Saturday, October 31, 2015

Friday, October 30, 2015

5 Halloween Marketing Trends That Easily Reinforce The Brand

When it comes to marketing, there's no end to how creative and/or crazy you can get this Halloween. The trick is to raise awareness all in the spirit of the brand. Here are five trends providing a perfect vehicle for doing so:
  1. Character Brands: The most popular costumes nationally are Batman adversary Harley Quinn; Star Wars, superheroes; pirates; and Batman himself. (Source: Google Frightgeist)
  2. DIY Tips from Trusted Brands: Whether it's homemade mom & baby costumes (Cotton Incorporated) or clever Halloween Treats (Prevention Magazine), creative and money-saving options are popular this season. (Source: Clickz)
  3. Viral Videos With A Real-Life Lesson: The UK's Tesco supermarket did a spot in which one of their supermarkets was tricked out with a Halloween monster, and customers were videotaped as they freaked out in response. As a bonus, viewers got tips on how to do some pretty cool and very ghoulish things. (Source: Momentology)
  4. Get Fans Into The Action: It never hurts to get brand devotees excited by rewarding them for dressing up as their version of a character. A smart move by the folks promoting the next installation of the Hunger Games. Or, you can simply ask customers to name their favorite "Oreo Nomster." (Sources: ClickzExactTarget.com)
  5. Ride The Twitter Targeting Bandwagon: Want to be locked up with a zombie? No thanks, if you ask me, but a lot of people answer "Yes, totally!" For them, Room Escape Adventures teamed up with SocialCentiv to push promo tickets straight to potential customers mentioning Halloween on Twitter. (Source: Adweek)
____
All opinions are the author's own. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The New Facebook Search: Good Or Bad For Your Brand?

In a move that some have termed “a challenge to Google,” Facebook announced last week that with its “Search FYI” updated functionality, users of the platform will now see expanded search results:
  • Content others have posted and marked “Public”
  • Content you’ve already seen
  • Content that’s already been shared with you
For individuals seeking to maximize their personal brand this raises a troubling concern: Will all of my old, embarrassing, inadvertently public posts now come back to haunt me? The answer to that question is not as simple as one might think.
  • If you’ve been inadvertently marking “private” content as “public,” then yes it’s time to go back and change yourprivacy settings or even deactivate your account altogether, if you’re very concerned. This is especially true if you are concerned about an employer (or potential employer) checking you out online.
  • If you are comfortable with your social media presence, you may prefer to consider the benefits of authenticity, and “own” your content rather than try to filter out potentially embarrassing previous comments, photos, or shares. The self-censorship may be more trouble to you than it is worth.
  • If you’re not sure what to do, a middle-of-the-road solution could be to limit the viewability of past posts so that only your friends can see them, and they’re excluded from the search function. (Here’s Gizmodo’s primer.)
For companies doing content market there are two key issues to consider.
  • Will content created specifically to move product automatically reach more potential buyers? It’s not clear. AsCyberAlert points out: “Brands will probably find that deciphering the network’s algorithm and reaching consumers will be challenging. The network’s opaque algorithms that determine what users see in their news feeds already frustrate many brands that do content marketing on Facebook.”
  • Will the creators of viral content be required to pay for search results to show up in users’ news feeds?  Although we don’t know yet, the answer is “likely yes.” Writing at the eConsultancy blog, Patricio Robles notes: “After all, Facebook needs to make money, and free lunches come to an end, even in social media….what Facebook giveth, Facebook can taketh away.”
At the end of the day, the fundamental rules of social haven’t changed at all: Number one, be yourself and number two, content is king. But at the same time, the rules of branding haven’t changed either: Know your audience, make a clear, relevant and unique promise to them that you can keep, and deliver consistently across platforms.
___________
All opinions are the author’s own. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The 10 Building Blocks Of A Personal Brand

Someone asked me for job advice and I ended up writing this in an email. I wish I could take credit for these ideas but they’re time-tested pieces of advice I’ve heard over and over throughout the years. And like a good navy suit with a white button-down shirt, they’re always appropriate.
Think of them as the 10 basic building blocks (a.k.a. the infrastructure) of your personal brand.
  1. Make a schedule you can keep to. Shows you do what you say you’ll do.
  2. Confirm that you understand what is wanted. Repeat it aloud. Send the other person an email, short and sweet, if it’s significant enough (like at the start of a project).
  3. Get very organized. Sort your work by fiscal year and subject. Keep the shared workspace organized. Keep email organized.
  4. NO PHONE CALLS in office EVER and no personal emails. This is obviously extreme but if you shoot for zero and hit 5% you’re doing good.
  5. Find a mentor who will talk to you and help you. Make friends. Have coffee. Nobody is an island.
  6. Genuine effort and a good attitude go a long way.
  7. Check your work before you give it in. Don’t just rush to send it off. Sit on it for a couple of hours.
  8. No talking to boss unless it’s to ask, “What can I do for you?” No emailing unless it’s “Here’s what you asked for.”
  9. Offer to help with seemingly small things. Your appearance should be equated with an end to pain.
  10. Try giving a shit. Read about your office on the news. It’s as easy as setting up a Google Alert.
____
All opinions my own.

