Posts about Human Interest

If I Were 22 – Advice to Women (From LinkedIn Post)

Note:  this post previously appeared on LinkedIn’s series, If I Were 22.

Like many, I have been asked to write for LinkedIn about my advice that I would give to the new college graduates.If I were 22 @MacleanHeather

Thinking back to when I was 22, which really was not “that” long ago. At least I like to think that is the case. I was full of excitement and ideals when I graduated with my first degree. So, I will share some thoughts/advice focused on women graduates.

1. Listen – learn to really listen. Women tend to be better listeners by nature, but never lose that skill. Being able to listen to people gives you the ability to hear many things. You learn a lot about people, how they communicate and what they communicate. But really, it is more than just listening, it is also observing.

When you can listen and observe with skill, you learn more about people than you would ever expect. This skill will become increasingly important as you mature and your career grows. Never forget to listen (and observe).

2. Fight your Doubts – I recently became more aware that women have more inner doubt than men. Reading The Confidence Code has been very interesting. Many thoughts I have had over my career, I thought I was alone and never really shared my inner doubts, out of fear. Turns out that I am like every other woman I know. Over the years, I have learned to squash those thoughts and move past them, thankfully. However, I am now having those conversations to help and mentor those coming behind me.

Women don’t need to doubt their experience or expertise. We should embrace it and each other.

3. Support your Female Colleagues – The more we support and nurture each other through our careers, the better it will be for all of us, and in particular new graduates. Prove the stereotype wrong. Women can work together AND we can and do make a difference.

4. Find your Voice – Along with fighting your inner doubts and supporting your female colleagues, find your own inner voice and learn to speak up and often. I am not saying to speak just for the sake of speaking, but rather share your ideas and question practices and ideas that don’t make sense. Provide your solutions and ideas. Don’t be afraid. The worse that can happen is that someone says “no”.

5. Embrace Change – This is a bit cliche, but the only constant is change. It is true. The more comfortable I became with change, the better my career was. I could bounce back quicker from setbacks, learn new skills quicker and generally be happier than those that could not. If things aren’t changing in your career I would question that. Embracing change will always help you advance.

6. Forgive – Crap happens to everyone. Sometimes things will happen that hurt you. Sometimes things will happen to you that hurt you. Learn to forgive and move on. Learn from the experience and use it as your mature.

7. Network – This is probably one of the biggest things that women need to learn to do well. It took me quite a while to learn this and to focus on doing it. I know a lot of people and don’t have trouble meeting people, but networking is an art all on its own. Many years later I still work to hone this skill. I wish I had started to learn this just out of school! Having a solid network has come in handy for my professional goals numerous times. I am both humbled and grateful that I have made the connections I have. I have learned a lot from some pretty amazing people over my career.

8. Have Fun – Always remember to have fun and enjoy what you are doing. Life is too short to not have fun. If you aren’t having fun, you need to either create your own fun, or move on to something that will make you happy. Chance are if you are not happy, you are not operating at the best you can and you might be making others unhappy.

So, if I were 22 again, these are the things that I wish someone would have sat me down and said: “Heather, here are 8 tips you need to know, understand and live by. They will serve you well.” If only a few new graduates take this advice, I will be happy. Of course the more the merrier.

If you like this post, feel free to connect on Twitter: @MacLeanHeather

3 Reasons Why Celebrating is Important to Your Bottom Line

As I get ready to celebrate the 16th Annual Knowledge Industry Awards – the KIRAs tonight, I couldn’t help but think about how important is to really celebrate.  As individuals, it seems easier to celebrate milestones and the people in our personal lives, but how often do we really celebrate in business? Not enough in my opinion!  In fact celebrating is important to your bottom line. 

3 Reasons Why Celebrating is Important to Your Bottom Line,

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Celebrating successes, small or large, and the people you work with is definite must.  It has so many ramifications for your bottom line.  If you look at successful companies, I mean really look at successful companies, there is more to their success than just what is shown in their financial statements. And, if you add what it means for an industry, the results are amazing. So, let’s look at the top 3 reasons to celebrate and why it is important to your bottom line:

1. Improved Health

When you celebrate, you are put in a state of mind that is positive and conducive to your health results. Imagine working in an environment where people have a healthy state of mind. Productivity increases, relationships flourish and overall it is a better atmosphere.  

