Monday Mornings with Madison

Yearly Archives:
2017

The New LinkedIn: A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

When LinkedIn launched, it was a social media site that encouraged people in the work world to connect with other known professionals for networking and career development. People were categorized as either (1st) which were direct connections, (2nd) which is someone who knows someone you know or (3rd) someone who knows someone that knows someone you know. They tracked up to three degrees of separation between people. In the early days of LI, someone with over 500 connections was considered to be a mover-and-shaker. The site discouraged linking to people outside those known at work, school or social circles. In turn, people were hesitant to link with people they didn’t know for fear that the site would be abused by salespeople and scammers.
Now, 15 years later, LinkedIn has evolved, describing itself as “a business- and employment-oriented social networking service that operates via websites and mobile apps.” The LI website says that “LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with more than 530 million users in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.” Their mission “is to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” Besides having direct connections, particularly “popular” people also have thousands to hundreds of thousands of “Followers” who simply want to read (articles and posts) what that person has to say. (For those unfamiliar with LI, a Follower isn’t necessarily a connection, but all of a person’s connections are Followers.
Some may wonder why anyone wants to “Follow” a person on LinkedIn that they don’t know and will probably never meet, and who might not even be in the same country and is likely to not even be in the same industry or field. Think of an Airline and Hospitality manager in Mumbai, India “following” a Chief Technology Officer at the Daily Mail in London. On the surface, they have little in common and are highly unlikely to ever interact. (These real contacts are, in fact, connected.) So what does an Influencer do that is deserving of so many Followers worldwide? Welcome to the new LinkedIn. It is a social media site where people not only connect with people they know, but actually seek to connect with people they want to know and people who offer information and insights of value. It serves as a public forum for professional voices. Some become so active that they are invited to be “Influencers.” Many of these Influencers are Recruiters and HR professionals, who are in the business of finding and knowing top talent. But many others are “gurus” in their own field such as leadership, management, marketing, technology, or sales. They not only offer advice and insights, but they also help those in their network in a variety of intangible and tangible ways. And even those who aren’t Influencers are helping contacts they hardly know, even when there is absolutely nothing in it for them. That’s because the focus of the new LI is not “what can you do for me?” but “what can we do for each other.” Continue reading

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The Smallest Gestures Can Have the Biggest Impact

Companies today compete furiously for market share. We see brick-and-mortar retailers fighting for every sale and struggling to survive. The Street announced that “Ailing department store operator Sears Holdings Inc. will shut down 63 more Sears and Kmart stores, the latest step as it hobbles to a likely bankruptcy.” [1] Restaurants are slogging it out with special offers, gimmicks and unique approaches that will attain and retain patrons. The New York Times recently reported that “There are now more than 620,000 eating and drinking places in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the number of restaurants is growing at about twice the rate of the population.” [2] Competition is tough, and marketing research shows that businesses in most industries are spending increasingly larger budgets to reach potential customers and woo existing customers. Clutch, a Washington, D.C.-based ratings and review firm, conducted a 2017 Small Business Digital Marketing Survey of 350 small business owners and managers (500 employees or less) in which 49% of entrepreneurs said they plan to spend more on digital marketing to boost sales and brand recognition this year over last year and 36% said they aim to boost their marketing budget by 11% to 30%. They are doing it all. PPC campaigns. Social media ads. Retargeting efforts. Network commercials. Seminars. Webinars. Video infomercials. Presentations. Mobile automated notifications. Text ads. The efforts are increasingly sophisticated and expensive. You name it. Businesses are doing it. Creating it…. deploying it…. and measuring the effectiveness of it. That’s a lot of time and money spent to cut through the noise and grab the audience’s attention with the hopes of driving sales and increasing repeat business.
The need to reach ever-larger audiences and cut through the ever-growing din of marketing noise is prompting companies to further automate sales and marketing efforts. Personalized eblasts are sent in bulk. Robo text messages pop up when a customer is near a store or eatery. Retargeting ads appear on websites that are completely unrelated to the site visited. Mass promotions are designed to have a “just for you” look. Websites welcome visitors back by name. And yet, despite or perhaps because of all those faux-personal, automated actions, many companies are finding that it is actually the one-on-one efforts and little niceties are having the biggest impact on capturing and keeping clients. Genuine, personal interaction and one-on-one service wows clients… and it doesn’t have to be costly or complicated. It’s often the modest gestures and pint-sized details that have the biggest impact. Continue reading

