Archive for February 2018

Sticky & Sour: The Next Step After a Bad First Impression

February 27, 2018

What are some of your most awkward professional blunders? In a recent social psychology article, Heidi Grant Halvorson shared the story of her friend Gordon and his job interview at a prestigious university:

During his campus visit, Gordon was dining with a senior faculty member named Bob. As they ate, Bob commented on the quality of his lunch. "You know, this is great," Bob said. "You should try this!" Wary of offending, Gordon cautiously complied, reaching over for a bite. While the interview seemed successful, the job was given to another person. Years later, Gordon found the real reason for the rebuff was this: When Bob said, "You should try this," he meant, "You should try this sometime," not, "you should eat off my plate." Bad manners left a sour taste of lasting consequence.

Knee Jerk Reaction or "Real Jerk" Response?

Humans naturally make snap judgments, and impressions are much harder to undo than to create. "First impressions are very sticky," says Grant Halvorson, author of "No One Understands You and What To Do About It."

First impressions are rooted in us and continue growing stronger, influencing future interpretations and causing "confirmation bias" to sway us in the initial direction. Grant gives this example:

"Once we have an understanding of something, we interpret everything that comes after from the vantage point of the knowledge we already have. Let’s say I think you’re a jerk, and the next day you realize ‘Hey, I acted like a jerk,’ so you bring me coffee. That seems unambiguously nice, but that action can be interpreted in a number of ways, and if I think you’re a jerk, I’m most likely to see it as an attempt to manipulate me."

How to Restart and Rebuild

So what happens if you get off on the wrong foot? Is there any way to overcome awkward introductions? The answering is a conditional yes. We all have graceless moments, but not everyone knows how to repair the damage. Here are a few tips to help you rebuild after a clumsy misstep:

  1. Talk to people individually. Show genuine interest and seek to find common interests. Look for informal opportunities to build facetime, ask questions, and encourage others.
  2. Restart and rebuild. Apologize and move forward by offering evidence of your sincerity. If you’ve been rude, show extra kindness in the next ten conversations. If you’ve been sloppy, make your next twenty projects immaculate. Follow up immediately and consistently, in the opposite spirit of your initial mistake.
  3. Poke fun at your own blunder. Call attention to the big elephant so you can say sorry and laugh! Transparency gives people a chance to empathize and relate rather than judge or criticize.
  4. Offer to help. Figure out what is important to people and use your skills to collaborate or lighten their load. Halvorson says sometimes this takes strategic positioning:

"The best way is to try to create a circumstance in which they need to deal with you, ideally where they need you in order to get what they want . . . It’s not the most awesome sounding advice because what it means is that, if you have a colleague who doesn’t think that highly of you, what you need to do is get your boss to assign you to work together on something, which is not what people want to hear, (but) when you can help them achieve their goals, then suddenly you are worth paying attention to."

Ready to leap ahead with a fabulous first impression? Consider business cards, unique promotional products, fun hanging tags, and more. Give us a call to talk options!

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You Shouldn’t Fear Your Competitors. You Should Learn From Them.

February 23, 2018

As is true in most industries, there are days where it probably seems like every time you turn around you’ve got some new competitor to deal with. Your market space was already a tight one – now you’ve got to worry just as much about the companies that are vying for the same market as you do about the market itself.

For as frustrating as this can be, however, it also represents a fantastic opportunity that is just waiting to be taken advantage of if you really know what you’re doing.

At the end of the day, you shouldn’t actually fear your competitors at all. You should see them as a source of education and inspiration.

The Canary in the Coal Mine

One of the biggest reasons why you should try to learn from your competitors instead of fear them has to do with the fact that you’re trying to accomplish the same goal. You just have two completely different approaches about how to best do that. You’re still operating in the same industry, and you’re still trying to reach the same basic audience. From a marketing perspective alone, this is much more exciting than you probably realize.

Remember that success in marketing comes down to knowing as much about your audience as possible to get the right message in front of the right people at the right time. When your closest competitor launches a particularly successful marketing campaign, sit back and ask yourself "why?" Dive deep into exactly what they did and how they did it. What language choices did they make? What print avenues did they explore? What part of their timing played a roll in their success? Did they do anything particularly noteworthy in terms of font or other design selection?

The same is true when your competitor’s campaigns fail, too. Why did your competitor’s campaign fail to strike a chord with your audience? What mistake did they make? What incorrect information were they working from? How can you avoid this problem yourself?

