I look a certain way therefore I am a certain way

ilookthereforeiamThis is something I have been thinking about and playing with for a long long time – and I know MANY others have been as well. Today I need to rant just a little bit about self-esteem as it relates to outer beauty. This is a post that will be long and it is something that I know may not come off in the way that I necessarily want it to. I know many will be opposed to many of the arguments I am putting up there and that is alright we are all allowed to have our opinions and struggles with thoughts. It is a post that I have struggled with writing for a really long time but a few things have compelled me to write about it. If anything please just skip to the bottom few paragraphs and humour me with what the end message is.

Not so long ago I was sitting at a business breakfast series and the main speaker was talking about looking professional. This is not a new topic and it is one I have taken in on many other occasions be it in person or via watching a video or a live broadcast, I’m always up for listening and learning both about the topic and sometimes even more so how the speaker is presenting. This particular speaker was very well dressed, however I would say that with all the make-up caked on to match the spray tan I’m not so sure I noticed all of the details and intricacies of her immaculate clothes.

Ok, so you can likely see where this is going. For anyone who has known me for any period of time at all you will know that I’m a strong advocate for being who you are, dressing how you feel comfortable, but even MORE so, and the reason for why I dress in shorts and sandals for as long as I can here in Canada I am an advocate for not ever judging a book by its cover but rather by stopping, taking a wee bit of our precious time, and discovering the inner contents. I love being able to challenge the norm and to push the limits, yes even when it comes to outer appearances. Now I’m certainly not advocating that anyone ever go out looking like a complete slob (although I assume that has a varying degree in many others perspectives) but rather I am here to challenge how we act and treat each other based on outer appearances.

When I was listening to the speaker talk about being professionally dressed she brought up some really great points – points that I definitely believe are true. The speaker mentioned that it only takes a few short seconds before someone makes a judgement about us and our status so if you’re in business that is important to know. The speaker also brought up the point that for many clients they respect and often TRUST (big word, I will come back to this one for sure) the person they are about to work with if they are dressed on par or even better 1 level higher than they are (hmmm…I suppose there are levels of dress…I wonder when you earn enough levels and points if you get to fight King Koopa or if you get to enter some Bonus Worlds – yes, I think that is probably true).

The speaker also had many other good points about being dressed professionally however there were 2 main points that got me thinking about this and then something else happened today that made me want to write this piece.

So first the 2 main points that the speaker said that made me write down the notes and start to formulate this rant in my head (it’s been going on for almost a decade now).

1. “Whether it is fair or not it does not matter.” – this was a statement made in relation to how we are judged based on our outer appearance.

2. “Most people base other peoples values on how they look”

So allow me to tackle #1. She is right, it is not fair, it is absolutely not fair. But instead of saying that as if it is fact should we not at some point challenge it? I mean sometimes status quo has to be challenged. I think this is one of those times (keep reading and you will find out why this is such a BIG deal to me.)

Now what about #2. Well once again the speaker was 100% correct with that statement I think alot of people do judge others values based on how they look but what if we didn’t? What if we allowed ourselves to pause for a minute and really get to know the person, the building, the animal, the thing we are looking at or interacting with. Well shit that is a crazy notion because we don’t have enough TIME to ever get to know someone. We need to make quick decisions in life that save us time. We need to count people in or out of our circle so as to not waste our precious commodity, TIME. Ok, ok I get it time is a valuable resource and obviously peoples appearance must tell us the whole story about what they value, who they are, where they come from, and whether or not we should interact with them.

Finally before I make another leap into the 1 thing that set me off today, along with a few other good reads and videos I wanted to return to the big word that I wrote a little while ago TRUST. Yes we do tend to TRUST those who are dressed in some of the nicest and usually most expensive clothes. We see it as a sign of respect and a sign of ummm….power I think that’s what most people think anyway. Immediately I think about the famous Milgram Study from 1961 which has since been replicated and can be viewed here (there are 3 parts feel free to watch it all if you wish-you could also take a peak at the Stanford prison experiment conducted by Dr. Zimbardo as it relates to uniforms and power):

So we TRUST and respect people because they dress a certain way. That does sound reasonable and helpful in many situations I believe and it certainly can be sometimes. I would argue though that we mustn’t just always make this a rule. We need only look to Wall Street and many other business/government scandals to realize that just because people dress a certain way doesn’t mean they behave in certain ways that we would expect them to. I mean just look at how respectful and adult like these men in suits can be: 

