Meeting Madness


Is corporate America obsessed with meetings? Rushing to meetings every day can make you cranky and can also become a real energy vampire for corporate profits.



In a 2012, the Wall Street Journal cited a survey of CEOs calculating they spend 18+ hours a week in meetings. Turns out the higher you climb the corporate ladder the more time you will be spending in meetings. Upper managers calculated attending over 50 meetings a month. That doesn’t even account for the amount of time prepping for meetings. On average prep time was about 4-6 hours. So when does anyone get their actual job duties done? Turns out just because you are at work, doesn’t mean you are actually getting work done.



Source: 2012 WSJ Article


Use this meeting efficiency check list as a tool to streamline and rate your meetings in the future. Start by paying attention to any common themes. Do they start on time? Are the same people dominating the conversation? Is there any consensus met? After using the check list, you may determine the meeting was a time waster.  The good news is you can improve meeting performance by examining your own performance and making some minor changes that could impact the whole team.


Here is to improving meeting productivity on all levels.


Jodi Cross is a marketing strategist and brand consultant and can be reached at jcross@crossnm.com.


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Turn your Management Talents into Leadership Abilities

“You Manage Things, You Lead People.” Grace Murray Hopper

Whether you are in business to make a difference, bring a product to market, service a community in need or inspire the world you still need managers and leaders to perform key roles in order to be successful. We all may start out as managers but when opportunity knocks, how do we step up our game and become innovative leaders? Are the two mutually exclusive? Are some people natural born leaders?


Turns out that people are split on the decision of if leaders are born or made. In a recent study of 350+ C Suite executives in 53 countries conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership, CLL, 52.4% indicated leaders were made while 19.1% indicated they believed leaders were born and 28.5% said leaders were equally born and made.  The survey also noted the top three qualifications for good leaders were traits, experience and training.


Source: Center for Creative Leadership, CLL


If you are transitioning into a new role in your career or are on a trajectory to become the next great leader here are some fundamental differences to keep in mind:


The Manager

The Leader

Is action oriented

Is mission oriented

Keeps control of the task

Empowers others to complete the task

Is oriented toward efficiency

Keys in to organizational effectiveness

Makes rules

Breaks rules

Avoids conflict

Uses conflict

Is a team player who picks up on vision

Has responsibility to focus vision

Enjoys the details of maximizing project success

Concentrates on “what” needs to be done not “how”

Uses influence to get the job done

Uses influence to gain acceptance of future potential

Concretes on output

Emphasizes input

Is control oriented and focuses on specifics

Inspires and motivates toward vision

Plans and organizes all aspects of job

Coaches, mentors and teaches others to nurture their skills

Provides direction to direct reports

Provides advice, support and inspires those outside their immediate reporting circle


You can be an effective manager and a leader, they are not mutually exclusive. As your roles change over the course of your career the best advice is to learn from your experiences and never stop learning and growing. Putting that knowledge into practice will strengthen your leadership abilities and inspire those around you.


Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and writer and can be reached at jcross@crossnm.com

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An Easy Way to Start Strategic Planning

 

 Strategic Planning can be a difficult but necessary process for companies to complete.  Developing a strategy takes time and resources. So why do you need a strategic plan?

  • To set your company up for success by aligning priorities
  • To establish a direction
  • To sharpen your companies focus
  • To create a pathway toward breakthrough success

What is Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning is an organizational management activity that is used to set priorities, focus energy and resources, strengthen operations and ensure that employees and other stakeholders are working toward common goals in response to an ever changing environment. Strategic planning focuses on the future and helps to shape and guide what an organization is, who it serves, what it does and why it does it.   

What is a Strategic Plan?

A strategic plan is a document used to communicate the organizations goals, the actions needed to achieve those goals and all of the other critical elements developed during the planning process.

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to explain strategic planning is by using a simple analogy. The following table illustrates a comparison between strategic planning to planning a vacation to Paris. 


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A Quick Reference Guide to Making Marketing Planning Simple

People often underestimate the power of marketing. Think of it this way, would you take a road trip without a map? You need a well thought-out plan for your business to succeed.   I have written hundreds of marketing plans. When I ask my clients what’s stopping them, the # 1 response is, they are intimated by the process or don’t know where to begin.  Here is a simple outline I hope will take the pain out of marketing planning.  

