I Think I Need Some Leadership Chocolate

We’re going to talk about “decision fatigue” during LeadershipChat this week (8 pm ET Tuesday), and for me, this is a timely subject.

Rarely will I strongly recommend that people read a long, in-depth newspaper article. However, the basis for our topic is this fascinating NY Times article on the subject of decision fatigue by John Tierney, which outlines a fascinating premise – that our capacity to make decisions declines over time as we become fatigued by decision after decision.

There’s also some great justification toward the end of the article for keeping some chocolate at hand if you’re a decision-making leader…!!

I’ve done manual labor, which is physically fatiguing, and I’ve done mental labor, which creates its own weariness. But nothing has created more fatigue for me than being a husband and father, while simultaneously being an entrepreneur.

Responsibility. Leadership. Decisions. Initiative. 24/7.

As the article describes it, you get to a point where resistance becomes low, and the default/status quo gets chosen more often out of sheer fatigue.

While I haven’t had a chance to think it all the way through, I suspect that two other streams of fatigue can exacerbate the problem:

  • Failure fatigue – where professional setbacks outnumber successes, and
  • Delay fatigue – where success or goal fulfillment seems to perpetually stay just out of reach.

I don’t have any great answers here, but I certainly see the problem in my own experience! And I hope our discussion during the chat can provide a boost of much-needed leadership chocolate.

Be sure to read Lisa Petrilli‘s take on decision fatigue in her post, The Best Time to Ask Your Boss for a Raise (hint: it’s not late afternoon!)

Make your decision to join us at 8 pm ET Tuesday nights for LeadershipChat on Twitter. You’ll find a very smart and highly-motivated group of professionals who want to bring humanity and reality to leadership!


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Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

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Are You Suffering from JAVA?

You’ve labored long and hard to create your offerings. You’ve invested in marketing materials, a website, maybe even a social media footprint. You’ve earned the opportunity to give a presentation in front of a potential client. Hours and hours of work went into the slide deck. When you add up all the personnel costs, opportunity costs, marketing costs….you’ve spent many thousands of dollars to get to this moment.

You pull the trigger – and nothing happens. The prospects’ eyes glaze over. Another opportunity down the drain.

You’ve contracted a case of JAVA (Just Another Vendor Affliction). Meanwhile, someone who has a remarkable message contracted with the client.

It wasn’t that you didn’t have enough to say – you hit them with a load of bullet points just like everyone else. And that’s the problem.

You’re just like everyone else – at least, in this client’s eyes. Line up all the coffee cups, and they all look interchangeable. And disposable.

You expected the prospect to sort through all the verbiage, the generalities, the bullet points, and find the remarkable. To see your value clearly. The problem? That’s not their job.

>> That’s your job! <<

The differentiating message about you/your company needs to be front-and-center in the first 90 seconds of a presentation. The remarkable story, the unique value, needs to be woven in right from the starting gun.  Everything needs to orbit around your unique DNA and message, and how you will make a business difference to the client. Otherwise, you’ve just invested thousands of dollars for another cup of JAVA.

We all have business myopia – we’re nearsighted because we’re too close to our own stuff. And we can’t expect our clients to see the message clearly if we don’t have clarity ourselves.

I can help you get freedom from JAVA. That’s my job!

If you need help discovering your differentiating professional DNA and message, Hire Me. It’s worth a Business Identity Therapy session to get true clarity around your DNA and message.

Then, as you interact with clients, you can let your competitors get the JAVA. While you get the business!


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

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> The Unglamorous Need for…Semantics!

>> When Your Branding Zings

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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

Shake Up YOUR Audience – With Earthquake Marketing!

Yes, that’s a pretty cheesy headline for a blog post. But, there’s a real point to be made about the reaction of yesterday’s earthquake on the East Coast. Read on…

By all measures, yesterday’s earthquake was a whole lotta nothing – a few bricks loose, some cracks in buildings, overturned lawn chairs. Really, a non-event, especially for folks in more earthquake-prone areas, like the West Coast of the United States. A yawner.

Nonetheless, it lit up social media and the news. Why?

Because is was a whole lotta something different for its audience!

I’ve spend most of my life in the eastern US (along with 7 years in Tennessee). Before yesterday, I had felt a total of two very minor earthquakes – pretty local events. And when yesterday’s event occurred, I wasn’t even certain what was happening – I just thought I was momentarily dizzy. Until I went onto Facebook and saw “Was that an earthquake??” popping up all over half the country.

