Top 5 Ways to Define Yourself – NOT!

Companies and consultants can be remarkably good at vague and unfocused market positioning. Here are five recommended statement-types to help you get a head start on becoming a forgettable commodity:

5. “We are an enterprise-level solutions provider helping customers align their business processes with strategic goals.”

- Ahh, the old high-brow business-speak fog machine. In other words, you charge big companies big money to do something undefined that sounds impressive. But since the snake oil is delivered via a Powerpoint deck (with flowcharts!), that apparently means you leverage industry-wide best practices.

4. “A globally-responsible business partner.”

- And exactly what does this mean, tangibly speaking? And, while we’re at it, how does it affect my bottom line? Maybe you have a recycling bin in the cafeteria and use new-fangled light bulbs, but no WIIFM = no big deal.

3. “Before hanging out my own shingle, I moved from junior associate to VP of my division more quickly than anyone before me.”

- Great yearbook fodder, but that helps me how? The world is full of ambitious ladder-climbers. Enough about you…what about me?

2. “We help you with your marketing, communications, marketing communications, digital media, social media, sales, sales training, train reservations, dinner reservations, recruiting, and global commodities investing.”

- Oh, you’ll work for food. Great niche! Sigh….

1. “Our people are our greatest asset, and it shows in our J.D. Power award-winning customer service scores for the last 3 centuries. We mean business!”

- I’m sorry – what do you do?

You’ve got only a few seconds to make a lasting impression, and to stick in the minds of your customers. People will put you in a bucket, and it is up to you to define that bucket and make it memorable.

You might be exactly what they need – but if you’re shooting low-quality arrows randomly into the air, you’re not likely to hit the target. You either have a clear offering summed up in some high-impact, well-chosen words – or, you’re background noise. And we certainly don’t need any more of that to distract us!

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Sound like your challenge? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Seeing 20/20 in 3-D

>> The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

You’re FIRED (5 times)!

Don’t take just Donald Trump’s word for it!!

Three Types of People to Fire Immediately (from Business Week, by By G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón)

Overboard: Dealing with Those who Refuse to Pull the Oars (by Anthony Iannarino)

12 Most Humane Incentives to Fire Your Employees (from 12 Most, by Mila Araujo)

The Art of Leadership when Letting Employees Go (by Lisa Petrilli)

How the Exit Door can Improve Results (by Steve Woodruff)

Sometimes, multiplied success comes by subtraction.

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Hire Steve Woodruff as your Brand Therapist

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>> Does your Business need a Lieutenant Commander?

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Role Your Own

Manager. Associate Director. Senior Director. Vice President. The business world is full of titles, all nicely arranged for you in various hierarchies.

All waiting for you – compelling you – to fit in.

Architect. Engineer. Doctor. Writer. Teacher. Pre-packaged job descriptions, with pre-ordained responsibilities.

Pick one. That becomes your identity.

The legacy business world waits for you, with already-defined boxes and labels and roles. The structures are all there, if you want to sell your soul to fit into someone else’s plan for your life. Just step right up, into the machine.

Or, you can call a timeout. Who says this is your destiny? Do you HAVE to run someone else’s race? Can you define your own role?

Yes, you can.

We often operate under the false assumption that the work world, as historically understood, and as presented to us, is some immutable and fixed rule. Nobody consulted you when all these structures were built. And it’s likely they won’t ask for your input to change them. Organizations exist for themselves and their own goals, not for yours.

It may well be that, for a time, as your skills develop and your business acumen grows, you will find your career path inside a pre-existing organization with its titles and hierarchies and roles. I certainly did, and most of us do. But after a while, you realize that you’re a cog in a machine. If your work is to be built around you, then only one person can make that happen.

You.

Here’s the first step: stand back and question what you see. Realize that every organization, every role, was created and defined for some past need. It may not be appropriate for present (let alone future) needs, and it may not be designed to fulfill you and maximize your effectiveness.

Disengage your mind from every assumed work structure around you and say, “Maybe this or that is good. Or maybe it’s not. For me.”

Don’t start with the past. Don’t start with someone else’s present boxes. All of those assumed structures, titles, hierarchies, definitions, career tracks – they didn’t come from you, did they? They weren’t expressly designed for you, were they?

Start with your own declaration of independence. I’m going to role my own. Even if I have to work in someone else’s company for a season, I’m going to design my professional career around me, what I believe, and what I have to offer. Whatever that means.

Now the adventure can begin…!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Who Are Your Influencers?

>> Is Your Sky Blue?

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Are You Having A Nice Conflict?

For a long while, I held off buying a much-desired iPad2 – I finally gave in over the Christmas holidays and bought one. I also held off on becoming an e-reader until that time – and now, I’m glad to say, I have finally read my first book cover-to-cover on a tablet! What can I say – sometimes I break with the past slowwwwly…

The book: Have A Nice Conflict, put out by Jossey-Bass. Disclosure: this group has also stepped up to be a sponsor for LeadershipChat last week, in our chat with Angela Maiers, and also this coming Tuesday, when the smart team of HANC thinkers will be our guest hosts.

The book is a relatively quick read. It is of the business parable genre, where a story unfolds with various fictional characters to explain and illustrate the themes. Now, business parables are not my favorite writing mode, but this one is reasonably well-written. It’s just a wee bit slow out of the blocks, but once you arrive on the stage with Mac and the Red, Green, and Blue lights – well, things start to really fall into place. I won’t say that the lights come on, because that would be a bad pun. So I won’t say it. But they do.

One big plus – toward the back of the book, once the parable is over, you get a nice overview of the academic foundations of the theory.

