Archive for February, 2011

You Say You Do But You Don’t

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

b11707When it comes to hiring you, CMO Laura Ching from TinyPrints.com says it all in Sunday’s New York Times:

“One of the hardest things to screen for is adaptability – just being able to go with the flow…things move so fast. You can come in and this is what the job description says today, but after a month’s time, it’s going to look different.”

You say you want to be entrepreneurial, you don’t want to be micro-managed, and that you want to be creative. But you complain that you are forced to stop a project and start another before the first one is finished. Apparently you don’t see or care that the finish line got moved, and that’s why your company is changing course.

Changing maps

Why would you believe the map never changes? Look at what’s happening in Egypt and the Middle East – and in Madison, Wisconsin. People are risking their lives for change – all we’re asking you to do is open a new job ticket.

Breaking news: When you sign on to company, it is no longer for a fixed job at a fixed salary in a fixed location for a fixed amount of time. You do not have the righteous obligation to bring up the problems and inconsistencies, and complain about a lack of clarity as roles and relationships change by necessity – or by your CEO’s reading of the company’s crystal ball.

Here’s the thing. Rigidity is a career ending injury.

You can never play in the NBA. You can never negotiate a treaty. You won’t survive a fall on the catwalk during fashion week, or do any of the exciting, highly paid jobs that required a change mindset. Great careers demand great improvisational skills – the first rule being to say, “Yes, and….” Successful people don’t continue to tango when the music changes to hip-hop.

Sometimes they’ll call an audible

I hear such frustration from my coaching clients. They feel they were guaranteed the job they won would be exactly the job they do. What they don’t realize is their boss wishes it were true. So do the investors, ad agency, product development people, logistics people and webmaster. Change is painful, expensive and necessary.

Do you say you do, but you really don’t want want to experience the realities of being successful in business? The excitement that comes with anxiety as your company attempts to innovate, iterate, invent, re-invent and take risks – including taking the company off one track and moving to another – and maybe moving back, or moving out of the sector.

Look at the success of Ignighter.com. In 2008, twenty-somethings Kevin Owocki, Daniel Osit and Adam Sachs launched it as a “group dating” site based in the US. It’s designed to help people avoid the one-on-one misery of a first date.  The site lets members create group outings so they’re mingling with a bunch of people at some fun activity. It took off all right but never grew much in the US, where the guys were hustling to make it happen. After a year, they looked at the stats, and even though they had NEVER been to these countries, their site was doing better in Asia, particularly well in India.

Guess what they did? They clung to their business plan and kept chipping away at the domestic market. No, just kidding. They moved the focus of the business to India, where there are now two million users. They are about to visit India for the first time, to open an office there, hire local people – and enjoy the venture capital they got from among others, Rajan Anandan, Google’s top executive in India.

The next time your boss calls an audible, run with it. Look in the direction you’re told to move toward, and find your way there, until you’re told to change direction again. Yes, that’s how winning teams win. You do want to be on a winning team, don’t you?

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The Answer is Advanced Sexuality

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

kiss_lipsOn the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, a client of mine hosted a seminar to attract new clients to visit his facility. BioMechanix Strength and Conditioning Clinic in Los Angeles is a training gym.

He was competing with the Grammy Awards down the street, where Lady Gaga arrived, carried in an egg shaped vessel.  So, the neighborhood had to choose between screaming as limos unloaded versus getting an extreme makeover for their sex lives. The Grammys out-pulled him, but he did fill all his seats for the seminar so he must have done something right.

We suspect the topic title contributed to the success of the lecture. We could have titled it, “Why You Don’t Want to Clog Your Arteries!” or “Guess What Happens When Lust is Dust?”  Why was it dubbed: “Advanced Sexuality?”

Words sell

Sure, the word sex sells – but the topic could have driven away people – if people felt their attendance would reveal they knew little or nothing, or that they had some kind of dysfunction.

