Do you ever wonder why certain people in human history have been so influential? Why Martin Luther King, Jr.? Why the Wright brothers? MLK wasn’t the only African American that suffered racial persecution. The Wright brothers weren’t the only ones interested in flight (in fact, they were at a disadvantage when it comes to funding and education). So why are certain people, or companies, able to be so much more successful than others, who are fundamentally no different? It’s because they think, act and communicate differently than everyone else.
Take a look at this chart. This is the Golden Circle, as inspired by business author Simon Sinek, and it explains how we act as businesses and leaders. Let’s define the terms: What: Every single company in the world knows what they do. Simple. How: Some of those companies know how they do it. Internal processes, etc. Why: What is your cause, your purpose, your belief? Why do you do what you do? Most companies act from the outside-in, because the What and the How are the easiest parts of the circle to define. For example:
What: We make personal computers.
How: They’re user friendly, affordable, and reliable.
Why: To drive revenue, thus making the company successful.
Following the circle in this manner is a roadmap for… failure. It’s simply not inspiring, whether it’s to your employees or your customers. “We make great computers that you can afford, therefore you should buy one” is their sales pitch. I mean sure, it might work to an extent, but it’s not a sustainable business model. Profit or revenue can never be the Why of your business. Profit isn’t why you work, it’s a result of your work. The Why isn’t the end result, it’s your company’s heartbeat. It’s your true industry leaders, like Apple (in personal entertainment/technology), that see the circle from the inside-out:
Why: In everything we do, we challenge the status quo and think differently.
How: We’ll create beautiful products that are simple and effective, no matter the cost.
What: We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?
Customers buy the why. Customers want to buy products from a company that believes what they believe. And that’s why we won’t just buy computers from Apple. We’ll also buy their ipads, ipods, speakers, monitors, etc. The company communicates to the world in a way that inspires their customers. You might be saying to yourself, “I’m not an entrepreneur or business owner, so this doesn’t really apply to me.” Wrong. We can all use this circle to help us communicate and act more genuinely with our colleagues. By doing so, we will produce a more motivated, engaged team of employees. But it starts with uniting everyone under the Why. Why are your colleagues getting out of bed and coming into work in the morning? Hopefully, it’s not just for the paycheck. Martin Luther King, Jr. used the Golden Circle to great effect and he wasn’t selling a product. MLK attracted 250,000 people to show up at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. It’s an astounding number, especially when you consider he didn’t have tools to spread the word like email and social media. But there’s a reason why so many people wanted to come hear him talk that day. It wasn’t to hear a plan on how to fix America’s racial divide. It was to hear him say “I believe.”
What’s at the core of your company? Are your core values entrenched in your team? We help with that! Let me know what we can do for you by reaching me at email@example.com.
Want to learn something during your internship? Add one employee handbook, five blog posts, one print check, two client meetings, and the launch of a start-up. That should do the trick.
Throughout my seven week internship with Insight Strategic Communications I had the opportunity to work on projects that ultimately gave me a better understanding of brands, employee ownership, and proofing with the audience in mind.
The word “brand” was not new to my vocabulary; however, throughout the course of my internship, I gained a better understanding of the definition. I had never realized how many factors went into creating and maintaining a brand and how many different types of rules and standards must be considered when developing products—things such as font, color, positioning, and tone. As a communications consulting firm, we have to be aware of a client’s brand as we write, proof, and create content for them.
I spent a bulk of my time writing and proofing content and materials for our new company Nest Egg Communications—a communications agency that provides communications toolkits for employee owned companies. At the start of my internship I had no idea what an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) was, let alone what it meant in terms of business. I now know that ESOPs give employees a way to share in the wealth they create, no matter what job they hold.
I had the opportunity to refine and practice my writing and proofing skills while also learning to consider the audience and how the message might be perceived. Before I started reading something I would ask “who is the audience?” This was new for me, I had always edited content by determining if it was perceived well by me; but, what I gained from my experience is that the writing is ineffective if the intended audience can’t understand the message.
With this internship being my first real-world job, I was both nervous and excited; I was eager to learn but also afraid I didn’t know enough going in. However, through lots of questions and experiences I now know that not only can I meet expectations and do the work, but with some more practice I can thrive in the communications field and create great work.
Generally when people describe me they say that I’m loud. As if that were somehow the word that completely defines and describes my entire personality. And sure, I am pretty loud, but I am also confident, collaborative, adaptive, and achievement-oriented. I’m many other great things too, but when people don’t know me, or how to talk to me, I come across as just loud when I have the potential to be so much more.
Now, you’re probably wondering what my personality has to do with your business. Well, I’m a Millennial.
As Millennials, we’re better known for our diverse population, relationship to technology, community-based social dynamics, and confident personalities. But, what you might not know about us is that our numbers are growing. The percentage of millennial employees in the workplace is increasing rapidly; by 2020 Millennials will be 46% of the U.S. workforce. What this means for you is that it’s time to figure out a way to better communicate with us so that we can work together to create business success.
Diane Speigel, CEO of The End Result, a corporate training and leadership development company, reports that these are three things Millennials want from their employers:
Coaching. We were raised in a society and an academic system that coached us through everything. Therefore, we seek the same kind of coaching and feedback in our careers. We enjoy being recognized for our successes and we are genuinely open to criticism; we want to do it right.
Collaboration. We work best in teams and believe in a flexible information flow. We’ll ask a lot of questions and take time to discuss before we begin a project because our groups work best when the purpose of our project is clear and understood by everyone.
Motivation. Meaningful work is what drives us; our biggest concerns regarding work is that it’s purposeful and provides us with a sense of accomplishment. We want the opportunity to learn and we need to understand why we’re performing a certain job; we need an explanation of how our contribution will affect the bigger picture.
