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Why Words Matter When Building Organizational Culture

As a people manager, consultant and coach, I continue to be amazed by the fact that so many people fail to recognize the power of  their words. Maybe ‘amazed’ is not the right word. Disappointed might actually be the better word. Disappointed that so-called people managers and/or leaders disregard the power of the words that they choose when communicating with subordinates and/or even peers.Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 12.17.16 PM

Organizational culture has been on my mind a lot lately. Working closely with clients and organizations experiencing change can cause that to happen.

Unintentional  or Intentional Word Choice

Unintentional:

There is an argument that word choice is completely unintentional. In this case, people might not take the time to stop and think about the words they are selecting in the heat of the moment when sending an email, letter or even when having a face-to-face with someone.

People are busy and they really may not realize the words they are using result in people feeling embarrassed, demeaned, humiliated or even angry. Things of course are complicated further by who else sees/hears the conversation unfold and who actually uses the words.

For example, as a people manager I may realize that employee A is not as reliable as employee B in delivering and I need to get a project completed for an important deal to come to fruition. I could say:

“Employee A, I really need you to step aside and hand over your work on Project X to Employee B because he will get it done correctly and on time. Whereas you will need a lot of handholding and prodding just to get it done. I have something else I can get you to work on instead.” And of course I am saying this in a team meeting with everyone listening.

Or, I could say….

“Employee A, I really need your help with a new initiative because you are very strong in a, b, and c, which is essential for success. This overlaps with Project X so I was thinking that Employee A could take that on. Why don’t the three of us meet after this to discuss how we can make both priorities a success and support each other?”

See/hear the difference? Not only am I not embarrassing or diminishing the person, but I am actually focusing on what the person is good at. If you want to promote and develop a great work culture, you must have both: the right words and positive reinforcement. [Click to Tweet]

Intentional:

Of course there is also the intentional choice of using particular words. This can be both a positive, which is really the second example above, or a really negative. In the latter, a person is deliberately choosing words to hurt and diminish someone. In an organization that promotes its culture as being ideal, this would seem to not align. And, if in fact it was intentional, it is likely that the culture is not what management claims it to be. This is a red flag. Morale is likely low and people will not be as productive. Turnover will be high and internal cliques will be obvious.

Here is an example of someone deliberately intending to demoralize an employee:

“Donna, despite accomplishing everything that was set out for you to do last year and exceeding established KPIs, we don’t support your promotion. We think another person could do it better. We recognize your hard work though, so we expect you to continue to manage the projects until complete. This will give us time to train your new manager. Maybe next time!”

How would you feel as an employee hearing this? Probably not very good. Despite accomplishing everything and exceeding expectations in terms of results, you aren’t getting promoted. This does not match.

Or, how about this follow-up request two months later?

“Donna, since you managed this project until being replaced, attached are the vendor assessment forms that need to be completed. Fill them out and return to me by the date noted. Be sure to cc your new boss!

If your goal is to have people fully engaged and supporting the organization, this is not the best way to do that.

As a people manager or someone with influence such as HR or an executive assistant, your words can cut deeply. While frank and candidate conversations need to happen, there are better ways to do it, including the location and of course:  the right words. You are not doing anyone any favours bringing a person down. In addition to demeaning a person, this behaviour is also sending a signal to the rest of the team that:

  • it is acceptable to embarrass others
  • it is acceptable to make sure others know of the embarrassment
  • if you don’t deliver the way I want you to, then you might be next
  • working in fear is acceptable in our culture.

Something to Remember:

High-performing organizational cultures don’t just happen. Everyone from top to bottom and bottom to top have to live the goals and objectives. People need to be aware and coach each other to make it happen. Bad behaviour, including deliberately demeaning people should not be accepted. Good leaders get to the bottom of it. What is the root cause? Is it the real culture coming through, or is it simply that a person or person hasn’t really been coached on what the organization’s culture is to be. Word choices need to be deliberate to bring people up versus bringing them down.

High-performing organizational cultures don’t just happen. People make them happen. Words matter. [click to Tweet]

Remember, words matter. Be selective. Act with purpose and meaning. Bring people up rather than pushing them down!

Have thoughts on how words matter, I would love to hear.

