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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.