Intel technology and the Olympic Games have big news! Intel, an American multinational corporation and technology company just announced a worldwide top partnership through 2024 with the Olympic Games. This will be a good opportunity for them to show off their newest technology. These technologies include virtual reality, 360-degree video, artificial intelligence, drones and more in hopes to enhance the high-profile sports event.
I remember a time when the older generation was totally against the new iPhone; the flip phone was good enough, and life was good! Nowadays, an average grandmother is looking at her Facebook posts and texting away, as if she’s been doing it all of her life. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that the technology is getting faster, faster, and digital marketing is no different. The older generation, and by that I mean folks over 40, is having a tough time grasping all the intricacies of digital marketing. In the old (marketing) days, it was simple to sell a billboard, tell somebody how many cars are passing underneath, and give him or her a price. You may track the phone number, but that’s about it. Today, there are so many variables available; it’s very difficult for a successful business person over forty to understand the intricacies of a very complex digital marketing campaign. Marketing fundamentals have never changed – it’s all about understanding the customer and putting out the right message. Unfortunately, confusion reigns concerning the amount of information being thrown at an average marketer, and, by extension, to the actual business person he or she serves. The question is this: how does a successful business person over 40 truly understand the ROI behind the marketing dollar?
Okay, okay, I get it – everybody is talking about ROI, claiming that they can justify it; however, in reality, they provide you with some white-labeled dashboards, sprinkled with some Google Analytics, expecting you to be agog over the fact that you’re getting increased traffic from Texas. Of course, I am oversimplifying things, but you get the pictureâ€¦.
The fundamentals have not changed; you need to be able to track your marketing activities and to marry them with your internal processes, such as sales and operations. Unfortunately, many customers are not willing to open up their internal environments for us to track the actual journey of the marketing dollar. It’s hard for us to justify the ROI with one arm tied behind our back.
Maybe it’s our fault for not completely communicating what it actually means to understand the ROI. For example, Google Analytics can be such a massive disruption by providing out of the box basic web analysis and lulling the marketing novice into a false sense of marketing superiority. What we found effective are baby steps, leading to a gradual “Aha moment”, which can take a long time and a lot of frustration. That is unfortunate because it could be so much smoother if we were able to educate customers better on the fundamentals of digital marketing. The problem is that digital marketing is not like riding a bike. It’s like riding a unicycle today, a tricycle tomorrow, and a BMW motorcycle two years from now. We talk about KPIs; we talk about goals; we talk about ROI; we use all the acronyms in our vast acronym portfolio; however, in reality, every customer is different, and every customer demands the best.
To complicate things further, not every customer is prepared to commit the internal resources required to support a successful digital marketing campaign. Sometimes, the folks are just so busy and overworked that for them to learn something new or something different is very difficult. It does not mean that they are stupid or ignorant or lazy: they are just simply overworked! We marketers try to do the best to educate them, but it’s an uphill battle. This breeds confusion, miscommunication, and mistrust; I can understand why they could be so apprehensive. Type “Digital Marketing” into your browser and look at the results: companies that claim to be the best, all doing the same thing. In the end, you need to go with the agency that truly understands your business and has real business people at the helm – because the fundamentals have not changed; only the way you approach them has.
StrataBlue’s Director of Digital Media Marketing, Julie Perry, has two speaking engagements on social marketing topics next week, both on Tuesday, December 16th. One is live and one is virtual, but the thing they both have in common is that they fall on a very special day for this digital marketing maven: Dec 16th is also her 40th birthday. (Happy birthday, Julie!)
Direct Marketing IQ Teams Up with StrataBlue and Act-On Software to Present Social Media Marketing Tips
Here’s the scoop:
- What: Aligning Your Social Media Strategies with Your Other Channels Webinar — part of the Direct Marketing IQ “Brunch and Learn” Series
- Who: Julie Perry of StrataBlue and Paige Musto, Director of Communications at Act-On Software — a marketing automation software platform. Direct Marketing IQ’s Senior Content Editor, Melissa Ward, will moderate.
- When: Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 12:30pm ET/9:30am PT
- Duration/Cost: 45 minutes/FREE
- Where: Register now to attend online!
