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Rediscovering the “WHY” behind Corban University

The cherry trees are in bloom along the driveway that winds up the campus hill. Just past historic Shimmel Hall, a clock tower stands like a beacon, guiding groups of students to the Psalm Performing Arts Center for chapel. They amble down the hill from science labs, classrooms, and dorms, carefree despite the backpacks draped over their shoulders filled with microbiology textbooks, study Bibles, and laptops.

When prospective students walk onto Corban University’s campus, this is what they first see: the natural beauty of its location, the historic beauty of its buildings, the up-to-date facilities, and the challenging academic programs. In a sense, these elements comprise Corban’s “product”—these are the elements students’ tuition dollars are paying for. But the product itself isn’t why students come.

According to author and marketing consultant Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” In 2009, Sinek delivered a TED talk titled “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” He began by explaining that influential leaders, marketers, and entrepreneurs have found success because they’ve made one small change in how they process and communicate information.

Most people begin with “what.”

To demonstrate this concept, he drew three concentric circles and labeled the outermost circle “WHAT,” the next circle “HOW,” and the innermost circle “WHY.” He explained that most people process information from outside in. All day long, we process what we are doing. Answering the question “What did you eat for breakfast?” wouldn’t take more than a second’s thought: “I had a piece of toast with almond butter.” Answering the question “How?” would take a bit more thought, as you described the process of making toast. But answering “Why?” (as many parents of small children know) is more elusive, and leads to the realm of values, beliefs, and worldviews. Why did you eat almond butter toast? Is it because you believe the protein will strengthen your body and boost your metabolism? Why do you care about a strong body and high metabolism? Is it because you value health? Meeting society’s standards of attractiveness? Staying active outdoors?

If “what” deals with the visible and factual, “why” deals with the abstract and value-based. And according to Sinek, the “why,” not the “what,” drives human behavior.

Successful leaders begin with “why.”

Although “what” is easier to articulate than “why” (it’s easy to list “what” on an admissions brochure: 15:1 faculty-student ratio! Available scholarships! Top-tier athletics!), successful companies, leaders, and campaigns, Sinek says, begin not with “what” but with “why.”

He gives the example of a typical advertisement for an Apple product. Apple doesn’t start by telling you what product they have; they start by telling you why they exist. “We believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed . . . and user-friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?” Sinek explains that almost every successful leader follows this pattern: Why, how, what. Think about how many commercials you see that don’t show the product—the “what”—until the very end. First, you’re presented with a value a company aligns itself with: a unified family, the beauty of nature, romance. Not until the end do you discover the “what”: Febreze air freshener, the Toyota Prius, Chanel perfume.

It sounds so simple. So why isn’t everyone doing it?

There are a couple of reasons.

It’s incredibly easy to forget why you’re doing something.

The “what” is visible; the “why” is invisible. Too easily, we become distracted by what is visible: new academic programs, new athletic facilities, additional classroom space, endowed scholarships. (To clarify, I’m not saying that the “what” is unimportant, or that we shouldn’t update our facilities. We have a winning track team and no track. That’s a problem. A track and field is a very necessary “what.”) But the “what” should always serve the “why.” We must continuously remind ourselves why we exist. Why does Corban University exist? What do we believe, and what do we value?

“Why” is more difficult to communicate than “what.”

The second reason some leaders struggle to put Sinek’s principle into practice is that, while they may know why they exist, they struggle to communicate it to others. Once again, communicating “what” is easy: an 82-year-old Christian university, on 142 acres, with over 50 academic majors and programs. It’s quantifiable. Communicating “why” is more difficult. And while a mission statement (“To educate Christians who will make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ”) can help articulate a company or institution’s “why” it does so only partially. It’s still abstract, hard to visualize or grasp.

So, how do you ensure not only that you are communicating your “why” clearly, but that you yourself don’t forget why you’re doing what you’re doing?

How to rediscover and communicate your “why”

Perhaps you’ve heard new parents talk about their newborn, complaining about sleepless nights, tantrums, and endless diaper changes. “And then,” they’ll say, “she laughed for the first time, and we remembered why we were doing this.” A similar phenomenon can help you remember the “why” behind what you’re doing—the individual story.

If you were to follow those students heading down the hill toward the Psalm Center, walk through the doors behind them, and take a seat during a chapel service, you would begin to hear students’ stories. They’d tell stories about doubts they’d resolved, challenges they’d overcome, traumatic events they’d healed from, mistakes they’d repented, all the while praising the glory and power of God.

“This,” you’d say to yourself, “is why we’re doing this. This is what we value: godliness of character, true repentance,  and obedience to Christ, glory and praise being given back to God, lives being changed. Stories are what transform an elusive, abstract “why” into something tangible and real.

While Chanel, Toyota, and Febreze have to manufacture stories to express their “why”—that family enjoying a summer barbecue is actually comprised of actors who’ve memorized scripts—institutions like Corban see real people’s stories unfold every day. A young woman who came to Corban as a timid freshman, uncertain about her calling, leaves for Madagascar to work for Mercy Ships. A young man who’d spent years in the military and came to Corban not sure how he’d fit back into academic society is now a business consultant, who shares godly business principles with his clients.

These are the stories you can share to communicate your “why,” to show your prospective clients, students, and investors what you believe and what you value and to make your mission statement real to them. “We’re shaping these young people into young men and women who are confident in Christ, who can engage the culture from a biblical perspective, and who are guided by truth, love, humility, and integrity,” you can say. This is our why. The track field, science labs, qualified faculty, and Pacific Northwest beauty just help us accomplish it.

Author: Simon Sinek
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t Hardcover
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

4 Reasons to Customize your LinkedIn URL

  1. Reinforces a consistent personal brand
  2. Provides an easy to remember and share URL
  3. Increases overall visibility
  4. Improves tech savvy image

Building a durable brand online requires both frequency and consistency and a customized LinkedIn URL is one of the building blocks.

When anyone creates a LinkedIn profile they are assigned default URL. The default URL contains random impersonal letters and numbers. Securing a customized URL is a free feature provided by LinkedIn and the upgrade only takes a few moments to accomplish.

Here are the steps to customize your LinkedIn URL:

1) Log in your LinkedIn profile.
2) Edit your Public Profile (follow this link to the correct page)
3) Edit your Public Profile URL (it’s located in the top right corner of the page)

For the most professional URL, try: If that isn’t available, add your middle initial or industry.

Here’s a more detailed instructional link:


4 Basic Elements of a Positioning Statement

All marketing strategies and tactics need a well-constructed positioning statement to help maintain focus. The positioning statement is for internal use and should not show up in marketing copy. Every brand decision should be judged by how well it supports the positioning statement. These decisions include: brand name, the product or service itself, packaging, advertising, promotions, etc. It’s one of the primary tools for agencies to manage clients and clients to manage agencies.

A positioning statement describes the customer and paints a picture of how you want the market to perceive your brand.

There are four basic elements or components to a positioning statement:

  1. Target Audience – the attitudinal and demographic description of the core prospect. The customers who represents the brand’s most fervent users
  2. Frame of Reference (FOR) – the category in which the brand competes.  Context gives the brand relevance to the customer.
  3. Benefit/Point of Difference (POD) – the most compelling and motivating benefit that the brand can own.
  4. Reason to Believe – the most convincing proof that the brand delivers what it promises.

Template for a Positioning Statement:
For (target audience)(brand name) is the (frame of reference) that delivers (benefit/point of difference) because only (brand name) is reason to believe).

The wording of your positioning statement may vary. But to be effective, it must contain the five main components in brackets above.

Criteria for Evaluating a Positioning Statement

  1.  Is it memorable, motivating, and focused to the core prospect?
  2. Does it provide a clear, distinctive, and meaningful picture of the brand?
  3. Does it differentiate itself from the competition?
  4. Can the brand own it?
  5. Is it credible and believable?
  6. Does it enable growth?
  7. Does it serve as a filter for brand decision making?

What if we rename SWOT to TOWS?

SWOT is one of the most useful tools to conduct a strategic analysis. It is also often misunderstood. The reason has to do with historic development and naming of the tool. SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It was developed by a team at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in the late 1960s.

The idea is to analyze internal capabilities (strengths and weaknesses) combined with the external environment (threats and opportunities). Armed with this analysis, begin to to identify strategic priorities and develop plans to address them.

The developers named their method SWOT. There is an implied hierarchy which encourages the analysis to first assess internal strengths and weaknesses, and then external opportunities and threats. This implied hierarchy has created problems for those who use this tool to drive strategy discussions in teams. In the absence of something to anchor the discussion, an analysis of organizational strengths and weaknesses can become abstract and undirected. Groups often fail in trying to define their organization’s strengths and weaknesses, end up frustrated and exhausted, and so give less attention to critical developments in the external environment.

A more progressive approach is to start with the environment and then analyze the organization. The first step is to assess the organization’s external environment, looking for emerging threats and potential opportunities. This assessment needs people who embedded in the reality of the organization and knowledgeable about its environment.

Having identified potential threats and opportunities, the group is able to better evaluate them with reference to organizational capabilities. Does the organization have weaknesses that make it particularly vulnerable to specific threats? Does the organization have strengths that would permit it to pursue specific opportunities?

The final step is to translate these assessments into a set of strategic priorities, blunting critical threats and pursuing high-potential opportunities. These are then the inputs to a more extensive strategic planning process.

A name change like this will never happen. But we can inject more discipline into the process.



The Great Scandal of Christendom Today – Nominal Christianity

John R.W. Stott was an absolute Christian rock-star. I love how he captured what he calls the “great scandal of Christendom today” caused by us humans not pausing to reflect on the cost of following Christ. May we all pause and have our relationship with Jesus be more than skin deep. He wrote the following in his classic Basic Christianity.

“Jesus never concealed the fact that his religion included a demand as well as an offer. Indeed, the demand was as total as the offer was free. If he offered men his salvation, he also demanded their submission. He gave no encouragement whatever to thoughtless applicants for discipleship. He brought no pressure to bear on any inquirer. He sent irresponsible enthusiasts away empty. Luke tells of three men who either volunteered, or were invited, to follow Jesus; but no one passed the Lord’s test. The rich young ruler, too, moral, earnest and attractive, who wanted eternal life on his own terms, went away sorrowful, with his riches intact but with neither life nor Christ as his possession…The Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of derelict, half built towers—the ruins of those who began to build and were unable to finish. For thousands of people still ignore Christ’s warning and undertake to follow him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so. The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, so called “nominal Christianity.” In countries to which Christian civilization has spread, large numbers of people have covered themselves with a decent, but thin, veneer of Christianity. They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved, enough to be respectable but not enough to be uncomfortable. Their religion is a great, soft cushion. It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life, while changing its place and shape to suit their convenience. No wonder the cynics speak of hypocrites in the church and dismiss religion as escapism…The message of Jesus was very different. He never lowered his standards or modified his conditions to make his call more readily acceptable. He asked his first disciples, and he has asked every disciple since, to give him their thoughtful and total commitment. Nothing less than this will do”


Mother Goose Rhymes Teach Humility

I have been reading Joe Stowell’s book Redefining Leadership and was struck by the interpretation he made regarding the well known Mother Goose nursery rhyme, Little Jack Honer.  It has leadership implications along with our need to be humble. May I not be like Jack Horner.


Little Jack Horner
sat in a corner
eating a Christmas pie.
He put in his thumb
and pulled out a plum
and said, “What a good boy am I!”

“So what is Jack doing sitting in the corner? The corner is usually reserved for boys who have not been good. On top of that, he is sitting in the corner with an entire pie on his lap. I have never known a mother to give her son a whole pie! Could it be that Jack has stolen the pie from the kitchen? And what, may I ask, is Jack doing with his fingers in the food? If you really think about the rhyme, Jack isn’t a good boy at all. But he doesn’t see himself that way. He thinks he is a good boy. Worse yet, he takes the credit for the plums. Most likely, it was his mother who went out to pick the plums, washed and sliced them, and put them in the pie.
Sometimes I wonder if this is how God sees us when we celebrate ourselves and fail to give him the glory that is due to his name. Every day, you and I live, eat, breathe, and work because of and by means of the grace of God in Jesus. Everything we have is a gift we don’t deserve — yet like Jack, we take credit for it all, thinking our goodness has earned it, thinking that we deserve it.”


Why Students Need to Sit Up and Pay Attention

Our charters are guided by what I learned from a great public-school teacher: Distracted, misbehaving children aren’t learning.

Success Academy Charter Schools, New York City’s largest network of free charter schools, has recently been the center of controversy over its policies on student behavior. Our critics accuse us of pushing out children who might pull down our test scores, and in doing so creating what some call “a kindergarten-to-prison pipeline.” In reality, our attrition rates are lower than those of the district schools. How then do our students, chosen by lottery and mainly children of color, routinely outperform even students from wealthy suburbs?

