Blog

Category: Leadership

A User Guide for 2016

snowy road

I have a tattered clipping in my wallet that I fish out each January to read instead of writing New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know where it came from or how long I’ve had it (by the looks of it, more than 20 years). It reminds me of my goals as a leader, a parent, a friend, a business partner. I hope it will inspire you as well.

 
A new year is a new beginning, an open road. Make the most of it.

On this day:

 
• Mend a quarrel
• Search out a forgotten friend
• Dismiss a suspicion and replace it with trust
• Write a note to someone you miss
• Encourage a youth who has lost his way
• Keep a promise
• Forget an old grudge
• Examine your demands on others and vow to reduce them
• Fight for a principle
• Express your gratitude
• Overcome a fear
• Consider others’ perspectives when making a decision
• Take two minutes to appreciate the beauty of nature
• Tell someone you love them

 
(Author Unknown)

Answer this question to empower your business

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:

  1. What: We make personal computers.
  2. How: They’re user friendly, affordable, and reliable.
  3. 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:

  1. Why: In everything we do, we challenge the status quo and think differently.
  2. How: We’ll create beautiful products that are simple and effective, no matter the cost.
  3. 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 joe.patrick@insight-communication.com.

Best practices: How an NFL team is embracing millenials

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.

49ers Head Coach Jim Tomsula isn't afraid to break from tradition to reach out to his more youthful players.

“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.”

What are some other best practices when it comes to engaging millenials? Let me know at joe.patrick@insight-communication.com.

Survey Says: Invest in your Employees

When looking for a job what considerations do you take into account? Compensation is a key factor.  For some, a position with the right work/life balance is most important.  One thing that you need to take into account when choosing a company is their work place culture.  In my personal experience I’ve had jobs that I’ve enjoyed and others where I’ve dreaded coming to work each day.  When I look back at why I enjoyed some jobs and disliked others it usually came down to their work place culture.

Recently the Atlanta Journal Constitution released their list of “Best Places to Work in Atlanta 2015.”     Over 1,400 companies were nominated by their employees.  The results were determined based on employee surveys.   A number of common themes emerge among the companies that scored near the top.  These companies invested in their employees not only in the form of compensation and benefits but also in their well-being.  Employees at these companies felt respected, empowered, motivated, and appreciated by their employers.

“This makes perfect sense from a most basic human standpoint. People want to feel like they are a valuable part of something good,” said Jim Minnick, CEO and co-founder of the financial services firm eVestment. “It would be more surprising if the opposite were true.”

Tom Beaty, CEO and founder of the management consultant Insight Sourcing Group stated, “Everyone wants to be appreciated and feel like they matter. The loyalty of my team members is humbling and creates an obligation for me to ensure that they have a great experience, are able to continue to grow and learn.”

Some companies are so focused on performance and the bottom line that they forget to invest in their people.  Employees at top scoring companies said they believe in their company because their leaders believe in them.

When you invest in your employees, they will see the benefits to their well-being, and your company will in turn see the benefits to its culture and performance.

Need to work on employee engagement in your business?  Contact us and let’s get started.

Atlanta Hawks: A case study on engagement, teamwork, leadership

Ten years ago, picture this scene:

I’m sitting with friends in a mostly-empty Phillips Arena to watch the Atlanta Hawks play the Boston Celtics. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. We weren’t really there to watch the game. We were there to get autographs from players, to hang out in freely-upgraded seats near the court (to try to mask the poor attendance to television viewers), and to troll the opponents as they walked to and from the locker room. Tickets were only $10, so it was a pretty cheap way to waste a Friday night in high school. The Hawks lost by 20. But to look on the bright side, Hawks employees gave us a box of inflatable thunder sticks (inflatable noisemakers) to take home. By the end of the season, the Hawks had won 13 games, and we’d won four boxes of thunder sticks and several items of game worn memorabilia — five shoes, two headbands, and a sock.

The NBA is a glamorous TV product that is played by some of the best athletes on the planet. But in Atlanta, the team was so bad that most of the “crowd” (and I use that term loosely) had to find ways outside the court’s lines to entertain themselves. If you did focus on the game, it was ugly. Not only did the team rack up poor results, but the quality of the play was terrible. Lots of standing around. Lots of one-on-one offense. And lots of complaining by players and coaches, which lead to the same by the fans.

Skip ahead to today, where the Hawks have the best record in the Eastern Conference and are the only team to have punched their ticket for the playoffs with a hefty 18 games still remaining in the regular season. They produced four all-stars — a club record. They’ve had a 19 game winning streak, tied for the sixth longest in NBA history. I never would have believed such success was possible 10 years ago.

