Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Read This Carefully: Your Competitive Advantage Is What You Give Away Free

Answer the question at the end of this post – and you could win a free copy of Launch!

In today’s highly competitive and technology-driven marketplace, leaders wonder how their businesses can stand out. On a daily basis, leaders ask their sales and marketing teams to sell and promote products and services, they ask their R&D teams to develop the latest and greatest products, they ask their finance teams to accomplish more with fewer employees and smaller budgets, and they ask their IT teams to develop systems and infrastructure to handle business objectives with smaller budgets. So, it’s not surprising that customer focus can, and does, easily get lost. But thanks to Mike Stelzner’s latest book, Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition, the secret for standing out is easy.

Mike’s book describes the secret as the “other people” component. What he means by this term is that other people who are experts bring their insights to YOUR audience. “It’s a great way to develop relationships with people, an outstanding way to provide really interesting insights for your audience, and it’s another form of content that is written with perspectives and opinions other than your own.”

What makes this content different than everything else on your corporate website is that it is “minus marketing messages.” According to Mike, most businesses surround the content on their websites with advertising – this can include testimonials, collateral, media news, etc. Instead, Mike suggests, provide “other people” content:

  • Comprehensive how-to articles.
  • Expert interviews.
  • Reviews of books, products, and websites.
  • Case studies.
  • News stories.
  • Contrarian stories.
  • Reports based on surveys – infrequently.
  • Top 10 contests – infrequently.
  • White papers – infrequently.
  • Micro events (webinars, social media events, video broadcasts) – infrequently.

When you focus your content on helping people to solve their problems, your company will experience growth. Visitors will check out your site even if they don’t want to purchase your product or service now, but they will remember you for the value you provide. Your company’s focus shifts from “What can we sell you?” to “How can we help you?” Soon, people think of your company and your website as THE PLACE to go for help. Who wouldn’t want an increase in web traffic?

Here are the reasons that “other people” content is so important:

  • People will become return visitors to your site to check out the latest content.
  • People will recommend your content to others.
  • People will reach out to you – unsolicited – to provide feedback and offer content.
  • You will be received as an authoritative source.
  • You will inspire deep loyalty.
  • Experts will want to work with you.
  • When you decide to decide to sell something, readers will buy – because you will have proven yourself as trustworthy and knowledgeable.

According to Mike, “The result: You no longer need to sell! Instead, you demonstrate your expertise by the content you produce, the ideas you showcase, the stories you share, and the people you attract…You can become the center of your industry, niche, or local market. And when that happens, you’re launched on an unstoppable trajectory that will take you places you never imagined possible…Everyone wants access to great insight and great people, before they want great products and services. When outstanding content is coupled with great people and decoupled from marketing messages, your business can quickly attract a larger base, more partnership opportunities, and significantly more sales.”

Want a free copy of the book, Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition? The person who submits the most creative response to the following question in 100 words or less will win a free copy: Mike talks about creating an “idea vault” for finding ideas for blog posts and interviews. Where do you find content for YOUR idea vault? Chime in below in the comments section with your response – and be sure to include your name and email address.

Visit this site for a free chapter of the book:

Follow Mike on Twitter:

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at HR & Employee Motivation


Please welcome Cyndy Trivella to my Blog. Cyndy is a human resources (HR) communications and employment branding specialist as well as a recruitment and retention strategist. With over 15 years of HR experience as a practitioner, media representative, and consultant, she has worked in the high-tech, engineering, retail, healthcare, pharmaceutical, transportation, hospitality, manufacturing, and financial industries. Since 2009, Cyndy has been a Committee Member of the Society for Human Resources Management’s (SHRM) HR Standards Workforce Planning Taskforce. Her employee and HR-related tweets can be found on Twitter.

According to Margo Rose, Founder & CEO of HireFriday, an online HR blog, “When it comes to using new media technology, few people rise to Cyndy’s level of expertise. She is moving our industry forward by leading the path to organization effectiveness methods, talent acquisition strategy and management, and human resource excellence.”

I had the honor of interviewing Cyndy recently, and I would like to share the highlights.

What is the secret in attracting the right talent for a position?
CYNDY TRIVELLA: First and foremost, companies need to explain why someone would want to work for their organization. This is best done through the creation and maintenance of a strong employer brand. The employer brand reveals what is key to the culture of the organization and establishes the messages and conversations about the organization from the perspective of the current employee base, customers, board of directors, vendors, and other stakeholders.

