Archives For Leadership

Leadership ideas

I’m a student and a problem solver. At times, these two qualities work together without me really knowing it. One example has to do with an understanding about Social Media and its effects on relationships and the depth of relationships at the workplace.

As someone who is engaged with social media on a daily basis, I’ve been taking stock of how those tools have been effecting my relationships with people – specifically two groups:


To effectively position a new marketing message (or any message for that matter), we must adopt a new communication strategy – one that meets the immediate need to launch the concept and the long-term goal of acceptance and compliance. It must be:

  • Properly targeted and strategically sound
  • Based on an idea that resonates with key audiences
  • Reinforced in every corner of the enterprise through all channels

Regardless of the message, you must understand the audience, their natural concerns and questions as well as how they will receive the message given other workplace factors.

    The payoff for the increased preparation and effort is greater adoption of the message combined with a higher degree of consistency across the enterprise. For certain messages, this can translate into higher levels of engagement and effectiveness of the Acxiom workforce.

    Sustained Communication requires new tools and new channels to ensure important messages have the best chance of being heard and subsequently adopted. These tools include, but aren’t limited to:

    • Interactive website where articles can be discussed (blog-style)
    • Video – capture event footage, provide live-streaming of roll-out events
    • Podcasts – leadership, business strategy, LOB, Market, etc.
    • Microblogging and Social Media

    The price is content – to keep today’s workforce engaged, there must be a sustained flow of new information through channels that lower the barriers to consume, invite conversation and raise the levels of emotional connection. Above all, it needs to be simple to the consumer, which translates to a great deal of work in strategic planning and implementation.

    RISK (of not changing)
    The risk of attempting to use the current communication template (e-mail and PPT decks) is a low adoption rate due to behavioral ambivalence. This template is both one-way and utilizes overused channels, which have ample evidence of their ineffectiveness.

    Shake things up and stay plugged in to the trends of how people are seeking information. It isn’t just about what you want to say – you have to factor in what they want to hear because choice makes it easy to turn you off.

    I saw a post advertising an entire web portal to making sure diversity is achieved in business. I had to stop and think for a second. Is forced diversity really that beneficial? Don’t get me wrong, I think racial profiling in business is not only wrong, it is egregious.

    As the head of a multi-racial family, I hope our culture advances beyond even noticing skin color, but for now, it seems, this is still something at the top of mind for some. But I have to wonder just how much headway is gained when you force a business to be diverse in it’s makeup.

    From the businesses standpoint, there is extra cost in the form of compliance adherence and that can lead to resentment. For the hired, I wonder how it feels to be hired in large part because of your race and not solely on your ability to do the job better than anyone else. That’s got to produce some doubt and maybe some frustration as well.

    Finally – this seems to keep the issue of race near the top of the list in our culture, which I think is counterproductive…but I’m a white male in my thirties…what do I know?

    I’m more interested in what you know…am I way off base on this? I’m serious about learning something here.


    Steve —  8.24.2010 — Leave a comment

    I know it’s been a while since my last post – to be quite honest, it’s been a very dry summer for me personally. I don’t quite know what contributed to that, but suffice it to say, it left me with very little to write about. The below post is something that I’ve been able to think about with others at my day job. It is something that organizations all over the world are trying to solve. Some are better (Google, Apple, etc.) than others, but they all want to improve. Maybe you can see how you can make a difference culturally where you are after reading this.

    I love the term used by Star Trek captains to signal a jump to warp speed. ENGAGE! No matter how many times I see it (reruns of TNG are on KARZ at 10:00 CST locally), it makes me smile each and every time. I think it must be the fact that they are about to travel faster than light and as a Physicist, that’s pretty darn cool – theoretically impossible, but cool nonetheless.

    This term is also used to describe how motivated employees are to perform at their very best day after day. Engagement levels are now something that organizations around the world actively measure and care about. It’s because they now realize that engagement is directly tied to the organization’s ability to achieve it’s performance goals. In my job as part of HR, this is something we spend a lot of time thinking about and it turns out it isn’t as easy to improve as one might think.

    Almost across the board, the economic conditions of the past two years have been responsible for engagement levels dropping off. As people see their peers lose their jobs and are themselves forced to take pay cuts, motivation to give 100% wanes quickly. The obvious contributor is money – employers are trying to cut costs because there isn’t as much revenue and employees are then forced to make corresponding lifestyle changes that don’t feel good.

