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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?


    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.

     


    6 Ways Women Business Leaders can Overcome Negativity

    December 27th, 2011

    We all have endured bad patches in our lives, events that we cannot control and times that we wish we could replay the scene. I recently experienced a series of events that were not what I would have chosen–but the reality was that I had to figure out how to deal with the potholes. I have really been pondering on the “how to” steps to stay positive. As a woman business leader and entrepreneur, I not only want to share my ideas with you but I also hope to become wiser and stronger as I receive your feedback — and hone my own courage skills.

    So in the department of lessons learned, here are my tips for reducing the negativity that seems to be permeating my normally sunny life! My hope is to share what I’ve learned to help others and elevate my own attitude.

    Don’t get caught up in negativity
    Stay conscious and aware that your thoughts are becoming negative. Listen to how you relay your “story” to others – are you assuming a victim role?

    Develop your personal mantras
    I taught Isabella, my two-year-old granddaughter, to say, “Never give up because we are strong, smart and bold.” (A lesson taken from Girl’s Inc.) I am also adding “fabulous” to her speech. These positive affirmations are so important. Create your own and make sure that they are aspirations for how you want to perceive yourself.

    Choose positivity
    You have the ability to make personal choices – be deliberate about staying positive. This is where you become your own advisor – monitor your thoughts and take your time shifting the direction of your thinking.

    Don’t be a victim
    Take command of the situation. Make sure that you are driving the process of what you may be going through. Become part of the decision-making process. Be proactive and know when to let go.

    Keep your sense of humor
    My family uses humor to a fault – at times, it has been quite irritating — but I have to admit that I got the gene, and it has helped me through many situations.

    Focus on lessons learned
    How does this dramatic event in your life add to your personal tapestry, and how can you use this drama to help others?


    5 Social Media Mistakes and How Women Business Leaders Can Avoid Them

    December 6th, 2011

    As savvy women business leaders and entrepreneurs, we know that social media is here to stay. It is no longer a trendy way to engage customers but rather an essential component of any sound communications strategy. New media thought leaders like Brain Solis believe that if businesses are not embracing “disruptive” technology they will be left behind.

    Here’s a list of some common social media mistakes to avoid that I’ve condensed from an article written by Brian:

    1. Showing up isn’t enough
      Customers and prospects are busy, connected and interacting with everybody but you today. This requires an engagement program — that is, a plan for using social media to meet goals — that extends beyond the typical marketing of “follow us on Twitter” or “Like us on Facebook.”
    2. You can’t be everywhere, nor should you
      Many entrepreneurs are excited about technology and they overextend themselves because they want to be part of the latest trend. The key is to only be where your customers, prospects and those who influence them are.
    3. Authenticity and transparency are nothing without a connection
      The two magical ingredients to a successful social media effort are: authenticity and transparency. However, without delivering value, conveying a meaningful mission and vision, or establishing a connect-worthy presence, authenticity and transparency have nothing to reinforce.
    4. Talking to people isn’t a business strategy
      Some people run effective social media programs by listening instead of actually saying anything. But no matter if you converse with customers or not, you must have a purpose before you can engage. Don’t get caught up in only replying to brand mentions. Your real opportunity is to also engage and convert those people not already talking about you.
    5. Keep your core customers tuned in
      Companies believe that uploading a video to YouTube is the key to anything going viral. What they don’t know is 48 hours of video is uploaded every minute to YouTube. The chance of your video going viral naturally is basically nil. Remember, going viral only counts if it impacts your brand. If it creates lift, leaves an imprint or if it drives action or outcomes, that’s when you’re going viral.

    As the owner of a strategic communications firm, I agree with Brian’s comments above. I also believe that as this medium becomes more sophisticated … so should your business approach. For more on social media strategies, see my blog “7 Social Media Tips for Women Business Leaders from 7 Experts.”


    4 Ways Women Business Leaders Excel at Strategic Planning

    December 4th, 2011

    I believe that as women business leaders we should embrace our femininity rather than think of it as a roadblock to success. In my opinion, what could be described as gender weaknesses are actually our strengths—sensitivity, planning, willingness to ask, and at times, to take direction.