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Creating Great Digital Presentations Today

Auyush Jain of Microsoft once said that “A single 10-minute presentation has the power to convert an idea into reality.” That is perhaps why most companies that sell a product or service (something that is not a commodity) will use a “presentation” to explain their product or service to prospective customers. This is especially true for high ticket items, complex services and B2B sales. A typical presentation explains the product/service benefits and features as well as the company’s story and expertise. In the “old days”, before computers and software applications, salespeople would work with marketing to create the presentation on either boards or in a flip book or binder. In 1990, Microsoft revolutionized presentations with the launch of Powerpoint (which was invented in 1987 under a different name by a different company). Suddenly, anyone with basic technical skills could use software found on most desktops to create a digital presentation. Slides replaced boards and sheets. A presentation could be emailed to anyone, anywhere, at a moment’s notice. The use of presentations grew. They were no longer just used for sales pitches. Today, presentations are used for operational training, educational seminars, HR onboarding, and more.
Technology has evolved in leaps and bounds since Powerpoint launched and, yet, many people still use Powerpoint. On the 30th anniversary of this ubiquitous presentation software, business people everywhere still use the program even though it hasn’t changed much and functions in much the same way it did decades ago. Imagine if 30 years after automobiles became ubiquitous they still looked like Ford’s Model T. Absurd. So why is Powerpoint still so widely used? The reasons are varied. First, the software still comes with most computers, so why spend money to buy other software when Powerpoint can get the basic job done. Also, some people just don’t like change and see no need to find a new presentation tool when the current tool is still perfectly adequate to get the job done. Still others just don’t want to take the time to learn new software. And a Powerpoint presentation is familiar to most anyone who receives it, making it easy to open and view However, given the multitude of presentation programs on the market today, it is time to consider other options for creating and sharing great presentations today. Continue reading

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Professional Correctness is the New PC

Recently, CBS fired a legal executive in their organization over comments she posted on Facebook after the tragic incident in Las Vegas. The executive, who is an attorney and was Vice President and Senior Counsel in Strategic Transactions at CBS, posted her comment just hours after the tragedy. Without reposting what she said or opening the can of political worms related to her comment, suffice it to say that what she wrote was deemed by many to be emotionally-charged, callous and politically-volatile, and – of course — it quickly spread on social media and through online news outlets. Shortly thereafter, the executive was fired from her job. She had been employed by CBS for about a year. A CBS spokesperson said that “Her views as expressed on social media are deeply unacceptable to all of us at CBS.”
This begs the question, can the things that employees say or do in their private lives affect their employment? Given the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech, can an employer terminate an employee for a comment made on his/her own time on his/her own personal social media page? Is there a separation between personal and professional? The answer to all of these questions is basically yes. Yes, the CBS executive’s comment on social media is protected by the First Amendment and she cannot be arrested or punished by the government for her comment. And, yes, there is a line that separates personal from professional, but thanks to social media, that line is more blurry. Her freedom to speak her mind does not protect her from being fired from her job for violating professional standards of conduct, especially if she had an employment contract and was upheld to certain professional standards as an attorney. For those that bristle that this is just “political correctness,” it’s not. This is about being “professionally correct,” not “politically correct.” Thanks to social media, professional correctness is the new PC. So what exactly are the rules for being professionally correct and are those rules hard and fast regardless of a person’s position and employer? Are the professional standards of conduct the same for everyone? Continue reading

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Helping Underperforming but Unwitting Employees Improve Skills

