The Lazy Social Networker

AppleOrchard

{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.}

The lazy social networker opens a Twitter account, throws up a few inspirational tweets and a bunch of RTs, and expects the world to roll out a red carpet and hand over an Oscar for Best Performance. This year.

The lazy social networker buys into the notion that more hashtags will mean more followers, which will mean a bigger reputation, which will somehow lead to more fame and riches. Quickly.

The lazy social networker follows all the advice about writing blogs with Top 10 lists and newsjacking topics, contributing to the tsunami of noise without producing any valuable signal.

The lazy social networker then gives up when it doesn’t “work.” Little effort did not produce the anticipated big return.

Be prepared to spread a lot of useful seed, in the form of thoughtful content. Be prepared to water that effort with purposeful and caring relationship-cultivation. Be prepared to rinse and repeat for the long haul, and experience the outflow of a lot of effort with, perhaps, a good bit less return than you ever anticipated.

In other words, be prepared to work. Just like every other worthy endeavor. There may be a lot of effort with little return – for a season.

That’s how agriculture works. That’s how business works. That’s how life works.

The lazy social networker will fade off. As for you, be in it for the long haul. You’re building relationships and adding value, not grasping at some cheap short-term applause.

You’re growing an orchard, not inflating a balloon. The fruit comes in abundance — over time.

Surpassingly, Divinely Exceptional

This morning, I was reading Psalm 48 (link leads to a modern-English version; I’ll be referencing a few phrases from it in this post), and marveling at the heart-mind response of people to God’s glory.

The psalm paints a picture of an outstandingly-aboveness – a unique greatness – that evokes the most devoted human response.

Being a businessman as well as a worshiper, I found myself thinking – what kind of surpassing wonderfulness, as depicted in this psalm, could turn customers into devotees and devotees into a growing business?

1. Unmatched greatness – in short, spectacular-ness that people cannot help but praise. When devotees line up for days in front of an Apple store for the latest product, so they can be the first to experience it and praise its excellence, this isn’t a mere transactional relationship. It moves into the realm of awe for Apple’s design and execution genius. Those 150 psalms in the Bible? They are bursting with praise that words can barely express. Wouldn’t it be something to have customer testimonials like that?

2. Outstanding memorable-ness – we are surrounded by forgettable, commodity products. Yet these worshipers cannot help but dwell on the surpassing quality of what they’ve been able to touch. Exceptional means top-of-mind in a very noisy, distracting world. You know when your favorite artists releases a new album and a couple of tasty tunes keep occupying your mind and escaping your lips? That.

3. Evangelistic enthusiasm – in this psalm, people are encouraged to look at the beautiful details, to consider and count and marvel, to rejoice with others – and to tell the next generation (organic word-of-mouth). I go out of my way to tell people about Loveless Cafe in Nashville, or Amica Insurance. Why? Their consistent excellence makes me want to see more people enjoy what they offer.

True worship of God has never been about miserable conformity to a set of nonsensical rules – it is about above-all-else greatness, heartfelt awe, and a personal attachment that is grounded in divine beauty. A form of religion with forced or transactional followers isn’t much of a model for us. People yearn for spectacular, not run-of-the-mill.

Our goal should be nothing less than being exceptional and creating enthusiasm. I guess you could consider that kind of business one that begins to reflect, in some feeble but real way, the image of God.

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Discovering Your Professional DNA

Wouldn’t it be nice if each of us, at age 20, got a personalized report and one-on-one counseling session detailing exactly what our professional capabilities and strengths are? What a time- and trouble-saver! “We’ve sequenced your professional DNA, Jacqueline, and here is the career arc you should pursue…”

Dream on.

The reality is, we tend to discover our professional DNA by a trial-and-error process. We move from job to job, finding out what types of roles and work environments seem to bring out the best (or worst) in us.

Some people stumble into their life’s work early on, but for most of us, the process looks something like this:

(horizontal axis equals time; vertical axis represents nearness to DNA sweet spot; blocks represent different job roles)

We often focus on climbing the ladder of bigger titles and higher salaries, when our first priority should be discovering our true purpose and identity. You’ve seen people who absolutely flourish in their roles, right? They’ve hit their sweet spot. Yet many others feel that they’re trapped, working at maybe 50% capacity, and spending far too much time in the grey than the blue (referencing my Ugly Graphic above).

Sadly, some never come to understand what their true potential is, or become stuck in a mis-matched job role with diminishing chances of escape. This happened to my Dad and it set me on a determined quest not to end up in that same position. Hence my passion for Clarity Therapy.