Much to the amusement of other parts of the country and world, we felt a need to share our experience. Because it was something new to most of us.

The earthquake got viral news attention, not because it was all that great a quake, but because it “knew” its audience – “these people haven’t had a good shaking for a long time! Watch this!” A big thunderstorm would not have gotten near the attention. That’s old news here. Moving ground? That’s worth talking about!

I was evaluating a small company’s website this week. It said a whole lot of nothing. I found myself thinking, “all you have to do is swap out the company name, and this site is interchangeable with who knows how many other companies.” Nothing different = forgettable. A list of bullet points is a passing shower, not an earthquake. Nobody’s talking about you.

As a marketer, think about your audience before you make a decision about trying to create impact. What is old for you might be brand new for them – or vice-versa. Is your approach something different? That, in itself, can help break through the clutter.

Now, back to straightening up the lawn chairs…

(Image credit: jmckinley – love this post!)


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

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> The Unglamorous Need for…Semantics!

>> When Your Branding Zings

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

Rethinking the Promotion Ladder

You do a great job in your role, and what is the expectation?

“Promotion” to a new, (seemingly) higher-up role. Bigger title, more base pay. The reward for great performance is moving up the ladder.

There are are only two problems with this. The nature of the reward. And the nature of the ladder.

I do a lot of my work with pharmaceutical companies. Specifically, I often work with people in sales training and brand marketing. Where do these people come from, and how do they get into those positions?

Generally, they are promoted from the sales force. Part of the ladder-climbing process, the reward mentality, is doing a headquarters rotation in one or two in these roles, as part of your “professional development”. Field sales to HQ role to field sales management to….The details may be different, but the general approach exists in lots of other industries.

Take the best performers and move them on up into more prestigious roles.

I get the concept, but here’s what I see over and over again – people who are great performers in one role may very well be unsuited for the next role up the ladder, where quite different skill sets and even personality makeups are required. Does a great salesperson make an effective trainer, or regional manager, or marketer, or project manager, or cubicle dweller? Sometimes, yes. Often, no. And spending one or two or three years in a role only to move up to the next rung often means that just as someone begins to develop new skills, they’re pushed on to the next thing as a reward.

So, I have the following questions for the mindset that fuels this practice:

1. Is it healthy to view the promotion process with a scarcity mentality – there are a smaller and smaller number of positions for advancement as you climb the ladder, so you must do whatever you can to advance (and compete with co-workers)?

2. Is it right to seek to develop people through a pathway that focuses on broadening a bunch of skills and experiences rather than focusing on the key, core skills that led to initial success?

3. Is the best reward system an upward pathway into new and (very) different roles? Are there not alternate ways to reward and promote people, especially those with relatively narrow skill sets?

4. What is the true cost-benefit ratio of instability – moving people around geographically, swapping managers, temporary relationships with co-workers and clients – when the promotion ladder is the holy grail?

I’m not saying there’s an easy answer to any of this. I just think we need to start asking some questions about what we assume is the proper pathway to professional advancement. What do you see as the pros and cons of the type of system I’ve described – and have you seen other approaches that work better? Discuss in the comments, or better yet, join us at 8 pm ET tonight (Tuesday, August 23) for #LeadershipChat on Twitter as we discuss the topic of promotions. Be sure to read Lisa Petrilli‘s (my co-host) blog post on the topic, When an Underperformer Gets Promoted.

It’s sure to be a lively discussion – we usually have 100+ smart people participating from all over the globe. Join us and let’s learn from one another!


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Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

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No Place to Hide

This week, our town (Boonton, NJ) experienced a very unusual tragedy – a fatal shooting. Specifically, and man and wife were out with a young one in a stroller when they were fired on by someone(s) with an assault rifle a gun of some sort. The woman was killed, the man injured, the child unhurt.

This happened several blocks away from us in this quiet residential town, our first hint being a hovering police helicopter overhead very early in the morning.

The husband’s tale of what happened quickly unraveled, and he and a woman whom he knew were charged with murder. The man and his wife were not getting along and this was his plot to get rid of her – a staged shooting.

Senseless, brutal – and now, two young children have to live with the aftermath (as well as the entire extended family and community).

