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Month: February 2011

Going beyond 120 minutes into the messiness that’s life.

What's your script?On average each scene in a movie is 1 ½ minutes or less.

Longer and the movie starts to drag. And because each scene needs to work with the next to tell a complete story in 120 minutes or less for most, they work hard, bringing together all the details of sight, sound, mood, and dialogue to communicate emotion. Raising us up and bringing us down. Making us laugh, cry, smile, scream or wince.  It’s remarkable how quickly a good movie from script and dialogue and draw us in, transport us somewhere else. And likewise, one that’s poorly constructed bores and pushes us away.

Consider too, how many people it takes to make a movie. Most you never see or know. The grips, stylists, camera operators, sound technicians and more.  Just like our lives, there are many people who play a role – some insignificant but important: think about the barista you get your coffee from each day who smiles at you, turning your day around. Or maybe it’s the guy at the lunch shop. Or wherever you go regularly and have fleeting conversations. Perhaps it’s #UsGuys.

We don’t often think about how these micro conversations shape our thinking and influence our mood. But they matter. Just as much as the deeper relationships we build. Like the movies, there are so many unsung heros that contribute to your own story. Take a moment to think about a couple that have influenced you.

Movies are a tidy package.

A beginning, middle and end. Our lives also have the same. We know the beginning, but we don’t exactly know the middle or the end. We can influence that via lifestyle. Nor can we watch it more than once. Fast forward through the boring parts. Or rewind and experience the most exciting moments again. No, we have to embrace each moment – live in the present as we look toward the future.  Our lives are not a tidy package. They’re messy, unedited. Not artfully choreographed. Raw. We don’t get to leave the unsavory parts on the cutting room floor. We get the good, bad and ugly pureed together.

Our lives may last longer than 120 minutes, but that doesn’t mean we should fritter those minutes away. Something I’m getting more and more conscious of as I watch my daughter grow. Nor do we have a predefined script that we rehearse. But we could take a more proactive approach to our script. We live at the bleeding edge of improv, certainly

Just as we don’t chop our days into 1-1/2 minute, we need to consider the longer term implications of our actions. What’s our vision? How will we sustain what we do longer than the average movie? The things that matter that is. Can we persevere in the face of the naysayers and obstacles that thwart us? Or as Seth Godin writes, the lizard brain that hinders forward action?

Think about your script. Would anyone want to read it? Watch it? Think about the details that create the complete story. Influence those you can. Create magical experiences for those around you when you can. They needn’t be difficult. What would your movie look like?  Is it a comedy? A thriller, mystery or drama?

And when you communicate with those around you, think about the words you choose. The emotions you attach to them and where you share them. Make them matter.  It’s much harder to create a life that’s as interesting as a movie. Much harder to craft compelling 1-1/2 minute scenes on the fly.

The closest most of us get to acting on stage are the presentations we make. Perhaps if we put the effort into our presentations that goes into making movies, we could really make a difference.

This is part of #UsBlogs weekly theme:

Our theme this week was suggested by Heidi Cohen (@heidicohen).

Appropriate for this Academy-Awards weekend – especially when the Facebook movie competes – our theme looks at what we can learn from the movies, awards, and entertainment industry in general!


Self motivation: fickle and elusive

Self motivation is a fickle flower. Some people seem innately driven into action. Others flounder flitting from thing to thing. Starting and stopping looking for the map. But as Seth Godin has written, there is no map.

A few weeks ago CASUDI engaged in a conversation about self motivation and inspired me to think a little deeper. I’m fascinated by how people end up in their respective careers – some by happenstance and others because they followed their muse. Most people though don’t seem to take a proactive approach to their careers. They let the jobs come to them rather than make the effort to design their own. And then they look at those who make it and consider them lucky. As if luck was all it took. Sure it can play a part, but only after one works to put themselves into a position to get lucky. Often failing many times before they got ‘lucky’. But most people don’t see that. They think it can’t be them. They’re not willing to expend the calories it takes to achieve a higher level of being. They let others tell them where to go. What to do.

I consider myself a fairly motivated person, always reading, learning and curious. I love exploring new ideas and pushing my thinking. But I don’t consider myself the picture of driven, self-made success. I just saw Invictus last weekend about Nelson Mandela – talk about self motivation. Jailed for 27 years and keeping his focus, determination and then being able to forgive. ‘I am the master of my own destiny’ is what he told himself. How many of us can find such strength?