Apple will announce its new iPhone 5 today. What if you rushed out to buy it, with maximum memory and a 2-year data plan, all for the sole use of making one 5-minute phone call a day to check on your daughter in college. Would that be best use of its real potential? That’s what happens when we settle for less than discovering our unique professional DNA, and designing our career around it.

We often need assessments (<–great story!), and outside expertise, to help us figure ourselves out. Take the time to do it. It’s your future. No-one else should be designing it. That’s your role!

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

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Finding Your Sweet Spot

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Following Your Passion: A Story

I came across this video of Ken Segall, who was Apple’s Creative Director for Advertising: Answer the Question: What is Your Passion?

(goes to a different page; just over 2 minutes – watch it now!)

Sharing it with a friend who launched his own consulting business a while back (disclosure: I helped him with business strategy and clarity therapy), I got back this response. It was so eloquent, I asked permission to share it:

In regard to the video by Ken Segall…..yes, absolutely correct…..but that’s why we NEED YOU….we can’t read the label from the inside. That is exactly what happened to me….in 2002 I lost my job with ______ as _____ was pulled from the market – so all kinds of bad things were happening to me. I will admit to you I was in a funk over spending 19 years somewhere and just having it suddenly end without so much as a howdy do and thank you.

I picked up a manufacturers’ rep job with a disease state management company – we sold turn-key DSM software programs to healthcare providers. I was well connected in the HMO community….and I did OK, but it was not my passion. What did happen, though – after each sale I would have to train the nurse or case management staff on how to use the software.

Oddly enough – my passion showed through – and I was getting training requests away from the DSM programming I was selling….BUT I was still under a rock. Then one day it happened – I just completed a training program for ________ – the Medical Director wanted a “management training program” for his staff…heck, I could do that! It went well and I had a ball doing the training….upon my arrival home, my wife said to me….”why don’t you just do that training thing if it makes you so happy?”  Then it hit me ….I absolutely LOVED that training thing…..the rest is history. I spent 4 awesome years at ______ in training, and three equally awesome years at ______…..and that prepared me so much for doing what I love to do! (which is a healthcare industry training consultant)

 But I would add one thing….I love training , but I still needed something special that gave me that edge. I needed a “product” – what made my launch into the contractor space comfortable for me, was knowing that I had this very special thing….this tool that could help people….so in my case it was a training methodology. It worked. I could reproduce it again and again and it kept working….so yes, find what you love, but DO SOMETHING with that! Something specific! And you just may end up being happy about it every day.Gerald Clor

It seems to be a regular case these days that I’m talking to people in their 30′s, 40′s, and 50′s who are, after years of playing different roles, finally getting in touch with their core passions and strengths and figuring out what they want to do when they grow up (and this includes me!). It’s never too late to do the discovery work and begin to map out a direction that flows in the direction of your passion.

Get in touch with what you’re passionate about. Listen to what customers and more objective others tell you about yourself. Find the “hole” in the marketplace. Develop a clear offering and message. Make it happen.

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Are you struggling to discover your passion? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

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Re-Imagination

I was totally impressed yesterday afternoon at the Apple store when replacing a damaged iPhone with a new one.

I’ve been through the experience several times over the years to upgrade to new models, and each time, it’s abundantly clear that Apple is continuing to re-make the retail experience.

An associate greeted us at the front entrance. Plugged a couple minimum bits of information into the (very slick and well-designed) software on his iPhone, and managed the entire transaction from the palm of his hand. All nearly instantaneous, digital, mobile, seamless.

I even signed the receipt with my finger on his iPhone screen.

The thing is, this is Apple’s secret sauce. They re-imagine an existing experience, then build the new approach.

The software interface. The publishing process. The portable music experience. The on-line method of buying digital assets. The phone. The tablet. Distributed app development. And on and on.

Re-imagination is not enough to create a business – you also need superb execution. But without re-imagination, you’re left with incremental improvements or marginal efficiency gains as a business model.

Perhaps we need to train our next generation of business people to continually ask two questions:

Why this?

And why not that?

Ha! This post by Dan Pallotta just showed up in my tweetstream, published yesterday at Harvard Business Review on-line. Talk about mind-meld!!

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How’s your message? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

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People Buy Your Story

Recently, I was sitting through a capabilities overview from an agency in my pharma network, and it was filled with all the usual elements – we do this, we do that, customer logos, etc., etc. There was actually one potentially distinguishing message buried in there, which was encouraging; but then, toward the end, mention was made that the company has been in business for 20+ years.