Here are some basic down and dirty elements of a marketing plan:

If you are interested in discussing or developing a marketing plan contact Jodi Cross at CNMI. Jodi may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or visit www.crossnm.com for more great marketing ideas.  

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Today’s Leader

Think about the mentors and leaders you have encountered through-out your career. Does anyone stand out as exceptional or unforgettable? By unforgettable I mean someone who challenged you but didn’t really model strong leadership. We learn about how to be a good leader from people we admire. Conversely, we can also learn some important lessons on leadership from bosses we don’t admire.


My Career Path

My first boss was a middle-aged retired nun. She had left the convent got married and adopted two children. To say she was intimidating would be an understatement. During my first month on the job as a hotel sales manager in Miami, Joanne regularly worked through the night.

We would come into the office the next day and find her at her desk, wearing the same outfit she was in the day before, wrinkled and rumpled with her hair all askew. I recall one conversation with parents as I described her and expressed alarm that I may have selected the wrong career path. Her leadership style was less than inspiring to the team, she showed a lack of empathy and no regard for our feelings which had many of us doubting our decision to work in hospitality sales. Today, bosses aren’t quite as intimidating and the workplace is more collaborative. Many of the team members ended up becoming good associates and later friends with her. She did excel in the characteristics of drive, humility and integrity which we all came to appreciate and value.  As a result, we all learned about certain traits we absolutely didn’t want to emulate in our career path.


What characteristics and qualities make for a good leader?

Visionaries

Leaders shape the future with a clear vision. They embrace change and make it their mission to develop and nurture the organizations soul.

Leadership by example

Today’s leaders make things happen, they have the discipline to get things done. They turn strategy into action and accountability. True leaders are committed to others.

Value Human Capital

Leaders understand the importance of having the right skills and talent on board. They see associates as the most important asset in the organization. Leaders create an environment that attracts quality people and put programs in place which help develop, learn and grow this asset along the way. A collaborative work environment draws talented employees who grow vested in the organizations success.

Establish a stable and enriching work environment

Great leaders understand the requirements for long-term success. They listen and work within the paradigm of making an investment in developing competencies for the greater good which later yield sustainable and scalable results.

What leadership style best describes you?

There are many models which help describe the various leadership styles prominent in the workplace today. If you peruse the internet you will see countless articles and definitions circulating on the web. It boils down to five or six true styles.

One book I stumbled upon explained the various leadership styles fairly succinctly. The book is titled The Leadership Wheel by Clinton Sidle.Sidle categorizes the various types into five styles; Warrior, Teacher, Nurturer, Visionary and Sage. I would add a sixth style, let’s call it the Expert. Sidle covers what he calls the positive traits of each style and the shadow side which can create negative ramifications.


To break it down;

  • The Warrior leads by inspiring and risk taking but the shadow side can be controlling. The warrior is perfect during a crisis and can lead a company out of chaos.
  • The Teacher, focuses on doing things correctly. Teachers believe in sharing information and gathering data to find the best processes and systems. Teachers can often get bogged down at the expense of effectiveness.
  • The Nurturer, works on teambuilding and collaboration. They bring unity to the workplace and create bonded and cohesive work environments. On the shadow side they tend to avoid confrontation and can take criticism personally.
  • The Visionary uses their intuitive senses to combine both intellect and emotion to inspire and lead others. They are charismatic leaders with big personalities that infuse energy into any organization. However they can lose focus and fall short when it comes to details.
  • The Sage is an optimistic leader who is addicted to continuous growth and learning. They are great conceptual thinkers who can see both the path and the end zone. Tragically Sage’s can lose hope, be marred by the blues and withdraw from the mission if they see things as unchanging.
  • The Expert, combines both a high level of knowledge and a great degree of skill. This is a leader who is in the trenches and produces alongside his/her team. People tend to respect and value them for what they have accomplished. Sometimes this style of leadership falls victim to comparisons and moral shifts when no one can figure out how to duplicate the exceptional results on their own.

When you reflect on these styles you should note people generally have a natural style but can adapt their style as the situation demands.

For more interesting topics on business and leaderships contact Jodi Cross at jcross@crossnm.com or visit www.crossnm.com to learn more.  


Footnote:

1 C. Clinton Sidle, The Leadership Wheel; Five Steps for Achieving Individual and Organizational Greatness,” (Palgrave Mcmillan, 2005)


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Is Creativity Valued In Corporate America Today?