- What topics will be covered:
As of January 2014, 74 percent of Internet users are active on social networks, according to Pew Research. That percent, which has surely grown over the past 12 months, proves that social media is not a channel marketers can ignore. But how do you coordinate social strategies with the other channels you market in? Digital marketing expert Julie Perry will answer this question and more.
In this fast-paced webinar over your lunch hour, you’ll learn how to blend social media marketing strategies with your existing outbound and direct marketing campaigns to:
* Amp up your direct mail campaigns by bringing prospects online and engaging them with sharable content.
* Give your online marketing efforts a boost by amplifying killer content and special offers on LinkedIn.
* Maximize your next tradeshow or networking event by harnessing the power of Twitter and Twitter Lists.
* Grow your email list and increase brand engagement with social media contests.
Following Julie’s presentation, Paige Musto of Act-On will share a 5-minute case study titled “Social Media Strategies to Drive Website Leads.”
Indy Smartups Brings in Douglas Karr, Kevin Mullett and Julie Perry to Create the Ultimate Startup Marketing Toolkit
If you ARE based in the Indianapolis area, you don’t want to miss this month’s Indy Smartups Meeting!
Here’s the scoop:
- What: Creating the Ultimate Startup Marketing Toolkit – December Indy Smartups Meet-up
- Who: Douglas Karr of DK New Media and Marketing Tech Blog; Kevin Mullet Director of Visibility and Social Media at Cirrus ABS, and Julie Perry of StrataBlue
- When: Tuesday, December 16, 2014 @ 6:00 PM
- Duration/Cost: See schedule further below; usually wraps by 8PM/Cost is FREE and beer & food available
- Where: The Speak Easy: 5255 Winthrop Avenue, Indianapolis, IN (map)
- What topics will be covered:
All of use tools in our online marketing. Whether its ad platforms, research tools, monitoring systems, email and CRM service providers, or even social networks, the list of marketing tools is evolving all the time. Well, Indy Smartups wants to create the “Ultimate Startup Marketing Toolkit for Smartups,” and to do that, they are bringing in some experts to help lead the group discussion.
Even before that though, registrants for this event are going to fill out a survey at sign in order to add their recommendations. And then, on Tuesday evening, December 16th, Douglas Karr, who runs the Marketing Tech Blog and is the king of all things relating to marketing tools, will lead a discussion with Julie Perry and Kevin Mullett, Director of Visibility and Social Media at Cirrus ABS, on the pros and cons of the popular tools, how to use them and the obscure tools you don’t know about that can help your startup. It’s going to be a great night…Don’t miss it!
There will be free beer and free food (provided by Nameless Catering) – and, as always, free knowledge will be freely dispensed.
What’s the schedule?
* 6:00 – We kick things off with food and a beverage.
* 6:20 – Doug Karr leads discussion on marketing tools.
* 7:20ish – Workshop: What’s in your startup toolkit?
* 7:45ish – Eat, drink and mingle.
More About Indy Smartups
Indy Smartups is for anyone in Indianapolis interested in or working on marketing for startups. It’s the place to be for meeting and learning from other Indy entrepreneurs and marketers. Whether you’ve founded a startup or market at a startup, you’re bound to take away valuable tips, meet new people, and have a good time at our monthly meetup. So join us and find out how to take startup marketing to the smartups level!
There’s a lot of learning ahead of you with regard to social media tactics and tools if you choose to take the path. Be sure to catch our knowledgeable digital-media marketing director, Julie Perry, at one (or both!) of these information-packed events next Tuesday, December 16th! Our team learns a ton from her 13 years’ experience helping brands of all sizes decide where to go next on their digital journey. Now it’s your turn.
How we communicate with clients, contractors and vendors is important — nobody can deny that. Yet how we communicate with our fellow employees and co-workers within the same office space is just as important. Following are various types of intra-office communication in today’s modern office, with a look at how each applies to (or is preferred for) specific types of conversations or purposes.
Let’s face it — in most of today’s cutting-edge office spaces, the majority of communication inside the office walls is done electronically, for better or worse. Let’s break this category down further to look separately at chatting / instant messaging, emailing and using a project management tool.
