The power of a handwritten note.

I had the good fortune of learning a long time ago about the influence a handwritten note can have, and I can credit my Mom for teaching me this. She wasn’t a business person, she was a nurse, so she clearly had an appreciation of the impact words can have on others.

Initially when it wasn’t my choice to be writing handwritten thank you cards to people who had done something nice for me, or given me a gift, it seemed like and arduous task. One I actually tried to avoid doing. Mainly because I am dyslexic, and when I was younger, writing was not a talent I had developed. However, my notes were all sincere, and it established a wonderful and lifelong habit of sending handwritten notes.

Recently I was going through some boxes in my attic, and I came across a box which was filled with letters that I had saved. All of them were written before the internet came about. The amazing thing about these letters, was that they captured a time in my life I had not thought much about. Most of the letters were from my friends from high school and college, and they were mainly letters reminiscing about experiences we had together, updated me on what they were currently doing, or telling me they missed me, and were looking forward to seeing me again.

When I received those letters, they appeared to have arrived at the perfect time, as I was either home sick, or missing the person that sent them. Hearing from them cheered me up.

Some people might think of writing a letter or a card, especially in the professional world as being old fashioned. Perhaps it is, but since fewer people are writing them, they have a greater impact when they are received. In fact, I have saved the handful of cards I have received over the past few decades from other professionals.

One of the cards I saved was from a CEO I was working for. I was in fact shocked to have received a handwritten note from him, but it was probably one of the most impactful ones I had ever received. Why? Because I was incredibly disappointed by the way he handled a project. He knew this, and he knew he had made a mistake with the approach he initially took.

The CEO’s letter to me was an apology and thank you letter. In the letter, he told me that he should not have pulled rank on me, or have overridden one of my decisions, and he regretted that he did that. He expressed both his regret, and sincere appreciation for how I handled myself professionally, and for how exceptionally well the project I was leading turned out. Receiving this letter was actually shocking, but it provided me with an entirely new lens on this leader. A much more positive one, as I could see that he had taken the time to be reflective, had learned from the mistake he had made, and was willing to own up and take responsibility for owning his decision and actions. When I think about this situation, I don’t think verbally hearing what he had written would have had the same positive impact.  In fact, I know it would not have.

I can understand that some people might not feel confident about being able to craft a handwritten note, but let me assure you, you can write one with greater ease than you imagine. It just takes some practice, and the good news for you, is that it doesn’t have to be a long note. Consider the size of most traditional thank you cards. They are literally about four inches wide, and three inches long. That’s not a lot of writing real estate, so this can work in your favor. Even better? If you buy a traditional “thank you” greeting card, they often have something written inside, so you only have to add a sentence or two to personalize your note.

If you still are not convinced that you should be writing more handwritten notes to people, here are some other reasons to consider why you should be doing this.

  • Writing a handwritten note doesn’t take much effort, but the person receiving it will consider that you put genuine effort into doing this.
  • There isn’t any downside to saying thank you to someone, especially via a handwritten note.
  • If you are a leader, you should absolutely be regularly crafting handwritten notes. No exceptions or excuses for why you are not. As they saying goes, “lead by example.”
  • Yes, manners are still noticed. Especially when good ones are exhibited, and crafting a handwritten note ticks off the box of having good manners.
  • Being thoughtful isn’t overrated, and sending someone a handwritten note can speak volumes in your favor when you do this.
  • Sure, you can stand out on social media, but consider this. When do you think the person you are trying to influence the most received a handwritten note? Consider standing out from the crowd by finding your pen and a card to send to them.
  • Handwritten notes can cover a wide variety of topics. Consider all of the people you could write a card to, and what you could express to them from a positive perspective.
  • Keep the negative notes to yourself, as they tend to do more harm than good. However, writing them can be cathartic, but I don’t recommend sending them.
  • Consider the last time you received a handwritten note from someone. Perhaps you can return the favor and send one back to them?

So, having expressed my views about the power of handwritten notes, don’t be surprised if you get one from me one day. I’ll also be waiting to see who will take me up on my concept of leveraging the power of a handwritten note. Maybe I’ll receive one from you?

TAGS: #Leadership #Business #Success #Rolemodel #Leadbyexample #Impressions #Firstimpressions #Leader #Leaders #Positiveinfluence #CEO #Communication #Management #Marketing

Everyone is a specialist. Where are the generalists?