I read about people like Gary Hirschberg, Jason Fried, Gert Boyle. Or how about Chris Gardner? When so many others would remain homeless, he wouldn’t accept that and took action. To different degrees, each has a work ethic and persevered in the face of adversity. Some started solving problems for themselves (Jason). Others have a vision (Gary) and others are merely motivated to survive (Gert and Chris).  In reading these stories recognize that each is personal and specific to them. While you can glean tips and inspiration, you have to make it your own. Find your own way.

But each had the internal fortitude to keep digging for the answers. And never give up. For me, I’m motivated by the desire to create, help others and achieve financial independence. I’ve certainly made mistakes earlier in my career – failing at commercial photography (but learned the secret to building a million dollar photography business: start with two million).

I also think it comes down to decision making style. Some people are more adept at committing to a direction, cutting through a sea of limitless choices to the idea and process that fits them. That takes discipline. You have to have the confidence in your thinking to make the big decisions and break them down into manageable steps that take you to success. Rarely is it one big leap. Think about the 10,000 hours it takes for mastery.

You might think going to a motivational seminar will do the trick. But it’s like a drug. It lasts in the moment. Long enough for you to spend some cash on their motivational materials only to end up on that shelf in the back of your office. Seminars like Get motivated. If you’re seriously going to get something out of such seminars, you have to do the hard work that comes after the high wears off.

Same goes with all the self-help books. Yes, they provide insight, advice and motivation. But it’s what you do with it that counts. And that takes YOU. Self motivation. No one else can do it for you. You have to want to change.

The best way I’ve seen to be motivated is to not be too comfortable. You have to want change so bad because if not, you’ll keep doing what you’re always doing. Change causes physical pain in the brain and only through consistent focus can you internalize that change and make it stick. To transfer that new way of being to the part of your brain where it’s internalize. Like you did when you learned to drive.

So to get motivated and sustain it, you need to want it. You need to find and set direction rather than swing for the latest fad. You need a process with rituals that take you step by step to where you want to go. You need to make it past the Dip. You need to look into the drop off and be able to make the leap across. Which takes a little faith and willingness to step out of your comfort zone.

In short, it takes you. And you alone. It helps to surround yourself with others who aspire to better themselves rather than those content with punching a clock. And that means you need to be aware of who you spend your time with and seek out people that push you rather than drag you down.

Most people are inherently lazy and not hungry. They don’t take action. But you’re different right? How do you get motivated and sustain it? Where do you find your inner strength. That’s something I’ll be exploring both to understand what really motivates me and how I can better push myself.

Making connections: real-life edition

Be aware of the life in front of you.We spend a lot of time talking about building our online influence, and less and less about building our offline influence as if real life is not as important. But it should be more so.

I was out to dinner Friday with my family and I noticed a mom and her two kids dining at an adjacent table. It wasn’t five minutes after they arrived that they each pulled out their smart phones. How many times have we seen this? It’s as if the world available to us through that little screen is more important than what’s right in front of us. And that’s sad. It reminds of the lyrics to Cats in the Cradle, written long before the social media entered our lives:

He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you dad
You know I’m gonna be like you”

I once had a boss who in every one on one meeting spent more time looking at his screen – whether Blackberry or laptop then me. I knew he wasn’t listening.  And I gave up trying to connect with him.

Don’t get me wrong, I really value the relationships I’m building online and look forward to translating them into real life interactions. But why is it we’re so tempted by the virtual?

I think it may have to do with the notion of possibility and options. Kind of like gambling. There may be something more valuable, something we might miss out on if we’re not tuned in 24/7. We want to keep our options open and if we commit to the person right in front of us, they’re not. But that mentality is just like the hamster in the wheel. You can never know every opportunity that’s available at all times. You have to make choices.

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”

The people in front of us matter a lot. And what message are we sending when we don’t listen with intention? When over 90% of communication is nonverbal, if we’re always checking our online feeds, the message is loud and clear to those around us: they’re not that important. And that means they’re not going to share their most personal thoughts. Their aspirations. They’re not going to reach out to us when they have an opportunity nor are they going to be there when we need them most. It works both ways.