Ok one last small story before I jump. About a year ago I was asked to judge a business classes presentation, myself and 2 other very successful business people. I was rather honoured to be asked to sit with such highly successful people. I had always admired the work they had done (hmmm…merit based on work there’s a new concept in all of this.) Anyhow we got sitting down and one of the students stepped up to present in a pair of jeans (while many of his peers were dressed in suits). The judge to my immediate right, before hearing a word come out of the young man’s mouth took his pen and stroked the sheet from one side to the other – that was it, from this judge the student was getting a big fat ZERO. The student was presenting to us a brand new company based on skate boarding, skate board paraphernalia, and skate board wear, this judge would never hear it though. After the presentations were done this gentleman and I got speaking – he was outraged at how this presenter could get up there and present a business case in jeans – “how disrespectful” he mentioned. I then just happened to mention that the pair of jeans he had on were a $300 pair of jeans, I wanted to see my colleagues reaction. Well wouldn’t you know it now all of a sudden it was a different ball game. He didn’t know that they made jeans that expensive and they did fit rather well, I mean after all he was presenting on skate boarding and skate boarding culture so I suppose he looked the part – my fellow judge’s entire mindset, a rather intelligent and savvy business man himself had just had a turn of heart when he happened to hear a little bit about the turn in wallet that young presenters jeans would make in his pocket.

Look I know this is not a popular stance and I do agree people should look professional some of the time (I also really do believe that if you look good you may even just feel better about yourself-bah flip flop some more why don’t you Shawn) but I think what really has set me off as of late are things like this DOVE video around Selfies and about how we see ourselves through Sketches.

We are hurting each other and we are hurting ourselves. For years and years now we have held a standard that is just SO unrealistic. We look at magazines and we envy to look a certain way so that we can feel a certain way. Then things like this get produced and they go VIRAL but still nothing really changes.

People cry, people worry, people have anxiety attacks, people starve themselves, people DIE. We need to change, we need to be better, we need to help each other, and we need to encourage each other. We need to be our best selves and yes I do think that means both on the inside and on the outside I think that in order for that to happen we need to be supportive of one another.

Isn’t it just a little bit crazy that we still live in a world where we can make each other feel so bad just by judging each other about the clothes we decide to put on our back, then we get so very upset when kids have image and body issues. We tell kids it will be alright and that inner beauty means more than outer beauty but we as adults are not setting the best example, are we?

Ok let’s summarize all of these muddled thoughts. I think I owe you that since you have made it to the end of the post (holy shit you’re brave, or silly like me, or by now probably fuming at what a moron I am either way you made it so good for you!)

  • Be comfortable and confident with who you are – way harder than anyone can ever know.
  • Let’s do something really quite unique and unusual in our time – give each other TIME. Get to know people, talk with them, listen to them and what they have to say BEFORE we judge who they are.

Hmmm…was that it – shit I used a lot of words to say these 2 simple messages but I guess that’s what happens when these thoughts have been struggled with for over a decade now. (I wonder if in the next decade they will get clearer?)

I’m really looking forward to having more discussions and hearing people’s opinions on this one.

You never know – always be open

When you look there are a lot of doors that can be opened

When you look there are a lot of doors that can be opened

I’m in the midst of a bit of travelling at the moment, currently in BC, where the weather is just beaming down goodness upon us.

This post started the minute I got on the airplane. I was headed to seat 11A only to find out that in fact it was already being sat in. So what does a red-headed adventurer do? Well since I’m usually the last one on the airplane anyway, I just went and sat in another seat – 11D, which dammit, turned out to be someone else’s seat. This lady came after me, I mean come on I’m always the last one on the plane. Well there was another option – 11E was free. I scooted my butt over to the middle seat, jesus how I hated the middle seat, what a shitty seat (stupid friggin’ first world problem – right? I mean soon I would be soaring through the clouds like a goddamn bird.)

Fast forward a little and now I’m chatting with the 2 ladies on either side of me. To my left is Candace and to my right is Janice. Janice was on her way home to Vancouver and Candace was on her way to visit her son. We all chatted for quite some time about all kinds of things that just didn’t matter to anyone, oh the joys of small talk. Then of course the conversation, as always, inevitably turned to what do you do for a living? Funny how that comes up a lot.

The best part though was that as we chatted more and more Candace shared with us this really great story about the digital divide and about missing chances to talk to human beings. Candace began telling us about a book that she was reading about digital distractions. The entire story was pretty funny because at the end of the story the punchline was that in fact she had got on this very plane without that book because she was interrupted from reading it by the ring of her cell phone, Candace put down the book to look at her phone and then was in a rush to load onto the plane, thus leaving her book about how we are being distracted by digital media in the airport lounge. Ironic much?

A small story but a rather funny story and one that happens pretty much all the time in one way or another.

I’m happy she left her book in the lounge and I’m happy you have to turn your cell phones off while you’re on an airplane. It gave me a chance to really chat with 2 other human beings that I otherwise probably would have never met.

