The Benefits of Being Direct

by Lewis Denbaum

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One of the best ways to get what you want is to be direct. Clearly ask for what you want. Be polite, not apologetic. What do you want, exactly? Describe the end result or deliverable in as much detail as is necessary for the other person to understand what you wish for and expect, To do this properly, you need to be precise about what you want; think it through carefully so you can articulate it unambiguously.

When do you want it by? Again, be precise. “By Monday” is not precise enough, unless you are OK with delivery up till 11:59 p.m. Monday night. A more precise way of communicating would desired deadline would be “by Monday at 9 a.m.” or “by close of business on Monday.”

In what format do you want it? If you have preferences, state them. Do you want a “hard” copy or an electronic copy? If it’s an electronic copy, do you care if it is a Word document or a PDF? Black and white or color?

It is helpful if you state the “why” behind your request. This gives the other person perspective about the job. For example, you might say, “I need you to summarize our sales for the 4th quarter by product line and region. I need this information by 9 a.m. on Monday. I will be using the information for a proposal to one of our biggest clients, and I must digest the information before inserting it into the proposal. I must mail the proposal on Monday.”

As Barbara Pachter points out in her article “These Two Communication Strategies Will Get You What You Want” for Business Insider, there is a powerful but little-recognized communication tool leaders can use to get what they want.

Using a question (Can you please clean your room?) allows the other person to make the choice, and you may not get what you want. You are being less direct.

Using a direct statement, such as “Sweetie, I want you to clean your room before lunch,” makes it very clear what you expect, and as a result you are more likely to get it. Of course, there are no guarantees with three-year-olds, but even with children, you have a better chance of getting what you want when you are direct.

This “secret” can also work in the workplace. Listen to the difference: “Boss, I would like to go to the conference next week,” versus “Boss, may I go to the conference?” Both are polite, but which one sounds more likely to give the speaker what she wants? The direct statement usually has more success.

The key is to be assertive and avoid using the word “try.”

*This article originally appeared on LewisDenbaum.com.


Lewis DenbaumLewis Denbaum is the CEO, Chief Communication Consultant, Executive and Life Coach at Lewis Denbaum and Associates. He knows from firsthand experience that top-notch communicationskills are key to productivity, team building, employee satisfaction and company growth. He has developed and honed a range of effective communication techniques during his diverse career, spanning law and accounting, senior-level management, teaching and relationship coaching, that are applicable in any business environment. Connect with Lewis on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter @LewisDenbaum.

Help Wanted: The Demand for Data Scientists and How to Tap Big Data

by Bobby Koritala

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Data Scientist. It’s one of the most in-demand professions in the market, with major organizations clamoring to put one on their staff. Unfortunately, so few of them even exist. That’s according to statistics from the National Center for Education and the Wall Street Journal, both reporting that chief information officers are seriously struggling to fill the coveted role to analyze big data.

McKinsey Global Institute consultant Michael Chui told WSJ reporter Clint Boulton that his study estimates between 140,000 and 180,000 data scientist positions will remain unfilled by 2018. Another Wall Street Journal article states a data scientist can command up to $300,000 annually with little experience.

It’s understandable knowing there aren’t many data scientists to go around. A 2014 study by the National Center for Education Statistics revealed just 1,669 people graduated in 2012 with a PhD in statistics or a related math degree. Of those, only 323 are true statisticians.

And it’s not going to get better, according to Michael Rappa, founding director of the Institute for Advanced Analytics at North Carolina State University, one of the first data science programs in the nation:

“Although about 70 higher-education institutions, including Northwestern University, New York University and Columbia University, are offering comparable analytics programs, [Rappa] estimates that matriculations will only yield 1,000 new data scientists this year —  hardly enough to fill businesses requirements at the position.”

It looks like there’s no end in sight. Fortunately, one new trend has CIOs seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the idea of “No PhD required,” using new technology to put the power of data science in the hands of organizations that may not have one on staff. The idea that anyone can become a data scientist is becoming a reality.

Could the future of data science mean not having a scientist on staff at all?

As data scientists continue to be in short supply, companies must, nevertheless, respond to growing amounts of data – from customer information to operational data and everything in between. Future competitive advantage relies on a strong knowledge of business data and, even more importantly, the ability to make decisions based upon it.