Chatting via an instant message app such as Lync or Skype is the engine by which things get done fast. That doesn’t mean you should rely on this all the time. With this form of instantly gratifying communication, there’s always a chance that something will be said off the cuff (it’s not like you can save your chat as a draft and think about it before you hit send). This can lead to tension between employees. Furthermore, without the associated tone of something that is communicated aloud, things can be misunderstood and cause confusion. It’s therefore important that intra-office IM and chat be reserved for issues that are non-critical, non-controversial and can be solved quickly.
The volume of emails is insane even in start-up environments. And as you move up the management ladder, it gets even more insane. In fact, in 2013, email traffic coming from business email accounted for over 100 billion messages per day. Email is best used for technical or elaborate discussions where a record of communication needs to be kept. Don’t use email to complain, get angry or start a fight, even between peers. Do use email to communicate confidential information that shouldn’t or can’t be said out loud. Email is also wonderful for exchanging data that’s far too unwieldy for other methods of communication.
Project Management Tool
As mentioned above, email volume can be a nightmare, even with a carefully curated folder and filter system in place. And email is terrible for project management. Version control is an issue, as is keeping the correct people cc’d on an email. And when it comes to keeping track of timelines, associated files and client needs on projects, relying on email alone can be a nightmare. Enter a project management tool. At StrataBlue, we’re a big fan of Basecamp. This tool will allow you to collaborate with co-workers and clients in one place, which includes sharing project tools such as to-do lists and calendars.
The phone is often used strictly for communication with the outside world. However, depending on the size of your office (especially if you occupy multiple floors, in which case you might even say it is “inter-office” communication), a phone call may be the best way to get things done. If you have something to communicate that depends on tone of voice, if the person you’re calling is a phone person and hates electronic communication (those beasts are rare, but they exist), or if you’d like to set up a conference call that includes people in and outside the office, the old-fashioned phone call is often the only way. Note that some offices run these over the Internet and integrate headsets. Even the best phone doesn’t feel comfortable after holding it to your ear for two hours.
And the final form of communication is one that’s the most underrated. Sometimes you just have to walk over and speak in person. Too much has been made of video chat, telepresence, Oculus virtual environments and so on. Trying to handle crucial intra- or inter-office issues via texting can also downplay their importance or lead to confusion. Depending on your office’s policies, you might have to set up a meeting first, but looking someone in the eye and talking things over is often the best way to get issues addressed and tackled fast.
Never knock the face-to-face chat. There’s a reason why it’s so valued when a CEO of a major corporation takes the time to talk to employees in person. It’s considered special and personal, and face-to-face communication is great for conveying ideas that just wouldn’t hold as much meaning any other way.
Efficient and productive communication between and amidst co-workers is crucial to the success of any business. We take communication seriously at StrataBlue, not only amongst ourselves, but also with our clients. Get in touch.
Meet Julie Perry, StrataBlue’s Director of Digital Media Marketing:
My official title is Director of Digital Media Marketing, and I’ve been at StrataBlue since March 2014. Initially, I was hired as Director of Social Media, but that title is misleading, because I don’t think it accurately describes the breadth of services we offer clients within the digital space. Here at StrataBlue, our focus is providing full-scale digital marketing services within paid, owned, and earned channels. Social media is certainly an aspect of that, but for the most part, we take a more holistic approach to our clients’ digital-marketing needs and campaigns.
To explain that a bit further, our team at StrataBlue knows that integrating multiple channels is the best way to deliver results, so we work to incorporate everything from content creation, social advertising, paid search, SEO, mobile, creative, video—and yes, social media marketing plays a big hand in each of those buckets. In the end though, we distinguish our brand of social as being “social media with substance,” or in other words, executing with purpose and intention. We don’t do anything devoid of understanding its impact. Rather, our social campaigns are strategic, deliberate, measurable, and in most all cases, they converge into other trackable digital touch points within owned, earned, and paid channels—blog, search, email, site, video, mobile, and distributed content.
That is a tough question, because every day can be so different. And because we are growing so quickly while also trying to stay on top of constant industry changes, there are never enough hours in the day. In short, as Director of Digital Media Marketing, I rely on my 13 years of online marketing experience to focus on digital thought-leadership activities and provide expertise in digital strategy to further bolster our digital services offering. (If there’s one thing I’ve learned from working in online and digital marketing, it’s that you must always be innovating.)
