19 posts categorized "August 2009"

August 31, 2009

The recession is over in this house

Here's another story from my childhood.  This experience deeply influenced my point of view and helped me to understand the power of family or media or culture.  

When I was eight years old, one of my house chores was dusting. My nemesis was a green wicker horn of plenty, overflowing with sticky rubber fruit, sitting on top of the dining room table. One day, as I was attempting to dust these bulbous round grapes, I asked my grandmother, “Why do we keep this?  It’s old and it stinks.  Can’t we get something new?” She sat down at the table and told me a story about the Great Depression, something I’d never heard of at that young age.

The Great Depression began right as she was finishing high school and filled her 20s with gloom and despair.  Sometime in the early 1940s, my great-grandmother brought this wicker basket home from the five-and-dime and sat it on this dining room table. That night great-grandmother announced to the family, “We’ve had enough of being poor.  We’ve had enough misery and worry. As of today, we have everything we need. There is enough to go around!”  

“You see,” grandmother told me, “the Great Depression didn’t end ceremoniously one day when somebody announced it in 1942. It ended family by family and city by city as folks like my mom made declarations of abundance like this,” as she gestured towards the horn of plenty.  So it stayed and I learned to love it. 

Please share this story with others that would-should-must declare that the recession (the end of growth) is OVER.  Regardless of what Wall Street says or does, we need to invest, self-educate, dream and give again.  You have a choice to be the Phoenix or the fodder.  And you can't lift others up laying face down!

August 28, 2009

The New Luxury: Experience

It's very clear to me that consumer's habits have changed, and will stay changed long after the economy recovers.  A March article in the NYT announced that conspicuous consumption was one of the recession's casualties.  The ethos of showing off material wealth is dying faster than gas guzzlers, diamond crusted watches and McMansions.  It's just not cool anymore, let alone financially prudent. In my career as a speaker, I've seen this mentality hit corporate meetings too. Those that exist are scaled down, un-rewarding and often bare bones to avoid any scrutiny (even non TARP companies).  

How, then, do we reward ourselves? What will replace retail shopping therapy and corporate extravagance? In my view, the replacement will be a private experience.  A nice dinner with impeccable service.  A spa day.  Paying a little more for better/faster/nicer service.  Investing in home repairs that bring in sunlight, music and beauty.  A return to Starbucks for a carmel-mach-whatever (small please).  Having a company offsite in a rustic but tucked away location -- with a full day devoted to community service.  I'm seeing this already, it's a very natural response to the times. 

In their landmark book, The Experience Economy, authors Pine and Gilmore argue that people will pay more for an experience that engages them.  Our job as providers (b2b to b2c) is to stage an experience using our products as platforms and services as a stage.  Same goes with meetings: experiences don't have to cost money, involve $$$$ celebrities or require high-end swag.  They need to be emotionally engaging and memorable.

Yes, last fall we sacrificed the experience for simple-services in an effort to survive the storm.  But as the clouds part, and the world still consider conspicuous consumption as the root of the problem, I'm seeing the consumer start to spend against experiences.  One note: making a difference is an engaging experience.  When you spend $ with a green, community focused or cause connected company, you have an emotional experience that fills you with purchase.  

The new luxuries will be emotional, not physical.  This means that all companies must segment the customer experience and find little ways to elevate it, even if there's a marginal price increase to follow.  Remember: margins lie at the heart of profits and experential products/services command higher margins during average to great economic times.  

August 27, 2009

Two pieces of advice for all writers (podcast)

Today, I'm playing around with my fave new Mac App (Peak LE).  It allows me to record audio, edit and deliver via my Mac with no external devices required. 

Just a minute ago, I recorded today's audio post for you.  The subject: How To Write A Book That Works. Often we think that books should be timely, unique, needed or perfect for the times.  That is not the formula for success.  Listen to my short recording and you'll pick up the two secrets to writing a best seller: 

1. Write what you know 
2. Show us who you are 

Download Writing Advice Aug 2009

August 26, 2009

Generosity is a wonder drug

Much of our emotional pain comes from an obsessive focus on lack, where our mind identifies with what we don’t have, what we want others to do for us and what others have.   As we hammer away at our mental shock absorbers with this thinking, we get closer and closer to depression.  When we consider our greatest fears, we often relate them entirely on their impact to our lives and livelihood.   Very seldom do our greatest fears concern outsiders, strangers or even associates and friends.  

Generosity, the act of giving to others in need, reverses our thinking patters from have-not to got-enough.  If generosity achieves a powerful moment of contribution, making a difference, it can snap you out of your poor-me trance.  