Overview:

When I began my business career, I started out in marketing. At that time, I was tasked with doing basic marketing activities, and I gradually began to take on more advanced marketing assignments and responsibilities. About a decade into my career, I took on a leadership role and was responsible for a team of marketers. At that time, I was still able to be both a marketing practitioner, while leading the team.

The thing that I liked the most about my career as a marketer in the first half of my profession, was that I would have classified myself as a generalist. What I mean by this, is that I was able to participate in all of the aspects of the marketing field. I loved the variety and challenges that each of the areas of this part of business presented to me, especially the creative and strategic aspects.

Fast forward to the mid 2000’s and I started to notice a trend occurring in my profession. What I began to see happen was the evolution of those who wore a marketing “hat” start to veer into becoming specialists in this profession. This occurred around the time when social media marketing began to become more complex, and required a dedicated and hyper focused attention on the aspects of digital marketing. When this shift in marketing began to emerge, I knew this was leaning towards the demise of marketing generalists. At least for most medium to large businesses.

Being a marketing generalist was probably the most fun and creatively expressive time in my career, as I was able to flex and leverage all of my acquired marketing skills on a daily basis. When it became clear that the skills required to excel and be defined as an expert in social media was inevitable, this was around the time I began to wonder what would happen to other marketers who would classify themselves as generalists?

Did the marketing generalists began to fade out into obscurity and slowly begin to “exit stage left” in the marketing profession? Perhaps, but as a comparison, I think what happened was that marketing generalists with 15 plus years of experience began to either shift to work for smaller companies where they could continue to leverage all of their skills, or could be compared to general practitioner doctors. What I mean by this is that you go in to consult with the marketing generalist or general practitioner, and they refer to you as a specialist.

Is the specialist model a good one? Perhaps, and the jury may still be out on this, but I believe with both marketing and the medical worlds becoming increasingly more complex, there is likely a strong demand for the need to have people become specialists. The question is, do people presently even have the option to learn the aspects of becoming a generalist in any industry? What if you are the type of person who enjoys the challenge of having to know enough about each of the different areas of your profession, and are not interested or challenged enough by having to specialize in an area? Is there still a possibility for people entering the workforce to stay on what I will refer to as a “generalists track”?

In my opinion, when someone is either compelled, or perhaps not given a choice about whether they want to become a specialist, I have concerns about this model going forward. The reason for this is because as someone who has been both a generalist and specialist, I can appreciate the fact I have seen both sides of this model. However, I would also say that being a generalist can be a more difficult path for most people, as it requires you to be skilled in a number of different areas, and at a proficiency level which you wouldn’t be questioned about your abilities.

Achieving a “generalist” status in any profession is going to be quite challenging, but it is possible. Although I will offer that you will have to seek out more opportunities to gain the variety of experiences to acquire your generalist skills.

If you are looking for some suggestions on how to take the path of becoming a generalist, here are some ways you can consider doing this.

  • You will need to keep an open mind about where you will be starting this journey. It might be that you will need to consider living in a different part of the country where there are more opportunities for you to leverage.
  • I recommend you make it clear that you are not seeking to specialize in a particular role, but that you would like to gain as much broad experience as is possible in the role you will be doing.
  • It’s likely you will need to ask for additional opportunities to expand your options of the experience you will be gaining, and you may experience some resistance in being able to do activities you only have junior level skills to do.
  • Consider shadowing someone if they are not willing to give you hands on opportunities to try something new. Eventually they might give you a chance to “try” what you want to experience.
  • Smaller companies will typically offer you more of a variety of experiences, especially in marketing, so be sure to factor this into your experience planning. The larger companies will tend to hire mainly specialists at the entry to mid-level positions.
  • Although this might be more challenging to attempt, I would suggest you consider test driving a few different industries to gain your experience in. Doing this will allow you to see which industries might be more willing to provide you with opportunities to gain your generalist skills.
  • Channel your inner researcher skills and embark upon speaking to as many people as you can to help you to determine alternative methods to gain your generalist experience in other creative ways.
  • Don’t rule out volunteering at an organization where they would be thrilled to have you provide them with help, and perhaps allow you to stretch your existing skills, or learn new ones that you can benefit from gaining.

My intention for sharing information about this topic with you was to open your mind to the possibility of exploring what is now more of an alternative career track (e.g., generalist), when in the past, this was more of the norm. I believe there is still a need for people who have generalist skills, and that not everyone has to be a specialist going forward, and I applaud either direction you think is the right one for you.

