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Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

In an article written by Tony Schwartz and published by Harvard Business Review, Schwartz addressed six “secrets” leaders need to know in order to create a culture of innovation. Schwartz points out that no company follows all six innovation secrets – and most aren’t able to even manage three of the six.

Wow!

You can read the article by clicking here.

The United States has been losing its innovation advantage for a couple of decades. Just look at the industries the U.S. once created and turned into multi-billion dollar businesses: automobiles, steel, medical devices, plastics…the list is long – but the staying power and leadership position the United States once held in these industries is gone. Why?

I believe much of the answer lies in Schwartz’s third and fourth secrets: Nurture Passion and Make the Work Matter.

In these two components to create a culture of innovation lies the secret sauce to most any successful organization: its people. But more than that, in nurturing passion and making the work matter, we see how critically important it is to not just employ bright, intelligent, hungry-for-success men and women, but to engage with them on a daily basis. When companies stop engaging with its people, de-valuing work, demanding more and more without adequate appreciation, recognition and, yes, compensation – its best and brightest people will exit the organization and find something better to do.

People want to feel engagement with the organization they work for and with sound engagement, your best people will do nearly anything to “get the job done” and exceed expectations at every turn.

So Mr. and Ms. Leader, it’s not enough to be engaged yourself. You must identify and prioritize how to engage with employees and create and maintain that passion for the work at hand. You must serve as the voice that explains to your people why the work matters — beyond the creation of shareholder value. Nurture passion. Create a connection to how and why the work matters. Every day.

If you manage to accomplish just two of the six secrets to creating a culture of innovation you’ll be a third of the way there. And, I predict, your team will help get the organization the rest of the way.

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Many of my peer-to-peer communication discussions ultimately turn to that age-old question: “What would you do if you had the top communication post – VP of Communications or Chief Comms Officer?” Seems the actions reserved for that first 100 days can make or break anyone, no matter how much experience they have traveling through the bloodstream.

So those first 100 days boils down to a few critical components. PR firm Weber Shandwick published an e-book on this topic a couple of years ago and the info really hit the mark. I’ve summarized some of that content, below, and have included my own thoughts as well as comments from my friends who practice PR and communication every day. I hope this creates more discussion on the topic – so feel free to comment and share your ideas.

The First 100 Days In The Life of a New CCO

  1. Get aligned with the organization’s culture as well as the CEO’s vision, strategy and objectives. How does the CEO communicate? What are his/her expectations? What behaviors are most valued by the executive team? What’s the political landscape?
  2. Get to know your communications team. You’re inheriting a team that has its own expectations, strengths, weaknesses and past successes. You must prepare to adjust your perspectives to fit in with the group, not vice versa. Listen carefully during one-on-ones with each communications staffer and take time to get to know the team as individuals. You can gain their respect by involving them in your planning and learning process. And don’t forget to acknowledge the great work they’re doing.
  3. Get to know the business. Spend time with each business leader. Attend their team meetings and meet individually with each of them. And yes, go to them. Use your interviewing skills to identify their challenges, desires and perceptions about how communication can help their business. These sessions will help you build support for communication across the company. Take copious notes as you have these meetings. You’ll use many of their ideas to create your comms plan.
  4. Talk to key stakeholders and get their opinions on the organization’s reputation. Ask similar questions of reporters, customers, strategic partners, and vendors. What has the company done well? What could we do better? Understanding the nuances from various stakeholders will help you craft a plan that nets results.
  5. Create the foundation of your plan by Day 100. Be proactive with goals, objectives and tactics that you and your team can drive. Don’t wait and let others come to you. There will be plenty of that along the way. Apply what you’ve learned listening to your team, the business leaders and the C-suite. Take the communication wheel or con or rudder, align PR plans with business strategy and your research steer your efforts. (And don’t forget to involve your team in the development of this plan!)
  6. Measure something. Media impressions, interactions with stakeholders, or issues and crisis situations avoided because of proactive engagement. You’ll know the C-level expectations when it comes to metrics and analytics. Include the measurement component in the comms strategy and create an executive summary or dashboard that focuses on results – at a minimum this should roll up once a quarter.

There are many more pieces to this puzzle, but these six steps are the crux of what will help you have a great experience as the chief communications person.  No matter what level you’re at in your career, think about how you would approach the role. Do you and your comms team currently work from a plan that is tied to business strategy? If not, perhaps it’s time to ask why.

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It took the 11 years and four treks, but I’ve made friends with the North Shore of Minnesota – a stretch of Lake Superior shoreline, highway, infamous landmarks, and seasonal resorts.

Up until now, my travels that direction epitomized the word miserable. Few other places in the country boast about bad weather to attract tourists, but for those in Duluth and points north along the treacherous northwest shore of Lake Superior, bad weather is a piece of nearly every historical moment worth noting. For me, one late summer trip several years ago featured horizontal rain and high winds for two straight days. A second venture resulted in a foot of snow and high winds. The third trip, a late April getaway, included some sun, but the wind blew so fierce it might as well have been the Antarctic. This pattern seems to be the norm.

The vistas and opportunities to hike, bike and relax in the Arrowhead Region of Minnesota are too numerous to ignore…and so away we went on Saturday to kick off Labor Day weekend 2010.

And brother, we hit the weather jackpot.

Two full days of “sunny and mid- to upper-60s farenheit” ruled our short getaway. On Day One, the lofty cotton-ball-esque dotted skies served as a personal tour guide as we hiked miles and miles of the Superior Hiking Trail – enough steps to make our feet, calves, knees and thighs tell us “enough.” If you haven’t stepped onto a piece of the 270-plus miles of this trail, add it to your bucket list. And while you’re at it, make sure to take the Lookout Mountain trail section for a scene unlike any other you’ll find in Minnesota.

That evening we ate and slept in Grand Marais. Our dinner bell rang at The Crooked Spoon, a crowded cafe on Wisconsin Street where the chef served up a wicked lamb tenderloin and the most beautiful leafy green salad I’ve ever seen. And while very much a tourist town, for a Saturday night, Grand Marais seemed very quaint and quiet overlooking a calm Lake Superior.

On a cloudless Day Two, Cheri and I biked the Pincushion Mountain trail, just a couple miles from Grand Marais off the Gunflint Trail highway. Leaving the town, this highway rises over 1,000 feet in just 2.5 miles or so. After completely wasting our legs peddling the mountain bike trail, I coasted back in to Grand Marais – nearing 40 mph on two wheels and barely turning the crank.

Another hike on the Superior Hiking Trail to take in Devil’s Kettle gave new meaning to late summer in Northern Minnesota. As we sat on the rocks of the Brule River watching the falls the color was unbelievable. From the rocks to the sharp dark walls of the river’s gorge to the green chlorophyl-laden shrubs and trees to a clear blue sky. Now that’s what being outdoors is suppose to be about.

Lesson learned. The North Shore may be unforgiving at times with its wind, driving rain and lake effect snows, but pick your moment and place and you can be pleasantly surprised by the gift of such a place. And you may, like me, make friends with a piece of America that you had for awhile given up on.

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There was a time when all science fiction movies were just that – fiction. Written and told by future thinkers…storytellers. But the close ties to reality painted by the screenwriters and actors who contributed to “District 9” changed my views of science fiction during the course of the movie.

Having only watched “District 9” once, I’m sure I’ve missed all the subtleties of present-day politics, human rights and persistent (and evil) search for control and power. Oh wait. I caught these three parallels so obviously portrayed in this movie. But there’s more. Much more.

“District 9” brings home the nuances of just how ugly human kind can be when placed in odd circumstances. Not that the war crimes committed by Nazis in WWII could ever be forgotten, but it’s just one instance in which this movie shows through parallel how completely brutal people can be when self-motivation overrules common sense.

This story is unique and unfolds in ways no unsuspecting movie watcher could anticipate. And while there were one or two moments in which I thought, “okay, that wasn’t necessary,” by and large the vast majority of this movie seemed more real and possible than any alien-based movie I’ve seen since “Signs.”

And I’ll admit, I have a thing about aliens on Earth that tends to keep me up at night.

Go see “District 9” and you’ll forget its even about alien creatures and “what if” scenarios. Because, in the end, we are such an imperfect bunch of humans.

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A few photos from my recent trip to Lausanne, Switzerland where I spent a Saturday acting like a tourist.

Lausanne Rooftops

This photo overlooks the rooftops of Lausanne. It’s a view from the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which sits about halfway up the hill the city sits on. In the distance is Lake Geneva and beyond that the French Alps.

Gargoyle

A gargoyle sits atop the Museum of History building. Speaking of history, Napolean stayed in Lausanne and Mozart played two concerts at a theater in the city.

Lausanne Market

The market on Saturday filled with both locals speaking Swiss French, German and Italian – and tourists like me speaking any of a dozen other languages.

TourdeSuisse

The Tour de Suisse whipped through Lausanne, with the breakaway owning a four minute lead on the peloton, followed by a caravan of team and support vehicles that must have been a mile long all by itself.

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Elitists feel they have outstanding personal abilities, intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or some other distinctive attributes, and therefore their views and ideas must be taken more seriously or carry more weight. In addition, they may assume special privileges and responsibilities and feel they have earned certain rights that others do not or should not have based on their level or position in society.

The proliferation of elitism has been underway since the dawn of human kind. What’s become worse in the past two decades is how many people automatically place themselves into this elitist category with no basis of reason. As populists in society strive toward breaking down the walls and barriers created by the elite (to ensure everyone has the same human rights and opportunities), elites attempt to further widen and deepen their moat protecting their belief that the privileged few have every right to make and enforce the rules.

What’s more, the new elites stem from recent generations of children who grew up expecting life to be handed to them in perfect order – further widening the gap between the haves and have nots. In fact, the common middle class that most of us grew up in, has now latched firmly on to the orbit of the elite.

The hard work our mothers and fathers once performed – the work that made our nation strong – has been tossed out with the bath water in the past 20 years. The yuppies, Gen-Xers and Millenials feel society owes them the vast rewards of life simply for waking up and putting on their socks.

And since elitism endorses the exclusion of large numbers of people from positions of privilege or power, this class in our society is essentially turning its collective head further and further away from its roots – away from the very parents or grandparents who worked two shifts so the family could enjoy a warm home, a reliable car and new shoes as the kids’ feet grew. Today, the 4,000-square-foot homes, Beemers, Audis and Mercedes are not the exception, they are the rule.

I’m sick and I’m tired of 20-somethings and younger walking around with their hands out – like baby birds waiting to be fed and chirping their beaks off until the mother Robin satiates their demands. These kids, our children, are clueless. They lack responsibility, respect and a fundamental concept of what labor is all about.

How are we suppose to begin fixing the recent economic malaise in the United States and globally, when our “most valuable asset,” our best and brightest, are entering the workforce with no concept of what work is all about? The learnings that once came with earning a decent wage for a decent day’s work are gone.

We’ve created the “gimme” culture of elitists and I’ve never been more personally disgusted and disappointed by a mind set than this one.

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BAD

What would happen if every blog published posts on the same topic, on the same day? October 15 is Blog Action Day, and the theme this year is the environment.If you have a blog and want to join in, all you have to do is use that day to post something related to the environment, in whatever way, shape, or form you prefer. You can pick an environmental issue that has meaning for you and let us know why it’s important.

Organize a beach or neighborhood cleanup and tell us about it. If you’re into fiction writing, give us a story with an environmental theme. Have a podcast, videoblog, or photoblog? Join the fun! The idea here is to have a mass effect on public awareness by sharing as many ideas in as many ways as possible.

If you’re game for participating, go register your blog with the 10,000+ other blogs (with 7 million readers!) that are already signed up. Also, see the Blog Action Day blog for more on how bloggers can change the world.

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