This is not just lip service, studies actually prove this! Even if you are just about the numbers, think about what this means to your bottom line to have happy, healthy employees.  

2.  More Camaraderie

When employees have closer relationships and more camaraderie, there is less friction and less  human resources issues to deal with. Not only does this make for an environment and culture that produces results it means driving results together.

Again, if you only care about the numbers, think about how much time your managers spend on addressing human resource issues – conflict, performance, missed time, etc. Having the right culture with camaraderie helps reduce all of these issues in the workplace, which then results in dollars shaved off of your overhead costs.

3. Banishing Failure Fear

Everyone fails at some time in your career. What sets you a part from others is how you handle. it!  You can learn a lot from failure – a lot of really great things.  (And if you have never failed, you are missing something..seriously…it build character and teaches you so much.) Additionally, what really creates a true culture of creativity is celebrating it and showing people that they can survive and you all learn from it.

For those number crunchers, again it is all about creating an environment where people produce, feel comfortable producing and therefore in a state of enhanced productivity.

So, with this in mind, stop and take the time to celebrate your small and big wins, your failures and what you have learned and most importantly – your people!  

I look forward to celebrating with New Brunswick’s IT industry tonight at the KIRA Awards.

The Sunday Brief (May 11, 2014)

Welcome to this week’s Sunday Brief.  The Sunday Brief is intended to share with you a few of my top picks from the previous week.  As I always say, sit back and relax with your favourite cup of Joe and enjoy! (If you have a fav that is not on the list, be sure to let me know). The Sunday Brief

1.Top Pick of the Week:  Over 100 B2B Content Marketing Statistics for 2014

Thanks to Lee Odden (@leeodden) for this one.  He has not only reminded us of the fantastic report done by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, but he provided highlights. You get a good overview of what is working for most marketers and what isn’t.

This is an awesome read and I highly recommend it.

2. Most presentations aren’t bullet proof by Seth Godin

This is an interesting and quick read. Seth points out that we really abuse bullet points and quite frankly don’t know how to use them properly.  He has a point.  Pun in intended!

3.  Bring Back Our Girls by 

This one is definitely not like the others in this list, but it is in part inspired by this being Mothers’ Day.  I find it unconscionable the actions of these men.  I find it difficult to believe that in 2014 we continue to have these conversations.  The absolute worst however, is that these actions continue to happen.  I have written about women’s rights a few times and while I don’t consider myself a feminist – I also abhor labels – I cannot, as a human being, ignore inhuman actions.

Regardless of your age, sex, race or religion, human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and equality.  Ignorance and hatred never result in positive results.

Thank you for taking the time for reading The Sunday Brief, if you have comments or suggestions for other great posts from the past week, do comment!

(For more Marketing and Communications, visit us at TaylorMade Solutions.)


6 Tips to Protect Your Personal Data, Including Your Digital Exhaust

How much thought do you give to your personal information that you share on line?  With identity theft on the rise along with scammers of all sorts looking for ways to find our personal data weaknesses, we should be thinking about this a lot more than we do. We need to always be thinking about our personal data, including our digital exhaust.

6 Tips to Protect Your Personal Data, Including Your Digital Exhaust,

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There are many types of personal information that we leave behind, and it would seem that we do so willingly.  Sometimes we give up a significant amount of information just to get something for free.  Sometimes we put the information out there willingly not realizing what we are doing.  For example, I once had a coworker who not only put his birthday on LinkedIn, but he put his wedding anniversary and his home mailing address.  This is a lot of personal information given up completely voluntarily and is known as Digital Exhaust.  Digital exhaust is the information that we willing give out and leave behind when on line and downloading information, doing online purchases, playing games, adding details to our online profiles, etc.

At best, these little tidbits about our personal life tell people we know more about us.  Worse case scenario,  we have left behind so much information that we have basically given a full profile of who we are, where we live, what we do and what we like to do.  This is digital exhaust and many of us don’t even know that it exists.  In fact, there are many less than ethical people out there who will work to aggregate our digital exhaust and use it against us.  So, let’s get to the list:

1. Is Free Really Free?

Think about the offers that excite and intrigue you. Often times they offer something in return for you signing up for “something”.  But, like my mother always says, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.  By filling out a form and/or downloading information, you are often asked for some personal details. In and of itself, this is not a bad thing.  Most reputable companies do this and they respect your data.  But, if you are asked for more than your title, telephone #, email, company name and information like this, think twice.  Ask yourself why they would need your birthdate for example?

