Archive for August, 2013

Content Is King

August 31, 2013

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This month’s marketing blog is part of a three-post segment on the theme of ‘The Ying-Yang of Content and Community’, following the initial post ‘Why Content Is King and Community Is Queen’. This month and next month, we will drill down into the top-ten list from the August blog and cover ‘The Key to Quality Content,’ our September blog below, and ‘Integrating Content and Community’, the October blog topic.

Engagement is the key to momentum, and creating relevant content, delivered to the right audience is essential for building that momentum. Below are some thoughts on how to create content that matters.

Make content credible.

1. Base any position you take on data points. Otherwise, it’s about one opinion over another, and is less appealing to a large population set who responds to data and logic.

2. Enlist writers who have the background and knowledge to write, pontificate and theorize. It adds credibility to the theme, community, and message.

Make content memorable.

3. Be succinct and vary vocabulary and syntax.

4. Engage the reader, but start by knowing who the reader is, and what would engage her or him and why.

5. Pepper it with a picture or two, especially if it adds to the message.

Make content valuable.

6. Have a reason for writing on the topic, a reason that would benefit your intended audience. Stretch thinking and perceptions of others, of course with a purpose in mind. Escapist writings have their place, but in a business context, content should stimulate thinking, engage and connect, and sometimes have a call to action.

7. Tell the story behind the data on a topic, don’t just spew out the range of data available. Interpreting the meaning of the data in the context of its relevance to the intended audience is a core value-add of content.

8. Offer specific examples and reasons on how the information has influenced decisions and identify results.

Stimulate thinking. Invite action.

9. Identify the goal for the content and how it would benefit the intended community.

10. You get a ‘C’ if the reader is entertained, you get a ‘B’ if the reader is entertained, and pauses and thinks. You get an ‘A’ if the reader is entertained, thinks about it, then know what to do about it, and even change their thinking, words and actions!

This is second final blog on the ying and yang of content and community, focusing on how to create content that matters for the community. Stay tuned for next month’s blog focusing on creating that niche community. Your thoughts are welcome.

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Your Political CLOUT

August 30, 2013

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Power: everyone’s hungry for it. Influence: a softer way to say it! Clout: power in a political context . . . I’ve thought a lot about this, following last month’s When She Speaks event, on the topic of Politics in the Workplace, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I kept asking myself what separates those with influence with those who want to have more clout and I realized that confidence is at the heart of influence, power and clout. Those who want more power and influence may really be trying too hard, which has the opposite effect. Those who want more political clout must know themselves, and brand themselves as do-ers who generate results. Below are some suggestions for increasing your power, influence and clout.

Be Comfortable with Who You Are

1. Know and stand by your values.

Authentic leaders have one thing in common: they know who they are and what they value, and their thoughts, words and actions reflect this. People who aren’t comfortable with who they are or where they stand can’t increase their clout.

2. Stop making excuses for your perceived weaknesses.

Make a Stand for Your Decisions

3. Decisive people aren’t always right, but are perceived as more confident.

Thoroughness is a great thing and has its place, but it also can hold you back from taking action, taking the lead, moving forward. People with more clout in general need less data to make a decision, spend less time manage the chaos of not-knowing, and confidently move forward, despite no-knowing many things.

4. Decisive people can also adeptly pivot.

Just because you’re decisive doesn’t mean that you would be locked into a position. In fact, once you get more data after pursuing a specific direction, pivoting to a new direction based on that new information may be the most sensible thing to do. There’s a fine line between waffling and pivoting though. Waffling means going back and forth without a reason, but pivoting means you have a reason for changing a set course.

Speak Clearly and Succinctly and Transparently

5. Speak the language of your intended audience.

Do your research beforehand: know the stakeholders, their motivations and their communication style. Then address them in a way which would resonate for them.

6. Busy and important people will only make time for you if your messages and goals are clear. Cut out the fluff.

More words does not equate to more influence: au contraire! Give yourself a merciless word budget when communicating with others. Get to the point succinctly and directly and logically.

Embrace Your Mistakes and Move On

7. The best leaders strive for best effort, not for perfection.

Be comfortable not being perfect, making mistakes. Your heroes are not flawless, yet they keep moving forward, despite their imperfections, or even because of them.

8. The best leaders own up to their mistakes and learn from them.

Every mistake is a gift, a learning, more information to manage your path forward. But as the old Greek expression goes, don’t trip over the same stone.

Welcome the Right People and Feedback

9. Invite the input of people who don’t think like you.

It’s always easier to communicate with people who share your mindset, but you would stretch yourself and your successes if you connect and communicate with people who aren’t like you.

10. Friends who try to shape you in a different direction are not really your friends.

True friends know and respect your values, your choices, your goals. People who have their own agenda and put in front of yours are to be avoided and confronted. Who has time for THAT?

The bottom line is that influence, power and clout are about confidence: the confidence in knowing who you are, why you do what you do, and communicating it clearly to those that matter.

What will you do to increase your political CLOUT?

Politics In the Workplace: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

August 13, 2013

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FountainBlue’s August 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Politics in the Workplace: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a wide range of perspectives on our panel, representing a variety of backgrounds and experience, a breadth of industries, geographies and roles, a range of approaches and strategies for addressing the topic. Our panelists shared their insights of the panelists, offered with poignant humor and candor. The conversation was a rich contrast between the leadership and competence and specific suggestions of our panelists, and the candid and humorous communication of advice and stories about what they did well, what they recommended, how they faced issues during their professional career, and why they made the choices they made.