I got to learn their stories and one of them, Candace, and I found out that we are both very much creatives and in fact Candace’s entire family is creative – movie director, writers, painters, etc….

By the end of the plane ride I had found out that one of her sons was a stand up comedian so I asked her if her son would be performing while I was in Vancouver. He was, but I couldn’t make it unfortunately. We did want to chat more though, so I ended up meeting her and her son a few days later over a really great brunch.

You just never know when you will run into someone that might be extremely interesting, that could be good for business, or might just turn out to be a friend. In this case, I think I hit the jackpot. Who was this woman? Who was this family? We really could have spent all day talking about the creative industry and our work.

I was open to having a discussion, open to listening, open to learning, and in the end Candace and her family have hired Creativision to help them examine ways to garner attention as well as to strategically grow their various creative pursuits.

Next time you get on a plane, on a bus, are sitting alone at the bar, don’t be afraid to be open – human beings, for the most part are pretty awesome people. (I didn’t even tell you about the amazing chat I had with a really wonderful law student I had on my first flight).

***ok so I was about to post this and then I found this crazy little video about a few things but underlying it was the ability to be open and to start small talk and since I thought it was amusing of course you will too, right?

For me it’s about TGIM! Stop hatin’ on Monday

mondayFor far too long I have sat back and not said anything or ranted about this topic but today that must change. Today I must confess my love for something that for many of you may seem weird, unusual, horrendous, and yes even unpatriotic. I am in love with Mondays! Phew there I said it.

Every Monday morning I wake up to messages like the following:

“All the coffee. #monday

“I love driving [sic] on Monday morning we are all in such a great mood! There should be only 2 kinds of pedestrians allowed on the streets during rush hour, the quick ones and the dead ones….”

“Well we have come to another sunday night…which means tomorrow is monday FML can we just skip to friday!”

These messages and a million more are plastered all over facebook and twitter. People are screaming for their weekends not to end. They are hating on Monday as though it did something wrong to them.

Well to all of them I say this: you my friends are in the wrong professions. You my friends are hating on Monday when really it is you, you should be hating for picking boring and mundane professions that do not give you the thrills and excitement that my Monday gives me. For far too long Monday has been the dreaded day so far removed from Friday (only after 4pm), Saturday, and Sunday that it strikes fear, anxiety, rage, and even sadness in so many hearts across the world. People are working for the weekends (for crap sakes there is even songs about it).

What the hell? Why? I know it sounds really weird but Monday is the beginning of a whole new week for me. Monday is the day I get up and I get to work on all the things I love. This is not to say that I hate my weekends but rather appreciate all the days for what they have to offer. Monday is a good chance to start all over again. Monday is the day when I get to start having all my “beerstorming” meetings, my awesome phone calls from clients who want to work on crazy ideas and fun videos begin again, my long lunches and my meetings with clients at the Great Canadian Bungee or at the National Art Gallery come to shape. Sure my weekends are filled with cottage time, sports days, family and friend time, but if you’re careful about what you choose to do in life you will never have to live just for those 2.5 days out of the 7 day week.

Choosing is hard believe me I know it. But holy shit to only live for 2.5 days out of 7 seems crazy to me. Monday can be a glorious day if you search long and hard for what it is you want to do.

Happy Monday everyone.

A marketing deal with the CEO

shakinghandsYesterday I got a phone call from someone working in the marketing and social media department at a rather large company in Ottawa that operates internationally. This person, lets call her Christine, called me to pick my brain, as I’m working as a consulting partner for the company, about a task she was just assigned. Christine proceeded to tell me that her boss had walked into her cubicle telling her that by the end of the week he wanted to see 1000 more likes on Facebook. So Christine had called me asking me how to do that. Of course if you’ve been following along on here or know me at all you know what my response would be, why the hell does he need that number? To which she replied and this is what I heard: “blah blah blah wah wah wah….statistics…blah blah blah board members…important growth…wah wah wah.”

It took me about 10 minutes to tell her that I would be coming to visit very shortly and we could talk about the strategies very shortly in person. I also proceeded to book an appointment with the CEO and the Executive Board at the regular meeting.

