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5 Social Skills Business Leaders Must Master

(Editor’s Note: This week, TalentCulture founder, Meghan M. Biro is speaking at the Peoplefluent WISDOM2013 Conference about a topic that is central to the world of work: “Leadership, Workplace Culture and Brand Influence.” In the spirit of her presentation, we’re sharing one of many articles Meghan has written about this topic. We hope it’s the next-best thing to being there!)

Recently, I consulted with a software company as it navigated through a treacherous sea change — the upheaval of its organizational culture. This shift was triggered when my client hired a Chief Technology Officer from another company – not exactly a competitor, but a company in an adjacent market space. However, technology market spaces aren’t entirely independent — and in this case, the overlap only added fuel to an already volatile clash of personalities. Needless to say, the change wasn’t graceful or happy. In fact, it was a nasty, stressful process. And for those of us who mopped up the mess, it was a sobering wake-up call.

Faceoff: Old Workplace Culture Meets New

The previous workplace culture was cut-throat and intensely political. However, the workforce knew and accepted those rules. The organization had been socialized.

When the new CTO arrived, he imposed his own culture – one that obscured motives and withheld explicit information from employees. Suddenly without warning, people were receiving email messages saying that their jobs had changed and their staffs had been reassigned. Plans and strategies were were not discussed. Details were not communicated. Nothing was socialized.

The company quickly began hemorrhaging top talent, much to the dismay of its puzzled CEO. This exodus was good news for industry recruiters (fresh job vacancies to fill), but it was clearly a bad scene for the company and its employer brand. Even worse, a few former employees started blogging about the drama. The message wasn’t pretty, and in today’s socially hyper-connected world, word traveled fast. That made recruiting high-caliber talent a far more challenging task. Even today, recovery remains a long, rough road.

Social Connection: The Missing Link

Of course, none of this had to happen. What could have prevented the chaos? In my opinion, if the organization’s senior executives had been socially adept, I would be telling an entirely different story. Perhaps to some people it sounds insignificant, but social leadership can make all the difference.

Socially savvy, engaged leaders share a set of skills that help protect their organizations from the havoc of sudden, devastating change. Don’t get me wrong. I recognize that change can be healthy — and often it’s necessary. But successful large-scale cultural change requires finesse and an understanding of the “human side” of business.

In this case, the company hired an outsider to change its technical direction. That part is normal and appropriate. But the CEO didn’t anticipate the painful change in culture that would follow, or the subsequent loss of valued employees. It’s not because the CEO is weak, but because he lacked critical social skills.

In my practice, I work with lots of leaders seeking to expand their teams and make their workplace culture attractive for both potential new employees and current ones. Some clients are very socially aware and engaged. Some are socially tone-deaf and isolated from what’s happening both within the walls of their own companies, and across the broader business landscape. Both types of leaders can be successful to a point – the point where trust, loyalty, values and expectations affect financial performance and company growth.

Being a socially engaged leader is not an innate skill. However, it’s increasingly necessary in today’s networked business environment, as today’s multi-generational workforce puts more strain on corporate cultures to “open up” communication, and social media creates direct channels that reveal what it’s really like to work at various companies.

No doubt about it — today’s brave new connected world of work requires brave new social leadership. Here are 5 must-have social skills that every business leader should develop:

5 Skills To Master As A Social Leader

1) Recognize non-verbal cues. A skilled social leader does not rely on only one form of communication, but is informed by all – verbal, written, non-verbal, viral and so on. Being sensitive to non-verbal cues is difficult because much of today’s communication is digital. However, to effectively interpret non-verbal cues in face-to-face interactions, you must be able to recognize how your personal perception filters input. You don’t have to be a paragon of mental health, but you do need to shut-off the noise in your head long enough to read other people and understand what’s going on with them.

2) Interact regularly. You don’t have to know everyone’s name or how many kids they have. However, you do need to be aware of how employees, peers, partners and customers are thinking, feeling and reacting. This means you must engage others proactively — even through digital forms of communication. How can you expect your organization to be cohesive internally, or build a coherent brand externally, unless everyone shows up to “represent”? You don’t need to tweet or send email round-the-clock, but you must be comfortable connecting in person and on social channels. By reaching out early and often, you’ll learn valuable insights that you’d never anticipate otherwise.

3) Openly discuss your values and purpose. People join companies for many reasons, but what’s more interesting is why they stay. They stay because they feel a sense of shared values, purpose, mission and vision. If you’re a leader and you don’t regularly reinforce the company’s value and purpose, be prepared to do a lot of remedial recruiting when you lose more talent than you’d like.

4) Encourage a community presence. Like it or not, social media is vital in the world of work. Paternalistic managers and top-down leaders sometimes have trouble with this skill, but it’s no longer an option. Companies don’t function in a bubble. They move in a social sphere, where business reputation and results can be shaped by online communities – even when they’re not your customers. Are you blogging on behalf of your company brand? Is anyone in your organization tweeting, blogging or developing a virtual community? Is that even encouraged?