TAGS: #Career #Experience #Marketing #Business #Teams #HumanResources #CareerDevelopment #Expertise #Specialist #HumanDevelopment #PersonalDevelopment #CareerOptions #SocialMedia #SocialMediaMarketing #Generalists #Specialists #CareerSpecialists #MarketingSpecialists #BusinessSpecialists #HumanResources #HRProfessional #CareerAdvice #MarketingCareerAdvice #BusinessCareerAdvice

Thinking bigger and bolder. Is this for everyone?

Perhaps I always wanted to believe I was the type of person who was continuously striving to get to another level of achievement or performance. The truth is I wasn’t. I’m not motivated by achievement. This may sound odd, but this is something I realized about ten years ago.

My awareness of the fact that I wasn’t motivated by achievements or more specifically contests or competing with others didn’t appeal to me. Not in the way that people who are intrinsically motivated by contests, or against others performance metrics. My ah-ha moment about this occurred when I was in the process of working with a marketing colleague to put together a contest for our team to participate in.

The structure of the contest was intended to reward someone when they achieved specific metrics, and the prize rewards were very appealing. However, it was when we were discussing the roll-out and implementation of the program that I realized that if I was participating in this contest, it wouldn’t entice me to participate or put forth additional energy to achieve the metrics. Admittedly, the purpose and end result that the contest was designed to achieve, had zero appeal to me.

Upon realizing that contests or competing against others metrics didn’t impact me the way others are impacted by them, made me consider what the reason behind this was. When I thought back to when I was playing competitive sports, I never measured my performance metrics against anyone else’s. Not even my own. Yes, this might sound odd, and you might think that I wasn’t being competitive, but in fact, taking the approach of instead simply enjoying what I was doing, and helping my team to perform well based on my contributions was what truly motivated me to perform.    

Fast forward to about ten years into my marketing career when my performance was being measured and discussed annually. I dreaded these conversations. Not because I wasn’t doing well in my career, but I saw zero point in this conversation having any impact on my ability or future performance. This got me thinking, and I began to wonder if others also thought this way? It turns out some do, but not as many as you might imagine.

The point about figuring out that I am not the type of person who is motivated in the more traditional methods that individuals, sports or work teams motivate people are, was when I began thinking about what would entice my performance? Or others if they had a similar mindset?

I can’t speak for others, but what I determined and which allows me to be both motivated and to think bigger, isn’t going to be what you might think it would be. In fact, it’s only something I realized would work for me more recently. What is it? Actually, it’s quite simple, and involves a concept that everyone is familiar with, and can also do too. It’s what I’ll refer to as daydreaming, or visualizing where or what I see myself doing next.

In the case of my professional circumstances, for the last year I have been working on a research project that has evolved and taken shape quite differently than I expected it to be. The more I work on this project, the more I want to pursue taking it to the next level. To increase the scope and size of it. To think more boldly and bigger in terms of what I want the outcome of this research project to achieve.

When I started thinking about the new directions I could take this project into, this is where I found what others would potentially describe as my competitive motivation. The appeal of going way out of my comfort zone, and challenging myself to keep pursuing a project that others didn’t fully understand, but that I could see perfectly clearly what the end results would look like has pushed me to keep this project going. To take it to the next level, and to boldly and verbally share with others where and what this project will do for me, as well as the people involved with it.

Helping others would be another motivating factor that allows me to pursue allowing my mindset to be open and unrestrained from a thinking perspective. This is an incredibly freeing way to think, and has allowed me to reach and be on my way to attaining achievements I never would have imagined happening a year ago.

Thinking bigger, and more boldly may not be for everyone, as many people like to stay in their comfort zone, and they are fine with remaining there. However, if that doesn’t appeal to you, and you are not more traditionally motivated by contests or chasing the performance metrics of others, or even competing against your own metrics, below are some ideas for you to consider.

  • Traveling to new places is something that I both look forward to, and that motivates me. What is your version of this in your life?
  • Visualize and think about “what if” as a concept related to something you are interested in doing, or looking to achieve.
  • Consider what it will feel like when you are working towards something which is out of your comfort zone. For me, I personally derive increased energy when I am in my non-comfort zone.
  • Think about a time when you were in general really happy. What contributed to this feeling, and can you replicate this feeling with any projects or things going on personally or professionally in your life?
  • Fear can be a motivator, but it’s not one of my go to or favorite ones. However, consider what might be holding you back from a fear perspective in terms of stretching your thinking of accomplishing something bigger and bolder than you have ever done before.
  • It’s important to have at least one person in your life who plays the role of your “champion”. I recommend having a champion in your corner when you embark upon your journey to do something that will take you to the next level, or allow you to expand your accomplishment thinking.

