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Everybody is a Student in Social Media

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social-mediamanagementEverybody is a student in social media.” This is one of the first phrases I stated last night when I taught my first class on “Introduction to Social Media for Small Businesses” at Madonna University.

There are no social media experts. There are no social media ninjas or gurus or geniuses. Instead there are different levels of students. Some students are more developed and some are still getting their sea legs. In staying with the karate theme, last night I had a class of white belts. I could have taken the class and jumped right into how many times to post and what to do when but I did not. I brought them to the ground level.

Now some people may not have enough patience for the ground level. The ground level is the most important. Look at the leaning tower of Pisa. I was there. Its beautiful but its foundation was so messed up for so long that the building was about to topple over. They had to create a whole project that involved the greatest modern minds in masonry, architecture and the like to reset this foundation. And, after all of that you know what they say? In 200 years it will be leaning the other way just as much. By that point, a whole new generation will have to worry about keeping it erect.

The point of that story is that if the foundation, the ground level, was set properly, we would not have to worry about going back and fixing [retraining] from the ground level. Also, you can think about your favorite musician. Chuck Berry did not start out his life playing Johnny B. Goode. It took him years to find that style. He had to learn the basics from teachers, like jazz guitarist Ira Davis.

Social media is very public and the ground level is just the first important step. By the looks of social media today I think many higher level social media students would say that a lot of us need to go back and take another look at that ground level.

In social media I see these self-explanatory levels from highest to lowest:

Well-established and committed
Comfortable, but hungry
Getting it
Hungry for more
Gaining steam
Testing the waters
White belt
Misinformed

What’s your level?

17 Personal Branding Tips to Become an Indispensable Employee!

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7k0a0032The moment you hand in your two weeks notice, the company offers you a blank check and an open job description. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? It is a true story and it can happen to you. To do so you need to make yourself an indispensable employee. Being indispensable is defined as not subject to being set aside or neglected and absolutely necessary. There are thousands of articles on how to go about becoming an indispensable employee at work.

This blog article has 17 quick tips that if followed diligently can nearly guarantee your rise to the top of the pack. Do you want to be indispensable to your company? If so, keep reading.

  1. Always look your best.
  2. “Yes, and…” More popularly used by improvisational comics, the “yes, and” approach can do wonders for your career. To illustrate this concept in an example, if you were asked to find a venue for a company holiday party, you would not just look for one place. You would find 3 potential venues, their pricing, potential food, and entertainment. The “and” takes you and your career to another level.
  3. Being early to everything and with every project.
  4. Bring solutions, not just complaints or ideas.
  5. De-stress before your fire off that email. You know which email I am talking about.
  6. Allow yourself the ability to understand both sides.
  7. Be nice.
  8. Remember that everyone, including your boss, is your customer.
  9. Take every opportunity you can to present your work and solutions. If there are not many opportunities, make them.
  10. Talk with others like they are human, because they are. Do not talk down to those below you and do not be afraid to talk to those above you.
  11. Make it a point to have lunch or coffee with many different types of people inside your company and out. Do not out yourself in one clique. The thoughts and feelings of and towards that group can affect you both positively and negatively.
  12. Stay neutral if high stress topics like religion and politics arise. Everyone has the right to an opinion.
  13. Watch your language. This may seem a little outdated but it still holds true with many working professionals. They will appreciate your ability to stay cool and laugh it off.
  14. Do not procrastinate.
  15. Show your appreciation. Whether it is bringing in coffee and bagels after the conclusion of a stressful project or sending a simple thank you email, it makes a difference.
  16. Find your ability to make change in the business. Everyone has the power.
  17. Smile.

Nobody is perfect, but with a little drive and determination you can implement a majority of these 17 quick tips. You could be filling out that blank check one day, maybe even while sitting in the corner office. The power is within you to change your personal brand. Which tip will you start with first?

The Band With No Name

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band-with-no-nameLast week, I went with my wife and a couple of friends to wish another friend “Happy birthday.” We went to a honky-tonk-type bar in a part of town I have never been to before, The atmosphere was relaxed. The dance floor was filled every song with patrons dancing their hearts out to mostly country songs. The food was simple, The drinks were cold. The band was good. While it was not necessarily my type of bar, I can appreciate good music when I hear it. When I asked, “What is the name of these guys?” The only answer I received was, “They don’t have one!.”

Nobody quite knew why they did not have a name. The fact was nobody cared. The music was good to them, and that is all that mattered. I knew why. I thought about it the rest of the night.

Each of the individual members of the band were good musicians. They knew their parts well and enjoyed playing music. They play for the same pay at the same bar every week. So why is it that their band does not have a title, a name, something? The reason is they know who they are. They know what they do. They do not need recognition. They do not need something more. They purely love playing good music to people who will enjoy it week after week.

Would this not making an interesting concept for an organization? No titles, just people who enjoy doing the work and collaborating on the same level. No office politics or drama. No colleagues trying to shoot for a promotion that they do not deserve. No one begging for a fake trophy or recognition. Efforts being given to the team as a whole only. It is an interesting concept.

Below are three interesting and very different organizations with similar philosophies. I have taken an excerpt out of each article on the importance of no job titles to them.

  1. The Nerdery“Our job titles are designed to empower us, not to limit us!” Bucklin wrote. “Put your business card on the desk in front of you…This card does not define you. You are a Co-President. You are bigger than your defined role, and you are much more than your job title. Play your part—transcend your job title, be a hero.”
  2. Valve: Titles specialize employees, and put them in a little plot where they’re allowed to work. Specialization sets employees against each other, carving out little kingdoms of responsibility. Anything outside their kingdom is beyond their purview, and anyone stepping within that kingdom is encroaching upon their pride and their job security.
  3. Sun Hydraulics; How does a company grow to that size with such an organization?  By spending a lot of time hiring the right kind of collaborative idea-generating individual who doesn’t need to be told what to do. 

What is your band? Could this approach work in your organization? Why or why not?

We’ve Always Done It That Way

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change-aheadThe famous term that all innovators either love or hate to hear depending on their outlook is “We’ve always done it that way.” This is used to explain everything from where a brand advertises, to promotions that are run, internal company processes, and just about anything else you can think of.

At one time in America, more respect was given to authority. The idea of questioning an authoritative figure was simply out of the question. You followed orders. In today’s day and age there is still a level of respect but this answer is no longer an acceptable response. In many instances you will find that this process was in place for so long that nobody can quite explain it to you.

So, as soon as you hear the words “We’ve always done it that way,” it is your time to shine. You as the innovator, the brand ambassador, the pillar of change, needs to stand up and make change in this part of the business. How do I do that, you ask? Here is how:

  1. Brainstorm ideas for change: Jumping to a snap judgment and saying it is a flat-out horrible way to do things from the start will put a wall between you and decision makers. Contrary to popular belief, it is okay to start on a side project and bring it to your boss. They want to see that entrepreneurial spirit shine through. As soon as you hear that dreadful response, you need to…

Read the entire article on the Talent Zoo blog Beneath the Brand at: http://www.talentzoo.com/beneath-the-brand/blog_news.php?articleID=17976

Step Up and Make Change

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changeIn a flight back from Washington-Dulles airport the other day I realized one very important thing that many employees today do not – the power to make change. Between my snoring neighbor and two pre-teen brothers fighting beside me, I caught myself daydreaming.

What happened was I read article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “Influence: How to Get It; How to Use It.” The article reminded me of my strengths and the relationship I have built with senior leadership in my current organization. While day dreaming, it dawned on me that the average employee at our company does not feel as if they are able to talk and influence them as I have previously been successful doing. Couple this with internal issues that some of our employees are experiencing and it makes for one interesting daydream.

Many individuals in corporate America do not realize that they themselves have the power to make change. Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) in Mad Men says his iconic line “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation.” While that is the fictional advertising world it rings true today in real life. The trouble is, most colleagues are waiting for someone to ask them or tell them before change happens. Usually the ultimate change occurs; they move on to a competitor. I knew it was time to step up and make change.

While on that flight I put my mind to work with one question and one answer on my mind – “Why? Because someone has to do it.” As soon as I made it back to the office I had an impromptu meeting with a Project Manager (PM). This PM is one that I personally feel is well-respected and has a very keen sense of judgement. We spoke about an idea to develop a company program where employees feel empowered and can be part of the change. Currently we are writing out a clear purpose, methodology and follow-up policy for the group. We plan to gain senior management buy-in throughout the coming weeks.

This entrepreneurial spirit can live, thrive and survive in your organization. Sometimes you have to step up and set up a system to allow employees to be part of the change, and sometimes they take charge and do it themselves. What can you do to be part of the change in your organization?

You Never Know Unless You Ask

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no1Have you ever thought of something or had a great idea and said “they’ll never listen.” Maybe you were burned in the past. Maybe you grew up learning to keep your mouth shut. The fact is everyone is a critic. They will tell you why something should not work or why it will not work. The question remains. Should you listen to them?