5) Demonstrate authentic interest in your employees and others. You can learn some skills and fake others, but it’s tough to fake sincerity. Some might argue that this is a personality attribute, not a skill. But for me, sincerity makes the difference between a leader and a task manager. If you’re not sincere, you’ll do things that might make business sense, but eventually they’ll backfire. Think of the company snapshot at the start of this post. The CEO thought it made sense to hire new senior technology talent. But because neither he nor the CTO valued sincerity or honest communication, the company is paying a heavy price.

Social engagement is not a management overlay on a toxic culture. It’s not a Band-Aid, a work-around or a cure-all. It’s a way of thinking about business, and doing business. It’s about operating with awareness and engagement — using the power of social networks to demonstrate your brand promise in today’s dynamic marketplace. It’s how the world works. It’s how you need to work. So make your move. Your company’s future depends on it.

(Editor’s Note: Meghan M. Biro is an active contributor to Forbes.com. This article is adapted from Meghan’s Forbes.com blog, with permission.)

(Image Credit: Pixabay)

Workplace Violence: Myth and Reality #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking for a full recap of this week’s #TChat events and resources? Read the #TChat Recap: “Violence On The Job: It Pays To Prepare”.)

9/11/2001. Who can forget that morning, 12 years ago, when the unimaginable unfolded before our eyes? Before that fateful day, few of us gave much thought to the impact of violence and disaster preparedness in the world of work.

But among the many lessons of the 9/11 attacks, we learned that no one should ignore the potential for workplace violence, in any form.

So this week as our nation remembers 9/11, the TalentCulture community is coming together at #TChat events to dispel costly myths and discuss vital realities about workplace violence and disaster preparation and prevention.

Making Sense of Risk Management

To lead this important conversation, we welcome two experts:
• Tom Bronack, President of Data Center Assistance Group, specialists in enterprise resiliency.
Felix Nater, Founder of Nater Associates, a business security advisory firm.

To kick-off the discussion, I spoke briefly with both Tom and Felix in separate Hangouts recently. Watch, and I’m sure you’ll agree that this topic deserves closer attention by all of us who focus on the human side of business.

First, Tom set the stage by telling the brief story of one company that paid a tremendous price for operating without a safety or recovery plan:

Next, Felix explained the steep cost of violence in business environments:

We have everything to gain by learning more from pros like Tom and Felix — and by sharing ideas with others in our community. So bring your questions and concerns, and let’s talk!

#TChat Events: Violence Prevention In Today’s Workplace

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Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

#TChat Radio — Wed, Sep 11 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Felix Nater and Tom Bronack about why preparation is essential in preventing and recovering from workplace violence. They’ll help us rethink myths, and educate us on best practices. Don’t miss this special event — dial-in LIVE with your questions and input!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Sep 11 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, we’ll move the discussion to the #TChat Twitter stream, where Dr. Nancy Rubin will lead an open chat with the entire TalentCulture community. Anyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these questions:

Q1: How prevalent is workplace violence today? Why?
Q2: What costs are associated with workplace violence?
Q3: What top 3 things should employers should do to prepare for violence?
Q4: Who should be on your workplace violence preparedness team?
Q5: What technologies enable response planning and safeguarding?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

101 Ways To Save The Day With A Paperclip #TChat Recap

“Better is possible. It does not take genius … It takes ingenuity. And above all, it takes a willingness to try.”-Atul Gawande

When I bumped into this quote, it stopped me in my tracks. It seems like the ideal way to summarize key insights from Wednesday’s #TChat events. However, the source isn’t a #TChat participant. This isn’t even a tweet. And it wasn’t written in the recent past.

Actually, it’s a quote from the 2007 book, Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance. The author is a practicing physician, whose riveting narrative focuses on finding creative ways to be more effective as a professional within a complex, bureaucratic environment. (Does that sound familiar to some of you? At least you know you’re not alone!)

Of course, in Atul Gawande’s profession, a creative approach can mean the difference between life and death. With such serious consequences hanging in the balance, fear of failure is always a factor. But unless medical practitioners are willing to take clever, calculated risks, the standard of care will never advance. As Dr. Gawande explains in an interview, “In The Belly Of The Medical Machine”

“…I work in a bureaucracy with 10,000 employees. Functioning in such a world is not all that pleasant. But there are things that you can do only if you are in such an organization. So you just need to find the patterns of what has worked. Like Warren Warwick, of Fairview University Children’s Hospital in Minnesota – he’s a great example. He lives in the machine. Through sheer force of will and creativity, he makes it work – and the patients in his clinic live longer than in any other cystic fibrosis clinic in the country. It’s stunning. It’s inspiring.”