Jonathan Schwartz, a Yahoo executive I worked with for several years, demonstrates the healing power of being generous with your time.  In 2002 and 2003, he served as regional vice president of sales for the ad team.  His patch was the west coast, which had been hard by the tech-meltdown. He was getting a few hundred emails a day with a workload that exceeded his waking hours -- counting weekends. His therapy was simple: Give time.  Sounds crazy, but it worked. He signed up for the Yahoo-For-Good project that entailed working with local schools in need to install computers and teach kids how to use the internet to find-connect and research. The impact on his psyche was immediate. When he got back to the office, he scrambled to catch up and started to push back to the info-hogs and worry warts that were gobbling up his precious time. He realized that whenever he felt down and out, without any personal time, he could lift himself out of the doomloop of the day by spending some time at the school project.  He realized there was enough to spare if he'd own his schedule and value his time as a place to make a difference and not just run on the treadmill. 

Time is one thing, precious money is another.  During these times, giving money is harder than ever.  We’d rather give time, old junk or advice.  If money is an obsession to you, though, you’ll have to give it away to achieve the wonder drug results of redirecting your mind to your abundance.  Money is the hardest thing for us, even during good times.  It’s the rocket fuel that we equate with power, luxury and security.  

I have a good friend that just gave away tens of thousands of dollars to help a school in need.   He’s not a billionaire either, just an average millionaire that lost about a third of his value last year.  And it was driving him crazy.  One day, late last fall, he found out about a school in Africa that some friends were raising money for.  The school was funded during the go-go days of 2005 and 2006 and due to the market pullback donors were bailing out left and right. 

The school didn’t have enough cash for much of anything but the buildling, some books and some bargain priced train-the-teachers.  The kids didn’t have computers, qualified teachers or hot lunches.  For a small amount of money, dozens of lives could be changed forever.  He prayed over the opportunity, wrote the check and later took a trip to the school for a ribbon cutting.  The emotional results were surprising:  He felt free.  He felt powerful.  He realized that even at two thirds of his paper-wealth, he was still rich enough to give.  He reports that he's sleeping deeper.  He scrambled around to replace the cash, and fell into a lucrative consulting arrangement that will more than cover for his donation. 

He told me that this one act of painful charity, giving until it scared him, will likely change his life forever – permanently immunizing him against the markets ups and downs.  He realized that when he lost, he was not alone.   He also realized that money is either his master or his weapon-of-good.  By giving it, he owned it.  He’ll never think of his net worth the same again.  

What does this mean to you?   

- Giving is an opportunity.  You need to keep your ears open for it, and respond every time it comes into your life. 

- Giving should be programmed into your life, as an exercise in consistency. 

- Give what you feel you lack if you are depressed.  Give what you feel you have a surplus in if you are grateful. 

- Giving should be a way you connect with the world.  Don’t make a presentation, generously give a speech that informs, inspires and validates.  Don’t do time at your next charity function, give all of yourself including your talents and energy.  Don’t perform obligations or routine tasks, give your very best to help everyone on the team.  Once you get into the giving mindset, Big-Gives will come easier to you. 

- Whenever possible, give to others that cannot pay you back. This way, you know you are being truly generous and not simply "strategic".  By giving to those without the power to reciprocate in kind, you can give until it hurts -- which is the key to retooling your mind.  When you give to the needy, you dial into their lack which then becomes your opportunity.  This forever reframes lack from something imposed on us to something we do something about. 

READ: The Power Of Giving by Azim Jamal and Harvey McKinnon

August 25, 2009

Your digital bonsai tree

I'm converting Twitter Tuesday into Social Media Tuesdays to account for Twitter plus blogs, Facebook, etc.  Given Twitter's up and down status, it wouldn't surprise me if a better service comes along over the next year or two. Who knows, it may be a higher quality spam free service worth paying for. 

This week I want to focus on you as content creator and editor.  If you blog, are on Facebook or Tweet -- you are a content creator that owns a digital bonsai tree.  It's a living document that captures your thoughts, finds and recommendations.  This tree needs constant care, though, because it lives for a long time and influences new people in your life that "discover" it via a single post or update. 

Often, we build this tree on the run, trying to squeeze in a quick thought.  Many times we tweet from mobile devices with hardly any time to proofread or consider grammar.  The result is a tree with many broken branches (links), withered leaves (sentences) and a shaky foundation (continuity).  Have you stopped to read your last sixty blog posts or one hundred FB/Twitter updates?  You'll be surprised how many errors or bad ideas you'll find -- still alive and waiting for a new network connection to read.  

I find that many of my new followers on Twitter begin to read the blog and go back in time months or sometimes years.  Google searches still drive traffic at blog postings I created in 2007!  As a result, you should consider your entire library of generated content as an extension of your personal brand for better or worse. 

Takeaway: Spend several hours pruning your tree.  Bloggers, re-read and correct posts with bad syntax or grammar.  If a post is no longer relevant, delete it (careful though, there might be links to it).  If your point of view has shifted, add an update at the bottom.  While you are doing this, add Tweetmeme at the end of your posts.  It makes it very easy for a reader to Tweet your post and get you more traffic.  