In the absence of a full bench of data scientists, primed to take on any and all input laid in front of them, companies are seeking out expertise — outsourcing certain analyst functions to a trusted source, as well as deploying business intelligence programs that make sense of data without rigorous application of statistical analysis by the user. The dearth in data scientist talent requires sophisticated solutions that are easy to use, empowering staff with limited analytical knowledge to assess business scenarios equipped with the data available to them.

Fortunately, nimble technology can support companies with their vision to be data-driven — no PhD required.


Bobby Koritala, Chief Product Officer at Infogix, joined the company in 2009 and leads the Marketing, Product Management and Development Group. Prior to this, Bobby served as the Director of Risk Technology Solutions at Protiviti, COO of Spark Biotech, Vice-President of Investments at Open Prairie Ventures, Director of Applied Technology at Blue Cross Blue Shield, Director of Product Development at Lexis Nexis, and Senior Manager, Software Development at SPSS. Bobby has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Computer Science and Physics from Coe College, a Master of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

Michael Williams, CMO, Grand Prix America, Formula 1, Interview with Dov Baron

Dov Baron, host of Full Monty Leadership Radio, interviewed Michael Williams, CMO at the Grand Prix of America, Formula 1, during the C-Suite Network Conference in Marina del Rey about the importance of storytelling in marketing and while the title of CMO may need to change in the future.

Did you know that there is going to be a Grand Prix Race in New York?

Imagine the logistics of trying to put together a Grand Prix with the city of New York as your backdrop… mind boggling. That’s what Michael and his team are doing.

What would it take for you to be the kind of leadership position as a brand to be part of such a massive event?
Michael shares with us the power and importance of using “story” and why being a Chief Marketing Officer is a Bad Title!

This guy has a very different approach to what marketing is, and I think there are some profound lessons for all of us, no matter what our position or title.

Watch the Full Interview at Podomatic

Executive Perspectives Launches Today on C-Suite TV

Premier Episodes Feature the BlogHer Executive Team and LaVar Burton and Mark Wolfe of RRKidz

C-Suite TV announced today its newest business show Executive Perspectives featuring Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort Page and Jory Des Jardins, the founders of the online community BlogHer. Executive Perspectives is hosted by C-Suite TV founder Jeffrey Hayzlett, and spotlights business thought leaders and innovators in interviews recorded before live audiences at marquee business events. Executive Perspectives joins a strong lineup of business programming on C-Suite TV including C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett, Best Seller TV, (MYOB) Mind Your Own Business and Behind the Brand.C-Suite TV is the only online TV network dedicated to business programming on-demand.

The premiere episode was taped during the C-Suite Network Conference in Marina Del Rey last November when Stone, Page and Des Jardins, the founders of the online community BlogHer, were interviewed live on stage by Jeffrey Hayzlett. In this episode the three partners discuss what makes their partnership work and talk about BlogHer’s acquisition by the leading online women’s media company SheKnows Media. BlogHer was started in 2005 to help women find their voices and turn their passions into content, community and commerce. The BlogHer community has expanded to reach an audience of 100 million across multiple platforms.

Scheduled to premiere on Wednesday, February 4, Executive Perspectives‘ second episode features LeVar Burton, famed for his roles in ROOTS and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and as the host for 26 years of the award-winning PBS series Reading Rainbow. Producer Mark Wolfe, Burton’s business partner in RRKidz, is also featured in the episode. The partners founded RRKidz to update Reading Rainbow for today’s kids through the new Reading Rainbow app, which they financed through a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign. Burton and Wolfe reveal how they surpassed their ambitious goal of $1 million to raise an unprecedented $5,408,916 from over 105,000 supporters. The episode was also taped live at the C-Suite Conference stage in November.

“There’s something about interviewing guests like these before a live audience that adds to the impact of Executive Perspectives,” Hayzlett said. “It was inspiring to sit down with LaVar and Mark and learn how they tapped into a tremendous reservoir of good will in order to bring the benefits of Reading Rainbow to a new audience. The BlogHer team had a great story to tell as well, especially coming just days after announcing their new partnership with SheKnows Media.”

