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    Women Business Leaders: Does Your Firm Have a Social Media Strategy?

    September 30th, 2011

    Approaching social media is no different than approaching any other discipline. The more deliberate and strategic your approach, the more successful the outcome. As a woman business leader and owner of a strategic communications firm, I participate in many forms of social media, but more importantly, I have a plan and a schedule (not that I always stick to it). And, although my firm has been creating and implementing social media strategies for our clients for years, I am still surprised when I meet a business owner who hasn’t embraced social media … or worse, one who embraces it without a specific, detailed and integrated plan.

    A recent article by Steven Van Belleghem offered a comprehensive plan of action for integrating social media into a company’s overall marketing strategy. I’ve condensed Steven’s list of things an organization needs to do to create a social media plan:

    1. Conduct an internal and external conversation audit
    2. Organize training and formation
    3. Adapt your HR strategy
    4. Prepare your infrastructure
    5. Create a center of excellence
    6. Choose and realize pilot projects
    7. Create a listening culture
    8. Adapt your company structure
    9. Create cooperation between collaborators and customers
    10. Develop a content strategy
    11. Use new success indicators
    12. Introduce flexible and quick marketing responses

    I participated in a communications conference in Boston recently and as I sat in the audience during the sessions, many were busy doing their social media “thing” using smartphones, tablets and laptops. But I wondered how many of the attendees’ organizations had specific and strategic social media processes in place? Does your firm have a detailed plan? Let me know what’s working and not working in your organization.

    Business Buzzwords Women Business Leaders Need to Ditch

    September 28th, 2011

    I recently returned from an affinity group conference where I was a newcomer. I have to admit that I felt like a bit of an outsider and realized that this was not an unfamiliar feeling for me. Born in South Africa and educated in a lingering British Colony culture, I arrived in the USA with many expressions that had people scratching their heads until I realized that I had used jargon that was totally unfamiliar to my new culture.

    To integrate, I had to drop some of the expressions that were second nature to me and adopt new phrases when communicating. Then, in order to be a “cool mom” as my kids entered their teen years, “like” and “awesome” crept into my language.

    After reading this blog from Anneke Jong about business buzzwords to avoid, I realize that as a woman business leader, I have a long way to go! Here is a condensed version of her list of buzzwords to avoid:

    Rock Star/Ninja
    Also to be avoided: guru, wizard, and god. If someone has excelled professionally, praise her for what she’s actually done—don’t rely on cutesy hyperbole.

    Reach Out
    In an age when most people are overwhelmed by crowded email inboxes, it’s best to be brief and clear. Never use “reach out” when “email” or “contact” will do just fine.

    We all know what “around” means, so why does the corporate world make us forget? Don’t fall victim to the linguistic laziness that has you using it in place of “about,” “regarding” or “related to.”

    Ditch this and try using a more descriptive word, like “effective,” “meaningful” or “important.”

    Open the Kimono
    Not only does this phrase yearn for the era of good ol’ boys, but it is also almost impossible to say without sounding creepy.

    I don’t know about you, but I am giving up on the buzzwords that litter my industry, culture and expose my age!

    What would you add to this list?

    Women Business Leaders: Managing Your Network is a Crucial Business Skill

    September 27th, 2011

    As women in business, we have spent years hearing about the importance of building a network. I realize how crucial my network has been in supporting me over the years. However, our time is often so impoverished that it is important to be discerning about whom you choose to cultivate and include in your network. It’s even more important to be vigilant of who is cultivating you for their network.

    Rob Cross and Robert Thomas wrote a great article, “Managing Yourself: A Smarter Way to Network,” and I’ve summarized the article’s main points below:

    1. Analyze
      Identify the people in your network and what you get out of interacting with them. Remember you’re looking for quality, not quantity.
    2. De-layer
      Most likely not everyone in your network helps you. Make some hard decisions to back away from redundant or energy-sapping relationships.
    3. Diversify
      Build your network with different kinds of people. Focus on energizers who will help you achieve your goals.

    It is sometimes difficult to let go of relationships that aren’t productive, but you may find that doing some relationship spring-cleaning is a cathartic experience.

    10 Lessons For Women Business Leaders From Atlas Shrugged

    September 23rd, 2011

    I read Atlas Shrugged, by author Ayn Rand,  in college – I was profoundly affected but did not fully understand the lessons applicable to my life until I had done some “living.” The role of a woman business leader was not intentional but rather a well-traveled path that I embarked upon. These 10 lessons from the book’s main character, Dagny Taggart, were observed by Meghan Casserly and show a wonderful combination of strength swathed in femininity. Here is a condensed version of  Casserly’s 10 lessons:

    1. Ignore the haters
    2. Don’t argue, just do
    3. Don’t let a man boss you around — unless, of course, you like it
    4. Praise good work
    5. Go with your gut
    6. Don’t let your ego get the best of you
    7. Beauty is a weapon — especially when battling other women
    8. Don’t walk around especially when you can cut across
    9. Don’t threaten to do something unless you can follow through
    10. Just do you

    A final word from Dagny, as she shared her view with her shrinking violet sister-in-law:
    “You don’t have to see through the eyes of others, hold onto yours, stand on your own judgment, you know that what is, is–say it aloud, like the holiest of prayers, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

    Entrepreneurial Tips for Women Business Leaders from J. K. Rowling

    September 21st, 2011

    I recently visited the magical world of Harry Potter while attending a conference at Universal Studios in Orlando. I was accompanied by a visionary mentor who sometimes uses Harry Potter metaphors. It all came together for me on that ride … dare to dream and envision your most extravagant fantasies, stay true to your beliefs and approach the future with wonder.