Gen Xers: Is "Rudeness" Hurting Your Personal Brand?

“Douche bag.” 
“Asshole.” 
“Hey, welcome back….group’s been looking for you.” 
“Yeah, I lost my phone.” 
“Fuck off.” 
“Or maybe I took a hammer to it.” 
“….We fly tomorrow night.” 
“Without me….I quit the group, Rob.” 
“….Stop fucking around. Shit, shower, shave, and let’s go.”
– CIA agents Quinn and Rob discussing a mission, Homeland,Season 4, Episode 12
There are three main generations in the workforce today:
I am a Gen Xer. And the fact that I am ignored by the media has been covered many times, including this Time cover story going back to 1997.
This is not to bemoan such a sad state of affairs. Nor is it to enlighten you about all things X. And of course one would be stupid to reduce people to simplistic generational categories.
Rather, it is to highlight a problem that Gen Xers face with respect to workplace diversity: our communication style. Compared with “political” Baby Boomers and “polite” Millennials, Gen Xers are perceived as rude,” “skeptical,” and “cynical.”
Most of the time, discussions of generational difference do not focus on language. Here is a typical depiction (emphasis on Boomers, Xers and Millenials mine).
But it is important to talk about differences in communication style, because the impact of miscommunication on workplace productivity is significant. Not the least of the potential problems is that employees can make costly and dangerous mistakes.
The impact of miscommunication on an individual’s career may be invisible, but it is personal and it is costly. Which is probably why Harvard Business Review has an entire section on its website specifically devoted to this.
Unfortunately for the Gen Xer, particularly the Xer who is working in a team-based organization, conversations about diversity in communication style tend to revolve around cross-cultural issues or those relating to gender.
Given that the unique constellation of Gen X characteristics tends to be ignored in the diversity conversation, and given that Xers’ unique style of communication is essentially a nonissue, it follows that this generational cohort is bound to suffer from being “branded” negatively in some very unfair ways.
The solution to this problem does not lie in “consciousness raising,” from my point of view. It isn’t a matter of one group trying to oppress another. Rather, it’s about taking personal responsibility for understanding that our colleagues may have trouble understanding why we talk the way we do. It’s about recognizing that no matter how many achievements you can list on our resume, your communication style may actually really piss other people off. And that you sometimes have to temper yourself to get along with them.
I will always be a diehard fan of John Hughes. I will binge-watch Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead and Homeland and I’ll wonder:
Who writes like this?
These are awesomely realistic scripts.
But when I walk into the office to get my work done tomorrow, I’ll probably avoid calling anyone a “douche.”
___
All opinions my own. 

Why It's Not A Good Idea To Manipulate People

Branding is often equated with manipulation. Unfortunately, some people can indeed take advantage of its tactics to succeed at work, and in the process step on the very people they are supposed to lead.
They are encouraged to do so because metrics of CEO performance have little or nothing to do with genuinely treating people well.
Think about it. When the term “CEO” (or any term associated with a top executive) is uttered, most of us think of “hard” skills. (See for example this article in Forbes: “Great CEOs Must be Either Technical or Financial.”)
However at least one analysis of CEO data shows that those who occupy this role definitely have certain seeming “people skills” that non-CEOs lack.
Or are they?
The screenshot below is from “Making It to the Top: Nine Attributes That Differentiate CEOs,” an analysis of an in-house database of “nearly 4,000 executive assessments, including over 130 CEOs” done by consulting firm Russell Reynolds Associates.
The company found that CEOs have 9 differentiator qualities. The following 4 are specifically associated with people, under the category “Team Building” –
  • “Seeks to understand different perspectives but does not overanalyze”
  • “Displays intensity/emotion but maintains control”
  • “Involves others in decisions but also is an independent decision maker”
  • “Is comfortable with a variety of people but is not too trusting.”
While on the surface the CEO seems to be a good team member, is it more plausible that this person is actually an advanced manipulator of people?
Consider a recent study, “Narcissistic CEOs and executive compensation” (The Leadership Quarterly, 2013). It found that CEOs may actually be more likely than non-CEOs to have this personality disorder.
“Narcissism is characterized by traits such as dominance, self-confidence, a sense of entitlement, grandiosity, and low empathy.There is growing evidence that individuals with these characteristics often emerge as leaders, and that narcissistic CEOs may make more impulsive and risky decisions.”
Certainly CEOs are not punished for having poor people skills or even evaluated based on the quality of their interactions with other people.
This is true even though we hear over and over again that “people are an organization’s most important asset.” See for example:
Harvard Business Review, in “Valuing Your Most Valuable Assets,” points out this discrepancy, noting that employees don’t normally get white-glove treatment. Yet HBR itself discounts the quality of employee management completely in its ranking of “The Best-Performing CEOs in the World.”
Harvard’s CEO rankings are not based on “people skills” at all!
See below the basis of the rankings and the weights associated with them:
  • Stock performance (80%): 1) total shareholder return 2) change in market capitalization (which is the cost of a share times the number of shares outstanding)
  • Responsibility performance (“ESG”) (20%): A combined measure of the company’s performance on 1) environmental impact 2) social responsibility and 3) quality of governance (Research Methodology)
Here’s the bottom line: When we put our metrics where our mouths are, we will stop seeing mini-dictatorships crop up in in professional organizations. This will be an automatic byproduct of a different kind of “normal” business climate, one in which we stop tolerating leaders with personality disorders and only hire people who routinely treat others with human decency.
__
This question was originally posed on Quora. This blog is a repost of my answer there. All opinions my own. Photo by Víctor Nuño via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Creating “Must-See” Content: 25 Tips From LinkedIn & More