Pioneering doctors like Warren Warwick and Atul Gawande aren’t exactly saving the day with a paperclip, MacGyver-style. But in my view, they’re the closest thing we’ll see in real life.

They’re also shining examples of the ingenious spirit that we explored this week with #TChat expert guest, Marcia Conner. Marcia is Principal of SensifyGroup, a management consultancy that specializes in elevating workplace culture, learning and collaboration. A highly regarded social business thought leader and author, Marcia is developing a book focused on the the power of ingenuity in transforming our lives at work and beyond.

Marcia challenged us all to take a fresh look at the world around us to create better ways to work. And our community responded by storming Twitter with a rush of ideas and insights to kick-start that process. In case you missed any of the action, we invite you to review #TChat highlights in the slideshow, along with other related resources listed below.

If this week’s events inspire you to put ingenuity into action, let us know where that effort leads. Who knows? You may be surprised to find that a small, smart shift in your approach can make a huge difference. The evidence shows that we don’t need to be super-human to be ingenious. We just have to be willing to try.

#TChat Week in Review: The Transforming Power of Ingenuity

SUN 8/5

MarciaConner

Watch the G+ Hangout now

#TChat Preview: Our Community Manager, Tim McDonald, outlined the week’s topic in a post that feartures a brief G+ Hangout with Marcia. See the preview: “Transforming Culture: The Force Within.”

MON 8/5

Forbes.com Post: In her weekly Forbes column, TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, offered advice about why listening is more important now than ever, and how leaders can improve their listening capabilities. Read “5 Leadership Lessons: Listen, Learn, Lead.”

WED 8/7

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Listen to the radio show now

#TChat Radio Prior to the week’s Twitter chat event, Marcia joined our hosts, TalentCulture founders and radio hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman, to talk about what it means to be ingenious in our personal and professional lives. Listen now to the radio show recording.

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, the entire TalentCulture community came together for an open conversation on the #TChat stream. In case you missed the action, check out the highlights in our Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Twitter Highlights: Transforming Culture: The Force Within

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Marcia Conner for sharing her expertise and enthusiasm about how we can tap into ingenuity in our personal and professional lives. You inspire our community to keep pushing the collaborative envelope.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about innovation, collaboration and corporate culture? We’d love to share your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, technology analyst, Jim Lundy, joins us to look at innovations that are redefining the world of work! Stay tuned to TalentCulture social channels for details.

In the meantime, the World of Work conversation continues each day. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, on our LinkedIn discussion group. or on other social channels. And feel free to explore our redesigned website. The gears are always turning here at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: ABC / HenryWinkler-JohnRich Productions

 

Employee Communication: 4 Ways to Engage

A Too-Familiar Story

Let’s say you’re trying to buy a jacket online. There’s a problem with your purchase, so you call customer service, and they put you on hold. (Waiting…) Finally you reach a robot voice informing you that the call center is closed. You really want the jacket, so you persist.

Hours (or perhaps even days) later, you connect with a live representative who is unable to offer the assistance you need to resolve the problem. What seemed like an easy problem to fix has become a headache, a time-suck, and a shadow over your relationship with the company. Not only is this jacket transaction in jeopardy, but the next time you’re in the market for clothes, you’re likely to shop somewhere else.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

So, what really happened in this scenario? The company failed in a critical way — it did not provide clear pathways of communication and support to resolve your issue, at the moment of need. The brand has lost credibility with a “ready-t0-buy” customer, the company has damaged its relationship with you, and the outcome will translate into lost revenue now and perhaps in the future.

How does this customer experience story translate to the human resources side of business? The audience may be different, but the takeaway is identical: For both customer and employee engagement, communication is vital — especially when issues arise. Just like customers, employees want the ability to ask question, discuss problems, offer constructive feedback and propose suggestions. They want to feel that their concerns and ideas are heard and addressed.

These are the fundamentals of employee engagement. It is HR’s job to support engagement in the workplace, from end-to-end, and clear lines of communication are the most effective way to accomplish that.

4 Workplace Communication Strategies

When I think about my own experiences, both as a customer and as an employee, it’s easy to remember the times when I felt I was heard — or not. Based on those experiences, here are my top four communication strategies for boosting engagement:

1) Be Available:  To improve the way an organization works, employees need a champion — someone on the inside to share suggestions with. It doesn’t matter whether this ambassador is a manager, an HR representative, a colleague, or event a group of peers. What matters is that there is clearly a door through which individuals can bring questions, concerns and opinions.

2) Listen To My Needs:  Don’t be too quick to dismiss new ideas. Every employee has a unique perspective, and although every suggestion won’t be feasible, each one should be valued. Suggestions reflect your employees’ individual experiences, and therefore, represent part of your company’s culture. Validate ideas by acknowledging contributions, as well as the spirit behind them.

