5 Spectacularly Successful Strategies for Faking Authenticity

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Intermediation Biz Opportunity: Curation

In this introductory post, I opened up the idea of potential business opportunities that exist by thinking of The New Intermediation.

Briefly, we need to see that there are huge needs at the intersection of loads of “stuff,” which need to be translated into strategic business directions and deliverables. Graphically pictured:

Intermediary1

Now, let’s consider one of those new intermediation roles: Curation.

In this case, the Big Pool is information. We live in an age of information overload (getting exponentially worse), and no-one in an important business role has the time to keep up with it; let alone know how to filter, process, and assemble it into a strategic roadmap.

Enter the curator. Filter, process, assemble, deliver/present.

IntermediationCurator

In the early days of social media and blogging, first-movers got into the curation business by assembling information resources and making money by advertising, or by selling subscriptions. Nowadays, there’s a ton of on-line noise (including information-assemblers), but there are still many opportunities to add value by curating targeted business information for an audience that needs it, and is willing to pay for it.

A curator may make money directly by selling the information, or, by selling some other valued service that becomes known because a free (or low-cost) curation service drives awareness and credibility. This latter approach is one I followed in establishing my pharmaceutical consulting practice.

In ancient times, Reader’s Digest was an example of curation. In more recent days, Marketing Profs is a great example of an on-line version. But this role can also be adopted by a solopreneur with deep domain knowledge and experience. If you know where to find things in the deep pool, AND you are aware of the related business intelligence needs, you can become a valued intermediary. Opportunity knocks!

What are some other examples of curation intermediaries (people or businesses) that you know of or rely on?

Daniel Pink and the “Ambivert Advantage”

DanielPinkI’ve been reading Daniel Pink‘s latest book, To Sell is Human (Amazon affiliate link), and I like a lot of what he has to say.

I found his thesis intriguing that extroverts don’t necessarily have an inherent advantage over introverts in sales success – you can see a summary of his thinking in this Washington Post article (if you don’t have the book).

But, a couple of things set off some alarms bells in my head.

First, I think his use of the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” are somewhat imprecise. Pink reinforces some of the more behavioral notions of the two orientations (sociable/lively/assertive vs. soft-spoken) – you know those stereotypes about the gregarious extrovert and the retiring introvert. In fact, the essence of introversion is finding one’s energy source from within, while extroverts generally find their energy from other people. While it is usually true that extroverts may tend to favor being more often in larger groups of people, and introverts typically need more (quiet) alone time, to look at stereotypical extremes and label only those as introverts or extroverts is to miss the point (in fact, there are many introverts who can quite effectively project outgoing behaviors). The ” ___vert” wiring has to do with replenishment of energy; behaviors are somewhat elastic across the spectrum. One of the best treatments of this topic is Susan Cain‘s excellent book Quiet.

My sense is that most people lean toward one orientation or the other – there are degrees of introversion and extroversion, but I am ambivalent about the notion of ambiversion as presented by Pink. He depicts “ambiverts” as the majority of people on a bell curve, with introverts and extroverts as extremes. I’d argue that there may be very few (if any) true ambiverts – people who draw energy equally from within and without. If you think of introversion/extroversion as a linear scale, I theorize that we all natively lean in one direction or the other (according to our internal wiring), even if we have learned and adopted behaviors that are more outgoing or contemplative. See this blog post for a fuller muse on this point.

The other point of contention I have with Pink’s methodology is his over-reliance on a single study (by Adam Grant) correlating sales effectiveness with self-reported measures of extroversion. In this study, people at (either) extreme end of the introvert-extrovert scale did not sell as successfully as those in the middle (whom Pink labels as the ambiverts). This result is used to argue against the prevailing notion that extroverted people are (of course!) the most productive sales people. Instead, people who could be somewhat chameleon-ish in the middle were the most successful.

It’s an intriguing and suggestive result, but there is a serious limitation to keep in mind – this is a single study (300 people), and it involved only call center representatives. Generalizing from that sample is tenuous – this is, after all, only one type of selling, and it is via phone, not in person. We can safely conclude that extremely extroverted and extremely introverted people were less effective in this particular type of non-face-to-face selling than people who were less introverted/extroverted – but that’s about it. I’m not convinced that the data and extrapolated conclusions are as convincing as they at first appear.

