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Ducks in a Row: Filler Word Help

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/44412176@N05/4197328040/Yesterday I cited John Mackey’s town hall speech as an example of poor communication, even at ­CEO level.

Saturday Business Insider was kind enough to post this video on how and why to stop using filler words, especially in a professional setting as you can clearly see in the transcript of Mackey’s speech.

Not motivated? Then focus on the fact that filler words make you sound dumb.

Image credit: gorfor  

Golden Oldies: Hiring Newbies

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

I wrote this post four years ago; the problem wasn’t new then and its gotten progressively worse since.

People today, not just Millennials and not all Millenials, don’t communicate well. People at all ages and levels, including CEOs are poor commicators — and if you doubt that, take a look at Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s speech at the town hall meeting after the Amazon acquisition. Written communications aren’t much of an improvement, even ignoring grammar and spelling errors, they often have little clarity, flow, or even coherence.

Texting has resulted in still worse writing, especially as people disperse with details like capital letters that can totally change the meaning.

“Capitalization is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse and helping your uncle jack off a horse.”

And thanks to the overall focus on STEM education you can expect it to get even worse.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/evoo73/9140462500/Do you groan at the thought of having to hire and manage new-to-the-workforce people?

Do you wonder what’s wrong with today’s college graduates?

If so, remember two things.

  1. The problems are not a product of your imagination.
  2. You are not alone.

Multiple studies find the same problems I hear first-hand from managers.

“When it comes to the skills most needed by employers, job candidates are lacking most in written and oral communication skills, adaptability and managing multiple priorities, and making decisions and problem solving.”  –special report by The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace

“Problems with collaboration, interpersonal skills, the ability to deal with ambiguity, flexibility and professionalism.” –Mara Swan, the executive vice president of global strategy and talent at Manpower Group

What’s changed?

Helicopter parents, crowdsourced decisions, me/my world focus, and the constant noise that prevents thinking.

The result is that many new hires require remedial actions from already overloaded mangers that go well beyond the professional growth coaching that typifies the best managers.

Flickr image credit: evoo73

Why Fake News Spreads

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

Fake news is on everybody’s mind these days.

Where does it come from?

How does it start?

Is it intentional? An accident? Honest error based on erroneous assumption?

A few days after Donald Trump was elected, 35-year-old Eric Tucker saw something suspicious: A cavalcade of large white buses stretched down main street near downtown Austin, Texas.

Tucker snapped a few photos and took to Twitter, posting the following message:

Tucker was wrong — a company called Tableau Software was actually holding a 13,000-person conference that day and had hired the buses.

OK, a wrong assumption by a social guy who had to tell his network.

But why didn’t the actual facts refute it when they were tweeted?

A new study published June 26 in the journal Nature looks into why fake posts like Tucker’s can go so viral.

Economists concluded that it comes down to two factors. First, each of us has limited attention. Second, at any given moment, we have access to a lot of information — arguably more than at any previous time in history. Together, that creates a scenario in which facts compete with falsehoods for finite mental space. Often, falsehoods win out.

Also, people consider the source of information more than the info itself. Trusted source = valid info.

The tweet was shared 350,000 times on Facebook and 16,000 and Trump added his two cents.

The corrected information was shared only 29 times.

Why didn’t Tucker tweet his network a correction when he it turned out to be false?

“I’m … a very busy businessman and I don’t have time to fact-check everything that I put out there, especially when I don’t think it’s going out there for wide consumption,”

In other words, he couldn’t be bothered.

Research and economists aside, Tucker provided the real key.

People aren’t bothered whether it’s true or not.

They just care that they get their 15 seconds of fame.

Image credit: Business Insider

Golden Oldies: Does Education = Thinking?

Monday, June 26th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies are a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

With the rise of tech and AI, there’s a big question on what education will give kids a leg up in the future. Pundits and media focus almost exclusively on STEM to boost career opportunities, but is STEM really the answer? What should Gen Z and the following generations study now to assure themselves of a career path in the future? And what is the downside of continuing our current approach?

Join me tomorrow for a look at the kind of education that solves the future, while assuring the continuation of our democracy.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeanlouis_zimmermann/3042615083/Today I have a question for you, what is the real point of education?

Bill Gates emphasizes “work-related learning, arguing that education investment should be aimed at academic disciplines and departments that are “well-correlated to areas that actually produce jobs.””

