Want to Be Heard? Listen…and Hear…

Detail

Detail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you remember the little plastic animals, usually dogs, that people used to place in the back windows of their cars?  These plastic pooches would nod their heads as the car moved, giving the impression that they were looking around. Sadly, I see this plastic behavior sometimes taking place in meetings I attend. Someone is presenting an idea, a report, training or just carrying on conversation, and some of the people around are making appropriate nods and noises, but their follow-up conversation and engagement belies their inattentiveness.  Even if they ARE listening, they don’t hear what is being said.
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TIPS: 3 Views of Content

The online world is utterly obsessed with content. This takes a number of forms, from articles and blogs to photos, graphics of any kind, videos, podcasts, and any re-mix thereof. It is an attention economy and if you can get your customers and visitors to focus on JUST YOU for a bit, you have achieved something pretty impressive.

However, this is only getting harder to do well. If you have the goal of creating or highlighting something of real value and relevance to your audience (as opposed to distraction or “click-bait”…) you have to be thoughtful, intentional and resourceful while balancing the other needs of your business and life. While the standing approach can still be called “Fail Fast” or “Do It Wrong Quickly“, you still need to cultivate an acute awareness of the real value of what you publish to your audience. There are numerous articles, sites, books and courses about content marketing available. Still, navigating it all as a solopreneur or small business owner can seem like panning for gold, and you just don’t feel like you’ve got the time or resources. You’ve got a business to create and run.

I’ll keep this to the point to save you time: here are three views of content that can help you use the resources you have more effectively. Frame your efforts with these in mind and you will find you come closer to “hitting the mark.”

  • Make it interesting – There’s the stuff you’re interested in and there’s the stuff your audience is interested in. Drive laser focus on the latter, include the former and do your best to leave ‘overt selling’ out of it. Don’t be a pimp. Remember, only roughly 1 out of every 20 pieces published should be considered selling.
  • Make it relevant and usefulJay Baer says to publish stuff your audience would be willing to pay for. The greater the utility and relevance of what you publish, the more valuable you are to your audience, which will bring them back to you frequently….and when you DO sell, they will listen.
  • Be truly “value add – Don’t just shove articles and links onto your stream and let your audience figure it out. Comment….give them a clue or a question or a contrarian point of view. Provide a reason to care and click through.

Do you have any views of content you feel are foundational? Share in the comments and make your case.

Credibility: Take a Chance on Me!

My first career out of high school was as a musician in the U.S. Navy music program. My primary instrument was euphonium (also called a baritone horn) and there was a requirement to learn to play the trombone so I could be a part of other kinds of ensembles. Versatility is a foundational trait for musicians, and the Navy is no different. I was also a self-taught keyboard player and had written some jazz tunes and done a bit of arranging.  After completing the initial bouts of training, I was sent to my first band in Hawaii (that was a real heart-breaker!).

One of the regular functions of any Navy band is to provide a wide range of kinds of music in various sized ensembles to address the dynamic needs of those who request the band. This meant solo piano, brass quintet, jazz combos of varying sizes, contemporary music, concert band, ceremonial band, marching band….just about any kind of music you could come up with using a group of about 30 multi-talented musicians.

 The one that I wanted desperately to become part of was a small jazz group. The last couple of years in high school I had worked very hard to learn to improvise and was anxious to keep working on my skills, along with the opportunity to work with my band-mates who I knew could teach me a lot. However, there was a kind of ‘policy’ that stood in my way: I couldn’t go out with one of the small jazz groups until I had more experience playing in small jazz groups.

This was my first real experience with a recursive rule. I couldn’t wrap my head around how I was supposed to get experience playing in a small jazz group without being able to work with a small jazz group.  I wasn’t the only person in the band that ran into this, of course. All of the young, new folks who wanted to do this were in the same predicament.

Before I tell you what our solution was, I want to cast this problem into another context.

The nature of careers, society and industry in our economy now is such that the majority of us run into the same ‘policy’ everywhere.

  • Unemployed – Cast away from your former role, whether by choice or not, chances are you re looking for work in a different company than the one you left. You have to convince the hiring teams that you are well able to do what they wish you to do. However, many of these companies hesitate because they feel that somehow you need more experience doing EXACTLY the job they are hiring for, despite the illogical reasoning (and the likelihood that the job description they are hiring for isn’t REALLY, ENTIRELY what you’ll end up doing, anyway…).
  • Entrepreneur – You took the leap and started your own business, whether as a solopreneur or with a small team. You’re working through all the right steps in setting things up, marketing, networking, business planning, researching your product, financials….everything is solid and on track. You’ve even gotten a few customers, but testimonials are few (this is a NEW business, after all!). In discussing a proposal with a new potential client, she would like you to demonstrate the actual and, preferably, exact value of your proposed product or engagement for her business before she’ll consider the proposal. Well, you and your team are more than able to deliver all the items that are part of the proposal, and more. But, since your business hasn’t actually delivered a package like this before, you don’t have hard data or a testimonial or five on THIS PARTICULAR PACKAGE….
  • Growing your Career in a Company – You’ve worked for the company for some time, holding a number of different roles.  You’ve been successful, carrying the experience you’ve gained from one group to another, and the company has benefited as well. Now it’s time to look at a new role, maybe even something a little different from what you’ve been doing so far. You’ve spent a lot of time studying the role, shadowing some top performers you’ve met, and even gotten some outside education to prepare yourself. Nonetheless, you’ve never actually PERFORMED in this role before. Much like the examples above, the hiring team seems hesitant to  move you into this role, since you’ve never done it before….
For all of the noise about risk taking behavior in companies, they seem to be remarkably skittish to take a chance on ‘unproven’ talent. The only way in which the talent is unproven is that the person hasn’t done the Exact Same Job that they’re hiring for (that, and every job description supposedly requires a ‘Rock Star’, but that is the subject of another post…).