I wish I could claim that I’ve developed some revolutionary pedagogical approach at Success, but the humbling truth is this: Most of what I know about teaching I learned from one person, an educator named Paul Fucaloro who taught in New York City district schools for four decades.

When I founded Success Academy in 2006, I hired Paul to coach our teachers. I soon learned that while he was quite instructionally sophisticated, Paul was decidedly old school on the topic of student behavior. Every child had to sit up straight and show he was paying attention.

I wasn’t completely sold on Paul’s approach at first, but when one of our schools was having trouble, I’d dispatch him to help. He’d tell the teachers to give him a class full of all the kids who had the worst behavioral and academic problems. The teachers thought this was nuts but they’d do so, and then a few days later they’d drop by Paul’s classroom and find these students acting so differently that they were nearly unrecognizable. Within weeks, the students would make months’ worth of academic progress.

Teachers couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. But Paul did it over and over again. And incredibly, the kids seemed to love Paul more than the teachers who were far less strict.

So what did he do? Well, imagine that a man to whom you’re speaking at a party is looking over your shoulder. You’ll suspect he isn’t really listening. The same is true of kids. Their physical behavior reflects their mental state. Therefore, Paul set behavioral expectations to reflect the mental state he insisted his students have.

Paul’s students had to sit with hands clasped and look at whomever was speaking (called “tracking”). They couldn’t stare off into space, play with objects, rest their head on their hands in boredom, or act like what Paul called “sourpusses” who brought an attitude of negativity or indifference to the classroom. Paul made students demonstrate to him that at every single moment they were focused on learning.

He also had more sophisticated techniques. He’d call on students randomly rather than ask for hands, so students had to prepare an answer for every question he asked. He made students repeat or comment on what their classmates said to make them listen carefully to one another. And he’d never repeat what a child said, as most teachers do, because—besides wasting precious time—it suggested to students that they didn’t have to listen to one another, only to the teacher.

These practices ensured that while only one student could talk at a time, every child was continually engaging in what Paul called “active listening,” meaning thinking critically and preparing to participate if called upon.

Success Academy in large measure uses Paul’s approach, and that is much of the reason why we have schools where more than 95% of the students pass the state math tests in neighborhoods where on average fewer than 20% of students do.

Some critics find our approach rigid and overbearing. I’ve got two of these critics in my own home: my kids, who attend Success. They complain when they get into trouble for not tracking the speaker. They were listening, they protest. Maybe so. But sometimes when kids look like they’re daydreaming, it’s because they are, and we can’t allow that possibility.

As Paul repeatedly preached to me, it’s morally wrong to let a child choose whether to pay attention, because many will make the wrong choice and we can’t let them slip through the cracks. So if a student had trouble paying attention, he’d move him to the front of the class, call his parents, keep him after school to practice. Whatever it took. Paul was relentless.

Some critics say that it’s hard for young children to focus. True. But it’s our job to teach them this. Recently, I was at a news conference at which I was asked why Success has strict rules regarding behavior. As I answered, the reporters didn’t stare off into space, look bored or fiddle with things. Because they were focusing. A school that fails to teach students this necessary skill isn’t doing right by them.

People have understandably expressed concern that some students may have particular trouble meeting our behavioral expectations and ask why we can’t simply relax them. The answer is that Success Academy’s 34 principals and I deeply believe that if we lessened our standards for student comportment, the education of the 11,000 children in our schools would profoundly suffer.

In my case, that belief has nothing to do with any ideological predisposition or pet pedagogical theory. I came to it only because Paul Fucaloro—the most gifted educator I’ve ever met, who spent four decades honing his craft before retiring last year—showed me that it works.

Ms. Eva Moskowitz is the founder and chief executive officer of Success Academy Charter Schools.


10 Secret Communication Skills of the Best Leaders – #QuantumLeaders

Poor communication trickles down through organizations and costs large companies a whopping $9.3 billion, or $26,000 per employee. Meanwhile, organizations across the country spend billions of dollars a year on leadership training, with results that are often short-lived. Research conducted by Hogan and colleagues even suggests that half of all leaders are “derailed,” costing their companies upward of $1 million each.

What sets apart extraordinary leaders from lackluster ones? What do the most respected leaders have in common? Research shows that leaders spend more than 75 percent of their time communicating, and extraordinary leaders have developed unique communication skills as part of their personal leadership practices. And, to top it off, business scholars frequently cite communication competency to be the single most important leadership skill for executives.

If these statistics are true, then communication seems to be an essential element of leadership. But what makes communication so difficult? What are the critical communication secrets that stellar leaders possess? What are the leadership practices they use consistently? These are the questions I’ve obsessed with as I’ve worked alongside and coached top executives at Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurs alike. The answers reflect both science and art. I have distilled practices of superb leaders who are highly self-aware, flexible, adaptable, and balanced between chaos and stability. I dub these men and women Quantum Leaders, and most of them go on to become truly extraordinary leaders. They are acutely aware that they must first manage themselves to achieve successful communication with others. The first five skills relate to managing self and the next five skills to managing relationships.

1. They choose beliefs that lead to positive mental models – Quantum Leaders understand how their choices lead to their emotional experience of the world and their mental state. If they choose to believe they are a victim, they will feel helpless and alienate others by making them feel guilty. If they choose to believe they are inadequate, they feel depressed, disengage from others, and lack confidence. By choosing positive mental models about themselves, top executives draw on the brain’s extraordinary capacity to deliver on our beliefs and create positive outcome.

2. They rely on the wisdom of their body – Quantum Leaders have developed a high level of emotional awareness and can correctly identify the sensation and location of an emotion in their body. Emotions are intricately linked with physiological sensations. When we are unaware, our emotions and bodies are separated, which creates discomfort or confusion. Top executives recognize this discomfort, can trace it to the source, and resolve the conflict. They consciously nurture the personal awareness necessary to communicate effectively.

3. They are fearless about being authentic – Quantum Leaders courageously open themselves up to others. It takes equal measures of confidence and humility to be vulnerable. Vulnerability in turn creates safety, liberating the organization from battles for survival to help everyone unleash innate creativity, drive, and self-organization. Top executives refuse to hide behind polite discomfort, creating safety for others to openly offer differing views.

4. They never blame or accuse others – Quantum leaders take responsibility for their emotions. They’ve developed enough emotional awareness to recognize that the “You make me so x” statement is a folly. Therefore, they never blame others for how they feel. As masters of their emotions, they consciously decide how they will feel and how they will react. By practicing focused awareness, Quantum Leaders avoid blaming and accusing others by not projecting onto others their own leftover negative mental models from past experiences..

5. They are grounded and centered – Quantum Leaders are a constant, much like a 300-year-old oak tree that’s not uprooted by the strongest of storms. When listening, they don’t get triggered by assigning their own meaning to what others say and react automatically. They can imagine what it must be like for the other person by stepping into his or her moccasins. At the same time, they are comfortable in their own skin and therefore do not attempt to please others. When others express their needs, the Quantum Leader doesn’t turn it around and make it about him or her. When a team member states, “I don’t feel fulfilled in my job,” the Quantum Leader doesn’t hear, “You are a bad leader.” Instead, they hear, “I need help.” This ability to be grounded creates safety for others and allows each person’s reality to exist with equal merit..

6. They are unapologetic about their boundaries – Quantum Leaders know where they end and others begin. They don’t feel guilty about articulating their needs clearly. They don’t try to please others at the expense of their own self-respect. At the same time, they are equally respectful of others’ needs. They don’t encroach others’ boundaries and take them for granted or expect more than what proper boundaries warrant. They are highly differentiated, and they respect the unique perspectives of others and diversity of thought, which is essential for empowering others to unleash their innate self-organizing nature..

7. They listen for the emotion behind the words – Quantum Leaders don’t pay as much attention to the words themselves as they do to the emotion behind the message. Identifying the underlying emotion eliminates the defense or pretenses and helps them quickly cut through all the noise that stands between them and the core issues at play..

8. They are curious, not judgmental – While listening for emotions, Quantum Leaders are open to and curious about all possibilities. If a colleague comes across as irrational, ridiculous, or overreacting, they become curious and carefully explore what is happening without jumping to a conclusion. They know that judgment shuts off avenues for important discovery and learning. During this discovery, they can put aside their own emotions and pay focused attention. They can emphatically imagine what must have happened for someone to create the reality that comes across as irrational, and they can validate that reality for that person..

9. They see patterns – Quantum Leaders have one ear on what others are saying (content) and the other on the interaction pattern (process). They are constantly scanning themselves, other people, and processes to identify patterns and changes in the patterns. They can step outside the termite mound and look at it. Through this constant, unbiased observation, these extraordinary executives notice early indicators of an underlying issue. They then use their judgment-free curiosity to discover the source and manage it proactively..

10. They create safety and belonging – Quantum Leaders know their most important job is to create safety and belonging in their organization, which sets members free to unleash their innate creativity, innovation, passion, and drive on the basis of self-organization. Whether delivering an address to the entire organization–or within a one-on-one meeting–Quantum Leaders convey a sense of community. They nurture their people under their wings. Top executives create a culture that does not tolerate behaviors that threaten that sense of safety and belonging, such as bullying, kingdom building, or favoritism.


Contributed By: Sunnie Giles, founder and president of Quantum Leadership Group–a firm that provides executive coaching and leadership training.



24 Most Successful Leaders – Commencement Speeches

Graduates today are entering a workplace more competitive and threatening than ever. As they graduate, after years of significant investment, Students face more questions than answers.

Where to turn? LinkedIn  asked top professionals, from Fortune 500 CEOs to media icons what the graduates needs to succeed. They explain everything from how to create your own company to how to overcome what seems like constant rejection from employers, because they’ve all done it before, and succeeded wildly.

Jim Kim, President at The World Bank

“I’m sure many of you are more than a little concerned about what the future will bring. I just want to say to you today that not only is your future uncertain, but the overwhelming likelihood is that it’s far more uncertain than you think.

“Uncertainty means that nothing is predetermined. Uncertainty means that the future is yours to shape — with the force of your will, the force of your intellect, and the force of your compassion. Uncertainty is freedom. Take that freedom and run with it. And make sure to fuel up with glucose along the way.”

Part of the commencement address delivered at Northeastern University in Boston in May 2013.

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group

“The best advice I could give any graduate is to spend your time working on whatever you are passionate about in life. If your degree was focused upon one particular area, don’t let that stop you moving in another direction. If college hasn’t worked out for you, don’t let that put you off.

“You may decide to take a break and consider your options. I would urge you to travel, take on new experiences and draw upon those when it comes to making the decisions that will shape your future. The amount of business ideas that people pick up from traveling the world is enormous.”

Arianna Huffington, president and Editor-in-Chief at The Huffington Post Media Group

“Commencement speakers are traditionally expected to tell graduates how to go out there and climb the ladder of success, but I want to ask you, instead, to redefine success. Because the world you are headed into desperately needs it. And because you are up to it … what I urge you to do is not just take your place at the top of the world, but to change the world.

“But it’s time for a third metric, beyond money and power — one founded on well-being, wisdom, our ability to wonder, and to give back. Money and power by themselves are a two legged stool — you can balance on them for a while, but eventually you’re going to topple over. And more and more people, very successful people, are toppling over. Basically, success the way we’ve defined it is no longer sustainable. It’s no longer sustainable for human beings or for societies.”

Part of the commencement address delivered at Smith College in May 2013.

Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of GE

“Success in the 21 century will come to those that that can get in front of the trends, move quickly, innovate, and work together to deliver results. And our ability to contribute to the century in which we live will come down to our willingness and ability to do five things: Change,Learn, Risk, Persist, Lead.

“We can’t wait for the economy to stabilize. We can’t wait for a time when there is more certainty. It used to be that you only had to manage momentum. Today, you have to create your own future. And that means change.”

Part of the commencement address delivered at the University of Connecticut’s Graduate School in May 2013.

Jacki Zehner, CEO Women Moving Millions

“Whatever you choose to do, whatever the level of responsibility you have, commit to learning all you need to in order to do a job well. If given the opportunity to leap into something bigger, leap. Before you do, know who your boss will be and make sure she will be committed to your further development. Be in touch with your values and live them out in your work.

“Lastly be both reflective and self-aware, which will lead you to the career you were meant to pursue, whatever that may be. In all of this, add a touch of superhero, which means caring about and for others. Hold yourself to the highest possible standard. By doing that, I promise success is inevitable.”

Scott Belsky, co-founder and head of Behance, VP Products – Community at Adobe

“We’re obsessed with the Present Tense. We want real-time information — all up to the minute — just because we can … by constantly tuning into what is happening with others, we’ve become less aware of what’s happening to us.