Adapted from this post, which contains a link to the event video. 

Featured experts: 
The tips:
  1. The focus should be on genuinely useful content; don’t ask for feedback on “which dog picture you like best.”
  2. Have a clear goal in mind. Often we communicate without actually knowing why.
  3. Assess whether you’ve been successful or not. Don’t just keep going without taking stock.
  4. Measure not just views, but how long people are viewing and more importantly, whether they take action based on the content you are offering.
  5. Market your products and services, not just yourself.
  6. Avoid thinking of content as an expense; it generates much more value than it costs.
  7. Remember that you’re competing with every other source of information out there.
  8. Don’t put something out just because you want to hear yourself talk.
  9. Negative feedback can be uncomfortable, but if you refuse to engage the conversation will happen without you.
  10. Do everything possible to eliminate content silos in communication.
  11. Don’t be afraid to share content that others create. It’s not about ownership anymore. The more partners you have, the more likely it is that your message will spread.
  12. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Don’t give up. Never give up.
  13. You never know what someone will find interesting. That’s normal.
  14. Don’t be afraid to be interesting.
  15. Begin with something that seems “simple” or elementary as a way of drawing users into your more complex mission and services.
  16. A proliferation of social media tools may be exciting, but they’re more of a liability than a benefit if they aren’t kept up. Consider offering fewer channels with greater focus on each one.
  17. Empower conservative leadership to do great content by focusing on small, achievable wins that will generate great feedback.
  18. Find out who leaders respect and show how your planned best practices are similar to theirs.
  19. Figure out how people actually reach your content – do the best you can to draw a user map.
  20. Always have the video camera ready. You never know where the next good story will come from. Generally, be prepared to spend significant time on finding good content.
  21. Make sure your content offers a similar message across different communication channels. this means paying attention to all the content your agency is putting out.
  22. Differentiate between your different audience segments; each of them will perceive your communication differently. Speak to them in words that makes sense to them.
  23. Avoid using jargon – keep language simple, common, plain English.
  24. Be human, and don’t be afraid to go “old school.” Use email. Have coffee. Trade shows and other in-person events are a great way to reach out to the public and form the kind of connections that can’t be made over social media.
  25. Use crowdsourcing tools internally that help you decide which areas to focus on and put out to the public. Employees know what the public wants and needs to hear.
_____
All opinions are the authors’ own.

The 5 Things Every Marketer Should Learn In 2015

  • What they can and cannot do: Marketing is such a broad field right now that it is impossible to know and do everything well. It’s important to specialize, even if one only specializes in being a generalist.
  • How to do visual content: This as opposed to verbal content. People scan, they take things in visually, they do not read – especially on social media. A marketer must learn to communicate in visual terms.
  • How to work in global networked virtual teams: We have reached the point where technology has almost completely eliminated the need for face-to-face interaction. A marketer must be fluent in terms of their ability to connect with others virtually, whether they’re colleagues or not; working with others virtually; and crowdsourcing solutions to problems quickly.
  • How to pitch themselves quickly and effectively. Opportunities are always cropping up out of the blue. It could be a blind job ad placed on LinkedIn, or an expression of interest from a recruiter, or a colleague with whom collaboration seems likely. A marketer must always be ready to explain themselves briefly; describe their value in a nutshell; sell the concept they’re working on in high-level terms. Remember, one often has to create opportunity where none seems to exist.
  • When branding matters:  The answer to this is always. Even if one isn’t working on a campaign, even if one isn’t working altogether – there is always the need to brand oneself, and every expression of one’s brand is relevant. One never knows where someone will pick it up.
______
All opinions are the authors’ own.