3) Be On My Side:  Every team needs a leader whom they can trust to represent their best interests. And every employee needs a champion who will be their advocate, even in their absence. When you demonstrate support for others, you reinforce their value within the organization. No one likes to feel unimportant — from there it’s a short step to disengagement.

4) Find A Solution:  Not all feedback can be put into action — sometimes for very good reasons. However, leaders and employees can work together to examine the root causes of a key issue, or to integrate appropriate elements of a suggestion, or to brainstorm and investigate other solutions. This follow-through shows employees that their voices matter.

Have you tried these or other communication techniques to improve employee engagement? What worked for you? Share your experiences in the comments area below.

Image Credit:Stock.xchng

Communities of Practice and Purpose: #TChat Recap

“Every person is defined by the communities she belongs to.”
―from “Speaker for the Dead” by Orson Scott Card

I imagine that anyone who participates in the TalentCulture community agrees with this quote. Whenever any of us invests time or talent in #TChat events, social channels or this blog, a bit of our identity becomes connected to something larger than ourselves.

Of course that’s not unusual. The rise of the Internet has made community membership a common occurrence. In fact, “community” has become a buzzword for any group of people that uses digital technology to interact. But many business-related communities are much more than just loosely connected people. They are, like TalentCulture, communities of practice or purpose.

Here’s how social learning expert, Etienne Wenger, defines Communities of Practice: “Groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do — and who learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” It’s important to keep in mind that this proccess of continuous learning isn’t necessarily intentional. It’s also important to remember that, although communities may start as a flash of inspiration, they must be cultivated. They require consistent presence, clear communication and sufficient resources to function and flourish.

Not every virtual community is a community of practice.  What differentiates them from others? According to Wenger, there are 3 critical components:

  • DOMAIN = shared topics of interest (e.g. today’s “world of work”)
  • COMMUNITY = members + their relationships (e.g. #TChat/TalentCulture social media connections)
  • PRACTICE = channels and collective body of knowledge (e.g. chat archives, video and audio interviews, blog commentary)

Want deeper insight into how you can get value from a community of practice? Watch this energetic, idea-packed video by Nancy White, who is passionate about the care and feeding of communities!

How do these community of practice concepts extend to enterprise communities? For insights and inspiration, check out our stash of resources from this week’s #TChat Forums. Throughout the week, experts challenged us to think in new ways about familiar community concepts.

#TChat Week in Review

SAT 5/25

Maria and Jeff

Watch video interviews in the #TChat Preview

#TChat Preview + Sneak Peek Videos: Our Community Manager,  Tim McDonald, framed the week’s topic in interviews with our special guests, Maria Ogneva, Director of Product Marketing at Salesforce Chatter Communities, and Jeff Willinger, Director of Collaboration, Social Computing and Intranets at Rightpoint consulting. See the preview: “Finding Value in Enterprise Communities.”

SUN 5/26

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro considered how business organizations can effectively apply community management principles and practices in her Forbes column, “5 Ways Leaders Empower The Social Enterprise.”

TUE 5/28

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Listen to the #TChat Radio show recording

#TChat Radio: Maria and Jeff joined our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman to examine key issues and opportunities associated with the care and feeding of digital business communities, in “Why Enterprise Community Management Works.”

WED 5/29

#TChat Twitter: As we do each Wednesday, #TChat-ters took to the Twitter stream to share ideas, concerns and opinions — this week about enterprise community best practices, with Maria and Jeff leading the way. Were you in on the action? If not, or to review highlights, watch the slideshow below:

#TChat Twitter Highlights: “Finding Value in Enterprise Communities”

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

SPECIAL THANKS: Again, thanks to our guests, Maria Ogneva and Jeff Willinger. We’re inspired by your insights and passion for cultivating purposeful business communities!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about digital communities? We’re happy to share your thoughts. Just post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week — we’re shifting gears to look at the hiring process from the candidate’s perspective. How have employers improved about the hiring process — and what could be improved? You won’t want to miss it!

But until then, the World of Work conversation continues each day. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, or on our new LinkedIn discussion group. And feel free to explore other areas of our redesigned website. The lights are always on at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

Finding Value in Enterprise Communities #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you interested in reviewing all of this week’s events and resources? Read “Communities of Practice and Purpose: #TChat Recap.”)

If you know me, then you know that I’m passionate about communities — digital and otherwise.

My interest in cultivating communities is what drives me as manager at HuffPost Live and TalentCulture, and as the founder of My Community Manager. It’s incredibly gratifying to help people build useful relationships, and to facilitate an ongoing exchange of ideas that is bigger than the sum of its parts.

