Archive for August, 2013

How Dramatic and Defensive is Your Personal Brand?

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

3234203-a-shot-of-a-happy-caucasian-businessman-raising-his-arms-in-happiness-after-receiving-a-text-messageAs you may know, I have the great honor of teaching for a major university in a special program to re-launch young managers who have not been successful in their careers. Either their jobs have simply gone away, they’ve been eclipsed by someone better prepared or somehow just not made the inroads they needed to get ahead. With this history, you can see what the adult learners are very motivated. Even better, through our program, the learners are given access to new fields, that have been carefully researched to assure that there ARE jobs available with strong career paths, and employers ARE in these areas. And, there is exemplary, new academic curriculum plus career support, academic support and carefully chosen instructors.

I am not only an instructor, I created the curriculum and course content for the course I am teaching. I develop fresh, of-the-moment material: often preparing lectures and assignments from breaking news in marketing (where there is a lot of breaking news right now). Then, I tie the news into classical and contemporary research and approaches. It all boils down to a fantastic multi-media instructional design, where I develop a short film and narrate it. The students then have an assignment.

I review the assignment, and give extremely detailed feedback. Most critical to me is mastery. So, when the students don’t do well, I give them the opportunity to revise their work or start anew. Then, I review that, give feedback and sometimes still need to give them time for a third revision. If you were preparing surgeons to operate for the first time: this is what you would do. That’s my intention. I want these students inarguably well prepared, so they get the job they want and they succeed.

This only works if the student is prepared to learn.

I am surprised to find that is the toughest part of the work. The material itself is challenging. But, it’s what students do with the feedback that can be devastating to their chances of success.

Defensiveness and drama is a career killer. Because it puts up cognitive barriers, virtually freezing the brain like a Dairy Queen Blizzard inhaled, not savored.

Who are you? I have two students that received just about the same feedback from me. I went into their answers, and carefully dissected where they had gone wrong – gave them more direction and the opportunity to take another cut at the assignment.

Here’s response one, from Katie.

“Thank you for your feedback.  I plan on redoing the assignment and will get it in to you by the end of the day.  Thank you for a second chance at it.”

Pretty much what I expect from an adult learner. It was so professional to send a note to apprise me of what she was going to do. And, it was lovely that she expressed appreciation for the opportunity to not fail just because she didn’t get it right the first time. That’s why I love teaching at this level: mastery is the goal.

Here’s response two, from Brenda.

“I am baffled as to the teacher/student disconnect we have developed. I have not had this problem in any other course in this. I would like very much for this to be the case with your course, but I do not know how to salvage this impending train wreck.”

To sum up my feelings about Brenda? She makes my heart ache. I wish I could help her, but her problem is greater than my ability to teach.

The point here is: which one would be you? Are you in it to win it? Are you glad for the opportunities that your boss, mentor, teacher, colleague or whomever gives you to improve your work and your career?

Or, are you angry because learning is not an easy process? Does learning scare you?

You may never have the opportunity to get this much feedback or the opportunity to revise the work you turn in for your job. But, when you do: embrace it.  Don’t let any emotion: fear, pride or umbrage undermine the chance to be the best personal brand you can be.

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What’s Wrong with Applause and Other Attaboys?

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

clappingPaid to clap? Paid to wait at a stage door and clamor for autographs? Paid to laugh, gasp and otherwise do the right thing in the audience? Yes. It’s a job. At the Moscow Bolshoi ballet, you may find yourself sitting among those who show up to admire, in exchange for free tickets and other goodies.

It’s choreography you don’t expect, because it’s not on the stage with the dancers. It’s near the stage in the audience, sitting among regular ballet goers, who apparently need to be led into the appropriate high culture mob behavior. These professional fans are called “claqueurs,” part of an old tradition of seeding an audience with shills, found in most theatrical productions up through the first half of the twentieth century. Still alive in Russia.

If you’ve ever mistakenly clapped during the silence between movements in a philharmonic composition, you might welcome the leadership. “Claqueurs” are like a preemptive strike against a mondegreen, which often reveals itself when you are singing the wrong words to a familiar song at the top of your lungs. I was once treated to a lusty version of “One Ton Tomato,” by a client in Dallas, which led to an argument with his colleague, who insisted it was “Juan Tanamera.” Actually, it’s “Guantanamera,” a patriotic Cuban song made famous in the US by Pete Seeger and a group called the Sandpipers.