Future Executives Perspectives episodes will feature David Pottruck of HighTower Advisors, Peter Phillipi of Strategex, Paul Carbone of Dunkin’ Brands, Jeff Lowe of SMART Technologies, Jordan Brandt of Autodesk and G.J. Hart of California Pizza Kitchen.

>Watch Executives Perspectives on C-Suite TV.

Read more at MarketWired

Leading and Communicating Organizations through Big Change: Part 2

by Bob Domenz

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Change occurs within organizations every day, and it is the C-Suite’s responsibility to adapt and lead their teams through it. What happens with a Big Change jolts the company and propels it in an unexpected new direction? Read Part 1 for tips on navigating the six steps of an organizational swirl and taking the first steps to prepare your communication plan.

Based on our work in helping dozens of mid-market and Fortune 500 leaders and their companies use Big Change to transform their businesses and brands, we’ve identified four root causes behind failed change initiatives and that lead to Organizational Swirl:

1. The strategy is incomplete

The leading root cause is communicating a Big Change strategy to an organization before it has been fully developed and articulated. This occurs because leaders can usually “see” the full strategy as soon as the foundational elements are defined. Since they already know the context and direction of the change, they don’t see the need to fully flesh it out in contextual detail.

This ability to work with partial information and connect the dots on the fly is called business acumen, and it’s something all leaders should have. It’s why they are in leadership positions.

However, employees who carry out the strategy don’t always have the same level of business acumen. They can’t sift through partial information sets and connect the dots. Or they don’t have access to all the “dots” to make the same connections. And even if they do, there’s no guarantee they will connect them in the way leadership wants.

Employees need clarity and completeness. They need to understand not only the “what and when” of the strategy but also the “why.”

2. The illusion of agreement

When developing a Big Change strategy, leadership will collect and assess information, explore options, and discuss the options and choices so they can reach consensus and make final decisions.

Even so, it’s not uncommon for those who created the strategy to have trouble articulating it in a clear, consistent and compelling manner.

Ask each member of the leadership team to explain it and you’ll find troubling inconsistencies, not unlike the old parable of blind men describing an elephant differently based on where they are standing. No one is consciously in disagreement. They are simply interpreting abstractions and nuances of the complex strategy through their own point of view.

When the business and communications strategies are developed simultaneously, the communications strategist can make sure the leadership team has interpreted the strategy the same way and is speaking the same language. This ensures employees hear a consistent and aligned message when the strategy is rolled out.

3. Leaders out of sync with their audience

During the months of preparing and planning for Big Change, the leadership team has had ample time to intellectually and emotionally process and embrace the new strategy.

The employees have not had that same advantage. Yet, leadership can’t comprehend why employees don’t immediately understand and embrace the new strategy.

The employees aren’t the problem. It’s the expectations of leadership that are unrealistic as demonstrated by a model used by USC social psychologist Dr. Jerry Jellison, called the J-Curve. The J-Curve reflects the way change impacts an organization’s performance and the organization’s perception of it.

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What this chart doesn’t tell you (but Jellison does in his book, Managing the Dynamics of Change) is that a) every stakeholder in the company will traverse the J-Curve at a different rate and b) those leading the change will be way ahead of everyone else.

It’s the responsibility of leadership to recognize what employees are thinking and feeling at every stage of the J-Curve, in order to help the organization make the journey more smoothly and quickly. 

4. Words and actions don’t match

Even if the messaging and its execution are flawless, if the actions of the company and leadership do not align with what they are saying, or they fail to stand behind its messages over time or across functional groups, employees will not believe. And if employees don’t believe, they won’t buy in.

That’s because communication is more than words. Communication is the transmission of the total sum of the words, decisions, actions, attitudes, beliefs, values, and character of the communicator. This includes the decisions leaders make and the priorities they set.

Lead and communicate away from risk and toward reward. Communications planning should start as soon as leadership begins to contemplate a Big Change trigger event. Second, it should be developed simultaneously with the Big Change strategy and employ scenario-based planning methods.

Not only does this approach prepare leadership for communicating it to employees and other stakeholders, it makes the Big Change strategy stronger by exposing flaws and blind spots in the team’s thinking and the strategy itself.

