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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Social Media With a Smile

We found a great resource for the stats on social media by Social Hospitality:

http://socialhospitality.com/2013/10/modern-hospitality-social-media-with-a-smile/

We put together some graphics that break down what we learned. 

And here is a graphic by Social Hospitality:



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High Performance Public Relations: Getting the most out of your PR Agency


Public Relations can be hard to measure, expensive to maintain and difficult to sustain. So how do you select the right agency for your business objectives and keep the stories coming? Public Relations deals with intangibles such as ideas and words. Those ideas come to life through articles, influence spheres on social media, blogs, broadcast media and digital information streams. A well-orchestrated Public Relations campaign can be great for your image and enhance your overall marketing efforts.

Selecting the Right Firm

When selecting a firm think in terms of a partner. Do your research. Does the firm have a good reputation? Do they understand your business? Do they have other clients in the same category? Ask a few editors to recommend a firm. If you have a PR firm in mind, ask the editors for their opinion. Believe me, they won’t be shy about sharing their feedback with you. Before you make your final decision, ask to meet the team. I remember being very impressed with the senior partner who pitched us but when it came down to meeting the account executives they were very inexperienced and new to the firm. Delve a little deeper before you judge and find out if the account person has been on your side or the editors’ side of the business. If you see new faces to frequently and your account executive changes every year, consider billing your firm for training fees. Keep in mind, the right firm will be excited about your business and be thrilled to work with you.

You found the perfect firm, now what? You have your perfect match and you’re ready to go.

• Be sure to provide a comprehensive background on your company. Include your marketing objectives, key initiatives, business mix and target audience demographics to your firm. The more they know the quicker they can start to conceptualize ideas.

• Manage the process. Feed them good ideas, stay in contact and set up regular reporting and meeting schedules. Don’t over emphasize status updates. Monthly reports, bi-weekly calls and quarterly strategy sessions are good benchmarks. Don’t waste precious time on updates the focus should be on outreach efforts.

• Ask for candid feedback. If you firm tells you it isn’t newsworthy count that as a good sign. You don’t want to be wasting time on idea’s that won’t get any traction.

• Monitor results. Don’t confuse round up story with feature stories. Is your firm getting you key placements with your defined target audiences? Snooki’s blog may appear in the monthly round up report but is that what your customer cares about? Provide a dedicated PR phone number for placements so you can see tangible results, give the PR agency unique URLs to go with specific packages and monitor your analytics for results and social media for engagement.

• Regroup, repurpose and review. Check to make sure you are communicating efficiently and effectively. Communication is a two-way street. If you haven’t received any ideas or suggestions from your PR firm in a few weeks, find out why. Is your account executive able to repurpose stories for multiple use? They should be able to pitch key angles to horizontal, regional and international publications. Do they post on social media on a regular basis to get more spin on key placements? Once you have a long term relationship established review expectations, establish new goals and recap wins. If you have invested $50,000-$75,000 in PR and haven’t had a front page cover story, ask why.

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Amping Up Your Positioning

 Amping Up Your Positioning

By: Jodi Cross

Recently I heard an interview with Brian Cornell, Targets new CEO about how he plans to reposition the retail giant moving forward. Mr. Cornell, stated that Target was “going back to the basic core values” that made Target a success. Target will once again deliver on their brand promise and tagline, “Expect More, Pay Less and strive to cool again.”  In the interview, Cornell specifically mentioned the brand pillars that made Target a success. They included; trends and fashion, design and style, wellness solutions and customer service.  Under the former CEO, Target appeared to have lost focus and tried to compete with Walmart on price and the addition of an expanded grocery product line. 

I am not only a brand marketer but I am a consumer and I shop at Target. Cornell’s comments were music to my ears. This brings me to the power of brand positioning.  Brands like Target create a relationship with their customers. Their pillars and tag line underscore the brand promise and clearly communicate points of distinction that the consumer can relate to.

At CNMI, we have worked with a multitude of brands to develop value propositions, create long-term advantages and target key customer markets to build and grow revenues.

Here are some insightful questions we use to help define our client’s positioning;

  • What do you want your brand to be known for among your target audience? Do you own that positioning?
  • What advantage do you have over your competition?  
  • Does your brand position match your companies KPI’s and vision?
  • Are your branding goals realistic and attainable?
  • Does your brand relate to the consumer on an emotional level?
  • Does your brand positioning contribute to long-term growth?

To determine the answers to these crucial questions, CNMI conducts a collaborative stakeholders meeting during which we come to mutually agreed upon conclusions and action items. Then we work toward crafting a positioning for your product and/or service.

Here are some key elements to consider when crafting your positioning;

  • Your positioning should differentiate your brand from the competition. The differential cannot be based solely on price or service.
  • Consumer perceptions should play a key role in crafting your position.
  • Consider your audiences, a positioning needs to add value for both consumers and stakeholders.
  • Your brand position must be believable and consistent in all areas.
  • Your product or service position should be easy to communicate and difficult to mimic.
  • Your positioning should match your personality and image and be sustainable over a long-term business cycle.

There are many brands who have gone to or are heading toward the branding graveyard. Radio Shack, Kodak and Blockbuster come to mind. I predict Target will make a strong come back!

If you are interesting in refining or developing your brand positioning, gaining greater market share or driving revenues, contact Jodi Cross at CNMI. We may be reached at jcross@crossnm.com or visit www.crossnm.com for more great marketing ideas.  


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Reputation Management

Today’s consumer is discriminating and demands excellent service. If your company doesn’t deliver on your brand promise, they will let the entire world know about it. So what do you do to manage a negative perception and boost your on-line reputation?

Root Cause- you must address the root cause of the problems. To get an understanding of what is going on behind the scenes, conduct a social media audit. Look at multiple platforms and review sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, Twitter and any other sites that impact your business. Review the comment and bucket or categorize them into common cause areas. This exercise will show you the pain points. Perhaps you have shipping complaints, cleanliness or quality issues or poor customer service comments. Next, prepare to address the various deficiencies with the appropriate division heads.

Leverage Staff Buy-in-once you have your bucket list complete, assemble your team. Run through the exercise showing the buckets and common complaints. Have an open conversation to determine if you need to adjust written standards, define if job tools are missing or set up new training protocols.  Create a plan that starts with stakeholder buy in and accountability. The end game is to deliver excellent quality. Once the stakeholder team has developed an actionable plan, take it to the staff in the form of a We Can Do It meeting. Then monitor results weekly and monthly for progress.

Ask your guest to write review. Now that you have presumably turned a corner, don’t be shy about asking for reviews. If you know a particular customer has had a great experience ask them to comment. Send, thank you e-mails with links to review sites for easy access.

Good Quality and Quantity. Build up your positive reviews and your popularity rating will improve.  Many of the sites work off an algorithm system for prioritizing. Remember, you’re only as good as your last review, so keep up the accountability on the back-end.

Senior Managers should respond to negative reviews.  Use the process to help identify ongoing customer issues and pain points. I know several managers who do an audit quarterly just to learn about operational deficiencies.

For a complete Social Media strategy and tactical marketing deployment suggestions contact; jcross@crossnm.com

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