What are the five key items that job seekers must include in their resumes?
CYNDY TRIVELLA: There are five plus one:
[1] Contact information
[2] Details for being found on the social channels – if no links, create a digital footprint
[3] A well-defined and concise summary of experience
[4] How the job seeker best solves a company’s problem or problems
[5] Complete work history
[6] Also, a well-written cover letter should be included that ties up all loose ends (for example, employment gaps), clearly states why the job seeker wants the job, what value he/she will bring to the organization, and what problems he/she can solve

What are the three best ways to motivate employees?
CYNDY TRIVELLA: There are actually four:
[1] Challenging and gratifying work
[2] Opportunity to contribute and have an opinion
[3] Opportunity for learning and potential advancement
[4] Consistent and defined messaging from the leadership of the organization regarding the mission, vision, and values

What is the proper way to onboard a new employee?
CYNDY TRIVELLA: Onboarding starts with the job candidate experience. How did the job seeker find the position? Was the application process laborious and tedious, or was it easy and intuitive? What was communication like after the application process was completed? Later on in the process, was the representation by the company friendly and inviting, or was it intimidating and unproductive? Onboarding can also begin by having current employees speak favorably about their organization in non-work related situations. Employees should be trained to be brand ambassadors for their organizations – at all times. And lastly, the most productive and successful method for finding and hiring qualified candidates continues to be the employee referral process. 

Other than quit, what can an employee do if he/she has a “jerk” boss?
CYNDY TRIVELLA: First, we need to determine if the boss is a tyrant by nature or if the exhibited behavior is unmanageable due to circumstances for which the employee is unaware – because there is a difference. Behaviors can be modified and temporary, but attitude usually has staying power. It’s like the saying “You can train skills, but you can’t train attitude.” As research has shown, people do not leave a company – they leave their immediate supervisor. Since most employees spend most of their waking hours at work or doing work (if a remote employee), a high degree of importance is placed on relationships. Some employees can move past all of this and remain focused on the job-at-hand while others seek options that result in leaving their present employer. This is where proper management training comes into play and can become an opportunity for organizations to take control of their cultures.

It seems that, everyday, we hear comments that HR isn’t respected or that there is no seat for the HR leader at the C-level table, so what can HR leaders do differently to earn the respect that they desire?
CYNDY TRIVELLA: Don’t fall into the “we’ve always done it that way” mindset. Sometimes it takes blowing something up and starting over again before seeing the true value in something that will manifest. Don’t be ignored and never accept being considered the complaint department. I think it’s also important to never forget the “human” in human resources. Most HR professionals I know are part of the HR equation because they can do something better than other people within an organization – they can balance business contributions with an understanding and respect for the capital investment of the employee population. Without the right employees in place, a company cannot function to its potential. HR is the department tasked with ensuring that the best people are in place – which means that HR is the department that can positively impact the overall performance of the organization.

Why is there tension between the HR and Marketing Departments?
CYNDY TRIVELLA: I have personally seen the tension that can exist between HR and Marketing, and I think this comes from years of HR’s not getting appropriate recognition for its contributions to the overall success of an organization. Also, since many organizations spend a great deal of time discussing which departments are profit centers and which are cost centers, HR can often get lost in the discussion. I also think that the economy has turned many companies upside down and forced organizations to reevaluate the functions and contributions made by each department.

It is true that HR as a department does not create a product, but the HR department does provide services that are necessary for the proper management of a company’s greatest asset, its employees. For years, business has forced people to become linear in skills and myopic in their job function (I am not referring to those professions which must be specialized like a doctor or dentist, for example.) With the economic downturn, companies have had to reevaluate everyone’s role within an organization, and as a result, many people have been called upon to wear multiple hats. In the case of Human Resources, many have turned to their internal Marketing departments to provide marketing services and direction. The one negative I have seen with this is that Marketing does not always understand the positioning of HR within the organization. When this lack of understanding exists, Marketing can attempt to brand and represent HR and its function in the same way they support a department like product development and research. I’ve seen this approach by Marketing create resentment and a breakdown of cross-departmental relationships with HR. This said, I have also seen HR and Marketing work harmoniously and in these instances, it had all the makings of a well-oiled machine where both departments were well represented and both department viewpoints were taken into consideration.

If a person wanted to enter the HR field, what would you recommend?
CYNDY TRIVELLA: Hone your craft! Earn your right to sit at the C-level table. Produce high-quality work and understand that HR is a business unit just like any other within the organization. Represent HR like it should be taken seriously and respected for the strong contributor that it is. Possess an ability to be strategic and high-thinking when necessary, and be able to be tactical when necessary. Also, since HR is the department that is expected to have exemplary communications skills, never take the ability to communicate for granted.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Are you nonverbally illiterate?