    Jenn Houser make some great points in her article, “Why Women are Great Strategic Planners,” demonstrating this observation. I’ve condensed her tips here:

    Make a game plan before you start out
    If you’re planning a business, you need a business plan, and you should write it down. No, I don’t mean you need to write a 40-page document that no one will ever read. However, you should create a 15-page PowerPoint deck that covers each of the key topics essential for any business, including a clear roadmap for how you’re going to build the business out over the first few years.

    Admit what you don’t know
    No one knows everything needed to start and run a business. The trick is to figure out what you already know, what you don’t know, and how you’ll fill in the gaps. For example, when making your business plan, you may realize that the business requires consumer marketing but that you don’t know beans about it. Plan to have a partner who’s an expert.

    Ask for help along the way
    Once you have your plan, you should talk to others for feedback. Good people to talk to are investors in similar companies, people who know your industry well, and your customers. You’ll likely hear a lot of good things, but make sure you listen to their concerns and ask them what they think would work better. They’ll give you all the information you need to get where you’re going.

    Be willing to change your mind
    When you get feedback, be willing to change your plan. This is called pivoting. Don’t worry, this is normal and every start-up changes plans a number of times. However, do not fall prey to the idea du jour. And be willing to say “no” (or “not now”) to some of the feedback you get.

    I’ve blogged before about how I have used my femininity to my advantage in business. Women excel at many things and all we need to do is harness those qualities and talents in ways that make the most of our inherent abilities. Please read my blog, “Women Business Leaders: Use Your Feminine Strengths to Achieve Business Success,” for more on being successful while retaining your femininity.


    12 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Become Recognized Experts

    November 27th, 2011

    Have you ever read a blog or website article authored by an “industry expert,” and wondered how they became an expert? While being a woman business leader and entrepreneur have certainly helped me in my networking and business connections, it wasn’t until I started my blog, became a speaker and joined several select and respected industry trade groups that my “expert” status started to take off.

    While I achieved my status as an after-effect of my business activities, the tips below, from an article by Donald Todrin, will guide you toward becoming an expert using a methodical, step-by-step approach:

    1. Learn about what’s important in your industry today and become current. Every commercial niche has one or more trade magazines. Obtain a few back copies, three at least, and read them cover to cover.
    2. Note the advertisements. These will also tell you what’s new and important to the industry, as well as what the leading businesses are talking about and selling.
    3. Write an article and submit it for publication in one of the industry magazines. This often isn’t as hard as it seems. Once done, you are a published writer in the industry.
    4. Create a website and a blog. Begin to communicate with your market, discussing industry issues and creating an open forum with you as an expert.
    5. Create podcasts (video or audio) based on your blog entries. Post the video on YouTube.
    6. Offer to speak at a local college. Offer a professor or department head the opportunity to have you speak at a forum on a subject relevant to you and the educator’s interest group—at no charge, of course.
    7. Offer a local club, association, or service organization the opportunity to have you speak on a relevant subject – at no charge.
    8. Run your own seminar. This is a smart way to continue to build your credentials.
    9. Become a corporate speaker. Being a public speaker at leading businesses and corporations adds to your credentials.
    10. Send out media releases to the local press. Repeat your credentials and promote your speaking, writing, seminar or whatever you have to promote.
    11. Join a national trade organization for your industry and offer to write a monthly column on interesting aspects of the industry for the organization’s newsletter or magazine.
    12. If you can afford it, give a seminar at your industry’s national trade show. Or have a booth, or get on the board or any committee for the organization.

    Women Business Leaders: 10 Tips for Borrowing Authority From Social Experts

    November 22nd, 2011

    Given the choice of going to a cocktail party or staying home and networking, my inclination would be to socialize at home. Luckily, I am able to write and promote my blog for women business leaders no matter where I am. And now that I have been blogging regularly for over a year, I have penetrated several networks without the essential cocktail in hand!

    These tips from Vicki Flaugher effectively distill some excellent ways (both online and in person) to build, leverage and solidify your expertise and business reputation as well as your relationships.

