Posts filed under ‘Leadership’
Mr. Santorum’s “snob” remark about higher education is getting push back from surprising quarters. That’s because millions of Americans look to higher education as a way to pull their families forward both economically, and in increased job satisfaction. While fewer than one third of Americans hold a B.A. or higher, 75% of Americans polled believe that a college education is “very important” in today’s economy. And 92 percent of public school parents believe that their children will go to college. (Both stats from Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll, September 2010) That’s because they know intuitively the what many of us in my region show students through a program called Achievement Counts (AC), created by the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education (yup, a group of business executives). That is, that with every year of schooling you get beyond high school, your job opportunities and income level increase. Despite his rhetoric, Mr. Santorum knows this, given the millions he’s made as a Washington, D.C. consultant with his B.A., J.D. and M.B.A. When I’ve led these brief AC classes at my local high schools, I always poll the kids about what they want to be when they graduate. Many of them plan to play in the NBA or NFL. “What if you get injured?” I ask, knowing it’s hopeless to make the case that a tiny fraction of American athletes could ever even qualify. That’s when a light-bulb goes off for a few of the kids. If you like the science of the body and athletics, I say, consider getting trained in Physical Therapy, one of the fastest-growing careers in the country. (This requires a minimum Associates Dgree to be an Assistant, and a full B.A. and post-graduate work to become a PT.) Maybe it’s worth getting an accounting degree (B.A. and CPA license required), so you could help those NFL guys manage their millions. Maybe you might even want to go into business for yourself—so you could buy your own team one day!
Mr. Santorum’s father was an Italian immigrant. My dad’s grandparents immigrated from Italy a generation earlier. And while my grandmother completed junior high and my grandfather elementary school, it was a point of great pride that they were able to send their son to college. He worked the entire time he attended Fordham University (run by the Jesuits, hardly the bastion of radicalism Santorum paints for campus life), driving a laundry truck to deliver linens to the fancy yachts at the docks on the river. He told me once that while it was tough to get up so early to make his deliveries and still stay awake for classes, the job reminded him of the tedium he could avoid by getting that college degree. He went on to get a graduate degree from Columbia in Economics and worked as an economist his entire life.
The road through high school is hard for many kids. College is not for everyone. But getting a foothold in 21st century life requires more training than a high school degree can offer. Mr. Santorum knows it. And those of us who care about and work in the education field need to keep reminding Americans that higher education is a brand worth celebrating.
More and more companies are turning to video as a way to communicate with customers, vendors and the general public. Often the CEO finds him or herself front and center. What can you do to make your leader come across better on camera? Here are five tips from my work coaching on-camera performances from a wide range of national and international leaders.
Hire a makeup artist. Often makeup is an after thought or considered to be “only powder,” but a makeup professional—one who is trained for on-camera uses, not salon or theatrical makeup—can make all the difference in how your CEO looks and feels. He or she also has tools to keep bald pates from looking shiny, can keep shirts from wrinkling, and ties from drifting. A good makeup artist is also a conversationalist, making your leader feel more comfortable before the camera. The $600 day rate is well worth it!
Have the CEO review the script ahead of time. Often whoever has written the script will keep it from the CEO until the last moment, trying to avoid a lot of revisions or politics. The result is your on-air talent is now not fully comfortable with the copy. This tends to lead to more mistakes and copy changes while the cameras (and dollars) are rolling. Making sure your CEO has seen the copy and is comfortable with the style of language. Making the the verbage both accurate but also conversational and easy to say out loud will be critical to your success.
Choose clothing that works for Television. If your CEO is more comfortable in shirt sleeves, don’t make him put on a jacket. If she loves wearing bold colors, bring them on. But avoid tight herringbone patterns in jackets and ties, as these can cause a “moray” or shifting of the lights and darks back and forth when they conflict with scan lines on a monitor. Shooting in High Def can minimize this, but it’s best to be safe.
