Build a Lasting Legacy Through Thought Leadership in Your Industry

GettyImages-1090216744.jpgLooking to increase your strategic visibility, gain exposure for your ideas, and change the world in meaningful ways?

Everyone is following someone. Maybe it’s time to engage others, so they follow you!

Facebook GROWs with Print

What does thought leadership look like from an industry perspective? Here’s one example:

In 2018, Facebook launched a thought leadership campaign (GROW) to help leaders grow businesses and networks while challenging the status quo. To communicate complex ideas, the social media empire developed a quarterly print magazine and marketing program aimed at business owners in the United Kingdom and Northern Europe. GROW is sent directly to marketing clients and distributed at select airports and train business lounges to reach top professionals:

“We know that business leaders have limited time for long reads at work, so we’ve also created a physical version with journeys in mind,” said Leila Woodington, Facebook’s head of business marketing in northern Europe.

Facebook’s goal is to position itself as a dominant thought leader among corporate executives or government leaders to grow marketing influence. Facebook understands that combining hard-hitting print with a steady drip of digital content is an especially effective strategy.

People Influencing People

The term “thought leader” is more than a buzzword; it’s a dynamic reality.

People influence people, and thought leaders are those that others respect and follow. Do you want to shape trends, spark movements, or voice unique ideas? Informed individuals can add tremendous value to their field of expertise!

Your ability to shape perspectives will grow as you show yourself to be relatable, engaging, and consistent in three specific ways:

1. Building Connections

Build your engagement quality by cultivating regular contact with close friends and family, with current and former colleagues, or with analysts, writers, or industry leaders.

Engage and follow others through face-to-face networking, regional training opportunities, social media, or online discussion groups. Gain traction as you contribute, follow, share, or add your own commentary to material relevant to your industry. And – as often as you can – share your picture with printed pieces or online content. Matching a face with your voice makes you more memorable, credible, and real.

2. Growing Your Name and Niche

Thought leaders are people who fully immerse themselves in the needs and concerns of their audience. ­­

To stand out from the crowd, concentrate on a niche market or seek to communicate with a specialized group of people. Write, speak, share, and comment on the things most relevant to this area. Think of yourself as a translator (explaining the concerns at hand and interpreting their meaning) or a tour guide (predicting trends, forecasting effects, or helping people interpret what they see). Here you’ll maximize impact, giving people “Aha” moments, or making them think, “Wow, I never thought of it like that!”

Grow your influence by writing articles for publications, requesting to share on panels or policy boards, publishing via social media and printed newsletters, or inquiring about opportunities to speak at events.

Once you establish credibility, you’ll naturally become part of bigger and better opportunities.

3. Educating and Empowering Others

Leaders who inspire loyalty are those who empower others.

Thought leaders don’t just impress people by how “smart” they are – they teach others to produce fruitful results as well. Your focus may be building educational tools, helping people with decision making, or establishing yourself as a one-stop resource with scalable models that bring answers people need.

As you grow your influence, you will advance your career, access new industry opportunities, and create top-of-mind awareness for your business.

Teamwork At Its Best

kirkSurely, you’ve heard the old saying, “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” Well, this sentiment is also true when it comes to members of The Rolling Stones band. While they have been playing together for more than 50 years, The Rolling Stones still know there is no substitute for the hard work and importance of practicing together and being cohesive as a team.

Before every tour, The Stones commit two months to rehearsals before heading back on the road. They appreciate the opportunity to work together as a team of professionals honing their craft. Rehearsals allow them to re-familiarize themselves with the music and each other, developing a nearly telepathic communication.

Richards says that he knows exactly what’s happening on stage by merely watching Watts’ left hand. If the tempo ever drags, one glance from Richards to Wood speaks volumes. Together they will then step up the pace. While there are many members in the band, they perform together as a unified unit.

Here’s the way I see it: There is no substitute for the ongoing commitment and deliberate practice required to build better teams. Let us know anytime you need help creating print projects that will make your business shine!

Transform Customer Complaints into Great Reviews and Referrals

In business, problems always arise.

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Things malfunction, customers get frustrated, or miscommunication causes delays. However annoying, big problems are still a gateway for better interaction. Consider this example from Toyota:

The year was 2013, and Webin Manzana noticed the dashboard of his 2008 Camry was melting due to the sweltering weather in the Philippines. Because the warranty on his vehicle had long since lapsed, Toyota Motors Philippines refused to get involved.