To that end, here are my thoughts for building and maintaining your social capital in the real world (there’s nothing revolutionary here – but can be hard for many in the wired world):

  • If you have an open door policy, make sure your door is open. That means you listen to your team and colleagues when they stop by. With both ears. You don’t multitask (that’s a misnomer because the brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you ‘mulittask’ your brain is really tuning in and out of each task.). I’ve turned off my automated email and Twitter alerts to make sure my attention isn’t distracted by constant flashing on the screen.
  • Schedule time for getting work done. That’s the time when your door, your email and instant messaging isn’t open. That way you can be more focused when you invite people in.
  • Make meetings productive. Our tendency to click our way through our days and not be present in real life stems from poor time management. We’ve all spent way more time in unproductive meetings then we should. Making each interaction and meeting count not only builds your credibility. It forces you to get far more done in far less time, freeing you up for more meaningful opportunities.
  • Make sure the time you spend with your kids is quality time. It’s not the amount of time as it  is the quality of time you spend. Listening and engaging regularly – showing that you genuinely care is what matters. So if you only have 15 minutes a day with your child, make that 15 minutes really special. Make them feel like they’re the only thing in your world that matters at that moment.
  • Do the same with your spouse or partner. I know how easy it is to get into daily routines and forget to check in. To have meaningful deep dialogue. Schedule time to reconnect. And listen fully. Listening is hard. It takes concentration, focus. People know when you’re only half there. Be all there.
  • Measure your say/do ratio. How much of what you say you’ll do are you actually doing? Avoid the tendency to over commit. Do less better rather than a lot of stuff poorly. Understand what you’re committing to by listening (yes, listening is the key tool to building your offline capital). Nothing destroys your credibility than poor follow through. I know far too many people who make promises they never intend to keep. And I quickly discount anything they say. I will also go to the mat for people who show up consistently. SHOW UP CONSISTENTLY.
  • Don’t just do what people expect of you all the time. Once in awhile, delight by anticipating needs which comes from listening, paying attention to the emotions behind the words spoken. In real life you have the benefit of seeing the emotion first hand. You’re not guessing – and if you find yourself guessing, just ask. Make sure you understand the message. Get clarity.
  • Schedule time for face-to-face meetings and make them count. They don’t need to be long, you just need to be present and make each minute matter.
  • Learn what matters to those closest to you. And for your customers, learn a little bit about what makes them tick. Why do they get up in the morning? How can you matter to their lives. Goes a long way to building loyalty.
  • Schedule time to check your email and online connections. And make those moments matter. It doesn’t need to be long. Just focused. Here again, listen to understand. In the business world we make everything an ASAP when few really require it. Sometimes letting that email sit there for a bit will cause the sender to solve the issue themselves. Few quality initiatives are executed in a string of sound bites.

Online or off, the same basic rules apply. But in person, you have the richness of all the non-verbal cues. Don’t squander these opportunities to connect and strengthen these relationships. Don’t take them for granted because they won’t be there tomorrow if you do. Carve out time for both online and off. Don’t do both at the same time because you’re not fooling anybody really. Even if you think you are.

I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

When my daughter says to me, “you really like your phone don’t you?” I know it’s time to spend some quality time with her. She’s nine now and I’m acutely aware how important it is to make our time together matter. Time none of us will ever get back. To bring that point home, we have friends who were expecting the same time as us and had a son four months before our daughter was born. At three he was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma and on February 14th lost his hard fought battle.

Make then happen.  Now.


#UsBlogs – Week Three:

Our theme this week was suggested by our resident award-winning film-maker and contrarian Dan Perez (@danperezfilms).

Klout, and other influence metrics, have always driven lots of conversations and controversy within the #usguys tribe. Now’s the time to read what we collectively think about Klout, influence, and metrics that metter… online and beyond!



A fun way to spice up our blogging efforts, #usblogs is a group weekly blogging game within the #usguys tribe! Every Friday night, we’ll pick a common theme, and blog away until Monday morning. No particular rules or template, no winners either – the benefit is simply to push each other to blog on a great topic, learn, have fun, and start a wider conversation with (hopefully) great diversity in our points of view.

Anyone can participate by suggesting topics, posting articles on their own blog, and of course, reading, commenting and sharing the results!

If you’re already a #usblogs contributor, you know what to do… if you’re #usguys, see below for “How it works”… if you’re not #usguys yet, #usblogs is a great way to jump in and join in the group’s conversation – there is no “qualification” to join our tribe, except a desire to be part of a great group, and participate to our 24/7 chats with an open and positive mindset – welcome!

