Monday Mornings with Madison

Yearly Archives:
2013

The Power of Personal Involvement

As 2013 comes to an end and 2014 appears on the horizon, business leaders are thinking about how to take their company, division or department to the next level. Those leaders wanting to ‘kick it up a notch’ are thinking about processes, goals and objectives. They are looking at how to improve their staff performance, organizational structure and sales and marketing strategies. While that is all good, perhaps it is also time for some self-examination. The top brass might start by considering its own impact on the team.

After all, just how much impact does a leader or owner of a business have on the success of his or her team, staff and direct reports? Can the employees of a business or division be just as successful functioning on their own as with a leader interacting with them? Just how necessary and important is the top leadership to a team’s productivity? That depends on their involvement and presence. It turns out that one of the best ways an executive leader can help a department succeed is by being present and available. Continue reading

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Storytelling = Marketing

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, marketing is defined as “the activities that are involved in making people aware of a company’s products (or services) and making sure that the products (or services) are available to be bought.” Based on that definition, every employee is really engaged in activities that either make people aware of what the company is selling / providing or make sure it is available for purchase. Each employee is involved, in one way or another, with increasing awareness and availability of what is being sold. From an entry level clerk to the highest level of leadership, every person is involved in marketing their place of employ.

There are countless ‘marketing’ opportunities in the stories about what makes a company – any company — great. Every company has great stories about its products or services, its people, the ways that the company goes above and beyond, or the ways it helps the community. Every company has a multitude of stories, that when told strategically, have the power to convert lookers into buyers, prospects into customers, critics into fans, and one-time customers into loyal followers. A well-told, strategically-delivered story has the power to engage, encourage and enchant. You may wonder what story can the average worker have to tell and how can it be deployed strategically if the person doesn’t work in the marketing department or isn’t a great writer? You’d be surprised.
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Choosing the Right Employee Performance Review Method… or Methods

Every so often, the business world rethinks its methods for evaluating employee performance. Old approaches are replaced with new ones. Then, in time, those are tossed aside for yet newer methods of assessing worker efficiency, output, creativity, and attitude. Because employee performance is – by its very nature – tied to a company’s productivity and thus its bottom line and long-term success, methods for evaluating employee performance are constantly being considered and reconsidered… a pendulum swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other.

At one end of the scale are harsh assessment methods, such as the stack ranking approach that General Electric CEO Jack Welch employed in the 1980s. On the other end of the continuum is the “no evaluation” method in which employees are never formally evaluated at all. Between one extreme and the other, of course, are many strategies with varying degrees of rigor and results. If you’re wondering which method of performance reviews helps motivate and improve employee performance most, it depends. It helps to start by looking at what methods have failed or succeeded for other companies.
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Profiting from Mistakes

People make mistakes. That is why they put erasers on pencils. Sometimes those mistakes are small and can be easily erased or corrected. Sometimes mistakes have a bigger impact. And some mistakes are so big that they are considered failures. Regardless of the magnitude of the error, one thing is certain. While it is human to make mistakes and fail, no one is ever glad or happy about it. In the moment, no one thinks “Oh, I am so glad I made that error.” But what if failure is actually a good thing? What if failures and mistakes are actually necessary in order to succeed?

There are countless examples in history of people who made mistakes and endured failures – sometimes many failures… sometimes even big failures — on the road to success. But what if the idea that the road to success is littered with failure is not the exception to the rule but rather it is the rule. What if failures and mistakes are necessary elements to achieve success? Time and time again, we see people who experienced the disappointment and frustrations that come with failing, and then those failures ended up being not only instrumental to strengthening their resolve but key in directing their path to success. We see countless cases in history of mistakes that are important precursors to breakthroughs. In many cases, without those failures or mistakes, they would not have achieved their particular successes. Are mistakes actually road signs on the path to success? Can we actually profit from mistakes? Continue reading

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Profiting from Mistakes

People make mistakes. That is why they put erasers on pencils. Sometimes those mistakes are small and can be easily erased or corrected. Sometimes mistakes have a bigger impact. And some mistakes are so big that they are considered failures. Regardless of the magnitude of the error, one thing is certain. While it is human to make mistakes and fail, no one is ever glad or happy about it. In the moment, no one thinks “Oh, I am so glad I made that error.” But what if failure is actually a good thing? What if failures and mistakes are actually necessary in order to succeed?

There are countless examples in history of people who made mistakes and endured failures – sometimes many failures… sometimes even big failures — on the road to success. But what if the idea that the road to success is littered with failure is not the exception to the rule but rather it is the rule. What if failures and mistakes are necessary elements to achieve success? Time and time again, we see people who experienced the disappointment and frustrations that come with failing, and then those failures ended up being not only instrumental to strengthening their resolve but key in directing their path to success. We see countless cases in history of mistakes that are important precursors to breakthroughs. In many cases, without those failures or mistakes, they would not have achieved their particular successes. Are mistakes actually road signs on the path to success? Can we actually profit from mistakes? Continue reading

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The Marriage of PR and SEO

Thanks to Google’s Penguin and Panda algorithmic updates—two changes that have boosted the importance of editorial quality and referral sites, and have nixed the spammier forms of search engine optimization—PR (public relations) and SEO (search engine optimization) have emerged as similar practices. Today PR and SEO have nearly identical goals: to obtain earned media. Both PR and SEO need a backbone of relevant, informative, and newsworthy content.