Creating “Must-See” Content: 25 Tips From LinkedIn & More

Adapted from this post, which contains a link to the event video. 
Featured experts: 
The tips:
  1. The focus should be on genuinely useful content; don’t ask for feedback on “which dog picture you like best.”
  2. Have a clear goal in mind. Often we communicate without actually knowing why.
  3. Assess whether you’ve been successful or not. Don’t just keep going without taking stock.
  4. Measure not just views, but how long people are viewing and more importantly, whether they take action based on the content you are offering.
  5. Market your products and services, not just yourself.
  6. Avoid thinking of content as an expense; it generates much more value than it costs.
  7. Remember that you’re competing with every other source of information out there.
  8. Don’t put something out just because you want to hear yourself talk.
  9. Negative feedback can be uncomfortable, but if you refuse to engage the conversation will happen without you.
  10. Do everything possible to eliminate content silos in communication.
  11. Don’t be afraid to share content that others create. It’s not about ownership anymore. The more partners you have, the more likely it is that your message will spread.
  12. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can't do it. Don't give up. Never give up.
  13. You never know what someone will find interesting. That's normal.
  14. Don’t be afraid to be interesting.
  15. Begin with something that seems “simple” or elementary as a way of drawing users into your more complex mission and services.
  16. A proliferation of social media tools may be exciting, but they’re more of a liability than a benefit if they aren’t kept up. Consider offering fewer channels with greater focus on each one.
  17. Empower conservative leadership to do great content by focusing on small, achievable wins that will generate great feedback.
  18. Find out who leaders respect and show how your planned best practices are similar to theirs.
  19. Figure out how people actually reach your content - do the best you can to draw a user map.
  20. Always have the video camera ready. You never know where the next good story will come from. Generally, be prepared to spend significant time on finding good content.
  21. Make sure your content offers a similar message across different communication channels. this means paying attention to all the content your agency is putting out.
  22. Differentiate between your different audience segments; each of them will perceive your communication differently. Speak to them in words that makes sense to them.
  23. Avoid using jargon - keep language simple, common, plain English.
  24. Be human, and don’t be afraid to go “old school." Use email. Have coffee. Trade shows and other in-person events are a great way to reach out to the public and form the kind of connections that can’t be made over social media.
  25. Use crowdsourcing tools internally that help you decide which areas to focus on and put out to the public. Employees know what the public wants and needs to hear.
_____
All opinions are the authors' own.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Do Most Top Executives Have Good People Skills?

Because metrics of CEO performance have little or nothing to do with genuinely treating people well, most organizations inadvertently encourage their leaders to step on the very people they are supposed to lead.

Think about it. When the term "CEO" (or any term associated with a top executive) is uttered, most of us think of "hard" skills. (See for example this article in Forbes: "Great CEOs Must be Either Technical or Financial.")

However at least one analysis of CEO data shows that those who occupy this role definitely have certain seeming "people skills" that non-CEOs lack.

Or are they?

The screenshot below is from "Making It to the Top: Nine Attributes That Differentiate CEOs," an analysis of an in-house database of "nearly 4,000 executive assessments, including over 130 CEOs" done by consulting firm Russell Reynolds Associates.



The company found that CEOs have 9 differentiator qualities. The following 4 are specifically associated with people, under the category "Team Building" -
  • "Seeks to understand different perspectives but does not overanalyze" 
  • "Displays intensity/emotion but maintains control" 
  • "Involves others in decisions but also is an independent decision maker" 
  • "Is comfortable with a variety of people but is not too trusting." 
While on the surface the CEO seems to be a good team member, is it more plausible that this person is actually an advanced manipulator of people?

Consider a recent study, "Narcissistic CEOs and executive compensation" (The Leadership Quarterly, 2013). It found that CEOs may actually be more likely than non-CEOs to have this personality disorder.
"Narcissism is characterized by traits such as dominance, self-confidence, a sense of entitlement, grandiosity, and low empathy.There is growing evidence that individuals with these characteristics often emerge as leaders, and that narcissistic CEOs may make more impulsive and risky decisions."
Certainly CEOs are not punished for having poor people skills or even evaluated based on the quality of their interactions with other people.

This is true even though we hear over and over again that "people are an organization's most important asset." See for example:
Harvard Business Review, in "Valuing Your Most Valuable Assets," points out this discrepancy, noting that employees don't normally get white-glove treatment. Yet HBR itself discounts the quality of employee management completely in its ranking of "The Best-Performing CEOs in the World."