“I would go as far as saying that the loss of presence is our greatest hurdle in the modern day when it comes to living the life we aspire to. But on the flip side, learning to manage this 21st century challenge may be the most important thing you can do. Your greatest opportunity to succeed professionally and personally will be your ability to make the most of presence – of the here and now – amidst a non-stop world of constant connection and overwhelming amounts of stimulation.”

Esther Dyson, chairman at HICCup

“I’ve always tried to take jobs that I would have done for free… After Forbes, I spent five years learning the ins and outs of Wall Street as a securities analyst. Once I felt I understood the business, I left. To me at least the companies were much more interesting than their stock movements. I took a paycut to join Ben Rosen, also a former Wall Street analyst, who had a newsletter and a conference focused on the emerging personal computer market.

“So, as you consider your own career, don’t think so much about what you want to do as about what you can learn. For example, when I had the choice between working in the library at Merrill Lynch and heading the one-person (i.e. me) research department at New Court Securities … the moral: Always choose more responsibility in a small firm over less responsibility in a larger. You’ll get to do more and learn more … and if the firm is growing, you may well grow with it.”

Emily Chang, host of “Bloomberg West”

“It sounds obvious, but my advice is: Don’t pursue a career because you think you should or because you think it will make you rich. It only means you’ll have less time to try to find something you love down the road. Rather than doing what you think you should do first, make what you really want to do Plan A.

“If it doesn’t work out, you can always move on to Plan B. But, if you are lucky enough to find something you love, chances are better you’ll be good at it, you’ll make money doing it, it will lead to new and exciting opportunities, and you’ll most certainly be happier. Take the big risks now. Take that leap of faith now. It only gets harder to take risks and leaps further down the line.”

Guy Kawasaki, advisor at Motorola Mobility

1. Pusue joy, not happiness. Pursuing joy, not happiness will translate into one thing over the next few years for you: Study what you love. This may also not be popular with parents.

2. Challenge the known and embrace the unknown. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in life is to accept the known and resist the unknown. You should, in fact, do exactly the opposite: challenge the known and embrace the unknown.

3. Don’t get married too soon. I don’t know one person who got married too late. I know many people who got married too young. If you do decide to get married, just keep in mind that you need to accept the person for what he or she is right now.

4. Play to win and win to play. “If you are going to fail, you might as well fail at a difficult task. Failure causes others to downgrade their expectations of you in the future. The seriousness of this problem depends on what you attempt.”

Part of a baccalaureate speech, delivered to Palo Alto High School June 11, 1995.

Geoff Yang, board member at TasteMade

“Life is short. As you embark on the rest of your life, consider what you want it to be like and what you want to accomplish. Pretend for a moment that rather than graduating, starting your career, and moving on toward the rest of your life, you are at the end of it.

“How would people remember you, as both a person and a professional? Write your eulogy now. Think about how you want to be remembered by your family, friends, and colleagues. Let this shape you.”

Wendy Kopp, founder for Teach For America

“Today I want to try to take some of the pressure off by debunking a few of the myths that I’ve encountered and heard so often. I’m completely confident that if you start now and ignore the hype, there’s no problem your generation can’t solve:

1. The first myth is that changing the world is about coming up with a big idea. “Larry Page and Sergey Brin didn’t set out to revolutionize the Web. They were just Stanford graduate students trying to figure out how to prioritize library searches online. … so if you’re waiting for your Eureka moment to get started — don’t. Or you’ll be waiting a long time.”

2. Myth number two is that having an impact is about being first … what our world really needs is more copy cats.

3. The final myth about changing the world is that it’s better to wait until you have more experience. The world needs you before you stop asking naïve questions, and while you have the time to understand the true nature of the complex problems we face and take them on. Don’t put your desire to change the world on hold. Start now.

Part of the commencement address delivered at Boston University on May 19, 2013.

John Batelle, founder and CEO of Federated Media Publishing

“My advice to you, insofar as I can give any, is simple: Hold onto this feeling you have right now. Rinse and repeat as often as you can. Get used to it but don’t take it for granted — it’s how the world is evolving. Every few years, if you’re not leaping into a new project, a new and challenging startup, or a new challenge at a larger company, then you’re not really exercising the skills you all so clearly demonstrated with your Masters projects.

“The world wants more projects like yours, and it stands ready to fund them, tweak them, embrace them, and inspire you to build them again and again.”

Joel Peterson, Chairman, JetBlue Airways

“As you leave the world of campus life, classes and final exams, things will get a lot less simple – fast. Beyond college’s neatly-drawn borders, you’ll get used to wrestling with many kinds of contradiction, paradox and duality.

“Here are a few ideas that may help you to embrace life’s opposing forces, to confidently navigate the next phase of your journey:

1. Setting goals is vital; ignoring them is key. Don’t do anything that matters without first setting a goal.

2. Master the rules; master breaking them. Know the details – cosmic and quantum – of how your business or field works. That knowledge will enable you to spot the most glaring weaknesses in the old model, so you can be the person to create a new one.

3. Soar and “strafe.” Agility in moving from big to small and back again allows you to stay flexible, and to keep strategy in line with tactics.

4. Be generous and self-interested. Make your self-interest of the long-term variety and try to forgive others who are more concerned with what they can get right away.

5. Trust, and expect betrayal. If you never get burned, maybe you’re not lighting enough fires.

Maria Shriver, author and activist

“It’s like what we’re doing at this precise moment doesn’t even exist. Everyone is focused on the next thing. Everyone is racing to the Next Thing. Well, I got caught up in that for a really long time — so much so, that I could never really enjoy what I WAS doing, because I was always worried about what I was going to be doing.

“It’s like what we’re doing at this precise moment doesn’t even exist. Everyone is focused on the next thing. Everyone is racing to the Next Thing. Well, I got caught up in that for a really long time — so much so, that I could never really enjoy what I WAS doing, because I was always worried about what I was going to be doing.”

Part of the commencement address delivered at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School on May 11, 2013. 

Michael Fertik, CEO at and Owner,

“Starting a company is hard, and it always involves difficulty and failures. All new companies — tech startups, restaurants, hardware stores — are in a permanent state of risk for quite some time. That’s why this intersection of expertise and enthusiasm is an essential lifeblood for your new venture; when the chips are down, this is the juice you’re gonna need to get up and keep going.

“Remember, when the going gets rough — and it will — you need every ounce of extra power to be able to get up in the morning and dominate your day.”

Charlene Li, founder Partner at Altimeter Group

“Silicon Valley is filled with people questioning authority — it’s the foundation for what we call the “hacker” mindset, where you are dedicated to finding a better way to do something. But in Silicon Valley, we don’t just innovate — that’s too safe and frankly, too slow.

“Instead, we disrupt and set our sights on upsetting entire ecosystems. To challenge authority is to dream of a better future, and I for one, love that the people in technology pick really big authority figures to question.”

Dan Sanker, president & CEO at CaseStack, Inc.

“If you really want to ‘be anything you want be,’ it’s not enough to just do what you love. There are lots of talented people in the world; those who succeed will be multi-functional, collaborative, motivated and perpetually inquisitive.

“There are many ways to measure success in this life. Hopefully, it’s a no-brainer that you’re supposed to leave the world a better place than you found it. Otherwise, you shouldn’t be graduating anything.”

“But, I know that more than a few graduates have the practicalities of careers and finances on their minds on graduation day. On that note; I would say, Work hard. Moreover, I doubt the folks at the top of the big money lists spent time burning through the pages of: ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ or ‘Really Fast Money.’ ”

Justin Rosenstein, co-founder of Asana

“As I have done more personal growth and studied the nature of man as a social animal, I realized that the way we achieve deep satisfaction and joy is ironically by giving of ourselves. And I don’t mean giving of yourselves all day all the time. There is an inhale and there is an exhale. I spend about half of life being a hedonist, and about half of my life contributing back, trying to do everything I can to help others to manifest love in the world, and to try to reduce suffering and create joy and explore consciousness, but in partnership with all sentient beings.

“We’ve looked at different ways that you could, given a very ambitious vision, work with a team of people or even just be the leader of yourself to have these different tools and techniques and tactics to be able to work more efficiently, work more effectively, be able to achieve these visions.”

Jon Steinberg, president and COO at BuzzFeed

“The only business advice I was given that proved useful was about how to treat people, operate, and behave, and it was not ever given in the form of advice — I just observed it in my mentors.

“For example, I learned that once I stated an offer or price, I was stuck with it regardless of whether or not I changed my mind; that my word is my bond. I learned that without your reputation you basically have nothing in business. I learned that you need to be straight and direct with people even when it make you uncomfortable. I would later hear Bill Campbell describe this as being ‘kind and direct.’ I have a list of things like this that I learned from my mentors. I am forever indebted to them.

T. Boone Pickens, founder and CEO at BP Capital and TBP Investments Management

“I gave the commencement address to the graduating class at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Virginia when my grandson, Alexander Cordia, was a member of the Class of 2007. “Before we go to lunch, I want to make you a thought provoking offer,’ I said. ‘I hope you realize where you are in life today. You have the best seat in the house. I would trade you everything I have for it.’ “

” ‘My Gulfstream airplane. My 68,000-acre ranch. I would gladly give it all to anyone of you to be where you are sitting right now. There’s only one catch. If you make the trade, you have to be 79 and I get to be 18 again.’ ”

“In the end I got no takers. They all decided that no amount of wealth could persuade them to change places with a man about to turn 80 … the truth is it was a bad deal … for them. I would have traded it all for another shot at 18.”

Adam Lashinsky, Sr. Editor at Fortune Magazine

“When you read the professional bios of successful people, keep in mind that they are written in a way intended to fool you. As you ponder one triumph after another you can be forgiven for thinking that one success flowed easily into the next. Life doesn’t work that way. It is almost always three steps forward, one step back—if you’re lucky. Don’t be discouraged by this.”

“Be informed. My first boss advised me not to come into work without having read The Washington Post. It was good advice. Get out of our comfort zone. ‘You are only young once’ is even more true than ‘youth is wasted on the young.’ Don’t waste it. Do things you won’t have the opportunity to do when you’re older, more settled and have more responsibilities than you can imagine today.”

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist

“If you can, stick with small companies, no more than 150 people. At that size, there’s a strong tendency for folks to strive for promotion and power, rather than getting the job done.

“There are exceptions, like Google, where they’re working hard building a new kind of large corporation culture, but that’s the exception … big or small company, you’re responsible for your own career, and a really big part of that is how you’re perceived. You really do have a personal brand, and in a small way, you’re a media thing. That means lots of work on Facebook, Twitter, and internal social media. Your boss might help you out, and maybe not.”

Ilya Pozin, founder of Ciplex Inc.

“Simply having a college degree will not get you hired. We need to break away from this idea. In all reality, most employers could care less about your GPA or where you went to school. Today, getting hired in entry-level positions requires experience and fine-tuned skills, not a 4.0 GPA. This probably isn’t what most new grads want to hear, but it’s the truth.

“So the real question for new graduates to consider is this: What can you bring to the table that makes you worth hiring? Here’s some food for thought for those entering the workforce:

1. Your degree isn’t a golden ticket.

2. It’s all about experience.

3. Passion will help you succeed.

4. Companies hire the person who is certain to cause the most positive impact.

5. Go the extra mile.

Adam Bryant, Corner Office columnist at The New York Times

“The CEO [I interviewed] who best hit the sweet spot for me — packing a world of wise advice into a memorable expression — was Joseph Plumeri, the CEO of Willis Group Holdings when I interviewed him in 2009 (he’s now non-executive chairman).

“His tip? ‘Play in traffic.’ Yes, it’s the opposite of the stern warning we all heard from our parents when we were younger. I’ll let Plumeri explain, in this excerpt from our interview :

“Everything that I have done I’ve done because I went out and I played in traffic and something happened … it means that if you go push yourself out there and you see people and do things and participate and get involved, something happens.”

by: Vivian Giang and Max Nisen

How to Never Get Angry: 3 New Secrets From Neuroscience

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They’re one inch from your face, boiling with rage, screaming and yelling at you. And all you want to do is scream and yell back. But you know that’s not going to be good for anyone… I’ve talked before about how to deal with others who are angry and irrational, but how can you control those emotions in yourself? Looking at the neuroscience, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.

So let’s dig into the research on how to get rid of anger, what you’re doing wrong, how to do it right and how it can make you and those around you much happier…

Suppressing Anger Is Rarely A Good Idea

You grit your teeth and hold it in: “I’m fine.

The good news is suppression works. You can bottle up your feelings and not look angry. However…

It’s almost always a bad idea. Yes, it prevents the anger from getting out, but when you fight your feelings they only get stronger.