However, while both SEO and PR efforts focus on the same goal, individually they often fall short of maximum effectiveness. Perhaps that is why more and more companies are beginning to merge their SEO and PR efforts into one. Just like the mix of chocolate and peanut butter were “two great tastes that taste great together”, so are SEO and PR two great strategies that work great together. So what are the best ways to marry PR and SEO efforts? Continue reading

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Skills for Success – Part 4

When some people think about ‘attitude’ as a employment skill, they might think about a person’s demeanor and general disposition. An employee with a cheerful, smiling upbeat temperament might be thought to have a ‘good attitude.’ However, ‘attitude’ as a workplace skill is about much more than having a pleasant personality. When it comes to success, a winning attitude is about an employee’s mindset toward work and willingness to work, no matter what the job entails. As a skill, attitude can be defined as one who has a strong work ethic… a ‘can do’ approach to every task and a ‘whatever it takes to get the job done’ posture.

Most employers talk about wanting employees with a ‘positive attitude’ at work. Indeed, it is considered one of the top 10 workplace skills. And many employees think they do have a good ‘attitude’ because they are friendly and cooperative. Yet, at every workplace, there are those who are unwilling to do certain jobs. The argument might be that the tasks are tedious, boring, or menial. Or that the work is beneath the person’s abilities. Or that the job is a poor use of the person’s time. But those are all copouts. So what does a roll-up-your-sleeves, do-whatever-it-takes-to-get-the-job-done attitude look like?
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Skills for Success – Part 3

If you ask ten colleagues what is the most important skill a person needs to be successful, you will likely get ten different answers. That’s neither unusual nor wrong. There are a myriad of skills that contribute to success. Communication. Teamwork and cooperation. Enthusiasm (for your work). Strong work ethic. Responsibility. Efficient planning. Positive Attitude. These skills are generally considered by most people to be very important for success.

Indeed, The Career Center at the University of South Florida conducted a survey to determine the skills and abilities students need to succeed in the workplace of the 21st century so they could then infuse the teaching of these skills and abilities into the University’s classroom experience. They surveyed 130 participants attending the USF Career Center’s Fall Job Fair. Eighty-three recruiters responded, representing a 64.6 percent response rate. Top-ranking skills were then grouped into three categories, according to the percentage of respondents that rated a particular skill as being “Extremely Important or Very Important” to success. The results showed that many of the most important skills for success are not hard skills, such as the ability to do mathematical computations, but rather soft skills such as effective problem-solving or curiosity. Interestingly, one skill that made the A list as considered “Extremely Important or Very Important” by over 90% of all respondents was the ability to adapt. Adaptability, or the ability to adjust to new conditions, is a viewed by nine out of 10 people to be a key skill for success. Continue reading

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Skills for Success – Part 2

Difficult conversations are some of the most awkward, tense, tie-you-up-in-knots moments in people’s lives… both their personal and professional lives. In fact, there are thousands of books, articles and seminars on the topic of how to handle difficult conversations. One large training firm that provides professional workshops started offering a seminar titled ‘Dealing with Difficult People’, and it quickly became one of their most well-attended and lucrative programs. While it is not really a skill that anyone wants to be good at, most people understand that is an important skill for success.

The first step is to consider “Why is it a difficult conversation in the first place?” Sometimes, it’s because of the relationship between the parties such as a subordinate speaking to a supervisor. Sometimes it is because of the content of the conversation, such as communicating a criticism or pointing out a harsh truth. Sometimes it is because the person on either end of the talk is a difficult or hostile person. No matter the circumstances, there are strategies on how to handle even the most difficult conversation. Continue reading

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Skills for Success

The ability to start and maintain a conversation can be even more important to a person’s success in business than grades in school or college. In a study by Stanford University’s School of Business, students who had graduated with a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) were contacted 10 years after they graduated to gauge their success. The study found that the grade point averages of graduates had no bearing on their success — but their ability to make conversation did. The most successful graduates were those who could make conversation with anyone — from acquaintances to business associates and from total strangers to good friends.

To many, starting and maintaining a conversation comes as naturally as breathing. But for others, the art of conversation is just that… an art form they can recognize and respect, but not replicate. For those who struggle to hold natural, engaged conversations, the gift of gab is viewed like unattainable talent such as Van Gogh’s ability to capture movement on canvas or Beethoven’s ability to evoke emotion through music…. beautiful and uplifting but not doable. However, for many in the business world, the ability to communicate fluidly and effortlessly is an invaluable skill. Is it possible for someone shy, tongue-tied or insecure to become a masterful conversationalist? It starts by understanding the three reasons for conversations and the five rules that make for good conversationalists.
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