The credit has to go to Head Coach Mike Budenholzer and the players who have adopted his “team first” mentality. His leadership is a perfect example to any leader in any walk of life on how to turn a team into something greater than the sum of its parts. The newly found success of the team is rooted in this philosophy. For example, instead of letting players pick their lockers, or ordering them numerically or alphabetically, “Coach Bud” strategically sat each player next to one teammate they could influence and one who could influence them. He instituted team dinners after road games. The examples go on, but maybe nothing signifies the adoption of his methods more than this excerpt reported by SI.com’s Lee Jenkins:

 “Everyone is part of the shot,” [shooting guard Kyle] Korver says. “Everyone matters, and if you feel like you matter, you take ownership.”

That’s engagement, folks. Engagement isn’t about how fun your job is or how often you talk to your boss. It’s about your employees knowing that they matter. Employees who feel valued are more productive and happy people. This is what every boss should aim for, not just the ones on the hardcourt.

If you’re a business owner or you lead a team, take notes from Coach Bud. Think about the little things. Heck, even team meals and seating arrangements apply to many offices. Engage your team and you might discover that you have more all-stars than you thought.

MLS in ATL: Engaging Fans

Almost a year ago, Major League Soccer announced its landmark decision that saw Atlanta, Ga., a city that hardly screams “soccer passion,” as the host of its next expansion franchise. With the new club starting from scratch, I wrote last year that this would be a case study for any business owner interested in brand building.

The club, led by Owner Arthur Blank and General Manager Darren Eagles (who has experience in the English Premier League), has enlisted the help of the city’s main soccer support group, Terminus Legion, to involve the fans in the club’s formative stage. It’s a wise move, which I’ll explain later, but first here’s some background on what’s happened.

Terminus Legion conducted a multi-stage poll that was open to the public for voting on the team name. The group posted regular updates, were quick to respond to voters with questions (I was one), and finally posted a comprehensive results summary. From the onset, Terminus Legion made it clear that their poll was not the end all be all, but would give the owners and club leaders a thorough insight into what the fans wanted or didn’t want. In short, the club created an open channel for dialogue with the public.

The Atlanta MLS team has utilized the passion Terminus Legion members have for soccer and used them as a channel to communicate with fans. Some members are pictured here during the MLS announcement last year.

The fact that the club is not just open for fan input, but actively soliciting it is a great omen. They are engaging a market to which they will be selling a product. Getting the market involved with the vision and direction of the club will give the fans ownership and a vested interest. Fans that feel this way will do more than just buy tickets — they will actively market the club 24/7 talking with their friends and colleagues.

Engaging someone else, whether it’s a colleague, a business partner, or even your sales target empowers those people. It gives them a sense of purpose. It inspires them. It makes them proud. And in the end, from a business owner’s perspective, it increases profits. Colleagues that are engaged with their work are going to be more productive. Period.

The Atlanta MLS team continues to be a great case study for business owners. How this team — in essence, its own company — operates is more public than what we’d normally get to see. Not only that, but you’re seeing it run by one of the most successful businessman in recent years. Be ready to take notes along with me, because class is in session.

Do you have any interesting ideas the club could use to further engage its fans? Let me know at joe.patrick@insight-communication.com.

New Year, Fresh Start

The first Monday morning after the holidays is a long day.  Here’s a little inspiration.  A new year is a clean slate, a new beginning.  Make the most of it.

On this day: 

Mend a quarrel

Search out a forgotten friend

Dismiss a suspicion and replace it with trust

Write a letter to someone you miss

Encourage a youth who has lost his way

Keep a promise

Forget an old grudge

Examine your demands on others and vow to reduce them

Fight for a principle

Express your gratitude

Overcome a fear

Take two minutes to appreciate the beauty of nature

Tell someone you love them

-(Author Unknown)

 

Share your story with me!  Contact Maureen at maureen.clayton@insight-communication.com.

 

How Business Leaders Can Apply Army Leadership Principles

Image of human palm with trust written on itMy first day of Army Basic Training was pretty memorable for a couple of reasons. One: it was the last time I ever cried in the Army (maybe I’ll tell you that part of the story another time). And two: it taught me the power of metaphor in action.

 That morning, I watched with the other females in my platoon as our male counterparts marched into a little room sporting Flock of Seagulls haircuts, mullets, and other deeply individual ‘dos and then filed out one by one onto the bleachers opposite us, shorn of their individuality, all wearing fresh “induction cuts” and solemn faces. You’re in the Army now, Soldier.

What I only vaguely understood that day was that this simple, symbolic act was the beginning of a time-honored process that—over the next grueling 10 weeks—would transform a bunch of rag-tag  late teens and twenty-somethings into a cohesive band of brothers and sisters who would learn to trust themselves, their battle buddies, and their leaders with their lives.  I would learn what kind of leadership it takes to create bonds that sometimes last a lifetime and push us beyond the limits of our physical and mental endurance.  Our leaders got us to run hard, shoot straight and have each others’ backs all while we endured constant misery and sleep deprivation.

The time-tested systems and processes the Army has in place for getting things done are documented in triplicate, but  inspiring and nurturing that kind of trust and extraordinary effort is more about principles than process. Though Army leadership techniques are not always directly transferable to the business world, key principles are applicable to any leader, anywhere.

