Category Archives: Inspiration

Giving Thanks to the People You Care About

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the opportunity to give thanks to the people who make a difference in our lives, whether special mentors, colleagues, or friends.

thank you

Who made you smile, supported and helped you this year? How can you make a difference in their day? Think about what would mean a lot to them. Here are some quick ideas:

  • Send them a handwritten note
  • Write a recommendation or endorse their skills on LinkedIn, tweet a call out complimenting them, write on their facebook profile, post an Instagram photo thank you, etc.
  • Comment on and share their blog posts
  • Introduce them to someone you think they would enjoy meeting
  • Take them out to coffee or lunch
  • Share a book or article related to their interests or goals. Or share music in the genre you know they love
  • Support a cause that is important to them.

This is also such a great time to give back by reaching out to help someone the same way others have done for you. I have learned so much from people I have mentored and it is very fulfilling to see them reaching their goals and happy.

Consider volunteering for causes you care about, or promote the nonprofit in your community and on your favorite social media site. Think about how you would like to make a difference in the next year.

Building strong relationships is one of my core values. My article Tips for Building a Strong Professional Network offers more ideas like reviewing your network periodically for how to strengthen it.

Who have you thanked lately for the difference they make in your life?

 

7 Quick Tips for Overcoming Procrastination

It is so easy to slide into the rabbit hole of procrastination, especially when big projects are looming, your calendar is overflowing with meetings, and your devices keep pinging at you. The urgent, everyday stuff like email and social media can lure us away from what we know is most important. Never does “getting organized” seem as alluring as when there’s something you’re uncomfortable or hesitant about doing even though you know you need to.

stop_buttonTry these ideas for beating the temptation of time wasters:

  • Each morning (or the night before) plan what you will get done today that will help you meet your most important goals. Be realistic about what you can accomplish.

  • Do your most creative work when you feel most fresh. Avoid looking at email and social media or taking non-urgent phone calls during those times. Close out of those programs, use the mute button, and focus.

  • Commit to an output goal or number of hours doing something on a consistent basis that helps you meet your bigger picture goals. This makes it harder to “accidentally” not make progress because of everything else that got in the way. For example, I’m going to write  for 3 hours every day without interruption, in two different time slots. Or I’m going to reach out to a minimum of 10 X-type of people through at least X emails, social media messages, and phone calls each week day.

  • Set time limits for how long you’ll spend doing more routine tasks like answering emails or posting on social media. Use a timer if it helps.

  • Are you trying to perfect something that wasn’t meant to be the next Mona Lisa? If you find yourself honing something endlessly, for example crafting the sixth version of anything, consider if you’re caught in the grass blades which is preventing you from looking at the forest. Seth Godin’s points out that there comes the time when you need to execute and complete the stepping stone projects that help you get where you want to go.
  • Reward yourself for meeting your goals or coming close, whether it’s meeting friends, reading that novel, or watching a fun movie.

  • Is your procrastination your brain or heart’s way of telling you something? If you find yourself elbows deep in cleaning out your desk or closet and you haven’t gotten your most critical goals done, ask yourself what is holding you back. Are you avoiding it because you feel uncomfortable doing it, are unsure of how to do it well enough to meet someone’s standards or your own, or is it taking you in a direction you don’t really want to go? Experts like Chris Brogan speak eloquently about pushing yourself to focus and execute or re-plan your strategy.

For more ideas, check out my recent article 12 Time Saving Hacks for Busy Professionals.

What are your strategies for overcoming procrastination?

 

Reinventing Yourself Continuously Essential in a World of Constant Change

As an eternal optimist, I see change as an open door to learn and explore new possibilities. The reality is the world is changing at a much faster pace than in the past. If you want to stay essential and feel fulfilled in your career and profession, continuously exploring what is new in your field and how to evolve your perspective and skills is critical to your success.

stairway leading to an open door and blue sky

Embrace change as an opportunity. Avoiding change is a path to extinction as companies like Blockbuster and Borders learned when it was too late. No one wants that to happen to their career, which is why learning and change is such an important part of a personal branding plan.

For more tips on personal branding, check out my article 10 Ways to Manage Your Professional Brand, Reinventing as Needed.