Social Media Measurement – Tips from the Experts

Despite social media being a part of our lexicon for more than a decade now, many organizations still struggle with incorporating social media because they just don’t know what to measure or how to measure the return on investment (ROI).  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  While at Radian6 I worked with many companies that were looking for the right measurements fortheir community teams, while also helping people understand just how you could measure the ROI of social.  There were a lot of great minds there and I am going to share with you some of the social media measurement that we used- tips from the experts.

Image courtesy of measuringupblog.com

Image courtesy of measuringupblog.com

Like any business there was a strong focus on measurement at Radian6, ROI and having the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The best place to start when looking to measure your social media ROI, is with your C-Suite.  It is essential to understand what is important to your executive.  Asking the right questions up front can save a lot of time and get buy-in immediately.  The following questions can get you started:

  1. What are the key concerns or issues of the Board of Directors?
  2. What KPIs are being used?
  3. How are you currently measuring Share of Voice and/or Share of Conversation?
  4. Where does reputation monitoring and management factor in?
  5. What resources do you have to monitor brand mentions and do brand engagement?

It is extremely important to remember that social media is not a strategy unto itself.  Rather, it is part of an overall strategy and must be thought about in the big picture context.  The questions above are intended to help you think this way. Focusing on social media alone is typically the reason that social media ROI has been not been definable and/or reached.  Thus some companies have become disenchanted with social thinking it does not provide results.  It bears repeating that social cannot be planned and/or considered in isolation.  The C-suite, Marketers and Strategists alike need to always be thinking about the big picture and the overall objectives of the organization.

Key Take Aways:

  1. Remember to focus on the big picture.
  2. Social media is not a strategy unto itself.
  3. Select measurements that are important to your Board of Directors and Executive.
  4. Don’t focus on Likes or size of networks only – see #1- 3 and repeat.

Want to learn even more?  Sign up for our newsletter at TaylorMade Solutions (insert “newsletter” into inquiry box)

3 Tips to Fix Your #Failed Mobile Marketing

According to a 2013 Pew Internet study, 56% of Americans own a smart phone and 35% own a tablet.  Research from Canalys earlier this year predicted that tablet sales would increase by 59% this year.  In fact in Q3 of 2013, over a quarter of a billion units shipped worldwide.  So getting your mobile strategy right has never been more important for sales.  The C-suite no longer accepts applying outdated tactics that net poor results. (Please Click to Tweet So, here are 3 easy tips to fix your mobile marketing and sales now:

Image courtesy of businesstocommunity.com

Image courtesy of businesstocommunity.com

 1.  Understand that Most Mobile Device Use is Not Really Mobile

That’s right, the biggest mistake that marketers are making is NOT understanding how people are using their devices.  A joint study released by AOL and BBDO revealed that 68% consumer mobile phone use occurred at home.  Yes, they are using their devices at home!

Marketers need to have a two-pronged approach to reach the ‘at home market’ and the ‘on-the-go market.’  They have different needs.   There is an added level of complexity when understanding the use of tablets versus smart phones.  Marketers who succeed in mobile will be those who establish different strategies and tactics for each.

2.  Mobile Phone Use Does Not Equal Tablet Use

According to Pew, the demographics for those using tablets most include:

  • Those living in households earning at least $75,000 per year (56%), compared with lower income brackets
  • Adults ages 35-44 (49%), compared with younger and older adults
  • College graduates (49%), compared with adults with lower levels of education

In order to effectively reach tablet and smart phone users requires different approaches, particularly when it comes to advertising.  It is not a one size fits all approach.

3.  Advertising on Mobile?  Know Thy Device!

If you are still using the old “push” model of broadcasting messages in your  advertising, you are likely failing.

Marketers need to focus on micro-targeted “pull” campaigns that effectively result in the customer accepting messages. In addition to pull, Marketers need to forget banner ads.  While somewhat annoying to computer users, they are even less welcome on mobile.  They just aren’t scalable to mobile and therefore completely ineffective.

Finally it is important to know that those succeeding in the mobile market and netting sales have built relationships with customers.  Through these relationships, they have learned customer  preferences, including real-time location information.  They offer deals that result in real sales.  Starbucks for example leveraged mobile by offering a $5 credit to those who joined My Starbucks Rewards program.  This resulted in more than 500,000 downloads of the mobile app in its two-week trial period.