And…and…nothing. The ball was teed up, but the 3-wood remained in the golf bag. There was the chance to tell a story – the company story – and it was missed. Any company in business that long has a lot of success, a interesting pathway of evolution, and a great way to build a bridge with the listener by using corporate history to be memorable.

Some years ago, I was evaluating a training company’s marketing and website, and was seeing all the typical verbiage and bullet points – just like everyone else, we do this and this and this. But buried in the web copy was a key point – one of the principals of the company had long experience on the pharma client side of the fence. I told them that their story was the distinguishing message: “We’ve walked in your shoes.” Most of the competitor companies did not have that same story.

When people are evaluating potential providers, one of the distinguishing elements that they subconsciously want to know is the story – why you exist, how you got to where you are now, how you’ve succeeded and evolved. This isn’t just customer case studies – it’s your profile, neatly wrapped with a bow of purpose and progress. People forget bullet points. They remember compelling stories.

There is a story behind my business practice of Clarity Therapy: it is an “accidental” business. I was helping partner companies figure out their professional DNA and message for years as part of my pharma client-vendor matchmaking service (Impactiviti), and I finally came to realize that this analytical ability was a unique skill that met a vast market need. To lead people and companies to an epiphany of their identity in a few hours time? How valuable is that? Yet it came about organically, not as part of pre-planned strategy.

Three entrepreneurs whom I deeply respect (Anthony Iannarino, Lisa Petrilli, Greg Hartle) all have great business stories that happen to be woven in to remarkable medical histories. Carrie Wilkerson (The Barefoot Executive) masterfully weaves her life story into her constant “you can do it, too!” entrepreneurial message. This past weekend’s winner of the Master’s golf tournament, Bubba Watson (pictured above – emotion is a powerful element, no?) has a wonderful story – he’s never taken a golf lesson, but just does what he does as a self-taught athlete.

Apple, Dell, the 3-M Post-it Note, WD-40 – all have memorable stories behind them. And we like to buy into something bigger than ourselves, something that transcends the ordinary, something that is a non-commodity.

Do you have a personal or corporate story? You do – but you may be so close to it, you may take it so much for granted that you haven’t teased it out. It’s one of the first things I do when I sit down with a client to help them get clear about their message – I pull out the story and help them see it.

Yes, people buy what you’re offering. But they also buy the story behind it. Don’t deprive them (and yourself!) of one of your most powerful marketing tools!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

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The En-visioners

Two books that I’ve read lately have renewed my appreciation for an amazing gift possessed by a relatively few number of people.

Of all the abilities we might see in our children and colleagues and friends, this one, if present, ought to be steadfastly fanned into flame.

Steve Jobs (I highly recommend his biography) had it. He could en-vision how things could/should/will be. He had a grasp of ideals, overlaid on the current reality, and the indisputable gift of “seeing” a solution to move from point A to point B.

He was a dreamer-doer.

The amazing geniuses who created our earliest computers (new book: Turing’s Cathedral. Very techie, and very interesting!) understood, conceptually, how such a machine would work. There were massive calculation challenges facing them – many brought on by the need to win a war – and the most remarkable thing for me, reading the account of their efforts, was how firmly they envisioned what the computer would do – and how it would work – before the technology parts and pieces were available. They foresaw it, planned it, invented it – took their vision and theories in hand and brought it to life.

This gift does not require an IQ of 222 (though that certainly won’t hurt!). It’s a way of seeing, and a compulsion to “make it so.”

The en-visioners are our world changers. They may not fit easily into our school-factories, because they are driven by creativity, not conformity. And they don’t just invent objects – we need to encourage our young en-visioneers to create business models, networks, social structures, charitable approaches. We need to give them permission – no, encouragement – to step outside of the status quo. The next Apple, Avon, or Amazon will be the result.

Who are some of the en-visioners you see that are in the process of changing the world? List them in the comments. And, more importantly – who are the 8- and 12- and 15- and 20-year old’s who are right now seeing the future? Let’s nurture these kids and set them loose to make a better and richer future for everyone!

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Hire Steve Woodruff as your Brand Therapist

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Does Your Business Need a Lieutenant Commander?

Having just finished the biography of Steve Jobs (by Walter Isaacson – HIGHLY recommended, by the way), I am struck with the amazing combination of vision, strategic thinking, and operational excellence that percolated inside that brilliant soul.

Alas, his people skills were famously lacking, which the book discusses quite honestly. But Jobs was not content with painting pretty pictures of the future. He was obsessed with execution – with making things happen, and happen with envelope-pushing excellence.

There aren’t many like Jobs, are there? And that’s why we’ll be discussing the problem of visionary leaders who have trouble executing during LeadershipChat tonight (8 pm ET on Twitter – use hashtag #LeadershipChat).