Anticipating Where Your Field is Headed

What trends do you see in your profession and sector? How are technology and new ways of thinking disrupting your business? Ingraining an explorer’s passion will keep you nimble, scanning your horizon for opportunities and threats and seeking innovations.

Do you want to disrupt or be disrupted? Imagine if Borders had acted thoughtfully and promptly to buying and downloading books online when Amazon first started to become popular. What if they had created a clever, useful e-book reader early on? What if Blockbuster had anticipated that video stores could become yesterday’s news and figured out a game changing way to manage video streaming? Now the collaborative economy with success stories like Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft are disrupting traditional businesses starting with hotels and taxis.

What can we do individually to find intrigue in change and imagine how we can re-engineer our careers to take best advantage of the changes? And not be left behind as changes inevitably impact our profession and industries.

After all, creative individuals help drive the change and the innovations that disrupt and to put it more positively, improve, create and enlarge our worlds. Far better to be driving change than see it drive by us.

Find the mentors and network you need to help you learn and grow. And to be part of the change rather than having change pass you by. Don’t wait for a crisis to network, reach out regularly to interesting people you admire or who have expertise you can learn from. Connect people to each other and seek out opportunities to mentor others.

Watch for success stories and what you can learn from them. Businesses, nonprofits, and people who have expertise, skills and success you admire. Read up and reach out to them. What can you take from what you learn and apply it to your organization and career?

How can you update your skills or apply them to other interests you have?

A video store evolves to a cell phone repair store

A video store evolves to a cell phone repair store

10 Ways to Manage Your Professional Brand, Reinventing as Needed

You are your own career planner and coach. Gone are the days when we could rely on others to guide our career, waiting for the next obvious step on the ladder. This is probably for the best, since who knows best where your best interests and dreams lie than yourself? We are all responsible for our own destiny and careers.

In a world of constant change, we are likely to change careers multiple times. Which gives us a world of opportunity to use our strengths and skills to explore different fields and options.

fireworks burstBuilding your personal brand based on your unique strengths and passions is critical to success. What do you want to be known for? What do you care about?

How does your plan for your personal brand fit in with your organization’s goals?

Think about your strengths and weaknesses realistically and aspirationally.  Do you enjoy what you are doing now? What do you want to do long term? What do you need to get there? What do you need to learn?

Seek out how you can be truly helpful to others. Most of us don’t feel comfortable trumpeting our accomplishments (though summarizing them in a well articulated LinkedIn profile is certainly appropriate). Sharing useful information can highlight your strengths and abilities in the best way possible.

Reading advice that helps solve your potential customer’s problems is a much better way to convince them you’re awesome than your just telling them how great you are.

Continuously reinvent yourself. What trends do you see in your profession and sector? How is technology and new ways of thinking disrupting your business? Make sure you are constantly learning and staying up to date, especially in the areas you have identified as your strengths and what you want to be known for. Find trusted sources of information, follow thought leaders and experts in the field, and attend virtual or in person professional development.

Also check out my article Reinventing Yourself Continuously Essential in a World of Constant Change.

Find the mentors and network you need to help you learn and grow. Don’t wait for a crisis to network, reach out regularly to interesting people you admire or who have relevant expertise. Connect people to each other and seek out opportunities to mentor others.

Explore different social media sites to see which are most relevant to your interests and needs. Having a presence with a strong profile and engaging with like minded people will benefit you with community, networking and reinforcing your personal brand. Just keep in mind what you most want to project as strengths and skills while engaging.

Emphasize conversation and sharing useful information rather than trumpeting how great you are or pitching whatever you are selling. Listen and learn the tone, style and jargon of each social media site before you start posting. Sites like Social Media Examiner provide great tips to help familiarize you and summarize the latest changes to the various social media sites.

Create and share content in your area or aspirational area of expertise. Use a combination of  sharing other people’s content (always crediting them!) and writing  your own. Be realistic about what you have time to create, such as tweeting tips, guest articles, your own blog, slide decks, webinars, and podcasts.