Of mondegreens and other embarrassments, I was in cheerleading camp a long, long, long time ago, when the cheer coach stopped in front of my waving arms as I implored the imaginary football team to: “Annihilate, amonphon, grind them in the dirt, kill!” With that mean girl’s smirk on her face, Mrs. Cheer said, “Hold it,” sounding like John Wayne arriving at a dusty main street filled with cowboys drunkenly shooting off Colt .44s. “What are you saying?”

I weakly repeated my entreaty, which as I freshman (freshperson?) I assumed contained one of many words that I could not yet define. “No,” she admonished me in front of 99 other girls who now were doing that staring, mock horrified, you’re not going to make the squad, which is so good for me wiggle. “It’s stomp on them.’ Not amonphon.”

I have lived with this mistake for many years and as a paid public speaker, I wish it were the worst and last mistake I ever made in front of people. It’s not. It’s far exceeded by my asking Lee Iaccoca if both his daughters were girls, on a live broadcast when I hosted International Business on public radio. In fact, I have made so many mistakes out loud, I consider
them part of my personal brand. They are part of the humorous condition called being human, live and unedited.

So, the idea of having someone who knows what to do at the right time, or what to say when it’s called for? It appeals to me. Perhaps you have this person in your life. Maybe it’s a parent. An older sibling. A senior colleague at work. Your boss. A friend who is a few steps ahead of you on the path.

Or, maybe it’s a teacher. Yes, a teacher is in many ways a claqueur. Which is to reveal the other part of the claqueur’s job: to discourage poor performance, to withhold applause or regard when the performance falls short.

In this recent era where self-esteem has been more treasured and encouraged than hard work and developing talent, it goes against the grain to discourage poor performers. We are inundated with pundits pushing the no-hard-work agenda, like how no one needs college ­ just go out and be an entrepreneur! Anything that should be done, can be done in four hours a week! All the wisdom you need: you were born with! Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion!

If you hear nothing but applause, laughter and bravo? You are getting half the feedback you need, even if that’s feedback you don’t want hear. All personal brands have two types of characteristics. Those that are your strengths, and those throwing a shadow on your brand. If you don’t invite us to comment or correct what’s not working, your career may be short-lived and the world will be short changed of what could be your big contribution.

Want more on your shadow traits? Email me at [email protected]. Subject line: Shadow.

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Is Social Media the End of Humanity?

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

The-robotMore than half of Web traffic is from non-humans. That could include the cute guy or gal you’re flirting with on OKCupid. And, experts estimate: only one-third of your Twitter followers are likely human.

Who’s taken the place of people­ or more accurately, who’s the Bimbot that’s been posing as your potential soulmate and the Socialbot that’s been retweeting you? It’s just a software program according to Filippo Menczer, an Indiana University professor and principal investigator for the university’s research program, named Truthy.

You may not have been Punked by Ashton Kucher. You may not have been Daft Punked, as was Stephen Colbert. But, you probably have been Manti Te’o’d by a random bot. Remember the Notre Dame football star that spent years on the phone with a man who was pretending to be a woman, who was pretending to fall in love, and then have a car accident, leukemia and then die?

The new social bots are programmed to have a life. I just watched Tom Cruise as the “man or bot technician” in Oblivion, so it’s a little easier to imagine right now. The social bots tweets are programmed to mimic a regular sleep cycle (when they are off social media), little idiosyncrasies, and even a family, work and school history. The more involved versions have matching profiles on FB, Reddit or 4sq.

But, it’s not the intricacies of their made up personas that are awesome. It’s their purpose. These bots are created to sway the results of elections, dissuade political uprisings by giving the appearance of a movement to support government’s policies, as well as the more expected and mundane: take your money.

Whether it’s for faux charity or getting some of your cash to help a would-be romantic liaison make their rent: armies of bots are taking up your time, space and potentially financial resources.

The big issue for personal brands is this. Be careful how you are spending your social media time. The bots can engage you in conversation, arguments, causes and more. If you are dedicating lots of time to one-on-one interactions with people you don’t otherwise know or can verify has DNA: you may be wasting precious time. If only one-third of your tweeps really are human: cut down your estimate of your Klout score or Twitalyzer. One social media expert engaged bots and came up more influential than Oprah.

There’s also a big upside if you still have a small circle, compared to personal brands that are swinging big numbers in your area of expertise. You can tell yourself: it’s just the bots, baby.

Lesson? Personal brands: find yourself some human friends and followers. It’s time to buy someone a cup of coffee and really talk.

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