To then call a large swath of the population “ambiverts” and imply that they’re going to be just fine at whatever-kind-of-selling may be a bit of a stretch.

I’m an introvert, and I have done a lot of selling. I don’t schmooze as naturally as my extroverted brethren, but I practice many outgoing behaviors (that doesn’t make me an ambivert; I’m just an outgoing introvert!). And I’m actually in sympathy with a lot of Pink’s message in this book, especially the notion that, in one form or another, we’re just about all in sales (of some type). I just think that the evidence for some of the conclusions being drawn seems a bit thin on this point.

If you’ve been reading To Sell is Human – what’s your take?

The Business Opportunities of The New Intermediation

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus - you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

I’ve been consulting with a company that has a tremendous opportunity to grow through the differentiation of its offering. They stand between a huge pool of unstructured “stuff,” and a business need to make that stuff intuitively useful (even beautiful). This type of creativity is a rare gift.

Many companies and people have lost work due to the internet-driven trend of disintermediation (the removal of no-longer necessary “layers” in the business chain – think about what Amazon has done to entire swaths of the publishing/book-selling business). But there are whole new business models on the other side of that coin – people and companies who can step in between two parties/needs and provide value.

These are The New Intermediaries. And, for an entrepreneur, this is a model ripe with opportunity.

A new intermediary provides value by creatively translating “stuff” into strategic business value. <<–(click to tweet this)

For example – the client I described above specializes in creating intuitive visual design. Now, if you can look into a vast sea of poorly-structured information and create an information design presentation that advances business goals, you have added tremendous value as a specialized intermediary. How many of us have experienced corporate on-boarding that was slipshod and poorly structured/designed?

This business problem needs a specialized intermediary (apologies, in advance, for the Ugly Graphic!):

IntermediaryDesign

The above is one particular expression of a generalized New Intermediation structure, which we can generically portray this way:

Intermediary1

The new intermediary has enough of a foot into the big pool to understand the possibilities and extract the core value (think of an experienced digital marketer who can talk to programming geeks), but also has a foot in the strategic business world and can see the market application (that same marketer discussing potential applications with the CMO). This intermediary is a filter and a translator and an interpreter between two worlds.

What is an on-line curator of information? Exactly – a new intermediary. The internet (and social media) has created an explosion of “stuff,” but also there are tremendous opportunities that come with the enhanced ability to build and cultivate networks. Social networking can be a mechanism to enable business intermediation.

In fact, I launched my Impactiviti business 6+ years ago based on this concept, though I wasn’t really thinking so much about the generalized potential of the model. I create partnerships with the best outsource vendors for training and marketing development (out of a vast pool of providers), and then I “matchmake” my pharma clients with the optimal providers – helping clients more efficiently choose vendors, while helping vendors more efficiently gain targeted business opportunities.

IntermediaryImpactiviti

A major enabler of this business model, from the get-go, was digital technology for networking and communication.

The intermediary has to have solid domain expertise and a trusted reputation to be effective. Bingo – only the top people and companies can do this. And, hey, isn’t that what we want – business growth opportunities for those who have earned differentiation through competence and trust? When I do Clarity Therapy with professionals looking to gain a clear direction for their future, it’s surprising how often we quickly identify a potential opportunity involving new intermediation.

I’ve scribbled down some other applications of this model somewhere in this vast pool that is my desk – I’ll dig it up this week and post a few other suggested ways people can carve out this role for themselves. I’m thinking that a lot of people in their 30′s, 40′s, and 50′s who have built up a strong base of knowledge and credibility can find themselves a nice niche as new intermediaries and role their own. What do you think?

The Network Growth that Truly Matters

We who are active on social network like to measure our growth by followers, subscribers, page views, and other numerical metrics.

These things have their place, of course. But ultimately, they’re quite self-referential. I’d like to encourage us to notice some other, more important growth.

Let’s pay attention to the people we’re connected to as THEY grow <<–(click to tweet this) in stature, in skills, and in new endeavors.