The thesis of Have A Nice Conflict – and a component of the SDI (Strength Deployment Inventory), which is a related assessment – is that we have different motivational “styles”, if you will, that come into play when we approach (or experience) conflict. After taking the SDI and reading the book, I can definitely affirm that there’s some solid stuff here (I’m a “Hub,” by the way, if you’re interested).

Conflict is a huge, somewhat hidden cost to businesses everywhere, and a major challenge for leaders. So we’re going to discuss it this coming Tuesday night (February 14th) on #LeadershipChat. Valentine’s Day is a great time to learn to avoid or manage conflict, right? :>}

Join me, my co-host Lisa Petrilli, the HANC team, and a bunch of other smarties worldwide at 8 pm ET for an enlightening Twitter chat. Just use the hashtag #LeadershipChat (you’ll also see the hashtag #NiceConflict because our guests are also our sponsors this coming week).

Also, be sure to follow LeadershipChat on Facebook!

Additional disclosure: Personal Strengths is a recommendation partner of mine. If you use their assessment/consulting services as a direct result of my personal business matchmaking recommendation, they gladly pay me a referral fee. I receive no affiliate payments for book sales.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Who Are Your Influencers?

>> Passion Matters

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Just Bring Great People Together

I was having a lively phone conversation yesterday with Alli Worthington, the force-of-nature behind Blissdom and too many other things to list.

Her philosophy behind the Blissdom conference? To paraphrase: We just bring great people together and see what happens. Not that there isn’t structure and clear direction – there is – but there’s also an existential element of anticipated goodness that can’t be predefined.

Huh. In fact, it’s a business model I seek to practice, but I never quite heard it put that way before. It doesn’t sound like a business model, does it? But what it is is creating an opportunity-generating and entrepreneur-encouraging environment. And there’s a lot of potential business in that!

Then, for LeadershipChat last night, we enjoyed having Carrie Wilkerson (The Barefoot Executive) as our guest host (<—book review at link). Carrie, who encourages people to start their own businesses (the best job security we’ll know!), was giving a lot of helpful advice to the people who gather at the Tuesday night LeadershipChat – which gathering, it struck me afresh, has a very similar philosophy. We just bring great people together and see what happens.

So, as you think about your own business, and your opportunities, I have a fresh line of thought for you. Can you be a tribe-builder? Can you bring great people together and help create a fertile environment for business growth? Can you look past the idea of some company providing a growth vector for you, and begin to till your own land in order to make new things happen for you and others?

I sure plan to live that way!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Who Are Your Influencers?

>> Not All Business is Good Business

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Be Your Own Boss, Barefoot-style!

For quite some time, I’ve interacted with Carrie Wilkerson (The Barefoot Executive) on-line, and it’s our privilege to welcome Carrie this week as a guest host on LeadershipChat (did you know that LeadershipChat is now on Facebook? <—Join us there to extend the conversation!).

Carrie has recently released a book called, not surprisingly, The Barefoot Executive (Amazon link), and it’s a winner. Of course, part of the reason I loved this book so much is that we’re both on the same wavelength, desiring to see more people find professional fulfillment by starting a business and becoming their own boss.

Another thing that I appreciate about this book is its straightforward simplicity. The chapters are brief, to the point, and include practical examples (plus transcripts of video lessons that are also available on-line). Carrie has a cheerleader personality, and her encouragement shines through in the book, but there is also a very realistic, step-by-step approach being advocated. Nice combination.

My video review of The Barefoot Executive is below:

Carrie has plenty to share with us on Tuesday night, January 10 (8 pm ET) – just hop onto Twitter and follow the #LeadershipChat hashtag (hint: it’s easier when you use a chat client like Tweetchat.com). Join me,  my lovely and talented co-host Lisa Petrilli, and a whole host of smart and engaging people as we discuss the topic of Being Your Own Boss. Look forward to seeing you then!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Who Are Your Influencers?

>> Not All Business is Good Business

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Not All Business is Good Business

I don’t remember where or when I first heard it, but that phrase has stuck with me like white on rice: Not all business is good business.

Some projects that seem to promise high revenue may (in reality) equal low profit – or a loss. Some work is, if you step back and be objective (closing your ears to the siren song of the dollars), outside your sweet spot, or beyond your current capacity. And some clients aren’t worth the trouble – they create for more chaos than benefit. Been there?

Your company and that piece of business – it’s not always a match. Do you have the courage to say “not all business is good business” – and act on it?

During a recent Brand Therapy session, this truth came home in a big way. While one of the main outputs of Brand Therapy with Steve session is clarity on your Offering, your Message, your go-to-market Analogy, and your company Story, what we’re doing in the process is identifying your professional DNA. Inevitably, what that means is that, in the privacy of the therapy session, we open up the questions that usually cannot be asked publicly – questions about future direction, client successes and failures, aspirations, culture, staff makeup, revenue flow – those things that sometimes require an outside voice and perspective.

In this session, it quickly became clear that there was a certain type of target company – those of a particular size and corporate culture – that were a great fit for this provider’s services (and business approach). But there was this constant pressure to chase all kinds of potential clients, even when there was a grating sense that this business might not be worth the invested effort. You know that pressure, right?

It takes courage to say, “This is who we are, and therefore THAT kind of client/business is a mis-match. Instead, we’re going to pursue THIS.”

Let’s face it – every consultant and company feels the pressure of generating revenue and cash flow, and we are often tempted to take on work that we know, in our gut, isn’t really the best. Over time, our identity and message can become muddled and obscured – instead of bending our efforts to pursue GOOD business with a very clear and compelling identity and message, we become…serial offenders of our own professional DNA.

Not all business is good business. So – who ARE you, and what is good business for you? Let me know if you need a day of Brand Therapy with an expert who knows the right questions to ask!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Social Business is Not Enough

>> Go With What You’ve Got

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

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