Having finally figured out what motivates me has opened up entirely new possibilities in my life. I’m extremely excited about what the future looks like, what experiences I will be having and how I will be able to benefit and share them with others. Hopefully to inspire and motivate them.

TAGS: #Motivation #Inspire #InspiringOthers #MotivatingOthers #ThinkingBoldly #ThinkingBigger #Imagination #Success #Leadership #Teams #Achievement #PersonalDevelopment #ProfessionalDevelopment

What’s your growth plan?

For some people, the thought of putting a growth plan in place might seem difficult to do. Conversely, for others, they couldn’t imagine not having one. Especially one that may be refined at the beginning of a new year. Do you fall into one of these categories or possibly in-between?

Although Stephen Covey may not be known as a self-growth champion, he is certainly well revered for helping millions of people become organized and focused on creating daily or longer-term actions to be focused on. Sure, you could potentially consider action plans to be associated with a growth plan, but my take on a growth plan is slightly different.

When I think about crafting a growth plan for myself, I consider a number of different factors prior to launching into this project. One of them is to factor in what my values are. Typically, I choose around five values to weave into my growth plan. The second thing I do is to think about what I want to accomplish in the year ahead. I also break down this list into smaller time increments so that I am able to see steady progress.

As I am contemplating the items I want to include in my growth plan, I will also think about whether my goals are purely self-serving, or if in fact I have some which will positively impact others. Having goals which will impact others is important to me, as it supports my value of giving back to others. It also personally supports another goal I had not considered until about three years ago when I was experiencing suicidal level pain from a back injury. Which I was fortunate enough to have back surgery to address this challenge. The goal I am referring to is to craft something tangible that I can leave behind as my legacy one day. I’m referring to my content that I develop and share with others.

For the last several years I have published one book a year, and as of December, I began writing my sixth book in the Wisdom Whisperer series. When Covid came into our lives in the first quarter of 2020, it impacted my plans to launch and promote my second book called Evolve! With the Wisdom Whisperer. Sure, I could have altered my plans to promote my book differently, but instead I chose to hold back and re-launch my book in 2021.

Publishing one book per year is one of my goals which is both something I personally want to achieve as part of my growth plan. It is also a way for me to give back, and impact others by sharing my experience with them via my writing. For those of you who prefer audio or video, I’ve got you covered in my plans too, as I’m working on an audio recording of my first book this year. Prefer watching video? I’ll be back in the TV recording studio to record my 26th Murf & E Unfiltered show this month.

You might be surprised to know that one of my growth plan goals this year is to leverage my TV content, as I have admittedly not done a good job with promoting it. However, about a dozen of my shows are available via my YouTube channel in case you want to check some of them out.

Now that I have shared a few of the steps I factor into developing my own growth plan, below are some other ways you can approach developing your own, as I am a firm believer everyone should have one.

  • Brainstorming what your growth plan will look like can be one of the first steps in your process for assembling one. You can informally do this alone, or with someone who you trust to support making this happen.
  • The statement “talk is cheap” and “actions speak louder than words” both make sense, as it is easy to verbally express your plans and goals. However, stating them out loud doesn’t always support committing to them, unless of course you recorded them, and have proof you said them.
  • It is a more supportive approach to write your growth plans down. You choose whether you prefer paper or a digital format. Either is fine. The point is to have physical evidence of your commitment to your growth plan.
  • Once you have determined what you want to accomplish as part of your growth plan, apply a timeline to each of the elements. As I mentioned previously, you might want to break down into smaller increments some of the growth plans you have. This can make it easier to achieve them, and see your steady progress.
  • Consider whether your growth plans are in support of your values. If they are not, you will be conflicted with wanting to pursue them. Don’t self-sabotage your ability to achieve your plans because of this misalignment. 
  • If you have never put a growth plan in place, I applaud you for doing so the first time. Once you have put one in place, you will find it much easier the next time to do so.
  • Some growth plans will need to be modified. This is perfectly acceptable. However, I suggest you put careful thought into why you need to modify your plan, and consider putting more structured thinking into how to achieve the goal with your modified plan.