Attention is hard, influence refresher, negative science, love and money, and milkshakes

The competition for attention shows no signs of slowing. And Facebook’s News Feed Optimization makes it harder for brands to get noticed. The way it works is one’s feed only shows updates and information from the people you interact with most. You’re not going to see what all of your friends are doing nor the brands you follow. Thus to get noticed, you have to matter. You have to connect and interact. Tough for many brands to do. Check out this post and think about how that affects your content marketing efforts. And no, shouting “Look at me! Look at me! Oh Please Look at me!!!” will not get you anywhere here. This is more proof that it’s the quality versus size of your audience that counts.

Klout is certainly much discussed with many bemoaning their dropping scores as a result of a tweaking of their secret formula this week. As a counterpoint to a singular focus on one’s popularity, I appreciated Stephen getting the basics down on what influence really means and how to get it. It’s not hard, just takes some old fashioned relationship building: like connecting, listening, and not trying so darn hard just to be popular. You likely know this already, but a refresher course never hurts. But then if you do gain enough influence and a little popularity, there are rewards via Klout Perks even if they’re not always ideally targeted.

The internet may be messing with our brains and most marketers only want to accentuate the positive (for obvious reasons). So the savvy communicator needs a way to find out what doesn’t or didn’t work out so well. Boing Boing offered some nice links on scientific studies that didn’t. Lest you’re feeling a little too chipper this Friday, click on over to the Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine. Isn’t it really about finding balance?

I really enjoyed Tom Kelley’s book on Innovation and respect the work of IDEO. They’ve proven the power of taking a different path to achieving results. A must read for bosses at any level, Bob Sutton takes us through David Kelley’s concept of Love and Money in business. Essentially you want to spend most of your time helping your teams succeed at doing work they enjoy while knowing there are times in any business when there’s work that’s simply not fun. The goal is to have more deposits in the Love account then you withdraw when it’s simply all about the money.  #LeadershipChat this week talked about Love in Leadership which caused several to question whether that’s possible or even the wrong name, thinking it’s more about passion. But no matter how you define love in business, it’s good to ask the question. I tend to think David got it right.

Although I don’t often enjoy a rich milkshake, I did find the concept of milkshake marketing by Harvard’s Clay Christensen intriguing. And I love a good analogy. The concept here is that rather than segment your customers by demographic data, you develop products and strategies based doing the job that needs to be done. In this case, customers bought milkshakes not because they really wanted one, but because they were easy to consume while driving over a bagel. By taking a focus on doing a job rather than inventing a need, you not only increase your chances of success, but create something more sustainable and differentiated – thus easier to market.

Standing out when there’s already too much of too much

When I started this blog a year ago I wondered if there was really room, thinking I’d long missed the bus. After all, you have a bevy of A-list bloggers who have established their positions and corner of the market. Maybe there’s too much competition.

Listen to Dan Perez and you wonder if that’s true when he talks about many of us #UsGuys coming to similar conclusions in our new weekend theme posts. So you wonder, should you simply give up? Or say, hell no! I’m not looking back in three years and think, I should have. Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda. No, such feedback is a healthy nudge to think a little deeper.

This happens to my fourth blog domain I’ve started. The others long abandoned; failed because I over thought them rather than just purposefully writing. But as this one has my name on it, the stakes are bit higher. I can’t run away.

Maybe I’ll never become an A-list blogger. Seriously, how do you compete with the likes of the Huffington Post, Mashable or The Daily? Or the many content farms focused solely on monetization rather than advancing compelling thinking? But is that the point? Is this just a popularity contest?

Or maybe it’s about getting my thoughts out in the public. Testing ideas, garnering a comment or two, and seriously clarifying my thinking so that I can connect some dots. Just maybe I can help those in my corner of the world. But blogging forces me to practice the art of writing. To put a little craft into it and make me a better communicator everywhere else. Part of the 10,000 hours to mastery.

In any job or relationship, you need an ability to communicate ideas and vision. You need to be able to articulate what you stand for and back that up with credible examples. That’s what this is all about – finding a voice and providing substance.

But to stand out in a crowded blogosphere comes down to differentiation. The battle for attention. And since all of us are starved for time, that’s no easy feat. But isn’t this what most every product we marketers market face every day? Aren’t we always thinking about how to expand our customer base, expand our brands’ reach? Something like 156,000 new products launched to the world last year. No matter where you look it’s endless. How about the actors, musicians, artists vying for attention? Blogging is no exception. Many won’t make it. Many give up their blogs before they make it through Seth Godin’s Dip.