ID-10024306

Mack Collier was once (just) a blogger. Now he is a budding author, a more in-demand speaker, a Twitter chat host, and someone who has made slow and steady progress for years. Have you noticed? Isn’t this great?

Over the past year, I’ve seen Tim McDonald grow in stature as he finds a new niche in community management (now working with HuffPost Live). He’s hustling. He’s making the most of his opportunity (and I think he’s on his honeymoon right now, in fact – congrats, Tim!).

Tom Martin was known by a limited (but appreciative) audience as a smart New Orleans-based blogger who did creative digital stuff. Now he’s finding his voice as a thought leader in digital marketing. 2013 will see his star rising even further.

Who hasn’t been thrilled to see the growing influence of Angela Maiers in the educational space? She’s paid her dues and influenced many. Speaking of midwest beauties, when I first encountered Carol Roth a few years ago, she had a great track record in business but little exposure in a broad sense. Now she’s grown into a published author, commentator, and rising star on TV news broadcasts. She even has her own action figure (long story…).

Jessica Northey, Chris Westfall, Lou Imbriano, Susan Cain, Michael Hyatt – all conquering new ground, growing their influence by doing good work and providing value (not by buying Twitter followers – the network growth that means nothing).

When our friends grow, that’s what really matters. Take a few minutes away from your subscriber numbers and pat some folks on the back who deserve it.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Me-working or Team-working – Where Are You?

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus - you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

During a deep discussion with a Clarity Therapy client this week, we touched on a theme that I’ve often thought about. His orientation, his preferred work-style is similar to mine, in that he prefers to work more independently.

Don’t try to manage me. Just give me the job to do and I’ll do it. And don’t make me dependent on the (non-) efforts of others.

On the other hand, there are many people who gravitate toward building, leading, or being part of a larger team.

Interestingly enough, the person I reference above is clearly an extrovert, and absolutely does his best work in and around people. But I’m thinking there is a work-style, a preference, that has to do with independence vs. interdependence.

We can picture it, perhaps, as a continuum (similar to what we were discussing with the Introversion/Extroversion scale):

MeTeamWorking

Now, obviously, to be effective in business most of us have to work, at various times, in more or less team/interdependent situations. But I strongly prefer to work more alone than as a dependent part of a team – and I’m wondering if the preference, the orientation, is DNA-level wiring. Put me somewhere in the Mostly Alone/Light Collaboration end of the scale.

Again, this isn’t a measure of introversion or extroversion, nor is it a function of whether we enjoy people and even work around them. A gregarious sales person can still prefer me-working, while a quieter introvert may feel the greatest comfort being part of a larger team.

What do you think – does this sort of scale make a valid distinction? Where would you place yourself?

5 Books for Business-Starters

I’m about to hand over a book to someone I’m coaching on his career direction. This made me think: if someone was considering starting their own business, what books would I recommend as “required reading” before taking the plunge?

Here’s a handful:

BooksPurple Cow, by Seth GodinDifferentiate, or don’t bother

Enchantment, by Guy Kawasaki - Develop yourself and your people skills above all

The Entrepreneur Equation, by Carol RothDelineate how your idea will actually turn into a successful business

Amazing Things Will Happen, by C.C. ChapmanDream and then do

The $100 Startup, by Chris GuillebeauDon’t wait: opportunity surrounds you.

Each of these books is practical, straightforward, and approachable. In combination, they provide an excellent mix of the idealism and realism that are both required for entrepreneurs.

>>Your turn – what would be on your recommended reading list for new entrepreneurs?

(note: links to book titles above are Amazon affiliate links – which means if you buy from Amazon through following this link, I might earn a few shekels!)

Your Silent Audience

Blogging can be a discouraging enterprise at times.

Is anyone even reading what I write? Why are there so few comments? Where’s the engagement?

silenceWhile we all crave tangible evidence that people appreciate what we write, we should never forget that most of our audience is silent.

For every commenter, there are many others who are absorbing, thinking, learning, growing, laughing – privately.

Your every Facebook status may not garner a lot of comments. But you’ll be surprised how sometimes, months later, someone comes up to you and remembers. And comments. Live.