The simultaneous development of the business and communications strategies followed by a meticulously executed intentional communications plan ensures:

  • The strategy and vision for the Big Change and the way it is defined will be clear, complete and compelling when it’s time to begin communicating the strategy.
  • Messaging has been stress-tested before widespread communications begin.
  • Leadership will agree on precisely what the Big Change strategy is (and isn’t) and be consistent in the way they articulate and express it.
  • The varied reactions of employees and other stakeholders to the Big Change have been anticipated and leadership is prepared to respond quickly with appropriate actions.
  • Leadership has anticipated the needs of the communication strategy — and their roles in it — from the earliest messages to the well-timed, nuanced communications that will lead the company successfully through each stage of the change.

Our experience has shown the critical importance of simultaneous business and communications strategies and intentional communications during times of Big Change.

The question is, given all the potential pitfalls and the payoff at stake, will leaders agree? Because once Big Change is in motion their organization’s success or failure will hinge on whether or not they made the right choice.


bobdomenzBob Domenz is founder and CEO of Avenue, a Chicago-based marketing strategy and activation firm that partners with B2B leaders to transform their businesses and brands, and launch new products. He can be reached at bdomenz@avenue-inc.com

Minimize Fear. Maximize Trust.

by Judith Glaser

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Are your people afraid?

I’m not asking if you are a bully or a bad boss, or about the fear of being punished for a well-thought-out plan or product launch that fails. I’m talking about something more visceral: anxiety caused by the concern that something drastic — layoffs, firing, pay cut or demotion — will happen.

Everyone is somewhat fragile at the core. We secretly worry that tomorrow may be our last day. Uncertainty and volatility induce fear, and fear impedes people from doing their best work. Fear impacts our sense of identity and causes us to doubt our ability to achieve. Our biggest fear is the fear of failure in the eyes of others; failure to be perceived as capable, valuable, powerful, smart and poised during all challenges.

When we perceive the world through a lens of fear, we turn away from others rather than to others for help. Our egos drive us to develop patterns of protection. Over time, we incorporate defensive behavior patterns into our daily rituals and routines.

When we perceive the world through a lens of fear we:

•Move against others (fight)

•Move away from others – (flight – avoid – freeze)

•Move with others (give up/give in) 

Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ) at Work

Fear is a common but counterproductive response to uncertainty. When fear dominates, the creative brain shuts down.
C-IQ Neuro-Tip: When fear dominates, the primitive brain takes over, emitting cortisol and catecholamines — hormones released during emotional or physical stress. These chemicals shut down the brain’s prefrontal cortex, or executive functions, which enable sophisticated strategies, trust, integrity and strategic thinking. Instead of responding intelligently and creatively to people and situations,  we freeze, coming across as defensive. Appreciation and trust, on the other hand, minimize the impact of cortisol, enabling  oxytocin — the bonding hormone — to flood the brain, elevating our ability to have a voice and partner for mutual success.

Level III Conversations

Perceiving the world through a lens of trust, opens us to connect, to listen, to share and discover. We develop patterns of partnering with others. We speak what is on our minds; we are generative, growing and co-creating with others. I call this Level III Conversations.

When we are living in Level I, we are focused more on “telling” people what is on our minds; when we are living in Level II the focus is on “selling” people on what we believe. Yet, when we are living in Level III, we are open to learn, engage in co-creating behaviors with others and influence. Egos are set aside. We adapt, we are agile, we are open to positive influence, and we’re willing to change our minds. Most of all, we minimize judgment and maximize appreciation, helping others to bring their “best selves” to work every day.

When we are living in Level III Conversations, we are ready to share what is on our minds and discover what is on others’ minds; we have the courage to speak our voice, and we extend the same to others. We partner, collaborate and co-create for mutual success. 

So how can you, as a leader, eliminate fear and enable your employees to develop their identity as “leaders in their own right”?

  1. Be present. Your people spend an inordinate amount of time studying you. If you’re behind closed doors, don’t listen during conversations, reminisce about the past or talk about a future disconnected to the present, people will read negative omens into your actions and words.

