come speak about leadership. He asked all of us, “What does it mean to be a leader?” There were some basic definitions answered as well as profound and esoteric answers. After everyone was finished, the chairman simply stated “a leader is someone that people want to follow.” This was his exact answer.

“A leader is someone people want to follow.” Follow someone … isn’t this something that has direct meaning in a social media context and yet this was the statement a good five years before anyone even heard of the term social media. And now we have new meaning of what a follower is with the emergence and adoption of social media. There are a handful of reasons why someone gets a following in social media. The follower gets an incentives, gets valuable information, feels like they are in the know, is entertained, and others. Some of these reasons demonstrate leadership. Even if the reason was not due to leadership, it takes leadership to keep a follower engaged.

So now think about the relationship followers and leadership. If we marry these two concepts of following and leadership, I think we are on the path of social media success. Here are the 3 steps of accomplishing leadership with social media:

1. Produce content to reinforce your subject matter expertise. Before you even start with social media, you must think content. What are you going to produce to help your target audience? What peaks their interest and makes them want to come back to your page and get more information? What is it that you need to produce that makes the target audience say, “They get it” in reference to you or your brand? Consider this your pre-work before you ever start any social media endeavor. Not only will you need to have a number of content pieces prepared from the start, but you will need a constant periodic flow to reinforce that “you get it.”

2. Identify where your target audience goes to seek information relevant to your brand category. You cannot build “the field of dreams.” You need to identify where your target audience goes to learn and discuss topics and issues relevant to what you or your brand offer. Your social media plight starts there, not on your Facebook page or other social assets you manage.

3. Apply the A-Path of social media. A number of years ago, I defined the social media A-Path. Since that time, I have written a number of articles that reference the A-Path. I explicitly use this approach in the social media practice I lead at MediaWhiz. The A-Path is core to social media. It describes how to build relationships via social media. Attention > Attraction > Affinity > Audience > Advocacy.

Do not sell yourself short. Seek to establish and maintain ultimate leadership. Continually prove and reinforce this leadership by producing appropriate content. Don’t wait for your audience to find you. Go out and find them and engage with them where they already exist. Then work on building a relationship. A connection strong enough to warrant asking them to visit your digital assets. And then over time, a relationship strong enough that your audience becomes your source for marketing as they provide word of mouth referrals for your brand.

This is how you capture leadership with social media. Are you ready?

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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