Ever thought about: why do we have two ears but only one mouth?

The world is changing and people is changing with it! We are living in a fast spinning world we feel dizzy, not knowing what to do. Though, we would like to lead this new “wave” or at least “surf” it properly, but how can we do it? Well a lot of things must be done in order to help those who want to do something about it. Well, I find “listen” a very important skill regarding all of these.

I am sure that in this new stage relationships are more important than ever. The internet and web allowed a lot of worldwide conversations brining people together readier to interact and share.  Listening is in this sense a key aspect, a skill and behaviour that will make the difference when you are networking and creating or being part of your communities. Nowadays one does not need to be physically present to cause an impact or inspire people. And in my point of view, those who will be able to lead and link people will make the difference. Those with the ability to listen, bond and link with people will possess an incomparable advantage, they will be able to inspire people to change and improve. They will be able to help not only their companies or circles of influence but also more distant people through internet.

Listen is just one part of the communication “triangle”, and where speak and write are the other two. Each of these three vertices has its own importance and must adapt to the situation at hand in order efficiently communicate. Problem is that we like to talk and write more than listen losing that way great opportunities to innovate or change, and failing to understand why things are happening.

What does properly communicate mean? Well, not listening properly lead to “different” sender’s intention and meaning that forms in the receiver’s mind generating a gap and misunderstandings.  Can you imagine what is going one out there? No. I can tell you, out there you will find a lot of people not communicating, and generating noise instead of a two-way communication where both people understand what is being said.

I believe that a lot of the problems and misunderstandings within companies are the result of a deficient listening. Listening is a must if you want to be a leader and not only a manager or a follower. In a world where Social networking is key, without listening skills you are “dead”.

Listening is a key skill. How can one improve it?

Try to  follow these steps:

  1. Pay attention;
  2. Encourage the other person to talk
  3. Use silence to allow the speaker time to reflection and new thoughts ;
  4. Clarify the speaker’s meaning;
  5. Reflect (clarify) intentions and feelings  and respond in line with the speakers
  6. Respond to questions and requests honestly, and thoughtfully
  7. Turn one-way communication (e-mail, written docs…) in two-way communication

Here are some habits that you should start with:

  • Show interest
  • Encourage the other person to say more
  • Don’t agree or disagree
  • Notice when you are thinking or talking to yourself, and come back
  • Get comfortable with silence moments in order to avoid rushing in to fill it
  • Don’t fake understanding
  • Avoid one-way communication (written communication)

Good Luck!

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Have you ever failed?

You’ve never failed? No? Are you sure that you take risks and face challenges?

You know that fail is allowed. Only by failing one learns a lot of important things, things that will be very useful like: know how to rise again, know how to “better” fail or even release some of the accumulated steam when facing a stressful situation. Succeed and fail are two faces of the same coin, one may end up never assisting to one of them. Nevertheless, succeed might have different meanings accordingly to different aspects and ways of facing life. Well, for me succeeding comes along with risking, going out of comfort zones or trying out new solutions. Succeed comes with not being afraid of the unknown, it comes also with the ability to create something new without having a manual, innovate. Regarding failing, it is a straightforward concept, not difficult to understand what it means.

However, one may say that one has never failed which is ok, but why? Why has one never failed? Because one is really good at what one does? Or, because one has never risked doing something out of the ordinary? Something that might end up wrong, as a failure!

A failure is to people like a good aging process in French oak barrels is to wine. Failure gives character, maturity and certainties to people helping enjoying better a good success. I am not saying that you should go for a failure, what I do say is that one should not be afraid of it or use it as an excuse to avoid risking in own projects. Failure gives also a sense of reality helping facing challenges with a different posture, with more weapons to fight adversities and unexpected events. In martial arts one learns how to fall in order to better do it when needed. A Sensei teaches her students how fall without harming yourself, and how to take advantage of it when facing an opponent. Not wanting to discuss here the educational systems but already discussing, one should be able to fail along your education, though you would need to have an educational system based on developing people able to think and act by themselves instead of copy-past machines only able to repeat what is on manuals.

Fail is part of the growing and maturing process, and should be faced as something normal that has its positive aspects beside the negative ones that everybody knows. Failing is part of the success process, as I mentioned in the beginning success and failure are two faces of the same coin.  Differently from gambling, in this cases one will have tails or heads depending on internal and external aspects. Though, I normally suspect of those who show of their zero failures. Successes without failures are very unlikely to happen but…they do and good for those who have them.

Nevertheless, failures are part of the success process!

What to ask your CEO to gain her support on starting up the marketing department ?

If I were the new head of marketing with the challenging and tough mission of starting a marketing function at a SME, and for what the CEO and Directors were not aware of its importance nor sensible for its positive impact, I would probably start by asking a few questions.