Don’t laugh, you read the question correctly. Are your words in sync with your body language? Were you aware that a person’s true strengths and weaknesses can be revealed by their body language? Carol Kinsey Goman, executive coach and management consultant, shares extensive research in her book, The Silent Language of Leaders – How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt – How You Lead and proves conclusively that nonverbal signals can make or break a leader’s success.

As a leader, you are always “on stage.” Employees watch as you walk around the office, they watch you in the lunch room, they watch the speed of your gait as you enter offices and close doors, and they watch you standing casually near open doors chit-chatting and issuing orders. Are you aware that people scrutinize your every movement? Perhaps, in an effort to become more aware of your behaviors and interactions, you should pretend that you are a Hollywood celebrity and your employees are members of the paparazzi. This may force you to think twice before shouting at an employee in front of others, before you cross your arms as you look at a group of employees, or before you look all over and avoid eye contact with people.

According to Goman, there are five mistakes people make when reading body language:
[1] People don’t consider the context – depending on the context (time of day, location, relationships, past experiences, etc.), the same nonverbal signals can have totally different meanings.
[2] People find meaning in a single gesture – if one person leans against a podium when giving a presentation, he may be tired, whereas, another person may simply be bored.
[3] People don’t know your baseline – one person may avoid eye contact but still be paying attention.
[4] People evaluate through their filter of personal biases – if you meet someone who resembles a favorite relative, that person may immediately like you, or not.
[5] People evaluate through their filter of cultural biases – behaviors may not be right or wrong – just different than what we are accustomed to (for instance, women are not invited to shake hands in some cultures – and in the United States, that would not be acceptable).

According to Goman, there are six body language guidelines for negotiators:
[1] Since people form an opinion of you within the first 7 seconds, be aware of this fact and use it to your advantage (i.e., smile, have a great attitude, and show interest).
[2] Initiate a great handshake (maintain eye contact and smile – useful tip for strong men: don’t, under any circumstance, use super-human strength to attempt to break the other person’s hand – most women find this painful, unnecessary, and immediately lose respect for men who do this).
[3] Continue to build rapport (maintain positive eye contact, lean forward, use head nods of encouragement, smile when appropriate, and mirror the other person’s body postures in a subtle manner).
[4] Display confidence and be positive.
[5] Defuse a strong argument with alignment – sitting or standing shoulder to shoulder facing the same direction.
[6] Make a positive final impression – stand tall and shake hands warmly.

With the increased dependence on technology, people use email, texting, webinars, and social media as opposed to in-person meetings. But with video conferencing and podcasting, people can still feel as if they are in the same room together. However, the conference call has not changed much over the years – it is still a tool that creates some confusion because people cannot see you. 

Here are six tips for conference calls:
[1] Modulate your voice – avoid a monotone and enunciate clearly.
[2] Stay focused – don’t shuffle papers, send emails, or let your gaze wander aimlessly.
[3] Stand – if possible, it will give your voice more energy and conviction.
[4] Smile while you talk.
[5] Keep it short – keep statements short and ask for feedback.
[6] Follow an agenda.

The concept of MBWA was introduced, which translates to "management by walking around." Leaders: how often do you take time to walk around your office and talk to employees? Employees: how often do you encounter your president or other members of senior management walking around the office talking to people they pass in the hall? MBWA creates accessibility, which can be, and is, priceless to employees.

According to Goman, “When properly used, body language can be your key to greater success. It can help you develop positive business relationships, influence and motivate the people who report to you, improve productivity, bond with members of your team, present your ideas with more impact, work effectively in a multicultural world, and project your personal brand of charisma. It’s a ‘secret weapon’ that many great leaders have learned to use to their advantage. Now you can too!”

To learn more, visit Carol’s site:

Follow Carol on Twitter:!/CGoman

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Tale of Sandwiches and Customer Service


While channel surfing one weekend evening a few weeks ago, I stopped on an episode of Undercover Boss. I had not watched the show before, so I thought, during summer reruns, I might as well give the show a chance. In this particular episode, a member of the leadership team of Subway (the 14 billion dollar sandwich empire with 33,000 restaurants in 93 countries) was going “undercover” at several locations around the country.

Don Fertman, the Chief Development Officer, worked hard to become a “sandwich artist” at a restaurant in Auburn (Alabama), the Science Center in Orlando (Florida), and a church in Buffalo (New York). While his attempts were often amusing, he was dedicated to learning "the Subway way" to bake cookies, make sandwiches, and welcome customers.