You’ve probably never heard of a man named Howard Moskowitz, which is a shame considering he’s made more people happy than perhaps anyone over the last half-century. So who is he?
Howard Moskowitz is a psychophysicist, technically speaking. But that’s not what he calls himself. He prefers the term “optimizer,” because that’s what his clients hire him to do – make their products better. But what makes Moskowitz such a legendary figure is that we have physically ingested his work. Seriously. Moskowitz specializes in the food industry, working with some of the biggest companies (Campbell Soup, General Foods, Kraft, and Pepsico) to help tailor their products to fit our taste buds.
Moskowitz made his breakthrough while working for Pepsi. Aspartame, a chemical sweetener, had just hit the market, so Pepsi asked Moskowitz to help them make their new drink, Diet Pepsi. Moskowitz’s task was to find out how much Aspartame was needed so people would like how it tasted. Moskowitz considered this a very straightforward experiment. He started making batches of Diet Pepsi various levels of Aspartame for people to taste to see which one was the most popular. The results weren’t so straightforward. Expecting a nice neat bell curve, Moskowitz’s data was anything but. It was a clustered mess, and this troubled Moskowitz for years. Why couldn’t they find the perfect Pepsi?
The answer randomly hit Moskowitz one day while sitting in a diner. He’d been asking himself the wrong question. He’d been looking for the perfect Pepsi, but what he should have been looking for was the perfect Pepsis. There is no perfect Pepsi, but there are perfect Pepsis.
Moskowitz later went to work for Campbell’s Prego tomato sauce products. They were getting killed by Ragu in the market, despite having a higher-quality product. Moskowitz refined his experimentation and testing. In the end, he didn’t come up with a new Prego sauce, he came up with three. Plain, spicy and extra chunky. Prego exploded and Moskowitz’s revelation netted the company hundreds of millions. Today, Ragu has 36 different sauces on the shelves. Moskowitz never worked for Ragu, yet he triggered that explosion of variety that we see on the grocery shelves today.
The question you’re probably asking yourself now is “What the heck do tomato sauce and Diet Pepsi have to do with my business’ communications?”Moskowitz provides the answer. There is no perfect newsletter, there are only perfect newsletters.
We have worked with many types of clients – big, small, private sector, government, corporate offices, and field teams. Clients have different needs, that much is obvious. But what is less obvious is that two employees in a company might look at an internal communications newsletter in a totally different way. This is why company-wide newsletters are very hard to get right, and very seldom contain information that is highly valued across the board.
Newsletters are tricky. It’s hard to get your employees to read through a newsletter, no matter the content, because they are understandably busy attending to deadlines, meetings, etc. The best way to reach your employees is to make sure the content in your communications is tailored specifically to them. How do you do this? Well, first you need to know what your team needs and wants. (I’ll go into detail about this in my next post.)
And you might be thinking, “Of course the guy from the communications agency is telling me I need more newsletters. That’s more money out of my pocket and into theirs.”
This isn’t always the case. Newsletters are cheaper to produce when there’s less time spent in the editorial process. And when the audience is clear and the content is a perfect match, you’re going to get more value for each dollar you use to invest in your people.
Chances are that if you are reading this blog, you’ve probably already investigated how to engage millenials in the workplace. When we think about engaging millenials, we usually illicit mental images of young folks looking bored or struggling in a corporate conference room. What we definitely don’t think of is football players. In this case, we’ll look at the San Francisco 49ers, the franchise who is making a huge commitment toward its most important personnel, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Not only is the NFL big business, but there might not be another industry that’s more dependent on millenials to drive the success of the company. The playing staffs of NFL team are comprised almost solely by millenials — broadly defined as those aged 18-34. The Smart Phone Age.
What’s eye-catching here aren’t just the techniques the 49ers are using to accommodate this new generation of players, but the open-mindedness and courage the front office and coaching staff has in breaking down historically successful protocols in its business. After all, the 49ers are one of the winningest teams in the NFL, colleting five Super Bowl titles from 1981 to 1994. Regardless, Head Coach Jim Tomsula has changed the team’s meeting schedules to adapt to millenial’s shorter attention spans and propensities to multi-task.
“The [experts] are telling me about attention spans and optimal learning,” Tomulsa told the WSJ. “I’m thinking, ‘My gosh, we sit in two-hour meetings. You are telling me after 27 minutes no one’s getting anything?’ ”
But as opposed to some business leaders, inside the NFL and out, the 49ers felt it was prudent for their coaching and support staff to adapt to the player’s habits, not the other way around. In this effort, they’ve stopped handing out paper schedules, and now all meetings are sent straight to a player’s online calendar. Instead of the old two-hour meetings, they’re now segmented into 30-minute blocks, with 10 minutes in between for free time.
Some business leaders feel it’s important for millenials to adapt to the working environment of their generation, one that didn’t grow up with smartphones and advanced computing. But at what cost? The goal of any business leader should be to create a working environment in which employees can produce to their maximum potential. And not only that, but great leaders understand that the most important employees to cater to aren’t the ones with corner offices — they’re the ones who are on the front line of the business. Sadly, it’s these employees who are often the lowest paid, and thus the most neglected.
Everyone from psychologists to elementary school teachers can tell you that the impact technology has made on the human race is real. It’s not a far-flung theory, and it’s not a simple case of young people being lazy. Not only are attention spans getting shorter, but higher rates of ambidexterity are occurring, which is thought to be caused by children now typing, texting, and playing games with both hands on touch screens.
“Our whole lives, we’ve gone with a paper and pad,” Tomsula said in the WSJ. “Next week, a young person’s phone will be outdated. We decided we have to be on top of that.”