    ACTION: To make yourself present, open yourself up by tuning into relationships before tasks. Have a talk you didn’t plan on with a staffer or colleague. Handle a project that went off schedule when an employee’s confusion interfered with your grandiosity. Welcome to life in the big city. Business is about people — it’s about our relationships with others.

  2. Provide context in every communication. A picture with a frame becomes a different picture. Without background, fear is elevated by confusion and uncertainty. A technology company I’m working with is growing rapidly. Sales have tripled in two years and now top $1 billion. The CFO, in anticipation of this growth, told his staff: “Go out and hire your replacement.” He thought his message was clear: “I want you to hire someone capable of filling your shoes because with all this growth—and how wonderful you all are—I anticipate promoting each of you.”His staff heard: “Hire your replacement because you will be fired soon.” Not surprisingly, morale and performance suffered. When I explained to the CFO what his people had actually heard, he instantly understood. He called a meeting to explain that he wanted them to go out and search for their own replacements to make it easier for him to promote them when the time came.

    ACTION: Putting the statement in this context made people feel good about themselves and the company, and more secure about their role  in the growth process. Not surprisingly, fear receded and performance improved.

  3. Tell people where they stand. As leaders, we resist doing this because we fear broken relationships, feelings of rejection and messes we can’t fix. So we don’t raise certain issues. Yet people must know where they stand. Once they know, they often discover their imagined fears were far worse than reality. When we live in fear, we withdraw, build our own story of reality, imagine others are out to get us and react accordingly. We stop turning to others for help and stop taking feedback and advice from them.

    ACTION: Set up time with people to calibrate on what they are doing and how. This doesn’t mean telling them what they are doing “wrong.” This means providing them with quality calibration to move forward with success. This means guiding them to develop their ability to experiment and take new steps to achieve a goal. This makes people feel confident and more secure about their role within the company. Not surprisingly, fear recedes, and performance levels improve. Rather than feeling judged they feel appreciated.

  4. Use honesty at all times. No one likes to tell the truth when it hurts someone. So we fudge. However, when the truth finally surfaces, the impact is then twice as bad. Always  tell the truth — tactfully and within the appropriate context, not spin. Don’t make a situation sound better than it is, even if you can.

    ACTION: As a leader, your greatest resource is a high-performing team. If you are honest, you’ll admit there are times when employees are not producing their best work. Check to see if fear is one reason. Then have the courage to address concerns with open, honest, non-judgmental conversations — shaped by the intention to move forward and support the person’s success. When you speak with candor and caring, you minimize fear and maximize trust.


Judith GlaserJudith E. Glaser is the CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc. and the Chairman of The Creating WE Institute. She is the author of the best selling book, “Conversational Intelligence” (Bibliomotion, 2013), an Organizational Anthropologist and a consultant to Fortune 500 companies.Visit her at creatingwe.com; conversationalintelligence.com or contact her at jeglaser@creatingwe.com. Follow Judith on Twitter @CreatingWE.

C-Suite Radio Launches New Business Programming

C-Suite Radio, an online network of radio shows geared towards business audiences, launches new episodes over the next month, highlighting some of the most successful C-Suite executives, thought leaders, and innovators in its four shows: Bizcast, Business Matters, Business Rockstars and All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett.

The newest weekly program, All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett, is hosted by global business celebrity and former Fortune 100 C-Suite executive Jeffrey Hayzlett. All Business showcases today’s biggest business headline makers, from Main Street to Wall Street, from Daymond John of Shark Tank to Gene Simmons of KISS. The show features lively conversations around the most compelling topics in business today, brought to life with each guest’s own personal narratives of challenges, setbacks, innovations pioneered, objectives met, and lessons learned. The lead business podcast on CBS Radio’s new Play.it on-demand network, All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett debuts on February 5.

Each week Bizcast features leading business authors such as Daymond John, Shep Hyken, and Scott McKain who share tips and strategies from their best-selling books. On Bizcast, anyone from front-line employees to the C-Suite executives will learn from top business authors and get a deep look into the insights shared in their books. This month. Andy Paul, author of Amp Up Your Sales, shows how sales people can become trusted sales professionals who consistently win new business. Paul’s episode focuses on tips from his book, including accelerating responsiveness to build trust and credibility; integrating persuasive stories into the sales process; and building lasting relationships through follow-up and customer service. Bizcast is hosted by Kevin Craine and is part of C-Suite Book Club.