Via The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking:

…when experimental subjects are told of an unhappy event, but then instructed to try not to feel sad about it, they end up feeling worse than people who are informed of the event, but given no instructions about how to feel. In another study, when patients who were suffering from panic disorders listened to relaxation tapes, their hearts beat faster than patients who listened to audiobooks with no explicitly ‘relaxing’ content. Bereaved people who make the most effort to avoid feeling grief, research suggests, take the longest to recover from their loss.

When you try to stop yourself from crying, the tears aren’t cathartic. You don’t feel better afterward.

And anger is no different. What happens in the brain when you try to clamp down on that rage? A whole mess of bad stuff.

Your ability to experience positive feelings goes down — but not negative feelings. Stress soars. And your amygdala (a part of the brain closely associated with emotions) starts working overtime.

Via Handbook of Emotion Regulation: 

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…experimental studies have shown that suppression leads to decreased positive but not negative emotion experience (Gross, 1998a; Gross & Levenson, 1993, 1997; Stepper & Strack, 1993; Strack, Martin, & Stepper, 1988), increased sympathetic nervous system responses (Demaree et al., 2006; Gross, 1998a; Gross & Levenson, 1993, 1997; Harris, 2001; Richards & Gross, 2000), and greater activation in emotion-generative brain regions such as the amygdala (Goldin, McRae, Ramel, & Gross, 2008).

And here’s what’s really interesting: when you suppress your feelings, the encounter gets worse for the angry person, too.

You clamp down on your emotions and the other person’s blood pressure spikes. And they like you less. Studies show that over the long haul this can lead to lousy relationships that aren’t as rewarding.

Via Handbook of Emotion Regulation:

Socially, experimental studies have reported that suppression leads to less liking from social interaction partners, and to an increase in partners’ blood pressure levels (Butler et al., 2003). Correlational studies support these laboratory findings. Individuals who typically use suppression report avoiding close relationships and having less positive relations with others; this dovetails with peers’ reports that suppressors have relationships with others that are less emotionally close (English, John, & Gross, 2013; Gross & John, 2003; Srivastava, Tamir, McGonigal, John, & Gross, 2009).

And fighting your feelings uses a lot of willpower. So afterwards you have less control and that’s why you’re more likely to do things you regret after you’re angry:

…bad moods foster risk taking by impairing self-regulation instead of by altering subjective utilities. Studies 5 and 6 showed that the risky tendencies are limited to unpleasant moods accompanied by high arousal; neither sadness nor neutral arousal resulted in destructive risk taking.

(To learn how to win every argument, click here.)

Now some of you might be saying, “I knew bottling it up was bad! You should let that anger out!


Don’t Vent Your Anger

So you punch that pillow. Or yell and rant about the encounter to a friend. Not a good idea.

Venting your anger doesn’t reduce it. Venting intensifies emotion.

Via Handbook of Emotion Regulation:

…focusing on a negative emotion will likely intensify the experience of that emotion further and thus make down-regulation more difficult, leading to lower adjustment and well-being.

Sharing your feelings with others constructively is a good idea but “getting it out” tends to snowball your anger.

What does work? Distracting yourself. But why would distraction help?

Because your brain has limited resources. Thinking about something else means you have less brainpower to dwell on the bad stuff:

Research suggests it is because both cognitive tasks and emotional responses make use of the same limited mental resources (Baddeley, 2007; Siemer, 2005; Van Dillen & Koole, 2007)… That is, the resources that are used to perform a cognitive task are no longer available for emotional processes. Accordingly, people can rid themselves from unwanted feelings by engaging in a cognitive activity, such as doing math equations (Van Dillen & Koole, 2007), playing a game of Tetris ( Holmes, James, Coode-Bate, & Deeprose , 2008)…

You know that famous marshmallow test?

Experimenters put a kid alone in a room with a marshmallow. If the child can resist eating it, they get two marshmallows later. The kids who succeeded in waiting went on to achieve better grades and more success in life. (They also stayed out of jail.)

Now this study has been covered a lot, but what they don’t usually talk about is how the successful kids avoided temptation; how they reduced those powerful emotions screaming, “EAT THE MARSHMALLOW NOW!!!”

They distracted themselves. Walter Mischel, who led the famous study, explains.

Via The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control:

Successful delayers created all sorts of ways to distract themselves and to cool the conflict and stress they were experiencing. They transformed the aversive waiting situation by inventing imaginative, fun distractions that took the struggle out of willpower: they composed little songs (“This is such a pretty day, hooray”; “This is my home in Redwood City”), made funny and grotesque faces, picked their noses, cleaned their ear canals and toyed with what they discovered there, and created games with their hands and feet, playing their toes as if they were piano keys.

And this works with other “hot” emotions too — like anger.

(To learn the secrets of grit from a Navy SEAL, click here.)

I know, I know; when someone is yelling in your face it’s really hard to distract yourself. But there’s a way to do this that’s very easy and backed by neuroscience research…

The Answer? “Reappraisal”

Imagine the scene again: someone is screaming at you, one inch from your face.

You want to scream back. Or even hit them.

But what if I told you their mother passed away yesterday? Or that they were going through a tough divorce and just lost custody of their kids?

You’d let it go. You’d probably even respond to their anger with compassion.

What changed? Not the event. Situation is the same. But the story you’re telling yourself about the event changed everything.

As famed researcher Albert Ellis said: You don’t get frustrated because of events, you get frustrated because of your beliefs.

Research shows that when someone is exploding at you a good way to “reappraise” the situation and resist getting angry is simply to think:

“It’s not about me. They must be having a bad day.”

As one of the neuroscientists behind the study said:

“If you’re trained with reappraisal, and you know your boss is frequently in a bad mood, you can prepare yourself to go into a meeting,” Blechert suggested. “He can scream and yell and shout but there’ll be nothing.”

When you change your beliefs about a situation, your brain changes the emotions you feel.

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

In one of Ochsner’s reappraisal experiments, participants are shown a photo of people crying outside a church, which naturally makes participants feel sad. They are then asked to imagine the scene is a wedding, that people are crying tears of joy. At the moment that participants change their appraisal of the event, their emotional response changes, and Ochsner is there to capture what is going on in their brain using an fMRI. As Ochsner explains, “Our emotional responses ultimately flow out of our appraisals of the world, and if we can shift those appraisals, we shift our emotional responses.”

Reappraisal works for anxiety too. Reinterpreting stress as excitement can improve your performance on tests.

And what happens in your brain?

Your amygdala doesn’t get worked up like it does with suppression. In fact, the little guy calms down.

Via Handbook of Emotion Regulation:

Evidence that reappraisal can directly influence this amygdala circuitry comes from consistent findings in positron emission tomographic (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies of healthy individuals showing reappraisal-dependent decreases in amygdala activation in response to negative stimuli.

As opposed to bottling up, when you tell yourself “they’re having a bad day“, angry feelings plummet and good feelings increase.

Via Handbook of Emotion Regulation:

By contrast, experimental studies have shown that reappraisal leads to decreased levels of negative emotion experience and increased positive emotion experience (Gross, 1998a; Feinberg, Willer, Antonenko, & John, 2012; Lieberman, Inagaki, Tabibnia, & Crockett, 2011; Ray, McRae, Ochsner, & Gross, 2010; Szasz, Szentagotai, & Hofmann, 2011; Wolgast, Lundh, & Viborg, 2011), has no impact on or even decreases sympathetic nervous system responses (Gross, 1998a; Kim & Hamann, 2012; Stemmler, 1997; Shiota & Levenson, 2012; Wolgast et al., 2011), and leads to lesser activation in emotion-generative brain regions such as the amygdala (Goldin et al., 2008; Kanske, Heissler, Schonfelder, Bongers, & Wessa, 2011; Ochsner & Gross, 2008; Ochsner et al., 2004) and ventral striatum (Staudinger, Erk, Abler, & Walter, 2009).

What about the social results? People who reappraise report better relationships — and their friends agree.

Via Handbook of Emotion Regulation:

Reappraisal, by contrast, has no detectable adverse consequences for social affiliation in a laboratory context (Butler et al., 2003). Correlational studies support these findings: Individuals who typically use reappraisal are more likely to share their emotions— both positive and negative— and report having closer relationships with friends, which matches their peers’ reports of greater liking (Gross & John, 2003; Mauss et al., 2011).

You know when you get angry and start telling yourself, “They’re out to get me! They want to make my life miserable!

That’s reappraisal too — in the wrong direction. You’re telling yourself a story that’s even worse than reality. And your anger soars. So don’t do that.

As the infomercials always say, “But wait there’s more!” Reappraisal holds another big benefit: remember how suppression sapped self-control and made you do stuff you later regretted?

Well, just like the kids in the marshmallow experiment, reappraisal can increase your willpower and help you behave better after intense moments.

Walter Mischel explains:

The marshmallow experiments convinced me that if people can change how they mentally represent a stimulus, they can exert self-control and escape from being victims of the hot stimuli that have come to control their behavior.

(To learn the secret to how to get people to like you — from an FBI behavior expert, click here.)

Okay, let’s wrap this up and learn the research-backed way to make sure that anger doesn’t come back…

Sum Up

Here’s how to get rid of anger:

  • Suppress rarely. They may not know you’re angry but you’ll feel worse inside and hurt the relationship.
  • Don’t vent. Communication is good but venting just increases anger. Distract yourself.
  • Reappraisal is usually the best option. Think to yourself, “It’s not about me. They must be having a bad day.”

Sometimes someone gets under your skin and suppression is the only thing you can do to avoid a homicide charge. And sometimes reappraisal can cause you to tolerate bad situations you need to get out of.

But that said, telling yourself a more compassionate story about what’s going on inside the other person’s head is usually the best way to go.

And what’s the final step in getting rid of that anger over the long haul so you can maintain good relationships?


It’s not for them, it’s for you. Forgiveness makes you less angry and more healthy:

Trait forgiveness was significantly associated with fewer medications and less alcohol use, lower blood pressure and rate pressure product; state forgiveness was significantly associated with lower heart rate and fewer physical symptoms. Neither of these sets of findings were the result of decreased levels of anger-out being associated with forgiveness. These findings have important theoretical implications regarding the forgiveness–health link, suggesting that the benefits of forgiveness extend beyond the dissipation of anger.

As the old saying goes: Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

So remember: “They’re just having a bad day.”

If it can stop these tykes from gobbling marshmallows it can stop you from going ballistic on people:

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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Related posts:

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

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Eric Barker writes Potiential.


Untangle The Data Hairball of Data-Driven Marketing

What is the data hairball?

I use “hairball” as a metaphor to describe the complicated jumble of interactions, applications, data and processes that accumulate haphazardly when companies are unprepared to handle information from a wide range of sources. It’s different than the “data deluge” or the “sea of data” we’ve all read about; sticking with that kind of imagery, the data hairball would be the shoreline after a tsunami, but prior to reconstruction.

What Is Big Data?
The data hairball embodies both the promise and the threat behind big data and digital channels. “Promise” because there is infinite value locked-up in all that data and all those channels. “Threat” because I see a snarled data hairball as the biggest obstacle to improving customer engagement.

So, how can you unravel all the complications and start harnessing the power of new data-driven marketing strategies? Once again, it’s critical to take it step-by-step. Lisa Arthur wrote a book on Big Data which explains the process in much more detail, but here are the basic eight points I suggest you follow:

1. Define the vision. What customer experience do you want to deliver? Research the customer journey as it is now. Then, paint a picture of the future. You goal is to make that vision a reality.

2. Outline the questions you need to answer. Which business questions do you want the data (and the team) to answer? Too many projects end in disappointment because they fail to keep the outcome in mind. If you aren’t sure what questions to ask, conducting a discovery session with all the key stakeholders can help them bubble up organically.

3. Assign the right team with the right sponsorship. Make sure you bring together people who “get it.” You’ll need senior-executive alignment and support, and you’ll need the team to reach deep into the organization, across multiple departments and geographies. Plus, everyone involved needs to be willing to challenge the status quo as needed.

4. Identify the data requirements. Be certain you understand what types of data you’ll need to drive the desired customer experience. Look at the data you can currently access, and then map your future needs as they relate to your present abilities. You’re bound to find gaps, and that’s okay, because next you’ll need to . . .

5. Find the source of the data you need. As you take inventory of what data exists and where, make sure you look across the entire enterprise. Who knows? Other departments, such as R&D, customer support, inventory management and business operations, may actually be collecting and storing the data you need. Add this information to the map you established in step four, then examine the remaining gaps and determine what additional data you need to collect.