2. You Want My Credit Card Why?

Ever get offered a free trial for something only to have them ask for your credit card info?  This is a personal preference, but anyone that  offers me something as a trial at no cost is NOT getting my credit card information.  If I choose to continue using the product/service, then and only then will I give that information.  Technology today is a wonderful thing and if they offer something for free for a month, they can easily cut me off at that point if I don’t pay.

3.  Birthdays, Anniversaries and Marital Status

Sure it is nice to get a Happy Birthday from someone, but why do you need to put this on your LinkedIn profile?  How many places is that “really” relevant.  At least on Facebook you can hide it.  For profiles like LinkedIn, and I love LinkedIn so don’t get me wrong, but you are already  willingly giving your workplace, the names of your schools, publications you have been in and much more.  Why in the world would you also give this additional information and make it public.

4.  Accepting Connection Requests

Certainly people want to build out their LinkedIn connections, but there is something to be said about quantity over quality.  Again, this is a case where you need to devise your own strategy to determine who you will connect with and who you won’t.  I recently wrote about LinkedIn becoming the next tool for spammers. I noticed that I was receiving a significant amount of connection requests from people that had no reason to connect with me.  With one google search, I realized my instincts were correct.  These requests were coming from people who were not being forthright with who they are.  I didn’t accept.  I have since learned that their accounts have been disabled. Good job LinkedIn!

5.  Public Profiles and Privacy Settings

Most social networks offer some level of privacy.  Always check and know your settings.  For example, to limit the exposure of my detailed information being used, my Public Profile for LinkedIn does not tell the entire story.  I chose what details would be public.  It is a great feature!

6.  Apps

You know the saying:  “there’s an app for that” and there probably is.  I would caution people on Facebook for example when playing games and using various apps.  While not all are like this, there are apps that require you to give up access to all your personal information, your connections, email and contact information, etc.  While you might choose to give up “your” personal information, your friends will appreciate you more if you don’t introduce them to risks!

These are just a few ways to help keep you safe while online.  In this case you are in the drivers’ seat and you can ultimately decide what you do and don’t release.  Anything that you would add to this list that I haven’t?

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Leadership 101 – Respect the Skills of Staff

When I was still at university, I learned a most valuable lesson in managing and leadership: the value of respecting the skills of staff, and the merit of letting staff employ these skills unimpeded by delusions that the manager can improve things by intervening.

Leadership 101 - Management

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My Experience

One summer I worked on board a hydrographic ship which was charting the ocean bottom off Newfoundland, Canada. The area of interest was a high point known as the Virgin Shoals. The method of surveying this area was to capture water depths at regular intervals, in a star pattern with the centre point of the star being Virgin Shoals. Every 4-hour shift, the hydrographer in charge (my job) would plot the latitude, longitude and depth at 5 minute intervals. We’d survey a line, and at the end of a line the helmsman would be instructed to turn the ship and start a different line heading back towards the centre of the star at a slightly different angle. If the plotting of the points indicated the ship was not on a straight line, the hydrographer would direct the helmsman to adjust the heading a little bit so the points would all be along a straight line. The other people doing this work on other shifts were seasoned hydrographers, not university students, and not university trained. They were a little contemptuous of a university type presuming to be able to do this kind of work.

Valuing Expertise

Leadership 101 Mary Ogilvie

Mary Ogilvie

When I worked my shift, the helmsman was an older chap, and had spent his life steering ships. I took over from a fellow who obviously couldn’t wait to see what kind of a mess I would make of the night’s work. Every 5 minutes I plotted the readings, and they looked great to me. When the line was over I said to the helmsman, looks like we should turn around now, and we started plotting another line. He kept the ship straight, and on the right angles, and at the end of my shift our lines were the straightest, neatest of anyone’s. Instead of saying “starboard 200 degrees” or whatever, I just let the helmsman do what he already knew how to do. Instead of directing minor course changes as the line progressed, I just let him make the decisions about how to keep the ship straight. The next day my colleagues spent all their spare time replotting our path to try to prove I had fudged it. All that I had done to get these great sounding lines was to let the helmsman do his job – one he knew a whole lot more about that I did. For me I learned quickly that leadership didn’t mean knowing it all, but rather knowing when your team knew what to do and to let them do it. It was a lesson the other hydrographers had yet to learn.