The man who currently runs Apple, Tim Cook, was hand-picked by Steve Jobs to be his successor. This was not some random choice out of the air – Cook had proven himself time and again as a great operations guy, including during the medical leaves of absence that Jobs was forced to take as he battled with cancer. It was crucial to the future of Apple that there be a lieutenant that could step in. Tim Cook was that guy.

So what about the leader who has vision, and perhaps solid strategic thinking, but lacks the ability to execute? Do you try to transform that person into someone they are not? I consider that a waste of time. If it’s not already in the DNA (as it was with Jobs), then the best bet is for that leader to have one or more lieutenants who will help operationalize the vision and execute the strategies.

If you’re Steve Jobs, you can afford the luxury of some hubris (even though you will step on plenty of toes with that attitude, as he certainly did!). But for the vast majority of us who lead in one capacity or another, what we really need more of is humility – the recognition that we’re good at X and maybe Y, but not so good at Z. Bring on someone for Z.

Some leaders feel that they must live up to a god complex, and do it all. That’s a sure path to a nervous breakdown (and eventual business trouble). Hire or develop a lieutenant(s). Let the reasons be transparent to all. It’s a lesson from the top that will have many beneficial ripple effects all throughout the organization.

Join us at 8 pm ET March 20 to discuss this topic – bring your ideas and your questions (and be sure to read the prep post, 5 Reasons Visionary Leaders may Fail to Execute, by my brilliant LeadershipChat co-host, Lisa Petrilli). We look forward to welcoming you to the lively and diverse LeadershipChat community!

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Hire Steve Woodruff as your Brand Therapist

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Purpose-built Networks

The initial social media gold rush is about over.

Remember the exuberant early days of the e-commerce and portal bubble, and the huge paydays attained by some first movers? Then it all shook out, and we settled down to business.

Now, with social media, we have these big, broad, public networks (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.) sprawled all over the web, enabling people to make connections and share stuff – which is great. I’m all in, and have been for five years. However…

…as with any shiny new toy, the first-movers have made their big bucks. The new platform-creators, the evangelists, the top bloggers, the book authors – those in the vanguard have broken the fresh ground and social media is now moving into mainstream adoption. As it should.

These big, unfocused networks have some major limitations for serious business use, however. So, I’m thinking that the next high-impact evolution will be purpose-built, purpose-driven networks. Especially for business.

While we love the idea of the public social web, a whole lot of business communication goes on in smaller rooms. Controlled environments. And large swaths of business networking/communications have to be regulated (particularly in pharma, where I do a lot of my work). In fact, while I do a lot of public networking in the pharma space through my company Impactiviti, most of the significant business happens through private communications in a purpose-built trust network. That’s not really going to change for me, or for many other businesses. The wide-open social web is not a panacea – because often, the real business need is for targeted communications that have some business rules around them.

Social-media-style digital networked communications is great for individuals, and has huge potential for some kinds of more retail business. But it’s not optimal for everything. Much of the potential of social technologies will reside behind firewalls and in digital networks that are purposefully designed with business purposes in mind. Think about it – was Facebook, or Twitter, specifically designed for business? Um – no. We’re just trying to adapt them. And, truth be told, it’s often a bit of a mismatch.

The company that’s in the best position to deliver on this is Google. They have all the tools, many of which are growing up into enterprise level. Google Plus gives us a glimpse of private, multi-media selective communications with Circles and Hangouts. What we need is a platform that allows companies to naturally build their (multiple) networks with (multiple) different purposes according to the business rules and goals that apply to those groups. A platform that truly integrates voice, text, video, search, filtered layers of intimacy, real-time and asynchronous comms – and Google has all the pieces. With the cloud-based infrastructure to back it.

Apple will give them a run for their money. Because they have started with the user experience and nice integration, and thus built a lot of momentum. But they need to make the leap into business-focused networking. Microsoft – sigh. All the infrastructure, but so much legacy baggage – I don’t know.

These Lego blocks that we’re playing with now are cool. They are great for the individual experience, and for public exposure. But whoever cracks the purpose-built networking nut will find the real gold. Who do you think will win this race?

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Steve Jobs to Unveil Apple’s new iPants

All the hullabaloo about a new tablet has been a carefully orchestrated hoax, according to a source inside Apple who leaked plans for the elaborate announcement of a brand new platform from the stylish technology company – iPants.