I also support major client assignments and serve as a data analyst in order to guide overall client strategy. Meanwhile, I like to stay as active as I can on the execution side of client campaigns—otherwise, it’s too easy to become rusty and unable to follow new trends. So even though I’m managing and directing our team of digital specialists, I’m still all about jumping in to, say, tweet for a client, run a Facebook ad, or write an email drip campaign when needed. In fact, taking time to optimize a YouTube video for a client can often be the highlight of my day. #geek
I got my start in digital marketing as a copywriter for online-marketing content—email campaigns, website content, digital ad copy and blogging for SEO. Since those aren’t necessarily skills they teach in college (and they certainly didn’t when I was at Indiana University in the mid 90s), I got much of my training by taking courses from über successful copywriters in the Internet Marketing space, such as Michel Fortin (a mentor and personal friend) and John Carlton. During that time (circa 2003-4), SEO / ranking #1 in Google was the holy grail of marketing, so as soon as social media sites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter came onto the scene and proved to have an increasing impact on search results, it was a natural transition for me to focus on social content creation.
Handling social networking for two tech start-ups in 2007 led to my first foray into digital video content. YouTube marketing—from both a video SEO and an audience development perspective—really was my main area of practice from 2007 to 2010. So I would say that online video marketing is where a majority of my expertise still lies. But in 2010, I wanted to diversify my digital marketing tactics, so I took a job at BLASTmedia, a media relations agency that was looking to grow its social media services. I was able to combine my years of working in online marketing via direct response copywriting, online video, and blogging to launch the agency’s social media team from scratch. While we started off just executing social media to support PR campaigns and media outreach, over the course of three years and building my team to 11 members total, our campaigns took on more of a marketing approach. This was the heyday of inbound marketing, and we had tons of success — after all, PR was already BLAST’s specialty, so combining it with more owned and paid media allowed us to take clients to the next level. Working at BLAST was a wonderful experience (they continue to kill it for their customers), and it allowed me to diversity my areas of expertise by getting to implement more full-scale digital marketing campaigns on a national and international level.
Spending time with family and friends is very important to me, but I’m also a self-proclaimed workaholic, so balancing can be tough. I’ve actually gotten a lot better in recent years at achieving that balance; I take more time off, realizing that returning to work rejuvenated makes me more productive, not to mention more fulfilled.
I also spend a lot of my free time working on something else I’m passionate about, which is blogging and running social media for my book, “The Insiders’ Guide to Becoming a Yacht Stewardess.” (Being a megayacht stewardess was something I did after college, many moons ago.) I originally wrote my yachting book in 2006, but I published a 2nd edition in 2013 when Bravo TV’s reality series, Below Deck, came out. It’s opened up a whole new audience for my book, and I’ve been having a ball interacting with my readers online.
I suppose, technically, my book marketing activities could still be considered work, but I get a lot of fulfillment out of helping guide young people into a fascinating career traveling the world in the superyacht industry. It was a life-altering experience for me when I worked as a yacht stewardess, so promoting my book is also a way for me to stay in touch with that industry and my many friends who still work within it. I still try to get down to Fort Lauderdale at least 3-4 times a year and travel to as many boat shows as I can fit in with my vacation time.
The fact that it’s fast-paced and constantly changing. Routine and consistency have always bored me and I crave challenges, so working in digital media is perfect for me. Add in the agency aspect, and it is literally a playground of opportunity to test new platforms and emerging digital tools across a number of different clients and industry verticals all the time. There is always something to learn.
I’m very fond of the quote that’s been attributed to Wayne Gretzky, where, when asked about the key to his success, he said that he doesn’t skate where the puck has been, but rather, he skates where the puck is going. I thrive on being able to stay on that cutting edge of innovative digital marketing tactics and pioneering the use of emerging strategies, especially with regard to targeting and measurement. It’s all about staying on top of how the customer journey is changing, and then trying to figure out how to incorporate those changes as we’re carving a sales and ROI pathway for our clients. To that end, the StrataBlue team prides itself on smart strategy and efficient execution, but we realize we have to be willing to recognize when something isn’t working. Measurement leads to adjusting tactics to meet goals; it’s that constant fine tuning and adapting in order to achieve success for our clients that invigorates me on a daily basis.