Steve Jobs says, “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing…”

So is the end goal of education to provide the knowledge, skills and tools to work or to teach critical thinking.

The choice is likely to be described as pragmatic and based on available funding.

Years ago a successful business executive I know commented that if people had full bellies, a job and a bit left over to see a movie now and then at the time of the election, then the party in power would be reelected, but if the reverse was happening they would “throw the bums out.”

There are more sinister reasons to find a positive way to avoid graduating legions of critical thinkers.

  • Non-thinkers don’t make waves.
  • Non-thinkers follow the pack.
  • Non-thinkers are easier to control.
  • Thinkers are more creative and innovative.
  • Thinkers are more likely to reject ideology.
  • Thinkers are more willing to take risks.

You have only to look at what is going on in the world to see the effects of an empty belly and education, formal or not, grounded in questions, not answers.

What do you think?

Flickr image credit: jean-louis Zimmermann

Ryan’s Journal: Partnership

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ksrecomm/6147266596/

Partnership is an aspect of culture that I think could be explored further.

We all have partners we deal with in life that range from personal to professional. And isn’t it nice to have a partner throughout your day? Someone to help shoulder the burden?

But there is a fine line between a partnership and a parasite and it’s important to remember the distinction.

I work in a partnership daily. My company, Flycast Partners, is a partner of several large scale software vendors. We work hand in hand daily to increase sales, provide services and support. We are essentially an extension of the vendor and work hard on maintaining those partnerships.

This past week my company had the honor of being named partner of the year for North America by BMC software. It was a surprise and unexpected. We are only about 70 strong right now and there are partners that are much larger than we are.

We asked why we were chosen. Was it revenue? Was it the number of accounts we grew? Was it some other tangible thing?

The simple answer was none of that. We didn’t bring in the most revenue or the most new accounts. What we brought was a trusted partnership.

BMC Software is the 7th largest software company in the world and their CEO personally said it was because they knew we acted in the best interest of the customer and BMC.

What drove us to this place?

For one, integrity. The president of my company, Nathan George, believes that you should be honest in all dealings, meet your commitments and do what you say you will do.

He hires based on those criteria. To me these are fairly simple concepts, but not always followed. It would be easy to take the low road sometimes, but not sustainable.

We have competition out there, but we don’t dwell on them. We work on building relationships and providing value.

This is an instance where the partnership benefits both parties.

Next week I will highlight where a partnership can turn parasitic.

Flickr image credit: K-State Research

Ducks in a Row: Say Hello To Generation Z

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kathryn-wright/27567185716/Companies and bosses have struggled over the last decade or so learning how to attract, manage and retain millennial workers.

Long before that they had to learn to manage Boomers — the original me generation.

This is a generation, after all, that thinks of itself as “forever young,” even as some near 70. Most of all, what came across onscreen as well as in Greenfield-Sanders’ portraits was an unapologetic affirmation of the essential Boomer mantra—yes, it is still all about ME.

Then came Gen X, the supposed slackers who are now running things.

For a small, and supposedly lost, generation, Gen X’ers have found their way to positions of power. (…)Gen X’ers, incidentally, are among the most highly educated generation in the U.S.: 35% have college degrees vs. 19% of Millennials.

We all know that everything moves faster these days — whether products, attitudes — or generations.

So, without more ado, meet Generation Z, which encompasses those born between 1995 and the early 2000s.

They present a new challenge to bosses, especially since they bear little resemblance to Millennials.

The question for most bosses and bosses-to-be is this: having finally wrapped their heads around Millennial dos and don’ts is it worth the effort to add Gen Z to the repertoire?

Unequivocally yes.

Actually, you don’t have much choice, since there are 79 million (and counting) of them.

Image credit: Kathryn Yengel

Golden Oldies: Discriminating Leadership and Influence, Persuasion and Manipulation

Monday, May 8th, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of some of the best posts during that time.

This week is a two-fer, the first post was written in 2009, while the second is from 2015. Both contain links to other relevant posts. And both address a pet peeve of mine involving words — what else — their use, misuse and baggage.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

Discriminating Leadership

The ability to influence is not the sign of a leader; nor are visions, forceful opinions, board seats, titles or popularity. After all, if a high media profile was a sign of leadership then Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are leaders.