Take-Away Lessons:  

  1. Don’t push information.  Pull Information through offering something up to your customer or prospect.  What are the chances that someone who redeemed that $5 spent more than the credit allotted to him or her?  Probably pretty good.
  2. Understand how customers are using different devices and use appropriate tactics.
  3. Don’t annoy prospects and customers with annoying banner ads on mobile.  Be creative and delight your customers with real offerings to PULL them into your store or location.

If people thought that social media changed everything, mobile is like living inside a snow globe that someone continually shakes.  What changes are you making to your mobile strategy to accommodate for this different world?

You Are Rude, Don’t Blame Your Job

In this always-on fast-paced world we are all super connected to our technology.  We want to be on top of the latest email, tweet or Facbook post.  We want to appear cool and suave by responding quickly with some witty retort.  We want to feel important. But have you ever wondered how you really appear to others?  Have you ever thought that you might come off as selfish and self-important?  You should!  Are you innately rude?  You just might be.

Before going any further I have a confession to make: I “was” one of those people who had her phone physically connected to her body.  I even slept with the darn thing.  Every buzz or vibration was checked quicker than a cowboy could pull his six-shooter from his holster.  I prided myself in how quickly I got back to people regardless of the day of the week or the time of day.  When meeting with people I sometimes was only half there.  I was focused on that darn phone. I didn’t stop “being on” even when dinning with family or being invited to dinner parties.  Christmas get togethers also didn’t get my full attention.  I was “always” on.

Image

Image compliments of www.zazzle.com

Then one day it struck me that I was being really rude.  I mean really rude.  I wasn’t raised that way and I like to think that normally my manners are pretty good.  It is actually important to me.  So, how do I justify this behaviour?  Well, I take full responsibility and admit to liking the feeling of “feeling important.”  Really though, I wasn’t important.  Instead, I taught people that it was o.k. to infringe on my personal time and that I was at their beck and call 24/7.  I taught people that it was acceptable to take advantage of me.  This wasn’t fair to my family, my friends or even to me.

I wish my epiphany had resulted in my own self-awareness, but I can’t claim that.  Two things happened in one day that hit me like a hammer.  Two separate meetings taught me important lessons.

The first meeting was with a Vice-President that I reported to at the time.  When meeting with him you couldn’t help but feel like the center of attention.  After all, he stopped what he was doing.  He physically got up from his desk and sat at the meeting table with you in his office.  I am sure that he did this intentionally.  First and foremost he was moving away from any distractions on his desk.  Secondly he was moving away from the telephone on his desk.  His attention was 100% focused on you, the person he was meeting with, not anything else.  Even when his mobile rang, he ignored it.  The first time it happened I said it was ok for him to answer.  His response:  “No, it is not.  I am meeting with you.  You scheduled this time to meet with me and I agreed.  This is your time.  If there is a crisis or an emergency, someone will come to get me.”  I always left his meetings feeling respected and full of purpose.  Sure, we didn’t always agree on everything, but nonetheless I felt respected.

The second meeting was with another member of the executive team.  In this case we were meeting about an important strategic issue that needed a timely solution.  During the meeting the executive member answered no less than four calls, made three unrelated calls, accepted non emergency interruptions from colleagues and checked Facebook – which he said he “had to do.” Rather than feel respected I was frustrated when I left the meeting.  We had accomplished nothing.  He asked me to come back a couple of hours later.  I had to reschedule my afternoon to accommodate.  When I returned the next time, it was pretty much the same scenario.  Another hour passed and we accomplished nothing again.  I was asked to return later yet again.  It was the same thing.  In the end it took six hours of meetings to accomplish what could have been accomplished in 45 minutes.  It was not only a colossal waste of time, but it was indicative of how that individual thought of people.  It became very clear, very quickly that this was his M.O.  He did this to everyone.  

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 3.20.56 PM

Image compliments of business-technology.co.uk

So this was my epiphany.  I experienced what it is like to be treated respectfully.  I experienced what is like to be treated without respect.  One person valued both me and my time.  One person did not.

The real question however is whether or not you are respecting your colleagues, family and friends?  What about yourself?