Virginia Woolf. As for where we’d go, I would like to think we’d just stroll around the Bloomsbury district of London and have philosophical and literary discussions over afternoon tea… But, knowing me, I’d probably try to convince her to take a weekend jaunt down to Paris to join F. Scott Fitzgerald and friends for a more Gatsby-esque time… Or, maybe we’d even crash a party at Gertrude Stein’s flat. (What can I say, I was an English Major and am kind of obsessed with modernist literature and writers.)
Everyone wants to encourage creativity—and creativity is an integral part of innovation. Yet creativity with an absence of structure becomes chaos, and unproductive chaos at that. Unbridled creativity without structure kills profit margins along with production numbers. So how do you create an environment that fosters creativity while still maintaining the highest level of productivity?
Embrace Routine Repeatability
Getting into a routine is a good thing. If you have a series of similar tasks that form a significant chunk of your work day, group those tasks into a set-aside block of time during the day. Commit to performing those tasks in a mental space that refuses to be distracted by anything that doesn’t constitute an emergency. Email can wait. And it’s okay to let colleagues know that you’re not available during those hours unless they truly have a pants-on-fire problem. You’ll find that the initial discipline required to form this work routine will subside into habit. And when it becomes a habit, your tasks become more easily repeatable, take less time to complete and the quality of your work will increase.
Schedule Time for Creativity
Once you’ve efficiently routinized your easily repeatable tasks, dedicate a portion of the time you’ve saved to creative brainstorming. Almost anything can be improved. Just because you’ve always done something in a certain way doesn’t mean there’s not a better alternative. And it doesn’t need to take a lot of time either. Schedule half hour creative brainstorms twice a week and you’ll be surprised by the innovative ideas that result.
Frequent meetings form the bane of modern office existence. Meetings are necessary but frequently abused. Before you call a meeting, first ask yourself these questions: is this meeting absolutely necessary? Who actually needs to be in this meeting? You may find that half of the meetings you’re scheduling either aren’t necessary or that the original goal of the meeting can be achieved by other means.
But let’s assume that you’ve scheduled a meeting and have invited only the people who need to be there. Effectively structuring a meeting can increase its impact and cut down on wasted time. Appoint a meeting moderator to keep things on point. In group brainstorms, it’s very easy to end up going off on tangents and getting off point. A meeting moderator can gently bring people back on topic and refocus the meeting. Good ideas that are off topic can be logged for future brainstorms to which they are relevant.
The extent to which creativity can act as a force for new solutions requires getting out of your own head for a bit. Essentially, creative problem-solving requires empathy. If you change the perspective from which you view the problem, you’ll gain tremendous insight into solving it. You’ll also be more likely to solve the problem for everyone it affects rather than just minimizing the impact of the problem on yourself. If you’re interested in fostering a creative environment in your workplace, try incorporating these structural components into your office routine and see what happens.
Everyone wants that myth, that utopia, that perfect work environment that helps us maximize our work performance while minimizing stress. While we’re never going to achieve office perfection, here are some areas that contribute to — or detract from — that Office Zen that we’re constantly seeking.
All this is keeping in mind that what defines a positive work environment can differ from person to person — even between co-workers or management at the same company. Everyone can agree on this definition, though: a positive work environment is whatever helps you get your stuff done while keeping you sane.
It should go without saying, but a good office chair, a good keyboard, a good desk and frequent stand-up and walking breaks all help you get through a work day. Humans weren’t meant to sit for long periods, so while you’re sitting, take any opportunity to reduce the chance of blood clots, fatigue and carpal tunnel. Some office workers have even resorted to standing desks to minimize all of the above. Whatever your approach, comfort and lack of pain is the goal here. Nothing makes you get sick of a job more than when it’s physically painful to perform it. Forbes talks about the many benefits of standing desks, and even delves into the claim that standing desks lead to a longer life.
Depending on the type of office job you’ve got, you may find that specific office layouts and proximity to co-workers can help you or harm you productivity-wise.
Ah, the stereotypical cube farm. They’re everywhere, especially in larger companies. Although cubes can make you feel like a rat in a maze, sometimes they really are the best approach. Programmers, testers and graphics artists, for example, need quiet and semi-isolation for long, uninterrupted periods of time. Short of giving each code monkey his or her own office, this is the best way for them to get their work done. Any collaboration can be done electronically through apps like BaseCamp or bug tracking software like Bugzilla. And if you actually have to talk to another human being as part of your job, it can still be done.