Use a Teleprompter…Sometimes. If your CEO is comfortable with a teleprompter and there is a lot of copy, it’s best to use one. Teleprompters are designed to fit over the lense of a camera so that the eye line of the individual speaking goes directly to the viewing audience. I’ve often done training sessions with teleprompters ahead of time, so leaders with less experience feel better stepping on stage and before the cameras. If your CEO is happy with bullet points, those can also go up on a prompter.
Keep Everyone Out of the Eyeline. Often a CEO has various press secretaries, assistants, consultants, etc. who must be present any on-camera appearance. Do your best to keep them out of his or her eye line during taping. They can often become an unintentional distraction. They can also raise the anxiety level of someone without extensive on camera experience. A calm and focused CEO is one who comes across with confidence.
If you have a story about putting your CEO or other leadership on camera but you’d rather stay anonymous here, feel free to share them with me at amy [at] amydelouise [dot] com.
With Hurricane Irene bearing down on us and news stations blaring 24/7 about the states of emergency being declared all around us, my husband and I dutifully prepared. Battery backup for the sump pump-check. Backup pump-check. Sandbags around the pump hole-check. Bottled water-check. Canned food-check. Flashlights-check. Candles-check. Then we headed to the liquor store to stock up for a hurricane dinner party (hey, we live inland, we had to have some fun).
As it turned out, Irene was a flop–at least in our area. But the preparations and evacuations were reminders of the Katrina legacy. Understandably, no one wanted to repeat those horrific scenes of people who could not be rescued for days. But how would people now respond to what now appeared to be an overblown response?
In some ways, the situation was like a real life drill, so we could see how things worked. Did our governance structures allow for quick response? Did our communications pathways let us reach affected stakeholders quickly? I was interested to watch each mayor, governor and federal agency leader acting out their own crisis response plan. Which made me think of the top four things organization can do to be prepared for communicating in a crisis:
1. Build multiple pathways to your customers. Be able to reach them via text, phone, cellphone or email. But boots on the ground may be necessary as well. Newark New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker actually knocked on doors to get people to evacuate. (I noticed he also responded directly to a constituent on Twitter who was worried about his mother’s loss of power and offered to go check on her.) Reinforce the pathways to vital communications by not overwhelming them with junk, or they won’t respond when you need them to. In my area, PEPCO left voicemail for customers warning them about possible power outages. This was useful. But part of the message suggested checking the PEPCO website for updates. Oops.
2. Develop a quick-response team. This may not just be top organizational leadership. It may include others who can connect to different parts of your staff or customer base. Prepare the team on how to respond to media inquiries. Ultimately you may bring on a crisis PR group to help, but in the initial hours your own team will need to handle the job. One person should be the “face” of the organization if you must go on television. This was one of the big missteps during the BP oil spill crisis. For days and days, there were multiple people at the microphone, resulting in coverage that said “who’s in charge here, anyway?”
3. People come first. Not your company/entity. That means being as honest as possible in responses, as timely as possible, and as transparent as possible about your process for fixing the problem. The gold standard of crisis response remains the Tylenol tampering scare of 1982. The fact that they responded quickly, put safety first, and changed their packaging were both smart moves for the brand and for the customers.
4. Maintain post-crisis communications. Tell the story of what happened, what you did about it, what you could have done better, and what worked. Giving your narrative and keeping the communications lines open after a crisis builds trust for future response. This may be some of the hardest work ahead for the folks responding to Irene. Mayor Bloomberg will have a delicate messaging job to do in the coming hours and days to ensure New Yorkers don’t roll their eyes the next time he or a future Mayor orders an evacuation. It may not matter today, but it could save future lives if he does it right.
It’s August and time to kick-start the work of September. Many companies and boards are launching their summer retreats. Why not make this one an “advance” on your agenda instead? Having led many such working groups, here are a few tips to making it a better experience for all.
1. Move Out of Comfort Zones. Remember Family Systems Theory? Just like families, boards of directors and staff function according to rules (spoken and unspoken), patterns, relationships and boundaries. Creating a retreat with more interactive time and fewer presentations, mixing up people who wouldn’t otherwise sit together, and using physical spaces that allow people to connect more personally—i.e. no big long tables—can radically change the outcomes of your time spent together.
