Making a dent

Why are we here? How can we add value? How can we make a difference? How can we inspire and be inspiring? How can we leave a legacy? And who are the people to drive us to achieve?

This will help. I particularly get the message on slide 34 about making best use of time! The takeaway messages are below the slides.

Six takeaways:

1. Goals: Know where you are going.

2. Love: Do something you are passionate about.

3. Work: Doing something worthwhile and well takes time.

4. Time: Stop wasting it and procrastinating.

5. Real: Use your own voice and tell your own story.

6. Rock: Be remarkable. Don’t be functional, be amazing.

Note to email/RSS subscribers: Slides only visible at the blog.


Nurturing hidden talent

In most companies and most teams there are inevitably people from a range of backgrounds, possessing a range of skills, attributes and experiences.

Often it can be the noisest, most confident or senior people that determine direction and agenda. Sadly, the quietest, most recent team members contribute the least, despite having great ideas.

So isn’t one of the urgent business challenges encouraging hidden talent to shine? And isn’t there a responsibility on managers to foster an open, collaborative working environment where ideas are valued, input solicited and feedback acted on?

In creative marketing teams this can be achieved using a number of techniques:

1. Regular team meetings where team members are encouraged to own their projects and report back their status.

2. Support this with frequent one-to-one meetings to ensure that any problems or issues are efficiently and effectively managed and opportunities to tap into latent knowledge and experience are maximised.

3. Involvement in company initiatives by opening up the opportunity for team members to participate in activities that empower them. It might be writing web news or blogs, managing certain elements of the marketing and business development plan, running training programmes or giving public speeches.

4. Maximising opportunities to ‘show and tell’ and share successful (and unsuccessful) projects with key learnings.

5. Development projects where the individual (and the business) benefit from recommendations made to improve process and procedure or in the development of new products and services.

6. Above all, ask. Keep up to date with your new staff and understand how all team members are motivated. Understand what they are good at, what they like doing and what challenges them. Understand where they want to go and how they want to be managed.

Are you making the most of all your people or have some of your employees left part of their experience at the front door? If they have, you can be sure you are missing out.

Image: EngageSciences


The downside of being a yes man

There is a reason why a certain person in the workplace is badged a ‘yes man’. He plays safe, does as he is asked, is the safest pair of hands and is generally unthreatening and unassuming.

He may say yes because he wants an easy life, can handle the workload or because he is ill-equipped to challenge every request. And there is a compelling argument that every business needs enough ‘yes men’ to ensure things get done.

But saying no can sometimes have a powerful, liberating and motivating effect. ‘No’ can have a number of caveats attached but in essence means ‘I’m focusing on a more important task’, or  ‘I’m prioritising this task over the one you want to assign me’, or ‘What I need to do now has more significance to the business’.

It falls to you to manage your workload, your contribution to the business, your self motivation, and, above all, your credibility. There is nothing wrong with justifying focus in one area over another, and smart managers will appreciate your candour and foresight if you can offer rationale for your task management.

Image: BBC archives


The most depressing day of the year

If you consider the time since Christmas, the time to your next holiday, returning to work or college, your debt, the weather and a number of other variables, it’s no surprise that today, 17th January, is statistically the most depressing day of the year.

Psychologist Cliff Arnall devised a seven point equation back in 2005 which resulted in the third Monday in January being the most miserable day of the year. The equation included  (W) weather, (D) debt, (d) monthly salary, (T) time since Christmas, (Q) time since failed quit attempt, (M) low motivational levels and (NA) the need to take action.

So how has today been for you? Have you been productive or lethargic? Did you make it to work or spend the day under the covers? Did you ship what you needed to ship, make that call, cross that burning to-do off your list?



Five ways to think more creatively about your marketing

Whether you are in the creative business, have a team to motivate or customers to provide creative solutions for, thinking creatively is essential.

But a longer than usual holiday period, coupled with short days, miserable weather and clients and customers slow to get off the mark can all contribute to quickly  stagnating creative thinking.

In the constantly switched on world, how can we create time and space for ourselves to think creatively about the challenges we face and break the cycle of thinking inside the box?

Here are five techniques that I use, maybe they will be useful to you.

1. Upset your daily / weekly routine: Once a week take a different route, look out the window. Take the train or bus rather than the car. If you can, walk. Look at the billboards, bus stops and read the local free paper. The objective is to come off ‘autopilot’ and take in the creative stimulus around you.