There are of course times when a manager must coach, or direct, or even discipline. And there are lots of articles and courses to help you do these things well. But skilled trained staff can often be more productive if they are afforded respect for their abilities, with words of encouragement rather than suggestions for improvement that may well be unfounded, and counterproductive. Valuing expertise and experience served me well over the course of my career and in every leadership role that I had. I am glad that I learned it early.

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About Mary Ogilvie:

Mary Ogilvie is a professional engineer, having graduated from UNB with a BSc (Survey) in 1972.  After a year with a private survey firm in British Columbia she returned to New Brunswick to work with the newly formed land registration and information service (LRIS) as a research analyst.  LRIS became the New Brunswick Geographic Information Corporation (NBGIC) and then Service New Brunswick (SNB).   During this time Mary oversaw leading edge innovations in digital mapping, creation of products from digital topographic data, and distribution of digital map data.

Mary retired from SNB in 2004 and at the time was the Vice President, Development.  In that capacity she oversaw the major development projects for SNB such as PLANET, Business Registry, Electronic Service Delivery.  She also oversaw the Information Technology unit, which provided desk top, networking  and other services for the organization, and looked after the unit responsible for business development – convincing departments and municipalities to have their service delivery work handled by SNB.  During this time she was also responsible with the arrangements with private sector firms for the marketing of SNB owned software such as PLANET, PPR and G-Biz.

After retirement Mary consulted on several projects, taking her to, Saskatchewan, Chile, South Africa  and Vermont.  She now spends her time travelling, looking after grandkids, and playing keyboard in Rock Revival, a local rock and roll band.

International Women’s Day – What Things Look Like From a 12-Year Old Girl

In honour of International Women’s today, which is tomorrow, what do young girls see when they interact in an adult world? What would a 12-year old girl see if she spent a week in an office environment?  What impressions would she be left with?  What questions would she ask?  Let’s imagine and explore through this fictitious summary.

Hi! My name is Tina. I am 12 years old. I recently spent a week in a local office as a part of my entrepreneur class.  The objective was to show us the importance of getting a good education so that when we finish school, we will get a good job.  It is not focused on girls, but all kids.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

When the week started I was nervous, but also excited.  I had never been in a big office like this before.  I imagined all the adults wearing suits, being very serious, but very professional.  I pictured  the women and men working together in meetings and big fancy boardrooms – you know, like you see on TV and in the movies.  When the week was over though, I had a different opinion.  It wasn’t like what I imagined at all.  Here is what I saw:

1. Meetings

At first I thought it was funny when I heard the term Hen Party.  I told my friends about it and we all laughed.

Over the week though, I realized that when two or more men got together it was a meeting.However, when two or more women gathered, it was a Hen Party. I stopped thinking it was funny though. I actually listened to the conversations. Men could be talking about hockey, or their night out and laughing. That was called a meeting.  The women could be talking about budget items and something called accruals, but it was a Hen Party.  Seems kinda unfair and disrespectful to these women.

2.  Being Serious

I got to sit in a lot of meetings during the week, which by the way is super boring.  I am not sure why adults think they are cool. Anyway, there is a lot of serious discussions in those meetings. At most times everyone can be pretty serious.  Sometimes though, there are jokes. A lot of them I didn’t get, but they all seemed to think they were funny.

The thing that stood out for me though, was after one meeting my assigned mentor was asked to stick around, so that meant I got to stay.  The man that asked her to say said: “you know Susan, I have noticed that you are very serious.  I would recommend that you not be so serious. People don’t like that you know.” She thanked him for his observations and we left.

After we were back to her office, I asked her about his comment. I thought that he must be her boss. He wasn’t. He was what she called, a peer. It was strange to me that he thought she was serious. She laughed and joked like the others in the room, which by the way were all men. I didn’t think she was any more serious than they were.

They were talking about a contract negotiation. Seemed like a serious thing to me. So, I was really confused about why her peer, which she explained to me was her equal, would make such a comment to her. Again, I was feeling like she was being called out for something that was unfair.

 3.  Good Business Man versus the B-word

In several meetings I saw men get angry, raise their voice or at least in two cases, pound their fists on the table.  It really got people’s attention and it seemed to bring people around to that person’s point of view. I really didn’t like it.