From a certain point of view, it’s almost like you get to naturally A/B test every campaign that you run without spending additional money because you’ve always got someone trying to hit targets that are very similar to yours. Pay attention to what they’re doing and see what works and what doesn’t. Then, figure out how to adapt this information to your own efforts. Rest assured, they’re probably looking at you in the same way.

You’re All in this Together

An even more important reason why you shouldn’t fear your competitors is also a simple one: you’re truly all in this together. Think about it like this: the audience that you’re trying to serve and the audience that your closest competitors are trying to serve are one in the same. You’ve both pledged to make the lives of these people better through your products and services. Make no mistake, this is a terrific situation to be in for everyone involved.

For starters, competition is healthy. Every time your closest competitor hits a home run with a new product launch or marketing campaign, it shouldn’t make you depressed – it should make you want to wake up tomorrow morning and try that much harder.

Your audience will absolutely benefit from this healthy sense of competition and that is an incredibly important position to be in for all of you.

Why You Should STOP Checking Your Email First Thing in the Morning

February 20, 2018

Thanks to smartphones and other types of mobile devices, we’re more connected to the world around us than ever before. This certainly has both its advantages and disadvantages.

On the one hand, it’s never been easier to get more done while on-the-go. You can be just as productive in your office as you can be halfway across the globe on vacation.

On the other hand, this can lead to a definite feeling that "switching off" is impossible – especially when you consider that according to one recent study, 61% of people check their phones within five minutes of waking up in the morning.

From a certain perspective, this makes a bit of sense – after all, if you want to get as much done in a day as possible it stands to reason that you should check those emails that piled up overnight as soon as you can, right? Well, not necessarily. There are some compelling reasons why you should STOP checking your email first thing in the morning, especially if you’re concerned about productivity.

You’re Doing More Harm Than Good

The main reason why you should stop checking your emails right when you wake up in the morning is that you’re doing a lot more harm than you are good. According to one study, 66% of people say that the first thing they do in the morning is either A) check their email, or B) listen to their voicemail. So don’t worry – you are hardly the only person out there making this mistake.

To understand why this is such a problem, consider the fact that according to Forbes the average person checks their email roughly 15 times per day. When people limited their checking to just three times per day, however, their productivity increased, and their stress levels decreased. Part of the problem is that when you check your email, you’re at the total will of whatever messages you find. Everything else gets moved to the back burner. It’s also particularly stressful if you’re waiting for a reply to an important email that hasn’t arrived yet.

So why, exactly, would you want to cause yourself that level of stress in the morning?

By both limiting the number of times that you check your email throughout the day AND by making sure that it isn’t the first thing you do in the morning, you’re in a much better position to get your day off on the right foot. You’re beginning your day in the most stress-free way possible, giving yourself a little breathing room to contextualize your priorities and lay out the day ahead without distraction.

In the End

These are just a few of the many reasons why you should STOP checking your email first thing in the morning. Yes, the instinct to try to get as much done in a day is a strong one – especially for a career-driven professional such as yourself. But you need to understand that you are quickly reaching a breaking point – "diminishing returns" doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Minimize the number of times that you check email throughout the day and pick your spots very carefully. Your productivity levels, not to mention your stress levels, will thank you for it.

How One Clothing Brand Is Making Headlines with an Unusual Niche

February 16, 2018

It can be hard for a decades-old company to continue to innovate in exciting ways.

Tommy Hilfiger, founded in 1985, has made their reputation through dedication to an "American cool" classic style. The clothing line faltered in the early 2000s as their once-trendy red/white/blue palette and reliance on stripes and bold geometrics fell out of favor.

The Power of Innovation

However, recent innovations at the brand have led to a resurgence, with global sales topping $6.7 billion per year. Their latest move has been an unusual one: creating an adaptive clothing line for adults with disabilities.

The clothes will incorporate features that make it easier for men and women with disabilities to put them on each day and fit them to unique body shapes. These features include one-handed zippers, adjustable hemlines, velcro or magnetic closures, and other items that allow independence and style.

Most clothing in the line adheres to the classic Tommy Hilfiger styles with bold solids, stripes, and blocks of color. The newly launched clothing collection features 37 items for men and 34 for women.

Creativity Equals Gains

About fifteen percent of the world’s population has a physical or a mental disability. When the buying power of disabled individuals is combined with that of their family members, they represent around $6.9 trillion in spending power. Designers who bring their creativity to the challenges of making excellent clothing for this audience have a lot to gain.

What You Can Learn

A few lessons from Hilfiger’s success that can apply to your brand:

Look at who is underserved.

