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    3 Websites to Help Women Business Leaders Think Like Innovators

    April 5th, 2012

    If I have learned anything over the years,  it’s that change is inevitable. At times, we are totally at the mercy of the “stuff” that happens to us, whether it’s the economy, the environment or as I have just learned, my recent bout with breast cancer. Each day, we have the opportunity to choose how we react to unforeseen or extenuating circumstances.  And, as women business leaders, it’s essential to assume the innovator role when looking at creating change from within and moving yourself or your company into new territory and uncharted waters. But no matter what the catalyst, I always feel genuine excitement  in precipitating effective change.

    Here are three websites Small Business Trend founder Anita Campbell collected, offering tips that I hope may inspire your business creativity:

    1. Don the Idea Guy
      Don “the Idea Guy” Snyder is an author, speaker and freelance innovation consultant who helps businesses brainstorm and otherwise inspire creativity. His to-the-point blog posts cover a range of topics, such as how good innovators are like Silly Putty and the three roles you can play in any brainstorming session (Pirate, Politician or Painting). These aren’t academic posts you’ll have to wade through—they’re fast reads to give you a jolt of energy in the morning. In fact, one of the nice things about Don the Idea Guy is his focus on not just inspiring you, but actually motivating you to get things done.
    2. Creativity Central
      The man behind Creativity Central, Martin Baker, describes his blog as a “repository for all things creative—creative thinking, innovation, ideas and brainstorming.” A former award-winning creative director who has worked with client companies of all sizes, Baker is also the president of Inotivity, an innovation firm that helps clients accelerate the development of new ideas. If you like Creativity Central, check out the Inotivity blog, where recent posts have included innovation lessons from Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Richard P. Feynman. You can read these posts in 15 minutes or less, but they’ll have you thinking and pondering long after.
    3. Innovation 360 Institute
      This global innovation management consultancy uses systematic innovation methods and leadership development to help companies of all sizes become more innovative. Although Innovation 360 primarily works with businesses that are based or have a presence in the Middle East, its website offers a wealth of knowledge companies anywhere can access to help develop their own innovation strategies. You’ll also find information on related topics such as creativity, business model design, change management and entrepreneurship. You’ll need to set aside some time to get the most from these tools—but the results will be well worth it.

    Innovation is a term that is used frequently,  but not necessarily used correctly. What does innovation mean to you? Please share with us your innovative stories and your business may end up being featured in one of my upcoming blogs.


    Should Women Business Leaders Ask Potential Employees for Social Media Account Information?

    April 1st, 2012

    Social Media has taken communications and information sharing to a whole new level. It has advanced the way we communicate and share ideas — which has greatly enhanced our knowledge base and access to information. But should we as a culture use social media as a tool to extract personal information from those we may want to work with … and then use this information to form potentially biased opinions (whether we think they are or not)?

    Here are some potential pros and cons to “social media profiling” compiled by HR executive Tresha Moreland. As women business leaders, we should consider these issues carefully before requiring job seekers to divulge their social media account information in the interview process:

    Pros:

    • This will enable police, correctional and military agencies to tell if prospective candidates are engaged in unlawful activity, not yet caught.
    • It allows employers to see if a candidate has the propensity to bad mouth customers and/or workplaces.
    • It is easier to keep up-to-date records when people automatically update their social network profiles.

    Cons:

    • Social networking profiles may include information that is unlawful to ask about during an employment screening process, such as gender, age, national origin, and so on.
    • It is no different then asking for someone’s house keys. It could be considered violating an individual’s privacy.
    • A good and legal screening process such as background and reference checks, already in place, is meant to uncover unsavory activity and most importantly convictions.

    On a very personal note: I fled from South Africa in the early 1980s, motivated by my lack of individual privacy and my personal feelings that people should not be judged by the color of their skin. So to me, asking employees for access to their personal Facebook information reeks of “big brother” tactics, and I find this most distasteful.

    What do you think about this?  Should employers ask job seekers for their social network user passwords and account information as a requirement for applying for a job?