6. Identify and ready the single source of truth. Most organizations typically use a combination of technologies to achieve a single source of verified data—what I like to call the “truth.” These enabling systems usually include a data model or organizational structure, an enterprise data warehouse to provide a single repository for organizational data, a big data analytics discovery platform that collects structured and unstructured data for analysis and insights, and a master data-management solution to build a single source of customer information to be used as the so-called golden record.

7. Consolidate, integrate and iterate your data. Once you have a single source of the truth, you need to populate it by bringing all the data together. Begin by consolidating and integrating the data to inform the strategy, campaigns and initiatives that will elevate the customer experience. Complete the process of unraveling this part of the data hairball by devising new collection processes to use going forward, and add governance policies based on what you learn.

8. Test, expand and evolve. Remember to measure and assess your progress. Start by answering the business questions developed in step two, and verify they are indeed the right questions. Look to deliver a few quick wins and identify landmines that need to be addressed before going any further. Chart out crucial points on your journey where more data will be available to improve a customer interaction or campaign, and then test those, as well. This iterative approach will improve results and build confidence in the data.

And remember: Start small.

Small-scale, pilot projects are valuable because they let you test your data strategy’s feasibility with fewer resources and less risk than larger projects. They’ll also keep you from feeling overwhelmed by the sheer size of your data hairball. As you focus on one strand, you may realize that your pilot project gives you the experience and knowledge to unravel the next strand. Experiment, test and learn. Keep untangling the knots, project by project. It won’t be long before you realize that your data hairball is actually becoming more manageable!


Using existing data to understand your customers

While your database or customer relationship management system (CRM) may hold valuable information about your customers that will help you to understand their needs, you can gather more information to improve your service further.

Some fundamental questions to ask about customer records might be:

  • Who is a customer?
  • Who was a customer?
  • Who might be a customer
  • What else might a customer need?

It is worth recognising when trying to understand customers, that there is a process involved when customers BUY what it is your organisation provides. At the beginning, potential customers may not know anything about your organisation but in the end they take the action to buy your products are services. Understanding this process can help make sure that you succeed in ‘selling’ to a customer. The basic buying process is as follows:

  • Unaware – I do not know what you do...
  • Aware – I know what you do but so what?
  • Interest – Yes, that is OK but I am not sure you’re the one...
  • Conviction – You sound plausible but do I really need it?
  • Desire – YES! I want it but how do I get it?
  • Action – I know how to get it easily, thanks!

Good CRM systems can track all interactions between potential customers and those actually buying. By so doing, it is possible to use particular marketing communications to understand where particular potential customers are in the process and take them from one stage to the next until they are actually buying from you.

Do remember that in many situations, it is not just one person that makes the decision to buy your products or services. In many markets, more than one person is involved in the buying decision. Children influence their parents, for example, and in business-to-business markets, the bigger the value of the purchase, the more people are involved in the decision. We call this the decision-making unit or DMU.

There are six possible roles in a DMU and are listed below in no particular order. It is worth noting that some individuals in a DMU may have more than one functional role in the buying decision.

DMUs may be individuals or groups of individuals and have the following roles in the buying process – and let us use an example of your organisation considering the purchase of a new telephone system:

  • Users of the product or service – as the name suggests, these people may use the product or service and may be closely involved in after-sales service yet not necessarily close to the process of deciding which supplier to use or placing the order. For example, your office staff may be using any new telephone system but not involved in early discussions with system suppliers; they would be involved when being trained in how to use the new handsets.
  • Influencers – these people have an effect on the decision-making process yet my never actually use the product or service; they may even be outside your organisation when placing the order. They may be technical advisors, journalists, or perhaps budget holders who influence how much is spent on the new system.
  • Deciders – these people take all the opinions and ideas from the rest of the DMU to reach the final decision. In larger organisations the decision may fall to IT departments, for example, who make recommendations to others in the DMU. It may be a single individual or a team.
  • Approvers – often the budget holders or management team, these are ‘signing-off’ the decision to buy the new system.
  • Buyers – are involved in placing the order and dealing with the suppliers to ensure that the new system meets specification, is delivered on time, and installed to schedule.
  • Gatekeepers – control access to the rest of the DMU and may be such as secretaries who control whether suppliers can get to speak or meet any of the individuals above.

Before the new telephone system is purchased, everyone in the DMU must be through the buying process to ‘decision’ and ‘action’ at the same time otherwise the purchase cannot be agreed. Good CRM systems include information on the DMU and where each individual or group is in the buying process.

Remember, CRM systems are more sophisticated than simple mailing lists. Because they hold information about customer behaviour and preferences they can improve customer satisfaction and retention. They can help you to identify customer needs more effectively, allowing you to up-sell and cross-sell, increasing profitability.


Cutting the Cord: Dove Channel streams family-friendly happy thoughts

Those in search of wholesome family videos to stream have a new destination: Dove Channel.

The subscription service, which launches Tuesday on is curated by The Dove Foundation, a non-profit that for nearly 25 years has produced its own movie reviews based on Judeo-Christian values.

“Dove Channel takes The Dove Foundation’s mission to the next level by transitioning from providing consumers information about values-based content to providing them direct access,” said Dick Rolfe, who is CEO and co-founder of the Wyoming, Mich.-based group, in an email exchange. “We believe Dove Channel will demonstrate a greater demand for Dove-approved entertainment, which will in turn, increase the production of family-friendly content.”

Newcomers will get a free one-week trial of the service. After that, a $4.99 monthly subscription gets you ad-free streaming, early access to new releases and use of the service’s customizable content-filtering feature. Non-subscribers can watch about 60% of Dove Channel content for free with ads.

Among the 600 to 700 titles available at launch: VeggieTales, The Velveteen Rabbit, Highway To Heaven, Swiss Family Robinson, The Adventures of Black Beauty and Where The Red Fern Grows. In addition to watching on computers, you can use Android and iOS devices and Roku video devices.

Faith-based content makes about 40% of what you find on Dove Channel, while the majority will be other family-friendly and children’s releases that have been rated on six different criteria (sexuality, language, violence, drug and alcohol use, nudity and other).

Dove Channel provides some valuable tools for families within its interface, which lets viewers customize the content recommended. You can choose to see only those shows that have gotten specific Dove ratings — such as “Faith Friendly — Ages 12+” or Family Approved — All Ages” and you can use a sliding bar that lets you adjust how much bad language, violence and other factors you want to allow.

A parent could, for instance, select the “Faith-Based Caution” seal and set violence settings to zero so that children wouldn’t see any films earning that seal that might have violence. Parents set a password, so they can control the settings and go back and change them at any time.

If you decide to peruse the library, you can call up a movie or episode to get a synopsis and a Dove review. “Dove reviews all of the content that goes on the channel, so everything that is on the network is Dove-approved. Families can go through that and decide if there’s content that is questionable for their kids,” said Eric Davies, digital networks coordinator at Cinedigm, who walked me through an online demo of the service.

Cinedigm served as tech partner with Dove Foundation on the channel, after previously helping launch the online channel Docurama last year and the Comic Con-branded CONtv, in conjunction with Wizard World in March.

With streaming video becoming more and more a part of entertainment in homes, Dove Channel provides families “with direct access to hundreds of Dove-approved titles in one safe place,” Rolfe said. “And, with the one-of-a-kind customization feature, they have total control over the content they watch.”

“Cutting the Cord” is a regular column covering Net TV and ways to get it. If you have suggestions or questions, contact Mike Snider via e-mail And follow him on Twitter: @MikeSnider.


How To Know Whether You’re Too Old To Call Yourself A Millennial

Terms like “Gen X” and “Gen Y,” baby boomer, and millennial get thrown around all of the time, as if we know exactly what they mean. But try asking someone in their early 30s what category they fall into. Few have a ready answer. Beyond that, these categories are used to define broad swaths of people. For example, the youngest of the millennial cohort, depending on what dates you use, are 9 or 10 right now, and the oldest are, if you use an early start date, around 31. Despite that, articles make sweeping generalizations.  It’s worth breaking down what each of these terms actually mean, even though some are still in dispute today. The issue is that people confuse generations, which are specifically defined by birth dates, with “cohorts,” a slightly more vague grouping of people based on common experiences. The divisions we know and reference are usually hybrids of the two. Here’s the breakdown of the terms used and what people mean by them.

The Greatest Generation 

Also known as: The Depression Cohort, The Silent Generation (later), the G.I. Generation (early), the post-war generation, the seekers.

Approximate dates: Born 1901-1924 (early) 1924-1943 (later)

Defining characteristics: Grew up, and frequently were defined by their experiences growing up, during The Great Depression and World War 2. “The Greatest Generation” is a term coined by Tom Brokaw to describe a group of people who helped fight and win World War 2, abroad or at home, and helped build the post-war prosperity that helped define the generations after them. Regarded as having a sense of purpose and duty to country, and working extremely hard to better themselves. Those too young to serve, called “The Silent Generation,” experienced the war as children or very young adults, and were described by the Time story that named them as “grave and fatalistic,” inclined to work very hard, but not say all that much.

Baby Boomers 

Also known as: Boom generation, hippies (subculture)

Approximate dates: 1946-1964

Defining characteristics: Loosely, those born during the post war “baby boom” of the late ’40s and ensuing decades, where birth rates significantly increased. Among their defining experiences were the first space flight, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and later, the Vietnam War and Watergate. They developed some of the first counter-cultures, and though early boomers were known for their tendencies towards freedom and experimentation, that grew into a sense of disillusionment and distrust for the government for the latter members. Still, compared to those who followed them, “Boomers tend to value work more than younger generations and see work as being more central to their lives than younger generations.” In the ’60s, the stereotype of the generation was a navel-gazing hippie, but now, the generation is more identified with those currently in power.

Challenges: They’re rapidly getting older and retiring, and not all of them have saved up enough to be able to do so. The fact that many in this generation led the institutions that caused the current financial crisis didn’t help. Those who are still working, or are forced to work by their financial situation, face an unfortunate bias from employers. Companies don’t like to hire older workers, and they don’t like to hire those who have been out of the workforce for a long time.

Gen X 

Also known as: Baby busters, the MTV generation

Approximate dates: 1965-1981

Defining characteristics: Grew up in the political climate in the aftermath of Watergate and the Vietnam War, during a series of recessions, the Reagan presidency, the AIDS epidemic, and the end of the Cold War. Research finds  Gen Xers are more likely to be independent and value their own career over organizations. They value autonomy and freedom at their jobs, and are not as work-centric as older generations. They’re more socially liberal than the Baby Boomers, and they’re the first generation to fully embrace the Internet. In the ’80s, the stereotype was that the generation was intensely self-involved, greedy, and narcissistic. Now, since they make up so much of the workforce, it’s hard to pin it down.

Challenges: The older members of Gen X are currently at the top, or near the top of many organizations. As more and more Baby Boomers retire, they’ll have to foot the bill, and that bill’s getting ever larger. Also, many don’t have skill sets that really apply in the current job market.Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to change tracks, especially for those later in their career.



Fred Benenson on Flickr Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the site of Amazon’s latest warehouse, is a mecca for the young and hip. Here are some of its residents.

Also known as: Gen Y, Nexters, Generation Next

Approximate dates: 1982-2004

Defining characteristics: Grew up during a time of economic prosperity, then many entered the workforce during a recession. Surrounded by the rapid advance of technology, particularly the Internet. More live with their parents, though the accusations of narcissism have more to do with the fact that all young people are narcissistic than any trait of the generation. And their values are just about in line with those who came before them.  Their attitude towards work differs; they expect quick advancement , and don’t expect to stay at any one organization for very long, a legacy of living through the financial crisis and the resulting weak economy. Also identified with the hipster stereotype/subculture, and with being glued to their smartphones rather than engaged with the world or their jobs.

Challenges: Facing a particularly difficult job market at the moment. Not that long ago, a college degree was a decent guarantee of a good job. Now, that’s not the case . Many recent graduates can’t get a job outside of retail and hospitality, let alone in their current major. Many have high student debt as well, as the cost of college rises and wages stay stagnant. Not forgetting that the problems with Baby Boomers retiring that falls on Gen X, will fall doubly hard on millennials.



The difference between a Twitter: Reply, Retweet, and Direct Message

Twitter is like a river of confetti.  Tweets are the confetti which are individual messages floating down the river.  If your audience is standing on the bank of the river and paying attention then they will see your message or Tweet.  But Twitter has created some tools to allow users to communicate with each other in a more direct manner; Replies, Retweets and Direct Messages. This post is designed to help take the mystery out of these three communication tools.  Your Twitter marketing success depends on your ability to use each of these as effectively as possible to create ongoing conversation with your followers.