Digital communities aren’t just a nice idea. They’re also a huge potential source of business value for enterprise organizations, according to management consulting firms like McKinsey. Yet large companies often struggle with how to connect the social dots among their various constituents — employees, leaders, customers, business partners, and beyond.

What Makes a Great Enterprise Community?

Of course, great networking and collaboration tools are helpful in creating and sustaining any kind of social community. But it takes much more than a solid infrastructure. What does it take? That’s the focus of our TalentCulture #TChat forums in the coming week. And we’ve invited two experts to lead the conversation:

#TChat Sneak Peek Videos

Both guests briefly joined me for a G+ Hangout to set the stage. First Jeff defined key terms — explaining how enterprise communities differ from other social networking groups:

And then Maria explained why communities are essential in today’s business environment:

#TChat Events: Why and How Enterprise Communities Work

Need I say more? As you can tell from their interviews, these two experts are just as passionate as I am about exploring the benefits of business-oriented communities. And they’re eager to exchange ideaTChatRadio_logo_020813s with a circle of like-minded professionals. So please join us next week, and add your unique perspective to this very special “community” conversation!

#TChat Radio — Tuesday, May 28 at 7:30pmET / 4:30pmPT — Maria and Jeff join our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman, for a LIVE 30-minute discussion about enterprise community issues and opportunities.

#TChat Twitter — Wednesday, May 29 at 7:00pmET / 4:00pmPT — Calling all #TChatters to join us for an open online discussion on the #TChat stream. Come on over and share your thoughts. The more, the merrier!

Q1: What are the differences between social and enterprise communities?

Q2: Why has community development and management been more difficult for the enterprise?

Q3: What are best practices for enterprise community management?

Q4: What can business leaders and internal champions do to facilitate quality enterprise communities?

Q5: What community & collaboration technologies make sense for today’s enterprise?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our new LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Chief Culture Officer, Onboarding & Beyond: #TChat Preview

At recent HR and leadership conferences and chats with colleagues, I’ve been hearing a lot about an emerging trend: Companies are hiring Chief Culture Officers. No, the CCO is not always interchangeable with the Vice President of Human Resources. It’s not as simple as it seems.

The CCO is on the leading edge of employee engagement. He’s in charge of onboarding, and beyond. And I mean, beyond. She might be part of the VP of HR’s peer group, or she might be in the C-Suite. It’s pretty fluid right now, and our TalentCulture community will discuss the Chief Culture Officer’s many permutations during this week’s #TChat.

Some leaders believe changing the nature of a company’s culture requires a revolution, a movement. Some believe (as do I) that culture springs from trust and communication. And others think it takes an ecosystem of management, business partners and executive leadership. Still others believe line managers and rank-and-file employees should have a say. What isn’t in debate is the need, now that the job market seems to be at a tipping point, for a dose of company culture-building. A giant dose of workplace and people happy!

Who is the Chief Culture Officer? Is it you, or does it require someone of a different temperament? To whom should the CCO report? Should the VP of HR report to the CCO? So many angles, and we only have an hour to discuss them. Here are this week’s questions:

Q1: What is a Chief Culture Officer? Do they exist? If so, what is their role & why?

Q2: How should the CCO facilitate and maintain employee connections, communications & collaborations from day 1?

Q3: Cultural ecosystems of biz = employees, contractors, vendors, service providers, alumni, new applicants. T or F?

Q4: Who should the CCO report to & why? Who should report to them?

Q5: What social HR technologies should the CCO implement to their cultural ecosystems & why?

If you feel the need for a little culture in the workplace, please join us at #TChat Twitter Wednesday night, Aug. 15, from 7-8pm ET (6-7pm CT, 4-5pm PT, or wherever you are), to talk about the emerging role of the CCO.

Matt Monge (@MattMonge, themojocompany.com) will be our guest moderator. Joining him will be yours truly (@MeghanMBiro) and Kevin W. Grossman (@KevinWGrossman), as well as Sean Charles (@SocialMediaSean), Salima Nathoo (@SocialSalima) and Brent Skinner (@BrentSkinner). We look look forward to looking at trust, culture, ecosystems and executive reporting structures with you, this week. It’s a controversial topic, so bring your opinions and be ready back them up with examples and facts.

See you there!

Image credit: Trust, by vagawi

Got those Blogging Blues? #TChat Preview

If so, you’re probably not alone.  According to reports, there are some 25 billion registered blogs out there on the world-wide web. However, only 450 million are considered “active.”  While that’s less than 1% of what’s registered actually putting out content, it’s still enough to create a lot of “noise” in the blogsphere.   And whether you’re a new blogger or the medium is ‘old-hat’ to you, trying to distinguish yourself can still be overwhelming.

It leaves many asking the question, “Why bother blogging to begin with?”

Despite the old saying that there are only 12 original themes, there’s still room on the net for your ideas, too.  The difference for many is found in the spin rather than the subject.  The subject matter may not be new, but the way that you present the idea can be.  You can maintain creativity by mixing things up: use photos, collaborate efforts with other writers or professional colleagues, try a vlog (video blog), etc…

To build sustainability, you need more than regular, fresh and compelling content around a centralized theme – you need patience as well.  Your readership won’t likely show up in droves when you put up your “I’m Here!” inaugural post.   To gain a respectable following, you’ll have to consistently market your content on other platforms to those that are interested in the subjects on which you have something to say.

You definitely want an idea of what you’re trying to get out of it going in – and the answer ought not be money!  At least not directly, anyway. Despite the enticing banners and messages many blogging platforms put out to doe-eyed bloggers; seducing them with the promise and potential of converting their hobby into a money maker, the reality is that there’s very little money to be made directly from a blog (none for most).

That being said, just because you want to have a blog doesn’t necessarily mean you should.  There’s a lot that goes into putting together a successful blog that stands the test of time. And many (most, if you look at the massive gap between registered and active blogs) aren’t up to the challenge.  Blogging is best suited for “long-form” content sharing. It’s the most effective medium if the message you want to share can’t be adequately expressed in a 5 minute ‘vlog,’ the meaning derived from pictures, or requires more than 140-characters to get across.

Speaking of 140-characters,  join us tonight as we explore content, best practices, and the writing equivalents of “What not to Wear” in tonight’s #TChat discussion topic:  “Blogging & Beyond.”   Here’s a look at tonight’s questions, along with recommended reading:

1)      What makes content effective and compelling?  Are there universal benchmarks or is it subjective?

Recommended Reading:  “Principles of Effective Blog Design”  by Peep Laja

2)      What are some blogging best practices?  How does blogging fit in with a larger social media strategy?

Recommended Reading:  “The 8 Habits of Highly Effective Bloggers” by Annabel Candy

3)      What advice do you have for individuals or brands looking to blog?  Any lessons learned?

Recommended Reading:  “Blogging, Copyright, and Blog Plagiarism”  & “When Your Blog is My Content” by Jessica Miller-Merrell

4)      In 140 characters or less: what are some of your favorite work-related blogs and why?

Recommended Reading:  Some of mine are TalentCulture, MonsterThinking, Fistful of Talent, Blogging4Jobs, and TheOneCrystal (mine, of course!)

5)      Does someone have to be a good writer to be a good blogger?  Why or why not?

Recommended Reading:  “Must you be a Good Writer to be a Successful Blogger?” by Bailey Digger

6)      What are some of the biggest mistakes or misconceptions around blogging and online content creation?

Recommended Reading:  “18 Stupid Mistakes Bloggers Make in their First Year” by Christine Kane  & “8 Mistakes Too Many Bloggers Make” by David Risley

 

I’ll be joining the conversation at our new time this Wednesday night along with co-hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman from 7-8 p.m. (Eastern) via @TheOneCrystal and our community handle @TalentCulture

Conscious Communication in an Info-Overloaded World

(Editor’s Note: All of us in the TalentCulture community mourn the loss of our dear friend, brilliant colleague and mindful mentor, Judy Martin, who passed away unexpectedly on January 31, 2014. Her message and her life are a lesson for us all. We will forever fondly remember her humor, warmth and wisdom.)

The old adage goes, if you’re not going to say something nice than don’t say anything at all. Yes, silence speaks volumes, but so can efficient communication and it’s a stretch sometimes when having to tangle with work while keeping peace on the home front.

“Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.” ~Dalai Lama

Poor communication creates frustration and can make for inefficient interactions, inevitably leading to stress or the monkey mind of coulda, shoulda, woulda whether at work or at home.

We make up stories in our head as we anticipate what will happen during a conflict, instead of being open to the ever-changing moment that might lead to a productive conversation. Strive for the 3 C’s: Co-creation of a Conscious Conversation. There at least 2 people in the conversation. Don’t talk at people. Speak WITH them. And be fully present in the conversation – not multi-tasking with your Black Berry.

Communication covers broad territory. It comes in the form of meetings, phone calls, e-mail exchange, social media etc.  We tend to lose sight of some basic tenets of effective communication in our hi-tech global world. So keep the following in mind whether in a meeting or communication with someone via the many modes of technology:

  • Technology can filter a message and make it something it’s not. So don’t react from the gut.
  • Everyone has their individual story – but that story can change in an instant due to info-overload. Be adaptable to change in someone’s attitude.
  • Rapid fire communication via texting can quickly heat up a simple interaction.
  • Communicating with family and colleagues requires different sensibilities. Be aware of the blur and boundaries in the work-life merge. You’re probably going to speak to your mother in a different tone than a colleague.
  • Perception is everything. Be willing to be a witness to what’s happening if conflict arises. Remember that you are co-creating a conversation. 2 sides to every story.
  • When conversing, especially via technology, it’s smart to repeat – or mirror back to the person you’re communicating with – what YOU heard.
  • Be mindful of how you end conversations, and what the next step of communication or call-to-action, should be.