Business Matters features weekly conversations with C-Suite executives and thought leaders who offer insights into how they overcame challenges and achieved success. The newest episode features an exclusive interview with Bob Urichuck, the internationally recognized expert in Velocity Selling. In his interview, Urichuck shares advice for C-level executives on setting goals, keeping employees engaged, and creating workplace cultures that allow and encourage teams to motivate themselves and improve the company’s bottom line. Business Matters is hosted by Thomas White, CEO of C-Suite Network.

Business Rockstars is a daily show geared towards entrepreneurs looking for motivation and inspiration from those who have created successful businesses. “Wantrepreneurs” and entrepreneurs learn to make good decisions early, when to pivot, how to build the right team, and how and when to raise capital. Upcoming episodes feature Paul Bricault, angel investor and business owner; Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof Executive and Donna Wells, president and CEO of MindFlash. Business Rockstars is hosted by Ken Rutkowski.

“I am really excited by our new programming on C-Suite Radio for the business world. Everyone from C-Suite leaders to first-time entrepreneurs can get inspiration from our lineup of high quality, insightful shows,” said Jeffrey Hayzlett, chairman of C-Suite Network and founder of C-Suite Radio. “C-Suite Radio brings together the best interviews and advice for business owners and execs, and this is just the beginning.”

Listeners can access C-Suite Radio programming online anytime, or through iTunes podcasts. All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett can also be heard through CBS Radio’s Play.itnetwork.

For additional information or to listen to episodes, visit c-suiteradio.com.

Read more at MarketWired

4 Questions Every Leader Needs to Answer | Part 2

by Mark Sanborn

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Leadership, like life, can be spent skimming along the surface. It can be difficult if not painful to dig deeper into the motivations and philosophies that make leadership meaningful. But that is the work that is required for the rich rather than the cheap experience.

If you want to go deeper and further in your leadership experience, there are four questions you need to answer. Review questions one and two in ‘4 Questions Every Leader Needs to Answer | Part 1.’

Who will I follow?

Leaders are rarely developed in isolation. We all emulate to learn. If we emulate effective leaders, we become effective leaders. Emulate the wrong kind of leaders, and we imprint negative behaviors.

You can learn from a bad leader (what not to do), but emulation is about acting like or performing as the leader you follow.

Choosing who you follow determines both how effectively you use your time and talent to contribute and the lessons that you learn. (And it is very difficult to learn the real lessons of leadership outside of a living example.)

An expert in spotting counterfeit money was once asked by a journalist how difficult it was to study all the different types of counterfeit currency in the world. He responded, “I don’t study the counterfeit. I study the authentic, and that makes any counterfeits easy to spot.” While there are some lessons to be learned from bad leadership, we have more to gain by studying the authentic.

How will I continue to improve?

Sad is the day when any of us think we are as good as we will ever be. Ultimately, no one can force you to keep improving, but it is one of the great opportunities and challenges of life and leadership. The better you become, the harder it is to get better. Improvements in your thinking and skills go from being big jumps in your early years to tiny increments the longer you lead.

Before identifying how you’ll get better, it is important to deal with your motivations. The intrinsic reasons include a commitment to being the best you can be, the excitement of new challenges and a desire to make a bigger positive impact.

Extrinsic motivations include things like competition within your organization for advancement and competition from other firms who desire your customers and marketshare.

I could build a very solid case for the importance of your ongoing improvement, but it is more effective to let you build your own. You will improve in proportion to your reasons and motivations. If you don’t truly desire to improve, you won’t. Important growth doesn’t happen by accident.
Growth in your leadership abilities requires at least three things:

  1. Study
  2. Example and/or mentors
  3. Experience.

You can’t think your way to leadership skills without leading something any more than you can think your way to riding a bike without ever getting on the bike.

The best leaders continue to get better.

