Thursday, June 29, 2017

Clutter Buster

The Essential Social Media Marketing Handbook – Gail Z. Martin (Career Press)

I chuckled when I first saw the cover of Gail Z. Martin’s new book The Essential Social Media Marketing Handbook, which features a graphic depiction of some of the social media outlets/tools that are available to marketers. Some…just some. I have seen attempts at infographic depictions of the multitudes of the social channels available to marketers.
Compound the issue with a fire hose of information that is being flooded out for consumption by customers across the spectrum and the problem becomes quite clear; how do you stand out from this overwhelming hoard and have your message cut through and have an impact?

That is where Martin’s book comes in. A bestselling author (30 Days to Social Media Success) international speaker, marketing expert and owner of DreamSpinner Communications, Martin gives you a detailed road map for building your social media presence from the ground up; starting with a solid foundation and then taking things to the next level.
Any business owner who has been hit with lines like “you need to be on Facebook” or “you should be blogging” and jumped in with both feet and were left wondering why things didn’t work or had little to no impact, will want to focus on Martin’s thoughts on not only building your platform, but also how to properly develop your social media plan, but also how to identify the channels that will have the most impact when it comes to reaching your customers. Rather than running from one end of the room to the other in search of impact, Martin will have you fishing where the fish are.
I really liked her advice on how to try some of the more advanced channels, while still keeping the tried and true basics like websites and newsletters as a part of your marketing mix; both remain very viable and proven ways to deliver your message directly to existing customers and potential prospects alike.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Leadership Toolkit - Communication

Communicate Like a Leader: Connecting Strategically to Coach, Inspire, and Get Things Done – Dianna Booher (Barrett-Koehler Publishers)

“The art of communication is the language of leadership,” James Humes, former speechwriter for five U.S. Presidents.

Think about a list of words that relate to leadership: trust, accountable, authentic, charismatic, creative, motivating, open, original, supportive and countless others. All of those mentioned and many that were not, all are improved/enhanced by the ability to communicate strategically and communicate well.

Veteran leadership coach, and bestselling author of 47 books, Dianna Booher has delivered one of the most vital and important leadership books to come along in some time with her latest; Communicate Like a Leader: Connecting Strategically to Coach, Inspire, and Get Things Done.

Booher breaks down leadership communications to six categories that cover the gamut:
  • Strategic Leadership
  • Strategic Conversations
  • Strategic Negotiations
  • Strategic Speaking
  • Strategic Writing
  • Strategic Meetings

She delivers each of these categories into easily digestible, bite size chunks that you can bounce around and refer back to when the need arises. Don’t be confused that because this book is accessible that it lacks depth; clearly Booher based much of this content on her long career advising leaders at Fortune 500 companies.  

Looking back through the notes I scrawled in the margins has a worked my way through the book I came to the realization that while Booher gives you the tools to be a more successful communicator/leader, communications is not easy; which is why so many folks struggle with it. When you consider just how inter-connected so much of leadership communication is to so much of what makes a business succeed or fail it is a critical skillset you need to develop to move forward as a leader.

The critical take away is to not try to tackle each of these sections/categories in one sitting. Communication skills come with time and practice so build your mastery over time by putting these lessons to work one step at a time.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Take Control of Your To Do List Monster

Eat that Frog!: 21 Great Ways to stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time (Updated Third Edition) – Brian Tracy – (Berrett- Koehler Publishers)

Has your “To Do” list grown to become a “To Do” book? Does your “To Do” list include checking out a new app to help you manage your “To Do” list? Are you spending more time trying to tame the beast that is your “To Do” list than you do actually getting things done? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions then it may be time to take a step back and re-think how you tackling things at your job or business.

A good starting place to start that re-evaluation might be to check out the tried and true techniques utilized by bestselling author, entrepreneur and management guru Brian Tracy in the third edition of Eat that Frog!: 21 Great Ways to stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. Tracy updated the book to include a couple additional chapters that offer an overview of how you can utilize technology to help you remain focused not only on task, but the most important tasks. Think of it as a way to tackle the mission critical things without drifting off into mission creep.

In classic Tracy form, he boils down the essence of effective time management to a simple formula as he remains fluff-free in his focus. Effective time management equates to the three Ds; decision, discipline and determination. His solutions help you to come to grips with the reality that leaders can NEVER tackle everything on their list, let alone when you factor in the disruptions, emails, phone calls and other “critical things” that can throw you off task during an average day.

Tracy uses the metaphor, that if you “eat your frog” first thing in the morning you will be safe in the knowledge that you’ve tackled the worst thing you have to do all day. By prioritizing and tackling that thing that keeps you up at night, you will be able to roll through all the stuff you need to be focusing on to move your business forward.

Like so much of the what I call the Brian Tracy Library, this is another book to keep within reach and to turn to when you start to feel like your day/week is slipping away from you, in an effort to refocus on the tasks at hand that matter most.

Not So Radical

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity – Kim Scott (St. Martin’s Press)

Kim Scott’s resume reads like a road map of Silicon Valley. She’s been involved in a handful of startups, has worked at Google, YouTube and is  on the faculty at Apple University. Through her current company Candor, Inc. she has coached the CEO’s of Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twitter and a number of other Silicon Valley businesses.