The word “advanced” is what appealed to everyone – and allowed a very diverse group of people to feel good about attending. No one was showing up at risk of appearing clueless – after all this was billed as black diamond level skill building. You wouldn’t be getting on the gondola to reach the top of the mountain, if you didn’t have all the bunny hills under your belt.

Dr. Susan Graysen led the seminar, and showed up with posters (yay, no PPT!!!) and a dry sense of humor that made studying the “brain on sex,” as she called it, all the more wink-and-nod smart. She took us through anthropology, MRIs and a whole lot of other data with the goal of illuminating why we’re different than other mammals – and why men and women are different from each other. Even better – we found out that humor is the glue that makes couples stick together – what a golden nugget that was!

As Dr. Graysen revealed the art and science of sex, she also revealed her personal brand. She had whittled down a huge body of academic literature and findings into an engaging one-hour talk on “5 Secrets Sexperts Know that You Should Too.” True, we marketers gave her the title, but she delivered on it. She came across as approachable, knowledgeable and witty: an ideal personal brand for a sexologist.

What are you an expert on?

  • When you talk about it, do you sound relaxed yet enthusiastic?
  • Do you appear to have a deep and broad understanding of the material, and also an audience friendly approach to sharing it?
  • Do you know the work of the thought-leaders who have shaped the field?
  • Can you compare and contrast different approaches?
  • Do you have success stories or case histories?
  • Can you share advanced tips and techniques?
  • Are you adept enough to sprinkle in some laughter?

And, can you tactfully take those of us who really need the “For Dummies” version of your topic through a conversation that lets us keep our dignity? CEOs and other managers will appreciate that – and you!

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Who Do You Love?

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

love_cards-797889Probably your folks, and if you’re lucky, a few real friends. Could be a mate or someone you date. Or, the love might be between you, your hair and your hair stylist; like Jennifer Aniston, her mane and the one man who doesn’t leave her, coiffeur Chris McMillan.

Who else?

As you may know from an interview that doesn’t die because YouTube is forever, I love the other guy. That other guy means my clients. My vendors. The people partnered up with me on ventures. My staff.

It may be lax or loose to say, but I love the people who are in the game with me.

In the middle of Los Angeles, I could choose to feel otherwise. Everyone here calls each other “love,” “darling,” and “dear.” If that is a lie, well I don’t mind. It’s a pretty lie. A lie with good intention, at least that’s how I choose to ingest it.

Is it better to be suspicious, avaricious or indifferent? Is that the way you are now approaching your goals, and those of us who are on the journey with you?

For me, it all started with a man and a horse

I was riding through the forest outside Durango, Colorado with TO&O (that would be Molly Jo – The One and Only child) in pouring rain for seven days. Mature men who served in war, been Olympians and now had jobs with titles like, “head of cardio-thoracic surgery,” were our fellow campers.

One man broke down. The wet, the sliding terrain, and the cold that would not leave our bones finally overwhelmed him. What he didn’t know that Molly Jo did, is that if you took care of your horse, the horse would take care of you. This is especially important to remember when you lose your way, or in this case, a clear head. She had ridden since she was a year and one-half, and had been carried safely across tall fences when all she had exchanged was carrots and kisses. Of course in those days, her parents picked up the barn fees – but the horse didn’t know that.

They say there is nothing like the love between a girl and her horse, but maybe the rest of us can try.

How else can you persevere?

How else can you persevere under the conditions you find yourself in? The days when life was all cupcakes and T-ball games or ponies and cotillion are gone. The likelihood you will clear all the fences in record-shattering time, build the next mashable, become the next James Franco, or ascend to whatever your aiming at, is by no means guaranteed.

Could love be the element that is missing, if you have tried and perhaps failed to establish the kinds of relationships that are required for the long and difficult journey to the destination you have decided to call success? How would your fortune change, if you included a bit of your heart in the exchanges and interactions that come in the course of your day?

So don’t fret this Valentine’s Day if you don’t have that special someone to love. Love the ones you’re with.