2. Engage an Outside Facilitator. Experienced outsiders can offer a new perspective. But even more importantly, they can cut through some of the habits your group may have formed that can sometimes diminish productivity and creativity by drawing out different voices (see below) and using techniques to guide the conversation towards implementable tasks. Plus, using an outside person adds some entertainment value–it’s not the same boss/board chair/department head they are accustomed to hearing from. So this is not just self-promotional talk. (Though if you’d like to vet a project with me, please do shoot me an email at amy [at] amydelouise [dot] com!)
3. Encourage New Voices. Often we lean on leaders to, well, lead. They are the ones everyone looks to at the end of the meeting to say what they think or what should happen next. Not so at a retreat. In this environment, they should hang back and allow other voices to come forward. They will get more fodder for what they ultimately need to accomplish this way.
4. Think Out of the Box. Use exercises that encourage your group to look beyond what they already know. I like to use case studies from competitors, or even from industry groups or organizations in a completely different business area as a jumping off point. I’m also a fan of giving teams different problems to solve with only certain tools they are allowed to use to solve them. The goal is creative thinking, not same thinking.
5. Plan for Implementation. There’s nothing worse than spending the day at a workshop and finding that Absolutely Nothing Happens with all those little sticky pad notes and flip charts you filled up. Spend a good chunk of time at the end of each day (or end of the retreat) planning how to implement the ideas and suggestions made there. Who is responsible for what? Is there a need for a small sub-group to help organize and re-distribute the information? What happens next?
Retreats are great. Advances are even better. Go for it!
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As part of my series of guest posts from colleagues here is contribution from Kim Foley, president of Professional Image Strategies. Kim teaches credibility workshops for organizations, as well as being a television stylist and author. In a world filled with casual Friday attire, I though she could shed some light on the relationship between branding and credibility.
Everyday my challenge is to help my clients be seen as the credible experts they are. Whether my client is on the cover of a magazine or professional journal, being interviewed on television, or executing a presentation or speech, it is critical that their visual message supports and enhances their verbal message. Think about it – have you ever been watching a TV interview and wondered, “Where in the heck did they dig this person up?”
Your credentials and reputation are only part of the story when it comes to credibility and branding. It is far too easy to dismiss those who do not conform to the picture we carry in our heads of a credible person. All societies and tribes have cultural, unspoken rules about what communicates integrity, and garners trust from those around us. Everyday we all have the opportunity to either enhance or to sabotage our personal brand. The hard truth is – it is impossible to inspire or persuade others if they do not see us as having credibility.
The fight or flight reaction is still part of our primal response. The result of this response in modern times is to either confront or disengage from those whom we do not trust. Everyday in the workplace there are lost opportunities and derailed dreams all because of a person’s credibility. Those with questionable credibility will not get the job promotion they are seeking; those running for office will not get elected; and those trying to sell, persuade or lead will be left feeling confused about why they are powerless.
So how do you assess your own credibility factor, or the credibility factor of those who are representing your organization? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What is driving your ‘look’? Is it style? Comfort? Or is it (as it should be) credibility. Successful people are intentional about their choice of clothes, shoes, hairstyle and accessories, and credibility is their motivator.
- What are the cultural expectations for your profession or position? When you are introduced to a person of influence, do you fit their view of what a “_____” should look like? Is your look too casual? Is your wardrobe up to date?
- Do you understand the subliminal statements of color? Everything from the color of your tie to the color of your organization’s logo should be chosen with care. They are making impressions on the minds of those you meet, visit your websites and receive your brochures. What is the message you want to communicate? Is it strength and power? Is it reliability and trust? The color and design you choose will either support or negate that message.
- Do you know what your clothing is saying? Your outward appearance is like the frame on an artist’s masterpiece. It should be complementary, without distracting the eye of the viewer. You want them to remember you, not what you were wearing. Your visual message must support your verbal message.
The assumptions that people make about us when we are first introduced are critically important. These assumptions, or stories, that are constructed in people’s minds, strongly influence whom they do business with, whom they take seriously and whom they desire to build a relationship with. We need to take control of that story. We need to carefully craft the message that we project.
