Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lead and Then Get Out of the Way

Allow me to re-introduce Ron Thomas. Ron appeared on my blog and shared some leadership insights back in April 2011, so it’s time for a repeat appearance. Click here for the original post. Back in 2011, the world of social media was quite different. Facebook and Twitter were not as widespread as today, Instagram and Pinterest were not as popular, and we did not depend on our mobile devices in the same manner as we do today. That said, Ron and I met through social media (Twitter) and spoke by phone when he was based in New York. I witnessed his move to the Middle East for a company that found him via social media, and we stayed in touch across the miles. Ron's new role is CEO, Great Place to Work - Gulf Region, based in Dubai, and formerly, he was the CHRO for a defense contractor in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Follow Ron on Twitter @ronald_thomas and read his posts on CEO.com  and TLNT.com. We recently discussed some timeless leadership tips, and highlights of our conversation follow.

QUESTION: When we first connected, you were based in New York City. You now work in the Middle East. What are some of the leadership and management differences you have encountered since working outside the USA?
RON THOMAS: The culture of doing business is different in the Middle East. It's more about building relationships than the hard charging way of getting it done. When in a meeting, you will spend a lot of time talking about things that have nothing to do with the business at hand. In the final stages, we will revert back to the topic and close it. If not, we will meet again after those points are cleared. The relationship side is important because it is about getting to know the actual person, not just about the business person.

QUESTION: When President Obama nominated Janet Yellen as Federal Reserve Chair, he said, “Janet Yellen is a proven leader who knows how to build consensus…the kind of person who makes everybody around her better.” As a leadership expert, what three tips can you provide to create this type of leader? (Click here for my blog post referencing this quote.)
RON THOMAS: Such a powerful quote. To me, that means hire competent people and let them run it. This type of leader is not a manager but more of a coach. She coaches her team to greatness.
* If you hire them for a job, get out of the way and let them do it.
* Your role is to coach your people, not manage them. Managing is an old and fading concept of organizational dynamics.
* Look at the people you manage as peers. Forget about the dotted line concept. These are your partners. 

QUESTION: Every CEO/President has his or her own style for achieving success. But if that individual is not a people-person, how can he/she create a positive corporate culture? (For example, management by walking around won’t cut it in this scenario.)
RON THOMAS: I agree, MBWA works for the people person, but if that is not your style, the bottom line is fostering some type of collaboration with your team. Act more like a trusted advisor and leave the manager's title on the coat rack. Get to know your people, their wants, desires, career plans, family, etc. The more you know them as a person, the better you know them as an employee.

QUESTION: One of the things we both agree is necessary for all new employees to be successful is the implementation of an effective onboarding strategy. What are your four must-have tips to all businesses when it comes to creating effective onboarding strategies?

RON THOMAS: The most important question a new employee is asked on day one comes not from the organization. It comes from a new employee's significant other, friend, or family. That question comes at the end of day one throughout the end of the first week. How do you like your new job? The best way to ensure that the response is positive is to have an onboarding strategy.
* It's a celebration. This new arrival has “chosen” your company to say yes to her talent. Design your program around that celebration.
* Develop your plan into two parts: part 1 is the orientation into the organization, and part 2 is the orientation into their department.
* Follow up at the end of the first week and throughout the next 3-6 months.
* At the 6-month interval, bring back all the new employees hired during that time period for a “New Employee Luncheon."

QUESTION: One of my favorite quotes about leadership is from author and consultant Mark Herbert: “Leadership is a gift, not a position. It doesn’t require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to trust and be trusted – and block and tackle for others.” What does this quote mean to you?

RON THOMAS: Lots of times people who are in charge of others tend to feel that they must show how smart they are. This is especially true with newer managers. NEVER EVER go down that road. The worst description that you want tagged to you is being or thinking you are the smartest person in the room. I call it SPIR syndrome. This type of attitude smothers your creative people for they know that whatever they do, you are over their shoulders showing them how “you would do it." If this is the case, why did you hire them in the first place? In order for your people to grow, you have to let them go out and run. Sometimes they will make mistakes, but if you hire right, they will, for the most part begin to develop their own style. And that is where the creativity and resourcefulness creep in.

My gratitude to Ron for sharing his thoughts from across the miles.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Social Media Conversation

I would like to introduce Keri Jaehnig to my blog. As a social media expert, Keri's quotes have appeared several times here in group posts when I've featured social media tips over the last several years. We met through social media, and while we're on different sides of the country, our regular communications are an example of the benefits of social media. 

Keri is the Founder and CMO of Idea Girl Media, a Social Media Marketing Agency that works with business brands, public figures, and nonprofits to achieve social media success and positive online reputations. She has received a commendation for Outstanding Attainment in Social Media from the Senate of the State of Ohio and is also featured on Social Media Today, SteamFeed, Search Engine People, AOL Small Business, Forbes, and Business Insider. We recently talked about the state of social media and changes for 2015, and highlights of our conversation follow.