After the undercover assignments had been completed, Fertman shared his experiences with his leadership team back at the corporate headquarters. New ideas were proposed, and new programs were created. He then brought the people he had met while undercover to HQ. He gave some money for scholarships for some family members as well as some additional funding so that a restaurant could be started in a second church.

When Fertman was asked, “What is your biggest challenge,” he responded, “Making Subway a household word in every country where we’re located.” While that’s a laudable goal, there’s a problem.

After the show, I thought I would visit a Subway in Los Angeles to see if the same dedication was evident. I visited a restaurant at approximately 1pm in the afternoon on a weekday. From the moment I entered, I knew Don Fertman had never visited this location! Two employees behind the sandwich bar were talking to each other – totally ignoring customers. I had to request the specific items for my sandwich three times before the “sandwich artist” bothered to look at me, make eye contact, and pay attention. When I asked for cheese, he said there was no cheese, but I pointed to the three types of cheese - and finally, he was forced to agree that yes, Subway did, indeed, have cheese. When I got to the register, a third employee couldn’t understand why I didn’t want any drink or cookies. She asked me more than once to choose a drink and a cookie. After I paid for just my sandwich, I asked for a receipt. She did not have one, so she had to re-ring everything and print a duplicate - and lucky me, I was "fortunate" to experience her disgust and poor attitude for having to deal with my request. What if I had been traveling for business and needed a receipt? As the customer, I should not have to ask for a receipt.

Once I got home (after this experience, I was no longer in the mood for the sandwich), I visited the Subway website and completed the online feedback form. About two weeks later, I received a phone call from a man who identified himself as “the owner” of the Subway restaurant that I visited. He said that the corporate office had forwarded my feedback comments to him – and he wanted me to know that he had  “spoken” to his employees.

Wait a minute! What happened with the corporate mantra about customer service? Where was the dedication to creating a positive customer experience that Don Fertman placed such a high value on? Sadly, it seems as if we are talking about two entirely different companies. The franchise concept is useless if franchises don’t abide by the guidelines and policies established by the corporate headquarters – but the corporate headquarters must also monitor the franchises very closely. I guess that the restaurant I visited should have been called Metro, not Subway. But on a more serious note, does Don Fertman care if Subway lost a customer after this TV show made Subway appear in such a positive light? It seems to me that Don Fertman needs to go back out on the road.

The Subway episode of Undercover Boss can be viewed here:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tips to Engage Your Workforce

With more than 30 years of experience as a human resources executive, manager, and management consultant in a variety of organizational settings ranging from entrepreneurial to Fortune 100, Mark Herbert regularly shares his expertise on his blog, Twitter, and Focus. Currently, he is a Principal for New Paradigms, LLC, a management consultancy that helps companies effectively and successfully embrace change to engage their workforces. But Mark’s best business advice can be found in his book, Managing Whole People, One Man’s Journey.

If you want to transform your employees from being simply involved to being totally committed, Mark’s workforce stimulus plan, “Managing Whole People – the Process” is the roadmap to engage your workforce:

[1] Become a great listener
[2] Make time for your key employees
[3] Communicate workplace changes efficiently
[4] Walk the talk – make your actions consistent with your values
[5] Provide regular feedback
[6] Don’t hide behind email or the telephone
[7] Get feedback on you, and act on it

A memorable example emphasized job dedication. When Mark asked a supervisor who was taking a six-month sabbatical if she were interested in the job on a long-term basis, she answered yes. So Mark suggested that she “embrace the job as if she owned it” rather than going through the motions as just the job’s caretaker. How many times have we, as employees, gone through the motions of a job – only to wonder at the time of the annual review: why didn’t we receive a raise or a bonus? Now ask yourself, do you act as if you own your job each and every day? The answer might surprise you – but you shouldn’t be surprised when your next review takes place because you can make changes now.

Another example emphasized corporate culture. A man went to a hospital in Texas because he wanted to meet a famous heart surgeon. As the man left the hospital one evening during his visit, he met an elderly man who was mopping the floor. The man asked, “What do you do here at the hospital?” The elderly man replied, “Dr. DeBakey and I save lives together.” The elderly man explained that Dr. DeBakey had told all staff members that hospital infections kill more patients than disease, so the elderly man was doing his part to keep the hospital clean. Have all the employees in your company jumped on the bandwagon to support each other and work toward the same goal?

What does workforce engagement mean to you and your company? More importantly, what steps do your leadership team, management team, and human resources team all take to make sure that the culture allows for respect, responsibility, rewards, information sharing and open communication, and loyalty? If you cannot answer these questions, then you need Mark Herbert’s roadmap.

Follow Mark on Twitter:!/NewParadigmer