So, with an adapted speech and wording toward the company’s marketing literacy, I would ask:

1) What is your mission (main Goal) ?
2) What are your objectives for the next two to three years (sales, financial, R&D, Production…)?
3) What kind of Business Strategy (plan) do you have to achieve the objectives and cope with your mission?
4) Do you have a Business model (how is your business structured, how do you make money)?
5) How do you go to market? (how do you present yourself, sale, interact …)How do you choose your products and customers? (If you choose)
6) How do you define your Sales action plan?

You can ask more questions depending on how the questions are going and the information that you are having, the question should bring not only info but also awareness to the company’s directors and CEO for a need: marketing processes and plan.

Next I would show them how marketing can help with specific examples of what I had done before, what the competition is doing and some trendy and adequate examples for social media and more traditional marketing.

After this introductory meeting I would get a mandate to try something, here is the approach:

Step 1:  settle a brainstorming session with CEO, directors and senior staff to discuss subjects related to sales and “go to market” problems and suggestions pairing them with simple marketing solutions session: a call to action session. I would prepare a set of questions to be asked and subjects to be covered: How do they go from production to market? How do they choose what to produce and why? How do they choose their customers? How do they forecast and define sales plans?

Step 2:  schedule a meeting with directors and CEO discuss all the problems/suggestions/marketing solutions pointed out during the brainstorming in a structured way aligning them with mission and business strategy. Propose the implementation of some quick measures and the definition of a marketing plan (straightforward, some quick wins, easy to understand and implement, intuitive and measurable) within a period (preferably short).

However, I know that implementing a marketing strategy (process or plan) in a small and not-sensible-to-marketing company it is not easy.

Recommendations to take away:

– must be simple
– explained and coherent with the business
– Intelligible
– have some quick wins
– exciting and innovatory (sensing unique)
– results must be set up-front with clear path to achieve them
– don’t forget to coach and do with them
– follow-up and more coaching
– do a meeting every fortnight to control and show practical results (objectives achievement)

Good Luck!

Week’s best of [week 32]

Great content.

5 Mistakes That Weaken Your Writing By The Urban Muse [@urbanmusewriter]

“I’ll be the first to say that being a successful freelance writer requires more marketing and business savvy than writing skill. Writing beautiful, flowing prose won’t make you much money unless you know how to market yourself, negotiate fee structures and contracts, and keep your editors happy. That’s why this blog usually focuses on business strategies for freelancers.”

Great tips about mistakes to avoid when writing.

3 Reasons Why CEOs Hate Social Media by Eric Qualman [@equalman]

“Allan Mulally [Ford], Tony Hsieh [Zappos], and Howard Shultz [Starbucks] embrace social media and their companies have benefited. However, many CEOs despise social media. This can be challenging for the social media champions within companies or social media consultants trying to help companies. For the socialmediarati, we have a choice; we can call these CEO’s disparaging names, or we can better understand why they hate social media. The first may be more fun [name calling], but the later is more productive and beneficial.”

Great info if you want to have you CEO on board.

Can you answer the most painful question in marketing? By MARK W. SCHAEFER [@markwschaefer]

“The other night I was having a beer with a friend who is a beginner blogger. He was lamenting that he was not attracting many new readers or comments. I let him go on for awhile but finally had to hit him with the most painful question in all of blogging … marketing… perhaps in all of business: “What makes you special?”

The best post I have read in the last weeks.

Is There an App for Strategy? By  Joe Chernov [@@jchernov. ] via eloqua

Extraordinary cartoon.


Social Media Strategy Lessons From Pepsi by Alyson Shontell via War Room

“With millions of Facebook fans and Twitter followers, Pepsi is one of the few big corporations who have a good handle on social media.”

Great example.

How much time would you like to invest innovating and creating?

I would like to have at least one day a week to invest innovating and creating: new solutions and products, new business solutions, new approaches, new plans and much more.

Why such an interest in creativity and innovation?

In my point of view, creativity is a highly valuable and crucial skill if one wants to successfully face the challenges ahead in this 21st century. If one born full of creativity how come one gradually loses it when ageing? Well, I have one or two major causes for that, not scientifically proved but empirically. First, schools are teaching the wrong “stuff”; and second, society in general and companies in particular, do not want to have it (to them creativity do not create value). Companies with this behavior will not last.

How can you cope with your responsibilities then? You are asking. Well, by being more organized, efficient and motivated.

How can one convince a CEO to invest in creativity and innovation?

Well if it was not yet a common practice in the company I would try to convince him or her with quick wins and a well structured change plan. For what I have assisted, CEOs are interested in figures and corporate strategy. How can therefore one have their attention? I strongly believe that to trigger a corporate change regarding creativity and innovation one needs to achieve quick wins something that one can show as an improvement. However, a problem remains: how can you find time to develop your new project (increase your company’s creativity and innovation levels)? A way of gaining time, and that I have already tried with success, is by improving your company’s efficiency. How can you do that? You start with all the processes that you are responsible for or related to: map them, identify bottlenecks, wrong or inefficient steps and better alternatives. That way you will increase the overall efficiency, saving time and resources to be spent in your new project: creativity and innovation. You can start with less important processes, extending later to more complex and important areas where it is more complicated to change. It is important to have a brainstorm with your team in order to explain why and how do you pretend to do that and ask for their help. You should explain at the very beginning how will you implement your “project” and the kind of actions that you have in mind. You will see a lot of people excited and motivated with it. People like to contribute and use part of their time to think and develop new

Google is a good example. Google’s employees have to invest 20% of their working  time in own projects that must be presented later . A lot of the products and services now offered by Google were developed in this 20%. Amazing isn’t it? Google is not the only company you search and you will find very interesting cases.