2. Use your time more efficiently: Take your lunch hour and use it productively. Set up a Google Reader account, sign up for some blogs and news feeds related to your sector, your speciality and your interests. Or join some Linkedin groups and join the discussions. Or scan content on YouTube or Slideshare. The point of these activities are to open yourself up to available free content and influence.

3. Read something new: Is there anything you don’t understand or want to understand in more detail? Learning stimulates the grey matter and can be powerful in equipping you with greater capacity to think more creatively in the future. Hit the Amazon bestseller list – it doesn’t have to be a business or self help book, but they might be a good start. The reason to consider this is to learn from others.

4. Handle meetings differently: Creative brainstorms can actually inhibit creative thinking. Why? Dull, uninspiring boardrooms are not generally conducive to free flowing ideas, time pressures are usually set, and the loudest or most senior people in the room usually dominate the discussion. Break these conventions be setting an agenda, dishing out the brief in advance, relocating the meeting to a coffee shop, park, museum, the client’s offices and encouraging the involvement of all not the will of the chairperson. The reason for going to these lengths is to achieve creative ‘breakthrough’.

5. Look at brands you like and learn from them: Who is to say that b2b packaging companies, food service or building product manufacturers can’t learn from high profile b2b, b2c or fmtg brands? That professional services businesses can’t learn from coffee chains? What do the brands you trust do well? How do they treat you, how do they communicate, how do they encourage you to engage further and deeper?

Which ever way you view it, creativity is a key differentiator, and the ability to quickly and decisively tackle complicated communications challenges demands creative thinking.

What do you think?

Image MessageMarketing

Building a winning team

The depression of another failed World Cup bid by the England football team has, I think, been lessened this time around by the crushing inevitability of it all. From the warm up games, to the debacle of squad selection, through the performances in the group, the outbursts about the tough, prison like camp and the tactical ineptitude at critical stages of matches, it was clear it was going to come to a crashing end at some point.

Creating the right environment for a team to perform takes some planning and a lot of effort. The England team have the best paid manager in world football, a star-studded line-up and all the trappings afforded to movie stars and musicians but  failed because they weren’t sufficiently motivated and committed to winning.

There were crucial things missing.  And, the same things are often missing in teams in workplaces like yours. As marketers we have to get the best from multi-site, multi-language, multi-discipline colleagues and business partners. So, if  like Fabio, you’re struggling to get the best out of people in your line of work (and remember no man is an island), consider these five top tips:

1. Create the right environment – team members need to have some responsibility and should feel that they can propose and try different approaches from time to time.

2. Remember no idea is a bad idea – encourage input and encourage problem sharing. The best teams consistently collaborate and innovate. Build in various ways of soliciting feedback as some people naturally shy away in group situations.

3. Understand the needs of individuals – one managerial size doesnt fit all when managing a team. The autocrat for example will frustrate the experienced. Make sure you are aware of who needs the carrot and who needs the stick, who needs some hand holding and who needs letting fly.

4. Establish team roles and responsibilities and incentivize based on delivery – some team members operate best on the big picture, others are meticulous, others organised, others 100% efficient but lacking a little polish. using assessment models like Belbin can assist. Understanding where skills lie allows for effective harnessing and also helps drive  ongoing development.

5. Ultimately, recognize that the team embodies the values and attitude of its leader. If the team isn’t working, it has to come back to the leader’s door. Return to the objectives of the team, what needs to be done and where the strengths and weaknesses lie. Everything can be improved…unless you are project managing a team on The Apprentice in which case, no chance.

    As for Fabio, he isn’t the first to fail with England’s so called Golden generation, perhaps the causes are more engrained.


    Blog Gold 2010: A funny thing called insight

    Insight is the holy grail of customer relationship marketing.

    Insight gives you understanding and perspective.

    Insight allows you to differentiate.

    Insight enables you to proposition.

    Insight drives creative marketing.

    Insight can help you add value.

    Insight can ensure you are able to charge more.

    And some agencies can charge clients vast sums of money for it.

    Think, who is best placed to give me insight into customers, their perceptions, motivations and brand choices? And who has the relationship and ability to ask these questions of your customer? Whether you choose the direct or indirect route, one thing is sure, it will effect the number of zeros assigned from your marketing budget that might be better spent elsewhere.

    Original posted 14 Sept 2009. Image courtesy of