The women in the room didn’t do that. They sometimes had to raise their voices so that they could be heard, but they didn’t pound their fists. More than once I noticed that women in the room were cut off or one of their male peers (my new word 🙂 ) would talk over them.  The women would stick to the point, wanting a solution and they wanted an agreement on the solution before moving forward. This is what they called an interesting dynamic.

After being in the office for close to a week, it seemed like the adults became more comfortable with me there and would have open discussions, maybe like I wasn’t there.  But that is o.k.  That is when I really learned the most. For example, after these fist pounding meetings there were comments like:  “Jim (fist pounder) knows his stuff. I respect his leadership and his vision.” It was different though when I heard comments about women. There were some nice things, but at least half of the time, the comments were not so nice. For example, “Connie can be such a b-word. She gets on one thing and won’t let it go. I wonder why she is so cranky,” which would be followed by some laughing. These comments didn’t make me feel good. I don’t know how these women do it every day. Will it be like this when I finish school?

 4.  Being  Too Nice

This one seems really strange to me.  After another meeting my mentor for that day was called into her boss’ office.  Again, I got to go.  Her boss told her that she was too nice.  That she had to stop being so polite and just not be as nice.  This mentor too thanked her boss for his observations and we went back to her office.  I asked her about this and told her about the other comments I had heard about women being called the b-word.

I told her I was really confused. She was really nice actually and she smiled and said that as women, we need to be prepared that in one meeting you will be told that you are too nice and in the next you will be called the b-word. It is just a fact of life. When I asked her if the same thing applied to men, she smiled again and said let’s get ready for our next meeting.  She answered me without answering me.  I am not sure that this being a fact of life is something I am prepared for.

While it is true that  in the words of Virginia Slims “We have come a long way baby,” we still have a long way to go.  I would hope that by the time my 12 year old niece (who is not Tina) is finished University and working, that these views are not a fact of life.  My post last year in honour of International Women’s Day looked at women being persons under the law.  Let’s hope we move the equality issue faster and further than we have over the last 85 years.

Agree or disagree.  What are your thoughts on this issue?  

Business Counsellor’s: The Top 10 Tips to Start Your Own Business

Guest Blog Post by Andrew Campbell, Business Development Specialist

As a Business Development Specialist with Enterprise Fredericton, I work with entrepreneurs on a daily basis counselling them and helping them succeed.  Based on years of experience working with these enthusiastic entrepreneurs I have developed my top 10 tips to start your own business.

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1.  Research, research, research!

Put on your detective cap and dig up all you can for market research.  This is one area that people don’t spend enough time on.  Gain superior knowledge on the marketplace that you will be operating in (demographics, logistics, and trends).  You have to determine that there is current and future demand for your product or service, and that there are customers willing to buy/use it.  Spend the time on this before you jump into debt.

2.  Understand Your Funding Requirements

Are you able to finance your new business yourself, or are you going to have to get additional financing?  Most people will require additional investment through banks, or other lending vehicles.  You might have to get creative and stack some funding options.  Prepare a detailed list of your start-up costs.  Then gather information on all potential sources of funding (financial institutions, government programs, etc.).

3.  Build a Business Plan & Financial Projections

I say “build” a business plan because an effective plan is built in sections.  Each section contributes to a solid business proposal.  This plan is your blueprint for success.  Creating a viable business plan and financials will be vital in achieving your funding goals.  Don’t think you can write in one sitting.  Remember, you are asking someone to lend you money for your business idea.  It is in your best interest to put in the appropriate time.  You only get one chance to impress a lender.  Make it count!

4.  Know Your Customers

I owned a retail store for over a dozen years and I was constantly asking customers about my products and quality of service.  Before I opened, I would go visit the competition and watch people shop.  I’d ask the clerks what people were interested in, and what made them come back.  You have to know the pain & pleasure points of your customers.  You want to reduce/eliminate their pains, and reinforce your WOW factor.

5.  Know Your Competitors

The old adage rings true here; “keep your friends close and your enemies even closer”.  You can’t be shy as a business owner.  Call and visit your competitors often.  Get to know them.  Know their strengths and weaknesses.  Know their specials and pricing.   Become an expert on your competition.  This way you can adapt to changes proactively and not get “surprised” by new developments.