Connect with people online and in person. Starting with a strong LinkedIn profile, build a strong network. Find interesting online discussion groups, Check out related LinkedIn or Facebook groups, tweetchats (scheduled twitter chats on specific topics identified by a #hashtag), and webinars or Google Hangouts. Many professional associations  and universities host online discussion forums for their members or alumni. Periodically schedule in person time with key contacts.

How to manage the time crunch, aka when am I supposed to have time to do this, too?!? I shared tips for assessing what needs to get done versus things to let go of in my post Saving Time and Effort to Free Up Energy for What Matters Most.

10 Ways Prof Brand

Focusing on Most Important Goals, Values for 2014

Setting New Year’s resolutions can either sound efficient or pointless depending on how you look at it. Resolutions can be an exercise in setting aspirations or opportunities for failure. Which is why I prefer using the start of a new year as an opportunity to reflect on what is most important to me personally and professionally and set priorities for the year.

start mark at beginning of running trackProfessionally it is important to have in mind the most important goals and priorities so that in the craziness of every day there is something clear to aim for. Otherwise how will we know if we really accomplished anything except the uncomfortable awareness of how easy it is to get distracted by the hundreds of small, urgent pings and tasks surrounding us.

Having those big picture aspirations can make it easier to prioritize the mundane from the future changing opportunities. Check out my previous post Saving Time and Effort to Free Up Energy for What Matters Most for tips on creating a stop doing list.

Reflecting on what is really important to your business and personal future can make all the difference. This also includes thinking about how you balance the two so you have quality time for your family, learning new things, taking care of yourself, and some volunteering – the various spheres of your life. What gives you energy and inspires you, what leaves you sapped, who and what you really care about.

And while the instinct to think about the future is great, it’s also the perfect time to celebrate what you’ve accomplished in the past year. It’s so easy to think about what could have gone better or the negative, but looking for the positive and happy times will leave a much more joyous momentum for the new year.

Wishing everyone a very happy. fulfilling year!

 

What Are You Thankful For This Holiday Season?

Hopefully it’s easy to think of things we are thankful for in our personal lives (which is so important to do!), but this is also the perfect time of year to think about our gratitude in the professional sectors of our lives. The people who make a difference in our daily lives, profession, and network from the baristas who smile patiently when we rush through, people in our network who made an introduction or shared advice when we needed it, the colleagues who rushed to meet a last minute deadline, and the mentors we turn to regularly.

bonsai photoWhen was the last time you reached out to your network, said thank you, shared an article or amusing (appropriate) video or comic that reminds you of someone? What more perfect time of year than now. It can be challenging to squeeze in when the holidays can be packed with personal and professional obligations on top of family travel, but staying in touch enriches our lives. And no one wants to only hear from people when they need something. I talk more about networking in this article on Tips for Building a Strong Network.

Heading toward the end of the year invites reflection on all that you accomplished this year as well as who helped you. I confess to a tendency to gravitate to what else I want to get done (and wish I could have also gotten done) rather than taking a moment to appreciate what I’ve achieved, but that reflection is important. To feel good about the positive and to show appreciation to those I worked with professionally and my family and friends’ support.

For example this year I am so thankful for all the wonderful support for my sister Vicky Keston and I launching our Gooseling startup’s parenting blog and Cavity Dragon PNG_edited-1first ios apps to teach children life and social skills through video games.  We are very grateful to the many people and organizations who helped spread the word about the Cavity Dragons apps designed to motivate kids to brush their teeth. And I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to work with my best friend-sister, fellow Mom, business partner Vicky. My beloved family’s never ending support is the essential ingredient for success as any budding entrepreneur has undoubtedly experienced.

Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season and the opportunity for reflection and thankfulness that it can bring.

 

Landmark Books to Inspire Your Leadership, Marketing & Planning for the Future

While I am an avid reader of a number of leadership, marketing and social media blogs, many of which are listed in my blog roll on my www.lisadanielpour.com home page, I also squeeze in time to read the latest books that I think will be pivotal to informing my thinking about the future. These are three recent reads that inspired my business planning and marketing strategy that I wanted to share.

Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype by Jay Baer
youtility-bookThis short book is a must read for re-thinking how you market and communicate with your current and potential customers, members, or constituents. The reality is we live in a very crowded marketplace with thousands of brands and organizations swamping our favorite social media sites, email in boxes, and every other route possible to our eyes and ears. Whether you are a company marketing a product or service, a consultant or other professional seeking clients, or a nonprofit trying to engage potential donors and volunteers, how do you stand out from all that noise?