To begin the conversation, the panel noted that politics involved competing interest groups or individuals for power, resources and influence.

There was the good politics, which makes people want to follow leaders of integrity and competence, who stand for the needs of all, the success of all, and facilitate collaborations so that all benefit. The good politics may rile you up, in a good way, and engage you to push your own limits, expand your thinking, manage your judgments, and passionately act with those-not-like-you to forge change for the greater good of all. Not all politics is bad, and good politics fosters positive change, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

There was the bad politics, where self-serving people in positions power put their own needs before that of others. This can get especially ugly when resources and influence are limited, as is the case in many tech companies. People can get pushed under the bus, maligned over miscommunications and misinterpretations of words and acts, and worse.

There was the ugly politics, which could just be amplified bad politics where someone is an unwitting victim, where the wrong people or strategy win influence and power and bring down people, teams and companies, where good politics with people of the best intentions go awry, when bad things happen to good people.

As such, our experienced panelists offer the following top ten kernels of wisdom about navigating politics in the workplace:

1. Accept that politics is a given – where there are people, there is politics, at work, at play, and especially in a corporate tech setting.

Our panelists were generally married with kids and a rich social life, and compared and contrasted politics in the workplace with that at home, noting that politics in the workplace was not innately aligned. With politics in the workplace, you don’t necessarily have the best interest of all in mind, you don’t have the same goals, or the desire to compromise. You don’t assume that you will stick things out, work together in the long run.

2. No matter the political circumstance, act with integrity and authenticity, and stand behind the values you hold dear, even if it means that you have to leave your current role, group, organization.

Our panelists have each done so in her own way, even when it meant leaving their colleagues, their project, their organization. Yet their actions and choices make them more valuable, more respected by their peers, and their words and actions have in the end, been integral to their learning and success.

3. Build a breadth and depth of relationships so that you can better navigate politics.

Our panelists agreed that building a strategic breadth and depth of relationships will help you navigate whatever the political waters may hold. They emphasized doing more the guy-thing, having many more lighter relationships with people you are willing to help, who are willing to help you on a professional level, to expand your network.

4. Core to building deep and broad relationships is understanding the motivations of others.

Our panelists emphasized that for any political challenge, you should identify all the stakeholders and what their motivations are for the positions they espouse. They suggest that we proactively manage the action-reaction cycle of relationships by listening, doing the right thing, and making people feel good about themselves. In addition, understanding and solving others’ problems will help build good will,

5. Communicating clearly and directly is essential to managing any situation, politically charged or otherwise.

Frame your objectives and intentions and communicate them based on your understanding of the motivations of the audience, to help support alignment and positive momentum.

6. Building a successful track record with a wide range of people, in a wide breadth of roles adds to your credibility, and helps you gets offers for and succeed in increasingly complex leadership roles.

Your track record will give you the credibility to try new and different things, so ensure that you can succinct tell the story of the problems your team faced, the solutions that worked and the quantifiable results that matter. Indeed, the best way to manage perceptions of you is to deliver tangible, measurable results consistently.

7. Stay centered and focused on doing the right thing for the right reasons, especially when it’s tough to do so.

Conflicts will arise, so focus on the data and issues, and try to diffuse the emotions, unless it’s constructive to the conversation. Know where your buttons are, where you might be hypersensitive and/or biased, and be open to new ways of thinking and doing things, even if it’s an idea offered by someone you don’t necessarily like.

8. Be proactive and strategic when handling with politically-charged situations.

Sometimes making a stand for the little things means that the bigger conflicts won’t happen. Sometimes thinking strategically will help anticipate and manage a situation before it becomes counter-productive. Sometimes thinking and acting strategically will get the right people involved and engaged. Have the confidence to speak up and lead.

9. Don’t expect perfection from yourself or from others.

Accept and expect best efforts, and don’t be disappointed with yourself for making the wrong decision, looking bad, inadvertently saying or doing the wrong thing. Mistakes give you an opportunity to learn, grow and do better. In the same token, don’t be too disappointed with your colleagues and their missteps.

10. Adopt a positive attitude – make it fun and interesting.

Your openness, frame of mind and your outlook will determine how effective you are in navigating politics in the workplace. So if and when things go south, try to give others the benefit of the doubt. Try to take the high road and learn from each encounter. It will help keep you positive, resilient, and ultimately successful.

In the end, it is clear that politics is inevitable, and can be handled to your advantage, and that of your group, product and company. Enjoy the journey, and support others in their journey.

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Please join us in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts for FountainBlue’s August 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Politics in the Workplace: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly:

Facilitator Pat Obuchowski, Chief Empowerment Officer, InVisionaria

Panelist Shubha Govil, Sr. Manager Product Management, Cisco

Panelist Carolyn Herzog, Vice President, Legal and Public Affairs (LPA), Symantec

Panelist Charlotte Tueckmantel, Director of Product Line Management, EFI

Panelist Kelly Vincent, Senior Director of Product Management, eBay

We would also like to thank our gracious hosts at Symantec.