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

Thrive! What’s your plan?

I was recently having a conversation with someone close to me about how they were living each day and really struggling to get through it. Yes, they were admittedly depressed. They also felt as if they were stuck in a vicious cycle they could not get out of. The cycle consisted of working, going to sleep, repeat.

During the course of each day, they referenced that it took every ounce of energy they had to just do the bare minimum of what they had to do in their job. They didn’t feel as if they had time to do anything during the course of the day that they even slightly enjoyed doing. This made matters worse. Could this possibly be a time management challenge? Absolutely, and they would admit to this, but they still felt unable to break their vicious cycle, no matter how desperately they wanted to do so.

One of the things which came up during our conversation was the need to figure out what they could do during the day to refuel their energy battery. In other words, to do something which would provide them with additional energy to help them to break out of their situation of feeling like they were only existing day to day.

Hearing and seeing this person struggling was gut wrenching for me, yet as an optimist, I felt I still could do something to help them out of their situation. I just needed to be creative and have them be willing to try to do something different. Perhaps a bit radical to them. The next thing I needed to do was to get them to agree to doing something different. Then I asked them to commit to giving it everything they had in them to go from existing to thriving. Even if they were starting from a disadvantaged place of doing so.

If you are not familiar with having depression or anxiety, one of the things about it is that it consumes most of your energy, and makes you feel exhausted. Exhausted to the point of potentially not being able to accomplish anything but sleep. Fortunately, this person was not at this level, but I felt they were close to it.

When you are interacting with someone who isn’t thriving, they are typically frustrated and overwhelmed by what is happening in their life and at work. Of course, no one wants to feel this way. However, the challenge most people have is that they are often not equipped with methods to help them when they find themselves in this situation. Being able to recognize when someone is in this situation is critical, and it doesn’t take a professional to evaluate this. Having empathy and common sense will be enough skills to recognize someone is in a difficult situation.

I am not a trained mental health care professional, but my life and professional expertise in working with people over the last 25 years to bring the best out of them is both an honor and privilege.  I’ve written about how coaching is not therapy , and in fact, would suggest that people who are struggling with feeling like they are not thriving, and are simply existing could benefit from having both a therapist and a coach. In fact, I believe firmly that everyone should have a coach. I have three to four people in my life at any point in time who play the role of my coach. Some might refer to them as mentors, and in some instances the role definitions become blurred.

Let’s circle back to how I’m in the process of helping the person close to me with going from feeling like they are existing to thriving. One of the things I suggested was to in fact find a therapist. They are now working with one. Below are some of the other and more radical things they are doing, and that others can do too.

  • Outline on paper what you want your life to be like going forward. Think of this in terms of either a mind map, or perhaps a picture storyboard. Some refer to this as an inspiration board. This can also be created digitally too. The point is to begin thinking ahead.
  • When we begin to think about what is in front of us, and how to get to the place we want to be, it shifts our mentality from being “stuck” to considering that there are possibilities for doing something different.
  • Craft a list of all of the things you can think of that you would like to do or accomplish. Make the list as if everything on it is possible. In other words, think well beyond what you might even be able to imagine doing in reality.
  • Aspirational thinking is really powerful. Even more powerful is being able to plot out the tiny, and potentially large number of steps to get there. Although having many steps might appear to be overwhelming, if you can commit to doing one per day, it will allow you to accomplish this.
  • Having the perception of possessing good time management skills is often a challenge for people who feel they are simply existing. So, I highly recommend putting this on someone’s list to help them to learn how to improve this skill.
  • Committing to taking care of yourself is also highly important, as this is often overlooked when someone is not feeling great. Even doing something as small as drinking enough water and remaining hydrated each day can be helpful.
  • The radical thing I am having the person I referenced consider doing, is to think of their next career move as a paid internship. To have the experience be focused on building a new foundation which will support them to thrive. We are working on setting this up, but I know this will work, as I have had numerous other people apply this technique. No, it’s not easy, but the results are always remarkable.

So, if you or someone you know isn’t thriving, but wants to, I hope you will share this story with them. Everyone deserves to be thriving in their life, and sometimes they need additional support to get there.