I don’t comment often on Jon Swanson‘s stuff. But I read it regularly. I keep very close tabs on Greg Hartle’s adventures, even if our on-line back-and-forth is more sporadic. Most of my direct banter with Tom Webster is ironic and punny, but the fact is, I relish his thoughtful posts.

Yes, we need to write for our more engaged readers. But don’t forget your silent audience. You might not hear much from them, but they’re waiting to hear from you.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Don’t Be JAGA

Read this series of tweets from the bottom up.

JAGA2

Take a look at your website. Are you using commodity generalizations that sound just like the next company?

Do you want to compete in a noisy marketplace? Here’s job one – Don’t be JAGA! Lift the fog!!!

Yes, I Time some Tweets – Here’s Why

There are apps that allow you to space out your tweets over time (I use Hootsuite for this). Some people protest the use of timed tweets – and while I understand the sentiment behind that stance, I don’t agree with it.

Here’s why.

I use Twitter for several purposes:

  • Back-and-forth interaction with people (banter, brainstorming, encouraging, etc.)
  • Sharing interesting news and other resources
  • Connecting people with each other
  • Sharing my own blog posts and pictures
  • Sharing other people’s blog posts (especially those with whom I have a closer connection)
  • Making ironic comments and bad puns
  • Giving good morning greetings

Some of these purposes are more real-time – for instance, back-and-forth chatting with folks is not something that can be automated. But I do automate a fair bit of one-way sharing of “stuff,” for the simple reason that the audience on Twitter is constantly shifting. People are looking at their tweetstreams intermittently throughout the day, which means that something tweeted at 7:22 am might not be seen by a person who first logs in at 9:57 am.

While it makes sense that you might then tweet your own blog posts at a few different times during the day (I do), the really creative and helpful part of this isn’t the self-promotion aspect. The less-discussed secret is the way you can benefit your network of readers and writers.

Why use timed tweets? To gain wider exposure for others’ work!  <<–(click to tweet this).

Let’s say that I read an interesting post from Shelly Kramer‘s blog that, in the (very real) example below, actually touches on a similar theme (the timing of posts getting read on Facebook). If she posts it at, say, 7 am, and a number of her followers retweet it over the next half hour, then most of the exposure for her post may occur in a pretty narrow window.

TimeTweet

But if a reader makes the simple choice to “time” a tweet with a link to occur at, say, 10 am, then that reader’s audience gets the benefit of seeing something they might have missed at 7 am, AND Shelly gets wider exposure in a new time slot as well.

You know how most people get retweets immediately after they tweet something? Why not do everyone a favor and time-delay your tweet for a few hours – or even a day (I’ve seen some of my friends do this. It can give the tweeted link a whole new life).

So – when we understand that part of Twitter is for sharing things that may not be designed for real-time interaction, automating certain tweets makes perfect sense. Especially with this small tweet-tweak – give the people who feed you great content the gift of a fresh audience.

Have you been doing this? And here’s a question that’s been on my mind – I have done very little with scheduling tweets for overnight/overseas reach. If you’re doing this, how’s it working out? Any tips to share?

ALSO: See some interesting stats and perspectives about tweeting blog posts from Mack Collier.

Be a Fog-Lifter (part 3) – Distill

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus - you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

I’m fascinated by the process of fermentation and distillation. I’ll watch documentaries on the process, and find myself longing to spend an entire year traveling the world just to see more closely how wine, beer, whiskey, and other spirits are made.

{I’m guessing a lot of us would enjoy that tour…any sponsors out there?? :>}

MoonshineAlso, when it comes to ideas and words, distillation fascinates me. How do we boil down a plethora of concepts and messages into a distilled, compact, light-giving phrase? Can we take our business and boil it down to a clear summary?

You may not be able to offer your customers moonshine, but you can serve them a 100-proof message. <<–(click to tweet this).

Here’s how: Aim for 10 words. Craft a summary message that can be given out in 10 words of less. Aim for clarity, not comprehensiveness.