But how cool is it that you and I can write these words and push a button and share them with the world? Or those in the world that find them?

I think a lot about possibility and asking what if? The only way to find out is to do it. So one year in, I’m just getting started. And enjoying the process more with each post. It’s a game. It’s a puzzle. A challenge to figure it all out that keeps the mind nimble and curious.

And to Dan’s point about us sharing similar thoughts, I think there’s value in the perspective. And while we #UsGuys may have come together with a common vision on many fronts, there are distinctions. And that adds richness to the whole. And the more themes we tackle via #UsBlogs or Letsblogoff, the more you’ll discover the differences. Each of us also has different audiences who may not be exposed to the same ideas. What’s stale to Dan might be fresh to someone not so enmeshed in social media.

So write on I say. Enjoy the journey. Find your points of differentiation and focus on your craft. It’s the little things that make a difference.

On the point of craft, there are three books I recommend:

The Writer’s Coach by Jack Hart – former Oregonian editor and someone I’ve respected since my days in Journalism school.

Syd Field’s Screenplay – you’ll never watch a movie the same way again.

Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark – useful strategies to mix things up a bit.

Soak, Wash, Rinse, Spin – Leading in the 21st Century

That’s the title of Tolleson Design’s book on their work. But it’s just as appropriate for leadership:

  • Soak: listen, observe and internalize what’s going around you. Collect information. Unearth problems and discover solutions.
  • Wash: Sift through the data, determine what’s important and what can be discarded. Connect the dots
  • Rinse: Clarify your key points. Your vision. Connect the dots. Get rid of anything that adds clutter to your vision and mission.
  • Spin: Refine and simplify. Add supporting detail and color that makes your case matter. Inspire people into acting on your vision. Show them what could be. Spin is not about twisting the facts.
  • Repeat: It’s not a one-shot deal.  It takes a lot of repetition and practice for things to stick. To make change happen.

Leadership has many facets and styles and there’s not one right way to lead. But once you grasp the basics, you get there by doing. Again and again.

But has leadership really changed since centuries before? Are we more enlightened now or is leadership the latest cool thing? After all, 15 years ago or so you could hardly find a book on leadership and now there are whole sectioned dedicated to the art. And I do believe it is in art. Not everyone is good at it. Not everyone has the aptitude. And while you can read a bevy of books on leadership, it’s not something you can truly master without practicing and screwing a few things up in the process. And when you do, that’s when you practice the art of saying you’re sorry. Yes, humility is a key component of the 21st century leader. In years – wait – centuries past – it was more command and control. There wasn’t all this squishy soft stuff leaders today have to attend to. No, you could theoretically beat your subjects into submission. Lead by fear. Isn’t that how the Romans did it? How about Cortes? We hardly hear of the gentle, authentic leadership styles much discussed today.

I think it’s safe to say that leader as dictator is less successful today than in the past. Success as a leader comes from open collaboration, authenticity and inclusiveness. In fact, you can’t be a leader without followers. If people are not willing to follow you, what exactly are you leading? The events in Egypt the past few weeks are testament to that. Though the Egyptian government tried to squelch the flow of information, people found a way to connect. Even North Korea can’t completely prevent outside information from reaching its citizens.

Some still say fear is a motivator – and for those worried about their jobs, they’ll fall in line. To a point. Leaders that adopt this style may get some compliance but they’re not inspiring people to do their best. Rather, they’ll get the least amount of performance necessary. Not radical innovation. Mediocrity is not going to win for long.

And that’s what’s needed to solve the world’s problems today: Radical innovation. And radical sharing of information. The more information shared, the faster ideas and solutions build upon each other – and the benefits received by the collective whole. That’s why the businesses Lisa Gansky writes about in The Mesh are thriving. Think Netflix over Blockbuster. Think Zipcar. It’s all about information and translating that into innovation. Quickly.

Leaders also don’t have to be at the top. They can be at any level. In fact some of the best leaders push up from the bottom. Read Linchpin by Seth Godin for more on this. It’s about not being the cog: you have to be the one that holds it all together: be remarkable or be replaced.

