A few weeks ago, friend, partner and client, Stacia Nelson, made the following post on her Facebook page.
The message: Don’t tell me I can’t achieve that huge goal. I’LL SHOW YOU!
That post resonated with me a ton, because it’s exactly what I’ve used to motivate myself throughout my life and career.
I remember when I was an aspiring high school golfer, people said “you’ll never play in the State Tournament. No one from Woodbury has ever done that.” A couple years later, as a junior, I had played my way into the Minnesota State High School League Tournament–the first Woodbury player to ever do so (we won’t talk about the 88-91 I shot in my two days in the tournament though!).
My motivation? To prove to those people who said I couldn’t that I could.
Plain and simple.
Fast forward 20 years. As I considered starting my own business 11+ years ago, I remember people saying: “You’ll never work with Fortune 500 companies. They already have big agencies they work with. Why would they hire a solo like you.”
11+ years later, I would put my client list up against any big agency in town. Over the last decade I’ve worked with Walmart, Walgreens, Sleep Number, Cargill, Trane, Thermo King, Toro, Dairy Queen, Carlson Companies, General Mills, Mortenson, Thomson Reuters, Starkey and many others.
My motivation? Don’t tell me who I can’t work with. I can and will work with Fortune 500 companies.
A number of years ago, I remember talking to people about serving as an adjunct professor–specifically at St. Thomas where I really wanted to teach. “You need an MBA,” many said. “You don’t have teaching experience,” others said. A couple years later, with the help of Aaron Zaslofsky and Bruce Morehouse, I was teaching my first class.
My motivation? I’ll show you I can teach at St. Thomas! You will not tell me that I cannot do this!
I’ve made a living out of proving people wrong. I’ll be honest and more specific: I LOVE proving people wrong. It’s just a motivational thing for me.
For those that watched the Jordan documentary recently, you may recall MJ literally making up incidents in his head of other players slighting him, calling him “old” or minimizing his skills. He used this as motivation to raise his game to the next level.
That’s kinda how I feel when someone tells me I can’t do something.
My most recent example: skiing.
I started this past winter as a way to spend time outdoors in the winter with my wife and daughter (we took lessons at nearby Hyland Hills in Bloomington). I remember some people saying “aren’t you a little old to start skiing?” and “skiing’s pretty tough to pick up at age 47!”.
Once again, I set out to prove those people wrong. This last winter, we took lessons and bought a pass at Welch Village near Red Wing. I probably went skiing 5 times in Feb. alone–and I got better each time. I’m not skiing Black Diamonds yet (far from it, actually), but I’m skiing. And, I’m working toward that goal (next up: skiing a big mountain out west!).
It will never stop. I’m a goal-oriented person. And, a very competitive person. So, I need that motivation.
What mechanisms do you use to keep yourself motivated?
One of the most successful (most viewed) posts I’ve ever made on this blog was this post about how people (at the time–but still today, really) were over-using ridiculous phrases like “peeps” and “obvi” to the point of driving me insane!
I think I remember writing that post in about 10 minutes. I wrote it hot. I saw a post by a friend using one of those terms, and I just wrote it. It just came out. But, it was real. Honest. Raw.
And, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years in developing social media content: It’s that these types of posts almost always perform best.
I’ve been coaching a leader here in Minneapolis around his/her personal use of social media to build brand for his/herself and his/her business. And, this concept keeps coming up.
My theory: Write when you’re hot because:
1 – It’s more real, raw and honest, like I said above. And, that’s often what people want from their leaders. I’m not saying don’t edit yourself, but I am saying write in the moment when you have the idea or feeling. If you shelve the idea for a week, the moment might pass. Your passion may be absent. It just won’t be the same.
2 – It will capture and capitalize on the moment. Often, writing when you’re hot is a reaction to a trend, event or quote someone else may have said (see my example above). By getting your thoughts quickly down on virtual paper, you’re able to seize the moment. Speed is important sometimes. And sure, it may not be perfect. But, I would argue B work is pretty damn good 95% of the time. You don’t always need to produce A+ work (in fact, I think that concept is completely unattainable anyway). That’s a big mindset shift for a lot of people in our industry, but I firmly believe it’s 100% true.
Now, this rule seems to fly in the face of more traditional advice, doesn’t it? When you’re hot, we’ve been told to cool off before sending. I remember reading something about Abraham Lincoln that he would write scathing letters to his generals, then sit on them for a few days. Eventually, he ended up throwing them away!
Now, this may be good advice when it comes to leadership (that was the gist of the book I read, at least), but when it comes to writing compelling social media content in the current environment, I stick by my “write when you’re hot” mantra.
I’m not saying you want to fire off wild political posts or crazy posts about COVID right now. But, I am saying it’s OK to write about a topic, passionately, IN THE MOMENT. RIGHT NOW. While you’re excited/passionate/interested in.
Not a week from now.
Not a day from now.
Not an hour from now.
While you’re hot.
We all have that friend or colleague. You know the one. That person with the social media profile shot that doesn’t exactly match their actual appearance.
Or, to be more blunt: their social media profile shot looks nothing like them.
In some cases, it’s a profile shot from 10+ years ago—making the person look younger.
In other cases, it’s almost like a “Glamour shot” (I know I’m dating myself with that reference)—which essentially is a “best self” shot.
There are many reasons people take this approach—and, in most of those cases, I don’t actually fault them.
People gain weight (mostly, as they get older).
People get wrinkes (again, age is a factor).
People lose hair (I can attest to this!).
I mean, I get it. Many of us don’t always love our appearance. And, as we get older, that’s only accentuated.
But here’s the thing. Social media is designed to be, well, social. And, that means you’re often using social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Insta to get to know other people—as authentically as possible (at least, that’s what I would think).