The smoking gun, in this case, wasn’t necessarily the assault rifle. It was text messages, between the man and the shooter during the hours leading up to the shooting. Shoe-leather detective work figuring this crime scene out was vastly aided by damning bits and bytes found strewn all over the place.

Digital footprints. No need for photos, witnesses, fingerprints. The whole scheme was sketched out as a before-the-act confession.

There will always be people who get away with shady stuff, in business and in life. But the hiding places are getting scarcer. Cell phone records, texts, digital cameras, electronic toll tags, traffic cameras, digital documents, copier memories – as digital nodes proliferate, they shine light on previously-darkened hiding places.

I’d be a fool to think that people will stop doing evil things. And sometimes, I have deep concerns about the encroachment of digital everything on privacy. But as a citizen of a peaceful town, when something like this happens where we all walk our dogs and wave to our neighbors, I feel a certain sense of gratitude that there are fewer places to hide.

The helicopter didn’t find the perpetrators. They phoned themselves in. Criminals, crooked business people, and politicians – take note.


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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

Social Media: Trees and Forest

Social media, as we now know it – blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the like – that’s all trees. There’s something much bigger in play all around us.

The forest is ubiquitous digital networks.

Social media “stuff” is actually a subset of this much larger technological and cultural movement.

If you want to clearly see what the future is – step away from the trees, and think about the forest. Or, to change the analogy, don’t just focus on the boats – look at where the river current is heading.

Every person, and increasingly, every thing will be a node. What that leads to as far as communication is fascinating to consider. We’re still in the training wheels stage, folks.

Things make a lot more sense when you see the inevitable, inexorable direction of trend currents (as opposed to current trends).

I’ll be painting more of this picture at the Social Media Masters event in NYC next month, if you care to joint me for some forest-gazing!

(Photo: Lake Placid NY from Whiteface Mountain)


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

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> The Unglamorous Need for…Semantics!

>> When Your Branding Zings

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

The Unglamorous Need for….Semantics!

Communication – whether on social media or not – is all about exchanging ideas. What we often don’t think about, however, is that there is a “currency” involved – the currency of agreed-upon meanings attached to words.

Let’s say you walk into a convenience store. You pick up a bottle of Diet Coke and a donut. You pull out a green piece of paper that has a number on it – you insist that the number means 10 dollars, while the clerk says it means 5 dollars. Now what do we have? A stymied transaction. Both parties lose when the currency is non-standardized.

Semantics. Without definitions, we’re just wasting time and words, talking past each other. And that means we’re not communicating at all.

This came to mind today as I read this thought-provoking post by the duct-tape marketing guy, John Jantsch (It’s Time to Purge the Word Entrepreneur). Reading through the posts and comments, it’s clear that there are so many perceptions of what the term means or doesn’t mean, that it’s impossible to arrive at any resolution.

My entrepreneur is your small business owner is her tech start-up is his solopreneur is their…you get the picture. I don’t agree about purging the term, but I understand the frustration – when meanings are diluted or changed, it becomes difficult to exchange any ideas.

On Twitter, where context has to be sacrificed for 140 characters, the problem is compounded further. One of the biggest challenges I have discovered in moderating a Twitter chat is how much time and energy is expended with issues of semantics. There’s an awful lot of tweeting past one another as we “chat” starting with different understandings of terms.

This is one reason why political discourse can be so frustrating. What does “progressive” or “liberal” actually mean? How does one define “Tea Party”? These terms have such wildly divergent meanings depending on the standpoint of the speaker, that it seems impossible to carry on an intelligent and reasoned conversation. We are left with tossing pejorative grenades that may inflame, but cannot enlighten, without a shared agreement on meaning. And, yes, I’ve been guilty of that as well. Because I just assume that people carry around the same definitions in their head as I do. You’d think I would have learned something by now about that…(how do YOU define dense? :>)

Perhaps the person on the other end of the conversation is not in need of a hearing aid. Maybe we just need a dictionary on the table between us.

In order to disagree, we first have to agree – on what our words mean. I don’t have a good answer to this widespread dilemma, but perhaps as bloggers, we can be more careful up front to define the terms we’re going to use. Otherwise, our posts may become like so many trees falling in the forest, with no-one around to hear them. Because we’re all on different frequencies.

(Can’t resist linking to this post from Kevin Dugan – because the graphic says it all!)


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

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> When Your Branding Zings

>> Can You Stop Me from Being a Pimp?

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent