Why Social Media Skills Are Now Business Skills

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Some scoff at social media, believing that it’s all a young people’s fad that will soon pass.

But there is growing evidence that those who spend the time to develop their social media skills are benefiting. They are learning some critical, non-trivial capabilities, while adopting the unique habits required to be an effective professional in this new era.

In this article, I look at why these skills are now important and more than “nice-to-haves.”


How Social Media Skills Are Changing Business Forever

Is social media just a passing fad that mature business-people can safely ignore? Is it all just a waste of time? Does lasting, meaningful social activity only take place in person; not over the Internet?

Recently, a Kingston-based friend of mine was intent on taking a destination vacation in the USA with his extended family of nine. He booked 10 days in a motel, thinking that was his best option. However, after he Googled the destination, he discovered AirBnB, the short-term rental service. A  search of the neighbourhood revealed that he could get a beautiful private house in the same location for half the price.

But there was a catch. He learned that AirBnB landlords are not obligated to rent their property to anyone who can afford it. Instead, they only approve people they trust. How does someone who has never met you and lives thousands of miles away come to entrust you, a stranger, with one of their prized possessions? The answer might be obvious – social media.

If you are an AirBnB renter who has never used the service before (and, therefore, has never been rated on the website by a landlord ) you are an unknown entity. In order to reduce the risk, the service encourages property owners to do something unusual. They learn how to check you out online, via sites like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and company websites. Your public presence on social media, in particular, helps determine whether or not you represent a high risk – the kind of tenant who will ruin their home.

In this case, my friend had a problem. Porn hackers had just taken over his Facebook account, forcing him to start a new one. To a stranger, it would appear as if he had just joined the social network a week ago… a big red flag.

The answer was simple. He needed to beef up his Linkedin profile so that prospective landlords would come to see him as a competent, trusted person. Unfortunately, up until then, his profile looked like an orphan – a place he had visited only once or twice. We added a headshot, biographical data and details of his work history.

In a day or two, the landlord signaled her satisfaction and the subsequent vacation was a total success.

The fact is, a weak online presence may not elicit critiques from your close business associates here in Jamaica. They, like you, may argue “they don’t have the time” to “play around” with social media. Listening mostly to each other, you may all be convinced that it’s unimportant. It may be an echo chamber: a comfort zone in which your friends are just saying and doing the same things.

You may be mistaken in thinking that it doesn’t matter. Obviously, your lack of a profile communicates something to the landlords on AirBnB. The broader question for business-people is “Who else might care?”

A while back, my wife received a message from a man who was coming to Jamaica from Europe to do some business. He wanted to meet her and possibly engage her services in the future.

A quick check on Linkedin raised suspicions: his  profile was also an orphan written in utterly vague language. It took some time, but deeper Google searches showed that his company had a reputation for running a particular scam. Apparently, they knew how to enter a country and extract the information they needed for free, before selling it to their clients.

My wife declined the meeting.

You may be comfortable with the unclear image you are creating online, but there may be opportunities to receive discounts that are passing you by. Also, others outside Jamaica may be ignoring your offers to engage, or making sure they are too busy to take your call.

Social media use for business purposes requires a distinct skill, but don’t wait for the classroom training to be offered. These platforms are evolving too rapidly.

Last year I picked up an ebook that described in detail the  skills required to make effective use of the latest version of Linkedin. I was shocked. Unknown to me, the social network had evolved. Within a few weeks, I picked up hundreds of new connections in one of my key markets overseas.

By contrast, Facebook business pages have recently been rendered impotent. Only paid advertisements are actually making their way to fan’s news feeds, forcing many companies’ strategies to change.

The landscape is changing so fast that the rules must be re-learned every few months. That’s why you simply cannot set up a social media unit and relax. These are now executive skills that cannot be explained in the abstract – they must be experienced firsthand.

In fact, they have become far from optional. They represent a must-have for the business person who is serious and global-minded.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. To receive a free summary of links to his past articles, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20151011/francis-wade-how-social-media-skills-are-changing-business-forever

OCt 11 2015 Gleaner

Business In a Rut? Stop “Should-ing” on Yourself

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What if business success has something to do with being enlightened? In this column I highlight a single skill that can be found in both spritual and corporate success-stories.


Business In a Rut? Stop “Should-ing” on Yourself

One way that leaders in local companies get stuck in a rut is by refusing to accept the current business world… as it is. While it sounds obvious, there are many who are losing profits by complaining incessantly that the local environment isn’t the way it should be. How do you get yourself unstuck, if you are?

A friend of mine once taught me a trick. “If you call a large company (such as your least favorite utility) and get someone on the phone who is incompetent, just thank the person and hang up. Then, using what you have learned, immediately call back and

talk with someone else. Repeat the process until you get the answer you want, using your newfound knowledge on each subsequent call.”

Another American friend of mine (before the 9/11 terrorist attacks) shared that he often received first-class upgrades on flights. How? By simply making a polite request at the counter.

Finally, a vice president in a general insurance company advised me that there are some people who negotiate lower car insurance rates.

“How?” I asked.

“By asking.”

In each of these cases, I was stunned. Like many, I am likely to hang up after the first bad call, feeling upset. I also rarely ask for the extras I want and (even worse) believe that requesting a “bligh” is equivalent to doing something bad.

Now, it’s obvious that I only get myself stuck when I fall into these traps. In each of these three situations, there is an effective approach that most people don’t pursue. When you are a businessperson, the cost of stopping yourself is not only in personal convenience but in profits. What do you need to do to make sure that you can “Wheel and Come Again” as often as you need to, without a hint of frustration?

1. Find the Thought Behind the Stress

If you are feeling stressed for more than a quick instant, it’s a likely sign that you need to ask some deeper questions. For example, if you think the world has to change in order to regain your peace of mind, you will suffer. Jamaica’s recession is teaching us that waiting around for business conditions to improve, and for happiness to descend with it, is suicide. When we understand that stress isn’t predetermined by outside circumstances but involves our own thought patterns, that’s a strong beginning.

2. Look for the “Is-World” Beyond the “Should-World”

One of the stressful thoughts I struggle with is:  “A company should be staffed with competent people who can anticipate my wants/needs as a customer.” It’s a perfect example of what some call “Living in a Should-World.” When I am in this mindset I am preoccupied by the way things should be, complaining that my critical standard is not being met. I become impatient, upset and ineffective.

The alternative is “Living in the Is-World.” In this frame of mind, someone accepts what life has offered at that moment fully and completely. It doesn’t mean that he isn’t trying to change things, it simply implies that progress starts by “hugging up” reality.

Businesspeople who do so are free to act without frustration. They are unfazed, quickly accepting the way things are and acting accordingly. Not to say that this is easy, but a long recession shouldn’t be wasted: it is a special time to comprehend big, lifelong lessons.

3. Realize that No-One is to Blame

Sometimes, in corporate life, no person is at fault. A few CEO’s ago, I was standing at the counter of a Digical store trying to use my loyalty points when I learned they had “expired.” Unknown to me, there was a new policy. Since then I have learned that the company had every legal right to change the programme. Furthermore, it had announced the change in the press.

However, I have spoken with over 10 employees (plus a number of my friends) who also had their points deducted, to their shock. They also had no clue the change was coming, costing them valuable points in their account. One employee’s mother was “killing him” with complaints.

But I’m lucky… I have been using my points over the years. Other patient accumulators are the big losers.

Oftentimes, when I recall the incident, I feel cheated. As if a trusted partner who sends me lots of texts, a monthly bill and regular email chose to quietly remove money from my bank account.

I struggle to accept this reality but try not to give up. On each call to Digicel, I complain loudly about the “injustice.” Here I am writing about it.

Even though I’m clear that my appeals might fail, I still feel empowered when I take action. That’s a benefit of not “Should-ing” on myself and accepting the reality of what is.

Francis Wade is a management consultant, keynote speaker and author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity. To receive a summary with links to past columns, or give feedback, email: columns@fwconsulting.com

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20150927/francis-wade-business-rut-stop-second-guessing-yourself

Sep 23 2015 Gleaner Stop Should-ing

Why High Performers “Hug Up” Their Incompetence

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We Jamaicans think it’s rude to call someone “incompetent.” In my latest column, I show that this “politeness” is a big mistake on our part as mediocrity is allowed to fester, grow and bear a bitter fruit.

We need a kind of personal courage that is hard to find, but would let us get past knee-jerk defensiveness.

The article was inspired by the high level of incompetence that surrounds us each day. For example, the recent drought, which apparently caught the National Water Commission by surprise, could have been mitigated by competence. When we don’t strive to deal with our incompetence, bad things happen… leaving us to wonder how and why. The answer is far simpler to implement than it seems, especially for those who already deem themselves to be “smart.”