Harvard's CEO rankings are not based on "people skills" at all!

See below the basis of the rankings and the weights associated with them:
  • Stock performance (80%): 1) total shareholder return 2) change in market capitalization (which is the cost of a share times the number of shares outstanding) 
  • Responsibility performance ("ESG") (20%): A combined measure of the company's performance on 1) environmental impact 2) social responsibility and 3) quality of governance (Research Methodology
Here's the bottom line: When we put our metrics where our mouths are, we will stop seeing mini-dictatorships crop up in in professional organizations. This will be an automatic byproduct of a different kind of "normal" business climate, one in which we stop tolerating leaders with personality disorders and only hire people who routinely treat others with human decency.

__


This question was originally posed on Quora. This blog is a repost of my answer there. All opinions my own. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Why Gen X Can't Succeed At Work

"Douche bag."
"Asshole."
"Hey, welcome back....group's been looking for you."
"Yeah, I lost my phone."
"Fuck off."
"Or maybe I took a hammer to it."
"....We fly tomorrow night."
"Without me....I quit the group, Rob."
"....Stop fucking around. Shit, shower, shave, and let's go."
- CIA agents Quinn and Rob discussing a mission, Homeland, Season 4, Episode 12
There are three main generations in the workforce today:
I am a Gen Xer. And the fact that I am ignored by the media has been covered many times, including this Time cover story going back to 1997.
This is not to bemoan such a sad state of affairs. Nor is it to enlighten you about all things X. And of course one would be stupid to reduce people to simplistic generational categories.
Rather, it is to highlight a problem that Gen Xers face with respect to workplace diversity, precisely because we are so little-studied and understood: our communication style. For compared with "political" Baby Boomers and "polite" Millennials, Gen Xers are perceived as "rude," "skeptical," "cynical."
Most of the time, discussions of generational difference do not focus on language. Here is a typical depiction (emphasis on Boomers, Xers and Millenials mine).
But it is important to talk about differences in communication style, because as we all know, the impact of miscommunication on workplace productivity is significant. Not the least of the potential problems is that employees can make costly and dangerous mistakes.
The impact of miscommunication on an individual's career may be invisible, but it is personal and it is costly. Which is probably why Harvard Business Review has an entire section on its website specifically devoted to this.
Unfortunately for the Gen Xer, particularly the Xer who is working in a team-based organization, conversations about diversity in communication style tend to revolve around cross-cultural issues or those relating to gender
Given that the unique constellation of Gen X characteristics tends to be ignored in the diversity conversation, and given that Xers' unique style of communication is essentially a nonissue, it follows that this generational cohort is bound to suffer from being "branded" negatively in some very unfair ways.
The solution to this problem does not lie in "consciousness raising," from my point of view. It isn't a matter of one group trying to oppress another. Rather, it's about taking personal responsibility for understanding that our colleagues may have trouble understanding why we talk the way we do. It's about recognizing that no matter how many achievements you can list on our resume, your communication style may actually really piss other people off. And that you sometimes have to temper yourself to get along with them.
I will always be a diehard fan of John Hughes. I will binge-watch Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead and Homeland and I'll wonder:
Who writes like this?
These are awesomely realistic scripts.
But when I walk into the office to get my work done tomorrow, I'll probably avoid calling anyone a "douche."
___
All opinions my own.