    But I don’t think engagement levels can be solely tied to money. There has been a ton of research around why people stay at a job year after year and it turns out it has very little to do with their salary. It’s the other things that contribute to something called job satisfaction. Some are tangible and easy to grasp (great benefits or perks) and some not so much (personality mesh with a leader), but regardless of what it is, to ignore them will certainly invite disaster.

    The cumulative summation of all of those non-financial contributors to job satisfaction can be summed up in one word – culture. It is the “feel” of a place that permeates each and every action, which can change over time to be more positive and productive to more negative and toxic. I don’t have time to go into all of the things that make up and go into an organization’s culture, but engagement levels is one metric that can help you understand whether you have a positive or a negative one and, if you track this over time, which direction you are headed.

    To that end, I’ve put together a little diagram called the “3 C’s of Culture” – the basic ingredients that I believe every member of an organization needs and wants. Here it is:

    Conversation | It is my contention that employees want to be part of a dialog and not the recipient of a list of orders. To give them a voice that speaks into not just how something is done, but why it is done can communicate worth, pride, trust and perhaps love. Having an open and safe place to voice your opinion and relate your story is key to building trust, which is one of the cornerstones of a great culture.

    Contribution | There’s nothing worse that giving effort to a task that is meaningless. Human nature desires to accomplish something with our labor and in business, it better be tied to the bottom line. Making sure everyone knows how their job relates to success is absolutely critical in building a winning culture.

    Compensation | As the old adage says, “An honest days labor deserves and honest days wage.” Today, we talk about the equity principle – making sure that we internally feel it is worth our effort for what we get in return. What we get in return includes salary, recognition, equipment, bonuses and other things that meet core needs we all have. A thriving culture will have programs and processes in place that allow for all of these to be awarded as well as leadership committed to making sure they get used.

    Ratio | I drew this diagram in equal parts because I believe there is a balance between these ideas that must be maintained for a healthy culture to exist. For example, too much emphasis on conversation will lead to a place where everyone thinks it needs to be their way and yet, there is only one way it can be.

    An over emphasis on contribution might mean that the housekeeping items could get less attention as the focus shifts to more bottom-line activities. Think the Cobbler’s shoes.

    And I don’t think I’ve ever seen an 0ver-emphasis on compensation, but it might look like bankruptcy if it ever got there.

    At any rate, this was just one way for me to put into a visual some of the big ideas that go into creating a positive culture that promotes higher engagement. It’s not perfect and there are other components. This issue’s complexity is directly proportional to the number of employees. Then add in an international component and you have yourself a whopper of a problem to solve.

    I was speaking with some friends last night and the subject of church came up and I had an opportunity to share about a paradigm shift I’ve made over the past few years that has revolutionized some real key aspects of being a Christian.

    The first thing is that I believe God has given ME a ministry – to my wife, my kids, my neighborhood, my workplace, my church, etc. He desires me to live out my faith both with Him and the world around me daily – with passion, integrity and complete abandon.

    Secondly, He’s given me a proper perspective on the role of my local church in that ministry. In the past, I felt like I was part of the ministry of my church – one small part of a much larger effort. This meant that I felt obligated to make sure I was operating within organizational parameters. From the curriculum I was taking my small group through, to the volunteer role I was playing on Sunday morning, to the various service activities I put my hand to – all of it was the ministry of the church and I was there to help fulfill it as I could.

    That’s not how things are today. Remember, God has given me a ministry and is holding me responsible for it. It is personalized to me and takes into account who I am: my strengths, weaknesses, personality, experiences and the specific skills and talents He chose to endow me with. As such, the local church has become a resource to my ministry. Let me say that again – the local church is a resource to MY ministry; not the other way around.

    This has produced a confidence of responsibility that frees me up to listen to the Author of my faith and the Designer of my ministry and move according to His plan. All of a sudden you have a new grid to filter opportunities through and it puts the power and accountability squarely on your shoulders, which can be a bit daunting if you think you are doing this on your own strength. That’s another post altogether though.

    The local church’s proper role is to equip and unleash God’s people to pursue Him and His purposes in their lives. Sometimes this is easier for them to say than do, but I think we can help if we will adjust our thinking just a smidge to take responsibility for what God has given us and make that our focus.