There are jobs where everyone has their own offices. Perhaps management is all domestic, and everyone they manage is outsourced. Perhaps the office space is nice, and the company just isn’t that large, or doesn’t need to be. Often a hybrid approach will be taken here, where the offices are glass and the doors are open. Sharing is encouraged, but only on the office inhabitant’s terms.
Also known as the open office plan, this is where there are a series of desks connected to each other in a big open space, and everyone can see everyone. Frequent face-to-face collaboration happens often and is encouraged, as the company’s work demands a team approach. But headphones can be deployed or adjoining tiny offices can be used if someone needs to plug in for long periods.
These types of approaches work if you’re the type of person who can still get work done while there’s talking next to your ear, or if you’re cool with frequent interruptions. If you thrive on impromptu team meetings, volleys of questions and answers and true team-building, this approach is for you. It’s definitely not for everyone.
Meeting Frequency and Duration
The rule of thumb here is that the more corporate a work environment, the more meetings there are and the less useful each meeting becomes. Meetings become time sinks where people talk about nothing, the type that ruin any chance of getting that day’s project done. It doesn’t have to be so. Positive work environments are ones where meetings are done for a purpose — usually, making sure everyone’s on the same page and that management and clients are happy. Once everyone has their footing, there’s no need to take up hours of time, hours that can be spent Doing the Work.
Ideally, if a meeting is only marginally applicable to that person, it can either be optional, or the worker can listen to it remotely while working on other stuff. Meetings are a necessary evil, but they don’t have to be an ever-present one. Fast Company talks about ways to keep being productive when the meetings monopolize your time.
Are you the type of manager who likes to stand behind a worker and offer helpful advice as they work, or watch as they go through the process? Are you a constant shadow from cube to cube, making sure people stay on task, stay off phones and are kept in the loop about those TPS reports? Stop that. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is universally bad and detracts from a positive work environment. Let the office workers be in the driver’s seat regarding when and how they like to interact with management. This Inc article tells us about new research that shows how detrimental micromanaging can be on productivity.
For the most part, the average worker just wants to get his or her work done without Big Brother or Big Sister watching over them. That means that employing Internet filters, web tracking applications and so on are not necessarily good things, though depending on the size of the company and the sensitivity of corporate secrets, these steps may be mandatory. But if you’d rather your workers not despise you and the company, turn them loose and see if they fly on their own. Odds are, they will.
Finally, a positive work environment can be about how an office collectively handles conflict. Is yours the type of office where an employee can feel comfortable coming to HR or management about a co-worker who’s acting unruly at best and at worst is harassing that employee? Good — there should always been an avenue to report these things without fear of reprisal.
If the conflict is strictly business and not personal, the best office environments are ones where conflicts can be worked out maturely and the work — and the workers — can come out the other side stronger for the experience. Often, these types of issues boil down to miscommunication, and streamlining this conflict can ensure that the next one between the same people doesn’t happen. This Harvard article backs up this viewpoint: the best leaders resolve, rather than avoid conflict.
Americans have this funny idea that forty hours a week is a bare minimum, and fifty to seventy or more is the norm, depending on the field of work and how close to product launch the company is. Europeans get the same amount of work done and don’t have to put in that kind of time. We’re workaholics — but we also waste a lot of time unnecessarily. Having an awesome project manager — and awesome project management software — can ensure that time is used more efficiently, workers don’t have to put in insane hours — and weekends — and everyone goes home happy.
It’s what we call work-life balance. As you move on in your career, more and more of your co-workers will have spouses, children, lives. Work is important, but life outside of work is equally so. The best office environments are ones that give generous time away from that office. It’s like that old relationship analogy: sure, your significant other is great, but it doesn’t mean you want to see him or her all the time. That’s the seed from which resentment grows.
All of the above can be points for or against a smooth, easygoing work day that is both lightning fast and thunderously productive. The kind of work environment you find yourself in can be as important as the career itself. Change what you can, and when you can’t change aspects of your environment, make suggestions to those who can. Odds are, you won’t get everything you want, but you should, hopefully, get to a point where you’re comfortable, productive and happy. Good luck!