To add Tweetmeme: In HTML editing mode, paste this at the bottom of your post: 
<div class="tweet-button">
<script type="text/javascript">
tweetmeme_url = 'http://yoururl.com';
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://tweetmeme.com/i/scripts/button.js"></script>
(Don't forget to add the permalink URL for your posting in place of http://yoururl.com.  I use Typepad, so it's a manual process.  Wordpress supports this with a widget, making it even easier.) 

Tweeps and Facebookers, look at your profile and edit your comments.  Some of your updates need to be deleted.  Unfortunately, you can't easily edit them like posts, so a straight trim may be all you can do. In many cases, you might find an update so evergreen that it deserves a re-posting -- which can service new followers since its original publication.  

In any event, you owe it to your online reputation to continually manicure your digital bansai tree to ensure quality, continuity and helpfulness.  Once you've done a big sweep, you can keep it up with less than a half hour a month of time.  Consider all your social media postings as the wiki-of-your-mind where you are the only contributor and sole editor.  

August 24, 2009

Operation Book Relaunch

Between 2005 and mid-2008 I worked on a book about a business revolution that would impact marketing, leadership, management and strategy.  I call it the "responsibility revolution", a change in how we buy products, apply our talents and invest our money.  My team and I conducted interviews and dug through tens of thousands of pages of research.

What we found: Starting in the late 90's and erupting during the last recession (2001-2002), consumers began to purchase a story that stood behind a company's product or service.  This was true in the consumer space (eg. organic or green) and even in the business-to-business realm with CSR or environmental scorecards for supplier/vendors.  At the same time, the employment space started to change, as companies began to attract bright young talent with purpose + paycheck.  What did it all mean? Making a difference + making a dollar is a breakthrough business strategy.  In this new world, generating social value is the new playground for business and product innovation. 

The book was released on September 16, 2008.  However, just one day before the launch, the world changed (for a moment).  Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and AIG admitted it was on life support. The market cratered and the media pundits declared that we were heading into The Great Depression 2. At the time, I was on tour, trying to conduct local media. To the media, being responsible was a luxury and sounded silly.  The media wanted to feature doomsdayers, economists and other such Chicken Littles -- to go along with election coverage.  

Companies began to pull back on CSR, going green, helping local communities and even employee development!  It's as if the world got pulled into psychologist Abraham Maslow's safety-survival mindset. Meetings, projects, initiatives and outreach programs were cancelled.  Teams were disbanded.  By the end of the year, my book launch was finished, mostly under the radar of the economic thunderstorm of late 2008. 

Here we are almost a year later, and those clouds are parting. Contrary to the media's claims, the world didn't end and capitalism is not dead. There are reasons to believe that we could all get back to long-term business planning from technical to social without risking insolvency.  This planet continues to get hotter. Local communities continue to buckle under economic pressure, when thoughtful companies could be synergistically helping.  Employees still struggle to maintain quality of life.  All of that is still there, a golden opportunity to build brands and social value at the same time.

And we should.  We should re-start our fall efforts that had an eye on the future and mega-trends not driven by the stock market's rise or fall.  So, on Sept 16 2009, I am relaunching Saving The World At Work with a coordinated blog, media and viral video assault to drive awareness, sell copies and energize efforts towards employees, communities and environmental innovation.  

Will you join me?  If you are a blogger, newsletter writer, social media maven or work at a company that "gets it", I need your help.  Please contact me and I'll give you details on how we can work together.  

This is not just about my book either.  It's about leadership.  Napoleon once said that "the leader's role is to define reality then give hope."  I am trying to use the platform of a book relaunch to inspire thousands of people to resume their late 2008 efforts, projects and programs too.   If I learned anything from the tech-dotcom recession it is this: What you do at the bottom will make a BIG difference on your credibility and momentum during the next up-market.  

August 21, 2009

The value of the fast follow up

Earlier this week I gave a promotional talk at ASAE's annual conference. Like any other sales/marketing effort, the objective was to gather qualified leads that would convert into 2010 speaking gigs.  

The secret to this system goes beyond the actual performance at the event, it is a matter of follow up. After my talk at the book signing, I gathered about ten good leads for future events.  Within 48 hours, I made sure that the leads were properly distributed to my agent partner to call and close on. Furthermore, I gathered two PR leads for my upcoming relaunch of Saving The World At Work.  Those have been followed up on and look like solid hits for late this Fall. 

The speed of the follow up is everything. I'm surprised how slow we can be to "seize the opportunity" for future sales or promotion. I've found that for every day you wait to follow up, you likely cut the odds of conversation by at least 10%. Wait a few weeks, and it's a dead lead.  