If you get on it today, there’s still time to send out some handwritten cards. Plenty of people could use a little love, or at least an acknowledgment of who they are or have been in your career.

At the very least, you’ll make them smile when it’s your name they see on the one card they probably get in the actual mail. That singular moment of positive reflection on who you are is worth working for, personal brand. Coke spends billions for exactly that.

Now, who’s your Valentine?

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What Do Famous People Think?

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Mark ZuckerbergOn SNL last Saturday night, we had three Mark Zuckerbergs, only one of which is actually the FB/Social Network god/demon himself. The cinema Zuckerberg, Jesse Eisenberg and the SNL Zuckerberg, Andy Samberg landed on stage with Zuck himself.

Your brand extensions

So, there he stood with the least flattering versions of himself. Could you keep your composure if that happened to you? Does a $40 billion valuation take the sting out of it? Perhaps, but Zuckerberg is as human as you and me, so it must have made his heart pound (or his blood boil) just a bit.

It made me wonder how much control over your personal brand remains, the more important or famous you become. It made me clearer than ever that there is no privacy now (and that was before Zuck’s FB page was hacked), and that more and more people know you – and can interpret you, from the pastiche you put up all over Internet.

Do you control your brand?

How would it be if someone or several people played you? Maybe not exactly you, but the lampoon of you – or the dark side of you?

I bet you think no one knows the really dark side. Except that everyone has a really dark side, and because we have ours, we know you have yours.

Nearly everyone also believes that they will be “found out.” Don’t you have that feeling you are overreaching and underperforming, and it will be unmasked at some horrible moment when we’ll see you for who you really are? Are you afraid we will feel disappointed or infuriated or shocked? That despite your tailored suit, your underwear has holes in it?

Almost every great person I get to know in business and media is self-conscious about something. It ranges from not having graduated college to not making their first billion before they were twenty-five. Some believe that the whole house of cards upon which they built their career will collapse at some inopportune time.

I have to say that if there is a recurrent theme among highly visible people I know, it is these two inner demons. One: they have a dark side to hide, and two: they have a deep fear that they aren’t who we think they are. For example, a man recently found out he is not really the anchor and editor of a big news program. No, not Dan Rather, much more recent than that.

Our friend Keith Olbermann found out just minutes (or perhaps days) before, that Friday, January 21, 2011 was his last show on MSNBC. He waited until the end of the broadcast to let us know. Having scuffled with his network for years, this wasn’t a great surprise. But, the shock of no longer being who you are, is nonetheless a shock. Soon SNL will have someone play Olbermann, there might even be a movie, and there perhaps there will be Keith himself on stage with his doppelgangers. After Zuckerberg’s appearance perhaps that is a triumph. A mark of having really made it as a personal brand.

Keith has a dark side. He thinks about who is the worst person in the world each day, and has put up that day’s winner on his show, day and day. So what do those maligned people think now, now that Keith has been fired? Perhaps Keith thinks it was worth it. A trade for telling it like it is, being authentically who he is. Did he overreach – did he not have the clout or capital he leveraged to express his opinion? Did he get found out and put out? I don’t think so. The NBC corporate brand is changing with the new acquisition, and Keith’s bombastic and partisan personal brand really doesn’t sync up with the new normal.

Brand doppelgangers

We feel no pity for Zuckerberg and we don’t need to feel any for Olbermann. We know who they are, through not only our own eyes but also those who revile them or at least make fun of them – and they are each doing just fine. At least, that is what they will say.

Personal brands, anything that makes you self-conscious is not worth worrying about. Anything you think you are hiding, likely you are not. And, we will still like you, hire you, and even admire you (even more) when you will drop your guard and get human with us.

Perhaps the best thing we all could wish for you is this: see you on the big screen and the small one, too. Along with those who would seek to imitate you.

And yet for all the lookalikes: you be you. Remain inimitable, as you are when you are an authentic personal brand.

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