In an article written for Harvard Business Publishing, Army psychologist Lieutenant Colonel Diane Ryan identifies three key elements of Army leadership principles that help create phenomenal trust: 

  • Shared values
  • Relationships that foster cooperation
  • Perceived competence

Genuine competence is obviously a necessity for gaining the respect and trust of peers and employees in any business. Relationships that foster cooperation begin with mutual respect and shared experience. And when corporate, leadership, and employee values are aligned and everyone is taking action and communicating from those values, you have an unstoppable tour de force that can accomplish extraordinary things under extraordinary circumstances.

How do you create trust and inspire employees to give their best? More transparent communications are a good start.  Contact us to start the conversation.


 


Qualities to Look for in a Communications Consultant

Recently a friend of mine decided it was time to get a new job.  He wasn’t feeling fulfilled at his current job and wanted a position that he felt better matched his skill set.  He decided he wanted to get into a new field of work but wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to do.  After an extensive job hunt he decided to take a position at a restaurant staffing company.  He enjoys working with others and has worked in the restaurant industry previously so this new position was a great fit for him.Illustration of the skills involved with consulting

This got me thinking.  What skills would a recruiter look for if they were trying to place someone in a communications consulting position?

The first skill that comes to mind is the ability to work well with others.  Collaboration is key when working on communications for your clients.  You must be able to listen to, speak to, and get along with all kinds of people with differing ideas and opinions.  It seems almost redundant to say but your communication skills must be very strong.

You must have strong leadership skills.  When a company hires a consultant they expect you to come in and fix a part of their business that may not be reaching its potential.  You need to be able to take charge of the situation and provide them with a fountain of creative solutions for them to choose from.

You must be a problem solver.  One thing that I learned early on working in communications consulting was that things rarely ever go as planned.  Thing will change at the drop of a hat and usually right before your deadline.  You need be able to think on your feet, be flexible and generate solutions to problems that arise.

These are just a few skills that I have found useful in my time working in communications consulting.  When you are considering hiring an agency or communications consultant, keep these characteristics in mind. What are some skills that you would look for in a communications consultant? Please share them with me at ben.clayton@insight-communication.com

Disengaged Millenial Employees: Whose fault is it and does it matter?

Image of millenials with questions
Are Millennials the problem? Or is it the way they're being managed?

 

If you work in any sort of white-collar environment, you’ve probably heard bosses ponder how to engage their workers, in particular, the youngest of those cutely nicknamed “Millennials.” The more experienced members of the labor force are often the first to tell you that Millennials are spoiled, lazy, etc. (Full Disclosure: I’m a Millennial) So what are the effects of having an unmotivated generation of workers, who’s problem is it, and how do we fix it?

While researching for this post, I came across an article on Forbes.com by Kathy Caprino entitled “Quit Trying to ‘Engage’ Millenials.” To summarize (or TL:DR for our Millennial readers), Mrs. Caprino states that Millennials can actually be productive members of your team, but only if they’re “properly managed” (sounds like engagement to me). However, I found this quote from her piece shocking:

“Your Millennials chose to apply for a job with your company and probably want to succeed or, at minimum, keep their jobs. They engaged you first, so stop assuming that you have hired a bunch of digi-zombies who must be engaged.”

This is an extremely poor characterization of not just Millennials, but anyone coming to work for a company. I will give Caprino a pass though, considering she goes on to describe ways “to attract, manage and retain [read: engage] Gen Y effectively.”

Millennials aren’t different from any other generation in that we all need to be engaged in what we do to be the most effective. Robert Hall, author of “The Disengagement Economy,” recently blogged about the engagement crisis we are facing. Below is a summary of his findings:

Gallup reports 70 percent of employees are not engaged in their work, 18 percent of which are actively disengaged. What’s even more disturbing is that this trend is following workers out of the office. Divorce rates have doubled over the past five decades. Divorced men are depressed at six times the rate of those who aren’t. Marriage is down 50 percent since 1970. Single-parent families have jumped 700% since the 1970s. And to bring it back to the youngsters, Millennials are rejecting marriage, political parties, religious affiliation, corporate organizations and trust in others at unprecedented levels. What’s the cost of all this disengagement, you ask? Researchers estimate $4.7 trillion.

Now think again about Caprino’s article, “Quit trying to engage Millennials.” I don’t know about you, but it infuriates me that people think this way. That leaders think it’s not their job to motivate. It’s not their job to sacrifice for lower earners. That, to quote Caprino again, “They engaged you first, so stop assuming that you have hired a bunch of digi-zombies who must be engaged.” Pretty infuriating, right?

The onus of engagement is on the leaders of businesses. Someone shouldn’t be called a leader because they have a fancy title. They should be called a leader because they motivate, empathize and inspire their colleagues.

Do you employ or manage Millennials? How do you engage your Millennial employees? Share your experience with me at joe.patrick@insight-communication.com.