    As with other paradigm shifts I’ve talked about, there needs to be a cautionary note to prevent misinterpretation. I’m not saying that we should ignore and abstain from getting involved with what the local church is doing. Often, these events are great ways to grow relationships, meet new people and be a blessing to the world around us. The shift is in motivation. No longer do you have to do these things as an obligation to the church, but rather as a strategic choice in serving your God – and there could be no more lovely fragrance to Him than a right heart that’s passionate to serve Him and be a part of His plan for His people.

    So, the question comes down to motivation. Are you abdicating the responsibility for your faith to the church or are you taking personal responsibility for your ministry and seeking His guidance about what’s next? You don’t need permission from anyone to do what God is calling you to – you only need faith expressed in courageous obedience.

    Rain God Complex

    Steve —  6.10.2010 — 2 Comments

    I’ve held my tongue for way too long on the issue of climate change. As a scientist and a default approach to life via a scientific viewpoint, this issue is so NOT about science that I can’t even believe it continues to be couched that way.

    Do you know how I know? Money. If you would consider just for one second the motivational aspect behind the “debate” – you’ll soon conclude that stirring people up about climate change is just another ponzi scheme orchestrated by environmentalists that have long been frustrated about the lack of credibility they have been able to muster. That lack of credibility has resulted in very little capital investment, which has hampered their ability to advance their cause.

    So, they got their heads together and got a spokesman who spent time in the White House, made a movie or two and created a script that everyone read verbatim ad nauseam everywhere from the nightly news to the cartoons on public television. I have my 4 yr. old son telling me about turning off lights to save the planet because Sid the Science kid’s Teacher Susie is preaching it every day from 7:30 – 8:00 am.

    And it’s working – government subsidies for alternative energy sources have soared through the roof. We have windmill fields cropping up everywhere and driving people out of their homes due to the 80+ decibel noise each mill creates. We have electric cars that have a range suitable for a trip to the grocery store. We have solar panels that generate enough wattage to recharge your iPhone. All of which can’t make enough sense to consumers to get real funding and consequently have no real incentive to produce any tangible results.

    Sorry – didn’t mean to get sidetracked by government spending and lofty goals with no accountability. Anywho – back to climate change.

    Fact: the climate does change. The biggest influence on our weather is our sun and a star has a life cycle and goes through patterns of change, which are influence everything from temperature to magnetic pole strength. Do some research sometime on solar flares – fascinating stuff!

    Fact: our planet has gone through both warmer and cooler seasons ever since we’ve had the capacity to keep track and, guess what, we’ve been in a warm one.

    Fact: most high-profile environmental activists live very wasteful lives. Al Gore has several houses and flies on private jets all over the world. Why not sell some of those houses and give the money to solar panel or energy storage research? BECAUSE HE DOESN’T BELIEVE IT EITHER, but it sure pays well!

    Fiction: mankind has the power to influence nature. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see us develop technology to control the weather like on Star Trek. Need rain for the corn crops in the midwest – no problem, I’ll just submit a request to the weather satellite. Wouldn’t that be sweet!

    Simply put – human nature is fond of making itself out to be God and to think we can control the system (either destroying or fixing) He put in place is ludicrous and arrogant. It is the oldest lie we’ve ever bought and now, we’re being sold it again. Some of us are able to recognize it for what it is and deny it any place in our lives. Others…well, are buying it hook, line and sinker – even (and perhaps more poignantly) our kids.

    Do we need to ramp up the development of energy alternatives to replace a finite resource like oil? Sure. That’s called being prepared. And there is a right way to do it – it’s called Capitalism and using the Free Market Economy to prove your idea has merit rather than work everyone up in a frenzy about how life on this planet is in peril unless we help those who refuse to contribute get a free ride putting up wind farms in our back yard.

    I feel a point of clarification might be needed. I am and desire to be a good steward of the resources given to me. So, I turn off lights, use CF bulbs and turn the water off while I brush my teeth – but not because my heart breaks for a polar bear’s habitat melting. I do it because for every watt of electricity and gallon of water I’m punished financially each month when I get my bills.

    Don’t be fooled and don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Remember, if you can find anyone benefiting financially from a crisis – resist the urge to call it a crisis. If it was, help would be free and clear and nothing about climate change is free and it is anything but clear…