If we want people to perceive us as a person or an organization of value and integrity, someone they can trust, then we need to understand the value of appearance when we are planning and implementing branding. When we don’t take the time and effort to create the visuals that match the message we desire to portray, we make a subliminal statement to everyone around us about how little value we place on ourselves and the organization that we represent. When we acknowledge the role appearance plays, we can support our personal and professional brand.
Organizations who want to maximize their marketing communications need to consider two major assets they already have in-house: younger people with knowledge of social media and mobile web and more seasoned employees who understand the organizational brand, the marketplace, and the clients. Together they could communicate like gangbusters. But for many reasons, they often don’t connect.
Consider changing that by offering a mentoring program in your work community. And not just around the areas of primary market or mission.
So for example, while many law firms have a mentoring program related to practice areas, what they could really use is pairing younger and more experienced attorneys for the purposes of marketing the practice groups. The older attorneys have loads of contacts and knowledge about client needs. They have been involved with local charities and chambers of commerce for years and have a personal brand in the community. They can make introductions and give the lay of the land to newer attorneys.
Younger members of the firm are on Facebook and Twitter. They know how to download apps for mobile web. They have good ideas about how to make your website more useful. They may understand more about online communities and how to engage them. They may also be involved with charities, but in a different way through groups like http://www.crowdrise.org.
The most successful organizations–and also nonprofit boards–pair these groups together both formally and informally to get the best of both worlds. Consider a retreat where pairs consider ways to reach new clients/donors. Send them out together to social functions on behalf of the firm. Offer them seats together at conferences and workshops and encourage the cross-pollinization. Have a younger staffer help a seasoned one with Twitter or Facebook posts on behalf of the organization. Let the more experienced team member coach a younger one on how to engage a new client or donor.
In talking about diversity, we often forget how age-ist our corporate cultures can be. It’s time for a change!
Doctors explaining Gabrielle Giffords’ seemingly amazing transition on the path to recovery after her gunshot wound have credited “neuroplasticity,” or the ability of the brain to compensate for damage by at least partly rewiring itself and assigning new tasks to undamaged regions. It made me think about many organizations I know–including my own business–that were forced to “rewire” when the economic downturn hit. Now we’re on the road to recovery, how much of this flexibility can and should we retain?
People: During the downturn, many of my clients became super-multi-taskers (they were already multi-tasking plenty). When their staff and colleagues were “downsized,” they suddenly found themselves doing additional jobs–sometimes ones they had given up years before. They had to re-learn old skills and acquire new ones. They had to plug into the hierarchy in new ways. I did the same when I became a solo practitioner, after years of running a multi-person studio. Skills I’d like to keep: teaming with clients and vendors, avoiding bureaucracy, and using technology to work efficiently. Skills I’d like to lose: making my own coffee (so far, successfully outsourced to my husband and 12-year-old!)
Leadership: The downturn seemed to bring more collaborative leadership styles, perhaps due to a de-layering of the intervening bureaucracy. Many nonprofits became more tuned in to the skills of their boards, and tried to tap them more effectively. Leaders had to become more strategic about financial management and fundraising, and make up for lost staff talents. Skill to keep: Board and Leadership engagement with the mission and strategy. Skill to lose: Board involvement in day-to-day decisions.
Money: Several organizations I work with lost revenue sources, but through quick adaptation and administrative and board engagement were able to develop new ones. In my business model I did the same–adding more workshops and brand consulting to a mix that had included mainly video and multi-media production. Skills to keep: Making the money last longer. Skills to lose: Under-charging, and penny-pinching that means the end product suffers and the brand takes a hit.
Time: As a corollary to shrinking staffs and less money, we all came to stretch how much time we spent at work. We are, after all, the “most productive” country in the world. Or so we think. Skill to keep: Efficiency. Skill to lose: So much multi-tasking that we aren’t thoughtful and creative.
What skill did you gain during the downturn and do you want to keep it or lose it?