When to Talk; When to Text

When to Talk or Text

It’s not just you; many of us are talking less these days and texting or emailing much more to communicate with one another. This week, we revisit one of the most universally relevant topics we’ve ever covered: the art of conversation in the digital age.

“I absolutely believe that technology is often negatively affecting the way that human beings interact with each other,” says Evelyn Ashley, Managing Partner of Trusted Counsel. “The reality is that technology is brilliant, but the challenge, especially in business, is the reliance on email or technology to take the place of a conversation or a face-to-face meeting where you can actually build the relationship in order to achieve your goals.”

In this episode of In Process Podcast, Trusted Counsel talks with Elaine Rosenblum, founder of ProForm U, and Jodi Fleisig, Senior Vice President of Media Strategy & Relations for Porter Novelli. They discuss the communication hurdles we face as technology is more and more ubiquitous in modern society.

Our perception of ourselves compared to our peers is skewed.
“What people do is they present a false self, and that has raised the standard for the way people think they have to present themselves,” says Elaine. “I think what that has caused, in terms of the quality of communication, is that people have felt like they need to present a false self. That lack of trust that comes from the false self is a problem.” With today’s culture of over-sharing, people actually think they need to present themselves as something more or bigger than what they actually are. “When people present false selves, of course people believe some of it. But I think people know in their hearts—they may not be able to articulate it, but they know on some level—that it is a false self. That makes them less likely to risk themselves,” says Elaine. “That goes to trust, and trust is where you build relationships and that’s actually where creativity and innovation come from. “

When it comes to conversation, you are in control.
“Conversation is a muscle, and you have to work it,” says Jodi.  The popularity of text messaging and chat puts us in the habit of using snippets to communicate rather than fleshed-out thought, rendering newcomers to the work force helpless when it comes to introduction emails and cover letters. Jodi tells her clients who get anxiety about conversations (whether those conversations are interviews, public speaking engagements or everyday encounters), to come up with three key messages you want to your listeners to remember. “Everyone needs to learn: you are in control,” says Jodi. “You have to practice. Just because you’re brilliant in science doesn’t mean you’re great in English. Just because you’re a great CEO in subject X doesn’t mean you’re a good communicator. You have to learn how to communicate, whether it’s asking for a raise or appearing on a radio show or speaking to the board or just speaking to the people on your team. You don’t have to turn into an extrovert, but you need to have the confidence to say what you mean.”

Don’t rule out technology in conflict resolution—but don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and talk, either.
“Technology can be very efficient and very effective.  I think where you have to be careful is word choice,” says Elaine. “Our default word choice, especially since we move so fast, tends to be extreme and judgmental. We are inundated with judgmental comments from movies, media. Our default tone becomes judgmental. Based on whether you neutralize that language, you can get into an uncomfortable conversation or an easy conversation.” If a conversation is escalating into unpleasant territory via email, though, it’s a good idea to pick up the phone and talk things out.

Nothing can replace an in-person meeting.
According to Jodi, technology is a tool. “The most important thing that you have to sell is yourself, and the best way to do that is to connect with people through chemistry. You can tell so much about a person when you meet them. I think you can use technology as a tool to further that relationship. One doesn’t substitute for another.”

In the technology you do use to communicate, it’s important not to be too guarded. Remember, the most effective message is going to be one that reflects the “you” that the person on the receiving end is familiar with. “You do need to put your own personality into your technology – into the emails that you write, and what you post to Facebook and Twitter. You need to break out from the clutter,” says Jodi. 

Stream the conversation in the player below to learn more. Don’t miss an episode, subscribe to In Process Podcast on iTunes to receive this episode as well as future updates from the show to your smartphone.


Finding Your Bearings in the Brand Wilderness

Compass in the Wild

Psychologically, there’s little difference between a group of survivors who crash-land on a mountain, and a group of leaders in a boardroom dealing with unexpected changes. Both groups will experience disruption and both can overcome it in the same way. Disruption, whether we like it or not, is our new normal. And it’s not going away anytime soon.

In this episode of In Process Podcast,Trusted Counsel talks with Jonathan David Lewis, a branding and strategist expert about building resilient brands for harsh business environments. He explains ways to help brands navigate through the wild in what he explains is survival psychology. 

The New Economy
Lewis states, “Something that we need to get out of our minds is that things are not going to go back to the way they were. The great recession of 2008 in many ways ushered in trends that were already underway for many years….We’re in a new environment, a new economy that requires new ways of thinking about doing business.” And so, running a business today is fundamentally different than the past 100 years. Why then are so many of us pushing to operate on those old principles of success? Lewis simply states that “it’s just not effective.” Today, the economy is performing better, but across the board all organizations are being disrupted by externalities with the advent of bio-engineering, automation, and artificial intelligence that are changing our business models, whether we like it or not.

Disruption in Organizations
Inside of our organizations we are often faced with fear because you didn’t see it coming or there are unpredicted challenges inside of the organization. Faced with fear, according to Lewis, you begin to drift as an organization and then you lose your focus. Once the focus is lost, you become inconsistent in decision-making and ultimately you become savage and turn on each other. The alignment is lost. “This is the very same thing we see in survival scenarios and real-life research.” In other words, there’s a very predictable response to disruption.  

Find Your Focus
In this new economy that we all inhabit, it’s probable that you’ll go through the wilderness sooner or later. However, do it with resilience. Have a healthy team in place, and adapt. “Have healthy conflict, don’t be passive aggressive…have kind truth when entering the danger. Then you will have a culture of healthy conflict which will allow you to be resilient when you’re facing these hardships.” 

Lewis recommends asking yourself these questions about your organization. “What am I really, really good at? What does my customer actually need? And lastly, where do those two overlap? Because where they overlap is where you find your relevancy and that becomes your focus.

Jonathan David Lewis is a branding and business strategist. As partner and strategy director of McKee Wallwork + Company, Jonathan led his firm to be recognized by Advertising Age as a national leader in branding and marketing, winning the Southwest Agency of the Year. He is a regular contributor of Forbes.com, speaker and author of a new book titled “Brand vs Wild.”

Stream the conversation with Jonathan in the player below to learn more about leading your business through the wild. Listen to real businesses that trenched though the wild and how they emerged out of the wilderness. Don’t miss an episode, subscribe to InProcess Podcast on iTunes to receive this episode as well as future updates from the show to your smartphone.

Speed up Innovation Success. Dump the Junk

Blast off Innovation

Bluetooth, the Apple iPhone, Facebook, and 4G (the fourth generation of mobile telecommunications), are undoubtedly some of the most important inventions of the 21st century. Colossal ideas of the future that required some serious innovation processes to reach each of their respective launches. This is where end-to-end process comes in, according to innovation strategist Susan Reed. In other words, to reach launch quickly and effectively, organizations need to place decision and success metrics in front of their innovation processes in order succeed.      

In this episode of In Process: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century, hosts Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon of Trusted Counsel speak with strategist Susan Reed about innovation. Reed is the founder and CEO of EdgeDweller, which for 30 years has transformed organizations and individuals through front-end innovation practices that are powerful, practical and proven. She and the team at EdgeDweller have helped launch more than 150 products and services for 122 brands representing more than 25 industries. EdgeDweller  specializes in creating high impact programs for corporations, strategic business units, nonprofits, individuals and small groups. Reed is passionately committed to driving up profitability while sustaining high growth through insightful analytics and intentional creativity.  

Disruptive thinking and making it safe
According to Reed, there is a love-hate relationship about disruptive innovation. She believes the key is actually about learning how to make the planning process and the ultimate launch safe. Businesses can reduce the risks and better develop the ideas by working within the organization, or with consultants such as EdgeDweller, to better formulate those ideas and develop very incremental paths to get to the launch. Reed says, “We create those ideas but show organizations a very incremental path to get there from where they are today. So if you can prove it in step one, you move to step two. That’s the only way, until you see it through.”  

During the course of the interview, Reed discusses how to reach innovation faster. In essence, one needs to get rid of bad innovation habits. Review the below innovation don’ts to effectively speed up your innovation success.  

Innovation Don’ts (according to Susan Reed):

1. Never, ever start with ideation
Starting with ideation is the least effective path to implementation of innovation. And this is very often where we start. “Really?” you ask. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t have success decision metrics in place, hence, there is no agreement on what equals true innovation if you start off with ideation. As a result, little if anything will get implemented.

2. No more one offs
As we all know, things move very quickly in this day and age. So if you believe that you can create an innovation and then give it an incremental upgrade, it’s going to be out of date before it even launches. It’s important to realize that you’ve got to have that long-term plan that requires a series of actions that need to happen behind the first innovation.

3. Forget skills-based or cross-function based teams
The idea behind this statement is that if you use these types of teams, you will only receive incremental ideas, versus real innovative ideas. These teams are working in this space daily; hence they know the rules and boundaries.

4. No more fun fest creative extravaganzas
While clearly not intentional, you are setting up your organization for failure if you don’t have a way to capture ideas and implement the really good ones that are suggested. Having an idea party or meeting will lead to frustration. You’ll end up in a worse place than you were when you started. Reed also refers to this don’t as “the rise and fall of excitement” -  it is just that.  

5. Never tell people that the innovation project starts with R&D or customer insights
Companies are beginning to realize this. A recent study showed that these practices are actually limiting growth and innovation.  So while experts agree that organizations need R&D and customer insights, they recommend that you wait until future states are created, then use it for the feasibility of those ideas, to support them.

So are you ready to innovate or do more of it? Susan Reed recommends the following: Have a serious conversation on how you define innovation, what you’re willing to do and really understand that and communicate it very clearly to your team. Everything is based on that. When you articulate what it is you’re going to do, make sure that it’s going to work. Also remember that most initiatives don’t have a chance of working. “That’s crazy too.”  

Want to get the full conversation on “Speed up Innovation. Dump the Junk?” Stream this episode in the player below. You can also subscribe on iTunes to receive new episodes of In Process Podcast directly on your smartphone.

What Makes a Great Leader?

Blue Fish Orange Fish TC.jpeg

At some point in our careers, most of us have undoubtedly scratched our heads and wondered,  “How on earth did this person obtain this leadership role?” The fact of the matter is that some people in leadership roles don’t belong there. Unfortunately, companies tend to promote employees who are highly trained and have excellent technical skills, but when these employees move into management, they often lack the soft skills necessary to motivate their teams. Hence, they don’t become great leaders. 

In this episode of In Process: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century, hosts Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon of Trusted Counsel speak with Dr. Hans Finzel about leadership. Dr. Finzel is an author, speaker and trusted authority in the leadership field and the author of 10 books on leadership. With a doctorate in leadership studies, Dr. Finzel is a respected teacher globally. In his new book “Top Ten Ways to Be a Great Leader,” he uses the letters in the word LEADERSHIP to present the 10 essential skills that he believes every new leader must master.

Don’t do what comes naturally - you’ll be a poor leader
Dr. Finzel’s fascination with leadership stems from a negative experience he had in the workplace as a young professional. “When I finished grad school and went to work, I was such an excited young man and I ended up having a boss who made my life miserable. I thought to myself, how can I have so much passion and vision and have this person stand in my way with their horrible leadership skills and, why are they the boss?! If I ever get the chance to be a leader of anything, I don’t want to be THAT kind of a leader. So, that’s when I started studying leadership.”

Dr. Finzel believes that many of us don’t lead well because we’ve simply had bad role models in both our personal and professional lives. “Therefore, when it becomes our turn to lead, we simply replicate those poor leadership skills that we’ve witnessed. Also, many of us don’t lead well because as human beings we’re naturally self-centered, and looking out for ourselves first.” Great leadership, according to Dr. Finzel is not about me -  it’s about we.    

If everyone was a leader, it would be a horrible world
Dr. Finzel defines leadership with one word: influence. “If you influence others, you are leading them.  Every time you influence someone to take an action, positive or negative, you are leading that person.”

Leadership according to Dr. Hans Finzel
In his new book, “Top Ten Ways to Be a Great Leader,” Dr. Finzel uses the 10 letters in the word LEADERSHIP to present the essential skills that he believes every new leader must master.

Here’s the run-down of the list for L-E-A-D-E-R-S-H-I-P:

“L” is for listen and learn
According to Dr. Finzel, listening and learning are the most important skills that every leader needs to possess. “People hate to follow leaders that never listen and they also don't like to follow leaders that aren't willing to learn.”  

“E” stands for emotional intelligence
Known as EQ – as opposed to IQ (which is our intelligence quotient). According to 2016 research conducted by LeadershipTraQ, performance success in leadership is one-third IQ and two-thirds EQ. Emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (often interchanged) are the soft skills used in work and in life, such as interacting with a big room of people and having strong interpersonal relationships. A leader that possesses a high EQ is able to recognize their own and other people's emotions well, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately. The leader then uses the emotional information to guide his or her thinking and behavior, and manages or adjusts emotions to adapt to the situation. So it’s important to work on your EQ.

“A” is for accessibility
Today’s leaders need to be accessible, especially with millennials coming into the workforce who often demand accessibility to their leaders. Gone are the days when leaders could just hide out in their office all day or be on “that” executive floor, away from the rest of the group.