Millions of people are influenced and even inspired by writers and actors, but does that make them leaders? Angelina Jolie is considered a leader for her tireless charitable efforts as opposed to her screen credits; Rush Limbaugh may influence thousands, but I’ve never heard him called a leader.

It is the singular accomplishments; the unique actions that deserve the term, not the position you hold or just doing your job.

I knew a manager who thought his major accomplishment was managing his 100 person organization, but that wasn’t an accomplishment—that was his job. The accomplishment, and what qualified him as a leader, was doing it for four years with 3% turnover and every project finished on time and in budget.

Jim Stroup over at Managing Leadership (no longer available) wrote, “There is a strong and general instinct to ascribe positive values to what we have determined to be examples of leadership. In a world that so often confuses forcefulness with leadership, this can be – and frequently is, in fact, revealed to be – an exceedingly dangerous habit… There is a particularly frustrating – and increasing – tendency to characterize any practice or trait deemed “good” as “leadership.” When an executive exhibits behavior that is highly valued – or even expresses a perfectly ordinary one especially well – he or she is declared to be a “leader,” or to have demonstrated “leadership.”

Dozens of corporate chieftains who were held up for years as exemplifying visionary leadership now stand in line for bailout money—or dinner in jail.

There is no way to stop the word being used and abused, but you have the option to hear it for what it really is—a word with no baggage, no assumed meaning.

A word on which you focus your critical thinking instead of accepting it blindly, assuming that all its traits are positive or rejecting it based on nothing more than ideology.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aafromaa/4476152633Influence, Persuasion and Manipulation

Last week I had lunch with four managers, “Larry,” “Mandy,” “Paul” and “Ashish.” At one point the conversation turned to how the ability to influence people affected the ability to lead.

It was a lively conversation, but I stayed on the sidelines; noticing my silence, Ashish asked me what I thought.

Instead of responding I asked all of them what the difference was between influence, persuasion and manipulation.

This provoked another active discussion, with the upshot that while it was acceptable to influence people it was wrong to manipulate them. This time it was Mandy who asked what I thought.

I responded that I didn’t see a lot of difference between the three.

That shocked them all, but really upset Larry.

So I explained my thinking, which formed the basis of this post in 2011.

Influence = Manipulation

Every conversation about leadership talks about ‘influence’ and how to increase yours.

In a post at Forbes, Howard Scharlatt defines influence this way,

Influence is, simply put, the power and ability to personally affect others’ actions, decisions, opinions or thinking. At one level, it is about compliance, about getting someone to go along with what you want them to do.

He goes on to describe three kinds of influencing tactics: logical, emotional and cooperative, or influencing with head, heart and hands and talks about ‘personal influence’ and its importance in persuading people when authority is lacking.

A couple of years ago I wrote The Power of Words and said, “Personally, other than socially acceptable definitions, I don’t see a lot of difference between influence and manipulation,” and I still don’t.

I realize most people consider manipulation negative and influence positive, but they are just words.

I often hear that leaders are good people, while manipulators are bad people. But as I pointed out in another post,

leaders are not by definition “good;”

they aren’t always positive role models; and

one person’s “good” leader is another person’s demon.

Everyone believes they use their influence in a positive way, but when you persuade people to do [whatever] who are you to say that both the short and long-term outcome is positive for them?

Influence, persuasion, manipulation; call it what you will, just remember that it is power and be cautious when you wield it.

In spite of the heated disagreement I saw no reason to change my thinking.

I was surprised at the end of the discussion when even Larry commented that while it made sense that the words didn’t actually signal intent he still didn’t like it and wasn’t about to use them interchangeably, which made sense to me, because language carries the meaning (and the baggage) of the time and place in which it’s used.

Image credit: Anne Adrian

Story Power

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Ask any 21st Century marketer about brand building and they will tell you ‘it’s all about the story’.

Every brand works to tell stories that draw people in; that they want to share.

The obvious social deafness of major brands is hard to fathom, with Nivea and Pepsi being two of the most recent.

Nivea’s “White is Purity” ad was pulled and the entire campaign canceled two days after its appearance on Facebook.

The company provided what has come to be a boilerplate apology.

“We are deeply sorry to anyone who may take offense to this specific post,” the company said in a statement. “Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of Nivea.”

Within days it was Pepsi on the social media hot seat for an incredibly insensitive, incredibly white ad focusing on the Black Lives Matter protests.

The ad was pulled in hours, although, as you can see, nothing posted is ever truly deleted; here is Pepsi’s gussied up version of the boilerplate apology.

