Thursday, May 26, 2016

3 Reasons to Keep Your Mouth Shut

There are just some people that can’t seem to keep their thoughts to themselves. Sometimes, it is the person who just says everything they think, without pausing to consider their audience. Other times they let their emotions get the best of them and they lash out with a sarcastic or biting comment. Some just talk…and talk…and talk resulting in “TMI” (too much information). Here are some tips to keep your mouth in check…

Running our tongues can be standard practice for many, and if you think it might be you, here are some compelling reasons to keep some things unsaid: 

1. You look more professional and less like a gossip.
“Loose lips sink ships.” That old saying is still true. You can land yourself in trouble when you are the messenger of confidential information shared inappropriately. You are seen by others as untrustworthy and immature. Don’t put your reputation at stake for sharing things at work without discretion.

2. When you pause before you speak, you allow yourself time to read the audience and adjust your message to have more impact and influence.
When we are speaking, it automatically means we are not listening. Those who control what they say and when they say it may not say much, but when they do, they are taken seriously. Instead of firing off that email, put it in the Draft folder, sleep on it and then decide if you want to respond.

3. You spend less time apologizing for offending people.
Some individuals have a more direct communication style and with that, often comes blunt language, and warnings that “the truth hurts”. When feelings do get hurt, the blame is placed on the receiver for being too sensitive or taking things too personally. If you are someone who finds yourself often apologizing, it’s time to stop saying sorry by no longer making the comments that get you in trouble.

People who struggle with impulsive mouths are seen as emotional, dramatic, reactionary, unintelligent, and obnoxious. I am not saying you shouldn’t share your opinions or your point of view, just be smart HOW you do it. Customize your approach using situational awareness. Ask yourself, “Does saying what I am thinking help the situation or just make me feel better in the moment?” “If I collected more info about this, would it change my mind?” “If it became public that I am the one saying this, would I still say it?” By making more mindful choices, you have the power to manage your mouth and increase your credibility. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Avoiding Ego Traps in Business to Increase Your Influence

A few years ago, United Airlines and Continental Airlines merged. I traveled on both airlines frequently during that time and I will never forget an onboard video that ran before the safety video. It was led by then-CEO Jeffery Smisek, who started the video by saying how proud he was of the merger and how many things were being done to make a new, better airline. I remember him specifically mentioning how they were in the process of repainting the planes and adding routes to Africa (or somewhere very far away). I remember sitting there thinking that the only thing their merger did for me was dilute my status and reduce my route and carrier options. I could not care less about the color of the airplane I was sitting in or flights to Africa.

I kept thinking, “This video is all about you.” As a frequent flyer, I care much more about access to Wi-Fi, having reasonable change fees, and being able to count on reliable schedules. What about those things, Jeffery?

Whether it’s marketing or management, too often we get in our own way, seeing the world from our narrow viewpoint. It requires a constant diligence to avoid— all about us—messaging, which comes across as ego. The antidote to ego is EQ or emotional intelligence.

EQ refers to a competency that includes an ability to recognize one’s own impulses and moods (self-awareness), the ability to read situations and audiences accurately (empathy), and the capacity to respond appropriately depending on the situation (self-control). The EQ competency includes a wide range of learnable skills, but focusing on three that can be effectively practiced on a daily basis—self-awareness, empathy, and self-control—is all you may need.

Although we like to see people and organizations with confidence, there is a fine balance between confidence and arrogance. Knowing where that balance is requires self and social awareness. When ego trumps EQ, it can translate into business failures and costly corporate missteps. In large companies, leaders often find out too late when they’ve landed in an ego trap, as they’ve unwittingly sabotaged a new program or as a financial scandal goes public. How can successful organizations— well-intentioned as they often are—be so out of touch with reality? The disconnect can create major problems such as employee turnover, falling sales, negative social media, and disgruntled customers— all of which stunt business growth. Setting blame aside, being aware of the delicate balance between ego and EQ provides positive solutions. Cultivating and practicing EQ offers the most effective path to staying in touch and in tune, creating a path to sustainable success.