Reportedly, Steve Jobs was behind an elaborately planned launch that included a 7-figure payoff to American Idol to feature General Larry Platt singing what will be the theme song for the new product, “Pants on the Ground.” This YouTube meme went viral just before the big Apple unveiling in order to generate awareness of a major cultural problem in the inner city, that of ill-fitting pants.

“We plan to conquer the ‘denim divide’” Jobs told insiders in a leaked e-mail. “For too long, Apple has been known to produce high-priced products for elitists. Now, with iPants, we’ll use our technology and fashion sense to reach a whole new demographic – jeans-wearers who are not designers or techies, but regular folks who are simply not aware that jeans should be on the waistline.”

Leaked photos showed that iPants device, secured to any belt that has sufficient bling to generate a small electrical current, will deliver a mild but uncomfortable electric shock to the wearer whenever the pants droop over 6 inches from the ideal waistline location, determined via real-time sub-space transmission technology married to GPS triangulation. Wearers who have iPhones and Twitter accounts will also possess the option of a Foursquare auto message, such as, “I just got zapped by my iPants at Broadway and 33rd.”

It is anticipated that Jobs may actually drop his famous jeans during the product announcement ceremony to demonstrate the iPants shock, and rumors are swirling that the audience will then get a preview of the long-rumored iBriefs, currently under hush-hush development in the top-secret textile section of the Palo Alto campus.

For General Larry Platt, who recently signed a recording contract to belt out a series of operatic duets with Sarah Brightman, the announcement will come as a major lift to his once-floundering career as a zeppelin test engineer. “I thought that the Balloon Boy kerfuffle might help elevate my professional opportunities, but now, starting with iPants, I plan to evangelize Apple products in every city, or at least on YouTube.” When pressed for future plans, Mr. Platt would not comment on the stylish matching black hat and turtleneck he was wearing, only stating that the “iThreads wi-fi network you’re detecting has nothing to do with these wires in my clothes.”

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Prior StickyFigure spoofs

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Apple’s MobileMe = MobileMeh – for now

I really wanted it to work.

I signed on to Apple’s MobileMe because it purportedly would solve one of my nagging little digital needs – one place from which to sync my laptop and my iPhone, especially the Calendar and my Contacts.

So, I went on-line to pay my $99.00 and sign up. That was when Strike 1 occurred.

They have to ship the thing? You mean, you can’t just sign up on-line for an on-line service and activate? Oh well, says I, it must be a really cool program, since it has to be loaded up (assumes I) from a CD or DVD-ROM.

And, next day, the package arrives via FedEx. Cool! But wait – there’s no disc! The box contains packaging, instructions, and an activation code. I needed all that wasteful material just to get an activation code for an on-line service?? Strike one.

Then there are the well-documented problems with the service (which even Steven Jobs admitted to), which was rushed out too quickly. Now it does actually seem to sync my Contacts fine, but the Calendar is slightly flaky, and you cannot set an “alarm” within MobileMe – only on the iPhone itself. I wanted that pop-up and auditory alarm, to help me remember tasks and appointments! But the worst thing was more subtle – some sort of script-running problem on the MobileMe site that slows down my entire browser experience and leaves with no option but NOT to remain on the site all day (defeating the purpose). Strike two.

Will Apple fix it? Most likely. The concept is too right to give up on, and so I’ll wait and hope that things improve. I really want it to work, and I’d rather not issue Strike three on MobileMe.

Zemanta Pixie

Taking the iPhone plunge

OK, I finally did it.

iphone-sm.jpgTired of a cell phone that wasn’t a great performer, and wanting to consolidate a number of functions (contacts, calendar, e-mail, music, etc.) into one device, I decided to shed the old technology garments and jump into a stylish new Apple iPhone.

I figured it was going to take a number of days to “figure it out” and bring the system up. Nope. In very little time, I had it activated, sync’ed up my iTunes music, connected to my Yahoo mail account, and easily explored many of the other wonderful functions of this very cool device.

First impression – where has the rest of the software design world been all this time? What a fabulous interface! As I have mentioned often to my clients, I am not at all easy to impress when it comes to interfaces – I’ve seen far too much user-hostile and non-intuitive design. The iPhone, however, is a delight to use – I was texting my 17-year old son in no time (and was he shocked when he found out I’d gotten an iPhone!) and my one concern – the flat-screen “virtual” keyboard – quickly became a non-issue when I began to use it. Sweet.

So, all you veteran iPhone users out there, help me out. What are some of the best tricks you’ve found? What are the free downloads and other goodies you’ve come across that you’d recommend? Tell the world (well, OK, at least ME) in the comments how I can better use this thing. Because if there’s such a thing as love at first sight when it comes to communication devices, I think I just took the fall…

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