Direct Message (DM) is a private conversation you have with only individuals who are following you.  To send a DM all you need to do start your Tweet with the letter “@” followed by the users twitter name and then type your message. If you attempt to send a DM to a person who is not following you Twitter will let you know there is a problem with an error message.  This is a wonderful limitation because you will only receive a DM from someone who you are following.

Replies. If you want to direct your comments to one specific person but would like everyone else to see it then use the “Reply” function. You address the person by using their Twitter user name preceded by the “@” symbol. For example:

@johndoe I like to eat at Joe’s Diner in Pueblo.

Everyone who is following John and me will see the message, but I am specifically directing it to John. (Those who are not following either of us will not see the message.)

You can also use the Reply function to refer to someone by name. For example:

I’m headed to dinner at Joe’s Diner with @janedoe and @jimdoe. I am looking forward to trying the new menu.

Another advantage to using Twitter names in messages is that it creates clickable links.  The link will take a user to the Twitter page of that person.  They will then have the opportunity to follow that person if they wish.

Retweets are a way of re-broadcasting one of your followers messages to everyone that follows you. This is a simple way to share content that you find valuable or interesting with your followers.

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Twitter For Dummies

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5 Simple Tips for the Perfect Blog Interview

Interviewing others for blog posts is  a fantastic way to leverage current business relationships, start new relationships and drive new traffic to your blog, but the best part is you get to exchange ideas with absolutely brilliant people. It also gives the blog a more conversational flavor and helps broaden the scope of the content.

If you’ve been considering beginning an interview series on your blog, here are the Top 5 tips that I’ve learned along the way:

1. Brush up on your journalism skills:

Do a little research on each of your interviewees before putting together your questions. It will show that not only do you know your stuff, but also that you are truly interested in what they have to say.

2. Don’t limit the subject: Let your interview topic be broad. Don’t limit questions to your area of expertise or even to the theme you’re focusing on. Often, an interviewee will move off topic slightly, but, remember, this is natural and it is ok. If you can, even add a personal question or two.

3. Get ready to share yourself: Often, once you strike up a relationship with these folks and have earned a bit of respect, they’ll ask to interview you as well or write a guest post (like this one). Be ready and willing to share.

4. Provide feedback and promotional information: Make sure that you properly promote the post once you’ve posted it. Share the link with the person that you’ve interviewed, and don’t forget to remind them to share it with their friends and family and via social media channels. Also, if you’ve learned something particularly useful or have more questions, don’t be afraid to ask. After all, this might be your only chance to speak with the “greats” of a particular discipline.

5. Keep the conversation going: Time allowing, try to keep the conversation going after the interview via e-mail or on social media networks like Facebook , LinkedIn or Twitter. Friend or follow them, and make the effort to maintain the relationship if you can.


The 10-Second Rule: Not food on the ground but ground rules to make following Jesus simple

Scientists say the damage is done when our food comes in contact with the floor even for the shortest amount of time. Apparently there are enough germs transmitted from a bounce to put what was on the bottom of our feet onto the little bite of food. In Clare DeGraaf’s book The 10 Second Rule he shares his life stories and suggests a practice that has everything to do with obedience – to God. The 10 seconds has everything to do with our ability to do the next thing we are reasonably certain Jesus wants us to do (and do it within the next ten seconds before you change your mind!).

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Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

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Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

Features: HarperBusiness
By (author): Liz Wiseman

Wall Street Journal Bestseller

A thought-provoking, accessible, and essential exploration of why some leaders (“Diminishers”) drain capability and intelligence from their teams, while others (“Multipliers”) amplify it to produce better results. Including a foreword by Stephen R. Covey, as well the five key disciplines that turn smart leaders into genius makers, Multipliers is a must-read for everyone from first-time managers to world leaders.

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The mind of the Multiplier works like this: If I can find someone’s genius, I can put them to work. The idea is simple. Multipliers understand that people love to contribute their genius. If they put in the effort to figure out someone’s genius, they have opened a pathway for that person to contribute. They can utilize them. Multipliers aren’t deterred if someone doesn’t officially report to them on an org chart. These leaders see an unlimited talent pool that they can draw from. Everyone works for a Multiplier. For this reason, you can often spot Multipliers leading cross-functional projects and intercompany ventures. They may be in key staff roles, or they may also be at the top of the org chart. The common denominator is that they look beyond boundaries for talent.

The research shows that ‘Multipliers’ are capable of accessing up to 90% of the talent of people and organizations, while this figure is just 48% for the so-called ‘Diminishers’, the leaders who leave talents untapped, for example by failing to show trust, maintaining too much control or being too directive on how work should be done.

A Multiplier:
• accesses the available talent and doubles productivity.
• gains access to twice the available intelligence.
• creates a culture in which new ideas thrive.



8 Things You Should Not Do Every Day

If you get decent value from making to-do lists, you’ll get huge returns–in productivity, in improved relationships, and in your personal well-being–from adding these items to your not to-do list:

Every day, make the commitment not to:

1. Check my phone while I’m talking to someone.

You’ve done it. You’ve played the, “Is that your phone? Oh, it must be mine,” game. You’ve tried the you-think-sly-but-actually-really-obvious downwards glance. You’ve done the, “Wait, let me answer this text…” thing.

Maybe you didn’t even say, “Wait.” You just stopped talking, stopped paying attention, and did it.

Want to stand out? Want to be that person everyone loves because they make you feel, when they’re talking to you, like you’re the most important person in the world?

Stop checking your phone. It doesn’t notice when you aren’t paying attention.

Other people? They notice.

And they care.

2. Multitask during a meeting.

The easiest way to be the smartest person in the room is to be the person who pays the most attention to the room.

You’ll be amazed by what you can learn, both about the topic of the meeting and about the people in the meeting if you stop multitasking and start paying close attention. You’ll flush out and understand hidden agendas, you’ll spot opportunities to build bridges, and you’ll find ways to make yourself indispensable to the people who matter.

It’s easy, because you’ll be the only one trying.

And you’ll be the only one succeeding on multiple levels.

3. Think about people who don’t make any difference in my life.

Trust me: The inhabitants of planet Kardashian are okay without you.

But your family, your friends, your employees–all the people that really matter to you–are not. Give them your time and attention.

They’re the ones who deserve it.

4. Use multiple notifications.

You don’t need to know the instant you get an email. Or a text. Or a tweet. Or anything else that pops up on your phone or computer.

If something is important enough for you to do, it’s important enough for you to do without interruptions. Focus totally on what you’re doing. Then, on a schedule you set–instead of a schedule you let everyone else set–play prairie dog anpop your head up to see what’s happening.

And then get right back to work. Focusing on what you are doing is a lot more important than focusing on other people might be doing.

They can wait. You, and what is truly important to you, cannot.

5. Let the past dictate the future.

Mistakes are valuable. Learn from them.

Then let them go.

Easier said than done? It all depends on your perspective. When something goes wrong, turn it into an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know–especially about yourself.

When something goes wrong for someone else, turn it into an opportunity to be gracious, forgiving, and understanding.

The past is just training. The past should definitely inform but in no way define you–unless you let it.

6. Wait until I’m sure I will succeed.

You can never feel sure you will succeed at something new, but you can always feel sure you are committed to giving something your best.

And you can always feel sure you will try again if you fail.

Stop waiting. You have a lot less to lose than you think, and everything to gain.

7. Talk behind someone’s back.

If only because being the focus of gossip sucks. (And so do the people who gossip.)

If you’ve talked to more than one person about something Joe is doing, wouldn’t everyone be better off if you stepped up and actually talked to Joe about it? And if it’s “not your place” to talk to Joe, it’s probably not your place to talk about Joe.

Spend your time on productive conversations. You’ll get a lot more done–and you’ll gain a lot more respect.

8. Say “yes” when I really mean “no.”

Refusing a request from colleagues, customers, or even friends is really hard. But rarely does saying no go as badly as you expect. Most people will understand, and if they don’t, should you care too much about what they think?

When you say no, at least you’ll only feel bad for a few moments. When you say yes to something you really don’t want to do you might feel bad for a long time–or at least as long as it takes you to do what you didn’t want to do in the first place.



Six Reasons Leaders Lose Credibility

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, credible means: “1. Capable of being believed; plausible. 2. Worthy of confidence; reliable.” For our purposes, we’ll define credibility as “how believable you are to others.”

James Kouzes, author of Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, says, “Credibility is the foundation of leadership. If people don’t believe in the messenger, they won’t believe the message.” In business, if you lack credibility, you may never be able to get a team to follow you and will probably never advance to a position of authority. Let’s face it: If people don’t believe what you say, nothing else really matters.

Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It (Hardcover)

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Your credibility is based on your words and actions. If these two areas of communication are incongruent, your credibility will suffer. So if you are a team member and tell your teammates you will help out but never do, your credibility will diminish as a result.

Whether you’re sharing information or job recognition, if you are not credible, it will be of little consequence. If you expect others to believe what you say, you first have to believe it yourself.

Six Mistakes That Damage Your Credibility

Every leader and potential leader needs to avoid six specific mistakes to maintain credibility.

1. Failing to Keep Up with Your Field of Expertise: No matter what field you’re in, there are almost always changes. And if you don’t stay abreast of the advances, others will see you as a weak leader. People want to follow leaders who are current, knowledgeable and confident. If you don’t know your field, your credibility suffers, because you’re no longer believable.

2. Withholding Information: Good leaders and team members do not keep information from others. When you withhold information, it is perceived as being controlling at best, lying at worst.

3. Not Telling the Truth: Lying to your staff and customers or fellow employees is always a terrible idea. “Leaders and those aspiring to be leaders must recognize that self-serving behavior is the trail to organizational suicide,” Kouzes says. Be honest with others, and you will better serve yourself and your organization in the long run.

4. Trying to Get People to Like You Rather Than Respect You: Typically, a person who is trying to be liked rather than respected is perceived as insincere, phony and non-credible. Building likability is no more than being a glad-hander. These people run into meetings all smiles and try to shake hands with everyone, but they are not the least bit interested in anyone and are only interested in their own agendas.

5. Not Accepting Personal Responsibility: If you’re not willing to accept personal responsibility for what you do, then you will lose credibility. Others will perceive you as fake or a self-serving jerk. “Leaders, whether in the boardroom or on the front line, are at the center of a vast web of relationships,” Kouzes says. “Leaders must reach out and attend to all their constituents if they wish to be credible… credibility, like quality and service, is determined by the constituents, so leaders must be able to view themselves as their constituents do.”

6. Losing Your Temper: When you lose your temper you lose respect.  You can show that you are serious about something by being a bit more stern and direct, but never blow your top.  Have an indicator of sorts to use as a reminder the moment you are ready to explode.  It can be an image or object, such as a wedding ring, that is meaningful to you.  That will be your reminder to stop and think about what you’re going to say next.  It will be your “negative reaction” alert.  Also, try to stay away from using foul language.  You rarely see a truly respected leader cussing.

No matter who you are or where you are within your organization, you must build credibility and steer clear of all that will destroy it. Consider this your number one priority throughout your career, and promise yourself you will never get caught in a situation that forces you to compromise your credibility.


How to Ask Questions that Matter

Here’s a wonderful resource to help craft and ask questions that matter.  The following bullets are excerpts from the book. Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 10 Powerful Tools for Life and Work by by Marilee G. Adams, Marshall Goldsmith

  • Question Thinking is a system of tools for transforming thinking, action, and results through skillful question asking-questions we ask ourselves as well as those we ask others.
  • To solve our problems, we first need to change our questions; otherwise we’ll probably just keep getting the same old answers, over and over again.
  • Switching question. The one that worked for me that day was, How else can I think about him?
  • Really effective, intentional change begins with strengthening your observer self.
  • Do I listen to people’s questions and suggestions? Do people feel respected by me? Do I encourage others to take initiative, ask questions, and contribute their own ideas?
  • Ben’s Three Questions
  1. What assumptions am I making?
  2. How else can I think about this?
  3. What is the other person thinking, feeling, and wanting?
  • Where you stumble, there your treasure is. You’d ask yourself questions like What could I discover? What might be valuable here?”
  • “There’s really just one lesson here — with the questions we ask ourselves, consciously or not, we literally put ourselves either in Learner or Judger mode. And we’re most effective at virtually everything we do when we’re in Learner.
  • Really effective, intentional change begins with strengthening your observer self. The better you can see what’s already there — that’s where the observer self comes in — the better you can apply the right skills and strategies to make the changes you want.”
  • “You can separate your reactions from his behavior – and anyone else’s. Until you do, you’ll keep giving away your power. You’ll be just like a puppet, with no control of your own.
  • “Question Thinking is a system of skills and tools using questions to expand how you approach virtually any situation. You develop the skills to refine your questions for vastly better results in anything you do. The QT system can literally put action into your thinking — action that’s both focused and effective. It’s a great way to create a foundation for making wiser choices.”
  • Real personal power depends on how good we get at recovering from Judger once it takes over.
  • What assumptions am I making? How else can I think about this? And, What is the other person thinking, feeling, and wanting?”
  • “Whenever you’re interacting with other people as a leader,” Joseph said, “you want them to take initiative, ask questions, and come up with answers that maybe you hadn’t thought of yourself. Your accomplishments come from the total efforts of the people you’re working with, not just from your own solitary work.”
  • When two people are in Judger, the one who wakes up first has an advantage. That person can choose to go Learner and turn the situation around for both of them.”
  • “Things happen to us all the time. You don’t have much choice about that. But where we do have choice is in what we do with what happens.”
  • When two people are in Judger, the one who wakes up first has an advantage. That person can choose to go Learner and turn the situation around for both of them.”
  • What do I appreciate about them? What are the best strengths of each one of them? How can I help them collaborate most productively? How can we stay on the Learner Path together?
  • “Things happen to us all the time. You don’t have much choice about that. But where we do have choice is in what we do with what happens.”
  • The Choice Map is about developing ways to make intentional, conscious choices rather than just reacting and allowing ourselves to be controlled by events around us. These intentional and conscious choices, moment by moment by moment, are essential leadership qualities.
  • ‘Are you willing to take responsibility for your mistakes — and for the attitudes and actions that led to them?’ Then he said, ‘Are you willing — however begrudgingly — to forgive yourself, and even laugh at yourself?’ And finally, ‘Will you look for value in your experiences, especially the most difficult ones?’ Bottom line, ‘Are you willing to learn from what happened and make changes accordingly?’

