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As I thought about my resolutions for the new year, the garden variety goals came to mind: exercise more, eat better, spend more quality time with the kids, etc. But, there are a few others I’ve been kicking around that don’t involve taking action. In fact, these five goals actually require a little different approach:
* I promise not to be “that guy”—Shannon Paul really put it best. As I continue to explore and engage in new social media tools online, I hope to build relationships within my preferred networks, be human (and hopefully, inspire a few laughs along the way), and promote others whenever possible. Not too tough, really.
* I won’t have an intimate relationship with my Twitter account. Sometimes it seems we’re all a little too close to our online activities. This was most evident to me over the long holiday weekend. Instead of spending quality time with the people that matter most to us, I noticed a number of folks active on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks online. Of course, I was out there, too (after all, how did I know the others were online?), so I’m just as guilty. But that’s where my resolution comes in. Using Twitter, Facebook and other tools to develop relationships is great, but I also plan to get out of the house more and meet up with the great PR/marketing/communications minds in the Twin Cities in 2009, too. Nothing replaces good, old-fashioned face time.
* I won’t do someting just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” This one applies not only to my professional life but my personal life. For example, I’m currently researching a way to listen to my music library throughout our home. Originally, I thought about the traditional approach and buying a new portable Bose Sounddock. But as I thought about it, what I really want is access to my expansive music collection in virtually every room of the house, without having to lug around the sounddock. I need a “wired” house–not a sounddock or a run-of-the-mill receiver and speakers. I’m guessing this is going to mean a fairly expensive trip to Best Buy in my near future. For business, this means not falling into the trap of taking the easy way out. I plan to challenge the status quo and never stop thinking of innovative solutions to my organization’s communications challenges.
* I promise not to talk too much. Another goal with multiple applications. I need to be a better listener with my clients, my wife, my kids, my friends and my extended family in 2009. Why? Because good listeners are better friends, better dads, better husbands and better communicators. David Mullen seems to agree. Organizations should also make this a priority–listen more intently to your customers next year. Whether it’s online through tools like Twitter or blogs or face-to-face through focus groups or personal one-on-one conversations, companies can learn a lot from their customers. Just ask Dell, Starbucks and Southwest Airlines.
* I will not go back to school. Ok that’s an odd thing to say, right? Yeah, well I don’t have an extra 15K lying around to pursue my MBA right now. Hey, you try it with two kids and 24K in annual daycare bills. What I will do, however, is passionately continue to learn. I hope to spend at least one hour online each night listening on Twitter, commenting on blogs I follow, developing my own blog content and discovering new tools. I plan to stay engaged in my local PRSA chapter as a board member where I’ve learned so much from so many smart people the last seven-plus years. And I plan to read feverishly. Books on my short list include Groundswell and Naked Conversations.
Those are my goals for 2009. What about you? What do you resolve not to do in the new year?
It occurred to me the other day–at most companies (with one notable exception) I’ve worked with over the years, managers have been promoted more based on technical ability than leadership qualities.
Shouldn’t those two characteristics be flipped?
Yes, we need our managers to be proficient at their craft–whether it’s writing, welding or producing widgets. But, more importantly, don’t we need them to be leaders that are driving our organization’s strategies and furthering our vision? Don’t we need them to have critical change management skills that are so vital in an economy and climate like the one we’re experiencing right now? Don’t we need them to be leaders who can build high-performing teams and bring people together–not folks who polarize and enjoy alone time in their offices?
In reality, we need them to be all these things and more, which is why management positions are so challenging. There are so many demands on your time–prioritization and organization are at a premium. Plus, there’s the whole other element of employee retention. Want to keep and develop your top talent? Better make sure employees respect and enjoy working with their manager. After all, what’s the saying, “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.” Powerful.
One of our roles as communicators is to help managers foster their leadership abilities when it comes to change management, team building and communications skills. But, as we’re helping them become better leaders through our insightful counsel, what can we do to improve our own leadership skills?
* Take a couple leadership classes. I’m not saying stop pursuing your advanced degree in your specialized field–I’m just saying consider taking a course to better prepare you for the people management side of your position. If you really think about it, how much of your day is spent building consensus, persuading and navigating relationships? Take that side of the job seriously–your employees do.
* Learn from leaders past and present. Pick a leader–whether it’s one within your company or Barack Obama. Present day or years ago. Doesn’t matter. Just select someone you respect–and a leader with a style you’d like to mimic. Maybe it’s your CEO. Maybe it’s FDR. Whatever the case, start studying this leader and their traits–how do they communicate? how do they present to groups/teams? how to they learn from their mistakes?
* Read at least three books on leadership this year. Start with Lincoln. And you won’t struggle to find books about the man’s renowned leadership abilities. Find a more contemporary version, too. And learn. Get a few different perspectives to help you get a better handle on your own leadership style.
I’m here to tell you that you need to hire Curious George.
No, not the actual monkey. But people like Curious George. Whether you’re building an agency or corporate communications department or rounding out your marketing team, you need more Curious George’s on your squad.
* Curious people are innovators and trailblazers. Don’t you want people like this on your team? People who constantly question the status quo and challenge decisions are more likely to help you improve processes, build better teams and drive results.
* Curious people are fast learners. In this climate of change, you need folks on your team who can learn new skills. Fast. When the winds of change shift within your organization, you need players who can move quickly and take on new roles and projects–work that often requires them to learn new skill sets at lightspeed.
* Curious people are early adopters. Think about Twitter. How many people do you know who use the tool? Would you consider them curious, by nature? Curious people have a desire–no, a need–to try new things and use new technologies before anyone else. These folks are not only adopting these new technologies faster than others, but they’re also learning how to implement those tools in the right situations–before anyone else.
* Curious people have great client service skills. Inquisitive people ask more questions–and that’s a valuable skill when dealing with clients. Asking questions and seeking additional information can help you identify needs, barriers and challenges when you’re putting together marketing and communications plans with clients.
* Curious people are strong team players. Think about the last really good conversation you had with a friend or colleague. They probably asked you a bunch of questions to start the discussion, right? Curious people use questions to start conversations and build relationships. After all, the more you learn about someone the closer you will feel to that person, right?
How many Curious George’s do you have on your team?
Quick question: Does your company’s intranet act, feel and function like your external Web site?