So what are the most common ego traps? Here are two:

Ignoring Feedback You Don’t Like
It may come in the form of a focus group or a client satisfaction survey. Or it may come in the form of a performance review or comment from a peer. It is easy to justify our behaviors or decisions because it is hard to accept things we don’t like or don’t want to believe about ourselves. We also often get caught up in our own intentions and don’t realize the depth of our impact. We aren’t intentionally trying to look egotistical so we think that’s enough, but it's not. Perception, as they say, is reality.

So, how do you avoid this ego trap?

  • Utilize additional, objective feedback sources to collect data to see if the initial results are duplicated.
  • Hire a professional coach who can help you identify themes in feedback. You probably don’t need to take action on everything, but an expert can help you know what to pay attention to. 
  • Make self-evaluation a habit. See yourself from the perspective of others, considering your impact, not your intent. 

Surrounding Yourself With More of You
When it comes to the challenges of building a strong team, many of you may shortcut a thorough interview process and surround yourselves with people or agencies you click with because they share your same strengths, values, and ways of thinking—ending up with exactly the people least likely to challenge your approach or decisions. That’s a risky game to play in a competitive marketplace. This approach sets blind spots that can prevent you from seeing oncoming challenges because your team sees the world much like you do rather than being able to challenge, question, or offer a different perspective.

How do you avoid this ego trap?

  • Intentionally seek out people who think differently than you and don’t avoid conflict.
  • Encourage others to question or challenge you, assign angels and devil’s advocates in meetings to objectively weigh both sides to any approach.  
  • Utilize a structured interviewing and selection process to avoid hiring clones. 

In business, you are always subject to factors that you can’t control, whether it’s the supply of your raw materials, competitive moves, regulatory requirements, or any number of other unwelcome surprises. What you can control is how you interact with your team— whether you lead from an unconscious place driven by ego or instead lead with EQ at the fore, consciously exercising your self-awareness, empathy, and self-control. It takes some effort to be an emotionally intelligent business leader, but it doesn’t have to be all-consuming. What’s more, you don’t have to change who you are. The goal really is to retain your strengths while being aware of the few areas where ego may tend to trip you up. Once you have heightened this awareness, you can shift your sail ever so slightly when needed—doing the small things when they matter—and then watch as the individuals around you begin to respond more positively and the organization shifts into a powerful new direction. By opening your eyes to some of your blind spots and being courageous enough to make a few small— but incredibly powerful—changes, simple course corrections can put you and your organization on even stronger footing. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Interview with Dara Royer - CMO of Mercy Corps

I am so happy to have Dara Royer, of Mercy Corps as my guest this month. In the world we live in today, the non-profit human rights organizations around the world fill a vital role in positive global development. I respect the work they do so much and hope you enjoy this interview with her. Welcome Dara! 

JS: Two of the key concepts in emotional intelligence are optimism and empathy. How do you balance your own need for maintaining optimism within your team while still having empathy for the communities you serve?

DR: I have the privilege of working on behalf of an incredible organization that focuses on some of the world’s toughest challenges. I’ve been alongside my awe-inspiring colleagues as they support refugees who have fled war only to find themselves with little more than the clothes on their backs. Even in these dark moments, I see our colleagues functioning with a deep degree of optimism. This is what brought me to Mercy Corps. It’s the belief that together, with the communities we serve, our donors and partners, a better world is possible. That even in the midst of conflict, crisis, famine and the like, we can move beyond the realities of today to create a better tomorrow. In this belief, there is a way of acknowledging the realities of a current situation while painting a picture of a brighter future.