A few days later and the evening had arrived, there we were all sitting around the mahogany table, even Christine was there much to her embarrassment and dismay (she didn’t think she belonged there.) The first point on the agenda was the companies outreach and their social media strategy. The first questions came from me: “what do “likes” on facebook me to you?” “what is your message on social media?” “what does social media mean to you?” Then I shut up and sat there in complete and utter silence. I laughed inside as the CEO and all the board members looked around the table at each other. They kind of looked like I was speaking another language, they didn’t know what I was asking. After probably 2 minutes of utter silence each and every one of them slowly turned their heads towards Christine and the CEO said “well Christine can answer that best.” Of course I knew she could answer it best but I wanted to know since it was so “important” to them what their answers were so of course I challenged him. “I know Christine can answer it but I’m just curious about what you folks think about social media and it’s importance in your company. Why are you using it?” was my response. Then corporate dribble spewed out at me. All I wanted him to say was that it was a chance to connect with their audience, to build relationships, to grow as a company, to understand their customers better, anything along those lines.

Now you know how the conversation went (how the conversation with every company I work with goes) and it was time to get to the point, the ominous question. Why did they need 1000 new likes on their facebook in such a short period of time? We talked about it and we had a really great discussion which I was very happy about.

The CEO was still very stuck on the idea that they needed this many likes really quickly so I offered him a challenge. He was keen to hear the challenge.

CHALLENGE GIVEN: Christine and I will get 1000 new likes if you do 1 thing for us. I want you sir to go out this week and meet and make friends with 1000 new people. 

Of course his response to me was “well that is crazy I couldn’t possibly do that.” My reply, “that’s right.” Then we got into the discussion about quality over quantity. Read more about my thoughts on that in an earlier post: It’s a numbers game

It can be rather easy to go out and get a bunch of “likes” for your company page but we, as human beings and especially as marketing and communications folks, have a big responsibility to educate people about what social media is. Not even really sure anyone has this answer but the one thing I know about social media and am very adamant about  is that it is a not a number producing factory. It is a place to be social, to share (NOT sell ALL the time), and to be a human being. 

Christine’s problem was resolved and the company is now on track to becoming more human like. They are sharing all kinds of interesting tips and tricks and sharing other people’s tips and tricks, heck their even admitting their errors on their own page and assuring customers that they are working hard to minimize those errors. Guess what is happening? Their numbers are growing, albeit slowly, but it is steady slow growth. Each and every one of their new “likes” or fans is becoming a part of the company.

Christine, the CEO, and even the Board Members are so much happier with their Social Media existence and they can’t believe how this new community is so supportive of the work they are doing.

Remember to put the social in social media

social_partyAbout a month ago I spoke at the Social Capital Conference in Ottawa around some of the play…oh ummm…I mean really serious work that I do. I was basically given a carte-blanche to talk about anything I wanted. I was thrilled when this opportunity came up because for far to long have I been working with clients who tell me “we do social media”. First of all I really dislike that wording. I dislike it because to me it brings up connotations that this is just another thing that people DO, that people check off on their lists to get business rather than immersing themselves in this technological marvel that is social media bringing us closer to way more customers than in any other time in the history of business. Social media is a veritable wasteland of all kinds of “HBD’s” (if you don’t know what this means write me a note and I will indeed share my biggest rant with you about this), “Like me for access to this coupon” , and “RT this awesome video pls”. I mean when I see these things and then hear companies say they are “doing” social media I just want to vomit. And I don’t just mean the little baby dribble version but rather the full on exorcist, head twisting, blasting across the room type (good enough visual for you?) “Doing” social media implies that it is just another task and that when the posts have been uploaded and updated then they are done for that day. Secondly to all those who tell me they don’t have TIME to “do” social media I say scream BULLSHIT. This one I actually cannot believe because for most of the groups I work with they have hired me because they are having some kind of challenge and it usually translates into not enough customers so obviously how they are spending time is not working so why not be open to change and try a new approach? Social media, if done properly is all about time. I often encourage companies to spend a whole day just browsing the internet. Read, watch, write, sit and follow a twitter stream for an entire hour (blasphemous!) . These are all little things that you can be doing to learn just a little bit more about how to engage. “But Shawn that is such a waste of time” I hear you saying. Is it? I mean really isn’t learning just a little bit more about your customers and your competitors all part of the world we live in now? If you can’t let yourself take a few hours or heaven for bid a whole day to explore then there is more wrong with your business than you think. I once had a business that told me they couldn’t have meetings because they couldn’t take 1 hour to close the store front. I forced it and in that 1 hour so many challenges were examined and resolved. 1 hour of dedicated time to understanding each other and some of the challenges the store was too busy to deal with on a regular basis were solved. Who knew? The store reopened and lo-and-behold it began to run so much smoother.