On the surface, leadership is pretty simple: Be open, authentic, inclusive, communicate, collaborate, facilitate and have a vision. Build the map on how you’re going to achieve your audacious goals. But that’s why it’s hard. Enter fear. Enter obstacles. Most often leadership is not your average Hollywood movie where you solve the world’s problems in 118 minutes. It’s what happens at 119 minutes and beyond.

No, the toughest part of leadership today, is navigating change, knowing when to stay the course when everyone’s telling you you’re crazy and when to bail when people keep telling you to hang in there.

It’s an art. And it takes 10,000 hours to master. Leaders are tested daily. While you can establish core values, a mission and a vision, walking your talk and maintaining absolute ethics isn’t easy. It’s a slippery slope when you bend a rule here and there in the name of shareholder value. In the name of hitting those quarterly numbers.

In the 21st Century, I’d say trust is a defining quality that separates the best leaders from the average. It’s tough to earn and must be protected fiercely for you can lose it in a second. Or your next email. Build and cherish your relationships. Know what real respect is. How to earn it and how to show it. Most of all, master the art of humility and coming clean when things go wrong. As painful as mistakes and transgressions can be, and coming clean can be pretty scary, few people will kick you when you’re down. But they’ll go to great lengths to shred you if you cover it up. And the cover up will usually be uncovered. Just ask Elliott Spitzer or Jeffrey Skilling, Andrew Fastow or ?

I won’t leave you with a long list of qualities leaders must have – there are plenty of great ones already. But I thought I’d share a few of the books I’ve read that made a difference in how I approach leadership:

Authentic Leadership by Bill George – in which he talks about his challenges of overcoming his self-centeredness and began focusing on others. It’s also a great guide for how to be a CEO in the wake of so many scandals at the top. Written in 2003, the principles are just as relevant today.

Changing Minds by Howard Gardner – as a leader, you’re going to have to help others face change. You have to help people overcome resistance to it no matter how much they know change might be in their interest. He takes you through various theories and shows how they can be applied to different groups – uniform and diverse. He even shows you how to change your own mind. Fascinating stuff. I also recommend How we Decide by Jonah Lehrer and The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz: really helpful for those faced with increasing sales and wondering if you really need that extra line extension. Or maybe something radically different.

Resonate by Nancy Duarte – if you’re going to effect change, you’re going to need a convincing presentation. The 21st Century Leader says no to bad PowerPoint and yes to telling compelling stories simply and passionately. You want to leave your audiences motivated to act. Not rolling their eyes or reaching for another cup of Joe.

Know-How by Ram Charan. He takes you through 8 basic but important skills: positioning and repositioning, identifying external change, herding cats, judging and calibrating people, molding teams, setting goals, setting laser-sharp priorities and navigating external forces. Completely practical, actionable.

Minding the Store by Stanley Marcus. Whether you like Nieman Marcus or not, this is a great story about their history offering sound lessons in customer service, overcoming obstacles – the Great Depression and Wars – and building a sustainable business. He also discusses the quirky dynamics and struggles of running a family business. I’ve not yet read it, but Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh sounds like a nice follow up read to this.

There are obviously many other great books useful for leaders and I have a solid list in the que. But what’s more important is to start leading. Don’t wait for the opportunity. Once you internalize what leadership really means, go find your voice. Your vision. Start inspiring. Rinse and repeat.

Note – this is part of the weekend #UsBlogs, #UsGuys focus on the 21st Century Leader. See the others at the #UsBlogs hashtag on Twitter or a recap by Tom Moradpour.

On craft, games, destinations, important calls and deliveries

The wonder of craft. (Hat tip to Jackie Ng for this one.) We move so fast through our action items that there’s often little time to spend refining the craft. Especially on the ‘little’ things like emails and Tweets. Let alone many of our presentations. I’m talking about the details – the fit and finish of the type we use, the style of our charts to inspire understanding rather than just showing the numbers. Making each word in that inter-office email count. So I appreciate this post of craft featuring  Steinway Pianos – how each takes a year and how they don’t know exactly how the construction process works but it just does, or playing instruments and tailoring fine clothes. I’m wondering if we paid a little more attention to the craft of our communications that just maybe we’ll have a better shot at cutting through the clutter and communicating meaning versus noise.