A study of high-tech firms found that 32-42% of their software engineers rated their skills as being in the top 5% of their companies. This is mathematically impossible. A study at the University of Nebraska found that 68% of the faculty rated themselves in the top 25% for teaching ability, and over 90% rated themselves as above average, which is another mathematical impossibility. A study of medical technicians found that they consistently overestimate their knowledge of real-world lab procedures. This problem is not restricted to just employees. Studies also found this phenomenon in college students. Students in the bottom quartile of a number of tests on grammar, logic and humor grossly overestimated their ability. Those who tested in the bottom 10% for grammar actually thought they were in the top 33%. That’s a huge gap between perception and reality. And given that a study of over 30,000 employees found that fewer than half said they didn’t know if they were doing a good job while most managers believed their own performance was above par, then this phenomenon seems to also apply to those in management and leadership whose job it is to assess and communicate employee performance.
According to countless studies, many people have an inflated sense of their own skills and abilities. A large percentage of people are less skilled than they need to be in their work while their own perception of their skills is significantly higher than their actual skills. It is a common phenomenon. And, for employers, it is also a significant problem. Not only do most companies have many employees whose skills are subpar and thus aren’t doing their jobs well, but these marginally-skilled employees have no idea that they aren’t performing well. In fact, they usually think that their work quality is above average. This problem is not only widespread, but it is one that seriously hurts productivity and service delivery. This is known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. But what is an employer to do when an employee’s opinion of his skills and performance don’t align with what is needed and expected for the job? Is there a way to help underperforming but unwitting employees improve their skills? Continue reading

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Making Time to Sharpen the Saw

Most people are familiar with the late Stephen Covey’s famous book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. First published in 1988, the business / self-help book offered an approach to being more effective in achieving goals by aligning oneself to what Covey referenced as the “true north” principles. He saw those seven principles as universal and timeless. Later he added an eighth principle. By far his best-known book, Covey’s Seven Habits have sold more than 25 million copies in 40 languages worldwide. The audio version became the first non-fiction audio-book in U.S. publishing history to sell more than one million copies and has now sold over 1 ½ million audio copies to date. More recently, Covey’s son wrote and published a simplified version of the book titled The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens. The Seven Habits philosophy lives on with Millennials and iGens.
So why was this book so successful? Because Covey’s approach helped people shift their focus to habits that improved their personal and professional lives by making them more “effective”. At its core, Covey believed that people were meant to evolve from dependence to independence and, ultimately, to interdependence. And for a person to remain truly effective, he had to invest in balanced self-renewal. Covey called it “sharpening the saw.” He said that to be effective, one needed to preserve and enhance his or her greatest asset: the self. So, as we approach the 30th anniversary of this philosophy, what does saw sharpening look like today? And what happens when we sharpen the saw? Continue reading

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Making Content Contagious

In the medical world, a virus is an infective agent that cannot grow or reproduce apart from a living cell. A virus invades living cells and uses their chemical machinery to keep itself alive and replicate. Most viruses are harmful. In the digital world, a virus is a piece of code that is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect. But in the marketing world, when a piece of content such as a video, image or ad goes ‘viral’ – circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another – that is cause for celebration. It is the most desired, but also most elusive, outcome for any marketing effort.
While many have tried creating content that goes viral, it is like baking the perfect soufflé, writing a hit song or painting a masterpiece. Many try but most fall far short of the mark. Yes, there are many videos that have gone viral, but that number is actually quite low in comparison to the amount of content that is created and posted daily. There is a continually growing stream of digital activity flowing through cables and airwaves across the world. Every minute, giant amounts of content are being generated from phones, websites and applications across the Internet. And the unspoken competition for content to “go viral” is fierce. What causes some pieces of content to go viral while so much other content is barely noticed? While many speculate and guess, there is current marketing research that examines what makes online content go viral. Just remember that what is true today may not necessarily be true next month and will likely not be true next year. Continue reading

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Overcoming Most People’s Biggest Fear: Speaking in Public, Part 2

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” Fear is the great conqueror. Fear is a paralyzing and malevolent force that lies, cheats and steals. Fear of speaking in public – which is one of the most common but also one of the most undermining fears to have — whispers lies in the mind of a person, robbing him (or her) of the ability to share ideas, influence decisions, connect with others and lead groups. By keeping a person silent, fear of public speaking steals away achievements, promotions, and raises. Fear of speaking in public cheats a person from reaching his fullest potential and making his greatest contributions to the world. It not only robs him of success, it also robs others of his voice and wisdom. Fear of speaking in public is a prison of a person’s own making.