Perhaps one of the best readings I have come across when it comes to social media comes from a recently fresh pressed wordpress post from Tara Hunt in her piece: The Secret to Great Social Content 

When I saw the title I wanted to scream. There is no fucking SECRET. Believe me for so many years people have been coming up with formulas and telling people to post “x” number of times to increase their followings and drive more traffic. Post a certain number of pictures and you will be way more successful. More successful at what I’m not sure. I think the goal is to have 1 million followers. Does that mean you are successful? Do those numbers translate into relationships with customers? Are you selling more of your shit? Are you helping the world in anyway? I guess that is all up to you to decide. But that is not really what Tara was getting at in her post. Her big secret was to go with your gut. In particular my favourite line was:

“If you start using rules you stop using your instinct”

In Tara’s post she writes out 5 little tips (take note, NOT rules) that I completely agree  with and they are as follows:

  1. put down the content calendar and just hang out with your customers (AND your competitors’ customers) more. Not with a clipboard taking notes or with the desire to convince anyone to try your product. JUST CHILL and absorb.
  2. stop thinking of your audience as content consumers. They do not live for your ‘sharables’. They aren’t sitting with index fingers hovering over the like button, eagerly awaiting your next witty post. They have lives and you are a small, teensy part of their daily thoughts. If they don’t think of anything else other than you, you have a bigger problem on your hands.
  3. go to a movie, read a book, subscribe to blogs, skim through magazines — outside of your industry and outside of your comfort area. Embrace diversity and different points of view. Have conversations with people you would never dream of having conversations with.
  4. think really hard about what you are truly passionate about. What makes you laugh, cry, sing…what inspires you. What are you drawn to? Think about this honestly outside of the context of your business. Do more of that. Learn how to trust your instincts again and when they lead you astray…
  5. don’t fret. Some things will work and some things won’t. But keep going and learning from those mistakes. Take criticism with a grain of salt and start to learn what is constructive and what is not. Being experimental and open doesn’t mean you have to bend with every whim either. You’ll learn over time and hone that instinct beautifully.

So where does all of this lead us? For me social media is about just being social. It is about putting yourself out there in a way that you want to and about finding those that exist out there that you are compatible with and that you can help in some little way. I mean almost every company now has the media part down pat that is for sure. They are “on” facebook and they are “on” twitter and they are “on” every and all other mediums but when you look at their posts about their latest products, sales, or their last post was in 2010 it really screams that they are just “on” and nothing more. They are not actually being social, they are not actually engaging in these amazing platforms that help us make deeper, wider, and way more amazing connections than we ever could have before.

Being “on” social media but never updating it is like opening your store front and then going to the back room and never coming out to talk to customers.

So to that I say get the hell out of the back room and go talk to your customers. Don’t think that being “on” social media is good enough. You actually have to be social in order for you to grow. And believe me the more social you are and the more time you put in the more relationships you will build. You make some really interesting connections and who knows you may even come to know, appreciate, and love some of those amazing people we call customers. Holy shit you might even care and be able to make some money-wow what a world we live in.

My message at the conference, with the clients I work with, and right now just BE A HUMAN!

Don’t be a customer service jerk!

jerkAlright my friends so perhaps a small rant will ensue.

Today I experienced 2, what some may say minor, but I saw horrendous bouts of crappy customer service. I’m here to write the stories so others don’t fall into these holes.

The first one came via an email from a Customer and Community Rep (Known from now on as rep.). This rep. (hmmm…careful who you choose to put in those positions) started their email by incorrectly spelling my name wrong in the reply email. I’m always flabbergasted at this as the email I just sent you had my name written all over it and you still couldn’t find a way to spell it right? Maybe this is just me being a baby after growing up never having anything with my name spelled correctly on it. Maybe I should be blaming my parents? Bah! (or my older brother since my parents didn’t even care to name me, wow so many scars) Anyhow the email didn’t get any better from there. It was a grand total of 1 line. It was perhaps one of the coldest emails I have ever gotten and it basically told me that this person had no time to meet, fair enough. However then this rep. proceeded to ask why I was emailing and what it was I wanted from them (spend some time just read a little bit it was in the original email). I take it this person is very busy and I can get that but what I really want from a GREAT community and customer rep. is someone who pretends to be a human. My email, as they all are was rather jovial and was looking to illicit some kind of fun loving response. The basics of the project which I outlined was that we wanted to have some fun with their company and support a really great cause. What I can never understand and no one will ever convince me is that they are too busy for a phone call. I don’t give a shit how big you’re company is or how grand your position is. Never stop being a damn human being. When someone reaches out to have a bit of fun why not take a few minutes to listen? Like I said this is a bit of a rant and I know some of you will say that maybe this rep. is just too busy and that this rep. shouldn’t waste their time. I fully disagree you’re a community rep. for goodness sakes and my connection came through a mutual friend and a mutual partner. Trust in others and make the time. Learn to laugh and learn to love and be open and you might just get the rewards you deserve. I say all of this because this rep. just lost their business a few thousand dollars ($$$$). Just because this rep. couldn’t pretend to be a human engaging another human for a few seconds.

