Friday, March 9, 2012

Tips on How to Use Social Media to Market Your Brand

In many of my workshops about branding and utilizing social media, I find that students of certain generations are often so overwhelmed by the prospect of building and maintaining their own website, they can't even begin to fathom how they can use these free tools to further their brand and market their business.  On the other hand, the generation who has been inundated with technology and the world wide web since a young age often doesn't understand how to separate online social behavior from professional presentation.  Their online content can harm their business and brand.  Here is a quick article and discussion on how to properly use Social Media.  I hope you find it helpful.

Boost Your Career with Social Media: Tips for the Uninitiated - Amy Gallo - Best Practices - Harvard Business Review

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Is It Worth It?

I've recently had some discussions with a business owner who is wondering if owning and operating a company is really what he wants to be doing with his life.  He's frustrated by the expense, and managing employees is a persistent challenge. These talks have inevitably made me look at my own life and question some of the obligations I have, whether or not they are truly working.
Perhaps you too have been reconsidering the choices you make when it comes to how you invest your time/money/energy.  Everything and everyone in our life requires an investment of all three to some degree-friendships and romantic relationships, possessions, careers, hobbies, and other pursuits.  How often we complain about any (or all) of the above!   We gripe about how easily our time/money/energy is depleted.  But here's a question, and I must admit it is one I forget to ask myself, do we consider what and who we commit our time/money/energy to?  Are we as mindful as we could be when it comes to who we invite and keep in our lives?  Are we as intentional as we should be about our decisions when it comes to obligations such as volunteering and jobs? Are we aware of the consequences when we say yes to new friends, partners, hobbies, committees, possessions...the list goes on and on.  When we find ourselves gritting our teeth and feeling a knot in our stomach over yet another obligation, do we figure we just have to keep our head low and barrel through?  Or do we wonder if something that is creating so much stress and irritation really warrants being a part of our life in the first place?

Know when to hold 'em,  Know when to fold 'em... 
We have all at one point or another sat down to create a pros and cons list to help determine how we should proceed, but I say, if you find yourself more often than not dreading having to deal with someone or something, it is simply time to make a change. I have often been stuck in commitments that are clearly not working, yet I have desperately clung to them, enduring one uncomfortable situation after another, out of some unrealistic sense of duty.  I'm sure you have done the same.  We all have, even when we innately know something or someone is wrong for us.

Life is hardly easy, but when something is meant to be, it will have fluidity and natural progression.  It will fit into your life smoothly like a missing puzzle piece.  That is not to say sometimes the puzzle piece won't slip a bit out of place, and that there may be long spans of time when the piece won't quite snap back into the groove, but I promise you, when you find the right people, places, and paths it will feel right for you.  You will wonder why you wasted so much time/money/energy trying to make things work that were never going to, trying to force the wrong puzzle piece into the space, bashing and bending it while hoping with enough tears, prayers, and aggravation it will finally succumb to all your efforts.  Trust me, your time/money/energy is better invested on figuring out what you need rather than trying to fix a situation that may be unfixable.

Shades of Grey
At the same time, don't assume you are right and the job/friend/group/partner/etcetera is wrong.  Things aren't always that black and white, and when you deem yourself the only one who really knows what's going on you automatically alienate yourself and make it impossible to find a solution to the issues.  It is important to make an effort to understand why things aren't coming together, aren't clicking.  Remember, while the job position may be a nightmare for you, it may be the dream job of someone else.  And the boyfriend you can no longer stand could be the perfect husband for someone new.  In fact, with a bit of solution seeking that job may become your dream job, that boyfriend may become your perfect husband.  However, your heart knows whether someone or something is worth additional investment.  If you know it is time to toss in the towel, you are doing yourself and all of the parties involved a tremendous favor by walking away.

How do I know?
When is it time to toss in the towel?  Most people fall into two opposing categories.  The first hit the road at the slightest sign of conflict, never allowing themselves to learn the skills of compromise and negotiation.  The second allow themselves to be the victim of circumstances, becoming the proverbial rug that everyone walks all over in the process.  I find I can walk away with peace when I feel I've honestly made every possible effort to create resolution, and yet nothing I've attempted has panned out. 