How did FedEx do this? The World on Time. Allstate’s striking and unforgettable message? You’re in good hands. How about blogger Dan Rockwell (Helping leaders reach higher in 300 words or less)? Can you grab one word and build your message around it, like Mark Schaefer (Grow)?

Brief. Punchy. Memorable. Non-technical.

Your <10 word message may be a quick tagline, or it may be a brief sentence, but either way, it’s compressed, like a verbal business card.

So, let’s get practical:

Start by creating this factual summary statement: I do (this) for (customers) in order to (end result) with (my particular differentiating quality). Excellent – you’re already at 40 proof.

Now, try to come up with an illustration or analogy that short-cuts right to the point in a vivid fashion. You’ve just jumped to 80 proof!

Finally, create a compact phrase that you can give to someone before the elevator door even closes. Think of this final product as a memory dart, not an elevator speech. You’re now at 100 proof!

We all need to break through the mists in the minds of our customers with a beam of distilled enlightenment. That’s lifting the fog.

(Part 1 – Job Number One is here. Part 2 – Steal! – is here.)

Learn more about Steve’s Clarity Therapy services.

Be a Fog-Lifter (part 2) – Steal!

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus - you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

(part 1 is here)

Once we realize that the minds of our potential and actual clients are filled with static, distraction, clutter, and everything-but-you, it becomes clear that we have a one primary task above all others.

Break through the noise. Lift the fog.

It is not up to our customers to figure us out. Throwing a bunch of words against a wall and hoping something sticks isn’t a strategy; it’s just lazy. <<–(click to tweet this)

It’s up to us to give a clear, relevant, and memorable message. How?

First, we settle on ONE differentiating offering (see part 1) as our lead-in. We may do more than one thing (as an individual or a business), but we want to be known as the go-to for something.

The next part sounds shady – you need to steal. Yes, I said steal! What you want to hijack is a pre-existing idea, image, or thing in the mind of the person, and make it yours.

Consider these two approaches:

“Our state-of-the-art coffee grinding, brewing, and dispensing solution combines leading technology with consumer-friendly aesthetics in order to provide an optimal beverage experience.”

- vs. -

“We’re the BMW of coffeemakers.”

thief

What have you done? You’ve “stolen” (OK, borrowed if you like) the BMW reputation for high-end quality, sleekness, and luxury pricing, and bridged it to your product/company in the customer’s mind. Your offering, by association, moves from unknown and commodity status to an aspirational identity.

You’ve lifted the fog by giving the customer an easy shortcut to understanding. You are now placed on an existing memory hook. And, you’ve also potentially gained some reverb marketing – that is, every time this person sees a BMW on the road, guess what just might reverberate in their mind?

You – and your offering. You clever thief. There are many marketing approaches in the world. But do you see how John Jantsch made his memorable?

The most direct and memorable way into the mind of your (potential) customer is to latch onto something already there. After a Clarity Therapy session, my clients never look at M&Ms the same again. Why? It’s one of my props, and it has tremendous reverb value. I didn’t need to create something new. Just “steal” something that was already there.

What image or analogy will you use to bridge quickly and memorably into the mind of your audience?

Be a Fog-Lifter (part 1) – Job Number One

You, in the mind of a client

Is this you, in the mind of a client?

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus - you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

For two days, we’ve been buried under a thick layer of fog. The kind that just makes you want to go back to sleep in the middle of the day.

At least it serves one purpose – it’s a reminder of how welcome light and clarity are.

When it comes to the domain where your business operates, it’s very likely that your clients and prospects live in a perpetual fog. They barely have time to process all their responsibilities – how can they process and remember everything that YOU are, and can do for them?

Don’t believe me? Think about your suppliers. How many bullet points can you jot down to fully describe each of them? See what I mean?

Maybe Job Number 1 for you is to be a fog-lifter. <<–(click to tweet this)

Jot down, in the next 60 seconds, all the kinds of work you can do for a client. Now circle the ONE which you’d like to be doing most of all. Or, alternatively, the ONE thing at which you are absolutely the best.

That’s the starting point of your core, fog-lifting message. Consider it your foot-in-the-door offering, your differentiator, your strong suit.

Example: What is Charles H. Green all about? In a word: Trust. That’s the heart and soul of his identity and message, whatever else he may do.

Remember, you can only occupy a very small space in the mind of a client. Don’t be foggy, or you’ll be forgettable. Narrow it down to one main thing.

There’s a lot you have to bring to your clients. First and foremost, you need to bring light. Be Clear.

Next, in part 2, we’ll look at how to position this one thing in the domain of your marketplace.

(here’s a nice angle on developing your USP – Unique Selling Proposition – from Jeff Howell)

The Dance of Freedom and Form in Blogging

The dance of freedom and form

The dance of freedom and form

Like you, I’ve seen all the “rules” flashing by – set up a blogging calendar. Blog every day (or on some predictable schedule). Go fully free-form and ad-hoc, as the spirit moves you. Etc., etc.

I don’t have any rules for you, just a principle to consider – as with many areas of life, there is a dance of freedom and form in blogging. Give yourself to that tension, not to a fixed method <—(wait – is that a rule??)

Blogging, as with any form of writing, is an outflow of creativity. And your method for channeling your creativity may not match mine or someone else’s. There are best practices for good writing. But when it comes to the when/how often/format, you may need to build in some elbow room.

Some folks need to construct a more rigid schedule and writing discipline because their creative juices are at a slow simmer, and are best harnessed with a constantly-built framework. Others have creative energy that comes to a very regular quick boil, and can whip out a blog post regularly almost without effort (seemingly) – because creative thoughts have actually been bubbling continuously. I’m actually in the latter camp, but it took me a long time to recognize it and embrace it.

The lesson here is not to be rigid in imposing your methods on others as THE way to write. It’s one way, and it may indeed be helpful for others – but people are different, they evolve, and what works one year may be different the next year.

My blogging is very different after 6+ years. We learn to combine freedom and form by experimenting. <–(click to tweet this)

Give yourself, and others, room to create and evolve. I guess that’s another rule. Hmmm…do as I say, not as I do (rule). See how hard it is to stop making rules?

What works for you in your blogging? How have you evolved over time?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Finding Your Blogging Voice

voiceAnyone can write a blog post (well, maybe not anyone, from some writing samples I’ve seen!)

But how do you find your unique blogging “voice”?

I’ve been blogging on marketing topics for over 6 years. Yet I feel as though I am only now finding my writing voice. Many of the same topics and ideas occupy my mind and flow out of my keyboard, but it has taken quite some time to develop the style and approach that is “me.”

Let me give you three steps to finding your blogging voice. Warning: simple to list. Hard work to implement!

  • Start
  • Interact
  • Continue

First, you have to start. You can’t develop your writing skills in the abstract realm of your private imagination. Every blogger looks back at early posts and cringes a bit. That’s normal. Drop the perfectionism and just start writing – assume that you actually do, right now, have something valuable to say!

Then, interact. Find other people writing and blogging and read their stuff (here’s a good start, from writer/blogger Jeff Goins). Comment. Learn from them. Let others interact with your ideas – they’ll show you, even without meaning to, how to improve your skills (I just this moment got a DM on Twitter from a reader who provided a female perspective on my post this morning that I never even considered!)

Finally, continue. Blogging for people who want to become writers with a unique voice is a long-term commitment. Don’t get hung up on instant results. Your masterpiece work is probably a good ways in front of you, and you are building toward it.

You have a voice. You have to begin to let it out and train yourself over time. Lots of folks will help you develop. And, in the meantime, you’ll make an impact, even with a smaller readership. So…Go!

If you’ve been blogging for a while, how long did it take you to feel like you’d hit stride and found your voice? How did you get there?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Gazing into the clear-view mirror

mirrorIt’s easy to spend a lot of time looking into the rear-view mirror. There’s a lot to learn back there in the past – though we can often find ourselves slowed down or even paralyzed by regrets or confusion in our timeline.

Who we once were shapes who we now are. But if we’re going to move forward confidently, we need to spend a lot more time gazing at a clear-view mirror.

What are my strengths? Where does my performance excel? What’s my DNA, my professional makeup, and how does that map to my current career path?