TAGS: #Mentalhealth #Howtothrive #Howtosucceed #Management #Business #Life #Coaching #Therapist #Therapy #Leadership #Beingstuck #Feelingstuck #Thriving #Advice #Mentor #Virtualmentor #Perception #Timemanagement #Timemanagementskills

Are you thinking for yourself?

Many of us like to think of ourselves as being independent. Independent in our actions, spoken and written words as well as our thoughts. Attaining a level of independence is certainly a goal many of us have. Although getting there will require you to ultimately do something you may not be prepared to do, or well prepared for. Making decisions on your own.

When we are growing up, we need to heavily rely upon others with our decision making. Namely because we do not have enough experience to consider the potential consequences of certain decision paths. More importantly their outcomes.

Regardless of your age, think back to when you realized you were both old enough and capable enough to make a decision without having to consult with everyone around you. Everyone will have a different response. In fact, some people’s attainment might be decades apart from one another. It’s also possible, you might not have reached this level yet. Although you or others would expect you have done so. It’s OK if you are not there yet, as there are likely contributing factors as to why you have not arrived.

Seeking other people’s opinions, advice or direction is something everyone does. There are also times in our life when we should be doing this, and other times when we ourselves will have to be the one we consult with.

When we achieve the point of being able to rely upon our own judgement, sans others weighing in, consider yourself arriving at a place in life that many people struggle to get to. This applies to both work and our personal life. In fact, most of our life decisions will be far more difficult to make than our workplace ones. This is typically due to the fact there are more emotions tied into them.

Leaders of both workplace and sports teams (e.g., coaches) are accustomed to making decisions with others involved. Often, they need a consensus of opinions to make sure their final decision will serve the majority of the people impacted by the decision in a positive manner. Not always, as they too will need to make difficult, gut wrenching decisions that will negatively impact others. Naturally, no one wants to be in the position of doing this, but their role requires them to own the responsibility for doing so.

Upon considering this topic, I thought about how do people learn to become better at, and ultimately able to completely make independent decisions? If I was asked to come up with a word to do this, it would be experience. It’s unavoidable to think you can attain being able to think independently without this. The conundrum for some, and those who have struggled to get to the point where they are, and without having achieved being able to think for themselves can be altered. If they want it to be.

Let’s say you or someone you know is in need of being able to think for themselves. Even at the most basic level. Ultimately at the critical thinking level. There are steps they will need to take in order to reach this achievement, and they will need to be willing to put in the effort to get there. If they are not, they will remain in their purgatory of always relying on others to assist them with all of their decision making.

So, if you want to begin your journey of being able to think for yourself, or help someone else do this, below are some suggestions I have for you to consider.

  • What is your favorite color? I’m sure you were able to answer this without consulting with someone. Ultimately you want to be able to reach a point where you won’t have to consult with someone with more difficult decisions to make.
  • Think of your favorite hobby you do when you have spare time. One that is family friendly. How did you determine this hobby was something you enjoyed doing? It was likely introduced or suggested to you at some point. Then you determined you made this decision to continue doing it. Perhaps because it provided you with some type of benefit (e.g., it was relaxing, artistic, helped someone else).
  • We all make numerous decisions on a daily basis. Try challenging yourself to see if you can make half of your decisions without consulting someone else on them. Ultimately work up to one hundred percent over a self-determined time line.
  • Consider a difficult decision you recently made, and that you conferred with someone about. Could you have made the decision without them? If not, what were the factors that contributed to you needing input from this person?
  • Are you challenging yourself or not challenging yourself enough to create opportunities for you to practice independent decision making? If you do not have enough challenging opportunities, is it due to a factor you have stopped to think about why this is the case? For many, it’s fear of failure. Or, ironically, perhaps fear of succeeding.

Eventually everyone will reach the point of being able to think for themselves. Especially if they are aware of this as a goal they wish to attain. Even if it is much later in your life than you think it should be.

We all reach different achievement milestones at the time which serves us best, and based on our life experiences which contribute to them. My hope is that you will reach this goal if you desire to do so. If not, that’s your decision. However, I will tell you, your career and life can be extraordinarily more rewarding when you reach this achievement.

