The Future’s Attacking!

I had a conversation with some friends in between Christmas and New Year where we mused about how lovely it is to tune out the world of work and its responsibilities for a few days. We agreed that it is important to slow down and truly enjoy the moment. However, we discovered that we all found this remarkably difficult to do. We all struggled to do the complete switch-off.

We realised that we had all experienced one particular feeling at some point throughout the festive week. future-attackWe named it “The Future-Attack”. This is the sense of worry you feel when you suddenly remember an upcoming event or situation, where the fear of the future takes away some of the joy of the present.

The most obvious future-attack among us was the thought of the first day back at work. It was the idea of the relaxed and indulgent festive season coming to an end. Although the intensity of the future-attack would vary, depending on the level of overall job and life satisfaction, we all recognised that feeling much too well. I have myself spent many a Christmas break with a knot in my stomach and a whirlwind of worries in my mind at the thought of it all coming to an end on that first Monday back.

But this year, for the first time, it was different.

My future-attack lasted for about two seconds, before I suddenly remembered that I absolutely love my job! Unlike previous years, where the thought of work would provide an underlying sense of stress and inadequacy, I now felt a jolt of joy. I would be returning to do the things I love, for the clients I have chosen, earning the money I deserve.

I take great pride in being my own boss and the master of my own happiness – but I also wish more people could experience that same happiness at the thought of going back to work on a Monday morning. This year, why not take some time out to discover what would truly make you happy and passionate about your work?

Check out these top tips from Inc.com on how to be happy in your current job. And remember – if you can’t find meaning in your existing job, perhaps it’s time to look further along the horizon to find something new and better.

How to manage creativity

We’re all operating in a world driven by innovation. Product life cycles are shorter than ever before, business start and expand overnight, the cloud computing revolution enables the instant turn-on and shutdown of resources at the click of a button… Entire industry landscapes change and evolve at a higher rate than many of us can keep up with.

As businesses, we try to make as much sense of this as we can. We often find ourselves on the sidelines, watching the game to see which side is winning before joining them on the pitch to help score a few goals.

The most successful companies don’t do that. They’re busy re-writing the rule book and sacking the referee.

Creativity and innovation go hand in hand and are essential to not only entrepreneurship but to the sustained success of established businesses. Unfortunately, many managers don’t know how to manage creativity. It is considered an elusive concept and less direct in its result generation compared to streamlining efficiencies or improving processes.

The first instinct of a manager is to refuse to consider ideas that are challenging and “impossible” (i.e. never been done before) – killing ground-breaking concepts.

“Revolutionary ideas come about when we doubt our existing view of the world,” says Alan Iny, co-author with Luc de Brabandere of Thinking in New Boxes: A New Paradigm for Business Creativity. “In this respect, true leaders must develop the capacity for radical originality: they must re-imagine and reinvent the world in totally unexpected ways. By doing that, they can create a culture that is open to creative risk-taking and an environment where failure is accepted as part of the creative process.”

Failure makes a great teacher but a lousy friend. A successful creative culture will nurture the process of generating enough ideas and hypotheses to counteract any setbacks from failures – but there will be no focus on failure as a word, which is negatively charged. Instead, it’s all about building resilience where the learnings are part of the creative journey and help form the backdrop for new innovation.

As for encouraging and maintaining the creative streak in our organisations; that’s going to be the next big challenge.
A recent Harvard Business School colloquium on creativity landed in the viewpoint that “One doesn’t manage creativity. One manages for creativity.”

I like the sound of that.

4 ways to build “Brand YOU”

hello-my-name-is-uniqueWhether you are an entrepreneur, business professional or service provider in some capacity, chances are a large portion of your time and effort is spent helping others look good. By working to improve profitability, solve problems, save time or improve image – you are making others more successful, just by being good at what you do.

But what about YOU? How do you make sure you also work on building your own brand – and get more business, more job offers or better compensation?

Now, I’m not talking about self-promotion here. Selling yourself through shamelessly waving your qualifications in other people’s faces is not how you build a strong brand. The only way you will gain true respect and confidence in your industry is by having a solid track record of performance and collecting a string of very satisfied customers and partners along the way. They are your true assets.

What you DO need to do, is to make sure that you leverage those assets in the most efficient way. So how do you do this?

Make yourself aware of what you’re good at

This may sound obvious, but there are two elements to this.