“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. “We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout.”

Nivea’s story was from an agency, while Pepsi’s was developed in-house.

While I’m no fan of social media in general and its penchant for spreading fake news, in this case the lightening reactions actually did some good.

Heineken is another story (pun intended) entirely and has the awards to prove it, so it isn’t surprising that it was Heineken that successfully created the story the others screwed up so badly.

The take-away is that stories are a two-edged sword, so be sure to do them outside the echo chamber or don’t do them.

Image credit: Heineken and Team cast

Golden Oldie: When Execution is an Anagram of the Act

Monday, May 1st, 2017

It’s amazing to me, but looking back over more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of some of the best posts during that time.

Often the most important stuff we need to learn doesn’t require multiple videos, books, and coaching. Sometimes a simple memory aid that’s easy to remember will do it, although execution still requires effort and self discipline, as in this case.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rebeccabarray/8985496669/An executive once asked me what the single most import thing he should do and how best to do it.
I told him the answer was simple and the key to execution was found in an anagram of the act.
Can you guess the action and anagram?
The action is to LISTEN.
The anagram is SILENT.
The first is impossible without doing the second.
Flickr image credit: RebeccaBarray

Ryan’s Journal: Musings on A Tough Week For PR

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tofu_mugwump/25716292035/

This past week we had one bad press event after another and all from different sectors. Let’s review what has transpired so far: Pepsi decided to release an ad that equated the giving of a Pepsi to a police officer as the answer to the protests that have occurred.

It was looked, at the very least, tone deaf, but was also offensive to many who felt Pepsi was attempting to capitalize on societal events that have true impacts.

Our President’s Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, somehow thought it was a clever idea to bring up Hitler as an example of how he was better than the current Syrian regime. If you missed it he essentially said that Hitler never gassed his own people, unlike what Assad has done in Syria.

A basic history lesson will show that Hitler may not have used gas attacks in a combat role but he gassed millions of innocent Jews in death camps throughout Europe. Not exactly a bastion of humanity there.

The event, however, that caught many by surprise was the viral video of a passenger being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight after it was determined that they needed his seat for an employee.

This man was already seated and refused to leave, since he was a doctor and had appointments he needed to make. When he refused to leave, the police were called and he was dragged off screaming. To make matters odder he somehow got back on the plane, bloodied and rambling.

That event was terrible, but then the CEO of United decided to double down and call the man belligerent. Since then the CEO has issued several apologies, but the damage has been done.

What do these three events have in common? I would argue that in each of these cases the leadership of the company, who typically maintains the cultural norms, has failed.

Let’s dive in and see how this could have been prevented to learn from them in the future.

Pepsi had grand ambitions to have a meaningful conversation around current events and sell their product. One critical flaw here, they utilized their in-house marketing team.

They were operating in an echo chamber with no one to tell them to stop and think for a moment. This is something I personally must do in my own life. I must seek out feedback on a continuous basis to determine if I am on the right path.

My goal for this post is not to get political, but we can look at the Sean Spicer event as a leadership problem. He was hired by Donald Trump, who already had an idea of what Sean was like. Since taking the role Sean Spicer has been in hot water several times, this being the latest in a string of gaffs.

This man is essentially the voice of our President, twitter aside. The culture of the White House has enabled him to act recklessly and uncouthly. Similar to the idea that brilliant jerks are ok, we have a similar issue at stake here.

My take-away from this is to put yourself in the shoes of your listeners. Would what you are saying be divisive to your listeners or just plain wrong?

Finally, we have the United Airlines debacle.

Now the event itself was a shock but we need to look at the response since it came to light.

The CEO started by stating the man was belligerent and the CEO supported his employee’s decisions.

I get it, you want to reassure your workforce that you have their back, but in this case the CEO was also viewing this from a legal standpoint.

There is a law that allows you to forcibly remove a passenger if he is belligerent. The CEO labeled that passenger in such a way to protect himself legally. But we all saw the video and beyond refusing to leave the man really wasn’t much of a threat.

To me, this response is indicative of both pride and attempting to cover up rather than solve. That CEO has surrounded himself with folks that are unwilling or unable to push back and offer insight.

I have done that in my own life as well and so must always reach out to those that share different opinions than I or different beliefs, so I can continue to learn.

Image credit: Topher McCulloch

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