    8 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Find More Time for Themselves

    March 30th, 2012

    Susan, a really good friend of mine who is also the editor of a magazine,  has been reading my blogs. This in itself makes me really nervous as she is a wonderful writer and demands excellence in her publication, but she was most intrigued by my advice on balance.

    We sat on the sidewalk sharing a bottle of Pellegrino to discuss my sage wisdom around this subject – me looking to her for comments on my writing and she looking to me for a panacea for creating balance in her life.  I could talk about balance theoretically, but when she probed, as all good journalists do, I realized that in reality my life is sorely lacking balance. What upset me even more was that as I look at my breast cancer as an opportunity to reset and reevaluate my days – I can see I am back in the women business leaders quagmire!

    Once again, I offer advice from a time-management blog by Justine Grey – hoping that I can share with you that this time it worked – I have balance!

    1. Exercise
      Since joining a gym, I’ve fallen back in love with my business, had more energy for my children, and found myself happier throughout the day. I’m more motivated and focused than ever before.
    2. Television
      A great, lazy way to escape the stress of unfinished to-dos and future plans is to watch TV for a few minutes or an hour.
    3. Reading
      Reading will allow you to venture outside yourself and enjoy the pleasures of someone else’s life for a while. You’ll get much more from reading than just escaping—you’ll become a better thinker, writer, and speaker too.
    4. Pursue a passion
      Make a list of the things you’ve wanted to do in life but have never had the chance to explore. My list contains figure skating, tennis lessons, soap making, and pottery classes. What about you?
    5. Attend a retreat
      The benefits of any retreat, regardless if work is involved, is the chance to get away from all other distractions for a week or a weekend and give complete focus to one thing you’d like to improve.
    6. Make mornings calmer
      I really enjoyed reading Inc’s interview with 37signals founder Jason Fried because it offered a glimpse into his interesting life. Jason said: “I try not to grab my phone and check e-mails first thing. I used to do that, and it’s just not good for you. Instead, I’ll go and brew some tea and try and relax a little bit.”
    7. Coffee dates
      I got a taste of freedom one day when I walked my daughter over to preschool and then decided on a whim to head over to a nearby coffee shop until I had to pick her up. Why not schedule in a fun coffee date for yourself as soon as you finish your most pressing matters for today?
    8. Sing it like you mean it
      My entrepreneurial uncle once told me that every time he had a meeting with a client, he would spend the entire drive over with the car radio blasting, singing along at the top of his lungs. My uncle said singing made him feel happier, more confident, and more energized every single time.

    When is the last time you evaluated your life with the intention of finding a way to achieve balance? Have you found it yet? Share your story with us here.


    How Women Business Leaders can Be More Productive and Stop Procrastinating

    March 25th, 2012

    Having gone through a life-altering event like my recent breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, I have come to realize that time is the ultimate commodity.  How you choose to spend your time will shape your memories and obviously shape your lifestyle. It was really scary for me to have to essentially stop my life while I devoted myself to healing. Through my flurry of emotions, I have decided to be present and find meaning in each moment and experience. For me, procrastination is not an option.

    Rachel Karu, founder of a consulting firm in Los Angeles, offers these tips on how to stop procrastinating — and get things done.

    Tune in to your strengths and weaknesses
    Set aside some time to map out which aspects of running a business fall into your line of expertise and which ones don’t. What you consider to be your weaker areas may be reflected in daily operations: If you love making decisions but loathe accounting, chances are your financial chores are among the last to get done. Consider outsourcing tasks that fall outside of your competencies.

    Just say no
    When you feel as if you should do something, but don’t really want to, it’s easy to drop the ball, Karu explains. Before you agree to do something, take time to consider whether the project is really something you’re interested in. If it isn’t, say “no” or ask if someone else can handle the job.

    Understand how long things really take
    In reality, many tasks take longer than we expect. To break this cycle, get a grip on just how long things take. Better yet, schedule extra time: If you think a sales meeting will last two hours, plan for three, Karu suggests. You’ll have a more realistic outlook on what you can accomplish during your day.

    Adhere to a schedule
    Once you’ve estimated how long tasks take, look at a project you’ve been putting off — and work it into your schedule. Next, give yourself a deadline for completing the project. The date looming on your calendar can help spur you to get it done.