  1. Take time to actually evaluate yourself and bring your strengths and qualities to your conscious mind. By mapping them out in writing, you can make yourself aware of all the things you have to be proud of. But don’t stop there!
  2. The second step should be to speak to the people you serve. Your clients, co-workers, business partners – they all have an opinion on you. Ask them what they enjoy about working with you, how you have helped them and what benefits they have seen. Chances are they will point out things which surprise you, or at least things that you didn’t think mattered very much.

Work on your presence

Are you one of those people that tend to fade into the crowd at gatherings? Are you afraid of becoming the centre of attention, or do you play yourself down so as not to come across as one of those obnoxious horn-tooters that nobody likes? Well – having a humble personality doesn’t need to stop you from building your brand. There are many ways you can establish yourself as an authority in your field without coming across as cocky.

  1. Take genuine interest in people. It may sound counter-intuitive, but by focusing on the other person you are actually shining your own brand light over them. You are offering your ears – as well as your advice, if possible – which establishes a sense of reliability and confidence.
  2. Offer specific examples. Prepare a few anecdotes that you can quickly reel off when a suitable topic comes up, which really showcase your core strengths and abilities. Practice a few times and make sure you feel comfortable talking about yourself, but use the leverage of the client or partner perspective. Hone in on what benefits they saw from working with you or why they chose you instead of the competition.

Find your channels

Not everyone likes to write blogs or schmooze at networking events, but everyone can find platforms for brand-building where they are comfortable. Have a look at the channels you have access to, and identify the ones you like best – then think about how you can amplify them. For example, if you like to comment in an industry group on LinkedIn, you may want to consider also setting up a group of your own and create a schedule for sharing informative content and curating others’ articles. If instead you feel happier behind the podium at a conference, then perhaps you could build a global audience through sharing your knowledge in online webinars.

Keep getting better at what you do

Do you want to be seen as a superior provider, an industry expert or the go-to-person for a particular product? Then telling your story is not enough. You need to make sure you are constantly striving to be the best you can be. You are only ever as good as your delivery, so focus first and foremost on making your stakeholders happy. All the best brands show a consistent, proven quality over time. Without it, you are just an empty rattle.

Do you have other tips on how to build Brand YOU? Feel free to leave a comment!

Top 5 Reasons Why Marketers Need to Master Public Speaking

Many marketing professionals spend a majority of their careers perfecting the art of communicating to stakeholders via written or visual media – using product collateral, e-campaigns, infographics, video and other deliverables. We tend to make it our role to enable others to be heard while ourselves standing in the shadows. But while bringing other people into the spotlight, there are still a number of reasons why marketers need to be as comfortable at the podium as well as behind the scenes.

1. Build “Brand Me”

We are all constantly reminded that the concept of career development is more than having a well-structured CV. We now need to consider things like our online social media profiles, our personal USPs, perfecting elevator pitches and building our personal brand. And if we want to convey the message that we are worth listening to, the best way is to show that others are listening to us. Having regular speaking engagements or video blogs to underpin that message is extremely useful to establish our relevance. As you rise through the ranks and gain more senior positions, there will be an increased requirement for you to be comfortable speaking to groups of people, so start getting that experience as early in your career as possible.

2. Be prepared for the unexpected

We’ve all been there. That event or meeting where you suddenly get put on the spot. Someone asks you a question which requires a response in front of the entire audience. Or you get tasked with introducing a speaker – perhaps unexpectedly, having to improvise. Or worse, you get thrown into the deep end and have to step in for a speaker who was unable to make it. These are all situations which can make us shiver in our boots and cause intense fear. However, if we make it our mission to practise public speaking, these situations will gradually become more bearable as our confidence grows.

3. Communicate consciously

Speaking in front of a physical gathering of people is an entirely different thing to sending them a newsletter or a barrage of tweets. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn how the audience responds to your message. You get to use yourself as a vehicle for sharing information with a very personal touch. Your voice, your body language, your eye contact – these are all unique things to you, which people will connect with. And by connecting with them, you will learn a great deal about them which you will be able to use when you craft your marketing content.