6.  Have a Well-defined Value Proposition

A value proposition (VP) is a statement that clearly identifies what benefits a customer will receive by purchasing a particular product or service from a particular vendor.  It’s kind of like your “elevator pitch”.  It should be simple and easy to remember. It should emphasize both the benefits the customer will receive and the price the customer will be charged as compared to the competition.  An important goal of a value proposition is to convince the customer that they will be getting many more benefits than he/she is being asked to pay for.

Andrew Campbell, Business Development Specialist

Andrew Campbell, Business Development Specialist

7.  Build Your TEAM

Although choosing quality employees is a key component to running a successful business they are not the only players to include on your TEAM.  Your team also consists of mentors, advisors, your accountant or bookkeeper, your lawyer, banker, even your insurance agent.  All of these experienced professionals are in your corner to help reduce your risk of failure.  Use these connections to your benefit at every opportunity.

8. Network.  Network.  Network!

Before and after you open your business you should be finding ways to network in the community.  Again, you cannot be shy when you are an entrepreneur.  You have to make your business a success.  You want to get to know other business owners and community members.  You should be active, attending civic functions and relaying your value proposition to potential customers.  Get to know your city council, provincial/state and federal government representatives.  You never know when having them as an acquaintance may be of a benefit to your business.

9. Be Resilient

As a business owner you will face many obstacles.  Keep treading forward.  Be adaptive to potential problems and turn them into positives.  Become a problem solver.  Some days will be difficult, others will be fantastic!

10. Enjoy the ride!

If you are serious about starting a business then look to do something that interests you.  As a business owner, you will be spending many hours on your baby (yes, it will feel like an offspring).  It’s not a 9-5 commitment.  Soak up the experience.  It is a milestone moment in your life.  Enjoy it!

Andrew Campbell is a Business Development Specialist with Enterprise Fredericton.  Andrew provides free, confidential business counselling services to local entrepreneurs and businesses in the Greater Fredericton Region.  Prior to joining Enterprise Fredericton, Andrew owned and operated his retail business. He joined Enterprise Fredericton after selling his business.

Good Leaders Don’t Preach, They Act

Over the years I have worked with some brilliant people.  I have also worked with some less than brilliant people.  Thankfully there were learning opportunities from both.  In fact, I have learned what to do and what not to do.  Perhaps the biggest lesson however, is that good leaders don’t preach, they act.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Here are the top 5 lessons I have learned from great leaders:

1.  They Listen

Really great leaders are able to listen to other people.  They actually hear what is being said.  They also listen to people regardless of where they might be in the hierarchy.

As one leader put it, “I see things from a certain vantage point.  My executive team sees it pretty much from my vantage point, but the manager on the floor or the employee on the front lines sees it from a much different way.  I can’t always seek their input in making decisions, but there are times when I need to hear about their issues to make an informed decision.”

2. They Praise in Public and Coach in Private

We have all been in situations when a manager or other senior leader in the organization has made a point to publicly acknowledge the contributions of a team member.  During those moments we really admire that individual who can take the time to recognize others.  And secretly, we want to be on the receiving end of the recognition.  Be honest with yourself…you know that you do.

We have also been either witness to, or worse yet, the subject of what could be a public flogging or at the very least a very embarrassing moment when the boss decides that he is going to put you in your place in front of your peers, his peers or customers.

In the former situation, individuals are showing leadership and acknowledging that it takes a team to succeed. It build trust. It builds team.  It build respect.  And, on top of it all, it creates an environment where people will follow that leader to the end of the earth.

In the latter situation, it is quite different.  This type of action is not about leadership.  It is about someone who has to exert  a sense of power or control over another.  Often times this is done to counteract the insecurity of the so-called leader.  In fact, I have witnessed this in cases where an individual is very good at what he or she does and is being recognized for success.  The leader has become threatened by the success of his or her underling and takes action to “show who is boss.”  The end result is not admiration or respect for the leader. In fact it is quite the opposite.

3. Know Leadership is More than Dolling Out Books

Don’t get me wrong.  I love reading.  I collect books and never want to dispose of books.  They become a part of my being.  When someone recommends a book to me I take that seriously.  Of course I want to explore what this person experienced in reading said book. This is particularly true of people I really admire and respect.

