A Tiger & His Stripes

Over an excellent coin style marg (where all the best conversations happen) a friend made a proclamation. We're diametrically opposed he said. The  biggest differences between us is that he is (and will always be) a glass is half empty kind of person whereas I decidedly am not. And, he announced that his half empty view of the world wasn't going to change.

He was right about my propensity for looking at the bright side of life. I also think he was pointing at a belief that…

We are who we are.

While we can tweak some things, on the whole we're going to stick true to our predispositions. In the past I've wailed and gnashed against my natural predilections. Sometimes I even saw them as a curse rather than a blessing. They had to be changeable. But my views changed as I was largely unsuccessful in changing my natural ways of being. These days I think having a stable predisposition from which we're not likely to deviate from is largely true.

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Sure, I can start waking up earlier in the morning but I'm always going to be a whirling dervish  at midnight like the true night owl I am. Another example are my math and accounting abilities. Um, I don't have any. I pretty much made it through high school math by flirting with the smart, cute math geek who sat in front of me. With my inherent communication and persuasion talents you're far more likely to hire me as your CMO  than as your CFO.

Where you stand on this?

Are we the way we are or do you think the Tiger can change his stripes to spots?

Or can he just make his stripes appear a different color?

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Can You Be Successful at Door #3?

The ubiquity of the social web these days means that crafting a public persona isn't just for celebrities or big brands anymore. If your social presence is something akin to Casper, you might want to keep this in mind. If you think people aren't paying attention to your small startup I have three words for you: Library of Congress. While it might get lost in the 55 million tweets sent each day your personal tweets are still a matter of public record and that means it's searchable. Caring about your public persona also extends into your offline life as well but that's another post for another day.

Going Willy Nilly

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We all know those people or businesses who really should do a bit of reputation management. They're the ones come off as very willy nilly in their approach to social matters. They're the ones who send emo tweets or status updates about their terrible past or worse, current employers. The Willy Nilly's are the ones who have public spats on Twitter. Or, announce their break-up with a rant about their ex on Facebook. They're like this guy who goes on an angry rant about a first world problem.

 

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Some use this seeming Willy Nilly approach to great effect becoming digital Pied Pipers with followers avidly waiting their next public break down. Others are less successful. Even though seemingly successful, those Pied Pipers are at risk of doing permanent damage to themselves professionally. When their reputation is at its lowest and professional damage is at it's highest there are a few options to get out of this social maelstrom:

A. Hire someone to do it for them.

B. Declare digital social bankruptcy and start all over again.

C. Not care. Be a social rebel.

Carving As If In Stone

The other side of the social media continuum is just as interesting. I like to call these folks Careful IMG 0026 300x300 Can You Be Successful at Door #3?Crafters. They care so much about what other things that sometimes they can come across stiff as an Ironwood tree. Everything is perfect. Their latest crisis is handled with silence or denial. Their inner world might be falling apart but the outside world would never get a whiff of it. Not at least until it's in the distant past–meaning years past. But sometimes being too concerned with your reputation become like handcuffs to that reputation that you're trying so hard to build. When you've tipped over the too overly crafted social media chasm it can make you:

A. Bore people before they're done reading their content.

B. Appear something other than genuine and human.

C. Miss opportunities for connection.

Given my work as a marketing and social strategist, it may be no surprise that I tend to sit towards the middle on the Careful Crafter side of the continuum. My social media communications tend to err on the side of being professional and saying things I wouldn't be afraid to say in front of my mother. I think I've posted one vaguely emo(tional) tweet out of nearly 6,400. While I'm generally happy with this I sometimes wonder if there are hidden costs to this approach. Do I take enough chances? Would I be more successful if I loosened the reigns on my public persona? It's something I'm pondering.

Door #3

Just because you're not a Careful Crafter doesn't automatically make you a Willy Nilly. There are some who just manage their social presence artfully without a great deal of work at it. They seem to sit at the middle of the continuum with ease. I recently had a conversation about reputation management with a friend who is a fairly public person. Managing public reputation wasn't something he had considered which was interesting because his reputation and that of his company are pretty stellar. While I'm not sure there had been nary a thought to this I think it was largely true. I attribute his success to having an innate ability in knowing when to push things, when to hold back and how to have fun while not taking it too far. Door #3 is likely effective but probably not easy for everyone to do effectively. If you can really make this style work I say go for it.