Here are two personal examples that I hope you will find helpful:

Years ago I was hired to manage a company and very quickly into working there it was made clear that the owners could not stand a particular employee.  They would often discuss this employee behind her back in a highly derogatory way.  The employee was an easy target, being excessively unprofessional, but for her sake I tried taking her by the hand and guiding her toward being viewed in a more favorable light.  Time passed with the employee consistently messing up and the owners choosing to handle it by privately bitching about her.  It was not a constructive set-up for either side.  Finally I went to the owners and demanded they let her go.  It was clear she wasn't going to improve and I was tired of her being treated so disrespectfully.  A few years later she came to thank me for having her fired.  She recognized she had behaved unprofessionally and that she had been going through a tough time in her personal life.  She was greatly appreciative of the fact I had forced the decision which freed her from such a toxic work environment. And she let me know after leaving the company she had quickly found a job that was far more suitable for her.

Many years ago I briefly befriended a woman and her boyfriend, but after getting to know the boyfriend (who became her fiance, then husband, then ex-husband in quick order) I decided he made me too uncomfortable to allow the friendship to develop further.  There was no way to graciously explain this to the woman so I allowed the friendship to fall by the wayside. She would occasionally contact me, and after finding out she was single, we started to spend time together again.  However, it soon became apparent the boyfriend had not been some sort of fluke in her life.  She seemed to be attracted to dysfunction at every turn, and as time went on, it became more and more difficult for me to relate to her and her lifestyle.  I hated the fact the friendship was causing me so much stress, and I didn't feel it was fair to her that I couldn't respect her.  I ended the friendship, saying that I was grateful for the time we spent together, but that I found it too painful to see her harming herself, and that I thought it was best for me to move on.  She and I are still in touch in superficial ways, and I am happy whenever I hear good things are happening for her.

Respect Yourself, Respect Others
I hope you notice in both examples it was my concern for someone else more than my concern for me that prompted me to end a commitment.  Everyone deserves to be respected in every component of their life.  There are going to be time/money/energy investments you can't get out of (dealing with a difficult parent, for example) but you can at least recognize what is not working and what role you are playing in the dysfunction.  Once armed with that knowledge and understanding you can then create boundaries that positively serve you and the other parties involved. 

But what about obligations that violate your moral code and ethics?  (a company that is asking you to do something unethical, for example) If you feel you are in danger, either physically, or psychologically, or if you suspect continued interaction will have a harmful effect on your life, it is simple, get out now.

What about me?
Yes, what about you?  Do you see certain patterns in the people and things you choose to invest your time/money/energy in? Do you feel they are a good match for you?  If they are not, is it because you are unclear about who you are and what you need?  Are you communicating clearly with yourself, with everyone around you?

Look at each commitment in your life. Do you have a clear role?  Do you feel you have the opportunity to contribute, and do you feel like your contributions are appreciated?  Which commitments make you feel drained and disgruntled?  Which ones make you feel invigorated? 

Reviewing your answers to the questions above, I imagine at least two or three investments of your time/money/energy will stick out as mismatches.  It is okay to bow out of those commitments so you can channel more of your time/money/energy toward the productive aspects of your life.  Anyone following my blog will know I often talk about cutting away the dead wood in order to simplify and streamline.  Learn to say, No.  Listen to your inner voice and obey it when it declares, This is not for me.  Oh, I can't even begin to tell you how many times I should have listened to that inner voice! 

Stop being so concerned about what others think of you.  It is okay to disappoint people.  It is okay for someone to get the wrong impression when you know you handled things with honor and integrity.  You have to accept that certain ends may never be tied.  You may never get the opportunity to explain your motives, to clear the air.  But walking away from commitments that are just not working will benefit all parties involved, because it opens up the doors to finding the right set of circumstances for everyone. 

What if I am not quite ready to bail, but I'm not sure where to go from here?
If you are ambivalent, or if you are in a position you simply, at least at the moment, cannot get out of, seek out a third party for advice.  This can be either a mentor or a mediator, someone who can serve as a sounding board or help to create a bridge between you and the other party (or parties).  Too often we allow doubt and social pressure to cloud our judgment.  A neutral party can hear our jumbled thoughts and pick them apart to create solutions.  They can guide us in the way we should go. 

If you truly feel you have made a consistently genuine effort (and be honest, have you?) and things just don't seem to be coming together, you can save yourself a lot of aggravation by just moving on.  Again, it isn't a question of who or what is right, or wrong, it is about finding situations to invest your time/money/energy in that are right for you.  I promise you in the end you'll be asking yourself, What took me so long?