When I was 5 years old, I went on a walk with my Dad around Penn Vassar Park in Dearborn, Michigan. That is where we would have our ‘man talks’ as Dad called them. I specifically remember portions of this talk because it opened my eyes to all kinds of opportunities. I forgot the exact context why we were talking about this, but the main idea he wanted me to take away was that if you do not ask, nothing will happen. You cannot go. You cannot play. You cannot win. You cannot lose. You cannot, you cannot, you cannot.

To this day I always ask. I always say “Why not?” My father’s exact words were “The worst they can say is no,” – that, however, was in reference to asking a girl out for the first time.

Think of how many times you may not question something or not start with a new idea because someone may hate it. They may say it is stupid. One of my favorite shows is Mad Men and I love the fashion designs by Janie Bryant. I thought she would be perfect to interview for Advertorious.  One night while I was sitting at home after work I referred back to my new years resolution and I said to myself  “what is the worst that could happen?”

The worst did not happen. Within 20 minutes I had made it through the phone to her publicist and booked the interview of Janie Bryant for later that week. That interview led to another one with Julie Deane of Cambridge Satchel Company. I had never held an interview before. Without prior experience I relied on my business ability and the tenacity for bettering myself to move forward.

I have used this thinking in all areas of my life, not just business. Not all of them panned out. You may also need to become a little hard of hearing the first time you get a ‘no.’ In one of his books, Zig Ziglar taught me that a ‘no’ can be a ‘yes’ in disguise. Striking gold takes time. The important thing is trying. When you think you have a good idea or want to try something, go ahead. After all, what is the worst they can say?

Demystifying the C-Suite

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c-suiteOver the last five years I have been fortunate to work with Director, Vice President, and C-Suite level colleagues very closely. This has taught me a great deal about the ins and outs of how a business is truly run and how expectations are managed. For those that are not fortunate enough to work as closely with this set often, it may be very intimidating.

If you are intimidated enough, they may see you as a less than great performer. If you are intimidated enough, they may not get the correct message from your work. If you are intimidated enough, you will avoid them and let someone else take credit. So let us stop all that before it starts.

  1. They are human and make mistakes. Yes, it is true. You may want to think they landed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 and are stranded here only to make your life a mess. Lucky for you, they are not. All humans make mistakes. What differentiates the C-Suite from others is that they learn and apply mistakes of theirs and those reporting to them.
  2. They don’t know everything. They should not know everything either. they hire and cultivate those below them to make the right decisions based on the overall company vision. If the CEO is a finance person they do not know everything about marketing, and vice versa. They surround themselves with experts of industry. Who knows? you may be that expert.
  3. They want to see your hard work not hear about it. Bring them ideas when afforded the opportunity. If the opportunity does not present itself, find a need, and make a pitch to present it to them. Start solving their problems. Walk the walk as they say.
  4. They are busy. They don’t just sit around all day like some may think. This level is juggling many different initiatives. When trying to get a hold of them on an issue or pertinent project you may have to try a few means to get a hold of them. Email does not always cut it.
  5. They will go to bat for you. If you make yourself visible to the C-Suite they will stand up for you when needed. They are very protective of their top performers. If you repeatedly take initiative and always keep the company’s best interests in mind, they will recognize it. You may not even realize how much they like you. Find ways to get them talking about you without you in the room, you may not even know it for months or years.

Taking all these things into consideration, they can fire you as well. Tread lightly. However, as long as you always put forth your best effort and are sincere about it, you have nothing to worry about.

Have you noticed anything else about the C-Suite?

Business or Busyness?

The business of advertising, or any business for that matter, can get very hectic. Poor time management skills, unreasonable requests, laziness, and work overload are just some of the reasons, good and bad, for being busy. Business and busyness are nearly identical in spelling. In fact, depending on your regional accent, it may sound the same coming out of your mouth. These terms are closer than just in spelling. Why are they synonymous? Do they have to be?

The answer is no.

How are things going today? Busy.

How many times have you had that verbal exchange with someone in your career? The last month? The last day? With an educated guess, I am confident in saying way too much. Saying “I’m busy” is like saying “I was born a human.” Everybody knows it and no one cares. Being busy is part of having a successful life. Very few people get anywhere without being busy.

When you have a verbal exchange with someone and you simply say “busy,” you are shooting yourself in the foot professionally.