Manzana, frustrated with the inherent defect in the dashboard material, decided to fax a letter directly to the CEO of Toyota, Akio Toyoda. To his shock and delight, the next day he received a call from Toyota Motors Philippines, arranging to pick up the Camry and replace the dashboard immediately.

3 Ways to Resolve Sticky Situations

When handled poorly, customer complaints can deal a heavy blow to your business.

Here are three ways to resolve sticky situations while improving relationships with your clients.

1. Respond Quickly and Calmly

Whether you respond through e-mail or in a more personal way, time is essential in handling complaints.

Even if you can’t immediately fix a problem, remember that the thing your customer wants most is an acknowledgment of the issue and an affirmation of the frustration they feel. Listening patiently can diffuse many situations, especially if you actively sympathize and ask clarifying questions.

Put out fires quickly, and remain calm by reminding yourself the customer is not necessarily upset with you, but with the situation.

2. Tell the Customer How You Plan to Address the Problem (in detail with a specific time frame)

Once you understand why the customer is upset, you can begin to work on solutions.

If customer oversight was the only issue, a specific reparation (like partial refunds, replacements, or credits on future orders) might quickly mend the hard feelings. If you want to go a step farther, consider offering the customer not only a full refund or replacement but also a bonus item. If you are replacing a T-shirt, could you send them a second T-shirt to give away to a friend?

Every day, brand trust diminishes because of negative customer service experiences. Therefore, the psychology of offering a resolution cannot be understated.

In some situations, it may be best to ask the customer what he feels should be done to best resolve the issue. This allows a person to feel they have won (or that they were correct), and that your organization is willing to go the extra mile to make things right.

3. Keep Working to Ensure the Customer is Satisfied

After a problem is resolved, what steps will you take to follow up on your client again?

Can you call a week later, or send a follow-up e-mail after three days? Circling back gives you the chance to find out if you handled the issue thoroughly, whether a solution was effective, or if the customer had other questions.

Most people will be impressed that you take this extra step to solicit their opinion or ensure their satisfaction.

A Silver Lining

Though handling complaints can be tough, over time, it gives you greater insight into your products, your services, or into the minds of your clients.

Effective complaint management not only resolves problems, but it can transform people into advocates for your brand and sources for future referrals.

Exert Influence While You’re Stuck in the Middle

Are you stuck in the middle when it comes to your job?

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Perhaps you supervise many, but you still answer to a few. Or maybe you frequently advise a superior who seems less competent than you. Leading from the middle is tough. But managers who influence from the middle are often in a perfect position to collaborate with others, solve problems, and have significant organizational impact.

Want to make the most of your time in the middle? Here are three ways to hone upward influence in this transitional season:

Honor Decisions You Disagree With

People who lead from the middle are sometimes forced to settle for less than the ideal.

In your position, often you’ll receive instructions you don’t like or decisions you disagree with. In frustrating moments, you may be tempted to badmouth the decision or the organization. In a meeting you may say something like, “I would have done it differently, but . . .” Or during office chit-chat, you may casually question your leader’s judgment.

Real leaders make the best of a situation and honor decisions in healthy, unifying ways. If you want to be respected by those around you, speak with integrity and uphold the reputation of others. This builds trust, which gives you more influence when it’s time to speak up or offer solutions.

Be Intentional

One challenge for mid-level employees is knowing when or how to speak.

When you are strategic and consistent in sharing, your perspective can make a more significant impact. What is the best way for you to communicate? Consider a short, weekly e-mail update to your boss. Highlight 2-minute success stories in meetings to put a face on your “win.” Or use printed presentation notes when sharing needs or asking for additional resources. This demonstrates thoughtful preparation and makes your request more memorable.

Keep the Big Picture in Mind

If you want to be taken seriously as a leader, take a serious interest in the organization as a whole.

Don’t just focus on your department. Instead, look for ways to lend a hand to those above, below, and around you. When your supervisor sees that you care about the whole company, you may be surprised how quickly your influence grows.

This may bring friction. Working from the middle gives you a great vantage point to see the big picture, to recognize patterns or uncertainties, and highlight tension within the organization. When you bump into turbulence, remember that trying to please everyone is impossible.

Global Portfolio Management Director Michelle Maloy, says it’s easy to doubt yourself when you’re always trying to please:

“[This balancing act] requires self-control and clarity. You need to have understanding and empathy for others, but you can’t let everybody’s ‘stuff’ allow you to lose focus.”