Therein, may be the rub when it comes to her book, Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. Like so many of the current crop of business/leadership books that offer up guidance, training and advice about how to do a better job of engaging your staff, I am not certain how this stuff translates to the whole wide world that exists outside of Silicon Valley.

Scott espouses a simple two part approach boiling down Radical Candor to two prongs; you have to Care Personally and Challenge Directly. Inside the slick walls of Silicon Valley this concept may be radical, but in the real world to survive in business, it’s simply called…business. When you’re operating a small business you simply don’t have the luxury of playing games, you learn pretty quickly that survival calls for two pretty simple things; being direct and being honest. If you clearly don’t give a crap about the folks you hire they leave and if you don’t help them to be successful by managing them up or out, then your business will fail. I’m not sure if there is much that’s radical about that thought process.

What I did take away from Radical Candor, notably for businesses out here in what I call the “real world”, meaning will aren’t Google, Apple or Twitter, is that one of the most mission critical pieces of successfully leading a business is to focus on the hiring process. Know exactly what you stand for, what your values are, what your mission is and finding the best people to fit into that paradigm is the fastest way to grow and succeed.

The Playbook

The New Rules of Work: The Modern Playbook for Navigating Your Career – Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew – (Crown Business)

My wife is floored by the fact that our son, an IT guru, works for a HUGE multi-national company often, not from an office, but from the comfort of his living room sofa, surrounded by a multitude of high tech gear and his collection of cats. The world of work has changed.

Our daughter, like so many young people, has an amazing level of technical skill and shows flashes of creative brilliance; clearly she takes after me. While armed with these marketable skillsets, with a world of opportunity in front of her, she doesn’t have the first inkling of what she wants to do for her path forward. The world of work has changed.

It is that changing world that comes into focus in the new book The New Rules of Work: The Modern Playbook for Navigating Your Career, by the co-founders of the website,, Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew. Cavoulacos and Minshew have put together a travel guide to the way not only work is done today, but how to navigate the minefield and along the way build a career path that will help you grow, be successful and actually help you to be happy with the choices you make.

Too many folks, spend far too much time looking at their life and career in the rearview mirror of regret. Cavoulacos and Minshew cut things down to small, easily digestible chunks that will not overwhelm folks who are at any of the various stages of their career path. If you are trying to determine a direction, possibly change direction or just trying to tune up your job search skills, The New Rules of Work has something, if not a whole bunch of somethings to offer.

At some point soon I will be sliding my copy of the book in front of my daughter and sending a copy to my son. Now the only trick will be to get them to actually pick it up and read this old school thing known as a book…wonder if they have an X-Box One version?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Change to the Positive

The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change The World – Jon Gordon – (Wiley)

Visit your favorite book store; depending on if it’s a large chain outlet or a local Mom and Pop shop, it’s likely you will find at least a rack full or an entire section dedicated to self-help, positive thought and changing your life in a positive way. While you’re there, ask the staff to point you in the direction of the books on how to be more negative. (Insert cricket sounds here…) It’s not likely that they will be able to point you to even one book that would fall into the category.

The reason is that we are generally wired to gravitate towards being negative. Let’s face it; it’s easy to look at what’s not working in our lives or in our businesses and chew on that for a while. Would it make more sense to focus on what it working well and then amplify that or see if there is a way to take what’s working replicate it in other areas of life and work?

Bestselling business guru Jon Gordon serves up a boatload of examples of how focusing on the positive has had a genuine impact on businesses and teams in his new book, The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change The World. It would be so easy to slip off into the Pollyanna of positive-ness, but Gordon avoids that by clearly delineating real world examples of how positive leaders, many of whom he has worked with, have super-charged results by making the choice to be positive in the way they approach business, competition and how they operate.

Unlike so many leadership and business books that have hit the racks lately, Gordon does focus only on how the big dogs do things, not everyone is Google or Amazon. Instead he gives actionable steps that any business leader at any stage of development can put into play and see a positive impact on their outcomes.

Gordon does a great job of taking researched ideas how to make the change to the positive and then pairs them with great examples of leaders who have effectively put the ideas into practice.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Growth is Essential

Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success – Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown (Crown Business)

Let’s face it, if you’re in business growth is essential for you to continue to be in business. So the search for growth is an ongoing focus. We spend countless hours developing growth strategies and plans that are designed to get us new business and grow our bottom line.

It is that age old process that is in the spotlight in Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown’s new book, Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success. Ellis and Brown aren’t looking at growth from a traditional approach, but rather they are focused on how you can add new agility and speed to the process of growth and sprint to new business.

While the playbook for growth that the pair espouse and illustrate with “real” world examples makes total sense based on the data driven building blocks they want you to put in place, I am not certain that most businesses have the depth of business intelligence and capital to make this process work where the rubber meets the road. There is a level of sophistication and finance that tech companies and startups can bring to the table that the average small business just can’t swing.

There seems to be a “magic bullet” optimism to Ellis and Brown’s approach that I can’t see as realistic for most businesses. While some may think this is a new business Bible and go to resource, I think the take away here is that businesses do need to focus on developing a method for gathering intel on their customers, their competitors and their own product/service offerings.