Effective leadership comes naturally to very few individuals. For most of us, learning to lead requires navigating around common stumbling blocks and—hopefully—learning from our mistakes. And even if we craft a fairly good leadership style over time, leadership isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. The thing about leadership is, what makes for a good leadership style is completely dependent on situational issues. How professionally mature is your organization? How mature is your team? What’s your culture like? What is your team’s collective psychological and personality make-up? The answers to these questions should help inform the leadership style you deploy.
If you’re trying to move a team toward a new vision, being an effective leader will require that you champion that vision. Stick to the role of evangelist and don’t become preoccupied with implementation. Vision implementation needs to wait until you’ve achieved org-wide buy-in. And while evangelizing, remember that it’s not enough to make an announcement at a company meeting and assume that buy-in will happen automatically. Trust me, it won’t. You need to campaign for the vision over time and—most importantly—consistently articulate how achieving this vision will impact individuals. Evangelize the vision while humanizing the outcome.
Think of this leadership style as the General Patton approach. It relies on heavy use of chain-of-command and orders. It’s a command style of leadership and while it may have been perfectly suited for Patton’s Third Army in the European Theater during WWII, it doesn’t work well at all for common usage in the modern office. This style should be used extremely sparingly, and if used, should be done very intentionally to produce an intended outcome. When used by someone who normally tends either toward The Evangelist or Collaborator/Facilitator styles it will produce a certain cognitive dissonance and create significant impact because it likely will seem very out of character.
This style of leadership tends toward non-hierarchical and is what many of us may gravitate toward more naturally. The reason this approach is effective in so many situations is because rather than a communication kind of monologue, this style of leadership invites dialogue. Rather than giving closed end direction, this approach invites feedback. Someone exercising this leadership style will frequently ask questions like, “How can I support you in X?”, “What do you need from me to be successful in accomplishing X?”, “What resource or human capital allocation will ensure your success?” This approach accomplishes three things: it allows you to help actively problem-solve and proactively think through potential difficulties in a project’s execution, it demonstrates that you care about an individual’s success and also gives the individual a psychological boost of knowing they’re not in it alone.
The Importance of Messaging
Regardless of what leadership style you use and find works best for you, never underestimate the importance of proper messaging. Very often, leadership teams will become so used to talking about a specific topic that they can easily lose track of the fact that they haven’t discussed it with anyone outside of the leadership team yet. This can result in a lack of discipline with respect to rolling out information in an organized, coherent, logical, well-timed and properly nuanced fashion. Proper messaging from leadership matters immensely. Done the right way, it can create excitement at the team level and an accompanying morale boost. But done poorly, the opposite can happen in addition to appearing ill-organized and less than adept. Messaging should be crafted with an eye toward how individuals will react to it. Very often, leaders craft messaging based around logic—forgetting in the process that humans aren’t all inherently logical creatures. We’re also emotional beings, and proper message crafting can wrap the logical package in an appealing cloak of emotive language.
Attracting and retaining the right people is hugely important for any organization. Companies invest a lot of time, effort and capital on personnel recruiting and retention efforts. And those are good investments to make—people form the backbone of a company and help form the fabric of its culture. And it’s your people working in the trenches with their heads down that makes clients successful. But having the best people in place only gets you so far if you’re not developing, standardizing and maintaining processes.
The Mechanics of Process
Mechanics are the least sexy part about process—and largely responsible for the yawns you’ll get when you begin talking about process in a company meeting. But the mechanics are crucial. They’re what enable accurate time tracking, forecasting, measurement, smart hiring decisions based on understanding capacity—the mechanics of process protect your profit margins. Everybody loves innovation, but if you haven’t built out mature processes around which to drape innovation like muscle over bone, attempts at innovation will flounder. Think of process as the skeletal structure around which the muscle of innovation can hang.
Process Permits Proactivity
Without established processes, a lot of activity can be mistaken for work. And lack of process implementation can easily lead to a culture of multi-tasking. Don’t get me wrong, it’s impossible to completely prevent multi-tasking. The nature of some tasks just inherently leads to it. But when process can create an environment where single-tasking can thrive, work is done faster, more efficiently and with much higher quality. And when single-tasking and routine are achieved consistently, more time is spent planning through eventual issues that arise, rather than reacting to them when they happen.