 

Why High Performers “Hug Up” Their Incompetence

We all know that it’s rude to call someone “incompetent.” Unfortunately, this polite norm blocks Jamaican employees from outstanding accomplishment. The solution is to embrace rather than eschew individual incompetence. Here’s why.

People who are experts in a field by virtue of their experience or knowledge have something in common with those who are highly accomplished. They all have an acute sense of what’s missing… the gap between who they are and who they could be. Operating on a knife’s edge, they are forever trying  to expand themselves in areas where they feel an acute lack of competence.

This thirst for results drives them to search and eke out the smallest gains, even if it’s just a fraction of a second in a sprint, a few runs in an innings or a tiny bump in sales revenue. They believe that closing these infinitesimal gaps  is all-important; that accurate self-knowledge is the key.

Over time, they also develop an eye for competence in fields which are unfamiliar and unrelated to their own. High performers can recognize each other, but not because they understand the technical details. Instead, they pick up on the blood, sweat and tears invested in closing competency gaps, whether the hours are spent in surgery, sculpture or in the gym.

By contrast, the average person looking at these same people may not see any connection. Too many believe that  becoming great is just a matter of tapping into God-given talents. In other words, for them, it doesn’t take much for Usain to be Usain. All he had to do was wake up and discover his birthright.

This misconception isn’t shared by high performers, who aren’t misled. One indicator they use to separate high performers from the fakes is  a measure of how someone relates to their innate incompetence.

The fear of incompetence

High performers embrace their incompetence, “hugging it up” from sunup to sundown. The rest of us live in a different world. For us, the worst thing that can happen is to be openly labelled as incompetent, or seen by others as stuck in this condition. Therefore, we resist the label and pretend to have what we don’t, acting as if we can do what we can’t.

Smart people, in particular, have this problem in spades.

Oftentimes, they realize they are well above average at a young age, able to process thoughts faster than their peers.  Many use this ability unwisely: instead of pursuing a life balanced on the edge, they seek comfort. A place to relax and enjoy their advantage in peace.

They learn to use their smarts to bamboozle others, showing off their talents as they protect their comfortable place in life.

Some know better. Ask those who have migrated and you may uncover their true experience. Thinking they were highly accomplished, they discovered far away from home that they were nowhere near the edge. For me, that moment came when after, a few days as a Cornell freshman, I discovered that several of my new friends had perfect SAT scores.

I instantly felt very, very small.

To make things worse, a few weeks later, in casual conversation with a graduate student, I reported my 85% mark on my first computer science test. He asked a single question: “What was the mean?” (i.e. the average score.)

“86%,” I answered.

“You only got a C+!… that’s all!”

In response to my shocked expression, he explained that grades in the engineering school did not correspond to a particular, set range. Instead, they were based on a Bell Curve in which half the class received a B- or better, and the other half received a C+ or worse.

His subsequent advice on how to improve my grades were well-intended, but I processed little of it at the moment. I had graduated at the top of my class at Wolmers, but that meant little in this new, demanding environment. Here was stark evidence of my incompetence.

While migrating to experience higher workplace standards may not be a realistic option for most employees, we can all start by owning our incompetence. For example, many workers shine when they are reassigned to a new boss with better interpersonal skills. Too few managers take this fact as evidence of their incompetence. Instead, they deflect responsibility and continue on, business as usual.

It’s understandable. Looking for examples of high performance and measuring ourselves accordingly takes a lot of hard work. The journey isn’t for everyone.

However, there is no escaping the accumulated consequences of this cowardice. When the number of people in your company seeking out new areas of personal incompetence can be counted on one hand, you have a problem. When 3 million people hide from their incompetence, the result is also predictable… decades of anemic economic growth and a worldwide reputation for low productivity. We can do better.

Francis Wade is a management consultant, keynote speaker and author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity. To receive a Summary of Links to past columns, or give feedback, email: columns@fwconsulting.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20150913/francis-wade-why-high-performers-hug-their-incompetence

Gleaner Sep 13 High performers hug up incompetence

 

 

 

How to Rescue Low Employee Followership with Advanced Listening Skills

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Listening skills are one of the few that we use almost every day, as long as we are in some kind of conversation. For many professionals, it’s a bit like breathing. Until something goes terribly wrong, we don’t notice our level of skill and do little to improve our capacity from one day to the next.

In this article, I make the point that this approach is mistaken, providing a single way (among many) to think about advanced listening skills.