    Fight distractions
    When you’re working on something that’s necessary but painful, it can be tempting to check email, help a co-worker, or give in to other distractions. A better plan: Do whatever you dislike the most first thing in the morning for a short period of time, Karu says.

    Following these suggestions can be a challenge, especially the last one. What techniques do you use to fight the urge to procrastinate?


    4 Strategies for Women Business Leaders to Become More Innovative

    March 23rd, 2012

    As a life-long entrepreneur, I have followed a variety of career paths. While I may not have considered myself a woman business leader at the time, as I look back at my choices I can see that I made some pretty progressive decisions early on in my career. At the time, I knew I was discarding the status quo but I would not have actually qualified my decisions as  ”innovative.” I can see now that my penchant for taking calculated risks could be interpreted that way!

    I thought a recent article by Thomas D. Kuczmarski on businesses that are innovative offered some great pointers for business owners and entrepreneurs. Here are some results of his survey of 87 U.S. product and service companies:

    1. An innovation strategy counts
      Sixty-six percent of the successful companies have an explicit innovation strategy that is aligned with the overall corporate strategy. Only 22 percent of the unsuccessful firms have such a strategy.
    2. Focusing on high-risk—but higher-return—innovation matters
      In successful firms, 26 percent of new product and service revenues come from new-to-the-world innovations. Among the unsuccessful, the figure is just 7 percent.
    3. Innovation leadership is central to success
      There is a clearly defined innovation leader in 64 percent of the successful companies; 50 percent of unsuccessful firms have such a leader. The two numbers seem oddly close until you understand that in the successful firms, the innovation leader reports to the CEO in 47 percent of the cases—compared to 15 percent among unsuccessful firms.
    4. The CEO must be the innovation leader
      In 62 percent of the successful firms, the CEO is active in the process of planning new products and services, compared with 30 percent of the unsuccessful firms. The reasons we heard for the failure of new products or services include poor planning and execution, lack of understanding of market needs, and lack of internal support. Overall, fully 68 percent of the reasons given for innovation failure were things that can be controlled by an organization.

    Innovation is a word that is easy and convenient to say. Making it happen is an important leadership role!


    5 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Supercharge Their Businesses

    March 20th, 2012

    I have often blogged about feminism versus femininity – underscoring the need for women to embrace their femininity and all the characteristics that are inherent in our gender. I would like to think that we are operating on level playing field where respect, humility and human kindness transcends the gender gap. Am I dreaming?

    While I feel women have equal opportunities in business, I do think there is always room for improvement. Here are some ways women can ramp up their business acumen from another female entrepreneur, Geri Stengel:

    1. Women need to take more risks
      When women start businesses, they opt for career paths that seem safer and more flexible than running a major corporation. Liz Elting, CEO and founder of global language service provider TransPerfect, advocates another tack: Go for broke when you are young and have nothing to lose. Don’t worry about what your life will be like in 10 years. Dream big and follow your dreams. When your business grows, so do your options for work/life balance.
    2. Women need to get tougher
      Nice girls please people. CEOs have to make tough decisions, from firing people to cutting services. In a man, that’s being strong; in a woman it is seen as being bitchy. “If you want everyone to like you, you will have a hard time doing what is necessary,” Elting says.
    3. Men need to get over themselves
      At home, men must share in household responsibilities, recognizing that their partner’s career is as valuable as their own. At work, men need to be more inclusive. Networking events shouldn’t be just guy things. Deals are done in informal settings after the conference or out of the office — on golf courses and in the corporate box at the ball game. Yes, some women like sports, but a lot are left out of that schmoozing and dealing.
    4. Women need to get over themselves, too
      Whether in peer groups, such as the Women Presidents’ Organization or through mentoring women starting out, women need to support and mentor each other. As Sheila Lirio Marcel, CEO of Care.com says, “We must lift as we climb, bring others along with us and collect talented people as we rise.”
    5. Everyone needs to build more flexible businesses
      Let’s start firms that don’t follow the same old business model; let’s build a model that can accommodate the differing needs of GenY, parents, Type A workers, and those who want to work reduced hours. You can retain and grow talent by being flexible — flexible about taking a year off for family without losing a rung on the career ladder; flexible in working hours; flexible about telecommuting.

    Changes now, in attitudes, awareness, and culture could end the stagnation of small women-led businesses and make them into the economic drivers we need.


    6 Tips for Women Business Leaders to Manage Work-Life Balance

    March 18th, 2012

    As a woman business leader and business owner, my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment has plummeted me into a situation where a work-life balance has become essential. Now, I’m not endorsing waiting for an extreme situation to evaluate how you are spending your time, but if you subscribe to the belief that time is our ultimate commodity – then spend it wisely.

    Here are some tips from writer Jeff Doubeck. Try to follow these important steps and ensure you’re committing yourself to achieve your own work-life balance:

    1. Include personal tasks in your daily priorities – don’t be reactive with your personal time
    2. Set and pursue three to five personal goals at the beginning of each month
    3. Track how you spend your time – finish each day by recording personal activities in your planner or journal
    4. Increase your personal time by cutting back mindless TV and Internet browsing
    5. Minimize your commitments to others
    6. Eat well, sleep well – live healthier and increase your energy levels during off-work hours

    I am passionate about my work so I do not segregate my work from my personal life — but rather strive for a seamless integration. For me,  incorporating my belief system into my work is part of who I am. How do you, as a woman business leader, manage your work-life balance?

     


    Women Business Leaders: Motivate your Team with Authenticity

    March 15th, 2012

    A colleague once asked me, “When did you decide that you wanted to be a leader?” I was quite taken aback by that question because in the first place, I did not think of myself as a leader; and in the second place, I don’t believe that leadership should be self proclaimed but rather earned.

    Carol Rice outlines some great ways to lead your team in business by employing the underlying principle of authenticity.

    1. Listen
      Tune in to what workers and customers are saying, and you’ll find great ideas for how to move forward.
    2. Give credit
      Workers love leaders who acknowledge their ideas.
    3. Be yourself
      In our age of sound bites and phony smiles, tell your story honestly. It’s rare and refreshing, and makes workers feel like they know you — and want to help you succeed.
    4. Communicate
      So much company dysfunction can be prevented with clear communication. Otherwise, workers are in the dark. And soon, they won’t care.
    5. Don’t be trendy
      Avoid the “strategy du jour” problem. Choose a course and stick to it.
    6. Beat anxiety
      Stop worrying and turn your negative emotions — regret, fear, sadness — into teachers that help shape your character.
    7. Be service-oriented
      Leaders can be sort of self-involved, forgetting that they are in a position of leadership. To serve customers, shareholders and workers stay focused on others.
    8. Be accountable
      Define the results you want, and acknowledge when a screw-up is your fault.
    9. Use empathy
      Demographic changes have foisted more and more women into the workplace. Make sure your communication and leadership style is a fit for today’s workforce.
    10. Share the big picture
      If your workers don’t know the company’s overall goals, it can be hard for them to solve problems. That leaves you having to micromanage every problem instead of being able to delegate and offer guidance.
    11. Keep your cool
      The days when being a screamer worked are long gone. If workers are worried about whether you’re in a good mood today or not, little gets done.
    12. Think like an immigrant
      When you arrive on new shores, you often see the business world with fresh eyes. Use your unique perspective to spot opportunities others are missing.

    What leadership traits do you think are the most important? Leave a comment and share your suggestions with us here.


    5 Qualities Women Business Leaders can Cultivate to Become Remarkable

    March 13th, 2012

    In my career as a woman business leader and entrepreneur, I have been recognized by my peers with various awards and accolades. But one of my greatest pleasures is hearing from the people who I have worked with and mentored over the years. It is very rewarding to re-connect  as they share their personal and professional progress with me. From a note about a promotion, a picture from a wedding album, a Facebook request to be a “friend,” or a picture of a first baby – making a difference in someone’s life is quite a thrill!

    Making a difference has become even more important to me after my recent breast cancer “wake-up call.” It has given me the chance to look back on my life and to focus on what is really important.  So, as I think about  my greatest accomplishments,  I am proud that I have always encouraged my team to have a  socially-responsible mindset where each individual feels they are contributing not only to the success of the company but to the overall success of our clients and their causes.

    To encourage your team to be socially responsible, consistently do the five things Jeff Hayden suggests below and everything else will follow. You and your business will benefit greatly and  so will your employees.

    1. Develop every employee
      Sure, you can put your primary focus on reaching targets, achieving results, and accomplishing concrete goals—but do that and you put your leadership cart before your achievement horse. Employees can only achieve what they are capable of achieving, so it’s your job to help all your employees be more capable so they—and your business—can achieve more.
    2. Deal with problems immediately
      Nothing kills team morale more quickly than problems that don’t get addressed. Interpersonal squabbles, performance issues, feuds between departments … all negatively impact employee motivation and enthusiasm.  Plus, when you ignore a problem your employees immediately lose respect for you, and without respect, you can’t lead.
    3. Rescue your worst employee
      Almost every business has at least one employee who just can’t seem to keep up. Before you remove your weak link from the chain, put your full effort into trying to rescue that person instead. Say, “John, I know you’ve been struggling but I also know you’re trying. Let’s find ways together that can get you where you need to be.” Express confidence. Be reassuring. Most of all, tell him you’ll be there every step of the way.
    4. Serve others, not yourself
      You can get away with being selfish or self-serving once or twice … but that’s it. When employees excel, you and your business excel. When your team succeeds, you and your business succeed. When you rescue a struggling employee and they become remarkable, remember they should be congratulated, not you. You were just doing your job the way a remarkable boss should.
    5. Always remember where you came from
      See an autograph seeker blown off by a famous athlete and you might think, “If I was in a similar position I would never do that.” Oops. Actually, you do. To some of your employees, especially new employees, you are at least slightly famous. You’re the boss.

    That’s why an employee who wants to talk about something that seems inconsequential may just want to spend a few moments with you. When that happens, you have a choice. You can blow the employee off … or you can see the moment for its true importance: A chance to inspire, reassure, motivate, and even give someone hope for greater things in their life.

    Do you think the tips above will help you be more aware of how you manage? Let us know what you think in the comments and it might lead to another post with tips on being an inspiring boss from a reader’s perspective.


    3 Ways Women Business Leaders can Embrace Corporate Social Responsibility

    March 9th, 2012

    There is much discussion about  life/work balance for women business leaders. I have found that incorporating personal principles and beliefs into my professional life has been most rewarding. I believe that business entities will benefit from incorporating  and maximizing the opportunity they have to “do good” by taking a strategic approach to social responsibility. I would suggest that women business leaders can lead the way in ensuring that social responsibility is integrated into the very core of the business that you operate  — from your team to your clients – what a great opportunity to lead by example.

    So how can your growing company do good in ways that are also good for business?  Here are some easy-to-incorporate tips from  an article by Lynley Sides:

    1. Tie your brand to your social mission as early as possible
    Start now.  Create a brand that makes people feel good about affiliating with it.

    Cause-conscious consumers and employees see themselves as investing in you, not just exchanging money for products or time for a paycheck. If buying your product makes customers feel good and enhances their identity, you’ll be able to command a price that includes that value. You’ll also set the bar higher for your competitors.

    2. Spread the word
    There are lots of ways to give back. You can:

    • operate sustainably
    • treat people well
    • make environmentally friendly products
    • give to worthy causes

    No matter how you integrate social responsibility into your business, it’s important that you let people know right away. The earlier you communicate social responsibility as important parts of your value proposition, the better job they will do at differentiating your company, and the more value you will build as a result

    3.     Make your customers your partners
    Perhaps the easiest way for most growing companies to be socially responsible is through giving.  And if it’s done right, giving can do more than help good causes and create goodwill. It can drive real value for your business. Consumers are nearly twice as likely to buy or recommend a product if it’s affiliated with a cause they care about. And when they’re empowered and engaged by your brand, they will purchase and become advocates for it, sending their friends and colleagues to buy from you too.

    That’s a win for social good and a win for your business.