It’s All About Perspective

While there are times that leading from the middle is difficult, you are often ideally positioned to collaborate with others to generate new ideas and solve problems.

This allows you to gain experience, be involved in meaningful work, and affect large scale change. It is possible to successfully lead from your position while developing skills that serve you throughout your career.

How to Build Trust in Your Team

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Once there was a businessman on a routine domestic flight.

Though a seasoned flyer, he felt tense when, shortly after takeoff, the pilot asked everyone to stay in their seats with belts fastened. Moments later the pilot announced there would be no beverage service due to unexpected turbulence. People looked worried, and soon some were shrieking with alarm as a storm bounced the plane erratically.

Nearby, the man saw a little girl sitting all alone, but acting totally calm. When the plane jolted she closed her eyes briefly but eventually started reading, looking out the window, or fiddling with toys until the shaking subsided.

After the flight, the girl waited quietly as others exited. When the man approached and asked how she could be so brave, she said:

“My dad is the pilot, and he is taking me home.”

Weather the Storms

Does your team trust that you are taking them home?

When the clouds form and turbulence comes, do your people trust you to guide them through? Building trust may not be on your regular “to do” list, but it can cement a foundation so you can build high and strong.

Here are five tips to increase trust in your workplace or family today:

1. Show your vulnerabilities.

Great leaders are connected leaders, and people relate more with your weaknesses than your strength.

To truly connect with people you serve, it’s important to share not just strengths and victories but struggles and setbacks. Admit your mistakes. Apologize. Be proactive about gathering negative feedback. And use your own errors to teach or encourage others.

2. Regularly delegate authority.

Give trust to get trust.

If you run a regular staff meeting, occasionally have others develop the agenda or lead the discussion. No one enjoys a micromanager who constantly takes credit or dominates others. Step back into the shadows and you will build a wealth of relational currency.

3. Be transparent about money.

Sharing financial information can be a huge boon to the bottom line.

However, a 2016 study found that only 25 percent of privately held companies were sharing financial information with all of their employees. Whether your firm is publicly-traded or privately-held, the time you spend explaining and talking about results will allow team members to feel they are a valuable, integral part of your circle. And it helps people understand how they can positively impact the financial performance of the business as a whole.

4. Operate from a visible set of values.

If your firm lacks clear values, define them.

Mount them on walls, design strategic symbols to communicate them, or put a face on them by sharing testimonies of team members who are living the values. People thrive when they have context for their work and its importance to the bigger picture.

5. Don’t let difficult issues linger.

When times get tough, the clock on your credibility starts ticking.

Don’t allow difficult situations to corner you – instead confront them head-on and get your team involved too. The formation of problem-solving groups can energize your staff and provide opportunities to reward creativity and individual contributions. Groups can be tasked with brainstorming strategies or exploring new models.

If your “difficult issue” is a person, be intentional about heading off conflicts immediately. Be hard on the problem and soft on the person. Be assertive but courteous, addressing specific complaints and providing clear expectations about the response and timeframe needed to resolve them.

Trust is built through daily interactions and intentional gestures. You have many opportunities to gain trust each day. Work hard in the small things and you’ll weather storms with confidence!

Perseverance: How to Know If It’s Time to Quit

Woman looking up into light

Over the last two years, there has been a great buzz about 37-year-old tennis phenom Serena Williams.

Williams has 23 Grand Slam titles and a dominant career, ranked number one for 319 weeks over 15 years. In 2017, Williams gave birth to her first daughter. Many wondered how motherhood would affect her career. Would she return with the same fight? Would she return at all?

Williams roared back to the semi-final of the 2018 U.S. Open and quickly regained top 10 rankings. Fans worldwide were inspired by her courage and moved by her transparency about her struggles.

Faced with a Crossroads

In life, you will face discouragement, wondering, “Is it time to quit? Should I alter my path or press on through resistance?”

On one hand, redirecting can be wise, helping you avoid harm or consider better alternatives. Conversely, quitting might weaken your character or prevent you from realizing an achievement that’s closer than you think.

Walter Mallory, an associate of inventor Thomas Edison, was expressing regret that the first nine thousand experiments with a battery yielded few results. Edison had a different perspective:

“Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results! I have found several thousand things that won’t work!”

To Fish or Cut Bait?

Politician Newt Gingrich said, “perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”

Pressing on in a project can build character, enhance your skill set, and build confidence that can only come through trial. The best leaders are those who’ve been tested.