Week’s best of! (posts and videos)

These are the posts that I stumbled upon this week and elected as the best of. Week 31 (2 – 8 August).

Some of them are a bit old, nevertheless in my opinion they are a must read/watch.

I hope you like it.

“…I find that many people have heard that they ‘should’ have a blog, but worry that they are just not the blogging type, or don’t think they will have anything to say. Is there still hope without a blog? I would say ‘yes’. After all, a blog only works if you actually post to it and actively promote it. It’s no silver bullet and it does take time and commitment, and honestly, it’s not for everybody…

A great post about alternatives to traditional blogging.

“…Feeling stressed out? You’re not alone. Luckily there are things you can do to help keep those stressful feelings under control. Some strategies require life changes, but other strategies take very little time and leave you feeling calmer almost instantly. If you can find 5 minutes, you have plenty of time to start doing something about your stress…”

Great and practical tips to relax and relieve stress.

“…Ever wonder where you’re supposed to find the time to promote your blog? If you’re blogging in your spare time, it can seem impossible. You’re already struggling just to publish a post every weekday, and sometimes you can’t even manage that…”

Great help for those who want to improve their Blogs.

“…Some small businesses start without a business plan, finding success in a breakthrough product or service early on and building upon that success organically. However, it’s inevitable that the venture will need to have a structured business plan put in place at some point if the business is expected to scale, expand and ultimately thrive. This well understood concept is the basis for what I’m informally labeling “social business planning”, yet from my experiences working across multiple organizations, the current focus remains on social media programs (the external) without putting in the appropriate social business infrastructure (the internal). Sound like theory? It’s not…”

An amazing and well-reasoned post with a pragmatic framework for Social Business planning.

An Amazing video [YouTube] on augmented reality. A bit old nevertheless a must watch.

“…Finding for a job on twitter? Today we have a special guest post by @AutumnStJohn a freelance writer and editor in sunny London gives us 10 superb twitter tips of using twitter for job search…”

Great tips on optimize your Twitter account to increase your chances to find a job on it.

“…Creativity is mandatory not just for designers, it is also important for writers too. There are days when you seem to be so overwhelmed with your work or just simply can’t get your creative juice flowing. But did you know that if you are on the Social Networking Platform Twitter, you maybe able to get the boost you need?…”

Great post on Creativity a must read.

Enjoy a good reading!

Are you sure that you want to fit in? I am not!

When looking back to my career path I now realize that I have never wanted to fit in, what I wanted was to make companies evolve and do things in different ways. You are probably saying “what a crazy lady” yep! It was and is tough, and I must admit that as a young employee at these companies, even though responsible and having some autonomy over big teams and budgets, I had not had the right power to change the corporate culture or mentalities. Yesterday, in a job interview I realized that I really tried to change it. I changed the way my team behaved and also some of the rules that I faced as business unit manager, that way I was trying to show a simple thing: there are several ways to do the same thing more efficiently and with better results. I do not like mainstreams I prefer to combine old and new approaches to design renewed solutions or plans or processes or wherever I am doing. Regardless my efforts and even though I was able to achieve my goals in the majority of the cases I was not able to change mentalities.

I strongly believe that the future is for those who want to challenge the way things are done and that want to be creative and innovative. I believe in uniqueness as a strong way to be competitive. However, I also believe that companies are not prepared for this, they are still dependent on control and old fashion processes and mechanisms. In an easy way and using a common saying: “they are still inside the box”. What they haven’t understood yet it is that inside the box the “oxygen” will soon not be enough for everybody leading companies to a slow and unavoidable dead. They will die due to lack of freshness and creativity.

Obviously, there are always rules to follow and (corporate) cultural aspects to respect nevertheless, in the end you can be a follower or leader. You can lead people and empower them to have a choice and to decide what they want to be. Or you follow what others tell you to do. Society is changing, the way people interact and communicate are no longer the same. The world is becoming flat, info travels at light speed and reach increased from a neighbor to global basis. Isn’t this amazing? Yes it is, but to live in this society you need different skills and tools, in my opinion you need to understand the big picture, not being afraid of thinking creatively and outside the box, bridge needs with solutions, and be able to motivate people to collaborate and share by inspiring them. Some of them will feel empowered and will want to be leaders too.

And you, what do you think? Do you prefer to fit in or to challenge the way thing are done?