I’m a fan of connecting dots and exploring different ways to look at everyday tools and delight in a-ha moments. While most of us were talking about how Twitter was a Network and Podium drawing the ire of Dan Perez, Tom injected to really fresh thinking that ranks as my ‘a-ha’ moment of the week. Up to now I appreciated the value of Twitter for connecting, sharing and learning from people across the globe via the many neighborhoods you can join. But making a game out of it – particularly a virtual corporation is more than a little intriguing: “Maybe you’d start as an intern (mission – go to a store to take  pictures of competitors products) and work your way up to CMO (mission – organize other players to create a full ad campaign). All the way to CEO.”  A-ha!

As marketers we cannot just think about social media tools as just platforms. We need to think about where they’re taking us. How they’re helping achieve our business objectives while packing a ton of value for our customers (otherwise they’ll go elsewhere of course). I generally think of Facebook more as a personal connection tool rather than business, and am more than a little skeptical at how much they’ll respect my data and privacy. (What privacy?). But thinking in terms of Facebook as a platform rather than destination and what they are really doing is important. Allowing the parts of Facebook like the Like button to be placed off of the platform has some powerful implications this post hints at-especially the notion of it being everywhere. It makes me think about how you can create a platform with your brand, and that it’s something really important to do still so you retain some control as to how it evolves rather than turn it over to Facebook. We’re not fully evolved so it’s a delicate balance between integrating all of the social tools and making sure should any change radically, that your brand has continuity. That it’s able to quickly adapt along the way.

“Your call is very important to us.” How many times have you heard that? Yet as a marketer, how many times have you let that pass as acceptable in your company? Generally speaking, it seems many marketers would rather focus on developing cool campaigns rather than deal with the tough job of helping transform their company into one that’s customer centric. That’s hard work – it requires breaking down silos, patiently converting the skeptics and fearful, and uniting the senior team, customer service and everyone else on a singular focus to delight the customer. You know, the one that pays all of the bills! It’s so much easier to launch a new campaign – and be able to point to an accomplishment.  And in the short term, more rewarding. Maybe that’s why Tom’s cartoon resonated with me, particularly his thought: “…all the marketing dollars invested in animated TV ads and direct mail mail pieces can be evaporated by a couple bad service experiences.”

Since my daughter is now 9 I missed the smart phone revolution, and ease of capturing/sharing carefully selected moments from the hospital, but this post about hospitals banning  photos and video in the delivery highlights an important point: the ulterior motives veiled in the name of protecting your privacy. In this case it’s likely, as Jenn writes, protecting the hospitals from litigation should something go wrong and have it captured on video over patient and staff privacy. I have nothing wrong with developing necessary policies and guidelines, but think as a company and a marketer, it’s important to be clear as to the why. Because customers will find out one way or another – and in most cases they have options. Why squander your hard-earned trust?

Proof customer service can be delivered with grace and style

Last weekend I had the opportunity to dine at the Davis Street Tavern. Unlike the experience I had at another place a few months ago, this is worth a big shout out. It’s a small place and half of it was reserved for a birthday party, leaving little room for walk ins like us (we were third on the list). While the host took our names, she mentioned up front that it could be a long wait, but we were welcome to grab a beverage at the bar. So we did. Awhile later she mentioned it was going to be a lot longer and encouraged us rather to grab a seat at the bar where they served the full menu if one became available. Fortunately it wasn’t long before that was so!

It was then we connected with the other bartender, Kara. From the start it was clear she enjoyed what she did. Engaging in friendly banter, providing tastes of proposed wine and making recommendations, and showing up with a delectable date courtesy of the chef, she made the evening. Our host came by a couple times to make sure all was okay as well.

This experience had it all – atmosphere (warm and rustic) – and bustling, great food, and service handled with incredible grace despite how busy they were. I also noticed a number of people coming in and sharing hugs with the staff – a clear sign they either have a lot of friends stopping by or made friends with the customers over time.

Contrast that with this experience where it was not busy. Our server couldn’t have cared less, and they never followed up to my feedback – which they invited, making me think they give it lip service.

What’s remarkable about our experience at Davis Street is that it’s really not that hard to do – yet most restaurants and businesses don’t deliver like this. For many it’s simply a transaction. They miss the bigger picture – that of creating raving customers who’ll come back rather than choose the gazillion other places available. And as a result, so many don’t make it long term. In a restaurant, great food is just the beginning – creating that connection makes a huge difference – even when you cannot give the customer exactly what they wanted (which in our case was a table).

So props to Davis Street Tavern and their great staff front to back. They created wow and delight on a cool, rainy evening. And I’ll go back in a second – and if you’re ever in Portland, recommend you check them out. Be sure to ask for Kara too.