Youtility gives you that path through providing absolutely usefulness and value to whatever kind of consumer you want to attract, reflecting your understanding of their wants and needs and ability to deliver solutions to their problems. As Jay Baer puts it best, “Youtility is marketing that’s wanted by customers. Youtility is massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long-term trust and kinship between your company and your customers.”

I found Baer’s book invaluable in taking the concept of content marketing to the next level to thinking about how can I best help the audiences I am trying to reach so that the content and information I provide is compelling and really meets their needs. This is what sets you apart from the crowd. What will make the difference for your customers, so that you are truly helping them while reinforcing your brand and messages? Throughout the book, Baer provides creative, pragmatic examples of how different kinds of organizations from small to large are using Youtility to engage and help their audiences and what their process and results have been.

“If you sell something, you make a customer today; if you help someone, you make a customer for life.” -Jay Baer

He walks you through a six-step process he recommends for building Youtility into your business after examining three key traditional approaches to building awareness for organizations and how the marketplace is completely changing. I highly recommend this quick read for anyone concerned about marketing or branding your organization or products/services for the future. Jay Baer is a marketing and social media expert and author of the popular Convince & Convert blog which I also recommend reading regularly.

 

Impact EquationThe Impact Equation by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

If you are planning to launch a new business, product, or service, this book is a great guide to help you map out your vision and pragmatic path to success. Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, successful entrepreneurs and social business leaders, share their experiences and formula for success based on the acronym IMPACT = C x (R + E+ A + T + E). The CREATE acronym stands for the attributes needed to create your impact that the authors walks you through step by step: Contrast, Reach, Exposure, Articulation, Trust, and Echo.

The Impact Equation provides the wisdom and insights Brogan and Smith have gleaned from their successes and working with their many clients. The attributes are grouped into four sections that give you guiding principles – goals, ideas, platform, and human element. The authors weave in many examples of how different entrepreneurs and organizations use these techniques and aspects to literally “create” their success.

While you’re reading the book it might prove useful to set up a simple chart or spreadsheet listing the attributes and jot notes about how you currently are or might plan to handle each aspect for your business, product or service. I read it right before launching my startup Gooseling’s first children’s app Cavity Dragons and found it very useful for checking whether we’d thought sufficiently through our vision and plan for both our business and the app.

Both Chris Brogan and Julien Smith have blogs and email newsletters (you can sign up for their newsletters on their respective web sites) that are great reads as well.

Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg by Ekaterina Walter
ThinkLikeZuck-bookThis book justifiably received a great deal of business buzz for delving thoughtfully into what made facebook and in particular Mark Zuckerberg’s leadership style so successful. But this quick read also explores other renowned business success stories in the framework of the five principles author Ekaterina Walter identifies as key to that success – passion, purpose, people, product, and partnerships. I’ve followed and admired Ekaterina Walter for several years, she was a social media leader at Intel until co-founding the branding/marketing firm Branderati.

“Passion + Action = Results” – Ekaterina Walter

Walter offers an intriguing inside look at the launch and evolution of facebook as a business as well as its impact on our lives and how Mark Zuckerberg’s strengths and challenges played a role in each stage of development. While Walter discusses the ingenuity and success stories of a variety of entrepreneurs (e.g. TOMS, CollegeHumor, Threadless, and Dyson), she also explores the vital role intrapreneurs play in organizations and shares examples. David Armano, Executive Vice President of Edelman Digital, defined intrapreneurs as “someone who has an entrepreneurial streak in his or her DNA, but chooses to align his or her talents with a large organization in place of creating his or her own.”

As Walter says, “Organizations small and large need intrapreneurs. In an era of constant change, not one single company can afford complacency. True disruption happens when entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well within an organization. And that spirit is cultivated and spread by intrapreneurs–those on the forefront of change, those passionate enough to activate the principles discussed in this book within their own organization.”

Ekaterina Walter also has a must-read blog and writes regularly for Forbes, Fast Company, Huffington Post, and Entrepreneur.