Friday, October 16, 2015

12 Personal Branding Tips For Women, For Marriage


Like a lot of the things I share with you, these are not my unique ideas but rather represent a distillation of things I've observed, experienced, read and heard from others over the years.
I think of this as personal branding for marriage because it involves knowing your customer, so to speak. To be attractive means to present yourself in a way that is appealing. Obviously, at the same time, being attractive and partnered is worthless if you don't retain your integrity and move forward as a self-contained individual.
Yes, this is about heterosexual marriage. I am in favor of gay marriage, so there's no implied messaging that one way is better than another. Also, I am a huge feminist, but you can read the tips and be the judge of that for yourself.
If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I would put it like this: 
Make it a pleasure to be around you.
Here goes.
I. Consider the Commitment Carefully
  • Don't force a bad relationship forward. Some people are just not meant for each other, and they find out only after spending time with each other. If that happens, have enough respect for yourself and the other person to part ways. Don't look back and blame yourself for being a "failure."
  • Let yourself truly feel the joy of being together. You know that feeling when you're "in the flow," and all is good, you're flying and you never want to touch ground again? That's what togetherness feels like. Let yourself feel it - don't let the fear of (insert problem) ruin it.
  • Get over your own fear of making a real commitment. We've all experienced lousy things in our homes of origin. These things can be bad enough that you don't ever want to go through them again. The result can be that you enter a relationship but are afraid of committing fully to it, or you make the commitment outwardly but on the inside there's this terrified child constantly holding back a bit. It is very scary, but there is a definite connection between the amount you hold yourself in reserve, and the quality of the intimacy you experience in marriage.
II. Do The Work
  • Build up the three pillars simultaneously. Marriage is based on shared values, physical attraction, and the practical ability to survive - which most of us think of as money. If you are attracted to someone who has terrible values and no interest in earning an income (for example), you will get burned.
  • Understand the sacrifice. One reason marriage is deeply rewarding because you can count on your partner to be there when the chips are down - if you get sick, G-d forbid, lose your job, and so on. But marriage asks a lot of you, too, because you have to do the same for your partner.
  • Think logically, not emotionally. It is often true that you should "follow your heart" and that some kinds of attraction work, even though they don't seem to make any sense. But most of the time, you must employ your logical faculties in order to make your relationship work. When you allow your feelings to make decisions for you without getting your brain into the conversation, you are guaranteed to make a serious mistake.
III. Understand How Men Think
  • Give them a lot of room. Men have a lot of stuff they need to do outside your relationship. They need to be creative, they need to eat, they may have kids from another relationship to take care of, or parents who need their attention. They may have a job that's fairly demanding. They definitely want the ability to appreciate other women. Don't be a suffocating nag.
  • Get a life for yourself, too. Why are you thinking about your relationship all the time? It doesn't help you move anything forward in any sphere of your life and it's also the surest way to drive your man away. Think of a freezer - it works best when it's mostly full. Fill yours up to the 70% level with work, school or informal learning, friends and family, hobbies, community service, exercise, and so on. Remember - men don't want to be responsible for your regrets. That is a huge turnoff.
  • Let the man be the man. At work there is no gender. At home there is gender. A man needs to feel like he is in charge. Let him have that feeling.
IV. Communication
  • Set your boundaries and don't waffle. Men prefer communication that is unambiguous, clear, upfront, honest and direct. If you keep changing your mind, it harms your credibility with them and makes it annoying to be around you as well.
  • Don't share every single thought that's in your head. Women communicate differently than men. We tend to talk, a lot. We tend to share what we're thinking, as we're thinking it, following a stream of consciousness that may zigzag off in places and that may or may not bring us back to where we started. Don't make the mistake of assuming that your man ever, ever in his lifetime wants this. He does not want this. He will run to Timbuktu if you start doing this. It is more than annoying, to a man it is like having a flea scratching the inside of his brain. Stop.
  • Strive for calm. Do you need a manicure to make you calm? A walk around the block with very loud music in your ear? A day at Barnes & Noble, just to read and relax? To get drunk with your friends and/or watch a Melissa McCarthy movie? Do it. Whatever you have to do, do not come home and start yelling at your man. Don't call him yelling. Don't yell at him, ever. Very, very calm, cool and collected. Consider that men fear women's "craziness." Whereas your friends and/or your mother will tell you to "let it all out" your man will think you have lost your mind, even if your yelling is totally justified.
Do you think all this is regressive, politically correct, antifeminist garbage? Or does any of it resonate for you? Share your experiences in the comments.
__
All opinions my own. Photo by Angie Chung (via Flickr, Creative Commons).

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How To Keep Your Job

Someone asked me for job advice and I ended up writing this in an email. I wish I could take credit for these ideas but they're time-tested pieces of advice I've heard over and over throughout the years. And like a good navy suit with a white button-down shirt, they're always appropriate.
Think of them as the infrastructure of your personal brand.
  1. Make a schedule you can keep to. Shows you do what you say you'll do.
  2. Confirm that you understand what is wanted. Repeat it aloud. Send the other person an email, short and sweet, if it's significant enough (like at the start of a project).
  3. Get very organized. Sort your work by fiscal year and subject. Keep the shared workspace organized. Keep email organized.
  4. NO PHONE CALLS in office EVER and no personal emails. This is obviously extreme but if you shoot for zero and hit 5% you're doing good.
  5. Find a mentor who will talk to you and help you. Make friends. Have coffee. Nobody is an island.
  6. Genuine effort and a good attitude go a long way.
  7. Check your work before you give it in. Don't just rush to send it off. Sit on it for a couple of hours.
  8. No talking to boss unless it's to ask, "What can I do for you?" No emailing unless it's "Here's what you asked for."
  9. Offer to help with seemingly small things. Your appearance should be equated with an end to pain.
  10. Try giving a shit. Read about your office on the news. It's as easy as setting up a Google Alert.
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Photo by David Goehring via Flickr. All opinions my own.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Simpler Way To Manage People


A few years ago I had an interview for a supervisory job at an agency that shall remain nameless.

“What would you do with a workforce that is largely unmotivated?” the interviewer asked me. “How would you get them going again?”