5 Tips for Small Business Owners To Pick a Content Marketing Expert

Content marketing continues to grow and for good reason. It enables businesses to leverage their expertise in a real and demonstrable manner, at a relatively low cost. So, why aren’t more small businesses taking advantage and implementing content marketing? The answer is simple.  They just don’t have the expertise or the time.  The good news is that there is help.  There are many excellent marketing practitioners who live and breathe content marketing.  At the same time, there are many people who profess to understand content marketing and do not.  Here are 5 tips for getting started when seeking your content marketer:

Content is King

Image courtesy of doublelinx.com

1.  Think Strategically

One of the first things that a content marketer should ask about is your strategy.  Good content marketing consultants will interview you about this and ask thought-provoking questions.

2.  Develop Personas

In order to curate content, it is essential that your content marketing professional be able to develop personas, should you not already have them.

 3. Act with Integration in Mind

Content should not be created only with social in mind.  An integrated approach must be taken.  Be sure that your marketing consultant has the expertise to leverage and implement an integrated marketing approach tied to your strategy.  Don’t be dazzled by someone who knows how to set up a Facebook Page or Group.

 4.  Execute Based on Best Practices

Be sure to ask questions to determine if your consultant knows how to make use of the right channels at the right time.  For example, recommending to post updates to Facebook at the wrong times with the wrong content will result in poor results.  This also applies to quality over quantity.   Always look for consultants that focus on quality first.

 5.  Focus On Long-term Results

As tempted as we are to want things to happen immediately, marketing is something that takes time.  Your consultant should be prepared to guide you through the process and make adjustments as needed.  Remember we are dealing with consumer behaviour and influencing behaviour takes time.

These are just 5 starting points to get you thinking.

Looking for more tips for small business?  Check out:  25 Cool Online Resources to Grow Your Business.

3 Performance Killers Leaders Should Watch for and Stop

Performance killers are a reality, but it is up to an organization’s leadership to be on the watch for such behaviour.  In fact, it is essential for managers to be trained to spot and address these destructive behaviours in order to build high-performance teams.  And herein lies the difference between teams and departments.  In teams you don’t have this behaviour.  In departments that are experiencing challenging times and/or people competing to avoid downsizing, this behaviour is rampant.

As someone who has managed teams for close to 20 years, a former colleague reached out to me recently get some advice on some behaviours he was seeing in his own department.  With that in mind, I offered him the following description of what I was trained to lookout for as a manager.

Here are three performance killers that managers need to address and end:

1.  Cliques or Power Coalitions

Coalitions frequently form in group settings.  In this case, a few people align themselves with the leader and withhold praise or positive feedback outside the clique or coalitions.  In fact, giving praise to other members of “team” is intentionally withheld.  Members of the cliques may even go as far as to persuade the leader that the other parties are not performing.
 
Performance Killers, taylormade solutions, heather anne maclean
 

2.  Enforced Silos

Silos can occur in conjunction with cliques or independent of another action.  In these situations, people involved are focused on self-promotion and their careers rather than the overall good of the department and ultimately the team.  Individuals involved in these actions will ensure that information is withheld from others. Marginalization of other departmental members usually occurs.

3.  Alienators

In this case, Alienators work quietly at first dropping hints to the leader that other people are not doing their jobs and/or not performing as well as should be expected.  Alienators are very skilled at creating the perception that he or she is concerned about the “team’s” reputation and ultimately the leader’s reputation.  Through continued conversations, the discussions escalate to the point where the leader believes that the Alienator has his or her best interests at heart.
 

The Remedy:

Managers should be on the lookout for these behaviours, particularly during troubled times. And when he or she sees this occurring, the manager must take the bull by the horns. Individual staff members can’t address this situation.  The situation for those individuals will only worsen.
 
Managers need to look closely at the members of his or her  department and ask questions like:
 
  1. Who is always finding fault with members of the department?
  2. Is there a select group to who never gets any criticism?
  3. Is the same group, who is never criticized, jointly criticizing the same people?  Is the messaging eerily similar?  Same words?  Same timing of complaints?
  4. Who uses pass aggressive techniques to slide in negative comments?

The only way to stop this destructive behaviour is to set the stage that team members support one another and make each member in the department look good both within the department and outside the department.  That is a true sign of team participation.  While this is not easy for many mangers, good managers make it a practice to not accept anything less, even from people with whom they have befriended in the reporting structure.

These are only three destructive behaviours that can occur.  What would you add to this list?