In building your own personal brand, think about a few things:

  1. How many opportunities am I missing out on by saying “I’m busy”? If you tell everyone you’re busy a majority of the time they will stop asking. First they stop asking how you are doing, then they stop asking you to do things. There go the opportunities to form work friendships. If you tell your spouse, parents, siblings, and the like you are too busy, you will start detaching from them as well. Is work so important and so busy that you skip watching a game with your dad, baking Christmas cookies with your mom, or gardening with your spouse? Is work so important that the last time you saw your best friend face-to-face was over a month ago? Life is short and the work/life balance is never easy to handle. However, without maintaining that balance you will never find true happiness.
  2. Will people stop talking to me because my self-programmed quick response was always the same? After people stop asking you how you’re doing or asking you to do things, they will just stop talking to you altogether. You are a downer now. You are too busy. Try brainstorming new responses and physically tell yourself not to use the word as often. Treat it like a swear word and throw a dollar in a jar every time you use it. The responses you start giving people will be more memorable. Instead of saying “busy,” give a short overview of your day or one good thing that happened. People will think more highly of you for that. In Secrets of Closing the Sale, Zig Ziglar says to start out every morning listening to something uplifting. Something exciting to help start your day. Some upbeat music or an inspirational CD will do. You do not necessarily have to go all Rocky Balboa and climb the steps to “Gonna Fly Now,” but it wouldn’t hurt.
  3. What can I do to better control my schedule? Sometimes you may actually have to change a part of your routine. You may not like the change right away but it will help. One thing that helps is coming into work at 7:00 every morning instead of 8:30 or 9 AM. It gives you extra time to start your day and get moving before others come into your office and pull you in a thousand directions. This is just one example, but in this solid uninterrupted two hours you can usually get more done than in an entire eight-hour day.

Next time someone takes the time to ask how your day is going, tell them something memorable. Leave a positive impression on people because it is a small world in any industry, especially advertising. Everyone is busy.

Read the original article on the Talent Zoo blog Beyond Madison Avenue at: http://www.talentzoo.com/beyond-madison-ave/blog_news.php?articleID=17580

5 Tips for Branding Yourself as a Leader at Work

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handshakeYou want  to be a leader right? Let us start off by not going through work catatonically, each day waiting for something to happen to us. You need to take action for your own life and make things happen for you. Our goal is not to be the person wondering who took the last french crueller out the kitchen. Our goal is not to be worrying about petty he said she said inner office gossip. So, how do you become a leader to realize your goals?

Once you consistently show that you care and are working towards something greater you will begin to receive more respect at work. Caring for yourself and for the greater good of the business is only the first step to bringing you closer to your goal. Here are 5 ways that anybody from Administrative Assistant to Project Manager can become a leader at work without the Director or C-suite level title:

  1. Look the part: What does your boss wear to work? If they wear a suit to work so should you. If they have nicely pressed clothes, you should discover spray starch. You see the trend. Mirror your boss in the kind of clothing choices you make at work. This is not to say you have to wear ‘old’ looking items. Take style tips from them and make it uniquely your own. Your boss will notice and will appreciate the effort you are putting into your presentation. As I mentioned in a previous post “When you look better, you feel more confident. When you feel more confident, you perform better. When you perform better, you get noticed. When you get noticed, you get rewarded.” How you present yourself is the very basic level of personal branding.
  2. Active listening: When you listen carefully you understand what is really going on in the business. Many times leaders are chosen by seniority which means that the leader is most likely from a different generation than you. Different generations have different mindsets and ideas for how to get things done. You may hear a problem and be the next one to help develop a company or industry-changing initiative. All this can happen by just listening more.
  3. Do not form cliques: Dictonary.com describes a clique as “a small, exclusive group of people.” The key word here is exclusive, meaning that you are excluding yourself from others in the company. Once you are in a clique you are usually obligated, under peer pressure, to think like the clique and do what others in the group do. This can put your climb up the career ladder at a stand still. It is important to continue relationships with anyone you come in contact to at a company. Think of it as inner office networking.
  4. Your boss is number one: Make your boss look their best. If you go above and beyond to make your boss look good, they will pay you back. Zig Ziglar said, “You can get everything in life you want, if you help enough other people get what they want.” This could not be any more true in this situation. Chances are your boss wants to move up the career ladder too. They need your help to achieve those goals. If you fail, they fail. Once you help them achieve their goals you will reap the benefits.
  5. You are never too busy: Even though you may be busy, others do not need to hear about it everyday. Along these same lines, never say ‘its not my job.’ Always leave open the opportunity to take on something additional at work. I know this is the hardest task of all. However, if you are open to new projects, you are open to new ideas. The more you understand the totality of a company and its goals, the better off you are. If you constantly say you are busy, your boss may just leave you out of the conversation. Once you are out, you are out. That is it. Then your competition comes in and takes what could have been your glory. Only you could have done it better, right? One implication of this is you may have to take a break from stalking people on Facebook at work.

These five tips in branding yourself as a leader at work may have been review for you or they may have been completely new ideas. Either way, I hope you were able to take away the one underlying lesson of it all – flexibility. How can you become more flexible to achieve your personal goals at work?