On that day I must have been unmotivated, too.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I can’t make miracles.”

Needless to say, I did not get the job. But I’ve heard that question, or a variation of it, in nearly every single senior-level interview I’ve been on.

In the beginning I thought the right answer was to have an answer. Now I know that the way to handle this one is to talk about an approach - a process. Preferably an integrated one that handles people in a consistent way, from beginning to end.

It is unfortunate that the federal government is not set up to manage its human resources very well right now. Even the most qualified people find gaining entry difficult. Leaders say the right things, but their actions disappoint. Middle managers are routinely stressed out, compressed as they are between the demands of supervising work and having to do it themselves. Performance management is both a battlefield and a minefield, and it takes up so much time the incentive is more to minimize pain than to maximize productivity. And an overwhelming aversion to risk, change or newness tends to alienate the very people who can serve as a source of transformation.

I didn’t go into the government looking to be a human capital expert, but life here has taken me down that path, because that’s precisely what you do when you focus on internal communications, help supervisors document performance management issues, or become a supervisor yourself. All of these are experiences I’ve had in the government, and they have frequently been painful because the system itself is broken.

Branding people don’t often talk about this, but they do a fair amount of human capital work as well. People who don’t believe in the organization’s vision, mission, values or desired image are not going to do very much to support it. This means they’ll either fight with each other, create stovepipes, disengage or leave the organization altogether - frequently taking their top-flight talents with them.

So I’ve ended up immersed in this world of strategic human capital management. Reviewing Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results for articles about results, and trends. Blogging observations at GovLoop - often out of sheer frustration. Participating in the interagency Federal Communicators Network, which frequently led to conversations about how we manage our people and how we could do it better. Eventually, attending and speaking at events at the Partnership for Public Service, and FedScoop.

On every occasion, joining others who asked a similar question: How can we make things better?

As a branding person and a human being with a lot on her plate, I long ago came to agree with simplicity experts Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn that reducing complexity is the answer. As the former co-chair of the Federal Communicators Network, Dave Hebert puts it, “In the perfect world, HR would be completely plugged-in. You connect with people virtually, identify an opportunity for them to contribute, and make it happen, without a lot of paperwork.”

Simplicity, accessibility, relevant information delivered conveniently - this is the plea I hear from colleagues governmentwide, again and again, especially when it comes to onboarding. Bridget Roddy and I have worked together several times to bring students into my agencies through the State Department’s Virtual Student Foreign Service, a gateway to public service through which sixteen federal agencies permit college students to work remotely.

Bridget believes that technology would go a long way toward providing an answer. “The civic graph concept can connect everyone who wants to be a part of public service, or is already there,” she says. “We ought to have a Facebook-like connective tissue for government.”

I met Lisa Nelson toward the end of last year, in her capacity as leader of the GSA’s Open Opportunities program. She helped me figure out how to use the program, a rapidly growing professional development initiative that allows federal employees to “moonlight” at other agencies, gaining skills and establishing a broad network of peers they can turn to when they have questions or immediate problems to solve. Open Opportunities develops and connects the federal workforce deploying skills and expertise across the government when and where they are needed.

A longtime government employee, Lisa believes that success lies in finding talent buried in agency silos. And so while she thinks an integrated approach to managing human capital is a noble goal, she believes we must build a network of innovators, passionate, mission-driven individuals who can make a bigger impact if they are connected to other like-minded federal workers. To that end, “we must promote a cooperative approach to problem solving,” says Lisa, “this will help agencies and employees gain skills, talent and interagency experience.”

The Partnership for Public Service recently held its annual awards ceremony, where Bridget was a finalist for the Call to Service medal. and Bridget attended. “Cross-agency collaboration is everything,” she told me. “It was all they talked about all night.”

Which is all well and good, I wondered, but who would be in charge if we created an all-encompassing, interagency "HR Central?" Even beyond the “Collaboration Central" envisioned by GSA?

None of my colleagues had the answer for this. Start a new post inside the White House? Restructure OPM? Form a working group with a representative inside every federal agency there is?

Having raised two millennials, one thing is for certain: Tomorrow’s federal employees won’t have the patience for us to figure this out.