It’s also been said that the truth can set one free. The truth is that people who fear speaking in public are not alone. College surveys indicate that 80-90% of all students suffer from stage fright at the beginning of any course that involves public speaking. Just knowing they aren’t alone in feeling afraid to speak to groups helps. It is also true that a certain amount of stage fright can be useful. It pumps adrenaline into the body. A manageable amount of that adrenaline and stimulation helps the mind think faster, speak more fluently and communicate with greater intensity that normal. Here’s another truth. Most professional speakers – even the very best ones — never completely lose all of their stage fright. Most professional speakers usually have a small amount of stage fright before they start and for the first minute or two, and then they get past it and use that adrenaline to deliver a great presentation. So it’s good to be a little afraid. But here’s the most important truth of all about public speaking. The main reason most people fear public speaking is simply because they are unaccustomed to speaking in public. It’s normal to feel unsure and uneasy when learning anything new. Riding a bike. Being interviewed for a job. Driving a car. Public speaking is no different and no more difficult. It just takes practice. Knowing these truths should make it a bit easier to conquer the fear of public speaking. But the very best way overcome this fear is to properly prepare. Continue reading

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Overcoming Most People’s Biggest Fear: Speaking in Public

Forget heights, planes and confined spaces. Snakes, spiders and frogs move over. Most people’s biggest fear is talking in public. Standing up and speaking in front of a group of strangers is downright paralyzing to a great many people. Giving a speech. Teaching a class. Addressing a group at a social gathering. For many, these are all scenarios that cause some people to complete freeze. Perhaps that is why those who are particularly good at it can make a living doing it. Gifted motivational speakers such as Tony Robbins, Les Brown, Zig Ziglar, Dr. Wayne Dyer and Jim Rohn earn seven figure salaries annually and their primary job is to speak in public.

Speaking to dignitaries and groups is an essential skill for certain professions, such as teachers, trial lawyers, news reporters, politicians and PR spokespeople. But speaking to groups is actually an increasingly important skill for people in most any profession. Web conferencing, social media groups and other technologies have made speaking to groups more commonplace and the ability to be able to speak to groups – large and small — more necessary. Yet, the fear of public speaking plagues many today. Even incredibly talented media icons were once intimidated to speak to famous and powerful people as well as to groups. For example, Barbara Walters was once a shy, introverted person. But she overcame her natural shyness and went on to become arguably one of the world greatest media reporters ever, having interviewed hundreds of business tycoons, royalty, political leaders, celebrities and religious leaders around the world. If she can do it, anyone can. Here are some tips. Continue reading

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Preparing a Business for Emergencies

While it might seem impossible to prepare for the “unexpected”, business owners must think about and prepare for crisis situations. Some of those might be man-made, such as a cyber attack by hackers. More commonly, though, those unexpected events are those of nature, such as the massive flooding of the last few weeks experienced in Houston due to Hurricane Harvey and the rampant forest fires that are sweeping through California right now. Blizzards. Tornadoes. Earthquakes. There is no limit to the kinds of crises that businesses can experience, and they can happen anywhere, any time. Whether natural or man-made, these events are a cautionary admonition that the unexpected can and does happen.

It is up to business leaders to prepare for all types of emergencies in order to offset the impact of those situations on the bottom line. So how does a business owner prepare for the unexpected? Regardless of the location or type of business, every company should have an Emergency Preparedness Plan to deal with crisis situations. It is just good sense for every company to have and share its plan of action with staff. And some measures should be thought through and taken long before an emergency occurs. If no plan exists, it’s time to create one. Here are some things to consider in developing a corporate Emergency Preparedness Plan.
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