4. Be a business ambassador

Business is people. Your company consists of human beings who all relate to other human beings, establishing relationships, gathering information and facilitating transactions. We often talk about the importance of promoting real people in our marketing strategies in that we build personas, we promote thought leaders, we use pictures of real people on our websites and  collateral. But don’t forget that you, as the marketer, are an important voice in building the business brand. See yourself as the shop window of your company wherever you go. You are a representative, an ambassadeur, a very powerful weapon in the company’s arsenal. This of course requires you to live and breathe the core values and mission of the business, but it also requires the courage – and the initiative – to speak up.

5. Establish your own knowledge

There is tremendous value in sharing information with other people. We all have knowledge and experience which the world wants to hear about and every time you share it, you become empowered in that knowledge. As you develop your speaking skills, it will gradually become easier to tap into that pool of insight whenever people come to you for guidance. This will also contribute to you becoming a role model for other people and perhaps inspire a new generation of marketers. Don’t shy away from teaching others because you’re not a “leader” or a “teacher type”. You may not see it yourself, but by wanting to share your knowledge you are already a leader and an influencer. Make the most of it!

For tips on where to get vital training to become a skilled speaker, contact me – I’m happy to recommend courses!

 

Recruiters say the darndest things

Fancy a job?If you’re a recruiter and find yourself playing any of the following roles – please stop. Now.

These examples are all ones I have personally experienced over the last few years, sometimes when actively looking for work, sometimes not. And they are the reasons why I resent the entire job application process.

1. The Smooth Talker

I was once represented by a particularly suave recruitment agent who would happily go the extra mile to stroke his candidates’ egos. In my case, it wasn’t really needed. When I at one point said that the client would be “very lucky to have me”, he responded by saying “yes, they would indeed be lucky to have an attractive, tall, blonde Swedish lady on their team.”
It took me several hours to calm down enough to write a response, highlighting the inappropriateness of his comment. The main point I made was that I face enough sexist obstacles as it is, working in a male-dominated industry. I don’t need more rubbish from the people who are supposed to support me and recognise my professional abilities. Am I right?

2. The Gap Filler

Sometimes I have come across roles where I am not a great match to the job profile – a view also shared by the recruiter. However, they would still encourage me to apply “just in case”, which is essentially a waste of my time. Recruiters: We know what you’re doing. You obviously have a star candidate that you want to hard sell to the client by placing them next to sub-spec ones. It gives us a false sense of hope. Don’t do that.

3. The Empty Promiser

Don’t say you will call the next day when you have absolutely no intention of calling the next day. Or the next. Or the one after that. It’s called lying – and it’s not a good look.

4. The Silent Type

Apply for the role. Have the phone briefing. Attend the first interview. Seems positive. Report back to the agent. Plan around a vague date for second interview. Wait. And wait. Vague date passes. Call the agent. No update. Wait. Wait. And wait. Then a call out of the blue: “A second interview tomorrow, can you make it?” Attend the second interview. Seems positive. Report back to the agent. Wait. Wait. Wait. Then an email: “Sorry, you were unsuccessful on this occasion”. No detail, no reason, no feedback. Nothing. (Well – I may have been unsuccessful in my application, but you were unsuccessful in  making me ever want to apply for a role through you again.) Hot tip: If you want candidates to invest their time in the application process, be a decent person and keep them posted on progress and – most importantly – if they fail, let them know why it didn’t work out.

5. The Straw Grasper

There is always that recruiter who mines CVs looking for keywords, such as experience of a particular piece of software, and thinks it’s a good idea to spam the candidate with suggested roles that hinge entirely on that one area. As a marketing manager, I frequently get suggested roles as Salesforce API programmer, Java developer, product engineer and other random stuff – from people who should know better. An agent who gives no consideration to my genuine profile deserves exactly what they get: a fast-track to my email black list.

6. The Mole

We all know this type. Popping up out of nowhere, completely unexpected, some recruiters send contact requests on LinkedIn without an introduction and without any contacts in common. Surely, there must be more effective ways to grow your network than sending random contact requests using the generic LinkedIn message? For me, and for many people like me, this approach generates a swift click on the “Ignore” button.

Now – I’m not a recruiter. Far be it from me to tell you how to do your job. However, being at the receiving end of recruitment efforts over the last few years, I like to think I may have gained be an insight or two that might be useful. You should be aware that every time you make any of the above mistakes, you will end up with one more candidate who a) will never actively choose to work with you again and b) is likely to warn friends and colleagues about engaging with you.

In your own words: Better luck next time!