QUESTION: In today’s era of immediacy, all businesses need a digital footprint to reach the largest audience. As a result, what three things do you consider critical as part of a social media marketing strategy?
KERI JAEHNIG: The footprint must come first before the social media: The top three things should be: quality, consistent branding; a well designed, mobile responsive website; and a blog offering at least some brand content that serves as the hub of social media. Once these elements are established as the foundation, brands can begin social media with success. Also, I recommend using a variety of content to share on social channels: images, audio, video, links, and text.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite social platform, and why?
KERI JAEHNIG: Each social platform serves a different purpose to achieve a separate and unique goal. So I like a select few for different reasons. But if you make me choose one, right now I would choose Instagram because it's fun and always with us. It began, and has stayed, a mobile platform. So, because we always have our mobile phones, it's always accessible in our pockets or purses. Instagram is also easy and has cool features! The filters and apps to make cool graphics make even the worst photographer (myself) look like a semi-pro.

Also consider that people absorb and react more quickly to images than to other forms of media, and it is almost destined to be uber-successful. You can very easily syndicate photos to other popular social networks, which I love. And, hashtags are the key to connections. Posts are not limited to amount of text, and you can use up to 30 hashtags per post. In short, having a presence on Instagram is almost a recipe for sure success!

QUESTION: Many CEO’s and leadership teams question how to track ROI when the topic of social media is raised and marketing teams pitch moving forward with the implementation of a social media marketing strategy. What social metrics do you measure - why, and how often?
KERI JAEHNIG: I'm afraid I'm not going to make some CEOs very happy here. Tracking reach, clicks, and shares is a good idea to know what your audience reacts to - and where website traffic is coming from. But a good social media manager knows when things aren't going well - so they adjust. That same good social media manager will also be tracking results and trends ALL THE TIME. Some all day, some once a day, some once a week, and then totaling when reports are due.

The bottom line is....the bottom line:
* Are more people served?
* Are there less service failures?
* Are there more products or services sold?
* Are there more subscriptions or downloads?
* Were there cost savings?

All will be indicators of success. None of those will come immediately. "Traction" takes time, and that time is different for each brand, as well as each strategy for each brand.

QUESTION: Many people remember the famous OREO tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl. With that in mind, what's your favorite social campaign?
KERI JAEHNIG: OREO did a great job with a strategy using new techniques. They nailed it partly because the formula had not been done yet. That same approach today may or may not be as successful mainly because we've all set it with that campaign. Hashtags are now mainstream. Many of us make our own YouTube videos. So, they were good at using technology AND timing with lovely color and tune. Bravo!

Do I have a favorite social campaign? No. But an organization that did well spreading its message through social channels was The ALS Association with The Bucket Challenge. Whether or not they reached their fundraising goals, that message traveled far and wide! They earn bonus points for getting celebrities involved who committed to actually doing it. Other memorable campaigns: Old Spice, Go Granny, and the Budweiser puppies. Those were mainly advertising, but they all "went viral" via social media.

QUESTION: Blogs are easy and inexpensive marketing tools to promote experts and expertise. What five ways do you recommend generating content on a regular basis?
KERI JAEHNIG: They key word is regular, or consistent. Creating good blog content on a regular basis can be challenging for entrepreneurs. Medium-sized businesses and larger brands with designated employees and teams to do this have an advantage. Following an editorial calendar is also key.

Here are some ideas for generating content - there are surely more options, but these may be the easiest for busy teams to execute.
* Feature a few writers from your team so no one person is responsible for all content.
* Answer questions from your customers and clients.
* Accept guest posts from respected professionals in niches complimentary to yours.
* Embed videos, infographics, or SlideShare presentations in blog posts for variety and to re-purpose good content.
* Feature collaborative posts, i.e., accept answers to important industry questions from several team members or industry professionals. These are often bookmarked as resources for readers.

QUESTION: Pundits recommend that you should add one new social platform each year. Which one will you add to your marketing arsenal this year, and why?
KERI JAEHNIG: My first question is: Who is recommending this for every business or entrepreneur? There is no "one size fits all" strategy, and to assume every organization should be building by one social platform each year is a bit presumptuous. Of course, if you've started with Facebook, your next steps might include Twitter or Google+. Maybe a Company LinkedIn Page, depending on your industry. Or you might consider if YouTube is a good fit. It all depends on what is most fitting for your business niche, and what platform could deliver the desired result. It ALL boils down to: Where does your target market hang out online, and when?

I maintain a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and Quora. For a few of those, I have a personal and business account. When the new Ello and Tsu platforms were introduced, I created profiles to experiment and become familiar. I felt it was my responsibility to know and see where they would go. 

Will I be adding another social platform this year? Absolutely not! Because more consistent blogging is the best answer for me and my business, knowing what I know about changes that are coming. I suspect the same is true for many: they should be blogging more consistently. But if a miracle occurred, and I magically had eight more hours in every day, I would be compelled to experiment with podcasting.

Learn more on Keri's website and follow her regularly on Twitter @ideagirlmedia and @kerijeahnig.