“D” is for determination
Good old-fashioned determination and hard work is the idea here. Don’t try to take short cuts at work because we live in an instant gratification society these days. At work, it just doesn’t work that way.      

“E” is for effective communication
It’s vital to communicate through various channels and multiple times. For instance, while you might think that as a new manager you’re doing a great job of communicating your department updates via email, email open rates are only at 15% (national rate for opens). So add other channels to communicate your department updates, such as team meetings and share the updates on the company intranet site as well.   

“R” is for resilience
Programs, plans and priorities change often these days, so it’s important to stop being so inflexible.

“S” is for servant attitude
Dr. Finzel’s definition of servant leadership is the idea of caring more about the good of the team than one’s own enrichment. He says to think of it in the following way. “If you help the people that work for you to accomplish their goals, then your own goals will be accomplished.” That’s a good thing.

“H” is for hands-off delegation
Dr. Finzel explains that the more intelligent and the more gifted you are, the harder it is to delegate. He believes that it’s part of a leader’s job to mentor others and to develop them. So if you delegate, and keep your “hands off,” you are mentoring.

“I” is for integrity
People will follow leaders who have integrity.

“P” is for the power of humility
Humility is not a weakness, but an attitude that recognizes that you are not the most important person. Great companies are led by humble leaders.

Follow and master these essential skills and you too will be on your way to becoming an exemplary leader.

Want to get the full conversation on “What Makes a Great Leader?” Stream this episode in the player below. You can also subscribe on iTunes to receive new episodes of In Process Podcast directly on your smartphone.

Are You Still Guilty of Committing Random Acts of Marketing?

Marketing Planning for Growth

Some of the companies with the most efficient operations are also the ones who have the hardest time growing. It’s a counterintuitive idea, but it’s one that has been supported by research and that serves as the basis for this week’s episode of In Process. Joining us on the show this week are Art Saxby and Beth Vanstory. Saxby is the founder of Chief Outsiders, an Executive-as-a-Service firm that allows growing companies to add market-focused senior executives to their leadership teams.  Saxby learned his trade in marketing in brand and project management at Frito-Lay, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola and Compaq/HP, before engaging as an executive turn-around specialist for companies including Imperial Sugar and Hines Horticulture. Vanstory is a strategy and marketing consultant with Chief Outsiders. An experienced general management and marketing executive, her background crosses consumer and B2B sectors and includes experience in media, retailing, entertainment, and ecommerce.  She launched and led OfficeDepot.com to profitability in one year and also led the new media group at The Weather Channel, bringing weather.com to one of the most visited sites on the web and initiating interactive advertising for the company. 

Both Zaxby and Vanstory came to marketing after building a background in finance—something Saxby laughs off as more of a natural transition than it may seem at first blush.  “It’s a profit game,” says Saxby, noting that many business owners don’t see the way that marketing directly relates to the bottom line. “The real role of marketing is to help lead the company forward and figure out where it can profitably attack the market.”

So why do so many finance-minded business leaders have problems translating those instincts into growth? “If we break down what it takes to run a company and what it takes to grow a company, they really are very different skills. Running a company is about metrics, management, process and procedures—it’s what a lot of business owners spend most of our time focused on. ‘We’ve got to figure out how to get the orders into the system, how to get them out, how to produce the product or deliver the service, get the invoices paid and do it better and better, time and time again, and more efficiently each time. Running a business is extremely important. But that is also really internally focused—it’s inside the four walls.”

What Saxby has found, is that running a very efficient company doesn’t necessarily mean those successful business owners know where to go next. What’s the next market to go into? How do you significantly increase the revenue of the company? Saxby says this is when you have to look outside the company at the marketplace and at the market perspective.

“When you’re looking at someone who comes from that technical background or has a particular subject matter expertise, they tend to focus where they’re comfortable—serving current customers or even working in product development,” says Vanstory. This is where even the most successful entrepreneurs can face obstacles in company growth.

 “Developing a new product without assuring that there’s a need in the marketplace can get you in a lot of trouble,” she says.  Another common mistake she sees in companies is that even businesses with solid marketing staff still lack a strategic marketer on their team. “They don’t have the broad view needed to really identify and evaluate the market or create an effective marketing strategy.”

Get the full conversation on growth tactics and avoiding “random acts of marketing” by streaming the episode in the player below. You can also subscribe on iTunes to receive new episodes of In Process directly on your smartphone.