Moving into a crowded playing field can be difficult, at best. Instead of trying to distinguish yourself from the pack where competition is fierce, look at who is not served well by current products. By addressing the needs of these groups, you can carve out a niche for yourself and make an audience for your brand.

Start with a pilot program.

Tommy Hilfiger first created a collection of adaptive clothing for kids last year. When that was a success, they expanded to add the new collection for adults.

Get help from experts.

If you are heading into an area that is new to you, look for guidance along the way.

Tommy Hilfiger partnered with Runway of Dreams, a nonprofit whose goal is broadening fashion choices for kids with disabilities. They also worked on the kids’ line in partnership with adaptive clothing brand MagnaReady.

When working on the adult version of the clothing line, they spoke to a number of individuals to learn about their biggest fashion frustrations. They learned that the big three challenges were adjustability, modified closures, and other factors that made it easy to get in and out of garments. With that knowledge in hand, they built these into every item in their adaptive line.

Doing good does well for you.

It’s hard for fashion brands to make mainstream news. Some brands try to make the cut by doing something shocking, which can yield negative attention that can hurt goodwill for your brand. By reaching out to an underserved audience, Tommy Hilfiger got the attention of the media and got the sort of positive coverage that helps.

Looking where you can fill a need can allow your brand to make a bigger difference in the world. It can also spell increased success for your brand. By identifying these needs, you can provide customers with something they needed but weren’t getting from someone else and build strong and valuable relationships.

Best Practices For Integrating Your Remote Workforce

February 13, 2018

As technology continues to evolve, so do the lives we lead – both personally and professionally. According to one study conducted by Gallup, nearly 43% of employees in the United States spent at least some time working remotely in 2016 – a significant 4% jump from just a few years earlier in 2012. Remote work is such an attractive proposition that it has even begun to play a major role in an employee’s decision of whether to work for a particular company – something that poses a number of interesting implications for their employers.

Chief among them is the idea of what a "team" is supposed to be. Your employees are all important individually, but their contributions are supposed to add up to a larger, more critical whole. How is that possible when a large part of your workforce barely sets foot in the office, if they do so at all? In truth, integrating your remote workforce into your in-office one is a lot more straightforward than you might think; you just have to keep a few key things in mind.

Integration Begins With Leadership

The absolute best practice for integrating your remote workforce in with your "live and in-person" employees begins and ends with you: their leader. Never overlook an opportunity, no matter how small, to bring remote employees into the fold and make them feel like they’re a part of the greater good. If you start an email chain, for example, don’t just include the "in-person" employees. Make sure that everyone who needs to know is involved, regardless of location.

Don’t hold those weekly meetings on-site and then send remote workers a summary after the fact. Embrace the benefits of teleconferencing and allow them to dial-in live and in person. If you’re hosting a company get-together or are taking employees out for a well-deserved meal, make sure that you extend the invitation to those outside the office. This is especially important if they work from home (or elsewhere) 100% of the time. These are small moves, but they’re also meaningful ones that help remind people that wherever they are, they are equally valued in your eyes.

Encouragement and Communication

Another critical step to take to integrate your remote workforce better involves slightly adjusting the way your in-person teams communicate. Make it a priority to embrace instant messaging or collaboration platforms like Slack to keep team members connected together. Not only will this make in-person employees feel a bit like they’re a part of the "remote" world, but the reverse will also be true. Your remote workers will feel more connected to your office as well.

Always remember the one factor that matters the most: encouragement. If someone does a terrific job or blows your expectations away, acknowledge them on the most prominent stage even if they work remotely. Just because someone isn’t regularly in the office or the other employees don’t see them every day doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve their fair share of recognition. Any move that you would make to reward an in-person employee should be extended to your remote workforce. Not only will this help make them feel like they’re equal contributors, but it will also go a long way towards bringing your teams together to form the cohesive whole that you need them to be.

Send Me All the Shoes You’ve Got!

February 9, 2018
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A growing shoe company sought to stretch their global influence, sending their first salesman to Asia to set up shop. After several days, he sent this dire message: "Bring me back immediately, you’ve made a terrible mistake. People in this village never wear shoes." Months later, an enthusiastic associate asked for the opportunity to lead an international sales effort, offering to move anywhere. He packed his things and moved to the Asian outpost. After no immediate feedback, the boss began to wonder if they’d made another costly mistake. Soon, an overseas message rang through with joy: "Send me all the shoes you’ve got. I’ve never seen so many prospects!"