When you start developing that new relationship with what amounts to a phony head shot, you’re not starting off on the right foot and building trust.
I had one friend who said she went to meet a person she had met on LinkedIn for coffee. She sat down, waiting for the person to show—only to find out she was sitting next to her for a long time. The person looked NOTHING like their head shot! It was an embarrassing situation.
And that’s the point. You start the relationship with, essentially, a lie. A little white lie. But, a lie nonetheless.
This hits home for me, too. Take a look at my profile shot on LinkedIn. It’s not the best shot. As I’ve aged (I’m now 47), I’ve developed a receding hairline, like many men. I’m not bald yet, but my hair is definitely thinning on top (the front top). It’s embarassing, but it’s who I am. It’s part of my appearance now. So, I figure, why run from it? Sure, I try to make the best of it by doing some different things with my hair, but for the most part, I’m not running from it. What you see is what you get.
I think back to Planes, Trains and Automobiles–one of my favorite movies. There’s a great qoute from John Candy in that movie–something to the effect of “I like me. My Mom likes me. My friends like me.”
That’s kinda the crux of this little white lie. There’s no need for it. Because, most people you know (that matter, at least), already like you. They don’t care that you’re balding. They don’t care that you have wrinkles. They don’t care that you don’t dye your hair anymore. They like you.
For who you are.
So, stop pretending. Be that person. Warts and all.
In real life. And, on social media.
Over the years, I’ve had more than a few clients say some version of the following phrase to me: “You’re part consultant, part therapist.”
I couldn’t think of bigger compliment!
Why a compliment? Because, for a client to say that it means they trust you implicitly. It means they feel they can confide in you. And, it means they see you as someone who is a good listener (a key trait of any good consultant).
Yep, definitely a compliment.
But, also a necessary part of the job as a functioning consultant.
Let’s go back to the listening piece. A good consultant knows they should be talking less, and listening more. Probably to the tune of 80% listening, 20% talking. So, it’s natural than a good consultant would also serve as some form of a therapist to his/her clients.
Now, I’m using that therapist label lightly. Certainly, I’m not serving as an actual therapist. But, when chatting with a client, sometimes the conversation can turn in certain directions. It can go the personal route, talking about family, friends and kids.
Here, the “therapist” is listening.
It could be venting about work-related issues. Again, the “therapist” is listening.
In both cases, and more, the beauty of the relationship is I’m bound by the same doctor/patient confidentiality as a therapist would be–in a way. I’m usually asked to sign an NDA with most clients, so technically (and, more importantly, ethically), I can’t say a word to anyone about what they tell me (and, I wouldn’t want to).
The clients know this. And, this is a part of why they feel so comfortable sharing with me.
I like to think the other part, hopefully the bigger part, is that I’m easy to talk to. They feel a certain level of comfort with me. A collegiality that goes beyond being peers.
This is the holy grail of consulting.
So, if you ever have a client who calls you their “therapist”, take it as a compliment.
Take it as the ultimate compliment.
Trend: CEOs posting employee-only memos on personal LinkedIn profiles (and other social media sites)
There’s been a trend emerging during the coronavirus and civil unrest–one that’s flown under the radar a bit, but one I’m hoping we see more of in the years ahead.
It’s the notion of CEOs sharing employee-only messages with external audiences.
Microsoft’s Satya Nadella was probably one of the first to put this practice into place. His most recent example came in late March on LinkedIn, right after many of the stay-home orders were made. It addressed what I’m sure was a fairly anxious Microsoft employee base and talked about the company’s mission and steps they were taking to assist in the virus efforts around the world.
But suddenly, many CEOs seem to be taking this approach.
Best Buy and CEO Corrie Barry shared a message they had most likely shared with employee audiences earlier on the Best Buy LinkedIn page. This message addressed Best Buy performance during the pandemic, steps Best Buy is taking to help employees and, most importantly, that Best Buy was furloughing 51,000 part-time and hourly employees.
Airbnb CEO, Brian Chesky, announced on the company’s newsroom that it was reducing its workforce. Again, the message started with “Earlier today, Airbnb Co-Founder and CEO Brian Chesky sent the following note to Airbnb employees.” Same message. First, internally. Then, externally.
Target CEO, Brian Cornell announced the company’s decision to recognize Juneteenth as an official annual holiday in this social post on the Bullseye View (a message that was most certainly shared internally first or at the same time).
So, what’s going on here? First, this growing group of companies are ahead of the curve. Certainly, at this point, they are the exception–not the rule. But, they are progressive. They are forward-thinking. And, they are doing it for a reason: the need for more corporate transparency and more trust in corporations (and their leaders).
Let’s tackle each of those separately.
First, the need for more corporate transparency. Look no further that corporate malfeasance at companies like Uber and Wells Fargo for recent examples. Customers, employees and the public-at-large want more transparency from corporations. Another recent example: Facebook. I mean, how many times has a Facebook rep testified before Congress recently? Doesn’t it seem like a monthly occurrence? Sure, a lot of that is about data and privacy, but an under-current to the whole thing is people wanting more transparency from these big tech firms like Facebook.
Next, trust. According to a recent Edelman report, CEOs scored LAST when respondents were asked who was doing an outstanding job meeting the demands placed on them during the pandemic.
And, given where the economy is at, and the fact that corporate layoffs have been a regular occurrence lately, that number is bound to go even lower soon.
So, it’s important leaders and their corporate communicator partners hear this and respond with strategies to build trust among employees. Few things do that better than posting employee-only messages externally. That’s a big trust-builder.
Especially during difficult times like what we’re facing right now.
So, the business case is there. And, I’m happy to see more CEOs (and corp comms teams) using these personal LinkedIn profiles and other social media tools to build trust and create more transparency for their companies.