You’ll never be the best you’ll ever be. You can only be the best you are right now. Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey offered a unique perspective at the 2014 Oscars. Here’s what he said in his acceptance speech for best actor:

“… when I was 15 years old, I had a very important person in my life come to me and say “who’s your hero?” And I said, “I don’t know, I gotta think about that. Give me a couple of weeks.” I come back two weeks later, this person comes up and says “who’s your hero?” I said, “I thought about it. You know who it is? It’s me in 10 years.” So I turned 25. Ten years later, that same person comes to me and says, “So, are you a hero?” And I was like, “not even close. No, no, no.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because my hero’s me at 35.” So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero’s always 10 years away. I’m never gonna be my hero. I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.”

Leadership impact, effectiveness and success are a moving target that only committed and thoughtful leaders can consistently hit. Investing the effort to truthfully answer the four questions above will give you the information and inspiration you need to be counted among the best and continue to get better.

*This blog originally appeared on MarkSanborn.com.


Mark SanbornMark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE, is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio dedicated to developing leaders in business and in life. Sanborn is an international bestselling author and noted authority on leadership, team building, customer service and change. Follow Mark on Twitter @Mark_Sanborn.

Top Professional Services Marketing Techniques for 2015

by Lee Frederiksen

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You already know it’s time to embrace online marketing. With buyers becoming more likely to take their search for service providers online, many firms have responded by focusing their marketing efforts on content creation and strengthening their online presence. In a study of 500 professional services firms across five different industry groups, we found that firms generating at least 40 percent of their leads online were growing nearly four times faster than firms that didn’t generate any leads online. Not only were these firms growing faster – they were also more profitable.

As more and more firms embrace online marketing in 2015, what marketing techniques should they use for increased growth and profitability? Let’s investigate some of the top ones.

Top Marketing Techniques for Professional Services Firms

  1. Content Production
    Creating content is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your website, improve your firm’s visibility in search engine results, and establish your firm’s expertise and authority within your industry. Content can take on a number of formats, including blog posts on your website, articles in prominent industry publications, books, research reports, best practices guides and more. The content you produce works to educate your audience, while also building confidence in your firm’s ability to solve prospects’ business challenges.
  2. Cultivate Visible Experts
    When your firm staffs well-known, high-visibility experts in your industry, you can attract more clients based solely on your experts’ star power and reputation. Not only can having a Visible Expert in your firm help generate more leads, it can also allow your firm to command higher billing rates — up to 13 times higher, according to our research.
  3. Target Your Niche
    In order to find online marketing success, your firm doesn’t have to do it all — in fact, you might find even more success if you specialize in one area of the industry where you excel. Differentiate your firm from the marketplace by embracing your niche and targeting a very specific demand. Through specialization, you can attract more of the “right” audience who are interested in exactly what your firm can provide.
  4. Network on LinkedIn
    Social media as a cultural phenomenon isn’t going anywhere, and LinkedIn is the premier social network for professional services. LinkedIn allows your firm and employees to connect one-on-one with other industry leaders and potential clients. LinkedIn can yield major benefits for firms that invest time and effort into the social network. Develop strong individual profiles, build a robust Company Page and encourage active participation in LinkedIn Groups. Having an active social media presence can build authority, drive website traffic, and positively impact search engine optimization (SEO).
  5. Utilize Online Video
    Videos have the ability to make the world seem very small by creating a personal connection with people, no matter how much distance separates you. Video tutorials, webinars, and case studies can give prospects a look into how you do business. By embracing different content media, your firm can reach a wider variety of preferences and interest levels. You can even use video to communicate more effectively with distant prospects by scheduling meetings through FaceTime, Skype or Google Hangouts.
  6. Using Online Marketing to Address Your Firm’s Biggest Business Challenges
    In a recent research study, the Hinge Research Institute surveyed 530 firms to understand what professional services marketing initiatives they were planning to prioritize in 2015 and what they foresaw as their biggest upcoming business challenges. Firms’ top business challenge (with more than 72 percent of respondents citing it) was “Attracting and Developing New Business.” This response was more than twice as common as the second most common challenge (“Finding and Keeping Good People”), suggesting that generating new business is a particularly urgent challenge.