They say delayed hope can make the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. Wouldn’t you like to experience more of the latter? New dreams can enliven enthusiasm and bring fresh joy for the days to come. But often the drudgery of life keeps our backs bent and our steps heavy. We are slaves to the checklist, struggling to lift our eyes above the tyranny of the urgent to see strategic breaks that might be right before us. Do you notice opportunities that others don’t? Do you have a vision for something that is bigger than the status quo? Would you like to?

Opportunity Isn’t Knocking; It’s Passing

Often opportunity isn’t knocking; it is passing. Many days opportunity doesn’t come looking for us; instead, we need to aggressively seek new ideas and perspectives, banging on the door until we finally crash through. Creativity may come in bursts, but often it is something that happens through our ironclad commitment to grow and evolve. How can you grow in resourcefulness or notice opportunities you are currently overlooking?

Team perspective can motivate enormous momentum. Surround yourself with good people, especially those with gifts and experience different than yours. What may seem daunting to you may be an exhilarating challenge for others! If you work alone, consider contracting a consultant to grow your skill set. Or network with a private coach for problem-solving, brainstorming, and peer advising. Often when you are pigeon-holed in one industry, it is harder to see broad-level solutions.

Extreme Differentiation Turns Obstacles into Opportunity

In stretching perspective, don’t just think outside the box, think contrary to the box itself. This strategy, called extreme differentiation, helps you uncover opportunities hiding in plain sight as you note the current gaps in your industry and brainstorm options that are dramatically different than your competitors. Extreme differentiation pushes you to address problems that your competitors aren’t even considering.

Commit yourself to being someone who tries to see potential in every person and every situation. When it seems you have reached a dead end, take a hope-filled breath and view it as an opportunity to build something better. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, gave this example:

Thomas Edison knew a thing or two about turning an obstacle into an opportunity. When he was in his late sixties, his huge West Orange New Jersey laboratory burnt to the ground. Rather than cursing his luck and panicking, he gathered family and friends to marvel at the fire and immediately began planning for the future. Edison started plans for a much-improved lab, seeing the potential for improvement the disaster had presented. He said: "You can always make capital out of disaster. We’ve just cleared out a bunch of old rubbish! We’ll build bigger and better on these ruins."

Find the good in whatever situation you’re presented with and you’ll be on your way to finding those hidden opportunities.

Why Developing Good Leaders is Critical to Your Business’ Success

February 6, 2018

Regardless of the type of business you’re running or even the industry that you find yourself operating in, everyone knows that quality leadership is essential. It’s equally essential for you to realize that leadership doesn’t begin and end with whoever’s name is on the door. Experience goes a long way, but the type of raw, natural talent necessary to become a good leader isn’t something that can necessarily be taught. It’s something you’re born with.

That’s why when you do recognize that you’ve got the makings of an excellent leader working with you, it is imperative that you do whatever it takes to help cultivate and develop that talent whenever possible.

Identifying Good Leaders

First thing’s first: not everyone working for your company has the makings of a good leader, regardless of how you currently feel about them. According to one recent study , only about one out of every ten people have the talent necessary to rise to this status. That means that spotting a candidate isn’t something that is just going to happen every day.

When you do see someone with the qualities of an excellent leader, you’ll know it. They’re usually the first people to arrive and the last to leave. They’re the people who keep a consistently cool head under pressure and who naturally seem to help elevate the rest of their teams to the level where everyone involved is doing their best work. They work incredibly hard for seemingly no reward at all because they just don’t know any other way to go about their day.

When you see someone who fits that description, make a note of it. They’re probably going to be running your business one day.

The Development Process

Once you have identified one of these fabled “good leaders,” the first thing you have to do is support them in any and all ways that you can. Never be shy about feedback, even when it’s critical in nature. The chances are high that they’re the type of person who welcomes constructive criticism anyway. Don’t just tell them what they’re doing correctly; make sure they know what they can do to improve and, more importantly, how they can do it.

Next, challenge them whenever possible. Don’t throw your growing leaders into the proverbial deep end of the pool to fend for themselves, but don’t allow them to simply spin their wheels either. Challenge and adversity are two important qualities that make all of us stronger. Little by little, this person will start to grow and evolve in front of your eyes and your business will become all the better for it.

Looking Towards the Horizon

Finally, remember that good leaders are an investment in the future of your company. Good leaders don’t just help in terms of collaboration and more substantial productivity. They’re also innovation creation engines at the same time. By taking the time to develop the good leaders in your midsts today, you’re going a long way towards guaranteeing future success for your business.