Ok round two happened a later. I really love a good game of hide and go seek but this was fucking ridiculous. Every time I came around the corner and saw a customer service rep unless I went sprinting down the aisle they vanished. All this hunting and chasing in a store that delivers commissions. Hmm…but I didn’t look like I had money to buy anything, “what a time waster” is what I’m sure most of the customer rep folk thought to themselves. Then when I finally caught one in a corner I was pretty much pushed on to one of their unsuspecting associates as this little nerd was “going on break”. This push and shove continued between associates as more important looking people entered the store. So I left that store with the few hundred dollars I had in my pocket. Again the main lesson here is just pretend to be a human. You never really know who you might meet or what they might be able to do for you.

Bottom line don’t be a customer service jerk!

Just follow these 2 steps and you should be great at pretending to be a human.

1. Smile at everyone and look them in the eyes

2. Listen – and I mean take some time, clear your head and really listen to what that person has to say. You know kinda like you care or something.

A message to employees

frustratedemployeeAfter I sent out a message to managers you employees didn’t think I forgot about you, did you? I certainly did not I have just been out kicking some employees’s asses and getting some inspiration for this post.

Here is where it begins. The workplace can be a shitty place no doubt about it but it doesn’t all land on the shoulders of the managers. Some of the blame can certainly lie on you employees. So what is my advice to folks for making a better work environment?

It is as follows:

1. Don’t worry about what other people are doing, do your own damn job. I know it is always tempting to look over your shoulder and wonder what everyone else is doing but just don’t. “But Shawn….sometimes those other people effect the work I’m doing.” Ok fair enough I can understand that. You need your team members to complete a job. What I don’t accept though is how you might handle that.

2. Stop being so damn passive aggressive. If you are having trouble with someone at work then I suggest you actually have a conversation with that person. You heard that right, a conversation. I didn’t say scowl at them like their head should explode and raise your voice. What I said was ask them to have a quick conversation, ask them what they thought or saw. Oh yes imagine that THEIR opinion first. Let the person you see at fault have a chance to say why or how they saw the situation and then maybe you might understand. Remember a conversation goes both ways and definitely includes LISTENING, a skill I have seen disappear in the workplace far too often.

3. Just because you don’t like confrontation doesn’t mean you should hide behind it. Something someone else said, maybe even your boss, really didn’t sit right with you. Speak up! If you choose (it is always a choice…”oh but Shawn I might lose my job. Well you’re not happy anyway so get over it) to not say anything and to deal with the confrontation that may occur (probably because people aren’t used to openly talking about things in your office/place of work) it will only get worse. Trust me when I say this as I speak from years of listening and working in team development IT WILL ONLY GET WORSE. So speak up.

4. Your managers are stressed out to the max. Now stop laughing and pick yourself up off the floor. I know you all think your managers don’t do nearly the work that you do. Well you are dead wrong. They are doing one of the toughest jobs on the planet. They are dealing with bosses above their head, they are dealing with all kinds of different employee personalities, then they have to think about the future of their business, and goodness only knows what else is on their plate. Your bosses get tired, your bosses have bad days, your bosses can be jerks but in the end they are all human beings. It has even been my experience that most managers find themselves in those roles because of seniority and NOT because they have any formal training in that area. So ask yourself this, if you had to all of a sudden be in charge of 5, 10, 20, or even 50 employees as well as manage all your other tasks AND answer to a higher power than yourself (be it another boss or a stakeholder) how do you think you would handle it? Along these lines I always find myself working with employees and hearing that they want more positive feedback so to them and now by proxy I ask you, how many times have you ever given positive feedback to a manage that has helped you out? You know if you do it enough they might just pick up on what you are doing and reciprocate. Show them you care and they might just show you the same. (Bah but sometimes it is just the chicken and the egg game, eh? well stop it! Be the first, give them a compliment.)

5. Remember the best times. I try to encourage workplaces all the time to chat about the best moments on or around the job. For instance I worked with a veterinarian clinic and everyday those people saved an animals life. I reminded them that collectively they are all doing amazing things. We began talking in specifics. How did you Jennifer help Kevin when there was a major complication with the Golden Lab last week? The reply was so interesting because what happened in the room was first I got a look for saying the breed and not the dogs name-which is a HUGE no no in their clinic. Every dog is a patient. That was a huge sign to me that even in this slightly dysfunctional family/workplace that they had some things they were willing to agree on and bond around. Then it was not only Jennifer that answered my question but so many other people pitched in and pretty soon people were just laughing and crying and remembering their purpose. There isn’t a week that goes by that someone shouldn’t have a good memory and that there shouldn’t be time to chat/read about it somewhere prevalent.