    Susan L. Reid captured the essence in her article about lessons entrepreneurs can learn from J.K. Rowling. I’ve condensed her pointers for you here:

    Don’t rush to roll out your product
    Although Rowling had been a writer all her life, she was slow to publish. She said, “I had written two novels before I had the idea for Harry, though I’d never tried to get them published (and a good job too, I don’t think they were very good).” Rowling sets a great example of getting a product just right before presenting it to the world.

    When a great idea grabs you, grab back
    Rowling says, “Where the idea for Harry Potter actually came from, I really couldn’t tell you. I was traveling on a train between Manchester and London and it just popped into my head.” As business owners, we know what a great idea is. The problem is, we often question it. Rowling seized upon it and went with it.

    Persevere, persevere and persevere
    Rowling was an unemployed single mother living on welfare. In 1995, she completed her manuscript and handed in the book to 12 publishing houses. They all rejected it. She did not stop just because life was hard. Despite all the changes and setbacks she was experiencing, she carried on. As business owners, we would do well to keep her example in mind.

    Don’t let anyone sidetrack you from your goal
    Finally a small publisher agreed to publish the first book. Seven volumes of the Harry Potter series have broken sales records. What a shining role model Rowling is for business owners. She didn’t let anyone stand in the way of her goal—not even herself.

    Each of us has a unique contribution to make to the world
    Rowling never went searching for the kind of success she has received. “I just wrote the sort of thing I liked reading when I was younger. I didn’t expect lots of people to like them.” As an entrepreneur, focus on the unique something you have to offer to the world.

    My blog focuses on women business leaders and entrepreneurs, and being an entrepreneur myself makes me especially aware of business opportunities and turning ideas into reality. Please read my blog, “3 Ways Women Business Leaders can Manage Great Ideas,” for tips on capturing potential business opportunities.

    How Women Business Leaders can Recover from a Blunder

    September 20th, 2011

    I recently inadvertently insulted one of my team members. She was bold enough to let me know that she was hurt, and I was able to apologize to her, disparage myself in front of our coworkers, find humor in the situation and move on. I think the key for women business leaders in similar situations is to take responsibility, diffuse the situation with a little laughter and use the incident as a discussion starter around other issues.

    Dorie Clark’s recent article, “How to Recover from a Blunder,” offered some good tips on turning a mistake into a positive experience. I’ve condensed her suggestions for you here:

    • Admit the mistake. Fessing up expedites the recovery process. While it’s tempting to shirk responsibility or slink away, it only makes matters worse.
    • Try to laugh at yourself. If it’s appropriate, go ahead. Joking around gives others permission to do the same. After all, nobody wants leaders who take themselves too seriously.
    • Reframe the discussion. People will want to talk about the mistake forever. Give the blunder its due, but refocus the conversation on what matters most: moving forward.

    It’s hard to admit you made a mistake, but I agree with Dorie … facing it head-on and then moving on is the best way to get past it.


    Women Business Leaders: To Be Successful, Stop Worrying and Go With the Flow

    September 16th, 2011

    The very nature of the path we have chosen as women business leaders provides a platform for tough situations. I have definitely had times in my life that were trying — and as I look back, I realize that the tapestry of my life has been woven by adversity as well as easy, free-flowing experiences.

    I’ve condensed Srinivas Rao’s excellent advice on how to go with the flow and view trying times as lessons learned below:

    When you’re busy fighting the way things are and resisting the circumstances of your life, you get caught inside your problems. Beating yourself up for the way things are or for not being the way you want them to be is just another form of resistance.

    Take Your Foot off the Brake
    True progress can’t possibly be made when you’re operating from a place of resistance. It’s like attempting to drive a car with the brakes on. You’re going to burn gas, screw up the engine and stay stuck.

    While we know logically that there’s no sense worrying about the things we can’t change, we do it anyway. It’s like an annoying add-on feature of the human brain that was intended to serve some useful purpose but is actually a nuisance more often than not. So, how do we take our foot off the brake?

    Time Heals Wounds
    A year from now, what matters today probably won’t. As much as the failures that have led me to where I am today impacted me, I can’t imagine my life without them. They’ve inspired the future that came after them. When you stop resisting the circumstances of your life, a blank canvas of possibility will open you. The more you’re willing to veer off the beaten path, you get an opportunity to find out what you’re really made of and tap into your limitless potential.

    Srinivas’ advice definitely made me pause and think about where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. And he’s right when he says there is no sense in worrying. We should all try that more often!