January is National Creativity Month

I can’t help but wonder if creativity is valued in corporate America today?
 


After 10 years in a corporate marketing position, the company I worked for was bought out by a REIT. When the new team took over there were many changes in senior level directors as well as cultural changes. During one of my first meetings with the new Executive Vice President, I asked him if he valued creativity. He responded, “As long as it drives ROI to the bottom line.” The message was clear, shortly thereafter every meeting and action plan was spreadsheet based and accounting focused. The marketing planning process, which used to include a big idea brainstorming session, was reduced to revenue statistics and measurable KPIs with little to no idea exchange. Don’t get me wrong, businesses should be about profits and driving revenue but I distinctly felt like a fish out of water when I so much as suggested a new idea or a different way to look at something.


Just as I was feeling a bit discouraged about the power of creativity and the value of idea generation in today’s workplace, I stumbled across a speech that the late Steve Job’s gave during his commencement address; “Stay Hungry & Stay Foolish.” As it turns out so many of today’s successful companies were built on the principals of innovation and creativity. 3M’s late president was famous for saying, “Listen to anyone with an original idea, no matter how absurd it may sound at first. If you put fences around people, you get sheep. Give people the room they need.” — William McKnight.


So how can you harness creativity and turn it into innovation? Creativity is the birth of an idea, innovation is the action it takes to put it in place. Both need to be valued and nurtured in order to grow. After all, aren’t we in business to solve problems and find new opportunities?


Here are some ideas to help cultivate creativity in your work place.

 


1. Reward creativity and creative accomplishments. When employees come up with suggestions cultivate the idea. The best motivation is to listen, take action and put ideas into practice.

2. Be willing to foster different points of view. Make it fun, create an idea challenge that goes across departmental lines.

3. Hire and mix employees with different backgrounds, cultures and experiences. Include all departments in brainstorming and idea creation.

4. Expect creativity, let all your employees know part of their job is to think and come up with ideas.

5. Make it a pleasure to share new ideas in your company, disallow the use of negative mental blocks such as; That’s not my area, I’m not creative, We tried that, That will never work.

6. Brainstorm the right way. Hold a session with mixed departments and managers with varying backgrounds. Collaborate on idea generation and allow for debate during the session because debate often fuels better and stronger ideas. Be careful not to let the debate turn to blame storming. Never accept the first idea, go for quantity, and always try to get one more idea. If we always remain curious and willing to take risks we will succeed.


Innovation and creativity is one of the greatest natural resources we have and continue to put America in the forefront of the world.


If you are interested in learning more about generating new, fresh ideas to drive your business forward or would like to conduct a Brainstorming Session please contact us today. 


Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance writer and may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or www.crossnm.com

 

 

 

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How Do You Make Lasting Change?


Here we are again starting off a new year together! What do you plan to do differently this year?  Usually I outline resolutions and goals and like most of you forget about them along the way. Let’s do something different this year! Begin with a commitment to make change. To change something about ourselves is difficult but not impossible as long as we are willing to make an effort. Start with something small and focus on the positive results. Avoid toxic feelings that make you feel like you are giving something up. Change is not easy; In fact most of the time people resist change, feel awkward and don’t want to try new ways of doing things. We are all at different levels of readiness throughout our lives and can only handle so much change. Some people are risk takers while others require more time to feel secure. Generally, if we lose focus or take the pressure off, we will revert back to the old ways and change won’t happen.


In order to make this year different we have to be proactive, positive and productive. Get off the fence, stop finger pointing and blaming or as the theme song from Frozen goes…Let It Go! Here is a bit of Irony, just as I was writing this article a long-term client called and has finally hired an in-house marketing VP, so I will be on my way to something new next year. Drat…change strikes again.


In order to be positive and proactive, we must first rid ourselves of toxic behaviors and patterns that sabotage us. These types of behaviors often hold us back from making lasting change in our lives. Think about any toxic behaviors that you exhibit and are willing to eliminate. Some examples may include; not being direct with people, using non-verbal put downs, being dogmatic, playing games with people, being negative or not respecting other opinions. Don’t worry, we all have our toxic habits, work on a short list and really be honest. Once you have identified some areas that need to be overhauled jot them down and replace them with positive and nourishing behaviors.