6. Remember your purpose. Why are you there? What got you there? If you don’t have an answer anymore I don’t give one care in the world what the reason is you need to probably be looking at an exit strategy. On the other hand if you can remember why you are there and find that spark again then that will for sure help you get through many days. Have those reminders posted all around you. Talk about your passions with your colleagues.

7. Everyone is a human being. At the core of all of this is the notion that sometimes we forget that our co-workers and bosses are human beings. Take yourself out of the situation and think about the other persons life for just 2 seconds before you react. Take  the time to find out who you are working with. Do you need to LOVE them? No. Do you need to know that they are human and that things in their life can change and that sometimes they might need support? Yes.

Ok 7, that is a good number. There are a whole lot of other tips to share but for now I feel like that is probably all your asses can take. Thanks for following along my friends. I hope some of those kicks in the ass found themselves well placed.

Working can be such a struggle but you always have to remember you play a part in that role as well, so ask yourself what are you doing to contribute?

A message to managers: Engage your employees!

asleep-on-the-jobLast night I had the chance to sit down with a few really upset employees who wanted to blurt out all of the biggest troubles, worries, and stresses they had to me. It is always an intriguing situation when employees come my way. Most of the time all they are looking for is a simple head nod, an open set of ears, and for the most part a closed mouth.

This particular case involved a few employees who had each been in the industry for well over a decade. They were frustrated because for years and years they had been getting along just fine and working hard to produce great results. Now all of a sudden a shift in both middle and upper management has brought about great frustrations amongst all the staff. I can understand that a shift and a bit of change can be a great thing but learning how to do it in the right way is paramount for most managers.

This evening I was told about and shown a few very interesting emails. Most of the emails had no opening line, went directly into mass bullet point list of business “Do Not’s”, ended with a COMPLETELY BOLD AND CAPSLOCKED SENTENCE ALLUDING TO DIRE CONSEQUENCES IF THIS LIST WAS NOT STRICTLY FOLLOWED, and then ironically ended with it will be a pleasure working with you all and I hope you have a great night. I asked some questions about how long these managers had been there and how much truth there was to some of the apparently very pressing points, indicated by all the bold and caps and for a few points even the fervent use of exclamation marks the employees assured me that yes they owned some behaviours that could be changed. However they also noted that many were just outrageous and seemingly (key word here) had no real obvious purpose other than to dominate them (the employees, at least that is how they were feeling).

The key to all of this dissension and bad feelings lay in the last few sentences. Without me being there and being able to observe I have no idea whether or not the policies or procedures make sense but the base of this article is about how those managers implemented these changes. It was done through and very strong email instead of being done in a conversation with the staff. There were no two-way discussions there were no explanations there were just DEMANDS! Do it, because I’m the boss. Now I’m not saying that every boss or manager has to spend their entire day in conversations and hand holding everyone but what I am saying is that before you can get to this stage you have to build up respect and a desire to be loyal and trust you. These employees, like I have said were all decade long employees with opinions and ideas and they just wanted to be treated like human beings instead of robots.

Now do I fully blame the managers, no not at all. For the most part many managers make it to where they are because of how long they have been around with the company, they receive little to no training and are just pushed into a leadership role. Most learn from what they have seen before and since this cycle seems to repeat itself it can be hard to break. Power can also usually be a terrible thing for some managers. You, and you alone, as a manager often do have the power to bend employees to doing it your way, what a feeling. Where else do you get to control an environment quite like that? So at first when it is all new it can be hard to get used to, when to use the power and when to bow down to the power?

So here are a few pieces of advice, especially for those managers that are just stepping into a new role, or maybe you have been a manager for ever but now you are stepping into a new company.

1. Remember: Think about all the bosses you have had, good and bad and try think how each one made you feel.

2. Observe: You will see things differently and you will be looked at differently so take some days to get used to all of that.

3. Ask: Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Employees want to know that you value you them and appreciate what they are doing. So just try to learn a little bit about what makes them who they are and how they view the company.

4. Positivity can go a long way: This is probably one of the hardest things to do since we live in a society that is so driven by failure and pointing out mistakes. On the flip side though if you focus on those employees who are doing an amazing job and hold them in the highest regard you might just inspire someone else to strive for that higher standard.

5. Problem solve with not for: One thing I have learned over so many years is that the best managers/bosses/coaches work with their employees. This is where you get to be a little tough-when employees come to some managers (if they feel comfortable doing that, sometimes rare) they often come bearing problems and many times the manager uses his or her power to SOLVE all those problems. This is a great showing of strength and power but I often encourage managers to have conversations with employees. Don’t let your employee come to you with any problem if they haven’t at least thought about any kind of solution at all. This will make them feel appreciated and will give them a sense of worth that you want to hear what they say and not just dictate.