By crafting a growth plan, you will set yourself on a path to achieve more than you would have accomplished without this plan in place. There is tremendous satisfaction we can experience when we are at various points during the year, and look back on what aspects of our growth plan we have achieved. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be achievement oriented, I guarantee you will want to at a minimum attempt to put your annual growth plan in place.  You have nothing to lose by doing this, and so much to gain. Good luck!

Tags: #Goals #Business #Success #Growthplans #Growthplanning #Self-achievement #Leadership #Motivation #Goals #Goalplanning #Achievement #Achievinggoals #Sales #Marketing #Teams

Impact. What’s yours?

Math has never been one of my talents, and calculating someone’s impact potentially is associated with a mathematical formula. Having acknowledged this, I would rather interpret impact via other methods. In this situation, my interpretation is more closely associated with emotional intelligence and common sense. For fun, let’s toss in awareness too.

The explosion of social media use has certainly amped up the awareness people have on the Sir Issacs Newton’s three laws of motion. You can look this one up if you are not familiar with it, but when I was considering another factor contributing to a person’s impact, this scientific principle came into my mind. In the simplest way of describing this concept, it has to do with the basic science theory of by doing something, you get a reaction. Perhaps not the reaction you want, but generally a type of reaction will occur.

Some forms of impact are calculated. In the case of social media, people are generally trying to have an impact. Whether they are strategically planning the impact or not, there is a subconscious element of them wanting to have some reaction and impact based on their activity.

If a person is plotting to have a positive impact, then all the more power to them. However, we know there are unfortunately people in our physical and digital worlds who are intentionally scheming to have a negative impact. In my opinion, this is purely wasted energy, and sad that people do this. Especially since they have the capacity to instead have a positive impact, but choose to go in the other direction.

When you think of a brand, which one or two comes to mind? Generally, they will be one that elicited an emotional response. A response tapping into one of our six basic and core human desires (e.g., anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness and shame). I would add the following to this list and include feeling safe, loved and hopeful. The next time you see your favorite brand, consider which of the core human desires they are tapping into. I assure you it is one of them.

Having an impact on another person, or multiple people, when the intention of doing so is positive, should be the goal. I believe it is, and I am immensely grateful and supportive of people who are in this world who do this. Particularly ones who do not appear to have a selfish agenda or hidden motive behind their actions.

Someone asked me the other day why I continue to write my books and produce my business tv show. In other words, they were wondering what my motivation is. I asked them what they thought it was, as I was curious about what their interpretation of my actions happened to be.

For the record I am not influenced by what others think, but from time to time I like to hear what others consider my impact to be. Mainly as a method of having an instant feedback system. Granted I am aware of who I am asking, and typically I will only ask people who I know will be brutally honest with me. This isn’t always easy to do. However, I consider it necessary to keep a pulse on whether my impact is heading in the direction I intend it to be.

If you are looking to have a positive impact on either a person, or many people, below are some suggestions I have you can consider applying to do so.

  • Think about yourself as a brand. Which of the core human desires do you regularly elicit when someone interacts with you, or based on your actions which impact a wider audience?
  • Have you ever stopped to think about whether your impact is positive or negative? Hint. It is likely a mix, but only you will know the percentage of what the mix is.
  • If your impact is leaning towards being more negative, is this something you want to address?
  • If your impact is negative and you want to address changing your impact to be more positive, have you factored in ways you can do this? Perhaps you will need a partner to help you do this.
  • If you intentionally want to have a positive impact on others, think about what steps you will need to take to make this happen. I always start with writing what I want to accomplish on a list. Why? Because putting something in writing feels more like a commitment versus simply talking about it.
  • Factor in what will be your measurement system for knowing whether you are having an impact. You do not need to share this with anyone, but being aware of your influence can be both motivational and provide a tangible way of defining what impact level is.

Those of you who are considered to be achievement and goal-oriented people have most likely thought about what impact they are having on others. Perhaps not. The point is everyone has the ability to have an impact on someone or something. If you haven’t figured out how to do this, and want to do so, I hope my suggestions above will kick start you in this direction.

TAGS: #Brand #Business #Productivity #Self-awareness #Sales #Marketing #Leadership #Teams #Management #Impact #Brandimpact #Personalbranding #Communication #Perception #PersonsalPerception