___

All opinions are personal and do not reflect those of one’s agency or the federal government as a whole.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Some Feminist Thoughts On Parshas Bereishis


This week we began reading the Torah anew - Parshas Bereishis. I confess that Bereishis is my favorite portion of them all because as an ENTP I like to begin at the beginning and establish first principles before launching into any conversation about the details. Also, in Bereishis we learn about Adam and Eve, and we do NOT learn about the real first woman, Lilith, and I marvel again at again at what goes down in this story.
Who was Adam's first wife and what happened to her?
---One version is that Adam didn't like her. And told G-d to get rid of her.
---The other version is that she didn't like Adam, ran away, and was confronted by angels who tried to force her to come back otherwise they'd drown her.
(There supposedly ensues a conversation between Lilith and the angels about her life's purpose, which is to kill infants in their beds, and a deal wherein she won't do it if they're wearing a certain protective amulet...this then morphs into the idea that she is the seductress who tempts otherwise good men and then spawns demon babies...that she is the "Queen of the demons.")
I was always kind of pissed at all of the above. The way Lilith was treated and the whole sexist tilt of the Creation story to begin with. I have always imagined Lilith as a tall, strong, muscular and beautiful woman with long flaming red hair, telling Adam to go fuck himself, really, when he started ordering her around.
Interestingly, she looks exactly like I imagine her if you check outAbout.com. So I guess redheads are stereotyped as these wild seductresses.
http://judaism.about.com/…/Lilith-In-The-Torah-Talmud-And-M…
Anyway, the Lilith story turns out to be a compilation of ideas that already existed at the time, combined with rabbinic thinking.
It also turns out that it is only one of two options for the "first" creation story. The second is that the first being was androgynous.
http://judaism.about.com/…/Where-Does-The-Legend-Of-Lilith-…
In any case, what do we learn from all this?
--#1, The Torah is not sexist. People are sexist.--
When religious authority and the right to speak became male-centric, we ended up with very male-centric interpretations of history and law, founded in male insecurities and other psychological needs.
(This isn't the place to go into it, but there are numerous examples of this in the Talmud, so just leave that there for now.)
--#2, The rabbis are not infallible. The rabbis are not G-d.--
The rabbis from Day 1 have set up a situation where the woman is by default the problem in a domestic dispute. If the woman can't be "normally feminine" she is "crazy" and must be expelled from the family so that her influence isn't "catching."
(You can see this stereotype operating in Hollywood where the "good" women tend to be these very passive types who sort of fawn all over their families and have nothing on their brains besides their husbands and kids.)
--#3, The traditional "good woman" is founded on male narcissism.--
In any case, Lilith is out and then Eve is created "out of Adam's rib."
Now what does this mean?
It's very common to say "well she's his soul mate."
But the implication is so sexist. Adam (and by implication all men) is a narcissist. He can't be happy with his wife UNLESS SHE IS REALLY HIM.
--#4, Women with an independent identity are routinely penalized by traditional notions of marriage and relationships.--
In the rabbinic view, a A WIFE WITH AN INDEPENDENT IDENTITY IS A THREAT and by definition cannot really be "one" with her husband."
(Recall that Lilith had an independent identity, but this was tied to her mission as a destroyer of families, literally a baby-killer.)
THIS IS OF COURSE COMPLETE BULLSHIT.
--#5, A cowardly man blames his woman for his problems, throwing her under the bus, while a courageous one protects her.--
The Torah tells us in full what happened with the Fall from Grace - that first day, when male and female were expelled from the Garden of Eden.
After the sin, G-d goes looking for Adam - he's the man, right? The one in charge.
And G-d says, "What the hell happened? How hard is it to NOT eat an apple?"
Right away, Adam shows his cowardice - he blames the wife (not to mention G-d.)
"It's her fault," he says. "You gave her to me, and SHE gave me the apple!"
--#6, The Torah tells us that women naturally want to follow a good man and just as naturally want to oppose a bad one.--
The Torah uses the phrase "Ezer Kenegdo." What this means literally is "a helpmeet that is next to him and against him at the same time."
In other words, the man who acts good - the wife follows willingly and with joy and helps him in everything he does.
The man who acts bad - it's the wife's job to oppose him fully and endlessly.
The prime example of this is later on with the birth of the Islamic faith. This is really important for right now, obviously.
Abraham "takes" Hagar and she has Ishmael. (Consider that women have no rights - the Egyptian princess is taken, physically and sexually. No matter how well she is treated she has no liberty.)
Sarah sees that Ishmael is a bad influence on Yitzchak and says - Abraham you have to banish him.
Abraham doesn't want to listen, but G-d tells him that his wife is right.
--#7 - When you hurt the women you cause the world to be destroyed.
G-d's regret over creating the world, which is expressed in the Torah as well. The text says that the rulers of the world, the elite class, began raping the women from the common class. This was so intolerable that G-d was going to declare the whole experiment a failure...until Noah was born and He changed his mind.
(Even after women were cursed to be subject to male domination.)
--#8 - People are the problem, not G-d.
We got ourselves into the mess we're in and we can get ourselves out of it. G-d loves all genders the same. It is human beings who hurt each other through their actions and their interpretations and their rationalizations.
Anyone who says otherwise is either misinformed, a sadistic brute, or a power-hungry liar.

__
All opinions my own.

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