In many ways, this is what visionary leaders must do every day. They have to give a nod to the challenges that exist while inspiring the team to achieve shared goals. There has to be open, honest dialogue about what stands between the team and the ultimate success they are working toward. Without this, team members can feel disillusioned. Either their leader appears out of touch with reality, or they are left with little inspiration to achieve something bigger than themselves. The ultimate success is when a team links arms and says, “This will be a tough journey, yet the vision is so important, we are going to get there together.” The challenge – the thing that once was a reason for empathy – actually transforms into the fuel that motivates the team to power up, tackle the challenge head-on and run toward the goal with passion and tenacity.

JS: Is there such a thing as too much empathy?

DR: Yes. Leaders are required to find a good balance between empathy and accountability. This isn’t always easy. It requires leaders to use a deep sense of judgement. Leaders have to be aware of patterns of poor performance that may be played off as challenges beyond someone’s control, in demand of empathy, when in reality an individual is not taking responsibility for how his or her actions are contributing to the situation.

I once managed a team that was newly formed and facing lots of obstacles. They represented change and were charged with a large goal, without the resources or broader understanding from the larger organization of what it would take to get there. Of course I worked to be empathetic to team members who were hit with resistance at every turn. I felt challenged in finding the right balance between pushing the team to push forward and move the needle on things that were under our control. It was very difficult to be supportive and empathetic while trying not to coddle the team. I realized at times I was not finding the right balance, and was not holding team members accountable for reaching successes that were well within their control. Bottom line: Too much empathy can lead to a poor performing team.

JS: What connection does EQ have with successful marketing, especially when representing a non-profit organization?

DR: Everything. Rule one in marketing is understanding your audience. In many ways, EQ requires you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, to see through their eyes and to understand their context and perspective. As it relates to non-profit marketing, it’s critical to understand the perceptions of the people who currently support or whom you may want to support your organization. What makes your mission relevant? How does supporting your organization fulfill a need they have as a volunteer, advocate or donor? These are questions non-profit marketers have to explore fully to be successful.

JS: What are some of the things you look for when hiring or promoting members of your team?

DR: I look for leaders to be one step in front of me, pointing out obstacles and opportunities. I promote problem-solvers, individuals who can work their strategic plans with a great deal of autonomy. These are individuals who will proactively communicate and give a heads-up about challenges. They don’t lay those obstacles at the feet of their manager; rather, they say, “This is the situation I’m dealing with right now, I’m handling it. I’ll let you know if I need your guidance.” They bring a positive attitude. They are willing to challenge and push. More than anything, they make things happen. They are “go to” people. 

Dara J. Royer

Chief Development and Marketing Officer

Dara J. Royer is passionate about building and growing mission-driven brands. As an award-winning marketer and successful fundraiser, Royer has led high-performing teams to exceptional success. As Chief Development and Marketing Officer for Mercy Corps, a global organization operating in 42 countries, Royer is responsible for private and corporate fundraising, global marketing and brand stewardship. She also serves as a member of the Executive Leadership Team. Within her first year as the agency’s first Chief Marketing Officer, her team increased media hits by more than 100% and was recognized nationally for creative excellence. 

Prior to joining Mercy Corps in 2013, Royer served as Vice President of Brand Marketing for ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the largest healthcare charity in the world. There, she was responsible for overseeing a large and diverse marketing team driving national fundraising and awareness campaigns. Prior to this role, she spent a number of years as a leader of ALSAC’s Radio and Entertainment Team, raising more than $30 million annually through more than 200 radiothons and celebrity events.

Beginning in 2006, Royer served as Senior Vice President of Corporate and Community Affairs for Cook Children’s, one of the nation’s leading pediatric health care systems. Under her leadership, the marketing team significantly increased brand awareness and fundraising, while effectively positioning the organization in national media including The Today Show, The Early Show, CNN Headline News, Univision, USA Today and People magazines. These successes, coupled with a national rollout of a new strategic plan and brand strategy, resulted in numerous national awards for marketing excellence.

Royer began her career as an Emmy and AP award-winning television journalist with ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates across the country. Royer received her BA in History from Indiana University in Bloomington.