Twitter: Network or Podium? I have a tweet . . .

This post is part of the #UsGuys weekend theme: Is Twitter a network or podium? For more, just search for the hashtag #UsBlogs.

Network or Podium?So the question is whether Twitter is a network or a podium. It all depends, but you’d be hard pressed to say one or the other. It’s not black or white. That’s a perspective of a closed mind who doesn’t appreciate all the shades of gray between, of which there are infinite or at the very least, 256 in the digital palette including black and white. The point is no one has the exact same twixperience. And before you can claim the podium, you need the network, or else you’re talking to echo chamber.

Yes, some use Twitter mostly as a podium to share one-way ‘look at me’ posts that don’t inspire a lot of following. Get enough followers like a Guy Kawasaki and you have a podium. But is anyone listening? Are they sharing with their tribes what you tweet?

And if you use it solely as a network, you’re missing a huge opportunity to share key messages that are of value to your followers and drive traffic to your business or brand.

So it’s a hybrid of course. And the amount of pontificating versus networking depends on your style, objectives and followers. But even when you’re using Twitter as a podium, always think about what’s in it for your audience. What’s their call to action? Why should they care and share? And also think about the 80 / 20 rule – 80% of the time you should be networking – building relationships, and 20% or less of the time step up to the podium.

Twitter is a great place to connect with other like-minded and not-so like-minded people. You get out of it what you put in – and if you care about your followers, are helpful, giving, your network will grow. And they’ll likely be interested in what you have to say when you deliver your 140 monologues. You might also consider paying attention to your followers when THEY step up to the podium. Think two-way street.

Now, I have a tweet . . .

Anyone can be creative, lessons from a data king, trust, influence and marketing goes mobile

I’m a big fan of Alex Bogusky and his former namesake agency, particularly for the work they did on Mini Cooper. So I’ve been watching his new venture, Fearless Revolution, unfold. Maybe it’s my penchant for solid creative that gets results and tendency to ask a lot of questions about virtually everything, but like Mitch says, this is worth an hour of your time. Alex spent a week pursuing his vision with a group calling themselves UFuse and interviews them here. If American businesses are going to succeed in the future, it’s going to be because they embody creativity, innovation, design – and make a difference in people’s lives. They have to: we already have too much of too much. Schedule an hour for this – it makes you think a little deeper about what you want to be when you grow up.

Six lessons you should learn from Avinash – an amazing analytics expert if you don’t already know him. Here’s someone who thrives on data and detail, yet talks about the importance of soft skills and a high emotional quotient. And that it’s not the tools. It’s what you do with them; your process. Obsess about outcomes – that’s what every business cares about. Embrace agility, and recognize that it takes a LONG TIME to become really good at what you do. This is one of those get-grounded posts that I think complements the one above.

Much has been written about trust of late. Perhaps it’s because there’s been little of it going around the past few years so it’s become fashionable again. It’s not something you can easily acquire. People are skeptical. I know I am. You have to prove you can be trusted through your actions. How many companies do you know that do this? And while it takes years to build, it takes an instant to shatter it. Volvo learned this the hard way in 1990 when to demonstrate the strength of their cars compared to the competition, their agency weakened the competitors pillars and strengthened the Volvo’s  before showing a monster truck driving over the top of them. Valeria talks often of connections and in this post on trust makes some important observations.  Most interesting to me was “that professionals are more deeply connected to the reputations of the organizations they work for or with than in the past.”

We hear a lot about who is influential and measuring it, but what makes it up? I think David Armano does a nice job defining six components: Reach, proximity, expertise, relevance, credibility and trust (there’s that word again). I like that he mentioned he didn’t learn about influence from a book but from years of practice on the web. It is one thing to learn about concepts in theory, and quite another to actively put them to use and test them. It’s something I do with every new book I read: look for and implement at least one or two key ideas in my work.  How about you?

Got mobile? If not, it’s likely your competitors do. Or will. Heidi Cohen has published a nice roundup of key mobile marketing facts you should be aware of. 56 to be exact – backed up by data. The adoption rate for smart phones is incredible with 2011 predicted to be the tipping point. If the fact that there were 3 million app downloads PER DAY in December 2010 by top 300 apps doesn’t raise an eyebrow, perhaps the fact that the global mobile app market is predicted to be $25 billion just four years from now will. Get the facts and get to work on your mobile strategy.