9 Things Successful People Do Differently

by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D.

Why have you been so successful in reaching some of your goals, but not others? If you aren’t sure, you are far from alone in your confusion. It turns out that even very brilliant, highly accomplished people are pretty lousy when it comes to understanding why they succeed or fail. The intuitive answer – that you are born predisposed to certain talents and lacking in others – is really just one small piece of the puzzle. In fact, decades of research on achievement suggests that successful people reach their goals not simply because of who they are, but more often because of what they do.

#1 Get Specific. When you set yourself a goal, try to be as specific as possible. “Lose 5 pounds” is a better goal than “lose some weight,” because it gives you a clear idea of what success looks like. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve keeps you motivated until you get there. Also, think about the specific actions that need to be taken to reach your goal. Just promising you’ll “eat less” or “sleep more” is too vague – be clear and precise. “I’ll be in bed by 10pm on weeknights” leaves no room for doubt about what you need to do, and whether or not you’ve actually done it.

#2 Seize the Moment to Act on Your Goals. Given how busy most of us are, and how many goals we are juggling at once, it’s not surprising that we routinely miss opportunities to act on a goal because we simply fail to notice them. Did you really have no time to work out today? No chance at any point to return that phone call? Achieving your goal means grabbing hold of these opportunities before they slip through your fingers.

To seize the moment, decide when and where you will take each action you want to take, in advance. Again, be as specific as possible (e.g., “If it’s Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, I’ll work out for 30 minutes before work.”) Studies show that this kind of planning will help your brain to detect and seize the opportunity when it arises, increasing your chances of success by roughly 300%.

#3 Know Exactly How Far You Have Left To Go. Achieving any goal also requires honest and regular monitoring of your progress – if not by others, then by you yourself. If you don’t know how well you are doing, you can’t adjust your behavior or your strategies accordingly. Check your progress frequently – weekly, or even daily, depending on the goal.

#4 Be a Realistic Optimist. When you are setting a goal, by all means engage in lots of positive thinking about how likely you are to achieve it. Believing in your ability to succeed is enormously helpful for creating and sustaining your motivation. But whatever you do, don’t underestimate how difficult it will be to reach your goal. Most goals worth achieving require time, planning, effort, and persistence. Studies show that thinking things will come to you easily and effortlessly leaves you ill-prepared for the journey ahead, and significantly increases the odds of failure.

#5 Focus on Getting Better, Rather than Being Good. Believing you have the ability to reach your goals is important, but so is believing you can get the ability. Many of us believe that our intelligence, our personality, and our physical aptitudes are fixed – that no matter what we do, we won’t improve. As a result, we focus on goals that are all about proving ourselves, rather than developing and acquiring new skills.

Fortunately, decades of research suggest that the belief in fixed ability is completely wrong – abilities of all kinds are profoundly malleable. Embracing the fact that you can change will allow you to make better choices, and reach your fullest potential. People whose goals are about getting better, rather than being good, take difficulty in stride, and appreciate the journey as much as the destination.

#6 Have Grit. Grit is a willingness to commit to long-term goals, and to persist in the face of difficulty. Studies show that gritty people obtain more education in their lifetime, and earn higher college GPAs. Grit predicts which cadets will stick out their first grueling year at West Point. In fact, grit even predicts which round contestants will make it to at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The good news is, if you aren’t particularly gritty now, there is something you can do about it. People who lack grit, more often than not, believe that they just don’t have the innate abilities successful people have. If that describes your own thinking …. well, there’s no way to put this nicely: you are wrong. As I mentioned earlier, effort, planning, persistence, and good strategies are what it really takes to succeed. Embracing this knowledge will not only help you see yourself and your goals more accurately, but also do wonders for your grit.

#7 Build Your Willpower Muscle. Your self-control “muscle” is just like the other muscles in your body – when it doesn’t get much exercise, it becomes weaker over time. But when you give it regular workouts by putting it to good use, it will grow stronger and stronger, and better able to help you successfully reach your goals.

To build willpower, take on a challenge that requires you to do something you’d honestly rather not do. Give up high-fat snacks, do 100 sit-ups a day, stand up straight when you catch yourself slouching, try to learn a new skill. When you find yourself wanting to give in, give up, or just not bother – don’t. Start with just one activity, and make a plan for how you will deal with troubles when they occur (“If I have a craving for a snack, I will eat one piece of fresh or three pieces of dried fruit.”) It will be hard in the beginning, but it will get easier, and that’s the whole point. As your strength grows, you can take on more challenges and step-up your self-control workout.

#8 Don’t Tempt Fate. No matter how strong your willpower muscle becomes, it’s important to always respect the fact that it is limited, and if you over-tax it you will temporarily run out of steam. Don’t try to take on two challenging tasks at once, if you can help it (like quitting smoking and dieting at the same time). And don’t put yourself in harm’s way – many people are overly-confident in their ability to resist temptation, and as a result they put themselves in situations where temptations abound. Successful people know not to make reaching a goal harder than it already is.

#9 Focus on What You Will Do, Not What You Won’t Do. Do you want to successfully lose weight, quit smoking, or put a lid on your bad temper? Then plan how you will replace bad habits with good ones, rather than focusing only on the bad habits themselves. Research on thought suppression (e.g., “Don’t think about white bears!”) has shown that trying to avoid a thought makes it even more active in your mind. The same holds true when it comes to behavior – by trying not to engage in a bad habit, our habits get strengthened rather than broken.

If you want change your ways, ask yourself, What will I do instead? For example, if you are trying to gain control of your temper and stop flying off the handle, you might make a plan like “If I am starting to feel angry, then I will take three deep breaths to calm down.” By using deep breathing as a replacement for giving in to your anger, your bad habit will get worn away over time until it disappears completely.


It’s the cup of brandy that no one wants to drink. – Jimmy Doolittle


In May 2013 in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, the surviving Doolittle Raiders will gather publicly for the last time.

They once were among the most universally admired and revered men in the United States. There were 80 of the Raiders in April 1942, when they carried out one of the most courageous and heart-stirring military operations in this nation’s history. The mere mention of their unit’s name, in those years, would bring tears to the eyes of grateful Americans.

Now only four survive.

After Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, with the United States reeling and wounded, something dramatic was needed to turn the war effort around.

Even though there were no friendly airfields close enough to Japan for the United States to launch a retaliation, a daring plan was devised. Sixteen B-25s were modified so that they could take off from the deck of an aircraft carrier. This had never before been tried — sending such big, heavy bombers from a carrier.

The 16 five-man crews, under the command of Lt. Col. James Doolittle, who himself flew the lead plane off the USS Hornet, knew that they would not be able to return to the carrier. They would have to hit Japan and then hope to make it to China for a safe landing.

But on the day of the raid, the Japanese military caught wind of the plan. The Raiders were told that they would have to take off from much farther out in the Pacific Ocean than they had counted on. They were told that because of this they would not have enough fuel to make it to safety.

And those men went anyway.

They bombed Tokyo, and then flew as far as they could. Four planes crash-landed; 11 more crews bailed out, and three of the Raiders died. Eight more were captured; three were executed. Another died of starvation in a Japanese prison camp. One crew made it to Russia.

The Doolittle Raid sent a message from the United States to its enemies, and to the rest of the world:

We will fight.

And, no matter what it takes, we will win.

Of the 80 Raiders, 62 survived the war. They were celebrated as national heroes, models of bravery. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced a motion picture based on the raid; “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,” starring Spencer Tracy and Van Johnson, was a patriotic and emotional box-office hit, and the phrase became part of the national lexicon. In the movie-theater previews for the film, MGM proclaimed that it was presenting the story “with supreme pride.”

Beginning in 1946, the surviving Raiders have held a reunion each April, to commemorate the mission. The reunion is in a different city each year. In 1959, the city of Tucson, Arizona, as a gesture of respect and gratitude, presented the Doolittle Raiders with a set of 80 silver goblets. Each goblet was engraved with the name of a Raider.

Every year, a wooden display case bearing all 80 goblets is transported to the reunion city. Each time a Raider passes away, his goblet is turned upside down in the case at the next reunion, as his old friends bear solemn witness.

Also in the wooden case is a bottle of 1896 Hennessy Very Special cognac. The year is not happenstance: 1896 was when Jimmy Doolittle was born.

There has always been a plan: When there are only two surviving Raiders, they would open the bottle, at last drink from it, and toast their comrades who preceded them in death.

As 2013 began, there were five living Raiders; then, in February, Tom Griffin passed away at age 96.

The name may be familiar to those of you who regularly read this column; in 2011, I wrote about the role Mr. Griffin played at his son’s wedding.

What a man he was. After bailing out of his plane over a mountainous Chinese forest after the Tokyo raid, he became ill with malaria, and almost died. When he recovered, he was sent to Europe to fly more combat missions. He was shot down, captured, and spent 22 months in a German prisoner of war camp.

The selflessness of these men, the sheer guts … there was a passage in the Cincinnati Enquirer obituary for Mr. Griffin that, on the surface, had nothing to do with the war, but that emblematizes the depth of his sense of duty and devotion:

“When his wife became ill and needed to go into a nursing home, he visited her every day. He walked from his house to the nursing home, fed his wife and at the end of the day brought home her clothes. At night, he washed and ironed her clothes. Then he walked them up to her room the next morning. He did that for three years until her death in 2005.”

So now, out of the original 80, only four Raiders remain: Dick Cole (Doolittle’s co-pilot on the Tokyo raid), Robert Hite, Edward Saylor and David Thatcher. All are in their 90s. They have decided that there are too few of them for the public reunions to continue.

The events in Fort Walton Beach this week will mark the end. It has come full circle; Florida’s nearby Eglin Field was where the Raiders trained in secrecy for the Tokyo mission.

The town is planning to do all it can to honor the men: a six-day celebration of their valor, including luncheons, a dinner and a parade.

Do the men ever wonder if those of us for whom they helped save the country have tended to it in a way that is worthy of their sacrifice? They don’t talk about that, at least not around other people. But if you find yourself near Fort Walton Beach this week, and if you should encounter any of the Raiders, you might want to offer them a word of thanks. I can tell you from firsthand observation that they appreciate hearing that they are remembered.

The men have decided that after this final public reunion they will wait until a later date — some time this year — to get together once more, informally and in absolute privacy. That is when they will open the bottle of brandy. The years are flowing by too swiftly now; they are not going to wait until there are only two of them.

They will fill the four remaining upturned goblets.

And raise them in a toast to those who are gone.



4 Good Work Habits That Can Totally Backfire For Managers

Becoming a true leader requires an incredible amount of self-awareness involves knowing when to eliminate behaviors that are no longer working, even if they worked in the past. In his book “Tipping Sacred Cows ,” Jake Breeden warns that traditional managerial values, such as fairness, collaboration and balance, can sometimes be the “downfall of an otherwise promising career.”

“There is this conventional wisdom to do your best at work and produce excellent results,” Breeden tells us, “but some of these things can produce unintended consequences.”

He says that certain qualities are so highly regarded, they’re thought of as “sacred cows” and are revered in the workplace. But true leaders know when to break the rules, and in today’s complex business world, managers should take a close look at their own work habits.

