Category Archives: Leadership

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!

 

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?

 

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Let Go of a Product or Service?

As challenging is it can be to develop great new ideas, it seems even harder to discontinue a product, service, or event. Reflecting on what is really working and not working is crucial to the future of any organization. Nonprofits and associations also need to keep an eye on whether each membership benefit and program is still serving its purpose.

Whether your products, services, and events are profitable is the obvious, critical measure but other factors include:

  • stop red_buttonWhat do your most important audiences want and need? What problems do your key customers or members need help solving? Do all your current products and services still meet these needs?
  • Given changes in technology and how people live and work, are you delivering the right products and services in the right way?
  • Do they fit with your organization’s mission and priorities?

Products developed a long time ago may no longer fit those parameters but it can be very difficult for staff to step back and have an objective perspective, especially those who are closest to developing and maintaining them. It is natural for people to be emotionally invested and to fear change and how it might affect their jobs.

Graph ImagesUsing data that clearly illustrate the trends over time for sales, usage, expenses, and net revenue can help keep the conversation on the facts. Look at the role the product was designed to serve versus what is currently happening, and how the marketplace has evolved and is likely to change in the next year or two.

Honestly assessing what is working vs. what might be best to transition to a different iteration or to discontinue is critical to the future of the organization. It can affect people’s perception of your brand if they think you are stuck in the past with outdated products. Consider how discontinuing or revamping a product that is no longer fruitful can free up time and resources for exciting new ventures.

If you decide to discontinue or change the product, a careful transition plan that involves all affected staff is critical to success. Think through potential pitfalls and reactions and be prepared to be responsive, caring, and follow through effectively so that your provide as smooth a transition as possible. Testing the transition plan either casually or more formally with a small group of customers can help you anticipate issues and questions that might arise and how to best communicate the changes.

How do you periodically review your products, programs, and events to ensure they are still compelling and worthy of continuing?

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!

 

Does What You Say Match What You Deliver?

cup with array of colored pencilsDo your messaging, mission, stories, and actual customer/member/donor experience align? It takes enormous effort, creativity, and time to deliver your mission, use effective messaging, and make it come alive through compelling stories. But it means nothing if the actual experience your customers, members, or donors have does not match the expectations your story creates.

Listening to your constituents through as many channels as possible including social media and market research offers a critical window to how your organization is really doing.

Get insights and feedback from front line staff who communicate with your customers, members, or donors on a daily basis through phone, email and your social media outlets to make sure you understand people’s perceptions, impressions, feelings, and experiences.

Does the reality people are experiencing match what your marketing is promising? If not, what do you need to do to change that?

Engaging the Next Generation while Remaining Relevant to Your Other Constituents

Are you making attracting and retaining the next generation a priority to sustain your organization and benefit from their fresh insights and ideas? Quite simply, they are the future. Which is why empowering and cultivating the next generation of leaders in your organization, association, industry is so vital.

Balance bar with steel ball on either side of itWhile appealing to and engaging younger people is the lifeblood of the future of the organization, balancing that with staying relevant and nurturing the rest of your customer/member base is also critical.  It is a delicate dance in a time of limited resources.

For example, many membership associations and nonprofits face the dilemma that the average age of their members and donors are now over 50 years old, making involving younger people more critical than ever. Yet budgets and staff time are also at their tightest and they worry that focusing on engaging young people will mean not paying sufficient attention to their core membership and donors.

Here are some quick tips and ideas that are working for a number of organizations:

Avoid making generalizations about the “next generation.” Take the time to find out the priorities, motivations, interests, and habits of the younger customers, members, or donors  in your audience. Which social media sites and online communities do they use for what purposes?

Conduct market research and have anecdotal conversations with younger and older people in the segments you want to reach. You may find they have common core needs and interests that will help define your messaging and services you might want to develop for them despite being in different ages ranges.

Look at your marketing materials and online presence – do the photos and graphics represent diversity including in range of ages? Are your main messages consistent with the needs and values of your most important younger and older customers/members?

Consider creating a mentoring program and/or online discussion group that give seasoned customers and members the opportunity to share their expertise and life experience with younger people. This can provide a meaningful experience and resource to both parties while involving them in your organization. Invite some key older and younger people to moderate the discussion group on your web site or a social media site like LinkedIn.

Seek other meaningful ways that customers, members, or donors in different age ranges and with different needs and interests can engage with your organization. Invite some articulate, insightful  young people to serve on your Board and key committees to ensure you get their input while making them feel valued.

Younger people expect respect and a seat at the table. They are not going to tolerate waiting 20 years to “earn” their place. Encourage their ideas, give them the opportunity to create a new program or service, or to host an in-person or online discussion panel. Ask them to serve on a task force to take a fresh look at a business line or program area.

Share success stories about accomplished young professionals or customers and how your organization or products/services helped them achieve their goals. Ask a few articulate, successful members or customers to serve as ambassadors for your organization, featuring them in articles, print and online ads, your web site, blog, and social media vehicles. Encourage them to share their stories as well and to ask their friends or colleagues to participate in your organization.

What have you found effective to engage the next generation while nurturing and sustaining your other key members, donors, or customers? What impact have you seen?