Are You Working Toward Your Most Important Goals and Dreams?

Are you making the impact you want? Are you doing what is most important  to you?

When was the last time you stepped back and reflected on what your most important personal and professional goals and aspirations are?

chair_on_the_beachBeing more than midway through the year, take a few minutes to think about what inspires you, what you care about. What do you love doing, and wish you could stop doing? What gives you joy versus heartburn?

When you pause between the overflowing virtual inbox, emails and daily crises, are you making progress in making your dreams come true?

Think about it – three years from now where do you want to be? What are the big things you’ll need to do for that to happen? What will matter most that you are doing now? What are the stepping stones that will get you there?

Whether you take a long reflective walk or think about your inspiration in the back of your mind while enjoying a wonderful summer vacation, regularly reflecting on the big picture will help you from getting too mired down in the every day to build the future you are dreaming of.

What do you do to keep an eye on what you want to accomplish amid the every day rush of things?

Saving Time and Effort to Free Up Energy for What Matters Most

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have enough to do in any given day. Since most of us are instead trying to figure out how the days fly by so quickly, regularly assessing what we can stop doing is vital to make more time for what matters most.

Clock showing time flyingA stop doing list is crucial to free up time for all the exciting new things we could be doing instead. But that can be easier said than done in the nitty gritty of the endless daily to do’s and urgent last minute small and big crises that come up.

Take a step back and think honestly – if your mentor or best friend was looking at what you do in a given day, what advice might they give? Are all your meetings, processes, and day-to-day tasks truly necessary? What role do they really play? How do they help you accomplish your most important personal and professional goals?

checkbox ticked offSo many organizations get enmeshed in processes, forms, and a meeting culture that can sap too much energy and time that could be used for getting the actual work done. It can be very easy to feel tied to these daily and weekly procedures and hard to see the forest for the trees. But reflecting on what purpose they serve and discussing them with colleagues can open up new possibilities. Just try to resist the temptation to substitute one process or procedure for another one if it doesn’t serve an important purpose.

Seek out efficiencies at work and in your personal life whether reserving certain times of the day for email and social media or grouping errands. Think about what times of the day you are at your best for creative activities like writing or strategic work like imagining what the best future for your organization would look like and developing new products or services. I try to reserve those times for that higher brain creative work and do more rote work at other times. It’s hard to feel productive if I do the rote things when I would have been at my most creative, and then try to be creative when I am tired.

In my previous post I discussed the process for regularly assessing your products and services to decide when it is time to stop providing something that is no longer profitable or meeting the goals you had for it. But  seeking out the opportunities to cut out some of those hundreds of little and big tasks and routines we all do can be equally fruitful.

What strategies do you use to make the best use of your time?

 

Reflecting on Your Professional and Personal Goals Amidst the Daily Rush Critical to Success

photo of colored pencils and crayon boxes on top of lined paperWhether you have children or teens starting school or the Labor Day weekend brings back memories of shopping for school supplies and the transition from fun summer pastimes, this is a great time of year to reflect on your personal and professional goals.

Just like the start of the school year was a great opportunity for a fresh start and renewed focus on favorite courses and extracurricular activities when we were in school, adults can jump on the bandwagon by thinking through what you want to accomplish for your organization, your career, and your personal life.

In the day-to-day rush of urgent, frequent tasks, projects, emails, meetings, and more, it’s hard to take the time to contemplate what is most important to you and whether the to do’s you take care of each day are leading to accomplishing your goals. Making sure you have articulated your most important personal and professional goals is the first step. If you have already done this, be sure to regularly reflect on whether your goals have changed.

When you think one or five years into the future, what will you want to have accomplished? What do you most value spending your time doing personally and professionally?

Five years from now, what will make you feel wonderful looking back on this time? What would you regret if you didn’t do?

Then as I discussed in my New Year’s post, visualize the steps that will get you there and if you know people who are role models who could inspire you. This includes following thought leaders in your professional field, industry, and related to your personal aspirations (e.g. if you have fitness or parenting goals) who you could follow on twitter, facebook, google plus, or other online forums. Who could you learn from?

Here’s to a successful, fulfilling (school) year ahead doing whatever is most meaningful to you!