Business is not like dating, you don't wait three days to call back! You should always err on the side of too-quick of a follow up to connect while you are still top of mind. In our information overload world, this is more true that ever.  In fact, I think you have LESS time to follow up on a hot lead than you did a few years ago.  Much like your social media stream, the time line moves a little faster with each passing day. 

Takeaway: Follow up on leads within one day. If you delegate follow up, follow up on the delegation within 48 hours.  Always be closing, even on the first follow up.  If it is a sales opp, put an agreement in front of the prospect to look at and sign.  If it is PR, close in on an issue or broadcast date you will be a part of.  The more you shorten the distance between interest and conversion, the more value you will capture from your sales and marketing efforts. 

Consider having me as your next event's keynote speaker

August 20, 2009

The End Of Secrecy

One of my faithful blog readers (Allison Kanti) pointed me to a very thought provoking article (Getting Found Out Web 2.0 Style).  The point of the article is that you can't hide anymore in the new digital world we live in. This is especially true if you are a proflific social networker and use tools such as Twitter, Facebook or Flickr. Now that smart phones have video capture capability with easy upload to YouTube, everything you do can go as viral as the Rodney King video.  

I think this is great news for good people. Secrecy is the ally to evil. Think about the future of business in a transparent world: No bad act gets hidden, no good act goes unnoticed. What does this mean? Same things I've been saying since 2002 -- Nice smart people succeed.  More than ever, values and ethics must drive our day to day decisions.  Since the birth of capitalism, countless companies have relied on layers of communication blocks to externalize their true costs on society with impunity.  Those days are over.  

When I was growing up, my grandmother often told me about some relatives in Oklahoma that were true snake oil salespeople.  They'd show up in a town, pop open the trailer and do their little scam-show, and often leave with their pockets stuffed with cash.  I asked her once, "what ever happened to them?"  She replied, "they were eventually caught when the telegraph wires went up!" 

August 19, 2009

Greening up the HR function

As I gear up for the relaunch of Saving The World At Work this fall (more on that later), I'd like to share a conference deliverable with all of you. 

Yesterday, I conducted a Masters Series seminar for HR Florida, the Florida SHRM.  I love talking to my HR associates, I finished my career working in Yahoo's HR department.  I love the opportunity of HR, because this is where the entire talent cycle starts. 

During the seminar, I offered the attendees a downloadable article I wrote about how HR professionals can green up their function, reimagine how they conduct business and influence the rest of the company -- changing the world.  As I often say, and will say for a long time, "if not you than who?"

Read: How HR Can Green Up Your Company via Employee Relations Today

PS - I'm leading a flock on Twitter, offering up advice all day long.  Follow me.

August 18, 2009

Keeping focused in a distractive speaking environment

My last two speaking gigs have been concurrent session talks.  This means that I must compete with other seminars/panels and keynote for audience, noise-throughput and attention.  This is a highly unusual situation for me as I usually give keynotes during general sessions. 

Given the state of the meetings industry, I'll do keynotes, concurrent sessions, one-on-ones, etc. -- no complaints from this dude.  However, I must say, it is a terrible environment for a speaker.  First of all, the audience is constantly wondering, "Should I duck out to another session?"  I call them "conference shoppers." They stop in, give you a few minutes to connect and move on.  When you give a keynote, there is no where else to go but the trade show -- and it is waiting for them at the end of your talk.

Then there's the issue of the speaker next door.  I'm shocked that yesterday the group I spoke for put me next to another session, where the speaker blared a soundtrack of wild geese and duck calls to punctuate his speech, causing me to have to step down from the platform and walk deep into the audience so I could hear myself.  It was, to say the least, a learning experience.  

Today, I was in a similar situation, except I didn't have noise issues to compete with.  I learned from yesterday though, and today I was able to stay very focused on on point.  Many of you find yourself frequently in this situation, though, so here are some tips to keep your focus during such environments. 

1. Hustle your audience in the hallway, play killer music in your meeting room and welcome everyone that comes in.  Shake his/her hand and thank them for coming to your panel as opposed to another. That'll keep them from ducking out if they hear laughter in the other room, etc. 

2. If there is distractive noise, acknowledge it to your audience and ask for your A/V person to turn you up in the system.  If there is a noise breakout next door, stop talking until it subsides. 

3. Don't worry if people come and go.  Focus instead on the ones that are listening to you and taking notes.  Keep eye contact and focus your energy on moving your active attendees to action.  Ask for people to give examples of what you are advocating and give up the mic for a minute in a Phil Donahue style interactive move. 

4.  Remember: It's not about you.  It is about your message and if you change the life of just one person (and score well on the evaluations) you are making a difference and will continue to stay in high demand.  

As my fave speaking coach/author Nick Morgan frequently says: The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.  It's not about being the center of undivided attention. 

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