Being Conscious of  Your Communication

We tend to take communication for granted because there is such an ease of access to technology. The trick is to be more mindful of  your communication. Your time is valuable. The analogy of examining communication as a meal works well.  Remember that communication on any level is feeding your mind. So keep the following in mind:

Communication Guidelines

1. Don’t eat too late: Try to avoid interacting with people up to the moment you hit the sack. It’s stressful and could impact your sleep if the conversation or communication was upsetting or mind-consuming .

2. Don’t over-eat: Be sure to have an agenda for your communication and accomplish the task. Don’t keep gabbing on the phone to take up time.

3. Don’t stand while eating: Be mindful and present in your communications. If we allow ourselves to be distracted we dilute the conversation, make it longer than it has to be and risk not accomplishing the task.

In our rapidly changing business climate being mindful of how we are interacting at work and at home is increasingly important. How do you track your communications? Do you monitor and/or filter your communication at work or at home? If so, share your strategy!!

Improve Communication in a Time Crunched/Technology Based World

(Editor’s Note: All of us in the TalentCulture community mourn the loss of our dear friend, brilliant colleague and mindful mentor, Judy Martin, who passed away unexpectedly on January 31, 2014. Her message and her life are a lesson for us all. We will forever fondly remember her humor, warmth and wisdom.)

“Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.”   ~Dalai Lama

The old adage goes, if you’re not going to say something nice than don’t say anything at all. Yes, silence speaks volumes but so can efficient communication and it’s a stretch sometimes when having to tangle with work while keeping peace on the home front.

Poor communication creates frustration and on a practical front, makes for inefficient interactions and inevitably can lead to stress or the monkey mind of coulda, shoulda, woulda. We make up stories in our head as we anticipate what will happen during a conflict, instead of being open to the ever-changing moment that might lead to a productive conversation. Strive for the 3 C’s: Co-creation of a Conscious Conversation.

Communication covers a broad territory. It comes in the form of meetings, phone calls, e-mail exchange, social media etc.  We tend to lose sight of some basic tenets of effective communication in our new world. So keep the following in mind whether in a meeting or when communicating with someone via the many modes of technology:

  • Technology can filter a message – don’t react from the gut.
  • Everyone has their individual story – but that story can change in an instant due to info-overload. So be adaptable to change in someone’s attitude.
  • Rapid fire communication via texting can quickly heat up a simple interaction.
  • Perception is everything. Be willing to be a witness to what’s happening if conflict arises. Remember that you are co-creating a conversation. 2 sides to every story.
  • When conversing, especially via technology, it’s smart to repeat – or mirror back to the person you’re communicating with – what YOU heard.
  • Be mindful of how you end conversations and what the next step of communication or call to action should be.

Keeping the lines of communication open at work and at home is probably the most important factor in creating a less stressful work-life merge. Your “merge” might change on a daily or weekly basis, so an assessment of your  S-O-C (state of communications) is crucial before you can set up your guidelines.

We tend to take communication for granted because there is such an ease of access to technology. The trick is to be more mindful of  your communication. Your time is valuable. The analogy of examining communication as a meal works well.  Remember that communication on any level is feeding your mind. As bestselling author Tim Sanders (Love is the Killer App) says, be aware of the diet you’re feeding your mind.

A. Communication Guidelines

  • Don’t eat too late: Try to avoid interacting with people up to the moment you hit the sack. It’s stressful and could impact your sleep if the conversation or communication was upsetting or mind-consuming .
  • Don’t over eat: Be sure to have an agenda for your communication and accomplish the task. Don’t keep gabbing on the phone to take up time.
  • Don’t stand while eating: Be mindful and present in your communications. If we allow ourselves to be distracted we dilute the conversation, make it longer than it has to be and risk not accomplishing the task.

B. Assess Your Communication Streams

  • Write a list of every type of communication stream that you plug into daily. For example,  e-mail, BBM’s, texting, social media and the old-fashioned phone.
  • Identify which forms of communication are you most comfortable using and at what times of the day.
  • Limit extraneous communication to certain times of the day.
  • Set time limits on phone calls and meetings. Have an agenda before you head into a conversation.
  • Identify Energizing and Depleting Relationships. Make a list of the most important personal and work relationships. Assess which unions foster your growth as an individual.

C. Design a Communication Formula

Ask yourself about the three W’s :

  • Who are the most important people you communicate with on a daily basis at home and at work.
  • What is the most efficient form or technology that you can use with this person.
  • When is the best time to communicate with this person.