    1. Write a blog post forwarding an opinion that either differs or supports or augments a well-respected figure in your industry.
    2. Get your picture taken with an industry celebrity at a live event you attend and post it on your social channels.
    3. Interview industry greats and post to YouTube (and your blog), with the correct tags that can add your video to the collective aggregate of videos about the interviewee.
    4. Make a valuable, community-sensitive comment on the blog of an industry heavy and link back to a specific, relevant post on your blog.
    5. Ask an industry heavy to write an endorsement or forward to your book or ebook. Ask behind closed doors and thank publicly when they say yes.
    6. Quote someone with higher street credibility than you have to show your alignment with his/her philosophy. You can do this on your blog, via retweets, or by sharing links from their blog.
    7. Participate in well-traveled niche hash tag Twitter chats where you can be seen with the top industry insiders.
    8. Go outside strictly professional events to connect yourself to industry heavies – philanthropy events, sporting events, and arts patronage events.
    9. Start a fan club (or LinkedIn group, or book club) that intertwines your interests with well-respected professionals who already have a digital platform
    10. Gain a speaking gig at the same event as industry greats so you can honestly say you shared a stage with them.

    Many of these activities will happen naturally, as they did for me. As you become more active in your industry, you’ll find the opportunities are endless. But it never hurts to be proactive!


    Why Women Business Leaders Need to Think Differently for their Businesses to Thrive

    November 20th, 2011

    Change is inevitable. It’s driven by external factors as well as deliberate decisions. My business, a creative communications firm, has been affected by the economy and has been drastically altered by the emergence and integration of technology. We have to continually make reactive and anticipatory decisions that ensure our ability to service our clients. We need to stay ahead of the curve and, in effect, forecast trends. In order to do this, we cannot operate in a vacuum – and as a woman business leader and business owner, I believe that we have to integrate ourselves on all levels to remain viable.

    This Harvard Business Review article brief by Rosabeth Moss Kanter sums up how companies need to think and act differently in order to excel.

    Traditional theories are dominated by the notion of opposition between capital and labor, disconnecting business from society and posing conflicts between them. According to this view, companies are nothing more than money-generating machines.

    • By contrast, great companies use a different operating logic. They believe that business is an intrinsic part of society, and like the family, government, and religion, has been one of its pillars for centuries.
    • Great companies work to make money, but in their choices of how to do so, they consider whether they are building enduring institutions. As a result, they invest in the future while being aware of the needs of people and society.
    • There are six facets of institutional logic, which radically alters leadership and corporate behavior: a common purpose; a long-term view; emotional engagement; community building; innovation; and self-organization.

    Does your organization or firm consider the six facets of institutional logic—listed above in the last bullet point—and integrate them as part of its business plan? What do you “wish” your company would do or change to be a better steward of the future?


    5 Leadership Essentials for Women Business Leaders

    November 15th, 2011

    When I was interviewed for membership in Leadership Florida, a statewide community of leaders dedicated to serving Florida, I was asked when I decided to be a leader. After pondering the question and realizing that I had no answer – it dawned on me that I have never declared myself a woman business leader. Rather, I have embraced the notion and confidence bestowed on me by others. If this makes me a leader – so be it –  but the path has not been intentional as much as it has been organic.

    However, if you are focusing on following the leadership trail, here are some good lessons from Jenna Goudreau, a journalist who has studied and written about some of the world’s most powerful women:

    1. Put Yourself In The Position To Win
      You may not know when an opportunity will arise, but if you’ve prepared and positioned yourself well, you can leverage the luck that comes your way.
    2. Ask For What You Need To Be Successful
      If you’re not going to champion your own career, who do you expect will do it for you? We know that women are less likely to negotiate their salaries, which hugely impacts their earnings, but fighting for your success should not be limited to a salary negotiation.
    3. Be Persistent
      I’ve learned that not only do you have to ask, but you also have to keep asking. In fact, sometimes I believe my primary role as a journalist is to be pleasantly annoying. Quite a few, if not most, of the story ideas I pitch to my editors are rejected.
    4. Have Courage
      I’ve met a lot of smart people. I’ve worked with plenty of talented people. But those who have the courage to walk straight through their fears for work they believe in are the ones who stand out. I now firmly believe that cultivating courage may be the best thing you do for your career.
    5. Aim For Consistency
      The media business is constantly evolving. For today’s journalist, it means becoming a Jane of all trades. I’ve learned that perfection is not the goal. I aim instead for consistency. If I miss a story, make a typo or have a bad hair day, I’m learning to forgive myself.

    For more leadership strategies, see my blogs: “Simple Steps to Becoming a Powerhouse Woman Business Leader,” and “Women Business Leaders: To Be Successful, Stop Worrying and Go with the Flow.”