Tags: #Business #Critical Thinking #Decision Making #Success #Work #Thinking for yourself #Independent thinking

Why do we follow leaders?

I’m not known for talking about politics, and in fact I don’t talk about them for obvious reasons. However, similar to business and sports team leaders, the people in these positions all play an important role in our society. Although their respective assents to their leadership roles are generally remarkably, and curiously different. 

Take for example just about any CEO or leader of a sports team organization. Or, a head sports team coach. If you were to ask them where they went to leadership school, most would look at you oddly. Why? Because there are limited ways for leaders to obtain their skills from an educational perspective. Skills that are truly meaningful.

In other words, leaders learn how to lead from actual experience of leading others. Not by simply reading about how to lead others. I’m not disparaging the wonderful leadership books out there, I’m just stating that I have yet to come across a leader who said they learned everything they needed to become an amazing leader via reading about the topic.

Similar to a trade role (e.g., plumber, electrician, welder), leaders gain the majority of their skills by practicing and applying them in a physical way. Although trade persons are highly skilled, they do not have to master the soft skills that effective leaders need to gain. Unless of course they are the owner of the company. Then I would place those individuals in the same category as business and sports team leaders.

The most impactful skills that leaders need to acquire and master are ones which are more difficult to measure. I’m referring to the skills of communication, influence and emotional intelligence (e.g., EQ). Granted I want to stress that the EQ skill isn’t something one can learn, as this is one of the skills in the innate category. You are either fortunate to have lots of it, or not enough for your or others liking. Having common sense is also one of the beneficial skills the top leaders possess. However, it’s one of the other skills you either have, or you don’t.

Of course, all leaders start out as followers. The interesting factor to consider is at what point is the cross over to leadership made? Depending on the type of leadership role, it could in fact take years before someone steps into that role. However, we have all seen instances where an individual is placed into a leadership role they are ill prepared to take on. Everyone suffers when this occurs. With a few exceptions.

One of the exceptions is that the newly minted leader is supported by others to buffer their learning curve. The supporters will play the role of advising the majority of the new leaders decisions, until they reach a point when they can make more of the decisions on their own. However, without this arrangement in place as an exception, the new under prepared leader will experience a steep and often painful learning curve themselves, and for those they lead. I guarantee you have seen this. Perhaps you have even had the misfortune of being led by this individual? The good news is that most of these ill prepared leaders will be filtered out, and replaced by an actual experienced leader. Although not always.

At what point do people know they are ready to lead and make the crossover into leadership? Below are some ways you will know when the time is right for you to make this leap.

  • Gaining experience takes time. Most leaders will need a minimum of a decade worth of experience to have had enough opportunities to learn, and to have made enough mistakes along the way to be effective when they step into their role. With this said, having 15-20 years of experience is even better.
  • You have had the opportunity to learn about multiple facets of the business, or acquire deep knowledge about the sports team you are leading. Additionally, you have had a minimum number of roles (e.g., 2-4) to provide you with insight only gained from having exposure to critical functions which impact the company, or sports team you will be leading.
  • You are at a point where you are able to mentor others.
  • People you respect and who are in leadership roles begin seeking you out for advice or your opinion on how to handle different situations.
  • You are able to see the big picture, and can effectively communicate strategically as well as persuasively to your peers and leadership members above your current role. 
  • You have made enough calculated mistakes and recovered from them without tarnishing your reputation.
  • Others trust your judgement and are comfortable with letting you make critical decisions, as you have solid track record for demonstrating this.
  • Not everyone who can step into a leadership role wants to do so. In fact, many shy away from the enormous responsibilities that go along with being the leader. It’s not a role for the faint of heart, or those who have difficulty with making, sticking to and applying decisions to be carried out effectively.

Moving into a leadership role is a privilege, and not one to be casually entered into.  In fact, I can tell you that you will intuitively know when you are ready to take on becoming the leader. If you can’t trust your gut instinct with this decision, then it’s not likely your time to step out of the follower role yet. 

Tags: #Business #Success #Leadership #Teams #Sportsteams #Headcoaches #Sportscoaches #Coaches #Headsportscoach #HeadSportscoaches #Strategy #Management #BusinessManagement