Tipping Sacred Cows: Kick the Bad Work Habits that Masquerade as Virtues (Hardcover)

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1. Balance and Fairness

Leaders cannot expect to enter into win-win situations and not have to make sacrifices. Breeden argues that this is just an excuse not to have to make real, tough decisions. “Balance backfires when it moves from being about bold, sometimes tough, choices to being about bland compromises. If a leader, in striving for balance, is mediocre at everything, then balance has backfired.”

At some point, leaders will have to make decisions that won’t make everyone happy and aren’t considered fair or balanced by their employees.

“Fairness is the inverse of excellence,” Breeden says. “Leaders should ensure that there’s a fair process, but you also need to have the courage to treat people differently.”

2. Collaboration

Collaboration is a good thing, but it isn’t always the best strategy. To ensure collaboration doesn’t sabotage your project, Breeden advises:

“When leaders do collaborate, it must be accountable, not automatic. Accountable collaboration means everyone has a clear understanding of the mission of the team, and the goal of the team is to achieve its mission and disband. When collaboration is accountable, everyone knows everyone else’s responsibility, and they aren’t afraid to point out when the ball is dropped.”

And beware of the number-one excuse that prohibits a team from getting things done: Calling a meeting when it’s not needed just in the name of collaboration.

3. Excellence

When you spend too much time producing perfect work instead of developing the solutions that you need to accomplish work immediately, you may very well lose out on the opportunity at the moment.

“Striving for excellence in the end is a good thing. However, this prohibits risk-taking,” Breeden says. Leaders shouldn’t obsess about every mistake or detail, because most of them won’t matter. “When excellence is worshiped, it becomes a goal in and of itself, disconnected from larger goals.”

4. Preparation

“Sometimes the preparation and the work happen at nearly the same time, which can be both healthy and productive,” Breeden says. On the other hand, if you’re constantly “hunkering down” and “hiding out” because you’re preparing, you won’t be as on top of things in your industry as the ones who are just going along with the big idea everyone is talking about.

“In the workplace, preparation can backfire by causing you to fall in love with your work to the point that you defend what you should change,” Breeden says. “It backfires when your work becomes your baby. And sometimes, preparation is merely an excuse not to take action.”

In short, great leaders need to constantly examine different qualities depending on the situation—you can’t just follow the same rules for every situation.

“Powerful, often invisible behavioral, social and cultural forces can cause leaders to espouse the infallible importance of unexamined virtues in their ascent to success,” Breeden says. “One of the mightiest of these forces is the advice passed down from successful leaders, who attribute their success to such virtues.”


5 Ways Authors Can Use Pinterest as a Marketing Tool

Guest blogger: Erin MacPherson

We’ve been talking about Pinterest as a marketing tool for authors (here and here ) and today I want to get your creative juices flowing by telling you about some innovative approaches to Pinterest marketing. There are many more, so please share your ideas in the comments and we can turn this post into a great Pinterest resource for writers. Here are my favorite ideas:

1. Recruit a Guest Pinner 

I’ve used this strategy to great success for about six months now and it’s not only helped me to build my Pinterest boards up, but it’s also allowed me to have new, fresh content to share on my Facebook page each week. I love it. And it’s so easy! Invite another author/blogger/writer to pin on one of your existing boards (or a secret board if you want to do a big one-time roll out) by clicking “edit board” and then “invite other pinners.” From there, allow your guest pinner to add pins to your board. It’s a win for you because you’ll get fresh content on your Pinterest boards that you don’t have to work for, new pins for social media and some Pinterest collaboration with another author. And it’s a win for your guest pinners because they get a whole new audience with whom to share their content.

2. Pinterest Wars 

Authors Katie Ganshert and Becky Wade host a weekly Pinterest war where they face off to try a new recipe, activity, craft or style. They both post pictures on their blogs and then have their readers vote to see who did it best. This is a brilliant idea because it not only helps both authors to drive traffic to their blogs (who doesn’t love to vote?) but it also helps them to create a relatable and fun voice with their audiences.

3. Pinterest Challenges 

I’ve seen several authors and bloggers challenge their readers to make a certain recipe or craft each week and then post the results on Facebook or on a new Pinterest board. Try challenging your audience to make a superhealthy smoothie or a fun spring craft and then submit photos which you can subsequently post on Pinterest for all to see.

4. Pin-It Party 

The bloggers at Creative Geekery host a weekly Pin-It party where they invite their readers to pin their favorite pins. Those pins are then shared across social media by a series of bloggers as well as a “hall of fame” of pins is posted on the blog each week. What a great way to aggregate content from other writers as well as drive traffic to both a blog and a Pinterest board.

5. Use Photos from Fans 

A few months ago, I noticed that a lot of people were posting (on Facebook) photos of huge messes made by their kids. So, I quickly created an app (and related contest) where people could submit their biggest Mom-Tastrophe photos to me. Once submitted, I use PicMonkey to add a title to each photo as well as my blog title and then I save them all to a Mom-Tastrophes Pinterest Board . This board has quickly become my most repinned board on Pinterest.

How have you used Pinterest as a marketing tool — or what are some good ideas you’ve heard about?

Erin MacPherson is an Austin, Texas mom by day and writer by night. She works as a staff writer for Dun & Bradstreet where she writes social media and marketing copy for companies like Disney, Nissan, LeapFrog and Discover Card. Her new series of books, The Christian Mama’s Guide series, released this month from Thomas Nelson. Drop by to say hello on Facebook, on Pinterest or at .


4 Tips to Keep Your Email List Squeaky Clean

by Pamela Vaughan

This is a guest post written by Heather Bonura. Heather is the director of brand strategy for Lititz, PA-based email marketing firm, Listrak.

We all know that email marketing is continually evolving. Subscribers are savvier, and therefore, we need to get more targeted. But many marketers still haven’t adjusted their email strategies to be truly effective. It’s no longer valuable to rent a list and blast out a message to a million recipients in hopes they’ll appreciate your efforts and take advantage of your offer. In fact, tactics like that can often do more harm than good. If you aren’t building and managing your own email lists, you’re not only missing the profiling data that is specific to your company, but you’re running the risk of being flagged as spam and decreasing your ROI.

Here are some tips for managing and optimizing your email list.

1. Make Sure Your List Has Good Hygiene

Performing a simple data check to correct misspellings and typos entered during the acquisition phase is the first step toward clean lists. This will enable you to clean up simple errors such as, tara@gmailcom, terry!, etc., so you don’t deploy messages to invalid accounts. During this process, you should also remove any distribution email addresses, such as; system email addresses, such as; and any email address with the word “spam” in it. Many email marketing providers have list hygiene tools built in to their services to keep your list clean and bounce rates low.

2. Manage Bounce Rate

Undelivered emails continue to cause a lot of confusion for email marketers, as the bounce codes are cryptic and lack standardization across different email clients. However, this is a critical step in list management, and frankly, it increases your email ROI by not mailing to addresses that bounce. You don’t have to decipher every bounce code, you just have to manage hard and soft bounces.

A soft bounce is a temporary deliverability problem, such as a full inbox or a server that is down. It’s okay for you to resend emails to these addresses because there is a good chance they will go through on the second or third attempt.

A hard bounce is a permanent deliverability problem, such as an invalid email address. Since there is no chance the email will ever get delievered, it is important to remove these addresses immediately. ISPs track the number of bounces you generate with each send and use it when determining your reputation. If you generate too many bounces, internet service providers (ISPs) may block your messages. Keeping these addresses on your list will also squew your analytics in a negative way.

3. Monitor Feedback Loops

Another factor ISPs use to determine your reputation is the number of complaints your messages generate. With email clients today, it’s often easier for people to report your unwanted messages as spam than it is for them to unsubscribe from your list. Even if you followed all of the acquisition best practices and the subscribers opted in to receive emails from you, they can still report your messages as spam. It is imperative that you monitor feedback loops so you can identify complainers and immediately remove them from your lists.

4. Remove Inactive Subscribers

The thought of proactively removing subscribers from your list who haven’t personally unsubscribed might sound crazy to you. However, it is a current trend and best practice that savvy marketers are using to improve ROI by ensuring their lists only contain subscribers who are engaged. After all, if someone is only going to delete your message, why even send it in the first place?

Before you remove subscribers, try a re-engagement campaign to regain their interest. You might offer a special incentive to recapture their attention. If that doesn’t work, simply ask them if they wish to remain on your list and include an easy way for them to opt out, or send a notification that their subscription period is ending and ask them to opt-in again. If the subscriber remains inactive, remove them from your list. Remember: the success of an email marketing campaign should not measured by the number of subscribers. Rather, it should be measured by the quality of the subscribers and the actions they take as a result of your email (like downloading your ebook and converting into a lead!). Therefore, it’s better to deploy campaigns to 20,000 active and engaged people than it is to blast the email to 30,000 people if half of them don’t care, delete it, or worse — report it as spam.

With these tips as your guide, you’re now armed with the knowledge you need to clean up your email list so you can increase ROI and revenue.

When was the last time you updated your email list? What’s your bounce rate like?

Recommended Reading

An Executive’s Guide to Managing Email (Paperback)

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Email 101 for Executives: What You Need to Know to Maximize Sales & Marketing Efforts An Executive’s Guide to Managing Email is ‘Email 101’ for executives. It helps busy executives understand the importance of best practices without getting into copious detail. Deciding if you need an email service provider? Struggling to choose the right one? Trying to build a quality email list? An Executive’s Guide to Managing Email covers all of this and more. It’s what you need to know but didn’t know to ask. Make no mistake; An Executive’s Guide to Managing Email is a short, quick read. Give it an hour, and you’ll have powerful knowledge to advise a hands-on, email operations team. Please note that this is NOT for seasoned email practitioners. It is for senior team members who need to understand the ‘rules of engagement’ without being involved in day-to-day operations.


Successful leaders often seem to have sharper minds than the rest of us—isn’t that how they got to the top in the first place?

Successful leaders often seem to have sharper minds than the rest of us—isn’t that how they got to the top in the first place? While we often assume that people become powerful because of their superior thinking skills, research shows that the relationship flows in the other direction as well: power changes the way a person thinks, making them better at focusing on relevant information, integrating disparate pieces of knowledge, and identifying hidden patterns than people who are powerless. People who feel powerful also show improved “executive functioning”: they are better able to concentrate, plan, inhibit unhelpful impulses and flexibly adapt to change.

A sense of power “has dramatic effects on thought and behavior,” writes Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School, in 2011 article in the journal Psychological Science. Indeed, “being in a high-power role transforms people psychologically.” The good news is that we don’t have to wait until we’re the boss to reap the mental rewards of powerfulness. Here, three ways to take advantage of the power of power:

1. Find a role in which you feel powerful. All of us can identify some area of life in which we’re able to take the lead—and once we do so, changes in how we think and act will follow. “The social roles people inhabit can change their most basic cognitive processes,” notes Pamela Smith, a social psychologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands. Studies show that when people are assigned to the manager role (in a real organization or in one simulated in the lab), they immediately become more likely to act decisively, to take risks, to persist on tasks they take up, and to think more abstractly and optimistically.

This has implications for how we treat others—students, employees, offspring—as well, suggesting that we should reverse the usual practice of waiting until individuals prove themselves worthy of holding power. Empowering people now, by giving them more control and autonomy, will lead them to think and act in ways befitting the role.

2. Remember a time when you felt powerful. Merely recalling a powerful moment from your own past makes you more likely to act powerfully in the present—a difference that is readily apparent to others. In a forthcoming study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers asked participants to recall a time they had or lacked power, then had them write a job application letter or participate in a simulated interview for admission to business school. Independent judges found the people who’d been primed to feel powerful more impressive and more persuasive—a finding, the authors note, with “important implications for understanding the psychology of job interviews.”

3. Assume a powerful posture. In his 2011 study, Adam Galinsky and his colleagues asked seated participants to assume either an “expansive” position (one arm on the armrest of their own chair, the other arm on the back of a nearby chair; legs crossed so that the ankle of one leg rested on the thigh of the other leg and stretched beyond the edge of the chair) or a “constricted” position (hands under their thighs, shoulders dropped, legs together). People in the expansive position were more likely to make a bold move in a simulated game of blackjack, and were better at identifying hidden pictures within a series of fragmented images (a measure of abstract thinking).

Galinsky highlights the fascinating finding, made in another study, that assuming a powerful posture reduces cortisol (a stress hormone) and elevates testosterone (a hormone associated with self-assertion). “To think and act like a powerful person,” Galinsky concludes, “people do not need to possess role power or recall being in a powerful role”—they just need to arrange their bodies in a powerful way.