Circling back to my story, I started an off-duty band with a number of my fellow band-mates. We spent all our time playing, improvising, trying out new music (including some things I wrote…) and generally having a ball. A few of us finally got the attention of the powers that be and started getting assignments to the official groups. The rest of us kept enjoying the opportunity to play and grow. The goal for me changed from fitting into an existing framework into challenging my own creativity, which I have found to be a lot harder and more rewarding.

Again, transferring this the story to the other context, your creativity and diligence may need to go into overdrive to prove, either right where you are, through volunteering or by creating something new, that You Can Do This. How you work this out will be unique to your professional situation, but the value of pushing yourself, despite the existing policies or expectations, will be rewarding and might even uncover some unseen opportunities to have bigger impact than you might have had if you had been able to just “move into” the role you have been trying to get.  It’ll probably be more fun, as well.

What’s your story? Do you see yourself “busting out” to build your credibility?

Want To Be Heard? Speak Softly…

Lakhovsky: The Convesation; oil on panel (Бесе...

Lakhovsky: The Convesation; oil on panel (Беседа), 51.1 x 61.3 cm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who doesn’t want to be heard?  I’ve got things to share and so do you.  Passions, beliefs, information, opinions, jokes…the list is pretty long.

Central to who we are as people and as a community is how well we communicate. Clarity, empathy, and a foundation of understanding of and agreement with terms (I usually refer to this as semantics) help to make communication successful. In my experience, there are a number of behaviors that contribute to “getting heard” in our ongoing communications. Speaking softly is something that seems counter-intuitive, since the natural thing we do if we don’t feel like we’re being heard is SHOUT. However, if you really wish to get focused attention, it is a very useful technique.

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6 Blogs to Enhance Your 2015

It’s the last few days of 2014 and the Internet is packed with looks forward and backward, best of/worst of lists and the like. I’m not immune to assessing some of the more significant resources I use regularly, and so am passing onto you a short list of six of the most enlightening, not to mention entertaining, authors that I read and ponder.

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3 Pointers for a Better LinkedIn Profile

Simple things can have enormous impact. I come across profiles on LinkedIn that are very well thought out, complete, updated regularly, provide a view into the person’s professional credentials and experience, showcase recommendations that are pertinent and have well-designed headlines and summaries that make it easier for anyone who is looking for someone with a particular skill (recruiter, prospective customer, whomever…) to find what they are looking for.

I also come across profiles that barely qualify as blank pages. If you are going to use LinkedIn as a social channel, there are several things you need to do to improve that first impression. Here are 3 pointers that can help you get to a better profile from the beginning:

  • Upload a good, professional pictureNo squirrel pictures allowed. There are people who wish to present an edgier first impression for a number of reasons, but generally you don’t want a visitor to your profile to wonder what you look like. If the goal for your use of LinkedIn is to get a job or attract new customers, you want to look the part, only better. There are any number of good professional photographers who can deliver a great head shot, so splurge a little. As a side note, selfies tend to actually look like selfies, so avoid them. One example I saw was a selfie of someone who was averagely dressed, but I couldn’t help noticing the six pack of beer in the background….
  • Use pertinent key phrases in your headline“I Rock!” is not a headline, by the way. LinkedIn has reworked their Edit Your Profile page to give you suggestions, which can be quite helpful. If you’re unsure what to use, consider the role you are looking for (if you’re looking for a job) or concise phrases describing your experience that you may then expand upon in the summary. You have 120 characters available in the headline and 2,000 in the summary. Use them wisely and don’t be afraid to edit and re-edit to get it right.
  • Get some well-written recommendations“She was great to work with!” is a sentiment, not a recommendation. When you ask others to write you a recommendation, you can help them out by suggesting a couple of projects for which you really did the “heavy lifting”. A vague request for a recommendation often results in something relatively vague, which doesn’t really make the case for you. The more specific the recommender is about the value of your work, the easier it is for the visitor to your profile to make the judgment call on how valuable your contributions would be to their project and business. If your recommender sends you a recommendation that is too vague or isn’t really as helpful as it could be, you have the option of sending it back to them and asking (very kindly, of course…) if they might make a few edits. Don’t feel like you have to take the first draft. Once again, a visitor to your profile is looking at the recommendations for a reason, so they need to reflect your value as accurately as possible. Get them right and get them solid.

While there are many more actions you can take to ensure you have the best profile possible, these are a good start. Here are some other resources you can check out that will help:

Social Media Examiner: 12 Resources to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile

Business2Community: 5 Killer Resources To Help You Dominate LinkedIn

LinkedIn Blog: Creating A Killer LinkedIn Profile: Tips for Link Humans [INFOGRAPHIC]

Hongkiat: 10 Tips To A More Professional LinkedIn Profile

Forbes: 22 LinkedIn Secrets LinkedIn Won’t Tell You

HubSpot: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Mastering LinkedIn

If you come across others that you find particularly useful, please post them to the comments.

Work-Life Blend: The Holiday Edition

It doesn’t matter really. If you’re a solopreneur, a director of a corporate business unit, a team member at an international enterprise or any other kind of role designation, you run into this.

Work and business don’t stop. In a lot of cases, they speed up at this time of year. Yet, you KNOW that you have holiday-related events and such involving family, friends, co-workers and neighbors that are unique and important. As if pressures weren’t high enough, they just got higher. How do you prioritize it all?

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