Process Requires Discipline
Process development requires a lot of careful thought and planning to ensure that no unintended consequences arise upon implementation. A lot of brain power needs to go into planning and thinking about all the possible implications of new process. And implementation carries with it a whole other set of obstacles—crafting the right messaging to ensure buy-in has to occur before you can achieve process compliance. From initial process definition, through development and eventual successful implementation, everything about establishing process requires commitment and discipline.
Process Fosters Innovation
Process isn’t the enemy of innovation. It’s quite the opposite. Innovation flourishes best when established process exists. If you’re interested in developing process, start small. Envision what you want the outcome to look like and think of the outcome as a finished meal. Then build process recipes for every item you want to see on the dinner table. It’s up to you whether you’d like a five-course meal or just a healthy snack.
Strategy, Vision, Sales, Financials and that’s just in the morning. Seriously though, being a CEO of a startup is exhilarating and challenging. We’re about a year old now and processes, measurement and creativity are all key to our survival. The business we’re in constantly changes because social media platforms constantly roll out new products and features. I need to consistently understand how new technology can benefit our customers. The good old days of putting up a billboard and charging the customer $30K are gone. We’re all about numbers and we pride ourselves in truly delivering ROI. I don’t care about how many likes the customer has, I care about those likes actually driving measurable revenue. So what are my duties? I think a more interesting question revolves around my goals. My main goal is to create a world-class cohesive team that consistently helps customers get bigger, better, stronger and more importantly, profitable through our work in the digital marketing space. Oh, and also have fun doing it because life’s too short for mediocrity.
There are many great moments, but I guess my favorite moment is an unusual one when I was driving with my partner Slava through downtown Indianapolis. We were talking about marketing, Facebook, food, financials and many other things partners talk about. All of a sudden he turned to me and said, “You know what the best thing is about this job? It’s about helping business grow—especially in my community. It’s a feeling that goes beyond helping the customer. It’s the feeling that you’re also helping the community grow by helping the companies that support its growth.” I know that sounds a bit cheesy, but that’s the main reason why I decided to join Slava and create StrataBlue. You can be profitable and do good. I firmly believe that.
I have four kids in the house, so free time is at a premium. The youngest one is 11 and the oldest one is 15, so I have the privilege of being their driver. Ugh! Seriously, they are great kids, but they do take up a lot of time—as they should. I also like to play Borderlands on the Xbox. Ever since the invention of Pong—and yes I’m aging myself—I’ve been fascinated with video games and computers. I remember the first time I joined a BBS (Bulletin Board System) in the 80’s before the Internet, I clearly saw the power of connecting people together across the world and communicating with them. To me that was the beginning of social media. That of course spread to video games and for some reason I get immersed in Borderlands. Frankly it’s addictive, a little too much. I love it!
My son asked me once,”Dad, what is a touchdown?” I said, “I don’t know son, I’m a Jets fan.” I love the Jets and the Mets. Ugh! Seriously though, I love sports and I just wish I had more time to immerse myself and truly get into things like fantasy leagues.Damn you Borderlands! One great thing about having two boys is that they are both sports fanatics and I attend many football, baseball and basketball games. It truly is a great feeling watching them jump up and down as our teams score. The energy rush is amazing and actually a little emotional.
I earlier alluded to my discovery of emerging social media in the 80’s and helping customers, but when I think about the industry, the thing that stands out the most is its ever changing nature. It’s never boring and I constantly learn new things. To me social media is still the wild, wild west of technology. It’s as disruptive as the automobile was to the horse drawn carriage. I love the fact that you can still invent things and make them better. I love the fact that because of what StrataBlue does, we can reach out to so many different and cool people and that constantly changes as new clients come on board. We at StrataBlue continuously learn about different industries and what makes people tick. Frankly, it’s fascinating.
Game of Thrones. Many people like it because of the violence, fantasy, human nature, and more. To me it’s interesting how a show can become a social phenomenon and elicit such emotion and fervor. It clearly shows the good and the bad in people. The violence is very graphic and unfortunately we live in times where this violence can be seen in the real world. We should never forget that human nature is a two-sided coin and we must always strive to be on the good side. Sometimes that is hard and the show pulls no punches there, but I’m hoping that once the books are finished and we watch the final episode, we can learn something good from the show and apply those lessons in our lives and the world.