Figure 1. Professional Services Firms’ Business Challenges

chart

Online marketing and lead generation has a direct impact on growth and profitability. For firms looking to attract and develop new business, implementing some of these top marketing techniques can help you do just that. As buyers’ preferences and purchasing behaviors change, firms that can adapt accordingly will be better positioned for success in 2015.


leefLee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is Managing Partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge is a leader in rebranding firms to help them grow faster and maximize value. Lee can be reached at LFrederiksen@hingemarketing.com or 703-391-8870.
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Why Human Resources Matters to the C-Suite

by Karolynn Humberd-St-Pierre

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Someone once told me “business would be great if we didn’t have employees.” While sometimes I couldn’t agree more, the truth is most companies would not survive without employees — that’s when many companies depend on some sort of human resources. But HR can do more than just manage employees and, hopefully, keep you out of the sights of attorneys. HR is central to the success of an organization and is critical to having the right strategy and effective operations.

For many, HR is an afterthought. Your sales people see HR as members of the “Deal-Prevention Team” with your legal advisers. Or, they see HR as the enforcers because they are so in tune with the law. Many companies don’t even think there is any ROI on HR, while many organizations consistently under-deliver, and HR is not always well liked or appreciated.
While I am sure most HR teams could show charts stating the cost of a new hire or the days a position took to fill, you should want more than that from your HR management and know that you have the right team in place.

What Should the C-Suite Expect of their Human Resource Management Team?

Look for Expertise and Insights to Build An Efficient, Agile and Growing Organization
While it can vary from person to person what the central role of HR should be, the importance of talent management and succession planning should come to the forefront in all interviews.

Talent Management and Succession Planning
The C-Suite recognizes its growing need for leadership that is skilled, available and ready to act. This is especially true of those who are confronting the challenges posed by multiple generations in the workforce and the exodus of skilled workers from the organization through retirement.

Look for HR to play a leadership role in identifying and developing talent. Look for HR to help the organization identify the behaviors and skills that will drive the organization productivity and success. Ask for customized approaches to the individual leader development to accelerate personal effectiveness and individual coaching.

With the downturn in the economy, many companies put succession planning on the back burner. But now that the recovery is on its way, look for your HR to lead a renewed focus on both talent management and succession planning.

Create the Employment Brand
Finding and keeping talent continues to be an area of strong need. HR is vital to be connecting the company’s culture with its objectives, as well as defining and communicating what makes their organizations great places to work.

Four Generations in the Workplace
HR will need to help predict and manage the impact of the four generations in the workplace, especially in terms of recruiting, building teams, dealing with change and motivating employees.  The C-Suite should acknowledge that the generations don’t talk the same language or use the same tools to get their work done.  It is imperative each organization find someone who can help their organization better understand and manage these differences.

Employee Communications
Look for HR to own Employee Communications and ensure that middle managers, especially, have the tools and information needed to communicate with and lead employees.

Social Media
A solid grasp is needed on how to use social media to communicate with and recruit employees. Even developing a best practices around employee use of social media platforms as an engagement and communication tool can be essential.

Trend Analysis and Forecasting
Being able to translate trends into valuable opportunities for the company is vital so the workforce can be prepared to drive more productivity. HR should always have an unbelievable desire to grow the business and think about what is next.

Change Management
Expect senior HR executives to have a toolbox of change management practices, a consulting mindset and a strong understanding of how compensation and performance management can be used to support change.
HR executives are crucial business partners to the C-Suite and to the business. Look them to be coaches and sounding boards for the executive team while acting as confidants with respect to executive team members.

As much of the C-Suite is looking to their senior HR Executives to continue to consult on key challenges ahead — including managing across generations, continuous change management and communications in the age of social media — they should expect the successful HR executive to couple their technical and people skills with a much deeper understanding of real business issues.


HeadshotKarolynn Humberd St-Pierre is a former employment attorney, Senior Human Resource Professional, author and speaker known for her expertise in helping businesses navigate the complexities of human resource management. Her book, The Small Business Human Resource Bible has become a desktop guide for small business owners nationwide. She is an active speaker with the Small Business Administration and the Small Business Development Centers on HR legal related topics since 2010. In 2009 Ms. St-Pierre founded Symmetry Consulting, LLC. Symmetry Consulting partners with its clients so they can focus on their bottom line and business growth, while Symmetry manages their HR functions and ensures compliance with labor laws. Find her on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @KarolynnStPierr.