Sometimes we’re afraid of the truth about ourselves, because embracing our unique makeup – getting a clear view and owning it – may mean change.

After our morning shower, we instinctively wipe the mirror so we can see clearly. We need a clear-view mirror for our professional souls as well.

Let’s do that today with one simple exercise – turn that rear-view mirror*, look yourself right in the eye, and answer this question: What’s the portrait I truly want to paint with the rest of my days here on earth?

Write it down. Embrace it. Begin. Past is prologue – it is not destiny (to paraphrase Shakespeare). Change a few words in the post above, and this advice applies equally well to your small business.

Choose your direction from the clear-view mirror, not just the rear-view mirror.

*ummm, please – not while driving! ;>}

The Clarity of FedEx

FedEx planeThe World On Time.

Those four words summarize the FedEx marketing message. And, it’s brilliant.

What do I care about if I’m going to use a package shipping/delivery service? Reach and speed. Reliability. The heft to get it done fast and consistently. FedEx says they’ll get it anywhere (the world), and I can count on it (on time).

That’s what I care about if I’m an individual, a corporate professional, or a supply chain director.

The World On Time.

Contrast this with UPS’s misguided efforts to sell common people on the concept of “Logistics”, their phrase “Synchronizing the world of commerce” painted on trucks, and the sad effort to personalize a color (“What can Brown do for you?”).

That kind of marketing message is too much effort, trying to educate an entire marketplace with abstractions. Leave logistics to the supply-chain, operations-level people.

The World On Time is all I need to know. That’s the power of a clear, succinct, on-target message.

That’s clarity.

BE CLEAR: Tell Your Story

The Hobbit StoryHumans are hard-wired to tell and remember stories. That’s why smart business people wrap up their message in a narrative.

Master storytellers tap into our need to see a beginning, a progression, and a destination.

What’s your story? As a professional or as a business, you have one – do you tell it? It’s a vital part of having a memorable, clear message.

See what I mean in this one-minute (ish) video:


People will forget a list of facts and offerings. But we’ll remember your story.

(there seems to be a rash of posts about storytelling all of a sudden: here and here and here, for instance!)

___________

Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> BE CLEAR: Narrowing Your Focus

>> BE CLEAR: Drop the Buzzwords

Are You Wired?

I’ve been having a good bit of discussion on social networks (public and private) about this whole introvert/extrovert issue, and unfortunately, 140-character tweets and Facebook updates make it hard to paint a good picture.

So, here’s a rambling follow-up to my blog post of yesterday (Weigh Yourself on this Introvert/Extrovert Scale).

The question we keep bumping into, and that I’d like us all to think through together is this: what is innate wiring, vs. what is situational behavior?

Now, I believe that when it comes to Introversion/Extroversion, we have innate wiring that puts us somewhere along a continuum – and that the distinguishing feature is our personal source of psychic fuel (internal, within ourselves; or external, from other people).

Graphically:

 

IntroExtroOrientation6

 

IntroExtroOrientation6

(larger version – click thumbnail to biggify)

 

I would put myself squarely at the “In” place in the scale. You?

So, here, I’m theorizing an orientation – a default setting, an internal wiring, a preferred mode of interacting with people and the world. This wiring may change in small ways over time but will remain in one camp or the other – primarily introvert-ish or primarily extrovert-ish. Because this is DNA-level stuff (so I think, anyway).

On the other hand, there is (situational) behavior. An introvert can appear to be more extrovert-ish in some settings, and vice-versa, but for the moment, let’s not call this being an extroverted introvert – because if this is a DNA-level trait, then you cannot really be both. Let’s call it being an outgoing Introvert (at times), or a contemplative Extrovert (at times). That doesn’t really change your default wiring/identity/DNA, it’s just that certain situations bring out skills and behaviors that are more inward- or outward-facing. Your primary fuel source remains the same.

So – I’m an introvert. Always have been, always will be. It’s in my DNA. But I’m far more comfortable in social settings than I used to be (acquired behavior) – I can appear to be situationally Extrovert-ish (except in small, dark, crowded, noisy settings – those, I run from!). Nonetheless, though I can engage well in one-on-one social interactions, though I can present to crowds, though I can pro-actively network – my source of fuel is still inward.