When tempted to quit, ask yourself whether other alternatives seem tangible or rewarding. Does a change seem realistic? Could you tweak certain variables to make a situation more bearable? Perhaps your moments of greatest discouragement are those when you’re actually closest to breakthrough!

But whoever said “quitters never win” may have been wrong. Quitting is scary, but sometimes continuing is worse. Stubbornness can destroy important relationships, blind you to better alternatives, or make you oblivious to your destruction. It might be time to quit when:

  • Continuing will destroy friendships, family, health, or your character
  • Despite loads of effort, you don’t see results
  • You find yourself growing numb to red flags
  • Proceeding may eliminate other options
  • You’ve lost all joy or energy

In 2010, Mexican golfer Lorena Ochoa shocked fans when she retired at 28. At that time, she was ranked number one in the world, a winner of two major championships and millions in prize money.

An impulsive decision? Ochoa says no. From early in her career, Ochoa wanted to marry and raise a family without golf, projecting about 10 years on the tour.

“ . . . For me, getting married and having a family, that was more important,” Ochoa said. “Now that I’m a mother, I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world and I feel blessed. I’m really, really happy that I made the decision at the right time and now I can enjoy 100% this second stage of my life.”

Looking back, Ochoa said knowing there was a definite “end” actually helped her game:

“When I was in a difficult position and I was either upset or tired or angry or disappointed, I keep saying, ‘OK, y’know I have three or four years left. I’m going to do it and continue and I’m going to put everything into it’ . . . When I look back and I see what I did, I just feel even luckier because I made the right decision at the perfect time.”

Ochoa’s courage may inspire you to think of it this way: perhaps it’s time to quit when saying no to the good means you can say YES to the best.

How to Keep Your Business Focused Through the Subtle Danger of Mission Drift

Life is full of good opportunities.

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Good books to read, good events to attend, good projects to pioneer. But good things can knock us off track in pursuing the very best.

What does “the best” look like in your leadership?

It means doing what you are uniquely called to do in the style that is distinct to your personality, position, and organizational DNA. Living “the best” in leadership means that your most important job isn’t to manage the budget, to develop new products, or even to lead your team.

Your most important task is to continually cast vision.

The subtle tension every leader will face is the reality of mission drift. Mission drift happens when we are pulled off of our message or our mission, whether intentionally or accidentally. This can be an irresistible force that results in loss of momentum or a crisis of identity, so strategic leaders build in measures to continually recalibrate. If you don’t prioritize vision casting, you may end up navigating a ship that’s going in an entirely different direction than you intended.

How can you build strategic safeguards to keep your organization focused? Here are a few steps.

One Key Leader

Begin by enlisting one board member or key staff person who is committed to alignment.

Be sure they buy into your team’s mission and charge them with safeguarding its integrity. When opportunities arise that may detract from the mission, it’s great to have someone speaking up (perhaps against the majority!) or analyzing decisions from a broader perspective.

A Focused Core Team

Do everything you can to focus your core team around the mission.

Set times to swap stories about where you recently saw the “mission win” and publicly acknowledge those who are keeping the main thing the main thing. Exit or discipline people who don’t, even if they perform well in other areas. If your core team is sold out to the mission, it will pay bigger dividends in the long run.

A Culture of Mission

Your mission should be more than a vague concept on your website, but a regular part of the professional experience.

Use stories and symbols to embed purpose in your culture so people encounter it daily:

  • Mount core values on the walls. Use them as a guide for decisions and a platform for sharing new initiatives.
  • Design strategic symbols (racetracks, funnels, etc.) to communicate process. 65 percent of people are visual learners, and concepts become memorable when they’re connected with an image.
  • Put a face on success by sharing testimonials (in person or through letters) from people who have been positively affected by the vision. Illustrations exemplify goals and make heroes of people who are living the mission.
  • Use slogans to cement conviction. Ritz-Carlton hotels use the motto, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen” to exemplify the anticipatory service provided by all staff members. Simple slogans, shared repeatedly with conviction, can motivate people to do things they would normally never do.

Make Your Mission Specific and Measurable

When coaching your team, provide concrete actions that explain how you’ll achieve your vision.

Use results-oriented descriptions (like, “you’ll know you’ve done a good job when _____.”) Outline action steps to take and celebrate mile markers achieved. Enlist creative people who can help you celebrate daily victories.

Wandering is natural. If you don’t strategically refocus people around a singular vision, your organization will fail to thrive. Lean on these strategies and safeguard your team from the dangerous drift that every leader will face.