It has been my experience that really great leaders keep up to date with most, if not all, of the greatest books, but they are very judicious in terms of which books they recommend to others.  The reverse is also true for not so great leaders.  I can recall working with one individual who had a new book recommendation for his staff on nearly a weekly basis.  Not only did he order the book for us, which was nice, but he then told us how quickly he read it and would bring it out in meetings.  Of course, the book of choice changed nearly weekly.  Unfortunately so did his focus.  It didn’t take long for the books to collect on the shelves of those that reported to him.  There were some good ones in there, but unfortunately the build-up of dust was a telltale sign that his subordinates no longer took him seriously.

4.  Appreciate and Celebrate Differing Points of Views

When I look at the great leaders that I have had the pleasure of serving with, they are pretty comfortable in their own skin.  They are confident in their expertise and recognize that they need to build a team that is second to none.  Because they are confidant, they not only appreciate, but they seek out and celebrate differing points of views.  They know that hearing different ideas, they will make decisions with all scenarios in mind.

I worked with one CEO that would listen carefully to members of his executive team, his or her ideas, concerns and proposed solutions. He often already knew the course of action that he wanted to take, but through hearing out his team he did 3 things:

  • he tested this theory to ensure that he had all the information;
  • practiced how he might present/defend to the board and other stakeholders; and
  • brought his team along with him through discussion.

In the end his team understood the issue thoroughly and because they had the opportunity to share their thoughts, they felt tied to the decision.

I think it is important to note that this same CEO did not rule by consensus.  Don’t get me wrong.  He had no issue making his own decisions and he often did make decisions without a group discussion. When he did however, his team respected him and more importantly “trusted” that it was the right thing to do.

5.  They Care

This might seem obvious, but I don’t believe it to be the case.  Working with people who care does make a difference.  For those that think it is a weakness to care, I would suggest that you might be a leader in name, but you won’t have the minds, hearts and dedication of those that work beside you and for you.  When a person genuinely cares for another person it is obvious.  When a person is only focused on his or her own interests, that is also transparent.

Want to learn more about leadership, marketing and developing your business?  Visit us at TaylorMade Solutions

2 Reasons Why You Will Never Be A Leader

I have been thinking a lot about leadership lately.  Between the volunteer work that I do and some pretty cool and specialized work with my clients, the conversations have really caused me to pause and think about what makes a leader, and in particular, a good leader.  Is a leader born?  Or, can someone develop leadership qualities over time?  I would say, based on my experience, yes and yes.  But, are there characteristics that would indicate that you will not be a good leader?  Yes there are.  There are 2 pretty good reasons why you will never be a “true” leader and they are pretty straight forward.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Before getting into the two reasons, it is important to note that good leaders have certain things in common.  Good leaders are:

  1. very self-aware;
  2. genuinely concerned about others and like people;
  3. good listeners;
  4. great at connecting with people, as well as helping people connect with others;
  5. trusted; and finally
  6. because of the first five, they know how to inspire others

So, what are the two reasons why some people will NEVER be real leaders?  Two simple reasons:

1.  Ego

All leaders have egos.  But how big are those egos? Some are pretty big.  Even effective leaders can have very big egos.  The difference however, goes back to the list above.  If every conversation is about you and how intelligent you are, how great you are, how you saved the day, etc. etc., your ego is too big.  If you have a title, people “might” humour you and listen.  But, they won’t follow you when the chips are down.  They will look for ways to avoid you and look real leaders.

Real leaders have a bigger purpose.  It isn’t all about them.  They inspire others.  They raise others up and empower them.

Real leaders don’t need to have a title.  For example, they don’t need to be President and CEO. They don’t need to be Chairman.  They can lead and bring people along with them because of knowing who they are and inspiring others through trust and purpose.

2.  Lack of Authenticity

People are smart.  Most of us see through people who only want to advance themselves.  People who are authentic have consistency that shines through.  People who lack authenticity however cannot create trust or truly inspire others to follow.  Inauthentic leaders only have consensus and followers when things are good.  During times of trouble or change, inauthentic leaders can only win through ruling with fear.  In the end, people will turn on inauthentic leaders in a split second.