The Balance

If you tend to lie at either end of the social continuum you may want to consider my dad's philosophy:

Your assets in excess become your liabilities

Given this philosophy my dad like to advocate doing things in moderation (and he didn't mean just drinking). But in the social world I wonder. Does a balanced approach really work or, can this stray into the unmemorable category?

So. I'm curious about your reputation management style.

Are you a Willy Nilly or a Careful Crafter? Or are you Door #3?


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What’s Your Pink Necktie?

I captured this photo one day on the streets of Boulder. One of the things I love about this town is it's random quirkiness. As the saying goes around here, Keep Boulder Weird. Normally I ignore panhandlers but this one caught my attention. I actually gave him money for his unique approach. It made me laugh.

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While there are truly some revolutionary approaches out there–hello Twitter–most of it has been done before. So it's largely a game of a new approach–either in how you deliver services or how you market them. It's what one of my clients calls the Pink Necktie. This principle is pretty simple actually. In a crowded market what's your differentiator? And how do you communicate it in an interesting and compelling way that's true to your vision and your company? (This is totally relevant for individuals to by the way as you see by the gentleman in the photo.) Market research is a really good place to start but remember to make sure it's actually a genuine expression of who you are and what you stand for.

A Master At The Pink Necktie

FourSquare. They were clear about how their value and found a great way to communicate that connected with people. They took checking in from a transaction to something fun and cool. Their hipster, sassy tone of voice carries through their badges and even check-ins. Their biggest Pink Necktie? Founder Dennis Crowley's charismatic, story telling style.

Your Pink Necktie

Simple right? Easy? Not always. It's easy to get sucked into doing things the way everybody else does. It means taking time to get clear about what it is for you. It might mean going in a completely different direction than everyone else in your market. It means taking risks and sometimes requires guts to wear your Pink Necktie fully and completely.

Figure out what your Pink Necktie is and wear the hell out of it.

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Remembering Your #1

Honesty was on my mind a few weeks ago. It stuck with me. Turning it back on myself I realize there's a confession I should make. Now, I'm not Catholic so I've never really done this before. Bear with me.

The thing is…

I'm an idealist. One of the things that drives me the most is impact. Empowering people is a huge part of my life. I'm an idealist that wears a business blanket around her. I love making people and organizations more effective, happier and just better people. Or groups of people. I love taking this mushy stuff like intuition, empowerment, learning and making it tangible and accessible so that things happen.

You know, strong companies, more effective people. All that stuff that lives in the real world. 

My end game? Results. I am driven by tangible things like deadlines, results, impact and anything you can count. I just start with a bit of good old fashioned idealism.

Now the confession starts to get really good
Somewhere between worrying about makin' the donuts and paying those bills there was a time when I lost a little of that part of myself. Not "I'm gonna die in the jungle lost." Just enough to make me a wee bit well, less me. And I believe we're all our most effective when we're truly ourselves. It's actually ironic given one of my favorite quotes:

If you ask me what I came here to do I will tell you. I came to live out loud.

                                                                                                              Emile Zola

The slow leaking away of this part of myself wasn't obvious for a while. Over time I just became a bit stiff. And unlike myself. I started focusing only on results–not the way to get there. Misalignment starting showing up in my life at times. Things got harder and just didn't seem to work as well as they had before.

Why did I lose it? There are the usual suspects but the biggest reason is that I focused on the wrong goal. I had this idea that my main goal in life was to make money and pay my bills. Yes, those are realities. But focusing on them for me were akin to being on a hamster wheel where the object became keeping that cycle going. It was a gradual slipping away and a gradual awakening. Then there was a day when I just decided it was time to change my focus. I chose a deeper, more sustainable goal. That focus? To be myself. Idealist and all.

Allowing my natural preferences and my vision to guide me actually helped me find better opportunities are truly aligned with who I am. It's also given me much more stability in the good old financial department. Huh. Fancy that.

We all lose our way sometimes

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There's lots of pressure around results and that sometimes means we drop a little part of ourselves along the results highway. We
forget that it's actually one of the fastest ways to results.

I see startups do this all the time as they grasp for their early clients. Growing companies can fall into this trap as they seek to keep the ground they've gained. As a CEO of a scrappy little startup it can be easy to get caught up in all those darn logistics and lose sight of your vision. For me, finding my way back wasn't like waking up on pile of soft pillows and I had to make some real choices but once I got there it felt amazing. To live any other way is well, just kind of crazy.

So tell me.

What part of yourself or your company have you dropped off on the side of the results highway? 

And how will you pick it back up?

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My Mantra

Emile Zola 2.001 My Mantra

 

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