For me, I am working on being present and giving others my attention. Some other examples of replacing negative behaviors with positive ones may be; keeping your word, treating others with respect, keeping confidences, expressing a genuine interest, showing appreciation to others, smiling and honestly stating desires and needs.


Once you have outlined the behaviors you want to rid yourself of and the complimentary list of new behaviors to replace your old ways with, you will be on your way toward making permanent and lasting change.


The last step is to finish with a list that states what you will do more of in 2015 and what you will do less of or stop doing all together. Cheers, here is to making permanent change!           


Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance writer and may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or www.crossnm.com

 


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Plan For Success And Success Will Follow, Hope For Success And You Will Wallow!


Hoping and wishing for success will not make a plan on it’s on. True success in life comes from making and carrying out a plan. Outline some small action steps in a written format, set milestones, attach measurable outcomes and be flexible to change. Using a formatted process allows for transformation be realized.    


The difference between success and failure can be as simple as one step forward. Taking action, no matter how small, can increase your chances of success exponentially. Here are some tips that can help you make change that will last:


  • When making a plan, don’t over complicate it. People have a tendency not to do anything because they are overwhelmed by the prospect of writing a plan down on paper. Start small,  it can be as simple as finding a mentor, signing up for a class or organizing your tax receipts for two hours each day. If you have positive expectations you will accomplish what you set your mind to.
  • Rid yourself of pessimism and at the same time set up milestones that reaffirm your progress. For example, by March 1, I will lose five pounds. Then visualize yourself five pound lighter. Along the way, acknowledge your small successes and reward yourself. By seeing and imagining can create the outcome you desire.          
  • If your plan is not working, be flexible and change direction. Don’t keep repeating the same action steps and hoping for a different outcome. Change your course and continue to focus your efforts on what is working. When you see results they will motivate you to continue. Adopt the mindset; failure is not an option. A sports team doesn’t take the field anticipating failure, they play to win. If you don’t see failure as an option you will win too. If you plan properly, take action, and visualize success you will achieve your goals in 2012!

 Jodi Cross is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance writer and may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or www.crossnm.com

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How To Develop a Business Plan

     

 

Writing a business plan can be a daunting task. Just like anything else in life, a plan is an essential tool for success. We have all witnessed an under capitalized business shutter up soon after opening. A business plan should tell a compelling story about what you do and why consumers would want to buy your service or product. A good plan is a living document that shows viability and growth and should be updated on regular basis. There are multiple websites and templates on the internet that help organize the process. In addition, the Small Business Association (SBA) offers some good resources to guide you through your journey.


There are various types of  business plans used for different stages of growth. Stages include; start-ups, post launch, line of credit needs and expansion & growth. Determine what stage of your business lifecycle you are facing and tailor your plan accordingly. Consider the audience, are you looking for investors, partners, stakeholders or a line of credit?  Regardless of your lifecycle, a business plan sets you up for success.  


Business Plans should answer a litany of what, who, why and how questions:

  • What is the problem that your business is solving?
  • Why do consumers want your product or service?  
  • What are your key features?
  • How much capital is required?
  • What challenges could impede growth?
  • What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?

 These questions should be answered in sections and clearly articulated for the reader to understand and process. Whether looking for capital or seed money,  defining business objectives and goals in a logical and disciplined way will make the difference between success and failure.  There are several standard sections that must be included, the outline provided illustrates a framework to get started. 


The business plan framework is very simple, and outline in this graphic:

The Final Steps:

8. Funding

Why should a bank or investor help you? How much do you need? When will you be able to pay it back? What is the investor going to get out of the deal?

Key Inclusions & FAQ’s

  • How long will the cash or requested funding you receive last? What will it cover in terms  of growth. What type of funding are you requesting? Debt, Equity, Angel?

9. Appendix

This is an as needed section but you should have it organized in case a lender asks.  

Key Inclusions & FAQ’s

  • Include legal paperwork, letters of reference, customer testimonials, permits, contracts, leases, attorneys, accountants and your business manager.

Now that the framework is in place, start writing and don’t stop until the plan is done. When presenting to investors tell a story that sells your business idea simply and succinctly.  Describe how you make money and what the best thing about your product or service is. The foundation you establish today will be rewarded tomorrow.

Sources: Sba.gov

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