I remember one “leader” whom I worked with who only spoke about himself and his greatness. I often wondered if he was trying to convince me of his greatness or, himself.  He certainly didn’t convince me.  He was as transparent as water. He regularly spoke about his concern for others and the well-being of those he surrounded himself with.  Despite these words however, his actions spoke volumes.  In the roughly five years I worked with/for him he didn’t know my husband’s name or what he did.  On the other hand, I knew his wife’s name as well as each of his children’s names.  During an illness that manifested itself in very obvious physical changes to my appearance, not once did he ever ask how I was making out or if the cause was even found.  Our conversations always centered on him and what great things he had done or was doing.

Regardless of what meeting he was a part of, he always brought the conversation around to him.  People humoured him because of his title, but when he wasn’t in the room, people were not very kind to him.  People only tolerated him.  People found ways to work around him.  People even found ways to avoid him.  In fact, on one occasion, a meeting was called in one of the company locations where he would update the more than 800 employees there.  Less than 30 showed up to that meeting.  People saw through him.  They weren’t interested in listening to his rhetoric.

People are smart.  Most of us see through people who only want to advance themselves.  People who are authentic have consistency that shines through.  People who lack authenticity however cannot create trust or truly inspire others to follow.  Inauthentic leaders only have consensus and followers when things are good.  During times of trouble or change, inauthentic leaders can only win through ruling with fear.  In the end, people will turn on inauthentic leaders in a split second.

Real leaders have the ability to make great change.  We need great leaders. That being said, what do you think about leadership and these two reasons why some will never be real leaders?  Do you agree or disagree?

8 Simple Ways to Cut Customer Service Costs (Hint: Use Pinterest)

Simplicity.  We all want simplicity, right?  As customers we want simplicity when we have an issue.  We want to contact customer service at the time it is convenient for us.  We want to connect with customer service using the channel of our choice.  After all, we are the customer.  As business owners and managers, we want efficiency.  We want to cut costs through reduced call time, first call resolution, etc.  Ironically, there is an easy way to meet the expectations of both customers and businesses: use Pinterest.  Not sure how to do that, read on to learn 8 Simple Ways to Use Pinterest for Customer Service.Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 8.56.29 AM

Pinterest continues to be popular and contrary to popular belief, Pinterest is not just for women.  In fact, when a businesses uses Pinterest properly they have access to a very powerful tool.  Depending on what research you use, we know that at least 65% of the population are visual learners.  So, as managers, let’s leverage Pinterest to reduce costs while also meeting (or exceeding) customer expectations.

1.  FAQ Boards

What are the questions asked most frequently by customers?  Every business has a list.  Sometimes it is available on the website, sometimes not.  While this is good, many websites have become labyrinths to navigate.  Why not make it easy and have a Board for “just” FAQs on your Pinterest Page?

2.  How-To Boards

As businesses move away from printing user manuals and/or how-to guides, create a board specifically for your visual representations of your products.  The visual aspect will always be appreciated.

3.  Special Offers or Sales

There are two great opportunities with this type of board.  Customers are rewarded for visiting your Pinterest page and will be able to see special offers and or sales at any given time with great visuals.

Additionally, businesses that use the merchant version of Pinterest can make use of the automatic alerts for specials and price changes that go direct to those following your boards.

4.  Customer Board

Creating a customer board can showcase how your customers are using your products.  Such boards not only give your customers new ideas, but they act as testimonials of your product at the same time.  Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 8.57.21 AM

5.  Contests

Another way to reward customers who focus on your Pinterest page, is to have contests that originate on Pinterest.  This is a great way to inform and educate customers about all the great content and resources available for them.  Giving them a great one-spot source will ensure that they visit your Pinterest page frequently.

6. Customer Insights

Want to really learn about your customers and the things that are interesting to them? Take a look at their boards.  Use this information to build better boards for them to use on your page.

7.  Collaboration Tool

Want to really impress your customers and show that you are listening and want their input to improve customer service.  Create a collaboration board.  Invite your customers to pin ideas, information and issues directly.  The key of course is to monitor and act in a timely fashion.

8.  Product Reviews

Want to really demonstrate your confidence in both your product and your customer service?  Have a product review board.  Let your customers share their experience. Not only will you learn new insights, but you will build trust and create ambassadors for your product.  Product reviews occur outside your marketing channels, but when you create an environment inside your environment, you demonstrate confidence, openness and the willingness to listen to others.

These are some simple ways to cut your customer service costs, while increasing communication with your customers and reaching out to them in the channel they prefer.  What are your thoughts.  Have you tried Pinterest?