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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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Does your business maintain a YouTube channel? How about a Facebook page? Have you looked at them lately? Who’s minding your corporate reputation on these social media properties?

At coffee this morning with a friend and business associate, our conversation turned to digital media and the variety of improper uses companies allow in order to stand out on YouTube, Vimeo and other popular social sites. The pressure to do more than just have a presence is immense. Short videos displaying the benefits of new products and solutions are great. Celebrity spokespeople providing a reality-like testimonial for your thousands of Facebook fans — a marketer’s best dream. And if your company is lucky enough to have a video go viral the result can be felt on the Richter Scale. But what’s the impact on reputation when your latest social media campaign fails to follow branding guidelines, or worse, crosses a line from being edgy to having poor taste?

Case in point: A certain vodka manufacturer posted an ad on its Facebook page. The ad’s  photo and message had a clear connection with rape. Smart? Do vodka companies need to care that their social media outreach, targeting a 21 – 34 demographic, ultimately reaches mainstream audiences as well? Is the company risking a reputation backlash with a clever but ill-advised ad that generates tons of earned media coverage?

Of course!

So some words of caution to consider.

Monitor your organization’s YouTube and social media efforts.

Make sure a trusted communications leader scrutinizes your organization’s social media content before it gets posted.

If you pursue social media outreach, keep it up-to-date with frequent and timely posts, video and interactive content.

Corporate reputation takes years to establish, but can be blown apart with a 60 second video designed to create interest, be edgy or skewer the competition. Do you really want your reputation to be the next corporate pinata in the business section of the news paper?

Take serious stock in everything tied to your brand. And don’t be afraid to can that great social media idea when you sense it might turn into a disaster.

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In his book, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins writes:

…leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious – but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.

In short, put your organization ahead of your personal career ambitions if you want to contribute to the organization and become a success. This is especially true at organizations experiencing high growth. Furiously fast growth often keeps companies from making that good to great transition. Why?

Because leaders fail to recognize the importance of bringing the rest of the team along. They focus instead on their next high-priority project or – God forbid – their next career move, or ensuring they don’t blow their budget in the quarter, or making a revenue quota. Together, these might be important things that require attention from a leader. But the best leaders find ways to balance their to-do lists and remember what (rather who) is making that flywheel gain momentum.

Who is the growth engine behind any company? The rest of the team – the employees who the company invested in, trained, on-boarded, assimilated and who now drink the Kool-aid and make things happen in the trenches to become…great.

If leaders don’t bring employees with them on the journey, the best and brightest people will find a different place where they can both contribute and feel connected as a team.

Collins adds:

Those who build great companies [leaders] understand that the ultimate throttle on growth for any great company is not markets, or technology, or competition, or products. It is one thing above all others: the ability to get and keep enough of the right people.

So as a leader, I ask you: What have you done to enhance and motivate your people today? If the answer is, “nothing,” then be prepared…the brakes on the bus are about to be stomped.

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I sat through a lunch and learn meeting on social media yesterday. A co-worker launching a new social networking site – one of the first this company has ever considered – partnered up with a social media expert from another Fortune 500 company across town that leads the market in a number of food categories. This expert gets a six-month sabbatical from his organization to go uncover how other companies are approaching this new world of marketing/social networking (and I want that job!).

At first glance, the average outsider looking in might wonder what food has to do with medical technology. Answer: In the world of social media, it’s all frighteningly similar.

Our discussion during lunch wandered around from individual backgrounds and experience (e-marketing, corporate PR, engineering) to the rapid pace of change happening to the Internet, which has since its inception been traveling at the speed of carreraour CEO’s Porsche. Roughly six months in our everyday life equates to two full years on the Internet. And there is no speed limit on the information superhighway.

Just how do large, staid companies differentiate from those organizations in the world nimble to the ways of the ‘Net?  We cower in fear…at least at the onset.  The corporate board rooms filled with 50-something, graying men and women look quizzically at their marketing VPs talking about Twitter feeds and branded YouTube channels. They scoff at CEO blogs that actually INVITE customer feedback and potential criticism to the newly launched widget.

That is until their very own board members – other corporate leaders who are vying to stay relevant in the land of social media/networking start asking questions at the conference table.  This level of CEO-to-CXO peer pressure starts to drive the inevitable change big, fat, slow-moving companies must make. It’s not up for discussion and it’s not an if/then choice. It’s a “when” choice and the “when” was yesterday. Mr. or Ms. CEO, if you missed the boat, you’re going to do more than get your feet wet if you hope to catch up. There is no room for another mistake.

Given the macro-economic state of the world, a fever pitch now resides with all things social media/networking. Nothing is more “mission critical.” To message to customers – to actually sell product and generate revenue, compete and be legitimate – companies simply must open the door on this next phase of marketing.

And really, it’s just the sands of business paradigms shifting yet again – like they  always do. The landscape might feel new, but the level of risk and reward is the same as past transitions.

The ride, however, is vastly more interesting than anything I’ve ridden to date.

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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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Last week I received an assignment from my veep at work. I was asked to manage a fairly major announcement impacting one of the company’s business units, the scope of which ultimately impacts employees and the bottom line – in a positive way.

That announcement came today and through all the many fire drills and last minute changes, the result was exactly what was expected. The media gave the news its due; the spokespeople achieved their objective in delivering the planned message; and the team as a whole was pleased.

It feels good to lead part of an effort that will have a positive effect on a multi-billion dollar business.

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