In our rapidly changing business climate being mindful of how we are interacting at work and at home is increasingly important. How do you track your communications? Do you monitor and/or filter your communication at work or at home? If so, share your strategy!

Leadership Principles Learned in Military: Communicating ‘Why’ is Key

Today’s guest post is by our talented colleague and friend Joe Sanchez. Joe is passionate about making a difference in government, business, and communities. He is focused on strategy, communications, marketing, performance management, and information technology. He loves cycling (I know this as we swap bike stories) and is a sports enthusiast. Joe’s special interests include public education, Special Olympics, and Veterans. You can follow him on Twitter @sanchezjb for more valuable insights.

I consider myself honored to have served with our nation’s finest young men and women in our Armed Forces.  It was an absolutely fantastic learning experience from many perspectives, the most important one being from a leadership perspective.

One of my early lessons was that while there are a number of foundational aspects of leadership often referred to as leadership principles, how these principles are applied and made “real” can and should vary based on environmental and situational factors.

In recognition of this Veteran’s Day, I focused on four leadership principles (among many) that I learned in the military and have tailored and applied in the private sector.  Their application is not limited to commercial enterprises; they are equally applicable to government, non-profits, and other NGOs.

These principles are focused on the relationships between leaders and the people that they are responsible for.  Effectively applied, they can help leaders establish a culture that values communications, leader and talent development, learning, and recognition.  Such a culture in turn should serve as a springboard for achieving organizational goals.

Emphasize the Importance of Communication

Encourage, and perhaps most importantly, respect and acknowledge the value of candid communication within your organization; this is a risk mitigator and an innovation multiplier.

Communicating the “Why” is just as important, if not more so, than the “How.”

When your people are challenged with decision/action points for which there was/is no specific guidance, understanding the “Why” can enable them to take the right action.

Communication is the foundation of innovation – and just about everything else the organization does, therefore, communicate early and often.

 

Do not underestimate the value of “breaking bread” with people in your organization; find opportunities to do this with people at all levels in the organization.

Above all, communicate confidence in your organization, enthusiasm about what your organization has achieved and is focused on achieving, and a passion for your role, to your employees, customers, and stakeholders. To paraphrase, General Colin Powell, these are force multipliers for success.

Develop Talent and Grow Leaders

Surround yourself with people smarter than you and leverage their experience and knowledge to the nth degree possible.

Challenge up and coming leaders with positions of increased scope and responsibility (“stretch” them as well;” this is another form of recognition) but make sure they have a mentor to assist them.

Advancing and promoting people within your organization should not be based on their past performance but on their demonstrated potential for positions of increased scope and responsibility.

Developing future leaders is one of a leader’s most important responsibilities.

Value Learning

Be a continuous learner and emphasize the importance of this in word and deed to your organization so that it values continuous learning.

Provide opportunities for cross-training your people in functional disciplines within your organization; besides contributing to their professional development, this will enable them to see the bigger picture and understand the “Why.”

Emphasize the importance of collaboration but make sure that people understand “Why” collaboration is important by linking that collaboration to specific goals or outcomes.

Seek diversity, not sameness, in collaboration.

Establish a systemic means of capturing and evaluating insights from your people on the front lines that interact with customers and stakeholders on a daily basis; these insights may present new opportunities and may impact your strategy and goals.

Reinforce success; get your people and teams to discuss and learn “Why” goals were achieved and what can be done to expand on that success.

Likewise, use failure as a learning opportunity.

Recognition Begins with Accountability

Leverage collaborative decision-making but at the end of the day, recognize that you, as the leader, are and will be held accountable for what’s accomplished and/or not accomplished.

Credit your people publicly and privately when goals and objectives are achieved and acknowledge responsibility if they are not.

Authority can be delegated but not responsibility.

Find ways to meaningfully recognize people in front of their peers when they excel.

Don’t just recognize individuals; find ways to recognize teams and organizations as well.

People want to believe and feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves – that they are making a difference; look at how everything you do as a leader will address and support this need.

Challenge your organization with “stretch goals” and most importantly, prepare and enable them to achieve those goals.

Set aside a designated time each month to brief new personnel on where your/their organization has been, where it’s going, and the values that are going to enable it to get there.

Use organizational get-togethers to introduce new personnel to the larger organization.

Use storytelling to recognize people’s accomplishments and reinforce the organizational culture that you, as a leader, want.

If you’re interested in reading more about “Leadership Lessons from the Military,” that happens to be the title for the current issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR).

Lastly and most importantly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in October 2010, the unemployment rate for Veterans was 10.2% vs. the national unemployment rate of 9.6%.   I have again been fortunate to have worked with a good number of Veterans since leaving the military.  I have seen these Veterans successfully apply these leadership principles (and others) to foster organizational success.  Consider hiring a Veteran, they have alot to offer your organization and are driven, as they were in the service of our country, to make a difference.