6. Don’t be afraid of feedback: One company I worked with told me they stopped having meetings because people cried and people’s feelings were being hurt. So instead let’s not talk at all, good idea. Work hard to create an environment where opinions and ideas are valued and encouraged. The people who are working on the front line have a totally different view than yours and although it is hard to learn that is a good thing. You have feedback for them and because they are humans they should have some feedback for you, so allow them to give it openly and honestly. Don’t let things get personal. You are all working at this company to grow and get better. Keep that attitude and your employees and the culture of the company will succeed I can promise you that.

These are just 6 tips to help managers develop a better culture and a better rapport with their staff. I have lots more and love being able to talk about them so drop me a line either on here or in private and I would be happy to chat.

Now enough about managers in a follow up piece I will be doing a “Message to employees”.

Going the wrong way can be fun

wrong-wayI have been living on a one way street for over 2 years now and I have to say it has never really been dull. I absolutely love watching people dart up the wrong way only to realize they are on a one way street and then watching what they do. Interesting how people’s minds work. There are 2 very different reactions I have noticed when it comes to dealing with the one-way.



1. Cautious and go back:

The first is always the slightly embarrassed driver who notices they are going the wrong way, looks around to make sure no one has seen them and then finds a spot to turn around quietly and pretend it never happened.

2. Damn it, to hell with it:

These folks quickly realize they are on a wrong way and then say to hell with it and speed down before anyone else comes in or ever realize they were there.

It is so very interesting that those who fit into part 2 always seem to have a bit of a smirk on their face as they realize they are going the wrong way but for some reason it is fun to them and at the end it seems like an adrenaline rush. They are so proud that they just went for it and it worked.

Most recently I watched as a nearly 90 year old grandmother was venturing down the street when she suddenly realized she was headed in the wrong direction and I thought for sure she would fit into category 1, wrong! She sped up in her 1988 Volvo and made it all the way to the end turned right.

Now I’m certainly not condoning jumping in your car and heading down a one-way street headed in the wrong direction but holy can it ever be exhilarating. Rather, I use this though more as a metaphor for how people deal with unexpected outcomes/barriers/challenges/opportunities in their lives. I mean sure you could back up slowly and turn around when it is safe and pretend like nothing ever really happened but just once maybe wouldn’t it be fun to just go for it. Just hit the accelerator do something a little out of the ordinary? You know kind of like Mr. Bean.

So this I ask of all you folk out there waiting for a good kick in the pants? What are you waiting for? Are you nervous? Worried? GOOD! Enjoy that feeling and learn to embrace that feeling. Believe me you will love it.

ps. If you have a great story about a one-way I would love to hear it.

A short take on strategic planning

doingthingsFor a couple of days now I have been doing presentations in various universities and adult learning seminars about entrepreneurship and business development. In addition to those seminars I have of course been attending all the end of year Christmas business functions and events. So I have had the pleasure of roaming around and chatting with all kinds of other entrepreneurs and business folk.

In one of the classes I was in, a student raised his hand and asked me about strategic planning and business plans. He asked how important they were and before I could get a word in his professor (who has never ran a business in his life but does have a PhD in something) jumped up and said “most important thing a business can do. It is the back bone.” I’m not saying he is wrong. I think strategic plans and business plans have a certain place in business but my response was much simpler. My response was that business plans can only take place AFTER you have been in business for a period of time. Yes that is right, before you build a plan you must first test and do. I don’t think anyone can build a successful plan until  they truly understand the markets, themselves, their business, their customers, the ebbs and flows of business, and no matter how much you read or how much you write you will not understand any of this until you DO.

While at a Christmas function I told this story to a fellow serial entrepreneur (without telling him the answer I gave) and he jumped right in and said this, “yes of course they are important, if you need a bank loan, but who the hell does that any more.” This colleague of mine then proceeded to ask, “did you tell the students to get out there and just DO? Test the waters, be adventurous, don’t be shackled down by writing plans.” He then went even further by telling me a story about a partner of his that once wanted to start a business, that was 3 years ago. What is this fellow doing now? Just putting the final touches on a really great business plan.

My lesson is this: yes indeed plan, but don’t become so overwhelmed by the plan but rather become overwhelmed by doing things and analysing things. Put your efforts into trying to understand rather than planning to understand something that is always changing. Yes there are trends and some stick but sometimes there is a lot to be said for debunking the trends and beating your own path.

Of course this needn’t be said but this advice goes for both business and life. Get out  there and DO. Then when you have done, LEARN and do again.