How to Rescue Low Employee Followership with Advanced Listening Skills

Executives are often amazed to discover how much they can accomplish with advanced listening skills. Unfortunately, the path to developing them is shrouded in mystery, resulting in a numbing mediocrity that undermines their best efforts.

If you are an executive (or a professional who aspires to top leadership) you are likely to be blessed with great analytical skills. Plus, you have an ability to think on your feet and quickly put thoughts into words. You are also driven to communicate in powerful ways, recognizing the critical need for a leader to develop committed followers.

If you happen to be a leader who is unable to develop the “followership” you’d like, you probably aren’t thinking of fixing the problem with better listening skills. Perhaps, like many, you assume that they are easy to learn, and not that important. You may believe that you are better than your colleagues, trusting that you wouldn’t be where you are in your career if you weren’t already well above average.

However, consider that the popular definition of “listening” (in a two-person conversation) is limited. Most people define “listening” to be more or less the same as “hearing.” In other words, if you have heard all the words the other person has said, then that’s the same as having good listening skills.

That’s a mistake.

Unfortunately, if you are a smart ambitious person, you may be pretending to listen. See if this fits: While the other person is talking, your bright mind races along, assessing multiple thoughts in a flash. You fill the gap between the end of your last sentence and the start of the next one with your own thoughts. Their voice is little more than background noise.

Therein lies the problem. When you are caught up in your thoughts, you aren’t actually listening – not in a deep way. Instead, you are multi-tasking – giving only what’s called “continuous partial attention.” In other words, you are switching your attention between your thoughts and their words. At your worst, a tiny fraction of your attention is on the other person… your thoughts are far more interesting.

If you have ever been accused of not listening by someone you may be guilty of this habit, which some call “pausing to reload.” Perhaps you defended yourself by repeating every word the other person just said, maybe without skipping a beat. However, this represents the lowest level of listening I mentioned before… “hearing.” According to a number of studies, full communication involves a wider blend of channels: 55% relates to body language, 38% to tone of voice and only 7% to the words spoken. Take this research to mean that when someone reduces communication to just a bunch of spoken sentences they may be missing out on the 93% that’s not resident in the words.

Based on this finding, here is one expanded way to listen that is far more powerful, and actually builds followership.

Listening to Leave the Other Person Satisfied

If you can leave someone in a conversation with the experience of “being heard” you have given a shared gift. This is no generic, fleeting emotion. When the experience takes place for both people, there is a deep sense of fulfillment and connection. It is a oneness that is often present when people fall in love, become good friends in a click or come up with a brilliant idea for a new business.

By contrast, when one or both people feel as if they are not being heard, the outcome is disastrous. Lots of words get repeated. War breaks out.

Fortunately, there are simple techniques to use as remedies. Just ask “Am I getting all that you are saying?” after you have paraphrased their words aloud. Pause, listen and watch to see if they think that you are capturing their words, emotion and intent. Tune into your inner guidance to detect any discrepancies or inconsistencies.

Another useful technique is the practice of meditation. In most forms of the discipline, you learn to ignore your inner thoughts and bring your attention to a single point of focus. Without suppressing any given thought, you train yourself to retain a laser-like focus. In a conversation, this point of focus happens to be the other person and the message they are trying to communicate.

Unfortunately, these are techniques you are unlikely to use under pressure. For example, recall the last time you were verbally attacked. It may be hard to imagine yourself paraphrasing or granting laser-like attention in that episode.

The good news is that the techniques associated with advanced listening are especially suited for these difficult interactions. Using them involves deliberate practice sessions that might be uncomfortable, but build invisible muscles.

After all, Serena Williams and Chris Gayle take their time on the practice court or nets seriously. So should you if you are serious about developing advanced listening skills and employee followership.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity and a management consultant. To receive a free Summary of each of his past articles, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20150830/francis-wade-rescue-low-followership-advanced-listening-skills

Gleaner Aug 30 Rescue low followership

Customer Development – As Important to Product Development

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I’m reading a book that makes the case that startups need to develop customers at the same time they are developing new products. The two processes need to proceed in parallel, from the very beginning, in order to test the hypothesis that a real customer-need is being addressed.

 

It’s a great book and I summarized what I was learning in this article in the Gleaner – The Customer May Not Always be Right.

NewHabits Foundations Returns to Jamaica

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My flagship time-based productivity programme returns to Kingston on February the 27th, 2014 – Thursday.

To view a short video describing this programme, follow this link to the NewHabits information page. This is a unique opportunity to close the gap between where you are and where you could be as a Caribbean professional using ideas that were fashioned right here in the region.