    5 Social Media Traps Women Business Leaders Need to Avoid

    September 15th, 2011

    As women business leaders and entrepreneurs, we all know that promoting our businesses via social media is a necessary component to any communications plan. However, this activity can become intense and time consuming. Let’s face it; it’s all about balance! Chris Brogan’s recent article highlighting his time-management methodology might help you unshackle yourself and remain effective in your social media efforts.

    I’ve condensed his social media tips for you here:

    1. Take back some Facebook time
      Are you maintaining a Facebook page for your business? The best use of your time there is to ask your community what they need and want, and to let them know about events and activities that might be of interest to them. Consider posting videos and photos from your events. Then close.
    2. Tweet a little lighter
      Getting into a conversation on Twitter is great. So is updating people on your business. Go ahead and comment on a few of your customers’ tweets, but spend no more than 20 minutes at a time on Twitter.
    3. Are you researching or lollygagging?
      I love reading blogs. Sometimes I’m reading to stay up on news; other times I’m reading because I’m procrastinating. The first line of defense against the latter is to eliminate subscriptions to blogs that don’t grow your business.
    4. Leave the bleeding edge to others
      New sites rarely turn into amazing sites. The new tech rarely changes the way you do business. It’s just new. Instead, focus on the core elements of doing what matters.
    5. Keep guidelines for your time
      Set two or three times a day to check your e-mail for 20 to 30 minutes, tops. If your goal is to build more business, plan how you’ll connect on the various social networks where your customers and prospects might gather, as well as how you’ll interact. Measure your efforts.

    Participating in social media can be addictive, so these tips can help you make sense of it all. If you’d like to join in the social media community or if you just need some additional tips, read my blogs: “Are You Tweeting? A Twitter Primer for Women Business Leaders,” and “7 Unwritten Rules of Social Media Women Business Leaders Need to Know.”

    5 Branding Steps Women Business Leaders Can Use to Remain Authentic

    September 15th, 2011

    As the owner of a strategic marketing firm, I advise my clients on branding, and I have written several blogs on this subject (see the links below).  The key for women — in business and in your personal life — is to remain authentic and true to yourself.

    I have a friend whose life was severely disrupted by her husband leaving her. I suggested that she have a relationship with herself. I was in a similar situation years ago and took this advice from a caring friend. During those years, I was able to define myself and become familiar with my personal brand promise. The next stage of this process is to focus on others as let your originality shine.

    Here is some great advice from a blog I read on The Hiring Hub.

    1. Follow the advertising rule, it’s not about you, it’s about what you can do for the customer.
    2. When you brand yourself, it must be actionable, real and effective.
    3. If you are networking correctly, it’s not about you, it’s about everyone else.
    4. Whatever you write/post/speak about must be relevant and useful for all.
    5. When you post online, you need to actively reach out to your audience.

    I found these tips useful as a way to start thinking about what you are saying, how you are saying it and why you are saying it. For more on branding for women business leaders, please refer to my blogs: “6 Ways Women Business Leaders can Protect their Personal Brand” and “How to Keep Your Personal Brand Intact: 10 Mistakes Women Business Leaders Should Avoid.”

    Steps Women Business Leaders Can Take to Make Diversity a Priority

    September 13th, 2011

    The issue of diversity has been a constant theme throughout my life. I am a proud American citizen, but I did not start my life this way. I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa during the apartheid regime. However, I was raised to believe that all people are born equal and spent many years trying to disassociate myself from my identity as a “white South African.” As a woman business leader, I do not take this issue lightly and am constantly aware of not only the political need for diversity, but also how embracing diversity creates expansion of ideas, creativity and thus produces innovative outcomes.

    In a recent article by former Campbell Soup CEO Douglas Conant, he describes how Campbell Soup embraced diversity and made a commitment to promote acceptance and appreciation for each employee’s special talents and background. I’ve condensed his tips here for you to read and possibly incorporate in your business model:

    1. Confront the brutal facts
      We took a hard look at ourselves. Our products were on the shelves of virtually every American home, but our workforce was insufficiently representative of the diverse people we were serving. If we maintained a narrow recruiting framework, we would be also be missing out on some terrific talent.
    2. Create a disciplined plan
      We challenged leaders to strengthen their understanding. Hiring managers had to make sure that every position had a diverse slate of candidates, and they were held accountable for advancing our performance in this regard.
    3. Declare yourself
      “Be the change you want to see” in your organization, no matter whether you are a middle manager or a CEO. I actively supported our human resources network groups and several novel ideas that came from the nooks and crannies of the organization.
    4. Educate the organization
      We developed a suite of courses, such as “Micro-Inequities” where people learned about common behaviors that could undermine our efforts. We wanted to make sure that people learned to listen, speak and act more inclusively.
    5. Deploy mentors and support networks
      We put in place consistent and sustainable support mechanisms in the form of six human resource networks for women, people of various ethnic backgrounds, generations, and sexual orientations.

    Please see  “How To Make Diversity and Inclusion Real” to read the entire article. I know many companies talk about accepting and embracing diversity, but how many do you think actually do something about it? I’d like to hear what you have experienced in the workplace, so please leave a comment below.