And I’ll probably never enjoy mingling and making small talk in crowds. I guess I’m finally at peace with that!

I can also imagine that there are extroverts who can work alone as consultants, think and analyze contemplatively, and exhibit other introvert-ish behaviors – but, still, they MUST have more people time to re-energize. It’s in the DNA. They’re not introverted extroverts, they’re extroverts whose circumstances require more alone time.

OK –  your turn. Does this distinction make sense? Agree? Disagree? The comments are yours!

 

Weigh Yourself on this Introvert/Extrovert Scale

UPDATE: I’ve gotten some great feedback so far – here’s an updated graphic that perhaps simplifies further and is more accurate. Your thoughts?

I’ve been thinking a lot about introversion and extroversion. Specifically, are such dispositions better thought of as a continuum, rather than an either-or proposition?

If so (and I lean in this direction), how could we portray it in a way that is simple and reasonably accurate?

I crowdsourced a rough concept on Twitter and Facebook, and got some great help from a number of you, especially from Justin McCullough on the graphical design side. Here’s a version that emerged from numerous revisions (click to biggify the thumbnail below):

introvert Extrovert

What do you think? Does this make sense to you? And where would you place yourself? (I’m probably about second position from the left – a native introvert who has become outgoing).

IEScaleSteve

Some folks describe an ambivert – dead-center between the two. I tend to think most or all of us natively lean in one direction or the other (and, besides, a middle position on any scale is the easy cop-out!)

Are there better ways to portray the range of introvert-extrovert dispositions? Ideas?

Fuel Others

TYnoteJane2Yesterday, I received two unexpected notes of thanks. Simple things, really. Probably took less than a minute to compose.

Also, I was given the gift of some words of encouragement over breakfast from a friend.

These things fueled me with strength and hope all day long. And they’re still with me as today dawns.

Appreciation and encouragement expressed is people fuel. You may not be the most brilliant person on the planet, but you have a boundless tank of the most important energy source known to man, and people pull up to the pumps every day needing fuel.

Your few, simple words of gratitude or appreciation can fill someone’s tank. Maybe for far longer than one day.

Use your mouth or your pen (or keyboard!). Fuel others. Is there any more important work, really?

Questioning Paralysis

Pathway

I have a lot of questions. Most of them, I keep in my own head and mull over (unlike one of my sons, who blurts his out continuously. I’ve recently concluded that we have very similar minds, but his volume is turned up!)

Questions can lead to paralysis. As in, “until I figure this out completely, I don’t know how to move forward.” Spent a lot of time in that spot in the past. It’s not healthy.

It is possible to have unresolved questions and still move forward. In fact, many of our questions never resolve themselves until we move forward, and learn the answers through experience, not solely via mental gymnastics.

I remember when I started my own business 6+ years ago, I figured I had about 80% clarity on what I was going to do, and the rest would have to come by the marketplace telling me what I should be doing. And, it did (and continues to).

Faith and courage mean taking the next step when the map isn’t entirely clear. <— Click to Tweet

Perhaps the best and most productive resolution for the New Year is to take action, and let the answers come into focus gradually.

Something I’m still learning.

A Vital Lesson from the Grateful Dead

Bill Graham said of the Grateful Dead, They’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do.”

Do you want the ultimate job security? Role Your Own.

___________

Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Discovering Your Professional DNA

>> De-Fragmenting Your Business

Connectedness

Prediction: in 10 years, a lot of terms we use now will have reached their expiration date:

e-   i-

Computers  Smartphones  Tablets  Devices

Digital   On-line   Internet   Big Data

Websites   Twitter   Facebook   Texting

Social Media   Networking   Blogging   Social Business

Connectedness

Don’t get too caught up in the first- and second-generation labels we now use. They’re all parts of a much larger movement:

>> Connectedness <<

Life and business – people and information and things – data and intelligent systems – all will be digitally connected. Grasp that big picture and all the bits and pieces make sense.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

___________

Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> BE CLEAR: Narrowing Your Focus

>> BE CLEAR: Drop the Buzzwords

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